’You would not persuade me that yonder gentle-looking could ever be a match for the veteran Mrs. Dareville? She may have the wit, but has she the courage?’
’Yes; no one has more courage, more civil courage, where her own dignity, or the interests of her friends are concerned. I will tell you an instance or two to-morrow.’
‘To-morrow!—To-night!—tell it me now.’
‘Not a safe place.’
’The safest in the world, in such a crowd as this. Follow my example. Take a glass of orgeat—sip from time to time, thus—speak low, looking innocent all the while straight forward, or now and then up at the lamps—keep on in an even tone—use no names—and you may tell anything.’
‘Well, then, when Miss Nugent first came to London, Lady Langdale—’
‘Two names already—did not I warn ye?’
‘But how can I make myself intelligible?’
’Initials—can’t you use—or genealogy? What stops you?
’It is only Lord Colambre, a very safe person, I have a notion, when the eulogium is of Grace Nugent.’
Lord Colambre, who had now performed his arduous duties as a dancer, and had disembarrassed himself of all his partners, came into the Turkish tent just at this moment to refresh himself, and just in time to hear Mr. Salisbury’s anecdotes.
‘Now go on.’
’Lady Langdale, you know, sets an inordinate value upon her curtsies in public, and she used to treat Miss Nugent, as her ladyship treats many other people, sometimes noticing, and sometimes pretending not to know her, according to the company she happened to be with. One day they met in some fine company—Lady Langdale looked as if she was afraid of committing herself by a curtsy. Miss Nugent waited for a good opportunity; and, when all the world was silent, leant forward, and called to Lady Langdale, as if she had something to communicate of the greatest consequence, skreening her whisper with her hand, as in an aside on the stage,—’Lady Langdale, you may curtsy to me now—nobody is looking.’
‘The retort courteous!’ said Lord Colambre—’the only retort for a woman.’
’And her ladyship deserved it so well. But Mrs. Dareville, what happened about her?’
’Mrs. Dareville, you remember, some years ago, went to Ireland with some lady-lieutenant to whom she was related. There she was most hospitably received by Lord and Lady Clonbrony—went to their country house—was as intimate with Lady Clonbrony and with Miss Nugent as possible—stayed at Clonbrony Castle for a month; and yet, when Lady Clonbrony came to London, never took the least notice of her. At last, meeting at the house of a common friend, Mrs. Dareville could not avoid recognising her ladyship; but, even then, did it in the least civil manner and most cursory style possible. ’Ho! Lady Clonbrony!—didn’t know you were in England!—When did you come?—How long shall you stay in town!—Hope, before you leave England, your Ladyship and Miss Nugent will give us a day?’ A day!—Lady Clonbrony was so astonished by this impudence of ingratitude, that she hesitated how to take it; but Miss Nugent, quite coolly, and with a smile, answered, ’A day!—certainly—to you, who gave us a month!’