Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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' How was it, how did they meet, dear Miss Head-
worth ? ' asked Mary, administering the wine she had
been pouring out.

' You hadn't been gone half an hour, Alice was
reading to me, and I was just dozing, when in came
Louisa. "A gentleman to see Mrs. Egremont," she
said, and there he was just behind. We rose up — she
did not know him at once, but he just said " Edda,
my little Edda, sweeter than ever, I knew you at
once," or something of that sort, and she gave one
little cry of " I knew you would come," and sprang
right into his arms. I — well, I meant to make him
understand how he had treated her, but just as I
began "Sir" — he came at me with his hand out-
stretched "

' You didn't take it, aunt, I hope ? ' cried Nuttie.

' My dear, when you see him, you w411 know how
impossible it is. He has that high-bred manner it is
as if he were conferring a favour. "Miss Headworth,
I conclude," said he, " a lady to whom I owe more
than I can express/' Just as if I had done it for his
sake.' Miss Nugent felt this open expression danger-
ous on account of the daughter, and she looked her
consternation at Mr. Button, who had quietly entered,
ruthlessly shutting Gerard Godfrey out with only such
a word of explanation as could be given on the way.



64 NUTTIE's father. [chap.

* Tlien lie comes witli — with favourable intentions,'
said jVIaiy, putting as much adniunition as she could
into her voice.

' Oh ! no doubt of that/ said Miss Headworth,
drawing herself togetlier. * He spoke of tlie long
separation, — said he had never been able to find her,
till the strange chance of his nephew stumbling on her
at Abbots Norton.'

' That is — possib — probably true/ said Mr. Dutton.

' It can't be,' broke in Nuttie. ' He never troubled
himself about it till his nephew found the papers.
You said so, Aunt Ursel ! He is a dreadful traitor of
a man, just like ]\Iarmion, or Theseus, or Lancelot,
and now he is telling lies about it ! Don't look at
me, Aunt Ursel, they are lies, and I ivill say it, and
he took in poor dear mother once, and now he is
taking her in again, and I can't bear that he should
be my father ! '

It was so entirely true, yet so shocking to hear
from her mouth, that all three stood aghast, as she
stood with heaving chest, crimson cheeks, and big
tears in her eyes. Miss Headworth only muttered,
* Oh, my poor child, you mustn't !'

Mr. Dutton prevented another passionate outburst
by his tone of grave, gentle authority. ' Listen a
moment, Ursula/ he said. 'It is unhappily true that
this man has acted in an unjustifiable way towards
your mother and yourself. But there are, no doubt,
many more excuses for him than you know of, and as
T found a few years ago that the people at Dieppe
had lost the address that had been left with them, lie
must have found no traces of your mother there. You
cannot understand the dithculties that may have been
iu his way. And there is uo use, quite the contrary.



VII.] THAT MAN. 65

ill making the worst of him. lie lias fcjuiid your
mother out, and it seems that he claims her affection-
ately, and she forgives and welcomes him — out of the
sweet tenderness of her heart.'

' She may — hut I can't,' murmured Nuttie.

'That is not a fit thing for a daughter, nor a
Christian, to say,' Mr. Button sternly said.

' 'Tis not for myself — 'tis for her,' objected Nuttie.

' That's nonsense ; a mere excuse,' he returned.
' You have nothing at all to forgive, since he did not
know you were in existence. And as to your mother,
whom you say you put first, what greater grief or pain
can you give her than by showing enmity and resent-
ment against her husband, when she, the really injured
person, loves and forgives V

'He's a bad man. If she goes back to him, I
know he will make her unhappy '

' You don't know any such thing, but you do know
that your opposition will make her unhappy. lie-
member, there's no choice in the matter. He has
legal rights over you both, and since he shows himself
ready (as I understand from Miss Headworth that he
is) to give her and you your proper position, you have
nothing to do but to be thankful. I think myself
that it is a great subject of thankfulness that your
mother can return so freely without any bitterness.
It is the blessing of such as she '

Nuttie stood pouting, but more thoughtful and
less violent, as she said, ' How can I be thankful ?
I don't want position or anything. I only want
him to let my — my own mother, and aunt, and me
alone.'

* Child, you are talking of what you do not under-
stand. You must not waste any more time in argu-

F



GG NU1TIE*S FATHKli. [( hap.

ment. Your mother lias sunt for you, and it is your
duty to go and let her introduce you to your father.
I have little doubt that you will find liim very unlike
all your imagination represents him, but let that be as
it may, the fifth Commandment does not say, " Honour
only thy good father," but, " Honour thy father."
Come now, put on your gloves — get her hat right, if
you please. Miss Mary. There — now, come along, be
a reasonable creature, and a good girl, and do not give
unnecessary pain and vexation to your mother.' He
gave her his arm, and led her away.

'Well done, Mr. Button !' exclaimed Miss Nugent.

* Poor Mr. Button ! ' All Aunt Ursel's discretion
could not suppress that sigh, but Mary prudently let
it pass unnoticed, only honouring in her heart the
unselfishness and self-restraint of the man whose loncj,
patient, unspoken hopes had just received a death-
blow.

' Oh, Mary ! I never thought it would have been
like this!' cried the poor old lady. 'I ought not to
have spoken as I did before the child, but I was so
taken by surprise ! Alice turned to him just as if he
had been the most faithful, loving husband in the
world. She is believing every word he says.'

' It is very happy for her that she can,' pleaded
Mary.

* So it is, yes, but — when one knows what he is,
and what she is! Oh, Mr. Button, is the poor child
gone in ?'

* Yes, I saw her safe into the room. She was very
near running off up the stairs,' said ]\[r. Button. ' lUit
I daresay she is fascinated by this time. That sort of
man has great power over women.'

' Nuttie is hardly a woman yet,* said ]\Iiss Nugent.



vri.] THAT MAN. 67

*No, but there must be a strong reaction, Avlieu
she sees something unlike her compound of Marmion
and Theseus.'

' I suppose there is no question but that tliey must
go with him !' said Miss Headworth wistfully.

* Assuredly. You say he — this Egremont — was
affectionate/ said Mr. Button quietly, but Mary saw
liis fingers white with his tight clenching of the bar of
the chair.

* Oh yes, warmly affectionate, delighted to find her
prettier than ever, poor dear; I suppose he meant it.
Heaven forgive me, if I am judging him too hardly,
but I verily believe he went to church to reconnoitre,
and see whether she pleased his fancy '

' And do you understand,' added Mr. Dutton, ' that
he is prepared to do her full justice, and introduce her
to his family and friends as his wife, on equal terms ?
Otherwise, even if she were unwilling to stand up for
herself, it would be the duty of her friends to make
some stipulations.'

' I am pretty sure that he does,' said the aunt ; * I
did not stay long when I saw that I was not wanted,
but I heard him say something about his having a
home for her now, and her cuttimx out the Eedcastle
ladies.'

' Besides, there is the nephew, Mr. Mark Egremont,'
said Mary. ' He will take care of her.'

' Yes,' said Mr. Dutton. ' It appears to be all right.
At any rate, there can be no grounds for interference
on our part.'

Mr. Dutton took his leave with these words, wring-
ing Miss Headworth's hand in mute sympathy, and
she, poor old lady, when he was gone, fairly collapsed
into bitter weeping over the uncertain future of those



53 NUTTIE's father. [• hap. VII.

^vlloln she had loved as her oavh cliiklren, and Nvho

now must h'ave her desohate. Mary did her best

with comfort and sympathy, and presently took her

to share her griefs and fears with gentle old :\Irs.
Nugent.



CHAPTEE VIIL

THE FATHER.

' I do think this lady
To be my child. ' — King Lear.

NuTTiE, in lier fresh liolland Sunday dress, worked in
crewels with wild strawberries by her mother's hands,
and with a white -trimmed straw hat, was almost
shoved into the little drawing-room by Mr. Dutton,
though he was himself invisible.

Her eyes were in such a daze of tears that she hardly
saw more at first than that some one was there with
her mother on the sofa. ' Ah, there she is ! ' she
heard her mother cry, and both rose. Her mother's
arm was round her waist, her hand was put into
another, Mrs. Egremont's voice, tremulous with ex-
ceeding delight, said, ' Our child, our Ursula, our
Nuttie ! Oh, this is what I have longed for all these
years ! Oh, thanks, thanks !' and her hands left her
daughter to be clasped and uplifted for a moment in
fervent thanksgiving, while Nuttie's hand was held,
and a strange hairy kiss, redolent of tobacco- smoking,
was on her forehead — a masculine one, such as she
had never known, except her cousin Mark's, since the



70 NUTTIE'S father. [chap.

old rector died, and slie had grown too hig for a\Ir.
Button's embraces. It was more strange than de-
lightful, and yet she felt the polish of the tone that
said, 'We make acquaintance somewhat late, Ursula,
hut better late than never.'

She looked up at this new father, and understood
instantly what she had heard of his being a grand
gentleman. There was a high-bred look about him,
an entire ease and perfect manner that made every-
thing he did or said seem like gracious condescension,
and took away the power of questioning it at tlie
moment. He was not above the middle size, and was
becoming unwieldy ; but there was something imposing
and even graceful in his deportment, and his bald
narrow forehead looked aristocratic, set off between
side tufts of white hair, white whiskers, and moustaches
waxed into sharp points, Victor Emmanuel fashion,
and a round white curly beard. His eyes were dark,
and looked dull, with yellow unwholesome corners,
and his skin was not of a pleasant colour, but still,
with all Nuttie's intentions of regarding him with
horror, she was subdued, partly by the grand breeding
and air of distinction, and partly by the current of
sympathy from her mother's look of perfect happiness
and exultation. She could not help feeling it a favour,
almost an undeserved favour, that so great a personage
should say, ' A complete Egremont, I see. She has
altogether the family face.'

' I am so glad you think so,' returned her mother.

*0n the whole it is well, but she might have done
better to resemble you, Edda,' he said caressingly ;
' l)ut perhaps that would have been too mucli for the
Earlsforth natives. William's girls will have enough to
endure without a double eclipse !' and he laughed.



VIII.] THE FATHER. Vl

* I — I don't want ' faltered tlie mother.

* You don't want, no, but you can't help it,' he
said, evidently with a proud delight in her beauty.
'Now that I have seen the child,' he added, 'I will
make my way back to the hotel.'

'Will you — won't you stay to tea or dinner V said
his wife, beginning with an imploring tone whicli
hesitated as she reviewed possible chops and her
aunt's dismay.

'Thank you, I have ordered dinner at the hotel,'
he answered, ' and Gregorio is waiting for me with a
cab. No doubt you will wish to make arrangements
with Madame — the old lady — and I will not trouble
her further to-night. I will send down Gregorio to-
morrow morning, to tell you what I arrange. An
afternoon train, probably, as we shall go no farther
than London. You say Lady Kirkaldy called on you.
We might return her visit before starting, but I will
let you know when I have looked at the trains. My
compliments to Miss Headworth. Good evening,
sweetest.' He held his wife in a fond embrace, kiss-
ing her brow and cheeks and letting her cling to him,
then added, * Good evening, little one,' with a good-
natured careless gesture with which Nuttie was quite
content, for she had a certain loathing of the caresses
that so charmed her mother. And yet the command
to make ready had been given with such easy author-
ity that the idea of resisting it had never even entered
her mind, though she stood still while her mother went
out to the door with him and watched him to the last.

Coming back, she threw her arms round her
daughter, kissed her again and again, and, with showera
of the glad tears long repressed, cried, ' Oh, my Niittie,
my child, what joy ! How shall I be thankful enougli !



72 NUTTIE'S father, [chap.

Your father, your dear father ! Now it is all right.'
Little sentences of ecstasy such as these, interspersed
with caresses, all in the incoherence of overpowering
delight, full of an absolute faith that the lost husband
liad loved her and been pining for her all these years,
but that he had been unable to trace her, and was as
happy as she was in the reunion.

The girl was somewhat bewildered, but she was
carried along by this flood of exceeding joy and glad-
ness. The Marmion and Theseus images had been
dispelled by the reality, and, with Mr. button's sharp
reproof fresh upon her, she felt herself to have been
doing a great injustice to her father ; believed all that
her mother did, and found herself the object of a
romantic recognition — if not the beggar girl become
a princess, at any rate, the little school-teacher a
county lady ! And she had never seen her mother so
wildly, overpoweringly happy with joy. That made her,
too, feel that something grand and glorious had happened.

'What are we going to do?' she asked, as the
vehemence of Mrs. Egremont's emotion began to work
itself off.

* Home ! He takes us to his home ! His home !*
repeated her mother, in a trance of joy, as the yearn-
ings of her widowed heart now were fulfilled.

' Oh, but Aunt Ursel !'

'Poor Aunt Ursel! Oh, Nuttie, Nuttie, 1 had
almost forgotten! How could I?' and tliere was a
shower of tears of compunction. * But he said he
owed everything to her ! She will come with us ! Or
if she doesn't live with us, we will make her live close
by in a dear little cottage. Where is slie ? Winn



did she go ? T never saw her g



Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 5 of 28)