I had spent the morning horse-riding before I had seen the carriages in front of the house. Out stepped Mr McConnely and Mr Mitchell. The whole family congregated before our guests and I couldn't help but notice whose eyes were caught by whom. Margaret, though she tried to hide it, kept glancing at Mr Mitchell, whom she had liked for quite a while. Mr Mitchell himself appeared captivated by Elizabeth while she gazed longingly at Mr McConnely - quite a surprise to me, since I hadn't realised she'd had feelings for him. Mr McConnely, as was to be expected, watched Marianne, barely noticing the things which went on around him. Marianne, who confused me so much that it made my head hurt, looked uninterested by anything which was going on. I came to the conclusion that as in my case, no one took her fancy. Oh, love seemed so complicated. I was relieved that there was no woman that I found attractive. Although I couldn't deny I was curious... What could have such a powerful effect on people that they were blind to anything else in the world when around the one they wished to court? What could cause such excitement and confuse the senses so? I decided to ask my older sister. She would surely know. But not right now. Now was the time to be courteous and ask about the lives of our visitors.
I didn't get a chance to talk to Margaret at any other point that day, either. I couldn't seem to find her, although it was probably a case of me being in the wrong room at the wrong time. So I asked her the following day.
After breakfast, when Mother suggested a picnic on the lawns in front of the house, I took Margaret aside and spoke with her.
"Margaret, I have a question," I told her. "You must promise not to laugh and if you scorn me, I shall think you frightfully horrid."
"Why, whatever's the matter, Edward? I've not seen you look so flushed since the days you came back home with mud all over your trousers."
"Promise me, Margaret," I implored her.
"I promise, though I fail to see what could make such a thing necessary."
"I want to ask you..." I took a deep breath in. "... what love is like."
Margaret looked confused. "I'm afraid I must have misheard you, Edward. Do try again."
"I do not think you misheard, dear sister. What is love like?"
Margaret looked surprised. "You wish to know? Why... it's indescribable, dear brother. Words couldn't do it justice if they swam to the far corners of the world and returned bearing treasure."
"Try," I pleaded. "I have seen you, Elizabeth and Grace fall under its spell and the effects of it seem most alien to me."
"What effects have you observed?" she asked.
"Excitement, confusion of the senses, blindness to anything except the one who holds the eye. I'm sure there are others."
"Well, your observations will tell you more. You don't need to ask." She was obviously uncomfortable, even though I was asking this as a sibling who was merely inquisitive.
"My observations aren't of great use to me. Love still seems an alien concept. I am sorry to make you feel uncomfortable but I am curious."
"One day you shall find your own love, and then you will understand. Until then, I can only give you words. Words are so meaningless when it comes to love."
"Then words are what I desire."
"Love is ... thrilling, extremely pleasurable." My sister brought out her fan and started furiously fanning her face. "The heart is infected with a poison that causes it to beat faster and the soul is set alight. All one can think about is the person who has afflicted them with this condition."
"And?" I asked, forgetting my sister's discomfort in my eagerness to learn more.
"And now I really must go," Margaret said, sounding quite alarmed.
She hurriedly walked off.
I regretted how I had made her feel. But this thing called love sounded fascinating. Maybe it wouldn't be so harmless to experience it.