A Shift in Our Heroine’s Affections

Catherine’s reaction to her disappointing evening in the Upper Rooms was to go to bed and sleep for nine uninterrupted hours. She awoke the next morning perfectly rested, in excellent spirits and with fresh hopes and schemes. She wanted to get to know Miss Tilney better, and with that in mind, she planned to go in the early afternoon to the Pump Room, where any new arrival in Bath was likely to be. And so our heroine happily sat with Mrs Allen that morning, reading her book and smiling at her companion’s comments about everything that crossed her mind, from a stain on the carpet to the noise of a carriage in the street.

Then at about half past twelve, an extremely loud knock on the door made both ladies look up suddenly. Before the servant could announce him, Mr John Thorpe came running up the stairs and into Mrs Allen’s sitting-room.

‘Well, Miss Morland, here we are. Isabella and your brother are waiting outside in their carriage and are in a great hurry to get going. Good morning, Mrs Allen. A terribly good ball last night, wasn’t it? Have you seen my fine carriage outside? Far superior to the rented carriage Morland is driving.’

‘Mr Thorpe, what is happening?’ asked Catherine.

‘Miss Morland, what a silly girl you are. You agreed to go for a drive this morning. We are all going up Claverton Hill.’

‘I remember that you mentioned a carriage ride, but really I did not expect you,’ Catherine explained.

‘Not expect me! I wonder how you would have complained if I had not come for you!’ shouted John Thorpe.

Catherine did not know what to do and so looked to Mrs Allen for guidance. She wondered if it was proper to go for a drive in Mr Thorpe’s carriage without a chaperone. Would Mrs Allen approve since James and Isabella were going too?

‘Well, madam, shall I go or not?’ asked Catherine.

‘Do as you please, my dear,’ replied Mrs Allen calmly. She did not seem to understand any of Catherine’s anxiety.

A drive in an open carriage with Isabella and James following behind in a second carriage was almost as exciting as the possibility of another meeting with Miss Tilney, and, with Mrs Allen’s permission, Catherine was ready to go in two minutes.

As she and Mr Thorpe hurried out of the house, they were greeted by Isabella.

‘Catherine! My dearest creature! What a delightful ball we had last night. I have a thousand things to discuss with you. But now I am anxious to begin our adventure.’

John Thorpe helped Catherine into his carriage, saying, ‘Don’t be frightened, Miss Morland, if my horse shows a bit of spirit. You are in no danger; I am an excellent horseman!’

With this warning, Catherine was surprised when the horse started and continued in the quietest manner imaginable. A silence of several minutes was broken when Mr Thorpe suddenly asked, ‘Old Allen is one of the richest men in Wiltshire, isn’t he?’

‘Oh, do you mean Mr Allen?’ asked Catherine, not understanding how this topic of conversation had come up. ‘Yes, I believe he is very rich.’

‘And no children at all?’

‘No, not any.’

‘And he is a relative of yours, isn’t he?’

‘Oh, no. We are not related,’

‘But you spend a lot of time with them.’

‘Yes, very much.’

After that short exchange, Mr Thorpe talked about more topics that interested him: his horse, the value of his carriage, his skill as a horseman, the expensive wine he served in his Oxford apartment. Catherine had been brought up in a family of plain people who were not in the habit of telling lies or exaggerating their own importance. Mr Thorpe, on the other hand, was obviously accustomed to a type of conversation which always began and ended with praise for himself.

Catherine had little idea of how such young men ought to behave, but she could not rid herself of the conviction that Mr Thorpe was not an agreeable person. It was a difficult and bold conclusion to come to, since he was her brother’s friend and dear Isabella’s brother; but in spite of this, when she was in John Thorpe’s company Catherine was quickly bored and felt exhausted by his lack of interest in anything but himself.

After what seemed like hours to Catherine, the carriages finally returned to Mrs Allen’s door.

‘Past three o’clock!’ cried Isabella. ‘It is impossible! I cannot believe my watch. No two and a half hours have ever gone by so rapidly and so nicely. Don’t you agree, dear Catherine?’

Our heroine could not tell a lie even to please Isabella; but she was spared the need to disagree with her friend because Isabella did not wait for her answer.

‘I have a thousand things to talk to you about, but now I have to go home,’ complained Isabella. And with the gestures of a tragic actress mixed with her satisfied smile and laughing eyes, Isabella called goodbye to Catherine and left her.

Catherine found Mrs Allen in her sitting-room.

‘Well, my dear, I hope your afternoon was as pleasant as mine,’ began Mrs Allen. ‘I went to the Pump Room as soon as you were gone and met Mrs Thorpe there. Then we met Mrs Hughes and Mr Tilney and his sister in the Crescent. They are very agreeable people, and Miss Tilney was wearing a particularly pretty dress. Very expensive, I imagine. Of course the family is very wealthy according to Mrs Hughes.’


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