فصل 13

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فصل 13

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CHAPTER THIRTEEN

Cleveland

In the first week of April, the Palmers, Mrs Jennings, the Miss Dashwoods and Colonel Brandon left London for Cleveland. The ladies rode in a carriage and they took Charlotte’s baby with them. They arrived at Cleveland on the morning of the third day. Colonel Brandon and Mr Palmer rode horses and they followed more slowly.

Cleveland was a big fine house that was surrounded by pretty gardens and beautiful trees. For the first few days, the weather was fine and Marianne spent her time walking in the gardens.

Coombe Magna, Willoughby’s home, was thirty miles away.

But the house and its owner were always in Marianne’s thoughts.

By the time that Colonel Brandon and Mr Palmer arrived, rain had started to fall. For several days it was so wet that they all had to stay indoors. The friends happily sat and talked to each other. In his own home, Mr Palmer was no longer rude. He was polite and kind to his visitors.

Colonel Brandon often talked to Elinor, but his eyes were often turned towards Marianne.

It was the Colonel who first noticed that Marianne was sick. She had gone for a walk where the grass was long and wet. Then she had come indoors and sat for too long in her wet shoes and stockings. She caught a cold.

Marianne went to bed early and she woke up the next day feeling tired and ill. By the evening, she had a fever and the Palmers sent for their doctor.

The doctor came and looked at Marianne carefully. He touched her forehead. Her skin was very hot and her body was shaking. The doctor looked very worried.

‘This young lady has a bad fever,’ he said. ‘You have a very young baby, Mrs Palmer. I suggest that you and your child leave Cleveland for a time. You do not want your baby to catch the fever too.’

Charlotte agreed and she left Cleveland the same day. She went to stay with some neighbours.

Mrs Jennings was worried about Marianne and she said that she would stay at Cleveland. Elinor was very pleased to have the kind old lady’s help and they decided to look after Marianne together.

On the third day of Marianne’s illness, Mr Palmer left Cleveland. He went to join his family at their neighbours’ house. Colonel Brandon stayed at Cleveland so that he could offer his help. Marianne knew nothing about all this. She was too ill. She saw only Elinor, Mrs Jennings and the doctor, who came every day.

Three days later, when Marianne woke in the morning, she felt a little better. But that evening, she became much worse. By midnight, the poor girl was weeping and asking to see her mother. A servant was sent to get the doctor.

‘Miss Marianne Dashwood is extremely ill,’ the doctor said. ‘Her mother should be here. Please send for her, Miss Dashwood. Your sister is in great danger.’

Elinor was very frightened and she ran downstairs to speak to Colonel Brandon.

‘Oh! Colonel Brandon,’ Elinor said with tears in her eyes. ‘We need your help. My sister is very ill and the doctor says that our mother should be here.’

The Colonel stood up.

‘I will leave for Barton at once,’ he said. ‘I can bring your mother here in about twenty-two hours. I shall be as quick as I can.’

In half an hour, a carriage and a pair of horses were ready and the Colonel was on his way to Barton.

The doctor called twice in the next ten hours. Each time that he came, Marianne was asleep and she was breathing very quickly. She could hear no one and she could see no one. She did not know who was beside her bed. Her fever was now at its worst.

When the doctor called at four o’clock in the afternoon, Marianne’s breathing was slower and her skin was cooler. Once or twice, she opened her eyes. Elinor sat beside her poor sister’s bed and held her hand.

At six o’clock, Marianne was in a deep, peaceful sleep. Elinor began to hope that her sister would get well.

At seven o’clock, Marianne was still sleeping comfortably. Elinor went downstairs to have tea with Mrs Jennings and to give her the good news. Then she went back to her sister’s room and sat down by the bed once more. Colonel Brandon would not return with Mrs Dashwood until ten o’clock.

The night was cold and stormy. The wind blew and the rain fell. Marianne went on sleeping.

At eight o’clock, Elinor thought that she heard the sound of a carriage driving up to the house. She ran to the window, opened the wooden shutter, and looked out.

Yes, there were the lights of a carriage outside! But the carriage was being pulled by four horses, not two.

‘That must be why Colonel Brandon has returned so quickly,’ Elinor thought.

Elinor ran downstairs to see her mother and Colonel Brandon. She was smiling happily. Now everything would be well! She heard someone walking from the hallway to the drawing-room.

Elinor opened the door of the drawing-room and ran in. But her mother and Colonel Brandon were not standing in the room - it was Willoughby!

Elinor stopped. Her face became pale with shock. She had already turned back to the door, when Willoughby spoke.

‘Miss Dashwood!’ Willoughby cried. ‘Give me time to explain why I am here. Please, stay and hear what I have to say!’

‘No, sir,’ Elinor said quickly. ‘I shall not stay. I do not want to hear your explanation. Perhaps you have business with Mr Palmer. I am sorry, but he is away at the moment.’

‘I do not know Mr Palmer and I have no business with him,’ Willoughby said. ‘I came as soon as I heard the terrible news about your sister. Please, let me explain why I am here, Miss Dashwood.’

Elinor sat down.

‘Then please be quick, sir,’ she said. ‘My sister needs me and I have no time to talk to you.’

‘The servant told me that your sister is now out of danger. Is that true? Is she a little better? For God’s sake, tell me if that is true or not!’ Willoughby cried. His face was pale and his eyes were wide and dark.

‘We hope that it is true,’ Elinor said quietly.

Willoughby stood up and began to walk about the room. Then he stopped and turned towards Elinor.

‘Tell me, Miss Dashwood,’ he said. ‘What do you think about me? Am I bad or stupid?’ He laughed suddenly. His face had now become red.

Willoughby was speaking very strangely. Elinor began to think that he was drunk.

‘Mr Willoughby, I think that you should go home and rest,’ Elinor said, frowning.

Willoughby understood.

‘No, Miss Dashwood, I am not drunk,’ he said. ‘I have come here for a very good reason. I am very, very sorry. I have come here to make an apology and explain my behaviour to your sister. Perhaps, in time, she may even forgive me.’

‘Marianne has already forgiven you,’ Elinor replied. ‘She forgave you long ago.’

‘Then you must listen to me, Miss Dashwood. Last autumn, I had to spend some time in Devon - at Allenham Court, with Mrs Smith. Then I met your sister. Her interest in me was very flattering and I did my best to please her.’

‘I have heard enough,’ Elinor said coldly. ‘I cannot listen to you anymore.’

‘But you must,’ Willoughby replied, ‘I have to tell you everything now.

‘I am a gentleman, but I have never had much money of my own. My friends have always been much richer than me. When I was with them, I spent money freely and I soon had many debts.’

‘I was not going to inherit Mrs Smith’s money for many years, so I decided that I must marry a rich woman. I had no thought of marrying anyone like your sister. That was not possible. But Marianne is very beautiful and I began to grow very fond of her. I fell in love - I could not help it.’

‘Then you did have feelings for Marianne,’ Elinor said.

‘The hours that I spent with your sister, were the happiest of my life,’ Willoughby said. ‘But then something happened that changed everything. Mrs Smith heard a story about me. She heard about someone - a lady - whom I… But I believe that you have been told everything, Miss Dashwood,’ Willoughby said.

‘Yes, I have heard it all,’ Elinor said angrily. ‘You left a young, pregnant girl alone, and without money. You behaved very badly towards that poor girl. She had no one to help her. It was a wicked thing that you did.’

‘Remember who told you that story!’ Willoughby cried. ‘Colonel Brandon is no friend of mine!’

‘You should be ashamed!’ Elinor answered. ‘You treated that girl badly and you treated my sister badly too. You deceived them. You flattered them and made them love you. Marianne loved you and she believed your flattery. By then, Eliza Williams had no hope and no friends. You knew that, but you did nothing to help her.’

‘I did not know that Eliza was in trouble,’ Willoughby said quickly. ‘I had forgotten to give her my address and she could not write to me.

‘Mrs Smith thought the worst of me too,’ Willoughby went on. ‘She is an old woman and she does not understand a young man’s feelings. She said that she would forgive me, if I married Eliza. I could not do that. So Mrs Smith sent me away. She told me that I would never inherit her money.

‘Miss Sofia Grey was very rich and I decided to marry her,’ Willoughby said. ‘She was pleased to get a husband. That is all. We do not love each other.’

‘Miss Grey is now your wife,’ Elinor said quietly. ‘Please don’t speak about her in that way. You have made two young women unhappy - first Eliza and then my poor sister. You were cruel to Marianne when you said goodbye to her at Barton. You were cruel to her again in London, in front of her friends and many other people. Your last letter to Marianne was the cruellest thing of all. You have not behaved like a gentleman, Mr Willoughby.’

‘My wife made me write that letter,’ Willoughby said. ‘She was angry and jealous. Oh, why did I leave Marianne for her?’

‘You have already told me why,’ Elinor said. ‘Do not say that your wife is the reason for your bad behaviour. Perhaps you have been foolish, rather than wicked. But you have hurt my sister terribly. She has been very unhappy.’

‘Then please tell your sister that now I am unhappy too,’ Willoughby replied. ‘I still love Marianne. I came here tonight because I met Sir John Middleton in London. He told me that Marianne was dying. Mrs Jennings had written to tell him the news. You must tell Marianne everything that I have told you tonight.’

Willoughby stopped speaking and turned away. He looked so unhappy that Elinor felt sorry for him.

‘Marianne will be happy one day, but I shall never be,’ the young man added sadly. ‘Goodbye.’

After saying these words, Willoughby left the room. In a few minutes, he was in his carriage and he was driving away from Cleveland.

Willoughby’s visit had upset Elinor very much and it was some time before she could go upstairs again. When Elinor did go into Marianne’s room, she found that her sister was much better. Elinor was delighted.

Thirty minutes later, Elinor heard the sound of another carriage outside the house. Mrs Dashwood and Colonel Brandon had arrived at last! When the Colonel had reached Delaford, he had gone in his own carriage to Barton Cottage to bring Mrs Dashwood to Cleveland. The Colonel and Mrs Dashwood had travelled for many hours. Mrs Dashwood was now at the side of her dear daughter and she stayed with her all night.

Elinor went to bed, but she could not sleep. She had too much to think about. But she felt happier than she had been for some time.

A week passed and the Palmers returned to their home. Mrs Dashwood was happy to see Marianne get stronger every day. But she had another reason to be happy.

‘Colonel Brandon loves our dear Marianne,’ she told Elinor. ‘He told me this as we travelled from Barton. I once thought that he would marry you, Elinor. But now I believe that he will suit Marianne better. He truly loves her. He loves her more than Willoughby ever could, I am sure of that.’

‘Colonel Brandon is a good man,’ Elinor replied. ‘He has shown great kindness to all his friends. What did you say to the Colonel? Did you give him any hope for a future with Marianne?’

‘I could not give him hope, because I thought that Marianne was dying,’ Mrs Dashwood said. ‘But in time, Marianne will understand that he is a far better man than Willoughby. It will take her some time to forget that young man, I know. But Colonel Brandon is patient - he will wait until Marianne grows fond of him. He has told me so.’

Marianne got better and stronger every day. Soon she was well enough to come out of her room and sit downstairs, in the drawing-room.

Colonel Brandon sat beside her and held her thin hand. He looked sadly at her thin, pale face as she thanked him for bringing her mother on the long journey from Barton.

A few days later, Mrs Dashwood said that Marianne was strong enough to leave Cleveland.

The Dashwoods thanked the Palmers and Mrs Jennings for all their kind help. Then they travelled home to Barton Cottage in the Colonels carriage and Colonel Brandon rode back to Delaford on his horse.

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