Catherine started to say something to her friend, but Isabella hurried to the dance floor. Catherine could see John Thorpe approaching, and she worried that all was lost; she might have to dance with him again. But what luck! Mr Tilney appeared and immediately asked her to dance. Not only had she had a lucky escape from John Thorpe, but it seemed that Mr Tilney had sought her out on purpose!
They joined a set and took their positions for the dance. However, Catherine’s happiness was disturbed by the arrival of John Thorpe behind her.
‘Hello, Miss Morland!’ Mr Thorpe shouted. ‘I thought we would be dancing together this evening.’
‘Mr Thorpe, you did not ask me to dance,’ replied Catherine.
‘That is a good joke. I asked you as soon as I came into the room. This is a low trick to play on a fellow. I told my friends that I was going to dance with the prettiest girl in the room, and now you have abandoned me. And who is this partner of yours?’
‘He is Mr Henry Tilney,’ answered Catherine quietly.
‘I do not know him. A good-looking man. Does he need a horse? I can get a good one for him from Sam Fletcher. He sold me my last horse, a really good hunter.’
The dance was beginning now and Mr Thorpe was forced to leave the floor.
When Mr Tilney came close to Catherine, he said, ‘I was getting very impatient with that gentleman, taking your attention from me. We have agreed to be faithful to each other as dance partners for the evening; and a man who tries to claim the attention of another man’s partner is breaking what I consider an important contract. Neither person should look around and wonder about the advantages of having a different partner. Don’t you agree?’
‘Yes, of course I agree,’ answered Catherine enthusiastically.
‘May I come to the conclusion then that if the gentleman who spoke to you just now were to return, or if any other gentleman wanted to talk to you, you would excuse yourself and concentrate your attention on me, your partner?’
‘Well, it would be honest to say that I do not want to talk to any other gentleman this evening,’ Catherine said prettily.
‘I am very satisfied with that guarantee, and I shall continue with courage. Do you find Bath as agreeable as when I had the honour of asking that question before?’
‘Yes, quite. Even more so than before.’
‘More so! Be careful. The fashionable young ladies always get tired of Bath at the end of six weeks.’
‘Well, other people must judge for themselves, but I do not think I would be tired of Bath at the end of six months,’ insisted Catherine. ‘I do not think I could ever be tired of Bath.’
As the dance progressed, Catherine noticed a handsome older man with a rather noble attitude standing in the crowd and staring at her. Then she saw him whisper something to Henry Tilney, and both men looked at her again before the older man withdrew from the dance floor.
Henry politely approached Catherine and said, ‘That gentleman is General Tilney, my father, and he was asking me who you are.’ Later that evening, Catherine had a very welcome opportunity for a chat with Henry Tilney and his sister. They discovered that all three of them had a special liking for country walks.
‘Shall we have a walk together one morning?’ suggested Miss Tilney.
‘I would like that better than anything in the world,’ Catherine said enthusiastically. ‘Shall we go tomorrow?’
The three young people agreed, unless there was rain, to go out for a walk together at twelve o’clock the next day.
And so, although she had seen hardly anything of her good friend Isabella during the entire evening, Catherine travelled home in the carriage with Mr and Mrs Allen in such good spirits that she danced in her seat all the way.
At breakfast the next morning, Catherine looked out at a disappointing sky full of clouds. Then at eleven o’clock, when she was watching the weather with great attention, a few drops of rain hit the sitting-room window.
‘Oh, Mrs Allen, do you think the rain will stop before midday?’
‘Perhaps it may, my dear,’ answered Mrs Allen, ‘but then the streets will be very dirty and muddy.’
‘I do not mind dirt and mud. I would still be happy to go for a walk. But, oh dear, now I see four raised umbrellas, but I will not give up until half past twelve,’ Catherine said. ‘That is just the time of day for the weather to change. Oh why can’t we have the kind of beautiful weather they had in Udolpho!’
Then just as the clock struck the half hour, the sky really did begin to clear and the rain stopped. In ten more minutes, the sun was shining and it promised to be a fine, bright afternoon. Catherine continued to sit at the window, hoping that the Tilneys would appear for their country walk. But instead of the Tilneys, she was surprised by the arrival of Isabella and John Thorpe, and her own brother, James.