Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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would know where to find them, hastily washing the
hands that had picked up a sense of dustiness during
the exploration, and taking a comprehensive glance in
the cheval glass, which showed her some one she felt
entirely unfamiliar to her in a dainty summer costume
of pale gray silk picked out with a mysterious shade
of pink. Ursula too thought Miss Egremont's outer
woman more like a Chelsea shepherdess than Nuttie's
true self, as she tripped along in her buckled shoes
and the sea green stockings that had been sent home
with her skirt. With crimson cheeks and a throbbing
heart, Alice was only just at the foot of the stairs
when the newcomers had made their way in, and the
kind Canon, ignoring all that was past, held out his
hands saying, ' Well, my dear, I am glad to see you
here,' kissinu: Mrs. Ecjremont on each cheek. ' And so
this is your daughter. How do you do, my dear —
Ursula ? Isn't that your name ? ' And Ursula had
again to submit to a kiss, much more savoury and
kindly than her father's, though very stubbly. And
oh ! her uncle's dress was like that of no one she had
ever seen except the rector of the old church, the
object of unlimited contempt to the adherents of St.
Ambrose's.

As to Mark, he only kissed his aunt, and shook
hands with her, while his father ran on with an un-
usual loquacity that was a proof of nervousness in
him.

'Mrs. Egremont — Jane, I mean — will be here



96 NUTTIE's FATIIEn. [chap.

after lunclieon. Slie tliought you would like to get
settled in first. How is Alwyn ? Is he down yet?'

*I will see,' in a trembling voice.

' Oh no, never mind, Alwyn hates to be disturbed
till he has made himself up in the morning. My call
is on yoic, you know. AVhere are you sitting V

*I don't c|uite know. In the drawing-room, T
suppose.'

The Canon, knowing the house much better than
she did, opened a door into a third drawing-room she
had not yet seen, a pretty little room, fitted up with
lluted silk, like a tent, somewhat faded but not much
the worse for that, and opening into a conservatory,
which seemed to have little in it but some veteran
orange trees. Nuttie, however, exclaimed with pleasure
at the nicest room she had seen, and Mark began
unfastening the glass door that led into it. Meantime
Alice, with burning cheeks and liquid eyes, nerved her
voice to say, ' Oh, sir — Mr. Egremont — please forgive
me ! I know now how wrong I was.'

* Nonsense, my dear. Bygones are bygones. You
were far more sinned against than sinning, and liave
much to forgive me. There, my dear, we will say no
more about it, nor think of it either. I am only too
thankful that poor Ah^^n should have some one to
look after him.'

Alice, who had dreaded nothing more than the
meeting with her former master, was infinitely relieved
and grateful for this kindness. She had ejaculated,
' Oh, you are so good !' in the midst, and now at
tlie mention of her luisband, she exclaimed, * Oh !
do you think lie is ill ? I can't help being afraid
he is, but he will not tell me, and does not like to
be asked.*



X.] BRIDGEFIELD EGREMONT. 97

' Poor fellow, he has damaged his health a good
deal,' was the answer. ' He had a sharp attack in
the spring, but he has pretty well got over it, and
Eaikes told me there was no reason for uneasiness,
provided he would be careful; and that will be a
much easier matter now. I should .not wonder if we
saw him with quite a renewed youth.'

So the Canon and Mrs. Egremont were getting on
pretty well together, but there was much more still-
ness and less cordiality between the two cousins,
although Mark got the window open into the con-
servatory, and showed Nuttie the way into the garden,
advising her to ask Eonaldson, the gardener, to
fill the conservatory with flowers. The pavilion, as
this little room was called, always seemed to have
more capacities for being lived in than any other room
in the house. It had been fitted up when such things
were the fashion for the shortlived bride of ' our great
uncle.'

' The colour must have been awful then,' said Mark,
looking up at it, ' enough to set one's teeth on edge ;
but it has faded into something quite orthodox — much
better than could be manufactured for you.'

Mark had evidently some ideas of art, and w^as
besides inclined to do the honours to the stranger;
but Nuttie was not going to encourage him or any-
body else to make up to her, while she had that look of
Gerard Godfrey's in her mind's eye. So she made small
answer, and he felt rebuffed, but supposed her shy,
and wondered wlien he could go back to her mother,
who was so nnich more attractive.

Presently his father went off to storm the den of
the master of the house, and there was a pleasant
quarter of an hour, duriug wliich the three went out

II



98 NUTTIE's FATIIEK. [vhw.

tlirough the conservatory, and Mark showed the ins-
and-outs of the garden, found out lionaklson, and con-
gratulated him on having some one at last to appreciate
his flowers, begging him to make the conservatory
beautiful. And !Mrs. Kgremont's smile was so effective
that the Scot forthwith took out his knife and pre-
sented her with the most precious of the roses within
his reach.

Moreover Mark told the names and ages of all his
sisters, whole and half. He was the only son, except
a little fellow in tlie nursery. And he exhorted his
aunt not to be afraid of his step-mother, who was a
most excellent person, he declared, but who never
liked to see any one afraid of her.

There was something a little alarming in this, but
on the whole the visit was very pleasant and encourag-
ing to Mrs. Egremont; and she began rejoicing over
the kindness as soon as the Canon had summoned his
son, and they had gone away together.

' I am sure you must be delighted with your uncle
and cousin, my dear,' she said.

' He's not a bit my notion of a priest,' returned
Nuttie. 'And I don't believe he has any daily
prayers ! '

' He is old-fashioned, my dear.'

* One of the stodgey old clergymen in books,' ob-
served Nuttie. ' I didn't think there were any of that
sort left.'

' Oh, my dear, pray don't take fancies into your
head ! He is a very, very good man, and lias been
most kind to me, far more than T deserve, and he is
your uncle, Nuttie. I do so hope you will gvt on woll
with your cousins.'

llcie a gong, a perfectly unknown .sound to Xuttie,



X.] BKIDGEFIELD EGREMONT. 99

made itself heard, and rather astonished her hy the
concluding roar. The two ladies came out into the
hall as Mr. Egremont was crossing it. He made
an inclination of the head, and uttered a sort of
good morning to his daughter, but she was perfectly
content to have no closer salutation. Having a
healthy noonday appetite, her chief wish was at
the moment that those beautiful little cutlets,
arranged in a crown form, were not so very tiny ; or
that, with two men-servants looking on, it were pos-
sible to attain to a second help, but she had already
learnt that Gregorio would not hear her, and that
any attempt to obtain more food frightened her
mother.

' So his reverence has been to see you,' observed
Mr. Egremont. ' WiUiam, if you like it better.'

' Oh yes, and he was kindness itself ! '

'And how did Master Mark look at finding I
could dispense with his assistance ? '

' I think he is very glad.'

Mr. Egremont laughed. ' You are a simple woman,
Edda ! The pose of virtuous hero w^as to have been
full compensation for all that it might cost him ! And
no doubt he looks for the reward of virtue likewise.'

Wherewith he looked full at Ursula, who, to her
extreme vexation, felt herself blushing up to the ears.
She fidgeted on her chair, and began a most untrue

' I'm sure ' for, indeed, the poor girl was sure of

nothing, but that her father's manner was most uncom-
fortable to her. His laugh choked wdiatever she might
have said, which perhaps was Avell, and her mother's
cheeks glowed as much as hers did.

' Did the Canoness — Jane, I mean — come up ? ' lsi\.
Egremont went on.



100 NUTTli:'8 FATHEi:. [chai'.

* Mrs. Eiiremont ? Xo ; she sent uurd that she is
cuiniiig after luiiclieon.'

* Hill ! Then I shall ride out and leave you to her
majesty. Now look }'ou, Alice, you are to be very
careful with William's wife. She is a Condamine, you
know, and thinks no end of herself ; and your position
among the women-folk of the county depends more on
how she takes you up than anything else. But that
doesn't mean that you are to let her give herself airs
and domineer over you. Eememher you are the elder
brother's wife — Mrs. Egremont of Bridgefield Egremont
— and she is nothing but a parson's wife, and I won't
have her meddling in my house. Only don't you be
absurd and offend her, for she can do more for or
against you in society than any one else — more's the
pity!'

' Oh ! won't you stay and help me receive her ? '
exclaimed the poor lady, utterly confused by these
contrary directions.

' Not I ! I can't abide the woman ! nor she me ! '
He added, after a moment, ' You will do better without
me.'

So he went out for his ride, and I'rsula asked,,
* Oh, mother ! what will you do ? '

* The best I can, my dear. They are good people,
and are sure to be kinder than I deserve.'

Nuttie was learning that her mother would never
so much as hear, far less answer, a remark on her
husband. It was beginning to make a sore in the
young heart that a barrier was thus rising, where there
once had been as perfect oneness and conlidence as
c(juld exist between two natures so dissimilar, though
hitlicrto the unlikeness had never made itself felt.

]\Irs. Iv^reniont turned the conversation to the



X.] BUIDGEFIKLD FXIREMdNT. lOl

establishing themselves in the "liavilion; whither ' she
proceeded to import some fancy-work that she had
bought in London, and sent Nuttie to Eonaldson, wlio
was arranging calceolarias, begonias, and geraniums in
tlie conservatory, to beg for some cut-flowers for a
great dusty-looking vase in the centre of the table.

These were being arranged when Mrs. William
Esremont and Miss Blanche Egremont were ushered
in, and there were the regular kindred embraces, after
which Alice and Nuttie were aware of a very hand-
some, dignified -looking lady, well though simply
dressed in w^hat was evidently her home costume, with
a large shady hat and feather, her whole air curiously
fitting the imposing nickname of the Canoness.
Blanche was a slight, delicate-looking, rather pretty
oirl in a lawn -tennis dress. The visitor took the
part of treating the newcomers as well-established
relations.

' We would not inundate you all at once,' she said,
' but the children are all very eager to see their cousin.
I wish you w^ould come down to the Eectory with me.
My ponies are at the door. I would drive you, and
Ursula might walk with Blanche.' And, as Alice
hesitated for a moment, considering how this might
agree with the complicated instructions that she had
received, she added, ' Never mind Alwyn. I saw him
going off just before I came up, and he told William
he was going to look at some horses at Hale's, so lie
is disposed of for a good many hours.'

Alice decided that her husband would probably
wish her to comply, and she rejoiced to turn her
daughter in among the cousins, so hats, gloves, and
parasols were fetched, and the two mothers drove
aw^ay with the two sleek little toy ponies. By which it



102 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

may be perceived -that Mrs. William Egremont's first
impressions were favourable.

* It is the shortest way through tlie gardens,' said
Blanche. ' Have you been through them yet ? '

' I^Iark walked about ^vith us a little.'

' You'll improve them ever so much. There are
great capabilities. Look, you could have four tennis
courts on this one lawn. We wanted to have a garden-
party up here last year, and father said we might, but
mother thought Uncle Alwyn might think it a liberty ;
but now you'll have some delicious ones ? Of coui-se
you play lawn-tennis ? '

' 1 have seen it a very few times,' said Xuttie.

' Oh, we must teach you ! Pancy living without
lawn-tennis ! ' said Blanche. ' I always wonder what
people did without it. Only' — with an effort at
antiquarianism — ' I believe they had croquet.'

'Aunt Ursula says there weren't garden-parties
before croquet came in.'

* How dreadful, Ursula ! Your name's Ursula, isn't
it ? Haven't you some jolly little name to go by ? '

' Nuttie.'

' Nuttie ! That's scrumptious ! I'll call you Xuttie,
and you may call me Pussycat.'

' That's not so nice as Blanche.'

' Mother won't have me called so when strangers
are there, but you aren't a stranger, you know. You
must tell me all al)Out yourself, and how you came
never to learn tennis !'

*I had something else to do,' said Xuttie, with

dignity.

' Oil, you were in thci schoolroom ! T forgot.
Boor little Nuts!'

' At scliool,' said Ursuhi.



X.] BRIDGEFIELT) EGREMONT. 103

' All, I remember ! But you're out now, aren't
you ? I've been out since this spring. Motlier won't
let us come out till we are eighteen, isn't it horrid ?
And we were so worked there ! I can tell you a
finishing governess is an awful institution ! Poor little
Kosie and Adey will be in for one by and by. At pre-
sent they've only got a jolly little Fraulein that they
can do anything they please with.'

' Oh, I wonder if she would tell me of some Ger-
man books !'

'You don't mean that you want to read German !'
and Blanche stood still, and looked at her cousin in
astonishment,

' Whj, what else is the use of learning it ? '

' Oh, I don't know. Every one does. If one went
abroad or to court, you know,' said Blanche vaguely ;
but Ursula had now a fresh subject of interest ; for,
on emerging from the shrubbery, they came in sight of
a picturesque but not very architectural church, which
had the smallest proportion of wall and the largest of
roof, and a pretty oriel-windowed schoolhouse covered
with clematis. Nuttie rushed into inquiries about
services and schools, and was aghast at hearing of
mere Sundays and saints' days.

' Oh. no ! father isn't a bit Eitualistic. I wish he
was, it would be so much prettier ; and then he always
advertises for curates of moderate views, and they are
so stupid. You never saw such a stick as we have got
now, Mr. Edwards ; and his wife isn't a lady, I'm sure.'

Then as to schools, it was an absolute amazement
to Nuttie to find that the same plans were in force as
had prevailed when her uncle had come to the living
and built that pretty house — nay, were kept up at his
sole expense, because he liked old-fashioned simplicity,



104 nuttie's FATIIKU. [mw.

and (lid not clioose to Ijo worried with (lovi'rnment
iuspection.

* And,' said Blanche, ' every one says our girls work
ever so much better, and make nicer servants than
those that are crammed with all sorts of nonsense not
fit for them.'

As to the Sunday school. Mother and the curate
take care of that. I'm sure, if you like it, you can
have my class, for I always have a headache there,
and very often I can't go. Only May pegs away at
it, and she won't let me have the boys, who are the
only jolly ones, because she says I spoil them. But
you must be my friend — mind, Nuttie, not May's, for
we are nearer the same age. When is your l)irthday ?
You must put it down in my book ! '

Nuttie, who had tolerable experience of making
acquaintance with new girls, was divided between a
sense of Blanche's emptiness, and the warmth excited
by her friendliness, as well as of astonishment at all
she heard and saw.

Crossing the straggling, meandering village street,
the cousins entered the grounds of the Eectory, an
irregular but well-kept building of the soft stone
of the country, all the garden front of it a deo\)
verandah that was kept open in summer, but closed
with glass frames in the winter — flower-beds lying
before it, and beyond a lawn where the young folk
were playing at the inevitable lawn-tennis.

Margaret was not so pretty as Blanche, but had a
more sensiljle face, and her welcome to Ursula was
civil but reserved, liosalind and Adela were bright
little things, in quite a different style from their lialf-
sisters, much lighter in complexion and promising to
be liandsomer women. They looked fidl of eager-



X.] BRIDGEFIELD EGKEMONT. 105

ness and curiosity at the new cousin, whom Blanche
set clown on a bank, and proceeded to instruct in
the mysteries of the all-important game by comments
and criticisms on the players.

As soon as Mark and Adela had come out con-
querors, Ursula was called on to take her first lesson.
May resigned her racket, saying she had something to
do, and walked off the field, and carrying off with her
Adela, who, as Blanche said, ' had a spine,' and was
ordered to lie down for an hour every afternoon. The
cheerfulness with which she went spoke well for the
training of the family.

Nuttie was light-footed and dexterous handed, and
accustomed to active amusements, so that, under the
tuition of her cousins, she became a promising pupil,
and thawed rapidly, even towards Mark.

She was in the midst of her game when the two
mothers came out, for the drive had been extended all
round the park, under pretext of showing it to its new
mistress, but really to give the Canoness an oppor-
tunity of judging of her in a Utc-a-tete. Yet that
sensible woman had asked no alarming questions on
the past, still less had offered any advice that could
seem like interference. She had only named localities,
mentioned neighbours, and made little communications
about the ways of the place such as might elicit remarks ;
and, as Alice's voice betrayed less and less constraint,
she ventured on speaking of their daughters, so as to
draw forth some account of how Ursula might have
been educated.

And of this, Alice was ready and eager to talk, telling
how clever and how industrious Nuttie had always been,
and how great an advantage Miss Nugent's kindness
was, and how she was hoping to go up for the Cam-



106 NUTTIE'S father. [



Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father → online text (page 7 of 28)