Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Nuttie's father online

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rather blue ribbon mad. Besides, I am afraid the fact
of being a " swell " does not conduce to your cousin's
popularity among the clerks.'

* Surely he does not give himself airs,' said Ursula,
her family feelings awaking.

* No ; but I fancy he is rather reserved.'
*AVhat's this about giving u}) what he lias under-
taken ? What is it ?'



XX].] Ursula's reception. 235

' When Mr. Dutton Aveut to Loiidcjii, he asked Mark
to take his Sunday afternoons with the bi*^- hids. He
thought they wanted some one with more resources and
variety than there is in poor Gerard, w^ho didn't at all
like being passed over.'

' I never should have thought it of IVIark. He
never dreamt of teaching anybody at home.'

'Very likely not, but th^re is an atmosphere at
St. Ambrose's.'

* And oh, how glad I am to be in it ! I wonder
how long they will let me stay ! The dear little
mother will try to get me a Sunday here, if she dares.
Indeed, I can't hear before Saturday, and then there
would hardly l)e time to get home! Oh, that's jolly!
I'll go to the nursery gardens, and get such flowers for
the vases ! '

Saturday brought Nuttie a letter, but not from her
mother —

' My dear Ursula — I write because we are anxious to
keep your mother as quiet as possible. It was a serious
shock to her to find that you had left home, and she
naturally supposed that Miss Headworth was in great
danger. Your father was greatly displeased, and she has
been much overcome, and very unwell ; but we hope by
keeping her perfectly quiet that worse consequences may
be prevented. Your father desires you to remain where
you are for the present, as he will not have her disturbed
again. Your mother sends her love both to you and to
your aunt, and desires me to say that she will write in a
day or two, and that she thinks you had better not come
back till she is better and your father's vexation has
diminished.

' I wish you had informed us of your intentions, as then
we could have ascertained the grounds of the report that
terrified you so strangely. — I remain your affectionate
aunt, Jane M. Egremont.'



236 NTTTIK's FATHKK. [chap.

* Toor motluT ! lie lius Ijeeii sneering at us all in
his (livadful cynical ^^■a^', and knocked her up into
one of her awful lieadaches/ said Xuttie, who felt
extremely angered hy the grave tone of rebuke in the
letter, and tossed it over to her aunt without al)S(jlutely
reading it all. Miss Headworth was a good deal dis-
tressed, and anxious to know what Mrs. William Egre-
mont meant ; but Xuttie positively declared, * Oh, it
is her headaches ! You know she always liad them
more or less, and they have grown a great deal worse
since she has taken to sitting in that horrid, stuffy,
perfumy, cigar-ry room, and doesn't take half exercise
enough.'

And when Miss Headworth show^ed herself much
concerned about the state of things, Xuttie coaxed her,
and declared that she should fancy herself unwelcome,
and have to go and beg a lodging somewhere instead
of enjoying her reprieve. And Aunt Ursel was far
less impervious to coaxing than she used to be when
she was the responsible head of a boarding house.
She did most thoroughly enjoy the affection of her great
niece, and could not persuade herself to be angry with
her, especially when the girl looked up smiling and
said, * If the worst came to the worst and he did dis-
inherit me, the thing would only right itself. I idways
meant to give it back to ^farlv.'

Xo great aunt in the world couhl fail to admire the
generous spirit of the girl who came back from the
great world of luxury, so loving and happy in her
huml)le surroundings. The only sighs were for poor
Alice, in the hands of a man of whom Miss Head-
worth knew so much evil. If she were not wretched
and a victim — and Xuttie ilid not think her such —
.she must surely be getting spoilt and worldly, ller



XXI.] Ursula's kkception. 237

daugliter implied fears of this kind, yet Miio could re.'id
her letters and think so ?

Nuttie was fortunately too mnch in awe of tlie
Canoness to write all the pertnesses that tingled at
her fingers' ends, and slie sent a proper and fairly
meek letter, hitimating, however, that slie was only
too happy to remain at JMickletliwayte.

It was two or tliree days more before slie heard
again.

' My own dear Child — They have let me write at last,
and I can say how much I like to think of your nestling
up to dear Aunt Ursel, and how glad I am to find that
she Avas well enough to enjoy you. It is almost like being
there to hear of you, and the only thing that grieves me
is that your father was very much vexed at your setting
off in that sudden way, and at my being so foolish about
it. His eyes have been very bad, and he missed me sadly
while I was laid up. We are neither of us very strong,
and we think — if Aunt Ursel and Mary can keep you for
a little longer — it will be better for you to stay on with
them, as it might be as dreary for you as it was last winter,
especially as the Kectory folk will soon be going into re-
sidence. I will write to them about it and persuade them
to take something for your board, so as to make it easy
for them. And then you can have a fire in your room ;
you must not leave it off now you are used to it. My
dear, I wish you would write a little apology to your
father. I ought not to conceal that he is really very
angry, and I tlunk it would be Avell if you expressed some
regret, or if you cannot truthfully do that, asked his pardon
for your impetuosity; for you know he cannot be expected
to realise all that dear Aunt Ursel is to us. You cannot
think how kind your Aunt Jane has been to me ; I did
not think she could have been so tender. This is the
first letter I ever had to write to you, my own dear child.
I miss you every moment, but after all it is better you
t^Iiould be away till your father has overlooked this hin-ried



238 NUTTIF/S FATHKlt. [vnxi:

expedition of yours. I am sure he m'ouM if you wrote
liim a real nice letter, telling how you were really i"rii;ht-
ened, and that it was not a mere excuse. Pray do,
and then you can come back to your loving little mother.

' A. E.'

* As if I would ur could,' quoth Xuttie to herself.
* Apologise to him indeed, for loving the aunt who
toiled for us when he deserted us. Poor little mother,
she can't really expect it of me. Indeed, I don't
think she quite knows what she wants, or whether she
likes me to be here or at Bridgefield ! ]\Iy belief
is that he bullies her less when I am out of the
way, because she just gives way to him, and does not
assert any principle. I've tried to back her up, and
it is of no use, and I am sure I don't want such
a winter as the last. So I am much better here ; and
as to begging pardon, when I have done nothing
wrong, I am sure I won't, to please anybody. T
shall tell her that she ought to know me better than
to expect it ! '

But Xuttie did not show the letter either to Aunt
Ursel or Mary Xugent; nor did she see that in which
Alice had satisfied them that it might be better that
her daughter should pay them a long visit, while Mr.
Egi-emont's health required constant attendance, and
the Canon's family were at Redcastle. And as her
husband was always open-handed, she could make
Ursula's stay with them advantageous to their slender
means, without hurtinff tlieir feelinesides, ^liss Pope perfectly provokes imper-
tinence.'

' Then I wonldn't give her work she can't do.'

Such an argument as this might be very well at the
moment of provocation, but it became tedious when
recurred to at every meeting. Nuttie began to wonder
when ]\ronks Horton would be inhabited again, and
how much notice Lady Kirkaldy would take of her,
and she was a good deal disappointed when ^lark told
her that Lord Kirkaldy had been begged to undertake
a diplomatic mission which would keep them abroad
all the winter.

There was a certain weariness and want of interest.
It was not exactly that there was nothing intellectual
froincr on. There were the lectures, but they were on
chemistry, for wdiich Nuttie cared little. There were
good solid books, and lively ones too, but they seemed
passd to one who had heard them discussed in town.
Mary and Miss Headworth read and talked them over,
and perhaps their opinions were quite as wise, and
Miss Nugent's conversation was equal to that of any
of Nuttie's London friends, but it was only woman's
talk after all — the brilliancy and piquancy, the touch
and go, she had enjoyed in Lady Xirkaldy's drawing-
room was lacking.

Mr. Spyers was too much immersed in parish
matters to read anything secular, and neither he nor
Gerard Godfrey seemed ever to talk of anything but
])iirish matters. There was not the slightest interest
in anything beyond. Foreign politics, European cele-
jjj-ities. — thinjfs in which Kuttie had learnt to take



XXII.] DISENCHANTMENT. 245

warm interest when with tlie Kirkaldys, were nothing
to them. Even Mary wondered at her endeavours to
see the day's paper, and she never obtained either
information or sympathy nnless she came across Mark.
It seemed to her that Gerard cared less for the peace
or war of an empire than for a tipsy cobbler taking
tlie pledge. The monotony and narrowness of the
world where she had once been so happy fretted and
wearied her, though she was ashamed of herself all the
time, and far too proud to allow that she was tired of
it all Aunt Ursel at her best had always been a
little dry and grave, an authority over the two nieces ;
and though softened, she was not expansive, did not
invite confidences, and home was not home without
the playfellow-mother.

And most especially was she daily tired of Gerard
Godfrey 1 Had he always talked of nothing but ' the
colours,' chants, E. C. U., classes, and teetotalism ?
Whatever she began it always came back to one or
other of these subjects, and when she impatiently
declared that she was perfectly sick of hearing of the
Use of Sarum, he looked at her as guilty of a profanity.

Perhaps it was true that he was narrower than he
had been. He was a good, honest, religiously-minded
lad, but with no great depth or grasp of intellect;
Ursula Egremont had been his companion first and
then his romance, and the atmosphere of the com-
munity in which he lived had been studious and
intelligent. His expedition to Eedcastle had con-
vinced him that the young lady lived in a different
world, entirely beyond his reach, and in the reaction
of his hopelessness, he had thrown himself into the
excitement of the mission, and it had worked on him
a zealous purpose to dedicate himself totally to a



246 NUTTIE'S father. [chap.

religious life, giving u]) all worldly aims, and employ-
ing the small capital lie could call his own in preparing
for the ministry. i\Ir. J)utton had insisted that he
should test his own steadfastness and resolution hy
another year's work in his ^jresent situation before he
took any steps.

He had submitted, hut still viewed liimself as
dedicated, and so far as business liours permitted, gave
his services like a clerical pupil to St. Ambrose's with
the greatest energy, and perhaps somewhat less judg-
ment than if Mr. Button had been at hand. ]>eing
witliout natural taste for intellectual pursuits, unless
drawn into them by his surroundings, he had dropped
them entirely, and read nothing but tlie ephemeral
controversial literature of his party, and not much of
that, for he was teaching, preaching, exhorting, through-
out his spare time ; while the vicar was in too great
need of help to insist on deepening the source from
which his zealous assistant drew. As Miss Nugent
observed, teetotalism was to him what dissipation was
to other young men.

On this vehemence of purpose descended suddenly
Ursula Egremont once more ; and the human heart
could not but be quickened with the idea, not en-
tirely unfounded, that it was to him that slie had
fiown back, and that her exile proved that she cared for
him more than for all the delights she had enjoyed as
heiress of Bridgefield. The good youth was con-
scientious to the back-bone, and extremely perplexed
between his self-dedication and the rights that their
implied understanding might give to her. Was she to
be the crowning blessing of his life, to be saved partly
through his affection from worldly trials and teni])ta-
tions, and bestowing on him a brilliant lot in which



XXII.] DISENCHANTMENT. 247

boundless good could be effected? Or was she a
syren luring liini to abandon his higher and better
purposes ?

The first few days of her stay, the former belief
made him feel like treading on air, or like the hero of
many a magazine story; but as time went on this
flattering supposition began to fail him, when Nuttie
showed her weariness of the subjects which, in his
exclusiveness, he deemed the only ones w^orthy of a
Christian, or rather of a Catholic. Both of them had
outgrown the lively, aimless chatter and little jests
that had succeeded the games of childhood, and the
growth had been in different directions, so that Ursula
felt herself untrue to her old romance when she be-
came w^eary of his favourite topics, disappointed by his
want of sympathy and comprehension, fretted by his
petty disapprovals, and annoyed by his evident distaste
for Mark, to whom she turned as to one of her proper
world.

At last, after many tossings, Gerard fixed upon a
test. If she endured it she would be the veritable
maiden of his imagination, and they would stand by
one another, come what would ; if not, he would
believe that the past had been fancy, not love, or love
that had not withstood the attractions of fashionable
life. A great temperance meeting was coming on, and
Gerard, eager at once to fill the room, and to present
a goodly roll of recruits, watched anxiously for his
moment, and came on Nuttie with his hands full of
bills in huge letters, and his pockets of badges.

' Excellent speakers,' he cried. ' We shall have the
hall crowded. You'll come, Ursula ? '

' I don't know what Miss Mary will do. I don't
think she means it.'



248 NUTTIE'S father. [chap.

' Oh, if you insist, if we Ixilh insist, she will. Look
at tlie paper — we are to have some si)lendid experiences.'

Nuttie made a face. * I've heard all about those,'
she said. * Tliat man,' pointing to one of the names,
'regularly rants about it; he is like a madman.'

* He does go rather far, but it is quite necessary, as
you will hear. Oh, Nuttie, if you would only be one
of us ! I've brought a card ! If you would ! '

* Why, wliat's the use, Gerard ! I don't like wine, I
never do drink it, except a little claret-cup sometimes
when I can't get water.'

' Then it would cost you nothing.'

' Yes, it would. It would make me ridiculous.'

' You used not to heed the sneers of the world.'

* Not for anything worth doing — but this is not.'

* It is the greatest cause of the day ! ' he cried, in
an eager exalted manner, which somewhat inclined her
to laugh. ' Do away with alcohol and you would do
away with crime ! '

* Thank you for the compliment, Gerard ; I never
found that the infinitesimal drop of alcoliol that 1
suppose there is in a tumbler of claret-cup disposed
me to commit crimes.'

'Why Avon't you understand me, Ursula! Can't
you give up that for the sake of saving others 1 '

* I wonder whom it would save.'

' Example saves 1 If you put on this * — taking out
the badge — * how many should you not lead at your
home ? '

'Just nobody! IMothcr and I should have a bad
time of it, that's all.'

'And if you endured, what would not your testi-
mony effect in the household and village ? '

* Notliiug ! I have nothing to do with the men-



XXII.] DISENCHANTMENT. 249

servants, and as to the village, it is very sober. There's
only one public house, and that is kept by Uncle
William's old butler, and is as orderly as can be.*

* Ah ! that's the way you all deceive yourselves.
Moderate drinkers are ten times more mischievous
than regular drunkards.'

'Thank you, Gerard! And outrageous abstainers
are more mischievous than either of them, because they
make the whole thing so utterly foolish and absurd.'


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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 16 of 28)