A Hero's Destiny
A Northanger Abbey Twist
"Good evening, sir. You wanted me?"
Henry blotted his sermon notes and set them aside. "Yes, Mr. Hering, I did. I have a few questions regarding the planting. Have you already enlisted field hands?
"Yes, sir. We are to begin planting very soon. I also managed to get seed at a lower price than expected." Hering handed Henry the bill. "And the almanacs predict a mild summer, and a very good growing year."
"Excellent news. Oh, did you repair that one plow?"
"Good." He shook the man's hand. "A job well done. It is good to see that my home is in order when I return."
The man grimaced. "Sir," he objected, "there is one piece of bad news. Robinson has left us for a while."
Old George Robinson was Henry's other manservant, a man of all trades that his father had long employed. He maintained Henry's gardens as well as making various repairs around the village. "Why? Where has he gone, Hering?"
"It seems," Hering said, pulling at his cravat, "that he went off in search of Mrs. Robinson. Apparently she ran off to Brighton with a eighteen-year-old midshipman." He cleared his throat uncomfortably.
"May I be excused now?" he asked desperately.
Henry nodded, and the man left in a hurry, not wanting to elaborate on the details of Mrs. Robinson's escapade.
Mr. Goodwin, the curate at Woodston, called on Henry after dinner as requested. In fact, the young man was used to obey nearly all the requests Mr. Tilney made of him, as many things were delegated upon him. But he did it all without complaint with the hopes that Henry Tilney would give him a good recommendation so that he would have a parish of his own.
"Everything went well, Mr. Tilney," the young man began. "The first week, as you know, I preached on fearing the Lord. The congregation seemed to take it to heart, as they left quite sobered. The sermon on self-denial made quite a few good points, if I do say so myself."
"Did you take my recommendation and preach on hope? I thought the conversation might have needed to hear that topic addressed..."
"No, I considered it for a while, but decided to address shame," Mr. Goodwin said, sinking his large body further into the sofa and taking another glass of brandy.
"I see," Henry responded, a little disgruntled.
"And things are running smoothly. Mr. and Mrs. Brown have a new daughter. The blacksmith's broken thumb has healed, praise God, and Mr. Cook's gout has cleared, but Dr. Sweeney recommends that he visit the baths. Which reminds me," the man continued, "to inquire after your time in Bath."
Henry smiled. "Bath treated me well, Goodwin. My sister has made a new friend, a Miss Morland, who was invited to Northanger and is there as we speak. My father hardly tried the baths, however, but his spirits improved while we were there. My brother Captain Tilney is still in Bath, and will probably stay there until his leave of absence ends."
"Where does Miss Morland hail from?"
"Wiltshire, I believe. Fullerton is the village."
"Is her father the clergyman there? I have heard of a Mr. Morland!"
"How?" asked Henry, surprised.
"He was the friend of one of my professors at Cambridge. He is held in high respect."
"I could have no doubt of it."
The evening carried on in the same way, and Mr. Goodwin soon took his leave. Henry was relieved that Miss Morland's father had a good reputation; he himself had not heard of him, but knowing that he was respectable man placed the daughter in an even more amiable light.
The people of Woodston piled into church that Sunday morning to welcome their young, lively, handsome clergyman back to his pulpit. The Rev. Henry Tilney was a great favorite among the people, and even though his sermons were not as complete as they should have been, they were always very interesting, and very well read. And the congregation expected no less today, especially after weeks of the even younger Mr. Goodwin's solemn moralizing.
The hymns were sung, and the people sat in anticipation. Henry, clutching a few notes, took a deep breath and smiled to the congregation. "It is good to be back in Woodston," he said simply. "I have missed each and every one of you." The congregation brightened. "I want to ask a favor of you today, however. I want you to allow me the privilege of speaking to you today as a simple man, not just as a servant of the Lord. I ask you this because I have a simple message today: one that is not wrought with theological thought, or threatens the eternal damnation of your soul, but one that is pertinent to your very being. What I am to preach on today is what we live for, what we want to live for, and what we should consider the most important task in our lives."
The people were a little taken aback, but Henry strove on. "I want to tell you a little story. There was once a young lady. She was a pretty girl, nothing extraordinary, with dark hair and modest features, and a bright smile that often displayed her happy disposition. At the age of seventeen, this young lady was invited by a married couple to accompany them on a trip--her first voyage beyond the grounds of her parent's home. And she was very excited! 'What adventures I will have,' she must have thought. When they reached their destination, she met many new faces, made new friends, and learnt new things. She was greatly enjoying herself. But things soon began to occur that she had never witnessed, and she could not help but wonder 'Why?' Being an artless, very genuine girl, she posed her blunt questions to those involved and to bystanders. Now, some tried to avoid answering her unaffected questions, wondering aloud, 'Why are you such a close questioner?' Her response to that was, 'Am I? I only ask what I want to be told.'
"This young lady continued in her strive towards knowledge. She learned new skills, obtained new hobbies, and learned to love what she could not before. She did not take the truth at face value, but by questioning parts of the truth, she integrated it into her life, into her morals, into her feelings. She grew as a person, not striving to appear differently, but striving to become better. Even though she entered the world and her knowledge of the world's ways grew, she maintained her artlessness, her guilelessness, her integrity, and her courage. She was wiser, yes, but she did not become what they were.
"You might think that this ideal creature does not exist! The cynics will rise up and say that no one can be like that. I have said it myself, but have since learned that there are God's children like this. And before you began to criticize those in your lives that are not like this, let me tell you that this girl does have her faults. No one on this earth is or was perfect, excepting the Lord Jesus Christ. But we must learn to accept those faults in others around us, and forgive them as the Lord forgives us. But, as a reminder, you are not perfect. I am not perfect. But if we follow this young lady's example, and strive to better ourselves, and try to learn more about the world, and about the Lord, then living the Christian life takes on a whole new meaning for us. It becomes personal, not something that remains in the church after we leave our pews.
"In the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 17, there is a verse: 'That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from any of us.' We need to actively seek out God, and actively seek out the improvement of out morals and of our minds, just like the young lady of the story actively sought wisdom and knowledge."
Henry stopped. I love her, he thought with a smile. I do. Everything is so clear now.
He moved from behind the pulpit, walking down to the front of the aisle, as if he wanted to talk man to man with every soul in the room, making himself accessible instead of revered. "Children, friends, do not be afraid of your doubts. Ask the Lord for the answers to you questions, big or small. And in his time, he will deliver an answer to you. He will reaffirm your faith with his answer, and will become central to your every action. I have asked, and I have struggled with the truth of my feelings, and he delivered an answer when I least expected it. 'And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.' And I have found that," he concluded with a broad smile and love in his heart, "to be the absolute truth." He paused. "Let us pray."
The acknowledgement of his love for Catherine Morland drove Henry back to Northanger Abbey the next morning. Finding nothing that could prevent his return, he arose early and set off on his horse, not wanting to waste a minute that could be spent in the company of his Catherine. Yes, he knew that she was his Catherine. Catherine, Catherine, Catherine--he finally permitted himself to even think of her by her Christian name, to consider her dear to him, to hold her person close to his heart. No longer would she be Miss Morland in his mind--his sentiments were strong. As he rode, he grew more confident of his resolve, and more impatient to see her once again.
He rode to the stable, unseen by any of the family. His father, he assumed, was walking the grounds, and the ladies were in. He dismounted, brushing his clothing and, taking off his hat, ran his fingers through his mussed hair.
He entered the side door of the house, and bounded up the stairs to the second level. He was eager to reach his room and fix his appearance before he intruded upon the women. But as he reached the top, who should he see but Catherine!
"Mr. Tilney!" she exclaimed in a voice of more than common astonishment. His jaw dropped a little: he had just been thinking about her as being elsewhere, but here she was! "Good God!" she continued, not attending to his shaky address. "How came you here? How came you up that staircase?"
"How came I up that staircase!" he replied, greatly surprised. "Because it is my nearest way from the stable-yard to my own chamber; and why should I not come up it?"
Catherine recollected herself, blushed deeply, and said no more. Henry was searching her countenance, trying to discover the reason of her discomposure upon seeing him. She moved on towards the gallery. "And may I not, in my turn," said he, as be pushed back the folding doors, "ask how you came here? This passage is at least as extraordinary a road from the breakfast-parlor to your apartment, as that staircase can be from the stables to mine."
"I have been," said Catherine, looking down, "to see your mother's room."
"My mother's room! Is there anything extraordinary to be seen there?"
"No, nothing at all," she said quickly, and changed the subject. "I thought you did not mean to come back till tomorrow."
"I did not expect to be able to return sooner, when I went away; but three hours ago I had the pleasure of finding nothing to detain me." He searched her face. "You look pale. I am afraid I alarmed you by running so fast up those stairs. Perhaps you did not know--you were not aware of their leading from the offices in common use?"
"No, I was not. You have had a very fine day for your ride."
"Very; and does Eleanor leave you to find your way into an the rooms in the house by yourself?"
"Oh! No; she showed me over the greatest part on Saturday--and we were coming here to these rooms--but only" -- dropping her voice “ "your father was with us."
"And that prevented you," said Henry, trying to read her mind. "Have you looked into all the rooms in that passage?"
"No, I only wanted to see--" she broke off. "Is not it very late? I must go and dress."
Why is she so uncomfortable? he wondered. "It is only a quarter past four," he said, showing his watch to detain her, "and you are not now in Bath. No theatre, no rooms to prepare for. Half an hour at Northanger must be enough."
She could not contradict it and stayed; but she looked like she wanted to leave, which worried and hurt Henry.
They walked slowly up the gallery. "Have you had any letter from Bath since I saw you?"
"No, and I am very much surprised. Isabella promised so faithfully to write directly."
"Promised so faithfully! A faithful promise! That puzzles me. I have heard of a faithful performance. But a faithful promise - the fidelity of promising! It is a power little worth knowing, however, since it can deceive and pain you." He looked about. "My mother's room is very commodious, is it not? Large and cheerful-looking, and the dressing-closets so well disposed! It always strikes me as the most comfortable apartment in the house, and I rather wonder that Eleanor should not take it for her own. She sent you to look at it, I suppose?"
"No" was her woeful answer.
"It has been your own doing entirely?" Catherine said nothing. After a short silence, during which he had closely observed her, he added, "As there is nothing in the room in itself to raise curiosity, this must have proceeded from a sentiment of respect for my mother's character, as described by Eleanor, which does honor to her memory. The world, I believe, never saw a better woman. But it is not often that virtue can boast an interest such as this. The domestic, unpretending merits of a person never known do not often create that kind of fervent, venerating tenderness which would prompt a visit like yours." She did not catch his compliment. "Eleanor, I suppose, has talked of her a great deal?"
"Yes, a great deal. That is--no, not much, but what she did say was very interesting. Her dying so suddenly," she said slowly and hesitantly, "and you--none of you being at home--and your father, I thought--perhaps had not been very fond of her."
"And from these circumstances," he replied, his eye fixed upon hers, "you infer perhaps the probability of some negligence--some," she involuntarily shook her head, "or it may be--of something still less pardonable." She raised her eyes towards him more fully than she had ever done before. "My mother's illness," he continued, "the seizure which ended in her death, was sudden. The malady itself, one from which she had often suffered, a bilious fever - its cause therefore constitutional. On the third day, in short, as soon as she could be prevailed on, a physician attended her, a very respectable man, and one in whom she had always placed great confidence. Upon his opinion of her danger, two others were called in the next day, and remained in almost constant attendance for four and twenty hours. On the fifth day she died. During the progress of her disorder, Frederick and I (we were both at home) saw her repeatedly; and from our own observation can bear witness to her having received every possible attention which could spring from the affection of those about her, or which her situation in life could command. Poor Eleanor was absent, and at such a distance as to return only to see her mother in her coffin."
"But your father," said Catherine, "was he afflicted?"
"For a time, greatly so. You have erred in supposing him not attached to her. He loved her, I am persuaded, as well as it was possible for him to - we have not all, you know, the same tenderness of disposition - and I will not pretend to say that while she lived, she might not often have had much to bear, but though his temper injured her, his judgment never did. His value of her was sincere; and, if not permanently, he was truly afflicted by her death."
"I am very glad of it," said Catherine; "it would have been very shocking!"
He swallowed, trying to internalize what her suspicions had been. "If I understand you rightly, you had formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to--" He stopped, trying to contain his emotions. "Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighborhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?"
They had reached the end of the gallery, and with tears of shame she ran off.
Henry stood frozen to the ground as Catherine's stride grew fainter and fainter, trying to process the tempest of feelings that were raging inside of his heart. Her tears, her looks, and her misconceptions tore his heart in contradicting directions, straining his compassion and his judgement momentarily. He understood, yes, but he could not believe what had just occurred; what she had assumed was scandalous, libelous, calumnious, attacking his father and his family's honor, thinking that General Tilney was a villain of the worst kind. This event perplexed our young lover, his duties to his father and to his beloved clashing within his bosom.
The sound of a door closing in the distance pulled Henry to his senses, and he rushed to his room. Bolting the door, he noticed the pile of novels on the floor, just as he left them. The sight of Udolpho caused him to start, and the realization that he was also at fault in the unlucky event hit him as lightning does a tall, lonely tree, and the electricity of a guilty conscience flooded him. "Oh, how wretched I am!" he cried. "I was feeding the fire! I, who complimented himself on being able to discern the difference between reality and falsehoods, between absurdities and seriousness, have aided the fall of someone else when I indulged my own vanity! Satisfying my wit at the expense of someone's weakness. Oh, how vicious." He recollected those ever-few conversations and debates he held with Catherine, and how he made note of the literalness of her mind; how she took things at face value, and did not understand metaphoric comparisons, or satires. "Oh, that horrid conversation on the road! Matilda and Dorothy, all that nonsense--she might not have believed me, but she did not understand the joke. For me to make fun of her is appalling, but for her not to understand that I was--wretched! Her imagination, her fancy, was flying every which way, and I only encouraged it!" He fell on the bed, his hair in his hands. "And now she is ashamed of what she has done; she knows her folly, but will she speak to me again? I can forgive her. I do forgive her. We all make mistakes--but can we return to what we had before that mistake? She must know that I am not angry with her now. She must know that tonight, or we might never..."
These bitter reflections soon turn to resolve. He calmed down. Preparing his dress for dinner, he resolved to keep a level head as well as to facilitate her comfort, make amends, and help her feel as loved as he possibly could. No one else knew of this indiscretion, and if she knew that he forgave her, all was well. It would take time for her to heal, but he could wait, and he could encourage her happiness. But he knew he must be calm.
The evening passed in relative tranquility. Catherine, pale and downcast, could barely give Eleanor an intelligible answer to her inquiry if she was well. Henry followed her into the dining parlor, and paid her much attention, which she was unmistakably grateful to receive. Catherine slipped into serenity, and grew happier and happier in the course of another day. She seemed to have made peace with herself, and Henry's generosity in not mentioning or alluding to the event was her greatest assistance. There were still a few subjects, such as cabinetry, that made her tremble, but considered it a reminder of her past folly, and kept her come committing another similar error. Henry was glad to see her improvement, and his regard for her grew as she grew in herself.
Catherine's anxieties of common life began soon to succeed to her alarms of romance. Her desire of hearing from Miss Thorpe grew every day greater. Miss Thorpe had promised to keep her informed of the Bath world, of the Rooms and parties; and for the assurance of her continuing feelings for her brother. Henry was less vocal, but no less concerned, in these matters: there had been no letter from Frederick, either, and neither of them had another way of keeping informed. Catherine's brother said he would write upon his return to Oxford, Mrs. Allen when at Fullerton, and none of the Tilney's close acquaintances remained in Bath.
Henry was in the breakfast room at Northanger on the tenth morning Catherine had been waiting for her letter when the post was brought to him. Among the mail was a letter addressed to Miss Morland, and he eagerly held it out for her when she entered the room soon after. She looked at it enthusiastically, but declared solemnly, "'Tis only from James, however."
She opened it, and had hardly three lines finished when her countenance fell. Her short exclamations of sorrowing wonder from beginning to end declared her to be receiving the most unpleasant news; and Henry, watching earnestly, was filled with concern. But he was prevented in consoling her with the entrance of the General. They went to breakfast directly, but Catherine could hardly eat anything. Tears filled her eyes as she kept adjusting her letter, as if she knew not what she did. General Tilney, with his cocoa and newspaper, had no time for observation, but Henry and Eleanor were worried at her distress. As soon as she could, she escaped from the table to the bedrooms, while the Tilney siblings retreated to the drawing room.
"Henry, what happened? What was her news?"
"I do not know. I gave it to her just before Father came in for breakfast, and had not the opportunity to ask her."
"She needed comforting so badly--I just wanted to reach across the table and hug her, the poor girl!
Henry leaned back in his chair. "So did I, Eleanor, so did I."
She smiled a little at her brother, reaching over to pat his arm. "It is hard for you to witness her grief without being at liberty to ease it." He nodded slightly, at which she looked him full in the face. "Then why do stall, Henry? Give yourself that freedom."
"It is not time yet. She is not ready."
"Are you ready?"
Henry paused. "Yes," he said simply.
"Then let her know," she said softly. "We both must allow ourselves to be of assistance to her in any way. She is already my friend, but she must feel how much we care for her, as she cares for us." She paused. "Perhaps I could ask her--"
She was interrupted by the entrance of Catherine, who drew back, begging their forgiveness, but was forced to return with Eleanor's gentle violence. She and Henry withdrew, after she expressed a genuine wish of being of use to Catherine.
They retreated to the breakfast room in reticence; Henry taking up a book and Eleanor her stitching. Neither one said anything for many minutes, neither one wanting to boldly approach the other on the subject of Catherine Morland. But silence was made to be broken, and Eleanor's curiosity on the status of her brother's love overcame her hesitation. "When did you know?" she asked placidly.
"Know?" Henry set his book down. "The realization that I loved Miss Morland came upon me in the most unusual of places: during my sermon two Sundays ago. I felt a sudden calm, and I was so sure that what I was questioning and pondering these last few months was indeed true. And to know such a thing in the middle of working, in the middle of sermonizing--it is baffling. Never has being a person the cloth treated me so well." He smiled, pausing to reflect on his voyage to self-knowledge. "Of course, my affection and regard has been steadily building since our first dance together at Bath. She made an impression on me, not trying to, but rather because she did not. Never have I met such an unpretending woman. Her feelings for you, for me, for her family, and her friends are so genuine, so honest, that one can not help but love her." He bowed his head, wringing his hands. "And I do love her, Eleanor, very much, but I never saw it coming on my side. You, I am sure, knew long ago."
"I knew of her regard from hers and my first conversation. Yours I guessed after our dinner party with Monsieur Meaux."
His face twisted in surprise. "You knew that early?"
"Your reaction to his story, and soon after, when I teased you about Catherine just before she joined us for dinner, and watching you dance with her the night Frederick joined us, left no doubt in my mind as to the nature of your feelings. I was eagerly awaiting the day when you knew the depth of your regard."
"I was always a fuzzy-headed coxcomb! You were waiting that long?"
"Yes," she said pointedly. "For being the witty genius you are, you certainly are a simpleton about your seat of passion!"
He smiled broadly, but soon sobered again. "It has been a half-hour, at least. I hope her spirits have lifted. Oh! I wish there was something I could do." Eleanor nodded her silent coherence, and they resumed their prior activities, but were interrupted by the opening of the door. It was Catherine. She had been crying, but no tears were brimming on her lids now as she took her place at the table.
After a short silence, Eleanor asked, "No bad news from Fullerton, I hope? Mr. and Mrs. Morland, your brothers and sisters, I hope none of them are ill?"
"No, I thank you" (sighing as she spoke); "they are all very well. My letter was from my brother at Oxford."
Nothing further was said for a few minutes; and then speaking through her tears, she added, "I do not think I shall ever wish for a letter again!"
"I am sorry," said Henry, again closing his book; "if I had suspected the letter of containing anything unwelcome, I should have given it with very different feelings."
"It contained something worse than anybody could suppose! Poor James is so unhappy! You will soon know why."
"To have so kind-hearted, so affectionate a sister," replied Henry warmly, "must be a comfort to him under any distress." He gave her a comforting smile.
"I have one favor to beg," said Catherine, shortly afterwards, affected by his words but still agitated, "that, if your brother should be coming here, you will give me notice of it, that I may go away."
"Our brother! Frederick!"
"Yes; I am sure I should be very sorry to leave you so soon, but something has happened that would make it very dreadful for me to be in the same house with Captain Tilney."
Eleanor's work was suspended while she gazed with increasing astonishment; but Henry began to suspect the truth, and something, in which Miss Thorpe's name was included, passed his lips.
"How quick you are!" cried Catherine: "you have guessed it, I declare! And yet, when we talked about it in Bath, you little thought of its ending so. Isabella--no wonder now I have not heard from her--Isabella has deserted my brother, and is to marry yours! Could you have believed there had been such inconstancy and fickleness, and everything that is bad in the world?"
"I hope, so far as concerns my brother, you are misinformed. I hope he has not had any material share in bringing on Mr. Morland's disappointment. His marrying Miss Thorpe is not probable. I think you must be deceived so far. I am very sorry for Mr. Morland - sorry that anyone you love should be unhappy; but my surprise would be greater at Frederick's marrying her than at any other part of the story."
"It is very true, however; you shall read James's letter yourself. Stay--There is one part--" she said with a deep blush.
Henry hesitated. "Will you take the trouble of reading to us the passages which concern my brother?" he asked.
"No, read it yourself," cried Catherine, changing her mind. "I do not know what I was thinking of" (blushing again that she had blushed before); "James only means to give me good advice."
Henry took the letter from her hand. It was addressed from Oxford:
Though, God knows, with little inclination for writing, I think it my duty to tell you that everything is at an end between Miss Thorpe and me. I left her and Bath yesterday, never to see either again. I shall not enter into particulars - they would only pain you more. You will soon hear enough from another quarter to know where lies the blame; and I hope will acquit your brother of everything but the folly of too easily thinking his affection returned. Thank God! I am undeceived in time! But it is a heavy blow! After my father's consent had been so kindly given - but no more of this. She has made me miserable forever! Let me soon hear from you, dear Catherine; you are my only friend; your love I do build upon. I wish your visit at Northanger may be over before Captain Tilney makes his engagement known, or you will be uncomfortably circumstanced. Poor Thorpe is in town: I dread the sight of him; his honest heart would feel so much. I have written to him and my father. Her duplicity hurts me more than all; till the very last, if I reasoned with her, she declared herself as much attached to me as ever, and laughed at my fears. I am ashamed to think how long I bore with it; but if ever man had reason to believe himself loved, I was that man. I cannot understand even now what she would be at, for there could be no need of my being played off to make her secure of Tilney. We parted at last by mutual consent - happy for me had we never met! I can never expect to know such another woman! Dearest Catherine, beware how you give your heart.
He returned the letter to her and said with feeling, "Well, if it is to be so, I can only say that I am sorry for it. Frederick will not be the first man who has chosen a wife with less sense than his family expected. I do not envy his situation, either as a lover or a son."
Eleanor, at Catherine's invitation, now read the letter likewise, and, having expressed also her concern and surprise, began to inquire into Miss Thorpe's connections and fortune.
"Her mother is a very good sort of woman," was Catherine's answer.
"What was her father?"
"A lawyer, I believe. They live at Putney."
"Are they a wealthy family?"
"No, not very. I do not believe Isabella has any fortune at all: but that will not signify in your family. Your father is so very liberal! He told me the other day that he only valued money as it allowed him to promote the happiness of his children."
Henry and Eleanor looked at each other, dumbfounded. They had always heard opposite sentiments from their father's lips. "But," said Eleanor, after a short pause, "would it be to promote his happiness, to enable him to marry such a girl? She must be an unprincipled one, or she could not have used your brother so. And how strange an infatuation on Frederick's side! A girl who, before his eyes, is violating an engagement voluntarily entered into with another man! Is not it inconceivable, Henry? Frederick too, who always wore his heart so proudly! Who found no woman good enough to be loved!"
Henry shook his head. "That is the most unpromising circumstance, the strongest presumption against him. When I think of his past declarations, I give him up." He took a deep breath of relief--freedom--after that declaration. Never again would he have to hide Frederick's nature: Eleanor now would know the truth. "Moreover, I have too good an opinion of Miss Thorpe's prudence to suppose that she would part with one gentleman before the other was secured. It is all over with Frederick indeed! He is a deceased man - defunct in understanding." He looked at Catherine, their source of comfort: "Prepare for your sister-in-law, Eleanor, and such a sister-in-law as you must delight in! Open, candid, artless, guileless, with affections strong but simple, forming no pretensions, and knowing no disguise."
"Such a sister-in-law, Henry, I should delight in," said Eleanor with a little smile.
"But perhaps," observed Catherine, thinking of Miss Thorpe, "though she has behaved so ill by our family, she may behave better by yours. Now she has really got the man she likes, she may be constant."
"Indeed I am afraid she will," replied Henry; "I am afraid she will be very constant, unless a baronet should come in her way; that is Frederick's only chance. I will get the Bath paper, and look over the arrivals."
"You think it is all for ambition, then? And, upon my word, there are some things that seem very like it. I cannot forget that, when she first knew what my father would do for them, she seemed quite disappointed that it was not more. I never was so deceived in anyone's character in my life before."
"Among all the great variety that you have known and studied," he observed wryly.
"My own disappointment and loss in her is very great; but, as for poor James, I suppose he will hardly ever recover it."
"Your brother is certainly very much to be pitied at present; but we must not, in our concern for his sufferings, undervalue yours. You feel, I suppose, that in losing Isabella, you lose half yourself: you feel a void in your heart which nothing else can occupy. Society is becoming irksome; and as for the amusements in which you were wont to share at Bath, the very idea of them without her is abhorrent. You would not, for instance, now go to a ball for the world. You feel that you have no longer any friend to whom you can speak with unreserve, on whose regard you can place dependence, or whose counsel, in any difficulty, you could rely on. You feel all this?"
"No," Catherine contradicted after a few moments' reflection, "I do not - ought I? To say the truth, though I am hurt and grieved, that I cannot still love her, that I am never to hear from her, perhaps never to see her again, I do not feel so very, very much afflicted as one would have thought."
He smiled at her statement. "You feel, as you always do, what is most to the credit of human nature. Such feelings ought to be investigated, that they may know themselves."
Catherine looked greatly relieved by this conversation.
From this time the subject was frequently canvassed by the three young people. They were in agreement in considering Miss Thorpe's want of fortune and consequence as likely to throw great difficulties in the way of her marrying Frederick. "Father might object on this ground alone," Eleanor said with feeling to the others, "independent of any objection that might be raised against her character." Catherine was a little disconcerted by this statement, but a moment's reflection soon returned her to her former serenity. Henry noticed her discomfort, but did not make much of it, as Catherine was so emotional wrung up in the entire matter that her ruffled nerves could have been caused by anything.
Eleanor and Henry were fully convinced, however, that Frederick would not have the courage to apply in person for his father's consent, and repeatedly assured Catherine that Frederick had never in his life been less likely to come to Northanger than at the present time, and that she should ease her mind at the thought of removing herself.
"Mr. Tilney," said Catherine as he stood alone in the hallway later, "I just realized something about your brother's situation."
"What is it?" he asked, attentive.
"It could not be supposed that Captain Tilney, whenever he makes his address, would give your father any just idea of Isabella's conduct," she said passionately. "You ought to lay the whole situation before him as it really is, which would enable the General to form a cool and impartial decision. He could form his objections then on a fairer ground than inequality of situations."
Henry thought about it a little bit. "No," he determined, "my father's hands need not be strengthened, and Frederick's confession of folly need not be forestalled. He must tell his own story."
"But he will only tell half of it."
"A quarter would be enough."
It was a blow to Henry's family pride that an acquaintance was privy to the knowledge of a Tilney's faults, but then he recollected that Catherine Morland was no stranger, and that she would learn one day of all of their faults anyway. He could not continue to hide faults and follies from everyone; he was relieved that Eleanor was now aware of Frederick's tendency to debauchery. And by bringing Catherine into their confidence, it was bringing her into their tight-knit circle in more ways than one.
A day or two passed away and brought no tidings of Frederick. Henry and Eleanor declared they knew not what to think. Sometimes it appeared to them as if his silence would be the natural result of suspected engagement, and at others it was wholly incompatible with it. The General, meantime, though offended every morning by Frederick's remissness in writing, was free from any real anxiety about hi; and had no more pressing solicitude than that of making Miss Morland's time at Northanger pass pleasantly. He often expressed his uneasiness on this head, "I fear the sameness of every day's society and employment would disgust her with the place. I wish the Lady Frasers were in the country." He talked every now and then of having a large party to dinner, and once or twice began to calculate the number of young dancing people in the neighborhood, however "it was such a dead time of year, no wild-fowl, no game, and the Lady Frasers were not in the country." And it all ended, at last, in his telling Henry, one morning, that when he went next to Woodston, they would take him by surprise there some day or other, and eat their mutton with him.
This pleased Henry exceedingly; he would take great pleasure in showing Catherine his home. She looked delighted at the scheme, too. "And when do you think, sir, I may look forward to this pleasure? I must be at Woodston on Monday to attend the parish meeting, and shall probably be obliged to stay two or three days."
"Well, well, we will take our chance some one of those day. There is no need to fix. Your are not to put yourself at all out of your way. Whatever you may happen to have in the house will be enough. I think I can answer for the young ladies making allowance for a bachelor's table." He paused to think. "Let me see; Monday will be a busy day with you; we will not come on Monday; and Tuesday will be a busy one with me. I expect my surveyor from Brockham with his report in the morning; and afterwards I cannot, in decency, fail attending the club." He turned to Catherine. "I really could not face my acquaintance if I stayed away now; for, as I am known to be in the country, it would be taken exceedingly amiss; and it is a rule with me, Miss Morland, never to give offence to any of my neighbors if a small sacrifice of time and attention can prevent it. They are a set of very worthy men. They have half a buck from Northanger twice a year; and I dine with them whenever I can. Tuesday, therefore, we may say, is out of the question." He looked at his son. "But on Wednesday, I think, Henry, you may expect us; and we shall be with you early, that we may have time to look about us. Two hours and three-quarters will carry us to Woodston, I suppose; we shall have the carriage by ten; so, about a quarter before one on Wednesday, you may look for us."
It was agreed upon, and Henry and General Tilney left the ladies in the room, before the General stopped Henry with: "I certainly hope that you will go out of your way to make Woodston appear to advantage, Henry. Miss Morland must see it at it best."
"Then I must leave today. Mrs. Hering must have word of your visit. And if I leave today, I can hear Mr. Goodwin speak tomorrow."
"You delegate to him too much."
Henry smiled in response and took leave of his father, and returned in an hour to the ladies, booted and greatcoated, and said, "I am come, young ladies, in a very moralizing strain, to observe that our pleasure in this world are always to be paid for, and that we often purchase them at a great disadvantage, giving ready-monied, actual happiness for a draft on the future that may not be honored. Witness myself at this present hour. Because I am to hope for the satisfaction of seeing you at Woodston on Wednesday, which bad weather, or twenty other causes may prevent, I must go away directly, two days before I intended it."
"Go away," Catherine said, long-faced, "and why?"
"Why! How can you ask the question? Because no time is to be lost in frightening my old housekeeper out of her wits; because I must go and prepare a dinner for you, to be sure."
"Oh! Not seriously!"
"Aye, and sadly too; for I had much rather stay." He smiled at Catherine.
"But how can you think of such a thing after what the General said? When he so particularly desired you not to give yourself any trouble, because anything would do. I am sure it is quite unnecessary upon your sister's account, and mine. You must know it to be so; and the General made such a point of providing nothing extraordinary; besides, if he had not said half so much as he did, he has always had an excellent dinner at home, that sitting down to a middling one for one day could not signify."
"I wish I could reason like you, for his sake and my own. Goodbye. As tomorrow is Sunday, Eleanor, I shall not return."
He left, and as soon as he crossed the gate at Northanger, rode in a hurry to Woodston. He was not only thinking of the meal, but of the indescribable condition of his bedchamber, and of the hours it would take to clean it. As Sunday and Monday were taken, he would only be able to organize the room that day and Tuesday, and he knew he needed every minute. And he remember that the shrubbery was in need of trimming, as Robinson was gone, and made a mental note to remind Mr. Hering to find someone to do it.
Upon his arrival, he informed his staff of Wednesday's plans. Mrs. Hering felt herself up to the challenge of preparing a dinner for General Tilney; Monday's market would provide all that was needed to satisfy the hunger and the pride of such an important man. Mr. Hering knew of a neighbor boy who would be willing to attack the shrubs. When this was all settled, Henry went directly to his room, and upon first glance, shook his head in his hands. "This is going to take a lot of work."
Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday passed respectively, and Wednesday came without rain, mud, or bandits to prevent the arrival of the Northanger party. Everything was in order at Woodston; the table would be plenty furnished, with the exception of a few items that Henry hoped his father would not notice; and the rooms were cleaned to a sparkle. The parsonage stood at its best, ready to greet its distinguished guests. At precisely a quarter to one the chaise-and-four pulled up to the parsonage door, and Henry was there waiting, along with his friendly and eager dogs, a large Newfoundland puppy and three terriers.
Catherine did not say much on entering the house; her eye was too readily occupied; and when General Tilney called for her opinion of the room they were sitting in, she gave a polite, yet less-than-eager answer.
"We are not calling it a good house," said the General. "We are not comparing it with Fullerton or Northanger." Catherine's brow crinkled in confusion. "We are considering it as a mere parsonage, small and confined we allow, but decent perhaps and inhabitable; and altogether not inferior to the generality; or, in other words, I believe there are few country parsonages in England half so good. It may admit of improvement, however. Far be it from me to say otherwise; and anything in reason--a bow thrown out, perhaps; though, between ourselves, if there is one thing more than another aversion, it is a patched“on bow."
Catherine hardly heard half of this speech; Henry had been bringing forward other subjects to be discussed, and Mrs. Hering brought in refreshments, so General Tilney soon returned to his general complacency and Catherine to her usual ease of spirits.
In quitting the dining-parlor to walk the grounds, Catherine was shown first into Henry's bedchamber, which Eleanor could not help whispering to Henry, "My, this is extraordinarily clean! Did you not want Catherine to see your underpants all over the floor?" Deftly ignoring her, he led Catherine to the unfinished drawing-room. She was delighted with this room, enough so to please even the General. It was a prettily-shaped room, the windows reaching to the ground, and a view from them pleasant, though only over green meadows.
"Oh! Why do you not fit up this room, Mr. Tilney?" she exclaimed with honest simplicity. "What a pity not to have it fitted up! It is the prettiest room I ever saw; it is the prettiest room in the world!"
"I trust," said the General, with a most-satisfied smile, "that it will very speedily be furnished: it only waits for a lady's taste."
Henry smiled at this, and noticed Mr. Hering in the doorway out of the corner of his eye. He seemed interested in who the young lady was, and motioning to his master, he inquired after her without ever being noticed by the rest of the party. Henry was about to mouth Catherine's name to him, when he heard: "Well if it was my house, I should never sit anywhere else. Oh, what a sweet little cottage there is among the trees; apple trees, too! It is the prettiest cottage--"
"You like: you approve of it as an object, it is enough. Henry, remember that Robinson is spoken to about it. The cottage remains."
Henry looked back at Mr. Hering, whose hand was over his mouth in a sudden, painful recollection. I forgot to write him about Robinson, Hering mouthed.
Oh well! Henry mouthed back with a shrug before guiding Catherine and the others outside for a saunter in the meadows, part of the village (where people stopped to stare at the parson's pretty guest in curiosity), the stables to examine some improvements, and to play with a litter of puppies just able to roll about. This went by so fast that four o'clock came upon them very quickly indeed! At four they were to eat, and at six they were to return to Northanger.
Mrs. Hering's dinner was a success: the General ate very heartily (despite his comment on the lack of cold meat), which Eleanor and Henry had rarely seen him do at any other table than Northanger. At six o'clock the General took his coffee, the carriage again received them, and Henry was so pleased with Catherine's delight in the parsonage that he worried not about her acceptance of it as her own home.
The next day Henry found himself back on the road towards Northanger in high spirits. Upon his arrival, Catherine, with a letter in hand, urgently made it known to him and Eleanor of Frederick's safety concerning Isabella, congratulating them with sincerity on it, and reading aloud the most material passages of her letter with strong indignation:
My dearest Catherine--
I received your two kind letters with the greatest delight, and have a thousand apologies to make for not answering them sooner. I really am quite ashamed of my idleness; but in this horrid place one can find time for nothing. I have had my pen in my hand to begin a letter to you almost every day since you left Bath, but have always been prevented by some silly trifler or other. Pray write to me soon, and direct to my own home. Thank God, we leave this vile place tomorrow. Since you went away, I have had no pleasure in it - the dust is beyond anything; and everybody one cares for is gone. I believe if I could see you I should not mind the rest, for you are dearer to me than anybody can conceive. I am quite uneasy about your dear brother, not having heard from him since he went to Oxford; and am fearful of some misunderstanding. Your kind offices will set all right: he is the only man I ever did or could love, and I trust you will convince him of it. The spring fashions are partly down; and the hats the most frightful you can imagine. I hope you spend your time pleasantly, but am afraid you never think of me. I will not say all that I could of the family you are with, because I would not be ungenerous, or set you against those you esteem; but it is very difficult to know whom to trust, and young men never know their minds two days together. I rejoice to say that the young man whom, of all others, I particularly abhor, has left Bath. You will know, from this description, I must mean Captain Tilney, who, as you may remember, was amazingly disposed to follow and tease me, before you went away. Afterwards he got worse, and became quite my shadow. Many girls might have been taken in, for never were such attentions; but I knew the fickle sex too well. He went away to his regiment two days ago, and I trust I shall never be plagued with him again. He is the greatest coxcomb I ever saw, and amazingly disagreeable. The last two days he was always by the side of Charlotte Davis: I pitied his taste, but took no notice of him. The last time we met was in Bath Street, and I turned directly into a shop that he might not speak to me; I would not even look at him. He went into the pump-room afterwards; but I would not have followed him for all the world. Such a contrast between him and your brother! Pray send me some news of the latter - I am quite unhappy about him; he seemed so uncomfortable when he went away, with a cold, or something that affected his spirits. I would write to him myself, but have mislaid his direction; and, as I hinted above, am afraid he took something in my conduct amiss. Pray explain everything to his satisfaction; or, if he still harbors any doubt, a line from himself to me, or a call at Putney when next in town, might set all to rights. I have not been to the rooms this age, nor to the play, except going in last night with the Hodges, for a frolic, at half price: they teased me into it; and I was determined they should not say I shut myself up because Tilney was gone. We happened to sit by the Mitchells, and they pretended to be quite surprised to see me out. I knew their spite: at one time they could not be civil to me, but now they are all friendship; but I am not such a fool as to be taken in by them. You know I have a pretty good spirit of my own. Anne Mitchell had tried to put on a turban like mine, as I wore it the week before at the concert, but made wretched work of it - it happened to become my odd face, I believe, at least Tilney told me so at the time, and said every eye was upon me; but he is the last man whose word I would take. I wear nothing but purple now: I know I look hideous in it, but no matter - it is your dear brother's favorite color. Lose no time, my dearest, sweetest Catherine, in writing to him and to me,
Who ever am, etc.
"So much for Isabella," she cried when she had finished it, "and for all our intimacy! She must think me an idiot, or she could not have written so; but perhaps this has served to make her character better known to me than mine is to her. I see what she has been about. She is a vain coquette, and her tricks have not answered. I do not believe she had ever any regard either for James or for me, and I wish I had never known her."
"It will soon be as if you never had," said Henry, extremely proud of her initiative and the trust she had learned to place in her own judgement.
"There is but one thing that I cannot understand. I see that she has had designs on Captain Tilney, which have not succeeded; but I do not understand what Captain Tilney has been about all this time. Why should he pay her such attentions as to make her quarrel with my brother, and then fly off himself?"
"I have very little to say for Frederick's motives, such as I believe them to have been. He has his vanities as well as Miss Thorpe, and the chief difference is, that, having a stronger head, they have not yet injured himself. If the effect of his behavior does not justify him with you, we had better not seek after the cause."
"Then you do not suppose he ever really cared about her?"
"I am persuaded that he never did."
"And only made believe to do so for mischief's sake?"
Henry bowed his assent.
"Well, then, I must say that I do not like him at all. Though it has turned out so well for us, I do not like him at all. As it happens, there is no great harm done, because I do not think Isabella has any heart to lose. But, suppose he had made her very much in love with him?"
"But we must first suppose Isabella to have had a heart to lose--consequently to have been a very different creature; and, in that case, she would have met with very different treatment."
"It is very right that you should stand by your brother."
"And if you would stand by yours, you would not be much distressed by the disappointment of Miss Thorpe. But your mind is warped by an innate principle of general integrity, and therefore not accessible to the cool reasonings of family partiality, or a desire of revenge."
Soon after this, General Tilney found himself obliged to go to London for a week; and he left Northanger earnestly regretting that any necessity should rob him of Miss Morland's company, and anxiously recommended the study of her comfort and amusement to his children, as their chief object in his absence. Never before had the General's departure caused such joy, such relief, in all quarters! The gaiety in which their time now passed, every employment now voluntary, every laugh indulged, every meal a scene of ease and good humor, walking whenever and wherever they liked, their hours, pleasures, and fatigues at their own command, made all of them thoroughly sensible of the restraint which General Tilney's presence imposed, and very thankful for their present release from it.
Catherine was entering her fourth week at Northanger, and Henry dearly hoped that she would consent to extend her stay. He had been settling in his mind when to ask for her hand, and soon concluded that he would wait for his father's return to avoid any resentment from the General's not being among the first to know. So when Catherine and Eleanor informed him of Catherine's stay being determined, he felt great relief and gratitude as well as joy.
But Henry was not able to obey his father's injunction of remaining wholly at Northanger, in attendance on the ladies, during his absence. Mr. Goodwin had a prior engagement when Henry called on him to take command of the pulpit for the next Sunday; and so our hero was obliged to leave the beloved and his darling sister for a couple of nights. It was with a heavy heart that he mounted his horse for Woodston, but the recollection that his father would be at home next week lifted his spirits, and became impatient for Monday to arrive.
His mind was at leisure to wander while he rode that afternoon--he pondered the ways he could propose to Catherine. He knew of her romantic inclinations, and did not want to fail in those expectations. The reader might be surprised to learn that love-making does not come completely natural to my hero: Henry Tilney, with all his wit and charm, still knew the importance of saying what others would want to hear. Other heroes may be spontaneous and poetic in their artless, rambling speeches of love, but who is to say that they speak not for the lady but merely to hear the sound of their own glorious voices? Henry planned and reworked his ideas so that his true feelings would show through, to please Catherine and not his own vanity.
Woodston received their parson back with amused, knowing glances. When a man is seen with a pretty young stranger walking around town (even with his father and sister in tow), his feelings must and will discovered, and then discussed for the following weeks. Now they understood the long absences, for a lady was in question! Mr. and Mrs. Hering especially took delight in subtly hinting about Miss Morland that Saturday evening, and when Mrs. Hering had the courage to ask after her directly, Henry could not keep the twinkle of love out of his eye as he attempted to answer nonchalantly.
Sunday came and went faster than Henry expected, but still too slowly for a man in love. Early Monday morning he made the familiar and now-utterly delightful back to Northanger in ecstasy. Today is the day, he vowed, when our minds and hearts are to be joined. Oh, happy day! The bright smile his lips wore did not fade once during his journey, and as he turned down the lane to Northanger it grew wider, and happier, until his face hurt from his excessive joy.
Another horse suddenly made its way into Henry's view. "Father!" he called in greeting, and picked up his trot to meet the General.
General Tilney was solemn. "Hello, Henry." He pulled his horse to a walk, and then to a stand. "You look," he paused, searching for the right word, "happy."
Henry stopped beside his father. "I feel happy, sir."
"Humph." He looked away, his face reddening. "Henry, Miss Morland has left for Fullerton. We are to go to Long Longtown's today." Henry's smile diminished. General Tilney turned back to his son. "And I want you to think of her no more!"
The smile disappeared completely, and was replaced by an open mouth of shock. "Pardon?"
General Tilney's lip curled in contempt. "You heard the first time, son! Think not of her! She has left, and thank God! A scheming little brat such as she does not deserve to become my daughter-in-law."
"You sent her home? But there was no engagement at the Marquis'!"
"Yes, I sent her home! Actually," he chuckled a little, "Eleanor sent her home! I nearly forgot! She deserved no proper good-bye from me."
"Why?" he asked, bewildered.
"She has been plotting for you, Henry! I could not let a girl like her take advantage of you. So I sent her home in true dignity--hack chaise and no servant. She deserves less, the little conspirator."
"No servant?" he cried, horrified. "That is not even proper, nor behaving with the feelings of a parent!" His brow furrowed in passion. "What has happened to alter you opinion of her to such an extreme? She has never schemed against us. She is as--"
"You are highly mistaken, Henry! She has deceived us all. Not one good quality lies within her!"
"I must disagree, Father," Henry said with great constraint.
"I do not care!" General Tilney barked. "The little hussy is a great actress! What beauty she has hid the fact that she was faking sweetness and agreeableness all along. Pretending to be an heiress to put herself forward in order to marry much higher than she was born to! I am thoroughly disgusted."
"What makes you say this? I am at a complete loss to the motive of these arguments! Miss Morland has never once mentioned her fortune, or lack there of! She never gave me the impression that she was either rich or poor, just that she was amiable!" He shook his head at his father. "Besides, I know from Mr. Goodwin that her father is a respected clergyman."
"What does Mr. Goodwin know, that bumbling, pompous idiot? She has lied to others, to everyone, that I know!"
Henry dropped his hands in confusion. "Who?"
General Tilney smirked. "Mr. Thorpe informed me of her true situation. Apparently she had given him the impression that she was an heiress to Mr. and Mrs. Allen, and that she was also heiress to an aunt, and that she had few siblings. Oh, and that her brother had a large private fortune! Mr. Thorpe told me this in Bath, when he, too, was deceived by her false charms! But I met him in London, and he set me straight. He was completely mistaken, he said, in their circumstances and character, mislead by the rodomontade of Mr. James Morland to believe his father, Mr. Morland, was a man of substance and credit!" The General clenched his fists in anger. "They are necessitous family, numerous, too, almost beyond example, and by no means respected in their own neighborhood! And they actively seek to better themselves by wealthy connections! And the Allens are the same, Mr. Thorpe said! Can you not see, Henry, what a vile creature has been sucking your blood?"
"Mr. Thorpe told you all of this?" Henry shook his head in disgust. "Have you bothered to check your resources before you tore the name and honor of Morland to shreds? Mr. Thorpe is a silly, ignorant man who was pursuing Miss Morland as his own bride. That young lady has sense in her to refuse him, thank God! She is anything but what you have portrayed her."
"She is anything but what you have seen in her! Why are you so stubborn? She is necessitous, wily, and shrewd. It was an act!"
"It was not!" he protested earnestly.
"You are a d--n fool, Henry! I thought you had the wit in the family, that you were better in mind than your lackadaisical and womanizing brother. Think no more of her, I say! She will not become a member of this family!" He began to ride towards the house.
"No." A strong, still, stubborn voice called from behind him.
The General turned in fury. "What!"
"No." Henry was forcibly calm. "I am bound as much in honor as affection to Miss Morland. Her heart is my own because I was directed to gain it. She has done nothing wrong. Your accusations are ill-founded--"
"Henry!" General Tilney roared. "You will not propose to her! I order you to forget her! Never in my life have I seen such defiance. You will accompany your sister and myself to Herefordshire today, and you will look for another deserving," he spat out, "young lady to place your affections on."
"My affections," Henry said boldly, "are already engaged. And so is my time. I will not go with you to Lord Longtown's. I have a journey to make."
"To Herefordshire is the only journey you will be making!"
"To Fullerton" he countered, "is where I am to go." His steely eyes stared directly into his father's. "I love her, and I am going to offer her my hand."
"D--n foolish, son! She is a conniving rogue, and you will be roped to her forever, and with none of my fortune to comfort you in your disappointment!"
"It is advantageous, indeed," he continued, just as strongly, "that I have no need of your fortune in order to marry and live quite comfortably. I am going to Fullerton, and I will propose. There can be nothing more said of the matter."
The General snorted. "Do as you like, Henry." He rode ahead a little, then stopped and howled back, "You will regret this terribly! Do not come to me for help!"
Henry watched as his father galloped furiously back to the house before he himself turned and retreated with alacrity to Woodston.
He set off from Woodston Tuesday morning after a long night's unrest. The breach between he and his father ate upon his heart; and the worries of Fullerton plagued his thoughts. He hoped that Catherine did not hold him responsible for her eviction from Northanger (in fact, he was almost sure she did not), but he did not know if her parents, Rev. and Mrs. Morland, would consider him free from that guilt. They must have been shocked to find Catherine completely alone in that hack chaise! he thought lamentably. Oh, how I wish I was at Northanger at the time.
Tuesday night was spent at an inn, and Wednesday brought him to Fullerton. The parsonage was not hard to find: a cheerful house with a pleasant sweep-gate that reminded him very much of his drive at Woodston.
He was greeted by two or three small children who joined the servant to discover who this tall stranger was. Smiling kindly at them, he gave his card and claimed he was a friend of Miss Morland's. The servant nodded and led him to a parlor where Catherine was sitting, alone.
"Mr. Tilney!" she exclaimed. "You came to Fullerton?" She blushed and recollected. "Please, do sit down."
"Thank you." He looked at his boots. "Are--is your family in health?"
"Yes, they are." She said, flustered.
"I hope you had no problems on your journey home?"
She shook her head. "No. I was fine--" The entrance of her mother, clutching a book interrupted Catherine. They both rose. "Mr. Henry Tilney," she introduced, conscious.
"I apologize, madam for calling," Henry said with embarrassment. "After what has passed I have little right to expect a welcome here. But my impatience to be assured of Miss Morland's safety was the cause of my intrusion."
Mrs. Morland smiled serenely. "You are very welcome here, Mr. Tilney. Thank you for such an attention to my daughter--it was quite unexpected, but very much appreciated. Friends of my children are always welcome here, so please, I entreat you to not say another word of the past."
Henry was gratified by this request, but it was not in his power to say anything to the purpose. Returning to his seat in silence, therefore, he remained for some minutes most civilly answering Mrs. Morland's common remarks on the weather and the roads. He could not help but sneak glances at Catherine, who said not a word; but the glowing cheek and the brightened eye spoke plainly of her ecstasy in seeing him.
Mrs. Morland had sent for Mr. Morland, but he was away from home, and after that, the conversation fell into silence. Henry, after a few minutes' contemplation, turned to Catherine asking, with sudden alacrity, if Mr. and Mrs. Allen were not at Fullerton? She stumbled, befuddled, over a long answer (when single syllable would have sufficed), and he immediately expressed his intention of paying his respects to them. "Would you," he said, his color rising, "have the goodness to show me the way?"
"You may see the house from this window, sir," a younger sister informed him bluntly, at which he bowed in acknowledgement, and she received a silencing nod from her mother. Mrs. Morland did not place any barriers to Catherine's accompanying him, and the two set out on their walk.
"I need to give you some explanation on my father's account," Henry when they were out of ear- and eye-shot of the inhabitants of the parsonage, "but firstly," he breathed deeply, "I need to explain myself."
She drew her breath in, reddening.
He took her hand. "Catherine..."
And so our hero explained himself; so well, in fact, that the young lady did not think it could be repeated often enough. His practicing meant nothing then; he only spoke from the bottom of his heart, offering the heart that was already hers, and claiming the heart that was already his.
(Some readers may be disappointed that I chose not to divulge the particulars of Henry Tilney's proposal, but some speeches are meant for one pair of ears alone. Therefore, we shall give the young lovers as much privacy as we possibly can, being entirely discreet, so that we can indulge our imaginations with wild thoughts of romance....
Your begging will not work. I am resolute.
I am not a Romantic author, my dear! How am I to write a glorious speech worthy of our hero?
Groveling on your knees is an extremely pathetic thing to do...
Oh, fine, you have convinced me. Here is the proposal.... sheesh.)
"...oh, how I have longed to call you that!" She smiled and blushed deeply. "I--I was intending to do it Monday morning, but I find myself a few days late." He smiled, his eyes crinkling in the purest devotion. "Catherine, I am in love with you. In love with your spirit, and your honesty, and your intelligence, and your pure motives...and your beauty, inside, and out." She blushed ferociously and looked away. "I thought women like you did not exist anymore, that they gave up their principles and their sense of right in the face of fortune. But you stayed true to yourself, and you are what I fell in love with these last few months." He stopped walking, and, pulling her other hand within his, committed himself eagerly:
"Catherine Morland, I would be honored if you would consent to be my wife."
She lifted her face to him, daring to peer into the dark eyes already engaged on her, a broad, lightening smile widening, so much that the course of single tear of joy that escaped was altered. "Oh!" was all her utter happiness would allow her to say, but it was an "Oh!" that conveyed everything Henry needed to know.
They resumed their walking. Mrs. Allen at home, but neither Henry or Catherine were much in the way of company: she, overwhelmed, could not utter a single syllable, and he, distracted, talked at random, without sense or direction, which surprised Mrs. Allen, for the young man had always given intelligent answers in the past. Even her remark on the price of muslin received an obscure response! She finally assumed that his father's behavior had affected his everyday manner, and acquitted him of all unintelligible remarks.
General Tilney's behavior was, in fact, upon Henry's mind. They had reached the Allen's before he had the chance to give his Catherine an account of what had taken place. Therefore, he began at once on their return. He gave as full of an account as he could under the circumstances, blushing at the narrow-minded counsel he had to expose, becoming, for perhaps the first time, pitiable in the eyes of his fiancĽe. But Catherine accepted his hand on these terms, with all knowledge of the true character of the General, one that she had hardly sinned against at Northanger, and placed her faith and her love in the bosom of a gratified and deeply-touched Henry Tilney.
(Will that satisfy all your romantic desires? Oh, the demands of the reading community!)
Mr. and Mrs. Morland's surprise on being applied by Henry, for consent to his marrying their daughter, was, for a few minutes, considerable. It had never entered their heads to suspect an attachment on either side; but considered it natural that Catherine should be beloved, and, with gratified pride, found no objections to give. "Catherine would make a sad, heedless young housekeeper to be sure," was her mother's foreboding remark, but quickly she declared that there was nothing like practice.
There was but one obstacle, in short, to be mentioned; but till that one was removed, it must be impossible for Mr. and Mrs. Morland to sanction the engagement. Their tempers were mild, but their principles were steady, and while his parent so expressly forbade the connection, they could not allow themselves to encourage it. That the general should come forward to solicit the alliance, or that he should even very heartily approve it, they were not refined enough to make any parading stipulation; but the decent appearance of consent must be yielded, and that once obtained - and their own hearts made them trust that it could not be very long denied - their willing approbation was instantly to follow. His consent was all that they wished for. They were no more inclined than entitled to demand his money. Of a very considerable fortune, his son was, by marriage settlements, eventually secure; his present income was an income of independence and comfort, and under every pecuniary view, it was a match beyond the claims of their daughter.
The young people could not be surprised at a decision like this. They felt and they deplored--but they could not resent it; and they parted, endeavoring to hope that such a change in the General, as each believed almost impossible, might speedily take place, to unite them again in the fullness of privileged affection. Henry returned to what was now his only home, to watch over his young plantations, and extend his improvements for her sake, to whose share in them he looked anxiously forward; and Catherine remained at Fullerton to cry. Whether the torments of absence were softened by a clandestine correspondence, let us not inquire. Mr. and Mrs. Morland never did--they had been too kind to exact any promise; and whenever Catherine received a letter, as, at that time, happened pretty often, they always looked another way.
The anxiety, which in this state of their attachment must be the portion of Henry and Catherine, and of all who loved either, as to its final event, can hardly extend, I fear, to the bosom of my readers, who will see in the tell-tale compression of the pages before them, that we are all hastening together to perfect felicity. The means by which their early marriage was effected can be the only doubt: what probable circumstance could work upon a temper like the General's? The circumstance which chiefly availed was the marriage of his daughter with a man of fortune and consequence, which took place in the course of the summer - an accession of dignity that threw him into a fit of good humor, from which he did not recover till after Eleanor had obtained his forgiveness of Henry, and his permission for him "to be a fool if he liked it!"
The marriage of Eleanor Tilney, her removal from all the evils of such a home as Northanger had been made by Henry's banishment, to the home of her choice and the man of her choice, is an event which I expect to give general satisfaction among all her acquaintance. My own joy on the occasion is very sincere. I know no one more entitled, by unpretending merit, or better prepared by habitual suffering, to receive and enjoy felicity. Mrs. Hughes' good-natured gossip proved true, and his unexpected accession to title and fortune had removed all of the gentleman's difficulties; and never had the general loved his daughter so well in all her hours of companionship, utility, and patient endurance as when he first hailed her "Your Ladyship!"
Unfortunately Henry had not be able to witness the marriage of his beloved sister, as General Tilney would not have it. But this did not prevent the influence of the Viscount and Viscountess in their brother's behalf, which was assisted by that right understanding of Mr. Morland's circumstances which, as soon as the general would allow himself to be informed, they were qualified to give. It taught him that he had been scarcely more misled by Mr. Thorpe's first boast of the family wealth than by his subsequent malicious overthrow of it; that in no sense of the word were they necessitous or poor, and that Catherine would have three thousand pounds. This was so material an amendment of his late expectations that it greatly contributed to smooth the descent of his pride; and by no means without its effect was the private intelligence, which he was at some pains to procure, that the Fullerton estate, being entirely at the disposal of its present proprietor, was consequently open to every greedy speculation.
On the strength of this, the general, soon after Eleanor's marriage, permitted his son to return to Northanger, and thence made him the bearer of his consent, very courteously worded in a page full of empty professions to Mr. Morland. The event which it authorized soon followed: Henry and Catherine were married, the bells rang, and everybody smiled; and, as this took place within a twelvemonth from the first day of their meeting, it will not appear, after all the dreadful delays occasioned by the general's cruelty, that they were essentially hurt by it. To begin perfect happiness at the respective ages of twenty-six and eighteen is to do pretty well; and professing myself moreover convinced that the general's unjust interference, so far from being really injurious to their felicity, was perhaps rather conducive to it, by improving their knowledge of each other, and adding strength to their attachment, I leave it to be settled, by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience. pre> Author's Note:
I do not claim to be an expert in the field of history (though my friends say...) :-), so please forgive me if there are a few instances of inaccuracy. According to Ellen Moody's NA chronology (located in the JA Info pages), the story takes place in the year 1798, and the day just retold was Tuesday, Feb. 20. This is after the coup de etat of Fructidor, after the Treaty of Campo-Formio, and Bonaparte has been in Paris since December. The Directory becoming an ineffetive dictatorship, and Bonaparte has yet to invade Egypt against GB, who is the only country still at war with France.
As to why I included this passage, there are two reasons:
1) JA never mentions politics or war in her novels, but as AHD is told from the male perspective, it is fitting to include a little in there. Henry does not confine himself to the parlour, so to speak.
2) Foreshadowing. :-)
Unlike some of you who may be reading this, this last year was the first time that I had been exposed to European history, so please forgive any discrepancies. And if I messed up on the "Monsieur" title stuff, well, all I can say is that I took Spanish instead of French. :-)
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