فصل 06

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فصل 06

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CHAPTER SIX

Lucy’s Secret

Marianne Dashwood did not like the Steeles and she did not try to hide her feelings. Elinor did not like the Steeles either, but she did hide her feelings. She did not want to be rude to Sir John’s visitors.

Lucy Steele’s conversation was amusing and enjoyable - for a short time. But she was not well-educated and she did not have anything interesting to say. Also, she was not always honest - she did not always tell the truth. She flattered the Middletons and she said that she was very fond of Elinor too.

Lucy very much wanted to be Elinor’s friend. She was always trying to talk to Elinor alone. Elinor was soon tired of Lucy and her gossip.

One day, they were walking in the park together.

‘Miss Dashwood, do you know Mrs Ferrars?’ Lucy asked. ‘She is the mother-in-law of your brother, John.’ Then she added with a sly smile, ‘I am sure that you think that is a strange question.’

‘Well, yes, I do,’ Elinor replied. ‘I have never met Mrs Ferrars and I know nothing about her.’

‘Oh dear, I am sorry!’ Lucy cried. ‘But one day soon, Mrs Ferrars will be very important to me. In fact, Miss Dashwood,

‘I shall soon be part of her family!’

‘What do you mean?’ Elinor said in great surprise. ‘Do you know her son, Robert Ferrars? Are you telling me that you are - ?’

‘No. I am not talking about Mr Robert Ferrars,’ Lucy replied, with another sly smile. ‘I am talking about his elder brother, Mr Edward Ferrars. I am engaged to Edward Ferrars.’

Elinor was shocked. She did not know what to say.

‘I have surprised you, Miss Dashwood,’ Lucy went on. ‘No one knows about our engagement. I know that you will keep this secret. I trust you, and Mr Ferrars trusts you too. He thinks of you as a sister. He has often told me so.’

Elinor tried to hide her feelings, but it was very difficult.

‘Have you and Edward Ferrars been engaged tor a long time?’ she asked quietly.

‘We have been secretly engaged for four years.’ Lucy replied. ‘We met when Edward was studying with my uncle, Mr Pratt, who is a tutor in Plymouth. Of course, Edward and I were very young when we met. But Edward persuaded me to become engaged.’

Elinor did not know what to say next. She trusted Edward and she believed that he loved her. She was sure that he would never hurt her. Elinor did not trust Lucy and she did not believe that she was telling the truth.

‘I think there is a mistake,’ Elinor said at last. ‘We cannot be talking about the same Mr Ferrars.’

‘Oh, yes, we are!’ Lucy cried. ‘We are both talking about Mr Edward Ferrars, the eldest son of Mrs Ferrars of Park Street, London. He is the elder brother of your sister-in-law, Mrs John Dashwood. He is the man whom I love.’

‘It is very strange,’ Elinor said slowly. ‘Edward has never spoken to me about you.’

‘It is not strange at all,’ Lucy replied. ‘Our engagement has to be a secret. I do not know how long Edward and I must wait before we can get married. Who knows when we will be together?’ Lucy sighed. ‘But Edward has given me his picture,’ she said. ‘Look, here it is. I always carry it with me.’

Lucy took a small picture out of her pocket and showed it to Elinor. It was a painting of the face of Edward Ferrars. Elinor looked at the picture sadly.

‘I shall keep your secret, Lucy,’ Elinor said quietly. ‘But why are you telling me about it?’

‘I cannot talk to anyone else about this,’ Lucy replied. ‘Anne knows, of course, but she is not much help to me. I have been so unhappy for the last four years! Sometimes, I want to end our engagement. But that would upset my dear Edward too much. What would you do, Miss Dashwood?’

As she spoke, Lucy Steele put Edward’s picture back in her pocket. Then she took out a handkerchief, and began to cry.

‘I cannot tell you what to do,’ Elinor said, ‘You must decide for yourself.’

‘I suppose that I must,’ Lucy said, as tears fell from her eyes. ‘But dear Edward is so unhappy. You must have seen that he was sad when he visited you.’

‘Yes, we all did,’ Elinor replied. She was beginning to believe Lucy now. She also remembered that Edward had come to Barton from Plymouth.

Lucy now took a letter from her pocket.

‘This is a letter from Edward,’ she said, showing it to Elinor. Lucy’s name and an address in Exeter were on it. ‘He wrote it to me just before Anne and I came here. Our letters to each other help both of us. Edward does not have a picture of me, but I gave him a lock of my hair. He wears it in a ring. Did you see it?’

‘Yes, I did,’ Elinor said. She spoke quietly and tried to hide her feelings, but she was very, very unhappy.

The two girls were now outside the Dashwoods’ cottage. Lucy said goodbye to Elinor and returned to Barton Park.

Elinor went to her room to think. Everything that Lucy had told her must be true. Edward was engaged to Lucy Steele! But did he love Lucy? Elinor did not believe this. She was sure that Edward loved her. He had looked at her with love when he visited Barton.

‘Edward’s engagement to Lucy is a mistake,’ Elinor thought. ‘He became engaged four years ago. He was young then - only nineteen. I am sure that he does not love Lucy now. This news has made me unhappy, but Edward must be unhappier. Lucy Steele is uneducated, untruthful and sly and she thinks of no one but herself. She will never make Edward happy.’

As usual, Elinor told no one about her feelings. She could remain strong, but only if she kept her thoughts to herself. Elinor decided to ask Lucy Steele some more questions as soon as she could. Her chance came one evening at Barton Park. Marianne was playing the piano and thinking of Willoughby. The Middletons and Miss Steele were playing cards. Lucy was sitting at a table alone. She was making a gift for little Annamaria. Elinor walked across the room and sat down beside Lucy.

‘When we last met, you told me your secret,’ Elinor said. ‘I would like to ask you a few questions about it.’

‘Of course, my dear Miss Dashwood,’ Lucy replied. ‘Friends tell each other everything. But I thought that my news had made you unhappy.’

Lucy looked sharply at Elinor. Then she said, I am so pleased to share my secret with a true friend. I feel so much happier now.’

‘I am sure that you are pleased to share your secret,’ Elinor said. ‘You and Edward have many problems, I know that. Edward has no profession and very little money of his own. He is very dependent on his mother.’

‘That is true,’ Lucy replied sadly. ‘Edward has only $2000 of his own. It would be very foolish for us to get married without money from his mother. I would not mind being poor if I were with Edward, of course. But I do not want him to lose his mother’s money because of me. We must wait. There is no other way.

‘Edward has loved me for four years,’ Lucy went on. ‘He will never stop loving me, I am sure. I would know at once if he did.’

‘So what are you going to do?’ Elinor asked. ‘Are you waiting for Mrs Ferrars to die? How long will you and Edward wait?’

‘Mrs Ferrars is a very proud woman,’ Lucy said, sighing. ‘If we make her angry, she may leave all her money to Robert, Edward’s younger brother. That must never happen. It would hurt Edward too much.’

‘It would hurt you too,’ Elinor said quietly.

Lucy looked at Elinor sharply, but she did not answer her.

Then Elinor asked another question.

‘Do you know Mr Robert Ferrars?’

‘No, I have never seen him,’ Lucy replied. ‘I have heard that Robert is very unlike Edward. Robert is foolish and proud.’

Miss Steele had come to their table. She heard these words and laughed.

‘Foolish and proud?’ she repeated loudly. ‘You must be talking about young men!’

‘Miss Dashwood’s young man is very quiet and he has good manners,’ Mrs Jennings called out. ‘But who does Miss Lucy love? Is that a secret?’

‘Lucy’s young man is as quiet and well-mannered as Miss Dashwood’s young man,’ Anne Steele said quickly.

Elinor’s face became red and Lucy frowned angrily at her sister. After a few seconds, Lucy spoke very quietly to Elinor.

‘As you may know, Edward wants to be a clergyman,’ Lucy said. ‘Your brother John could help Edward. John Dashwood could help Edward to become the clergyman in the church at Norland.’

‘You should ask his wife, Fanny Dashwood, to help Edward,’ Elinor said.

Lucy sighed again. ‘Oh, no,’ she said. ‘She will not help us. Perhaps I should end our engagement. You must help me to make this decision, Miss Dashwood. You must help me with my problem. I will do whatever you say.’

Elinor knew that Lucy was playing a game with her, so she did not reply. Lucy soon spoke again.

‘Will you be in London this winter, Miss Dashwood?’ Lucy asked.

‘No, I will not,’ Elinor replied.

‘I am sorry to hear that,’ Lucv said happily. ‘I am going with Anne at the end of January. I am going because Edward will be in London during February.’

Elinor decided not to say anything more about Edward and his engagement to Lucy. But Lucy spoke about Edward whenever she could and this made Elinor feel very unhappy.

The Steeles stayed on at Barton Park for nearly two months. They did not leave until after Christmas.

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