For the next three or four days, Willoughby neither came to see Marianne nor wrote her. Elinor and Marianne went to a party with Lady Middleton. Marianne was in a bad mood, as usual, but then she saw Willoughby across the room. She almost ran directly to him, but Elinor told her to stay composed in public.
Willoughby saw Marianne and Elinor and came over. He greeted Elinor, but ignored Marianne. Elinor was shocked, and Marianne burst out, “Good God! Willoughby, what is the meaning of this?” Willoughby seemed to be “struggling for composure.” Marianne asked if he had received her letters, but he didn’t reply. Finally, he said that he had received her letters and then left hurriedly.
Willoughby’s cold behavior is not only hurtful, but shocking to both the Dashwood sisters, for whom it seems wildly out of his character. Marianne cannot restrain herself and bursts out, asking Willoughby what is going on. Marianne and Willoughby’s romance seems to be in serious doubt.
Marianne turned pale, and Elinor tried to advise her to maintain composure. They told Lady Middleton that Marianne was unwell, and they left the party. Marianne “was in a silent agony,” as they went back home. Elinor thought that Willoughby must have had “a thorough change of sentiment,” and felt sympathetically for her miserable sister.