Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Nuttie's father online

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her quite paternal. The next thing I recollect was
our heini^ in the Isle of Wies was the line
taken by the last generation ; and I am afraid my
nKJther would be very severe.'

* Another thing that actuated my father was the fear
of getting his brother into trouble with General Egre-



in.] IIEIIi HUNTING. 19

iiioiit, as he himself ^voukl have been the one to profit
by it. So I do not wonder so much at his letting the
whole drop without inquiry, and never even looking
at the letters, which there certainly were. I could
not get him to begin upon it with my uncle, Init ]\Irs.
Egremont was strongly on my side in tliinkiiig that such
a thing ought to be looked into, and as I had found tlie
paper it would be best that I should speak. Besides
that there was no enduring that Gregorio should be
pretending to hold us in terror by such hints.'

'Well, and has there been a wife and family in a
cottage all this time ?'

' Aunt ]\Iargaret, he has never seen or heard of her
since he left her at Dieppe ! Would you believe it,
he thinks himself a victim ? He never meant more
than to amuse himself with the pretty little governess,
and he took on board a Mr. and Mrs. Houghton to
do propriety, shady sort of people I imagine, but that
she did not know.'

' I have heard of them,' said Lady Kirkaldy, signi-
ficantly.

'She must have been a kind friend to the poor
girl,' said Mark. ' On some report that Lady de
Lyonnais was coming down on her, wrathful and
terrible, the poor foolish girl let herself be persuaded
to l)e carried off in the yacht, but there Mrs. Houghton
watched over her like a dragon. She made them put in
at some little place in Jersey, put in the banns, all un-
known to my uncle, and got them married. Each was
trying to outwit the other, while Miss Headworth herself
was quite innocent and unconscious, and, I don't know
whether to call it an excuse for Uncle Alwyn or not,
but to this hour he is not sure whether it was a legal
marriage, and my father believes it was not, looking on



20 NUTTIE's father. [chap.

it as a youthful indiscretion. He put her in lodgings
at Dieppe, under Mrs. Hougliton's protection, while he
returned home on a peremptory summons from the
General. He found the old man in such a state of
body and mind as lie tries to persuade me was an
excuse for denying the whole thing, and from that time
he represents himself as bound hand and foot by the
General's tyranny. He meant to have kept the secret,
given her an allowance, and run over from time to
time to see her, but he only could get there once
before the voyage to the "West Indies. The whole
affair was, as he said, complicated by his debts, those
debts that the estate has Jiever paid off. The General
probably distrusted him, for he curtailed his allowance,
and scarcely let him out of sight ; and he — he sub-
mitted for the sake of his prospects, and thinking the
old man much nearer his end than he proved to be.
I declare as T listened, it came near to hearing him
say he had sold his soul to Satan ! From the day he
sailed in the Ninon he has never written, ncA'er
attempted any communication with the woman whose
life he had wrecked, except one incpiiry at Dieppe,
and that was through Gregorio.'

'What! the valet?'

' Yes. I believe I seemed surprised at such a
medium being employed, for Uncle Alwyn explained
that the man had got hold of the secret somehow —
servants always know everything — and being a foreigner
he was likely to be able to trace her out.

' I daresay he i)ruiited by the knowledge to keep
Alwyn in bondage during the old man's lifetime.'

' I have no doubt of it, aud he expected to play
the same game with me. 'J'lie fellow remiuds me,
whenever 1 look at him, of a sort of incarnate familiar



III.] IIEIK HUNTING. 21

demon. When I asked my uncle whether lie ccnild
guess what had become of her, he held up his hands
with a hideous French grimace. I could have taken
him by the throat.'

' Nay, one must pity him. The morals of George
IV.'s set had been handed on to him by the General,'
said Lady Kirkaldy, rejoicing in the genuine indigna-
tion of the young face, free from all taint of vice, if
somewhat rigid. ' And what now ? '

' He assured me that he could make all secure to
my father and me, as if that were the important point;
but finally he perceived that we had no right to stand
still without endeavouring to discover whether there be
a nearer heir, and my father made him consent to my
maldng the search, grinning at its Quixotism all the
time.'

' Have you done anything ? '

' Yes. I have been to Jersey, seen the register —
July 20, 1859 — and an old French-speaking clerk,
who perfectly recollected the party coming from the
yacht, and spoke of her as trds belle. 1 have also
ascertained that there is no doubt of the validity of
the marriage. Then, deeply mistrusting Master
Gregorio, I went on to Dieppe, where I entirely failed
to find any one who knew or remembered anything
about them — there is such a shifting population of
English visitors and residents, and it w^as so long ago.
I elicited from my uncle that she had an aunt, he
thought, of the same name as herself ; but my father
cannot remember who recommended her, or anything
that can be a clue. Has any one looked over my grand-
mother's letters ? '

' I think not. My brother spoke of keeping them
till I came to London. That might give a chance, or



22 nuttte's father. [chap.

tlic Iloughtons mi



Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 2 of 28)