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
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-by, why so much the better."
"I thank you, ma'am, sincerely thank you," said Marianne, with
warmth: "your invitation has insured my gratitude forever; 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's 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 forsee, 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 easily removed."
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 us consequence."
"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 Misses Steele, especially Lucy, they had never
been so happy in their lives as this intelligence made them.
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 the consequence.
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 Misses Steele kept
their station at the Park, and were to quit it only with the rest ofthe family.
Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 24 Sense and Sensibility Sense and Sensibility - Chapter 26