As Marianne was walking one morning with Elinor, she told her sister that Willoughby had given her a horse. Marianne was very excited about the gift, but Elinor was worried about the added cost of hiring a servant to care for the horse, and also wondered whether it was proper for Marianne to accept such a gift from a man she only met so recently.
Marianne is carried away by her feelings of love for Willoughby, and does not consider the practicalities or possible impropriety of accepting a horse from Willoughby.
Elinor told Marianne that the horse would be an inconvenience to their mother, so Marianne agreed to decline the gift the next time she saw Willoughby. She kept her promise, but Willoughby insisted that the horse was still hers and promised to keep it for her until she was ready to accept it.
Elinor is able to reason with her sister and get her to decline the gift. Willoughby insists on giving Marianne the horse, though, evidence of his love for her.
Margaret overheard this conversation between Willoughby and Marianne and guessed that they were engaged. She told this to Elinor, but Elinor was not so certain. Margaret said that she saw Willoughby cut a lock of Marianne’s hair to keep. Elinor could not deny that it seemed likely Willoughby and Marianne would get engaged, but was less quick to jump to conclusions than her sister.
Characters in the novel are often overhearing conversations in order to learn and strategize about the shifting romantic attachments of their high society. Despite the lock of hair, a symbol of Marianne’s abiding love for Willoughby, Elinor sensibly does not want to assume an engagement too soon.
One evening at Barton Park, Mrs. Jennings asked Elinor which man was her “particular favourite.” To Elinor’s dismay, Margaret made it known that there was indeed someone who Elinor had her eye on. Elinor denied it, but Margaret told everyone that the man’s name started with an F. Elinor was thankful when conversation shifted, and the group started to form plans to visit the property of Colonel Brandon’s brother-in-law the next day.
Mrs. Jennings is eager to gossip and learn more about her young companions’ marriage prospects. The sensible Elinor would like to keep her own love life private, but the less prudent Margaret doesn’t hesitate to hint at Elinor’s love for Edward Ferrars.