Disclaimer: I don't own S&S, Jane Austen, or Emma Thompson, and I would be too frightened to if I could.
A/N: This is, unfortunately, baed on the movie version of S&S. The 1995, Emma Thompson/Ang Lee version, of course. This and my other story, as well as the chapters that follow, may at some point become a longer story… we shall see :)
Panic and Pointlessness
"But Elinor, how can you be sure? There is no way to know!" Marianne sat, exasperated, on Elinor's freshly-made bed, watching with a frustrated sort of amusement as her sister bustled around the room.
"No, there is no way to know," Elinor responded as she folded her husband's trousers expertly, and shoved them away in a drawer. "But there ARE signs. Mrs. Palmer—"
"Mrs. Palmer knows nothing! My God, Elinor, how can you, Duchess of reason and sensibility, be taking mothering advice from a woman like THAT?" Marianne threw up her hands and lay back on the bed with a huff.
"Mrs. Palmer has four sisters, and has carried a child three times now. I would consider her knowledge of the practice indefinitely more sound than mine or yours!" Here, Elinor bustled out of the room to bring in her fresh laundry from the line. She hoped that her sister would be content to lie peacefully on the bed, but she had no such luck. Marianne would not let the matter lie.
"Honestly, Elinor, you can't know that you are carrying a girl!"
"If you insist on lecturing me about this subject, at least try to find it in yourself to help me take down the wash, Marianne." Elinor's voice was soft as it always was, but Marianne heard the scolding and petulantly began to gather up aprons and pins.
"I don't know why you don't just let one of your girls do this for you," Marianne sighed.
"The servants we have, do plenty of work simply keeping this place standing, Marianne. And I usually find this a most pleasant and relaxing task." Once again, Marianne felt reprimanded, as she so often did around her older sister. She opened her mouth the return to their previous topic of conversation, convinced in her correctness and hoping to have the satisfaction of finally winning an argument, but Elinor beat her to it. "And, for your information, dearest, all of the same signs occurred whilst I was carrying Belle."
"What signs? Nothing I have ever heard of to discover a baby's gender before it is born makes any sense at all scientifically."
"And what do you know of science? I thought your nose was always buried in Shakespeare or Swift." Elinor shot a grin at her sister, as they both shared a love for literature.
"I prefer Chaucer, than you very much. But I do read other things. And Christopher has a wide selection of medical texts in his library." Marianne dropped the last pile of dresses into the wicker basket, and picked up one side.
"No doubt a military man will own many writings focusing on childbirth." Marianne glared at her sister's sarcasm, then snorted.
"You have a point. What, then, has made you so positive that you are carrying another girl?" They deposited the basket less than gently on the master bed, and Elinor began hanging her dresses.
"The headaches, mostly. Mrs. Jennings investigated my symptoms early on during my time with Belle. She, uh, informed me that boys generally cause more of a…sickness." The elder blonde blushed, unaccustomed to speaking openly about a subject such as this. "And I am carrying the weight in the same way I my carried last two pregnancies."
"So that's your grand diagnosis?! Elinor, I really think you're getting yourself all worked up over nothing! It may very well—"
"So what if I am? Marianne, it is the principle. We have two girls already. What if I never have a boy?" Elinor hastily ripped another dress out of the basket but it caught on a piece of broken wicker and tore. Elinor froze, staring at the hole now wrapped around the basket piece. Then, her face crumbled and she at heavily on the bed, tears beginning to drip down her face. Marianne sighed and hurried to her sister's side, wrapping an arm around her shoulders.
"Oh, Elinor, I do apologize. I don't mean to upset you. Quite the opposite! I was only wondering if perhaps you are rushing into this panic." The younger sister consoled the newest Mrs. Ferrars for a few moments as she sobbed, still clutching the bodice of her torn dress. "Elinor, if I may ask this… Where is this coming from? Has Edward said anything to you—"
"No!" Now, Elinor was back on her feet, freeing the dress and folding it in her arms. "No, Edward has never said anything. He loves Belle and Beth very much. He says they are his world." Marianne followed her elder sister around the room as she muddled the garment in her arms.
"So, if he has not given any indication that he is displeased with the daughters you have already given him, why such worry about another?"
"You should understand, Marianne, what happens to a family with no sons! The name, the money, the estate, it will all be given to someone else. The girls will have nothing and Edward will… well, I don't know. But I—"
"Elinor. Elinor, Elinor, Elinor." Marianne gently took the dress from her sister's hands where it had been wrinkled and balled up. Casting it aside, the younger Dashwood sister sat them gently on the bed, pushing the basket back. "Listen to yourself, Elinor. Think about this reasonably."
The older blonde began to protest, attempting to free her hands and rise again, but Marianne would have none of it.
"Listen! Mrs. Ferrars had two sons and neither one of them have any of her money now. And when has Edward cared about names and estates? He was willing to risk it all for the puppy love that was Lucy Steele, and again for you. He has not once attempted to grovel his way back into the Ferrars family graces, a fact which you, Mother, and Christopher were very proud of a little while ago."
"I know, I know." This time, Elinor succeeded in pulling away, standing and picking up the torn dress to fold it neatly.
"Edward loves you. He loves you, and Isabelle, and Elizabeth, as he will love this baby." At this, the sisters heard hooves outside the house and the ring of delighted giggling. Elinor startled and began furiously wiping at her cheeks, attempting, with little success, to eliminate any trace of her tears.
"Oh dear they're home early and I haven't finished. Marianne, be a dear and run this to the sewing room. There is a basket of clothes needing mending."
"Of course." This time, Marianne took the dress and left without complaint, hoping that Edward would notice his wife's distress and convince her to explain it. The younger Dashwood knew, without a doubt, that Elinor's fears would not be allayed easily, and that Edward was the only person with any chance of success. With the dress settled into its basket, Marianne headed for the entranceway, hoping to see her nieces before they ran for lunch. Perhaps if she hurried…