This week we reach the high point of this passionate tale of first loves…but before we see poor Marianne at that terrible moment when she is about to be snubbed by Willoughby, we must first meet Elinor’s nemeis,Lucy Steele.
The first illustration this week is of the incident in Chapter 22 when Lucy reveals that she is engaged to Edward Ferrars:
“I dare say you are, and I am sure I do not at all wonder at it. But if I dared tell you all, you would not be so much surprised. Mrs. Ferrars is certainly nothing to me at present — but the time may come — how soon it will come must depend upon herself — when we may be very intimately connected.”
She looked down as she said this, amiably bashful, with only one side glance at her companion to observe its effect on her.
“Good heavens!” cried Elinor, “what do you mean? Are you acquainted with Mr. Robert Ferrars? Can you be — — ?” And she did not feel much delighted with the idea of such a sister-in-law.
“No;” replied Lucy, “not to Mr. Robert Ferrars — I never saw him in my life; but,” fixing her eyes upon Elinor, “to his elder brother.”
What felt Elinor at that moment? Astonishment, that would have been as painful as it was strong, had not an immediate disbelief of the assertion attended it. She turned towards Lucy in silent amazement, unable to divine the reason or object of such a declaration; and though her complexion varied, she stood firm in incredulity, and felt in no danger of an hysterical fit, or a swoon.
Here I think Thomson conveys Lucy’s sly sideways glance toward Elinor well, but shows Elinor in some distress, putting her hand to her mouth which, I think , betrays too much of her emotion. Jane Austen makes it quite clear that Elinor does not betray any of her deeply felt feelings,save for her complexion changing colour. What do you think?
The second illustration is from Chapter 24 where Elinor is again being taunted by Lucy, who is really playing with her like a cat with a mouse, telling her all the pertinent details of her engagement with Edward, while Anne Steele, Lady Middleton , Margaret and Mrs Jennings are playing cards neaby. Marrianne is, of course, playing the newly tuned pianoforte and does not hear then over the noise she is producing by playing her powerful, magnificent concerto. Anne Steel hears them talking of Beaux and interrupts them…
Strangely Thomson only gives half the quote in the illsutration. This is what Mrs Jennings says in full:
“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.”
Poor Elinor would surely have preferred Lucy to have remained silent on this point…..
The last illustration in this week’s article is my favourite of the three, for I think it reveals very subtly, the different reactions of the sisters.; the joy Marianne is feeling,and the caution that rules Elinor. It is of course, that fateful moment at the party in Chapter 28 when Marianne spots Willoughby and thinks he has at last come to claim her as his own:
They had not remained in this manner long, before Elinor perceived Willoughby, standing within a few yards of them, in earnest conversation with a very fashionable looking young woman. She soon caught his eye, and he immediately bowed, but without attempting to speak to her, or to approach Marianne, though he could not but see her; and then continued his discourse with the same lady. Elinor turned involuntarily to Marianne, to see whether it could be unobserved by her. At that moment she first perceived him, and her whole countenance glowing with sudden delight, she would have moved towards him instantly, had not her sister caught hold of her.
“Good heavens!” she exclaimed, “he is there — he is there — Oh! why does he not look at me? why cannot I speak to him?”
“Pray, pray be composed,” cried Elinor, “and do not betray what you feel to everybody present. Perhaps he has not observed you yet.”
Poor Elinor….trying desperately to have Marianne not betray her feelings for Willoughby to the whole room, and poor Marianne who is just about to have her heart broken not a thousand tiny pieces…..