In addition to what has been already said of Catherine Morland'spersonal and mental endowments, when about to be launched into all thedifficulties and dangers of a six weeks' residence in Bath, it may bestated, for the reader's more certain information, lest the followingpages should otherwise fail of giving any idea of what her character ismeant to be, that her heart was affectionate; her disposition cheerfuland open, without conceit or affectation of any kind--her manners justremoved from the awkwardness and shyness of a girl; her person pleasing,and, when in good looks, pretty--and her mind about as ignorant anduninformed as the female mind at seventeen usually is.
When the hour of departure drew near, the maternal anxiety of Mrs.Morland will be naturally supposed to be most severe. A thousandalarming presentiments of evil to her beloved Catherine from thisterrific separation must oppress her heart with sadness, and drown herin tears for the last day or two of their being together; and advice ofthe most important and applicable nature must of course flow from herwise lips in their parting conference in her closet. Cautions againstthe violence of such noblemen and baronets as delight in forcing youngladies away to some remote farm-house, must, at such a moment, relievethe fulness of her heart. Who would not think so? But Mrs. Morland knewso little of lords and baronets, that she entertained no notion of theirgeneral mischievousness, and was wholly unsuspicious of danger to herdaughter from their machinations. Her cautions were confined to thefollowing points. I beg, Catherine, you will always wrap yourself upvery warm about the throat, when you come from the rooms at night; andI wish you would try to keep some account of the money you spend; I willgive you this little book on purpose.
Sally, or rather Sarah (for what young lady of common gentility willreach the age of sixteen without altering her name as far as she can?),must from situation be at this time the intimate friend and confidanteof her sister. It is remarkable, however, that she neither insistedon Catherine's writing by every post, nor exacted her promise oftransmitting the character of every new acquaintance, nor a detailof every interesting conversation that Bath might produce. Everythingindeed relative to this important journey was done, on the part of theMorlands, with a degree of moderation and composure, which seemedrather consistent with the common feelings of common life, than with therefined susceptibilities, the tender emotions which the first separationof a heroine from her family ought always to excite. Her father, insteadof giving her an unlimited order on his banker, or even putting anhundred pounds bank-bill into her hands, gave her only ten guineas, andpromised her more when she wanted it.
Under these unpromising auspices, the parting took place, and thejourney began. It was performed with suitable quietness and uneventfulsafety. Neither robbers nor tempests befriended them, nor one luckyoverturn to introduce them to the hero. Nothing more alarming occurredthan a fear, on Mrs. Allen's side, of having once left her clogs behindher at an inn, and that fortunately proved to be groundless.
They arrived at Bath. Catherine was all eager delight--her eyes werehere, there, everywhere, as they approached its fine and strikingenvirons, and afterwards drove through those streets which conductedthem to the hotel. She was come to be happy, and she felt happy already.
They were soon settled in comfortable lodgings in Pulteney Street.
It is now expedient to give some description of Mrs. Allen, that thereader may be able to judge in what manner her actions will hereaftertend to promote the general distress of the work, and how she will,probably, contribute to reduce poor Catherine to all the desperatewretchedness of which a last volume is capable--whether by herimprudence, vulgarity, or jealousy--whether by intercepting her letters,ruining her character, or turning her out of doors.
Mrs. Allen was one of that numerous class of females, whose society canraise no other emotion than surprise at there being any men in the worldwho could like them well enough to marry them. She had neither beauty,genius, accomplishment, nor manner. The air of a gentlewoman, a greatdeal of quiet, inactive good temper, and a trifling turn of mindwere all that could account for her being the choice of a sensible,intelligent man like Mr. Allen. In one respect she was admirably fittedto introduce a young lady into public, being as fond of going everywhereand seeing everything herself as any young lady could be. Dress washer passion. She had a most harmless delight in being fine; and ourheroine's entree into life could not take place till after three or fourdays had been spent in learning what was mostly worn, and her chaperonewas provided with a dress of the newest fashion. Catherine too madesome purchases herself, and when all these matters were arranged, theimportant evening came which was to usher her into the Upper Rooms. Herhair was cut and dressed by the best hand, her clothes put on with care,and both Mrs. Allen and her maid declared she looked quite as she shoulddo. With such encouragement, Catherine hoped at least to pass uncensuredthrough the crowd. As for admiration, it was always very welcome when itcame, but she did not depend on it.
Mrs. Allen was so long in dressing that they did not enter the ballroomtill late. The season was full, the room crowded, and the two ladiessqueezed in as well as they could. As for Mr. Allen, he repaireddirectly to the card-room, and left them to enjoy a mob by themselves.With more care for the safety of her new gown than for the comfort ofher protegee, Mrs. Allen made her way through the throng of men bythe door, as swiftly as the necessary caution would allow; Catherine,however, kept close at her side, and linked her arm too firmly withinher friend's to be torn asunder by any common effort of a strugglingassembly. But to her utter amazement she found that to proceed along theroom was by no means the way to disengage themselves from the crowd; itseemed rather to increase as they went on, whereas she had imagined thatwhen once fairly within the door, they should easily find seats and beable to watch the dances with perfect convenience. But this was far frombeing the case, and though by unwearied diligence they gained even thetop of the room, their situation was just the same; they saw nothingof the dancers but the high feathers of some of the ladies. Still theymoved on--something better was yet in view; and by a continued exertionof strength and ingenuity they found themselves at last in the passagebehind the highest bench. Here there was something less of crowd thanbelow; and hence Miss Morland had a comprehensive view of all thecompany beneath her, and of all the dangers of her late passage throughthem. It was a splendid sight, and she began, for the first time thatevening, to feel herself at a ball: she longed to dance, but she hadnot an acquaintance in the room. Mrs. Allen did all that she could doin such a case by saying very placidly, every now and then, I wish youcould dance, my dear--I wish you could get a partner. For some timeher young friend felt obliged to her for these wishes; but they wererepeated so often, and proved so totally ineffectual, that Catherinegrew tired at last, and would thank her no more.
They were not long able, however, to enjoy the repose of the eminencethey had so laboriously gained. Everybody was shortly in motion fortea, and they must squeeze out like the rest. Catherine began to feelsomething of disappointment--she was tired of being continually pressedagainst by people, the generality of whose faces possessed nothing tointerest, and with all of whom she was so wholly unacquainted that shecould not relieve the irksomeness of imprisonment by the exchange of asyllable with any of her fellow captives; and when at last arrived inthe tea-room, she felt yet more the awkwardness of having no party tojoin, no acquaintance to claim, no gentleman to assist them. They sawnothing of Mr. Allen; and after looking about them in vain for a moreeligible situation, were obliged to sit down at the end of a table, atwhich a large party were already placed, without having anything to dothere, or anybody to speak to, except each other.
Mrs. Allen congratulated herself, as soon as they were seated, on havingpreserved her gown from injury. It would have been very shocking tohave it torn, said she, would not it? It is such a delicate muslin.For my part I have not seen anything I like so well in the whole room, Iassure you.
How uncomfortable it is, whispered Catherine, not to have a singleacquaintance here!
Yes, my dear, replied Mrs. Allen, with perfect serenity, it is veryuncomfortable indeed.
What shall we do? The gentlemen and ladies at this table look as ifthey wondered why we came here--we seem forcing ourselves into theirparty.
Aye, so we do. That is very disagreeable. I wish we had a largeacquaintance here.
I wish we had any--it would be somebody to go to.
Very true, my dear; and if we knew anybody we would join them directly.The Skinners were here last year--I wish they were here now.
Had not we better go away as it is? Here are no tea-things for us, yousee.
No more there are, indeed. How very provoking! But I think we hadbetter sit still, for one gets so tumbled in such a crowd! How is myhead, my dear? Somebody gave me a push that has hurt it, I am afraid.
No, indeed, it looks very nice. But, dear Mrs. Allen, are you surethere is nobody you know in all this multitude of people? I think youmust know somebody.
I don't, upon my word--I wish I did. I wish I had a large acquaintancehere with all my heart, and then I should get you a partner. I should beso glad to have you dance. There goes a strange-looking woman! What anodd gown she has got on! How old-fashioned it is! Look at the back.
After some time they received an offer of tea from one of theirneighbours; it was thankfully accepted, and this introduced a lightconversation with the gentleman who offered it, which was the only timethat anybody spoke to them during the evening, till they were discoveredand joined by Mr. Allen when the dance was over.
Well, Miss Morland, said he, directly, I hope you have had anagreeable ball.
Very agreeable indeed, she replied, vainly endeavouring to hide agreat yawn.
I wish she had been able to dance, said his wife; I wish we couldhave got a partner for her. I have been saying how glad I should be ifthe Skinners were here this winter instead of last; or if the Parrys hadcome, as they talked of once, she might have danced with George Parry. Iam so sorry she has not had a partner!
We shall do better another evening I hope, was Mr. Allen'sconsolation.
The company began to disperse when the dancing was over--enough to leavespace for the remainder to walk about in some comfort; and now was thetime for a heroine, who had not yet played a very distinguished partin the events of the evening, to be noticed and admired. Every fiveminutes, by removing some of the crowd, gave greater openings for hercharms. She was now seen by many young men who had not been near herbefore. Not one, however, started with rapturous wonder on beholdingher, no whisper of eager inquiry ran round the room, nor was she oncecalled a divinity by anybody. Yet Catherine was in very good looks, andhad the company only seen her three years before, they would now havethought her exceedingly handsome.
She was looked at, however, and with some admiration; for, in her ownhearing, two gentlemen pronounced her to be a pretty girl. Such wordshad their due effect; she immediately thought the evening pleasanterthan she had found it before--her humble vanity was contented--shefelt more obliged to the two young men for this simple praise than atrue-quality heroine would have been for fifteen sonnets in celebrationof her charms, and went to her chair in good humour with everybody, andperfectly satisfied with her share of public attention.