Eliza’s Daughter

Eliza’s Daughter by Joan Aiken

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Authors: Joan Aiken
a rare appetite for her dinner.’
    â€˜Cerne was very impertinent,’ snapped the old lady.
    â€˜She would go into Ford’s and order a forequarter of pork and eight pounds of sausages,’ explained Cerne with a grim smile.
    â€˜I like pork,’ cried the old lady peevishly. ‘You know I do, Elinor! I should fancy a dish of fried pork for my dinner.’
    â€˜Pork is far too rich for you, Mother; you shall have some nice mutton stew. (This is my mother, Mrs Dashwood),’ Mrs Ferrars added to me.
    Now the old lady’s eye lit on me. ‘ Marianne!’ she exclaimed in a tone of rapture.
    â€˜No, Mama. That is not Marianne, though a little like her in feature. But look again! Her hair is quite a different colour. Your Marianne will return home, all in good time, and then we shall be very happy to welcome her. And you will return to the Manor House. But in the meantime this is Miss Eliza Williams, who spends a few nights with us, and then she will go off to school in Bath, with Nell.’
    â€˜I don’t like Nell. Nell is a very rude and unkind girl. Sometimes she gives me a push. And she always takes the biggest piece of cake. —But are you sure that is not Marianne? Somehow – somehow – her face makes me think of Marianne – when we were all living at Barton – when we were so happy – so happy – ’ Mrs Dashwood’s face crumpled. She began to cry a little.
    â€˜Come, ma’am,’ said Cerne, not unkindly. ‘Let’s get your bonnet and cloak off. And then you’ll be wanting your eggnog.’
    They went upstairs slowly, with much urging from the maid.
    I could hear the old lady crying, ‘There’s a bird in the house! There’s a bird!’
    â€˜No, ma’am, there is no bird.’
    â€˜There is a bird, I tell you! House! House! Where have you hidden the poor bird?’
    â€˜There is no bird, Mrs Dashwood.’
    A door closed, upstairs.
    Cousin Elinor explained, rethreading her needle: ‘When my sister Marianne (Mrs Colonel Brandon) is at home, my mother resides with her, up at the Manor House. It is more comfortable for her there than with us. And Marianne was always her favourite daughter. (I am explaining these things to you, Eliza, because in many ways you seem remarkably sensible and older than your years.)’
    â€˜Thank you, Cousin Elinor. When will – will Cousin Marianne come home?’
    â€˜In about a year, we hope. I have missed her a great deal since she has been in India – and Colonel Brandon also. They are our dear friends and neighbours. But – for various reasons – he thought it best to rejoin his old regiment and commanding officer, although it meant such a long journey. And it was thought best – my sister was happy to accompany him. She is of a – of a very adventurous temperament.’
    â€˜They have no children?’
    â€˜No.’ Cousin Elinor sighed. ‘That has been . . . a grief to . . . to the Colonel. But – as matters turned out – perhaps it was fortunate. I only hope that when they do return my brother-in-law will decide to sell out and settle down at last. But I am apprehensive that if General Wellesley is sent to fight Bonaparte in Europe, the Colonel will think it his duty to remain on active service. And in that case I don’t know what Marianne will do. She is so extremely devoted to her husband.’
    Cousin Elinor frowned, knotting her thread. It struck me that Elinor Ferrars was a very lonely lady. I supposed that she missed having her sister to talk to and was using me as a substitute, inadequate though I must be. Mrs Dashwood was plainly touched in her wits; Mr Ferrars seemed to be out of doors nearly all the time, visiting his parishioners or digging in the garden. Very different from Dr Moultrie! – (Though, when together, the pair seemed affectionate enough, in their mild way, a great contrast to the

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