All this evil had arisen from Lady Berryl’s passion for living in London and at watering-places. She had made her husband an absentee—an absentee from his home, his affairs, his duties, and his estate. The sea, the Irish Channel, did not, indeed, flow between him and his estate; but it was of little importance whether the separation was effected by land or water—the consequences, the negligence, the extravagance, were the same.
Of the few people of his age who are capable of profiting by the experience of others, Lord Colambre was one. ‘Experience,’ as an elegant writer has observed, ’is an article that may be borrowed with safety, and is often dearly bought.’
In the meantime, Lady Clonbrony had been occupied with thoughts very different from those which passed in the mind of her son. Though she had never completely recovered from her rheumatic pains, she had become inordinately impatient of confinement to her own house, and weary of those dull evenings at home, which had, in her son’s absence, become insupportable. She told over her visiting tickets regularly twice a day, and gave to every card of invitation a heartfelt sigh. Miss Pratt alarmed her ladyship, by bringing intelligence of some parties given by persons of consequence, to which she was not invited. She feared that she should be forgotten in the world, well knowing how soon the world forgets those they do not see every day and everywhere. How miserable is the fine lady’s lot who cannot forget the world, and who is forgot by the world in a moment! How much more miserable still is the condition of a would-be fine lady, working her way up in the world with care and pains! By her, every the slightest failure of attention, from persons of rank and fashion, is marked and felt with jealous anxiety, and with a sense of mortification the most acute—an invitation omitted is a matter of the most serious consequence, not only as it regards the present, but the future; for if she be not invited by Lady A, it will lower her in the eyes of Lady B, and of all the ladies of the alphabet. It will form a precedent of the most dangerous and inevitable application. If she has nine invitations, and the tenth be wanting, the nine have no power to make her happy. This was precisely Lady Clonbrony’s case—there was to be a party at Lady St. James’s, for which Lady Clonbrony had no card.
’So ungrateful, so monstrous, of Lady St. James!—What! was the gala so soon forgotten, and all the marked attentions paid that night to Lady St. James!—attentions, you know, Pratt, which were looked upon with a jealous eye, and made me enemies enough, I am told, in another quarter! Of all people, I did not expect to be slighted by Lady St. James!’
Miss Pratt, who was ever ready to undertake the defence of any person who had a title, pleaded, in mitigation of censure, that perhaps Lady St. James might not be aware that her ladyship was yet well enough to venture out.