It will be generally known that the circumstances of the meeting between Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney have been related elsewhere, and this author will not attempt to repeat what has been well told. It is necessary only for me to say that this story takes place shortly after their marriage. The new Mrs Tilney had taken up housekeeping at Woodston but two weeks before; she had just managed to grasp the names of the maids and cook, and at last could be relied on to call the gardener’s boy, William, and the dog, Billy, by their proper names.
It is in this happy state, becoming gradually secure in her place as wife to Henry, housekeeper of the parson, and parson’s wife to Woodston, that we find Catherine, standing, as if to crown the happiest month of her life to date, in her beloved drawing room, at last fitted up to her taste. For the length of their engagement, Henry had determined to leave the room alone, knowing how much she had loved it and conscious that the best way to make a woman love a house is to allow her to change something about it as soon as she has taken it up; and, indeed, when returning to Woodston for the first time as its mistress rather than its guest, Catherine’s first act had been to dash to the room and stand contentedly at the window, looking at the meadows and the oft-remembered cottage, peeking through the trees.
“Is it as you remembered?” Henry had asked.
Turning from the window, Catherine had sighed, “Oh, yes—it is just as I remember; it is still the sweetest room I have ever seen. But you still have not fit it up, Henry!”
He had smiled, and said, “I could not possibly have fit your room up for you; what fiancé could possibly have known his beloved’s taste to the right detail? How should I have chosen between sprigged papers and striped, merely to give my new wife her first opportunity to scold me for my man’s taste, and be told how little I understand a woman’s needs in her sitting room?”
“Instead of scolding you for your taste, your wife will scold you for your silliness,” Catherine had replied, laughing. “So, you see, you have not escaped.”
Dolefully, he had said, “Well, if to be scolded is to be my new role, it would have been as well to be scolded for doing something as for not doing something; still, my dear, I hope you will enjoy fitting it up.”
“I do not see how I will ever do this room justice,” Catherine had said. “However, I will try, and you will have only yourself to blame if it is a very silly room indeed.”
To choose chairs, and a chaise longue, and paper, and paint, and draperies for her beloved room was a happy first task in a new home. Catherine pored over paper and upholstery samples until she was quite content. Henry, as proud of his taste as ever, interfered rather more than he had intended, and soon Catherine found herself learning to squash him when their tastes varied too extremely. He gave way willingly, and truly, when Catherine stood in her fully-fitted drawing room for the first time, she was quite unable to wish anything about it was different. The sprigged paper drew the light in from outside, the upholstery complemented it perfectly, and when Henry came in from his garden and saw Catherine seated in the window, chin in one hand and embroidery untouched in her lap, even he felt that nothing could possibly improve the sights before him.
Catherine settled into Woodston as she settled into the parsonage, and once her sitting room was done, she determined that she must begin visiting in the village. Catherine was not fitted as a parson’s wife in any of the usual senses, being not especially studious nor inclined to lecture on morals, having little interest in church flower arrangements and the politics thereof, and being not much inclined to hard work. She was, however, honest, kind, and good with children. Moreover, she had good natural morals, and the wonderful virtue of expecting the same from those around her; and in this she was generally rewarded. Henry, therefore, was confident in her ability to be as devoted a parson’s wife as he was a parson; and since he was not so very devoted, remaining even as a married man irresponsibly fond of travel, Bath, and Gothic novels, this confidence was not likely to be misplaced.
Aware of her duties, Catherine enquired of her maid as to such elderly and infirm sorts in the village who might be in need of calves-foot jellies, fruit, or baskets of good things, and it was returning from her second such visit that Henry caught her in the garden. He was smiling, and carrying a package; and Catherine, as well she might be, was immediately intrigued.
“Hullo,” Henry said. “I have just been to the post office, and,” holding this out, “I have a letter from our sister Eleanor; and not only a letter, but something even better.”
“What could be better than a letter?” Catherine held out her hand, and as they approached the parsonage door Henry offered it to her. She took it eagerly, for she was sincerely attached to her sister-in-law. Her great regret about Eleanor’s marriage was how often it took her to London, for her husband, charming though he was, was political. Eleanor and Catherine had written often before Catherine and Henry’s marriage, and upon becoming entitled to address each other as “sister” their correspondence had only strengthened.
“It’s true that nothing could give either of us more unalloyed pleasure than a happy letter from my sister, but this will perhaps give us a more qualified pleasure for a little longer,” said Henry. He began to unwrap the package, but his wife was distracted with her letter.
Silence reigned for a moment, then, “Oh! Eleanor says she has sent me something dreadful from London.”
Henry finished his unwrapping, and presented his prize triumphantly. Allerby Hall, its shining new cover said, and Catherine reached out for it eagerly. Before her hands had reached it, though, she sprang back, recollecting a promise. Unhappily, she said, “But I am afraid I cannot read it; I will have to send it back to her.”
“On no account,” said Henry. “It was a present to me as well, you know.”
“Oh, dear, then you had better keep it; only—keep it away from me.” Catherine looked distressed, but determined.
“Dear girl, why?” said her puzzled husband. “I had thought we were in perfect understanding on the subject of novels.”
“We are—but—” Catherine blushed, for she hated to be reminded of her most shameful moment, especially in front of he who had witnessed it. Nevertheless, she nerved herself up, and said, “I do not read novels any more—not since—” She broke off, but saw that she had said enough, for Henry looked both enlightened and a little amused.
“I see,” he said wisely. “A promise, is it—not to be led astray any longer?”
Catherine blushed a darker red, and said nothing. Henry came over to kneel next to her chair. “Dear one,” he said, “I beg you to reconsider. Nothing would give me more joy than to share this dreadful thing with you.”
Catherine let him take her hand, and sighed, and leaned against him a little. “I never want to make such a shameful mistake again,” she said. “I fear that it is as everyone says, and novels are quite unhealthy for me to read; I have not a strong enough mind to resist.”
Henry tutted. “Not at all,” he said. “Besides, if you wish to strengthen your mind, there is nothing that can be better for it than to read with me; and I feel sure that you will find that your earlier error was a natural one of youth, and that your age and experience—and, perhaps, guidance from your husband—will not let you go so astray again.”
Catherine was sorely tempted. “Can it be right to break a promise, though?”
“Was it to God, or to yourself?” said Henry.
“Oh,” said Catherine, a little scandalised, “Certainly only to myself. I would never trouble God on such a matter.”
“Well, that is all right, then,” said Henry. “Of course promises to oneself ought not be broken in the general way of things; one must have discipline. Yet if one finds that one has been mistaken about a matter, and one reconsiders a promise, thoughtfully and carefully, I think it cannot be too bad if one is not breaking one’s word to someone else, or to our Lord. Besides,” he added, in a fit of inspiration, “ladies break their own words to themselves quite often, over cakes, or new dress cotton, or asking the tiresome friend to dine, and I believe it is this habit of self-generosity in the smaller matters that fits ladies with the willpower to keep their greater promises.”
Catherine was a little suspicious, but willing to be convinced; “Only,” she said, seriously, “You must keep an eye on me, and ensure that I do not mistake again.”
To this her husband agreed, so it was settled, and in a trice the book was drawn from its covers, Henry was seated beside Catherine, and the covers were opened.
“Now then,” said Henry, and coughed to clear his throat. “ ‘Edith was a child when her mother’s ghost first warned her …’ ”
Thus the newlyweds’ life continued apace. Henry worked at his garden and at his sermons, Catherine worked on her housekeeping and her charitable visits—and gradually improved her flower arranging—and in the heat of the afternoon or in the evening they would read to each other from Allerby Hall. It was, as Eleanor had promised, a dreadful novel, with romantic intrigue, financial complexity, and supernatural elements that promised not to be at all explained by any natural phenomenon, and thus represented the ideal novel to be read by a couple of young people in perfect health, wealth, and sympathy. Catherine and Henry adored it, and when they read outside even the dogs would come and lie their heads on Catherine’s lap to be petted, appearing to listen as intently as she did.
The only intrusions on their happiness were their occasional but inescapable invitations to Northanger Abbey. Henry’s breach with his father had been somewhat repaired before their marriage, and Catherine did her best to make herself the most dutiful daughter she could be; but her initial vague dislike for him and her later fear of him had crystallised during their engagement, while Henry and General Tilney had been estranged, and she struggled to conceal her dislike for the length of a dinner engagement. However, Captain Tilney had lately been posted further away than he could conveniently visit from, and Eleanor in a recent letter had written that she was not presently able to travel; consequently, Henry and Catherine, far too near to refuse, bore the filial duties.
It was after one such visit that Catherine realised in horror that she was, despite all her efforts, beginning to fall under the spell of Allerby Hall as she had fallen under the spell of Northanger Abbey. In the carriage on the way home she turned to Henry and asked, speaking of his father’s current guest, “Do you not think Mrs Greville is rather ill?” She did not look at Henry as she asked; she was ashamed to think that she had even wondered, but they had read the very night before of the mysterious poisoning of the young woman at the heart of Allerby Hall.
“Hm,” said Henry, “she was certainly pale; but ill—no, I do not think so. She ate well. And Mr Greville did not seem at all concerned for her, and they are, like us, only newly married.”
“Perhaps he is not a very concerning man,” proposed Catherine.
“Surely,” said Henry, with rather more generosity than an older man might have displayed, “there can be no new husband who is not concerned about his new wife, and Mr Greville being rather older and having already lost one wife to sickness, I feel sure they would not be travelling so if he thought Mrs Greville unwell. Certainly I would not, were you ill,” clasping Catherine’s hand tenderly.
Catherine pressed back at his hand, and determinedly put out of her mind the thought that Mrs Greville had been so very pale, and her circumstances so strangely like the circumstances of the main character in her beloved Allerby Hall: the engagement to the older man, already a widower; the sister-in-law, traveling with the new couple despite that they were newlyweds and might have been thought to be on their honeymoon; and then the illness, such as the one that had struck Edith, and was eventually revealed to be poison! But then, Mr Greville was a friend of General Tilney’s, and though Catherine did not like him she remembered well Henry’s advice, and knew at once that she was being silly. Still, the thought never left her mind that night, and kept her awake for some time.
A few days later, Catherine and Henry were invited to Northanger Abbey again. It was sooner than they had really been hoping to visit, but they girded their loins and headed out in the carriage anyway. After the usual dinner, generous in good food, and parsimonious in good conversation, the gentlemen retired, and Catherine managed to seat herself next to Mrs Greville—only, she told herself, that she might reassure herself, and puncture her own fantasies. Miss Greville, Mrs Greville’s sister-in-law, was at cards at a table with some of the other local worthy gentlewomen, and Catherine seized her moment.
“How did you come to meet Mr Greville?” she asked, artlessly.
Mrs Greville was looking paler still tonight; she withdrew a kerchief and coughed into it, genteelly, before replying.
“Why, my father invested with John, in his mine in India. We met when he visited.”
“Mr Greville has a mine in India?” Catherine’s interest was piqued. “How thrilling!”
“Oh, yes,” said Mrs Greville. “I hope to visit it soon, in fact; we are presently collecting capital for an expansion, and they are really confident it shall double production with a little effort now. Have you ever visited India?”
“No, indeed,” said Catherine. “Woodston is the furthest I have ever been from my birthplace. You must be very afraid to go so far.”
“Not at all,” and indeed Mrs Greville looked perfectly composed. “I am very interested, of course, but not at all afraid. Certainly, John would not take me if he thought it was unsafe.”
“Oh, of course not,” agreed Catherine, although she was not quite so sure.
“In any case, we cannot go until we have acquired the necessary capital,” said Mrs Greville. “So we are visiting General Tilney. Northanger Abbey is quite beautiful, is it not? And so well fitted out.”
Catherine’s dearest hopes for Northanger Abbey having been thoroughly quashed on her first and last visit, she could not quite agree. “All the most modern fittings,” she said, however, and hoped it would be taken for agreement. “I believe the General is very proud of it; I admire the gardens very much.”
“They are lovely. Do you have a garden yourself?”
“We do, around the parsonage. My husband is presently engaged in an expansion.”
“You are newly wed as well, I believe?” Mrs Greville looked at her hands. “I hope you are enjoying your marriage.”
Catherine said, frankly, “At Woodston I believe I am the happiest I have ever been.” She was so clear and certain that Mrs Greville looked a little taken aback. The conversation paused, and after a moment they were joined by Miss Greville, the card party having broken up.
“It is pleasant to see you again, Mrs Tilney,” Miss Greville said, seating herself by Catherine. “We are such a long way from home here, and it is a treat to have some good conversation.”
Catherine smiled, a little surprised. She did not feel herself to be much of a conversationalist, knowing very well that she was not unusually witty nor sophisticated.
“Oh, normally we are quite dull,” said Miss Greville.
Even good-natured Catherine could not fail to notice this pointed bit of nastiness, and Mrs Greville laced her hands together, turning a dull red; her easy conversation with Catherine seemed to have dried up as Miss Greville sat down.
Catherine smiled uneasily, turned to Mrs Greville and said, “But how long have you been away from home?”
“She has never been home,” said Miss Greville. “Mrs Greville and my brother married at the home of Mrs Greville’s father, and since then we have been travelling; she has never visited Hillcrest Hall.”
“I hope to visit before we leave for India,” said Mrs Greville. “But John has told me such a great deal about it.”
“You must miss it very much,” said Catherine to Miss Greville.
“Yes,” said that lady. “We shall all be very glad to return to our own places, I am sure.”
Catherine’s good manners failed her; but just then the gentlemen re-joined them, and she was able to conceal her speechlessness.
“John,” said Miss Greville, turning away, “Come and sit by me, do, and talk to Mrs Tilney with me. She wants to know more about the mine—do you not, Mrs Tilney?”
“Oh, very much,” said Catherine, as Mr Greville joined his sister on the couch.
In the carriage on the way home Catherine leant into Henry with a sleepy sigh. He wrapped an arm around her. “How goes the night, my dear?”
“Well enough,” said Catherine.
“Mr Greville is a fine fellow, is he not? Unlike most of my father’s friends, indeed. Fond of his sister almost as much as his wife.”
“Hmm.” Catherine turned her cheek into his coat. “Mrs Greville is sweet, and seems to love him.”
“They seem a very loving couple, indeed,” said Henry, “just as I told you. Surely you must have found Mrs Greville well today.”
“Not at all,” contradicted his wife. “She was quite unwell. And I believe Miss Greville does not like her sister-in-law above half.”
“That is a pity,” said Henry. “But really she cannot be so very ill; I did not notice anything.”
“I suppose,” said Catherine, dutifully, for Henry, she knew, was observant indeed. Nevertheless, she remained troubled, and as she went to bed that night she lay awake for a long hour thinking about the Grevilles. She was obliged to admit to herself that far from setting her fears at rest, the visit had only made her more deeply concerned for Mrs Greville, and suspicious of the strange relationship between the Greville siblings.
Grateful to have no reason to visit Northanger for the next few days, the young Tilneys went about their business. A Sunday arrived, and Henry gave a sermon; Catherine visited a new baby in the village, and brought its tired mother food; the pair of them contrived to teach one of the dogs to shake hands; and they progressed rapidly through Allerby Hall, each successive chapter more thrilling and ghastly than the last.
Throughout this week, Catherine had determined herself not to think about the Grevilles, and this she did with some success despite every evening learning more of the dastardly goings-on of the strange siblings of Allerby Hall. However, at the end of this peaceful week a letter was delivered that strained her determination to its breaking point. It was from her sister-in-law Eleanor; Catherine read it sitting in her window and rose at once to go to Henry.
He was just coming in from the garden, and Catherine went straight to him and held the letter out in trembling hand. "Henry, you must read this," she said, urgently. "It is from Eleanor—she writes from London—I fear all my suspicions may be confirmed."
"Your suspicions?" Henry smiled, and took the letter. " 'My dear Catherine,' et cetera, et cetera, the baby does well, the charming husband continues charming, et cetera—"
"It is the last paragraph," said Catherine, twisting her hands together.
Henry, eyeing her white face, sped up. " 'You wrote that a family known as the Grevilles are visiting my father. I must advise you that they left London only recently, and strange things have been said about them since their departure. I cannot repeat in detail what I have heard only in hushed and sideways rumours, but I urge great caution. I have written to my father to warn him as well, but I fear that he will not listen to me.’ ” Frowning, Henry folded the letter. “I see why you were concerned,” he said.
“Yes,” said Catherine. “I have been so worried—ever since—” She broke off, and blushed, but steeled herself, and said, “They are so very like the Sharpes in Allerby Hall!”
Henry gave a great crack of laughter. “Catherine!” he said. “Do not tell me you have been thinking of this, just because Mrs Greville may have been ill for a night or so.”
“More than a night,” Catherine said, as stoutly as she could manage. “I am very sure she was still unwell on our last visit. And Miss Greville is quite cruel to her.”
“She may be,” said Henry, “but, my dear girl, you must admit that it is ridiculous to suggest—why, the Sharpes’ history is more than grotesque. It simply cannot be. I am sure that all that Eleanor has heard is that they are not as wealthy as they pretend to be, or unpleasant to their servants, or trying desperately to marry off Miss Greville so that Mrs Greville can be mistress at their home once more. After all, you said they do not get on. And there are many reasons a new bride might be unwell,” he added, with some delicacy.
Catherine blew out a breath in some relief. “Of course you are right,” she said. Part of her still could not believe it, but she knew well that she could not trust that part of herself—not after her error with General Tilney.
“I think we really must confine ourselves to Pilgrim’s Progress and gardening books for some time,” Henry said, taking Catherine’s hand and drawing her along to the sitting room. “Perhaps I ought not have undermined your vow!”
“Perhaps not,” Catherine said, with a sigh.
It was in this mood, determined to regain her sense of proportion, that Catherine replied to a note delivered to the parsonage from Mrs Greville inviting Catherine and Henry to come with her husband and sister to visit a set of local ruins. Catherine, who had never yet visited, was, of course, immediately interested; and, bearing in mind her desire to redeem herself for her silent mistrust, sent her acceptance hastily. The five of them set out that Friday, Catherine determined to erase her prejudices, Henry idly curious, and the Grevilles, Catherine assumed, simply happy for a day away from Northanger and the General’s ways.
They wandered around the ruins contentedly for an hour. Catherine found herself quite delighted by them; they had an adequate number of nooks and crannies, empty windows and vine-clad walks to please even her romantic soul, and she was the first to rise after their picnic on a shaded slope and return to her rambles. Henry rose as if to join her, but she gestured him down, and he smiled, recognising her desire to explore alone. Catherine found herself in the blissful state of wandering around a Gothic ruin quite alone, and in this she indulged for some forty minutes.
At length she found herself in a shady passage, picking her way among fallen stones. She was going carefully, wary of a fall or accident that would prevent her from making her way back to the group, and when she overheard the whispers she stopped almost without intending to. Catherine was, in the general way of things, far too well-bred to indulge in anything like eavesdropping; but, catching a glimpse through a ruined casement of Mr Greville and his sister, she sprang back, and leant against the wall. Even Henry acknowledged, on her later confession, that it was a good thing she did.
"Darling," Mr Greville was saying, "I beg you to be patient." He was kneeling next to her, Catherine perceived, and she looked discontent.
"How can I be patient in these circumstances?" demanded she. "I must watch her hanging all over you and suffer, never knowing how long it will be until we are together again."
"Tilney is a wealthy man. We need his assistance, and an ill wife makes me pitiable."
"He may be wealthy, but he is coarse and closefisted, an odious man. I do not think he has sympathy for anyone other than himself."
"Ah, but his son is different, and most people are influenced by their children. And the son, in turn, may be influenced by his wife, and I believe her to be very sympathetic. We must wait a little longer."
"Please say just a little longer," the lady begged in return. "I cannot abide this place; I long to return to our home."
"Soon, dearest," said he. "As soon as we have the money, we will leave, I promise you." Catherine saw him take her hand, and press it to his mouth, firmly; she was barely able to restrain a gasp, and sank back, taking steps as quietly as she could until she felt herself far enough away to run back to Henry.
General Tilney had insisted that the party return to Northanger Abbey for dinner. Much against her wishes, Catherine had agreed, but after her shocking afternoon she felt less comfortable than ever sharing a carriage with the Grevilles, and was able to contribute very little to the conversation. Henry perceived her discomfort, but said nothing, merely taking her hand discreetly. Catherine let him, but it did not cheer her; in truth, her mind was in a whirl. All thought that she may have misperceived or been led astray by her novel had vanished; all she was determined to do was to reveal all, somehow. She was desperate to tell Henry what she had heard, but felt sure that he would laugh at her, and disapprove. Too, she was not at all sure that she could convey what she had clearly seen in that moment: that Miss Greville and her brother were lovers.
She remained quiet through dinner, trying to think of some way she could reveal this. She managed to be civil to Mrs Greville, but could barely string two words together to Miss Greville and Mr Greville, with whom, unfortunately, she was seated. General Tilney, naturally, noticed this, and made several remarks that made Catherine blush; but she still could not speak, and eventually Henry said, “Sir, Catherine is not well; I beg you to desist.”
“If she is not well, of course she must not travel,” the General said, frostily. “Please, Catherine, will you not rest here for the night? With my son, of course, who I am sure would not leave you.”
“Oh—” Catherine broke off, uncomfortably. She had not stayed at Northanger since the General had banished her from his home on discovering her lack of wealth, and had no particular desire to do so now. Still, to contradict Henry in front of his father, she felt, would not be the behaviour of a supportive wife. “General, you are too kind, but I am afraid it would be some trouble.”
“None at all,” he said, and rang for the housekeeper. “A room for my son and his wife,” said the general; she nodded and left before Catherine could do anything to avert it.
The next course was brought in presently, and Catherine did her best to make conversation; she faltered, however, and was silent once more by the time the dessert plates were removed. As the ladies rose to go to the parlour, she felt around in desperation for an escape, and lit upon one. “I am afraid I must excuse myself,” she said, contriving without much difficulty to seem pale and tired. “I think I will be better with some rest.”
"Are you unwell, Mrs Tilney?" Mrs Greville looked over, brow furrowed.
"I have a tonic," said Miss Greville. "Mrs Greville finds it helps her, does you not? Allow me to come up to your room with it."
"No! No," said Catherine, moderating her tone; in a million years, she felt, she would not drink a tonic prepared by Miss Greville. "I thank you, but I will be quite well with a little rest."
"You must not go alone," said Mr Greville. He came to offer her his arm, and Catherine pulled away, wondering why all three Grevilles were so concerned that she not retire.
Henry came up to her with concern, but Catherine insisted on her ability to climb stairs by herself, and left with the peremptorily-summoned maid to direct her to her room. She let out a little sigh of relief as the door closed behind her, and the maid glanced at her, but said nothing.
The maid directed her to a room near the one where she had stayed on her first visit; as she was about to enter the room, though, Catherine had a sudden thought, and stopped herself. “I wonder if you could tell me where Mr and Mrs Greville are staying?” The maid looked at her askance, and Catherine added, hastily, “I am much inclined to visit the room I had when I was last here, which was just along the corridor, you see. There was a beautiful chest that I remember much admiring.”
“Oh,” said the maid, “Miss Greville is in that one, I am afraid, Mrs Tilney.”
Catherine smiled at her. “I am much obliged for the warning,” she said. “I will not stray! Thank you.” The maid bobbed a curtsey, and left; Catherine entered the room she had been shown to and paused for a minute. Then she cracked the door ajar, and looked out.
Catherine, in the ordinary way of things, would never have dreamt of entering anyone else’s room uninvited or while they were not there. But that afternoon’s sights had taxed her greatly; the dreadful circumstances of Allerby Hall hung heavily upon her, and she was in great fear for Mrs Greville’s life. It was this fear that drove her to creep along the corridor, hoping against hope to remain unseen, and into Miss Greville’s room.
As the forbidden door closed behind her, she gazed around. She had little enough idea of what she might find, realising even as she looked around that her chances of finding a bottle, half-empty, marked “POISON” were surely slender. Instead, she went to the dresser, and there found herself compounding her indiscretion by reading someone else’s letters. The first few were unexceptional; the third, however, a letter as yet unfranked and unsent, had her sinking back onto the bed and re-reading it.
My dear Arabella,
I was grateful to receive your last. We are presently stuck in the most dire little village, in a stately home ruled by a most unpleasant gentleman. However, he has pots of money and fancies himself a canny investor, so William and I are quite sure we shall be able to persuade him into a contribution, and we hope to return soon. Harriet is doing her sickly-wife act, so William and I have barely been able to speak. I miss my husband greatly, and it grates to see another woman draping herself all over him, but the gentleman in question is not nearly so susceptible to convincing in the usual way I convince gentlemen, so needs must. Everyone is mad for diamonds at the moment; for all I know there truly is some mine somewhere in India where an investor could make all the money they desire. Harriet is sterling at this; anyone would believe her stupid stories, and her weak constitution makes her so pitiful I am convinced we have sometimes got money just from sympathy. …
The contents were nearly unbelievable for an honest soul like Catherine’s, but explained much; the unfamiliar name at the bottom made her frown, and then her brow cleared. She rose, and paused uncertainly before the door; was the letter all she needed? But a second glance at it confirmed it for her, and she took the letter, and a second from the dresser, and fairly flew out the door and back down the stairs.
The gentlemen had by this time joined the ladies in the parlour, and the Grevilles, along with General Tilney, were playing cards. Henry stood before the fire, silent. This Catherine saw in a moment; as she burst in the door, all five turned to look at her.
She nearly faltered before their gazes, but a glance at Mrs Greville, pale and quiet, convinced her she must speak.
“Sir,” she said to General Tilney, “May I speak with you?”
“Whatever you have to say may be said here, child,” said the General.
Catherine glanced desperately at the Grevilles, and Henry said, “Come, sir, let us go into the library.” He added, to Catherine, “If I may join you, of course.”
“Of course,” Catherine said.
The three got up and went to the library. There the General said, “Well, girl?”
“Catherine,” said Henry, “I hope this is not—”
“I am afraid it is,” said Catherine, cutting him off. She knew well that if she did not speak now, she never would. “General, I am afraid that your guests have not been honest with you.”
The general snorted. “Don’t be ridiculous,” he said. “Only one guest I have ever had has misrepresented herself.” Catherine felt this like a blow, and Henry took a breath as if to speak in anger; she hastily forestalled him.
“I found this letter in Miss Greville’s room,” she said. “It was wrong of me to enter, but you will see that I had good reason. I heard a conversation this afternoon—but please, read the letter. I think it will explain much.”
The general took it, and began to skim, uncomprehending. As he went on, his brow darkened, and after a moment he crumpled it and flung it aside. Henry picked it up, and began reading.
“It is damning,” he said, coolly, “but the signature is not one of my guests; I do not pretend to know whose it is, but it is no cause for you to broach such an accusation."
Catherine said, "But here is a letter, in the same hand, that is signed by one of your guests." She proffered it. "You see here that it has been signed by Miss Greville. Indeed, sir, if you inspect her room you will find others in that same hand."
The general glanced at it, and his hand clenched. He strode towards the door.
Catherine went to follow him, but Henry caught her hand. He had finished reading the letter, and said to her, "This is fantastic. Can it be true?"
"I am certain it is. I saw—Miss Greville and Mr Greville—I believe that they may not be siblings—at least, I hope—"
"Say no more," Henry said, a horrified look on his face. "I must heartily beg your forgiveness; you were strangely right to have suspected them."
"No," said Catherine, "you were right. The explanation was mundane. No poisoning was in the offing!"
"I can hardly call it mundane," said Henry. "They might have taken a great deal of money from my father; if he had convinced himself it was clever—thank goodness you found the letter."
They left the library, and headed towards the parlour; hearing, however, a great deal of shouting from General Tilney, as well as from the various Grevilles, they drew back.
Henry said, "It is late, but the moon is full. Do you think we might risk calling for the carriage?"
Catherine smiled at him. "I think we had better," she said, and the two of them left Northanger not thirty minutes later.
The young Tilneys avoided Northanger Abbey for the next few days, but Catherine, on a pastoral visit, was able to glean from the baker's wife, whose sister was a maid at Northanger, that the Grevilles had left Northanger with even less ceremony than Catherine had departed, and that General Tilney was said to be furious—which only doubled the pair's resolve to remain at the parsonage until they were summoned. Catherine devoutly hoped that they could avoid a visit until Eleanor arrived, in a few months' time, to present the general with his first grandchild.
From Eleanor, shortly, there arrived another letter, and another package. The letter, dated a week after the Grevilles' departure, was full of London gossip, and included some notes that confirmed all of Catherine and Henry's conjecture. It was found that several wealthy families had been taken advantage of by the unscrupulous trio, and lost large sums on an investment in a diamond mine that, Eleanor wrote, was popularly supposed to have been entirely a figment. Catherine read this with some satisfaction; Henry, meanwhile, unwrapped the package, which consisted of three volumes, and presented them to her.
"I specifically requested this," he said, "for I have come to the conclusion that nothing can do you so much good as a Gothic novel!"