The next morning I awoke to find myself in my bed at our townhouse. I could hear the carts clattering down the street and the whistle of the wind 'round the house. Suddenly, I sat up straight in my bed, recalling the events of the previous evening. I wondered how my little sister was doing this morning, and at that moment I decided to check on her. Rolling over in my bed, I turned to face her. Maria's face was pale and streaked with tears. Her lashes gently brushed her cheek as she opened her eyes and glanced over at my bed. "Oh, good morning, Eva," she said sheepishly, finding me to be awake.
I got up from my bed and walked over to hers. Sitting on the edge, I pulled Maria into my arms and stroked her tangled curls.
"Dearest," I began. "Do you think you could let me know what has been troubling you?"
Maria sighed in consent, then began:
"When I met Mr. Smith at that ball last winter, I found him to be a most gentlemanly person, very polite and obliging. I got it into my head that I loved him and that he was in love with me. What I took to be love, he only intended as politeness, and now I see it was no more than that. But, at the time, I was not to be brought down from my dream. I was in love — what could be more splendid?
"Well, when I learned he was to be in London, I persisted constantly that we should go as well. Aunt Georgiana's wedding was the perfect excuse. You know Papa saw right through me, but he consented anyway, to please me and Mama.
"Even before we left, I started sending the letters. Letting him know I was here, wondering if he could come see me, things like that. I am ashamed to admit that I got more "romantic" with each letter. It embarrasses me to recall what I wrote in those foolish notes," and at that, Maria pressed her hand to her forehead despairingly. She then continued. "But the only thing that troubled me slightly is that I never once received a reply.
"The night of the Darcys' ball, I knew I had to be there to see Leland. So, with no thought of proper manners or propriety, I showed my great enthusiasm at seeing him. And... well, you know the rest." Maria concluded her story with a sad glance up at my face, as if to ask if I meant to scold her. I could not find it in my heart to scold her at this moment, so I simply continued to stroke her hair.
After about five minutes had passed, I looked down at Maria. Her face was slightly distraught, as if she feared to tell me something.
"What is the matter, Maria?" I asked gently.
"Well... I don't want this to end in the same fashion as... well, the situation with Mr. Smith, but... Eva, tell me right now if you think it is wrong of me to enjoy Pierre De Johns company?"
"Maria," I began. "From what I know of Mr. De Johns, he seems to be a most respectable gentleman. I find no fault with him. But..." I said in a warning tone, "take care not to assume that he loves you or cares for you more than he has expressed."
"Oh, I won't, Eva!" Maria said quickly. "It is just a friendship. I do not desire to be married, ever. I think I shall die an old maid."
Her reply brought on a fit of giggles in both of us, which sent Mama scurrying down the hall to our door.
"Girls, girls, is something the matter?" she asked with alarm.
"Oh no, Mama," Maria said, smiling up at me. "Everything is just splendid!"