Though Mrs. Jennings was in the habit of spending a large
portion of the year at the houses of her children and friends,
she was not without a settled habitation of her own.
Since the death of her husband, who had traded with success
in a less elegant part of the town, she had resided every
winter in a house in one of the streets near Portman Square.
Towards this home, she began on the approach of January
to turn her thoughts, and thither she one day abruptly,
and very unexpectedly by them, asked the elder Misses
Dashwood to accompany her. Elinor, without observing
the varying complexion of her sister, and the animated look
which spoke no indifference to the plan, immediately gave
a grateful but absolute denial for both, in which she
believed herself to be speaking their united inclinations.
The reason alleged was their determined resolution
of not leaving their mother at that time of the year.
Mrs. Jennings received the refusal with some surprise,
and repeated her invitation immediately.
"Oh, Lord! I am sure your mother can spare you
very well, and I DO beg you will favour me with
your company, for I've quite set my heart upon it.
Don't fancy that you will be any inconvenience to me,
for I shan't put myself at all out of my way for you.
It will only be sending Betty by the coach, and I
hope I can afford THAT. We three shall be able to go
very well in my chaise; and when we are in town,
if you do not like to go wherever I do, well and good,
you may always go with one of my daughters. I am sure
your mother will not object to it; for I have had such
good luck in getting my own children off my hands that she
will think me a very fit person to have the charge of you;
and if I don't get one of you at least well married
before I have done with you, it shall not be my fault.
I shall speak a good word for you to all the young men,
you may depend upon it."
"I have a notion," said Sir John, "that Miss Marianne
would not object to such a scheme, if her elder sister
would come into it. It is very hard indeed that she
should not have a little pleasure, because Miss Dashwood
does not wish it. So I would advise you two, to set off
for town, when you are tired of Barton, without saying
a word to Miss Dashwood about it."
"Nay," cried Mrs. Jennings, "I am sure I shall be
monstrous glad of Miss Marianne's company, whether Miss
Dashwood will go or not, only the more the merrier say I,
and I thought it would be more comfortable for them to
be together; because, if they got tired of me, they might talk
to one another, and laugh at my old ways behind my back.
But one or the other, if not both of them, I must have.
Lord bless me! how do you think I can live poking by myself,
I who have been always used till this winter to have
Charlotte with me. Come, Miss Marianne, let us strike
hands upon the bargain, and if Miss Dashwood will change
her mind by and bye, why so much the better."
"I thank you, ma'am, sincerely thank you," said Marianne,
with warmth: "your invitation has insured my gratitude for ever,
and it would give me such happiness, yes, almost the greatest
happiness I am capable of, to be able to accept it.
But my mother, my dearest, kindest mother,--I feel the
justice of what Elinor has urged, and if she were to be
made less happy, less comfortable by our absence--Oh! no,
nothing should tempt me to leave her. It should not,
must not be a struggle."
Mrs. Jennings repeated her assurance that Mrs. Dashwood
could spare them perfectly well; and Elinor, who now
understood her sister, and saw to what indifference to
almost every thing else she was carried by her eagerness
to be with Willoughby again, made no farther direct
opposition to the plan, and merely referred it to her
mother's decision, from whom however she scarcely expected
to receive any support in her endeavour to prevent a visit,
which she could not approve of for Marianne, and which
on her own account she had particular reasons to avoid.
Whatever Marianne was desirous of, her mother would be eager
to promote--she could not expect to influence the latter
to cautiousness of conduct in an affair respecting which she
had never been able to inspire her with distrust; and she
dared not explain the motive of her own disinclination
for going to London. That Marianne, fastidious as she was,
thoroughly acquainted with Mrs. Jennings' manners,
and invariably disgusted by them, should overlook every
inconvenience of that kind, should disregard whatever
must be most wounding to her irritable feelings, in her
pursuit of one object, was such a proof, so strong,
so full, of the importance of that object to her, as Elinor,
in spite of all that had passed, was not prepared to witness.
On being informed of the invitation, Mrs. Dashwood,
persuaded that such an excursion would be productive
of much amusement to both her daughters, and perceiving
through all her affectionate attention to herself,
how much the heart of Marianne was in it, would not hear
of their declining the offer upon HER account; insisted on
their both accepting it directly; and then began to foresee,
with her usual cheerfulness, a variety of advantages that
would accrue to them all, from this separation.
"I am delighted with the plan," she cried,
"it is exactly what I could wish. Margaret and I shall
be as much benefited by it as yourselves. When you
and the Middletons are gone, we shall go on so quietly
and happily together with our books and our music! You
will find Margaret so improved when you come back again!
I have a little plan of alteration for your bedrooms too,
which may now be performed without any inconvenience
to any one. It is very right that you SHOULD go to town;
I would have every young woman of your condition in life
acquainted with the manners and amusements of London.
You will be under the care of a motherly good sort
of woman, of whose kindness to you I can have no doubt.
And in all probability you will see your brother,
and whatever may be his faults, or the faults of his wife,
when I consider whose son he is, I cannot bear to have you so
wholly estranged from each other."
"Though with your usual anxiety for our happiness,"
said Elinor, "you have been obviating every impediment
to the present scheme which occurred to you, there is
still one objection which, in my opinion, cannot be so
Marianne's countenance sunk.
"And what," said Mrs. Dashwood, "is my dear prudent
Elinor going to suggest? What formidable obstacle is she
now to bring forward? Do let me hear a word about the
expense of it."
"My objection is this; though I think very well of
Mrs. Jennings's heart, she is not a woman whose society
can afford us pleasure, or whose protection will give
"That is very true," replied her mother, "but of
her society, separately from that of other people,
you will scarcely have any thing at all, and you will
almost always appear in public with Lady Middleton."
"If Elinor is frightened away by her dislike of
Mrs. Jennings," said Marianne, "at least it need not prevent
MY accepting her invitation. I have no such scruples,
and I am sure I could put up with every unpleasantness
of that kind with very little effort."
Elinor could not help smiling at this display of
indifference towards the manners of a person, to whom she
had often had difficulty in persuading Marianne to behave
with tolerable politeness; and resolved within herself,
that if her sister persisted in going, she would
go likewise, as she did not think it proper that Marianne
should be left to the sole guidance of her own judgment,
or that Mrs. Jennings should be abandoned to the mercy
of Marianne for all the comfort of her domestic hours.
To this determination she was the more easily reconciled,
by recollecting that Edward Ferrars, by Lucy's account,
was not to be in town before February; and that
their visit, without any unreasonable abridgement,
might be previously finished.
"I will have you BOTH go," said Mrs. Dashwood;
"these objections are nonsensical. You will have much
pleasure in being in London, and especially in being together;
and if Elinor would ever condescend to anticipate enjoyment,
she would foresee it there from a variety of sources;
she would, perhaps, expect some from improving her
acquaintance with her sister-in-law's family."
Elinor had often wished for an opportunity of
attempting to weaken her mother's dependence on the
attachment of Edward and herself, that the shock might
be less when the whole truth were revealed, and now
on this attack, though almost hopeless of success,
she forced herself to begin her design by saying,
as calmly as she could, "I like Edward Ferrars very much,
and shall always be glad to see him; but as to the rest
of the family, it is a matter of perfect indifference
to me, whether I am ever known to them or not."
Mrs. Dashwood smiled, and said nothing.
Marianne lifted up her eyes in astonishment, and Elinor
conjectured that she might as well have held her tongue.
After very little farther discourse, it was finally
settled that the invitation should be fully accepted.
Mrs. Jennings received the information with a great
deal of joy, and many assurances of kindness and care;
nor was it a matter of pleasure merely to her. Sir John
was delighted; for to a man, whose prevailing anxiety
was the dread of being alone, the acquisition of two,
to the number of inhabitants in London, was something.
Even Lady Middleton took the trouble of being delighted,
which was putting herself rather out of her way;
and as for the Miss Steeles, especially Lucy, they had
never been so happy in their lives as this intelligence
Elinor submitted to the arrangement which counteracted
her wishes with less reluctance than she had expected
to feel. With regard to herself, it was now a matter
of unconcern whether she went to town or not, and when
she saw her mother so thoroughly pleased with the plan,
and her sister exhilarated by it in look, voice, and manner,
restored to all her usual animation, and elevated to more
than her usual gaiety, she could not be dissatisfied
with the cause, and would hardly allow herself to distrust
Marianne's joy was almost a degree beyond happiness,
so great was the perturbation of her spirits and her
impatience to be gone. Her unwillingness to quit her
mother was her only restorative to calmness; and at the
moment of parting her grief on that score was excessive.
Her mother's affliction was hardly less, and Elinor
was the only one of the three, who seemed to consider
the separation as any thing short of eternal.
Their departure took place in the first week in January.
The Middletons were to follow in about a week. The Miss
Steeles kept their station at the park, and were to quit
it only with the rest of the family.