’Admirable! Now comprehend perfectly why Mrs. Dareville declines insulting Miss Nugent’s friends in her presence.’
Lord Colambre said nothing, but thought much. ‘How I wish my mother,’ thought he, ’had some of Grace Nugent’s proper pride! She would not then waste her fortune, spirits, health, and life, in courting such people as these.’
He had not seen—he could not have borne to have beheld—the manner in which his mother had been treated by some of her guests; but he observed that she now looked harassed and vexed; and he was provoked and mortified by hearing her begging and beseeching some of these saucy leaders of the ton to oblige her, to do her the favour, to do her the honour, to stay to supper. It was just ready—actually announced. ’No, they would not—they could not; they were obliged to run away—engaged to the Duchess of Torcaster.’
‘Lord Colambre, what is the matter?’ said Miss Nugent, going up to him, as he stood aloof and indignant: ’Don’t look so like a chafed lion; others may perhaps read your countenance as well as I do.’
‘None can read my mind so well,’ replied he. ‘Oh, my dear Grace!’
‘Supper!—supper!’ cried she; ’your duty to your neighbour, your hand to your partner.’
Lady Catharine, as they went downstairs to supper, observed that Miss Nugent had not been dancing, that she had kept quite in the background all night-quite in the shade.
‘Those,’ said Lord Colambre, ’who are contented in the ’shade are the best able to bear the light; and I am not surprised that one so interesting in the background should not desire to be the foremost figure in a piece.’
The supper room, fitted up at great expense, with scenery to imitate Vauxhall, opened into a superb greenhouse, lighted with coloured lamps, a band of music at a distance—every delicacy, every luxury that could gratify the senses, appeared in profusion. The company ate and drank—enjoyed themselves—went away—and laughed at their hostess. Some, indeed, who thought they had been neglected, were in too bad humour to laugh, but abused her in sober earnest; for Lady Clonbrony had offended half, nay, three-quarters of her guests, by what they termed her exclusive attention to those very leaders of the ton, from whom she had suffered so much, and who had made it obvious to all that they thought they did her too much honour in appearing at her gala. So ended the gala for which she had lavished such sums; for which she had laboured so indefatigably; and from which she had expected such triumph.
‘Colambre, bid the musicians stop; they are playing to empty benches,’ said Lady Clonbrony. ’Grace, my dear, will you see that these lamps are safely put out? I am so tired, so worn out, I must go to bed; and I am sure I have caught cold too! What a nervous business it is to manage these things! I wonder how one gets through it, or why one does it!’