The Dashwoods were now settled at Barton with tolerable
comfort to themselves. The house and the garden, with all
the objects surrounding them, were now become familiar,
and the ordinary pursuits which had given to Norland
half its charms were engaged in again with far greater
enjoyment than Norland had been able to afford, since the
loss of their father. Sir John Middleton, who called
on them every day for the first fortnight, and who was
not in the habit of seeing much occupation at home,
could not conceal his amazement on finding them always employed.
Their visitors, except those from Barton Park,
were not many; for, in spite of Sir John's urgent entreaties
that they would mix more in the neighbourhood, and repeated
assurances of his carriage being always at their service,
the independence of Mrs. Dashwood's spirit overcame the
wish of society for her children; and she was resolute
in declining to visit any family beyond the distance
of a walk. There were but few who could be so classed;
and it was not all of them that were attainable.
About a mile and a half from the cottage, along the narrow
winding valley of Allenham, which issued from that of Barton,
as formerly described, the girls had, in one of their
earliest walks, discovered an ancient respectable looking
mansion which, by reminding them a little of Norland,
interested their imagination and made them wish to be
better acquainted with it. But they learnt, on enquiry,
that its possessor, an elderly lady of very good character,
was unfortunately too infirm to mix with the world,
and never stirred from home.
The whole country about them abounded in beautiful walks.
The high downs which invited them from almost every window
of the cottage to seek the exquisite enjoyment of air
on their summits, were a happy alternative when the dirt
of the valleys beneath shut up their superior beauties;
and towards one of these hills did Marianne and Margaret
one memorable morning direct their steps, attracted by the
partial sunshine of a showery sky, and unable longer to bear
the confinement which the settled rain of the two preceding
days had occasioned. The weather was not tempting enough
to draw the two others from their pencil and their book,
in spite of Marianne's declaration that the day would
be lastingly fair, and that every threatening cloud would
be drawn off from their hills; and the two girls set off together.
They gaily ascended the downs, rejoicing in their own
penetration at every glimpse of blue sky; and when they
caught in their faces the animating gales of a high
south-westerly wind, they pitied the fears which had prevented
their mother and Elinor from sharing such delightful sensations.
"Is there a felicity in the world," said Marianne,
"superior to this?--Margaret, we will walk here at least
Margaret agreed, and they pursued their way against
the wind, resisting it with laughing delight for about
twenty minutes longer, when suddenly the clouds united over
their heads, and a driving rain set full in their face.--
Chagrined and surprised, they were obliged, though unwillingly,
to turn back, for no shelter was nearer than their own house.
One consolation however remained for them, to which the
exigence of the moment gave more than usual propriety;
it was that of running with all possible speed down the steep
side of the hill which led immediately to their garden gate.
They set off. Marianne had at first the advantage,
but a false step brought her suddenly to the ground;
and Margaret, unable to stop herself to assist her,
was involuntarily hurried along, and reached the bottom
A gentleman carrying a gun, with two pointers
playing round him, was passing up the hill and within
a few yards of Marianne, when her accident happened.
He put down his gun and ran to her assistance. She had
raised herself from the ground, but her foot had been
twisted in her fall, and she was scarcely able to stand.
The gentleman offered his services; and perceiving that her
modesty declined what her situation rendered necessary,
took her up in his arms without farther delay, and carried
her down the hill. Then passing through the garden,
the gate of which had been left open by Margaret, he bore her
directly into the house, whither Margaret was just arrived,
and quitted not his hold till he had seated her in a chair
in the parlour.
Elinor and her mother rose up in amazement at
their entrance, and while the eyes of both were fixed
on him with an evident wonder and a secret admiration
which equally sprung from his appearance, he apologized
for his intrusion by relating its cause, in a manner
so frank and so graceful that his person, which was
uncommonly handsome, received additional charms from his voice
and expression. Had he been even old, ugly, and vulgar,
the gratitude and kindness of Mrs. Dashwood would
have been secured by any act of attention to her child;
but the influence of youth, beauty, and elegance,
gave an interest to the action which came home to her feelings.
She thanked him again and again; and, with a sweetness
of address which always attended her, invited him to
be seated. But this he declined, as he was dirty and wet.
Mrs. Dashwood then begged to know to whom she was obliged.
His name, he replied, was Willoughby, and his present
home was at Allenham, from whence he hoped she would
allow him the honour of calling tomorrow to enquire
after Miss Dashwood. The honour was readily granted,
and he then departed, to make himself still more interesting,
in the midst of an heavy rain.
His manly beauty and more than common gracefulness
were instantly the theme of general admiration,
and the laugh which his gallantry raised against Marianne
received particular spirit from his exterior attractions.--
Marianne herself had seen less of his person that the rest,
for the confusion which crimsoned over her face, on his
lifting her up, had robbed her of the power of regarding
him after their entering the house. But she had seen
enough of him to join in all the admiration of the others,
and with an energy which always adorned her praise.
His person and air were equal to what her fancy had ever
drawn for the hero of a favourite story; and in his carrying
her into the house with so little previous formality, there
was a rapidity of thought which particularly recommended
the action to her. Every circumstance belonging to him
was interesting. His name was good, his residence was in
their favourite village, and she soon found out that of all
manly dresses a shooting-jacket was the most becoming.
Her imagination was busy, her reflections were pleasant,
and the pain of a sprained ankle was disregarded.
Sir John called on them as soon as the next interval
of fair weather that morning allowed him to get out
of doors; and Marianne's accident being related to him,
he was eagerly asked whether he knew any gentleman
of the name of Willoughby at Allenham.
"Willoughby!" cried Sir John; "what, is HE
in the country? That is good news however; I will
ride over tomorrow, and ask him to dinner on Thursday."
"You know him then," said Mrs. Dashwood.
"Know him! to be sure I do. Why, he is down here
"And what sort of a young man is he?"
"As good a kind of fellow as ever lived, I assure you.
A very decent shot, and there is not a bolder rider
"And is that all you can say for him?" cried Marianne,
indignantly. "But what are his manners on more intimate
acquaintance? What his pursuits, his talents, and genius?"
Sir John was rather puzzled.
"Upon my soul," said he, "I do not know much about him
as to all THAT. But he is a pleasant, good humoured fellow,
and has got the nicest little black bitch of a pointer
I ever saw. Was she out with him today?"
But Marianne could no more satisfy him as to the
colour of Mr. Willoughby's pointer, than he could
describe to her the shades of his mind.
"But who is he?" said Elinor. "Where does he come
from? Has he a house at Allenham?"
On this point Sir John could give more certain
and he told them that Mr. Willoughby had no property
of his own in the country; that he resided there only
while he was visiting the old lady at Allenham Court,
to whom he was related, and whose possessions he was
to inherit; adding, "Yes, yes, he is very well worth
catching I can tell you, Miss Dashwood; he has a pretty
little estate of his own in Somersetshire besides;
and if I were you, I would not give him up to my
younger sister, in spite of all this tumbling down hills.
Miss Marianne must not expect to have all the men to herself.
Brandon will be jealous, if she does not take care."
"I do not believe," said Mrs. Dashwood, with a
good humoured smile, "that Mr. Willoughby will be incommoded
by the attempts of either of MY daughters towards what
you call CATCHING him. It is not an employment to which
they have been brought up. Men are very safe with us,
let them be ever so rich. I am glad to find, however,
from what you say, that he is a respectable young man,
and one whose acquaintance will not be ineligible."
"He is as good a sort of fellow, I believe,
as ever lived," repeated Sir John. "I remember
last Christmas at a little hop at the park, he danced
from eight o'clock till four, without once sitting down."
"Did he indeed?" cried Marianne with sparkling eyes,
"and with elegance, with spirit?"
"Yes; and he was up again at eight to ride to covert."
"That is what I like; that is what a young man ought
to be. Whatever be his pursuits, his eagerness in them
should know no moderation, and leave him no sense of fatigue."
"Aye, aye, I see how it will be," said Sir John, "I see
how it will be. You will be setting your cap at him now,
and never think of poor Brandon."
"That is an expression, Sir John," said Marianne,
warmly, "which I particularly dislike. I abhor every
common-place phrase by which wit is intended; and 'setting
one's cap at a man,' or 'making a conquest,' are the most
odious of all. Their tendency is gross and illiberal;
and if their construction could ever be deemed clever,
time has long ago destroyed all its ingenuity."
Sir John did not much understand this reproof;
but he laughed as heartily as if he did, and then replied,
"Ay, you will make conquests enough, I dare say, one way or other. Poor Brandon! he is quite smitten already, and he is very well worth setting your cap at, I can tell you, in spite of all this tumbling about and spraining of ankles."