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|Farewell to Devon
Written by Jan
(10/7/2006 9:27 p.m.)
Until then, let's think of Elinor and Marianne as they leave Barton for London in Mrs Jenning's carriage. Poor Betty has to go by stage-coach and I expect Mrs J will put her on the fastest coach from the 'New London Inn' in Exeter (no overnight stops!) so she'll be at Mrs Jennings' house in London long before her mistress arrives but she'll probably be rather shaken and desperate for a bed.
Meanwhile, Elinor and Marianne travel back along that long stretch of road to Exeter, knowing that every mile takes them closer to the man in their heart. They are following the same route taken by Willoughby, Edward and even Col Brandon as he galloped through in his desperation to get to London. As they approach Exeter, they may be stirred from their thoughts as the horses strain to pull the carriage up the steep hill and they slowly pass the clatter and bustle from the packhorses, carrier carts and stage-coaches as they converge on Exeter from the northern route. Then they will have to hold their breath as their carriage driver applies the brakes and negotiates the very steep downhill on the other side, followed by one more strenuous climb towards the High Street. There's no time for shopping or socialising, although I suspect that Mrs Jennings 'halloos' to acquaintances from the carriage window, mouthing and signalling 'I'm taking them to London!'...
As they approach the great South Gate, they will be slowed again by all the horses, carts and carriages funnelling in and out of the small opening. Let's hope it isn't early on livestock market day or their carriage will be negotiating cattle and sheep all over the road.
Once outside the mediaeval gate, they pass some areas where new, elegant houses are being built and very soon they have fields either side of them. Hopefully, their last sight of Exeter isn't some poor wretch dangling from the gallows, which they have to pass.
They are now in open countryside and the horses can speed up because this road is straight (an old Roman road) and very well maintained as it is the main road to London. After 16 miles they will be in Honiton, where they will be able to get out of the coach and take some refreshments while the horses are changed. Will they think of Brandon at this point? This is where he galloped to before leaving his hot and exhausted horse and going post to London.
Now back in the carriage, they resume their journey and after a few miles they cross the Devon border into Dorset. If they then follow the route taken by the Royal Mail coach at that time (which used the quickest and best roads) their journey will be Exeter, Honiton, Axminster, Bridport, Dorchester, Blandford, Salisbury, Andover, London.
"They were three days on their journey, and Marianne (..)sat in silence almost all the way, wrapt in her own meditations (..) 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 (..) and Mrs. Jennings on her side treated them both with all possible kindness, (..) and only disturbed that she could not make them choose their own dinners at the inn(..) 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."
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