Mrs. Jennings returns home from a visit to Mrs. Palmer with the shocking news that Lucy Steele and Edward Ferrars have been engaged to one another for over a year. Elinor, upon hearing that their engagement has at last become public, shares the news with her sister. Marianne cannot believe that Elinor has known of Edward's secret engagement for four months, for her sister has remained calm and composed throughout the entire period.
John Dashwood visits his sisters at Mrs. Jennings's home and informs them that Fanny is in hysterics on account of the news. He also relates that Mrs. Ferrars has insisted that Edward must extricate himself from the attachment, or she will disown and disinherit him. The following Sunday, during a visit with Mrs. Jennings to Kensington Gardens, Elinor learns from Miss Anne Steele that Edward has refused to break off his engagement with Lucy. His mother has therefore transferred her estate to Edward's younger brother, Robert. As Miss Steele relates, Edward has informed Lucy that without his mother's inheritance, he will have to obtain a curacy and live modestly, but Lucy has proclaimed her devotion to him regardless of his economic situation. This information is confirmed in a letter from Lucy expressing to Elinor her commitment to Edward.
Elinor and Marianne, anxious to leave London and return home, arrange to depart with the Palmers and visit them in Cleveland before heading back to Barton. Before they leave, Colonel Brandon visits Elinor and tells her that he has decided to offer his living at the Delaford rectory to Edward as a means of supporting himself. The Colonel asks Elinor to inform Edward of his offer, and Elinor finds herself in the rather uncomfortable position of facilitating the marriage of the man she loves to another woman. She begins writing a letter to Edward when Mrs. Jennings suddenly welcomes him into her home and she is afforded the opportunity to speak with him directly. Edward is astonished and deeply moved by the Colonel's generosity.
Elinor goes off to visit Fanny Dashwood, who has not been feeling well since the news of Edward and Lucy's engagement. She is greeted at the door by John Dashwood, who shares the news that Robert Ferrars will inherit his mother's estate in place of his brother. Just then, Robert Ferrars arrives and expresses his pity for his older brother. John leaves them to inform his wife of Elinor's presence, and Fanny Dashwood, upon receiving Elinor, expresses her regret that the Dashwood sisters will be leaving town so soon.
When Miss Steele accidentally lets slip the secret of her sister's engagement to Edward Ferrars, their relationship becomes no longer an "attachment" but a "connection." An attachment is an emotional association between two people; to form an attachment is to fall in love. In contrast, a connection is the public bond involving a range of associations between individuals and their families. When Lucy and Edward were attached to one another, they were simply secretly in love with one another; once Miss Steele makes their engagement public, their families become heavily involved in an ever-widening circle of legal and economic implications. For example, Mrs. Ferrars announces that she will disinherit her son if he marries Lucy instead of the wealthy heiress Miss Morton, and Colonel Brandon offers Edward a living to support his wife. Thus, when the attachment becomes a connection, the number of individuals involved in the relationship increases considerably.
Connections link family members to one another in concern for their mutual welfare. These bonds are so strong that it is unusual to find people behaving warmly and generously toward those they are not related to. Thus, John Dashwood cannot understand why Colonel Brandon offers Edward a living ("Really!" he says upon hearing the news; "Well this is very astonishing!--no relationship--no connection between them!") Brandon, we know, is acting solely on the basis of voluntary fellow-feeling. He empathizes with Edward because he, too, has known the pain of love accompanied by tremendous emotional distress. Furthermore, he respects Edward because he knows that Edward has Elinor's admiration. Therefore, he offers Edward a means of supporting a wife in spite of his disinheritance. But for John Dashwood, only family ties could provide the grounds for such a kind and generous gesture.