Saturday, April 16, 2011

Northanger Abbey Janeicillin: Part Five

Henry Tilney remained at Fullerton for one week, getting to know his new brothers and sisters, enjoying the sincere hospitality of the Morland family, and relishing the time with Catherine, until his father summoned him homeward. Though the General was very well able to part with his younger son for the months during which he was in disgrace, now that amends had been made he found him quite necessary to his comfort. Even had his father not written to bring him back to the Abbey, Henry could not allow himself to neglect his parish much longer, as his absence had been most unplanned. However, while their week of pleasure lasted, the engaged couple were able to make many decisions regarding their impending marriage and enjoy many a casual, and one highly formal, evening of entertainment with the Allens. Mrs. Allen took just as much pleasure in the match – perhaps even more so – than the Morlands, as she fancied herself instrumental in the making of it. After all, it was she who had the good sense to require a pleasant young companion in Bath, and had she not been gifted with such foresight, the engagement could never have come about. Mrs. Allen also took it upon herself to contribute to Catherine’s wedding clothes, an act of generosity which, when he learned of it, did much to increase the General's hope of a future bequest. That gentleman did not know of the very great pleasure Mrs. Allen took in shopping and fashion, these being the occupations that chiefly filled her days, but as he was so enthused by her assistance in the matter, Henry felt he did not have the heart to disabuse him of his unfounded expectations.

The wedding was planned for the end of the year. The young couple would have liked to have married as soon as the banns could be read, but Mrs. Morland insisted that she still had far too much household information to drill into Catherine's whimsical head for the wedding to take place so very soon. Mr. Tilney, while disappointed at the delay, found his future mother's characterization of his bride highly amusing and her purpose most worthy, having a very good notion of Catherine's deficiencies, as well as her charms. The lady in question, however, took umbrage at her mother's words, and if Mr. Tilney was not infallible in her eyes, his humor at the description might very well have been the occasion of their first argument. However, if Henry thought Mrs. Morland justified in her description of the duties the mistress of a parsonage had to perform, there could be no question as to its truth.

The couple parted tenderly, renewing their promises to correspond, with the additional comfort that all need for concealing their letters was at an end. “I shall write to you every day,” Catherine promised with fervor.

Henry smiled in his sardonic way. “If you insist, I shall relish each one, but please do not take it as a waning of my affections if you do not receive responses at such rapid intervals. There is much to do at Woodston, and I am afraid that such superficial missives, which is all you would receive if I set myself to writing daily, would not be to your liking. I think you will find it far more satisfying if I compose two or three truly heartfelt letters a week instead, don't you? Besides, if you must express yourself each day, you had far better put those thoughts and feelings into that journal I still have been unable get you to admit you keep.”

“But I truly do not keep a journal, Henry! I am not such a diligent creature as to be able to maintain such a practice.”

“Then perhaps you should start. It would certainly be an aid to Mrs. Morland's attempts to reform your sadly lacking character.”

“Oh! You do not mean what you say, surely?”

He laughed at her gullibility, “Not in the slightest. But if you do start keeping a journal, I might have the pleasure of seeking it out once we are married and reading all your best kept secrets. Is not such a violation of privacy romantic? Besides, you may even find the practice helpful, once you have all a wife's household cares of which to keep track.”

“If I am only keeping it in lieu of writing to you, I shall gladly show it to you, as it can contain nothing I would not readily profess.”

“And are you so certain that such an attitude will survive marriage? The time may come when your feelings will be very different.”

“Never! I shall only keep a journal if you promise most faithfully to read it.”

“In that case, how can I do anything but concede to your wishes? In return I shall begin a journal as well, one destined for your eyes. It may not be a thrilling as Mrs. Radcliffe's tales, but perhaps you will find it a bit more edifying than history?”

“Will you truly?” He nodded in response. “Now that is what I call romantic! When we are married, we can set aside a time each evening to record and share our thoughts. Will we not be cozy, in your lovely drawing room, side by side in front of a fire?”

Again he laughed, “So you had rather indulge in such domestic comforts than be confined to a dank tower? You have changed these few months, have you not, my Catherine?”

She blushed becomingly while admitting, “I think I have learned the to judge at least a bit better than to crave such adventures for myself. I shall continue to enjoy reading about them, but I much prefer the honest, modern comforts of England to the dizzying emotions of Gothic adventure.”

“Well put, my love, and will it offend you if I admit that I am glad?”

“Not a bit!”

“Excellent,” he smiled, “for the honest, modern comforts to be had in a well-proportioned English parsonage are all I have to offer.”

Catherine only returned to the house several minutes after Henry rode away, having watched him until the very last glimpse of his retreating from could be distinguished and then continued to linger, languidly, staring in the direction which had swallowed his form. Mrs. Morland, who had observed much of this behavior from the parlor window, shook her head at her daughter's quixotic absurdities, but her disapproval was much belied by the smile that graced her face while doing so. When Catherine entered the parlor and lethargically picked up her work, her mother refrained from scolding her into better behavior. Ten children might have robbed Mrs. Morland of much of her own whimsicality, but they had not deprived her of the memories of youth, and she could still vividly recall her own sensations when being courted by Mr. Morland. Catherine, therefore, was granted some lenience, but after two hours of sighing in her chair or, conversely, pacing the room, Mrs. Morland could no longer resist the urge to interfere.

“Really, Catherine, what an example you set for your sisters! You should be celebrating your upcoming nuptials, now that they are guaranteed, rather than mopping about in this feeble manner. Do you not have a great deal of plans to make and work to accomplish? If you cannot find productive occupation, I would be very gratified to have you make an inventory of the store room. We shall have many causes to entertain in the near future, and we must not find ourselves unprepared.”

“I'm sorry, Mama, and I am indeed grateful that General Tilney has bestowed his blessing, but the past week has been so lovely with Henry here, and the house just feel empty without him.”

“I do understand, my dear, but your feelings will not be assuaged by indulging them so fervently. Healthy distraction is what you require. Keep your mind busy, and the time until you next see Mr. Tilney will pass far more rapidly, I assure you.”

“I had hoped to write to him everyday, but he encouraged me to begin a journal instead.” At this thought, Catherine's spirits noticeably rose. “He says he shall read it and, in turn, will keep one himself for my perusal. Is that not a happy thought?”

“Rather impractical, I should say. What use is it to a lady to record her private thoughts if they are only to be aired before her husband?”

“I think it is a lovely idea, Mama, and Henry says that such a practice will prove useful once I have a household to run, as it will give me a place to keep track of the tasks in need of doing.”

“Did he?” Mrs. Morland asked with interest. “I knew I liked your young man. That is a notion of which I can thoroughly approve, and it begins to make sense that he would want to read it. Taking on such a young, flighty thing as yourself, he will be able to provide much useful advise as to how you had best get on.”

“I shall begin at once,” cried Catherine enthusiastically, hastily making her way to the door.

“Not so fast, young lady,” her mother called. “I think you had best start with the store room. It will give you something concrete to record, rather than just your romantic professions.”

“Yes, ma'am,” replied Catherine, a bit downcast.

“And tomorrow you may oversee the commencement of the laundry!” were the matron's parting words, spoken while suppressing a chuckle, as her eldest daughter exited the room,.

“Why do you smile so, Mama?” Sally asked, who had been listening to the exchange between her sister and mother with no small degree of interest. “I cannot imagine anything humorous to be found in the wash. It is a horrid task.”

“It is not the activity I find amusing, my dear, but my own vision of the content such occupation will provide your sister's nascent journal.”

“Oh! I understand,” nodded Sally. “Catherine will write something along the lines of, 'My love for you, dear Henry, is like the store closet, endless in its bounty!' Will she not?”

Mrs. Morland allowed her laughter free rein, “Perhaps not quite the style I had imagined her composing in, but you have captured the essence of my mirth, dear. Well done!”

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