Summary and Analysis
The following morning, Lucy Steele called to see Elinor and asked her, "Could anything be so flattering as Mrs. Ferrars' way of treating me yesterday?" When Elinor suggested that Lucy's anticipation of favor should wait until Mrs. Ferrars' awareness of the nature of Lucy's connection to Edward, Lucy insinuated that Elinor was jealous and said that shouldn't change things at all.
An awkward situation arose when a servant suddenly announced the arrival of Edward Ferrars. Everybody felt very foolish, but Elinor welcomed him so kindly that "he had courage enough to sit down." On pretext of finding Marianne, Elinor left Edward and Lucy together. When the sisters came back, Marianne greeted Edward with profuse affection. Not knowing of the secret engagement, she behaved as if Edward were in love with Elinor, much to everyone's discomfort. Edward left very soon, "and Lucy, who would have outstayed him had his visit lasted two hours, soon afterwards went away.
A few days later, Charlotte Palmer's baby was born. As Mrs. Jennings spent much time with her daughter, Elinor and Marianne were invited daily to Lady Middleton's. They were also invited to parties by people who believed them to be staying with their sister-in-law. At one musical parry, Elinor noticed the young man whom they had seen in Mr. Gray's jewelry shop. John Dashwood introduced him as Mr. Robert Ferrars, and Elinor found him "exactly the coxcomb she had heard him described to be by Lucy."
John Dashwood suggested to his wife that he might invite his sisters to stay with them, but Fanny persuaded him that they could do that another year. Instead, she invited the Misses Steele, leading Lucy to believe that Mrs. Dashwood approved of a possible marriage between herself and Edward.
When dealing with characters who are not sensible, Austen almost invariably uses direct speech, and the characters reveal themselves the more clearly because of it. We learn a lot about Robert Ferrars when he talks so insincerely to Elinor about the advantages of living in a cottage.
Lucy Steele's speech is equally self-revealing. Not only her lack of education but her innate vulgarity is exposed. She makes such mistakes in grammar as "She had quite took a fancy to me." Her short, simple sentences seem to reflect her emptiness of mind.
Robert Ferrars seems the opposite of his brother. Robert attributes his own superiority to an education in the "public" schools (private schools in England), which reinforced all his natural tendency towards snobbery.