"Well," said Elinor, "it is a comfort to be prepared
against the worst. You have got your answer ready."
Miss Steele was going to reply on the same subject,
but the approach of her own party made another more necessary.
"Oh, la! here come the Richardsons. I had a vast deal
more to say to you, but I must not stay away from them not
any longer. I assure you they are very genteel people.
He makes a monstrous deal of money, and they keep their
own coach. I have not time to speak to Mrs. Jennings about
it myself, but pray tell her I am quite happy to hear she
is not in anger against us, and Lady Middleton the same;
and if anything should happen to take you and your
sister away, and Mrs. Jennings should want company,
I am sure we should be very glad to come and stay with her
for as long a time as she likes. I suppose Lady Middleton
won't ask us any more this bout. Good-by; I am sorry
Miss Marianne was not here. Remember me kindly to her.
La! if you have not got your spotted muslin on!--I wonder
you was not afraid of its being torn."
Such was her parting concern; for after this, she had
time only to pay her farewell compliments to Mrs. Jennings,
before her company was claimed by Mrs. Richardson;
and Elinor was left in possession of knowledge which
might feed her powers of reflection some time, though she
had learnt very little more than what had been already
foreseen and foreplanned in her own mind. Edward's marriage
with Lucy was as firmly determined on, and the time
of its taking place remained as absolutely uncertain,
as she had concluded it would be;--every thing depended,
exactly after her expectation, on his getting that preferment,
of which, at present, there seemed not the smallest chance.
As soon as they returned to the carriage,
Mrs. Jennings was eager for information; but as Elinor
wished to spread as little as possible intelligence
that had in the first place been so unfairly obtained,
she confined herself to the brief repetition of such
simple particulars, as she felt assured that Lucy,
for the sake of her own consequence, would choose
to have known. The continuance of their engagement,
and the means that were able to be taken for promoting
its end, was all her communication; and this produced
from Mrs. Jennings the following natural remark.
"Wait for his having a living!--ay, we all know how
THAT will end:--they will wait a twelvemonth, and finding
no good comes of it, will set down upon a curacy of fifty
pounds a-year, with the interest of his two thousand pounds,
and what little matter Mr. Steele and Mr. Pratt can
give her.--Then they will have a child every year! and
Lord help 'em! how poor they will be!--I must see
what I can give them towards furnishing their house.
Two maids and two men, indeed!--as I talked of t'other
day.--No, no, they must get a stout girl of all works.--
Betty's sister would never do for them NOW."
The next morning brought Elinor a letter by the
two-penny post from Lucy herself. It was as follows:
"Bartlett's Building, March.
"I hope my dear Miss Dashwood will excuse the
liberty I take of writing to her; but I know your
friendship for me will make you pleased to hear such
a good account of myself and my dear Edward, after
all the troubles we have went through lately,
therefore will make no more apologies, but proceed
to say that, thank God! though we have suffered
dreadfully, we are both quite well now, and as happy
as we must always be in one another's love. We have
had great trials, and great persecutions, but
however, at the same time, gratefully acknowledge
many friends, yourself not the least among them,
whose great kindness I shall always thankfully
remember, as will Edward too, who I have told of
it. I am sure you will be glad to hear, as likewise
dear Mrs. Jennings, I spent two happy hours with
him yesterday afternoon, he would not hear of our
parting, though earnestly did I, as I thought my
duty required, urge him to it for prudence sake,
and would have parted for ever on the spot, would
he consent to it; but he said it should never be,
he did not regard his mother's anger, while he could
have my affections; our prospects are not very
bright, to be sure, but we must wait, and hope for
the best; he will be ordained shortly; and should
it ever be in your power to recommend him to any
body that has a living to bestow, am very sure you
will not forget us, and dear Mrs. Jennings too,
trust she will speak a good word for us to Sir John,
or Mr. Palmer, or any friend that may be able to
assist us.--Poor Anne was much to blame for what
she did, but she did it for the best, so I say
nothing; hope Mrs. Jennings won't think it too much
trouble to give us a call, should she come this way
any morning, 'twould be a great kindness, and my
cousins would be proud to know her.--My paper reminds
me to conclude; and begging to be most gratefully
and respectfully remembered to her, and to Sir John,
and Lady Middleton, and the dear children, when you
chance to see them, and love to Miss Marianne,
"I am, &c."
As soon as Elinor had finished it, she performed
what she concluded to be its writer's real design,
by placing it in the hands of Mrs. Jennings, who read it
aloud with many comments of satisfaction and praise.
"Very well indeed!--how prettily she writes!--aye,
that was quite proper to let him be off if he would.
That was just like Lucy.--Poor soul! I wish I COULD get
him a living, with all my heart.--She calls me dear
Mrs. Jennings, you see. She is a good-hearted girl
as ever lived.--Very well upon my word. That sentence
is very prettily turned. Yes, yes, I will go and see her,
sure enough. How attentive she is, to think of every
body!--Thank you, my dear, for shewing it me. It is
as pretty a letter as ever I saw, and does Lucy's head
and heart great credit."
The Miss Dashwoods had now been rather more than
two months in town, and Marianne's impatience to be gone
increased every day. She sighed for the air, the liberty,
the quiet of the country; and fancied that if any place
could give her ease, Barton must do it. Elinor was hardly
less anxious than herself for their removal, and only so much
less bent on its being effected immediately, as that she
was conscious of the difficulties of so long a journey,
which Marianne could not be brought to acknowledge.
She began, however, seriously to turn her thoughts towards
its accomplishment, and had already mentioned their wishes
to their kind hostess, who resisted them with all the
eloquence of her good-will, when a plan was suggested,
which, though detaining them from home yet a few weeks
longer, appeared to Elinor altogether much more eligible
than any other. The Palmers were to remove to Cleveland
about the end of March, for the Easter holidays;
and Mrs. Jennings, with both her friends, received a very
warm invitation from Charlotte to go with them. This would
not, in itself, have been sufficient for the delicacy of
Miss Dashwood;--but it was inforced with so much real
politeness by Mr. Palmer himself, as, joined to the very
great amendment of his manners towards them since her
sister had been known to be unhappy, induced her to accept
it with pleasure.
When she told Marianne what she had done, however,
her first reply was not very auspicious.
"Cleveland!"--she cried, with great agitation.
"No, I cannot go to Cleveland."--
"You forget," said Elinor gently, "that its situation
is not...that it is not in the neighbourhood of..."
"But it is in Somersetshire.--I cannot go
into Somersetshire.--There, where I looked forward
to going...No, Elinor, you cannot expect me to go there."
Elinor would not argue upon the propriety of overcoming
such feelings;--she only endeavoured to counteract them by
working on others;--represented it, therefore, as a measure
which would fix the time of her returning to that dear mother,
whom she so much wished to see, in a more eligible,
more comfortable manner, than any other plan could do,
and perhaps without any greater delay. From Cleveland,
which was within a few miles of Bristol, the distance to
Barton was not beyond one day, though a long day's journey;
and their mother's servant might easily come there to attend
them down; and as there could be no occasion of their
staying above a week at Cleveland, they might now be at
home in little more than three weeks' time. As Marianne's
affection for her mother was sincere, it must triumph
with little difficulty, over the imaginary evils she had started.
Mrs. Jennings was so far from being weary of her guest,
that she pressed them very earnestly to return with her again
from Cleveland. Elinor was grateful for the attention,
but it could not alter her design; and their mother's
concurrence being readily gained, every thing relative
to their return was arranged as far as it could be;--
and Marianne found some relief in drawing up a statement
of the hours that were yet to divide her from Barton.
"Ah! Colonel, I do not know what you and I shall
do without the Miss Dashwoods;"--was Mrs. Jennings's
address to him when he first called on her, after their
leaving her was settled--"for they are quite resolved
upon going home from the Palmers;--and how forlorn we
shall be, when I come back!--Lord! we shall sit and gape
at one another as dull as two cats."
Perhaps Mrs. Jennings was in hopes, by this vigorous
sketch of their future ennui, to provoke him to make
that offer, which might give himself an escape from it;--
and if so, she had soon afterwards good reason to think
her object gained; for, on Elinor's moving to the window
to take more expeditiously the dimensions of a print,
which she was going to copy for her friend, he followed
her to it with a look of particular meaning, and conversed
with her there for several minutes. The effect of his
discourse on the lady too, could not escape her observation,
for though she was too honorable to listen, and had even
changed her seat, on purpose that she might NOT hear,
to one close by the piano forte on which Marianne
was playing, she could not keep herself from seeing
that Elinor changed colour, attended with agitation,
and was too intent on what he said to pursue her employment.--
Still farther in confirmation of her hopes, in the interval
of Marianne's turning from one lesson to another,
some words of the Colonel's inevitably reached her ear,
in which he seemed to be apologising for the badness
of his house. This set the matter beyond a doubt.
She wondered, indeed, at his thinking it necessary
to do so; but supposed it to be the proper etiquette.
What Elinor said in reply she could not distinguish,
but judged from the motion of her lips, that she did
not think THAT any material objection;--and Mrs. Jennings
commended her in her heart for being so honest.
They then talked on for a few minutes longer without her
catching a syllable, when another lucky stop in Marianne's
performance brought her these words in the Colonel's calm