Catherine went to the Tilneys’ lodgings with high hopes of a particularly pleasurable evening, and of course this could only lead to disappointment. Although General Tilney was extremely polite to her, Eleanor Tilney welcomed her warmly and Henry Tilney was as charming as usual, the happiness that Catherine had expected was not achieved. Somehow the evening did not have the spirit, or perhaps the magic, that Catherine had wished for. On leaving the party, Catherine’s conclusion was that nobody was to blame, and that the evening was just one of those unfortunate failures that happen occasionally. But when she described the evening to Isabella, her reaction was very different.
‘I blame it on pride. Rude, unbearable pride! The people in that family think they are very grand. I have never heard of such unfriendly behaviour as Miss Tilney’s. Hardly even to speak to you, a guest!’
‘But, Isabella, you are misinterpreting my words. Miss Tilney was not rude; she was very polite, very proper and correct.’
‘Please don’t defend her. Or her brother! He had appeared so attached to you and then he hardly looked at you when you were a guest in their house! How rude!’
‘No, Isabella. That is not what I said. I simply meant that he did not seem in good spirits.’
‘I hate this type of inconstant behaviour in anyone. Never think of him again; he does not deserve your attention.’
‘I do not suppose that he ever thinks of me,’ said Catherine. ‘Do you see how different he is from your brother and from mine? I really believe that John has the most faithful heart.’
‘But General Tilney, I assure you, could not have treated me with more attention or with greater politeness. It seemed that his only care was to make me happy.’
‘Oh, I do not suspect him of pride. John thinks very highly of him, and I trust my brother’s judgement.’
‘Well, we will meet again this evening at the Rooms, so I will wait until then to judge their behaviour towards me.’
‘And must I go?’ asked Isabella.
‘Of course, I can refuse you nothing, but you know that my heart is elsewhere. And you know that it is completely out of the question for me to think of dancing, so please do not suggest it, although I know that Charles Hodges will beg me to dance with him.’
Isabella’s opinion of the Tilneys did not influence Catherine’s view of them. She was certain that they had not meant to be quiet or proud when she dined with them, and that evening she was proved right. Both Miss Tilney and her brother were dearly happy to see her and treated her very kindly throughout the evening, and once again she enjoyed her usual happiness as Henry’s dance partner.
At the end of the first dance, a tall, handsome young man approached Eleanor and Henry Tilney, and Catherine learned that this was their older brother, Captain Tilney. After a short, polite conversation, the older brother asked if they knew the pretty young woman sitting with some of the older ladies. Catherine explained that it was her good friend Isabella Thorpe.
‘Could you please introduce me to her?’ asked Captain Tilney. ‘I would like to invite her to dance.’
‘I am afraid that she would not dance this evening for any reason in the world, although I think it is very kind of you to think she might wish for a partner,’ said Catherine.
When Catherine and Henry were returning to the dance floor, Henry said, ‘Thank you for thinking that my brother was being kind in wanting to dance with Miss Thorpe. You allow the rest of the world to have motives that are as good and generous as your own.’
Catherine was lost in thought about Henry’s comment when she heard Isabella’s voice. She looked up and saw her with Captain Tilney, standing in the set opposite her and Henry. Isabella raised her eyebrows for a second and then smiled.
‘How could this happen?’ Catherine said to Henry. ‘Isabella was so determined not to dance.’
‘And has Isabella never changed her mind before?’
‘But what about your brother? Why did he invite her to dance after what I said?’ asked Catherine, feeling very confused.
‘My brother makes his own decisions, but his behaviour does not surprise me. She is very pretty and that would have been enough reason for him to have asked her.’
Catherine had no opportunity to speak to Isabella until the dance had finished and they were walking round the room arm in arm.
‘Dear Catherine, I know you are surprised that I danced, and now I am exhausted. But he is very amusing, I must admit, although I would have preferred to sit still all evening.’
‘Why didn’t you?’ asked Catherine, thinking of her brother.
‘That would have made me look quite spoiled, and you know how I hate that kind of behaviour. I refused him as long as possible, but he would not give up. He said that he would dance with me or with no one. Such nonsense! Since there would be no peace until I danced with him, and knowing that your dear brother would not want me to sit throughout the evening, I had to accept his invitation. He is such a smart-looking young fellow. Did you see that every eye was upon us?’