Summary and Analysis
On the following day, the Dashwoods dined at Barton Park. There they met Mrs. Jennings, Lady Middleton's mother, and Colonel Brandon, a friend of Sir John. Sir John apologized for not having a larger circle of people to greet them. Lacking interests of their own, the Middletons were used to entertaining profusely, with multitudes of people and much noise.
During the evening, Marianne entertained at the piano and was "highly applauded," although Sir John and Lady Middleton actually paid no attention to her performance. Colonel Brandon listened quietly, "and she felt a respect for him on the occasion which the others had reasonably forfeited by their shameless want of taste."
Mrs. Jennings liked nothing better than to matchmake, and she teased the girls about the suitors she imagined them to have had at Norland Park. She persisted in saying that Colonel Brandon was "very much in love with Marianne Dashwood." But Marianne was horrified at the idea. To her mother's and Elinor's amusement, she saw the colonel as "an old bachelor," long past romance. He was thirty-five.
Marianne was actually concerned with the progress of her sister's romance. To her mother, she admitted that she was afraid Edward Ferrars must be ill; otherwise he would have come to visit Elinor in the two weeks since they had left. Mrs. Dashwood replied that she did not expect Edward so soon: "If I have felt any anxiety at all on the subject, it has been in recollecting my invitation, when I talked of his coming to Barton." But Marianne cannot understand the strange behavior of either member of the pair. Edward had seemed to show no desire to be alone with Elinor before they left, and Elinor showed none of the traditional signs of lovesickness: "When is she dejected or melancholy? When does she try to avoid society, or appear restless in it?"
Marianne's sensibility shows up amusingly in these chapters. She respects Colonel Brandon because he listens to her performance while the others show "horrible insensibility." But she finds him wanting because his pleasure in music does not amount to "that ecstatic delight which alone could sympathize with her own." Because he speaks of flannel waistcoats, she sees him as old and rheumatic, and feels that any woman interested in someone his age could only expect occupation as a nurse. Elinor is rightly amused by this, observing, "Had he been only in a violent fever, you would not have despised him half so much. Confess, Marianne, is not there something interesting to you in the flushed cheek, hollow eye, and quick pulse of a fever?" This refers to the standard description of a man in love.