It may well be imagined with what an amalgamation of anxiety, hopefulness and defiance Henry returned to Northanger Abbey after being banished from it nearly four months before. With great uneasiness did he drive up to the house and with considerable apprehension did he enter it. Upon being greeted by his sister, however, he could not help but smile.
“Your Ladyship,” he said with as much playfulness as genuine tenderness. “I am truly humbled, to be in the presence of a Viscountess.”
“Oh Henry,” she exclaimed, embracing him affectionately.
“Where is your husband?” Henry asked smilingly. “I owe him congratulations that were made very poorly on paper and must be given again to do them justice.”
“He is in the drawing room,” said Eleanor fondly. “But please, go see our father in his study without delay, he has surely been alerted to your arrival already.”
So eager was she to secure not only the happiness of her brother, but also that of her beloved friend, that she would not hear of any postponement and, embracing the anxious Henry once more, sent him on his way to speak with their father. Eleanor herself, however, was free of any real trepidation, for she had privately already acquired her father’s concession that Henry was allowed, “to be a fool if he liked it!”
The outcome of the interview that followed, then, could not at all surprise her, though it did bring great happiness to all.
“Dearest Eleanor!” Henry burst forth as soon as he left his father’s study and re-entered the drawing room where she was seated with her husband. “You are truly unwise to have made me so happy, because I shall surely plague you to death.” Eleanor laughed and could not even answer before her brother turned to her husband and cried: “Fletcher! My friend and my brother, have you not considered how great a nuisance I will make myself to the both of you! Because I know you and you shall claim that you are happier than I am in this moment and this shall prompt me to enter into an argument that shall last at least an hour.”
During the whole of this speech he had not released Eleanor from the embrace in which he had wrapped her upon entering the room and Eleanor now laughed:
“You shall do no such thing, Henry. Indeed, you shall not have the time for it. If you are not in your curricle and on your way to Fullerton within the hour, I shall be very much disappointed in you.”
“Had it been in my power to depart,” Henry said, at last allowing her freedom of movement once more, “I would have done so already! But our father is now putting to paper the consent he just made me the bearer of and until I have his letter to Mr. Morland in my hand I shall stay where I am and make you suffer for your generosity by the exuberance of my spirits. Eleanor, I am the happiest man that ever breathed.”
“You shall run out of breath soon enough,” his friend smiled, and then: “But as long as you have some to spare, may I remind you that I owe nearly all my information of Miss Morland to my wife?”
This was indeed a most shameful circumstance and Henry promptly sat down by his friend to rectify it. He talked of Catherine, frequently calling for his sister’s assistance, even though he required none, until his father entered the drawing room.
“Well, then,” he said, looking upon his son with philosophical good humour and he handed him the all-important letter.
Henry thanked his father with words quite as courteous and empty as the professions filling that sealed page and to the amusement of his friend and sister, proved them both right by hastily taking leave of them all and running from the room, quite breathless.
How different this second trip to Fullerton to the first; how free of anxiety and full of gladness the man in the curricle; but how equally unsuspecting the inhabitants of the parsonage house that was his destination.
Still, the family being at home and any carriage, certainly one driven so swiftly, being a rare sight in those parts, the Morland’s were immediately at the window. For once it was neither George, nor Harriet, nor even Sarah who first cried out with joy, for it was Catherine herself who exclaimed:
“Can it be Henry?”
That it was indeed no one but himself, Henry hastened to prove by leaping promptly out of the carriage and waiting for no servant to either take his horse’s reins or open the door for him. For the opening of doors there was no need at any rate, for Catherine came running outside already, followed by her siblings and – at a gentler pace – both Mr. and Mrs. Morland.
As soon as Catherine reached him, Henry caught both her hands in his, to prevent himself from embracing her outright and looked into her face with a face that expressed all the tenderness and joy he felt in his heart.
“Have you news from the General?” Catherine asked breathlessly, her eyes wide and fearfully hopeful.
“Come, come, Catherine,” said Mr. Morland steadily. “Calm yourself. How do you do Mr. Tilney?”
“How do you do, sir,” Henry exclaimed, still clasping Catherine’s hands and continuing in a positively elated tone: “Would it be at all convenient for me to, at this time, renew the application for your daughters hand?” He looked smilingly from the father to the daughter and added most happily: “This time in the possession of my entire family’s approbation.”
The joy on Catherine’s face was equal only to that on Henry’s. Her younger siblings, as far as they comprehended the conversation, expressed their glee on this occasion with a series of delighted gasps, their mother smiled and Mr. Morland said cheerfully:
“Now there is some news that does one good! Well done, sir.”
“I thank you,” replied Henry with laughing eyes. “But will you not answer me?”
“Answer you?” Mr. Morland repeated in confusion.
“Mr. Tilney asked you whether it was convenient for him to renew his application, Papa,” Catherine laughed, translating with alacrity the fanciful speeches of the man she loved but that her father was not yet used to.
“By all means,” Mrs. Morland smiled. “My husband is quite at leisure, are you not my dear?”
“Why yes, of course,” her husband laughed. “Go ahead, sir.”
“Then may I beg of you,” Henry spoke warmly, looking at Catherine instead of his prospective father-in-law, “to consent to me marrying your daughter Catherine, as I am quite hopelessly in love with her and I daresay always will be.”
As the consent so eloquently asked for was already his own, it was not very surprising that neither Henry nor Catherine heard very much of Mr. Morland’s reply. Indeed, neither of the lady’s parents held it against them and were instead very sincere in their happiness.
This happiness only increased when they became further acquainted with Henry and Henry himself felt increasingly assured of his own future happiness with Catherine for his wife, when observing the Morland’s and their mutual affection. And for this future happiness there was very little waiting left to be done, for the event which the approbation of both families finally authorized now soon followed.
What a happy day it was when Henry was at in a position not only to call Catherine his wife, but also to hear both Eleanor and Catherine address the other as sister. It was as perfect a day as one could wish for. The bells rang, everybody smiled; and, as this took place within a twelvemonth from the first day of Henry and Catherine’s meeting, it will not appear, after all the dreadful delays occasioned by the General’s cruelty, that they were essentially hurt by it. To begin perfect happiness at the respective ages of twenty–six and eighteen is to do pretty well; and professing myself moreover convinced that the General’s unjust interference, so far from being really injurious to their felicity, was perhaps rather conducive to it, by improving their knowledge of each other, and adding strength to their attachment, I leave it to be settled, by whomsoever it may concern, whether the tendency of this work be altogether to recommend parental tyranny, or reward filial disobedience.