The next morning Catherine hurried to the Thorpes’ lodgings, wanting to be certain that she was on good terms with Isabella again. But Isabella seemed to have forgotten that there had been any disagreement between them as she rushed into the sitting-room to greet her dear friend.
‘Darling Catherine, from the beginning you understood more about me than I understood about myself. You have seen through everything.’
Catherine could not reply because she did not understand what Isabella was talking about.
‘My sweetest, my most precious friend,’ continued the older girl, ‘you can see that I am amazingly excited. Let us sit down and talk about what you have already guessed. You clever creature! Your brother is the most charming man on earth. I only wish that I deserved him. But what do you think your excellent father and mother will say when he speaks to them? Oh, I am so worried that they will not accept me for their dear son.’
Finally Catherine began to understand what Isabella was talking about. ‘Isabella, are you telling me that you and James are in love?’
And soon Catherine had heard the whole story. The young couple had spoken of their love for each other during yesterday’s carriage ride. Now Catherine was thrilled to think that her dear friend, Isabella, would one day be her sister-in-law.
‘Catherine, you will mean so much more to me than either Anne or Maria; I feel that I will be much more attached to the Morland family than to my own,’ Isabella insisted.
This idea astonished Catherine, and she honestly thought it was inappropriate, but she was delighted to hear Isabella’s story of how the engagement had happened.
‘I remember the first time I met your dear brother,’ continued Isabella. ‘With me, the first moment settles everything. When he visited us in London, I lost my heart to him immediately. I remember I was wearing my yellow silk dress, and when I came into the sitting-room, I thought I had never seen anybody so handsome as dear James.’
Here Catherine secretly thought about the power of love because, although she was very fond of her brother, she had never once thought that he was handsome.
‘Catherine, your brother caused me many sleepless nights. I was sure he would fall in love with someone else. He is such a wonderful man. I knew you understood what was in my heart, especially when I told you that I had a particular liking for clergymen. I was sure that my secret would be safe with you.’ Once again Catherine was surprised by what Isabella thought she knew, but she saw no reason to change her friend’s mind about the situation. She learned that her brother was already on his way to Fullerton to ask for his parents’ permission to become engaged to Miss Isabella Thorpe.
‘Will they accept me, dear Catherine? My fortune is very small and your brother could marry anyone he chose.’
Again Catherine thought about the strength of love and said, ‘Isabella, you are too humble. The difference between your fortunes will not affect anything.’
‘Catherine, not everyone would have such a generous heart as yours. I just wish that the situations were reversed. If I had command of millions and ruled the world, your brother would be my only choice. I need very little in life, and where people are attached by love, poverty itself is not a problem.’
Catherine liked this idea; it sounded like something from one of her novels.
‘I will not think of a wedding or a house or anything of that sort until we have your father’s answer,’ continued Isabella. ‘Your dear brother said that he will send me news tomorrow, but I know I will not have courage enough to open his letter.’ The two friends spent every moment together that day and the next, talking of nothing except how happy they would be as sisters. Finally, after much anxiety, the post was delivered on the second day and Isabella opened her letter from Fullerton. James wrote:
I have gained the approval of my kind parents, and they promise that everything in their power will be done to guarantee my happiness. The brightest look spread across Isabella’s face and she said that she was the happiest woman on earth.
The entire Thorpe family were now very happy and wanted to hear about the details of Mr Morland’s promise: What would his income be? Would he be given property by his family? What kind of ring would Isabella receive? What would their carriage and their house be like? Where would they live?
Mr John Thorpe had business in London and now that Isabella had her letter, he prepared to depart.
‘Well, Miss Morland,’ he said, finding Catherine alone in the sitting-room, ‘I have come to say goodbye for the present time.’
‘Goodbye, sir. I hope you have a safe journey.’
‘What do you think of this marrying idea, Miss Morland?’
‘I am sure marriage is a very good thing,’ replied Catherine.
‘Do you? I am glad you are not an enemy to marriage. By the way, do you know that old song that says, «One wedding brings another»? Perhaps we may find out if that old song has some truth in it at Isabella’s wedding.’
‘May we?’ asked Catherine, feeling quite confused. ‘But I never sing, so I would not know. Well, I wish you a good journey. I dine with Miss Tilney today, so I must rush home.’
‘Don’t hurry away. I will be gone from Bath for a fortnight and it will seem a long time. When will we be together again?’
‘Well, we will see you when you return. Goodbye for now,’ said Catherine, trying to get away.
‘That is very kind of you, Miss Morland. You are probably the nicest person I know. You have so many good qualities.’
‘Sir, there are much nicer, better people than me. Good morning to you. I must get home.’
‘But Miss Morland, may I visit Fullerton one day soon?’
‘My father and mother would be pleased to meet you.’
‘And I hope, Miss Morland, that you would be pleased to see me there.’
‘It is always nice to have company at our house.’
‘I agree with you — give me some cheerful company and I am very happy. I believe you and I agree about most things.’
‘That idea has never occurred to me,’ said Catherine. ‘In fact, I do not know my own mind about most things.’
‘I am the same,’ cried Mr Thorpe. ‘I have a simple idea about most things. Let me have a girl I like and a comfortable house and I would be satisfied. Fortune is nothing. I am sure of a good income of my own, so my wife does not need to have a penny.’
‘I am in agreement with you there, sir. If there is a good fortune on one side, there can be no need for any on the other. I hate the idea of one great fortune marrying another. And I think it is very wicked of people to marry for money. Goodbye. We shall be glad to see you in Fullerton one day.’
And having said that, Catherine hurried out of the Thorpes’ house without another thought about John Thorpe. She was concentrating on getting ready for her dinner with Miss Tilney.
Mr Thorpe felt very satisfied; he believed that Miss Morland had clearly encouraged his attentions and he intended to pursue her confidently and without hesitation.