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Chapter 14
The sudden termination of Colonel Brandon's visit at the park, with his steadiness
in concealing its cause, filled the mind, and raised the wonder of Mrs. Jennings
for two or three days; she was a great wonderer, as every one must be who
takes a very lively interest in all the comings and goings of all their acquaintance.
She wondered, with little intermission what could be the reason of it; was sure
there must be some bad news, and thought over every kind of distress that could
have befallen him, with a fixed determination that he should not escape them all.
"Something very melancholy must be the matter, I am sure," said she. "I could
see it in his face. Poor man! I am afraid his circumstances may be bad. The
estate at Delaford was never reckoned more than two thousand a year, and his
brother left everything sadly involved. I do think he must have been sent for
about money matters, for what else can it be? I wonder whether it is so. I would
give anything to know the truth of it. Perhaps it is about Miss Williams and, by the
bye, I dare say it is, because he looked so conscious when I mentioned her. May
be she is ill in town; nothing in the world more likely, for I have a notion she is
always rather sickly. I would lay any wager it is about Miss Williams. It is not so
very likely he should be distressed in his circumstances now, for he is a very
prudent man, and to be sure must have cleared the estate by this time. I wonder
what it can be! May be his sister is worse at Avignon, and has sent for him over.
His setting off in such a hurry seems very like it. Well, I wish him out of all his
trouble with all my heart, and a good wife into the bargain."
So wondered, so talked Mrs. Jennings. Her opinion varying with every fresh
conjecture, and all seeming equally probable as they arose. Elinor, though she
felt really interested in the welfare of Colonel Brandon, could not bestow all the
wonder on his going so suddenly away, which Mrs. Jennings was desirous of her
feeling; for besides that the circumstance did not in her opinion justify such
lasting amazement or variety of speculation, her wonder was otherwise disposed
of. It was engrossed by the extraordinary silence of her sister and Willoughby on
the subject, which they must know to be peculiarly interesting to them all. As this
silence continued, every day made it appear more strange and more
incompatible with the disposition of both. Why they should not openly
acknowledge to her mother and herself, what their constant behaviour to each
other declared to have taken place, Elinor could not imagine.
She could easily conceive that marriage might not be immediately in their power;
for though Willoughby was independent, there was no reason to believe him rich.
His estate had been rated by Sir John at about six or seven hundred a year; but
he lived at an expense to which that income could hardly be equal, and he had
himself often complained of his poverty. But for this strange kind of secrecy
maintained by them relative to their engagement, which in fact concealed nothing
at all, she could not account; and it was so wholly contradictory to their general
opinions and practice, that a doubt sometimes entered her mind of their being
really engaged, and this doubt was enough to prevent her making any inquiry of