Sense and Sensibility
How we cite our quotes:
"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. (22.7)
This is totally a veiled declaration of war – and the thing is, the conflict between Elinor and Lucy has to play out in outwardly civil forms! Lucy knows that Elinor can't strike back at her, since she has nothing to go on; Elinor herself is at a total loss for what to do in the face of this declaration.
The youthful infatuation of nineteen would naturally blind him to everything but her beauty and good nature; but the four succeeding years -- years, which if rationally spent, give such improvement to the understanding, must have opened his eyes to her defects of education: while the same period of time, spent on her side in inferior society and more frivolous pursuits, had perhaps robbed her of that simplicity, which might once have given an interesting character to her beauty. (23.2)
This is about as catty as we see Elinor get. By objectively evaluating Lucy's suitability for Edward (or rather, attempting to be objective), she determines that Lucy is in all ways inferior. By implication, she herself is superior and fit for Edward's love.
That Lucy was disposed to be jealous of her, appeared very probable; it was plain that Edward had always spoken highly in her praise, not merely from Lucy's assertion, but from her venturing to trust her on so short a personal acquaintance, with a secret so confessedly and evidently important. And even Sir John's joking intelligence must have had some weight. But indeed, while Elinor remained so well assured within herself of being really beloved by Edward, it required no other consideration of probabilities to make it natural that Lucy should be jealous; and that she was so, her very confidence was a proof. What other reason for the disclosure of the affair could there be, but that Elinor might be informed by it of Lucy's superior claims on Edward, and be taught to avoid him in future? She had little difficulty in understanding thus much of her rival's intentions, and while she was firmly resolved to act by her as every principle of honour and honesty directed, to combat her own affection for Edward and to see him as little as possible; she could not deny herself the comfort of endeavouring to convince Lucy that her heart was unwounded. (23.6)
Elinor knows her place in this competition; even though she's the better woman by far, Lucy's the clear winner, and there's nothing anybody can do about it. She just has to grin and bear it.