Fanny’s heart sunk, but there was no leisure for thinking long even of Miss Crawford’s feelings. They were in the ballroom, the violins were playing, and her mind was in a flutter that forbade its fixing on anything serious. She must watch the general arrangements, and see how everything was done.
In a few minutes Sir Thomas came to her, and asked if she were engaged; and the “Yes, sir; to Mr. Crawford,” was exactly what he had intended to hear. Mr. Crawford was not far off; Sir Thomas brought him to her, saying something which discovered to Fanny, that she was to lead the way and open the ball; an idea that had never occurred to her before. Whenever she had thought of the minutiae22 of the evening, it had been as a matter of course that Edmund would begin with Miss Crawford; and the impression was so strong, that though her uncle spoke the contrary, she could not help an exclamation23 of surprise, a hint of her unfitness, an entreaty24 even to be excused. To be urging her opinion against Sir Thomas’s was a proof of the extremity25 of the case; but such was her horror at the first suggestion, that she could actually look him in the face and say that she hoped it might be settled otherwise; in vain, however: Sir Thomas smiled, tried to encourage her, and then looked too serious, and said too decidedly, “It must be so, my dear,” for her to hazard another word; and she found herself the next moment conducted by Mr. Crawford to the top of the room, and standing26 there to be joined by the rest of the dancers, couple after couple, as they were formed.
She could hardly believe it. To be placed above so many elegant young women! The distinction was too great. It was treating her like her cousins! And her thoughts flew to those absent cousins with most unfeigned and truly tender regret, that they were not at home to take their own place in the room, and have their share of a pleasure which would have been so very delightful to them. So