Chapter Twenty

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The day of the Valentines' Annual Charity Ball had arrived, which also marked the day of me being in 1869 for two months now.

I had become accustomed to daily life here, and as the weeks passed by, it was looking more and more like I was destined to spend the rest of my life in the 19th century.

Guests were due to arrive at three o'clock, but Isabella insisted that we start to get ready at noon, so we'd have plenty of time to fix any hair catastrophes or dress malfunctions. Her words.

Our gowns had arrived only two days before the big day, and during the days leading up to the delivery of them, resulted in Isabella hyperventilating and threatening to jump on a buggy to go to Hobart and pick them up herself. After reassuring her several times that they would be here and Mabel wouldn't let her down, they finally arrived.

And I had to admit, were beautiful.

It was nearing two o'clock when the first guest arrived. Our hair and makeup was complete, and Isabella was tying up the ribbons on the back of my gown when we heard a loud knock at the front door.

Isabella paused. "Please tell me that's not our guests arriving already?"

I glanced over at the clock on her dresser. "It's only two o'clock. Either someone is really keen to get this party started, or perhaps it's just the food arriving?"

Isabella giggled. "You say the funniest things sometimes, Tilly. But, yes, I think you're right. It must be the food."

She resumed her task at tying my ribbons, and as she got closer to the bottom, I was finding it harder to breath. If I was stuck here forever, corsets were definitely something I would never get used to.

We heard the sound of hurried footsteps echo through the hall, and a moment later Grace was bursting into the bedroom.

"Guests are starting to arrive," she informed us, before shooing away Isabella and taking her place in tying my ribbons.

"What!" Isabella exclaimed. "See, this is why it's smart to get ready early. People are so unpredictable."

"Relax. So far only Nicholas and your sister have arrived," Mabel reassured her.

My heart fluttered with excitement at the thought that Nicholas was here early. I couldn't wait to see him dressed up. Would he like my gown? Who was I kidding. He would only have eyes for Isabella tonight.

"Lilliana is here? And Desmond, too, I assume?" Isabella asked.

Grace let me know she had finished tying my ribbons by patting me lightly on my hips. Without hesitation, I inspected myself in the full length mirror.

"No, she said something about wanting to come early to help you get ready. Desmond was arriving later with some friends."

"Oh, thank goodness. I really couldn't deal with Desmond right now," Isabella said, scrunching up her face.

Not taking much notice of their conversation, I twisted side to side, admiring the finished product. Not bad. With the help from Isabella, the upper part of my hair was tied up in a bun with the remaining hair left down in ringlets.

She had kept her promise of keeping my dress simple; made from the gorgeous emerald green fabric I had chosen at the dressmaker's, tight bodice with white lace around the neckline and sleeves, and a bell-shaped skirt supported by a multitude of petticoats.

"She should be up in a moment," I heard Grace say.

"It seems you have enough helpers here," I said, turning to face them. I might go down and say hello to Nicholas."

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