Lucy and Robert, A Romance

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Sense and Sensibility

Cast:

1. Narrator

2. Lucy Steele

3. Robert Ferrars

4. Elinor Dashwood

5. Edward Ferrars

6. Fanny Dashwood

7. John Dashwood

8. Mrs. Ferrars

characters lined up at front as follows, left to right: Elinor Edward Lucy Narrator Robert John Fanny Mrs. F

Narrator introduces each character by first and last name and their relationships to each other.

Narrator: It is a truth universally acknowledged that a silly man in possession of an independent fortune must marry to disoblige his family. As it so happens, Mr. Edward Ferrars (Edward bows) did not have an independent fortune, and was therefore obliged to hide his very imprudent engagement to the pretty but impoverished Lucy Steele (Lucy curtsies) from his family. (Lucy and Edward come together in center and gaze into each other eyes.) After four years of secrecy the truth came out, as the truth tends to do (Lucy and Edward step back to initial positions) . . .

Mrs. F: (steps forward and speaks authoritatively) Edward!

Edward: (moves forward and mumbles shyly) Yes mother. (Fanny and John also step forward)

Mrs. F: You shall break your so-called engagement with that . . . that . . . fortunehuntress, immediately. You will engage yourself to Miss Morton. And we will never speak of this again. (sighs heavily and fans herself)

Edward: Mother you know I cannot break my engagement. I will not. (Mrs. F is shocked and indignant by his response, John and Fanny comfort, support her) I am honour bound. I have given my word. I will not abandon Lucy.

Fanny: How can you do this to us? (sobs into handkerchief, John embraces and comforts her) How can you be so selfish?

John: You must reconsider. You must think of your poor sister and mother. Who is this Lucy girl compared to them? Your family must come first, your loyalty must be to them. (Fanny and Mrs. F nod their agreement as he speaks)

Edward: I have given my promise, I could not live with myself if I broke it.

Fanny: (sobbing) but you can live with breaking your faith with us? your most intimate relations? you can live with connecting us to . . . (hyperventilating) to . . . such a girl?!

Mrs. F: If you will not break it off, then you will convince her to break it off! (Fanny and John nod/mutter their assent)

Edward: I will not.

Mrs. F: Foolish, headstrong, defiant boy! I am ashamed of you! If you will not convince her, then I shall.

Edward: Nothing you can say . . .

Mrs. F: (interrupting) Say? Can you imagine that I intend to speak to her? to even acknowledge her? I paid her every attention . . . and look where that has gotten me! No, I will convince her to end it by depriving you of the fortune intended for you.

Edward: I would be disappointed if you did so and I do not think it would have the effect you desire. But you must do what you think is best, of course.

Mrs. F: Oh it will have the desired effect, I know how to make sure of it. You will be permanently deprived of the fortune she expects so that there can be no chance of a reversal. I will accomplish it by settling the very estate intended for you on your brother irrevocably. (smiles and holds her head high with satisfaction) This Miss Lucy Steele will break the so-called engagement and you will see that I am right . . . she is a fortunehuntress.

Edward: I do hope you will reconsider . . .

Mrs. F: It will be done first thing in the morning. You are no longer my son. (Edward bows and steps back; the others step back)

Narrator: Mrs. Ferrars was true to her word and punished Edward's honorable disloyalty by settling his intended fortune irrevecably on his brother. (Mrs. F nods smugly; Edward looks down, shaking his head; Robert smiles smugly.) But, as Edward predicted, (Lucy and Edward step forward and gaze at each other) Lucy did not break her engagement with Edward much to Mrs. Ferrars' dismay. Hope was not lost, however, (Lucy and Edward step back) as Robert was moved to exert himself in furtherance of his mother's interest soon after she made him her only son. His resolve to be of assistance in the matter arose in consequence of a conversation with Miss Elinor Dashwood . . . (Robert and Elinor step forward)

Robert: Poor Edward! He is ruined forever. I am extremely sorry for it. I was never so shocked in my life as when it all burst forth. And when I first learned of it I told my mother I would never see him again if he did marry this young woman. I was most uncommonly shocked indeed. Poor Edward! He has done for himself completely, -- shut himself out forever from all decent society!

Elinor: Have you ever seen the lady?

Robert: Yes; once for ten minutes, and I saw quite enough of her: the merest awkward country girl, without style or elegance, and almost without beauty. I remember perfectly. Just the kind of girl I should suppose likely to captivate poor Edward. I offered immediately, as soon as my mother related the affair to me, to talk to him myself, and dissuade him from the match; but it was too late then, I found, to do anything; for unluckily, I knew nothing of it till after the breach had taken place, when it was not for me to interfere. But, had I been informed of it a few hours ealier, I think it is most probable that something might have been hit on. I certainly should have represented it to Edward in a very strong light what a disgraceful connection he would be making. I cannot help thinking that means might have been found; but now it is all too late.

(Elinor and Robert step back)

Narrator: Robert genuinely believed it was too late to change his brother's mind. But his conversation with Elinor gave him the idea that perhaps the young lady could be worked on. Robert had no other view than of persuading Lucy to give up the engagement, when he sought her acquaintance and privately visited her in Bartlett's Buildings. . . . . (Lucy and Robert step forward)

Lucy: (Lucy approaches Robert and curtsies and offers her hand; Robert bows and takes her offered hand but touches only the tips of her fingers ever so slightly as if he finds it distasteful.) My dear Mr. Ferrars! What a surprise to see you here! I cannot tell you how much it means to me to be noticed by anyone in Edward's family. You must truly be an angel to be so kind as to visit me. I am so forlorn, and Edward, his spirits are so low. But you, I should have known I would find friendship with you. My, what a good brother you are! Surely, you have come because you intend to intercede on our behalf with your mother and sister. What other reason can you have to call on me?

Robert: (looks uncomfortable, takes out a fancy toothpick case from his jacket pocket, takes out a toothpick and goes to put the case away as he speaks) Good morning, Miss Steele. I am glad to find you looking so well . . .

Lucy: Oh la! That is quite an exquisite toothpick case! Very tastefully appointed.

Robert: Thank you. I just picked it up this morning from Gray's.

Lucy: It is really very lovely. And so fitting to you, sir. I have always believed that a gentleman's accoutrements should reflect his standing in society. I suppose Mr. Gray is to be credited with the design?

Robert: (chuckling) Indeed not! It is all my own design.

Lucy: I might have known. I have always thought you to be a gentleman of great taste. Edward always spoke of your having a great appreciation for fashion.

Robert: Coming from Edward, I am not sure that was intended as praise. I do not think he has ever set foot in Gray's. (looking at her slyly) And, of course, henceforth, he will never be able to afford to. (Lucy looks forlorn) It is a sad business indeed but there is nothing to be done for it.

Lucy: Oh surely, something could be done! You must tell Mrs. Ferrars how low Edward is, how melancholy, and how very sorry he is for having kept such a secret for so long. You must tell her how ready he is to beg her forgiveness and perhaps she will take pity on him.

Robert: (shaking his head) I do not think it very likely that she will do anything for him unless . . .

Lucy: Yes? . . . unless?

Robert: Well, not while he holds to his purpose. I do not dare to judge whether my dear mother's punishment may have been warranted or not; but be that as it may, the fact remains that Edward's income is not sufficient to marry and live comfortably on. Even with the Delaford living I believe it would be impossible. Poor honorable Edward would never expect any young woman to . . . wait for more; especially one who might yet find a less impoverished situation.

Lucy: He has a very generous spirit. My hand and my heart must be the reward for his loyalty to me. And I hope, continued loyalty to his family will someday bring them around to accepting his choice. You would not wish your brother to always live in such dire circumstances?

Robert: Indeed not. But what can I do? It is a very sad business. (shakes his head) It all comes from the manner of Edward's education. I would never have gotten into such a scrape. (Lucy looks at him in alarmed confusion.) If I had been so much in love, I would have married immediately. Indeed, I would have eloped.

Lucy: (whispering) Indeed? But would not an elopement have angered Mrs. Ferrars more than an engagement?

Robert: Perhaps, but once the deed is done, it cannot be undone. After all, it is much easier to ask for forgiveness than permission!

Lucy: I believe you must be correct, my dear sir. If only Edward had been so clever. You don't know how I have suffered these four years, Mr. Ferrars.

Robert: I can readily believe that you have! And no one blames you. But you do have the means of saving yourself from further misery, Miss Steele. With all your charms, I am sure you can have no trouble in procuring a more eligible connection. And if you are too generous to think of yourself, then think of Edward. You have the power of not only restoring him to his family but of saving him from all the misery of guilt for not having the means of providing for you as you deserve. For I am sure he must love you a great deal and to see you reduced to such measures of economy as must be adopted on such an income I am sure would break his heart.

Lucy: I would not wish to appear selfish. I have thought it might be best for Edward to be free. I asked him . . . I offered to . . . but he would not hear of it.

Robert: Of course he would not! He is too honorable a fellow to allow you to give up anything for him. The only way he would agree to a breach is if you desired it.

Lucy: He did offer to release me after he lost his inheritance, but I could not accept. How could I abandon him at such a time?

Robert: You have both been continuing in a situation that is sure to make you both miserable for the sake of appearing unselfish! But surely you must see that it would be best for him as well as yourself to end this engagement.

Lucy: Perhaps you are right. (Robert smiles, as if congratulating himself for succeeding) But, I cannot be sure. I have so many doubts. I would not wish to hurt anyone. I must think seriously about everything you've said before making a decision of such consequence. Perhaps you would be so kind as to return tomorrow?

Robert: Certainly. It would be my pleasure. (Robert bows, Lucy curtsies, they both step back.)

Narrator: Robert was pleased with the meeting (Robert smiles, look self satisfied). He had set out to break an engagement of long standing; and as there could be nothing to overcome but the affection of both, he naturally expected that one or two interviews would settle the matter. Indeed, he was so far from being deterred by Miss Steele's present indecision that he fully expected to learn she had already written to Edward upon calling the following morning. Lucy, though not necessarily indisposed to act in accordance with Robert's wishes, could not be as secure as he seemed to be in the prospect of procuring a more eligible situation for herself. Indeed no other offer had been forthcoming in the four years she had been obliged to keep her engagement a secret. Unwilling to relinquish the certainty of an establishment, however dim it might appear at present, for the uncertainty of being single, with no prospects, no fortune, and on the wrong side of 23, Lucy was struck with what seemed to be a very eligible idea . . . . (Robert and Lucy step forward)

Lucy: My dear Mr. Ferrars, it is so good of you to come see me again. So very kind of you to offer your advice yesterday. I am indebted to you, I am sure, for helping me see things in so different a light. I could barely sleep last night for thinking of what Edward's affection for me has already cost him. (dabs eyes with handkerchief) I don't think I could bear to cause him further injury.

Robert: Then you have written to him? Trust me, it is all for the best . . .

Lucy: Not yet. I have been thinking about what you said yesterday.

Narrator: Although Lucy gave Robert hopes that his eloquence would convince her in time, another visit, another conversation, was always wanted to produce this conviction. Some doubts always lingered in her mind when they parted which could only be removed by another half-hour's discourse with himself. His attendance was by this means secured . . .

Lucy: If only Edward and me had eloped four years ago, the family would have got over it by now and we would all be living happily. If only Edward had your cleverness, your foresight. You and me are of the same mind. I think surprising everyone would have been a vast deal better! Can you imagine how shocked they would all be?

Robert: Yes, Edward has acted most irrationally in this entire affair, to the detriment of both of you, I'm afraid.

Lucy: Edward was only waiting for his independence, so that his choice of wife could not affect his fortune.

Robert: He must have known Mrs. Ferrars would never make him independent until he married to her satisfaction.

Lucy: But she has done exactly that for you! You are now free to marry whoever you please without regard to her approval. (Robert looks pensive) Oh how Edward spoke of the estate he was to have. He had such plans for it . . . . Though I am quite sure it will flourish now that it is in your capable hands. Edward spoke of living there year round, but I could not imagine staying in the country all winter. Not when there are so many friends to be met in town and so many amusements. What do you think? Do not you agree? . . .

Narrator: And so it was that instead of talking about Edward they gradually came to talk only of Robert -- a subject on which he had always more to say than on any other, and in which she soon betrayed an interest equal to his own; and, in short, it became speedily evident to both, (Lucy takes Robert's arm and gazes at him lovingly) that he had entirely supplanted his brother. (Edward steps forward as if reading from a letter)

Lucy: Being very sure I have long lost your affections, I have thought myself at liberty to bestow my own on another . . . your brother has gained my affections entirely; and as we could not live without one another, we are just returned from the altar . . . (Lucy and Robert step back)

Narrator: Upon receiving news of this shocking betrayal, Edward wasted no time in seeking the hand of the woman he really loved. (Elinor steps forward) For after experiencing the blessings of one imprudent engagement, contracted without his mother's consent, as he had already done for more than four years, nothing less could be expected of him in the failure of that, than the immediate contraction of another . . . (Elinor takes Edward's arm) but that is another story . . . (Elinor and Edward step back) (Mrs. F, Fanny and John step forward) And Mrs. Ferrars, having bribed one son with a thousand a year to do the very deed which she disinherited the other for intending to do was indeed shocked and dismayed (Mrs. F fans herself and looks faint) by the offense committed by her only remaining son. She found little consolation in the satisfaction of having achieved her object of convincing Lucy to break the engagement or in being proven correct in her characterization of Lucy as a fortunehuntress . . .

Mrs. F: I am shocked and dismayed! How could Robert do this to me? How can he repay my generosity with such defiance? (Fanny and John try to console her)

Fanny: This is beyond anything! The expectation of being connected to such a girl was bad enough, but the certainty of it is unbearable! (Fanny cries into a handkerchief; John consoles Fanny)

Mrs. F: (sobbing) Can it be possible that I have only one obedient child? (John is not sure who to console)

Narrator: Lucy and Robert passed some months in great happiness at Dawlish; for she had many relations and old acquaintance to cut -- and he drew several plans for magnificent cottages; and from thence they returned to town . . .

(Robert and Lucy step forward)

Robert: Forgive me?

Mrs. F: Of course! (hugs Robert)

Narrator: Some weeks later . . .

Lucy: Forgive me?

Mrs. F: Of course (hugs Lucy) (John and Fanny also fawn over Lucy)

(Edward and Elinor step forward)

Edward: Forgive me?

Mrs. F: I will reinstate you as my son, but I shall never forgive you.

Elinor: (curtsies) Mrs. Ferrars (Mrs. F scoffs and turns to Fanny and Lucy)

Fanny: She has intruded most shamelessly into our family circle!

Lucy: I quite agree. (Elinor and Edward step back)

Narrator: Robert and Lucy settled in town, received very liberal assistance from Mrs. Ferrars, were on the best terms imaginable with the Dashwoods; and, setting aside the jealousies and ill-will continually subsisting between Fanny and Lucy, in which their husbands of course took a part, as well as the frequent domestic disagreements between Robert and Lucy themselves, nothing could exceed the harmony in which they all lived together.

Finis