‘No; promises are dangerous things to ask or to give,’ said Grace. ’Men and naughty children never make promises, especially promises to be good, without longing to break them the next minute.’
’Well, at least, child, persuade him, I charge you, to make my gala go off well. That’s the first thing we ought to think of now. Ring the bell! And all heads and hands I put in requisition for the gala.’
The opening of her gala, the display of her splendid reception-rooms, the Turkish tent, the Alhambra, the pagoda, formed a proud moment to Lady Clonbrony. Much did she enjoy, and much too naturally, notwithstanding all her efforts to be stiff and stately, much too naturally did she show her enjoyment of the surprise excited in some and affected by others on their first entrance.
One young, very young lady expressed her astonishment so audibly as to attract the notice of all the bystanders. Lady Clonbrony, delighted, seized both her hands, shook them, and laughed heartily; then, as the young lady with her party passed on, her ladyship recovered herself, drew up her head, and said to the company near her—
’Poor thing! I hope I covered her little naivete properly? How new she must be!’
Then, with well-practised dignity, and half-subdued self-complacency of aspect, her ladyship went gliding about—most importantly busy, introducing my lady this to the sphynx candelabra, and my lady that to the Trebisond trellice; placing some delightfully for the perspective of the Alhambra; establishing others quite to her satisfaction on seraglio ottomans; and honouring others with a seat under the statira, canopy. Receiving and answering compliments from successive crowds of select friends, imagining herself the mirror of fashion, and the admiration of the whole world, Lady Clonbrony was, for her hour, as happy certainly as ever woman was in similar circumstances.
Her son looked at her, and wished that this happiness could last. Naturally inclined to sympathy, Lord Colambre reproached himself for not feeling as gay at this instant as the occasion required. But the festive scene, the blazing lights, the ‘universal hubbub,’ failed to raise his spirits. As a dead weight upon them hung the remembrance of Mordicai’s denunciations; and, through the midst of this Eastern magnificence, this unbounded profusion, he thought he saw future domestic misery and ruin to those he loved best in the world.
The only object present on which his eye rested with pleasure was Grace Nugent. Beautiful—in elegant and dignified simplicity—thoughtless of herself—yet with a look of thought, and with an air of melancholy, which accorded exactly with his own feelings, and which he believed to arise from the same reflections that had passed in his own mind.
‘Miss Broadhurst, Colambre! all the Broadhursts!’ said his mother, wakening him, as she passed by, to receive them as they entered. Miss Broadhurst appeared, plainly dressed—plainly, even to singularity—without any diamonds or ornament.