Mrs. Jennings was a widow with an ample jointure
. She had only two
daughters, both of whom she had lived to see respectably married
and she had now, therefore, nothing to do but to marry all the rest of
the world. In the promotion of this object she was zealous
as far as her ability reached; and missed no opportunity of projecting
weddings among all the young people of her acquaintance. She was
remarkably quick in the discovery of attachments, and had enjoyed
the advantage of raising the blushes and the vanity
of many a young
lady by insinuations of her power over such a young man; and this kind
of discernment enabled her, soon after her arrival at Barton,
decisively to pronounce that Colonel Brandon was very much in love
with Marianne Dashwood. She rather suspected it to be so, on the
very first evening of their being together, from his listening so
attentively while she sang to them; and when the visit was returned by
the Middletons dining at the cottage, the fact was ascertained by
his listening to her again. It must be so. She was perfectly convinced
of it. It would be an excellent match, for he was rich, and she was
handsome. Mrs. Jennings had been anxious to see Colonel Brandon well
married, ever since her connection with Sir John first brought him
to her knowledge; and she was always anxious to get a good husband for
every pretty girl.
The immediate advantage to herself was by no means inconsiderable,
for it supplied her with endless jokes against them both. At the
Park she laughed at the colonel, and in the cottage at Marianne. To
the former her raillery was probably, as far as it regarded only
himself, perfectly indifferent; but to the latter it was at first
incomprehensible; and when its object was understood, she hardly
knew whether most to laugh at its absurdity, or censure its
impertinence; for she considered it as an unfeeling reflection on
the colonel's advanced years, and on his forlorn condition as an old bachelor.
Mrs. Dashwood, who could not think a man five years younger than
herself so exceedingly ancient as he appeared to the youthful fancy of
her daughter, ventured to clear Mrs. Jennings from the probability
of wishing to throw ridicule on his age.
"But at least, mamma, you cannot deny the absurdity of the
accusation, though you may not think it intentionally ill-natured.
Colonel Brandon is certainly younger than Mrs. Jennings, but he is old
enough to be my father; and if he were ever animated enough to be in
love, must have long outlived every sensation of the kind. It is too
ridiculous! When is a man to be safe from such wit, if age and
infirmity will not protect him?"
"Infirmity!" said Elinor, "do you call Colonel Brandon infirm? I
can easily suppose that his age may appear much greater to you than to
my mother; but you can hardly deceive yourself as to his having the
use of his limbs!"
"Did not you hear him complain of the rheumatism? and is not
that the commonest infirmity of declining life?"
"My dearest child," said her mother, laughing, "at this rate you
must be in continual terror of my decay; and it must seem to you a
miracle that my life has been extended to the advanced age of forty."
"Mamma, you are not doing me justice. I know very well that
Colonel Brandon is not old enough to make his friends yet apprehensive
of losing him in the course of nature. He may live twenty years
longer. But thirty-five has nothing to do with matrimony."
"Perhaps," said Elinor, "thirty-five and seventeen had better
not have any thing to do with matrimony together. But if there
should by any chance happen to be a woman who is single at
seven-and-twenty, I should not think Colonel Brandon's being
thirty-five any objection to his marrying her."
"A woman of seven-and-twenty," said Marianne, after pausing a
moment, "can never hope to feel or inspire affection again, and if her
home be uncomfortable, or her fortune small, I can suppose that she
might bring herself to submit to the offices of a nurse, for the
sake of the provision and security of a wife. In his marrying such a
woman, therefore, there would be nothing unsuitable. It would be a
compact of convenience, and the world would be satisfied. In my eyes
it would be no marriage at all, but that would be nothing. To me it
would seem only a commercial exchange, in which each wished to be
benefited at the expense of the other."
"It would be impossible, I know," replied Elinor, "to convince you
that a woman of seven-and-twenty could feel for a man of thirty-five
anything near enough to love, to make him a desirable companion to
her. But I must object to your dooming Colonel Brandon and his wife to
the constant confinement of a sick chamber, merely because he
chanced to complain yesterday (a very cold damp day), of a slight
rheumatic feel in one of his shoulders."
"But he talked of flannel waistcoats," said Marianne; "and with me
a flannel waistcoat is invariably connected with aches, cramps,
rheumatisms, and every species of ailment that can afflict the old and
"Had he been only in a violent fever, you would not have
despised him half so much. Confess, Marianne, is not there something
interesting to you in the flushed cheek, hollow eye, and quick pulse of a fever?"
Soon after this, upon Elinor's leaving the room, "Mamma," said
Marianne, "I have an alarm on the subject of illness which I cannot
conceal from you. I am sure Edward Ferrars is not well. We have now
been here almost a fortnight, and yet he does not come. Nothing but
real indisposition could occasion this extraordinary delay. What
else can detain him at Norland?"
"Had you any idea of his coming so soon?" said Mrs. Dashwood. "I
had none. On the contrary, if I have felt any anxiety at all on the
subject, it has been in recollecting that he sometimes showed a want
of pleasure and readiness in accepting my invitation, when I talked of
his coming to Barton. Does Elinor expect him already?"
"I have never mentioned it to her, but of course she must."
"I rather think you are mistaken, for when I was talking to her
yesterday of getting a new grate for the spare bed-chamber, she
observed that there was no immediate hurry for it, as it was not
likely that the room would be wanted for some time."
"How strange this is! what can be the meaning of it! But the whole
of their behaviour to each other has been unaccountable! How cold, how
composed were their last adieus! How languid their conversation the
last evening of their being together! In Edward's farewell there was
no distinction between Elinor and me: it was the good wishes of an
affectionate brother to both. Twice did I leave them purposely
together in the course of the last morning, and each time did he
most unaccountably follow me out of the room. And Elinor, in quitting
Norland and Edward, cried not as I did. Even now her self-command is
invariable. When is she dejected or melancholy? When does she try to
avoid society, or appear restless and dissatisfied in it?"
Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 7 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 9