Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Ladies of Norland: Part Two

Read Part One

The John Dashwoods remained at Norland several months, not from any disinclination on the part of their hostess to be rid of them, but rather a peculiarly gratifying sense of martyrdom that Mrs. Dashwood had developed in response to their continued company. For a period of time, she found her suffering rendered even more satisfyingly acute by the imposition which she endured, but once her spirits began to revive and her mind became capable of some other exertion than that of heightening its affliction by melancholy remembrances, she was rather impatient to see her guests gone. The contempt which she had from very early in their acquaintance felt for her daughter-in-law was very much increased by the further knowledge of her character, which half a year's residence in her family afforded. No more was Mrs. John Dashwood truly fond of her mother-in-law and sisters, but she convinced herself otherwise. It mattered not to her that her newfound affection was born of greed, for self-interest can always be counted upon to cast a rosy tint on selfish behavior. Nevertheless, the ladies might still have found it nearly impossible to have lived together for so long, and Fanny and family would have long since decamped, had not a particular circumstance occurred that increased the eligibility of her family’s continuance at Norland.

This circumstance was a growing attachment between Elinor and Fanny’s brother, a gentleman-like and pleasing young man who was introduced at Norland soon after his sister's arrival and who had been invited to spend a considerable part of his time there since, Mrs. Dashwood finding him a far more pleasing addition to the family circle than those who more properly belonged to it. He was quiet and unobtrusive, and she liked him for it. He did not disturb the wretchedness of her mind by ill-timed conversation. She was first called to observe and approve him further by a reflection which Elinor chanced one day to make on the difference between him and his sister. It was a contrast which recommended him most forcibly to her mother.

"It is enough," said she. "To say that he is unlike Fanny is enough. It implies everything amiable. I love him already."

Mrs. Dashwood now took pains to get acquainted with him. Her manners were attaching and soon banished his reserve. She speedily comprehended all his merits, and while the persuasion of his regard for Elinor perhaps assisted her penetration, she really felt assured of his worth. Even that quietness of manner, which militated against all her established ideas of what a young man's address ought to be, was no longer uninteresting when she knew his heart to be warm and his temper affectionate.

Where Mrs. Dashwood found much in Edward Ferrars to recommend him, the same could not be said of his closest relations. He was neither fitted by abilities nor disposition to answer the wishes of his mother and sister, who longed to see him distinguished as they hardly knew what. They wanted him to make a fine figure in the world in some manner or other. His mother wished to interest him in political concerns, to get him into parliament, or to see him connected with some of the great men of the day. Fanny had long wished it likewise, but it was an ambition whose attainment both ladies began to despair, for Edward had no turn for great men or fashion. All his wishes centered in domestic comfort and the quiet of private life. Fortunately, he had a younger brother who was more promising, and Fanny had a husband equipped with two highly eligible sisters. If Edward could secure one or the other, he might yet prove of some use, being situated both respectably and conveniently, well-positioned to protect her own family’s interest in the Norland estate.

Some mothers might have encouraged the intimacy from motives of interest, for Edward Ferrars was the eldest son of a man who had died very rich, and some might have repressed it from motives of caution, for the whole of his fortune, except a trifling sum, depended on the will of his mother. But Mrs. Dashwood was alike uninfluenced by either consideration. It was enough for her that he appeared to be amiable, that he loved her daughter, and that Elinor returned the partiality. It was contrary to every doctrine of hers that difference of fortune should keep any couple asunder who were attracted by resemblance of disposition. Besides, she could see no imprudence in the match. Between his two thousand pounds and her ten, they might not be rich, but they would always be comfortable, and no sooner did she perceive any symptom of love in his behavior to Elinor than she considered their serious attachment as certain and looked forward to their marriage as rapidly approaching.

"In a few months, my dear Marianne," said she, "Elinor will, in all probability, be settled for life. We shall miss her, but she will be happy."

"Oh! Mama, how shall we do without her?"

"My love, it will be scarcely a separation. We shall live within a few miles of each other and shall meet every day of our lives. I have the highest opinion in the world of Edward's heart. But you look grave, Marianne. Do you disapprove of your sister's choice?"

"Perhaps," said Marianne, "I may consider it with some surprise. Edward is very amiable, and I love him tenderly, but yet he is not the kind of young man I should expect to seriously attach my sister. His eyes want all that spirit, that fire, which at once announce virtue and intelligence. His studied reserve compels one to wonder how much he possesses of either, and besides all this, I am afraid, Mama, he has no real taste. Music seems scarcely to attract him, and though he admires Elinor's drawings very much, it is not the admiration of a person who can understand their worth. He admires as a lover, not as a connoisseur. To satisfy me, those characters must be united. I could not be happy with a man whose taste did not in every point coincide with my own. He must enter into all my feelings: the same books, the same music must charm us both. Elinor has not my feelings, and therefore she may overlook it and be happy with him. But Mama, the more I know of the world, the more I am convinced that I shall never see a man whom I can really love. I require so much! He must have all Edward's virtues, and his person and manners must ornament his goodness with every possible charm."

"Remember, my love, that you are not seventeen. It is yet too early in life to despair of such a happiness. Why should you be less fortunate than your mother?”


Come back tomorrow to read part three and leave a comment to be included in the SURPRISE GIVEAWAY, the contents of which will be announced at the end of this story on Halloween. I will choose a winner November 1st. Comment on the story posts and share (you must inform me where you shared in your comment) to accumulate entries, and please, make sure I have a means of contacting you. Whichever format is comfortable for you, as long as I can reach you, because if you're totally anonymous, how can I inform you that you won? This has happened to me more than once, so please, take my urgings seriously. Good luck! 


  1. What a difference one's having some odd thousand pounds makes...
    reichanam at

  2. Doesn't it? In Austen's world, it has massive impact. Thanks for the comment!