"I thought you were both in Devonshire," said he.
"Did you?" replied Elinor.
"When do you go back again?"
"I do not know." And thus ended their discourse.
Never had Marianne been so unwilling to dance
in her life, as she was that evening, and never so much
fatigued by the exercise. She complained of it
as they returned to Berkeley Street.
"Aye, aye," said Mrs. Jennings, "we know the reason
of all that very well; if a certain person who shall
be nameless, had been there, you would not have been a
bit tired: and to say the truth it was not very pretty
of him not to give you the meeting when he was invited."
"Invited!" cried Marianne.
"So my daughter Middleton told me, for it seems Sir
John met him somewhere in the street this morning."
Marianne said no more, but looked exceedingly hurt.
Impatient in this situation to be doing something
that might lead to her sister's relief, Elinor resolved
to write the next morning to her mother, and hoped
by awakening her fears for the health of Marianne,
to procure those inquiries which had been so long delayed;
and she was still more eagerly bent on this measure
by perceiving after breakfast on the morrow, that Marianne
was again writing to Willoughby, for she could not suppose
it to be to any other person.
About the middle of the day, Mrs. Jennings went out by
herself on business, and Elinor began her letter directly,
while Marianne, too restless for employment, too anxious
for conversation, walked from one window to the other,
or sat down by the fire in melancholy meditation.
Elinor was very earnest in her application to her mother,
relating all that had passed, her suspicions of
Willoughby's inconstancy, urging her by every plea
of duty and affection to demand from Marianne an account
of her real situation with respect to him.
Her letter was scarcely finished, when a rap
foretold a visitor, and Colonel Brandon was announced.
Marianne, who had seen him from the window, and who hated
company of any kind, left the room before he entered it.
He looked more than usually grave, and though expressing
satisfaction at finding Miss Dashwood alone, as if he
had somewhat in particular to tell her, sat for some
time without saying a word. Elinor, persuaded that he
had some communication to make in which her sister
was concerned, impatiently expected its opening.
It was not the first time of her feeling the same kind
of conviction; for, more than once before, beginning with
the observation of "your sister looks unwell to-day,"
or "your sister seems out of spirits," he had appeared
on the point, either of disclosing, or of inquiring,
something particular about her. After a pause of several
minutes, their silence was broken, by his asking her
in a voice of some agitation, when he was to congratulate
her on the acquisition of a brother? Elinor was not
prepared for such a question, and having no answer ready,
was obliged to adopt the simple and common expedient,
of asking what he meant? He tried to smile as he replied,
"your sister's engagement to Mr. Willoughby is very generally known."
"It cannot be generally known," returned Elinor,
"for her own family do not know it."
He looked surprised and said, "I beg your pardon,
I am afraid my inquiry has been impertinent; but I had not
supposed any secrecy intended, as they openly correspond,
and their marriage is universally talked of."
"How can that be? By whom can you have heard
"By many--by some of whom you know nothing, by others
with whom you are most intimate, Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Palmer,
and the Middletons. But still I might not have believed it,
for where the mind is perhaps rather unwilling to
be convinced, it will always find something to support
its doubts, if I had not, when the servant let me in today,
accidentally seen a letter in his hand, directed to
Mr. Willoughby in your sister's writing. I came to inquire,
but I was convinced before I could ask the question.
Is every thing finally settled? Is it impossible to-?
But I have no right, and I could have no chance of succeeding.
Excuse me, Miss Dashwood. I believe I have been wrong
in saying so much, but I hardly know what to do, and on
your prudence I have the strongest dependence. Tell me
that it is all absolutely resolved on, that any attempt,
that in short concealment, if concealment be possible,
is all that remains."
These words, which conveyed to Elinor a direct avowal
of his love for her sister, affected her very much.
She was not immediately able to say anything, and even
when her spirits were recovered, she debated for a short
time, on the answer it would be most proper to give.
The real state of things between Willoughby and her sister
was so little known to herself, that in endeavouring
to explain it, she might be as liable to say too much
as too little. Yet as she was convinced that Marianne's
affection for Willoughby, could leave no hope of Colonel
Brandon's success, whatever the event of that affection
might be, and at the same time wished to shield her conduct
from censure, she thought it most prudent and kind,
after some consideration, to say more than she really knew
or believed. She acknowledged, therefore, that though
she had never been informed by themselves of the terms
on which they stood with each other, of their mutual
affection she had no doubt, and of their correspondence
she was not astonished to hear.
He listened to her with silent attention, and on
her ceasing to speak, rose directly from his seat,
and after saying in a voice of emotion, "to your sister
I wish all imaginable happiness; to Willoughby that he
may endeavour to deserve her,"--took leave, and went away.
Elinor derived no comfortable feelings from this
conversation, to lessen the uneasiness of her mind on
other points; she was left, on the contrary, with a
melancholy impression of Colonel Brandon's unhappiness,
and was prevented even from wishing it removed,
by her anxiety for the very event that must confirm it.
Nothing occurred during the next three or four days,
to make Elinor regret what she had done, in applying
to her mother; for Willoughby neither came nor wrote.
They were engaged about the end of that time to attend
Lady Middleton to a party, from which Mrs. Jennings was
kept away by the indisposition of her youngest daughter;
and for this party, Marianne, wholly dispirited,
careless of her appearance, and seeming equally indifferent
whether she went or staid, prepared, without one look
of hope or one expression of pleasure. She sat by the
drawing-room fire after tea, till the moment of Lady
Middleton's arrival, without once stirring from her seat,
or altering her attitude, lost in her own thoughts,
and insensible of her sister's presence; and when at
last they were told that Lady Middleton waited for them
at the door, she started as if she had forgotten that
any one was expected.
They arrived in due time at the place of destination,
and as soon as the string of carriages before them
would allow, alighted, ascended the stairs, heard their
names announced from one landing-place to another in an
audible voice, and entered a room splendidly lit up,
quite full of company, and insufferably hot. When they had
paid their tribute of politeness by curtsying to the lady
of the house, they were permitted to mingle in the crowd,
and take their share of the heat and inconvenience, to
which their arrival must necessarily add. After some time
spent in saying little or doing less, Lady Middleton sat
down to Cassino, and as Marianne was not in spirits for
moving about, she and Elinor luckily succeeding to chairs,
placed themselves at no great distance from the table.
They had not remained in this manner long, before Elinor
perceived Willoughby, standing within a few yards
of them, in earnest conversation with a very fashionable
looking young woman. She soon caught his eye, and he
immediately bowed, but without attempting to speak to her,
or to approach Marianne, though he could not but see her;
and then continued his discourse with the same lady.
Elinor turned involuntarily to Marianne, to see whether
it could be unobserved by her. At that moment she first
perceived him, and her whole countenance glowing with
sudden delight, she would have moved towards him instantly,
had not her sister caught hold of her.
"Good heavens!" she exclaimed, "he is there--he
is there--Oh! why does he not look at me? why cannot
I speak to him?"
"Pray, pray be composed," cried Elinor, "and do
not betray what you feel to every body present.
Perhaps he has not observed you yet."
This however was more than she could believe herself;
and to be composed at such a moment was not only beyond
the reach of Marianne, it was beyond her wish. She sat
in an agony of impatience which affected every feature.
At last he turned round again, and regarded them both;
she started up, and pronouncing his name in a tone
of affection, held out her hand to him. He approached,
and addressing himself rather to Elinor than Marianne,
as if wishing to avoid her eye, and determined not to
observe her attitude, inquired in a hurried manner after
Mrs. Dashwood, and asked how long they had been in town.
Elinor was robbed of all presence of mind by such an address,
and was unable to say a word. But the feelings of her sister
were instantly expressed. Her face was crimsoned over,
and she exclaimed, in a voice of the greatest emotion,
"Good God! Willoughby, what is the meaning of this?
Have you not received my letters? Will you not shake
hands with me?"