‘Miss Marianne,’ she said. ‘Colonel Brandon has fallen in love with you. You sing and play delightfully. The Colonel is rich and you are beautiful. It will be an excellent marriage.’
Colonel Brandon did not care when Mrs Jennings teased him, but Marianne did not know if she should laugh or cry. She thought that the old lady was being very foolish.
‘Colonel Brandon is far too old to fall in love,’ Marianne told her family when they were home again. ‘He said that he had a pain in his shoulder, so he was going to wear a thick, warm coat. Did you hear him say that? Men of his age should not marry — unless they need a nurse.»
‘The Colonel is not old and he looks very healthy,’ Elinor said with a smile. ‘He does not need a nurse.’
Marianne did not reply. She was not interested in Colonel Brandon. Later, she spoke to her mother alone.
‘Mama, I am worried about Edward Ferrars,’ she said. ‘Do you think that he is ill? We have been at Barton for nearly two weeks now. Edward knows that we are here. Why has he not come to see Elinor? And why will Elinor not talk about him? Elinor and Edward are so cold-hearted! I could not hide my feelings as Elinor does.’
The Dashwoods were very happy in their new home. They often visited the Middletons, and received calls from them. But because the Dashwoods had no carriage of their own, they did not travel far in the county. They met very few other people.
While the weather was fine, the girls went on long walks. Then there were several days of heavy rain. All the paths became wet and muddy and the girls had to stay at home.
Then, one morning, Marianne looked out of the sitting- room window and saw that the rain-clouds had disappeared. The sky was now blue and the sun was shining.
‘Look, the sun is shining at last,’ she said. ‘Let us all go out for a walk!’
Elinor was drawing and Mrs Dashwood was reading, and they did not want to go out. Only Margaret wanted to go walking with her sister. Soon the two girls were walking up the neatest hill.
In the next valley, there was a fine old house called Allenham Court. Marianne and Margaret stood on the top of the hill and admired the property. Sir John had told them that the house belonged to an old lady whose name was Mrs Smith. She was too ill to call on people and she did not have many visitors.
‘What exciting weather!’ Marianne cried as the wind blew in their faces. ‘I could walk here for a long time without getting tired!’
The girls walked on, laughing and talking. Suddenly, the rain-clouds returned and the sky became dark. Soon rain began to fall heavily.
There were no trees or buildings nearby. There was nowhere for the sisters to shelter from the rain. They turned back at once to go home. They ran as fast as they could, down the hill and back towards the cottage. Soon, they were both very wet.
At first, Marianne was in front, but then she slipped on the wet grass and fell to the ground. She cried out in pain. Margaret was running too fast and she could not stop. The young girl ran down to the cottage and reached the garden safely. But poor Marianne had hurt her ankle and she could not move. She lay on the grass, getting wetter and wetter in the cold rain.
‘Margaret, I cannot stand!’ Marianne shouted. ‘Bring someone to help me!’
At that moment, a young man came over the hill. He was carrying a gun and had his two hunting dogs with him. When he saw Marianne, he put down his gun and ran to help her. Marianne tried to get up, but her ankle hurt her too much.
Without speaking, the gentleman lifted Marianne in his arms and carried her down the hill. He quickly reached the house and took her inside.
The Dashwoods were very surprised to see Marianne in the arms of a strange young man. They watched in silence as he carried Marianne into the sitting-room and placed her carefully on a chair.
‘I surprised you, and I apologise,’ the young gentleman said politely. ‘But this lady needed my help. She has hurt her ankle and she cannot walk alone. And, as you see, she is very wet and cold.’
‘Please, do not apologize,’ Mrs Dashwood replied. ‘It is lucky that you were nearby. Please sit down. May I ask your name, sir?’
The young man was extremely handsome and his voice and manners were very pleasing.
‘My name is Willoughby,’ he said and he bowed politely towards Mrs Dashwood. ‘I am, at present, living at Allenham. I must not sit down because my clothes are wet. Perhaps I may call tomorrow? I would like to ask about the young lady’s health.’
‘You will be very welcome,’ Mrs Dashwood replied. ‘The lady whom you rescued is my daughter, Miss Marianne Dashwood. These are her sisters, Elinor and Margaret. We are all very grateful to you.’
The young man bowed again and left the room without saying another word.
The Dashwoods all looked at each other.
‘What a handsome young man!’ Margaret cried. ‘I look forward to seeing him again! What do you think of him, Marianne?’
Marianne smiled, but she could not speak.
Willoughby! His name was Willoughby! Here at last was the perfect young man of her dreams!
When Sir John Middleton called at Barton Cottage, Mrs Dashwood told him about Marianne’s fall and her handsome rescuer, Willoughby.
‘John Willoughby?’ Sir John cried, laughing happily. ‘Is he in the neighbourhood? What good news! I shall invite him to dinner on Thursday.’
‘Do you know him?’ Mrs Dashwood asked. ‘What kind of young man is he?’
‘Willoughby is a fine young man,’ Sir John replied. ‘He stays in Devon every year. He has many fine horses and he rides very well. He shoots well too.’
‘Does he have property near here?’ Elinor asked. ‘He said that he was staying at Allenham.’
‘Mrs Smith — the old lady at Allenham Court — is his aunt,’ Sir John explained to Elinor. ‘Willoughby is Mrs Smith’s heir. He has a house in the county of Somerset too. He would make a fine husband for any girl. Mr Willoughby is certainly worth catching, Miss Dashwood.’ Then he added with a laugh, ‘Miss Marianne has already caught Colonel Brandon, remember.’
‘Sir John, my daughters do not «catch» young men,’ Mrs Dashwood said, smiling. ‘But if Willoughby is a suitable neighbour, we shall all be glad to meet him at Barton Park.’
‘He is a very lively young man,’ Sir John answered. ‘On Christmas Day last year he came to our party. He danced all the evening, and then he got up early the next morning to go hunting!’
‘Oh! He is just the kind of man that I like!’ Marianne cried, her eyes shining with happiness. ‘I very much want to see Mr Willoughby again.’