"Well, Miss Dashwood," said Mrs. Jennings, sagaciously smiling, as soon as th_entleman had withdrawn, "I do not ask you what the Colonel has been saying t_ou; for though, upon my honour, I TRIED to keep out of hearing, I could no_elp catching enough to understand his business. And I assure you I never wa_etter 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 _eel the goodness of Colonel Brandon most sensibly. There are not many men wh_ould act as he has done. Few people who have so compassionate a heart! _ever was more astonished in my life."
"Lord! my dear, you are very modest. I an't the least astonished at it in th_orld, for I have often thought of late, there was nothing more likely t_appen."
"You judged from your knowledge of the Colonel's general benevolence; but a_east you could not foresee that the opportunity would so very soon occur."
"Opportunity!" repeated Mrs. Jennings—"Oh! as to that, when a man has onc_ade up his mind to such a thing, somehow or other he will soon find a_pportunity. Well, my dear, I wish you joy of it again and again; and if eve_here was a happy couple in the world, I think I shall soon know where to loo_or them."
"You mean to go to Delaford after them I suppose," said Elinor, with a fain_mile.
"Aye, my dear, that I do, indeed. And as to the house being a bad one, I d_ot 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 bu_imself?"
They were interrupted by the servant's coming in to announce the carriag_eing 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 th_atter to care for company; and besides, you must long to tell your sister al_bout 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 a_resent to any body else."
"Oh! very well," said Mrs. Jennings rather disappointed. "Then you would no_ave 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 ver_aterial; and till I have written to Mr. Ferrars, I think it ought not to b_entioned to any body else. I shall do THAT directly. It is of importance tha_o time should be lost with him, for he will of course have much to d_elative to his ordination."
This speech at first puzzled Mrs. Jennings exceedingly. Why Mr. Ferrars was t_ave been written to about it in such a hurry, she could not immediatel_omprehend. 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 th_etter for him. Ay, to be sure, he must be ordained in readiness; and I a_ery glad to find things are so forward between you. But, my dear, is not thi_ather out of character? Should not the Colonel write himself?—sure, he is th_roper person."
Elinor did not quite understand the beginning of Mrs. Jennings's speech, neither did she think it worth inquiring into; and therefore only replied t_ts conclusion.
"Colonel Brandon is so delicate a man, that he rather wished any one t_nnounce his intentions to Mr. Ferrars than himself."
"And so YOU are forced to do it. Well THAT is an odd kind of delicacy!
However, I will not disturb you (seeing her preparing to write.) You know you_wn concerns best. So goodby, my dear. I have not heard of any thing to pleas_e so well since Charlotte was brought to bed."
And away she went; but returning again in a moment,
"I have just been thinking of Betty's sister, my dear. I should be very gla_o get her so good a mistress. But whether she would do for a lady's maid, _m sure I can't tell. She is an excellent housemaid, and works very well a_er needle. However, you will think of all that at your leisure."
"Certainly, ma'am," replied Elinor, not hearing much of what she said, an_ore anxious to be alone, than to be mistress of the subject.
How she should begin—how she should express herself in her note to Edward, wa_ow all her concern. The particular circumstances between them made _ifficulty of that which to any other person would have been the easiest thin_n the world; but she equally feared to say too much or too little, and sa_eliberating over her paper, with the pen in her hand, till broken in on b_he entrance of Edward himself.
He had met Mrs. Jennings at the door in her way to the carriage, as he came t_eave his farewell card; and she, after apologising for not returning herself, had obliged him to enter, by saying that Miss Dashwood was above, and wante_o speak with him on very particular business.
Elinor had just been congratulating herself, in the midst of her perplexity, that however difficult it might be to express herself properly by letter, i_as at least preferable to giving the information by word of mouth, when he_isitor entered, to force her upon this greatest exertion of all. He_stonishment and confusion were very great on his so sudden appearance. Sh_ad not seen him before since his engagement became public, and therefore no_ince his knowing her to be acquainted with it; which, with the consciousnes_f what she had been thinking of, and what she had to tell him, made her fee_articularly uncomfortable for some minutes. He too was much distressed; an_hey sat down together in a most promising state of embarrassment.—Whether h_ad asked her pardon for his intrusion on first coming into the room, he coul_ot recollect; but determining to be on the safe side, he made his apology i_orm as soon as he could say any thing, after taking a chair.
"Mrs. Jennings told me," said he, "that you wished to speak with me, at leas_ understood her so—or I certainly should not have intruded on you in such _anner; though at the same time, I should have been extremely sorry to leav_ondon without seeing you and your sister; especially as it will most likel_e some time—it is not probable that I should soon have the pleasure o_eeting you again. I go to Oxford tomorrow."
"You would not have gone, however," said Elinor, recovering herself, an_etermined to get over what she so much dreaded as soon as possible, "withou_eceiving our good wishes, even if we had not been able to give them i_erson. Mrs. Jennings was quite right in what she said. I have something o_onsequence to inform you of, which I was on the point of communicating b_aper. I am charged with a most agreeable office (breathing rather faster tha_sual as she spoke.) Colonel Brandon, who was here only ten minutes ago, ha_esired me to say, that understanding you mean to take orders, he has grea_leasure in offering you the living of Delaford now just vacant, and onl_ishes it were more valuable. Allow me to congratulate you on having s_espectable and well-judging a friend, and to join in his wish that th_iving—it is about two hundred a-year—were much more considerable, and such a_ight better enable you to—as might be more than a temporary accommodation t_ourself—such, in short, as might establish all your views of happiness."
What Edward felt, as he could not say it himself, it cannot be expected tha_ny one else should say for him. He LOOKED all the astonishment which suc_nexpected, such unthought-of information could not fail of exciting; but h_aid only these two words,
"Yes," continued Elinor, gathering more resolution, as some of the worst wa_ver, "Colonel Brandon means it as a testimony of his concern for what ha_ately passed—for the cruel situation in which the unjustifiable conduct o_our family has placed you—a concern which I am sure Marianne, myself, and al_our friends, must share; and likewise as a proof of his high esteem for you_eneral character, and his particular approbation of your behaviour on th_resent occasion."
"Colonel Brandon give ME a living!—Can it be possible?"
"The unkindness of your own relations has made you astonished to fin_riendship any where."
"No," replied be, with sudden consciousness, "not to find it in YOU; for _annot be ignorant that to you, to your goodness, I owe it all.—I feel it—_ould express it if I could—but, as you well know, I am no orator."
"You are very much mistaken. I do assure you that you owe it entirely, a_east almost entirely, to your own merit, and Colonel Brandon's discernment o_t. I have had no hand in it. I did not even know, till I understood hi_esign, that the living was vacant; nor had it ever occurred to me that h_ight have had such a living in his gift. As a friend of mine, of my family, he may, perhaps—indeed I know he HAS, still greater pleasure in bestowing it; but, upon my word, you owe nothing to my solicitation."
Truth obliged her to acknowledge some small share in the action, but she wa_t the same time so unwilling to appear as the benefactress of Edward, tha_he acknowledged it with hesitation; which probably contributed to fix tha_uspicion in his mind which had recently entered it. For a short time he sa_eep in thought, after Elinor had ceased to speak;—at last, and as if it wer_ather an effort, he said,
"Colonel Brandon seems a man of great worth and respectability. I have alway_eard him spoken of as such, and your brother I know esteems him highly. He i_ndoubtedly a sensible man, and in his manners perfectly the gentleman."
"Indeed," replied Elinor, "I believe that you will find him, on farthe_cquaintance, all that you have heard him to be, and as you will be such ver_ear neighbours (for I understand the parsonage is almost close to th_ansion-house,) it is particularly important that he SHOULD be all this."
Edward made no answer; but when she had turned away her head, gave her a loo_o serious, so earnest, so uncheerful, as seemed to say, that he migh_ereafter wish the distance between the parsonage and the mansion-house muc_reater.
"Colonel Brandon, I think, lodges in St. James Street," said he, soo_fterwards, rising from his chair.
Elinor told him the number of the house.
"I must hurry away then, to give him those thanks which you will not allow m_o give YOU; to assure him that he has made me a very—an exceedingly happ_an."
Elinor did not offer to detain him; and they parted, with a very earnes_ssurance on HER side of her unceasing good wishes for his happiness in ever_hange of situation that might befall him; on HIS, with rather an attempt t_eturn the same good will, than the power of expressing it.
"When I see him again," said Elinor to herself, as the door shut him out, "_hall see him the husband of Lucy."
And with this pleasing anticipation, she sat down to reconsider the past, recall the words and endeavour to comprehend all the feelings of Edward; and, of course, to reflect on her own with discontent.
When Mrs. Jennings came home, though she returned from seeing people whom sh_ad never seen before, and of whom therefore she must have a great deal t_ay, her mind was so much more occupied by the important secret in he_ossession, than by anything else, that she reverted to it again as soon a_linor appeared.
"Well, my dear," she cried, "I sent you up to the young man. Did not I d_ight?—And I suppose you had no great difficulty—You did not find him ver_nwilling to accept your proposal?"
"No, ma'am; THAT was not very likely."
"Well, and how soon will he be ready?—For it seems all to depend upon that."
"Really," said Elinor, "I know so little of these kind of forms, that I ca_ardly even conjecture as to the time, or the preparation necessary; but _uppose two or three months will complete his ordination."
"Two or three months!" cried Mrs. Jennings; "Lord! my dear, how calmly yo_alk of it; and can the Colonel wait two or three months! Lord bless me!—I a_ure it would put ME quite out of patience!—And though one would be very gla_o do a kindness by poor Mr. Ferrars, I do think it is not worth while to wai_wo or three months for him. Sure somebody else might be found that would d_s well; somebody that is in orders already."
"My dear ma'am," said Elinor, "what can you be thinking of?— Why, Colone_randon's only object is to be of use to Mr. Ferrars."
"Lord bless you, my dear!—Sure you do not mean to persuade me that the Colone_nly marries you for the sake of giving ten guineas to Mr. Ferrars!"
The deception could not continue after this; and an explanation immediatel_ook place, by which both gained considerable amusement for the moment, without any material loss of happiness to either, for Mrs. Jennings onl_xchanged one form of delight for another, and still without forfeiting he_xpectation of the first.
"Aye, aye, the parsonage is but a small one," said she, after the firs_bullition of surprise and satisfaction was over, "and very likely MAY be ou_f repair; but to hear a man apologising, as I thought, for a house that to m_nowledge has five sitting rooms on the ground-floor, and I think th_ousekeeper told me could make up fifteen beds!— and to you too, that had bee_sed to live in Barton cottage!— It seems quite ridiculous. But, my dear, w_ust touch up the Colonel to do some thing to the parsonage, and make i_omfortable for them, before Lucy goes to it."
"But Colonel Brandon does not seem to have any idea of the living's bein_nough to allow them to marry."
"The Colonel is a ninny, my dear; because he has two thousand a-year himself, he thinks that nobody else can marry on less. Take my word for it, that, if _m alive, I shall be paying a visit at Delaford Parsonage before Michaelmas; and I am sure I shan't go if Lucy an't there."
Elinor was quite of her opinion, as to the probability of their not waitin_or any thing more.