Chapter 18 Summary
Catherine has not seen Isabella for several days but meets her one morning in the Pump Room. Isabella steers Catherine away from Mrs. Allen and leads her to a bench near the front doors, telling Catherine this is her favorite place to sit down. It is obvious to Catherine that Isabella is distracted, as if she is waiting for someone to walk through the doors. Isabella denies this and proceeds to tell Catherine that she has received a letter from her brother John.
Isabella asks teasingly what Catherine thinks is in John’s letter. She thinks Catherine can probably guess what John has written. Catherine assures Isabella that she has no idea of the contents. At this, Isabella accuses Catherine of having false modesty and encourages Catherine to be a little more honest. She then proceeds to say John has conveyed his interest in marrying Catherine. He says he all but proposed to Catherine the last time they were together. Catherine is completely unaware of any such thing. Isabella tries to prompt Catherine’s memory of the event and says that John proposed and he said Catherine received his sentiments in a most kindly manner. John has written to ask his sister to further encourage Catherine to accept his offer.
Catherine tells Isabella that nothing of what John writes ever happened. She is interested only in one man, and that man is not Isabella’s brother. Catherine asks Isabella to write back to John so as to make clear that she has no inclination to marry him. Isabella only half hears Catherine’s words. In Isabella’s mind, Catherine must have at one time been interested in John or John would not be so affected by her. She tells Catherine that it is an ordinary thing for young people to change their minds, insinuating that this is what Catherine has done.
A couple of times in her conversation, Isabella refers to statements “Tilney” has made as a way of expressing her feelings. For example, at one point she says Tilney has said that most people are often deceived of their true affections. Catherine does not react to these allusions, but she more fully understands the mention of this name when Captain Tilney, Henry’s brother, walks through the door. Isabella reacts as if she has been expecting him. He comes directly to Isabella and begins flirting with her. Catherine is shocked to witness Isabella not only accepting his flirtations but encouraging them. How could Isabella be doing this while she is engaged to James? Embarrassed to have to endure Isabella’s obvious attraction to this man, Catherine stands to leave. Catherine expects Isabella will go with her, but Isabella claims she is tired and stays behind with Captain Tilney at her side.