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
"Is there a felicity in the world," said Marianne, "superior to
this?—Margaret, we will walk here at least two hours."
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 in safety.
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 a 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 than 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
"You know him then," said Mrs. Dashwood.
"Know him! to be sure I do. Why, he is down here every year."
"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 in England."
"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
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
"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 intelligence; 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
"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
"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."