The evening seemed to drag by so slowly. Mr McConnely was polite and funny and did his best to make sure I had a good time but it didn't seem to work. Instead my eyes drifted enviously towards my eldest sister Margaret, who was led out onto the dance floor by three different partners. Alright, so one of them was our brother, but that didn't make it any easier.
I thought longingly of the days when every man in the room was fighting for a chance to dance with me. That hasn't changed much, I still see gentlemen looking longingly at me as I dance, but none of them would dare take away the partner of Lady McConnely's son. But I feel that at the age of sixteen I should still be able to dance with who ever I chose, my life isn't over just yet.
The evening livened up a little when my friend, Harriet Moore, came to talk to me. She is an only child and tries to attach herself to any member of our family whenever we are at the same party to avoid her mother watching her and critisizing her every move.
'Finally, I've found you,' Harriet exclaimed, hugging me. 'I thought I had missed you and you'd left early. Mr McConnely.' She acknowledged my partner and turned straight back to me. 'I knew you couldn't have left though because I saw that cousin of yours, Grace, dancing with a complete stranger. Do you know who he is?' Harriet's eyes were hungry for some gossip as she waited for my answer.
'I'm sorry to disappoint you but I don't know that gentleman.' Harriet's face fell. 'But, I plan to get all the details from Grace as soon as we get home tonight.' Harriet squealed in excitement at the prospect of a scandal.
The conversation went on for several minutes, discussing what had happened to each other since we had met last. Harriet had been to visit her aunt in the north and she told me all about the wildness of the countryside and the gales that blew around the house at night.
Because of Mr McConnely's presence we couldn't discuss half of the things we wanted to, but Harriet promised to call on me the next day so we could catch up properly.
As the evening came to a close and the music for the final dance began, Mr McConnely led me out onto the floor one last time. We danced in silence and I watched the other pairs dancing around us. Margaret was with her third partner of the evening and I could see Grace dancing with her mystery man. Poor Beth, however, was sitting at the side, looking like she was being bored to death by Mr Baker.
'My mother is planning a Christmas ball for a few weeks time,' Mr McConnely stated as the dance drew to a close. 'I was hoping that you and your family would do me the honour of attending.' His eyes looked down hopefully at me.
'The honour would be all ours. I will have to check with my mother and father, but if they agree, we would be delighted to attend.' The biggest smile I had ever seen broke out on Mr McConnely's face.
'I'm glad you said that.' The music stopped at we walked away from the dance floor. 'I've had a wonderful evening Miss Marianne. I hope I can call on you sometime before the next ball.'
'Of course, sir. I would love to see you.' I smiled through my small white lie and walked back to my family. It wasn't exactly a lie. I did like Mr McConnely's company, he was a lovely person to be around, I just wasn't sure we had the same ideas about our relationship. Where in my mind we were good friends, I was almost sure in his mind he was thinking of marriage. But that idea was stupid, he would never be allowed to marry someone like me, no matter how pretty I was.
'Come on Marianne,' my mother chided as I retrieved my coat. 'It's time we were getting home.' We all bustled out into the chilly night air and I linked my arm into Grace's.
'So? Are you going to tell me about him?' I could feel Grace blushing in the darkness as the rest of our family squeezed into our small carriage.
'Later,' she whispered. 'Not in front of everyone else.'
'OK then,' I conceeded. 'Later.'