When Mrs. Jennings invited Elinor and Marianne to stay with her in London, Elinor at first refused, but Marianne was so eager to go, hoping to see Willoughby, that Elinor finally assented.
Their departure took place in the first week of January. During the three-day journey, Marianne "sat in silence . . . wrapt in her own meditations." However, Elinor made up for this rudeness by treating Mrs. Jennings with much solicitude, and the woman was kind and attentive to them in turn.
As soon as they arrived, Elinor found Marianne writing to someone, and when she saw a large "W" on the envelope, she was sure it was to Willoughby. Elinor concluded from this that they must be engaged. When a visitor arrived, Marianne jumped up, certain it was her love. But it turned out to be Colonel Brandon, who had heard of their arrival through the Palmers. For Marianne, this "was too much of a shock to be borne with calmness," and she ran out of the room in tears, much to the Colonel's surprise.
On the next day, Marianne was in high spirits again, obviously expecting a visit from Willoughby. Charlotte Palmer called and they all went out shopping. When they returned, Marianne was greatly upset to find that Willoughby had neither called nor written to her. "How very odd," she murmured.
Elinor, observing her sister's behavior, was very uneasy. She determined that "if appearances continued many days longer as unpleasant as they now were she would represent in the strongest manner to her mother the necessity of some serious inquiry into the affair."
Sense and Sensibility, though it is Austen's only "London" novel, does not give any insight into the life of the city at that period. The setting is purely social; the ladies shop, visit, and enjoy evening parties.
Long visits were common in those days, one reason being the difficulty of travel; a visit of only a few days would not be worth the discomfort involved. Another reason was the fact that the now customary annual summer vacation did not exist. A family seldom moved from their home to rooms in an inn. Visits to the sea, or to inland watering places, were made less for enjoyment than for reasons of health.
Note that in this chapter, Elinor's extremely good manners are again in strong contrast to Marianne's impoliteness. She makes herself attentive to her hostess and, during Colonel Brandon's visit, tries in every way to excuse her sister.