‘Oh! Let me get a good look at her!’ cried Isabella. ‘I have never seen anyone half as beautiful! So wonderfully dressed! But where is her famous brother? I am dying to see him.’

‘What is all this whispering about?’ asked James.

‘Men are so much more curious than women,’ teased Isabella. ‘This is not about you and we will not tell you anything about it.’

‘And is that likely to satisfy me?’ James asked with a smile.

‘Please don’t listen,’ Isabella smiled back. ‘Perhaps we are talking about you and you may hear something disagreeable.’ This flirtatious chat continued between Isabella and James for so long that the original topic seemed entirely forgotten. Although Catherine felt a sense of relief to have the subject of Henry Tilney dropped, she was a bit disturbed by Isabella’s apparent lack of interest in her news.

When the music began again, James started to lead Isabella to the dance floor.

‘Catherine, tell your brother we must change partners after two dances together,’ Isabella cried.

‘My dear Miss Thorpe,’ objected James politely, ‘in these public assemblies, we are not required to change partners.’

‘You men,’ cried Isabella, ‘always insist that you are correct about everything! Catherine, tell your brother that everyone, including you, would be shocked if we danced together again.’

‘I do not see why anyone would be shocked,’ Catherine said innocently, ‘but if you think it is wrong, you should, of course, change partners.’

‘You see, James, your sister is on my side, but you will not listen to her! Well remember, sir, it is not my fault if all the old ladies start gossiping about us.’

And off she went to dance again with Mr James Morland. Meanwhile, John Thorpe had disappeared again and Catherine had to return to her seat beside Mrs Allen and Mrs Thorpe.

‘Oh, my dear, did you see Mr Tilney just now? He was tired of sitting and went off to find a dance partner,’ reported Mrs Allen. ‘I thought perhaps he would ask you to dance, if he saw you.’

‘Where can he be?’ said Catherine desperately. She looked round and saw him leading a young lady to the dance floor.

Catherine had missed the most desirable opportunity of the evening and was not in a friendly mood when John Thorpe came up to her and said, ‘Well, Miss Morland, I suppose you and I should have another dance together.’

‘No, thank you,’ Catherine said rather coolly. ‘I do not intend to dance again this evening.’

‘Oh, really? Well, let us walk around the room and examine everyone. We could start with my two younger sisters and their partners. Did you ever see such silly, unattractive girls?’

Catherine did not enjoy Mr Thorpe’s comments and again excused herself from joining him. She sat with the older ladies and found the rest of the evening very dull.


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