A Bird in a Gilded Cage
While General Tilney, a highly respected man in his own way, was called away, he left his daughter, Eleanor, to the care of her brothers Frederick and Henry. Not being disposed to sit about at home watching her, they took the elegant young woman to a ball, eager to help her enjoy the merriments of London. Eleanor, being a pleasant, polite and handsome girl, agreed to the plan, and found herself at a ball that very night.
Captain Frederick Tilney smiled at his hostess, and brought forward his sister to the good woman's notice.
"My dear Mrs. Reese, may I present my sister to you? Eleanor, this is Mrs. Reese, our hostess this evening." The gallant gentleman turned back to his hostess. "I hope that we have not inconvenienced you in any way. It was most sudden that my father was called away, and Eleanor should have been alone this evening."
Mrs. Reese, a motherly woman, smiled. "You put me to no trouble at all. I am delighted to have such a charming young woman amongst us. You do us a favor, indeed, for how else should I find partners for all the wonderful young men in our company?"
Eleanor Tilney gave a genteel curtsy and smiled. The hostess, a confirmed matchmaker, glanced about the room, looking for a partner for the vaguely shy and handsome girl she saw before her. Captain Worth? No, not genteel enough for the slim, fashionable creature who stood nervously, flitting her eyes about as her brother abandoned her.
"My dear Miss Tilney, pray come and let me introduce you to some of the gentlemen. I dare say that you are fond of dancing?"
The quiet creature let off a gentle smile.
"I am," she said, dark eyes shining briefly, before falling back into a shy silence.
Mrs. Reese continued to scan the faces of the men who did not dance. Sir George Putney? Why was her not dancing? Oh... Miss Harding, his fiance, was not present. Then, Mrs. Reese smiled as she saw Sir George's companion. The very man! Mrs. Reese pulled on Eleanor's sleeved arm,
"Come with me, I want you to meet someone," she murmured to the young girl. Eleanor followed her hostess, and was brought around to face a decidedly handsome man, who was deeply engrossed in another man's conversation. He did not turn around as she approached, and Eleanor could only marvel at this piece of rudeness, for she had always been paid great attention in other circles. Her hostess touched the man on the arm, and his face was turned toward the two women.
"Mr. Landes, I should like to introduce you to my young friend, Miss Tilney. Her brothers are Captain Tilney and Mr. Henry Tilney, you know."
The handsome Mr. Landes gave a brief smile.
"They are two of my good friends," he remarked, still paying heed with half of his mind to the conversation of his friend, and although he bowed towards Eleanor, he had not looked at her yet. She was a bit annoyed with him. So, apparently was Mrs. Reese.
"Do you not dance, Mr. Landes?" she persisted. "I must know why."
He smiled, "I have not a partner."
"Have you not, and you amongst all these fine ladies?"
"Fine, indeed!" said Mr. Landes's friend Sir George. "Fine when Miss Harding is absent?"
"Her health is unfortunate is it not?" sympathized Mrs. Reese. The conversation turned to the complaint which kept pretty Miss Harding from their company. Mr. Landes, who did not particularly admire Miss Harding, and had heard far too much about her health already, turned to speak to the young woman to whom he had just been introduced.
They each stared at each other for a few moments, taking each other in. Eleanor Tilney saw a handsome man, with dark brown hair and rather expressionless gray eyes. His coat was fashionably blue, but he wore no spectacular jewels on his cuffs, and his signet ring was quite plain. She guessed that he was not overly wealthy, but well accepted in society. She smiled a little shyly, as he caught her staring at him.
He, of course, had been staring at her, taking in the fashionably dressed sister of his friends. He knew the family to be wealthy, and of good family. He was a little frightened of General Tilney, it must also be admitted. However, he saw little of the father in the daughter as he beheld her.
Although both father and daughter were handsome, and had the same sort of looks, Eleanor resembled her mother in many ways. She had hair that was very nearly fair, and dark, shy eyes. Her dress was very becoming on her, and of impeccable muslin, undoubtedly her brother's choice. Mr. Landes found that he had only one idea firmly set into his mind, if he did not wish to spend his evening discussing Miss Harding. He wished to dance with this handsome and superior creature.
He smiled at her flush as he caught her staring. "If you have not a partner for the next dance, might you honor me?"
She smiled, and agreed.
As she took Mr. Landes's hand for the dance, she caught sight of her second brother approaching, Henry Tilney. He was smiling.
"Richard! Eleanor! I see that you have met." He gave a cheerful and beautiful smile. "I had best let you join the set, now. I was worried that Eleanor should not know anyone in the room," he explained to his friend. "She very nearly did not come, for if my father had stayed in Town, she would have had to join him at some other engagement. However, he has had to run from Town very suddenly, and asked us to look out for Eleanor here. I thank you Richard for dancing with her."
Richard Landes smiled. "It is pleasure, I am sure, if you should stop detaining us, and let us dance."
Henry laughed. "Indeed. I had better run along now, and keep my brother from flirting with the ladies too much."
Richard gave Henry a look. "You do not dance?"
"How am I to dance when I have no partner?" asked Henry.
"That used to be my excuse. Find yourself a partner, my friend, you need good female companionship."
"I need..? Perhaps I do, but friend... the dance shall begin without you. Run along!"
Henry Tilney pushed his sister and his friend toward the floor where the couples were already bowing to one another.
Eleanor found her place in the set as the dance began. She shyly turned to her companion, and asked, "How long have you known my brothers?"
"Quite a while," answered her partner. "I met Frederick about four years ago at a ball, and shortly after that I met Henry. They are rather pleasant men."
Eleanor gave her gentle smile, that, though more reluctant, was like that of her brothers. "You needn't say that on my account. They have their times of good and bad alike."
"So has every man," said Richard Landes. "But your brothers are more often good than not. I call them pleasant indeed."
"Then I know that we shall agree on other topics as well," said Miss Tilney.
"I should be charmed to agree with you, Miss Tilney," said Mr. Landes, as they separated in a figure of the dance.
At last the dance was through, and Mr. Landes accompanied her for a glass of punch. He picked up a glass for her, and gallantly filled it. She smiled, and gave a little nod of thanks, before being swooped down upon by the delighted Mrs. Reese.
"My dear! Such wonderful dancing! A most wonderful exhibition. You must honor us again, Miss Tilney and Mr. Landes!"
Mr. Landes gave a little gesture to express the possibility of this, and sat beside his partner. "Perhaps, Mrs. Reese. But now I must entertain my partner, and speak to her of her brothers' charms. You see, we fully agree upon her brothers' charms."
"Such charming young men! Miss Tilney, your brothers are very charming men!"
With this comment, she fled to another set of young people.
Mr. Landes took his partner's empty glass, and handed it off to a waiter who had passed.
"Now, Miss Tilney, we must get to know each other very well. For I know that we shall often be in each other's company in the future."
"Do you read the future in the bottom of your punch cup?" asked Eleanor, smiling.
"Indeed! That, and the fact that your brothers have invited me to stay at Northanger Abbey. I look forward to staying in that charming house and seeing more of its charming company."Chapter Two
It must be admitted that a pretty young woman on returning to her home must be delighted on being joined there by a handsome and pleasant man. Delight was the feeling Eleanor Tilney had, and nothing more nor less, for she had enjoyed Mr. Landes's company in London, and looked forward to learning more of him.
She, at this point, could not say that she admired him, but she did enjoy what little of his company she had seen. And furthermore, she knew nothing about him or his family.
Her father was polite to Mr. Landes, in general, and Eleanor soon learned that he had an uncle, who was indeed the viscount of Langley Park, and a very wealthy and somewhat important fellow. It was rather one of Eleanor's father's more favorite things to question his guest about the wealth of his uncle.
Richard Landes was astonishingly pleasant about all this questioning, and seemed to be striving to make his replies as agreeable to the General as truth would allow.
"My uncle has several hot-houses, Sir. They seem to be in excellent repair, and have had some very interesting new conveniences installed by design of that new architect whom I had mentioned."
"Indeed! Modern conveniences? I am sure that they cannot be superior to my own hot-houses," said the General smugly. "Is your uncle fond of the gardens?"
"He spends less time in them than he used to, Sir, but he seems fond of them."
"Huh," the General allowed grudgingly. He turned his eye about the room, and glanced over his Rumford fireplace and the fine china on its mantle, and finally caught his fine windows with his eye, and asked his guest about his opinion of them. At last, the family rose from the chairs in which they had been sitting, and on gazing at the clock, the General decided that he had time for one more question before leaving to change for supper at his accustomed time.
"I had forgotten, Mr. Landes, to ask this, How is your uncle?"
Richard Landes turned a little pale for a few seconds, but answered smoothly,
"I do not know, sir, I have not seen him for a little time now."
"Not seen him? The man's heir not seen him recently? An old man like your uncle surely would like to keep his sights on you!"
"My uncle has not seen it fit to call me, Sir," answered Richard Landes, but despite his ease in voice, the General knew that he had found a point on which his guest was uncomfortable. He laughed to himself as he rose, and left the room. He was having a splendid time indeed. He quite liked this young man, who was heir to his uncle the viscount after the death of his father not a year ago. He would do very well for Eleanor, the General decided. All he had to do was make them fall in love with one another. How hard could this be?
Richard Landes was quite oblivious to the fact that General Tilney was deciding his future. Indeed, he was quickly changing, in preparation for his supper. He had been at Northanger Abbey for only two days, and already understood the General's desire for punctuality. He gazed about his room while Captain Tilney's man servant was brushing off his dinner jacket. There was a large chest with a silver key hole in one corner, rather uninteresting in appearance, and less in contents. (He had already found a white counterpane in it, and other pieces of linen bedding). There was an interesting small cabinet of Japanese style in black and gold, and some rather billowy curtains, but apart from that there was nothing at all very interesting about the rooms. In this particular room the windows were not of gothic design, and the room in general seemed very much like any other room in any other English home.
When he was dressed he ventured out into the corridor, and thought a minute before choosing a direction, and hoping that it would take him the the fine dining room. Henry resided in a different corridor, and it seemed that Frederick, punctual military man that he was, had already left for his meal. Richard idly wondered whether Eleanor, the pretty young sister, was about, to show him the way again.
However, it seemed that she had also left for the meal. At last, when Richard had turned into a strange hallway, lined with somewhat familiar portraits (for what old English family does not have it's share of ancestral portraits, which look similar to one another, and every other family's ancestral portraits?), Henry Tilney, with his everlasting smile appeared, and helped him to find his way.
Eleanor was relieved when her brother showed Mr. Landes into the dining room. She feared her father's anger over any guest, and gave Mr. Landes a smile of relief when he appeared, and her father did not chastise him. A servant pulled out a chair for the guest, and he sat, thankfully. He smiled and nodded to Eleanor, on seeing that the General had seated him beside her.
From the foot of the table, Eleanor smiled at her father, and then at each of her brothers and their guest. Conversation was light and merry.
As the meal progressed, Eleanor found that her father was drawing her two brothers into a more personal conversation, leaving her to speak to Mr. Landes. She wiped her mouth daintily, and asked the guest, "Mr. Landes, have you visited this part of Gloustershire before?"
The guest smiled at her address, and turned to face her completely.
"Indeed, I have not. You must show me around some of the principle spots among your locality."
"Your father has been telling me that your park here has excellent hot-houses," he began with a sparkle in his eye. "Some so grand that they are very superior. I must see them."
Eleanor liked Mr. Landes's teasing, and replied, "I must show you them. Then, of course, my brothers shall take you riding through the park. We have very fine paths."
"Excellent!" remarked Richard Landes, nearly laughing. And then he asked, "Do you ride, Miss Tilney?"
"I do," replied the young woman.
"Then you must certainly come with your brothers and myself when we ride out."
"Why?" asked Eleanor, a bit confused. Her brothers rarely asked her to join them riding.
Mr. Landes, seeing that subtlety was lost upon his pretty companion, said instead,
"You live here more than your brothers do. Surely you know the park better than they?"
Eleanor flushed a little, and replied, "You flatter me, Mr. Landes."
"Then you deserve to be flattered," said Mr. Landes gallantly. "So, shall you show me about the fine sights?"
"If you desire it," answered Eleanor meekly.
From the other end of the table, the General suddenly called out to Eleanor,
"What plans are you making there?"
Eleanor flushed at her father's voice, and Richard Landes felt very sorry for the girl. He, himself, was rather afraid of General Tilney, but it was clear that his daughter also felt this way. For the first time since he had offered to dance with her in London, he felt an interest in this young and elegant creature. Someone would have to protect her from her father.
He brought his thoughts back to the table as he heard Eleanor respond,
"Father, Mr. Landes wishes to see your hot houses."
The General's face broke into a smile. "You must show him, them, Eleanor. You have some very interesting plants there, which he will undoubtedly be interested in."
"Yes, father," the girl responded.
Frederick turned to Henry and said, "It might be a good day to ride out as well, tomorrow. The sky is beautiful to-night. Not a cloud in sight."
The General seemed to think a minute.
"It could not hurt to show Mr. Landes about the park, just remember that we are bidden to the Weber's tomorrow evening for dinner and dancing."
Frederick bowed. "I remember. But a ride cannot hurt for the afternoon."
"Not at all," agreed the General.
"Then I shall look forward to the morrow greatly," said Mr. Landes.Chapter Three
The next day dawned bright, with a clear sky and a fair share of singing birds. Eleanor made her way down to the breakfast room, and helped herself to some bread and preserves while her father frowned at his newspaper. Soon the young men joined them, dressed in preparation for their ride. Henry, a wonderful morning person, smiled at his sister, and reminded her of her promise to ride with them. Eleanor smiled.
"I had not forgotten, Henry, I was merely waiting to see if you had."
Richard Landes grinned. "Henry, forget? I shouldn't think so. He was up very early and walking under my window before I had opened my eyes. How does he manage to get up so early?"
Frederick, quite the opposite of his brother, groaned into his tea. He had not waken up yet, and was scarcely in a mood to ride in the cool morning air. However, by the time the meal was done, he had perked up, and was eager to use a new saddle he had ordered while he was in London. The men then walked outside towards the stables, to look over the horses, while Eleanor changed into her riding habit.
It was attractively cut, in dark blue wool, lined with silk. She turned, and left her room, running into her father on her way out.
"Eleanor, you look very pretty, my dear. Mr. Landes will be pleased."
Eleanor, blushing at her father's forward comments, could not speak.
"You must know that he is the heir to the title of viscount of Langley park, an extensive estate. He is well worth your while, my dear."
Eleanor was spared the trouble of answering her father by Henry coming in search of her.
"There you are, Eleanor! I had given up on you. Richard has chosen to rise Ceasil, so I am to ride Pepperdine. They have all been saddled, and we are waiting for you."
"I am coming," said Eleanor, still flustered, she curtsied to her father, and ran off towards the stable after her brother.
They arrived at the stable to find Frederick already mounted. He was sitting impatiently, and brightened on seeing Eleanor.
"There you are. Now, let us ride before anything else prevents us."
Eleanor went to the mounting block, and raised herself into the side saddle. She gathered the reins in her hands, and steering the horse away from the attending groom, and towards Henry, asked,
"Why is Frederick in such a foul mood? And what does he mean by 'anything else'?"
"He received a letter this morning, sent down to the stables while you were changing. He is being ordered back to his regiment at the end of the week."
"Oh! I'm sorry, Fred. Let's go enjoy this ride."
Frederick smiled at his kind younger sister, and gallantly let her pass him. He followed after her, as they began to ride down the path from the stable into a little piece of wilderness. Richard Landes, following close behind, soon made his way up to Eleanor, and made an attempt to speak to her. Eleanor, blushing at his presence, after her father's crude comments, could scarcely manage to point out the advantages of the view to which he had been referring. Richard noticed the blush, and smiled a little. Eleanor Tilney must not have met many charming young men if she was falling for a sorry thing like himself. He hadn't told anyone yet, not even Frederick or Henry, but his uncle was angry with him, and if things didn't blow over, Richard might end up disinherited.
Eleanor, thinking about her father's words, and Richard sighing over his likely fate, soon ended up a little behind the others. On realizing this, they sped up their horses to a canters, and laughed a little as they saw Henry urging his horse into a gallop ahead of them.
"Your brothers seem determined to lose us," said Richard, laughing. "Tell me, have I developed horns or fangs in the night?"
He turned his face towards Eleanor, who, seeing the handsome face smiling at her in a friendly manner, could not help but admire it, and found herself saying,
"No horns, no fangs. I think they must be tired of a sister and a guest, and have left us to find our own way."
"Never mind. I am sure that you know the park well."
"I do, sir. And if my brothers do not come into view soon, I fear I shall end up showing you the way home again. I do not understand what has come over them."
Do you not? thought Richard. He smiled at the thought. He was sure that Henry was encouraging him with his younger sister. Richard did not mind, either. Eleanor Tilney was a handsome young woman, pleasant, sweet, and an heiress. If things did not work out with his uncle, he could imagine himself very happy with a sweet young wife with a little money for them to live on.
At this moment, whether Richard realized it or not, he decided to court Eleanor Tilney. He brushed his hair back from his face, and on arriving at a point with a splendid view, but no Henry or Frederick, spoke to his pretty partner saying,
"I do not see your brothers, but I have a mind to ride down a little ways towards that far off ridge. Perhaps they are there, and in any case, the path looks lovely. Will you join me?"
Eleanor nodded, not wishing to let the guest lose himself, and steered her horse beside him, heading towards the pretty ridge.
On their way back to the house, they met up with Henry and Frederick, who had suspicious smiles on their faces. When asked what had become of them, Henry replied with a silly grin,
"We saw a fox, and thought we'd chase it a bit."
Frederick laughed heartily, and said, "It was much more of a weasel or a rabbit, if you ask me."
"Whichever," shrugged Henry. "And now we had best hurry, Father wanted us to be home in good time to prepare for the ball this evening at the Weber's."
"Yes," spoke up Richard. "The ball at the Weber's. How delightful. Miss Tilney, have a you a partner for the first dance?"
"I have not," admitted Eleanor, drawing off her neck scarf, and hanging it by the door.
"Then may I solicit your hand for that dance?"
Henry grinned foolishly, and winked at his brother, who stood solidly, and refused to be in on the joke. Henry shrugged and made his way towards his own apartment, Frederick on his heels. Eleanor and Richard went to the other wing, and found their rooms, where they proceeded to make themselves beautiful for the evening.
Eleanor sat quietly with her father in their carriage, on the way to the Weber's ball. As the carriage would not seat five comfortably, General Tilney sent the young men on ahead, keeping his daughter with him to arrive fashionably later. Eleanor was well dressed this evening, with a new gown from London, specially picked out by her brother Henry, whose taste in clothes was considered fine. She had curled her dark honey colored hair attractively, and was sitting very still in order not to cause any damage to the roses upon her shoes. Eleanor;s father had nodded at her attire, pleased that she was making an effort for their guest.
Eleanor had not dressed so beautifully for the sole purpose of pleasing their guest. While he certainly played some role in the care with which she had dressed, she was mostly looking attractive to please those who valued her society, the neighbors and such, who considered a visit from Miss Tilney a worthy occasion to bring out the best china.
Feeling very aware of the stares she was provoking as she disembarked from the carriage, the young belle returning from London, Eleanor thankfully accepted the first arm offered to her. She was somewhat surprised to see Richard Landes as she sought a glimpse of the face of her escort.
"It is I," remarked Mr. Landes. "You promised me the first dance, and I'll be called a codfish if I do not claim it. You look remarkably beautiful this evening."
"I thank you, but you flatter me. Where are my brothers?"
"Your brother Frederick is on the arm of some young women to whom I was introduced, but whose name I have forgotten. I believe it was a brunette."
"Miss Clark. Amelia Clark, an agreeable girl. She fancies my eldest brother."
"As do many in the room. Ah! I hear the music begins. Let us make our way to the dance floor, and if I may, might I claim the second dance as well? From your crowd of followers I fear I might be too late."
"You flatter me too much, sir! I shall dance with you."
"Ah. Thank you." Richard Landes gave a smile, and led the way to the dance floor.
Eleanor at this time became more aware of the delightfulness of Richard Landes. He was a caring man, a polite man, who was quite courteous to her. He was an excellent dancer, and very handsome. Eleanor knew that in addition her brothers adored him, and that her father approved. Such a combination of virtues could scarcely be found anywhere else, and Eleanor took this prompting, and began to fall in love with her dance partner.
Richard Landes was having as agreeable thoughts. He found his partner to be intelligent, fond of dancing, and excellent rider, and a good conversationalist as well as being a handsome girl. He smiled at her as they went through the set, and she returned his smile with a shy one of her own. He knew that the guests who stood about the room were tittering and gossiping about the handsome couple, but he was pleased. He was delighted with the idea of being bracketed with his partner.
With a bit of a heavy heart Richard Landes bowed to his partner at the end of the set, and found himself fetching her a glass of punch. He stood beside her as she drank it. Eleanor flushed at all the attention.
General Tilney was watching from the other side of the room. He smiled at the sight he saw, things were going well. With any luck, he might have the heir to the viscount of Langley Park proposing marriage to his only daughter quite soon. That would be a happy day indeed.Chapter Four:
Eleanor was sitting by herself the next morning in the garden, reading a novel that her brother Henry had recommended. Every now and then she would stop and remember for a moment the pressure of a hand as she went through a dance or the expression in a pair of eyes as they focused upon her. Soon, she gave up the novel entirely, and cupping her hands about her chin, stared into space, watching the crows in a beech tree a little ways off. She thought about making a sketch in crayon,s and got up to fetch her materials.
On returning to the spot complete with crayons, a shawl, paper, pens and other artistic paraphernalia, Eleanor noticed with a little dismay the absence of the black birds which she had been watching. Sighing, she sat back at her seat upon a small stone bench, and began to sketch a rough design of the view, to have birds added later. She had become absorbed in her work, and was adding quick stokes of sienna to add shadow to her sketch, when a shadow fell across the page. Looking up, she blushed to see Richard Landes and henry standing before her.
"I told you that my sister was fond of art," remarked Henry, taking up Eleanor's page, and staring at it. "Ellie, that tree is a bit off. Look at those branches. They seem to disappear, instead of connecting properly. And what's that blob by the rock?"
"There was a rabbit there for a little while," Eleanor spoke, defending her picture. "But he moved off before I could finish."
"Those elusive rabbits," remarked Richard slyly, remembering Henry and Frederick's 'rabbit' from the day before.
Eleanor smiled at Richard Landes. "Yes. And Henry, I want to add a crow to that tree, only he left when I returned with my materials."
"A handsome picture, crows or not," conceded Richard. "Your sister is very talented, Henry. She dances very well, she rides expertly, she paints and draws. What does she not do?"
Henry paused a moment to think. "I suppose that she doesn't speak Latin."
Eleanor smiled. "scio linguam, carissime frater. Henry, I can scarcely avoid the language with you in orders."
"Beaten again, Henry!" laughed Richard. "Now, Miss Tilney, what are your other pursuits?"
"I play a little," said Eleanor. "But I do love to walk outdoors. I love to walk outdoors very much. And I am fond of a good view... and flowers. I am fond of flowers."
"I have never yet met a female who was not fond of flowers," said Henry.
"Nor I," agreed Richard, "but it is an attractive quality, the love of flowers. What is your favorite?"
"Oh! The hyacinth to be sure!"
"A handsome flower. I believe Homer used it to describe hair, of all things, in The Odyssey, so bring back the subject to Greek."
"Hair?" asked Eleanor.
"Hair," said Richard Landes. "I think it referred to the curliness of hair."
"But I do grant you that hyacinths are very handsome flowers."
"Would you like to see my bulbs? They have grown very well, reared in the hot house."
"I should be delighted." Richard Landes looked at his friend. "Are you coming Henry?"
"Oh, no indeed! I have seen those bulbs many a time. But don't let my absence hinder you. I trust you with my sister, and I am sure that you could appreciate the care with which she has tended those plants."
"Then, Miss Tilney, lead on."
Eleanor took his offered arm very carefully, and walked with him towards the hot house. He was fairly quiet while walking, savoring the contact between her hand and his arm. Miss Tilney was affecting him, with her pretty manners and gentle smile. He let her lead him, gentle as a lamb, towards the hot houses, where he peered at a number of hyacinth bulbs in various stages of growth. He found one pink one, and stared at it for a moment. Yes, the sort curling petals did look a bit like hair, it was true, but the soft pink petals made him think of the lips of a young girl, like those of his companion. Those lips were parted in a smile, she was gazing at him for approval.
"They are exquisite," said Richard Landes, for lack of anything better to say. "They are beautiful. You must spend a great deal of time with them."
"I do. Mostly I am alone when at home. My brothers are usually occupied elsewhere."
"I see." It was a shame, this pretty young creature having to deal with so much solitude.
"Would you like a blossom?" asked Eleanor suddenly. "I think that you really do like my flowers. I want to give you a blossom."
"Then I shall accept." Eleanor reached over to a white flower, and plucked one of the little curling blossoms from the stalk. "Here," she said, placing it in his palm. Here." His palm closed around the flower, and he smiled at her.
"Thank you, Miss Tilney. It is very pretty." Eleanor was shy now. She smiled shyly, and ran from the hot houses. She had been too forward, and she knew it was wrong. Richard gazed after her. She had been forward, and he had admired it.
One evening found the party inside, due to heavy rains and a lack of social engagement. The General smoked and frowned over the day's paper, while Frederick fussed about, preparing for his upcoming departure from the group, back to his regiment. Henry and Richard sat upon the sofa, idling, talking of this and that, while watching Eleanor out of the corners of their eyes, arranging a bowl of hyacinths in a vase upon the piano forte. Richard smiled as he remembered those moments in the hot house when Eleanor had been so unshy. It was odd, the way that Miss Tilney was always with hyacinths. There were certainly bunches of them in more than one room in the house. They seemed to be Eleanor's favorite flower, and Richard could not think of the young women without connecting her with the pungent and delightful scent of the flowers. At the ball the night before, Eleanor had worn small pink buds in her hair, pinned along her brow in an arch. He had liked the effect very much.
Pondering on flowers and the delightful woman before him, he very willingly forgot a letter that he had received from his uncle that morning. It seemed that his uncle had not forgiven him at all for his rash statement on his uncle's companions' behavior. His anger that night had been more due to the announcement of the engagement of a rather lovely young woman to a rival of his than to the vulgarities of a bunch of stodgy old men with horrible manners. He had spoken rather rudely in their presence, an his uncle had not forgiven him at all, especially as the day before he (the uncle) had been publicly humiliated when a friend of his ignored him after having to listen to the heir's rude comments. No, Richard would not be welcomed at Langley any time soon. It was far better to stay at Northanger where things were pleasant.
The General now stirred from his paper, and laid it aside. He called out to Henry to bring them all drinks from a table across the room, and the dutiful son rose to prepare the drinks in the way his father liked them. The General then turned to his daughter, who was admiring the effect of the blue hyacinths against the dark polished wood of the piano, and said,
"Eleanor, will you please us and play us a song? I have rather a mind for some Mozart."
Eleanor, the dutiful daughter, sat at the bench, and pulling out the music, opened it, and lay her hands ready to play. The General smiled.
"Ah. Lovely. Sonata 11 in A major? One of my favorites. But rather fast paced. Mr. Landes, you seem to be the only young person not occupied. Would you assist ,my daughter and turn the pages for her?"
Richard nodded, and pulled a chair beside Eleanor. "You don't mind, do you?" he asked her.
"Not at all," she replied with a smile, and began to play. Dadada da dadada da.... bum bum bum bum bum. Her playing was rather sweet, and the chords strong. Frederick came into the room, bearing a stack of books and a hat, and nodded approvingly. "I always like that piece," he said. Then, picking up a his glass of wine and a walking stick, he wandered out of the room again. The General smiled at the pair at the piano. Things were going so very well.
The family rose to retire for the evening, leaving the servants to take care of the lamps and the discarded glasses. The General walked with his younger son, discussing the affairs of Woodston, Henry's parish. Frederick was no where to be found, so Richard walked with Eleanor to their wing of the house.
"Miss Tilney, I must tell you that I admired your performance greatly."
"I thank you," Eleanor managed. "Your page turning was a great assistance."
"You flatter me. I turned too many pages more often than not, and made a nuisance of myself, know I did."
"I... don't... didn't find you a nuisance." Eleanor faltered as Richard stopped walking.
"That is delightful of you to tell me so, Miss Tilney. Thank you." Eleanor blushed, but in the dim hallway, Richard did not see. They walked in silence for a way, and then, on reaching Eleanor's door, Richard dropped her arm, but held her hand for an instant.
"My dear Miss Tilney, I hope you have excellent dreams."
She met his eyes, and smiled. Then he was gone.
Oh, I'll have pretty lovely dreams, I thank. thought Eleanor. She smiled in the direction of Richard Landes's room. Despite everything... her father's pushing, her brothers' preferences, Eleanor realized that she was falling in love with the Abbey's guest.Chapter Five
Richard Landes woke in an excellent mood. He hadn't worried about his uncle yet this morning, and was to see the lovely Miss Tilney at breakfast. Smiling and glowing, he made his way down to breakfast, in such good time that he was the first one there. He found that the post had already arrived, and noticed with a bit of surprise that there was one from Langley. Perhaps his uncle had forgiven him. Even more optimistic, he sat down, and waited for the arrival of the Tilney's to table.
During breakfast, they discussed their plans for the day. Frederick was due to leave in two days, and had a strong desire to see a neighbor's newest litter of foxhounds, and proposed a walk. Everyone agreed, and as soon as the meal was done, everyone fetched wraps, sticks and hats, and began to walk. The General was the only one absent from the party, and they were all a merry group, as the young can be after a late night and a good breakfast. Henry and Frederick managed to lose Eleanor and Richard again, in a manner that was becoming very obvious. But so was the fact that both Richard and Eleanor had a preference for the company of the other. Richard tucked his unread letter into his pocket, and decided to ignore it until the walk was through. He offered an arm to Miss Tilney, and helped her over a stile. She smiled at him a little shyly, and thanked him or his assistance.
"Anything you wish, Miss Tilney," said Richard, gallantly, but also seriously. Eleanor, an observant woman, aught the two tones.
"You mean, that, don't you?" she asked, half serious, half playfully.
"Anything I wish at all?"
"Would you climb over that wretched piece of fallen wall and fetch the hyacinth there?"
"If you wished it."
"I do." Eleanor watched as Richard climbed and fetched the rather sorry looking flower, only half bloomed. He bowed, and handed it to her.
"It is yours, my lady."
"Your lady." It was not said with any mockery, any derision or curiosity. It was just a statement. Richard knew that she felt similarly to himself, and caught her hands up in his, between the two of them they held that sorry excuse for a flower, staring at it. He spoke, after a little, confiding to Eleanor Tilney what he had told no one. What had happened between his uncle and himself.
"Miss Tilney, I have to tell you, I know that you will honor my secret, and not share it indiscreetly. My uncle and I are not on the best terms. I don't even know if he will accept me back when I try to return to Langley. Your father thinks that I have position and wealth, but I have neither. Only friends. I make only enough money to sustain me as myself, alone, without excess grandeur. I have nothing to offer, but want to offer so much."
Eleanor, rather embarrassed looking, but gentle, sweet and loving, gazed at him, and blinked. Richard wasn't a wealthy man? She hadn't thought him very wealthy, but he was well connected.Did wealth matter to her? It didn't, she realized. her father had quite enough money to give her a fair share of her inheritance any time she wished. Did it matter that Richard might not get along with his guardian, his uncle? If it didn't affect who he was as a person, she didn't mind. He was a handsome man, a kind man, and a truthful and brave man. She placed the hyacinth into Richard's hands.
"I have much to give you." A little gust of wind blew, and Richard's letter from his uncle flapped about.
"What's that?" asked Eleanor, reaching his jacket, and touching the letter. The contact with Eleanor was distracting, but he answered her question.
"A letter. From my uncle. I received it this morning."
"Hadn't you best read it, and learn what news you might?" she asked gently. He sighed. She was right. He sat down upon a log, and she sat beside him. He opened the letter, and read it. Eleanor waited for him to tell her the content. He blanched a little as he read,
Your recent unforgivable behavior has been detrimental enough that one of the investors in my new trading ventures, who was present in the company whom your spoke to so rudely about their characters, actions and morals, has decided to withdraw from the venture, and refuses to reconsider or reassociate himself with a venture that you were to have charge in. Therefore, to redeem the money that I have sunk into the venture, and to retain the friendship of my comrades, I am forced to take measures with you. You will no longer have any charge in the trading venture, nor any share in the profits. You are to refrain from coming back to Langley until I have decided otherwise, and you are not, above all, to try to apologize to my friend, the good Mr. Bowes, whom you insulted. He has no desire to ever see you again, and if you enter his sight, he might be very angry. Therefore, nephew, I suggest that for a twelvemonth at least, you take a leave of absence from your family duties, and learn to take care of yourself, and what a good name means. When you have proved yourself worthy to be the master of Langley, I shall invite you back, but not until then. I believe that your mother's people may assist you in finding a suitable trade, and I trust you will apply yourself. I will not assist you until you have proved that you appreciate your former position in life. Your Uncle, Matthew Landes.
Your recent unforgivable behavior has been detrimental enough that one of the investors in my new trading ventures, who was present in the company whom your spoke to so rudely about their characters, actions and morals, has decided to withdraw from the venture, and refuses to reconsider or reassociate himself with a venture that you were to have charge in. Therefore, to redeem the money that I have sunk into the venture, and to retain the friendship of my comrades, I am forced to take measures with you.
You will no longer have any charge in the trading venture, nor any share in the profits. You are to refrain from coming back to Langley until I have decided otherwise, and you are not, above all, to try to apologize to my friend, the good Mr. Bowes, whom you insulted. He has no desire to ever see you again, and if you enter his sight, he might be very angry. Therefore, nephew, I suggest that for a twelvemonth at least, you take a leave of absence from your family duties, and learn to take care of yourself, and what a good name means. When you have proved yourself worthy to be the master of Langley, I shall invite you back, but not until then. I believe that your mother's people may assist you in finding a suitable trade, and I trust you will apply yourself. I will not assist you until you have proved that you appreciate your former position in life.
"Good God! I am as well as ruined! I have been dependent upon the charity of my uncle for some eight or nine years now, and he has disowned me until I can take care of myself! Miss Tilney, I was an utter fool to think that I could be your equal, having been reared on charity since I was an adolescent. My pride is gone!"
Eleanor, thinking levelly and calmly, remarked,
"Mr. Landes, this is very distressing news, but you mustn't be so distressed. As you are the only heir to the land, he will have to forgive you at some point, and I do not see that being in trade is a bad thing. Both of my brothers and my father are employed, although we have wealth. Be not distressed!"
Richard Landes looked at the calm, logical and sweet female who was touching his hand, imploring him to calm himself. He calmed himself, such a plea could not be ignored.
"I will calm myself. You are right, Miss Tilney. I must go. I cannot stay with you, it would not be right. I must return to the house to write my mother's brothers, and ask for their assistance. Good day, Miss Tilney." With a last pained glance, he ran from the grove, leaving Eleanor alone, and rather upset. Richard Landes had nearly proposed to her, but on reading the letter had refused to even sit with her. Upset, confused and not a little angry, she walked back to the house alone.
General Tilney smiled at the maid who deposited his most recent paper with a terrified bob. Holding a brandy glass between strong fingers, he leant back in his chair, and opened it up to the society page. He was in the mood for a scandal or two before the young people return from their walk. Tracing his finger down the page, he clucked his tongue at the escapades of the fashionable elite in London. Frivolous. He fund a promising heading marked 'Investor Refuses to Support Venture on Account of Insult', and read on, lifting his glass to his lips. One Hubert Bowes was threatening to withdraw his substantial investments in a shipping venture into the Netherlands, which was to have been managed by the nephew of his friend, the viscount of Langley Park, Devonshire. The General choked. Could this mean Richard Landes, the guest he ha under his own roof, and who was courting his only daughter? He read on, attention drawn to the fine black and white print.
'This young man, Richard Landes, son of the late Sir Richard Redding Landes, came home rather drunk one evening on which the viscount was hosting a party, and burst into the room, and insulted each of the guests present, including Mr. Bowes. Mr. Bowes states that he will not place any money under the control of 'an uncouth, drunken and irresponsible man', meaning Richard Landes. It has been reported to general notice that the viscount has removed his nephew from control in the venture, and will refuse to accept the young man into his house until a lesson has been learned. Young Richard Landes, a well liked member of London society, will be missed, and it is to be hoped that he will learn to be more responsible.'
The article ended there very unsatisfactorily.The General squeezed his brandy glass in a large fist, shattering it upon the floor. He summoned the unfortunate maid who had to clean it up, and her master ran from the room, towards the path to his neighbor's.
It was fortunate that both Eleanor Tilney and Richard Landes took different routes back to the house. The General was in a rage, and as he tore towards the walk on which he expected to find his daughter and his guest, he missed them as they ran towards the house.
Richard was quite angry with himself. He had never meant to cause the damage that he had caused, and was indeed feeling very sorry for himself. On the other hand, he had brought this upon himself, and to make matters worse, he had nearly proposed to the lovely Miss Tilney. Now he could never approach her, his station was decreased, and his name diminished. If she hadn't made him read the letter, he would have found himself tied in an oath that he wouldn't be able to keep. He could never support a handsome young woman like Miss Tilney now. He had to write his uncles, and seek their assistance. Perhaps in a year or two he might become responsible enough for his uncle, and manage to work off the shame which he had caused himself. Then, then, he might approach a handsome young woman and ask her hand in marriage, but not now. Not now.
Eleanor Tilney was also upset. She had revealed too much of her feelings to Richard Landes that moment in the grove, and he had nearly proposed to her! She would have accepted, she was fond of him, short thought the acquaintance was. And her father had approved of it. Everything would have been perfect. And in addition she would be away from her father, who was too often oppressive in attitude. But now everything was dark. She reached the house, and found that Richard's door was firmly shut, the sound of a quill scratching hurriedly was the only sound. Sighing, she went into her own room, and sat on the bed, a hyacinth in her hand. A hyacinth that hadn't been much to look at before, and now was a wilting mess. She began to weep very softly for a few seconds, before perking up again. She heard footsteps in the hallway. Was it Richard Landes? She heard an angry knock on the door near her own. No, it was someone wanting to speak to Richard. She crept towards her own door, and put her ear to the lock. She could hear a little of a conversation that had already begun. Her father. How did he know about everything?
"Landes, I took you into my home in good faith. That you were everything that you made yourself out to be to my sons. I see that I was deceived. The newspaper reports you as being 'an uncouth, drunken and irresponsible man'. What have you to say for yourself?"
"Those were indeed words that were hurled at me from one angry friend of my uncle's. I was indeed drunken, but hardly any of those other words, unless 'upset' is one of them. I was upset, and I wasn't thinking. But I accept what I have done to myself. I plan to support myself."
"You expect people to trust you after this scandal?"
"Yes. Not everyone believes the word of Mr. Bowes."
"Are you calling this paper a liar?" Eleanor heard the sounds of a paper rustling, and being shoved, probably into Richard's face.
"I am not."
"Then you are 'an uncouth, drunken and irresponsible man'!"
"In Mr. Bowes's opinion."
There was no comment from Richard, though Eleanor strove to hear one. No one had talked back to her father in so long that Richard seemed to her the most brave of men. She wished she could tell him that she supported him. Anything she did, he father disapproved. Anyone she loved, as well.
"Landes, I want you out of my house by noon tomorrow. Give me that letter to your uncles. I will post it. The sooner it is sent, the sooner you will be away from my family. I have no wish for drunken and uncouth sons. I have no wish to expose my daughter to a man like you!"
The General had touched a nerve. Richard Landes, who admired Eleanor Tilney very much, and who had thought her as incorruptible, had be been corrupt, was angry. How dare the General suggest that an angel like his daughter could be influenced towards anything bad?
"Sir, I will leave your house. And gladly. I have no desire whatsoever to be in the same building as a man who so underestimates his own children. They have been so constrained, and I believe that it is you that makes them so. Your sons would like to be merry about town, having lives as normal young men do. Going to balls, meeting people, advancing their selves, making friends. You are only concerned that they look honorable. That they do credit to yourself.
"As for your daughter, you are wrong about her as well. She is a fine and sensible young woman, whom I think very highly of. Nothing could hurt her, except a betrayal of trust. Such as her father's. You have been no friend to your daughter."
"That is quite enough," said the General sharply. No one could interfere with the way he was bringing up his daughter. Had Eleanor been able to see his face, she would have seen her father's eyes blazing. "You have until tonight, Landes. I will not have you in my house for another full night. Pack your things. I think that it is time that you left."
The General stomped from the room, slamming to door. Eleanor, proud of Richard's rebellion, touched by the words in her praise, and angry at her father for his limited feelings, sat on the floor, on the other side of her door. She understood that Richard was being driven away.Chapter Six:
Henry, Frederick and Eleanor were silent and grave as they saw the post carriage approach. Richard Landes showed no expression on his face, and had not, even when he tried to explain what had happened to the Tilney children. Frederick was angry that his friend was being sent away, and indignant that anyone had called a companion of his 'uncouth'. He had no problem with the 'drunken' part, though, he had often been called that himself.
Henry could not believe what he had heard. He was very anxious for Eleanor, after all of the efforts to which the family had gone to to make her like Richard's character. Eleanor must be feeling deceived right now. Henry hoped fervently that his sister did not actually believe that Richard was such an awful person. No one Henry knew could behave in the way the paper said that Richard did.
As for Eleanor, her feelings are generally already well known. She had begun to have feelings for Richard Landes, and was upset that he had to leave, especially after the words that he and her father had exchanged. Things would not be pleasant at Northanger for a while. Perhaps they could travel. There were too many painful memories here now. Painful because they could never happen again.
Richard stood by the open door, watching his three friends. Their father was not in the room, making sure that Richard had left nothing. If he hadn't left anything, there could be no reason for the man to return. Richard remembered how only a little while ago, he had been packing, making sure that he packed everything.
He now stood by the door, and shook hands with Frederick and Henry. They all were silent, and Richard came to face Eleanor. Both blushed a little, still being very perturbed by the recent events, and Frederick and Henry moved a little off, as to give Eleanor a chance to speak to Richard Landes, so that she might know that there was nothing wrong with his character, and that it was only chance that had given him a bad turn.
"We must part, Miss Tilney," said Richard with a small smile. Very small.
"Not to meet again, I understand," said Eleanor levelly.
"I don't know about that. I get around."
"I wish I did. Northanger can be very isolated."
"I'm sorry, Miss Tilney. I am. Sorry that things couldn't have been nicer foe us. You've been a wonderful hostess. I am sorry to leave."
"I'm sorry that you must leave. I wish that I could beg you to stay, but my father will not hear of it."
"Miss Tilney, I understand. Your father is scarcely a man to be meddled with. No, I would not seek to stay. All I ask of you, and reprove me if it is too much, is that you let me write you occasionally, if we do not meet. Your brothers will know where I am."
"It is not too much to ask, Mr. Landes. It is very little to ask. I would very much like to keep in touch." Another blush upon the cheeks of our heroine. She was always very shocked about herself when she was forward. "I had thought to give you a gift... nothing much, really. Just this little bulb from my garden. You seemed to like my hyacinths. This will be one. If you give it to a cousin, aunt, maid, someone will know how to care for it and to make it bloom for you."
Richard smiled. "Thank you, it is a lovely gift." He then tried to find some place to put the bulb, wrapped in a pretty primrose colored handkerchief. His trunk was packed, and he was sure that General Tilney would not approve of the gift from his daughter. He found a pocket large enough for the gist, and removed it's contents. a handkerchief, several coins, the dried bud that Eleanor had given him in the hot house, and a small pebble were shifted into other pockets. He removed a small wad of papers from the almost empty pocket, and fitted the bulb into the pocket. He stared at the papers for a minute, before the General came in. Eleanor drifted discreetly away to the other side of the room, and Richard faced the general with a small wad of paper... a series of cleaning bills, in his hand.
"Are you almost ready?" barked the General.
"Go check your room one last time. I don't want to have to send anything after you."
Richard ascended the stairs, and made his way to the room, which the maid had already been through. He looked in a chest, and in the Japanese cabinet. Finding nothing of his own, he had one last thought. He grabbed up a quill and ink from the tidied desk, and wrote four words on the back of the washing bills. Miss Tilney, Remember me. Frivolous though it was, he folded the washing bills, and shoved them into a back recess of the Japanese cabinet. If Eleanor Tilney cared enough to search through his former room, she'd find that he cared as much. But he couldn't approach her now. It was best to hope for luck, and to leave quickly. He tossed the quill back onto the desk, and hurried back down the stairs, to where the four Tilneys waited.
"I could find nothing, General, sir. And now I bid you and your family farewell." He bowed at the family, and with one last glimpse back towards his friends, he went quickly from the room, and climbed into the carriage. Soon, too soon for three of the four onlookers, he was gone. The General smiled, and went to help himself to a drink, and to congratulate himself on getting rid of a bad influence to his children, never minding that they were all upset. Shutting the door, and finding a guide to seaside resorts, he pondered a list. Travel appealed to him just now. Perhaps in a few months they might go to Bath or some place like that. Yes, Bath sounded excellent. He thought that a season in Bath would be just the thing to get Eleanor into new company, and henry as well. Frederick would be with his regiment, but perhaps he cold take time off to visit them. The General happily settled down to write friends of his in Bath to inform them that he would be planning to visit the city in a few months.
Frederick marched out of the room once his father had left. Angry at his father for cutting short the pleasantness of the end of his leave of absence, he went to his room to pout, and ended up reading novels to a late hour with the assistance of several pints of brandy.
Henry and Eleanor remained in the room themselves. The light was fading a little now, darkness settling on the land as well as the hearts of brother and sister. After a few minutes, Henry patted his sister on the arm, and said,
"Don't think ill of him, Eleanor," he said.
"I don't, I assure you," said Eleanor. "I just wish that I could get away right now. Northanger is too silent. Too stifling. I wish we could leave. There has been no freedom here since Mother died."
"Father isn't used to having to raise us. He wants to help us to marry well and to succeed. If Mother were here, things might have been better, but I don't know. Father is strict, but I'm sure he thinks he's acting for the best."
"The best for him," said Eleanor bitterly. "I was feeling more free here at Northanger with our guest than I had felt at this house in so long. If I could stay a while in London, or something, perhaps things would be better. I get lonely."
"Why don't you call on Miss Clark, or Miss Weber, or some other young lady in the area?"
"It's not the same. We don't really have a great deal in common. And Miss Weber is so shy! She won't even speak with her family! Miss Clark is very nice, but she talks unceasingly."
"And you speak the perfect amount, sister?" asked Henry with a smile.
"I didn't say that. But I have a hard time listening to Miss Clark. Except when she raves about Fred. I like to hear good things about my brothers."
"I am glad! Sister, you have been very brave, and as long as you'll remember our guest favorably, I shan't try to make you feel anything. I think you could use with a good night of sleep. Tomorrow go get some fresh air, walk in the shrubbery. I'll have to go back to Woodston on Saturday, but you will survive. Eleanor, you are a good sister. Sleep well. Good night." Henry embraced his sister in a brotherly hug, and smiled at her as she made her way up the stairs towards a wing of the house where she would be alone this evening. Henry sighed. Things hadn't gone well. His sister was clearly upset. Maybe a change of situation would help. He would talk to his father. In a few months he could probably get away from Woodston. They could get away from the crumbling abbey and the rebuilt house that only seemed to hold disappointment. His sister had disappeared up the hall. He hoped she's sleep well.
Eleanor reached the hall on which her room and Richard's room had doors. She paused beside Richard's room, knowing that he had left nothing behind but memories. She opened the door, and entered, walking softly. Finding a candle, she lit it, and looked about in the fading light. The bed was made again, the desk tidied, save a quill, with slightly sticky ink on it, tossed carelessly on it. The chests were closed and dusted, and curtains shut, and room swept. Every trace of Richard Landes was gone. Except for a quill left carelessly on the desk. Eleanor lifted the pen, and put it away in the desk. She made to leave the room, but saw the Japanese cabinet. She had never particularly liked the piece of furniture, but glanced inside, and found the pile of washing bills, the top one with three words scrawled on it. She separated that piece from the rest of the bills, and shoved them back in the cabinet.
Returning to her own room at last, she set down the candle on a small table, and spread the scrap of paper out under it. The view outside her window was dark and empty. She couldn't see any spot of brightness on her horizon, but would be strong. There would be others for her to love. She would be happy again.
She drew closed the curtain, and sat on her bed. She would be happy again, to be sure, but would she love again? Probably not. Richard had asked her to wait. And she would wait. There was nothing at Northanger to distract her. She would love wholeheartedly the first man who had claimed her heart, and go about her business, learning to be a dutiful daughter, a good friend, devoted reader and excellent walker. She blew out the candle, and took the scrap of paper in her hand. It might be too dark to read it, but she knew what it said. Four words,
Miss Tilney, Remember me
(End of Part One)Part Two: Bath
Eleanor nodded with approval at the house in Milsom Street. Sending Henry ahead of the party to engage it had been a good idea. It seemed that the activity had done something to improve Henry's waning spirits, for he had come back to Northanger from his initial trip in great cheer, as well as bearing lovely reports on the house he had engaged, and the society he had seen. Eleanor, who had not quite recovered from Mr. Richard Landes having been expelled from her home, was optimistic that the increase in society and the variety in entertainment should do her good. She was eager to see the old Roman baths, to go to balls where no one knew her, to be in a house entirely unconnected with the thought of Richard Landes. Northanger did not provide enough young men to chase his thought from her mind.
The General approved of the house as well, it was plain to see. He smiled, and went about the rooms, admiring the molding, the fireplaces, the windows He was delighted with the furnishings, though declaring them less superior to his own at Northanger. Henry smiled. He had done something his father was pleased with at last. He went to oversee the movement of their trunks into the house while father and daughter were left alone in the pleasant drawing room.
"It is a pleasant house, is it not, Eleanor?"
"Very pleasant. Henry's trip appears to have been productive."
"Yes, it does. I am glad that we have taken this vacation. I expect both of you to return home in excellent spirits. Did I mention to you that I had received a letter from Frederick? He thinks that he might be able to join us. Wouldn't that be pleasant?"
"Very." The last time she had seen Frederick, it had been when he told her that Richard had gone into trade with his uncles. Frederick was mostly keeping to himself and his regiment, but would like Bath, Eleanor was sure. Frederick lived for society and gaiety, things of limited supply at home.
Henry came back to them, bearing some post. The General arched an eyebrow, wondering who could be writing them here already, and took the letters from his son. He read over the envelopes, discerning who had sent each. He handed a letter to Henry, from his bishop, and tossed aside some invitations, taking up his letters of business to his new study, leaving the brother and sister alone.
"Well, Eleanor, we are here. It is a lovely place, I will vouch for it. I had some acquaintance here as well. A lovely couple by the name of Allen, and their companion, a Miss Morland. I found them very agreeable. I should not wish you, my sister, to be alone in Bath. I shall introduce you to Miss Morland when we next meet, you might like her."
"And what is she like?" Eleanor smiled at her brother. "You seem rather taken with her. Shall I be told her fair description?"
"Have mercy upon me! You are more bothersome than my bishop. Here he goes, writing me about some plans of his he would like to acquaint me with, all the time alarming me that the letter contained some dreadful and urgent news."
"You steer from the topic."
"I am sorry. Miss Morland is a lovely little creature, rather young and very impressionable. Dark haired, and pleasant. We met in the Lower Rooms when I was here searching for a house. Mrs. Allen was very surprised at my knowing about muslins. I told her about the Indian muslin I purchased for you at such a good price."
Eleanor laughed. "That is not how you ought to end your description of Miss Morland! Here I was, fancying you in love with her,a nd you end by speaking of Mrs. Allen! It is too precious."
"Ah, sister, even I cannot help boasting of my various talents. And you shall meet them both, the lovely Miss Morland, and the charming Mrs. Allen. And, if you are very lucky indeed, I shall introduce you to Mr. Allen," he said with mock solemnity.
Eleanor smiled, and would have laughed again, if her father had not entered the room.
"What ever is there to do in this cursed town?" he asked. "I have been here over half an hour, and you have suggested no entertainment, Henry."
"Why not the Upper rooms?" asked Henry with a smile to Eleanor.
The next evening, the Tilneys found themselves in the Upper Rooms. The General wandered away to the card tables, trusting that his daughter would be well looked after by his son. Eleanor took her brother's arm, and entered the room, gazing around at the many faces there. She smiled. She did not know anyone that she could see. It was pleasant to be anonymous. She was pulled suddenly to the side as her brother began moving quickly towards two women and a pretty brown haired girl whom she took to be Miss Morland. her brother smiled on seeing the women, and turned to his sister, stopping.
"Here is the Miss Morland I told you of. And Mrs. Allen is the matron with that remarkable headdress. I am not acquainted with their friend, but shall shortly be. Now, sister, be well behaved or I shall have to leave you all on your own."
"You think that I would mind? I am delighted by the throng that fills this room. It is very pleasant. Now, Miss Morland is gazing at you, do turn and greet her."
Henry began to approach the three women when a slightly wide woman with a pink feather upon her head slid into their path, and stood talking to the woman Henry was not acquainted with. Miss Morland seemed to sigh a little, and turn to listen half-heartely. Eleanor immediately took Henry's hand, and said,
"For goodness sake, if you want to acknowledge her at all this evening, it might as well be now. She's gone depressed again."
Henry dutifully caught her eye and smiled. Pretty young Miss Morland returned the smile, and Henry drew his sister along towards her and Mrs. Allen. Eleanor whispered to her brother who was pulling her in a wretched manner,
"For someone who cares so much about muslins, you might pause and let me remove my hem from under my shoe." The next second, she was curtsying to Miss Morland and Mrs. Allen, as well as the strange woman and the woman with the pink feather. A small shine of recognition showed on the feather woman's face as she turned to see Eleanor. She addressed Eleanor, as Henry was accosted by Mrs. Allen.
"My dear Miss Tilney! I haven not seen you in years, how are you? Do you remember me, Mrs. Hughes? I went to school with your dear mother, and my niece, Jane, went to school with you."
"Mrs. Hughes, how nice to see you again," said Eleanor, smiling. She remembered Jane well, a pleasant girl, two years older than Eleanor, who had married a young man who planned to go into Parliament. The other woman, who was the only one of the party with whom Eleanor was acquainted, turned to Mrs. Hughes, her friend, and asked whether the two would like to sit and join the party. Mrs. Hughes smiled and introduced Eleanor to the lady.
"My dear, that would be charming. And all of you still standing! Do sit yourselves! Mrs. Thorpe, this is Miss Tilney, who went to school with my niece. Her brother is the one speaking to Mrs. Allen and Miss Morland. Let us all sit and talk. There is so much to be said."
The women all sat down, and began composing themselves for a nice through chat, while Henry still stood. He seemed the pause a minute, and then addressed Miss Morland.
"Would you care to dance Miss Morland?"
Miss Morland seemed to blanch a little, and quietly said that she had previously promised the dance, but that the gentleman was not yet here. Henry bowed, and making pleasantries to the group, went off to another party, where he thought he had seen an old friend.
Eleanor watched then, as Miss Morland was claimed by a somewhat unpleasant looking young man, whose clothes did not flatter him, and seemed in poor taste. Eleanor saw in disgust the tiny dribble of wine on his jacket, and only just managed to keep the disgust from her face as he was introduced as Mr. Thorpe, Mrs. Thorpe's son. Miss Morland took the offered hand, and with a little frown of regret, went to take her place in the dance. Eleanor watched as Henry entered the lines with an elegant young woman with rather plain features, accompanied by his old friend and his wife.
As the dance went on, Eleanor wandered up from her seat, and followed Mrs. Hughes to be introduced to some of the good woman's companions. She was introduced to Mrs. Hughes's brother, and several 'dear friends', and was polite and sweet to everyone. Mrs. Hughes suddenly turned to Eleanor and said,
"My dear! I have not introduced you to dear Miss Thorpe yet. She and Miss Morland, whom you saw so briefly earlier, are such dear friends. Where can dear Isabella be?"
Mrs. Hughes gazed about the room, and not seeing them sighed. Mrs. Hughes's brother then turned to her, and asked her something, leaving Eleanor alone for a moment. Mrs. Hughes turned back to her, and said,
"Miss Tilney, my brother wishes me to look at a woman's dress, to see if it is like one of my own. Would you mind terribly if I deposit you with the Allen's party again? Miss Thorpe is a member of that party, and you must meet her. Come now, the dance is done, and Miss Morland is free a minute. I must introduce you two properly."
Eleanor, for the umpteenth time that evening, was pushed forward, and introduced to someone else. This time it was someone she wanted to meet.
Mrs. Hughes touched Miss Morland on the shoulder as the young woman sat down, and the pretty head turned to the pair. Eleanor gazed purposely at the girl.
Miss Morland was pretty, in an innocent and harmless way. Her figure was pleasant, her eyes cheerful, her face good natured. She smiled as she beheld Miss Tilney, and on Mrs. Hughes's requested, moved to make room for Eleanor as the woman walked off on her brother's arm.
They had been introduced, but Eleanor and Miss Morland were a bit vary of each other. They each knew Henry. Miss Morland seemed to like him, and he her, so they were trying so hard to make a good impression that they ended up being silent for a trifle longer than necessary. Then, Catherine burst into a burble of polite chatter, and they calmed down considerably.
"I take it that you have not been long in Bath, Miss Tilney. Have you been here before?"
"One, when I was young. Bath is pleasant, is it not? I understand that you have been here a few weeks or so."
"Not so very long, but a little time. I find it very pleasant. The buildings are so much grander than those we have at home. I come from a town called Fullerton in Wiltshire. I understand that you are from Gloucester?"
"Yes. And the buildings here are lovely. You come from the country as well? How pleasant."
"Yes. I do like the country a great deal. You see, I have never been in a proper city before. There is Salisbury, which is eight or nine miles from us, but hardly counts. Mrs. Allen was very kind to invite me to Bath with her. I am enjoying it very much. My acquaintance is lovely. I met your brother here, he is very pleasant." Miss Morland blushed a little, then turned to another subject.
"Do you draw or sing? I do respect those who can, thought I have not the patience to draw or sing myself. Which are your and your brother's favorite composers? Do you prefer crayons or watercolors?"
They found themselves discussing various activities, few of which Miss Morland appeared to indulge in, but most which she seemed to appreciate, even if she is not very knowledgeable. Eleanor was pleased to hear that they both liked horses, and rode well, and would have liked to continue to pump Henry's Miss Morland on her interests and tastes, when Miss Morland excused herself suddenly, and promised to return soon, but she had seen her dear friend Isabella, and must catch her. The two young women stood and talked earnestly for a few minutes, accompanied by a somewhat plain man who looked rather like Miss Morland. Eleanor sighed, found Mrs. Allen, and took tea as she saw her brother lead a strange woman into the dance. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Mr. Thorpe address Miss Morland, as if offering to dance with her. Eleanor was pleased to see him shrug and walk away, Miss Morland returning to the tables, and find a seat for tea.
As Eleanor was joined by her brother after tea, she smiled slightly at his inquiry as to how she liked the assembly.
"I have truly had a number of new acquaintance. I was introduced to Mrs. and Mr. Allen, Mrs. Thorpe, her son, daughters, Miss Morland... You weren't very gallant to her after all I had expected."
"It was you, sister, who was doing the expecting. I never said anything. Did you see the man she had promised to dance with?"
"I did. But how was she to know that you were in town at all after the absence? It did not seem to me that she knew a great many partners. He was the brother of her dear friend."
"I must say that I have not seen such a man in a long time. If any man boasts and swaggers and has worse manners more than that man, I should never like to see him. Pardon me for bringing it up, Eleanor, but if someone could call Richard 'uncouth', 'drunk' and 'unforgivable', I wonder what they would make of our friend Thorpe?"
Eleanor did not laugh. Instead, she pressed her brother,
"Who was it you danced with in those two dances?"
"My friend's sister and her friend. No one in particular."
"Why didn't you ask Miss Morland again?"
"I don't know. I couldn't quite stomach that Thorpe woman. Mrs. Allen is sweet and harmless, but Mrs. Thorpe seems out to have Miss Morland court her son. I understood from my old friend that Miss Thorpe and Mr. Morland, Miss Morland's brother, are almost at an understanding. They danced three times without a change in partner."
"That means having an understanding? I did not even notice that they danced together once."
"Apparently there are some flaws in the sister and the friend's theory."
"Are they to stay long in Bath?"
"Actually, not much longer at all. About a week."
"Then your Miss Morland will have a chance again?"
"My Miss Morland? I suppose."
"Good. I liked her."Chapter Eight:
Eleanor woke the next morning, refreshed and eager to walk about Bath. Henry agreed to accompany her, and they set out the eat their breakfast together. The General was not in the breakfast room, but the post was laid out upon the table. Henry looked at his place, and found a letter from Frederick there for him, another, opened and cast aside, to his father. Eleanor poured tea for her brother and gazed expectantly as he pursued his letter.
Eventually, Henry put down the letter, with a grin, and said eagerly to Eleanor,
"This letter bears wonderful news indeed, if we can keep it from Father. Frederick has heard from Richard, and Richard intends to take his holiday when Frederick comes to Bath. Frederick says that he will be a trifle delayed, but that Richard plans to come ahead anyway. He might be here in a week! Is this not excellent news?"
To Eleanor, to whom any news of Richard might be interesting, choked on her toasted bread in a very unheroinelike way, took a sip of tea, and smiled.
"How pleasant. Might I see the letter?" she managed. It had been a while since she had seen the only man she'd ever really admired, and she wanted to gain some notion of whether he had changed at all. Henry handed her the letter from Frederick, and began to read the newspaper.
Frederick's letter was pleasant and on the whole without much information. Eleanor understood from it that Richard Landes wanted to see his friends again, that he was well, and that his spirits were a bit lacking. He could be expected in a week's time. Eleanor smiled at the news, and roused her brother form his paper.
"We are going to walk, brother," she said. "Perhaps we shall meet one of your acquaintance while walking."
Bath was a fascinating city to Eleanor. She had not been there since young, when her mother was still alive. Eleanor had heard about the more recent improvements to the city from her aunt and uncle Drummond, and was eager to see them for herself. She liked the air, the weather, the buildings. The flowers she granted to be fine in their own way, and the shops to be delightful. She stopped her brother many times to glance into windows of the shops. With the news that Richard was to come to Bath inside, she felt alive, as if she should buy fabrics to be pretty for he sake of prettiness, instead of out of habit. She knew that she was being uncommonly silly, doting completely upon one man, one whom she hadn't seen for a long time, and who was now considered to be beneath her by her father, but she could not help the affection. Richard Landes was a well educated, pleasant, handsome but impulsive man, and she was a handsome, intelligent, gentle young woman, who did not have the chances in society she deserved.
Henry pointed to a milliner's shop across the street from the book shop they had just left, and they proceeded to it. Inside, Eleanor found a new bonnet, and Henry spotted some muslin he approved of, and bought it for her. As they went to a counter to find Eleanor some ribbon, Mrs. Hughes entered the shop. She immediately smiled, and went over to them.
"Mr. Tilney, Miss Tilney! How pleasant to see you! I ran into your father talking to a lovely man and his wife whom he knew not an hour ago, and now I see you!"
Eleanor managed to be shaken from her daydreams of Richard coming to see her, and acknowledged her mother's friend. She purchased her ribbon, and the three made their way from the shop, walking in the Crescent, on their way home. They had not been there for long when they saw Mrs. Allen and Mrs. Thorpe approaching. Henry whispered to Eleanor in dismay,
"Are we to be met by every busybody matron in out acquaintance?"
Eleanor pretended to be appalled, but shot her brother a smile. She would have preferred to be just with her brother than to have the three women walk with them as well. She shifted her packages, and addressed Mrs. Allen, asking after Miss Morland.
"Oh! Catherine is quite well. She went driving with her brother, Isabella and John Thorpe today. Otherwise I am sure she would have walked with us. She is so obliging."
Two thing struck Eleanor. Firstly, Catherine was a perfectly pleasant name, and as Eleanor was sure that Henry fancied the sweet girl, she thought 'Catherine Tilney' sounded very nice indeed. Secondly, Eleanor noticed with dismay that Catherine was yet again in the company of that repulsive Mr. Thorpe. Henry had noticed it too, and had closed his eyes briefly. Eleanor recognized the movement. It was one of frustration.
"It is so lovely of Catherine to have friends here in Bath. Mr. Tilney, you will remember how it was when we first met you. We knew no one n Bath, and now we have such a comfortable acquaintance!"
"I remember how it was, indeed, Mrs. Allen. But many come to Bath like that. Now, what do you think of this muslin I bought for my sister?" He took one of Eleanor's packages, and unwrapped it, showing a corner of cloth. Mrs. Allen went into raptures about it with Mrs. Thorpe and Mrs. Hughes. Eleanor was annoyed. Why was her brother being so frustrating, making a fool of himself practically. Eleanor watched the road, and saw two gigs fly by, a couple in each. She thought that she saw Miss Morland, for a second in one of them, and blinked. Poor Henry. Miss Morland appeared to be having an enjoyable ride, at least from this distance.
The women finally left the brother and sister as they saw their father approaching. They excused themselves, and he admired their purchases. He seemed to be in an excellent mood.
"Henry! Eleanor! How pleasant. You know, one of those women there is the mother of a man I met last night. A Thorpe. Told me some interesting things. Good man at cards, though perhaps a little tasteless."
Henry seemed to be getting annoyed at all the references to the repulsive Thorpe. However much Henry might deny that he was not fond of Miss Morland, he clearly was upset that she was being handed to Thorpe. Eleanor resolved to find out what Catherine Morland's feelings for the two men were. Catherine clearly was not a fortune hunter, though she could scarcely be expected to be very wealthy, and was a pleasant girl. Henry would need an industrious, cheerful sort of wife in his parish, and Miss Morland seemed well suited for the job, if only she returned Henry's hidden preference.
The General talked then of his letter from Frederick that morning. Had Henry's letter told him that Frederick intended to come to Bath quite soon? In two weeks, perhaps? Yes? The General was delighted. Clearly Frederick's discretion had kept the fact that one Richard Landes was expected from the General. It might be interesting to see what happened when the two met again. Interesting but Eleanor was frankly afraid.
They made their way back to Milsom Street peaceably. Eleanor took up her drawing pencils, and amused herself by maintaining their points, and mending her brother's pens. The General seemed in pleasant enough spirits to idle the time speaking with his children, and after pouring himself a drink, addressed Henry.
"I must apologize to you," he began. Apologize? thought Henry He must be in an excellent mood! "I found the card tables so entertaining that I did not come to meet your acquaintance, Henry." Ah. Not a confession for being too often over domineering and nosy. Another time. Henry managed to keep a straight face, and said levelly,
"I am sorry myself, father. I shall be sure to introduce you when we next meet them."
"Is it one family, then?" asked the General.
"No, but many of them are friends with each other. You met Mrs. Thorpe and Mrs. Allen in the Crescent today, and you already knew Mrs. Hughes."
"Quite. And I met young Mr. Thorpe at the gaming tables."
"Yes. But I am scarcely acquainted with him, or his sisters, I'm afraid. When I came my principle acquaintances were Mrs. Allen and a Miss Morland."
"Miss Morland?" the General looked surprised. "Not Catherine Morland, who is staying with a Mr. Allen?"
"I do not know her Christian name, but she indeed stays with the Allens."
"I have heard of her from Mr. Thorpe. She's supposed to be the daughter of a wealthy vicar, sole heir to the fortune of the Allens. I have heard she is a very pleasant girl."
"Yes," said Henry in surprise. "She is very pleasant."
"You must introduce me to her. Has Eleanor met her?"
"Yesterday. I thought her a sweet girl. Henry?"
"Very sweet. I will introduce you. No doubt she will be at the cotillion ball on Thursday."
"I shall look forward to it." The General then gave a yawn, and went to bed, transpiring in his mind to carry through one of his matches successfully for his children.
The General's burst of interest in his son's business continued into the next morning. Henry and his father went off on a ride in the morning, leaving Eleanor to amuse herself. Mrs. Hughes called after a while, and the two women went to the Pump Room to search for excitement.
On entering, Eleanor saw Catherine Morland approach eagerly. Eleanor smiled and greeted the girl.
"Miss Tilney! How pleasant to see you this morning."
Mrs. Hughes smiled at the girls, and went to join another friend.
"Good morning, Miss Morland. It is pleasant to see you."
"I'm glad that you came. Belle spends all of her time with my brother, and I feel need of companionship. Do tell me what you have done since I last saw you."
"I went to some shops yesterday, nothing of much interest. Tell me, do you plan to attend the cotillion ball tomorrow?"
"We do. I am fond of dancing, and am looking forward to it. How well your brother dances!"
Eleanor was surprised, but more amused than anything. Relief also swept over her. Catherine Morland admired her brother, and not repulsive Mr. Thorpe.
"Henry!" Eleanor smiled. "Yes, he does dance very well."
"He must have thought it odd when I said that I was engaged the other evening, when I was sitting down. But I had been engaged to Mr. Thorpe all the day."
Eleanor bowed in acknowledgement of having heard her friend. There wasn;t anything polite that she could think of to say about Mr. Thorpe. Perhaps he improved on closer acquaintance? Eleanor feared not.
"You cannot think," said Miss Morland, "How surprised we were to see him again. I, we, had thought that he had quitted Bath."
"When Henry had the pleasure of seeing you, he was in Bath to find us lodgings. He stayed but a few days."
"That had not occurred to me, I am afraid. Did he not dance with a Miss Smith on Monday?"
"Yes. The friend of his friend's sister. An acquaintance of Mrs. Hughes."
"She must have been pleased to dance with him. Do you think her pretty?"
"Not very." Not as pretty as you, innocent and careless creature Eleanor though not unkindly.
"He never comes to the Pump Room?" Miss Morland persisted.
"Yes, sometimes. This morning he and my father have gone riding."
"I am glad that we will meet again tomorrow. We shall certainly be there. I look forward to speaking to you again."
"And I." Miss Morland was collected by her party, and Eleanor was left to the mercy of Mrs. Hughes once more. But now Eleanor had something to think about. Miss Morland clearly admired her brother, and Henry was jealous of Mr. Thorpe. Eleanor had never indulged in the vulgar habit of matchmaking, unlike her father, but she smiled. The two would be lovely with each other. Catherine Morland was sweet, innocent and pretty, Henry was cheerful, good-mannered and handsome. Serving as a link between Henry and Catherine would be interesting, and certainly something to occupy her. Until Richard Landes was known to be in Bath. What then?
Continued in Part 2© 2001 Copyright held by author