Chapter 8 Summary
It is evening, and James, Isabella, Catherine, and John go to the ball. John quickly excuses himself so he can enter the card room, leaving the other three behind. When James asks Isabella to dance, she tells him she will not dance until Catherine has a partner. However, only a few minutes later, Isabella tells Catherine—with much flourish—that James is so impatient to dance that she cannot refuse him. Isabella thus leaves Catherine to sit with Mrs. Thorpe and Mrs. Allen.
Catherine is depressed and feels like the other women who are sitting on the sidelines. She endures her discomfort by recalling heroines in her favorite novels who have fortitude and never complain in all their disagreeable situations. A few minutes later, she sees Mr. Tilney walking toward her. On his arm is a pretty young woman, whom Catherine assumes is his sister. Certainly the woman could not be his wife because Mr. Tilney had previously talked to Catherine as if he were a single man.
When Mr. Tilney and the young woman are introduced, it is confirmed that his partner is indeed his sister. She is a well-dressed woman who conducts herself with good sense and an unaffected manner. She shows good breeding, Catherine surmises. Mr. Tilney asks Catherine if she would like to dance, but before she can answer, John Thorpe returns. He insists that Catherine is his partner, and he pulls her toward the dance floor, where he continues his dull discussion about horses and carriages. While they dance, Catherine concludes that coming to a ball already engaged with a partner does not guarantee one will have a good time.
After completing two dances with John, Catherine returns to find that Mr. Tilney is dancing with someone else. So she joins in a conversation with Mr. Tilney’s sister. Catherine finds that this woman is very nice to be with. She does not exaggerate as much as Isabella does, and she comes across as being genuine about everything she discusses.
Isabella finally reappears. She blames Catherine’s brother for her absence. Isabella claims she has been looking for Catherine all this time but James was too lazy to help her. When James asks Isabella for another dance, she refuses him. She states that the custom does not allow so many dances with the same partner. People will think they are serious, she says. When she asks Catherine to confirm this, Catherine says she has never heard of the custom.
Catherine is distracted from the continuing banter between Isabella and James as she looks around the room for Mr. Tilney but cannot find him. When John Thorpe reappears and asks Catherine to dance again, she tells him she is too tired.