Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Nuttie's father online

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respect to her mother was after all only a cloak to
resentment against ]\Iark and his marriage.

However, she bethought herself that her mother
had often been disappointed and had borne it cheer-
fully, and after having done what Aunt Ursel would
have called ' grizzling ' in her room for an hour, she
wrote her note to Miss Euthven and endeavoured to
be as usual, feeling keenly that tliere was no mother
now to perceive and gratefully commend one of her
only too rare efforts for good humour. On other
grounds she was very sorry to leave Bridgefield. May
had, in her trouble, thawed to her, and they were
becoming really affectionate and intimate companions,
by force of i)ropin(|uity and relationship, as wtdl as of
the views that ]\Iay had imbibed frt)m Hugh Conda-
mine. Moreover Nuttie felt her aunt's watch over
tlie baby a great assistance to her own ignorance.

]Iowever the Canoness had resigned to the poor
little heir the perfect and trustworthy nurse, whom


Basil had outgrown, and wlio consented to the transfer
on condition of having lier nursery establishment
entirely apart from the rest of the household. Her
reasons were known though unspoken, namely, that
the rejection of one or two valets highly recommended
had made it plain that there had been no dislodg-
ment of Gregorio. The strong silent objection to
him of all good female servants was one of the points
that told much against him. Martin and the house-
keeper just endured him, and stayed on for the present
chiefly because their dear lady had actually begged
them not to desert her daughter if they could help it,
at least not at first.

Nuttie bound over her cousins to give her a full
account of the wedding, and both of them wrote to
her. Blanche's letter recorded sundry scattered par-
ticulars, — as to how well the rowan -trimmed tulle
dresses looked — how every one was pa.cked into the
carriages for the long drive — how there had been a
triumphal arch erected over the Bluepost Bridge
itself, and Annaple nearly choked with laughing at
the appropriateness — how, to her delight, a shower
began, and the procession out of the church actually
cried out for umbrellas — how papa, when performing
the ceremony, could not recollect that the bride's proper
name was Annabella, and would dictate it as Anna-
Maria, Sir John correcting him each time sotto voce —
how Basil and little Hilda Delmar walked together and
' looked like a couple of ducks,' which, it was to be
hoped, was to be ' taken metaphorically — how dread-
fully hard the ice on the wedding-cake was, so that
when Annaple tried to cut it the knife slipped and a
little white dove flew away and hit May, which every-
one said was a grand omen that she would be the next

282 NUTTIE'S father. [chap.

bride, wliilo of course Aniiaple was perfectly helpless
"with mirtli. Every one said it was the merriest w^ed-
ding ever seen, for the bride's only tears were those
of laughter. What Nuttie really cared for most came
just at the end, and not mucli of that. ' Your Mr.
Dutton is just gone. He got on famously with Hugh
Condamine, and I forgot to tell you that he has given
Mark such a jolly present, a lovely silver coffee-pot,
just the one tiling they wanted, and Lady Delmar said
he didn't look near so like a tradesman as she expected.
I see May is writing too, but I don't know what you
will get out of her, as Hugh Condamine came for
the day.'

Nuttie, however, had more hopes from j\Iay. Her
letter certainly was fuller of interest, if shorter.

'My dear Nuttie — Blanche has no doubt told you
all the externals. I suppose there never was a brighter
wedding, for as Annaple keeps her mother with her, there
was no real rending asunder of ties. Indeed I almost
wish her excitement did not always show itself in laugh-
ing, for it prevents people from understanding how much
there is in her.

(Plainly Hugh Condamine had been rather scandal-
ised by the 'giggling Scotch girl.')

'Dear old Lady Eonnisglen was delightful. If there
were any tears, they were hers, and Lady Delmar was
very cordial and affectionate. Of course Hugh and Mr.
Dutton missed much that one would have liked in a wed-
ding. I drove back with tliem afterwards, and it was very
interesting to listen to their conversation about churcli
matters. Hugh is very much struck with your friend ; lie
had heard a good deal about Micklethwayte before, and
says that such a lay worker is perfectly invaluable. It is
a great pity that he is not going on in the linn, it would


make it so much nicer for Mark ; but he says he has
duties towards his new property. I think he was sorry
not to find you at home, but he plainly never thought it
possible you should be at the wedding. I don't know
whether I ought to tell you this, but I think you ought to
know it. There is a lovely new wreath of Eucharis lilies
and maiden-hair at dear A^unt Alice's grave, close against
the rails at the feet ; and Hugh told me that he looked
out of his window very early yesterday morning and saw
Mr. Dutton standing there, leaning on the rail, with his
bare head bowed between his hands. You can't think how
it impressed Hugh. He said he felt reverent towards him
all through that day, and he was quite angry with Eosa-
lind and Adela for jesting because, when the shower began
as we were coming out of church, Mr. Dutton rushed
up with an umbrella, being the only person there who
had one, I believe. Hugh says you may be proud of such
a friend. I wish you could have seen Hugh. — Your
affectionate cousin, Margaret Egremoist.'


' There's something rotten in the State. ' — Hamlet.

On an east-^vindy afternoon in ]\Iarcli Mary Xugent
emerged from tlie School of Art, her Avell-worn port-
folio nnder her arm, thinking liow many successive
generations of boys and girls she had drilled tlirough
* free-hand,' ' perspective,' and even * life ' witli an un-
varying average of failure and very moderate success,
and how little talent or originality had come to tlie
front, though all might be the better for knowing how
to use eyes and fingers.

On the whole her interest as well as her diligence
did not flag ; but a sense of weariness and monotony
would sometimes come after a recurrence of well-
known blunders of her pupils, and she missed the
sense of going home to refreshment and enjoyment
which had once invigorated her. St. Ambrose's Eoad
had had its golden age, but the brightness had been
dimmed ever since that festival at Monks Horton.
One after another of the happy old society had droj^ped
away. The vicar had received j)romotion, and she
only remained of the former intimates, excepting old


Miss Headworth, who was no longer a companion,
but whom affection forbade her to desert in feeble old
age. Had her thoughts of the old times conjured up
a figure belonging to them? There was the well-
bruslied hat, the natty silk umbrella, the perfect lit
of garments, the precise turn-out, nay, tlie curly lion-
shaven poodle, with all his fringes, leaping on her in
recognition, and there was that slightly French flourish
of the hat, before — with a bounding heart — she met
the hand in an English gxasp.

* Miss Nugent ! '

'Mr. Button!'

' I thought I should meet you here ! '

' When did you come ?'

' Half an hour ago. I came down with George
Greenleaf, left my things at the Eoyal Hotel, and came
on to look for you.'

'You will come and spend the evening with us V

' If you are so good as to ask me. How is Miss
Headworth ? '

' Very feeble, very deaf ; but she will be delighted to
see you. There is no fear of her not remembering you,
though she was quite lost when Mrs. Egremont came
in yesterday.'

'Mrs. Egremont!' he repeated with a little start.

' Mrs. Mark. Ah ! we have got used to the name —
the Honourable Mrs. Egremont, as the community insist
on calling her. What a sunny creature she is !'

' And Miss Egremont, what do you hear of her ? '

' She writes long letters, poor child. I hope she
is fairly happy. Are you come home for good, or is
this only a visit?'

*I have no intention of returning. I have been
winding up my good cousin's affairs at Melbourne.'

286 NUTTIE's father. [chap.

Mary's lieart l)oiiiuled again with a sense of joy,
comfort, and protection ; but slie did not long keep Mr.
Dutton to lierself, for every third person they met gladly
greeted him, and they were long in getting to St.
Ambrose's Koad, now dominated by a tall and beauti-
ful spire, according to the original design. They turned
and looked in at the pillared aisles, stained glass, and
handsome reredos.

* Very different from our struggling days,' said ^Ir.

* Yes,' said Mary, with half a sigh. ' There's the
new vicar,' as he passed with a civil nod. * He has
three curates, and a house of Sisters, and works the
]iarish excellently.'

' You don't speak as if you ^vere intimate.'

*No. His womankind are rather grand — quite
out of our beat ; and in parish work I am only an
estimable excrescence. It is very well that I am not
wanted, for Miss Headworth requires a good deal of
attention, and it is only the old Adam that regrets the
days of importance. Ah, do you see ? '

They were passing Mr. Button's old home. On
the tiny strip of lawn in front was a slender black
figure, witli yellow hair, under a tiny black hat, dragg-
ing about a wooden liorse whereon was mounted a
sturdy boy of two, also yellow- locked and in deep
mournini^ under his Holland blouse.

']^illy-boy is riding to meet his daddy!' was
merrily called out both by mother and son bctbre tliey
perceived the stranger.

'Mr. Dutton,' said Mary.

Annaple bowed, but did not put out her hand, and
such a liush was on her face that !Miss Nugent said,
' I am sure that is too nuich for you !'


' Oh no ' she began ; hut ' Allow me,' said Mr.

Dutton, and before she could refuse he was galloi)ing
round and round the little lawn, the boy screaming with
delight as Monsieur raced with them.

' So he is come ! ' she said in a low doubtful voice
to Mary.

* Yes. He has met Mr. Greenleaf in London. I
always think he has the contrary to the evil eye.
Whatever he takes in hand rights itself.'

* I'll hope so. Oh, thank you ! Billy -boy, say
thank you ! What a ride you have had ! '

'Why are they in such deep mourning V asked Mr.
Dutton, after they had parted.

*0h, did you not know! for good old Lady Eonnisglen.
She had a bad fall about two years ago, and never left
her bed again ; and this last autumn she sank away.'

* They have had a great deal of trouble, then. I
saw the death of Canon Egremont in the Times soon
after I went out to Australia.'

' Yes; he had heart disease, and died quite suddenly.
The living is given to Mr. Condamine, who married
the eldest daughter, and the widow is gone to live
under the shadow of Eedcastle Cathedral.'

Therewith Miss Nugent opened her own door,
and ]\Iiss Headworth was soon made aware of the
visitor. She was greatly changed, and had the in-
describable stony look that tells of paralysis; and
though she knew Mr. Dutton, and was delighted to see
him, his presence made her expect to see Alice and
Nuttie come in, though she soon recollected herself
and shed a few helpless tears. Then — in another
mood — she began to display with pride and pleasure
the photographs of * Alice's dear little boy.' She had
a whole series of them, from the long-clothed babe on

288 NUTTIE's FATHEK. [chap.

his sister's knee to the bright little fellow holding a
drum — a very beautiful child, with a striking resem-
blance to liis mother, (|uite startling to ]\Ir. Button,
especially in the last, which was coloured, and showed
the likeness of eyes and expression.

* Xuttie always sends me one whenever he is taken,'
said the old lady. * Dear Nuttie ! It is very good
for her. She is quite a little mother to him.'

'I was sure it would be so,' said Mr. Dutton.

* Yes,' said Mary, * he is the great interest and
delight of her life. Her letters are full of his little
sayings and doings.'

' Is she at home now ?'

* No ; at Brighton. Her father seems to have taken
a dislike to Bridgefield since his brother's death, and
only goes there for a short time in the shooting season.
He has taken a lease of a house in London, and spends
most of the year there.'

* Ah ! ' as she showed him the address, * that is near
the old house where I used to stay with my grand-
aunt. We thought it altogether in the country then,
but it is quite absorbed now, and I have dazzling offers
from building companies for the few acres of ground
around it. Have you seen her ?'

' Oh no ; I believe she is quite necessary to her
father. I only hear of her through Lady Kirkaldy,
who has been very kind to her, but, I am sorry to
say, is now gone with her Lord to the East. She
says she thinks that responsibility has been very good
for Nuttie ; she is gentler and less impetuous, and a
good deal softened by her affection for the child.'

' She w{is certain to develo]x I only dreaded what
society her latlita* niiglit surround her with.'

* Lady Kirkaldy says that all has turncil out better


than could have been expected. You see, as she says,
Mr. Egremont lias been used to good women in his
own family, and would not like to see her in a slangy
fast set. All her own gaieties have been under Lady
Kirkaldy's wing, or that of Mrs. William Egremont's
relations, and only in a quiet moderate way. Her
father gets his own old set about lum, and they have
not been very choice, but they are mostly elderly men,
and gentlemen, and know how to behave themselves
to her. -Indeed, her cousin Blanche, wdio was here in
the winter, gave us to understand that Ursula knows
how to take care of herself, and gets laughed at as
rather an old maidish model of propriety, if you can
believe it of your little Nuttie.'

' I could quite believe in her on the defensive,
unprotected as she is.'

'What did that young lady — Miss Blanche — tell
us about that gentleman, Mary?' asked Miss Head-
worth, hearing and uttering what Miss Nugent hoped
had passed unnoticed.

'Oh, I think that was all gossip!' returned Mary,
' and so I am sure did the Mark Egremonts. She
said there was one of Mr. Egremont's friends, ]\Ir.
Clarence Eane, I think she called him, rather younger
than the others, who, she was pleased to say, seemed
smitten with Nuttie, but I have heard nothing more
about it, and Mrs. Mark scouted the idea,' she added in
haste, as she saw his expression vary in spite of himself.

' Do you see much of your neighbours ?'

* AVe are both too busy to see much of one another,
but we have our little talks over the wall. What a
buoyant creature she is. It seems as if playfulness
was really a sustaining power in her, helping her to
get diversion out of much that others might stumble


2\)0 NUTTIE'S father. [chap.

at. You know i)erliaps that when she arrived the
work-i)eople had «,^()t up a beautiful parasol for her,
white, with a deep fringe and spray of rowan. Little
Susie Gunner presented her with it, and she was very-
gracious and nice about it. But then wliat must Mr.
Goodenougli do but dub it the Annabella sunshade,
and blazon it, considerably vulgarised, in all the railway
stations, and magazines.'

' I know ! I had the misfortune to see it in the
station at Melbourne ; and my mind misgave me from
tliat liour.'

' Her husband was prepared to be very angry, but
she fairly laughed him out of it, made all sorts of fun
out of the affair, declared it her only opening to ftime,
and turned it into a regular joke ; so that indeed the
Greenleafs, who were vexed at the matter, and tried to
apologise, were quite perplexed in their turn, and not
at all sure that the whole concern was not being turned
into ridicule.'

' I wonder it did not make him cut the connection,'
said Mr. Dutton, muttering ' I only wish it liad.'

'Mrs. Greenleaf is very funny about her,' added
Mary, * proud of the Honourable Mrs. Egremont, as
they insist on calling her, yet not quite pleased that
she should be the junior partner's wife ; and decidedly
resenting her hardly going into society at all, though
I really don't see how she could ; for first there was
the Canon's death, and then just after the boy was
born came Lady Iionnisglen's accident, and for the
next year and a half tliere was constant attendance
on her. They fitted u]) a room on tlic ground lloor
for lier, the one opening into your (h'awing-n)oni, and
there tliey used to sit with her. I used to liear them
reading to lier and singing to her, and tiiey were


always as merry as possible^ till last autumn, when
something Lrouglit on erysi])elas, and she was oone
almost before they took alarm. The good little
daugliter was beaten down then, really ill for a week ;
but if you can understand me, the shock seemed to tell
on her chiefly bodily, and though she was half broken-
hearted when her husband in a great fright brought
me up to see her, and say whether her sister should be
sent for, she still made fun of him, and described the
impossible advice they would bring on themselves. I
had to take care of her wliile he went away to the
funeral in Scotland, and then I learnt indeed to
like her and see how much there is in her besides

'Did the old lady leave them anything?'
' I believe she had nothing to leave. Her jointure
was not much, but I am sure they miss that, for Mrs.
Egremont has parted with her nurse, and has only a
little girl in her stead, driving out the perambulator
often herself, to the great scandal of the Greenleafs,
thouo'h she would have one believe it is all for want of



' Do you think they have taken any alarm ? '
' There's no judging from her joyous surface, but I
have thought him looking more careworn and anxious
than I liked. Mr. Dutton, don't answer if I ought
not to ask, but is it true that things are going wrong ?
I know you have been seeing Mr. Greenleaf, so per-
haps you are in his confidence and cannot speak.'
' Tell me, what is known or suspected ? '
' Just this, that Mr. Goodenough has been the ruin
of the concern. He has been quite different ever since
his voyage to America. You were gone, old Mr.
Greenleaf has been past attending to business ever

292 NUTTIE's father. [ohai-.

since he 1j:i

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 19 of 28)