Their intended excursion to Whitwell turned out very different from what Elinor had expected. She was prepared to be wet through, fatigued, and frightened; but the event was still more unfortunate, for they did not go at all.
By ten oclock the whole party was assembled at the park, where they were to breakfast. The morning was rather favourable, though it had rained all night, as the clouds were then dispersing across the sky, and the sun frequently appeared. They were all in high spirits and good humour, eager to be happy, and determined to submit to the greatest inconveniences and hardships rather than be otherwise.
While they were at breakfast the letters were brought in. Among the rest there was one for Colonel Brandon;he took it, looked at the direction, changed colour, and immediately left the room.
What is the matter with Brandon? said Sir John.
Nobody could tell.
I hope he has had no bad news, said Lady Middleton. It must be something extraordinary that could make Colonel Brandon leave my breakfast table so suddenly.
In about five minutes he returned.
No bad news, Colonel, I hope; said Mrs. Jennings, as soon as he entered the room.
None at all, maam, I thank you.
Was it from Avignon? I hope it is not to say that your sister is worse.
No, maam. It came from town, and is merely a letter of business.
But how came the hand to discompose you so much, if it was only a letter of business? Come, come, this wont do, Colonel; so let us hear the truth of it.
My dear madam, said Lady Middleton, recollect what you are saying.
Perhaps it is to tell you that your cousin Fanny is married? said Mrs. Jennings, without attending to her daughters reproof.
No, indeed, it is not.
Well, then, I know who it is from, Colonel. And I hope she is well.
Whom do you mean, maam? said he, colouring a little.
Oh! you know who I mean.
I am particularly sorry, maam, said he, addressing Lady Middleton, that I should receive this letter to- day, for it is on business which requires my immediate attendance in town.
In town! cried Mrs. Jennings. What can you have to do in town at this time of year?
My own loss is great, be continued, in being obliged to leave so agreeable a party; but I am the more concerned, as I fear my presence is necessary to gain your admittance at Whitwell.
What a blow upon them all was this!
But if you write a note to the housekeeper, Mr. Brandon, said Marianne, eagerly, will it not be sufficient?
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