Title: Come to Love a Rose
Author: Mojave Dragonfly
Fandom: Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen)
Summary: Some missing scenes from the last couple of chapters of Northanger Abbey.
Notes: This is a New Year's Resolution giftfic for Hafital, at Yuletide.
The words in italics are Austen's, not mine. Thank you to Gentlest_sin for brainstorming and beta help. I am expanding it from the Yuletide version.
There was a thought yet nearer, a more prevailing, more impetuous concern. How Henry would think, and feel, and look, when he returned on the morrow to Northanger and heard of her being gone, was a question of force and interest to rise over every other, to be never ceasing, alternately irritating and soothing; it sometimes suggested the dread of his calm acquiescence, and at others was answered by the sweetest confidence in his regret and resentment.
On Sunday evening Henry Tilney returned to Northanger Abbey on horseback, approaching his ancestral home from the south, along the same road that first brought Catherine Morland to the house; and would, he fervently hoped, bring her again when her current visit ended, as it must a few weeks hence. It was with his thoughts thus both agreeably and regretfully engaged that he espied an imposing figure on foot on the road before him. His father awaited him, just before the final drive-way to the Abbey, and the sight of him, alone, gave Henry no small feeling of unease. Though Henry and Eleanor had perceived nothing in Miss Morland's situation likely to engage their father's particular respect; they had seen with astonishment the suddenness, continuance, and extent of his attention, such that it seemed remarkable to Henry for their father to be found so far from Miss Morland's side.
General Tilney stood aside gravely as Henry dismounted. "We leave in the morning for Herefordshire," the general said. "I have engaged us all to visit Lord Longtown for a fortnight."
Henry was greatly surprised. "This is sudden," he said. "I hope the change of venue is agreeable to Miss Morland."
"Miss Morland has gone home," the general said.
"Home!" cried Henry. "Indeed! What has happened? I pray she received no bad news from Fullerton."
"She has deceived us. I sent her away."
"Deceived us? Good God, in what way? Sir, I pray you tell me."
"She has greatly imposed on you; on all of us. Miss Morland was no more than an ambitious, grasping child. Penniless and greedy. I regret the day you ever met her. When I think of the time, the care, the expense I have bestowed on her . . ."
The tumult of Henry's thoughts can scarce be described. He could hear nothing further with any equanimity of mind; if his father provided any explanation, any further narration of events, any crime of Catherine's, Henry could never say. His only clear thought was that it must be false. Catherine could not have been sent from Northanger in such a way. No, it could never be! If he rode ahead to the abbey he would find her still there, and all this would be explained.
"What have you done?" he asked his father, remounting his horse. Without waiting for a reply, he galloped ahead, through the abbey gate, and spying a stable-boy, halted his mount while still in the courtyard, and, throwing the boy the reins, rushed within.
His sister, having heard his horse on the cobblestones, met him in the entry hall. She looked pale in a yellow satin gown standing alone in the great dark edifice. Henry strode into the hall. "Eleanor. I've just met Father on the road . . ."
"Come," she said, and, giving him a look of extreme misery, swept toward the sitting room, where they could talk without being overheard by the servants. A fire was lit, and Eleanor's work-box sat open upon a table.
"It's true, then? Miss Morland has been sent home?" At his sister's nod, he continued, his words pouring from a source of grief he had not known he bore within himself. "Please tell me how this could come about. Make me understand the cause, the necessity. I know she did not receive bad news from Fullerton, for Father himself told me he sent her away. I could not rightly understand him. Eleanor, please tell me what has happened."
His sister communicated, as best she could, given her own grief and dismay, how summarily Miss Morland had been dismissed, without even a servant for an escort, nor her family owning any cognizance of her journey.
"But for what cause? Eleanor, what was the cause?" he cried, pacing about in great agitation of mind.
"What cause could there be? You know her too well to think she could have done anything to warrant such treatment." Eleanor wept. "When I think how we parted; what pain she must have felt, but how bravely she bore it; how she refused even to write me of her safe arrival, as her writing me would have my parent's disapprobation, I am wretched."
"Why, this is worse and worse," Henry said, finding his breath catching in his throat. "Had she any money for the post fare?"
"I gave her some," Eleanor said. "She did not leave without that support, but Father had no part in it."
Henry collapsed into a chair, his legs no longer supporting him. "Did she—had she any message to me?" His sister, he was sure, would not blame him for the impropriety of the question.
"Oh, Henry, she tried, but she could not bear to say your name. She left me with some civility toward 'our absent friend', but think nothing of that. She was in no fit state to leave you any friendly words. We neither of us were unperturbed."
Henry fixed a hard gaze upon her. "What says the general?" he asked.
Eleanor also took a chair, but looked miserably at her hands in her lap. "I cannot tell you," she said. "I have not had the courage to speak to him. I must spend today preparing for the journey into Herefordshire."
Henry saw then that bearding the lion must be his office. His young sister could not be expected, even on behalf of her friend, to question closely the father who was her support and provider; even, too much of the time, her only companion.
Henry used the time until his father returned to the abbey to examine his own feelings. Since the day he'd met Catherine Morland in Bath he'd enjoyed her enthusiasm and honesty. When, to his surprise, his father had so openly encouraged the association, he'd been happy to have the young woman in his life as much as possible. His attentions to her had gone well past the point where friends and acquaintances must assume an engagement to be imminent, but neither of them had yet spoken of love. Henry had been content to enjoy the time of her visit and hope for an invitation to Fullerton where he might first meet her family and court their approval. He'd believed he had a surfeit of time to know his own heart and to be sure of hers. This change in his father, whatever its cause, threw all his plans and feelings into disarray. He believed his strongest concerns were for the incivility, the ill-judgment and even danger of sending so young a woman alone to travel post, but as he waited for the general's return, he found his strongest feelings were for himself, bereft of Miss Morland's smiles and naïve happiness. He was heartsick; he had not known the strength of his own regard.
The confrontation occurred over dinner, since the general, punctual as ever about household matters, returned to the house at dinner time. His aspect was dark and angry and Henry could see why Eleanor had not dared to speak to him. Henry himself, though certain in his rectitude and knowing himself better at every moment, felt keenly the lifetime of habit, spent as a younger son, dependant even for the living at Woodston upon his father's generosity; letting Frederick, his father's heir, play the part of the defiant while he took the role of peacemaker and protector to his younger sister. He was out of practice with rebellion.
"We'll speak no more of her," the general said, gruffly, upon the subject being broached.
"I will speak further of her, Father," Henry said. "I insist on being satisfied."
"You insist? Henry, I am well aware that I have robbed you and Eleanor of your friend after I have particularly encouraged the friendship, but you are not permitted to insist. It is for the best."
Eleanor watched them both, her eyes wide, her dinner untouched.
"And yet I will insist, still," said Henry. "The dishonor which your behavior towards her brings to all our family falls also on Eleanor and me. What possible defense can you give for luring a young woman away from her friends, those trusted by her family to attend her welfare; bringing her to a distance from her home twice as far as her family had originally permitted, and then sending her away without notice, without escort and without money? Most of all—and most injurious to her feelings and to the consideration of all who love her—without an explanation?"
"It's the money that concerns you, eh? You agree then that the woman was penniless, and depending on the charity of my house."
"I agree only that after nearly three months from home, she was like to have spent all the allowance she had. She had every right to depend upon support from her host. What right-thinking Christian would do less?"
"I had information when I was in Town, that Miss Morland, contrary to how she represented herself to us, is in fact from a large and nearly destitute family of no breeding or connections, who only sought the most advantageous marriage possible in order to raise their condition out of squalor. Miss Morland, Henry, desired only a connexion with a wealthy family and I forbid you to think further of her."
Stunned, Henry hardly knew where to begin. In Eleanor's looks Henry saw himself urged to pursue the questioning further; which encouragement was needless, as his own inclination urged him on. "In what way, Sir, do you believe that she represented herself to us? She told us herself her family was large, and, as to fortune, what expectations could you have had from the daughter of a clergyman?"
"She was to be the heiress to her family's childless friends, the Allens. Now I learn that there was never such an understanding, though she allowed me to believe it in order to promote an engagement with you."
Henry and Eleanor exchanged glances filled with powerful feelings: shock, disbelief, confusion, as well as a growing understanding of their father's mysterious behaviour since Bath. "From where," Henry cried, "did you hear of this understanding? For, upon my word, you never heard it from her."
"You defend her, do you? In all this time she enjoyed the favor of our family, yet never did she wonder at it. That I should flatter her and encourage a connection with us never seemed too wonderful for her pride; with her condition so decidedly beneath our own. Depend upon it, Henry, she was no more than a fortune hunter."
"Indeed, I will accept no such judgment," cried Henry warmly. "As the daughter of a fellow clergyman, she can be in no way beneath me, and as for wondering at your treatment of her, your children have wondered at it mightily, and now all is explained. It is not Miss Morland who is the fortune hunter. She is young and new to society. In all her life she has known love and praise. Where should she think she is unworthy of admiration? She has shown you all proper gratitude and modesty. Why should a respectable young lady of manners and breeding, sensibility and good humor, vivacity and wit believe she is unworthy to be loved?" A small gasp was heard from Eleanor's quarter, but Henry had no desire to rephrase his declaration. "I leave as soon as may be for Fullerton, and pray God that Miss Morland has taken no injury on her way home."
"We all leave on the morrow for Lord Longtown's," the general said. "Your acquaintance with Miss Morland must end. This is my final word on the matter."
"Then I am sorry for you. I will not accompany you into Herefordshire. You will make my apologies to Lord Longtown, particularly since I never entered into the engagement for my part. I will see that Miss Morland has arrived safely, and apologise to her and all her family for your contemptible treatment of her."
"You will do nothing of the kind," said the general. "I have promised you to Lord Longtown's and I will not be forsworn for an obstinate, rebellious son."
Henry stood away from the table. "I perfectly understand you, Sir. Now rightly understand me. Catherine Morland will be your daughter-in-law if she will accept my hand." Henry bowed to his sister. "Good night, Eleanor." Before that lady could respond, Henry spun on his heel and strode to the door.
"This house will be barred to you!" the general roared, and, "Henry, I order you to return!" but alas for him, Henry was not the son who was in the army.
As they walked home again, Mrs. Morland endeavoured to impress on her daughter's mind the happiness of having such steady well-wishers as Mr. and Mrs. Allen, and the very little consideration which the neglect or unkindness of slight acquaintance like the Tilneys ought to have with her, while she could preserve the good opinion and affection of her earliest friends. There was a great deal of good sense in all this; but there are some situations of the human mind in which good sense has very little power; and Catherine's feelings contradicted almost every position her mother advanced.
Mrs. Allen returned their visit promptly, more promptly indeed than Mrs. Morland had looked for; Mrs. Allen called the next day with news. This news she particularly wanted to share with Catherine, for, though Mrs. Morland had not apprehended that her daughter's visits to Bath and Northanger had resulted in any pain to her heart, Mrs. Allen, who had been nearer to the deed, who had seen the enjoyment of Henry Tilney glowing in Catherine's cheeks, knew a small suspicion of the true cause of Catherine's loss of spirits. She was now empowered, she believed, as she had had a hand in its cause, to aid in its remedy.
"Mr. Allen has had a letter," she told Mrs. Morland. "Walter Gordon, his godson, is coming to visit us. He has been these many months in Oxford, so I have charged him to bring me linen cloth. He has promised to have it when he comes. Mrs. Johnson will make me a fine frock from it, I am certain."
Mrs. Morland allowed that another young person added to their circle of acquaintances would be a welcome change, and inquired if this were the godson of Mr. Allen's who was the orphaned nephew of a viscount. "Oh, indeed, the poor lad was raised by his uncle, but when he turned out so wild, His Lordship withdrew his support. But all that is in the past, I have the greatest satisfaction to inform you. Mr. Gordon has been these past months studying the law, and Mr. Allen and I have the fondest hopes that he will make amendment of his habits and do his family credit in the end."
Catherine heard this discussion with only feigned interest; what romantic heroine could hear with any pleasure of the arrival of a man who was not the lover of her heart? In previous months, before her departure to Bath, it is true that tales of the handsome Walter Gordon's exploits had burned her and her friends' ears before all fell silent on the subject out of consideration for the Allens' feelings. Mr. Gordon's deeds had, according to Fullerton gossip, grown too nefarious to make light talk of them pleasant to his godparents. Curiosity had burned in her to hear more; but, in Bath, the whispers she'd heard from Isabella of the deeds and misdeeds of another, unrelated Gordon, Lord Byron, had put to shame any local tale of Mr. Allen's godson. If Mr. Gordon now pursued a career in the law and a respectable reputation, how very dull to Catherine it seemed. There was only one man she wished, nay longed, to hear of -- and she seemed in danger of never hearing of him again. What might Henry Tilney be doing at this very moment, she asked herself.
At that very moment, Henry Tilney set out on the seventy mile ride to Fullerton; for, rather than take the shortest road from Woodston, he elected to follow the better roads which Catherine's coach must have taken. Along the way his affectionate imagination provided him with horrors that could overtake an unprotected young woman traveling post; and, baseless though he hoped such fears to be, he cast his gaze beside the road, along every crossing, as well as into the windows of every inn. He reached Fullerton with his worst fears relieved, but with a curious misapprehension affecting his feelings. What must Miss Morland think of him? What censure, what disapprobation could he expect from her family and from her friends, the Allens? He came to Fullerton as a lover, but the town seemed to him an enemy camp.
Acting on direction from an helpful neighbor, Henry approached the Morland parsonage with less haste than his earlier fears for Miss Morland would have dictated; his fears were now for himself. Resolved as he was to ask for her hand, convinced that she expected, even wished for such a proposal, he could not help but perform an uncomfortable review of his own merits as a husband. He was respectable, there could be no question of that, and he had a good living -- even if the worst happened and his father withdrew the living at Woodston. This thought of his father added to his unease; during his journey his concern had been only for Catherine, but now he felt acutely the isolation from his family he had brought upon himself. He knew well his father's resentful temper; there would be no casual forgiveness. As a suitor for a lady's love, the lack of his father's consent was a serious shortcoming. Of his other shortcomings he now fervently repented: how he had teased Miss Morland and made her ashamed of her youth and inexperience, how severely he had pressed his disapproval of her romantic imaginings regarding his family, and he most regretted that he had waited to speak to her of love.
He reached the lane to the parsonage and dismounted, nervously brushing the dust of the road from his clothes. He led his horse around the hedge and into the lane, where he was seen by an alarming number of children who were playing in the yard of the house. Surely not all these children were Miss Morland's siblings! The children ceased their play and stared at him, and one young girl ran ahead of him to the house. Henry stilled his own trepidation and continued on steadily, until a stable-boy appeared, having been fetched by another of the children, and, bowing, offered to tend to his mount. Henry welcomed the delay, for, this being a stable unknown to Henry, he needs must speak to the man about his horse's care. Behind him, the children bestowed themselves as their habit and instruction dictated for the event of the arrival of an unfamiliar visitor.
Satisfied for his horse, Henry turned to the house and prepared to give his card to a housekeeper, but a vision appeared in the open door that halted him and stopped his breath. Miss Morland herself, in simple white muslin, flitted into view and halted, amazed. Her expression, as well as the expression on the face of the younger girl with her, told the story: her sister having carried word of Henry's arrival, had not been believed, and Miss Morland was now faced with the truth of it; her sister's veracity was vindicated. In part Henry hoped that Miss Morland's doubt was not due to any reluctance to see him, but mostly he found himself relieved at the confirmation of her safety and fortified by her confusion. To rush to the door to spy a doubted visitor was impetuous and improper, and so very like the young woman he loved. Recollecting herself, Miss Morland withdrew, taking her sister with her, but not before Henry had seen delight and hope in her eye. Miss Morland, he mused, was wholly incapable of artifice.
His card being properly given and accepted, Henry was shown to the sitting room where Miss Morland herself received him. A number of the scattering children from the yard had settled here as well, and dutifully stood with their sister as he entered. "Mr. Henry Tilney," the servant announced, and they all exchanged courtesies. The flush on Miss Morland's cheek and her nervous movements told him that he had best be the one to begin. "Miss Morland," he said, "thank you for receiving me. I come with abject apologies and to assure myself of your safe arrival home." "Not at all, Mr. Tilney, please," Miss Morland cried. She gathered her composure and displayed her manners. "May I introduce to you my brothers and sisters?" Henry bowed to each embarrassed youngster as they were named. "My father is from home, Mr. Tilney, or he would be glad to receive you. My mother . . ." She looked at one of the boys, George. He shrugged and said in a loud whisper, "I couldn't find her." At that moment a thump was heard above stairs. "Did you look upstairs?" Miss Morland asked. "What's she doing upstairs?" George replied with all the protest of a child caught being neglectful and wishing the blame onto some other object. Miss Morland turned back to Henry. "Will you please sit? My mother will join us soon." Henry was glad enough to obey, facing, as he now feared, the rightful condemnation of a mother for her mistreated child. A step was heard upon the topmost stair, and neither Catherine nor Henry attempted any conversation until Mrs. Morland, holding a volume of The Mirror, came into view and Henry was obliged to stand again.
Far from comprehending him or his sister in their father's misconduct, Mrs. Morland had been always kindly disposed towards each, and instantly, pleased by his appearance, received him with the simple professions of unaffected benevolence; thanking him for such an attention to her daughter, assuring him that the friends of her children were always welcome there, and entreating him to say not another word of the past. Catherine meanwhile -- the anxious, agitated, happy, feverish Catherine -- said not a word; but her glowing cheek and brightened eye made her mother trust that this good-natured visit would at least set her heart at ease for a time, and gladly therefore did she lay aside the first volume of The Mirror for a future hour.
As they stepped into the garden, Catherine was happily alone with Henry, if only for a brief time. Her heart sang at the sudden privacy, and Henry, too, took only enough hasty steps to remove the two of them beyond the hedge before turning to her, his countenance as earnest as she had ever seen it. "Miss Morland, I most urgently wish you to know that my father's behaviour toward you in no manner reflects my own feelings for you." Catherine gasped and halted where they would be seen neither from her own house nor from the Allens'. "Please allow me to speak frankly. Forgive me, I had hoped to make this declaration under friendlier conditions, but my feelings forbid that I should let any circumstance prevent me from saying how very much I admire and love you. Miss Morland, you have my heart. I beg you to tell me you will be my wife and make me the happiest of men." Catherine's hands flew to her mouth. "Oh, Mr. Tilney," she cried, quite overcome. "Oh, oh. What can I say? You have my heart, too. You always have. You always will. I—yes. Of course. Yes." Tears of joy swam in her eyes, but she could see her lover's face brighten into a smile. Oh, why could she not think of something more sensible to say? Her powers of communication had deserted her the moment he asked to speak frankly; nay, they had been severely impaired since she had seen him approach the house. A heroine, triumphant in the glory of her happiness attained, should display the grace and simple eloquence of sincerity, but Catherine could command little but blushes and tears. But what of that? She would rather be Mrs. Henry Tilney and unutterably happy than be the heroine of any novel.
Henry's own eyes glowed. "Thank you," he said sincerely, as if it were she who had given him a last best gift. "Should we not continue on?" Yes, they must continue to the Allens', and indeed, Catherine welcomed the freedom to not be looked upon while she sought some composure. After their brief visit, during which Henry talked at random and Catherine scarcely opened her lips, they were once again alone on the walk back to the parsonage. "Your father," Catherine managed. "What will he think? Oh, can you tell me what I have done to offend him? I declare I will do anything in my power to apologise and atone for it." Henry's look became somber. "My dearest Catherine," he said, sending a thrill through her, "you have done nothing to offend my father. Alas for my feelings as a son! My father believed —" Henry flushed. "My father believed you were the heiress of the Allens'. I am deeply ashamed of such narrow-minded counsel! I know not how he was so imposed upon. I find now that he wished me to learn to love you and to win you for his own purely pecuniary reasons. He has done his work too well. His son is more obedient than he knows."
"But," cried Catherine, "this is quite remarkable! I am quite sure I never led him to believe anything so singular. I, heiress to Mr. Allen? Nay, but, is he so concerned for fortune? I am no heiress, but my father—" Catherine hesitated. She had reason to expect a settlement of near three thousand pounds from her father, but she abruptly gave thought to whether she should anticipate on his behalf. "Henry, you will break with my father? And my mother? They should be both applied to."
"Directly we come, I shall," Henry said, his flush fading as a smile lit his face. Catherine smiled back. What of dowries and generals and misinformation and such? She was to marry Henry Tilney!
She was not to marry Henry Tilney, not soon, and, if the general be not magnanimous toward them, not ever. Her parents, while pleased with Henry's manners and good sense, certain that nothing, after all, could be more natural than Catherine's being beloved, and conscious that it was a match beyond the claims of their daughter, could not approve it under the circumstances.
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.
Catherine's parents said their farewells to Henry the next morning in the hall, and forbade any of the younger children from following their sister outside. Catherine stood in mournful happiness as Henry readied his horse.
"Will it be long, do you think?" she asked him.
"I will write to you every day. Will that cause any inappropriate comments?"
"Only my family will know of it. We receive post almost every day, as it is. But Henry, I so wish—where will you go? May you return to Northanger?"
"I think I must not try my father just yet. I will return to Woodston. Write to me there, my dearest?"
"Oh, yes!" Catherine yet blushed to hear endearments from her love, but they were blushes of pleasure, not embarrassment. "You will apply to your father soon?"
"I will wait a few days for his temper to cool, and then I promise I will write to him." A look of distaste passed over Henry's face. Catherine's sympathetic heart ached for him. What mortification it must cost Henry to write such a letter. Oh, why must her parents be so correct? "I expect he will be with Lord Longtown for many days yet," he said.
"And Miss Tilney? Oh, Henry, she bad me write to her under cover to Alice, and I have done so once, but I cannot write any of my true feelings if the letter might be read by someone else. We must tell her! How I wish I could see her. She will welcome our union, will she not? Does she share this belief of your father's that I am—" Catherine halted, afraid she might begin to weep.
Hastily Henry took both her hands in his own. "No, my dear Catherine, you must not think so. I know my sister adores you as I do. And even my father, though under this hateful misapprehension, enjoyed your company, I am certain of it. I beg you, have no concerns that your conduct or character in any way warranted this unfortunate treatment. No one blames you, I declare it. It is only my father—oh, but do not weep."
Catherine was willing to do anything Henry bid her, and so she valiantly tried to stop her tears, succeeding in some degree, but speech she was powerless to command. "You will write to Eleanor, as I will, and give her this news. Send your letter to me and I shall forward it. My father will not forbid her to receive letters from me, and besides, Eleanor and I both know where is the nearest post office. You may believe your letters will reach her safely."
Catherine nodded, swallowing her tears, and forced a smile for his sake. "Do you think—do you believe your father is very set against us?" she asked. Still holding her hands in his own, in defiance of any consciousness that they might be seen from the windows or by the servants, Henry replied, "I would give a kingdom to be able to assure you that my father's approval will come swiftly, but I cannot. It might come tomorrow, if he is put in good humor and sees how blameless you were in the matter of someone else's false gossip; but he is a strong man, stronger in resentment than in affection, it grieves me to say, and our parting was far from friendly. I am unable to tell you how long I must ask you to wait."
Catherine pressed his hands. "Think nothing of that. I will wait as long as must be. Yours is the more difficult part, I think. You must find the way to best appeal to the general and not wound your own pride."
"My own pride is nothing. I promise you, I will do everything in my power to win my father, and as quickly as it can be rightly managed."
Reluctantly, Henry released her and mounted his horse. Neither managed any further words. Henry tipped his hat to her and to the window of the house, directed his horse about, and left the parsonage grounds. Catherine watched him go in an agony of uncertainty that would do credit to any lovelorn heroine. When would she ever see him again? She returned to the house and could find nothing else would do but to flee to her room and cry.
Catherine's spirits, depressed as they were at the prospect of an indefinite separation from Henry just when she'd learned he returned her love, were nonetheless buoyed by reminiscences of him and by her dreams of future joy: consequently, a nature such as hers could not remain utterly suppressed. This postponement of her happiness must be brief, she grew more certain. The one piece of her understanding with Henry on which she could not look with satisfaction was this: lacking the explicit consent of their parents, and with no fixed wedding plans, Catherine felt she could scarcely consider herself formally engaged. On her parents' advice, she said nothing of her engagement, and, though Mr. Tilney's visit was known, and her brothers and sisters teased her to speak of him, the secret seemed safe for the time. To James, however, she must write, revealing all.
The arrival of Mr. Allen's godson occasioned an invitation to dinner at the Allens' and Catherine was sufficiently recovered in spirits to attend. Also in attendance would be Miss Penelope Doyle and her older sister. Catherine and Penny were the same age, and were therefore, by universal expectation, friends, though Catherine was spared much intercourse with the other ladies, because Mr. Doyle's estate lay some miles beyond Fullerton.
With James still at Oxford and none of her younger sisters out, only Catherine accompanied her parents to the Allens'. "I do wonder," Mrs. Morland said to her husband on the brief walk to the Allens' house, "at Mr. Doyle bringing Anne and Penny to this first meeting, knowing what we do of the young man's reputation."
"I'm sure there can be no concern, in good company," answered her husband. "In such a small neighborhood, to withhold their daughters would be remarked. Are we not bringing our own daughter, thereby risking that she might fall in love with Mr. Gordon on first sight, as young women in novels are wont to do?" Mr. Morland winked at Catherine over his shoulder. (He walked in the narrow path with his wife on his arm and their daughter behind.) Catherine coloured, not knowing how to answer. "I am not concerned for Catherine," replied her mother. "Her heart is given elsewhere, and I pray she is not so inconstant as to transfer her affections at a single dinner party."
"No indeed!" cried Catherine, moved to speech. "I'm sure I am safe to be at the same table as Mr. Gordon; and as for ladies falling in love precipitously — Father, you never read novels, so how can it be that you are familiar with their faults?"
"Quite so," replied Mr. Morland. "I know such things only by report, which is all we know of Mr. Gordon, so perhaps we had best let the young man speak for himself."
In the Allens' drawing room, the Morlands greeted their hosts and met the redoubtable Mr. Gordon. He was younger than Catherine had imagined, but had a very pleasing person. His manners, while affable enough, were more reserved than she had expected. After the introductions were made, as soon as might be polite, Penny took Catherine by the arm and drew her aside, to where her sister stood. "Catherine, how long it has been since we were together," cried her friend. "You must tell us all about Bath. What are the rooms like? Were there many beaux? How are the fashions?" All the while she delivered her inquiries, Penny turned her gaze toward Mr. Gordon. Miss Doyle, who had been part of the season in town, stood aloof from Catherine's discourse -- who had merely been at Bath -- and gazed unreservedly at Mr. Gordon. Catherine did her best to satisfy her friend's curiosity about her adventures in Bath, careful to mention the family of Tilney as casually as possible; alas her attempt at casualness did not avail her. "Tilney! Was it not a Mr. Tilney who visited you upon your return? He is in love with you, I suppose. It is all well for those who may go to town or to Bath. How easy it must be there to have rich men fall in love with you."
How much Catherine then regretted how quickly young ladies' ideas leapt to love. She was not at liberty to confess her engagement, and she knew not how to answer. Knowing she must be colouring and appearing confused, she forced herself to quickly answer, "He came to assure himself of my safety, for I had to return alone, by post. I will tell you all when we have some leisure, but now I should love to hear about London from Anne." Miss Doyle's interest having been caught by Catherine's final statement, and her vanity engaged by Catherine's appeal, she condescended to notice the younger girls. "Town is town, you know," she said with hauteur. "I infinitely prefer the quiet country. So many people and horses, and such dirt! I cannot see how anyone can bear to live in town. I am to return to wait upon my aunt next month, and I am sure I shall die of boredom." Catherine stood amazed at this speech, but Miss Doyle turned away at a summons from her father, and Catherine turned to Penny. "La!" said Penny. "Pay her no mind. I can tell you what she has related of fashions, and as for the other . . ." Penny lowered her voice. "Anne was not well-received in town. The other ladies were more accomplished and elegant. She was quite scorned, I think." Far from showing any concern for her sister's feelings, Penny appeared triumphant. "How shocking," Catherine said, remembering with force the ways in which Penny's company was trying for her. For a moment she wished for Isabella Thorpe, despite all her faults, for at least she had been an enthusiastic reader of novels. Penny Doyle had a peevish, vicious mind, only barely disguised by good breeding and tolerated because of her high birth. "I should not say so," Penny replied. "I say it is time Anne was set down from her high opinion of herself. But look, I must join my father. We are not to be far from his side tonight, and under no circumstances are we to have any private conversation with Mr. Gordon. Is it not exciting? He may try to make love to one of us. Perhaps to all of us!" Catherine watched her friend remove from her and reflected that there were few ways in which Mr. Doyle could have made Mr. Gordon more attractive to his daughters than to forbid them to speak to him.
Though she could not stand alone in the drawing room for long, and must join her mother where she sat in conversation with Mrs. Allen, she had a moment to regard Mr. Gordon herself. He stood talking with Mr. Allen while he leaned against the chimney-piece. His ease in the position spoke of a certain strength and grace that made her suspect him of dancing well. He wore a blue coat, which Bath had taught her was the height of the day's fashion for men. As she studied him, he looked across the room and met her gaze with a regard so warm she caught her breath and turned away, hurrying to sit beside her mother.“How long will his visit be?” her mother was asking. They were speaking, of course, of Mr. Gordon.
“Until Michaelmas, at least,” said Mrs. Allen. “Then he may be examined and, Mr. Allen and I hope, admitted into practice with a respectable barrister. His studies may be adversely affected, we fear, from his being here. He needs books, you see, and they are all in Oxford. Mr. Allen’s library has a few law books of his late brother’s, and Walter brought what he could. Oh, I must tell you, he wrapped his books in the linen I charged him to procure. I am sorry to say that, like most men, he has no eye for fabric.” This criticism brought to Catherine’s mind how astute was Henry Tilney on the subject of cloth, and her thoughts drifted to Bath, and the evening she met him. His first words to Mrs. Allen were on the subject of cloth. The memory gave Catherine a hint of the suffering she might endure by overmuch dwelling on her absent love, where her previous reminiscences had brought her joy. She felt now the pain of his loss and battled an unformed fear for their future together. She did not hear the ladies’ discussion of the poor quality of the linen brought by Mr. Gordon. She returned her attention to their words, however, when her mother asked, “Why, then, has he come, if not for a short visit? Would he not be better studying in Oxford?” Mrs. Allen turned the rings on her hand before speaking. “It was best that he quit Oxford, and, to own the truth, he has nowhere else to go. I’ve told you that his uncle will not see him. Ah, it is all too bad. His father was such a dear friend to George. If his parents had only lived, the boy could have been raised with proper attention. I fear he was always the poor relation next to his cousins. Still,” Mrs. Allen put on a determined smile, and smoothed her frock, “it may be all for the best. It will be many years before his profession allows him a good kind of living, much less the means to repay his godfather, but I am so glad to see him on a respectable path. Here’s Betsy; it is time to go in.”
Catherine had already realized that the unanticipated absence of the Davis family on account of an illness had created an uneven number of gentlemen and ladies in the party. Mr. Doyle insisted on going in with a daughter on each arm, so Catherine remained the only lady who could partner Mr. Gordon, unless one of the married women chose the office. She followed her parents’ lead: if her mother took Mr. Gordon’s arm, it would be proper for Catherine to go in with her father, but it was Mrs. Allen who bustled to the fireplace and took her godson’s arm, announcing to the group assembled there that it was time to go in to dinner. Catherine was escorted by Mr. Allen, to everyone’s satisfaction. The dinner was in honor of Mr. Gordon’s coming, so he was placed with the Allens, near the head. Catherine, coming in on her host’s arm, was seated as his opposite. She was thus best situated to observe the newcomer to their neighbourhood.
His manners, she saw, were frank and graceful, which gave additional charms to his uncommonly handsome person, yet something of reserve in his behaviour puzzled Catherine. His conversation was lively and friendly with whomever made inquiries of him, but he seldom initiated any discourse, and when not engaged gazed often away from the table as if distracted. Catherine became convinced that he was not in good spirits. Far from making love to any of the ladies present, he politely learnt their situations and then paid them no special attention at all. If his gaze was often on Catherine, she grew certain from his manner that it was only because she was seated directly in his view.
It was well after dark as the Morlands made their way through the familiar paths toward their home. "And how did you find Mr. Gordon, Catherine?" her father asked. "I was surprised, I admit," she said. "He seemed very gentleman-like." She drew breath to amend her statement, suddenly conscious of its ungenerous nature, but she was forestalled by her mother's quiet laugh. "A proper rogue must first appear to be a gentleman, I daresay," her mother said. "Now, Mrs. Morland," her husband chided. "Let's have no talk of what makes a proper rogue, or I shall be forced to suspect you of reading Catherine's novels." With that, they reached the house and all retired to bed.
Catherine lay awake, considering her mother's words. Indeed, they were true, even if said in jest. It was a relief to Catherine's sensibility to have yet the means to cast Mr. Gordon in the role of villain; her conviction had been shaken by his civility and pleasing countenance. She turned her thoughts away from him and toward their favorite object. How many days would Henry wait before applying to his father? Almost a week had passed since their walk in the hedgerow. Catherine's nightly pastime had been to remember every word, every movement, and to invent what she could not remember of the happy conversation. Tonight she dared to count the days and wonder if the General had had a letter from his son. His reply could already be in Henry's hands. What felicity, what joy if she could bring her parents proof of the General's approval. She could then rejoice with Eleanor — Eleanor. Catherine recalled Henry's contrivance for correspondence between the two friends, and with chagrin realized she had not written to her.
She threw back the coverlet and crept as quietly as she could to her writing desk for pen and paper. She dared not light a candle, since one of her sisters who shared the room was a light sleeper. She moved confidently through the dark house to the drawing room where she lit a candle, sharpened her pen and composed a letter to Eleanor.
My Dear Friend,
I beg you to forgive me for not writing sooner. If you have heard already from Henry, I cannot blame him, for I claimed the right to ask for your felicitations first, and I have woefully neglected you. But let me delay no longer. Your brother has asked for my hand and I have accepted him. I pray this news brings you joy and not regret! I freely admit that I fear your father's scorn and tremble to think that you might share it. Henry has related to me the circumstances of the General's disdain for me. Please, my friend, do not tell me that you believe me capable of such a duplicity. You will break my heart even as it is singing. I know not how your father was so imposed upon, but I declare as solemnly as I am able that there is no truth to the report he has heard against me.
I have yet another claim to make upon your compassion. Feel for me my dear friend, and for your brother, for we cannot yet marry. Wanting his parent's approval, my own parents are loathe to give theirs. Neither Henry nor I would give our acquaintance the insult of an elopement, and so we are entirely dependent on the General's acceptance. I have promised Henry that I will endure whatever waiting we must, but how I hope it will not be long. Please write me and say you forgive me any wrongs I have done in your view and send me some assurance that I have not lost your friendship.
Catherine frowned at her composition, not content with its tone. She had written from her heart, but now she feared the letter had not sufficient mature reserve. Had not Henry assured her that Eleanor did not share their father's views of her? Surely he must be right. She blew out her candle and resolved to send the letter in the morning by the two-penny post.
Henry Tilney opened a letter from his father with pounding heart.
Henry, (it began)
You have disobeyed me and defied my wishes. I consider you the most ungrateful of children. Do not expect to make any claim on me again. I encourage you to reflect on the teachings of scripture where you are enjoined to honor your father and mother that your days may be long upon the earth. You have only yourself to blame for your present circumstances.
Henry felt as if his horse had kicked him in the stomach. Holding the letter he leaned against the wall of his house, unsure that his legs would continue to support him as he reread the words. It was thus that his housekeeper found him. "Two ladies to see you, sir," she said. Henry looked dumbly at her, still in shock. "Who?" he managed. "Miss Emmeline Skinner and her friend, sir." She handed him a card and curtseyed. Henry took it and stared at it as blankly as he had at his father's letter. Henry nodded at the housekeeper's gentle inquiry; should she show them into the drawing room?
Only somewhat more composed, Henry received the ladies and they all exchanged courtesies.