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Sense and Sensibility

Jane Austen

Chapters 23-27

Summary Chapters 23-27


Elinor reflects on Lucy's news and reasons that her engagement to Edward must have been the product of youthful infatuation. She is certain that Edward could not possibly still love Lucy after four years of getting to know this frivolous and ignorant woman. She is also relieved that she does not have to share Lucy's news with her mother and sister, since she has been sworn to secrecy. She and Lucy converse at length about Edward Ferrars during a dinner party at Barton Park shortly thereafter. While Marianne is playing the piano and everyone else is absorbed in a card game, Elinor and Lucy sit rolling papers for a filigree basket for Lady Middleton's daughter, Annamaria.

Lucy confesses to Elinor that she is a very jealous woman, but that she has no reason to suspect Edward of unfaithfulness. She states that it would be madness for her and Edward to marry while he has only two thousand pounds; they must wait until they inherit Mrs. Ferrars's wealth. If they were to announce their engagement while Mrs. Ferrars was still living, the headstrong woman would disinherit Edward and give all her money to her younger son Robert; thus, they must be patient and secretive. Following this conversation, Lucy loses no opportunity to speak to Elinor about her secret engagement, much to the latter's consternation.

Lucy expresses disappointment that Elinor has no plans to come to London in the winter, but soon after this Mrs. Jennings invites the Dashwood sisters to join her at her home in town near Portman Square. At first, the girls decline her offer on the grounds that they cannot leave their mother alone at Barton, but Mrs. Dashwood assures them that it would give her great pleasure to allow her daughters to enjoy themselves in London. Marianne is overjoyed that she will get to see Willoughby at long last, but Elinor is apprehensive about the journey because she does not want to find herself in the company of both Lucy and Edward together.

After a journey lasting three days in Mrs. Jennings' carriage, the Dashwood sisters arrive in London. Elinor immediately writes a letter to their mother, while Marianne composes a brief note announcing their arrival to John Willoughby. Marianne eagerly awaits Willoughby's visit, and is exceedingly disappointed that evening when Colonel Brandon shows up instead. Marianne leaves the room in frustration and Colonel Brandon delivers the message that Mrs. Palmer plans to arrive the next day.

When Mrs. Palmer arrives, she goes shopping in town with the Dashwood sisters and Mrs. Jennings. Immediately upon their return home, Marianne rushes to see if she has received mail from Willoughby, but there are no letters for her. When Mrs. Jennings comments on the rainy weather, Marianne reasons that Willoughby must be stuck in the country on account of the rain.

Sir John and Lady Middleton arrive in town and host a ball at their home for about twenty young people, including the Palmers and the Dashwoods. Because Willoughby is not in attendance, Marianne is dejected and withdrawn. When they return from the party, Mrs. Jennings informs them that Willoughby had been invited to the ball but declined the invitation. Marianne is astonished and miserable, and Elinor concludes that she must ask her mother to inquire into Marianne and Willoughby's status once and for all.

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