Two Young Men
A few days passed, but Willoughby and Marianne said nothing about their engagement. Elinor could not understand it. Willoughby visited Barton Cottage every day and he spent most of his time with Marianne. The two young people were completely happy. Willoughby’s love for the beautiful girl and his liking for all her family became stronger as each day passed.
One evening, Mrs Dashwood was talking about her plans to change Barton Cottage. The Dashwoods wanted to build extra rooms in the cottage and decorate it with new paint.
‘Oh, do not change anything in the cottage, my dear Mrs Dashwood!’ Willoughby cried. ‘Nothing must be changed! Barton Cottage is perfect!’
‘But the stairs are too narrow and the fireplace in the kitchen needs to be repaired,’ Elinor said with a smile.
‘Change nothing in this dear little house,’ Willoughby repeated. ‘And never, never change your feelings towards me. We have all been so happy here. Everything must stay the same. Please promise me that nothing will be changed.’
Mrs Dashwood smiled at Willoughby’s words and a few hours later, Willoughby got ready to return to Allenham.
‘We must call on Lady Middleton tomorrow morning,’ Mrs Dashwood told him. ‘But shall we see you here at dinner tomorrow evening?’
Willoughby bowed politely and said that he would be at the cottage at four o’clock.
The next morning, Mrs Dashwood, Elinor and Margaret went to visit Lady Middleton. Marianne stayed at home.
When the ladies returned, Willoughby’s yellow curricle, with its two black horses, was outside the cottage.
The Dashwoods went inside. Moments later, they were surprised to see Marianne run past them. She was holding a handkerchief to her face. Weeping loudly, she ran upstairs to her room.
The door of the drawing-room was open and Willoughby was standing by the fireplace. His back was towards them.
‘What is the matter with Marianne?’ Mrs Dashwood cried. ‘Is she ill?’
Willoughby turned around. He looked very unhappy.
‘No, Marianne is not ill,’ he replied. ‘But I have had some very bad news and she is upset. Mrs Smith has given me her orders. I cannot disobey her. She is sending me on business to London. I must go at once.’
‘But you will not be away for long, I hope?’ Mrs Dashwood asked with a smile.
‘You are very kind,’ Willoughby answered, ‘but I am afraid that I cannot give you an answer. I never visit Mrs Smith more than once a year. I shall not be returning to Allenham Court for some time.’
‘But what about your friends here at Barton Cottage? You are welcome to visit us at any time, you know that.’
Willoughby could not look at Mrs Dashwood. His face became very red.
‘You are very kind,’ he said again, quietly. ‘But I have many things to do in London. I cannot promise that I will return soon. I must go now. There is no more to say. I must leave you at once.’
Willoughby bowed and left the room quickly. In a few minutes, he was out of the house, in his carriage, and driving away.
Mrs Dashwood and Elinor looked at each other. They did not know what to think. Had Willoughby and Marianne quarrelled? What about their engagement? Were they engaged at all?
Mrs Dashwood did not want to have a bad opinion of Willoughby. She wanted to believe that there was a very important reason for his strange behaviour. She thought that the young man loved her daughter.
‘It cannot be Willoughby’s fault that he has to go to London,’ Mrs Dashwood said to Elinor. ‘Mrs Smith must have heard about his friendship with Marianne. It has made the old lady angry. Perhaps Willoughby cannot tell his aunt about his engagement to Marianne at this time. Perhaps he thinks that he must leave Devon for a short time. Do you agree with me, Elinor?’
‘I do not know. We cannot be sure, mama,’ Elinor replied.
‘Not sure?’ Mrs Dashwood cried. ‘Have you no feelings, Elinor? Everyone can see how much Willoughby and Marianne love each other!’
‘I can believe in their love,’ Elinor said, ‘but I cannot believe in their engagement. Neither Willoughby nor Marianne have spoken about their engagement. Why not? Why must it be a secret?’
‘I am sure that Mrs Smith is the problem,’ Mrs Dashwood said quickly. ‘Willoughby must be very careful. He is very dependent on his aunt. He will inherit her property when she dies. He was very upset. You saw that, Elinor. He did not want to leave Marianne.’
‘I am very fond of Willoughby, mama. I shall say nothing more against him,’ Elinor said. ‘We will know the truth very soon.’
When Marianne came downstairs tor dinner, her eyes were red. She had been weeping. She did not eat and she did not speak. After a few minutes, she began to cry again and she soon left the room.
That night, Elinor heard Marianne weeping and in the morning, Marianne had a bad headache. She had been awake all night. She did not eat any breakfast. Instead, she went for a walk by herself. In the evening, she sang all of Willoughby’s favourite songs and then she began to cry again. She wept for many hours.