Part 5 out of 7
incapable of understanding her reasons. I can't think why Gerard has
grown so stupid.'
'Enthusiasms carry people away,' returned Mary.
'If Mr. Dutton had only stayed, he would have kept Gerard like
himself,' said Nuttie.
But there was no relenting. The two young people avoided each other;
and perhaps Nuttie was secretly relieved that the romance she had
outgrown no longer entangled her.
'Would I had loved her more!'--Mrs. Hemans.
'On the 14th of January, at Bridgefield Egremont, the wife of Alwyn
Piercefield Egremont, Esquire, a son and heir.'
Ursula had been prepared for this event for about a fortnight by a
long tender letter from her mother, mourning over the not meeting at
Christmas, and the long separation, but saying that she had wished to
spare the long anxiety, and that it had been a trying time which she
felt herself able to cope with better alone, than even with her dear
Nuttie, knowing her to be happy and safe with Aunt Ursel. Now, if
all went well, they would have a happy meeting, and begin on a new
score. 'If the will of God should be otherwise,' added Alice, 'I am
sure I need not entreat my Nuttie to do and be all that she can to
her father. My child, you do not know how sorely he needs such love
and tendance and prayer as you can give him. I know you have thought
I have set you aside--if not better things, for his sake. Indeed I
could not help it.' Then there was something tear-stained and
blotted out, and it ended with, 'He is beginning to miss your step
and voice about the house. I believe he will really be glad to see
you, when the bright spring days come, and I can kiss my own Nuttie
Nuttie was very much delighted, but a little hurt that her aunt and
Mary should have been in the secret, and pledged to say nothing to
her till her mother should write. She found, moreover, that Miss
Headworth was extremely anxious and not altogether reassured by Mrs.
William Egremont's letter of announcement, which filled Nuttie with
delight. How happy the little mother must be to have a baby in her
arms again, and though she herself did not profess to have a strong
turn for infant humanity, it was the greatest possible relief to be
no longer an heiress, excepting that the renunciation in favour of
Mark was no longer practicable.
The residence at Redcastle was not over, but the Canoness had come to
nurse her sister-in-law, and kept up the correspondence. The son and
heir was reported to be a perfect specimen, and his father was
greatly elated and delighted, but the letters showed anxiety about
the mother, who did not get on as she ought, and seemed to have no
power of rally about her. At length came a letter that seemed to
burn itself into Nuttie's brain--
'My Dear Ursula--Your mother is longing to see you. You had better
come home directly. Your aunt saved her before. Tell her if she
will come, she shall have my deepest gratitude. I shall send to meet
the 5.11 train.--Your affectionate father,
A. P. EGREMONT.'
Mrs. William Egremont wrote at more length. Symptoms had set in
which filled the doctors and nurses with double anxiety. Advice had
been sent for from London, and Mr. Egremont was in an uncontrollable
state of distress. She had undertaken to summon Ursula home, and to
beg Miss Headworth to undertake the journey. She evidently did not
know that her brother-in-law had written himself, and before they
could start a telegram terrified them, but proved to contain no fresh
tidings, only a renewed summons.
Miss Headworth forgot all her resolutions about Mr. Egremont's
hospitality--her Alice was her only thought, and all the remedies
that had been found efficacious at Dieppe. The good lady had a
certain confidence in her own nursing and experience of Alice, which
buoyed her up with hope, while Ursula seemed absolutely stunned. She
had never thought of such a frightful loss or grief, and her mental
senses were almost paralysed, so that she went through the journey in
a kind of surface trance, observing all around her much as usual,
looking out for the luggage and for the servant who had come to meet
them with the report 'No change.' She did the honours of the
carriage, and covered Miss Headworth with the fur rug. They wanted
it, for they were shivering with anxiety.
Canon Egremont came out to the front hall to meet them, and put his
arms round Nuttie tenderly, saying, 'My poor dear child!' then as he
saw he had frightened them, 'No, no! She is alive--conscious they
say, only so very weak.' Then with something of his usual urbane
grace, he held out his hand, 'Miss Headworth, it is very good in you
to come. You have a great deal to forgive.'
He took them into the tent-room, where tea was standing, interrupting
himself in the account he was giving to bid Nuttie let her aunt have
some. It was plain from his manner that he had given up hope, and in
another minute in hurried his brother, looking terribly haggard and
with bloodshot eyes, giving his hand to each, with, 'That's right,
Miss Headworth, thank you. Come, let me know what you think of her!'
'Does she know they are come?' said the Canon. 'No? Then, Alwyn,
let them have some tea, and take off their things. I can tell you,
the nurses will never let them in just off a journey.'
Miss Headworth seconded this, and Mr. Egremont submitted, allowing
that she had not asked for Nuttie since the morning, and then had
smiled and squeezed his hand when he said she was coming with her
aunt; but he walked up and down in direful restlessness, his whole
mind apparently bent on extracting from Miss Headworth that she had
been as ill or worse at Dieppe.
Alas! when Mrs. William Egremont came down to fetch Nuttie; there was
no question that matters were much worse. The sweet face was
perfectly white and wasted, and the heavy lids of the dark eyes
scarcely lifted themselves, but the lips moved into a smile, and the
hand closed on that of the girl, who stood by her as one frozen into
numbness. There was the same recognition when her aunt was brought
to her side, the poor old lady commanding herself with difficulty, as
the loving glance quivered over the face.
Time passed on, and she still held Nuttie's hand. Once, when a
little revived by some stimulant at her lips, she made an effort and
said, 'Stay with him! Take care of him! _Love_ him! And your
little brother, my Nuttie! Promise!'
'I promise,' the girl answered, scarce knowing what she said.
And the eyes closed with an air of peace and rest.
Again when Miss Headworth was doing something to ease her position
she said, 'Thank you,' and then more vigorously, 'Thank you, dear
aunt, for all you have been to us.'
There was little more. She asked Nuttie for 'her hymn,' the evening
hymn with which mother and daughter used nightly to go to sleep, and
which, in her strange dreamy way, the girl managed to say.
Then a little murmur and sign passed between the elder ladies, and
Mrs. William Egremont fetched her husband. As he opened his book to
find the commendatory prayer, thinking her past all outward
consciousness, and grieved by the look of suffering, her eyes again
unclosed and her lips said, 'Failed.'
'Don't think of that! God can make failures success.'
There was a half smile, a look of peace. '_He_ makes up,' she said;
and those were the last audible words before it was over, and the
tender spirit was released from its strife, some time later, they
only knew when by the failure of the clasp on her husband's hand.
Old Miss Headworth did not understand the meaning of that sad word
till the next forenoon. Then,--as she sat in the darkened tent-room,
crying over her letters,--while the stunned and bewildered Nuttie
was, under her Aunt Jane's direction, attending to the needful
arrangements, Canon Egremont wandered in upon her in the overflow of
confidence of a man with a full heart, wanting to talk it all out,
communicating the more, because she was a discreet woman, and asked
no questions. He had tried to see his brother, but Gregorio had not
admitted him. He was aware now of the whole state of things. Dr.
Hammond had told him, when first beginning to be alarmed for his
patient, that the principal cause for anxiety was the exhaustion
caused by the long strain on her spirits and strength consequent on
her efforts to wean her husband from his fatal propensity. There had
been other 'complications,' as the doctor called them, and more
immediate causes of danger, but both he and his colleague, summoned
from London, believed that she would have surmounted them if she had
had more strength to rally. But her nurses dated the decided turn
for the worse from the day when she had gazed up into Mr. Egremont's
face, and detected the look in his eyes that she had learnt too well
She would fain have lived, and, according to her obedient nature, had
submitted to all the silence and stillness enforced on her; but she
had told Dr. Hammond that she must see her brother-in-law before she
was too far gone. And the doctor, knowing all, took care it should
be brought about.
And then she had spoken of her failure in the effort of these years.
'If I had begun better,' she said, 'it might not have been so with
'My dear, indeed you have nothing to blame yourself for. You were
grievously sinned against by us all. Alwyn was no saint when he drew
you into it--and you, you have been his good angel, doing all and
more too,' said the Canon, almost breaking down.
'I tried--but if I had been a better woman--And to leave him to that
'Child, child, victories sometimes come this way!' he cried, scarce
knowing how it was put into his mouth, but glad to see the light in
'Thanks,' she replied. 'No, I ought not to have said that. I leave
him to God, and my poor Nuttie. I want you to tell her, if I can't,
what she must try to do. If I had but brought them together more!
But I tried for the best.'
Then she begged for her last communion, saying, 'I do pray for that
poor Gregorio. Isn't that forgiving him?' And the attempt to
exchange forgiveness with the Canon for their mutual behaviour at the
time of her marriage overcame them both so much that they had to
leave it not half uttered. Indeed, in speaking of the scene, William
Egremont was utterly overwhelmed.
'And that's the woman that I treated as a mere outcast!' he cried,
walking about the little room. 'Oh God, forgive me! I shall never
Poor Miss Headworth! In past days she had longed for any amount of
retribution on Alice's hard-hearted employers, but it was a very
different thing to witness such grief and self reproach. He had in
truth much more developed ideas of duty, both as man and priest, than
when he had passively left a disagreeable subject to his mother-in-
law, as lying within a woman's province; and his good heart was
suffering acutely for the injustice and injury in which he had shared
towards one now invested with an almost saintly halo.
In the gush of feeling he had certainly revealed more to Miss
Headworth, than his wife, or even he himself, in his cooler moments,
would have thought prudent, and he ended by binding her to secrecy;
and saying that he should only tell his niece what was necessary for
her to know.
Nuttie was going about, dry-eyed and numbed, glad of any passing
occupation that would prevent the aching sense of desolation at her
heart from gaining force to overwhelm her; courting employment, and
shunning pity and condolence, but she could not escape when her uncle
took her hand, made her sit down by him, with 'I want to speak to
you, my dear;' and told her briefly and tenderly what her mother's
effort had been, and of the message and task she had bequeathed.
The poor girl's heart fainted within her.
'Oh! but, Uncle William, how can I? How can I ever? Mother could do
things I never could! He _did_ care for her! He does not care for
'You must teach him to do so, Nuttie.'
'Oh!' she said, with a hopeless sound.
The Canon did think it very hopeless in his heart, but he persevered,
as in duty bound. 'I told your dear mother that perhaps you would
succeed where she thought she had failed, though indeed she had done
much. It made her happy. So, my dear child, you are bound to do
'Yes;' then, after a pause--'But mother could coax him and manage
him. Mother was with him day and night; she could always get at him.
What can I do?'
'I think you will find that he depends upon you more,' said the
Canon, 'and it may be made easier to you, if you only set your will
'If I ought, I'll try,' said poor Nuttie, more humbly perhaps than
she had ever spoken before, but in utter dejection, and her uncle
answered her like a child.
'There, that's a good girl. Nobody can do more.'
For the Canon had one hope. He had not thought it becoming to speak
to her of the counter influence, but he could not help thinking it
possible that if he and his son, backed by doctor and lawyer, made a
long pull, a strong pull, and a pull altogether, they might induce
his brother to part with Gregorio, and this would render Ursula's
task far less impossible.
He was confirmed in this hope by finding that Mark's arrival was not
unwelcome to Mr. Egremont, who seemed to have forgotten the
unpleasantness with which he had regarded the engagement, and only
remembered that his nephew had been Alice's champion, resuming old
customs of dependence, making him act as amanuensis, and arraigning
the destiny that had restored so lovely and charming a creature only
to snatch her away, leaving nothing but a headstrong girl and a
That poor little fellow was all that could be desired at his age, but
Nuttie felt her beautiful mother almost insulted when the elder
ladies talked of the wonderful resemblance that the Canoness declared
to have been quite startling in the earlier hours of his life. For
the convenience of one of the sponsors, he was to be christened in
the afternoon following the funeral, the others being--by his
mother's special entreaty--his sister and Mark. Egremont customs
were against the ladies going to the funeral, so that Nuttie was kept
at home, much against her will; but after the luncheon she escaped,
leaving word with her aunts that she was going to walk down to church
alone, and they were sorry enough for her to let her have her own
way, especially as her father, having been to the funeral, had shut
himself up and left all the rest to them.
The Egremont family had a sort of enclosure or pen with iron rails
round it close to the church wall, where they rested under flat
slabs. The gate in this was open now, and the new-made grave was one
mass of white flowers,--wreaths and crosses, snowdrops, hyacinths,
camellias, and the like,--and at the feet was a flowerpot with
growing plants of the white hyacinth called in France 'lys de la
Vierge.' These, before they became frequent in England, had been
grown in Mr. Dutton's greenhouse, and having been favourites with
Mrs. Egremont, it had come to be his custom every spring to bring her
the earliest plants that bloomed. Nuttie knew them well, the careful
tying up, the neat arrangement of moss over the earth, the peculiar
trimness of the whole; and as she looked, the remembrance of the
happy times of old, the sick longing for all that was gone, did what
nothing had hitherto effected--brought an overwhelming gush of tears.
There was no checking them now that they had come. She fled into
church on the first sounds of arrival and hid herself in the friendly
shelter of the great family pew; but she had to come out and take her
place, though she could hardly utter a word, and it was all that she
could do to keep from sobbing aloud; she could not hand the babe, and
the Canon had to take on trust the name 'Alwyn Headworth,' for he
could not hear the words that were on her trembling lips.
It was soon over; and while the baby and his attendants, with Miss
Headworth, were being packed into the carriage, and her uncle and
aunt bowing off the grand god-father, she clutched her cousin's arm,
and said, 'Mark; where's Mr. Dutton?'
'I--I didn't know he was coming, but now you ask, I believe I saw him
'I know he is here.'
'Do you want to see him?' said Mark kindly.
'Oh, if I might!'
Then, with a sudden impulse, she looked back into the church, and
recognised a black figure and slightly bald head bowed down in one of
the seats. She pointed him out. 'No doubt he is waiting for us all
to be gone,' said Mark in a low voice. 'You go into the Rectory,
Nuttie; there's a fire in the study, and I'll bring him to you there.
I'll get him to stay the night if I can.'
'Oh, thank you!' and it was a really fervent answer.
Mark waited, and when Mr. Dutton rose, was quite shocked at his
paleness and the worn look on his face, as of one who had struggled
hard for resignation and calm. He started, almost as if a blow had
been struck him, as Mark uttered his name in the porch, no doubt
having never meant to be perceived nor to have to speak to any one;
but in one moment his features had recovered their usual expression
of courteous readiness. He bowed his head when Mark told him that
Ursula wanted to shake hands with him, and came towards the Rectory,
but he entirely declined the invitation to sleep there, declaring
that he must return to London that night.
Mark opened the study door, and then went away to secure that the man
whom he had learnt to esteem very highly should at least have some
refreshment before he left the house.
Those few steps had given Mr. Dutton time to turn from a mourner to a
consoler, and when Nuttie came towards him with her hand
outstretched, and 'Oh, Mr. Dutton, Mr. Dutton!' he took it in both
his, and with a calm broken voice said, 'God has been very good to us
in letting us know one like her.'
'But oh! what can we do without her?'
'Ah, Nuttie! that always comes before us. But I saw your work and
your comfort just now.'
'Poor little boy! I shall get to care about him, I know, but as yet
I can only feel how much rather I would have _her_.'
'No doubt, but it is _her_ work that is left you.'
'Her work? Yes! But oh, Mr. Dutton, you don't know how dreadful it
He did not know what she meant. Whether it was simply the burthen on
any suddenly motherless girl, or any special evil on her father's
part, but he was soon enlightened, for there was something in this
old friend that drew out her confidence beyond all others, even when
he repressed her, and she could not help telling him in a few
murmured furtive words such as she knew she ought not to utter, and
he felt it almost treason to hear. 'Opiates! she was always trying
to keep my father from them! It was too much for her! My uncle says
I must try to do it, and I can't.'
'Poor child!' said Mr. Dutton kindly, though cut to the heart at the
revelation of sweet Alice's trial; 'at least you can strive, and
there is always a blessing on resolution.'
'Oh, if you knew! and he doesn't like me. I don't think I've ever
been nice to him, and that vexed her! I haven't got her ways.'
'No,' said Mr. Dutton, 'but you will learn others. Look here,
Nuttie. You used to be always craving for grand and noble tasks, the
more difficult the better. I think you have got one now, more severe
than ever could have been thought of--and very noble. What are those
lines about the task "bequeathed from bleeding sire to son"? Isn't
it like that? You are bound to go on with her work, and the more
helpless you feel, and the more you throw yourself on God, the more
God will help you. He takes the will for the deed, if only you have
will enough; and, Nuttie, you can pray that you may be able to love
and honour him.'
Teacups were brought in, followed by Mark, and interrupted them; and,
after a short interval, they parted at the park gate, and Ursula
walked home with Mark, waked from her dull numb trance, with a
crushed feeling as if she had been bruised all over, and yet with a
purpose within her.
FARMS OR UMBRELLAS.
'He tokin into his handis
His londis and his lode.'--CHAUCER.
'Mark! Mark!' A little figure stood on the gravel road leading
through Lescombe Park, and lifted up an eager face, as Mark jumped
down from his horse. 'I made sure you would come over.'
'Yes, but I could not get away earlier. And I have so much to say to
you and your mother, Annaple; there's a great proposition to be
'Oh dear! and here is John bearing down upon us. Never mind. We'll
get into the mither's room and be cosy!'
'Well, Mark,' said Sir John's hearty voice, 'I thought you would be
here. Come to luncheon? That's right! And how is poor Egremont?
I thought he looked awful at the funeral.'
'He is fairly well, thank you; but it was a terrible shock.'
'I should think so. To find such a pretty sweet creature just to
lose her again. Child likely to live, eh?'
'Oh yes, he is a fine fellow, and has never had anything amiss with
'Poor little chap! Doesn't know what he has lost! Well, Nannie,' as
they neared the house, 'do you want a tete-a-tete or to take him in
to your mother? Here, I'll take the horse.'
'Come to her at once,' said Annaple; 'she wants to hear all, and
besides she is expecting me.'
Mark was welcomed by Lady Ronnisglen with inquiries for all
concerned, and especially for that 'poor girl. I do pity a young
thing who has to take a woman's place too soon,' she said. 'It takes
too much out of her!'
'I should think Ursula had plenty of spirit,' said Annaple.
'I don't know whether spirit is what is wanted,' said Mark. 'Her
mother prevailed more without it than I am afraid she is likely to do
'Complements answer better than parallels sometimes, but not always,'
said Lady Ronnisglen.
'Which are we?' asked Annaple demurely.
'Not parallels certainly, for then we should never meet,' responded
Mark. 'But here is the proposal. My father and all the rest of us
have been doing our best to get my uncle to smooth Ursula's way by
getting rid of that valet of his.'
'The man with the Mephistopheles face?'
'Exactly. He is a consummate scoundrel, as we all know, and so does
my uncle himself, but he has been about him these twelve or fourteen
years, and has got a sort of hold on him--that--that-- It is no use
to talk of it, but it did not make that dear aunt of mine have an
easier life. In fact I should not be a bit surprised if he had been
a hindrance in the hunting her up. Well, the fellow thought proper
to upset some arrangements my mother had made, and then was more
insolent than I should have thought even he could have been towards
her. I suppose he had got into the habit with poor Aunt Alice. That
made a fulcrum, and my father went at my uncle with a will. I never
saw my father so roused in my life. I don't mean by the behaviour to
his wife, but at what he knew of the fellow, and all the harm he had
done and is doing. And actually my uncle gave in at last, and
consented to tell Gregorio to look out for another situation, if he
has not feathered his nest too well to need one, as I believe he
'Oh, that will make it much easier for Ursula!' cried Annaple.
'If he goes,' put in her mother.
'I think he will. I really had no notion how much these two years
have improved my uncle! To be sure, it would be hard to live with
such a woman as that without being the better for it! But he really
seems to have acquired a certain notion of duty!'
They did not smile at the simple way in which Mark spoke of this vast
advance, and Lady Ronnisglen said, 'I hope so, for the sake of his
daughter and that poor little boy.'
'I think that has something to do with it,' said Mark. 'He feels a
responsibility, and still more, I think he was struck by having a
creature with him to whom evil was like physical pain.'
'It will work,' said Lady Ronnisglen.
'Then,' went on Mark, 'he took us all by surprise by making me this
proposal--to take the management of the estate, and become a kind of
private secretary to him. You know he gets rheumatism on the optic
nerve, and is almost blind at times. He would give me £300 a year,
and do up the house at the home farm, rent free. What do you say to
There was a silence, then Annaple said: 'Give up the umbrellas! Oh!
What do you think, Mark?'
'My father wishes it,' said Mark. 'He would, as he had promised to
do, make over to me my share of my own mother's fortune, and that
would, I have been reckoning, bring us to just what we had thought of
starting upon this spring at Micklethwayte.'
'The same now,' said Lady Ronnisglen, after some reckoning, 'but what
does it lead to?'
'Well--nothing, I am afraid,' said Mark; 'as you know, this is all I
have to reckon upon. The younger children will have hardly anything
from their mother, so that my father's means must chiefly go to
'And this agency is entirely dependent on your satisfying Mr.
'True, but that's a thing only too easily done. However, as you say,
this agency has no future, and if that came to an end, I should only
have to look out for another or take to farming.'
'And ask poor John if that is a good speculation nowadays!' said
'Fortunes are and have been made on the umbrellas,' said Mark.
'Greenleaf has a place almost equal to Monks Horton, and Dutton,
though he makes no show, has realised a considerable amount.'
'Oh yes, let us stick to the umbrellas!' cried Annaple; 'you've made
the plunge, so it does not signify now, and we should be so much more
independent out of the way of everybody.'
'You would lose in society,' said Mark, 'excepting, of course, as to
the Monks Horton people; but they are often away.'
'Begging your pardon, Mark, is there much to lose in this same
neighbourhood?' laughed Annaple, 'now May will go.'
'It is not so much a question of liking,' added her mother, 'as of
what is for the best, and where you may wish to be--say ten years
Looked at in this way, there could be no question but that the
umbrella company promised to make Mark a richer man in ten years'
time than did the agency at Bridgefield Egremont. He had a salary
from the office already, and if he purchased shares in the
partnership with the portion his father would resign to him, his
income would already equal what he would have at Bridgefield, and
there was every prospect of its increase, both as he became more
valuable, and as the business continued to prosper. If the descent
in life had been a grievance to the ladies, the agency would have
been an infinite boon, but having swallowed so much, as Annaple said,
they might as well do it in earnest, and to some purpose. Perhaps,
too, it might be detected that under the circumstances Annaple would
prefer the living in a small way out of reach of her sister's visible
So the matter was settled, but there was an undercurrent in Mark's
mind on which he had not entered, namely, that his presence at home
might make all the difference in that reformation in his uncle's
habits which Alice had inaugurated, and left in the hands of others.
With him at hand, there was much more chance of Gregorio's being
dispensed with, Ursula's authority maintained, little Alwyn well
brought up, and the estate, tenants, and household properly cared
for, and then he smiled at his notion of supposing himself of so much
importance. Had he only had himself to consider, Mark would have
thought his duty plain; but when he found Miss Ruthven and her mother
so entirely averse, he did not deem it right to sacrifice them to the
doubtful good of his uncle, nor indeed to put the question before
them as so much a matter of conscience that they should feel bound to
consider it in that light. He did indeed say, 'Well, that settles
it,' in a tone that led Annaple to exclaim: 'I do believe you want to
drop the umbrellas!'
'No,' he answered, 'it is not that, but my father wished it, and
thought it would be good for my uncle.'
'No doubt,' said Annaple, 'but he has got a daughter, also a son, and
a brother, and agents are plentiful, so I can't see why all the
family should dance attendance on him.'
Lady Ronnisglen, much misdoubting Mr. Egremont's style of society,
and dreading that Mark might be dragged into it, added her word,
feeling on her side that it was desirable and just to hinder the
family from sacrificing Mark's occupation and worldly interest to a
capricious old roue, who might very possibly throw him over when it
would be almost impossible to find anything else to do. Moreover,
both she and Annaple believed that the real wish was to rescue the
name of Egremont from association with umbrellas, and they held
themselves bound to combat what they despised and thought a piece of
So Mark rode home, more glad that the decision was actually made than
at the course it had taken. His father was disappointed, but could
not but allow that it was the more prudent arrangement; and Mr.
Egremont showed all the annoyance of a man whose good offer has been
''Tis that little giggling Scotch girl!' he said. 'Well, we are quit
of her, anyway. 'Tis a pity that Mark entangled himself with her,
and a mother-in-law into the bargain! I was a fool to expect to get
any good out of him!'
This was said to his daughter, with whom he was left alone; for Miss
Headworth could not bear to accept his hospitality a moment longer
than needful, and besides had been so much shaken in nerves as to
suspect that an illness was coming on, and hurried home to be nursed
by Mary Nugent. Canon Egremont was obliged to go back to Redcastle
to finish his residence, and his wife, who had been absent nearly a
month from her family, thought it really wisest to let the father and
daughter be thrown upon one another at once, so that Ursula might
have the benefit of her father's softened mood.
There could be no doubt that he was softened, and that he had derived
some improvement from the year and a half that his wife had been with
him. It might not have lifted him up a step, but it had arrested him
in his downward course. Selfish and indolent he was as ever, but
there had been a restraint on his amusements, and a withdrawal from
his worst associates, such as the state of his health might continue,
above all if Gregorio could be dispensed with. The man himself had
become aware of the combination against him, and, though reckoning on
his master's inertness and dependence upon him, knew that a fresh
offence might complete his overthrow, and therefore took care to be
on his good behaviour.
Thus Nuttie's task might be somewhat smoothed; but the poor girl felt
unspeakably desolate as she ate her breakfast all alone with a dull
post-bag, and still more so when, having seen the housekeeper, who,
happily for her, was a good and capable woman, and very sorry for
her, she had to bethink herself what to do in that dreary sitting-
room during the hour when she had always been most sure of her
sister-mother's dear company. How often she had grumbled at being
called on to practise duets for her father's evening lullaby! She
supposed she ought to get something up, and she proceeded to turn
over and arrange the music with a sort of sick loathing for whatever
was connected with those days of impatient murmurs, which she would
so gladly have recalled. Everything had fallen into disorder, as
Blanche and May had left it the last time they had played there; and
the overlooking it, and putting aside the pieces which she could
never use alone, occupied her till Gregorio, very meek and polite,
came with a message that Mr. Egremont would be glad if she would come
to his room. In some dread, some distaste, and yet some pity and
some honest resolution, she made her way thither.
There he sat, in dressing-gown, smoking-cap, and blue spectacles,
with the glittering February sunshine carefully excluded. He looked
worse and more haggard than when she had seen him at dinner in the
evening, made up for company, and her compassion increased,
especially as he not only held out his hand, but seemed to expect her
to kiss him, a thing she had never done since their first
recognition. It was not pleasant in itself, but it betokened full
forgiveness, and indeed he had never spoken to her in his sneering,
exasperating voice since her mournful return home.
'Have you seen the boy?' he asked.
'Yes; they are walking him up and down under the south wall,' said
Nuttie, thankful that she had peeped under the many wraps as he was
carried across the hall.
'Here! I want you to read this letter to me. A man ought to be
indicted for writing such a hand!'
It was really distinct penmanship, though minute; but, as Nuttie
found, her father did not like to avow how little available were his
eyes. He could write better than he could read, but he kept her over
his correspondence for the rest of the morning, answering some of the
letters of condolence for him in her own name, writing those of
business, and folding and addressing what he himself contrived to
write. Her native quickness stood her in good stead, and, being
rather nervous, she took great pains, and seldom stumbled; indeed,
she only once incurred an exclamation of impatience at her stupidity
She guessed rightly that this forbearance was owing to tender
persuasions of her mother, and did not guess that a certain fear of
herself was mingled with other motives. Her father had grown used to
woman's ministrations; he needed them for his precious little heir,
and he knew his daughter moreover for a severe judge, and did not
want to alienate her and lose her services; so they got on fairly
well together, and she shared his luncheon, during which a message
came up about the carriage; and as there had been an application for
some nursery needment, and moreover black-edged envelopes had run
short, there was just purpose enough for a drive to the little town.
Then Nuttie read her father to sleep with the newspaper; rushed round
the garden in the twilight to stretch her young limbs; tried to read
a little, dressed, dined with her father; finished what he had missed
in the paper, then offered him music, and was told 'if she pleased,'
and as she played she mused whether this was to be her life. It
looked very dull and desolate, and what was the good of it all? But
there were her mother's words, 'Love him!' How fulfil them? She
could pity him now, but oh! how could she love one from whom her
whole nature recoiled, when she thought of her mother's ruined life?
Mr. Dutton too had held her new duties up to her as capable of being
ennobled. Noble! To read aloud a sporting paper she did not want to
understand, to be ready to play at cards or billiards, to take that
dawdling drive day by day, to devote herself to the selfish exactions
of burnt-out dissipation. Was this noble? Her mother had done all
this, and never even felt it a cross, because of her great love. It
must be Nuttie's cross if it was her duty; but could the love and
honour possibly come though she tried to pray in faith?
THE GIGGLING SCOTCH GIRL.
'For every Lamp that trembled here,
And faded in the night,
Behold a Star serene and clear
Smiles on me from the height.'--B. M.
Nuttie was not mistaken in supposing that this first day would be a
fair sample of her life, though, of course, after the first weeks of
mourning there were variations; and the return of the Rectory party
made a good deal of brightening, and relieved her from the necessity
of finding companionship and conversation for her father on more than
half her afternoons and evenings.
He required her, however, almost every forenoon, and depended on her
increasingly, so that all her arrangements had to be made with
reference to him. It was bondage, but not as galling in the fact as
she would have expected if it had been predicted to her a few months
previously. In the first place, Mr. Egremont never demanded of her
what was actually against her conscience, except occasionally giving
up a Sunday evensong to read the paper to him, and that only when he
was more unwell than usual. He was, after all, an English gentleman,
and did not ask his young daughter to read to him the books which her
mother had loathed. Moreover, Gregorio was on his good behaviour,
perfectly aware that there was a family combination against him, and
having even received a sort of warning from his master, but by no
means intending to take it, and therefore abstaining from any kind of
offence that could furnish a fresh handle against him; and thus for
the present, Dr. Hammond's regimen was well observed, and Mr.
Egremont was his better self in consequence, for, under his wife's
guardianship, the perilous habit had sufficiently lost strength to
prevent temper and spirits from manifestly suffering from abstinence.
The first time Nuttie found herself obliged to make any very real
sacrifice to her father's will was on the occasion of Mark's marriage
at Easter. Things had arranged themselves very conveniently for him
at Micklethwayte, though it seemed to Nuttie that she only heard of
affairs there in a sort of distant dream, while such events were
taking place as once would have been to her the greatest possible
Aunt Ursel reached home safely, but her expectations of illness were
realised. She took to her bed on arriving, and though she rose from
it, there was reason to think she had had a slight stroke, for her
activity of mind and body were greatly decayed, and she was wholly
dependent on Mary Nugent for care and comfort. Mary, remembering
the consequences of the former alarm, made the best of the old lady's
condition; and Nuttie, ashamed of having once cried 'wolf,' did not
realise the true state of the case, nor indeed could she or would she
have been spared to go to Micklethwayte.
The next news told that Gerard Godfrey, at the end of the year
required by Mr. Dutton, had resigned his situation, and at the close
of his quarter's notice was going to prepare for Holy Orders under
the training of a clergyman who would employ him in his parish, and
assist him in reading up to the requirements for admission to a
theological college. Poor dear old Gerard! It gave Nuttie a sort of
pang of self-reproach to own how good and devoted he was, and yet so
narrow and stupid that she could never have been happy with him. Was
he too good, or was he too dull for her? Had she forsaken him for
the world's sake, or was it a sound instinct that had extinguished
her fancy for him? No one could tell, least of all the parties
concerned. He might be far above her in spiritual matters, but he
was below her in intellectual ones, and though they would always feel
for one another that peculiar tenderness left by the possibilities of
a first love, no doubt the quarrel over the blue ribbon had been no
real misfortune to either.
The next tidings were still more surprising. Mr. Dutton was leaving
the firm. Though his father had died insolvent, and he had had to
struggle for himself in early life, he was connected with wealthy
people, and change and death among these had brought him a fair share
of riches. An uncle who had emigrated to Australia at the time of
the great break up had died without other heirs, leaving him what was
the more welcome to him that Micklethwayte could never be to him what
it had been in its golden age. He had realised enough to enable him
to be bountiful, and his parting gift to St Ambrose's would complete
the church; but he himself was winding up the partnership, and
withdrawing his means from Greenleaf and Co. in order to go out to
Australia to decide what to do with his new possessions.
Mark Egremont purchased a number of the shares, though, to gratify
the family, the shelter of the Greenleaf veiled his name under the
'Co.,' and another, already in the firm, possessed of a business-like
appellation, gave designation to the firm as Greenleaf, Goodenough,
Mr. Dutton's well-kept house, with the little conservatory and the
magnolia, was judged sufficient for present needs, and the lease was
taken off his hands, so that all was in order for the marriage of
Mark and Annaple immediately after Easter.
Lady Delmar had resigned herself to the inevitable, and the wedding
was to take place at Lescombe. Nuttie, whose chief relaxation was in
hearing all the pros and cons from May and Blanche, was asked to be
one of the bridesmaids by Annaple, who had come over to the Rectory
in a droll inscrutable state of mischief, declaring that she had
exasperated Janet to the verge of insanity by declaring that she
should have little umbrellas like those in the Persian inscriptions
on her cards, and that Mark was to present all the bridesmaids with
neat parasols. If crinolines had not been gone out they could have
all been dressed appropriately. Now they must wear them closely
furled. All this banter was hardly liked by May and Blanche, whose
little sisters were laughed at again for needing the assurance that
they were really to wear white and rowan leaves and berries--the
Ronnisglen badge. Nuttie, who had drawn much nearer to May,
refrained from relating this part of the story at home, but was much
disappointed when, on telling her father of the request, she was
answered at once:
'Hein! The 24th? You'll be in London, and a very good thing too.'
'Are we to go so soon?'
'Yes. Didn't I tell you to take that house in Berkshire Road from
'I did not think we were to start so soon. Is there any particular
'Yes. That Scotch girl ought to have known better than to ask you in
your deep mourning. I thought women made a great point of such
'Aunt Jane did not seem to think it wrong,' said Nuttie, for she
really wished much for consent. Not only had she grown fond both of
Mark and Annaple, but she had never been a bridesmaid, and she knew
that not only the Kirkaldys but Mr. Dutton had been invited; she had
even ventured on offering to lodge some of the overflowing guests of
'Their heads are all turned by that poverty-stricken Scotch peerage,'
returned Mr. Egremont; 'or the Canoness should have more sense of
Nuttie's wishes were so strong that she made one more attempt, 'I
need not be a bridesmaid. They would not mind if I wore my black.'
'I should, then!' said her father curtly. 'If they don't understand
the proprieties of life, I do. I won't have you have anything to do
with it. If you are so set upon gaiety, you'll have enough of
weddings at fitter times!'
It was the old sneering tone. Nuttie felt partly confounded, partly
indignant, and terribly disappointed. She did care for the sight of
the wedding--her youthful spirits had rallied enough for that, but
far more now she grieved at missing the sight of Mr. Dutton, when he
was going away, she knew not where, and might perhaps come on purpose
to see her; and it also made her sore and grieved at being accused of
disregard to her mother. She was silenced, however, and presently
her father observed, in the same unpleasant tone, 'Well, if you've
digested your disappointment, perhaps you'll condescend to write to
the agent, that I expect the house to be ready on the 21st.'
Nuttie got through her morning's work she hardly knew how, though her
father was dry and fault-finding all the time. Her eyes were so full
of tears when she was released that she hardly saw where she was
going, and nearly ran against her aunt, who had just walked into the
hall. Mrs. Egremont was too prudent a woman to let her burst out
there with her grievance, but made her come into the tent-room before
she exclaimed, 'He is going to take me away to London; he won't let
me go to the wedding.'
'I am sorry for your disappointment,' said her aunt quietly, 'but I
am old-fashioned enough to be glad that such strong respect and
feeling should be shown for your dear mother. I wish Annaple had
spoken to me before asking you, and I would have felt the way.'
'I'm sure it is not want of feeling,' said Nuttie, as her tears broke
'I did not say it was,' returned her aunt, 'but different generations
have different notions of the mode of showing it; and the present
certainly errs on the side of neglect of such tokens of mourning. If
I did not think that Annaple and her mother are really uncomfortable
at Lescombe, I should have told Mark that it was better taste to wait
till the summer.'
'If I might only have stayed at home--even if I did not go to the
wedding,' sighed Nuttie, who had only half listened to the Canoness's
'Since you do not go, it is much better that you should be out of the
way,' said Mrs. Egremont. 'Is your father ready to see me?'
So Nuttie had to submit, though she pouted to herself, feeling
grievously misjudged, first as if she had been wanting in regard to
the memory of her mother, who had been so fond of Mark, and so
rejoiced in his happiness; and then that her vexation was treated as
mere love of gaiety, whereas it really was disappointment at not
seeing Mr. Dutton, that good, grave, precise old friend, who could
not be named in the same breath with vanity. Moreover, she could not
help suspecting that respect to her mother was after all only a cloak
to resentment against Mark and his marriage.
However, she bethought herself that her mother had often been
disappointed and had borne it cheerfully, and after having done what
Aunt Ursel would have called 'grizzling' in her room for an hour, she
wrote her note to Miss Ruthven and endeavoured to be as usual,
feeling keenly that there was no mother now to perceive and
gratefully commend one of her only too rare efforts for good humour.
On other grounds she was very sorry to leave Bridgefield. May had,
in her trouble, thawed to her, and they were becoming really
affectionate and intimate companions, by force of propinquity and
relationship, as well as of the views that May had imbibed from Hugh
Condamine. Moreover Nuttie felt her aunt's watch over the baby a
great assistance to her own ignorance.
However the Canoness had resigned to the poor little heir the perfect
and trustworthy nurse, whom Basil had outgrown, and who consented to
the transfer on condition of having her nursery establishment
entirely apart from the rest of the household. Her reasons were
known though unspoken, namely, that the rejection of one or two
valets highly recommended had made it plain that there had been no
dislodgment of Gregorio. The strong silent objection to him of all
good female servants was one of the points that told much against
him. Martin and the housekeeper just endured him, and stayed on for
the present chiefly because their dear lady had actually begged them
not to desert her daughter if they could help it, at least not at
Nuttie bound over her cousins to give her a full account of the
wedding, and both of them wrote to her. Blanche's letter recorded
sundry scattered particulars,--as to how well the rowan-trimmed tulle
dresses looked--how every one was packed into the carriages for the
long drive--how there had been a triumphal arch erected over the
Bluepost Bridge itself, and Annaple nearly choked with laughing at
the appropriateness--how, to her delight, a shower began, and the
procession out of the church actually cried out for umbrellas--how
papa, when performing the ceremony, could not recollect that the
bride's proper name was Annabella, and would dictate it as
Anna-Maria, Sir John correcting him each time sotto voce--how Basil
and little Hilda Delmar walked together and 'looked like a couple of
ducks,' which, it was to be hoped, was to be taken metaphorically--
how dreadfully hard the ice on the wedding-cake was, so that when
Annaple tried to cut it the knife slipped and a little white dove
flew away and hit May, which everyone said was a grand omen that she
would be the next bride, while of course Annaple was perfectly
helpless with mirth. Every one said it was the merriest wedding ever
seen, for the bride's only tears were those of laughter. What Nuttie
really cared for most came just at the end, and not much of that.
'Your Mr. Dutton is just gone. He got on famously with Hugh
Condamine, and I forgot to tell you that he has given Mark such a
jolly present, a lovely silver coffee-pot, just the one thing they
wanted, and Lady Delmar said he didn't look near so like a tradesman
as she expected. I see May is writing too, but I don't know what you
will get out of her, as Hugh Condamine came for the day.'
Nuttie, however, had more hopes from May. Her letter certainly was
fuller of interest, if shorter.
'My Dear Nuttie--Blanche has no doubt told you all the externals. I
suppose there never was a brighter wedding, for as Annaple keeps her
mother with her, there was no real rending asunder of ties. Indeed I
almost wish her excitement did not always show itself in laughing,
for it prevents people from understanding how much there is in her.
(Plainly Hugh Condamine had been rather scandalised by the 'giggling
'Dear old Lady Ronnisglen was delightful. If there were any tears,
they were hers, and Lady Delmar was very cordial and affectionate.
Of course Hugh and Mr. Dutton missed much that one would have liked
in a wedding. I drove back with them afterwards, and it was very
interesting to listen to their conversation about church matters.
Hugh is very much struck with your friend; he had heard a good deal
about Micklethwayte before, and says that such a lay worker is
perfectly invaluable. It is a great pity that he is not going on in
the firm, it would make it so much nicer for Mark, but he says he has
duties towards his new property. I think he was sorry not to find
you at home, but he plainly never thought it possible you should be
at the wedding. I don't know whether I ought to tell you this, but I
think you ought to know it. There is a lovely new wreath of Eucharis
lilies and maiden-hair at dear Aunt Alice's grave, close against the
rails at the feet, and Hugh told me that he looked out of his window
very early yesterday morning and saw Mr. Dutton standing there,
leaning on the rail, with his bare head bowed between his hands. You
can't think how it impressed Hugh. He said he felt reverent towards
him all through that day, and he was quite angry with Rosalind and
Adela for jesting because, when the shower began as we were coming
out of church, Mr. Dutton rushed up with an umbrella, being the only
person there who had one, I believe. Hugh says you may be proud of
such a friend. I wish you could have seen Hugh.--Your affectionate
THREE YEARS LATER.
'There's something rotten in the State.'--Hamlet.
On an east-windy afternoon in March Mary Nugent emerged from the
School of Art, her well-worn portfolio under her arm, thinking how
many successive generations of boys and girls she had drilled through
'free-hand,' 'perspective,' and even 'life' with an unvarying average
of failure and very moderate success, and how little talent or
originality had come to the front, though all might be the better for
knowing how to use eyes and fingers.
On the whole her interest as well as her diligence did not flag; but
a sense of weariness and monotony would sometimes come after a
recurrence of well-known blunders of her pupils, and she missed the
sense of going home to refreshment and enjoyment which had once
invigorated her. St. Ambrose's Road had had its golden age, but the
brightness had been dimmed ever since that festival at Monks Horton.
One after another of the happy old society had dropped away. The
vicar had received promotion, and she only remained of the former
intimates, excepting old Miss Headworth, who was no longer a
companion, but whom affection forbade her to desert in feeble old
age. Had her thoughts of the old times conjured up a figure
belonging to them? There was the well-brushed hat, the natty silk
umbrella, the perfect fit of garments, the precise turn-out, nay, the
curly lion-shaven poodle, with all his fringes, leaping on her in
recognition, and there was that slightly French flourish of the hat,
before--with a bounding heart--she met the hand in an English grasp.
'I thought I should meet you here!'
'When did you come?'
'Half an hour ago. I came down with George Greenleaf, left my things
at the Royal Hotel, and came on to look for you.'
'You will come and spend the evening with us?'
'If you are so good as to ask me. How is Miss Headworth?'
'Very feeble, very deaf; but she will be delighted to see you. There
is no fear of her not remembering you, though she was quite lost when
Mrs. Egremont came in yesterday.'
'Mrs. Egremont!' he repeated with a little start.
'Mrs. Mark. Ah! we have got used to the name--the Honourable Mrs.
Egremont, as the community insist on calling her. What a sunny
creature she is!'
'And Miss Egremont, what do you hear of her?'
'She writes long letters, poor child. I hope she is fairly happy.
Are you come home for good, or is this only a visit?'
'I have no intention of returning. I have been winding up my good
cousin's affairs at Melbourne.'
Mary's heart bounded again with a sense of joy, comfort, and
protection; but she did not long keep Mr. Dutton to herself, for
every third person they met gladly greeted him, and they were long in
getting to St. Ambrose's Road, now dominated by a tall and beautiful
spire, according to the original design. They turned and looked in
at the pillared aisles, stained glass, and handsome reredos.
'Very different from our struggling days,' said Mr. Dutton.
'Yes,' said Mary, with half a sigh. 'There's the new vicar,' as he
passed with a civil nod. 'He has three curates, and a house of
Sisters, and works the parish excellently.'
'You don't speak as if you were intimate.'
'No. His womankind are rather grand--quite out of our beat; and in
parish work I am only an estimable excrescence. It is very well that
I am not wanted, for Miss Headworth requires a good deal of
attention, and it is only the old Adam that regrets the days of
importance. Ah, do you see?'
They were passing Mr. Dutton's old home. On the tiny strip of lawn
in front was a slender black figure, with yellow hair, under a tiny
black hat, dragging about a wooden horse whereon was mounted a sturdy
boy of two, also yellow-locked and in deep mourning under his Holland
'Billy-boy is riding to meet his daddy!' was merrily called out both
by mother and son before they perceived the stranger.
'Mr. Dutton,' said Mary.
Annaple bowed, but did not put out her hand, and such a flush was on
her face that Miss Nugent said, 'I am sure that is too much for you!'
'Oh no--' she began; but 'Allow me,' said Mr. Dutton, and before she
could refuse he was galloping round and round the little lawn, the
boy screaming with delight as Monsieur raced with them.
'So he is come!' she said in a low doubtful voice to Mary.
'Yes. He has met Mr. Greenleaf in London. I always think he has the
contrary to the evil eye. Whatever he takes in hand rights itself.'
'I'll hope so. Oh, thank you! Billy-boy, say thank you! What a
ride you have had!'
'Why are they in such deep mourning?' asked Mr. Dutton, after they
'Oh, did you not know? for good old Lady Ronnisglen. She had a bad
fall about two years ago, and never left her bed again; and this last
autumn she sank away.'
'They have had a great deal of trouble, then. I saw the death of
Canon Egremont in the Times soon after I went out to Australia.'
'Yes; he had heart disease, and died quite suddenly. The living is
given to Mr. Condamine, who married the eldest daughter, and the
widow is gone to live under the shadow of Redcastle Cathedral.'
Therewith Miss Nugent opened her own door, and Miss Headworth was
soon made aware of the visitor. She was greatly changed, and had the
indescribable stony look that tells of paralysis; and though she knew
Mr. Dutton, and was delighted to see him, his presence made her
expect to see Alice and Nuttie come in, though she soon recollected
herself and shed a few helpless tears. Then--in another mood--she
began to display with pride and pleasure the photographs of 'Alice's
dear little boy.' She had a whole series of them, from the long-
clothed babe on his sister's knee to the bright little fellow holding
a drum--a very beautiful child, with a striking resemblance to his
mother, quite startling to Mr. Dutton, especially in the last, which
was coloured, and showed the likeness of eyes and expression.
'Nuttie always sends me one whenever he is taken,' said the old lady.
'Dear Nuttie! It is very good for her. She is quite a little mother
'I was sure it would be so,' said Mr. Dutton.
'Yes,' said Mary, 'he is the great interest and delight of her life.
Her letters are full of his little sayings and doings.'
'Is she at home now?'
'No; at Brighton. Her father seems to have taken a dislike to
Bridgefield since his brother's death, and only goes there for a
short time in the shooting season. He has taken a lease of a house
in London, and spends most of the year there.'
'Ah!' as she showed him the address, 'that is near the old house
where I used to stay with my grand-aunt. We thought it altogether in
the country then, but it is quite absorbed now, and I have dazzling
offers from building companies for the few acres of ground around it.
Have you seen her?'
'Oh no; I believe she is quite necessary to her father. I only hear
of her through Lady Kirkaldy, who has been very kind to her, but, I
am sorry to say, is now gone with her Lord to the East. She says she
thinks that responsibility has been very good for Nuttie; she is
gentler and less impetuous, and a good deal softened by her affection
for the child.'
'She was certain to develop. I only dreaded what society her father
might surround her with.'
'Lady Kirkaldy says that all has turned out better than could have
been expected. You see, as she says, Mr. Egremont has been used to
good women in his own family, and would not like to see her in a
slangy fast set. All her own gaieties have been under Lady
Kirkaldy's wing, or that of Mrs. William Egremont's relations, and
only in a quiet moderate way. Her father gets his own old set about
him, and they have not been very choice, but they are mostly elderly
men, and gentlemen, and know how to behave themselves to her.
Indeed, her cousin Blanche, who was here in the winter, gave us to
understand that Ursula knows how to take care of herself, and gets
laughed at as rather an old maidish model of propriety, if you can
believe it of your little Nuttie.'
'I could quite believe in her on the defensive, unprotected as she
'What did that young lady--Miss Blanche--tell us about that
gentleman, Mary?' asked Miss Headworth, hearing and uttering what
Miss Nugent hoped had passed unnoticed.
'Oh, I think that was all gossip!' returned Mary, 'and so I am sure
did the Mark Egremonts. She said there was one of Mr. Egremont's
friends, Mr. Clarence Fane, I think she called him, rather younger
than the others, who, she was pleased to say, seemed smitten with
Nuttie, but I have heard nothing more about it, and Mrs. Mark scouted
the idea,' she added in haste, as she saw his expression vary in
spite of himself.
'Do you see much of your neighbours?'
'We are both too busy to see much of one another, but we have our
little talks over the wall. What a buoyant creature she is. It
seems as if playfulness was really a sustaining power in her, helping
her to get diversion out of much that others might stumble at. You
know perhaps that when she arrived the work-people had got up a
beautiful parasol for her, white, with a deep fringe and spray of
rowan. Little Susie Gunner presented her with it, and she was very
gracious and nice about it. But then what must Mr. Goodenough do but
dub it the Annabella sunshade, and blazon it, considerably
vulgarised, in all the railway stations, and magazines.'
'I know! I had the misfortune to see it in the station at Melbourne;
and my mind misgave me from that hour.'
'Her husband was prepared to be very angry, but she fairly laughed
him out of it, made all sorts of fun out of the affair, declared it
her only opening to fame, and turned it into a regular joke; so that
indeed the Greenleafs, who were vexed at the matter, and tried to
apologise, were quite perplexed in their turn, and not at all sure
that the whole concern was not being turned into ridicule.'
'I wonder it did not make him cut the connection,' said Mr. Dutton,
muttering 'I only wish it had.'
'Mrs. Greenleaf is very funny about her, 'added Mary, 'proud of the
Honourable Mrs. Egremont, as they insist on calling her, yet not
quite pleased that she should be the junior partner's wife; and
decidedly resenting her hardly going into society at all, though I
really don't see how she could; for first there was the Canon's
death, and then just after the boy was born came Lady Ronnisglen's
accident, and for the next year and a half there was constant
attendance on her. They fitted up a room on the ground floor for
her, the one opening into your drawing-room, and there they used to
sit with her. I used to hear them reading to her and singing to her,
and they were always as merry as possible, till last autumn, when
something brought on erysipelas, and she was gone almost before they
took alarm. The good little daughter was beaten down then, really
ill for a week; but if you can understand me, the shock seemed to
tell on her chiefly bodily, and though she was half broken-hearted
when her husband in a great fright brought me up to see her, and say
whether her sister should be sent for, she still made fun of him, and
described the impossible advice they would bring on themselves. I
had to take care of her while he went away to the funeral in
Scotland, and then I learnt indeed to like her and see how much there
is in her besides laughter.'
'Did the old lady leave them anything?'
'I believe she had nothing to leave. Her jointure was not much, but
I am sure they miss that, for Mrs. Egremont has parted with her
nurse, and has only a little girl in her stead, driving out the
perambulator often herself, to the great scandal of the Greenleafs,
though she would have one believe it is all for want of occupation.'
'Do you think they have taken any alarm?'
'There's no judging from her joyous surface, but I have thought him
looking more careworn and anxious than I liked. Mr. Dutton, don't
answer if I ought not to ask, but is it true that things are going
wrong? I know you have been seeing Mr. Greenleaf, so perhaps you are
in his confidence and cannot speak.'
'Tell me, what is known or suspected?'
'Just this, that Mr. Goodenough has been the ruin of the concern. He
has been quite different ever since his voyage to America. You were
gone, old Mr. Greenleaf has been past attending to business ever
since he had that attack, and George Greenleaf has been playing the
country squire at Horton Bishop, and not looking after the office
work, and Mr. Egremont was inexperienced. One could see, of course,
that the whole character of the business was changed--much more
advertising, much more cheap and flashy work--to be even with the
times, it was said, but the old superior hands were in despair at the
materials supplied to them, and the scamped work expected. You
should have heard old Thorpe mourning for you, and moralising over
the wickedness of this world. His wife told me she really thought he
would go melancholy mad if he did not leave the factory, and he has
done so. They have saved enough to set up a nice little shop at
'I must go and see them! Good old Thorpe! I ought never to have put
those poor young things into the firm when I ceased to have any
control over it. I shall never forgive myself--'
'Nothing could seem safer then! No one could have guessed that young
Mr. Greenleaf would be so careless without his father to keep him up
to the mark, nor that Mr. Goodenough should alter so much. Is it
very bad? Is there worse behind? Speculation, I suppose--'
'Of course. I do not see to the bottom of it yet; poor George seemed
to reckon on me for an advance, but I am afraid this is more than a
mere temporary depression, such as may be tided over, and that all
that can be looked to is trying to save honourable names by an utter
break up, which may rid them of that--that--no, I won't call him a
scoundrel. I thought highly of him once, and no doubt he never
realised what he was doing.'
Before the evening was far advanced Mark Egremont knocked at the
door, and courteously asked whether Mr. Dutton could be spared to him
for a little while. Mary Nugent replied that she was just going to
help Miss Headworth to bed, and that the parlour was at their service
for a private interview, but Mark answered, 'My wife is anxious to
hear. She knows all that I do, and is quite prepared to hear
whatever Mr. Dutton may not object to saying before her.'
So they bade good-night to Mary, and went on together to the next
house, Mr. Dutton saying 'You have much to forgive me, Mr. Egremont;
I feel as if I had deserted the ship just as I had induced you to
embark in it.'
'You did not guess how ill it would be steered without you,' returned
Mark, with a sigh. 'Do not fear to speak out before my wife, even if
we are sinking. She will hear it bravely, and smile to the last.'
The room which Mr. Dutton entered was not like the cabin of a sinking
ship, nor, as in his own time, like the well-ordered apartment of a
bachelor of taste. Indeed, the house was a great puzzle to Monsieur,
who entered by invitation, knowing his way perfectly, thinking
himself at home after all his travels, and then missing his own
particular mat, and sniffing round at the furniture. It was of the
modified aesthetic date, but arranged more with a view to comfort
than anything else, and by the light of the shaded lamp and bright
fire was pre-eminently home-like, with the three chairs placed round
the hearth, and bright-haired Annaple rising up from the lowest with
her knitting to greet Mr. Dutton, and find a comfortable lair for
'Miss Nugent says that you set everything right that you do but look
at, Mr. Dutton,' she said; 'so we are prepared to receive you as a
good genius to help us out of our tangle.'
Mr. Dutton was afraid that the tangle was far past unwinding, and of
course the details, so far as yet known, were discussed. There was,
in truth, nothing for which Mark could be blamed. He had diligently
attended to his office-work, which was mere routine, and, conscious
of his own inexperience, and trusting to the senior partners, he had
only become anxious at the end of the year, when he perceived
Goodenough's avoidance of a settlement of accounts, and detected
shuffling. He had not understood enough of the previous business to
be aware of the deterioration of the manner of dealing with it,
though he did think it scarcely what he expected. If he had erred,
it was in acting too much as a wheel in the machinery, keeping his
thoughts and heart in his own happy little home, and not throwing
himself into the spirit of the business, or the ways of those
concerned in it, so that he had been in no degree a controlling
power. He had allowed his quality of gentleman to keep him an
outsider, instead of using it to raise the general level of the
transactions, so that the whole had gone down in the hands of the
Annaple listened and knitted quietly while the affairs were explained
on either hand. Mark had had one serious talk with George Greenleaf,
and both had had a stormy scene with Goodenough. Then Mr. Dutton had
telegraphed his arrival, and Greenleaf had met him in London, with
hopes, bred of long and implicit trust, that his sagacity and perhaps
his wealth would carry the old house through the crisis.
But Mr. Dutton, though reserving his judgment till the books should
have been thoroughly examined and the liabilities completely
understood, was evidently inclined to believe that things had gone
too far, and that the names of Greenleaf and Egremont could only be
preserved from actual dishonour by going into liquidation, dissolving
partnership, and thus getting quit of Goodenough.
Mark listened resignedly, Annaple with an intelligence that made Mr.
Dutton think her the more clearheaded of the two, though still she
could not refrain from her little jokes. 'I'm sure I should not mind
how liquid we became if we could only run off clear of Goodenough,'
'You know what it means?' said her husband.
'Oh yes, I know what it means. It is the fine word for being sold
up. Well, Mark, never mind, we are young and strong, and it will not
be a bit the worse for the Billy-boy in the end to begin at the
bottom of everything.'
'I hope--may I ask--is everything embarked in the poor old firm?'
said Mr. Dutton with some hesitation.
'All that is mine,' said Mark, with his elbow on the table and his
chin on his hand.
'But I've got a hundred a year, charged on poor old Ronnisglen's
estate,' said Annaple. 'All the others gave theirs up when they
married, and I wanted to do so, but my dear mother would not let me;
she said I had better try how I got on first. Think of that, Mark, a
hundred a year! Why, old Gunner or Thorpe would think themselves
rolling in riches if they only heard that they had a hundred a year!'
'You won't find it go far!'
'Yes, I shall, for I shall make you live on porridge, with now and
then a sheep's head for a treat! Besides, there will be something to
do. It will be working up again, you know. But seriously, Mr.
Dutton, I have some things here of my dear mother's that really
belong to Ronnisglen, and I was only keeping till he comes home.
Should not they be got out of the way?'
'My dear, we are not come to that yet! I hope it may be averted!'
But Mr. Dutton agreed with the young wife that it would be much
better to send these things away before their going could excite
suspicion. There was only a tiny silver saucepan, valued as a gift
of 'Queen' Clementina to an ancestress, also a silver teapot and some
old point, and some not very valuable jewellery, all well able to go
into a small box, which Mr. Dutton undertook to deposit with Lord
Ronnisglen's bankers. He was struck with the scrupulous veracity
with which Annaple decided between what had become her own property
and the heirlooms, though what she claimed might probably be
sacrificed to the creditors.
Mark could hardly endure to see what made the crisis so terribly
real. 'That I should have brought you to this!' he said to his wife,
when their visitor had at length bidden them good-night.
'If we begin at that work,' said Annaple, 'it was I who brought you!
I have often thought since it was rather selfish not to have
consented to your helping poor Ursula with her heavy handful of a
father! It was all money grubbing and grabbing, you see, and if we
had thought more of our neighbour than ourselves we might have been
luxuriating at the Home Farm, or even if your uncle had quarrelled
with you, he would not have devoured your substance. I have thought
so often, ever since I began to see this coming.'
'My dear child, you don't mean that you have seen this coming!'
'My prophetic soul! Why, Mark, you have as good as inferred it over
and over again. I've felt like scratching that Badenough whenever I
met him in the street. I must indulge myself by calling him so for
once in strict privacy.'
'You have guessed it all the time, while I only thought how
unconscious you were.'
'Not to say stupid, considering all you told me. Besides, what would
have been the use of howling and moaning and being dismal before the
time? For my part, I could clap my hands even now at getting rid of
Goodenough, and his jaunty, gracious air! Come, Mark, it won't be so
bad after all, you'll see.'
'Nothing can be "so bad," while you are what you are, my Nan.'
'That's right. While we have each other and the Billy-boy, nothing
matters much. There's plenty of work in us both, and that good man
will find it for us; or if he doesn't, we'll get a yellow van, and
knit stockings, and sell them round the country. How jolly that
would be! Imagine Janet's face. There, that's right,' as her
mimicry evoked a smile, 'I should be ashamed to be unhappy about
this, when our good name is saved, and when there is a blessing on
the poor,' she added in a lower voice, tenderly kissing her husband's
THE BOY OF EGREMONT.
'And the boy that walked beside me,
He could not understand
Why, closer in mine, ah, closer,
I press'd his warm soft hand.'--LONGFELLOW.
The agony of a firm like Greenleaf, Goodenough, and Co. could not be
a rapid thing, and Mr. Dutton lived between London and Micklethwayte
for several weeks, having much to endure on all sides. The senior
partners thought it an almost malicious and decidedly ungrateful
thing in him not to throw in his means, or at any rate, offer his
guarantee to tide them over their difficulties. Goodenough's
tergiversations and concealments needed a practised hand and acute
head to unravel them, and often deceived Mr. Greenleaf himself; and
when, for a time, he was convinced that the whole state was so rotten
that a crash was inevitable, his wife's lamentations and complaints
of Mr. Dutton would undo the whole, and it was as if he were doing
them an injury that the pair accepted the comfortable prospect he was
able to offer them in Australia.
He would have made the like proposal to the Egremonts, but found that
Mark held himself bound by his promise to his father not to emigrate,
and thought of some kind of office-work. Before trying to procure
this for him, however, Mr. Dutton intended to see his uncle, and try
whether the agency, once rejected, could still be obtained for him.
Learning from Miss Nugent that the Egremonts were in town, he went up
thither with the purpose of asking for an interview.
There was a new church in the immediate neighbourhood of his house in
a state of growth and development congenial to the St. Ambrose
trained mind, and here Mr. Dutton, after old Micklethwayte custom,
was attending the early matins, when, in the alternate verses of the
psalm, he heard a fresh young voice that seemed to renew those days
gone by, and looking across the central aisle his eyes met a pair of
dark ones which gave a sudden glitter of gladness at the encounter.
That was all he saw or cared to see. He did not take in the finished
completeness of the very plain dark dress and hat, nor the womanly
air of the little figure, until they clasped hands in the porch, and
in the old tones Nuttie exclaimed: 'I've been hoping you would come
to London. How is Monsieur?'
'In high health, thank you, the darling of the steamer both going and
coming. I hope your charges are well?'
'My father is tolerable, just as usual, and my little Alwyn is
getting more delicious every day. He will be so delighted to see
Monsieur. I have told him so many stories about him!'
'Do you think I may call on Mr. Egremont?'
'Oh do! He is ready to be called on between two and three, and we
always have Wynnie downstairs then, so that you will see him too.
And you have been at Micklethwayte. I am afraid you found a great
change in Aunt Ursel.'
'Yes; but she is very peaceful and happy.'
'And I have to leave her altogether to dear excellent Miss Nugent.
It seems very, very wrong, but I cannot help it! And how about Mark
'I think she is the bravest woman I ever met.'
'Then things are really going badly with the dear old firm?'
'I am hoping to talk to Mr. Egremont about it.'
Nuttie paused. Towards Mr. Dutton she always had a stronger impulse
of confidence than towards any one else she had ever met; but she
felt that he might think it unbecoming to say that she had perceived
a certain dislike on her father's part towards Mark ever since the
rejection of the agency and the marriage, which perhaps was regarded
as a rejection of herself. He had a habit of dependence on Mark,
which resulted in personal liking, when in actual contact, but in
absence the distaste and offence always revived, fostered, no doubt,
by Gregorio; and Canon Egremont's death had broken the link which had
brought them together. However, for his brother's sake, and for the
sake of the name, the head of the family might be willing to do
something. It was one of Nuttie's difficulties that she never could
calculate on the way her father would take any matter. Whether for
better or for worse, he always seemed to decide in diametrical
opposition to her expectation. And, as she was certainly less
impetuous and more dutiful, she parted with Mr. Dutton at her own
door without any such hint.
These three years had been discipline such as the tenderest, wisest
hand could not have given her, though it had been insensible. She
had been obliged to attend to her father and watch over her little
brother, and though neither task had seemed congenial to her
disposition, the honest endeavour to do them rightly had produced the
affection born of solicitude towards her father, and the strong warm
tenderness of the true mother-sister towards little Alwyn.
Ursula Egremont was one of those natures to which responsibility is
the best training. If she had had any one to guard or restrain her,
she might have gone to the utmost limits before she yielded to the
curb. As it was, she had to take care of herself, to bear and
forbear with her father, to walk warily with her household, and to be
very guarded with the society into which she was thrown from time to
time. It was no sudden change, but one brought about by experience.
An outbreak of impatience or temper towards her father was sure to be
followed by his galling sneer, or by some mortification to her
desires; any act of mismanagement towards the servants brought its
own punishment; and if she was tempted by girlish spirits to relax
the quiet, stiff courtesy which she observed towards her father's
guests, there followed jests, or semi-patronage, or a tone of
conversation that offended her, and made her repent it. Happily, Mr.
Egremont did not wish her to be otherwise. One day, when she had
been betrayed into rattling and giggling, he spoke to her afterwards
with a cutting irony which bitterly angered her at the moment, and
which she never forgot. Each irksome duty, each privation, each
disappointment, each recurrence of the sweeping sense of desolation
and loneliness had had one effect--it had sent her to her knees. She
had no one else to go to. She turned to her Father in heaven.
Sometimes, indeed, it was in murmuring and complaint at her lot, but
still it was to Him and Him alone, and repentance sooner or later
came to aid her, while refreshments sprang up around her--little
successes, small achievements, pleasant hours, tokens that her father
was pleased or satisfied, and above all, the growing charms of little
The special grievance, Gregorio's influence, had scarcely dwelt on
her at first as it had done on her mother. The man had been very
cautious for some time, knowing that his continuance in his situation
was in the utmost jeopardy, and Mr. Egremont had, in the freshness of
his grief for his wife, abstained from relapsing into the habits from
which she had weaned him. When, however, the Canon was dead, and his
son at a distance, Gregorio began to feel more secure, and in the
restless sorrow of his master over the blow that had taken away an
only brother, he administered soothing drugs under another name, so
that Ursula, in her inexperience, did not detect what was going on,
and still fancied that the habit had been renounced. All she did
know was that it was entirely useless for her to attempt to exert any
authority over the valet, and that the only way to escape insolently
polite disobedience was to let him alone. Moreover, plans to which
her father had agreed, when broached by her, had often been
overthrown after his valet had been with him. It was a life full of
care and disappointment, yet there was a certain spring of trust that
kept Ursula's youth from being dimmed, and enabled her to get a fair
share of happiness out of it, though she was very sorry not to be
more at Bridgefield, where she could have worked with all her heart
with May Condamine. Moreover, Lady Kirkaldy's absence from London
was a great loss to her, for there was no one who was so kind or so
available in taking her into society; and Nuttie, though mistress of
her father's house, was not yet twenty-two, and strongly felt that
she must keep within careful bounds, and not attempt to be her own
But the very sight of her old friend, and the knowledge that he was
in the neighbourhood, filled her heart with gladness, and seemed like
a compensation for everything. Mr. Egremont was in a gracious mood,
and readily consented to see Mr. Dutton--the friend who had been so
pleasant and helpful at Paris--and Nuttie gave her private
instructions to the footman to insure his admittance.
His card was brought in just as the father and daughter were
finishing luncheon, and he was received in Mr. Egremont's sitting-
room, where the first civilities had hardly passed before the door
was opened, and in trotted the golden-haired boy, so beautiful a
child that it would have been impossible not to look at him with
delight, even for those to whom his dark eyes and sweet smile did not
recall those that had once been so dear.
Mr. Egremont's voice took a fresh tone: 'Ah! here he comes, the old
fellow'--and he held out his hands; but the boy was intent on his own
'Where's black doggie?' he asked in a silver-bell of a little voice,
but lisping a good deal; 'Wyn got penny for him.'
'Wynnie must be a good boy. Kiss papa first, and Mr. Dutton,'
remonstrated the sister; and Alwyn obeyed so far as to submit to his
father's embrace, and then raising those velvety eyes to the
visitor's face, he repeated: 'Where black doggie? Wyn want to see
him buy bun.'
'There! your fame has preceded you,' said Mr. Egremont, 'or rather
'You shall see him,' said Mr. Dutton, taking the pretty boy almost
reverently on his knee, 'but he is at home now. I could not leave
him out on the street, and I did not know if I might bring him in.'
'Oh, Mr. Dutton! as if Monsieur would not be welcome,' cried the
Nuttie of old times. 'I only wish I had stipulated for him, dear old
'Wyn want to see him,' reiterated the child.
'May I take him to see the performance?' said Mr. Dutton. 'I live
only at the corner of Berkshire Road, and there's a dairy just
opposite where Monsieur has been allowed to keep up his
Alwyn's legs, arms, and voice, were all excitement and entreaty; and
Mr. Egremont himself proposed that they should all come and witness
the feat; so Nuttie, in great glee, climbed the stairs with her
little brother to get ready; and when she came down again, found the
gentlemen deep, not in Mark Egremont's umbrellas, but in the gas and
smoke grievances which had arisen since the lease of the house had
been taken, and in which sympathy might be expected from a fellow-
inhabitant of the district. Little Alwyn was, however, plainly the
lord of the ascendant, and unused to see anything else attended to in
his presence. He took possession of Mr. Dutton's hand, and his
tongue went fast, nor did his father or sister seem to desire any
better music. They reached an old-walled garden, with lilac and
laburnum and horse-chestnut blossoming above, and showing a mass of
greenery through the iron railing that surmounted, the low wall on
the street side, where Mr. Dutton halted and took out his key.
'Is this yours?' exclaimed Nuttie, 'I have so often wondered whose it
'Yes, it was a country-house when I was of the age of this little
man, though you might not think it.'
'The increase of London had not been on that side,' said Mr.
Egremont. 'This must be a very valuable property!'
And Nuttie perceived that such an inheritance made Mr. Dutton much
more in his eyes than an ex-umbrella-monger; but no sooner was the
tall iron gate opened than Monsieur, beautifully shaved, with all his
curly tufts in perfection, came bounding to meet his master, and
Alwyn had his arms round the neck in a moment. Monsieur had in his
time been introduced to too many children not to understand the
situation, and respond politely; and he also recognised Ursula, and
gave unmistakable proofs of being glad to see her.
Then the halfpenny was presented to him. He wagged his queer tail,
smiled with his intelligent brown eyes, took it between his teeth,
and trotted across the street in the most business-like way, the
others following, but detaining the boy from keeping too close.
They found the creature sitting upright, tapping the floor with his
tail, the centre of rapturous admiration to all the customers already
in the dairy shop. He received his bun, and demurely dropping on his
front legs, walked back with it to his master, and crossed the road
with it uneaten, rather to Alwyn's disappointment, but Mr. Dutton
said he would probably dispose of it in some hiding-place in the
garden until his evening appetite came on. It was well he was a dog
of moderation, for there was great temptation to repeat the
entertainment more than was wholesome for him.
'There, Wynnie,' said Nuttie in a voice of monition, 'Monsieur
doesn't eat all his goodies at once, he keeps them for bedtime.'
It might be perceived that the over-supply of sweets was a matter of
anxiety to the elder sister. To the nurse, who waited in readiness,
Alwyn was consigned for his walk, while his father and sister
accepted Mr. Dutton's invitation to look round his domain. It would
have been small in the country, but it was extensive for the
locality, and there was a perfect order and trimness about the shaven
lawn, the little fountain in the midst, the flower-beds gay with
pansies, forget-me-nots, and other early beauties, and the freshly-
rolled gravel paths, that made Nuttie exclaim: 'Ah! I should have
known this for yours anywhere.'
'I have not had much to do to it,' he said. 'My old aunts had it
well kept up, even when they could only see it from their windows.
Their old gardener still lives in the cottage behind the tool-house,
though he is too infirm for anything but being wheeled about in the
sun in their Bath-chair.'
'You keep a large amount lying idle by retaining it as it is,' said
'True, but it is well to preserve an oasis here and there.'
Nuttie knew well that it was not for himself alone, and as they
entered the little conservatory, and her eye fell on the row of white
hyacinths, the very scent carried her back to the old times, and her
eyes grew moist while Mr. Dutton was cutting a bouquet for her in
accordance with well-known tastes.
'I shall put them in my room. It will feel like home,' she said, and
then she saw that she had said what her father did not like; for he
was always sensitive as to any reference to her early life.
Mr. Dutton, however, took this opportunity of saying that he had been
backwards and forwards to Micklethwayte several times this spring.
'I hope you are well out of the concern there,' said Mr. Egremont.
'Thank you, sir; I have no share in it at present.'
'So much the better!'
'But I am very anxious about my friends.'
'Ah!' But Mr. Egremont's attention was drawn off at the entrance of
the house by a new-fashioned stove of which Mr. Dutton did the
honours, conducting father and daughter into the drawing-room, where
obvious traces of the old ladies remained, and thence into his own
sitting-room, smelling pleasantly of Russia leather, and recalling
that into which Nuttie had been wont, before her schooldays, to climb
by the window, and become entranced by the illustrations of a
wonderful old edition of Telemaque, picked up at Paris.
Mr. Dutton made them sit and rest, for this had been a good deal of
exercise for Mr. Egremont; coffee was brought in, having been ordered
on their arrival, and therewith Mr. Dutton entered on an exposition
of the affairs of Greenleaf and Goodenough, which was listened to
with a good deal of interest, though Nuttie could not quite detect
whether it were altogether friendly interests in Mark's misfortunes,
or if there were not a certain triumph in the young man having run
into trouble by rejecting his offer.
Mr. Dutton explained that his present object was to induce the
friends of the family to prevent annoyance by preserving the
furniture and personals at a valuation; and Mr. Egremont readily
agreed to contribute to doing this, though he said the sisters and
stepmother were well able also to do their share.
'And then to give the young people a fresh start,' added Mr. Dutton.
'There are some men who are always wanting fresh starts,' said Mr.
Egremont, 'just as there are some vessels that are always unlucky.
And if you observe, it is just those men who are in the greatest
haste to hang an expensive wife and family round their necks.'
'I don't think poor Annaple can be accused of being expensive, papa,'
said Nuttie. 'Only think, when Wynnie has two nurses always after
him, her Willie has only the fraction of a little maid, who does all
sorts of work besides.'
'Yes, I never saw more resolute and cheerful exertion than Mrs. Mark
Egremont's,' said Mr. Dutton.
'She owes him something,' said Mr. Egremont, 'for she has been the
ruin of him.'
'Of his worldly prospects in one sense,' said Mr. Dutton quietly;
while Nuttie felt how much better and wiser an answer it was than the
indignant denial that trembled on her tongue. 'There can be no doubt
that they made a grievous mistake in their choice, and I
unfortunately was concerned in leading them into it; but no one can
see how they meet their troubles without great respect and
admiration, and I am especially bound to seek for some new opening
for them. I have little doubt that some office work might be found
for him in London, but they are essentially country people, and it
would be much better for them if he could have some agency. I
suppose the situation you offered him before, sir, is filled up? '
'Not really,' cried Nuttie. 'We have only a very common sort of
uneducated bailiff, who would be much better with some one over him.
You said so, papa.'
'Did he request you to apply to me?' said Mr. Egremont sharply,
looking at Mr. Dutton.
'Neither he nor she has the least idea of my intention; I only
thought, sir, you might be willing to consider how best to assist a
nephew, who has certainly not been wanting either in industry or
economy, and who bears your name.'
'Well, I will think it over,' said Mr. Egremont, rising to take
The carriage had been bidden to await them at the door for their
daily drive, and as Mr. Egremont leant back with the furs disposed
over him he observed: 'That's a man who knows how to take care of
himself. I wonder where he gets his coffee, I've not drunk any like
it since I was at Nice.' And Nuttie, though well knowing that Mr.
Dutton's love of perfection was not self-indulgence, was content to
accept this as high approbation, and a good augury for Mark and
Annaple. Indeed, with Mr. Dutton settled near, and with the prospect
of a daily walk from church with him, she felt such a complete
content and trust as she had not known since she had been uprooted
A BRAVE HEART.
'One furnace many times the good and bad may hold,
Yet what consumes the chaff will only cleanse the gold.'
Never was there a truer verse than that which tells us that in
seeking duty we find pleasure by the way, and in seeking pleasure we
meet pain. It might be varied to apply to our anticipations of
enjoyment or the reverse. Ursula had embraced her lot as a
necessity, and found it enlivened by a good many sunshiny hours; and
when she looked upon Mr. Dutton's neighbourhood as a continual source
of delight and satisfaction, she found that it gave rise to a
continual course of small disappointments.
In the first place, he did not walk home from church with her every
morning. She looked for him in vain, even when she knew he was in
town. He only appeared there on Sundays, and at intervals when he
had some especial reason for speaking to her. At first she thought
he must have grown lazy or out of health to have thus dropped his old
Micklethwayte habits, but after a time she discovered by accident
that he frequented another church, open at a still earlier hour and a
little farther off, and she was forced to come to the conclusion that
he acted out of his characteristic precise scrupulosity, which would
not consider it as correct for her to walk home every day with him.
She chafed, and derided 'the dear old man' a little in her own mind,
then ended with a sigh. Was there any one who cared so much about
what was proper for her? And, after all, was he really older than
Mr. Clarence Fane, whom everybody in her father's set called
Clarence, or even Clare, and treated as the boy of the party, so that
she had taken it as quite natural that he should be paired off with
her. It was quite a discovery!
There was another and more serious disappointment. Mr. Egremont had
not seemed disinclined to consider the giving the agency to Mark, and
Nuttie had begun to think with great satisfaction of May Condamine's
delight in welcoming him, and of the good influence that would be
brought to bear on the dependents, when suddenly there came a
coolness. She could trace the moment, and was sure that it was, when
Gregorio became aware of what was intended. He had reason to dread
Mark as an enemy, and was likely to wish to keep him at a distance;
and it had been Ursula's great hope that an absolute promise might
have been given before he heard of the plan; but Mr. Egremont was
always slow to make up his mind, except when driven by a sudden
impulse, and had never actually said that the post should be offered
to his nephew. Nuttie only detected the turn of the tide by the want
of cordiality, the hums and haws, and by and by the resumption of the
unkind ironical tone when Mark and Annaple were mentioned; and at
last, when she had been reading to him a letter from Mrs. William
Egremont full of anxiety for the young people, and yet of trust in
his kindness to them, he exclaimed, 'You've not been writing to her
about this absurd proposal?'
'I have not mentioned any proposal at all. What do you mean?'
'Why, this ridiculous idea about the agency. As if I was going to
put my affairs into the hands of a man who has made such a mull of
'But that was not Mark's fault, papa. He was junior, you know, and
had no power over that Goodenough.'
'He ought, then! Never sail with an unlucky captain. No, no, Mark's
honourable lady would not let him take the agency when he might have
had it, and I am not going to let them live upon me now that they
have nothing of their own.'
'Oh, papa, but you almost promised!'
'Almost!' he repeated with his ironical tone; 'that's a word capable
of a good deal of stretching. This is what you and that umbrella
fellow have made out of my not giving him a direct refusal on the
spot. He may meddle with Mark's affairs if he chooses, but not with
Nuttie had learnt a certain amount of wisdom, and knew that to argue
a point only made her father more determined, so she merely answered,
'Very well;' adding in a meek voice, 'Their furniture, poor things!'
'Oh ay. Their umbrella friend is making a collection for them. Yes,
I believe I said I would contribute.'
Hot blood surged up within Nuttie at the contemptuous tone, and she
bit her lip to keep down the answer, for she knew Mr, Dutton intended
to call the next afternoon for her father's ultimatum before going
down to Micklethwayte, where the crisis was fast approaching, and she
had so much faith in his powers that she dreaded to forestall him by
an imprudent word. Alas, Gregorio must have been on his guard, for,
though Nuttie was sure she heard her friend's ring at the usual time,
no entrance followed. She went up to put on her habit to ride with
her father, and when she came down Mr. Egremont held out a card with
the name 'Philip Dutton,' and the pencilled request below to be
allowed to see Mr. Egremont later in the day.
'He has been denied!' exclaimed she in consternation.
'Hein! Before we go out, sit down and write a note for me.' And he
'Dear Sir--I will not trouble you to call again this
afternoon, as I have decided on reflection that there
is no employment on my estate suited to my nephew,
'As I understand that you are raising a family
subscription for rescuing his furniture from the
creditors, I enclose a cheque for £50 for the purpose.
'Yours--what--papa?--' asked Ursula, with a trembling voice, full of
'Yours, etc., of course. Quite intimate enough for an ex-umbrella-
monger. Here, give it to me, and I'll sign it while you fill up the
cheque for me.'
That such should be the first letter that Nuttie ever addressed to
Mr. Dutton, since the round-hand one in 'which Miss Ursula wished Mr.
Duton to have the onner of a tee with me on my birthday, and I am
your affected little Nuttie'!