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  1. In Memory of LAJ_FETT: Please share your remembrances and condolences HERE

Story [Sense & Sensibility] "The Best is Yet to Be" | 2023 Summer Olympics Decathlon; Ensemble Cast

Discussion in 'Non Star Wars Fan Fiction' started by Mira_Jade , Jun 13, 2023.

  1. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The (FavoriteTM) Fanfic Mod With the Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Title: "The Best is Yet to Be"
    Fandom: Jane Austen's Sense & Sensibility
    Author: Mira_Jade

    Genre: Drama, Family, Romance, Humor, etc.
    Time Frame: Missing scenes from the epilogue of Chapter L
    Characters: Ensemble Cast (see the Index for more)

    Summary: Moments from the summer of 1798, told in ten parts.

    Author's Notes: Hello, dear readers! Here I am, back with my Regency ramblings - this time with a decathlon for the 2023 Summer Olympics. Though, in all honesty, with the way DRL is right now, this is a project I'll more than likely chip away at long past July. Yet, with acknowledging that one caveat, I am excited to say that I have a very specific goal in mind for this decathlon! In this collection, I intend to cover the time from the Dashwoods' return to Barton from Cleveland through the events of All Fools in Love, and then, I intend to have an epic Marathon Swimming finale in a certain Michaelmas story I've been promising for ages. Yes, you read that right: it's finally time. [face_batting]

    So, towards that end, let us begin! For those who may be interested, I have included links to the related stories in this collection and further notes about the timeline of events underneath the spoiler tags below - though no prior knowledge should be required to understand these stories, if you'd prefer to dive right in with all intrepidity. (You'll just be missing references to carrot-guarding, and riveting debates on the merits of one particularly unattractive fabric of green pine and cone versus another. ;))


    The events in green belong to Jane Austen, even if many of the exact dates are inferred by me, and the events in purple are my own additions.
    • February 23rd, 1797: Henry Dashwood Sr. passes away
    • March 5th, 1797: John and Fanny Dashwood take possession of Norland
    • June 12th, 1797: Edward Ferrars arrives at Norland
    • August 10th, 1797: The Dashwoods relocate to Barton Cottage in Devonshire
    • September 19th, 1797: Marianne and Willoughby's fateful encounter in the rain
    • October 8th, 1797: Colonel Brandon receives Eliza Williams' letter, and departs for London
    • October 13th, 1797: Willoughby leaves Devonshire upon his aunt's discovery of his affair with Eliza
    • October 25th, 1797: David Williams is born
    • October 27th, 1797: The duel between Brandon and Willoughby
    • December 14th, 1797: Elinor learns of Edward and Lucy Steele's secret engagement
    • January 4th, 1798: Mrs. Jennings takes the Misses Dashwood and Steele to London
    • January 21st, 1798: Marianne learns of Willoughby's engagement
    • February 16th, 1798: Willoughby and Sophia Grey are married
    • March 3rd, 1798: Edward's engagement to Lucy is discovered
    • March 4th, 1798: Mrs. Ferrars disinherits Edward; his fortune is settled on his younger brother
    • March 6th, 1798: Brandon offers Edward the living at Delaford to allow him to marry Lucy
    • April 1st, 1798: The Dashwoods leave London, overnighting at Cleveland Park, where Marianne takes ill
    • April 10th, 1798: Lucy breaks her engagement to Edward in favor of Robert Ferrars
    • May 17th, 1798: After Lucy and Robert's wedding, Edward travels to Barton and proposes to Elinor
    • August 3rd, 1798: Edward and Elinor are married; they accept Brandon's invitation to stay at Delaford House while repairs to the parsonage are completed, and Marianne stays with them
    • September 7th, 1798: Edward's first sermon, and the events of "All Fools in Love"
    • September 21st, 1798: Eliza moves from Whitwell to Delaford with her son
    • September 29th, 1798: The Michaelmas; Elinor and Edward take up residence at the parsonage
    • November 5th, 1798: At Sir John's Guy Fawkes bonfire, Marianne confronts Brandon about the possibility of their relationship evolving into something more, with disappointing results
    • December 27th, 1798: Marianne visits Elinor and Edward at Delaford, and a series of events chip away at Brandon's resolve
    • January 15th, 1799: Brandon asks Mrs. Dashwood's permission to court Marianne; Elinor tells her mother about her pregnancy during the same visit
    • January 28th, 1799: The Dashwood ladies come to stay at the parsonage until Elinor's birth
    • January 30th, 1799: Margaret takes up fencing lessons
    • June 8th, 1799: Brandon and Marianne are officially engaged
    • August 26th, 1799: Jacob Ferrars is born
    • September 27th, 1799: Brandon and Marianne are married


    Disclaimer: Nothing is mine, but for the words. My title is yet another William Woodsworth nick, borrowed with all respect and affection, as always. [face_love]

    [:D]





    Index of Events

    I. "A Difference of Seven and Ten" | May 14th, 1798 | Colonel Brandon (High Dive)

    II. "In Benefice" | May 17th, 1798 | Mr. Edward Ferrars & Colonel Brandon (Equestrian Cross-Country)


    ~ MJ @};-
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2023
  2. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The (FavoriteTM) Fanfic Mod With the Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Author's Notes: To begin, I am going to tackle the High Deep Dive event, which requires five hundred plus words of introspection. Who better, I thought, to write for than the least loquacious character of the story in Colonel Brandon? And the novel gave me an excellent opportunity to do so - even if I'm paraphrasing, rather than looking up the exact quote - when Jane Austen said that after escorting the Dashwoods from Cleveland, Brandon delayed his return to Barton for as long as possible, spending his evenings alone at Delaford and considering every difference between himself and Marianne, especially in their ages, until he felt strong enough to endure her company without any expectations. (I know, he made a valiant effort. :p [face_mischief])

    So now, without any further ado . . .





    I. “A Difference of Seven and Ten”
    (500+ Word High Dive)​

    May 14th, 1798

    There were five thousand seven hundred and forty-one reasons why he had no business considering Miss Marianne Dashwood as anything more than one of the most remarkable women of his acquaintance.

    And those were only to start.

    It was not only the imparity of their ages – which he had long since calculated down to the very day – that made such considerations not only impossible, but nigh inequitable. No; it was the difference in their characters, in their manner of thinking, expression, and disposition. The vast disproportion between their experiences in life only only furthered those differences. He had seen and done so much – had endured so much – and the battlefields he’d survived left behind scars that he scarce wished to inflict upon any partner, let alone one so young.

    Yet, his stubborn heart ran afield of his mind, hadn’t she too endured wars of her own? Loss and ill-fortune could hardly be compared as the greater or lesser than another, for a wound upon the heart was just that: a wound upon the heart, no matter how it was rent. Marianne Dashwood knew what it was to ache; she understood bereavement, heartbreak, and despair. She’d even stared into the face of her own mortality, and had come out the stronger for the experience – she’d endured, and found victory through her endurance.

    Indeed, his heart stalwartly refused to lay down its arms, where once a division of maturity had gaped between them – the greatest chasm the kept him resolute against the steady current of his ever growing affections – that division had since lessened, so much so that he now found himself battered by those same waves as they strengthened with the tide. And that . . . that was the most treacherous argument his heart could possibly make to batter the defenses of his mind.

    As such, quite without his conscious direction, he couldn't help but recall those hellish days at Cleveland, and, in particular, the seemingly unending journey he’d endured to bring Mrs. Dashwood to her daughter's side. The carefully staid mask that he’d long since perfected – so much so that he now considered it truly his own – had cracked underneath the moon's pull of dear God, please don't take her too, and the matriarch had clearly seen . . .

    Do you love my daughter, Colonel?”

    The question had struck him like roundshot from a cannon, leaving him utterly powerless but to baldly confront the question he'd so long avoided with the shock of impact.

    Did he love Marianne Dashwood? He . . . he thought highly of her, was his first, instinctive reply. He greatly esteemed her – he liked her, even. He thought of her as a first ray of sunlight after a storm, was perhaps more apt – a sparkling pool of clear water in a barren land – but that, he could hardly say. What words even existed to wholly describe such a feeling?

    . . . love? No . . . even that greatest word of all was an imperfect match for what he felt.

    After all, he'd reasoned, he could not love a mere girl – a child, he’d castigated himself when such harsh measures were necessary, no matter how unfair that comparison admittedly was to Marianne – yet the woman she could someday become, and perhaps even now was . . .

    I hold your daughter in the highest possible regard,” he’d finally managed to answer. How he spoke thus, he hardly knew – he'd even managed to speak his words true, no matter how incomplete that truth was. No, he did not love Marianne Dashwood (not quite, not truly – not yet, at least), but to imagine a world where her light no longer shone . . .

    . . . he'd endured many tribulations in his life, yet that, he thought, might finally be the ocean swell that drew him under.

    I see,” Mrs. Dashwood had smiled a small smile for his words – and then, even though her own eyes were red with tears, she'd reached out to press his hand and offer what comfort she could. Against his better sense, he had briefly, but firmly, returned the hold.

    Five thousand seven hundred and forty-one; resolutely, he pushed aside his memory of her mother’s understanding – and the far more dangerous promise of her approval. Just as he had done nearly every night since arriving back at Delaford – delaying his promised return to Barton for as long as possible, for he would not accept the Dashwoods’ hospitality until he was the master of himself once more – he paced from one end of the library from the next, lost in the contention between his heart and mind.

    He eventually paused his restless trek in favor of leaning against the mantle-piece of the hearth in frustration, turning away from the familiarity of his surroundings. This room was usually his refuge – a place he’d made his own in a house that belonged, first and foremost, to his earliest memories of war – but the very attributes that typically made it such then only plagued him further. The expansive cases of books (which he knew she would delight in exploring) and the grand pianoforte (which he had often imagined her seated before, filling these typically long and solitary evenings with song) he endeavored to ignore. Even turning from the room to the view out the windows offered no respite – for the last of the daylight then gilded the downs in fiery contrast against the dark storm-clouds that were brewing out in the distance, somewhere yet over the sea. (Such a mingled sight of natural violence and majesty, he knew, would have drawn her in want for communion as if she was some tempest-born spirit to match.) Instead, he disregarded every point that he normally would have delighted in (that she would delight in) in favor of staring into the flames, hoping to lose himself in their dance.

    Then, with all possible resolve, he began to count. One, he ground the number out, then two and three and onward still. He made it to five and six hundred before his thoughts began to wander again – with the warmth of the fire, growing uncomfortably hot due to his close proximity this late in the spring season, recalling him back to Cleveland once more. Helplessly, he remembered the sight of Marianne – her face still unhealthily flushed, her brow wet with perspiration, sticking her sodden curls to her skin – in her sickbed. He’d ignored every propriety to see her as thus – for he’d needed to see confirmation that she lived and would continue to do so with his own eyes the same as he required the breath in his lungs; it had been imperative to assure himself that she would not share Eliza's fate, that she was not lost to him, that she would live – and was unimaginably rewarded for his impertinence.

    Thank you,” she’d whispered, each word clearly costing her great effort, but with her eyes conveying the depth of the sentiment she felt all the more powerfully than mere speech alone.

    During her recovery in the days following, even the smallest tokens of such regard melted the long and heavy years from his shoulders and the burdens from his heart. He'd felt like a green lad again, eager to seek her favor and wanting nothing more from life when he gained it in return. Even so, he was not so pathetically starved for affection so as to confuse the basic courtesies of polite society for a sign of some great and everlasting love. No; he well knew his role. He could read to her when Elinor’s voice tired, and offer her an arm to walk about the gardens when she wished to take the air, and be just what she needed when she needed it most: a friend. He did not, and would not, seek anything more – just as anything more would be unimaginable for her to give in return.

    After all, he’d seen her in love before (if such an unequal bond with such a worthless man could be called thus), and such loves rarely came twice (did they not? his heart whispered in stubborn evidence to the contrary). He had no reason to expect anything (everything), and to entertain even the idea in the privacy of an unguarded moment . . .

    One thousand two hundred and ten.

    . . . it was folly.

    One thousand nine hundred and seventy-three.

    Unpardonable.

    Two thousand one hundred and twenty-four.

    Utterly impossible.

    Two thousand three hundred and thirty-six.

    And yet . . . if Marianne was truly convinced that love could never come twice, he could at least offer her a sensible match once she was suitably recovered from her heartbreak to consider such an alliance. She needed a friend, yes, and perhaps ever would, even more so than a lover – and he could be that friend in every way. He could offer her the certainty of a comfortable home and a steady fortune – for herself, and for her mother and sisters, too. The Dashwood ladies would never have to want for anything ever again, and, in doing so, a great many wrongs committed against them (for John Dashwood too was a worthless man for refusing to honor and care for his own) would finally be made right.

    The thought of such a relationship, however, filled him with a miserably hollow feeling after its initial rush of heady, tantalizing joy. For, deep down, he knew that he did not want a mere dutiful bride, one who meekly offered herself up as some passive sacrifice for her family’s security – who saw herself as a reward for a man who had done much to aid her and her family and could yet do more still.

    He’d never acted with an eye to gain; he had no desire to win her hand by any virtue that would impose a sense of obligation upon her. Even the thought alone left him feeling ill, his heart and mind unified, at last, in their shared revulsion.

    Yet, what did his desires matter, if she wanted nothing but companionship and the certainty of an honorable man (if he could be called thus, when such thoughts plagued him) for a husband . . .

    . . . well, far more disproportionate matches were founded upon far less every day, were they not? He had no desire for a prudent marriage based in good sense alone, yet if she did . . . how could he refuse her?

    Two thousand eight hundred and twenty-two.

    He could refuse her, he rebuked himself, by holding fast to the knowledge that such a match would only grieve her in time. Hers was a soul brilliantly – exquisitely – made, and to see such a light dimmed, let along extinguished, through any action of his own . . . it was untenable. He would not cage a spirit such as hers, even if she willingly gave him the key. He could not – he would not – for her sake, if not his own.

    Three thousand three hundred and eighteen.

    Still, he could offer her safety and security, he found himself trapped in a seemingly infinite loop – two things that she’d had in scarce supply since her father’s death. He knew that they could, at the very least, be a husband and wife who bore a sincere regard for each other; theirs could be an amicable partnership built on a firm foundation of mutual respect and understanding. (For how many marriages knew far less?) If he chose to indulge such a course, he would never have to spend another evening like this alone. Indeed, for the vision of having Marianne there with him to bicker over a passage of Pope (whom she did not care for at all, and thus, he quoted from with intrepidity – or so he had, in those last days of the previous summer, before John Willoughby blew in with the autumn wind) or to master a complicated passage of Beethoven together (her fingers fumbling as she struggled and persevered and then all but soared along with the music as its composer must have first envisioned at its inception) or even just sitting quietly in compatible silence . . .

    . . . was his heart truly so starved for how it leapt in wanting for even a shade of such martial bliss?

    Three thousand seven hundred and ninety-two.

    After all, men far older than him took younger brides all the time (never mind that he had never thought very highly of such men). Their relationship would hardly be an oddity in the eyes of society, and if such a difference did not concern Marianne (never mind that it did), then perhaps it should not concern . . .

    . . . but no, no. Even considering such a thing was (should have been) reproachable with utmost severity. He did not deserve the honor of her hand, even in a platonic marriage of convenience, when he'd looked upon the line of her neck when she was bent over a book, the grace of her hands as her fingers danced over the piano keys, the spark to her eyes and the flush to her cheeks when she was taken by the fire of some debate or another . . . and known wanting.

    The devil take him, but he flinched to recall the ardency of some of his previously unguarded thoughts. She was hardly older than his ward, for God’s sake. To imagine Marianne placed in such a role above Eliza – to be a quasi sort of grandmother to the illegitimate child of the man who'd since jilted her and threw her own heart aside before she was even twenty years of age herself . . .

    . . . the very concept was indecorous to the extreme – ludicrous even, a page torn straight from some tormented romantic’s lurid novel. Even Shakespeare would be hard-pressed to make believable such a ridiculous plot, and if the Bard himself could not succeed in bringing such a story to life . . .

    Four thousand one hundred and seventy-six.

    But Marianne would like Eliza, he rather suspected – could easily come to love her, even. For they shared a similar radiance of spirit, did they not? Marianne could be the sort of friend his ward would benefit from, one who was uniquely poised to understand her situation without the least bit opprobrium. She would not judge or censure when so many felt themselves righteous enough to cast the first stone. Indeed, Marianne would, perhaps -

    - as if he could expect her to form any sort of attachment with a woman was also so attached to John bloody Willoughby, he ruthlessly cut off such a futile line of reasoning with an unspoken oath. Marianne could hardly be expected to rub salt into her already open wounds, and he would not (should not) ask such of her.

    Four thousand four hundred and fifteen.

    The very idea was reprehensible.

    Four thousand six hundred and fifty-one.

    Absurd.

    Four thousand seven hundred and ninety-nine.

    Hopeless.

    Five thousand three hundred and forty-six.

    Yet, for every sensible argument of his mind, his sensibilities thwarted his higher logic. Over and over again, he considered the differences in their ages, and his heart reminded him of the return to youth he felt in her presence. She would not quickly trust another young man again, but he – long established in his ways and familiar to her – had the reputation of a gentleman to offer, made true in word and deed. He considered the gravity of his character, the somber comportment of his demeanor, and his heart returned with the complement of her luminance and vivacity. He considered the battlefields he had walked and the invisible wounds he yet carried from witnessing and experiencing too many inhuman atrocities to mention, yet his heart replied with the idea of walking that path alongside another and taking strength from her presence . . . for when was the last time he had truly allowed himself to lean upon any other soul than his own? In a way, from the moment he'd first been old enough to shield his sister and Eliza from his brother's wrath . . . from his father's cold fury, he never had again. Would he inevitably smother Marianne underneath such a weight, or, if they shared a yoke together as one, could they perhaps support each other as God intended when he'd designed a husband for wife and woman for man in return? Would the burden between them really be so unequal?

    . . . was it wicked of him, that he wanted almost desperately to find out?

    For, above all else, his heart resolutely parried every attack of his mind with reminders of her warmth, her candor, and her splendid passion for life. Where she walked, spring trailed in her wake, and for the likes of him, who’d known only winter for so long . . .

    . . . how could he not (love her) esteem her with the greatest possible measure? Was it really so wrong for him to want to bask in the light she cast, and yearn to be a matching such light for her? If there was even the slightest possibility that she could (love him) feel a mere fraction of the ever growing regard that he felt for her . . .

    Five thousand seven hundred and forty-one.

    There were five thousand seven hundred and forty one reasons why the idea of considering Miss Marianne as a potential wife was incommensurable in every possible way . . . and yet, his heart still ran athwart of his mind at every turn.

    Gritting his teeth against the obstinacy of his sensibilities, Brandon turned from the hearth to continue pacing the library, and began his count again.



    In the end, Brandon will hold out for almost an entire year against Marianne. [face_mischief] [face_tee_hee] But, until then, Jane Austen sure didn't make it easy on this couple, so neither am I - even if I feel that she better explored the realistic difficulties to be found in such an age gap in Emma, for Emma and Mr. Knightley had the exact same difference in their ages. (I wonder if she had a RL couple that inspired her. [face_thinking]) In S&S, I suspect, Austen was trying to say so many things in her first novel that she just ran out of pages to do so more thoroughly - and this would definitely be a common aspect of Regency society that she'd want to expound upon, because she's Jane Austen. But that's okay; I have all of the words at my disposal to do so with fan fiction. [face_devil] [face_whistling]



    ~ MJ @};-
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2023
  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    I love introspection and this is so oomphy in that regard! The lyricality and sheer obstinacy he displays. Now the standard, "My Foolish Heart" Will just start playing in my head LOL
    @};-
     
  4. ViariSkywalker

    ViariSkywalker Kessel Run Hostess and Champion star 4 VIP - Game Winner VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 9, 2002
    YAAAAAAAASSSSS!!!! [face_dancing]

    *ahem*

    What I meant to say was that I am so looking forward to this entire collection, and the Michaelmas story in particular. [face_batting] And now I'm going to stop flailing like a madwoman and actually read your first entry. :p [:D]
     
  5. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    I absolutely love the Freudian slip that turned the "High Dive" prompt into a "Deep Dive", but well, I guess it's fitting, because it's what you did here!

    As I mentioned in another of your S&S threads, I only remember the very broad strokes of the novel since I read it in high school, and I haven't been able to make the time to re-read it yet. This means that I was a bit lost with some references to plot points (I hardly recalled the fact that Marianne had been gravely ill, and I don't know who Eliza is), and I know that I'll have to come back here after the summer holidays (S&S is in the pile I'll be taking along in August when we go on vacation), but I still really enjoyed reading this. Colonel Brandon counting his 5741 reasons to not consider Marianne as a prospective wife was a great way to break up the stream of consciousness and highlight the various aspects of his character, all the while highlighting how he's torn between love (even though he won't allow himself to use this word) and doing what is right. I do remember that the wedding takes place at the very end of the end of the novel, so I imagine that you're filling the gap here with a purpose to explain how these two things can be one and the same, and why it took Colonel Brandon so long to realise that!

    This was a great opening salvo for the challenge, and I'll be here for the next stories as well, although, as I said already, I'll probably be revisiting this thread after August for more detailed reviews!
     
  6. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The (FavoriteTM) Fanfic Mod With the Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    :eek: [face_laugh] :oops:!!!

    My goodness, but isn't it? I almost don't even want to go back and edit that error now. I'll have to keep at least one reference, you know, for posterity. :p
     
  7. pronker

    pronker Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 28, 2007
    Glorious suffering, well delineated. *happy sigh*
     
  8. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    This was fantastic, and truly felt like a missing scene from Sense and Sensibility. You really are able to capture the wit and language of Austen so well that it feels like it absolutely could have been part of the book, and the Regency vibes really shine through as well. It all feels very immersive and as if we are truly in the mind of Colonel Brandon and inhabiting his era in history with him.

    I loved the whole story, and if I quoted every line I loved, I'd have to quote the whole thing, but to highlight some of my absolute favorite parts[face_love]

    What a great opening line! I love that Colonel Brandon has been so precise and detailed in his thinking as to enumerate all of these thousands of reasons, and of course, the fact that he has detailed and enumerated so many reasons shows just how much his mind is dwelling on Marianne!

    Then the follow up with "And those were only to start" feels like just the kind of clever wit for which Jane Austen is famous!

    It tickles my heart that Colonel Brandon calculated the difference between his and Marianne's ages down to the day, but, of course, he would! You are always so smart about what details you include and they really reflect the mindset of whichever character's point of view you are writing, and I think that is on full display here!

    Colonel Brandon has a great and powerful insight here, and I just have to quote it in respect.

    I really appreciated all the military comparisons Colonel Brandon draws on throughout this piece, because it feels like exactly how a military man of this era would think. It makes absolute sense that a man like Colonel Brandon would see the world in military terms.

    Ooh, and this bit just made my heart melt into a puddle[face_love] Just the thought that Colonel Brandon has noticed Marianne's love of playing the pianoforte and has started to imagine her playing at his pianoforte and filling his solitary evenings with her music and company warms my soul!

    You really did a lovely job with this deep dive into Colonel Brandon's mind, and I can't wait to see your next entry for the Decathlon whenever you post it@};-
     
  9. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The (FavoriteTM) Fanfic Mod With the Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Thank you so much for the wonderful feedback, everyone! I have a few replies, and then we'll be moving on to the next event. :D


    lol! That really is a perfect fit, isn't it? I'm so glad you enjoyed, and thank you, as always, for reading! [face_love] [:D]



    lolol!!! [face_laugh] [face_love] [:D]

    I am so looking forward to telling the Michaelmas story - I know that I've made you wait long enough, so I can only hope that it's worth the hype. :p

    As always, it's a joy to have you along for the ride, and I thank you for reading! [face_love] [:D]


    This honestly still makes me giggle. :p

    Welp, looking at my current pace, I will be working on this collection well past August! [face_laugh] 8-} I'm still absolutely honored that you're going to re-read a novel just to help you dive into my stories better, too - not that one needs any such reason to enjoy a book by Jane Austen, of course. [face_love]

    That said, your feedback is absolutely lovely and I still benefit from it, even with you being somewhat unfamiliar with the source material! Actually, that said, if you're looking for a good summer movie night in the meantime, I can't recommend the 1995 film version of S&S highly enough - especially for the scenes regarding Marianne's sickness, which are so perfectly portrayed on screen it's unreal. Besides a few variances - mainly with Brandon's backstory and my inclusion of Teh Duel - the movie will tell you everything you need to know! And, if you're interested, I've included a bit of backstory as regards Brandon and both Elizas to help you orient yourself behind the spoiler tag - but please, feel free to skip reading this if you'd like! ;)

    It highly amuses me, knowing that Charlotte Brontë actually scoffed at Jane Austen's writing like a bad cliché American high school Goth thinking that she's So Much Deeper than everyone else. Brandon has a backstory that puts him on par with Mr. Rochester and other such angsty Byronic heroes, but without ever losing his goodness and kindness, à la Jane Eyre herself. (Not that I don't love Mr. Rochester, grumpy warts and all. :p)

    In short, Brandon was the youngest of three children by quite some years, with an elder sister and a much older elder brother. Austen had nothing good to say about the Brandon family homelife, and we can read between the lines for some manner of an abusive situation. While Susanna Brandon was more of a maternal figure for our Brandon, he grew up with a girl his age named Eliza Williams, who was his father's ward. Eliza was a distant family member in possession of a very large fortune, and had no living relations left to protect her as an heiress.

    You can infer from the text that Brandon and Eliza were a safe-haven for each other in an unhealthy household - especially after Susanna left to marry. As these things go, Brandon and Eliza fell in love, and attempted to elope when they were sixteen - eloping was necessary, since Eliza was intended to marry the elder Brandon brother, thus giving the family use of her fortune. They were caught before they made it to Scotland (which I actually wrote about here, if you're interested), upon which Eliza was sent back home to marry Jack Brandon, and our Brandon was packed off to the military and deployed to India. (Which I wrote about here, too - but again, only if you're interested. ;))

    Marriage for Eliza was not a happy state. Austen said that Jack Brandon was "unkind" and "his pleasures as a married man were not what they ought to have been" which, well . . . domestic violence was not against the law at the time, so long as a wife's life was not endangered - so make of that what you will. We do know that things were bad enough for Eliza to flee her marriage by running away with another man - upon which Jack Brandon divorced her. Eliza's unnamed lover abandoned her when she ran out of money to share, and she eventually fell further and further, passing herself from man to man in order to survive.

    When our Brandon returned home from India, he searched for her, and at last found her dying in a sponging house (a sorta debtor's prison). She had a three-year-old little girl, also named Eliza, who had been born to an unknown father. Eliza asked Brandon to care for her daughter, and he vowed to do so, upon which Eliza passed away. (This too is a story I've had in the works for ages, that I still need to finish - and it's an angsty one, to say the least.)

    At the time, Brandon was a captain in the army, with no fixed home of his own, as Jack Brandon was still alive and master of Delaford. As a bachelor soldier, he paid for Eliza to stay with other families when he was away from England, and then for her to go to school. When Brandon was thirty, Jack Brandon passed away, and he inherited Delaford - which was a right mess due to long mismanagement. Austen never said so specifically, but I think it's easy to infer that Delaford was not somewhere the younger Eliza Williams wanted to live - as her mother would still be very much remembered by many on the estate, and the social stigma of her being bastard-born would continually hang over her front and center. In more of her story, which I'd someday like to tell, I head-canon her as bouncing around from the Géroux's estate in Devonshire, Whitwell, and Delaford for stints of time, and then Brandon still paying for her to attend school and stay with other families with girls her age.

    That leads us to the events of the novel. Just previously, Brandon had allowed Eliza to go to Bath with a family of young ladies. While in Bath, Eliza met John Willoughby. Willoughby, a self-proclaimed seducer, saw the girl as an easy mark, and with all the typical lines we can imagine, convinced her to run away with him. He only took her as far as London. Whether or not Eliza expected to elope to Scotland for a marriage, or was merely waiting for Willoughby to supposedly secure his aunt's approval - as he was to inherit Mrs. Smith's fortune and estate - and marry her in England is anyone's guess. Then, once he grew bored of her, he left her in the city without his ultimate address. (In Willoughby's "apology" to Elinor, he even called Eliza stupid for being unable to figure out how to contact him if she truly needed to do so.) Eliza, who was by then pregnant, stayed in London, waiting for Willoughby to return, until she could do so no longer with the birth of her child drawing near. She at last wrote to Brandon - who'd spent the last eight months searching for her - and he immediately dashed off to London to relieve her. (Ironically spoiling plans for an excursion to Whitwell that Willoughby - who was by then "courting" Marianne - chastised Brandon most severely for as rude. I know, right? What a piece of work. o_O)

    Upon finding Eliza, Brandon wrote Willoughby's aunt, who then insisted that Willoughby wed Eliza as honor demanded. Willoughby refused, and Mrs. Smith cut him from her will. This ruined Willoughby's plans to propose to Marianne, as he refused to live in "less comfort than he was accustomed to", and he ran off to London to pursue the heiress Miss Grey, whom he had previously been building a relationship with. Brandon even went so far as to call Willoughby out in a duel (which I totally wrote about here), but Willoughby still refused to act the gentleman and honor Eliza. Instead, he married his wealthy heiress and lived happily ever after in good standing with not only polite society, but the elite of society, while Eliza bore an unequal measure of shame and repudiation in her own turn.

    Eliza named her son David, and we're going to meet both of them coming up soon in this collection - though I wrote a bit about her starting over in my spring bingo ficlets - where she will bravely be making a new life for herself and heading down a path to the happy ending that she most certainly deserves. [face_love]

    Okay, I know those notes got lengthy, but there you have it! [face_laugh] 8-} :p If you stuck in there this long, you're a rockstar. ;) [:D]

    Thank you! I appreciate that Austen wrote this couple as taking the long way around, as it were - anything else would have been out of character for the both of them, and I could easily imagine these thoughts going through Brandon's mind while he desperately tries to convince himself that he's very much Not In Love. [face_love] [face_mischief]

    As always, you're too kind, and I look forward to whatever sort of feedback you'd like to leave whenever you're inclined to leave it! [face_love] [:D]



    All the good stuff, right? :cool: [face_mischief] [face_love]

    Thank you for reading! :D



    Aw, thank you! That really is the highest compliment. [face_love]

    It felt like a perfect way to highlight how desperately Brandon was trying to adhere to sense rather than sensibility. [face_mischief] [face_whistling]

    I take it back, that is the ultimate compliment, and I thank you! [face_blush] [face_love] [:D]

    Again, you honor me! [face_love] Beyond being a convenient way to break up my pose, it felt right for Brandon to be so precise, especially in a way that almost doubles as a bit of self-flagellation, you know? :p

    I was so proud of this line, because it's true! [face_love]

    Those are details that I loved to write, so I am glad to hear that the stood out to you too!

    And mine as well! I love how well Brandon and Marianne match - no matter how Brandon is trying to convince himself that they are ill-suited for each other. :p They are the perfect mix of opposites attracting while still founding a relationship on the solid ground of shared values and common interests. With the weight they place in goodness and honor, their romantic sensibilities, and their love for literature and music and nature - they're going to be very happy together, even with the mundane, everyday joys of an evening's shared entertainment at the piano. [face_love]

    Thank you so very much! I am thrilled that you enjoyed this deep dive (heh :p) and can't wait to share the next event! [face_love]



    [:D]
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2023
  10. Mira_Jade

    Mira_Jade The (FavoriteTM) Fanfic Mod With the Cape star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Jun 29, 2004
    Author’s Notes: Hello, dear readers! Next, it's my pleasure to tackle the Equestrian Cross-Country, which requires 400+ words; the story element of a chasm to cross; the words Reined, Fence, Hunter; and to include or take inspiration from the line of dialogue, "Only the strongest shoulders can carry the hopes of a nation."

    To do so, I have a few notes to share as regards the setting of this scene, which I'll include under the spoiler tag due to length. Beyond that, I thank you all for reading and hope that you enjoy! [:D]

    In one of the novel's side-plots, John Dashwood liked Colonel Brandon as a potential husband for Elinor and encouraged the match while they were in London – of which Edward decidedly Did Not Approve. Undoubtedly, Jane Austen enjoyed the dramatic irony of Elinor dreading having Edward and Lucy settling so close, and in such a way that would precipitate their continued company due to their mutual acquaintances, while Edward had much the same dread for Elinor and Brandon. That, of course, eventually turned into Brandon dreading Marianne’s continued close proximity due to Elinor and Edward ultimately taking up residence at the parsonage before the plot happily resolved itself. (I know, Austen was a hoot. :p)

    Yet, going back to those last days in London, John Dashwood, in typical John Dashwood fashion, wanted Elinor to make a good match in order to assuage his own guilt for failing to honor his father's last wishes. To achieve that end, he made more than one hint to Brandon – including one of my favorite scenes in the novel, which unfortunately didn’t make it to the ‘95 film, undoubtedly due to time. In that scene, Marianne shook off her malaise regarding Willoughby's loss just long enough to defend Elinor against Edward’s mother and Fanny. Marianne was perhaps overly-emotional and all too public about the scene, which caused yet another titter amongst the London socialites in attendance. John, rather than showing sympathy for or defending either of his sisters, instead used the occasion to interrupt Brandon – who was approaching Marianne with the aim of offering comfort himself – and talk up Elinor’s virtues by putting down Marianne. (Yeah. I know, right? o_O) I’m paraphrasing again, but Austen graciously didn’t write Brandon’s exact reaction – though I'm sure he was inwardly debating whether or not another duel would be entirely out of order. [face_whistling] To conclude the chapter, Austen only said that John Dashwood was unsuccessful in his endeavor and had no way of knowing that the scene left Brandon with the highest estimation of the wrong Dashwood sister and more in love with her than ever. :p

    For her part, Fanny – who hoped for a match between the Honorable Miss Morton, a wealthy heiress from the peerage, and Edward – encouraged John’s aims, or at very least least, took up his endeavor in order to ensure that Edward knew that Elinor was no longer available as a potential wife. Keeping that in mind, there were a few gaps in the timeline of the novel that I never quite understood, and one of them is just how long it took Edward to propose to Elinor after Lucy broke off their engagement. Imagining that Edward was avoiding Elinor – and the possibility of his taking up residence at Delaford while she was mistress of the estate – helps explain that gap, even if this is where I veer just slightly from the novel. In the novel, Brandon found out about Elinor and Edward’s engagement after the fact. Here, it makes more sense to me for Edward to go to Delaford first, where, in true Austen style, I can easily imagine something like this unfolding next . . . [face_whistling]

    And, if you're interested, I did find the passage where John Dashwood tries to explain his "financial difficulties" to Elinor in order to excuse his remittance as a brother and play matchmaker while they're in London. It's so ridiculous that I just have to share. o_O

    To set the scene, Elinor and John meet by chance in a jeweler's store in London. Elinor is there with Mrs. Jennings; John is there to purchase a gift for Fanny.

    (Quoted from Project Gutenberg's ebook of Sense & Sensibility, which is free for use in the public domain.)

    Elinor found that he and Fanny had been in town two days.

    “I wished very much to call upon you yesterday,” said he, “but it was impossible, for we were obliged to take Harry to see the wild beasts at Exeter Exchange; and we spent the rest of the day with Mrs. Ferrars. Harry was vastly pleased. This morning I had fully intended to call on you, if I could possibly find a spare half hour, but one has always so much to do on first coming to town. I am come here to bespeak Fanny a seal. But tomorrow I think I shall certainly be able to call in Berkeley Street, and be introduced to your friend Mrs. Jennings. I understand she is a woman of very good fortune. And the Middletons too, you must introduce me to them. As my mother-in-law’s relations, I shall be happy to show them every respect. They are excellent neighbours to you in the country, I understand.”

    “Excellent indeed. Their attention to our comfort, their friendliness in every particular, is more than I can express.”

    “I am extremely glad to hear it, upon my word; extremely glad indeed. But so it ought to be; they are people of large fortune, they are related to you, and every civility and accommodation that can serve to make your situation pleasant might be reasonably expected. And so you are most comfortably settled in your little cottage and want for nothing! Edward brought us a most charming account of the place: the most complete thing of its kind, he said, that ever was, and you all seemed to enjoy it beyond any thing. It was a great satisfaction to us to hear it, I assure you.”

    Elinor did feel a little ashamed of her brother; and was not sorry to be spared the necessity of answering him, by the arrival of Mrs. Jennings’s servant, who came to tell her that his mistress waited for them at the door.

    Mr. Dashwood attended them down stairs, was introduced to Mrs. Jennings at the door of her carriage, and repeating his hope of being able to call on them the next day, took leave.

    His visit was duly paid. He came with a pretence at an apology from their sister-in-law, for not coming too; “but she was so much engaged with her mother, that really she had no leisure for going any where.” Mrs. Jennings, however, assured him directly, that she should not stand upon ceremony, for they were all cousins, or something like it, and she should certainly wait on Mrs. John Dashwood very soon, and bring her sisters to see her. His manners to them, though calm, were perfectly kind; to Mrs. Jennings, most attentively civil; and on Colonel Brandon’s coming in soon after himself, he eyed him with a curiosity which seemed to say, that he only wanted to know him to be rich, to be equally civil to him.

    After staying with them half an hour, he asked Elinor to walk with him to Conduit Street, and introduce him to Sir John and Lady Middleton. The weather was remarkably fine, and she readily consented. As soon as they were out of the house, his enquiries began.

    “Who is Colonel Brandon? Is he a man of fortune?”

    “Yes; he has very good property in Dorsetshire.”

    “I am glad of it. He seems a most gentlemanlike man; and I think, Elinor, I may congratulate you on the prospect of a very respectable establishment in life.”

    “Me, brother! what do you mean?”

    “He likes you. I observed him narrowly, and am convinced of it. What is the amount of his fortune?”

    “I believe about two thousand a year.”

    “Two thousand a-year;” and then working himself up to a pitch of enthusiastic generosity, he added, “Elinor, I wish with all my heart it were twice as much, for your sake.”

    “Indeed I believe you,” replied Elinor; “but I am very sure that Colonel Brandon has not the smallest wish of marrying me.”

    “You are mistaken, Elinor; you are very much mistaken. A very little trouble on your side secures him. Perhaps just at present he may be undecided; the smallness of your fortune may make him hang back; his friends may all advise him against it. But some of those little attentions and encouragements which ladies can so easily give will fix him, in spite of himself. And there can be no reason why you should not try for him. It is not to be supposed that any prior attachment on your side—in short, you know as to an attachment of that kind, it is quite out of the question, the objections are insurmountable—you have too much sense not to see all that. Colonel Brandon must be the man; and no civility shall be wanting on my part to make him pleased with you and your family. It is a match that must give universal satisfaction. In short, it is a kind of thing that”—lowering his voice to an important whisper—“will be exceedingly welcome to all parties.” Recollecting himself, however, he added, “That is, I mean to say—your friends are all truly anxious to see you well settled; Fanny particularly, for she has your interest very much at heart, I assure you. And her mother too, Mrs. Ferrars, a very good-natured woman, I am sure it would give her great pleasure; she said as much the other day.”

    Elinor would not vouchsafe any answer.

    “It would be something remarkable, now,” he continued, “something droll, if Fanny should have a brother and I a sister settling at the same time. And yet it is not very unlikely.”

    “Is Mr. Edward Ferrars,” said Elinor, with resolution, “going to be married?”

    “It is not actually settled, but there is such a thing in agitation. He has a most excellent mother. Mrs. Ferrars, with the utmost liberality, will come forward, and settle on him a thousand a year, if the match takes place. The lady is the Hon. Miss Morton, only daughter of the late Lord Morton, with thirty thousand pounds. A very desirable connection on both sides, and I have not a doubt of its taking place in time. A thousand a-year is a great deal for a mother to give away, to make over for ever; but Mrs. Ferrars has a noble spirit. To give you another instance of her liberality:—The other day, as soon as we came to town, aware that money could not be very plenty with us just now, she put bank-notes into Fanny’s hands to the amount of two hundred pounds. And extremely acceptable it is, for we must live at a great expense while we are here.”

    He paused for her assent and compassion; and she forced herself to say,

    “Your expenses both in town and country must certainly be considerable; but your income is a large one.”

    “Not so large, I dare say, as many people suppose. I do not mean to complain, however; it is undoubtedly a comfortable one, and I hope will in time be better. The enclosure of Norland Common, now carrying on, is a most serious drain. And then I have made a little purchase within this half year; East Kingham Farm, you must remember the place, where old Gibson used to live. The land was so very desirable for me in every respect, so immediately adjoining my own property, that I felt it my duty to buy it. I could not have answered it to my conscience to let it fall into any other hands. A man must pay for his convenience; and it has cost me a vast deal of money.”

    “More than you think it really and intrinsically worth.”

    “Why, I hope not that. I might have sold it again, the next day, for more than I gave: but, with regard to the purchase-money, I might have been very unfortunate indeed; for the stocks were at that time so low, that if I had not happened to have the necessary sum in my banker’s hands, I must have sold out to very great loss.”

    Elinor could only smile.

    “Other great and inevitable expenses too we have had on first coming to Norland. Our respected father, as you well know, bequeathed all the Stanhill effects that remained at Norland (and very valuable they were) to your mother. Far be it from me to repine at his doing so; he had an undoubted right to dispose of his own property as he chose, but, in consequence of it, we have been obliged to make large purchases of linen, china, &c. to supply the place of what was taken away. You may guess, after all these expenses, how very far we must be from being rich, and how acceptable Mrs. Ferrars’s kindness is.”

    “Certainly,” said Elinor; “and assisted by her liberality, I hope you may yet live to be in easy circumstances.”

    “Another year or two may do much towards it,” he gravely replied; “but however there is still a great deal to be done. There is not a stone laid of Fanny’s green-house, and nothing but the plan of the flower-garden marked out.”

    “Where is the green-house to be?”

    “Upon the knoll behind the house. The old walnut trees are all come down to make room for it. It will be a very fine object from many parts of the park, and the flower-garden will slope down just before it, and be exceedingly pretty. We have cleared away all the old thorns that grew in patches over the brow.”

    Elinor kept her concern and her censure to herself; and was very thankful that Marianne was not present, to share the provocation.

    Having now said enough to make his poverty clear, and to do away the necessity of buying a pair of ear-rings for each of his sisters, in his next visit at Gray’s, his thoughts took a cheerfuller turn, and he began to congratulate Elinor on having such a friend as Mrs. Jennings.

    “She seems a most valuable woman indeed. Her house, her style of living, all bespeak an exceeding good income; and it is an acquaintance that has not only been of great use to you hitherto, but in the end may prove materially advantageous. Her inviting you to town is certainly a vast thing in your favour; and indeed, it speaks altogether so great a regard for you, that in all probability when she dies you will not be forgotten. She must have a great deal to leave.”

    “Nothing at all, I should rather suppose; for she has only her jointure, which will descend to her children.”

    “But it is not to be imagined that she lives up to her income. Few people of common prudence will do that and whatever she saves, she will be able to dispose of.”

    “And do you not think it more likely that she should leave it to her daughters, than to us?”

    “Her daughters are both exceedingly well married, and therefore I cannot perceive the necessity of her remembering them farther. Whereas, in my opinion, by her taking so much notice of you, and treating you in this kind of way, she has given you a sort of claim on her future consideration, which a conscientious woman would not disregard. Nothing can be kinder than her behaviour; and she can hardly do all this, without being aware of the expectation it raises.”

    “But she raises none in those most concerned. Indeed, brother, your anxiety for our welfare and prosperity carries you too far.”

    “Why, to be sure,” said he, seeming to recollect himself, “people have little, have very little in their power. But, my dear Elinor, what is the matter with Marianne?—she looks very unwell, has lost her colour, and is grown quite thin. Is she ill?”

    “She is not well, she has had a nervous complaint on her for several weeks.”

    “I am sorry for that. At her time of life, any thing of an illness destroys the bloom for ever! Hers has been a very short one! She was as handsome a girl last September, as I ever saw; and as likely to attract the man. There was something in her style of beauty, to please them particularly. I remember Fanny used to say that she would marry sooner and better than you did; not but what she is exceedingly fond of you, but so it happened to strike her. She will be mistaken, however. I question whether Marianne now, will marry a man worth more than five or six hundred a-year, at the utmost, and I am very much deceived if you do not do better. Dorsetshire! I know very little of Dorsetshire; but, my dear Elinor, I shall be exceedingly glad to know more of it; and I think I can answer for your having Fanny and myself among the earliest and best pleased of your visitors.”

    Elinor tried very seriously to convince him that there was no likelihood of her marrying Colonel Brandon; but it was an expectation of too much pleasure to himself to be relinquished, and he was really resolved on seeking an intimacy with that gentleman, and promoting the marriage by every possible attention. He had just compunction enough for having done nothing for his sisters himself, to be exceedingly anxious that everybody else should do a great deal; and an offer from Colonel Brandon, or a legacy from Mrs. Jennings, was the easiest means of atoning for his own neglect.






    II. “In Benefice”
    (400+ Word Equestrian Cross-Country)​

    May 17th, 1798

    After delaying the meeting for as long as propriety could possibly make allowance for, it was with no small reluctance that Edward Ferrars at last made his way to Delaford.

    As the miles elapsed on the road to Dorsetshire, he took what comfort he could in the knowledge that he at least had no wife bound to him as he did so – for the only circumstance that would make this duty intolerable rather than merely disagreeable would be to do so with Lucy Steele by his side and fixed as his partner in life. To have to endure, day in and day out, alongside such a woman while she was there, so close and yet forever out of reach . . .

    Edward urged his horse on faster, as if by doing so he could outpace the knowledge that the latter half of that dreaded vision yet awaited him in a fixed promise of miserable reality. For, while his circumstances had altered, hers had not. Now, if he followed through in accepting the benefice that had so graciously been extended him, he would be kept in perpetual orbit of her good fortune out of necessity due to the loss of his own. In that particular respect, more so than any other, he was well and dearly paying for the follies of his youth – and yet would for many years to come.

    However, he reminded himself with the utmost severity, there was no going back now. Unless he wanted to take up sleeping in a hedge row, he was required to seek out a living in order to amend the irrevocable loss of fortune that followed his mother’s disapproval – and such livings hardly came easily once, let alone so fortunately a second time. He would be a fool to turn down this rare kindness from fate, no matter how bittersweet a tonic it was to swallow.

    . . . and yet, a fool he so sadly was. With each pounding hoofbeat that steadily drew him nearer to his destination and her, he wanted nothing more than to rein in his horse and turn away – far away. Margaret had once greatly extolled the virtues of China – perhaps that would be distance enough?

    Yet a voice that sounded quite like Elinor’s in his mind dryly pointed out that he could not afford passage to America, let alone China; consequently, entrapped by the vicissitudes of practicality, he kept to his course.

    Upon quitting the turnpike for the country road that led into the village of Delaford, he slowed from the wild rush of his previous gallop. With a murmured apology and a pat of contrition for pushing his horse after such a long ride from the last post station, he let the poor creature continue on at a sedate pace to cool from his run. As such, they followed the road down into the valley, where the rolling hills and rich farmlands bowed to the shores of the winding river Stour.

    From there, he soon came upon the village proper, built upon the high ground that banked one of the river’s tributaries. Though a small village, it was very happily situated, and in good repair to his eye. He passed through the high street, taking in the tidy rows of timber-framed storefronts and the mill of activity surrounding them, to the second streets with their village houses before the start of the unenclosed commons began – which was another mark in his benefactor’s favor that he viewed with warring sentiments. (Needless to say, much at Fanny's insistence, the commons at Norland had since been enclosed, no matter John’s initial reluctance to do so in keeping with the late Henry Dashwood's wishes.)

    Edward was treated to the polite smiles and civil inquiries due a stranger by those he met on the lane, and at another time he would have stopped at the inn for an ale at the invitation of Mr. Goring. Yet his stomach was already sickly churning as it was, and now that he was here, he had no desire to put off the inevitable for any longer.

    Towards that aim, he followed the road as it wound through dozens of tenant plots and pastures and hundred-acre farms – and a few even larger than that, he would estimate – all punctuated with dwellings of wattle and daub, as befit the estate’s age, from huts to cottages to farmhouses. The trees had just reached their full glory in green, and their leafy boughs danced with the mid-morning sun. Wildflowers carpeted the downs with the onset of summer, and the fields were already crowned with a healthy flush of new growth, all in neatly tilled rows. Atop one of the highest knolls, the church at last came into view – an ancient Norman structure that bespoke much of the estate's history all on its own – framed by a well-tended yard. The back slope of the hill led down yet another waterway, and there, a happy stand of willow trees grew in silent companionship with the gravestones.

    Tearing his eyes from the serenity of the sight, Edward started across a broad stone bridge, where he lingered to admire the view. He looked beyond the fishing cottages, to where the canal joined the greater river just beyond – and, in mere miles, its mouth at the sea. Indeed, he turned his face to the south and imagined that he could smell the salt from the Channel, tantalizingly close, if as yet out of reach.

    Once he made his crossing, there, right on the water, occupying the same space on the west side of the bank as the church did on the east, stood the parsonage, and he . . . well, he could not imagine a finer prospect if he tried. The house itself was a charming structure – as charming a structure as could be, even. In keeping with what he’d seen of the estate thus far, this house too was in the old Tudor style, with its exposed post-and-beam frames and white lime-washed walls. The modern additions to the original medieval hall – which may have been as old as the church, if only in its outermost walls – had since been reinforced with stone rather than cob, over which mature vines of honeysuckle grew, framing diamond-shaped windowpanes that looked out on views of pastoral tranquility from every angle.

    Unable to help himself, Edward slowed his horse to investigate further. He did not dare dismount for fear of never making his appointment at the great-house in time, but he rode up the gravel drive to peer around the garden gate, where he could already see hearty expanses of wisteria and lavender, and then beyond, to the beginning of the glebe lands running parallel to the canal. A pang pierced through him at the sight – achingly acute and by then more than familiar enough for him to recognize as longing.

    Edward could very easily imagine making a home here . . . very easily, indeed.

    Finally, with no small reluctance, he at last turned his horse away, and continued along the road. From there, it was less than a mile’s ride before the great-house at last came into view, just past a thick wood of beech and hornbeam trees. The manor too was of Tudor origins, but differed in that it was built entirely of warm grey brick and pale limestone, with prominent gables framing tall arched windows that Edward easily preferred to any of the stately Grecian facades that were currently in fashion. (Fanny, he thought with no small amount of satisfaction, would have most certainly not approved.) The drive ambled around the last of the wood before cutting through a long green that led up to the house, where it then offered a path to either the stables or the first of the garden gates to the east, and a massive cedar tree standing proud in its lone glory just to the west.

    It was, Edward couldn’t help but think (with yet another twisting in his chest as he could imagine Elinor's ready agreement), a most handsome dwelling.

    A footman was prompt to greet him, and an obliging groom took his horse with every promise of seeing to the faithful steed's well-deserved comfort. From there, the butler – a grey-haired fellow named Mr. Rowe – welcomed him inside and offered to show him to the study, where the master of the house expected him. Edward accepted the invitation, grateful that Mr. Rowe had not at all mentioned the mistress of the house in his extension of hospitality. (For, if Elinor had already married, he had no reason to know – as Fanny most certainly wouldn't have told him, even if she hadn't since cut his acquaintance in keeping with their mother's decree.) Yet he scuttled any rise of hope within himself with a stern reminder that it was only a matter of time before she was married, and he absolutely refused to diminish Elinor’s well-deserved and long-denied happiness with any manner of selfish expectations on his part.

    That thought – and the ever present ache it inspired – was then accompanied by a sick roil of feeling as he wondered if, by some cruel twist of fate, he would even be required to officiate Elinor’s wedding himself. If the couple chose to marry from the groom’s parish rather than the bride’s, then he would . . . oh, but God help him, he didn’t . . . he couldn’t -

    . . . was it too late to choose sleeping in the hedge row?

    Yet he squared his jaw against the twaddle of his thoughts, and checked the obstinate sensibilities of his heart. If and when there was such a chasm to leap, he would cross it, and not a moment sooner.

    Lost to his thoughts, Edward noticed but little of the interior of the house before he was shown into the study by Mr. Rowe – a modest space with leather-paneled walls, once again in the old style, whose greatest attribute was its expansive row of windows, overlooking a massive mulberry tree that presided over an orchard of mingled fruit trees. From between their swaying green boughs, dappled light poured in over a desk laden with the business of the estate, giving the room every appearance of being one with the natural world of the grounds it oversaw. (For such a thought, that same voice that was Elinor but not wryly compared the romanticism of such an observation to Marianne's typical expression of her sensibilities, and another blade seemingly slipped into his heart to rest alongside where a dozen more had already pierced.)

    However, he could humor such reflections no further when Mr. Rowe announced his arrival, and a gentleman stood from behind the desk to bow in greeting. Colonel Brandon was a tall man, was Edward’s first impression as he returned the bow, about ten years or so his senior, with fair hair and a sun-darkened complexion. As compared to what was currently fashionable, he was perhaps somewhat plain and overly serious in mien, but there was a certain . . . presence to his gaze that reflexively had Edward standing up straighter and squaring his own shoulders in unconscious imitation. Though Edward had not a warring bone in his own body, he recognized a soldier – and a commander of men, at that – and instinctively answered in his turn.

    Yet that intense gaze softened, and for the sincerity of warmth that accompanied his greeting, Edward found himself forming a favorable first impression of the man almost entirely against his will. Yes, he thought with the utmost reluctance . . . Colonel Brandon would make Elinor a very fine husband – the sort of husband that she deserved.

    “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance outside of our correspondence, Mr. Ferrars,” Brandon welcomed him, and then gestured at one of the comfortably cushioned chairs on the opposite side of the desk. “Please, do sit down.”

    Edward accepted the colonel’s hospitality – even if, no, the coffee that was already present suited him just fine, there was no need to call for tea, and neither did he require any further repast, though he was much obliged for the offer – feeling increasingly wretched all the while.

    That sense of wretchedness only grew once their pleasantries were concluded – yes, they had passed a very fine spring thus far, and no, he’d experienced no difficulties on the road from London – and Brandon began to speak of the state of the parish. He began generally: the local populace had known some years of hardship, it seemed, under the former master of Delaford, yet Brandon was in the process of making reparations to his dependents and would yet be for some time to come. (For it was only right that Elinor had been drawn to a good and honorable man – which, Edward bitterly reminded himself, he most certainly was not.) In a subsequent meeting – perhaps upon the morrow, even, if he accepted a room in the manor, as there was no need for him to lodge at the inn – Brandon promised to discuss each family in detail, and even offered to accompany him on his first tour of the parish to make the necessary introductions. (It was another mark in Brandon's favor, Edward could reluctantly admit, that he would not pass such a task off to his steward – which not only would have been well within his rights as master of the estate, but otherwise assumed. He could not imagine John doing anything of the like, even if Fanny would have allowed such a supposed degradation from a gentleman in the first place.)

    From there, Brandon took a folio out from one of the shelves lining the walls, and offered him a closer look at both the architectural drawings of the parsonage and the surveys detailing its attached acreage. Edward examined the papers in a surreal sort of daze, trying to resolve the growing sense of unease he felt with the demands of necessity and practicality. The situation within the parish house was even better than he first expected, while the glebe lands promised a plentiful return in conjunction with the tithes that would form the basis of his living. Yet he didn’t . . . he didn't think he could . . . no matter that he had to and thus should . . .

    “We began renovations to the parsonage while the previous rector, Mr. Hale, was yet in residence,” Colonel Brandon continued, unaware of Edward’s rising discomfort. “Prior to that, the last updates of any significance would have been done some thirty years ago – and then in further years bygone, in my grandfather’s time.”

    Yes, the thatching had been re-ridged just five years hence, but Brandon intended to update the roof entirely with new slate shingles before long. The cob had been inspected and lime-washed that same year, and yes, the stone and mortar of the latter constructs all remained in good repair.

    “There are three bed chambers at present, but, should you and Mrs. Ferrars wish to expand your family, there are options for adding additional wings, particularly on the west-front here.” Brandon referenced the corresponding wall on the drawing, even as Edward felt his stomach give a violent lurch. “Indeed, Delaford as a whole currently brings in only a third of its capable yield, but as the entire parish recovers, I would like to invest any improved income into building - ”

    “ - I’m sorry,” Edward interrupted when, finally, he could take no more, “but none of this is possible. I . . . I most sincerely beg your indulgence, for I know that this must seem both sudden and strange, but I can’t . . . I cannot accept the benefice that you are so good as to offer me.”

    Brandon was, perhaps understandably, drawn up short by such an abrupt declaration of refusal. His brow furrowed, clearly befuddled, and it was a long moment before he said, “The thatching can be updated prior to your taking up residence. If that is a concern, it may even be possible to - ”

    “ - oh no, my reservations are nothing of the sort, I assure you,” Edward cut in with a hollow little laugh. “I have no particular stance on the merits of thatch opposed to slate. Indeed, the parsonage is . . . the parish house is quite perfect – and the living in its entirety is far more generous than I ever could have hoped for.”

    For his words, Brandon's furrowed expression only deepened. “I’m afraid that I do not have the pleasure of understanding you,” he admitted plainly. “Where, then, does the impossibility lie?”

    Feeling like a once trusted hunter who balked at a fence supposedly within his ability to safely clear, Edward took in a deep breath. The only answer that could possibly serve was the truth, no matter how difficult that truth was to speak; indeed, his honor demanded nothing less than complete and utter transparency.

    “It’s quite impossible," he said, meeting the colonel's eyes with what he imagined was a soldier's bravery, "in the sense that it would be most inappropriate for a parish rector to harbor . . . sentiments for the wife of his benefactor.”

    However, his admission – though it felt like a heavy yoke slipping from Edward’s shoulders – failed to aid Brandon’s understanding in the slightest.

    “My confusion remains,” Brandon said carefully, “as I am unmarried.” A strange timbre deepened the last of his words, one that Edward could not properly identify in his own turn.

    “You may be unmarried at present, yes,” Edward closed his eyes, and then clasped the blade close to add, “yet you shall not remain so for long,” mindless of how he bled.

    Somehow, his words only muddled the waters yet further still. “You are mistaken, sir, for I am not engaged, nor do I have any plans to seek a wife,” Brandon attempted to correct his understanding. “Yet you, however - ”

    “ - I am unmarried and will remain so,” Edward swiftly interjected with his own correction. “Miss Steele, as she was, is Mrs. Robert Ferrars now. Her affections transferred to my brother whilst she was late in London. It seems they were greatly thrown together, and – oh, the devil take them, but I suspect that affection was the least of it.” He loosed a bitter sort of laugh to admit – to another man, at least, “In full transparency, it would seem that marriage to a village rector was less desirable than wedding the new heir to my mother’s fortune. Lucy expressed her altered feelings, and I honored her desire to break our engagement, for such an alteration was one I could well understand in my own right.”

    For a long moment, Brandon was silent, yet Edward could feel a strange sort of growing kinship, even in the absence of any words. “It would seem, then, that you yet require a living,” at length, Brandon pointed out. “It would remain my honor to bestow that living, if you should reconsider your objections.”

    “Yes, it's true that I must seek a living,” Edward agreed with a rueful huff of breath, “and so I shall. The church is yet my desire and has long been so, even whilst I was in my mother's favor. Yet I cannot do so here – not in good conscience, knowing as I do, that I owe your generosity to the kindness of a Dashwood lady – or Mrs. Brandon, as she shall soon be known.”

    Another flash of feeling illuminated the colonel’s features, one that he could not so easily hide away behind his somber mask of comportment – for a mask, Edward rather now suspected, it truly was. Indeed, Brandon paused, seemingly taken aback – unsettled, even – before he managed to say, “I hold the Dashwoods in the highest possible regard, yes, and yet -

    “Yet Elinor - ”

    “ - Miss Marianne and I are not engaged,” Brandon said at the exact same moment, upon which they both paused in unison, drawn up short by their shared, sudden realization at the utterance of the opposite sister's name than they expected to hear.

    Somewhat stupidly, Edward gaped; dumbly, Brandon stared. Then: “Ah,” the colonel recovered first to remark, “it would seem that you are the oft alluded to Mr. F.”

    Edward could enjoy no similar understanding. Instead, he tried to make sense of the sudden flood of feeling threatening to break through the bonds of his good sense and run amok with hope through his veins. He had to be sure that he understood – that he had absolute clarity for what was suddenly one of the most important moments in his entire life thus far.

    “But Fanny said,” Edward struggled to retain mastery of himself, “John said - ”

    “- what John Dashwood may have desired and how matters truly stand are two greatly different things,” Brandon interjected on a low, dark rumble of sound. “I am greatly honored to call Miss Dashwood a friend, yes, yet a friend,” his tone softened in assurance, “is all she is and will ever be.”

    "Then, she is," Edward swallowed, "she is not - "

    " - no," Brandon shook his head to confirm once more, "nor, I suspect, would she ever have desired to be – for I've long since known hers as a heart already claimed."

    “And yet, you . . .” still Edward’s own heart beat madly, fighting his hold on restraint as it thumped out one wild possibility after another, “you are not . . . but you and Marianne . . .”

    For the implication of his question, Brandon closed his eyes in a gesture that Edward would have felt the utmost affinity for only mere moments ago. “I neither have such an understanding with Marianne Dashwood, nor,” he added with all possible resolve, “do I intend to.”

    This gentleman, Edward thought with a sudden sense of glee – and a deeply set resolution that he was determined to examine more closely later, perhaps after gaining Elinor’s insight on the matter (God in heaven, but after speaking to Elinor with all intention and the hope of fulfilled expectation) – could quite possibly be Marianne’s equal.

    Yet, for the time being, there was only one match he could consider with any sort of equanimity. “Indeed, I now find myself most eager to converse on the merits of thatched roofs versus those shingled – there is much to say on the subject, even!” Edward couldn’t help the grin that split his face if he tried. “That is, Colonel," yet he sobered for a moment, hesitating as he recalled his earlier refusal, "if you would still be so gracious so as to continually extend your offer of benefice.”

    “The living is yours, and all the more so now than it was previously,” Brandon reaffirmed with a small smile – a truly happy expression, Edward thought, no matter how shadowed it was in its own way.

    Edward found himself suddenly restless in his seat, eager as he was to ride off to Barton at that very moment. Yet he would fulfill the honor of his obligations first, as he ought – for Elinor, he thought with yet another rush of disbelieving joy, would expect nothing less of him.

    “Not only thatch versus shingle, but brick versus cob,” Edward enthused. “Oh, and also, I wish to learn how one goes about tending chickens – and growing carrots, too! I find myself most desirous to discuss it all.”

    For that, Brandon seemingly surprised himself by laughing outright, taken along by his exuberance. “And I anticipate hearing all you may say, just as I shall offer whatever insight I can in return. Yet you have a prior engagement to attend in Devonshire – or you shall soon have, if I am not mistaken. I would not detain you further – nor deny Miss Dashwood’s happiness for a moment longer than is necessary. Please, take your leave; we will return to these matters at your leisure.”

    Edward stood as Brandon did – even if he had an awkward moment where he couldn’t decide between bowing and reaching out to shake the colonel’s hand in his joy, and so he gracelessly fumbled through both, much to Brandon's continued amusement. Then he was off, down the hall and out the door and all but running into the light – that glorious new summer sun that promised nothing but future happiness with every imminent attainment of even his most impossible of dreams.

    It was with a jubilant heart that he thundered back down the lane – following the merry rush of the river and looking over the parish house and glebe with every happy expectation of the utmost felicity as he flew across the bridge. The next time he came this way, he couldn’t help but anticipate, he would do so as an engaged man, with his wife-to-be by his side – if he could only succeed in begging Elinor’s forgiveness and expressing the truth of his affections now that he was at liberty to do so.

    If God continued to be kind, perhaps then, he could at last receive the ultimate blessing of formally securing her own affections in return.


    A Note on Edward and Brandon: In the novel, Jane Austen said that they were instant BFFs, so here is the beginning of a long and lasting friendship – and a little bit of a backstory as to why Edward is so pro-team!Marianne/Brandon in All Fools in Love and subsequent stories. [face_mischief]

    A Note on Mr. Hale: This is a very small note, but I like to imagine that he is related to Margaret Hale of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South - perhaps her grandfather, who passed his ecclesiastical leanings on to his son? [face_love]

    A Note on the Enclosure of Commons: An important part of England's manorial system was the use of common lands. (Fun fact for the day: people who lived off a manor's commons were called commoners, which is where our typical use of the word comes from.) Common lands were communal designations of property where an estate's residents could freely let their livestock graze; collect wood, sod, gravel, and liming stone; and fish if there was a water source to allow them to do so. Going as far back as when William the Conqueror first instated his barons, this was one of the duties required of the lord of the manor when he, in turn, leased his land from the king, and a lord who didn't provide for his commoners was punishable by law. (Though, of course, that was a tricky subject to prosecute, as the entire system was unfairly stacked in the lord's favor.)

    However, by Jane Austen's time, it was a growing practice – and a matter of much debate that even resulted in riots and violence – to enclose previous common lands with fences and deed them off to increase profits for the gentry. Needless to say, this was an ongoing mess in Parliament, and one of the contributing factors to the British Agricultural Revolution and the subsequent Industrial Revolution.

    But now I'm getting to my point: in the selection from the novel that I quoted in my initial notes, John Dashwood mentioned that the enclosure of Norland's commons was one of his great expenses. To a modern reader, we may have glossed over that line, but to Jane Austen's original audience, it spoke volumes. What a slap in the face to Henry Dashwood's memory! Meanwhile, as for Brandon, one of the first things he'd do upon inheriting Delaford is reopen the commons, I can imagine – as his father or brother undoubtedly had them closed – in order to relieve the burden on his dependents. Jane Austen, again, said so much with so little. [face_love]


    A Note on Delaford Parsonage: I completely envisioned something in the style of Anne Hathaway’s cottage. [face_love] For those of you who tend to visualize better with the aid of images, here you go:

    [​IMG]

    But with a little bit of this updated Tudor manor, and its setting on the water:

    [​IMG]

    (Though maybe not as large before Edward and Brandon are done with it - and update the roof. :p)


    A Note on Delaford Village
    : Jane Austen mentions Delaford being on the water – and it’s in the name with ford. From there, a bit of research revealed that the River Stour is a large river that runs through the county Dorset, and many of the villages that still exist on the river to this day have retained some of that Tudor charm I was looking for! These were a few pictures that inspired me:

    [​IMG]
    &
    [​IMG]

    But with a bit of the snug feeling you get from these images from the Cotswolds - which too is a sub-type of Tudor architecture.

    [​IMG]
    &
    [​IMG]


    A Note on Delaford House: Once I ran with the idea of Tudor architecture, a Tudor styled peerless manor instantly fit better for Brandon than any of the more neoclassical Palladian/Baroque mansions that we typically think of when it comes to Jane Austen. (Lyme Park as the ‘95 Pemberley, anyone? [face_love]) When I was looking through a list of Tudor manor houses on Wikipedia, Loseley Park immediately caught my eye, right down to having a famous mulberry tree just like what Jane Austen described! I then laughed to realize that Loseley was used for Delaford in the 2008 BBC S&S miniseries when I read the wiki article! So, yeah, great minds think alike. :p

    [​IMG]

    I MEAN, COME ON, BUT BRANDON AND MARIANNE WOULD TOTALLY MAKE SURE THAT THE GARDENS ARE MORE EXPANSIVE THAN THE HOUSE, TOO:




    That Said, On the Subject of Watching S&S: While I'm already rambling anyway, you may have heard me say before that I don’t really care for the BBC miniseries, and can't truly recommend it. I can write an entire essay on why, if you're really curious, but in summary: no . . . just no. Do yourself a favor and avoid it. Instead, treat yourself to the '95 film, written by Emma Thompson and directed by Ang Lee - it's perfectly cast with Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, and Alan Rickman. There are a few scenes in the movie that I actually prefer to the novel, it's just that good, and I tend to draw from it just as much as I do the original source material from Austen herself. [face_mischief] [face_love]


    Now, that's more than enough gabbing from me! I'll be back soon with the next event. [face_love]

    [:D]



    ~ MJ @};-
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2023
  11. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    SQUEE! SQUEE! I loved that, the dread of conversing with Brandon, then the jubilation when the air was cleared. Now, Edward can be candid and move ahead in his romantic pursuit. ;)
     
  12. pronker

    pronker Force Ghost star 4

    Registered:
    Jan 28, 2007
    He's so desperate! *pets him*

    I could go on and on about the splendid scenery depiction, but I'll just say it left me fondly remembering Sherwood Forest and the times spent there.[face_love]

    More jewel-like descriptions, go you!:) And now for feelings - each man revealed a hopeful heart at fic's end, well-paced throughout.[:D]
     
  13. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    First of all thank you for the detailed reply to my previous comment and all the background you provided. I found the 1995 movie on one of the TV channels here and as I said the book is on my summer reading pile, so soon I'll be able to leave better reviews here, but in the meantime this didn't prevent me from enjoying this story more than I can say! The contrast between the description of the lovely countryside and Edward's thoughts as he made his way to his meeting with Brandon – and he very much sounds like a man bound for the gallows – set the scene very nicely, but of course the highlight was the moment in the conversation when they are talking at cross-purposes. It was a nice touch to have Edward grow to like Brandon, and that becomes an extra reason for him to give up on the parsonage until the misunderstanding is cleared. And there was such a great twist when Brandon, who initially has no idea who Edward is and what he's talking about, suddenly has complete clarity, whereas Edward, who thinks he knows things about Brandon, is at a complete loss. Brandon really shines here, and as Edward says he "could quite possibly be Marianne’s equal" :D
     
  14. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fiendish Fanfic & SWTV Manager, Interim Tech Admin star 6 Staff Member Administrator

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    I can't believe that I didn't notice this had been updated months ago, but I shall make up for my obliviousness with a review now;)

    I love how prominently traveling by horse featured in your Equestrian Cross Country event, and how the journey was literally across country as well.

    I also really appreciated the details you provided of the parish, the village, and the overall estate. There was so much architectural and historical detail that I could vividly picture each location and my inner historian was absolutely nerding out in delight:D

    I got such a chuckle out of this, because it is such a relatable sentiment. When you are nervous about something, the idea of just running away from it all can be super tempting.

    And I love how he is hearing Elinor's dry, practical voice in his head pointing out the facts of what he can afford. And your phrasings always manage to sound so true to the Austen books that inspire these fanfics. Like I could just picture reading a phrase like "entrapped by the vicissitudes of practicality" in an Austen novel!

    Look at how noble and disciplined he is trying to be here!

    I could really fear his mounting dread, fear, and horror here. You really use stream of consciousness techniques so effectively in your writing. It is like I am truly in the character's heads, experiencing their thoughts and feelings with them.

    [face_laugh]

    Edward's impressions of Brandon here are great, and the overall conversation between them was wonderful to read!

    This moment of mutual epiphany between both parties was most magnificent!

    Yes, she would indeed, and I love how thinking about her consistently impacts and molds his behavior.

    He is truly a man besotted and in love[face_love]

    And I do love how his impressions of nature here reflect his joy and hope, mirroring his mood back to him.

    And I have the utmost confidence that he will receive just that blessing in the end!

    Brilliant response to the Equestrian Cross Country challenge, and pardon my months-late review[:D]
     
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  15. amidalachick

    amidalachick FFoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 5 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 3, 2003
    After this Review Race is over, I think I'm going to have to add Sense & Sensibility to my ever-lengthening list of "Things to Watch & Read". :p

    I really enjoyed the introspection of "A Difference of Seven and Ten".

    This line got to me because it's so true. Pain is pain, and the hurt is real to the person hurting even if the cause might seem trivial from an outside perspective.

    Oh, but truth is stranger than fiction. :p

    I really felt for him here! The yearning, the reasons why it wouldn't work and desperate arguing with himself that it's a bad idea, contrasted with knowing what he wants and feels in his heart - it's a tough spot to be in.

    As always, this is wonderfully written and your characters just feel so real. [face_love] I definitely intend to spend more time in this 'verse!
     
  16. amidalachick

    amidalachick FFoF Hostess Extraordinaire star 5 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 3, 2003
    "In Benefice"

    I just love the horseback journey here, because A HORSE. [face_love] Also, the setting sounds so pretty!

    Poor man!

    Okay, I feel bad for him but also, LOL at the last line. :p

    Awww. I really feel for him here!

    This was another moment of feels mixed with LOLs. :p

    Awww! Such a joyful moment. I can just feel his excitement! And I love the imagery of him running out into the summer sunlight; it's so warm and happy. [face_love]

    Fantastic work as always. =D=[face_love]
     
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