Mother fluttered outside, anxious to be in the action and address both Mr. McConnely and Mr. Mitchell; quick to point how pretty both Marianne and I looked in such a lighting so as to impress both the suitors. We both flushed, but it only made my wild emotions flair higher. It made me think of all the gossiping women Mother had told of Mr. Mitchell's supposed advancement upon me and the certainty of my marriage to the wealthy widower. No doubt much of her words had been supposedly confirmed as well, with his frequent visitation at our home and his content at being at my side and sharing conversation. I loathed to think of all the gossip I would have to face if Mr. Mitchell ever made his step toward Elizabeth well known.
I looked around to our little gathering, also wondering where Grace had disappeared off to, and if she was feeling better. Though I could not help but realize all the faces, the expressions all around me. While Mr. Mitchell's eyes which I so longed to gaze upon me in such a fashion laid firmly on my younger sister, her own glance was set upon Mr. McConnely with her own longing, burning desire. Mr. McConnely saw not else other than Marianne, seemed to hear not else, which she looked, frankly, bored out of her wits, her eyes on the gardens with a thoughtful expression.
The whole of it was hopeless; I suspected Lady McConnely would not even let her son marry the prettiest of us, nevermind Elizabeth, who while I thought had the excellent qualities of a prim young woman, all others saw little expectation of her other than to be the wife of Mr. Baker. Too, it appeared McConnely was blind to all but Marianne. With Elizabeth with her head upon Mr. McConnely in such a way, Mr. Mitchell's love for her would be shattered. Although my own feelings for him, my close friendship in which we shared would hurt me to see him like that, as his own heart would be broken yet he would never hold any passion for me that way. Marianne's heart confused me. I could not make up odds and ends of her feelings. We all seemed desperatly doomed to the cruel hand of love.
Gently knocking on her door, I slipped quietly into Elizabeth's room, the flickering gold light casting it's aura about her bed as she sat up, flipping through the pages in one of her books. Her hair was done up carefully in an attempt to curl it, and I suspected that this was done in the hope of catching McConnely's eye. Setting her book aside, she smiled up and me. "Cannot sleep?" she asked me.
I nodded briskly, coming to sit upon her bed. "It was fine to see McConnely today, yes?" I inquired to her myself. Why did I encourage her, when I thought it was to end in such tragedy? I felt the urge to make her feel more happy and confident in herself...
"Indeed!" Elizabeth said enthusiatically. "Did you hear that he thought my dress fine today?"
"Yes," I replied, though I did not hear the comment myself. "Mother was right; you did appear pretty today."
She blushed somewhat bashfully, fingering her bedcovers. There was a pause between us, and I continued, "Though I think Mitchell fancies you."
Elizabeth shot up at me, shocked in appearance. "Margaret! That is not so! Anyone with eyes can see he fancies you! How can you think that?"
"Nay," I shook my head. "We are but friends. All he can look at is you."
"That is not so!" she repeated, shaking her head though she could not help a blush. "Do...you not love him?"
"If he asked you to be his wife, would you say no?"
"I would be honored by his offer," I said slowly and cautiously. "Though I believe both of us do not feel that way about one another. His friendship is very dear to me, though I do not think he would be so inclined to take me as his wife."
Elizabeth paused, suspicious. "But....you love him! I cannot...believe otherwise. I hold in good faith that he loves you in return."
He loves you, not me! I could not fight her, I could only reply, "I do not love him...not in that way, Liz." Lie....at least so I thought.
"He, for certain, does not fancy me, Margaret." Elizabeth said hard-headedly. Her determination wavered for a moment, her mind returning onto her heart's desire, "Do...do you not approve of McConnely for me and wish to remove my attentions from him....?"
"No! Not in the least!" I denied vehemently, though I could only wish that this was more simple, somehow.
She smiled, somewhat relieved, forgetting Mitchell. "Do you think McConnely will return tomorrow as well? He said he would soon. Would you help me pick a gown that you think he would like?"
"Oh, Liz, you seem to have a style that he liked if he commented on it this morning." I grinned encouragingly. "And if you want for styling advice, you would rather be asking Marianne! She is much more knowledgable in such things!"
After some shared laughs, I quit her room for my own bed, my mind flustered in it's wild thoughts. I bid my other sister, Edward, and Grace a good night, and crept into my own room. Silently, I slipped into my sheets, laying my head upon the pillow. Memories and feelings for the day swept through my mind in the quiet, weighted by the unfolding drama of our family. Closing my eyes, I knew I was not jealous of Elizabeth...that was not the proper word. I just wished....it all turned out differently, perhaps.
Oh! I was to never let love let such a hold on my head and sanity ever again! Never!
My mind drifted to Captain Howard's eyes, brilliant against the red of his coat. I half laughed sadly to myself; it was likely I was to never see him again. And why should I hope and dream so much of him? It was only one dance. I had danced with many others before without any thought or fancy.
I pushed him from my head as well, as hard as I tried my thoughts still lingered on Mitchell. I was going to do everything that I may to make all of my siblings happy-neverminding anyone else. It was to be an impossible feat, and I knew it. The web was already too mangled; we were flies in the spider's trap, waiting for the spindly beast to eat us.