Elinor now found the difference between the expectation of an
unpleasant event, however certain the mind may be told to consider it,
and certainty itself. She now found, that in spite of herself, she had
always admitted a hope, while Edward remained single, that something
would occur to prevent his marrying Lucy; that some resolution of his
own, some mediation of friends, or some more eligible opportunity of
establishment for the lady, would arise to assist the happiness of all.
But he was now married; and she condemned her heart for the lurking
flattery, which so much heightened the pain of the intelligence.
That he should be married soon, before (as she imagined) he could be in
orders, and consequently before he could be in possession of the
living, surprised her a little at first. But she soon saw how likely
it was that Lucy, in her self-provident care, in her haste to secure
him, should overlook every thing but the risk of delay. They were
married, married in town, and now hastening down to her uncle's. What
had Edward felt on being within four miles from Barton, on seeing her
mother's servant, on hearing Lucy's message!
They would soon, she supposed, be settled at Delaford.—Delaford,—that
place in which so much conspired to give her an interest; which she
wished to be acquainted with, and yet desired to avoid. She saw them
in an instant in their parsonage-house; saw in Lucy, the active,
contriving manager, uniting at once a desire of smart appearance with
the utmost frugality, and ashamed to be suspected of half her
economical practices;—pursuing her own interest in every thought,
courting the favour of Colonel Brandon, of Mrs. Jennings, and of every
wealthy friend. In Edward—she knew not what she saw, nor what she
wished to see;—happy or unhappy,—nothing pleased her; she turned away
her head from every sketch of him.
Elinor flattered herself that some one of their connections in London
would write to them to announce the event, and give farther
particulars,—but day after day passed off, and brought no letter, no
tidings. Though uncertain that any one were to blame, she found fault
with every absent friend. They were all thoughtless or indolent.
"When do you write to Colonel Brandon, ma'am?" was an inquiry which
sprung from the impatience of her mind to have something going on.
"I wrote to him, my love, last week, and rather expect to see, than to
hear from him again. I earnestly pressed his coming to us, and should
not be surprised to see him walk in today or tomorrow, or any day."
This was gaining something, something to look forward to. Colonel
Brandon must have some information to give.
Scarcely had she so determined it, when the figure of a man on
horseback drew her eyes to the window. He stopt at their gate. It was
a gentleman, it was Colonel Brandon himself. Now she could hear more;
and she trembled in expectation of it. But—it was NOT Colonel
Brandon—neither his air—nor his height. Were it possible, she must
say it must be Edward. She looked again. He had just dismounted;—she
could not be mistaken,—it WAS Edward. She moved away and sat down.
"He comes from Mr. Pratt's purposely to see us. I WILL be calm; I WILL
be mistress of myself."
In a moment she perceived that the others were likewise aware of the
mistake. She saw her mother and Marianne change colour; saw them look
at herself, and whisper a few sentences to each other. She would have
given the world to be able to speak—and to make them understand that
she hoped no coolness, no slight, would appear in their behaviour to
him;—but she had no utterance, and was obliged to leave all to their
Not a syllable passed aloud. They all waited in silence for the
appearance of their visitor. His footsteps were heard along the gravel
path; in a moment he was in the passage, and in another he was before
His countenance, as he entered the room, was not too happy, even for
Elinor. His complexion was white with agitation, and he looked as if
fearful of his reception, and conscious that he merited no kind one.
Mrs. Dashwood, however, conforming, as she trusted, to the wishes of
that daughter, by whom she then meant in the warmth of her heart to be
guided in every thing, met with a look of forced complacency, gave him
her hand, and wished him joy.
He coloured, and stammered out an unintelligible reply. Elinor's lips
had moved with her mother's, and, when the moment of action was over,
she wished that she had shaken hands with him too. But it was then too
late, and with a countenance meaning to be open, she sat down again and
talked of the weather.
Marianne had retreated as much as possible out of sight, to conceal her
distress; and Margaret, understanding some part, but not the whole of
the case, thought it incumbent on her to be dignified, and therefore
took a seat as far from him as she could, and maintained a strict
When Elinor had ceased to rejoice in the dryness of the season, a very
awful pause took place. It was put an end to by Mrs. Dashwood, who
felt obliged to hope that he had left Mrs. Ferrars very well. In a
hurried manner, he replied in the affirmative.
Elinor resolving to exert herself, though fearing the sound of her own
voice, now said,
"Is Mrs. Ferrars at Longstaple?"
"At Longstaple!" he replied, with an air of surprise.— "No, my mother
is in town."
"I meant," said Elinor, taking up some work from the table, "to inquire
for Mrs. EDWARD Ferrars."
She dared not look up;—but her mother and Marianne both turned their
eyes on him. He coloured, seemed perplexed, looked doubtingly, and,
after some hesitation, said,—
"Perhaps you mean—my brother—you mean Mrs.—Mrs. ROBERT Ferrars."
"Mrs. Robert Ferrars!"—was repeated by Marianne and her mother in an
accent of the utmost amazement;—and though Elinor could not speak,
even HER eyes were fixed on him with the same impatient wonder. He
rose from his seat, and walked to the window, apparently from not
knowing what to do; took up a pair of scissors that lay there, and
while spoiling both them and their sheath by cutting the latter to
pieces as he spoke, said, in a hurried voice,
"Perhaps you do not know—you may not have heard that my brother is
lately married to—to the youngest—to Miss Lucy Steele."
His words were echoed with unspeakable astonishment by all but Elinor,
who sat with her head leaning over her work, in a state of such
agitation as made her hardly know where she was.
"Yes," said he, "they were married last week, and are now at Dawlish."
Elinor could sit it no longer. She almost ran out of the room, and as
soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first
she thought would never cease. Edward, who had till then looked any
where, rather than at her, saw her hurry away, and perhaps saw—or even
heard, her emotion; for immediately afterwards he fell into a reverie,
which no remarks, no inquiries, no affectionate address of Mrs.
Dashwood could penetrate, and at last, without saying a word, quitted
the room, and walked out towards the village—leaving the others in the
greatest astonishment and perplexity on a change in his situation, so
wonderful and so sudden;—a perplexity which they had no means of
lessening but by their own conjectures.