‘Quite a lot! They are a very good, very rich family. The mother, Mrs Tilney, was Miss Drummond before her marriage and was at school with Mrs Hughes. She brought a large fortune to her marriage to General Tilney.’
‘And are General and Mrs Tilney in Bath?’ asked Catherine, hungry for more information.
‘Let me think,’ said Mrs Allen. ‘I believe Mrs Tilney is dead, because Mrs Hughes told me there was a beautiful set of pearls that Mr Drummond gave his daughter on her wedding day, and that Miss Tilney has them now. They were given to her when her mother died. I think that is what Mrs Hughes said.’
‘And is Mr Tilney, my dance partner, the only son?’
‘I am not sure about that, my dear. I think he is, but anyway he is a very fine young man according to Mrs Hughes, and he has a good future ahead of him.’
Catherine deeply regretted having missed such a meeting with both brother and sister, especially since it had been replaced by a rather unpleasant drive with a rather disagreeable companion.
That evening the Allens, Thorpes and Morlands met at the theatre, and finally Isabella had an opportunity to communicate with Catherine about the thousands of things she had been wishing to discuss with her dear friend.
‘Now, Mr Morland,’ Isabella began, turning to James Morland on her left, ‘I shall not speak another word to you all the rest of the evening, so do not expect it.’ Then turning to Catherine on her right, she continued, ‘My sweetest Catherine, how lovely you look! You are sure to attract every man in Bath. My brother is already in love with you, and Mr Tilney must have returned to Bath just to see you. Look around and tell me if he is here. I assure you that I can hardly breathe until I have a look at him.’
‘I am sorry,’ said Catherine, ‘I cannot see him anywhere.’
‘How horrible! Am I never to make his acquaintance? Do you like my dress? I think it suits me, don’t you? Do you know that I am becoming quite sick of Bath; your brother and I were discussing it this morning. It is enjoyable to be here for a few weeks, but we both prefer the country. I imagine that you have some clever comment to make about the ridiculous fact that James and I can find nothing to disagree about.’
‘No, it does not sound ridiculous to me.’
‘Oh, you would probably like to say that we seem made for each other, or some nonsense of that kind.’
‘No, you misjudge me, Isabella. I would never make such an improper remark,’ protested Catherine.
Isabella smiled and gave Catherine a look which seemed very significant. Then she turned to her left and talked to James for the rest of the evening.
The next afternoon, Catherine had a similar experience in the Pump Room when she joined her brother James and Isabella Thorpe for a walk around the room. Catherine soon realised that she had no part in either her friend’s or her brother’s conversation. The two of them constantly laughed and teased each other or playfully argued about some insignificant topic. They often asked for Catherine’s opinion, but they never seemed to hear anything she tried to add to the discussion.
Thankfully Catherine was rescued from this situation when she saw Mrs Hughes and Miss Tilney enter the Pump Room. Miss Tilney greeted her very warmly and she and Catherine enjoyed a pleasant conversation, marked by a simple, honest style on both sides.
‘Your brother dances very well!’ Catherine said innocently. ‘And he is so interesting to talk to.’
This surprisingly direct statement amused Miss Tilney. ‘Henry!’ she replied with a smile. ‘Yes, we have often said that he dances very well. And he loves conversation.’
‘He must have thought it very odd the other evening when he invited me to dance and I refused. But I really had been engaged the whole day to dance with Mr Thorpe.’ Miss Tilney smiled and remained silent. ‘I was so surprised to see Mr Tilney. I thought he might have left Bath for good.’
‘No, when you first met him, Henry was here for a few days to find lodgings for us,’ Miss Tilney explained.
‘Oh, I see now. I think the young lady he danced with on Monday was very glad to have such a good partner. Did you think she was very pretty?’ asked Catherine.
‘Not very,’ answered Miss Tilney, who was enjoying her companion’s questions.
‘I suppose your brother never comes to the Pump Room.’
‘He does sometimes. But this morning he has gone riding with our father.’
When the two ladies parted, Catherine was not conscious of having revealed anything about herself, but Miss Tilney was certain that she had discovered something important about her new acquaintance’s feelings.
There was a ball the next evening and Catherine dressed carefully, hoping that she would meet Miss Tilney and her brother there. But before the Tilneys arrived, Catherine had to work hard at avoiding the attentions of Mr John Thorpe. She hid herself from his view as much as possible, and when he spoke to her she pretended not to hear him.