Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Nuttie's father (Volume 1) online

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

with your household, while you keep that fellow.'

' I am not aware what description of good you

248 NUTTIE'S FATHEK. [chap.

expect me to do with it, Will/ coolly answered the
elder brother in a disconcerting tone.

Poor Alice, on her side, thought of the Little
Master, and then wondered if it was uncharitable to
do so. For she knew it had become war to the knife
with Gresforio ! Whether his master told him, or
whether it were his own evil conscience, or the won-
derful intuition of servants, he certainly knew of the
pressure for his dismissal, and he visited it on her as
much as he durst.

Outwardly deferential, he could thwart and annoy
her in a hundred ways, from making love to the
housemaids to making evil suggestions to his master,
yet never giving her any overt cause of complaint.
He could worry and sting her under the politest
exterior, and he knew very well that the most effectual
form of annoyance was the persuading his master that
any discomfort or lassitude was to be removed by some
form of narcotic. This would have the further advant-
age of stupefying Mr. Egremont, and making him more
ready to lapse under the old influence ; while the dura-
tion and strength of the new one was already a sur-
prise to Gregorio.

But there was no doubt that Mrs. Egremont had
profited by her year of training. She looked tired,
and less youthful and pretty, but she had gained in
grace and importance as well as in style, and was
much more really the mistress of Bridgefield. Her
shyness had passed away, and she knew now to take
her place in society, though still she was somewhat

xx.] WOLF. 249

silent. And her husband depended upon her entirely
for all his correspondence, for much of his occupation
and amusement, and even for the regulation of his
affairs. In the household, Gregorio was little more
than his personal attendant, and she had the general
management, even of the other men-servants. The
Canoness might well say it had turned out better than
she expected.

And ISTuttie had become more womanly, and had
acquired the indefinable polish given by a London
season. She had learnt the art of conversation, and
could make herself agreeable to her uncle, or to any
one else who came in her way. Even May allowed
that she had something in her, and cultivated her
more than before ; but, on the other hand, even
the Eectory could perceive that there was now an
absolute alienation between her and her father, and
what might before have been fear had become dislike.
If she had to refer to him, especially if her plans for
herself or her mother were crossed, there was always
a tone of bitterness or of sarcasm about her ; and her
greater boldness and freedom of speech would occasion-
ally manifest itself towards him. This was not indeed
often, since not only did his cool contempt make her
come off the worst in the encounters, but the extreme
distress they gave to her mother made her refrain when-
ever her temper, or what she thought her conscience,
would let her; but still there was always a danger
which kept poor Alice on thorns whenever there was a
possible difference of schemes or opinions.

250 NUTTIE'S FATHEE. [chap.

Mrs. William Egremont was seriously considering
of representing to Ursula that her conduct was bad
taste, bad policy, and, moreover, was doing her mother's
spirits and health serious harm ; but it was a delicate
matter in which to meddle, and the good lady could
not make up her mind how far to surrender her
brother-in-law's character and allow a partial justifica-
tion to Ursula. She was a cautious woman, and
waited and watched her opportunities.

In the beginning of October Mr. and Mrs. Egremont
were invited to a great shooting party at Sir James
Jerningham's. The invitation did not include Ursula.
Perhaps she had never dawned on their hostess's
imagination; perhaps it was that Lady Jerningham
was well known to dislike girls, or any one who might
absorb young men's attention. At any rate the
omission was a cause of thankfulness to the party
concerned, and she did not neglect to worry her mother
by a protest against keeping such company as would
be met at Waldicotes.

Alice smiled a little faintly and said, ' I don't think
it hurts me, my dear ; I don't understand half of what
they talk about, and they are always kind to me.'

' I don't think you ought to go among them or
countenance them.'

' My dear child,' — and the colour rose — ' I don't
feel as if I had a right to set myself above any

' Mother ! '

' People might have said just the same of me.'

xx.] WOLF. 251

1 And whose fault was that ? ' muttered iSTuttie
under her breath, but Mrs. Egremont would not hear.
She only pleaded, as perhaps mother ought not to have
done with child.

' You know, ISTuttie, it is not for my own pleasure,
but your father's eyesight makes him dislike to go
anywhere without me now ; and I really should be
uneasy about him.'

' Yes ; he is all you care for,' said Nuttie. ' You
sacrifice everything you used to think essential, just to
his will and pleasure.'

1 Oh, Nuttie, I hope not ; I don't think I do ! '

' If I thought it was doing him any good I should
not so much mind,' went on the girl ; ' but he is just
the same, and I am always thinking of "As the
husband is, the wife is " '

' Hush ! hush ! You have no right to think in
that way of your father. I will not hear it. I have
let you say too much already, iSTuttie.' Then after
a pause she added, gently and wistfully, ' You have
been better taught, and are clearer headed than ever
I was, my Nuttie, and it is quite right that you
should hate what seems evil to you. I can only
go on trying to do what seems my duty from day to
day. I know,' she added with rising tears, ' that the
sin and folly of my younger days worked a difficult
position for us both ; but we can only act according to
our lights, and pray God to direct us ; and please —
please bear with me, my dear one, if the same course
does not always seem right to us both.'

252 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

Nuttie liad never heard lier say anything so fully
showing that she realised these difficulties, and, greatly
touched, she asked pardon, kissed and caressed her
mother. There was a calm over them for the next few
days, and Nuttie actually refrained from bitter comments
when her mother was not allowed to go to evensong
on Sunday, on the plea of her being tired, but, as the
girl believed, in order that she might read the news-
papers aloud.

She knew that her silence was appreciated by the
way her mother kissed her and called her a dear, good,
considerate girl.

On Monday Mr. and Mrs. Egremont went away at
what was a strangely early hour for the former, Nuttie
spending her days at the Eectory.

On the Tuesday Blanche went with her little sister
and the governess on a shopping expedition to Red-
castle, and in relating her adventures on her return,
she said, ' Oh, by the bye, I met Annaple in Park's shop ! '

' Full of Micklethwayte news, I suppose,' said May.

1 Yes, of course. Did you know, Nuttie, that your
aunt was ill ? '

' No, indeed, I did not. What was the matter ? '

' Bronchitis, I believe — brown titus, as Betty Butter
calls it.'

' Bronchitis ! Oh clear ! oh clear ! Are you quite
sure, Blanche ? '

' Oh yes ! I am quite certain Annaple said Mark
told her that Miss Headworth was laid up with

xx.] WOLF. 253

' And nobody has written to us all this week ! '
sighed jSTuttie.

1 1 should think that a sign there could not be
much in it,' observed May ; ' it may be only a bad

' But Aunt Ursel had bronchitis four years ago, and
was very ill indeed,' persisted Nuttie. ' I'm sure it is
bronchitis, and that she won't let Miss Mary write
to us.'

She was in much distress about it, though May
privately told her that she ought to know Blanche's
way better than to trust implicitly to any of her
reports ; and her aunt said much the same thing in
more general terms, even proposing that if she did not
hear the next morning she should go over to Lescombe
to ascertain what Mark had really said.

This pacified her a little, but on her way home
the alarm grew upon her, and, moreover, she recollected
the opposition that she believed that her father was
certain to make to either her mother or herself going
to nurse her aunt. It flashed upon her that if she
were to hasten to Micklethwayte on this alarm before
there could be a prohibition, it would be no disobedience,
and perfectly justifiable, not to say noble. Her parents
were to return on Thursday evening, and she made up
her mind that, unless she were fully reassured as to
Miss Headworth's state, she would go off at once to
Micklethwayte before any one could gainsay her. She
had plenty of money, and she consulted the time-table
in the hall before going upstairs. It only concerned

254 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

the nearest line, but she calculated that if she caught
the express, she should reach her destination in time to
write to her mother at Waldicotes, and prevent
needless shocks. Her eagerness for the plan grew
upon her, so that it seemed like liberation ; she could
hardly sleep for thinking of it, and certainly was not
as much disappointed as she believed herself when the
post came in — a blank.

Martin was away with her mistress, so Nuttie
explained matters to the upper housemaid, who was
very sympathetic, carried down her orders for the
carriage, procured for her both breakfast and provision
for the journey, and packed her clothes. Ursula would
fain have been off before the Eectory was aware, but
the two little girls came up with a message about the
plans for the day, just as she was beginning an explan-
atory note, and she entrusted to them the information
that she was so uneasy about Miss Headworth that
she had decided on going to see for herself.

So in dashed Adela and Eosalind to their mother's
room full of excitement with the news that Cousin
ISTuttie was gone off by the train, because her aunt was
very ill indeed.

' Gone, Adela ? are you sure ? Eeally gone ? '
' Oh yes, mamma ! The dogcart was coming round,
and she said she wanted to catch the 10.5 train, and
was very sorry she had not time to write a note to you.'
' Was there a letter ? What had she heard ? '
' Oh, only that her aunt was so very ill ! She did
not tell us — did she, Eosie ? '

XX.] WOLF. 2 00

' There was something about being in time to write
to Aunt Alice/ suggested Adela.

' I am very sorry about this. I am afraid it will
be a great shock to Alice,' observed the mother, as she
imparted the news at her husband's dressing-room door.

' Young girls are so precipitate ! ' said the Canon.

' Your brother won't like it at all,' the lady con-

' Not he. But after all, it is just as well that he
was not asked. They do owe that poor old lady a
good deal, and Alwyn's not the man to see it. I'm
not sorry the girl took the matter into her own hands,
though I couldn't have advised it.'

'Except that it will all fall on Alice.'

f He is very fond of Alice. She has done more
with him than I ever thought possible. Kept him
respectable this whole year, and really it grows on
him. He makes ever so much more of her now than
when he first brought her home — and no wonder. Xo,
no ; he won't fall foul of her.'

' Perhaps not ; but it is just as bad, or worse, for
her if he falls foul of her daughter. Besides, she is
very much attached to her aunt. I wish I knew
what the account was, or whether she knows anything
about it.'


Printed by R. & R. Clark, Edinburgh.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15

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