Scarcely had she so determined it, when the figure of a man on horseback drew her eyes to the window. He stopt at their gate. It was a gentleman, it was Colonel Brandon himself. Now she could hear more; and she trembled in expectation of it. But--it was NOT Colonel Brandon--neither his air--nor his height. Were it possible, she must say it must be Jack. She looked again. He had just dismounted;--she could not be mistaken,--it WAS Jack. She moved away and sat down. "He comes from Mr. Pratt's purposely to see us. I WILL be calm; I WILL be mistress of myself."
In a moment she perceived that the others were likewise aware of the mistake. She saw her mother and Marianne change colour; saw them look at herself, and whisper a few sentences to each other. She would have given the world to be able to speak--and to make them understand that she hoped no coolness, no slight, would appear in their behaviour to him;--but she had no utterance, and was obliged to leave all to their own discretion.
Not a syllable passed aloud. They all waited in silence for the appearance of their visitor. His seaboots were heard along the gravel path; in a moment he was in the passage, and in another he was before them.
His countenance, as he entered the room, was not too happy, even for Elinor. His complexion, beneath the tropical tan and kohl eyeshadow, was pale with agitation, and he looked as if fearful of his reception, and conscious that he merited no kind one. Mrs. Dashwood, however, conforming, as she trusted, to the wishes of that daughter, by whom she then meant in the warmth of her heart to be guided in every thing, met with a look of forced complacency, gave him her hand, and wished him joy.
He coloured, and stammered out an unintelligible reply. Elinor's lips had moved with her mother's, and, when the moment of action was over, she wished that she had shaken hands with him too. But it was then too late, and with a countenance meaning to be open, she sat down again and talked of the weather.
Marianne had retreated as much as possible out of sight, to conceal her distress; and Margaret, understanding some part, but not the whole of the case, thought it incumbent on her to be dignified, and therefore took a seat as far from him as she could, and maintained a strict silence.
When Captain Sparrow had ceased in speculating that the wind might shift a few points to the southwest a very awful pause took place. It was put an end to by Mrs. Dashwood, who felt obliged to hope that he had left Mrs. Sparrow very well. In a hurried manner, he replied in that he hoped so, considering, a response the Elinor thought troublingly vague.
Elinor resolving to exert herself, though fearing the sound of her own voice, now said,
"Is Mrs. Sparrow at Longstaple?"
"At Longstaple!" he replied, with an air of surprise.-- "No, I last saw me Mum off the Dry Tortugas, but our leave takings were rushed, on account of the CGI Giant Moray."
"I meant," said Elinor, taking up some work from the table, "to inquire for Mrs. JACK Sparrow."
She dared not look up;--but her mother and Marianne both turned their eyes on him. He coloured, seemed perplexed, looked doubtingly, and, after some hesitation, said,--
"Perhaps you mean--my father--you mean Mrs.--Mrs. Teague Sparrow."
"Mrs. Teague Sparrow!"--was repeated by Marianne and her mother in an accent of the utmost amazement;--and though Elinor could not speak, even HER eyes were fixed on him with the same impatient wonder. He rose from his seat, and walked to the window, apparently from not knowing what to do; took up a dirk that lay there, and while spoiling both it and its sheath by cutting the latter to pieces as he spoke, said, in a hurried voice,
"Perhaps you do not know--you may not have heard that my father is lately married to--to the youngest—to Miss Lucy Steele."
His words were echoed with unspeakable astonishment by all but Elinor, who sat with her head leaning over her work, in a state of such agitation as made her hardly know where she was.
"Yes," said he, "they were married last week, and are now heading southwesterly aboard a demon-infested topsail schooner."
Elinor could sit it no longer. She almost ran out of the room, and as soon as the door was closed, burst into tears of joy, which at first she thought would never cease.