Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Nuttie's father online

. (page 6 of 28)
Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 6 of 28)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


' I think perhaps she may be induced to join ns,'
said Mary. 'We mean to do our best to persuade
her.'

' And tliere's the choir ! And my class, and the
harmonium,' went on Nuttie, while Gerard walked on
disconsolately.

' Micklethwayte has existed without you, Nuttie,'
said My. Spyers, taking her on with him alone.
' Perhaps it will be able to do so again. My dear, you
had better look on. There will be plenty for you to
learn and to do where you are going, and you will be
sure to find much to enjoy, and also something to
bear. I should like to remind you that the best
means of going on well in this new world will be to
keep self down and to have the strong desire that only
love can give to be submissive, and to do what is
right botli to God and your father and mother. May
I give you a text to take with you ? " Children, obey
your parents in the Lord, for this is right." '

They were at the door and there was no time for
an answer, but Nuttie, as she took her place, was
partly touched and partly fretted at the admonition.

The question as to her remaining a day or two
after her mother was soon disposed of. Mrs. Egre-
mont sent a pretty little note to make the request,
but the elegant valet who appeared at ten o'clock
brought a verbal message that his master wished Mrs.
and Miss Egremont to be ready by two o'clock to join
him in calling on Lady Kirkaldy at Monks Horton,
and that if their luggage was ready by four o'clock,
he (Gregorio) would take charge of it, as they were all
to go up to town by the 4.40 train.



80 NUTTIE's father. [chai'. VI 11.

' Did ho liaA'o my note ? ' faltered Alice, stimulated
by tlie imploring glances of aunt and daughter, but
anticipating the answer.

*Yes, madame, but he ^vishes that ]\Iiss Egremont
should accompany you immediately.'

' Of course,' was Alice's connnent, ' now that he has
found his child, he cannot bear to part with her.'

And all through the farewells that almost rent the
gentle Alice's heart in two, she was haunted ])y the
terror that she or her daughter should have red eyes
to vex her husband. As to Mr. Button, he had only
come in with Gerard in a great hurry just after
breakfast, said there was much to do to-day at the
office, as they were going to take stock, and they
should neither of them have time to come home to
luncheon. He shook the hands of mother and daughter
heartily, promised to ' look after ' Miss Headworth, and
bore off in his train young Gerard, looking the picture
of woe, and muttering ' I believe he has got it up on
purpose;' while mother and daughter thought it very
odd. and rather unkind.



CHAPTEE IX.



NEW PLUMES.



' And ye sail walk in silk attire,
And siller hae to spare.' — Old Ballad.

The very best open fly and pair of horses, being the
equipage most like a private carriage possessed by the
Eoyal Hotel, came to the door with Mr. Egremont
seated in it, at a few minutes after two o'clock, and
found Alice in her only black silk, with a rose in her
bonnet, and a tie to match on her neck, hastily pro-
cured as signs of her wifehood.

She had swallowed her tears, and Nuttie was not a
crying person, but was perfectly scarlet on her usually
brown cheeks. Her father muttered some civility
about back seats, but it was plain that it was only in
words, and she never thought of anything but looking
back, with her last wave to her aunt and the two
maids, one crying at the gate, the other at the door.

' There,' said Mr. Egremont, as they drove away,
' that is over ! '

* My dear aunt,' said his wife. ' Who can express
her goodness to me V

' Celci va scms direl was the reply. ' But these arc

G



82 NUTTIE'S father. [chap.

connections tliat happily Ursula is young enough to
forget and leave behind.'

'I shall never forget!' began Nuttie, but she saw
her father composing himself in his corner without
paying the slightest heed to what she was saying, and
she encountered a warning and alarmed glance from
her mother, so she was forced to content herself with
uttering silent vows of perpetual recollection as she
passed each well-known object, — the unfinished clnirch,
with Mr. Spyers at the door talking to old Bellman ;
the Town Hall, whose concerts, lectures, and S. P. G.
meetings had been her chief gaiety and excitement;
the School of Art, where Lady Kirkaldy's appearance
now seemed to her to have been like that of a bird of
omen ; past the shops in the High Street, with a little
exultation at the thought of past desires which they
had excited. Long could she have rattled away, her
hopes contradicting her regrets, and her regrets quali-
fying her anticipations, but she saw that her mother
was nervous about every word and gesture, and fairly
looked dismayed when she exclaimed, * Oh, mother,
there's Etta Smith; how surprised she will be!'
bowing and smiling with all her might.

There was a look of bare toleration on Mr.Egremont's
face, as if he endured because it woidd soon be over, as
Nuttie bowed several times, and his wife, though less
.quick to catch people's eyes, sometimes also made her
recognition. Wlien the streets were past and Xuttie had
aimed her last nods at the nurseiy parties out walking
on the road, she became aware that those cold, lack-
lustre, and yet sharply critical eyes of her father were
scanning her all over.

'Slic lias been educated V he presently said to liis
wile.



IX.] NEW TLUMES. 8.3

' Oh yes/ was the eager answer. ' Slie is in the
highest form at the High School, and has to go up for
the Senior Local Examination. Miss Belper makes
sure that she will get a first class.'

Mr. Egremont gave a little wave of the hand, as
dismissing something superfluous, and said, ' I hope
she has some accomplishments.'

' She has done very fairly in French and German '

'And Latin,' put in Ursula.

' And she has had several prizes at the School of Art.'

' And music ? That's the only thing of any value
in society,' he said impatiently, and Mrs. Egremont
said more timidly, ' She has learnt music regularly.'

' But I don't care about it,' broke in Nuttie. ' I
haven't mother's ear nor her voice. I learnt the
science in case I should have to teach, and they make
me practise. I don't mind classical music, but I can't
stand rubbish, and I think it is waste of time.'

Mr. Egremont looked fairly amused, as at the out-
spoken folly of an enfant terrible, but he only said,
either to his wife or to himself, ' A little polish, and
then she may be fairly presentable.'

'We have taken great pains with her,' answered
the gentle mother, evidently taking this as a great
compliment, while the daughter was tingling with in-
dignation. She, bred up by mother, and aunt, and
Mary Nugent, to be barely presentable. Was not their
society at Micklethwayte equal in good manners to any,
and superior, far superior, in goodness and intelligence
to these stupid fashionable people, who undervalued all
her real useful acquirements, and cared for nothmg
but trumpery music.

The carriage entered the park, and Nuttie saw
lake and woods from a fresh point of view. The



8^ NUTTIE's father. [chap.

owners were both at home, and Nuttie found herself
walking behind her parents into a cheerful apartment,
half library, half morning-room. Mrs. Egremont was
by far the most shy and shrinking of the party, but it
was an occasion that showed her husband's complete
tact and savoir fairc. He knew perfectly well that the
Kirkaldys knew all about it, and he therefore took the
initiative. ' You are surprised to see us,' he said, as
he gave his hand, ' but we could not leave the country
without coming to thank Lady Kirkaldy for her kind-
ness in assisting in following up the clue to Mrs.
Egremont's residence.'

' I am very happy,' said Lady Kirkaldy, while all
were being seated.

' I think it was here that my nephew Mark first
met one whom, child as he was, he could not but
remember.'

' I don't think you met him here,' said Lady Kirk-
aldy to Mrs. Egremont ; ' but he heard the name and
was struck by it.'

' Dear Mark !' was the response. ' He was so kind,'

* He is a dear good boy,' chimed in my lady.

* Yes,' said her lord, * an excellent good fellow with
plenty of brains.'

' As he well knows,' said Mr. Egremont. ' Oh yes ;
I quite agree with all you say of him ! One ought
to be thankful for the possession of a rare specimen.'

It was in tlie tone in which Falstaff discussed that
sober boy. Lord John of Lancaster. Lord Kirkaldy
asked if the visitors were going to remain long in the
neighbourhood.

'We are due in London to-night,* replied Mr.
Egremont. * We shall s})cnd a day or two tliere, and
then go home. Alice,' he added, though liis wife had



IX.] NEW PLUMES. 85

never heard him call her so before, ' Lady Kirkaldy
knows your inexperience. Perhaps she would be good
enough to give you some addresses that might be
useful.'

' I shall be delighted,' said the lady, cordially look-
ing at the blushing Mrs. Egremont.

' Dressmaker, and all the rest of it,' said Mr. Egre-
mont. ' You know better than she does what she will
require, and a little advice will be invaluable. Above
all, if you could tell her how to pick up a maid.'

Lady Kirkaldy proposed to take the mother and
daughter up to her dressing-room, where she kept her
book of addresses to London tradesmen; and Mr.
Egremont only begged that they would remember the
4.40 train. Then Lord Kirkaldy was left to entertain
him, while the ladies went up the broad staircase to
the pleasant room, which had a mingled look of refine-
ment and usefulness which struck Nuttie at once.
Lady Kirkaldy, as soon as the door was shut, took her
visitor by the hand, kissed her forehead, and said,
' You must let me tell you how glad I am.'

The crystal veil at once spread over Alice's eyes.

' Oh, thank you, Lady Kirkaldy ! I am so happy,
and yet I am so afraid. Please tell me what we shall
do so that we may not vex him, so high bred and fas-
tidious as he is ? '

'Be yourself! That's all, my dear,' said Lady
Kirkaldy tenderly. ' Don't be afraid. You are quite
incapable of douig anything that could distress the
most fastidious taste.'

It was perfectly true of the mother, perhaps less so
of the daughter ; but Lady Kirkaldy only thought of
her as a mere girl, who could easily be modelled by
her surroundings. The kind hostess applied herself to



86 NUTTIK'S FATIIEU. [chap.

giviii;^' the addresses of the people slie thought likely
to be most useful in the complete outfit which she saw
would be necessary, explaining to which establishments
she applied witli confidence if she needed to complete
her wardrobe in haste, feeling certain that nothing
would be sent her that she disliked, and giving leave
to use her name. She soon saw that the mother was
a little dazed, while Ursula's eyes grew rounder at the
unlimited vista of fine clothes, and she assented, and
asked questions as to the details. As to a maid, Lady
Kirkaldy would write to a person who would call on
Mrs. Egremont at the hotel in London, and who might
be what was wanted; and in conclusion, Lady Kirkaldy,
with some diffidence, begged to be written to — ' if —
if,' she said, * there happened to be any difficulty about
which you might not like to consult Mrs. AVilliam
Egremont.' Nuttie hardly knew whether to be grate-
ful or not, for she did not believe in any standard
above that of ]\Iicklethwayte, and she was almost angry
at her mother's grateful answer — ' Oh, thank you ! I
should be so grateful! I am so afraid of annoying
him by what he may think small, ignorant, country-
town ways ! You will understand '

Lady Kirkaldy did understand, and she dreaded
what might be before the sweet little pelding woman,
not from want of breeding so much as from the long-
indulged selfishness of her husband ; but she encour-
aged her as much as possible, and promised all possible
counsel, bringing her downstairs again just in time.

* Pretty little soul ! ' said Lord Kirkaldy, as the fly
clattered away. 'I wonder whethi-r j\Iark has done
her a kindness ! '

' It is just what she is, a prcUy, nay, a beautiful
soul, full of tenderness and forgiveness and allection



IX.] NEW PLUMES. 87

and humility, only I doubt whether there is any force
or resolution to hold her own. You smile ! Well,
perhaps the less of that she has the better she may
get on with him. Did he say anything about her ? '

' No ; I think he wants to ignore that they have
not spent the last twenty years together.'

* That may be the best way for all parties. Do
you think he will behave well to her ? '

' No man could well do otherwise to such a sweet
little thing,' said Lord Kirkaldy ; ' especially as she
will be his most obedient slave, and will make herself
necessary to him. It is much better luck than he
deserves ; but I pity her when she comes to make
her way with yon ladies ! '

' I wish I was there ! I know she will let herself
be trodden on ! However, there's Mark to stand up
for her, and William Egremont will do whatever he
thinks right and just. I wish I knew how his wife
will take it ! '



CHAPTER X.

BUIDGEFIELD EGKEMONT.

' Let us see these handsome houses
Where the wealthy nobles dwell.'— Tknnyson.

* Mother, mother ! ' cried two young people, bursting
open the door of the pretty dining-room of Bridgefield
Eectory, where the grown-up part of the family were
lingering over a late breakfast.

* Gently, gently, children,' said the dignified lady at
the head of the table. ' Don't disturb papa.'

* Ihit we really have something to say, mother ! '
said the elder girl, ' and Friiulein said you ought to
know. Uncle Alwyn is come home, and ^Irs. Egre-
mont. And please, are we to call her Aunt Egremont,
or Aunt Alwyn, or what ? '

The desired sensation Avas produced. Canon Egre-
mont put down his newspaper. The two elder sisters
looked from one to the other in unmitigated astonish-
ment, ^lark l)rielly made answer to the final (piestion,

* Aunt Alice,' and Mrs. Egremont said gravely, ' How
did you hear this, liosalind ? You know 1 always
forbid you to gossip.'

*We didn't gossip, mother. We went u]) to the
gardens to get some mulberries for our half-lioliday



CIIAI-. X.] maDGEFlELD EGREMONT. 89

feast ; and Ptonaldson came out and told us W(5 must
ask leave first, for the ladies were come. The Squire
came home at nine o'clock last night, and Mrs. Egre-
mont and all, and only sent a telegram two hours
before to have the rooms got ready.'

' Has Uncle Alwyn gone and got himself married ? '
exclaimed one of the young ladies, in utter amazement.

' Not just now, Blanche,' said her father. ' It is an
old story now. Your uncle married this lady, who
had been governess to May and Mark, many years ago,
and from — circumstances in which she was not at all to
blame, he lost sight of her while he was abroad with
old General Egremont. Mark met her about a fort-
night ago, and this has led to your uncle's going in
quest of her, though he has certainly been more sudden
in his proceedings than I expected.'

The mother here succeeded in sending Eosalind and
Adela, with their wondering eyes, off the scene, and
she would much have liked to send her two step-
daughters after them, but one-and-twenty and eighteen
could not so readily be ordered off as twelve and ten ;
and Mark, who had been prohibited from uttering a
word to his sisters, was eagerly examining Margaret
whether she remembered their Edda ; but she had been
only three years old at the time of the adventures
in the Isle of Wight, and remembered nothing dis-
tinctly but the aspect of one of the sailors in the yacht.

' Well,' said Mrs. Egremont, ' this has come very
suddenly upon us. It would have been more for her
own dignity if she had held out a little before coming
so easily to terms, after the way in which she has been
treated.'

' When you see her, mother, you will understand,'
said Mark.



90 NUTTIE'S father. [chap.

' Shall we have to be intimate with her ? ' asked
May.

' I desire tliat slie should be treated as a relation,'
said the Canon decidedly. * There is nothing against
her character,' and, as his wife was about to interrupt,
— ' nothing but an indiscretion to which she was abnost
driven many years ago. She was cruelly treated, and
I for one am heartily sorry for having let myself be
guided by others.*

Mrs. William Egremont felt somewhat complacent,
for she knew he meant Lady de Lyonnais, and there
certainly had been no love lost between her and her
step -children's grandmother; but she was a sensible
woman, and forbore to speak, though there w^as a mental
reservation that intimacy w^ould a good deal depend
upon circumstances. Blanche cried out that it was a
perfect romance, and May gravely said, ' But is she a
lady ? '

* A perfect lady,' said Mark. ' Aunt IMargaret says
so.'

' One knows what a perfect lady means,' returned
]May.

' Come, May,' said Mrs. Egremont, ' do not let us
begin with a prejudice. By all accounts the poor thing
has conducted herself with perfect respectability all this
time. What did you tell me, Mark ? She has been
living w4th an aunt, keeping a school at Micklethwayte.'

* Not quite,' said Mark. ' She has been acting as a
daily governess. She seemed to be on friendly terms
with the clerical folk. I came across the name at a
school feast, or sometlung of the kind, which came otf
in the Kirkaldys' park.'

' Oh, then, I know exactly the sort of person ! ' re-
turned May, i)ui-sing up her lips.



X.J BRIDGEFIELD EGREMONT. 91

Mark laughed and said, ' I wonder whether it is
too soon to go up and see them. I wonder what my
uncle thinks of his daughter.'

* What ! You don't mean to say there is a
daughter ? ' cried May.

' Even so. And exactly like you too, Miss May.'

' Then you are cut out, Mark ! '

' You are cut out, I think. May. You'll have to
give her all your Miss Egremont cards.'

' No,' said the young lady ; ' mother made me have
my Christian name printed. She said all but the
daughters of the head of the family ought to have it
so. I'm glad of it.'

' How old is she ? ' asked Blanche.

' About a year younger than you.'

' I think it is very interesting,' said Blanche.
' How wonderful it must all be to her 1 I will go up
with you, Mark, as soon as I can get ready.'

* You had better wait till later in the day, Blanche,'
said the mother. She knew the meeting was inevit-
able, but she preferred having it under her own eye, if
she could not reconnoitre.

She was a just and sensible woman, who felt repar-
ation due to the newly-discovered sister-in-law, and
that harmony, or at least the appearance of it, must
be preserved ; but she was also exclusive and fastidi-
ous by nature, and did not look forward to the needful
intercourse with much satisfaction either on her own
account or that of her family.

She told Mark to say that she should come to see
Mrs. Egremont after luncheon, since he was determined
to go at once, and moreover to drag his father with
him. Canon Egremont was a good and upright man,
accordino- to his lights, which were rather those of a



92 nuttie's father. [« hap.

well-beneficed clergyman of the first than of the last
half of the century, intensified perliaps that the passive
voice was the stron«Test in him. All the country knew
that Canon Egremont could be relied on to give a
prudent, scholarly judgment, and to be kind and liberal,
when once induced to stir mind or body — but how to do
that was the problem. He had not been a young man
at the time of his first marriage, and was only a few
years' junior to his brother, though he had the fresh,
wholesome look of a man who kept regular hours and
lived much in the air.

Alice knew him at once, and thought eighteen
years had made little change, as, at Nuttie's call to her,
she looked from the window and saw the handsome,
dignified, gray -haired, close -shaven rosy face, and the
clerical garb unchanged in favour of long coats and
high waistcoats.

The mother and daughter were exploring the house
together. Mr. Egremont had made it known that he
preferred having his breakfast alone, and not being
disturbed in the forenoon. So the two ladies had
breakfasted together at nine, the earliest hour at which
they could prevail on the household to give them a
meal. Indeed Nuttie had slept till nearly that time,
for Ijctween excitement and noise, her London slumbers
had been broken ; and her endeavour to keep Mickle-
thwayte hours had resulted in a long, weary, hungry
time in the sitting-room of the hotel, with nothing to
do, when tlie gaze from the window palled on her, but
to write to hv.v aunt and Mary Nugent. The rest of
the day had ItcciU spent in driving about in a brougham
with her mother shopping, and this she could not but
enjoy exceedingly, more than did tlie timid Mrs. Egre-
mont, who could not but feel herself weighted with



X.]



BRIDGEFIELD EGREMONT. 93



responsibility ; and never having had to spend at the
utmost more than ten pounds at a time, felt be-
wildered at the cheques put into her hands, and then
was alarmed to find them melting away faster than
she expected.

There was a very late dinner, after which Mr.
Egremont, on the first day, made his wife play Uziq^iie
with him. She enjoyed it, as a tender reminiscence
of the yachting days ; but Nuttie found herself de
trop, and was reduced to the book she had contrived
to purchase on her travels. The second night Mr.
Egremont had picked up two friends, not yet gone out
of town, whose talk was of horses and of yachts, quite
incomprehensible to the ladies. They were very
attentive to Mrs. Egremont, whom they evidently ad-
mired, one so visibly as to call up a blush ; but they
disregarded the daughter as a schoolgirl. Happily
they appeared no more after the dinner ; but Nuttie's
first exclamation of astonished disgust was silenced at
once by her mother with unusual determination, ' You
must not speak so of your father's friends.'

' Not when '

* Not at all,' interrupted Mrs. Egremont.
The only sense of promotion to gTcatness that
Ursula had yet enjoyed was in these fine clothes, and
the maid whom Lady Kirkaldy had recommended, a
grave and severe-looking person, of whom both stood
somewhat in awe. The arrival at Bridgefield had
been too late for anything to be taken in but a general
impression of space and dreariness, and the inevitable
dinner of many courses, after which ISTuttie was so
tired out that her mother sent her to bed.

Since the waking she had made some acquaintance
with the house. There was no show of domestics, no



94 NUTTIE'S father. [ruw.

curtseying housekeeper to parade the now mistress
over the liouse ; Mr. Ej:^remont had told his wife that
she must fill up the establishment as she pleased, but
that there was an admirable cook downstairs, and he
would not have her interfered witli — she suited his
tastes as no one else did, and she must be left to deal
with the provisions and her own underlings. There
was a stable establishment, and a footman had been
hired in town, but there was besides only one untidy-
looking housemaid, who began by giving warning ; and
Alice and Nuttie had roamed about without meeting
any one from the big wainscotted dining-room with
faded crimson curtains and family portraits, the older
grimy, the younger chalky, to the two drawing-rooms,
whose gilding and pale blue damask had been pre-
served by pinafores of brown hoUand ; the library,
which looked and smelt as if Mr. Egremont was in
the habit of sitting there, and a big billiard-room, all
opening into a shivery -feeling hall, with Scagliola
columns and a few dirty statues between them ; then
upstairs to a possible morning-room, looking out over
a garden lawn, where mowing was going on in haste,
and suites of dreary shut-up fusty bed-rooms. Nuttie,
who had notions of choosing her own bower, could not
make up her mind which looked the least inviting.
It did not seem as if girls could ever have laughed
together, or children clattered up and down the stairs.
Mrs. Egremont begged her to keep possession for the
present at least of the chamber where the giim
housemaid had chosen to put her, and wliioh had the
advantage of being aired.

The two windows looked out over the park, and
tlience it was tliat while Morris, the maid, was un-
packing and putting away the new purchases, and



X.] BRIDGEFIELD EGREMONT. 95

Nuttie was standing, scarcely realising that such pretty
hats and bonnets could be her very own, when her
mother beheld the Canon and Mark advancing up the
drive. It was with a great start that she called
Ursula to come down directly with her, as no one



Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 6 of 28)