“everyone can master a grief but he that has it.” – Much Ado About Nothing
Marianne smiled at Colonel Brandon as they walked out of the church. She was glad that she had accepted his offer and eternally grateful that he had made her such an offer. She was even more grateful to know it hadn't been a proposal made with the intention of saving the scraps of her ruined reputation. No, the Colonel had made his offer because he thought only of her with regard and high esteem. She doubted if Julia and Hippolitus could ever be this happy. She had to be fair, the feelings she felt for her husband were not esteemed enough to be called love, and doing so would dramatize and exaggerate the nature of the feeling she felt, but it was something more than a mere platonic friendship.
Although she had felt urged to accept his offer as her mother and sister thought so highly of Colonel Brandon, she had accepted him not only to please the women in her life, she had accepted his offer because she would have a secure future if she did. With a man who loved her dearly. Perhaps it had never been her fate to love more greatly than anyone else, but to be loved more fiercely than anyone could ever dream of. At first Marianne had been blind to the Colonel's growing affection, but once Willoughby had disappeared out of her life, hopefully for all eternity and beyond, and Marianne started paying attention to what Mrs. Jennings and Sir John were saying, she realized that a great love had already entered her life, many months ago, albeit unknown to her. Although she didn't feel love for the Colonel, she esteemed him, the thought seemed laughable and ironic to her as she had scolded her sister Elinor all those months ago for feeling so underwhelmingly little for her now husband. Marianne was certain that she would grow to love the Colonel one day. Perhaps not as fiercely as she had loved Willoughby, the rascal, but she deemed it impossible for such a grandeur of love to ever touch her again.
The Colonel smiled at her and helped Marianne enter the carriage. He opened the purse and threw gold coins at the spectators and guests. Though the two of them had wanted it to be a small secluded affair, Mrs. Jennings wouldn't hear of it, and had, without asking permission, invited most of Barton. They sat down and Marianne waved at her sisters and her crying mother. Mrs. Dashwood blew her nose quite obscenely and then looked up at her wedded daughter, with snot running down her chin and tears dribbling down her cheeks. She pulled Margaret into her bosom and wept bitterly over her loss.
Colonel Brandon urged the coachman to start driving and Marianne turned around and waved at the guests, then turned around to face her newly acquired husband. Colonel Brandon smiled widely at her and placed an arm around her shoulders. He ordered the coachman to pick up his pace and they rode to Delaford, Marianne’s new home.
Once they had finally arrived there, Colonel Brandon was the first to exit the carriage and he held out his hand to aid Marianne’s descent. Marianne noticed that he was rather silent. Marianne knew Colonel Brandon had always been a man of few words, but this silence seemed unnatural to her. ‘Colonel Brandon, is something amiss?’ Marianne wondered if he had began to have doubts, there was after all her reputation that had certainly already tarnished his own good name. Silently he offered her his arm and led them inside. Marianne was not a complete stranger to the estate as the Colonel had helped her with her studies by gracefully extending her visiting privileges of his extensive library whenever she had felt the need to do so in the past few months, even before he had made his offer. ‘My dear, I do wish you would refrain from calling me “Colonel Brandon”, we are husband and wife, please call me by my Christian name, “Christopher”. You do not want me to keep referring to you as “Miss Marianne”?’ ‘Certainly not, sir. I repeat my statement, is something the matter?’ He stayed silent and Marianne pulled away from him. A fear overcame her and she had difficulty containing the unsettled noise that rose in her throat. She had ruined things already and the thing that was worse, was that she had no notion of what it was she had done to displease him! ‘Sir! Is it something I did? Tell me, I will try my hardest to set things to right! Please enlighten me of my misdoings!’ Colonel Brandon turned to her and a smile settled on his mouth. ‘It was nothing that you did, how could it be, when you have made me the happiest man on this earth?’ ‘Then tell me what plagues you, by the cause of your silence!’ He watched his wife in silence and wondered what indeed was the matter. The bout of depression had overcome him suddenly and had lowered his spirits greatly.
She was his wife. He was hers. Christopher was not blind to the reasons why she had married him. He didn’t mind much but there was a small part of him that did. He could understand why she had felt the need to accept his proposal, security of income and lodgings and protection from the prying eyes of men. By his marrying her, she had managed to salvage the scraps of her tarnished reputation and Christopher’s name was held by most in such great esteem that their union had barely harmed his own good reputation. It had been nearly three years since he had seen her for the first time and had fallen in love at once. He had served her family for most of that time with the utmost pleasure; finding joy in his wife’s mother, companionship in his sister-in-law and a younger sister he had always wished to have had when younger, in the youngest Dashwood family member. Simply put, Colonel Brandon was overjoyed with their union and yet the sadness had settled on his shoulders as she had accepted him in front of the clergy. Perhaps it was the knowledge that she was permanently bound to him, an old man who had seen better days and her in the prime of her youth, not yet twenty and already chained for the remainder of her life, and she would never be able to experience anything as an unattached woman. She would forever have to be by his side, something he did not mind but knew that she might be opposed to. There were after all things a married woman could not do. ‘Colonel- Christopher?’ He was pulled from his reverie and saw the colour rise high in Marianne’s cheeks. Worry had creased her brow and she had pulled her generous bottom lip between her teeth. ‘Are you positive that it was not me, to cause you such despair?’ Marianne watched his expression meticulously, hoping for a sign that would give his feelings away, but he remained looking passive. Her stomach tied itself in knots and a fierce frustration overcame her. How could his melancholy have been caused by her hand? She had married him! She had been referred to as “his reward” by those most close to her, and perhaps even by himself, she had done nothing wrong, except finally reward him! She flushed with anger and frustration and took a step back. She needed a moment of peace and quiet to herself. Oh but she couldn’t! He was behaving most strangely and it appeared to be her fault! Marianne couldn’t stand for this, no matter the voice in the back of her mind telling her that she needed to suppress her feelings and keep him satisfied. If she was his reward and he was not pleased with that he would learn that she was no reward, certainly not his. This had never been the case but Marianne felt that this was especially not the case in this precise moment.
‘I do not know what offense I have caused you, sir, but if you are already offended, it will matter little if I think this a most opportune moment to make myself scarce for the time being! We will talk when your spirits have lifted or mine have lowered!’ She stepped past him, and out of the hall. She greeted the staff politely and stepped out into the large gardens Delaford possessed.
Marianne was furious and she couldn’t believe the nerve of her husband. He had wanted her for months, if the rumours were actually true and not false in hindsight, and here she was, his to have and the man could barely look her in the eye! Had his feelings lessened and settled now that the hunt was finally over? Marianne walked over to the nearest tree in sight and with little care sunk down in the grass. It was dry out, which was uncommon, and she would not stain her dress with mud stains. With a growl she pulled her headdress off her head and growled softly when she pulled a few hairs out. She wouldn’t cry, he didn’t deserve her tears. It could most certainly not be her doing as she had done everything he had ever desired of her. Well, except for relations but it was not yet time for such matters. Marianne scoffed. He would certainly not be welcomed into the marriage bed tonight or tomorrow, with his cross and strange behaviour. If he wanted her, he would have to use force and Marianne knew that he would never do such a thing. Even though she had promised and sworn that she wouldn’t cry, she shed a few miserable tears and wondered how things could have taken a turn for the wrong so quickly. She wiped at her damp cheeks and exhaled slowly. The sun was already setting in the sky and clouds had gathered. It would rain soon, there was no doubt about it, but it was not raining yet and Marianne had grown stiff from sitting motionless underneath the tree for such a long time and wanted to exercise her legs. Some fresh air would do her well.
She rose slowly for her joints were stiff and ached, and walked around the estate. The sky burst open and rain poured down on her. She cursed when she saw that she was nowhere near close to the entrance of her new home. She hastened her pace but it came pouring down so violently that she could barely see her surroundings.
Colonel Brandon had been feeling sorry for himself ever since his wife had left the house. He sat in his sitting room and watched her from a distance. He felt no harm in keeping an eye on her, just to secure that she was safe and comfortable. He took a deep breath and tried to read for a little while to settle himself down. She had been right, he was behaving ridiculously, and played a few notes on his pianoforte but nothing seemed to lift his spirits. He went back to the window and looked up. It was quite dark out for the time of day and from the look of it, it would start to rain soon. Marianne was still out there, because his staff had not yet made her presence known to him. Colonel Brandon looked to the tree where she had sat for several hours, in animated contemplation, but was surprised to see her. Or rather, to not see her. She had disappeared! Her being out there when it was bound to rain soon, made him worry. He had not forgotten her recent illness which had almost cost her life, and in turn, his. He pulled on his coat and ordered a horse to be readied. He lit a lantern and saddled the horse. He would not have Marianne catch another cold or fall ill, not if he could help it. Now that he was her husband, he could, although he did not like to take such liberties and went out to look for her.
Marianne was soaked to the bone. Her teeth chattered and she was forced to stand still when she tripped. Her dress was now soiled past the point of salvation. Marianne pushed herself up and continued. She only needed to walk beyond this side of the house and she would be at the front of the house. A shout nearby made Marianne turn around. She saw no-one and turned back around. She continued her pace but stopped when she heard the shout again. It was a name, her name. She turned back around, in the direction of which the voice had come but couldn’t see anything. Except for a light which rapidly grew bigger. She could hear the hooves of a galloping horse and waited for the rider to reach her. For the briefest of moments she thought it was Willoughby who had made up his mind and had come for her. She discarded that thought immediately, after all he had done and all she had discovered about him, she wouldn’t take him back, even if he was the last man on the planet. The horse was brought to a halt and only very nearly avoided running her over. ‘Marianne!’ It was Colonel Brandon and she didn’t know why she was surprised. These were his grounds after all. Who else would it be?
‘I have been looking for you for the past ten minutes.’ He didn’t wait for her response, he descended and handed her the lantern, then put his arms around her waist and sat her down in the saddle. He swung himself up and took the reins. He clicked with his tongue and they rode to the stables. He helped her down and ordered the stable boy to attend to his horse. He blew out the lantern and stepped inside, lifting Marianne up and carrying her over the threshold. Marianne scoffed but the Colonel didn’t hear her. He truly thought Marianne would forgive him so easily? Marianne couldn’t believe this man. He turned out to be so different than everyone’s character descriptions of him. ‘You can put me down, thank you. I am perfectly capable of walking.’ Colonel Brandon didn’t hear her and carried her through the house, into the sitting room where a fire was burning steadily and he put her down in the chair closest to the fire. He put a wool blanket around her shoulders and started pacing the room. He turned to her and threw his hands up. He made a noise low in his throat and huffed a breath. ‘How can you be this obtuse? Have you truly learnt nothing from your previous experiences?’ Marianne couldn’t believe it. He was angry with her! He, who had no right to be. Marianne had never been very good at keeping her feelings to herself, even when she was displeased, and rose from the chair. She discarded the wool blanket. Her movements caught Colonel Brandon’s attention and he gaped at her. ‘What do you think you are doing? Get back into that chair, immediately!’ ‘I will not stand to be yelled at. Especially when I have done no wrong and harmed not a single soul.’ Her words were clipped and curt. The day had started off so well and she had been so happy and now she had difficulty suppressing the bile which had risen in her throat at his behaviour. She was most disappointed with him. He had seemed so perfect and even-tempered but it turned out that his temper was fickle and prone to angry fancies. ‘You have harmed me.’ Colonel Brandon lifted his hand and Marianne stepped back and laughed a little hysterically. ‘Go ahead, strike me. It is after all, a husband’s duty to keep his wife in line, is it not?’ ‘What?’ Colonel Brandon stared at her and then followed her gaze to his hand. ‘I was not going to strike you! I would never strike you.’ He reached his hand up and pulled on a cord that Marianne had failed to see in the heat of the moment.
She flushed a little but wouldn’t admit her misjudgement, after all, the man had been behaving most oddly today! ‘I was going to call a servant in here and have him prepare us supper. You must get out of those wet clothes, miss Marianne.’ Miss Marianne? Fie! Were they to be strangers? ‘Marianne. If I am to call you by your Christian name, you will address me with mine.’ The slightest of smiles pulled at the corners of the Colonel’s mouth, but he refrained from smiling at her fully. She was cross with him. She had every right to be, although the Colonel couldn’t believe that she had ventured into the gardens while it rained. He couldn’t live with himself if she fell ill again.
‘Marianne, please, tend to yourself and dress for dinner.’ Colonel Brandon looked at the ruined wedding dress a little wistfully and hoped that it could be salvaged somehow. She looked so pristine and beautiful in it that he hoped that a tailor would be able to make some alterations and turn it into a day dress. ‘Have I told you yet, my love, that you look radiant?’ Her response was to scoff at him. ‘Do you truly think me so doltish? Flattering utterances shall not make me comply, Colonel Brandon.’ She walked past him and he stopped her by a single utterance of her name. ‘Where do you think you are going, Marianne?’ She lifted the hem of her dress and opened the door. ‘I am going to change my dress, not because you told me to, but because of my own desire to change. I am going to that in the privacy of a bedroom, unless you would want me to undress here, in front of every member of the staff to see and witness!’ She huffed in annoyance when her curls fell in her eyes and she pushed them angrily behind her ears. The Colonel’s heart warmed even though she was nothing but cold towards him, it warmed to her nonetheless, as it always did.
Marianne excused herself to the member of staff that stood behind the doors and she crossed the entrance hall to the flight of stairs on her left. She ascended the stairs and stopped at the top. Marianne had no idea where the bedchamber was and she wondered if she wanted to sacrifice her dignity by going back down and asking the Colonel for assistance. She decided not to, in case she would get more upset and fling something at his head. The fancy to do so was most difficult to suppress at the moment as it was, and she didn’t want to do something so incredibly rash that he would divorce her. Her family’s name would never recover from it, nor would she and Marianne didn’t wish to bring lower Margaret’s marriage prospects more than she had already done. Marianne opened the first door she passed and closed it immediately. A study. The next two doors revealed a guest room and dressing room. The bed was freshly made and Marianne didn’t open other doors, having found what she was looking for. Marianne entered the dressing room and was surprised to find most of her belongings there. She was grateful that the Colonel had set up a room for her. This discovery worked in his favour and Marianne’s anger dissipated a little. She undressed and put on an easy white frock, one she had worn often. She tried to maintain some part of the intricate hairdo she had started the day with, but it was no use. She decided to forego any efforts to her person and tried to dry herself off as well as she could. Once Marianne had finally calmed down enough to know that she wouldn’t fling any cutlery in her husband’s direction, she descended the stairs and went back to the sitting room. Her husband rose and bowed in her direction. Marianne didn’t acknowledge his presence and sat down far away from him.
Colonel Brandon knew he had to make amends and he would, but for now he needed Marianne warm, dry and he needed her to eat. He rose and gestured in the direction of his chair. Marianne looked up, apparently lost deep in thought and followed his hands. ‘Oh I could not, I would be taking your seat.’ ‘Marianne, it is nearest to the hearth. Please, sit down.’ Marianne seemed conflicted and it became apparent to Christopher that she would not take the offered seat, he sat down on the floor, although his old knee injury protested at the strange position. Marianne sighed deeply and sat down in his chair. Christopher pulled himself up by the support of the chair’s arm and sat down across from Marianne. He reached over and handed Marianne a glass of wine. He took his own and drank deeply from it. Marianne watched him, disdain clear in her eyes. Colonel Brandon put his glass down on the table and tried not to fidget under her unrelenting gaze.
‘I apologize, my darling, for my behaviour.’ Her gaze softened but her brow was still set and her jaw was still clenched. Even infuriated, she looked beautiful. ‘I do not know what overcame me, but my fit of melancholic feelings has faded. I feel quite well.’ She opened her mouth to say something but Christopher cut in. ‘The cause of it was only my doing. I saw you standing next to me and accepting to tie yourself to me, and I started to think how you would forever be held down by a man like me.’ The confession seemed to stoke the fire in Marianne’s eyes.
‘You are not a burden to me, sir, how could you be? It is I who is a burden to you. I will not stand for such self-pitying from your side.’ Christopher couldn’t stand the bitterness in her tone and rose. He kneeled beside her and took her hand. It was still colder than he liked and pressed it between his hands. ‘Marianne, you could never be a burden to me. You are my reward.’ His voice choked off and he bowed his head to bring his mouth to her wedding ring. He kissed it and kissed the other hand as well. He held her hands and she stayed silent for a brief moment before she pulled her hands out of his own. ‘Yes, I am well aware of the latter. Everyone and their mother has said that. You have said it. It is no secret to me how big of a reward I am to you. Yet not even hours later you already find the reward too little, or not rewarding enough and I have become an unshakeable burden to you.’ Christopher’s heart clenched at her words and the sneering of her voice. ‘Marianne, you are not my reward, I spoke too rashly. I understand why you married me, believe me no ignorant fool to the harsh and unforgiving ways of society. Especially regarding to women.’
Marianne didn’t know what to say or think anymore. She only wanted to weep and the man in front of her had seen her do just that often enough as it was. She wanted to go to bed and sleep. Perhaps before going to bed, she would read a little, if she dared to enter the library that was and claim one of the works there, or perhaps a little music could dissuade her tears. She was spent. She felt a little feverish and chilly and she knew that if she stayed in his presence any longer, she would begin to tremble and he would think her to have fallen ill. Marianne didn’t want him to worry and she choked back a sob. She reached past the Colonel and brought the wine to her mouth. She drank from it deeply and made certain to avoid eye contact with the man at her knees. The Colonel took the glass out of her hands and set it down. He rose and sat down. ‘I guess I started doubting our union when I thought of the relations. Queer of me is it not? A man afeared of his wedding night!’ Marianne truly didn’t know what to say then. ‘You do not have to worry about such a thing because no relations will be had any time soon.’ The rage inside her rose again and she knew she had teared up in frustration. She couldn’t help herself, she lifted her glass and emptied the remains of her wine in the Colonel’s face. She put it down a bit too harshly and the glass broke and cut her. Her husband rose in alarm and wanted to go to her. Marianne lifted her hand in attempt to convey the message that she did not need or want him anywhere near her. ‘I can take care of myself, although recent events have made it seem like I am incapable of doing thus. Goodnight, Colonel Brandon.’ ‘Marianne, I-’ Marianne left the sitting room and went back to the guest room she had encountered earlier that evening.
She undressed and readied herself for bed. The tears she had suppressed the last hour finally excited their ducts and Marianne sobbed heavily, frustrated with the way things had turned out. The day should have ended quite differently and instead she had, with her temper, robbed the Colonel of offering her his apologies and making things right. She had been awful and cruel. The worst thing was that she was still so upset with him that she couldn’t account for her behaviour towards him in the morning.
Colonel Brandon ate little and sat in his chair for an hour, waiting for Marianne to return but she didn’t. With a serviette he cleaned his face and rose. He ordered one of his servants to bring the scarcely touched food back to the kitchen and eat it themselves, for he was certain neither the master or his mistress would do so. He ascended the stairs and he passed her bedchamber. His was next to it and he entered his own bedchamber. He undressed and prepared himself for a night of pensive thoughts and restlessness. He could hear her sob through the wall and his heart clenched painfully. He would have to make amends somehow.