The breakfast-room was gay with company; and she was named to them by the general as the friend of his daughter, in a complimentary style, which so well concealed his resentful ire, as to make her feel secure at least of life for the present.
And Eleanor, with a command of countenance which did honour to her concern for his character, taking an early occasion of saying to her, ‘My father only wanted me to answer a note,’ she began to hope that she had either been unseen by the general, or that from some consideration of policy she should be allowed to suppose herself so. Upon this trust she dared still to remain in his presence, after the company left them, and nothing occurred to disturb it.
In the course of this morning’s reflections, she came to
a resolution of making her next attempt on the forbidden
door alone. It would be much better in every respect that El-
eanor should know nothing of the matter. To involve her in
the danger of a second detection, to court her into an apart-
ment which must wring her heart, could not be the office
of a friend. The general’s utmost anger could not be to her-
self what it might be to a daughter; and, besides, she thought
the examination itself would be more satisfactory if made
without any companion.
The day was bright, her courage high; at four o’clock,
the sun was now two hours above the horizon, and it would
be only her retiring to dress half an hour earlier than usual.
It was done; and Catherine found herself alone in the gal-
lery before the clocks had ceased to strike. It was no time
for thought; she hurried on, slipped with the least possible
noise through the folding doors, and without stopping to
look or breathe, rushed forward to the one in question.
She saw a large, well-proportioned apartment, an handsome dimity bed, arranged as unoccupied with an housemaid’s care, a bright Bath stove, mahogany wardrobes, and neatly painted chairs, on which the warm beams of a western sun gaily poured through two sash windows! Catherine had expected to have her feelings worked, and worked they were. Astonishment and doubt first seized them; and a shortly succeeding ray of common sense added some bitter emotions of shame.
She could not be mistaken as to the room; but how grossly
mistaken in everything else! — in Miss Tilney’s meaning, in
her own calculation! This apartment, to which she had given
a date so ancient, a position so awful, proved to be one end
of what the general’s father had built. There were two other
doors in the chamber, leading probably into dressing-closets;
but she had no inclination to open either. Would the veil in
which Mrs. Tilney had last walked, or the volume in which
she had last read, remain to tell what nothing else was allowed
to whisper? No: whatever might have been the general’s
crimes, he had certainly too much wit to let them sue for de-
tection. She was sick of exploring, and desired but to be safe
in her own room, with her own heart only privy to its folly;
and she was on the point of retreating as softly as she had
entered, when the sound of footsteps, she could hardly tell
where, made her pause and tremble.
To be continued
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