فصل 03

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فصل 03

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Chapter three

A Complicated Social Life

The young ladies’ progress was stopped at the busiest crossroads in Bath. Every day parties of ladies out on important tasks like buying cakes, trying on hats, or even (as in the present case) searching the roads for two young men, were held up by the traffic at this corner.

‘We shall be kept here for a terribly long time,’ Isabella complained. ‘Look at this carriage coming towards us. What dangerous driving!’ But Isabella’s attitude changed when she looked again. ‘How delightful! It is Mr Morland and my brother!’

‘Good heavens! It is James!’ uttered Catherine when she saw her blond, blue-eyed brother.

John Thorpe and James Morland got out of their carriage, and although Catherine was totally surprised by the arrival of her brother, she greeted him with the most sincere pleasure. James could not say much to his sister for the moment because Miss Thorpe clearly intended to gain his attention with her flirtatious eyes and sweet smiles. James responded to Isabella with a mixture of joy and embarrassment which, if she had been more of an expert in matters of the heart, might have given Catherine a clue to the reason for her brother’s visit.

John Thorpe, a rather fat young man of medium height with a plain face and ungraceful style, immediately claimed everyone’s attention. Looking at his watch, he shouted, ‘Twenty-five miles from Tetbury to Bath in two and a half hours! We left Tetbury as the town clock struck eleven.’

‘You have lost an hour, John,’ James Morland corrected him. We left the inn at Tetbury at ten o’clock.’

‘Miss Morland, your brother is dreaming. My horse could never take over three hours for such a journey. And have you noticed my carriage? I just gave fifty pounds for it to a friend at Oxford. Now, lead the way to Mother’s lodgings, Isabella.’ Isabella was so happy to take James’s arm and when they passed the two offensive young men from the Pump Room, she only looked back at them three times.

Mr Thorpe accompanied Catherine, and no sooner had they begun their walk than he started to talk about his superior carriage again.

‘Do you like an open carriage, Miss Morland?’

‘Very much, but I have few opportunities of being in one.’

‘I shall drive you to Lansdown Hill tomorrow, and I shall take you out in my carriage every day that I am in Bath.’

Catherine was not sure if this was an appropriate arrangement, but she said, ‘Thank you, but won’t your horse need a rest?’

‘Never! That horse has only covered twenty-five miles today. Too much rest ruins a good horse. I am an expert on horses and tomorrow you and I will drive to Lansdown, Miss Morland.’ Isabella was listening to her brother and turned and said, ‘And what about me?’

‘Isabella, I did not come to Bath to drive my sisters around, especially not those two ugly younger ones. Anyway, Morland must take care of you.’ And turning towards Catherine, he said, ‘Miss Morland, let us be dance partners this evening. It is always good to get these annoying arrangements out of the way.’

After getting her agreement, Mr Thorpe seemed to give up chatting with Catherine. Instead, he made comments to her about the appearance of every woman they passed. Some he said were pretty, some fat, some old, some almost handsome. Although Catherine was very inexperienced, she doubted if Mr Thorpe was behaving very politely, so she tried to change the direction of his comments.

‘Have you ever read Udolpho, Mr Thorpe?’

‘Lord, no! There has not been a good novel since Tom Jones.’

‘You might like Udolpho; it is so interesting,’ said Catherine.

‘No, if I read any, it will be one of Mrs Radcliff’s; she knows something about real life,’ said Mr Thorpe confidently.

Catherine did not want to embarrass Mr Thorpe, but she had to say, ‘Udolpho was written by Mrs Radcliff.’

‘Was it? Oh, yes,’ Mr Thorpe replied. ‘I was thinking of that other stupid book by that woman who married a foreigner. Keep away from anything she has written.’

Once again Catherine felt that she had misunderstood the reasoning behind someone’s opinions.


When James Morland visited his sister and Mr and Mrs Allen at their lodgings later that afternoon, he asked, ‘Well, Catherine, how do you like my friend Thorpe?’

If John Thorpe had had no connection to her brother or to her new friend, and if there had been no invitations for carriage rides and dance partners, Catherine would have said, ‘I do not like him at all.’ But under the present circumstances, she said, ‘I like him very much; he seems very agreeable.’

‘He is a good-natured fellow. Perhaps a little too full of opinions sometimes, but you girls like that in a gentleman, don’t you? And how do you like the rest of the family?’

‘Oh, very much, especially Isabella,’ Catherine said happily.

‘I am very glad to hear you say that,’ said James. ‘She has so much good sense and is so friendly and kind. Since I met her, I have wanted you to meet her and now I learn that she already has a very high opinion of you. I am sure you may be very proud of receiving praise from a girl like Miss Thorpe. And I am sure she is greatly admired in a place like Bath, isn’t she?’

‘I believe so,’ agreed Catherine. ‘Mr Allen thinks that she is the prettiest girl in the city.’

‘I do not know any man who is a better judge of beauty than Mr Allen. And, dear Catherine, are you pleased to be here?’

‘James, I have never been so happy,’ admitted Catherine. ‘Everything is so exciting, and now I am even more delighted. How good it is of you to come so far to see me.’

The Morland children had been taught not to lie, so James chose his next words carefully. He simply said, ‘My sweet Catherine, I love you dearly.’


The Thorpes and the Allens, with Catherine and James Morland, met that evening in the Upper Rooms. Isabella was all smiles when she saw Catherine, and the two girls followed their chaperones into the ballroom, whispering to each other and exchanging affectionate glances.

James was engaged to dance with Miss Thorpe, and invited her to join the sets of dancers when the music began. Catherine, who you will remember was also engaged to dance, could not see her partner anywhere.

‘Mr Morland, I cannot possibly begin to dance while my dear friend is without a partner. We will wait here with her until my brother returns,’ explained Isabella.

Catherine felt very grateful for this kindness, and she continued to chat with Isabella for another three minutes. But after turning to James Morland on her left, Isabella whispered, ‘My dear Catherine, your brother is so impatient to begin. I know you will forgive me for going away, and I am sure John will return in a moment, and then you can come and find me.’

Catherine was too polite to oppose her friend’s plan as she watched the couple hurry on to the dance floor, but she was upset and rather cross. Not only did she want to dance, but she also did not want to be pointed out as a young lady in need of a dance partner. Nevertheless, such things happen in a heroine’s life; Catherine suffered, but she made no comment about the disappointment caused by John Thorpe’s rude behaviour.

After another ten minutes, Catherine was shaken from this angry state by the sight of Mr Henry Tilney, who was walking towards her party with a young woman on his arm. Fortunately he had not seen her yet so she was able, like a true heroine, to hide her blush and sudden smile.

Mr Tilney looked as handsome and as full of life as Catherine remembered as he chatted with the stylish, good-looking young woman at his side. Instead of turning pale and filling her head with tragic thoughts of a possible Mrs Henry Tilney, Catherine correctly guessed that the young lady was the sister who Mr Tilney had mentioned to her and Mrs Allen on Friday.

One of the ladies in the Tilneys’ party, a Mrs Hughes, was an acquaintance of Mrs Thorpe’s, and as she spoke to Isabella’s mother, Mr Tilney saw Catherine and smiled at her in recognition. Catherine returned his smile very prettily and said, ‘How nice to see you again, sir. I was afraid you had left Bath.’

‘Thank you, Miss Morland, for your fears. I had to leave Bath the morning after I had the pleasure of meeting you.’

‘Well, sir, I hope you are happy to be back again. I find Bath an exciting place at this time of year,’ responded Catherine.

After a few enjoyable moments of conversation, Mr Tilney asked Catherine to dance with him. This delightful invitation produced terrible anxiety in our heroine; and in giving her refusal, she expressed her genuine sorrow, explaining that she was already engaged to dance with another gentleman.

Just then John Thorpe inconveniently wandered over to the group and claimed Catherine as his partner. As they danced, Mr Thorpe’s conversation about buying a good hunting dog allowed Catherine to keep watch on the part of the room where she had left Mr Tilney. She also looked around for Isabella, wanting to point out Henry Tilney to her dear friend, but she seemed cruelly separated from friends and acquaintances.

As Mr Thorpe continued his one-sided conversation, Catherine began to realise a useful lesson: it is not always best to arrange your dance partners before going to a ball. But luckily Catherine’s thoughts were interrupted by a light touch on her shoulder from Mrs Hughes.

‘I beg your pardon, Miss Morland,’ Mrs Hughes began.

‘Would you allow Miss Tilney and her partner to join your set?’ Catherine could not have been more pleased. She now had the opportunity to chat with Henry’s sister, and she welcomed the young lady very warmly and politely.

Miss Tilney was attractive in every way; she was not as fashionable as Miss Isabella Thorpe, but she was more naturally elegant. She was polite to everyone and was capable of being young, beautiful and at a ball without flirting with every man near her, and without becoming over-excited or over-dramatic about insignificant flattery.

At the conclusion of the two dances, Catherine found her arm immediately seized by her dear Isabella, who in an excited voice cried, ‘At last I have got you. Why didn’t you and John join our set? I have been quite miserable without you. I kept telling your brother to search for you, but he was extremely lazy and would not leave my side. Isn’t that right, Mr Morland? I have been scolding him all evening. You would be amazed.’ Catherine pulled Isabella away from James and whispered urgently, ‘Do you see that young lady with the white ribbons in her hair? It is Mr Tilney’s sister.’

‘Oh! Let me get a good look at her!’ cried Isabella. ‘I have never seen anyone half as beautiful! So wonderfully dressed! But where is her famous brother? I am dying to see him.’

‘What is all this whispering about?’ asked James.

‘Men are so much more curious than women,’ teased Isabella. ‘This is not about you and we will not tell you anything about it.’

‘And is that likely to satisfy me?’ James asked with a smile.

‘Please don’t listen,’ Isabella smiled back. ‘Perhaps we are talking about you and you may hear something disagreeable.’ This flirtatious chat continued between Isabella and James for so long that the original topic seemed entirely forgotten. Although Catherine felt a sense of relief to have the subject of Henry Tilney dropped, she was a bit disturbed by Isabella’s apparent lack of interest in her news.

When the music began again, James started to lead Isabella to the dance floor.

‘Catherine, tell your brother we must change partners after two dances together,’ Isabella cried.

‘My dear Miss Thorpe,’ objected James politely, ‘in these public assemblies, we are not required to change partners.’

‘You men,’ cried Isabella, ‘always insist that you are correct about everything! Catherine, tell your brother that everyone, including you, would be shocked if we danced together again.’

‘I do not see why anyone would be shocked,’ Catherine said innocently, ‘but if you think it is wrong, you should, of course, change partners.’

‘You see, James, your sister is on my side, but you will not listen to her! Well remember, sir, it is not my fault if all the old ladies start gossiping about us.’

And off she went to dance again with Mr James Morland. Meanwhile, John Thorpe had disappeared again and Catherine had to return to her seat beside Mrs Allen and Mrs Thorpe.

‘Oh, my dear, did you see Mr Tilney just now? He was tired of sitting and went off to find a dance partner,’ reported Mrs Allen. ‘I thought perhaps he would ask you to dance, if he saw you.’

‘Where can he be?’ said Catherine desperately. She looked round and saw him leading a young lady to the dance floor.

Catherine had missed the most desirable opportunity of the evening and was not in a friendly mood when John Thorpe came up to her and said, ‘Well, Miss Morland, I suppose you and I should have another dance together.’

‘No, thank you,’ Catherine said rather coolly. ‘I do not intend to dance again this evening.’

‘Oh, really? Well, let us walk around the room and examine everyone. We could start with my two younger sisters and their partners. Did you ever see such silly, unattractive girls?’

Catherine did not enjoy Mr Thorpe’s comments and again excused herself from joining him. She sat with the older ladies and found the rest of the evening very dull.

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