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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.’
These words made the sisters feel happier.
Marianne was very happy to agree with this idea. ‘Of course! Willoughby has not arrived in London yet!’ she said to Elinor. ‘But the weather is getting colder. Soon, the ground will be hard and frozen with ice. Then the gentlemen will not be able to hunt with their dogs and horses. They will come to London and I will see Willoughby again!’
Marianne was right. A few days later, more gentlemen came to London and Willoughby arrived with them. He called at the house in Berkeley Street when Mrs Jennings and the Dashwoods were out. His visiting card was on the table in the hall when they returned. Marianne picked up the card before Mrs Jennings saw it.
‘Look, Elinor! Willoughby called when we were out!’ Marianne cried. ‘I shall stay here tomorrow. I do not want to miss him again.’
So the next day, Marianne stayed in the house. But Willoughby did not call again and no letter came from him. Elinor saw that her sister was very upset.
‘Are you are expecting Willoughby to write to you?’ Elinor asked.
‘Yes… no… perhaps,’ Marianne replied. She did not look at her sister.
‘You are not telling me everything, Marianne,’ Elinor said quietly.
‘How can you say that to me?’ Marianne cried. ‘You tell me nothing about yourself, nothing at all!’
‘I have nothing to tell you.’ Elinor replied.
‘Then neither have I!’ Marianne said, with tears in her eyes.
The Middletons had now arrived in London. Sir John at once invited a few young friends, including the Miss Dashwoods, to a dance at his house in Conduit Street.
As soon as they arrived at the Middletons’ house, Marianne looked around the drawing-room. But Willoughby was not among the guests and she was not interested in any of the other people there. As they were returning to Berkeley Street, Marianne said that she was very tired.
‘And we all know why you are tired, Miss Marianne!’ Mrs Jennings said, laughing loudly. ‘You would not be tired if Willoughby had been there to dance with you! Why was Willoughby not there? He was invited. Sir John told me that himself.’
Marianne said nothing, but she looked very unhappy.
Next morning, after breakfast, Marianne wrote another letter to Willoughby. Elinor was now worried about her sister. Marianne was disappointed and unhappy. Elinor decided to write to her mother and tell her what was happening. Was Marianne engaged to Willoughby or not?
When Colonel Brandon called at midday, he talked to Elinor about Marianne and Willoughby.
‘Everyone believes that Willoughby and your sister are engaged,’ Colonel Brandon told Elinor sadly.
‘But that cannot be true!’ Elinor cried, I am Marianne’s sister and she has told me nothing. She has told no one in our family that she and Willoughby are to be married.’
‘Mrs Jennings, Mrs Palmer and the Middletons are all talking about it,’ the Colonel replied. ‘They believe that Willoughby has asked Marianne to marry him. And as I came in just now, your sister was giving a servant a letter. The letter was addressed to Willoughby.’
‘Miss Dashwood,’ the Colonel went on quickly, ‘I must tell you that I have the strongest feelings for your sister. But if she loves Willoughby, I will say nothing to her. If they have made an arrangement - if they are engaged - I will say no more. Please tell me the truth.’
Elinor did not know what to say to her friend.
‘Colonel Brandon, I am sure that my sister loves Willoughby,’ she said at last. ‘They write to each other. They must be engaged. So Willoughby must love Marianne too.’
When he heard these words, Colonel Brandon stood up.
‘Thank you, Miss Dashwood,’ he said, I hope that your sister will be very happy. Willoughby is a very lucky man. I hope that he understands this. Please do not say anything about my visit and our conversation to anyone.’
And, without another word, the Colonel bowed and left the house.
Three or four days passed. Willoughby did not call and he did not write. Marianne became more and more unhappy.
Then the Dashwood sisters were invited to a very big party at a friend of Lady Middleton’s. Lady Middleton took Marianne and Elinor with her in her carriage.
The large house was in a fashionable part of London. It was full of people and the crowded rooms were very hot. The Miss Dashwoods sat down to watch the guests talking, playing cards and dancing.
Suddenly, Elinor saw Willoughby standing in the next room. He was smiling and talking happily to a pretty young woman who was dressed in very fashionable clothes. Willoughby turned and saw Elinor and Marianne. He bowed towards them, but went on talking to the pretty young woman.
At that moment, Marianne saw Willoughby and she stood up. She smiled and her eyes shone with happiness. She began to walk across the room towards Willoughby, but Elinor held her arm.
‘Oh, Elinor!’ Marianne cried. ‘He is here! Oh, why does he not come to me? I must speak to him!’
‘Please, Marianne, people are looking at you,’ Elinor said. ‘Perhaps Willoughby has not seen you yet.’
Then, at last, Willoughby looked again at the sisters and bowed once more. Elinor and Marianne were now only a few feet away from the young man.
‘Miss Dashwood,’ he said to Elinor, ‘how long have you been in London? Is your mother well?’
Marianne ran towards Willoughby, holding her hand out to him. But the young man turned away from her and spoke again to the pretty young woman beside him. Marianne’s eyes filled with tears.
‘Willoughby, Willoughby! What is the matter?’ she cried. ‘Did you not receive my letters? Why will you not shake hands with me?’
Other people nearby had now stopped talking. They were watching the four young people and they were listening to their conversation.
Willoughby touched Marianne’s hand for a moment.
‘I called at Berkeley Street, but you were out,’ he said very quietly.
‘Did you not receive my letters?’ Marianne cried again. ‘For God’s sake! Willoughby! What is the matter?’
‘Yes, I received them. Thank you for telling me that you were in London,’ Willoughby said quickly. He bowed and moved away to speak to the fashionably-dressed young lady again.
‘Elinor, bring him back. I must speak to him,’ Marianne said. Her face was now very pale and her body was shaking.
Elinor helped her sister to sit down.
‘Nothing can be done now,’ Elinor said. ‘Wait until tomorrow, my dear sister.’
A few minutes later, Willoughby left the room and he did not return. Elinor went to Lady Middleton and said that her sister was unwell. She asked if they could return to Berkeley Street.
Marianne said nothing during the journey back to Mrs Jennings’ house. Elinor helped her sister to their room and Marianne was soon in bed.
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