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Written by Jan
(10/5/2006 12:07 p.m.)
CH21 “In a morning's excursion to Exeter, they had met with two young ladies, whom Mrs. Jennings had the satisfaction of discovering to be her relations, and this was enough for Sir John to invite them directly to the Park, as soon as their present engagements at Exeter were over.”
I don’t think this was such a coincidence as might appear and I think it was entirely orchestrated by Lucy. JA makes it look like a chance meeting, because that is how it is supposed to appear to the Barton families but she also sets up all the clues to Lucy being the clever manipulator behind it.
Lucy admits that she has known of the Dashwoods for some time and no doubt, she has been concerned about Edward’s acquaintance with them, particularly as he has praised them to her. “I know he has the highest opinion in the world of all your family, and looks upon yourself and the other Miss Dashwoods quite as his own sisters” (I think the last few words are Lucy’s!) It would also have been very easy for a sharp mind like Lucy’s to question Edward enough to ascertain that his partiality among the sisters was for Elinor.
Lucy knows that he was headed for Barton after being with her, “He was so miserable when he left us at Longstaple, to go to you, that I was afraid you would think him quite ill."
After Edward leaves the Steeles at Longstaple, we find them in Exeter, just 4 miles from Barton and they had been there long enough for Lucy to have received a letter from Edward, directed to Exeter, so it appears that they left Longstaple quite soon after Edward. It sounds like Lucy has been having conversations about the Dashwoods in Exeter as Sir John says “they have heard at Exeter that you are the most beautiful creatures in the world.” Her interest in them would certainly prompt her to find out as much as possible about them.
Lucy’s family would know that they are related to wealthy Mrs Jennings and that her daughter is Lady Middleton of Barton Park as such good connections would hardly be kept secret. Therefore, when Lucy finds out that the Dashwoods are at Barton Cottage, and related to Sir John, she sees Mrs Jennings as her route to meeting Elinor and telling her of her “superior claims on Edward” and teaching her “to avoid him in future” (as Elinor later describes it).
I think Lucy hurried to Exeter with the express purpose of meeting up with Mrs Jennings and that wouldn’t be difficult given the network of servants’ and shopkeepers’ information about who goes where and when. Lucy is clever enough to be in the right place at the right time with someone acquainted with Mrs Jennings and as Sir John’s hospitality and love of young people’s company is well known, she could be reasonably confident of securing an invitation to Barton Park.
I also don’t think that the Steeles lived in Exeter but were staying with friends/relatives there, which makes their arrival in Exeter at that time even more staged by Lucy. The evidence for that comes later in the book so I can’t cite it yet.
It can all be passed off as coincidence to Mrs Jennings, the Middletons, the Dashwoods and perhaps even to Edward but Lucy is too clever to leave things to chance. When she sees a possible threat to her future, she is able to secure a way of obstructing it in a most devious manner while maintaining her sweet, innocent facade.
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