Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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approaching to such a standard ; wdiile Nuttie absol-
utely cultivated her home sickness.

According to promise Blanche wrote to lior from
Monks Horton, and told lier thus much — ' We have
been all over your umbrella place. It was very
curious. Then we called upon Miss Headwortli, who
was quite well, and was pleased to hear of you.'

Blanche wius famous for never putting into a letter



XVI.] INFKA DIG. 173

what her correspondent wanted to hear, l)ut her step-
mother wrote a much longer and more interesting
letter to Mrs. Egremont.

' You will be glad to hear that we found your aunt
quite well. I suppose it is not in the nature of things
that you should not be missed ; but I should think
your place as well supplied as could be hoped by that
very handsome and superior Miss Nugent, with whom
she lives. I had a good deal of conversation with
both ; for you will be surprised to hear that the Canon
has consented to Mark's making the experiment of
working for a year in Greenleaf and Button's office,
with a view to entering the firm in future. I was
very anxious to understand from such true ladies what
the position would be socially. I longed to talk it
over with you beforehand; but Alwyn could never
spare you, and it was not a subject to be broached
without ample time for discussion. We felt that
though the Kirkaldys -could tell us much, it was only
from the outside, whereas Miss Headworth could speak
from within. The decision is of course a blow to his
father, and will be still more so to the De Lyonnais
family, but they have never done anything to entitle
them to have a voice in the matter, and the Kirkaldys
agree with us that, though not a path of distinction,
it is one of honourable^ prosperity ; and with this, if
Mark is content, we have no right to object, since
his mind is set on present happiness rather than
ambition.'

It was a letter gratifying to Alice in its con-
fidential tone, as well as in the evident approval of
those surroundings which she loved so well. She read
it to her husband, as she was desired to give him a
message that the Canon had not written out of con-



174 NUTTIE's FATIIEK. [chap.

sideration for liis eyes. He laughed the laugh that
always jarred on her. ' So Master ]Mark has got his
nose to the grindstone, has he ? ' was his first ex-
clamation, and, after some cogitation, * The fellow wants
to be married, depend on it ! *

'Do you think so?' returned Alice wistfully.

* Think ! Wliy, you may see it in Jane's letter !
I wonder who it is ! The little yeUow Paitliven
girl, most likely ! The boy is fool enough for anything !
I thought he would have mended his fortunes with
Ursula, but he's too proud to stomach that, I
suppose 1'

'I did wish that 1' said Alice. ' It would have set
everything straight, and it would have been so nice
fur her.'

' You should have cut out your daughter after your
o^vn pattern,' he answered ; ' not let her be such a
raw insignificant little spitfire. 'Tis a pity. I don't
want the estate to go out of the name, though I won't
leave it to an interfering prig like Mark unless he
chooses to take my daughter witli it !'

Tlie latter part of this amiable speech was muttered
and scarcely heard or attended to by Alice in her
struggle to conceal the grief she felt at the uncompro-
mising opinion of her child. Nuttie might outgrow
being raw, but there seemed less rather than more
prospect of a better understanding with her father.
About a week later Mark made his appearance, timing
it happily when his uncle was making his toilette,
so that his aunt was taking a turn on tlie sunny
terrace with Nuttie when the young man came hurry-
ing up the garden.

* Mark ! Wliat ? Are you come home V

' Not the others. They are at ]\Ir. Condamine's.



XVI.] INFllA Dirj. 175

I came last night — by way of Lescombe. Edda, dear,
it is all right ! Oh, I forgot you did not know !
There was no seeing you before we went away. Ah !
by the by, how is my uncle V

'Much better, except that using his eyes brings
on the pain. What is it, Mark ? Ah ! I can guess,'
she said, aided no doubt by that conjecture of her
husband's.

'Yes, yes, yes !' he answered, with a rapidity quite
unUke himself. 'Why, Nuttie, how mystified you
look !'

' I'm sure I don't wonder at any one being glad to
live at dear old Micklethwayte,' said Nuttie slowly.
' But, somehow, I didn't think it of you, Mark.'

' My dear, that's not all ! ' said her mother.

'Oh!' cried Nuttie, with a prolonged intonation.
' Is it ? — Oh, Mark ! did you do it that night when
you led the horse home ?'

' Even so, Nuttie ! And, Aunt Alice, Lady Eonnis-
olen is the best and bravest of old ladies, and the
wisest. Nobody objects but Lady Delmar, and she
declares she shall not consider it an engagement till
Eonnisglen has been written to in Nepaul, as if he
had anything to do with it ; but that matters the less,
since they all insist on our waiting till I've had a
year's trial at the office ! I suppose they could not
be expected to do otherwise, but it is a pity, for I'm
afraid Lady Delmar will lead Annaple and her mother
a life of it.'

' Dear Mark, I am delighted that it is all going so
well.'

' I knew you would be 1 I told them I must tell
yoio, though it is not to go any farther.'

So that hope of Mark's restoration to the inherit-



176 NUTTIE'S FATIIEK. [chap. XVI.

ance faded from Alice, and yet she could not be
concerned for liim. She had never seen him in such
good spirits, for the sense of failure and disappoint-
ment had always been upon liim ; and the definite
prospect of occupation, gilded by his hopes of Annaple,
seemed to make a new man of him.



CHAPTEE XVII.

AN OLD FRIEND.
'My heart untravcUed still returns to thee.'— Goldsmith.

To go abroad ! Such had been the fairy castle of
Nuttie's life. She had dreamed of Swiss mountains,
Italian pictures, Eheinland castles, a perpetual pano-
rama of delight, and here she was in one of the great
hotels of Paris, as little likely to see the lions of that
city as she had been to see those of London.

The party were halting for two days there because
the dentist, on whom Mr. Egremont's fine show of
teeth depended, practised there; but Nuttie spent
great part of the day alone in the sitting-room, and her
hand-bag and her mother's, with all their books and
little comforts, had been lost in the agony of landing.
Her mother's attendance was required all the morning,
or what was worse, she expected that it would be, and
though Nuttie's persistence dragged out the staid, silent
English maid, who had never been abroad before, to
walk in the Tuilleries gardens, which they could see
from their windows, both felt half-scared the whole
time. Nuttie was quite unused to finding her own
way unprotected, and Martin was frightened, cross, and

N



178 NUTTIE'S father. [chap.

miserable about tlie bags, which, she averred, had been
left by Gregorio's fault. She so hated Gregorio that only
a sort of adoration which she entertained for Mrs. Egre-
mont would liave induced her to come Utc-d-Utc with
him, and perhaps he Avas visiting his disappointment
about Mentone on her. In the afternoon nothing was
achieved but a drive in the Bois de Boulogne, when it
was at once made evident that ]\Ir. Egremont would
tolerate no questions nor exclamations.

His mouth was in no condition for eating in public,
and he therefore decreed that his wife and daugliter
should dine at the tcible cVhotc, while he was served
alone by Gregorio. This was a great boon to Nuttie,
and to her mother it recalled bridal days long past at
Dieppe ; but what was their astonishment wdien on
entering the room they beheld the familiar face of Mr.
Button ! It was possible for him to place himself
between them, and there is no describing the sense of
rest and protection his presence imparted to them, more
especially to Nuttie.

He had come over, as he did from time to time,
on business connected with the materials he used, and
he was beguiled into telling them of his views of ]\Iark,
whom he had put in the w^ay of learning the prelimin-
aries needful to an accountant. He had a deep
distrust of the business capacities and perseverance of
young gentlemen of family, especially wdth a countess-
aunt in the neighbourhood, and quoted Lord Eldon's
saying that to make a good lawyer of one, it was need-
ful for him to have spent both his own and his wife's
fortune to be«'in with, but he allowed that youn«r ]\Ir.
Egremont was a very favourable specimen, and was
resolutely ai)plying liimself to his work, and that he him-
self felt it due tu him to give all the assistance possible.



XVII.] AN OLD FRIEND. 179

Miss Headworth, he could not deny, had aged, hut
far less than Mrs. Nugent in the past year, and it really
was a great comfort to Miss Mary to have the old ladies
together. He told too how the mission, now lately
over, had stirred the Micklethwayte folk into strong
excitement, and how good works had been undertaken,
evil habits renounced, reconciliations effected, religious
services frequented. Would it last? Nobody, he
said, had taken it up so zealously as Gerard Godfrey,
who seemed as if he would fain throw everything
up, and spend his whole life in some direct service as
a home missionary or something of the kind. ' He is
a good fellow,' said Mr. Button, 'and it is quite
genuine, but I made him wait at least a year, that he
may be sure that this is not only a passing impulse.'

Nuttie thought that she knew what was the im-
pulse that had actuated him, and felt a pleasant elation
and self-consciousness even while she repressed a sigh
of pity for herself and for him. Altogether the dip
into the Micklethwayte world was delightful, but when
Mr. Button began to ask Nuttie what she had seen,
she burst out with, ' Nothing — nothing but just a walk
and a drive in the Bois de Boulogne;' and her mother
explained that ' in Mr. Egremont's state of health,' etc.

'I wonder,' asked Mr. Dutton, 'if I might be
allowed '

Nuttie's eyes sparkled with ecstasy.

It ended in her mother, who had been wondering
how Mr. Egremont could be amused all the long even-
ing, arranging that Mr. Dutton should come in an
hour's time to call on him, on the chance of being
admitted, and that then the offer might be made when
she had prepared him for it, advising Nuttie to wait in
her own room. She was beginning to learn how to



ISO NUTTIE'S father. [cuap.

steer between lier liiisljand and her daughter, and she
did not guess that her old friend was sacrificing one of
the best French plays for the chance.

It turned out well ; Mr. Egremont was conscious of
a want of variety. He demanded whether it was the
young fellow, and being satisfied on that part, observed
in almost a good-humoured tone, * So, we are in for
umbrellas, we may as well go in for tlie whole firm ! '
caused the lights to be lowered under pretext of
his eyes — to conceal the lack of teeth — did not
absolutely refuse to let Nuttie take advantage of the
escort, and when Mr. Dutton did come to the ante-
room of the apartment, he w^as received with full
courtesy, though Gregorio looked unutterable contempt.
Mr. Dutton w^as a man who could talk, and had seen
a good deal of the world at different times. Mr.
Egremont could appreciate intelligent conversation,
so that they got on wonderfully well together, over
subjects that would have been a mere weariness to
Nuttie but for the exceeding satisfaction of hearing
a Micklethwayte voice. At last Mr. Dutton said some-
thing about offering his escort to the ladies, or to Miss
Egremont, who used, he said in a paternal way, to be
a little playfellow of his ; Mr. Egremont really smiled,
and said, ' Ay, ay, the child is young enough to run
after sights. Well, thank you, if you are so good as
to take the trouble, they will be very grateful to you,
or if her mother cannot go with her, there's the
maid.'

Nuttie thought she had never known him so
amialjle, and hardly durst believe her good fortune
would not turn tlie wheel before morning. And it so
far did that her mother found, or thought she found,
that it would not do to be out of call, and sent the



XVII.] AN OLD FKIENI). ISl

silent Martin in her stead. But Mr. Button liad set
telegraphs to work and recovered the bags, which
Gregorio had professed to give up in despair.

A wonderful amount of lionising was contrived by
Mr. Button, who had lived a few years at Paris in
early youth, and had made himself acquainted alike
with what was most worth seeing, and the best ways
and means of seeing it, so that as little time as pos-
sible was wasted on the unimportant. It was one of
the white days of Nuttie's life, wanting nothing but
her mother's participation in the sight of the St.
Michael of the Louvre, of the Sainte Chapelle, of the
vistas in Notre Bame, and of poor Marie Antoinette's
cell, — all that they had longed to see together.

She had meant to tell Mr. Button that it was all
lier father's selfishness, but somehow she could not say
so, there was something about him that hindered all
unbefitting outbreaks of vexation.

And thus, when she mentioned her disappointment
at not being allowed to go to Micklethwayte with her
uncle, he answered, ' You could not of course be spared
with your father so unwell.'

' Oh, he never let me come near him ! I wasn't
of the slightest use to him !'

* Mrs. Egremont would have missed you.'

'Eeally he never gave her time. He perfectly
devours her, body and soul. Oh dear, no ! 'Twas for
no good I was kept there, but just pride and ingrati-
tude, though mother tried to call it being afraid for
my manners and my style.'

' In which, if you lapse into such talk, you fully
justify the precaution. I was just thinking what a
young lady you liad grown into,' he answered in a
tone of banter, under which, however, she felt a



182 NUTTIE'S father. [cuai-.

rebuke ; and while directinj^^ her attention to the
PantliL'Oii, lie tuok care to get within liearing again of
]\Iartin.

And in looking at these things, lie carried her so
far below the surface. St. ]\Iichael was not so mucli
Eaffaelle's triumph of art as the eternal victory over
sin ; the Sainte Chapelle, spite of all its modern un-
sanctified gaudiness, was redolent of St. Louis ; and the
cell of the slaughtered queen w\as as a martyr's shrine,
trod with reverence. There were associations with
every turn, and Nuttie might have spent years at
Paris with another companion without imbibing so
many impressions as on tliis December day, when she
came home so full of happy chatter that the guests at
the taUc dlwte glanced with amusement at the eager
girl as much as with admiration at the beautiful
mother. Mr. Button had been invited to come and
take coffee and spend the evening with them again,
but ]\Ir. Egremont's affairs with the dentist had been
completed, and he had pifcked up, or, more strictly
speaking, Gregorio had hunted up for him, a couple of
French acquaintances, who appeared before long and
engrossed him entirely.

]\Ir. Dutton sat betw^een the two ladies on a stiff
dark-green sofa on the opposite side of the room, and
under cover of the eager, half-shrieking, gesticulating
talk of the Frenchmen they had a quiet low -toned
conversation, like old times, Alice said. ' More than
old times,' Nuttie added, and perlia])s tlie others both
agreed wath her.

When the two Englishwomen started at some of
the loud French tones, almost imagining they were full
of rage and fury, their friend smiled and said that such
had been his first notion on coming abroad.



XVII.] AN OLD FWEND. l.S?>

' You have been a great deal abroad ? ' Mrs. Egre-
mont asked ; ' you seem quite at home in Paris.'

' Oh, manmia, he showed me where the school was
that lie went to, and the house where he lived ! Up
such an inmiense way ! '

Mr. Dutton was drawn on to tell more of his former
life than ever had been known to them. His father,
a wine merchant, had died a bankrupt when he was ten
years old, and a relation, engaged in the same business
at Paris, had offered to give him a few years of foreign
schooling, and then make him useful in the business.

His excellent mother had come with him, and they
had lived together on very small means, high up in a
many-storied lodging-house, while he daily attended the
Lych'. His reminiscences were very happy of those
days of cheerful contrivance, of her eager desire to
make the tiny a]jpaTtement a home to her boy, of their
pleasant Sundays and holidays, and the life that in
this manner was peculiarly guarded by her influence,
and the sense of being all she had upon earth. He
had scarcely ever spoken of her before, and he dwelt
on her now with a tenderness that showed how she had
been the guiding spirit of his life.

At fifteen he was taken into the office at Marseilles,
and she went thither with him, but the climate did
not agree with her; she drooped, and, moreover, he
discovered that the business was not conducted in the
honourable manner he had supposed. After a few
months o^ weighing his obligations to his kinsman
against these instincts, the question was solved by his
cousin's retiring. He resolved to take his mother back
to England at any loss, and falling in with one of the
partners of the umbrella firm in quest of French silk, he
was engaged as foreign correspondent, and brought his



184 NUTTIE'S father. [chap.

mother to ^Micklethwayte, but not in time to restore
lier liealth, and he had been left alone in the world
just as he came of a


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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 12 of 28)