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|Steele Sisters (Chapter 37 to 41)
Written by Robbin
(10/19/2006 5:52 p.m.)
…poor Nancy, who, you know, is a well-meaning creature, but no conjurer, popt it all out. 'Lord!' thinks she to herself, 'they are all so fond of Lucy, to be sure they will make no difficulty about it;' and so, away she went to your sister, who was sitting all alone at her carpet-work, little suspecting what was to come… (Chapter 37)
I think Lucy and Nancy’s relationship is an unequal one where Lucy shoulders many responsibilities including watching out for her older sister while Nancy sort of blunders obliviously through the world. Nancy’s blundering would be rather harmless but that Lucy has armed her by confiding about the secret engagement which gives her too much information and too much power to inadvertently do harm as she nearly does several times by making veiled comments at Barton soliciting Lucy’s immediate intervention. The correction is met without surprise by Nancy indicating this is their custom and further Nancy does not seem to resent Lucy’s corrections at all.
"My dear friend," cried Lucy as soon as they were by themselves, "I come to talk to you of my happiness. Could anything be so flattering as Mrs. Ferrars's way of treating me yesterday? So exceeding affable as she was! You know how I dreaded the thoughts of seeing her; but the very moment I was introduced, there was such an affability in her behaviour as really should seem to say, she had quite took a fancy to me. Now was not it so? You saw it all; and was not you quite struck with it?"…"Civil! -- Did you see nothing but only civility? I saw a vast deal more -- such kindness as fell to the share of nobody but me! No pride, no hauteur, and your sister just the same -- all sweetness and affability!" (Chapter 35)
Nancy’s reliance on Lucy may have led the way to Nancy’s confession to Fanny about the engagement. In Chapter 35 Lucy cannot help but crow to Elinor at the attention she receives from Fanny and Mrs. Ferrars at the Harley Street dinner party not realizing that they only raise her to show their distain for Elinor who presumptuously formed an attachment with Edward. I can imagine that Lucy continues to dwell on this lucky distinction to Nancy to whom it would carry much weight. I do not think Lucy felt it was the end of all obstacles. IMO Lucy must see their attention as easing the way to become closer to them; they are easier to deal with than she imagined and making herself agreeable and indispensable as she did with Lady Middleton will not be as difficult a task as she suspected. Nancy being no conjurer sees only that Lucy is being treated fondly and the fact they have been invited to Harley Street for a visit can only be seen as proof of that fondness IMO which leads to Nancy’s confession.
"I am monstrous glad of it. Good gracious! I have had such a time of it! I never saw Lucy in such a rage in my life. She vowed at first she would never trim me up a new bonnet, nor do anything else for me again, so long as she lived; but now she is quite come to, and we are as good friends as ever. Look, she made me this bow to my hat, and put in the feather last night." (Chapter 38)
I think Nancy’s conservation in Kensington Gardens and Lucy’s letter to Elinor in Chapter 38 sheds some light on their relationship and exposes Lucy’s character more than she is aware; the reader starts to see underneath the sweet mask that Lucy shows the world. When Nancy speaks with Elinor in Kensington Gardens she seems to be concerned about everyone being angry with her, asking about Mrs. Jennings and Lady Middleton. Before the reveal of the engagement I might have put more weight in the notion that Lucy had asked Nancy to inquire about their friends so they know where they stand with them but is this likely at this point in the novel after Nancy has finally broken the trust Lucy placed in her in the worse possible way? Is it more likely Nancy is afraid of what Lucy will do if she blunders and angers her again? I understand Lucy’s anger at Nancy for outing her but I think using the word “rage” to describe Lucy’s emotion is significant because it is not a word often used by JA to describe anger. The only other instance is Mr. Bennet’s emotions just after learning of Lydia’s elopement and therefore I attribute all the angry fury; violent anger (dictionary.com) the word evokes to Lucy’s behavior towards Nancy in the aftermath of exposure. I think Nancy does not grasp what she had done because surely attaining Edward without his fortune was not part of Lucy’s plan. I think Lucy’s unwillingness to let him go when she saw he favored another woman above her shows security was the driving factor in maintaining her engagement not affection.
I believe in my heart Lucy gave it all up for lost; for we came away from your brothers on Wednesday, and we saw nothing of him not all Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and did not know what was become with him. Once Lucy thought to write to him, but then her spirit rose against that. (Chapter 38)
I think Lucy’s trust in Nancy, not great before IMO, sunk to a new low after she exposed her engagement prematurely. Lucy’s letter to Elinor in Chapter 38 proves that she is not monitoring Nancy as closely as she did in the past. If they had any significant conservation on the subject of her engagement Lucy would have found out Nancy spoke with Elinor and made it her business to find out exactly what Nancy told her. If Lucy had done this she could have avoided obvious inconsistencies in her letter with what Nancy told Elinor—such as saying Nancy exposed the engagement for the best contradicting Nancy’s observation that she had never seen Lucy in such a rage before and that she offered to let Edward out of the engagement to reacquire his fortune which is exactly the opposite of Nancy’s triumphant retelling of Edward’s regard for Lucy causing him to offer to let her out of the engagement. Nancy also reveals to Elinor that Lucy nearly “gave it all up for lost” when Edward did not visit them for three days after they were evicted from Harley Street—to me this shows that Lucy’s confidence in Edward’s affections are not so high as she led Elinor to think at Barton. Nancy also reveals that Lucy is too proud to write to Edward to find out the disposition of her engagement. IMO Nancy’s breaking Lucy’s confidence has been a big blow to their relationship and the inconsistencies between their versions of Edward’s visit shows they are not talking and Lucy is not looking after Nancy as she had been. (;D)
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