Marianne takes it upon herself to investigate Elinor's real feelings for the potential addition to the family. Marianne doesn't think much of Edward's taste or aesthetic sensibilities, but Elinor steps up to defend him.
It's pretty clear that Elinor really does have the hots for Edward. She admits that he's not exactly a debonair heart-throb, but she knows him so well now that she finds him handsome and lovable.
Marianne tries to get Elinor to admit that the pair are engaged – her sister will only go so far as to say that she likes and admires Edward (well, a little more than that). However, given his circumstances and the demands of his family, Elinor isn't sure that their marriage would be allowed.
This is big news to Marianne – she and her mother had been sure the couple was secretly engaged already. However, Marianne is still more optimistic than her cautious sister.
Fanny herself intervenes behind the scenes, and talks to Mrs. Dashwood about the affair – she makes it quite clear that any such marriage would be highly undesirable to the Ferrars clan. Mrs. Dashwood is understandably offended.
Fortunately, an opportunity to move away from Norland and away from Fanny arises. A distant relation, Sir John Middleton, writes to offer the Dashwood ladies a cottage on his estate, Barton Park, in far away Devonshire.
Mrs. Dashwood writes to Sir John, agreeing to take the cottage.