I can hear my laughter floating around the room as my partner spins me round the floor. I smile and laugh because I know they are watching me. Pretty little Marianne. The handsomest girl in the room.
Shame about her family.
I try to ignore the whispers and women gossiping in small groups around the dancefloor and concentrate on the movement of my feet, my hair floating around my head as I move across the floor with Mr McConnely, my partner.
Mr McConnely is probably the best young man I have ever met. He is everything he should be, and everyone tells me he is very fond of me. He is handsome, rich and so well mannered. He makes me smile and laugh and makes my heart flutter whenever he's near me. But he is too far out of my reach. His mother would never approve of me.
The dance ended and still smiling, I took my partner's arm as he led me away from the dancefloor. 'You look very well tonight Miss Marianne,' he whispered in my ear, 'but then you always look very well.' I did feel rather pretty this evening in my best gown which was a deep royal blue, and my long blonde hair pulled partly back from my face but with a few curls framing my face and falling from the messy arrangement on the back of my head.
'You are too kind Mr McConnely.' I lowered my head and blushed from behind the loose strands of my hair but I could still feel his eyes on me. As I raised my head I saw my brother and sister, Edward and Maragret, talking together in a secretive manner across the hall. I could see their eyes flicking back and forth towards me.
Ignoring it, I looked back at Mr McConnely's bright blue eyes and slicked back dark brown hair. 'How is your mother? I haven't seen her recently, is she well?'
'Very well thank you Miss Marianne, in fact she is here tonight.' He smiled one of his charming smiles that sent me weak at the knees. 'It's so kind of you to ask after my mother, you really are the most caring woman I have ever met.'
I could feel my cheeks flushing again, looked away again and my eye caught sight of Grace, dancing with a man I had never laid eyes on before. Her face was alight with happiness and she had the biggest smile I had ever seen on her. But who was the mystery gentleman?
'Umm Mr McConnely? Who is that gentleman over there? The one dancing with my cousin Grace.' He turned to look at the man but when he looked back at me his face was blank.
'I've never seen him before. He must know Lord Ectary, which means he must be a decent sort of man.' He looked down at my face smiling encouragingly. 'Don't worry Marianne, she will be fine.'
'I know she will be, anyone here must be well thought of, I just wish I knew who he was.'
'Will you dance the next with me Marianne?' Mr McConnely quickly changed the subject and instantly brought a smile to my previously worried face.
'I would be honoured sir.' Taking my gloved hand, he led me onto the dancefloor, my mind put to rest with the thought that I would get all the information from Grace herself as soon as we got home.