We are currently re-reading Northanger Abbey for our book group, and we are finding it, as always, thoroughly delightful. So if you’re irritated over the shenanigans of a Certain Authoress discussed on this site recently who has perpetrated an abomination, or if you’re coming here after watching the end of Tess of the d’Urbervilles and thinking about opening up your jugular with a dull spork, or if you’re coming here after watching Lost in Austen and thinking what the Ferrars WAS that?, just remember: Jane Rocks. She so rocks. Get yourself a cup or glass of your favorite beverage and read this and just remember why you love Jane Austen.
Catherine was restlessly miserable; she could almost have run round to the box in which he sat and forced him to hear her explanation. Feelings rather natural than heroic possessed her; instead of considering her own dignity injured by this ready condemnation — instead of proudly resolving, in conscious innocence, to shew her resentment towards him who could harbour a doubt of it, to leave to him all the trouble of seeking an explanation, and to enlighten him on the past only by avoiding his sight, or flirting with somebody else – she took to herself all the shame of misconduct, or at least of its appearance, and was only eager for an opportunity of explaining its cause.
The play concluded — the curtain fell — Henry Tilney was no longer to be seen where he had hitherto sat, but his father remained, and perhaps he might be now coming round to their box. She was right; in a few minutes he appeared, and, making his way through the then thinning rows, spoke with like calm politeness to Mrs. Allen and her friend. — Not with such calmness was he answered by the latter: “Oh! Mr. Tilney, I have been quite wild to speak to you, and make my apologies. You must have thought me so rude; but indeed it was not my own fault, — was it, Mrs. Allen? Did not they tell me that Mr. Tilney and his sister were gone out in a phaeton together? and then what could I do? But I had ten thousand times rather have been with you; now had not I, Mrs. Allen?”
“My dear, you tumble my gown,” was Mrs. Allen’s reply.
Her assurance, however, standing sole as it did, was not thrown away; it brought a more cordial, more natural smile into his countenance, and he replied in a tone which retained only a little affected reserve: — “We were much obliged to you at any rate for wishing us a pleasant walk after our passing you in Argyle-street: you were so kind as to look back on purpose.”
“But indeed I did not wish you a pleasant walk; I never thought of such a thing; but I begged Mr. Thorpe so earnestly to stop; I called out to him as soon as ever I saw you; now, Mrs. Allen, did not — Oh! you were not there; but indeed I did; and, if Mr. Thorpe would only have stopped, I would have jumped out and run after you.”
Is there a Henry in the world who could be insensible to such a declaration? Henry Tilney at least was not. With a yet sweeter smile, he said everything that need be said of his sister’s concern, regret, and dependence on Catherine’s honour. — “Oh! Do not say Miss Tilney was not angry,” cried Catherine, “because I know she was; for she would not see me this morning when I called; I saw her walk out of the house the next minute after my leaving it; I was hurt, but I was not affronted. Perhaps you did not know I had been there.”
“I was not within at the time; but I heard of it from Eleanor, and she has been wishing ever since to see you, to explain the reason of such incivility; but perhaps I can do it as well. It was nothing more than that my father — they were just preparing to walk out, and he being hurried for time, and not caring to have it put off – made a point of her being denied. That was all, I do assure you. She was very much vexed, and meant to make her apology as soon as possible.”
Catherine’s mind was greatly eased by this information, yet a something of solicitude remained, from which sprang the following question, thoroughly artless in itself, though rather distressing to the gentleman: — “But, Mr. Tilney, why were you less generous than your sister? If she felt such confidence in my good intentions, and could suppose it to be only a mistake, why should you be so ready to take offence?”
“Me! –I take offence!”
“Nay, I am sure by your look, when you came into the box, you were angry.”
“I angry! I could have no right.”
“Well, nobody would have thought you had no right who saw your face.” He replied by asking her to make room for him, and talking of the play.
He remained with them some time, and was only too agreeable for Catherine to be contented when he went away.
How delightful is that? How funny and sweet is that? The whole thing just made us smile. The rest falls away.