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A wonderfully entertaining coming-of-age story, Northanger Abbey is often referred to as Jane Austen's "Gothic parody." Decrepit castles, locked rooms, mysterious chests, cryptic notes, and tyrannical fathers give the story an uncanny air, but one with a decidedly satirical twist. The story's unlikely heroine is Catherine Morland, a remarkably innocent seventeen-year-old woman from a country parsonage. While spending a few weeks in Bath with a family friend, Catherine meets and falls in love with Henry Tilney, who invites her to visit his family estate, Northanger Abbey. Once there, Catherine, a great reader of Gothic thrillers, lets the shadowy atmosphere of the old mansion fill her mind with terrible suspicions. What is the mystery surrounding the death of Henry's mother? Is the family concealing a terrible secret within the elegant rooms of the Abbey? Can she trust Henry, or is he part of an evil conspiracy? Catherine finds dreadful portents in the most prosaic events, until Henry persuades her to see the peril in confusing life with art.
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First digital edition 2017 by Anna Ruggieri
ADVERTISEMENT BY THE AUTHORESS, TO NORTHANGER ABBEY
A NOTE ON THE TEXT
THIS little work was finished in the year 1803, and intended forimmediate publication. It was disposed of to a bookseller, it waseven advertised, and why the business proceeded no farther, theauthor has never been able to learn. That any bookseller shouldthink it worth-while to purchase what he did not think itworth-while to publish seems extraordinary. But with this, neitherthe author nor the public have any other concern than as someobservation is necessary upon those parts of the work whichthirteenyears have made comparatively obsolete. The public are entreated tobear in mind that thirteen years have passed since it was finished,many more since it was begun, and that during that period, places,manners, books, and opinions have undergoneconsiderablechanges.
No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine. Her situation in life, the character of her father and mother, her own person and disposition, were all equally against her. Her father was a clergyman, without being neglected, or poor, and a very respectable man, though his name was Richard—and he had never been handsome. He had a considerable independence besides two good livings—and he was not in the least addicted to locking up his daughters. Her mother was a woman of useful plain sense, with a good temper, and, what is more remarkable, with a good constitution. She had three sons before Catherine was born; and instead of dying in bringing the latter into the world, as anybody might expect, she still lived on—lived to have six children more—to see them growing up around her, and to enjoy excellent health herself. A family of ten children will be always called a fine family, where there are heads and arms and legs enough for the number; but the Morlands had little other right to the word, for they were in general very plain, and Catherine, for many years of her life, as plain as any. She had a thin awkward figure, a sallow skin without colour, dark lank hair, and strong features—so much for her person; and not less unpropitious for heroism seemed her mind. She was fond of all boy's plays, and greatly preferred cricket not merely to dolls, but to the more heroic enjoyments of infancy, nursing a dormouse, feeding a canary-bird, or watering a rose-bush. Indeed she had no taste for a garden; and if she gathered flowers at all, it was chiefly for the pleasure of mischief—at least so it was conjectured from her always preferring those which she was forbidden to take. Such were her propensities—her abilities were quite as extraordinary. She never could learn or understand anything before she was taught; and sometimes not even then, for she was often inattentive, and occasionally stupid. Her mother was three months in teachingher only to repeat the "Beggar's Petition"; and after all, her next sister, Sally, could say it better than she did. Not that Catherine was always stupid—by no means; she learnt the fable of "The Hare and Many Friends" as quickly as any girl in England. Her mother wished her to learn music; and Catherine was sure she should like it, for she was very fond of tinkling the keys of the old forlorn spinnet; so, at eight years old she began. She learnt a year, and could not bear it; and Mrs. Morland, who did notinsist on her daughters being accomplished in spite of incapacity or distaste, allowed her to leave off. The day which dismissed the music-master was one of the happiest of Catherine's life. Her taste for drawing was not superior; though whenever she couldobtain the outside of a letter from her mother or seize upon any other odd piece of paper, she did what she could in that way, by drawing houses and trees, hens and chickens, all very much like one another. Writing and accounts she was taught by her father; French by her mother: her proficiency in either was not remarkable, and she shirked her lessons in both whenever she could. What a strange, unaccountable character!—for with all these symptoms of profligacy at ten years old, she had neither a bad heartnor a bad temper, was seldom stubborn, scarcely ever quarrelsome, and very kind to the little ones, with few interruptions of tyranny; she was moreover noisy and wild, hated confinement and cleanliness, and loved nothing so well in the world as rolling down the green slope at the back of the house.
Such was Catherine Morland at ten. At fifteen, appearances were mending; she began to curl her hair and long for balls; her complexion improved, her features were softened by plumpness and colour, her eyes gainedmore animation, and her figure more consequence. Her love of dirt gave way to an inclination for finery, and she grew clean as she grew smart; she had now the pleasure ofsometimes hearing her father and mother remark on her personal improvement. "Catherine grows quite a good-looking girl—she is almost pretty today," were words which caught her ears now and then; and how welcome were the sounds! To look almost pretty is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain the first fifteenyears of her life than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive.
Mrs. Morland was a very good woman, and wished to see her children everything they ought to be; but her time was so much occupied in lying-in and teaching the little ones, that her elder daughters were inevitably left to shift for themselves; and it was not very wonderful that Catherine, who had by nature nothing heroic about her, should prefer cricket, baseball, riding on horseback, and running about the country at the age of fourteen, to books—or at least books of information—for, provided that nothing like useful knowledge could be gained from them, provided they were all story and no reflection, she had never any objection to books at all. But from fifteen to seventeen she was in trainingfor a heroine; she read all such works as heroines must read to supply their memories with those quotations which are so serviceable and so soothing in the vicissitudes of their eventful lives.
From Pope, she learnt to censure those who
"bear about the mockery of woe."
From Gray, that
"Many a flower is born to blush unseen,
"And waste its fragrance on the desert air."
From Thompson, that—
"It is a delightful task
"To teach the young idea how to shoot."
And from Shakespeare she gained a great store of information—amongst the rest, that—
"Trifles light as air,
"Are, to the jealous, confirmation strong,
"As proofs of Holy Writ."
"The poor beetle, which we tread upon,
"In corporal sufferance feels a pang as great
"As when a giant dies."
And that a youngwoman in love always looks—
"like Patience on a monument
"Smiling at Grief."
So far her improvement was sufficient—and in many other points she came on exceedingly well; for though she could not write sonnets, she brought herself to read them; and though there seemed no chance of her throwing a whole party into raptures by a prelude on the pianoforte, of her own composition, she could listen to other people's performance with very little fatigue. Her greatest deficiency was in the pencil—she had no notion of drawing—not enough even to attempt a sketch of her lover's profile, that she might be detected in the design. There she fell miserably short of the true heroic height. At present she did not know her own poverty, for she had no lover to portray. She hadreached the age of seventeen, without having seen one amiable youth who could call forth her sensibility, without having inspired one real passion, and without having excited even any admiration but what was very moderate and very transient. This was strange indeed! But strange things may be generally accounted for if their cause be fairly searched out. There was not one lord in the neighbourhood; no—not even a baronet. There was not one family among their acquaintance who had reared and supported a boy accidentally found at their door—not one young man whose origin was unknown. Her father had no ward, and the squire of the parish no children.
But when a young lady is to be a heroine, the perverseness of forty surrounding families cannot prevent her. Something must and will happen to throw a hero in her way.
Mr. Allen, who owned the chief of the property about Fullerton, the village in Wiltshire where the Morlands lived, was ordered to Bath for the benefit of a gouty constitution—and his lady, a good-humouredwoman, fond of Miss Morland, and probably aware that if adventures will not befall a young lady in her own village, she must seek them abroad, invited her to go with them. Mr. and Mrs. Morland were all compliance, and Catherine all happiness.
In addition to what has been already said of Catherine Morland's personal and mental endowments, when about to be launched into all the difficulties and dangers of a six weeks' residence in Bath, it may be stated, for the reader's more certain information, lest the following pages should otherwise fail of giving any idea of what her character is meant to be, that her heart was affectionate; her disposition cheerful and open, without conceit or affectation of any kind—her manners just removed from the awkwardness and shyness of a girl; her person pleasing, and, when in good looks, pretty—and her mind about as ignorant and uninformed as the female mind at seventeen usually is.
When the hour of departure drew near, the maternal anxiety of Mrs. Morland will benaturally supposed to be most severe. A thousand alarming presentiments of evil to her beloved Catherine from this terrific separation must oppress her heart with sadness, and drown her in tears for the last day or two of their being together; and adviceof the most important and applicable nature must of course flow from her wise lips in their parting conference in her closet. Cautions against the violence of such noblemen and baronets as delight in forcing young ladies away to some remote farm-house, must, at such a moment, relieve the fulness of her heart. Who would not think so? But Mrs. Morland knew so little of lords and baronets, that she entertained no notion of their general mischievousness, and was wholly unsuspicious of danger to her daughter from their machinations. Her cautions were confined to the following points. "I beg, Catherine, you will always wrap yourself up very warm about the throat, when you come from the rooms at night; and I wish you would try to keep some account of the money youspend; I will give you this little book on purpose."
Sally, or rather Sarah (for what young lady of common gentility will reach the age of sixteen without altering her name as far as she can?), must from situation be at this time the intimate friend and confidante of her sister. It is remarkable, however, that she neither insisted on Catherine's writing by every post, nor exacted her promise of transmitting the character of every new acquaintance, nor a detail of every interesting conversation that Bath might produce. Everything indeed relative to this important journey was done, on the part of the Morlands, with a degree of moderation and composure, which seemed rather consistent with the common feelings of common life, than with the refined susceptibilities, the tender emotions which the first separation of a heroine from her family ought always to excite. Her father, instead of giving her an unlimited order on his banker, or even putting an hundred pounds bank-bill into her hands, gave her only ten guineas, and promised her more when she wanted it.
Under these unpromising auspices, the parting took place, and the journey began. It was performed with suitable quietness and uneventful safety. Neither robbers nor tempests befriended them, nor one lucky overturn to introduce them to the hero. Nothing more alarming occurred than a fear, on Mrs. Allen's side, of having once left her clogs behind her at an inn, and that fortunately proved to be groundless.
They arrived at Bath. Catherine was all eager delight—her eyes were here, there, everywhere, as they approached its fine and striking environs, and afterwards drove through those streets which conducted them to the hotel. She was come to be happy, and she felt happy already.
They were soon settled in comfortable lodgings in Pulteney Street.
It is now expedient to give some description of Mrs. Allen, that the reader may be able to judge in what manner her actions will hereafter tend to promote the general distress of the work, and how she will, probably, contributeto reduce poor Catherine to all the desperate wretchedness of which a last volume is capable—whether by her imprudence, vulgarity, or jealousy—whether by intercepting her letters, ruining her character, or turning her out of doors.
Mrs. Allen was one of that numerous class of females, whose society can raise no other emotion than surprise at there being any men in the world who could like them well enough to marry them. She had neither beauty, genius, accomplishment, nor manner. The air of a gentlewoman, agreat deal of quiet, inactive good temper, and a trifling turn of mind were all that could account for her being the choice of a sensible, intelligent man like Mr. Allen. In one respect she was admirably fitted to introduce a young lady into public, beingas fond of going everywhere and seeing everything herself as any young lady could be. Dress was her passion. She had a most harmless delight in being fine; and our heroine's entree into life could not take place till after three or four days had been spentin learning what was mostly worn, and her chaperone was provided with a dress of the newest fashion. Catherine too made some purchases herself, and when all these matters were arranged, the important evening came which was to usher her into the Upper Rooms. Her hair was cut and dressed by the best hand, her clothes put on with care, and both Mrs. Allen and her maid declared she looked quite as she should do. With such encouragement, Catherine hoped at least to pass uncensured through the crowd. As for admiration, it was always very welcome when it came, but she did not depend on it.
Mrs. Allen was so long in dressing that they did not enter the ballroom till late. The season was full, the room crowded, and the two ladies squeezed in as well as they could. As for Mr. Allen, he repaired directly to the card-room, and left them to enjoy a mob by themselves. With more care for the safety of her new gown than for the comfort of her protegee, Mrs. Allen made her way through the throng of men by the door, as swiftly as the necessary caution would allow; Catherine, however, kept close at her side, and linked her arm too firmly within her friend's to be torn asunder by any common effort of a struggling assembly. But to her utter amazement she found that to proceed along the room was by no means the way to disengage themselves from the crowd; it seemed rather to increase as they went on, whereas she had imagined that when once fairly within the door, they should easily find seats and be able to watch the dances with perfect convenience. But this was far from being the case, and though by unwearied diligence they gained even the top of the room, their situation was just the same; they saw nothing of the dancers but the high feathers of some of the ladies. Still they movedon—something better was yet in view; and by a continued exertion of strength and ingenuity they found themselves at last in the passage behind the highest bench. Here there was something less of crowd than below; and hence Miss Morland had a comprehensiveview of all the company beneath her, and of all the dangers of her late passage through them. It was a splendid sight, and she began, for the first time that evening, to feel herself at a ball: she longed to dance, but she had not an acquaintance in the room. Mrs. Allen did all that she could do in such a case by saying very placidly, every now and then, "I wish you could dance, my dear—I wish you could get a partner." For some time her young friend felt obliged to her for these wishes; but they were repeated so often, and proved so totally ineffectual, that Catherine grew tired at last, and would thank her no more.
They were not long able, however, to enjoy the repose of the eminence they had so laboriously gained. Everybody was shortly in motion for tea,and they must squeeze out like the rest. Catherine began to feel something of disappointment—she was tired of being continually pressed against by people, the generality of whose faces possessed nothing to interest, and with all of whom she was so wholly unacquainted that she could not relieve the irksomeness of imprisonment by the exchange of a syllable with any of her fellow captives; and when at last arrived in the tea-room, she felt yet more the awkwardness of having no party to join, no acquaintance toclaim, no gentleman to assist them. They saw nothing of Mr. Allen; and after looking about them in vain for a more eligible situation, were obliged to sit down at the end of a table, at which a large party were already placed, without having anything to do there, or anybody to speak to, except each other.
Mrs. Allen congratulated herself, as soon as they were seated, on having preserved her gown from injury. "It would have been very shocking to have it torn," said she, "would not it? It is such a delicatemuslin. For my part I have not seen anything I like so well in the whole room, I assure you."
"How uncomfortable it is," whispered Catherine, "not to have a single acquaintance here!"
"Yes, my dear," replied Mrs. Allen, with perfect serenity, "it is very uncomfortable indeed."
"What shall we do? The gentlemen and ladies at this table look as if they wondered why we came here—we seem forcing ourselves into their party."
"Aye, so we do. That is very disagreeable. I wish we had a large acquaintance here."
"Iwish we had any—it would be somebody to go to."
"Very true, my dear; and if we knew anybody we would join them directly. The Skinners were here last year—I wish they were here now."
"Had not we better go away as it is? Here are no tea-things for us, yousee."
"No more there are, indeed. How very provoking! But I think we had better sit still, for one gets so tumbled in such a crowd! How is my head, my dear? Somebody gave me a push that has hurt it, I am afraid."
"No, indeed, it looks very nice. But, dearMrs. Allen, are you sure there is nobody you know in all this multitude of people? I think you must know somebody."
"I don't, upon my word—I wish I did. I wish I had a large acquaintance here with all my heart, and then I should get you a partner. I shouldbe so glad to have you dance. There goes a strange-looking woman! What an odd gown she has got on! How old-fashioned it is! Look at the back."
After some time they received an offer of tea from one of their neighbours; it was thankfully accepted, and thisintroduced a light conversation with the gentleman who offered it, which was the only time that anybody spoke to them during the evening, till they were discovered and joined by Mr. Allen when the dance was over.
"Well, Miss Morland," said he, directly, "I hope you have had an agreeable ball."
"Very agreeable indeed," she replied, vainly endeavouring to hide a great yawn.
"I wish she had been able to dance," said his wife; "I wish we could have got a partner for her. I have been saying how glad I should beif the Skinners were here this winter instead of last; or if the Parrys had come, as they talked of once, she might have danced with George Parry. I am so sorry she has not had a partner!"
"We shall do better another evening I hope," was Mr. Allen's consolation.
The company began to disperse when the dancing was over—enough to leave space for the remainder to walk about in some comfort; and now was the time for a heroine, who had not yet played a very distinguished part in the events of the evening, to benoticed and admired. Every five minutes, by removing some of the crowd, gave greater openings for her charms.
She was now seen by many young men who had not been near her before. Not one, however, started with rapturous wonder on beholding her, no whisperof eager inquiry ran round the room, nor was she once called a divinity by anybody.
Yet Catherine was in very good looks, and had the company only seen her three years before, they would now have thought her exceedingly handsome.
She was looked at, however, and with some admiration; for, in her own hearing, two gentlemen pronounced her to be a pretty girl. Such words had their due effect; she immediately thought the evening pleasanter than she had found it before—her humble vanity was contented—she felt more obliged to the two young men for this simple praise than a true-quality heroine would have been for fifteen sonnets in celebration of her charms, and went to her chair in good humour with everybody, and perfectly satisfied with her share of public attention.
Every morning now brought its regular duties—shops were tobe visited; some new part of the town to be looked at; and thepump-room to be attended, where they paraded up and down for anhour, looking at everybody and speaking to no one.The wish of anumerous acquaintance in Bath was still uppermost with Mrs. Allen,and she repeated it after every fresh proof, which every morningbrought, of her knowing nobody at all.
They made their appearance in the Lower Rooms; and here fortunewas more favourable to our heroine. The master of the ceremoniesintroduced to her a very gentlemanlike young man as a partner; hisname was Tilney. He seemed to be about four or five and twenty, wasrather tall, had a pleasing countenance, a very intelligentandlively eye, and, if not quite handsome, was very near it. Hisaddress was good, and Catherine felt herself in high luck. Therewas little leisure for speaking while they danced; but when theywere seated at tea, she found him as agreeable as she had alreadygiven him credit for being. He talked with fluency andspirit—and there was an archness and pleasantry in his mannerwhich interested, though it was hardly understood by her. Afterchatting some time on such matters as naturally arose from theobjects around them, he suddenly addressed her with—"I havehitherto been very remiss, madam, in the proper attentions of apartner here; I have not yet asked you how long you have been inBath; whether you were ever here before; whether you have been atthe UpperRooms, the theatre, and the concert; and how you like theplace altogether. I have been very negligent—but are you nowat leisure to satisfy me in these particulars? If you are I willbegin directly."
"You need not give yourself that trouble, sir."
"No trouble, I assure you, madam." Then forming his featuresinto a set smile, and affectedly softening his voice, he added,with a simpering air, "Have you been long in Bath, madam?"
"About a week, sir," replied Catherine, trying not to laugh.
"Really!" with affected astonishment.
"Why should you be surprised, sir?"
"Why, indeed!" said he, in his natural tone. "But some emotionmust appear to be raised by your reply, and surprise is more easilyassumed, and not less reasonable than any other. Now let us goon.Were you never here before, madam?"
"Indeed! Have you yet honoured the Upper Rooms?"
"Yes, sir, I was there last Monday."
"Have you been to the theatre?"
"Yes, sir, I was at the play on Tuesday."
"To the concert?"
"Yes, sir, on Wednesday."
"And are you altogether pleased with Bath?"
"Yes—I like it very well."
"Now I must give one smirk, and then we may be rational again."Catherine turned away her head, not knowing whether she mightventure to laugh. "I see what you think of me," said hegravely—"I shall make but a poor figure in your journaltomorrow."
"Yes, I know exactly what you will say: Friday, went to theLower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin robe with bluetrimmings—plain black shoes—appeared to much advantage;but was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted man, who wouldmake me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense."
"Indeed I shall say no such thing."
"Shall I tell you what you ought to say?"
"If you please."
"I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr.King; had a great deal of conversation with him—seems a mostextraordinary genius—hope I may know more of him. That,madam, is what I wish you to say."
"But, perhaps, I keep no journal."
"Perhaps you are not sitting in this room, and I am notsittingby you. These are points in which a doubt is equally possible. Notkeep a journal! How are your absent cousins to understand thetenour of your life in Bath without one? How are the civilities andcompliments of every day to be related as they ought to be, unlessnoted down every evening in a journal? How are your various dressesto be remembered, and the particular state of your complexion, andcurl of your hair to be described in all their diversities, withouthaving constant recourse to a journal? My dear madam, I am not soignorant of young ladies' ways as you wish to believe me; it isthis delightful habit of journaling which largely contributes toform the easy style of writing for which ladies are so generallycelebrated. Everybody allows that the talent of writing agreeableletters is peculiarly female. Nature may have done something, but Iam sure it must be essentially assisted by the practice of keepinga journal."
"I have sometimes thought," said Catherine, doubtingly, "whetherladies dowrite so much better letters than gentlemen! Thatis—I should not think the superiority was always on ourside."
"As far as I have had opportunity of judging, it appears to methat the usual style of letter-writing among women is faultless,except in threeparticulars."
"And what are they?"
"A general deficiency of subject, a total inattention to stops,and a very frequent ignorance of grammar."
"Upon my word! I need not have been afraid of disclaiming thecompliment. You do not think too highly of us in that way."
"I should no more lay it down as a general rule that women writebetter letters than men, than that they sing better duets, or drawbetter landscapes. In every power, of which taste is thefoundation, excellence is pretty fairly divided between thesexes."
They were interrupted by Mrs. Allen: "My dear Catherine," saidshe, "do take this pin out of my sleeve; I am afraid it has torn ahole already; I shall be quite sorry if it has, for this is afavourite gown, though it cost but nine shillings a yard."
"That is exactly what I should have guessed it, madam," said Mr.Tilney, looking at the muslin.
"Do you understand muslins, sir?"
"Particularly well; I always buy my own cravats, and am allowedto be an excellent judge; and my sister has often trustedme in thechoice of a gown. I bought one for her the other day, and it waspronounced to be a prodigious bargain by every lady who saw it. Igave but five shillings a yard for it, and a true Indianmuslin."
Mrs. Allen was quite struck by his genius. "Mencommonly take solittle notice of those things," said she; "I can never get Mr.Allen to know one of my gowns from another. You must be a greatcomfort to your sister, sir."
"I hope I am, madam."
"And pray, sir, what do you think of Miss Morland's gown?"
"It is very pretty, madam," said he, gravely examining it; "butI do not think it will wash well; I am afraid it will fray."
"How can you," said Catherine, laughing, "be so—" She hadalmost said "strange."
"I am quite of your opinion, sir," replied Mrs. Allen; "and so Itold Miss Morland when she bought it."
"But then you know, madam, muslin always turns to some accountor other; Miss Morland will get enough out of it for ahandkerchief, or a cap, or a cloak. Muslin can never be said to bewasted. I have heard my sister say so forty times, when she hasbeen extravagant in buying more than she wanted, or careless incutting it to pieces."
"Bath is a charming place, sir; there are so many good shopshere. We are sadly off in the country; not but what we have verygood shops in Salisbury, but it is so far to go—eight milesis a long way; Mr. Allen says it is nine, measured nine; but I amsure it cannot be more than eight; and it is such a fag—Icome back tired to death. Now, here one can step out of doors andgeta thing in five minutes."
Mr. Tilney was polite enough to seem interested in what shesaid; and she kept him on the subject of muslins till the dancingrecommenced. Catherine feared, as she listened to their discourse,that he indulged himself a little too much with the foibles ofothers. "What are you thinking of soearnestly?" said he, as theywalked back to the ballroom; "not of your partner, I hope, for, bythat shake of the head, your meditations are not satisfactory."
Catherine coloured, and said, "Iwas not thinking ofanything."
"That is artful and deep, to be sure; but I had rather be toldat once that you will not tell me."
"Well then, I will not."
"Thank you; for now we shall soon be acquainted, as I amauthorized to tease you on this subject whenever we meet, andnothing in the world advances intimacy so much."
They danced again; and, when the assembly closed, parted, on thelady's side at least, with a strong inclination for continuing theacquaintance. Whether she thought of him so much, whileshe drankher warm wine and water, and prepared herself for bed, as to dreamof him when there, cannot be ascertained; but I hope it was no morethan in a slight slumber, or a morning doze at most; for if it betrue, as a celebrated writer has maintained,that no young lady canbe justified in falling in love before the gentleman's love isdeclared,* it must be very improper that a young lady should dreamof a gentleman before the gentleman is first known to have dreamtof her. How proper Mr. Tilney might be as a dreamer or a lover hadnot yet perhaps entered Mr. Allen's head, but that he was notobjectionable as a common acquaintance for his young charge he wason inquiry satisfied; for he had early in the evening taken painsto know who her partner was, and had been assured of Mr. Tilney'sbeing a clergyman, and of a very respectable family inGloucestershire.
With more than usual eagerness did Catherine hasten to thepump-room the next day, secure within herself of seeing Mr. Tilneythere before the morning were over, and ready to meet him with asmile; but no smile was demanded—Mr. Tilney did not appear.Every creature in Bath, except himself, was to be seen in the roomat different periods of the fashionable hours; crowds of peoplewere every moment passing in and out, up the steps and down; peoplewhom nobody cared about, and nobody wanted to see; and he only wasabsent. "What a delightful place Bath is," said Mrs. Allen as theysat down near the great clock, after parading the room till theywere tired; "and how pleasant it would be if we had anyacquaintance here."
This sentiment had been uttered so often in vain that Mrs. Allenhad no particular reason to hope it would be followed with moreadvantage now; but we are told to "despair of nothing we wouldattain," as "unwearied diligence our point would gain"; and theunwearied diligence with which she had every day wished for thesame thing was at length to have its just reward, for hardly hadshe been seated ten minutes before a lady of about her own age, whowas sitting by her, and had been looking at her attentively forseveral minutes, addressed her with great complaisance in thesewords: "I think, madam, I cannot be mistaken; it is a long timesince I had the pleasure of seeing you, but is not your nameAllen?" This question answered, as it readily was, the strangerpronounced hers to be Thorpe; and Mrs. Allen immediately recognizedthe features of a former schoolfellow and intimate, whom she hadseen only once since their respective marriages, and that manyyears ago. Their joy on this meeting was very great, as well itmight, since they had been contented to know nothing of each otherfor the last fifteen years. Compliments on good looks now passed;and, after observing how time had slipped away since they were lasttogether, how little they had thought of meeting in Bath, and whata pleasure it was to see an old friend, they proceeded to makeinquiries and give intelligence as to their families, sisters, andcousins, talking both together, far more ready to give than toreceive information, and each hearing very little of what the othersaid. Mrs. Thorpe, however, had one great advantage as a talker,over Mrs. Allen, in a family of children; and when she expatiatedon the talents of her sons, and the beauty of her daughters, whenshe related their different situations and views—that Johnwas at Oxford, Edward at Merchant Taylors', and William atsea—and all of them more beloved and respected in theirdifferent station than any other three beings ever were, Mrs. Allenhad no similar information to give, no similar triumphs to press onthe unwilling and unbelieving ear of her friend, and was forced tosit and appear to listen to all these maternal effusions, consolingherself, however, with the discovery, which her keen eye soon made,that the lace on Mrs. Thorpe's pelisse was not half so handsome asthat on her own.
"Here come my dear girls," cried Mrs. Thorpe, pointing at threesmart-looking females who, arm in arm, were then moving towardsher. "My dear Mrs. Allen, I long to introduce them; they will be sodelighted to see you: the tallest is Isabella, my eldest; is notshe a fine young woman? The others are very much admired too, but Ibelieve Isabella is the handsomest."
The Miss Thorpes were introduced; and Miss Morland, who had beenfor a short time forgotten, was introduced likewise. The nameseemed to strike them all; and, after speaking to her withgreatcivility, the eldest young lady observed aloud to the rest,"How excessively like her brother Miss Morland is!"
"The very picture of him indeed!" cried the mother—and "Ishould have known her anywhere for his sister!" was repeated bythem all, two or three times over. For a moment Catherine wassurprised; but Mrs. Thorpe and her daughters had scarcely begun thehistory of their acquaintance with Mr. James Morland, before sheremembered that her eldest brother had lately formed an intimacywith a young man of his own college, of the name of Thorpe; andthat he had spent the last week of the Christmas vacation with hisfamily, near London.
The whole being explained, many obliging things were said by theMiss Thorpes of their wish of being better acquainted with her; ofbeing considered as already friends, through the friendship oftheir brothers, etc., which Catherine heard with pleasure, andanswered with all the pretty expressions she could command; and, asthe first proof of amity, she was soon invited to accept an arm ofthe eldest Miss Thorpe, and take a turn with her about the room.Catherine was delighted with this extension of her Bathacquaintance, and almost forgot Mr. Tilney while she talked to MissThorpe. Friendship is certainly the finest balm for the pangs ofdisappointed love.
Their conversation turned upon those subjects, of which the freediscussion has generally much to do in perfecting a sudden intimacybetween two young ladies: such as dress, balls, flirtations, andquizzes. Miss Thorpe, however, being four years older than MissMorland, and at least four years better informed, had a verydecided advantage in discussing such points; she could compare theballs of Bath with those of Tunbridge, its fashions with thefashions of London; could rectify the opinions of her new friend inmany articles of tasteful attire; could discover a flirtationbetween any gentleman and lady who only smiled on each other; andpoint out a quiz through the thickness of a crowd. These powersreceived due admiration from Catherine, to whom they were entirelynew; and the respect which they naturallyinspired might have beentoo great for familiarity, had not the easy gaiety of Miss Thorpe'smanners, and her frequent expressions of delight on thisacquaintance with her, softened down every feeling of awe, and leftnothing but tender affection. Their increasing attachment was notto be satisfied with half a dozen turns in the pump-room, butrequired, when they all quitted it together, that Miss Thorpeshould accompany Miss Morland to the very door of Mr. Allen'shouse; and that they should there part with a most affectionate andlengthened shake of hands, after learning, to their mutual relief,that they should see each other across the theatre at night, andsay their prayers in the same chapel the next morning. Catherinethen ran directly upstairs, andwatched Miss Thorpe's progress downthe street from the drawing-room window; admired the gracefulspirit of her walk, the fashionable air of her figure and dress;and felt grateful, as well she might, for the chance which hadprocured her such a friend.
Mrs. Thorpe was a widow, and not a very rich one; she was agood-humoured, well-meaning woman, and a very indulgent mother. Hereldest daughter had great personal beauty, and the younger ones, bypretending to be as handsome as their sister, imitating her air,and dressing in the same style, did very well.
This brief account of the family is intended to supersede thenecessity of a long and minute detail from Mrs. Thorpe herself, ofher past adventures and sufferings, which might otherwise beexpected tooccupy the three or four following chapters; in whichthe worthlessness of lords andattorneys might be set forth, andconversations, which had passed twenty years before, be minutelyrepeated.
Catherine was not so much engaged at the theatrethat evening, inreturning the nods and smiles of Miss Thorpe, though they certainlyclaimed much of her leisure, as to forget to look with an inquiringeye for Mr. Tilney in every box which her eye could reach; but shelooked in vain. Mr. Tilney was no fonder of the play than thepump-room. She hoped to be more fortunate the next day; and whenher wishes for fine weather were answered by seeing a beautifulmorning, she hardly felt a doubt of it; for a fine Sunday in Bathempties every house of its inhabitants, and all the world appearson such an occasion to walk about and tell their acquaintance whata charming day it is.
As soon as divine service was over, the Thorpes and Allenseagerly joined each other; and after staying long enough in thepump-room todiscover that the crowd was insupportable, and thatthere was not a genteel face to be seen, which everybody discoversevery Sunday throughout the season, they hastened away to theCrescent, to breathe the fresh air of better company. HereCatherine and Isabella, arm in arm, again tasted the sweets offriendship in an unreserved conversation; they talked much, andwith much enjoyment; but again was Catherine disappointed in herhope of reseeing her partner. He was nowhere to be met with; everysearch for him was equally unsuccessful, in morning lounges orevening assemblies; neither at the Upper nor Lower Rooms, atdressed or undressed balls, was he perceivable; nor among thewalkers, the horsemen, or the curricle-drivers of the morning. Hisname was not inthe pump-room book, and curiosity could do no more.He must be gone from Bath. Yet he had not mentioned that his staywould be so short! This sort of mysteriousness, which is always sobecoming in a hero, threw a fresh grace in Catherine's imaginationaround his person and manners, and increased her anxiety to knowmore of him. From the Thorpes she could learn nothing, for they hadbeen only two days in Bath before they met with Mrs. Allen. It wasa subject, however, in which she often indulged with her fairfriend, from whom she received every possible encouragement tocontinue to think of him; and his impression on her fancy was notsuffered therefore to weaken. Isabella was very sure that he mustbe a charming young man, and was equally sure that he musthave beendelighted with her dear Catherine, and would therefore shortlyreturn. She liked him the better for being a clergyman, "for shemust confess herself very partial to the profession"; and somethinglike a sigh escaped her as she said it. Perhaps Catherine was wrongin not demanding the cause of that gentle emotion—but she wasnot experienced enough in the finesse of love, or the duties offriendship, to know when delicate raillery was properly called for,or when a confidence should be forced.
Mrs.Allen was now quite happy—quite satisfied with Bath.She had found some acquaintance, had been so lucky too as to findin them the family of a most worthy old friend; and, as thecompletion of good fortune, had found these friends by no means soexpensively dressed as herself. Her daily expressions were nolonger, "I wish we had some acquaintance in Bath!" They werechanged into, "How glad I am we have met with Mrs. Thorpe!" and shewas as eager in promoting the intercourse of the two families, asher young charge and Isabella themselves could be; never satisfiedwith the day unless she spent the chief of it by the side of Mrs.Thorpe, in what they called conversation, but in which there wasscarcely ever any exchange of opinion, and not often anyresemblance of subject, for Mrs. Thorpe talked chiefly of herchildren, and Mrs. Allen of her gowns.
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