Chapter 23 Summary
Catherine’s tour of the gardens is completed. She has been waiting inside the abbey for General Tilney to appear so that the tour of the interior can begin. After the girls wait an hour, the general comes inside. Catherine interprets the general’s long meditations alone in the gardens as a sign of depression or gloom. Despite Catherine’s presumed attitude for the man, the general smiles and leads Catherine and Eleanor on a tour of the largest, more public rooms.
The furnishings and size of the rooms do not affect Catherine. She is more interested in the history of the building and its reflection on the personal lives of the Tilneys. However, the general guides them away from the personal rooms. Catherine sees some of the more intimate rooms down long halls, but the general prohibits her advancement. At one point, when the general closes a great door, stopping Catherine’s progress forward, Eleanor explains that down that particular room they would find her mother’s rooms.
Walking far enough behind the general so he cannot hear her, Catherine asks Eleanor if she had been at home when her mother died. Eleanor confides that she had not. She had been away. When news reached her that her mother was ailing, she had come home was too late. Her mother’s illness had come on quickly and took her within a very short period of time. Catherine asks how long it has been since Eleanor’s mother died. Eleanor answers that it has been nine years.
Catherine’s imagination is stimulated once again. She grows more intensely suspicious of the general and his relationship with his former wife. She wonders, had the general mistreated Mrs. Tilney? Could he be guilty of somehow been involved in her untimely death? Why, after nine years, is no one allowed in Mrs. Tilney’s rooms?
The tour of the house continues. Catherine is disappointed to see a section of the abbey that has been completely torn down and replaced with a series of very modern-looking rooms. The architecture does not match that of the original abbey; there has been no apparent interest in retaining the historical feeling of the place. A long hall with several doors opening onto single, small rooms that had once been used by nuns reminds Catherine of the abbey’s original inhabitants. She marvels at how hard the nuns must have labored to keep the abbey functional. From stories she has read, she knows the nuns had no maids or servants to aid them.
As Catherine lies in bed later that day, her active imagination recreates possible scenes in which Mrs. Tilney is kept locked in her room, a prisoner at her husband’s hands. Catherine is determined to find more clues that will either clear the general of any wrongdoing or confirm the thoughts she has concerning his guilt.