‘Oh, yes, I suppose he is very good-looking, but too proud. I scolded him about that several times in my way.’
Catherine was with Isabella in the sitting-room of the Thorpes’ lodgings when her brother James’s second letter arrived from Fullerton; it contained a summary of his father’s kind arrangements for James and his wife’s future happiness. As a clergyman, he would be given his father’s living with the salary that went with it, and he would receive a future inheritance of equal value, then doubling his yearly salary.
James wrote how grateful he was to his parents and explained the necessity of waiting between two and three years before he would have his parish and he and Isabella could marry, which is what he had expected. Catherine followed her brother’s lead and, feeling very satisfied with her parents’ generosity and good wishes for the young couple, congratulated Isabella on having everything so pleasantly settled.
‘It is very charming, I am sure,’ said Isabella softly.
‘Mr Morland has behaved generously, without doubt,’ added Mrs Thorpe, looking anxiously at her daughter. ‘I am sure that he would do more if he could. I am certain that if his fortunes change, he will do more for you and his son in the future. A clergyman’s salary is a small amount to begin on, but you are very modest in your needs, dear Isabella.’
‘Well, as you know, I never think of myself,’ Isabella began, ‘but I do not want to injure my dear James. Such a small income is hardly enough to pay for the essential requirements of life. For myself, that is unimportant; I never think of myself. Anyway, Mr Morland has a right to do what he likes with his own money.’ Catherine felt hurt by what Isabella was implying and said, ‘I am sure that my father has promised as much as he can afford.’ Isabella quickly tried to cover up her true feelings.
‘My dear Catherine, you know me well enough to know that I hate money and would be happy with very little, but two or three years is a long time to wait until your brother and I can marry.’
The Allens now began the sixth of their eight weeks in Bath, and Catherine was looking forward to more opportunities to spend time with both Eleanor and Henry Tilney. But on her next visit to Miss Tilney at Milsom Street, she was disappointed to learn that the family would be leaving Bath at the end of the following week.
‘I am afraid my father has missed some of his friends who did not come to Bath this year,’ explained Miss Tilney.
Catherine was very upset by this news and wanted to ask Miss Tilney to promise to write, but before she could make her request, General Tilney entered the room.
‘Well, Miss Morland,’ he said to Catherine, ‘have you agreed? We leave Bath a week from Saturday, and if you will accompany us to Northanger Abbey, none of us will have any reason to miss this place. We cannot offer you all of the excitement of a place like Bath, but we will do everything we can to make your stay agreeable.’ Northanger Abbey! These were thrilling words to Catherine, and it was such a flattering invitation. To have her company so warmly requested! She thought her heart might burst if she tried to speak. A visit to Northanger Abbey held so much promise: a continued friendship with Eleanor, whom she greatly admired, and the possibility of a romance, but that was something she dared not mention to anyone. And in addition to all that, she would be staying in an ancient abbey and would be able to explore every damp cellar, every hidden room, every ruined passage. The decayed walls would speak to her and tell her the stories hidden there.
With a mind so full of excitement about her stay at Northanger Abbey, Catherine was hardly aware that two or three days passed without her seeing Isabella for more than a few minutes at a time. But one afternoon Isabella sought her out in the Pump Room and asked her to sit with her on her favourite bench between two doors, where they could see everybody who entered the room before they were seen.
As the two friends chatted, Catherine noticed that Isabella’s eyes continually turned towards the entrance as if she were waiting for someone.
Catherine decided to tease her friend a little and said, ‘Don’t worry, Isabella. James will be here soon.’
‘Catherine, my dear creature, do not think that I always want to keep James at my elbow. It would be awful to always be together. And so you are going to Northanger Abbey. I am very glad for you. I understand that it is one of the finest old places in England, and you must write and tell me all about it.’
‘I will do my best. But who are you looking for? Are you expecting your sisters?’
‘I am not looking for anybody. My eyes must be somewhere, and you know my eyes wander when my thoughts are a hundred miles away. Tilney says it is always the case with certain types of minds. But forget about that. I have something important to tell you. I have just had a letter from John, and I am sure you can guess what he has written about.’