Friday, April 1, 2011

Northanger Abbey Janeicillin: Part Three

Read Part One and Part Two.

While Catherine nursed her heart, Henry improved his home, and Eleanor engaged in those activities most likely to hasten to a close each long and lonely day, General Tilney was amusing himself in town, surrounded by companions whose elevated standing both increased his own consequence and flattered his vanity. Captain Tilney also found himself in London at this time, perfectly happy to pursue the same style of occupation that Isabella Thorpe had been so accommodating as to provide him in Bath. Several of his companions in arms were likewise enjoying the season, as this fashionable regiment was often at leave to do. However, not all equated pleasure with dissipation, and some discovered pleasure was not to be had be all. In particular, one young and worthy member of this band had the misfortune to receive terribly distressing information. His older brother had unexpectedly died, the victim of a carriage accident. The two men had been exceedingly close, the only remaining members of their line, and if other members of the regiment thought Johnson's grief excessive, especially considering the noble title and ample estate he was now to inherit, it did nothing to assuage his own sense of loss. In fact, there was only one aspect to the predicament in which he found any solace, and that was the notion that his increased fortune just might, someday, allow him to marry where he chose, a freedom that had previously been cruelly denied him.

The new Viscount took himself off to his ancestral home, in order to oversea the burial and execute the will of his brother, while Captain Tilney repaired to his father’s fashionable home in Mount Street in order to share the news. He found the General still consuming an ample breakfast, the proportions of which were in keeping with that gentleman's notions of a proper buffet. Knowing that such abundance was not intended for only one, but rather prepared in the name of the luxury of wastefulness, the Captain helped himself to a generous plate and joined his father at the table.

“To what to I owe the pleasure of such an unaccountably early visit, Frederick? Had I known of your intentions, I would have ordered a more worthy repast.”

Frederick smiled at his father's inhospitable tone, it being precisely what he was accustomed to, and with no hesitation launched into the disclosure that was sure to make him a far more welcome guest, “I come bearing important news for you, sir, the like of which is sure to overcome any inconvenience my presence may have caused you.”

General Tilney looked up skeptically from his plate, a mere lift of an eyebrow serving as invitation for his son to proceed.

“Lord Seagry is dead.”

The General paused in his consumption, taking a moment to finish his mouthful and put down his fork and knife, before replying succinctly, “Indeed?”

“Johnson received word last night. His brother was traveling homeward when his carriage overturned, breaking the poor man's neck. He is not thought to have suffered.”

“Well well! These are surprising tidings. Does the new Viscount remain in town?”

“Understandably devastated, he took himself off instantly to attend to family and estate matters. Assuming that in his haste he does not meet with the same fate as poor Richard, he should be installed as master of Gravenly Hall no later than tomorrow.”

The General rose from the table and looked out the window, hands clasped behind his back contemplatively, “I think it would be only appropriate if we paid our respects. What say you, Frederick?”

“I am at your disposal.”

“We will leave in the morning. Nine o'clock sharp. I want to share this news with Eleanor before she hears of it through other means.”

“Very good, sir.”

And so it was that Eleanor's isolation came to an abrupt end. With great surprise did she witness the return of her father, let alone her brother, weeks before she had any notion of seeing either. Like the dutiful daughter she was, her greeting was one of sincere welcome. Upon hearing the reason for their appearance in the neighborhood, however, she was overcome with dismay at the tragedy of this unforeseen event.

“Poor Captain Johnson!” she lamented. “He loved his brother so! Such an unexpected loss must have thoroughly shaken him.”

“Is that all you have to say?” demanded Frederick.

“I suppose that he may at least take solace in knowing that death was swift,” she replied. “Lord Seagry is unlikely to have suffered.” Such words, conveying her very real sorrow, buried her longing for a gentleman more dear to her than any other, and who has been declared, by a most reliable source, the most charming man in the world.

“I declare you are as bad as Johnson! They certainly deserve each other, Father.”

“What your brother is trying to suggest, Eleanor, though with very little grace,” admonished the General, “is that this unexpected event, tragic though it undoubtedly is, might prove greatly to your advantage.”

Eleanor blushed. “I do not know how you can suppose so.”

“Am I wrong in my surmise that you continue to care for the new Lord Seagry, as you once professed to me you cared for Captain Johnson?”

Hanging her head to hide the mounting redness of her complexion, Eleanor uttered a quiet, “No, Sir.”

“Very well then. Frederick assures me that he continues to feel the same for you as he once so prematurely declared.”

Unable to restrain herself any longer, and completely forgetting the flush of emotion so clearly displayed on her countenance, Eleanor rose from her chair and proclaimed passionately, “I have no reason to suppose that he has any lasting intentions towards me, if that is what you suggest, and I think such a conversation entirely premature considering the very recent nature of his bereavement!”

“Come now, Eleanor!” cried an exasperated Frederick. “Surely you cannot be so totally blind to your own best interests!”

“Enough Frederick!” said the General sternly. “Eleanor's modesty and respect for the mourning period is exactly what I like to see in my daughter. Anything else would be unbecoming. However, such scruples would be irresponsible in myself. As your father, it is my duty to place you in the most advantageous situation possible. That being the case, I shall pay my respects to Lord Seagry as soon as propriety allows, and I shall ask him to dine with us here at his earliest convenience. I assume you will not be adverse to seeing him?”

“No, sir.”

“Very well then. I see no reason to dwell upon this sad matter further. I shall know how to proceed.”

Eleanor was thus left alone to explore the simultaneous sympathetic miseries and repressed flutterings of hope this conversation had instilled in her, while the gentlemen repaired to their respective quarters. Before parting, Frederick questioned his father, “Do you really think that a full six months of morning must be endured before an engagement may be arranged?”

“I certainly think that we must not be the ones to suggest anything less. However, if Seagry's feelings are as you describe, combined with the obvious duty he has, as the very last of his family, to secure the succession, I think he may find it pragmatic to overlook such protocol.”

Frederick smiled at his father's perspicacity and took himself off, anxious to make the acquaintance of a new house maid he had encountered upon arrival at the Abbey.

Unaccountable as it may seem to those of more elevated hearts and minds, sometimes callous avarice proves just as effective, if not more so, in securing the happiness of the truly deserving than resignation and patience. Such was the case for Eleanor Tilney and Daniel Johnson, Viscount of Seagry. General Tilney, master tactician that he was, quickly secured both young people in the assurance of their mutual affections, and, as he predicted, the confines of mourning were easily set aside by a young man in love, while society proved forgiving of such haste when there was a noble estate to be insured. It was not long before the engagement was announced and a wedding planned for late summer.

General Tilney had many reasons to find satisfaction in these circumstances, by far the most important among these being the elevation of his daughter to the peerage. Additionally, he had the gratification of knowing himself instrumental in the making of the match, as he harbored little doubt that, had they been left to their own devices, the couple would have dithered about for years before coming to the inevitable resolution. So elated was he when he first hailed Eleanor “Your Ladyship!” that Eleanor took advantage of his extraordinary good humor to obtain his forgiveness of Henry. Indeed, so pleased was he by the turn of events that he even granted his second son permission “to be a fool if he liked!”, thereby so graciously granting Henry and Catherine all the acceptance they required to secure their own happiness. Once the euphoria of Eleanor's wedding had worn off, the pleasant occupation provided to the General in ascertaining the freehold nature of the Fullerton estate should not be underestimated, though had he discovered it to be otherwise, we cannot suppose that the endeavor would have proven nearly so satisfactory.

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