Posted on 2014-10-31
Mr. Henry Tilney was taking a walk one fine morning in Bath when a carriage rolled by. That was not unusual in itself, because there were vehicles everywhere in Bath - Berliners and barouches, gigs and drays, phaetons and all manner of other conveyances. No, what caught Mr. Tilney's attention was that this perfectly nondescript coach hit a pothole in the road that sent its occupants flying. A young lady put her hand to the window to stop her fall, and he saw a flash of dark curls and startled blue eyes, eyes that mirrored her relief that she had not fallen to the floor. And then she was gone.
Henry was intrigued, and knew he must see her again, must know who she was. Did her face always show exactly what she felt? He found no lack of pretty, even beautiful, ladies in Bath, but none with such animation, such lack of insouciance that most girls in town were wont to show.
The carriage had slowed, no doubt testing the road for more holes, although he could not see that the vehicle had suffered unduly from the first hit. Still, it was slow enough to follow on foot, so he did.
The trail led Mr. Tilney to a hotel on Pulteney Street. He watched, unnoticed, as he hid behind the portico of an adjacent building, and found himself smiling as the dark-haired girl alighted from the carriage, wide-eyed as she took in her surroundings. No, he had not been wrong in assuming her face reflected her every emotion. She was definitely an innocent. And perfect for his plans.
An older couple followed her out of the coach and he wondered if they were her parents. Not that he had romantic designs on the chit, he told himself, but the family dynamics of the two interested him and he would have to discover their names and more.
He saw them enter the hotel, the porters following with trunks, valises and bandboxes, and lingered awhile, but the family did not reemerge.
With a sigh, Henry continued his walk, suddenly cognizant of his own duties to his own family. Still, the memory of the eager girl would not fade.
Over the next couple of mornings, giving in to the compulsion to learn more , Henry uncovered some information at the milliner's shop. The man and woman were the Allens and the young lady with them was not their child. Indeed, the Allens were childless.
Learned from the operators of the Roman Baths, where Mr. Allen went daily, the girl was to spend the season in Bath with her chaperones, there for his health and her entertainment.
Finally, at his sister's dressmaker's shop, where he had gone to procure muslin, he discovered a name: Miss Catherine Morland. Not only that, but he learned that while the Allens and Miss Morland planned to attend the public assembly the next evening, they did not know a soul in town.
Henry decided that it was time for that tide to turn, and he knew exactly how to orchestrate a meeting.
They were late. Henry cast about the crowded assembly rooms for the Allens and/or Miss Morland, but of them there was no sign. Unfortunately, while one would think it easier to traverse the mob once inside the doors, that was far from the truth.
Henry thought he caught a glimpse of Mrs. Allen and her charge at one point, but there was such a considerable crush and the ladies were no doubt now seated on a bench somewhere, he decided. In vain he searched some more, but finally gave in and went back to his rooms. It was too bad he could not locate the ladies. He had hoped the master of ceremonies, Mr. King, could introduce them.
But he knew her hotel, and in between his other duties, he planned on haunting the place. Surely in the next few days he might contrive to run into her - literally, if he had to - and make her acquaintance.
On Tuesday, he was fortunate enough to follow the Allens and Miss Morland to the theater. Unfortunately, the tickets had all been sold before he could purchase one. He hung about until the play was over, but in the mad rush to leave, he did not see his quarry at all.
On Wednesday, he followed them to a concert, but while there were tickets to be had, he was forced to sit to the rear, waiting impatiently until intermission. He already had his eye on several acquaintances who might tender an introduction, but while his friends were available, the Allens had again disappeared. He did not know that Mrs. Allen, claiming a headache, had asked to be taken back to their hotel during the break.
He finally got a break on Thursday. Arriving early enough to speak to Mr. King, Henry found himself being introduced to Miss Morland not too much later. She was even sweeter in person, he realized, and he put himself forward to both charm and be charmed. He was not disappointed.
They danced, but there was not much room for conversation until afterward, when they sat down for tea. They spoke of mundane things for awhile, but then Henry could help himself.
"I have been remiss, madam. I have not yet asked you how long you have been in Bath." As it was quite a common, logical question, she might become suspicious if he did not ask. "Or whether you have been at the Upper Rooms, the theatre, and the concert; and how you like the place altogether. I have been very negligent - but are you now at leisure to satisfy me in these particulars? If you are, I shall begin directly."
"You need not give yourself that trouble, sir."
"No trouble, I assure you." Henry tried not to appear as if he already had all the answers. "Have you been ong in Bath, madam?" he simpered and could see she was trying not to laugh.
"About a week."
He feigned astonishment. "Really?"
"Why should you be surprised, sir?"
"Why, indeed?" he wondered in his natural tone. "But some emotion must appear to be raised by your reply, and surprise is more easily assumed, and not less reasonable than any other." Was she not surprised? Did she know he had been watching her and was now toying with him? Food for thought. "Now let us go on. Were you never here before, madam?"
"Indeed!" He faked more astonishment. "Have you yet honored the Upper Rooms?"
"Yes, sir, I was there last Monday."
He knew that. "Have you been to the theatre?"
"Yes, sir, I was at the play on Tuesday."
He wanted to ask what she thought of the performance, but he held his tongue on that score. "And to the concert?"
"Yes, sir, on Wednesday."
"And you are altogether pleased with Bath?"
"Yes, I like it very well."
"I hope you do not think badly of me for quizzing you. I shall make a poor figure in your diary tomorrow."
Henry did not want to be in anyone's diary, but his sense of humor overcame a feeling of dread that it must be so.
"I know exactly what you will say. 'Friday, went to the Lower Rooms; wore my sprigged muslin with blue trimmings - plain black shoes - appeared to much advantage.'" Here, she blushed, and the blood rushing so quickly to the surface of her cheeks made him smile.
"'But was strangely harassed by a queer, half-witted fellow who would make me dance with him, and distressed me by his nonsense.'"
"Indeed, I shall say no such thing!"
She should, by all rights, because it was all true. "Shall I tell you what you ought to say?"
"If you please."
"'I danced with a very agreeable young man, introduced by Mr. King; had a great deal of conversation with him - seems a most extraordinary genius - hope I may know more of him."
"But, perhaps, I keep no journal?"
"Come now, not keep a journal! My dear, madam, I am not so ignorant of young ladies' ways as you might wish to believe. Nature may have done something when it comes to the talent ladies have to write agreeable letters, but I am sure it must be essentially assisted by the practice of keeping a journal!"
After a short discussion of the difference between men, ladies and writing letters, they were interrupted by Mrs. Allen, who had a pin making holes in her muslin gown.
"It is a favorite dress, though it cost but nine shillings a yard."
"That is exactly what I should have guessed, madam," Henry said, making himself a favorite with Miss Morland's chaperone.
"Do you understand muslins, sir?"
"Particularly well. I always buy my own cravats and am allowed to be an excellent judge; and my sister has often trusted me in the choice of a gown. I bought one for her the other day, and it was pronounced to be a prodigious bargain. I gave but five shillings a yard for it, and a true Indian muslin."
Mrs. Allen seemed to be quite struck by his genius. "Men commonly take so little notice of those things," she said. "You must be a great comfort to your sister, sir."
"I hope I am, madam."
Mrs. Allen kept him on the subject of muslins, Miss Morland's in particular, until the dancing recommenced. Even then, his pretty partner seemed distracted.
"What are you thinking of so earnestly?" he asked as they returned to the ballroom. He could so easily read her face.
She blushed. "I was not thinking of anything."
"That is artful and deep, to be sure, but I had rather be told at once that you will not tell me."
"Well, then, I shall not."
Minx. He liked her even more now that they had been properly introduced. Now he need not skulk about, watching from afar.
"Thank you; for now we shall soon be acquainted, as I am authorized to tease you on this subject whenever we meet, and nothing in the world advances intimacy so much." Hence, all the teasing he had indulged in all evening, if she had noticed.
They danced again and when the assembly closed, he hoped the lady had as strong an inclination for continuing the friendship as he did. He liked to think she did.
Henry sent a note around to the Pulteney Hotel, asking Mrs. Allen if Miss Morland might be persuaded to go for a walk with him and his sister, Miss Tilney, on the morrow. Mrs. Allen replied that while Miss Morland's brother had made a sudden appearance in Bath, and she wished to spend some time with him, she was agreeable to a walk with the Tilney siblings.
Henry's grin was feral as he read the reply, and he immediately contacted Eleanor to put their plan in motion. It seemed as if all his groundwork was finally going to pay off.
However, the walk was not meant to be. Henry and Eleanor were headed toward the hotel that morning when they chanced to see a couple of carriages careening down the road at a harum-scarum pace. In one of the equipages was Miss Morland! She did not seem to have recalled their walk, and he was downcast, as was his sister. But no matter. Tomorrow was another day.
That evening, however, he saw her at the assembly, and engaged a dance, ignoring the flush on her cheeks as she might have suddenly recalled their walk. He repeated the invitation.
"I shall like it," she cried "beyond anything in the world; and do not let us put it off - even if it might rain, let us go tomorrow." She was that eager, it appeared, to make amends, and if the truth were told, rain was better than sun for what he had in mind.
The morrow was in Henry's favor. It was a sober-looking morning, the sun making only a few efforts to appear. And yet Miss Morland was alive and eager for their outing, even though she admitted to him that up until the rain was gone, she was in despair.
"And now I am come," Henry said, teasing her. They said their goodbyes to the Allens and collected Eleanor for the walk up to Beechen Cliff, where they lingered for awhile, until Henry said it was time to go home.
"We shall take this path, Miss Morland," he insisted, indicating a small dirt track that seemed to go right off the edge of the cliff.
"But... surely that is treacherous?"
"Nonsense." Henry offered his arm, walked her to the mouth of the path and then pushed her ahead. Eleanor brought up the rear, until they reached a reclusive copse of trees.
"I...I do not like it here," Miss Morland stuttered.
"But it is much like those gothic novels you enjoy," Henry remarked. "Especially the part where the heroine is in mortal danger."
"Mortal danger," Eleanor repeated, moving in closer. "She will make an excellent sacrifice, Henry. I am so glad you have chosen her out of all the pretty ladies in town."
"She is perfect," he agreed. "And here come father and our brother now..." One of Henry's duties towards the family: provide lovely young people upon which to sacrifice to the Dark One. They made quick work of Miss Morland (I will spare you the gory details, gentle readers), cleaned her blood from their skin and their clothes, and then went back to town, there to spread a sad tale about how Mr. Thorpe attacked and killed the pretty Miss Morland while they were on their walk.
Mr. Thorpe was duly arrested and charged with assault and murder. The Tilneys retreated to Northanger Abbey for awhile, until the scandal blew over.
Mr. Henry Tilney was taking a walk one fine morning in Bath when a carriage rolled by. That was no unusual in itself, because there were vehicles everywhere in Bath. No, what caught Mr. Tilney's attention was that this perfectly nondescript coach hit a pothole in the road that sent its occupants flying. A young lady put her hand to the window to stop her fall, and he saw a flash of brown hair and startled blue eyes. He learned later that her name was Miss Anne Elliott...The End