Northanger Abbey. Part 53

Northanger Abbey. Is not it a fine old place

Northanger Abbey 53a


Henry drove so well — so quietly — without making any disturbance, without parading to her, or swearing at them: so different from the only gentleman-coachman whom it was in her power to compare him with!

His sister, he said, was uncomfortably circumstanced — she had no female companion — and, in the frequent absence of her father, was sometimes without any companion at all.
Northanger Abbey 53a


 

‘But how can that be?’ said Catherine. ‘Are not you with her?’

‘Northanger is not more than half my home; I have an es-

tablishment at my own house in Woodston, which is nearly

twenty miles from my father’s, and some of my time is nec-

essarily spent there.’

‘How sorry you must be for that!’

‘I am always sorry to leave Eleanor.’

‘Yes; but besides your affection for her, you must be so

fond of the abbey! After being used to such a home as the

abbey, an ordinary parsonage-house must be very disagreeable.’
Northanger Abbey 53b


 

He smiled, and said, ‘You have formed a very favourable idea of the abbey.’

‘To be sure, I have. Is not it a fine old place, just like what one reads about?’

‘And are you prepared to encounter all the horrors that a

building such as ‘what one reads about’ may produce? Have

you a stout heart? Nerves fit for sliding panels and tapestry?’

‘Oh! yes — I do not think I should be easily frightened,

because there would be so many people in the house — and

besides, it has never been uninhabited and left deserted for

years, and then the family come back to it unawares, with-

out giving any notice, as generally happens.’
Northanger Abbey 53c


 

‘No, certainly. We shall not have to explore our way into

a hall dimly lighted by the expiring embers of a wood fire

— nor be obliged to spread our beds on the floor of a room

without windows, doors, or furniture. But you must be

aware that when a young lady is (by whatever means) in-

troduced into a dwelling of this kind, she is always lodged

apart from the rest of the family. While they snugly repair

to their own end of the house, she is formally conducted

by Dorothy, the ancient housekeeper, up a different stair-

case, and along many gloomy passages, into an apartment

never used since some cousin or kin died in it about twenty

years before. Can you stand such a ceremony as this? Will

not your mind misgive you when you find yourself in this

gloomy chamber — too lofty and extensive for you, with

only the feeble rays of a single lamp to take in its size — its

walls hung with tapestry exhibiting figures as large as life,

and the bed, of dark green stuff or purple velvet, present-

ing even a funereal appearance? Will not your heart sink

within you?’
Northanger Abbey 53d


 

‘Oh! But this will not happen to me, I am sure.’

‘How fearfully will you examine the furniture of your

apartment! And what will you discern? Not tables, toilettes,

wardrobes, or drawers, but on one side perhaps the remains

of a broken lute, on the other a ponderous chest which no

efforts can open, and over the fireplace the portrait of some

handsome warrior, whose features will so incomprehensi-

bly strike you, that you will not be able to withdraw your

eyes from it. Dorothy, meanwhile, no less struck by your

appearance, gazes on you in great agitation, and drops a

few unintelligible hints. To raise your spirits, moreover, she

gives you reason to suppose that the part of the abbey you

inhabit is undoubtedly haunted, and informs you that you

will not have a single domestic within call. With this part-

ing cordial she curtsies off — you listen to the sound of her

receding footsteps as long as the last echo can reach you

— and when, with fainting spirits, you attempt to fasten

your door, you discover, with increased alarm, that it has no lock.’
Northanger Abbey 53e


 

‘Oh! No, no — do not say so. Well, go on.’

But Henry was too much amused by the interest he had

raised to be able to carry it farther; he could no longer com-

mand solemnity either of subject or voice, and was obliged

to entreat her to use her own fancy in the perusal of Mat-

ilda’s woes. Catherine, recollecting herself, grew ashamed

of her eagerness, and began earnestly to assure him that her

attention had been fixed without the smallest apprehension

of really meeting with what he related. ‘Miss Tilney, she was

sure, would never put her into such a chamber as he had de-

scribed! She was not at all afraid.’
Northanger Abbey 53f


 

To be continued

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