The Dashwoods soon settled at Barton "with tolerable comfort to themselves." The lack of a carriage prevented them from visiting the neighborhood families, but the girls enjoyed many walks in the beautiful countryside. They were particularly fond of the valley of Allenham, where there was an old mansion which reminded them of their former home. It was owned by "an elderly lady of very good character . . . unfortunately too infirm to mix with the world."
One day Marianne and Margaret were caught in a downpour. Running downhill, Marianne stumbled and fell; however, a young gentleman going uphill picked her up, carried her home, "and quitted not his hold till he had seated her in a chair in the parlour."
Mrs. Dashwood was greatly impressed by the young man's "youth, beauty and elegance." She learned that his name was Willoughby "and that his present home was at Allenham, from whence he hoped she would allow him the honour of calling tomorrow to inquire after Miss Dashwood." After he had taken his leave, Marianne joined with her mother and Elinor in admiring Willoughby's "manly beauty and more than common gracefulness." Marianne believed that his "person and air were equal to what her fancy had ever drawn for the hero of a favourite story. . . . Every circumstance belonging to him was interesting."
When Sir John called the next day, the ladies discovered from him that "Mr. Willoughby had no property of his own in the country; that he resided there only while he was visiting the old lady at Allenham Court, to whom he was related, and whose possessions he was to inherit." In his usual hearty manner, Sir John began to tease Marianne about her rescuer: "I see how it will be. You will be setting your cap at him now, and never think of poor Brandon."
Marianne reproved him warmly for using such expressions. Sir John, not understanding, only laughed and continued his bantering.
Willoughby seems to answer all of Marianne's romantic notions. He is handsome, gallant, and is to inherit a lovely estate that reminds the girls of their own Norland Park. He is indefatigable in his exuberance, able to dance from eight until four "without once sitting down." The way in which they meet is out of a chivalric romance — he rescues her from danger and goes out again to brave it alone. Notice that although Marianne is highly critical, her criticism is aimed at those whose sensibilities do not accord with hers. We will see, in Marianne's later attitude towards Willoughby, how incapable she is of any real objectivity.
Sir John, like Mrs. Jennings, represents a good-natured but crude individual. Although he means no harm, his insensitivity to other people often causes pain. In this chapter, his humor is aimed at Marianne, who reproves him warmly for his crassness. But crude as they are, many of his observations have an aura of unpleasant truth which we cannot ignore as the novel progresses.