He joined her and Marianne in the breakfast-room the next morningbefore the others were down; and Marianne, who was always eager topromote their happiness as far as she could, soon left them tothemselves. But before she was half way upstairs she heard the parlourdoor open, and, turning round, was astonished to see Edward himselfcome out.
"I am going into the village to see my horses," said he, "as you arenot yet ready for breakfast; I shall be back again presently."
Edward returned to them with fresh admiration of the surroundingcountry; in his walk to the village, he had seen many parts of thevalley to advantage; and the village itself, in a much higher situationthan the cottage, afforded a general view of the whole, which hadexceedingly pleased him. This was a subject which ensured Marianne'sattention, and she was beginning to describe her own admiration ofthese scenes, and to question him more minutely on the objects that hadparticularly struck him, when Edward interrupted her by saying, "Youmust not enquire too far, Marianne--remember I have no knowledge in thepicturesque, and I shall offend you by my ignorance and want of tasteif we come to particulars. I shall call hills steep, which ought to bebold; surfaces strange and uncouth, which ought to be irregular andrugged; and distant objects out of sight, which ought only to beindistinct through the soft medium of a hazy atmosphere. You must besatisfied with such admiration as I can honestly give. I call it avery fine country--the hills are steep, the woods seem full of finetimber, and the valley looks comfortable and snug--with rich meadowsand several neat farm houses scattered here and there. It exactlyanswers my idea of a fine country, because it unites beauty withutility--and I dare say it is a picturesque one too, because you admireit; I can easily believe it to be full of rocks and promontories, greymoss and brush wood, but these are all lost on me. I know nothing ofthe picturesque."
"I am afraid it is but too true," said Marianne; "but why should youboast of it?"
"I suspect," said Elinor, "that to avoid one kind of affectation,Edward here falls into another. Because he believes many peoplepretend to more admiration of the beauties of nature than they reallyfeel, and is disgusted with such pretensions, he affects greaterindifference and less discrimination in viewing them himself than hepossesses. He is fastidious and will have an affectation of his own."
"It is very true," said Marianne, "that admiration of landscape sceneryis become a mere jargon. Every body pretends to feel and tries todescribe with the taste and elegance of him who first defined whatpicturesque beauty was. I detest jargon of every kind, and sometimes Ihave kept my feelings to myself, because I could find no language todescribe them in but what was worn and hackneyed out of all sense andmeaning."
"I am convinced," said Edward, "that you really feel all the delight ina fine prospect which you profess to feel. But, in return, your sistermust allow me to feel no more than I profess. I like a fine prospect,but not on picturesque principles. I do not like crooked, twisted,blasted trees. I admire them much more if they are tall, straight, andflourishing. I do not like ruined, tattered cottages. I am not fondof nettles or thistles, or heath blossoms. I have more pleasure in asnug farm-house than a watch-tower--and a troop of tidy, happy villagesplease me better than the finest banditti in the world."
Marianne looked with amazement at Edward, with compassion at hersister. Elinor only laughed.
The subject was continued no farther; and Marianne remainedthoughtfully silent, till a new object suddenly engaged her attention.She was sitting by Edward, and in taking his tea from Mrs. Dashwood,his hand passed so directly before her, as to make a ring, with a plaitof hair in the centre, very conspicuous on one of his fingers.
"I never saw you wear a ring before, Edward," she cried. "Is thatFanny's hair? I remember her promising to give you some. But I shouldhave thought her hair had been darker."
Marianne spoke inconsiderately what she really felt--but when she sawhow much she had pained Edward, her own vexation at her want of thoughtcould not be surpassed by his. He coloured very deeply, and giving amomentary glance at Elinor, replied, "Yes; it is my sister's hair. Thesetting always casts a different shade on it, you know."
Elinor had met his eye, and looked conscious likewise. That the hairwas her own, she instantaneously felt as well satisfied as Marianne;the only difference in their conclusions was, that what Marianneconsidered as a free gift from her sister, Elinor was conscious musthave been procured by some theft or contrivance unknown to herself.She was not in a humour, however, to regard it as an affront, andaffecting to take no notice of what passed, by instantly talking ofsomething else, she internally resolved henceforward to catch everyopportunity of eyeing the hair and of satisfying herself, beyond alldoubt, that it was exactly the shade of her own.
Edward's embarrassment lasted some time, and it ended in an absence ofmind still more settled. He was particularly grave the whole morning.Marianne severely censured herself for what she had said; but her ownforgiveness might have been more speedy, had she known how littleoffence it had given her sister.
Before the middle of the day, they were visited by Sir John and Mrs.Jennings, who, having heard of the arrival of a gentleman at thecottage, came to take a survey of the guest. With the assistance ofhis mother-in-law, Sir John was not long in discovering that the nameof Ferrars began with an F. and this prepared a future mine of railleryagainst the devoted Elinor, which nothing but the newness of theiracquaintance with Edward could have prevented from being immediatelysprung. But, as it was, she only learned, from some very significantlooks, how far their penetration, founded on Margaret's instructions,extended.
Sir John never came to the Dashwoods without either inviting them todine at the park the next day, or to drink tea with them that evening.On the present occasion, for the better entertainment of their visitor,towards whose amusement he felt himself bound to contribute, he wishedto engage them for both.
"You MUST drink tea with us to night," said he, "for we shall be quitealone--and tomorrow you must absolutely dine with us, for we shall be alarge party."
Mrs. Jennings enforced the necessity. "And who knows but you may raisea dance," said she. "And that will tempt YOU, Miss Marianne."
"A dance!" cried Marianne. "Impossible! Who is to dance?"
"Who! why yourselves, and the Careys, and Whitakers to be sure.--What!you thought nobody could dance because a certain person that shall benameless is gone!"
"I wish with all my soul," cried Sir John, "that Willoughby were amongus again."
This, and Marianne's blushing, gave new suspicions to Edward. "And whois Willoughby?" said he, in a low voice, to Miss Dashwood, by whom hewas sitting.
She gave him a brief reply. Marianne's countenance was morecommunicative. Edward saw enough to comprehend, not only the meaningof others, but such of Marianne's expressions as had puzzled himbefore; and when their visitors left them, he went immediately roundher, and said, in a whisper, "I have been guessing. Shall I tell youmy guess?"
"What do you mean?"
"Shall I tell you."
"Well then; I guess that Mr. Willoughby hunts."
Marianne was surprised and confused, yet she could not help smiling atthe quiet archness of his manner, and after a moment's silence, said,
"Oh, Edward! How can you?--But the time will come I hope...I am sureyou will like him."
"I do not doubt it," replied he, rather astonished at her earnestnessand warmth; for had he not imagined it to be a joke for the good of heracquaintance in general, founded only on a something or a nothingbetween Mr. Willoughby and herself, he would not have ventured tomention it.