‘Yesterday, Fanny Dashwood and Anne Steele were sitting together,’ Mrs Jennings went on. ‘Fanny began to talk about her brother, Edward, marrying Lord Morton’s daughter. As you know, Anne and Lucy were warmly welcomed into Fanny’s house. Fanny became especially fond of Lucy. She was pleasant to her and gave her gifts. Perhaps Anne thought that she had to tell Fanny the truth about Edward and Lucy. So the foolish young woman told Fanny Dashwood about Lucy’s secret.
‘My dear Fanny,’ Anne told Fanny, with a laugh. ‘Your brother Edward cannot marry Miss Morton. He is already engaged to my sister, Lucy. I know how happy you will be to hear their secret, now that we are all friends!’
‘When Fanny heard the news, she began crying and screaming at Anne — everyone in the house could hear her!’ Mrs Jennings continued. ‘John Dashwood hurried into the room and then Lucy ran in. Fanny saw Lucy and began screaming at her. She called Lucy «wicked and sly» and told her and her sister to leave the house at once. Lucy nearly fainted and Anne wept loudly. But Fanny would not take back her words. Anne and Lucy Steele were out of the house in less than an hour. John Dashwood sent for the doctor, and then he sent for his mother-in-law, Mrs Ferrars.
‘I feel sorry for Edward and Lucy,’ the kind-hearted Mrs Jennings said. ‘Mrs Ferrars thinks far too much about herself and about money. If Edward and Lucy are in love, is it wrong that they should marry?’
As she heard Mrs Jennings tell this story, Elinor felt very sorry for Edward too. But she did not feel sorry for Lucy. Elinor believed that Edward would marry Lucy, although his mother did not want this to happen. Elinor decided that Marianne had to hear the news at once, but she had to hear it from Elinor herself.
At first, when she heard Elinor’s story, Marianne thought that Edward was as cruel as Willoughby. But a few seconds later, she changed her mind, Marianne had always liked Edward. She believed that he loved Elinor and she knew that Elinor loved him. Marianne was sure of one thing. She had never liked Lucy Steele. Now she hated her.
‘How long have you known about this engagement, Elinor?’ Marianne asked. ‘Did Edward write and tell you about it?’
‘No, he did not,’ Elinor replied. ‘Lucy told me when we were all at Barton. She told me about it four months ago. She made me promise to keep the engagement a secret. And I did.’
‘You have known about this engagement for four months!’ Marianne repeated in surprise. ‘You are very strong Elinor, and you keep your feelings hidden. But this secret must have made you very unhappy. I know that you love Edward.’
‘Yes, I do love him, Marianne, but my love has to be a secret too. I do not want to hurt Edward. He will behave like a gentleman, I am sure. He will marry Lucy. He made a promise to her before he met me. Edward and Lucy may have a happy life together. I do not know. I do know that I have been very unhappy tor the past four months.’
‘Oh, Elinor! I have been selfish!’ Marianne cried. ‘All these months, you have been helping me and I should have been helping you. I am a bad sister. I have been thinking only about myself and I am sorry.’
The sisters agreed to say nothing about their feelings to anyone. They found that very difficult when their brother came to see them the next morning.
‘Sisters, you have heard the terrible news, I am sure,’ John began. ‘My dear wife is still feeling very ill, but please do not worry. The doctor says that she will be better very soon.
‘Mrs Ferrars is very upset and she is very angry with Edward,’ John Dashwood went on. ‘My mother-in-law wished Edward to marry a rich woman from a good family. She had found a suitable young woman — Miss Morton. Miss Morton is very rich, as you know. As soon as she heard about the secret engagement, Mrs Ferrars sent for Edward at once. When he reached her house in Park Street, she told him to end his engagement to Lucy Steele. But he refused to do this. Mrs Ferrars first offered Edward money, then she said that she would take all his money away. But Edward would not change his mind.’
‘Who can believe it!’ Marianne said. But her brother did not understand her.
‘Your surprise at Edward’s behaviour is quite correct,’ John Dashwood said.
‘I think that Edward Ferrars has behaved very well,’ Mrs Jennings said. ‘My cousin, Lucy Steele, is a good girl who should marry a good husband. Edward has thought of Lucy’s feelings and he has behaved like an honest man!’
‘An honest man!’ John Dashwood repeated. ‘No, Edward has not behaved honestly. He has made an unsuitable engagement and he kept this a secret. Now he has refused to obey his mother.
‘But Edward will wish that he had not behaved in this way,’ John Dashwood went on. ‘Mrs Ferrars has sent him away. Her younger son, Robert, is now her heir and he will inherit all her money. Edward will have nothing. I feel sorry for him, but it is his own fault.’
After John Dashwood had left her house, Mrs Jennings had many things to say to her young friends about the news. They were all very sorry for Edward and they thought that Mrs Ferrars had behaved very badly.