JA quotes and intro

"I should infinitely prefer a book." -- Chapter 39, Pride and Prejudice
"...I wish my collection were larger for your benefit and my own credit..." -- Chapter 8, Pride and Prejudice
"I shall be glad to have the library to myself as soon as may be." -- Chapter 20, Pride and Prejudice

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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Old and New Attachments


(2008)
Sense and Sensibility    
"May is for Merriment"
Mrs. Smith offers Willoughby a choice.


"John." Mrs. Smith nodded to Willoughby. "Sit down. I have received a letter from Mrs. Rutledge."

He had no idea who the lady was. "I hope she is well."

"She is tolerable. Her news, however, is scandalous."

"I am sorry to hear it."

"You ought to be, as it principally involves you."

"In what way?"

"What were you thinking, dallying with the daughter of a gentleman, the ward of a gentleman?"

Genuinely confused, he made no answer. He hoped Sophia was not playing some trick. Daughter of a gentleman! Fresh from the taint of trade she was, having been foisted upon the Ellisons at the death of her father. She had gone so far as to hint of marriage when last they met. They had shared a few kisses, but no more than-

"Does the name Eliza Williams mean nothing to you?"

"Eliza!" He had not thought of her for an age. "A gentleman's daughter? She is the natural daughter of someone. I believe she never knew her father."

"It appears her child may suffer the same fate."

"Her child?" He had last seen her eight months ago, perhaps nine. Impossible - or just possible! "Damn."

"I would reprimand you for your language, but we have more important matters to discuss."

"I..." He had been too unguarded to deny everything now. "I am very sorry."

"I need none of your apologies! That poor girl."

"But why has Eliza said nothing before now?"

"A misguided attempt to protect you, I imagine. Fancies herself in love, I daresay, like that Dashwood girl you paraded all over this house. My servants keep me well informed."

Willoughby barely heard the rest of Mrs. Smith's speech: Eliza's confession; Colonel Brandon's - Brandon's! - anger; gossiping servants; Mrs. Rutledge's hurry to inform her friend. He did not hear Mrs. Smith's question until she repeated it. "Which one?"

"Which...what?"

"You must marry either Miss Williams or Miss Dashwood! Even the latter's reputation may suffer if she is not your choice, thanks to your imprudent behaviour. You have not compromised her as well, have you?"

"No!" He had considered it not long ago; his subsequent uneasiness had made him realise the nature of his intentions towards Marianne. "You will be satisfied if I marry Marianne Dashwood?"

"I will not be satisfied unless you preserve, or restore, the respectability of one or the other of these women."

"I will see to it to-morrow."

"Good. Had you refused, you would have been dismissed from my house."

Their conversation concluded more favourably than he could have hoped after such a wretched beginning.

~*~



"Dearest Marianne! Dear, dear Willoughby! I could not ask for a better son." Mrs. Dashwood hugged her daughter and kissed Willoughby's cheek. Marianne pulled her sisters into their embrace.

"If only Edward would come!"

Elinor's smile faltered at Margaret's words. She was by no means certain Edward's arrival would lead to the sort of celebration now occurring in Barton Cottage.

~*~



"I shall never forgive him, whoever he is!" Marianne ran crying from the room. In one week, her spirits had plummeted from perfect happiness to perfect misery.

Mrs. Jennings, upon learning of Marianne's engagement, had offered to escort her to town to assist with her wedding clothes. Elinor had accompanied them. Willoughby, too, had departed Devonshire and was a frequent visitor in Berkeley Street.

A disturbing rumour assailed them soon after their arrival: someone was accusing Willoughby of misconduct. A few days later, Mrs. Jennings returned from her morning's errands with the startling intelligence that their friend's name had been connected to some poor, ruined girl very near her delivery.

Willoughby called that evening and neither confirmed nor denied the report. The subject of duels was raised and instantly dropped, abruptly ending the conversation. Mrs. Jennings retired, and the rest stared at one another until Marianne's outburst left Elinor with only Willoughby.

Elinor lamented the fancied necessity of such a barbarous practice and told him so. "How can you meet this man, who must intend to fight you? You have made Marianne miserable by your silence. Will you also risk your life and destroy her peace forever?" She had no desire to see him injured, dead, or married to a stranger. "Declare it a falsehood, or relate to us the truth of it! Surely you can do that much."

"No!" He looked up, and Elinor saw his fear for the first time. "Very well. I will tell you, Elinor, if you promise not to tell Marianne."

"I cannot promise that."

"Please!"

"No."

He sighed. "I trust your judgement, but I beg you, do not burden her unnecessarily."

"As you have done?"

"Elinor, I..." He swore. "No more delays. I have not much time."

Elinor closed the door and listened to all he had to say. When he had done, she considered he might have very little time left, indeed.

~*~


Neither Willoughby's death nor Colonel Brandon's was announced at breakfast. Soon afterwards, the ladies' anxiety was relieved by Willoughby's appearance in Berkeley Street. After the first raptures were over and he had assured them no one had suffered injury, he imparted some news he had heard that morning.

"Mrs. Ferrars took ill yesterday and lies near death. She is your brother's mother-in-law, is she not?"

"Oh, Elinor! If she should-" Marianne had wisdom enough to check herself, but Elinor understood what had not been said. With his mother dead, Edward would be free to make his own choice. Her sense of decency prevented hope from taking root, and her affection for Edward forbade her wishing any of his family ill.

Thereafter, Willoughby called each morning, taking Marianne on walks or escorting her to the shops. His presence in town unharmed and in the company of a pretty young lady eventually quelled the gossip.

Elinor, while delighted for the couple, marvelled at how quickly and how thoroughly they had put the matter of the duel behind them. They behaved no differently than they had in Devonshire. No hint of soberness clouded their countenances; no increase of caution tempered their joy. They were light-hearted and gay and disregarded anything that could detract from their happiness.

For her part, Elinor was anxious for news of Edward but could do little more than wait.

Colonel Brandon soon called in Berkeley Street to offer congratulations. "Miss Marianne," said he, "I wish you all imaginable happiness. Mr. Willoughby, I hope you may endeavour to deserve her." Elinor gathered that his real aim was twofold: to dispel any notion of resentment between the gentlemen and to warn Willoughby against future missteps as the husband of a woman the Colonel himself admired and possibly even loved.

Marianne, who knew nothing of his involvement in Willoughby's recent troubles, laughingly dismissed his coldness to her betrothed. "I pity him," she told Elinor afterwards. "He is of an age beyond the reach of romantic sensibilities."

~*~


One day while Willoughby and Marianne were out riding, Mrs. Jennings and Elinor stopped in Gray's for some ribbons and lace. They entered the shop just as two other ladies were completing their purchases. Elinor's eyes met those of the gentleman accompanying them, and she gasped.

"Edward! Mr. Ferrars, what a pleasure it is to see you again."

"Miss Dashwood! How fortunate to meet you here." Edward appeared tired and pale, and his words held no warmth.

"Oho, Elinor! Mr. Ferrars with an F. You see, I have not forgotten." Mrs. Jennings had whispered, but her significant looks were easily interpreted by all assembled.

As Edward neither introduced his friends nor made to leave, Elinor performed the civilities as far as she could, and soon Mrs. Jennings was animatedly conversing with the ladies. Edward continued silent and dull.

"May I ask how your family are?" Elinor ventured. "Is your mother well?"

"Not at all. She had a seizure and has been very ill since. The doctor believes the end is imminent."

"I am very sorry. If there is anything I can do..."

"There is nothing. I am sorry." He spoke to her but looked at the pretty girl by Mrs. Jennings's side. The girl looked back at them. "I am sorry," Edward repeated, though Elinor knew not why he felt any apology necessary.

"Miss Dashwood, Mr. Ferrars, you will never guess - Miss Steele and Miss Lucy are my cousins!" Mrs. Jennings recounted the details of their discovery and insisted on walking with the party before they returned to Bartlett's buildings, where the Misses Steele were staying. "We shall visit Grays to-morrow, Elinor."

Elinor gladly would have taken Edward's arm had he offered it, but he did not offer it. Furthermore, Miss Lucy took every opportunity to place herself between Elinor and Edward. Finally, Elinor turned to Miss Steele and talked to her with great perseverance, an effort which afforded her little pleasure.

~*~


"Girls," said Mrs. Jennings, rushing into the room, "you will never believe this! Old Mrs. Ferrars is dead, but that was not unexpected. Here is the surprise: Lucy has been secretly engaged these four years to Mr. Edward Ferrars! And to think, Elinor, I teased you about him because he shares the initial of your Mr. Forster, or Mr. Finch, or whoever the elusive Mr. F is! Lucy was bemoaning the delay, now Edward is in mourning, but I told her, 'You have waited four years. What is one more?' At least she is able to make her engagement public now. They had feared his mother's disapprobation. Mrs. Ferrars would have disinherited Edward and settled her estate on his brother, who, by Lucy's account, is a great coxcomb."

~*~


Not long after Marianne's wedding, Elinor sat at home talking to Colonel Brandon, who once again was staying a few weeks with the Middletons. Margaret had fallen ill, and their mother was attending her upstairs. Elinor had their guest's company all to herself, a circumstance she used to advantage. "There is something I have been longing to ask you, although I should not." She took a deep breath before proceeding. "How fares Miss Williams?"

"You know of her? Mrs. Jennings told you."

"Most of what I know I heard from my brother Willoughby."

The Colonel appeared incredulous. "Does Marianne know?"

"He never told her. He never will."

"That is for the best." He looked at her a long time before continuing. "Eliza is not my daughter, as some believe, but the daughter of my cousin." The whole story poured forth, his love and loss and the tragedies that had followed.

"What of you, Miss Dashwood? You have an air of melancholy about you as well. Do you miss your sister so very much?"

Elinor could not allow him to think she had tender feelings for Willoughby. He was too much of a gentleman to suggest it, but she could imagine that he might wonder at Willoughby's taking her into his confidence. Thus, she repaid Brandon's openness with her own. Their talk ended when Mrs. Dashwood called them both to dinner.

Upon taking his seat, the Colonel remarked on a drawing affixed to the dining room wall. "That landscape...the sense of perspective, the balance of light and dark...remarkably well done."

"Elinor's handiwork," Mrs. Dashwood informed him, smiling.

Much later that evening, and in very good spirits, Colonel Brandon returned to Barton Park.

~*~


After their intimate revelations, Elinor and Colonel Brandon saw each other nearly every day. They talked; they rambled across the countryside; they danced whenever Sir John felt obliged to entertain his young neighbours. They visited Whitwell once with a large party and once with only Margaret to chaperone them. They withstood the good-natured, vulgar teasing of Mrs. Jennings and Sir John and the gentle pressure of Mrs. Dashwood, until one day they admitted the possibility that they had been designed for each other.

Brandon and Elinor surprised no one with their engagement, except, perhaps, Mr. and Mrs. Willoughby. - The wedding occurred within a twelvemonth of Marianne's, and Mrs. Dashwood was consoled for every past affliction by the sincere attachments her daughters had inspired in their husbands.

~The End~

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