Mrs. Palmer was so well at the end of a fortnight, that her mother felt
it no longer necessary to give up the whole of her time to her; and,
contenting herself with visiting her once or twice a day, returned from
that period to her own home, and her own habits, in which she found the
Miss Dashwoods very ready to resume their former share.
About the third or fourth morning after their being thus resettled in
Berkeley Street, Mrs. Jennings, on returning from her ordinary visit to
Mrs. Palmer, entered the drawing-room, where Elinor was sitting by
herself, with an air of such hurrying importance as prepared her to
hear something wonderful; and giving her time only to form that idea,
began directly to justify it, by saying,
"Lord! my dear Miss Dashwood! have you heard the news?"
"No, ma'am. What is it?"
"Something so strange! But you shall hear it all.— When I got to Mr.
Palmer's, I found Charlotte quite in a fuss about the child. She was
sure it was very ill—it cried, and fretted, and was all over pimples.
So I looked at it directly, and, 'Lord! my dear,' says I, 'it is
nothing in the world, but the red gum—' and nurse said just the same.
But Charlotte, she would not be satisfied, so Mr. Donavan was sent for;
and luckily he happened to just come in from Harley Street, so he
stepped over directly, and as soon as ever he saw the child, he said
just as we did, that it was nothing in the world but the red gum, and
then Charlotte was easy. And so, just as he was going away again, it
came into my head, I am sure I do not know how I happened to think of
it, but it came into my head to ask him if there was any news. So upon
that, he smirked, and simpered, and looked grave, and seemed to know
something or other, and at last he said in a whisper, 'For fear any
unpleasant report should reach the young ladies under your care as to
their sister's indisposition, I think it advisable to say, that I
believe there is no great reason for alarm; I hope Mrs. Dashwood will
do very well.'"
"What! is Fanny ill?"
"That is exactly what I said, my dear. 'Lord!' says I, 'is Mrs.
Dashwood ill?' So then it all came out; and the long and the short of
the matter, by all I can learn, seems to be this. Mr. Edward Ferrars,
the very young man I used to joke with you about (but however, as it
turns out, I am monstrous glad there was never any thing in it), Mr.
Edward Ferrars, it seems, has been engaged above this twelvemonth to my
cousin Lucy!—There's for you, my dear!—And not a creature knowing a
syllable of the matter, except Nancy!—Could you have believed such a
thing possible?— There is no great wonder in their liking one another;
but that matters should be brought so forward between them, and nobody
suspect it!—THAT is strange!—I never happened to see them together,
or I am sure I should have found it out directly. Well, and so this
was kept a great secret, for fear of Mrs. Ferrars, and neither she nor
your brother or sister suspected a word of the matter;—till this very
morning, poor Nancy, who, you know, is a well-meaning creature, but no
conjurer, popt it all out. 'Lord!' thinks she to herself, 'they are
all so fond of Lucy, to be sure they will make no difficulty about it;'
and so, away she went to your sister, who was sitting all alone at her
carpet-work, little suspecting what was to come—for she had just been
saying to your brother, only five minutes before, that she thought to
make a match between Edward and some Lord's daughter or other, I forget
who. So you may think what a blow it was to all her vanity and pride.
She fell into violent hysterics immediately, with such screams as
reached your brother's ears, as he was sitting in his own dressing-room
down stairs, thinking about writing a letter to his steward in the
country. So up he flew directly, and a terrible scene took place, for
Lucy was come to them by that time, little dreaming what was going on.
Poor soul! I pity HER. And I must say, I think she was used very
hardly; for your sister scolded like any fury, and soon drove her into
a fainting fit. Nancy, she fell upon her knees, and cried bitterly;
and your brother, he walked about the room, and said he did not know
what to do. Mrs. Dashwood declared they should not stay a minute
longer in the house, and your brother was forced to go down upon HIS
knees too, to persuade her to let them stay till they had packed up
their clothes. THEN she fell into hysterics again, and he was so
frightened that he would send for Mr. Donavan, and Mr. Donavan found
the house in all this uproar. The carriage was at the door ready to
take my poor cousins away, and they were just stepping in as he came
off; poor Lucy in such a condition, he says, she could hardly walk; and
Nancy, she was almost as bad. I declare, I have no patience with your
sister; and I hope, with all my heart, it will be a match in spite of
her. Lord! what a taking poor Mr. Edward will be in when he hears of
it! To have his love used so scornfully! for they say he is monstrous
fond of her, as well he may. I should not wonder, if he was to be in
the greatest passion!—and Mr. Donavan thinks just the same. He and I
had a great deal of talk about it; and the best of all is, that he is
gone back again to Harley Street, that he may be within call when Mrs.
Ferrars is told of it, for she was sent for as soon as ever my cousins
left the house, for your sister was sure SHE would be in hysterics too;
and so she may, for what I care. I have no pity for either of them. I
have no notion of people's making such a to-do about money and
greatness. There is no reason on earth why Mr. Edward and Lucy should
not marry; for I am sure Mrs. Ferrars may afford to do very well by her
son, and though Lucy has next to nothing herself, she knows better than
any body how to make the most of every thing; I dare say, if Mrs.
Ferrars would only allow him five hundred a-year, she would make as
good an appearance with it as any body else would with eight. Lord!
how snug they might live in such another cottage as yours—or a little
bigger—with two maids, and two men; and I believe I could help them to
a housemaid, for my Betty has a sister out of place, that would fit
Here Mrs. Jennings ceased, and as Elinor had had time enough to collect
her thoughts, she was able to give such an answer, and make such
observations, as the subject might naturally be supposed to produce.
Happy to find that she was not suspected of any extraordinary interest
in it; that Mrs. Jennings (as she had of late often hoped might be the
case) had ceased to imagine her at all attached to Edward; and happy
above all the rest, in the absence of Marianne, she felt very well able
to speak of the affair without embarrassment, and to give her judgment,
as she believed, with impartiality on the conduct of every one
concerned in it.
She could hardly determine what her own expectation of its event really
was; though she earnestly tried to drive away the notion of its being
possible to end otherwise at last, than in the marriage of Edward and
Lucy. What Mrs. Ferrars would say and do, though there could not be a
doubt of its nature, she was anxious to hear; and still more anxious to
know how Edward would conduct himself. For HIM she felt much
compassion;—for Lucy very little—and it cost her some pains to
procure that little;—for the rest of the party none at all.
As Mrs. Jennings could talk on no other subject, Elinor soon saw the
necessity of preparing Marianne for its discussion. No time was to be
lost in undeceiving her, in making her acquainted with the real truth,
and in endeavouring to bring her to hear it talked of by others,
without betraying that she felt any uneasiness for her sister, or any
resentment against Edward.
Elinor's office was a painful one.—She was going to remove what she
really believed to be her sister's chief consolation,—to give such
particulars of Edward as she feared would ruin him for ever in her good
opinion,-and to make Marianne, by a resemblance in their situations,
which to HER fancy would seem strong, feel all her own disappointment
over again. But unwelcome as such a task must be, it was necessary to
be done, and Elinor therefore hastened to perform it.
She was very far from wishing to dwell on her own feelings, or to
represent herself as suffering much, any otherwise than as the
self-command she had practised since her first knowledge of Edward's
engagement, might suggest a hint of what was practicable to Marianne.
Her narration was clear and simple; and though it could not be given
without emotion, it was not accompanied by violent agitation, nor
impetuous grief.—THAT belonged rather to the hearer, for Marianne
listened with horror, and cried excessively. Elinor was to be the
comforter of others in her own distresses, no less than in theirs; and
all the comfort that could be given by assurances of her own composure
of mind, and a very earnest vindication of Edward from every charge but
of imprudence, was readily offered.
But Marianne for some time would give credit to neither. Edward seemed
a second Willoughby; and acknowledging as Elinor did, that she HAD
loved him most sincerely, could she feel less than herself! As for
Lucy Steele, she considered her so totally unamiable, so absolutely
incapable of attaching a sensible man, that she could not be persuaded
at first to believe, and afterwards to pardon, any former affection of
Edward for her. She would not even admit it to have been natural; and
Elinor left her to be convinced that it was so, by that which only
could convince her, a better knowledge of mankind.
Her first communication had reached no farther than to state the fact
of the engagement, and the length of time it had existed.—Marianne's
feelings had then broken in, and put an end to all regularity of
detail; and for some time all that could be done was to soothe her
distress, lessen her alarms, and combat her resentment. The first
question on her side, which led to farther particulars, was,—
"How long has this been known to you, Elinor? has he written to you?"
"I have known it these four months. When Lucy first came to Barton
Park last November, she told me in confidence of her engagement."
At these words, Marianne's eyes expressed the astonishment which her
lips could not utter. After a pause of wonder, she exclaimed—
"Four months!—Have you known of this four months?"
Elinor confirmed it.
"What!—while attending me in all my misery, has this been on your
heart?—And I have reproached you for being happy!"—
"It was not fit that you should then know how much I was the reverse!"
"Four months!"—cried Marianne again.—"So calm!—so cheerful!—how
have you been supported?"—
"By feeling that I was doing my duty.—My promise to Lucy, obliged me
to be secret. I owed it to her, therefore, to avoid giving any hint of
the truth; and I owed it to my family and friends, not to create in
them a solicitude about me, which it could not be in my power to
Marianne seemed much struck.
"I have very often wished to undeceive yourself and my mother," added
Elinor; "and once or twice I have attempted it;—but without betraying
my trust, I never could have convinced you."
"Four months!—and yet you loved him!"—
"Yes. But I did not love only him;—and while the comfort of others was
dear to me, I was glad to spare them from knowing how much I felt.
Now, I can think and speak of it with little emotion. I would not have
you suffer on my account; for I assure you I no longer suffer
materially myself. I have many things to support me. I am not
conscious of having provoked the disappointment by any imprudence of my
own, I have borne it as much as possible without spreading it farther.
I acquit Edward of essential misconduct. I wish him very happy; and I
am so sure of his always doing his duty, that though now he may harbour
some regret, in the end he must become so. Lucy does not want sense,
and that is the foundation on which every thing good may be built.—And
after all, Marianne, after all that is bewitching in the idea of a
single and constant attachment, and all that can be said of one's
happiness depending entirely on any particular person, it is not
meant—it is not fit—it is not possible that it should be so.— Edward
will marry Lucy; he will marry a woman superior in person and
understanding to half her sex; and time and habit will teach him to
forget that he ever thought another superior to HER."—
"If such is your way of thinking," said Marianne, "if the loss of what
is most valued is so easily to be made up by something else, your
resolution, your self-command, are, perhaps, a little less to be
wondered at.—They are brought more within my comprehension."
"I understand you.—You do not suppose that I have ever felt much.—For
four months, Marianne, I have had all this hanging on my mind, without
being at liberty to speak of it to a single creature; knowing that it
would make you and my mother most unhappy whenever it were explained to
you, yet unable to prepare you for it in the least.— It was told
me,—it was in a manner forced on me by the very person herself, whose
prior engagement ruined all my prospects; and told me, as I thought,
with triumph.— This person's suspicions, therefore, I have had to
oppose, by endeavouring to appear indifferent where I have been most
deeply interested;—and it has not been only once;—I have had her
hopes and exultation to listen to again and again.— I have known
myself to be divided from Edward for ever, without hearing one
circumstance that could make me less desire the connection.—Nothing
has proved him unworthy; nor has anything declared him indifferent to
me.— I have had to contend against the unkindness of his sister, and
the insolence of his mother; and have suffered the punishment of an
attachment, without enjoying its advantages.— And all this has been
going on at a time, when, as you know too well, it has not been my only
unhappiness.— If you can think me capable of ever feeling—surely you
may suppose that I have suffered NOW. The composure of mind with which
I have brought myself at present to consider the matter, the
consolation that I have been willing to admit, have been the effect of
constant and painful exertion;—they did not spring up of
themselves;—they did not occur to relieve my spirits at first.— No,
Marianne.—THEN, if I had not been bound to silence, perhaps nothing
could have kept me entirely—not even what I owed to my dearest
friends—from openly shewing that I was VERY unhappy."—
Marianne was quite subdued.—
"Oh! Elinor," she cried, "you have made me hate myself for ever.—How
barbarous have I been to you!—you, who have been my only comfort, who
have borne with me in all my misery, who have seemed to be only
suffering for me!—Is this my gratitude?—Is this the only return I can
make you?—Because your merit cries out upon myself, I have been trying
to do it away."
The tenderest caresses followed this confession. In such a frame of
mind as she was now in, Elinor had no difficulty in obtaining from her
whatever promise she required; and at her request, Marianne engaged
never to speak of the affair to any one with the least appearance of
bitterness;—to meet Lucy without betraying the smallest increase of
dislike to her;—and even to see Edward himself, if chance should bring
them together, without any diminution of her usual cordiality.— These
were great concessions;—but where Marianne felt that she had injured,
no reparation could be too much for her to make.
She performed her promise of being discreet, to admiration.—She
attended to all that Mrs. Jennings had to say upon the subject, with an
unchanging complexion, dissented from her in nothing, and was heard
three times to say, "Yes, ma'am."—She listened to her praise of Lucy
with only moving from one chair to another, and when Mrs. Jennings
talked of Edward's affection, it cost her only a spasm in her
throat.—Such advances towards heroism in her sister, made Elinor feel
equal to any thing herself.
The next morning brought a farther trial of it, in a visit from their
brother, who came with a most serious aspect to talk over the dreadful
affair, and bring them news of his wife.
"You have heard, I suppose," said he with great solemnity, as soon as
he was seated, "of the very shocking discovery that took place under
our roof yesterday."
They all looked their assent; it seemed too awful a moment for speech.
"Your sister," he continued, "has suffered dreadfully. Mrs. Ferrars
too—in short it has been a scene of such complicated distress—but I
will hope that the storm may be weathered without our being any of us
quite overcome. Poor Fanny! she was in hysterics all yesterday. But I
would not alarm you too much. Donavan says there is nothing materially
to be apprehended; her constitution is a good one, and her resolution
equal to any thing. She has borne it all, with the fortitude of an
angel! She says she never shall think well of anybody again; and one
cannot wonder at it, after being so deceived!—meeting with such
ingratitude, where so much kindness had been shewn, so much confidence
had been placed! It was quite out of the benevolence of her heart,
that she had asked these young women to her house; merely because she
thought they deserved some attention, were harmless, well-behaved
girls, and would be pleasant companions; for otherwise we both wished
very much to have invited you and Marianne to be with us, while your
kind friend there, was attending her daughter. And now to be so
rewarded! 'I wish, with all my heart,' says poor Fanny in her
affectionate way, 'that we had asked your sisters instead of them.'"
Here he stopped to be thanked; which being done, he went on.
"What poor Mrs. Ferrars suffered, when first Fanny broke it to her, is
not to be described. While she with the truest affection had been
planning a most eligible connection for him, was it to be supposed that
he could be all the time secretly engaged to another person!—such a
suspicion could never have entered her head! If she suspected ANY
prepossession elsewhere, it could not be in THAT quarter. 'THERE, to
be sure,' said she, 'I might have thought myself safe.' She was quite
in an agony. We consulted together, however, as to what should be
done, and at last she determined to send for Edward. He came. But I
am sorry to relate what ensued. All that Mrs. Ferrars could say to
make him put an end to the engagement, assisted too as you may well
suppose by my arguments, and Fanny's entreaties, was of no avail.
Duty, affection, every thing was disregarded. I never thought Edward
so stubborn, so unfeeling before. His mother explained to him her
liberal designs, in case of his marrying Miss Morton; told him she
would settle on him the Norfolk estate, which, clear of land-tax,
brings in a good thousand a-year; offered even, when matters grew
desperate, to make it twelve hundred; and in opposition to this, if he
still persisted in this low connection, represented to him the certain
penury that must attend the match. His own two thousand pounds she
protested should be his all; she would never see him again; and so far
would she be from affording him the smallest assistance, that if he
were to enter into any profession with a view of better support, she
would do all in her power to prevent him advancing in it."
Here Marianne, in an ecstasy of indignation, clapped her hands
together, and cried, "Gracious God! can this be possible!"
"Well may you wonder, Marianne," replied her brother, "at the obstinacy
which could resist such arguments as these. Your exclamation is very
Marianne was going to retort, but she remembered her promises, and
"All this, however," he continued, "was urged in vain. Edward said
very little; but what he did say, was in the most determined manner.
Nothing should prevail on him to give up his engagement. He would
stand to it, cost him what it might."
"Then," cried Mrs. Jennings with blunt sincerity, no longer able to be
silent, "he has acted like an honest man! I beg your pardon, Mr.
Dashwood, but if he had done otherwise, I should have thought him a
rascal. I have some little concern in the business, as well as
yourself, for Lucy Steele is my cousin, and I believe there is not a
better kind of girl in the world, nor one who more deserves a good
John Dashwood was greatly astonished; but his nature was calm, not open
to provocation, and he never wished to offend anybody, especially
anybody of good fortune. He therefore replied, without any resentment,
"I would by no means speak disrespectfully of any relation of yours,
madam. Miss Lucy Steele is, I dare say, a very deserving young woman,
but in the present case you know, the connection must be impossible.
And to have entered into a secret engagement with a young man under her
uncle's care, the son of a woman especially of such very large fortune
as Mrs. Ferrars, is perhaps, altogether a little extraordinary. In
short, I do not mean to reflect upon the behaviour of any person whom
you have a regard for, Mrs. Jennings. We all wish her extremely happy;
and Mrs. Ferrars's conduct throughout the whole, has been such as every
conscientious, good mother, in like circumstances, would adopt. It has
been dignified and liberal. Edward has drawn his own lot, and I fear
it will be a bad one."
Marianne sighed out her similar apprehension; and Elinor's heart wrung
for the feelings of Edward, while braving his mother's threats, for a
woman who could not reward him.
"Well, sir," said Mrs. Jennings, "and how did it end?"
"I am sorry to say, ma'am, in a most unhappy rupture:— Edward is
dismissed for ever from his mother's notice. He left her house
yesterday, but where he is gone, or whether he is still in town, I do
not know; for WE of course can make no inquiry."
"Poor young man!—and what is to become of him?"
"What, indeed, ma'am! It is a melancholy consideration. Born to the
prospect of such affluence! I cannot conceive a situation more
deplorable. The interest of two thousand pounds—how can a man live on
it?—and when to that is added the recollection, that he might, but for
his own folly, within three months have been in the receipt of two
thousand, five hundred a-year (for Miss Morton has thirty thousand
pounds,) I cannot picture to myself a more wretched condition. We must
all feel for him; and the more so, because it is totally out of our
power to assist him."
"Poor young man!" cried Mrs. Jennings, "I am sure he should be very
welcome to bed and board at my house; and so I would tell him if I
could see him. It is not fit that he should be living about at his own
charge now, at lodgings and taverns."
Elinor's heart thanked her for such kindness towards Edward, though she
could not forbear smiling at the form of it.
"If he would only have done as well by himself," said John Dashwood,
"as all his friends were disposed to do by him, he might now have been
in his proper situation, and would have wanted for nothing. But as it
is, it must be out of anybody's power to assist him. And there is one
thing more preparing against him, which must be worse than all—his
mother has determined, with a very natural kind of spirit, to settle
THAT estate upon Robert immediately, which might have been Edward's, on
proper conditions. I left her this morning with her lawyer, talking
over the business."
"Well!" said Mrs. Jennings, "that is HER revenge. Everybody has a way
of their own. But I don't think mine would be, to make one son
independent, because another had plagued me."
Marianne got up and walked about the room.
"Can anything be more galling to the spirit of a man," continued John,
"than to see his younger brother in possession of an estate which might
have been his own? Poor Edward! I feel for him sincerely."
A few minutes more spent in the same kind of effusion, concluded his
visit; and with repeated assurances to his sisters that he really
believed there was no material danger in Fanny's indisposition, and
that they need not therefore be very uneasy about it, he went away;
leaving the three ladies unanimous in their sentiments on the present
occasion, as far at least as it regarded Mrs. Ferrars's conduct, the
Dashwoods', and Edward's.
Marianne's indignation burst forth as soon as he quitted the room; and
as her vehemence made reserve impossible in Elinor, and unnecessary in
Mrs. Jennings, they all joined in a very spirited critique upon the