Chapter 4 Summary
The next day, Catherine is anxious to return to the Lower Rooms with Mrs. Allen in anticipation of meeting again with Henry Tilney, and she rushes Mrs. Allen out of the house. The meeting room is crowded but there is no sign of Mr. Tilney. Again Mrs. Allen bemoans the fact that she and Mr. Allen have no acquaintances in Bath. She believes this puts her and Catherine at a great disadvantage. Catherine has grown tired of hearing the same complaint but feels a sense of ease when a woman turns toward Mrs. Allen. This woman says she knows Mrs. Allen and calls her by name. She has to remind Mrs. Allen of tidbits of the past history shared between them before Mrs. Allen remembers her. The woman is Mrs. Thorpe, a widow and mother of six children, about whom she proudly boasts.
Mrs. Thorpe’s son John is at school at Oxford. Edward is at a school called Merchant Taylors’, and William is at sea. Mrs. Thorpe begins to talk about her three daughters as she sees them walking toward. She is particularly focused on the eldest, Isabella, whom she believes is more beautiful than her other two daughters.
When Isabella arrives at her side and is introduced to Catherine, Isabella mentions Catherine’s brother James and states that Catherine favors him in her good looks. She tells Catherine that James Morland made friends with her brother John. Catherine is surprised of the connection until she remembers that her brother James had mentioned making friends with someone with the last name of Thorpe. She recalls that James had spent the past Christmas at the Thorpe house. This relationship between the families make Isabella and her sisters feel as if they already know Catherine, and they immediately take her into their confidence. Catherine so enjoys their conversation that she forgets all about her disappointment at not seeing Mr. Tilney that day.
Isabella especially takes to Catherine. As they walk around the room, she relates all the information she has learned about the young people in her society. She is four years older than Catherine is, and she is much more experienced. Isabella points out the various expressions of young couples as they pass. She interprets the flirtations they witness. She talks of fashions in London compared to the way people dress in other towns she has visited.
There is so much to talk about that Isabella insists on walking home with Catherine so she will have more time to talk to her. This attention so excites Catherine that even after Isabella has left her at the door, Catherine runs upstairs so she can watch Isabella walk down the street. She notices Isabella’s fashionable air and social confidence and is very thankful she can call Isabella a friend.