attendants being changed, and our being forbidden to
speak of her again. I certainly never thought of the
matter till a month ago. You know my uncle's eyes
have been much affected by his illness, and he has
made a good deal of use of me. He has got a valet,
a fellow of no particular country, more Savoyard than
in.] HEIR HUNTING. 19
anything else, I fancy. He is a legacy, like other evils,
from the old General, and seems a sort of necessity to
my uncle's existence. Gregorio they call him. He was
plainly used to absolute government, and viewed the
coming down amongst us as an assertion of liberty
much against his will. We could see that he was
awfully jealous of my father and me, and would do any-
thing to keep us out ; but providentially he can't write
English decently, though he can speak any language
you please. Well, the man and I came into collision
about a scamp of a groom who was doing intolerable
mischief in the village, and whom they put it on me
to get discharged. On that occasion Mr. Gregorio
grew insolent, and intimated to me that I need not
make so sure of the succession. He knew that which
might make the Chanoine and me change our note.
Well, my father is always for avoiding rows ; he said
it was an unmeaning threat, it was of no use
to complain of Gregorio, and we must digest his in-
solence. But just after, Uncle Alwyn sent me to
hunt up a paper that was missing, and in searching a
writing-case I came upon an unmistakable marriage
certificate between Alwyn Piercefield Egremont and
Alice Headworth, and then the dim recollections I
told you of began to return.'
' What did you do?'
1 1 thought I had better consult my father, ex-
pecting to hear that she was dead, and that no further
notice need be taken of the matter. But he was
greatly disturbed to hear of the certificate, and would
20 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.
hardly believe me. He said that some friend of my
grandmother had written her word of goings on
at Freshwater between his brother and the young
governess, and that they went off at once to put a
stop to it, but found us left with the German maid,
who declared that Miss Headworth had gone off with
Mr. Egremont in the yacht. No more was heard of
my uncle for six weeks, and when he came back there
was a great row with the old General, but he absolutely
denied being married. I am afraid that was all the
old sinner wished, and they went off together in the
yacht to the West Indies, where it was burnt; but
they, as you know, never came to England again, going-
straight off to the Mediterranean, having their head-
quarters at Sorrento, and cruising about till the General's
death ten years ago.'
' Yes, I once met them at Florence, and thought
them two weary pitiable men. One looked at the
General as a curious relic of the old buck of the
Eegency days, and compassionated his nephew for
having had his life spoilt by dangling after the old
man. It was a warning indeed, and I am glad you
have profited by it, Mark.'
' He came back, after the old man died, to club life
in London, and seldom has been near the old place ;
indeed, it has been let till recently, and he wants to
let it again, but it is altogether too dilapidated for that
without repairs. So he came down to see about it,
and was taken ill there. But to return to what my
father told me. He was shocked to hear of the certifi-
in.] HEIR HUNTING. 21
cate, for he had implicitly believed his brother's denial
of the marriage, and he said Miss Headworth was so
childish and simple that she might easily have been
taken in by a sham ceremony. He said that he now
saw he had done very wrong in letting his mother-in-
law take all the letters about " that unhappy business "
off his hands without looking at them, but he was
much engrossed by my mother's illness, and, as he
said, it never occurred to him as a duty to trace out
what became of the poor thing, and see that she was
provided for safely. You know Mrs. Egremont says
I'aissez /aire is our family failing, and that our first
thought is how not to do it.'
' Yes, utter repudiation of such cases was the line
taken by the last generation ; and I am afraid my
mother would be very severe.'
' Another thing that actuated my father was the fear
of getting his brother into trouble with General Egre-
mont, as he himself would have been the one to profit
by it. So I do not wonder so much at his letting the
whole drop without inquiry, and never even looking
at the letters, which there certainly were. I could
not get him to begin upon it with my uncle, but Mrs.
Egremont was strongly on my side in thinking that such
a thing ought to be looked into, and as I had found the
paper it would be best that I should speak. Besides
that there was no enduring that Greo;orio should be
pretending to hold us in terror by such hints.'
'Well, and has there been a wife and family in a
cottage all this time ? '
XUTTIE S FATHEIi. [CHAP
' Aunt Margaret, he has never seen or heard of her
since he left her at Dieppe ! Would you believe it,
he thinks himself a victim ? He never meant more
than to amuse himself with the pretty little governess,
and he took on board a Mr. and Mrs. Houghton to
do propriety, shady sort of people I imagine, but that
she did not know.'
' I have heard of them,' said Lady Kirkaldy, signi-
'She must have been a kind friend to the poor
girl,' said Mark. ' On some report that Lady cle
Lyonnais was coming down on her, wrathful and
terrible, the poor foolish girl let herself be persuaded
to be carried off in the yacht, but there Mrs. Houghton
watched over her like a dragon. She made them put in
at some little place in Jersey, put in the banns, all un-
known to my uncle, and got them married. Each was
trying to outwit the other, while Miss Headworth herself
was quite innocent and unconscious, and, I don't know
whether to call it an excuse for Uncle Alwyn or not,
but to this hour he is not sure whether it was a legal
marriage, and my father believes it was not, looking on
it as a youthful indiscretion. He put her in lodgings
at Dieppe, under Mrs. Houghton's protection, while he
returned home on a peremptory summons from the
General. He found the old man in such a state of
body and mind as he tries to persuade me was an
excuse for denying the whole thing, and from that time
he represents himself as bound hand and foot by the
General's tyranny. He meant to have kept the secret,
III.] HEIR HUNTING. 23
given her an allowance, and run over from time to
time to see her, hut he only could get there once
before the voyage to the "West Indies. The whole
affair was, as he said, complicated by his debts, those
debts that the estate has never paid off. The General
probably distrusted him, for he curtailed his allowance,
and scarcely let him out of sight ; and he — he sub-
mitted for the sake of his prospects, and thinking the
old man much nearer his end than he proved to be.
I declare as I listened, it came near to hearing him
say he had sold his soul to Satan ! From the day he
sailed in the Ninon he has never written, never
attempted any communication with the woman whose
life he had wrecked, except one inquiry at Dieppe,
and that was through Gregorio.'
'What! the valet?'
' Yes. I believe I seemed surprised at such a
medium being employed, for Uncle Alwyn explained
that the man had got hold of the secret somehow —
servants always know everything — and being a foreigner
he was likely to be able to trace her out.
' I daresay he profited by the knowledge to keep
Alwyn in bondage during the old man's lifetime.'
' I have no doubt of it, and he expected to play
the same game with me. The fellow reminds me,
whenever I look at him, of a sort of incarnate familiar
demon. When I asked my uncle whether he could
guess what had become of her, he held up his hands
with a hideous French grimace. I could have taken
him by the throat.'
24 xuttie's FATHER. [chap.
' Xay, one must pity him. The morals of George
IV.'s set had been handed on to him by the General/
said Lady Kirkaldy, rejoicing in the genuine indigna-
tion of the young face, free from all taint of vice, if
somewhat rigid. ' And what now ? '
' He assured me that he could make all secure to
my father and me, as if that were the important point;
but finally he perceived that we had no right to stand
still without endeavouring to discover whether there be
a nearer heir, and my father made him consent to my
making the search, grinning at its Quixotism all the
' Have you done anything ? '
' Yes. I have been to Jersey, seen the register —
July 20, 1859 — and an old French-speaking clerk,
who perfectly recollected the party coming from the
yacht, and spoke of her as tres telle. I have also
ascertained that there is no doubt of the validity of
the marriage. Then, deeply mistrusting Master
Gregorio, I went on to Dieppe, where I entirely failed
to find any one who knew or remembered anything
about them — there is such a shifting population of
English visitors and residents, and it was so long ago.
I elicited from my uncle that she had an aunt, he
thought, of the same name as herself ; but my father
cannot remember who recommended her, or anything
that can be a clue. Has any one looked over my grand-
mother's letters ?'
' I think not. My brother spoke of keeping them
till I came to London. That might give a chance, or
ID.] HEIR HUNTING. 25
the Houghtons might know about her. I think my
husband could get them hunted up. They are sure to
be at some continental resort.'
( What's that V as a sound of singing was heard.
' " Auld Langsyne." The natives are picnicking in
the ravine below there. They used to be rigidly
excluded, but we can't stand that; and this is the first
experiment of admitting them on condition that they
don't make themselves obnoxious.'
1 Which they can't help.'
' We have yet to see if this is worse than an
Austrian or Italian festival. See, we can look down
from behind this yew tree. It really is a pretty sight
from this distance.'
' There's the cleric heading his little boys and their
cricket, and there are the tuneful party in the fern on
the opposite side. They have rather good voices, unless
they gain by distance.'
' And there's a girl botanising by the river.'
1 Sentimentalising over forget-me-nots, more likely.'
' My dear Mark, for a specimen of young England,
you are greatly behindhand in perception of progress !'
' Ah ! you are used to foreigners, Aunt Margaret.
You have never fathomed English vulgarity.'
' It would serve you right to send you to carry the
invitation to go round the gardens and houses.'
' Do you mean it, aunt ? '
' Mean it ? Don't you see your uncle advancing
down the road — there — accosting the clergyman —
what's his name — either Towers or Spires — something
26 NUTTIE'S FATHEH. [chap. hi.
ecclesiastical I know. We only waited to reconnoitre
and see whether the numbers were unmanageable.'
'And yet he does not want to sit for Micklethwayte V
' So you think no one can be neighbourly except
for electioneering ! Mark, I must take you in
I Meantime the host is collecting. I abscond.
Which is the least show part of the establishment ? '
I I recommend the coal cellar ' and, as he went
off — ' Poor boy, he is a dear good fellow, but how little
he knows how to be laughed at !'
' Sigh no more ladj', lady sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot on sea and one on land —
To one thing constant never.' — Old Ballad.
' So yon have ventured out again/ said Lady Kirkaldy,
as her nephew strolled up to her afternoon tea-table
under a great cedar tree :
1 The coast being clear, and only distant shouts
being heard in the ravine
' " Like an army defeated
The choir retreated ;
And now doth fare well
In the valley's soft swell," '
said the aunt.
' At least you have survived ; or is this the re-
action,' said the nephew, putting on a languid air.
' There were some very nice people among them,
on whom the pictures were by no means thrown away.
"What would you say, Mark, if I told you that I
strongly suspect that I have seen your lost aunt ? '
28 XUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.
'Nonsense!' cried Mark, as emphatically as dis-
' I am not joking in the least/ said Lady Kirkalcly,
looking up at him. ' I heard the name of Egremont,
and made out that it belonged to a very lady-like
pretty-looking woman in gray and white; she seemed
to be trying to check and tame a bright girl of eighteen
or so, who was in a perfect state of rapture over the
Vandykes. I managed to ask the clergyman who the
lady was, and he told me she was a Mrs. Egremont,
who lives with her aunt, a Miss Headworth, who
boards girls for the High School ; very worthy people,
' But if it were, she would have known your name.'
' Hardly. The title had not come in those days ;
and if she heard of us at all it would be as Kerrs. I
ventured further to put out a feeler by asking whether
he knew what her husband had been, and he said he
believed he had been lost at sea, but he, Mr. Spyers
I mean, had only been at Micklethwayte three or four
years, and had merely known her as a widow.'
' I suppose it is worth following up,' said Mark,
rather reluctantly. ' I wish I had seen her. I think I
should know Miss Headworth again, and she would
hardly know me.'
' You see what comes of absconding.'
' After all, it was best,' said Mark. ' Supposing her
to be the real woman, which I don't expect, it might
iv.] A NAME. 29
have been awkward if she had heard my name ! How
can we ascertain the history of this person without
committing ourselves ?'
Lord Kirkaldy, an able man, who had been for
many years a diplomatist, here joined the party, and the
whole story was laid before him. He was new to
Micklethwayte, having succeeded a somewhat distant
kinsman, and did not know enough of the place to be
able to fix on any one to whom to apply for informa-
tion ; but the result of the consultation was that Lady
Kirkaldy should go alone to call on Miss Headworth,
and explain that she was come to inquire about a young-
lady of the same name, who had once been governess
to the children of her sister, Lady Adelaide Egremont.
Mark was rather a study to his uncle and aunt all the
evening. He was as upright and honourable as the
day, and not only acted on high principle, but had a
tender feeling to the beautiful playfellow governess,
no doubt enhanced by painful experiences of successors
chosen for their utter dissimilarity to her. Still it was
evidently rather flat to find himself probably so near the
tangible goal of his romantic search ; and the existence
of a first cousin had been startling to him, though his dis-
taste was more to the taking her from second-rate folk in
a country town than to the overthrow of his own heir-
ship. At least so he manifestly and honestly believed,
and knowing it to be one of those faiths that make
themselves facts, the Kirkaldys did not disturb him
in it, nor commiserate him for a loss which they thought
the best thing possible for him.
30 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.
Miss Headworth was accustomed to receive visitors
anent boarders, so when Lady Kirkaldy's card was
brought to her, the first impression was that some such
arrangement was to be made. She was sitting in her
pretty little drawing-room alone, for Nuttie and her
mother had gone out for a walk with Miss Nugent.
The room, opening on the garden, and cool with
blinds, had a certain homely grace about the faded
furniture. The drawings on the walls were good, the
work quaint and tasteful. There was a grand vase of
foxgloves before the empty grate, and some Marshal
Xial roses in a glass on the table. The old lady her-
self — with alert black eyes and a sweet expression —
rose from her chair in the window to receive her guest.
Lady Kirkaldy felt reassured as to the refinement
of the surroundings, and liked the gentle but self-
possessed tones of the old lady. She noticed the fox-
' Yes,' said Miss Headworth, ' they are the fruits of
yesterday's expedition. My two children, as I call
them, brought them home in triumph. I cannot tell
you what pleasure Lord Kirkaldy's kindness gave them
— and many more.'
' I am glad,' said the lady, while she said to her-
self, ' now for it,' and sat forward. ' It struck me,'
she said, ' on hearing your name that you might be
related to — to a young lady who lived a good while
ago in the family of my sister, Lady Adelaide Egre-
A strange look came into Miss Headworth's eyes,
IV.] A NAME. 31
her lips trembled, she clutched tightly the arm of her
chair, but then cast a puzzled glance at her visitor.
' Perhaps if you heard of me then/ said the latter,
' it was as Lady Margaret Kerr.'
1 Yes,' said Miss Headworth, then pausing, she col-
lected herself and said in an anxious voice, 'Do I
understand that your ladyship is come to inquire for
my niece, being aware of the circumstances.'
' I only became aware of them yesterday,' said Lady
Kirkaldy. ' I was in Turkey at the time, and no
particulars were given to me ; but my nephew, Mark
Egremont, your niece's old pupil, came to consult us,
having just discovered among his uncle's papers evi-
dence of the marriage, of which of course he had been
' Then,' exclaimed Miss Headworth, holding her
hands tightly clasped, ' Shall I really see justice done
at last to my poor child ? '
'It is young Mark's most earnest wish and his
father ' Lady Kirkaldy hesitated for a word, and
Miss Headworth put in :
' His father ! Why would he never even acknow-
ledge either Alice's letters or mine ? We wrote several
times both to him and Lady Adelaide, and never received
any reply, except one short one, desiring he might not be
troubled on such a subject. It was cruel ! Alice said it
was not in his writing. She had done very wrong, and the
family might well be offended, but a poor child like her,
just eighteen, might have been treated with some pity.'
' My sister was in declining health. He was very
32 nuttie's FATHER. [chap,
much engrossed. He left the matter to — to others/
said Lady Kirkaldy. ' He is very sorry now that he
acquiesced in what was then thought right. He did
not then know that there had been a marriage.'
' I should have thought in that case a clergyman
would have been bound to show the more compas-
Lady Kirkaldy knew that the cruel silence had
been chiefly the work of the stern Puritan pitilessness
of her mother, so she passed this over, saying, ' We
are all very anxious to atone, as far as possible, for
what is past, but we know little or nothing, only
what my nephew Mark has been able to gather.'
' Little Mark ! Alice always talked of him with
great affection. How pleased she will be to hear of
his remembering her.'
'Would you object to telling me what you know
of this history ?' said Lady Kirkaldy. ' I am afraid it
is very painful to you, but I think we should under-
stand it clearly. Please speak to me as a friend, as
woman to woman.'
'Your ladyship is very kind,' said the poor old
lady. ' I have only mentioned the subject once since
we came to settle here, seventeen years ago, but such
things one cannot forget. If you will excuse me, I
have some dates that will assist my accuracy.'
She hurried away, and came back in a few moments,
having evidently dried some tears, perhaps of thank-
fulness, but she paused as if reluctant to begin.
' I think your niece had no nearer relation than
iv.] A NAME. 33
yourself,' said Lady Kirkaldy, anxious to set her off
and at ease.
' Oh no, or she never would have been so treated.
She was an orphan. My poor brother was a curate.
He married — as young men will — on insufficient
means, his strength gave way, and he died of diphtheria
when this poor child was only two years old. Indeed,
two little ones died at the same time, and the mother
married again and went to Shanghai. She did not
long live there, poor thing, and little Alice was sent
home to me. I thought I did my best for her by
keeping her at a good school. I have often wished
that I had given up my situation, and become an
assistant there, so as to have her more under my own
eyes ; but I fancied it important to receive a salary
out of which I could save. I am wearying your lady-
ship, but I can't but dwell on the excuses for my poor
' Indeed I wish to hear all the details,' was the
sincere and gentle answer.
' I had her with me generally in the holidays, and
I confess I was absolutely alarmed to see how pretty
the child was growing, knowing how great a dis-
advantage it often is. She was always a good girl,
not naturally so studious as could be wished, but
docile, merry, gentle, a favourite with every one, and
peculiarly innocent and childish. I wished her to
remain a few years longer as teacher, but it so
happened that Lady Adelaide Egremont, coining to
consult the head of the establishment about a nursery-
VOL. I. d
34 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.
governess, saw Alice, and was so much struck with
her sweet face, which was all sunshine then, as to in-
sist on engaging her.'
' Ah ! my dear sister, I remember her enthusiastic
letter about her pretty governess, and her boy's affec-
tion for her, an affection that has lasted '
' It seemed so safe. A clergyman's family in the
country, and so kind a lady at the head, that, though
Alice had been educated for a superior governess, it
appeared the best beginning she could have. And
she was very happy, and met with great kindness.
Only, unfortunately, Lady Adelaide was delicate, and
for many weeks entirely confined to the sofa. Mr.
Egremont's elder brother was much there. He seemed
to my poor inexperienced child quite elderly, and his
attentions like those of — of an old uncle — she told
me afterwards '
' He must really have been over forty '
'No doubt my poor Alice was unguarded. We
know what a merry, happy, childish girl may be, but
I never heard that her conduct was even censured
while she remained at Eaxley, though I find that
Captain Egremont used to join them in their walks,
under pretext of playing with the children. Then
she was sent to Freshwater with the two eldest chil-
dren during Lady Adelaide's confinement, and there,
most unjustifiably, Captain Egremont continually
visited them from his yacht, and offered to take them
out in it. Alice knew she ought not to go with-
out a married lady on board, and he brought a Mr.
IV.] A NAME. 35
and Mrs. Houghton to call, who were very kind and
caressing to her and the children, so that she thought
all was right. Oh ! Lady Kirkaldy, I don't mean to
defend her, I daresay she was very giddy and silly,
she reproaches herself, poor dear, but I do say that a
wicked advantage was taken of her innocence and
ignorance. She says that she had begun to grow a
little uneasy at the way people looked when Captain
Egremont joined them on the beach ; and the nurse,
a German, said something that she could not under-
stand. On the 1st of July — yes — but I have the
date here — came a telegram to the hotel to have
rooms for Lady de Lyonnais and Mr. Egremont ready
by the evening. The whole place knew it, and some
meddling person burst on Alice with the news, roughly
and coarsely given, that they were coming to call her
to account for her goings on. Captain Egremont
found her crying in the utmost terror, and — she really
hardly knew what he said to her — she thinks he
offered to shelter her on board the Ninon from Lady
de Lyonnais' first wrath while he and Mrs. Houghton
explained matters ; but she cannot tell, for she lost
her senses with fright, only knew that he was kind
and sweet to her in her distress, and thought only of
escaping. Well, I don't excuse her. Of course it was
the most terrible and fatal thing she could have done,
and ' The good old lady was quite overcome,
and Lady Kirkaldy had tears in her eyes as she said,
' It was frightful folly — but she was guarded.'
' Yes, her innocence was guarded, thank God,' said
36 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.
Miss Headworth fervently. ' You see she did know
that Mr. and Mrs. Houghton were on board, and Mrs.
Houghton was a truly kind protector who deserved her
confidence, though, poor lady, she admitted to me that
her own conduct had not been — strictly correct.'
' How long was it before you heard of her ? '
'There was a dreadful letter from Mr. Egremont
enclosing what was due of her salary, and then I heard