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Chapter 26
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, wrapped 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.
The house was handsome, and handsomely fitted up, and the young ladies were
immediately put in possession of a very comfortable apartment. It had formerly
been Charlotte's, and over the mantelpiece still hung a landscape in coloured