"I am afraid it cannot take place very soon."
Astonished and shocked at so unlover-like a speech,
she was almost ready to cry out, "Lord! what should
hinder it?"--but checking her desire, confined herself
to this silent ejaculation.
"This is very strange!--sure he need not wait
to be older."
This delay on the Colonel's side, however, did not
seem to offend or mortify his fair companion in the least,
for on their breaking up the conference soon afterwards,
and moving different ways, Mrs. Jennings very plainly heard
Elinor say, and with a voice which shewed her to feel what she said,
"I shall always think myself very much obliged to you."
Mrs. Jennings was delighted with her gratitude,
and only wondered that after hearing such a sentence,
the Colonel should be able to take leave of them, as he
immediately did, with the utmost sang-froid, and go away
without making her any reply!--She had not thought her old
friend could have made so indifferent a suitor.
What had really passed between them was to this effect.
"I have heard," said he, with great compassion,
"of the injustice your friend Mr. Ferrars has suffered
from his family; for if I understand the matter right,
he has been entirely cast off by them for persevering
in his engagement with a very deserving young woman.--
Have I been rightly informed?--Is it so?--"
Elinor told him that it was.
"The cruelty, the impolitic cruelty,"--he replied,
with great feeling,--"of dividing, or attempting to divide,
two young people long attached to each other, is terrible.--
Mrs. Ferrars does not know what she may be doing--what
she may drive her son to. I have seen Mr. Ferrars two
or three times in Harley Street, and am much pleased
with him. He is not a young man with whom one can
be intimately acquainted in a short time, but I have
seen enough of him to wish him well for his own sake,
and as a friend of yours, I wish it still more.
I understand that he intends to take orders. Will you
be so good as to tell him that the living of Delaford,
now just vacant, as I am informed by this day's post,
is his, if he think it worth his acceptance--but THAT,
perhaps, so unfortunately circumstanced as he is now,
it may be nonsense to appear to doubt; I only wish it
were more valuable.-- It is a rectory, but a small one;
the late incumbent, I believe, did not make more than
200 L per annum, and though it is certainly capable
of improvement, I fear, not to such an amount as
to afford him a very comfortable income. Such as it is,
however, my pleasure in presenting him to it,
will be very great. Pray assure him of it."
Elinor's astonishment at this commission could
hardly have been greater, had the Colonel been really
making her an offer of his hand. The preferment,
which only two days before she had considered as hopeless
for Edward, was already provided to enable him to marry;--
and SHE, of all people in the world, was fixed on to
bestow it!--Her emotion was such as Mrs. Jennings had
attributed to a very different cause;--but whatever minor
feelings less pure, less pleasing, might have a share
in that emotion, her esteem for the general benevolence,
and her gratitude for the particular friendship,
which together prompted Colonel Brandon to this act,
were strongly felt, and warmly expressed. She thanked him
for it with all her heart, spoke of Edward's principles and
disposition with that praise which she knew them to deserve;
and promised to undertake the commission with pleasure,
if it were really his wish to put off so agreeable an office
to another. But at the same time, she could not help
thinking that no one could so well perform it as himself.
It was an office in short, from which, unwilling to give
Edward the pain of receiving an obligation from HER,
she would have been very glad to be spared herself;--
but Colonel Brandon, on motives of equal delicacy,
declining it likewise, still seemed so desirous of its being
given through her means, that she would not on any account
make farther opposition. Edward, she believed, was still in town,
and fortunately she had heard his address from Miss Steele.
She could undertake therefore to inform him of it,
in the course of the day. After this had been settled,
Colonel Brandon began to talk of his own advantage
in securing so respectable and agreeable a neighbour,
and THEN it was that he mentioned with regret, that the
house was small and indifferent;--an evil which Elinor,
as Mrs. Jennings had supposed her to do, made very light of,
at least as far as regarded its size.
"The smallness of the house," said she,
"I cannot imagine any inconvenience to them,
for it will be in proportion to their family and income."
By which the Colonel was surprised to find that SHE
was considering Mr. Ferrars's marriage as the certain
consequence of the presentation; for he did not suppose it
possible that Delaford living could supply such an income,
as anybody in his style of life would venture to settle on--
and he said so.
"This little rectory CAN do no more than make Mr. Ferrars
comfortable as a bachelor; it cannot enable him to marry.
I am sorry to say that my patronage ends with this;
and my interest is hardly more extensive. If, however,
by an unforeseen chance it should be in my power to serve
him farther, I must think very differently of him
from what I now do, if I am not as ready to be useful
to him then as I sincerely wish I could be at present.
What I am now doing indeed, seems nothing at all,
since it can advance him so little towards what must
be his principal, his only object of happiness.
His marriage must still be a distant good;--at least,
I am afraid it cannot take place very soon.--"
Such was the sentence which, when misunderstood,
so justly offended the delicate feelings of Mrs. Jennings;
but after this narration of what really passed between
Colonel Brandon and Elinor, while they stood at the window,
the gratitude expressed by the latter on their parting, may
perhaps appear in general, not less reasonably excited,
nor less properly worded than if it had arisen from
an offer of marriage.
"Well, Miss Dashwood," said Mrs. Jennings,
sagaciously smiling, as soon as the gentleman had withdrawn,
"I do not ask you what the Colonel has been saying to you;
for though, upon my honour, I TRIED to keep out of hearing,
I could not help catching enough to understand his business.
And I assure you I never was better pleased in my life,
and I wish you joy of it with all my heart."
"Thank you, ma'am," said Elinor. "It is a matter
of great joy to me; and I feel the goodness of Colonel
Brandon most sensibly. There are not many men who would
act as he has done. Few people who have so compassionate
a heart! I never was more astonished in my life."
"Lord! my dear, you are very modest. I an't the least
astonished at it in the world, for I have often thought
of late, there was nothing more likely to happen."
"You judged from your knowledge of the Colonel's
general benevolence; but at least you could not foresee
that the opportunity would so very soon occur."
"Opportunity!" repeated Mrs. Jennings--"Oh! as to that,
when a man has once made up his mind to such a thing,
somehow or other he will soon find an opportunity.
Well, my dear, I wish you joy of it again and again;
and if ever there was a happy couple in the world, I think
I shall soon know where to look for them."
"You mean to go to Delaford after them I suppose,"
said Elinor, with a faint smile.
"Aye, my dear, that I do, indeed. And as to the house
being a bad one, I do not know what the Colonel would be at,
for it is as good a one as ever I saw."
"He spoke of its being out of repair."
"Well, and whose fault is that? why don't he repair it?--
who should do it but himself?"
They were interrupted by the servant's coming in to
announce the carriage being at the door; and Mrs. Jennings
immediately preparing to go, said,--
"Well, my dear, I must be gone before I have had half
my talk out. But, however, we may have it all over in
the evening; for we shall be quite alone. I do not ask
you to go with me, for I dare say your mind is too full
of the matter to care for company; and besides, you must
long to tell your sister all about it."
Marianne had left the room before the conversation began.
"Certainly, ma'am, I shall tell Marianne of it;
but I shall not mention it at present to any body else."
"Oh! very well," said Mrs. Jennings rather disappointed.
"Then you would not have me tell it to Lucy, for I think
of going as far as Holborn to-day."
"No, ma'am, not even Lucy if you please.
One day's delay will not be very material; and till I
have written to Mr. Ferrars, I think it ought not to be
mentioned to any body else. I shall do THAT directly.
It is of importance that no time should be lost with him,
for he will of course have much to do relative to
This speech at first puzzled Mrs. Jennings exceedingly.
Why Mr. Ferrars was to have been written to about it
in such a hurry, she could not immediately comprehend.
A few moments' reflection, however, produced a very happy idea,
and she exclaimed;--
"Oh, ho!--I understand you. Mr. Ferrars is to be
the man. Well, so much the better for him. Ay, to be sure,
he must be ordained in readiness; and I am very glad
to find things are so forward between you. But, my dear,
is not this rather out of character? Should not the Colonel
write himself?--sure, he is the proper person."