Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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' I don't know whether spirit is what is wanted,'
said Mark. ' Her mother prevailed more without it
than I am afraid she is likely to do with it.'

' Complements answer better than parallels some-
times, but not always,' said Lady Eonnisglen.

' Which are we ? ' asked Annaple demurely.

' Not parallels certainly, for then we should never
meet,' responded Mark. 'But here is the proposal.
My father and all the rest of us have been doing our
best to get my uncle to smooth Ursula's way by getting
rid of that valet of his.'

' The man with the Mephistopheles face ? '

' Exactly. He is a consummate scoundrel, as we all
know, and so does my uncle himself, but he has been
about him these twelve or fourteen years, and has got
a sort of hold on him — that — that — It is no use to talk
of it, but it did not make that dear aunt of mine have
an easier life. In fact I should not be a bit surprised
if he had been a hindrance in the hunting her up.
Well, the fellow thouglit proper to upset some arrange-

2GG nuttie's father. [chap.

ments my mother had made, and then was more in-
solent tlian I sliould have thoiij^dit even he coukl liave
been towards her. I suppose he liad got into the habit
witli i)0()r Annt Alice. That made a fulcrum, and my
father went at my uncle with a will. I never saw my
father so roused in my life. I don't mean by the
behaviour to his wife, but at what he knew of the
fellow, and all the harm he had done and is doin^?.
And actually my uncle gave in at last, and consented
to tell Gregorio to look out for another situation, if he
has not feathered his nest too well to need one, as I
believe he has.'

' Oh, that will make it much easier for Ursula ! '
cried Annaple.

' If he goes,' put in her mother.

'I think he will. I really had no notion how
much these two years have improved my uncle ! To
be sure, it would be hard to live with such a woman
as that without being the better for it ! But he really
seems to have acquired a certain notion of duty ! '

They did not smile at the simple way in which
Mark spoke of this vast advance, and Lady Ronnisglen
said, ' I hope so, for the sake of his daughter and that
poor little boy.'

' I think that has something to do with it,' said
Mark. ' He feels a responsibility, and still more, I
think he was struck by having a creature with him to
whom evil was like physical pain.'

* It will work,' said Lady Konnisglen.

'Then,' went on ]\Lark, 'he took us all by surprise
by making me this proposal — to take the management
of the estate, and become a kind of ]»rivate secretary
to him. You know he gets rheumatism on the optic
nerve, and is almost blind at times. He would give


me £300 a year, and do iij) tlie house at the home
farm, rent free. What do you say to that, Aimaple V

There was a silence, then Anuaple said : ' (Hve np
the umbrellas ! Oh ! What do you think, Mark V

' My fatlier wishes it,' said Mark. ' He would, as
he had promised to do, make over to me my share of
my own mother's fortune, and that would, 1 have been
reckoning, bring us to just what we had thought of
starting upon this spring at Micklethwayte.'

'The same notv,' said Lady Eonnisglen, after some
reckoning, * but what does it lead to V

< ^Vell — nothing, I am afraid,' said Mark ; ' as you
know, this is all I have to reckon upon. The younger
children will have hardly anything from their mother,
so that my father's means must chieHy go to them.'

'And this agency is entirely dependent on your
satisfying Mr. Egremont ? '

'True, but that's a thing only too easily done.
However, as you say, this agency has no future, and
if that came to an end, I should only have to look out
for another or take to farming.'

' And ask poor John if that is a good speculation
nowadays !' said Annaple.

'Fortunes are and have been made on the um-
brellas,' said Mark. ' Greenleaf has a place almost
equal to Monks Horton, and Button, though he makes
no show, has realised a considerable amount.'

' Oh yes, let us stick to the umbrellas !' cried
Annaple; 'you've made the plunge, so it does not
signify now, and we should be so much more inde-
pendent out of the way of everybody.'

' You would lose in society,' said Mark, ' excepting,
of course, as to the Monks Horton people ; but they are
often away.'

268 NUTTIE's father. [chap.

* l>c\L(ginL,^ your pardon, Mark, is tliere luucli to lose
ill this same ueiglibourliood ?' laughed Annaple, 'now
!May will go.'

* It is not so nuK'li a ([uestion of liking,' added her
mother, ' as of what is for the best, and where you may
wish to be — say ten years hence.'

Looked at in this way, there could be no question
but that the umbrella company promised to make
]\Iark a richer man in ten years' time tlian did the
agency at Bridgefield Egremont. He liad a salary
from the office already, and if he purchased shares in
the partnership with the portion his fatlier would
resign to him, his income would already equal what he
would have at Bridgefield, and there was every pro-
spect of its increase, both as he became more valuable,
and as the business continued to prosper. If the
descent in life had been a grievance to the ladies, the
agency would have been an infinite boon, but having
swallowed so much, as Annaple said, they might as
well do it in earnest, and to some purpose. Perhaps,
too, it might be detected that under the circumstances
Annaple w^ould prefer the living in a small way out of
reach of her sister's visible compassion.

So the matter was settled, but there was an under-
current in Mark's mind on which lie liad not entered,
namely, tliat his presence at home miglit make all tlie
difference in that reformation in his uncle's habits
which Alice had inaugurated, and left in the liauds of
others. Witli liim at hand, there was mucli more
cliance of Gregorio's being dispensed with, Ursula's
authority maintained, little Alwyn well brought up,
and tlie estate, tenants, and household ja-operly cared
for, and tlien lie smiled at his notion of su])j)osing him-
self of so much importance. Had he only had himself to


consider, Mark ^vould have thouglit liis duty plain ; but
when he found Miss Ruthven and her niotlier so entirely
averse, he did not deem it right to sacrifice them to the
doubtful good of his uncle, nor indeed to put the ques-
tion before them as so much a matter of conscience that
they should feel bound to consider it in that light.
He did indeed say, ' Well, that settles it,' in a tone
that led Annaple to exclaim : ' I do believe you want
to drop the umbrellas !'

' jS'o,' he answered, ' it is not that, but my father
wished it, and thought it would be good for my uncle.'

* iSTo doubt,' said Annaple, * but he has got a
daughter, also a son, and a brother, and agents are
plentiful, so I can't see why all the family should
dance attendance on him.'

Lady Eonnisglen, much misdoubting Mr. Egremont's
style of society, and dreading that Mark might be
dragged into it, added her word, feeling on her side
that it was desirable and just to hinder the family
from sacrificing Mark's occupation and worldly interest
to a capricious old tou6, who might very possibly throw
him over when it would be almost impossible to find
anything else to do. Moreover, both she and Annaple
believed that the real wish was to rescue the name of
Egremont from association with umbrellas, and they
held themselves bound to combat what they despised
and thought a piece of worldly folly.

So Mark rode home, more glad that the decision
was actually made than at the course it had taken.
His father was disappointed, but could not but allow
that it w\as the more prudent arrangement ; and ]\Ir.
Egremont showed all the annoyance of a man whose
good offer has been rejected.

' 'Tis that little giggling Scotch girl ! ' he said.

270 NUTTIE's father. [chap.

* Well, we are quit of her, anyway. 'Tis a pity that
Mark Gntan;i;letl liiiiiself with her, and a mother-in-law
into the bar^^ain ! I was a fool to expect to get any
good out of him !'

This was said to his daughter, with whom he was
left alone ; for Miss Headworth could not bear to
accept liis hospitality a moment longer than needful,
and besides had been so much shaken in nerves
as to suspect tliat an illness was coming on, and
hurried home to be nursed by Mary Nugent. Canon
Egremont was obliged to go back to Redcastle to finisli
his residence, ami his wife, who had been absent nearly
a month from her family, thought it really wisest to
let the father and daughter be thrown upon one
another at once, so that Ursula might have the benefit
of her father's softened mood.

There could be no doubt that he was softened, and
that he had derived some improvement from the year
and a half tliat liis wife had been with liini. It
might not have lifted him up a step, but it had
arrested him in his downward course. Selfish and
indolent he was as ever, but there had been a restraint
on his amusements, and a withdrawal from liis worst
associates, such as tlie state of liis health miglit con-
tinue, above all if CJregorio could be dispensed with.
Tlie man liimself had become aware of the combina-
tion against him, and, though reckoning on liis master's
inertness and dependence upon him, knew that a fresh
offence might complete his overthrow, and therefore
took care to be on his good beluuiour.

Thus Nuttie's task might be somewhat smoothed;
but the poor girl felt unspeakably desolate as she ate
her breakfast all alone with a dull ])ost-bag, and still
more so when, having sl'cu the housekeeper, who.


happily for her, was a good and capable woman, and
very sorry lor her, slie had to bethink herself what to
do in that dreary sitting-room during the horn* wlien
she had always been most sure of her sister-mother's
dear company. How often she had grumbled at being-
called on to practise duets for her father's evening
lullaby ! She supposed she ought to get something
up, and she proceeded to turn over and arrange tlie
music with a sort of sick loathing for whatever was
connected with those days of impatient murmurs, which
she would so gladly have recalled. Everything had
fallen into disorder, as Blanche and May had left it
the last time they had played there ; and the over-
looking it, and putting aside the j^i^ces which she
could never use alone, occupied her till Gregorio, very
meek and polite, came with a message tliat Mr.
Egremont would be glad if she would come to his
room. In some dread, some distaste, and yet some ^^ity
and some honest resolution, she made her way thither.

There he sat, in dressing-gown, smoking -cap, and
blue spectacles, with the glittering February sunshine
carefully excluded. He looked worse and more haggard
than when she had seen him at dinner in the evening,
made up for company, and her compassion increased,
especially as he not only held out his hand, but seemed
to expect her to kiss him, a thing she had never done
since their first recognition. It was not pleasant in
itself, but it betokened full forgiveness, and indeed he
had never spoken to her in his sneering, exas2:)eratiug
voice since her mournful return home.

' Have you seen the boy ? ' he asked.

' Yes ; they are w\alking him up and down under the
south wall,' said Nuttie, thankful that she had peeped
under the many Avraps as he was carried across the hall.

2 72 NUTTIE'S FATHEU. [chap.

' Here ! I want you to read this letter to nie. A
man ought to be indicted for writing such a hand ! '

It was really distinct pemnansliip, tliough minute;
but, as Nuttie found, her father did not like to avow
how little available were his eyes. He could write
better than lie could read, but lie kept her over his
correspondence for the rest of the morning, answering
some of the letters of condolence for him in her own
name, writing those of business, and folding and ad-
dressing what he himself contrived to write. Her
native (quickness stood her in good stead, and, being
rather nervous, she took great pains, and seldom
stumbled ; indeed, she only once incurred an exclama-
tion of impatience at her stupidity or slowness.

She guessed rightly that this forbearance was owing
to tender persuasions of her mother, and did not guess
that a certain fear of herself was mingled with other
motives. Her father had grown used to woman's
ministrations ; he needed them for liis precious little
heir, and he knew his daughter moreover for a severe
judge, and did not want to alienate her and lose her
services ; so they got on fairly well together, and she
shared his luncheon, during which a message came up
about the carriage ; and as there had been an applica-
tion for some nursery needment, and moreover black-
edged envelopes had run short, there was just purpose
enough for a drive to the little town.

Then Nuttie read her father to sleep with the news-
paper; rushed round the garden in the twilight to
stretch her young limbs ; tried to read a little, dressed,
dined with her father; finished what he had missed
in the paper, then offered him music, and Ava.s told ' if
she ])leased,' and as she i)laved she mused whether this
was to be her life. It looked verv dull and desolate,


and what was the good of it all ? But there were her
mother's words, * Love liim ! ' How fulfil them ? She
could pity him now, but oh ! how could she love one
from whom her whole nature recoiled, when she thought
of her mother's ruined life ? Mr. Button too had held
her new duties up to her as capable of being ennobled.
Noble ! To read aloud a sporting paper slie did not
want to understand, to be ready to play at cards or
billiards, to take that dawdling drive day by day, to
devote herself to the selfish exactions of burnt -out
dissipation. Was this noble ? Her mother had done
all this, and never even felt it a cross, because of her
great love. It must be Nuttie's cross if it was her
duty ; but could the love and honour possibly come
though she tried to pray in faith ?



* For every Lamp tliat trembleil here,

And faded in the niglit,
Beliohl a Star serene and clear
Smiles on me from the height' — B. ^L

NUTTIE was not mistaken in supposin^c,^ that tliis first
day would be a fail- sample of her life, though, of
course, after the first weeks of mourning there were
variations ; and the return of the Rectory party made
a good deal of brightening, and relieved her from the
necessity of finding companionship and conversation
for her father on more than half her afternoons and

He required her, however, almost every forenoon,
and depended on her increasingly, so that all her
arrangements had to be made with reference to him.
It was bondage, but not as galling in the fact as she
would have expected if it had been predicted to her a
few months i)revi()usly. In the first place, Mr. Egre-
mont never demanded of lier what was actually against
her conscience, except occasionally giving up a Sunday
evensong to read the ]iaper to liini, and that only wlien
he was more iiuwull than usual. He was, after all, an


English gentleman, and did not ask his young daughter
to read to him the books which her mother had loathed.
Moreover, Gregorio was on his good behaviour, per-
fectly aware that there was a family combination
ajiainst him, and having even received a sort of warn-
ing from his master, but by no means intending to take
it, and therefore abstaining from any kind of offence
that could furnish a fresh handle against him ; and
thus for the present. Dr. Hammond's regimen was
well observed, and Mr. Egremont was his better self
in consequence, for, under his wife's guardianship, the
perilous habit had sufficiently lost strength to prevent
temper and spirits from manifestly suffering from

The first time Nuttie found herself obliged to make
any very real sacrifice to her father's will was on the
occasion of Mark's marriage at Easter. Things had
arranged themselves very conveniently for him at
Micklethwayte, though it seemed to Nuttie that she
only heard of affairs there in a sort of distant dream,
while such events were taking place as once would
have been to her the greatest possible revolutions.

Aunt Ursel reached home safely, but her expecta-
tions of illness were realised. She took to her bed on
arriving, and though she rose from it, there was reason
to think she had had a slight stroke, for her activity
of mind and body were greatly decayed, and she was
wholly dependent on Mary Nugent for care and com-
fort. Mary, remembering the consequences of the
former alarm, made the best of the old lady's condition ;
and Nuttie, ashamed of having once cried ' wolf,' did
not realise the true state of the case, nor indeed
could she or would she have been spared to go to

276 NUTTIE'S FATHEU. [chap.

The next news tokl that Gerard Godfrey, at tlie
end of the year required by Mr. Button, had re-
signed his situation, and at the close of his quarter's
notice was going to prepare for Holy Orders under the
training of a clergyman who would employ him in his
parish, and assist him in reading up to the require-
ments for admission to a theological college. Poor
dear old Gerard ! It gave Nuttie a sort of pang of
self-reproach to own how good and devoted lie was, and
yet so narrow and stupid that she could never have
been happy with him. Was he too good, or was he
too dull for her ? Had she foi"saken liim for the
world's sake, or was it a sound instinct that had ex-
tinguished her fancy for him ? No one could tell,
least of all the parties concerned. He migh*: '^e far
above her in spiritual matters, but he was below her
in intellectual ones, and though they would always
feel for one another that peculiar tenderness left by
the possibilities of a first love, no doubt the quarrel
over the blue ribbon had been no real misfortune to

The next tidings were still more surprising. ]\Ir.
Button was leaving the firm. Though his father had
died insolvent, and he had had to struggle for himself
in early life, he was connected with wealthy people,
and change and death among these had brought him a
fair share of riches. An uncle who had emigrated to
Australia at the time of the great break up had died
witliout other heirs, leaving him what was the more
w^elcome to him tliat ^licklethwayte could never be
to him what it had been in its golden age. He had
realised enougli to enalde him to be bountiful, and liis
])arting gift to St Ambrose's would complete the church;
but lie himself was winding up the partnershi}>, and


withdrawing his means from Greenleaf and Co. in
order to go out to Australia to decide wliat to do
with his new possessions.

Mark Egremont purchased a numher of tlic shares,
though, to gratify the family, the shelter of the Green-
leaf veiled his name tinder the * Co.,' and another, al-
ready in the firm, possessed of a business-like appella-
tion, gave designation to the firm as Greenleaf, Good-
enough, and Co.

Mr. Button's well-kept house, with the little con-
servatory and the magnolia, was judged sufficient for
present needs, and the lease was taken off his hands,
so that all was in order for the marriage of Mark and
Annaple immediately after Easter.

Lady Delmar had resigned herself to the inevitable,
and the wedding was to take place at Lescombe.
Nuttie, whose chief relaxation was in hearing all the
pros and cons from May and Blanche, w^as asked to be
one of the bridesmaids by Annaple, who had come
over to the Eectory in a droll inscrutable state of mis-
chief, declaring that she had exasperated Janet to the
verge of insanity by declaring that she should have
little umbrellas like those in the Persian inscriptions
on her cards, and that Mark was to present all the
bridesmaids with neat parasols. If crinolines had
not been gone out they could have all been dressed
appropriately. Now they must wear them closely
furled. All this banter was hardly liked by May
and Blanche, whose little sisters were laughed at
again for needing the assurance that they were
really to wear white and rowan leaves and berries
— the Ronnisglen badge. Nuttie, who had drawn
much nearer to May, refrained from relating this part
of the story at home, but was much disappointed

278 NUTTIE'S father. [chap.

Avhen, on telling her father of the request, she was
answered at once :

* Hein ! The 24th ? You'll be in London, and a
very good thing too.'

'Are we to go so soon V

'Yes. Didn't I tell you to take that house in
Berkshire Eoad from the 20 th ?'

' I did not think we were to start so soon. Is
there any particular reason ? '

'Yes. That Scotch girl ought to have known
better than to ask you in your deep mourning. I
thought women made a great point of such things.'

' Aunt Jane did not seem to think it WTong/ said
Xuttie, for she really wished much for consent. Not
only had she grown fond both of Mark and Annaple,
but she had never been a bridesmaid, and she knew
that not only the Kirkaldys but Mr. Button had been
invited; she had even ventured on offering to lodge
some of the overflowing guests of the Rectory.

' Their heads are all turned by that poverty-stricken
Scotch peerage,' returned Mr. Egremont ; ' or the
Canoness should have more sense of respect.'

Nuttie's wishes were so strong that she made one
more attempt, ' I need not be a bridesmaid. They
would not mind if I wore my black.'

' I should, then ! ' said her fatlier curtly. ' If they
don't understand the proprieties of life, I do. I won't
have you have anything to do with it. If you are so
set upon gaiety, you'll have enough of weddings at
fitter times !'

It was the old sneering tone. Nuttie felt partly
confounded, partly indignant, and terril)ly disappointed.
She did care for the sight of the wedding — her youth-
ful spirits had rallied enough for that, but far more


now she grieved at missing the sight of Mr. Button,
when lie was going away, she knew not where, and
might perhaps come on purpose to see her; and it
also made her sore and grieved at being accused of
disregard to her mother. She was silenced, however,
and presently her father observed, in the same un-
pleasant tone, 'Well, if you've digested your dis-
appomtment, perhaps you'll condescend to write to
the agent, that I expect the house to be ready on
the 21st.'

Nuttie got through her morning's work she hardly
knew how, though her father was dry and fault-finding
all the time. Her eyes were so full of tears when she
was released that she hardly saw where she was going,
and nearly ran against her aunt, who had just walked
into the hall. Mrs. Egremont was too prudent a
woman to let her burst out there with her grievance,
but made her come into the tent -room before she
exclaimed, ' He is going to take me away to London ;
he won't let me go to the wedding.'

' I am sorry for your disappointment,' said her aunt
quietly, 'but I am old-fashioned enough to be glad
that such strong respect and feeling should be shown
for your dear mother. I wish Annaple had spoken to
me before asking you, and I would have felt the way.'

' I'm sure it is not want of feehng,' said Nuttie, as
her tears broke forth.

' I did not say it was,' returned, her aunt, * but
different generations have different notions of the
mode of showing it ; and the present certainly errs on
the side of neglect of such tokens of mourning. If I
did not think that Annaple and her mother are really
uncomfortable at Lescombe, I should have told Mark
that it was better taste to wait till the summer.'

280 NUTTIE's father. [chap.

' If I might only liave stayed at home — even if I
did not go to the wodding,' sighed Xuttie, who had
only half listened to the Canoness's wisdom.

' Since you do not go, it is much better that you
should be out of the way,' said Mrs. Egremont. 'Is
your father ready to see me ? '

So Nuttie had to submit, though she pouted to her-
self, feeling grievously misjudged, first as if she had been
wanting in regard to the memory of her mother, who
had been so fond of Mark, and so rejoiced in his hap-
piness ; and then that her vexation was treated as mere
love of gaiety, whereas it really was disappointment at not
seeing Mr. Dutton, that good, grave, precise old friend,
who could not be named in tlie same breath with
vanity. Moreover, she could not help suspecting that

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 18 of 28)