Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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House was a bright spot in that summer. If it had
been only that Annaple's presence gave the free entree
to such an island of old Micklethwayte, it would have
been a great pleasure to her; but there was besides
the happiness of confidence and unrestraint in their
society, a restful enjoyment only to be appreciated by
living the guarded life of constraint that was hers.
She was so seldom thrown among people whom she
could admire and look up to. Annaple told her hus-
band of Nuttie's vehement repudiation of any intention
of marriage. ' I am sure she meant it,' she observed,
' it was only a little too strong. I wonder if that poor
youth who came to her first ball, and helped to pick
us out of the hole in Bluepost Bridge, had anything
to do with it.'

Annaple had an opportunity of judging. ]\Ir.
Dutton would not have brought about a meeting which
might be painful and unsettling to both; but one
afternoon, wlien Nuttie was ' off duty ' with her
father, and had come in to share Annaple's five o'clock-
tea, Gerard Godfrey, looking the curate from head to
foot, made his a])pearance, having come up from the
far east, al)Out some call on ]\Ir. Dutton's purse.

The two sliu(jk liands with pleased surprise, ami a


little heightening of colour, but that was all. Nuttie
had been out to luncheon, and was dressed 'like a
mere fashionable young lady ' in his eyes ; and when,
after the classes and clubs and schools of his district
had been discussed, he asked, ' And I suppose you
are taking part in everything here ? '

' No, that I can't !'

' Indeed ! I know Porlock, the second curate here
very well, and he tells me that his vicar has a wonder-
ful faculty of finding appropriate work for every one.
Of course you know him ? '

' No, I don't ;' said Nuttie.

'Miss Egremont has her appropriate work,' said
Mr. Button, and the deacon felt himself pushed
into his old position at Micklethwayte. He knew
the clergy of the district very well, and how per-
sistently either Mr. Egremont, or perhaps Gregorio,
prevented their gaining admittance at his house ; and
he guessed, but did not know, that Nuttie could not
have got into personal intercourse with them without
flat disobedience.

Annaple threw herself into the breach, and talked
of St. Wulstan's ; and the encounter ended, leaving the
sense of having drifted entirely away from one another,
and being perfectly heart whole, though on the one
hand Ursula's feeling was of respect and honour ; and
Gerard's had a considerable element of pity and dis-

' No ! ' said Annaple when they were gone, ' he
will not cry like the kloarek in the Breton ballad who
wetted three great missals through with his tears at
his first mass. He is very good, I am sure, but he is
a bit of a prig ! '

' It is very hard to youth to be good without

328 NUTTIE's FATIIEK. [chai". xxix.

priggishness,' said Mr. Diittoii. ' Self-assertion is
necessary, and it may easily be carried too far.'

* Buttresses are useful, but they are not beauties/
rejoined Aunaple.

The warehouse an'angement was finally adopted,
and after the three weeks necessary for the cleaning
and fitting of their floor, and the l)ringing in of then*
furniture, Mark and Annaple began what she termed
' Life among the Blacks.'

Nuttie had great designs of constantly seeing
Annaple, sending her supplies from the gardens and
preserves at Bridgefield, taking her out for drives, and
cultivating a friendship between Alwyn and Willie,
who had taken to each other very kindly on the
whole. They could not exactly understand each
other's language, and had great fights from time to
time over toys, for though there was a year between
them they were nearly equal in strength; but they
cared for each other's company more than for anything
else, were always asking to go to one another, and
roared when the time of parting came ; at least Alwyn
did so unreservedly, for Nuttie had begun to perceive
with compunction that Billy-boy was much the most
under control, and could try to be good at his
mother's word, without other bribe than her kiss and
smile. Ah ! but he had a mother !


nuttie's pkospects.

' Three hundred pounds and possibilities. '

Merry Wives of Windsor.

Again Nuttie's plans were doomed to be frustrated.
It did not prove to be half so easy to befriend Mr.
and Mrs. Mark Egremont as she expected, at the dis-
tance of half London apart, and with no special turn
for being patronised on their side.

Her father took a fancy for almost daily drives
with her in the park, because then he could have
Alwyn with him ; and the little fellow's chatter had
become his chief amusement. Or if she had the
carriage to herself, there was sure to be something
needful to be done which made it impossible to go
into the city to take up and set down Mrs. Mark
Egremont ; and to leave her to make her way home
would be no kindness. So Nuttie only accomplished
a visit once before going out of town, and that was by
her own exertions — by underground railway and cab.
Then she found all going prosperously ; the blacks not
half so obnoxious as had been expected (of course
not, thought Nuttie, in the middle of the summer) ;
the look-out over the yard very amusing to Billy-boy ;

330 NUTTIE's FATIIKK. [chai'.

iiud the large old-fashioned pannelled rooms, so cool and
airy that Annaple was quite delighted with them, and
contemned the idea of needing a holiday. She had
made them very jiretty and pleasant with her Mickle-
thwayte furniture, whose only fault was being on too
small a scale for tliese larger spaces, but that had been
remedied by piecing, and making what had been used
for two serve for one.

The kitchen was on the same floor, close at hand,
wliich was well, for Annaple did a good deal there,
having only one young maid for the rougher work.
She had taken lessons in the School of Cookery, and
practised a good deal even at Micklethwayte, and she
was proud of her skill and economy. Mark came in
for his mid -day refreshment, and looked greatly
brightened, as if the worst had come and was by no
means so bad as he expected. All the time he had
been at Mr. Button's he had been depressed and
anxious, but now, with his boy on his knee, he was
merrier than Nuttie had ever known him. As to
exercise, there were delightful evening walks, some-
times early marketings in the long summer mornings
before business began — and altogether it seemed, as
Nuttie told her father afterwards, as if she had had a
glimpse into a little City Arcadia.

' Hein ! ' said he, ' how long will it last ? '
And Nuttie was carried away to Cowes, where he
had Ijeen persuaded to recur to his old favourite
sport of yachting. She would have rather liked this
if Clarence Fane had not been there too, and con-
tinually haunting them. She had been distrustful of
him ever since Annaple's warning, and it became a
continual worry to tlie motlierlcss girl to deride
wlietlier his civil attentions really meant unvtliinu, or

XXX.] nuttie's TROSPECTS. 331

whether she were only foolisli and ridiculous in not
accepting them as freely and simply as before.

Of one thing she became sure, namely, that Gre-
gorio was doing whatever in him lay to bring them

In this seaside temporary abode, great part of tlie
London establishment was left behind, and Gregorio
condescended to act the part of butler, with only a
single man-servant under him, and thus he had much
more opportunity of regulating the admission of visitors
than at home ; and he certainly often turned Mr. Fane
in upon her, when she had intended that gentleman to
be excluded, and contrived to turn a deaf or uncompre-
hending ear when she desired that there should be no
admission of visitors unless her father was absolutely
ready for them ; and also there were times when he
must have suggested an invitation to dinner, or a
joining in a sail. No doubt Gregorio would have
been delighted to see her married, and to be thus free
from any counter influence over his master ; but as
she said to herself, ' Catch me ! Even if I cared a
rush for the man, I could not do it. I don't do my
poor father much good, but as to leaving poor little
Alwyn in his clutches — I must be perfectly demented
with love even to think of it.'

There was a desire on the valet's part to coax and
court little Alwyn of which she felt somew^hat jealous.
The boy was naturally the pet of every one in the
household, but he was much less out of Gregorio's
reach in the present confined quarters, and she could
not bear to see him lifted up in the valet's arms,
allowed to play with his watch, held to look at distant
sails on board the yacht, or even fed witli sweet biscuits
or chocolate creams.

oo2 NUTTIE.S FATllEK. [chap.

The Rectory nursery had gone on a strict regimen
aud nurse was as angry as Nuttie herself; but there
was no preventing it, for his father was not above
cupboard love, and never resisted the entreaties that
were always excited by the sight of dainties, only
laughing when Nuttie remonstrated, or even saying,
' Xever mind sister, AVynnie, she's got Mrs. Teachem's
cap on,' and making the cliild laugh by pretending to
smuggle in papers of sweets by stealth, apart from the
severe eyes of sister or nurse.

That cut Nuttie to the heart. To speak of tlie
evils for which self - indulgence was a preparation
would only make her father sneer at her for a second
Hannah More. It was a language he did not under-
stand ; and as to the physical unwholesomeness, he
simply did not choose to believe it. She almost
wished Alwyn would for once be sick enough to
frighten him, but that never happened, nor would he
accept nurse's statement of the boy being out of

Poor little Alwyn, he was less and less of an un-
mixed joy to her as he was growing out of the bounds
of babyhood, and her notions of discipline were
thwarted by her father's unbounded indulgence. To
her the child was a living soul, to be trained for a
responsible position here and for the eternal world
beyond ; to her father he was a delightful plaything,
never to be vexed, whose very tempers were amusing,
especially when they teased the serious elder sister.

* Oil father ! do you ever tlnnk wliat it will come
to ? ' Nuttie could not help saying one day when ]\Ir.
Egremont had prevented her from carrying hmi off in
disgrace to the nursery for tying the rolls up in dinner
napkins to enact Punch and Judy, in spite of his own

XXX.] nuttie's prospects. 333

endeavours to prevent tlie consequent desolation f)f the

Mr. Egreniont shrugged his shoulders, and only
observed, ' An excuse for a little home tyranny, eh ?
No, no, Wyn ; we don't want tame little muffs

Nuttie was obliged to run out of the room and —
it must be confessed — dance and stamp out her agony
of indignation and misery that her father should be
bent on ruining liis child, for she could not under-
stand that all this was simply the instinctive self-
indulgence of a drugged brain and dulled conscience.

She did, however, get a little support and help
during a brief stay in the shooting season at Bridge-
field. The Canoness was visiting the Condamines at
the Eectory, and very soon understood all the state
of things, more perhaps from her former nurse than
from Ursula. She was witness to one of those trying
scenes, when Nuttie had been forbidding the misuse
of a beautiful elaborate book of nursery rhymes, where
Alwyn thought proper to 'kiir with repeated stabs
the old woman of the shoe, when preparing to beat her

Just as she was getting the dagger paper-knife out
of his little hand, and was diverting the pout on his
swelling lip, his father became aware of the contest,
and immediately the half conquered boy appealed to
him. * Sister naughty. Won't let Wynnie kill cross
ugly old woman, beating poor little children.'

' A fellow feeling ! eh, sister ? Kill her away, boy,
tear her out ! Yes, give her to sister, and tell her that's
the way to serve sour females ! I declare, Ursula, slie
has got something of your expression.'

* Oh Wyimie, Wynnie ! ' said Nuttie, as he trotted

334 NUTTIE's father. [chap.

up to her, ' is sister cross and ugly ? ' and slie opened
her arms to him.

' Sister, Wyn's own sister/ said the child affection-
ately, letting himself be kissed as he saw her grieved.
' She shan't be ugly old woman — ugly old woman go
in fire.'

So perilously near the flame did he run to burn the
old woman that Mr. Egremont shouted to her that in
spite of all that humbug, she was perfectly careless of
the child, although if she had withheld him she would
probably have been blamed for thwarting him.

' Are you quite fair towards Ursula ? ' the aunt
ventured to say when the girl had gone to dress for
walking down with her to the Rectory. * It is
hard on her, and not good for the boy to upset her

' Eh ? Why, the girl is just a governess inanqu^e,
imbued with the spirit of all those old women who
bred her up. A nice life the poor child would have
of it, but for me.'

' I am sure she is devotedly attached to him.'

* Hein ! So she thinks ; but trust human nature
for loving to wreak discipline on the child who has
cut her out.'

' That is scarcely just, Ahvjm. She w\as greatly
relieved to be cut out.'

Mr. Egremont laughed at this, and his sister-in-law
indignantly added with all the authority of a success-
ful parent, * Any way, nothing is so bad for a child as
collision between the authorities in a family. Ursula
is doing her best to act as a mother to that child, and
it will be very injurious to him to interfere with her

' She's a good girl enough — gives very little trouble,'

XXX.] nuttik's prospects. 3.35

he allowed, 'but I'm not going to have the boy sat

As he spoke the words, Nuttie returned, and as soon
as she was out of the house and out of hearing she
exclaimed, ' Oh, Aunt Jane, you see how it is ! How
am I to prevent my boy from being utterly ruined ? '

* I have been speaking to your father,' said Mrs.
Egremont, ' but he does not seem to understand. Men
don't. A child's faults and fancies seem such trifles
to them that they can't see the harm of indulging
them, and, besides, they expect to be amused.'

' And is that poor dear little fellow to grow up
spoilt ? ' said Nuttie, her eyes hot with unshed

' I hope not, Ursula. I have great confidence in
your influence, for I see you are a sensible girl.' This
was astonishing praise from the Canoness. ' But you
will throw away your chances if you keep up a con-
tinual opposition to what your father allows. It will
be much less hurtful if Alwyn does get too much in-
dulgence, and does a little unnecessary mischief, than
for him to learn to think you the enemy of his pleasures,
always wanting to check and punish him. Oh yes,' as
Nuttie was going to answer, ' I know it is for his real
good, but how is that baby to understand that ?
Indeed, my dear, I know how it is ; I have gone
through the same sort of thing with Basil.'

* Oh, it could never have been so bad ! '

' No, of course not ; but I have had to allow what
I did not like for the child rather than let him see the
shadow of difference of opinion between us, and I don't
think it has done him any harm. The great point is
that you should keep that poor little fellow's affection
and respect, and make him unwilling to vex you.'

336 nuttie's father. [* hap.

' That he is, dear little man. He is sorry when he
sees sister grieved. He is always distressed if any
thing is liurt or pained. He is really tender-hearted.'

* Yes, bnt boys are boys. That feeling will fail you
if you work it too hard, and especially if you show
vexation at his pleasures. Keep that for real evils,
like falsehood or cruelty.'

* Not for disobedience ? *

' The evil of disobedience depends much more upon
the authority of an order than on the child itself. If he
disobeys you under his father's licence, you cannot make
much of it. You have him a good deal to yourself ? '

* Yes.'

' Then make use of that time to strengthen his
principles and sense of right and wTong, as well as to
secure his affections. My dear, I never saw a girl in
a more difficult position than yours, but I see you are
doing your utmost ; only I am afraid the love of seda-
tives is the same.*

' Oh aunt, I did think he had given it up ! '

' You are inexperienced, my dear. I see it in his
eyes. Well, I'm afraid there is no stopping that.'

' Mother ' and Nuttie's voice was choked.

' She did her best, but you have not tlie same
opportunities. It can't be helped with a man of that
age. Mark might have done something, but he is out
of the question now, poor fellow ! '

' Indeed, Aunt Jane, I tliink Mark and Annaple
are some of the liappiest people I ever saw. I only
wish my poor Alwyn were as forward as their Billy,
but I'm not even allowed to teacli liim liis letters,
because once he cried over them.'

* I ^vish they had anything to fall back upon,' said
Mrs. Kgremont anxiously. 'They arc so unwilling to

XXX.] nuttie's tkospects. 337

let any one know of their difficulties that I feel as if
I never knew in what straits they may l)e. You will
be sure to let me know, Ursula, if there is anything
that I can do for them.'

That conversation was a great comfort and help to
Nuttie, who was pleased to find herself treated as a
real friend by her aunt, and perceived the wisdom of
her advice. But the watching over the Mark Egre-
monts was a very difficult matter to accomplish, for
when she went back to London she was warned that
Billy had the whooping cough, rendering them unap-
proachable all the winter, so that she could only hear
of them through Mr. Dutton, whom she continued to
see occasionally whenever there was anything to com-
municate. Mr. Egremont rather liked him, and on
meeting him in the street, would ask him casually in
to dinner, or to make up a rubber, or play piquet, for
he excelled in these arts, and still more in chess, and
an evening with Mr. Dutton was quite a red-letter
time with Nuttie. It gave her an indefinable sense
of safety and protection ; but it was not always to be
had, for her friend had many engagements, being one
of the active lay church workers, and devoting two
regular evenings in each week to Gerard Godfrey's
eastern district, where he kept all the accounts, had a
model court and evening class, besides hospitably rest-
ing tired clergymen and their wives in his pleasant
quiet house.

In the spring Mr. Egremont was laid up with the
worst rheumatic attack he had yet had, in consequence
of yielding to the imperious will of his son, who had
insisted on standing in a bleak corner to see the Life
Guards pass by. On this occasion Nuttie did not prove
herself the heaven-born nurse that the true heroine


338 nuttik's father. [chap.

ought to be, but was extremely frightened, and alto-
gether dependent on Gregorio, who knew all about the
symptoms, and when to send for the doctor and a
garde -malaclc. Gregorio always talked French to
Nuttie when he felt himself in the ascendant, as he
certainly was at present ; but he became much less
gracious when he heard that Mrs. William Egremont
might be expected, declaring that niadame would only
excite his master, and that her presence was quite
unnecessary. Her coming had been volunteered, but
it was a great boon to Ursula, who was thus helped
out in many perplexities, although Mrs. Egremont was
a great deal at her step-son's, and neither lady was of
much avail in the sick-room, during the stress of the
illness. It was never actually dangerous, but there
was great suffering and much excitement, and for
four or five days the distress and anxiety were con-
siderable. After this passed off Ursula was surprised
to find her company preferred to that of her aunt.
She was a better souffrc-doulcur, was less of a re-
straint, and was besides his regular reader and amanu-
ensis, so that as the force of the attack abated, he kept
her a good deal in his room during the latter part of
the day, imparting scraps of intelligence, skimming the
papers for him, and reading his letters.

There was a lease to be signed, and, as soon as
might be, Mr. Bulfinch, the Eedcastle solicitor, brought
it up, and had to be entertained at luncheon. WTiile
he was waiting in the drawing-room for Mr. Egi-e-
mont to be made ready for him, he looked with deep
interest on the little heir, whom Ursula presently
led oil to the other end of the room to the hoard of
downstair toys ; and an elaborate camp was under con-
striictiun, when liy llie fireside, the Canoness inquired


ill a low confidential tone, ' May I ask whether you
came about a will ? '

* No, Mrs. Egreinont. I wisli I were. It is only
about the lease of Spinney cotes farm.'

' Then there is none ? '

* None that I am aware of. None has ever been
drawn up by us. Indeed, I was wishing that some
influence could be brought to bear which might show
the expedience of making some arrangement. Any
melancholy event is, I trust, far distant, but contin-
gencies should be provided for.'

'Exactly so. He is recovering now, but these
attacks always leave effects on the heart, and at his
age, with his habits, no one knows what may happen.
Of course it would not make much difference to the

' No, the Court of Chancery would appoint the most
suitable natural guardians.'

' But,' said Mrs. Egremont, ' I am afraid that the
personal property when divided would not be much of
a provision for her.'

' You are right. The investments are unfortunately
and disproportionately small.'

' She ought either to have them all, or there should
be a charge on the estate,' said the Canoness decisively.
' If possible, he must be made to move.'

' Oh, don't !' cried Nuttie, jumping up from the
floor. ' He mustn't be upset on any account.'

* My dear, I had no notion that you heard us ! '
exclaimed her aunt. ' I thought Alwyn was nialdng
too much noise with his soldiers.'

' I beg your pardon,' said Nuttie, ' perhaps I should
have spoken sooner, but indeed he must not be worried
and disturbed,' slie added, somewhat fiercely.

340 NUTTIE's father. [

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 22 of 28)