فصل 05

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فصل 05

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Chapter five

Seeds of Misunderstanding

‘Mrs Allen,’ said Catherine the next morning, ‘will there be any harm in my visiting Miss Tilney today? I will not be calm until I have explained everything that happened yesterday.’

With Mrs Allen’s permission and advice on which dress to wear, our heroine anxiously hurried to the Tilneys’ lodgings in Milsom Street.

The door was opened by a servant, who said he would check if Miss Tilney was at home. When he returned to Catherine, the servant said, ‘Miss Tilney has gone out.’

Something made Catherine think that Miss Tilney was in the house but was too offended to see her. When she got to the bottom of the street she looked back and saw Miss Tilney and General Tilney himself coming out of the house. Catherine’s first reaction was to feel angry, but then she remembered how her own actions might have been misinterpreted and was determined not to judge Miss Tilney unfairly.

Catherine was in a rather thoughtful mood all day, but was persuaded to go to the theatre that night with the Allens and the Thorpes. The comedy, one that she had been looking forward to seeing, almost immediately lifted her mood.

But at the beginning of the fifth act, Catherine saw Mr Henry Tilney and his father join a group of people in the opposite box and all her anxiety and distress returned. She lost interest in the play and watched Mr Tilney. Finally he looked towards her and bowed; but what a cold bow it was! He did not smile and immediately turned his eyes back towards the stage. Catherine’s heart raced and she felt miserable and eager for an opportunity to explain herself to him.

The play came to its conclusion, the curtain fell and Catherine’s wish came true: Henry Tilney came round to the Allens’ box. He greeted the Allens very politely, but Catherine did not wait for him to speak to her.

‘Oh! Mr Tilney, I have been quite wild to speak to you to make my apologies. You must have thought me so rude yesterday, but really it was not my fault - was it, Mrs Allen? Mr John Thorpe told me that you and your sister had gone out in your carriage. What could I do? But I would have ten thousand times preferred to be with you, wouldn’t I, Mrs Allen?’

‘Yes, my dear, but calm down. You will damage my dress,’ said Mrs Allen.

‘I begged Mr Thorpe to stop his carriage and let me out when I saw you,’ Catherine rushed on, ‘but he would not even slow down. If he had, I would have jumped out of the carriage and run after you.’

No man could choose not to accept Catherine’s sincere apology and explanation, and Henry Tilney smiled politely and told her that she must say no more about it.

‘My sister would also like to apologise to you, Miss Morland, for her own behaviour this morning,’ Mr Tilney added.

‘That is not necessary. It is understandable that she did not want to see me after yesterday’s disaster.’

‘But Eleanor did not choose to ignore you. My father wanted her to accompany him on his walk. He is not a patient man and told the servant to send you away, so I would like to apologise for her. And now may I join you for a few minutes? What did you think of tonight’s play?’

Catherine chatted with Mr Tilney for some time and they made plans to take their country walk as soon as possible, which made Catherine believe that she was one of the happiest creatures in all the world.

But a new mystery appeared while the two young people were together. Catherine observed with some surprise that John Thorpe was in the opposite box talking to General Tilney and looking over at her from time to time.

‘Does Mr Thorpe know your father well?’ Catherine asked.

‘I did not know that they were acquaintances, but my father is a military man and has a wide circle of friends.’

On Sunday afternoon in the Crescent, Catherine met Henry and Eleanor Tilney by chance and they decided to go for their country walk the next morning. At almost the same time, the Thorpes and James Morland were looking for Catherine to tell her about their plans for another carriage ride into the country, also on Monday morning.

‘My dear,’ Isabella began when they found Catherine, ‘we are going on our trip to Clifton tomorrow morning. You must be ready early so that we have time to see and do everything.’

‘I am very sorry, but I cannot go with you tomorrow. I am engaged to go for a walk with Eleanor Tilney and her brother.’

‘But we cannot go without you,’ complained Isabella. ‘Explain that you had forgotten you were engaged to go with us.’

‘Don’t try to persuade me, Isabella. I will not break my engagement with the Tilneys.’

But the discussion did not end there. ‘My dearest, sweetest Catherine, you cannot refuse such a small request from me, a friend who loves you so dearly,’ Isabella tried. ‘You cannot possibly love Miss Tilney more than you love me. You can go for your country walk another day.’

But Catherine would not change her plans.

‘Well, I cannot help feeling jealous when I see that you prefer strangers over me,’ answered Isabella, as she wiped away a tear from her cheek.

It seemed to Catherine that Isabella was actually behaving quite selfishly and not considering her feelings at all.

‘I am sorry, but I will not change my plans,’ Catherine insisted.

‘Very well, then that is the end of our party tomorrow. If Catherine does not go, I cannot,’ said Isabella through her tears. ‘It would be very improper.’

‘Why can’t Mr Thorpe invite one of his younger sisters? I imagine they would like to go for a carriage ride,’ suggested Catherine.

Mr Thorpe, who had left the group for a few minutes, heard this suggestion and shouted, ‘Thank you very much, but I did not come to Bath to drive those silly girls around. And anyway, I have solved the problem, and now we may all four go tomorrow with no worries. I have spoken to Miss Tilney and made your excuses. You can go out with them another day.’

‘No! I cannot believe you would do such a thing,’ cried Catherine.

‘I have done it. I told her you had sent me to say that having just remembered a prior engagement of going to Clifton with us tomorrow, you could not walk with her until Tuesday. She said Tuesday was convenient for her, so there is an end to our argument. That was a good idea of mine, wasn’t it?’

‘No, it was not! I must run after Miss Tilney and explain everything. You had no business inventing a message from me and trying to trick me into doing what I thought was wrong.’ As Catherine rushed off to find Miss Tilney, her mind was greatly troubled. She did not like disappointing and displeasing her brother and Isabella, but she would not break a promise that had already been made, and she would not fail to keep an engagement with Miss Tilney and her brother for the second time.

She saw the Tilneys and their father as they entered their lodgings and hurried after them.

‘Miss Tilney!’ Catherine shouted. ‘I told them that I could not go with them. I ran here to explain everything to you.’ Although Catherine’s speech was not completely clear, the Tilneys understood her and everyone was on friendly terms again. Eleanor introduced Catherine to General Tilney, who welcomed her into their house very politely and invited her to join them for dinner one evening if the Allens could spare her. After sitting with the three of them for a quarter of an hour, General Tilney accompanied Catherine to the street and said goodbye in the most graceful, friendly manner.

At Pulteney Street, Catherine wondered if she had been unkind to Isabella and James, and mentioned their plan to Mr Allen.

‘Were you thinking of going with them?’ asked Mr Allen.

‘No, sir. I had just agreed to go for a walk with Miss Tilney, so I could not go with them, could I?’

‘No, certainly not, and I am glad you would not consider it. I do not approve of young men and women who are not related driving around the country in open carriages, going to inns and public places together! It is not proper, and I am surprised that Mrs Thorpe allows it.’

‘I wish Mrs Allen had stopped me on the other occasion,’ said Catherine quietly.

‘No harm has been done,’ Mr Allen replied, ‘but I would advise you, my dear, not to go out with Mr Thorpe anymore.’

Monday dawned clear and bright and Catherine was rewarded with a perfect walk in the country with the pleasantest companions: Eleanor and Henry Tilney.

The conversation covered every imaginable topic, ranging from the novels of Mrs Radcliff, which all three were fans of, to an analysis of the current government. Catherine listened with great attention after the talk moved away from the Gothic novels that she loved so much. She was very impressed with how much both Eleanor and Henry knew about history, art, nature and even politics. You may remember that she had never been a very willing student, and this fact actually made her very good company for such clever conversationalists as the Tilneys. Obvious admiration for a young man’s superior knowledge is always a great advantage in an attractive young woman.

The whole walk was delightful, and although it ended too soon for Catherine, she was very pleased by its conclusion. When they returned to Pulteney Street, Miss Tilney asked Mrs Allen if they might invite Catherine to join them for dinner on the day after next. No difficulty was made on Mrs Allen’s side, and Catherine’s only problem was to hide her excessive pleasure at receiving this kind invitation.

The morning had been so charming, so enjoyable that Catherine had not thought about James or Isabella, but was reminded of them in the afternoon when she happened to meet Miss Anne Thorpe in Bond Street.

‘Good afternoon, Anne,’ Catherine began. ‘Did your sister and brother go for their drive to Clifton this morning?’

‘Yes, my other sister, Maria, went with them. I think you had a lucky escape. It must have been a very boring, dull drive, but Maria was excited about going. I decided immediately that I did not want to go with them.’

Catherine doubted that Anne wanted to be left behind, but she was happy to know that the trip had not been cancelled because of her refusal to join it. Before leaving she asked, ‘And did Maria enjoy seeing Blaize Castle?’

‘Oh, they did not see any castles. They had lunch at the York Hotel in Clifton, and after a walk they had tea there too, before returning to Bath.’

The next morning Catherine hurried to the Thorpes’ lodgings, wanting to be certain that she was on good terms with Isabella again. But Isabella seemed to have forgotten that there had been any disagreement between them as she rushed into the sitting-room to greet her dear friend.

‘Darling Catherine, from the beginning you understood more about me than I understood about myself. You have seen through everything.’

Catherine could not reply because she did not understand what Isabella was talking about.

‘My sweetest, my most precious friend,’ continued the older girl, ‘you can see that I am amazingly excited. Let us sit down and talk about what you have already guessed. You clever creature! Your brother is the most charming man on earth. I only wish that I deserved him. But what do you think your excellent father and mother will say when he speaks to them? Oh, I am so worried that they will not accept me for their dear son.’

Finally Catherine began to understand what Isabella was talking about. ‘Isabella, are you telling me that you and James are in love?’

And soon Catherine had heard the whole story. The young couple had spoken of their love for each other during yesterday’s carriage ride. Now Catherine was thrilled to think that her dear friend, Isabella, would one day be her sister-in-law.

‘Catherine, you will mean so much more to me than either Anne or Maria; I feel that I will be much more attached to the Morland family than to my own,’ Isabella insisted.

This idea astonished Catherine, and she honestly thought it was inappropriate, but she was delighted to hear Isabella’s story of how the engagement had happened.

‘I remember the first time I met your dear brother,’ continued Isabella. ‘With me, the first moment settles everything. When he visited us in London, I lost my heart to him immediately. I remember I was wearing my yellow silk dress, and when I came into the sitting-room, I thought I had never seen anybody so handsome as dear James.’

Here Catherine secretly thought about the power of love because, although she was very fond of her brother, she had never once thought that he was handsome.

‘Catherine, your brother caused me many sleepless nights. I was sure he would fall in love with someone else. He is such a wonderful man. I knew you understood what was in my heart, especially when I told you that I had a particular liking for clergymen. I was sure that my secret would be safe with you.’ Once again Catherine was surprised by what Isabella thought she knew, but she saw no reason to change her friend’s mind about the situation. She learned that her brother was already on his way to Fullerton to ask for his parents’ permission to become engaged to Miss Isabella Thorpe.

‘Will they accept me, dear Catherine? My fortune is very small and your brother could marry anyone he chose.’

Again Catherine thought about the strength of love and said, ‘Isabella, you are too humble. The difference between your fortunes will not affect anything.’

‘Catherine, not everyone would have such a generous heart as yours. I just wish that the situations were reversed. If I had command of millions and ruled the world, your brother would be my only choice. I need very little in life, and where people are attached by love, poverty itself is not a problem.’

Catherine liked this idea; it sounded like something from one of her novels.

‘I will not think of a wedding or a house or anything of that sort until we have your father’s answer,’ continued Isabella. ‘Your dear brother said that he will send me news tomorrow, but I know I will not have courage enough to open his letter.’ The two friends spent every moment together that day and the next, talking of nothing except how happy they would be as sisters. Finally, after much anxiety, the post was delivered on the second day and Isabella opened her letter from Fullerton. James wrote: I have gained the approval of my kind parents, and they promise that everything in their power will be done to guarantee my happiness. The brightest look spread across Isabella’s face and she said that she was the happiest woman on earth.

The entire Thorpe family were now very happy and wanted to hear about the details of Mr Morland’s promise: What would his income be? Would he be given property by his family? What kind of ring would Isabella receive? What would their carriage and their house be like? Where would they live?

Mr John Thorpe had business in London and now that Isabella had her letter, he prepared to depart.

‘Well, Miss Morland,’ he said, finding Catherine alone in the sitting-room, ‘I have come to say goodbye for the present time.’

‘Goodbye, sir. I hope you have a safe journey.’

‘What do you think of this marrying idea, Miss Morland?’

‘I am sure marriage is a very good thing,’ replied Catherine.

‘Do you? I am glad you are not an enemy to marriage. By the way, do you know that old song that says, “One wedding brings another”? Perhaps we may find out if that old song has some truth in it at Isabella’s wedding.’

‘May we?’ asked Catherine, feeling quite confused. ‘But I never sing, so I would not know. Well, I wish you a good journey. I dine with Miss Tilney today, so I must rush home.’

‘Don’t hurry away. I will be gone from Bath for a fortnight and it will seem a long time. When will we be together again?’

‘Well, we will see you when you return. Goodbye for now,’ said Catherine, trying to get away.

‘That is very kind of you, Miss Morland. You are probably the nicest person I know. You have so many good qualities.’

‘Sir, there are much nicer, better people than me. Good morning to you. I must get home.’

‘But Miss Morland, may I visit Fullerton one day soon?’

‘My father and mother would be pleased to meet you.’

‘And I hope, Miss Morland, that you would be pleased to see me there.’

‘It is always nice to have company at our house.’

‘I agree with you - give me some cheerful company and I am very happy. I believe you and I agree about most things.’

‘That idea has never occurred to me,’ said Catherine. ‘In fact, I do not know my own mind about most things.’

‘I am the same,’ cried Mr Thorpe. ‘I have a simple idea about most things. Let me have a girl I like and a comfortable house and I would be satisfied. Fortune is nothing. I am sure of a good income of my own, so my wife does not need to have a penny.’

‘I am in agreement with you there, sir. If there is a good fortune on one side, there can be no need for any on the other. I hate the idea of one great fortune marrying another. And I think it is very wicked of people to marry for money. Goodbye. We shall be glad to see you in Fullerton one day.’

And having said that, Catherine hurried out of the Thorpes’ house without another thought about John Thorpe. She was concentrating on getting ready for her dinner with Miss Tilney.

Mr Thorpe felt very satisfied; he believed that Miss Morland had clearly encouraged his attentions and he intended to pursue her confidently and without hesitation.

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