Northanger Abbey. Part 10

Northanger Abbey. Admiration from afar

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The following conversation, which took place between

the two friends in the pump-room one morning, after an

acquaintance of eight or nine days, is given as a specimen of

their very warm attachment, and of the delicacy, discretion,

originality of thought, and literary taste which marked the

reasonableness of that attachment.

They met by appointment; and as Isabella had arrived

nearly five minutes before her friend, her first address natu-

rally was, ‘My dearest creature, what can 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 very good time. It is but just one. I hope

you have not been here long?’

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But, my dearest Catherine, what have you been do-

ing with yourself all this morning? Have you gone on with

Udolpho?’

‘Yes, I have been reading it ever since I woke; and I am

got to the black veil.’

‘Are you, indeed? How delightful! Oh! I would not tell

you what is behind the black 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 upon any account. I know it must be a

skeleton, I am sure it is Laurentina’s skeleton. Oh! I am de-

lighted with the book! I should like to spend my whole life

in reading it. I assure you, if it had not been to meet you, I

would not have come away from it for all the world.’

Northanger Abbey 10b


‘Dear creature! How much I am obliged to you; and

when you have finished Udolpho, we will read the Italian

together; and I have made out a list of ten or 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. Castle of Wolfenbach, Clermont, Mysteri-

ous Warnings, Necromancer of the Black Forest, Midnight

Bell, Orphan of the Rhine, and Horrid Mysteries. Those will

last us some time.’

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‘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 sweet girl, 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 netting

herself the sweetest cloak you can conceive. I think her as

beautiful as an angel, and I am so vexed with the men for

not admiring her! I scold them all amazingly 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 my friends. I have no notion of loving people

by halves; it is not my nature. My attachments are always

excessively strong.

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The men think us incapable

of real friendship, you know, and I am determined to show

them the difference. Now, if I were to hear anybody speak

slightingly of you, I should fire up in a moment: but that is

not at all likely, for you are just the kind of girl to be a great

favourite with the men.’

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‘Oh, dear!’ cried Catherine, colouring. ‘How can you say

so?’

‘I know you very well; you have so much animation,

which is exactly what Miss Andrews wants, for I must con-

fess there is something amazingly insipid about her. Oh! I

must tell you, that just after we parted yesterday, I saw a

young man looking at you so earnestly — I am sure he is in

love with you.’ Catherine coloured, and disclaimed again.

Isabella laughed. ‘It is very true, upon my honour, but I see

how it is; you are indifferent to everybody’s admiration, ex-

cept that of one gentleman, who shall be nameless. Nay, I

cannot blame you’ — speaking more seriously — ‘your

feelings are easily understood. Where the heart is really at-

tached, I know very well how little one can be pleased with.

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‘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 you would be miserable if you thought so!’

‘No, indeed, I should not. I do not pretend to say that I

was not very much pleased with him; but while I have Udol-

pho to read, I feel as if nobody could make me miserable.

Oh! The dreadful black veil! My dear Isabella, I am sure

there must be Laurentina’s skeleton behind it.’

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But, my dearest Catherine, have you settled

what to wear on your head tonight? I am determined at all

events to be dressed exactly like you. The men take notice of

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 are very often amazingly impertinent

if you do not treat them with spirit, and make them keep

their distance.’

‘Are they? Well, I never observed that. They always be-

have very well to me.’

‘Oh! They give themselves such airs. They are the most

conceited creatures in the world, and think themselves of

so much importance! By the by, though I have thought of

it a hundred times, I have always forgot to ask you what is

your favourite complexion in a man. Do you like them best

dark or fair?’

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‘I hardly know. I never much thought about it. Some-

thing between both, I think. Brown — not fair, and — and

not very dark.’

‘Very well, Catherine. That is exactly he. I have not for-

got your description of Mr. Tilney — ‘a brown skin, with

dark eyes, and rather dark hair.’ Well, my taste 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 should ever meet with one of your acquaintance an-

swering that description.’

‘Betray you! What do you mean?’

‘Nay, do not distress me. I believe I have said too much.

Let us drop the subject.’

Northanger Abbey 10i


‘For heaven’s sake! Let us move away from this end of the room.

Do you know, there are two odious young men who have been

staring at me this half hour. They really put me quite out of

countenance. Let us go and look at the arrivals. They will

hardly follow us there.’

Away they walked to the book; and while Isabella exam-

ined the names, it was Catherine’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 as to follow us. Pray let me know if they

are coming. I am determined I will not look up.’

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In a few moments Catherine, with unaffected pleasure,

assured her that she need not be longer uneasy, as the gen-

tlemen had just left the pump-room.

‘And which way are they gone?’ said Isabella, turning

hastily round. ‘One was a 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 to going to Edgar’s Buildings with me,

and looking at my new hat? You said you should like to see

it.’ Catherine readily agreed.

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Suddenly Isabella exclamed ‘Delightful! Mr. Morland and my brother!’

‘Good heaven! ‘Tis James!’ was uttered at the same moment by Catherine.

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Catherine, by whom this meeting was wholly unexpect-

ed, received her brother with the liveliest pleasure; and he,

being of a very amiable disposition, and sincerely attached

to her, gave every proof on his side of equal satisfaction,

which he could have leisure to do, while the bright eyes of

Miss Thorpe were incessantly challenging his notice; and

to her his devoirs were speedily paid, with a mixture of joy

and embarrassment which might have informed Catherine,

had she been more expert in the development of other peo-

ple’s feelings, and less simply engrossed by her own, that

her brother thought her friend quite as pretty as she could

do herself.

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To be continued

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