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Chapter 29
Before the house-maid had lit their fire the next day, or the sun gained any power
over a cold, gloomy morning in January, Marianne, only half dressed, was
kneeling against one of the window-seats for the sake of all the little light she
could command from it, and writing as fast as a continual flow of tears would
permit her. In this situation, Elinor, roused from sleep by her agitation and sobs,
first perceived her; and after observing her for a few moments with silent anxiety,
said, in a tone of the most considerate gentleness,
"Marianne, may I ask-?"
"No, Elinor," she replied, "ask nothing; you will soon know all."
The sort of desperate calmness with which this was said, lasted no longer than
while she spoke, and was immediately followed by a return of the same
excessive affliction. It was some minutes before she could go on with her letter,
and the frequent bursts of grief which still obliged her, at intervals, to withhold her
pen, were proofs enough of her feeling how more than probable it was that she
was writing for the last time to Willoughby.
Elinor paid her every quiet and unobtrusive attention in her power; and she would
have tried to sooth and tranquilize her still more, had not Marianne entreated her,
with all the eagerness of the most nervous irritability, not to speak to her for the
world. In such circumstances, it was better for both that they should not be long
together; and the restless state of Marianne's mind not only prevented her from
remaining in the room a moment after she was dressed, but requiring at once
solitude and continual change of place, made her wander about the house till
breakfast time, avoiding the sight of every body.
At breakfast she neither ate, nor attempted to eat any thing; and Elinor's attention
was then all employed, not in urging her, not in pitying her, nor in appearing to
regard her, but in endeavouring to engage Mrs. Jenning's notice entirely to
As this was a favourite meal with Mrs. Jennings, it lasted a considerable time,
and they were just setting themselves, after it, round the common working table,
when a letter was delivered to Marianne, which she eagerly caught from the
servant, and, turning of a death-like paleness, instantly ran out of the room.
Elinor, who saw as plainly by this, as if she had seen the direction, that it must
come from Willoughby, felt immediately such a sickness at heart as made her
hardly able to hold up her head, and sat in such a general tremour as made her
fear it impossible to escape Mrs. Jenning's notice. That good lady, however, saw
only that Marianne had received a letter from Willoughby, which appeared to her
a very good joke, and which she treated accordingly, by hoping, with a laugh,
that she would find it to her liking. Of Elinor's distress, she was too busily
employed in measuring lengths of worsted for her rug, to see any thing at all; and
calmly continuing her talk, as soon as Marianne disappeared, she said,
"Upon my word, I never saw a young woman so desperately in love in my life! My
girls were nothing to her, and yet they used to be foolish enough; but as for Miss
Marianne, she is quite an altered creature. I hope, from the bottom of my heart,