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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 was sorry for
him;--she wished him happy. But the feelings of the past
could not be recalled.--Nothing could restore him with a faith
unbroken--a character unblemished, to Marianne. Nothing could
do away the knowledge of what the latter had suffered through his
means, nor remove the guilt of his conduct towards Eliza. Nothing could
replace him, therefore, in her former esteem, nor injure the interests
of Colonel Brandon.
Had Mrs. Dashwood, like her daughter, heard Willoughby's story from
himself--had she witnessed his distress, and been under the influence
of his countenance and his manner, it is probable that her compassion
would have been greater. But it was neither in Elinor's
power, nor in her wish, to rouse such feelings in another, by her
retailed explanation, as had at first been called forth in
herself. Reflection had given calmness to her judgment, and
sobered her own opinion of Willoughby's deserts;-- she wished,
therefore, to declare only the simple truth, and lay open such facts as
were really due to his character, without any embellishment of
tenderness to lead the fancy astray.
In the evening, when they were all three together, Marianne began
voluntarily to speak of him again;-- but that it was not without an
effort, the restless, unquiet thoughtfulness in which she had been for
some time previously sitting--her rising colour, as she spoke,-- and
her unsteady voice, plainly shewed.
"I wish to assure you both," said she, "that I see every thing--as you
can desire 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 an eager sign, engaged her silence.
Marianne slowly continued--
"It is a great relief to me--what Elinor told me this morning--I have
now heard exactly what I
wished to hear."--For some moments her voice was lost; but recovering
herself, she added, and with greater calmness than before--"I am now
perfectly satisfied, I wish for no change. I never could have
been happy with him, after knowing, as sooner or later I must have
known, all this.--I should have had no confidence, no esteem.
Nothing could have done it away to my feelings."
"I know it--I know it," cried her mother. "Happy with a man of
libertine practices!--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 such a man!--Her conscience, her sensitive
conscience, would have felt all that the conscience 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
sound understanding must consider it; and I dare say you perceive, as
well as myself, not only in this, but in many other circumstances,
reason enough to be convinced that your marriage must have involved you
in many certain troubles and disappointments, in which you would have
been poorly supported by an affection, on his side, much less
certain. Had you married, you must have been always
poor. His expensiveness is acknowledged even by himself, and
his whole conduct declares that self-denial is a word hardly understood
by him. His demands and your inexperience together, on a small, very
small income, must have brought on distresses which would not be the
less grievous to you, from having been entirely unknown and unthought
of before. Your sense of honour and honesty would have led
you, I know, when aware of your situation, to attempt all the economy
that would appear to you possible: and, perhaps, as long as your
frugality retrenched only on your own comfort, you might have been
suffered to practice it, but beyond that-- and how little could the
utmost of your single management do to stop the ruin which had begun
before your marriage?-- Beyond that, had you endeavoured, however
reasonably, to abridge his enjoyments, is it not to be feared, that
instead of prevailing on feelings so selfish to consent to it, you
would have lessened your own influence on his heart, and made him
regret the connection which had involved him in such difficulties?"
Marianne's lips quivered, and she repeated the word "Selfish?" in a
tone that implied--"do you really think him selfish?"
"The whole of his behaviour," replied Elinor, "from the beginning to
the end of the affair, has been grounded on selfishness. It
was selfishness which first made
him sport with your affections; which afterwards, when his own were
engaged, made him delay the confession of it, and which finally carried
him from Barton. His own enjoyment, or his own ease, was, in every
particular, his ruling principle."
"It is very true. My happiness never was his object."
"At present," continued Elinor, "he regrets what he has done.
And why does he regret it?--Because he finds it has not answered
towards himself. It has not made him happy. His
circumstances are now unembarrassed--he suffers from no evil of that
kind; and he thinks only that he has married a woman of a less amiable
temper than yourself. But does it follow that had he married
you, he would have been happy?--The inconveniences would have been
different. He would then have suffered under the pecuniary
distresses which, because they are removed, he now reckons as
nothing. He would have had a wife of whose temper he could
make no complaint, but he would have been always necessitous--always
poor; and probably would soon have
learned to rank the innumerable comforts of a clear estate and good
income as of far more importance, even to domestic happiness, than the
mere temper of a wife."
"I have not a doubt of it," said Marianne; "and I have nothing to
regret--nothing but my own folly."
"Rather say your mother's imprudence, my child," said Mrs. Dashwood;
"She must be answerable."
Marianne would not let her proceed;--and Elinor, satisfied that each
felt their own error, wished to avoid any survey of the past that might
weaken her sister's spirits; she, therefore, pursuing the first
subject, immediately continued,
"One observation may, I think, be fairly drawn from the whole of the
story--that all Willoughby's difficulties have arisen from the first
offence against virtue, in his behaviour to Eliza Williams.
That crime has been the origin of every lesser one, and of all his
Marianne assented most feelingly to the remark; and her mother was led
by it to an enumeration of Colonel Brandon's injuries and merits, warm
as friendship and design could unitedly dictate. Her daughter
did not look, however, as if much 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 her resolution was unsubdued, and she still tried to appear
cheerful and easy, her sister could safely trust to the effect of time
upon her health.
Margaret returned, and the family were again all restored to each
other, again quietly settled at the cottage; and if not pursuing their
usual studies with quite so much vigour as when they first came to
Barton, at least planning a vigorous prosecution of them in future.
Elinor grew impatient for some tidings of Edward. She had heard nothing
of him since her leaving London, nothing new of his plans, nothing
certain even of his present abode. Some letters had passed
between her and her brother, in consequence of Marianne's illness; and
in the first of John's, there had been this sentence:-- "We know
nothing of our unfortunate Edward, and can make no enquiries 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 was not 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 to the event of his errand, this was his voluntary
"I suppose you know, ma'am, that Mr. Ferrars is married."
Marianne gave a violent start, fixed her eyes upon Elinor, saw her
turning pale, and fell back in her chair in hysterics. Mrs.
Dashwood, whose eyes, as she
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 on which child to bestow her principal
The servant, who saw only that Miss Marianne was taken ill, had sense
enough to call one of the maids, who, with Mrs. Dashwood's assistance,
supported her into the other room. By that time, Marianne was
rather better, and her mother leaving 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 and voice as to be just beginning
an inquiry of Thomas, as to the
source of his intelligence. Mrs. Dashwood immediately took
all that trouble on herself; and Elinor 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 New London Inn, as I went there with a message from Sally
at the Park to her brother, who is one of the post-boys. I happened to
look up as I went by the chaise, and so I see directly it was the
youngest Miss Steele; so I took off my hat, and she knew me and called
to me, and inquired after you, ma'am, and the young ladies, especially
Miss Marianne, and bid me I should give her compliments and Mr.
Ferrars's, their best compliments and service, and how sorry they was
they had not time to come on and see you, but they was in a great hurry
to go forwards, for they was going further down for a little while, but
howsever, when they come back, they'd make sure to come and see you."
"But did she tell you she was married, Thomas?"
"Yes, ma'am. She smiled, and said how she had changed her name since
she was in these parts. She was always a very affable and free-spoken
young lady, and very
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;--he never was a gentleman much for talking."
Elinor's heart could easily account for his not putting himself
forward; and Mrs. 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 then they'd be sure and call here."
Mrs. Dashwood now looked at her
daughter; but Elinor knew better than to expect them. She recognised
the whole of Lucy in the message, and was very confident 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, near Plymouth.
Thomas's intelligence seemed over. Elinor looked as if she
wished to hear more.
"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; I was 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 a very 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 sent to say, that she should
eat nothing more. Mrs. Dashwood's and Elinor's appetites were
equally lost, and Margaret might think herself very well off, that with
so much uneasiness as both her sisters had lately experienced, so much
reason as they had often had to be careless of their meals, she
had never been obliged to go without her dinner before.
When the dessert and the wine were arranged, and Mrs. Dashwood and
Elinor were left by themselves, they remained long together in a
similarity of thoughtfulness and silence. Mrs. Dashwood
feared to hazard any remark, and ventured not to offer
consolation. She now found that she had erred in relying on
Elinor's representation of herself; and justly concluded that every
thing had been expressly softened at the time, to spare her from an
of unhappiness, suffering as she then had suffered for
Marianne. She found that she had been misled by the careful,
the considerate attention of her daughter, to think the attachment,
which once she had so well understood, much slighter in reality, than
she had been wont to believe, or than it was now proved to
be. She feared that under this persuasion she had been
unjust, inattentive, nay, almost unkind, to her Elinor;-- that
Marianne's affliction, because more acknowledged, more immediately
before her, had too much engrossed her tenderness, and led her away to
forget that in Elinor she might have a daughter suffering almost as
much, certainly with less self-provocation, and greater fortitude.
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