Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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and Lady Kirkaldy had tears in her eyes as she said,
' It was frightful folly — but she was guarded.*



32 nuttie's father. [chap.

*Yes, her innocence was guarded, thank God,' said
Miss Headworth fervently. 'You see she did know
that ]\Ir. and Mrs. Houghton were on board, and Mrs.
Hougliton was a truly kind protector who deserved her
confidence, though, poor lady, she admitted to nie that
her own conduct had not been — strictly correct.'

' How long was it before you heard of her ? '
• 'There was a dreadful letter from Mr. Egremont
enclosing what was due of her salary, and then I lieard
no more for seven months. I went to the Isle of
Wight and made all inquiries, but the nurse and chil-
dren had gone away immediately, and I could obtain
no trace of them.'

' Then she — your niece, never wrote.'

' She was afraid, poor dear. She had never been
at her ease with me. Her mother had taught her to
think me strict and harsh, and she had never opened
to me in those days. Besides, he had forbidden her.
At last, however, in January, came a letter from this
Mrs. Houghton, telling me that my Alice was very
unwell at Dieppe, that nothing had been heard of her
husband. Captain Egremont, to whom she had been
married on the 20th of July at St. Philippe, in
Jersey, and that she herself was obliged to leave the
place almost immediately ; but she would, if possible,
wait till my arrival, as Mrs. Egremont was not in a
condition to be left alone. My dear friends, with
whom I was then living, were as kind as possible, and
set me free to go. I was there in three days, and
truly the dear, beautiful, merry girl I had parted with
only a year before was a sad i)iteous sight. ^Mrs.
Houghton seemed broken-hearted at leaving her,
thinking there was little chance of hi'r living; but
Mr. Houghton, who, 1 am ufraiil, was a professed



IV.] A NAME. 33

gambler, had got into some scrape, and was gone to
Paris, where she had to follow him. She told me
all about it, and how, wlien Captain Egremont fancied
tliat a marriage in the Channel Islands was one he
could play fast and loose with, she had taken care
tliat the formalities sliould ha such as to make all
secure. Foolish and wrong as poor Alice had been,
she had awakened all the best side of that poor
woman's nature, and no mother could have been more
careful and tender. She gave me the certificate — here
it is — and assured me that it would hold good. I
have shown it to a lawyer, tind he said the same ; but
when I sent a copy to Mr. Egremont, my letter was
returned unopened.'

' Captain Egremont had denied the marriage, and
they believed him,' said Lady Kirkaldy. ' It is hard
to believe that he could be so heartless, but he was in
bondage to the old General Egremont, and dreaded
losino; his inheritance.'

' So he told them in his one visit to Dieppe. He
said he must keep his marriage secret, but promised
an allowance, on condition that Alice would live quietly
at Dieppe, and not communicate with any one of her
own family or his. He had left £100 witli her, but
that was nearly gone, and she had never heard from
him. It had preyed on her, and she was so ill that I
never expected, any more than Mrs. Hougliton, to see
her recover„ I stayed there with her ; she could not
be moved, even if she would have consented, wlien slie
was continually expecting liim ; l)ut at last — four days
after her little girl was born — came the news of the
Ninon having been burnt, with all on board, three
months before. Do you know, strange to say, though
I had feared so much to tell her, she beiian to revive

D



34 nuttie's father. [chap.

from that time. Tlie susj^ense and watching \\'ere over.
She saw that lie had not deserted her, and believed
that he had loved her to the last. ' She cried a great
deal, but it was in a peaceful, natural way. I wrote
then, as I had already written, to Lady Adelaide and
to Mr. Egremont, but was not answered.'

* I can account for that,' said Lady Kirkaldy. ' i\Iy
sister had been ordered to Madeira in the autumn, and
there they remained till her death in May. All the
letters were sent to my mother, and she did not think
fit to forward, or open, any bearing on the subject. In
the meantime Mr. Egremont was presented to the family
living, and on his return moved to Bridgefield Egre-
mont. And you came here ? '

' Of course I could not part with my poor Alice
again. ^Ir. and Mrs. Fordyce, whose daughter I had
long ago educated, had always kept up a correspondence
with me, and, knowing all the story, proposed to me to
come here. He was then rector of the old church, and
by their help and recommendation, with such capital
as I had, we were able to begin a little school ; and
though that has had to give way to the High School,
what with boarders, and with Alice's employment as
daily governess, we have, I am thankful to say, gone
on very well and comfortably, and my dear cliild has
recovered her cheerfulness, though she can never be
quite wliat — I think slie was meant to be,' said the old
lady, with a sad smile, ' thougli perhaps she is some-
thing better.'

'Do yuu think slie was absolutely convinced of liis
death ? '

M)() you mean lliat lie is aliNc !* ' cxclainuMl ]\liss
Headworth in dismay. 'Oli! he is a wickeder man
than even 1 supi)osed, to liave forsaken lier all these



TV.] A NAME. 35

years. Is my poor child in his power? Must hur
peace, now she lias attained it, be disturhed ? '

' There is a great deal to take into consideration,'
said Lady Kirkaldy. ' I had better tell you how this
visit of mine came about, and explain some matters
about the Egremont family.'

She then told how Captain Egremont, after a brief
service in the Life Guards, had been made to retire,
that the old General, whose heir he was, might keep
him in attendance on him. Already self-indulgent
and extravagant, the idleness of the life he led with
the worn-out old rou4 had deadened his better feelings,
and habituated him to dissipation, while his debts, his
expensive habits, and his dread of losing the inlierit-
ance, had bound him over to the General. Both had
been saved from the lire in the M7wn, whence they
were picked up by a Chilian vessel, and they had
been long in communicating with home. The General
hated England, and was in broken health. He had
spent the remaining years of his life at various conti-
nental resorts, where he could enjoy a w^arm climate,
combined with facilities for liigli play.

When at length he died. Captain Egremont had
continued the life to which he had become accustomed,
and had of late manifested an expectation that his
nephew Mark should play tlie same part by liim as lie
had done by the General, but tlie youtli, bred in a
very different tone, w^ould on no account thus surrender
himself to an evil bondage. Indeed lie felt all tlie
severity of youthful virtue, and had little toleration for
his uncle's ways of thinking ; tliough, wlien the old
]nan had come home ill, dejected, and half bliud, he
had allowed himself to be made useful on business
matters. And thus he had discovered the marrialump
in with 'Oh! and there's a water -soldier, a real
Strut iotcs aculcatm in your lake. May we get it ?
Mr. Button didn't think we ought, but it would be
such a prize ! '

' Ursula means a rare water-plant,' said ]\Irs. Egre-
mont gently, seeing that Lady Kirkaldy had no notion
of the treasure she possessed. ' She and some of her
friends are very eager botanists.'

* I am sure you may,' said the lady, amused.

' Thank you ! Then, O mother ! IMiss ]\Lary and I
will go. And we'll wait till after ottice hours, and
then Gerard Godfrey can come and fish it out for
us ! Oh, thank you. He wants the pattern of the
Abbot's cross for an illumination, and he can get
some ferns for the church.'

Soon after this ebullition. Lady Kirkaldy carried
off her nephew, and his first utterance outside the
door was * A woman like that will Ije the salvation of
my uncle.'

' firstly, if you can bring them together,' said his
aunt ; ' and secondly, if there is stuff enough in that
pretty creature.*



CHAPTER Y.

SUSPENSE.

* AVliere shall the traitor rest
He, the deceiver?' — Scott.

Poor Miss Headwortli's peace of mind was utterly de-
stroyed. That the niece whom she had nursed back to
life and happiness, and brought to love her as a mother,
should be at the mercy of a man whom she looked
on as a heartless profligate, was dreadful to her beyond
measure. And it involved Ursula's young life likewise ?
Could it be a duty, after these eighteen years, to return
to him ? ^Yimt legal rights had he to enforce the re-
sumption of the wife he had deserted. ' I will consult
Mr. Dutton,' said the old lady to herself; 'Mr. Dutton
is the only person who knows the particulars. He
will give me the best advice.'

And while Miss Headworth, over her evening
toilette, was coming ta this resolution in one bedroom,
Nuttie, in another, was standing aghast at her mother's
agitation, and receiving a confession which filled her
with astonishment.

' I can't think Avhy that gentleman should go and be
so affectionate all on a sudden,' quoth Nuttie ; * if he is



42 NUTTIE'S father. [chap.

my cousin, and so fond of you, wliy couldn't he have
come to see us before ? '

* Oh, Nuttie, dear, you don't understand wliy it is
so good of him ! My dear, now this has come, I
must tell you — you must hear — the sad thing your
mother did. Yes, my dear, I was their governess

— and — and I did not In short, my dear, I

eloped/

* You, mother ! Oh what fun ! ' cried the girl in the
utter extremity of wonder.

* Nuttie ! ' exclaimed ]\Irs. Egremont, in a tone of
horror and indignation — nay, of apprehension.

' mother — I didn't mean that ! But I can't get
to believe it. You, little mother mine, you that are
so timid and bashful and quiet. That you — you
should have done such a thing.'

* Nuttie, my dear, can't you understand that such a
thing would make me quiet? I am always feeling
when I see people, or they bring their daughters here,
" If they only knew " '

* No, no, no ! They would still see you were the
sweetest dear. But tell me all about it. How very
much in love you must have been ! ' said Nuttie, a
magnificent vision of a young sailor with curly hair
and open throat rising before her.

* I tliink I was more frightened than in love,' faintly
said Mrs. Egremont. ' At least I didn't know it was
love, I thought lie was only kind to me.'

*]jut you liked it?' said Ursula magisterially.

' I liked it, oh, I liked it ! It gave me a feeling
such as nothing else ever did, but T never thought of
its being love, he was so much older.'

* Ohler ! ' exclaimed Nuttie, mucli tidvcn aback.
'Oil! as old as Mr. Dutton?'



v.] SUSPENSE. 43

* Mr. Dutton is thirty-six, 1 think. Yes, ho was
older than that.'

' ]\Iother, how couhl you ? ' For to be okler than
Mr. Dutton seemed to the youtliful fancy to l)e near
decrepitude ; 1 )ut she added, * I suppose he was very
noble, and had done great things/

' He was the gi^andest gentleman I ever saw, and
had such a manner/ said the mother, passing over the
latter suggestion. ' Any way, I never thought what it
all meant — all alone with the children as I was — till
I found people looking at me, and laughing at me,
and then I heard Lady de Lyonnais and Mr. Egremont
were coming doAvn, very angry, to send me away. I
ought, I know it now, to have waited, for they would
have written to my aunt. But I was horriljly
frightened, and I couldn't bear to think of never
seeing him again, and lie came and comforted me, and
said he would take me to Mrs. Houghton, the kind
lady who was staying in the Ninon, and they would
make it all square for me — and then — oh! it was
very sweet — but I never knew that we were sailing
away to Jersey to be married ! I knew it was very
dreadful without any one's leave, but it was so noble
of him to take the poor little governess and defend
her, and it wasn't as if my mother had been alive.
I didn't know Aunt Ursel then as I did afterwards.
And Mrs. Houghton said there was nothing else to be
done.'

' don't leave off, mother. Do tell me. How
long did you have him ? '

' Six weeks tlien — and afterwards one fortnight at
Dieppe. He was not free. He had an old uncle,
General Egremont, who was sick and liot- tempered,
and he was obliged to keep everything secret from



44 NUTTIE's FATIIKK. [chap.

liiin, and therefore from everybody else. And so I
was to live at ])ieppe, wliile lie went out to take care
of his uncle, and you know — you know '

'Yes, I know, dear mother. Ihit 1 am sure he
was saving somebody else, and it was a noble death !
And I know how Aunt Ursel came to Dieppe, and
how I — your own little Frenchwoman — came to take
care of you. And haven't we been jolly without any
of these line relations that never looked after you all
this time ! Besides, you know he is very likely to be
on a lonely coral island, and will come home yet. I
often think he is.'

' My dear child, I have been happier than I de-
served,' said Alice Egremont, drying her eyes. ' But
oh ! Nuttie, I hope you will be a wiser woman than
your motlier.'

' Come, don't go on in that way ! Why, I've such
advantages ! I've ]\Iiss IMary, and Aunt Ursel, and
]\Ir. Spyers, and Mr. Dutton, and you, you poor little
thing, had nobody ! One good thing is, we sliall get
the water-soldier. Mr. Dutton needn't come, for he's
like a cat, and won't soil his boots, but Gerard is dying
to get another look at the old ruin. He can't make
up his mind about the cross on one of the stone-coltin
lids, so he'll be delighted to come, and he'll get it out
of the pond for us. I wondi^r when we can go. To-
niglit is clioir ]»ractice, and to-morrow is cutting-out day.'

]\Iiss Headworth was not sorry that the small
sociabilities of the friends did not leave lier alone
with her niece all tliat evening, or the next day, when
there was a grand cutting-out for the working party, —
an operation always performed in the holidays. Miss
Headwortli had of late years been excused from it,
and it gave her the opportunity she wanted of a consult-



V. SUSPENSE. 45

ation witli i\Ir. Dutton. lie was licr prime .idviser in
everything, from her investments (such as tliey were) to
the eccentricities of her timepieces ; and as the cucko(j-
clock had that niglit cuckooed all the hours round in
succession, no one thought it wonderful that she should
send a twisted note entreating him to call as early as
he could in the afternoon. Of course Xuttie's chatter
had proclaimed the extraordinary visitors, and it needed
not the old lady's dash under ' on an anxious affulr'
to bring him to her little drawing-room as soon as he
could quit his desk. Perhaps he hastened iiis work
with a hope in his heart which he durst not express,
but the agitation on the usually placid face forbade
him to entertain it for an instant, and he only said,
' So our expedition has led to unforeseen consequences.
Miss Headworth.' And then she answered under her
breath, as if afraid of being overheard : ' Mr. Dutton,
my poor child does not know it yet, but the man is
alive ! '

Mr. Dutton compressed his lips. It was the greater
shock, for he had actually made inquiries at the Yacht
Club, but the oiticials there either had not been
made aware of the reappearance of the two Egremonts,
or they did not think it worth while to look beyond
the record which declared that all hands had perished,
and the connection of the uncle and nephew with tlie
Yacht Club had not been renewed. Presently he
said, ' Then hers was a right instinct. There is reason
to be thankful.'

Miss Headworth was too full of her own anxieties
to heed his causes for thankfulness. She told what
she had heard from Lady Kirkaldy and from ]\Iark
Ecjremont, and asked counsel whether it could be
Alice's duty to return to the man who had deserted



46 NUTTIE's father. [chap.

her, or even to accept anythiii.c^ from liiiii. Tliere was
an impetuous and indi^niant spirit at the bottom of
the old lady's heart, in spite of the subdued life she
had led for so many years, and she hardly brooked
the measured considerate manner in which her adviser
declared that all depended on circumstances, and the
manner in which Captain Egremont made the first
move. At present no one was acting but young i\Iark,
and, as Mr. Button observed, it was not a matter in
which a man was very likely to submit to a nephew's
dictation.

There was certainly no need for j\Irs. Egremont to
force her presence on him. But Mr. Dutton did think
that for her own sake and her child's there ought to
be full recognition of their rights, and tliat this should
be proved by their maintenance.

' I imagine that Ursula may probably be a con-
siderable heiress, and her lights muso not be sacrificed.'

* Poor little girl ! Will it be for her happiness ? I
doubt it greatly ! '

* Of that I suppose w^e have no right to judge,' said
]\rr. J)utton, somewhat tremulously. 'Justice is what
we have to look to, and to allow Nuttie to be passed
over would be j^ermitting a slur to be cast on her and
her mother.'

' I see that,' said !Miss Headworth, with an effort.
' I suppose I am after all a seltisli, faithless old woman,
and it is not in my hands after all. But I must pre-
l}are my ])(>(>r Alice for what may be; coming.'



Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 3 of 28)