Study Guide

Sense and Sensibility Chapter 22

By Jane Austen

Chapter 22

  • Marianne has had it with the busybody Miss Steeles, so it's up to Elinor to keep them entertained.
  • Lucy is naturally pretty gifted – along with being very pretty, she's also smart and witty. However, she's not very educated or well-read, and Elinor finds her something of a boring companion.
  • One day, as Elinor and Lucy walk from the park to Barton Cottage, Lucy asks about Mrs. Ferrars, Fanny and Edward's mother. Elinor is a little weirded out by this question, understandably.
  • Lucy presses the issue – she says she doesn't want to be impertinent, but she's really, really curious about Mrs. Ferrars, for some odd reason.
  • Elinor is taken aback, and says so. Lucy hints that someday she and Mrs. Ferrars might be intimately related, and that she's curious because of this prospect.
  • Elinor is totally shocked now. She asks if perhaps Lucy is engaged to Robert Ferrars, the youngest brother – and worries that someday the two of them might be related (albeit distantly).
  • Lucy admits that she's not engaged to Robert Ferrars – but is instead engaged to his older brother!
  • What the what? Lucy engaged to Edward? What kind of merciless alternate universe have we stumbled into?
  • Lucy goes on placidly, seemingly unaware of her companion's utter shock and horror. First of all, she rather insultingly says that Edward looks upon Elinor and Marianne as his own sisters (not the kind of thing one wants to hear about one's crush). Secondly, she demurely admits that they've been secretly engaged for four years. We're appalled. So is Elinor.
  • Apparently, Lucy and Edward met when he was living and studying with Mr. Pratt, Lucy and Anne's uncle. They met when they were young and impressionable, fell in love (supposedly), and now are engaged.
  • Elinor feebly protests that this can't be the same Edward Ferrars – perhaps Lucy is mistaken?
  • Nope, it's definitely him. Definitely, definitely, definitely the Edward of Elinor's secret desires.
  • Lucy even goes so far as to show Elinor a little portrait of Edward that she carries around, proving once and for all that this is the same guy.
  • Elinor responds rather coldly to Lucy's revelation (and we can understand why), saying that their secret is safe with her, but she can't understand why she was the recipient of it in the first place.
  • Lucy angelically claims that she trusts Elinor instinctively, and that she feels like they've known each other for a long time. Apparently, the only other person who knows is Anne, Lucy's sister.
  • Lucy weeps a little, whining that she and Edward only get to see each other once or twice a year. Elinor is not sympathetic.
  • Lucy wonders if she should stick with Edward, or if she should just call the whole thing off. She looks pointedly at Elinor as she muses upon this – how much does Lucy know about Edward and Elinor's relationship, really? How shrewd is she, exactly?!
  • Lucy asks Elinor what she should do – and obviously, Elinor doesn't have a reply.
  • Lucy goes on, asking if Edward was down in the dumps when he was visiting the Dashwoods at Barton (apparently he'd come from visiting Lucy beforehand). Elinor admits that he was a little sad in the beginning of his visit.
  • As if we haven't had enough proof of Edward's situation yet, Lucy shows Elinor a letter from him, which is undoubtedly in his handwriting.
  • Lucy puts the final nail in the coffin of Elinor's hopes, saying that the ring Edward wears is set with a lock of her hair – not, as Elinor and Marianne believed, with Elinor's. Ouch.
  • Fortunately, the girls arrive back at the cottage, and end their conversation. The Steeles go back home, and Elinor is left alone with her miserable thoughts.