Elinor was nearby and she heard this conversation. She was very surprised. Men only gave expensive gifts to ladies if they were engaged to them. Elinor now believed that Willoughby and Marianne must be engaged.
Later in the afternoon, Margaret told Elinor something that made Marianne and Willoughby’s engagement even more certain.
‘Oh, Elinor! I have a secret to tell you about Marianne,’ Margaret said excitedly. ‘I am sure that she will be married very soon. Willoughby has a lock of Marianne’s hair!’
‘Are you sure, Margaret?’ Elinor asked. She was worried by her sister’s words.
‘Oh, yes, I am quite sure,’ Margaret replied. ‘Willoughby and Marianne were in the sitting-room together. I saw Willoughby pick up a pair of scissors. He was talking to Marianne and laughing. Then he cut off a lock of her hair. Marianne’s face became very red, but she laughed too. Then Willoughby kissed the lock of hair and put it in his pocket!’
Elinor believed what Margaret had told her. Elinor was becoming very worried about Marianne’s behaviour, but she said nothing to their mother about it.
One evening in October, the Dashwoods went to Barton Park for dinner with Sir John and Lady Middleton. Mrs Jennings and Colonel Brandon were also there. Mrs Jennings spoke to Elinor and Margaret about love and lovers. She was quite sure that Marianne and Willoughby would soon be married. The old lady now wanted to know if Elinor was in love too.
‘Tell me the name of the young man who is in love with Elinor,’ Mrs Jennings said to Margaret. ‘I am sure that you know his name.’
‘Yes, I do,’ Margaret replied. ‘But I cannot tell you, can I, Elinor?’
Mrs Dashwood and Margaret laughed and Elinor tried to laugh too. But she looked unhappy and Marianne felt sorry for her.
‘Please do not talk about this, Margaret,’ Marianne said.
‘You told me his name yourself, Marianne,’ Margaret said quickly.
‘Oh! Then you can tell us the gentleman’s name, Margaret,’ Mrs Jennings said.
‘His name begins with F,’ Margaret answered with a laugh. That is all that I can say.’
Mrs Jennings was ready with more questions, but Lady Middleton began to talk about the weather.
Colonel Brandon saw that Elinor was embarrassed and he tried to help her. He persuaded Marianne to sing for them, and she sat down at the piano and began to play. Willoughby walked quickly across the room and stood beside her.
No one said anything more about Edward Ferrars and Elinor felt much happier.
A few minutes later, Sir John and his guests talked about spending a day together. They made a plan to visit Whirwell, a very large fine house about twelve miles from Barton Park. The house belonged to Colonel Brandon’s brother-in-law, who was presently abroad, on holiday.
Colonel Brandon agreed to take Sir John and his friends to Whitwell. Everyone would be able to go into the beautiful house, and see its fine pictures and furniture. There was also a large park around the house, with a lake. People could ride or walk round the park, and they could sail on the lake in boats. Then everyone would sit in the pretty garden and eat a delicious meal.
On the day of the visit to Whitwell, everyone was excited. They all met at Barton Park early in the morning. First, they would have breakfast. Then at ten o’clock, they would all start the journey to the house of Brandon’s brother-in-law.
During breakfast, a servant arrived with the post. There were several letters for Sir John and one for Colonel Brandon. The Colonel looked at the address on his letter and recognised the writing. Then he stood up quickly and left the room.
‘What is the matter with Brandon?’ Sir John asked, but no one could tell him.
The Colonel himself returned after about five minutes. He looked very worried.
‘You have not had bad news, I hope?’ Mrs Jennings asked him quickly.
‘No, thank you, ma’am. I have some important business, that is all.’
‘Business, Colonel?’ Mrs Jennings repeated with a laugh. ‘I think that I understand your business. How is she, Colonel?’
The old lady laughed again, but Brandon did not answer her. Looking very unhappy, he turned to speak to Lady Middleton.
‘I am very sorry, ma’am, but I have to leave,’ he said. ‘I must go to London at once. I am afraid that you cannot go to Whitwell without me. The visit cannot take place now.’
‘Start your journey to London tomorrow, Brandon!’ Sir John cried. ‘You cannot disappoint all your friends now!’
‘I am sorry, that is not possible,’ Colonel Brandon replied. ‘I must go today.’
‘Then come back quickly,’ Lady Middleton told him. ‘We will visit Whitwell another day very soon.’
‘I shall not be coming back to Barton for some time,’ the Colonel told her. He turned to speak to Elinor.
‘Can I hope to see you and your sister in London this winter, Miss Dashwood?’ he asked her quietly.
‘I am afraid that you will not, Colonel,’ Elinor replied.
The Colonel looked disappointed, but he said nothing. He then bowed to Marianne and left the room with Sir John.
Everyone began talking at once. They were all very angry with Colonel Brandon. They were disappointed too.
‘The Colonel’s business is with Miss Williams, I am sure,’ Mrs Jennings said quietly.
‘Who is Miss Williams?’ Marianne asked.
Mrs Jennings smiled. She enjoyed gossiping with her friends. The old lady whispered to Elinor.
‘She is a relation of the Colonel’s — a very close relation,’ she replied. ‘Miss Eliza Williams is his daughter. Everyone knows about her.’
At that moment, Sir John came back into the room and everyone stopped talking.
‘Well, Brandon has left, but we must not waste the day,’ Sir John said cheerfully. ‘The carriages are here and the weather is fine. Let us all spend the day driving about on the hills. We can come back here to Barton Park for dinner. And, after dinner, there will be a dance!’
Everyone was very happy with this suggestion. They all stood up, laughing and smiling, and went outside. In front of the house, carriages were waiting to take Sir John and his friends to the hills. But two people did not join the others for the day. Willoughby got into his curricle and Marianne climbed up onto the seat beside him. Then the young man turned the two black horses and drove the yellow carriage away at great speed.
At dinner that evening, Willoughby sat between Elinor and Marianne. Mrs Jennings sat opposite them. The old lady began to speak to Marianne.
‘I know where you and Willoughby spent the day, Miss Marianne!’ Mrs Jennings said loudly. ‘I hope that you like the house that you will live in one day. Allenham Court is a fine place, is it not? I hope that I shall be invited there very soon!’
Marianne’s face became very red and she did not answer.
When they were home again, Elinor spoke to Marianne alone.
‘Your behaviour today was wrong,’ Elinor said. ‘You should not have gone to Allenham Court. Old Mrs Smith did not invite you, I am sure. Willoughby was wrong too. He should not have taken you there. Allenham is not his home or yours, though it may be one day.’
Marianne looked away and her eyes filled with tears.
‘Perhaps I should not have gone to Allenham,’ she said. ‘But Willoughby wanted me to see the house and I agreed to go with him. I wanted to. Oh, Elinor, Allenham is a beautiful house. There is a very pretty sitting-room upstairs, with a lovely view of the hills from its windows. Willoughby says that if $200 were spent on modern furniture, the room would be perfect!’