فصل 04

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فصل 04

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Chapter four

A Shift in Our Heroine’s Affections

Catherine’s reaction to her disappointing evening in the Upper Rooms was to go to bed and sleep for nine uninterrupted hours. She awoke the next morning perfectly rested, in excellent spirits and with fresh hopes and schemes. She wanted to get to know Miss Tilney better, and with that in mind, she planned to go in the early afternoon to the Pump Room, where any new arrival in Bath was likely to be. And so our heroine happily sat with Mrs Allen that morning, reading her book and smiling at her companion’s comments about everything that crossed her mind, from a stain on the carpet to the noise of a carriage in the street.

Then at about half past twelve, an extremely loud knock on the door made both ladies look up suddenly. Before the servant could announce him, Mr John Thorpe came running up the stairs and into Mrs Allen’s sitting-room.

‘Well, Miss Morland, here we are. Isabella and your brother are waiting outside in their carriage and are in a great hurry to get going. Good morning, Mrs Allen. A terribly good ball last night, wasn’t it? Have you seen my fine carriage outside? Far superior to the rented carriage Morland is driving.’

‘Mr Thorpe, what is happening?’ asked Catherine.

‘Miss Morland, what a silly girl you are. You agreed to go for a drive this morning. We are all going up Claverton Hill.’

‘I remember that you mentioned a carriage ride, but really I did not expect you,’ Catherine explained.

‘Not expect me! I wonder how you would have complained if I had not come for you!’ shouted John Thorpe.

Catherine did not know what to do and so looked to Mrs Allen for guidance. She wondered if it was proper to go for a drive in Mr Thorpe’s carriage without a chaperone. Would Mrs Allen approve since James and Isabella were going too?

‘Well, madam, shall I go or not?’ asked Catherine.

‘Do as you please, my dear,’ replied Mrs Allen calmly. She did not seem to understand any of Catherine’s anxiety.

A drive in an open carriage with Isabella and James following behind in a second carriage was almost as exciting as the possibility of another meeting with Miss Tilney, and, with Mrs Allen’s permission, Catherine was ready to go in two minutes.

As she and Mr Thorpe hurried out of the house, they were greeted by Isabella.

‘Catherine! My dearest creature! What a delightful ball we had last night. I have a thousand things to discuss with you. But now I am anxious to begin our adventure.’

John Thorpe helped Catherine into his carriage, saying, ‘Don’t be frightened, Miss Morland, if my horse shows a bit of spirit. You are in no danger; I am an excellent horseman!’

With this warning, Catherine was surprised when the horse started and continued in the quietest manner imaginable. A silence of several minutes was broken when Mr Thorpe suddenly asked, ‘Old Allen is one of the richest men in Wiltshire, isn’t he?’

‘Oh, do you mean Mr Allen?’ asked Catherine, not understanding how this topic of conversation had come up. ‘Yes, I believe he is very rich.’

‘And no children at all?’

‘No, not any.’

‘And he is a relative of yours, isn’t he?’

‘Oh, no. We are not related,’

‘But you spend a lot of time with them.’

‘Yes, very much.’

After that short exchange, Mr Thorpe talked about more topics that interested him: his horse, the value of his carriage, his skill as a horseman, the expensive wine he served in his Oxford apartment. Catherine had been brought up in a family of plain people who were not in the habit of telling lies or exaggerating their own importance. Mr Thorpe, on the other hand, was obviously accustomed to a type of conversation which always began and ended with praise for himself.

Catherine had little idea of how such young men ought to behave, but she could not rid herself of the conviction that Mr Thorpe was not an agreeable person. It was a difficult and bold conclusion to come to, since he was her brother’s friend and dear Isabella’s brother; but in spite of this, when she was in John Thorpe’s company Catherine was quickly bored and felt exhausted by his lack of interest in anything but himself.

After what seemed like hours to Catherine, the carriages finally returned to Mrs Allen’s door.

‘Past three o’clock!’ cried Isabella. ‘It is impossible! I cannot believe my watch. No two and a half hours have ever gone by so rapidly and so nicely. Don’t you agree, dear Catherine?’

Our heroine could not tell a lie even to please Isabella; but she was spared the need to disagree with her friend because Isabella did not wait for her answer.

‘I have a thousand things to talk to you about, but now I have to go home,’ complained Isabella. And with the gestures of a tragic actress mixed with her satisfied smile and laughing eyes, Isabella called goodbye to Catherine and left her.

Catherine found Mrs Allen in her sitting-room.

‘Well, my dear, I hope your afternoon was as pleasant as mine,’ began Mrs Allen. ‘I went to the Pump Room as soon as you were gone and met Mrs Thorpe there. Then we met Mrs Hughes and Mr Tilney and his sister in the Crescent. They are very agreeable people, and Miss Tilney was wearing a particularly pretty dress. Very expensive, I imagine. Of course the family is very wealthy according to Mrs Hughes.’

‘Did you learn anything else about the Tilneys?’

‘Quite a lot! They are a very good, very rich family. The mother, Mrs Tilney, was Miss Drummond before her marriage and was at school with Mrs Hughes. She brought a large fortune to her marriage to General Tilney.’

‘And are General and Mrs Tilney in Bath?’ asked Catherine, hungry for more information.

‘Let me think,’ said Mrs Allen. ‘I believe Mrs Tilney is dead, because Mrs Hughes told me there was a beautiful set of pearls that Mr Drummond gave his daughter on her wedding day, and that Miss Tilney has them now. They were given to her when her mother died. I think that is what Mrs Hughes said.’

‘And is Mr Tilney, my dance partner, the only son?’

‘I am not sure about that, my dear. I think he is, but anyway he is a very fine young man according to Mrs Hughes, and he has a good future ahead of him.’

Catherine deeply regretted having missed such a meeting with both brother and sister, especially since it had been replaced by a rather unpleasant drive with a rather disagreeable companion.

That evening the Allens, Thorpes and Morlands met at the theatre, and finally Isabella had an opportunity to communicate with Catherine about the thousands of things she had been wishing to discuss with her dear friend.

‘Now, Mr Morland,’ Isabella began, turning to James Morland on her left, ‘I shall not speak another word to you all the rest of the evening, so do not expect it.’ Then turning to Catherine on her right, she continued, ‘My sweetest Catherine, how lovely you look! You are sure to attract every man in Bath. My brother is already in love with you, and Mr Tilney must have returned to Bath just to see you. Look around and tell me if he is here. I assure you that I can hardly breathe until I have a look at him.’

‘I am sorry,’ said Catherine, ‘I cannot see him anywhere.’

‘How horrible! Am I never to make his acquaintance? Do you like my dress? I think it suits me, don’t you? Do you know that I am becoming quite sick of Bath; your brother and I were discussing it this morning. It is enjoyable to be here for a few weeks, but we both prefer the country. I imagine that you have some clever comment to make about the ridiculous fact that James and I can find nothing to disagree about.’

‘No, it does not sound ridiculous to me.’

‘Oh, you would probably like to say that we seem made for each other, or some nonsense of that kind.’

‘No, you misjudge me, Isabella. I would never make such an improper remark,’ protested Catherine.

Isabella smiled and gave Catherine a look which seemed very significant. Then she turned to her left and talked to James for the rest of the evening.

The next afternoon, Catherine had a similar experience in the Pump Room when she joined her brother James and Isabella Thorpe for a walk around the room. Catherine soon realised that she had no part in either her friend’s or her brother’s conversation. The two of them constantly laughed and teased each other or playfully argued about some insignificant topic. They often asked for Catherine’s opinion, but they never seemed to hear anything she tried to add to the discussion.

Thankfully Catherine was rescued from this situation when she saw Mrs Hughes and Miss Tilney enter the Pump Room. Miss Tilney greeted her very warmly and she and Catherine enjoyed a pleasant conversation, marked by a simple, honest style on both sides.

‘Your brother dances very well!’ Catherine said innocently. ‘And he is so interesting to talk to.’

This surprisingly direct statement amused Miss Tilney. ‘Henry!’ she replied with a smile. ‘Yes, we have often said that he dances very well. And he loves conversation.’

‘He must have thought it very odd the other evening when he invited me to dance and I refused. But I really had been engaged the whole day to dance with Mr Thorpe.’ Miss Tilney smiled and remained silent. ‘I was so surprised to see Mr Tilney. I thought he might have left Bath for good.’

‘No, when you first met him, Henry was here for a few days to find lodgings for us,’ Miss Tilney explained.

‘Oh, I see now. I think the young lady he danced with on Monday was very glad to have such a good partner. Did you think she was very pretty?’ asked Catherine.

‘Not very,’ answered Miss Tilney, who was enjoying her companion’s questions.

‘I suppose your brother never comes to the Pump Room.’

‘He does sometimes. But this morning he has gone riding with our father.’

When the two ladies parted, Catherine was not conscious of having revealed anything about herself, but Miss Tilney was certain that she had discovered something important about her new acquaintance’s feelings.

There was a ball the next evening and Catherine dressed carefully, hoping that she would meet Miss Tilney and her brother there. But before the Tilneys arrived, Catherine had to work hard at avoiding the attentions of Mr John Thorpe. She hid herself from his view as much as possible, and when he spoke to her she pretended not to hear him.

When the dancing began, Isabella whispered, ‘Don’t be shocked, my dear Catherine, but I am going to dance with your brother again. I hope you and John will join us when he returns.’

Catherine started to say something to her friend, but Isabella hurried to the dance floor. Catherine could see John Thorpe approaching, and she worried that all was lost; she might have to dance with him again. But what luck! Mr Tilney appeared and immediately asked her to dance. Not only had she had a lucky escape from John Thorpe, but it seemed that Mr Tilney had sought her out on purpose!

They joined a set and took their positions for the dance. However, Catherine’s happiness was disturbed by the arrival of John Thorpe behind her.

‘Hello, Miss Morland!’ Mr Thorpe shouted. ‘I thought we would be dancing together this evening.’

‘Mr Thorpe, you did not ask me to dance,’ replied Catherine.

‘That is a good joke. I asked you as soon as I came into the room. This is a low trick to play on a fellow. I told my friends that I was going to dance with the prettiest girl in the room, and now you have abandoned me. And who is this partner of yours?’

‘He is Mr Henry Tilney,’ answered Catherine quietly.

‘I do not know him. A good-looking man. Does he need a horse? I can get a good one for him from Sam Fletcher. He sold me my last horse, a really good hunter.’

The dance was beginning now and Mr Thorpe was forced to leave the floor.

When Mr Tilney came close to Catherine, he said, ‘I was getting very impatient with that gentleman, taking your attention from me. We have agreed to be faithful to each other as dance partners for the evening; and a man who tries to claim the attention of another man’s partner is breaking what I consider an important contract. Neither person should look around and wonder about the advantages of having a different partner. Don’t you agree?’

‘Yes, of course I agree,’ answered Catherine enthusiastically.

‘May I come to the conclusion then that if the gentleman who spoke to you just now were to return, or if any other gentleman wanted to talk to you, you would excuse yourself and concentrate your attention on me, your partner?’

‘Well, it would be honest to say that I do not want to talk to any other gentleman this evening,’ Catherine said prettily.

‘I am very satisfied with that guarantee, and I shall continue with courage. Do you find Bath as agreeable as when I had the honour of asking that question before?’

‘Yes, quite. Even more so than before.’

‘More so! Be careful. The fashionable young ladies always get tired of Bath at the end of six weeks.’

‘Well, other people must judge for themselves, but I do not think I would be tired of Bath at the end of six months,’ insisted Catherine. ‘I do not think I could ever be tired of Bath.’

As the dance progressed, Catherine noticed a handsome older man with a rather noble attitude standing in the crowd and staring at her. Then she saw him whisper something to Henry Tilney, and both men looked at her again before the older man withdrew from the dance floor.

Henry politely approached Catherine and said, ‘That gentleman is General Tilney, my father, and he was asking me who you are.’ Later that evening, Catherine had a very welcome opportunity for a chat with Henry Tilney and his sister. They discovered that all three of them had a special liking for country walks.

‘Shall we have a walk together one morning?’ suggested Miss Tilney.

‘I would like that better than anything in the world,’ Catherine said enthusiastically. ‘Shall we go tomorrow?’

The three young people agreed, unless there was rain, to go out for a walk together at twelve o’clock the next day.

And so, although she had seen hardly anything of her good friend Isabella during the entire evening, Catherine travelled home in the carriage with Mr and Mrs Allen in such good spirits that she danced in her seat all the way.

At breakfast the next morning, Catherine looked out at a disappointing sky full of clouds. Then at eleven o’clock, when she was watching the weather with great attention, a few drops of rain hit the sitting-room window.

‘Oh, Mrs Allen, do you think the rain will stop before midday?’

‘Perhaps it may, my dear,’ answered Mrs Allen, ‘but then the streets will be very dirty and muddy.’

‘I do not mind dirt and mud. I would still be happy to go for a walk. But, oh dear, now I see four raised umbrellas, but I will not give up until half past twelve,’ Catherine said. ‘That is just the time of day for the weather to change. Oh why can’t we have the kind of beautiful weather they had in Udolpho!’

Then just as the clock struck the half hour, the sky really did begin to clear and the rain stopped. In ten more minutes, the sun was shining and it promised to be a fine, bright afternoon. Catherine continued to sit at the window, hoping that the Tilneys would appear for their country walk. But instead of the Tilneys, she was surprised by the arrival of Isabella and John Thorpe, and her own brother, James.

‘Be hasty, Miss Morland,’ shouted Mr Thorpe as he entered Mrs Allen’s sitting-room. ‘The carriages are waiting and we are all going to Clifton to dine and then on to Blaize Castle.’

‘Thank you, but I cannot go. I am waiting for my friends, Mr and Miss Tilney. I am engaged to go for a walk in the country with them. They promised to come at twelve, but it rained; now, with this fine weather, I expect them here soon.’

‘No, they will not be coming,’ insisted Mr Thorpe. ‘I saw them in a carriage and heard them say that they were going as far as Wicks Rocks. Anyway, it is much too dirty for a country walk.’

‘Oh, that is disappointing,’ said Catherine. ‘But what about this castle? Is it really old? Is it like the castle in Udolpho?’

‘It is almost exactly the same,’ said Mr Thorpe.

‘Then shall I go, Mrs Allen? What do you think?’ Catherine asked.

‘Well, my dear, I suppose you should go,’ said Mrs Allen, and in two minutes the four young people had begun their journey.

Catherine felt upset that she had not heard anything from the Tilneys, but she had to admit that she was excited about seeing a real castle.

The carriages went down Pulteney Street and through Laura Place, and John Thorpe once again talked about his horse and his skills as a driver. Then near Argyle Street, Mr Thorpe said, ‘Who is that girl on the pavement who was staring at you as we passed her?’

Catherine looked back and saw Miss Tilney, walking along the pavement, holding her brother’s arm, and both of them were looking directly at her.

‘Stop, stop, Mr Thorpe,’ Catherine cried impatiently. ‘It is Miss Tilney and her brother! How could you tell me that they had gone out of town? Stop, stop, I must speak to them.’

But John Thorpe did not stop. In fact, he laughed and encouraged his horse to go faster, and in another minute the Tilneys were out of sight.

Now the carriage was moving so quickly that Catherine could not possibly escape from it, and she felt extremely angry. ‘Why did you lie to me, Mr Thorpe? And why didn’t you stop when I asked you to? They must think that I am very rude.’

Their drive, even after they had stopped talking about the Tilneys, was not very agreeable. Catherine obviously would have preferred a country walk with the Tilneys, but at least she had a real castle to look forward to.

When they could see the town of Keynsham, James Morland shouted at Mr Thorpe and the two carriages came to a stop.

‘We had better go back, Thorpe,’ James began. ‘Isabella agrees. We left too late to visit Blaize Castle today.’

‘It does not matter to me,’ said Mr Thorpe, turning his carriage around for the drive back to Bath. As they started again, he said to Catherine, ‘Your brother is a fool not to have his own horse and carriage. If he had a good horse like mine, we could easily have reached the castle today.’

‘But he could not afford to keep a horse and carriage,’ objected Catherine.

‘And why can’t he afford it?’

‘He does not have money for those things,’ replied Catherine.

‘Well, I think it is a bad practice for people who are rolling in money to be too mean to have a good horse and carriage.’ Catherine did not understand what Mr Thorpe was talking about, and she had become less and less willing to listen to anything he had to say. They returned to Pulteney Street without her speaking twenty words.

When she entered Mr and Mrs Allen’s house, a servant told Catherine that a young lady and gentleman had called for her a few minutes after she had set off with Mr Thorpe. Thinking about this upsetting news, our heroine walked slowly upstairs to her room, but was stopped by Mr Allen.

‘Dear Catherine, I am glad your brother was sensible enough to bring you home in good time. It was a strange, wild scheme.’ That night our heroine went to bed feeling confused and unhappy, unable to sleep because she was busy re-living the terrible events of the day.

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