When the particulars of this conversation were repeated by Miss Dashwood t_er sister, as they very soon were, the effect on her was not entirely such a_he former had hoped to see. Not that Marianne appeared to distrust the trut_f any part of it, for she listened to it all with the most steady an_ubmissive attention, made neither objection nor remark, attempted n_indication of Willoughby, and seemed to shew by her tears that she felt it t_e impossible. But though this behaviour assured Elinor that the conviction o_his guilt WAS carried home to her mind, though she saw with satisfaction th_ffect of it, in her no longer avoiding Colonel Brandon when he called, in he_peaking to him, even voluntarily speaking, with a kind of compassionat_espect, and though she saw her spirits less violently irritated than before, she did not see her less wretched. Her mind did become settled, but it wa_ettled in a gloomy dejection. She felt the loss of Willoughby's character ye_ore heavily than she had felt the loss of his heart; his seduction an_esertion of Miss Williams, the misery of that poor girl, and the doubt o_hat his designs might ONCE have been on herself, preyed altogether so much o_er spirits, that she could not bring herself to speak of what she felt eve_o Elinor; and, brooding over her sorrows in silence, gave more pain to he_ister than could have been communicated by the most open and most frequen_onfession of them.
To give the feelings or the language of Mrs. Dashwood on receiving an_nswering Elinor's letter would be only to give a repetition of what he_aughters had already felt and said; of a disappointment hardly less painfu_han Marianne's, and an indignation even greater than Elinor's. Long letter_rom her, quickly succeeding each other, arrived to tell all that she suffere_nd thought; to express her anxious solicitude for Marianne, and entreat sh_ould bear up with fortitude under this misfortune. Bad indeed must the natur_f Marianne's affliction be, when her mother could talk of fortitude!
mortifying and humiliating must be the origin of those regrets, which SH_ould wish her not to indulge!
Against the interest of her own individual comfort, Mrs. Dashwood ha_etermined that it would be better for Marianne to be any where, at that time, than at Barton, where every thing within her view would be bringing back th_ast in the strongest and most afflicting manner, by constantly placin_illoughby before her, such as she had always seen him there. She recommende_t to her daughters, therefore, by all means not to shorten their visit t_rs. Jennings; the length of which, though never exactly fixed, had bee_xpected by all to comprise at least five or six weeks. A variety o_ccupations, of objects, and of company, which could not be procured a_arton, would be inevitable there, and might yet, she hoped, cheat Marianne, at times, into some interest beyond herself, and even into some amusement, much as the ideas of both might now be spurned by her.
From all danger of seeing Willoughby again, her mother considered her to be a_east equally safe in town as in the country, since his acquaintance must no_e dropped by all who called themselves her friends. Design could never brin_hem in each other's way: negligence could never leave them exposed to _urprise; and chance had less in its favour in the crowd of London than eve_n the retirement of Barton, where it might force him before her while payin_hat visit at Allenham on his marriage, which Mrs. Dashwood, from foreseein_t first as a probable event, had brought herself to expect as a certain one.
She had yet another reason for wishing her children to remain where they were; a letter from her son-in-law had told her that he and his wife were to be i_own before the middle of February, and she judged it right that they shoul_ometimes see their brother.
Marianne had promised to be guided by her mother's opinion, and she submitte_o it therefore without opposition, though it proved perfectly different fro_hat she wished and expected, though she felt it to be entirely wrong, forme_n mistaken grounds, and that by requiring her longer continuance in London i_eprived her of the only possible alleviation of her wretchedness, th_ersonal sympathy of her mother, and doomed her to such society and suc_cenes as must prevent her ever knowing a moment's rest.
But it was a matter of great consolation to her, that what brought evil t_erself would bring good to her sister; and Elinor, on the other hand, suspecting that it would not be in her power to avoid Edward entirely, comforted herself by thinking, that though their longer stay would therefor_ilitate against her own happiness, it would be better for Marianne than a_mmediate return into Devonshire.
Her carefulness in guarding her sister from ever hearing Willoughby's nam_entioned, was not thrown away. Marianne, though without knowing it herself, reaped all its advantage; for neither Mrs. Jennings, nor Sir John, nor eve_rs. Palmer herself, ever spoke of him before her. Elinor wished that the sam_orbearance could have extended towards herself, but that was impossible, an_he was obliged to listen day after day to the indignation of them all.
Sir John, could not have thought it possible. "A man of whom he had always ha_uch reason to think well! Such a good-natured fellow! He did not believ_here was a bolder rider in England! It was an unaccountable business. H_ished him at the devil with all his heart. He would not speak another word t_im, meet him where he might, for all the world! No, not if it were to be b_he side of Barton covert, and they were kept watching for two hours together.
Such a scoundrel of a fellow! such a deceitful dog! It was only the last tim_hey met that he had offered him one of Folly's puppies! and this was the en_f it!"
Mrs. Palmer, in her way, was equally angry. "She was determined to drop hi_cquaintance immediately, and she was very thankful that she had never bee_cquainted with him at all. She wished with all her heart Combe Magna was no_o near Cleveland; but it did not signify, for it was a great deal too far of_o visit; she hated him so much that she was resolved never to mention hi_ame again, and she should tell everybody she saw, how good-for-nothing h_as."
The rest of Mrs. Palmer's sympathy was shewn in procuring all the particular_n her power of the approaching marriage, and communicating them to Elinor.
She could soon tell at what coachmaker's the new carriage was building, b_hat painter Mr. Willoughby's portrait was drawn, and at what warehouse Mis_rey's clothes might be seen.
The calm and polite unconcern of Lady Middleton on the occasion was a happ_elief to Elinor's spirits, oppressed as they often were by the clamorou_indness of the others. It was a great comfort to her to be sure of excitin_o interest in ONE person at least among their circle of friends: a grea_omfort to know that there was ONE who would meet her without feeling an_uriosity after particulars, or any anxiety for her sister's health.
Every qualification is raised at times, by the circumstances of the moment, t_ore than its real value; and she was sometimes worried down by officiou_ondolence to rate good-breeding as more indispensable to comfort than good- nature.
Lady Middleton expressed her sense of the affair about once every day, o_wice, if the subject occurred very often, by saying, "It is very shocking, indeed!" and by the means of this continual though gentle vent, was able no_nly to see the Miss Dashwoods from the first without the smallest emotion, but very soon to see them without recollecting a word of the matter; an_aving thus supported the dignity of her own sex, and spoken her decide_ensure of what was wrong in the other, she thought herself at liberty t_ttend to the interest of her own assemblies, and therefore determined (thoug_ather against the opinion of Sir John) that as Mrs. Willoughby would at onc_e a woman of elegance and fortune, to leave her card with her as soon as sh_arried.
Colonel Brandon's delicate, unobtrusive enquiries were never unwelcome to Mis_ashwood. He had abundantly earned the privilege of intimate discussion of he_ister's disappointment, by the friendly zeal with which he had endeavoured t_often it, and they always conversed with confidence. His chief reward for th_ainful exertion of disclosing past sorrows and present humiliations, wa_iven in the pitying eye with which Marianne sometimes observed him, and th_entleness of her voice whenever (though it did not often happen) she wa_bliged, or could oblige herself to speak to him. THESE assured him that hi_xertion had produced an increase of good-will towards himself, and THESE gav_linor hopes of its being farther augmented hereafter; but Mrs. Jennings, wh_new nothing of all this, who knew only that the Colonel continued as grave a_ver, and that she could neither prevail on him to make the offer himself, no_ommission her to make it for him, began, at the end of two days, to thin_hat, instead of Midsummer, they would not be married till Michaelmas, and b_he end of a week that it would not be a match at all. The good understandin_etween the Colonel and Miss Dashwood seemed rather to declare that th_onours of the mulberry-tree, the canal, and the yew arbour, would all be mad_ver to HER; and Mrs. Jennings had, for some time ceased to think at all o_rs. Ferrars.
Early in February, within a fortnight from the receipt of Willoughby's letter, Elinor had the painful office of informing her sister that he was married. Sh_ad taken care to have the intelligence conveyed to herself, as soon as it wa_nown that the ceremony was over, as she was desirous that Marianne should no_eceive the first notice of it from the public papers, which she saw he_agerly examining every morning.
She received the news with resolute composure; made no observation on it, an_t first shed no tears; but after a short time they would burst out, and fo_he rest of the day, she was in a state hardly less pitiable than when sh_irst learnt to expect the event.
The Willoughbys left town as soon as they were married; and Elinor now hoped, as there could be no danger of her seeing either of them, to prevail on he_ister, who had never yet left the house since the blow first fell, to go ou_gain by degrees as she had done before.
About this time the two Miss Steeles, lately arrived at their cousin's hous_n Bartlett's Buildings, Holburn, presented themselves again before their mor_rand relations in Conduit and Berkeley Streets; and were welcomed by them al_ith great cordiality.
Elinor only was sorry to see them. Their presence always gave her pain, an_he hardly knew how to make a very gracious return to the overpowering deligh_f Lucy in finding her STILL in town.
"I should have been quite disappointed if I had not found you here STILL,"
said she repeatedly, with a strong emphasis on the word. "But I always though_ SHOULD. I was almost sure you would not leave London yet awhile; though yo_OLD me, you know, at Barton, that you should not stay above a MONTH. But _hought, at the time, that you would most likely change your mind when it cam_o the point. It would have been such a great pity to have went away befor_our brother and sister came. And now to be sure you will be in no hurry to b_one. I am amazingly glad you did not keep to YOUR WORD."
Elinor perfectly understood her, and was forced to use all her self-command t_ake it appear that she did NOT.
"Well, my dear," said Mrs. Jennings, "and how did you travel?"
"Not in the stage, I assure you," replied Miss Steele, with quick exultation;
"we came post all the way, and had a very smart beau to attend us. Dr. Davie_as coming to town, and so we thought we'd join him in a post-chaise; and h_ehaved very genteelly, and paid ten or twelve shillings more than we did."
"Oh, oh!" cried Mrs. Jennings; "very pretty, indeed! and the Doctor is _ingle man, I warrant you."
"There now," said Miss Steele, affectedly simpering, "everybody laughs at m_o about the Doctor, and I cannot think why. My cousins say they are sure _ave made a conquest; but for my part I declare I never think about him fro_ne hour's end to another. 'Lord! here comes your beau, Nancy,' my cousin sai_'other day, when she saw him crossing the street to the house. My beau, indeed! said I—I cannot think who you mean. The Doctor is no beau of mine."
"Aye, aye, that is very pretty talking—but it won't do— the Doctor is the man, I see."
"No, indeed!" replied her cousin, with affected earnestness, "and I beg yo_ill contradict it, if you ever hear it talked of."
Mrs. Jennings directly gave her the gratifying assurance that she certainl_ould NOT, and Miss Steele was made completely happy.
"I suppose you will go and stay with your brother and sister, Miss Dashwood, when they come to town," said Lucy, returning, after a cessation of hostil_ints, to the charge.
"No, I do not think we shall."
"Oh, yes, I dare say you will."
Elinor would not humour her by farther opposition.
"What a charming thing it is that Mrs. Dashwood can spare you both for so lon_ time together!"
"Long a time, indeed!" interposed Mrs. Jennings. "Why, their visit is but jus_egun!"
Lucy was silenced.
"I am sorry we cannot see your sister, Miss Dashwood," said Miss Steele. "I a_orry she is not well—" for Marianne had left the room on their arrival.
"You are very good. My sister will be equally sorry to miss the pleasure o_eeing you; but she has been very much plagued lately with nervous head-aches, which make her unfit for company or conversation."
"Oh, dear, that is a great pity! but such old friends as Lucy and me!—I thin_he might see US; and I am sure we would not speak a word."
Elinor, with great civility, declined the proposal. Her sister was perhap_aid down upon the bed, or in her dressing gown, and therefore not able t_ome to them.
"Oh, if that's all," cried Miss Steele, "we can just as well go and see HER."
Elinor began to find this impertinence too much for her temper; but she wa_aved the trouble of checking it, by Lucy's sharp reprimand, which now, as o_any occasions, though it did not give much sweetness to the manners of on_ister, was of advantage in governing those of the other.