Distressing Letters

When Catherine was completely calm again at Northanger Abbey, she began to wonder why she had not heard anything from Isabella. She was impatient for news from Bath, and she wanted to know that her friend and her brother, James, continued on the best possible terms. Isabella had promised to write and had assured Catherine that she was always strict about carrying out her promises. This, Catherine thought, made it very strange that she had not received a letter from Isabella.

Then, on her tenth morning at the Abbey, Catherine found a letter beside her place at the breakfast table. She opened it and found that it was from James:

Dear Catherine,

This is not a letter that I want to write, but I think it is my duty to tell you that everything is at an end between Miss Thorpe and me. I left her and Bath yesterday, and will never see either of them again. You will learn the details from a different source, but I hope you will trust that my only mistake was to believe that my love was returned. Thank God I learned the truth in time. She has made me miserable forever.

I hope that your visit to Northanger Abbey finishes before Captain Tilney and Isabella announce their engagement. I have been a fool, believing her words rather than the evidence in front of my eyes. I wish that I had never met her. Dearest Catherine, be careful how you give your heart.

Catherine sat at the breakfast table with tears running down her cheeks, and with Eleanor and Henry wondering how they could help her. Fortunately, General Tilney was hidden behind his newspaper and took no notice of his guest that morning. Unable to eat, Catherine hurried off to the sitting-room to be alone as soon as it was politely possible.

Eleanor and Henry recognised that their friend was distressed and were very concerned for her, and so, after half an hour, they quietly approached her.

‘I hope you have not had bad news from Fullerton. Is your family all well?’ Eleanor asked gently.

‘They are all well, thank you. The letter was from my brother at Oxford.’

Everyone was quiet for a few minutes, but then Catherine cried, ‘I do not think I shall ever wish for a letter again! Poor James is so unhappy, and you will soon know why.’

‘I am sure he is glad to have such a kind, affectionate sister. You will be a comfort to him if he is in any distress,’ replied Henry kindly.

‘I have one favour to beg,’ Catherine said in a troubled voice. ‘If your brother, Captain Tilney, is coming here, could you please give me notice so that I may go away.’

‘Frederick? Has this anything to do with your friend, Miss Thorpe?’ asked Henry.

‘How quickly you have guessed,’ cried Catherine. ‘And now I understand why she has not written to me, but please read what my brother has written.’

Both Henry and Eleanor read James Morland’s letter, and Henry said, ‘I am very sorry that anyone you love is unhappy, but I cannot believe that Frederick ever intended to propose marriage to Miss Thorpe.’

Then Eleanor asked, ‘What can you tell me about Miss Thorpe’s family? Does she have any fortune?’

‘Her mother seems a good sort of person, and her father is dead. They are not a wealthy family, and I believe Isabella has no fortune at all, but that would not matter to your family. Your father told me the other day that he only valued money because it allowed him to guarantee the happiness of his children.’ Henry and Eleanor exchanged a look. Then Eleanor said, ‘I can imagine Frederick flirting with a girl like Miss Thorpe, but he would not respect her for treating her own fiance so badly. He has never found a woman good enough to love, and this situation would not make him love Miss Thorpe.’

‘You might be wrong this time, my dear sister,’ said Henry. ‘Surely Miss Thorpe would not break off her engagement to Mr Morland before securing a promise from the other gentleman. You may delight in such a sister-in-law: open, honest, lively, with strong affections and nothing artificial about her emotions.’

‘That kind of sister-in-law would be delightful,’ said Eleanor, smiling at her brother.

‘But perhaps,’ observed Catherine, ‘although she has behaved so badly to my family, she may behave better to yours. Now that she has got the man she really likes and wanted, she may learn to be faithful.’

‘I trust she will be faithful to our brother,’ replied Henry, ‘unless she meets someone with more charm, or even a better fortune. I think that is Frederick’s only chance of escape.’

‘You are right. I think ambition was her only motive when falling in love. I remember when she found out what my father would do for her and James, she was so obviously disappointed. I have never been so deceived by anyone in my entire life, but that does not compare to poor James’s feelings towards her.’

‘We must pity your brother at present,’ Henry said, ‘but we must not underestimate your loss. You no longer have a close friend to open your heart to, to depend on, to learn from. You will feel the loss greatly, won’t you?’


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