It was too dirty for Mrs. Allen to accompany her husband to the pump-room; he accordingly set off by himself, and Catherine had barely watched him down the street when her notice was claimed by the approach of the same two open carriages, containing the same three people that had surprised her so much a few mornings back.
"Isabella, my brother, and Mr. Thorpe, I declare! They are coming for me perhaps -- but I shall not go -- I cannot go indeed, for you know Miss Tilney may still call." Mrs. Allen agreed to it. John Thorpe was soon with them, and his voice was with them yet sooner, for on the stairs he was calling out to Miss Morland to be quick. "Make haste! Make haste!" as he threw open the door. "Put on your hat this moment -- there is no time to be lost -- we are going to Bristol. How d'ye do, Mrs. Allen?"
"To Bristol! Is not that a great way off? But, however, I cannot go with you today, because I am engaged; I expect some friends every moment." This was of course vehemently talked down as no reason at all; Mrs. Allen was called on to second him, and the two others walked in, to give their assistance. "My sweetest Catherine, is not this delightful? We shall have a most heavenly drive. You are to thank your brother and me for the scheme; it darted into our heads at breakfast-time, I verily believe at the same instant; and we should have been off two hours ago if it had not been for this detestable rain. But it does not signify, the nights are moonlight, and we shall do delightfully. Oh! I am in such ecstasies at the thoughts of a little country air and quiet! So much better than going to the Lower Rooms. We shall drive directly to Clifton and dine there; and, as soon as dinner is over, if there is time for it, go on to Kingsweston."
"I doubt our being able to do so much," said Morland.
"You croaking fellow!" cried Thorpe. "We shall be able to do ten times more. Kingsweston! Aye, and Blaize Castle too, and anything else we can hear of; but here is your sister says she will not go."
"Blaize Castle!" cried Catherine. "What is that'?"
"The finest place in England -- worth going fifty miles at any time to see."
"What, is it really a castle, an old castle?"
"The oldest in the kingdom."
"But is it like what one reads of?"
"Exactly -- the very same."
"But now really -- are there towers and long galleries?"
"Then I should like to see it; but I cannot -- I cannot go.
"Not go! My beloved creature, what do you mean'?"
"I cannot go, because" -- looking down as she spoke, fearful of Isabella's smile -- "I expect Miss Tilney and her brother to call on me to take a country walk. They promised to come at twelve, only it rained; but now, as it is so fine, I dare say they will be here soon."
"Not they indeed," cried Thorpe; "for, as we turned into Broad Street, I saw them -- does he not drive a phaeton with bright chestnuts?"
"I do not know indeed."
"Yes, I know he does; I saw him. You are talking of the man you danced with last night, are not you?"
"Well, I saw him at that moment turn up the Lansdown Road, driving a smart-looking girl."
"Did you indeed?"
"Did upon my soul; knew him again directly, and he seemed to have got some very pretty cattle too."
"It is very odd! But I suppose they thought it would be too dirty for a walk."
"And well they might, for I never saw so much dirt in my life. Walk! You could no more walk than you could fly! It has not been so dirty the whole winter; it is ankle-deep everywhere."
Isabella corroborated it: "My dearest Catherine, you cannot form an idea of the dirt; come, you must go; you cannot refuse going now."
"I should like to see the castle; but may we go all over it? May we go up every staircase, and into every suite of rooms?"
"Yes, yes, every hole and corner."
"But then, if they should only be gone out for an hour till it is dryer, and call by and by?"
"Make yourself easy, there is no danger of that, for I heard Tilney hallooing to a man who was just passing by on horseback, that they were going as far as Wick Rocks."
"Then I will.