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Summary Chapter 31

Marianne continues to wallow in misery. Elinor encourages her to express her feelings and is a sympathetic listener to it all. Marianne goes between blaming and acquitting Willoughby. Her reaction to the rest of the world varies, but she avoids Mrs. Jennings like the plague. She thinks Mrs. Jennings is only kind to her because she is interested in gossip.

Mrs. Jennings brings Marianne a letter. Marianne hopes it is from a repentant Willoughby, but it is from her mother instead. Her disappointment makes her turn on Mrs. Jennings more. However, Mrs. Dashwood continues to be confident that Willoughby will marry Marianne, which increases Marianne’s sorrow. Still, she wants to go home.

Elinor writes to her mother again and updates her on the situation. Mrs. Jennings visits her family to tell them the news.

Colonel Brandon pays a visit, much to Marianne’s irritation. She retreats to her room. He wishes to reveal something about Willoughby that may convince Marianne she is better off without him.

It has something to do with why he left Barton. Awkwardly, he tells Elinor the tale.

He had once loved a girl who was his father’s ward. Marianne resembled her in nature. Eliza was forced to marry Colonel Brandon’s brother. Colonel Brandon had planned to elope with her, but they were betrayed by a maid. Colonel Brandon was sent to live with a distant relative. Eliza was kept practically a prisoner. She married Colonel Brandon’s brother, who was unkind to her. He did not love her. She was miserable.

Two years later, she was divorced from her husband. She had been unfaithful to him several times. Colonel Brandon found her in a debtor’s prison, greatly altered by grief and tuberculosis. He gave her good lodgings and provided comfort until she died. She had a daughter, the product of her first affair, that she left him guardian of.

He placed the child in a school and visited her when he could. Afterwards, she was placed in the house of a woman who took care o of her. He allowed her to go to Bath with one of her friends, and she disappeared there. The friend refused to tell him anything, and her father genuinely knew nothing.

When he received the letter at Barton from her last summer, she had been missing eight months. He had been greatly distressed. Mr. Willoughby had accused him of being uncivil in leaving, but it was because of Willoughby that he had to leave. Willoughby had seduced Colonel Brandon’s ward and had left her. She was pregnant with his child.

Colonel Brandon wasn’t going to interfere with Marianne’s relationship when he thought Willoughby was going to marry her. He hopes, though, that Marainne can console herself, for at least she wasn’t ruined like his ward was. Little Eliza had loved Willoughby just as much and will live forever in self-reproach.

Elinor thanks him. Colonel Brandon had dueled with Willoughby, but neither man had gotten wounded. They parted ways. Colonel Brandon laments how he failed in the trust his love had given him. He has removed his ward and her child to the country.

Jane Austen