Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Nuttie's father online

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' Ihit '

* Oh, ay! I know you don't like liim. lUit he



XX.] WOLF. 219

knows his manners to you, I hope ?' said Mr. Enrrcmont,
with a suddenness that made her wish she cuuld tnilh-
fully say he did not.

' Yes, he always is — is respectful, but somehow I
see it is under protest/

Mr. Egreniont laughed. ' Rivals — yes, I see ; why,
you don't consider the sore trial of liaving a full-grown
mistress turned in upon him ! Look here, you keep
tlie keys already, but the new fellow at the farm and
all the rest of them shall account to you for every-
thing — Gregorio and all. Won't that satisfy you ? '

' 'Tis not only the money, but I think Gregorio is
a bad — not a good — man.'

* Ho, ho ! she wants to advertise for a pious foot-
man and coachman ! eh ? No, I thank you, my dear
Edda, I agree with — who was it who said, " Volez moi,
mats smis m'ennuyer." *

The Eectory likewise had hoped for Gregorio's dis-
missal, and there were grave looks when Alice had to
confess that nothing would move her husband against
him. The Canon even lashed himself up to say, ' I
tell you how it is, Alwyn, you'll never do any good
with your household, while you keep that fellow.'

' I am not aware what description of good you
expect me to do with it. Will,' coolly answered the
elder brother in a disconcerting tone.

Poor Alice, on her side, thought of the Little
Master, and then wondered if it was uncharitable to
do so. Eor she knew it had become war to the knife
with Gregorio ! Whether his master told him, or
whether it were his own evil conscience, or the won-
derful intuition of servants, he certainly knew of tlie
pressure for his dismissal, and he visited it on her as
much as he durst.



220 NUTTIE's FATHKK. [chap.

Outwardly deferential, lie could tliwart and annoy
her in a liundii'd ways, from making love to the
housemaids to making evil suggestions to his master,
yet never giving her any overt cause of complaint.
He coidd worry and sting her under the politest
exterior, and he knew very well that the most effectual
form of annoyance was the persuading his master that
any discomfort or lassitude was to be removed by some
form of narcotic. This would have the further advan-
tage of stupefying i\Ir. Egremont, and making him
more ready to lapse under the old influence ; while
the duration and strength of the new one was already
a surprise to Gregorio.

But there was no doubt that Mrs. Egremont had
profited by her year of training. She looked tired,
and less youthful and pretty, but she had gained in
grace and importance as well as in style, and was
much more really the mistress of Bridgefield. Her
shyness had passed away, and she knew now to take
her place in society, though still she was somewhat
silent. And her husband depended upon her entirely
for all his correspondence, for much of his occupation
and amusement, and even for the regulation of his
affairs. In the household, Gregorio was little more
than his personal attendant, and she had the general
management, even of the other men-servants. The
Canoness might well say it had turned out better than
she expected.

And Nuttie had become more womanly, and had
acfpiir(3d the indefinable polish given by a London
season. She had learnt the art of conversation, and
could niakut after all, it is just as well that he
was not asked. Tliey do owe that poor old lady a
good deal, and Alwpi's not 'the man to see it. I'm
not sorry the girl took the matter into her own hands,
tliough 1 couldn't have advised it.'

* Except that it will all fall on Alice.'

' He is very fond of Alice. She has done more
wit] I him than I ever thought possible. Kept him
respectal)le this whole year, and really it grows on
him. He makes ever so much more of her now than
when he first brouglit her home — and no wonder. No,
no ; he won't fall foul of her.'

' Perhaps not ; but it is just as bad, or worse, for
her if he falls foul of her daughter. Besides, she is
very much attached to her aunt. I wish I knew
what the account was, or whether she knows anything
about it.'



CHAPTER XXL

Ursula's reception.

'Tliy wish was father, Harry, to that thought.'— Shakespeare.

It was at half-past seven o'clock that Ursula Egre-
mont's cab stopped at St. Ambrose's Eoad. She had
missed the express train, and had to come on by a
stopping one. But here at last she was, with eyes
even by gaslight full of loving recognition, a hand full
of her cab-fare, a heart full of throbbing hope and fear,
a voice full of anxiety, as she inquired of the aston-
ished servant, ' Louisa, Louisa, how is Aunt Ursel ! '
and, without awaiting the reply, she opened the adjoin-
ing door. There sat, with their evening meal on the
table, not only Mary Nugent, but Miss Headworth
herself.

Nuttie rushed at her, and there was an incoherency
of exclamations, the first thing that made itself clear
to the senses of the traveller being, * 111, my dear ? No
such thing ! Only I had a bad cold, and Mary here is
only too careful of me.'

'But Mark said you had bronchitis.'

' AVhat could have ^wi that into his head ? He did
not write it, surely ? '



228 NUTTIE'S FATHKI^. [chap.

'He wrote it to AiiiiaiJc ]Iutliveii, and she told
Blanclie.'

*0h !' and ;Marv Xii^^ent's tone ^va,s rather nettlinj^.

* And tlien it was such a terriljh' time since we liad
heard anything/ added Niittie, on tlie defensive.

* Did not your niotlier get my letter ?' said Miss
Headwortli. * I wrote to her at — what's the name of
that place ? I liope I addressed it right.'

* Oh, but I was not there. I didn't go with them.'
' Ah, yes, I rememher. Then did not she send

you V

' Xo, I came off this morning. I heard this yes-
terday evening, and 1 determined that nothing should
stop me if there was no news by the post.*

* Dear cliild ! But will your father not be dis-
pleased ?' said ]\Iiss Headwortli.

' He hasn't any riglit to object,' cried Xuttie, witli
flashing eyes and a look that made Miss Nugent
anxious ; but at the moment there could be little
thought save of welcome to the warm-liearted girl.
Louisa was already brewing fresli tea, and extem-
porising additions to the meal, and Xuttie was explain-
ing how she hoped to have arrived a couple of hours
sooner.

* ])y the bye, I meant to have written to motlier for
her to have it to-morrow before leaving AValdicotes.
Is there time ?'

X"o, the pillar at hand was cleared at seven, and
the regular post-ofhce could not l)e readied in lime;
so they satisfied tliemselves with the knowledge tliat
Mrs. J^^gremont must have had Aunt I'rsel's clieerful
letter, and i\Iary recommended telegrai)liing to the
Canon the first thing in the morning. Then they gave
themselves up to enjoyment.



XXI.] Ursula's ukckitiox. 229

*At any rate, I'm here,' said Xutlie, 'and I'll make
the most of it.'

And her liandsonie furs were hiid aside, and lier
boots taken off, and she resigned herself to absolute
ease and luxury, while Mary poured out the tea, and
her aunt heaped her plate with eggs and rasliers ' such
as one doesn't get anywhere else,' said Nuttie, declar-
ing herself quite voracious, while her aunt fondly
admired her growth and improvement, and she
inquired into the cold, not quite gone yet ; and there
were speculations over what Mark could have got
into his head. Mary remembered having met him
coming to call, and having told him that she had per-
suaded Miss Headworth to keep her bed because her
colds were apt to be severe, and it was agreed to lay
the exaggeration at the door of the lovers and Blanche.
Miss Headworth lauiihed, and said she ouq-ht to be
flattered that an old woman's sore throat should be
thought worthy of mention by a fine young gentleman
like Mr. Mark. ' A very good young man he is,' she
added. ' You would never have thought how kind he
is in coming in here to tell me everything he hears
about your dear mother, Nuttie ?'

' He makes himself very useful while Mr. Button
is away,' added Mary, 'taking his young men's class
and all.'

' Oh ! is Mr. Button away V

' Yes ; he has had to be in London a great deal of
late. I am afraid he may have to live there alto-
gether.'

'What a grievous pity!'

' He won't be anywhere without doing good,* said
Miss Headworth, ' but I sometimes wish we had his
cool good sense here.'



230 NUTTIK's KATHKK. [chap.

* And liow is Mr. Spyers/ asked Nuttie. She felt
shy of askinjj; for Gerard Godfrey, or perhaps she
thought she ouglit to be shy of his name, aud kept
hoping that it would come in naturally.

* Mr. 8pyers is very well. Very l)usy of course,
aud very niucli deliglitud with your niotlier's gifts to
the churcli. All her own work, isn't it, Xuttie?'

' Yes ; every bit. She does lots of end)roidery and
work of all kinds when she is waiting for Irim or sitting
witli //////, and luckily it has never occurred to liini to
ask what it is for.'

The two ladies knew well what was meant by him,
but they would not pursue the subject, and proceeded
to put Xuttie an, con rant with St. Ambrose affairs —
how last year's mission had produced apparently an
immense eftect in tlie town, and how the improvement
had been ebbing ever since, but had left various indi-
vidual gains, and stirred up more than one good person
wlio liad hitherto thought it enough to save one's own
soul and let other people alone ; how Mr. Spyers was
endeavouring to bind people together in a guild ; how
a violent gust of temperance orators had come down
njion the place, and altogether fascinated and carried
away Gerard Godfrey.

There was his name at last, and Xuttie was rather
gratified to feel herself blusliiug as she asked, ' All !
])Oor Gerard — how is he ?'

^ As good and sincere as ever,' said ^liss Xugent,
* but not much wiser. He is so excitable and vehe-
ment.'

' Yes,* said Miss Headworth. ' L don't understand
the kind of thing. In my time a steady young clerk
used to l)e contented after hours with ])laying at
cricket in the .suuiiiitT, or learning llic Ihite in the



XXI.] Ursula's reception. 231

winter — aiul a great nuisance it was sometimes, but
now Gerard must get himself made a sort of half
clergyman.'

* A reader/ suggested Mary.

' Minor orders. Oh, how delightfid ! ' cried Xuttie.

' People don't half understand it,' added Miss Head-
worth. 'Mrs. Jeffreys will have it that he is no
Letter than a Jesuit, and really I did not know what to
say, for he talked to me by the hour about his being
an external brother to something.'

' Not to the Jesuits, certainly,' said Nuttie.

' Yes, I told her that ; but she thinks all monks are
Jesuits, you know, and that all brothers are monks ;
and he does wear his cassock — his choir cassock, I
mean— when he has his service in the iron room at
the sandpits. And now he has taken up temperance,
and Hies about giving the pledge, and wanting one to
wear bits of blue ribbon. I told him I never did take,
and never had taken, more than a little hot wine and
water when I had a cold, and I couldn't see what good
it would do to George Jenkins and the poor fellows at
the Spread Eagle if I took ever so many vows.'

'There's a regular blue-ribbon fever set in,' said
Miss Nugent. ' Gerard told me I was supporting the
cause of intemperance yesterday because I was so
wicked as to carry the rest of your bottle of port. Miss
Headworth, to poor Anne Crake.'

' Well ! he is a dear boy, and youth wouldn't be
youth if it were not sometimes rather foolish,' said
Miss Headworth, 'and it is better it should be for
good than evil.'

' Eager in a cause and not for selfishness,' said ]\lary.

' Poor Gerard, I wonder where he will be safely landed !'

So did iSTuttie, who had a secret flattering faitli in



-32 NUTTIE's FATHKR. [chai'.

being the cause of all tlie ])Oor young fellow's aberra-
tions, and was conscious of having begun the second
volume of her life's novel. She went to bed in the
elated frame of mind proper to a heroine. There was
a shade over all in the absence of dear old ]\Irs.
Nugent, and in Clary's deep mourning ; but there is
more tenderness than poignancy in sorrow for shocks
of corn gathered in full season, and all was cheerful
about her.

She had quite a triumph the next day, as old
friends dropped in for the chance of seeing her. The
least agreeable encounter was that with ]\Iark, who came
in on his way to the office, having just received by the
second post a letter from his father inquiring into ]\Iiss
Headworth's state. He met Xuttie in the vestibule,
with her hat on, and in a great hurry, as she wanted
to walk with ^lary to the School of Art, Gerard God-
frey accompanying them as far as the office ; and she
did not at all like the being called to account, and
asked what could have possessed her to take alarm.

' ^^^by, you wrote yourself ! '

' To Annaple Euthven.'

'What am I supposed to have written V

' That Aunt Ursel was very ill with bronchitis.'

' I'll be bound that ]\riss Ruthven said no such
thing. You don't pretend that you heard it from
herself ? '

'No; but Blanche did.'

' Pdanche ! Oil, tliat accounts for it! Though I
sliould liave thought you knew Blanche by this time.'

' JUit what did you say ?'

* I believe I said 1 couldn't get a knitting i)attern
Miss Headworth was to send Ladv Uonnis«;len because



xxr.] URSULA'S RECEI'TIOX. 233

she was in Led with ii cokl. AVhat yo\i and lUancli(!
could contrive to make of a simple thiiii^- like tliat '

* And Annaple ! '

* Well/ but checking himself with a smile, ' we will
not fight about that. I only hope it has not brought
you into an awkward scrape, Nuttie.'

*I can't help that,' she answered with her head
rather high.

' You have written and explained ?' he said
anxiously.

' To my mother, of course.'

* If I were you,' he said, lowering his voice, ' I
should write or send a special message to your father.'

* I can't see why. It w^as a mistake.'

' Yours was a strong measure, and he won't like it.
Be advised, Nuttie. EecoUect your mother. The best
way would be to go home at once. I could get a
day to take you — if you ^vould start this afternoon.'

' Thank you ; I'm not going back till I hear,' she
said proudly.

Time being up, Mark took his leave hastily, and
as he shut the door, Nuttie uttered half aloud the
words she had scarcely repressed, 'No, I thank
you, Mr. ^lark, I am not going back like a dog in a
string.'

' What, was that wdiat he expected of you V said
Gerard Godfrey, whom she had not intended to hear
her, but who had come out of the sitting-room on the
sounds of departure.

' He said he would take me home if I could go at
once.'

' AYouldn't he have liked it !' exclaimed Gerard.

' It might be the best way,' said Miss Nugent, who
had followed young Godfrey.



2/>4 XUTTIE'S father. [chap.

' Xow, Miss Mary/ cried Xuttie, * as if I could
shorten my lioliday now tliat I have it.'

* And 1 tlon't see \vhat business lie had to call you
to account,' said Gerard. * A stuck-up fellow.'

* Of course all the Egrenionts are set against my
being here,' said Nuttie.

*I thought the Canon offered to bring you last
year,' said ^lary gently.

' Oh, that was only to ]\louks llorton ! It would
have been simply tantalising.*

* Lady Kirkiddy is an excellent person,' said Miss
Nugent.

* Is she at lionie now ?' asked Ursula.

* Coming next week, they tell me,' said Gerard.
' He — your cousin — will always be loafing up there
now, giving up all that he had undertaken, I suppose.'

* Not very likely,' said Mary quietly.

' It is a mere Scottish anti-church influence,' said
Gerard, turning round at the swing-door of his office.
' Why else will Egremont not take the pledge V

AVherewith he disappeared, blue ribbon and all,
while Mary smiled, though she was vexed ; and Nuttie
observed, ' Poor Gerard ; but I can't see why he should
be jealous of Mark 'noiv.'

Mary did not choose to understand wliat Xuttie
implied in her simplicity, and made answer, ' He is


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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 15 of 28)