Northanger Abbey. Part 11

Northanger Abbey. Isabella’s brother

Northanger Abbey 11h


John Thorpe, who in the meantime had been giving or-

ders about the horses, soon joined them, and from him

she directly received the amends which were her due; for

while he slightly and carelessly touched the hand of Isabel-

la, on her he bestowed a whole scrape and half a short bow.

He was a stout young man of middling height, who, with

a plain face and ungraceful form, seemed fearful of being

too handsome unless he wore the dress of a groom, and too

much like a gentleman unless he were easy where he ought

to be civil, and impudent where he might be allowed to be

easy. He took out his watch: ‘How long do you think we have

been running it from Tetbury, Miss Morland?’

‘I do not know the distance.’ Her brother told her that it

was twenty-three miles.

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‘Three and twenty!’ cried Thorpe. ‘Five and twenty if it

is an inch.’ Morland remonstrated, pleaded the authority of

road-books, innkeepers, and milestones; but his friend dis-

regarded them all; he had a surer test of distance. ‘I know it

must be five and twenty,’ said he.

‘You have lost an hour,’ said Morland; ‘it was only ten

o’clock when we came from Tetbury.’

‘Ten o’clock! It was eleven, upon my soul! I counted every

stroke. This brother of yours would persuade me out of my

senses, Miss Morland.‘

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An inquiry now took place into the intended movements

of the young ladies; and, on finding whither they were go-

ing, it was decided that the gentlemen should accompany

them to Edgar’s Buildings, and pay their respects to Mrs.

Thorpe. James and Isabella led the way; and so well satisfied

was the latter with her lot, so contentedly was she endeav-

ouring to ensure a pleasant walk to him who brought the

double recommendation of being her brother’s friend, and

her friend’s brother, so pure and uncoquettish were her

feelings, that, though they overtook and passed the two of-

fending young men in Milsom Street, she was so far from

seeking to attract their notice, that she looked back at them

only three times.

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John Thorpe kept of course with Catherine. ’Are you fond

of an open carriage, Miss Morland?’

‘Yes, very; I have hardly ever an opportunity of being in

one; but I am particularly fond of it.’

‘I am glad of it; I will drive you out in mine every day.’

‘Thank you,’ said Catherine, in some distress, from a

doubt of the propriety of accepting such an offer.

‘I will drive you up Lansdown Hill tomorrow.’

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‘How delightful that will be!’ cried Isabella, turning

round. ‘My dearest Catherine, I quite envy you; but I am

afraid, brother, you will not have room for a third.’

‘A third indeed! No, no; I did not come to Bath to drive

my sisters about; that would be a good joke, faith! Morland

must take care of you.’

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This brought on a dialogue of civilities between the other

two; but Catherine heard neither the particulars nor the re-

sult. Her companion’s discourse now sunk from its hitherto

animated pitch to nothing more than a short decisive sen-

tence of praise or condemnation on the face of every woman

they met; and Catherine, after listening and agreeing as long

as she could, with all the civility and deference of the youth-

ful female mind, fearful of hazarding an opinion of its own

in opposition to that of a self-assured man, especially where

the beauty of her own sex is concerned, ventured at length to

vary the subject by a question which had been long upper-

most in her thoughts; it was, ‘Have you ever read Udolpho,

Mr. Thorpe?’

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‘Udolpho! Oh, Lord! Not I; I never read novels; I have

something else to do.’

Catherine, humbled and ashamed, was going to apolo-

gize for her question, but he prevented her by saying, ‘Novels

are all so full of nonsense and stuff; there has not been a

tolerably decent one come out since Tom Jones, except The

Monk; I read that t’other day; but as for all the others, they

are the stupidest things in creation.’

‘I think you must like Udolpho, if you were to read it; it is

so very interesting.’

‘Not I, faith! No, if I read any, it shall be Mrs. Radcliffe’s;

her novels are amusing enough; they are worth reading;

some fun and nature in them.’

‘Udolpho was written by Mrs. Radcliffe,’ said Catherine,

with some hesitation, from the fear of mortifying him.

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‘No sure; was it? Aye, I remember, so it was; I was think-

ing of that other stupid book, written by that woman they

make such a fuss about, she who married the French emi-


‘I suppose you mean Camilla?’

‘Yes, that’s the book; such unnatural stuff! An old man

playing at see-saw, I took up the first volume once and looked

it over, but I soon found it would not do; indeed I guessed

what sort of stuff it must be before I saw it: as soon as I heard

she had married an emigrant, I was sure I should never be

able to get through it.’

‘I have never read it.’

‘You had no loss, I assure you; it is the horridest nonsense

you can imagine; there is nothing in the world in it but an

old man’s playing at see-saw and learning Latin; upon my

soul there is not.’

Northanger Abbey 11h



This critique, the justness of which was unfortunately

lost on poor Catherine, brought them to the door of Mrs.

Thorpe’s lodgings, and the feelings of the discerning and un-

prejudiced reader of Camilla gave way to the feelings of the

dutiful and affectionate son, as they met Mrs. Thorpe, who

had descried them from above, in the passage. ‘Ah, Mother!

How do you do?’ said he, giving her a hearty shake of the

hand. ‘Where did you get that quiz of a hat? It makes you

look like an old witch. Here is Morland and I come to stay a

few days with you, so you must look out for a couple of good

beds somewhere near.’

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And this address seemed to satisfy

all the fondest wishes of the mother’s heart, for she received

him with the most delighted and exulting affection. On his

two younger sisters he then bestowed an equal portion of his

fraternal tenderness, for he asked each of them how they did,

and observed that they both looked very ugly.

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These manners did not please Catherine; but he was

James’s friend and Isabella’s brother; and her judgment

was further bought off by Isabella’s assuring her, when they

withdrew to see the new hat, that John thought her the most

charming girl in the world, and by John’s engaging her be-

fore they parted to dance with him that evening. Had she

been older or vainer, such attacks might have done little; but,

where youth and diffidence are united, it requires uncom-

mon steadiness of reason to resist the attraction of being

called the most charming girl in the world, and of being so

very early engaged as a partner.

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To be continued

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