Charlotte Mary Yonge.

Nuttie's father (Volume 1) online

. (page 5 of 15)
Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 15)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

impossible it is. He has that high-bred manner it is
as if he were conferring a favour. " Miss Headworth,
I conclude," said he, " a lady to whom I owe more
than I can express." Just as if I had done it for his
sake.' Miss Nugent felt tins open expression danger-
ous on account of the daughter, and she looked her
consternation at Mr. Dutton, who had quietly entered,
ruthlessly shutting Gerard Godfrey out with only
such a word of explanation as could be given on the

' Then he comes with — with favourable intentions,'
said Mary, putting as much admonition as she could
into her voice.

' Oh ! no doubt of that,' said Miss Headworth,
drawing herself together. ' He spoke of the long
separation, — said he had never been able to find her,
till the strange chance of his nephew stumbling on her
at Abbots Norton.'

' That is — possib — probably true,' said Mr. Dutton.

' It can't be,' broke in Nuttie. ' He never troubled
himself about it till his nephew found the papers.
You said so, Aunt Ursel ! He is a dreadful traitor of
a man, just like Marmion, or Theseus, or Lancelot,
and now he is telling lies about it ! Don't look at

72 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

me, Aunt Ursel, they are lies, and I vrill say it, and
he took in poor dear mother once, and now he is
taking her in again, and I can't bear that he should
be my father ! '

It was so entirely true, yet so shocking to hear
from her mouth, that all three stood aghast, as she
stood with heaving chest, crimson cheeks, and big
tears in her eyes. Miss Headworth only muttered,
' Oh, my poor child, you mustn't !'

Mr. Dutton prevented another passionate outburst
by his tone of grave, gentle authority. ' Listen a
moment, Ursula,' he said. ' It is unhappily true that
this man has acted in an unjustifiable way towards
your mother and yourself. But there are, no doubt,
many more excuses for him than you know of, and as
I found a few years ago that the people at Dieppe
had lost the address that had been left with them, he
must have found no traces of your mother there. You
cannot understand the difficulties that may have been
in his way. And there is no use, quite the contrary,
in making the worst of him. He has found your
mother out, and it seems that he claims her affection-
ately, and she forgives and welcomes him — out of the
sweet tenderness of her heart.'

' She may — but I can't,' murmured- Nuttie.

'That is not a fit thing for a daughter, nor a
Christian, to say,' Mr. Dutton sternly said.

' 'Tis not for myself — 'tis for her,' objected Nuttie.

' That's nonsense ; a mere excuse,' he returned.
'You have nothing at all to foroive, since he did not

vil] THAT MAN. 73

know you were in existence. And as to your mother,
whom you say you put first, what greater grief or pain
can you give her than by showing enmity and resent-
ment against her husband, when she, the really injured
person, loves and forgives V

1 He's a bad man. If she goes back to him, I
know he will make her unhappy '

' You don't know any such thing, but you do know
that your opposition will make her unhappy. Ee-
member, there's no choice in the matter. He has
legal rights over you both, and since he shows himself
ready (as I understand from Miss Heaclworth that he
is) to give her and you your proper position, you have
nothing to do but to be thankful. I think myself
that it is a great subject of thankfulness that your
mother can return so freely without any bitterness.
It is the blessing of such as she '

Nuttie stood pouting, but more thoughtful and less
violent, as she said, ' How can I be thankful ? I don't
want position or anything. I only want him to let
my — my own mother, and aunt, and me alone.'

' Child, you are talking of what you do not under-
stand. You must not waste any more time in argu-
ment. Your mother has sent for you, and it is your
duty to go and let her introduce you to your father.
I have little doubt that you will find him very unlike
all your imagination represents him, but let that be as
it may, the fifth Commandment does not say, " Honour
only thy good father," but, " Honour thy father."
Come now, put on your gloves — get her hat right, if

74 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

you please, Miss Mary. There — now, come along, be
a reasonable creature, and a good girl, and do not give
unnecessary pain and vexation to your mother.' He
gave her his arm, and led her away.

* Well done, Mr. Dutton !' exclaimed Miss Nugent.

'Poor Mr. Dutton!' All Aunt Ursel's discretion
could not suppress that sigh, but Mary prudently let
it pass unnoticed, only honouring in her heart the
unselfishness and self-restraint of the man whose long,
patient, unspoken hopes had just received a death-

' Oh, Mary ! I never thought it would have been
like this!' cried the poor old lady. 'I ought not to
have spoken as I did before the child, but I was so
taken by surprise ! Alice turned to him just as if he
had been the most faithful, loving husband in the
world. She is believing every word he says.'

1 It is very happy for her that she can,' pleaded

' So it is, yes, but — when one knows what he is,
and what she is ! Oh, Mr. Dutton, is the poor child
gone in V

1 Yes, I saw her safe into the room. She was very
near running off up the stairs,' said Mr. Dutton. ' But
I daresay she is fascinated by this time. That sort of
man has great power over women.'

' ISTuttie is hardly a woman yet,' said Miss Nugent.

'No, but there must be a strong reaction, when
she sees something unlike her compound of Marmion
and Theseus.'

vil] THAT MAN. 75

' I suppose there is no question but that they must
go with him !' said Miss Headworth wistfully.

'Assuredly. You say he — this Egremont — was
affectionate/ said Mr. Dutton quietly, but Mary saw
his fingers white with his tight clenching of the bar of
the chair.

' Oh yes, warmly affectionate, delighted to find her
prettier than ever, poor dear ; . I suppose he meant it.
Heaven forgive me, if I am judging him too hardly,
but I verily believe he went to church to reconnoitre,
and see whether she pleased his fancy '

'And do you understand,' added Mr. Dutton, 'that
he is prepared to do her full justice, and introduce her
to his family and friends as his wife, on equal terms ?
Otherwise, even if she were unwilling to stand up for
herself, it would be the duty of her friends to make
some stipulations.'

' I am pretty sure that he does/ said the aunt ; ' I
did not stay long when I saw that I was not wanted,
but I heard him say something about his having a
home for her now, and her cutting out the Eedcastle

' Besides, there is the nephew, Mr. Mark Egremont/
said Mary. ' He will take care of her.'

' Yes/ said Mr. Dutton. ' It appears to be all right.
At any rate, there can be no grounds for interference
on our part.'

Mr. Dutton took his leave with these words, wring-
ing Miss Headworth's hand in mute sympathy, and
she, poor old lady, when he was gone, fairly collapsed


into bitter weeping over the uncertain future of those

whom she had loved as her own children, and who

now must leave her desolate. Mary did her best

with comfort and sympathy, and presently took her

to share her griefs and fears with gentle old Mrs.



' I do think this lady
To be my child.' — King Lear.

Xuttie, in her fresh holland Sunday dress, worked in
crewels with wild strawberries by her mother's hands,
and with a white -trimmed straw hat, was almost
shoved into the little drawing-room by Mr. Dutton,
though he was himself invisible.

Her eyes were in such a daze of tears that she hardly
saw more at first than that some one was there with
her mother on the sofa. ' Ah, there she is ! ' she
heard her mother cry, and both rose. Her mother's
arm was round her waist, her hand was put into
another, Mrs. Egremont's voice, tremulous with ex-
ceeding delight, said, ' Our child, our Ursula, our
Nuttie ! Oh, this is what I have longed for all these
years ! Oh, thanks, thanks !' and her hands left her
daughter to be clasped and uplifted for a moment in
fervent thanksgiving, while Nuttie's hand was held,
and a strange hairy kiss, redolent of tobacco- smoking,

78 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

was on her forehead — a masculine one, such as she
had never known, except her cousin Mark's, since the
old rector died, and she had grown too big for Mr.
Dutton's embraces. It was more strange than de-
lightful, and yet she felt the polish of the tone that
said, 'We make acquaintance somewhat late, Ursula,
but better late than never.'

She looked up at this new father, and understood
instantly what she had heard of his being a grand
gentleman. There was a high-bred look about him,
an entire ease and perfect manner that made every-
thing he did or said seem like gracious condescension,
and took away the power of questioning it at the
moment. He was not above the middle size, and was
becoming unwieldy ; but there was something imposing
and even graceful in his deportment, and his bald
narrow forehead looked aristocratic, set off between
side tufts of white hair, white whiskers, and moustaches
waxed into sharp points, Victor Emmanuel fashion,
and a round white curly beard. His eyes were dark,
and looked dull, with yellow unwholesome corners,
and his skin was not of a pleasant colour, but still,
with all Nuttie's intentions of regarding him with
horror, she was subdued, partly by the grand breeding
and air of distinction, and partly by the current of
sympathy from her mother's look of perfect happiness
and exultation. She could not help feeling it a favour,
almost an undeserved favour, that so great a personage
should say, ' A complete Egremont, I see. She has
altogether the family face.'

Yin.] THE FATHER. 79

' I am so glad you think so,' returned her mother.

1 On the whole it is well, hut she might have done
better to resemble you, Edda,' he said caressingly ;
1 but perhaps that would have been too much for the
Earlsforth natives. William's girls will have enough to
endure without a double eclipse ! ' and he laughed.

( I — I don't want ' faltered the mother.

1 You don't want, no, but you can't help it,' he
said, evidently with a proud delight in her beauty.
'Now that I have seen the child,' he added, 'I will
make my way back to the hotel.'

1 Will you — won't you stay to tea or dinner V said
his wife, beginning with an imploring tone which
hesitated as she reviewed possible chops and her
aunt's dismay.

'Thank you, I have ordered dinner at the hotel,'
he answered, ' and Gregorio is waiting for me with a
cab. No doubt you will wish to make arrangements
with Madame — the old lady — and I will not trouble
her further to-night. I will send down Gregorio to-
morrow morning, to tell you what I arrange. An
afternoon train, probably, as we shall go no farther
than London. You say Lady Kirkaldy called on you.
We might return her visit before starting, but I will
let you know when I have looked at the trains. My
compliments to Miss Headworth. Good evening,
sweetest.' He held his wife in a fond embrace, kiss-
ing her brow and cheeks and letting her cling to him,
then added, ' Good evening, little one,' with a good-
natured careless gesture with which Nuttie was quite

80 xuttie's FATHER. [chap.

content, for she had a certain loathing of the caresses
that so charmed her mother. And yet the command
to make ready had been given with such easy author-
ity that the idea of resisting it had never even entered
her mind, though she stood still while her mother went
out to the door with him and watched him to the last.

Coming back, she threw her arms round her
daughter, kissed her again and again, and, with showers
of the glad tears long repressed, cried, ' Oh, my Nuttie,
my child, what joy! How shall I be thankful enough !
Your father, your dear father ! Now it is all right.'
Little sentences of ecstasy such as these, interspersed
with caresses, all in the incoherence of overpowering
delight, full of an absolute faith that the lost husband
had loved her and been pining for her all these years,
but that he had been unable to trace her, and was as
happy as she was in the reunion.

The girl was somewhat bewildered, but she was
carried along by this flood of exceeding joy and glad-
ness. The Marmion and Theseus images had been
dispelled by the reality, and, with Mr. Dutton's sharp
reproof fresh upon her, she felt herself to have been
doing a great injustice to her father ; believed all that
her mother did, and found herself the object of a
romantic recognition — if not the beggar girl become
a princess, at any rate, the little school-teacher a
county lady ! And she had never seen her mother
so wildly, overpoweringly happy with joy. That made
her too, feel that something grand and glorious had

viii.] THE FATHER. 81

' What are we going to do V she asked, as the
vehemence of Mrs. Egremont's emotion began to work
itself off.

' Home ! He takes us to his home ! His home V
repeated her mother, in a trance of joy, as the yearn-
ings of her widowed heart now were fulfilled.

' Oh, but Aunt Ursel !'

'Poor Aunt Ursel! Oh, Xuttie, JSTuttie, I had
almost forgotten ! How could I ? ' and there was a
shower of tears of compunction. ' But he said he
owed everything to her ! She will come with us ! Or
if she doesn't live with us, we will make her live close
by in a dear little cottage. Where is she ? When
did she go ? I never saw her go.'

The sound of the front door was heard, for the
visitor had been watched away and Miss Headworth
was returning to her own house to be there received
with another fervent gush of happiness, much more
trying to her, poor thing, than to Xuttie.

There was even-song imminent, and the most need-
ful act at the moment was to compose the harmonium-
player sufficiently for her to take her part. Miss
Headworth was really glad of the necessity, since it
put off the discussion, and made a reason for silencing
Xuttie until all should be more recovered from the
first agitation. Alice Egremont herself was glad to
carry her gratitude and thankfulness to the Throne
of Grace, and in her voluntary, and all her psalms,
there was an exulting strain that no one had thought
the instrument capable of producing, and that went to


82 nuttie's FATHEK. [chap.

the heart of more than one of her hearers. No one
who knew her could doubt that hers was simply
innocent exultation in the recovery of him whom she
so entirely loved and confided in. But there could
not but be terrible doubts whether he were worthy of
that trust, and what the new page in her life would be.

Miss Headworth had said they would not talk till
after church, but there was no deferring the matter
then. She was prepared, however, when her niece
came up to her in a tender deprecating manner, say-
ing, ' Aunt Ursel, dear Aunt Ursel, it does seem very
ungrateful, but '

1 He is going to take you away ? Yes, I saw that.
And it ought to be, my dear. You know where ? '

' Yes ; to London first, to be fitted out, and then to
his own home. To Bridgefield Egremont. I shall
have to see Mr. Egremont,' and her voice sank with
shame. ' But Mark will be good to me, and why
should I care when I have him.'

' It is quite right. I am glad it should be so,'
firmly said the old lady.

' And yet to leave you so suddenly.'

' That can't be helped.'

c And it will only be for a little while,' she added,
' till you can make arrangements to come to us. My
dear husband says he owes you everything. So you
must be with us, or close to us.'

' My dear, it's very dear and good of you to think of it,
but I must be independent.' She put it in those words,
unwilling again to speak unguardedly before Nuttie.

viii.] THE FATHER. 83

' Oh, dear auntie, indeed you must ! Think what
you are to us, and what you have done for us. We
can't go away to be happy and prosperous and leave
you behind. Can we, Nuttie ? Come and help me
to get her to promise. Do — do dearest auntie,' and
she began the coaxing and caressing natural to her,
but Xuttie did not join in it, and Miss Headworth
shook her head and said gravely —

'Don't Alice. It is of no use. I tell you once
for all that my mind is made up.'

Alice, knowing by long experience that, when her
aunt spoke in that tone, persuasion was useless, de-
sisted, but looked at her in consternation, with eyes
swimming in tears. Nuttie understood her a little
better, and felt the prickings of distrust again.

' But aunt, dear aunt, how can we leave you ? What
will you do with all the boarders,' went on Mrs. Egremont.

1 1 shall see my way, my dear. Do not think about
that. It is a great thing to see you and this child
receive justice.'

c And only think, after all the hard things that have
been said of him, that we should meet first at church !
He would not wait and send letters and messages by
Mark. You see he came down himself the first
moment. I always knew he would. Only I am so
sorry for him, that he should have lost all those sweet
years when ISTuttie was a tiny child. She must do
all she can to make up to him.'

' Oh dear !' broke out Nuttie. f It is so strange ! It
will be all so strange !'

84 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

' It will be a very new life/ said her aunt, rather
didactically ; ' but you must do your best to be a good
daughter, and to fill your new position, and I have no
doubt you will enjoy it.'

' If I could but take all with me ! ' said Nuttie.
' Oh dear ! whatever will you do, Aunt Ursel ? Oh
mother, the choir ! "Who will play the harmonium ? and
who will lead the girls ? and whatever will Mr. Spyers
do ? and who will take my class ? Mother, couldn't
we stay a little longer to set things going here ?'

' It is nice of you to have thought of it, my dear/
said Mrs. Egremont, ' but your father would not like
to stay on here.

* But mightn't I stay, just a few days, mother, to
wish everybody good-bye ? Mr. Dutton, and Miss
Mary, and Gerard, and all the girls V

There was some consolation in this plan, and the
three women rested on it that night, Mrs. Egremont
recovering composure enough to write three or four
needful notes, explaining her sudden departure. The
aunt could not talk of a future she so much dreaded
for her nieces, losing in it the thought of her own
loneliness ; Alice kept back her own loving, tender,
undoubting joy with a curious sense that it was hard
and ungrateful towards the aunt ; but it was impos-
sible to think of that, and Nuttie was in many

Eager anticipation of the new unseen world be-
yond, exultation in finding herself somebody, sympathy
with her mother's happiness, all had their share, but

vill.] THE FATHER. 85

they made her all the wilder, because they were far
from unmixed. The instinctive dislike of Mr. Egre-
mont's countenance, and doubt of his plausible story,
which had vanished before his presence, and her
mother's faith, returned upon her from time to time,
caught perhaps from her aunt's tone and looks. Then
her aunt had been like a mother to her — her own
mother much more like a sister, and the quitting her
was a wrench not compensated for as in Mrs. Egre-
mont's case by a more absorbing affection. Moreover,
Nuttie felt sure that poor Gerard Godfrey would break
his heart. As the mother and daughter for the last
time lay down together in the room that had been
theirs through the seventeen years of the girl's life,
Alice fell asleep with a look of exquisite peace and
content on her face, feeling her long term of trial
crowned by unlooked-for joy, while Ursula, though
respecting her slumbers too much to move, lay with
wide-open eyes, now speculating on the strange future,
now grieving over those she left — Aunt Ursel, Gerard,
Mary, and all such ; the schemes from which she was
snatched, and then again consoling herself with the
hope that, since she was going to be rich, she could at
once give all that was wanted — the white altar cloth,
the brass pitcher — nay, perhaps finish the church and
build the school ! For had not some one said some-
thing about her position ? Oh yes, she had not
thought of it before, but, since she was the elder
brother's daughter, she must be the heiress ! There
was no doubt a grand beautiful story before her ; she

86 xuttie's FATHER. [chap.

would withstand all sorts of fascinations, wicked
baronets and earls innumerable, and come back and
take Gerard by the hand, and say, ' Pride was quelled
and love was free.' Not that Gerard had ever uttered
a word tending in that direction since he had been
seven years old, but that would make it all the
prettier ; they would both be silently constant, till the
time came, perhaps when she was of age. Mother
would like it, though that father would certainly be
horrid. And how nice it would be to give Gerard
everything, and they would go all over the Continent,
and see pictures, and buy them, and see all the
cathedrals and all the mountains. But perhaps, since
Mark Egremont had really been so generous in hunting
up the cousin who was displacing him, she was bound
in duty to marry him ; perhaps he reckoned on her
doing so. She would be generous in her turn, give
up all the wealth to him, and return to do and be
everything to Micklethwayte. How they would
admire and bless her. And oh ! she was going to
London to-morrow — London, which she so much wished
to see — Westminster Abbey, British Museum, All
Saints, National Gallery, no end of new dresses.

Half- waking, half - dreaming, she spent the night
which seemed long enough, and the light hours of the
summer morning seemed still longer, before she could
call it a reasonable time for getting up. Her splash-
ings awoke her mother, who lay smiling for a few
moments, realising and giving thanks for her great
joy, then bestirred herself with the recollection of all

vni.] THE FATHER. 87

that had to be done on this busy morning before any
summons from her husband could arrive.

Combining packing and dressing, like the essentially
unmethodical little woman she was, Mrs. Egremont
still had all her beautiful silky brown hair about her
shoulders when the bell of St. Ambrose's was heard
giving its thin tinkling summons to matins at half-
past seven. She was disappointed ; she meant to have
gone for this last time, but there was no help for
it, and Nuttie set off by herself.

Gerard Godfrey was at his own door. He was
not one of the regular attendants at the short service,
being of that modern species that holds itself superior
to ' Cranmer's prayers,' but on this morning he hastened
up to her with outstretched hand.

' And you are going away ! ' he said.

c I hope to get leave to stay a few days after
mother,' she said.

' To prolong the torment ? ' he said.

' To wish everybody good-bye. It is a great piece
of my life that is come to an end, and I can't bear to
break it off so short.'

' And if you feel so, who are going to wealth and
pleasure, what must it be to those who are left

' Oh ! ' said Xuttie, ' some one will be raised up.
That's what they always say.'

1 1 shall go into a brotherhood,' observed Gerard

' Oh, don't,' began Nuttie, much gratified, but at

88 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

that moment Miss Nugent came out at her door, and
Mr. Spyers, who was some way in advance, looked
round and waited for them to come up. He held out
his hands to her and said, ' Well, Nuttie, my child,
you are going to begin a new life.'

' Oh dear ! I wish I could have both ! ' cried
Nuttie, not very relevantly as far as the words

c ScJieidm unci weiclcn thut well ! ' quoted Mary.

' If his place was only Monks Horton. What will
Aunt Ursel do ? '

'I think perhaps she may be induced to join us,'
said Mary. 'We mean to do our best to persuade

' And there's the choir ! And my class, and the
harmonium,' went on Nuttie, while Gerard walked on

' Micklethwayte has existed without you, Nuttie,'
said Mr. Spyers, taking her on with him alone.
' Perhaps it will be able to do so again. My dear, you
had better look on. There will be plenty for you to
learn and to do where you are going, and you will be
sure to find much to enjoy, and also something to
bear. I should like to remind you that the best
means of going on well in this new world will be to
keep self down and to have the strong desire that only
love can give to be submissive, and to do what is
right both to God and your father and mother. May
I give you a text to take with you ? " Children, obey

1 2 3 5 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Online LibraryCharlotte Mary YongeNuttie's father (Volume 1) → online text (page 5 of 15)