Disclaimer: I had nothing to do with the writing of Northanger Abbey, which I should think goes without saying. *g*
His manners, she saw, were frank and graceful, which gave additional charms to his uncommonly handsome person, yet something of reserve in his behaviour puzzled Catherine. His conversation was lively and friendly with whomever made inquiries of him, but he seldom initiated any discourse, and when not engaged gazed often away from the table as if distracted. Catherine became convinced that he was not in good spirits. Far from making love to any of the ladies present, he politely learnt their situations and then paid them no special attention at all. If his gaze was often on Catherine, she grew certain from his manner that it was only because she was seated directly in his view.
It was well after dark as the Morlands made their way through the familiar paths toward their home. "And how did you find Mr. Gordon, Catherine?" her father asked. "I was surprised, I admit," she said. "He seemed very gentleman-like." She drew breath to amend her statement, suddenly conscious of its ungenerous nature, but she was forestalled by her mother's quiet laugh. "A proper rogue must first appear to be a gentleman, I daresay," her mother said. "Now, Mrs. Morland," her husband chided. "Let's have no talk of what makes a proper rogue, or I shall be forced to suspect you of reading Catherine's novels." With that, they reached the house and all retired to bed.
Catherine lay awake, considering her mother's words. Indeed, they were true, even if said in jest. It was a relief to Catherine's sensibility to have yet the means to cast Mr. Gordon in the role of villain; her conviction had been shaken by his civility and pleasing countenance. She turned her thoughts away from him and toward their favorite object. How many days would Henry wait before applying to his father? Almost a week had passed since their walk in the hedgerow. Catherine's nightly pastime had been to remember every word, every movement, and to invent what she could not remember of the happy conversation. Tonight she dared to count the days and wonder if the General had had a letter from his son. His reply could already be in Henry's hands. What felicity, what joy if she could bring her parents proof of the General's approval. She could then rejoice with Eleanor — Eleanor. Catherine recalled Henry's contrivance for correspondence between the two friends, and with chagrin realized she had not written to her.
She threw back the coverlet and crept as quietly as she could to her writing desk for pen and paper. She dared not light a candle, since one of her sisters who shared the room was a light sleeper. She moved confidently through the dark house to the drawing room where she lit a candle, sharpened her pen and composed a letter to Eleanor.
My Dear Friend,
I beg you to forgive me for not writing sooner. If you have heard already from Henry, I cannot blame him, for I claimed the right to ask for your felicitations first, and I have woefully neglected you. But let me delay no longer. Your brother has asked for my hand and I have accepted him. I pray this news brings you joy and not regret! I freely admit that I fear your father's scorn and tremble to think that you might share it. Henry has related to me the circumstances of the General's disdain for me. Please, my friend, do not tell me that you believe me capable of such a duplicity. You will break my heart even as it is singing. I know not how your father was so imposed upon, but I declare as solemnly as I am able that there is no truth to the report he has heard against me.
I have yet another claim to make upon your compassion. Feel for me my dear friend, and for your brother, for we cannot yet marry. Wanting his parent's approval, my own parents are loathe to give theirs. Neither Henry nor I would give our acquaintance the insult of an elopement, and so we are entirely dependent on the General's acceptance. I have promised Henry that I will endure whatever waiting we must, but how I hope it will not be long. Please write me and say you forgive me any wrongs I have done in your view and send me some assurance that I have not lost your friendship.
Catherine frowned at her composition, not content with its tone. She had written from her heart, but now she feared the letter had not sufficient mature reserve. Had not Henry assured her that Eleanor did not share their father's views of her? Surely he must be right. She blew out her candle and resolved to send the letter in the morning by the two-penny post.
Henry Tilney opened a letter from his father with pounding heart.
Henry, (it began)
You have disobeyed me and defied my wishes. I consider you the most ungrateful of children. Do not expect to make any claim on me again. I encourage you to reflect on the teachings of scripture where you are enjoined to honor your father and mother that your days may be long upon the earth. You have only yourself to blame for your present circumstances.
Henry felt as if his horse had kicked him in the stomach. Holding the letter he leaned against the wall of his house, unsure that his legs would continue to support him as he reread the words. It was thus that his housekeeper found him. "Two ladies to see you, sir," she said. Henry looked dumbly at her, still in shock. "Who?" he managed. "Miss Emmeline Skinner and her friend, sir." She handed him a card and curtseyed. Henry took it and stared at it as blankly as he had at his father's letter. Henry nodded at the housekeeper's gentle inquiry; should she show them into the drawing room?
Only somewhat more composed, Henry received the ladies and they all exchanged courtesies.