With more than usual eagerness, Catherine hurried to the Pump Room the next day. She felt sure that she would see Mr Tilney there and she was ready to meet him with a smile. But unfortunately no smile was required. It seemed that every other creature in Bath arrived in the room during the fashionable hours; only Henry Tilney remained absent.
Mrs Allen once again repeated her usual complaint: ‘How pleasant Bath would be if we had some acquaintances here!’ This wish had been repeated by Mrs Allen so often that it is not surprising that on this morning she had her reward. When she and Catherine sat down, the woman to their right stared at them for a few seconds before crying, ‘Madam, if my eyes do not deceive me, your name is Allen.’
Looking closely at the woman next to her, Mrs Allen cried in delight, ‘Mrs Thorpe, my old school friend — it is you, isn’t it?’ The two ladies had not been in contact for more than fifteen years, and now their joy in meeting again was enormous. They chatted excitedly, talking both at the same time, and each much more interested in giving than receiving information.
Although Mrs Thorpe was a widow, and not a very rich one, she had one great advantage over Mrs Allen: she had three sons and three daughters. Mrs Allen had no children to talk about, but as she listened to all the news about the Thorpe children, she enjoyed noticing that her old friend’s costume was quite inferior to anything in her own wardrobe.
‘Look! Here are my dear girls,’ cried Mrs Thorpe, pointing at three smart-looking females moving towards them. ‘The tallest, the most beautiful and most elegant is Isabella, my eldest.’
After Mrs Allen was introduced, she presented Catherine Morland to the Thorpe ladies.
‘Miss Morland! You are the picture of your brother!’ the Thorpes cried.
They quickly explained that their brother, John, was at Oxford University and was a great friend of James Morland, Catherine’s brother, who was studying to be a clergyman like his father. Catherine remembered that James had recently visited a college friend and his family near London. And this was the family. How lovely!
Soon the eldest Thorpe girl, Isabella, invited Catherine to take her arm and walk round the room with her. Catherine was so delighted that she almost forgot Henry Tilney while she was talking to Miss Thorpe. Friendship is certainly the finest medicine for the pain of disappointed love.
Because Miss Isabella Thorpe was four years older, Catherine felt that she could learn a lot about society from her new friend. When they parted, she watched Isabella as she walked away. She admired the older girl’s graceful walk, her lovely figure, her fashionable dress, and she felt extremely lucky to have found such a charming companion.
That evening at the theatre and the next morning in the warm sunshine in the Crescent, Catherine enjoyed the sweet pleasure of her new and agreeable friendship with Isabella. She was so much happier than she had been in her first week in Bath, but she desired another meeting with Mr Henry Tilney and could find him nowhere. He must have left Bath, although he had not mentioned his departure on Friday evening. Of course this sort of mysterious behaviour is always attractive in a hero, and it made our heroine anxious to know more about him.
Isabella loved to hear anything with even a hint of romance, and wanted to know everything about Henry Tilney; therefore, he became a regular topic of conversation for the two young ladies. Catherine re-lived every moment that she had spent with the young gentleman, and Isabella analysed the situation and gave advice from her superior experience and wisdom.
‘He must be a charming young man, and I am sure he found you equally charming. He must have important business in Gloucestershire and will soon return to Bath. And he is a clergyman! I have a particular liking for clergymen,’ Isabella said in a rather dreamy voice.
Not being experienced in the etiquette of romance, Catherine did not demand to know the cause of Isabella’s emotional response to clergymen. Perhaps as a good friend she should have insisted that her friend tell her more about her ‘particular liking’.
The friendship between the two girls nevertheless continued to grow and to become more and more affectionate. Even if the weather was very poor, the two young ladies walked through mud and rain to sit together and read novels. Yes, novels!
To many people, novels are considered to be nothing more than foolish nonsense. But why? Novels may not be as serious as books about history or science or even art, but novels have humour, mystery, culture and elegance. Do not, therefore, say, ‘Oh! It is only a novel!’ Read novels and learn everything about human nature in the most delightful language and through the most entertaining plots. Our two young ladies, you will see, had already learned this lesson. Listen to their conversation in the Pump Room after a friendship of only eight or nine days.