The next day, everyone assembled at Barton Park for the trip. As they were having breakfast, some letters came in, including one for Colonel Brandon. As soon as he read it, he announced that he had to leave immediately for London, and had to cancel their trip to his brother-in-law’s property.
Among this wealthy company, the abrupt canceling of a social event is a major shock.
Everyone was surprised and asked what had happened, but Colonel Brandon would give no details and insisted on leaving immediately. Marianne and Willoughby agreed to each other that Brandon was someone unable to “bear a party of pleasure.”
Marianne and Willoughby dislike Brandon’s lack of good cheer and pleasure, and are irritated by his sensible seriousness.
Colonel Brandon left, and Mrs. Jennings announced that she knew what had happened with him. She said that she was certain the letter had to do with Miss Williams, Colonel Brandon’s daughter. Since they could no longer do their planned trip, Sir John suggested that everyone go driving around in the country. Marianne and Willoughby happily got into a carriage by themselves and went to his nearby home at Allenham, owned by his aunt Mrs. Smith.
Mrs. Jennings jumps at the chance to gossip and meddle in others’ affairs. Marianne and Willoughby’s trip together to the home he plans to inherit strongly suggests that he is considering marrying Marianne, though the precise nature of their relationship is still uncertain.
That night, Sir John and Lady Middleton hosted a dance at Barton Park. Mrs. Jennings told Marianne she knew where she and Willoughby had gone earlier that day. Elinor was disturbed by the impropriety of Marianne’s trip with Willoughby and urged her to show more discretion. Marianne apologized, but excitedly described Allenham, where she imagined she might live with Willoughby.
The Middletons’ dance offers an opportunity for everyone to meet, gossip, and learn about the goings-on (especially romantic ones) of their limited society. Compelled by notions of proper behavior, Elinor is upset by Marianne’s impulsive trip to Allenham with Willoughby.