"If this open weather holds much longer," said Mrs. Jennings, when they
met at breakfast the following morning, "Sir John will not like leaving
Barton next week; 'tis a sad thing for sportsmen to lose a day's
pleasure. Poor souls! I always pity them when they do; they seem to
take it so much to heart."
"That is true," cried Marianne, in a cheerful voice, and walking to the
window as she spoke, to examine the day. "I had not thought of that.
This weather will keep many sportsmen in the country."
It was a lucky recollection, all her good spirits were restored by it.
"It is charming weather for THEM indeed," she continued, as she sat
down to the breakfast table with a happy countenance. "How much they
must enjoy it! But" (with a little return of anxiety) "it cannot be
expected to last long. At this time of the year, and after such a
series of rain, we shall certainly have very little more of it. Frosts
will soon set in, and in all probability with severity. In another day
or two perhaps; this extreme mildness can hardly last longer—nay,
perhaps it may freeze tonight!"
"At any rate," said Elinor, wishing to prevent Mrs. Jennings from
seeing her sister's thoughts as clearly as she did, "I dare say we
shall have Sir John and Lady Middleton in town by the end of next week."
"Ay, my dear, I'll warrant you we do. Mary always has her own way."
"And now," silently conjectured Elinor, "she will write to Combe by
this day's post."
But if she DID, the letter was written and sent away with a privacy
which eluded all her watchfulness to ascertain the fact. Whatever the
truth of it might be, and far as Elinor was from feeling thorough
contentment about it, yet while she saw Marianne in spirits, she could
not be very uncomfortable herself. And Marianne was in spirits; happy
in the mildness of the weather, and still happier in her expectation of
The morning was chiefly spent in leaving cards at the houses of Mrs.
Jennings's acquaintance to inform them of her being in town; and
Marianne was all the time busy in observing the direction of the wind,
watching the variations of the sky and imagining an alteration in the
"Don't you find it colder than it was in the morning, Elinor? There
seems to me a very decided difference. I can hardly keep my hands warm
even in my muff. It was not so yesterday, I think. The clouds seem
parting too, the sun will be out in a moment, and we shall have a clear
Elinor was alternately diverted and pained; but Marianne persevered,
and saw every night in the brightness of the fire, and every morning in
the appearance of the atmosphere, the certain symptoms of approaching
The Miss Dashwoods had no greater reason to be dissatisfied with Mrs.
Jennings's style of living, and set of acquaintance, than with her
behaviour to themselves, which was invariably kind. Every thing in her
household arrangements was conducted on the most liberal plan, and
excepting a few old city friends, whom, to Lady Middleton's regret, she
had never dropped, she visited no one to whom an introduction could at
all discompose the feelings of her young companions. Pleased to find
herself more comfortably situated in that particular than she had
expected, Elinor was very willing to compound for the want of much real
enjoyment from any of their evening parties, which, whether at home or
abroad, formed only for cards, could have little to amuse her.
Colonel Brandon, who had a general invitation to the house, was with
them almost every day; he came to look at Marianne and talk to Elinor,
who often derived more satisfaction from conversing with him than from
any other daily occurrence, but who saw at the same time with much
concern his continued regard for her sister. She feared it was a
strengthening regard. It grieved her to see the earnestness with which
he often watched Marianne, and his spirits were certainly worse than
when at Barton.
About a week after their arrival, it became certain that Willoughby was
also arrived. His card was on the table when they came in from the
"Good God!" cried Marianne, "he has been here while we were out."
Elinor, rejoiced to be assured of his being in London, now ventured to
say, "Depend upon it, he will call again tomorrow." But Marianne
seemed hardly to hear her, and on Mrs. Jennings's entrance, escaped with
the precious card.
This event, while it raised the spirits of Elinor, restored to those of
her sister all, and more than all, their former agitation. From this
moment her mind was never quiet; the expectation of seeing him every
hour of the day, made her unfit for any thing. She insisted on being
left behind, the next morning, when the others went out.
Elinor's thoughts were full of what might be passing in Berkeley Street
during their absence; but a moment's glance at her sister when they
returned was enough to inform her, that Willoughby had paid no second
visit there. A note was just then brought in, and laid on the table.
"For me!" cried Marianne, stepping hastily forward.
"No, ma'am, for my mistress."
But Marianne, not convinced, took it instantly up.
"It is indeed for Mrs. Jennings; how provoking!"
"You are expecting a letter, then?" said Elinor, unable to be longer
"Yes, a little—not much."
After a short pause. "You have no confidence in me, Marianne."
"Nay, Elinor, this reproach from YOU—you who have confidence in no
"Me!" returned Elinor in some confusion; "indeed, Marianne, I have
nothing to tell."
"Nor I," answered Marianne with energy, "our situations then are alike.
We have neither of us any thing to tell; you, because you do not
communicate, and I, because I conceal nothing."
Elinor, distressed by this charge of reserve in herself, which she was
not at liberty to do away, knew not how, under such circumstances, to
press for greater openness in Marianne.
Mrs. Jennings soon appeared, and the note being given her, she read it
aloud. It was from Lady Middleton, announcing their arrival in Conduit
Street the night before, and requesting the company of her mother and
cousins the following evening. Business on Sir John's part, and a
violent cold on her own, prevented their calling in Berkeley Street.
The invitation was accepted; but when the hour of appointment drew
near, necessary as it was in common civility to Mrs. Jennings, that
they should both attend her on such a visit, Elinor had some difficulty
in persuading her sister to go, for still she had seen nothing of
Willoughby; and therefore was not more indisposed for amusement abroad,
than unwilling to run the risk of his calling again in her absence.
Elinor found, when the evening was over, that disposition is not
materially altered by a change of abode, for although scarcely settled
in town, Sir John had contrived to collect around him, nearly twenty
young people, and to amuse them with a ball. This was an affair,
however, of which Lady Middleton did not approve. In the country, an
unpremeditated dance was very allowable; but in London, where the
reputation of elegance was more important and less easily attained, it
was risking too much for the gratification of a few girls, to have it
known that Lady Middleton had given a small dance of eight or nine
couple, with two violins, and a mere side-board collation.
Mr. and Mrs. Palmer were of the party; from the former, whom they had
not seen before since their arrival in town, as he was careful to avoid
the appearance of any attention to his mother-in-law, and therefore
never came near her, they received no mark of recognition on their
entrance. He looked at them slightly, without seeming to know who they
were, and merely nodded to Mrs. Jennings from the other side of the
room. Marianne gave one glance round the apartment as she entered: it
was enough—HE was not there—and she sat down, equally ill-disposed to
receive or communicate pleasure. After they had been assembled about
an hour, Mr. Palmer sauntered towards the Miss Dashwoods to express his
surprise on seeing them in town, though Colonel Brandon had been first
informed of their arrival at his house, and he had himself said
something very droll on hearing that they were to come.
"I thought you were both in Devonshire," said he.
"Did you?" replied Elinor.
"When do you go back again?"
"I do not know." And thus ended their discourse.
Never had Marianne been so unwilling to dance in her life, as she was
that evening, and never so much fatigued by the exercise. She
complained of it as they returned to Berkeley Street.
"Aye, aye," said Mrs. Jennings, "we know the reason of all that very
well; if a certain person who shall be nameless, had been there, you
would not have been a bit tired: and to say the truth it was not very
pretty of him not to give you the meeting when he was invited."
"Invited!" cried Marianne.
"So my daughter Middleton told me, for it seems Sir John met him
somewhere in the street this morning." Marianne said no more, but
looked exceedingly hurt. Impatient in this situation to be doing
something that might lead to her sister's relief, Elinor resolved to
write the next morning to her mother, and hoped by awakening her fears
for the health of Marianne, to procure those inquiries which had been
so long delayed; and she was still more eagerly bent on this measure by
perceiving after breakfast on the morrow, that Marianne was again
writing to Willoughby, for she could not suppose it to be to any other
About the middle of the day, Mrs. Jennings went out by herself on
business, and Elinor began her letter directly, while Marianne, too
restless for employment, too anxious for conversation, walked from one
window to the other, or sat down by the fire in melancholy meditation.
Elinor was very earnest in her application to her mother, relating all
that had passed, her suspicions of Willoughby's inconstancy, urging her
by every plea of duty and affection to demand from Marianne an account
of her real situation with respect to him.
Her letter was scarcely finished, when a rap foretold a visitor, and
Colonel Brandon was announced. Marianne, who had seen him from the
window, and who hated company of any kind, left the room before he
entered it. He looked more than usually grave, and though expressing
satisfaction at finding Miss Dashwood alone, as if he had somewhat in
particular to tell her, sat for some time without saying a word.
Elinor, persuaded that he had some communication to make in which her
sister was concerned, impatiently expected its opening. It was not the
first time of her feeling the same kind of conviction; for, more than
once before, beginning with the observation of "your sister looks
unwell to-day," or "your sister seems out of spirits," he had appeared
on the point, either of disclosing, or of inquiring, something
particular about her. After a pause of several minutes, their silence
was broken, by his asking her in a voice of some agitation, when he was
to congratulate her on the acquisition of a brother? Elinor was not
prepared for such a question, and having no answer ready, was obliged
to adopt the simple and common expedient, of asking what he meant? He
tried to smile as he replied, "your sister's engagement to Mr.
Willoughby is very generally known."
"It cannot be generally known," returned Elinor, "for her own family do
not know it."
He looked surprised and said, "I beg your pardon, I am afraid my
inquiry has been impertinent; but I had not supposed any secrecy
intended, as they openly correspond, and their marriage is universally
"How can that be? By whom can you have heard it mentioned?"
"By many—by some of whom you know nothing, by others with whom you are
most intimate, Mrs. Jennings, Mrs. Palmer, and the Middletons. But
still I might not have believed it, for where the mind is perhaps
rather unwilling to be convinced, it will always find something to
support its doubts, if I had not, when the servant let me in today,
accidentally seen a letter in his hand, directed to Mr. Willoughby in
your sister's writing. I came to inquire, but I was convinced before I
could ask the question. Is every thing finally settled? Is it
impossible to-? But I have no right, and I could have no chance of
succeeding. Excuse me, Miss Dashwood. I believe I have been wrong in
saying so much, but I hardly know what to do, and on your prudence I
have the strongest dependence. Tell me that it is all absolutely
resolved on, that any attempt, that in short concealment, if
concealment be possible, is all that remains."
These words, which conveyed to Elinor a direct avowal of his love for
her sister, affected her very much. She was not immediately able to
say anything, and even when her spirits were recovered, she debated for
a short time, on the answer it would be most proper to give. The real
state of things between Willoughby and her sister was so little known
to herself, that in endeavouring to explain it, she might be as liable
to say too much as too little. Yet as she was convinced that
Marianne's affection for Willoughby, could leave no hope of Colonel
Brandon's success, whatever the event of that affection might be, and
at the same time wished to shield her conduct from censure, she thought
it most prudent and kind, after some consideration, to say more than
she really knew or believed. She acknowledged, therefore, that though
she had never been informed by themselves of the terms on which they
stood with each other, of their mutual affection she had no doubt, and
of their correspondence she was not astonished to hear.
He listened to her with silent attention, and on her ceasing to speak,
rose directly from his seat, and after saying in a voice of emotion,
"to your sister I wish all imaginable happiness; to Willoughby that he
may endeavour to deserve her,"—took leave, and went away.
Elinor derived no comfortable feelings from this conversation, to
lessen the uneasiness of her mind on other points; she was left, on the
contrary, with a melancholy impression of Colonel Brandon's
unhappiness, and was prevented even from wishing it removed, by her
anxiety for the very event that must confirm it.