And Who Can Be in Doubt...


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After a proper resistance on the part of Mrs. Ferrars, just so violent and so steady as to preserve her from that reproach which she always seemed fearful of incurring, the reproach of being too amiable, Edward was admitted to her presence. She sat in state, ensconced in her grandest, highest-backed armchair, the closest approximation to a throne the house contained. The effect was magnified by the elaborate urns flanking her position, filled with lavish bouquets that scented the air with a heady perfume. It was not her custom to be accommodating, but the scowl with which she greeted her eldest son betokened nothing so much as ill will. A man unfamiliar with this formidable lady's behavior might falter under the scrutiny of such a daunting countenance, but Edward, gifted with the familiarity of kinship, knew that his very admission was already something of a victory. Certainly his mother would demand of him a display of humility, but the end result was preordained: he was again her acknowledged son.

"Hello Mother. How do you do?"

"I am in excellent health, though my children seem bent on destroying it."

"I am pleased to know you are well," he replied, ignoring her jab.

"You heard of your brother's abominable behavior, I dare say. Is this what brings you here?"

"As his action had rather a profound effect on myself, I could not long remain in ignorance."

"He has preserved you from a most disastrous union. So much can be said for him."

"Yes. I believe we can agree on that point. Robert might indeed be called my savior ..."

It is, sadly, not always the fate of two lovers to hasten together towards perfect felicity. Some unfortunates must instead endure the torment and heartache of doubt and separation. Such sad circumstances are all the more to be bemoaned when brought upon a couple by the capriciousness of a misguided parent, but a blissful Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney had no notion that they were soon to be so imposed upon. As they entered the parsonage at Fullerton, intent on requesting of Mr. and Mrs. Morland their permission to marry, neither had any notion how near disappointment loomed. Do not suppose that it was this eminently kind and practical couple that was so ill-natured as to needlessly barricade their daughter's path to happiness, but it was their very abundance of said qualities that dictated General Tilney’s interests, no matter how perverse, must be considered.
Yet before such objections could be taken into account, the Morlands had first to overcome the shock of Mr. Tilney's most unexpected proposal. One might think that Mrs. Allen would have been so good as to mention Catherine’s forming of a very decided attachment to this young man, but that lady not being the most perceptive, and the Morlands themselves not being ones to indulge in speculation, they were taken entirely by surprise. Indeed, when Mr. Tilney first requested a private conference with Mr. Morland, only recently returned to the house, it seemed his purpose must undoubtedly be to provide the sort of explanation for Catherine's ejection from Northanger Abbey that had best be spoken in private, and the rector braced himself to hear a very disagreeable account. Imagine his surprise when presented with a most wonderful request for his daughter’s hand! After taking the few needed moments to compose his thoughts, he responded thusly: “Forgive me, Mr. Tilney, for my prolonged silence, but I am afraid I had no notion that you and Catherine had such a decided partiality for one another. Has my daughter accepted your proposal?”

“Yes, sir. I have been so fortunate as to win her affections.”

“Following her abrupt removal from your ancestral home, I was rather of the belief that we would not be hearing from any member of your family again. This request, under the circumstances, is most unexpected ..."

“Come along, Maria. It's rather brisk out here, you know, and I should not wish to catch cold.”

Maria Rushworth barely heard her husband, lost in contemplation of the townhouse before which her luxurious carriage stood. She had never been one to swoon, having always enjoyed excellent health, but the prospect of entering the edifice made her knees weaken and quake. Tonight she would see him, the man she had loved, for the first time since her unfortunate marriage to the oafish fellow waiting to hand her down, tottering from one foot to another in an attempt to emphasize his need for warmth – an action, like all of his, which filled her dejected heart with the utmost disdain. Chiding herself for lack of courage, she reluctantly grasped the plump hand extended to her and set forth to confront her fate ...

The wedding was over, the new Mrs. Martin safely placed in the midst of those who loved her, ensconced in her home at Abbey-Mill Farm, but unlike a previous occasion, when Emma lost her dear Miss Taylor, this event was not tinged by attendant sorrow. Mr. Woodhouse could deplore a marriage of any sort, but only a person of his great delicacy could find hardship in such an unexceptional marriage as Harriet Smith’s to Robert Martin. Fortunately, all the Knghtley’s were at Hartfield to help alleviate his melancholy.

“Poor Miss Smith! How I wish she were here to enjoy this repast. Mrs. Martin cannot understand the boiling of an egg as well as Serle nobody does! What a pity Mr. Martin ever thought of our dear Miss Smith!”

“I would say that the pity lies in the abundance of poultry at Abbey-Mill. All those eggs, and the new mistress too spoiled by Serle to eat them!” retorted Mr. John Knightley, not without good humor ...

"You wished to speak with me, Captain Wentworth?"

It took all of the ingrained inscrutability of nine years in command to maintain his composure. “Indeed I do, Sir Walter. I have something of great importance to lay before you.”

“Yes. Anne suggested you might call today. You do understand that I am escorting my cousin, Lady Dalrymple, and Miss Elliot to a card party this evening and have only limited time to spare before I must attend to my preparations. However, as Anne was insistent, I made sure to lay aside a quarter of an hour for you.” The impecunious baronet's smile was intended to convey the full honor of such condescension, but Frederick only perceived its absurdity.

“Then you know my reasons for requesting an audience?”

“I do, and let me assure you that I feel quite confident bestowing my youngest daughter's hand on you. When we last discussed such an arrangement, it was, of course, out of the question, but I am not blind to how you have distinguished yourself. Why, Lady Dalrymple herself commented on your fine appearance.” It was of some chagrin to Sir Walter that the younger man seemed totally insensible to the magnitude of such a compliment, but as he supposed him already overwhelmed by the honor of marrying an Elliot of Somersetshire, he overlooked the offense ...

"Ma’am, I have something truly wonderful to tell you. Mr. Darcy has been so kind as to request my hand in marriage, and I have accepted."
Mrs. Bennet heard her daughter speak, but the words did not make sense. What could Lizzy be saying about Mr. Darcy?
Elizabeth watched her mother closely. She had prepared for an epic outburst to follow her declaration, even asking her mother to sit down in case of swooning, and to instead encounter calm collection was rather unnerving. "Mama, do you attend?"

"Yes, Lizzy dear."

"Mr. Darcy has proposed."
The voice seemed to Mrs. Bennet’s ears as if it came through a dense fog and great distance. She could not possibly have heard correctly. Mr. Darcy, that odious man! He would never ask for her daughter‘s hand, so proud and superior. There must be some mistake. Mr. Darcy of Pemberley? Mr. Darcy with ten thousand pounds … “Oh my! Excuse me, child, but what did you say ...”

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