‘Very true. Then we met Mrs Thorpe and were always busy. My dear, do you think these silk gloves still look well? I wore them for the first time in Bath. Do you remember that evening?’
‘Oh, yes, perfectly,’ answered Catherine.
‘It was very agreeable, wasn’t it? Mr Tilney drank tea with us that evening, and I thought he was an excellent addition to our little society. He is a kind gentleman, isn’t he? I think you probably danced with him that evening. I am not certain, but I was wearing my most expensive dress, do you remember? And Mr Tilney admired it very much.’
Catherine felt too emotional to answer, but Mrs Allen continued, ‘I really have no patience with the General. He seemed such an admirable gentleman when we met him. Do you know, Catherine, that his lodgings were rented by another family the day after he and his children left? But no wonder — it was such a desirable address.’
As they walked home again, Mrs Morland said, ‘You must be grateful for your old friends. They have loved you and been concerned for your happiness for many years. Having the affection and good opinion of friends like Mr and Mrs Allen is much more important than your recent unhappy experience.’
Catherine knew that these were wise words, but at that moment they meant little to her. Her present happiness did not depend on old friends, but on the behaviour of her newest friends. Mrs Morland continued encouraging her daughter to forget about the people she had met at Bath as they walked towards home.
Catherine listened politely to her mother, but she was silently reflecting that now Henry must have arrived at Northanger; now he must have heard about her departure; and now, perhaps, the family were leaving the Abbey for Hereford.
The following day, Mrs Morland sat with Catherine and Sarah, her two eldest daughters, as they worked at their various jobs. Catherine had never been hard-working, nor had she liked sitting indoors for very long, but Mrs Morland noticed that her bad habits had become even worse. The seventeen-year-old could not sit still, nor concentrate on a piece of work for even ten minutes at a time. She regularly stood up and walked around the room or wandered into the garden. Sitting quietly seemed impossible.
But worst of all to her mother was Catherine’s lack of energy and spirit. She knew her daughter had never been a good worker, but silence and sadness were unusual for her. What had happened to her old, cheerful personality?
For two days Mrs Morland allowed this behaviour to pass without a hint of criticism, but when a third night’s rest still had not returned Catherine to her old self, she decided to have a serious talk with her daughter.
‘My dear Catherine, I am afraid you have become too grand for your own family. Should your father mend his own shirts? Look how steadily your sister is working, while your head is still in Bath. You must remember that there is a time for everything. Now is not the time for balls and theatre; now is the time for you to be useful to me and to your family.’
Catherine picked up her sewing basket and sadly replied, ‘I do not think about Bath. At least, not very much.’
‘Then you must still be upset about General Tilney, and that is very silly of you. You probably will never see him again. You should not worry about things you cannot change.’ After a short silence, she continued, ‘I hope you have not found your home disappointing because it is not as elegant as Northanger Abbey. That would be turning your visit into something evil. Wherever you are, but especially in your own home, you should learn to be content. I was not happy to hear you at breakfast talking so much about the French bread and the beautiful plates at Northanger.’
‘I am sure I do not care about any of that,’ said Catherine quietly.
‘I have a book,’ Mrs Morland said, ‘with a very clever essay about young ladies who have been spoiled by making friends with people who are much grander than their own families. I will find it for you later. I am sure it will do you good.’
Catherine tried to get on with her work, but after a few minutes Mrs Morland saw her staring out of the window again. She came to the conclusion that her daughter was suffering, and she hastily left the room to find her book of clever essays.