Northanger Abbey Summary: Chapters 15-21

Chapter 15 

A note from Isabella entreats Catherine to come to her house the next morning. She arrives and speaks with her sister Maria who had gone on the drive in her place. They went to York and did not see Blaize Castle, so Catherine is not regretful. Isabella enters and tells Catherine that she and her brother James are engaged pending his parent’s approval. Isabella is anxious that they will consent because her fortune is so small. Isabella declares that only the smallest income is enough for her, and she is content to live in a cottage. James enters and then is off to Fullerton to speak to his parents. Catherine spends the day with the Thorpe’s who know of the engagement. James said that he would send a letter the next day, and Isabella is anxious for the news. The letter arrives revealing that all will be done for their happiness. She is the happiest of mortals. Mrs. Thorpe is elated.  John Thorpe commends James as the finest fellow in the world. The letter was short and James will write later of the financial details. Isabella envisions herself the envy of all of her friends. John Thorpe thinks marrying a “famous good thing” and one marriage gets another. John is on his way to London for a fortnight and promises to visit Catherine and her parents at Fullerton. He claims to only need the girl he loves and a roof over his head to be happy. Catherine agrees and proclaims that it is the wickedest thing in existence to marry for money. John takes her speach as a form of encouragement. Catherine tells the Allen’s the news of James’ engagement, and they are pleased, but not surprised since his they guessed that his arrival in Bath to be with her.

Chapter 16

Catherine dines with the Tilney’s, but it is not the warm experience she had with them on their walk. Eleanor was reserved, Henry oddly quiet and the General is solicitous, She only wants to get away. Isabella claims that their attitude is haughtiness and pride and is eager to condemn them, claiming that Henry is unworthy of her and encouraging Catherine to never think of him again. He is fickle and not like her brother John who has a constant heart. Catherine will see the Tilney’s at the Assembly tonight. Her opinion of them has not been swayed by Isabella who claims disinterest in going because James is away. The Tilney’s are kind and attentive. She dances with Henry. Captain Tilney, Henry’s older brother enters. He is tall and quite handsome, but his taste and manners are far inferior to his brother’s and he shows no interest in her. Catherine thinks Henry irresistible. Captain Tilney asks Catherine if her friend would dance and she says no. Henry discusses how Catherine views other people’s reaction through her own eyes and not theirs. She does not understand him and he reveals that he knows her perfectly well. “Me? Yes; I cannot speak well enough to be unintelligible.”, then commends her for her satire on modern language. She asks for an explanation. “Well, then, I only meant that your attributing my brother’s wish of dancing with Miss Thorpe to good nature alone convinced me of your being superior in good nature yourself to all the rest of the world.” She is in turn surprised to see Isabella dancing with Cpt. Tilney. Henry questions her judgment of Isabella. Has she never changed her mind before? Later, Catherine asks Isabella why she changed her mind, and she explained that he was persistent and she did not want to offend her friend who introduced them. He was a bore though, but he was such a smart fellow and every eye was upon them. A second letter arrives from James revealing that Mr. Morland can give 400 pounds a year with more later, and that they can marry in 2 to 3 years. Isabella and Mrs. Thorpe are grave, though her only concern is for James to have to live on such a small income, not herself. They say that Mr. Allen has been very gracious, but Catherine is hurt when Isabella claims that “everybody has a right to do what they like with their own money.” Isabella claims she is out of spirits because she must wait to marry, not for the money, which is nothing. Catherine’s uncomfortable feelings lessen when Isabella’s spirits rise again, and James is welcomed back warmly.

Chapter 17

The Allen’s and Catherine have now been in Bath six weeks, and will stay another fortnight. She knows from her brother’s engagement what can be attained, and hopes the same for herself with Henry. Catherine visits Miss Tilney to relay the news and in turn is greatly disappointed to learn that the Tilney’s plan to quit Bath in a week. Eleanor and General Tilney invite Catherine for a visit at Northanger Abbey. She is thrilled, gratified and grateful for the honor and will write home directly to her parents for permission. General Tilney reveals that after his visit with the Allen’s that day, their assurance has already been given. She receives her parent’s consent which “completed her conviction of being favoured beyond every other human creature, in friends and fortune, circumstance and chance.” Everything seemed to cooperate to her advantage through her acquaintance with the Allen’s, her friendship with Isabella, her continued intimacy with the Tilney’s, and now her passion of ancient edifices to be fulfilled.

Chapter 18

Catherine with a mind full of happiness is so distracted that she does not realize that it had been two or three days since she had seen Isabella. When they do meet in the pump-room, Isabella confides that her brother John is head over ears in love with her and asked Isabella to speak to her on his behalf. He had made an offer of marriage which Catherine so much as accepted! Catherine is astonished. Isabella reproaches her for being modest and fishing for complements when she knows from John’s letter that she encouraged him. Catherine denies this protesting her innocence, “solemnly protest that no syllable of such a nature ever passed between” them. She can not return his affection and did not intend to encourage it. Isabella admits that it was “a very foolish, imprudent business” since neither of them have any money to live on and she can not understand him. He must not have received her last letter. She acquits Catherine and credits it to a little harmless flirting on her part. She is the last person in the world to judge her severely. What one means one day, can alter the next. She does not wish her to sacrifice her happiness to oblige her brother. “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.” And then Captain Tilney appears to sit next to Isabella and flirt with her in a whisper that Catherine can detect. It appears to Catherine that he was falling in love with Isabella and that she was encouraging it. She feels uneasy for her brother James. Catherine and Mrs. Allen depart the pump-room and leave them sitting together. “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.” She reflected on the events. That john Thorpe could be in love with her was a matter of lively astonishment. But Isabella has said many things in haste that did not happen, so she rested assured.

Chapter 19

Catherine closely observes Isabella for the next few days and she is an altered creature and not agreeable to her. Her attentions and smiles to Captain Tilney should be those of her brother James who now grows uneasy by Isabella actions. Catherine thinks that Captin Tilney’s “behaviour was so incompatible with a knowledge of Isabella’s engagement that she could not, upon reflection, imagine him aware of it.” Catherine will be departing for Northanger Abbey in a few days with the Tilney’s, but the Captain will remain in Bath. She is concerned that he does not know of Isabella’s engagement and speaks to Henry Tilney on the matter. Henry assures her that his brother does know of her engagement, and she asks him to persuade him to leave Bath and Isabella. “He knows what he is about, and must be his own master.” Henry gently reminds Catherine that if his brother’s attention to Miss Thorpe gives her brother pains then who is to blame, his brother for giving them, or Isabella for encouraging them? He understands that she is in love with James, but flirts with his brother. “No man is offended by another man’s admiration of the woman he loves; it is the woman only who can make it a torment.” Catherine sincerely believes that Isabella does not intend to torment because she is very much attached to James. She does not understand how someone can flirt with one man when they are in love with another. Catherine continues to question Henry intent that he knows the answers to his brother’s actions. He assures her he does not know his heart and can only conjecture. She persists and inquires if their father can put a stop to his behavior. He replies that they are the best judge of their own relationship. Depend upon their mutual attachment and know exactly what is required to be borne. His brother’s leave from the Army ends shortly, and then Isabella will only be a toast in the mess-room for a fortnight and his brother an amusing tale for her to tell of his passion to James. Catherine was determined to think that Henry Tilney knew best, blamed herself for her fears, and resolved to not dwell upon it again.

Chapter 20

Catherine’s day of departure from the Allen’s and Bath arrives. Mr. Allen escorts her to the Tilney’s at Milson Street to see her off. She is so anxious to please them that she secretly wishes to return with him to the safety of their Pulteney residence. Henry and Eleanor ease her anxiety a bit, but general Tilney’s over solicitous concerns for her comfort unsettle her. Catherine is also uneasy by the General’s impatience for Captain Tilney to arrive for breakfast and the severity of his reproof, “which seemed disproportionate to the offence.” They finally depart after much disapprobation by General Tilney, and Catherine has no regrets about departing Bath for Northanger Abbey. The journey is broken at Petty France, a half way point and they dine with little conversation but complaints by the General Tilney about the service. She observes that his presence “seemed always a check upon his children’s spirits” and she is in awe of him. It is a relief when Catherine is asked to ride the remainder of the journey with Henry in his curricle. She is hesitant after remembering Mr. Allen’s thoughts on riding in open carriages, but agrees, conceding to General Tilney’s better judgment. She has no regrets as Henry drives so well. “To be driven by him, next to being dancing with him, was certainly the greatest happiness in the world.” She learns from Henry that Eleanor is very grateful for her visit because she has no female companion. Henry lives there only half the time. He has his own residence at Woodston, 20 miles away. She envies him growing up in an Abbey. He teases her asking if she is ready for the horrors that such a building can bring. Does she have a stout heart and steady nerves? “Will not your mind misgive you when you find yourself in this gloomy chamber? Will not your heart sink within you?” She denies that this will happen to her. Henry continues to talk of haunted chambers with doors that do not lock, and Catherine is gleeful because it is just like the book. She recollects herself and is certain that Miss Tilney would not put her in such a room as he describes. When they reached Northanger Abbey, the view was not as grand nor the road “without obstacle, alarm, or solemnity of any kind, struck her as odd and inconsistent.” The Abbey is not the old edifice that she had envisioned, “less what her fancy had portrayed“, the furniture and decoration modern, lacking the dirt and cobwebs that the difference was very distressing. Eleanor escorts her through the Abbey, up several flights of stairs to her chamber and departs after anxiously telling her not to alter her dress.

Chapter 21

Catherine proceeds to change from her traveling habit and spies a large chest tucked away in a corner. With fearful curiosity she attempts to open the lid of the chest and is stopped by a knock at the door. It is Miss Tilney’s maid who she sends away. She proceeds to dress, but is drawn back to thoughts of what is in the chest, abruptly opens it and Miss Tilney appears. She is embarrassed to be caught in such an act. Miss Tilney hints at their being late for dinner, and they hurry off to find the general looking at his watch and ordering dinner to be served. He scolds Miss Tilney for hurrying her fair friend who is out of breath from haste. Catherine comments on the size of the dinning room and General Tilney remarks that Mr. Allen’s is probably larger. The rest of the evening passes uneventfully, until the slamming of a door reminds Catherine that she is in an Abbey recollecting dreadful situations and horrid scenes. She returns to her chamber comforted that it as safe as her chamber at Fullerton, “scorned the causeless fears of an idle fancy.” She sees a high old fashioned ebony cabinet, not unlike the one the Henry described earlier that day. She takes her candle and investigates working the lock for sometime before she succeeds to reveal the inner drawers. All are empty save one, in which she seizes a roll of paper. She has the document and is ready to read it when her candle is extinguished by a gust of wind. In complete darkness, she hears running footsteps in the hall and jumps into bed. The storm continues to rage and the wind howls. She hears hollow mummers and distant screams in the hall. As the clock chimes three, the tempest subsides, and she finds sleep.

© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose

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