Dans Raison & Sentiments de Jane Austen, Marianne Dashwood épouse le colonel Brandon et oublie complètement Willoughby.
Trois ans plus tard, alors que Marianne souhaite marier sa petite soeur Margaret pourtant éprise de liberté, elle revoit Willoughby. Les souvenirs et l'incertitude ne cessent alors de la hanter. En outre, Willoughby est plus charmant et plus amoureux d'elle que jamais. Le colonel Brandon devant s'absenter pour s'occuper de sa pupille, Willoughby en profite pour reconquérir le coeur de Marianne. Aura-t-elle la force de résister ou la tentation d'un amour passé est-elle plus forte ?
La plume pleine d'esprit d'Odiwe n'a rien à envier à celle de la célèbre Jane Austen. Booklist
Un pur délice. Historical Novels Review
Here's Chapter One in English of Willoughby's Return
Marianne Brandon was bursting with news to tell her sister and was so excited at the report that her husband had divulged at breakfast before leaving for Lyme that morning, that she did not consider there to be time enough to don her bonnet. With her chestnut curls escaping from her coiffure to dance in the wind and her scarlet cloak billowing like a great sail behind her, she almost ran down the lane to the parsonage. Knowing that Elinor would probably scold her for not bringing the chaise, she nevertheless had not wanted to be bothered with the inconvenience of having to wait for it. Muddying her boots and the hem of her gown, she took the shortcut across the fields to the lane that separated the two sisters. Yesterday’s storm had left the ground wet but there was the promise of a most delightful day, the autumnal sunshine kissing her cheeks with a blush. Marianne had not wanted to say goodbye to her husband but was resigned to his departure. There was nothing she could say or do to change the situation, she knew that from experience. Glad to be outside in the fresh air, she looked about with contented pleasure, waltzing through the familiar countryside that she was delighted to call her home. Delaford House in the county of Dorset was as dear to her as the former family seat at Norland had been. Marianne knew in her heart that she was a most fortunate young woman.
Elinor was delighted to see her as always, although she was a little surprised at her sister’s slightly dishevelled appearance. “Goodness me, Marianne. Is ought amiss? You look rather harried. Where is little James? Is he well? Anna will be most upset not to see her cousin this morning.”
“How is my darling Anna? I long to kiss her! And where is little Georgie? I must have a cuddle!” Marianne handed her cloak into the arms of a waiting maidservant before arranging herself with much elegance on the sofa in the comfortable sitting room. “I could not bring James with me, he was not yet dressed and in any case I just had to get out into the sunshine. Besides, he wants to look into every hedgerow and chase the falling leaves, and I couldn’t wait to tell you my news. However, before I left I promised he would see his cousin soon. I have had an idea. Anna and James enjoy one another’s company so much, as does our dear mama. What say you to a shopping trip in Exeter the day after tomorrow? It would be such fun. My nursemaid can take our babies in the carriage to Barton Cottage and after you and I have handed them over with our greetings we shall go out in the box barouche!”
Elinor looked at Marianne in disbelief. She wondered if she would ever grow up or if she would for once consider others before she set about on some scheme or other. Colonel William Brandon, Elinor thought, had done much to improve her sister’s character. She was more settled in her habits, more tranquil than she had ever been, and was not quite so prone to as many flights of fancy or as many fits of sensibility as she had been in the past. But three years of married life had done little to really change her. Marianne still had an impetuous nature, she still retained a desire for impulse and enterprises undertaken on the spur of the moment. The Colonel, Elinor felt, indulged Marianne’s whims far too frequently.
“Marianne, you know that would be impossible. I have far too much to do here at present and I do not think Mama will be as pleased as you think to have all her grandchildren at once. Besides, she may have other plans.”
“But Margaret is there, kicking her heels with nothing to do. I am sure she would only be delighted to see her niece and nephews. And I would love to tell Mama and Margaret my news.”
Elinor was firm. “I would love to go shopping on another day, but I really cannot go at the moment. Now, is that what you came to tell me in such a hurry?”
Marianne watched Elinor’s maid set down a tray of lemonade and ratafia biscuits. She could hardly wait for Susan’s starched white cap to disappear through the door before she made her announcement.
“Henry Lawrence is coming home—William’s nephew,” she added, taking in Elinor’s puzzled expression.
“Oh, yes,” Elinor exclaimed, her face breaking into a smile. “I remember hearing about him from Mrs Jennings. He has just completed his studies at Oxford, has he not?”
“Yes, and by all accounts he is not only very handsome but is also a very eligible young man, for he will inherit Whitwell. I have never met him, but I must admit, I am most curious to see him.”
“Whitwell is a very handsome estate; William’s sister made an excellent marriage.”
“She did indeed, though her health has never been good. That is why they stayed in Southern France and Italy for so long, I believe. Hannah tells me that the air and the climate are very well suited to invalids, and is always at pains to point out her abhorrence of the damp atmosphere to be found in the West Country. William worries about his sister so much, but all I can observe is that the Dorsetshire rain does not improve her disposition.” Marianne paused before looking directly into her sister’s eyes. “I have a mind to say that there seems little that would divert a constitution so intent on being ill. I have never seen her without some ailment and I admit it is fortunate that we are not such close neighbours. I have never heard her discuss any subject other than that of herself and then it is only to complain.”
“Perhaps she suffers more than you know, Marianne.”
“That we all suffer in her company is a certainty. You have not met with her above twice in your life and I believe you mistakenly felt that she was quite charming on both occasions. But then, you are not her intimate relation and I suspect you have been taken in.”
“I daresay the entire neighbourhood will be throwing their girls in Mr Lawrence’s path,” said Elinor, changing the course of the conversation. “I expect Miss Strowbridge will have her eye on him before long.”
“Miss Strowbridge, nonsense! He will be entirely suitable for Margaret, do you not think? You must admit there have been few young men to excite the romantic sensibilities of our dear sister to date. Charles Carey was never really suitable, and in any case he has gone to sea. I feel most excited at the prospect. William says Henry was partly educated in France and that he speaks French quite like a native. Not only is he a character of romance but he is also conversant in art, literature, and poetry, preferring our own beloved Cowper. He is quite perfect for Margaret, I should say.”
“Is it wise, dear sister, to be making matches in this way, before the two people in question have even set eyes on one another? Indeed, if his mother is the person you describe, I wonder that you are so keen for Margaret to make such an alliance.”
“Oh, there is no need for our sister to worry. Sir Edgar will adore Margaret; I know he will make certain there are no impediments to a match.”
“Do you not think that the Lawrences will already have a girl in mind, one who may possess a larger dowry than Margaret can claim?”
“I do not think that Margaret’s chances with a fitting suitor are any less than most girls. Despite the lack of money, she is a very handsome girl. She will steal Henry’s heart the moment he looks at her.”
“I imagine that there will not be many opportunities for them to meet however, especially if you are desirous of avoiding your relatives,” added Elinor with a laugh.
“I’ve already thought hard on that particular problem and for Margaret’s happiness I am prepared to make sacrifices. I have decided that we must have a round of social events. Firstly, we will throw a party to welcome him. Nay, a ball, nothing but a ball will do! I shall invite the Wiltons and the Courtneys.”
“And not invite the Strowbridges!”
“I suppose I shall have to invite them, though I know that young minx Selina will do nothing but flaunt herself before Mr Lawrence. Never mind, I shall take Margaret shopping, she shall have a new gown and our ardent suitor will not be able to resist her.”
“I hope all your efforts will not be in vain, Marianne. I suppose you have reflected on the possibility of the lovers detesting one another on sight. And I do hope Henry’s good looks match up to the gossip which no doubt has exaggerated the fairness of every feature.”
“Elinor, it will not be so, I promise you. Margaret will be in love with a very handsome man before the end of the month!”
“How is William?” asked Elinor, keen to move on to another discussion.
“He’s well enough, though he left for Lyme this morning without even touching his breakfast. He has gone to see you-know-who, so I expect I shall not see him until the day after tomorrow.”
“How are Miss Williams and the child?”
“Eliza Williams is another who is always fancying herself unwell and now it seems she has taught her daughter to be sickly also,” answered Marianne, knowing she was being more than a little unkind. She replaced her glass on the table none too quietly. “A begging note and off Brandon runs to attend to his little family. I know I sound churlish, but sometimes, Elinor, it is too hard to bear.”
“Marianne, the Colonel has an obligation to his ward and her daughter. He has never forgiven himself for the death of her mother; you know he could not leave them in distress.”
“I am aware more than anyone that he has not forgotten Eliza’s mother. She is always there, a spectre from the past who will never go away. Well, we all know that she was his first great attachment and for all the fuss he makes of her descendants, I have lately concluded that she was probably his one true love.”
“Oh, Marianne, you are being a little fanciful now. Anyone can see how much you are adored by William.”
“Am I adored, Elinor? Am I really loved for myself alone or because I resemble his first love so much? I sometimes think if it were possible for her to return from the grave I would never see him again.”
“Come now, Marianne, you should not say such things. You are a little upset. Think of what you are saying.”
“I cannot help myself. Elinor, I love him so much and I cannot bear the thought of William spending all that time with a young woman who surely must resemble her mother to perfection.”
“Why do you not visit them together?” Elinor asked, refilling Marianne’s glass as she spoke. “I’m sure if you saw her and her situation you would realise how unfounded your worries must be.”
“I never want to visit them, you know that is impossible,” came her sister’s reply. “Oh, Elinor, however could I see them knowing what happened between Eliza Williams and…the truth is, I could not bear to see the child.” Marianne broke off, unable to carry on.
Elinor looked at her sister’s expression and knew it was useless to continue. An aura of anguish like a ghostly shroud seemed to settle upon her sister’s shoulders. Marianne’s dark eyes flashed, her distress plain to see.
Elinor was vastly relieved when the conversation was interrupted in the next second by the arrival of her children, accompanied by their nurse. Anna, who favoured her aunt so much in looks, chose to break free from her nurse’s restraining hand. She immediately tottered over to her aunt on unsteady legs with outstretched arms. Marianne’s temper was instantly soothed. She laughed, kissed the top of her dark head, and fetched her up onto her lap. There was only a month between Anna and Marianne’s boy, James, and they were as friendly as any two-year-olds could be. Marianne loved her niece and baby nephew very much, though she often thought that her sister curbed and controlled Anna’s behaviour far more than was necessary.
Elinor, on the other hand, who similarly doted on Marianne’s son, felt that her sister was far too liberal with him. If James were spoiled much more, she was sure Marianne would have her hands full. She had often tried to advise her sister with little success and had decided that in the interests of friendly relations between the sisters, it might be prudent to forgo airing her misgivings in future.
The sisters parted before the afternoon was over, promising to meet soon. Elinor tried to insist on her sister having her chaise to take her home but Marianne would not hear of it. She took the same path back but allowed herself to dawdle this time, drinking in the breathtaking views all around. The colours of the leaves on trees and hedgerows were turning to drifts of copper, bronze, and vermillion, a most beautiful sight. The fresh winds shook the leaves from the trees, which rained down on her head like gold coins at a country wedding. Marianne liked to take a walk most days, it helped her to think, to sort out her thoughts and troubles. She had few material problems; her devoted husband saw that she wanted for nothing. Mrs Brandon was very grateful to the Colonel who had taken such pains to court her and bring her to Delaford as his wife. Theirs had been an unusual romance, a second attachment on both sides. She had grown to love him with the slow sweetness of enduring affection, sharing his life with the son whom she could not imagine being without. Yet, she could not entirely shake off the feeling that in her husband’s eyes she would always be deemed second best and that the love he bore for her would never match that of the grand passion he had shared with his first love. On occasion Marianne’s feelings of agitation on these considerations distilled into a sense of dissatisfaction that no intervention nor entertainment would remove. These moods usually coincided with her husband’s travels, especially when he went off visiting his ward. In this frame of mind she would take herself off to walk about the estate, finding that the combination of the exercise and the splendour of her surroundings was usually enough to shake off any feeling of unease. Marianne was devoted to her duties as a wife and mother, which came as naturally to her as breathing the perfume of white Campion in the hedgerows, but on certain days, such as this one, when the heat of summer was giving way to the sweet mellow days of autumn, her restlessness was apt to return. She was reminded of the girl she had been before her marriage; a creature she now felt was a figment of distant memory.
“Marriage has altered me, I know that to be true,” she thought. “Indeed, I wonder why I never noticed before that change seems to be an inevitable truth shared by all the married women I know. Our husbands’ lives carry on in much the same way as they did before they tied the marital knot. William has another life apart from the one he shares with our child and me. How I envy his freedom, his interactions with the world, but most of all I resent those other distractions on which I dread to dwell. I hate him being gone from home to attend to these responsibilities, obligations that belong to a distant age and another woman. I never thought before our marriage that I would feel so jealous and envious of a girl I have never met. In my heart I feel truly sorry for all that happened to Eliza, yet despite what Elinor says nothing will dispel the loneliness or private fears when William is away. Being married has its delights and disappointments. Tied by love and duty, to serve our men and children, I now recognise too well how marriage transforms the female situation.”
She walked along in the sunshine, every scent and sound recalling earlier times, bringing forth the inevitable bitter sweetness of memories. Bending to pick a bunch of blue buttons, the last of the wildflowers from the meadow, she was instantly reminded of a posy once given to her in that first season of happiness, now dry and faded. Held together by a strip of frayed silk ribbon, staining the pages of a favourite poetry book, they belonged to the past.
“John Willoughby,” she said out loud.
Marianne allowed herself to repeat his name but instantly admonished herself for dwelling on the remembrance of former times. Willoughby had used her very ill. At the time she had believed that he was in love with her yet still he had chosen to marry another. He had been her first love and therein rested the problem. If she could not entirely forget Willoughby, who had injured her, how could Brandon ever be freed from the memory of his first love, the woman who had been taken from him by circumstances beyond his control?
“I want to blot Willoughby from my mind, even to hate him,” she said to herself, “yet I know that he will always be a part of my conscious mind that I can do nothing about. I do not want to think of him but I cannot help myself. I love my husband more than life itself, but am I not as guilty as I declare him to be if I allow thoughts from the past to haunt me?”
And she understood why he crept stealthily like a phantom into her thoughts once more. Willoughby was inextricably linked with the Brandons and her husband’s concerns in a way that could never be erased or forgotten by Marianne.
Besides all that, this business of Henry Lawrence coming home was occupying her daydreams more than she would admit. Henry and Margaret were two young people with like minds, she was sure. Perhaps first attachments could end in happiness, without the complications that second ones entailed. A girl with so similar a disposition to her own must be allowed to follow her heart, and Marianne was determined to help her.
Edward Ferrars returned from his parish duties to the comfort of Delaford Parsonage where his wife Elinor was busy supervising the children at tea. The door of the nursery was open and he crept upon the pleasant domestic scene unobserved, to lean against the doorframe and smile at his good fortune. He had loved Elinor the moment he had set eyes on her and, having overcome all the difficulties that had threatened to forestall their happiness, had succeeded in claiming her as his wife. He observed the happy scene. His daughter Anna was chattering to her mother in a most endearing way, whilst George looked about him, cradled in his mother’s arms.
“I expect he will be just like me before he is much older,” Edward thought, “happy to sit back and observe his surroundings, letting the conversation flow with little attempt at joining in.”
Elinor was cutting up slices of cake with her free hand and appeared rather pensive, though to all intents and purposes, was engaged in attending to her little girl. He could always tell when she was immersed in her thoughts, her eyes darted from one place to another and her brows knitted together. Edward wondered what she could be worrying about.
“Papapapapa,” shouted Anna, who had suddenly spied her father and pointed at him with a chubby finger.
Elinor rose immediately to greet him, the ribbons fluttering on her cap in her haste to reach his side, a smile replacing her frown.
“Edward, you are just in time for tea. I will ask Susan to fetch some more tea things. Come, sit down and tell us all about your day. How are Mrs Thomas and all her family? I do hope she enjoyed your basket of vegetables and the bread and honey. I did not imagine on my marriage that I would be blessed with both a gardener and a bee charmer for a husband, but then I know I should never be surprised at your talents, my dear.”
“Mrs Thomas enjoyed her bread and honey very much, Elinor,” he replied, dropping a kiss on Anna’s curly head before picking her up in his arms. “She is feeling much better and now the weather has improved she expects to be very cheerful.”
“Well, that is good news.” Elinor paused. She wanted to tell Edward about Marianne’s visit, to admit her misgivings about her sibling’s present state of mind. She had not seen her sister’s spirits so unsettled for a while and she was concerned. She knew perfectly well what was behind it all and could only guess at what other fancies disturbed the balance of Marianne’s mind. Elinor decided she would say nothing of her fears for the present. “Marianne has been to visit us today and told us that Henry Lawrence of Whitwell is coming home at last.”
Edward hardly attended. He had Anna on his knee and she was demanding the clapping game she loved so much. “I am glad you had your sister for company,” came his reply.