The house was handsome, and handsomely fitted up,
and the young ladies were immediately put in possession
of a very comfortable apartment. It had formerly
been Charlotte's, and over the mantelpiece still hung
a landscape in coloured silks of her performance,
in proof of her having spent seven years at a great school
in town to some effect.
As dinner was not to be ready in less than two
hours from their arrival, Elinor determined to employ
the interval in writing to her mother, and sat down for
that purpose. In a few moments Marianne did the same.
"I am writing home, Marianne," said Elinor; "had not you
better defer your letter for a day or two?"
"I am NOT going to write to my mother,"
replied Marianne, hastily, and as if wishing to avoid
any farther inquiry. Elinor said no more; it immediately
struck her that she must then be writing to Willoughby;
and the conclusion which as instantly followed was,
that, however mysteriously they might wish to conduct
the affair, they must be engaged. This conviction,
though not entirely satisfactory, gave her pleasure,
and she continued her letter with greater alacrity.
Marianne's was finished in a very few minutes;
in length it could be no more than a note; it was then
folded up, sealed, and directed with eager rapidity.
Elinor thought she could distinguish a large W in
the direction; and no sooner was it complete than Marianne,
ringing the bell, requested the footman who answered it
to get that letter conveyed for her to the two-penny post.
This decided the matter at once.
Her spirits still continued very high; but there
was a flutter in them which prevented their giving much
pleasure to her sister, and this agitation increased as
the evening drew on. She could scarcely eat any dinner,
and when they afterwards returned to the drawing room,
seemed anxiously listening to the sound of every carriage.
It was a great satisfaction to Elinor that Mrs. Jennings,
by being much engaged in her own room, could see little
of what was passing. The tea things were brought in,
and already had Marianne been disappointed more than once
by a rap at a neighbouring door, when a loud one was suddenly
heard which could not be mistaken for one at any other house,
Elinor felt secure of its announcing Willoughby's approach,
and Marianne, starting up, moved towards the door.
Every thing was silent; this could not be borne many seconds;
she opened the door, advanced a few steps towards the stairs,
and after listening half a minute, returned into the room
in all the agitation which a conviction of having heard
him would naturally produce; in the ecstasy of her
feelings at that instant she could not help exclaiming,
"Oh, Elinor, it is Willoughby, indeed it is!" and seemed
almost ready to throw herself into his arms, when Colonel
It was too great a shock to be borne with calmness,
and she immediately left the room. Elinor was disappointed too;
but at the same time her regard for Colonel Brandon ensured
his welcome with her; and she felt particularly hurt that
a man so partial to her sister should perceive that she
experienced nothing but grief and disappointment in seeing him.
She instantly saw that it was not unnoticed by him,
that he even observed Marianne as she quitted the room,
with such astonishment and concern, as hardly left him
the recollection of what civility demanded towards herself.
"Is your sister ill?" said he.
Elinor answered in some distress that she was,
and then talked of head-aches, low spirits, and over fatigues;
and of every thing to which she could decently attribute
her sister's behaviour.
He heard her with the most earnest attention,
but seeming to recollect himself, said no more on the subject,
and began directly to speak of his pleasure at seeing them
in London, making the usual inquiries about their journey,
and the friends they had left behind.
In this calm kind of way, with very little interest
on either side, they continued to talk, both of them out
of spirits, and the thoughts of both engaged elsewhere.
Elinor wished very much to ask whether Willoughby were
then in town, but she was afraid of giving him pain
by any enquiry after his rival; and at length, by way
of saying something, she asked if he had been in London
ever since she had seen him last. "Yes," he replied,
with some embarrassment, "almost ever since; I have been
once or twice at Delaford for a few days, but it has never
been in my power to return to Barton."
This, and the manner in which it was said,
immediately brought back to her remembrance all the
circumstances of his quitting that place, with the
uneasiness and suspicions they had caused to Mrs. Jennings,
and she was fearful that her question had implied
much more curiosity on the subject than she had ever felt.
Mrs. Jennings soon came in. "Oh! Colonel," said she,
with her usual noisy cheerfulness, "I am monstrous glad
to see you--sorry I could not come before--beg your
pardon, but I have been forced to look about me a little,
and settle my matters; for it is a long while since I
have been at home, and you know one has always a world
of little odd things to do after one has been away for
any time; and then I have had Cartwright to settle with--
Lord, I have been as busy as a bee ever since dinner!
But pray, Colonel, how came you to conjure out that I should
be in town today?"
"I had the pleasure of hearing it at Mr. Palmer's,
where I have been dining."
"Oh, you did; well, and how do they all do at their
house? How does Charlotte do? I warrant you she is a fine
size by this time."
"Mrs. Palmer appeared quite well, and I am commissioned
to tell you, that you will certainly see her to-morrow."
"Ay, to be sure, I thought as much. Well, Colonel,
I have brought two young ladies with me, you see--that is,
you see but one of them now, but there is another somewhere.
Your friend, Miss Marianne, too--which you will not be
sorry to hear. I do not know what you and Mr. Willoughby
will do between you about her. Ay, it is a fine thing
to be young and handsome. Well! I was young once, but I
never was very handsome--worse luck for me. However, I got
a very good husband, and I don't know what the greatest
beauty can do more. Ah! poor man! he has been dead
these eight years and better. But Colonel, where have
you been to since we parted? And how does your business
go on? Come, come, let's have no secrets among friends."
He replied with his accustomary mildness to all
her inquiries, but without satisfying her in any.
Elinor now began to make the tea, and Marianne was
obliged to appear again.
After her entrance, Colonel Brandon became
more thoughtful and silent than he had been before,
and Mrs. Jennings could not prevail on him to stay long.
No other visitor appeared that evening, and the ladies
were unanimous in agreeing to go early to bed.
Marianne rose the next morning with recovered spirits
and happy looks. The disappointment of the evening before
seemed forgotten in the expectation of what was to happen
that day. They had not long finished their breakfast before
Mrs. Palmer's barouche stopped at the door, and in a few
minutes she came laughing into the room: so delighted
to see them all, that it was hard to say whether she
received most pleasure from meeting her mother or the Miss
Dashwoods again. So surprised at their coming to town,
though it was what she had rather expected all along;
so angry at their accepting her mother's invitation
after having declined her own, though at the same time
she would never have forgiven them if they had not come!
"Mr. Palmer will be so happy to see you,"
said she; "What do you think he said when he heard
of your coming with Mamma? I forget what it was now,
but it was something so droll!"
After an hour or two spent in what her mother called
comfortable chat, or in other words, in every variety of inquiry
concerning all their acquaintance on Mrs. Jennings's side,
and in laughter without cause on Mrs. Palmer's, it was
proposed by the latter that they should all accompany
her to some shops where she had business that morning,
to which Mrs. Jennings and Elinor readily consented,
as having likewise some purchases to make themselves;
and Marianne, though declining it at first was induced
to go likewise.
Wherever they went, she was evidently always on
the watch. In Bond Street especially, where much of
their business lay, her eyes were in constant inquiry;
and in whatever shop the party were engaged, her mind was
equally abstracted from every thing actually before them,
from all that interested and occupied the others.
Restless and dissatisfied every where, her sister could
never obtain her opinion of any article of purchase,
however it might equally concern them both: she received
no pleasure from anything; was only impatient to be at
home again, and could with difficulty govern her vexation
at the tediousness of Mrs. Palmer, whose eye was caught
by every thing pretty, expensive, or new; who was wild
to buy all, could determine on none, and dawdled away her
time in rapture and indecision.
It was late in the morning before they returned home;
and no sooner had they entered the house than Marianne flew
eagerly up stairs, and when Elinor followed, she found
her turning from the table with a sorrowful countenance,
which declared that no Willoughby had been there.
"Has no letter been left here for me since we went out?"
said she to the footman who then entered with the parcels.
She was answered in the negative. "Are you quite sure
of it?" she replied. "Are you certain that no servant,
no porter has left any letter or note?"