The day of the wedding had arrived.
Sir John and Mrs Jennings had insisted that the girls be married from The Manor House, not from the cottage.
With some reluctance, Marianne and Mrs Dashwood agreed but Elinor reminded them that their landlords were being kind and it would be suitable, despite the intrusion that it would cause.
With the two girls marrying on the same day, their respective husbands had each gifted an amount towards the dresses of their brides as well as the wedding itself.
Edward Ferrars, now having lost his fortune was unable to give as much as he wanted, but Elinor used the money to simply update and embellish a gown of her own.
Marianne felt somewhat uncomfortable with the situation. Of course, Colonel Brandon did not have to think of money as much as Mr Ferrars. Her allowance far exceeded Elinor’s and allowed her to chose fine silk for her own gown and instead of her mother creating the garment she was sent to Plymouth to have it tailored.
Elinor felt no jealousy in that respect, her sister was marrying a man far richer than her own. What she wore was of little consequence, Edward, of course, agreed, complimenting her regardless of what garment she owned.
This morning Mrs Jennings hurried between rooms, eagerly ordering around the various maids who had been summoned to assist Marianne and Elinor.
Mrs Dashwood helped as much as she could, but Margaret insisted upon getting herself into mischief, in great danger of damaging her own gown.
“Oh what a happy day for you Mrs Dashwood” cried Mrs Jennings. “Two daughters married!”
“Yes” smiled Mrs Dashwood. “Heaven has blessed us”
“No doubt of it” agreed, Mrs Jennings. “A fine match for the pair of them. That Willoughby would never have sufficed for dear Marianne. The Colonel is a fair better match, naturally, you saw that as well as I”
“Of course,” said Mrs Dashwood. “And Edward will make a fine husband for Elinor”
“Yes indeed!” replied Mrs Jennings. “Both so alike in temper and person. I doubt they shall ever have cause to argue!”
“Hello?” called a voice. “Mrs Dashwood?”
Both women hurried to the stairwell, seeing Mr Ferrars and Colonel Brandon standing in the lobby.
“Away away” cried Mrs Jennings. “Away both of you, we cannot have any bad luck today!”
The men smiled and Brandon spoke. “We wanted to ensure that no problems had arisen”
“If there is a problem Colonel I shall inform you” assured Mrs Dashwood. “Now please go, if Marianne sees you before she reaches the altar I pity you in advance”
“Be so good as to give her this” asked Brandon, leaving a note on the table by the stairs. He bowed at left.
Mr Ferrars however remained. “You as well dear boy” ordered Mrs Jennings. “Elinor will not pardon you either!”
“No” replied Edward. “Of course, but like the Colonel, I also wish to pass on a gift”
He took a box from his coat and placed it with a letter of his own.
“Til shortly Madam” he smiled, before following Brandon from the house.
Marianne sat in front of a mirror, helping the maid style her hair.
“Oh, Alice,” she said, “We had best place my veil on directly. I shan’t be taking it off today”
“Very good Miss” the maid replied. “I shall fetch it”
As the maid left the room Mrs Dashwood and a ready Elinor entered.
“Oh you are not already finished!” cried Marianne. “Am I late?”
“No dearest” smiled Elinor. “I did not have to prepare much”
“You look beautiful” urged Marianne. “That dress looks as if it came from London!”
“If I am beautiful what are you?” cried Elinor. “Are you quite sure Colonel Brandon will not swoon at the altar”
“Stop it” chuckled Marianne.
“Speaking of your dear Colonel,” said Mrs Dashwood. “He came and delivered this personally just now”
“He was here!” gasped Marianne. “Is anything the matter?”
“No dearest” hushed her mother. “He came to check the same”
Marianne relieved took the letter and opened it.
My dearest, loveliest Marianne,
Though tradition dictates I cannot see you this morning, I saw no reason to not write.
The prospect of being united with you as husband and wife in just a few hours brings me more joy than I thought imaginable.
You have made me the happiest of men and I vow to spend the remainder of my days creating a life with you, that will bring you an equal amount of splendour.
All my affection,
Yours, Christopher Brandon
“Well?” poked Mrs Dashwood. “What says he?”
“Too many lovely things” replied Marianne, “He is so good”
“Edward is the same,” remarked her mother, “Look at the gift he gave Elinor”
Marianne had not noticed the beautiful necklace adorning her sister’s neck.
“Oh, my heavens!” she exclaimed. “Forgive me, Elinor, I thought it must have belonged to Mrs Jennings or her daughter!”
“I shall scold him for it” proclaimed Elinor. “It is far to fine for me”
Marianne would not hear of it, “To scold him for being generous! Oh, he loves you!”
“Until his affairs are settled I hate to think of him spending money on me” reminded Elinor. “He can shower me with all the jewellery of the Empire once we are settled”
Mrs Dashwood tutted, “Colonel Brandon has everything under control. He spoke with Edward just yesterday about the parsonage and living”
“So?” asked Marianne eagerly.
Mrs Dashwood smiled, “Your husband-to-be has been most generous, your sister and Edward are to have three thousand pounds a year!”
“Heavens!” cried Marianne. “Oh how comfortable you shall be!”
“The parsonage also has a farm as a means of employment for the Colonel and Edward, they shall divide the profits equally” added Elinor.
“Oh how quaint” sighed Marianne. “You and Edward, lots of children and a farm”
Elinor laughed, “We are not married yet!”
“But how lovely you shall both live” urged her sister. “And so close to me!”
“Yes, the new Lady of Delaford” teased Elinor. “Shall I bow when I see you?”
“Hush!” gasped Marianne. “I will have no such ceremony with you”
The maid returned amongst the laughter and helped Marianne with her veil.
Rising from her seat, at last, she said, “Well, what do you think?”
Mrs Dashwood’s hand rested on her chest, and Elinor gave a bright smile.
“The Colonel is a very lucky man dearest”
“Elinor, please” reminded Marianne. “I am the lucky one”
The local church was covered in flowers, such a vast crowd of villagers and townsfolk gathered to see the two Dashwood sisters.
Despite clear opposition from Fanny, Robert had been commandeered to walk Elinor down the aisle. Mrs Dashwood would hear no protests, for Robert was the eldest brother and in the absence of their father, he was the next suitable man.
Sir John had nominated himself to accompany Marianne, as she only had one male sibling.
Tempted to decline him at first, she eventually accepted him, as Brandon had expressed his wish for it to be so.
In some ways Marianne was glad she had Sir John, away from Mrs Jennings he was quite a lovely man, very attentive and his humour and ease was greatly appreciated. He knew the little comments to soothe any nerves.
“This is the worst part of the day” he whispered, as they stood outside the church. “If I had it my way you get a quick prayer from above an out again. Not all this ceremony and pomp”
Marianne gave a small laugh, “Yes I am quite eager to sit down”
“I could summon you my horse” teased Sir John. “But I do not think such beasts are permitted into the church”
The pair gave such a laugh that some of the bridal party turned and looked curious.
“Sir John we had best behave” hushed Marianne, composing herself.
“Behave?” remarked Sir John. “I think it is a little late at my age to start now!”
Marianne bit her lip, she finally understood how Brandon had survived the Indies. How could you take anything too seriously with a friend such as him? The ease in Brandon’s manner could have only come from Sir John.
“Now now” hushed Sir John. “I see those eyes of yours grow nervous again! Rest easy, your life is about to begin my girl, it is all happiness from here”
Naturally, Elinor proceeded into the church first, after Margaret who had been untrusted to scatter rose petals properly.
Sir John led Marianne through doors and for a moment her eyes gazed only at the ground in front of her.
Once she finally had the courage to look up, she met the eyes of Brandon.
She had never seen him look so handsome. She knew of his army past but had no idea that he would have his scarlet regimentals pressed and ready for the wedding. He could have been a general with his appearance, boots gleaming and an exquisite sword tied to his waist.
Brandon was also trying to hide his true feelings. Marianne looked like an angel, her delicate features seemingly complemented by the cream and gold accents in her gown. He was still in unbelief that she would choose him to marry, even more so as with a wink Sir John released her at the altar.
Brandon saw how nervous she looked and brushed his fingers against her own, “Miss Dashwood” he whispered. “I am quite undone”
She looked up at him, her smile taking restraint to hide.
Sir John and Mrs Jennings had spent the last fortnight organising the most wonderful wedding celebration.
“I am sure your family from London will have never seen such a display from us country folk” Mrs Jennings took to boasting.
Edward, Elinor, Brandon and Marianne all took their seats around the main table, with the adjoining room already alive with music and dance.
There was not much time for eating, as conversation kept each of the couples busy.
Brandon, of course, took time and great pride in introducing Marianne to those gentlemen whom in kept in close company with, especially those he served with during the war.
“Dearest, this is Henry Keats, we served together for many years"
“It is a pleasure Sir” smiled Marianne, politely receiving a kiss from the gentlemen on her gloved hand.
“Miss Marianne, might I personally offer you my congratulations and my sincere apologies”
“You have not offended me to my knowledge Sir?” replied Marianne, looking to Brandon for insight.
“I did so without your knowledge” confessed Keats. “I know full well I offended Brandon”
“The rumour in town, of which I will bring no detail to on this happy day” he began. “I listened to the report of those I should not have. I have only heard from sources I trust that you are a most remarkable young woman”
“I think anyone who manages to win Brandon’s heart deserves that merit” he added. “For you know he holds only a few people in it”
“Thank you Mr Keats” replied Marianne.
“He is a Colonel my love” pointed Brandon, the amusement on his face as well as Keats.
Seeing the same dress as her husband, each with matching attachments Marianne offered an apology of her own. “Now it is I who have offended you Colonel, shall we call a draw?”
The three of them laughed and Keats gave them his compliments before leaving their side.
The dining room was almost empty, leaving the two of them at their own liberty.
“Well, Mrs Brandon” he smiled. “How do you feel?”
She took up his hand, which now was proudly embellished with a gold band, and kissed it.
The smile on her lips, however, vanished as her eyes darted to the window.
The sudden change in her demeanour did not go unchecked. “Marianne, what is the matter?”
“Nothing” she stammered, her eyes scanning the garden. “It’s nothing”
“Why are you shaking?” demanded Brandon. “What did you see?”
He watched fear creep back into her eyes, “I think-I saw Willoughby”
At this revelation, Brandon spun to look for himself, deeply angered that that wretch would dare show himself.
“My love” cried Marianne, seeing him grow tense. “It may have just been a servant, a guest. Please do not let it ruin this day”
Disguising his true emotions behind a smile he agreed, “Of course. I will ask Spencer and three boys to search the gardens, then we shall have peace”
Marianne would have advised against it, had Elinor not called her from the other room.
“Go on” said Brandon. “I will join you in a moment”
Marianne went to her sister and Brandon, once alone, turned sharply towards the window.
Looking out he spotted a man creep suddenly back behind a gazebo, not fair from the house.
The colour of their hair and build, it could not have been anyone else.
Whilst trying to decide on a course of action, Keats reentered the room and saw his friend stiffen.
“Is everything well Brandon?” he asked.
His friend turned to him, with emotion on his face, unlike anything he had seen since the fighting in the Indies.
“Keats, go and fetch our fellow soldiers. I am coming to fetch Mr Ferrars, the gardens require our immediate attention” said Brandon quietly.
“A problem Christopher?” whispered Keats.
“A John Willoughby sized problem” replied Brandon sharply.
“That scheming wretch” snapped Keats. “I’ll fetch the gentlemen”
“Not a word and no fuss” ordered Brandon. “Marianne saw him already and is startled”
Keats nodded and pair walked back into the celebrations.
Marianne was trying her best to stay calm, politely smiling and thanking the well-wishers.
She saw Brandon re-enter with Keats, both exchanging not a word before splitting directions at the doorway.
Much to her ease Brandon came straight to Marianne, waylaid only once by a cheerful guest.
“My dear” he whispered. “I believe it is him”
“Oh God” she breathed, still trying to maintain her emotions. “What are you going to do?”
“Keats, myself and those in my old regiment will seek him out and escort him from the grounds, nothing more. I am avoiding confrontation” he assured, keeping his vow low.
“Christopher, he may be armed” replied Marianne, an alarm in her voice.
“So am I” replied Brandon, nudging his sword.
“No” pleaded Marianne, turning away from peering eyes. “Stay with me, let the servants handle this, please do not go”
“I must Marianne” he replied, pressing a kiss to her head.
“No” cried Marianne, grabbing his arm. “I will not let you”
Eyes and ears were upon them, Brandon planted a firm smile on his face and an ease to his countenance. “I will only be gone a moment dearest,” he said cheerfully.
Marianne had no choice but to release her grasp, she disguised her fear from everyone, apart from Elinor.
“My dear one” she urged, “You have quite lost your colour, whatever is the matter?” she asked gently.
“It is nothing” replied Marianne, rising from her seat. “I just need a moment alone”
Elinor could not force her to stay and was soon interested in her own husband.
“Forgive me dearest” he whispered. “Brandon has need of me, my return shall be imminent”
“Oh yes of course” stammered Elinor, allowing his departure.
Scanning the room she could no longer see Marianne, and her concern soon turned to panic.
“Brandon what the devil is going on?” remarked Sir John, who had also been summoned.
“I believe John Willoughby to be hiding on your property John” replied Brandon. “I seek to remove him”
“That rascal?” exclaimed Sir John. “On my land, I shall not hear of it”
“I am afraid so” muttered Brandon, his seeking eyes not stopping for a moment.
Keats arrived with the four other members of his old regiment, all dressed in their scarlet garments.
“Brandon, where did you see him?” he asked.
“By that gazebo” pointed Brandon. “Marianne saw him much closer to the house”
“Spread out” ordered Keats. “This villain cannot get near Miss Marianne”
Marianne watched the search take place from the window, she constantly turned her head, beyond afraid the man would sneak into her presence.
Sudden voices and shouting alerted her and she saw Brandon and others pursue Willoughby across the grounds.
Running from the room she flung open a side door that led directly to the gardens, desperate to stop what she feared most in the world.
“Willoughby” shouted Brandon, seeing him disappear into some trees.
Keats tried to stop him and the other men managed to retrieve him.
Willoughby was obviously under some influence, as he laughed as they dragged him towards Sir John and Brandon.
A hard punch from Brandon wiped the smile clean off his face.
His hand unused to such action ached with the force, “That is for the report you made of Marianne”
Willoughby moaned, spat out blood onto the grass. “It was to my advantage”
“What advantage boy?” barked Sir John. “You are trespassing, you could hang!”
“Hang me?” proclaimed Willoughby, his voice haggard. “That would do me a great service”
“What was the purpose of your visit?” demanded Brandon.
“I think you know the answer to that” smirked Willoughby. “To pull Marianne from under your nose and marry her myself”
“She is a married woman now” cried, Sir John. “You cannot get close to her”
“I got as far as the window, you should have seen the look she gave me” mocked Willoughby.
“That is as close to my wife as you will ever reach in this lifetime” threatened Brandon. “If I see you near her, I warn you I will show no restraint”
“Come along old man” replied Willoughby. “You may have married her, but I got the first taste, sweet as it was”
Brandon’s hand wrapped around the hilt of his sword.
“Of course she would deny it” he added. “A woman of her class would never admit to it, not even to you. For if she cannot secure the love of an old Colonel, who can she seduce?”
“Hold your tongue boy” ordered Sir John. “How dare you speak of Miss Marianne in such vulgar fashion!”
Willoughby laughed, “Look, Colonel”
He then stuck two of his fingers together in an unsightly intimate gesture.“I have had her up to here!”
Brandon reached for his sword, in one swift motion he pressed the blade against the apple of his rival’s throat.
“Brandon” cried Keats, moving towards his friend. “Not here”
Willoughby smiled, “I’d listen to him”
In a low but threatening voice, Brandon hissed, “You have one final warning Willoughby. If you dare to venture near Marianne or even speak her name in company, I will not hesitate as I do today. This sword is as old as I am, and I will take much pleasure in ridding the world of you with it”
With skilled efficiency, Brandon reunited his sword to his belt. “Keats, remove him from my sight”
Willoughby resisted, “I demand to see Marianne!”
“To what end?” remarked Brandon. “Her love for you is gone”
“Never” cried Willoughby, trying to punch the men restraining him.
Close to losing his composure again, Brandon took a handful of Willoughby’s hair, pulling him back with roughness, forcing him to face him.
“Every word you ever told her was a lie. She knows your affections to be false and your heart a selfish one. Her love is lost to you forever, she is further from your corruption now than she ever was”
Throwing back his rivals head, he turned away.
“This is not over Brandon” spat Willoughby.
He was not granted a response.
Marianne flew out onto the patio, seeing the confrontation on the lawn just metres away.
Before she could act, Edward Ferrars caught her.
“No Edward” she cried. “I must reach Christopher!”
“He has asked me to keep you away” pleaded Edward.
“I cannot let him come to harm” begged Marianne. “Please release me”
“A vow was made Marianne,” said Edward, “I am your brother now, I cannot let you”
Seeing that he was not going to let her past, Marianne saw the men break away. Three men dragging a furious Willoughby towards the gates.
“Christopher!” she shouted.
“Marianne” hushed Edward, “Please it is not safe!”
She realised her error in moments.
Willoughby, charged with a new strength upon seeing and hearing her, broke away from his captors, breaking into a charge towards Marianne and Edward.
He looked like a madman and Edward backed them both against the wall, standing protectively in front of her.
The men who had recovered from Willoughby’s attack were already on his tail, Brandon and Sir John running to Marianne’s aid.
Breathless Willoughby climbed onto the patio and gave a smile.
“My sweetheart” he cried. “Come here to me!”
“I would advise you to step away from us Sir” ordered Edward.
“You advise do you?” mocked Willoughby. “What consequence shall I receive if I come closer?”
“A regiment of the Kings Army is hell-bent on catching you” replied Edward. “Is that not enough?”
Willoughby gave a laugh, “A band of old soldiers? Hardly the King’s Men?”
“Why did you come?” cried Marianne. “You hate me?”
“No no” replied Willoughby desperately. “How can I hate the woman my heart cries out for?”
“If you loved me, you would not spread that rumour” snapped Marianne. “You do not love me”
“I showed you how much I loved you that afternoon at my home didn’t I?” replied Willoughby. “Or has it been so long you need reminding”
Marianne recoiled at the sound of his voice, darkness coated his words in a way that made her shiver.
Edward could not hold back his anger. “How dare you!”
“How dare I?” questioned Willoughby.
“You still have not told them my angel?” he added with a tut. “Your bedroom tonight will hold some interesting secrets”
He saw the men, now climbing onto the patio themselves, Brandon and Sir John were charging up the steps, so Willoughby made his final desperate attempt to reach her.
Marianne made a run for the door as Edward faced Willoughby.
With an animalistic desire, Willoughby grabbed Marianne’s wrist.
She screamed at the force of his grasp, crying out as she watched Edward hit the ground with one good hit.
Righting himself Edward rubbed his hand along his jaw, before throwing himself at Willoughby.
With some force he broke Marianne away from him, sending Willoughby reeling with a punch to his chest then his face.
Edward shook his hand and Marianne clung to his coat. “You will not come near her”
“I hate you” cried Marianne, tears in her eyes as she spat “I will hate you till I die!”
These words had more effect on Willoughby than she thought possible.
He made no further movements towards her or resisted when he was finally captured.
His dark eyes had grown hazy as if she had snuffed out their light.
Keats and the other men each took hold of him, dragging him away from the house.
Brandon flew to her, eagerly taking her frame into his arms.
“I told you to stay inside,” he said breathless from the excursion.
“How could I do that?” she replied, “Knowing who you sought out”
Her tender wrist was brought to his lips, willing the mark of that man to disappear.
Marianne was soothed by his presence, not allowing tears to escape her eyes on such a fine day.
Edward rubbed his fingers and winced, which alerted Brandon.
“You came to my wife’s aid, tell me you have not injured yourself in that duty?”
“No no” urged Edward. “I have not hit another person in my life, my hand is unused to it”
“Rest the hand as much as possible” nodded Brandon. “I hope you will never have to do my bidding again”
The rest of the celebration moved with a steady pace, all of the guests even Mrs Dashwood had no idea of the violence that took place on the lawn. Sir John, even at the consistent prodding from Mrs Jennings would give nothing away.
Elinor, meeting Marianne’s eyes knew something must have occurred, and once confirmed by Edward who showed off his bruising fingers, she could hardly hold her composure.
“Tell me he is removed?” she whispered to Edward.
“Quite so” he assured. “He shall not be disturbing us again”
Somewhat eased, Elinor allowed herself to enjoy what little afternoon was left, always keeping a watchful eye on Marianne.
Brandon stayed close to Marianne for the rest of the celebration, socialising and the occasional dance kept the two in steady proximity.
As the afternoon peaked, they were due to take their leave.
Brandon had a wish to spend his first night of marriage in his own home at Delaford, Marianne was also delighted by the idea.
Moreso after the events of the day, he wanted them to reach his home in the daylight and good weather.
The pair climbed into the carriage, Marianne blowing kisses to her mother and sisters.
It pulled onto the lane with gently jolt, fixing Brandon to his seat.
They had, of course, shared a carriage ride before, but never once could either of them relax. The fear of an overlapping garment or fingers and hands misplacing their balance kept a modest distance between them.
Now, that had all changed, Marianne had no shame or restraint. Her body shuffled to be closer to him, her head resting delicately on his firm shoulder.
Seeing her so eager, Brandon wrapped his arm around her, placing a kiss on her hair.
“You are well my darling?” he asked softly. “I hate to think of that man ruining our day”
“Be assured” she replied. “He ruined nothing, it served only as a reminder”
“Of what may I ask?”
Marianne raised her head to meet his eyes. “That I made the right choice of husband”
Love swelled from his eyes and the pair met with a kiss.
“As I was so rudely interrupted earlier” he whispered with a smile. “How do you feel Mrs Brandon?”
Marianne gave a sigh, “Happy, quite beyond reason”