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Mrs. Dashwood's visit to Lady
Middleton took place the next day, and two of her
went with her; but Marianne excused herself from being
of the party, under some trifling pretext of
employment; and her mother, who concluded that a promise had
made by Willoughby the
night before of calling on her while
they were absent, was perfectly satisfied with her
remaining at home.
their return from the park they found Willoughby's curricle
and servant in waiting at the
and Mrs. Dashwood was convinced that her
conjecture had been just.
So far it was all as she had foreseen; but
on entering the house she beheld
what no foresight had taught her to expect.
They were no sooner in the passage than
Marianne came hastily out
of the parlour apparently in violent affliction, with
her handkerchief at her eyes; and without noticing them
ran up stairs. Surprised and alarmed they proceeded
directly into the room she had just quitted, where they found
only Willoughby, who
was leaning against the mantel-piece
with his back towards them.
He turned round on their coming in, and his
countenance shewed that he
strongly partook of the emotion which over-powered
anything the matter with her?" cried Mrs. Dashwood as she
entered--"is she ill?"
hope not," he replied, trying to look cheerful; and with a
forced smile presently added,
"It is I who may rather expect to be ill--for I am now
suffering under a very heavy disappointment!"
for I am unable to keep my engagement with you. Mrs. Smith has
this morning exercised
the privilege of riches upon a poor dependent cousin,
by sending me on business to London. I have just received my
taken my farewell of Allenham; and
by way of exhilaration I am now come to take my farewell of
are you going this morning?"
is very unfortunate. But
Mrs. Smith must be obliged;--and her
business will not
detain you from us long I hope."
coloured as he replied, "You are very kind, but I have no idea
of returning into Devonshire
immediately. My visits to Mrs. Smith are never
repeated within the twelvemonth."
is Mrs. Smith your only friend? Is
Allenham the only house in the neighbourhood to which you
will be welcome? For shame, Willoughby, can
you wait for an invitation
colour increased; and with his eyes fixed on the ground he
only replied, "You
are too good."
Dashwood looked at Elinor with surprise. Elinor felt equal
amazement. For a
few moments every one was silent.
Mrs. Dashwood first spoke.
have only to add, my dear Willoughby,
that at Barton cottage you will always be
welcome; for I will not press you to return here
because you only can judge how far that might be pleasing
to Mrs. Smith; and on this head I shall be no more
disposed to question your judgment than to doubt your
engagements at present," replied Willoughby, confusedly,
"are of such a
nature--that--I dare not flatter myself"--
Dashwood was too
much astonished to speak, and another pause
succeeded. This was
broken by Willoughby,
who said with a faint smile, "It is folly to linger in this
manner. I will not
torment myself any longer by remaining among friends
whose society it is impossible for me now to
then hastily took leave of them all and left the room. They saw him step into his
carriage, and in a minute it was out of sight.
Dashwood felt too much for speech, and instantly quitted the
parlour to give way in
solitude to the concern and alarm which this sudden departure
uneasiness was at least equal to her mother's. She thought of
what had just passed with
anxiety and distrust. Willoughby's
behaviour in taking leave of them, his embarrassment, and
affectation of cheerfulness, and,
above all, his unwillingness to accept her mother's
backwardness so unlike a lover, so unlike himself, greatly
her. One moment she
feared that no serious design had ever been
formed on his side; and the next that some unfortunate quarrel
taken place between him and her sister;--the distress in which
Marianne had quitted the room was such as a serious quarrel
reasonably account for, though when she considered what
love for him was, a quarrel seemed almost impossible.
whatever might be the particulars of their separation, her
sister's affliction was indubitable;
and she thought with the tenderest compassion of that
violent sorrow which Marianne was in all probability
not merely giving way to as a relief, but feeding and
encouraging as a duty.
about half an hour her mother returned, and though her eyes
were red, her countenance was
is now some miles from Barton, Elinor," said she, as she sat
down to work,
"and with how heavy a heart does he travel?"
is all very strange. So
suddenly to be gone! It seems but the work of a moment. And last night he
was with us so happy, so cheerful, so
now, after only ten minutes notice--Gone too
without intending to return!--Something more than what be
owned to us must have happened.
did not speak, he did not behave like himself.
You must have seen the difference as well as
I. What can it be? Can
they have quarrelled? Why
else should he have shewn such unwillingness to accept
your invitation here?"--
was not inclination that he wanted, Elinor; I could plainly
see that. He had
not the power of accepting it. I have thought it all over I
and I can perfectly account for every thing that
at first seemed strange to me as well as to you."
I have explained it to myself in the most satisfactory
way;--but you, Elinor, who
love to doubt
where you can--it will not satisfy you,
I know; but you shall not talk me out of my trust in
it. I am
persuaded that Mrs. Smith suspects his regard for
Marianne, disapproves of it, (perhaps because she
has other views for him,) and on that account is eager
to get him away;-- and that the business which she sends
him off to transact is invented as an excuse to dismiss
him. This is what
I believe to have happened.
He is, moreover, aware that she does disapprove the
connection, he dares
not therefore at present confess to her his engagement
with Marianne, and he feels himself obliged, from his
dependent situation, to give into her schemes, and absent
himself from Devonshire for a while.
You will tell me,
I know, that this may or may not have happened;
but I will listen to no cavil, unless you can point out
any other method of understanding the affair as
satisfactory at this. And now, Elinor, what have you to
for you have anticipated my answer."
you would have told me, that it might or might not have
Elinor, how incomprehensible are your feelings! You had rather take evil
upon credit than
good. You had rather look out for misery for
Marianne, and guilt for poor Willoughby,
than an apology for the latter. You are resolved to think him
because he took leave of us with less affection than his
usual behaviour has shewn.
And is no allowance to be made for
inadvertence, or for spirits depressed by recent
disappointment? Are no
probabilities to be accepted, merely
because they are not certainties?
Is nothing due to the man whom we have all
such reason to love, and no
reason in the world to think ill of?
To the possibility of motives
themselves, though unavoidably secret
for a while? And, after
all, what is it you suspect him
can hardly tell myself. But
suspicion of something unpleasant is
of such an alteration as we just
witnessed in him. There is great truth, however, in what
you have now urged of the allowances which ought to be made
for him, and it is my wish to be candid in my judgment
of every body. Willoughby may
undoubtedly have very sufficient reasons for his conduct, and
I will hope
that he has. But it would have been more like Willoughby
to acknowledge them at once.
Secrecy may be advisable; but still
help wondering at its being
practiced by him."
not blame him, however, for departing from his character,
where the deviation is
necessary. But you really do admit the justice of
what I have said in his defence?--I am happy--and he is
entirely. It may be
proper to conceal their engagement (if they are engaged) from
and if that is the case, it must be
highly expedient for Willoughby
to be but little in Devonshire
at present. But this is no excuse for their
concealing it from us."
it from us! my dear child, do you accuse Willoughby and
Marianne of concealment? This is strange indeed, when your
eyes have been
reproaching them every day for incautiousness."
want no proof of their affection," said Elinor; "but of their
am perfectly satisfied of both."
not a syllable has been said to you on the subject, by either
have not wanted syllables where actions have spoken so plainly. Has not his behaviour to
Marianne and to all of us, for at least the last
fortnight, declared that he loved and considered
her as his future wife, and that he felt for us the attachment
of the nearest relation?
Have we not perfectly understood each
other? Has not my consent been daily asked by
his looks, his manner, his attentive and affectionate
Elinor, is it possible to doubt their
could such a thought occur to you?
How is it to be supposed that Willoughby,
persuaded as he must be of your sister's love, should leave
leave her perhaps for months, without telling her of his
affection;--that they should part without a mutual
exchange of confidence?"
confess," replied Elinor, "that every circumstance except one
is in favour of their
but that one is the total silence of
both on the subject, and with me it almost outweighs every
strange this is! You
must think wretchedly indeed of Willoughby,
if, after all that has openly passed between them, you can
doubt the nature of the terms on
which they are together. Has he been acting a part in his
behaviour to your sister all this time?
Do you suppose him really indifferent to
I cannot think that. He
must and does love her I am sure."
with a strange kind of tenderness, if he can leave her with
such indifference, such
of the future, as you attribute to
must remember, my dear mother, that I have never considered
this matter as certain. I
have had my doubts, I confess; but they are fainter than
they were, and they may soon be entirely done away. If we find they
correspond, every fear of mine will be
mighty concession indeed! If
you were to see them at the altar, you
they were going to be married.
But I require no such proof. Nothing in my
opinion has ever passed to
justify doubt; no secrecy has been attempted; all has
been uniformly open and unreserved.
You cannot doubt your sister's wishes. It
must be Willoughby
therefore whom you suspect. But
why? Is he not a man of honour and feeling?
Has there been any inconsistency on his side to create
alarm? can he be deceitful?"
hope not, I believe not," cried Elinor. "I love Willoughby,
sincerely love him; and suspicion
integrity cannot be more painful to
yourself than to me. It has been involuntary, and I will not
encourage it. I was startled, I confess, by the
alteration in his manners this morning;--he did not speak
like himself, and did not return your kindness with
any cordiality. But all this may be explained by such a
situation of his affairs as you have supposed.
He had just parted from my sister, had seen
her leave him in the
greatest affliction; and if he felt obliged, from a fear of
offending Mrs. Smith, to resist the temptation of returning
here soon, and yet aware that by declining your invitation,
by saying that he was going away for some time, he
should seem to act an ungenerous, a suspicious part
by our family, be might well be embarrassed and
disturbed. In such
a case, a plain and open avowal of his
difficulties would have been more to his honour I think, as
more consistent with his general character;--but I will
not raise objections against any one's conduct on so
illiberal a foundation, as a difference in judgment from
or a deviation from what I may think right and
speak very properly. Willoughby
certainly does not deserve to be suspected.
Though we have not known him long, he is no
stranger in this part
of the world; and who has ever spoken to his
he been in a situation to act independently and
marry immediately, it might have been odd that he should
leave us without acknowledging everything to me at once:
but this is not the case. It is an engagement in some respects
prosperously begun, for their marriage must be at a very
uncertain distance; and even secrecy, as far as it can be
observed, may now be very advisable.
were interrupted by the entrance of Margaret; and Elinor was
then at liberty to think
over the representations of her mother, to acknowledge the
probability of many, and hope for the justice of all.
saw nothing of Marianne till dinner time, when she entered the
room and took her
place at the table without saying a word.
Her eyes were red and swollen; and it
seemed as if her tears were even
then restrained with difficulty.
She avoided the looks of them all, could
neither eat nor speak, and after
some time, on her mother's silently pressing her hand with
tender compassion, her small degree of fortitude was quite
overcome, she burst into tears and left the room.
violent oppression of spirits continued the whole evening. She was without any power,
because she was without any desire of command over
herself. The slightest mention of anything
relative to Willoughby overpowered
her in an instant; and
though her family were most anxiously attentive to her
comfort, it was impossible for them, if they spoke at
all, to keep clear of every subject which her feelings
connected with him.
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