A Bird in a Gilded Cage
Henry departed for Woodston on Saturday, to spend a few days with his parish. Northanger was quite quiet on his departure, but Catherine and Eleanor found amusements enough. They spent Saturday chattering together, gathering flowers, and arranging bouquets. They sewed, and Catherine read bits of Udolpho to Eleanor, and they had a pleasant, if quiet day.
Henry's energy was lacking, but the girls found that they were still quite awake at eleven on Saturday evening, when they heard a carriage approach.
"It must be Frederick," said Eleanor. "He often comes late and unannounced. Come, let us greet him, as we are still awake."
"No, no. Eleanor, I fear that I am getting rather drowsy. Let me go up to bed, and I shall greet him in the morning when I am fresh again."
Catherine departed for her room, leaving Eleanor to rush to the hall herself. However, it was not a cheerful and tired brother who was having his coat collected, but her father, looking as if he was in a fowl temper. He gave a small snarl, and approached Eleanor,
"Where is that vixen?"
"Heavens, whomever do you mean, Father?" asked Eleanor.
"That Morland creature," he stormed.
"Catherine has gone up to bed."
"Then you can very well get her out of bed. I won't have her in the house a moment longer!"
"Father, calm yourself, I have not the pleasure of understanding you. Catherine is out guest, and has gone to bed. I cannot very well wake her."
"But why? When I left you gave me a stern injunction to look after Catherine, and here you want to turn her out."
"Where is your brother?"
"Henry? At Woodston. He has business. Father, what are you about?"
"That creature paraded about, pretending to have a fortune. But I have heard the truth, indeed I have! She has no fortune, she is not the heir to the Allen's fortunes. Her father is a small clergyman with a dozen children to support, and no outside income."
Eleanor was taken aback. Her father had been so such that Catherine had a fortune. He should never have waved her in front of Henry otherwise. And here Catherine turned out to be fortune less. The poor creature! Yet it all made so much sense...
"I insist that you tell that girl to get out of my house after deceiving me so!"
"Father, it is the middle of the night."
"What does it matter, go turn her away."
"I will not."
"Then I will. You might just be a little more delicate about it. I shall have no qualms throwing her from the house in her nightgown after the way she has treated me. But I give her until seven tomorrow morning. The carriage will be ready to leave at that hour."
Eleanor bit her lip. He would throw Catherine out, just as he had thrown Richard out. Their circumstances were so similar... the General learned that they did not have the wealth and connections he believed them to have, and then they were gone. How many more young people would the general turn away from his home? How many more times could Eleanor stand having her dearest friends ripped away from her. Should Henry have to deal with the pain she felt over Richard for Catherine? It was so wrong, the General was unjust.
"Eleanor, please go to Miss Morland's room."
Eleanor faced her father and said, "What shall I tell her?"
"Anything you like. I am taking you to stay with Lord Longtown, and away from here. Go. Now."
"Never make me do this again," said Eleanor. "Never. You take away all of the joys in my life at times. When will there be sun again?"
"In Hereford you shall have sun. Marry Gerald Longtown, and you shall have all the gold you like. But get that little vicarage girl out of my Abbey."
Eleanor nodded miserably, and went to find Catherine. She hoped that the girl was not asleep, for it had been about a half hour since the girl had retired.
Eleanor approached Catherine's door quietly. Once it had been Richard's door. Richard had been thrown out, and Eleanor had been forbade to see him again. Now the General was tossing Catherine out her life. But Eleanor could again disobey. Henry had confessed his love for Catherine, and Catherine clearly loved him. How could she, Eleanor, tear them apart as the General had done to her and Richard Landes?
But she slowly opened the door, and stepped in, aware that it was wrong to speak to Catherine the message she carried. She stepped slowly into the room, and paused before speaking. Catherine inquired whether Capt. Tilney was well, and fetched a handkerchief and some lavender water.
"My dear Catherine, you must not... please. I am quite well. Your kindness distracts me from my purpose... I cannot bear it! I come to you on such an errand!"
"Has Henr-your brother been injured? Was it a messenger from Woodston?"
"No, you are mistaken," said Eleanor, realizing that there could be a worse errand than the one she was on, "It is no one from Woodston. My father has come home."
Catherine fell silent, and her shoulders drooped a little. She had had such a lovely time without his dominating presence. She looked at Eleanor, though, realizing that Eleanor was not done saying all she intended to. After a moment, Eleanor collected herself again, and said,"You are to good, Catherine, to think the worse of me for the part I must play. I am an unwilling messenger, I do not understand how I was induced to speak to you what I must. After all we had said, and all we had agreed upon -- how joyfully on my side -- about your staying here, I had hoped for many weeks longer, how can I tell you that your kindness is not to be accepted, that the happiness you have given us to to be repaid by ----- I do not trust myself to speak it.My dear Catherine, we are to part. My father has... recollected an engagement that takes us all away on Monday. We are going to... Lord Longtown's, near Hereford, for a fortnight. Explanation and apology are impossible. I cannot attempt either." Eleanor fell back on Catherine's bed, everything in her screaming that she was being the instrument of great pain
for her brother and for her friend.
"Eleanor, do not be so distressed. Your father has promised you away, and a second engagement must give way to the first. I am so sorry that we are to part so soon... it is far, far too soon! But I am not offended, indeed I am not. I can finish my visit here, you know, at any time. Or perhaps you might come to visit me? Can you, when you return from this lord's house, come to see me at Fullerton?"
Eleanor was feeling pain and torment beyond any she had ever felt before, betraying Catherine was worse than being betrayed by her Father. She could not come to visit Fullerton, as much as she wished she could. No doubt everyone there was as sweet and innocent as Catherine. How lovely all that peace and harmony would be! But the trip was not to be. The General would never agree.
"It will not be in my power, Catherine."
"Come when you can, then," urged Catherine.
Eleanor was silent. Catherine was deep in thought, and spoke the trailing ends of her thoughts aloud.
"I'll leave on Monday, when you all go. When I am certain of -- I shall be able to take leave however..." She meant take leave of Henry, and Eleanor almost burst forth into tears at the thought of Henry's being torn from his sweet young love. "Eleanor, be not distressed! I can go Monday very well, my arents' having no notice is of no concern. The General will send a servant half way, I dare say, and then I am soon at Salisbury, and then it is only nine miles to my home."
Eleanor lifted her face from her hands, saying, "If it were all arranged thus, it would not be half so intolerable. If I were to arrange all, you would have a servant the whole way. But -- how can I say it? -- tomorrow morning is fixed as the hour of your departure. You have not even the liberty of choosing the hour. My father has arranged for the carriage to be ready at seven o'clock, and there is no servant to be offered to attend you."
Catherine sat down beside Eleanor, speechless. Eleanor continued, having uttered the despicable words already, finding her voice."I could not believe it when I heard it, Catherine. Your displeasure and resentment can be nothing to mine at this moment, no matter how great the anger builds in you. That I could suggest anything to soothe the situation! Good God! Whatever will your mother and father say? After taking you from real friends to this terrible distance from your home, to have you driven out of the house with scarcely any civility! Catherine, as messenger, I seem guilty of the insult, but I trust that you will acquit me, for I am but nominal mistress of this house, you must have seen that. My real power is nothing."
"Have I offended the General?" asked Catherine.
"Alas! All I can say is that I know that you have given him no just cause for offense. He is greatly, very greatly, discomposed, I have only once seen him as upset. His temper is no happy, and something has occurred that has ruffled it to an uncommon degree. Some disappointment, some vexation that seems important to him, but I cannot believe that you had anything to do with it, for how is it possible?"
Catherine spoke slowly, and her voice was pained.
"I am very sorry if I have offended him. It is the last thing I would have willingly done. But do not be unhappy Eleanor, an engagement must be kept. I only wish that I had learned of this sooner, so I might have been able to write home."
"I hope," began Eleanor, "I earnestly hope, that to your real safety it will be of no consequence, but it is everything -- comfort, appearance, propriety - to your family, to the world. If your friends the Allens were still in Bath you might go to them with comparative ease, but you must take a journey of seventy miles alone, at your age, unattended!"
"The journey is nothing," said Catherine. "Do not think of that. I can be ready at seven, let me be called in time." Catherine's face then closed up, and Eleanor left the girl alone. She must feel wretched. Eleanor herself felt wretched, and she left ten room quickly. When the door was closed, Eleanor heard a flood of tears and sobs, and soon was reduced to weeping herself. She ran to her room and latched the door, dragging out the burnt scrap of paper she had saved from the fire and the General's wrath. It was a scrap of paper that said, Remember. She tore it into pieces, and cast it aside. What good was memory when the present and the future were flooded with pain? She had acted on her father's behalf, ruining Catherine Morland's hopes and happiness.
A sleepless night followed.
When a dull light crept into the window, Eleanor awoke with a start, and dressed herself quickly. She fixed her hair herself, and simply, running quickly to Catherine's room, her heart heavy.
Eleanor was eager to give Catherine any assistance she might need, but there was little to be done. Catherine had clearly been up most of ten night, there were dark patches around red-rimmed eyes. Catherine Morland looked only a shadow of the sweet, happy, innocent girl she had been in Bath, and even these last few days. Eleanor wished that Henry were here, here to stop the General, to invite Catherine to Woodston, to run away with her to Scotland... anything, to keep Catherine from wasting away in grief.
Eleanor threw herself into packing Catherine's trunk as Catherine arranged her hair and put a little powder on her pale cheeks. Soon the trunk was filled, and all of Catherine's possessions gone. The only remnants in the room that gave sign of the recent occupant were a bottle of lavender water that Eleanor had lent to Catherine, and a vase full of hyacinths that the girls had gathered the day they had picnicked with Henry. Eleanor choked, remembering how happy she had been that day.
Catherine gave a last glance about her room, and gathering up a bonnet and cloak, nodded the Eleanor, and walked down ten stairs. They entered the breakfast parlor, but Catherine was not hungry. Eleanor likewise lacked an appetite, and only picked at her food. The General, apart from the girls, on the other side of the room, ate heartily, failing to register Catherine's pale and teary face.
At seven the carriage arrived, and silent footmen stowed Catherine's luggage and the things she had bought in Bath -- how long ago! Eleanor pressed Catherine's hand affectionately and brought herself to speak, and whispered urgently,
"You must write, Catherine! You must let me hear form you as soon as possible. Till I know that you are safely at home, I shall have no peace, Please, one letter, at all risks, all hazards, I beg you! Let me have the satisfaction of knowing you are safe. Then, until I can ask for your correspondence as I ought, I will not expect more. Direct to me at Lord Longtown's, if you will, to 'Alice'."
Catherine face her friend. "No, Eleanor. If you are not allowed to receive a letter from me, I will not write. There is no doubt that I will return to my home safely."
"I cannot wonder at your feelings," said Eleanor sadly. "I will not inopportune you. I will trust to your own kindness of heart when I am far from you."
Eleanor must have looked very dejected, for Catherine cried,
"O Eleanor, I will write!" Here Catherine made to enter the carriage, but Eleanor stayed her hand.
"Have you enough money for your travels? I will not be crueler than I must to you, have you enough to make your journey a comfortable one?"
Catherine discovered that she did not have enough funds, and Eleanor gladly gave Catherine a decent sum to make her journey comfortable. They fell quiet, then, until the carriage was announced loaded. Eleanor embraced Catherine lovingly, and they parted with tears growing in their eyes. Catherine then whispered,"Please... give my... kind remembrances to... my absent friend."
Eleanor nodded, and Catherine covered her face with a handkerchief, and dashed into the carriage. A moment later the chaise was moving, and Catherine was lost to sight.Chapter 25
Eleanor returned to the house with a heavy heart. She had allowed her father to order her to ruin Henry's happiness. Should she write Henry? Would the General tell him why he had thrown the poor girl from his house? Henry would be back at Northanger tomorrow, with a smile on his lips, ready to spend more time with a certain sweet girl. A girl who would not be here.
Eleanor was numb, angry and confused. She could not comprehend what had happened. Catherine had no fortune, the General had been told. This seemed like it could very well be true, but Catherine was not destitute either. And who had told the General about Catherine Morland's finances? It must have been someone in London, but Catherine knew no one in London. None of the
Morlands would know the General, save James, who wasn't in London. Who did the General know who knew Catherine and her family?
John Thorpe. It didn't take a genius to boil down the common acquaintances of Catherine and the General (of which there were few) to find one who knew about her finances. But hadn't he been the one to tell the General about her fortune? Eleanor wondered what provoked such a change in his opinion, as to tell a different story about the Morlands' situation.
The church near the Abbey was too quiet for Eleanor. Her mind wandered about as she sat, imagining that the cleric was Henry, and thinking what his reaction to the empty seat in the Tilney pew must be. But the cleric was not Henry, but an inferior little chap with a runny nose. Eleanor sighed, and looked about the little building sadly. She wished that she was at Woodston.
Surely everything would have been easier if they had been at Woodston, but the General attended that church as little as possible, as it had been his wife's favorite place of worship.
If Mrs. Tilney had been alive, she would not have let the General throw his guests from his house. Mrs. Tilney would have been delighted with Catherine, and would have reigned in Frederick. Eleanor remembered how jovial her father had been before her mother's death, and thought wistfully how everything might be lovely and uncomplicated if the good woman had lived. Eleanor missed the mother she had known for such a short time.
Returning home from the Sunday services, Eleanor collapsed into a chair by the fire. The house was cold and empty. The General went about his own business, preparing for the journey he would be making on the morrow. Eleanor bid Alice to pack her things, and opened Udolpho, which had sat in the place Catherine had left it, a bit of her sad embroidery as a page marker. Eleanor sighed, and collected the book and the needlework up, and tucked them into a drawer in her room. Tomorrow she would be able to leave this wretched building. The General was filling it with miserable memories. She wanted to go away, be anywhere but in this cursed house.
Perhaps Catherine was right. Perhaps the house was haunted. No one was able to simply fall in love and be married anymore. There was a curse that separated them, or else drove them to depression so that they could not think for becoming mad at the grim prospects of the future. Thus depressed, Eleanor went to go help with her own packing.
The next morning Henry returned. Eleanor saw his horse from her window, and twisted Catherine's needlework in her hands, dreading having to see her brother again. Would dauntless Henry be as miserable as Eleanor had been? It was a chilling prospect. Eleanor remained in her room as she heard Henry enter the house, but crept toward the stair when Henry raised his voice in greeting.
From the top of the stairs, Eleanor had a perfect seat for the scene that commenced below her.
Henry gave his coat to a servant, and came into the hall.
"Father? Are you home? I saw your coat," he called, looking about. "Eleanor? Where are you girls?"
The General came from a nearby door, and approached his son. "Welcome home, Henry. If you please, will you see that your things are packed within the hour? It is a long way to Hereford."
"Hereford? Why ever would I want to go there?"
"We are bound to Lord Longtown's."
"All of us? Miss Morland will think it a treat. His Lordship's home is rather spectacular."
"Miss Morland is not coming with us."
"Where will she be, then?"
"She should be at her home at present."
"Her home? Good Lord! What have you done, Father? Eleanor invited her for another four weeks!"
"And I uninvited her. We don't want penniless beggar girls about."
"Penniless?" asked Henry.
"Yes, penniless. The creature lied to us about having a fortune. I heard it from a reliable source that the family can scarcely feed itself."
"I shouldn't say that she looked penniless, Father."
"Fool. She hasn't a dowry at all. Why should I allow her to stay. I don't want her sort here. You should be grateful that I rescued you from an unfortunate connection."
"Father! You sent her away? Like you did Landes?"
"I do not like that sort of person."
"Well, some of us do! I will tell you now that I am certainly not going to to visit Lord Longtown. I am not going to Hereford. In fact, I am setting out for Fullerton, to apologize to Catherine for your wretched behavior. You had no right at all to throw the girl out without word to her parents.... I suppose that you just showed up here some time and turned the girl out into the night?"
"I arrived home in the evening, and she was turned out in the morning. I sent her in our carriage, something I rather regret, as now the team isn't properly ready for our journey today."
"A journey I will not be joining you upon, you can be sure. I have no intention of going to Hereford when the poor girl is likely going distracted in confusion at your appalling treatment. You have always made yourself out to be such a great gentleman. You do gentlemanly things, you go on gentlemanly outings, but when you think someone is inferior, you chuck them
out into the rain. No gentleman would do a thing like that! Now, I may be a younger son without a fortune, but I do have morals and dignity. I will do what is right, Father, and that is final. Give my greeting to Eleanor. I am leaving this house. Your overbearing hatred of others is poisoning me."
Henry turned on his heel and seizing his coat ran for the door. He called for his spare horse to be brought to him, and within twenty minutes he was gone from Northanger. Eleanor remained in her concealed spot at the top of the stairs, and sat down slowly.
Henry was not going to sit about and mope. Henry was going to go to Fullerton and make things right. Eleanor wished that she could go to London and make things right again with Richard Landes, but there really was no way that she could. She was a woman, and Henry was a man. So much for dreams of Richard visiting Woodston, where Catherine and Henry would be happily married. Eleanor stood up again as her father mounted the stair, in a black rage.
When he saw her he frowned. "Your brother has this idea that we had been mistreating your guest, and he must make it right again. Foolish man. He'll never be what he could have become now."
Good for him! Eleanor wanted to shout, but she knew that it would not be right. She nodded quietly, and was saved further embarrassment by the movement of her trunk to the door. The General saw it, and nodded that the footman should bring along his. The carriage was prepared shortly, and a different set of horses than usual pranced eagerly in the warm spring air as the General and his daughter got into the box.
The ride was uneventful. Eleanor wished that there would be some trouble with the carriage or the set of horses, but there was none. The only thing for her to do was to stare out of the carriage at the country rolling by, wishing that she was somewhere else than in this confined space with the man who had thwarted her dearest dreams and plans.
Every journey must end, and thus Eleanor's did. They arrived at Lord Longtown's home, a pleasant estate called Delmore Park. The host was a pleasant man, whose house party it seemed was rather newly formed, and Eleanor could not but remember that the man owed her father a favor. Was a quickly gathered together party the repayment?
There were two other young ladies in the party, apart from the number of matrons, who greeted Eleanor happily. She knew one of the girls, a Lady Mary Nestor, from other parties, a girl who was the niece of Lord Longtown. Mary was a pleasant girl, who was always cheerful, and greeted her acquaintance with a warm smile. The other girl was quieter, and introduced as being Miss
Clara Merle, who was engaged to Francis Nestor, Mary's brother. The General smiled as foppish Gerald Longtown came forward and greeted Eleanor warmly. General Tilney wanted Eleanor to be close friends with people like the Nestors and the Longtowns, but Eleanor could only think how restrained and stiff they were in comparison to Catherine Morland. Catherine was sweet,
innocent and pleasant. She was honest and unassuming. Clara and Mary were good sorts, but they were so shallow. They would never be honestly delighted by sheep, nor laugh while making flower chains to toss over Henry. Eleanor sighed, but allowed herself to be gathered in by the society youth, and brought inside.
Each morning Eleanor watched for a letter from Catherine. She wanted some word, some line, telling her that Catherine was fine. Eleanor remembered angrily her own pain after Richard had left, and imagined that Catherine must be feeling similarly, as if the world could end. But the world did not end, it merely kept on going, and you had to do your best to keep up.
Eleanor also looked for some word from Henry. Had he indeed gone to Fullerton? And what had happened there? Eleanor was curious, and excited. Henry would make things right again, and all would be well. Perhaps there might be holidays at Woodston after all? Catherine would be the perfect mistress of that house.
Mary and Clara acknowledged that their friend was given up to daydreaming, and once this was established, were understanding. If Eleanor left off in mid sentence, they did not snicker, and if she declined a walk, it was understandable. The three girls had interesting times together, and gradually Eleanor cheered up a little. There was nothing she could do until she had some word from Henry or from Catherine except worry, a highly unprofitable practice.
At last, word came.Chapter Twenty-Six
When Eleanor awoke, Alice came into the room, bearing a small silver tray with three letters upon it. Eleanor gave an exclamation of surprise at there being three epistles for her, and also one of delight at seeing that two of the letters were under the name of Alice, which meant that Catherine must have written. Eleanor eagerly opened the letter, and nodded for the maid to open the curtains while Eleanor absorbed news of her sweet friend.
April 23, 1798
My Dearest Eleanor,
I have arrived home safely and without much difficulty on the roads. I am reasonably well, as much as could perhaps be expected, after a long journey and a sudden change of location. The trees here are in bloom, and remind me of our walks at the Abbey. I hope you remember then as fondly as I.
I hope that you are happily stationed at Lord Longtown's, and that you have not suffered much on my account. I regret that we did not part very well, and I regret that I did not take proper leave of you and your family.
I enclose money in return for your kind advance, the journey was not overly hard.
A thousand wishes that you may be happy,
It was a short epistle, and Eleanor read it through several time, trying to divine the meanings behind the words. She sensed that Catherine was not happy, that she missed Northanger, and still, she grieved that she had not been able to say farewell to Henry. Eleanor grieved for her.
The second letter that Eleanor read was from Henry, and her name was written in a rather agitated hand. She opened it quickly, and spread it before her.
April 24, 1798
I am not yet able to understand the wild passion that drove our father to do such a wretched thing. I now understand the change in your behavior after our good father relieved you for the company of Landes. I am wild to do something to right the world again, and as I have now all of my business in as much order as I shall be capable of gathering it, I am off to Fullerton.
I must speak to your good friend, to let her know that she was only found offensive by our father, and not by myself, or by you. I feel that she must be told this.
There is something else that I must do, and that Father will be furious about. You know what it is, so I shall not say it plainly, in case Father were to come across this letter sooner than I am able to complete my task. I am hopeful that the girl will forgive us our sins, and accept my offers, and if she agrees, I shall be a happy man indeed.
Therefore, let me seal this letter, and run from this building, and start my journey. I will write again when I know my fate, but I think you will find out sooner from Father's bellowing when I apply for his blessing.
A feeling of delight rushed over Eleanor as she read her brother's letter. He would ask Catherine to be his wife, he would make everything right again, no, better! Catherine couldn't refuse Henry, Eleanor had seen the look in Catherine's eyes as she left Northanger, and she had read the letter that Catherine had just sent. How soon could Henry reach Catherine? He had left Tuesday, and could likely have reached her by Wednesday. It was Saturday now, and there had been no word from Henry for the General. What had occurred at Fullerton?
Eleanor was so lost in thoughts that she only remembered her third letter as Alice came in with a gown. She allowed herself to be quickly dressed, and Alice brushed her hair for her as she opened the third letter.
My Dearest Eleanor,
I had a letter from your brother that was rather encouraging. I am now bold enough to write to you while you are at Lord Longtown's. I am rather surprised that you are there, in fact. An earlier letter from Henry suggested that you, your friend and your brother were enjoying themselves, and that you had no plans for the rest of April. However, your plans have changed, and I settle to the idea that I shall not see you in Glouchestershire yet.
But I shall be coming to Hereford. It is a happy fate that sends you ahead of me when I must travel. I have business not far from Delmore Park, and as I am quite familiar with the area, I shall see if we can meet. I am still friends with Gerald Longtown, and I shall try to arrange for a meeting through him.
Please, my dear Eleanor, write to me. I have had lovely reassurances, that you do not mind my letters, from your brother, but none from you. Does your father still govern your correspondence? I shall wait as best I can for an answer of a letter from you.
Lovely creature, I shall endeavor to meet you again soon, it has been too long.
Eleanor was delighted by the third letter. It seemed inconceivable that everything might suddenly come right again. That Henry should propose marriage to Catherine was in itself a great delight and comfort, but the prospect of meeting Richard again was rather charming. Delighted, Eleanor pulled out a sheet of writing paper, and poured several effusions of delight and anticipation on the the sheet. She then folded it, sealed it, and handed it to Alice to be posted. Her cheeks a delightful pink, Eleanor ran down the stairs to have breakfast.
The breakfast room was decently filled when Eleanor entered. Mary came up, and collected her arm, leading her to the most pleasant dishes. They sat down together in their seats, and Mary noticed with pleasure that Eleanor seemed cheered. She proposed that they go riding later in the day, and Eleanor agreed happily. Mary then went about the room, collecting others to join them.
Around Eleven o'clock the young people found their horses, and set off for a tour of a particularly pleasant bit of the Park. Mary and Eleanor were joined by Clara, her fiance, Francis, and Gerald Longtown. Eleanor enjoyed the morning, and admired the spirited mount she had been given.
When they were well into the grounds of the park, Mary drew along side Eleanor, and slowing her horse to a walk, asked,
"Why are you so bright this morning? It is so pleasant to see you smile, please tell!"
Eleanor paused a moment to let her horse drink from an ornamental fish pond, and said quietly, "It is a secret from my father."
"Secrets!" cried Mary, delighted. "How lovely! Is it a surprise for your father?"
"In a way," smiled Eleanor. Then she sobered, and said, "He won't like it."
"Please tell! I'm getting frightfully curious."
"You have met my brother Henry, have you not?"
"Indeed. He's a pleasant fellow. Man of the cloth?"
"Yes. He has a pleasant living at Woodston, near my home. He's very likely going to be wed."
"How wonderful!" said Mary, a confirmed matchmaker herself. "But you said your father wouldn't be happy. Who is the girl, an actress or something?"
"Heavens no!" said Eleanor. "That is much more Frederick's thing. The girl is very sweet, a great friend of mine, only she hasn't much money. Father's determined to marry Henry to a fortune."
"And you want Henry to marry your friend, and he is. No wonder you are happy. But that can't be all... you have such a pretty blush on your face. Who is it? Is it anyone I know?"
"Mr. Landes," Eleanor confessed. She hardly knew Mary, but somehow she found it easier to confess her love to someone who knew Richard, and who she knew only a little, but with great companionship.
"Not Mr. Landes who was disinherited by his uncle?" asked Mary, delighted.
"Yes. The 'untrustworthy' and 'ill mannered' one. It's all a mistake, I am sure."
"His uncle doesn't believe it. Didn't the Viscount make Mr. Landes go into trade?"
"What else was he to do? Join the army?"
"A red coat! That would be lovely, he's a handsome fish, you know. So you are madly in love with him, and you've heard from him. What a lovely scandal! Letters?" Mary asked hopefully.
"All of it. Forbidden letters sent, brothers assisting a secret romance. I'm quite silly, now that I think about it."
"No sillier than a few dozen novel heroines. It seems to be necessary for character. But are you really writing to a man you have no connection to? Imagine!"
"I'll admit that there are letters, though not many, and I have been a poor correspondent. I just don't know what to do, because my father wants me to marry into a title, and Richar... Mr. Landes has gone and lost his. I live too quiet a life to fall in love with anyone else... there doesn't seem to be anything to be done."
"You call him Richard?" asked Mary, absolutely delighted with her friend's improper behavior. "He hasn't asked you to marry him?"
"No. My father threw him from Northanger before... I thought that he would."
"We'll remedy everything. I delight in a challenge. Isn't Gerald a friend of Mr. Landes's?"
"Yes," said Eleanor meekly, having bared her soul.
"Good. We'll enlist his help. Now, what was it that made you so bright and blushing this morning?"
"Mr. Landes is coming to Hereford."
"You are making my task too easy. Gerald!" cried Mary, beckoning to her cousin. "Miss Tilney wants to meet Mr. Landes when he comes to Hereford. Will you help?"
Gerald came over, and gave a sigh of relief. "I had had a letter from Richard Landes suggesting something of the sort, but I'll admit that I was too afraid to approach the subject. I'll be happy to ask you and Mary, Miss Tilney, to accompany me on a trip to my own small estate not ten miles from here, Etive House, when the man arrives. Now, for Heaven's sake, Mary, stop match making!"
Mary laughed, and smiled. Eleanor gave an uncertain smile to the cousins near her, unsure whether it had been more pleasant before she had told her secret to someone. But she had spoken, and she must bear through with her decision. And soon she would meet Richard, and the General would never know. Perhaps sharing a secret made it sweeter.Chapter Twenty-Seven
Being so happy and content with the prospect of seeing Richard Landes again, Eleanor was very surprised to receive a second letter form the man two days after the first. It was written in a disturbed hand, and Eleanor found herself opening it anxiously, her confidante maid Alice hovering near.
My dearest Eleanor,
By this time you and Gerald Longtown have likely begun your arrangements for our meeting. However, I am afraid, that I will not be able to come to Hereford after all. Ill fate crosses me whenever I try to meet you, I have not laid eyes on your charming face since Bath, too long ago, now.
My reasons for my absence all revolve around my uncle, the Viscount of Langley Park, the same man who had decided to have nothing to do with me, earlier this year. I am sorry to announce that he is ill, and wishes me to come to him. Despite the fact that he had renounced me, he is my uncle, and one of the few relations I have left. It is my duty to return to him, and see if there is anything I can do to nurse him back into health.
Thus, my dearest Eleanor, I trust that you will forgive me for not meeting you. I go not so much in hope of retrieving my inheritance, for he is still angry, but out of duty. He is my relation, one of the few I have. I had cherished a hope of seeing you once more, but it is not to be. We shall meet in another place, another time, and I shall enjoy it all the more. If you wish to, as indeed I fear that I am hoping fervently, you may write to me at Langley Park, where I shall be in attendance of my uncle. My best wishes with you, and those you hold close to you,
Eleanor was quite startled by the content of the letter. The viscount of Langley Park had always been an active man, she did not know him well, but she knew of him as being a robust and healthy man. No wonder that Richard thought his place was with his uncle, who was showing some signs of wanting a reconciliation. Eleanor could forgive Richard anything for being a caring and kind man, and consoled herself towards not seeing him for another span of time.
When she told Mary, Mary was upset, but understood. Knowing more about the viscount than Eleanor did, she was a bit worried.
"Ill? I can't ever remember his being ill. Your Mr. Landes will want to be near him when he dies. Does he not still get the title?"
"I can't believe that the viscount is going to die," said Eleanor. "And I am not sure that perhaps the title would go to another nephew. Richard was always a favorite, until his misunderstanding with his uncle. I do not know. All that I do know is that he shall not be coming into Herefordshire."
"And what a pity," said Mary. "I have not seen him since learning that you are particularly attached to each other. I must see him in new eyes."
To cheer Eleanor up, Mary took her into the nearest village, and they had a merry time hunting through ribbons and laces together.
There was no word for the next few days from Henry, Richard or Catherine. Eleanor learned to not expect the letter each morning, and instead spent her time, as was expected by her father, with young people of superior birth, breeding and education.
Apart from riding, Eleanor found herself often called for walks through the attractive grounds of Delmore Park. Mary and Clara both were flower enthusiasts like herself, and they began to collect samples of wild flowers, which they presses and fixed to sheets of paper, making a book of dried flowers. Gerald Longtown and Francis Nestor watched the three girls somewhat dubiously, wondering how long dried leaves and petals could distract them from livelier activities.
Clara Merle was a reading enthusiast, and enjoyed having Francis Nestor read poetry or pieces of novels to the young people. The matrons and older gentlemen smiled indulgently as the five young people sat on outdoor furniture, listening to some sentiment or other, poured forth in either verse or prose, read by the elegant Francis Newton. Mary and Eleanor worked on needlework, and the days passed by in an unexciting and very ordinary manner.
While spending so much time with the Nestors, Gerald and Clara, Eleanor generally avoided her father's company. He was content to talk politics with Lord Longtown, read the newspapers, and drink port from Longtown's excellent cellars. However, this separation of father and daughter could not be expected to last forever. The General had something particular that he wanted to speak to his daughter about. Finding her alone one afternoon, he approached her.
"Eleanor? I am surprised to see you here. You have been having such a pleasant time with the young people, I have seen."
"Miss Nestor and Miss Merle are very pleasant young women," said Eleanor, patiently.
"They seem very suitable companions for you. I am trying to figure out where I shall send you for the rest of the year, Eleanor. We shall spend the summer in the country, of course, but what shall I do with you when it grows colder? You do not shoot, but I may take you along some shooting parties. They are excellent opportunities for you to mix with proper young women."
Eleanor said nothing, and let him continue.
"In the winter I have a difficulty. Shall I stay in London all season? You know that I dislike staying put for any long span of time. And I cannot leave you with friends or your brothers this year. That was troublesome."
Still, Eleanor said nothing when the General paused.
"I am wondering what to do with you. You clearly need society, there seems to be no way to introduce you to the right sort of young men if you stay at Northanger. It would be so much simpler if you could marry Gerald Longtown. Then, you could have a home of your own, and not worry about being shunted about between chaperones."
"But I do not love Mr. Longtown," said Eleanor, calmly.
"You'll get over these silly notions, my dear. There is nothing wrong with the man. You are an attractive young women with a small fortune and excellent family. I am surprised that you are not married at this point already, but then, I have kept you out of society. We will remedy that this year. By the end of the season it will be quite fit if you are engaged to be married."
Eleanor bowed her head.
The General, taking this as an agreement, smiled. "You are a sensible girl. Unlike your brothers. Both are undoubtedly foolish. Frederick jokes away his time, wasting money and chasing women. He'll never be fully responsible for his actions, I quite fear the day when Northanger falls into his hands."
"He tries, father," said Eleanor, thinking how her brother worked hard to gain some reputation as a gallant captain.
"He does. Unlike his ungrateful brother, Henry. When I think how much I have given Henry, and how little he respects me, it makes my blood boil. Children are made to be respectful to their parents. When you are a parent, Eleanor, you will understand me. In exchange, parents work unceasingly for their children's happiness and comfort. You will thank me some day, when you are settled in a comfortable home, with respect and a nice title. It is my job to get you though marriage all that I could not give you myself."
"Yes, father." It was a speech she had heard before.
"Eleanor, you must tell me, do you know exactly what your brother intends to do on his foolish trip? I heard that you had a letter from him."
"Only one letter, father," said Eleanor. "And he did not write out his intentions." It was true, he hadn't. It was much easier to tell the truth to the General than to lie. He seemed to know when Eleanor tried to tell falsehoods.
"Do you think that he would be so foolish as to propose marriage to that ridiculous farm girl? You know your brother better than I do, I think."
"He might," said Eleanor, her voice quavering a bit.
"I thought so," said the General. "The ungrateful wretch! I gave him a living, a damned good living, and I support him in visiting the cities and seeing society. I opened up so many doors for him, and he chooses on of the litter of a country vicar, who can hardly support his own brood, less so scrape up a dowry. As a man of the cloth with needs, and as a second son, Henry needs money. Can he not see that?"
"I believe that he is very attached to Miss Morland, father," said Eleanor quietly.
"But who is Miss Morland? She has no family worth speaking of, no money, no connections. If she were to inherit the Allens' estate, it would be one thing, but it is to go to another. She would do well to marry some nice country lawyer, and leave Henry to better himself."
"I am sure that she only wishes what is best for Henry."
"But she will want him herself."
"I do not doubt it. She cared for him a great deal, as she told me herself. And father, she cannot be destitute. She wore nice gowns, had spending money in Bath. The Allens can scarcely have paid for everything. I imagine that her father is not penniless."
"That is what you think, Eleanor, but you are a very young woman. You let me do the thinking in the family. I have seen the most, I have the most knowledge of what is the best for your interests."
But what if I want to look out for myself?" asked Eleanor, quietly. "I have friends, can I not stay some of the season with Mary Newton, when she goes to town? Must I be watched every step of my life?"
"Yes," said the General. "You are my only daughter, I have high expectations of you."
Eleanor bowed her head again, and was thankfully spared more of this conversation by Gerald Longtown entering the room with a fishing pole, announcing that the young people were going to have a picnic by the river. Eleanor gladly put away her work basket, and left her father. Her father beamed at Gerald's broad back, thinking that the man would do well for his only and very dear daughter.
Much disturbed by her father's conversation, Eleanor made poor company during the picnic. Gerald Longtown, having been the one to retrieve her from the room, was the one to connect her silence with her father.
"Is the General making life hard for you?" he asked, kindly, sitting beside her on the blanket.
"He wishes me to become engaged by the end of the season in London this year."
"That seems a bit sudden."
"He's upset about Henry."
"What is this that Henry has done, now? I've heard whispers, but no one knows what Henry is up to."
"He's off to see a very sweet girl and propose marriage to her."
"That's pleasant. Who is she?"
"No one you would know. She is from the country, from a town called Fullerton. Her father is the vicar there. We met her in Bath. It is now a bit of a pity, I think, that your father could not come into Bath. You might have met her."
"A girl from the country? Is her family an objection then, or her wealth, for the General?"
"Unfortunately, both. You see, she was traveling with friends, and Father was told that she had a small fortune. He encouraged her and Henry shamelessly, and invites her to Northanger. Then, he comes home from London in a rage, and throws her out, because apparently her family is large and her father's income quite small."
"What about the friends from Bath? Do they care for her?"
"I cannot figure any of this out. She had some education, or a sort, and her clothing was pleasant. She read a great many novels, and was a generally delightful girl. I am waiting to hear from Henry every day now."
"So I could imagine. Henry really admires this Miss...?"
"Morland. Catherine Morland. She is a sweet girl."
"But the General thinks her too low? What a pity. So, now you must compensate for his errors, and marry high?"
"Of course. Frederick is too unsteady for the General to push into an arrangement. As my father, the General controls my society."
"I am sorry for you. Richard Landes seems quite impressed with you, and speaking with you these weeks, I am coming to understand him. You have flourished under quite harsh conditions. I have been the Northanger, and I know your father. Your life has undoubtedly been hard. But you overcome your worries with a smile. Just put on a brave face, and I am sure that things shall work themselves out."
"Thank you, Mr. Longtown."
"Isn't it time that we called each other by friendlier names in private? We have spoken of quite personal issues, and I feel that we must be friendly now."
"All right," said Eleanor, smiling. "You may call me Eleanor when we are away from the generation who would disapprove."
"I am Gerald. This is much nicer. And you are smiling now. My prattle must have some use."
They were interrupted by Mary Nestor. "Look at the two of you! Does Richard Landes have competition?"
"Of course not," said Gerald. "Miss Tilney and I have just been speaking of him, Mary. See, I have made her smile. That was my aim."
"Well, thank you for that, Gerald. Now, Eleanor, get up. Francis is fishing, and he needs an audience to applaud his every move."
Eleanor rose and made her way to the bank, where she watched Francis fish for some long time, feeling happier after her talk with Gerald. She hadn't come to any new conclusions, but she was happier. Smiling and hoping was worth a try.Chapter Twenty-Eight:
As if a reward for her new attitude, Eleanor received a letter from Henry the next morning. The fortnight in Hereford was drawing towards a close, but the General was still uncertain about his next move. Perhaps he was waiting for news of Henry.
Eleanor tore open the letter hastily, delighting in its contents.
My dearest of Eleanors,
I have had the very great privilege of explaining to Catherine Morland that her dismissal from our home did not stem from any feeling of yours, or mine. She was happy to hear this, and indeed quite a bit happier when I opened my heart to her. The sweet, lovely girl has accepted my offers.
However, there is a catch, as there always is when something pleasant is about to happen. Her parents refuse to give their blessing to the marriage until our father does so. They only wish his consent, they care not whether he gives me any money. I do not care myself, as long as I gain his consent. This not being a likely event, I fear that my engagement may be a long one. However, I have assurances of Catherine's affections and good will, and thus am a very happy man, though I leave her company now to return to my home at Woodston. There are improvements of every kind to be made.
Eleanor, if there is anything that you can think of that might induce our father to look kindly upon my engagement, would you speak of it? I have racked my brains for a full day, but there is nothing that I can think of that would soften the blow to him. He always wanted me to marry for money.
On the subject of money, I do have news to relate. Catherine's family, though not as wealthy as originally represented to us, is not as destitute as the General informed me. Catherine will have three thousand pounds, which is not a trifling sum. Her family is not so large, or her father's income so small that they are in any way poor or necessitous.
Eleanor, I am a happy man, but also one who wishes to make peace with our father. If I can be of any use to you and your happiness, you have only to let me know. My love and affection to you, and you may reach me at Woodston at any time.
Your Affectionate Brother,
Apart from the unfortunate stipulation in the commencement of the engagement, the letter contained very welcome news. Henry had done his duty, and was a very happy man, knowing that charming and artless Catherine Morland adored him. Eleanor was quite pleased for the both of them, and quickly wrote out a note of pleasure and happiness, for her brother. Finishing that letter, she turned to a fresh sheet of paper, and wrote to Frederick. He was with his regiment, and although Henry would likely have written him about the engagement, Eleanor wanted to tell Frederick about it herself. Frederick had always laughed at the thought of Henry settling down properly like a stodgy old man, and would laugh merrily when he heard of the news. One fewer man to compete with for the ladies, he would say. Finding that still no one called for her, Eleanor chanced a third letter, to Catherine, congratulating her and spilling warm wishes onto the page. Sealing the letter hastily as a knock sounded on the door of her chamber, Eleanor handed the three letters to her maid, and picked up a bonnet. Holding it, she walked towards the door, in case it were her father, and hid her ink stained hand within the ribbons. It wasn't her father, however, it was Clara Merle, brightly smiling, and asking whether Eleanor wanted to join the young people on a walk. Eleanor agreed, and placed the bonnet firmly on her head, and joined the others in the warm May air.
The General decided to leave the Longtowns' for the house of an army friend in Devonshire. London was far too unpleasant in the summer, in comparison to the countryside, and the General harbored plans to visit Bath again (despite other unfortunate experiences) later in the season. Thus, Eleanor tearfully packed up her things and said farewell to her new friends, Mary, Gerald and Clara. Eleanor sent on her new address to her brothers and to her friends, secretly rejoicing in the thought that Langley lay in Devonshire, some distance to the West of Pevil Park, the home of the General Cowper, with whom Eleanor and her father would be staying.
Arriving at yet another fine house, Eleanor was weary. She was welcomed graciously by a Lady Millicent, General Cowper's mother-in-law. The mature woman steered the weary girl to a comfortable room, and had her trunks brought up to her. Alice helped her mistress out of her traveling dress, and helped her into a gown for supper, since the journey had been long, and it was already quite late.
Finding her way to the dining room, Eleanor was faintly surprised to see a fairly large group assembling at the table. Eleanor's arm was claimed by her father, and she allowed herself to be escorted to her seat. She politely greeted her two dining partners, neither of whom she had met before, she was surprised when Lady Millicent introduced one of them as coming from Fearny Hall, which she had heard mentioned by Richard Landes in Bath, so long ago. She was more surprised when the gentleman, one Charles Lessing, recognized her name.
"So you are Miss Tilney?" he asked, with interest. "I have heard of you from my neighbor, a Mr. Landes. He knows your brothers I think?"
"I... yes, indeed. How is he?" she asked timidly. "Is he in good health? For I heard that his uncle has been ill."
"Gravely ill. It is rather touching that the old man called Landes to his side in his illness, to be sure. Though I hear that Landes has been doing very well in trade, although the thought of reducing such a pleasant man to labor is appalling."
"Indeed," said Eleanor.
"How are your brothers? I believe that I met one of them a few times, Henry? The man of the cloth, and so charming. You look somewhat like him, but in a more pleasant way."
"I thank you," replied Eleanor. "Indeed, Henry is very well, only do not speak much of him to my father at present. They are somewhat at odds, I must admit."
"How terrible! I shan't say a word. Old Tilney... General Tilney, begging your pardon, my dear girl, can get into a rage rather quickly." Eleanor smiled, knowing that this was very true. The first course appeared in the room, and she thankfully gave up her family problems for thoughts of delicious food.
After the meal, Lady Millicent claimed Eleanor, and led her off while the women settled into new seats in the drawing room. Eleanor examined the pictures on the walls with interest, noting a number of pretty sketches that were framed by the fireplace. When she asked about them, Lady Millicent eagerly explained their presence.
"Those are the work of my granddaughter, Cecilia, now Mrs. Trenton. She is the eldest child of my dear daughter, Mrs. Cowper. The boys are away at University, but Cecilia is now touring Scotland with her husband. Such a dear girl, and so skilled with a crayon. I hear that you enjoy sketching, dear."
"Indeed, I do."
"You must join the Hon. Mrs. Pierce some time, then, during your stay with us. Pevil is so pretty in summer, and dear Beatrice sketches constantly when she visits. The Hon. Edgar Pierce is Cowper's nephew, you know."
Eleanor, who had not known, nodded anyway, and was introduced to the Hon. Mrs. Pierce, a pretty young woman with dark hair, who insisted that Eleanor call her Maude as soon as she was introduced to Eleanor's interest in sketching.
"And what is your favorite thing to sketch?" asked Maude Pierce eagerly.
"Flowers," said Eleanor. "I also enjoy gardening. My father has installing some wonderful facilities for gardening at Northanger."
"Ah, Northanger! I have heard much of its beauty. But surely, if you would like to sketch the countryside with me, tomorrow I had wanted to wander off a bit, in a phaeton, and take my gear off to a pretty spot Mr. Lessing has been telling me about. Not seven miles from here lies Lessing's home, Fearny Hall. I have heard that the countryside there is lovely this time of year. I am so tired of sketching this park, Edgar and I have been here for nearly a week already, and I would cry if I had to draw the same views for the remainder of my stay. If you come, I shall have an escort, and it shall be quite lovely. Lessing has business with his steward, and would provide a luncheon. You must agree to come with me."
Eleanor listened numbly, a small smile lighting her face. This woman was taking her near to Richard Landes, the dear woman! Eleanor quickly agreed, and Lady Millicent decided to join them, along with her daughter and a Mrs. Henley, who thought that the excursion might be merry. They planned the carriage arrangements, and when the gentlemen joined them, smelling of brandy, the matronly Lady approached Lessing and confirmed the arrangements. He would take his carriage, and Lady Millicent would use hers, and three people would ride in each. Looking forward to the party, Eleanor smiled to herself. She was sure that Lady Millicent would not let the General's disapproval affect her plans, when he heard of the destination with such a close proximity to Langley.
The hastily assembled party gathered in the breakfast parlor the next morning. Lady Millicent appeared slightly later than the others, and came up to Eleanor.
"Your father is the strangest man!" she exclaimed. "When he heard of our destination he said that he would refuse to let you attend. I told him that it would trouble the numbers of the party, and that Maude wished you to come in particular. I think that he must have feared your traveling so much in two days, but it is a short trip, and we shall look after you. I told him that you had Mr. Lessing and four respectable women to look after you, and he relented. I do not understand him at all."
"I cannot always, either," said Eleanor quietly, knowing full well why her father did not want her going to Fearny Hall.
When they arrived at Fearny, Eleanor thankfully alighted from the carriage. Although more comfortable than Maude's proposed phaeton, it had been a hard journey after yesterday's constant bumping about on the way to Pevil Park. Maude Pierce took Eleanor's arm, and the two artistic women had the servant they had brought along carry the easels, chalks and watercolors to a scenic point not too far from the Hall at Fearny. They toiled for a time, while Lady Millicent, her daughter, and Mrs. Henley gathered wild flowers and inspected Lessing's stables. Lessing disappeared on his business, and the morning passed pleasantly.
When it became time for their luncheon, Eleanor put away her work, and walked with Maude back to the Hall, where the meal would be served. Although she had had a pleasant morning, she was disappointed that they had not strayed closer to Langley.
After the meal, Lady Millicent, who had wearied of watching others draw, suggested that they take a refreshing walk before they departed from Fearny. Eleanor eagerly accepted the proposition, and smiled when she saw that they were setting out westward, closer to Langley. Lessing had finished his business, and decided to walk along with them.
Closer and closer they drew to the boundary of Mr. Lessing's lands. Coming through a very attractive wooded path, Lessing turned to the assembled ladies, and suggested a new path, that branched off of their own road rather invitingly. "It is close to Langley, the home of the Viscount. It has one of the most attractive grounds in Devonsire, and is an utterly charming park. I know the Viscount well enough to know that he would not mind me leading a party of gentlewomen across the edge of his park. I am sorry to say that he is rather ill, so most likely he shan't even notice, it is more likely that we run into his steward, or a member of his family."
The party paused, and agreed to go onto Langley lands. Eleanor's heart soared, as they came out from the woods, and overlooked an attractive home, old enough to have thrilled Catherine Morland, and pretty enough to surpass all of Eleanor's conjectures about its appearance. She caught sight of a charming flower bed, and bent towards it, gazing with pleasure the jewels of the English countryside's late spring. The women gazed about with appreciation, glad that they had come. It was no palace, but the park was beautiful and looked comfortable. Eleanor's heart fell as she thought how sad Richard must have been to be cast from this charming spot.
As if coming from her thoughts, she suddenly perceived a familiar figure approaching in the distance. He had the same build as Richard Landes, and as he drew closer, she drew in a quick breathe. It was indeed the man she had now long cared for. Seeing him again, out of the reach of the General, she knew that she could not walk away from him again, not knowing when they would meet next.
His stride quickened as he saw Lessing, and came up to the party.
"I thought that it was you, Lessing, with this party. The groundskeeper had informed me that there was a genteel party walking about, and my uncle told me to see who it was."
"How is your uncle?" asked Lessing, genuinely concerned. Much as he liked Landes, his loyalties lay with the Viscount, who had always been a just neighbor and a strong leader. Landes's outburst in London had been unfortunate, but it was possible that he might be reinstated in the family as he cared ceaselessly for his uncle in his illness.
"He is not much better than before, he keeps me busy with his business..." began Richard. But he broke off when he saw Eleanor, behind the others, by the flower bed. It seemed impossible that she was here, on his uncle's lands, before him. It was such a shame that she had to see him as his uncle's servant, without his time to himself. "Miss Tilney," he said, in a small voice. "It has been too long since I last saw you."
Lady Millicent gazed on with interest as Eleanor flushed a little, and replied, "Far too long. I hope that your uncle has improved some little bit under your care?"
"Some little bit," replied Landes. "Indeed, though he is not well, he might fancy some company, if you would agree, Lessing, to bring these charming women to the house."
Lessing agreed, eager to make the Viscount's day more cheerful. He led the way, with Mrs. Henley and Mrs. Cowper on his arms. Lady Millicent took Maude's arm and engaged her in a conversation, leaving Richard to take dear Miss Tilney's arm.
"Where are you staying?" asked Richard Landes after a short while.
"At Pevil Park, with General Cowper. My father has been moving us around for some time. He chased Miss Morland from our home," she said. "Even though both Henry and I loved her dearly. Indeed, Henry is to marry Miss Morland, though my father is quite angry."
Richard smiled. "Then your brother is blessed since he cares not for your father's wishes," he said somewhat bitterly. Eleanor took his hand as they crossed a stile, and he retained his hold on it afterwards.
"If I have a moment to myself, should I come to Pevil?"
"My father will not approve, and will remove me elsewhere."
"So I feared. I do not know General Cowper well, although I am acquainted with him, and with members of your party. If that is indeed the Hon. Mrs. Pierce, I know her husband, and one cannot but help knowing Lady Millicent."
"She is a wonderful woman, I like her very much. She stood up to my father, and made him allow me to come to Fearny, where we have been sketching the park."
"How are your flowers?" asked Richard.
"Quite well. Or when I last saw them. You know how I have been moved about."
"I am sorry that I could not meet you with Longtown."
"As was I. But here we are."
"Yes. When shall we meet again?"
"Before too long."
"When?" asked Richard, but they were at Langley House, and he had to enter before the others, and wake his dozing uncle in the parlor where he had been napping. After explaining who the party was, the weak old man nodded at the introductions, and ordered Richard to fetch a servant with tea for the ladies. Lessing sat by the old man, and talked to him quietly, but the Viscount watched the party all the while. When Richard returned, followed by a servant with a tea tray, and himself bearing a cup of medicinal tea and a glass bottle, he smiled fleetingly at Eleanor, who was seated by Mrs. Henley. The Viscount noted the exchange with interest, and examined Eleanor with his eyes. He inquired of Mr. Lessing again of her name and on hearing that she was from Northanger, he nodded. "Can't stand the General, but I hear that it is a prosperous place." When Richard had helped his uncle with his medicines while the ladies followed the servant to a room with a table, the Viscount nodded sleepily at Lessing, and said,
"Pleasant of you to call. I shall be a bad host, I fear, and sleep some more. The doctor orders it." Lessing nodded, and urged the Viscount to save his strength. Richard followed Lessing into the room with the tea after a few minutes, and played host to the party. Occupied by Mrs. Cowper about the furnishings of the room, he cast only a sad look at Eleanor.
The party was soon ended, since the women needed to return to Pevil before supper. Richard escorted them to the edge of the park, and smiled one last time. Eleanor's heart fell heavily in her chest as she thought of leaving the pleasant park where her beloved lived. She caught his arm, as she, last of the walking party, crossed over onto Fearny lands.
"Shall I write you?" she asked. "I cannot stand a parting again. Don't let me drift far from you, in my father's tow. I could not bear it."
His eyes brightened as she spoke, taking an initiative to tell him that he mattered to her. "Write," he said. "I'll come soon, General or no General. I have known you only for months, but magical months they have been."
Maude called back to Eleanor, and she curtsied quickly before dashing off after the departing party. Glancing back, and watching him bow, and she knew that she could not play disciple to her father's whims for much longer.Chapter 29 (Conclusion)
The memory of her meeting with Richard at Langley weighed heavily upon Eleanor's thoughts. Her father, suspecting that her proximity to Langley had brought back memories that he found distasteful, urged Eleanor to spend time with the women of the party, embroidering or reading, and generally staying close to his eagle eye. Eleanor submitted to his regime, too deep in thought. She knew that she wanted to, and must, write Richard soon, but she was worried about what to say. The news of Henry's desertion from her father's dominance had sparked rebellious seeds in her own breast, and she gave thought to asking Richard to run to Gretna Green with her. The idea generally repulsed her, that of eloping and leaving behind family and respectability, and she was thankful for an excuse not to propose such a drastic measure by remembering the Viscount's dependence upon his nephew. Richard could not desert his uncle in his need. No, instead, she would write instead of meeting Richard, again and again, defying her father's wishes. If her father disowned her, as he would Henry when he heard of his engagement, she could run to Richard then, but until that moment, she wanted only comfort and a chance to court the man she esteemed beyond any other.
Lady Millicent had observed that Eleanor was given to long periods of quiet, where she seemed to be wrestling with herself. Having seen some things that she found very interesting while at Langley, she approached Eleanor one afternoon, when the girl was alone in one of the gardens, kneeling by a bench and caressing a hyacinth leaf between her fingers.
"Something is troubling you, and I think that I know what," said Lady Millicent.
"You cannot know," said Eleanor.
"I might. I perceive that you and Mr. Landes have a former acquaintance, and a close one, I would guess," she said casually. Eleanor blanched, and bruised the leaf she held in her fingers.
"What has my father told you?" she asked frantically, worried that Lady Millicent might tell her father of their meeting with Mr. Landes. As it was, no one had mentioned Mr. Landes, although they mentioned their visit to the Viscount, who had seemed unwell, but not in such terrible condition, since he had offered them tea.
"Nothing," said Lady Millicent. "And you have told me nothing in words, though I discern much from your behavior. You know, I presume, that Mr. Landes was cast from his home by his uncle not a year ago?"
"Do I not?" cried Eleanor. "He was at Northanger when he found out. My father sent him from the house."
"And this troubled you? That he was disowned?"
"It is trivial. I care not how much money he has. He has a living in trade. But my father refuses to let me see him."
"It had been long then, since you met?"
"We last met in Bath," Eleanor found herself admitting, glad to confide in someone. "And we were to meet at Gerald Longtown's estate. But his uncle fell ill."
"Did you notice what was in the bottle Mr. Landes gave to his uncle?"
"I did not."
"It is not a good sign, that they give him droughts of that strength. They are easing a great pain with powerful drugs. I was surprised not to see a doctor in attendance."
"When he can send Richard for a doctor at any minute, he does not need one hovering."
"Do you not accept the possibility that Mr. Landes, Richard you call him, I notice, would be reinstated as heir? For although the land must go to him, all of the capital used in running the estate comes from the Viscount's personal fortune, which he is free to leave to anyone. Without that fortune, Mr. Landes would not be able to support the estate for more than a year or so until it must be sold. You could be a Viscountess, though, living in London on the earnings of his trade."
"I should be happy," said Eleanor, "If I was forced to take in sewing to feed us."
"You say so now, but you do not know that for certain. You have been brought up to enjoy comforts. A small home would not suit a young lady of your taste and elegance."
"I want only to be with him," said Eleanor, quietly.
"Will he visit you, do you think?"
"If he does, Father will remove me to Wales, or some other inaccessible place."
"Is it your father who keeps you back?"
"Mostly, but I wonder if you are right, that I am not strong enough to face hardship with Richard."
"You make your own strength."
"I am but a young woman."
"A beautiful young woman. You could marry well elsewhere."
"No!" cried Eleanor, her eyes blazing. "If a prince should ask marriage of me, I would refuse. I want to be married to Richard Landes."
"Well, there you have it, that is your future, if you will take steps towards it. What will you do about it?"
"I do not know. I have thought for days, since we left Langley, and I do not know what to say to him."
"The truth is always a good place to start," said Lady Millicent.
"Indeed," said Eleanor. "I suppose that I ought to write him the letter I promised."
"A clandestine correspondence! This is very novel. I wish that I were young again, and could feel the thrill you feel. My husband, the Sir Hubert Clarings, was a good man, but not very romantic. However, I loved him, and my father, the Duke of ----, did not think that he was as good a match as I might have made. But a woman makes her choice, and once made, she will live with it forever. I wish you good luck, and if you need any assistance, call me." She strode away across the gardens, leaving Eleanor alone, a fragment of bruised hyacinth leaf in her hand. Dropping it by her feet, she quietly walked back to the house, and prepared her letter in her mind.
In the house, she wrote her letter in the solitude of her room, feigning a headache to the rest of the party. Alice, who was well accustomed to her mistress's habit of writing secret letters, tidied the room, and assisted Miss Tilney in any way she wished, fetching fresh paper as Eleanor tossed aside one half written sheet after another. Alice gathered up the rejected papers, and carefully tossed them into the fires in the kitchen later on. At last, Eleanor had a letter written, and read through it carefully before addressing it to Richard at Langley.
I am tortured by the way I cannot have a simple conversation with you. My father dislikes you so much for your continued treachery against his orders by writing me, that he would no sooner allow you in his home than he would stop bossing others about. He led men in the military, and he leads all of his dependents about mercilessly. But I, now, do not wish to live in my comfortable life if I cannot share it. I would be prepared to live by my hands if I had to, if we could meet and smile every day. I had to tell you the truth, and there it is. I cannot just walk away from many father, but should be give any excuse, I would eagerly flee to your side. But you must now tend your uncle. He may have wronged you in the past, but he is of your blood. Your loyalty to him is much like my own loyalty to my father. I am one of the only people he has left to care for him. Frederick is always away cavorting, and Henry will not be allowed back at Northanger once Father hears about Miss Morland. Fortunately, Henry's engagement has been kept a secret still. As the only Tilney at home, and as mistress of Northanger since my mother's death, I must alone watch over and wait on him. I may not enjoy it, but he gave me life, which I treasure, since it has given me the chance to meet and speak with you. Duty and Love tear me into pieces, but I am growing impatient, and yearn to stop this skulking about under his sight. Help me, dearest Richard, to solve my struggle. If you said a word, I would come away with you forever, leaving the gloom of Northanger far behind me. Never can we live peacefully together with my father's goodwill, for, even should your uncle die, you would be a viscount with a wounded reputation, in trade, which he could not accept. As for me, if the laborer in the field and the seamstress in the town can be merry with their lives, why can we, too, not find happiness in some simple setting? I do not know what to do, but I will remember you. I can do nothing else, for your image haunts my thoughts.
I have not written to you so often as you to me, and I feel it. But I have promised to write you, to speak to you, and as I promise, I shall do. Seeing you at Langley was so astonishing, so moving, that I fear that I cannot continue to write you letters, hearing you, but never seeing you. But if this is all I can have of you, I will write you. It is not proper, but I scarcely care, since it means that you will have a token of me, that you might not forget me. I shall not forget you. Once you wrote "Remember Me" on the back of a laundry bill. My father made me burn your letters, but that word remained. Remember you I will, and I hope that our separation will not continue for long.
I am tortured by the way I cannot have a simple conversation with you. My father dislikes you so much for your continued treachery against his orders by writing me, that he would no sooner allow you in his home than he would stop bossing others about. He led men in the military, and he leads all of his dependents about mercilessly.
But I, now, do not wish to live in my comfortable life if I cannot share it. I would be prepared to live by my hands if I had to, if we could meet and smile every day. I had to tell you the truth, and there it is. I cannot just walk away from many father, but should be give any excuse, I would eagerly flee to your side. But you must now tend your uncle. He may have wronged you in the past, but he is of your blood. Your loyalty to him is much like my own loyalty to my father. I am one of the only people he has left to care for him. Frederick is always away cavorting, and Henry will not be allowed back at Northanger once Father hears about Miss Morland. Fortunately, Henry's engagement has been kept a secret still. As the only Tilney at home, and as mistress of Northanger since my mother's death, I must alone watch over and wait on him. I may not enjoy it, but he gave me life, which I treasure, since it has given me the chance to meet and speak with you. Duty and Love tear me into pieces, but I am growing impatient, and yearn to stop this skulking about under his sight.
Help me, dearest Richard, to solve my struggle. If you said a word, I would come away with you forever, leaving the gloom of Northanger far behind me. Never can we live peacefully together with my father's goodwill, for, even should your uncle die, you would be a viscount with a wounded reputation, in trade, which he could not accept. As for me, if the laborer in the field and the seamstress in the town can be merry with their lives, why can we, too, not find happiness in some simple setting?
I do not know what to do, but I will remember you. I can do nothing else, for your image haunts my thoughts.
Weary after finally finishing her heart's task, she sealed the letter closely, and handed it to her maid. Alice took the letter and put it into her pocket, promising to have the gardener give it to his brother, whose neighbor's cousin worked at Langley. It should not take more than a day or two for the letter to reach Richard. Whatever path he chose, she would follow, she could do nothing else.
Anxiously, Eleanor waited for a response from Langley. The house party grew tedious, as each proposed merriment took her away from her room, where Alice might bring a letter. Lady Millicent watched over Eleanor, perceiving that her restlessness stemmed from a new source, and she wondered what Miss Tilney had written in the letter she had written.
Six days had passed since Eleanor had sent the letter. It seemed far too long, and she could not sleep. Tired, pale, she roamed the gardens, not able to finish a single sketch she started. When embroidering, she pricked her fingers, until the flecks of blood threatened to ruin her work. Casting aside the needle, she turned to reading, but her attention could not be diverted for long. Lady Millicent noted this, and wished that there was another young girl in the party for Eleanor to confide in. However, Lady Millicent was the only woman who had not come with a spouse (the good reason being at Sir Hubert had been in his grave for six years), and found that she must continue her solicitation of Miss Tilney, for the good of the girl's soul. Not unwillingly, she sought Eleanor out after breakfast one morning, and proposed a walk. The General was examining General Cowper's library, and nodded off the pair while engrossed in the bindings of a set of ledgers.
"I fear that my advice has not calmed you, Miss Tilney," said Lady Millicent as they approached a quiet grove with a carved marble seat in it. They sat, and Eleanor sighed.
"I wrote a letter, a truthful letter, and I have not heard a word from him. I wonder if perhaps he does not care for the truth. I told him plainly that while I love him, I love my father too."
"As any child should."
"I know, but still I am worried. He hates my father for sending him from Northanger in disgrace. What if he comes to hate me, too?"
"I do not think that possible, dear girl," said Lady Millicent. "For indeed, he looked at you with such admiration that I would think him a great idiot if he was able to lose it in such a short period of time."
Eleanor sighed. "I can only worry. I wish that I could receive a response."
As they returned towards Pevil Hall, the noticed with surprise that a black carriage was pulling over towards the carriage house. Not knowing of anyone with such somber livery, Eleanor approached the house with curiosity. Lady Millicent noted the color, and wondered in her head if perhaps Eleanor might get her response sooner than she expected.
Entering the house, a servant approached the pair, and informed them that they had a visitor, who wished to speak to them. Mr. Lessing was attending the Viscount of Langley in the Green room.
"Langley?" asked Eleanor, surprised. "He did not seem well when we saw him a few days ago. Is Richard's care so enchanted that it brings him to visiting health?"
Lady Millicent said nothing, but a smile pulled at her mouth. So the old sod had come to a decision at last. High time that Langley visited Miss Tilney. Young Langley, of course.
Entering the Green Room, Lessing and a man all in black stood as the ladies entered. Eleanor curtsied, then stood straight in alarm as she noted that the man was not the withered old Viscount, but Richard Landes.
"Miss Tilney!" cried Richard, coming to see her. "You look pale." His concern triggered a small smile on Eleanor's face, but she was still pale, looking at him. "Say not that you are ill, Miss Tilney, for I could not stand for that, not when I have my freedom at last to call upon you."
"I am not ill," she managed. "But what has happened?"
"Can you not see?" asked Lady Millicent. "The old Viscount has clearly passed on."
"Is this true?" asked Eleanor, coming up to Richard, and taking his hand. "Is that why you wear the clothes of mourning, and drove hence in a black carriage?"
"Indeed," said Richard, maintaining hold of Eleanor's cold, slender hand. "He died not four days ago. I received your letter just before he died. He has forgiven me," he said, "He has forgiven me, and I him."
Speechless, taking in his meaning, Eleanor sat down on a small settee, and took her hand from Richard's grasp.
"He has forgiven you?" Lady Millicent smiled smugly, happy to see the girl so entranced by the news. Mr. Lessing, who had gathered much of the situation from Langley's repeated demands about Miss Tilney's whereabouts before the girl came in, also smiled, and thought that the match would be a rather good one. A pretty young couple living in Langley would certainly improve the society of the neighborhood. Young Landes... Langley now, must be a good chap, since Old Langley had forgiven him. All propriety restored to the man's reputation, Lessing was eager to be as helpful to the new Viscount as he had been to the old.
"He forgave me before he died. He had his will amended to its former state. I received his fortune, enough to maintain Langley, and keep it."
"Then you truly are free?"
"I am, though your letter moved me greatly." Lady Millicent made a sign to Lessing, and the two quietly removed themselves from the room as the couple focused on one another. "Would you really have lived as a seamstress in a town if it were the only way?"
"I would," said Eleanor. Then, she laughed. "If I could hold a needle. These last days I have scarcely been able to pick up my work without pricking myself. I shouldn't have made a very god seamstress."
Richard picked up the injured fingers, and held them in his own hands. Drawing her up, so that she stood before him, and held her hands firmly in his grasp. "Miss Tilney, may I now speak to you as I wished to speak to you months ago?" Eleanor smiled at him, and he opened his mouth to continue, when a noise sounded in the corridor.
"Do not enter, please, General," said Lessing, who had been sitting outside the room with Lady Millicent, guarding the door.
"Why not? My daughter is in there, I have been told so. Move."
"Do not disturb her, I beg of you," said Lady Millicent sternly. The General quailed for a moment under her steady gaze, but then pushed her aside.
"I don't like this sneaking. Let me by." He thrust Lady Millicent's substantial bulk aside from the door, and entered the room. Seeing the loathed Richard Landes holding his daughter's hands in a way that did not bode well for his own schemes, the General burst into the room.
"I thought that I ordered you to have no more contact with this man," said the General, snarling, slamming the door on Lessing and Lady Millicent.
"Father," began Eleanor. "Please..."
"Eleanor, go to your chambers, we will leave within the hour. I will send you to Scotland to stay with Mrs. Trenton."
"He has land in Scotland," said Lessing coming to the room, rubbing his head somewhat angrily, intent to foil the plans of the man who had so rudely talked to the Viscount. After all, he was the only Viscount in the neighborhood, and a nice man besides. And General Tilney had hit his head with the door, a most ungentlemanly thing to do.
"What?" asked the General, turning to Lessing.
"He has lands in Scotland. Actually, he owns a small estate near Perth, where Mrs. Trenton is staying with her husband's sister's family. So he could follow quite easily."
"This man is in trade," said the General, spitting out the words. "He is an 'uncouth, drunken and irresponsible man', I read it in the papers. The viscount will agree with me. He disinherited him."
"I'm afraid he has a very high opinion of the man you see," said Richard gravely, "for my uncle is dead, but has reinstated me. I am free of the past, and I am the viscount of Langley Park."
When the General heard Richard speak, his face went into a number of astonishing contortions, and Eleanor could only stare helplessly. After a few minutes, her father regained his composure, and said,
"Then I apologize. A viscount would not be an uncouth and drunken man."
"No, we Viscounts have more grave things to do," said Richard solemnly. "Which is why we need Viscountesses to make our days more beautiful and cheery." He took Eleanor's hands in his own again.
The General blinked. "I suppose that that makes sense," he said.
"And if you would leave us for a few moments, I might see if your daughter would be interested in helping me."
"Anything you like." The General's eyes were still wide, and he exited quickly, muttering, "Fifteen thousand pounds a year or I'm French..."
When Lady Millicent and Lessing had exited the room again, Richard knelt before Eleanor, and said, "Please, before we have any more interruptions and are forced to wait another long time, will you be my wife?"
"Certainly," said Eleanor, flushing.
"Well, then I guess that I must now ask your father's permission for your hand."
"Indeed," said Eleanor, though she had now grasped the fact that the General had dropped all of his grudges against her proposed husband.
When the General was applied to, he gave his consent with a rapidity that left Richard Langley stunned. However, he was quite pleased, and in his happiness, forgave the old man his former offenses. The General after all wanted the best for his daughter, though he had gone about it in a wretched fashion. The rest of the household was alerted of the engagement, and Cowper fetched out the best champagne to honor the occasion. It happened that he was particularly fond of the French bubbly, and was only too pleased to have an excuse to drink some, though it was hard enough to get good French wines.
A long list of people had to be informed about the engagement. To begin with, Eleanor informed Frederick and Henry with great joy. She told Miss Morland, who was terribly pleased for her, and she wrote to Gerald Longtown and Mary Nestor, who had been so friendly to her. Everyone was pleased with the engagement, especially those who had known of the attachment ahead of time. The only person who was at all upset was Richard's cousin Miss Phent, who should have gotten the Viscount's money had the feud persisted.
Richard and Eleanor were married in the summer, in a beautiful church, surrounded by flowers. It was Langley's own church, the General having given up hope of fitting the large wedding party in Northanger alone. For Eleanor and Richard had many friends, as well as all of the important people whom the General deemed it necessary to invite. Thus, Richard was saddled with an incredible host of guests, but he bore them willingly, happy to know that he would soon be married (married!) to the beautiful Miss Tilney, of Northanger Abbey. It is impossible to say who was happier at the wedding, the couple, or General Tilney, who at last had married his daughter to a man of title and wealth, a man of title and wealth whom she adored.
Henry Tilney had by this time spoken to his father concerning the engagement of himself and Miss Morland. The General, though excited about his daughter's love, could not bring himself to offer his blessing to his youngest son. However, Henry was invited to the wedding, as was Miss Morland, as Eleanor's particular friend. The two merrily enjoyed the series of balls and amusements that were contrived to entertain the guests, and after the ceremony, while in a happy euphoria caused by excellent wine and astounding happiness, the General finally gave his consent to his son for the marriage. The Morlands, on hearing this, were happy for their daughter, and arranged a small but loving wedding for the autumn in Richard Morland's own church. Eleanor attended as the Viscountess Langley, and dazzled Catherine's local friends with her elegance.
Charles Lessing became acquainted with Mary Nestor at The Langley wedding, and their wedding followed within a year. Gerald Longtown attended Eleanor's wedding cheerfully, glad that the couple were at last together, and that their fathers were no longer pushing them at each other. Soon Gerald found a pretty young heiress who liked him very much, and Longtown and Tilney were able to settle down, contented. For Longtown's children were married, although Tilney stilled had a son on the loose.
Frederick Tilney removed himself back into his military duties with vigor, eager to avoid his father's suggestions that he, too might settle down. The General, finally, alone, retired to Northanger, where Eleanor still came to visit every few months, to spend time with her flowers and her father.
Catherine and Henry removed themselves to Woodston after their wedding, and lived happily with the Newfoundland, and the other dogs. Catherine was of much assistance with Henry's work, being quite used to a parsonage, and was helpful in tidying up Henry's life style. The improvements Henry had proposed to do were completed, and the happy couple settled in for long years of happiness in their country home.
Richard and Eleanor Langley led their local society with astonishing happiness when they moved into Langley Park finally. The Old Viscount had long since been buried in a beautiful tomb, which Eleanor and Richard cared for carefully, owing much of their happiness to his clemency. Eleanor would have worked all her days to be with Richard, but living in luxury with him was far more comfortable. The Lessings became favorite neighbors, and Lady Millicent moved into the cottage at Pevil Park so that she might see the Langleys often. Henry presented the couple with a Newfoundland puppy, and their lives were complete and refreshing, as each day they rose in happiness to tend to their beautiful home and beautiful lives. No longer was Eleanor's life akin to that of any caged creature, but life itself was gilded in the most astonishing rosy hues.
Author's Note: Thank you to my readers, I've enjoyed writing this, I hope you've liked reading it.© 200-2003 Copyright held by author