Charlotte Mary Yonge.

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v.] SUSPENSE. 53

the secret hope so long cherished and now entirely

He was relieved to escape from the interview, and
the poor old lady remained a little more certain as to
her duty perhaps, but with a certainty that only made
her more unhappy, and she was so restless and nervous
that, in the middle of the evening's reading of Arch-
bishop Trench's Lectures on History, Alice suddenly
broke off in the very middle of a sentence and ex-
claimed, ' Aunt Ursel ! you are keeping something
from me.'

Miss Headworth made a faint attempt by saying
something about presently, and glancing with her eyes
to indicate that it was to be reserved till after Nuttie's
bedtime, but the young lady comprehended the signs
and exclaimed, ' Never mind me, Aunt Ursel, — I know
all about mother; she told me last night.'

'It is ! ' broke in Mrs. Egremont, who had been
watching her aunt's face. ' You have heard of him!

1 Oh, my father ! You really have ! ' cried Nuttie.
' Then he really was on the desert island all this time ;
I was quite sure of it. How delightful S ' She jumped
up and looked at the door, as if she expected to see
him appear that instant, clad in skins like Eobinson
Crusoe, but her aunt's nervous agitation found vent in
a sharp reproof : ' Nuttie, hold your tongue, and don't
be such a foolish child, or I shall send you out of the
room this instant ! '

( But aunt ? ' gasped Alice, unable to bear the

54 KUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

c Yes, iny poor dear child, Captain Egremont with
the General got off with some of the crew in a boat
when the Ninon was burnt. He spent a good many
years abroad with the old man, but he has now in-
herited the family place, and is living there.' Miss
Headworth felt as if she had fired a cannon and looked
to see the effect.

1 Ah, if we could have stayed at Dieppe ! ' said
Mrs. Egremont. ' But we did write back to say where
we could be heard of.'

1 That was of no use. Mark found no traces of us
when he went thither.'

< Did he send Mark ? '

'No. My dear Alice, I must not conceal from
you that this is all Mr. Mark Egremont's doing. He
seems to have been helping his uncle with his papers
when he came on the evidence of your marriage, and,
remembering you as he does, he forced the confession
of it from the captain, and of his own accord set
forth to discover what had become of you and to see
justice done to you.'

' Dear little Mark ! ' said she ; ' he always was such
an affectionate little boy.'

' And now, my dear, you must consider how you
will receive any advances on his part.'

' Oh, Aunt Ursel, don't ! I can't talk now. Please
let me go to bed. Nuttie, dear, you need not come

The desire for solitude, in which to realise what
she had heard, was overpowering, and she fled away in

v.] SUSPENSE. 55

the summer twilight, leaving Nuttie with wide open
eyes, looking after her vanished hero and desert island.

' My poor Alice ! ' sighed the old lady.

' Aunt Ursel ! ' exclaimed Xuttie, ' was — I mean —
is my father a good or a bad man ? '

' My dear, should a daughter ask such a question ? '

'Aunt Ursel, I can't help it. I think I ought to
know all about it,' said Xuttie gravely, putting away
her childishness and sitting down by her aunt. ' I
did not think so much of it when mother told me they
eloped, because, though I know it was very wrong,
people do do odd things sometimes when they are very
much in love (she said it in a superior patronising tone
that would have amused Miss Headworth very much
at any other time) ; and it has not spoilt mother for
being the dearest, sweetest, best thing in the world,
and, besides, they had neither of them any fathers or
mothers to disobey. But, then, when I found he was
so old, and that he kept it a secret, and must have
told stories only for the sake of money (uttered with
extreme contempt), I didn't like it. And if he left
her as Theseus left Ariadne, or Sir Lancelot left Elaine,
I — I don't think it is nice. Do you think he only
pretended to be lost in the Ninon to get rid of her,
or that he could not find her ? '

'The Ninon was really reported lost with all on
board,' said Miss Headworth. ' That was ascertained.
He was saved by a Chilian ship, and seems to have
been a good while making his way back to Europe. I
had taken care that our address should be known at

56 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

Dieppe, but it is quite possible that he may not have
applied to the right people, or that they may not have
preserved my letter, so that we cannot feel sure that
he was to blame.'

' If he had been worth anything at all, he would
have moved heaven and earth to find her ! ' cried Nut-
tie ; ' and you said yourself it was all that Mark's
doing ! '

' He seems to be a very upright and generous young
man, that Mr. Mark Egremont,' said Miss Headworth,
a whole romance as to Nuttie's future destiny sweep-
ing across her mind in an instant, with a mental dis-
pensation to first cousins in such a case. ' I think
you will find him a staunch champion even against his
own interests.'

Perceptions came across Nuttie. ' Oh, then I am
a sort of lost heiress, like people in a story ! I see !
But, Aunt Ursel, what do you think will happen ? '

' My clear child, I cannot guess in the least. Per-
haps the Egremont property will not concern you, and
only go to male heirs. That would be the best thing,
since in any case you must be sufficiently provided
for. Your father must do that.'

1 But about mother ? '

' A proper provision must be insisted on for her,'
said Miss Headworth. ' It is no use, however, to
speculate on the future. We cannot guess how Mr.
Mark Egremont's communication will be received, or
whether any wish will be expressed for your mother's
rejoining your father. In such a case the terms must


be distinctly understood, and I have full trust both in
Mr. Mark and in Lady Kirkaldy as her champions to
see that justice is done to you both.'

' I'm sure he doesn't deserve that mother should go
to him.'

'Nor do I expect that he will wish it, or that it
would be proper ; but he is bound to give her a hand-
some maintenance, and I think most probably you
will be asked to stay with your uncle and cousins/
said Miss Headworth, figuring to herself a kind of
ISTewstead Abbey or some such scene of constant orgies
at Bridgefield Egremont.

' I shall accept nothing from the family that does
not include mother/ said Xuttie.

' Dear child, I foresee many trials, but you must be
her protector.'

' That I will/ said ISTuttie ; and in the gallant pur-
pose she went to bed, to find her mother either asleep
or feigning slumber with tears on her cheek.



1 Presumptuous maid, with looks inteut,
Again she stretched, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between. ' — Gray.

It all seemed like a dream to Ursula, perhaps likewise
to her mother, when they rose to the routine of daily
life with the ordinary interests of the day before them.
There was a latent unwillingness in Mrs. Egremont's
mind to discuss the subject with either aunt or
daughter ; and when the post brought no letter, Ursula,
after a moment's sense of flatness, was relieved, and
returned to her eager desire to hurry after the water-
soldier. It was feasible that very afternoon. Mary
Nugent came in with the intelligence.

' And can Gerard come ? or we shall only look at it.'

' Yes, Gerard can come, and so will Mr. Dutton,'

said Mary, who, standing about half-way between Mrs.

Egremont and her daughter, did not think herself quite

a sufficient chaperon.

' He will look on like a hen at her ducklings,' said
Nuttie. ' It is cruel to take him, poor man ! '


' Meantime, Nuttie, do you like an hour of Marie
Stuart ? '

1 Oh, thank you ! ' But she whispered, ' Aunt
Ursel, may I tell her ? '

' Ask your mother, my dear.'

Leave was given, half reluctantly, and with a pro-
hibition against mentioning the subject to any one else,
but both mother and aunt had confidence in Mary
Nugent's wisdom and discretion, so the two friends sat
on the wall together, and Ursula poured out her heart.
Poor little girl ! she was greatly discomfited at the
vanishing of her noble vision of the heroic self-devoted
father, and ready on the other hand to believe him a
villain, like Bertram Bisingham, or ' the Pirate,' being
possessed by this idea on account of his West Indian
voyages. At any rate, she was determined not to be
accepted or acknowledged without her mother, and was
already rehearsing magnanimous letters of refusal.
Miss Mary listened and wondered, feeling sometimes
as if this were as much a romance as the little yacht
going down with the burning ship ; and then came back
the recollection that there was a real fact that Nuttie
had a father, and that it was entirely uncertain what
part he might take, or what the girl might be called
on to do. Considering anxiously these bearings of the
question, she scarcely heard what she was required to
assent to, in one of Nuttie's eager, ' Don't you think so ?'

' My dear Nuttie,' she said, rousing herself, l what
I do think is that it will all probably turn out exactly
contrariwise to our imaginations, so I believe it would

60 nuttie's FATHER. [chap.

be wisest to build up as few fancies as possible, but
only to pray that you may have a right judgment in
all things, and have strength to do what is right, what-
ever you may see that to be.'

' And of course that will be to stick by mother.'

' There can be little doubt of that, but the how ?
No, dear, do not let us devise all sorts of hows when
we have nothing to go upon. That would be of no
use, and only perplex you when the time comes. It
would be much better to " do the nexte thinge," and
read our Marie Stuart'

Nuttie pouted a little, but submitted, though she
now and then broke into a translation with 'You
know mother will never stand up for herself,' or ' They
think I shall be asked to stay with the Egremonts, but
I must work up for the exam/

However, the school habit of concentrating her atten-
tion prevailed, and the study quieted Nuttie's excitement.
The expedition took place as arranged. There was a
train which stopped so that the party could go down by
it, and the distance was not too great for walking back.

Mr. Dutton met them on the platform, well armed
with his neat silk umbrella, and his black poodle,
Monsieur, trotting solemnly after him. Gerard Godfrey
bore materials for an exact transcript of the Abbot's
monumental cross, his head being full of church archi-
tecture, while Nuttie carried a long green tin case, or
vasculum as she chose to call it, with her three vowels,
U A E, and the stars of the Little Bear conspicuously
painted on it in white.


' You did not venture on that the other day,' said
Mr. Dutton. ' How much of the park do you mean
to carry away in it ? '

' Let me take it,' said Gerard politely.

' No, thank you. You'd leave it behind, while you
were pottering over the mouldings.'

'You are much more likely to leave it behind

' What — with my soldier, my Stratiotes, in it ? I
think I see myself.'

' Give it to me,' said Gerard. ' Of course I can't
see you carrying a great thing like that.'

1 Can't you, indeed ? '

' Gently, gently, my dear,' said Miss Mary, as the
young people seemed very near a skirmish, and the
train was sweeping up. Then there was another small
scuffle, for Nuttie had set her heart on the third class ;
but Mr. Dutton had taken second-class tickets, and
was about to hand them into a carriage whence there
had just emerged a very supercilious black-moustached
valet, who was pulling out a leather-covered dressing-
case, while Gerard was consoling Nuttie by telling her
that Monsieur never deigned to go third class.

' It is a smoking carriage,' said Miss Nugent, on
the step. ' Pah ! how it smells,' as she jumped back.

1 Beautiful backy — a perfect nosegay,' said Gerard.
' Trust that fellow for having the best.'

' His master's, no doubt,' suggested Mr. Dutton.

'You'd better go in it, to enjoy his reversion,' said

62 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

1 And where's my escort, then ? '

' Oh, I'm sure we don't want you.'

' Nuttie, my dear,' expostulated Miss Nugent, drag-
ging: her into the next carriage.

' You may enjoy the fragrance still,' said Nuttie
when seated. ' Do you see — there's the man's master ;
he has stood him up against that post, with his cigar,
to wait while he gets out the luggage. I daresay you
can get a whiff if you lean out far enough.'

' I say ! that figure is a study ! ' said Gerard. ' What
is it that he is so like ? '

' Oh ! I know,' said Nuttie. ' It is Lord Frederick
Verisopht, and the bad gentlefolks in the pictures to the
old numbers of Dickens that you have got, Miss Mary.
Now isn't he ? Look ! only Lord Frederick wasn't fat.'

Nuttie was in a state of excitement that made her
peculiarly unmanageable, and Miss Nugent was very
grateful to Mr. Dutton for his sharp though general
admonition against staring, while, under pretext of
disposing of the umbrella and the vasculum, he stood
up, so as to block the window till they were starting.

There was no one else to observe them but a
demure old lady, and in ten minutes' time they were
in open space, where high spirits might work them-
selves off, though the battle over the botanical case
was ended by Miss Nugent, who strongly held that
ladies should carry their own extra encumbrances, and
sluno- it with a scarf over Nuttie's shoulders in a
knowing knapsack fashion.

The two young people had known one another all


their lives, for Gerard was the son of a medical man
who had lived next door to Miss Headworth when the
children were young. The father was dead, and the
family had left the place, but this son had remained
at school, and afterwards had been put into the office
at the umbrella factory under charge of Mr. Dutton,
whose godson he was, and who treated him as a nephew.
He was a good-hearted, steady young fellow, with his
whole interest in ecclesiastical details, wearing a tie in
accordance with 'the colours,' and absorbed in church
music and decorations, while his recreations were almost
all in accordance therewith.

There was plenty of merriment, as he drew and
measured at the very scanty ruins, which were little
more than a few fragments of wall, overgrown luxuri-
antly with ivy and clematis, but enclosing some fine old
coffin -lids with floriated crosses, interesting to those
who cared for architecture and church history, as Mr.
Dutton tried to make the children do, so that their
ecclesiastical feelings might be less narrow, and stand
on a surer foundation than present interest, a slightly
aggressive feeling of contempt for all the other town
churches, and a pleasing sense of being persecuted.

They fought over the floriations and mouldings
with great zest, and each maintained a date with
youthful vigour — both being, as Mr. Dutton by and
by showed them, long before the foundation. The
pond had been left to the last with a view to the well-
being of the water-soldier on the return. Here the
difficulties of the capture were great, for the nearest

64 nuttie's FATHER. [chap.

plant flourished too far from the bank to be reached
with comfort, and besides, the sharp-pointed leaves to
which it owes its name were not to be approached
with casual grasps.

' Oh Monsieur, I wish you were a Beau,' sighed
Nuttie. ' Why, are you too stupid to go and get it ? '

' It is a proof of his superior intelligence,' said Mr.

' But really it is too ridiculous — too provoking —
to have come all this way and not get it,' cried the
tantalised Nuttie. ' Oh, Gerard, are you taking off
your boots and stockings ? You duck ! '

' Just what I wish I was,' said the youth, rolling
up his trousers.

But even the paddling in did not answer. Mr.
Dutton called out anxiously, ' Take care, Gerard, the
bottom may be soft,' and came down to the very verge
just in time to hold out his hand, and prevent an
utterly disastrous fall, for Gerard, in spite of his bare
feet, sank at once into mud, and on the first attempt
to take a step forward, found his foot slipping away
from under him, and would in another instant have
tumbled backwards into the slush and weeds. He
scrambled back, his hat falling off into the reeds, and
splashing Mr. 'Dutton all over, while Monsieur began
to bark 'with astonishment at seeing his master in
such a plight,' declared the ladies, who stood convulsed
with cruel laughter.

1 Isn't it dreadful ? ' exclaimed Ursula.

1 Well ! It might have been worse,' gravely said


Mr. Dutton, wiping off the more obnoxious of his
splashes with his pocket handkerchief.

1 Oh I didn't mean you, but the water-soldier,' said
Nuttie. ' To have come five miles for it in vain ! '

1 I don't know what to suggest,' added Gerard.
1 Even if the ladies were to retire '

1 No, no,' interposed Mr. Dutton, ' 'tis no swimming
ground, and I forbid the expedient. You would only
be entangled in the weeds.'

1 Behold ! ' exclaimed Mary, who had been prowling
about the banks, and now held up in triumph one of
the poles with a bill-hook at the end used for cutting

' Bravo, Miss Nugent ! ' cried Gerard.

'Female wit has circumvented the water -soldier.'
said Mr. Dutton.

' Don't cry out too soon,' returned Mary ; ' the
soldier may float off and escape you yet.'

However, the capture was safely accomplished,
without even a dip under water to destroy the beauty
of the white flowers. With these, and a few water-
lilies secured by Gerard for the morrow's altar vases,
the party set out on their homeward walk, through
plantations of whispering firs, the low sun tinging the
trunks with ruddy light; across heathery commons,
where crimson heath abounded, and the delicate blush-
coloured wax-belled species was a prize ; by cornfields
in ear hanging out their dainty stamens ; along hedges
full of exquisite plumes of feathering or nodding grass,
of which Nuttie made bouquets and botanical studies,


66 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap. vi.

and Gerard stored for harvest decorations. They ran
and danced on together with Monsienr at their heels,
while the elders watched them with some sadness and
anxiety. Free- masonry had soon made both Mary
and Mr. Dutton aware of each other's initiation, and
they had discussed the matter in all its bearings,
agreed that the man was a scoundrel, and the woman
an angel, even if she had once been weak, and that
she ought to be very resolute with him if he came to
terms. And then they looked after their young com-
panions, and Mr. Dutton said, ' Poor children, what is
before them ? '

' It is well they are both so young,' answered


' It is the last time — 'tis the last !' — Scott.

Sundays were the ever-recurring centres of work and
interests to the little circle in St. Ambrose's Road. To
them the church services and the various classes and
schools were the great objects and excitements of the
week. A certain measure of hopeful effort and vary-
ing success is what gives zest to life, and the purer
and higher the aim, and the more unmixed the motives,
the greater the happiness achieved by the 'something
attempted, something done.'

Setting apart actual spiritual devotion, the altar
vases, purchased by a contribution of careful savings,
and adorned with the Monks Horton lilies, backed by
ferns from the same quarter ; the surplices made by
the ladies themselves, the chants they had practised,
the hymns they had taught, could not but be much
more interesting to them than if they had been mere
lookers on. Every cross on the markers, every flower
on the altar cloth was the work of one or other of

68 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

them; everything in the church was an achievement,
and choir boys, school children, Bible classes, every
member of the regular congregation, had some special
interest ; nay, every irregular member or visitor might
be a convert in time — if not a present sympathiser,
and at the very least might swell the offertory that
was destined to so many needs of the struggling

Thus it was with some curiosity mingled with self-
reproach that Nuttie, while singing her Beneclictus
among the tuneful shop-girls, to whom she was bound
to set an example, became aware of yesterday's first-
class traveller lounging, as far as the rows of chairs
would permit, in the aisle, and, as she thought, staring
hard at her mother. It was well that Mrs. Egre-
mont's invariable custom w T as never to lift her eyes
from her book or her harmonium, or she surely must
have been disconcerted, her daughter thought, by the
eyes that must have found her out, under her little
black net bonnet and veil, as the most beautiful
woman in church, — as she certainly was, — even that
fine good-for-nothing gentleman thinking so. Nuttie
would add his glances to the glories of her lovely
mother !

And she did so, with triumph in her tone of re-
probation, as she trotted off, after the early dinner, to
her share of Sunday-school work as usual under Miss
Nugent's wdng. It began with a children's service,
and then ensued, in rooms at the factory, lent by Mr.
Dutton, the teaching that was to supply the omissions



of the Board School ; the establishment of a voluntary
one being the next ambition of St. Ambrose's.

Coming home from their labours, in the fervent
discussion of their scholars, and exchanging remarks
and greetings with the other teachers of various
calibres, the friends reached their own road, and there,
to their amazement, beheld Miss Headworth.

' Yes, it really is ! ' cried Xuttie. ' We can't be too
late ? No — there's no bell ! Aunt Ursel ! What
has brought you out ? What's the matter ? Where's
mother ? '

1 In the house. My dear,' catching hold of her,
and speaking breathlessly, ' I came out to prepare you.
He is come — your father '

' Where ? ' cried Nuttie, rather wildly.

' He is in the drawing-room with your mother. I
said I would send you.' Poor Miss Headworth gasped
with agitation. ' Oh ! where's Mr. Dutton — not that
anything can be done '

1 Is it that man ? ' asked Xuttie, and getting no
answer, ' I know it is ! Oh Aunt Ursel, how could
you leave her with him ? I must go and protect her.
Gerard — come. No, go and fetch Mr. Dutton.'

' Hush ! hush, Nuttie,' cried her aunt, grasping her.
' You know nothing about it. Wait here till I can
tell you.'

1 Come in here, dear Miss Headworth,' said Mary,
gently drawing her arm into hers, for the poor old lady
could hardly stand for trembling, and bidding Gerard
open the door of her own house with the latch-key.

70 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

She took them into the dining-room, so as not to
disturb her mother, sent Gerard off after Mr. Dutton
in the very uttermost astonishment and bewilderment,
and set Miss Headworth down in an easy-chair, where
she recovered herself, under Mary's soothing care,
enough to tell her story in spite of Kuttie's exclama-
tions. ' Wait ! wait, Niittie ! You mustn't burst
in on them so ! No, you need not be afraid. Don't
be a silly child ! He won't hurt her ! Oh no ! They
are quite delighted to meet.'

' Delighted to meet ? ' said Nuttie, as if transfixed.

1 Yes,' said her aunt. ' Oh yes, I always knew the
poor child cared for him and tried to believe in him
all along. He only had to say the word.'

' I wouldn't,' cried the girl, her eyes flashing.
' Why didn't you ask him how he could desert her
and leave her V

* My dear ! how can one come between husband
and wife ? Oh, my poor Alice ! '

' How was it, how did they meet, dear Miss Head-
worth ? ' asked Mary, administering the wine she had
been pouring out.

( You hadn't been gone half an hour, Alice was
reading to me, and I was just dozing, when in came
Louisa. "A gentleman to see Mrs. Egremont," she
said, and there he was just behind. We rose up — she
did not know him at once, but he just said " Edcla,
my little Eclda, sweeter than ever, I knew you at
once," or something of that sort, and she gave one
little cry of " I knew you would come," and sprang

vii.] THAT MAX. 71

right into his arms. I — well, I meant to make him
understand how he had treated her, but just as I
began "Sir" — he came at me with his hand out-
stretched "

' You didn't take it, aunt, I hope ? ' cried ISTuttie.

1 My dear, when you see him, you will know how

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