"I am glad," said Lady Middleton to Lucy,
"you are not going to finish poor little Annamaria's
basket this evening; for I am sure it must hurt your
eyes to work filigree by candlelight. And we will make
the dear little love some amends for her disappointment
to-morrow, and then I hope she will not much mind it."
This hint was enough, Lucy recollected herself instantly
and replied, "Indeed you are very much mistaken,
Lady Middleton; I am only waiting to know whether you can
make your party without me, or I should have been at my
filigree already. I would not disappoint the little angel
for all the world: and if you want me at the card-table now,
I am resolved to finish the basket after supper."
"You are very good, I hope it won't hurt your eyes--
will you ring the bell for some working candles?
My poor little girl would be sadly disappointed, I know,
if the basket was not finished tomorrow, for though I
told her it certainly would not, I am sure she depends
upon having it done."
Lucy directly drew her work table near her
and reseated herself with an alacrity and cheerfulness
which seemed to infer that she could taste no greater
delight than in making a filigree basket for a spoilt child.
Lady Middleton proposed a rubber of Casino to the others.
No one made any objection but Marianne, who with her usual
inattention to the forms of general civility, exclaimed,
"Your Ladyship will have the goodness to excuse ME--you
know I detest cards. I shall go to the piano-forte;
I have not touched it since it was tuned." And without
farther ceremony, she turned away and walked to the instrument.
Lady Middleton looked as if she thanked heaven
that SHE had never made so rude a speech.
"Marianne can never keep long from that instrument
you know, ma'am," said Elinor, endeavouring to smooth
away the offence; "and I do not much wonder at it; for it
is the very best toned piano-forte I ever heard."
The remaining five were now to draw their cards.
"Perhaps," continued Elinor, "if I should happen
to cut out, I may be of some use to Miss Lucy Steele,
in rolling her papers for her; and there is so much still
to be done to the basket, that it must be impossible
I think for her labour singly, to finish it this evening.
I should like the work exceedingly, if she would allow
me a share in it."
"Indeed I shall be very much obliged to you
for your help," cried Lucy, "for I find there is more
to be done to it than I thought there was; and it would
be a shocking thing to disappoint dear Annamaria after all."
"Oh! that would be terrible, indeed," said Miss Steele--
"Dear little soul, how I do love her!"
"You are very kind," said Lady Middleton to Elinor;
"and as you really like the work, perhaps you will be
as well pleased not to cut in till another rubber,
or will you take your chance now?"
Elinor joyfully profited by the first of these proposals,
and thus by a little of that address which Marianne
could never condescend to practise, gained her own end,
and pleased Lady Middleton at the same time. Lucy made room
for her with ready attention, and the two fair rivals were
thus seated side by side at the same table, and, with the
utmost harmony, engaged in forwarding the same work.
The pianoforte at which Marianne, wrapped up in her own
music and her own thoughts, had by this time forgotten
that any body was in the room besides herself, was luckily
so near them that Miss Dashwood now judged she might safely,
under the shelter of its noise, introduce the interesting
subject, without any risk of being heard at the card-table.
In a firm, though cautious tone, Elinor thus began.
"I should be undeserving of the confidence you have
honoured me with, if I felt no desire for its continuance,
or no farther curiosity on its subject. I will
not apologize therefore for bringing it forward again."
"Thank you," cried Lucy warmly, "for breaking
the ice; you have set my heart at ease by it; for I was
somehow or other afraid I had offended you by what I
told you that Monday."
"Offended me! How could you suppose so? Believe me,"
and Elinor spoke it with the truest sincerity,
"nothing could be farther from my intention than to give
you such an idea. Could you have a motive for the trust,
that was not honourable and flattering to me?"
"And yet I do assure you," replied Lucy, her little
sharp eyes full of meaning, "there seemed to me to be
a coldness and displeasure in your manner that made me
quite uncomfortable. I felt sure that you was angry with me;
and have been quarrelling with myself ever since, for having
took such a liberty as to trouble you with my affairs.
But I am very glad to find it was only my own fancy,
and that you really do not blame me. If you knew what a
consolation it was to me to relieve my heart speaking to you
of what I am always thinking of every moment of my life,
your compassion would make you overlook every thing else
I am sure."
"Indeed, I can easily believe that it was a very great
relief to you, to acknowledge your situation to me, and be
assured that you shall never have reason to repent it.
Your case is a very unfortunate one; you seem to me to
be surrounded with difficulties, and you will have need
of all your mutual affection to support you under them.
Mr. Ferrars, I believe, is entirely dependent on his mother."
"He 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.
I have been always used to a very small income, and could
struggle with any poverty for him; 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.
We must wait, it may be for many years. With almost every
other man in the world, it would be an alarming prospect;
but Edward's affection and constancy nothing can deprive me of
"That conviction must be every thing to you;
and he is undoubtedly supported by the same trust in your's.
If the strength of your reciprocal attachment had failed,
as between many people, and under many circumstances
it naturally would during a four years' engagement,
your situation would have been pitiable, indeed."
Lucy here looked up; but Elinor was careful
in guarding her countenance from every expression
that could give her words a suspicious tendency.
"Edward's love for me," said Lucy, "has been pretty
well put to the test, by our long, very long absence
since we were first engaged, and it has stood the trial
so well, that I should be unpardonable to doubt it now.
I can safely say that he has never gave me one moment's
alarm on that account from the first."
Elinor hardly knew whether to smile or sigh
at this assertion.
Lucy went on. "I am rather of a jealous temper too
by nature, and from our different situations in life,
from his 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 behaviour to me when we met,
or any lowness of spirits that I could not account for,
or if he had talked more of one lady than another,
or seemed in any respect less happy at Longstaple than he
used to be. I do not mean to say that I am particularly
observant or quick-sighted in general, but in such a case
I am sure I could not be deceived."
"All this," thought Elinor, "is very pretty;
but it can impose upon neither of us."
"But what," said she after a short silence,
"are your views? or have you none but that of waiting for
Mrs. Ferrars's death, which is a melancholy and shocking
extremity?--Is her son determined to submit to this,
and to all the tediousness of the many years of suspense
in which it may involve you, rather than run the risk
of her displeasure for a while by owning the truth?"
"If we could be certain that it would be only
for a while! But Mrs. Ferrars is a very headstrong
proud woman, and in her first fit of anger upon hearing
it, would very likely secure every thing to Robert,
and the idea of that, for Edward's sake, frightens away
all my inclination for hasty measures."
"And for your own sake too, or you are carrying
your disinterestedness beyond reason."
Lucy looked at Elinor again, and was silent.
"Do you know Mr. Robert Ferrars?" asked Elinor.
"Not at all--I never saw him; but I fancy he
is very unlike his brother--silly and a great coxcomb."
"A great coxcomb!" repeated Miss Steele, whose ear had
caught those words by a sudden pause in Marianne's music.--
"Oh, they are talking of their favourite beaux, I dare say."
"No sister," cried Lucy, "you are mistaken there, our
favourite beaux are NOT great coxcombs."
"I can answer for it that Miss Dashwood's is not,"
said Mrs. Jennings, laughing heartily; "for he is one
of the modestest, prettiest behaved young men I ever saw;
but as for Lucy, she is such a sly little creature,
there is no finding out who SHE likes."
"Oh," cried Miss Steele, looking significantly round
at them, "I dare say Lucy's beau is quite as modest
and pretty behaved as Miss Dashwood's."