MARIANNE, who had never much toleration for any thing like impertinence, vulgarity, inferiority of parts, or even difference of taste from herself, was at this time particularly ill-disposed, from the state of her spirits, to be pleased with the Misses Steele, or to encourage their advances; and to the invariable coldness of her behaviour towards them, which checked every endeavour at intimacy on their side, Elinor principally attributed that preference of herself which soon became evident in the manners of both, but especially of Lucy, who missed no opportunity of engaging her in conversation, or of striving to improve their acquaintance by an easy and frank communication of her sentiments.
Lucy was naturally clever; her remarks were often just and amusing; and as a companion for half an hour Elinor frequently found her agreeable; but her powers had received no aid from education: she was ignorant and illiterate; and her deficiency of all mental improvement, her want of information in the most common particulars, could not be concealed from Miss Dashwood, in spite of her constant endeavour to appear to advantage. Elinor saw, and pitied her for the neglect of abilities which education might have rendered so respectable; but she saw, with less tenderness of feeling, the thorough want of delicacy, of rectitude, and integrity of mind, which her attentions, her assiduities, her flatteries at the Park betrayed; and she could have no lasting satisfaction in the company of a person who joined insincerity with ignorance; whose want of instruction prevented their meeting in conversation on terms of equality, and whose conduct toward others made every show of attention and deference towards herself perfectly valueless. "You will think my question an odd one, I dare say," said Lucy to her one day, as they were walking together from the Park to the cottage; "but, pray, are you personally acquainted with your sister-in-law's mother, Mrs. Ferrars?" Elinor did think the question a very odd one, and her countenance expressed it, as she answered that she had never seen Mrs. Ferrars. "Indeed!" replied Lucy; "I wonder at that, for I thought you must have seen her at Norland sometimes. Then, perhaps, you cannot tell me what sort of a woman she is?" "No," returned Elinor, cautious of giving her real opinion of Edward's mother, and not very desirious of satisfying what seemed impertinent curiosity; "I know nothing of her." "I am sure you think me very strange, for enquiring about her in such a way," said Lucy, eyeing Elinor attentively as she spoke; "but perhaps there may be reasons- I wish I might venture; but, however, I hope you will do me the justice of believing that I do not mean to be impertinent." Elinor made hera civil reply, and they walked on for a few minutes in silence.