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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
A Well-matched Sister and Brother
By Jane Austen (1775–1817)
 
From ‘Northanger Abbey’

“MY dearest Catherine, have you settled what to wear on your head to-night? I am determined, at all events, to be dressed exactly like you. The men take notice of that sometimes, you know.”  1
  “But it does not signify if they do,” said Catherine, very innocently.  2
  “Signify! oh, heavens! I make it a rule never to mind what they say. They are very often amazingly impertinent, if you do not treat them with spirit, and make them keep their distance.”  3
  “Are they? Well I never observed that. They always behave very well to me.”  4
  “Oh! they give themselves such airs. They are the most conceited creatures in the world, and think themselves of so much importance! By the by, though I have thought of it a hundred times, I have always forgot to ask you what is your favorite complexion in a man. Do you like them best dark or fair?”  5
  “I hardly know. I never much thought about it. Something between both, I think—brown: not fair, and not very dark.”  6
  “Very well, Catherine. That is exactly he. I have not forgot your description of Mr. Tilney: ‘a brown skin, with dark eyes, and rather dark hair.’ Well, my taste is different. I prefer light eyes; and as to complexion, do you know, I like a sallow better than any other. You must not betray me, if you should ever meet with one of your acquaintance answering that description.”  7
  “Betray you! What do you mean?”  8
  “Nay, do not distress me. I believe I have said too much. Let us drop the subject.”  9
  Catherine, in some amazement, complied; and after remaining a few moments silent, was on the point of reverting to what interested her at that time rather more than anything else in the world, Laurentina’s skeleton, when her friend prevented her by saying, “For Heaven’s sake! let us move away from this end of the room. Do you know, there are two odious young men who have been staring at me this half-hour. They really put me quite out of countenance. Let us go and look at the arrivals. They will hardly follow us there.”  10
  Away they walked to the book; and while Isabella examined the names, it was Catherine’s employment to watch the proceedings of these alarming young men.  11
  “They are not coming this way, are they? I hope they are not so impertinent as to follow us. Pray let me know if they are coming. I am determined I will not look up.”  12
  In a few moments Catherine, with unaffected pleasure, assured her that she need not be longer uneasy, as the gentlemen had just left the Pump-room.  13
  “And which way are they gone?” said Isabella, turning hastily round. “One was a very good-looking young man.”  14
  “They went towards the churchyard.”  15
  “Well, I am amazingly glad I have got rid of them! And now what say you to going to Edgar’s Buildings with me, and looking at my new hat? You said you should like to see it.”  16
  Catherine readily agreed. “Only,” she added, “perhaps we may overtake the two young men.”  17
  “Oh! never mind that. If we make haste, we shall pass by them presently, and I am dying to show you my hat.”  18
  “But if we only wait a few minutes, there will be no danger of our seeing them at all.”  19
  “I shall not pay them any such compliment, I assure you. I have no notion of treating men with such respect. That is the way to spoil them.”  20
  Catherine had nothing to oppose against such reasoning; and therefore, to show the independence of Miss Thorpe, and her resolution of humbling the sex, they set off immediately, as fast as they could walk, in pursuit of the two young men.  21
  Half a minute conducted them through the Pump-yard to the archway, opposite Union Passage; but here they were stopped. Everybody acquainted with Bath may remember the difficulties of crossing Cheap Street at this point; it is indeed a street of so impertinent a nature, so unfortunately connected with the great London and Oxford roads, and the principal inn of the city, that a day never passes in which parties of ladies, however important their business, whether in quest of pastry, millinery, or even (as in the present case) of young men, are not detained on one side or other by carriages, horsemen, or carts. This evil had been felt and lamented, at least three times a day, by Isabella since her residence in Bath: and she was now fated to feel and lament it once more; for at the very moment of coming opposite to Union Passage, and within view of the two gentlemen who were proceeding through the crowds and treading the gutters of that interesting alley, they were prevented crossing by the approach of a gig, driven along on bad pavements by a most knowing-looking coachman, with all the vehemence that could most fitly endanger the lives of himself, his companion, and his horse.  22
  “Oh, these odious gigs!” said Isabella, looking up, “how I detest them!” But this detestation, though so just, was of short duration, for she looked again, and exclaimed, “Delightful! Mr. Morland and my brother!”  23
  “Good Heaven! ’tis James!” was uttered at the same moment by Catherine; and on catching the young men’s eyes, the horse was immediately checked with a violence which almost threw him on his haunches; and the servant having now scampered up, the gentlemen jumped out, and the equipage was delivered to his care.  24
  Catherine, by whom this meeting was wholly unexpected, received her brother with the liveliest pleasure; and he, being of a very amiable disposition, and sincerely attached to her, gave every proof on his side of equal satisfaction, which he could have leisure to do, while the bright eyes of Miss Thorpe were incessantly challenging his notice; and to her his devoirs were speedily paid, with a mixture of joy and embarrassment which might have informed Catherine, had she been more expert in the development of other people’s feelings, and less simply engrossed by her own, that her brother thought her friend quite as pretty as she could do herself.  25
  John Thorpe, who in the mean time had been giving orders about the horse, soon joined them, and from him she directly received the amends which were her due; for while he slightly and carelessly touched the hand of Isabella, on her he bestowed a whole scrape and half a short bow. He was a stout young man, of middling height, who, with a plain face and ungraceful form, seemed fearful of being too handsome unless he wore the dress of a groom, and too much like a gentleman unless he were easy where he ought to be civil, and impudent where he might be allowed to be easy. He took out his watch:—“How long do you think we have been running in from Tetbury, Miss Morland?”  26
  “I do not know the distance.” Her brother told her that it was twenty-three miles.  27
  “Three-and-twenty!” cried Thorpe; “five-and-twenty if it is an inch.” Morland remonstrated, pleaded the authority of road-books, innkeepers, and milestones: but his friend disregarded them all; he had a surer test of distance. “I know it must be five-and-twenty,” said he, “by the time we have been doing it.” “It is now half after one; we drove out of the inn-yard at Tetbury as the town-clock struck eleven; and I defy any man in England to make my horse go less than ten miles an hour in harness; that makes it exactly twenty-five.”  28
  “You have lost an hour,” said Morland: “it was only ten o’clock when we came from Tetbury.”  29
  “Ten o’clock! it was eleven, upon my soul! I counted every stroke. This brother of yours would persuade me out of my senses, Miss Morland. Do but look at my horse: did you ever see an animal so made for speed in your life?” (The servant had just mounted the carriage and was driving off.) “Such true blood! Three hours and a half, indeed, coming only three-and-twenty miles! Look at that creature, and suppose it possible, if you can!”  30
  “He does look very hot, to be sure.”  31
  “Hot! he had not turned a hair till we came to Walcot Church: but look at his forehand; look at his loins; only see how he moves: that horse cannot go less than ten miles an hour; tie his legs, and he will get on. What do you think of my gig, Miss Morland? A neat one, is it not? Well hung; town built: I have not had it a month. It was built for a Christ Church man, a friend of mine, a very good sort of fellow; he ran it a few weeks, till, I believe, it was convenient to have done with it. I happened just then to be looking out for some light thing of the kind, though I had pretty well determined on a curricle too; but I chanced to meet him on Magdalen Bridge, as he was driving into Oxford, last term: ‘Ah, Thorpe,’ said he, ‘do you happen to want such a little thing as this? It is a capital one of the kind, but I am cursed tired of it.’ ‘Oh! d——,’ said I, ‘I am your man; what do you ask?’ And how much do you think he did, Miss Morland?”  32
  “I am sure I cannot guess at all.”  33
  “Curricle-hung, you see; seat, trunk, sword-case, splashing-board, lamps, silver molding, all, you see, complete; the ironwork as good as new, or better. He asked fifty guineas: I closed with him directly, threw down the money, and the carriage was mine.”  34
  “And I am sure,” said Catherine, “I know so little of such things, that I cannot judge whether it was cheap or dear.”  35
  “Neither one nor t’other; I might have got it for less, I dare say; but I hate haggling, and poor Freeman wanted cash.”  36
  “That was very good-natured of you,” said Catherine, quite pleased.  37
  “Oh! d—— it, when one has the means of doing a kind thing by a friend, I hate to be pitiful.”  38
  An inquiry now took place into the intended movements of the young ladies; and on finding whither they were going, it was decided that the gentlemen should accompany them to Edgar’s Buildings, and pay their respects to Mrs. Thorpe. James and Isabella led the way; and so well satisfied was the latter with her lot, so contentedly was she endeavoring to insure a pleasant walk to him who brought the double recommendation of being her brother’s friend and her friend’s brother, so pure and uncoquettish were her feelings, that though they overtook and passed the two offending young men in Milsom Street, she was so far from seeking to attract their notice that she looked back at them only three times.  39
  John Thorpe kept of course with Catherine, and after a few minutes’ silence renewed the conversation about his gig:—“You will find, however, Miss Morland, it would be reckoned a cheap thing by some people, for I might have sold it for ten guineas more the next day; Jackson of Oriel bid me sixty at once; Morland was with me at the time.”  40
  “Yes,” said Morland, who overheard this; “bet you forgot that your horse was included.”  41
  “My horse! oh, d—— it! I would not sell my horse for a hundred. Are you fond of an open carriage, Miss Morland?”  42
  “Yes, very: I have hardly ever an opportunity of being in one; but I am particularly fond of it.”  43
  “I am glad of it: I will drive you out in mine every day.”  44
  “Thank you,” said Catherine, in some distress, from a doubt of the propriety of accepting such an offer.  45
  “I will drive you up Lansdown Hill to-morrow.”  46
  “Thank you; but will not your horse want rest?”  47
  “Rest! he has only come three-and-twenty miles to-day; all nonsense: nothing ruins horses so much as rest; nothing knocks them up so soon. No, no: I shall exercise mine at the average of four hours every day while I am here.”  48
  “Shall you, indeed!” said Catherine, very seriously: “that will be forty miles a day.”  49
  “Forty! ay, fifty, for what I care. Well, I will drive you up Lansdown to-morrow; mind, I am engaged.”  50
  “How delightful that will be!” cried Isabella, turning round; “my dearest Catherine, I quite envy you; but I am afraid, brother, you will not have room for a third.”  51
  “A third, indeed! no, no; I did not come to Bath to drive my sisters about: that would be a good joke, faith! Morland must take care of you.”  52
  This brought on a dialogue of civilities between the other two; but Catherine heard neither the particulars nor the result. Her companion’s discourse now sunk from its hitherto animated pitch to nothing more than a short, decisive sentence of praise or condemnation on the face of every women they met; and Catherine, after listening and agreeing as long as she could, with all the civility and deference of the youthful female mind, fearful of hazarding an opinion of its own in opposition to that of a self-assured man, especially where the beauty of her own sex is concerned, ventured at length to vary the subject by a question which had been long uppermost in her thoughts. It was, “Have you ever read ‘Udolpho,’ Mr. Thorpe?”  53
  “‘Udolpho’! O Lord! not I: I never read novels; I have something else to do.”  54
  Catherine, humbled and ashamed, was going to apologize for her question; but he prevented her by saying, “Novels are all so full of nonsense and stuff! there has not been a tolerable decent one come out since ‘Tom Jones,’ except the ‘Monk’; I read that t’other day: but as for all the others, they are the stupidest things in creation.”  55
  “I think you must like ‘Udolpho,’ if you were to read it: it is so very interesting.”  56
  “Not I, faith! No, if I read any, it shall be Mrs. Radcliffe’s; her novels are amusing enough: they are worth reading; some fun and nature in them.”  57
  “‘Udolpho’ was written by Mrs. Radcliffe,” said Catherine, with some hesitation, from the fear of mortifying him.  58
  “No, sure; was it? Ay, I remember, so it was; I was thinking of that other stupid book, written by that woman they made such a fuss about; she who married the French emigrant.”  59
  “I suppose you mean ‘Camilla’?”  60
  “Yes, that’s the book: such unnatural stuff! An old man playing at see-saw: I took up the first volume once, and looked it over, but I soon found it would not do; indeed, I guessed what sort of stuff it must be before I saw it; as soon as I heard she had married an emigrant, I was sure I should never be able to get through it.”  61
  “I have never read it.”  62
  “You have no loss, I assure you; it is the horridest nonsense you can imagine: there is nothing in the world in it but an old man’s playing at see-saw and learning Latin; upon my soul, there is not.”  63
  This critique, the justness of which was unfortunately lost on poor Catherine, brought them to the door of Mrs. Thorpe’s lodgings, and the feelings of the discerning and unprejudiced reader of ‘Camilla’ gave way to the feelings of the dutiful and affectionate son, as they met Mrs. Thorpe, who had descried them from above, in the passage. “Ah, mother, how do you do?” said he, giving her a hearty shake of the hand; “where did you get that quiz of a hat? it makes you look like an old witch. Here is Morland and I come to stay a few days with you; so you must look out for a couple of good beds somewhere near.” And this address seemed to satisfy all the fondest wishes of the mother’s heart, for she received him with the most delighted and exulting affection. On his two younger sisters he then bestowed an equal portion of his fraternal tenderness, for he asked each of them how they did, and observed that they both looked very ugly.  64
 
 
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