‘I do not know any man who is a better judge of beauty than Mr Allen. And, dear Catherine, are you pleased to be here?’
‘James, I have never been so happy,’ admitted Catherine. ‘Everything is so exciting, and now I am even more delighted. How good it is of you to come so far to see me.’
The Morland children had been taught not to lie, so James chose his next words carefully. He simply said, ‘My sweet Catherine, I love you dearly.’
The Thorpes and the Allens, with Catherine and James Morland, met that evening in the Upper Rooms. Isabella was all smiles when she saw Catherine, and the two girls followed their chaperones into the ballroom, whispering to each other and exchanging affectionate glances.
James was engaged to dance with Miss Thorpe, and invited her to join the sets of dancers when the music began. Catherine, who you will remember was also engaged to dance, could not see her partner anywhere.
‘Mr Morland, I cannot possibly begin to dance while my dear friend is without a partner. We will wait here with her until my brother returns,’ explained Isabella.
Catherine felt very grateful for this kindness, and she continued to chat with Isabella for another three minutes. But after turning to James Morland on her left, Isabella whispered, ‘My dear Catherine, your brother is so impatient to begin. I know you will forgive me for going away, and I am sure John will return in a moment, and then you can come and find me.’
Catherine was too polite to oppose her friend’s plan as she watched the couple hurry on to the dance floor, but she was upset and rather cross. Not only did she want to dance, but she also did not want to be pointed out as a young lady in need of a dance partner. Nevertheless, such things happen in a heroine’s life; Catherine suffered, but she made no comment about the disappointment caused by John Thorpe’s rude behaviour.
After another ten minutes, Catherine was shaken from this angry state by the sight of Mr Henry Tilney, who was walking towards her party with a young woman on his arm. Fortunately he had not seen her yet so she was able, like a true heroine, to hide her blush and sudden smile.
Mr Tilney looked as handsome and as full of life as Catherine remembered as he chatted with the stylish, good-looking young woman at his side. Instead of turning pale and filling her head with tragic thoughts of a possible Mrs Henry Tilney, Catherine correctly guessed that the young lady was the sister who Mr Tilney had mentioned to her and Mrs Allen on Friday.
One of the ladies in the Tilneys’ party, a Mrs Hughes, was an acquaintance of Mrs Thorpe’s, and as she spoke to Isabella’s mother, Mr Tilney saw Catherine and smiled at her in recognition. Catherine returned his smile very prettily and said, ‘How nice to see you again, sir. I was afraid you had left Bath.’
‘Thank you, Miss Morland, for your fears. I had to leave Bath the morning after I had the pleasure of meeting you.’
‘Well, sir, I hope you are happy to be back again. I find Bath an exciting place at this time of year,’ responded Catherine.
After a few enjoyable moments of conversation, Mr Tilney asked Catherine to dance with him. This delightful invitation produced terrible anxiety in our heroine; and in giving her refusal, she expressed her genuine sorrow, explaining that she was already engaged to dance with another gentleman.
Just then John Thorpe inconveniently wandered over to the group and claimed Catherine as his partner. As they danced, Mr Thorpe’s conversation about buying a good hunting dog allowed Catherine to keep watch on the part of the room where she had left Mr Tilney. She also looked around for Isabella, wanting to point out Henry Tilney to her dear friend, but she seemed cruelly separated from friends and acquaintances.
As Mr Thorpe continued his one-sided conversation, Catherine began to realise a useful lesson: it is not always best to arrange your dance partners before going to a ball. But luckily Catherine’s thoughts were interrupted by a light touch on her shoulder from Mrs Hughes.
‘I beg your pardon, Miss Morland,’ Mrs Hughes began.
‘Would you allow Miss Tilney and her partner to join your set?’ Catherine could not have been more pleased. She now had the opportunity to chat with Henry’s sister, and she welcomed the young lady very warmly and politely.
Miss Tilney was attractive in every way; she was not as fashionable as Miss Isabella Thorpe, but she was more naturally elegant. She was polite to everyone and was capable of being young, beautiful and at a ball without flirting with every man near her, and without becoming over-excited or over-dramatic about insignificant flattery.
At the conclusion of the two dances, Catherine found her arm immediately seized by her dear Isabella, who in an excited voice cried, ‘At last I have got you. Why didn’t you and John join our set? I have been quite miserable without you. I kept telling your brother to search for you, but he was extremely lazy and would not leave my side. Isn’t that right, Mr Morland? I have been scolding him all evening. You would be amazed.’ Catherine pulled Isabella away from James and whispered urgently, ‘Do you see that young lady with the white ribbons in her hair? It is Mr Tilney’s sister.’