Sense and Sensibility HTML version
Nothing occurred during the next three or four days, to make Elinor regret what
she had done, in applying to her mother; for Willoughby neither came nor wrote.
They were engaged about the end of that time to attend Lady Middleton to a
party, from which Mrs. Jennings was kept away by the indisposition of her
youngest daughter; and for this party, Marianne, wholly dispirited, careless of her
appearance, and seeming equally indifferent whether she went or staid,
prepared, without one look of hope or one expression of pleasure. She sat by the
drawing-room fire after tea, till the moment of Lady Middleton's arrival, without
once stirring from her seat, or altering her attitude, lost in her own thoughts, and
insensible of her sister's presence; and when at last they were told that Lady
Middleton waited for them at the door, she started as if she had forgotten that
any one was expected.
They arrived in due time at the place of destination, and as soon as the string of
carriages before them would allow, alighted, ascended the stairs, heard their
names announced from one landing-place to another in an audible voice, and
entered a room splendidly lit up, quite full of company, and insufferably hot.
When they had paid their tribute of politeness by curtsying to the lady of the
house, they were permitted to mingle in the crowd, and take their share of the
heat and inconvenience, to which their arrival must necessarily add. After some
time spent in saying little or doing less, Lady Middleton sat down to Cassino, and
as Marianne was not in spirits for moving about, she and Elinor luckily
succeeding to chairs, placed themselves at no great distance from the table.
They had not remained in this manner long, before Elinor perceived Willoughby,
standing within a few yards of them, in earnest conversation with a very
fashionable looking young woman. She soon caught his eye, and he immediately
bowed, but without attempting to speak to her, or to approach Marianne, though
he could not but see her; and then continued his discourse with the same lady.
Elinor turned involuntarily to Marianne, to see whether it could be unobserved by
her. At that moment she first perceived him, and her whole countenance glowing
with sudden delight, she would have moved towards him instantly, had not her
sister caught hold of her.
"Good heavens!" she exclaimed, "he is there--he is there--Oh! why does he not
look at me? why cannot I speak to him?"
"Pray, pray be composed," cried Elinor, "and do not betray what you feel to every
body present. Perhaps he has not observed you yet."
This however was more than she could believe herself; and to be composed at
such a moment was not only beyond the reach of Marianne, it was beyond her
wish. She sat in an agony of impatience which affected every feature.
At last he turned round again, and regarded them both; she started up, and
pronouncing his name in a tone of affection, held out her hand to him. He
approached, and addressing himself rather to Elinor than Marianne, as if wishing
to avoid her eye, and determined not to observe her attitude, inquired in a hurried
manner after Mrs. Dashwood, and asked how long they had been in town. Elinor