"Mrs. Jennings told me," said he, "that you wished to speak with me, at least I understood her so - or I certainly should not have intruded on you in such a manner; though at the same time, I should have been extremely sorry to leave London without seeing you and your sister; especially as it will most likely be some time - it is not probable that I should soon have the pleasure of meeting you again. I go to Oxford tomorrow."
"You would not have gone, however," said Elinor, recovering herself, and determined to get over what she so much dreaded as soon as possible, "without receiving our good wishes, even if we had not been able to give them in person. Mrs. Jennings was quite right in what she said. I have something of consequence to inform you of, which I was on the point of communicating by paper. I am charged with a most agreeable office (breathing rather faster than usual as she spoke.) Colonel Brandon, who was here only ten minutes ago, has desired me to say, that understanding you mean to take orders, he has great pleasure in offering you the living of Delaford now just vacant, and only wishes it were more valuable. Allow me to congratulate you on having so respectable and well-judging a friend, and to join in his wish that the living - it is about two hundred a-year - were much more considerable, and such as might better enable you to - as might be more than a temporary accommodation to yourself - such, in short, as might establish all your views of happiness."
What Edward felt, as he could not say it himself, it cannot be expected that any one else should say for him. He LOOKED all the astonishment which such unexpected, such unthought-of information could not fail of exciting; but he said only these two words,
"Yes," continued Elinor, gathering more resolution, as some of the worst was over, "Colonel Brandon means it as a testimony of his concern for what has lately passed - for the cruel situation in which the unjustifiable conduct of your family has placed you - a concern which I am sure Marianne, myself, and all your friends, must share; and likewise as a proof of his high esteem for your general character, and his particular approbation of your behaviour on the present occasion."
"Colonel Brandon give ME a living! - Can it be possible?"
"The unkindness of your own relations has made you astonished to find friendship any where."
"No," replied be, with sudden consciousness, "not to find it in YOU; for I cannot be ignorant that to you, to your goodness, I owe it all. - I feel it - I would express it if I could - but, as you well know, I am no orator."
"You are very much mistaken. I do assure you that you owe it entirely, at least almost entirely, to your own merit, and Colonel Brandon's discernment of it. I have had no hand in it. I did not even know, till I understood his design, that the living was vacant; nor had it ever occurred to me that he might have had such a living in his gift. As a friend of mine, of my family, he may, perhaps - indeed I know he HAS, still greater pleasure in bestowing it; but, upon my word, you owe nothing to my solicitation."
Truth obliged her to acknowledge some small share in the action, but she was at the same time so unwilling to appear as the benefactress of Edward, that she acknowledged it with hesitation; which probably contributed to fix that suspicion in his mind which had recently entered it. For a short time he sat deep in thought, after Elinor had ceased to speak; - at last, and as if it were rather an effort, he said,
"Colonel Brandon seems a man of great worth and respectability. I have always heard him spoken of as such, and your brother I know esteems him highly. He is undoubtedly a sensible man, and in his manners perfectly the gentleman."
"Indeed," replied Elinor, "I believe that you will find him, on farther acquaintance, all that you have heard him to be, and as you will be such very near neighbours (for I understand the parsonage is almost close to the mansion-house,) it is particularly important that he SHOULD be all this."
Edward made no answer; but when she had turned away her head, gave her a look so serious, so earnest, so uncheerful, as seemed to say, that he might hereafter wish the distance between the parsonage and the mansion-house much greater.
"Colonel Brandon, I think, lodges in St. James Street," said he, soon afterwards, rising from his chair.
Elinor told him the number of the house.
"I must hurry away then, to give him those thanks which you will not allow me to give YOU; to assure him that he has made me a very - an exceedingly happy man."
Elinor did not offer to detain him; and they parted, with a very earnest assurance on HER side of her unceasing good wishes for his happiness in every change of situation that might befall him; on HIS, with rather an attempt to return the same good will, than the power of expressing it.
"When I see him again," said Elinor to herself, as the door shut him out, "I shall see him the husband of Lucy."
And with this pleasing anticipation, she sat down to reconsider the past, recall the words and endeavour to comprehend all the feelings of Edward; and, of course, to reflect on her own with discontent.
When Mrs. Jennings came home, though she returned from seeing people whom she had never seen before, and of whom therefore she must have a great deal to say, her mind was so much more occupied by the important secret in her possession, than by anything else, that she reverted to it again as soon as Elinor appeared.
"Well, my dear," she cried, "I sent you up to the young man. Did not I do right? - And I suppose you had no great difficulty - You did not find him very unwilling to accept your proposal?"
"No, ma'am; THAT was not very likely."
"Well, and how soon will he be ready? - For it seems all to depend upon that."
"Really," said Elinor, "I know so little of these kind of forms, that I can hardly even conjecture as to the time, or the preparation necessary; but I suppose two or three months will complete his ordination."
"Two or three months!" cried Mrs. Jennings; "Lord! my dear, how calmly you talk of it; and can the Colonel wait two or three months! Lord bless me! - I am sure it would put ME quite out of patience! - And though one would be very glad to do a kindness by poor Mr. Ferrars, I do think it is not worth while to wait two or three months for him. Sure somebody else might be found that would do as well; somebody that is in orders already."
"My dear ma'am," said Elinor, "what can you be thinking of? - Why, Colonel Brandon's only object is to be of use to Mr. Ferrars."
"Lord bless you, my dear! - Sure you do not mean to persuade me that the Colonel only marries you for the sake of giving ten guineas to Mr. Ferrars!"
The deception could not continue after this; and an explanation immediately took place, by which both gained considerable amusement for the moment, without any material loss of happiness to either, for Mrs. Jennings only exchanged one form of delight for another, and still without forfeiting her expectation of the first.
"Aye, aye, the parsonage is but a small one," said she, after the first ebullition of surprise and satisfaction was over, "and very likely MAY be out of repair; but to hear a man apologising, as I thought, for a house that to my knowledge has five sitting rooms on the ground-floor, and I think the housekeeper told me could make up fifteen beds! - and to you too, that had been used to live in Barton cottage! - It seems quite ridiculous. But, my dear, we must touch up the Colonel to do some thing to the parsonage, and make it comfortable for them, before Lucy goes to it."
"But Colonel Brandon does not seem to have any idea of the living's being enough to allow them to marry."
"The Colonel is a ninny, my dear; because he has two thousand a-year himself, he thinks that nobody else can marry on less. Take my word for it, that, if I am alive, I shall be paying a visit at Delaford Parsonage before Michaelmas; and I am sure I shan't go if Lucy an't there."
Elinor was quite of her opinion, as to the probability of their not waiting for any thing more.