It was a narrow winding path through a thick grove of old Scotch firs; and Catherine, struck by its gloomy aspect, and eager to enter it, could not, even by the general’s disapprobation, be kept from stepping forward. He perceived her inclination, and having again urged the plea of health in vain, was too polite to make further opposition. He excused himself, however, from attending them: “The rays of the sun were not too cheerful for him, and he would meet them by another course.” He turned away; and Catherine was shocked to find how much her spirits were relieved by the separation. The shock, however, being less real than the relief, offered it no injury; and she began to talk with easy gaiety of the delightful melancholy which such a grove inspired. The Narrator, Chapter 22
Poor Catherine! Her rolls of paper prove to be an ancient, but innocent laundry list. She reproaches herself for her actions the previous night, and blames them on Henry for exciting her imagination. Henry leaves for three days business at Woodston. Eleanor, Catherine and General Tilney take a walk as he proceeds to give her the tour of the grounds. They reach a shaded walk which he prefers not to take offering to meet up with them later. Catherine thinks that this is mysterious since Eleanor has shared that it was her mother’s favorite walk. Catherine asks her about her mother and secretly suspects that the General had a hand in her early death. Catherine is collecting proof in her mind of his guilt. He conducts the tour of the inside of the Abbey, but they are not permitted in Mrs. Tilney’s rooms. More proof of his guilt. On Sunday, they attend service and Catherine notices a monument to Mrs. Tilney next to their pew. She suspects that it does not contain her body, and that Mrs. Tilney is actually alive and imprisoned by her evil husband who visits her at odd hours in the tower. She and Eleanor make a secret attempt to visit her mother’s rooms and are interrupted by General Tilney. Horrified, Catherine runs to her room in terror. The next day, she is determined to go to Mrs. Tilney’s room to see for herself where the horror took place. She finds it very disappointing since it is nicely furnished and nothing amiss. Feeling foolish, she hears footsteps on the stairs and is met by Henry who has returned early. He questions why she is there, she explains and he asks her to consider the dreadful nature of her suspicions and consult her own sense of the probable. “Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?” Ashamed of her own ‘horrid’ assumptions, she runs to her room in tears.
I laughed heartily when Catherine discovers, much to her profound disappointment that the rolled papers do not contain family secrets, but ancient laundry bills. So much for discovering Gothic-like mysteries. Ashamed of her actions, her immediate reaction is to blame Henry for exciting her imagination with a description of the ebony chest in her rooms the previous day. I love how her first thoughts are of Henry. He is becoming her guide to proper behavior.
How could she have so imposed on herself? Heaven forbid that Henry Tilney should ever know her folly! And it was in a great measure his own doing, for had not the cabinet appeared so exactly to agree with his description of her adventures, she should never have felt the smallest curiosity about it. This was the only comfort that occurred. Impatient to get rid of those hateful evidences of her folly, those detestable papers then scattered over the bed, she rose directly, and folding them up as nearly as possible in the same shape as before, returned them to the same spot within the cabinet, with a very hearty wish that no untoward accident might ever bring them forward again, to disgrace her even with herself. The Narrator, Chapter 22
I like how Catherine can check herself and not dwell on it. Though I suspect that since this adventure did not produce any Gothic drama, she will continue to seek out more. She begins to try to find a Gothic storyline or hidden meaning behind everything in the Abbey. As she walks in the gardens with Eleanor and General Tilney, she is suspicious when the General chooses not to take a shady path. Eleanor is particularly fond of this spot since it was her mother’s favorite walk and her memory endears it to her. Catherine reflects to herself why the memory does not endear it to the General and why he will not walk there. When Catherine and Eleanor walk alone, Catherine is able to dig deeper into mysterious death (in her mind) of Mrs. Tilney by asking Eleanor questions. There is a portrait of her mother which hangs in Eleanor’s rooms because her father did not care for it. More proof of his aversion to his wife. When they re-enter the Abbey, General Tilney continues the tour for Catherine through every room describing the furnishing and history, though “she cared for no furniture of a more modern date than the fifteenth century.” They show her the majority of the rooms, but “she could scarcely believe it, or overcome the suspicion of there being many chambers secreted” and later “by passing through a dark little room, owning Henry’s authority, and strewed with his litter of books, guns, and greatcoats.” (Oh this remark made me love Henry all the more! His rooms strewn with his stuff. LOL.) When they reach the upper rooms, Eleanor wants to show Catherine her mother’s rooms, but General Tilney stops her claiming she would have not interest there. Catherine further suspects foul play that “left him to the stings of conscience.” Later, when Catherine and Eleanor are alone, she expresses a wish to see Mrs. Tilney’s room and Eleanor agrees. She continues to collect clues, sleuthing out the mysterious death of Mrs. Tilney.
And how long ago may it be that your mother died?”
“She has been dead these nine years.” And nine years, Catherine knew, was a trifle of time, compared with what generally elapsed after the death of an injured wife, before her room was put to rights. “You were with her, I suppose, to the last?”
“No,” said Miss Tilney, sighing; “I was unfortunately from home. Her illness was sudden and short; and, before I arrived it was all over.”
Catherine’s blood ran cold with the horrid suggestions which naturally sprang from these words. Could it be possible? Could Henry’s father – ? And yet how many were the examples to justify even the blackest suspicions! Catherine Morland and Eleanor Tilney, Chapter 23
Later that night, when General Tilney excuses himself early from his guests needing to read government pamphlets, Catherine is convinced it is for some other dubious propose, possibly to visit Mrs. Tilney who is locked in a tower and feed her course food. She reflects that only today she might have been within feet of the forbidden gallery and the cell in which Mrs. Tilney had languished.
The suddenness of her reputed illness, the absence of her daughter, and probably of her other children, at the time – all favoured the supposition of her imprisonment. Its origin – jealousy perhaps, or wanton cruelty – was yet to be unravelled. The Narrator, Chapter 23
The next day at church service, she sees an elegant monument to Mrs. Tilney with a virtuous epitaph of a consoling husband placed in front of the family pew. Catherine is amazed that General Tilney can bear to be so unmoved in its presence or even enter the chapel. But then she remembered that many are unaffected by their murderous deeds, and go about their business unaffected. The monument can mean nothing. She knows from reading how a “supposititious funeral” can be carried on. With the General off on his morning walk, Eleanor agrees to show Catherine her mother’s apartments, but first her portrait in her room, which is quite elegant but surprisingly does not resemble her children. They move on to Mrs. Tilney’s rooms and are stopped again by General Tilney. Horrified, Catherine flees to her chamber in terror for her friend. The next day, Catherine is determined to attempt a visit to Mrs. Tilney’s rooms alone before Henry’s return on the morrow. She enters the rooms. There is nothing odd or amiss, and not what she expected. Astonishment and then shame rack her.
She was sick of exploring, and desired but to be safe in her own room, with her own heart only privy to its folly; and she was on the point of retreating as softly as she had entered, when the sound of footsteps, she could hardly tell where, made her pause and tremble. The Narrator, Chapter 24
It is Henry ascending the stairs, and as surprised as she is at their meeting. What transpires is one of my favorite dialogues between them which I encourage you to read again. She is caught snooping about, and he knows it. She tries to explain herself, but digs herself deeper when she reveals her reasons. Instead of laughing at her, (and it does all sound unbelievably presumptuous and naïve), he firmly questions her.
“If I understand you rightly, you had formed a surmise of such horror as I have hardly words to – Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained. What have you been judging from? Remember the country and the age in which we live. Remember that we are English, that we are Christians. Consult your own understanding, your own sense of the probable, your own observation of what is passing around you. Does our education prepare us for such atrocities? Do our laws connive at them? Could they be perpetrated without being known, in a country like this, where social and literary intercourse is on such a footing, where every man is surrounded by a neighbourhood of voluntary spies, and where roads and newspapers lay everything open? Dearest Miss Morland, what ideas have you been admitting?” Henry Tilney, Chapter 24
Indeed! This must be a stinging bite to poor Catherine, who previously admitted that Henry always knows best! She just forgot to use the Henry meter of good taste and proper deportment before she went a bit Gothic crazy on him in his three day absence! ;)
We shall see if he forgives her.
Online text of Northanger Abbey complements of Molland’s Circulating-library
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Go Gothic with Northanger Abbey: DAY 15 Giveaway
Jane Austen Entertains: Music from her own library (2007)
Music CD by various arts
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Day 17 – Oct 27 Guest Blog – Gothic Classics Volume 14
Day 18 – Oct 28 Group Read NA Chapters 25-28
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