Catherine sank into a chair, unable to breathe or to speak. ‘Dear Catherine,’ Eleanor continued, ‘I could hardly believe my senses when I was told. No disappointment or anger on your part could be greater than my own. What will your father and mother say after we took you away from the Allens, your true friends, and brought you here, so far from your home? And now you are cruelly driven out of the house without the smallest consideration for your comfort or safety. Dear, dear Catherine, I had to deliver the message, but you know that I have no real power in this house. I think you know who is responsible for this insult.’
‘Have I offended the General?’ Catherine asked weakly.
‘I can think of nothing that you have done to offend him, but I have never seen him so angry.’
Catherine struggled to speak for Eleanor’s sake. ‘I am very sorry if I have upset him; it is the last thing I would do on purpose. But don’t be unhappy, Eleanor. You must go to Hereford and keep your engagement. I am only sorry that the trip was not remembered sooner so I could have written home. But it will not matter to my family. They will be happy to see me.’
‘But you should not have to make the journey alone!’
‘The journey is nothing. It is less than seventy miles. Don’t think about that. I can be ready at seven. Please ask your servant to call me in time.’
After Eleanor left, Catherine burst into tears. She was being thrown out! With no reasonable explanation nor apology from General Tilney, she was being rudely sent home. She could not even say goodbye to Henry, and what about her hopes? Would she ever see him again?
How could a man who had been so polite and kind to her, who had treated her fondly throughout her time at Northanger Abbey, now act so rudely towards her? She must have offended him in some way and given him reasons for treating her so badly. Seven o’clock! He wanted her out of the house before he left his bedroom in the morning.
Catherine spent another sleepless night at Northanger Abbey, but this time she was not frightened by imagined ghosts and mysterious chests and cupboards. This time her anxiety had a basis in fact, and neither the wind nor the darkness bothered her. Instead, she lay awake wondering how things had gone so badly wrong.
By the time Eleanor came to her room at six in the morning Catherine had finished her packing, and she was almost dressed and ready to depart. Both young women remained silent, neither knowing how to improve the situation.
At the breakfast table, Catherine could not eat, but she thought about breakfast the day before. Happy, happy breakfast! Henry had been there and the three of them had chatted, enjoying everything present, and fearing nothing in the future except Henry’s visit to Woodston for a few days. Henry had sat beside her and helped her to food, and so Catherine now lost herself in this memory. Then she heard the carriage arrive outside and remembered what was happening.
Eleanor now felt the need to speak and hurried to say, ‘You must write to me, Catherine, as soon as possible. You must tell me you are safe at home and have found your family well. I will not expect more. Please send a letter to me at Lord Longtown’s, but address it to his daughter, my friend Alice.’
‘No, Eleanor,’ Catherine answered quietly, ‘if you are not allowed to receive a letter from me, I think I had better not write. I will have no trouble getting home safely.’
‘I am not surprised by your feelings, dear Catherine, and will not urge you to do something you are unhappy about,’ Eleanor answered sadly, with tears in her eyes.
‘Oh, Eleanor, I will write to you. Please don’t worry.’
‘Thank you, Catherine, and there is one more thing. You have been so long away from home that I wonder if you have any money left for the journey.’
Catherine quickly looked into her purse and said, ‘I had not thought about money, but you are right. I cannot pay for the journey to Fullerton.’
Eleanor gave Catherine money from her own purse. Soon the carriage was announced to be ready; and Catherine and Eleanor’s silent, sad looks expressed more than any words could.
They hurried to the door, and Catherine was soon climbing into the carriage. But she could not leave until she had asked Eleanor with trembling lips to give her kind regards to her absent friend. But by almost mentioning his name, Catherine’s tears began again and she found her seat and covered her face with her handkerchief.