Marianne looked out the parlor window. “What are they talking about?” she asked her mother.
“Of whom are you speaking?” Mrs. Dashwood asked.
“Elinor and Colonel Brandon. They have been talking for a half an hour. What can they possibly be discussing? The Colonel is so boring. I cannot imagine what is holding Elinor’s interest.” But then Marianne guessed the reason for their prolonged discussion. “It is the Colonel’s intention to enlist Elinor as an ally in securing my hand in marriage. Shall we never be safe from him?”
“Not everything is about you, Marianne.”
Marianne did not even hear her mother’s retort and continued her soliloquy. “He is on a fool’s errand if he thinks I can be talked into loving him, even by someone as capable as Elinor. I shall be forever grateful that he brought you to Cleveland when I was so ill, but he did not cure me! Am I to be forever in his debt because he is a capable horseman?”
“The Colonel has not so much as hinted at his gallantry in that affair. You are the only one who brings it up.”
Marianne reiterated her reasons for refusing to entertain any thoughts of a marriage to Colonel Brandon: He was too old, too dull, too predictable, too little of this, and too much of that. “He has rheumatism and wears flannel waistcoats.”
Mrs. Dashwood shook her head. She was sure John Willoughby did not own flannel waistcoats, but neither was he in possession of a conscience. But the mother held her tongue, knowing that anything she said on that subject would fall on deaf ears. There was no convincing Marianne of the Colonel’s superior worth. She must arrive at that place all by herself.
* * *
Elinor was eager to hear what the Colonel had to say as she was sure that it involved Edward Ferrars and Lucy Steele. Although she had decided that their separation really was for the best, there was something unfinished about the business, and she wished to know how it had all ended.
Elinor had hoped for a definitive ending, and now she would have it. While in London, the Colonel had heard news regarding the couple: Edward and Lucy had married.
“If that is the case, then I have been rather harsh in my judgment of Edward. He kept his promise to her, and by marrying Lucy, he was disinherited.”
The Colonel shook his head. “As it turns out, Edward Ferrars was not disinherited. It is a rather complicated story. Shall we walk?”
During their walk around a pond that encompassed much of the cottage’s acreage, Brandon explained that Lucy Steele had been very clever in dealing with Mrs. Ferrars’s reaction to the news of her son’s secret engagement. Upon hearing of Edward being disinherited, Miss Steele had sought counsel from a solicitor who had advised her that she could sue Mrs. Ferrars for breach of promise.
“Bring a suit against Mrs. Ferrars?”
“Yes, the mother. By disinheriting Edward, Mrs. Ferrars had compromised a verbal contract her son had entered into with Miss Steele. Miss Steele insisted that before she had accepted Edward’s proposal, she had taken into consideration his ability to provide for her financially for the rest of her life.”
Colonel Brandon explained that in a subsequent interview with the Ferrars’s family solicitor, it was established that Edward had, in fact, made such a declaration of providing for Miss Steele’s financial well-being. Upon further questioning, Edward admitted that he had willingly entered into the engagement and that he had at no time asked to be released from his promise. He also revealed that in the four years of their engagement, he had visited Plymouth at least twice a year and that, on several occasions, he had provided Miss Steele with money with no provision for repayment.
“Apparently, Edward also bought Miss Steele a pony and cart so that she might travel around Plymouth, and on at least one occasion, he settled Miss Steele’s account with a milliner—all indications that he was fully committed to the lady.”
“My goodness!” Elinor exclaimed. “I had no idea.”
“As a result of the interview, Mrs. Ferrars reinstated Edward as her heir.”
“But I thought the changes were irrevocable?”
“Mere bluster on the mother’s part. Who was to tell Mrs. Ferrars that she could not change her mind about her own estate? The difference is that Edward will inherit only half the estate. The remainder goes to his brother Robert.”
“Poor Fanny! She will have Miss Steele as a sister-in-law!” For the first time, Elinor smiled. “But how do you know all this?”
“It is widely broadcast in Town that Miss Steele succeeded with Mrs. Ferrars where few others had. Apparently, the lady hinted that it would be a terrible thing for the Ferrars’s name to be sullied by gossip and intimated that there was already much talk on the street and that it could escalate.”
“That was a threat!”
“Indeed it was, and it worked. So, now that I have told you all, how do you feel about all of this?”
Elinor could think of only one word: relieved. “Although there is an excellent chance I shall never wed, I would rather be a spinster than to be married to someone who is so easily dominated. My husband must be strong and have the courage of his convictions.”
“Then it is your choice to remain an unmarried woman.”
Elinor laughed. “It is hardly a choice, Colonel. But here in Devon, where would I find a suitor? My social circle is very limited.”
The Colonel stopped and looked at Elinor. “You might look no farther than Delaford.”
“What… What are you saying, sir?” Elinor stuttered.
“You were the songbird I spoke of earlier. My past—my love for Eliza—drew me to Marianne, and in doing so, I was blinded to what was right in front of me, that is, a lovely, calm, capable, and caring woman.”
Elinor turned away, and in doing so, the Colonel suspected that he had, once again, failed in securing the affection of a Dashwood daughter. But when Elinor finally looked his way, he could see a look—not of rejection—but of possibilities.
* * *
“Elinor, what were you talking to the Colonel about?” Marianne asked as soon as Elinor came through the door. “I shall not marry him no matter what you say.”
Elinor smiled. “Then I shall not try to convince you.”
“Something has changed. I can tell by the way you are smiling. I demand to know what it is.”
“You are wrong, Marianne. No one thing has changed. Instead, everything has changed.”
I hope you enjoyed my S&S mash-up. All comments are appreciated. Thanks for reading.