Have you ever wanted to read how a conversation would go between Darcy and Captain Wentworth? Have you ever wished Caroline Bingley might make the acquaintance of Sir Walter Elliot? Have you ever thought Mrs. Norris and Lady Catherine could be best buds? Then you’ll love March Madness where we combine characters from Jane Austen’s books in a way you may not have imagined or in ways you may have hoped. Find a comfy chair, grab a cuppa and a few biscuits, and join us for the fun!
Colonel Brandon rose, indicating that his visit had come to an end. Elinor could easily imagine the reason: Marianne had kept to her room for the entire length of his visit. A month earlier, prior to his leaving for London, the Colonel had called at Barton Cottage. At that time, Marianne had come into the parlor for a mere ten minutes before mumbling an excuse about writing to some unnamed relation. As her sister spoke, Elinor had looked away so as not to see the disappointment in the Colonel’s eyes.
“May I walk with you to the gate, Colonel?” Elinor asked.
The Colonel smiled and gestured for Elinor to go ahead of him. Once on the path, he assured her that she should not be troubled on his account over Marianne’s absence. “The reason I call so often is that, for a time, I was genuinely concerned about Miss Marianne’s physical and…for her welfare, but after my last visit, all concerns fell away. She is hale and hearty and no longer in need of my attention. The reason I came today to Barton Cottage is that Margaret is a delight, your mother is a most gracious hostess, and I savor our conversations. In other words, I did not come to see Miss Marianne. Rather, I came to visit with the Dashwood family.”
Although pleased by the sentiment, Elinor found it difficult to believe, and the Colonel sensing her disbelief elaborated. “You doubt me, Miss Dashwood, and with good reason. But things have changed, and if you will bear with me, I would like to explain.”
Elinor indicated that the Colonel should proceed.
“Previously, I spoke to you of my grande passion for my father’s ward, Eliza, who was forced into a loveless marriage with my brother. Do you remember our conversation?”
“Of course, I remember it. You spoke of Eliza when you revealed that John Willoughby had fathered a child by her daughter.”
“The attributes that drew me to Eliza—a warmth of heart and an eagerness of fancy and spirits—also drew me to Miss Marianne. I had only to watch your sister at the pianoforte to know that a fire burnt within her. Being of a reserved nature, I was overwhelmed by her natural exuberance—her ability to make the most of every minute of every day. For someone, such as I, the attraction proved irresistible. Of course, any hope I entertained of engaging her attention disappeared with the arrival of Willoughby.”
Elinor nodded in understanding but insisted that Marianne’s attachment for John Willoughby would be severed in a moment if the Colonel would release her from her promise not to reveal that Willoughby had fathered a child by the Colonel’s ward.
The Colonel laughed. “Do you honestly think that such knowledge would result in a transfer of affection? I assure you that it would have quite the opposite effect. Marianne would forever resent me for exposing her lover for the scoundrel that he is.”
“That is only because my sister believes that you must ‘suffer for love’ or it is not true love. Considering the events that transpired in London, I would think Marianne has suffered sufficiently even for her and that she would look elsewhere—for someone who is steady and honest.”
The Colonel acknowledged the compliment with a nod. “Until recently, I thought it my destiny to suffer as well. First Eliza and then Marianne. Marianne’s unhappiness as a result of Willoughby’s vile treatment of her resulted in my own descent into melancholy. I found the only remedy for my unhappiness was a visit to Barton Cottage.”
Elinor started to say something, but the Colonel stopped her.
“Before you apologize for Miss Marianne’s failure to return my affection, I must say that I no longer want it.”
Elinor went wide-eyed. If the Colonel was no longer in love with Marianne, then why had he come to Barton Cottage on so many occasions? Surely, his claim that he found the company of the Dashwood ladies delightful was a mere excuse for his wish to see Marianne.
“I can see that you are trying to puzzle through my change of heart. Therefore, please allow me to explain. In looking for a companion, I found myself drawn to exotic birds of paradise—birds so rare that they would fight to be free of societal encumbrances–and dullards. It was then that I realized what I actually needed for my own happiness was not an exotic species but rather a perfectly delightful English songbird—a bird found right here in Devon.”
Now thoroughly confused, Elinor nodded as if she understood, but she did not.
“Miss Dashwood, I am not the only one who has suffered for love. Because of your affection for Mr. Ferrars, you, too, are suffering—”
“Colonel, when speaking of my regard for Mr. Ferrars, you must use the past tense. It is true that I did suffer, but now I have reached a place where I understand that everything has worked out for the best.”
“How so? I thought…” The Colonel shook his head. Now, it was his turn to be skeptical. Although curious, he had no right to pry. “I have no business asking you about so personal a matter.”
“That is very kind of you, Colonel Brandon. But if you will allow me, I would like to speak of my own transformation.”
As they stood by the gate, Elinor explained that she had had ample time to reflect on her attachment to Edward Ferrars. Even though he had given every appearance of being a man in love, he had never made a promise of any kind about a future together. She could not affix blame when nothing had been settled between them. Even so, she felt herself ill used. But in hindsight, Edward’s treatment of Elinor paled in comparison to his treatment of Miss Steele. While Lucy had whiled away her time in Plymouth, waiting for that day when she could make their engagement public, Edward had been engaged in one delaying tactic after another as well as a flirtation with her. In Elinor’s mind, he had not acted in a gentlemanly manner.
“Is this how you truly feel?” a surprised Brandon asked.
Elinor assured him that it was. “I know Edward was young at the time of his engagement, but surely with the passage of four years, he should have made it known to Lucy that he no longer had feelings for her and wished to be released from their engagement. She may have held him to his promise–in fact I think she would have–but at least he would have been honest with her. In return for a promise of marriage, she had spent the first bloom of her youth waiting for Edward, and she was determined to be rewarded for her patience. I never really a chance.
“If that is the case, then I have something to tell you.”
Part 2 will be posted tomorrow. All comments are appreciated. Thank you.