Summary and Analysis
When the Dashwoods went to call on Lady Middleton the next day, Marianne stayed behind "under some trifling pretext of employment." On their return, Marianne emerged from the parlor "apparently in violent affliction." Willoughby, looking upset, announced that his rich relative, Mrs. Smith, was sending him to London on business. He told them that he had "no idea of returning into Devonshire immediately" and was evasive when Mrs. Dashwood assured him that he would always be welcome at Barton Cottage.
After he left, Mrs. Dashwood and Elinor discussed the probable reasons for his departure. Mrs. Dashwood was convinced that Willoughby was sincere. She conjectured that Mrs. Smith suspected Willoughby's interest in Marianne and thus invented the business "as an excuse to dismiss him." Elinor, however, questioned Willoughby's taciturnity. She spoke of her concern over the secrecy maintained by the young couple regarding their engagement but expressed the hope that her mother might be right in her conjecture. When Marianne came down to dinner, she "avoided the looks of them all, could neither eat nor speak, and after some time . . . burst into tears and left the room."
Willoughby, who has been indignantly outspoken in his feelings and opinions heretofore, seems strangely silent now. Some explanation of his departure is required in this situation — and although he may have accomplished this with Marianne, her family, who has been witness to their affair, deserves to know the truth. Therefore, Elinor is justified in doubting Willoughby's intentions. The pair have flaunted their feelings for each other, which would be considered indiscreet were no public engagement forthcoming. His leaving without making this avowal is as good as a renunciation, although the naive Mrs. Dashwood refuses to see this.