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A conversation of the most unfriendly kind - part I of an alternate NA ending

August 29, 2020 05:34PM
Chapter I - A Conversation of the Most Unfriendly Kind

As Henry Tilney turned onto the smooth gravel road leading up to the doors of Northanger Abbey, his father suddenly appeared before him, mounted on his favorite mare and scowling with displeasure as he approached from the opposite direction. Henry started at the unexpected encounter, a wave of unease showering him as he guided his own horse to the side of the road.

“Good morning, sir,” Henry said, forming his features into a polite smile, “You have returned home early, I see.”

“Yes,” said General Tilney impatiently, “only to find you away. Make haste, Henry, for we depart today to Lord Longtown’s, and I ordered the carriage to be ready at ten.”

“Lord Longtown’s?” Henry asked, bemused, “What do you mean? I confess I had no notion you intended such a visit.”

“Well, I intend it now. And the hour is getting late. Make haste, I tell you again.”

“But, sir,” said Henry, his uneasiness increasing, “surely this sudden journey cannot have been anticipated by our guest. Can it be prudent to remove Miss Morland to Herefordshire, and to the hospitality of a family wholly unknown to her, without her own family being aware of it?”

“Miss Morland?” replied the General, with open disdain, “That scheming girl does not go with us. She is gone, Henry. She returned yesterday to Fullerton where she belongs.”

As his father pronounced these words, Henry changed color. “What?” cried he. “I do not understand you, sir.”

The General, though instantly annoyed by his son’s tone and the bewilderment reflected in his countenance, recalled that Henry was not yet acquainted with the bold and cunning plot by which he had nearly been ensnared. With effort, he calmed his voice and explained.
“We were very much deceived and ill-used by Miss Morland, son. She is in no way what she held herself out to us to be.”

He looked expressively at his son, hoping as much as expecting that this description would suffice to make the case clear to Henry. For the General was well-aware that enumerating each mortifying detail of that artful girl’s degraded, even necessitous, circumstances, could only serve to make him appear more foolish for the notice he had taken of her. The weeks of attention and solicitude he had deigned to bestow on her formed a circumstance he wished to forget as soon as possible, and he would insist that his children, who had been the chief observers of it, do so immediately.

“What she held herself out to us to be?” repeated Henry, in a voice of forced calmness. “And what to you imagine that to be?”

The General felt himself growing more angry every moment. No one had a right to question him like this, least of all his son.

“Her arts and allurements have perhaps drawn you in, Henry, but she is nothing. She has not the fortune we all imagined; indeed, she has no fortune at all, no connections. Her so-called friends the Allens will do nothing for her. She came to Northanger seeking to attach herself to you as a pure mercenary.” Here he paused and gazed intently at Henry’s face, seeking a dawning outrage that would match his own. Convinced by his son’s pallor and contracted brow that his resentment was indeed growing, the General hastened to supply the balm. “Fortunately, I discovered her shrewd scheme and sent her away. She will have nothing to do with you or with any of us again.”

“Good God!” cried Henry. “You are not serious? You do not mean to tell me that you have turned Miss Morland out of this house?”

Henry’s vexation and alarm were very great. He had been gone from the Abbey for not two days, having left Miss Morland and his sister Eleanor in a happy state of occupation on Saturday afternoon. How soon after Henry’s departure could his father have arrived? Under what precise circumstances had he dispatched Catherine Morland to her family home at Fullerton? The General’s travel carriage, Henry could see, was before the Abbey doors, no doubt already loaded with trunks for the impulsive trip to Herefordshire. It could hardly have traveled to Fullerton and back by now even if Miss Morland had been expelled from Northanger on Henry’s very heels the day before last. He could not think it possible that his father had suffered a young lady of seventeen to travel seventy-odd miles by post to family that was not even expecting her arrival. Yet he knew not how else to comprehend the conditions of her journey.

As for General Tilney, he had never suffered such indignation in his life as that occasioned by his son’s open disapprobation. Red with displeasure, he nearly shouted, “Whom do you think you are addressing?”

“Sir,” said Henry, “I fear there has been a grave mistake. Consider that Miss Morland came here at my sister’s and your own most solicitous entreaty. I cannot imagine, it simply is not possible, that anything has occurred to justify this sudden alteration, to make it in any way permissible for you to drive her out of the house. It is the grossest incivility.”

“Incivility?” the General said incredulously. “What does civility have to do with it? Good God, Henry, you are speaking like a child. Civility is not owed when a person has trod upon the favor bestowed by those above them for weeks on end, and has sought to repay unmerited attention and kindness with deceit and degradation. I will not hear you criticize any supposed slight to this scheming girl. She came here, you know, solely to beguile you into making a marriage offer that you would have regretted for the rest of your life. I have done what was necessary to rescue you from those regrets, and I expect your gratitude.”

“Gratitude! I can never be grateful for what appears to have occurred here. And my only regret, sir, will be if she refuses me after my father has treated her with such contempt.”

“I do not think I am being unclear, Henry. You will not offer marriage to Miss Morland. That is over.”

“What is clear, sir, is that my behavior, and yours, over the past weeks, has all but announced my intention to offer marriage to Miss Morland. You personally urged her to leave her friends in Bath and visit Northanger as a particular favor to you and my sister, you flattered her and paid her such attentions as I have seldom seen you bestow on anybody, you contrived for her to ride alone with me to Northanger. For Heaven’s sake, you all but compelled her to pick out new paper and wall hangings at Woodston! Miss Morland is a young woman of little vanity, but it is impossible that she was insensible of your approving expectation of our marriage.”

“It does not matter what she thought, Henry. The fact remains that you did not offer for her and you will not. If she is wounded, she will have to recover, and I have no doubt she will as soon as another man of consequence is thrown in her way and becomes the new object of her guile. You need not concern yourself with her.”

“I am afraid you have widely mistaken my character if you think such persuasions as these will convince me to throw over the innocent, good person to whom I consider myself bound.”

The General scoffed at this and continued in an angry tone. “Consider what you are about, Henry. It is not possible that a son of mine would refuse to obey the claims of heritage, duty, and gratitude in this manner. You are not so selfish that you would make your family the contempt of the world with such a degrading connection.”

“The principles you speak of – duty, heritage, gratitude – none of these would be violated by my marriage with Miss Morland.” exclaimed Henry warmly.

“That is false, Henry. Your duty lies far higher than marriage to the daughter of an impoverished landowner of no account in the world. What if, God forbid, Frederick should fall to the French? Shall you inherit Northanger tied to such a nobody?”

Henry bristled at his father’s words. Catherine Morland, the most kind-hearted and sincere young woman of his acquaintance, deserved none of this. Familiar as he was with the General’s menacing interference in his children’s pursuits, Henry was nevertheless shocked to his core by the utter contempt now on display.

“That, I suppose, is for you to determine.” He said firmly. “My own resolve is to act in accordance with my conscience and make the offer that honor and affection both require.”

His father stared at him for a long moment. “If this is indeed your determination, Henry,” he said coldly, “do not imagine that your debasement will ever be forgiven. You will not be admitted to Northanger if you persist in any connection with that girl. You will not be recognized as my son!” With that, the General furiously turned his horse back in the direction of the Abbey, rode tither, and threw the reigns to one of the waiting servants as he dismounted and marched through the doors to the hall.

Henry followed slowly behind, his spirits greatly discomposed and feeling wholly uncertain what he was next to do. Among the many anxieties occasioned by his father’s announcement, Henry’s most immediate fear was for the personal safety of Miss Morland. She was far too young and naïve to have traveled on her own before, and, on top of this, she must have been in a state of absolute shock at her abominable treatment by the General. Henry felt the keenest anguish at the possibility that she may have encountered a danger or made some mistake of connection in her journey, subjecting her to who knew what manner of discomfort or alarm. His disjointed thoughts began to focus on the idea that he must pursue her to Fullerton and confirm her safe arrival there.

Wishing, if possible, to learn more of the particulars of Catherine’s expulsion and travel from his sister, Henry debated whether he ought to enter the Abbey in search of Eleanor. He knew not what his father had done upon entering the building, but he guessed that using the entrance near the stable yard would give him the best chance of encountering his sister on her own. Surmising that the General’s pique would increase his impatience for departure, he nudged his horse to a faster pace and headed for the stables.

As he rounded the corner, one of his father’s grooms approached and asked if he should stable Henry’s horse. “No, I thank you, Jon,” said Henry, dismounting. “But give him some water and food if you would.”

Eleanor emerged from the Abbey door just as Henry turned towards it, and her stricken look and pale face increased all of her brother’s concerns about Miss Morland’s plight.

“Eleanor,” Henry said, approaching his sister and taking her hands, “I can hardly believe what my father has told me. Can it be true?”

She nodded, her eyes filling with tears.

“But how? When did this happen?”

“Our father returned late Saturday. He heard some account of Miss Morland and her family in London. From what little he has related to me, I believe Mr. Thorpe was the informant.”

Thorpe! That scoundrel had as little regard for truth as he had care for propriety. When Henry considered the broken engagement between Thorpe’s sister Isabella and Miss Morland’s brother James, and Isabella’s recent unsuccessful missive seeking Catherine’s intervention in repairing their betrothal after throwing James over in favor of her misguided hopes of securing Henry’s own brother, he could well imagine a disappointed and affronted Thorpe degrading the Morland family’s prospects to anyone who would give him an audience. Any alarm he perceived on General Tilney’s part at receiving the information would likely only spur him to further elaboration of whatever demeaning details he cared to conjecture. Henry’s faith in Catherine did not admit of a doubt regarding her character or conduct, but he feared Thorpe could have spread any manner of falsehood about her out of pique and self-importance.

“To me, our father has accused her of merely being less rich than he has imagined. Was there something more, Eleanor?”

Eleanor shook her head. “We have never known, Henry, why our father imagined Miss Morland to be a wealthy enough prospect for … for his approbation. He now charges her only with comparative poverty and with concealing her status from us, which we know she did not do.”

“What occurred when our father returned?”

“He informed me, in no uncertain terms, that Miss Morland was to leave Northanger immediately. You can imagine my horror, Henry. This was well past eleven at night. I could not believe him to be in earnest, and I pressed upon him, as much as I could, that her leaving then was absolutely impossible. I am not sure he would have countenanced even a delay until the morning except that he realized a post carriage would not be available until after dawn.”

“A post carriage!”

“Yes, he sent her to Gloucester at seven yesterday morning with instructions to leave her at the New Inn.”

“It cannot be true,” Henry said.

“It is true. And, Henry, no servant was sent with her.”

At this, Henry felt truly ill.

A conversation of the most unfriendly kind - part I of an alternate NA ending

Joanna SaundersAugust 29, 2020 05:34PM

Re: A conversation of the most unfriendly kind - part I of an alternate NA ending

Alicia MSeptember 17, 2020 02:15PM

Re: A conversation of the most unfriendly kind - part I of an alternate NA ending

MarionSeptember 15, 2020 10:00PM

Re: A conversation of the most unfriendly kind - part I of an alternate NA ending

MichelleRWAugust 31, 2020 11:10PM

Re: A conversation of the most unfriendly kind - part I of an alternate NA ending

Shannon KAugust 30, 2020 04:56AM

Re: A conversation of the most unfriendly kind - part I of an alternate NA ending

AlidaAugust 30, 2020 03:54AM


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