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Mrs. Dashwood, eager to promote both Marianne's health and her acquaintance with Colonel Brandon, encouraged her and Elinor to walk out with the Colonel every afternoon that he came to spend with them; and the weather proving consistently fine, the three of them set out together nearly every day. Marianne, however, frequently foiled the latter part of her mother's kind designs, by rushing ahead to admire some blooming flower or charming aspect of the view, and moving on again before her companions had caught her up. Thus Elinor found herself more often than not in a tête-à-tête with Colonel Brandon.

She did note how he always remained at her side. And she could acknowledge privately that he was advancing so much in her esteem as to make this attention very welcome. Yet her conviction of their mutual pleasure in each other's company had not taught her sufficient confidence to prepare her for receiving his offer.

"But—Marianne?" she said.

"My respect for your sister is undiminished. But I have come to know and value most highly my truest friend—and that is you. Will you become my dearest friend also?"

With such an invitation before her, what could she do?