"Of ONE thing, my dear sister," kindly taking her hand,
and speaking in an awful whisper,--"I may assure you;--
and I WILL do it, because I know it must gratify you.
I have good reason to think--indeed I have it from the
best authority, or I should not repeat it, for otherwise
it would be very wrong to say any thing about it--but
I have it from the very best authority--not that I ever
precisely heard Mrs. Ferrars say it herself--but her
daughter DID, and I have it from her--That in short,
whatever objections there might be against a certain--a
certain connection--you understand me--it would have been
far preferable to her, it would not have given her half
the vexation that THIS does. I was exceedingly pleased
to hear that Mrs. Ferrars considered it in that light--
a very gratifying circumstance you know to us all.
'It would have been beyond comparison,' she said, 'the least
evil of the two, and she would be glad to compound NOW
for nothing worse.' But however, all that is quite out
of the question--not to be thought of or mentioned--
as to any attachment you know--it never could be--all
that is gone by. But I thought I would just tell you
of this, because I knew how much it must please you.
Not that you have any reason to regret, my dear Elinor. There
is no doubt of your doing exceedingly well--quite as well,
or better, perhaps, all things considered. Has Colonel
Brandon been with you lately?"
Elinor had heard enough, if not to gratify her vanity,
and raise her self-importance, to agitate her nerves
and fill her mind;--and she was therefore glad to be
spared from the necessity of saying much in reply herself,
and from the danger of hearing any thing more from
her brother, by the entrance of Mr. Robert Ferrars.
After a few moments' chat, John Dashwood, recollecting that
Fanny was yet uninformed of her sister's being there,
quitted the room in quest of her; and Elinor was left
to improve her acquaintance with Robert, who, by the
gay unconcern, the happy self-complacency of his manner
while enjoying so unfair a division of his mother's love
and liberality, to the prejudice of his banished brother,
earned only by his own dissipated course of life, and that
brother's integrity, was confirming her most unfavourable
opinion of his head and heart.
They had scarcely been two minutes by themselves,
before he began to speak of Edward; for he, too, had heard
of the living, and was very inquisitive on the subject.
Elinor repeated the particulars of it, as she had given them
to John; and their effect on Robert, though very different,
was not less striking than it had been on HIM. He laughed
most immoderately. The idea of Edward's being a clergyman,
and living in a small parsonage-house, diverted him
beyond measure;--and when to that was added the fanciful
imagery of Edward reading prayers in a white surplice,
and publishing the banns of marriage between John Smith and
Mary Brown, he could conceive nothing more ridiculous.
Elinor, while she waited in silence and immovable
gravity, the conclusion of such folly, could not restrain
her eyes from being fixed on him with a look that spoke
all the contempt it excited. It was a look, however,
very well bestowed, for it relieved her own feelings, and gave
no intelligence to him. He was recalled from wit to wisdom,
not by any reproof of her's, but by his own sensibility.
"We may treat it as a joke," said he, at last,
recovering from the affected laugh which had considerably
lengthened out the genuine gaiety of the moment--"but, upon
my soul, it is a most serious business. Poor Edward!
he is ruined for ever. I am extremely sorry for it--
for I know him to be a very good-hearted creature; as
well-meaning a fellow perhaps, as any in the world.
You must not judge of him, Miss Dashwood, from YOUR
slight acquaintance.--Poor Edward!--His manners are certainly
not the happiest in nature.--But we are not all born,
you know, with the same powers,--the same address.--
Poor fellow!--to see him in a circle of strangers!--
to be sure it was pitiable enough!--but upon my soul,
I believe he has as good a heart as any in the kingdom;
and I declare and protest to you I never was so shocked in my
life, as when it all burst forth. I could not believe it.--
My mother was the first person who told me of it;
and I, feeling myself called on to act with resolution,
immediately said to her, 'My dear madam, I do not know
what you may intend to do on the occasion, but as for myself,
I must say, that if Edward does marry this young woman,
I never will see him again.' That was what I said immediately.--
I was most uncommonly shocked, indeed!--Poor Edward!--he has
done for himself completely--shut himself out for ever from
all decent society!--but, as I directly said to my mother,
I am not in the least surprised at it; from his style
of education, it was always to be expected. My poor mother
was half frantic."
"Have you ever seen the lady?"
"Yes; once, while she was staying in this house,
I happened to drop in for ten minutes; and I saw
quite enough of her. The merest awkward country girl,
without style, or elegance, and almost without beauty.--
I remember her perfectly. Just the kind of girl I
should suppose likely to captivate poor Edward.
I offered immediately, as soon as my mother related
the affair to me, to talk to him myself, and dissuade
him from the match; but it was too late THEN, I found,
to do any thing, for unluckily, I was not in the way
at first, and knew nothing of it till after the breach
had taken place, when it was not for me, you know,
to interfere. But had I been informed of it a few
hours earlier--I think it is most probable--that something
might have been hit on. I certainly should have represented
it to Edward in a very strong light. 'My dear fellow,'
I should have said, 'consider what you are doing.
You are making a most disgraceful connection, and such a one
as your family are unanimous in disapproving.' I cannot
help thinking, in short, that means might have been found.
But now it is all too late. He must be starved, you know;--
that is certain; absolutely starved."
He had just settled this point with great composure,
when the entrance of Mrs. John Dashwood put an end to the subject.
But though SHE never spoke of it out of her own family,
Elinor could see its influence on her mind, in the something
like confusion of countenance with which she entered,
and an attempt at cordiality in her behaviour to herself.
She even proceeded so far as to be concerned to find
that Elinor and her sister were so soon to leave town,
as she had hoped to see more of them;--an exertion
in which her husband, who attended her into the room,
and hung enamoured over her accents, seemed to distinguish
every thing that was most affectionate and graceful.
One other short call in Harley Street, in which Elinor
received her brother's congratulations on their travelling
so far towards Barton without any expense, and on Colonel
Brandon's being to follow them to Cleveland in a day or two,
completed the intercourse of the brother and sisters
in town;--and a faint invitation from Fanny, to come
to Norland whenever it should happen to be in their way,
which of all things was the most unlikely to occur,
with a more warm, though less public, assurance, from John
to Elinor, of the promptitude with which he should come
to see her at Delaford, was all that foretold any meeting
in the country.
It amused her to observe that all her friends seemed
determined to send her to Delaford;--a place, in which,
of all others, she would now least chuse to visit, or wish
to reside; for not only was it considered as her future
home by her brother and Mrs. Jennings, but even Lucy,
when they parted, gave her a pressing invitation to visit
Very early in April, and tolerably early in the day,
the two parties from Hanover Square and Berkeley Street set
out from their respective homes, to meet, by appointment,
on the road. For the convenience of Charlotte and her child,
they were to be more than two days on their journey,
and Mr. Palmer, travelling more expeditiously with
Colonel Brandon, was to join them at Cleveland soon after
Marianne, few as had been her hours of comfort
in London, and eager as she had long been to quit it,
could not, when it came to the point, bid adieu to
the house in which she had for the last time enjoyed
those hopes, and that confidence, in Willoughby,
which were now extinguished for ever, without great pain.
Nor could she leave the place in which Willoughby remained,
busy in new engagements, and new schemes, in which SHE
could have no share, without shedding many tears.
Elinor's satisfaction, at the moment of removal,
was more positive. She had no such object for her lingering
thoughts to fix on, she left no creature behind, from whom
it would give her a moment's regret to be divided for ever,
she was pleased to be free herself from the persecution
of Lucy's friendship, she was grateful for bringing
her sister away unseen by Willoughby since his marriage,
and she looked forward with hope to what a few months
of tranquility at Barton might do towards restoring
Marianne's peace of mind, and confirming her own.
Their journey was safely performed. The second
day brought them into the cherished, or the prohibited,
county of Somerset, for as such was it dwelt on by turns
in Marianne's imagination; and in the forenoon of the third
they drove up to Cleveland.
Cleveland was a spacious, modern-built house,
situated on a sloping lawn. It had no park, but the
pleasure-grounds were tolerably extensive; and like
every other place of the same degree of importance,
it had its open shrubbery, and closer wood walk,
a road of smooth gravel winding round a plantation,
led to the front, the lawn was dotted over with timber,
the house itself was under the guardianship of the fir,
the mountain-ash, and the acacia, and a thick screen of
them altogether, interspersed with tall Lombardy poplars,
shut out the offices.