Despite her conviction that the following months would be amongst the longest she had ever endured, Catherine Morland was surprised to discover how very quickly the time past until that fateful day when she would abandon her name for that of Tilney. Between visits from Henry, shopping excursions with Mrs. Allen, Mrs. Morland's not so subtle determination to keep her daughter occupied by improving her housekeeping skills, and Catherine's own faithful letter and diary writing, the days had a way of slipping by quite rapidly, until her constant question became not, “How much longer must I wait?” but, “How am I to accomplish all I must before the wedding date?” However, both inquiries found satisfaction in the end, and not only was the day of her marriage imminent, but Catherine was also as thoroughly prepared for the state as an innocent girl of eighteen could possibly be. Those final days of maidenhood passed with particular speed, as all was made ready and the guests began to arrive. The three eldest Morland children were all home for the occasion, yet despite the packed nature of the parsonage, the family managed to conceive additional room to house not only Mr. Tilney, but also Lord and Lady Seagry, whom they would under no circumstances allow to stay at the local inn, regardless of the Viscount's sincere protests, Mrs. Morland regarding this establishment as unfit for human habitation. How much this opinion coincided with her previous thoughts on the subject, her current feelings being very much under the influence of the rare opportunity and honor afforded by hosting members of the peerage, we will do the good lady the kind service of not questioning.
Catherine tried to present her rather densely printed diary to Henry for his perusal, but that wise gentleman maintained the notion that such secrets were best shared after their marriage, not before. Arguing that following all the excitement of the celebration they would require a reliable source of entertainment to occupy themselves with once they were settled at Woodson, he was easily able to persuade her of the wisdom of this course. It did not go unnoticed by Mr. Tilney that a less doting and trusting lady might have taken umbrage at his assumption that her private thoughts could serve as a source of diversion, and while he blessed his good fortune in securing the affections of such an unaffected woman, he also had the good sense to feel a bit unnerved by what the content of the journal might prove to be. These feelings only solidified him in his faith in the wisdom of waiting until after the marriage to read the diary, as he feared that Catherine's undoubtedly worshipful protestations would only increase his own anxiety to live up to her expectations.
This was an issue of no small import to Henry Tilney. Knowing Catherine's romantic mind as he did, and fully aware of her flattering worshipful stance towards himself, he felt some understandable panic at the notion that the mundane realities of life at Woodson would disappoint her, regardless of her protestations that she was quite resigned to a bucolic English lifestyle. We must forgive Henry for doing her this disservice, as such concerns are most natural in an incipient bridegroom, and though this sole glimmer of weakness in his character might shake some loyal devotees' convictions in his suitability as a hero, it must be acknowledged that it renders him a far more befitting mate for as unlikely a heroine as his bride has been widely recognized to be.
As she prepared to spend her last night in the bedroom of her youth, Catherine was questioned fervently by Sally, who was both entranced by the romance of her sister's impending marriage and sorry to loose the companionship of the sibling to whom she had always felt closest. If Mr. Tilney had been able to overhear the content of their conversation, as troublesome as the fate of all eavesdroppers inevitably proves to be, he would perhaps have gained some of the reassurance that was lacking during his own last evening of bachelorhood.
“Are you not a bit frightened, Catherine? Mr. Tilney seems a very fine man, but how well do you really know him, having spent only intermittent time together this past year?”
“These are daunting questions to be asking me now, Sally, but be assured that I have no fears. I may not have spent endless hours in Mr. Tilney's company, but those I have revealed his character most thoroughly. He is not some creature from a novel, come to sweep me off my feet and then betray a dark internal nature only after marriage. If he were, he certainly would lack the motivation to conceive such a deception. I am no heiress, and his own willingness to thwart his father's wishes in proposing to me proves the sincerity of his feelings.”
“But James thought that Miss Thorpe was disinterested in mercenary attainments, and you saw first hand how that sad affair came to an end.”
“Sally, do not even begin to compare Isabella Thorpe's character to that of my Mr. Tilney's! There cannot be two more different creatures, one making constant protestations that her behavior then negated, while the other has ever been consistent and true. I admit that Mr. Tilney is not the image of the man who I once dreamed of marrying, but the events of the last year have taught me that he is far superior than some romantic hero. I have no misconceptions that everything will always be perfect. Mama has been most persistent in instilling the notion that we, like all couples, will have our trials to bear, but there is no one in this world who I would rather spend this life with, throughout its triumphs and tribulations, then Henry Tilney. When you fall in love, you will understand exactly what I mean.”
And when she walked down the aisle the next morning towards the most disconcerted Mr. Tilney she had ever encountered, the lady on Mr. Morland's arm exuded a confidence and radiant happiness that could have no other effect than to bolster the groom's shattered nerves. The unexpected entrance of the General, shortly before the ceremony began, had steeled his outward resolution, the knowledge that his father had, in all likelihood, graced the assemblage with his presence in order to get a first hand look at Fullerton inciting through indignation the determination to at least appear self-possessed. But it was Catherine's loving gaze that brought on real assurance, and though he knew he might not fulfill all her expectations, the resolution to always do his best by her sufficed to imbue his being with all the contentment belonging to a true hero upon finally achieving his heart's desire.
And so Henry and Catherine were married, the bells rang, and every body smiled, but none more so than the bride and groom themselves. It cannot be denied that to begin perfect happiness at the respective ages of twenty-six and eighteen is to do pretty well. Some of those interested in the young couple, perhaps provoked by the presence of the cruel General, of whom they had heard so much about, even went so far as to profess themselves convinced that his unjust interference, so far from being really injurious to their felicity, was perhaps rather conducive to it by improving their knowledge of each other and adding strength to their attachment. It is surely a question to be settled on some other day, so as to leave untainted the felicity of the present occasion, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience. Let the philosophers among you ponder this point; I, like another author, am content to set aside moral undertones in favor of romantic gratification.