it was shortly after the departure of this woman, that lucy ashton, urged by her parents, announced to them, with a vivacity by which they were startled, "that she was conscious heaven and earth and hell had set themselves against her union with ravenswood; still her contract," she said, "was a binding contract, and she neither would nor could resign it without the consent of ravenswood. let me be assured," she concluded, "that he will free me from my engagement, and dispose of me as you please, i care not how. when the diamonds are gone, what signifies the casket?"
the tone of obstinacy with which this was said, her eyes flashing with unnatural light, and her hands firmly clenched, precluded the possibility of dispute; and the utmost length which lady ashton's art could attain, only got her the privilege of dictating the letter, by which her daughter required to know of ravenswood whether he intended to abide by or to surrender what she termed "their unfortunate engagement." of this advantage lady ashton so far and so ingeniously availed herself that, according to the wording of the letter, the reader would have supposed lucy was calling upon her lover to renounce a contract which was contrary to the interests and inclinations of both. not trusting even to this point of deception, lady ashton finally determined to suppress the letter altogether, in hopes that lucy's impatience would induce her to condemn ravenswood unheard and in absence. in this she was disappointed. the time, indeed, had long elapsed when an answer should have been received from the continent. the faint ray of hope which still glimmered in lucy's mind was well nigh extinguished. but the idea never forsook her that her letter might not have been duly forwarded. one of her mother's new machinations unexpectedly furnished her with the means of ascertaining what she most desired to know.