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Chapter 24

  • In a firm, though cautious tone, Elinor thus began.
  • "I should be undeserving of the confidence you have honoured me with, if _elt no desire for its continuance, or no farther curiosity on its subject. _ill not apologize therefore for bringing it forward again."
  • "Thank you," cried Lucy warmly, "for breaking the ice; you have set my hear_t ease by it; for I was somehow or other afraid I had offended you by what _old you that Monday."
  • "Offended me! How could you suppose so? Believe me," and Elinor spoke it wit_he truest sincerity, "nothing could be farther from my intention than to giv_ou such an idea. Could you have a motive for the trust, that was no_onourable and flattering to me?"
  • "And yet I do assure you," replied Lucy, her little sharp eyes full o_eaning, "there seemed to me to be a coldness and displeasure in your manne_hat made me quite uncomfortable. I felt sure that you was angry with me; an_ave been quarrelling with myself ever since, for having took such a libert_s to trouble you with my affairs. But I am very glad to find it was only m_wn fancy, and that you really do not blame me. If you knew what a consolatio_t was to me to relieve my heart speaking to you of what I am always thinkin_f every moment of my life, your compassion would make you overlook ever_hing else I am sure."
  • "Indeed, I can easily believe that it was a very great relief to you, t_cknowledge your situation to me, and be assured that you shall never hav_eason to repent it. Your case is a very unfortunate one; you seem to me to b_urrounded with difficulties, and you will have need of all your mutua_ffection to support you under them. Mr. Ferrars, I believe, is entirel_ependent on his mother."
  • "He has only two thousand pounds of his own; it would be madness to marry upo_hat, though for my own part, I could give up every prospect of more without _igh. I have been always used to a very small income, and could struggle wit_ny poverty for him; but I love him too well to be the selfish means o_obbing him, perhaps, of all that his mother might give him if he married t_lease her. We must wait, it may be for many years. With almost every othe_an in the world, it would be an alarming prospect; but Edward's affection an_onstancy nothing can deprive me of I know."
  • "That conviction must be every thing to you; and he is undoubtedly supporte_y the same trust in your's. If the strength of your reciprocal attachment ha_ailed, as between many people, and under many circumstances it naturall_ould during a four years' engagement, your situation would have bee_itiable, indeed."
  • Lucy here looked up; but Elinor was careful in guarding her countenance fro_very expression that could give her words a suspicious tendency.
  • "Edward's love for me," said Lucy, "has been pretty well put to the test, b_ur long, very long absence since we were first engaged, and it has stood th_rial so well, that I should be unpardonable to doubt it now. I can safely sa_hat he has never gave me one moment's alarm on that account from the first."
  • Elinor hardly knew whether to smile or sigh at this assertion.
  • Lucy went on. "I am rather of a jealous temper too by nature, and from ou_ifferent situations in life, from his being so much more in the world tha_e, and our continual separation, I was enough inclined for suspicion, to hav_ound out the truth in an instant, if there had been the slightest alteratio_n his behaviour to me when we met, or any lowness of spirits that I could no_ccount for, or if he had talked more of one lady than another, or seemed i_ny respect less happy at Longstaple than he used to be. I do not mean to sa_hat I am particularly observant or quick-sighted in general, but in such _ase I am sure I could not be deceived."
  • "All this," thought Elinor, "is very pretty; but it can impose upon neither o_s."
  • "But what," said she after a short silence, "are your views? or have you non_ut that of waiting for Mrs. Ferrars's death, which is a melancholy an_hocking extremity?—Is her son determined to submit to this, and to all th_ediousness of the many years of suspense in which it may involve you, rathe_han run the risk of her displeasure for a while by owning the truth?"
  • "If we could be certain that it would be only for a while! But Mrs. Ferrars i_ very headstrong proud woman, and in her first fit of anger upon hearing it,
  • would very likely secure every thing to Robert, and the idea of that, fo_dward's sake, frightens away all my inclination for hasty measures."
  • "And for your own sake too, or you are carrying your disinterestedness beyon_eason."
  • Lucy looked at Elinor again, and was silent.
  • "Do you know Mr. Robert Ferrars?" asked Elinor.
  • "Not at all—I never saw him; but I fancy he is very unlike his brother—sill_nd a great coxcomb."
  • "A great coxcomb!" repeated Miss Steele, whose ear had caught those words by _udden pause in Marianne's music.— "Oh, they are talking of their favourit_eaux, I dare say."
  • "No sister," cried Lucy, "you are mistaken there, our favourite beaux are NO_reat coxcombs."
  • "I can answer for it that Miss Dashwood's is not," said Mrs. Jennings,
  • laughing heartily; "for he is one of the modestest, prettiest behaved youn_en I ever saw; but as for Lucy, she is such a sly little creature, there i_o finding out who SHE likes."
  • "Oh," cried Miss Steele, looking significantly round at them, "I dare sa_ucy's beau is quite as modest and pretty behaved as Miss Dashwood's."
  • Elinor blushed in spite of herself. Lucy bit her lip, and looked angrily a_er sister. A mutual silence took place for some time. Lucy first put an en_o it by saying in a lower tone, though Marianne was then giving them th_owerful protection of a very magnificent concerto—
  • "I will honestly tell you of one scheme which has lately come into my head,
  • for bringing matters to bear; indeed I am bound to let you into the secret,
  • for you are a party concerned. I dare say you have seen enough of Edward t_now that he would prefer the church to every other profession; now my plan i_hat he should take orders as soon as he can, and then through your interest,
  • which I am sure you would be kind enough to use out of friendship for him, an_ hope out of some regard to me, your brother might be persuaded to give hi_orland living; which I understand is a very good one, and the presen_ncumbent not likely to live a great while. That would be enough for us t_arry upon, and we might trust to time and chance for the rest."
  • "I should always be happy," replied Elinor, "to show any mark of my esteem an_riendship for Mr. Ferrars; but do you not perceive that my interest on suc_n occasion would be perfectly unnecessary? He is brother to Mrs. Joh_ashwood—THAT must be recommendation enough to her husband."
  • "But Mrs. John Dashwood would not much approve of Edward's going into orders."
  • "Then I rather suspect that my interest would do very little."
  • They were again silent for many minutes. At length Lucy exclaimed with a dee_igh,
  • "I believe it would be the wisest way to put an end to the business at once b_issolving the engagement. We seem so beset with difficulties on every side,
  • that though it would make us miserable for a time, we should be happie_erhaps in the end. But you will not give me your advice, Miss Dashwood?"
  • "No," answered Elinor, with a smile, which concealed very agitated feelings,
  • "on such a subject I certainly will not. You know very well that my opinio_ould have no weight with you, unless it were on the side of your wishes."
  • "Indeed you wrong me," replied Lucy, with great solemnity; "I know nobody o_hose judgment I think so highly as I do of yours; and I do really believe,
  • that if you was to say to me, 'I advise you by all means to put an end to you_ngagement with Edward Ferrars, it will be more for the happiness of both o_ou,' I should resolve upon doing it immediately."
  • Elinor blushed for the insincerity of Edward's future wife, and replied, "Thi_ompliment would effectually frighten me from giving any opinion on th_ubject had I formed one. It raises my influence much too high; the power o_ividing two people so tenderly attached is too much for an indifferen_erson."
  • "'Tis because you are an indifferent person," said Lucy, with some pique, an_aying a particular stress on those words, "that your judgment might justl_ave such weight with me. If you could be supposed to be biased in any respec_y your own feelings, your opinion would not be worth having."
  • Elinor thought it wisest to make no answer to this, lest they might provok_ach other to an unsuitable increase of ease and unreserve; and was eve_artly determined never to mention the subject again. Another pause therefor_f many minutes' duration, succeeded this speech, and Lucy was still the firs_o end it.
  • "Shall you be in town this winter, Miss Dashwood?" said she with all he_ccustomary complacency.
  • "Certainly not."
  • "I am sorry for that," returned the other, while her eyes brightened at th_nformation, "it would have gave me such pleasure to meet you there! But _are say you will go for all that. To be sure, your brother and sister wil_sk you to come to them."
  • "It will not be in my power to accept their invitation if they do."
  • "How unlucky that is! I had quite depended upon meeting you there. Anne and m_re to go the latter end of January to some relations who have been wanting u_o visit them these several years! But I only go for the sake of seein_dward. He will be there in February, otherwise London would have no charm_or me; I have not spirits for it."
  • Elinor was soon called to the card-table by the conclusion of the firs_ubber, and the confidential discourse of the two ladies was therefore at a_nd, to which both of them submitted without any reluctance, for nothing ha_een said on either side to make them dislike each other less than they ha_one before; and Elinor sat down to the card table with the melanchol_ersuasion that Edward was not only without affection for the person who wa_o be his wife; but that he had not even the chance of being tolerably happ_n marriage, which sincere affection on HER side would have given, for self-
  • interest alone could induce a woman to keep a man to an engagement, of whic_he seemed so thoroughly aware that he was weary.
  • From this time the subject was never revived by Elinor, and when entered on b_ucy, who seldom missed an opportunity of introducing it, and was particularl_areful to inform her confidante, of her happiness whenever she received _etter from Edward, it was treated by the former with calmness and caution,
  • and dismissed as soon as civility would allow; for she felt such conversation_o be an indulgence which Lucy did not deserve, and which were dangerous t_erself.
  • The visit of the Miss Steeles at Barton Park was lengthened far beyond wha_he first invitation implied. Their favour increased; they could not b_pared; Sir John would not hear of their going; and in spite of their numerou_nd long arranged engagements in Exeter, in spite of the absolute necessity o_eturning to fulfill them immediately, which was in full force at the end o_very week, they were prevailed on to stay nearly two months at the park, an_o assist in the due celebration of that festival which requires a more tha_rdinary share of private balls and large dinners to proclaim its importance.