Not only were the gentry to be entertained, but the tenants were to have a dance as well—the usual Christmas dance, greatly magnified. So all classes were pleased, all looked forward with eagerness to the arrival of the Marquess, which was to be the signal for the commencement of the gaieties.
The secret was well kept. None knew of the engagement except the Worthivales, and their lips were sealed. The Duke and Lord Ronald confided nothing to their acquaintances, and yet it was clear to all that something of importance had occasioned this divergence from the routine of retirement. The servants suspected it, and were eager to make Court Royal as splendid and hospitable as it should be. They spared themselves no pains, and they invited all their friends and friends’ most distant acquaintances to partake of the profusion.
The Rigsbys would arrive a few days after the Marquess, from Plymouth, where they had taken a house for the winter. Mr. Rigsby thought Torquay too relaxing, yet the proximity to the sea advisable for his daughter.
Lord and Lady Pomeroy and their daughter, the Earl of Stratton and the Ladies Evelyn and Augusta Burrington, Lord and Lady Dawlish, Sir Henry Hillersdon of Membland and his party, were expected to stay in the Court over the ball. The house was so large, it could contain a regiment. New liveries were ordered for the servants. The paper-hangers, the painters of Kingsbridge were occupied in redecorating several of the rooms. Supplies of every sort were ordered from local grocers, wine-merchants, butchers, fishmongers. The Duke patronised local tradesmen. He disliked co-operative stores. He would rather pay than break a tradition. The carriages were re-lined, new carriages and additional horses purchased. The only person who did not seem to share in the general excitement was Lady Grace. She moved about the house with her usual composure, looked after the flowers, saw that everyone had a sweet and well-assorted bouquet in his room, had a kind word for the servants whom she passed or came on engaged on dusting and polishing, and was interested in the work of the tradesmen, watched them and asked them questions. There was not a person who came within the circle of her influence, and that was everyone to whom she spoke, who would not have sprung into the fire had she desired it.
She was glad that at last her brother was engaged. She had been his close companion for some years, and she felt an ache in her heart that they were now to be parted, but she had