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Chapter 27

  • "If this open weather holds much longer," said Mrs. Jennings, when they met a_reakfast the following morning, "Sir John will not like leaving Barton nex_eek; 'tis a sad thing for sportsmen to lose a day's pleasure. Poor souls! _lways 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 windo_s she spoke, to examine the day. "I had not thought of that. This weathe_ill keep many sportsmen in the country."
  • It was a lucky recollection, all her good spirits were restored by it. "It i_harming weather for THEM indeed," she continued, as she sat down to th_reakfast 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 thi_ime of the year, and after such a series of rain, we shall certainly hav_ery little more of it. Frosts will soon set in, and in all probability wit_everity. In another day or two perhaps; this extreme mildness can hardly las_onger—nay, perhaps it may freeze tonight!"
  • "At any rate," said Elinor, wishing to prevent Mrs. Jennings from seeing he_ister's thoughts as clearly as she did, "I dare say we shall have Sir Joh_nd 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'_ost."
  • But if she DID, the letter was written and sent away with a privacy whic_luded all her watchfulness to ascertain the fact. Whatever the truth of i_ight be, and far as Elinor was from feeling thorough contentment about it, yet while she saw Marianne in spirits, she could not be very uncomfortabl_erself. 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 wa_ll the time busy in observing the direction of the wind, watching th_ariations 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 t_e 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 b_ut in a moment, and we shall have a clear afternoon."
  • Elinor was alternately diverted and pained; but Marianne persevered, and sa_very night in the brightness of the fire, and every morning in the appearanc_f 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 behaviou_o themselves, which was invariably kind. Every thing in her househol_rrangements was conducted on the most liberal plan, and excepting a few ol_ity friends, whom, to Lady Middleton's regret, she had never dropped, sh_isited no one to whom an introduction could at all discompose the feelings o_er young companions. Pleased to find herself more comfortably situated i_hat particular than she had expected, Elinor was very willing to compound fo_he 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 amus_er.
  • Colonel Brandon, who had a general invitation to the house, was with the_lmost every day; he came to look at Marianne and talk to Elinor, who ofte_erived more satisfaction from conversing with him than from any other dail_ccurrence, but who saw at the same time with much concern his continue_egard for her sister. She feared it was a strengthening regard. It grieve_er to see the earnestness with which he often watched Marianne, and hi_pirits were certainly worse than when at Barton.
  • About a week after their arrival, it became certain that Willoughby was als_rrived. 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, "Depen_pon 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 he_ister all, and more than all, their former agitation. From this moment he_ind 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 nex_orning, when the others went out.
  • Elinor's thoughts were full of what might be passing in Berkeley Street durin_heir absence; but a moment's glance at her sister when they returned wa_nough to inform her, that Willoughby had paid no second visit there. A not_as 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 t_ell."
  • "Nor I," answered Marianne with energy, "our situations then are alike. W_ave neither of us any thing to tell; you, because you do not communicate, an_, because I conceal nothing."
  • Elinor, distressed by this charge of reserve in herself, which she was not a_iberty to do away, knew not how, under such circumstances, to press fo_reater openness in Marianne.
  • 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 th_ight before, and requesting the company of her mother and cousins th_ollowing evening. Business on Sir John's part, and a violent cold on her own, prevented their calling in Berkeley Street. The invitation was accepted; bu_hen the hour of appointment drew near, necessary as it was in common civilit_o Mrs. Jennings, that they should both attend her on such a visit, Elinor ha_ome difficulty in persuading her sister to go, for still she had seen nothin_f 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 materiall_ltered by a change of abode, for although scarcely settled in town, Sir Joh_ad contrived to collect around him, nearly twenty young people, and to amus_hem with a ball. This was an affair, however, of which Lady Middleton did no_pprove. In the country, an unpremeditated dance was very allowable; but i_ondon, where the reputation of elegance was more important and less easil_ttained, it was risking too much for the gratification of a few girls, t_ave it known that Lady Middleton had given a small dance of eight or nin_ouple, with two violins, and a mere side-board collation.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Palmer were of the party; from the former, whom they had not see_efore since their arrival in town, as he was careful to avoid the appearanc_f any attention to his mother-in-law, and therefore never came near her, the_eceived 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 fro_he other side of the room. Marianne gave one glance round the apartment a_he entered: it was enough—HE was not there—and she sat down, equally ill- disposed to receive or communicate pleasure. After they had been assemble_bout an hour, Mr. Palmer sauntered towards the Miss Dashwoods to express hi_urprise on seeing them in town, though Colonel Brandon had been firs_nformed of their arrival at his house, and he had himself said something ver_roll on hearing that they were to come.
  • "I thought you were both in Devonshire," said he.
  • "Did you?" replied Elinor.
  • "When do you go back again?"
  • "I do not know." And thus ended their discourse.
  • Never had Marianne been so unwilling to dance in her life, as she was tha_vening, and never so much fatigued by the exercise. She complained of it a_hey returned to Berkeley Street.
  • "Aye, aye," said Mrs. Jennings, "we know the reason of all that very well; i_ certain person who shall be nameless, had been there, you would not hav_een a bit tired: and to say the truth it was not very pretty of him not t_ive you the meeting when he was invited."
  • "Invited!" cried Marianne.
  • "So my daughter Middleton told me, for it seems Sir John met him somewhere i_he street this morning." Marianne said no more, but looked exceedingly hurt.
  • Impatient in this situation to be doing something that might lead to he_ister's relief, Elinor resolved to write the next morning to her mother, an_oped by awakening her fears for the health of Marianne, to procure thos_nquiries which had been so long delayed; and she was still more eagerly ben_n this measure by perceiving after breakfast on the morrow, that Marianne wa_gain writing to Willoughby, for she could not suppose it to be to any othe_erson.
  • About the middle of the day, Mrs. Jennings went out by herself on business, and Elinor began her letter directly, while Marianne, too restless fo_mployment, too anxious for conversation, walked from one window to the other, or sat down by the fire in melancholy meditation. Elinor was very earnest i_er application to her mother, relating all that had passed, her suspicions o_illoughby's inconstancy, urging her by every plea of duty and affection t_emand from Marianne an account of her real situation with respect to him.
  • Her letter was scarcely finished, when a rap foretold a visitor, and Colone_randon was announced. Marianne, who had seen him from the window, and wh_ated company of any kind, left the room before he entered it. He looked mor_han usually grave, and though expressing satisfaction at finding Mis_ashwood alone, as if he had somewhat in particular to tell her, sat for som_ime without saying a word. Elinor, persuaded that he had some communicatio_o make in which her sister was concerned, impatiently expected its opening.
  • It was not the first time of her feeling the same kind of conviction; for, more than once before, beginning with the observation of "your sister look_nwell to-day," or "your sister seems out of spirits," he had appeared on th_oint, either of disclosing, or of inquiring, something particular about her.
  • After a pause of several minutes, their silence was broken, by his asking he_n a voice of some agitation, when he was to congratulate her on th_cquisition of a brother? Elinor was not prepared for such a question, an_aving no answer ready, was obliged to adopt the simple and common expedient, of asking what he meant? He tried to smile as he replied, "your sister'_ngagement to Mr. Willoughby is very generally known."
  • "It cannot be generally known," returned Elinor, "for her own family do no_now it."
  • He looked surprised and said, "I beg your pardon, I am afraid my inquiry ha_een impertinent; but I had not supposed any secrecy intended, as they openl_orrespond, and their marriage is universally talked of."
  • "How can that be? By whom can you have heard it mentioned?"
  • "By many—by some of whom you know nothing, by others with whom you are mos_ntimate, Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Palmer, and the Middletons. But still I migh_ot have believed it, for where the mind is perhaps rather unwilling to b_onvinced, it will always find something to support its doubts, if I had not, when the servant let me in today, accidentally seen a letter in his hand, directed to Mr. Willoughby in your sister's writing. I came to inquire, but _as convinced before I could ask the question. Is every thing finally settled?
  • Is it impossible to-? But I have no right, and I could have no chance o_ucceeding. Excuse me, Miss Dashwood. I believe I have been wrong in saying s_uch, but I hardly know what to do, and on your prudence I have the stronges_ependence. Tell me that it is all absolutely resolved on, that any attempt, that in short concealment, if concealment be possible, is all that remains."
  • These words, which conveyed to Elinor a direct avowal of his love for he_ister, affected her very much. She was not immediately able to say anything, and even when her spirits were recovered, she debated for a short time, on th_nswer it would be most proper to give. The real state of things betwee_illoughby and her sister was so little known to herself, that in endeavourin_o explain it, she might be as liable to say too much as too little. Yet a_he was convinced that Marianne's affection for Willoughby, could leave n_ope of Colonel Brandon's success, whatever the event of that affection migh_e, and at the same time wished to shield her conduct from censure, sh_hought it most prudent and kind, after some consideration, to say more tha_he really knew or believed. She acknowledged, therefore, that though she ha_ever been informed by themselves of the terms on which they stood with eac_ther, of their mutual affection she had no doubt, and of their correspondenc_he was not astonished to hear.
  • He listened to her with silent attention, and on her ceasing to speak, ros_irectly from his seat, and after saying in a voice of emotion, "to you_ister I wish all imaginable happiness; to Willoughby that he may endeavour t_eserve her,"—took leave, and went away.
  • Elinor derived no comfortable feelings from this conversation, to lessen th_neasiness of her mind on other points; she was left, on the contrary, with _elancholy impression of Colonel Brandon's unhappiness, and was prevented eve_rom wishing it removed, by her anxiety for the very event that must confir_t.