The man replied that none had.
"How very odd!" said she, in a low and disappointed
voice, as she turned away to the window.
"How odd, indeed!" repeated Elinor within herself,
regarding her sister with uneasiness. "If she had not
known him to be in town she would not have written to him,
as she did; she would have written to Combe Magna;
and if he is in town, how odd that he should neither
come nor write! Oh! my dear mother, you must be wrong
in permitting an engagement between a daughter so young,
a man so little known, to be carried on in so doubtful,
so mysterious a manner! I long to inquire; and how will MY
interference be borne."
She determined, after some consideration, that if
appearances continued many days longer as unpleasant as they
now were, she would represent in the strongest manner
to her mother the necessity of some serious enquiry into the affair.
Mrs. Palmer and two elderly ladies of Mrs. Jennings's
intimate acquaintance, whom she had met and invited
in the morning, dined with them. The former left them
soon after tea to fulfill her evening engagements;
and Elinor was obliged to assist in making a whist table
for the others. Marianne was of no use on these occasions,
as she would never learn the game; but though her time
was therefore at her own disposal, the evening was by no
means more productive of pleasure to her than to Elinor,
for it was spent in all the anxiety of expectation and the
pain of disappointment. She sometimes endeavoured for a
few minutes to read; but the book was soon thrown aside,
and she returned to the more interesting employment
of walking backwards and forwards across the room,
pausing for a moment whenever she came to the window,
in hopes of distinguishing the long-expected rap.
"If this open weather holds much longer," said Mrs. Jennings,
when they met at breakfast the following morning,
"Sir John will not like leaving Barton next week;
'tis a sad thing for sportsmen to lose a day's pleasure.
Poor souls! I always pity them when they do; they seem
to take it so much to heart."
"That is true," cried Marianne, in a cheerful voice,
and walking to the window as she spoke, to examine the day.
"I had not thought of that. This weather will keep many
sportsmen in the country."
It was a lucky recollection, all her good spirits were
restored by it. "It is charming weather for THEM indeed,"
she continued, as she sat down to the breakfast table
with a happy countenance. "How much they must enjoy
it! But" (with a little return of anxiety) "it cannot
be expected to last long. At this time of the year,
and after such a series of rain, we shall certainly
have very little more of it. Frosts will soon set in,
and in all probability with severity. In another day
or two perhaps; this extreme mildness can hardly last
longer--nay, perhaps it may freeze tonight!"
"At any rate," said Elinor, wishing to prevent
Mrs. Jennings from seeing her sister's thoughts as clearly
as she did, "I dare say we shall have Sir John and Lady
Middleton in town by the end of next week."
"Ay, my dear, I'll warrant you we do. Mary always
has her own way."
"And now," silently conjectured Elinor, "she will
write to Combe by this day's post."
But if she DID, the letter was written and sent away
with a privacy which eluded all her watchfulness to ascertain
the fact. Whatever the truth of it might be, and far
as Elinor was from feeling thorough contentment about it,
yet while she saw Marianne in spirits, she could not be
very uncomfortable herself. And Marianne was in spirits;
happy in the mildness of the weather, and still happier
in her expectation of a frost.
The morning was chiefly spent in leaving cards at
the houses of Mrs. Jennings's acquaintance to inform
them of her being in town; and Marianne was all the time
busy in observing the direction of the wind, watching the
variations of the sky and imagining an alteration in the air.
"Don't you find it colder than it was in the morning,
Elinor? There seems to me a very decided difference.
I can hardly keep my hands warm even in my muff. It was
not so yesterday, I think. The clouds seem parting too,
the sun will be out in a moment, and we shall have a
Elinor was alternately diverted and pained;
but Marianne persevered, and saw every night in the
brightness of the fire, and every morning in the appearance
of the atmosphere, the certain symptoms of approaching frost.
The Miss Dashwoods had no greater reason to be
dissatisfied with Mrs. Jennings's style of living, and set
of acquaintance, than with her behaviour to themselves,
which was invariably kind. Every thing in her household
arrangements was conducted on the most liberal plan,
and excepting a few old city friends, whom, to Lady
Middleton's regret, she had never dropped, she visited
no one to whom an introduction could at all discompose
the feelings of her young companions. Pleased to find
herself more comfortably situated in that particular than
she had expected, Elinor was very willing to compound
for the want of much real enjoyment from any of their
evening parties, which, whether at home or abroad,
formed only for cards, could have little to amuse her.
Colonel Brandon, who had a general invitation
to the house, was with them almost every day; he came
to look at Marianne and talk to Elinor, who often derived
more satisfaction from conversing with him than from any
other daily occurrence, but who saw at the same time
with much concern his continued regard for her sister.
She feared it was a strengthening regard. It grieved her
to see the earnestness with which he often watched Marianne,
and his spirits were certainly worse than when at Barton.
About a week after their arrival, it became
certain that Willoughby was also arrived. His card
was on the table when they came in from the morning's drive.
"Good God!" cried Marianne, "he has been here while
we were out." Elinor, rejoiced to be assured of his
being in London, now ventured to say, "Depend upon it,
he will call again tomorrow." But Marianne seemed
hardly to hear her, and on Mrs. Jenning's entrance,
escaped with the precious card.
This event, while it raised the spirits of Elinor,
restored to those of her sister all, and more than all,
their former agitation. From this moment her mind was
never quiet; the expectation of seeing him every hour
of the day, made her unfit for any thing. She insisted
on being left behind, the next morning, when the others
Elinor's thoughts were full of what might be passing
in Berkeley Street during their absence; but a moment's
glance at her sister when they returned was enough to
inform her, that Willoughby had paid no second visit there.
A note was just then brought in, and laid on the table,
"For me!" cried Marianne, stepping hastily forward.
"No, ma'am, for my mistress."
But Marianne, not convinced, took it instantly up.
"It is indeed for Mrs. Jennings; how provoking!"
"You are expecting a letter, then?" said Elinor,
unable to be longer silent.
"Yes, a little--not much."
After a short pause. "You have no confidence
in me, Marianne."
"Nay, Elinor, this reproach from YOU--you who have
confidence in no one!"
"Me!" returned Elinor in some confusion; "indeed,
Marianne, I have nothing to tell."
"Nor I," answered Marianne with energy, "our situations
then are alike. We have neither of us any thing to tell;
you, because you do not communicate, and I, because
I conceal nothing."
Elinor, distressed by this charge of reserve in herself,
which she was not at liberty to do away, knew not how,
under such circumstances, to press for greater openness
Mrs. Jennings soon appeared, and the note being
given her, she read it aloud. It was from Lady Middleton,
announcing their arrival in Conduit Street the night before,
and requesting the company of her mother and cousins
the following evening. Business on Sir John's part,
and a violent cold on her own, prevented their calling
in Berkeley Street. The invitation was accepted;
but when the hour of appointment drew near, necessary as
it was in common civility to Mrs. Jennings, that they
should both attend her on such a visit, Elinor had some
difficulty in persuading her sister to go, for still
she had seen nothing of Willoughby; and therefore was
not more indisposed for amusement abroad, than unwilling
to run the risk of his calling again in her absence.
Elinor found, when the evening was over,
that disposition is not materially altered by a change
of abode, for although scarcely settled in town,
Sir John had contrived to collect around him, nearly twenty
young people, and to amuse them with a ball. This was
an affair, however, of which Lady Middleton did not approve.
In the country, an unpremeditated dance was very allowable;
but in London, where the reputation of elegance was more
important and less easily attained, it was risking too much
for the gratification of a few girls, to have it known that
Lady Middleton had given a small dance of eight or nine couple,
with two violins, and a mere side-board collation.
Mr. and Mrs. Palmer were of the party; from the former,
whom they had not seen before since their arrival in town,
as he was careful to avoid the appearance of any attention
to his mother-in-law, and therefore never came near her,
they received no mark of recognition on their entrance.
He looked at them slightly, without seeming to know
who they were, and merely nodded to Mrs. Jennings from
the other side of the room. Marianne gave one glance
round the apartment as she entered: it was enough--HE
was not there--and she sat down, equally ill-disposed
to receive or communicate pleasure. After they had been
assembled about an hour, Mr. Palmer sauntered towards
the Miss Dashwoods to express his surprise on seeing them
in town, though Colonel Brandon had been first informed
of their arrival at his house, and he had himself said
something very droll on hearing that they were to come.