That such letters, so full of affection and confidence,
could have been so answered, Elinor, for Willoughby's sake,
would have been unwilling to believe. But her condemnation
of him did not blind her to the impropriety of their
having been written at all; and she was silently grieving
over the imprudence which had hazarded such unsolicited
proofs of tenderness, not warranted by anything preceding,
and most severely condemned by the event, when Marianne,
perceiving that she had finished the letters, observed to
her that they contained nothing but what any one would
have written in the same situation.
"I felt myself," she added, "to be as solemnly
engaged to him, as if the strictest legal covenant
had bound us to each other."
"I can believe it," said Elinor; "but unfortunately
he did not feel the same."
"He DID feel the same, Elinor--for weeks and weeks he
felt it. I know he did. Whatever may have changed him now, (and
nothing but the blackest art employed against me can have done
it), I was once as dear to him as my own soul could wish.
This lock of hair, which now he can so readily give up,
was begged of me with the most earnest supplication.
Had you seen his look, his manner, had you heard his voice
at that moment! Have you forgot the last evening of our
being together at Barton? The morning that we parted
too! When he told me that it might be many weeks before
we met again--his distress--can I ever forget his distress?"
For a moment or two she could say no more;
but when this emotion had passed away, she added,
in a firmer tone,
"Elinor, I have been cruelly used; but not by Willoughby."
"Dearest Marianne, who but himself? By whom can he
have been instigated?"
"By all the world, rather than by his own heart.
I could rather believe every creature of my acquaintance
leagued together to ruin me in his opinion, than believe
his nature capable of such cruelty. This woman of whom he
writes--whoever she be--or any one, in short, but your own
dear self, mama, and Edward, may have been so barbarous
to bely me. Beyond you three, is there a creature
in the world whom I would not rather suspect of evil
than Willoughby, whose heart I know so well?"
Elinor would not contend, and only replied,
"Whoever may have been so detestably your enemy, let them
be cheated of their malignant triumph, my dear sister,
by seeing how nobly the consciousness of your own
innocence and good intentions supports your spirits.
It is a reasonable and laudable pride which resists
"No, no," cried Marianne, "misery such as mine has
no pride. I care not who knows that I am wretched.
The triumph of seeing me so may be open to all the world.
Elinor, Elinor, they who suffer little may be proud and
independent as they like--may resist insult, or return
mortification--but I cannot. I must feel--I must be
wretched--and they are welcome to enjoy the consciousness
of it that can."
"But for my mother's sake and mine--"
"I would do more than for my own. But to appear
happy when I am so miserable--Oh! who can require it?"
Again they were both silent. Elinor was employed
in walking thoughtfully from the fire to the window,
from the window to the fire, without knowing that she
received warmth from one, or discerning objects through
the other; and Marianne, seated at the foot of the bed,
with her head leaning against one of its posts,
again took up Willoughby's letter, and, after shuddering
over every sentence, exclaimed--
"It is too much! Oh, Willoughby, Willoughby, could this
be yours! Cruel, cruel--nothing can acquit you. Elinor,
nothing can. Whatever he might have heard against me--
ought he not to have suspended his belief? ought he not to
have told me of it, to have given me the power of clearing
myself? 'The lock of hair, (repeating it from the letter,)
which you so obligingly bestowed on me'--That is unpardonable.
Willoughby, where was your heart when you wrote those words?
Oh, barbarously insolent!--Elinor, can he be justified?"
"No, Marianne, in no possible way."
"And yet this woman--who knows what her art may
have been?--how long it may have been premeditated,
and how deeply contrived by her!--Who is she?--Who can
she be?--Whom did I ever hear him talk of as young and
attractive among his female acquaintance?--Oh! no one,
no one--he talked to me only of myself."
Another pause ensued; Marianne was greatly agitated,
and it ended thus.
"Elinor, I must go home. I must go and comfort mama.
Can not we be gone to-morrow?"
"Yes, why should I stay here? I came only for
Willoughby's sake--and now who cares for me? Who regards me?"
"It would be impossible to go to-morrow. We owe
Mrs. Jennings much more than civility; and civility of
the commonest kind must prevent such a hasty removal as that."
"Well then, another day or two, perhaps; but I cannot
stay here long, I cannot stay to endure the questions
and remarks of all these people. The Middletons and
Palmers--how am I to bear their pity? The pity of such
a woman as Lady Middleton! Oh, what would HE say to that!"
Elinor advised her to lie down again, and for a
moment she did so; but no attitude could give her ease;
and in restless pain of mind and body she moved from one
posture to another, till growing more and more hysterical,
her sister could with difficulty keep her on the bed at all,
and for some time was fearful of being constrained to call
for assistance. Some lavender drops, however, which she
was at length persuaded to take, were of use; and from
that time till Mrs. Jennings returned, she continued
on the bed quiet and motionless.
Mrs. Jennings came immediately to their room on her return,
and without waiting to have her request of admittance answered,
opened the door and walked in with a look of real concern.
"How do you do my dear?"--said she in a voice of great
compassion to Marianne, who turned away her face without
attempting to answer.
"How is she, Miss Dashwood?--Poor thing! she looks very bad.--
No wonder. Ay, it is but too true. He is to be married
very soon--a good-for-nothing fellow! I have no patience
with him. Mrs. Taylor told me of it half an hour ago,
and she was told it by a particular friend of Miss
Grey herself, else I am sure I should not have believed it;
and I was almost ready to sink as it was. Well, said I,
all I can say is, that if this be true, he has used
a young lady of my acquaintance abominably ill, and I
wish with all my soul his wife may plague his heart out.
And so I shall always say, my dear, you may depend on it.
I have no notion of men's going on in this way; and if ever
I meet him again, I will give him such a dressing as he
has not had this many a day. But there is one comfort,
my dear Miss Marianne; he is not the only young man
in the world worth having; and with your pretty face
you will never want admirers. Well, poor thing! I won't
disturb her any longer, for she had better have her cry
out at once and have done with. The Parrys and Sandersons
luckily are coming tonight you know, and that will amuse her."
She then went away, walking on tiptoe out of the room,
as if she supposed her young friend's affliction could
be increased by noise.
Marianne, to the surprise of her sister,
determined on dining with them. Elinor even advised
her against it. But "no, she would go down; she could
bear it very well, and the bustle about her would
be less." Elinor, pleased to have her governed for a
moment by such a motive, though believing it hardly
possible that she could sit out the dinner, said no more;
and adjusting her dress for her as well as she could,
while Marianne still remained on the bed, was ready
to assist her into the dining room as soon as they were
summoned to it.
When there, though looking most wretchedly,
she ate more and was calmer than her sister had expected.
Had she tried to speak, or had she been conscious of half
Mrs. Jennings's well-meant but ill-judged attentions
to her, this calmness could not have been maintained;
but not a syllable escaped her lips; and the abstraction
of her thoughts preserved her in ignorance of every thing
that was passing before her.
Elinor, who did justice to Mrs. Jennings's kindness,
though its effusions were often distressing, and sometimes
almost ridiculous, made her those acknowledgments,
and returned her those civilities, which her sister could
not make or return for herself. Their good friend saw
that Marianne was unhappy, and felt that every thing
was due to her which might make her at all less so.
She treated her therefore, with all the indulgent fondness
of a parent towards a favourite child on the last day of
its holidays. Marianne was to have the best place by the fire,
was to be tempted to eat by every delicacy in the house,
and to be amused by the relation of all the news of the day.
Had not Elinor, in the sad countenance of her sister,
seen a check to all mirth, she could have been entertained
by Mrs. Jennings's endeavours to cure a disappointment in love,
by a variety of sweetmeats and olives, and a good fire.
As soon, however, as the consciousness of all this was
forced by continual repetition on Marianne, she could
stay no longer. With a hasty exclamation of Misery,
and a sign to her sister not to follow her, she directly got
up and hurried out of the room.