Northanger Abbey. Part 70

Northanger Abbey. The truth


‘And from these circumstances,’ he replied (his quick eye

fixed on hers), ‘you infer perhaps the probability of some

negligence — some’ — (involuntarily she shook her head)

— ‘or it may be — of something still less pardonable.’ She

raised her eyes towards him more fully than she had ever

done before. ‘My mother’s illness,’ he continued, ‘the seizure

which ended in her death, was sudden. The malady itself, one

from which she had often suffered, a bilious fever — its cause

therefore constitutional. On the third day, in short, as soon

as she could be prevailed on, a physician attended her, a very

respectable man, and one in whom she had always placed

great confidence. Upon his opinion of her danger, two others

were called in the next day, and remained in almost constant

attendance for four and twenty hours. On the fifth day she

died. During the progress of her disorder, Frederick and I

(we were both at home) saw her repeatedly; and from our

own observation can bear witness to her having received

every possible attention which could spring from the affection

of those about her, or which her situation in life could com-

mand. Poor Eleanor was absent, and at such a distance as to

return only to see her mother in her coffin.’


 

‘But your father,’ said Catherine, ‘was he afflicted?’

‘For a time, greatly so. You have erred in supposing him

not attached to her. He loved her, I am persuaded, as well as

it was possible for him to — we have not all, you know, the

same tenderness of disposition — and I will not pretend to

say that while she lived, she might not often have had much

to bear, but though his temper injured her, his judgment

never did. His value of her was sincere; and, if not perma-

nently, he was truly afflicted by her death.’

‘I am very glad of it,’ said Catherine; ‘it would have been very shocking!’


 

‘If I understand you rightly, you had formed a surmise

of such horror as I have hardly words to — Dear Miss Mor-

land, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have

entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember

the country and the age in which we live. Remember that

we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own

understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own

observation of what is passing around you. Does our edu-

cation prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive

at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known,

in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse

is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a

neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and

newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland,

what ideas have you been admitting?’


 

To be continued

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