A Bird in a Gilded Cage
Catherine was removed to Milsom Street rather happily at the end of the week. From the Tilney's house in Bath she was to travel to their home in Gloustershire, an abbey!, and she was delighted about it all. She told Eleanor so.
Eleanor was rather pleased when Catherine arrived to stay until the group would quit the city. Finally the girl would be free of that perverse Isabella Thorpe, to the satisfaction of three quarters of the Tilneys. Frederick couldn't really care either way.
Mr. Allen attended Catherine to the house on Friday morning, making sure that she had all of her trunks with a paternal solicitude. Catherine was most grateful, and, to Eleanor, seemed rather nervous. When Mr. Allen quitted the house, she observed Catherine gazing out the window, as if she wanted to follow him and leave this strange house. Because Eleanor saw the glance, she was more solicitous than usual, and by giving Henry a look allowed him to have a chance to show his delight at having Miss Morland grace his humble home.
The General had seen to it that Catherine was beside Eleanor and across from Henry at the breakfast table. Frederick was again not up yet, and the General wandered about fuming about his son;s tardiness. Catherine seemed to grow rather small and frightened in her seat, and Eleanor good naturedly kicked her brother, to have him distract Miss Morland. This plan worked rather well.
"Will you not eat anything, Miss Morland? Come, try some of these fruits, I am sure that you shall like them. And will you not have any more tea?"
Catherine blushed, and replied softly, "Indeed, whatever you suggest. But I assure you that there is much here to my taste. You have a lovely breakfast table set before me, and I cannot but marvel."
Henry smiled, and served Catherine over the table. Eleanor smiled at them, and was attempting to make polite conversation when Frederick at last came down.
Catherine had not much been in Fredericks company, and she did not much like him, but she was appalled at the severity of his father's reprimand when he strode in quite late.
"Frederick, this is breakfast already. Have you forgotten all of your manners? I am appalled by this behavior. If I cannot trust you in my own house to be punctual, I hate to think what you do when you are in the regiment. I have paid for your serving man for so long, and if you cannot even make it to the breakfast table before guests arrive, than you do not deserve such attentions on my part. I trust that you will pay Harding's wages from your own now. And sit. You look ridiculous standing there. Sit down and make polite conversation. We have a guest."
Frederick was not fully awake, and had only registered the two facts that his father was angry and that he would have to pay for his own manservant. This produced a foul temper, and he sat down sulkily at the foot of the table, and grumpily asked for the eggs. Henry passed, them, saying nothing.
The General now sat at his seat again, and resumed eating his interrupted breakfast. He then turned to Catherine, and said,
"I am sorry that you had t suffer through that Miss Morland. Frederick was most in the wrong, and did you no honor by being tardy when he knew that you would be coming. I pray that you will forgive him, though he does not deserve it. Pass the preserves."
The General then spoke no other words the rest of the meal, instead tucking in heartily to his breakfast. Frederick turned to Eleanor, and whispered,
"How glad I shall be when you are all off!" He said it loud enough for Catherine, Eleanor and henry to hear, but mercifully his words did not reach his father. Catherine blinked several times, and resumed messing her breakfast about on her plate with her fork. Henry then was all attention, and tried to offer her something that she might want to eat instead of what she had taken. Eleanor just stared at her brother. It wasn't that he was particularly rude, Eleanor quite understood Frederick's desire for independence. More, it was Frederick's unhappy way of stating the same feelings she herself held. Eleanor could not wait to leave Bath behind. There was nothing for her in this city now, and so many possibilities in other places.
There was a great bustle as everyone tried to get their trunks out to the carriages. Eleanor and the other Tilney's ran about packing up anything they might have forgotten. Henry took on the duty of entertaining Miss Morland while Eleanor dashed to her room to pack the last of her gowns.
Eleanor shook out each gown as she committed it to the trunk, and, as she lifted out the cloak she had worn to the ball her last night with Richard in Bath, she was faintly surprised to see a bit of paper fall to the floor. Being a sensible sort of heroine, she finished packing to gowns before pursuing the contents of the mysterious note.
On its front, it read Miss Tilney. Eleanor opened it gently, and sitting down upon the bed, read it.
Forgive me for being so forward and impudent, Miss Tilney, but I wanted to thank you for a lovely sojourn in Bath. The city has been wonderful, and the company that your brother, and especially you, gave to a humble working man like myself has been truly glorious. Thank you. I will be asking you whether I might have the permission to write you, and I fervently hope that by the time you read this that you will have granted that to me. If you have decided otherwise, you are a prudent creature, and toss this letter into the fire.
I am thankful for your attentions, and wish that I might show you my own attentions, but I am not my own man, I am committed to work, and to the restoration of a lost character. You have been an understanding friend, and I thank you. There is no one so lovely as Miss Tilney. Your friend, R.L.
Eleanor was rather astonished by this extraordinary letter, but was pleased as well. The language was flattering, and Eleanor could not but smile, to think of Richard slipping the letter into her cloak as he departed from the ball. It was a kind note, and would fuel her love for months, until she might see Richard again. Blushing, and smiling, in wonderful spirits, she was ready to face anyone, including her father. Eleanor slammed her last trunk shut and pocketing the letter, made her way down the stairs to entertain her pretty young guest while Henry made sure that his cravats would not be mussed in their journey.
They had still not left by ten, and the General was getting in a frightful mood. It was all Eleanor could do to soothe Catherine, who was becoming quite genuinely afraid of the General. However, despite many mix ups, they were about ready to move on their way.
Eleanor, her maid and Catherine were to travel in the carriage, while Henry and the General would travel in Henry's curricle. The carriage was rather cramped, and there was rather another tussle as the Genera tried to make room for Miss Morland, nearly sacrificing her new writing desk in the process. But, every journey must start soon, or rather quite more frequently later, and the Tilney carriages left Bath, complete with guests, trunks and writing desk.
Catherine was rather quiet in the carriage. Nothing intimate could be said between Eleanor and Catherine while the maid was sitting bolt upright in a corner, staring out the window, pretending that she wasn't there. Catherine sighed, and turned her face out the window.If she tried and turned her neck in a frightful way, she could see the curricle behind them. Eleanor smiled at her.
At last they arrived for a break at an inn in Petty France, where they proceeded to wait for a full two hours for their new horses, and to have a meal.
The meal was rather unspectacular, in Eleanor's opinion, and by Catherine's expression, she didn't think much of it either. They had breakfasted so recently that they were not really very hungry at all. Mostly, the foursome sat about the able, trying to make polite conversation as a buzz of activity happened out the window.
"Did you like your journey, Miss Morland?" Henry inquired kindly, watching Catherine stare at the chicken on her plate.
"It was rather nice," said Catherine. "The scenery was heavenly, I'm sure."
"Ah! The scenery!" boomed the General "I like good scenery as well as any man. But you really cannot have seen much from your seat."
Catherine nodded a little blankly, and Eleanor turned to her. "Would you like any more of the lamb? And by the by, did you see that lovely field several miles back with a ll the sheep by the brook?"
"Eleanor, it is not polite to speak of lambs and lambs in the same sentence."
Eleanor fell silent, and watched her father under shaded eyelids as Henry made an attempt at conversation.
"Have you seen the paper at all today, Miss Morland? There was an interesting article on Mrs. Radcliffe's newest work."
"Henry," the General cut in sharply as Catherine's opened her mouth, "ladies do not read the newspaper in the morning, and novels are vulgar."
Catherine's mouth clamped firmly shut, and she just stared. Eleanor tried to break into the silence, wondering why her father was in such a foul mood as to interrupt every attempt at conversation his children made. She made another effort to speak to her guest.
"Catherine, are you fond of flowers?"
Catherine paused, trying to come up with her answer, and the pugnacious General took the moment to cut in again.
"Really, Eleanor! Must you show off your garden to every single guest? If Miss Morland does not like flowers, you mustn't force anything on her."
"I won't, Father," said Eleanor, determined to be silent for the rest of the meal. The general took advantage of the silence and made entirely polite and unpresumptuous conversation... about the weather.
After two hours of staying at the inn in Petty France, the horses were finally ready, and the two Tilney equipages brought out. The General turned to Catherine, and said, to Eleanor's great astonishment, but delight,
"Miss Morland, would you not sit in Henry's curricle? You were trying to admire the view earlier, and the open carriage will allow you much more of this. It will be no trouble to me to sit in the carriage, and I am sure that it will allow you to see as much of the country as possible."
Catherine made a polite protest, but was convinced to sit with Henry in the curricle. When they were safely aboard, the General followed Eleanor to the closed carriage.
Then, Eleanor remembered that now for the rest of the journey she would need to sit in a confined space with her father. Her maid, Anna, was looking like better and better company all the time. If the General spoke at all about Richard, or about one of the young men he wanted Eleanor to consider, Eleanor thought she would scream. Or volunteer to walk to the Abbey.
As it happened, the General just smiled, out the window, and dropped off to sleep. Admidst the General's grumpy snores, Eleanor found herself gazing out the window. Henry was a ways behind, but she knew that he was happy. Likely he was making Catherine blush and smile... as he should be. Thinking this, Eleanor found herself drifting off the sleep, and the rest of the journey passed peaceably as she dreamt of recieving a letter from Richard Landes. If Anna noticed the happy smile on her slumbering mistress's face, she made no note of it.
Finally, as all journeys must eventually, the trip was at an end. The carriage pulled neatly through the main gate, passing moss covered stone walls and groves of ancient oaks. Eleanor reawoke, and gazed out the window, taking in the sights of her home. The carriage rolled along the smooth drive, passing a fishing pond, and lovely gardens. At last, the carriage stopped under the old porch, Henry's curricle following. Eleanor was helped from her seat, and again felt the firm ground of the Abbey beneath her feet. Flowers had bloomed in her absence, filling the air with sweet perfume. Grass was a lovely lush green, and someone had swept the paths recently. A great rush of joy and pride filled Eleanor as she looked about, and saw Catherine admiring the Abbey. Eleanor was home, and happy.Chapter 18
Catherine looked dazed as Henry escorted her into the house. Eleanor smiled, and was full of pride as Catherine admired every aspect of the house and grounds. The General had put on his good manners again, and taking Catherine's arm, walked her into the sitting room. Henry smiled at Eleanor, as he oversaw the removal of Catherine's trunks into the house.
"Did you have a nice ride?" asked Eleanor, a smile refusing to hide on her lips.
"An excellent one," said Henry. "I joked with Cath... Miss Morland, poking fun at the gothic novel's depiction of abbeys and their inhabitants. I couldn't stay serious after a little while, though. But it was a lovely ride."
"That's good. I had a pleasant one at any rate, Father went to sleep, and I did as well, a little later on. But come, Father is showing off the china, he'll expect us to stand there and smile."
"Yes, well, let us go. Anderson seems to have all of the trunks in order." Henry offered an arm to his sister. Eleanor took it, and they strolled into the sitting room where the General was engaged in one of his speeches. This time it was the windows.
"Yes, Miss Morland, the windows are original to the Abbey on this side of the house, a few have been restored. I think the effect rather charming, and, I flatter myself, they make this apartment not unworthy of your notice. Look at this gilding on this window. To be sure, it was rather expensive, but the effect is wonderful, it is so close to the original gilding that it is well worth the effort. And see how these windows appear to take up the wall, making the supports seem like thin bars instead of wide wall. A bit like a little golden bird cage, I think."
Eleanor glanced at her father from under lowered lashes. To Eleanor this speech was as good as saying that the Abbey was a cage. He even admitted that it was a gilded one, a comfortable and luxurious one. Her father was an interesting man. As Eleanor watched him, he suddenly caught sight of the clock, and exclaimed,
"It is twenty to five!" Eleanor nodded wearily. It was time to go change for supper. Eleanor took hold of Catherine's arm, and hurried her from the room towards the room Catherine was to occupy. The same guest room as Richard had stayed in.
Catherine seemed a little confused at the rush, but did not mind seeing her room and changing. She smiled as Eleanor opened the door to the room, and spoke favorably of the room. Eleanor stood by the door, remembering the last time the room had been occupied, and a sad smile stole onto her face for a minute. Eleanor then breathed the scent of the room deeply, and resigned herself to leave, saying to Catherine,
"Please do not make great change in your dress, it shan't be a very formal meal, and my father likes his meals to be served punctually."
Eleanor then smiled at her guest and shut the door of the room. She hurried to her own room, and quickly made a small alteration to her appearance, so that she might be suitable for the meal, but not spend much time about her toilette. She reached into her traveling coat and found tucked into its recesses the note from Richard. Staring at it for a few moments, Eleanor sighed. And tucked the paper into the back of a drawer. She turned to the mirror, and called for her maid, who quickly arranged her mistress's hair.
Ready for the meal, Eleanor quickly went to find Miss Morland. The General was in an excellent mood, but he still would not like to be kept from his meal. The military had made a great man of General Tilney, but it had also made him, for better or worse, deadly punctual. Eleanor knew only too well that her father could enter into an abominably foul mood simply from being delayed five minutes from his supper. Sighing, Eleanor knocked on Catherine's door, and entered.
Catherine was bent over looking into an old chest that contained linens. No doubt Henry had convinced Catherine that it held a dead body or at least the memoirs of a prisoner held in this very room. Eleanor could not forget some of the stories Henry and Frederick had told her, keeping her awake for nights at a time. Finally Mrs. Tilney had shown Eleanor that there was no ghoul in the tower or skeleton in the chest, and that the Žbloodstain' in the kitchen was really just the mark from when a vat of red dye had fallen.
Catherine righted herself quickly, and turned to Eleanor. She blushed a little, but turned to the mirror immediately, and quickly tidied her face and hair. Then, with Eleanor's urgent entreaties, they joined together and flew down the hallway, and entered slightly out of breath.
Henry looked away from a window as he stood absentmindedly gazing out of it, and smiled at his sister and her friend. The General, who had been pacing up and down the room with a watch in his hand, stopped pacing, and rang the bell for the meal to be served, saying,
"Dinner shall be on the table directly."
Catherine quailed at his tone, but Eleanor was soothing. However, soon the General regained his former politeness, and smiled at Catherine, to Eleanor's relief.
"Eleanor, You have hurried Miss Morland too much, indeed, she is quite out of breath. That is hardly the way to treat a guest."
Eleanor bowed her head in acknowledgement, but was spared another immediate scolding by the arrival of the first course. The General turned heartily to his meal, and began to smile as his appetite was attended to. Eleanor saw that Catherine, who had at first looked nervous, was now calm, and enjoying the meal. Henry watched his father, sister and guest through narrowed eyes while tucking into the meal. Eleanor smiled at his detachedness, it was a lovely gift. henry could be or not be part of a party by simply closing his eyes. It helped to keep the General from scolding him too often.
The conversation began as soon as everyone had satisfied the initial pangs of hunger. Catherine timidly addressed the General, saying,
"This is a very fine room, General Tilney. I do not believe that I have ever seen such a large and grand eating room."
This remark was met with a good natured nod, and the General replied to her, "It is by no meals an ill-sized room, to be sure. But I do think that large eating room is necessary for a comfortable existence. But, I suppose, you are used to much better sized apartments when you visit the Allens."
"No, indeed! Mr. Allen's dining-parlor is not half as large as this. I have not ever seen such a large eating room in my life."
This was met with a dazzling smile on the general's part. Henry raised his eyelids and shot Catherine a congratulatory look. Catherine blushed, and turned back to the General, and listened politely to his speech on dining rooms he had eaten in.
"Smaller eating rooms can be much cozier, though, Miss Morland. And more comfortable, too, I am sure. Mr. Allen's house must be the perfect size for true happiness," was the General's latest remark, and Eleanor could see that Catherine looked a bit confused. However, they stumbled through the conversation and the meal without any arguments, and all were reasonably happy once fed.
After supper the General went off with Henry to discuss business with the steward, and Eleanor and Catherine sat together by a warm and cheerful fire, while fierce winds blew outside.
"I expect that we are in for a storm," commented Eleanor.
"Oh, dear!" said Catherine. "Will it make it too dirty to see your hothouses tomorrow?"
"Never fear, I do not mind a little dirt. Have you great desire to see my hothouses then," asked Eleanor with a smile.
"I'd like to see them. Your father claims that they are rather superior."
"Sometimes he flatters me."
"I am sure that he does not! What sorts of flowers do you grow, then?" asked Catherine, with more politeness than interest.
"A variety. Of course there are native plants, but I take pride in foreign plants as well. I have Dutch Tulips and last year I was given a slip of a violet from Africa. It's done quite well. But in truth, my favorite flower is the hyacinth."
"Hence the paintings," remarked Catherine. In almost every room there were rather superior sketches, crayon pictures and watercolors of flowers, and a large percentage of them were of hyacinths.
"Yes," said Eleanor, embarrassed. "I do rather like them. For example, they have such a unique shape. Certainly, there are other flowers with similar forms, but there is nothing quite so enchanting as a hyacinth."
"I shall take your word for it. I fear that I have little knowledge and less passion for flowers."
"I rather delight in them, but then I have been almost alone these last several years. You have had all of your siblings."
"But you have Captain Tilney and Hen--Mr. Tilney. They are lively."
"And employed. I mostly am alone. So I befriended flowers."
"A unique idea."
"Yes. But I was explaining the superiority of hyacinths over other flowers. They are lovely colors. Certainly the blue hyacinth is as enchanting a color as one could imagine. My father once bought me a gown that color, and it was heavenly. Unfortunately it spoiled in the laundry. I do like the pink flowers tolerably well, and the white is so sort that I could imagine sleeping on it like a pillow."
"I have thought that they looked rather soft."
"Smooth, in any case, and when the bees buzz around them they put me in mind of heaven, the white blossoms with the little golden winged creatures flying about humming."
Catherine looked both shocked, like a good minister's daughter, and intrigued. Eleanor moved on though.
"The scent is lovely as well. Quite strong, and forceful for such a delicate plant."
"I have noticed the scent before."
"Have I convinced you to love hyacinths yet?" asked Eleanor with a smile.
"Not yet, but I am convinced that they have charms."
At this point Henry and the General returned, and conversation flowed more freely for a time.
The evening progressed on, and it came time for everyone to retire. Eleanor walked with Catherine to their wing of the house, and bid Catherine a pleasant night of sleep. Catherine gave a funny smile, and assured her that she would have a pleasant night. Eleanor glanced back at Catherine as she proceeded to her room down the hall, and just saw Catherine glancing about the room in slight apprehension. The girl hadn't convinced herself that Northanger was a novel abbey, had she?
Eleanor lay down, and slept as much as she might.
The next morning was a bright and cheerful one after a stormy night. Eleanor indulged herself to sleep in for a little, and thus missed the beginning of an interesting conversation between Henry and Catherine. Had she been present, she would have heard Catherine and Henry say:
"I hope, Miss Morland, that your sleep was not interrupted by the storm."
"The wind did keep me up a little. But there is now such a charming morning afterwards."
Looking out the window of the breakfast parlor, she observed the bright lawn and the colorful flower beds. She turned back to the table, and observed that there was a vase of flowers upon the table, likely to product of Miss Tilney's hothouse. Fearing that there should be no conversation between her and Henry, or, worse, that he might say something about abbeys that would remind Catherine of her follies the night before with a Japanese cabinet, said, "What beautiful hyacinths! I have just learned to love a hyacinth."
"How might you learn? By accident or by argument?" Henry was smiling at Catherine.
"Your sister taught me to love a hyacinth by talking to me last night. And this morning I wake and realize that I love a hyacinth. Mrs. Allen took pains every year to make me like them, but I never could like one until I saw them so often about your sister."
"And now you love a hyacinth." Catherine blushed under Henry's teasing smile. "So much the better. You have gained a new source of enjoyment, and it is well to have as many holds upon happiness as possible. Besides all that, a taste in flowers is is always desirable in women, as a means of getting you out of doors, and tempting you to frequent exercise you might not otherwise take. My sister has been much assisted by her love of flowers, apart from her love of the outdoors. And further, though the love of a hyacinth is more domestic, who can tell, the sentiment once raised,but you may in time come to love a rose?"
The gaze and smile made Catherine squirm a little, but she laughed before replying,
"But I do not need to love a hyacinth to get me out of doors. The pleasure of walking and fresh air is enough for me, and in fine weather I am outside more than half of me time. Mamma says that I am never within."
"At any rate, however, I am pleased that you have come to love a hyacinth. The mere habit of learning to love is the thing; and teachableness of disposition in a young lady is a great blessing. Has my sister a pleasant mode of instruction?" Henry then asked, noticing Catherine's discomfort to his great delight. Perhaps the girl was not insensible to his charms? Of course she wasn't. He knew that Catherine was learning to care for him, and was delighted.
By chance, Catherine was spared having to respond to this comment and question by the General and Eleanor arriving together at the table. Eleanor saw the flushed look on Catherine's face, and shot Henry a questioning glance. Henry shook his head slightly, and returned his attention to his eggs.Chapter 19
Once everyone was seated at the table, and had begun to eat, Catherine mentioned her approval of the breakfast china. The General, who had chosen the pattern himself, was delighted with her praise, and went on a torrent of the pleasantries of this particular pattern.
"It is from Staffordshire, a domestic creation, but the clay flavors the tea just as well as that from Dresden or S»vres, or that of any other imported china. I believe that we out to encourage British manufacture, being an independent nation. However, My dear Miss Morland, I will admit to you that this is quite an old set... I purchased it a full two years ago. The manufacture has become so much better since, I feel quite ashamed at times when I see modern china. I saw some lovely specimens the last time I was in town, and I had been tempted to purchase a set. However, I trust that there will be an occasion before long for another one to be selected, though not for myself."
Henry blushed, and stared at his plate in embarrassment of his father's pointedness, and Eleanor looked carefully out the window. She needn't have worried, though, for the allusion missed Catherine, who furrowed her brow, and took a sip of her tea.
When Henry had quite recovered, he tactfully steered the conversation in another direction, and Eleanor withdrew her attention from out of the window back to the table.
Shortly after the meal was done, Henry bowed to his father, sister and her friend, and smiling, said farewell. Catherine blinked several times, but Eleanor explained that Henry had business at his parish of Woodston, that would occupy him for two or three days. He mounted his horse, and with a last glance at the small party waving him off by the door, he nudged the horse with his foot, and set off at a strong trot towards the main road.
The Tilneys and Catherine made their way back into the breakfast-room. Eleanor sat down in her seat again, and rang for the servant. Catherine stood by the window, gazing out at the driveway to the road. Eleanor smiled when she saw Catherine, gazing out the window hoping to catch another glimpse of Henry. The general observed this as well, with a smile of satisfaction. He pushed his napkin over his plate, and turned to his daughter.
"This is a somewhat heavy call on your brother's fortitude, Eleanor," the General remarked. "Woodston will make but a somber appearance today."
Catherine, having quite given up of seeing Henry any more today, turned to the father and daughter, and asked in her pretty mild way, "Is it a pretty place?"
The General turned to his daughter.
"What say you, Eleanor? Tell Miss Morland what you think of the place; ladies can best tell the tastes of ladies in regard to places, as well as men. -- I think that Woodston to the most impartial eye to have many recommendations." Said the General, cutting off his daughter, who had opened her mouth to speak. He continued,
"The house stands among fine meadows, and faces south-east. There is an excellent kitchen garden also facing thus. I built and stocked the walls surrounding it on behalf of my son a few years ago. It is a family living, Miss Morland; and the property is mostly my own, so I take care that it is not a bad living. If Henry's income consisted solely upon this, he would not be ill provided for. Perhaps you think it odd that with only two younger children than my eldest that I should think a profession necessary for Henry, and I will admit that there are moments when we wish that we could disengage him from business. I will not try to convert you to my way of thinking, Miss Morland, but surely your father would agree with me in thinking that it is expedient to give every young man some employment. The money is nothing, it is not the object of my practice, but the employment is thing thing. Even Frederick, my eldest son, you see, who will perhaps inherit a very considerable a property, as considerable a property as any private man in the country, has his profession."
It took Catherine a little while to sort out the General's different subordinate clauses and subject and verbs, but at last she understood what the General was saying, and when she understood, she nodded, but said nothing. The General smiled in amusement. Eleanor looked pitiably upon her guest.
Settling into their chairs, Eleanor pulled out her netting box, and took up her work. Catherine brought forth some of her own needlework, (thankful that Henry was not there to see how wretched it really was), but the General turned and addressed her.
"Miss Morland, how would you like a tour of the Abbey? I would be delighted if you should agree to join me in seeing the rest of my humble home."
Catherine paused a fraction of a second, but smiling agreed, and tucked away her needlework with glee.
"You are too kind, Miss Morland," the general was saying, a smile upon his face. "And when we are done, I promise myself the pleasure of showing you the shrubberies and gardens." Catherine curtsied, and Eleanor cast a glance out the window, to see what the weather was at the moment. The General followed her anxious glance, and amended his agenda.
"But perhaps it might be wisest to make these your first object. The weather is at present quite favorable, but at this time of year it is so apt to change quickly. Which would you prefer, Miss Morland, first a tour of the house or of the grounds?" He turned to Eleanor, then, who shut the netting box with a small smile at her friend.
Eleanor was used to giving tours of the house and grounds with her father. He was proud (and rightly so) of his estate, and fond of showing off it's advantages. Eleanor liked her home very much, but could only think a little painfully of he last time she had shown a guest about the estate. The last guest had been Richard.
"Eleanor, which do you think would be more to your fair friend's wishes? Never mind," he said, cutting Eleanor short again. "I think that I can discern for myself. Yes, I read it in Miss Morland's eyes, she wishes to make use of the present smiling weather. And when would Miss Morland judge amiss?" Catherine, bewildered, nodded again, and the General went off in search of a hat, coat and stick.
Catherine turned to Eleanor in despair. "I don't want to be making any trouble, he takes me out of doors outside of his own inclination. He wanted to show me the inside of the house first. It makes no difference to me which I see first, but I hate to think that he thinks I prefer the outdoors while he prefers indoors."
Eleanor smiled reassuringly at her friend, and said, a little confused,
"I believe that it is wisest to take the morning for the tour of the gardens, while it is still fine. And do not be uneasy on my father's account, he almost always walks out at this time of day."
Catherine took this with a dissatisfied shake of her head, and impatiently put on her bonnet. Eleanor watched her in a little confusion. Catherine must have not slept well, perhaps she had been worrying whether some villain would interrupt her rest with a raised torch, slipping from a secret passage into her room, carrying a bag of counterfeit notes? Surely not.
The General returned, and Eleanor quickly pulled on a light jacket and put on her bonnet. The trio made their way out onto the lawn.
The lawn was an impressive one, just bursting into fresher green in the March weather, but the trees were still quite bare. The lawn set off the Abbey very well, making it seem even more impressive than it had seemed from the inside. The building closed off a large court, and helped to form a quadrangle full of Gothic ornaments. The remainder of the lawn was shut off in knolls of old trees or luxuriant plantations, with steep woody hills rising in the background. Catherine was clearly delighted, and Eleanor could not help but to smile at her father and feel proud of his work with her home, even when he was the cause of much of her unhappiness. The Abbey bonded father and daughter together, and whatever anger might rise between them, there was always the Abbey, a beautiful symbol of the torn and tattered Tilney family.
Catherine was still gazing in admiration when Eleanor brought her attention back to everyday life. Then, the girl burst into speech, full of delight and wonder. The General listened, asserted her opinions as being excellent and just,a nd smiled to himself. The girl was wonderful, not only was she clearly in love with henry, and Henry with her, but she had a fortune, and was more than willing to agree to every word that came from the General's mouth. How fortunate, mused the General, as they continued the tour, taking a look at the kitchen garden.
The tour continued on and on, and Eleanor could see that Catherine was both amazed and wearying. By the time they reached the nearly a town of hot houses, Catherine looked rather fatigued of viewing lovely aspects and views. Eleanor watched in frustration as her father questioned Catherine as to her father's and Mr. Allen's gardens, and really nearly forced Catherine into admitting that his garden was the most spectacular that she had ever seen. And the General told Catherine how his garden was his hobby.
This was not strictly true. The General loved a good walk, and was fond of pretty things, but mostly he lovely pretty things so that he might show them off. Having no title of his own, the General's life ambition was to marry his children to either a fortune or a title. While Northanger was a grand house, and had exquisite furnishings and gardens, the General still felt inferior to those with titles, and was determined that all of his children should end up greater than he, a thing they found hard under the General's strict observance of their lives.
The General had now finished drilling Catherine as to the Hothouses near Fullerton, and led Catherine outside again. He was proposing to look at recent alterations he had had commissioned for the tea house. It was "no unpleasant extension of their walk, if Miss Morland was not tired."
Catherine was tired, but the General took no note of it. As Eleanor chose a pleasant path towards the tea house, which would spare Catherine having to admire another half mile of vantage points. The path also happened to be one of the late Mrs. Tilney's favorites, and thus one of Eleanor's favorites. The General, who on principle avoided anything that reminded of his sweet and cheerful wife, called out the Eleanor's figure heading towards the path,
"Where are you going, Eleanor? Why do you choose that cold, damp path to it? Your friend will get wet. It would be better to cross the park."
Eleanor faced her father, a quiet anger showed, becoming barely visible on her face. The way her father tried to deny the existence of his dead wife was harmful to Eleanor's own cherished memory of her mother. The way he kept avoiding her favorite places, music, paintings was frustrating to the daughter who only wanted to devote herself to learning to love the same places, music, paintings. Mrs. Tilney was fond of her garden, truly fond, and proud, but tat pride had come form her love of the plants and the walks, rather than for the luxuriousness and splendor of the garden. Eleanor wished very dearly to burst out in reproof of her father's avoidance of the path, but Catherine was present.
"This is a favorite walk of mine. And I think it the best and nearest. But, perhaps, it may be damp."
The path looked a bit damp, and, being shaded by Scotch firs, it was a bit dark. Catherine looked excited by the prospect of treading the foreboding path, and made her way towards where Eleanor stood.
"But Miss Morland, I should hate for you to become ill from walking in the damp, in that dark."
"I shall be fine, General, I thank you for your solicitations, but I should like to travel by this path very much, instead of crossing the full grounds again. I am eager to see your garden, but fear that I am growing weary of the walking."
There was nothing polite that the General could say to make her take the other path with him, so he shrugged, and began to walk across the park, calling back to Eleanor,
"I do not find the rays of the sun too cheerful for me, as you do, Eleanor, and I shall meet you by another course."
Eleanor nodded, and set off briskly down the path, Catherine beside her, glowing happily at the prospect of a walk in a gloomy grove.Chapter 20
Had Eleanor known it, her walk on her mother's favorite path caused Catherine to have a lowered opinion of the General, and assisted her in the concoction of a gothic romance story surrounding to Tilney family. Such results could not have been further from Eleanor's intentions. Eleanor had only wanted to share one of her favorite places with her friend, to give Catherine a glimpse of a world that was gentle and beautiful. The world of Mrs. Tilney, the world the General bluntly ignored. Eleanor, a lover of beauty, could not bear such a pompous tour of the Abbey as her father gave. He left out some of the real aspects of the Abbey. It was a home, not an exhibit. And it had memories in it. The General was so wrapped up with the present and the future that he ignored his past. And the Abbey had quite a considerable past.
As Catherine was now clearly fatigued, the General sent them back to the house. He would join them in a quarter of an hour or so, and they might proceed upon his planned tour of the house. The young ladies continued back to the house, silent, each wrapped up in her own thoughts. However, Eleanor stopped and turned back when her father called back to her.
"Eleanor, do not take Miss Morland on a tour of the Abbey until I return." Eleanor nodded, shrugged, and took Catherine's arm, hauling her back towards the house where they found a pleasant fire and soft chairs.
Catherine was impatient to see the rest of the grand and pleasant house, and Eleanor smiled in understanding as the General was still delayed from joining them after a full hour. At length he appeared, and Eleanor revived the subject on Catherine's behalf.
"I see no need for any further delay, I am delighted that you are so eager, miss Morland. However, if you will allow five minutes for me to order refreshments to be in this room when we return, I will be with you directly."
Shortly they were ready to proceed, and they did so. Eleanor trailed behind as the General showed Catherine every nook and cranny of a magnificent drawing room. This was the drawing room used for very grand company, and the General w as only too pleased to stand and prattle on about the cost of the furnishings and the color of the satin, as well as the company who had visited within this room.
Then they proceeded into the library. Henry, when not walking, shooting, or spending time with his sister or brother, (or dog at Woodston), spent his time in the library. The General rarely used the room, but still knew every aspect of it, and pointed out the charms of the room to Miss Morland. She stood, listening, a hand trailing along the back of Henry's favorite chair. A table with books and papers on it stood a little to the side. Henry's use of the room gave the library a very pleasant lived in feel that was most appealing. Catherine, scanning the shelves was delighted to see that beyond serious works that Henry had quite a collection of poetry, novels and speeches. Or at least it was his name inscribed in many a fly leaf.
They proceeded on their way, and Catherine began to look a little dismayed when the General alerted her that she had already seen three of the four sides of the building that surrounded the court. However, she seemed happy again when Eleanor told her that this was the old cloister that they now stood in. The General, seeing the honest eagerness on Catherine's face took the hint, and pointed out the traces of the cells that had been in the Abbey when it had been occupied by nuns.
They passed a number of locked doors, and continued back into a comfortable hallway, from which the group walked through the billiard room, the General's apartment, and then henry's. Eleanor laughed a little as Catherine stumbled through the disorder of Henry's outer room, filled with his books, guns and the odd greatcoat.
The dining room and kitchens were passed over quickly, but the General then proposed visiting his offices in a rather new portion of the building. They proceeded through the offices, and then back into the building, and Catherine suffered through a tour of the gallery. Catherine was interested in the notables who had visited the Abbey, but soon grew bored of the mediocre paintings. Indeed, the only one that noticeably gained her attention was one of Capt. Tilney, Henry and Eleanor when they were rather younger. Catherine smiled at the boyish Henry, and seemed lost in thought as Eleanor gently nudged her, telling her that the General was ready to move to another painting.
When the paintings had been exhausted, Eleanor with a quick step went to the other end of the gallery and pulled open a pair of lovely folding doors. The general called her back angrily, almost.
"Where d you think you are going, Eleanor?"
Eleanor recoiled, but recovered. She was about to speak when the General cut her short, speaking to Catherine.
"What more is there to see, Miss Morland? We have already seen everything worth your notice. Eleanor, your friend will be anxious for refreshment after her tour?" Catherine turned anxiously towards Eleanor, and Eleanor could read the anxiety as being that to tour the rooms beyond the folding doors. The General read it as anxiety to be refreshed, or rather wished to read it as thus. The girls followed him as he found his way back to the main stairs.
Eleanor walked in silent anger. Why was her father so intent in forgetting and refusing to recognize her mother? She had lived, and lived happily, and had bore three children to the General. And they had both been happy. With her gone, why did the General force them all to be miserable? Thinking dark thoughts, Eleanor was interrupted by Catherine tripping over a loose nail. The General would have been angry to see the nail, but as he was a good way ahead of the girls, Eleanor made no apology for the existence of the offending piece of hardware, but, more usefully, extended an arm and helped Catherine to right herself.
"Upstairs I was going to take you into what was my mother's room -- the room i which she died."
"I see," said Catherine, looking at Eleanor with a mixture of curiosity, sympathy and eagerness. However, Eleanor said no more. How could she explain the family situation to a girl like Catherine, who had a full and loving family surrounding and supporting her?
After supper the General went off on his own, leaving the girls alone in the comfortable drawing room. Catherine timidly asked Eleanor,
"Do you think that I might be permitted some other day to see your mother's room, and the other side of the house?
"Certainly. Some other day."
The General entered the room again, and silently paced about the room while Eleanor sat silently sitting over her work. Catherine had taken out the disgraceful embroidery, and was cheerfully ripping it to pieces, planning to redo it some of the lovely colors Miss Tilney had offered to lend her.
"Miss Morland, might you pass me the scissors?" asked Eleanor quietly, as her father passed by them.
"Certainly." She passed them, and sat considering Miss Tilney for a little. Eleanor had offered to share the sacred chamber of her dead mother with her. Eleanor was encouraging, friendly, though strangely quiet. There had been no sign that Eleanor took much part in local society. Indeed, there had been no mention of balls or parties. Eleanor, it seemed, was a lonely young woman, who had shared some secrets with her, Catherine Morland, a mere minister's daughter. Catherine was flattered, and spoke a little timidly.
"Miss Tilney, might I call you Eleanor?"
"Yes." Eleanor looked up, and smiled at her friend. Her eyes were warm, contrasting with the cool, dark eyes of the general, who was still pacing. His silent circles around the two girls were unnerving Catherine. Eleanor, still smiling, said,
"My father often stalks about the room in this manner. It is nothing unusual." Catherine nodded a little, but turned to her work unsatisfied. Eleanor shrugged.
The evening became tedious, Catherine ripping threads from her work, Eleanor doing intricate work on a screen, without much enthusiasm. The General stalked.
After a time, Catherine asked for a needle, and Eleanor handed her one. However, the general's stalking must have been bothering her, as she dropped the needle on the floor. The sound echoed through the room, emphasizing how quiet it had been. The General turned and glared at his daughter for interrupting his thoughts. Eleanor picked up the offending piece of metal quickly, and put away her work. She went to a small table and rang the bell for a servant. Catherine rose, glad to be dismissed form the uncomfortable atmosphere of the comfortably fitted up room. Eleanor would have agreed that what the General lacked in manners or agreeableness, he made up in his decor. But decor is never the same as the genuine quality.
Candles arrived in the drawing room, and the two girls grabbed theirs up eagerly, and stood, allowing the butler to light them. The General, however, refused to have his be lit, saying to Catherine,
"Good night now, although I shall not retire. I have many pamphlets to finish before I can close my eyes. And perhaps I shall be pouring over the affairs of the nation while you are sleeping. Can either of us be more fittingly employed? My eyes will be blinded for the good of others, and yours preparing by rest for future mischief."
Eleanor was a little alarmed. Did the General see Catherine as a troublemaker because she wanted to learn about Mrs. Tilney? Catherine was also silent, tired, but curious. The General must be rather upset to have spoken thus. Mischief? She thought not. And pamphlets? Surely not! The general would be up stalking about the room all night, likely as not. However, she gave a polite good-night, and left the room with Eleanor.
The morning brought no mention of what had passed yesterday, and if Catherine was thinking about it even yet, she said nothing to Eleanor. As the sat in Church, Eleanor's thoughts wandered not to yesterday, but to a yesterday even longer gone, to when the loving woman who now slept in eternal sleep, whose monument stood before the family pew in the church. Eleanor hardly noticed the monument now, it was simply there, marking the general's grief. However, there was a more visible mark, his change in attitude. Once the General had been as lively as his sons, but not now. The change was a more impressive monument, not built in marble, but in flesh.
After the service the General departed for his walk, leaving Eleanor and Catherine alone in the house. Catherine reintroduced her desire to see the room and portrait of Mrs. Tilney, and Eleanor agreed.
The portrait of Mrs. Tilney stood in Eleanor's room, a room much unchanged in the last ten years. Since before her mother's demise. The one major chain in the room was the addition of Mrs. Tilney's portrait. Eleanor drew back her curtains, showering the room in pleasant sunshine, letting it fall upon the canvas covered with the likeness of the late Mrs. Tilney.
Catherine breathed in, her breath caught in her, as she gazed at the tranquil and pleasant features. The woman looked amazingly like Eleanor, only a little older, and she had laughter in her eyes where Catherine often saw despair in Eleanor's. Why was Eleanor so sad?, she wondered to herself. Then she was distracted, noticing that the the structure of the face and the laughing eyes were the same as Henry's. The hair was similar as well, having a slight curl to it, beyond the art of curlers. Over all, Catherine had a very favorable impression of the picture. And, some day Eleanor would look like that, beautiful, kind and loving. If only there was another Henry out there for Eleanor...
Eleanor's thoughts on looking at her mother's portrait were neither wistful nor sad. Mrs. Tilney had been a good woman, and deserved to be remembered and honored. Not wept for. Elaine Tilney would be upset if she knew that her daughter was mourning instead of living her own life. When Eleanor looked at the picture she was filled with courage to fight for her love, and to live as her own person, untouched by human foibles. Remembering Richard made Eleanor sad, not remembering her mother. Catherine, looking over, look the dejected expression as sorrow at her mother's passing.
They were about to enter Mrs. Tilney's room when the General called out, "Eleanor!", impatiently. Eleanor excused herself, and ran down to her father, leaving Catherine to her own devices.
On entering the breakfast room, the General turned to Eleanor, holding out a piece of paper, almost purple with rage.
"What is this, Eleanor?" he asked, with the air of a man who has suffered much.
Eleanor took the paper. Her newfound courgae disappeared. The paper was an envelope, addressed to Eleanor. From Richard. Or, Miss R. Land, as they had agreed to call him. But the letter had been misdirected, and sent back to Richard, had then franked it with his first initial, but written Landes instead of Land. Poor, foolish Richard. There could be no denying that she had allowed him to write to her. It would be better to tell the general the truth, and bear through it. There was a carriage entering the foot of the driveway, out of the window. Soon company would break up the scene. The general was always pleasant when in a large party.
"It is a letter," said Eleanor, summoning courage.
"But it is from a young man," said the General. "A young man that I told you never to speak to. A young man who is reputed to be of bad standing, and one whom I threw from this house. How long has this been going on?"
"I allowed him to write me after we met in Bath."
"Landes was in Bath?" the General spoke quickly.
"Yes, had you noticed."
"You gave him permission to write you? You aren't even engaged!"
"I needn't point out to you, Sir, that I should have been had you not thrown him from our home."
"He deserved it."
"He deserved it." The voice was more firm.
"I say that he did not." Eleanor was firmer.
"You will write a note to Landes and tell him that you do not wish to hear from him again. You shall write it now, and I shall post it."
There was no answer that she could tell the man who was livid with anger, and crumpling the letter in his hand. With one swift movement he tossed the letter into the fire.
"You will hand over any other correspondence from this... man."
Eleanor nodded slowly. The General's grim expression lifted a little, and he caught sight of the carriage approaching.
"You shall write the note now." He handed Eleanor a fresh sheet of paper, and stood over her, dictating.
"Sir: I am alerting you that your letters are no longer welcome. I would like you to desist in writing to me, if you have any decency you will comply." The General looked smug. Eleanor signed quickly. Yours Ever, Eleanor. The General looked back at her, and she hastily scribbled in messier writing, Tilney.
The General looked over it briefly, and folded it. He had Eleanor address the letter, and seal it. Then, putting the note into his pocket, he smiled. "Fetch all of your letters from this man." Eleanor left the room, and collected the only two notes she had from Richard. Catherine was peeping round the door, into the hallway. Eleanor smiled a little, but feeling betrayed and angry by and with her Father, she went back into the breakfast room. She turned to her father, ripping the letters into shreds, and tossing them into the fire. The General smiled as they hissed a little in the flames, and then he turned to greet his guests in the hallway.
Eleanor turned to go fetch Catherine to greet the guests, among them Miss Clark and Miss Weber, Eleanor's only other friends in the neighborhood, two women who had met Richard. Poor Richard.
As Eleanor passed the grate, she cast a longing glance at the flames, the flames that had eaten the only shreds of writing she owned of Richard's. However, as she crossed the room, her eye caught the a piece of paper. She swooped down upon it, and holding it firmly, she spread it out on her palm. It was Richard's writing. There was one word on it.
Eleanor managed to remember Richard, and the acts of her father quite well in the next space of time. Shortly, Henry returned to his family from Woodston, and with him the tension in the family eased with his good nature. The General made no reference to Richard, and was jovial with his daughter when in company, but when alone he tried harder and harder to find a proper match for Eleanor. No watering place would work as it had with Henry, watering places were too open to any society. A closed party would be just the thing for finding Eleanor a husband.
Eleanor had no idea that her father was deciding her future, and was happily ignorant. She grieved that, in all practical purposes, her romance with Richard was at an end, but, being a sensible sort of young woman, did not lock herself in a tower or throw herself into a river, but smiled and was a gentle hostess to her guest. Catherine had no idea of what had happened, and was a gentle and pleasant guest.
Catherine had received few letters in her stay. There had been a few lines from her sister Sarah, who had very little of interest to say, but no intelligence of what was happening with her friends in Bath. Isabella, dear Isabella, had not written. She did not expect any communications from her brother, nor from the Allens, but her face showed that she was upset at not hearing from Isabella.
Eleanor was, in a way, relieved that there had been no correspondence from the Thorpes. Catherine's confidence that John Thorpe had thought that she, Catherine, had been fond of him, had been met with as much horror and pity as Catherine herself had felt on hearing the news. No intelligence from the Thorpes would be welcome to Eleanor.
Each morning Henry went through the letters, hoping to find one that would make Catherine smile. Each morning Catherine asked if there were any letters, and her brow wrinkled a little sadly when the one she wanted was not there. However, as she took a letter from Henry's hand, her expression was not of worry or annoyance, but rather surprise. The letter was from her brother James.
Eleanor sipped her tea neatly, while watching Catherine pursue her letter. The young girl's face changed very quickly from holding an expression of surprise to one of shock and grief. Eleanor and Henry both noticed it immediately, but were stopped from asking what troubled her by the appearance of the General, who suggested that they move to the breakfast parlor. Eleanor found the maid who had given her the early cup of tea, and sent the cup along to the kitchens before the General noticed it. The General did not like meals to begin without him, and Eleanor was not in a state of grace with her father at present.
As soon as the meal was done, Catherine retreated quickly from the room, heading towards the stairs. Eleanor and Henry both rose, with the intention of following her, to discover what ailed her, but Catherine had turned down the hallway to her own room. Silent, Eleanor lead her brother back into the drawing room, which was empty, as the General was still lingering over his paper.
Henry began to speak as soon as Eleanor had closed the door, to let the morning fire better heat the room.
"I say, what news do you suppose has hurt Miss Morland so? She positively ran away from us."
"I couldn't say. Did you notice who the letter was from?"
"I believe that she exclaimed the name ŽJames'. I assume that it was her brother?" asked Henry, looking a little anxious.
"Of course," said Eleanor, assuring, with a smile of amusement. "Bad news of her brother, or from her brother could be startling. I hope that her family is well."
The door opened quietly, and Catherine began to come into the room.
"I beg your pardon," said Catherine, softly, and she began to withdraw . However, Henry was quicker, and laying a hand comfortingly on her arm, said,
"Miss Morland, we beg your pardon. Do come back in, the fire will do you good. Do you need refreshment?"
"No," choked Catherine, quietly. "Indeed, I am fine."
Eleanor came closer, "Catherine, we will leave you, if you like. I wish that I could be of use to you, if you wish for my company, we will be in the breakfast room."
The brother and sister removed themselves from the room, leaving the girl alone. The breakfast parlor was not empty, and Henry and Eleanor settled into chairs, and after a long silence returned to their conversation.
"She certainly is not fine," said Henry. "And I wish I could do something. Weeping young ladies do horrors to one's state of mind. I cannot sit here and listen to it. I wish that I knew what was wrong!" He jumped up and began to pace, before sitting down again, saying, "My pacing makes me nervous."
Eleanor smiled slightly, and said, "When Catherine is ready, she will say what troubles her. Give her a bit of time."
"I wish I hadn't given her that letter. We were to have a lovely morning today, walking over the gardens."
"There is always tomorrow. And besides, it might rain."
"What do you think the letter contained?" asked Henry again, staring into space.
"News, obviously, and either about James himself, our Bath friends, or her Fullerton ones. I hope that it isn't anything serious."
"You don't think that she will have to leave us, do you?" asked Henry.
"I hope not. She's been a charming guest."
Henry settled back into silence, and stared at the door of the room with a fixed stare. Eleanor sighed, but found herself doing the same.
After a short time, they heard soft footsteps, and as if my mutual consent, grabbed up amusements. Eleanor managed to do half a stitch of her embroidery, but Catherine saw Henry open the book from the table beside him, and gaze a little too fixedly at it, not being a man very interested in hoof rot. (Which brings up an interesting question. Is there anyone very interested in hoof rot? And if not, why ever are there books about it? Henry wondered even more that there was a book about it in the General's breakfast parlor, but there have been stranger things.)
Eleanor looked at her embroidery (which was curiously little progressed for the half hour Eleanor had been in the room), asking,
"You have received no bad news from Fullerton, I hope? Your parents, your brothers and sisters, they are all well?"
"Yes, they are all well, I thank you," said Catherine, sinking into a seat offered by the attentive Henry. "The letter was from my brother at Oxford."
Henry had a look of relief on his face, but Eleanor was silent, thinking what it must mean, for Catherine to be upset, and for James to be back at Oxford.
"I do not think that I shall ever want a letter again," wailed Catherine in continuance, giving a little sniff.
Henry closed the book immediately, and smiled at Catherine, a little bashfully. He offered a handkerchief to her, and said,
"If I had any suspicion that this would be such a terrible letter, I should never have given it to you. If you use the hankie you will feel better."
"But it contained worse news that anyone could ever suppose," said Catherine, through Henry's ample handkerchief. "And poor James is so unhappy! You will soon know why."
"Your being such a kind hearted sister in regards to your brother's distress must be such a comfort," remarked Henry, taking back the sodden handkerchief, and sending for another.
Catherine, still pale but her sniffles less frequent, said,
"If your brother comes here, will you tell me ahead of time, so that I might leave?"
"Frederick?" asked Henry, shocked.
"Yes. I would be sorry to leave you so soon, but something has happened that would make it very difficult for me to stay in the same house as Captain Tilney."
Eleanor looked up from her needlework, and Henry's face lit up, having just figured out what the letter must have contained.
"Is it something to do with Miss Thorpe?"
"Then I think that you must be wrong, if you suspect that Frederick was the one who brought Miss Thorpe and your brother apart. Indeed, I think that an engagement, as you say that there must be, between my brother and that lady is exceedingly doubtful. And I am very sorry for Mr. Morland, very sorry that any person someone loves should behave thus. But I would be most surprised if my brother were to announce his engagement to Miss Thorpe." He did not add, Žmy brother is a well known flirt, and cares little what he sets in motion as long as he can get out of it unmarried.'
Catherine was now holding forth the letter, telling Henry to read it. He did, and Eleanor followed suit.
After gaining the knowledge that the Thorpes had little money, and no real connections, Eleanor said,
"Miss Thorpe must be an unprincipled sort of girl, to use your brother so. It seems a very strange infatuation from Frederick's side. Frederick, who found no woman worthy of being loved!" Catherine blushed on Frederick's behalf, on such language being used about him in his absence. She could never dream of insulting one of her siblings... most of the time, anyway.
Henry thought for a moment, before proclaiming, "Although it goes against every declaration Frederick has made, it must be true. I have too good an opinion of Miss Thorpe's prudence to suppose that she would let her betrothed go before she had another." Eleanor cast a glance at Henry, reminding him that Catherine was still inexplicably fond of the girl. "Eleanor, prepare for your sister-in-law, and such a sister-in-law as you shall delight in: Open, candid, artless, affections strong but simple, forming no pretensions, knowing no disguise." Eleanor smiled at Henry now, knowing that Isabella Thorpe was the opposite of most of these traits. Indeed, the only person Eleanor deemed to have all of these traits was the girl they shared the room with, a very welcome sister-in-law.
"I should delight in that, Henry," said Eleanor, smiling now at Catherine, who did not notice, but said instead,
"Perhaps she shall be better behaved with your family? Now she has a man that she likes, there can be no moving on, surely?"
"Miss Thorpe shall be most constant, unless, of course, a baronet comes to Bath. I shall get the Bath paper, and keep watch over the arrivals."
Eleanor stabbed her finger with her needle. Henry was behaving very badly, and Catherine would not appreciate the joke.
Quietly, Catherine said, "Was it all ambition, then? I was never so deceived in my life."
"From the great many characters you have studied," said Henry a little cruelly, but frankly.
"Poor James! I hope he will recover."
The conversation wound itself down, and Henry observed with pleasure that the weather was still fine, and they set out on their walk. Catherine appeared much relieved, and smiled as Henry amused his sister and her guest by holding a conversation between Isabella and a baronet with his fingers, clothes in bonnets and capes twisted out of leaves. Catherine managed to forget her distress, and laughed heartily, knowing that Isabella was not the friend she had seen her to be, but knowing that Isabella still had some merits. Eleanor was quiet, pondering how some young women were all ambition, and how others had no more ambition than to marry the tradesman they thought they loved. It was curious.Chapter 22
The three young people renewed the subject of Frederick's curious and supposed engagement, but found no confirmation of it. Frederick was rather remiss about writing his family, a matter that made the General rather angry. However, Eleanor was quite glad that the General knew nothing of Frederick's seeming attempt to marry a young woman without fortune or family, and assisted the General in his only amusement, that of keeping Catherine well entertained.
The General, every morning, after complaining about the lack of any word from Frederick, began to calculate what could be done to enhance Catherine's stay. But it was such a dead time of year, he complained. And the Lady Frasers were not in the country.
Catherine, who did not know the Lady Frasers, nor having any great desire to meet them, was instead cheered when the General suggested a new entertainment. They would visit Woodston.
Catherine was especially delighted, reprimanding herself when she dared to dream that it might one day be her home. Eleanor was pleased, but not half so pleased as Henry, who, delighted, begged his father to set a date for the luncheon.
"I must be at Woodston on Monday, and shall be likely obliged to stay until Tuesday, and should be delighted to have a visit from my family and our dear guest."
Catherine blushed prettily, and, smiling, the General said,
"We shall have to take our chances that the weather is pleasant one of those days. You needn't put yourself at all out of your way, no need to order anything special, whatever you have in the house will be enough. I think that Eleanor and her friend can be persuaded to eat from a bachelor's table."
Henry, remembering that his house at Woodston contained little but some mutton, a few vegetables and the weekly baking, began to think where he could find fruit and fish suitable for his father's table. For, although the General suggested common fair, Henry knew that he needed to provide a meal magnificent enough for the General, but just realistic enough so that... maybe, some day... Catherine might not know that the meal was intended to be grand on her and his father's behalf.
The General was working out the details of the visit with Henry, and it was settled that they would visit on Wednesday. Eleanor smiled at Catherine, who was beaming merrily. The General seemed well pleased with himself for coming up with the plan, and for also pleasing Henry and Catherine both. At present, Eleanor was the child in disgrace, and it did not matter whether she was pleased or not. But she was rather pleased all the same.
As the day wore on, Henry traveled to Woodston to prepare for his service tomorrow. Eleanor and Catherine retreated to the drawing room as it rained lightly. The room was pleasantly decorated with fresh flowers in vases, and Eleanor smiled as the perfumes contended with each other in the cozy chamber. Catherine smiled, and admitted to Eleanor that she thought it
smelled very nice.
"It smells rather lovely in here. I recognize the smells from at home, but never thought very much about them."
Eleanor winced a little at Catherine using the word 'smell' instead of 'scent' or fragrance', but smiled, and asked Catherine more about her home.
"My home? It is a pretty little place, full of a happy family, and quite comfortable, though not as grand as Northanger by any means. But I have not been home in so long!"
"You came to Bath just after Christmas, or there about, did you not? Then it has been months. I hope that your family and the Allens do not resent our having taken you for so long. It has been since January that you have been from home, and tomorrow is Easter."
"Really, that long? It has been quite lovely. There is not much to do in Fullerton."
"So you liked Bath?"
"Very much. It was my first adventure. Coming here was lovely as well, thank you, again for your invitation."
"I am glad you are here. We haven't had a guest in... a long time."
"I should think that you often had guests with such a pleasant house."
"My father can be... edgy. Sometime he gets... angry, and doesn't wish for guests."
If Catherine had still nursed the notion that the General was a murderer, she should have been intrigued, but now she let the comment slip.
"He's a very kind, and sociable man, I thought."
"Yes, most of the time he is."
"When the Lady Frasers are in the country?" asked Catherine, with a rare spark of wit.
"Yes," said Eleanor with a smile. Catherine was becoming a bit more like Henry, and the effect was pleasant.
Wednesday was fair, despite Catherine's steadfast belief that it would not. Smiling, Catherine came down to breakfast in excellent spirits. The General looked up, and smiled back at her merry 'good morning', and Eleanor bowed her head in acknowledgement. It was pleasant to see that Catherine was so delighted to visit Henry, but Eleanor was scarcely less pleased on the prospect of seeing her brother. Dwelling alone (save Catherine) in a house with the General was always difficult.
Breakfast was soon done, and Eleanor sat down beside Catherine in the General's chaise. The General swinging himself up, smiled benignly at his daughter and guest. The weather and the visit to Henry's home was putting everyone in excellent spirits. The four matched bays pranced in eager anticipation of the journey, jangling their harness in a pleasant way.
The trip as pleasant, save for General Tilney's rather unnecessary apologies for the flatness of the countryside they traveled over, and for the smallness of the village of Woodston. Catherine was clearly enchanted by the neat little village, and Eleanor was fond of the sweeping meadows they passed, prettier than mountains or ravines.
The gates of the parsonage were green, and beyond them was a lovely green lawn, surrounded by pleasant bushes, just beginning to flower. The house itself was pleasant, though rather modern. But although it was not an abbey or a castle, Catherine was delighted. Any house held interest for her that held Henry Tilney on the doorstep.
Henry rushed from the door with an amicable grin, followed by a Newfoundland puppy with large feet and a thumping tale. Behind the large black dog, three terriers trotted towards the carriage, inspecting the ankles of the visitors with excited yips.
"Come in!" cried Henry, happily, to his family and guest. He held open the door, and the General entered, apologizing for the house to Catherine over his shoulder. Henry grimaced as his father began to point out the defects of the building, and then pronouncing that it was one of the finest parsonages in the country.
Catherine was getting used to the General's degradation and then boasting of his property, and merely looked about happily. Henry smiled, and took her arm, helping her up the step. Eleanor, smiling and cheerful, laid her hand firmly on the Newfoundland's head, and entered behind the others.
A servant appeared promptly with all sorts of refreshments, and the General ceased his speech in favor of filling his stomach. Henry sat Catherine down on a pleasantly upholstered couch, and brought her a glass. Eleanor, helping herself, said to Henry,
"You have excellent improvements here, brother."
"Indeed, I thought it best to finish them, as I was to have a special guest."
"She likes the room, look at her face."
Catherine's face did indeed show admiration. Seeing that she had Henry's attention, she said shyly,
"It is a lovely room, Mr. Tilney. You had it made up yourself?"
"Yes, I did, Miss Morland. I am glad that you like it."
"It is delightful."
The General, having been refreshed by the contents of Henry's tray, soon rose, and suggested that they take a tour of the grounds.
The grounds of Woodston parsonage were small, but rather pretty. Catherine was delighted by everything, allowing herself to dream that one day she might be mistress of this garden, imagining that she and Henry might be able to walk through it happily, and without the General's tiresome presence.
Eleanor, seeing that her brother would truly rather walk alone with his guest, bravely solicited her father's company. He was cheerful, and not unpleasant company, as they toured the grounds, though. He admitted that they were rather well done, though nothing to Northanger or Fullerton, he was sure. They stopped at a small sheep fold, and Catherine laughed quite
happily as the Henry herded a lamb towards her, and Catherine stroked the soft head.
"I admit that I love sheep. We must have new lambs at home by now, but I am sure that they are not half as sweet as these."
The General had softened enough to stand by the fence and pat a ewe on the head, and Eleanor had joined Catherine by the lamb. It was a rather touching scene, the family surrounding the sheep, and Henry, though delighted, poked fun at them for looking so domestic. The General, who was thoroughly enjoying the looks Catherine was giving Henry, as well as the pleasant weather, chuckled, and said,
"Well, there is nothing wrong with being domestic. At the farm in Northanger we have some lovely sheep, and I remember liking them very much as a boy. We would name them after acquaintances of ours. The big ram was Colonel Fraser, a pair of twin lambs the Miss Bells... Eleanor Bell was your mother, " he said to Eleanor, who was astonished that her father had willingly spoken of her mother. She smiled gently at her father, trying to forget that he had ruined her chances of happiness, and was making them all miserable with his frustrating and boastful ways. She had heard extraordinarily little about her father's youth, and listened to him quietly, thinking that if she were to name Henry's sheep after acquaintances, the tired and affectionate year-old male in the corner of the fold would be called Richard Landes.
Remembering his youth, before he became a hard man, the General looked softened, and Catherine found herself warming to him a little.
After they had toured all of the grounds, the group headed back towards the house, and Catherine was again delighted by the house. Henry smiled, opening a door for her.
"This is the back entrance, I am afraid, but I would like you to see the garden from this window."
Catherine willingly obliged, and Eleanor followed. Catherine had a dreamy smile on her face, and Eleanor whispered to her, "You like Woodston, don't you?"
"Yes," agreed Catherine, softly. "I grew up in a parsonage, and I am afraid that it is the sweetest place to me, even if it is not as grand as Northanger or as full of diversions as Bath."
Eleanor looked up at Henry, who had heard the soft, earnest opinion, and smiled gently, moved to genuine joy by Catherine's words. The General, busy poking his nose into a cupboard, did not hear. Soon, however, he turned, and suggested that they move to another room, continuing their tour before it was time to dine.
Catherine turned from the window, and accepted the arm Henry offered, her face bright. Eleanor led the way into another room, this one being Henry's particular room, vastly tidier than the last time she had seen it. (Eleanor paused a moment and mused over the power of love that it would make Henry try to be tidy, a trait which could hardly be usually connected with him.)
Catherine here was complimentary, enthusiastic, and knelt down onto the gleaming wood floor to stroke the Newfoundland, who was curled up in a basket by the side of Henry's desk. The dog thumped his long plume-y tale, and looked at Catherine happily through soulful eyes. Henry smiled, watching Catherine stroke his favorite companion of Woodston.
The General engaged Catherine's attention as they made their way to the drawing-room, so Eleanor took the time to engaged Henry's attention. He was very cheerful, and his smile showed him to be genuinely happy.
"Well, Eleanor, I have had a pleasant day. Being away from you at Woodston these last five days has been rather dull. I don't think that I have ever been so impatient to be done with parish business."
"It is not everyday that you have a universally sweet girl staying at Northanger," said Eleanor.
"True. And she likes Woodston. Did you hear her? She prefers my little home to Northanger!"
"I think that she really does. She seems marvelously at home here," Eleanor said slyly.
Henry flushed a little, and laughed, but his attention was soon stolen from his sister by Catherine exclaiming over the drawing-room, a handsome (though unfurnished) room.
"Oh, why do you not fit up this room Mr. Tilney?" She entreated him, enchanted by the pleasant woodwork and lovely view of a lush meadow from the tall windows. "Indeed, this is the prettiest room I have ever seen, it is the prettiest room in the world!"
The general, who was well pleased with the fresh finish on the paneling, returned to the conversation, saying to Catherine, "I am sure that it shall be fitted up soon. It waits only for a lady's taste."
"If it were my house," said Catherine a little wistfully, in a tone that made Henry forget about his sister completely, "I should never sit anywhere else. And look! What a lovely cottage there is among the trees -- apple trees! -- That is the prettiest cottage..."
The General prodded his son with his stick, and said, "Since Miss Morland likes the cottage, see that Robinson is spoken to, the cottage will remain."
Catherine was quiet immediately, flattered by such a compliment.
The tour was continued, with a walk through the ornamental part of Henry's garden, and then through part of the quaint village. They then walked to the stables, where Eleanor stroked Henry's road horse's head as the General examined some improvements. Catherine soon discovered a litter of foxhound puppies, and bent down to pick them up, fussing over them delightedly. Eleanor joined her, and they had a merry game with the puppies while Henry returned to the house to see that dinner was set upon the table. The General watched the girls silently.
Too soon in Catherine's mind it was four in the afternoon, and they returned to the house for dinner. Eleanor brought Catherine into the spare room upstairs, where they fixed their hair again, and smoothed their gowns. Catherine poked her nose into all of the corners, delighted in each little find... a china dog, a glass paperweight.
Their dinner was elaborate and abundant. Henry let his father preside over the table, and sat at the foot, helping Eleanor, and more particularly Catherine to all sorts of foods. The General, though protesting astonishment at the lack of cold meat on the side-board, ate heartily, and as Eleanor confided to Henry, she was "astonished that he hadn't thrown a fit over the
butter having been oiled".
The General had coffee after his meal, looking out the window all the while. Catherine sat beside Henry on a couch, and Eleanor sat nearby. Shortly before six, the General rose, and went out of the room, leaving the young people alone for a few moments.
Henry turned to his sister, and said,
"I have a letter for you, from a mutual friend. He is concerned at your not having written. Is all well at home?"
"Father made me destroy his letters," said Eleanor in a low voice, Catherine looking confused. "And has forbidden me to write, save a rather rude note saying that I did not want to hear from him."
"The old miser! Richard's as decent a chap as they come, I never believed all that piffle in the papers. Eleanor, if you still care, write a quick note, here, and I will send it off, Father need never know. But you can't leave the fellow thinking you don;t care. Do you care?"
"I do." Eleanor looked at Henry seriously for a moment, and then quickly rose and sat down at a small writing desk in the corner, quickly writing, afraid that her father would return any minute.
Henry turned to Catherine. "Miss Morland, I would... both Eleanor and I would appreciate if you didn't mention this to Father. He's a bit touchy about one of Eleanor's correspondents."
Catherine, possessing ears of her own, had heard that the correspondent was indeed a male, by the name of Richard, and was fully intrigued, but she would say nothing if it helped her friend... and Henry. She nodded her assent to be silent, and Henry gave her a beautiful smile.
Eleanor quickly sealed the note she had been writing, and wiping her ink-stained index finger on a napkin, pushed the note into the recessed of the desk as she heard the General open the door.
The General smiled at them all, but had not noticed anything amiss. He sent for his great coat and hat, and put them on, while the carriage was ordered. Eleanor went from the room to fetch her coat, and was followed by Catherine, who was looking a bit sad at the prospect of ending such a pleasant day.
Henry followed them, and held Catherine's bonnet as she put on her coat. Handing the piece of head gear to the smiling girl, he then turned to his sister, and took a letter from inside his coat, and handed it to her. Eleanor read the envelope, nodded, and slid the packet within her coat, with a sad smile towards Henry. Catherine then was led at henry's side to the door where the chaise and four waited. They said their farewells, and were
handed into the carriage.
As Henry shut the door firmly, he said, "I hope you will all come back and visit again, it was a lovely day."
Catherine beamed at him, gently. Then, the whip was cracked, and the horses began to trot down the driveway towards the road. Henry stood and watched the carriage leave, until it was out of sight.Chapter 23
Catherine retired to her own room after returning from Woodston, leaving Eleanor a chance to pursue the letter Henry had given her. Eleanor walked sedately to her own room, and slipped the latch on the door, before sitting upon her bed and spreading the pages before her.
My dear Miss Tilney, for so you are, even now, I have received you letter and am saddened by your wishes. It was presumptuous for me to ask to write you in the first place, and I shall desist, if this is your wish. I just simply must write this last letter, a farewell, if you will. I must say this: I had one small hope from your letter, a signature... you signed yourself Eleanor. I thank you for this slim hope, that perhaps you were told to write the letter against your wishes -- but perhaps I am a fool.
You said that if I had any decency I would desist in writing you. Your father seems to believe that I have no decency. Will you force me to give up this dream, one dear to my heart? But I will desist if you wish it, I obey your wishes. Send some word by way of your brother, Henry. I shall know where I stand from his lips. I can but hope, even as you tell me to leave you.
My business goes well, and there is a chance that I shall be traveling in Glouchestershire. I shall try to stop at Woodston. Perhaps we might meet, or perhaps not. I seek only the truth, and your happiness. If it is your will, spare a thought for one who is ever yours,
Eleanor sat looking at the letter for a few moments, taking in Richard Landes' words. He had read the signature correctly, he did wished to hear her rejection from her lips, not from a letter. He was still true, and he wanted to meet her again.
Numbed, Eleanor bit her lip, and folded the sheets carefully away, into the recesses of her writing desk. As she did so, she heard someone gently trying her door. She walked swiftly across the room, and opened it.
"I thought perhaps you were asleep," said Catherine, shyly.
"No, not at all. I was just thinking a bit."
"So was I. I had a lovely day."
"I'm so glad. I thought you looked very happy."
"It was the parsonage, really. I miss my home a little, and your brother's house was so pretty, and home-like. Northanger is truly lovely, and Bath was exciting, but I could never live in places like those my whole life. I liked Woodston very well indeed," said Catherine, blushing.
"We were all glad that you liked it," said Eleanor, smiling.
The next morning Catherine received a letter from Bath.
Eleanor glanced at the letter and perceived that it was in a flamboyant and bold female hand. Likely Isabella Thorpe. Why must the woman bother the Tilneys and Morlands so?
Catherine grabbed up the letter with a small exclamation of surprise, saying softly, "I had not thought that she would write, she had not before, when she promised so faithfully!"
Eleanor smiled, and watched Catherine read. When the girl was quite finished, she said to her hostess, "Apparently your brother is not to marry Isabella, after all. He left Bath two days before she wrote this. And had been paying attentions to a Charlotte Davis of late. Isabella wants me to speak to James, to tell him that she never loved your brother. Isabella wears nothing but purple now, as it is my brother's favorite color. Is it? I thought he liked a pale violet for a gown, but not purple strictly speaking..." Catherine looked up. "I don't know what to make of this letter at all," she apologized. "I don't know what I ought to feel. The letter contradicts itself... I am ashamed of Isabella."
Eleanor put out a comforting hand, which Catherine held, as she contemplated the wall beyond Eleanor. "But your brother is safe from Isabella."
"I'm glad to hear it," said Eleanor.
Henry was likewise glad to hear the news when he returned from Woodston. Catherine was indignant at Isabella, thoroughly frustrated and vexed, leaving her with a soft angered look that was particularly appealing to look at.
"So much for Isabella and our intimacy! She must think me a fool to believe that she never meant to hurt James! But now I know her better than she knows me. I shall not write back to her, and if I never see her again, I shall be well pleased."
"Dear Miss Morland, soon it shall be as if you had never met. You are not obliged to see her again," comforted Henry, with a smile on his lips. The letter contained welcome news, but was also having a very welcome effect upon Catherine. It opened her eyes to what Isabella Thorpe had really been.
"There is one thing I cannot understand," Catherine persisted. "It is true that Isabella had designs upon your brother and failed, but what was your brother's part in all of this? What was he about?"
"Frederick has his vanities, just as your former friend has. Only Frederick knows what he is about, and knows how to... enjoy himself without causing himself any harm. He's a terrible flirt, but an intelligent man when he chooses to be."
Eleanor smiled at Henry's words. Frederick would have recognized Isabella's character early on, but kept her company, as she was a handsome woman, and he would never need to see her again after he left Bath. No doubt with the arrival of Charlotte Davies... the name was familiar to Eleanor. No doubt she was as handsome as Isabella Thorpe, but better connected... but it all ended in the same way, Frederick went back to his regiment until his next
"Do you mean that he never really cared about Isabella?" asked Catherine to henry, wide-eyed in surprise.
"I believe that he never did."
"It was all for mischief and laughs?"
Henry nodded. Catherine's brow creased with worry.
"Then I do not like him at all. Though it has turned out well in the end, I do not like your brother at all. But in the end... I do not think that Isabella has any heart to lose. But suppose, just suppose, that your brother had made Isabella very much in love with him?"
"You would say that had Isabella a heart to lose in that case. But then she should be a very different creature. And if she had been a different creature, she would have had different treatment."
"It is your duty to stand by your brother," sighed Catherine.
"And it is your duty to stand by yours. And if you were fulfilling that duty, then you should be glad that your brother escaped an unfortunate marriage, no matter how he smarts afterwards. He'll meet someone else, I'm sure. One meets such pretty and pleasant young women in Bath."
Catherine blushed, and was gratified.
The General soon found himself obliged to go into London for a week, and left Henry and Eleanor with instructions to entertain their guest well. Such was not a hard task, and as soon as Eleanor had dutifully waved a white handkerchief at her father's departing carriage, she returned to the house with a look of joyous freedom on her face, and asked the maid to send lunch
outside, as a picnic on the lawn. Catherine smiled at the thought of the picnic, and delightedly helped Eleanor to find old tablecloths, while Henry got in everyone's way.
They had a pleasant meal in the open air, it was an unusually warm April day. Henry ate a full meal, and leaned back on a rustic seat, ready to nap in the sun. Catherine, to Eleanor's amusement and Henry's delight, fussed over Henry's sleeping in the sun, and put Eleanor's straw hat over his head so he would not burn his nose. Eleanor smiled as she packed the dishes back
into baskets for the servants to cart away, her head bare, enjoying the warm spring day.
While Henry slept in the sunshine on his seat, Eleanor took Catherine into the gardens, where more and more flowers were showing their heads. There were fields of croci, snow-drops and celandine, and the wild hyacinths were blooming. Eleanor and Catherine gathered great armfuls, and carried them back to Henry in the picnic baskets to be admired.
Since Henry was still asleep, Eleanor taught Catherine how to weave a wreath of flowers, and Eleanor draped hers over the straw hat that still perched on Henry's head. Catherine, who hadn't understood how to connect the ends of her chain, simply let Eleanor drape it over her brother's neck, like a scarf. Henry woke, and laughed at his new adornments. He also dutifully
admired the remaining bundles of blossoms careful, and playfully.
In the evening, Eleanor, Henry and Catherine summoned the housekeeper, and played their favorite card games with laughter punctuating interesting moves. They had a lovely time, and soon Henry called for Eleanor to play on the piano to entertain them. Eleanor complied, and soon ended up playing merry dancing tunes while Henry happily danced with Catherine, who confessed to not being able to play on the piano forte. The all, especially Eleanor had a lovely evening, free of the restrictions of the General.
A few more days passed, and Catherine began to look fretful. One afternoon when Henry had locked himself in his room for an afternoon of preparing sermons, on finding herself alone with Eleanor, Catherine decided to share her worries. At the time, Eleanor had been looking out the window mournfully, and began to speak just a moment before Catherine began.
"Catherine, may I confide in you?" she asked, as Catherine said,
"Eleanor, I am troubled..."
"Yes?" said Eleanor, snapping back to attention, gathering her thoughts from the letter she kept in her drawer upstairs, and back to Catherine's comfort.
"You had started to say something else."
"It was of no consideration. What troubles you?"
"It is, well, I have been here for nearly four weeks, yes, in two days it will be four weeks. That was the intended duration of my stay. Hadn't I better arrange for transportation home again?"
Eleanor was concerned. "Must you leave so soon? I hope that your stay has not been troublesome or unsatisfactory. I have had great pleasure in your company, and I thought, though perhaps it was just my dearest wish, that you would remain with us
for a longer time. If your parents knew how much I enjoy your company, they would not hasten you home."
"Oh!" cried Catherine, blushing a little, "Indeed, it is not my parents who urge me home. They are happy as long as I am happy."
"Then why must you leave us so soon?" asked Eleanor, stung by the realization of how dull Henry and Northanger would be without Catherine's cheerful outside presence.
"I have been with you so long," said Catherine.
"It has not been long at all. But if you believe that you have been with us for too a long time, then I cannot attempt to persuade you to stay."
"Oh! I do not think it too long a time at all! It is indeed rather too short a time. I would stay twice that amount of time I had already stayed if it were entirely my choice."
"Then stay! Please, Catherine, I get so lonely when I am on my own. Having you about is so like having a sister. We never quarrel, and I delight in your company. Please stay, I know that Henry will wish it."
There was no need for nay further argument. If Henry wished it, and the Tilneys did not mind, Catherine would stay. She beamed at Eleanor.
"Then I shall stay. I love your home so."
Eleanor smiled, and pulled her netting towards her a little absently.
"Shall we find a book? I'm tired of working."
Catherine agreed that she should like a novel, and the two young women set about on a friendly squabble over which work they should hear. Both were laughing merrily as Henry entered the room, pretending to be angry with them for making so much noise. But he soon began to laugh when he learned the root of the friendly squabble, and suggested that they read a translation of
Ovid's Metamorphoses. Eleanor and Catherine agreed, and listened happily to several of the frivolous Greek tales, retold in Latin, and now, in Henry's preacher voice, read in English.
However, soon the light dimmed, and a servant girl came in to light the candles. Henry folded away his book, and tucked it under his chair, and announced in a splendid representation of the General, that it was "Five o'clock." The girls laughed merrily, and began to go off to change for supper. Eleanor paused at the door, Henry behind her.
"Henry, I have convinced Catherine to stay with us another four weeks. Well, she was eager to stay. I have invited her."
Henry smiled. "I am gratified to know that when I return after this weekend in Woodston I will find her here." He looked up the stair where Catherine was ascending, and grinned a little foolishly at his sister. "I am a lost man, you know."
"I know," said Eleanor, and she followed Catherine up the stairs.
Continued in Part 4© 2001 -2002 Copyright held by author