Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Nuttie's father online

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drawing.

Later in the day came the drive or the visit to the
public gardens when the band was playing, but this
became less frequent as ]\Ir. Egremont observed the
cold civility shown to his wife, and as he likewise
grew stronger and made more engagements of his own.
Then Nuttie had ha])py afternoons of driving, doidv'ey-
riding, or walking with her mother, sketching, botanising,
admiring, and laying up stores for the long descriptive



xviii.] A FRIEND IN NEED. 189

letters tliat delighted the party in St. Ambrose's Road,
drinking in all tlie charm of tlie scenery, and entering
into it intelligently. They spent a good many even-
ings alone together likewise, and it could not but give
Alice a pang to see the gladness her daughter did not
repress when this was the case, even thougli to herself
it meant relaxation of the perpetual vigilance she had
to exert when the father and daughter were togetlier
to avert collisions. They were certainly not coming
nearer to one another, though Nuttie was behaving
very well and submissively on the whole, and seldom
showing symptoms of rebellion. This w^ent on through
the early part of their stay, but latterly there was a
growing sense upon the girl that she and her mother
were avoided by some young ladies to whom they had
been introduced, and wdiom they saw regularly at the
daily services at St. Michael's Church. They were
pleasant -looking girls, with whom Nuttie longed to
fraternise, and she was mortified at never being allow^ed
to get beyond a few frigidly civil words in the street,
more especially when she came upon sketching parties
and picnics in which she was never included.

It was all very well for her mother to answer her
murmurs and wonderings with ' You know people are
very exclusive, my dear.' Nuttie began to guess that
her father and her name were the real reason, and her
eyes were further opened later in the sj)ring when Mr.
Egremont, who had recovered unusual health and
vigour, took his ladies to Mentone to spend a day or
two in the newer beauties there. Alice had her mis-
givings, but the visit was avowedly to show the place
to her, and she could not reasonably object. He was
in unusual good humour, and even tolerated their
ecstasies at the scenery and the flowers, dined at the



190 NUTTIE's father. [chap.

taUe dlidtc and found acquaintance, enjoyed himself,
and in tlie forenoon, while Nuttie was out wondering:
and admiring, and going as fiir as she could drag
Martin, he expressed to his wife that she would be
astonished at the gardens and the music of Monte
Carlo.

There, however, Alice made a stand. ' Thank you,
it is very kind, but if you please, I should not like to
take Ursula to Monte Carlo, or to go there myself,' she
said in an apologetic tone.

He laughed. ' What ! you are afraid of making
the little one a confirmed gambler ? '

' You know I am not, but '

' You think the little prig will be contaminated, eh V

' Well, I think it will be happier for her if she
never sees anything — of the kind.'

' You little foolish Edda, as if her eyes or ears
need see anything but flowers and music and good
company.'

' I know that, but I had so much rather not. It
was a sweet face and caressing voice that implored,
and he still was good humoured.

'Well, well, I don't want to drag you, old lady,
against your will, though I fancy you would be rather
surprised at the real aspect of the abode of iniquity
your fancy depicts.'

* Oh, thank you, thank you so much !'

' What an absurd little woman it is ! I wonder if
you would thank me as heartily supposing I cleared a
round tliousand and gave you — say a diamond neck-
lace V

* I am sure I should not !*

*No, I don't believe you would. Tliat restless
little conscience of yours would be up on end. After



XVIII.] A FRIEND IN NEED. 101

all, I don't know that you are the worse for it, wlieii
it looks so prettily out of your brown eyes. I wonder
what you expect to see ? The ruined gamester shoot-
ing himself on every path, eh V

'No, no; I don't suppose I should see anything
horrid or even disagreeable. I know it is all very
beautiful; but then every person who goes for the
innocent pleasures' sake only helps to keep up the
whole thing — evil and aU.'

' And what would the old women of all sorts here
and at Nice do without such a choice temple of scandal
to whet their teeth upon ? WeU, I suppose you and
your precious daughter can take care of yourselves.
There are the gardens, or you can tell Gregorio to
order you a carriage.'

' Then you are going ? '

' Yes, I promised Grafton. Don't be afraid, Mis-
tress Edda, I'm not going to stake Bridgefield and
reduce you to beggary. I'm an old hand, and w^as a
cool one in my worst days, and whatever I get I'll
hand over to appease you.'

That was all she could obtain, and she secretly
hoped there would be no winnings to perplex her.
Thankful that she had not made him angry by the
resistance for which she had prepared herself with
secret prayer ever since the Mentone scheme had been
proposed, she placed herself at Nuttie's disposition for
the rest of the day.

They had a charming donkey-ride, and, still un-
satiated with beauty, Ursida made her mother come
out again to wonder at the trees in the public
gardens. Eather tired, they were sitting on a
shaded bench, when a voice close to them exclaimed,
'It is ; yes, it must be ; 'tis the voice — yes, and the



192 nuttie's father. [ohap.

face prettier thau ever. Little Alice — ah ! you don't
know me. Time has been kinder to you than to me.'

* Oh ! I know you now ! I beg your pardon/ cried
Alice, recognisin*^' in the thin nutcracker parchment
visage and shablnly-dressed tigure the remnant of the
brilliant aquiUne countenance and gay attire of eighteen
years ago. * Mrs. Houghton ! I am so glad to have
met you, you were so kind to me. And here
she is.*

' Wliat ! is this the child ? Bless me, what a proof
how time goes ! Young lady, you'll excuse my not
knowing you. You were a very inconvenient person-
age not quite born when I last met your mother.
Wliat a likeness ! I could have known her for Alwyn
Egremont's daughter anywhere !'

* Yes, they all say she is a thorough Egremont.'
'Then it is all right. I saw Alwyn Egremont,

Esquire, and family among the arrivals at Xice, but I
hardly durst expect that it was you. It seemed too
good to be true, though I took care the knot should be
tied faster than my gentleman suspected.'

'Oh, please!' cried Alice deprecatingly, at first
not apprehending the force of the words, having never
known the gulf from which Mrs. Houghton had saved
her, and that lady, seeing that the girl was listening
with all her ears, thought of little pitchers and re-
strained her reminiscences, asking with real warm
interest, ' And how was it ? How did you meet him
again V

' He came and found me out,' said Alice, with satis-
faction in her voice.

'Indeed! Not at Dieppe; for he was oi gari^on
when I nearly came across him ten years ago at
Florence.'



XVIII.] A FIJIENI) IX NKKI). 103

* Oh no ! He iii(|uire(l at Dieppe, but tliey luid
lost the ad(h'es.s my aunt left/

* Indeed ! I should not have tliouglit it of old
Madame Leroux, she seemed so thorougldy interested in
la 2Janvre pcHtc. What did you do ? Your aunt
wrote to me wlien your troubles were safely over, and
slie tliought him lost in the poor Ninon, that she
meant to settle in a place with an awfully long York-
shire name.'

' Micklethwayte ; yes, we lived there, and got on
very well. AYe liad boarders, and I had some dear
little pupils; but last year Mark Egremont — you
remember dear little Mark — was in the neiglibourhood,
and hearing my name, he told his uncle, who had been
seeking us ever since. And he came, Mr. Egremont,
and took us home, and oh, the family have been so
kind !'

' What ? The parson, and that awful old she-lion
of a grandmother, whose very name scared you out of
your wits V

' She is dead, and so is dear good Lady Adelaide.
Canon Egremont is kindness itself. It was all the old
lady's doing, and he knew nothing about it. He was
gone to Madeira with Lady Adelaide and got none of
our letters, and he never knew that his brother was
married to me.'

'Trust Alwyn for that,' Mrs. Hougliton muttered.
'Well, all's well that ends well, and I hope he feels
due gratitude to me for doing him a good turn against
his will. I tried to get at him at Elorence to find out
what he had done with you, but unluckily I was ill,
and had to send through poor Houghton, and he mis-
managed it of course, though I actually wrote down
that, barbarous address, Mickle something, on a card.





10-i NUTTIE'S FATHKK. [cHAi'.

I believe he only got as far as the mail instead of the
master.'

' Ah ! I wanted to ask for Captain Houghton,' said
Alice, glad to lead tlie conversation away from revela-
tions of which slie liad an instinctive dread.

* Clone, my dear ! two years ago. Poor fellow ! it
was low fever, but (juitu as iiiucli want of luck, I shall
always believe,' she said.

'Oil, I am sorry! He was so kind to me!' said
Alice, squeezing her liand, and looking up witli sweet
tender commiseration.

' There, there, don't, you pretty creature ! ' said Mrs.
Houghton, putting her ]iand across lier eyes. * I
declare, you've almost made me cry — which I've not
done — well, hardly, since I parted with you at J )ieppe,
thinking you a sweet little flower plucked and tlirown
away to die, though I had done my best to bind it to
him. What care I took not to let Houghton disabuse
him about Jersey marriages ! '

Tliere is a difference between hearing and hearken-
ing, and Alice Egremont's loving and unsuspecting
heart was so entirely closed against evil thouglits of
her husband, and so fully occupied with her old
friend's condition, that she never took in the signi-
fication of all tliis, while Nuttie, being essentially of a
far more shrewd and less confiding nature, and already
imbued with extreme distrust of her father, was taking
in all tliese revelations witli an ()i)en-eyed, silent hon*or
of conviction tliat her old impressions of the likeness
to j\larmion or Tlieseus liad been ]>erieetly correet.
It Avas all under her hat, liowever, and {]\o ehler ladies
never thought of her, Alice liringing back the con-
versation to ]\rrs. Houghton herself 'Oh, my dear, I
drag on as I can. I've got a fragment of our old



XVIII.] A FRIEND IX NEED. 195

income, and wlien that's run too low, I


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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 13 of 28)