Sense and Sensibility Chapter 29
The next morning a tearful Marianne writes a letter to Willoughby. By the end of breakfast, she receives a reply. It confirms every fear Elinor held regarding Willoughby's character. Elinor reads the letter, a portion of which states:
"My esteem for your whole family is sincere; but if I have been so unfortunate as to give rise to a belief of more than I felt, or meant to express, I shall reproach myself for not having been more guided in my professions of that esteem. That I should ever have meant more, you will allow to be impossible, when you understand that my affections have been long engaged elsewhere, and it will not be many weeks, I believe, before this engagement is fulfilled." Chapter 29, pg. 154
Willoughby has also returned Marianne's letters and her lock of hair. Elinor is shocked at this dishonorable treatment of her sister. Marianne sobs uncontrollably, and Elinor pleads with her to hold back so as not to injure herself and those who love her. Unknowingly, Marianne cries out: "Happy, happy Elinor, you cannot have an idea of what I suffer." Chapter 29, pg. 156. Elinor tells her she is wrong, but says nothing further.
Marianne then tells her that Willoughby did not break off any engagement. They loved each other, but it was never spoken absolutely, only implied. Marianne shows Elinor her letters to Willoughby, which are informal and affectionate. The tone of Marianne's letters makes Willoughby's seem even more cruel. Marianne cannot admit Willoughby is at fault. She says that because there was no formal engagement, he has broken no promise. She thinks that someone spoke poorly of her, and ruined her in Willoughby's eyes. She cannot accept that Willoughby would treat her so cruelly on his own; she just cannot understand. Unable to hide her grief, Marianne wants to leave as soon as possible, and go home to her mother. Elinor will attempt to arrange it.