They had reached the end of the gallery, and with tears of shame she ran off to her own room. The visions of romance were over. Catherine was completely awakened. Henry’s address, short as it had been, had more thoroughly opened her eyes to the extravagance of her late fancies than all their several disappointments had done. Most grievously was she humbled. Most bitterly did she cry. It was not only with herself that she was sunk — but with Henry. Her folly, which now seemed even criminal, was all exposed to him, and he must despise her forever. The liberty which her imagination had dared to take with the character of his father — could he ever forgive it? The absurdity of her curiosity and her fears — could they ever be forgotten? She hated herself more than she could express.
He had — she thought he had, once or twice before this fatal morning, shown something like affection for her. But now — in short, she made herself as miserable as possible for about half an hour, went down when the clock struck five, with a broken heart, and could scarcely give an intelligible answer to Eleanor’s inquiry if she was well. The formidable Henry soon followed her into the room, and the only difference in his behaviour to her was that he paid her rather more attention than usual. Catherine had never wanted comfort more, and he looked as if he was aware of it.
The evening wore away with no abatement of this sooth-
ing politeness; and her spirits were gradually raised to a
modest tranquillity. She did not learn either to forget or de-
fend the past; but she learned to hope that it would never
transpire farther, and that it might not cost her Henry’s en-
tire regard. Her thoughts being still chiefly fixed on what
she had with such causeless terror felt and done, nothing
could shortly be clearer than that it had been all a voluntary,
self-created delusion, each trifling circumstance receiving
importance from an imagination resolved on alarm, and
everything forced to bend to one purpose by a mind which,
before she entered the abbey, had been craving to be fright-
ened. She remembered with what feelings she had prepared
for a knowledge of Northanger. She saw that the infatua-
tion had been created, the mischief settled, long before her
quitting Bath, and it seemed as if the whole might be traced
to the influence of that sort of reading which she had there indulged.
To be continued
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