In the evening, as Marianne was discovered to be musical,
she was invited to play. The instrument was unlocked,
every body prepared to be charmed, and Marianne,
who sang very well, at their request went through the
chief of the songs which Lady Middleton had brought into
the family on her marriage, and which perhaps had lain
ever since in the same position on the pianoforte,
for her ladyship had celebrated that event by giving
up music, although by her mother's account, she had
played extremely well, and by her own was very fond of it.
Marianne's performance was highly applauded.
Sir John was loud in his admiration at the end of every song,
and as loud in his conversation with the others while every
song lasted. Lady Middleton frequently called him to order,
wondered how any one's attention could be diverted from music
for a moment, and asked Marianne to sing a particular song
which Marianne had just finished. Colonel Brandon alone,
of all the party, heard her without being in raptures.
He paid her only the compliment of attention; and she felt
a respect for him on the occasion, which the others had
reasonably forfeited by their shameless want of taste.
His pleasure in music, though it amounted not to that
ecstatic delight which alone could sympathize with her own,
was estimable when contrasted against the horrible
insensibility of the others; and she was reasonable enough
to allow that a man of five and thirty might well have
outlived all acuteness of feeling and every exquisite
power of enjoyment. She was perfectly disposed to make
every allowance for the colonel's advanced state of life
which humanity required.
Mrs. Jennings was a widow with an ample jointure.
She had only two daughters, both of whom she had lived
to see respectably married, and she had now therefore
nothing to do but to marry all the rest of the world.
In the promotion of this object she was zealously active,
as far as her ability reached; and missed no opportunity
of projecting weddings among all the young people
of her acquaintance. She was remarkably quick in the
discovery of attachments, and had enjoyed the advantage
of raising the blushes and the vanity of many a young
lady by insinuations of her power over such a young man;
and this kind of discernment enabled her soon after her
arrival at Barton decisively to pronounce that Colonel
Brandon was very much in love with Marianne Dashwood.
She rather suspected it to be so, on the very first
evening of their being together, from his listening
so attentively while she sang to them; and when the visit
was returned by the Middletons' dining at the cottage,
the fact was ascertained by his listening to her again.
It must be so. She was perfectly convinced of it.
It would be an excellent match, for HE was rich, and SHE
was handsome. Mrs. Jennings had been anxious to see
Colonel Brandon well married, ever since her connection
with Sir John first brought him to her knowledge;
and she was always anxious to get a good husband for every
The immediate advantage to herself was by no means
inconsiderable, for it supplied her with endless jokes
against them both. At the park she laughed at the colonel,
and in the cottage at Marianne. To the former her
raillery was probably, as far as it regarded only himself,
perfectly indifferent; but to the latter it was at
first incomprehensible; and when its object was understood,
she hardly knew whether most to laugh at its absurdity,
or censure its impertinence, for she considered it as an
unfeeling reflection on the colonel's advanced years,
and on his forlorn condition as an old bachelor.
Mrs. Dashwood, who could not think a man five years
younger than herself, so exceedingly ancient as he appeared
to the youthful fancy of her daughter, ventured to clear
Mrs. Jennings from the probability of wishing to throw
ridicule on his age.
"But at least, Mamma, you cannot deny the absurdity
of the accusation, though you may not think it intentionally
ill-natured. Colonel Brandon is certainly younger than
Mrs. Jennings, but he is old enough to be MY father;
and if he were ever animated enough to be in love,
must have long outlived every sensation of the kind.
It is too ridiculous! When is a man to be safe from such wit,
if age and infirmity will not protect him?"
"Infirmity!" said Elinor, "do you call Colonel Brandon
infirm? I can easily suppose that his age may appear much
greater to you than to my mother; but you can hardly
deceive yourself as to his having the use of his limbs!"
"Did not you hear him complain of the rheumatism?
and is not that the commonest infirmity of declining life?"
"My dearest child," said her mother, laughing,
"at this rate you must be in continual terror of MY decay;
and it must seem to you a miracle that my life has been
extended to the advanced age of forty."
"Mamma, you are not doing me justice. I know very well
that Colonel Brandon is not old enough to make his friends
yet apprehensive of losing him in the course of nature.
He may live twenty years longer. But thirty-five has
nothing to do with matrimony."
"Perhaps," said Elinor, "thirty-five and seventeen had
better not have any thing to do with matrimony together.
But if there should by any chance happen to be a woman
who is single at seven and twenty, I should not think
Colonel Brandon's being thirty-five any objection to his
"A woman of seven and twenty," said Marianne,
after pausing a moment, "can never hope to feel or inspire
affection again, and if her home be uncomfortable,
or her fortune small, I can suppose that she might
bring herself to submit to the offices of a nurse,
for the sake of the provision and security of a wife.
In his marrying such a woman therefore there would be
nothing unsuitable. It would be a compact of convenience,
and the world would be satisfied. In my eyes it would
be no marriage at all, but that would be nothing.
To me it would seem only a commercial exchange, in which
each wished to be benefited at the expense of the other."
"It would be impossible, I know," replied Elinor,
"to convince you that a woman of seven and twenty could
feel for a man of thirty-five anything near enough
to love, to make him a desirable companion to her.
But I must object to your dooming Colonel Brandon and
his wife to the constant confinement of a sick chamber,
merely because he chanced to complain yesterday (a
very cold damp day) of a slight rheumatic feel in one
of his shoulders."
"But he talked of flannel waistcoats," said Marianne;
"and with me a flannel waistcoat is invariably connected
with aches, cramps, rheumatisms, and every species of
ailment that can afflict the old and the feeble."
"Had he been only in a violent fever, you would not
have despised him half so much. Confess, Marianne, is not
there something interesting to you in the flushed cheek,
hollow eye, and quick pulse of a fever?"
Soon after this, upon Elinor's leaving the room,
"Mamma," said Marianne, "I have an alarm on the subject
of illness which I cannot conceal from you. I am sure
Edward Ferrars is not well. We have now been here almost
a fortnight, and yet he does not come. Nothing but real
indisposition could occasion this extraordinary delay.
What else can detain him at Norland?"
"Had you any idea of his coming so soon?"
said Mrs. Dashwood. "I had none. On the contrary,
if I have felt any anxiety at all on the subject, it has
been in recollecting that he sometimes showed a want
of pleasure and readiness in accepting my invitation,
when I talked of his coming to Barton. Does Elinor
expect him already?"
"I have never mentioned it to her, but of course
"I rather think you are mistaken, for when I
was talking to her yesterday of getting a new grate
for the spare bedchamber, she observed that there
was no immediate hurry for it, as it was not likely
that the room would be wanted for some time."
"How strange this is! what can be the meaning of it!
But the whole of their behaviour to each other has been
unaccountable! How cold, how composed were their last
adieus! How languid their conversation the last evening
of their being together! In Edward's farewell there was no
distinction between Elinor and me: it was the good wishes
of an affectionate brother to both. Twice did I leave
them purposely together in the course of the last morning,
and each time did he most unaccountably follow me out
of the room. And Elinor, in quitting Norland and Edward,
cried not as I did. Even now her self-command is invariable.
When is she dejected or melancholy? When does she try
to avoid society, or appear restless and dissatisfied
The Dashwoods were now settled at Barton with tolerable
comfort to themselves. The house and the garden, with all
the objects surrounding them, were now become familiar,
and the ordinary pursuits which had given to Norland
half its charms were engaged in again with far greater
enjoyment than Norland had been able to afford, since the
loss of their father. Sir John Middleton, who called
on them every day for the first fortnight, and who was
not in the habit of seeing much occupation at home,
could not conceal his amazement on finding them always employed.
Their visitors, except those from Barton Park,
were not many; for, in spite of Sir John's urgent entreaties
that they would mix more in the neighbourhood, and repeated
assurances of his carriage being always at their service,
the independence of Mrs. Dashwood's spirit overcame the
wish of society for her children; and she was resolute
in declining to visit any family beyond the distance
of a walk. There were but few who could be so classed;
and it was not all of them that were attainable.
About a mile and a half from the cottage, along the narrow
winding valley of Allenham, which issued from that of Barton,
as formerly described, the girls had, in one of their
earliest walks, discovered an ancient respectable looking
mansion which, by reminding them a little of Norland,
interested their imagination and made them wish to be
better acquainted with it. But they learnt, on enquiry,
that its possessor, an elderly lady of very good character,
was unfortunately too infirm to mix with the world,
and never stirred from home.