Chapter 3 Summary

In the next few days, Catherine and Mrs. Allen spend much of their time shopping and roaming the streets of Bath, exploring places they have never seen before. One day they go to the Lower Rooms, a place of gathering, and Catherine meets a young man. James King, the master of ceremonies, introduces Catherine to Henry Tilney, a twenty-four-year-old clergyman.

Tilney begins a conversation with Catherine; he asks when she arrived at Bath and what she has done since she has been there. Catherine finds the young man refreshing and well mannered. He teases her about writing in her journal when she gets home that night. He even suggests how she might describe having met him. He says she will probably state that she was harassed by a strange young man who made her dance with him and made her feel uncomfortable. After laughing over this, Tilney suggests another possible journal entry, one that is more flattering. He tells her to describe him as a very agreeable young man who seems like an extraordinary genius. She is to write that she has met a young man so interesting that she hope to see him again.

Mrs. Allen joins their conversation but talks of nothing but dresses. Mr. Tilney, it turns out, knows a lot about fashion and fabric. He claims to buy material out of which his sisters make dresses. He knows what types of material are better than others. Mrs. Allen asks Mr. Tilney to give his opinion of her dress and Catherine’s. He likes the one Mrs. Allen is wearing but suggests that Catherine must have spent too little money on hers, and he is concerned the dress will soon fray. Catherine is slightly embarrassed by this conversation, thinking that Mrs. Allen has spent too much time absorbed in a frivolous subject. But the couple soon leaves Mrs. Allen’s company as the dancing has begun.

As they walk toward the dance floor, Mr. Tilney notices the strange expression on Catherine’s face and asks what she is thinking about. She had been considering his personality, thinking him somewhat foolish. She does not want to expose her thoughts to him, so she tells him she was not thinking about anything at all. Mr. Tilney suggests that they are destined to become acquainted with one another, so she should be honest with him—she should merely tell him that she would rather not share her thoughts with him. This is exactly what she tells him.