Seconds later, Edward was in the sitting-room. He bowed to each of the Dashwoods. His face was as pale as Elinor’s and he looked very uncomfortable. He was holding his hat and gloves and turning them over, again and again.
Mrs Dashwood stood up and held out her hand to the young man. ‘We must give you our best wishes, Edward,’ Mrs Dashwood said.
Edward said something in reply, but he spoke so quietly that no one could understand him. There was silence and then Elinor said something about the weather. There was silence again.
‘Is Mrs Ferrars in Plymouth?’ Elinor asked Edward at last.
Edward looked surprised at her question.
‘No, my mother is in London,’ he replied.
‘I was speaking about Mrs Edward Ferrars,’ Elinor said quietly. She could not look at Edward’s face.
The young man looked more surprised than before.
‘Perhaps you mean… my brother has… You must mean Mrs Robert Ferrars,’ he said at last.
‘Mrs Robert Ferrars?’ said Mrs Dashwood and Marianne together.
Elinor did not speak, but she now looked at Edward’s face.
He stood up and walked towards the window before he answered.
‘You may not have heard the news,’ he said. ‘My brother, Robert, has married Miss Lucy Steele. They are now in the town of Dawlish. They are on their honeymoon.’
Elinor turned quickly and ran from the room. As soon as the door was shut behind her, she gave a cry and began to weep loudly. Elinor’s tears were tears of happiness and she did not stop crying for a very long time.
Edward went back to his seat and sat there in silence. Mrs Dashwood asked him several questions, but he did not answer. At last, without saying a word, he stood up, bowed, and left the room. He hurried from the cottage and began to walk quickly towards the village.
A short time later, Edward returned to Barton Cottage and he found Elinor alone in the sitting-room.
‘I came to Barton to see you, my dearest Elinor,’ Edward said. ‘At last I am free. And at last I can ask you to marry me. I shall never be a rich man, but, with you, I shall be a happy one. Can you be happy with me, Elinor?’
‘Yes, dear Edward, oh, yes,’ Elinor replied quietly. ‘I have always loved you. You must know that!’
So, by the afternoon, Elinor and Edward were engaged, and the Dashwoods of Barton Cottage were happier than they had ever been before.
The marriage of Lucy to Robert Ferrars had been a surprise to everyone, including Edward himself. But the marriage meant that Edward was now able to tell Elinor about his love for her. Edward had behaved like an honest man and now he was a happy one too. Elinor could at last show her true feelings for her dear Edward and the Dashwoods happily welcomed Edward into their family.
Lucy had written a letter to Edward after her marriage to his brother. Edward showed the letter to Elinor.
When I understood that you no longer loved me, I felt that I was free. I could then give my love to another man. Your brother and I could not live without each other, so we got married. Robert and I are now on our way to Dawlish, for our honeymoon. I am sure that I will be happy with him and that he will be happy with me. I hope that, in the future, you will be happy too and that we shall be good friends. We are both members of the same family now.
I thought that I should write and tell you this views myself. I have burnt all your letters and I shall send back your picture, when I have time. You can keep the ring with the lock of my hair in it.
Your friend and sister-in-law,
‘Well, I hope that they will be happy,’ Elinor said, as she gave the letter back to Edward. ‘But your mother will not be happy at all. She wanted to stop your marriage to Lucy, so she gave your brother your money. And now Robert has married Lucy himself! That will hurt your mother very much.’
‘Robert’s marriage will hurt my mother, but Robert has always been her favourite,’ Edward said. ‘Mother will soon forgive him. But will Robert and Lucy be happy together? I do not know.’
‘Lucy is very sly and she is clever too,’ Elinor said. ‘You believed that she loved you. But I have known Lucy’s true feelings for a long time. She wanted to marry a man from a good family. That was the most important thing for her.’
‘I was nineteen years old when I first met Lucy Steele and became engaged to her,’ Edward said. ‘I soon found out that I did not love her. But I thought that it was wrong to end the engagement. I was poor. And I thought that Lucy was honest when she said that she loved me.’
‘Any girl is happy to be engaged,’ Elinor said with a smile. ‘Your mother was very angry when she found out about your secret engagement. But Lucy hoped that she would forgive you and give you money.’
‘Elinor, I admired you from the first time that I saw you at Norland,’ Edward said. ‘But I thought that my feelings were friendship, not love. By the time that I understood the truth, it was too late. I hurt you and made myself unhappy too.’
‘That unhappy time is past, my dear Edward,’ she said. ‘Now we must begin to think about our own future.’