Northanger Abbey. Part 64

Northanger Abbey. Mrs. Tilney


‘I am particularly fond of this spot,’ said her companion,

with a sigh. ‘It was my mother’s favourite walk.’

Catherine had never heard Mrs. Tilney mentioned in

the family before, and the interest excited by this tender

remembrance showed itself directly in her altered counte-

nance, and in the attentive pause with which she waited for

something more.

‘I used to walk here so often with her!’ added Eleanor;

‘though I never loved it then, as I have loved it since. At that

time indeed I used to wonder at her choice. But her memory

endears it now.’


 

‘And ought it not,’ reflected Catherine, ‘to endear it to her

husband? Yet the general would not enter it.’ Miss Tilney

continuing silent, she ventured to say, ‘Her death must have

been a great affliction!’

‘A great and increasing one,’ replied the other, in a low

voice. ‘I was only thirteen when it happened; and though I

felt my loss perhaps as strongly as one so young could feel

it, I did not, I could not, then know what a loss it was.’ She

stopped for a moment, and then added, with great firmness,

‘I have no sister, you know — and though Henry — though

my brothers are very affectionate, and Henry is a great deal

here, which I am most thankful for, it is impossible for me

not to be often solitary.’

‘To be sure you must miss him very much.’

‘A mother would have been always present. A mother

would have been a constant friend; her influence would

have been beyond all other.’


 

‘Was she a very charming woman? Was she handsome?

Was there any picture of her in the abbey? And why had

she been so partial to that grove? Was it from dejection of

spirits?’ — were questions now eagerly poured forth; the

first three received a ready affirmative, the two others were

passed by; and Catherine’s interest in the deceased Mrs.

Tilney augmented with every question, whether answered

or not. Of her unhappiness in marriage, she felt persuad-

ed. The general certainly had been an unkind husband. He

did not love her walk: could he therefore have loved her?

And besides, handsome as he was, there was a something in

the turn of his features which spoke his not having behaved well to her.

‘Her picture, I suppose,’ blushing at the consummate art

of her own question, ‘hangs in your father’s room?’


 

‘No; it was intended for the drawing-room; but my fa-

ther was dissatisfied with the painting, and for some time it

had no place. Soon after her death I obtained it for my own,

and hung it in my bed-chamber — where I shall be happy

to show it you; it is very like.’ Here was another proof. A

portrait — very like — of a departed wife, not valued by the

husband! He must have been dreadfully cruel to her!

 

Catherine attempted no longer to hide from herself the

nature of the feelings which, in spite of all his attentions, he

had previously excited; and what had been terror and dis-

like before, was now absolute aversion. Yes, aversion! His

cruelty to such a charming woman made him odious to her.

She had often read of such characters, characters which Mr.

Allen had been used to call unnatural and overdrawn; but

here was proof positive of the contrary.


 

She had just settled this point when the end of the path

brought them directly upon the general; and in spite of all

her virtuous indignation, she found herself again obliged

to walk with him, listen to him, and even to smile when he

smiled. Being no longer able, however, to receive pleasure 

from the surrounding objects, she soon began to walk with

lassitude; the general perceived it, and with a concern for

her health, which seemed to reproach her for her opinion of

him, was most urgent for returning with his daughter to the

house. He would follow them in a quarter of an hour. Again

they parted — but Eleanor was called back in half a minute

to receive a strict charge against taking her friend round the

abbey till his return. This second instance of his anxiety to

delay what she so much wished for struck Catherine as very

remarkable.
Northanger Abbey 64f


 

An hour passed away before the general came in, spent,

on the part of his young guest, in no very favourable con-

sideration of his character. ‘This lengthened absence, these

solitary rambles, did not speak a mind at ease, or a con-

science void of reproach.’ At length he appeared; and,

whatever might have been the gloom of his meditations, he

could still smile with them. Miss Tilney, understanding in

part her friend’s curiosity to see the house, soon revived the

subject; and her father being, contrary to Catherine’s ex-

pectations, unprovided with any pretence for further delay,

beyond that of stopping five minutes to order refreshments

to be in the room by their return, was at last ready to escort

them.
Northanger Abbey 64g (1)Northanger Abbey 64g (2)Northanger Abbey 64g (3)


 

They set forward; and, with a grandeur of air, a dignified

step, which caught the eye, but could not shake the doubts

of the well-read Catherine, he led the way across the hall,

through the common drawing-room and one useless ante-

chamber, into a room magnificent both in size and furniture

— the real drawing-room, used only with company of con-

sequence. It was very noble — very grand — very charming!

— was all that Catherine had to say, for her indiscriminat-

ing eye scarcely discerned the colour of the satin; and all

minuteness of praise, all praise that had much meaning,

was supplied by the general: the costliness or elegance of

any room’s fitting-up could be nothing to her; she cared for

no furniture of a more modern date than the fifteenth century.
Northanger Abbey 64h


 

When the general had satisfied his own curiosity, in

a close examination of every well-known ornament, they

proceeded into the library, an apartment, in its way, of equal

magnificence, exhibiting a collection of books, on which

an humble man might have looked with pride. Catherine

heard, admired, and wondered with more genuine feeling 

than before — gathered all that she could from this store-

house of knowledge, by running over the titles of half a shelf,

and was ready to proceed.


 

To be continued

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