A Bird in a Gilded Cage
The General, Henry and Eleanor entered the rooms in excellent spirits. Their cook had provided them all with an excellent dinner, and now they looked forward for a pleasant late afternoon and evening with society. Henry pointed out Miss Morland to his father, who smiled, and said that she seemed a pretty sort of girl, and made his way towards Mrs. Hughes, who was the only one in sight with whom he was acquainted with. His children, who had a larger acquaintance in the room, went off in search of an entertaining evening. henry made his way to Miss Morland, who was standing alone. Eleanor watched the couple in amusement.
"Miss Morland, would you grant me the honor of this first dance?" Catherine Morland's pretty face lit up, and her eyes shown as she answered positively. Henry then turned to find his father again. Eleanor watched in disgust as Mr. Thorpe came towards Miss Morland, and they appeared to argue. Mr. Thorpe was angry,a nd miss Morland indignant, eventually turning away as Henry approached. The happy couple went to the set, and Eleanor smiled at them.
The reader may wonder at this point why Eleanor had not sought a dance herself in all her time in Bath. The truth would be that she had no male acquaintance despite her family, and Mr. Thorpe, but there was no chance that she would dance with him. Secondly, she did not feel the need for male companionship, she had a comfortable home, and was true in her heart to the only man who had sought to claim it. She was quite content to watch her brother flirt with Miss Morland, and by being so content, serves as an excellent pair of eyes, and ears, with which to watch (and listen to) Henry and Catherine.
Henry was speaking to Catherine Morland. He seemed annoyed that Thorpe had pestered her.
"That gentleman would have put me out of patience, had he stayed half a minute longer." Henry, impatient? Eleanor smiled at the thought. "We have entered into a contract of mutual agreeableness for the space of an evening, and all of our agreeableness belongs solely to each other for that time. I consider a country dance as an emblem of marriage. Fidelity and complaisance are the principle duties of both; those men who do not choose to dance or marry themselves have no business with the partners or wives of their neighbors."
"But they are quite different things!" exclaimed Catherine, both confused and amused. "People who marry can never part, but must go and keep house together. People who dance only stand opposite each other in a long room for half an hour."
"In one respect, there is most certainly a difference. In marriage a man is supposed to do the providing, the woman makes the home agreeable. He is to purvey, and she is to smile. But in dancing, their duties are changed. the agreeableness, the compliance, are expected from him, while she furnishes the fan and the lavender water.
That, I suppose was the difference of duties which struck you, as rendering the conditions incapable of comparison."
Catherine laughed happily at her partner, who smiled in return. Eleanor smiled as well. They seemed perfectly content. Eleanor's thoughts drifted off from her brother and her acquaintance. After a little time, she observed her father standing by the foot of the set, watching Henry and his partner as she must have just been doing. The General, who now stood directly behind Henry, whispered something to him. Henry smiled a little, and returned to his partner, and appeared to be telling her something about the general. Miss Morland turned to look at the General, and smiled.
After a little while, the dance was done, and, having secured another dance later in the evening with Henry, Catherine Morland came over to Eleanor with a little smile.
"I have had a lovely dance, Miss Tilney. Do you think that we might continue our conversation from the day before?"
"About my brother?" asked Eleanor, bluntly, with a smile.
"Yes, rather, I'm afraid," said Catherine.
"He will be getting dreadfully conceited."
"Mr. Tilney? Never!"
"Henry can be conceited whenever he chooses. If you like, Miss Morland, would you accompany us on a walk tomorrow?"
"I should like that above all things!" exclaimed Catherine. She then blushed a little.
"I am your friend, Miss Morland, and will do anything I can to make you happy. When should we call for you?"
"Would twelve be too early?"
"No indeed. I quite like a walk. Provided that it does not rain."
"I am sure it shan't!" exclaimed Miss Morland. "It mustn't."
"I hope that it does not. We shall call for you at twelve."
"Thank you very much. You've been very kind to me."
"You have been charming. Besides, I know so few people in Bath now. My brother and I will be delighted to show you some walks we went on as children."
"It sounds lovely. Miss Tilney? I would like it dreadfully if you would call me Catherine."
"You may call me Eleanor. My brother comes. I think you must dance."
"Yes, I must. Thank you for everything."
"You are welcome."
Later that evening Henry and Eleanor sat by themselves, drinking warm cocoa before bed.
"Henry, tomorrow I have invited Miss Morland to walk with us, at noon."
"Excellent. She is a charming girl."
"I thought you rather fancied her from the first."
"I cannot say if it is fancy. But I certainly cannot desert her to that Thorpe fellow. No one deserves such a fate."
"I agree. He is fully wretched. How is he connected to her?"
"Thorpe is Miss Morland's brother's close friend. I have not met the brother in a formal introduction yet, but I cannot help but wonder a little about it. Morland seems a pleasant enough fellow, but the Thorpes a trifle vulgar."
"Noon you said?"
"Yes. We are to fetch her for a walk at noon. Provided it doesn't rain."
"It had better not rain."
"But it might."
"I can't have you thinking like that. It shan't rain. I am looking forward to this walk. I do not believe that I have seen Miss Morland anywhere except in a ballroom. I wonder what she is like in different settings?"
"She can't be as frivolous as she is in a ballroom."
"You think her frivolous?"
"Not especially. Just one is apt to be frivolous at a ball."
"Might we be wrong about Thorpe, then? Perhaps he is more charming outside of a ball?"
"I doubt it. But maybe he dribbles less."
"I'm sorry. I couldn't help it."
"Ah well. I don't think anything could improve Thorpe. Did you know that he tried to sell me some chap's horses, when we hadn't even been properly introduced? Never buy a horse from a man like Thorpe."
"I wasn't planning to buy any horses."
"Nor was I. Perhaps one of our acquaintance wants to buy horses, though. Ought we to warn to world?"
"Henry, stop. You are becoming unreasonable. I think that we ought to go to bed."
"You are undoubtedly right."
"I should be."
Eleanor smiled at her brother, and called in the servant to take away the cups for them. As she rose, she asked Henry,
"What did Father have to say to you when you were dancing with Miss Morland?"
"Oddly enough, he was encouraging me. But I never know when to take him seriously. You see, he encouraged Richard. Will Miss Morland go the same way?"
"When she is the sole heir of the Allens?"
"Perhaps not. But it is no trifle being the son of our father. There is luxury and comfort, and a great deal of affection, only there isn't really so much genuine love as there ought to be. It's almost like being in a cage when you are with Father. You can;t break away from his wishes, though you can see what the outside world has to offer. But life with father can be pleasant too. I'd say it is a gilded cage. Pleasant, but still a cage."
"Then sweet dreams of flying free at last. Once you are married and settled in Woodston, he cannot touch you."
"And then I'll be free. It's a pretty thought. And I'll invite Richard over when you visit."
"You wretched creature. I would come. Let us get some rest, so we can be animated when we meet Catherine Morland in the morning."
"I'm certainly not lacking animation."
"I know. But I am, perhaps."
If ever someone desires the rain to hold off, it will rain.
Catherine Morland was thoroughly miserable when she woke, on seeing the rain. Eleanor Tilney was only slightly dismayed, and Henry was rather frustrated.
"What does it mean by raining? I was all prepared to walk with you and Miss Morland this morning!"
"You are certainly dressed for it. Your new cravat? I see someone who wishes to make an impression."
"How can anyone make an impression in this beastly rain?"
"Perhaps it will clear."
The General entered the room, smiling. "Ah. It rains," he said, lighting a pipe, and settling into his favorite chair.
"We had noticed," said Henry a little bitterly. "I had intended to go walking this morning."
"Anywhere in particular?"
'Not especially. Some of the old walks. Eleanor invited Miss Morland to go along."
"Miss Morland? That must be a disappointment."
Henry scowled. "Does everyone push Miss Morland at me?"
"I thought her very pleasant," said the General.
"You haven't even said a word to her."
"Is she so very stupid that my opinion would be changed if I conversed with her?"
"That is not what I meant."
"Then say what you mean, my lad."
Eleanor smiled at her father and brother. The General had been in an excellent mood these last few days. She wondered what had come over him. It was certainly odd. Did the air in Bath help one that much?
When it was half past twelve, the rain let up. Henry was a little vexed at this, stopping just long enough after the appointment to cancel it. Eleanor, by means of being a peacemaker, suggested,
"Brother, why should we not walk to Pultney Street, and see if Miss Morland can accompany us now? I dare say if we avoid the busiest streets that it shall not be too dirty to walk."
"An excellent idea, sister."
They gathered up their cloaks and coats, and hats and walking sticks, and made their way from the door out into busy Bath, which had become awake again after a short hibernation while the rain lasted. A number of women were venturing outdoors, going to the Pump Room, to meet their acquaintances. Eleanor was quite enjoying the walk, seeing the world washed afresh, and the rainbow of colors spread on the world glistening from water drops. Henry's mood improved, and pointed out absurdities in the people around him. Eleanor pretended that she was not listening to him, and they made out quite well.
Until a pair of gigs flew by, splashing the people who were so unintelligent to walk by the edge of the street after a rain. Henry smiled as the unfortunate pedestrians inspected their apparel, and shook angry fists at the first gig. Eleanor turned to look at it, and pulled upon Henry's sleeve.
"Good gracious! Henry, is that not Miss Morland in that gig?"
Henry turned quickly. "I believe that it is. How fickle, that pretty creature going off in a gig when she promised to walk with us! Thorpe's gig, too, I would guess."
"From the colors, I would agree. All that molding! I wouldn't be seen dead in such a carriage."
"I was sure that it was Miss Morland. But wait, it looks as if she is trying to speak to us. She is turned in her seat, and is gazing back at us. My goodness! It seems that she and Thorpe, for so it is, are fighting. I wonder if she will get out and join us."
"No luck, sister. The carriage has moved faster, and pulls away. I say! That was rather rude."
"Thorpe is rude."
"I meant Miss Morland flying away like that. I was rather anticipating our walk."
"We shall have to reschedule it."
"It is a bother."
"I know...." Eleanor stopped dead as she caught a glimpse of a figure approaching them. "Good Lord, isn't that...?"
Henry turned. "Who? By Jove! It's Landes!"
Eleanor stared at Richard Landes, who seemed to be coming towards them. "I thought that he wasn't due in Bath for a week."
"So thought I. But that is the very image of him."
Eleanor composed herself. She hadn;t seen the man in an age. Not since before he went into trade. The last communication she had had from the man was on that page of the washing bill. She had remembered him. Did he remember her? She saw a smile play across his face as he came quite close to the brother and sister. His steps broadened, and he was before them. Eleanor lowered her eyes, and could only listen.
"Henry Tilney, Miss Tilney."
Eleanor's eyes raised up to see his face. He looked a little more tired, and certainly more dependable than when she had last seen him. Work had settled attractively over his face, making him seem less frivolous, more sturdy. Eleanor smiled. It appeared that working had not changed his appearance much.
"Mr. Landes." Eleanor curtsied. "We had not expected you for another week. This is a pleasant surprise."
"It is indeed. I had not thought that I would see you until an assembly, or at a play or concert."
He wouldn't come to call, then. Was he afraid of the General? Eleanor was, herself, at times. She couldn't make contact with Richard as he studied her face. What emotion was she betraying? She hoped it was a pleasant one, she didn't seem to have any control of her face right now.
Eleanor Tilney was as handsome as she had been before. Not much had changed in her features, save perhaps the beginning of a line across her forehead. Was she anxious? He had been, anticipating this meeting. He had practically proposed to her, and then run off into the blue, leaving only a rather crude note that she probably hadn't even found. He tried to think of something to say.
"They oughtn't to let carriages go so fast after a rain."
Eleanor glanced at Richard's apparel. He had been one of the unfortunate pedestrians. Another score to add to Thorpe's list of unpleasantries. He had made Richard dirty. Richard tried speaking again, when Eleanor's expression did not change much.
"I planted your hyacinth. It is quite lovely. My aunt thinks it far superior to the ones in her garden."
A smile. "Thank you, give your aunt my thanks for the compliment. If she likes, I might have a few spare bulbs."
"I am sure she would like that."
"Have you heard from Frederick any more recently than we have?"
"I saw him myself not three days ago."
"I told him to write Henry about my trip. Frederick was eager to visit you. He is looking forward to his leave."
"As are we. It shall be like old times," declared Henry, speaking for the first time.
"Like old times," echoed Richard hollowly. "But I am not the old me."
"I see no difference. Can you, Eleanor?"
"I think he looks more dependable."
"I don't know how long I will be able to stay. Only a fortnight, or perhaps one week more. I have business to attend to now."
"But we will make your visit enjoyable, won't we Eleanor?"
"Certainly. Do you go to the theater tomorrow?"
"I had not planned to."
"I would like it very much if you did, Mr. Landes. My father and brother and I have a box, and I would like to have another chance to speak to you."
"Then I will get a box above yours."
"I should like that."
"Good!" said Henry. "And perhaps we shall see Miss Morland there, if the girl is not with Thorpe."
"Have i missed much?" asked Richard, to Eleanor. "Is Henry dreaming after some female he has met here?"
"Yes. We must tease him terribly about it. Miss Morland was in the gig that drove by so quickly, accompanied by one Mr. Thorpe, whose unworthiness has no words wretched enough to describe it."
"You seem opinionated, Miss Tilney."
"Perhaps I have grown opinionated. I haven't had a great deal to distract me these last months."
Distracted from what? Richard wondered. I couldn;t dream that she was worrying about me. I am uncouth and drunken, and unresponsible. It is printed in the newspaper. It must be true. I have a wretched attitude, Richard added. Why ever did I get drunk in the first place? I might have married Miss Tilney by now.
Eleanor wondered why Richard was silent. She shrugged. "So we will see you at the theater?"
"You have my promise, Miss Tilney." Eleanor smiled. It was good to hear those words.
"Henry, since Miss Morland is without a doubt not in Pultney Street, why don't we have our walk with Mr. Landes?"
"I should like tat very much," declared Henry. "Fellow, I have not seen you for too long. We all missed you most dreadfully. We need liveliness at Northanger."
"It was not my duty to grant it, unfortunately. I thought your home very handsome, and never thanked your properly for giving me the chance, even if it was short, to see such a lovely abbey."
"You needn't thank me. And if I had it my way, I would have you there yet. Let us forget our troubles, and take a romp in the woods."
"Let's." For the first time in some time, Richard let go of his cares of attaining credibility and seriousness, and smiled a boyish grin. They all went off to walk together, two delightfully happy, one very glad, but a little miffed that Landes was not a certain dark-haired female.
After a little while, Henry and Eleanor returned home. Eleanor had a great wish of changing her cloak to a lighter one, and Henry wanted to see whether a letter from his curate had arrived. Richard agreed to wait near the house for them to return, and the siblings went into the house to carry about their business.
Henry soon found that a letter from Woodston had indeed arrived, but that it had been with a bundle of the general's letters. The general had, of course, taken them off to show to a friend, and was not in the house. Henry sighed, and made his way to find his father.
Eleanor changed her dress, and on not seeing her brother about, went outside thinking that he had gone out. He was not in sight, but Richard Landes was still waiting.
"Your brother had to track down your father on a matter of business, and asked that I escort you anywhere that you should wish to go."
Eleanor blushed. "Let us walk then. I must show you the principle sights of Bath."
"I should like nothing greater, Miss Tilney." And so they walked off, to see the sights, steering clear of the Pump Room, where the General might be, but seeing the Roman baths instead, and visiting Molland's for tea, where Richard ran into his uncle's associate, who was in Bath for the waters.
Walking off down Milsom Street, on the arm of Richard Landes, whose great coat and hat where pulled abut his face so that the General could not identify him from afar, Eleanor was quite happy, despite the impropriety of walking alone with Richard. If she had looked carefully, she might have a seen a figure coming up the opposite side of the street, a young girl, hurrying towards the house. But Miss Tilney was not aware that Miss Morland was seeking her out. Miss Tilney's mind was far away from Henry, Catherine and Bath. She was remembering a hothouse, and a laundry bill.
The Tilneys attended the theater, but in complicated spirits. The General was jovial, cheerful, and fully scornful of the quality of the comedy they were watching. Eleanor was fidgeting, thinking of Richard Landes sitting in the box above her. Henry was glum, even yet, about Miss Morland having chosen to drive with Thorpe above walking with him.
As the play really was indifferent, and Eleanor's attention wandered away from it. The hero was now reciting limericks for the benefit of his friends, and she really was not interested in the slightest. Eleanor was restless, as was Henry, and soon their father suggested that they make calls on acquaintances present in the theater. The younger Tilneys rose quickly and made use of the suggestion.
When Henry and Eleanor were out of their father's sight, they wandered to find Miss Morland. Henry was sure that she must be present, and they ran into much of their acquaintance in their search. However, it seemed that Miss Morland was not about. Henry sighed, and agreed that they would visit Richard Landes.
Richard was in his box, and with him was his uncles's associate whom he and Eleanor had met in Mollands, and the associate's wife. Eleanor seemed quite eager to make the acquaintance of the motherly woman, and Henry smiled as Eleanor accepted Mrs. Douglas's offer to sit down and join them. Henry declined the invitation, wanting to join his father again, sure that Miss Morland was not present. He sighed, said farewell, and left Eleanor with Richard and the Douglases. He hoped that his sister and friend would be cheerful, even if he could not be himself. He remembered Eleanor's comment the day before, saying that they would need animation. Now Henry could use a little animation. He went back to his father's box, and reported that Eleanor had run into an acquaintance from London. This was partially true, it fit Richard's description, and Mrs. Douglas was an acquaintance, and from London.
The General caught a glimpse of a friend, and invited Henry to follow along. Henry did, and they went to join the friend, and his large party.
They sat there for two acts, Henry glumly staring at the play, not laughing very hard, and not taking much in. During a scene change, he caught sight of Thorpe in the hallway behind the boxes, and began to scowl. What was Thorpe doing here? He couldn't appreciate a play of someone pointed out all the finer points to him directly. Thorpe was swaggering down the hall, and the General nodded to him, to Henry's great astonishment. Thorpe paused, and entered the crowded box, and exchanged pleasantries with the General before continuing. Henry was bewildered.
His bewilderment soon passed, and he sat staring into space at the play again. A woman was singing a very sweet song, and he was appreciative of the sentiment, if not the actual song, sitting back and listening. Why was Thorpe in such an excellent mood. Of course, it was that he had Miss Morland ride with him that day. What could one ask for more in life than for Miss Morland to sit with one on a ride? Lost in his reverie, and listening to the song, Henry finally turned his idle gaze to the boxes across from the one he sat in, and his attention came back sharply. Miss Morland was in the box, and gazing at him. He borrowed a neighbor's opera glasses, and looked again. It was Miss Morland. to be sure, with a little pleading wrinkle in her forehead. Henry stopped his impulse to run and sit with her by remembering how she had rode with Thorpe. He bowed to her, a little coldly.
In the level above, Eleanor was now enjoying the play. Richard sat beside her, pointing out things about the cast and the theater, and she smiled at them all. Mrs. Douglas was attentive and pleasant.
"My dear, are you sure that you do not want the glasses?" she inquired. "Mr. Landes, do give them to her, poor dear. Is that better? Good. I am so glad."
Eleanor smiled at the attention. She took the glasses, and trained them in the other boxes, making sure that her father would not see her in Richard's company. She could not see her father, nor Henry, but saw Miss Morland. Eleanor gently placed a gloved finger on Richard's arm, to gain his attention. She needn't have bothered, he was fully attentive.
"Mr. Landes, if you will take the glasses, and direct them across the way, you will see Miss Morland, the one Henry keeps denying that he fancies. She's a dear sweet girl, from the country, but ever so pleasant."
Eleanor trained the glasses onto Miss Morland, and Richard smiled. "Sweet little thing. Countrified... but those in the country are often more pleasant than those who succumb to the snobbery which breeds in town," he added grimly.
"True," said Eleanor softly. "But Henry admires her, and we all think it a marvelous thing if he were to marry her. Woodston could use a mistress, and Catherine Morland's father was a vicar as well. She is ideal, and even Father likes her."
An odd expression crossed Richard's face. "Yes. If your father likes her, I wish her all the luck in the world. She ought to have no troubles."
Eleanor could not respond to this, and fortunately the play ended. Eleanor turned her head to the stage, and joined in the applause. It had been an indifferent show, but an excuse to sit with Richard Landes for a few hours. And she had met Mrs. Douglas, a lovely woman, Eleanor reminded herself. Eleanor looked in surprise as she saw Henry coming into Miss Morland's box. She watched in secret delight as Henry bowed, and they seemed to converse, he then made a sweeping motion, and sat down beside Miss Morland. Eleanor's delighted face was not unnoticed by Richard Landes.
"Everything has worked out to your satisfaction, Miss Tilney?"
"And I trust that you are not referring to the play. Why the gardener should not have been able to keep the pig, I shall never know. The lovers were adequate in their professions of undying admiration, and the dear little vicar's flowers were admired by the Archbishop of Canterbury."
"How delightful for him. I fear that I didn't even gather that much from the play."
Richard smiled. Nor had he. He had just inquired of Mr. Douglas what had happened in the play. He had spent the whole time watching Miss Tilney, except when Miss Tilney told him to look at Miss Morland.
"Shall we seek out Henry?" asked Eleanor, taking Richard's offered arm. "My father is occupied over there." She swept her hand in a gesture indicating a box some distance away, on a different level.
"A wonderful idea. And I may meet his Miss Morland."
"And if he denies that she is his Miss Morland, what shall we do?" asked Eleanor, a smile playing on her lips.
"Make him," announced Richard gaily. "Let us go."
Henry was comfortably sitting between Mrs. Allen and Catherine when Eleanor found him again. Eleanor, leaving Landes in the passage, entered with a smile.
"Miss Morland! How lovely to see you, I fear that the rain caused some trouble."
Miss Morland;s face grew a little pink, and henry answered for her.
"Miss Morland and I have been discussing this. It appears that the insufferably rude Mr. Thorpe prevented her from stopping when we caught sight of her."
Mrs. Allen turned around, and the word 'Thorpe'. Miss Tilney! How nice. I suppose that you have met dear Mrs. Thorpe? Such lovely children. Miss Thorpe was wearing the nicest gown the other day."
"Indeed." Henry and Eleanor exchanged glances. They could not very well speak with the freedom they did at home as when they were with Miss Morland and Mrs. Allen. Ah well, sooner or later they would see the truth about one rather odious Mr.Thorpe.
The group spoke for some time, when Eleanor remembered that she had left the man she admired waiting in the passage, and hurried up to remedy the affair. She led him into the box, and introduced him as 'a London acquaintance' to the occupants. Mr. Allen grunted, and Miss Morland nodded. Mrs. Allen was worrying about her gown, and didn't take a great deal of notice.
Richard caught sight of their father further down the passage, and nodded to his friends, before departing. Eleanor gave a little sigh, frustrated with the only somewhat explainable behavior of her beloved, and escorted her brother from the box. The met up with the General, and Henry went off to see to a coach. The General abandoned his daughter, though, as John Thorpe came through the passage, and greeted him.
"Thorpe, my good man!" exclaimed the general. He went over the the oily man, and engaged in a hearty conversation. Eleanor could only look on in wonder.
In another part of the passage, Catherine Morland stared. How had General Tilney and Thorpe met? She was very curious. Henry entered again, and watched as well. The conversation was hearty, contained many loud laughs, and a bright 'farewell'. Henry walked in silence to the carriage with his sister and father, before asking his father, once they were all settled,
"Father, how did you come to know Thorpe?"
"Friend of yours, eh?" Both Henry and Eleanor were glad of the darkness that hid their appalled faces. "Pleasant fellow. Good billiards player. Met him the other night."
The rest of the ride was in silence, but one Henry was out of the carriage, and his father had gone off to his study, he made a dreadful face at Eleanor.
"Pleasant fellow? My foot!"
Eleanor grinned. "I wonder what Father was thinking. Pleasant isn't the word I would have chosen."
"Nor I, I can assure you!"
"Do you think Miss Morland will stop by for formal apologies?"
"Most likely. She's a pleasant girl. You must reschedule another walk."
"I will, since you so long for it."
"Here you poke fun at me again."
"I would never dream of it."
"Shall I poke fun at you about Richard?"
"I shan't bother you, I promise!"
"Then you are in love with my friend!"
"Now I know that you are surely my sister, that is evasive language quite similar to mine when people ask me about..."
"Miss Morland. You are in love with my friend."
"Then you'll schedule a walk?"
Catherine Morland showed up at the Tilneys' home in the morning, out of breath, and eager.
"I hope that I haven't disturbed you, but I didn't have time to tell you last night, but I am really most dreadfully sorry about missing our walk."
"You already apologized," said Eleanor, with a smile, remembering her prediction that Miss Morland would apologize again.
"It wasn't enough, it was a wretched thing to happen."
"Enough has been said. We must just reschedule the appointment. By the by, I had an odd note from Mr. Thorpe, saying that you couldn't call on me."
"He did communicate with you? How frustrating!"
"I was greatly confused by it. Especially now that you are here."
"I am sure that Mr. Thorpe was making matters more complicated. They wanted me to drive to Clifton, but I had already made an engagement to call upon you."
"No matter. I am delighted that you are here. And so is Henry."
Henry had just entered, a bright morning grin on his face, delighted to see the elusive Miss Morland come to call.
"Delighted is the word. How do you do, Miss Morland? I trust that your journey home was pleasant after the play?"
"Yes, quite. I thank you."
The general, who had been sitting unnoticed in the corner of the drawing room, suddenly spoke up.
"Eleanor, would you do me the honor of at last introducing me to your charming friend?"
Catherine blushed, and curtsied, as Eleanor made the introductions. Catherine was offered a pleasant seat, and she sat. Catherine once more explained that the servant had told her that Miss Tilney was out, and had been upset to miss her.
"What did William mean by that?" erupted the General
"I fear, that I had only stepped back into the house for a minute. I am sorry if I caused you distress in any way. It was wrong of him to be confusing to you."
Catherine smiled thankfully.
General Tilney then turned to Catherine, and asked,
"Would you then make up the lost day by doing us the honor of staying to dinner, and spending the rest of the day with my daughter?"
"I thank you, but I am afraid that I have an obligation to my hosts today."
"Ah, perhaps another day."
"I should like that very much indeed.They should have no objection on another day."
"Then you must come on the walk tomorrow," put in Henry.
"I thank you, tomorrow would do very well for a walk."
After a little Catherine was shown to the door with speeches from the general, and smiling, she walked off down the street.
"A very pleasant creature," said the General. I liked her very much indeed."
Eleanor, Henry and Catherine made a pleasant party on their walk. It had remained fair to everyone's satisfaction, and the weather was warm enough to walk comfortably, though it was only February. They settled upon walking to Beechen Cliff, and had gotten quite close when Catherine observed,
"I can never look at Beechen Cliff without thinking of southern France."
Henry, who had just been admiring the way the hill suited Miss Morland, almost bringing tender countrified gleams in her soul, stopped short. His naive Miss Morland had been to Southern France? It did not fit in his image of her at all.
"You have been abroad?" he asked, a trifle surprised.
"Oh, no! Mr. Tilney, I have not been abroad. I was just conjecturing form what I have read. I think Beechen Cliff is like the countryside in which Emily and her father tour in 'Mysteries of Udolpho'. But you will think me very silly, for you likely never read novels."
"Why should I not?" Eleanor smiled at her brother as he spoke. Henry rally read a great many novels indeed. It was rather odd to be able to refer to a tragic heroine and not only to not be mocked at, but to have your brother give his opinions on the same silly woman.
"I shouldn't think that you would read novels, Mr. Tilney," Catherine was continuing, "because they would not be clever enough for you."
"The person who has not pleasure in a good novel must be entirely stupid!" Henry declared. "I have read all of Mrs. Radcliffe's works, and most of them with great pleasure! Once I began the very novel you mentioned, I could not lay it down again; I remember finishing it in two days, my hair standing on end the whole time.
Catherine stared intently at Henry's fine head of hair, trying to imagine it standing on end, and failed. Eleanor saw her speechlessness, and spoke.
"Yes, Henry. And you undertook to read it to me, and I was called away for five minutes to answer a note, and you took it away with you and read it to the end, instead of waiting for me. I was obliged to stand there until you had finished it, so that we might resume where we had left off."
The selfish Henry was a new thought to Catherine, and her mouth made a little 'o', and listened to the playful banter between the sister and brother.
"Thank you, Eleanor. While I maintain that I could never be so cruel to you--" he smiled as his sister made to mock slap him, "--it is an honorable testimony to the injustice of Miss Morland's suspicions. I am as bad... or good... a novel reader as the most silly of young girls."
Catherine didn't know how to take Henry's comments at times. He was far more learned than herself, so she smiled, and pulled herself together to say,
"I am very glad to hear it! I shall never be ashamed of liking a novel again. But I really did think that young men despised novels amazingly." She thought of her brother, who said that he never had time to read anything that wasn't a newspaper, and John Thorpe who well... could anyone judge reading by John Thorpe when a young man like Henry Tilney was giving one a much nicer image?
"It would suggest amazement , if young men so despise novels, because they read nearly as many as women. I, myself have read hundreds and hundreds. Do not imagine that you can rival me in a knowledge of Julias and Louisas. If we engage in a conversation of particulars, 'Have you read this', etc, I shall leave you far behind. I have had so much more time than you, to read! Here I was at Oxford while you were a good little girl, working on your sampler at home."
Henry, after this extraordinary speech, thought about how old he had made himself sound. True, he was Miss Morland's senior by a number of years, but he had made himself sound so old. And ridiculous. Would he ever stop carrying on as if nothing mattered? Eleanor saw him deep in thought, but Catherine broke in.
"It wasn't a very nice sampler." said Catherine, thinking a little sadly of her rather badly knotted sampler, still in its frame, while Sarah's had already found a place on honor in the sitting room. "But do you not think 'Udolpho' the nicest book?"
"The nicest -- by which I suppose you mean the neatest -- that would depend upon the binding."
"Henry!" exclaimed Eleanor, tiring of her brother's silly exuberance, "You are very impertinent. Miss Morland, he is treating you like he treats me. Your word 'nice' did not suit him as you used it. You had better change it as soon as you can, or else we shall be overpowered with Johnson and Blair the rest of the way."
"Oh, but I am sure that it is a nice book. I didn't mean to say anything wrong!"
Henry, who could find very little wrong in the fervent face of his young companion, smiled.
"Just as this is a nice day. And this is a nice walk, to a nice hill, in a nice city. With two very lovely (and nice) young ladies."
"Henry, you are more nice than wise yourself. Miss Morland, let him babble on to himself while we discuss 'Udolpho' in whatever terms we like." She slipped a friendly arm into her friend's, and led her away from the exuberant Henry.
"You are fond of reading novels, Miss Morland?" asked Eleanor.
"I must confess that don't like much else."
"Oh, I read poetry and plays, and that sort of thing, and I do not dislike travels, but history I cannot like. Can you?"
"Indeed, I confess myself to be very fond of history."
"I wish that I were," owned Catherine as Henry turned his gaze upon the pair of your women. "But it either vexes or wearies me. There are really hardly any women at all, and all the men are good-for-nothing. I don't particularly care about the quarrels between popes and kings. I think it odd that I find it so dull, for so much must be invention. The speeches, and such. It is curious."
Eleanor smiled. "The historians exercise fancy but do not raise interest? I am fond of history, the false as well as the true. I don't really care if Caesar really said 'The die is cast' when he crossed the Rubicon, but it sounds dreadfully poetic. I enjoy the speeches, no matter who wrote them."
"You are fond of history, like Mr. Allen and my father, and two of my brothers do not dislike it. And many in my small circle enjoy it. I shall no longer pity the writers of history if someone reads their writing, then."
By this time they had reached the hill, and admired the view. Henry and Eleanor went off on a new subject of their own, in which Catherine Morland did not share her opinion. Eleanor had no wish to exclude, but she was eager to look at the view, thinking about it as if she were going to sketch it. Catherine sighed.
Eleanor turned to Catherine, and asked,
"You do not draw?"
"Never. I haven't the skill, and I know nothing of forming a pleasant picture."
Henry smiled at her ignorance, but was really rather pleased with it. It would be a pleasure to impart his wisdom to Catherine Morland. He helped Eleanor to lecture Catherine on pictures and landscapes until they had reached the top of the hill. There, Catherine renounced the whole city of Bath as being not worth a picture, and smiled shyly at her friends. They smiled in return, and changed the subject to ones Miss Morland might be more comfortable with. They turned to forests, from forests to wastelands, wastelands to crown lands, crown lands to politics, and politics to silence. From the silence, Catherine, addressing Eleanor, said,
"I hear that something very shocking will soon come out in London."
"Indeed!" cried Eleanor, imagining that Richard Landes and his uncles' firm would be in danger. "Of what nature?"
"I do not know, nor who is the author. I have only heard that it is to be more horrible than anything we have met with yet. It involves murder, and all sorts of gruesome things."
"Good heaven! Can government not stop it?" Eleanor was upset, and did not know why Henry was chuckling softly at her.
"Government, Eleanor, can do nothing about it. There must be murder, and the government cares not how much."
He had both Eleanor's and Catherine's full attention. They stared.
"Come! I shall make you understand each other. I shall be noble. I, unlike other men, shall have patience, and explain to you what you fail to see, despite all the logic I know you to possess."
"Never mind him, Miss Morland." said Eleanor. "Tell me about this dreadful riot."
"What riot?" asked Catherine, more confused.
"Riot!" exclaimed Henry. "The riot is in your head, my sister. The confusion is most amusing! Miss Morland has been talking of nothing more riotous than a new novel, shortly to come out -- in the duo decimo volumes, two hundred and seventy-six pages in each, with a frontispiece to the first, or two tombstones and a lantern. Do you understand, Eleanor? Miss Morland, my sister has mistaken your clearest expressions. She was imagining revolution in London, instead of thinking of a circulating library. She pictured a mob attacking St. George's Fields, the Bank, the Tower. The streets of London flowing with blood, and a detachment of the 12th dragoons called form Northampton to quell the insurgents, the gallant Captain Frederick Tilney at the head, and knocked form his horse with a brick. Forgive her stupidity, she is usually not a simpleton."
The two women laughed at each other for a moment or two.
"Henry," said Eleanor, "now that you have made Miss Morland understand me, you might as well make her understand you. Miss Morland is not used to your ways."
"I shall be most happy to make her better acquainted with them," said Henry, cheekily. Catherine had the grace to blush.
They continued on in their banter quite merrily, until Miss Morland was growing hungry. The Tilneys returned her to Mrs. Allen, who was charming, as usual, and made no fuss when Eleanor invited Catherine to come dine with her the day after next. Catherine retired to her tea with smiles and high hopes, and the Tilneys returned to their home.
"I trust that Miss Morland seemed happy?" asked Henry as they walked along the streets towards their house.
"Quite. She seemed quite happy. But you were dreadful."
"Was I? I'm sorry. I shall try to somber my spirits, but the girl really has a wonderful affect upon them." Eleanor smiled. "Shall I find a way to make you spirits soar, Eleanor?" her brother asked, kindly. "Your attention was wandering. London is a touchy subject for you. The idea of a mob didn't suit you."
"I've never known a mob to suit me, but I must confess I had worries for a short time for... our acquaintance there."
"Ah." smiled Henry. Eleanor playfully swatted his arm, and smiled.
"I tease you, and you tease me? Fair enough."
"Fair enough," said Henry. "You made me quite delighted by inviting Miss Morland to dine with us. Shall I invite Landes to tea at Molland's some afternoon?"
Eleanor smiled. Henry was in a delightful mood. She then nodded.
"I'll admit that I would like that," she said.
Henry grinned. "As a clergyman, I try to act in the best intentions."
"You do, Henry. You always do."
Henry bowed, and opened the door to their house. "Thank you, Eleanor."
Wednesday morning found Miss Tilney in excellent spirits. She would see Miss Morland at dinner, and Henry intended to walk with Richard Landes this morning. Eleanor had dressed very nicely, and was fully prepared to have a delightful walk. Her conviction was quite pronounced, and she was delighted when Henry contrived to find some ėbusiness' and left Eleanor to walk with Landes alone.
He was standing at the opposite end of the square in which they had planned to meet, and looked a little worried. Henry did not notice this, not possessing Eleanor's Lover's Eyes, and after bowing, ran off as soon as he could.
Eleanor approached, a little furrow of confusion appearing on her brow.
"Whatever is wrong?" she asked Richard as he took her arm, and they turned to walk.
"I have to leave quite soon. The day after next. Early in the morning."
"I'm dreadfully sorry," said Eleanor, spirits falling. Richard was to leave? She had hardly seen him!
"As am I. But I have today, and tomorrow. Shall we not be quite merry until we must part?"
They turned down another street, and Eleanor smiled as she saw Henry sitting upon a bench idly reading a newspaper. Business? Perhaps.
Richard saw him as well, and could not suppress his smile.
"Shall we go and greet your brother?" he asked.
Eleanor smiled. "He's busy with his business. perhaps we should leave him to it?"
Richard laughed, and drew Eleanor's arm nearer. "You are one of the most pleasant young women I've ever had the privilege of walking with," he said.
Eleanor's cheeks glowed, but she didn't say a word. Richard sighed. General Tilney was making his life very difficult.
They strolled about the city, taking the streets General Tilney would be less likely to take, and enjoyed their moments together. But each was aware that they had only today and tomorrow, and after that, who knew when they would meet again. Eleanor tried to make conversation, but her heart wasn't in it.
"How is business in London?"
"Quite busy. My uncle needs me back. Mr. Douglas left Bath yesterday, with his wife. They told me to give you their best wishes."
"Such a lovely couple. Thank you for introducing me."
"You don't mind meeting a man who is in trade?"
"Why should I?" asked Eleanor. "They were very pleasant. Both my brothers work, Henry for his living. Yes, some people in trade are vulgar, but some unquestionably pleasant. Your friends were very pleasant."
Richard smiled. "I am glad," he began, "I am glad that you hold such opinions. I forgot for a minute that I myself am in Trade, and if you were to walk off, when you remembered this, I would be quite upset."
"I wouldn't walk off. I have no other escort, and you are such good company."
"Miss Tilney, it had better be the other way around. I am such good company, and you have no escort."
This earned a smile from Eleanor, who gave a little toss of her head, and looked at the sky.
"Good gracious! Is it that late? I've got a dinner guest! Where is henry?"
"A guest?" asked Richard, sharply, as Eleanor made such a fuss to prepare for her mysterious visitor.
"Oh! Just Miss Morland, the one my brother is in love with."
Richard had a very sorrowful image of Miss Tilney saying of him, ėOh! Mr. Landes, the one in love with Miss Tilney', but he said nothing. In fact, he realized that he would be bidding Eleanor good bye until the morrow, and then for some indefinite period. It sobered him, and then her.
They were now near Milsom Street, and Eleanor saw Henry approaching. Richard bowed, and said, "Farewell, then." Eleanor nodded, and Richard took off down the street without another word. Eleanor's smile faded, and she walked towards Henry.
"He's leaving after tomorrow."
Henry's smile faded a little as well.
"I had so wanted you to be happy, Eleanor! Is there anything that I can do for you?"
"No. Not really."
Henry hung his head. "I'm so sorry. I think... I think that I shall be very happy soon, and that I shall forget about those who are not as happy as I. I don't want to forget about you."
"You won't. But I am quite glad that you intend to be happy. Come. Father will be wondering what has become of us. Miss Morland is to arrive in half an hour. That is so little time."
"That is far too much time!" announced Henry, but his sparkle was gone. He cared about his sister, and his friend, and things were not going well for them. Richard hadn't even asked if Eleanor was going to be at the ball tomorrow, it seemed. He hadn't asked her to dance. What was wrong with the man? Henry had been sure that Richard was in love with his sister, but why wouldn't he at least court her when they were alone? Sighing, he went to his room, and thought very hard.
Miss Morland arrived to dine, and the General was in excellent spirits. He could not say what had overcome Eleanor and Henry, they both seemed preoccupied and glum. But the General wasn't going to ask about it. His children would do something like making him ask why they were glum. And he wouldn't ask. Every child should learn a little self reliance, instead of counting on Father to bail them out of their woes.
Catherine looked a little worried, though very pretty. They meal was mostly quiet, and it might be slightly more in comment on the mood of those at the table, instead of the quality of the food. The food was good, only no one except the General felt like complimenting it, and it was hardly the General's place to compliment his own table.
The only news that Catherine could bring to the table was that of her brother's likely engagement to Miss Thorpe. Since all knew of Miss Thorpe, and of Catherine;s brother, in the party, there were congratulations said all around, and Eleanor looked more glum than ever. Catherine noted this all, but said nothing of it. She was afraid of sounding stupid. The General brought his own piece of news, something new for both of his children, as well as his guest.
"I shall have the great honor, Miss Morland, of introducing my eldest son to you shortly. He is expected at any time tonight, quite late though. You must meet him."
"Frederick arrives tonight?" asked Henry, brightening. Perhaps he could help Henry find ways to make Richard more attentive to Eleanor.
"Yes," said the General. "Late, as I said. We shall still be attending the concert tonight."
"Oh!" exclaimed Miss Morland. "We are, as well."
"Then I hope we shall see you there, Miss Morland." Henry nodded in agreement, but said nothing.
The visit was done soon, and Miss Morland hurriedly left, leaving Tilneys and their glumness behind. Henry hadn't asked her to dance, or even scarcely said a word to her all afternoon. She sighed, and returned home, to find Isabella Thorpe waiting there.
As Eleanor entered the concert hall, she began to smile a little. Not only had her father decided not to attend, but to wait for Frederick, leaving her to enjoy her music in peace, but Richard Landes had appeared, and was smiling shyly at her. Henry gave a sigh of relief. Something was working out, Frederick or no Frederick.
"May I walk you to your seat?" asked Richard. Eleanor smiled in consent, and he took up her arm, Henry shadowing a little behind, scanned the seats for Miss Morland. He had been a bit rude this evening, and needed to apologize. Surely she wouldn't come with Thorpe out of spite? Some things were too frightening to imagine.
Because Henry was trying to stay out of ear shot of his sister and his friend, he Did Not Hear Richard say,
"I fear I forgot his afternoon, I was upset about having to leave my... holiday, and return home... to London. I will understand if you tell me that someone has already asked you, I have been remiss, but would you honor me with the first dance at tomorrow's ball?"
Eleanor's face flushed prettily, and she daintily said,
"The first two, I believe, are still free."
"Actually," admitted Eleanor as Richard sat next to her, "All of my dances are free."
"Not now," said Richard gaily. "The first two are certainly mine!"
Henry, who was still Not Hearing, sat down by his friend, and said, "What lovely seats. Perhaps Eleanor might some with me in a little to talk to Miss Morland?"
"I might consent to that," said Richard dubiously.
Both Tilney's shot little looks at him, but he continued. "If Miss Tilney would translate the words of the first song for me ahead of time."
Miss Tilney agreed, translated, smiled at Richard, and walked off with her brother, with a pleasant little glance over her shoulder to the delight of the man who sat beside her now empty seat.
Catherine Morland was sitting beside Mrs. Allen, her pretty little chin between her hands, and was staring at the musicians in a empty stare when the Tilneys approached. Mrs. Allen made room for them, and Henry addressed her. Catherine jerked her attention back, and smiled.
"I'm very sorry that we were a little out of spirits, this afternoon. I hope you did not think hat it was anything to do with you."
Catherine, who had thought it having to do with her, sighed in relief, smiled, and assured Henry Tilney of his having been entirely wrong, she had not dreamt of guessing such.
Henry smiled, and leant near her to share her program. Catherine blushed, and a smile danced over Henry's lips.
"I suppose that you haven't promised away all of your dances tomorrow, have you?'
"Oh! No! Not at all," said Catherine, flushing furiously.
"Then may I request your partnership in dancing the first tomorrow?"
"Yes, indeed! Thank you very much."
Eleanor, unnoticed during the scene, smiled foolishly. Perhaps she and Henry could both be happy? It seemed likely. Catherine, after her flushes had calmed a little, and Henry had leant back into his seat with a contented grin playing over his face, turned to Eleanor, who said,
"I am sorry that I was in want of spirits myself. I had had some news that an acquaintance had to leave Bath. After tomorrow night."
"I'm dreadfully sorry," said Catherine, imagining how sad she would be if Henry Tilney were to leave. Or if she had to leave Henry Tilney.
Eleanor stayed a while with them, but left after having made Catherine quite content in their friendship. Eleanor then made her way back to her old seat, where she was greeted with a smile, and remained in her seat to translate the words of the songs for the rest of the evening. Henry, no doubt, was translating them for Miss Morland.
A very jolly looking party of Tilneys arrived at the ball the next night. The General had all three of his children with him, including Capt. Frederick Tilney, his eldest and the most recently arrived in Bath. The General nodded to his children, cheerfully warned them to behave themselves, and disappeared with a few of the older generation that pretended to be chaperones to the younger people. As soon as the General was out of the room, Frederick gave a small and silent whoop for joy at being in new company, and was well pleased to meet Henry's Miss Morland.
Catherine was looking very pretty this night, and was in wonderful spirits. Henry, in similar high spirits, was on his best behavior, and introduced his brother to Miss Morland with more than his usual gaiety. He then turned to his brother as the musicians began to strike up the first dance.
"Frederick, will you not dance yourself? Miss Morland had been promised to me since yesterday, and I must fulfill my obligation."
"As well as your pleasure," said Frederick smiling at the pair. "But I have no notion of dancing. No, I am not well acquainted to anyone, and I find this song a little old. I am sure that I have heard it many times before. I could not dance here, not after such a walk this afternoon. I wonder at your finding it possible to dance after such exertion."
Henry gave a withering glance to his bother, but said nothing. Frederick clearly had less taste than Henry, but Henry would permit that. He had no doubt that the army had had some coarsening effects upon his brother.
Henry now claimed Miss Morland, and walked to the dance floor. Frederick stalked about the room, the candle light falling on his fashionable clothes, and his handsome face becoming the object of interest of young ladies about the room. Frederick laughed. Then, he observed his sister walking quickly across the room from where he had left her. He spied the gentleman she was addressing, and Frederick smiled. Landes had made it to Bath after all.
Eleanor smiled gently at Richard as he led her into the set. He himself was smiling, though glancing around everywhere, keeping an eye out for the General. Eleanor would usually laugh at such antics, but she knew that Richard would not find it funny. He was quite sensitive about not running into her father. It was understandable.
The dance began, and Eleanor soon forgot her brothers, and followed Richard through the dance blissfully, delighting when their hands touched. She had a sudden vision of when they had been in the hot house, and she had given him the flower. He had smiled then. He was beginning to smile now, the looks of care and worry were gone from his face for the minutes he was dancing. He then said quite merrily, at one stage in the dance,
"Miss Tilney, I know not whether to speak to you or to be silent. But this is a very pleasant dance, wouldn't you agree?"
"Of course, Mr. Landes." She was so used to thinking of him as ėRichard' that her formality sounded almost mocking. He smiled at her.
"And, Miss Tilney, may I complement you on how pretty you look this evening?"
"Certainly you may. I thank you."
Richard smiled at her, and gave a small mock wave of farewell as they parted in a figure of the dance. Eleanor smiled again. It was becoming quite a habit. This was the closest he had come to flirting with her in some time... since at Northanger? Perhaps.
Looking down the set, she caught sight of her brother and Miss Morland engaged in what appeared to be a humorous conversation. As the dance brought the pair close to where Eleanor was dancing, she heard Catherine say,
"Me? Yes. I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible." Catherine was beginning to pick up Henry's style of dialogue. It was a very good sign. Eleanor flashed a happy smile at her brother as he said,
"Bravo! an excellent satire on modern language." He mocked saluted Eleanor, as the dance carried them away again, and Eleanor glowed. She was always happy when her brother was happy, and he was happy when she was. At this moment the happiness each contained overwhelmed them, and cast a pretty rose tint over the world as they looked at it from sparkling eyes.
Eleanor was rather surprised when the second dance began to see her brother dancing with Miss Isabella Thorpe. Both had seemed so determined not to dance. Miss Thorpe was a handsome girl, but Eleanor could not like her, for as John Thorpe's sister, she carried unfortunate...nay, repulsive, relations. As the dance then ended, Richard noticed Eleanor's unhappy face, and queried,
"Was this dance to you distaste, Miss Tilney? I hope that I have not hindered your happiness in any way."
Eleanor blushed, and turned to her partner,
"Oh, no! Indeed, you have done nothing, dancing with you was wonderful, we must repeat it some time. No, I was only looking on in wonder as Frederick danced with Miss Thorpe. He said that he did not care to dance and..."
"He did so with the sister of that reptilian man who tried to sell me a pair of horses? Not that I could have afforded them... but all the same, his impudence, we had not been introduced, only he had seen me and Henry together."
Eleanor blanched a minute, and took hold of Richard's hand.
"Do you mean to tell me that John Thorpe knows that you are here?"
"In Bath, yes, but he does not know me."
"Do you think that he has seen us dancing together?"
"If he was in the room, he could hardly have not noticed, if he had been watching. Are you afraid that he will tell your father? Do not worry, for he doesn't know that your father refused to let me see you. How could he?"
"Yes," agreed Eleanor. "I am being silly, too afraid that my father will lessen the gaiety of this evening. I have had a lovely set, and I thank you very much. I don't believe that I have danced more than four dances or so during our stay in Bath, but these two are the nicest."
"Nicest? Very nice indeed, but, Miss Tilney, shall I lecture you on the uses of the word ėnice' like your brother? Here I am, not knowing whether they were pleasurable to you, or whether they were merely the best executed, or if I only managed to not step upon your toes... for I can see that I haven't stepped on your toes, you would tell me so otherwise."
"Nicest meaning pleasantest. But, if you will fetch me a glass of punch, I will be delighted to hear your lecture."
Richard saluted her, and went of in search of the glass of punch. Eleanor smiled happily at his retreating form. A minute later Frederick came over to her.
"Frederick, how are you enjoying your evening?"
"Very well, Miss Thorpe is an entertaining creature. Bath is so tiresome! I say, I think my waistcoat the handsomest in the room, it is insupportable how many intolerable women there are about. But Miss Thorpe I found amusing. She refused at first to dance, saying that she was engaged, which I knew perfectly well, and then when I was going to turn away, she called back, and asked me to dance with her. What an odd creature!"
"I do not know her well enough to pass a judgment."
"I see that you have been having a delightful time. Where has Richard gone to?"
"For some punch. Why are you not attending you partner?"
"Ah, another young gentleman has asked her to dance. No qualms at all about dancing with him, you see, she was pulling the ėsee how desired I am' trick. I don't know why these female bother. All a fellow wants are a few dances and a merry time over dinner, but she seems determined to try to ėcatch' me. But you know, I'd never want to be ėcaught'. Not nearly entertaining enough. I shall have an amusing time while in Bath, I think. But here is Richard."
Richard returned with the punch, and Frederick exchanged greetings with him. Eleanor observed Catherine and Henry talking to a side of the room, in earnest conversation, not noticing Isabella Thorpe skipping across the room with a somewhat handsome, but also somewhat frog like man in a red coat, casting glances away from her partner, towards Capt. Tilney. Frederick smiled in spite of himself.
"One of the most forward young women I've met. How astonishing. She seems to be almost vicious. But look, the dance brings her near here, I must pull the ėjealous partner' look for her benefit."
Eleanor looked away in disgust. Her brother was rather odd at times, but he would know how to handle Isabella Thorpe's overtures, and keep her from trying to make any sorts of claims at all. Frederick was blessed with a handsome face, but more importantly, a wonderful sense of self preservation.
The evening progressed on, and on seeing the General approaching after a third dance (Frederick raised his eyebrows in fake shock as Eleanor was led to the dance floor a third time by the same partner), Richard bowed, and melted away into the crowd, leaving Eleanor with Henry, while Catherine was talking with Isabella on the other side of the room. Henry's eyes kept flicking over towards that other half of the room, but he looked happy enough when his father came up to him and his sister, the old man with a smile on his face.
"Well, Henry, I have heard from Frederick that you have had a most delightful evening. Eleanor, he told me that you had not been able to dance, but I am sure that your luck will look up another day, once I find someone suitable for you to be introduced to. I was just talking to the man who owns the house we've taken, and I have decided to quit Bath after another week. I have business at home, and I hope that you will not take this badly."
Eleanor was glad to hear that her family would quit Bath. After all, Richard would be leaving tomorrow, and after that, the city would seem empty. Eleanor politely expressed her thanks for the opportunity of the trip, and her longing to see her dear home again, but noticed that henry was silent, eyes looking across the room. The General smiled at his son, and turned to his daughter.
"Of course, Eleanor, since I will be removing you from the company your young friend, would you like to invite her to join us for a number of weeks at Northanger?" Henry's face lit up for a minute, and Eleanor knew what she was supposed to say. It would make Henry quite happy, and Eleanor knew that it would do wonders for Catherine to be in better company than that of the Thorpes. She smiled at her father, and thanked him prettily, delighted that she would be able to invite Miss Morland to see her home. If Catherine was at Northanger, memories of Richard would not be so bad.
The General, having settled in his mind his son's future to his own satisfaction, moved away across the room. Henry looked across the room again, and smiled at his sister.
"Eleanor, you are a paragon of paragons."
"I know, Henry." said Eleanor.
Richard came back over to the brother and sister, and said,
"I must be leaving soon, and I thank you for all of your kindness this visit, Miss Tilney, Henry."
Henry smiled, and said, "Ah, me. I think I must go speak to Miss Morland, sorry to have to leave you alone with Mr. Landes, but there we are. I hope you won't find his company too trying." Then, Henry practically skipped across the room, towards Catherine.
"I will be sorry to leave you Miss Tilney, this might be good-bye for some time."
"Miss Tilney, might I have permission to... write you every once in a while when I am in London. It is a very dull city, and I am sure that a word or two from a Tilney would cheer me."
Eleanor gave a gentle smile to Richard Landes. She would adore his writing, but the way he said it sounded so impersonal, as if he wanted to keep in touch with her, but not in a courtship. Eleanor hid away the tiniest of sighs, and gave Richard Landes an affirmative for his request of permission to write her. His face lit up, and as they prepared to be separated for a long time, he asked,
"What did you father say to make Henry so happy?"
"He asked me to invite Catherine Morland to Northanger."
"I only hope that she will have a lovely time. The hyacinths will be in bloom, you grow the loveliest hyacinths I have ever seen."
"And you are the most appreciative person to admire them."
They held each other's gaze for a few minutes, and Richard bowed, and Eleanor curtsied. Everything seemed formal. They parted company, and returned to their homes.
Catherine Morland was received by a tired but smiling Eleanor the next morning. Henry was not yet presentable, and Frederick had a somewhat questionable headache, but Catherine did not mind that only her friend was there to be hostess. Catherine was full of the happy news that the Allens had agreed to take their house for another fortnight, leaving her with another three weeks in bath, when she had thought that there would only be one. Eleanor said that she was pleased for the Allens, that they enjoyed their first trip to Bath so much to want to prolong it, and smiled at her friend. Then, she saw an opening for offering her invitation.
"Miss Morland, my own father has been speaking about his stay in Bath, and has concluded that we will be departing by the end of another week."
"By the end of another week!" echoed Catherine weakly. All of her dreams suddenly felt deflated.
"yes, it is rare that we can induce my father to give the baths a a fair trail, and he is already quite tired of them. He has been disappointed in not seeing some friends, whom he expected to come, and now he is feeling healthy enough for another year in the country, he is a hurry to get home."
Catherine, though still upset, nodded, wondering what ailment had brought the general to the baths, was he ill, then? He had seemed quite strong to her. She then said, in a dejected voice, "I am sorry to hear that you will be leaving, if I had known this before----"
Eleanor coughed, and began to say in a trifle embarrassed manner, remembering the treatment of the Abbey's last guest, " Perhaps, would you be so good as to -- it would make me very happy if --"
The General entered, and Eleanor became quiet. Catherine sighed, tossing away the hope that Eleanor wanted to correspond with her while they were apart. The general smiled with his usual politeness towards Miss Morland, and asked his daughter,
"Eleanor, may I congratulate you on having received an affirmation to you success in your application to your fair friend?"
"I was just beginning to make my request when you came in, father, " said Eleanor a little reproachfully.
"Well, proceed by all means. I know how much you wish it. Miss Morland," he began, cutting his daughter short who was trying to give her invitation, "Miss Morland, my daughter has been forming a very bold wish. We leave Bath, as perhaps she has told you, on Saturday seven-night. I have received a letter from my steward, telling me that I am wished for at home, and, having been disappointed in my hopes of seeing the Marquis of Longdown and General Courteney here, two of my old friends, there is nothing to detain me here."
Catherine gave him a nod, confused, not sure where he was going. Eleanor sat staring out the window, remembering the sons of Longtown and General Courteney, both lads that her father had pushed at her. Thank goodness that neither man had showed up!
"Miss Morland, we should be leaving Bath without a single regret," Eleanor stared out the window, silently showing the world that she had a regret upon leaving. "Not a single regret! Except, for one thing. Would you consent to leave this charming city and oblige your friend Eleanor with your company in Gloucestershire? I am almost ashamed to make this request, its presumption must appear very great. If you could be induced to honor us with a visit, you would make us happy beyond expression. It is true that it shall not be half so merry as Bath, there is neither great amusement nor equal splendor, our mode of living, as you see," continued the General, sweeping one hand in a gesture, indicating the gilded portraits and thick calf bound books that adorned the room, taking in the fireplace and the carpet, "Our mode of living is plain and unpretending. Yet, no endeavors will be lacking on our side to attempt to make your stay in Northanger Abbey not wholly disagreeable."
Catherine's face seemed to light up as she spoke the name of his home. Eleanor remembered Catherine's love for novels, and smiled. The general was sure to receive a positive response, even if the girl was not inclined to go. The name Northanger Abbey must fill her bones with a sense of adventure. Catherine's eyes were bright, this was beyond any of her expectations.
"I should be very honored, sir, if you would so invite me! I would be delighted to visit with you, and as long as my papa and mamma approve, and they could not disapprove. And I must ask Mr. and Mrs. Allen, for I am bound to them while in Bath..."
The General put on a benign smile. Everything was going well.
"I have already asked your friends in Pulteney Street, and they agreed to part with you on my earnest entreaties. They agree, and I can put up with anything, so long as you are able to visit with us. You do us a very great honor."
Eleanor's quiet and gentle smiles went to Catherine's heart, and with all the love and friendship she felt from this family, she left the house ten times happier than before, eager to write her parents.
Henry, who had by now finished dressing, and was whistling merrily, wntrered, adn was sorry tp hear that he had missed Miss Morland. However, he was appeased when his father alerted him that Miss Moralnd would be returning to Northanger with them. Frederick, who entered the room as his father finished his happy speech, holding a hand over his eyes, complaining about the bloody brightness of the sun this morning, smiled.
"Well, henry, I won't feel bad if I don't return to Northanger with you then."
"Whatever do you mean?" asked Eleanor.
"Oh, I like Bath rather much, and haven;t had as much time in it as you. In light of last night's acquaintences, I think that I would like to stay another fortnight at least after you leave. And if Miss Morland will go to the Abbey, then I'm not needed for a diversion."
"Yes," agreed the General, recalling how well Catherine got along with Eleanor and Henry. A strange man about all the time might throw her off. And who knew, perhaps Frederick had met a young titled heiress last night? The General could always hope.
Henry smiled merrily at the thought of pleasnt afternoons at his home with a warm smile and a pair of soft brown eyes. Frederick laughed silently at him, but he approved of the Miss Morland, and, if she was as rich as that fellow Thorpe had made out, there was no chance of a repitition of what had happened to Richard Landes. Everything promised to be very pleasant for all involved.
Eleanor smiled as Henry proposed a walk towards Pulteney street. She agreed, though not without remembering with a pang of despair on recalling that she would not be wearing such a joyful smile as Henry's for some time now. Richard was back in London, and she could gain no more pleasure in Bath, save what pleasure Henry gleaned for himself.
The winds of early March were rather harsh on Eleanor's face, but they brought out a rosy color on her cheeks as she walked throught the streets towards the Allens' house. By the time they reached their destination in Pulteney Street, her features looked animated from the weather, and no signs of her distress could be visible. She was accepted into the house cheerfully, and Catherine was purely delighted on beholding her friends. There was no hint of the sadness Eleanor felt, only an aura of pleasure, a pleasure coming form the satisfaction of seeing Henry and Catherine together.
Catherine was very eager to learn about teh Abbey, as Eleanor had predeicted. Henry teased both young women, as Eleanor tried to descibe her home, using the lifeless words used in any text book rather than the ones she really felt. Her memories of her home were too painfully tied up in her memories of Richard's expulsion.
"It was a rather well endowed convent that was bestowed upon a Sir Frederick Tilney, a knight who had served Henry VIII, during the Reformation. A large portion of the origional building remains, even though most fell into disrepair and the manor house was built to accomedate the family. A large part of the old building makes up our present house, and the ruins of other pieces and outbuildings lie in a low valley surrounded by a bit of an oak forest. The park is substantial in size and mostly rather pleasnt, consisting of a lake, woods, paths and fine dovecotes and pheasant reserves."
"Eleanor, stop being silly!" cried out henry. "You make our home sound so droll. Miss Morland wants to hear about harrowing adventures in the origional abbey, not a recitataion of the origional deed, whcih, Miss Morland, is framed in teh library, complete with origional bloodstains."
"Bloodstains?" asked Catherine, shocked, but delighted.
"Yes, Miss Morland, bloodstains. Or wine stains. Travel was a bit rough then you know."
"Ah," said Catherine, appeased, but still curious.
"An abbey! How glorious for you!"
"It is a nice house," conceded Eleanor. "And I have my own greehouse."
"I'm afraid that I am not terribly interested in flowers," admitted Catherine, "But I shall be delighted to see them. That is," she added, "If my parents agree to let me visit with you."
"Oh, they must," said Henry, a bit too earnestly.
Catherine blushed, and Eleanor shot a look at her brother. However, Henry soon burst out laughing, and turned the subject to a novel he had just procured, and Catherine listened to him, eyes shining. Eleanor smiled at the picture. Perhaps Northanger would feel welcoming to her after all? A happy ending was undoubtedly in store for Henry, and Eleanor could only smile on imagining the domestic Henry. Still, if Henry ahd a home of his own, would he not invite his friends to see him? And his sister? Eleanor smiled at the window.
While Catherine went to fetch Henry the novel she ahd just completed, Henry turned to his sister, adn asked,
"Why do you smile so slyly?"
"Never you mind," said Eleanor. "But it is delightful to see you happy."
"I like to be happy," agreed Henry. "And I most certainly am right now."
Catherine reentered the room, bearing the book, and smiling.
"Here it is," she said. "It was most frightening to be sure, but rather enjoyable. Have you read it Eleanor?" Catherine's smiling face turned to her friend, and she held out the book towards Eleanor. Sutherward Abbey, it read on the cover.
Good lord! Thought Eleanor. No wonder she thinks the Abbey will be so exciting. But... it will be, for her and Henry. I'll do my best to make sure of it.
By Friday Catherine Morland was able to give a positive response to Eleanor regarding her parents' permission. All the Tilneys were greatly pleased, and showed her great care and affection in the remaining time in Bath. Catherine, the Thorpes and the Tilneys found themselves more frequently in each other's company, and Eleanor could only sit and marvel at the activity that was going on during such a meeting in the Pump Room.
The General made himself scarce, leaving the young ladies, Frederick and Henry together.
Frederick was teasing and flirting with Miss Isabella Thorpe quite frequently. He was having a thoroughly enjoyable time, although he was perfectly aware that James Morland was due back any day to accompany Isabella, his fiance. Isabella was a playful woman, but grasping. Frederick, however, skilled as he was, avoided all of her traps, delighting in doing so.
Isabella and Catherine had been speaking for some time, and Catherine began to wear the most curious expression. Eleanor leaned closer to listen, from her seat beside Henry, and listened in horror and fascination as she heard Miss Thorpe speak. Frederick, who was speaking for a moment to Mrs. Allen, did not hear Isabella's words, and thus his opinion of her could not change so much for the worse as it did with Eleanor and Henry.
"I have just had a letter from John. You can guess it's contents, to be sure, my dear Catherine."
"Indeed, I cannot," protested Catherine, who had spared no thought for John Thorpe in the past month save a greeting or two when thrown into the same company.
"Do not be so abominably affected, Catherine, this is quite absurd! Modesty is all very well, but a little honesty is just as appreciated. You are fishing for compliments. John's attentions have been such as a child must have noticed. And he says that it was but a half hour before his leaving Bath that you gave his positive encouragement. He says in his letter that he as good as made you an offer, and that you received his advances in the kindest way."
Eleanor thought that she might be sick. Could Isabella Thorpe really think anything so preposterous? had she never seen henry and Catherine together, for if she had, she could not doubt their mutual affection. And Thorpe of all men! Catherine would never try to ensnare two men at once, so clearly it was Isabella who was in the wrong. Either she, or her brother -- or both -- must be deranged! Henry's expression betrayed similar thoughts to his sister. However, they smiled as they heard Catherine protest the whole statement fervently and earnestly. Henry relaxed in his chair, but his eyes were still intent upon her form.
"I must protest this! I have never sought to encourage your brother. I am sure that as your brother he must be a fine man, but I have never desired or encouraged his affections in any way! And, as to any attentions on his side, I do declare that on my honor I was never aware of them, not even for a moment, except for his asking me to dance the first night. But, as to making me an offer, or anything like it, there must be a mistake. I solemnly protest that such a syllable was ever passed between us. And the last half- hour! It must be a mistake, I did not see him the whole morning!"
Henry exchanged a good natured grin with his sister.
"Not see him the whole morning? But you were the whole morning at Edgar's buildings. I am sure that you and John were alone in the parlor some time that morning."
"Really?" asked Catherine, trying to recall this rather un-memorable incident -- or had she tried to block it from her mind? "If you say so, then it must be, but not for above five minutes... it is not worth arguing about. But I have no recollection of it, and it never could have happened. Pray undeceive him as soon as you can, for I assure you that I do not and will not ever have affection for your brother, as you claim he holds for me."
Eleanor loved Catherine quite dearly at this moment, and as Frederick turned back to the party, his was lost as to the expression on Isabella's face. It seemed to mark... defeat?
"Are you so against poor John?"
"I can never return his affection," admitted Catherine, hoping that the subject was exhausted.
Isabella persisted, "I shall not tease you any more on this subject. John wished for me to speak to you, and I have. I must admit that when I read his letter I did think it a very foolish business, not likely to promote the good of either, what would you live upon? You both have something, but it would not support a family! I wonder that John could think for it. He could not have received my last."
Eleanor turned to Henry in amazement. Surely Isabella must live very lavishly indeed! Something but not enough to support a family? This was the first mention of Catherine's fortune as heard from anyone but John Thorpe, and it was curious. However, Isabella seemed spiteful at the rejection of her brother, and was likely being rude to Catherine. After all, Isabella was marrying Catherine's brother, so it was unlikely that it was the Morlands who had such trifling sums of money
Catherine in her gentle and mild brain felt a slight surge of curious anger as to what was in that letter, but she said instead, "Do you acquit me, Isabella, of anything wrong? I assure you that I never meant to deceive you brother, I never suspected him of liking me until this moment."
"As the that," said Isabella haughtily and breezily to Frederick's great astonishment, "I do not pretend to know what you thoughts and designs in the time past may have been. I am the last person who would judge you. What one means one day. you know, one may not mean the next. Circumstances change, opinions alter."
"But my opinion of your brother never altered," stated Catherine once again, in an attempt to make her friend understand her. "It was always the same. You have been describing what never happened!"
Henry silently applauded Catherine, and he turned to Eleanor, and said in a low voice,
"She never spoke a more pleasant word. I knew that I did not like that Thorpe fellow the moment I met him! But, I am quite delighted, in knowing that she visits my sister as opposed to his. I never saw a woman so prickly and persistent. Won;t she let the poor girl alone. However, Miss Morland is managing wonderfully. I wonder how Frederick manages with that woman?"
As Henry finished speaking, he observed Frederick crossing the room, and, on seeing Isabella's face turned towards his pointedly and not very indiscreetly inviting him over, sitting in the seat beside her, and turning to subject towards a more general one. Frederick hadn't understood the last one at all. Had he perhaps missed something while telling Mrs. Allen where he had bought his cravat? It was of no importance, anyway... the conversation, not the cravat. The cravat was a worthy topic of Frederick had ever heard one! However, for the sake of the ladies, he talked of the weather. Miss Morland sighed in relief, and turned her gaze across the room to where Henry, Eleanor and Mrs. Allen were making small talk.
However, Catherine's attention had drawn back to her friend as she overheard their low conversation, one that certainly was not about the weather.
"If I could believe it --," Isabella was saying. "My spirit you know is pretty independent."
"I wish that your heart was independent," said Frederick in low tones. "That would be enough for me."
Catherine stared at the two as their attempt at intimate conversation was carried out in the seats opposite hers. She saw that Capt. Tilney looked only half earnest. There was a curious expression on his face, a playful one, much like the ones that she and her brothers had worn when they tried to poke the pig with straw, and dart away any time it tried to catch them. Isabella's face looked earnest and pleased. How could she flirt with the Captain and still be engaged to poor James? Catherine was angry, and stood up, going over to Mrs. Allen and proposing a walk. Isabella was not inclined to join them, and remained behind, with Capt. Tilney, even when Henry and Eleanor agreed to walk with Catherine.
On the walk Eleanor turned to Mrs. Allen and engaged her attentions, all the while marveling at the woman's ability to not soak in what had just been happening around her. She hadn't even noticed that John Thorpe had left bath, not to think of knowing about his letter. However, despite all inclining of her character, Mrs. Allen had noticed one thing.
"Miss Tilney, I couldn't help but notice that your escort these past few nights has been gone. Surely this must be most grievous for you. Before I saw Mrs. Thorpe, we knew no one but your brother, who had left Bath. It must be terrible without a partner at the balls."
Eleanor was frankly amazed that Mrs. Allen would have noticed, but kindly replied, trying not to betray any emotion.
"It is a trifle upsetting. Mr. Landes is a friend of Henry's, but his business in London calls him back."
"How troublesome this business!" exclaimed Mrs. Allen. "I am quite upset whenever Mr. Allen is off on business."
"How sorry for you," said Eleanor, who turned the subject to Mrs. Allen's favorite one: muslins. Then Eleanor was free to listen to Catherine and henry, who were close enough behind her for her to not feel as if she was violating their privacy. if one speaks out loud within earshot, it can hardly be a crime to hear, can it? They were discussing Isabella and Frederick.
"You brother seems quite partial to Isabella," Catherine was saying. "I wondered at their not joining us. But she was angering me, seeming to disregard my brother. Would you please alert your brother of Isabella's prior engagement, for if you do not, James shall be most hurt when he returns, finding your brother attentive to Isabella."
"My brother knows of the prior engagement," said Henry.
"Does he? But why does he stay about her so?"
Henry, knowing that Frederick would toy and tease a woman for his own delight, not caring how many hearts he broke or lives he ruined, said nothing. He tried to turn Catherine's attention to the novel he had leant her the day before. But Catherine was not to be deterred. Eleanor smiled, remembering when she became forward around Richard, knowing that while the subject was painful to Henry that he admired Catherine's courage.
"Why do you not persuade your brother to go away, then? The longer he stays, the worse it will be for him at last when my brother returns. Advise him, for everyone's sake, to leave Bath! He can have no hope here."
"I am sure that my brother will not wish to leave."
"Then you will not persuade him?" asked Catherine. If Eleanor had turned about, she would have seen Catherine lower her eyelids in despair and frustration.
"I have already told Frederick that Miss Thorpe is engaged, Miss Morland. There is nothing more that I can do. Frederick amuses himself as he pleases, I can do nothing, but I do understand you."
Catherine's sad little face turned brighter, and she smiled at Henry.
"But he will not know the pain he gives my brother. James has never said it, but he feels uncomfortable with Isabella's most recent letters, I sense it in his to me."
"Are you sure that his unhappiness is of my brother's doing?"
"But, Miss Morland," said Henry. Eleanor heard him pause, and took the moment to make a reply to Mrs. Allen about sprigged lawn. Henry continued. "Is it my brother's attentions to Miss Thorpe, or Miss Thorpe's acceptance of these affections that gives him pain?"
Catherine was silent for a moment, considering. Eleanor realized that she really oughtn't to listen to the unacknowledged lover's conversation, and applied herself very earnestly to a summary of the nicest bonnets Mrs. Allen had seen this week.
Love was a curious thing, Eleanor surmised as her mind wandered (as it always will!) from the perusal of finery. Frederick sought nothing more from a woman than a few pleasant weeks, interfering and making the woman adore him, but giving no regard to her. Catherine and Henry were quite devout to each other, showing courage to protect their own affections. And of Eleanor's own love? She was perfectly content to admire Richard from afar. She needed the occasional time with him, to strengthen her regard, but she was as content to love his memory as his person. Was this a bad thing?, she wondered fervently as she listened to a dissertation on dancing slippers. She was content to love from afar, but surely if Richard were her she could love him much more. Business was a dreadful nuisance. But it would help Richard get a living. And if he had a living he could support a wife.
Continued in Part 3
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