Elinor, for some time after he left her, for some time even after the sound o_is carriage had died away, remained too much oppressed by a crowd of ideas,
widely differing in themselves, but of which sadness was the general result,
to think even of her sister.
Willoughby, he, whom only half an hour ago she had abhorred as the mos_orthless of men, Willoughby, in spite of all his faults, excited a degree o_ommiseration for the sufferings produced by them, which made her think of hi_s now separated for ever from her family, with a tenderness, a regret, rathe_n proportion, as she soon acknowledged within herself—to his wishes than t_is merits. She felt that his influence over her mind was heightened b_ircumstances which ought not in reason to have weight; by that person o_ncommon attraction, that open, affectionate, and lively manner which it wa_o merit to possess; and by that still ardent love for Marianne, which it wa_ot even innocent to indulge. But she felt that it was so, long, long befor_he could feel his influence less.
When at last she returned to the unconscious Marianne, she found her jus_waking, refreshed by so long and sweet a sleep to the extent of her hopes.
Elinor's heart was full. The past, the present, the future, Willoughby'_isit, Marianne's safety, and her mother's expected arrival, threw he_ltogether into an agitation of spirits which kept off every indication o_atigue, and made her only fearful of betraying herself to her sister. Shor_as the time, however, in which that fear could affect her, for within half a_our after Willoughby's leaving the house, she was again called down stairs b_he sound of another carriage.—Eager to save her mother from every unnecessar_oment's horrible suspense, she ran immediately into the hall, and reached th_utward door just in time to receive and support her as she entered it.
Mrs. Dashwood, whose terror as they drew near the house had produced almos_he conviction of Marianne's being no more, had no voice to inquire after her,
no voice even for Elinor; but SHE, waiting neither for salutation nor inquiry,
instantly gave the joyful relief;— and her mother, catching it with all he_sual warmth, was in a moment as much overcome by her happiness, as she ha_een before by her fears. She was supported into the drawing-room between he_aughter and her friend;— and there, shedding tears of joy, though stil_nable to speak, embraced Elinor again and again, turning from her a_ntervals to press Colonel Brandon's hand, with a look which spoke at once he_ratitude, and her conviction of his sharing with herself in the bliss of th_oment. He shared it, however, in a silence even greater than her own.
As soon as Mrs. Dashwood had recovered herself, to see Marianne was her firs_esire; and in two minutes she was with her beloved child, rendered dearer t_er than ever by absence, unhappiness, and danger. Elinor's delight, as sh_aw what each felt in the meeting, was only checked by an apprehension of it_obbing Marianne of farther sleep;— but Mrs. Dashwood could be calm, could b_ven prudent, when the life of a child was at stake, and Marianne, satisfie_n knowing her mother was near her, and conscious of being too weak fo_onversation, submitted readily to the silence and quiet prescribed by ever_urse around her. Mrs. Dashwood WOULD sit up with her all night; and Elinor,
in compliance with her mother's entreaty, went to bed. But the rest, which on_ight entirely sleepless, and many hours of the most wearing anxiety seemed t_ake requisite, was kept off by irritation of spirits. Willoughby, "poo_illoughby," as she now allowed herself to call him, was constantly in he_houghts; she would not but have heard his vindication for the world, and no_lamed, now acquitted herself for having judged him so harshly before. But he_romise of relating it to her sister was invariably painful. She dreaded th_erformance of it, dreaded what its effect on Marianne might be; doubte_hether after such an explanation she could ever be happy with another; an_or a moment wished Willoughby a widower. Then, remembering Colonel Brandon,
reproved herself, felt that to HIS sufferings and his constancy far more tha_o his rival's, the reward of her sister was due, and wished any thing rathe_han Mrs. Willoughby's death.
The shock of Colonel Brandon's errand at Barton had been much softened to Mrs.
Dashwood by her own previous alarm; for so great was her uneasiness abou_arianne, that she had already determined to set out for Cleveland on tha_ery day, without waiting for any further intelligence, and had so far settle_er journey before his arrival, that the Careys were then expected ever_oment to fetch Margaret away, as her mother was unwilling to take her wher_here might be infection.
Marianne continued to mend every day, and the brilliant cheerfulness of Mrs.
Dashwood's looks and spirits proved her to be, as she repeatedly declare_erself, one of the happiest women in the world. Elinor could not hear th_eclaration, nor witness its proofs without sometimes wondering whether he_other ever recollected Edward. But Mrs. Dashwood, trusting to the temperat_ccount of her own disappointment which Elinor had sent her, was led away b_he exuberance of her joy to think only of what would increase it. Mariann_as restored to her from a danger in which, as she now began to feel, her ow_istaken judgment in encouraging the unfortunate attachment to Willoughby, ha_ontributed to place her;— and in her recovery she had yet another source o_oy unthought of by Elinor. It was thus imparted to her, as soon as an_pportunity of private conference between them occurred.
"At last we are alone. My Elinor, you do not yet know all my happiness.
Colonel Brandon loves Marianne. He has told me so himself."
Her daughter, feeling by turns both pleased and pained, surprised and no_urprised, was all silent attention.
"You are never like me, dear Elinor, or I should wonder at your composure now.
Had I sat down to wish for any possible good to my family, I should have fixe_n Colonel Brandon's marrying one of you as the object most desirable. And _elieve Marianne will be the most happy with him of the two."
Elinor was half inclined to ask her reason for thinking so, because satisfie_hat none founded on an impartial consideration of their age, characters, o_eelings, could be given;—but her mother must always be carried away by he_magination on any interesting subject, and therefore instead of an inquiry,
she passed it off with a smile.
"He opened his whole heart to me yesterday as we travelled. It came out quit_nawares, quite undesignedly. I, you may well believe, could talk of nothin_ut my child;—he could not conceal his distress; I saw that it equalled m_wn, and he perhaps, thinking that mere friendship, as the world now goes,
would not justify so warm a sympathy—or rather, not thinking at all, _uppose—giving way to irresistible feelings, made me acquainted with hi_arnest, tender, constant, affection for Marianne. He has loved her, m_linor, ever since the first moment of seeing her."
Here, however, Elinor perceived,—not the language, not the professions o_olonel Brandon, but the natural embellishments of her mother's active fancy,
which fashioned every thing delightful to her as it chose.
"His regard for her, infinitely surpassing anything that Willoughby ever fel_r feigned, as much more warm, as more sincere or constant—which ever we ar_o call it— has subsisted through all the knowledge of dear Marianne's unhapp_repossession for that worthless young man!—and without selfishness—withou_ncouraging a hope!—could he have seen her happy with another—Such a nobl_ind!— such openness, such sincerity!—no one can be deceived in HIM."
"Colonel Brandon's character," said Elinor, "as an excellent man, is wel_stablished."
"I know it is"—replied her mother seriously, "or after such a warning, _hould be the last to encourage such affection, or even to be pleased by it.
But his coming for me as he did, with such active, such ready friendship, i_nough to prove him one of the worthiest of men."
"His character, however," answered Elinor, "does not rest on ONE act o_indness, to which his affection for Marianne, were humanity out of the case,
would have prompted him. To Mrs. Jennings, to the Middletons, he has been lon_nd intimately known; they equally love and respect him; and even my ow_nowledge of him, though lately acquired, is very considerable; and so highl_o I value and esteem him, that if Marianne can be happy with him, I shall b_s ready as yourself to think our connection the greatest blessing to us i_he world. What answer did you give him?—Did you allow him to hope?"
"Oh! my love, I could not then talk of hope to him or to myself. Mariann_ight at that moment be dying. But he did not ask for hope or encouragement.
His was an involuntary confidence, an irrepressible effusion to a soothin_riend—not an application to a parent. Yet after a time I DID say, for a_irst I was quite overcome—that if she lived, as I trusted she might, m_reatest happiness would lie in promoting their marriage; and since ou_rrival, since our delightful security, I have repeated it to him more fully,
have given him every encouragement in my power. Time, a very little time, _ell him, will do everything;—Marianne's heart is not to be wasted for ever o_uch a man as Willoughby.— His own merits must soon secure it."
"To judge from the Colonel's spirits, however, you have not yet made hi_qually sanguine."
"No.—He thinks Marianne's affection too deeply rooted for any change in i_nder a great length of time, and even supposing her heart again free, is to_iffident of himself to believe, that with such a difference of age an_isposition he could ever attach her. There, however, he is quite mistaken.
His age is only so much beyond hers as to be an advantage, as to make hi_haracter and principles fixed;—and his disposition, I am well convinced, i_xactly the very one to make your sister happy. And his person, his manner_oo, are all in his favour. My partiality does not blind me; he certainly i_ot so handsome as Willoughby—but at the same time, there is something muc_ore pleasing in his countenance.— There was always a something,—if yo_emember,—in Willoughby's eyes at times, which I did not like."
Elinor could NOT remember it;—but her mother, without waiting for her assent,
"And his manners, the Colonel's manners are not only more pleasing to me tha_illoughby's ever were, but they are of a kind I well know to be more solidl_ttaching to Marianne. Their gentleness, their genuine attention to othe_eople, and their manly unstudied simplicity is much more accordant with he_eal disposition, than the liveliness—often artificial, and often ill-timed o_he other. I am very sure myself, that had Willoughby turned out as reall_miable, as he has proved himself the contrary, Marianne would yet never hav_een so happy with HIM, as she will be with Colonel Brandon."
She paused.—Her daughter could not quite agree with her, but her dissent wa_ot heard, and therefore gave no offence.
"At Delaford, she will be within an easy distance of me," added Mrs. Dashwood,
"even if I remain at Barton; and in all probability,—for I hear it is a larg_illage,—indeed there certainly MUST be some small house or cottage close by,
that would suit us quite as well as our present situation."
Poor Elinor!—here was a new scheme for getting her to Delaford!—but her spiri_as stubborn.
"His fortune too!—for at my time of life you know, everybody cares abou_HAT;—and though I neither know nor desire to know, what it really is, I a_ure it must be a good one."
Here they were interrupted by the entrance of a third person, and Elino_ithdrew to think it all over in private, to wish success to her friend, an_et in wishing it, to feel a pang for Willoughby.