‘What is the matter with Marianne!’ John Dashwood asked. ‘She used to be a very pretty girl. Fanny used to say that Marianne would make a better marriage than you. But your sister has changed so much. She looks quite ill. No one suitable will be interested in her now!’
Elinor and her brother had now reached the Middletons’ house in Conduit Street. Sir John and Lady Middleton were both at home and John Dashwood was delighted to meet them. He believed that his sisters had done well to make friends with the Middletons and Mrs Jennings. They were all important members of society, and they were very rich. And now they were his friends too.
Fanny — Mrs John Dashwood — soon called on the Middletons and Mrs Jennings. Fanny and Lady Middleton were very much alike. There were interested in the same things — money, their position in society, and their children. They soon became good friends.
Not long after this, Elinor heard that Edward Ferrars had come to London with John and Fanny. He called twice at Mrs Jennings’ house. But each time that he visited, Elinor was out. She was pleased that Edward had called, but she was happy not to have seen him.
Mr and Mrs John Dashwood decided to give a dinner party at which the Middletons would be the most important guests. Elinor and Marianne were invited, together with Mrs Jennings and Colonel Brandon. Lucy Steele and her sister were staying with the Middletons, so, of course, they would be at the dinner party too.
Fanny’s mother, Mrs Ferrars, was going to be another of the guests. Elinor thought that Edward would be coming with his mother. But she was wrong. As soon as Lucy saw Elinor, she was happy to tell her the reason why.
‘My dear Edward will not be at the Dashwoods’ dinner on Tuesday,’ Lucy said. ‘He is not going because he would not be able to hide his feelings for me. Oh! My dear Miss Dashwood! I shall be meeting Edward’s mother for the first time! Mrs Ferrars — the lady who will soon be my mother-in-law! How frightened I am!’ As she said this, Lucy looked at Elinor slyly.
Elinor very much wanted to tell Lucy about Mrs Ferrar’s plans for Edward and Miss Morton, but she did not. Instead, she said, ‘I feel very sorry for you, Lucy.’
Mrs Ferrars was a small, thin woman with pale skin. Her plain face had a proud, angry look and she did not speak to Elinor and Marianne at all. But the old lady smiled at the Steele sisters. Mrs Ferrars had no idea that Lucy was hoping to marry her eldest son.
The Dashwoods gave their guests a fine dinner. There were many servants to serve the very best food and wine. The meal continued for many hours.
Later in the evening, when all the guests were in the drawing-room, John Dashwood showed Colonel Brandon a very pretty pair of screens.
‘The pictures on the screens were painted by my sister, Elinor, and given to Fanny,’ John Dashwood said. ‘They are very well painted, do you not think?’
The Colonel agreed and the pieces of furniture were shown to the other guests. Mrs Ferrars asked to see them. But when she was told that the screens were Elinor’s work, she would not look at them.
Fanny was embarrassed by her mother’s bad manners.
‘Do look at the screens, mama. They are very pretty,’ Fanny said. ‘Elinor paints almost as well as Miss Morton.
‘And Miss Morton paints very well indeed, as you know.’
‘Miss Morton does everything well. She has the best teachers,’ Mrs Ferrars said, frowning at Elinor as she spoke.
Marianne was very upset by Mrs Ferrars’ unkind words. ‘These screens were painted by my dear sister, Elinor,’ she said. ‘Who cares about Miss Morton’s work — or Miss Morton?’
‘We all care about Miss Morton,’ Mrs Ferrars said coldly and angrily. ‘She is Lord Morton’s daughter.’
Marianne’s eyes filled with tears and she walked across to her sister. ‘Elinor dear,’ she said. ‘Do not let them make you unhappy. We both know how cruel people can be.’
Then Lady Middleton began to talk of other things and the rest of the evening passed quietly.
Lucy Steele called at Mrs Jennings’ house early the following morning. She immediately sat beside Elinor.
‘My dear friend, I have come to talk to you about my happiness,’ Lucy said. ‘Mrs Ferrars talked to me for some time yesterday evening. I think that she likes me. It is so important to my dear Edward and myself.’
‘Mrs Ferrars was certainly polite to you,’ Elinor replied.
‘Polite!’ Lucy repeated. ‘Mrs Ferrars was more than polite to me. She was very kind. And your sister, Mrs Dashwood, was very kind too.’
‘Neither Mrs Ferrars, nor Mrs Dashwood, have been told about your engagement, have they?’ Elinor said.
‘No,’ Lucy said, ‘but it will not change their feelings towards me. Mrs Ferrars is a very kind woman and so is Mrs Dashwood.’
Elinor could not agree with this, so she did not reply.
‘Are you ill, Miss Dashwood?’ Lucy asked with a smile, is that why you are not answering me? I do hope that you are not ill. I need your friendship at this time. Next to Edward’s love for me, your friendship is the greatest help to me.’
At that moment, the drawing-door door opened and a servant said, ‘Mr Ferrars.’ Two seconds later, Edward Ferrars walked into the room.
All three young people were embarrassed. Elinor spoke first. She asked Edward to sit down and started to talk to him about their time in London. But Edward did not join in the conversation. He sat in silence.
‘I am sure that Marianne would like to see you, Edward,’ Elinor said at last. ‘Let me go and find her.’
Elinor walked upstairs very slowly. She wanted Edward and Lucy to have time to talk to each other.
When Marianne heard that Edward had arrived, she was delighted. She ran downstairs into the drawing-room.
‘Dear Edward, how happy I am to see you!’ she cried, smiling. She held out her hand to the young man. She smiled again, first at Edward and then at her sister.
‘You look pale and tired, Miss Marianne,’ Edward said at last. ‘Perhaps you are not happy in London.’
‘Oh, do not worry about me!’ Marianne cried. ‘Elinor is well. That is the important thing. We are both delighted to see you again, Edward. My sister and I shall be returning to Barton very soon. I hope that you will be able to go with us. That would be a great help.’
Lucy frowned angrily at these words, but she did not know what to say.
‘Why were you not at the Middletons’ yesterday, Edward?’ Marianne asked the young man.
‘I had another engagement,’ Edward said quietly. ‘I had been invited to another place. It was an important invitation.’
Lucy smiled. ‘Some young men keep engagements and others do not!’ she said, laughing. ‘You know that, Marianne!’
Elinor was very angry, but Marianne smiled at Lucy’s cruel words.
‘I know that Edward will never do or say anything that is unkind,’ Marianne said. ‘He will always behave correctly.’
A few minutes later, Edward stood up and walked towards the door.
‘My dear Edward,’ Marianne said to him very quietly, ‘do not go. Lucy will soon be leaving.’
But Edward apologised and said that he could not stay longer. After a few minutes, Lucy went too.
Marianne knew nothing about Edward and Lucy’s secret engagement. Elinor had promised Lucy that she would say nothing about it. She had to keep Lucy’s secret.