Twin Compasses

Disclaimer: I, obviously, did not create any of these characters. They are the products of Jane Austen's considerable genius, at which I balk in awe.

Chapter 1: Marianne's Whim

Additional disclaimer: The poem excerptat the end is, of course, from John Donne's "A Valediction: Forbidden Mourning."

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Marianne accompanied her sister and mother to London to make the necessary purchases for Elinor's wedding to Mr. Ferrars. Although both sisters were reminded of the painful circumstances concerning their last such journey, at least one of them approached this new occasion with complete peace of mind and pleasant expectation for the future. The other, it seemed, was just as agitated as before, but with different reason.

"I do hope the Colonel shall be able to make a visit to us," Marianne professed absently over her porridge on the third morning of their weeklong visit. "We were only halfway finished with Edmund Spenser, and it seems a pity that we shall not have the chance to discuss him again until next week. He will have forgotten everything."

"I daresay the Colonel will continue his studies in your absence," Elinor mused, throwing a knowing look in her mother's direction. It was clear to the both of them that Marianne did not yet know the depths of her own feelings for dear Brandon, having only known the shallow sort of tenderness that Willoughby had bestowed upon her; the Colonel's felicity, each knew, was perhaps only months away. Both had discussed methods of throwing them together, but this excursion into Town and the absence it placed between the suitors proved to be more effective than all the parties of the past two months in Devonshire combined. They had heard nothing from her lips but "Brandon" and "The Colonel" since closing the doors of the London-bound coach.

"I certainly hope so. I am quite looking forward to seeing him again." Marianne primly dabbed at her mouth with a handkerchief.

Breakfast ended, and the three women gathered their accoutrements and headed out to do their day's shopping. Thanks to an uncharacteristically generous gift from John and Fanny on the occasion of Elinor's wedding (the distribution of which all presumed to be John's initiative, rather than his wife's), the three of them were able to have new gowns made. Today their business was a fitting, followed by the search for a suitable gift for Edward. Elinor chose a bolt of fine linen, which she would fashion into a shirt, and a Bible of gilded brown leather. Marianne, who believed in more romantic wedding gifts but who refrained from being pretentious, nevertheless found herself entranced with a book of her own as Elinor purchased the Bible. It was a selection of the poetry of John Donne, with whom she was barely familiar but about whom she had heard great things. She secretly bought it while her mother and sister stepped outside to take account of their spending, and slipped it into the pocket of her cloak.

Lunchtime found the trio back at their inn, where they mapped out their plans for the afternoon. Marianne pleaded abstinence, saying she was feeling poorly, and so after they had refreshed themselves the mother and eldest daughter took off, leaving Marianne behind to delve into her newest book.

She was utterly bewitched. Had she presence of mind, Marianne would have been amazed at the fact that she had not yet discovered Donne. His every word seemed to capture the essence of her very character, and the more she read of him, the more she was certain her newly acquired friend the Colonel must read it. Acting in the impetuous fashion she had recently abandoned after her tragedy with Willoughby, Marianne again found herself writing a letter to a man who was not her betrothed from an inn in London, this time accompanied by a parcel:

Colonel Brandon,

Please excuse my forwardness in addressing you so. I only mean to bestow unto you this discovery of mine. I was quite taken with Mr. Donne, and thought you might appreciate him as well.

Yours, &c.

Marianne Dashwood

It was only after she had dispatched her note and package to the boy downstairs and sat once more in the silence of the sitting room, the final stanzas of one of her new poems ringing through her head, did Marianne begin to notice with the barest fragments of her being that she was forming an attachment.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must

Like th'other foot, obliquely run

Thy firmness makes my circle just,

And makes me end where I begun.

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