Elinor was saying a fond farewell to her horse when she heard Mr Ferrars speak behind her.
"Can't you take him with you?" He asked gently.
"We cannot possibly afford him," she replied, stroking the steed's face.
"Perhaps he could make himself useful in the kitchen," Mr Ferrars remarked lightly before turning serious. "Forgive me, Miss Dashwood," he paused and then continued in a halting manner. "Elinor ... I must speak to you. There is something of great importance that I need to ... tell you ... about my education."
Elinor blinked in surprise, confused by what she had just heard. "Your education?"
"Yes," he replied, gaining a little confidence now that he had begun. "It was conducted oddly enough, in Plymouth."
When he paused again, she felt obliged to utter something to encourage him to continue this odd conversation, that must be leading somewhere. "Indeed?"
"Do you know it?" he asked her.
"Plymouth?" She queried.
"Yes," he said.
"No," she replied.
"I was four years there," he continued. "In a school run by Mr. Pratt."
He paused again so she echoed the last word with a questioning tone. "Pratt?"
"Precisely, Pratt," he answered, oblivious to the unintended amusement that could be drawn from his reply. "While I was there ... That is to say, he had a ... has a ... daughter ... two daughters actually ... the younger one ... Lucy ..."
Elinor could divine what he was about to say before he struggled to say it. All her hopes, all Marianne's well-meaning teasing two nights ago were in vain. Yet still she strove to listen, for it was costing him to relay this confession, as much as it cost her to hear it.
"She caught me before I was even aware of it ... we were both very young, too young to properly comprehend the nature of our feelings. Five years have passed and I have never felt doubts about our engagement until I came here and met ..."
Elinor found herself nodding in silent reply.
"I cannot break with her. I cannot withdraw my promise, even if it is just a matter of honour. I deeply sorry if my manners and my nature led you to believe in something that I had no right to produce within you. I hope you can forgive me."
Elinor wanted to be angry with him, she wanted to have the urge to lash out at him, to give her emotions some outlet. Yet she could not. His manner, his nature had been too earnest, too gentle, too sincere to justify it. She would be unjust in giving him such a response, though doubtless he felt that he deserved it, even expected it. There was guilt in his expression, sorrow in his eyes. He genuinely wished that his honour was not engaged, just as much as she.
Before she could find the words to convey to him her understanding and forgiveness, strive through the grief of disappointed hopes she was currently suffering under, their interlude was disturbed, by his sister racing towards them, a letter in hand.
"Edward! Edward! I've been all over for you! You are needed in London this instant!"
"Fanny, I am leaving this afternoon as it is," he replied.
"No, no, that will not do, Mama is quite adamant that you should leave at once."
He turned to her. "Excuse me, Miss Dashwood," he uttered before leaving with his sister.
Elinor wondered if that would be the last time she ever saw him.