Sense and Sensibility HTML version

Chapter 37
Mrs. Palmer was so well at the end of a fortnight, that her mother felt it no longer
necessary to give up the whole of her time to her; and, contenting herself with
visiting her once or twice a day, returned from that period to her own home, and
her own habits, in which she found the Miss Dashwoods very ready to reassume
their former share.
About the third or fourth morning after their being thus resettled in Berkeley
Street, Mrs. Jennings, on returning from her ordinary visit to Mrs. Palmer, entered
the drawing-room, where Elinor was sitting by herself, with an air of such hurrying
importance as prepared her to hear something wonderful; and giving her time
only to form that idea, began directly to justify it, by saying,
"Lord! my dear Miss Dashwood! have you heard the news?"
"No, ma'am. What is it?"
"Something so strange! But you shall hear it all.-- When I got to Mr. Palmer's, I
found Charlotte quite in a fuss about the child. She was sure it was very ill--it
cried, and fretted, and was all over pimples. So I looked at it directly, and, 'Lord!
my dear,' says I, 'it is nothing in the world, but the red gum--' and nurse said just
the same. But Charlotte, she would not be satisfied, so Mr. Donavan was sent
for; and luckily he happened to just come in from Harley Street, so he stepped
over directly, and as soon as ever he saw the child, be said just as we did, that it
was nothing in the world but the red gum, and then Charlotte was easy. And so,
just as he was going away again, it came into my head, I am sure I do not know
how I happened to think of it, but it came into my head to ask him if there was
any news. So upon that, he smirked, and simpered, and looked grave, and
seemed to know something or other, and at last he said in a whisper, 'For fear
any unpleasant report should reach the young ladies under your care as to their
sister's indisposition, I think it advisable to say, that I believe there is no great
reason for alarm; I hope Mrs. Dashwood will do very well.'"
"What! is Fanny ill?"
"That is exactly what I said, my dear. 'Lord!' says I, 'is Mrs. Dashwood ill?' So
then it all came out; and the long and the short of the matter, by all I can learn,
seems to be this. Mr. Edward Ferrars, the very young man I used to joke with you
about (but however, as it turns out, I am monstrous glad there was never any
thing in it), Mr. Edward Ferrars, it seems, has been engaged above this
twelvemonth to my cousin Lucy!--There's for you, my dear!--And not a creature
knowing a syllable of the matter, except Nancy!--Could you have believed such a
thing possible?-- There is no great wonder in their liking one another; but that
matters should be brought so forward between them, and nobody suspect it!--
That is strange!--I never happened to see them together, or I am sure I should
have found it out directly. Well, and so this was kept a great secret, for fear of
Mrs. Ferrars, and neither she nor your brother or sister suspected a word of the
matter;-- till this very morning, poor Nancy, who, you know, is a well-meaning
creature, but no conjurer, popped it all out. 'Lord!' thinks she to herself, 'they are
all so fond of Lucy, to be sure they will make no difficulty about it;' and so, away