Sense and Sensibility HTML version

Chapter 16
Marianne would have thought herself very inexcusable had she been able to
sleep at all the first night after parting from Willoughby. She would have been
ashamed to look her family in the face the next morning, had she not risen from
her bed in more need of repose than when she lay down in it. But the feelings
which made such composure a disgrace, left her in no danger of incurring it. She
was awake the whole night, and she wept the greatest part of it. She got up with
a headache, was unable to talk, and unwilling to take any nourishment; giving
pain every moment to her mother and sisters, and forbidding all attempt at
consolation from either. Her sensibility was potent enough!
When breakfast was over she walked out by herself, and wandered about the
village of Allenham, indulging the recollection of past enjoyment and crying over
the present reverse for the chief of the morning.
The evening passed off in the equal indulgence of feeling. She played over every
favourite song that she had been used to play to Willoughby, every air in which
their voices had been oftenest joined, and sat at the instrument gazing on every
line of music that he had written out for her, till her heart was so heavy that no
farther sadness could be gained; and this nourishment of grief was every day
applied. She spent whole hours at the pianoforte alternately singing and crying;
her voice often totally suspended by her tears. In books too, as well as in music,
she courted the misery which a contrast between the past and present was
certain of giving. She read nothing but what they had been used to read together.
Such violence of affliction indeed could not be supported for ever; it sunk within a
few days into a calmer melancholy; but these employments, to which she daily
recurred, her solitary walks and silent meditations, still produced occasional
effusions of sorrow as lively as ever.
No letter from Willoughby came; and none seemed expected by Marianne. Her
mother was surprised, and Elinor again became uneasy. But Mrs. Dashwood
could find explanations whenever she wanted them, which at least satisfied
"Remember, Elinor," said she, "how very often Sir John fetches our letters
himself from the post, and carries them to it. We have already agreed that
secrecy may be necessary, and we must acknowledge that it could not be
maintained if their correspondence were to pass through Sir John's hands."
Elinor could not deny the truth of this, and she tried to find in it a motive sufficient
for their silence. But there was one method so direct, so simple, and in her
opinion so eligible of knowing the real state of the affair, and of instantly
removing all mystery, that she could not help suggesting it to her mother.
"Why do you not ask Marianne at once," said she, "whether she is or she is not
engaged to Willoughby? From you, her mother, and so kind, so indulgent a
mother, the question could not give offence. It would be the natural result of your
affection for her. She used to be all unreserve, and to you more especially."
"I would not ask such a question for the world. Supposing it possible that they are
not engaged, what distress would not such an enquiry inflict! At any rate it would