Northanger Abbey Summary: Chapters 22-28

Chapter 22 

The next morning Catherine reads the rolled papers that she had discovered in the chest and is disappointed to learn that they are ancient laundry bills. She is embarrassed by her actions with the chest and blames Henry for exciting her curiosity the previous day. She arrives for breakfast to find only Henry, notices the flowers and declares that “I have just learnt to love a hyacinth.” Henry tells her that young ladies should love flowers because it gives them the opportunity to go out of doors. General Tilney joins them and he and Catherine discuss china. Henry departs for Woodston on businesses for three days. The General explains that Woodston is on family lands that he has improved it and supplies the living that was planned for his son long ago. Each of his sons have a profession, not for the money, but for the employment. The General offers to give Catherine a tour of the Abbey and its grounds. She suggests that they tour the gardens since the weather is smiling. She wishes that Henry was with them to show her what has picturesque. Catherine is struck beyond expectation of the grandeur of Northanger Abbey.  The General is flattered by her surprise and complements. The gardens were his hobby-horse. Eleanor suggests a path, but the General declines, saying it is too damp and departs. Catherine notices that her mood is brightened in his absence. She is particularly fond of this spot since it was her mother’s favorite walk and her memory endears it to her. Catherine questions why the memory does not endear it to the General and why he will not walk there. Her death must have caused a great affliction. Eleanor shares that she feels the loss of her mother greatly, she has no other sister, and even though Henry is there half the time, she is often in solitude. Catherine quizzes Eleanor on her mother. She suspects that her parent’s marriage was unhappy because the husband did not like his wife’s favorite walk, and suspects from the turn of his features he not behave well to her. She asks if there was a portrait which Eleanor explains he did not care for the likeness and she has it hanging in her room and feels it very like her. More proof in Catherine’s eyes that a departed wife is not loved by the husband. He must have been dreadfully cruel to her. In spite of the General’s attentions to her, she feels a real aversion to him. The meet up with him at the end of the path and Catherine is languid in his presence now. He asks Eleanor to take her into the Abbey with strict instructions to wait for the tour of the Abbey until he can direct it. Catherine thinks this odd.

Chapter 23

The General appears and conducts the tour of the interior extolling it’s every modern detail and comfort. Catherine is nonplused, “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.” The tour continues through every room and every detail of furnishing and architecture. As they tour the upper bed chambers, he reveals some of the past distinguished visitors and hopes that their “friends from Fullerton” might be guests in future. General Tilney keeps the party from exploring a certain passage, and Catherine finds this intriguing. Eleanor reveals that she was going to lead her to her mother’s room, the room where she died. Catherine is not surprised that he does not want to enter the scene that would remind him “left him to the stings of conscience.” When Catherine and Eleanor are alone, she expresses a wish to see Mrs. Tilney’s room. She learns that it has been 9 years since her death. “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.” Eleanor was not at home when her mother died suddenly, and this made Catherine’s blood run cold with the horrid suspicion that their father had killed her. Latter when General Tilney excuses himself from his guest to study government pamphlets, she is convinced that it is for some other dubious propose, possibly to visit Mrs. Tilney in a locked tower and feed her course food. The mystery was yet to be unraveled. She reflects that only today she might have been within feet of the forbidden gallery and the cell in which Mrs. Tilney had languished. When she “started at the boldness of her own surmises.”

Chapter 24

The next day at church service, she sees an elegant monument with a virtuous epitaph of a consoling husband in front of the family phew. 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. While General Tilney takes his walk, Catherine and Eleanor agree to visit her mother’s apartments. First she shows her the portrait, which Catherine sees no resemblance to the family. They proceed to the gallery and are about to enter her room when General Tilney appears and stops them abruptly. Catherine runs to her room and locks her door greatly commiserating her friend’s fate under her father’s wrath, expecting a summons of her own shortly. No summons is called, but guests arrive at the Abbey defraying the situation. Eleanor later explains that her father only needed her to write a note. 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.” Just then she hears footsteps approaching on the stair and it is Henry. She asks how he came to be there? He explains that it is the shortest way to his chambers from the stables. He asks her way SHE is there since it is out of her way to her rooms. She tells him that she was visiting his mother’s rooms that their father had prevented them earlier from seeing. She is embarrassed and makes her excuses to go dress, but Henry tells her that they are not on such a time schedule as Bath. For the first time in their acquaintance, she wishes to be away from him and dreads further questions, in which he persists to her horror. She admits that Eleanor did not send her to the rooms, and that she was curious about the circumstances of her death, her dyeing so suddenly, her children being away, and their father not being fond of her. He is surprised by her conclusions. “Dear Miss Morland, consider the dreadful nature of the suspicions you have entertained,” asking her to remember what age they live in, that they are Christians, and that it is England. “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?” Ashamed of her own ‘horrid’ assumptions, she runs to her room in tears.

Chapter 25

Catherine’s visions of romance are over. Henry’s questions had opened her eyes to the extravagance of her late fancies. She cried bitterly, fearful that he would despise her forever. At dinner she could barley talk. Henry paid more attention to her than usual raising her spirits.  She acknowledges that she had forced horror into every situation craving to be frightened, tracing the source to reading Mrs. Radcliffe’s works. She realizes that in the central part of England that “murder was not tolerated, servants were not slaves, and neither poison nor sleeping potions to be procured, like rhubarb, from every druggist.” She is determined to judge and act in the future only with good sense and forgive herself. Henry is noble and attentive and never mentions the incident again. Nine days have passed since she left Bath with no promised letter from Isabella. Then a letter from James arrives on the tenth day from Oxford revealing that he has broken off his engagement with Isabella, unable to bear her duplicity any longer and wishing Catherine away from Northanger before Captain Tilney makes his engagement known. He cautions her to beware where she gives her heart. Henry is witness to her distress. They sit down to breakfast and she is despondent, excuses herself to her rooms which are occupied by the maids. She goes into the drawing room and Eleanor and Henry try to comfort her to no avail. Her friends are very concerned. After she composes herself she requests that if they know of Captain Tilney’s return she will be alerted immediately because something has happened that would make it dreadful to be in the same house as him. Henry guesses the trouble, followed by Catherine’s declaration that Isabella was left her brother for theirs. “Could you have believed there had been such inconstancy and fickleness, and everything that is bad in the world?” Henry thinks that she is misinformed. His brother can not marry Miss Thorpe. Catherine gives Henry the letter to read and he acknowledges it. Eleanor questions who Miss Thorpe is and if she has any money. Catherine says that money is no consequence to their Father since “he only valued money as it allowed him to promote the happiness of his children.” Henry and Eleanor look at each other in surprise. Catherine still tries to think the best of her friend, but Henry alludes to her ambition. If a Baronet should arrive in Bath, Frederick will be forgotten. Catherine remembers Isabella’s reaction when she learned how much money her father had offered to James upon their engagement and “I never was so deceived in anyone’s character in my life before.” Henry asks her if in loosing Isabella she has lost half of herself? She honestly answers no. She does not feel as afflicted as she thought.

Chapter 26

Catherine, Eleanor and Henry agree that General Tilney would disqualify Isabella as a suitable wife for Frederick Tilney because of her lack of consequence and fortune. From the account of the General’s children, Catherine thinks that she would not be suitable for the family either. Since the General has said several times that money is of no consequence, she thinks that they are mistaken in their assumption of his wishes for fortunes for his children. They assure her that Captain Tilney will not be asking his father for consent, and she does not need to leave. She believes that the General should be informed of the ‘whole business’ of his son in regard to Isabella, but Henry does not agree. His brother must tell his own story. The General is concerned that Miss Morland is bored since it is off season with no Balls or hunting. He suggests a visit to Woodston and Henry agrees. He expressly states that Henry is not to put himself out in any way. It is decided that they will visit on Wednesday next. Henry must depart two days earlier because “pleasures in this world are always to be paid for” and he must return to Woodston to make arrangements for their visit, “Because no time is to be lost in frightening my old housekeeper out of her wits.” Catherine does not understand why he is so concerned since the General said to make no trouble. Henry wishes that he could reason like her and departs. She does not understand why the General “should say one thing so positively, and mean another all the while, was most unaccountable“, but does not dispute Henry’s judgment. Now that Henry was away their was nothing to amuse her since she was tired of woods and shrubberies and the Abbey was no more than any house now that there was nothing so charming in her imagination. They are in Woodston and the general felt obliged to apologize for the smallness of the village. Catherine sees no fault, only charm “in her heart she preferred it to any place she had ever been at.” Henry welcomes his guests. Catherine thinks the room the most comfortable room in the world, but is too shy to say so and her silence in her praise disappointed the General believing “there are few country parsonages in England half so good.” They take a tour of the house and Catherine admires the drawing-room even though it is unfurnished asking why it is not fitted up. The General explains that it waits for a lady’s taste which makes Catherine a bit uncomfortable. They tour the gardens which she finds it “prettier than any pleasure-ground she had ever been in before.” They dine at four o’clock and Catherine observes that “the abundance of the dinner did not seem to create the smallest astonishment in the general.” Catherine was so pleased with his mood throughout the visit that she was in no doubt as to How or When she would return.

Chapter 27

A letter arrives from Isabella. She is concerned about Catherine’s dear brother not having heard from him since he left for Oxford, fearful of some misunderstanding and wants Catherine to write to him on her behalf and set it right.  She will not speak against the family that she is with, only that “it is very difficult to know whom to trust, and young men never know their minds two days together.” Captain Tilney went away to his regiment and she hopes to never be plagued with him again. She is quite unhappy about James and entreats her to write to him because she mislaid his address. She assures her that all could be made right with a visit by him. She wears nothing but purple now because it is James’ favorite color even though she looks hideous in it. Catherine sees the strain of shallow artifice and is ashamed of Isabella and will not write on her behalf. Catherine shares the news with Henry and Eleanor and tells that their brother is safe from the vain coquette. Catherine sees what she is about and wishes that she had never known her. She understands that she had designs on Captain Tilney that did no succeed, but why was he interested in her? Henry explains that he has his vanities like Miss Thorpe, and they should not seek the cause. Isabella had no heart to give so nothing is lost. He tells her that her “mind is warped by an innate principle of general integrity, and therefore not accessible to the cool reasonings of family partiality, or a desire of revenge.”  Catherine is resolved to think Captain Tilney was unpardonably guilty and wished to think of it no more.

Chapter 28 

General Tilney departed for London and this “gave Catherine the first experimental conviction that a loss may be sometimes a gain.” They now walked, dined and conversed at ease and leisure. Catherine has been at Northanger four weeks and is concerned that she overstayed. Eleanor had understood the pleasure of her company for much longer. The kindness and earnestness in her manner and Henry’s gratification on her agreement to stay relieved her of her anxiety. She almost believed that Henry loved her. While Henry was away at Woodston to attend to his parish, a carriage arrives late one night unannounced. Thinking that it was Captain Tilney, Catherine goes to her chamber leaving Eleanor to attend to him. A half hour passes and Eleanor appears at her door distressed, and a most unwilling messenger. Her father has returned to inform her of that an engagement to visit another family will take them away on Monday. Catherine attempts to console her and offers a visit to Fullerton after her return. She tells her that is not possible. Catherine is told that she will depart tomorrow at seven and no servant is offered to escort her. Eleanor apologizes and asks for her forgiveness. Catherine asks if she has offended the General. She confides that her father is greatly vexed but does not see her as the cause. She is concerned for her traveling 70 miles by post unattended. Eleanor leaves Catherine to her tears and disappointment in not being able to say goodbye to Henry. All this by General Tilney who has been so polite and gratuitous to her, it was “incomprehensible as it was mortifying and grievous.” What did all this mean? Uncivilly rushing her away, she must have offended him. The night passed with little sleep. Eleanor arrives at six to assist her in packing and dressing. They breakfast, but with Eleanor’s encouragement, she could eat only a few mouthfuls. The carriage arrives and Eleanor entreats her to write to her of her safe arrival under the cover of Alice at Lord Longtown’s, but Catherine is hesitant to write if she is not allowed to receive letters from her. Eleanor understands, but this is enough to melt Catherine’s pride and she agrees to write. Eleanor is concerned that since Catherine had been away from home so long that she might not have any money. Catherine had not thought of it and might have been turned away from Northanger without the means to get home. The carriage arrives; she bids her friend adieu with an affectionate embrace, pauses and with a trembling lip asks to be remembered by her absent friend, hides her face in her handkerchief, darts across the hall to the carriage and is gone.

© 2008 Laurel Ann Nattress, Austenprose