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Chapter 18


     With a mind thus full of happiness, Catherine was hardly
aware that two or three days had passed away, without her
seeing Isabella for more than a few minutes together.
She began first to be sensible of this, and to sigh
for her conversation, as she walked along the pump-room
one morning, by Mrs. Allen's side, without anything to say
or to hear; and scarcely had she felt a five minutes'
longing of friendship, before the object of it appeared,
and inviting her to a secret conference, led the way
to a seat.  "This is my favourite place," said she as they
sat down on a bench between the doors, which commanded
a tolerable view of everybody entering at either;
"it is so out of the way."

     Catherine, observing that Isabella's eyes were
continually bent towards one door or the other, as in
eager expectation, and remembering how often she had been
falsely accused of being arch, thought the present a fine
opportunity for being really so; and therefore gaily said,
"Do not be uneasy, Isabella, James will soon be here."

     "Psha! My dear creature," she replied, "do not think
me such a simpleton as to be always wanting to confine him
to my elbow.  It would be hideous to be always together;
we should be the jest of the place.  And so you are
going to Northanger! I am amazingly glad of it.  It is
one of the finest old places in England, I understand.
I shall depend upon a most particular description of it."

     "You shall certainly have the best in my power to give.
But who are you looking for? Are your sisters coming?"

     "I am not looking for anybody.  One's eyes must
be somewhere, and you know what a foolish trick I have of
fixing mine, when my thoughts are an hundred miles off.
I am amazingly absent; I believe I am the most absent
creature in the world.  Tilney says it is always the case
with minds of a certain stamp."

     "But I thought, Isabella, you had something
in particular to tell me?"

     "Oh! Yes, and so I have.  But here is a proof of
what I was saying.  My poor head, I had quite forgot it.
Well, the thing is this: I have just had a letter from John;
you can guess the contents."

     "No, indeed, I cannot."

     "My sweet love, do not be so abominably affected.
What can he write about, but yourself? You know he is over
head and ears in love with you."

     "With me, dear Isabella!"

     "Nay, my sweetest Catherine, this is being quite
absurd! Modesty, and all that, is very well in its way,
but really a little common honesty is sometimes quite
as becoming.  I have no idea of being so overstrained!
It is fishing for compliments.  His attentions were
such as a child must have noticed.  And it was but half
an hour before he left Bath that you gave him the most
positive encouragement.  He says so in this letter,
says that he as good as made you an offer, and that you
received his advances in the kindest way; and now he
wants me to urge his suit, and say all manner of pretty
things to you.  So it is in vain to affect ignorance."

     Catherine, with all the earnestness of truth,
expressed her astonishment at such a charge, protesting
her innocence of every thought of Mr. Thorpe's being
in love with her, and the consequent impossibility of
her having ever intended to encourage him.  "As to any
attentions on his side, I do declare, upon my honour,
I never was sensible of them for a moment--except just
his asking me to dance the first day of his coming.
And as to making me an offer, or anything like it,
there must be some unaccountable, mistake.  I could not
have misunderstood a thing of that kind, you know! And,
as I ever wish to be believed, I solemnly protest that
no syllable of such a nature ever passed between us.
The last half hour before he went away! It must be all
and completely a mistake--for I did not see him once
that whole morning."

     "But that you certainly did, for you spent the whole
morning in Edgar's Buildings--it was the day your father's
consent came--and I am pretty sure that you and John were
alone in the parlour some time before you left the house."

     "Are you? Well, if you say it, it was so, I dare
say--but for the life of me, I cannot recollect it.
I do remember now being with you, and seeing him as
well as the rest--but that we were ever alone for five
minutes-- However, it is not worth arguing about,
for whatever might pass on his side, you must be convinced,
by my having no recollection of it, that I never thought,
nor expected, nor wished for anything of the kind from him.
I am excessively concerned that he should have any regard
for me--but indeed it has been quite unintentional
on my side; I never had the smallest idea of it.
Pray undeceive him as soon as you can, and tell him I beg
his pardon--that is--I do not know what I ought to say--but
make him understand what I mean, in the properest way.
I would not speak disrespectfully of a brother of yours,
Isabella, I am sure; but you know very well that if I could
think of one man more than another--he is not the person."
Isabella was silent.  "My dear friend, you must not be
angry with me.  I cannot suppose your brother cares
so very much about me.  And, you know, we shall still
be sisters."

     "Yes, yes" (with a blush), "there are more ways
than one of our being sisters.  But where am I wandering
to? Well, my dear Catherine, the case seems to be
that you are determined against poor John--is not it so?"

     "I certainly cannot return his affection, and as
certainly never meant to encourage it."

     "Since that is the case, I am sure I shall not
tease you any further.  John desired me to speak to you
on the subject, and therefore I have.  But I confess,
as soon as I read his letter, I thought it a very foolish,
imprudent business, and not likely to promote the good
of either; for what were you to live upon, supposing you
came together? You have both of you something, to be sure,
but it is not a trifle that will support a family nowadays;
and after all that romancers may say, there is no doing
without money.  I only wonder John could think of it;
he could not have received my last."

     "You do acquit me, then, of anything wrong?--You
are convinced that I never meant to deceive your brother,
never suspected him of liking me till this moment?"

     "Oh! As to that," answered Isabella laughingly,
"I do not pretend to determine what your thoughts and
designs in time past may have been.  All that is best known
to yourself.  A little harmless flirtation or so will occur,
and one is often drawn on to give more encouragement than
one wishes to stand by.  But you may be assured that I
am the last person in the world to judge you severely.
All those things should be allowed for in youth and
high spirits.  What one means one day, you know, one may
not mean the next.  Circumstances change, opinions alter."

     "But my opinion of your brother never did alter;
it was always the same.  You are describing what never happened."

     "My dearest Catherine," continued the other without
at all listening to her, "I would not for all the world
be the means of hurrying you into an engagement before you
knew what you were about.  I do not think anything would
justify me in wishing you to sacrifice all your happiness
merely to oblige my brother, because he is my brother,
and who perhaps after all, you know, might be just as happy
without you, for people seldom know what they would be at,
young men especially, they are so amazingly changeable
and inconstant.  What I say is, why should a brother's
happiness be dearer to me than a friend's? You know I
carry my notions of friendship pretty high.  But, above
all things, my dear Catherine, do not be in a hurry.
Take my word for it, that if you are in too great a hurry,
you will certainly live to repent it.  Tilney says there
is nothing people are so often deceived in as the state
of their own affections, and I believe he is very right.
Ah! Here he comes; never mind, he will not see us,
I am sure."

     Catherine, looking up, perceived Captain Tilney;
and Isabella, earnestly fixing her eye on him as she spoke,
soon caught his notice.  He approached immediately,
and took the seat to which her movements invited him.
His first address made Catherine start.  Though spoken low,
she could distinguish, "What! Always to be watched, in person
or by proxy!"

     "Psha, nonsense!" was Isabella's answer in the
same half whisper.  "Why do you put such things into
my head? If I could believe it--my spirit, you know,
is pretty independent."

     "I wish your heart were independent.  That would
be enough for me."

     "My heart, indeed! What can you have to do with
hearts? You men have none of you any hearts."

     "If we have not hearts, we have eyes; and they give
us torment enough."

     "Do they? I am sorry for it; I am sorry they find
anything so disagreeable in me.  I will look another way.
I hope this pleases you" (turning her back on him);
"I hope your eyes are not tormented now."

     "Never more so; for the edge of a blooming cheek
is still in view--at once too much and too little."

     Catherine heard all this, and quite out of countenance,
could listen no longer.  Amazed that Isabella could endure it,
and jealous for her brother, she rose up, and saying she
should join Mrs. Allen, proposed their walking.  But for this
Isabella showed no inclination.  She was so amazingly tired,
and it was so odious to parade about the pump-room;
and if she moved from her seat she should miss her sisters;
she was expecting her sisters every moment; so that her dearest
Catherine must excuse her, and must sit quietly down again.
But Catherine could be stubborn too; and Mrs. Allen just
then coming up to propose their returning home, she joined
her and walked out of the pump-room, leaving Isabella
still sitting with Captain Tilney.  With much uneasiness
did she thus leave them.  It seemed to her that Captain
Tilney was falling in love with Isabella, and Isabella
unconsciously encouraging him; unconsciously it must be,
for Isabella's attachment to James was as certain and
well acknowledged as her engagement.  To doubt her truth
or good intentions was impossible; and yet, during the
whole of their conversation her manner had been odd.
She wished Isabella had talked more like her usual self,
and not so much about money, and had not looked so well
pleased at the sight of Captain Tilney.  How strange
that she should not perceive his admiration! Catherine
longed to give her a hint of it, to put her on her guard,
and prevent all the pain which her too lively behaviour
might otherwise create both for him and her brother.

     The compliment of John Thorpe's affection did not make
amends for this thoughtlessness in his sister.  She was almost
as far from believing as from wishing it to be sincere;
for she had not forgotten that he could mistake, and his
assertion of the offer and of her encouragement convinced
her that his mistakes could sometimes be very egregious.
In vanity, therefore, she gained but little; her chief
profit was in wonder.  That he should think it worth
his while to fancy himself in love with her was a matter
of lively astonishment.  Isabella talked of his attentions;
she had never been sensible of any; but Isabella had said
many things which she hoped had been spoken in haste,
and would never be said again; and upon this she was glad
to rest altogether for present ease and comfort.

Jane Austen