Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Nuttie's father online

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boot. Oh ! Fan couldn't dance one bit after that.'

He could not tell how long ago this had been.
He seemed to have lost all reckoning of days, and
probably felt as if ages had past in Funny Frank's
van, but Dr. Brownlow thought the injury could not be
above two or three days old, and probably it accounted
for there having been no more obstructions put in the
way of removing the child, since he had ceased to be
of use, and the discovery of the injury might have
brought the perpetrator into trouble. Indeed, as it
was, Mr. Egremont caused the police to be written to,
demanding the arrest of the man and woman Brag,
but they had already decamped, and were never traced,
which was decidedly a relief to those who dreaded all
that a prosecution would have involved.

And Dr. Brownlow became very grave over the
injury. He said it was a surgical case, and he should
like to have another opinion, enjoining that the child
sliould be kept in bed, and as quiet as possible, till he
could bring liis friend in the afternoon, which was no
dilticult matter, for Alwyn seemed to have no desire
for anything but rest and the sight of his friends and
his treasures, which were laid beside him to be gently
liaiidled and stroked but not played witli. Mothu
and Mitliter Button were among the friends he craved

xxxvri.] FOUND AND TAKEN. 405

for, but lie showed no desire to see Billy-boy, and it
was thought best to keep that young gentleman's
rampant strength at a distance.

The chief difficulty was with his father, who de-
clared they were all croaking, and that the boy would
be as well as ever to-morrow. He went and sat by
the cot, and talked merrily of the pony that Alwyn
was to ride, and the yachting they would have in the
summer; and the little fellow smiled and was pleased,
but went to sleep in the midst. Then Mr. Egremont
went out, taking Annaple with him, because Kuttie
would not go till the doctors' visit was over, though
he declared that they were certain not to come till
long after her return from the drive. He actually
went to the dealer's, and had pony after pony paraded
before the carriage, choosing a charming toy Shetland
at last, subject to its behaviour with the coachman's
little boy, while Annaple hopefully agreed with him
that Alwyn would be on its back in another

He still maintained his opinion, outwardly at least,
when he was met on his return by Nuttie with a pale,
almost thunderstruck face. Dr. Brownlow had called
her from trying to soothe away the fright and suffer-
ing of the examination, to break to her that both he
and his colleague thought very seriously of the injury
and its consequences, and deemed it very doubtful
whether the poor little fellow could be pulled

Mr. Egremont was again angry, declared that she
had misunderstood, and made the worst of it ; that Dr.
Brownlow was a conceited young ass ; that his friend
played into his hands ; with other amenities of the same
kind, to which she listened with miii«ded irritation and

406 xuttie's FATIIEH. [chap.

pity for his unreason al>leness, and even at the sympathy
which he found in Annaple's hopeful nature.

The young mother never dreaded nor expected what
she couhl not hear to tliink ixtssihle, such as the deatli-
warraut of that beautiful cliild, wliile Xuttie's nature
always expected the worst, and indeed had read the
doom in the doctor's eyes and voice rather than in liis
words. So Annaple hacked Mr. Egremont up wlien
he made liis daugliter write to desire Dr. Brownlow to
call in the first advice in London; and among them
they made so sure that tliis would be elfective that they
actually raised Nuttie's hopes so as to l)uoy her through
the feverish early hours of the niglit when the pain was
aggravated, the terrors returned, the l)oy was tormented
by his duality with Fan, and the past miseries were
acted over again. Even nurse and sister did not suffice,
and Mithter Button liad to be fetched by Mark before
lie could feel quite secure that he was Alwyn and not
Fan. Indeed, in these light-headed moments, a better
notion was gained of what he must have endured than
in the day-time, when all seemed put aside or forgotten.
After a time he became capable of being soothed by
hymns, though still asking why his sister could not
sing like that vision of his mother wdiich had comforted
him in his previous miseries, and craving for her return.
Then at last he fell quietly asleep, and Xuttie was left
with a few sustaining words and a pressure from ]\Ir.
Button's hand.

Alas ! the new consultation could only ratify tlie
first opinion. The injury need not have been neces-
sarily fatal, thougli dangerous to any young child, and
here it had been aggravated by previous ill-treatment,
and by the doses of spirits that liad bcun forced down,
besides which, ^Vlwvn was naturally delicate, and —


though the doctors woiikl not say so to father or
sister — there were liereditary predispositions tliat gave
him the less chance of battling througli.

Yet Mr. Egreniont concluded his purchase of the
pony, and insisted that Alwyn should be carried to
the window to see it ; and Alwyn's smile was almost
enough to break Nuttie's heart, but his head drooped
on nurse's shoulder, he hardly lifted his heavy eyelids,
and begged for 'by-by' again. Even Annaple burst
into tears at the siglit, ran out of the room with her
sobs, and never augured recovery again, though still
she strove to cheer and while away the poor father's
piteous hours by making the most of every sign that
the cliild was happy and not suffering much.

That he would be viewed as a ' pale placid martyr '
was his sister's chief comfort. His replies as to the
manner of the hurt, as well as his light-headed wander-
ings, had made it more and more evident that the man
Brag's brutality had been excited by his persisting in
kneeling down to say his prayers aloud — the only way
he knew how to say them. Indeed there was a recur-
ring anxiety night and morning to kneel, which had to
be reasoned away, even wdien he was too weak to
make the attempt, and was only appeased by ' Sister '
kneeling by his side, holding his hands, and repeating
the little prayers with him. It was of his ow^n accord
that he added : ' And forgive those people, and make
them good.' Annaple burst into tears again and almost
scolded when she heard of it. ' Oh dear ! oh dear !
now I know he won't get well ! I'm glad Billy isn't so
horribly good ! Nuttie, Nuttie, don't ! You know I don't
mean it. Only I just can't bear it. He is the sweetest
little fellow in the world ! And oh ! the cruelty of it'

' Yes,' said Xuttie in her dreary calmness ; * lie is


too sweet and lovely iuid beautiful and good to be
anywhere but safe with mother.'

For it was more apparent that they could not keep
him. It did not last long ; there were a couple of
piteous days of restless pain and distress, and then
came the more fatal lull and absence of suffering, a
drowsiness in which the little fellow sank gradually
away, lying with a strange calm beauty on his face,
and smiling feebly wlien he now and then lifted liis
eyes to rest them on sister or nurse. His father could
not bear the sight. It filled him more with angry
compassion than with the tender reverence and huslied
awe with which Ursula watched her darling slipping
as it were from her hold. So Mr. Egremont wandered
wretchedly about the lower rooms, while ]\Iark and
Annaple tried their best for him through the long
summer evening, darkening into night. l)y and l)y
Alwyn lifted his hand, turned his head, opened his
lips, and whispered, 'Hark, sister, she is singing.'
The look of exceeding joy beamed more and more over
the pinched little face. ' She's come again,' he said ;
and once more, ' Come to take Wyn to the dear Lord.'
After that there were very few more long breaths
before little Alwyn Egremont's spirit was gone to that
unseen world, and only the fair little frame left witli
tliat wondrous look of delighted recognition on the



Little Alwyn was laid to rest beside liis mother in a
beautiful summer noontide. His father was not in a
state to attend the funeral, and was left under the care
of Annaple, his own choice among those who offered to
stay and minister to him. It was his own wish that
his daughter should be to the last with her little
brother. He had even said to her that she had been
a good sister, and liis boy had been very fond of her,
and he would not keep her away on any account.

And, with a man's preference for a young and
kindly woman, he chose Annaple to be with him rather
than Mr. Dutton, remembering likewise that but for him
the boy would have died in some workhouse, unknown
and unclaimed, or among the wretches who had caused
his death. So Nuttie had the comfort of Mr. Button's
going down with her, as well as Mark, and poor broken-
down nurse, but not a word referring to the confession
of that happy evening had passed between them during
the mournful fortnight wiiich had since elapsed.

May Condamine and her husband had made all as
fair and consoling as they could. There were white-
robed children to bear the boy from the churchyard gate,

410 NUTTIE's father. [chai'.

choristers sang hymns, the grave was lined witli moss
and (hiisies, and wliite roses decked the little coffin
and the mound. There was as nuich of welcome and
even of triumph as befitted the innocent child, whose
death had in it the element of testimony to the truth.
And Nuttie felt it, or Mould feel it by and by, when
her spirit felt less as if some precious thing had been
torn up by the roots — to be safe and waiting for her
elsewhere, indeed, but that did not solace the yearning
longing for the merry loving child ; nor the aching
pity for the crushed Ijlighted creature wlioni she liad
watched suffering and dying. It was far beyond her
power as yet to acquiesce in her aunt's consolation
that it was happier for the child himself, than if he
was to grow up to temptation from without, and with
an unsound constitution, with dangerous hereditary
proclivities. Slie could believe it in faith, nay, she
liad already experienced the difficulties her father had
thrown in her way of dealing with him, she tried to
be resigned, but the good sense of the Canoness was
too much for her.

It was a day of more haste than suited the ideal of
such a time, for Mr. Egremont could not be left for a
night; so there was only time for a luncheon, with
little jerks of talk, and then for an hour spent in
sliort private interviews. ]\Irs. Egremont obtained
from })()or Xurse Poole all tlie details, and, moreover,
her opinion of Mr. Mark's baby, in whom, it having
l)een born under her auspices, slie took a special

Xuttie meantime was pacing the shady walk with
licr dear old friend ]\riss Nugent, feeling it strange
tliat lier lieart did not lea]> u]) at tlie bare presence of
one she loved so much, yet conscious of the soothing



of her sympathy. And Mary, watching her all throngh,
had been struck with the increased sweetness and
nobleness her countenance had acquired during tliese
years of discipline. More of her mother's expression
had come than could have been thought possible in
features of such a different mould, formed for so much
more strength and energy. They had not met since
Nuttie had been summoned home to her mother's
deathbed, and their time was chieHy spent on remi-
niscences alike of the old sorrow and the new ; but,
when the time for parting was nearly come, Mary said
affectionately, ' And you, my dear V

'Oh, I am all right,' said Nuttie, and her eyes
shone with a light Mary did not at the moment
understand ; * you need not be anxious for me 71010.'

' I suppose that unhappy valet's death makes your
task easier,' said ]\Iary.

' I think it will,' said Nuttie. ' Poor man ! He
was — I can't help saying it — the evil genius of the
house. Dear mother knew it, struggled against him,
and broke down in the struggle. It seems so strange
that what she could not do has been done in such a
manner, and at such a price ! I wonder w^hether she
knew it when she welcomed her boy !'

* Her influence will aid you stiU,' said ]\Iary,
' and you have Mr. Dutton to help you too. I was
so glad to find he was so near you.'

*0h, Mr. Dutton!' exclaimed Ursula, in a strange
tone that sent a thrill through ]\Iary, though she
knew not why ; but at that moment they were inter-
rupted, very inopportunely, by Mr. Bulfinch, who
could not go away without asking Miss Egremont
whether she thought her father could see him on
business if he came up to town the next day. She

412 NUTTIE's father. [chai'.

thouglit that siicli an interview would rouse her father
and do him good, advising liim to call on the chance.

Mark's tctc-a-tcte had been with his sister ^lay, to
whom he had much to tell of his wife and her gallant
patience and energy, and how curious it was that now
the incubus that had weighed on his uncle's household
was removed, the i)rejudice had melted away, and he
liad grown so fond of her that, next to Ursula, she
was his best comforter.

' I hope that will lead to more,' said ]\lay.

* I don't see how,' said Mark. ' The more we rely
only on a lilessing on our own exertions the better.'

* Even when Annaple works within an inch of her

* Now that she is on a right tack about the baby,
that will be easier. Yes, May, I do feel sometimes
that I have brought her down to drudgery and narrow-
ness and want of variety such as was never meant for
her, but she will never let me think so. She says
that it is living in realities, and that it makes her hap-
pier than toiling after society, or rather after the world,
and I do believe it is true ! I'm sure it is with me.'

* But such work as yours, Mark.'

'Nonsense, May; I enjoy it. I did not when I
was in the Greenleaf firm, with an undeveloped sense
that Goodenough was not to be trusted, and we were
drifting to the bad, yet too green to understand or
hinder it ; but this I thoroughly like. AVhat does one
want but honest effective work, with some power of
dealing with and helping those good fellows, the
hands, to see the right and help themselves ? *

May sighed. * And yet, now that poor child is
gone, I feel all the more how hard it is tliat you
should be i)ut out of the rights of your name.'


' I never had any rights. It was tlie bane of my
life to be supposed to have them. Nothing but tliis
could have made a man of me.'

'And don't you have regrets for your boy ?*
'I don't think I have — provided we can give him
an education — such as I failed to make proper use
of, or Annaple might be luxuriating at Pera at this

* Well !' said May, pausing as she looked up the
vista of trees at the great house ; * I can't bear it to go
out of the old name.'

' Names may be taken !'

* You don't mean that there's any chance of

Oh ! not that horrid Mr. Fane ?'

* Certainly not.'

*0h!' as a trim black figure appeared walking
down the open space. * That man ! '

* I am not authorised to tell any one so, May.'

* Yes, I understand. The wretch, he is taking stock
of the place already !'

* For shame. May, no one has deserved so well of

' I don't care, he got you into that horrid concern.'

' And got me out of it, and found my work for me.
I tell you, May, it is the best thing that could possibly
happen to your parish, or the estate, or my poor uncle
either I And you will soon come to a better mind.'

' Never, while he is to get into your place ! Turn
back before he comes within hailing distance.'

Before Mark could do anything towards bringing
his sister to a better mind he was seized on by liis
stepmother to propound a scheme she had hatched,
namely tliat, as a mutual benefit. Nurse Poole should
be allowed the consolation of bringing her chief com-

414 NUTTIE'S father. [chap.

forter, his little clau^L^litcr, down with her on tlie visit
Mrs. Egremont liad invited lier to pay at Iiedcastle.
He was very ji^a'ateful, though doubtful whether Annaple
w^ould accept the offer, for she was missing her chiklren's
company, thougli they were only at Springfield House,
and she had been with them part of every day. And,
sad as this month had been, it had been such a rest
from sheer physical toil that she had gained almost as
nuich by it as the little one.

There was a general assembly and coffee-drinking
in the verandah, — ]\Ir. Condamine, Blanche, and her
two young sisters were all there, — and ]\Iay had to he
duly civil to Mr. Dutton, though he came back with
some water-lilies that he had fished out of the lake
for Xuttie, and she thought it taking possession. Then
the Londoners set forth for the station, and there
Mark, having perhaps had a hint from his wife, saw
Nuttie and Mr. Dutton safely bestowed by Broadbent
in an empty carriage, and then discovered a desire to
smoke, and left them to themselves.

They had not been alone together for more than a
second since the evening of Alw^yn's return, and there
was a great shyness between them, which lasted till
the first station was past without any irruption of new-
comers. Nothing had been said but a few comments
on the arrangements and the attendants, but probably
both were trying to begin to speak, and at last it was
Ursula who crossed over so that her face could not
be seen, and said in an odd tone —

' Mr. Dutton '

* Yes,' and he turned, instantly on the alert.

'Did you mean it — what I thouglit you meant
tliat evening ?'

' Can you doubt it V he said earnestly. ' lUit evi'u

xxxviii.] THE UMl'.KKLI.A MAX. 415

then I was surprised into tlu; avowal, and I would
have held it back if possible, if I had guessed what
was going to happen.'

* Ah ! but then I should not have had tliat dro]) of
comfort through it all,' and she laid hold of his lian

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Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 27 of 28)