Edward remained a week at the cottage; he was earnestly pressed by
Mrs. Dashwood to stay longer; but, as if he were bent only on
, he seemed resolved to be gone when his enjoyment
among his friends was at the height. His spirits, during the last
two or three days, though still very unequal, were greatly improved-
he grew more and more partial to the house and environs
- never spoke
of going away without a sigh- declared his time to be wholly
disengaged- even doubted to what place he should go when he left them-
but still, go he must. Never had any week passed so quickly- he
could hardly believe it to be gone. He said so repeatedly; other
things he said, too, which marked the turn of his feelings, and gave
the lie to his actions. He had no pleasure at Norland; he detested
being in town; but either to Norland or London
he must go. He valued
their kindness beyond any thing, and his greatest happiness was in
being with them. Yet, he must leave them at the end of a week, in
spite of their wishes and his own, and without any restraint on his time.
Elinor placed all that was astonishing in this way of acting to
his mother's account; and it was happy for her that he had a mother
whose character was so imperfectly known to her, as to be the
general excuse for every thing strange on the part of her son.
Disappointed, however, and vexed as she was, and sometimes
displeased with his uncertain behaviour to herself, she was very
well disposed on the whole to regard his actions with all the candid
allowances and generous qualifications, which had been rather more
painfully extorted from her, for Willoughby's service, by her
mother. His want of spirits, of openness, and of consistency, were
most usually attributed to his want of independence, and his better
knowledge of Mrs. Ferrars's dispositions and designs. The shortness of
his visit, the steadiness of his purpose in leaving them, originated
in the same fettered inclination, the same inevitable necessity of
temporising with his mother. The old well-established grievance of
duty against will, parent against child, was the cause of all. She
would have been glad to know when these difficulties were to cease,
this opposition was to yield,- when Mrs. Ferrars would be reformed,
and her son be at liberty to be happy. But from such vain wishes she
was forced to turn for comfort to the renewal of her confidence in
Edward's affection, to the remembrance of every mark of regard in look
or word which fell from him while at Barton, and above all, to that
flattering proof of it which he constantly wore round his finger.
"I think, Edward," said Mrs. Dashwood, as they were at breakfast
the last morning, "you would be a happier man if you had any
profession to engage your time and give an interest to your plans
and actions. Some inconvenience to your friends, indeed, might
result from it- you would not be able to give them so much of your
time. But (with a smile) you would be materially benefited in one
particular at least- you would know where to go when you left them."
"I do assure you," he replied, "that I have long thought on this
point as you think now. It has been, and is, and probably will
always be, a heavy misfortune to me, that I have had no necessary
business to engage me, no profession to give me employment, or
afford me any thing like independence. But unfortunately my own
nicety, and the nicety of my friends, have made me what I am, an idle,
helpless being. We never could agree in our choice of a profession.
I always preferred the church, as I still do. But that was not smart
enough for my family. They recommended the army. That was a great deal
too smart for me. The law was allowed to be genteel enough: many young
men, who had chambers in the Temple, made a very good appearance in
the first circles, and drove about town in very knowing gigs. But I
had no inclination for the law, even in this less abstruse study of
it, which my family approved. As for the navy, it had fashion on its
side, but I was too old when the subject was first started to enter
it; and, at length, as there was no necessity for my having any
profession at all, as I might be as dashing and expensive without a
red coat on my back as with one, idleness was pronounced on the
whole to be most advantageous and honourable, and a young man of
eighteen is not in general so earnestly bent on being busy as to
resist the solicitations of his friends to do nothing. I was therefore
entered at Oxford, and have been properly idle ever since."
"The consequence of which, I suppose, will be," said Mrs.
Dashwood, "since leisure has not promoted your own happiness, that
your sons will be brought up to as many pursuits, employments,
professions, and trades as Columella's."
"They will be brought up," said he, in a serious accent, "to be as
unlike myself as is possible. In feeling, in action, in condition,
in every thing."
"Come, come; this is all an effusion of immediate want of spirits,
Edward. You are in a melancholy humour, and fancy that any one
unlike yourself must be happy. But remember that the pain of parting
from friends will be felt by every body at times, whatever be their
education or state. Know your own happiness. You want nothing but
patience- or give it a more fascinating name, call it hope. Your
mother will secure to you, in time, that independence you are so
anxious for; it is her duty, and it will, it must ere long become
her happiness to prevent your whole youth from being wasted in
discontent. How much may not a few months do?"
"I think," replied Edward, "that I may defy many months to produce
any good to me."
This desponding turn of mind, though it could not be
communicated to Mrs. Dashwood, gave additional pain to them all in the
parting, which shortly took place, and left an uncomfortable
impression on Elinor's feelings especially, which required some
trouble and time to subdue. But as it was her determination to
subdue it, and to prevent herself from appearing to suffer more than
what all her family suffered on his going away, she did not adopt
the method so judiciously employed by Marianne, on a similar occasion,
to augment and fix her sorrow, by seeking silence, solitude, and
idleness. Their means were as different as their objects, and
equally suited to the advancement of each.
Elinor sat down to her drawing-table as soon as he was out of
the house, busily employed herself the whole day, neither sought nor
avoided the mention of his name, appeared to interest herself almost
as much as ever in the general concerns of the family; and if, by this
conduct, she did not lessen her own grief, it was at least prevented
from unnecessary increase, and her mother and sisters were spared much
solicitude on her account.
Such behaviour as this, so exactly the reverse of her own,
appeared no more meritorious to Marianne, than her own had seemed
faulty to her. The business of self-command she settled very
easily:- with strong affections it was impossible, with calm ones it
could have no merit. That her sister's affections were calm, she dared
not deny, though she blushed to acknowledge it; and of the strength of
her own, she gave a very striking proof, by still loving and
respecting that sister, in spite of this mortifying conviction.
Without shutting herself up from her family, or leaving the
house in determined solitude to avoid them, or lying awake the whole
night to indulge meditation, Elinor found every day afforded her
leisure enough to think of Edward, and of Edward's behaviour, in every
possible variety which the different state of her spirits at different
times could produce,- with tenderness, pity, approbation, censure, and
doubt. There were moments in abundance, when, if not by the absence of
her mother and sisters, at least, by the nature of their
employments, conversation was forbidden among them, and every effect
of solitude was produced. Her mind was inevitably at liberty; her
thoughts could not be chained elsewhere; and the past and the
future, on a subject so interesting, must be before her, must force
her attention, and engross her memory, her reflection, and her fancy.
From a reverie of this kind, as she sat at her drawing-table,
she was roused one morning, soon after Edward's leaving them, by the
arrival of company. She happened to be quite alone. The closing of the
little gate, at the entrance of the green court in front of the house,
drew her eyes to the window, and she saw a large party walking up to
the door. Amongst them were Sir John and Lady Middleton, and Mrs.
Jennings, but there were two others, a gentleman and lady, who were
quite unknown to her. She was sitting near the window; and as soon
as Sir John perceived her, he left the rest of the party to the
ceremony of knocking at the door, and stepping across the turf,
obliged her to open the casement to speak to him, though the space was
so short between the door and the window as to make it hardly possible
to speak at one without being heard at the other.
"Well," said he, "we have brought you some strangers. How do youlike them?"
"Hush! they will hear you."
"Never mind if they do. It is only the Palmers. Charlotte is
very pretty, I can tell you. You may see her if you look this way."
As Elinor was certain of seeing her in a couple of minutes,
without taking that liberty, she begged to be excused.
"Where is Marianne? Has she run away because we are come? I see
her instrument is open."
"She is walking, I believe."
They were now joined by Mrs. Jennings, who had not patience enough
to wait till the door was opened before she told her story. She came
hallooing to the window, "How do you do, my dear? How does Mrs.
Dashwood do? And where are your sisters? What! all alone! you will
be glad of a little company to sit with you. I have brought my other
son and daughter to see you. Only think of their coming so suddenly! I
thought I heard a carriage last night, while we were drinking our tea,
but it never entered my head that it could be them. I thought of
nothing but whether it might not be Colonel Brandon come back again;
so I said to Sir John, I do think I hear a carriage; perhaps it is
Colonel Brandon come back again-"
Elinor was obliged to turn from her, in the middle of her story,
to receive the rest of the party: Lady Middleton introduced the two
strangers; Mrs. Dashwood and Margaret came down stairs at the same
time, and they all sat down to look at one another, while Mrs.
Jennings continued her story as she walked through the passage into
the parlour, attended by Sir John.
Mrs. Palmer was several years younger than Lady Middleton, and
totally unlike her in every respect. She was short and plump, had a
very pretty face, and the finest expression of good humour in it
that could possibly be. Her manners were by no means so elegant as her
sister's, but they were much more prepossessing. She came in with a
smile, smiled all the time of her visit, except when she laughed,
and smiled when she went away. Her husband was a grave looking young
man of five or six and twenty, with an air of more fashion and sense
than his wife, but of less willingness to please or be pleased. He
entered the room with a look of self-consequence, slightly bowed to
the ladies, without speaking a word, and, after briefly surveying them
and their apartments, took up a newspaper from the table, and
continued to read it as long as he stayed.
Mrs. Palmer, on the contrary, who was strongly endowed by nature
with a turn for being uniformly civil and happy, was hardly seated
before her admiration of the parlour and everything in it burst forth.
"Well! what a delightful room this is! I never saw anything so
charming! Only think, mamma, how it is improved since I was here last!
I always thought it such a sweet place, ma'am! (turning to Mrs.
Dashwood) but you have made it so charming! Only look, sister, how
delightful everything is! How I should like such a house for myself!
Should not you, Mr. Palmer?"
Mr. Palmer made her no answer, and did not even raise his eyes
from the newspaper.
"Mr. Palmer does not hear me," said she, laughing; "he never
does sometimes. It is so ridiculous!"
This was quite a new idea to Mrs. Dashwood; she had never been
used to find wit in the inattention of any one, and could not help
looking with surprise at them both.
Mrs. Jennings, in the meantime, talked on as loud as she could,
and continued her account of their surprise, the evening before, on
seeing their friends, without ceasing till everything was told. Mrs.
Palmer laughed heartily at the recollection of their astonishment, and
everybody agreed, two or three times over, that it had been quite an
"You may believe how glad we all were to see them," added Mrs.
Jennings, leaning forward towards Elinor, and speaking in a low voice,
as if she meant to be heard by no one else, though they were seated on
different sides of the room; "but, however, I can't help wishing
they had not travelled quite so fast, nor made such a long journey
of it, for they came all round by London upon account of some
business, for you know (nodding significantly and pointing to her
daughter) it was wrong in her situation. I wanted her to stay at
home and rest this morning, but she would come with us; she longed
so much to see you all!"
Mrs. Palmer laughed, and said it would not do her any harm.
"She expects to be confined in February," continued Mrs. Jennings.
Lady Middleton could no longer endure such a conversation, and
therefore exerted herself to ask Mr. Palmer if there was any news in the paper.
"No, none at all," he replied, and read on.
"Here comes Marianne," cried Sir John. "Now, Palmer, you shall see
a monstrous pretty girl."
He immediately went into the passage, opened the front door, and
ushered her in himself. Mrs. Jennings asked her, as soon as she
appeared, if she had not been to Allenham; and Mrs. Palmer laughed
so heartily at the question, as to show she understood it. Mr.
Palmer looked up on her entering the room, stared at her some minutes,
and then returned to his newspaper. Mrs. Palmer's eye was now caught
by the drawings which hung round the room. She got up to examine them.
"Oh dear, how beautiful these are! Well, how delightful! Do but
look, mamma, how sweet! I declare they are quite charming; I could
look at them for ever." And then sitting down again, she very soon
forgot that there were any such things in the room.
When Lady Middleton rose to go away, Mr. Palmer rose also, laid
down the newspaper, stretched himself and looked at them all around.
"My love, have you been asleep?" said his wife, laughing.
He made her no answer; and only observed, after again examining
the room, that it was very low pitched, and that the ceiling was
crooked. He then made his bow, and departed with the rest.
Sir John had been very urgent with them all to spend the next
day at the Park. Mrs. Dashwood, who did not choose to dine with them
oftener than they dined at the cottage, absolutely refused on her
own account; her daughters might do as they pleased. But they had no
curiosity to see how Mr. and Mrs. Palmer ate their dinner, and no
expectation of pleasure from them in any other way. They attempted,
therefore, likewise, to excuse themselves; the weather was
uncertain, and not likely to be good. But Sir John would not be
satisfied,- the carriage should be sent for them, and they must
come. Lady Middleton, too, though she did not press their mother,
pressed them. Mrs. Jennings and Mrs. Palmer joined their
entreaties,- all seemed equally anxious to avoid a family party; and
the young ladies were obliged to yield.
"Why should they ask us?" said Marianne, as soon as they were
gone. "The rent of this cottage is said to be low; but we have it on
very hard terms, if we are to dine at the Park whenever any one is
staying either with them or with us."
"They mean no less to be civil and kind to us now," said Elinor,
"by these frequent invitations, than by those which we received from
them a few weeks ago. The alteration is not in them, if their
parties are grown tedious and dull. We must look for the change elsewhere."
Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 18 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 20