Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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sense of a new day. But there was nothing to hear —
no news. She found Mr. Button in tlie dining-room.
He had had to administer another draught to her
father, and had left him in a sleep which would prob-
ably last for some time. If slie would go and sit in
the outer room, after her breakfast, he would go out to
obtain intelligence.

* You must have some breakfast,' she said, ringing
the bell, and wistfully looking over the blinds; then
exclaiming : ' Oh, there's ]\Iark ! Has he heard any-



374 XUTTIE'S father. [chap.

tiling ? ' and out she darted, opening tlic door before he
rang. ' Mark ! have you found liini ? '

' Yes,' lie said gravely, looking utterly amazed as
she chasped her hands, and seemed ready to Hing her-
self on his neck with joy. ' I came because it will be
a great shock to niy uncle.'

* Then it is s(j ! Xurse was right,' said Xuttie,
turning deadly ])a.le, and standing as if before a
iiring platoon. ' Tell nie, Mark, where did tlicy lind
him ? '

' At the Faringdon Station. I was sent for to
identify him.'

' Stay,' said Mr. Button, as there was a wild horrified
look in Nuttie's eyes. ' Do you mean little Alwyn ? '

' Little Alwyn ' iSTo, certainly not. What of him ? '

* Gregorio managed to lose him in the park yester-
day,' put in Mr. iJutton.

' That accounts for it, then,' said Mark. ' Xo, it
was Gregorio himself, poor man. He was knocked
duwn by the engine, and killed on the spot, just
by the station, at eleven o'clock last night. Our
name was found on him, and I was sent for early
this morning. There was no doulit about it, so I
came on here at once to let my uncle know, little
thinking '

* Oh, it is dreadful ! ' cried Xuttie, sinking into a
chair. * Do you remember, my father told him never
to see his face again unless he found Alwyn ? '

Broadbent came in at the moment with the coffee-
pot, and stood suspended, as he was told what had
liappened, Mark adding the detail: ' He was crossing
the line in front of the engine.'

'Yes, sir,' said the butler. 'It is an awful dis-
pensation. Xo (i()ul)t he kni'W it was all u}) with him.



XXXIV.] FETTERS RENT. 375

You may not be aware, sir, of the subject of his con-
versation in the park. Mr. Parker had just seen a
telegram of the result of the Derby, and he had heavy
bets on Lady Edina. I am afraid, sir, there can be
no doubt that he found a voluntary grave.'

* We will not talk of that. We cannot judge,' said
Mark, shuddering. ' I said I would send some one
from here to arrange what was to be done after the
inquest.'

Broadbent immediately undertook to go, if his
master did not require him, and this was thought
advisable, as his services were certainly not acceptable
to ]\Ir. Egremont. Mark had thought himself likely
to be detained and had provided for his absence, and
the awe-stricken trio were consulting together over the
breakfast- table, eating mechanically, from the very
exhaustion of agitation, wdien the door opened, and
Mr. Egremont in his dressing-gown was among them,
exclaiming : ' You are keeping it from me.' He had
been wakened by the whispers and rushes of the
excited maids, had rung his bell in vain, dressed him-
self as best he could after so many years of depend-
ence, and stumbled downstairs, where, as with his
daughter, it was something like a relief to know
that hope was not extinguished in Alwyn's case. But
Mr. Egremont was in a very trembling, broken con-
dition, and much overcome by his valet's end after so
many years of intimate association. Certainly, if
either of the others had so parted wdth the man, it
would have been a horror in the recollection, but he
did not seem to dwell on it ; and, indeed, attention
was distracted by every sound at the door, since each
might bring news of the missing child.

One of these tantalising rings proved to be a



376 ^'UTTIE'S FATIIKK.



CHAP.



policeman \nth poor Gregorio's keys, and a demand
for an investigation into any papers he might have
left which wonhl show his state of mind. i\Ir. Egre-
mont was very nnich annoyed, decLiriiig tliat lie would
liave no stranger meddle with them, and that he saw
no use in such ])rying. What difference could it
make to any living creature ? However, when he
found there was no help for it, he said he must do it
himself Xuttie offered to help, but was sharply,
strongly refused. ]\Iark alone might and should
help.

Then ]\Ir. Button volunteered to go and explain
matters to j\Ir. Dobbs, so as to get freedom for ]\Iark
for at least the remainder of the day. He would call
at the police offices and see what was doing in the
search, put forward the advertisements, and obtain that
the Serpentine should be dragged, for he saw that only
that measure would remove one great terror from these
anxious hearts.

' And,' he said to Mark, ' with your permission, I
will bring back Mrs. Egremont and the children if
they will do me the honour to become my guests.
She will be a comfort to j\Iiss Egremont, and then
you will be at hand in the evening.'

Mark could only be thankful, and presently ad-
dressed himself to the investigation, which his uncle
insisted should be made in his own presence, though
the opiate ke})t him for the most part dozing in an
arm-chair, only rousing u]) now and then by some
noise at the front door, or putting queries, the replies
to which startled him more and more, as he grew
more wakeful and Mark proceeded.

All, except a few unimportant bills and a betting-
book, was locked into a dressing-case that had once



xxxiY.] FETTERS KENT. 377

belonged to Mr. Egremoiit, and had tricks of secret
drawers that only he could explain. It was full of
papers, and they were a strange revelation that ]\Ir.
Egremont might well wish to withliold from his
daughter. They went very far back, and of course
did not come out in order of chronology, nor would
Mark have understood them but for exclamations and
comments here and there from his uncle.

Everything seemed to be there, — the old passport
and certificate to Gregorio Savelli, when he left his Savo-
yard home to be a waiter at a hotel ; a few letters in
Italian, probably from his parents, which Mark could not
read, but wdiich soon ceased ; the counter-signed char-
acter with which he had entered General Egremont's
service ; and then came a note or two signed A. P. E.,
which Mr. Egremont regarded with great annoyance,
though they only consisted of such phrases as ' Back on
Wednesday. Find an excuse/ or in Erench, ' Envoyez
moi la petite hoite ! ' 'Que la porte soit oicverte ajpr^s
mmicit.'

' That was the way/ groaned ]\Ir. Egremont. ' The
scoundrel 1 he kept all those to be able to show me
up to the General if he chose ! I was a young man
then, Mark, not the straitlaced lad you've always been.
And the General ! A bad old dog he was, went far be-
yond what I ever did, but for all that he had no notion
of any one going any way but his own, and wanted to
rein me in as tight as if he had been an epitome of
all the virtues. And Gregorio seemed a good-natured
young fellow then, and made things easy for me,
though no doubt he meant to have me in his hands,
in case I tried to shake him off.'

Another discovery affected him far more. It was
of a letter in Alice's handwriting, addressed to Captain



378 nuttie's father. [.hap.

Fy^Tcmont, in the yaclit Xhw7i — j^^^^^ rcstante, Madeira.
He had never seen it, never known of its existence ;
(Iregorio had gone to inqnire for tlie letters, and had
su])i)ivssed it. ^Mr. Ep-emont had wondered how he
liad l)econie aware of the marriage. His knowledge
liad from that time heen nsed as a means of enforcing
the need of a good understanding witli the heir. Mr.
ECTcmont was nmcli moved hv the sight of the letter,
and its date, from I)ie])pe, about six months after he
liad left liis young wife there. He made Mark give
it to liim unread, liandlud it tenderly, struggled to
read the delicate pointed writing to himself, but soon
deferred the attempt, observing, 'There, there, I
can't stand it now ! But you see, ]\Iark,' he added
after an interval, ' I was not altogether the heartless
brute you thought me.'

^Tark, as he told his wife afterwards, could not
help thinking of the old preamble to indictments, ' By
the temptation of the devil.'

And by and by, out of a pocket-book bearing the
date of the General's death, came a copy of the cer-
titicate of the baptism of Ursula Alice, daughter
of Alwyn Piercefield and Alice Egremont, together
with that address which jMiss Headworth had left
at Dieppe to gratify Alice's forlorn idea of a })ossible
rescue, and which Gregorio had asseverated to be non-
existent.

Doubtless he infinitely preferred his master's
wandering bachelor life to the resumj^tion of marriage
ties, and thus he had contrived to kei>p ^Ir. Egremont
from meeting the Houghtons at Florence. At the
same time tlie uncertainty as to Alice's fate had
prevented any other marriage. Gregorio had taken
care that, if Mr. Egremont had been villain enough to



FETTEKS KENT.



370



make such an attempt, lie should know that his secret
could be brought to light.

Compared with all this wickedness, the proofs of
fraud and dishonesty were entirely unimjxjrlant.
Gambling had evidently been a passion with the
valet, and peculation had followed, and Murk could
have traced out the full tide before the reinstatement
of Mrs. Egremont in her home, the gradual el)]> during
her reign, the diminished restraint under her daughter.
The other servants had formerly been implicated, but,
except a young groom and footman, ]\Iark thought the
present set quite free from the taint, and was glad to
acquit Broadbent. But the last telegrams and the
bettiug-book in the unhappy man's pocket confirmed
I'arker's evidence that of late he had staked almost
madly, and had risked sums far beyond any means
he could raise upon the horse which had failed. The
bailiff at Bridgefield had, it had long been guessed,
played into his hands, but to what an extent Mark
only now discovered.

The result was that what he had learnt in the
Park had so astounded him that his inattention to the
child had not been wonderful. He had — as Parker
testified — sought the little fellow vehemently, and had
he been successful, he might yet have made some
effort, trusting to his master's toleration ; but the loss
and reproach had made him an absolutely desperate
man. Was it blind flight or self-destruction ? That
he had money about him, having cashed a cheque of
his master's, favoured the first idea, and no one would
too curiously inquire whether Mr. Egremont was
aware of the amount.

It was only too true that, as he had said, Gregorio
Savelli had been the curse of his life, having become



380 XUTTIE'S father. [chap.

one of the whips left by })leasaiit vices, and tlie break-
ing of tlie yoke had been not only at a terrible price,
but, to a man in his half-blind and invalid condition,
the actual loss of the person on whom he had
depended was a privation. Dr. l^rownlow, however,
knew of a good man-servant just set at liberty by the
death of an invalid master, and promised to send him
on trial.

It was a day of agitations and disappointments,
a sample of many that were to follow. There was not
a sound of a bell that did not make anxious hearts
throb. And oh ! how many were spent on vain
reports, on mere calls of sympathy by acquaintance
whom the father and sister could not see, and on notes
of inquiry or condolence that Nuttie had to answer.

Annaple came and was a great help and sup-
port to her. Poor nurse, oblivious of her bad foot, or
jK'rhaps, willing to wreak vengeance on it as the cause
of all .the mischief, had insisted on continuimr her
search in the morning under all the thorns and rhodo-
dendrons where she thought the dear lamb might have
hidden and cried himself to sleep, and at last had been
brought home in a cab quite worn out and despairing.
But the screaming baby proved to be a much better
comforter to her than any amount of reasonal)le argu-
ment. To soothe it, to understand what ailed it, to
find suitable food for it, was an occupation Avhich made
the suspense less intolerable. The very hamlling of
an infant would have been congenial; and a .^^ickly
crying one was only too interesting. Willie was
too near her darling's age to be a welcome sight,
but he was already a prime pet with the servants at
Springfield ; and Ainiaj)le, secure that her children
were in safe and experienced hands, and overflowing



XXXIV. ] FETTERS KENT. 381

with motherly sympathy for the grievous loss, was
ready to devote herself to Nuttie, whether by talk, by
letter writing, or by seeing inquiring friends. She did
not expect to be of any use to Mr. Egreniont, who had
always held aloof from and disliked ' the giggling
Scotch girl,' but who came drearily wandering at an
unexpected time into the room where she was sitting
with his daughter, and presently was involved in their
conversation. Whether it was the absence of the poor
familiar, or that Annaple was no longer a giggling girl,
but a brave, cheerful wife and mother, it was certain that
he found the same comfort and support in her presence
as did Nuttie. When fits of restless misery and des-
pair pressed hardest upon him, it was soon perceived
that Annaple's cheerful tact enabled her to deal with
him as no one else could do. There was the restraint
of courtesy towards her, such as had worn out towards
his daughter, and besides her sanguine optimist spirit
never became so depressed as did poor Nuttie's. Mark
went by day to his work, but came back to dine at his
uncle's, hear the reports, and do what he could for
him ; and meantime Annaple spent the chief part of
the day in aiding Nuttie and Mr. Egreniont, while her
baby really showed signs of improvement in nurse's
keeping. And so the days went on, while every
endeavour was made to trace the child, but with no
result but bitter disappointment. Twice, strayed child-
ren, younger than Alwyn — one even a girl — were
brought as the lost boy, and the advertisements bore
fruit in more than one harassing and heartless corre-
spondence with wretches who professed to be ready to
restore the child, on promises of absolute secrecy, and
sums of money sent beforehand, with all sorts of pre-
cautions against interference from the police.



382 NUTTIE's father. [mAP.

Tlie first of these created great excitement, and tlie
l^uvsuit was committed to !Mr. Dutton. Wlien it
proved abortive, Mr. Egi-emont's disappointment and
anger were great, and he could not be persuaded that all
was not the l\xult of ^Ir. Dutton's suspicion and pre-
caution in holding; back the money, nor could any one
persuade liiiu that it was mere imposture. AVheu
another ill-written enigmatical letter arrived, he insisted
that it was from the same quarter, and made Broadbent
conduct the negotiations, with the result that after
consideraljle sums had been paid in circuitous fashions,
the butler was directed to a railway arch where the
child would be deposited, and where he found a dral>
coloured brat of whom he disposed at the nearest police
statiou, after which he came home savagely disgusted.

Nuttie was not much less so at what she felt as a
slight to Mr. Dutton as well as at the failure. ' AVhen
you are doing so much for us. We deserve that you
should do nothing more,' she said with tears shining
in her eyes.

' Do not talk in that way,' he answered. ' You know
my feeling for the dear little fellow himself, and '

' Oh yes,' interruj^ted Xuttie, ' I do trust to that !
Xobody — not the most indifferent person, but must
long to save him. Yes, I know it was doing you a
wicked injustice to fancy that you could take offence
in that way at a father in such trouble. Please forgive
me, i\Ir. Dutton.'

' As if I had anything to forgive. As if there were
anything on earth that could come before the endeavour
to recover him,' said i\Ir. ])utton, too nuich moved fur
his usual precision of speech.

* Yes ; he is her child,' said Xuttie, with a trem-
bliuix tearful smile.



XXXIV.] FETTERS RENT. 383

' Her child ! Yes, and even if he were not, lie is
your brother,' said Mr. Dutton ; tlien hastily gathering
himself np, as if he had said too much, he rose to take
leave, adding as their hands clasped, ' Itememher, as
long as I live, you may count upon me.'

' Oh, I know, I know ! There's nobody like you,
but I don't know what I say in this awful suspense.
If I had only seen him lying white and cold and peace-
ful, it would have been iivc better than to think of
him pining and miserable among wicked people, who
wx)uld try to bring him up like themselves. Mother's
own little boy ! '

' It will not be allowed, it will not be allowed,'
cried Mr. Dutton. ' God's Providence is still over
him.'

'And there are prayers, I know — at our church
and Mr. Godfrey's — and all ours, but oh ! it takes a
great deal of faith to lean on them. I wonder if you
would, Annaple, if it were WiUy ? '

* We will not ask ]\Irs. Egremont,' said Mr. Dutton,
as Annaple made a gesture of something like doul:)t.

' It is almost as bad,' said she, coming up and putting
her arm round Nuttie. ' But indeed, Mr. Dutton, she
does trust, only it is very, very sore, for her, — as it is
for us all.'

* You are her great comfort,' said Mr. Dutton, as ho
shook hands with her.

* He could hardly help thanking me,' said Annaple
to her husband afterwards. ' i\Ir. Egremont may well
call him an adopted uncle. I should say he was a
good deal more, poor man.'



CHAPTER XXXV.



THE HULL OF THE * URSULA.



Tex (lays had i3assed, and oMark and Annaple were
thinking that they ought to return to ordinary life, and
leave the bereaved ones to endeavour to construct their
life afresh under the dreadful wearing uncertainty of
their darling's fate. Still they were detained by urgent
entreaties from father and daughter, who both dreaded
their departure as additional desolation, and as closing
the door of hope. And certainly, even this rest was
good for Annaple ; and her baby, for whom nurse had
discovered a better system, had really not cried more
for a whole day than ' befitted a rational child,' said
the mother, as she walked back to Springfield with
her husband in the summer night, after dinner, on the
day that Broadbent's negotiations had failed.

' Nurse will break her heart at parting with her,'
said Mark. ' I wish we could ail'urd to have her.'

' Alford, indeed ! Her wages are about a quarter of
your salary, sir ! And after all, 'tis not the nui*se that
guards tlie child, as we have seen only too plainly.'

* Do you til ink he is alive, Nan V

*I begin to tliink not. He is not so young but
that he could make himself known, and those advertise-



CHAP. XXXV.] THE HULL OF THE ' URSULA.* 385

meiits are so widely spread. I am sure poor Xuttie
would be more at rest if she could give up hope/

*I did not tell you before, Nan, but Button was
going to-day to look at a poor little unclaimed cliild's
body that had been found in the Thames. He knew
him better than I, so he went.'

' He would have come if ' said Annaple.

* Assuredly. He meant to fetch nurse if he had
any doubt, but afterwards he was going to his court
about his rents. He always does that on Saturday
evenings.'

Mr. Button himself opened his door to the pair.

'Well; said]\Iark.

'Certainly not. The poor child was evidently
much younger, and had red hair. But look here,' and
he held out a battered something, black with a white
stripe. Mark understood nothing, but Annaple ex-
claimed, ' Is it his ship ? '

' Yes, I could swear to it, for see,' and he pointed
to some grimed, almost effaced, but still legible
capitals, which, however, scarcely any one but himself
could have read as Ursula, ' I guided his hand to
make those the evening before he was lost,' said Mr.
Button.

' Bear little man ! And where did you find it ?'

' Where I never thought of doing so ! On the bed
of a little crippled boy in the next court to mine.
He is rather a friend of mine, and I turned in to
take him some strawberries. I found him huo-ginfr
this.'

' How did he get it ? '

* Our " Liz " brought it to him. Our " Liz " is a very
wild specimen, who has spent her life in eluding the
school board officer till she is too old for his clutches ;

2 c



386 NUTTIE's father. [cuw.

but slio has a soft spot in hw lieart for her little
brother, and 1 lielieve anotlier fur Gerard Godfrey.
We must he very cautious, and nut excite any alarm,
or we shall he hallied altogether. I am not sure tliat
I did (|uite prudently in giving little Alf a fresh boat
in exchange for this ; but I could not help bringing
it home.'

' You did not see the girl ? '

* No. Those girls wander long and late on these
hot nights, and I do not think I could have gut any-
thing uut uf her. I have been to Gerard Godfrey, and
the next stej) must be left to him.'

* The next question is whether you will tell those
poor things at No. 5,' said ]\Iark.

Mr. Button hesitated. ' I should have no doubt
of giving Miss Egremont the comfort of knowing that
there was a possible clue, but if her father insisted on
setting on the police, there would be very little more
hope of success. I am afraid it will be more prudent
to wait till we know what Godfrey says. He hopes
to see the girl to-morrow evening at his mission class,
but of course she is a very uncertain attendant there.
No, I cannot trust myself.'

Annaple was forced to brook withholding the hope
from the fainting hearts all the ensuing Sunday, which
was a specially trying day, as Nuttie pined for her dear
little companion with the pictures, stories, and hymns
that he had always enjoyed, and made pretty childish
remarks about, such as she began to treasure as
memorable.

As soon as he could, early on Monday morning,
Mr. Button repaired to Gerard Godfrey's lodgings, and
found that the young clergyman had succeeded in
seeing the girl, and had examined lier so as not to



XXXV. J THE HULL OF THE 'URSULA.' 387

put the wild creature on lier guard, and make lier use
the weapons of falsehood towards one who had never
been looked on as an ally of the police. It appeared
tliat slie had brought home the ship, or rather its hull,
from one of the lowest of lodging houses, where she
had em2:)loyment as something between cliar woman
and errand girl. She had found it on wliat passed
for a bed in its present condition, one morning, when
going to make the extremely slight arrangements that
the terrible lair, which served as a common bedroom,
underwent, and had secreted it as a prize for her little
brother.

At first she had been stolid, and affected utter
ignorance as to how it got there, but Mr. Godfrey had
entreated her as a friend to try to discover ; and had
with all his heart made a pathetic description of the
girl (he durst not say lady) who had always been a
mother to her little brother, and now had lost him,
and was in terrible uncertainty as to his fate. That
came home to Lizzie's feelings, and she let out what
she had seen or picked up in the way of gossip, — that
the ship had been left behind by its owner, whether
boy or girl Liz was uncertain, for it had long fair
hair, wore a petticoat, and had been dosed with gin
and something else when carried away. They said it
had made noise enough when brought there by Funny
Frank and Julia. They were performing folk, who
had come in after the Derby day to have a spree, and
to pick up another kid to do fairies and such like,
because the last they liad had hurt his back and had
to be left in the workhouse. Yes, she had heard tell
that they had got the child from Mother Bet, of whom
Gerard had a vague idea as one of the horrible hags, who
not only beg themselves, but provide outtits for beggars,



388 nuttik's fatheh. [vnxv.

including infants, to excite compassion. Eitlier she or
one of her crew had ])icked up the child and disposed
of liis clothes ; and then finding him too old and in-
telligent to be safely used for begging purposes, she
had sold or liired him out to these acrobatic performers,
who had gone off into that vague and unknown region,
the country. Liz liad no notion what was their real
name, nor wliere they would go, only that they
attended races and fairs ; and as soon as the actual
pleasure of communicating information was over, she
was seized witli a panic, implored Mr. Godfrey to
make no use of her information, and explained that
the people of the house were quite capable of killing
her, if they suspected her of betraying any of their trans-
actions. It was impossible to bring any authorities to


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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 25 of 28)