“Eleanor!” Henry exclaimed when he more or less jumped from his horse. “Where is father?”
“He's in his study.” She answered him. She looked concerned as she had every right to be since she could tell from the serious expression on his face that he was deeply upset. She had heard the same news as him after all and while she had been concerned mainly for her friend she knew that Henry was concerned for Catherine because he loved her and felt himself bound to her by affection and honour.
“Have you gotten word from her?” He had hoped that Catherine had written Eleanor but she had to shake her head. She hadn't heard from Catherine since her friend had been made to leave Northanger Abbey.
Henry hadn't been there when the fallout had happened and while Eleanor had written everything she had known back then to him, now she had more to add thanks to their older brother.
“John Thorpe is behind this.” She told Henry while walking beside him up to the house. “Mainly because Catherine didn't want to marry him and he was also unable to repair the damaged relationship between his sister and Catherine's brother.”
“That spineless coward”, Henry muttered deeply disgusted by such dishonourable actions against an innocent and sweet girl.
“Father won't hear you.” Eleanor tried to reason with Henry. “You know how he is.”
That made Henry stop suddenly and he turned to her, his face stony in a grave expression. “I do not seek father's approval.” He stated. “I feel bound to Miss Morland with both my honour and my heart and nothing he says will change that. I am here to state my intentions to him, Eleanor, and not to seek his approval. As soon as I am done here I will ride to Fullerton and offer my hand to Miss Morland if she will still have me.”
Eleanor looked shocked for a moment after his speech but then she relaxed, forced a tiny smile on her lips when touching his arm and said softly, “Of course she will.” She curled her fingers around his arm and squeezed lightly. “Go, brother. I'll tell the servants to make another horse ready for you.”
“Thank you, Eleanor.” He answered sincerely then left swiftly for their father's study. She watched after him until he closed the doors behind him and prepared herself in her heart for a long and lonely solitude in Northanger Abbey without her brother or her friend.
“Ah, Henry, you're back late”, General Tilney said instead of a welcome. He had never concealed what a disgrace to the family name he considered Henry's choice to become a clergyman instead of joining the Army like his father and brother had done.
“Father”, Henry stood very still and tall, “I have come to tell you that I intend to propose to Miss Catherine Morland.”
“What?!” General Tilney exploded. “ How dare you! This girl will be a disgrace for our family. She is a pretender of the worst kind, her whole family is. Making it look like they have respectability and fortune when there are none. You have to be a fool to consider marring her.”
“What is her fault?” Henry demanded to know. “Did you not like her when she was here as your guest?”
“I though her to be a girl from a good house then”, his father argued.
“She is from good house but all you see is that she's not as rich as you thought it she should be. Catherine Morland is a virtuous and sweet soul and I'll be happy to have her as my wife.”
“I forbid you to propose to her”, the General shouted. “She will never cross the doors of this house as my daughter-in-law.”
“And I would not want her to”, Henry answered daringly. “This house deprives one of all happiness and you have never anything to remedy that.” He knew he should leave before he lost control of his temper and injured his father's and his own honour more than even his love for Catherine would allow.
“I I feel bound to Miss Morland with both my honour and my heart and nothing you say will change that”, Henry repeated the words he had said to Eleanor in the court just minutes ago. “I know that these may not mean as much to you as they mean to me but I hope that one day they will.” He bowed. “Excuse me father. I have to go now.”
He closed the door to his father shouting insults at him and tried not to flinch when the damage he had done came to mind. After he left he would be unable to return to Northanger Abbey, maybe for forever, and he would be unable to visit Eleanor or write her. When he met his sister in the court with his horse he said as much but she shook her head gently.
“I will be fine, Henry. I have hope that our father will overcome his anger and disappointment and when he does I will not only have you back but my dear friend Catherine will be my sister. That hope will have to be enough.” She laughed. “Now go before another handsome young clergyman comes to Fullerton and charms Catherine away from you with a fancy new novel and his family's haunted castle.”
“What would I do without you, Eleanor?” Henry asked as he mounted his horse. “You have saved my life.”
“Speak more like this”, she mocked him, “and I'll think John Thorpe was right and reading novels makes one weak and melodramatic.” She laughed openly at Henry's disgusted face. “Go, Henry and fetch the girl of your dreams.”
“Now, who's speaking like a character from a novel?” Henry teased but he leaned down to kiss her hair before he spurred his horse.
“Take care of the two of you, brother”, she said softly and wished him well with all her heart before she returned to the house.