Their little cottage had never seen so much joy.
Edward left that afternoon after proposing to Elinor, returning to town to make preparations.
Marianne, after being enveloped so long in her own heartbreak and disparity, was delighted to see her gentle sister almost fit to burst with love. Convincing herself that Elinor had earned it far more than she did.
Amongst the excitement emerged Colonel Brandon, his approach announced by and eager Margaret who burst into the cottage.
“Marianne! Marianne!” she cried, “Colonel Brandon has come”
“Oh,” exclaimed Marianne, nervously running fingers over her curls. “Is he close?”
“Very” nodded Margaret. “I could see his horse just coming over the hill”
Once their mother was informed of his imminent arrival, pulling what little composure she had remaining, gathered her three daughters into the parlour.
Elinor met Marianne’s eyes and read them easily.
“Stop it” hushed Marianne, giving Elinor a playful shove.
“Girls” scolded Mrs Dashwood, before the room was brought to attention.
Thomas entered and called, “Colonel Brandon to see you, Ma’am”
“Thank you Thomas” replied Mrs Dashwood.
The ladies rose as Brandon entered and after the bows of rank had marked politeness the conversation quickly began.
“I met a very pleased Edward Ferris on my journey here,” remarked Brandon.
Turning to face Elinor he urged, “I give you my hearty congratulations Miss Dashwood”
“Thank you Colonel” she smiled.
“Are you here to see Marianne?” piped Margaret, quickly receiving a glare from her mother and sister. “What?” she protested quietly. “Why else would he come?”
“Meg keep your conversation to the subject of the weather” hushed Marianne frustratedly.
“You will forgive Margaret Colonel” urged Mrs Dashwood. “We have had far too much excitement here today”
“Not at all,” said Brandon. “Young Miss Dashwood has intuition. I came here hoping for an audience with Miss Marianne”
“Well, we shall not keep you from her” smiled Mrs Dashwood, moving with Elinor and Margaret towards the door.
“No” cried Marianne. Her voice so abrupt that it startled them all.
Seeing the concern in the Colonel’s eyes she quickly addressed him, “I simply meant, so much as to be done now with Elinor’s wedding. I would not want to delay any progress. We need the space in this room at present. I would gladly walk a while if you could be so good as to accompany me?”
With peace restored in his mind, Brandon politely held out his arm for her and the pair left the cottage.
Marianne led Brandon to one of her favourite spots, high on the cliffs with a view all the way down the sea and cottage.
An unintended pang for her lost Willoughby dared to resurface, as past memories of their happy spring adventures danced around her.
“What a view this is” remarked, Brandon. “You have such taste in all areas it seems, even in nature”
Marianne smiled. “I found this spot with...well some time ago. But I am far happier to share it with you”
Brandon understood the tension in her voice, which made his next subject difficult.
“Marianne” he began. “I imagine my affections towards you have not gone unnoticed. I have come to feel for you such a deep love that I can no longer hide behind words or stand on ceremony.”
“Colonel please,” said Marianne.
“No, if I may finish” pleaded Brandon. “You are my junior by many years, which has been known to cause distaste in young ladies. But I want to assure you my motives are honourable and I desire nothing more than to see you happy and cherished”
“Colonel” cried, Marianne. “You should not say these things!”
She watched his face fall, he clearly was awaiting a polite rejection.
Gently taking his hand in her own she smiled. “You do not need to tell me this, you have shown me in all your conduct and actions, past and present that you love me and want me to happy and cherished. It is my desire to see you have the same”
Brandon felt his throat tighten. “You...you feel an affection for me?”
“A great one” replied Marianne. “I owe you so very much, I owe you the very air I breathe”
“It is a love made of gratitude?” asked Brandon.
“No” cried Marianne. “Gratitude and love are two very different things. No other man has saved me as you did, it showed me not only your love but your clear character. Of which we both know I can be easily deceived”
“Marianne,” said Brandon softly. “You have given me such hope that I could still find love when I thought it died all those years ago. You would have my complete devotion for the rest of my days”
“As you will have mine” replied Marianne.
This last revelation was enough for him. “Then you will accept me?”
Marianne gave a smirk and stepped back, “Only if you ask me properly”
Brandon chuckled at her impertinence but obeyed willingly.
Throwing back the tale of his overcoat he knelt down on his knee and took her hands.
“Miss Marianne Dashwood, would you do me the honour of becoming my wife?”
As if to tease him further Marianne withheld her reply for several moments before she could hide her joy no longer.
“Yes, yes I will” she beamed, throwing her arms around him.
Brandon raised them both up, lifting Marianne in their elation and twirling her around as if they were children.
Breathless Marianne met his eyes and felt the urge to kiss him.
Despising herself that her first kiss was taken by Willoughby, she wanted nothing more than for her Colonel Brandon to make him vanish from her memory.
Moving with gentleness Brandon cupped her cheek with his hand and as Marianne leant closer he pushed their lips together.
Never had a kiss felt so long and overdue.
Marianne felt her cheeks colour as they parted, Brandon, smiling at her sweetness.
With an engagement only in words, Brandon took a small box from his coat and opened it, revealing a beautiful band of gold.
“I had hoped this ring would match your finger,” he said. “It belonged to my mother”
Marianne’s heart swelled, not only was she receiving a ring but the romantic idea of the source rivalled the heroines of her books.
The ring fit snug on her finger and without restraint, Brandon kissed her hand.
With an unbashful urgency, Marianne embraced him. Feeling such security as he, in turn, wrapped his arms around her, pulling her closer to his chest.
“Brandon” she whispered, playing with a button on his coat.
“Christopher” he urged gently. “Please”
The name felt foreign on her tongue after months of knowing him as the dear Colonel.
“Christopher” she repeated with a contented sigh.
Hearing his name, sent a wave of emotion through his body. He had waited so long to hear it and hoped she’d never have cause to stop saying it.
Enveloped in their love, the pair sat and watched the sun make it’s journey across the sky before Marianne knew she must return home.