Charlotte M. Yonge
Part 3 out of 7
'It is a sin and a shame,' said Mrs. Edwards. 'What can they expect?
George Johnson looks strong enough now, but they tell me his brother
undoubtedly died of decline, though they called it inflammation; but
there was tubercular disease.'
'I am afraid it is strong in the family,' said the Canoness, 'they
all have those clear complexions; but I do believe George is heartily
in love with poor little Emily.'
'First cousins ought to be in the table of degrees,' said Mr.
'It is always a question whether the multiplying of prohibitions
without absolute necessity is expedient,' said the Canon.
He spoke quite dispassionately, but the excellent couple were not
remarkable for tact. Mrs. Edwards gave her husband such a glance of
warning and consternation as violently inclined May to laugh, and he
obediently and hesitatingly began, 'Oh yes, sir, I beg your pardon.
Of course there may be instances,' thereby bringing an intense glow
of carnation into Alice's cheeks, while the Canon, ready for the
occasion, replied, 'And George Johnson considers himself one of them.
He will repair the old moat house, I suppose.'
And his wife, though she would rather have beaten Mrs. Edwards,
demanded how many blankets would be wanted that winter.
The effect of this little episode was that Mark announced to his
father that evening his strong desire to emigrate, an intention which
the Canon combated with all his might. He was apparently a hale and
hearty man, but he had had one or two attacks of illness that made
him doubt whether he would be long-lived; and not only could he not
bear to have his eldest son out of reach, but he dreaded leaving his
family to such a head as his brother. Mark scarcely thought the
reasons valid, considering the rapidity of communication with Canada,
but it was not possible to withstand the entreaties of a father with
tears in his eyes; and though he could not bring himself to consent
to preparing to be his father's curate, he promised to do nothing
that would remove him to another quarter of the world, and in two or
three days more, started for Monks Horton to see what advice his
uncle and aunt there could give him; indeed, Lord Kirkaldy's
influence was reckoned on by his family almost as a sure card in the
The Kirkaldys were very fond of Mark, and had an odd feeling of being
accountable for the discovery which had changed his prospects. They
would have done anything for him that they could, but all Lord
Kirkaldy's interest was at the foreign office, or with his fellow-
diplomates, and here he soon found an insuperable bar. Mark's
education had stood still from the time of Miss Headworth's flight
till his father's second marriage, his energies having been solely
devoted to struggles with the grim varieties of governess purveyed by
his grandmother, and he had thus missed all chance of foundation of
foreign languages, and when once at school, he had shared in the
average English boy's contempt and aversion for the French masters
who outscreamed a whole class.
In consequence, Lord Kirkaldy, an accurate and elegant scholar in
European tongues, besides speaking them with the cosmopolitan ease of
an ambassador's son, was horrified, not only at Mark's pronunciation,
but at his attempts at letter-writing and translation, made with all
the good will in the world, but fit for nothing but to furnish the
good stories which the kind uncle refrained from telling any one but
his wife. Unluckily, too, a Piedmontese family, some of them not
strong in their English, were on a visit at Monks Horton, and the
dialect in which the old marquis and Mark tried at times to
interchange ideas about pheasants was something fearful. And as in
the course of a week Mark showed no signs of improvement in
vernacular French or Italian, Lord Kirkaldy's conscience would let
him give no other advice than that his nephew should stick to English
law living still on the allowance his father gave him, and hoping for
one of the chance appointments open to an English barrister of good
family and fair ability.
Of course Mark had gone at once to carry tidings of 'Aunt Alice,' as
he scrupulously called her, to old Miss Headworth, whom his aunt had
continued to visit at intervals. That good lady had given up her
boarders, having realised enough to provide for her own old age, and
she had joined forces with the Nugents, Mary being very thankful to
have her companionship for Mrs. Nugent, who was growing too blind and
feeble to be satisfactorily left alone all day.
Mark delighted the old ladies by his visits and accounts of their
darling's success and popularity, which he could paint so brightly
that they could not help exulting, even though there might be secret
misgivings as to the endurance of these palmy days. He was a great
hero in their eyes, and they had too good taste to oppress him with
their admiration, so that he really was more at ease in their little
drawing-room than anywhere at Monks Horton, whither the Italians
could penetrate. The marchesino spoke English very well, but that
was all the worse for Mark, since it gave such a sense of
inferiority. He was an intelligent man too, bent on being acquainted
with English industries of all kinds; and thus it was that a party
was organised to see the umbrella factory. It was conducted by Mr.
Dutton, with whom Lord Kirkaldy, between charities and public
business, had become acquainted.
To Mark's secret shame, this manufacturer spoke French perfectly, and
even got into such a lively conversation with the old marquis about
Cavour, that Lord Kirkaldy begged him to come to dinner and continue
it. They were all surprised, not only by the details of the
manufacture and the multitude of artizans, male and female, whom it
employed, but by the number of warehouse-clerks whom they found at
work, and who, it appeared, were in correspondence with agencies and
depots in London and all the principal towns in the kingdom. Gerard
Godfrey was there,--casting looks askance at the young Egremont, whom
he regarded as a kind of robber.
The marchesino asked from what class these young men were taken, and
Mr. Dutton made reply that most of them were sons of professional
men. If they could obtain a small capital and take shares in the
business they were encouraged to do so, and rose to the headship of
the agencies, obtaining a fair income.
'And you don't exact an examination,' said Mark.
'Except in handwriting and book-keeping,' said Mr. Dutton.
'Poor Mark, you look for your bugbear everywhere!' sighed his aunt.
They went over the Institute, coffee-rooms, eating-rooms, and
lodging-houses, by which the umbrella firm strove to keep their hands
respectable and contented, and were highly pleased with all, most
especially with Mr. Dutton, who, though his name did not come
prominently forward, had been the prime mover and contriver of all
these things, and might have been a wealthier man if he had not
undertaken expenses which he could not charge upon the company.
Gerard Godfrey came in to Mrs. Nugent's that evening in the lowest
spirits. He had a sister married to a curate in the same county with
Bridgefield, and she had sent him a local paper which 'understood
that a marriage was arranged between Mark de Lyonnais Egremont,
Esquire, and Ursula, daughter of Alwyn Piercefield Egremont, Esquire,
of Bridgefield Egremont,' and he could not help coming to display it
to Miss Headworth in all its impertinence and prematurity.
'Indeed he said nothing to me about it,' said Miss Headworth, 'and I
think he would if it had been true.'
'No doubt he intends it, and is trying to recommend himself through
you,' said Gerard.
'I should not think he needed that,' returned Aunt Ursel, 'though I
should be very glad, I am sure. He is an excellent young man, and it
is quite the obvious thing.'
'People don't always do the obvious thing,' put in Mary Nugent.
'Certainly it didn't look like it,' said Miss Headworth,' when he
told us about the great annual Hunt Ball at Redcastle that Nuttie and
his sister Blanche are to come out at; he said he did not intend to
go home for it if he could help it.'
'Struggling against fate,' said Miss Nugent.
'The puppy!' burst out Gerard.
Having ascertained the particulars of this same Hunt Ball, Gerard
became possessed with a vehement desire to visit his sister, and so
earnestly solicited a few days' leave of absence that it was granted
to him. 'Poor boy, he may settle down when he has ascertained
what an ass he is,' said Mr. Dutton.
'Ah!' said Mary. 'I thought he was very bad when I saw he had not
changed the green markers for St. Luke's Day.'
'That tongue of yours at times wags more than charity allows;
And if you're strong, be merciful, great woman of three cows.'
J. O. MANGAN.
Nine miles was a severe distance through country lanes in November to
go to a ball; but the Redcastle Hunt Ball was the ball of the year,
uniting all the county magnates; and young ladies were hardly
reckoned as 'come out' till they had appeared there. Mrs. Egremont's
position would hardly be established till she had been presented to
the notabilities who lived beyond calling intercourse; and her
husband prepared himself to be victimised with an amount of grumbling
that was intended to impress her with the magnitude of the sacrifice,
but which only made her offer to forego the gaiety, and be told that
she would never have any common sense.
So their carriage led the way, and was followed by the Rectory
waggonette containing the ladies and Mark, who had been decisively
summoned home, since his stepmother disliked public balls without a
gentleman in attendance, and his father was not to be detached from
And in a group near the door, got up as elaborately as his powers
could accomplish, stood Gerard Godfrey. He knew nobody there except
a family in his sister's parish, who had good-naturedly given him a
seat in their fly, and having fulfilled his duty by asking the
daughter to dance, he had nothing to disturb him in watching for the
cynosure whose attraction had led him into these unknown regions,
and, as he remembered with a qualm, on the eve of St. Britius.
However, with such a purpose, one might surely grant oneself a
dispensation from the vigil of a black letter saint.
There at length he beheld the entrance. There was the ogre himself,
high bred, almost handsome, as long as he was not too closely
scrutinised, and on his arm the well-known figure, metamorphosed by
delicately-tinted satin sheen and pearls, and still more by the
gentle blushing gladness on the fair cheeks and the soft eyes that
used to droop. Then followed a stately form in mulberry moire and
point lace, leaning on Gerard's more especial abhorrence,--'that
puppy,' who had been the author of all the mischief; and behind them
three girls, one in black, the other two in white, and, what was
provoking, he really could not decide which was Ursula. The
carefully-dressed hair and stylish evening dress and equipments had
altogether transformed the little homely schoolgirl, so that, though
he was sure that she was not the fair-haired damsel with pale blue
flowers, he did not know how to decide between the white and daisies
and the black and grasses. Indeed, he thought the two whites most
likely to be sisters, and all the more when the black lace halted to
exchange greetings with some one, and her face put on an expression
so familiar to him, that he started forward and tried to catch her
eye; but in vain, and he suffered agonies of doubt whether she had
been perverted by greatness.
It was some comfort that, when presently a rush of waiters floated
by, she was not with her cousin; but to provoke him still more, as
the daisies neared him, he beheld for a moment in the whirl the queer
smile, half-frightened, half-exultant, which he had seen on Nuttie's
face when swinging sky-high!
When the pause came and people walked about, the black lady stood
talking so near him that he ventured at last on a step forward and an
eager 'Miss Egremont,' but, as she turned, he found himself obliged
to say, 'I beg your pardon.'
'Did you mean my cousin. We often get mistaken for each other,' said
He brightened. 'I beg your pardon,' he said, 'I knew her at
Micklethwayte. I am here--quite by accident. Mrs. Elmore was so
good as to bring me.'
May was rather entertained. 'There's my cousin,' she said, 'Lord
Philip Molyneux is asking her to dance,' and she left him most
unnecessarily infuriated with Lord Philip Molyneux.
A steward introduced him to a dull-looking girl, but fortune favoured
him, for this time he did catch the real Nuttie's eye, and all
herself, as soon as the dance was over, she came up with outstretched
hands, 'Oh Gerard! to think of your being here! Come to mother!'
And, beautiful and radiant, Mrs. Egremont was greeting him, and there
were ten minutes of delicious exchange of news. But 'pleasures are
as poppies fled,' Nuttie had no dance to spare, her card was full,
and she had not learnt fashionable effrontery enough to play tricks
with engagements, and just then Mr. Egremont descended on them--'I
wish to introduce you to the Duchess,' he said to his wife; and on
the way he demanded--'Who is that young cub?'
'Gerard Godfrey--an old neighbour.'
'I thought I had seen him racketing about there with Ursula. I'll
not have those umbrella fellows coming about!'
'Does he really make umbrellas, Nuttie?' asked Blanche, catching her
'No such thing!' said Nuttie hotly, 'he is in the office. His father
was a surgeon; his sisters married clergymen!'
'And he came here to meet you,' said Annaple Ruthven. 'Poor fellow,
what a shame it is! Can't you give him one turn!
'Oh dear! I'm engaged all through! To Mark this time.'
'Give him one of the extras! Throw Mark over to me! No,' as she
looked at the faces of the two girls, 'I suppose that wouldn't do,
but I'm free this time--I'm not the fashion. Introduce me; I'll do
my best as consolation.'
Nuttie had just performed the feat, with great shyness, when Mark
appeared, having been sent in quest of his cousin, when her father
perceived that she had hung back.
Poor Gerard led off Miss Ruthven the more gloomily, and could not
help sighing out, 'I suppose that is an engagement!'
'Oh! you believe that impertinent gossip in the paper,' returned
Annaple. 'I wonder they don't contradict it; but perhaps they treat
it with magnificent scorn.'
'No doubt they know that it is only premature.'
'If _they_ means the elders, I daresay they wish it, but we aren't in
France or Italy.'
'Then you don't think, Miss Ruthven, that it will come off?'
'I don't see the slightest present prospect,' said Annaple, unable to
resist the kindly impulse of giving immediate pleasure, though she
knew the prospect might be even slighter for her partner.
However, he 'footed it' all the more lightly and joyously for the
assurance, and the good-natured maiden afterwards made him conduct
her to the tea-room, whither Mark and Nuttie were also tending, and
there all four contrived to get mixed up together; and Nuttie had
time to hear of Monsieur's new accomplishment of going home for Mr.
Dutton's luncheon and bringing it in a basket to the office, before
fate again descended; Mr. Egremont, who had been at the far end of
the room among some congeners, who preferred stronger refreshment,
suddenly heard her laugh, stepped up, and, with a look of thunder
towards her, observed in a low voice, 'Mark, you will oblige me by
taking your cousin back to her mother.'
'The gray tyrant father,' murmured Annaple in sympathy. 'That being
the case, I may as well go back in that direction also.'
This resulted in finding Lady Delmar and the two Mrs. Egremonts
together, comparing notes about the two different roads to Redcastle
from their several homes.
Lady Delmar was declaring that her coachman was the most obstinate
man in existence, and that her husband believed in him to any extent.
'Which way did you come?' she asked.
'By Bankside Lane,' said the Canoness.
'Over Bluepost Bridge! There, Janet,' said Annaple.
'So much the worse. I know we shall come to grief over Bluepost
Bridge, and now there will be treble weight to break it down. I
dreamt it, I tell you, and there's second sight in the family.'
'Yes, but you should tell what you did dream, Janet,' said her
sister. 'She thought Robinson, the coachman, was waltzing with her
over it, and they went into a hole and stuck fast, while the red-flag
traction engineman prodded her with an umbrella till she was all over
blood. Now, if it had been anything rational, I should have thought
something of her second sight! I tell her 'twas suggested by--
"London Bridge is broken down,
Dance o'er my lady Lee!"'
'Well, I am quite certain those traction-engines will break it some
time or other,' said Lady Delmar. 'I am always trying to get John to
bring it before the magistrates, but he only laughs at me, and
nothing will induce Robinson to go the other way, because they have
just been mending the road on Lescombe Hill! Annaple, my dear, I
can't allow you another waltz; Mark must excuse you--I am going. It
is half-past two, and the carriage was ordered at two! Robinson will
be in a worse temper than ever if we keep him waiting.'
She bore her sister off to the cloak-room, and there, nearly an hour
later, the Egremonts found them still waiting the pleasure of the
implacable Robinson; but what was that in consideration of having
kept her sister from such a detrimental as poor Mark had become? So
muttered Mr. Egremont, in the satisfaction of having himself, with
gentlemanly severity, intimated the insuperable gulf between Miss
Egremont of Bridgefield and the Man of Umbrellas.
Moreover, his sister-in-law took care that he should hear that the
Duchess of Redcastle had pronounced his wife sweetly pretty and lady-
like, and talked of inviting them for a visit of a few nights.
'A bore,' observed he ungratefully, ''tis as dull as ditchwater.'
But, in truth, though the Canon's family, when in residence, were
intimate with the ducal family, Alwyn Egremont had never been at the
castle since the days of his earliest youth, and he was not quite
prepared to owe his toleration there to his wife's charms, or the
Canoness's patronage of her.
And innocent Alice only knew that everybody had been very kind to
her, and it was only a pity that her husband did not like her to
notice poor Gerard Godfrey.
'Gin ye were a brig as auld as me.'--BURNS.
'What's the matter?' exclaimed Mrs. Egremont, waking from a doze,--
'Bridge! Don't be such a fool! We aren't near it yet.'
The servant, his face looking blurred through the window, came to
explain that the delay was caused by an agricultural engine, which
had chosen this unlucky night, or morning, to travel from one farm to
another. There was a long delay, while the monster could be heard
coughing frightfully before it could be backed with its spiky
companion into a field so as to let the carriages pass by; and
meantime Mr. Egremont was betrayed into uttering ejaculations which
made poor Nuttie round her eyes in the dark as she sat by his feet on
the back seat, and Alice try to bury her ears in her hood in the
On they went at last, for about a mile, and then came another sudden
stop--another fierce growl from Mr. Egremont, another apparition of
the servant at the window, saying, in his alert deferential manner,
'Sir, the bridge have broke under a carriage in front. Lady
Delmar's, sir. The horse is plunging terrible.'
The door was torn open, and all three, regardless of ball costumes,
precipitated themselves out.
The moon was up, and they saw the Rectory carriage safe on the road
before them, but on the bridge beyond was a struggling mass, dimly
illuminated by a single carriage lamp. Mr. Egremont and the groom
hurried forward where Mark and the Rectory coachman were already
rendering what help they could. May standing at the horses' heads,
and her mother trying to wrap everybody up, since stay in their
carriages they could not. Transferring the horses to Nuttie, the two
sisters hurried on towards the scene of action, but Blanche's white
satin boots did not carry her far, and she turned on meeting her
uncle. He spoke with a briskness and alacrity that made him like
another man in this emergency, as he assured the anxious ladies that
their friends were safe, but that they could not be extricated till
the carriage was lifted from the hole into which it had sunk amid
bricks, stones, and broken timbers. He sent his own coachman to
assist, as being the stronger man, and, mounting the box, turned and
drove off in quest of further help, at a wayside cottage, or from the
attendants on the engine, whose weight had probably done the
mischief, and prepared the trap for the next comer.
As May came near, her brother made her available by putting the lamp
into her hand, bidding her hold it so as to light those who were
endeavouring to release the horse, which had cleared the portion of
the bridge before the break-down under the brougham, and now lay on
the road, its struggles quelled by a servant at its head. Nearly the
whole of the hind wheels and most of the door had disappeared on one
side, and, though more was visible on the other, it was impossible to
open the door, as a mass of rubbish lay on it. Annaple was on this
side, and her voice was heard calling to May in fits of the laughter
which is perhaps near akin to screams--
'"London bridge is broken down,
Dance o'er my lady Lee!"
Janet will go in for second-sight ever after. Yes, she's all right,
except a scratch from the glass, and that I'm sitting on her more or
less. How are they getting on?' 'The horse is all but out. Not
hurt, they think. Here's another man come to help--a gentleman--my
dear, it is your partner, Nuttie's umbrella man.' 'Oh, making it
complete--hopes, Janet--I'm sorry, but I can't help squashing you!
I can't help subsiding on you! What is it now?' as the lamp-light
'They are looking for something to make levers of,' returned May;
'these wooden rails are too rotten.'
'Can't they get us through the window?' sighed a muffled voice.
'Not unless we could be elongated, like the Hope of the Katzekopfs.'
'We shall manage now,' cried Mark; 'we have found some iron bars to
the hatch down there. But you must prepare for a shock or two before
you can be set free.'
The two gentlemen and three servants strove and struggled, hoisted
and pushed, to the tune of suppressed sounds, half of sobs, half of
laughter, till at last the carriage was heaved up sufficiently to be
dragged backwards beyond the hole; but even then it would not stand,
for the wheels on the undermost side were crushed, neither could
either door be readily opened, one being smashed in, and the other
jammed fast. Annaple, however, still tried to keep up her own
spirits and her sister's, observing that she now knew how to
sympathise with Johnnie's tin soldiers in their box turned upside
Two sturdy labourers here made their appearance, having been roused
in the cottage and brought back by Mr. Egremont, and at last one door
was forced open by main force, and the ladies emerged, Annaple,
helping her sister, beginning some droll thanks, but pausing as she
perceived that Lady Delmar's dress was covered with blood.
'My dear Janet. This is worse than I guessed. Why did you not
'It is not much,' said the poor lady, rather faintly. 'My neck--'
The elder ladies came about her, and seated her on cushions, where,
by the light of May's lamp, Alice, who had been to an ambulance class
at Micklethwayte, detected the extent of the cut, extracted a
fragment of glass, and staunched the bleeding with handkerchiefs and
strips of the girls' tulle skirts, but she advised her patient to be
driven at once to a surgeon to secure that no morsel of glass
remained. Mr. Egremont, gratified to see his wife come to the front,
undertook to drive her back to Redcastle. Indeed, they must return
thither to cross by the higher bridge. 'You will go with me,'
entreated Lady Delmar, holding Alice's hand; and the one hastily
consigning Nuttie to her aunt's care, the other giving injunctions
not to alarm her mother to Annaple, who had declared her intention of
walking home, the two ladies went off under Mr. Egremont's escort.
Just then it was discovered that the Delmar coachman, Robinson, had
all this time been lying insensible, not dead, for he moaned, but
apparently with a broken leg, if nothing worse. Indeed, the men had
known it all along, but, until the ladies had been rescued, nothing
had been possible but to put his cushion under his head and his rug
over him. The ladies were much shocked, and Mrs. William Egremont
decided that he must be laid at the bottom of the waggonette, and
that she would take him straight to the hospital.
They were only a mile and a half from Lescombe, and it was pronounced
safe to cross on foot by the remains of the bridge, so that Annaple,
who had a pair of fur boots, had already decided on going home on
foot. The other girls wanted to accompany her, and, as May and
Nuttie both had overshoes, they were permitted to do so, and desired
to go to bed, and wait to be picked up by the waggonette, which must
return to Bridgefield by the Lescombe road. Blanche, having a
delicate throat, was sentenced to go with her stepmother. Mark
undertook to ride the horse through the river, and escort the three
girls, and Gerard Godfrey also joined them. The place where he was
staying lay a couple of miles beyond Lescombe, and when Mrs. Elmore's
fly had been met and turned back by Mr. Egremont, he had jumped off
to render assistance, and had done so effectively enough to win
It was by this time about half-past five, as was ascertained by the
light of the waning moon, the carriage-lamp having burnt out. It was
a fine frosty morning, and the moon was still powerful enough to
reveal the droll figures of the girls. May had a fur cloak, with the
hood tied over her head by Mrs. Egremont's lace shawl; Nuttie had a
huge white cloud over her head, and a light blue opera cloak; Annaple
had 'rowed herself in a plaidie' like the Scotch girl she was, and
her eyes flashed out merrily from its dark folds. They all disdained
the gentlemen's self-denying offers of their ulsters, and only Nuttie
consented to have the carriage-rug added to her trappings, and
ingeniously tied on cloak-fashion with her sash by Gerard. He and
Mark piloted the three ladies over the narrow border of the hole,
which looked a very black open gulf. Annaple had thanked the men,
and bidden them come to Lescombe the next day to be paid for their
assistance. Then they all stood to watch Mark ride through the
river, at the shallowest place, indicated both by her and the
labourers. It was perfectly fordable, so Annaple's were mock heroics
when she quoted--
'Never heavier man and horse
Stemmed a midnight torrent's force.'
And Nuttie responded in a few seconds--
'Yet through good heart and our Ladye's grace
Full soon he gained the landing place.'
They were both in high spirits, admiring each other's droll
appearance, and speculating on the ghosts they might appear to any
one who chanced to look out of window. Annaple walked at the horse's
head, calling him poor old Robin Hood, and caressing him, while
Gerard and Nuttie kept together.
May began to repent of her determination to walk; Lescombe seemed
very far off, and she had an instinct that she was an awkward fifth
wheel. Either because Robin Hood walked too fast for her weary
limbs, or because she felt it a greater duty to chaperon Nuttie than
Annaple, she fell back on the couple in the rear, and was rather
surprised at the tenor of their conversation.
This 'umbrella man' was telling of his vicar's delight in the
beautiful chalice veil that had been sent by Mrs. Egremont, and
Nuttie was communicating, as a secret she ought not to tell, that
mother was working a set of stoles, and hoped to have the white ones
ready by the dedication anniversary; also that there was a box being
filled for the St. Ambrose Christmas tree. They were trying to get
something nice for each of the choir boys and of the old women; and
therewith, to May's surprise, this youth, whom she regarded as a sort
of shopman, fell into full narration of all the events of a highly-
worked parish,--all about the choral festival, and the guilds, and
the choir, and the temperance work. A great deal of it was a strange
language to May, but she half-disapproved of it, as entirely unlike
the 'soberness' of Bridgefield ways, and like the Redcastle vicar,
whom her father commonly called 'that madman.' Still, she had a
practical soul for parish work, and could appreciate the earnestness
that manifested itself, and the exertions made for people of the
classes whom she had always supposed too bad or else too well off to
come under clerical supervision. And her aunt and cousin and this
young man all evidently had their hearts in it! For Nuttie--though
her new world had put the old one apparently aside--had plunged into
all the old interests, and asked questions eagerly, and listened to
their answers, as if Micklethwayte news was water to the thirsty.
The two were too happy to meet, and, it must be confessed, had not
quite manners enough, to feel it needful to include in their
conversation the weary figure that plodded along at a little distance
from them, hardly attending to the details of their chatter, yet
deriving new notions from it of the former life of Ursula and her
mother, matters which she had hitherto thought beneath her attention,
except so far as to be thankful that they had emerged from it so
presentable. That it was a more actively religious, and perhaps a
more intellectual one than her own, she had thought impossible, where
everything must be second-rate. And yet, when her attention had
wandered from an account of Mr. Dutton's dealings with a refractory
choir boy bent on going to the races, she found a discussion going on
about some past lectures upon astronomy, and Nuttie vehemently
regretting the not attending two courses promised for the coming
winter upon electricity and on Italian art, and mournfully observing,
'We never go to anything sensible here.'
May at first thought, 'Impertinent little thing,' and felt affronted,
but then owned to herself that it was all too true. Otherwise there
was hardly anything said about the contrast with Nuttie's present
life; Gerard knew already that the church atmosphere was very
different, and with the rector's daughter within earshot, he could
not utter his commiseration, nor Nuttie her regrets.
Once there was a general start, and the whole five came together at
the sight of a spectrally black apparition, with a huge tufted head
on high, bearing down over a low hedge upon them. Nobody screamed
except Nuttie, but everybody started, though the next moment it was
plain that they were only chimney-sweepers on their way.
'Retribution for our desire to act ghosts!' said Annaple, when the
sable forms had been warned of the broken bridge. 'Poor May, you are
awfully tired! Shouldn't you like a lift in their cart?'
'Or I could put you up on Robin Hood,' said Mark.
'Thank you, I don't think I could stick on. Is it much farther?'
'Only up the hill and across the park,' said Annaple, still cheerily.
'Take my arm, old woman,' said Mark, and then there was a pause,
before Annaple said in an odd voice, 'You may tell her, Mark.'
'Oh, Annaple! Mark! is it so?' cried May joyously, but under her
breath; and with a glance to see how near the other couple were.
'Yes,' said Annaple between crying and laughing. 'Poor Janet, she'll
think we have taken a frightfully mean advantage of her, but I am
sure I never dreamt of such a thing; and the queer thing is, that
Mark says she put it into his head!'
'No, no,' said Mark; 'you know better than that--'
'Why, you told me you only found it out when she began to trample on
'I told you I had only understood my own heart.'
'And I said very much the same--she made me so angry you see.'
'I can't but admire your motives!' said May, exceedingly rejoiced all
the time, and ready to have embraced them both, if it had not been
for the spectators behind. 'In fact, it was opposition you both
wanted. I wonder how long you would have gone on not finding it out,
if all had been smooth?'
'The worst of it is,' said Annaple, 'that I'm afraid it is a very bad
thing for Mark.'
'Not a bit of it,' retorted he. 'It is the only thing that could
have put life into my work, or made me care to find any! And find it
I will now! Must we let the whole world in to know before I have
found it, Annaple?'
'I could not but tell my mother,' said Annaple. 'It would come out
in spite of me, even if I wished to keep it back.'
'Oh yes! Lady Ronnisglen is a different thing,' said Mark. 'Just as
May here is--'
'And she will say nothing, I know, till we are ready--my dear old
minnie,' said Annaple. 'Only, Mark, do pray have something definite
to hinder Janet with if there are any symptoms of hawking her
'I _will_,' said Mark. 'If we could only emigrate!'
'Ah, if we could!' said Annaple. 'Ronald is doing so well in New
Zealand, but I don't think my mother could spare me. She could not
come out, and she must be with me, wherever I am. You know--don't
you--that I am seven years younger than Alick. I was a regular
surprise, and the old nurse at Ronnisglen said 'Depend upon it, my
Leddy, she is given to be the comfort of your old age.' And I have
always made up my mind never to leave her. I don't think she would
get on with Janet or any of them without me, so you'll have to take
her too, Mark.'
'With all my heart,' he answered. 'And, indeed, I have promised my
father not to emigrate. I must, and will, find work at hand, and
wake a home for you both!'
'But you will tell papa at once?' said May. 'It will hurt him if you
'You are right, May; I knew it when Annaple spoke of her mother, but
there is no need that it should go further.'
The intelligence had lightened the way a good deal, and they were at
the lodge gates by this time. Gerard began rather ruefully to take
leave; but Annaple, in large-hearted happiness and gratitude, begged
him to come and rest at the house, and wait for daylight, and this he
was only too glad to do, especially as May's secession had made the
conversation a little more personal.
Nuttie was in a certain way realising for the first time what her
mother's loyalty had checked her in expressing, even if the tumult of
novelties had given her full time to dwell on it.
'Everybody outside is kind,' she said to Gerard; 'they are nice in a
way, and good, but oh! they are centuries behind in church matters
and feeling, just like the old rector.'
'I gathered that; I am very sorry for you. Is there no one fit to be
'I don't know,' said Nuttie. 'I didn't think--I must, somehow,
'There is Advent close at hand,' he said gravely. 'If you could only
be at our mission services, we hope to get Father Smith!'
'Oh, if only I could! But mother never likes to talk about those
kind of things. She says our duty is to my father.'
'Not the foremost.'
'No, she would not say that. But oh, Gerard! if he should be making
'It must be your work to hinder it,' he said, looking at her
'Oh, Gerard! but I'm afraid I'm getting so myself. I have thought a
great deal about lawn-tennis, and dress, and this ball,' said Nuttie.
'Somehow it has never quite felt real, but as if I were out on a
'You are in it, but not of it,' said Gerard admiringly.
'No, I'm not so good as that! I like it all--almost all. I thought
I liked it better till you came and brought a real true breath of
Micklethwayte. Oh! if I could only see Monsieur's dear curly head
and bright eyes!'
This had been the tenor of the talk, and these were the actual last
words before the whole five--just in the first streaks of dawn--
coalesced before the front door, to be admitted by a sleepy servant;
Mark tied up the horse for a moment, while Annaple sent the man to
waken Sir John Delmar, and say there had been a slight accident, but
no one was much hurt; and, as they all entered the warm, dimly-
lighted hall, they were keenly sensible that they had been dancing or
walking all night.
Rest in the chairs which stood round the big hearth and smouldering
wood-fire was so extremely comfortable, as they all dropped down,
that nobody moved or spoke, or knew how long it was before there was
a voice on the stairs--'Eh? what's this, Annaple? An accident?
Where's Janet?' and a tall burly figure, candle in hand, in a
dressing-gown and slippers, was added to the group.
'Janet will be at home presently, I hope,' said Annaple, 'but she got
a cut with some broken glass, and we sent her round by Dr. Raymond's
to get it set to rights. Oh, John! we came to grief on Bluepost
Bridge after all, and I'm afraid Robinson has got his leg broken!'
Sir John was a good-natured heavy man, whose clever wife thought for
him in all that did not regard horses, dogs, and game. He looked
perfectly astounded, and required to have all told him over again
before he could fully take it in. Then he uttered a suppressed
malediction on engines, insisted that all his impromptu guests should
immediately eat, drink, and sleep, and declared his intention of
going off at once to Redcastle to see about his wife.
The two gentlemen were committed to the charge of the butler, and
Annaple took Nuttie and May to her sister's dressing-room, where she
knew she should find fire and tea, and though they protested that it
was not worth while, she made them undress and lie down in a room
prepared for them in the meantime. It was a state chamber, with a
big bed, far away from the entrance, shuttered and curtained up, and
with double doors, excluding all noise. The two cousins lay down,
Nuttie dead asleep almost before her head touched the pillow, while
May was aching all over, declaring herself far too much tired and
excited to sleep; and, besides that it was not worth while, for she
should be called for in a very short time. And she remained
conscious of a great dread of being roused, so that when she heard
her cousin moving about the room, she insisted that they had scarcely
lain down, whereupon Nuttie laughed, declared that she had heard a
great clock strike twelve before she moved, and showed daylight
coming in through the shutters.
'We can't lie here any longer, I suppose,' said May, sitting up
wearily; 'and yet what can we put on? It makes one shiver to think
of going down to luncheon in a ball dress!'
'Besides, mine is all torn to pieces to make bandages,' said Nuttie.
'I must put on the underskirt and my cloak again.'
'Or Annaple might lend us something. I must get out somehow to know
how poor Lady Delmar is, and what has become of everybody. Ring,
Ursula, please, and lie down till somebody comes.'
The bell was answered by a maid, who told them that my lady had been
brought home by Mr. and Mrs. Egremont about an hour after their
arrival. She was as well as could be expected, and there was no
cause for anxiety. Mr. and Mrs. Egremont had then gone on to
Bridgefield, leaving word that Mrs. William Egremont and Miss Blanche
were sleeping at Redcastle, having sent home for their own dresses
and the young ladies', and would call for the rest of their party on
the way. Indeed, a box for the Miss Egremonts had been deposited by
the Canon from the pony-carriage an hour ago, and was already in the
dressing-room; but Miss Ruthven would not have them disturbed. Miss
Ruthven,--oh yes, she was up, she had not been in bed at all.
A CASTLE OF UMBRELLAS.
No, Annaple Ruthven could not have slept, even if she had had time.
Her first care had been to receive her sister, who had been met at
the entrance of Redcastle by her husband. There had been profuse
offers of hospitality to Mr. and Mrs. Egremont, the latter of whom
looked tired out, and offers of sending messengers to Bridgefield;
but Mr. Egremont would not hear of them, and every one suspected that
he would not incur the chance of rising without Gregorio and all his
By the time they were disposed of, and Lady Delmar safe in bed, it
was time to repair to her mother's room, so as to prevent her from
being alarmed. Lady Ronnisglen was English born. She was not by any
means the typical dowager. Her invalid condition was chiefly owing
to an accident, which had rendered her almost incapable of walking,
and she was also extremely susceptible of cold, and therefore hardly
ever went out; but there was so much youth and life about her at
sixty-three that she and Annaple often seemed like companion sisters,
and her shrewd, keen, managing eldest-born like their mother.
Annaple lay down beside her on her bed in the morning twilight, and
gave her the history of the accident in playful terms indeed.
Annaple could never help that, but there was something in her voice
that made Lady Ronnisglen say, when satisfied about Janet's hurt,
'You've more to say, Nannie dear.'
'Yes, minnie mine, I walked home with Mark Egremont.'
'Yes, minnie. He is going to work and make a home--a real, true,
homely home for you and me.'
'My child, my child, you have not hung the old woman about the poor
'As if I would have had him if he did not love her, and make a mother
'But what is he going to do, Nan? This is a very different thing
'Very different from Janet's notions!' and they both laughed, the
mother adding to the mirth by saying--
'Poor Janet, congratulating herself that no harm had been done, and
that you had never taken to one another!'
'Did she really now?'
'Oh yes, only yesterday, and I bade her not crow too soon, for I
thought I saw symptoms--'
'You dear darling minnie! Think of that! Before we either of us
knew it, and when he is worth ever so much than he was before! Not
but that I am enraged when people say he has acted nobly, just as if
there had been anything else for him to do!'
'I own that I am glad he has proved himself. I was afraid he would
be dragged in the way of his uncle. Don't be furious, Nannie. Not
at all into evil, but into loitering; and I should like to know what
are his prospects now.'
'Well, mother, I don't think he has any. But he means to have. And
not a word is to be said to anybody except you and his father and May
till he has looked over the top of the wall, and seen his way. We
need not bring Janet down on us till then.'
'I must see him, my dear. Let me see him before he goes away. He
always has been a very dear lad, a thoroughly excellent right-minded
fellow. Only I must know what he means to do, and whether there is
any reasonable chance of employment or fixed purpose.'
Lady Ronnisglen's maid here arrived with her matutinal cup of tea;
and Annaple, beginning to perceive that she was very stiff, went off
in hopes that her morning toilette would deceive her hardworked
little frame into believing it had had a proper night's rest.
She was quite ready to appear at the breakfast table, though her
eldest niece, a long-haired, long-limbed girl, considerably the
bigger of the two, was only too happy to preside over the cups. All
the four young people were in the greatest state of excitement,
welcoming, as the heroes of the night, Mark and Mr. Godfrey, and
clamouring to be allowed to walk down after breakfast with their
father and the gentlemen to see the scene of the catastrophe and the
remains of the carriage and the bridge.
Sir John made a courteous reference to the governess, but there was a
general sense that the cat was away, and presently there was a rush
upstairs to prepare for the walk. Annaple had time in the course of
all the bustle, while the colour came back to her cheeks for a
moment, to tell Mark that her mother had been all that was good, and
wanted to see him.
He must manage to stay till after eleven o'clock; she could not be
ready before. Then he might come to her sitting-room, which, as well
as her bedroom, was on the ground floor.
Mark had to work off his anxiety by an inspection of the scene of the
disaster and a circumstantial explanation of the details to the young
Delmars, who crowded round him and Mr. Godfrey, half awed, half
delighted, and indeed the youngest--a considerable tomboy--had nearly
given the latter the opportunity of becoming a double hero by
tumbling through the broken rail, but he caught her in time, and she
only incurred from Sir John such a scolding as a great fright will
produce from the easiest of fathers.
Afterwards Mark put Gerard on the way to his brother-in-law's living,
asking him on the road so many questions about the umbrella business
that the youth was not quite sure how to take it, and doubted whether
the young swell supposed that he could talk of nothing else; but his
petulance was mitigated when he was asked, 'Supposing a person wished
to enter the business, to whom should he apply?'
'Do you know any one who wishes for anything of the kind?' he asked.
'Are you making inquiries for any one?' and on a hesitating
affirmation, 'Because I know there is an opening for a man with
capital just at present. Dutton won't advertise--'tis so risky; and
he wants some knowledge of a person's antecedents, and whether he is
likely to go into it in a liberal, gentlemanly spirit, with good
principles, you see, such as would not upset all we are doing for the
'What amount of capital do you mean?'
'Oh, from five hundred to a thousand! Or more would not come amiss.
If I only had it! What it would be to conduct an affair like that on
true principles! But luck is against me every way.'
Mark was at the sitting-room door as the four quarters began to
strike in preparation for eleven, but Lady Ronnisglen had been in her
chair for nearly half-an-hour, having been rapid and nervous enough
to hurry even the imperturbable maid, whom Annaple thought incapable
of being hastened. She was a little slight woman, with delicate
features and pale complexion, such as time deals with gently, and her
once yellow hair now softened with silver was turned back in bands
beneath the simple net cap that suited her so well. There was a soft
yet sparkling look about her as she held out her hands and exclaimed,
'Ah, Master Mark, what mischief have you been doing?'
Mark came and knelt on one knee beside her and said: 'Will you let me
work for you both, Lady Ronnisglen? I will do my best to find some.'
'Ah! that is the point, my dear boy. I should have asked and wished
for definite work, if you had come to me before that discovery of
yours; and now it is a mere matter of necessity.'
'Yes,' said Mark; then, with some hesitation, he added: 'Lady
Ronnisglen, do you care whether I take to what people call a
gentleman's profession? I could, of course, go on till I am called
to the bar, and then wait for something to turn up; but that would be
waiting indeed! Then in other directions I've taken things easy, you
see, till I'm too old for examinations. I failed in the only one
that was still open to me. Lord Kirkaldy tried me for foreign office
work, and was appalled at my blunders. I'm not fit for a parson.'
'I should have thought you were.'
'Not I,' said Mark. 'I'm not up to the mark there. I couldn't say
honestly that I was called to it. I wish I could, for it would be
the easiest way out of it; but I looked at the service, and I can't.
There--that's a nice confession to come to you with! I can't think
how I can have been so impudent.'
'Mark, you are a dear good lad. I respect and honour you ever so
much more than before all this showed what stuff was in you! But the
question is, What's to be done? My child is verily the "penniless
lass with a high pedigree," for she has not a poor thousand to call
'And I have no right to anything in my father's lifetime, though I
have no doubt he would give me up my share of my mother's portion--
about £3000. Now this is what has occurred to me: In the place where
I found my uncle's wife--Micklethwayte, close to Monks Horton--
there's a great umbrella factory, with agencies everywhere. There
are superior people belonging to it. I've seen some of them, and
I've been talking to the young fellow who helped us last night, who
is in the office. I find that to go into the thing with such capital
as I might hope for, would bring in a much larger and speedier return
than I could hope for any other way, if only my belongings would set
aside their feelings. And you see there are the Kirkaldys close by
to secure her good society.'
Lady Ronnisglen put out her transparent-looking, black-mittened hand,
and gave a little dainty pat to his arm. 'I like to see a man in
earnest,' said she. Her little Skye terrier was seized with jealousy
at her gesture, and came nuzzling in between with his black nose.
'Mull objects!' she said, smiling; but then, with a graver look, 'And
so will your father.'
'At first,' said Mark; 'but I think he will give way when he has had
time to look at the matter, and sees how good you are. That will
make all the difference.'
So Annaple, who had been banished for a little while, was allowed to
return, and mother, daughter, and lover built themselves a little
castle of umbrellas, and bestowed a little arch commiseration on poor
Lady Delmar; who, it was agreed, need know nothing until something
definite was arranged, since Annaple was clearly accountable to no
one except her mother. She would certainly think the latter part of
her dream only too well realised, and consider that an unfair
advantage had been taken of her seclusion in her own room. In spite
of all loyal efforts to the contrary, Mark, if he had been in a frame
of mind to draw conclusions, would have perceived that the prospect
of escaping from the beneficent rule of Lescombe was by no means
unpleasant to Lady Ronnisglen. The books that lay within her reach
would hardly have found a welcome anywhere else in the house. Sir
John was not brilliant, and his wife had turned her native wits to
the practical rather than the intellectual line, and had quite enough
to think of in keeping up the dignities of Lescombe with a large
family amid agricultural difficulties.
Annaple remembered at last that she ought to go and look after her
guests, assisted therein by the pleasure of giving May a hearty kiss
and light squeeze, with a murmur that 'all was right.'
She brought them downstairs just as the gong was sounding, and the
rush of girls descending from the schoolroom, and Lady Ronnisglen
being wheeled across the hall in her chair. Nuttie, who had expected
to see a gray, passive, silent old lady like Mrs. Nugent, was quite
amazed at the bright, lively face and voice that greeted the son-in-
law and grandchildren, May and herself, congratulating these two on
having been so well employed all the morning, and observing that she
was afraid her Nannie could not give so good an account of herself.
'Well,' said Sir John, 'I am sure she looks as if she found plodding
along the lanes as wholesome as sleeping in her bed! Nan Apple-
Whereupon Annaple's cheeks glowed all the more into resemblance of
the baby-name which she had long ceased to deserve; but May could see
the darkness under her eyes, betraying that it was only excitement
that drove away fatigue.
Sir John had not gone far in his circumstantial description of the
injuries to his unfortunate carriage when the Canon arrived, with his
wife and Blanche. Mark would have given worlds in his impatience to
have matters settled between the two parents then and there; but Lady
Ronnisglen had already warned him that this would not be possible,
and assured him that it would be much wiser to prepare his father
Then he fixed his hopes on a solitary drive with his father back in
the pony carriage, but he found himself told off to take that home,
and had to content himself with May as a companion. Nor was his
sister's mode of receiving the umbrella plan reassuring. She had
smiled too often with her stepmother over Nuttie's having been
brought up among umbrellas to be ready to accept the same lot for her
brother and her friend, and she was quite sure that her father would
never consent. 'An Egremont an umbrella-maker! how horrible! Just
fancy seeing Dutton, Egremont and Co. on the handle of one's
'Well, you need not patronise us,' said Mark.
'But is it possible that Lady Ronnisglen did not object?' said May.
She seemed to think it preferable to driving pigs in the Texas, like
her son Malcolm.'
'Yes, but then that _was_ the Texas.'
'Oh May, May, I did not think you were such a goose!'
'I should have thought the folly was in not being patient. Stick to
your profession, and something must come in time.'
'Ay, and how many men do you think are sticking to it in that hope?
No, May, 'tis not real patience to wear out the best years of my life
and hers in idleness, waiting for something not beneath an Egremont
'But is there nothing to do better than that?'
'Find it for me, May.'
'Till every penny which she told,
Creative Fancy turned to gold.'--B. LLOYD.
The Blueposts Bridge had produced a good deal of effect. Ursula
Egremont in special seemed to herself to have been awakened from a
strange dream, and to have resumed her real nature and affections.
She felt as if she would give all her partners at the ball for one
shake of Monsieur's fringed paws; her heart yearned after Aunt Ursel
and Miss Mary; she longed after the chants of the choir; and when she
thought of the effort poor Gerard Godfrey had made to see her, she
felt him a hero, and herself a recreant heroine, who had well-nigh
been betrayed into frivolity and desertion of him, and she registered
secret resolutions of constancy.
She burned to pour out to her mother all the Micklethwayte tidings,
and all her longings to be there; but when the Rectory party set her
down at the door, the footman, with a look of grave importance,
announced that Mr. Egremont was very unwell. 'Mr. Gregory thinks he
has taken a chill from the effect of exposure, sir, and Dr. Hamilton
has been sent for.'
The Canon and his wife both got out on this intelligence, and Mrs.
Egremont was summoned to see them. She came, looking more frightened
than they thought the occasion demanded, for she was appalled by the
severe pain in the head and eyes; but they comforted her by assuring
her that her husband had suffered in the same manner in the spring,
and she saw how well he had recovered; and then telling Nuttie to
bring word what the doctor's report was, and then spend the evening
at the Rectory, they departed, while poor Nuttie only had one kiss,
one inquiry whether she were rested, before her mother fled back to
Nor did she see her again till after the doctor's visit, and then it
was only to desire her to tell her uncle that the attack was
pronounced to be a return of the illness of last spring, and that it
would be expedient to go abroad for the winter.
Go abroad! It had always been a vision of delight to Nuttie, and she
could not be greatly concerned at the occasion of it; but she did not
find the Rectory in a condition to converse and sympathise. Blanche
was lying down with a bad headache. The Edwardses and a whole party
of semi-genteel parish visitors had come in to inquire about the
accident, and had to be entertained with afternoon tea; and May,
though helping her stepmother to do her devoir towards them, seemed
more preoccupied than ever.
As indeed she was, for she knew that Mark was putting his fate to the
touch with his father in the study.
The Canon heard the proposal with utter consternation and dismay at
the perverseness of the two young people, who might have been engaged
any time these two years with the full approbation of their families,
and now chose the very moment when every one was rejoicing at their
'When a young man has got into a pickle,' he said, 'the first thing
is to want to be married!'
'Exactly so, sir, to give him a motive for getting out of the pickle.
'Umbrellas! I should like to hear what your grandfather would have
'These are not my grandfather's days, sir.'
'No indeed! There was nothing to do but to give a hint to old Lord
de Lyonnais, and he could get you put into any berth you chose.
Interest was interest in those days! I don't see why Kirkaldy can't
do the same.'
'Not unless I had foreign languages at my tongue's end.'
Whereat the Canon groaned, and Mark had to work again through all the
difficulties in the way of the more liberal professions; and the
upshot was that his father agreed to drive over to Lescombe the next
day and see Lady Ronnisglen. He certainly had always implicitly
trusted his son's veracity, but he evidently thought that there must
have been much warping of the imagination to make the young man
believe the old Scottish peeress to have consented to her daughter's
marrying into an umbrella factory.
Nuttie was surprised and gratified that both Mark and May put her
through an examination on the habits of Micklethwayte and the
position of Mr. Godfrey, which she thought was entirely due to the
favourable impression Gerard had produced, and she felt
proportionably proud of him when Mark pronounced him a very nice
gentlemanly young fellow. She could not think why her uncle, with
more testiness than she had ever seen in that good-natured dignitary,
ordered May not to stand chattering there, but to give them some
The Canon drove to Lescombe the next day under pretext of inquiring
after Lady Delmar, and then almost forgot to do so, after he had
ascertained that she was a prisoner to her dressing-room, and that
Sir John was out shooting. The result of his interview filled him
with astonishment. Lady Ronnisglen having had a large proportion of
sons to put out in life on very small means had learnt not to be
fastidious, and held that the gentleman might ennoble the vocation
instead of the vocation debasing the gentleman. Moreover, in her
secret soul she felt that her daughter Janet's manoeuvres were far
more truly degrading than any form of honest labour; and it was very
sore to her to have no power of preventing them, ridicule, protest,
or discouragement being all alike treated as the dear mother's old-
world unpractical romance. It galled her likewise that she could
perceive the determination that Annaple Ruthven should be disposed of
before Muriel Delmar came on the scene; and the retiring to ever so
small a home of their own had been discussed between mother and
daughter, and only put aside because of the pain it would give their
honest-hearted host and their hostess, who really loved them.
Thus she did her best to persuade her old friend that there were few
openings for a man of his son's age, and that if the Micklethwayte
business were all that Mark imagined, it was not beneath the
attention even of a well-born gentleman in these modern days, and
would involve less delay than any other plan, except emigration,
which was equally dreaded by each parent. Delay there must be, not
only in order to ascertain the facts respecting the firm, but to
prove whether Mark had any aptitude for the business before involving
any capital in it. However, every other alternative would involve
much longer and more doubtful waiting. And altogether the Canon felt
that if a person of Lady Ronnisglen's rank did not object, he had
scarcely a right to do so. However, both alike reserved consent
until full inquiry should have been made.
The Canon wrote to Lord Kirkaldy, and in the meantime wanted to
gather what information he could from his sister-in-law; but he found
her absolutely engrossed as her husband's nurse, and scarcely
permitted to snatch a meal outside the darkened room. He groaned and
grumbled at his brother's selfishness, and declared that her health
would be damaged, while his shrewder lady declared that nothing would
be so good for her as to let Alwyn find her indispensable to his
comfort, even beyond Gregorio.
This absorption of her mother fell hard on Ursula, especially when
the first two days' alarm was over, and her mother was still kept an
entire prisoner, as companion rather than nurse. As before, the
rheumatic attack fastened upon the head and eyes, causing lengthened
suffering, and teaching Mr. Egremont that he had never had so gentle,
so skilful, so loving, or altogether so pleasant a slave as his wife,
the only person except Gregorio whom, in his irritable state, he
would tolerate about him.
His brother could not be entirely kept out, but was never made
welcome, more especially when he took upon himself to remonstrate on
Alice's being deprived of air, exercise, and rest. He got no thanks;
Mr. Egremont snarled, and Alice protested that she was never tired,
and needed nothing. The Rectory party were, excepting the schoolroom
girls, engaged to make visits from home before going into residence
at Redcastle, and were to begin with Monks Horton. They offered to
escort Ursula to see her great aunt at Micklethwayte--Oh joy of
joys!--but when the Canon made the proposition in his brother's room,
Mr. Egremont cut it short with 'I'm not going to have her running
after those umbrella-mongers.'
The Canon's heart sank within him at the tone, and he was really very
sorry for his niece, who was likely to have a fortnight or three
weeks of comparative solitude before her father was ready to set out
on the journey.
'Can't she help you, in reading to her father--or anything?' he asked
Alice, who had come out with him into the anteroom to express her
warm thanks for the kind proposal.
She shook her head. 'He would not like it, nor I, for her.'
'I should think not!' exclaimed the Canon, as his eye fell on the
title of a yellow French book on the table. 'I have heard of this!
Does he make you read such as this to him, Alice?'
'Nothing else seems to amuse him,' she said. 'Do you, think I ought
not? I don't understand much of that kind of modern French, but
Nuttie knows it better.'
'Not _that kind_, I hope,' said the Canon hastily. No, no, my dear,'
as he saw her colour mantling, 'small blame to you. You have only to
do the best you can with him, poor fellow! Then we'll take anything
for you. We've said nothing to Nuttie, Jane said I had better ask
'Oh, that was kind! I am glad she is spared the disappointment.'
Not that she was. For when she learnt her cousins' destination, she
entreated to go with them, and had to be told that the proposal had
been made and refused.
There is no denying that she behaved very ill. It was the first real
sharp collision of wills. She had differed from, and disapproved of,
her father all along, but what had been required of her had generally
been pleasant to one side at least of her nature; but here she was
condemned to the dulness of the lonely outsider to a sick room, when
her whole soul was leaping back to the delights of her dear old home
She made her mother's brief meal with her such a misery of protests
and insistences on pleadings with her father that poor Alice was fain
to rejoice when the servants' presence silenced her, and fairly fled
from her when the last dish was carried out.
"When they met again Nuttie demanded, 'Have you spoken to my father?'
'I told you, my dear, it would be of no use?'
'No, Nuttie, I did not.'
'I'm sure I understood you to say you would if you could.'
'It was your hopes, my dear child. He is quite determined.'
'And you leave him so. Mother, I can't understand your submitting to
show such cruel ingratitude!'
Nuttie was very angry, though she was shocked at the burning colour
and hot tears that she beheld as, half choked, her mother said: 'Oh,
my dear, my dear, do not speak so! You know--you know it is not in
my heart, but my first duty, and yours too, is to your father.'
'Whatever he tells us?' demanded Nuttie, still hot and angry.
'I did not say that,' returned her mother gently, 'but you know,
Nuttie, Aunt Ursel herself would say that it is our duty to abide by
his decision here.'
'But you could speak to him,' still argued Nuttie, 'what's the use of
his being so fond of you if he won't do anything you want?'
'Hush! hush, Nuttie! you know that is not a right way of speaking. I
cannot worry him now he is ill. You don't know what that dreadful
Happily Nuttie did refrain from saying, 'No doubt it makes him very
cross;' but she muttered, 'And so we are to be cut off for ever from
Aunt Ursel, and Miss Mary, and--and--every thing good--and nice--and
'I hope not, indeed, I hope not. Only he wants us to get the good
society manners and tone--like your cousins, you know. You are young
enough for it, and a real Egremont, you know Nuttie, and when you
have learnt it, he will trust you there,' said the mother, making a
very mild version of his speech about the umbrella-mongers.
'Yes, he wants to make me worldly, so that I should not care, but
that he never shall do, whatever you may let him do to you.'
His bell rang sharply, and away hurried Alice, leaving her daughter
with a miserably sore and impatient heart, and the consciousness of
having harshly wounded the mother whom she had meant to protect. And
there was no hugging and kissing to make up for it possible. They
would not meet till dinner-time, and Nuttie's mood of stormy
repentance had cooled before that time into longing to be more tender
than usual towards her mother, but how was that possible during the
awful household ceremony of many courses, with three solemn men-
servants ministering to them?
And poor Alice jumped up at the end, and ran away as if afraid of
fresh objurgations, so that all Nuttie could do was to rush headlong
after her, catch her on the landing, kiss her face all over, and
exclaim, 'Oh, mother, mother, I was dreadfully cross!'
'There, there! I knew you would be sorry, dear, dear child, I know
it is very hard, but let me go. He wants me!'
And a very forlorn and deplorable person was left behind, feeling as
if her father, after carrying her away from everything else that she
loved, had ended by robbing her of her mother.
She stood on the handsome staircase, and contrasted it with the
little cosy entrance at her aunt's. She felt how she hated all these
fine surroundings, and how very good and unworldly she was for so
doing. Only, was it good to have been so violent towards her mother?
The Rectory folks were dining out, so she could only have recourse to
Mudie's box to try to drive dull care away.
A few days more and they were gone. Though Mr. Egremont was
gradually mending, he still required his wife to be in constant
attendance. In point of fact Alice could not, and in her loyalty
would not, tell her dignified brother-in-law, far less her daughter,
of the hint that the doctor had given her, namely, that her husband
was lapsing into the constant use of opiates, founded at first on the
needs of his malady, but growing into a perilous habit, which
accounted for his shutting himself up all the forenoon.
While under medical treatment it was possible to allowance him, and
keep him under orders, but Dr. Hamilton warned her not to allow the
quantity to be exceeded or the drugs to be resorted to after his
recovery, speaking seriously of the consequences of indulgence. He
spoke as a duty, but as he looked at the gentle, timid woman, he saw
little hope of her doing any good!
Poor Alice was appalled. All she could do was to betake herself to
'the little weapon called All-Prayer,' and therewith to use all
vigilance and all her arts of coaxing and cheering away weariness and
languor, beguiling sleeplessness, soothing pain by any other means.
She had just enough success to prevent her from utterly despairing,
and to keep her always on the strain, and at her own cost, for Mr.
Egremont was far more irritable when he was without the narcotic, and
the serenity it produced was an absolute relief. She soon found too
that Gregorio was a contrary power. Once, when he had suggested the
dose, and she had replied by citing the physician's commands, Mr.
Egremont had muttered an imprecation on doctors, and she had caught a
horrible grin of hatred on the man's face, which seemed to her almost
diabolical. She had prevailed then, but the next time her absence
was at all prolonged, she found that the opiate had been taken, and
her dread of quitting her post increased, though she did not by any
means always succeed. Sometimes she was good-humouredly set aside,
sometimes roughly told to mind her own business; but she could not
relinquish the struggle, and whenever she did succeed in preventing
the indulgence she felt a hopefulness that--in spite of himself and
Gregorio, she might yet save him.
Another hint she had from both the Canon and his wife. When they
asked what place was chosen, Mr. Egremont said he had made Alice
write to inquire of the houses to be had at various resorts--Mentone,
Nice, Cannes, and the like. She was struck by the ardour with which
they both began to praise Nice, Genoa, Sorrento, any place in
preference to Mentone, which her husband seemed to know and like the
And when she went downstairs with them the Canon held her hand a
moment, and said, 'Anywhere but Mentone, my dear.'
She looked bewildered for a moment, and the Canoness added, 'Look in
Then she remembered Monte Carlo, and for a moment it was to her as
shocking a warning as if she had been bidden to keep her husband out
of the temptation of thieving.
She resolved, however, to do her best, feeling immediately that again
it was a pull of her influence against Gregorio's. Fortune favoured
her so far that the villa favoured by Mr. Egremont was not to be had,
only the side of the bay he disliked, and that a pleasant villa
offered at Nice.
Should she close with it? Well--was there great haste? Gregorio
knew a good many people at Mentone, and could ascertain in his own
way if they could get the right side of the bay by going to the hotel
and waiting. Alice, however, pressed the matter--represented the
danger of falling between two stools, pleaded personal preference,
and whereas Mr. Egremont was too lazy for resistance to any
persuasion, she obtained permission to engage the Nice villa. The
next day Gregorio announced that he had heard that the proprietor of
Villa Francaleone at Mentone was giving up hopes of his usual
tenants, and an offer might secure it.
'Villa Eugenie at Nice is taken,' said Alice, and she received one of
those deadly black looks, which were always like a stab.
Of all this Nuttie knew nothing. She was a good deal thrown with the
schoolroom party and with the curate's wife for companionship. Now
Mrs. Edwards did not approve of even the canonical Egremonts, having
an ideal far beyond the ritual of Bridgefield; and she was delighted
to find how entirely Miss Egremont sympathised with her.
Nuttie described St. Ambrose's as a paradise of church observances
and parish management, everything becoming embellished and all
shortcomings forgotten in the loving mists of distance. The
harmonium was never out of tune; the choir-boys were only just
naughty enough to show how wisely Mr. Spyers dealt with them; the
surplices, one would think, never needed washing; Mr. Dutton and
Gerard Godfrey were paragons of lay helpers, and district visitors
never were troublesome. Mrs. Edwards listened with open ears, and
together they bewailed the impracticability of moving the Canon to
raising Bridgefield to anything approaching to such a standard; while
Nuttie absolutely cultivated her home sickness.
According to promise Blanche wrote to her from Monks Horton, and told
her thus much--'We have been all over your umbrella place. It was
very curious. Then we called upon Miss Headworth, who was quite
well, and was pleased to hear of you.'
Blanche was famous for never putting into a letter what her
correspondent wanted to hear, but her stepmother wrote a much longer
and more interesting letter to Mrs. Egremont.
'You will be glad to hear that we found your aunt quite well. I
suppose it is not in the nature of things that you should not be
missed; but I should think your place as well supplied as could be
hoped by that very handsome and superior Miss Nugent, with whom she
lives. I had a good deal of conversation with both; for you will be
surprised to hear that the Canon has consented to Mark's making the
experiment of working for a year in Greenleaf and Dutton's office,
with a view to entering the firm in future. I was very anxious to
understand from such true ladies what the position would be socially.
I longed to talk it over with you beforehand; but Alwyn could never
spare you, and it was not a subject to be broached without ample time
for discussion. We felt that though the Kirkaldys could tell us
much, it was only from the outside, whereas Miss Headworth could
speak from within. The decision is of course a blow to his father,
and will be still more so to the De Lyonnais family, but they have
never done anything to entitle them to have a voice in the matter,
and the Kirkaldys agree with us that, though not a path of
distinction, it is one of honourable prosperity; and with this, if
Mark is content, we have no right to object, since his mind is set on
present happiness rather than ambition.'
It was a letter gratifying to Alice in its confidential tone, as well
as in the evident approval of those surroundings which she loved so
well. She read it to her husband, as she was desired to give him a
message that the Canon had not written out of consideration for his
eyes. He laughed the laugh that always jarred on her. 'So Master
Mark has got his nose to the grindstone, has he?' was his first
exclamation, and, after some cogitation, 'The fellow wants to be
married, depend on it!'
'Do you think so?' returned Alice wistfully.
'Think! Why, you may see it in Jane's letter! I wonder who it is!
The little yellow Ruthven girl, most likely! The boy is fool enough
for anything! I thought he would have mended his fortunes with
Ursula, but he's too proud to stomach that, I suppose!'
'I did wish that!' said Alice. 'It would have set everything
straight, and it would have been so nice for her.'
'You should have cut out your daughter after your own pattern,' he
answered; 'not let her be such a raw insignificant little spitfire.
'Tis a pity. I don't want the estate to go out of the name, though I
won't leave it to an interfering prig like Mark unless he chooses to
take my daughter with it!'
The latter part of this amiable speech was muttered and scarcely
heard or attended to by Alice in her struggle to conceal the grief
she felt at the uncompromising opinion of her child. Nuttie might
outgrow being raw, but there seemed less rather than more prospect of
a better understanding with her father. About a week later Mark made
his appearance, timing it happily when his uncle was making his
toilette, so that his aunt was taking a turn on the sunny terrace
with Nuttie when the young man came hurrying up the garden.
'Mark! What? Are you come home?'
'Not the others. They are at Mr. Condamine's, I came last night--by
way of Lescombe. Edda, dear, it is all right! Oh, I forgot you did
not know! There was no seeing you before we went away. Ah! by the
by, how is my uncle?'
'Much better, except that using his eyes brings on the pain. 'What
is it, Mark? Ah! I can guess,' she said, aided no doubt by that
conjecture of her husband's.
'Yes, yes, yes!' he answered, with a rapidity quite unlike himself.
'Why, Nuttie, how mystified you look!'
'I'm sure I don't wonder at any one being glad to live at dear old
Micklethwayte,' said Nuttie slowly. 'But, somehow, I didn't think it
of you, Mark.'
'My dear, that's not all!' said her mother.
'Oh!' cried Nuttie, with a prolonged intonation. 'Is it?--Oh, Mark!
did you _do it_ that night when you led the horse home?'
'Even so, Nuttie! And, Aunt Alice, Lady Ronnisglen is the best and
bravest of old ladies, and the wisest. Nobody objects but Lady
Delmar, and she declares she shall not consider it an engagement till
Ronnisglen has been written to in Nepaul, as if he had anything to do
with it; but that matters the less, since they all insist on our
waiting till I've had a year's trial at the office! I suppose they
could not be expected to do otherwise, but it is a pity, for I'm
afraid Lady Delmar will lead Annaple and her mother a life of it.'
'Dear Mark, I am delighted that it is all going so well.'
'I knew you would be! I told them I must tell _you_, though it is
not to go any farther.'
So that hope of Mark's restoration to the inheritance faded from
Alice, and yet she could not be concerned for him. She had never
seen him in such good spirits, for the sense of failure and
disappointment had always been upon him; and the definite prospect of
occupation, gilded by his hopes of Annaple, seemed to make a new man
AN OLD FRIEND.
'My heart untravelled still returns to thee.'--GOLDSMITH.
To go abroad! Such had been the fairy castle of Nuttie's life. She
had dreamed of Swiss mountains, Italian pictures, Rheinland castles,
a perpetual panorama of delight, and here she was in one of the great
hotels of Paris, as little likely to see the lions of that city as
she had been to see those of London.
The party were halting for two days there because the dentist, on
whom Mr. Egremont's fine show of teeth depended, practised there; but
Nuttie spent great part of the day alone in the sitting-room, and her
hand-bag and her mother's, with all their books and little comforts,
had been lost in the agony of landing. Her mother's attendance was
required all the morning, or what was worse, she expected that it
would be, and though Nuttie's persistence dragged out the staid,
silent English maid, who had never been abroad before, to walk in the
Tuilleries gardens, which they could see from their windows, both
felt half-scared the whole time. Nuttie was quite unused to finding
her own way unprotected, and Martin was frightened, cross, and
miserable about the bags, which, she averred, had been left by
Gregorio's fault. She so hated Gregorio that only a sort of
adoration which she entertained for Mrs. Egremont would have induced
her to come tete-a-tete with him, and perhaps he was visiting his
disappointment about Mentone on her. In the afternoon nothing was
achieved but a drive in the Bois de Boulogne, when it was at once
made evident that Mr. Egremont would tolerate no questions nor
His mouth was in no condition for eating in public, and he therefore
decreed that his wife and daughter should dine at the table d'hote,
while he was served alone by Gregorio. This was a great boon to
Nuttie, and to her mother it recalled bridal days long past at
Dieppe; but what was their astonishment when on entering the room
they beheld the familiar face of Mr. Dutton! It was possible for him
to place himself between them, and there is no describing the sense
of rest and protection his presence imparted to them, more especially
He had come over, as he did from time to time, on business connected
with the materials he used, and he was beguiled into telling them of
his views of Mark, whom he had put in the way of learning the
preliminaries needful to an accountant. He had a deep distrust of
the business capacities and perseverance of young gentlemen of
family, especially with a countess-aunt in the neighbourhood, and
quoted Lord Eldon's saying that to make a good lawyer of one, it was
needful for him to have spent both his own and his wife's fortune to
begin with, but he allowed that young Mr. Egremont was a very
favourable specimen, and was resolutely applying himself to his work,
and that he himself felt it due to him to give all the assistance
Miss Headworth, he could not deny, had aged, but far less than Mrs.
Nugent in the past year, and it really was a great comfort to Miss
Mary to have the old ladies together. He told too how the mission,
now lately over, had stirred the Micklethwayte folk into strong
excitement, and how good works had been undertaken, evil habits
renounced, reconciliations effected, religious services frequented.
Would it last? Nobody, he said, had taken it up so zealously as
Gerard Godfrey, who seemed as if he would fain throw everything up,
and spend his whole life in some direct service as a home missionary
or something of the kind. 'He is a good fellow,' said Mr. Dutton,
'and it is quite genuine, but I made him wait at least a year, that
he may be sure that this is not only a passing impulse.'
Nuttie thought that she knew what was the impulse that had actuated
him, and felt a pleasant elation and self-consciousness even while
she repressed a sigh of pity for herself and for him. Altogether the
dip into the Micklethwayte world was delightful, but when Mr. Dutton
began to ask Nuttie what she had seen, she burst out with, 'Nothing--
nothing but just a walk and a drive in the Bois de Boulogne;' and her
mother explained that 'in Mr. Egremont's state of health,' etc.
'I wonder,' asked Mr. Dutton, 'if I might be allowed--'
Nuttie's eyes sparkled with ecstasy.
It ended in her mother, who had been wondering how Mr. Egremont could
be amused all the long evening, arranging that Mr. Dutton should come
in an hour's time to call on him, on the chance of being admitted,
and that then the offer might be made when she had prepared him for
it, advising Nuttie to wait in her own room. She was beginning to
learn how to steer between her husband and her daughter, and she did
not guess that her old friend was sacrificing one of the best French
plays for the chance.
It turned out well; Mr. Egremont was conscious of a want of variety.
He demanded whether it was the young fellow, and being satisfied on
that part, observed in almost a good-humoured tone, 'So, we are in
for umbrellas, we may as well go in for the whole firm!' caused the
lights to be lowered under pretext of his eyes--to conceal the lack
of teeth--did not absolutely refuse to let Nuttie take advantage of
the escort, and when Mr. Dutton did come to the anteroom of the
apartment, he was received with full courtesy, though Gregorio looked
unutterable contempt. Mr. Dutton was a man who could talk, and had
seen a good deal of the world at different times. Mr. Egremont could
appreciate intelligent conversation, so that they got on wonderfully
well together, over subjects that would have been a mere weariness to
Nuttie but for the exceeding satisfaction of hearing a Micklethwayte
voice. At last Mr. Dutton said something about offering his escort
to the ladies, or to Miss Egremont, who used, he said in a paternal
way, to be a little playfellow of his; Mr. Egremont really smiled,
and said, 'Ay, ay, the child is young enough to run after sights.
Well, thank you, if you are so good as to take the trouble, they will
be very grateful to you, or if her mother cannot go with her, there's
Nuttie thought she had never known him so amiable, and hardly durst
believe her good fortune would not turn the wheel before morning.
And it so far did that her mother found, or thought she found, that
it would not do to be out of call, and sent the silent Martin in her
stead. But Mr. Dutton had set telegraphs to work and recovered the
bags, which Gregorio had professed to give up in despair.
A wonderful amount of lionising was contrived by Mr. Dutton, who had
lived a few years at Paris in early youth, and had made himself
acquainted alike with what was most worth seeing, and the best ways
and means of seeing it, so that as little time as possible was wasted
on the unimportant. It was one of the white days of Nuttie's life,
wanting nothing but her mother's participation in the sight of the
St. Michael of the Louvre, of the Sainte Chapelle, of the vistas in
Notre Dame, and of poor Marie Antoinette's cell,--all that they had
longed to see together.
She had meant to tell Mr. Dutton that it was all her father's
selfishness, but somehow she could not say so, there was something
about him that hindered all unbefitting outbreaks of vexation.
And thus, when she mentioned her disappointment at not being allowed
to go to Micklethwayte with her uncle, he answered, 'You could not of
course be spared with your father so unwell.'
'Oh, he never let me come near him! I wasn't of the slightest use to
'Mrs. Egremont would have missed you.'
'Really he never gave her time. He perfectly devours her, body and
soul. Oh dear, no! 'Twas for no good I was kept there, but just
pride and ingratitude, though mother tried to call it being afraid
for my manners and my style.'
'In which, if you lapse into such talk, you fully justify the
precaution. I was just thinking what a young lady you had grown
into,' he answered in a tone of banter, under which, however, she
felt a rebuke; and while directing her attention to the Pantheon, he
took care to get within hearing again of Martin.
And in looking at these things, he carried her so far below the
surface. St. Michael was not so much Raffaelle's triumph of art as
the eternal victory over sin; the Sainte Chapelle, spite of all its
modern unsanctified gaudiness, was redolent of St. Louis; and the
cell of the slaughtered queen was as a martyr's shrine, trod with
reverence. There were associations with every turn, and Nuttie might
have spent years at Paris with another companion without imbibing so
many impressions as on this December day, when she came home so full
of happy chatter that the guests at the table d'hote glanced with
amusement at the eager girl as much as with admiration at the
beautiful mother. Mr. Dutton had been invited to come and take
coffee and spend the evening with them again, but Mr. Egremont's
affairs with the dentist had been completed, and he had picked up,
or, more strictly speaking, Gregorio had hunted up for him, a couple
of French acquaintances, who appeared before long and engrossed him
Mr. Dutton sat between the two ladies on a stiff dark-green sofa on
the opposite side of the room, and under cover of the eager, half-
shrieking, gesticulating talk of the Frenchmen they had a quiet low-
toned conversation, like old times, Alice said. 'More than old
times,' Nuttie added, and perhaps the others both agreed with her.
When the two Englishwomen started at some of the loud French tones,
almost imagining they were full of rage and fury, their friend smiled
and said that such had been his first notion on coming abroad.
'You have been a great deal abroad?' Mrs. Egremont asked; 'you seem
quite at home in Paris.'
'Oh, mamma, he showed me where the school was that he went to, and
the house where he lived! Up such an immense way!'
Mr. Dutton was drawn on to tell more of his former life than ever had
been known to them. His father, a wine merchant, had died a bankrupt
when he was ten years old, and a relation, engaged in the same
business at Paris, had offered to give him a few years of foreign
schooling, and then make him useful in the business.
His excellent mother had come with him, and they had lived together
on very small means, high up in a many-storied lodging-house, while
he daily attended the Lycie. His reminiscences were very happy of
those days of cheerful contrivance, of her eager desire to make the
tiny appartement a home to her boy, of their pleasant Sundays and
holidays, and the life that in this manner was peculiarly guarded by
her influence, and the sense of being all she had upon earth. He had
scarcely ever spoken of her before, and he dwelt on her now with a
tenderness that showed how she had been the guiding spirit of his
At fifteen he was taken into the office at Marseilles, and she went
thither with him, but the climate did not agree with her; she
drooped, and, moreover, he discovered that the business was not
conducted in the honourable manner he had supposed. After a few
months of weighing his obligations to his kinsman against these
instincts, the question was solved by his cousin's retiring. He
resolved to take his mother back to England at any loss, and falling
in with one of the partners of the umbrella firm in quest of French
silk, he was engaged as foreign correspondent, and brought his mother
to Micklethwayte, but not in time to restore her health, and he had
been left alone in the world just as he came of age, when a small
legacy came to him from his cousin, too late for her to profit by it.
It had been invested in the business, and he had thus gradually risen
to his present position. Mrs. Egremont was amazed to hear that his
mother had only been dead so short a time before she had herself come
to Micklethwayte; and fairly apologised for the surprise she could
not help betraying at finding how youthful he had then been, and
Nuttie exclaimed, in her original unguarded fashion:
'Why, Mr. Dutton, I always thought you were an old bachelor!'
'Nuttie, my dear!' said her mother in a note of warning, but Mr.
Dutton laughed and said:
'Not so far wrong! They tell me I never was a young man.'
'You had always to be everything to your mother,' said Mrs. Egremont
'Yes,' he said, 'and a very blessed thing it was for me.'
'Ah! you don't regret now all that you must have always been giving
up for her,' returned Alice.
'No, indeed. Only that I did not give up more.'
'That is always the way.'
'It is indeed. One little knows the whips that a little self-will
Nuttie thought he said it for her admonition, and observed, 'But she
was good,' only, however, in a mumble, that the other two thought it
inexpedient to notice, though it made both hearts ache for her, even
Alice's--with an additional pang of self-reproach that she herself
was not good enough to help her daughter better.
Neither of them guessed at the effect that a glimpse of the lovely
young seeming widow had had on the already grave self-restrained
young man in the home lately made lonely, how she had been his secret
object for years, and how, when her history was revealed to him, he
had still hoped on for a certainty which had come at last as so fatal
a shock and overthrow to all his dreams.
A life of self-restraint and self-conquest had rendered it safe for
him to thoroughly enjoy the brief intercourse, which had come about
by the accident of his having come to dine at the Hotel de Louvre, to
meet a friend who had failed him.
These were two completely happy hours to all the three, and when they
said 'good-night' there was a sense of soothing and invigoration on
Alice's mind; and on Nuttie's that patience and dutifulness were the
best modes of doing justice to her Micklethwayte training, although
he had scarcely said a word of direct rebuke or counsel.
While Mr. Dutton sped home to tell Miss Headworth that Mrs. Egremont
looked lovelier than ever, and was--yes she was--more of an angel,
that her husband had been very pleasant, much better than he
expected, and, indeed, might come to anything good under such
influence; and as to little Nuttie--she was developing fast, and had
a brave constant heart, altogether at Micklethwayte. But that
servant who was acting as courier was an insolent scoundrel, who was
evidently cheating them to the last degree.
A FRIEND IN NEED.
'True courage often is in frightened eyes.'--
Thoughts and Verses.
All the preliminaries of the sojourn at Nice had been settled in
correspondence, and the Egremont family had nothing to do, after
arriving at the station, but to drive up to Villa Eugenie, whose
flower-wreathed balconies were like a vision of beauty. Servants had
been hired through agencies known to Mr. Egremont, and Gregorio
looked very black at his mistress keeping the reins in her hand, and
tried to make her feel herself inefficient.
It was not an eventful or very interesting part of Ursula's life.
She was almost wild with the novelty and beauty of the South at
first, but except for what she could thus see, there was little
variety. The mould of the day was as much as possible after the
Bridgefield fashion, except that there were no cousins at the
Rectory, no parish interests, very little society, as far as the
ladies were concerned. Mr. Egremont had old acquaintance and
associates with whom he spent afternoons and evenings, after his own
fashion, but they were not people to whom he wished to introduce his
wife and daughter.
And the superior English habitues of Nice, the families who formed
the regular society, knew Mr. Egremont's reputation sufficiently to
feel by no means disposed to be cordial to the fair wife and grown-up
daughter whom he so unexpectedly produced on the scene. It had been
different at home, where he had county standing, and the Canon and
Canoness answered for the newcomers; but here, where all sorts of
strange people came to the surface, the respectable felt it needful
to be very cautious, and though of course one or two ladies had been
asked to call through the intervention of Lady Kirkaldy or of Mrs.
William Egremont, and had been assured on their authority that it was
'all right,' their attentions were clogged by doubt, and by
reluctance to involve their mankind in intimacy with the head of the
family. Thus very little of the proverbial gaiety of Nice offered
itself to Nuttie and her mother, and, except by a clerical family who
knew Mr. Spyers, they were kept at a distance, which Mr. Egremont
perceived and resented by permitting no advances. The climate suited
him so well that, to his wife's great relief, he seemed to have
dropped his inclination for sedatives; but his eyes would not bear
much, and she felt bound to be always on the alert, able to amuse him
and hinder his feeling it dull. Gregorio highly disapproved of the
house and servants, and was always giving hints that Mentone would
agree far better with his master; but every day that Mr. Egremont
seemed sufficiently amused at Nice was so much gain, and she had this
in her favour, that he was always indolent and hard to move.
Moreover, between his master's levee and late dinner Gregorio was
hardly ever to be found. No doubt he knew the way to Monte Carlo
well enough, and perhaps preferred that the family should be farther
off, for he soon ceased to show himself discontented with their
present abode. Once when his absence was inconvenient, Mr. Egremont
abused him roundly as a good-for-nothing gambler, but when Alice
hoped that he might be called to a reckoning, the wrath had subsided
with the immediate vexation, and as usual she was told 'All those
fellows were alike.'
The foreign servants were not to be induced to give the early-rising
ladies more than a roll and cup of coffee, and Nuttie felt ravenous
till she learned to lay in a stock of biscuits, and, with Martin's
connivance, made tea on her own account, and sustained her mother for
the morning's walk before the summons to Mr. Egremont.
He always wanted his wife much earlier in the day, during his hours
of deshabille, and letting her write his letters and read the papers
to him. She was pleased with this advance, but it gave Nuttie a
great deal more solitude, which was sometimes judiciously spent, but
it was very hard not to be desultory in spite of learning lessons in
French, Italian, and drawing.
Later in the day came the drive or the visit to the public gardens
when the band was playing, but this became less frequent as Mr.
Egremont observed the cold civility shown to his wife, and as he
likewise grew stronger and made more engagements of his own. Then
Nuttie had happy afternoons of driving, donkey-riding, or walking
with her mother, sketching, botanising, admiring, and laying up
stores for the long descriptive letters that delighted the party in
St. Ambrose's Road, drinking in all the charm of the scenery, and
entering into it intelligently. They spent a good many evenings
alone together likewise, and it could not but give Alice a pang to
see the gladness her daughter did not repress when this was the case,
even though to herself it meant relaxation of the perpetual vigilance
she had to exert when the father and daughter were together to avert
collisions. They were certainly not coming nearer to one another,
though Nuttie was behaving very well and submissively on the whole,
and seldom showing symptoms of rebellion. This went on through the
early part of their stay, but latterly there was a growing sense upon
the girl that she and her mother were avoided by some young ladies to
whom they had been introduced, and whom they saw regularly at the
daily services at St. Michael's Church. They were pleasant-looking
girls, with whom Nuttie longed to fraternise, and she was mortified
at never being allowed to get beyond a few frigidly civil words in
the street, more especially when she came upon sketching parties and
picnics in which she was never included.
It was all very well for her mother to answer her murmurs and
wonderings with 'You know people are very exclusive, my dear.'
Nuttie began to guess that her father and her name were the real
reason, and her eyes were further opened later in the spring when Mr.
Egremont, who had recovered unusual health and vigour, took his
ladies to Mentone to spend a day or two in the newer beauties there.
Alice had her misgivings, but the visit was avowedly to show the
place to her, and she could not reasonably object. He was in unusual
good humour, and even tolerated their ecstasies at the scenery and
the flowers, dined at the table d'hote and found acquaintance,
enjoyed himself, and in the forenoon, while Nuttie was out wondering
and admiring, and going as far as she could drag Martin, he expressed
to his wife that she would be astonished at the gardens and the music
of Monte Carlo.
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