Colonel Fitzwilliam's house, a large and comfortable one, was decked with lanterns, chandeliers, and the dining room with glass plates and cups. Anne and Catherine, who had seen things more grand at Lady Catherine de Burgh's, but had not experienced them, were delighted. Anne, though she was excited before the event, was calm and ladylike, and the only proof of her pleasure was her lovely smile, which could hardly not be seen on her face. Her sister, though rather unlike her, was also pleased, and her smile was seen almost as often as her sister's. Though Catherine was more like her father, she did not necessarily have his way of patronizing or talking constantly. This made her more like her mother and sister, though Anne was more open tempered.
The two girls sat on a sofa in the parlor by the fire, and were animatedly discussing their surroundings and what was to take place.
"Anne, I am quite nervous!" Catherine cried in a low voice to her sister,though they were alone in the room. "Do you think they will think poorly of us? Or that we are poorly?"
"Indeed, I have entertained such doubts myself, dear Cathy," and here she paused and held her sister's hand, while looking at the carpet.She presently added, "But only entertained, you see, for they can only be founded on fear and inferiority, not on truth. Our father is a gentleman, and a clergyman, and we are his daughter's.I can see no reason why anyone who is not proud or conceited themselves, can belittle us in area's where there is nothing to be belittled."
"Very true-as soon as father informs them of our patroness, Lady Catherine, they will perhaps be more willing to accept us into their circles, for a time."
Anne was about to say something, but they heard their Uncle in the hall, and the front door was thrown open, as a carriage came along the front of the building.The girls waited and listened as greetings were exchanged, and they heard their fathers frequent yet small and short laugh. Before they could guess what party had arrived, a woman dressed in all elegance walked in. Behind her came a man who appeared to be her husband, also fashionably dressed. Anne and Catherine rose, and their aunt came in and began introductions.
Approching her nieces, she said-
"Dear Sir and Lady Carter, these are my nieces. The eldest, Anne Collins, and her younger sister, Catherine, named after Lady Catherine de Burgh. Anne, Catherine, Sir Carter and his wife, Lady Carter."
The girls made low curtsies, and Sir Carter and his wife bowed, curtsied, and smiled. Mrs.Fitzwilliam entreated them to be seated, and then Anne and Catherine did the same, while their aunt went back into the hall.
"I understand," began Lady Carter, with a kind smile and look at Anne,"that you reside at Rosings Parsonage in Hunsford? I have been there, once many years ago, and it is quite lovely. Lady Catherine de Burgh is a very wealthy woman, and so my family knew, of course, of her." Here the lady smiled and looked at her husband, who had been nodding pleasantly now and then.
"Yes, indeed. Her grounds are extensive. We are soon to go there, for my wife's brother, Sir Nilson, is to soon be married to her daughter, Anne."
Anne and Catherine had merely nodded in acquiescence, until this last part, which quite startled them. They had often seen Anne de Burgh, but rarely conversed with her and had thought her too old and sickly to be married. But they had seen a carriage there quite often during the months preceding their departure, but had never heard anything about it. However, now was not the time to marvel at this turn of events. Their uncle was ushering in a young but almost middle aged looking man. Their uncle exited the room almost as soon as he had exited it. The young man approached them and bowed to Sir and Lady Carter, addressed a few inquiries as to their health and the health of their children, then turned towards Anne and her sister.
He bowed, and they rose and curtsied.
"Your uncle thinks me such a close friend, that he left me at liberty to introduce myself. Pray, excuse me. I am Mr.Landish. You," looking with quiet admiration into Anne's face,"must be Miss Collins. And you," turning to Catherine and smiling widely, "are Miss Catherine. My friend informed me well, so that I might not make a mistake in your names." The girls smiled politely,and he continued to speak with them and the Carter's- of their home and life, and what they thought of London. They found that he resided in Devonshire, but was in London on business every spring through the summer. They had little time to find out more of him, or even the Carter's, before more guests arrived. In the course of the evening, they were introduced to Mr.and Mrs.Cammins, Mr.Dolshen, and Mrs.Westing. These were kind people, and very attentive, especially Mrs.Westing. About an hour after they were all comfortable, what Mrs.Fitzwilliam called "the last guest" arrived. He was a man who looked very young, but could not be less than 20. His name was Mr.Hamlington, and he was all apologies for his tardiness, which the Fitzwilliam's entirely overlooked, and merely asked everyone to the dining room.
To be continued...