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.