The Viscount Fitzwilliam and his wife had no sooner entered their lodgings in Bath when General Tilney arrived to greet his daughter and her husband. "Lord Fitzwilliam," he said, with a deep bow, "Your Ladyship." He had not called her Eleanor since her marriage. "Welcome to Bath, the society of which will be much improved by your presence."
"Thank you Father," said Eleanor. Then, turning to another young lady, whom the General had not so much as looked at, she said, "Allow me to present our guest, Miss Bennet, who is Mrs. Darcy's sister."
"Ah," was his only response as he made half a bow in Mary Bennet's direction. He knew Mrs. Darcy's background and was not impressed by this sister.
"We met in London while Miss Bennet was staying with the Darcys and she kindly agreed to accompany us to Bath."
"Then she will be well rewarded for her companionship."
Viscount Fitzwilliam, now stepped in to say, "Will you be at the theatre this evening, sir? I hope we will see you there."
"I should be happy to attend but I have not yet spoken for a box."
"Then I hope you shall join us in ours," said Lady Fitzwilliam.
"Certainly, if you wish it," he replied.
"Captain Tilney will be joining us," said Lord Fitzwilliam.
"Henry and Catherine will be with us as well," added his Lady.
The General only stiffened and bowed, and left them shortly thereafter. When he was out of the room, Eleanor looked at her husband with concern and he smiled in response. No words passed between them, however, owing to Miss Bennet's presence; but no words were necessary. Lady Fitzwilliam was well aware that her husband only tolerated her father for her sake. The General having rejoiced on the occasion of the death of Lord Fitzwilliam's late elder brother, had justifiably disgusted the current Viscount.
Miss Bennet, for her part, had little opinion of the General. She was pleased to be at Bath and, though nothing ailed her, was intent on trying the healing waters. She had not yet met Mr. and Mrs. Henry Tilney, but on the authority of Eleanor's description, looked forward to making their acquaintance.
When they arrived at the theatre, she was not disappointed with either of them, and discovered she was also to meet a brother of each. Mary could not help but notice that these two gentlemen did not seem friendly with one another.
Captain Tilney was a very handsome young man who had been a great friend of the Viscount when he had been a mere Colonel in the regulars. Mary had heard the whole history from Eleanor during the journey to Bath. Colonel Fitzwilliam had once visited Northanger Abbey with Captain Tilney and had fallen in love with Eleanor, whose fortune suited his needs as the second son of an Earl. But her father would not allow the marriage. It was only the unfortunate death of his elder brother that had made it possible for him to marry the woman he loved. Mary had reflected on the tragedy and triumph of it all, and had been quite bold enough, in her own private musings, to consider the possibility of their story being even more romantic than that of her sister, Elizabeth.
James Morland was not as handsome as the Captain and seemed a very serious young man. Mary could not tell whether such was his nature or if his spirits were depressed. She attempted to talk to him during the course of the evening to make out his character. While they were discussing the play between the fourth and fifth acts, Captain Tilney leaned towards his sister-in-law and with a smile gestured across the theatre saying, "Look, there is your friend." Mary noticed Mr. Morland look across the way as well and observed to herself that it was possible for his expression to darken even further. Mrs. Tilney looked very uncomfortable and turned a concerned glance towards her brother who was still looking at the very pretty young lady who had been pointed out to them by Captain Tilney, and who had apparently not noticed them.
"Tilney," said the Viscount, "it seems my observations have been more to the purpose than yours. Come, I shall introduce you to Miss Morton, who I have just seen talking with Miss Carteret in Lady Dalrymple's box. Make haste."
"Is she as handsome as her friend?" he asked with a smirk, as the two exited the box.
Catherine moved to sit on the other side of her brother saying, "Do you wish to go? I am sure Henry will not mind leaving a little early."
"No," he replied. "I am quite well, Catherine, do not worry about me."
A few minutes later, as the fifth act was starting, the other two gentlemen returned and Lord Fitzwillam was teasing Captain Tilney about having already secured Miss Morton for the first two dances at the Lower Rooms on Friday, when the General finally joined them.
"Did you say Miss Morton?" asked General Tilney.
"Yes," said Lord Fitzwilliam, "her brother, Lord Morton, was an intimate friend of my late elder brother."
"Yes, I was acquainted with their father. Well Frederick, you have made an excellent choice."
"It is only a dance," retorted Captain Tilney.
After the performance, on the way back to their lodgings from the theatre, Mary asked Eleanor, "Who was the young lady that Captain Tilney pointed out to Mrs. Tilney?"
"Miss Thorpe. She was a friend of Catherine's when she first came to Bath."
"Mr. Morland did not seem happy to see her."
"No. He was engaged to her for a short time, during which she had become acquainted with my brother Frederick. The engagement was broken off."
"I see," said Mary. "I am sorry for Mr. Morland. He seems to be in very low spirits."
"Let us hope we can cheer him up," replied Eleanor.
The next morning, Henry and Catherine Tilney arrived at the Fitzwilliams' lodgings full of eagerness for a new scheme. “We are going to Blaize Castle,” said Catherine with a broad smile.
Eleanor looked at her and then looked at Henry, “Surely you told her ...”
“That it is merely a folly?” asked Henry, “Oh yes! But that has not deterred my wife, for there are ghosts afoot!”
“Ghosts?” said Eleanor.
“There have been reports,” said Catherine, “of sightings of a ghost at Blaize Castle.”
“Then we must investigate,” cried Lord Fitzwilliam with enthusiasm. He was well acquainted with his sister-in-law, and fond of her flights of fancy.
“My thought exactly,” said Henry. “I propose we go on Monday. I shall write to the inn at Kingsweston to make arrangements to stay the night.”
“But it is not so far,” said Eleanor in surprise, “surely we can return the same day.”
“My dear sister,” replied Henry, “ghosts do not often present themselves by day.”
“No indeed,” said Lord Fitzwilliam, “we must remain past nightfall to make the journey at all worthwhile.”
Catherine, though pleased to have her plans so well-received, was nevertheless uncertain as to the sincerity of her brother-in-law's enthusiasm. Suddenly she turned to Miss Bennet, who had been observing their discourse in silence. “But should you like to go, Miss Bennet? It is only a folly, but something in the style of an old castle. I should very much like to see it and perhaps catch a glimpse of the ghost!”
“I shall be very happy to join you all,” she replied politely.
“And you shall not be afraid of seeing the ghost?” asked Catherine.
“Certainly not. I cannot suppose there is a ghost at all. It must all be folly, the ghost as much as the building!”
“Well said,” replied Henry, who had the wit to value a clever turn of phrase.
“It is all settled then,” said Eleanor, “you will bespeak rooms for all of us at Kingsweston?”
“Yes, of course,” replied Henry.
“Do not forget James is to be of the party,” said Catherine. Her husband only bowed in response, but she did not notice that Miss Bennet perked up upon hearing this news.
Mary did not have occasion to see Mr. Morland again until Friday evening in the Lower Rooms, when she was very happy to be solicited by him for the first two dances. But as they were lining up, he was distracted. His eyes were cast down the line of dancers. Mary saw them fixed on Miss Thorpe. James turned his eyes back to her and said, “Forgive me, I was distracted for a moment.”
“There is nothing to forgive,” she replied kindly, “there are many distractions in a ballroom.”
He only smiled and did his best to be attentive to her through their two dances. When they were over, Mary returned to her party and found them to be talking of Miss Thorpe. Lord Fitzwilliam was telling his wife, “She is dancing with Mr. Rushworth. He has an estate in Northamptonshire worth twelve thousand a year. But he has not been wholly unconnected with scandal.” Lord Fitzwilliam lowered his voice, but Mary thought she could discern the word “divorce,” and Lady Fitzwilliam's surprised reaction seemed to confirm it.
Suddenly realizing she should not overlisten, she moved a few steps away as she watched Miss Thorpe walk away from her partner and towards a young man talking to General Tilney. She was approaching the Tilneys when she heard Henry say to his wife, “Will my father never learn not to speak to Mr. Thorpe?”
“It does seem very odd that he should still seek his company,” replied Catherine.
Within a few minutes, Eleanor approached Mary to introduce her to another young man who then asked her to dance. After tea, she was introduced to and solicited by the very same Mr. Thorpe, but her judgment was against him and she chose to give up dancing for the rest of the evening rather than stand up with him. She was pleased when Mr. Morland joined her and sat with her until the conclusion of the ball.
Mr. Rushworth had come to Bath on the wings of disappointment. He had been forced to submit to the expense, trouble, and embarrassment of obtaining a divorce after his first wife had deserted him for another – the fact that the other man had refused to marry her had, admittedly, given him some satisfaction. He liked thinking of her as his first wife, and was currently on the hunt for that most consolatory prize following such a humiliation – a second wife. He fully intended to marry again. To fortune he was wholly indifferent; his only stipulation was that his second wife be even more beautiful than the first. Nay it would be all the more satisfying if he should elevate a penniless beauty to the position which had been so carelessly cast off. Mistresses he already had aplenty – his disappointment had led him to to the conclusion that he ought not be deprived of any pleasure his fortune afforded.
He had come to the Lower Rooms to dance and be gallant, and to this end had noticed a strikingly beautiful girl. He immediately sought an introduction and in the next moment was dancing with Miss Thorpe. For her part, the young lady could hardly believe her good luck. Mr. Rushworth was a fool, to be sure, but he was a fool with twelve thousand pounds a year. And everyone knew his situation. Everyone knew, and those who did not rightfully supposed, that he was looking to marry again. Isabella was not above the blemish of divorce. What did she care of the manner in which his marriage had ended? All that mattered was that he was free to make a second choice now, and that he was rich – rich beyond her wildest fancy!
After their dance she stood talking to Mr. Rushworth and her brother, but alas, she was forced to leave them when solicited again. She strongly believed in the adage of eggs and baskets, but moreover, she was by no means ignorant to the fact that she was more likely to be missed if there was an actual separation. Indeed, she left Rushworth with very happy reflections of their dance, and every hope of catching a glimpse of her and admiring her figure during the remainder of the evening.
When she was free again from the dance, she was approached by her brother with an impatient step. “I have been talking to Rushworth this hour. And I have learned he goes to Blaize Castle on Monday to view it as an example of what he might like to build on his own estate.”
Isabella was all excitement. “And did you suggest that we should all make a party of it?”
“No, I cannot be of the party.”
“Then I must find a way to join him. Does he travel with any ladies?”
“He did not say so.”
“There must be some other means,” she said pensively.
The next morning Miss Thorpe arrived early at the Pump Room and soon found the object of her interest. “Mrs. Ferrars,” she cried, approaching her friend, “I have been looking for you this age!”
“My dear Miss Thorpe,” said Lucy Ferrars, “I had hoped to see you this morning. How was the ball last evening?”
“The ball was delightful,” replied Isabella, “though you know how little I care for such events. I was so fatigued you know, I hardly sat down the whole evening.”
“And did you dance with anyone worthwhile?”
“I danced with Mr. Rushworth, who I think must be the richest man in Northamptonshire and a very good-natured one at that. He told me I was the handsomest girl in the room, but you know I never give any credit to such flatteries. These men never mean a thing they say. Are you acquainted with him?”
“I have not yet met him but I believe Robert has. How did you like him?”
“I confess I liked him a great deal, but I beg you would not tease me, for it may all come to nothing.”
“I am sure it shall not. He could hardly have exaggerated your beauty; you know you are one of the prettiest girls in Bath and he would be a fool not to wish to see you again.”
“I hope you may be right.” Then suddenly changing the subject, Isabella said, “Have you ever been to Blaize Castle?”
“Heavens no. Why should I wish to go there? It is not even a real castle.”
“I should very much like to see it. I had hoped perhaps to make a party of it, but a small, intimate one, with only my closest friends.”
“But what is the great attraction? It is a mere folly.”
“I have learned that Mr. Rushworth wishes to build something similar on his estate and plans to drive out to see it for himself on Monday and take it as a kind of model.”
“Ah, I see. And you wish to visit on the same day?”
“If Mr. Rushworth is going anyway, why should not we organize a party? It must be of great benefit to Mr. Rushworth to have his friends on the spot for ready consultation in planning his improvements, to have their opinions to consider as well as his own.”
“It would be a pleasure to get out of Bath for a day and have a little change of scenery.”
“Yes, that is exactly my thought. A change of scenery for a day will be of great benefit to both yourself and to Mr. Ferrars. There is nothing so salubrious as a change of scenery. Everyone comes to Bath for the waters, but I have always believed it is the change of scenery from wherever they came from that provides all the benefit.”
Without wholly crediting her friend's last assertion, Mrs. Ferrars nevertheless resolved to discuss the matter with her husband and see if he would consult with Rushworth. This, Isabella knew, pretty much meant they would go and she returned to Edgar's Buildings in all the felicity of being assured a day of pleasure as well as a fair opportunity of trying her powers on Mr. Rushworth.
On Monday morning, Lord and Lady Fitzwilliam, Henry and Catherine Tilney, James Morland, and Mary Bennet, all set forth for Kingsweston in Lord Fitzwilliam's barouche, which he drove himself with Henry on the box; Mr. Morland had the distinction of riding with the ladies in the carriage with the top down. The day was bright and sunny but all Catherine could think about was her expectation of a full moon. They traveled at leisure, without hurry, as they intended to remain at the castle till after nightfall.
As they went along, Mary and James were discussing the sights on either side of the carriage and deciding which were picturesque. Catherine and Eleanor had opinions on the subject, but rarely expressed them; they satisfied themselves by smiling knowingly at each other several times. They stopped at Keynsham for a light refreshment and made a merry party walking around the village while the horses rested. Mary and James were still caught up in their discussions and the others left them to walk about together taking in different views within range of the posting inn. They resumed their journey and stopped again in Kingsweston to order a late dinner at the inn in which they had arranged lodgings.
At last, as the afternoon drew on, they were on their way to the Blaize estate. They took a road in that led straight to the castle, not having any business at the main house. As they approached, Catherine's anticipation grew. They passed through a wood, and as they crossed the edge of the treeline into a clearing of grass, the edifice finally came into view. She had seen a drawing of it once, so she had a fair idea of its size, but nevertheless could not help feeling a little disappointed when she saw it in person. As they approached, they saw another carriage stopped nearby and a group of people who looked like they were about to depart. Everyone from both parties was distracted by the unexpected encounter of other people, but Catherine was not too distracted to see something out of the corner of her eye. She turned her head swiftly and cried, “There!”
“What is it?” asked Eleanor, alarmed.
“I saw a woman slipping between the trees in a long white gown.”
Now, everyone was looking in the direction she had turned, including the members of the other party on the ground. So intrigued was she by the vision of what must surely be the Ghost of Blaize Castle, Catherine had not yet realized she was suddenly in company with her former friend. For the group of persons about to depart the castle had indeed been Isabella Thorpe, accompanied by Robert and Lucy Ferrars, and Mr. Rushworth.
Now, without exchanging greetings with the newcomers, Miss Thorpe cried out, “Yes, just as I told you, a lady in a white gown, unshod, hair wild, gliding through the wood! I saw her myself not five minutes ago.”
“But do you really think it is a ghost?” asked Rushworth.
Mary was not acquainted with Mr. Rushworth and therefore did not address him, but speaking to her own friends, still seated in the carriage, she said, “Of course it is not a ghost. If there is a woman out there, she is as real as we are.”
Mr. Morland smiled at Catherine, and gesturing for the ladies to exit the carriage he said, “I am afraid, my dear sister, that I must agree with Miss Bennet.”
Fitzwilliam and Tilney had also alighted from the box and greeted the other party. Morland stayed away from them, a little removed with the three ladies of his own party.
Rushworth told how, as they had been going over the castle, they had seen someone in one of the upper rooms, but they could not be certain and had been unable to see anyone again until they were ready to depart when Isabella had suddenly spotted a woman in the woods. Thus they had all run out to find her.
Catherine, though not wanting to see Isabella, would not be thwarted from seeing the castle, and Eleanor, well-acquainted with her friend's predilection for old buildings, joined her. Mary remained with Morland, and as their companions walked away, she caught site of a shadowy figure. “There,” she pointed, in the opposite direction that Catherine had looked before. Now Morland, Tilney, Fitzwilliam and Rushworth walked towards the wood where she was pointing while Ferrars joined his wife in Rushworth's carriage.
Meanwhile, the four gentlemen could scarcely make out a figure in the distance, when Mrs. Ferrars suddenly cried out, “Up there,” as she pointed to the parapet at the top of one of the turrets. Sure enough there was a woman clad in what appeared to be a white nightgown with wild hair and no shoes standing on top of one of the turrets, behind the parapet wall. The four brave men turned and headed towards the castle. They sprung up the stairs and searched the place entirely, but found nothing.
This was unsettling even to Mary, who though steadfast in her belief that it could not be a ghost, could not account for the disappearance of all these wild-haired, barefoot, night-gown-clad women.
As the party walked around the castle in smaller groups, attempting to puzzle the matter out, Henry Tilney was suddenly arrested by the sight of his father emerging into the clearing from a path leading to the Mansion house. This was a surprise! Henry strode forward to greet the General, and Eleanor joined them, both turning again to walk the rest of the way towards the castle with him.
He was explaining to them, most of which was heard by all, that he had been in consultation with Mr. Harford, the owner of the property, but would say little else about his business. He had had been invited to lodge for the night at the Mansion house, and had walked over to the castle after the conclusion of his conference to see about all the talk of a ghost.
He was effusive in his greeting to his son-in-law, and less so in meeting his daughter-in-law; the others, he ignored, except for a brief salutation to Mr. and Mrs. Ferrars and an introduction to Mr. Rushworth, who afterwards began explaining to him what they had all been seeing.
The sun was now low on the horizon. It was near nightfall. Lord Fitzwilliam's party began lighting all the lamps they had brought with them and were kind enough to provide a lamp or two to the other party, who had not prepared to remain so late. These were scarcely needed, however, as a full moon was rising.
Catherine was now more eager than ever to explore the castle; and as there had been no ghost sightings in at least five minutes she felt safe enough to enter it on the arm of her husband, and with Eleanor at her side. She explored the first level with impatient anticipation. The rooms were habitable and appeared comfortable. Finding nothing there that she could associate with anything of ancient origin or to explain the ghosts, she ascended to the second level, and seeing all that was available for inspection, she climbed the stairs to the roof of the center tower and stood at the parapet wall. She looked up towards the top of the turret where the ghost had been standing a few minutes before. Then extending her lamp forward, something caught her eye in the wood. There she saw the same woman in a white gown floating across the trees!
“Look,” she cried, pointing in the woman's direction. The entire party turned towards the treetops, but soon the woman was gone. Lord Fitzwilliam and James Morland raced into the wood. Rushworth, perhaps, would have gone with them, but Isabella, trembling with fear, had taken hold of his arm, and he could not very well leave her in terrified solitude. The two men emerged however, a few minutes later, with nothing more than puzzled shakes of the head. They were not so foolish as to run headlong into the woods at night with a gorge nearby.
Once everyone had calmed a bit, for they were all of them beginning to be inured to the sight of ghosts, James asked Mary if she wished to explore the castle. “Since we are here, I do not think I would mind seeing the inside,” she replied. The others having already gone through the Castle (it's size not lending itself to an extended inspection) the two had it to themselves. As they were leaving the first level, Mary thought she saw the sight of something or someone. She went to the edge of the circular center room, and behind a high chest saw a small door, which any rational observer could see led to the bottom level of one of the turrets, a very small space. She tried the door, but it was locked. Mary shrugged and mentioned to James that it seemed odd to place a chest in front of a door. The two completed their tour of the rest of the building, the other two turrets being fully accessible, and afterwards joined their friends.
At last the two parties were reassembled near their conveyances, but unable of being joined into one party by the unfortunate history between Isabella and James. There was some intercourse, however, between members of the two groups and Lord Fitzwilliam and Mr. Rushworth each learned from the other that they were all to lodge for the night at the same inn in Kingsweston.
General Tilney, it seemed, had walked away from them all without anyone noticing.
Lord Fitzwilliam and his friends were ready to sit down to a generous and well-prepared dinner after such a long and eventful day. The Ghost of Blaize Castle was, of course, the prevailing topic; and when the proprietor of the establishment heard them talking, he told that others who visited the castle had seen ghosts as well and some of the workers on the estate had even left their positions out of fear.
“But has anyone been harmed?” asked Lord Fitzwilliam.
“No, My Lord, not as of yet, but you know, such things can be frightening.”
“But you do not really believe there is a ghost at Blaize Castle?” asked Morland.
“We cannot know for sure, can we?” was the proprietor's response.
Mary, who was sitting next to James, said quietly, “I can know for sure. It is not possible!”
“Then how do you account for all the different locations in which she appeared?” asked Catherine. “No corporeal person can move so quickly.”
“Obviously,” said Mary, “there must have been more than one woman.”
This only fueled further speculation at the dinner table. Some thought Mr. Harford surely would not allow such a fraud to be carried on at his property, and yet to think he would be involved in it himself seemed even more unlikely.
“But who would carry out such an elaborate scheme?” asked Lady Fitzwilliam, “and to what end?”
“That is the question,” said her husband.
“But we cannot, by any means, eliminate the possibility of its being a real ghost,” said Henry.
“Do you really think it possible?” asked his wife with some skepticism.
“I have never seen one … that is, before tonight,” he admitted. Then smiling, he added, “but then again, I have never seen an elephant either and I am perfectly convinced of their existence.”
Meanwhile, as one of the servants had passed through the door to the dining room, Morland's attention was caught by something he saw in the corridor. Mary glanced up and before the door closed on the view she saw Miss Thorpe talking to a gentleman in the next chamber whose face was hidden from Mary's view.
“Do you know who that gentleman is?” asked Mary.
“Yes, John Thorpe.”
“I do not recall him being with their party at the castle,” said Mary.
“No, he was not there,” confirmed James.
“He must have met his sister here afterwards,” concluded Mary.
James only smiled and changed the subject.
“Well,” said Lord Fitzwilliam, “shall we go to the castle again in the morning for a final look before we return to Bath? We certainly shall have plenty of time.”
Everyone was in favor of the idea and James turned to Mary saying, “I have half a mind to walk the distance to the castle in the morning. It is scarcely above a mile and so much of today was spent in the carriage. What do you say to a morning walk, Miss Bennet?” Mary found the idea of a morning walk very agreeable.
The other party who had been to the castle that day also sat down to dinner in another part of the inn. As the dinner was provided at Rushworth's expense, the Ferrarses were in good cheer and ate heartily. The conversation was similar to the one carrying on in the other room. Isabella was convinced the ghost was real and that it must be a very bad thing for poor Mr. Harford. Lucy, likewise lamented that the castle must be haunted and shared in Isabella's solicitude for Mr. Harford. Robert was a little surprised, for he had not expected his wife to hold such unorthodox beliefs; but not being a man of very deep thought, he soon gave over the subject altogether in favor of making use of his exquisitely appointed toothpick case to attend to his personal dental needs while the others finished their meal. Rushworth, who was inclined neither by nature nor by his present circumstances to contradict the ladies, was perfectly satisfied that the place must be haunted and that Mr. Harford must suffer a monstrous financial ruin as a result. Having been assured by his companions, however, that his wishing to copy the design would by no means communicate the unfortunate calamity from Blaize to Sotherton, he was able to enjoy his dinner in perfect ease.
Isabella, during the course of the meal, was summoned outside by a servant, where she was surprised to find her brother in the corridor.
“What in the world are you doing here?” she asked. Then slyly she added, “You said you were unable to join us!”
He smiled. “I only wish to know how you spent your day. Did Mr. Rushworth enjoy the castle?”
She gave him a brief account of all that had passed at the castle, and how everyone had been affected by the ghost sightings.
“Well that beats all!” he cried with a smirk, “a ghost at Blaize Castle. Everyone is talking about it in the village. I heard tell that six dozen servants and groundspeople at least have given up their posts at the estate on account of it!”
“There certainly was no caretaker at the castle while we were there today. It is a sad business leaving the building exposed to any kind of mischief.”
“Well, I hope you were not too frightened.”
“No indeed” she replied, “why should I be?”
Then with a parting smile she returned to her friends, and on re-entering the room could only meet Lucy's inquisitive eye for the briefest moment.
The next morning, after a quick breakfast, James and Mary set out for Blaize Castle on foot.
They walked at a comfortable pace along a path that led into the Blaize Wood, discussing all that had happened the day before, as well as the landscape through which they passed, which lent itself well to a continuation of their discussion of the picturesque. As they approached the clearing in which the castle stood, they turned to the southwest to look over the gorge and discuss the view. They afterwards continued walking along a foot path towards the west that led back into the wood. Before long, they found a sort of shelter, made of local stone. It had the appearance of a cave, but had obviously been built by the hand of man over what appeared to be a natural hollow in the ground.
James entered and inspected the stonework. “I wonder what the purpose of such a structure could be,” he mused.
“How long do you suppose it has been here?” asked Mary.
“It does not appear to be of new construction,” replied her companion, “but beyond that I cannot tell.”
The cave was not large, and when Mary entered behind James, to get a better look at one of the walls, they found themselves in very close quarters. A little embarrassed by her proximity, James backed into the opposite wall, almost tripping over some small branches and brush that had been placed on that side of the cave. He turned to look at what had hindered him and noticed the branches were covering something. “Look here,” he said.
Mary turned from her inspection of the cave wall as James moved the branches. At first, he revealed only a coil of rope and a couple of metal objects. “What are those?” asked Mary, picking one up to inspect it.
“That is a pulley,” he replied, looking at the other one.
Then glimpsing something more substantial beneath the remaining branches, he moved them away to reveal a small wooden chest of rather modern craftsmanship seated in a hollow in the ground between the entrance of the cave and the near wall, hardly detectable by anyone looking into the small structure from the entryway.
“Perhaps it is a secret treasure,” said Mary with a smile.
“I think not,” replied James more seriously, beginning to form a suspicion.
He went to work on the leather straps and Mary exclaimed, “You are not going to open it?”
He only replied by throwing open the lid, revealing a pile of white fabric. Mary pulled out a long white gown, something between a day dress and a night-shift. Underneath, there were two others just like it. “I think we have found our ghost,” said James.
“But who?” asked Mary.
“That is the question!” he replied. “Come let us leave it as it was and see if we can find out.”
They returned the gowns to the trunk and covered them again. Then exiting the cave, walked back in the direction of the castle until they came to the clearing in which it stood.
Meanwhile, back at Kingsweston, Lord Fitzwilliam's party took their time in getting ready to quit their lodgings, enjoyed an extended breakfast, and even took a short walk around the village before finally setting forth to meet their friends.
Mr. Rushworth had not intended to return to the castle in the morning, but on learning that the other party would be doing so, Isabella was suddenly very eager to see it again. Her entreaty were sufficient to persuade him, and as it was immediately seconded by Lucy, Mr. Ferrars made no objection. Thus, the Rushworth carriage set off behind the Fitzwilliam carriage. And as this envoy approached, Mary and James again entered the castle. They were immediately arrested by the sight of a man standing half way behind the high chest they had seen the night before and leaning into the open doorway of one of the small turret rooms. “You must do it faster,” he was calling out. He seemed to be directing his voice upward.
Rather than approach him, James and Mary quickly ascended to the second level and, looking into the corresponding turret, saw a young woman climbing up from the room below. “Miss Maria?” said James. She looked at him, frozen in place.
“Hey there Maria,” called Thorpe from below, “what was that? Who is there?”
Scrambling to her feet on the second level she said, “'Tis Mr. Morland.”
“Morland?” cried Thorpe, who could now be heard bounding up the staircase. When he saw his former friend, he began an incomprehensible attempt at an explanation. But before he got far, two other ladies entered the castle calling for Thorpe and Maria. The four now returned downstairs and James introduced Miss Maria Thorpe and Miss Anne Thorpe to Miss Bennet. The third lady was unknown to him.
“Morland,” cried Thorpe, “allow me to introduce my wife, Mrs. Thorpe, this is Mr. Morland an old friend of mine from Oxford.”
James was surprised to hear that Thorpe was married and his wife only smiled and said how happy she was to meet them both.
“What is going on here, Thorpe?” demanded Morland as they all exited the castle into the surrounding clearing. They now noticed that the two carriages from Kingsweston had arrived.
“Isabella,” cried Maria, as she saw her sister alight from one of the carriages.
“Lucy,” cried Mrs. Thorpe, as she saw her sister alight behind Miss Thorpe.
“Nancy, what are you doing here?” asked Mrs. Ferrars with a smile.
“Don't you remember?” replied Nancy. “I told you all about John's brilliant plan to buy this place.”
“To buy it?” asked James, looking towards Thorpe.
By now the others had gathered around. Ferrars laughed and said, “You could not afford a place like this Thorpe. You had better content yourself with a cottage, certainly without any land attached.”
“Not perhaps unless he drove down the value of the place by making it seem haunted!” cried Morland.
“Are you saying Thorpe is behind the ghost?” asked Tilney.
“We caught him teaching his sister to climb up and down the inside of the turret,” said Morland.
“And we found three white gowns hidden in a cave nearby,” added Mary.
“How?” started Thorpe, but he judged it best to say nothing further and looked down, defeated.
“But the ghost was flying across the treetops,” said Rushworth. “These ladies cannot fly.”
“That was the worst,” said Nancy, “I have never been so frightened in my life!”
“We found ropes and pulleys in the cave as well,” said James.
“Do you mean,” said Tilney, “that you have been using your sisters and this,” gesturing to Nancy, “this young lady -”
“Your wife! You have been using your sisters and your wife to forward this scheme, subjecting them to such dangers, risking their lives!” Tilney, who had seldom before been incensed beyond articulation, could not go on.
“He promised us a season in London if we did it,” said Miss Anne Thorpe.
“And a second if necessary; which Anne would probably require on account of her thick ankles,” added Miss Maria Thorpe.
Before Anne could do much more than look offended, Lord Fitzwilliam stepped forward, “So this is the grand scheme behind the Ghost of Blaize Castle? Nothing more than an attempt to devalue the property so you can afford to buy it from its terrified and humbled owner?”
General Tilney, who had walked up in time to hear much of the conversation now broke into peals of laughter. “Oh this is beyond my wildest hope,” he cried. Looking at Thorpe, he said, “Was it you then who was behind the haunting? What a welcome and most delightful surprise! Here I have been in conference with Mr. Harford wondering what could be the cause, and whether there was any way to turn this ghost story to advantage, and it is all your own scheme!”
“It is entirely your doing,” cried Thorpe, “If you had not told me Mr. Harford wished to sell, I would never have thought of it. When I made him an offer, he laughed me out of his house!”
“I know, that is what makes it so satisfying. Mr. Harford never had any intent of selling the castle. I only wished to send you on a fool's errand, but this,” the General waved his hands towards the castle and surrounding woods, “this elaborate scheme of yours. I never for a moment thought you capable of it! Oh I am handsomely repaid for all the discomfort and embarrassment of our past transactions.”
“It was a good plan,” insisted Thorpe, with renewed dignity. “I could not very well make him a higher offer and he never denied wanting to sell, he only said my price was too low so I had to give him a reason to lower his expectations! And I would have got away with it too,” he gestured across the crowd, “if not for these meddling –“
“I think not,” came a voice from behind them all. Mr. Harford now stepped forward. “A real ghost would not have induced me to sell the castle, much less an invented one! No, Mr. Thorpe, I delight in everything whimsical. A ghost story would only add character to this place.” Then turning and gesturing to the spot overlooking the gorge where Mary and James had stopped earlier he said, “I call that overlook 'Lover's Leap,'” James caught Mary's eye and smiled. Then turning in another direction he pointed towards the cave. “And the stone structure to be found down that path is known as 'Robbers' Cave.' And there,” he pointed in yet another direction, “a bed of exposed limestone is called the 'Giant's Footprint.' All by my design. I thank you for adding to the mythos of the place. I hope the impression of your ghost will be a lasting one. Perhaps I shall rename the gorge, 'Ghost's Gorge,'” Then turning to General Tilney he said, “What do you think?”
“A most fitting tribute,” replied the General, still in an amazingly good humour.
Now Catherine spoke up, “But you let all those people give up their positions on your estate because of the ghost!”
“Rumors, my dear …?”
“Mrs. Tilney, my daughter-in-law,” said the General, with more satisfaction than he had ever felt in pronouncing those words.
“Mrs. Tilney,” continued Mr. Harford, “The old caretaker was the only one who resigned his position, and he was no longer fit for the job. Rheumatism did him in, I'm afraid,” turning to Thorpe, “not your ghost. We are working on a plan now with Mr. Nash to build a hamlet of cottages for our retired estate workers. Old Mr. Smythe will have his pick.”
“Cottages,” said Robert Ferrars, “how quaint. I love a cottage.”
The party now began to break up. Each set of friends making their way to their own equipage, Mr. Rushworth gallantly offering the use of his carriage to Mrs. and the Miss Thorpes along with Lucy and Isabella. Robert was not happy to have to walk back to Kingsweston with Rushworth and Thorpe, where they were obliged to hire another carriage.
Isabella was so pleased by Rushworth's gallantry that she accepted his proposal of marriage that very evening. A cottage was built for John and Nancy Thorpe at Sotherton, but in truth they spent most of their time at the great house and invited Lucy and Robert to stay almost as often. Both Mr. and Mrs. Rushworth were infinitely happier in their second attachments than in their first, albeit for different reasons.
Another engagement was also formed between James Morland and Mary Bennet whose mutual happiness derived from deeper, more rational feelings and a more sensible expression of them. Lord Fitzwilliam was able to bestow a valuable living on Mr. Morland on his own estate, allowing Mary and Eleanor to live within half a mile of one another.
The forms of happiness enjoyed by the Morlands and the Rushworths could not have been more different, but both couples always remembered fondly that they had been brought together by the Ghost of Blaize Castle.