A Man of Five-and-Thirty
Part 1 -- Colonel Brandon stirs
Another invitation from the Middletons. Colonel Brandon found himself smiling as he recognized the often sent invitation from Barton Park. Bless them though at times they could be too intrusive for their obvious good will and generosity never failed to cheer him up and levitate his mood into somewhat brighter shade. He knew that Sir John had new tenants in the cottage near Barton Park and the party consisted of a mother and her two daughters who are reputed to be beauties. However he was very well aware of what "beauty" denotes in the society and was not inclined to favor such women. But spending time amongst cheerful society and fresh faces was favorable to spending his while alone so the Colonel readied himself to spend what was hopefully a nice holiday among his old and new neighbors.
He rode his trusty mare and trotted off to Barton Park. His carriage following close behind. His servants knew his love of riding and no longer questioned this strange habit of Brandon's. He does not cut the dashing figure of a hero on his horseback but his soldiering days taught him to be a comfortable rider and he rode with generous ease as he guided his horse towards the familiar path to the Middletons. He entered the hall and immediately heard Mrs. Jennings and smiled. The vivacious and loquacious mother of Lady Middleton would be full of talk and wit. And Colonel Brandon was in such a mood to have his ear filled with nonsensical and humorous talk. His personal business was troubling him enough in day and night so much that he granted tonight to dedicate himself in some innocent pleasures. He was greeted warmly by the master and mistress of Barton Park and was immediately shown to his room to freshen himself.
Later Colonel Brandon went downstairs and entered the room where he heard voices overflowing. He almost undid his entrance as he tripped himself in shock. There in the sofa with the dying sun melting over them were the new guests of Sir John's generosity. The mother sat between her daughters and it was immediate to anyone's eyes where the daughters' beauty came from. There was the same visage of delicate nature and fair complexion. The rich auburn hair flowed through the women with abundance and color making sham of any hats or ribbons they were wearing. Miss Dashwood was a stately lady, her face clear and eyes sparkling of careful intelligence. His noted with great pleasure the huskiness and cadence of her voice and was immediately charmed by her obvious good will. Then his eyes set upon Marianne as he was introduced and felt himself move as he once did in youth. She was even fairer than her older sister and had other charms to recommend herself. She had a sweet and open smile and those eyes were dark and rich with life and and spirit. He was disturbed to feel so great an emotion regarding this lovely girl that he immediately withdrew into his stately shell. With alarming immediacy he berated himself that looks alone cannot make a woman more than a pretty trinket upon a man's arms.
Then Margaret Dashwood, the youngest of the lot pertly introduced herself before Sir John got in a word and drew from the colonel a handsome smile only the young girl recognized and appreciated.
However as the party proceeded through dinner he realized that the Dashwood ladies were truly women of good birth, breeding, intelligence and uncommon wit. Matching that with disarming candor and unspoiled characters they were in short the most intoxicating group he had the good fortune to come across. The sisters were young with Marianne not yet seventeen but he could not help himself admire her obvious passion in well, everything. Colonel Brandon was frankly at a loss on how to conduct himself in company such as this and this kept him a dour dinner companion indeed. Then to his great pleasure Marianne was found to love and perform music, an art which he dare not recommend himself. But Mrs. Jennings and others in the party soon convinced the young lady to playing the neglected pianoforte and soon the room was filled with her lovely voice. Brandon thought her singing untrained but admirable. She was beautiful and talented he thought and felt fortunate that he was invited to Barton Park to spend the evening in such company as this. However the others save Lady Middleton and Miss Dashwood were in lack of taste and true appreciation of music to pay full attention to the performer. Sir John even carried on conversations during the whole performance. Feeling acutely embarassed by his host's behavior Colonel Brandon gave Marianne his full attention and was pleased to find her grateful for it.
Marianne finished to everyone's overflowing and embarassing praise but Brandon kept silent. Whatever he wished to express was well and overdone by others. At the end of the evening Mrs. Dashwood invited them over for dinner the very next day and he found himself actually humming that morning while already preparing his wardrobe for the evening! He decided to contrive some information of his fair neighbors from Sir John to see if there was any help they may need. Women of their stature and breeding should not be living on the kindness and in some cottage! Though he did not know it the sharp eyes of Mrs. Jennings already ferreted out his preference for the fair Marianne and was planning his marriage out already. He was very well settled with money and estate. His reputation was unblemished and was admired by all though very few if any could claim his personal friendship. But most of all a bachelor as he would be a prize to any single lady of good reputation and Mrs. Jennings quite liked the young and lovely Marianne Dashwood. Thus a match between the two would be absolutely necessary for the match-making momma of Barton Park. All her suspicions were confirmed when Colonel Brandon came down dressed with utmost style and care that she ever saw him in and barely held her tongue regarding Marianne in their ride to the cottage.
When they reached their destination Brandon became enraged. He heard their unfortunate story from Sir John and was almost in a mood that morning to thrash John Dashwood out of Norland. How dare he set out the wife of his father and his daughters to this state of genteel poverty? The ladies should be and deserved to be in the finest things in life. They should be traveling in style and in societies that the most elegant can offer! Yet here they are in Devonshire with the income of five hundred a year cut off from good society where the daughters can make handsome matches. The thought bounced in his head with more fire when he entered the tiny cottage. However the occupants' cheerful personalities flowed into their humble home and there were wild flowers cut and setted everywhere. The windows were bright and the place smelled of fresh herbs and grass. He then saw the exquisite pianoforte placed next to the window in the sitting room and knew that it belonged to Marianne. So that was what she once had he sadly mused and now this is what she is reduced to. He was determined that once spring came he would offer his services to repair and set this cottage to right. A new coat of paint, a fixed and working chimney and perhaps an addition to the cottage would make the ladies much more comfortable. He quickly calculated out his needs for the spring season and overran them with theirs. He needed nothing, was comfortable in his bachelor home but these ladies lacked so much! The dinner was not as fine as the one in Barton Park and he felt the quiet embarassment of Mrs. Dashwood but the guests noticed no lack nor said anything if they did and the conversations flowed freely with laughter and amusement. He noticed the real gaiety and happiness the sisters shared and knew that many a richer ladies lacked half their joy in much more sumptuous surroundings. Colonel Brandon no longer felt ill towards John Dashwood for when that fool let this party leave Norland, he let the heart of the place escape. After the meal they squeezed into the sitting room to once again hear Marianne play. There Brandon noticed Elinor's drawings decorating the walls and believed the daughters all to be artistically gifted. But such art supplies are expensive he thought with some depression and determined himself to make a proper gift of them to Miss Elinor Dashwood when the Christmas festivities made its round in Devonshire. He had money, he had influence and was determined to use it on behalf of this lovely group for he believed no one more deserving, especially Miss Marianne Dashwood. He did not know it yet but Colonel Brandon quite lost his heart in those hours in Barton Park.
Part 2 -- The unfailing colonel
Willoughby and Marianne do make a handsome pair Brandon thought as he gazed at the couple dancing. He was handsome as she was beautiful, charming as she was gay and lively as Marianne was passionate. All together a lovely pair, made more darling by the grand fall weather and the hopes of everyone familiar with the couple. When Willoughby's presence in Barton Cottage was firmed Brandon was cast aside like an old doll. He knew this but felt no bitterness against the neglect inflicted upon his person. In every comparison the younger man of five and twenty exceled against the Colonel. He was handsome, literate, poetic and charming. He knew every sort of dance, every bit of gossip and can entertain for hours. Even Brandon felt the charm brush against his person and did not bristle against the invasion. Marianne was happy, she was glad and her brightness shone even more beautiful under such care by Willoughby. Her laughter even rang clearer in Brandon's soul and for that he cannot hate his rival. Brandon knew no grand and romantic poetry for his studies were in serious subjects. Then his military career came upon him and he was thrusted into most serious and at times miserable conditions in the East Indies. This stage taught Brandon to be sparse, laconic and somewhat miserly with his words. He knew no small talk save for hunting and fishing. He could dance but knew he looked only tolerable to ladies' eyes and his fashion, well, again the military has deprived him of that branch of learning completely. He did not feel this deprivation though until Marianne came along with her abundant charms and flowing beauty. He could never be a good partner against her dancing, it would be like matching a bear to a hummingbird. He could never recite poetry to her like for he could never emphasize the proper words at the correct moment. As to fashion he thought with great irony he once mentioned he was in want of flannel waistcoats and later to his chagrin Mrs. Jennings informed him that Marianne Dashwood invariably attached the want of that particular fashion to old age and infirmity. He never spoke of fashion again. To Anyone.
To describe the Colonel as handsome would be too charitable. To describe him as ugly would be a lie. He was a lean man made leaner in his years as a soldier, his face showed some of the sufferings the man had lived through but his eyes were always kind and attentive. When they focused upon a person the subject was well aware she had all the attention. His face was neither delicate nor dark, the color of his eyes were grey and blue, changing with his emotions and reflecting none of it. His nose was sharp though made crooked somewhat for a fall from a horse but his hair was thick and rich with streaks of amber and even lighter colors created by the merciless tropical sun. His voice was slow in forming thus giving the man something of an idiotic poise but his wit was never in want of sharpening. However he did not posess sarcasm which so many intelligents use to downcast others. And he could never berate those below him nor suffer the foolishness of those above him. Colonel Brandon's character was buried far beneath the surface of his society so much that if one in earnest wish to discover the man they must arm themselves with time, patience and outright cunning to discover this jewel. However once found as Sir John did Brandon became indispensible. A good man incapable of falsehood, direct in his actions and thinking, posessing unfailing kindness and generosity he was esteemed in any society, high and low. He could be a constant companion and attentive gentleman to ladies whose charms are few. His praises are so carefully done that when given they are taken for truths rather than as opinions. And this man is thrown aside for a fairer rival who never suffers for lack of words, charm and music. The dance ended and the couple sat down together talking in low voices and speaking of trivialities that eluded the colonel. Brandon could no longer take the snub from Marianne tonight and retired from the party. He sat in the darkness of his room and summoned to his presence the spectre of his beloved Eliza. But the ghost that came was that of fair Marianne. He almost laughed out loud for the sheer irony of it all. How many years had he prayed to banish that tragic memory from his life? To actually forget for a moment his miserable love affair with Eliza? Then once it was accomplished not by some happiness but by the stinging design of fate that another, equally miserable situation has replaced the former one. But there was one solace, one small but great comfort for in the current situation Brandon would not need to bury the object of his affection in a graveyard. It was indeed a small comfort, but one that he clung to with all his might.
The next day Brandon made a discovery of an intimate nature about the kind Miss Elinor Dashwood. It seemed that she had formed an attachment to a gentleman whose name began with an F. The unfortunate lady tried to turn the conversation but to her vexation the youngest of the Dashwood sisters foiled her attempts until he and Lady Middleton turned the coversation to a more blase topic of the weather. Then to his delight Sir John recommended that they all visit his brother-in-law's grounds in Whitwell. The plans were set by Sir John and Brandon's quiet eagerness and the parties looked forward to the next morn.
Breakfast was served at ten and the rainy weather as if to give pleasure to the party's plans disappeared altogether. Even Brandon was in a talking form and was greatly entertaining the young Margaret Dashwood about his days in the East when he received the letter that destroyed his day.
We have found the young Miss Elizabeth Williams. She is with a child and abandoned here in the worst part of London. She is barely alive and left with very little sense and even lesser desire to live. Please come to __street at ___ address and hurry. Time will not be kind to this poor creature.
Jonathan T. Marcus, esq."
He lost all color to his face and his hands trembled upon reading the words. Eliza, my child what have you done? He stood up and excused himself dashing towards his room shouting his orders like a soldier to ready his horses. His personal manservant saw the Colonel and immediately began packing even before the man had reached him to give the orders. Grabbing his riding coat and sturdy hat Brandon told his men to meet him in his London abode without delay. He dashed into the breakfast room and saw the shocked faces.
"No bad news, Colonel, I hope?" inquired the ever curious Mrs. Jennings. He curtly replied, "None at all, ma'am, I thank you."
"Was it from Avignon? I hope it is not to say that your sister is worse?" She continued to prod. Damn the woman! He continued with his cold tone "No, ma'am. It came 'from town, and is merely a letter of business."
"But how came the hand to discompose you so much, if it was only a letter of business? Come, come, this won't do, Colonel; so let us hear the truth of it." Brandon nearly bowed and left right there for he could no longer stand her curiosity.
"My dear madam,recollect what you are saying." Lady Middleton severely reminded her mother. But the lady will not be foiled.
"Perhaps it is to tell you that your cousin Fanny is married?"
"No, indeed, it is not." He continued through clenched teeth.
"Well, then, I know who it is from, Colonel. And I hope she is well."
"Whom do you mean, ma'am?" Of course she would know something of little Eliza but dear L-rd, not all of it.
"Oh! you know who I mean."
"I am particularly sorry, ma'am,that I should receive this letter to-day, for it is on business which requires my immediate attendance in town." He started to give his formal excuse and reason for his unscheduled departure. But Lady Jennings would not let him escape that easily.
"In town!" she cried out "What can you have to do in town at this time of year?"
"My own loss is greatin being obliged to leave so agreeable a party; but I am the more concerned, as I fear my presence is necessary to gain your admittance at Whitwell."
He saw Marianne's obvious disappointment and was saddened to be the cause to downcast her one whit.
"But if you write a note to the housekeeper, Mr. Brandon will it not be sufficient?" She really did want to go he thought but answered with a shake of his head.
"We must go. It shall not be put off when we are so near it. You cannot go to town till to-morrow, Brandon, that is all."
Now even Sir John has joined in the fray.
"I wish it could be so easily settled. But it is not in my power to delay my journey for one day!" His apology as sincere as it was showed the determination of the man to part company immediately.
"If you would but let us know what your business is, we might see whether it could be put off or not." still probed the loquacious Mrs. Jennings. Then Willoughby came into Mrs. Jennings' party.
"You would not be six hours later,if you were to defer your journey till our return."
"I cannot afford to lose one hour."
Then he overheard a not very discreet whisper between Marianne and Willoughby that pained him even further.
"There are some people who cannot bear a party of pleasure. Brandon is one of them. He was afraid of catching cold, I dare say, and invented this trick for getting out of it. I would lay fifty guineas the letter was of his own writing."
"I have no doubt of it," Marianne conspired. And Brandon felt his heart break even further. That was hardly fair he thought and for the first time he thought his younger rival mean spirited.
"There is no persuading you to change your mind, Brandon, know of old. When once you are determined on anything. But, however, I hope you will think better of it. Consider: here are the two Miss Careys come over from Newton, the three Misses Dashwood walked up from the cottage, and Mr. Willoughby got up two hours before his usual time, on purpose to go to Whitwell."
He once again gave a true apology to the whole table but stood firm about his intentions and Sir John laid his hand in defeat, "Well, then, when will you come back again?"
"I hope we shall see you at Barton. As soon as you can conveniently leave town; and we must put off the party to Whitwell till you return." Lady Middleton finally added.
"You are very obliging. But it is so uncertain when I may have it in my power to return that I dare not engage for it at all."
"Oh! he must and shall come back! If he is not here by the end of the week, I shall go after him."
"Ay, so do, Sir John. And then perhaps you may find out what his business is." Damn the woman for her curiosity! Can she not see how difficult this was to him?
"I do not want to pry into other men's concerns. I suppose it is something he is ashamed of." Sir John warned his mother-in-law thus giving the woman no great task of silencing her tongue.
His ride was announced ready.
"You do not go to town on horseback, do you?" inquired his friend
"No. Only to Honiton. I shall then go post."
"Well, as you are resolved to go, I wish you a good journey. But you had better change your mind."
"I assure you it is not in my power." He then gave his farewells to everyone with a heavy heart that was visible save the one that mattered to him the most. So he inquired Elinor about their possible stay in London this Winter and to his sadness found none at all.
"Then I must bid you farewell for a longer time than I should wish to do." His voice was sincere and he was grateful to see the oldest Miss Dashwood give him a sympathetic smile. He could not say words to Marianne and just bowed for her cruel words still rang in his mind. Mrs. Jennings tried one more time to find his purpose in London. "Come Colonel! Before you go, do let us know what you are going about." That broke his good will and she was bestowed with a gaze that truly did freeze her tongue. This was followed by equally severe look from her son-in-law who left with Colonel Brandon to see him off.
Farewell sweet Marianne he thought for the next time I see you you may no longer have the name of Dashwood!
Then turning his mind towards Eliza with that steel will Brandon rushed off to save his precious charge, his one good memory from his first love. And he vowed action for honor and justice demanded that he discover the name of the scoundrel who did this to Eliza and kill him.
Part 3 -- Treachery abounds in London
Mr. Marcus stared at the man sitting before him and felt himself near tears for the undeserved misery Colonel Brandon was forced to bear. Mr. Marcus has one son whose mother died at childbirth in spite of all the care money can afford. And when his sweet Esmeralda was buried the father doted his whole life to his one son, Sebastian. The boy growing under such indulgence became cruel and wasteful. Unable to guide his son any longer the father marched him off the the regiment that Colonel Brandon was serving. And under this most distinguished and calming influence the boy became a man of good standing and honorable nature. Mr. Marcus found himself grateful for Colonel Brandon's influence and quickly made friendship with the man. And Colonel Brandon improved upon acquaintance so much that Mr. Marcus could deny him nothing. So when the Colonel asked him for his aid in locating his missing charge Mr. Marcus was all too happy to comply and used his vast resources in London to locate the girl. After many weeks Mr. Marcus accomplished his task but was shocked at Miss Williams' current living condition and situation. So much that to spare Brandon of any more downfall Mr. Marcus whisked the girl away to a good home establishing private care and nurse to attend to the child's every needs. But this did too little and Brandon felt the full blow of shame and humiliation that his little Eliza suffered. So much that he relentlessly hounded out the name of the scoundrel. However when he did discover it to be Willoughby of Combe Magna the man went into a rage Mr. Marcus had never witnessed and chased this savage out at his residence in Bond Street. A duel was thrown and accepted but the killing never took place. Mr. Marcus was curious to know the story of this but was far wiser in his knowledge of Brandon and ventured no questions. If this wasn't enough this very villain has attached himself to a young lady named Marianne Dashwood who holds the Colonel's greatest respect, love and esteem. So unfair was this that Mr. Marcus nearly damned the silly chit to her choice but the tone and voice the Colonel used in describing the young lady forbade him from ever uttering a disagreeable term against Marianne Dashwood. Then more shocking news came by regarding Mr. Willoughby. The man in order to evade his mounting debts decided to marry Miss Grey. Mr. Marcus knew the lady had a fortune of 50,000 pounds. But he found that was the only charm the lady could offer. She was not very pretty and was of shrewish temper that her guardians, particularly Mrs. Ellison was rather glad to be rid of her. Good. Damn both of them to each other and leave the rest in peace. But peace was nowhere to be found near the Colonel and Mr. Marcus saw his pains slowly cutting the man away by degrees. But the complaints and pains were never about his own person for the Colonel was desperately worried about the state that Marianne was under. The news coming from that quarter was ill indeed. It seems that the young lady disappeared from society and is suffering under severe distress.
Now Brandon was in front of him asking his opinion, should he reveal Willoughby's true character to the Dashwoods or leave them to their current opinion of the man? Mr. Marcus gave a strong answer. "The villain needs to be seen as such. If Miss Marianne Dashwood knew what her fate could have been Brandon she could only be glad to have avoided at such cost, any cost, even the one she is suffering under. Go to them man, and tell them your story. You have the right, and the duty to expose this animal."
Brandon trusting his old friend and sought out the Dashwood sisters the next morning.
He saw no Marianne but saw Miss Dashwood and felt himself safe within her understanding of himself and her unbending love for her sister. But how can he tell such an awful tale to such a genuine lady? How can he convince her that he meant no other motive then to relieve Marianne of her suffering with his horrible story? Colonel Brandon almost retreated right there but his conscience and his heart made him unable to escape that room and slowly he spun his side of the story regarding the inexcusable Willoughby.
"I met Mrs. Jennings in Bond Street, and she encouraged me to come on; and I was the more easily encouraged, because I thought it probable that I might find you alone, which I was very desirous of doing. My object- my wish- my sole wish in desiring it- I hope, I believe it is- is to be a means of giving comfort:- no, I must not say comfort- not present comfort- but conviction, lasting conviction to your sister's mind. My regard for her, for yourself, for your mother- will you allow me to prove it, by relating some circumstances which nothing but a very sincere regard- nothing but an earnest desire of being useful- I think I am justified- though where so many hours have been spent in convincing myself that I am right, is there not some reason to fear I may be wrong?" Colonel Brandon could not believe how poor his words were and was ashamed. If Miss Dashwood could conceive what he wanted to accomplish then she truly was a dear lady. And she as her character proclaimed did exactly that.
"I understand you. You have something to tell me of Mr. Willoughby, that will open his character farther. Your telling it will be the greatest act of friendship that can be shown Marianne. My gratitude will be ensured immediately by any information tending to that end, and hers must be gained by it in time. Pray, pray let me hear it."
"You shall; and, to be brief, when I quitted Barton last October,but this will give you no idea- I must go farther back. You will find me a very awkward narrator, Miss Dashwood; I hardly know where to begin. A short account of myself, I believe, will be necessary, and it shall be a short one. On such a subject can I have little temptation to be diffuse." Gathering his courage wrung from what little he had left he began to tell the dreadful tale.
"You have probably entirely forgotten a conversation- (it is not to be supposed that it could make any impression on you)- a conversation between us one evening at Barton Park- it was the evening of a dance in which I alluded to a lady I had once known, as resembling, in some measure, your sister Marianne."
"Indeed,I have not forgotten it." Bless her, encouraged by her kind tone the Colonel went on, "If I am not deceived by the uncertainty, the partiality of tender recollection, there is a very strong resemblance between them, as well in mind as person. The same warmth of heart, the same eagerness of fancy and spirits. This lady was one of my nearest relations, an orphan from her infancy, and under the guardianship of my father.
Our ages were nearly the same, and from our earliest years we were playfellows and friends. I cannot remember the time when I did not love Eliza; and my affection for her, as we grew up, was such, as, perhaps, judging from my present forlorn and cheerless gravity, you might think me incapable of having ever felt. Hers, for me, was, I believe, fervent as the attachment of your sister to Mr. Willoughby, and it was, though from a different cause, no less unfortunate. At seventeen she was lost to me for ever. She was married- married against her inclination to my brother. Her fortune was large, and our family estate much encumbered. And this, I fear, is all that can be said for the conduct of one, who was once her uncle and guardian. My brother did not deserve her; he did not even love her. I had hoped that her regard for me would support her under any difficulty, and for some time it did; but at last the misery of her situation, for she experienced great unkindness, overcame all her resolution, and though she had promised me that nothing- but how blindly I relate! I have never told you how this was brought on. We were within a few hours of eloping together for Scotland. The treachery, or the folly, of my cousin's maid betrayed us. I was banished to the house of a relation far distant, and she was allowed no liberty, no society, no amusement, till my father's point was gained. I had depended on her fortitude too far, and the blow was a severe one;- but had her marriage been happy, so young as I then was, a few months must have reconciled me to it, or at least I should not have now to lament it. This, however, was not the case. My brother had no regard for her; his pleasures were not what they ought to have been, and from the first he treated her unkindly. The consequence of this, upon a mind so young, so lively, so inexperienced as Mrs. Brandon's, was but too natural. She resigned herself at first to all the misery of her situation; and happy had it been if she had not lived to overcome those regrets which the remembrance of me occasioned. But can we wonder that, with such a husband to provoke inconstancy, and without a friend to advise or restrain her (for my father lived only a few months after their marriage, and I was with my regiment in the East Indies), she should fall? Had I remained in England, perhaps,- but I meant to promote the happiness of both by removing from her for years, and for that purpose had procured my exchange. The shock which her marriage had given me was of trifling weight was nothing to what I felt when I heard, about two years afterwards, of her divorce. It was that which threw this gloom,- even now the recollection of what I suffered-" He could bear it no more. It was his fault, he should not have run away. He should have stayed and protected Eliza against his brother whom Brandon hated still. If he had done his duty, nay his obligation to Eliza she would be alive today. Standing up he tried to gain his momentum and finding no success he turned to the lady for comfort and found her all kindness. Grateful once again he gave her hand a kiss of respect and humility.
"It was nearly three years after this unhappy period before I returned to England. My first care, when I did arrive, was of course to seek for her; but the search was as fruitless as it was melancholy. I could not trace her beyond her first seducer, and there was every reason to fear that she had removed from him only to sink deeper in a life of sin. Her legal allowance was not adequate to her fortune, nor sufficient for her comfortable maintenance; and I learnt from my brother that the power of receiving it had been made over some months before to another person. He imagined, and calmly could he imagine it, that her extravagance, and consequent distress, had obliged her to dispose of it for some immediate relief. At last, however, and after I had been six months in England, I did find her. Regard for a former servant of my own, who had since fallen into misfortune, carried me to visit him in a spunging-house, where he was confined for debt; and there, the same house, under a similar confinement, was my unfortunate sister. So altered- so faded- worn down by acute suffering of every kind! hardly could I believe the melancholy and sickly figure before me, to be the remains of the lovely, blooming, healthful girl, on whom I had once doted. What I endured in so beholding her- but I have no right to wound your feelings by attempting to describe it- I have pained you too much already. That she was, to all appearance, in the last stage of a consumption, was- yes, in such a situation, it was my greatest comfort. Life could do nothing for her, beyond giving time for a better preparation for death; and that was given. I saw her placed in comfortable lodgings, and under proper attendants; I visited her every day during the rest of her short life: I was with her in her last moments."
Miss Elinor Dashwood asked a question with gentleness for she saw that the Colonel would break under the lightest of voices.
"Your sister, I hope, cannot be offended by the resemblance I have fancied between her and my poor disgraced relation.
Their fates, their fortunes, cannot be the same; and had the natural sweet disposition of the one been guarded by a firmer mind, or a happier marriage, she might have been all that you will live to see the other be. But to what does all this lead? I seem to have been distressing you for nothing. Ah! Miss Dashwood- a subject such as this- untouched for fourteen years- it is dangerous to handle it at all! I will be more collected- more concise. She left to my care her only child, a little girl, the offspring of her first guilty connection, who was then about three years old. She loved the child, and had always kept it with her. It was a valued, a precious trust to me; and gladly would I have discharged it in the strictest sense,by watching over her education myself, had the nature of our situations allowed it; but I had no family, no home; and my little Eliza was, therefore, placed at school. I saw her there whenever I could; and after the death of my brother (which happened about five years ago, and which left to me the possession of the family property), she visited me at Delaford. I called her a distant relation; but I am well aware that I have in general been suspected of a much nearer connection with her. It is now three years ago (she had just reached her fourteenth year) that I removed her from school, to place her under the care of a very respectable woman, residing in Dorsetshire, who had the charge of four or five other girls of about the same time of life; and for two years I had every reason to be pleased with her situation. But last February, almost a twelvemonth back, she suddenly disappeared. I had allowed her (imprudently, as it has since turned out), at her earnest desire, to go to Bath with one of her young friends, who was attending her father there, for his health. I knew him to be a very good sort of man, and I thought well of his daughter better than she deserved; for, with a most obstinate and ill-judged secrecy, she would tell nothing, would give no clue, though she certainly knew all. He, her father, a well-meaning, but not a man, could really, I believe, give no information; for he had been generally confined to the house, while the girls were ranging over the town, and making what acquaintance they chose; and he tried to convince me, as thoroughly as he was convinced himself, of his daughter's being entirely unconcerned in the business. In short, I could learn nothing but that she was gone, all the rest, for eight long months, was left to conjecture. What I thought, what I feared, may be imagined; and what I suffered too." Miss Dashwood's face turned pale when she realized what had happened. "Good Heavens! Could it be- could Willoughby!"-
"The first news that reached me of her, came in a letter from herself, last October. It was forwarded to me from Delaford, and I received it on the very morning of our intended party to Whitwell; and this was the reason of my leaving Barton so suddenly, which I am sure must at the time have appeared strange to everybody, and which I believe gave offence to some. Little did Mr.Willoughby imagine, I suppose, when his looks censured me for incivility in breaking up the party, that I was called away to the relief of one whom he had made poor and miserable; but had he known it, what would it have availed? Would he have been less gay or less happy in the smiles of your sister? No, he had already done that, which no man who can feel for another would do. He had left the girl whose youth and innocence he had seduced in a situation of the utmost distress, with no creditable home, no help, no friends, ignorant of his address! He had left her, promising to return; he neither returned, nor wrote, nor relieved her." His anger once again gave him uncharacteristic need to speak and he ended his sentence with vehemence.
"This is beyond every thing!" Elinor stated with shock.
"His character is now before you,- expensive, dissipated, and worse than both. Knowing all this, as I have now known it many weeks, guess what I must have felt on seeing your sister as fond of him as ever, and on being assured that she was to marry him: guess what I must have felt for all your sakes. When I came to you last week and found you alone, I came determined to know the truth; though irresolute what to do when it was known. My behaviour must have seemed strange to you then; but now you will comprehend it. To suffer you all to be so deceived; to see your sister- but what could I do? I had no hope of interfering with success; and sometimes I thought your sister's influence might yet reclaim him. But now, after such dishonorable usage, who can tell what were his designs on her. Whatever they may have been, however, she may now, and hereafter doubtless will, turn with gratitude towards her own condition, when she compares it with that of my poor Eliza; when she considers the wretched and hopeless situation of this poor girl, and pictures her to herself, with an affection for him so strong, still as strong as her own, and with a mind tormented by self-reproach, which must attend her through life. Surely this comparison must have its use with her. She will feel her own sufferings to be nothing: they proceed from no misconduct, and can bring no disgrace. On the contrary, every friend must be made still more her friend by them. Concern for her unhappiness, and respect for or her fortitude under it, must strengthen every attachment. Use your own discretion, however, in communicating to her what I have told you. You must know best what will be its effect; but had I not seriously, and from my heart believed it might be of service, might lessen her regrets, I would not have suffered myself to trouble you with this account of my family afflictions,- with a recital which may seem to have been intended to raise myself at the expense of others."
Miss Dashwood was indeed grateful for this information and promised him to his satisfaction that Marianne will receive his news with utmost care and speed.
"I have been more pained by her endeavors to acquit him than by all the rest; for it irritates her mind more than the mostperfect conviction of his unworthiness can do. Now, though at first she will suffer much, I am sure she will soon become easier. Have you ever seen Mr.Willoughby since you left him at Barton?" Brandon would have lied then would it have been in his character but he could not and gave the serious truth.
"Yes once I have. One meeting was unavoidable."
She gazed at him with worry, "What! have you met him to-"
"I could meet him no other way. Eliza had confessed to me, though most reluctantly, the name of her lover; and when he returned to town, which was within a fortnight after myself, we met by appointment; he to defend, I to punish his conduct. We returned unwounded, and the meeting, therefore, never got abroad."
He was grateful she gave no opinion on this matter and continued.
"Such has been the unhappy resemblance between the fate of mother and daughter; and so imperfectly have I discharged my trust."
Elinor almost felt the need to tell him that he is not guilty of either tragedies but believed it to be useless so she questioned him about Eliza. "Is she still in town?"
"No; as soon as she recovered from her lying-in, for I found her near her delivery, I removed her and her child into the country, and there she remains."
Elinor gave him her profuse thanks and wishes for his charge. Brandon left that home feeling relieved and that perhaps he did convey the information with the utmost sincerity of honesty and good will. If he had heard Elinor he would have known it as the truth.
Part 4: To Lose Another
Later on the evening Colonel Brandon became terrified with irrational fear that he has transgressed upon the good souls of the Dashwoods by telling them such horrible tale. Ladies of gentle birth and nature should never be exposed to such horrors yet there he was his tongue fairly galloping to unload the words onto poor Miss Dashwood. Ashamed he tried to avoid their society but his love and worry for Marianne made that feat impossible. Within days he found himself yet again in the parlor greeted by the sweet smile of the oldest Dashwood sister and later Marianne joined them in spite of her melancholy. She said few words but they were so kindly given his soul finally found some solace. Her gentle voice soothed him like never before and she gave signs of good-will that even Colonel Brandon found himself in innocent surprise.
Willoughby's marriage was announced to no one's delight and to Colonel Brandon's quiet celebration. Let the couple be gone and never be seen in their society again! Two days afterwards the Colonel finally met the Steeles whose manner and words were such obvious contrast to those of the Dashwoods he wondered how Mrs. Jennings could stand their simpering behavior and cloying goodness. There were awful minutes in which he believed he was the target of Miss Lucy Steele's wishes for which sent him fairly running out of the house.
Then he had the unfortunate luck of running into John Dashwood, the brother of the Dashwood sisters for whom Colonel Brandon had little regard. The only impression this brother left on the Colonel after the meeting was that he could leave none for his character was not one to leave much mark upon a person. However he was invited to dine by the brother and accepted with grace for he was determined to see that Marianne be comfortable. Miss Dashwood could see much of that however by the number of people invited for this dinner Miss Dashwood might be distracted from Marianne and Colonel Brandon would be there to give comfort however he could. Elinor Dashwood was once again grateful for his presence for Marianne could not stay in the party for long in spirit and bursted into tears. However she recovered and sat bravely with Elinor and the Colonel. Later John Dashwood foolishly whispered to him, "Poor Marianne! She has not such good health as her sister-she is very nervous-she has not Elinor's constitution; one must allow that there is something very trying to a young woman who has been a beauty, in the loss of her personal attractions. You would not think it perhaps, but Marianne was remarkably handsome few months ago-quite as handsome as Elinor. Now you see it is all gone." If there was a soul on this earth that John Dashwood should not have exposed such words it was Colonel Brandon. And the Colonel slowly spun to face this callous brother and gave his opinion in a tone that negated any response. "Miss Marianne Dashwood was a beauty from the day she was born sir, and will be until the day she dies. As her brother I suggest you concern yourself more with her health than her looks. And if you can neither expand the energy nor the funds to ensure that course then please refrain from such comments." He left that party that evening giving no leave to that odious man. The only happy bit of news from the miserable February month was that Mrs. Palmer gave birth to a baby boy, an heir to his father's estate and this gave everyone some measure of relief. For a baby was a safe topic to discuss indeed! Then another piece of news hit their already strained society but this was a blow not upon the younger but the older Miss Dashwood. Colonel Brandon finally discovered a gentleman named Mr. Edward Ferrars among their social circles and quickly attained that this was the mysterious Mr. "F" whose person was questioned back in Barton Park. The news was that this very man was secretly engaged to marry the girl Lucy Steele and planned to do so against his family's wishes. Brandon was stunned. How could a man of any logic and thinking choose to marry Lucy Steele over Elinor Dashwood? Such actions were incomprehensible to him and the Colonel decided that he was not fully informed on the matters. However he saw the strain on Elinor's person and felt more sympathy than ever for the sisters. London was a miserable town for them and Marianne was pining for the country and her mother's company. It was decided with some degree of reluctance that when the Palmers retired to Cleveland at the end of March the Dashwoods would join them. And then return to Barton Park. Colonel Brandon will folow in two days and return to Delaford when the sisters are safe with their mother again.
One afternoon he secured some privacy with Miss Dashwood and in good will offered aid to Mr. Ferrars. He had a parsonage upon his estate that could offer a comfortable living for a single man. And that should Mr. Ferrars want the situation it was his. However the rectory was small and uncomfortable for he neglected to take measures to repair the place. Miss Dashwood smiled at his description and comforted him enough so that the Colonel believed his small offer will be received with gratitude by Mr. Ferrars.
Early April the respective parties set to Cleveland and rain soon followed them. The parties were agreeably settled in spite of the miserable weather when Marianne whose constitution was weakened in London fell into a severe cold. The apothecary was duly sent for and the man came to declare that Marianne Dashwood had an infection. Mrs. Palmer and her baby was dispatched to a relative of Mr. Palmer's near Bath but Mrs. Jennings would not be moved and sat with Elinor to take nurse of Marianne. Whatever the lady's faults were she was unfailingly kind and earned Colonel Brandon's good-will again. On the third day after Mrs. Palmer's departure Marianne seemed to have recovered somewhat that even the apothecary announced her safe. However this was dashed that evening when Marianne fell under delusion and her fever was felt everywhere on her person. Elinor could bear this no longer and sought the Colonel out in total despair. He quickly offered her his services to fetch their mother and Elinor gratefully accepted. She left him in the hall to write a letter to her mother. Brandon ordered his ride to be ready but before he left the place he took a glance into Marianne's room. He was in no fear of waking the invalid and he gazed at the face now depleted of any will to live. How did it come to this? How could he fail miserably not once but thrice? His Eliza was so full of life and love. He still remembered their first meeting and their last to this day. That in the last moments of her life the lady once again imagined them as children playing by the lake and Brandon unable to deprive her of anything played the farce to the end. It was the most painful moment in his life. The parody of their youthful happiness was torture for him but since it gave her such pleasure he obeyed her delusion. Then little Eliza with her pregnant belly screaming in pain as she gave birth to Willoughby's bastard while he stood outside the door listening to his failures come to pass and be reborn again in the daughter whose protection was his duty alone and whose failure of it costed the child everything. Now he was standing here watching Marianne fight for every breath and losing the battle with every rise of her chest. What was that miserable comfort he had last fall? Oh yes, that one comfort about Willoughby was that at least Brandon would not lose his love to the Death Crone. How ignorant was he? There that hag sat, at the foot of Marianne's bed watching for the one moment when she could swipe her catch. And here stood Brandon unable to do anything to prevent it. Where was this mercy that the L-rd was suppose to give? What had he done to deserve such fate that all he ever cared for and loved be treated in this horrific manner? If he was damned then so be it but why them? Why was he spared and forced to live on?
Marianne hitched a breath and Colonel held his until he saw her breathing again with great agitation. She softly cried out for her mother and this drove him to action. Colonel Brandon could not protect Marianne but Mrs. Dashwood could. He will fetch the lady and bring her here. The bond between mother and child was the strongest he has ever witnessed. If anything can protect the child from such evils it was the mother. He entered the main hallway in time to see Miss Dashwood descend upon him with the letter. He gave her hand a gentle touch and ran towards the carriage. He carried with him no hope but will and perhaps the belief that L-rd could never be this cruel.
Part 5 -- Colonel Brandon confesses all..
Brandon entered Barton Cottage with desperation to ready Mrs. Dashwood for the trip. However the lady upon receiving an alarming letter from Elinor was already packed and determined to set out for Cleveland that very day. Margaret Dashwood realizing the true dangers began to panick in earnest and would not be dissuaded from leaving her mother. But Colonel Brandon convinced her when the ladies all return to Barton Cottage from Cleveland they would all need care and help. Thus since Margaret is the only Dashwood left she must preserve herself to aid her family best when they return. Finally convinced of this the girl was sent to the Careys but she shed many tears in fear of losing her sister Marianne.
Mrs. Dashwood herself in fear as never before was in suspense as they journeyed to Cleveland. Her daughters were the jewels in her life and no matter what she had gained and lost, Norland, the high society and even money when she gazed at her girls she had the utmost greatest satisfaction of a mother who knew she accomplished well. Her daughters were never lacking in manners and grace. And with their great beauty came none of the arrogance or cold disdain of someone inferior. When they were moved to Barton Cottage they complained not one whit to their mother of their fall and made best with what was so little. Marianne's music entertained and gave comfort to Mrs. Dashwood in many nights where she silently grieved at the poor situation her girls were put in. But when Willoughby came her hopes rose that here was a man of honor who will love her daughter as she deserves. How wrong was her estimation in that scoundrel! And because of his callous and coldhearted greed her sweet Marianne laid at death's door. She almost broke into tears at her own musings when she saw the Colonel's profile as they sped to Cleveland. Dear, sweet, kind and generous man. Given nothing here he was bringing her to her most beloved daughter. How could she esteem Willoughby higher than him? How could she be so blind to his efforts and silent grace? He was constant, always the friend, the gentleman who had kind words for everyone and who sought nothing in return. How many "tokens" of friendship did they receive from him making their existence in Barton Cottage more comfortable? In spite of their light and sometimes mean (it made her blush to think it) treatment of the gentleman he was always present. Only Elinor, wise and kind Elinor kept her good faith with him, even when Willoughby came into their social circles she sought out Colonel Brandon's friendship and company. Mrs. Dashwood once again was grateful for the oldest Dashwood sister, Elinor could be trusted to see the best!
"I hope Mrs. Dashwood that you would not think me impertinent in escorting you to your daughters. I know that the world would frown upon my behavior and intimate actions regarding your family but I must confess it is with only honor and hope of usefulness that I am here." She smiled and thanked him profusely for all he has done on her family's behalf.
Brandon feeling the kindness of a frienship from her could no longer bear to hold himself still.
"If what I feel was friendship towards your family then perhaps the world would be right in condemning my behavior but your second daughter Marianne has been the greatest joy in my life since the first moment I saw her at Barton Park. Though she may not know it, her freedom in life, her actions and her very person has won my tenderest affection. Even though she may have married another I would have been content to know that she was happy. For in her happiness I could see my own and in her rejoicing of the world I could finally shed my past and perhaps enter into society again. Please,if you have need of anything send me to fetch it for I will be more than grateful for any errand to calm myself. That I may be of use to you and your family is what I desire most in this world." Through those awkward but sincere words he conveyed the love he felt for Marianne to Mrs. Dashwood. And the lady did shed tears for it touched her deeply to know that Marianne had such worthy admirer.
She stood firm on the conviction she made in the ride to Cleveland that should Marianne recover from her infection Mrs. Dashwood would recommend Colonel Brandon to her utmost power and influence.
Finally Cleveland was in sight and the two worried passengers entered into the hall only to have Elinor rush at them crying out that Marianne was safe, her fever was broken and that all will be well. Mrs. Dashwood fell in tears and relief embracing Elinor unable to speak. She gave her silent thanks to the Colonel and found that he was equally celebrating Marianne's recovery. She later conveyed the Colonel's confession to Elinor but her daughter believe the fanciful language to be her mother's creation and not the Colonel's. However the two ladies now firmly convinced of his worth and love for Marianne was determined to introduce him into Marianne's society again hoping for a happier outcome than the last!
Marianne as if to comply with their unspoken wish asked for his presence 4 days after her mother's arrival. Lying there, her skull visible underneath her skin she grasped his hand and gave her sincerest thanks for fetching her mother. Brandon sat there and felt misery for here was Eliza again! His little charge barely alive after the birth and in tears of gratitude for his rescue of her and her baby from certain death. But Marianne's eyes still held embers of her fire and her voice though whispery was ringing with sincerity and was lovely to his too-deprived ears. She was weak but her warm recognition of his efforts were not and when he left the room he felt blessed. Mrs. Dashwood made efforts throughout her stay in Cleveland to make the Colonel realize how much they valued his presence and good will. The Dashwoods were soon ready to depart back to their home much to Marianne's pleasure and the Colonel insisted on his carriage being the means of transportation. Marianne thanked Mrs. Jennings for all she has done (and feeling guilty of her unfair treatment of the older lady) made known that she will always have a dear place of gratitude in her heart. Colonel Brandon then without even thinking picked Marianne in his arms and carried her to the carriage. Elinor was shocked but kept herself in check and Mrs. Dashwood silently smiled to herself.
Marianne was indeed flustered at his behavior but said nothing and was at a loss while he placed her with tender care in the carriage making sure she was safe underneath her covers. He gently whispered his farewell and she responded in turn earnestly wishing his company back in Barton Cottage as soon as they would be able to receive him. She was rewarded with a flash of smile and a nod from the gentleman both of which occupied her tired mind during the whole length of their trip. Brandon rode back to Delaford feeling better than he had in a long time and busied himself in its repair. His brother has long neglected the place and Brandon began in earnest repair to make this his home. The left wing was the only part of the house that a person can reside in but the workers paid handsomely and respecting its owner soon began to heal the other parts of the great house. The parsonage was also the recipient of his endeavors though it would be a while before it was ready for occupation. Colonel Brandon in many times and in every day wished he could make a visit to the Dashwood ladies but waited in patience for Marianne's recovery and for the family to settle down once again. Then after three weeks he got the blessed letter of invitation from the mother and within hours was heading towards Barton Cottage in perfect suspense. He had too many hours to himself thinking about the great age difference of man now thirty-six and a lady of seventeen and all the ills that this could cause but within an hour of their company he was cheerful as ever. His happiness was further achieved when he found that Mr. Ferrars and Elinor Dashwood are now engaged to be married. Colonel Brandon was very puzzled to Mr. Ferrars' marital status for the gentleman seemed to be constantly changing his fiances but was later informed of the full happenings in regard to Mr. Edward Ferrars and Miss Lucy Steele. He silently congratulated the man in not only making the right choice of wife but escaping such a poor choice of one! The two men found each other's company very agreeable and after few days they both left for Delaford. Mr. Ferrars was pleasantly surprised by the many and new improvements upon the parsonage and thanked the Colonel for all his generosity. They studied the place in order to make a decision about more repairs and two days afterwards Mr. Ferrars rode to town to once again be a son to his mother. The lady finally and with some real grudge approved of his marriage and secured an income for which guaranteed her son a comfortable marriage. The gentleman was truly happy and dispatched a letter to the Colonel of situation. Brandon read the letter with no little jealousy.
How grand it must be to love and be loved! He silently mused to himself the luck that Mr. Ferrars seem to enjoy but soon busied his time with the repairs the parsonage now needed with utmost speed.
Part 6 -- Elinor weds
As soon as it was obvious that the wedding could proceed with the only delay being the availability of the parsonage Colonel Brandon even put more men into correcting this error. However it became obvious that the repair will take some time into Autumn and Elinor being unable to wait longer for the wedding planned with everyone to marry sooner. Edward only too happy to comply asked a favor of the Colonel who was also too happy to oblige. Since his estate was mended to a great degree from a year before the new couple will reside in the main house at Delaford while the parsonage is being finished. Everyone involved with the wedding glorified in the happy simplicity of it. Marianne and Mrs. Dashwood because they knew how much Elinor loved Edward. Sir John in sincere regard of the young bride, Mrs. Jennings because she suffered under the astonishing delusion that she brought this about Colonel Brandon simply because his chances of seeing Marianne greatly increased with her sister's presence in Delaford.
Marianne Dashwood meanwhile though more sober in her demeanor regained her vivacity and love of life with her sister's oncoming wedding. Her flights of fancy achieved the same heights as before and in certain situations managed to overcome her previous outbursts of love and fate. Elinor only too glad to have her sweet Marianne bustle about kept silent though she teased mercilessly at the girl's constant talk. Mrs. Dashwood sat back as the matron of this affair and enjoyed all the chatter and excitement about her only as a mother could. Meanwhile Margaret found a hidden corner in the Colonel's attic (though she was strictly forbidden to wonder off from their assigned rooms) and soon made herself a second home there. Colonel Brandon heard her scamper above the servants' quarters and was in great humor when he saw her sitting among his military paraphernalia and uniforms eagerly reading his maps. He promised her he would never reveal "their" secret though he judiciously told Elinor where her sister disappeared to for hours. Edward drowning in all the necessities of a marriage quickly gave way to Elinor's persuasions and rode this crest of festivities with a shocked mind and glad heart that Elinor was so sensible. The chaos that ruled Delaford climaxed to the day of the wedding where the bride's flowers were nowhere to be found and the parson was delayed due to a broken wheel. However among this everyone was in the best of moods (save Edward's family)and the delays and other casualties were all taken with good will. Elinor's bouquet was discovered to be the victim of Sir John's pointer and Marianne in happy frenzy ran through the small flower garden in Delaford quickly gathering a gorgeous bouquet for her sister. Colonel Brandon followed after her and in simple joy aided her in taking the thorns off the roses while Marianne happily gave merits on his flower garden. She was also surprised that roses still bloomed but neither in silent contentment gave much thought of that little miracle. The bouquet was done and both made a quick return to Delaford where everyone notice their happy contenances and wished for yet another wedding! The parson arrived with much apology and the church soon filled with guests.
Colonel Brandon stared at the decorations created by the sisters and Mrs. Jennings. He held his breath as he stared at the wreathes and garlands of fall leaves and late blooms. The whole place scented of apples and harvest giving him hope as never before. Here was a creation of love and honest celebration. He closed his eyes for a minute and tried to remember himself as he was happy now and realized that he had not felt so for a very long time indeed. Marianne stared at his face and wondered at what he was imagining so to bring such an angelic smile to that face. If she was brought up in a more fashionable society she would have never stared at him as she did but her curiosity was given free reign over any social niceties. How happy he looked and he was certainly splendid in that warm coat of soft brown color. It brought all those colors of his hair into recognition and she would have to ask him how one head could contain no less than 4 different shades! A quiet thought crept into her mind and brought a furious blush to her cheeks. Perhaps he was imagining another wedding, his. And she wondered if she could be that fictitious bride and had to stop her thoughts from galloping away or she would be blushing throughout the ceremony. She remembered his gentle hands as he helped her strip the thorns from the roses. His hands are lovely she mused and she still remembered his care of her into his carriage in Cleveland. This brought another furious bout with her blushes. So much that she fairly pushed the Colonel and his hands out of her mind! The music began and the children's voices filled the church. The ceremony went without flaw and the couple entering the church as lovers exited it as husband and wife. Even the hardiest of cynics would have found it impossible to find fault with the company and the bliss that reigned afterwards. Delaford was once again the ruling estate of the land and Brandon in his usual generosity opened the best part of the house for the celebration. And harvest being abundant this year the table was covered from one end to the other with delicacies and hardy fare. Marianne even partook in a slice of cake and little wine though Mrs. Dashwood disapproved of her drinking such! Her beauty has returned thought Colonel Brandon and her gaiety was renewed by the happiness surrounding her. He wished that this day would never end and he could live in it like this forever. For the first time in his adult life he was unequivocably happy, so happy! His mind in fierce determination to not forget one whit of this day imprinted the images onto his brain so that when he is old and alone he could open this bottle of memories and live in it as happy as he is now. The musicians (glorified country fiddlers actually) began a dance and the now husband and wife took the lead. The Colonel began to slide quietly behind others in the crowd hoping to escape recognition. It was a ridiculous move since he was the Master of Delaford but more out of habit than actual fear he managed to disappear for the first dance. Marianne actually spotted that spectacular hair bobbing behind a crowd and had to refrain from laughing! What did he hope to achieve by hiding? She whispered to Margaret a wicked idea and her sister too happy to oblige sought the Colonel out and asked him to dance. The gentleman totally unable to give a coherent refusal found himself being led to the floor by the littlest Dashwood. The crowd cheered and teased the Colonel in good will as the second dance began. He quickly took the situation in good humor and was actually a gallant dance partner to the mischievious imp. Mrs. Jennings forever looking to introduce the man to Marianne heart quickly positioned herself next to the young lady and whispered,
"Well look at that! Isn't that a sight indeed! I don't think I know one gentleman who will humor children in such a kind-hearted manner. And I must admit he is not the bad dancer that he always claim to be. And look at this Hall, such loveliness and delicate care. I would think the gentleman was celebrating his own wedding!" Marianne smiled quietly and agreed with the lady in all her points. Satisfied that she was achieving her own goal Mrs. Jennings promptly ran off to Mrs. Dashwood to announce her latest bit of gossip. And there was no one better to welcome such a bit of misbegotten news but again it added to Mrs. Dashwood's joy so Mrs. Jennings must be forgiven. However the two who escaped marriage that day to the great disappointment of everyone managed to not dance with each other throughout the celebration vexing great deal of people. Colonel Brandon did not even entertain the idea of leading Marianne and the younger sister in seeing Elinor the center of attention did everything to not take away the focus of good will. However Delaford closed its doors with a great announcement to the neighborhood of its owner's kindness and generosity that the nearby farmers and tradesmen spoke much of Colonel Brandon and all with nice words and gentle tongue.
This was all reaffirmed when a month later the couple moved into their new residence and found a large basket of harvested fruit and produce along with the best of game waiting for them in the kitchen courtesy of Colonel Brandon. Elinor stood there wondering how they will ever repay the man for all his efforts and friendship. Edward long being a confidant to his wife wondered the same. He was truly ashamed that he felt jealousy against such a man in beginning of their acquaintance for he believed the chief reason for the Colonel's generosity was Elinor's regard. Now proven wrong Edward's mind raced to think of an excuse to invite his sister-in-law to spend time with them and in close circumstances with the Colonel. He was very well aware of the Colonel's feelings towards Marianne and knew that he had the blessings of all his friends in regard to his choice of lady. Now only if the lady would comply!
Part 7 -- Everyone waits...
Now all that was left to make the residents of Delaford, Barton Park and half of the England (it seemed to Margaret) truly happy was the immediate marriage between the Colonel and Marianne. The young lady was in constant though tactful reminder of the Colonel's generosity and being a good-natured person agreed with everyone in regard to the gentleman. However when it came to the matter of the heart she was curiously quiet and secretive and would reveal no one her feelings of romantic attachment to any man near or far.
However the Dashwood ladies visited Delaford and with such frequency that Colonel Brandon kept a set of rooms in constant ready for their arrival. The servants thought this a bit curious but since the visiting ladies' company kept Colonel Brandon in such good cheer that they became used to hearing Margaret scratch above their heads in the attic at the most unusual times of the day. In fact the Colonel had a small desk and chair moved to that uncomfortable spot so Margaret would not sit cross-legged on the floor. Soon the desk was littered with bits of paper, books of military campaigns and some gun powder. The last object alarmed the gentleman a great deal and made Margaret promise to never play with his firearms again. She in turn got promises from him to learn how to shoot game and thought herself to be the better person in the bargain. So this was the settled affair in Delaford and Winter with her white dress came to the country. Brandon once again invited his close neighbors and some friends from his days at the army to Delaford for a Christmas celebration the estate has never witnessed. It was neither grand nor sweeping affair but the many people who stayed in Delaford could not help but enjoy the holidays with loving abandon. His friends from the military thought him improved remarkably since their last gaze of him and Mr. Marcus was positively beaming at the change in his friend. Miss Marianne Dashwood certainly improved upon acquaintance and he was glad she did not wear the name of Willoughby. Gifts were exchanged in much appreciation, delight and surprise with the loudest being Margaret who received a far-seeing glass from the Colonel. Now she could spy on everyone from the attic and declared that she will join the Navy when she is of age. The army men made much of regret to lose one of their brightest to the sea before she even had a chance to join them in a campaign. Elinor received the art supplies that the Colonel promised himself so long ago and the colors were such that she has never seen before even in Norland. But everyone was curious to a degree on what Marianne would receive and perhaps then the lady will truly learn how much hold she had on the Colonel's heart. When she opened the small package it was something that no one was expecting. Some wondered jewels (though very inappropriate) and others thought of some silver trinkets. It was a small portrait of herself done very much to her likeness. Marianne stared at her painted reflection and felt something in her finally break in utter joy. Elinor had no suspicions but Marianne had taken her lessons from Willoughby and Elinor's predicament regarding Edward to her heart. She will no longer love with such abandon unless the emotions were firm and honorable from both herself and the gentleman. And more importantly she will inflict no one around her of her feelings and torments for everyone suffered so much when she loved Willoughby then abandoned by him. She wondered many a days about the Colonel and his regard for her but she thought in solitude. She was hoping as the seasons passed that it has not changed because of her fickleness but stood silent in fear that it did transform into a more platonic emotion. His generosity was no evidence of his regard for herself since he was such a good person in nature to be generous and kind to everyone! She had no cause to think herself flattered beyond what was given in his usual manner until now. She never sat for this portrait so it must have been done by words alone. Yet it was lovely and flattering and in her romantic mind very persuasive indeed. His words created this for her and what words they must have been to make this simple offering of heart. Elinor knowing Marianne saw that flight take heights and felt herself smile deeply within herself. Bravo Colonel. Marianne graciously thanked the Colonel and the long-held silence broke as the guests went back into chatter and drinks.
The next morning Marianne gingerly walked through the light snow to the small arboretum that was near the main house. The previous owner created the thing on a whim and with equivalent amount of thought abandoned all that was in it. However some of the servants and groundsmen realizing the value of some of the flowers and shrubbery took rudimentary care of it. Marianne stumbled upon it late fall and even now as cold as it was the place was heated enough for her to visit it several times a day. In fact she took the habit of adopting a corner and taking care of the neglected flowers and suffering trees. Since the season had deprived her of natural beauty Marianne was determined to make some pleasure for herself in that enclosed sanctuary. And her mother was delighted when she brought in a small and fragrant bouquet for her enjoyment. In fact one such token was found on the Colonel's desk to his unending delight and he soon discovered its origin. Without Marianne's notice and with his usual quiet thoughtfulness a pair of thick leather gloves, shears, small rake and shovel found their way to the arboretum. And the servants were told to make certain that the place was heated properly. Some thought it a waste of fuel but then they saw the lady-elf sitting amidst the flowers and questioned the gentleman no more.
Marianne was happily attending to a flower bush when she felt the cold seep in as door opened. Smiling she turned to greet Brandon to thank him again and saw Willoughby.
Colonel Brandon was currently keeping Margaret busy and teaching her the intricacies of her newly acquired instrument when he saw her turn pale and begin to cry! He quickly ran to her side when she turned to him in full tears and lifted her into his arms.
"Make him go away! I hate him! I hate him and he has no right to be here! Not on Christmas!!! Make him go away Brandon!!" He was in total shock as the girl screamed the phrases crying heedlessly. He asked her what has upset her so and she said one word, "Willoughby." Now he lost all color and picked up the instrument focusing on the glass-enclosed building. There was no doubt in that figure and pose. It was that vile creature. Margaret tugged at his jacket while embracing him fiercely. "I hate him. He hurt Marianne and I heard Momma tell Elinor how Marianne was suppose to be dead because of him! He can't be here, not here! This isn't his home and we are here. And it's Christmas. And you're so happy and we're happy and Willoughby is going to ruin it all! " Brandon could not move from that spot until she once cried out again about how this was their home and not Willoughby's. The child is right thought Brandon. This is my home and I have spent more than money to make it mine. I have friends now that believe it to be mine and I have guests who are under my protection who believe Delaford to be mine. I have servants under my care that call me Master of Delaford and Edward who consults me about the village whose very existence depends on the welfare of this house. And it is mine. And that arboretum is mine and I am suppose to protect everything under it including Marianne. He will ruin it all thought Brandon in despair. He will take her away again and I will left alone to exist on memories. How could one man be the cause of all my downfall? Margaret saw his anguish and even being a child she knew the reason. "He doesn't belong here Brandon. We do. You do. And Marianne too. She was so happy please Brandon don't let him ruin it for us." He glanced at the child barely understanding her words. Margaret in desperation and in earnest belief that Willoughby will succeed in killing Marianne kept talking to him.
"You are the Colonel and you know how to fight and he doesn't. He thinks he does but I know that he's lying and pretending. Don't be afraid of him. Marianne likes you more and momma does and Elinor does and I do and Edward thinks you are the very best. Sir John was going to give you his smartest puppy for your birthday and I am writing a story about your army in the East Indies. Marianne was at her wit's end because she didn't know what you wanted but she remembered something and is making some flannel waistcoats for you! Oh Please Brandon make him go away!"
Tears fell from the girl who unknown to anyone suffered real fear and terror the first time Marianne was ill. And it was all because of Willoughby she heard and believed with her youthful heart. He stared at the tear-stricken and terrified face and for a moment saw the face of Marianne underneath it. Suddenly he felt rage come through him and he was so glad. This was his home. And if Marianne desires it hers too. That scoundrel has no place in here and to come upon his home without invitation to convince Marianne to do some wrong - that was worthy of a whipping. He gave Margaret a nod and she immediately saw the transformation in his visage and stance and smiled in triumph. Here was the man she knew! He'll take care of that deceitful creature and rescue Marianne! Brandon ran out of the attic and thundered down the stairs before anyone had even a glimpse of him. He quickly marched to the stables to get his riding crop. It was anger that flowed through him in such pureness and drove him towards the arboretum with set determination never witnessed before. Willoughby escaped from him once but not this time, and before the day is through Brandon will make sure Willoughby will never set his eyes on Delaford or Marianne again!
Part 8 -- The unavoidable confrontation
"What are you doing here?" Marianne asked in unmasked shock.
He still had the wonderful smile though the unhidden lines on his face showed his suffering since they last met.
"I wished to see you Marianne. And I could no longer resist knowing that I was so close and you were alone. I watched Delaford for the last three days hoping to catch you." His voice still lilted her soul. Marianne was not foolish enough to believe she would forget him. You never forget your first love she admitted to her heart. And there he was in reality too painful for her to still bear. But she remembered her behavior and the cruelty she inflicted upon all those dear to her. And her self-induced illness that drove her so near to the grave. She raised her chin and forced herself to stare at him. He must be faced and dealt with. Now the challenge laid on her lap, did she have enough courage to face all this alone?
He stared at her musing here was a lady who will never grow into anything but more beauty and grace. Here was the thing he let go for all his fortune and found that it was a miserable trade. "I came to ask for your forgiveness Marianne and to say you will always have my heart. I have Allenham now and all the riches that goes with the estate. But I discovered money is of no matter to me and neither is Sophia. Marianne you had my heart when I was poor and selfish. You have my heart still now when I am rich and repentent. Tell me you love me still and I will use everything in my power to make you happy. We can go to the continent or even America. Anywhere you choose I will enable us to go there. My wife denies me any friendship or even the marital bed. She does not want an heir with a man like me for she knows that I love another. I can hardly blame her for this so I will be more than happy to leave her wherever she desires with enough to see her comfortable. But we can be more than comfortable. Please Marianne, fly with me. And I will your constant shadow from now until I take my last breath." He was in earnest Marianne thought, my G-d, he is speaking the truth. She could not respond and sat there in mute silence under Willoughby's pleading words and tearful eyes. Then she saw the small shovel and shears. It was a small thing really but she realized that they were new. Then she realized that all the implements she's been using were new and untouched by anyone save herself. Even her pretty striped apron she wore in here was new...and where did they all come from? The gentleman who is teaching Margaret all about looking-glass and military tactics in the attic was the reason why she had these tools sitting next to her. The man who humored 11 year-old girls and one 18 year-old fool. The tools were new because he had them made specifically for you her heart whispered. So you would be comfortable here and the leather gloves too Marianne - look at them! And she did stare at her gloves. They were of durable material, but tiny, specifically made for ladies' hands like hers; to protect them from thorns and the sharpened blade of her shears. Tears fell slowly as Marianne realized all that the Colonel has done. He loved her still she thought. If she wasn't so blind in her own misery of gain and loss she would have seen that love everywhere around her like a mist. Elinor's comforts, Edward's position, Momma's newest binds of wool thread, Margaret's learning...all from him and he asked for nothing in return. She could never remember one word of request falling from that solemn face. Not one word of disapproval of her many shameful actions did she ever suffer from Colonel Brandon. And now here was Willoughby in love with her again pleading with her to run away and go where?
She could not stop crying at that was what helped her. The pain she felt now was pure of the shame that Willougby caused with their previous connection. This in itself was right her conscience begged her. And her heart for once did not contradict.
"No sir, I cannot and will not cause such pain among my family and friends. What we had we have still but I would be a fool to recreate such misery upon myself and the people I care for. Time cannot and I will not allow it to erase our love Willoughby but I cannot live on memories and don't condemn me to play a farce with you. I cannot forget you abandoned me for Miss Grey's 50,000 and I cannot forget how badly I treated my friends because of your actions. And I will never forget how shamefully I acted when I was with you."
Willoughby was stunned for he expected Marianne to behave the exact opposite of her words. "You loved me. That surely in itself cannot be faulted!"
"No dear Willoughby but I was 16 and half. And you were my knight then. But I am that child no longer for we both have grown too old to play that game. You are wed and should endeavor to win back your wife's love and trust. You will find happiness there in her constant admiration for you than in memory of me."
He stood silent and dark for a while forcing her attention on his person still.
"Did the Colonel propose to you then?" he asked curtly.
"That is shameful indeed Willoughby. The Colonel never confessed his love or regard for me! We are here because Elinor is here and all our close friends are here. You on the other hand should not be. This isn't Barton Cottage Willoughby but Delaford Hall and Colonel Brandon's sanctuary. If he does not have a quarrel with you regarding myself then I think you should remember the 17 year old girl you abandoned in London who gave birth to your child." He flinched at that pointed remark and she gained some satisfaction.
"I cannot leave here without you telling me you don't love me!"
It was the last effort from Willoughby but the hardest trial for Marianne.
"I loved you once and it was grand. I will love you always for that but no I don't love you still as I have once done. Good bye Willoughby and may you endeavor in earning your wife's trust again." He stared at those dark eyes and saw her in truth. Realizing that Marianne was dismissing him he spun around in great agitation and stormed out of the arboretum.
Brandon heard all while he waited for his personal confrontation with Willoughby. But his anger was gone replaced with wonder.
Marianne wasn't lying, she wasn't creating false impressions so the scoundrel would leave her. Her voice never faltered even through her tears she sounded most sincere. She didn't love him.
She didn't love Willoughby.
So enveloped was he in that fact that he didn't spot the trespasser until the gentleman almost collided with him. The two men stared at each other, each in his own way expecting this yet neither ready for it.
"And how do you expect to win her Brandon? With words and pretty gifts for her whole family? Do you think your 2000 a year will buy her heart?" His words were calculated to be cruel, to harm this man before him to the point of irrevocable damage.
But there was no response from the Colonel. And the man stared at Willoughby with an imcomprehensible look. This spurred Willoughby onwards.
"The best thing to do Brandon is to write a will and leave everything to them. And then die a quick death. I suggest you go back into the army and do something dashing before dying in some battlefield. So Marianne can sing your praises to posterity. What about it?"
Still no answer from Brandon then his face slowly transformed itself with the ultimate knowledge. She loves you no longer Willoughby. She loves you no more. This rising knowledge translated itself perfectly to the younger man and Willoughby suddenly knew that he was the unwanted one here. The two men faced each other on that cold winter morning one the victor the other the vanquished. Willoughby gave an arrogant glance over at the Colonel then turned on his heels to march out of Delaford. The Colonel did not even bother to see if he really did vacate the grounds because it didn't matter. Not really for a thief cannot steal what cannot be found.
Marianne sat there as Willoughby left her and she cried in earnest. A whole mixture of feeling rained on her, the loss of Willoughby yet again, the misery he once caused and now causing again, the real end to her first love, the Colonel's unending kindness and her unstable state of emotion. It was a long while before she left the arboretum and when she did she fairly ran to the main house in fear of seeing Willoughby again.
Colonel Brandon when returning to the Hall sought Margaret out in the attic and she nearly ran him to the wall when she threw herself to embrace him.
"I knew you could Brandon. I believed in you."
The Colonel is some amusement said "I did not have to say a word Margaret. Marianne did it for all of us. She was very brave and very alone when she faced Willoughby." The child raised her face in surprise but accepted that as the truth especially since he spoke it.
"Now you must do me one favor Margaret. You must never tell anyone that Willougby was here. Can you imagine the distress this could cause to your mother and Elinor? I am certain that Marianne would wish to spare everyone from this ruination of Christmas. And that was why she was so brave and faced him by herself. Can you keep this in faith with me?"
The little girl nodded in earnest. She loved her family and would do nothing short in order to ensure their happiness. The two conspired about an hour until he saw Marianne dashing towards the house. Both the gentleman and child serenely went downstairs and managed to fool everyone to the real happenings earlier in the morning. Marianne excused herself from company for the afternoon claiming fatigue but appeared for dinner in good spirits. Days flew by and guests began to leave for their homes. The Dashwoods were the last to go and the Colonel once again felt his place empty.
It was the night before her departure and Marianne was gathering her music from the pianoforte when he entered looking for his housekeeper. He gave a bow and excuse himself.
"This was lovely Colonel. Thank you for inviting us this Christmas. And thank you for the portrait. My mother is in perfect suspense in trying to decide where it should be shown."
She was at ease with her compliments and the Colonel feeling no awkward embarssment gently thanked the lady and told her it was a trifle, and that she should have deserved a better present should his taste not be so humble. She suddenly stopped herself and stared at him with great emotion.
"I would wish that you would stop humbling yourself in such manner Brandon. How can you stand to measure yourself with such meaness?" Brandon in surprise at the desperate tone in her speech remained silent as Marianne took her words in great speed.
"The measuring stick which you excel in beating yourself with would definitely leave me in great pain." The Colonel did not know whether to laugh at her words or to take her in seriousness.
However curious to know which direction Marianne's lecture was galloping off to he kept his silence.
"Let's compare myself to you for instance and let me take that measuring stick to make a fair comparison. I will return it to you shortly but I sincerely hope to convince you otherwise. I will stand here and tell a tale of a man who was kind and a girl who wasn't. Do not interrupt me Colonel for I don't think I will ever have this much courage again and as a friend I implore you to listen to this sorry tale. There was a man who cared for one very silly girl who though pretty was in many ways lacking in other aspects of her person."
Brandon was alarmed and did interrupt her. "No Marianne this is foolishness! This is my house and you will not do such wrong here!" She stared at him and tears formed in her eyes and she relinquished her control of herself. She seemed to be shedding tears at the slightest thing these last few days so quietly she let them come again.
"You won't even let me lecture myself will you Brandon? Why do I deserve such care? I am so ashamed to see myself before you that I thought to be glad when I leave Delaford. But then I realized as I was rejoicing in leaving that when I return to Barton you'll still be there. Where? Oh let me see, the books that Margaret has spread all over the parlor and staircase. My mother's chair which she sits in great comfort, her footstool which her feet rest in great comfort, the new roof over our heads and the chimney that finally works properly. At least some of the food that rests in our pantry and these sheets of music which I counted with great care only moments ago, at least half are from you Colonel. And I know there are more at Barton Cottage to keep me entertained. Shall I continue? Yes. Let me continue. And here in Delaford we have the nicest set of apartments, even better than the owner's I believe if I heard the talks correctly and the shovel, the spade, the shears and even the heat in the arboretum are because of you. And not least this pianoforte which you claimed was in this old part of the house and I in my foolishness believed you until today. This instrument is new and the style betrays its age Brandon. It is about as old as the roof on Barton Cottage and I think I recognize the name to be one of a firm in London. Tell me if I have this wrong sir." He could face her no longer and leaned backwards to the desk dejected. She mercilessly continued. "The sheets over our very own beds are the best kind and I know Margaret at least ripped two because she wanted to play pirates and needed them as sails. And Elinor and Edward, I really think I will need a full day and night to list your generosities towards them so I will avoid that area alltogether. So tell me Colonel if that measuring stick of yours finds you so mean where am I? How could I even begin to compare with you?" Her tears were gone but her voice still mirrored her anguish.
"Because they were all done for a selfish motive Marianne. I did them to make you happy." He confessed there all of his sadness with those two sentences.
"That is selfishness? You have lost me Brandon." She replied.
"Because in your happiness I found mine. You and your family woke me from my banishment and reintroduced me to the living world in all its pain and goodness. I was comfortable living with my ghosts and failures, even welcoming them as companions as long as I did not make new ones. I could not bear to lose another Eliza so I was comfortable in my solitude Marianne. People can become used to so many strange things...then you came. And Elinor would not let me be and Margaret would always ask for my stories and your mother's constant and honest care of myself forced me to rise out of this cold place and seek life again. I have so long forgotten what it was like to not only care but to be cared for. Sir John is a good man but he could not reach me as you did in your love of life and everything good. In your freedom I saw mine and because of you I reached for it. I believed because you so honestly do that there could be something good that can be gotten from this existence. Even after your broken heart and illness you never retreated like I have done. You never flinched at a great loss and hid your face. So yes Marianne I could measure myself lower than you. These things that I have given are things Marianne Dashwood. What you have given me can never be bought nor made by some craftsman and so my offerings are indeed poor and humble." She could barely make herself stare at him in his entreaties for in desperation she was hammering her mind to convince this man of his true worth.
"And you did this for me Brandon for you never wavered in your affection while I...I don't think I can really talk about my actions. So please spare me of that embarassment. Look about you colonel and what do you see? Do you see greed, unhappiness and misery? Or do you see your friends in good cheer, your servants in fair mood and the villagers grateful for your presence in Delaford? If you cannot see your own worth then please let us tell you what you truly are. I don't think I can bear hearing you speak of yourself with such harshness and it is indeed painful for I think you are the best of men and the kindest of friends. And I cannot listen to a lie and let it be dear Colonel. So let this be what you measure yourself. You are a good man made sad by unhappy affairs in your life for which you can never be blamed for in spite of what you think. In your own sadness you took care of me and my family. You have never asked for anything in return though I think we owe you a king's ransom. If there is a fault to lie on your character's doorstep, it is because you love too much and expect too little in return. A fault which is very hard for me to forgive or to accept on your behalf for you deserve a kingdom for what you are." He still did not raise that head and Marianne was anxious to make his eyes meet hers to convince him of her honesty.
"This kingdom will last only as long as you are here Marianne."
Finally! She almost gave a loud sigh.
"But then it will vanish and be again when you return for I think my time here begins and ends with your coming and going. I dread the day when I see your carriage leave and count the days from when I hear of your expected arrival. This place becomes so quiet Marianne even the servants go about it like ghosts. I would go to the fields for comfort but now in winter there is nothing outside or inside this house to offer me some solace. I was so happy when Elinor came here for I knew I would see you more. However that very fortune turned against me for I must now say farewells with equal frequency. It seems that my life must consist of a large quantity of irony lest it becomes too dull for my taste." His voice was tired, so worn from all that has passed and not passed between the two of them. She took a step towards his figure and held his hands with hers. "Then ask me to not leave Brandon. The answer is so simple."
He mused at her small fingers clasped tightly around his but he was holding his breath wanting so much to make what he desired to be a reality. "Then stay here with me in Delaford and be my wife. Give me more than measure of days and hours to see you. Give me years Marianne to measure my happiness and contentment. Don't abandon me here and take yourself away so all I can do is stare at this miserable instrument wondering when its true owner will return. Give me a reason to tell the world of how I feel for you and make myself useful again. Make this the last Christmas season which I surrender you to the roads." She heard him in his greatness and humility and wondered yet again how she came to deserve him but instead agreed to his question with her own passion and strength. And the two were frozen figures for a long while in that calm and beautiful tableau.
The two in some shock and in great joy kept the engagement quiet for the rest of the night and the next morning the Colonel actually woke too late to talk to Mrs. Dashwood in person. In fact the whole Dashwood ladies save Marianne were at the parsonage saying farewell to Elinor and Edward. The two lovers in each other's embrace walked to the parsonage. Their figures were noticed by the servants who could not believe it took the lady this long to recognize their master's worth. However the real riot waited for them in the parsonage where Margaret spotted the two in their intimacy before they even had the chance to realize where they were. She screamed for her mother's presence and all of the people rushed towards the excited girl and noticed what she saw. Everyone was in a great mood when the two finally arrived at the door and within minutes there was great merriment to be found.
Spring came in due time and the bann was announced, wishes given and exchanged and the Dashwood ladies were counted to be very fortunate indeed. However if you asked a certain gentleman of the army the day of the wedding he would claim in all honesty that the luck was his entirely. And the only other person that we could give some credence would claim she was indeed the one who was fortunate. So unless we want to be the cause of the first marital discord between Colonel Brandon and Mrs. Marianne Brandon I suggest we let them believe in what they wish to believe and be grateful that such a day existed at all."
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