Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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to avert collisions. They were certainly not coming
nearer to one another, though Nuttie was behaving
very w T ell and submissively on the whole, and seldom
showing symptoms of rebellion. This went on through
the early part of their stay, but latterly there was a
growing sense upon the girl that she and her mother
were avoided by some young ladies to whom they had
been introduced, and whom they saw regularly at the
daily services at St. Michael's Church. They were
pleasant -looking girls, with whom Nuttie longed to
fraternise, and she was mortified at never being allowed
to get beyond a few frigidly civil words in the street,



214 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [.hap.

more especially when she came upon sketching parties
and picnics in which she was never included.

It was all very well for her mother to answer her
murmurs and wonderings with ' You know people are
very exclusive, my dear.' Nuttie began to. guess that
her father and her name were the real reason, and her
eyes were further opened later in the spring when Mr.
Egremont, who had recovered unusual health and
vigour, took his ladies to Mentone to spend a day or
two in the newer beauties there. Alice had her mis-
givings, but the visit was avowedly to show the place
to her, and she could not reasonably object. He was
in unusual good humour, and even tolerated their
ecstasies at the scenery and the flowers, dined at the
table d'hote and found acquaintance, enjoyed himself,
and in the forenoon, while Xuttie was out wondering
and admiring, and going as far as she could drag
Martin, he expressed to his wife that she would be
astonished at the gardens and the music of Monte
Carlo.

There, however, Alice made a stand. ' Thank you,
it is very kind, but if you please, I should not like to
take Ursula to Monte Carlo, or to go there myself,' she
said in an apologetic tone.

He laughed. ' What ! you are afraid of making
the little one a confirmed gambler ? '

' You know I am not, but '

1 You think the little prig will be contaminated, eh ? '

'Well, I think it will be happier for her if she
never sees anything — of the kind.'



XVIII.



A FRIEND IX XEED. 21



1 You little foolish Edda, as if her eyes or ears
need see anything but flowers and music and good
company.'

' I know that, but I had so much rather not.' It
was a sweet face and caressing voice that implored,
and he still was good humoured.

'Well, well, I don't want to drag you, old lady,
against your will, though I fancy you would be rather
surprised at the real aspect of the abode of iniquity
your fancy depicts.'

' Oh, thank you, thank you so much !'

' What an absurd little woman it is ! I wonder if
you would thank me as heartily supposing I cleared a
round thousand and gave you — say a diamond neck-
lace V

' I am sure I should not !'

'No, I don't believe you would. That restless
little conscience of yours would be up on end. After
all, I don't know that you are the worse for it, when
it looks so prettily out of your brown eyes. I wonder
what you expect to see ? The ruined gamester shoot-
ing himself on every path, eh V

1 No, no ; I don't suppose I should see anything
horrid or even disagreeable. I know it is all very
beautiful ; but then every person who goes for the
innocent pleasures' sake only helps to keep up the
whole thing — evil and all.'

1 And what would the old women of all sorts here
and at Mce do without such a choice temple of scandal
to whet their teeth upon ? Well, I suppose you and



216 nuttie's father. [chap.

your precious daughter can take care of yourselves.
There are the gardens, or you can tell Gregorio to
order you a carriage.'

' Then you are going ? '

c Yes, I promised Grafton. Don't be afraid, Mis-
tress Edda, I'm not going to stake Bridgefield and
reduce you to beggary. I'm an old hand, and was a
cool one in my worst days, and whatever I get I'll
hand over to appease you.'

That was all she could obtain, and she secretly
hoped there would be no winnings to perplex her.
Thankful that she had not made him angry by the
resistance for which she had prepared herself with
secret prayer ever since the Mentone scheme had been
proposed, she placed herself at Nuttie's disposition for
the rest of the day.

They had a charming donkey-ride, and, still un-
satiated with beauty, Ursula made her mother come
out again to wonder at the trees in the public
gardens. Bather tired, they were sitting on a
shaded bench, when a voice close to them exclaimed,
'It is; yes, it must be; 'tis the voice — yes, and
the face prettier than ever. Little Alice — ah !
you don't know me. Time has been kinder to you
than to me.'

' Oh ! I know you now ! I beg your pardon,' cried
Alice, recognising in the thin nutcracker parchment
visage and shabbily-dressed figure the remnant of the
brilliant aquiline countenance and gay attire of eighteen
years ago. ' Mrs. Houghton ! I am so glad to have



xviii.] A FRIEND IN XEED. 217

met you, you were so kind to me. And here
she is.'

' What ! is this the child ? Bless me, what a proof
how time goes ! Young lady, you'll excuse my not
knowing you. You were a very inconvenient person-
age not quite born when I last met your mother.
What a likeness ! I could have known her for Alwyn
Egremont's daughter anywhere !'

' Yes, they all say she is a thorough Egremont.'

' Then it is all right. I saw Alwyn Egremont,
Esquire, and family among the arrivals at Xice, but I
hardly durst expect that it was you. It seemed too
good to be true, though I took care the knot should be
tied faster than my gentleman suspected.'

'Oh, please!' cried Alice deprecatingly, at first
not apprehending the force of the words, having never
known the gulf from which Mrs. Houghton had saved
her, and that lady, seeing that the girl was listening
with all her ears, thought of little pitchers and re-
strained her reminiscences, asking with real warm
interest, ' And how was it ? How did you meet him
again ?'

( He came and found me out,' said Alice, with satis-
faction in her voice.

1 Indeed ! Not at Dieppe ; for he was en gargon
when I nearly came across him ten years ago at
Florence.'

' Oh no ! He inquired at Dieppe, but they had
lost the address my aunt left.'

' Indeed ! I should not have thought it of old



218 nuttie's father. [chap.

Madame Leroux, she seemed so thoroughly interested in
la pauvre petite, What did you do ? Your aunt
wrote to me when your troubles were safely over, and
she thought him lost in the poor Ninon, that she
meant to settle in a place with an awfully long York-
shire name.'

' Micklethwayte ; yes, we lived there, and got on
very well. We had boarders, and I had some dear
little pupils ; but last year Mark Egremont — you
remember dear little Mark — was in the neighbourhood,
and hearing my name, he told his uncle, who had been
seeking us ever since. And he came, Mr. Egremont,
and took us home, and oh, the family have been so
kind !'

' What ? The parson, and that awful old she-lion
of a grandmother, whose very name scared you out of
your wits V

* She is dead, and so is dear good Lady Adelaide.
Canon Egremont is kindness itself. It was all the old
lady's doing, and he knew nothing about it. He was
gone to Madeira with Lady Adelaide and got none of
our letters, and he never knew that his brother was
married to me.'

' Trust Alwyn for that,' Mrs. Houghton muttered.
' Well, all's well that ends well, and I hope he feels
due gratitude to me for doing him a good turn against
his will. I tried to get at him at Florence to find out
what he had done with you, but unluckily I was ill,
and had to send through poor Houghton, and he mis-
managed it of course, though I actually wrote down



xviii.] A FRIEND IN NEED. 219

that barbarous address, Mickle something, on a card.
I believe he only got as far as the man instead of the
master.'

' Ah ! I wanted to ask for Captain Houghton,' said
Alice, glad to lead the conversation away from revela-
tions of which she had an instinctive dread.

1 Gone, my dear ! two years ago. Poor fellow ! it
was low fever, but quite as much want of luck, I shall
always believe,' she said.

' Oh, I am sorry ! He was so kind to me ! ' said
Alice, squeezing her hand, and looking up with sweet
tender commiseration.

' There, there, don't, you pretty creature ! ' said Mrs.
Houghton, putting her hand across her eyes. ' I
declare, you've almost made me cry — which I've not
done — well, hardly, since I parted with you at Dieppe,
thinking you a sweet little flower plucked and thrown
away to die, though I had done my best to bind it to
him. What care I took not to let Houghton disabuse
him about Jersey marriages ! '

There is a difference between hearing and hearken-
ing, and Alice Egremont's loving and unsuspecting
heart was so entirely closed against evil thoughts of
her husband, and so fully occupied with her old
friend's condition, that she never took in the signi-
fication of all this, while Xuttie, being essentially of a
far more shrewd and less confiding nature, and already
imbued with extreme distrust of her father, was taking
in all these revelations with an open-eyed, silent horror
of conviction that her old impressions of the likeness



220 nuttie's father. [chap.

to Marmion or Theseus had been perfectly correct.
It was all under her hat, however, and the elder ladies
never thought of her, Alice bringing back the con-
versation to Mrs. Houghton herself. ' Oh, my dear, I
drag on as I can. I've got a fragment of our old
income, and when that's run too low, I go up to
Monte Carlo — I always had the lucky hand, you
know, and 'tis only restitution after all ! I'm sick of
it all though, and sometimes think I'll take my good
sister Anne's offers and go home.'

' Oh do, do ! ' cried Alice.

1 But,' went on the poor woman, ' humble pie goes
against me, and think what an amount would be
before me — heigh ho ! — after nearly five-and-twenty
years; yes, five-and-twenty years it is — since Houghton,
poor fellow, told me I was too bright and winsome for
a little country lawyer's house in a poky street.
What would they think of me now ? ' and she laughed
with a sound that was painful to hear. 'Well,
Sycorax had done one good deed, and when I look at
you, queening it there, I feel that so have I.'

' You were very good to me, I know ; but oh, if
you would go home to your sister ! '

' My dear, you little know what you ask ! Anne !
Why she is the prime district lady, or whatever you
call it, of Dockforth. Think what it would be to her
to have this battered old vaurien thrown on her hands,
to be the stock subject for all the righteous tongues.
Besides,' as she coughed, ' the English climate would
make an end of me outright. I'm in a bad way



xvin.] A FRIEND IX NEED. 221

enough here, where I can sit among the lemon trees
half the days in the winter, but the English fireside
in a stuffy parlour ' and she shuddered.

That shiver reminded all that it was getting late,
too late for Mrs. Houghton to be out of doors, and
near the time when Mr. Egremont was to meet his
ladies at the hotel. Alice begged for Mrs. Houghton's
address, and it was given with a short ironical laugh
at her promise to call again if possible. ' Aye, if
possible,' the poor woman repeated. ' I understand !
'No, no,' as Alice was about to kiss her. ' I won't
have it clone.'

1 There's no one in sight.'

c As if that made a difference ! Alice, child, you
are as innocent as the little dove that flew aboard the
Ninon. How have you done it ? Get along with
you ! No kisses to such as me ! I don't know whether
it breaks my heart, or binds it up to look at the face
of you. Anyway, I can't bear it.'

She hurried away, and made some steps from them.
A terrible paroxysm of coughing came on, and Mrs.
Egremont hurried towards her, but she waved back
all help, shook her head, and insisted on going home.
Alice kept her in sight, till she dived into a small side
street.

' Mother,' said Nuttie. Then there was a pause.
' Mother, did you know all this ? '

' Don't talk of it, Nuttie. It is not a thing to be
talked about to any one or by any one. I wish you
had not been there.'



222 PUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

1 But mother, this once ! Did you know ? '

' I knew that I knew not what I did when I went
on board that yacht, but that God's kind providence
was over me in a way that I little deserved. That is
all I care to know, and, Ursula, I will have not another
word about it. No, I will not hear it.'

' I was only going to ask whether you would tell
my father.'

' Certainly ; but not before you.'

The tone of decision was unwonted, and ISTuttie
knew she must abide by it, but the last shreds of
filial respect towards Mr. Egremont were torn away
by what Mrs. Houghton had implied, and the girl
dashed up and down her bedroom muttering to herself,
' Oh, why have I such a father ? And she, she will
not see it, she is wilfully blind ! Why not break with
him and go home to dear Aunt Ursel and Gerard and
Mr. Dutton at once, instead of this horrid, horrid
grandeur? Oh, if I could fling all these fine things in
his face, and have done with him for ever. Some day
I will, when I am of age, and Gerard has won his way/

Meantime Alice, in some trepidation, but with
resolution at the bottom, had told her husband of the
meeting with Mrs. Houohton, of her widowhood, sick-
ness, and poverty.

He did not like the intelligence of their meeting,
and hoped no one had seen it ; then, when reassured on
this score, he hummed a little and exclaimed, 'Poor
old Flossy Houghton ! I don't wonder ! They went
the pace ! Well, what do you want ? Twenty pounds



•xviii.] A FEIEXD IN XEED. 223

for her ! Why, 'twill all be at Monte Carlo in three
days' time.'

' It is very good of you, hut I want more than that.
She is so ill and wretched, you know.'

' I can't have you visiting her, if that's what you
mean. Why, after all the pains I've t been at to get
you on your proper level at home, here's my Lady
Louisa and all her crew, in their confounded insolence,
fighting shy of you, and you can't give them a better
colour for it than by running after a woman like that —
divorced to begin with, and known at every gambling
table in Europe.'

' I know that, Alwyn, dear Alwyn ' (it was very
seldom that she called him so, and she put her clasped
hands on his shoulder) ; ' but I am sure she is dying,
and she was so good to me, I can't bear doing nothing
for her.'

' Well, there's twenty — fifty, if you like.'

1 Thank you, thank you, but you know I never
meant to visit her — like — like society ; only to go
sometimes privately and '

' And how about your daughter ? '

' I would not take her on any account. What I
want to do is this. Mrs. Houghton spoke of her sister,
a kind good woman in England, who would take her
home, and love her, if only she could bring herself
to go. Now, I think I could persuade her to write, or
let me write to the sister — and if only the two were
together again ! It is very dreadful to think of her
dying alone, in the way she is going on ! '



224 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

' What, little saint, you want to try your hand on
her ? I should say she was too tough an old sinner
for you.'

' Oh, Alwyn ! her heart was very near, though she
tried to keep it back. I do not want to — to do what
you mean — only to get her to let her sister come. I'm
sure that would do the rest.'

' If any sister does more than you, you little witch,'
he said.

Alice pressed him no more then, but a day or two
later, when she knew he had an engagement, she
arranged to dispose of Nuttie with the clergyman's
wife, and then begged permission to go by train to
Mentone, and come back in the evening. He did not
like it — no more did she — for she was perfectly un-
accustomed to travelling alone, but there was a deep
sense of sacred duty upon her, only strengthened by
her unwillingness to realise how much she owed to
Mrs. Houghton.

She telegraphed that she was coming, and found her
friend more touched than she chose to allow at the
fact of her visit, declaring that she must have wonderful
power over Alwyn Egremont, if she knew how to use
it ; indeed, the whole tone was of what Alice felt
flattery, intended to turn away anything more serious.
Poor woman, she was as careful of doing no injury to
her young friend's reputation as Mr. Egremont could
have desired. Alice had come resolved that she
should have one good meal, but she would not hear
of eating anywhere in public where either could be



xviii.] A FPJEXD IX XEED. 225

recognised, and the food was brought to a private
room in the hotel. To her lodgings she still would
not take Alice, nor would she give her sister's address.
Except for a genuine shower of tears when Alice
insisted on kissing her there seemed no ground
gained.

But Alice went again on her husband's next visit
to Mentone. He was, to a certain degree, interested in
her endeavours, and really wished the poor woman to
be under the charge of her relations, instead of dying
a miserable lonely death among strangers.

This time Alice had to seek her friend in the dreary
quatrtime of the tall house with the dirty stone stairs.
It was a doleful empty room, where, with a mannish-
looking dressing-gown and a torn lace scarf tied
hood-fashion over her scanty hair, Mrs. Houghton
sat over a pan of charcoal oppressive to Alice's English
lungs.



O'



' Come again!' she cried. { Well, I really shall begin
to think that angels and ministers of grace exist off
the stage ! You pretty thing ! Let me look at you.
Where did you get that delicious little bonnet ? '

1 Why, it is perfectly plain ! '

1 So it is ! 'Tis only the face that is in it. Xow
if some folks put this on — sister Anne, for example,
what dowdies they would be. Poor old Anne, you must
know she had a turn for finery, only she never knew
how to gratify it. To see the contortions of her crino-
lines was the delight of all the grammar school. It
was a regular comedy for them to see her get into our

VOL. I. Q



226 NUTTIE'S FATHEK. [cHAr.

pew edgeways, and once unconsciously she carried off
a gentleman's hat on her train.'

So she went on talking, coughing at intervals, and
generally using a half- mocking tone, as if defying the
tenderness that awoke in spite of her, but always of her
original home, and especially of her sister. Alice ven-
tured to ask whether they often heard from one another.

' Good soul, she always writes at Christmas and on
my birthday. I know as well as possible that I shall
find a letter poste restante wherever she heard of me
last, and that she hasn't done — I'm ashamed to say
for how long — really, I think not since I let her
know that I couldn't stand Ivy Lodge, Dockforth, at
any price, when she wrote to Monaco on seeing poor
Houghton's death in the paper.'

There was a good deal of rambling talk of this
kind, to which Alice listened tenderly and compassion-
ately, making no attempt at persuasion, only doing
what was possible for the poor lady's comfort. She
had procured on her way some fruit and jelly, and
some good English tea, at which Mrs. Houghton
laughed, saying, ' Time was, I called it cat-lap ! Some-
how it will seem the elixir of life now, redolent, even
milkless, of the days when we were young.'

Then she revealed something of her long, suffering,
almost ghastly nights, and Alice gently told how her
old friend, Mrs. Nugent, suffered from sleeplessness, and
kept a store of soothing psalms and hymns in her
memory. There was a little laugh. ' That's for you
good folk. I haven't such a thing about me ! Come,



xvill.] A FRIEND IX NEED. 227

Par exemple V and Alice repeated the first thing she
could remember, the verse beginning ' God, who madest
earth and heaven.'

' That's one of your charms, is it ? Well, it would
not be too much for me if my poor old memory would
hold it. Say it again.'

Alice generally had about her a tiny prayer-book
with ' Hymns, Ancient and Modern,' attached. It had
been a gift from Mary Nugent, and she was fond of it,
but the opportunity was not to be lost, and she took
it out, saying she would bring a larger one and reclaim
it. And, as she was finally taking leave, she said with
a throbbing heart, ' Do you know that you have be-
trayed your sister's address ? I shall write to her now.'

1 If you do ! ' cried Mrs. Houghton, in a tone

like threatening deprecation, but with a little of her
strange banter in it besides. Alice's mind had been
made up to do the thing, and she had not felt it
honest not to give due warning of her intentions.
Even now she was not certain of the lady's surname,
but she trusted to her husband's knowledge of Mrs.
Houghton's previous history; and not in vain. Mr.
Egremont amused himself with a little ridicule at his
wife's quixotry, and demanded whether Flossy Hough-
ton was a promising convert ; but confessed himself very
glad that the poor thing should be off their hands,
declaring that it was quite time her own people looked
after her, and happily he recollected her maiden name.
So the letter was written, after numerous attempts
at expressing it suitably, explaining Mrs. Houghton's



228 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

illness and the yearnings she was too proud and ashamed
to express to her sister, and was answered at once by a
few short words of earnest gratitude, and an assurance
that Miss Eeade was preparing to start at once. Could
Mrs. Egremont meet her and prepare her sister ?

To Alice's disappointment this could not be. Mr.
Egremont had invited some friends to the villa, and
would not spare her. She could only send a note,
assuring Miss Eeade that she believed that preparation
would do more harm than good, and she waited and
watched anxiously. A card came by the post in Mrs.
Houghton's scrawled writing. ' Naughty little wretch ! '
was all it said, but thence she gathered hope.

The spring was advancing, and Mr. Egremont was
in haste to be gone, but Alice obtained one more run
to Mentone, and once more climbed up the dark and
dirty stairs to the room, where the well-known voice
answered her tap, c Come in ! Ah, there she is, the
wicked little angel ! '

A substantial little roly-poly business-like little
woman hurried forward with tearful eyes and out-
stretched hands. ( Oh, Mrs. Egremont ! can I ever
thank you enough ? '

' You can't, Anne, so don't try. It will be a relief
to all parties,' interposed Mrs. Houghton. ' Sentiment
is not permitted here.'

Nevertheless she hugged Alice almost convulsively.
She was sitting in a comfortable arm-chair, one about
which Mrs. Egremont knew something, and the whole
aspect of the room had changed indescribably for the



XVIII.



A FPJEXD IX NEED. 229



better, as much indeed as Mrs. Houghton's own per-
sonal array, which had no longer the desolate neglected
look of old.

A little stool was close to her chair, as if the two
sisters could not bear to be far apart, and the look of
love and content in their eyes as they turned to one
another was perfect joy to Alice. She had no longer
any doubt that Anne Eeade, who had found the
wanderer yet a great way off, would yet bring her
back to the home, spiritually if not outwardly.

Mrs. Houghton spoke of better rooms when the
winter visitors had fled, Anne spoke of her being able
to return to Dockforth. Whether that would ever
be seemed entirely doubtful to Alice's eyes, especially
as the patient's inclination was evidently otherwise.
There was nothing to be done but to leave the sisters
together, obtaining Miss Reade's ready promise to write,
and putting into her hands a sum of money which
could be sincerely called ' only a debt of gratitude
from my husband and me,' and which would smooth
the way either to remaining or returning to England.

Nor was there any return. Ere many weeks had
passed Mrs. Egremont heard from Miss Eeade how
a fresh cold had made it impossible to move, and
summer heat had brought on low fever, which had
destroyed the feeble strength, but not till ' childhood's
star ' had again arisen, and a deeply and truly repent-
ant woman had passed away, saved, as it seemed,
through that one effort on behalf of the young girl
whose innocence she had protected.



CHAPTEE XIX.

THE VORTEX.
' With one black shadow at her feet. ' — Tennyson.

The rebuffs that society had bestowed on his wife and
daughter at Nice had rendered Mr. Egremont the more
determined on producing them in London and estab-
lishing their position. He secured a furnished house
in Westburnia before leaving Mce, and, travelling


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