So, We'll Go No More A-Roving
So we'll go no more a-roving
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
And the moon be still as bright.
For the sword outwears its sheath,
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.
Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.
- George Gordon, Lord Byron
Miss Marianne Dashwood stood before her mirror, knowing that she would be Miss Dashwood for only a few more hours. In the morning, she would retire that name forever in favour of quite a different one - Mrs. Brandon.
"Mrs. Brandon," she said experimentally to herself. "Mrs. Brandon. Marianne Brandon. Mrs. Christopher Brandon."
No matter how many times she whispered the name, it still sounded alien and foreign. She knew who Marianne Daswood was, but who was Marianne Brandon? She scrutenized her face in the glass for changes, signs that she had grown up and was ready to be a man's wife. But her same usual face looked gravely back at her, eyes perhaps a little too wide, skin pale in the flickering candle light.
The knock at the door startled her.
"Come in." It was probably Elinor, come to say her goodnights. Delaford was a large house, familiar in its echoing largeness, as Norland had been. The family was staying in Delaford overnight, in preparation for the wedding in the morning.
"Marianne?" said the voice outside the door, not at all the one she had expected. This voice was deep and masculine. "It's me. May I come in?"
Marianne hadn't undressed yet. She walked to the door and opened it herself.
"Col. Brandon. Whatever are you doing here?"
Col. Brandon looked embarrassed and nervous, expressions Marianne had thought quite foreign to him.
"I wanted to talk to you," he said. "May I come in?"
It was not within the bounds of propriety to let a man in your bedroom, she knew, but Marianne thought that perhaps on the eve of her wedding to this man, it might be allowed. She moved aside. Col Brandon strode in the room, seeming to fill it completely, just as he did with every room he door closed behind him with a gentle click.
Marianne smiled, looking up through her lashes at him, and was startled to see his face so grave.
"Why whatever is the matter, dear Colonel?" she asked, a threat of anxiety sliding down her spine as if someone had placed an ice chip there. "You look quite serious."
Col Brandon took one of Marianne's hands.
"Dearest Marianne," he said softly. His voice was soft and gentle, just as it always was when he spoke to her. It was like she was a horse he was afraid would shy away if he spoke too loudly or made sudden moves.
Marianne looked up at him expectantly. She found she enjoyed the height difference between them. She wondered how far up she would have to lean to kiss him.
"I came to... to give you permission."
Marianne blinked, confused.
"To leave. If you so desire. Marianne, I'm giving you the chance to get out of this marriage, if it's not what you want."
Marianne drew away from him, hurt and confused.
"I don't understand," she said, a strange catch in her voice. "I thought you wanted this."
"I do!" Col. Brandon said, stepping forward so that he was once again directly in front of her. "I want this more than anything. I want this so much my heart aches for it. But Marianne, dearest Marianne, is this what you want?" He placed his fingers under her chin, and gently tipped her face up so that she was once more looking directly at him. "I know that you don't love me the way I love you. Not yet. But you agreed to this anyways. But my dear, gratitude and obligation are not the same as love. I want you to be sure of your choice. Tomorrow it will be too late." He looked down at her, his blue eyes blazing with the kind of fervent conviction that reminded Marianne of the hero she would have swooned over, in her novel-reading years. If anyone had told her last year that Col. Brandon would be looking at her like this, she would have laughed.
"And if I choose to leave?" she asked softly.
Col. Brandon looked away from her, as if the sight of her hurt him. He dropped her hand and stepped away, towards the fireplace.
"Then I would respect your wishes," she said, his voice still gentle in tone; but there was a hollow quality. "I can have a carriage ready to take you back to Barton in ten minutes." His back was to her now, towards the fireplace, but Marianne heard his words clearly. "I only want your happiness, Miss Dashwood."
Marianne couldn't help it. She laughed out loud. The giggles bubbled up and escaped her mouth before she could stop them. She pressed a hand to her lips in an effort to stifle them.
Col. Brandon swung around, staring at her in astonishment, as if she had gone mad.
"You only want my happiness?" Marianne asked, coming towards him and taking his hands once more. "Even if that doesn't include yours?"
"Even then," Col. Brandon said, looking at her as if to memorize her, to drink her in.
Marianne smiled, and shook her head.
"That is exactly why I will marry you tomorrow morning, my dearest Christopher," she said, taking his hand and kissing it.
Col. Brandon looked astonished.
"You will?" He asked.
"Did you expect me to leave, after all we have been through together? After all we have meant to each other?" Marianne chided him.
"I... I thought... gratitude is not the same as love," Col Brandon reminded her. "I wanted to be sure." He reached out and brushed a sandy blond curl away from Marianne's forehead. "I wanted you to be sure."
"I am," Marianne said. "I would not have said yes if I were not."
The two smiled at each other. They were very close together now, Marianne realized, pressed together with their joined hands between them. It was not proper for them to be so before their wedding, a voice that sounded suspiciously like Elinor said in Marianne's head. She smiled.
"Is that all? Or do you have any other startling revelations before we wed?"
Col. Brandon chuckled.
"That's all. A weight off my mind, my dearest."
"I am glad," said Marianne. "Now, if you don't mind, it's meant to be unlucky to see the bride on the wedding day, and that is only a few minutes away. It's nearly midnight."
"Yes, of course," the Colonel broke away, and Marianne mourned his warmth, the feeling of his body against hers. He walked to the door, and stopped in the entrance. "I will see you tomorrow?" he said, his voice turning up as if it were a question.
"Tomorrow," Marianne agreed firmly.
Col. Brandon took her hand and pressed a kiss to her palm, and then left, the door closing behind him.
Marianne blinked, then shook her head. She had not known she was so sure about this until he had asked her, until he had revealed his own anxiety. Now, there was nothing between them but a long aisle, an alter, and several precious words.
Marianne caught sight of herself in the mirror as she passed it on her way to bed, and paused to once more examine her reflection. Mrs. Brandon did not seem such a stranger to her any more.