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Catherine was not so much engaged at the theatre
that evening, in returning the nods and smiles of Miss Thorpe,
though they certainly claimed much of her leisure,
as to forget to look with an inquiring eye for Mr. Tilney
in every box which her eye could reach; but she looked
in vain. Mr. Tilney was no fonder of the play than the
pump-room. She hoped to be more fortunate the next day;
and when her wishes for fine weather were answered by seeing
a beautiful morning, she hardly felt a doubt of it; for a
fine Sunday in Bath empties every house of its inhabitants,
and all the world appears on such an occasion to walk
about and tell their acquaintance what a charming day it is.
As soon as divine service was over, the Thorpes
and Allens eagerly joined each other; and after staying
long enough in the pump-room to discover that the crowd
was insupportable, and that there was not a genteel
face to be seen, which everybody discovers every Sunday
throughout the season, they hastened away to the Crescent,
to breathe the fresh air of better company. Here Catherine
and Isabella, arm in arm, again tasted the sweets of
friendship in an unreserved conversation; they talked much,
and with much enjoyment; but again was Catherine disappointed
in her hope of reseeing her partner. He was nowhere to be
met with; every search for him was equally unsuccessful,
in morning lounges or evening assemblies; neither at
the Upper nor Lower Rooms, at dressed or undressed balls,
was he perceivable; nor among the walkers, the horsemen,
or the curricle-drivers of the morning. His name was not
in the pump-room book, and curiosity could do no more.
He must be gone from Bath. Yet he had not mentioned that
his stay would be so short! This sort of mysteriousness,
which is always so becoming in a hero, threw a fresh grace
in Catherine's imagination around his person and manners,
and increased her anxiety to know more of him.
From the Thorpes she could learn nothing, for they had been
only two days in Bath before they met with Mrs. Allen.
It was a subject, however, in which she often indulged
with her fair friend, from whom she received every possible
encouragement to continue to think of him; and his impression
on her fancy was not suffered therefore to weaken.
Isabella was very sure that he must be a charming young man,
and was equally sure that he must have been delighted with
her dear Catherine, and would therefore shortly return.
She liked him the better for being a clergyman, "for she
must confess herself very partial to the profession";
and something like a sigh escaped her as she said it.
Perhaps Catherine was wrong in not demanding the cause
of that gentle emotion--but she was not experienced enough
in the finesse of love, or the duties of friendship,
to know when delicate raillery was properly called for,
or when a confidence should be forced.
Mrs. Allen was now quite happy--quite satisfied
with Bath. She had found some acquaintance, had been
so lucky too as to find in them the family of a most
worthy old friend; and, as the completion of good fortune,
had found these friends by no means so expensively dressed
as herself. Her daily expressions were no longer, "I wish
we had some acquaintance in Bath!" They were changed into,
"How glad I am we have met with Mrs. Thorpe!" and she was
as eager in promoting the intercourse of the two families,
as her young charge and Isabella themselves could be;
never satisfied with the day unless she spent the
chief of it by the side of Mrs. Thorpe, in what they
called conversation, but in which there was scarcely ever
any exchange of opinion, and not often any resemblance
of subject, for Mrs. Thorpe talked chiefly of her children,
and Mrs. Allen of her gowns.
The progress of the friendship between Catherine
and Isabella was quick as its beginning had been warm,
and they passed so rapidly through every gradation
of increasing tenderness that there was shortly no fresh
proof of it to be given to their friends or themselves.
They called each other by their Christian name, were always
arm in arm when they walked, pinned up each other's train
for the dance, and were not to be divided in the set;
and if a rainy morning deprived them of other enjoyments,
they were still resolute in meeting in defiance of wet
and dirt, and shut themselves up, to read novels together.
Yes, novels; for I will not adopt that ungenerous and
impolitic custom so common with novel-writers, of degrading
by their contemptuous censure the very performances,
to the number of which they are themselves adding--joining
with their greatest enemies in bestowing the harshest
epithets on such works, and scarcely ever permitting them
to be read by their own heroine, who, if she accidentally
take up a novel, is sure to turn over its insipid pages
with disgust. Alas! If the heroine of one novel be not
patronized by the heroine of another, from whom can she
expect protection and regard? I cannot approve of it.
Let us leave it to the reviewers to abuse such effusions
of fancy at their leisure, and over every new novel
to talk in threadbare strains of the trash with which
the press now groans. Let us not desert one another;
we are an injured body. Although our productions have
afforded more extensive and unaffected pleasure than
those of any other literary corporation in the world,
no species of composition has been so much decried.
From pride, ignorance, or fashion, our foes are almost
as many as our readers. And while the abilities of
the nine-hundredth abridger of the History of England,
or of the man who collects and publishes in a volume some
dozen lines of Milton, Pope, and Prior, with a paper from
the Spectator, and a chapter from Sterne, are eulogized
by a thousand pens--there seems almost a general wish
of decrying the capacity and undervaluing the labour
of the novelist, and of slighting the performances which
have only genius, wit, and taste to recommend them.
"I am no novel-reader--I seldom look into novels--Do
not imagine that I often read novels--It is really
very well for a novel." Such is the common cant.
"And what are you reading, Miss--?" "Oh! It is only
a novel!" replies the young lady, while she lays down her
book with affected indifference, or momentary shame.
"It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda"; or, in short,
only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind
are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of
human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties,
the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed
to the world in the best-chosen language. Now, had the same
young lady been engaged with a volume of the Spectator,
instead of such a work, how proudly would she have
produced the book, and told its name; though the chances
must be against her being occupied by any part of that
voluminous publication, of which either the matter or manner
would not disgust a young person of taste: the substance
of its papers so often consisting in the statement of
improbable circumstances, unnatural characters, and topics
of conversation which no longer concern anyone living;
and their language, too, frequently so coarse as to give
no very favourable idea of the age that could endure it.
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