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Chapter 47

  • Mrs. Dashwood did not hear unmoved the vindication of her former favourite.
  • She rejoiced in his being cleared from some part of his imputed guilt;—she wa_orry for him;—she wished him happy. But the feelings of the past could not b_ecalled.—Nothing could restore him with a faith unbroken—a characte_nblemished, to Marianne. Nothing could do away the knowledge of what th_atter had suffered through his means, nor remove the guilt of his conduc_owards Eliza. Nothing could replace him, therefore, in her former esteem, no_njure the interests of Colonel Brandon.
  • Had Mrs. Dashwood, like her daughter, heard Willoughby's story fro_imself—had she witnessed his distress, and been under the influence of hi_ountenance and his manner, it is probable that her compassion would have bee_reater. But it was neither in Elinor's power, nor in her wish, to rouse suc_eelings in another, by her retailed explanation, as had at first been calle_orth in herself. Reflection had given calmness to her judgment, and sobere_er own opinion of Willoughby's deserts;— she wished, therefore, to declar_nly the simple truth, and lay open such facts as were really due to hi_haracter, without any embellishment of tenderness to lead the fancy astray.
  • In the evening, when they were all three together, Marianne began voluntaril_o speak of him again;— but that it was not without an effort, the restless, unquiet thoughtfulness in which she had been for some time previousl_itting—her rising colour, as she spoke,— and her unsteady voice, plainl_hewed.
  • "I wish to assure you both," said she, "that I see every thing—as you ca_esire me to do."
  • Mrs. Dashwood would have interrupted her instantly with soothing tenderness, had not Elinor, who really wished to hear her sister's unbiased opinion, by a_ager sign, engaged her silence. Marianne slowly continued—
  • "It is a great relief to me—what Elinor told me this morning—I have now hear_xactly what I wished to hear."—For some moments her voice was lost; bu_ecovering herself, she added, and with greater calmness than before—"I am no_erfectly satisfied, I wish for no change. I never could have been happy wit_im, after knowing, as sooner or later I must have known, all this.—I shoul_ave had no confidence, no esteem. Nothing could have done it away to m_eelings."
  • "I know it—I know it," cried her mother. "Happy with a man of libertin_ractices!—With one who so injured the peace of the dearest of our friends, and the best of men!—No—my Marianne has not a heart to be made happy with suc_ man!—Her conscience, her sensitive conscience, would have felt all that th_onscience of her husband ought to have felt."
  • Marianne sighed, and repeated, "I wish for no change."
  • "You consider the matter," said Elinor, "exactly as a good mind and a soun_nderstanding must consider it; and I dare say you perceive, as well a_yself, not only in this, but in many other circumstances, reason enough to b_onvinced that your marriage must have involved you in many certain trouble_nd disappointments, in which you would have been poorly supported by a_ffection, on his side, much less certain. Had you married, you must have bee_lways poor. His expensiveness is acknowledged even by himself, and his whol_onduct declares that self-denial is a word hardly understood by him. Hi_emands and your inexperience together, on a small, very small income, mus_ave brought on distresses which would not be the LESS grievous to you, fro_aving been entirely unknown and unthought of before. YOUR sense of honour an_onesty would have led you, I know, when aware of your situation, to attemp_ll the economy that would appear to you possible: and, perhaps, as long a_our frugality retrenched only on your own comfort, you might have bee_uffered to practice it, but beyond that— and how little could the utmost o_our single management do to stop the ruin which had begun before you_arriage?— Beyond THAT, had you endeavoured, however reasonably, to abridg_IS enjoyments, is it not to be feared, that instead of prevailing on feeling_o selfish to consent to it, you would have lessened your own influence on hi_eart, and made him regret the connection which had involved him in suc_ifficulties?"
  • Marianne's lips quivered, and she repeated the word "Selfish?" in a tone tha_mplied—"do you really think him selfish?"
  • "The whole of his behaviour," replied Elinor, "from the beginning to the en_f the affair, has been grounded on selfishness. It was selfishness whic_irst made him sport with your affections; which afterwards, when his own wer_ngaged, made him delay the confession of it, and which finally carried hi_rom Barton. His own enjoyment, or his own ease, was, in every particular, hi_uling principle."
  • "It is very true. MY happiness never was his object."
  • "At present," continued Elinor, "he regrets what he has done. And why does h_egret it?—Because he finds it has not answered towards himself. It has no_ade him happy. His circumstances are now unembarrassed—he suffers from n_vil of that kind; and he thinks only that he has married a woman of a les_miable temper than yourself. But does it follow that had he married you, h_ould have been happy?—The inconveniences would have been different. He woul_hen have suffered under the pecuniary distresses which, because they ar_emoved, he now reckons as nothing. He would have had a wife of whose tempe_e could make no complaint, but he would have been always necessitous—alway_oor; and probably would soon have learned to rank the innumerable comforts o_ clear estate and good income as of far more importance, even to domesti_appiness, than the mere temper of a wife."
  • "I have not a doubt of it," said Marianne; "and I have nothing t_egret—nothing but my own folly."
  • "Rather say your mother's imprudence, my child," said Mrs. Dashwood; "SHE mus_e answerable."
  • Marianne would not let her proceed;—and Elinor, satisfied that each felt thei_wn error, wished to avoid any survey of the past that might weaken he_ister's spirits; she, therefore, pursuing the first subject, immediatel_ontinued,
  • "One observation may, I think, be fairly drawn from the whole of th_tory—that all Willoughby's difficulties have arisen from the first offenc_gainst virtue, in his behaviour to Eliza Williams. That crime has been th_rigin of every lesser one, and of all his present discontents."
  • Marianne assented most feelingly to the remark; and her mother was led by i_o an enumeration of Colonel Brandon's injuries and merits, warm as friendshi_nd design could unitedly dictate. Her daughter did not look, however, as i_uch of it were heard by her.
  • Elinor, according to her expectation, saw on the two or three following days, that Marianne did not continue to gain strength as she had done; but while he_esolution was unsubdued, and she still tried to appear cheerful and easy, he_ister could safely trust to the effect of time upon her health.
  • Margaret returned, and the family were again all restored to each other, agai_uietly settled at the cottage; and if not pursuing their usual studies wit_uite so much vigour as when they first came to Barton, at least planning _igorous prosecution of them in future.
  • Elinor grew impatient for some tidings of Edward. She had heard nothing of hi_ince her leaving London, nothing new of his plans, nothing certain even o_is present abode. Some letters had passed between her and her brother, i_onsequence of Marianne's illness; and in the first of John's, there had bee_his sentence:— "We know nothing of our unfortunate Edward, and can make n_nquiries on so prohibited a subject, but conclude him to be still at Oxford;"
  • which was all the intelligence of Edward afforded her by the correspondence, for his name was not even mentioned in any of the succeeding letters. She wa_ot doomed, however, to be long in ignorance of his measures.
  • Their man-servant had been sent one morning to Exeter on business; and when, as he waited at table, he had satisfied the inquiries of his mistress as t_he event of his errand, this was his voluntary communication—
  • "I suppose you know, ma'am, that Mr. Ferrars is married."
  • Marianne gave a violent start, fixed her eyes upon Elinor, saw her turnin_ale, and fell back in her chair in hysterics. Mrs. Dashwood, whose eyes, a_he answered the servant's inquiry, had intuitively taken the same direction, was shocked to perceive by Elinor's countenance how much she really suffered, and a moment afterwards, alike distressed by Marianne's situation, knew not o_hich child to bestow her principal attention.
  • The servant, who saw only that Miss Marianne was taken ill, had sense enoug_o call one of the maids, who, with Mrs. Dashwood's assistance, supported he_nto the other room. By that time, Marianne was rather better, and her mothe_eaving her to the care of Margaret and the maid, returned to Elinor, who, though still much disordered, had so far recovered the use of her reason an_oice as to be just beginning an inquiry of Thomas, as to the source of hi_ntelligence. Mrs. Dashwood immediately took all that trouble on herself; an_linor had the benefit of the information without the exertion of seeking it.
  • "Who told you that Mr. Ferrars was married, Thomas?"
  • "I see Mr. Ferrars myself, ma'am, this morning in Exeter, and his lady too, Miss Steele as was. They was stopping in a chaise at the door of the Ne_ondon Inn, as I went there with a message from Sally at the Park to he_rother, who is one of the post-boys. I happened to look up as I went by th_haise, and so I see directly it was the youngest Miss Steele; so I took of_y hat, and she knew me and called to me, and inquired after you, ma'am, an_he young ladies, especially Miss Marianne, and bid me I should give he_ompliments and Mr. Ferrars's, their best compliments and service, and ho_orry they was they had not time to come on and see you, but they was in _reat hurry to go forwards, for they was going further down for a littl_hile, but howsever, when they come back, they'd make sure to come and se_ou."
  • "But did she tell you she was married, Thomas?"
  • "Yes, ma'am. She smiled, and said how she had changed her name since she wa_n these parts. She was always a very affable and free-spoken young lady, an_ery civil behaved. So, I made free to wish her joy."
  • "Was Mr. Ferrars in the carriage with her?"
  • "Yes, ma'am, I just see him leaning back in it, but he did not look up;—h_ever was a gentleman much for talking."
  • Elinor's heart could easily account for his not putting himself forward; an_rs. Dashwood probably found the same explanation.
  • "Was there no one else in the carriage?"
  • "No, ma'am, only they two."
  • "Do you know where they came from?"
  • "They come straight from town, as Miss Lucy— Mrs. Ferrars told me."
  • "And are they going farther westward?"
  • "Yes, ma'am—but not to bide long. They will soon be back again, and the_hey'd be sure and call here."
  • Mrs. Dashwood now looked at her daughter; but Elinor knew better than t_xpect them. She recognised the whole of Lucy in the message, and was ver_onfident that Edward would never come near them. She observed in a low voice, to her mother, that they were probably going down to Mr. Pratt's, nea_lymouth.
  • Thomas's intelligence seemed over. Elinor looked as if she wished to hea_ore.
  • "Did you see them off, before you came away?"
  • "No, ma'am—the horses were just coming out, but I could not bide any longer; _as afraid of being late."
  • "Did Mrs. Ferrars look well?"
  • "Yes, ma'am, she said how she was very well; and to my mind she was always _ery handsome young lady—and she seemed vastly contented."
  • Mrs. Dashwood could think of no other question, and Thomas and the tablecloth, now alike needless, were soon afterwards dismissed. Marianne had already sen_o say, that she should eat nothing more. Mrs. Dashwood's and Elinor'_ppetites were equally lost, and Margaret might think herself very well off, that with so much uneasiness as both her sisters had lately experienced, s_uch reason as they had often had to be careless of their meals, she had neve_een obliged to go without her dinner before.
  • When the dessert and the wine were arranged, and Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor wer_eft by themselves, they remained long together in a similarity o_houghtfulness and silence. Mrs. Dashwood feared to hazard any remark, an_entured not to offer consolation. She now found that she had erred in relyin_n Elinor's representation of herself; and justly concluded that every thin_ad been expressly softened at the time, to spare her from an increase o_nhappiness, suffering as she then had suffered for Marianne. She found tha_he had been misled by the careful, the considerate attention of her daughter, to think the attachment, which once she had so well understood, much slighte_n reality, than she had been wont to believe, or than it was now proved t_e. She feared that under this persuasion she had been unjust, inattentive, nay, almost unkind, to her Elinor;— that Marianne's affliction, because mor_cknowledged, more immediately before her, had too much engrossed he_enderness, and led her away to forget that in Elinor she might have _aughter suffering almost as much, certainly with less self-provocation, an_reater fortitude.