sense and sensibility chapter 17


Colonel Brandon’s Story

Colonel Brandon was a visitor at Mrs Jennings’ house soon after Willoughby returned Marianne’s letters. The first person who Brandon asked about was Marianne. But she did not come downstairs- She was too unhappy to speak to visitors.

‘Marianne is not well and she is in bed,’ Elinor told him.

‘Then I am afraid that the news I heard this morning may be true,’ said the Colonel in a worried voice.

‘You are talking about Mr Willoughby’s engagement to Miss Grey,’ Elinor said, very quietly.

‘Yes. I believe that they are to be married in a few weeks. How is your sister? What does she feel about the news?’ the Colonel asked.

‘The news has upset her very much,’ Elinor replied. ‘She wants to think well of Willoughby, but that is very difficult, of course.’

The Colonel did not answer and he left the house soon afterwards.

A day or two later, Colonel Brandon called again when Mrs Jennings was out. After politely greeting the Colonel, Marianne apologized to him and went upstairs to her room.

The Colonel and Elinor were alone in the drawing-room. Colonel Brandon sat down beside her and, after a while, he began to speak.

‘I am pleased that we can speak alone, Miss Dashwood,’ he said. ‘There is something that I want to tell you. It is about Willoughby. The story is an unhappy one, but I believe that your sister should know it. I think that it will help her.

She will not want to hear the story from me, so I should like to tell it to you, Miss Dashwood.’

‘Please continue, Colonel Brandon,’ Elinor said, I should very much like to hear this story.’

‘My story begins some time ago,’ the Colonel said, it is about a lady. She was an orphan — her parents died when she was a young girl. Her name was Eliza Williams. When Eliza’s parents died, my father brought her to live in our house. I was a very young man and I fell in love with Eliza at once. And she loved me. Eliza was beautiful and intelligent. She loved art, poetry, music and literature. She had strong feelings about love and life. I was reminded of Eliza the first time that I saw your sister, Marianne-

‘Eliza was not only beautiful, she was also very rich. When she was seventeen, she had to marry my elder brother. My family needed money to make repairs to our house at Delaford. So my father made Eliza marry my brother. I could do nothing. Soon after the marriage, my father died, and I joined the army. I went to India.

‘Two years later, I heard that the marriage between Eliza and my brother was over,’ Colonel Brandon went on. ‘My brother and Eliza were divorced. My brother had been very cruel to Eliza. He had beaten her. She had run away with another man.

‘I could not return to England for another three years. But when I came back, I looked everywhere for Eliza. I did not find her for six months. By that time, she had no money and she was very ill — she was dying. I put her in a comfortable place, with servants to look after her. I visited her every day and I was with her when she died.

‘Eliza left me her little girl who was then about three years old. She had named her daughter, Eliza, too. I promised to look after little Eliza and I sent her to school when she was old enough. I was happy to do this.’

‘After my brother died, I inherited Delaford and little Eliza often visited me there,’ said Brandon. ‘When Eliza was fourteen — about three years ago — she went to live with a very good woman in the county of Dorset. Last February, Eliza went to the town of Bath, with one of her friends. Then she disappeared for eight months. Later, I learnt that she had left Bath with a young man.’

The Colonel stopped speaking and looked sadly at Elinor.

‘Good heavens!’ Elinor cried. She had guessed the truth. ‘Do you mean that the young man was Willoughby?’

‘Yes. That young man was John Willoughby,’ Brandon said quietly, I did not hear from Eliza until October. I was staying with the Middletons at Barton Park. Her letter was sent on to me there from Delaford. It gave me terrible news. I had to leave Barton at once. I could not take you all on the visit to Whitwell — my brother-in-law’s house.

‘When I reached Eliza in London,’ Brandon continued, ‘she was in terrible trouble. She was expecting a child — Willoughby’s child. He had seduced her, spent her money, and left her. She never saw him again.’

‘This is terrible news!’ Elinor cried.

‘Now you understand Willoughby’s true character,’ Colonel Brandon said. ‘You can understand my feelings when I saw him with your sister at Barton. And this man has now deceived Marianne.’

‘Have you seen Mr Willoughby since you left him at Barton?’ Elinor asked.

‘Yes. We met once,’ the Colonel said. ‘Willoughby had to be punished and so we fought together. We fought a duel’. I am a soldier and I can shoot very well. Neither of us was wounded during the duel, and our meeting is still a secret.’

‘And what happened to Eliza?’ Elinor asked.

‘She gave birth to her child and they are now both living in the country,’ Colonel Brandon replied.

‘But I have kept you from your poor sister for too long,’ he went on- ‘I ask you to tell her this sad story. She should know the truth. I am sure that you agree.’

Elinor told Marianne the Colonel’s story the next day. Marianne said very little when she heard about Eliza and Willoughby, and she did not cry. But Eliza’s story had made Marianne very unhappy. She believed every word of it.

Soon after the Colonel’s visit, Marianne felt stronger and she left her room. Sometimes, she smiled and spoke a few words to Brandon when he visited.

Elinor wrote to their mother and told her the whole story of Willoughby and young Eliza Williams. Mrs Dashwood was upset. But she told her daughters that they should stay in London for a few more weeks. Barton Cottage would only remind Marianne of happier times with Willoughby.

Mrs Dashwood had also heard that Mr and Mrs John Dashwood would soon be in London. They had rented a house in Hartey Street for a few months. Mrs Dashwood wanted Elinor and Marianne to see their brother again. She wanted her daughters to be friends with him and Fanny.

The Dashwood sisters were now thinking of each other’s feelings. Marianne was staying in London to help her sister. Elinor was staying to help Marianne. And Elinor was very careful not to speak about Willoughby when Marianne was in the room. Even Mrs Jennings and Charlotte Palmer said nothing about Willoughby when they were with Marianne.

Early in February, Willoughby and Miss Grey were married. They left London at once and travelled to Willoughby’s home in Somerset. When Marianne heard this news, she stayed in her room all day and wept many tears. But after a few days, she was able to leave the house and meet people again.


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