Marianne awoke from her induced sleep, feeling like a heavy weight rested upon her.
Unsure as to what had occurred, her mind flashed back to searing pain and blood, the doctor's eyes and breath on her face and the whimper of the dear housekeeper.
A figure stood beside the window, a silhouette she knew well.
With a hoarse whisper, she called, "Christopher?"
He jolted as he heard her voice, at her bedside before she had taken a second breath. "My dearest, are you in any pain?"
"No" she replied. "What-what happened?"
Brandon busied himself with the bedcovers, making sure she was warm. Trying his best to avoid the topic, knowing what pain it would cause her.
Marianne would not be silenced, gripping his hand with what little strength she had left, "Tell me, please"
He took the closest chair and sat by her side, "I do not know where to begin"
Before he could speak again Marianne noticed something about herself. "I am not bleeding anymore, why?"
Brandon took a deep breath, barely able to utter the words. "It seems you were carrying a child. The blood accompanied the loss of that child"
"Loss?" whispered Marianne.
"A- a miscarriage is what the Doctor named it" he replied.
Marianne had heard that word before, whispered and muttered amongst women, always followed by sadness and even contempt. Her own mother had experienced it, losing a child before the birth of Margaret a year later. The details of such were kept from a young Elinor and Marianne to protect them, only hearing of it when the death of their own father threw up emotions in their mother.
"A baby?" she whimpered, "Our baby"
A feeling of overwhelming sadness struck her, swiftly overpowered by guilt. "I did something that killed our baby didn't I"
Brandon could not process what he had just heard.
Marianne looked down at her flat stomach, "You were right, I should never have gone in the sea"
He took her face in his hands with such passion it almost startled her. "Do not say such things, do you hear me"
"But Christopher, it's my fault!" she cried, tears falling down her cheeks.
Trying to hold back tears himself he urged, "It is not your fault Marianne, you are blameless in this, do you understand?"
"But why did our baby die?" she wept. "What did I do wrong?"
"You did not even know you were carrying a child" he cried.
"Exactly!" she replied. "I should have known!"
"The Doctor found no cause for it" urged Brandon, trying to soothe her. "You are young, healthy and well capable of bearing children, he could not understand why it happened. But neither yourself or any of your actions were the cause Marianne"
She nodded and tried to seem relieved, but she could not. "I am sorry our baby is gone"
Brandon shook his head, pressing her hand into his. "You have nothing to be sorry for, please do not seek my forgiveness because you have done nothing the requires it"
"You are my wife and I adore you. Should children come or if we are not to have them, I will love you no less than I do now."
Marianne took his hand and kissed it, holding it to her chest.
The pair remained in this state for some time, until she asked, "Where is Elinor? Can I see her?"
"The hour was too early for me to send for her, I shall do so now," he replied.
Both Elinor and Edward were summoned to the house.
Brandon met them outside, still in a state of bewilderment. "Thank you both for coming so swiftly"
"Colonel your letter did distress me," remarked Elinor. "I beg you what is the matter?"
Edward furthered these sentiments, "Nothing bad I hope Colonel?"
Brandon cleared his throat and rubbed his eyes. "I still can't quite understand it myself, forgive me I fear I will be coarse in my speech"
Elinor instinctively reached for Edward's hand, "It's Marianne isn't it?"
He quickly urged, "She is well Elinor, but-"
"You will recall she had pains last night" sighed Brandon. "Quite suddenly"
"Vividly" replied Elinor.
"Yes well, they only intensified once you had all left" he took a pause. "Edward you are like a brother to her and you have a wife of your own so I will be frank"
"Please" nodded Edward.
"Marianne attributed these sudden pains and the blood that followed to her monthly bleeding" confess Brandon. "I being a single man for much of my life and quite inexperienced to such a time in her life, I believed her and did not take it as seriously as perhaps I should have"
"When I awoke this morning I found a pool of blood in our bed and followed the sound of her crying. Marianne knew something was wrong and I felt a sinister cause behind the bleeding. The blood being lost meant something else which the Doctor confirmed as he left"
He watched as Elinor pieced his words together. "Oh my God"
Edward almost felt as if she would faint, taking her weight on his arms. He had grown up with Fanny and knew a little, but otherwise, he was utterly clueless. "Colonel forgive my ignorance. I do not understand what you mean?"
Elinor answered for him. "Marianne has lost a child Edward" her voice barely above a whisper.
He couldn't believe her words and looked to Brandon who simply bent his head to confirm it. "My God" he stammered, "And is she-is she well?"
"She is weak and full of sorrow" replied Brandon, "We both are"
"Of course" muttered Edward, "foolish question"
"Elinor," asked Brandon. "She has been asking for you since daybreak, I believe seeing you would ease her greatly"
"I will go to her this moment" she nodded, gently taking his hand, "Colonel I am so sorry"
Brandon forced a small smile as she left them.
Edward moved to follow her but was stopped. "I wonder, Edward if you would do me a great service?"
"Anything" he replied.
"I know you are not yet a man of the cloth but would you have any authority to perhaps bless the ground or pray over the ground where I am placing the child?"
"Yes, I can" replied Edward. "This moment if you wish"
Brandon laid his hand on his shoulder. "If you would follow me"
Marianne heard footsteps and watched as the door slowly opened.
"Dearest I am here," said Elinor, swiftly coming to her bedside.
"Oh, Elinor" she cried. "It is the worst news!"
"The Colonel has told me," replied Elinor. "Marianne I am so sorry"
"He is being so good to me" she wept. "But I did not know I was carrying a baby, that is what haunts me"
"None of this was your fault" urged her sister. "You must understand that"
"I am not blameless" cried Marianne. "My child died and I knew nothing of it!"
"Babies are delicate but Marianne so are you" reminded Elinor. "You are not yet a year recovered from your illness, this will only weaken you further. Do not lose hope my darling"
"And what if I am always to be recovering? What if each breeze or drop of rain can cause such damage?!"
"Dearest" hushed Elinor, "Please do not upset yourself further. Your mind is running away with you"
Marianne grasped her sister's hand. "Am I going to be a mother Elinor?"
Elinor's soft eyes met hers. "I see no reason why not. Many women experience this sorrow but at your age, do not accept this as a death sentence but rather a beginning"
Marianne found comfort in those words, Elinor had that power were no one else had.
After some time Elinor noticed her sister's eyes closing with fatigue. "Did you sleep much?"
"No" replied Marianne. "I kept thinking I would wake Christopher I tossed so much"
"Get some rest now" urged Elinor. "Sometimes even medicine cannot beat proper sleep"
Kissing her forehead she whispered. "Call if you need anything"
Marianne nodded and let her tired eyes close.
Elinor spent much of the day caring for Marianne. All of her needs efficiently and gently cared for.
It left Edward and Brandon very much as loose ends, both unable to assist as much as they wanted because of the personal nature of Marianne's needs.
They both sat outside her room, questioning Elinor each time she emerged.
Soon Brandon could take it no longer and ventured inside, but Edward stood by the door, awkwardly shuffling, his direction indecisive.
Marianne was glad to have Brandon join her, but could not help but notice the figure in the doorway. "Edward?" she called weakly. "Is that you?"
"Yes" he replied, "It is"
"Come in" she urged, "I can feel a draft"
Hearing this Edward muttered to himself and swiftly closed the door behind him. He came to her bedside and perched on the frame. "Dear Marianne, I do not possess the words to say how sorry I am"
Marianne gently took his hand. "Thank you for coming, and for bringing Elinor"
"If she cannot make you well then no one can" he urged.
"Yes" she sighed, "She makes everything right"
Though she would not admit it to her gentlemen, she was still in considerable pain. Even with the relief that ether and heat brought, she could not escape the discomfort.
Seeing that Brandon was in no fit state to do anything but hold her hand in his own, she turned once again to Edward. "Elinor tells me you have been reading and that you have a fine tone"
Edward nodded, "Yes I am trying to expand my library, but I cannot speak for the tone in which I say the words"
"Would you be so good as to read to me?" asked Marianne. "I long to hear someone"
"I see no book to hand" he replied. "Would you like me to find one?"
"Allow me," said Brandon, rising from his seat and leaving them.
With Brandon gone, Marianne felt she could show a little of how she felt, wincing as another dull pain twisted her abdomen.
Edward looked at her helplessly, "Can I find you more relief? Anything?"
Marianne shook her head, "Elinor says I must not take too much, or I shall become reliant"
"Of course" he replied. "But will nothing help? Shall I fetch the Colonel?"
"No" breathed Marianne. "He is suffering enough"
"He hates seeing you in pain just as much, if not more than I" replied Edward. "He would dislike you to hide it from him"
"He saw me at the height of my agony" she replied. "I should hate for him to see more of it"
"I would not wish to be a wedge between you both" remarked Edward. "That is not fair"
"Oh, kind Edward" sighed Marianne. "I feel I can speak freely with you, that is all"
"And you cannot with the Colonel?"
"Of course I can" she replied. "But you are always so measured in all things, you have Elinor's sense"
"That is perhaps why we are so good together" agreed Edward.
"Would you come with Elinor when she visits?" asked Marianne. "I should like to see you"
"I am at your beck and call Madam" he assured. "It is by your husband's grace I am on this estate"
"But you would not come out of duty?" she asked.
"No, of course, well-no not always" he replied. "You know the brotherly love I have for you and the eternal gratitude I must give to the Colonel. If you need me here as your friend, brother or parson I will come"
Marianne gave away the only smile she had left on that day, and as Elinor returned, followed by Brandon, her anguish was temporarily eased.