فصل 02

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فصل 02

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CHAPTER TWO

Barton

It was now September and the weather was fine. The journey from Sussex to Devon was a very long one. The Dashwoods had to travel for many hours in a carriage before they reached their new home. At first, the family felt miserable. But as they got nearer to Barton, they became happier. Devon was a beautiful county and the Dashwoods saw interesting views as they looked out of the carriage windows. There were narrow roads, and steep hills covered with trees. The land in this county was completely different from Sussex.

Barton Cottage was a small, well-built and comfortable little house. It stood beside a road in a valley. The village of Barton was on one of the hills behind the cottage. In front of the cottage, there was a lawn of green grass. A fence with a small wooden gate separated the lawn from the road. At the back of the cottage, there was a pretty garden surrounded by a wall.

Mrs Dashwood opened the small wooden gate and walked up to the front door of the cottage. Soon the family were standing in the sitting-room and looking around happily.

‘Well, here we are, my dears,’ Mrs Dashwood said to her three daughters. ‘Our new home is not large, but we can have extra rooms built very easily. Marianne’s piano looks very fine by the window. Now we must unpack our books and your paintings, Elinor. Then Barton Cottage will start to look like our own home.’

The three girls and their mother began to unpack their things at once. And the next day, just after breakfast, they had their first visitor - Sir John Middleton of Barton Park.

Sir John was a forty-year-old, good-looking, very friendly gentleman. Two servants came in his carriage with him. They brought fruit, vegetables and other food for Sir John’s cousins. Sir John also brought a polite message from his wife, Lady Middleton. Mrs Dashwood was delighted. She invited the Middletons to visit Barton Cottage and they both called the next day.

Lady Middleton was tall, well-dressed and good-looking. She was about thirteen years younger than her husband. She was not very clever or well-educated, and she did not have much to say. But as she had brought one of her young sons with her, all the ladies talked about him.

Before the Middletons left the cottage, Sir John invited the Dashwoods to dinner at Barton Park.

‘We both love having visitors,’ he said. ‘Our house is not far - just half a mile through the park. It is a very pleasant walk.’

Barton Park was a large, well-furnished house and the Middletons both enjoyed inviting young people to stay there. Sir John was a sportsman and he often went hunting and shooting with his friends. Lady Middleton spent most of her time with her children, but she enjoyed entertaining her neighbours too.

The Middletons were delighted with the Dashwoods. The three girls were charming and pretty and their mother was a very pleasant friend. Sir John was waiting to greet them when they arrived.

‘Welcome! Welcome to Barton Park,’ he said, laughing happily. ‘I am afraid that we do not have many other guests here to meet you today. But my wife’s mother, Mrs Jennings, has just arrived. And my good friend, Colonel Brandon, is staying with us. He lives at Delaford, which is not far away. So he is your neighbour, as well as mine.’

Mrs Jennings, Lady Middleton’s mother, was a cheerful, fat old lady. Her two daughters had both married rich men. Her elder daughter was married to Sir John. Her younger daughter, Charlotte, had married a member of Parliament named Thomas Palmer. Now Mrs Jennings’ main interest was to find good husbands for all the unmarried ladies in the neighbourhood. Mrs Jennings was a kind woman but her manners were not always good. She loved to gossip. She found out other peoples’ secrets and private business, and she talked about them.

At dinner, she sat between Elinor and Marianne.

‘Well, my dears, you must tell me all about yourselves,’ she said. ‘I am sure that you both left young men in Sussex who were fond of you. They must have been sorry when you went away. But they will be coming to Barton soon, I am sure!’

Elinor smiled politely and Marianne shook her head. Neither sister answered the old lady, so she laughed and teased w them.

‘I shall find out your secrets very soon, Miss Dashwood and Miss Marianne,’ she said.

Colonel Brandon was a quiet, sensible man and he said very little. He was tall, with a serious face and good manners. The Colonel was about thirty-five years old and, as Mrs Jennings soon told the Dashwood girls, he was not married. Marianne and Margaret thought that he was too old to be interesting.

After dinner, Mrs Jennings continued to tease the Dashwood sisters. She made jokes about love and lovers. Lady Middleton looked bored with the conversation and said nothing. She only smiled when her four noisy children ran into the room and began to shout loudly.

Later in the evening, Sir John asked Marianne to play the piano and sing. Everyone praised the young woman’s singing, but only Colonel Brandon listened carefully and with real pleasure. Mrs Jennings noticed this and she was soon teasing the Colonel and Marianne too.

‘Miss Marianne,’ she said. ‘Colonel Brandon has fallen in love with you. You sing and play delightfully. The Colonel is rich and you are beautiful. It will be an excellent marriage.’

Colonel Brandon did not care when Mrs Jennings teased him, but Marianne did not know if she should laugh or cry. She thought that the old lady was being very foolish.

‘Colonel Brandon is far too old to fall in love,’ Marianne told her family when they were home again. ‘He said that he had a pain in his shoulder, so he was going to wear a thick, warm coat. Did you hear him say that? Men of his age should not marry - unless they need a nurse.’’

‘The Colonel is not old and he looks very healthy,’ Elinor said with a smile. ‘He does not need a nurse.’

Marianne did not reply. She was not interested in Colonel Brandon. Later, she spoke to her mother alone.

‘Mama, I am worried about Edward Ferrars,’ she said. ‘Do you think that he is ill? We have been at Barton for nearly two weeks now. Edward knows that we are here. Why has he not come to see Elinor? And why will Elinor not talk about him? Elinor and Edward are so cold-hearted! I could not hide my feelings as Elinor does.’

The Dashwoods were very happy in their new home. They often visited the Middletons, and received calls from them. But because the Dashwoods had no carriage of their own, they did not travel far in the county. They met very few other people.

While the weather was fine, the girls went on long walks. Then there were several days of heavy rain. All the paths became wet and muddy and the girls had to stay at home.

Then, one morning, Marianne looked out of the sitting- room window and saw that the rain-clouds had disappeared. The sky was now blue and the sun was shining.

‘Look, the sun is shining at last,’ she said. ‘Let us all go out for a walk!’

Elinor was drawing and Mrs Dashwood was reading, and they did not want to go out. Only Margaret wanted to go walking with her sister. Soon the two girls were walking up the neatest hill.

In the next valley, there was a fine old house called Allenham Court. Marianne and Margaret stood on the top of the hill and admired the property. Sir John had told them that the house belonged to an old lady whose name was Mrs Smith. She was too ill to call on people and she did not have many visitors.

‘What exciting weather!’ Marianne cried as the wind blew in their faces. ‘I could walk here for a long time without getting tired!’

The girls walked on, laughing and talking. Suddenly, the rain-clouds returned and the sky became dark. Soon rain began to fall heavily.

There were no trees or buildings nearby. There was nowhere for the sisters to shelter from the rain. They turned back at once to go home. They ran as fast as they could, down the hill and back towards the cottage. Soon, they were both very wet.

At first, Marianne was in front, but then she slipped on the wet grass and fell to the ground. She cried out in pain. Margaret was running too fast and she could not stop. The young girl ran down to the cottage and reached the garden safely. But poor Marianne had hurt her ankle and she could not move. She lay on the grass, getting wetter and wetter in the cold rain.

‘Margaret, I cannot stand!’ Marianne shouted. ‘Bring someone to help me!’

At that moment, a young man came over the hill. He was carrying a gun and had his two hunting dogs with him. When he saw Marianne, he put down his gun and ran to help her. Marianne tried to get up, but her ankle hurt her too much.

Without speaking, the gentleman lifted Marianne in his arms and carried her down the hill. He quickly reached the house and took her inside.

The Dashwoods were very surprised to see Marianne in the arms of a strange young man. They watched in silence as he carried Marianne into the sitting-room and placed her carefully on a chair.

‘I surprised you, and I apologise,’ the young gentleman said politely. ‘But this lady needed my help. She has hurt her ankle and she cannot walk alone. And, as you see, she is very wet and cold.’

‘Please, do not apologize,’ Mrs Dashwood replied. ‘It is lucky that you were nearby. Please sit down. May I ask your name, sir?’

The young man was extremely handsome and his voice and manners were very pleasing.

‘My name is Willoughby,’ he said and he bowed politely towards Mrs Dashwood. ‘I am, at present, living at Allenham. I must not sit down because my clothes are wet. Perhaps I may call tomorrow? I would like to ask about the young lady’s health.’

‘You will be very welcome,’ Mrs Dashwood replied. ‘The lady whom you rescued is my daughter, Miss Marianne Dashwood. These are her sisters, Elinor and Margaret. We are all very grateful to you.’

The young man bowed again and left the room without saying another word.

The Dashwoods all looked at each other.

‘What a handsome young man!’ Margaret cried. ‘I look forward to seeing him again! What do you think of him, Marianne?’

Marianne smiled, but she could not speak.

Willoughby! His name was Willoughby! Here at last was the perfect young man of her dreams!

When Sir John Middleton called at Barton Cottage, Mrs Dashwood told him about Marianne’s fall and her handsome rescuer, Willoughby.

‘John Willoughby?’ Sir John cried, laughing happily. ‘Is he in the neighbourhood? What good news! I shall invite him to dinner on Thursday.’

‘Do you know him?’ Mrs Dashwood asked. ‘What kind of young man is he?’

‘Willoughby is a fine young man,’ Sir John replied. ‘He stays in Devon every year. He has many fine horses and he rides very well. He shoots well too.’

‘Does he have property near here?’ Elinor asked. ‘He said that he was staying at Allenham.’

‘Mrs Smith - the old lady at Allenham Court - is his aunt,’ Sir John explained to Elinor. ‘Willoughby is Mrs Smith’s heir. He has a house in the county of Somerset too. He would make a fine husband for any girl. Mr Willoughby is certainly worth catching, Miss Dashwood.’ Then he added with a laugh, ‘Miss Marianne has already caught Colonel Brandon, remember.’

‘Sir John, my daughters do not “catch” young men,’ Mrs Dashwood said, smiling. ‘But if Willoughby is a suitable neighbour, we shall all be glad to meet him at Barton Park.’

‘He is a very lively young man,’ Sir John answered. ‘On Christmas Day last year he came to our party. He danced all the evening, and then he got up early the next morning to go hunting!’

‘Oh! He is just the kind of man that I like!’ Marianne cried, her eyes shining with happiness. ‘I very much want to see Mr Willoughby again.’

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