Seeds of Misunderstanding

‘Mrs Allen,’ said Catherine the next morning, ‘will there be any harm in my visiting Miss Tilney today? I will not be calm until I have explained everything that happened yesterday.’

With Mrs Allen’s permission and advice on which dress to wear, our heroine anxiously hurried to the Tilneys’ lodgings in Milsom Street.

The door was opened by a servant, who said he would check if Miss Tilney was at home. When he returned to Catherine, the servant said, ‘Miss Tilney has gone out.’

Something made Catherine think that Miss Tilney was in the house but was too offended to see her. When she got to the bottom of the street she looked back and saw Miss Tilney and General Tilney himself coming out of the house. Catherine’s first reaction was to feel angry, but then she remembered how her own actions might have been misinterpreted and was determined not to judge Miss Tilney unfairly.


Catherine was in a rather thoughtful mood all day, but was persuaded to go to the theatre that night with the Allens and the Thorpes. The comedy, one that she had been looking forward to seeing, almost immediately lifted her mood.

But at the beginning of the fifth act, Catherine saw Mr Henry Tilney and his father join a group of people in the opposite box and all her anxiety and distress returned. She lost interest in the play and watched Mr Tilney. Finally he looked towards her and bowed; but what a cold bow it was! He did not smile and immediately turned his eyes back towards the stage. Catherine’s heart raced and she felt miserable and eager for an opportunity to explain herself to him.

The play came to its conclusion, the curtain fell and Catherine’s wish came true: Henry Tilney came round to the Allens’ box. He greeted the Allens very politely, but Catherine did not wait for him to speak to her.

‘Oh! Mr Tilney, I have been quite wild to speak to you to make my apologies. You must have thought me so rude yesterday, but really it was not my fault — was it, Mrs Allen? Mr John Thorpe told me that you and your sister had gone out in your carriage. What could I do? But I would have ten thousand times preferred to be with you, wouldn’t I, Mrs Allen?’

‘Yes, my dear, but calm down. You will damage my dress,’ said Mrs Allen.

‘I begged Mr Thorpe to stop his carriage and let me out when I saw you,’ Catherine rushed on, ‘but he would not even slow down. If he had, I would have jumped out of the carriage and run after you.’

No man could choose not to accept Catherine’s sincere apology and explanation, and Henry Tilney smiled politely and told her that she must say no more about it.

‘My sister would also like to apologise to you, Miss Morland, for her own behaviour this morning,’ Mr Tilney added.

‘That is not necessary. It is understandable that she did not want to see me after yesterday’s disaster.’

‘But Eleanor did not choose to ignore you. My father wanted her to accompany him on his walk. He is not a patient man and told the servant to send you away, so I would like to apologise for her. And now may I join you for a few minutes? What did you think of tonight’s play?’

Catherine chatted with Mr Tilney for some time and they made plans to take their country walk as soon as possible, which made Catherine believe that she was one of the happiest creatures in all the world.

But a new mystery appeared while the two young people were together. Catherine observed with some surprise that John Thorpe was in the opposite box talking to General Tilney and looking over at her from time to time.

‘Does Mr Thorpe know your father well?’ Catherine asked.

‘I did not know that they were acquaintances, but my father is a military man and has a wide circle of friends.’


On Sunday afternoon in the Crescent, Catherine met Henry and Eleanor Tilney by chance and they decided to go for their country walk the next morning. At almost the same time, the Thorpes and James Morland were looking for Catherine to tell her about their plans for another carriage ride into the country, also on Monday morning.

‘My dear,’ Isabella began when they found Catherine, ‘we are going on our trip to Clifton tomorrow morning. You must be ready early so that we have time to see and do everything.’

‘I am very sorry, but I cannot go with you tomorrow. I am engaged to go for a walk with Eleanor Tilney and her brother.’

‘But we cannot go without you,’ complained Isabella. ‘Explain that you had forgotten you were engaged to go with us.’

‘Don’t try to persuade me, Isabella. I will not break my engagement with the Tilneys.’

But the discussion did not end there. ‘My dearest, sweetest Catherine, you cannot refuse such a small request from me, a friend who loves you so dearly,’ Isabella tried. ‘You cannot possibly love Miss Tilney more than you love me. You can go for your country walk another day.’

But Catherine would not change her plans.

‘Well, I cannot help feeling jealous when I see that you prefer strangers over me,’ answered Isabella, as she wiped away a tear from her cheek.


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