In the first week of April, the Palmers, Mrs Jennings, the Miss Dashwoods and Colonel Brandon left London for Cleveland. The ladies rode in a carriage and they took Charlotte’s baby with them. They arrived at Cleveland on the morning of the third day. Colonel Brandon and Mr Palmer rode horses and they followed more slowly.
Cleveland was a big fine house that was surrounded by pretty gardens and beautiful trees. For the first few days, the weather was fine and Marianne spent her time walking in the gardens.
Coombe Magna, Willoughby’s home, was thirty miles away.
But the house and its owner were always in Marianne’s thoughts.
By the time that Colonel Brandon and Mr Palmer arrived, rain had started to fall. For several days it was so wet that they all had to stay indoors. The friends happily sat and talked to each other. In his own home, Mr Palmer was no longer rude. He was polite and kind to his visitors.
Colonel Brandon often talked to Elinor, but his eyes were often turned towards Marianne.
It was the Colonel who first noticed that Marianne was sick. She had gone for a walk where the grass was long and wet. Then she had come indoors and sat for too long in her wet shoes and stockings. She caught a cold.
Marianne went to bed early and she woke up the next day feeling tired and ill. By the evening, she had a fever and the Palmers sent for their doctor.
The doctor came and looked at Marianne carefully. He touched her forehead. Her skin was very hot and her body was shaking. The doctor looked very worried.
‘This young lady has a bad fever,’ he said. ‘You have a very young baby, Mrs Palmer. I suggest that you and your child leave Cleveland for a time. You do not want your baby to catch the fever too.’
Charlotte agreed and she left Cleveland the same day. She went to stay with some neighbours.
Mrs Jennings was worried about Marianne and she said that she would stay at Cleveland. Elinor was very pleased to have the kind old lady’s help and they decided to look after Marianne together.
On the third day of Marianne’s illness, Mr Palmer left Cleveland. He went to join his family at their neighbours’ house. Colonel Brandon stayed at Cleveland so that he could offer his help. Marianne knew nothing about all this. She was too ill. She saw only Elinor, Mrs Jennings and the doctor, who came every day.
Three days later, when Marianne woke in the morning, she felt a little better. But that evening, she became much worse. By midnight, the poor girl was weeping and asking to see her mother. A servant was sent to get the doctor.
‘Miss Marianne Dashwood is extremely ill,’ the doctor said. ‘Her mother should be here. Please send for her, Miss Dashwood. Your sister is in great danger.’
Elinor was very frightened and she ran downstairs to speak to Colonel Brandon.
‘Oh! Colonel Brandon,’ Elinor said with tears in her eyes. ‘We need your help. My sister is very ill and the doctor says that our mother should be here.’
The Colonel stood up.
‘I will leave for Barton at once,’ he said. ‘I can bring your mother here in about twenty-two hours. I shall be as quick as I can.’
In half an hour, a carriage and a pair of horses were ready and the Colonel was on his way to Barton.
The doctor called twice in the next ten hours. Each time that he came, Marianne was asleep and she was breathing very quickly. She could hear no one and she could see no one. She did not know who was beside her bed. Her fever was now at its worst.
When the doctor called at four o’clock in the afternoon, Marianne’s breathing was slower and her skin was cooler. Once or twice, she opened her eyes. Elinor sat beside her poor sister’s bed and held her hand.
At six o’clock, Marianne was in a deep, peaceful sleep. Elinor began to hope that her sister would get well.
At seven o’clock, Marianne was still sleeping comfortably. Elinor went downstairs to have tea with Mrs Jennings and to give her the good news. Then she went back to her sister’s room and sat down by the bed once more. Colonel Brandon would not return with Mrs Dashwood until ten o’clock.
The night was cold and stormy. The wind blew and the rain fell. Marianne went on sleeping.
At eight o’clock, Elinor thought that she heard the sound of a carriage driving up to the house. She ran to the window, opened the wooden shutter, and looked out.
Yes, there were the lights of a carriage outside! But the carriage was being pulled by four horses, not two.
‘That must be why Colonel Brandon has returned so quickly,’ Elinor thought.
Elinor ran downstairs to see her mother and Colonel Brandon. She was smiling happily. Now everything would be well! She heard someone walking from the hallway to the drawing-room.
Elinor opened the door of the drawing-room and ran in. But her mother and Colonel Brandon were not standing in the room — it was Willoughby!
Elinor stopped. Her face became pale with shock. She had already turned back to the door, when Willoughby spoke.
‘Miss Dashwood!’ Willoughby cried. ‘Give me time to explain why I am here. Please, stay and hear what I have to say!’