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. Elinors lips had moved with her mothers, 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 silence.
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 meanmy brotheryou 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 knowyou may not have heard that my brother is lately married toto the youngestto 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 villageleaving 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.
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