Is Caroline Bingley green with envy as she notices Mr. Darcy’s attentions to Elizabeth Bennet? Does Emma Woodhouse wish unspeakable horrors on Harriet Smith because of Harriet’s crush on Mr. Knightley? After Willoughby, does Marianne covet Elinor’s more sensible behaviour? We could go on for ages, but it’s only for this month so don’t miss a post!
Lucy made room for Elinor with ready attention; and the two fair rivals were thus seated, side-by-side, at the same table, and with utmost harmony, engaged in forwarding the work of the filigree. Sense and Sensibility – Chapter 23
Upon learning of Lucy Steele and Edward’s secret engagement, Elinor had been keen to engage Lucy in conversation. Although she knew the particulars of their arrangement, she needed to know more because in her heart she was certain that the affection Edward had shown to her at Norland was genuine. Even so, she wondered if the impediment of Mrs. Ferrars’s objection to Edward and Lucy’s marriage were removed, would Edward honor his commitment to take Lucy to the altar? She found Miss Steele eager to engage.
“Mr. Ferrars, I believe, is entirely dependent on his mother,” Elinor began.
Lucy nodded. “Edward has only two thousand pounds of his own; it would be madness to marry upon that; though, for my own part, I could give up every prospect of more without a sigh. But I love him too well to be the selfish means of robbing him, perhaps, of all that his mother might give him if he married to please her.”
If I am to interpret that statement, I would say that Lucy will not marry until Edward either receives his mother’s blessing—an unlikely event—or Mrs. Ferrars dies.
When Elinor made no reply, Lucy continued. “Edward’s love for me has been pretty well put to the test by our long absence since we were first engaged, and, yet, it has stood the trial so well that it would be unpardonable to doubt it now. I can safely say that he has never given me one moment’s alarm on that account from the first.”
With that assertion of unfailing love, Elinor sighed, realizing that pining for Edward had been a foolish exercise on her part. Edward was in love with Lucy, and if there had been any doubt, had not Lucy produced evidence to support her insistence on his love: his miniature, his letters, his recent visit to Plymouth for a fortnight? But what was most compelling was Lucy’s complete confidence that Edward’s heart belonged to her and to her alone.
“By nature, I am rather of a jealous temper,” Lucy said, interrupting Elinor’s reverie, “and from our different situations in life, from Edward’s being so much more in the world than me, and our continual separation, I was enough inclined for suspicion to have found out the truth in an instant, if there had been the slightest alteration in his behavior or if he had talked more of one lady than another—you being the only exception. “ Lucy placed her hand on Elinor’s. “I cannot tell you how much it means that you, in particular, now know of Edward’s love for me.”
“Why is that?”
“Because when he was in Plymouth, Edward mentioned you on several occasions, and not knowing you, I confess to having been visited by the green-eyed monster, especially when he spoke of your many conversations at Norland.”
Edward spoke of me to his betrothed? I do not know what to think.
Lucy had been hoping for a reassuring response and was annoyed that none was forthcoming, but she would not be denied the information she sought because of Elinor’s reticence. “I confess to being curious as to what you spoke of at Norland?” Lucy said, continuing to prod.
“I…I can hardly remember; it was so long ago.”
“Do try,” she said, leaning into Elinor. “Please.”
Somewhat flummoxed by the turn their conversation had taken, Elinor could hardly think of anything Edward had said to her. Finally, she settled on the one topic with no emotional significance. “Edward is quite the equestrian, and he his exceedingly fond of his gray. He frequently waxed eloquent on that topic.”
“You speak of Edward’s horse?” Lucy smiled, but there was nothing friendly in it. “I already know all there is to know about Minotaur.”
Elinor stumbled as she tried to think of a subject that would not bring out the “green-eyed monster” in Miss Steele. “Of course, we spoke frequently of Mrs. Dashwood. Edward’s sister Fanny is married to my brother John.”
Lucy’s eyes lit up. “Oh, do tell me. What is Mrs. Dashwood like?”
Although she would have dearly loved to have a go at Fanny Dashwood, Elinor could not possibly tell Lucy the truth. How spiteful it would sound if she uttered the words: mean-spirited, parsimonious, judgmental, unkind, and that was only the beginning.
“I am afraid you will be disappointed with my response. While at Norland, so much of Fanny’s time was engaged in the management of the house. After all, Norland is quite a large estate, and she insisted on being consulted in even the smallest decisions, including placement of figurines. She was very keen to have it reflect her tastes.”
“But that tells me nothing,” Lucy said, inching closer. “What else did Edward and you talk about?”
Elinor fumbled about for another safe topic, before settling on a discussion of his profession or lack of one. She reiterated Edward’s interest in taking orders, but surely Lucy knew of his interest in the church.
“I am so happy that you have raised the topic of the church,” Lucy answered with a happy sigh. “I will honestly tell you of one scheme which has lately come into my head for bringing matters to bear. Indeed, I am bound to let you into the secret, for you are a party concerned.”
Elinor blanched. A concerned party? Can Lucy see into my heart?
“I dare say you have seen enough of Edward to know that he would prefer the church to every other profession. My plan is that he should take orders as soon as he can. Then, through your interest, which I am sure you would be kind enough to use out of friendship for him…” Lucy paused and smiled at Elinor. “…and I hope out of some regard for me, your brother might be persuaded to give him the Norland living, which I understand is a very good one, and the present incumbent not likely to live a great while. That would be enough for us to marry upon, and we might trust to time and chance for the rest.”
“So much of your plans require that someone die,” Elinor said without thinking. “In order for you to marry, either Mrs. Ferrars or the Vicar of Norland must go.”
Lucy laughed. “Edward failed to mention that you are quite the wit.”
“I had not thought of myself as a wit.”
Lucy did not care for the direction of the conversation and changed course. “Do you think it would be best to put an end to the business at once by dissolving the engagement? We seem so beset with difficulties on every side. Although it would make us miserable for a time, we should be happier perhaps in the end. Will not give me your advice?”
Elinor might not be a wit, but she was intelligent enough to know a trap when she saw one. “No, on such a subject, I certainly will not. You know very well that my opinion would have no weight with you unless it were on the side of your wishes.”
“Of course,” Lucy said, feigning a blush. “It is as you say. After four years of being engaged, my wishes are obvious—as are Edward’s. And there is nothing—and no one—who can change that. Now, about this filigree…”
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