Catherine's expectations of pleasure from her visit in Milsom Street were s_ery high that disappointment was inevitable; and accordingly, though she wa_ost politely received by General Tilney, and kindly welcomed by his daughter, though Henry was at home, and no one else of the party, she found, on he_eturn, without spending many hours in the examination of her feelings, tha_he had gone to her appointment preparing for happiness which it had no_fforded. Instead of finding herself improved in acquaintance with Mis_ilney, from the intercourse of the day, she seemed hardly so intimate wit_er as before; instead of seeing Henry Tilney to greater advantage than ever, in the ease of a family party, he had never said so little, nor been so littl_greeable; and, in spite of their father's great civilities to her — in spit_f his thanks, invitations, and compliments — it had been a release to ge_way from him. It puzzled her to account for all this. It could not be Genera_ilney's fault. That he was perfectly agreeable and good-natured, an_ltogether a very charming man, did not admit of a doubt, for he was tall an_andsome, and Henry's father. He could not be accountable for his children'_ant of spirits, or for her want of enjoyment in his company. The former sh_oped at last might have been accidental, and the latter she could onl_ttribute to her own stupidity. Isabella, on hearing the particulars of th_isit, gave a different explanation: "It was all pride, pride, insufferabl_aughtiness and pride! She had long suspected the family to be very high, an_his made it certain. Such insolence of behaviour as Miss Tilney's she ha_ever heard of in her life! Not to do the honours of her house with commo_ood breeding! To behave to her guest with such superciliousness! Hardly eve_o speak to her!"
"But it was not so bad as that, Isabella; there was no superciliousness; sh_as very civil."
"Oh! Don't defend her! And then the brother, he, who had appeared so attache_o you! Good heavens! Well, some people's feelings are incomprehensible. An_o he hardly looked once at you the whole day?"
"I do not say so; but he did not seem in good spirits."
"How contemptible! Of all things in the world inconstancy is my aversion. Le_e entreat you never to think of him again, my dear Catherine; indeed he i_nworthy of you."
"Unworthy! I do not suppose he ever thinks of me."
"That is exactly what I say; he never thinks of you. Such fickleness! Oh! Ho_ifferent to your brother and to mine! I really believe John has the mos_onstant heart."
"But as for General Tilney, I assure you it would be impossible for anybody t_ehave to me with greater civility and attention; it seemed to be his onl_are to entertain and make me happy."
"Oh! I know no harm of him; I do not suspect him of pride. I believe he is _ery gentleman-like man. John thinks very well of him, and John's judgment — "
"Well, I shall see how they behave to me this evening; we shall meet them a_he rooms."
"And must I go?"
"Do not you intend it? I thought it was all settled."
"Nay, since you make such a point of it, I can refuse you nothing. But do no_nsist upon my being very agreeable, for my heart, you know, will be som_orty miles off. And as for dancing, do not mention it, I beg; that is quit_ut of the question. Charles Hodges will plague me to death, I dare say; but _hall cut him very short. Ten to one but he guesses the reason, and that i_xactly what I want to avoid, so I shall insist on his keeping his conjectur_o himself."
Isabella's opinion of the Tilneys did not influence her friend; she was sur_here had been no insolence in the manners either of brother or sister; an_he did not credit there being any pride in their hearts. The evening rewarde_er confidence; she was met by one with the same kindness, and by the othe_ith the same attention, as heretofore: Miss Tilney took pains to be near her, and Henry asked her to dance.
Having heard the day before in Milsom Street that their elder brother, Captai_ilney, was expected almost every hour, she was at no loss for the name of _ery fashionable-looking, handsome young man, whom she had never seen before, and who now evidently belonged to their party. She looked at him with grea_dmiration, and even supposed it possible that some people might think hi_andsomer than his brother, though, in her eyes, his air was more assuming, and his countenance less prepossessing. His taste and manners were beyond _oubt decidedly inferior; for, within her hearing, he not only proteste_gainst every thought of dancing himself, but even laughed openly at Henry fo_inding it possible. From the latter circumstance it may be presumed that, whatever might be our heroine's opinion of him, his admiration of her was no_f a very dangerous kind; not likely to produce animosities between th_rothers, nor persecutions to the lady. He cannot be the instigator of th_hree villains in horsemen's greatcoats, by whom she will hereafter be force_nto a traveling-chaise and four, which will drive off with incredible speed.
Catherine, meanwhile, undisturbed by presentiments of such an evil, or of an_vil at all, except that of having but a short set to dance down, enjoyed he_sual happiness with Henry Tilney, listening with sparkling eyes to everythin_e said; and, in finding him irresistible, becoming so herself.
At the end of the first dance, Captain Tilney came towards them again, and, much to Catherine's dissatisfaction, pulled his brother away. They retire_hispering together; and, though her delicate sensibility did not tak_mmediate alarm, and lay it down as fact, that Captain Tilney must have hear_ome malevolent misrepresentation of her, which he now hastened to communicat_o his brother, in the hope of separating them forever, she could not have he_artner conveyed from her sight without very uneasy sensations. Her suspens_as of full five minutes' duration; and she was beginning to think it a ver_ong quarter of an hour, when they both returned, and an explanation wa_iven, by Henry's requesting to know if she thought her friend, Miss Thorpe, would have any objection to dancing, as his brother would be most happy to b_ntroduced to her. Catherine, without hesitation, replied that she was ver_ure Miss Thorpe did not mean to dance at all. The cruel reply was passed o_o the other, and he immediately walked away.
"Your brother will not mind it, I know," said she, "because I heard him sa_efore that he hated dancing; but it was very good-natured in him to think o_t. I suppose he saw Isabella sitting down, and fancied she might wish for _artner; but he is quite mistaken, for she would not dance upon any account i_he world."
Henry smiled, and said, "How very little trouble it can give you to understan_he motive of other people's actions."
"Why? What do you mean?"
"With you, it is not, How is such a one likely to be influenced, What is th_nducement most likely to act upon such a person's feelings, age, situation, and probable habits of life considered — but, How should I be influenced, Wha_ould be my inducement in acting so and so?"
"I do not understand you."
"Then we are on very unequal terms, for I understand you perfectly well."
"Me? Yes; I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible."
"Bravo! An excellent satire on modern language."
"But pray tell me what you mean."
"Shall I indeed? Do you really desire it? But you are not aware of th_onsequences; it will involve you in a very cruel embarrassment, and certainl_ring on a disagreement between us.
"No, no; it shall not do either; I am not afraid."
"Well, then, I only meant that your attributing my brother's wish of dancin_ith Miss Thorpe to good nature alone convinced me of your being superior i_ood nature yourself to all the rest of the world."
Catherine blushed and disclaimed, and the gentleman's predictions wer_erified. There was a something, however, in his words which repaid her fo_he pain of confusion; and that something occupied her mind so much that sh_rew back for some time, forgetting to speak or to listen, and almos_orgetting where she was; till, roused by the voice of Isabella, she looked u_nd saw her with Captain Tilney preparing to give them hands across.
Isabella shrugged her shoulders and smiled, the only explanation of thi_xtraordinary change which could at that time be given; but as it was no_uite enough for Catherine's comprehension, she spoke her astonishment in ver_lain terms to her partner.
"I cannot think how it could happen! Isabella was so determined not to dance."
"And did Isabella never change her mind before?"
"Oh! But, because — And your brother! After what you told him from me, ho_ould he think of going to ask her?"
"I cannot take surprise to myself on that head. You bid me be surprised o_our friend's account, and therefore I am; but as for my brother, his conduc_n the business, I must own, has been no more than I believed him perfectl_qual to. The fairness of your friend was an open attraction; her firmness, you know, could only be understood by yourself."
"You are laughing; but, I assure you, Isabella is very firm in general."
"It is as much as should be said of anyone. To be always firm must be to b_ften obstinate. When properly to relax is the trial of judgment; and, withou_eference to my brother, I really think Miss Thorpe has by no means chosen il_n fixing on the present hour."
The friends were not able to get together for any confidential discourse til_ll the dancing was over; but then, as they walked about the room arm in arm, Isabella thus explained herself: "I do not wonder at your surprise; and I a_eally fatigued to death. He is such a rattle! Amusing enough, if my mind ha_een disengaged; but I would have given the world to sit still."
"Then why did not you?"
"Oh! My dear! It would have looked so particular; and you know how I abho_oing that. I refused him as long as I possibly could, but he would take n_enial. You have no idea how he pressed me. I begged him to excuse me, and ge_ome other partner — but no, not he; after aspiring to my hand, there wa_obody else in the room he could bear to think of; and it was not that h_anted merely to dance, he wanted to be with me. Oh! Such nonsense! I told hi_e had taken a very unlikely way to prevail upon me; for, of all things in th_orld, I hated fine speeches and compliments; and so — and so then I foun_here would be no peace if I did not stand up. Besides, I thought Mrs. Hughes, who introduced him, might take it ill if I did not: and your dear brother, _m sure he would have been miserable if I had sat down the whole evening. I a_o glad it is over! My spirits are quite jaded with listening to his nonsense: and then, being such a smart young fellow, I saw every eye was upon us."
"He is very handsome indeed."
"Handsome! Yes, I suppose he may. I dare say people would admire him i_eneral; but he is not at all in my style of beauty. I hate a flori_omplexion and dark eyes in a man. However, he is very well. Amazingl_onceited, I am sure. I took him down several times, you know, in my way."
When the young ladies next met, they had a far more interesting subject t_iscuss. James Morland's second letter was then received, and the kin_ntentions of his father fully explained. A living, of which Mr. Morland wa_imself patron and incumbent, of about four hundred pounds yearly value, wa_o be resigned to his son as soon as he should be old enough to take it; n_rifling deduction from the family income, no niggardly assignment to one o_en children. An estate of at least equal value, moreover, was assured as hi_uture inheritance.
James expressed himself on the occasion with becoming gratitude; and th_ecessity of waiting between two and three years before they could marry, being, however unwelcome, no more than he had expected, was borne by hi_ithout discontent. Catherine, whose expectations had been as unfixed as he_deas of her father's income, and whose judgment was now entirely led by he_rother, felt equally well satisfied, and heartily congratulated Isabella o_aving everything so pleasantly settled.
"It is very charming indeed," said Isabella, with a grave face. "Mr. Morlan_as behaved vastly handsome indeed," said the gentle Mrs. Thorpe, lookin_nxiously at her daughter. "I only wish I could do as much. One could no_xpect more from him, you know. If he finds he can do more by and by, I dar_ay he will, for I am sure he must be an excellent good-hearted man. Fou_undred is but a small income to begin on indeed, but your wishes, my dea_sabella, are so moderate, you do not consider how little you ever want, m_ear."
"It is not on my own account I wish for more; but I cannot bear to be th_eans of injuring my dear Morland, making him sit down upon an income hardl_nough to find one in the common necessaries of life. For myself, it i_othing; I never think of myself."
"I know you never do, my dear; and you will always find your reward in th_ffection it makes everybody feel for you. There never was a young woman s_eloved as you are by everybody that knows you; and I dare say when Mr.
Morland sees you, my dear child — but do not let us distress our dea_atherine by talking of such things. Mr. Morland has behaved so very handsome, you know. I always heard he was a most excellent man; and you know, my dear, we are not to suppose but what, if you had had a suitable fortune, he woul_ave come down with something more, for I am sure he must be a most liberal- minded man."
"Nobody can think better of Mr. Morland than I do, I am sure. But everybod_as their failing, you know, and everybody has a right to do what they lik_ith their own money." Catherine was hurt by these insinuations. "I am ver_ure," said she, "that my father has promised to do as much as he can afford."
Isabella recollected herself. "As to that, my sweet Catherine, there cannot b_ doubt, and you know me well enough to be sure that a much smaller incom_ould satisfy me. It is not the want of more money that makes me just a_resent a little out of spirits; I hate money; and if our union could tak_lace now upon only fifty pounds a year, I should not have a wish unsatisfied.
Ah! my Catherine, you have found me out. There's the sting. The long, long, endless two years and half that are to pass before your brother can hold th_iving."
"Yes, yes, my darling Isabella," said Mrs. Thorpe, "we perfectly see into you_eart. You have no disguise. We perfectly understand the present vexation; an_verybody must love you the better for such a noble honest affection."
Catherine's uncomfortable feelings began to lessen. She endeavoured to believ_hat the delay of the marriage was the only source of Isabella's regret; an_hen she saw her at their next interview as cheerful and amiable as ever, endeavoured to forget that she had for a minute thought otherwise. James soo_ollowed his letter, and was received with the most gratifying kindness.