Northanger Abbey. The first ball
Catherine too made some purchases
herself, and when all these matters were arranged, the im-
portant evening came which was to usher her into the Upper
Rooms. Her hair was cut and dressed by the best hand, her
clothes put on with care, and both Mrs. Allen and her maid
declared she looked quite as she should do. With such en-
couragement, Catherine hoped at least to pass uncensured
through the crowd. As for admiration, it was always very
welcome when it came, but she did not depend on it.
Mrs. Allen was so long in dressing that they did not enter
the ballroom till late. The season was full, the room crowd-
ed, and the two ladies squeezed in as well as they could. As
for Mr. Allen, he repaired directly to the card-room, and
left them to enjoy a mob by themselves.
With more care for
the safety of her new gown than for the comfort of her pro-
tegee, Mrs. Allen made her way through the throng of men
by the door, as swiftly as the necessary caution would al-
low; Catherine, however, kept close at her side, and linked
her arm too firmly within her friend’s to be torn asunder
by any common effort of a struggling assembly.
By a continued exertion of strength and
ingenuity they found themselves at last in the passage be-
hind the highest bench. Here there was something less of
crowd than below; and hence Miss Morland had a compre-
hensive view of all the company beneath her, and of all the
dangers of her late passage through them. It was a splendid
sight, and she began, for the first time that evening, to feel
herself at a ball: she longed to dance, but she had not an ac-
quaintance in the room.
Mrs. Allen did all that she could
do in such a case by saying very placidly, every now and
then, ‘I wish you could dance, my dear — I wish you could
get a partner.’ For some time her young friend felt obliged
to her for these wishes; but they were repeated so often, and
proved so totally ineffectual, that Catherine grew tired at
last, and would thank her no more.
They were not long able, however, to enjoy the repose of
the eminence they had so laboriously gained. Everybody
was shortly in motion for tea, and they must squeeze out
like the rest. Catherine began to feel something of disap-
pointment — she was tired of being continually pressed
against by people, the generality of whose faces possessed
nothing to interest, and with all of whom she was so wholly
unacquainted that she could not relieve the irksomeness of
imprisonment by the exchange of a syllable with any of her
fellow captives; and when at last arrived in the tea-room, she
felt yet more the awkwardness of having no party to join, no
acquaintance to claim, no gentleman to assist them.
They saw nothing of Mr. Allen; and after looking about them in
vain for a more eligible situation, were obliged to sit down
at the end of a table, at which a large party were already
placed, without having anything to do there, or anybody to
speak to, except each other.
To be continued
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