Friday, March 11, 2011

Northanger Abbey Janeicillin: Part Two

Read Part One.

After allowing her daughter what Mrs. Morland considered to be an excessive amount of emotional indulgence, Catherine was called upon to leave the false comfort of her now tear sodden pillow and take back up her normal activities around the parsonage. Her work was resumed to a degree, for while her mother's gentle reminders of the importance of cultivating good housekeeping skills kept her diligent in trying to complete Richard's cravats, she did not make much more progress than she had before Mr. Tilney's visit. A fanciful mind, under the influence of the joys and heartbreaks that her near engagement had simultaneously bestowed, will understandably wander. Catherine could not decide what held greater sway: the felicity of knowing that her love was returned, or the disappointments attendant upon the need for indefinite delay. No matter how she pondered, no scheme revealed itself with which to sway General Tilney's opinion of her. Mrs. Morland remained insistent that he would, inevitably, allow his son to marry where he chose, but Catherine, with her better knowledge of the General's character, could not bring herself to such an optimistic perspective.

It was with great relief that Mrs. Morland welcomed a letter, not many days later, addressed from Glocestershire. A brief consul with her husband proving that both were of like minds in that no harm could come from the correspondence, particularly if they did not inquire too closely into the matter, she passed the missive onto her daughter, and was notably relieved to see Catherine's aspect cheered by its sight. While we can honor the good sense that drove the Morlands to respect their daughter's privacy on this matter, I feel no such scruples or need to behave in a similarly pragmatic fashion, and therefore happily transcribe the content of the communication:

My Dear Catherine,

Though only a few days have passed since I was last in your company, I find that life at Woodston has become nonsensically dull. Though you were only ever here once, I see you wherever I look. The parlor you so admired will be furnished posthaste, so that it is ready to welcome you on that happy day when I can bring you to your new home. In the meantime, there are several improvements I think might be enacted on the grounds, and though I have no notion if you should approve of my taste, I find I care little as the occupation is a welcome distraction from our unhappy separation. Once you are installed as mistress, replacing the phantom that currently haunts the parsonage in your place, you may make any alterations you so choose. See what you have done to me, dear Catherine? I, who have always fancied myself a sensible man, have adopted the same sort of fantastic notions usually reserved for the heroines you so admire. At least my ghost is a happy one. If I cannot have the real Miss Morland, I shall have to make do, for the time being, with her shade.

And how do you pass your time, my love? Please write to me with all the little details of your daily life. I promise not to take the Allens in dislike just because they enjoy your happy visits while I languish in deprivation. Indeed, I must ever be thankful for their bringing you to Bath and into my life. You must commend Mrs. Allen on the extraordinary value derived from that particular muslin she wore to the Lower Rooms on the evening of our introduction, for I am sure it was my extensive understanding of ladies' fashions that first made you look favorably upon me, as it certainly could not have been the trivial conversation that I insisted on imposing upon you. Perhaps I should not inquire, but did the gown you wore on that particular night – the sprigged muslin with blue trimmings – fray as I then predicted? I do recall seeing you in it again, and though I noticed no unusual wear at that time, you must understand the great joy I would derive from having my prediction proved accurate. Not that I wish such a fetching garment be lost to you, my dear, but if I may prove my expertise in the one area, I will feel more assured of my triumph in the theater of home decorating which I currently explore. Tell me, do you favor blue or green damask for a sofa? I shall not inquire if you prefer yellow, for I know such a violation of taste to be inconceivable on your part. My estrangement from Northanger means that I cannot call upon Eleanor's good judgment on such matters. I do worry for my sister at this time, as she must be fearfully lonely. I must see if I cannot smuggle her some new books to enjoy. As I already know your very strong feelings regarding History, may I inquire which novels you would recommend? Has that something shocking you predicted yet been released upon unsuspecting London town? I am sure it would perfectly suit my present purpose.

Until we meet again, which I pray will be at no distant time, I am faithfully yours,


P.S. If you truly prefer yellow, I suppose I can learn to tolerate it.

Such a letter could only bring smiles to Catherine's face. References to their past happiness and future felicity combined to make her quite cheerful for the remainder of the day, a welcome sight to her parents. Between writing her response, walking to the post office to mail it, and visiting with Mrs. Allen to discuss Mr. Tilney's surprising knowledge of fabric, Catherine even found motivation to finish one of Richard's cravats! The morrow might bring about a renewal melancholy, but with more letters to look forward to, Catherine began to feel she might bear the separation tolerably well.

If Catherine had time to dwell upon the plight of others, she might very well be thankful for her present happy state. The schism that Henry Tilney's insistent pursuit of the unacceptable Miss Morland enacted between himself and his father caused no greater suffering than that endured by their sister and daughter, Eleanor. These were indeed sad and lonely times for Miss Tilney, abandoned at Northanger Abbey with little company other than that of the servants. Following Catherine's eviction from the house, General Tilney was not long in returning to London, thereby depriving his daughter of even his rather dictatorial companionship. Eleanor was no stranger to hardship, and in these trying times she turned to those same occupations and diversions which had helped her to weather all the disappointments of her life, though the loss of Henry was no small disadvantage to her circumstances. Upon both her mother's death and her forced separation from one young Captain Johnson, a companion in arms of Captain Tilney's, it was the presence of this most sympathetic brother that lifted her spirits. Now that his comforting attention was denied her, Eleanor found her lot hard indeed. It was not easy for her, in her forced isolation, to make convivial friends, and the entrance of Miss Morland into her life had been nearly as great of a boon to her as it had been to Henry. She was proud of her brother's defiance of their father, as asking Catherine to leave Northanger Abbey had been one of the most difficult tasks she had ever been called upon to perform, but she could not help feeling jealousy of the circumstances that allowed him to pursue his own path while she remained under the total command of her father. The future appeared bleak, the only possible means of escape marriage to a gentleman of the General's choosing, selected for his wealth and position rather than the likelihood that he would make her happy. This prospect seemed to only be the substitution of one form of tyranny for that of another, and Eleanor could not take comfort in it. Yet she diligently applied herself to the demands of the household, plied her needle, and studied her books, all in attempt to drive sadness from her soul, and all the time unaware of the events currently unfolding that would act to decidedly improve her fortunes.

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