An Invitation from Mrs Jennings
Mrs Jennings loved to meet people and talk to them. The old lady spent many months of each year visiting her friends and relations in their houses in the country. But she always spent the winter months at her home in London. She had a house in Berkeley Street, a fashionable part of London.
Before Charlotte was married, she had lived with her mother. Now Mrs Jennings was alone and she wanted some other young people to talk to. At the end of December, she decided to invite Elinor and Marianne Dashwood to her house in London. She invited them to be her guests there. The Middletons and the Palmers would also be in London at this time.
At first, Elinor refused Mrs Jennings’ invitation. She thanked the old lady and said that she would not go. ‘I am afraid that I cannot leave my mother and Barton Cottage for such a long time,’ she said.
‘Your mother will not be lonely!’ Mrs Jennings said. ‘She has Margaret to look after her. You and Marianne will enjoy London. The Miss Steeles will be coming to London with Sir John and Lady Middleton in the middle of January. My daughters, Lady Middleton and Mrs Palmer, have many friends there and we can visit them all. There are plenty of fine young men in London, you know! At least one of you will be married before the spring, I am sure!’
Marianne did not like these remarks. She thought that Mrs Jennings was a foolish and vulgar old woman. But Marianne also knew that Willoughby would be staying in London that winter. Marianne wanted to see him again. She wanted to find out his true feelings for her. She wanted to accept Mrs Jennings’ invitation.
Elinor was afraid of seeing Edward Ferrars and Lucy Steele together in London. That was the true reason why Elinor did not want to go there. But she understood Marianne’s feelings. Elinor always thought of other peoples’ feelings before her own.
‘I know that Mrs Jennings upsets you when she makes remarks about love and young men,’ Mrs Dashwood told her daughters. ‘She is vulgar, but she has a kind heart. Remember, you will be with Lady Middleton too. Go to London and enjoy yourselves, my dears!’
Then Elinor remembered that Edward would not be in London until February. She began to feel a little happier about the visit. The sisters accepted Mrs Jennings’ invitation.
The journey to London took three days. Mrs Jennings looked after her young friends very well during that time.
Mrs Jennings’ fine house in Berkeley Street was large and well furnished. Elinor and Marianne were both delighted when they saw the comfortable room that they were going to share. The sisters immediately sat down to write letters.
‘I am writing to mama, Marianne,’ Elinor said to her sister. ‘Why do you not wait a day or two before sending her your letter? You will have more to tell her then.’
‘I am not writing to mama,’ Marianne said quickly.
Marianne did not say anything more, but Elinor saw the letter W at the beginning of the address. As soon as she had finished writing, Marianne called for a servant. She asked the servant to deliver her letter immediately. She said nothing more to Elinor about the letter, but she was too excited to eat anything at dinner.
Later in the afternoon, when the sisters were drinking tea, there was a loud knock on the front door of the house.
Marianne jumped up from her chair. Her dark eyes were shining with happiness.
‘Oh, Elinor, it is Willoughby!’ she cried, I know that it is!’
The sitting-room door opened. Marianne ran towards it and almost felt into the arms of the man who entered. But the visitor was not Willoughby, it was Colonel Brandon. As soon as Marianne saw who it was, her eyes filled with tears and she ran from the room.
‘Is your sister ill?’ Colonel Brandon asked.
When Elinor replied that Marianne had a headache, Colonel Brandon looked worried.
The two friends began talking, but their conversation was short and uninteresting. They were both thinking of other things. Elinor wanted to ask the Colonel about Willoughby, and Colonel Brandon could think of no one but Marianne.
Next morning, Charlotte Palmer called to see her mother and her young visitors. Very soon, they all went to Bond Street to visit all the fashionable shops there.
As they walked along the street, Marianne looked for Willoughby. She did not see him and she was disappointed. When they returned to Berkeley Street, Marianne asked a servant if Willoughby had called. But he had not called at the house and there were no letters for Marianne either.
‘Why has he not replied to my letter?’ said Marianne quietly.
Elinor did not understand what had happened to Willoughby. If Willoughby and Marianne were engaged, he should have called on Marianne at Mrs Jennings’ house, or he should have written to her.
At breakfast the next morning, Mrs Jennings said, ‘The weather is so fine that all the gentlemen must still be in the country. They will be enjoying themselves. They will be hunting. They will not come to London until it gets colder.’