Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Nuttie's father (Volume 1) online

. (page 10 of 15)
Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

permitted to do so, and desired to go to bed, and wait
to be picked up by the waggonette, which must return
to Bridgefield by the Lescombe road. Blanche, having
a delicate throat, was sentenced to go with her step-
mother. Mark undertook to ride the horse through the
river, and escort the three girls, and Gerard Godfrey
also joined them. The place where he was staying
lay a couple of miles beyond Lescombe, and when
Mrs. Elmore's fly had been met and turned back by
Mr. Egremont, he had jumped off to render assistance,
and had done so effectively enough to win Mark's

It was by this time about half-past five, as was
ascertained by the light of the waning moon, the
carriage-lamp having burnt out. It was a fine frosty
morning, and the moon was still powerful enough to
reveal the droll figures of the girls. May had a fur
cloak, with the hood tied over her head by Mrs. Egre-
mont's lace shawl ; Nuttie had a huge white cloud
over her head, and a light blue opera cloak ; Annaple
had ' rowed herself in a plaidie ' like the Scotch girl
she was, and her eyes flashed out merrily from its
dark folds. They all disdained the gentlemen's self-
denying offers of their ulsters, and only Nuttie con-
sented to have the carriage-rug added to her trappings,
and ingeniously tied on cloak-fashion with her sash
by Gerard. He and Mark piloted the three ladies
over the narrow border of the hole, which looked a


162 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

very black open gulf. Annaple had thanked the men,
and bidden them come to Lescombe the next day to
be paid for their assistance. Then they all stood to
watch Mark ride through the river, at the shallowest
place, indicated both by her and the labourers. It
was perfectly fordable, so Annaple's were mock heroics
when she quoted —

1 Never heavier man and horse
Stemmed a midnight torrent's force.'

And Nuttie responded in a few seconds —

* Yet through good heart and our Ladye's grace
Full soon he gained the landing place.'

They were both in high spirits, admiring each
other's droll appearance, and speculating on the ghosts
they might appear to any one who chanced to look out
of window. Annaple walked at the horse's head,
calling him poor old Eobin Hood, and caressing him,
while Gerard and Nuttie kept together.

May began to repent of her determination to walk ;
Lescombe seemed very far off, and she had an instinct
that she was an awkward fifth wheel. Either because
Eobin Hood walked too fast for her weary limbs, or
because she felt it a greater duty to chaperon Nuttie
than Annaple, she fell back on the couple in the rear,
and was rather surprised at the tenor of their conver-

This ' umbrella man ' was tellino- of his vicar's de-
light in the beautiful chalice veil that had been sent
by Mrs. Egremont, and Nuttie was communicating, as

xiv.] GOING AGEE. 163

a secret she ought not to tell, that mother was working a
set of stoles, and hoped to have the white ones ready by
the dedication anniversary ; also that there was a box
being filled for the St. Ambrose Christmas tree. They
were trying to get something nice for each of the choir
boys and of the old women ; and therewith, to May's
surprise, this youth, whom she regarded as a sort of
shopman, fell into full narration of all the events of
a highly- worked parish, — all about the choral festival,
and the guilds, and the choir, and the temperance
work. A great deal of it was a strange language to
May, but she half-disapproved of it, as entirely unlike
the ' soberness ' of Bridgefield ways, and like the Red-
castle vicar, whom her father commonly called l that
madman.' Still, she had a practical soul for parish
work, and could appreciate the earnestness that mani-
fested itself, and the exertions made for people of the
classes whom she had always supposed too bad or else
too well off to come under clerical supervision. And
her aunt and cousin and this young man all evidently
had their hearts in it ! For Xuttie — though her new
world had put the old one apparently aside — had
plunged into all the old interests, and asked questions
eagerly, and listened to their answers, as if Mickle-
thwayte news was water to the thirsty. The two
were too happy to meet, and, it must be confessed, had
not quite manners enough, to feel it needful to include
in their conversation the weary figure that plodded
along at a little distance from them, hardly attending
to the details of their chatter, yet deriving new notions

164 XUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

from it of the former life of Ursula and her mother,
matters which she had hitherto thought beneath her
attention, except so far as to be thankful that they
had emerged from it so presentable. That it was a
more actively religious, and perhaps a more intellectual
one than her own, she had thought impossible, where
everything must be second-rate. And yet, when her
attention had wandered from an account of Mr. Dutton's
dealings with a refractory choir boy bent on going to
the races, she found a discussion going on about some
past lectures upon astronomy, and Nuttie vehemently
regretting the not attending two courses promised for
the coming winter upon electricity and on Italian art,
and mournfully observing, 'We never go to anything
sensible here.'

May at first thought, ' Impertinent little thing,' and
felt affronted, but then owned to herself that it was
all too true. Otherwise there was hardly anything
said about the contrast with Nuttie's present life ;
Gerard knew already that the church atmosphere was
very different, and with the rector's daughter within
earshot, he could not utter his commiseration, nor
Nuttie her regrets.

Once there was a oeneral start, and the whole five
came together at the sight of a spectrally black appa-
rition, with a huge tufted head on high, bearing down
over a low hedge upon them. Nobody screamed
except Nuttie, but everybody started, though the next
moment it was plain that they were only chimney-
sweepers on their way.

xiv.] GOING AGEE. 165

' Retribution for our desire to act ghosts ! ' said
Annaple, when the sable forms had been warned of
the broken bridge. ' Poor May, you are awfully tired !
Shouldn't you like a lift in their cart ? '

1 Or I could put you up on Robin Hood,' said

' Thank you, I don't think I could stick on. Is it
much farther ? '

' Only up the hill and across the park,' said An-
naple, still cheerily.'

' Take my arm, old woman,' said Mark, and then
there was a pause, before Annaple said in an odd voice,
' You may tell her, Mark.'

1 Oh, Annaple ! Mark ! is it so ? ' cried May joy-
ously, but under her breath ; and with a glance to see
how near the other couple were.

' Yes,' said Annaple between crying and laughing.
' Poor Janet, she'll think we have taken a frightfully
mean advantage of her, but I am sure I never dreamt
of such a thing ; and the queer thing is, that Mark
says she put it into his head ! '

' No, no/ said Mark ; ' you know better than
that '

1 Why, you told me you only found it out when
she began to trample on the fallen '

' I told you I had only understood my own heart.'

' And I said very much the same — she made me so
angry, you see.'

' I can't but admire your motives ! ' said May,
exceedingly rejoiced all the time, and ready to have

166 nuttie's father. [chap.

embraced them both, if it had not been for the spec-
tators behind. ' In fact, it was opposition you both
wanted. I wonder how long you would have gone on
not finding it out, if all had been smooth ! '

' The worst of it is/ said Annaple, ' that I'm afraid
it is a very bad thing for Mark.'

* Not a bit of it,' retorted he. ' It is the only
thing that could have put life into my work, or made
me care to find any ! And find it I will now ! Must
we let the whole world in to know before I have
found it, Annaple ? '

' I could not but tell my mother,' said Annaple.
' It would come out in spite of me, even if I wished
to keep it back.'

' Oh yes ! Lady Eonnisglen is a different thing/
said Mark. ' Just as May here is '

'And she will say nothing, I know, till we are
ready — my dear old minnie/ said Annaple. ' Only,
Mark, do pray have something definite to hinder Janet
with if there are any symptoms of hawking her com-
modity about.'

' I will, 3 said Mark. ' If we could only emigrate ! '

' Ah, if we could ! ' said Annaple. ' Eonalcl is
doing so well in New Zealand, but I don't think my
mother could spare me. She could not come out, and
she must be with me, wherever I am. You know —
don't you — that I am seven years younger than Alick.
I was a regular surprise, and the old nnrse at Eonnis-
glen said ' Depend upon it, my Leddy, she is given to
be the comfort of your old age.' And I have always

xiv. J GOING AGEE. 167

made up my mind never to leave her. I don't think
she would get on with Janet or any of them without
me, so you'll have to take her too, Mark.'

1 With all my heart,' he answered. ' And, indeed,
I have promised my father not to emigrate. I must,
and will, find work at hand, and make a home for you
both ! '

' But you will tell papa at once ? ' said May. ' It
will hurt him if you do not.'

' You are right, May ; I knew it when Annaple
spoke of her mother, but there is no need that it should
go further.'

The intelligence had lightened the way a good deal,
and they were at the lodge gates by this time. Gerard
began rather ruefully to take leave ; but Annaple, in
large-hearted happiness and gratitude, begged him to
come and rest at the house, and wait for daylight, and
this he was only too glad to do, especially as May's
secession had made the conversation a little more

Nuttie was in a certain way realising for the first
time what her mother's loyalty had checked her in
expressing, even if the tumult of novelties had given
her full time to dwell on it.

' Everybody outside is kind,' she said to Gerard ;
' they are nice in a way, and good, but oh ! they are
centuries behind in church matters and feeling, just
like the old rector.'

' I gathered that ; I am very sorry for you. Is
there no one fit to be a guide ? '

168 XUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

' I don't know/ said Nuttie. c I didn't think — I
must, somehow, before Lent.'

' There is Advent close at hand,' he said gravely.
' If you could only be at our mission services ; we hope
to get Father Smith ! '

1 Oh, if only I could ! But mother never likes to
talk about those kind of things. She says our duty
is to my father.'

' Not the foremost.'

' No, she would not say that. But oh, Gerard !
if he should be making her worldly ! '

' It must be your work to hinder it,' he said, look-
ing at her affectionately.

' Oh, Gerard ! but I'm afraid I'm getting so myself.
I have thought a great deal about lawn-tennis, and
dress, and this ball,' said Nuttie. ' Somehow it has
never quite felt real, but as if I were out on a visit.'

1 You are in it, but not of it,' said Gerard admir-

' No, I'm not so good as that ! I like it all —
almost all. I thought I liked it better till you came
and brought a real true breath of Micklethwayte.
Oh ! if I could only see Monsieur's dear curly head
and bright eyes ! '

This had been the tenor of the talk, and these were
the actual last words before the whole five — just in
the first streaks of dawn — coalesced before the front
door, to be admitted by a sleepy servant; Mark tied
up the horse for a moment, while Aimaple sent the
man to waken Sir John Delmar, and say there had

Xiv.] GOING AGEE. 169

been a slight accident, but no one was much hurt;
and, as they all entered the warm, dimly-lighted hall,
they were keenly sensible that they had been dancing
or walking all night.

Eest in the chairs which stood round the big hearth
and smouldering wood -fire was so extremely comfort-
able, as they all dropped down, that nobody moved or
spoke, or knew how long it was before there was a
voice on the stairs — c Eh ? what's this, Annaple ? An
accident ? Where's Janet ? ' and a tall burly figure,
candle in hand, in a dressing-gown and slippers, was
added to the group.

'Janet will be at home presently, I hope,' said
Annaple, ' but she got a cut with some broken glass,
and we sent her round by Dr. Eaymond's to get it set
to rights. Oh, John ! we came to grief on Bluepost
Bridge after all, and I'm afraid Bobinson has got his
leg broken ! '

Sir John was a good-natured heavy man, whose
clever wife thought for him in all that did not regard
horses, dogs, and game. He looked perfectly astounded,
and required to have all told him over again before he
could fully take it in. Then he uttered a suppressed
malediction on engines, insisted that all his impromptu
guests should immediately eat, drink, and sleep, and
declared his intention of going off at once to Bedcastle
to see about his wife.

The two gentlemen were committed to the charge
of the butler, and Annaple took Nuttie and May to
her sister's dressing-room, where she knew she should

170 nuttie's fathee. [chap.

find fire and tea, and though they protested that it was
not worth while, she made them undress and lie down
in a room prepared for them in the meantime. It
was a state chamber, with a big bed, far away from the
entrance, shuttered and curtained up, and with double
doors, excluding all noise. The two cousins lay down,
JSTuttie dead asleep almost before her head touched the
pillow, while May was aching all over, declaring her-
self far too much tired and excited to sleep ; and,
besides that it was not worth while, for she should be
called for in a very short time. And she remained
conscious of a great dread of being roused, so that
when she heard her cousin moving about the room,
she insisted that they had scarcely lain down, where-
upon Nuttie laughed, declared that she had heard a
great clock strike twelve before she moved, and showed
daylight coming in through the shutters.

' We can't lie here any longer, I suppose,' said May,
sitting up wearily ; ' and yet what can we put on ? It
makes one shiver to think of going down to luncheon
in a ball dress ! '

' Besides, mine is all torn to pieces to make ban-
dages,' said Nuttie. ' I must put on the underskirt
and my cloak again.'

1 Or Annaple might lend us something. I must get
out somehow to know how poor Lady Delmar is, and
what has become of everybody. Ring, Ursula, please,
and lie down till somebody comes.'

The bell was answered by a maid, who told them
that my lady had been brought home by Mr. and Mrs.



Egremont about an hour after their arrival. She was
as well as could be expected, and there was no cause
for anxiety. Mr. and Mrs. Egremont had then gone
on to Bridgefield, leaving word that Mrs. William
Egremont and Miss Blanche were sleeping at Bedcastle,
having sent home for their own dresses and the young
ladies', and would call for the rest of their party on the
way. Indeed, a box for the Miss Egremonts had been
deposited by the Canon from the pony-carriage an hour
ago, and was already in the dressing-room ; but Miss
Buthven would not have them disturbed. Miss Buth-
ven, — oh yes, she was up, she had not been in bed at all.



No, Annaple Ruthven could not have slept, even if she
had had time. Her first care had been to receive her
sister, who had been met at the entrance of Eedcastle by
her husband. There had been profuse offers of hospitality
to Mr. and Mrs. Egremont, the latter of whom looked
tired out, and offers of sending messengers to Bridge-
field ; but Mr. Egremont would not hear of them, and
every one suspected that he would not incur the chance
of rising without Gregorio and all his appliances.

By the time they were disposed of, and Lady Del-
mar safe in bed, it was time to repair to her mother's
room, so as to prevent her from being alarmed. Lady
Eonnisglen was English born. She was not by any
means the typical dowager. Her invalid condition was
chiefly owing to an accident, which had rendered her
almost incapable of walking, and she was also extremely
susceptible of cold, and therefore hardly ever went out;
but there was so much youth and life about her at
sixty-three that she and Annaple often seemed like

chap, xv.] A CASTLE OF UMBRELLAS. 173

companion sisters, and her shrewd, keen, managing
eldest-born like their mother.

Annaple lay down beside her on her bed in the
morning twilight, and gave her the history of the
accident in playful terms indeed. Annaple could never
help that, but there was something in her voice that
made Lady Eonnisglen say, when satisfied about Janet's
hurt, ' You've more to say, Nannie dear.'

' Yes, minnie mine, I walked home with Mark

'And V

' Yes, minnie. He is going to work and make a
home — a real, true, homely home for you and me.'

' My child, my child, you have not hung the old
woman about the poor boy's neck ! '

' As if I would have had him if he did not love
her, and make a mother of her ! '

' But what is he going to do, Nan ? This is a very
different thing from '

' Very different from Janet's notions ! ' and they both
laughed, the mother adding to the mirth by saying —

'Poor Janet, congratulating herself that no harm
had been done, and that you had never taken to one
another ! '

' Did she really now ? '

c Oh yes, only yesterday, and I bade her not crow
too soon, for I thought I saw symptoms '

' You dear darling minnie ! Think of that ! Before
we either of us knew it, and when he is worth ever so
much than lie was before ! Not but that I am enraged

174 NUTTIE'S FATHEE. [chap.

when people say lie has acted nobly, just as if there
had been anything else for him to do ! '

' I own that I am glad he has proved himself. I
was afraid he would be dragged in the way of his
uncle. Don't be furious, Nannie. Not at all into
evil, but into loitering; and I should like to know
what are his prospects now.'

' Well, mother, I don't think he has any. But he
means to have. And not a word is to be said to any-
body except you and his father and May till he has
looked over the top of the wall, and seen his way. We
need not bring Janet down on us till then.'

' I must see him, my dear. Let me see him before
he goes away. He always has been a very dear lad,
a thoroughly excellent right-minded fellow. Only I
must know what he means to do, and whether there
is any reasonable chance of employment or fixed

Lady Eonnisglen's maid here arrived with her
matutinal cup of tea ; and Annaple, beginning to per-
ceive that she was very stiff, went off in hopes that her
morning toilette would deceive her hardworked little
frame into believing it had had a proper night's rest.

She was quite ready to appear at the breakfast
table, though her eldest niece, a long-haired, long-
limbed girl, considerably the bigger of the two, was
only too happy to preside over the cups. All the four
young people were in the greatest state of excitement,
welcoming, as the heroes of the night, Mark and Mr.
Godfrey, and clamouring to be allowed to walk down


after breakfast with their father and the gentlemen to
see the scene of the catastrophe and the remains of the
carriage and the bridge.

Sir John made a conrteons reference to the gover-
ness, but there was a general sense that the cat was
away, and presently there was a rush upstairs to pre-
pare for the walk. Annaple had time in the course of
all the bustle, while the colour came back to her
cheeks for a moment, to tell Mark that her mother
had been all that was good, and wanted to see him.
He must manage to stay till after eleven o'clock ; she
could not be ready before. Then he might come to her
sitting-room, which, as well as her bedroom, was on the
ground floor.

Mark had to work off his anxiety by an inspection
of the scene of the disaster and a circumstantial ex-
planation of the details to the young Delmars, who
crowded round him and Mr. Godfrey, half awed, half
delighted, and indeed the youngest — a considerable
Tomboy — had nearly given the latter the opportunity
of becoming a double hero by tumbling through the
broken rail, but he caught her in time, and she only
incurred from Sir John such a scolding as a great fright
will produce from the easiest of fathers.

Afterwards Mark put Gerard on the way to his
brother-in-law's living, asking him on the road so many
questions about the umbrella business that the youth
was not quite sure how to take it, and doubted whether
the young swell supposed that he could talk of nothing
else ; but his petulance was mitigated when he was

176 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

asked, ' Supposing a person wished to enter the business,
to whom should he apply ? '

' Do you know any one who wishes for anything of
the kind ? ' he asked. ' Are you making inquiries for
any one ? ' and on a hesitating affirmation, ' Because I
know there is an opening for a man with capital just
at present. Dutton won't advertise — 'tis so risky; and
he wants some knowledge of a person's antecedents,
and whether he is likely to go into it in a liberal,
gentlemanly spirit, with good principles, you see, such
as would not upset all we are doing for the hands.'

' What amount of capital do you mean ? '

' Oh, from five hundred to a thousand ! Or more
would not come amiss. If I only had it ! What it
would be to conduct an affair like that on true
principles ! But luck is against me every way.'

Mark was at the sitting-room door as the four
quarters began to strike in preparation for eleven, but
Lady Eonnisglen had been in her chair for nearly half-
an-hour, having been rapid and nervous enough to
hurry even the imperturbable maid, whom Annaple
thought incapable of being hastened. She was a little
slight woman, with delicate features and pale com-
plexion, such as time deals with gently, and her once
yellow hair now softened . with silver was turned back
in bands beneath the simple net cap that suited her
so well. There was a soft yet sparkling look about
her as she held out her hands and exclaimed, 'Ah,
Master Mark, what mischief have you been doing ? '

Mark came and knelt on one knee beside her and


said : c Will you let me work for you both, Lady
Eonnisglen ? I will do my best to find some.'

' Ah ! that is the point, my dear boy. I should
have asked and wished for definite work, if you had
come to me before that discovery of yours ; and now
it is a mere matter of necessity.'

1 Yes,' said Mark ; then, with some hesitation, he
added : ' Lady Eonnisglen, do you care whether I take
to what people call a gentleman's profession ? I could,
of course, go on till I am called to the bar, and then
wait for something to turn up ; but that would be
waiting indeed ! Then in other directions I've taken
things easy, you see, till I'm too old for examinations.
I failed in the only one that was still open to me.
Lord Kirkaldy tried me for foreign office work, and
was appalled at my blunders. I'm not fit for a

' I should have thought you were.'

' Not I,' said Mark. ' I'm not up to the mark
there. I couldn't say honestly that I was called to it.
I wish I could, for it would be the easiest way out of
it ; but I looked at the service, and I can't. There —
that's a nice confession to come to you with ! I can't
think how I can have been so impudent.'

' Mark, you are a dear good lad. I respect and
honour you ever so much more than before all this
showed what stuff was in you ! But the question is,
What's to be done ? My child is verily the " penniless
lass with a high pedigree," for she has not a poor
thousand to call her own.'

VOL. i. n

178 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

' And I have no right to anything in my father's
lifetime, though I have no doubt he would give me
up my share of my mother's portion — about £3000.
Now this is what has occurred to me : In the place
where I found my uncle's wife — Micklethwayte, close
to Monks Horton — there's a great umbrella factory,
with agencies everywhere. There are superior people
belonging to it. I've seen some of them, and I've
been talking to the young fellow who helped us last
night, who is in the office. I find that to go into the
thing with such capital as I might hope for, would
bring in a much larger and speedier return than I
could hope for any other way, if only my belongings
would set aside then feelings. And you see there are
the Kirkaldys close by to secure her good society.'

Lady Konnisglen put out her transparent-looking,
black-mittenecl hand, and gave a little dainty pat to his

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father (Volume 1) → online text (page 10 of 15)