Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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and putting into her hands a sum of money which
could be sincerely called 'only a debt of gratitude
from my husband and me,' and which would smooth
the way either to remaining or returning to England.

Nor was there any return. Ere many weeks had
passed Mrs. Egremont heard from Miss Eeade how
a fresh cold had made it impossible to move, and
summer heat had brought on low fever, which had
destroyed the feeble strength, but not till ' childhood's
star ' had again arisen, and a deeply and truly repent-
ant woman had passed away, saved, as it seemed,
through that one effort on behalf of the young girl
whose innocence she had protected.


'"With ono Mark shadow at her feet.' — Tf.xxyson.

The rel)ufrs that society liad bestowed on his Avife and
daugliter at Nice had rendered Mr. Egreniont tlie more
determined on producing them in London and estab-
lisliing their position. He secured a furnished house
in Westburnia before leaving Xice, and, travelling
leisurely home without visiting Bridgefield, he took
possession tlie second week in May.

There liad not been much correspondence with tlie
Kectory, and on tlie first forenoon, as Mrs. Egremont
and Xuttie were trying to enliven the drawing-room
witii the flowere sent up to meet them, they were
surprised by tlie entrance of Blanche, full of kisses
and welcomes.

' Oh ! didn't you know ? I'm with the Xirkaldys
just round the corner. Aunt Margaret has undertaken
to do the })art of a noble aunt by me.'

* Then you are here for the season ? And ^lay ? '

'May wouldn't come, except just for a week to
see the pictures, and lay in a stock of talk. She's
grown more parochial than ever, and we believe it is
all Hugh Condamine. (.)h ! I forgot you were gone



before we came lioiue last autumn. lie is inaniina's
nephew, you know, and was ordained last year to the
curacy of the next parish to his father's place. If the
Edwardses only would take themselves off, we would
have him at home, and then we sliould have flowers
on the altar, and all sorts of jolly things. Papa would
stand ever so much more from him than from the old

' But is he engaged to May, then ? '

* Well, no, not exactly. I believe he does not think
it right till he has done preparing for priest's orders.
He's ever so strict, you know, and he hasn't got much
either ; but he means it. Lucy, his sister, you know,
told me all about it, and that altogether the elders had
settled it was better for both that he should attend to
his preparation, and May should not bind herself,
though they really imderstand one another, and so
she won't come to London.'

' Oh, that's very good of her ! ' cried Nuttie ; ' but
why won't they let them settle their minds and be
engaged ? '

* People are always tiresome,' said Blanche ; * and
I do believe the living is at the bottom of it, at least
Lucy thought so. I mean everybody wants to wait —
all the old ones, I mean — not Hugh or ]\Lay, of course
— to know whether Mark w^ill stick to the umbrellas,
or turn back and be a clergyman, because, then, of
course, he would have the living ; and if he doesn't,
they want to be certain whether L^ncle Alwyn, or you,
Puttie, would promise it to Hugh if he married May !'

' Me !' exclaimed Nuttie.

* My dear, I don't like to hear you talk of such
things,' said Mrs. Egremont gently.

* Oh yes, I know — it's all very dreadful. I was

206 XUTTIE's father. [chap.

only telling yon ^vhat is in the old people's heads,
and wliat wonld settle it, and ]nake it all right with

' And how is j\fark ? Is Miss Ruthven in London ?'
asked ]\Irs. Egreniont, glad to turn away the conversa-
tion from tlie contingencies of which Blanche spoke
with the hardness of yonth, as yet not realising sorrow.

' I daresay yon know nearly as much of Mark
as we do, now the Kirkaldys are np here. All his
letters go to Lescombe. Oh no, Annaple is not in
London. The Dehnars can't afford it, you know,
though I believe my lady would have made a stretch
if Annaple hadn't been bespoke — but now slie re-
serves lierself for Muriel.'

Alice looked witli some discomfort at the soft ftiir-
haired creature who was uttering all tliis worldly
jargon in a tone that would have been ili])pant if it
had not been so childish. She asked if Lord Ifonnis-
glen had written.

' Oh yes, long ago. Lady Delmar had tried to
make him nasty about it, but he wouldn't l>e, so that's
all right ; and Mark seems to get on very well, tliough
it must be horridly dull for him now the Kirkaldys
are away, and he can't sj^end all his Sundays at
Monks Horton.*

' He will get more into the spirit of tlie place,' said
Nuttie, whereat lUanclie shrugged her shoulders a
little, and exclaimed :

'You've got out uf it at any rate, Xuttie !'

' I liope not !'

' Well, then, the look of it ! I never saw any one
so improved! Isn't slie. Aunt Alice ? Slie's grown, I
d(!clare ! Yes ' — measuring lierself against her cousin
— ' I was a leetle bit taller when vou came, and nuw

XIX.] THE VOliTKX. 207

you've got above me ! and Avliat a duck of a way
of doing your liair ! You must show me ! I must
tell May there's no fear of your being taken for one
another now ; Aunt Margaret will be quite surprised.'

It Avas true that Ursula had developed a good deal
during tlie last year, and, under the experienced hands
of Martin, liad lost her schoolgirl air, and turned into
a young lady capable of becoming the Paris outfit
wdiich her father had enjoined. Without positive
beauty, she was a pleasing, intelligent, animated girl,
with the reputation of being an heiress, with a romance
in the background, and there was nothing to prevent
her from being a success. The family connections,
with Lady Kirkaldy to set the example, had deter-
mined on giving full support to Mrs. Egremont, and,
as of course every one hked to look at so lovely a face,
the way of both was smoothed in a manner that de-
lighted her husband when they encountered any of
those who had looked coldly on her at Nice. ■

He would have had her presented, but her own
reluctance and the united counsels of Lady Kirkaldy
and the Canoness prevailed on him to drop the idea ;
and then there was a fight wdtli Ursula, wdio declared
that she would not go to court if her mother did not ;
bnt she was overruled at last by that mother's tears
at her defiance ; and let herself be presented, together
with Blanche, by Lady Kirkaldy.

To Ursula it was altogether a strange time, full of
the same kind of reckless swing and sense of intoxi-
cation that had possessed her at Bridgefield. Xot that
there "was an excessive amount of actual gaiety. Hot
rooms and late hours were soon found not to agree
with Mrs. Em-emont. She looked faded and languid
after evening parties ; and, as lier husljand really cared

208 NUTTIK'S father. [niAP.

more to have her ready to wait upon liiiu and amuse
liini tlian for anytliini,' else, he did not insist on her
going out more tlian miglit he needful to estahlish lier
position, or Avlien it suiti'il liini tn sliow her off. The
otlier purposes were quite as well served hy letting
Ursula go out with Lady Kirkaldy, who was wanuly
interested in mother and daughter, glad of a companion
for Blanche, and still more glad of a conqjanion for
herself. For she was m)t slow to discover that exhi-
bitions, wliicli were merely fashionable gapeseed to her
niece, were to Nuttie real delights, viewed intelligently,
and eliciting comments and questions that Lady
Kirkaldy and even her husband enjoyed in their
fresh interest, but which were unendurable weariness
to Blanche, unless she had some one to chatter with.
Lectures and lessons, which the aunt hoped to render
palatable by their being shared by the two cousins,
only served to show the difterence between a trained
and eager, and an imtrained and idle, nature. With
the foreign society to be met at Lord Kirkaldy's,
]>lanche was less at a loss than her brother, and could
get on by the help of nods and becks and wreathed
smiles ; Init Nuttie, fresh from her winter abroad, could
really talk, and was often in request as a useful ixu'son
to help in entertaining. She thus saw some of tlie
choicest society in London, and, in addition, had as
much of the youthful gaiety as Lady Kirkaldy thought
wholesome for the two girls. Also there were those
ecclesiastical delights and privileges which had been
heard of at Micklethwayte, and were witliin reach,
greatly enjoyed by Mrs. Egremont whenever she could
share them, though her daughter chafed at her treating
all except tlie cliief service on Sunday as more inihd-
gcnce than duty.

XIX.] TiiK voirrKX. 209

Nuttie Avas strong, witli tliat spring of energy
which unbroken health and a quiet life lays up, and,
in her own phrase, she went in for everything, from
early services to late balls, thinking all right because
it was seldom that her day did not begin with matins
or Celebration, and because she was not taken to more
than two balls a week, and conversed at times with
superior people, or looked at those with world-famed
names. Possibly the whirl was greater than if it had
been mere gaiety, for then the brain would not have
participated in it. Church functions, with the scurry to
go at all, or to obtain a seat, fine music, gTand sermons,
religious meetings, entertainments for the poor, lectures,
lessons, exhibitions, rides, drives, kettle-drums, garden-
parties, concerts, theatres, operas, balls, chattering,
laughing, discussing, reading up current subjects, en-
joying attention, excitement as to what should be
done and how, — one thing drove out another in per-
petual succession, and the one thing she never did or
could do was to sit still and think ! Eest was simply
dreamless sleep, generally under the spell of a strong
will to wake at the appointed hour for church. The
short intervals of being alone with her mother were
spent in pouring out histories of her doings, which
were received with a sympathy that doubled their
pleasure, excepting when Nuttie thought proper to
grumble and scold at her mother's not coming to some
Church festival at an hour when she thought Mr.


ECTemont mioht want her.

o ~

Of him Nuttie saw very little. He did not want
her, and cared little what she did, as long as she was
under the wing of Lady Kirkaldy, whose patronage
was a triumphant refutation of all doubts. He went
his own way, and had his own club, his own associates,


210 nuttie's father. [chap.

and, with his wife always at liis beck and call, troubled
himself very little about anything else.

Alice spent a good deal of time alone, chiefly in
waiting his pleasure ; but she had her own quiet
occupations, her books, her needlework, her house-
keeping, and letter-writing, and was peacefully hapjiy
as long as she did not displease Nuttie. There were no
collisions between father and daughter, and the house-
hold arrangements satisfled that fastidious taste. She
was proud of Ursula's successes, but very thankful not
to be dragged out to share them, though she was much
less shy, and more able on occasion to take lier place.

One pain she had. Good old Mrs. Nugent was
rapidly decaying, and she shared with all her loving
heart in the grief this was to Mary and to Miss Head-
worth, and longed to help them, in their nursing. She
would not grieve Nuttie by dwelling constantly on tlie
bad accounts, and the girl hardly attended to them in
the tumult of occupations; and so at last, when the
final tidings came in the second week in July, they
were an absolute shock to Nuttie, and affected her as
the first grief sometimes does. Mrs. Nugent was really
the first person of her own intimate knowledge who
had died, and in the excited state in which slie was,
the idea of the contrast between her own occupations
and Mary's was so dreadful to her that she wept most
bitterly, with the sobs of childhood, such as she really
did not know how to restrain.

It was an unfortunate day, for it was one of the few
(111 wliicli i\Ir. Kt^remont wanted to take out his ladies.
There was to be a great garden-party at Eichmond, given
by one of liis former set, who liad lately wliitewashcil
himself by marrying a very fast and fasliionable huly.
Nuttie had heard strong opinions on the subject at

xrx.] THE VORTEX. 211

Lord Kirkaldy's ; but her father was quite elated at
"bein«T in a position to countenance liis ohl friends.
Alice, in the midst of her sorrow, recollected this with

' My dear, my dear, hush ! You must stop your-
self ! Eeniember we have to go out.'

' Go — out,' cried Nuttie, her sobs arrested by very
horror. 'You wouldn't go !'

* I am afraid your father would be very much
vexed '

* Let him ! It is a horrid wicked place to go to at
all; and now — wdien dear, dear old Mrs. Nugent is
lying there — and '

The crying grew violent again, and in the midst in
walked Mr. Egremont with an astonislied ' What is all

' We have lost one of 'our dear kind old friends at
Micklethwayte,' said Alice, going towards him ; ' dear
old Mrs. Nugent,' and she lifted up her tear-stained
face, which he caressed a little and said, 'Poor old
body ;' but then, at a sob, ' Can't you stop Ursula from
making such a row and disfiguring herself? You
must pick up your looks, Edda, for I mean you to
make a sensation at Jerningham's.'

' Oh, Alwyn, if you could let us stay at home !
Mrs. Nugent was so good to us, and it does seem un-
kind ' The tears were in her eyes again.

'Nonsense!' he said impatiently. 'I promised
Jerningham, and it is absurd to have you shutting
yourself up for every old woman at Micklethwayte.'

Thereupon Ursula wiped away her tears, and stood
up wrathful before him. ' I am not going,' she said.

* Oh, indeed I' he returned in a tone tliat made lier
still more angry. ' Hein ' ! a French ejaculation which

212 NUTTIE'S father. [vuxi-.

he luul the liabit of uttering in a most exasperating

' No/ she said. ' Tt is scarcely a place to which
we even ought to he asked to l^o, and certainly not
when '

*Do you hear that, IMrs. Egremont?' he asked.

* Oh, Nuttie, Nuttie, dear !' she implored ; ' don't.'

* No, mother,' said Nuttie, with Hashing eyes ; * if
you care so little for your best friends as to let your-
self be dragged out among all sorts of gay, wicked
people when your dear friend is lying dead, I'm sure I
shan't go with you.'

Her father laughed a little. * A pretty figure you
are, to make a favour of accompanying us !'

* Oh, go away, go away, Nuttie,' entreated her mother.
' You don't know what you are saying.'

* I do know,' said Nuttie, exasperated perhaps by
the contrast in the mirror opposite between her ov>'n
swelled, disfigured face, and the soft tender one of her
mother with the liquid eyes. ' I know how much you
care for the dear friends who took care of us when we
were forsaken I '

And with this shaft she marched out of the room,
while her father again laughed, and said, * Have they
been training her for the tragic stage ? Never mind,
Edda, the little vixen will come to her senses upstairs,
and be begging to go.'

' I don't think she will,' said Alice sadly ; ' she is
not that sort of stuff, and she was very fond of ]\Irs.
Nugent. Oh, Alwyn ! if you could let us off.'

'Not after that explosion, certainly,' he said.
* Besides, I promised Jerningham, and such an excuse
would never hold water. JShe is not even a relation.'

' No, but she Avas Aery good to me.'


'The more reason why you sliould not stay at
home and be hipped. Never mind that silly girl.
She will be all right by and by.'

On the contrary, she did not come down to
luncheon, and when, about an hour later, Alice, after
writing a few tender loving words to the mourners, went
up to her daughter's room, it was to find a limp and de-
plorable figure lying across the bed, and to be greeted with
a fresh outburst of sobs and inarticulate exclamations.

' Oh, Nuttie, dear, this will not do ! It is not right.
Dear good Mrs. Nugent herself would tell you that
this is not the way any one so good and so suffering
should be grieved for. Think '

* Oh, I know all that ! ' cried Nuttie, impatiently ;
' but she — she was the dearest — and nobody cares for
her but me. Xot even you '

Again Alice tried to debate the point, and urge on
her the duties of moderation, self-control, and obedience,
but the poor gentle mother was at a great disadvantage.

In the first place, she respected and almost envied
her daughter's resistance, and really did not know
whether it was timidity or principle that made it her
instinct to act otherwise ; in the next, Ursula could
always talk lier down ; and, in the third, she was, and
greatly she reproached herself for that same, in great
dread of setting herself off into tears that might become
hysterical if she once gave way to them. And what
would be her husband's feelings if she too collapsed
and became unpresentable.

So, having once convinced herself that even if
Xuttie had been a consenting party, no amount of cold
water and eau-de-cologne would bring those bloodshot
eyes, swollen lids, and mottled cheeks to be fit to be
seen, she fled as fast as possible from the gasps of

214 NUTTIE's FATIIEK. [chai'.

barbed reproaches wliicli put her own composure in
peril, and dressed with the heaviest of hearts, cou])led
witli the utmost solicitude to look her best. If she had
not thought it absolutely wrong, she would even have
followed ]\Iartin's suggestion, and put on a sotqj^on of
ro2(//c; but Ijy the time she was sunnnoned to the carriage
the feverishness of her effort at self-control had done the
work, and her husband had paid her the compliment
of observing that she looked pretty enough for two.

Nuttie heard them drive off, with a burst of fresh
misery of indignation against her mother — now as a
slave and a victim — now as forgetting her old home.
It was chiefly in mutterings ; she had pretty well used
up her tears, for, unconsciously perhaps, she had worked
them up as a defensive weapon against being carried
to the party ; and now that the danger was over, her
head throbbed, her eyes burnt, and her throat ached too
much for her to wish to cry any more. She had not felt
physically like this, since the day, seven years ago, when
she and Mildred Sharpe had been found suspiciously
toying with the key of the arithmetic, and had been
debarred from trying for tlie prize. Then she felt
debased and guilty ; now she felt, or ought to feel, like
a heroine maintaining the right.

She got up and set herself to rights as well as she
could. Martin, who had been allowed to know that
she had lost an old friend, petted and pitied her, and
brought her a substantial meal with her tea, after
which she set out to evensong at the church at the
end of the s(piare, well veiled under a shady hat, and
with a conviction that something ought to happen.

Nothing did, however, hapjH'u ; she met no one
whom she knew, tlie psalms were not particularly
appropriate, and her attention wandered away to the


scene at home. She did not come back, as slie was
sure she ought to liave done, soothed, exhilarated, and
refreslied, but rather in a rasped state of mind, and a
conscience making a vehement struggle to believe itself
in the right — a matter in which she thoroughly suc-

She wrote a long letter to Mary Nugent, and shed
some softer tears over it, then she built a few castles
on her future escape from the power of her father ;
and then she picked up Reata, and became absorbed
in it, regretting only the weakness of her eyes, and the
darkening of the sunnner evening.

She was still reading when the others came home.
Her mother kissed her, but looked so languid and
tired-out that Nuttie was shocked, and Martin declared
that she ought not to go down to dinner.

A tetc-a-tete dinner between father and daughter
was too dreadful to Alice's imagination to be permitted,
so she dressed and went down, looking like a ghost.
Mr. Egremont scowled at Nuttie, Nuttie scowled at
him, each considering it the fault of the other, and
w^hen at last it was over, Alice gave up the struggle,
and went off to bed, leaving a contrite message that
her headache would be better to-morrow.

' All your accursed folly and obstinacy,* observed
Mr. Egremont, when Nuttie, with a tone of monition
gave him the message.

' I should call it the consequence of being dragged
out with a sore heart,' returned JSTuttie — a little speech
she had prepared ever since she had seen how knocked
up her mother was.

'Then I should recommend keeping your ideas to
yourself,' he answered, looking at her in his annihilat-

216 XUTTIF/s FATHKU. [chap. XIX.

Slie was put down. She thought afterwards of a
liuiuh'ed thiui^s tliat she could liave said to him, but
she was crushed for tlie present, and wiien lie went
out she could only betake herself to Heata, and forget
all about it as much as she could.

AVhen she went upstairs, at the end of tlie third
volume, ^lartin was on the watch, and would not let
her '^o into the room.

' I have l)een at hand, ma'am, without lier guessing
it, and I am happy to say her tears has had a free
course wlien she was in bed. Yes, ma'am, suppressed
grief is alwa3's dangerous.'

Mrs. Egremont was still prostrate with fatigue and
headache the next day, and Nuttie had all the quiet
luxuriating in reminiscences she desired. Her father
Avas vexed and angry, and kept out of the way, but it
must be confessed that Nuttie's spirits had so much
risen by the afternoon that it was a sore concession to
consistency w^hen she found herself not expected at
Blanche's last little afternoon dance at Lady Kirkaldy's !



' If I cannot once or twice in a quarter bear out a knave against
an honest man, I have but very little credit with your Worship.'

//. King Henry IV.

Another cause besides Ursula's recalcitrance and her
mother's ailment contributed to disturb Mr. Egremont,
and bring him home. His agent, by name Bulfinch,
a solicitor at Eedcastle, came to him with irrefragable
proofs of gross peculation on the part of the bailiff who
managed the home farm which supplied the house and
stables, and showed him that it was necessary to make
a thorough investigation and change of system.

In point of fact, Mr. Egremont greatly preferred
being moderately cheated to exerting himself to investi-
gate, but this was going beyond moderation, and the
explosion had been too public to be passed over. So
he came home and sat by, while his wife and Mr.
Bulfinch did the work for him, and made it evident
to him that the frauds had been of long standing, and
carried on with the connivance of the coachman, of
Gresorio, — who had before Mrs. Ec^remont's arrival
acted as house steward, — and of the former cook.
Indeed, it was the housekeeper whom Mrs. Egremont

218 NUTTIE'S father. [chap.

had left in charge, whose refusal to connive had brought
about tlie discovery.

Gregorio's share in all was sufficiently evident, and
Alice's heart lea]»t with liope. Her luisband would be
wholly lier own if his evil genius were once departed,
but 'Mr. Egreniont would not see it. He had no
objection to sacrifice the coachman and all his under-
linjTS, with the bailiff and his eutire family, and felt
none of the pity that Alice had for the pretty, silly,
half-educated daughters ; but as to the valet — Pooh !
pooh ! the poor fellow had been out of the way all this
time — whatever he had done had been in the dark,
ages long ago, before Bridgefield knew its mistress; he
was a foreigner, and that was enough to prevent him
from forgathering with the English. It was all their
English prejudice.

* I can show you facts and figures, sir,* said Mr.

' I daresay, a year or more old. Why, I was an
unprotected carcase then — a mere prey — the fellow
only did after his kind.'

Alice held her tongue then, but made an effort in
private. * Indeed, I don't think you know ; I am
afraid Gregorio is not altered. I found him out in his
charges about the wine, and the servants' wages at
Nice, only you wouldn't listen.'

* His little perquisites, my dear child ! Come, non-
sense, these foreign fellows don't pretend to have the
morals you ascribe to the native flunkey — generally with-
out foundation either — they are much of a nnichness as to
that ; but your Erenchman or Italian does it more neatly,
and is a dozen times better servant than the other is.'

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 14 of 28)