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Chapter 8
Mrs. Jennings was a widow with an ample jointure. She had only two daughters,
both of whom she had lived to see respectably married, and she had now
therefore nothing to do but to marry all the rest of the world. In the promotion of
this object she was zealously active, as far as her ability reached; and missed no
opportunity of projecting weddings among all the young people of her
acquaintance. She was remarkably quick in the discovery of attachments, and
had enjoyed the advantage of raising the blushes and the vanity of many a young
lady by insinuations of her power over such a young man; and this kind of
discernment enabled her soon after her arrival at Barton decisively to pronounce
that Colonel Brandon was very much in love with Marianne Dashwood. She
rather suspected it to be so, on the very first evening of their being together, from
his listening so attentively while she sang to them; and when the visit was
returned by the Middletons' dining at the cottage, the fact was ascertained by his
listening to her again. It must be so. She was perfectly convinced of it. It would
be an excellent match, for he was rich, and she was handsome. Mrs. Jennings
had been anxious to see Colonel Brandon well married, ever since her
connection with Sir John first brought him to her knowledge; and she was always
anxious to get a good husband for every pretty girl.
The immediate advantage to herself was by no means inconsiderable, for it
supplied her with endless jokes against them both. At the park she laughed at the
colonel, and in the cottage at Marianne. To the former her raillery was probably,
as far as it regarded only himself, perfectly indifferent; but to the latter it was at
first incomprehensible; and when its object was understood, she hardly knew
whether most to laugh at its absurdity, or censure its impertinence, for she
considered it as an unfeeling reflection on the colonel's advanced years, and on
his forlorn condition as an old bachelor.
Mrs. Dashwood, who could not think a man five years younger than herself, so
exceedingly ancient as he appeared to the youthful fancy of her daughter,
ventured to clear Mrs. Jennings from the probability of wishing to throw ridicule
on his age.
"But at least, Mamma, you cannot deny the absurdity of the accusation, though
you may not think it intentionally ill-natured. Colonel Brandon is certainly younger
than Mrs. Jennings, but he is old enough to be my father; and if he were ever
animated enough to be in love, must have long outlived every sensation of the
kind. It is too ridiculous! When is a man to be safe from such wit, if age and
infirmity will not protect him?"
"Infirmity!" said Elinor, "do you call Colonel Brandon infirm? I can easily suppose
that his age may appear much greater to you than to my mother; but you can
hardly deceive yourself as to his having the use of his limbs!"
"Did not you hear him complain of the rheumatism? and is not that the
commonest infirmity of declining life?"