"My dear wife, I have some news for you, for all of you," announced Colonel Fitzwilliam at the breakfast table the next morning. "Though I am afraid that I shall be scolded when you hear what I have to say," he continued, looking gravely at his wife, though with a twinkle in his eye.
"Oh, I'm sure I could never scold you, my dear! But what is the news?" asked his wife. Anne and Catherine looked eagerly at their uncle,their mother and father subtly signaling to them to ask not questions.
"Well, my dear, I received an invitation to a ball, hosted by the Darcy's at their city house," he paused, as his wife exclaimed her delight, and Anne and Catherine tried to suppress their inquiries.
"When is it?" Mrs.Fitzwilliam asked almost as eagerly as Anne and her sister were looking their questions.
"Ah, you see, here is where I prepare to receive my scolding. It is tonight-I forgot to inform you earlier."
"Oh, my dear, that is bad, but not very bad. You see, I already refreshed my wardrobe and that of Anne's last week. So I am quite prepared. Prepared to prepare, that is. Thank you my dear, for remembering to tell us in decent timing before the actual event. Such old acquaintances as the Darcy's are! It shall be quite a grand event, I am sure. Will you be accompanying us, brother?" she asked, turning to Mr.Collins.
"Indeed, indeed, I should not have missed such an opportunity of seeing my cousin, or her husband and children. And I am , as Lady Catherine De Burgh most tactfully pointed out, when informing us of this position in London, most fond of balls and evening parties. Am I not, my dear?" He now turned to his wife,who was an interested listener.
"Oh, uh-yes, yes you are. Do you not remember that we first met at a ball? The ball at Netherfield, I believe it was. But, sister, brother, are we, my family and I, invited?" Mrs.Collins looked concerned.
"Yes, yes, sister do not concern yourself with invitation! I have already informed them that you are my guests, and unless you could be theirs also, I would not be attending." The Colonel smiled.
"Brother, you are too kind, indeed, I am astonished at your graciousness. Not because it is unexpected from you,' Mr.Collins said, with a sudden realization, "but because very few men would give up the pleasure of an evening's society." He finished with a slight bow.
"Well, my dears,"and Mrs.Fitzwilliam turned to her sister and nieces,"we must begin our preparations."
That evening, Anne stood before the full length mirror in the dressing room she shared with her sister. Carefully smoothing her dress, which was provided for through Lady Catherine De Burgh's generosity, she turned to face her sister.
"I wish you could come, Cathy!" she exclaimed softly, with a sigh."How shall I bear being a wallflower without you there to talk to? Though if you came, I dare say I would still be all alone, for you would not be without partner's." Anne sat down on a settee. Her sister laughed.
"There is no use in wishing, Anne. We know I cannot go, but I am not sorry, for balls sound like tedious affairs. In two or three years when I attend one, I am sure it will be worth it. But for now, I will console myself with the thought that they are troublesome and tiresome." Anne smiled, then rose as she heard her aunt calling her. Her sister walked down with her, to see her parents, aunt and uncle out, and to comfort the crying little ones by taking them to bed.
As the full carriage rolled along the cobblestone, Anne's anticipation rose. Having never been in society, except that of church and an occasional celebratory party, she was also anxious that she should behave well. While thinking of these things, an unexpected thought came into her head.
"We are to return home soon. I must not attach myself to any gentleman." She started when she thought of Mr.Hamlington. "I must not think of such things! I am too young, and I barely know him! Though brother does, and is in love with his sister. Will they be there? I wonder if I shall meet any of the Darcy or Bingley girls?They must be so accomplished! Mother will be glad to see Mrs.Elizabeth Darcy-I hope she may. Though uncle did say that some of the family were in town.We are here!"