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here/ kissing Mrs. Egremont on each cheek. ' And so
this is your daughter. How do you do, my dear —
Ursula ? Isn't that your name ? ' And Ursula had
again to submit to a kiss, much more savoury and
kindly than her father's, though very stubbly. And
oh 1 her uncle's dress was like that of no one she had
ever seen except the rector of the old church, the
object of unlimited contempt to the adherents of St.
Ambrose's.

As to Mark, he only kissed his aunt, and shook
hands with her, while his father ran on with an un-
usual loquacity that was a proof of nervousness in
him.



108 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

' Mrs. Egremont — Jane, I mean — will be here
after lnnclieon. She thought you would like to get
settled in first. How is Alwyn ? Is he down yet ? '

1 1 will see/ in a trembling voice.

' Oh no, never mind, Alwyn hates to be disturbed
till he has made himself up in the morning. My call
is on you, you know. Where are you sitting V

'I don't quite know. In the drawing-room, I
suppose.'

The Canon, knowing the house much better than
she did, opened a door into a third drawing-room she
had not yet seen, a pretty little room, fitted up with
fluted silk, like a tent, somewhat faded but not much
the worse for that, and opening into a conservatory,
which seemed to have little in it but some veteran
orange trees. Nuttie, however, exclaimed with pleasure
at the nicest room she had seen, and Mark began
unfastening the glass door that led into it. Meantime
Alice, with burning cheeks and liquid eyes, nerved her
voice to say, ' Oh, sir — Mr. Egremont — please forgive
me ! I know now how wrong I was.'

1 Xonsense, my dear. Bygones are bygones. You
were far more sinned against than sinning, and have
much to forgive me. There, my dear, we will say no
more about it, nor think of it either. I am only too
thankful that poor Alwyn should have some one to
look after him.'

Alice, who had dreaded nothing more than the
meeting with her former master, was infinitely relieved
and grateful for this kindness. She had ejaculated,



x.] BRIDGEFIELD EGEEMOXT. 109

* Oh, you are so good !' in the midst, and now at
the mention of her husband, she exclaimed, ' Oh !
do you think he is ill ? I can't help being afraid
he is, but he will not tell me, and does not like to
be asked.'

1 Poor fellow, he has damaged his health a good
deal,' was the answer. ' He had a sharp attack in
the spring, but he has pretty well got over it, and
Eaikes told me there was no reason for uneasiness,
provided he would be careful; and that will be a
much easier matter now. I should not wonder if we
saw him with quite a renewed youth.'

So the Canon and Mrs. Egremont were getting on
pretty well together, but there was much more stiff-
ness and less cordiality between the two cousins,
although Mark got the window open into the con-
servatory, and showed Nuttie the way into the garden,
advising her to ask Eonaldson, the gardener, to
fill the conservatory with flowers. The pavilion, as
this little room was called, always seemed to have
more capacities for being lived in than any other room
in the house. It had been fitted up when such things
were the fashion for the shortlived bride of ' our great
uncle.'

' The colour must have been awful then,' said Mark,
looking up at it, ' enough to set one's teeth on edge ;
but it has faded into something quite orthodox — much
better than could be manufactured for you.'

Mark had evidently some ideas of art, and was
besides inclined to do the honours to the stranger;



110 XUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

but Nuttie was not going to encourage him or any-
body else to make up to her, while she had that look of
Gerard Godfrey's in her mind's eye. So she made small
answer, and he felt rebuffed, but supposed her shy,
and wondered when he could go back to her mother,
who was so much more attractive.

Presently his father went off to storm the den of
the master of the house, and there was a pleasant
quarter of an hour, during which the three went out
through the conservatory, and Mark showed the ins-
and-outs of the garden, found out Eonaldson, and con-
gratulated him on having some one at last to appreciate
his flowers, begging him to make the conservatory
beautiful. And Mrs. Egremont's smile was so effective
that the Scot forthwith took out his knife and pre-
sented her with the most precious of the roses within
his reach.

Moreover Mark told the names and ages of all his
sisters, whole and half. He was the only son, except
a little fellow in the nursery. And he exhorted his
aunt not to be afraid of his step-mother, who was a
most excellent person, he declared, but who never
liked to see any one afraid of her.

There was something a little alarming in this, but
on the whole the visit was very pleasant and encourag-
ing to Mrs. Egremont; and she began rejoicing over
the kindness as soon as the Canon had summoned his
son, and they had gone away together.

' I am sure you must be delighted with your uncle
and cousin, my dear,' she said.



x.] BRIDGEFIELD EGEEMOXT. Ill

1 He's not a bit my notion of a priest/ returned
Nuttie. 'And I don't believe he has any daily
prayers ! '

'He is old-fashioned, my clear.'

' One of the stodgey old clergymen in books/ ob-
served Nuttie. ' I didn't think there were any of that
sort left.'

' Oh, my dear, pray don't take fancies into your
head ! He is a very, very good man, and has been
most kind to me, far more than I deserve, and he is
your uncle, Nuttie. I do so hope you will get on well
with your cousins.'

Here a gong, a perfectly unknown sound to Nuttie,
made itself heard, and rather astonished her by the
concluding roar. The two ladies came out into the
hall as Mr. Egremont was crossing it. He made
an inclination of the head, and uttered a sort of
good morning to his daughter, but she was perfectly
content to have no closer salutation. Having a
healthy noonday appetite, her chief wish was at
the moment that those beautiful little cutlets,
arranged in a crown form, were not so very tiny ; or
that, with two men-servants looking on, it were pos-
sible to attain to a second help, but she had already
learnt that Gregorio would not hear her, and that
any attempt to obtain more food frightened her
mother.

' So his reverence has been to see you/ observed
Mr. Egremont. ' William, if you like it better.'

' Oh yes, and he was kindness itself ! '



112 nuttie's fathee. [CHAP.

'And how did Master Mark look at finding I
could dispense with his assistance ? '

' I think he is very glad.'

Mr. Egremont laughed. ' You are a simple woman,
Edda ! The pose of virtuous hero was to have been
full compensation for all that it might cost him ! And
no doubt he looks for the reward of virtue likewise.'

Wherewith he looked full at Ursula, who, to her
extreme vexation, felt herself blushing up to the ears.
She fidgeted on her chair, and began a most untrue

' I'm sure ' for, indeed, the poor girl was sure of

nothing, but that her father's manner was most uncom-
fortable to her. His laugh choked whatever she might
have said, which perhaps was well, and her mother's
cheeks glowed as much as hers did.

' Did the Canoness — Jane, I mean — come up ? ' Mr.
Egremont went on.

' Mrs. Egremont ? JSTo ; she sent word that she is
coming after luncheon.'

' Hm ! Then I shall ride out and leave you to her
majesty. Now look you, Alice, you are to be very
careful with William's wife. She is a Condamine, you
know, and thinks no end of herself ; and your position
among the women-folk of the county depends more on
how she takes you up than anything else. But that
doesn't mean that you are to let her give herself airs
and domineer over you. Eemember you are the elder
brother's wife — Mrs. Egremont of Bridgefield Egremont
— and she is nothing but a parson's wife, and I won't
have her meddling in my house. Only don't you be



x.] BRIDGEFIELD EGREMOXT. 113

absurd and offend her, for she can do more for or
against you in society than any one else — more's the
pity!'

' Oh ! won't you stay and help me receive her ? '
exclaimed the poor lady, utterly confused by these
contrary directions.

' Not I ! I can't abide the woman ! nor she me ! '
He added, after a moment, ' You will do better without
me.'

So he went out for his ride, and Ursula asked,
1 Oh, mother ! what will you do ? '

'The best I can, my dear. They are good people,
and are sure to be kinder than I deserve.'

ISTuttie was learning that her mother would never
so much as hear, far less answer, a remark on her
husband. It was beginning to make a sore in the
3/oung heart that a barrier was thus rising, where there
once had been as perfect oneness and confidence as
could exist between two natures so dissimilar, though
hitherto the unlikeness had never made itself felt.

Mrs. Egremont turned the conversation to the
establishing themselves in the pavilion, whither she
proceeded to import some fancy-work that she had
bought in London, and sent ISTuttie to Eonaldson, who
was arranging calceolarias, begonias, and geraniums in
the conservatory, to beg for some cut-flowers for a
great dusty-looking vase in the centre of the table.

These were being arranged when Mrs. William
Egremont and Miss Blanche Egremont were ushered
in, and there were the regular kindred embraces, after

VOL. 1. 1



114 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [cHAr.

which Alice and Nuttie were aware of a very hand-
some, dignified -looking lady, well though simply
dressed in what was evidently her home costume, with
a large shady hat and feather, her whole air curiously
fitting the imposing nickname of the Canoness.
Blanche was a slight, delicate-looking, rather pretty
girl in a lawn-tennis dress. The visitor took the part
of treating the newcomers as well-established relations.

' We would not inundate you all at once,' she said,
' but the children are all very eager to see their cousin.
I wish you would come down to the Eectory with me.
My ponies are at the door. I would drive you, and
Ursula might walk with Blanche.' And, as Alice
hesitated for a moment, considering how this might
agree with the complicated instructions that she had
received, she added, ' Never mind Alwyn. I saw him
going off just before I came up, and he told William
he was going to look at some horses at Hale's, so he
is disposed of for a good many hours.'

Alice decided that her husband would probably
wish her to comply, and she rejoiced to turn her
daughter in among the cousins, so hats, gloves, and
parasols were fetched, and the two mothers drove
away with the two sleek little toy ponies. By which it
may be perceived that Mrs. William Egremont's first
impressions were favourable.

' It is the shortest way through the gardens,' said
Blanche. ' Have you been through them yet ? '

' Mark walked about with us a little.'

' You'll improve them ever so much. There are



X.] BRIDGEFIELD EGREMOXT. 115

great capabilities. Look, you could have four tennis
courts on this one lawn. We wanted to have a garden-
party up here last year, and father said we might, but
mother thought Uncle Alwyn might think it a liberty ;
but now you'll have some delicious ones ? Of course
you play lawn-tennis ? '

1 1 have seen it a very few times,' said ISTuttie.

' Oh, we must teach you ! Fancy living without
lawn-tennis ! ' said Blanche. ' I always wonder what
people did without it. Only' — with an effort at
antiquarianism — ( I believe they had croquet.'

'Aunt Ursula says there wern't garden-parties
before croquet came in.'

' How dreadful, Ursula ! Your name's Ursula, isn't
it ? Haven't you some jolly little name to go by ? '

'Nuttie.'

1 Nuttie ! That's scrumptious ! I'll call you Xuttie,
and you may call me Pussycat.'

' That's not so nice as Blanche.'

' Mother won't have me called so when strangers
are there, but you aren't a stranger, you know. You
must tell me all about yourself, and how you came
never to learn tennis !'

' I had something else to do,' said Nuttie, with
dignity.

' Oh, you were in the schoolroom ! I forgot.
Poor little Nuts ! '

c At school,' said Ursula.

' Ah, I remember ! But you're out now, aren't
you ? I've been out since this spring. Mother won't



116 nuttie's FATHER. [chap.

let us come out till we are eighteen, isn't it horrid ?
And we were so worked there ! I can tell you a
finishing governess is an awful institution ! Poor little
Rosie and Adey will be in for one by and by. At pre-
sent they've only got a jolly little Fraulein that they
can do anything they please with.'

' Oh, I wonder if she would tell me of some Ger-
man books !'

' You don't mean that you want to read German !'
and Blanche stood still, and looked at her cousin in
astonishment.

'Why, what else is the use of learning it ?'

' Oh, I don't know. Every one does. If one went
abroad or to court, you know,' said Blanche vaguely ;
but Ursula had now a fresh subject of interest ; for,
on emerging from the shrubbery, they came in sight of
a picturesque but not very architectural church, which
had the smallest proportion of wall and the largest of
roof, and a pretty oriel-windowed schoolhouse covered
with clematis. Nuttie rushed into inquiries about
services and schools, and was aghast at hearing of
mere Sundays and saints' days.

' Oh no ! father isn't a bit Ritualistic. I wish he
was, it would be so much prettier ; and then he always
advertises for curates of moderate views, and they are
so stupid. You never saw such a stick as we have got
now, Mr. Edwards ; and his wife isn't a lady, I'm sure.'

Then as to schools, it was an absolute amazement
to Nuttie to find that the same plans were in force as
had prevailed when her uncle had come to the living



x.] BPJDGEFIELD EGREMOXT. 117

and built that pretty house — nay, were kept up at his
sole expense, because he liked old-fashioned simplicity,
and did not choose to be worried with Government
inspection.

' And,' said Blanche, ' every one says our girls work
ever so much better, and make nicer servants than
those that are crammed with all sorts of nonsense not
fit for them.'

As to the Sunday school. ' Mother and the curate
take care of that. I'm sure, if you like it, you can
have my class, for I always have a headache there,
and very often I can't go. Only May pegs away at
it, and she won't let me have the boys, who are the
only jolly ones, because she says I spoil them. But
you must be my friend — mind, Xuttie, not May's, for
we are nearer the same age. When is your birthday ?
You must put it down in my book !'

Xuttie, who had tolerable experience of making
acquaintance with new girls, was divided between a
sense of Blanche's emptiness, and the warmth excited
by her friendliness, as well as of astonishment at all
she heard and saw.

Crossing the straggling, meandering village street,
the cousins entered the grounds of the Eectory, an
irregular but well-kept building of the soft stone
of the country, all the garden front of it a deep
verandah that was kept open in summer, but closed
with glass frames in the winter — flower-beds lying
before it, and beyond a lawn where the young folk
were playing at the inevitable lawn-tennis.



118 nuttie's FATHER. [chap.

Margaret was not so pretty as Blanche, but had a
more sensible face, and her welcome to Ursula was
civil but reserved. Rosalind and Adela were bright
little things, in quite a different style from their half-
sisters, much lighter in complexion and promising to
be handsomer women. They looked full of eager-
ness and curiosity at the new cousin, whom Blanche
set down on a bank, and proceeded to instruct in
the mysteries of the all-important game by comments
and criticisms on the players.

As soon as Mark and Adela had come out con-
querors, Ursula was called on to take her first lesson.
May resigned her racket, saying she had something to
do, and walked off the field, and carrying off with her
Adela, who, as Blanche said, ' had a spine,' and was
ordered to lie down for an hour every afternoon. The
cheerfulness with which she went spoke well for the
training of the family.

Nuttie was light-footed and dexterous handed, and
accustomed to active amusements, so that, under the
tuition of her cousins, she became a promising pupil,
and thawed rapidly, even towards Mark.

She was in the midst of her game when the two
mothers came out, for the drive had been extended all
round the park, under pretext of showing it to its new
mistress, but really to give the Canoness an oppor-
tunity of judging of her in a tete-a-tete. Yet that
sensible woman had asked no alarming questions on
the past, still less had offered any advice that could
seem like interference. She had only named localities,



x.] BPJDGEFIELD EGREMOXT. 119

mentioned neighbours, and made little communications
about the ways of the place such as might elicit remarks ;
and, as Alice's voice betrayed less and less constraint,
she ventured on speaking of their daughters, so as to
draw forth some account of how Ursula might have
been educated.

And of this, Alice was ready and eager to talk, telling
how clever and how industrious iSTuttie had always been,
and how great an advantage Miss ISTugent's kindness
was, and how she was hoping to go up for the Cam-
bridge examination ; then, detecting some doubt in her
companion's manner, she said, ' It would be a great
disappointment to her not to do so now. Do you
think she had better not ? '

1 1 don't think she will find time to go on with the
preparation ! And, to tell the truth, I don't think we
are quite ripe for such things in this county. We are
rather backward, and Ursula, coming in fresh upon us,
might find it a disadvantage to be thought much
cleverer than other people.'

' Ah ! I was not quite sure whether her father
would like it.'

' I do not think he would. I am sure that if my
little Eose were to take it into her head, I should
have hard work to get her father's consent, though no
doubt the world will have progressed by the time she
is old enough.'

'That settles it,' said Alice. ' Thank you, Mrs.
Egremont. I own,' she added presently, ' that I do
somewhat regret that it cannot be, for I thought that



120 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

a motive for keeping up her studies would be helpful
to my child ; — I do not mean for the sake of the
studies, but of the — the balance in all this change and
novelty.'

'You are quite right, I have felt it myself,' said
her sister-in-law. ' Perhaps something could be done
by essay societies. May belongs to one, and if
Ursula is an intellectual girl, perhaps you could keep
her up to some regular employment in the morning.
I succeeded in doing so when May came out, but I
can accomplish nothing regular but music with Blanche;
and an hour's steady practice a day is better than
nothing.'

The drive was on the whole a success, and so was
the tea-drinking in the verandah, where Aunt Alice
and little five-years old Basil became fast friends and
mutual admirers ; the Canon strolled out and was in-
stalled in the big, cushioned basket-chair that crackled
under his weight ; Blanche recounted Nuttie's successes,
and her own tennis engagements for the week ; Mark
lay on a rug and teased her, and her dachshund ; Nuttie
listened to the family chatter as if it were a play, and
May dispensed the cups, and looked grave and
severe.

' Well ? ' said the Canon anxiously, when Mark,
Blanche, and little Basil had insisted on escorting the
guests home, and he and his wife were for a few
minutes Ute-a-Utc.

* It might have been much worse,' said the lady.
' She is a good little innocent thing, and has more



x.] BRIDGEFIELD EGREMOXT. 121

good sense than I expected. Governessy, that's all,
but she will shake out of that/

' Of course she will. It's the best thing imaginable
for Alwyn ! '

His wife kept back the words, ' A .hundred times
too good for Alwyn !'



CHAPTER XL



LAWN -TENNIS.



' Madam, the guests are come, supper served up,
My young lady asked for ! ' — Romeo and Juliet.

A garden-party, Mrs. William Egremont decided,
would be the best mode of testifying her approbation
of her sister-in-law, and introducing the newcomers to
the neighbourhood. So the invitations were sent
forth for an early day of the coming week.

From how many points of view was Mrs. William
Egremont's garden-party regarded, and how different !
There was Basil, to whom it meant wearing his velvet
suit and eating as many ices as mother would allow.
To Blanche, it was an occasion for triumph on the tennis
ground for herself, and for hopes for her pupil ; and
Ursula herself looked forward to it and practised for
it like a knight for his first encounter in the lists, her
sole care being to distinguish herself with her racket.
To her mother, it was an ordeal, where she trusted not
to be a mortification to her husband and his family ;
while to the hostess, it was a not unwelcome occasion



chap, xi.] LAWN-TENNIS. 123

of exercising honest diplomacy and tact, not without a
sense of magnanimity. To May, it was a bore to be
endured with dutiful philosophy ; to her good-natured
father an occasion for hospitality, where he trusted
that his brother would appear, and appear to advantage,
and was ready even to bribe him thereto with that
wonderful claret that Alwyn had always envied, and
declared to be wasted on a parson. And Mark, per-
haps he viewed the occasion with different eyes
from any one else. At any rate, even the denizens of
Bridgefield mustered there with as many minds as
Scott ascribes to the combatants of Bannockburn, and
there were probably as many other circles of feeling
more or less intersecting one another among the more
distant guests, most of them, however, with the same
feeling of curiosity as to what this newly-discovered
wife and daughter of Alwyn Egremont might be
like.

Externally, in her rich black silk, trimmed with
point lace, and her little straw-coloured bonnet with
its tuft of feathery grass and blue cornflower, she was
so charming that her daughter danced round her,
crying, ' mammy, mammy, if they could but see you
at home ! ' — then, at a look : ' Well then — Aunt Ursel,
and Miss Mary, and Mr. Dutton ! '

Xuttie was very much pleased with her own
pretty tennis dress ; but she had no personal vanity for
herself, only for her mother. The knowledge that she
was no beauty was no grievance to her youthful spirits ;
but when her father surveyed them in the hall, she



124 NUTTIE'S FATHER. [chap.

looked for his verdict for her mother as if their re-
lations were reversed.

1 Ha ! Well, you certainly are a pretty creature,
Edda,' he said graciously. ' You'll pass muster ! You
want nothing but style. And, hang it ! you'll do just
as well without it, if the Canoness will only do you
justice. Eaces like that weren't given for nothing.'

She blushed incarnadine and accepted one of his
kisses with a pleasure, at which Nuttie wondered, her
motherly affection prompting her to murmur in his ear —

' And Ursula ? '

' She'll not cut you out ; but she is Egremont
enough to do very fairly. Going already ? '

' If you would come with us,' she said wistfully, to
the horror of Nuttie, who was burning to be at the
beginning of all the matches.

' I ? oh no ! I promised old Will to look in, but
that won't be till late in the day, or I shall have to
go handing all the dowagers into the dining-room to
tea,'

' Then I think we had better go on. They asked
us to come early, so as to see people arrive and know
who they are.'

Tliey was a useful pronoun to Alice, who felt it a
liberty to call her grand-looking sister-in-law, Jane —
was too well-bred to term her Mrs. William.

The mother and daughter crossed the gardens,
Kuttie chattering all the way about the tennis tactics
she had picked up from Blanche, while her mother
answered her somewhat mechanically, wondering, as her



xi.] LAWN-TENNIS. 125

eye fell on the square squat gray church tower, what
had become of the earnest devotion to church work
and intellectual pursuits that used to characterise the
girl. True, always both mother and daughter had
hitherto kept up their church-going, and even their
Sunday-school habits, nor had any hindrance come in
their way, Mr. Egremont apparently acquiescing in what
he never shared. But these things seemed, in Ursula's
mind, to have sunk out of the proportion they held at
Bridgefield, no longer to be the spirit of a life, but
mere Sunday duties and occupations.

Was this wicked world getting a hold of the poor
child ? Which was duty ? which was the world ?
This was the thought that perplexed Alice, too simple


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