Friday, April 8, 2011

Northanger Abbey Janeicillin: Part Four

It would not be accurate to describe Henry Tilney as surprised when he received his father's invitation to present himself at Northanger Abbey. Eleanor's marriage had freed her to correspond as readily as she chose with her disgraced brother, and so he was well informed as to how the General's sentiments had been altering. In fact, though he had not been invited to the actual wedding, he had been one of Lady Seagry's first guests in her new home, during which time the Viscount had pledged to do all in his power to being about a reconciliation between father and son. So when General Tilney's missive arrived in due course, Henry had only to be pleased, not astonished. He proceeded forth at the given date and time to reestablish himself amongst his family and in his old quarters of his ancestral home, and the welcome he received there from his father left nothing to be desired.

It was not until dinner that evening that the General broached the subject of his son's desired marriage. “I understand from her ladyship's report that the Morlands are not as necessitous as I had been previously lead to believe.”

“Eleanor, as usual, is perfectly correct in her understanding, sir.”

“Hmm,” replied the General, and he renewed his attention to his food before choosing to proceed. “And you have been to Fullerton and made the family's acquaintance?”

“Yes, I have, upon the occasion of my requesting Miss Morland's hand in matrimony.”

“But I hear the Morlands would not consent to the match. I admit to be rather surprised by this news.”

“Again, you are well-informed. Though I was disappointed by his stance, I can not blame Mr. Morland for being uncomfortable with an engagement while you stood in opposition to it.”

“Yes, indeed. I admit that his perspective has held great weight in altering my notions of the family.” For several minutes father and son ate in silence before the General plunged further into the matter at hand. “Miss Morland is the eldest daughter of the house?”

“Yes sir.”

“And her elder brother, I understand from Frederick, is not of a robust constitution.”

“I certainly would not choose to describe him so. He seemed hail and healthy to me, though his personality was not one which could be described as forceful.”

“This does not quite concur with your brother's opinion.”

“I think Frederick, living the life of a soldier, might be misled by the more subdued mannerism of one trained to be a clergyman.”

“I see. And, as the house at Fullerton is freehold property, I assume he is to inherit?”

“No sir. There are two brothers before him. If I understand the situation correctly, he will be the recipient of a living currently in Mr. Morland's possession, as well as a portion of equal value.”

“So Miss Morland has three elder brothers, does she?” he confirmed disgruntledly, adding to himself, “That cannot be good for her own prospects,” before asking, “And what do the other two do with themselves?”

“I have never met either, but I believe the eldest is interested in politics, having studied the law, while the next pursues a military career.”

“A military man, eh?”

Perceiving his father's thoughts, Henry clarified, “As you have found the occupation suitable for your own son, sir, you are aware that a careful parent, as Mr. Morland most certainly is, would assure his child's placement in a good regiment that is unlikely to face heavy combat.”

“Yes. Yes, of course,” replied the General, striving to hide any disappointment he felt. “And in regards to the Allens, whom I understand are indeed childless, they take a great interest in Miss Morland, even if she is not a godchild, as I was lead to believe?”

“The Allens have been good friends to Miss Morland, though she does not have any expectation of being favored by them in Mr. Allen's will, if that is your implication, sir.”

“She must cultivate their friendship.”

“As her nearest neighbors, she is a great deal in their company.”

“That is as it should be. I suppose time will tell. I wonder if they have any nephews or nieces?”

“I cannot say, sir.”

“Very well. Let's get to the heart of the matter. What can Miss Morland expect in way of a dowry?”

“Three thousand pounds.”

“It is certainly not a handsome portion, but it is something to secure her future, and perhaps time will increase her fortunes. As I told Eleanor, you are free to be a fool if you like, but I ask you to consider carefully, Henry. You could do a great deal better, with your family and advantages, especially considering your sister's most respectable alliance.”

“I assure you I have given the matter a great deal of thought, sir. Miss Morland is precisely the kind of unaffected young lady that to my tastes. I have know too many society woman, who put on airs and false pretenses in order to attract, and I have found none of them appealing. Miss Morland is all candor and affection. She will make me very happy.”

“Yes, though I do quite comprehend your iclinations, I must admit that she is a pleasing young lady, and her prospects, as I said, if you will cultivate them, may very well improve. I imagine you require some proof of my consent to show to the Morlands?”

“A letter would do very nicely, sir.”

“Very well. I cannot say it is the match I would have liked for you, but you will have your letter. I shall write it in the morning. I expect you are in rather a hurry to deliver the news?”

“Yes, sir. If you find it convenient, I shall leave for Fullerton as soon as your missive is prepared.”

The General emitted a caustic chuckle. “Yes, that is the way with young love. I just hope your enthusiasm lasts when her bloom fades and you find yourself only 3000 pounds the richer for your impetuosity.”

“As you said before, sir, time will tell.”

Thus it was that, not 36 hours later, Henry Tilney came riding into the parsonage grounds, every bit like a gallant knight in days of yore, or better, to Catherine's mind, quite in the guise of Valencourt, though perhaps rather more effective. He was warmly welcomed by the family, and the letter from General Tilney, though its courteously worded yet empty professions were easily seen through, was greeted with glee. Though Catherine, as her communications with Henry had implied, had good reason to believe that this moment of triumph was not far at hand, she nevertheless received the news with all the excitement and enthusiasm one can expect of her, and the sight of her genuine joy reaffirmed in Henry's heart all his best beliefs in her character. What young man could not be moved by a lovely young lady's profession that he has made her the happiest of all creatures? Though the phrase sounds trite on his tongue, Mr. Tilney had little choice but to confess that he too believed himself the happiest of men. We shall leave the engaged couple to dispute whose pleasure was truly the greatest.

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