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.
Elinor could not find herself in the carriage with Mrs. Jennings,
and beginning a journey to London under her protection,
and as her guest, without wondering at her own situation,
so short had their acquaintance with that lady been,
so wholly unsuited were they in age and disposition,
and so many had been her objections against such a measure
only a few days before! But these objections had all,
with that happy ardour of youth which Marianne and her mother
equally shared, been overcome or overlooked; and Elinor,
in spite of every occasional doubt of Willoughby's constancy,
could not witness the rapture of delightful expectation
which filled the whole soul and beamed in the eyes
of Marianne, without feeling how blank was her own prospect,
how cheerless her own state of mind in the comparison,
and how gladly she would engage in the solicitude of
Marianne's situation to have the same animating object
in view, the same possibility of hope. A short, a very
short time however must now decide what Willoughby's
intentions were; in all probability he was already in town.
Marianne's eagerness to be gone declared her dependence
on finding him there; and Elinor was resolved not only upon
gaining every new light as to his character which her
own observation or the intelligence of others could give her,
but likewise upon watching his behaviour to her sister
with such zealous attention, as to ascertain what he was
and what he meant, before many meetings had taken place.
Should the result of her observations be unfavourable,
she was determined at all events to open the eyes
of her sister; should it be otherwise, her exertions
would be of a different nature--she must then learn
to avoid every selfish comparison, and banish every regret
which might lessen her satisfaction in the happiness of Marianne.
They were three days on their journey, and Marianne's
behaviour as they travelled was a happy specimen of what
future complaisance and companionableness to Mrs. Jennings
might be expected to be. She sat in silence almost all
the way, wrapt in her own meditations, and scarcely ever
voluntarily speaking, except when any object of picturesque
beauty within their view drew from her an exclamation
of delight exclusively addressed to her sister. To atone
for this conduct therefore, Elinor took immediate possession
of the post of civility which she had assigned herself,
behaved with the greatest attention to Mrs. Jennings,
talked with her, laughed with her, and listened to her
whenever she could; and Mrs. Jennings on her side
treated them both with all possible kindness, was solicitous
on every occasion for their ease and enjoyment, and only
disturbed that she could not make them choose their own
dinners at the inn, nor extort a confession of their
preferring salmon to cod, or boiled fowls to veal cutlets.
They reached town by three o'clock the third day, glad to
be released, after such a journey, from the confinement
of a carriage, and ready to enjoy all the luxury of a good fire.