When Mrs. Jennings planned to go to Cleveland, home of the Palmers, she invited Elinor and Marianne to go with her. Marianne at first declined violently since the house was in Somersetshire where the Willoughbys lived. But when Elinor wisely pointed out that they could get home more quickly by that route and more quickly see their dear mother, she agreed. Before they left, Colonel Brandon informed Elinor that the living at Delaford, near his estate, was vacant, and that Edward might have it. He did not think, however, that it could "do . . . more than make Mr. Ferrars comfortable as a bachelor." Mrs. Jennings, who overheard part of the conversation, misunderstood what the colonel was saying and believed that he was proposing to Elinor.
Most of the journeys in Sense and Sensibility take place in winter and are tedious and uncomfortable. Wealthy people like Mrs. Jennings usually traveled in their own carriages and took the journey in easy stages. From London to Somerset was a two-day journey. From Cleveland, which was a few miles from Bristol, it took a day to get to Barton. Propriety demanded that young ladies should be accompanied; thus Elinor points out that "their mother's servant might easily come there to attend them down."
Austen uses "low comedy" in this chapter to gently burlesque the warm, yet loquacious, Mrs. Jennings. The woman hears only a few lines of what the couple is saying but interprets them to fit what she wishes it to be — a proposal of marriage.