Lord Colambre had waited with great impatience for an answer to the letter of inquiry which he had written about Miss Nugent’s mother. A letter from Lady Clonbrony arrived; he opened it with the greatest eagerness—passed over ’Rheumatism warm weather—warm bath—Buxton balls—Miss Broadhurst—your friend, Sir Arthur Berryl, very assiduous!’ The name of Grace Nugent he found at last, and read as follows:
Her mother’s maiden name was st. Omar; and there was a Faux pas, certainly. She was, I am told (for it was before my time), educated at a convent abroad; and there was an affair with a Captain Reynolds, a young officer, which her friends were obliged to hush up. She brought an infant to England with her, and took the name of Reynolds—but none of that family would acknowledge her; and she lived in great obscurity, till your uncle Nugent saw, fell in love with her, and (knowing her whole history) married her. He adopted the child, gave her his name, and, after some years, the whole story was forgotten. Nothing could be more disadvantageous to Grace than to have it revived: this is the reason we kept it secret.
Lord Colambre tore the letter to bits.
From the perturbation which Lady Dashfort saw in his countenance, she guessed the nature of the letter which he had been reading, and for the arrival of which he had been so impatient.
‘It has worked!’ said she to herself. ’Pour le Coup Philippe JE Te TIENS!’
Lord Colambre appeared this day more sensible, than he had ever yet seemed, to the charms of the fair Isabel.
‘Many a tennis-ball, and many a heart is caught at the rebound,’ said Lady Dashfort. ‘Isabel! now is your time!’
And so it was—or so, perhaps, it would have been, but for a circumstance which her ladyship, with all her genius for intrigue, had never taken into her consideration. Count O’Halloran came to return the visit which had been paid to him; and, in the course of conversation, he spoke of the officers who had been introduced to him, and told Lady Dashfort that he had heard a report which shocked him much—he hoped it could not be true—that one of these officers had introduced his mistress as his wife to Lady Oranmore, who lived in the neighbourhood. This officer, it was said, had let Lady Oranmore send her carriage for this woman; and that she had dined at Oranmore with her ladyship and her daughters. [Fact.] ’But I cannot believe it! I cannot believe it to be possible, that any gentleman, that any officer, could do such a thing!’ said the count.
‘And is this all?’ exclaimed Lady Dashfort. ’Is this all the terrible affair, my good count, which has brought your face to this prodigious length?’
The count looked at Lady Dashfort with astonishment.