The Return to Barton Cottage
As the Dashwoods got nearer to Barton, each field and each hill and each tree reminded them of everything that had happened since they had come to Devon. Some thoughts were happy and some were sad.
When they reached Barton Cottage, Elinor saw tears on her sister’s face. But as soon as they went inside their little house, Marianne became more cheerful. She began to talk about the future.
‘When I am stronger and the weather is better, we will all go on long walks,’ Marianne told her sisters. ‘I am going to make good use of my time. I will study. I will play the piano every day. I will read more too. I know that I can borrow books from Colonel Brandon’s library at Delaford.’
Elinor smiled at her sisters words. She was pleased that Marianne was so much happier. Then Elinor remembered that she must soon tell Marianne about Willoughby’s visit to Cleveland. She wanted to wait until Marianne was stronger, but a few days later Elinor’s chance came.
The two girls were walking slowly up the hill behind the cottage, when Marianne stopped. She looked at the ground.
‘That is the place where I fell,’ Marianne said. ‘It is the place where I first saw Willoughby.’
Marianne was silent for a moment and then she went on.
‘I can say his name without weeping now,’ she said. ‘My feelings for him are very different. But is Willoughby wicked, Elinor? I wish that I knew. I behaved badly too. I understand that now. I have been very selfish. I have thought only about myself and my own feelings. But I think that I have changed now. Has Willoughby changed too? I shall never know.’
This was Elinor’s chance. Very kindly and carefully, she began to tell her sister about Willoughby’s visit to Cleveland. She told Marianne that Willoughby apologised for the way that he had treated her. And he was sorry that he had hurt her.
Marianne listened in silence. Tears ran down her face. After a few minutes, Elinor gently took her sister back to Barton Cottage.
‘Elinor, tell mama that I know everything,’ Marianne said quietly, as she went upstairs to her room.
Elinor told her mother everything about Willoughby. Mrs Dashwood had once liked Willoughby very much. She remembered the day that Willoughby left Barton. He had treated her daughter badly. He had been cruel and unkind to Eliza, and then to Marianne. Mrs Dashwood would never forgive the young man for deceiving both these young women. Colonel Brandon was now her favourite.
Marianne agreed with her mother. ‘I could never have been happy with Willoughby,’ she said.
Elinor knew how unhappy Willoughby was. But she also knew that he was more sorry for himself than for Marianne.
‘Willoughby has always thought of himself first,’ Elinor said to Marianne. ‘He is sorry now, but only because he has lost you.’
The Dashwood’s quiet life at Barton Cottage continued once again. Marianne was happier now, but Elinor was not. She thought a lot about Edward Ferrars. Elinor had heard that Edward had gone to Oxford. But no one knew anything more about him or what he was going to do.
Then, one day, news of Edward reached the Dashwoods. Thomas, the family’s servant, had been to Exeter to buy food. When he returned, he spoke to Mrs Dashwood and her girls.
‘I suppose that you know, ma’am, that Mr Ferrars is now married?’ Thomas said.
Marianne looked at Elinor and saw that her sister’s face had become pale. Elinor was sitting very still, looking down at the table in front of her.
‘Who told you that Mr Ferrars was married, Thomas?’ Mrs Dashwood asked quietly.
‘I saw Mrs Ferrars myself, ma’am. She was in a carriage with her husband,’ Thomas replied. ‘Mrs Ferrars used to be Miss Lucy Steele, of course. When she saw me, she waved her hand in greeting. She told me that she had got married. She sent you all her best wishes, ma’am.’
‘Did you say that Mr Ferrars was in the carriage with her?’ Mrs Dashwood asked.
‘Yes, ma’am, but he did not speak and I did not see him clearly. They were driving towards the west. Mrs Ferrars said that they would call here very soon.’
This was terrible news and all the Dashwoods were very upset. All of Elinor’s hope for a marriage to Edward Ferrars had now gone.
‘Edward and Lucy must have got married in London,’ Mrs Dashwood said to Elinor. ‘They will soon be living at Delaford. Someone is sure to write to us soon and tell us more.’
But no letter about the Ferrars’ marriage came to Barton Cottage.
A few days later, the Dashwoods were expecting a visit from Colonel Brandon. Elinor was looking out of the window when she saw a man riding a horse along the road towards the cottage. She stood up.
‘Here is Colonel Brandon, mama,’ Elinor said. ‘He will give us news of Edward, I am sure.’
Then Elinor looked towards the road again.
‘Oh! It is not the Colonel. It is Edward himself!’ she cried. Her face suddenly became very pale. She looked towards her mother, Margaret and Marianne, but no one spoke. They all waited in silence as Edward got off his horse, walked up the path, and came into the house.