‘Oh mamma!’ cried Lady Isabel, ‘not one exception?’
‘Not one, Isabel,’ persisted Lady Dashfort; ’there was Lady —, and the other sister, that married the man with the long nose; and the daughter again, of whom they contrived to make an honest woman, by getting her married in time to a blue-ribband, and who contrived to get herself into Doctors’ Commons the very next year.’
‘Well, dear mamma, that is enough, and too much. Oh! pray don’t go on,’ cried Lady Isabel, who had appeared very much distressed during her mother’s speech. ’You don’t know what you are saying; indeed, ma’am, you don’t.’
’Very likely, child; but that compliment I can return to you on the spot, and with interest; for you seem to me, at this instant, not to know either what you are saying or what you are doing. Come, come, explain.’
‘Oh no, ma’am—Pray say so no more; I will explain myself another time.’
’Nay, there you are wrong, Isabel; in point of good-breeding, anything is better than hints and mystery. Since I have been so unlucky as to touch upon the subject, better go through with it, and, with all the boldness of innocence ask the question, Are you, my Lord Colambre, or are you not, related or connected with any of the St. Omars?’
‘Not that I know of,’ said Lord Colambre; ’but I really am so bad a genealogist, that I cannot answer positively.’
’Then I must put the substance of my question into a new form. Have you, or have you not, a cousin of the name of Nugent?’
‘Miss Nugent!—Grace Nugent!—Yes,’ said Lord Colambre, with as much firmness of voice as he could command, and with as little change of countenance as possible; but, as the question came upon him so unexpectedly, it was not in his power to answer with an air of absolute indifference and composure.
‘And her mother was—’ said Lady Dashfort.
’My aunt, by marriage; her maiden name was Reynolds, I think. But she died when I was quite a child. I know very little about her. I never saw her in my life; but I am certain she was a Reynolds.’
‘Oh, my dear lord,’ continued Lady Dashfort; ’I am perfectly aware that she did take and bear the name of Reynolds; but that was not her maiden name—her maiden name was; but perhaps it is a family secret that has been kept, for some good reason from you, and from the poor girl herself; the maiden name was St. Omar, depend upon it. Nay, I would not have told this to you, my lord, if I could have conceived that it would affect you so violently,’ pursued Lady Dashfort, in a tone of raillery; ’you see you are no worse off than we are. We have an intermarriage with the St. Omars. I did not think you would be so much shocked at a discovery, which proves that our family and yours have some little connexion.’