The morning after the dance, Marianne got up very early, sat at a desk by the window, and began writing a letter to Willoughby. It was now the middle of the month of January and the mornings were cold and dark.
As Marianne wrote, she wept loudly and her body shook with the cold. The sound of her crying woke her sister.
‘Marianne, may I ask you…’ Elinor began.
‘No, Elinor,’ Marianne replied. ‘Do not ask me anything yet. You will soon know everything.’
Elinor understood that Marianne was writing her last letter to Willoughby. There was nothing more that Elinor could say. Marianne soon finished writing the letter and she gave it to a servant. Now she could only wait and hope for a reply.
Willoughby’s letter arrived during breakfast. Marianne took it from the servant and ran quickly from the room. She wanted to read it alone.
Mrs Jennings laughed happily. ‘I have never seen a girl who is so much in love!’ the foolish old lady said. ‘I hope that Willoughby does not want a long engagement. When are they going to be married, Miss Dashwood?’
‘I am not sure that Marianne and Willoughby are engaged,’ Elinor replied quickly. ‘They have not talked about marriage.’
Mrs Jennings laughed again and shook her head.
‘How can you say that, Miss Dashwood?’ she said. ‘Those two young people were in love from the first moment that they met! Everyone knows that Miss Marianne came to London to buy her wedding-clothes!’
This is what Mrs Jennings believed. She would not listen to any other ideas. Elinor did not say anything more but sat politely at the table. At last Mrs Jennings finished eating her breakfast, and Elinor ran upstairs to her sister.
Marianne was lying on her bed in their room, weeping loudly. There was a letter in her hand and other letters lay on the bed beside her. When Marianne saw Elinor, she put all the letters into her sister’s hands and then turned away.
Elinor opened Willoughby’s letter and read it quickly.
My Dear Madam,
I have just received your letter. You say that I have upset you by my behaviour and that I have treated you badly’. I am sorry that you think this and I apologize. I never wanted to upset you or your family, and I remember with pleasure our friendship at Barton.
I am afraid that you misunderstood that friendship. My feelings were not as strong as yours. I was never in love with you. I have loved another lady for some time and I shall soon be engaged to her. I am therefore doing what you asked. I am returning all your letters. I am also returning the lock of hair that you kindly gave me.
Yours most sincerely,
It was a very cold, unkind letter and every word had hurt poor Marianne very much. Elinor read Willoughby’s cruel words again and again. At first she was too angry to speak. She did not know what to say to her sister. Her eyes filled with tears.
‘Poor Elinor, how unhappy I have made you!’ Marianne said at last. ‘My unhappiness has made you unhappy too.’
As she said this, Marianne began to cry more loudly than before.
‘Dear Marianne, please stop crying,’ Elinor told her sister kindly. ‘You will make yourself ill and upset all your friends and family.’
‘I am not like you, Elinor. I cannot hide my feelings!’ Marianne replied. ‘If you do not want to see my tears, please leave me alone. You cannot understand how I am feeling.
‘Sensible Elinor,’ Marianne went on. ‘You have your Edward and you can look forward to a life of happiness with him. I have lost my Willoughby for ever.’
‘I am not sure that Edward loves me,’ Elinor said. ‘I have heard stories. I have been told… ‘
‘No, no!’ Marianne cried. ‘Edward loves you, only you. You cannot understand unhappiness like mine. I shall never be happy again — never!’
‘Please do not say that,’ Elinor said quickly. ‘You have many good friends and a family that loves you. If your engagement had gone on any longer, things would have been much worse.’
‘Engagement?’ said Marianne. ‘There was no engagement.’
‘But surely Willoughby told you that he loved you?’
‘Yes… well… No, not exactly,’ Marianne said. ‘He never said the words, «I love you.» But everything that he said and did made me believe that he loved me.’
‘But you wrote to him, Marianne. If you were not engaged, that was very wrong.’
‘No, it was not wrong. You must not say that, Elinor. But I cannot talk to you about that now.’
Elinor did not reply. She picked up the three letters that Marianne had written and began to read them.
The first had been written on the day that they had arrived in London. Marianne had written Mrs Jennings’ address in Berkeley Street at the top of the letter.
I am sure that you will be surprised when you read this, Willoughby. I am in London. I am staying with Mrs Jennings. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. M.D.
The second letter had been written after the Middletons’ dance.
You called here the day before yesterday. I was out. I am so sorry that I did not see you. I wrote to you a week ago and you still have not answered my letter. I expected to see you at Lady Middletons dance last night. Why were you not at her house in Conduit Street? You must want to see me, as much as I want to see you. Come soon. M.D.
In her third letter to Willoughby, Marianne had written:
I cannot understand the way that you behaved last night. You must explain your cruel treatment of me. I spoke to you as a loving friend and you turned away from me. Why! Why have your feelings for me changed? Or have I misunderstood your behaviour from the day that we met?
If that is the truth — though I cannot believe it — you must return my letters. And please return the lock of my hair that you asked for at a happier time. M.D.
Marianne waited until her sister had read the letters and then she spoke.
‘I loved Willoughby and Willoughby felt the same about me,’ she said. ‘I know that he loved me. I felt that I was engaged to him. But someone has changed him. Someone has made him cruel. I have an enemy, but it is not Willoughby.’
‘Then show the enemy your pride, my dear sister!’ Elinor said. ‘Be strong. Do not let your enemy see your unhappiness.’
‘No, no. I am too unhappy to have any pride,’ Marianne replied. ‘I cannot look happy when I am not. Oh, Elinor, I am so miserable. Please, let us go home to mama. Let us go home to Barton tomorrow!’
‘No, Marianne, we cannot do that.’
‘Then we must go home in a day or two. Mrs Jennings and Lady Middleton will ask me lots of questions that I will not want to answer. They will feel sorry for me and that will make me more unhappy.’
Before Elinor could reply, Mrs Jennings herself came into the room.
‘How are you, my dear Marianne?’ she asked. But the unhappy girl could not answer.
‘Poor Miss Marianne,’ Mrs Jennings said to Elinor. ‘I have just come back from a visit to my friend, Mrs Taylor. And while I was there, I heard some news about Willoughby.’
Marianne began to cry again, so Elinor and Mrs Jennings left her alone. As they walked downstairs, Mrs Jennings went on talking.
‘Willoughby is going to be married very soon — to Miss Sofia Grey. Miss Grey is not as beautiful as Marianne, but she is pretty and has $50,000 of her own.
‘Willoughby has behaved very badly,’ Mrs Jennings went on, ‘but he needs Miss Grey’s money. Young men cannot live without money, you know. But perhaps this news about Willoughby will be good luck for Colonel Brandon!’