Chapter 20 Summary

As the day arrives for Catherine’s departure to Northanger Abbey, Mr. and Mrs. Allen grow distressed. They have greatly enjoyed Catherine’s company. They note, however, that their own stay in Bath is coming to an end and they would have to give up Catherine one way or the other.

Mr. Allen walks Catherine to the Tilneys’ house to have breakfast with them before they begin their journey. After saying good-bye to Mr. Allen, Catherine suffers moments when she wishes she could go back with him. She is so agitated about fitting in with the Tilney family that she does not enjoy the first few moments. She wants to make sure she does everything right so the Tilneys will like her. However, Catherine is also anxious about the attention General Tilney lavishes on her. She feels unworthy of his praise.

As they eat breakfast, General Tilney turns his thoughts to his eldest son. Captain Frederick Tilney is late coming to the table. When he appears, General Tilney again makes Catherine feel self-conscious as he tells his son that his tardiness is an insult to their guest. Frederick barely speaks a word until General Tilney finishes eating and leaves the room.

Soon after breakfast, General Tilney hurries everyone into the carriages that will take them to Northanger Abbey. Halfway there, General Tilney leaves the carriage he has been sharing with Henry and tells Catherine to take his place. At first Catherine does not know whether she should accept his invitation because she recalls what Mr. Allen has told her about the impropriety of riding with a young man in an open carriage. Then Catherine decides to trust General Tilney’s judgment on this matter.

Throughout much of the remaining ride, Henry describes Northanger Abbey as if the manor were similar to one found in a Gothic novel. He speaks of secret doors, bloody footprints, discarded knives, and a bedroom separated from the family quarters in which Catherine will be forced to sleep. Catherine admits, at one point, that Henry is scaring her, but she does not hesitate to encourage him to continue with his story. She knows he is teasing her.

Upon arriving at Northanger Abbey, Catherine is surprised and even somewhat disappointed about how modern the abbey looks. There are no spider webs in the corners. The furniture is almost new. The windows are made with clear glass, and much light is let through them into the rooms.

Before dinner, Miss Tilney leads Catherine up several flights of stairs and leaves her in a large room that will be her bedroom while she is here. Before walking out the door, Miss Tilney tells her not to worry too much over dressing formally for dinner.