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Chapter 11
Little had Mrs. Dashwood or her daughters imagined when they first came into
Devonshire, that so many engagements would arise to occupy their time as
shortly presented themselves, or that they should have such frequent invitations
and such constant visitors as to leave them little leisure for serious employment.
Yet such was the case. When Marianne was recovered, the schemes of
amusement at home and abroad, which Sir John had been previously forming,
were put into execution. The private balls at the park then began; and parties on
the water were made and accomplished as often as a showery October would
allow. In every meeting of the kind Willoughby was included; and the ease and
familiarity which naturally attended these parties were exactly calculated to give
increasing intimacy to his acquaintance with the Dashwoods, to afford him
opportunity of witnessing the excellencies of Marianne, of marking his animated
admiration of her, and of receiving, in her behaviour to himself, the most pointed
assurance of her affection.
Elinor could not be surprised at their attachment. She only wished that it were
less openly shown; and once or twice did venture to suggest the propriety of
some self-command to Marianne. But Marianne abhorred all concealment where
no real disgrace could attend unreserve; and to aim at the restraint of sentiments
which were not in themselves illaudable, appeared to her not merely an
unnecessary effort, but a disgraceful subjection of reason to common-place and
mistaken notions. Willoughby thought the same; and their behaviour at all times,
was an illustration of their opinions.
When he was present she had no eyes for any one else. Every thing he did, was
right. Every thing he said, was clever. If their evenings at the park were
concluded with cards, he cheated himself and all the rest of the party to get her a
good hand. If dancing formed the amusement of the night, they were partners for
half the time; and when obliged to separate for a couple of dances, were careful
to stand together and scarcely spoke a word to any body else. Such conduct
made them of course most exceedingly laughed at; but ridicule could not shame,
and seemed hardly to provoke them.
Mrs. Dashwood entered into all their feelings with a warmth which left her no
inclination for checking this excessive display of them. To her it was but the
natural consequence of a strong affection in a young and ardent mind.
This was the season of happiness to Marianne. Her heart was devoted to
Willoughby, and the fond attachment to Norland, which she brought with her from
Sussex, was more likely to be softened than she had thought it possible before,
by the charms which his society bestowed on her present home.
Elinor's happiness was not so great. Her heart was not so much at ease, nor her
satisfaction in their amusements so pure. They afforded her no companion that
could make amends for what she had left behind, nor that could teach her to
think of Norland with less regret than ever. Neither Lady Middleton nor Mrs.
Jennings could supply to her the conversation she missed; although the latter
was an everlasting talker, and from the first had regarded her with a kindness