Read Part One and Part Two
The first month of their marriage was spent by Edward and Elinor with Colonel Brandon at the Mansion-house, from whence they could superintend the progress of the Parsonage, and direct everything as they liked on the spot. They chose papers, planned shrubberies, and invented a sweep, all which went far in the elevation of the humble parsonage into a transparently genteel dwelling. Their host was all accommodation, and he would have happily kept the couple for a far longer time, but even dilatory workmen will, eventually, complete their assigned tasks, a blessing as our newlyweds were quite anxious to spend their first evening under their very own roof. They were only so slow in indulging this pleasure as their pragmatism dictated, for neither was so romantic as to believe that a roof which leaked, regardless of personal ownership, was anything but a nuisance. Such were the details that had to be completed before taking possession, but taken care of they were, and on the day they moved in all they had left to wish for was rather better pasturage for their cows.
Elinor and Edward were not now forced to discover how long they would relish being alone in each other's company, for not a week after their occupation of the parsonage, Mrs. Jennings arrived to ensure their entertainment and ward off solitude. If they resented this intrusion upon their newly-found privacy, they did nothing to betray such inhospitable sentiments. Mrs. Jennings, a lover of company herself, was not burdened with any thoughts of being intrusive. As far as she was concerned, the happy couple enjoyed her two week stay as much as she did, and all could only regret that it did not last longer. However, upon the young Palmer child coming down with its first cold, each cough causing Charlotte hysterics and her husband chagrin, the matron's presence was deemed essential at Cleveland, to which she set out forthwith upon reception of these tidings. Secretly, and guiltily, the Ferrarses were exceedingly grateful for such a well-timed ailment. Promising Mrs. Jennings that she was always welcome at anytime, they saw her off with few regrets, sincere in both their expressed sentiments and their desire that "anytime" would not come too soon.
Mrs. Jennings was not the only person anxious to grace the parsonage with her presence. She was merely the first of several guests. It was not long before Mrs. Ferrars arrived to inspect the happiness which she was almost ashamed of having authorized. What were Elinor's feelings upon welcoming the woman who had once gone to excessive lengths to offend her, and whom she now called mother? Complex, to say the least, but strict adherence to her policy of general civility did much to assist her through the ordeal. Fortunately, the grand lady did not stay long, for while she felt her own consequence increase within walls too small to retain such magnificence, she also felt enough concern for her son's welfare not to wish them to buckle under the burden of such unaccustomed pressure. Having done her maternal duty, she quickly made her way back to the more accommodating dimensions of her London town home.
There is nothing like a most disagreeable guest to make only mildly disagreeable guests comparatively attractive. Thus it was that the arrival of John and Fanny Dashwood, not long after Mrs. Ferrars departure, was greeted with less feigned pleasure than one might expect. Indeed, it was Fanny who was most discomfited by the visit, having voiced so vociferously her opposition to the match now come to fruition. She and Elinor were necessarily destined to spend a considerable amount of time in each other's company during their stay, and as loath as one is to admit it, it was to Fanny credit that she began their first day by making reference to the vast quantity of compliments she had fallen into the habit of receiving for the pair of screens Elinor had so beautifully executed on her behalf. Elinor understood this peace offering as intended, and as it was a great deal more acknowledgment of past wrongs than she had expected from her sister, the two were able to proceed amiably from that point on. Marianne occasionally joined them, the lure of Colonel Brandon's library drawing her forth to Delaford whenever she could contrive it, and while she would not so easily forgive as Elinor, her demeanor did not betray any lingering resentment.
Elinor made the most of the opportunity afforded by the Dashwood's visit to to reaffirm her relationship to her brother, recognizing that familial ties, be they agreeable or not, were vastly important to maintain, especially now that she found herself united closer than ever to him. They often walked together in the mornings when Edward's parish duties kept him occupied, and as Fanny was no great walker, this was an apt time for the siblings to share confidences. It was on one such occasion, towards the end of the Dashwood's stay, that John confessed the following:
"I will not say that I am disappointed, my dear sister," he said, as they past before the gates of Delaford House, "That would be saying too much, for certainly you have been one of the most fortunate young women in the world, as it is. But, I confess, it would give me great pleasure to call Colonel Brandon brother. His property here, his place, his house, every thing is in such respectable and excellent condition!--and his woods!--I have not seen such timber any where in Dorsetshire, as there is now standing in Delaford Hanger!--And though, perhaps, Marianne may not seem exactly the person to attract him--yet I think it would altogether be advisable for you to have them now frequently staying with you, for as Colonel Brandon seems a great deal at home, nobody can tell what may happen--for, when people are much thrown together, and see little of anybody else--and it will always be in your power to set her off to advantage, and so forth;--in short, you may as well give her a chance--You understand me."--
Elinor had the grace to not betray her own hopes in this direction, only smiling her acquisence, but when John renewed the subject with his wife on their journey home to Norland, he was surprised by her response.
"I would not be surprised if that is precisely how matters unfold, and that our next visit to your family will find us staying at the great house."
"But do you think Marianne could atract a man like Colonel Brandon? A year ago, perhaps, but having lost her bloom, I see nothing but the convenience of her company to entrance him. I have suggested to Elinor that she would do well to throw them together quite often."
"You miss a great deal, John. Marianne has almost fully recovered her looks, and her disposition is vastly improved. Her manners used to venture on embarrassing, but she has grown quite presentable. Furthermore, she seeks out the Colonel on the pretense of accessing his library with surprising regularity. I am rather shocked your mother allows it, but she never was able to regulate the conduct of her daughters. Nevertheless, when a young woman sets her cap on an aging bachelor, do not bet against her success."
John, as usual, was quite pleased to embrace his wife's perspective, especially as it conformed so nicely to his own wishes. "Indeed! I think you might be right, my dear. What a match it would be! What timber! Did you take the time to properly observe the hanger?"
"Who could not? It is a vast deal more than Marianne should be any right expect, but I always did think your sisters would do well for themselves. We must have the entire family to Norland soon. You mustn't be neglecting your mother, you know."
“No indeed!” exclaimed John, newly impressed by the infinite wisdom of his wife.