The following conversation, which took place between the two friends in th_ump-room one morning, after an acquaintance of eight or nine days, is give_s a specimen of their very warm attachment, and of the delicacy, discretion, originality of thought, and literary taste which marked the reasonableness o_hat attachment.
They met by appointment; and as Isabella had arrived nearly five minute_efore her friend, her first address naturally was, "My dearest creature, wha_an have made you so late? I have been waiting for you at least this age!"
"Have you, indeed! I am very sorry for it; but really I thought I was in ver_ood time. It is but just one. I hope you have not been here long?"
"Oh! These ten ages at least. I am sure I have been here this half hour. Bu_ow, let us go and sit down at the other end of the room, and enjoy ourselves.
I have an hundred things to say to you. In the first place, I was so afraid i_ould rain this morning, just as I wanted to set off; it looked very showery, and that would have thrown me into agonies! Do you know, I saw the pretties_at you can imagine, in a shop window in Milsom Street just now — very lik_ours, only with coquelicot ribbons instead of green; I quite longed for it.
But, my dearest Catherine, what have you been doing with yourself all thi_orning? Have you gone on with Udolpho?"
"Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am got to the blac_eil."
"Are you, indeed? How delightful! Oh! I would not tell you what is behind th_lack veil for the world! Are not you wild to know?"
"Oh! Yes, quite; what can it be? But do not tell me — I would not be told upo_ny account. I know it must be a skeleton, I am sure it is Laurentina'_keleton. Oh! I am delighted with the book! I should like to spend my whol_ife in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I would no_ave come away from it for all the world."
"Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and when you have finishe_dolpho, we will read the Italian together; and I have made out a list of te_r twelve more of the same kind for you."
"Have you, indeed! How glad I am! What are they all?"
"I will read you their names directly; here they are, in my pocketbook. Castl_f Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysterious Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will last u_ome time."
"Yes, pretty well; but are they all horrid, are you sure they are all horrid?"
"Yes, quite sure; for a particular friend of mine, a Miss Andrews, a swee_irl, one of the sweetest creatures in the world, has read every one of them.
I wish you knew Miss Andrews, you would be delighted with her. She is nettin_erself the sweetest cloak you can conceive. I think her as beautiful as a_ngel, and I am so vexed with the men for not admiring her! I scold them al_mazingly about it."
"Scold them! Do you scold them for not admiring her?"
"Yes, that I do. There is nothing I would not do for those who are really m_riends. I have no notion of loving people by halves; it is not my nature. M_ttachments are always excessively strong. I told Captain Hunt at one of ou_ssemblies this winter that if he was to tease me all night, I would not danc_ith him, unless he would allow Miss Andrews to be as beautiful as an angel.
The men think us incapable of real friendship, you know, and I am determine_o show them the difference. Now, if I were to hear anybody speak slightingl_f you, I should fire up in a moment: but that is not at all likely, for yo_re just the kind of girl to be a great favourite with the men."
"Oh, dear!" cried Catherine, colouring. "How can you say so?"
"I know you very well; you have so much animation, which is exactly what Mis_ndrews wants, for I must confess there is something amazingly insipid abou_er. Oh! I must tell you, that just after we parted yesterday, I saw a youn_an looking at you so earnestly — I am sure he is in love with you." Catherin_oloured, and disclaimed again. Isabella laughed. "It is very true, upon m_onour, but I see how it is; you are indifferent to everybody's admiration, except that of one gentleman, who shall be nameless. Nay, I cannot blame you"
— speaking more seriously — "your feelings are easily understood. Where th_eart is really attached, I know very well how little one can be pleased wit_he attention of anybody else. Everything is so insipid, so uninteresting, that does not relate to the beloved object! I can perfectly comprehend you_eelings."
"But you should not persuade me that I think so very much about Mr. Tilney, for perhaps I may never see him again."
"Not see him again! My dearest creature, do not talk of it. I am sure yo_ould be miserable if you thought so!"
"No, indeed, I should not. I do not pretend to say that I was not very muc_leased with him; but while I have Udolpho to read, I feel as if nobody coul_ake me miserable. Oh! The dreadful black veil! My dear Isabella, I am sur_here must be Laurentina's skeleton behind it."
"It is so odd to me, that you should never have read Udolpho before; but _uppose Mrs. Morland objects to novels."
"No, she does not. She very often reads Sir Charles Grandison herself; but ne_ooks do not fall in our way."
"Sir Charles Grandison! That is an amazing horrid book, is it not? I remembe_iss Andrews could not get through the first volume."
"It is not like Udolpho at all; but yet I think it is very entertaining."
"Do you indeed! You surprise me; I thought it had not been readable. But, m_earest Catherine, have you settled what to wear on your head tonight? I a_etermined at all events to be dressed exactly like you. The men take notic_f that sometimes, you know."
"But it does not signify if they do," said Catherine, very innocently.
"Signify! Oh, heavens! I make it a rule never to mind what they say. They ar_ery often amazingly impertinent if you do not treat them with spirit, an_ake them keep their distance."
"Are they? Well, I never observed that. They always behave very well to me."
"Oh! They give themselves such airs. They are the most conceited creatures i_he world, and think themselves of so much importance! By the by, though _ave thought of it a hundred times, I have always forgot to ask you what i_our favourite complexion in a man. Do you like them best dark or fair?"
"I hardly know. I never much thought about it. Something between both, _hink. Brown — not fair, and — and not very dark."
"Very well, Catherine. That is exactly he. I have not forgot your descriptio_f Mr. Tilney — 'a brown skin, with dark eyes, and rather dark hair.' Well, m_aste is different. I prefer light eyes, and as to complexion — do you know — I like a sallow better than any other. You must not betray me, if you shoul_ver meet with one of your acquaintance answering that description."
"Betray you! What do you mean?"
"Nay, do not distress me. I believe I have said too much. Let us drop th_ubject."
Catherine, in some amazement, complied, and after remaining a few moment_ilent, was on the point of reverting to what interested her at that tim_ather more than anything else in the world, Laurentina's skeleton, when he_riend prevented her, by saying, "For heaven's sake! Let us move away fro_his end of the room. Do you know, there are two odious young men who hav_een staring at me this half hour. They really put me quite out o_ountenance. Let us go and look at the arrivals. They will hardly follow u_here."
Away they walked to the book; and while Isabella examined the names, it wa_atherine's employment to watch the proceedings of these alarming young men.
"They are not coming this way, are they? I hope they are not so impertinent a_o follow us. Pray let me know if they are coming. I am determined I will no_ook up."
In a few moments Catherine, with unaffected pleasure, assured her that sh_eed not be longer uneasy, as the gentlemen had just left the pump-room.
"And which way are they gone?" said Isabella, turning hastily round. "One wa_ very good-looking young man."
"They went towards the church-yard."
"Well, I am amazingly glad I have got rid of them! And now, what say you t_oing to Edgar's Buildings with me, and looking at my new hat? You said yo_hould like to see it."
Catherine readily agreed. "Only," she added, "perhaps we may overtake the tw_oung men."
"Oh! Never mind that. If we make haste, we shall pass by them presently, and _m dying to show you my hat."
"But if we only wait a few minutes, there will be no danger of our seeing the_t all."
"I shall not pay them any such compliment, I assure you. I have no notion o_reating men with such respect. That is the way to spoil them."
Catherine had nothing to oppose against such reasoning; and therefore, to sho_he independence of Miss Thorpe, and her resolution of humbling the sex, the_et off immediately as fast as they could walk, in pursuit of the two youn_en.