Mrs. Ferrars is one of the most affectionate mothers in the world."
Elinor was silent.
"We think NOW,"--said Mr. Dashwood, after a short pause, "of ROBERT'S marrying Miss Morton."
Elinor, smiling at the grave and decisive importance of her brother's tone, calmly replied,
"The lady, I suppose, has no choice in the affair."
"Choice!--how do you mean?"
"I only mean that I suppose, from your manner of speaking, it must be the same to Miss Morton whether she marry Edward or Robert."
"Certainly, there can be no difference; for Robert will now to all intents and purposes be considered as the eldest son;--and as to any thing else, they are both very agreeable young men: I do not know that one is superior to the other."
Elinor said no more, and John was also for a short time silent.--His reflections ended thus.
"Of ONE thing, my dear sister," kindly taking her hand, and speaking in an awful whisper,--"I may assure you;-- and I WILL do it, because I know it must gratify you. I have good reason to think--indeed I have it from the best authority, or I should not repeat it, for otherwise it would be very wrong to say any thing about it--but I have it from the very best authority--not that I ever precisely heard Mrs. Ferrars say it herself--but her daughter DID, and I have it from her--That in short, whatever objections there might be against a certain--a certain connection--you understand me--it would have been far preferable to her, it would not have given her half the vexation that THIS does. I was exceedingly pleased to hear that Mrs. Ferrars considered it in that light-- a very gratifying circumstance you know to us all. 'It would have been beyond comparison,' she said, 'the least evil of the two, and she would be glad to compound NOW for nothing worse.' But however, all that is quite out of the question--not to be thought of or mentioned-- as to any attachment you know--it never could be--all that is gone by. But I thought I would just tell you of this, because I knew how much it must please you. Not that you have any reason to regret, my dear Elinor. There is no doubt of your doing exceedingly well--quite as well, or better, perhaps, all things considered. Has Colonel Brandon been with you lately?"
Elinor had heard enough, if not to gratify her vanity, and raise her self-importance, to agitate her nerves and fill her mind;--and she was therefore glad to be spared from the necessity of saying much in reply herself, and from the danger of hearing any thing more from her brother, by the entrance of Mr. Robert Ferrars. After a few moments' chat, John Dashwood, recollecting that Fanny was yet uninformed of her sister's being there, quitted the room in quest of her; and Elinor was left to improve her acquaintance with Robert, who, by the gay unconcern, the happy self-complacency of his manner while enjoying so unfair a division of his mother's love and liberality, to the prejudice of his banished brother, earned only by his own dissipated course of life, and that brother's integrity, was confirming her most unfavourable opinion of his head and heart.
They had scarcely been two minutes by themselves, before he began to speak of Edward; for he, too, had heard of the living, and was very inquisitive on the subject. Elinor repeated the particulars of it, as she had given them to John; and their effect on Robert, though very different, was not less striking than it had been on HIM. He laughed most immoderately. The idea of Edward's being a clergyman, and living in a small parsonage-house, diverted him beyond measure;--and when to that was added the fanciful imagery of Edward reading prayers in a white surplice, and publishing the banns of marriage between John Smith and Mary Brown, he could conceive nothing more ridiculous.
Elinor, while she waited in silence and immovable gravity, the conclusion of such folly, could not restrain her eyes from being fixed on him with a look that spoke all the contempt it excited. It was a look, however, very well bestowed, for it relieved her own feelings, and gave no intelligence to him.