Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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health to have thus dropped his old ^licklethwayte
habits, but after a time she discovered by accident that
he frequented another church, open at a still earlier hour


and a little farther off, and slie was forced to come to
the conclusion that he acted out of his characteristic
precise scrupulosity, which would not consider it as
correct for her to walk home every day with him.
She chafed, and derided ' the dear old man ' a little in
her own mind, then ended with a sigh. Was there any
one who cared so much about what was proper for her ?
And, after all, was he really older than Mr. Clarence
Pane, whom everybody in her father's set called Clarence,
or even Clare, and treated as the boy of the party, so
that she had taken it as quite natural that he should
be paired off with her. It was quite a discovery !

There was anotlier and more serious disappoint-
ment. Mr. Eoremont had not seemed disinclined to
consider the giving the agency to Mark, and Nuttie
had begun to think with great satisfaction of May
Condamine's delit'ht in welcomincj him, and of the
good influence that would be brought to bear on the
dependents, when suddenly there came a coolness.
She could trace the moment, and was sure that it was,
wdien Gregorio became aware of what was intended.
He had reason to dread Mark as an enemy, and was
likely to wish to keep him at a distance ; and it had
been Ursula's great hope that an absolute promise
might have been given before he heard of the plan ;
but Mr. Egremont was always slow to make up his
mind, except when driven by a sudden impidse, and
had never actually said that the post should be offered
to his nephew. Nuttie only detected the turn of the
tide by the want of cordiality, the hums and haws,
and by and by the resumption of the unkind ironical
tone when Mark and Annaple were mentioned ; and
at last, when she had been reading to him a letter
from Mrs. William Egremont full of anxiety for the

312 NUTTIE's father. [chai-.

young people, and yet of trust in liis kindness to them,
lie exclaimed, ' You've not been Aviiting to lier about
this absurd ])roposul ?'

' I have not mentioned any proposal at all. "What
do you mean ?'

* Why, this ridiculous idea about the agency. As
if I was going to put my affairs into the hands of a
man who has made such a mull of his own.'

' But that was not Mark's fault, papa. He was junior,
you know, and liad no power over that Goodenough.'

' He ought, then ! Never sail with an unlucky
captain. Xo, no, Mark's honourable lady would not
let him take the agency when he might have had it,
and I am not going to let them live ujjon me now that
they have nothing of their own.'

' Oh, papa, but you almost promised !'

'Ahnost!' he repeated with his ironical tone;
' that's a word capable of a good deal of stretching.
This is what you and that umbrella fellow have
made out of my not giving him a direct refusal on
the spot. He may meddle with Mark's affairs if he
chooses, but not with mine.'

Xuttie had learnt a certain amount of wisdom, and
knew that to argue a point only made her father more
determhied, so she merely answered, ' Very well ;'
adding in a meek voice, ' Their furniture, poor things !'

* Oh ay. Their umbrella friend is making a col-
lection for them. Yes, I believe I said I would con-

Hot blood surged up within Xuttie at the con-
temptuous tone, and she bit her lip to keep down the
answer, for she knew i\Ir. Button intended to call
the next afternoon for her father's idtimatum before
going down to Micklethwayte, where the crisis was fast


approaching, and slie had so much faitli in liis powers
that she dreaded to forestall him by an imprudent
word. ALas, Clregorio must have been on his guard,
for, tliough Xuttie was sure she heard her friend's ring
at the usual time, no entrance followed. She went up
to put on her habit to ride with her father, and when
she came down Mr. Egremont held out a card with the
name ' Philip Dutton,' and the pencilled request below
to be allowed to see Mr. Egremont later in the day.

'He has been denied!' exclaimed she in con-

' Hein ! Before we go out, sit down and write a
note for me.' And he dictated —

' Dear Sir — I will not trouble you to call again this
afternoon, as I have decided on reflection that there is
no employment on my estate suited to my nephew, Mark

' As I understand that you are raising a family subscrip-
tion for rescuing his furniture from the creditors, 1 enclose
a cheque for £50 for the purpose. — I remain '

' Yours — what — papa V asked Ursula, with a trem-
bling voice, full of tears.

'Yours, etc., of course. Quite intimate enough for
an ex-nmbrella-monger. Here, give it to me, and I'll
sign it while you fill up the cheque for me.'

That such should be the first letter that Nuttie
ever addressed to Mr. Dutton, since the round- hand
one in ' which Miss Ursula wished Mr. Duton to have
the onner of a tee with me on my birthday, and I am
your affected little Nuttie ' !

She hoped to explain and lament the next morning,
after church. He would surely come to talk it over
with her ; but he only returned a civil note with his
receipt, and she did not see him again before his

314 NUTTIE's father. [chap.

departure. She was greatly vexed ; she had wanted
so much to tell him liow it was, and then came an
inward consciousness that she would probably have
told him a great deal too much.

Was it that tiresome prudence of his again that
would think for her and prevent impulsive and indig-
nant disclosures ? It made her bring down her foot
sharply on the pavement with vexation as she suspected
that he thought her so foolish, and then again her
heart warmed with the perception of self-denying care
for her. She trusted to that same prudence for no
delusive hopes having been given to j\Iark and his

She did so justly. Mr. Button had thought the
matter far too uncertain to be set before them. The
Canoness's vague hopes had been the fruit of a hint
imprudently dropped by Nuttie herself in a letter
to Blanche. She had said more to ]\Iiss Nugent, but
Mary was a nonconductor. Mr. Button's heart sank
as lie looked at the houses, and he had some thoughts
of going to her first for intelligence, but Annaple had
spied him, and ran out to the gate to welcome him.

* Oh, Mr. Button, I'm so glad ! ]\lark will be

* Is he at home ?'

' Oh no, at the office, wading through seas of papers
witli ]\Ir. Greenleaf, but he will come home to eat in
a quarter of an hour. So come in ; ' then, as her
boy's merry voice and a gruffer one were heard, * That's
the bailiff. He is Willie's devoted slave.'

* I hoped to have been in time to have saved you

* Well, I'm convinced that among tlio much
maligned races are bail ills. I wonder what I could


get "by an article on prejudice against classes ! I was
thinking liow nuich beer I should have to lay in for
this one, and behold he is a teetotaller, and besides that
amateur nurse-maid, parlour-maid, kitchen-maid, etc.
etc. '

' What bailiff could withstand Mrs. Egremont ?
Perhaps you have tamed him V

' Not I. The cook did that. Indeed I believe there's
a nice little idyll going on in the kitchen, and besides
he wore the blue ribbon, and was already a devoted
follower of young Mr. Godfrey !'

'However, if the valuation is ready, I hope you
may be relieved from him, if you won't be too much
concerned at the parting!'

* Mrs. Egremont told us that our people are very
good to us,' said Annaple, ' and don't mean to send us
out with nothing but a pack at our backs. It is very
kind in them and in you, Mr. Button, to take the
trouble of it ! No, I'll not worry you with thanks.
The great point is, hope for something for Mark to do.
That will keep up his spirits best ! Poor Mr. Green-
leaf is so melancholy that it is all I can do to keep
him up to the mark.'

' I have been making inquiries, and I have three
possible openings, but I hardly like to lay them
before you.'

* Oh, we are not particular about gentility ! It is
work we want, and if it was anything where I could
help that would be all the better ! I'm sure I only
wonder there are so many as three. I think it is
somcbochjs doing. Ah ! there's Mark,' and she flew
out to meet him. ' Mark !' she said, on the little path,
'here's the G:ood genius, with three chances in his
pocket. Keep him to luncheon. I've got plenty.

316 NUTTIK's FATIIKU. [chap.

Vooy old mail, liow liot yuu luok ! (Jo and coul in the
drawiiig-rooin, wliile I wash my son's face.'

And she disappeared into the back regions, wliile
^lark, the smile she had called up vanishing from his
face, came into the drawing-room, and held out a
cordial, thankful hand to his friend, whose chief
intelligence was soon communicated. ' Yes,' said
Mark, when he heard the amount entrusted by the
family to ]\Ir. Dutton, ' that will save all my wife's
poor little household gods. Xot that I should call
them so, for I am sure she does not woi-ship them.
I don't know what would become of me if she were
like poor Mrs. Greenleaf, who went into hysterics
when the bailiff arrived, and has kept her room ever
since. I sometimes feel as if nothing could hurt us
while Annaple remains what she is.'

Mr. Dutton did not wonder that he said so, when
she came in leading her little son, with his sunny hair
newly brushed and shining, and carrying a little
bouquet for the guest of one La ]\Iarque rosebud and
three lilies of the valley.

'Take it to Mr. Dutton, Billy -boy; I think he
knows how the flowers came into the garden. You
shall have daddy's button-hole to take to him next.
There, Mark, it is a pansy of most smiling countenance,
such as should beam on you through your accounts.
I declare, there's that paragon of a 'Mr. Jones helping
l^essy to bring in dinner ! Isn't it very kind to pro-
vide a man-servant for us ? '

It might be rattle, and it might be inconsequent,
but it was much pleasanter than hysterics. I>illy-boy
was small enough to require a good deal of attention
at dinner, especially as he was more disposed to open
big blue eyes at the stranger, than to make use of his

xxviii.] A BRAVE HEART. 317

spoon, aiul Annaple seemed chiefly engrossed ^vitll liim,
though a ([uick keen word at tlie riglit moment
showed that she was aware of all that was going on,
as Mark and i\Ir. Dutton discussed the present situa-
tion and future measures.

It was quite true that a man concerned in a failure
was in great danger of being left out of the race for
employment, and Mr. Dutton did not tliink it needful
to mention the force of the arguments he was using to
hack his recommendation of Mark Egremont. The
possibilities he had heard of were a clerkship at a
shipping agent's, another at a warehouse in their
own line, and a desk at an insurance office. This
sounded best, but had the smallest salary to begin
with, and locality had to be taken into account.
My. Dutton's plan was, that as soon as Mark was
no longer necessary for what Annaple was pleased
to call the fall of the sere and withered leaf, the
pair should come to stay with him, so that Mark
could see his possible employers, and Annaple con-
sider of the situations. They accepted this grate-
fully, Mark only proposing that she should go either
to his stepmother or her own relations to avoid the
final crisis.

'As if I w^ould !' she exclaimed. * "What sort of a
little recreant goose do you take me for V

' I take you for a gallant little woman, ready to
stand in the breach,' said Mark.

' Ah, don't flatter yourself ! There is a thing I
have not got coura^^e to face — without necessitv, and
that's Janet's triumphant pity. ]Mr. Dutton lives rather
too near your uncle, but he is a man, and he can't be
so bad.'

This of course did not pass till Mr. Dutton liad

318 NUTTIE's father. [chap. XXVIII.

gone in to greet the ladies next door, to promise to
tell them of their child at length when the business
hours of the day should be over.

Shall it be told? There was something in his
tone — perfectly indefinable, with which he spoke of
* Miss Egremont,' that was like the old wistfully rever-
ential voice in which he used to mention ' Mrs. Egre-
mont.' It smote ]\fary Nugent's quiet heart with a
pang. "Was it that the alteration from the old kindly
fatherliness of regard to * little Nuttie ' revealed that
any dim undefined hope of Mary's own must be ex-
tinguished for ever ; or was it that she grieved that
he should again be wasting his heart upon the im-
practicable ?

A little of both, perhaps, but ]\Iary was as ready
as ever to sympathise, and to rejoice in hearing that
the impetuous child had grown into the forbearing
dutiful woman.



' Did you say that Mark and his wife were come to
Springfield House V

'They come the day after to-morrow/ answered
Ursula. 'Mark could not finish up the business

' AVell, I suppose we must have them to dinner for
once. He has made a fool of himself, but I won't
have the Canoness complaining that I take no notice
of him ; and it is easier done while he is there than
when he has got into some hole in the City — that is if
he ever gets anything to do.'

* Mr. Button has several situations in view for him.'
' In view. That's a large order. Or does it mean

living on Button and doing something nominal? I
should think Button too old and sharp a hand for
that, though he is quartering them on himself.'

* I believe there is nothing Mr. Button would like
better, if he thought it right for them, but I am qiute
sure Mark and Annaple would not consent.'

'Ha, ha!' and Mr. Egremont laughed. 'Their
nose is not brought to the grindstone yet ! Say Satur-
day, then, Ursula.'

oHU ^'UTTIE'S FATllEU. [in.vp.

' Am I to ask ^h\ Duttoii V

' Of course ; I'm not going to liave a tctc-a-tctc with
Master Mark/

So Ursula had the satisfaction of writing a more
agreeable note to !Mr. Dutton than her hist, and her
invitation was accepted, but to her vexation !Mr. Egre-
mont further guarded himself from anything confiden-
tial by verbally asking ^h\ Clarence Fane on that
very day, and as that gentleman was a baronet's son, she
knew she should fall to his lot at dinner; and though
she was glad when this was the case at their ordinary
parties, it was a misfortune on the present occasion.
She had not seen Annaple since her marriage, except
at the family gathering on the Canon's death, when
she was very much absorbed by the requirements of
the stricken household ; and Xuttie expected to see
her in the same subdued condition. All !Mr. Dutton
had said or JMary Nugent had written about her
courage and cheerfulness had given the impression of
' jDatience smiling at grief,' and in a very compassionate
mood she started for a forenoon call at Springfield
House ; but, early as it was, nobody was at home, un-
less it might be the little boy, whose voice she thought
she heard while waiting at the gate.

She was out driving with her father afterwards in
the long summer evening, and only found ]\Iark's card
on returning just in time to dress. It was a bright
glaring day, and she was sitting by the window, rather
inattentively listening to Mr. Fane's criticism of a new
performance at one of the theatres, when she heard
the bell,, and there entered the slight, bright creature
who might still have been taken for a mere girl.
Tlie refined though pronounced features, the tran-
sjiarent complexion, crispy yellow liair and merry

xxrx.] A FRESH STAKT. 321

eyes, were as sunbeam-like as at tlie Ptectory garden-
party almost five years ago, and tlie black dress only
marked the contrast, and made the slenderness of tlie
figure more evident.

Mark looked older, and wrung his cousin's hand
with a pressure of gratitude and feeling, but Annaple's
was a light little gay kiss, and there was an entire
unconsciousness about her of the role of poor relation.
She made an easy little acknowledgment of the in-
troduction of Mr. Fane, and, as Mr. Egremont appeared
the next moment, exchanged greetings with him in a
lively ordinary fashion.

This was just what he liked. He only wanted to
forget what was unpleasant, and, giggling Scotch girl
as she was, he was relieved to find that she could not
only show well-bred interest in the surface matters of
the time, but put in bright flashes of eagerness and
originality, well seconded by Mr. Button. Mr. Fane
was always a professor of small talk, and Nuttie had
learnt to use the current change of society, so that
though Mark was somewhat silent, the dinner was
exceedingly pleasant and lively; and, as Mr. Fane
remarked afterwards, he had been asked to enliven a
doleful feast to ruined kindred, he could only say he
wished prosperity always made people so agreeable.

'This is all high spirit and self-respect,' thought
ISTuttie. ' Annaple is talking as I am, from the teeth
outwards. I shall have it out with her when we "o
upstairs ! At any rate my father is pleased with her !'

Nuttie made the signal to move as soon as she
could, and as they went upstairs, put her arm round
the slim waist and gave a sympathetic pressure, but
the voice that addressed her had still the cheery ring
that she fancied had been only assumed.


322 NUTTIE'S FATHEK. [chap.

' I'm sorry I missed you, but we set out early
and made a day of it ; and oh ! we've been into such
funny places as I never dreamt of ! You didn't see
my boy ? '

' No. I tliouglit T lieard him. I must see him

'And I must see yours. May it not be a pleasure
to-night ? I've no doubt you go and gloat over him
at niglit.'

* Well, I do generally run up after dinner ; but
after your day, I can't tliink of dragging you up all
these stairs.'

* Oh, that's nothing ! Only you see it is jollier to
have my Billy-boy in the next room.'

They were mounting all the time, and were received
in the day nursery by the old Rectory nurse, much
increased in dignity, but inclined to be pathetic as she
inquired after ' Mr. Mark,' while Annaple, lilvc a little
insensible being, answered with provoking complacency
as to his perfect health, and begged Mrs. Poole to bring
Master Alwyn to play in the garden at Springfield
with her Willie. In fact there was a general invita-
tion already to Alwyn to play there, but his attendants
so much preferred the society of their congeners in the
parks that they did not avail themselves of it nearly
as often as Ursula wished.

Little Alw}ai asleep was, of course, a beautiful
sight, with a precious old headless rabbit pressed tight
to his cheek; Annaple's face grew tender as she looked
at the motherless creature; and she admired him to
any extent except saying that he excelled her own.
Being more tlian a year the elder, there could be no
rivalry as to accomplishments ; but as soon as they
were out of the nursery liusli, Annai)le laughed lier


way down again with tales of Billy-boy's wonder at his
first experiences of travelling. They sat down among
the plants in the balcony, as far from the lamps as
possible, and talked themselves into intimacy over
Micklethwayte. There are two Eden homes in people's
lives, one that of later childhood, the other the first of
wedded happiness, and St. Ambrose Eoad had the same
halo to both of these ; for both had been uprooted
from it against their will ; the chief difference being
that Ursula could cast longing, lingering looks behind,
while Annaple held herself resolutely steeled against
sentiment, and would only turn it off by something
absurd. Nothing was absolutely settled yet; Mark
had been presenting himself at offices, and she had
been seeing rooms and lodgings.

' The insurance office sounds the best, and would be
the least shock to our belongings,' said Annaple ; ' but
it seems to lead to nothing. He would not get on
unless we had capital to invest, and even if we had
any, you wouldn't catch us doing that again ! '

' Does Mr. Button advise that V

' No, he only thought we should like it better ;
but we are quite past caring for people's feelings in
the matter. They couldn't pity us worse than they do.
I incline to Stubbs and Co. One of them was once in
the Greenleaf office, and has a regard for anything
from thence ; besides Mark would have something to
do besides desk work. He would have to judge of
samples, and see to the taking in and storing of goods.
He does know something about that, and I'm sure it
would agree with him better than an unmitigated high
stool, with his nose to a desk.'

' I should like it better.'

' That's right ! Now I have got some one to say so.

324 2;uttie's father. [.hap.

Besides, rising is possible, if one gets very useful. I
mean to be ^Irs. Alderman, if not my Lady Mayoress,
before we have done. Then they have a great big
almost deserted set of rooms over the warehouse, where
we might live and look after the place.'

' Oh ! but should you like that ?'

* ]Mr. Button wants us to live out in some of the
suburban places, where it seems there is a perfect popu-
lation of clerks' families in semi-detached houses. He
says we should save Mark's railway fare, rent, and all in
doctors' bills. But people, children and aH do live
and thrive in the City ; and I think Mark's health will
be better looked after if I am there to give him his mid-
day bite and sup, and brush him up, than if he is left to
cater for himself; and as to exercise for the Billy-boy,
'tis not so far to the Thames Embankment. The only
things that stagger me are the blacks ! I don't know
whether life is long enough to be after the blacks all
day long, but perhaps I shall get used to them !'

' Well, I think that would be worse.'

' Perhaps it would ; and at any rate, if the blacks do
beat me, we could move. Think, no rent, nor rates,
nor taxes — that is an inducement to swallow — no — to
contend with, any number of blackamoors, isn't it? even
if they settle on the tip of Billy-boy's nose.'

' I could come to see you better there than out in
a suburb,' said Nuttie. ' But what do these rooms look
out upon ?'

' On one side into their own court, on tlie other
into Wulstan Street — a quiet place on the whole — all
walls and warehouses ; and there's an excellent parish
churcli, Mr. Underwood's ; so I think we might do worse.'

Nuttie was very sorry that the gt'utlemon came up,
and Mr. Fane wandered out and began asking whether


tliey were goiug to the rose show. Somehow on that
evening she became conscious that Annaple looked at
her and Mr. Fane rather curiously; and when they
met again the next day, and having grown intimate over
the introduction of the two little boys, were driving out
together, there were questions about whether she saw
much of him.

* Oh, I don't know ! He is the nicest, on the
whole, of papa's friends ; he can talk of something
besides ' — Nuttie paused over her ' besides,' — ' horsey-
ness, and all that sort of thing — he is not so like an
old satyr as some of them are ; and so he is a re-

' I see. And you meet him elsewhere, don't you,
in general society ? '

' I don't go out much now that Lady Kirkaldy is
not in town ; but he always seems to turn up every-
where that one goes.'

' Ursula, I'm very glad of that tone of yours. I
was afraid '

' Afraid of what ? ' cried Nuttie in a defiant tone.

'That you liked him, and he is not really nice,
Nuttie. Mark knows all about him ; and so did I
when I lived with the Delmars.'

Nuttie laughed rather bitterly. ' Thank you,
Annaple. As if I could care for that man — or he for
me, for that matter ! I know but too well,' she added
gravely, ' that nobody nice is ever intimate at home.'

* I beg your pardon. I would not have worried
you about it, only I think you must take care, Nuttie,
for Blanche mentioned it to us last winter.'

' Blanche is an arrant gossip ! If she saw a grand-
father and great grandmother gossiping she would say
they were going to be married.'

32 G NUTTIE's father. [chap.

' Yes, as IMark says, one always swallows Blanche
with a qnalification.*

* You may be quite sure, Annaple, that nothing like
that will ever be true about me ! Why, what would
ever become of my poor little Wyn if I was so horrid
lus to want to go and marry ? '

She said it with an ineffable tone of contempt, just
like the original Nuttie, who seemed to be recalled by
association with Annaple.

That sojourn of Mark and his wife at Springfield

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 21 of 28)