Part 7 out of 7
dressed himself as best he could after so many years of dependence,
and stumbled downstairs, where, as with his daughter, it was
something like a relief to know that hope was not extinguished in
Alwyn's case. But Mr. Egremont was in a very trembling, broken
condition, and much overcome by his valet's end after so many years
of intimate association. Certainly, if either of the others had so
parted with the man, it would have been a horror in the recollection,
but he did not seem to dwell on it; and, indeed, attention was
distracted by every sound at the door, since each might bring news of
the missing child.
One of these tantalising rings proved to be a policeman with poor
Gregorio's keys, and a demand for an investigation into any papers he
might have left which would show his state of mind. Mr. Egremont
was very much annoyed, declaring that he would have no stranger
meddle with them, and that he saw no use in such prying. What
difference could it make to any living creature? However, when he
found there was no help for it, he said he must do it himself.
Nuttie offered to help, but was sharply, strongly refused. Mark
alone might and should help.
Then Mr. Dutton volunteered to go and explain matters to Mr. Dobbs,
so as to get freedom for Mark for at least the remainder of the day.
He would call at the police offices and see what was doing in the
search, put forward the advertisements, and obtain that the
Serpentine should be dragged, for he saw that only that measure would
remove one great terror from these anxious hearts.
'And,' he said to Mark, 'with your permission, I will bring back Mrs.
Egremont and the children if they will do me the honour to become my
guests. She will be a comfort to Miss Egremont, and then you will be
at hand in the evening.'
Mark could only be thankful, and presently addressed himself to the
investigation, which his uncle insisted should be made in his own
presence, though the opiate kept him for the most part dozing in an
arm-chair, only rousing up now and then by some noise at the front
door, or putting queries, the replies to which startled him more and
more, as he grew more wakeful and Mark proceeded.
All, except a few unimportant bills and a betting-book, was locked
into a dressing-case that had once belonged to Mr. Egremont, and had
tricks of secret drawers that only he could explain. It was full of
papers, and they were a strange revelation that Mr. Egremont might
well wish to withhold from his daughter. They went very far back,
and of course did not come out in order of chronology, nor would Mark
have understood them but for exclamations and comments here and there
from his uncle.
Everything seemed to be there,--the old passport and certificate to
Gregorio Savelli, when he left his Savoyard home to be a waiter at a
hotel; a few letters in Italian, probably from his parents, which
Mark could not read, but which soon ceased; the counter-signed
character with which he had entered General Egremont's service; and
then came a note or two signed A. P. E., which Mr. Egremont regarded
with great annoyance, though they only consisted of such phrases as
'Back on Wednesday. Find an excuse,' or in French, 'Envoyez
moi la petite boite!' 'Que la porte soit ouverte apres minuit.'
'That was the way,' groaned Mr. Egremont. 'The scoundrel! he kept
all those to be able to show me up to the General if he chose! I was
a young man then, Mark, not the straitlaced lad you've always been.
And the General! A bad old dog he was, went far beyond what I ever
did, but for all that he had no notion of any one going any way but
his own, and wanted to rein me in as tight as if he had been an
epitome of all the virtues. And Gregorio seemed a good-natured young
fellow then, and made things easy for me, though no doubt he meant to
have me in his hands, in case I tried to shake him off.'
Another discovery affected him far more. It was of a letter in
Alice's handwriting, addressed to Captain Egremont, in the yacht
Ninon--poste restante, Madeira. He had never seen it, never known of
its existence; Gregorio had gone to inquire for the letters, and had
suppressed it. Mr. Egremont had wondered how he had become aware of
the marriage. His knowledge had from that time been used as a means
of enforcing the need of a good understanding with the heir. Mr.
Egremont was much moved by the sight of the letter, and its date,
from Dieppe, about six months after he had left his young wife there.
He made Mark give it to him unread, handled it tenderly, struggled to
read the delicate pointed writing to himself, but soon deferred the
attempt, observing, 'There, there, I can't stand it now! But you
see, Mark,' he added after an interval, 'I was not altogether the
heartless brute you thought me.'
Mark, as he told his wife afterwards, could not help thinking of the
old preamble to indictments, 'By the temptation of the devil.'
And by and by, out of a pocket-book bearing the date of the General's
death, came a copy of the certificate of the baptism of Ursula Alice,
daughter of Alwyn Piercefield and Alice Egremont, together with that
address which Miss Headworth had left at Dieppe to gratify Alice's
forlorn idea of a possible rescue, and which Gregorio had asseverated
to be non-existent.
Doubtless he infinitely preferred his master's wandering bachelor
life to the resumption of marriage ties, and thus he had contrived to
keep Mr. Egremont from meeting the Houghtons at Florence. At the
same time the uncertainty as to Alice's fate had prevented any other
marriage. Gregorio had taken care that, if Mr. Egremont had been
villain enough to make such an attempt, he should know that his
secret could be brought to light.
Compared with all this wickedness, the proofs of fraud and dishonesty
were entirely unimportant. Gambling had evidently been a passion
with the valet, and peculation had followed, and Mark could have
traced out the full tide before the reinstatement of Mrs. Egremont in
her home, the gradual ebb during her reign, the diminished restraint
under her daughter. The other servants had formerly been implicated,
but, except a young groom and footman, Mark thought the present set
quite free from the taint, and was glad to acquit Broadbent. But the
last telegrams and the betting-book in the unhappy man's pocket
confirmed Parker's evidence that of late he had staked almost madly,
and had risked sums far beyond any means he could raise upon the
horse which had failed. The bailiff at Bridgefield had, it had long
been guessed, played into his hands, but to what an extent Mark only
The result was that what he had learnt in the Park had so astounded
him that his inattention to the child had not been wonderful. He
had--as Parker testified--sought the little fellow vehemently, and
had he been successful, he might yet have made some effort, trusting
to his master's toleration; but the loss and reproach had made him an
absolutely desperate man. Was it blind flight or self-destruction?
That he had money about him, having cashed a cheque of his master's,
favoured the first idea, and no one would too curiously inquire
whether Mr. Egremont was aware of the amount.
It was only too true that, as he had said, Gregorio Savelli had been
the curse of his life, having become one of the whips left by
pleasant vices, and the breaking of the yoke had been not only at a
terrible price, but, to a man in his half-blind and invalid
condition, the actual loss of the person on whom he had depended was
a privation. Dr. Brownlow, however, knew of a good man-servant just
set at liberty by the death of an invalid master, and promised to
send him on trial.
It was a day of agitations and disappointments, a sample of many that
were to follow. There was not a sound of a bell that did not make
anxious hearts throb. And oh! how many were spent on vain reports,
on mere calls of sympathy by acquaintance whom the father and sister
could not see, and on notes of inquiry or condolence that Nuttie had
Annaple came and was a great help and support to her. Poor nurse,
oblivious of her bad foot, or perhaps, willing to wreak vengeance on
it as the cause of all the mischief, had insisted on continuing her
search in the morning under all the thorns and rhododendrons where
she thought the dear lamb might have hidden and cried himself to
sleep, and at last had been brought home in a cab quite worn out and
despairing. But the screaming baby proved to be a much better
comforter to her than any amount of reasonable argument. To soothe
it, to understand what ailed it, to find suitable food for it, was an
occupation which made the suspense less intolerable. The very
handling of an infant would have been congenial; and a sickly crying
one was only too interesting. Willie was too near her darling's age
to be a welcome sight, but he was already a prime pet with the
servants at Springfield; and Annaple, secure that her children were
in safe and experienced hands, and overflowing with motherly sympathy
for the grievous loss, was ready to devote herself to Nuttie, whether
by talk, by letter writing, or by seeing inquiring friends. She did
not expect to be of any use to Mr. Egremont, who had always held
aloof from and disliked 'the giggling Scotch girl,' but who came
drearily wandering at an unexpected time into the room where she was
sitting with his daughter, and presently was involved in their
conversation. Whether it was the absence of the poor familiar, or
that Annaple was no longer a giggling girl, but a brave, cheerful
wife and mother, it was certain that he found the same comfort and
support in her presence as did Nuttie. When fits of restless misery
and despair pressed hardest upon him, it was soon perceived that
Annaple's cheerful tact enabled her to deal with him as no one else
could do. There was the restraint of courtesy towards her, such as
had worn out towards his daughter, and besides her sanguine optimist
spirit never became so depressed as did poor Nuttie's. Mark went by
day to his work, but came back to dine at his uncle's, hear the
reports, and do what he could for him; and meantime Annaple spent the
chief part of the day in aiding Nuttie and Mr. Egremont, while her
baby really showed signs of improvement in nurse's keeping. And so
the days went on, while every endeavour was made to trace the child,
but with no result but bitter disappointment. Twice, strayed
children, younger than Alwyn--one even a girl--were brought as the
lost boy, and the advertisements bore fruit in more than one
harassing and heartless correspondence with wretches who professed to
be ready to restore the child, on promises of absolute secrecy, and
sums of money sent beforehand, with all sorts of precautions against
interference from the police.
The first of these created great excitement, and the pursuit was
committed to Mr. Dutton. When it proved abortive, Mr. Egremont's
disappointment and anger were great, and he could not be persuaded
that all was not the fault of Mr. Dutton's suspicion and precaution
in holding back the money, nor could any one persuade him that it was
mere imposture. When another ill-written enigmatical letter arrived,
he insisted that it was from the same quarter, and made Broadbent
conduct the negotiations, with the result that after considerable
sums had been paid in circuitous fashions, the butler was directed to
a railway arch where the child would be deposited, and where he found
a drab-coloured brat of whom he disposed at the nearest police
station, after which he came home savagely disgusted.
Nuttie was not much less so at what she felt as a slight to Mr.
Dutton as well as at the failure. 'When you are doing so much for
us. We deserve that you should do nothing more,' she said with tears
shining in her eyes.
'Do not talk in that way,' he answered. 'You know my feeling for the
dear little fellow himself, and--'
'Oh yes,' interrupted Nuttie, 'I do trust to that! Nobody--not the
most indifferent person, but must long to save him. Yes, I know it
was doing you a wicked injustice to fancy that you could take offence
in that way at a father in such trouble. Please forgive me, Mr.
'As if I had anything to forgive. As if there were anything on earth
that could come before the endeavour to recover him,' said Mr.
Dutton, too much moved for his usual precision of speech.
'Yes; he is _her_ child,' said Nuttie, with a trembling tearful
'_Her_ child! Yes, and even if he were not, he is _your_ brother,'
said Mr. Dutton; then hastily gathering himself up, as if he had said
too much, he rose to take leave, adding as their hands clasped,
'Remember, as long as I live, you may count upon me.'
'Oh, I know, I know! There's nobody like you, but I don't know what
I say in this awful suspense. If I had only seen him lying white and
cold and peaceful, it would have been far better than to think of him
pining and miserable among wicked people, who would try to bring him
up like themselves. Mother's own little boy!'
'It will not be allowed, it will not be allowed,' cried Mr. Dutton.
'God's Providence is still over him.'
'And there are prayers, I know--at our church and Mr. Godfrey's-and
all ours, but oh! it takes a great deal of faith to lean on them. I
wonder if you would, Annaple, if it were Willy?'
'We will not ask Mrs. Egremont,' said Mr. Dutton, as Annaple made a
gesture of something like doubt.
'It is almost as bad,' said she, coming up and putting her arm round
Nuttie. 'But indeed, Mr. Dutton, she does trust, only it is very,
very sore, for her,--as it is for us all.'
'You are her great comfort,' said Mr. Dutton, as he shook hands with
'He could hardly help thanking me,' said Annaple to her husband
afterwards. 'Mr. Egremont may well call him an adopted uncle. I
should say he was a good deal more, poor man.'
THE HULL OF THE URSULA.
Ten days had passed, and Mark and Annaple were thinking that they
ought to return to ordinary life, and leave the bereaved ones to
endeavour to construct their life afresh under the dreadful wearing
uncertainty of their darling's fate. Still they were detained by
urgent entreaties from father and daughter, who both dreaded their
departure as additional desolation, and as closing the door of hope.
And certainly, even this rest was good for Annaple; and her baby, for
whom nurse had discovered a better system, had really not cried more
for a whole day than 'befitted a rational child,' said the mother, as
she walked back to Springfield with her husband in the summer night,
after dinner, on the day that Broadbent's negotiations had failed.
'Nurse will break her heart at parting with her,' said Mark. 'I wish
we could afford to have her.'
'Afford, indeed! Her wages are about a quarter of your salary, sir!
And after all, 'tis not the nurse that guards the child, as we have
seen only too plainly.'
'Do you think he is alive, Nan?'
'I begin to think not. He is not so young but that he could make
himself known, and those advertise ments are so widely spread. I am
sure poor Nuttie would be more at rest if she could give up hope.'
'I did not tell you before, Nan, but Dutton was going to-day to look
at a poor little unclaimed child's body that had been found in the
Thames. He knew him better than I, so he went.'
'He would have come if--' said Annaple.
'Assuredly. He meant to fetch nurse if he had any doubt, but
afterwards he was going to his court about his rents. He always does
that on Saturday evenings.'
Mr. Dutton himself opened his door to the pair.
'Well,' said Mark.
'Certainly not. The poor child was evidently much younger, and had
red hair. But look here,' and he held out a battered something,
black with a white stripe. Mark understood nothing, but Annaple
exclaimed, 'Is it his ship?'
'Yes, I could swear to it, for see,' and he pointed to some grimed,
almost effaced, but still legible capitals, which, however, scarcely
any one but himself could have read as "Ursula." 'I guided his hand
to make those the evening before he was lost,' said Mr. Dutton.
'Dear little man! And where did you find it?'
'Where I never thought of doing so! On the bed of a little crippled
boy in the next court to mine. He is rather a friend of mine, and I
turned in to take him some strawberries. I found him hugging this.'
'How did he get it?'
'Our "Liz" brought it to him. Our "Liz" is a very wild specimen, who
has spent her life in eluding the school board officer till she is
too old for his clutches; but she has a soft spot in her heart for
her little brother, and I believe another for Gerard Godfrey. We
must be very cautious, and not excite any alarm, or we shall be
baffled altogether. I am not sure that I did quite prudently in
giving little Alf a fresh boat in exchange for this; but I could not
help bringing it home.'
'You did not see the girl?'
'No. Those girls wander long and late on these hot nights, and I do
not think I could have got anything out of her. I have been to
Gerard Godfrey, and the next step must be left to him.'
'The next question is whether you will tell those poor things at No.
5,' said Mark.
Mr. Dutton hesitated. 'I should have no doubt of giving Miss
Egremont the comfort of knowing that there was a possible clue, but
if her father insisted on setting on the police, there would be very
little more hope of success. I am afraid it will be more prudent to
wait till we know what Godfrey says. He hopes to see the girl to-
morrow evening at his mission class, but of course she is a very
uncertain attendant there. No, I cannot trust myself.'
Annaple was forced to brook withholding the hope from the fainting
hearts all the ensuing Sunday, which was a specially trying day, as
Nuttie pined for her dear little companion with the pictures,
stories, and hymns that he had always enjoyed, and made pretty
childish remarks about, such as she began to treasure as memorable.
As soon as he could, early on Monday morning, Mr. Dutton repaired to
Gerard Godfrey's lodgings, and found that the young clergyman had
succeeded in seeing the girl, and had examined her so as not to put
the wild creature on her guard, and make her use the weapons of
falsehood towards one who had never been looked on as an ally of the
police. It appeared that she had brought home the ship, or rather
its hull, from one of the lowest of lodging houses, where she had
employment as something between charwoman and errand girl. She had
found it on what passed for a bed in its present condition, one
morning, when going to make the extremely slight arrangements that
the terrible lair, which served as a common bedroom, underwent, and
had secreted it as a prize for her little brother.
At first she had been stolid, and affected utter ignorance as to how
it got there, but Mr. Godfrey had entreated her as a friend to try to
discover; and had with all his heart made a pathetic description of
the girl (he durst not say lady) who had always been a mother to her
little brother, and now had lost him, and was in terrible uncertainty
as to his fate. That came home to Lizzie's feelings, and she let out
what she had seen or picked up in the way of gossip,--that the ship
had been left behind by its owner, whether boy or girl Liz was
uncertain, for it had long fair hair, wore a petticoat, and had been
dosed with gin and something else when carried away. They said it
had made noise enough when brought there by Funny Frank and Julia.
They were performing folk, who had come in after the Derby day to
have a spree, and to pick up another kid to do fairies and such like,
because the last they had had hurt his back and had to be left in the
workhouse. Yes, she had heard tell that they had got the child from
Mother Bet, of whom Gerard had a vague idea as one of the horrible
hags, who not only beg themselves, but provide outfits for beggars,
including infants, to excite compassion. Either she or one of her
crew had picked up the child and disposed of his clothes; and then
finding him too old and intelligent to be safely used for begging
purposes, she had sold or hired him out to these acrobatic
performers, who had gone off into that vague and unknown region, the
country. Liz had no notion what was their real name, nor where they
would go, only that they attended races and fairs; and as soon as the
actual pleasure of communicating information was over, she was seized
with a panic, implored Mr. Godfrey to make no use of her information,
and explained that the people of the house were quite capable of
killing her, if they suspected her of betraying any of their
transactions. It was impossible to bring any authorities to bear on
the quest; and Mr. Dutton held it wisest only to write a note telling
Mr. Egremont that he had obtained evidence that the child was living,
and that he was going in pursuit, but thought it safer to say no more
at present. He gave the note to Mark at his office. 'I cannot trust
myself to see your cousin,' he said. 'I might be tempted to say more
than was consistent with Godfrey's honour towards his informant.'
'I think you are right,' said Mark. 'You had better leave me with
only indefinite knowledge, for I shall be hard pressed. Do you not
go home first?'
'Yes, I go to pack up a few things and fetch Monsieur. A run in the
country will do him good, and he may be a valuable auxiliary. I
shall find no one at Springfield at this hour.'
'What is your plan?'
'I shall venture so far as to apply to the police for the names of
the usual attendants at races and fairs, and for some idea of their
ordinary rounds. I have no doubt that these are known at the chief
offices. For the rest, I must use my eyes. But tell your cousin
that, with God's blessing, I hope to bring him back to her.'
'He will,' said Ursula, when Mark gave her the message, and from that
moment she was calmer. She did not fret Mark with questions even as
much as Annaple did, she tried to prevent her father from raging at
the scant information, and she even endeavoured to employ herself
with some of her ordinary occupations, though all the time she kept
up the ceaseless watch. 'Mr. Dutton would not have said that without
good hope,' she averred, 'and I trust to him.'
Yet when four, five, six, eight, days had passed with no tidings, the
heart sickness grew almost more than she could bear, though she still
answered with spirit when her father again took to abusing the
umbrella-fellow for choosing to keep all in his own hands.
Even Annaple could not help saying to her husband that a precise,
prim, old bachelor was the very last person for a hunt in slums and
the like. The very sight of him would put the people on their guard.
'And think of his fine words,' she added. 'I wish I could go! If I
started with a shawl over my head, yoked to a barrel-organ, I should
have a far better chance than he will. I declare, Mark, if he does
not succeed we'll do it. We'll hire an organ, whereon you shall
play. Ah! you shake your head. A musical education is not required,
and I know I shall do something desperate soon, if that dear little
boy is not found.'
'The night came on and the bairnies grat,
Their minnie aneath the mools heard that.'
'LYNDHURST, 4th July.--Philip Dutton to Miss Egremont. Found.
'I knew he would,' said Nuttie, with a strange quietness, but as she
tried to read it to her father her voice choked, and she had to hand
it to Annaple. But for the first time in her life she went up and
voluntarily kissed her father's forehead. And perhaps it was for the
first time in his life that the exclamation broke from him, 'Thank
Perhaps it was well that the telegram had not come earlier in the
day, for Mr. Egremont was very restless, showing himself much shaken
in nerves and spirits before the time for driving to the station,
which he greatly antedated. Nuttie could hardly keep him in the
carriage, and indeed had to persuade him to return thither, when he
had once sprung out on the arrival of a wrong train.
And after all, when the train did come, his blue spectacles were
directed to the row of doors at the other end, and Nuttie was
anxiously trying to save him from being jostled, when a voice said
'Here!' and close beside them stood Mr. Dutton, with a little boy by
his side who looked up in her face and said 'Sister!' It was said in
a dreamy, almost puzzled way, not with the ecstatic joy Nuttie had
figured to herself; and there was something passive in the mode of
his hearing his father's 'My boy, my boy!' Instinctively all turned
to the harbour of the carriage; Mr. Dutton lifted Alwyn in, and as
Nuttie received him, a pang shot across her, as she felt how light,
how bony the little frame had become in these three weeks.
'Come in! Come back with us! Tell us all!' said Mr. Egremont, as
Mr. Dutton was about to help him in.
'My dog,' said Mr. Dutton, while Alwyn looked up from nestling in
Nuttie's lap to say, 'Mithter Button come! And Mothu!'
'We have room for him,' said Mr, Egremont graciously. 'Here, poor
'He has the right,' said Mr. Dutton, 'for he was the real finder.'
And Monsieur, curly and shiny, occupied with great dignity the back
seat beside his master, while Alwyn, in a silent but dreamy content,
as if he only half understood where he was, rested against his
sister's bosom with his hands in his father's.
'Come, old chap,' said his father cheerily, 'tell us all about it.'
But Alwyn only shuddered a little, raised his eyelids slightly, and
gave a tiny faint smile.
'I think he is very much tired,' said Mr. Dutton. 'There was a good
deal to be done to make him presentable this morning. You must
forgive me for sacrificing his curls, there was nothing else to be
done with them.'
'Ah!' and Nuttie looked again. The boy was in a new, rather coarse,
ready-made, sailor suit that hung loosely upon his little limbs, his
hair was short, and he was very pale, the delicate rosy flush quite
gone, and with it the round outline of the soft cheek; and there were
purple marks under the languid eyes. She bent down and kissed him,
saying, 'Was Mr. Button nurse to you, Wynnie?'
He smiled again and murmured, 'Mr. Button made me boy again.'
After a question and answer or two as to main facts of place and time
of the discovery, Mr. Dutton told his story. 'I did not effect much
with my inquiries after the circuses. All I heard of were of too
superior an order for kidnapping practices. However, I thought the
only way would be to haunt fairs and races, and look at their camp-
followers. At a place in Hertfordshire I saw a performance
advertised with several children as fairies, so I went to see it. I
was soon satisfied that Alwyn was not there; but it struck me that I
had known the face of the prime hero, a fine handsome supple fellow,
who was called in the programme Herr Adalbert Steinfuggen, or some
such name. Well, it seemed that he knew me, for as I struggled out
after a considerable interval, I heard myself accosted, "Mr. Dutton!
Sir, surely I have the honour of speaking to Mr. Dutton of
Micklethwayte?" I assure you he was the very pink of politeness. Do
you remember, Miss Egremont, Abel Stone?'
'Oh, Abel Stone! He was a choir boy at Micklethwayte, I remember! He
was very handsome, and had a splendid voice; but he was a real monkey
for mischief, and nobody could manage him but mother. She was always
pleading that he should not be turned out, and at last he ran away.'
'Yes; he went off with a circus, and there he found his vocation,
rose and throve, married the prima-donna, and is part owner. He
seems very respectable, and was so friendly and affectionate that I
ventured to consult him; when, on hearing whom I was seeking, he
became warmly interested, and gave me just the information I wanted.
He said he had little doubt that Funny Frank was a clown called Brag,
with whom he had had words some years back for misusing the children.
He said he did not hold with harshness to the little ones in teaching
them to do the feats, which certainly were wonderful. If they were
frightened, they were nervous and met with accidents; but make much
of them, and they thought it all fun, and took a pride and pleasure
in their performances. However this Brag, though a clever fellow,
could not be hindered from bullying, and at last he went off with a
girl of the troupe and set up on their own account. Stone, or
whatever he pleases to call himself, had met them several times, but
he spoke of them with great contempt as "low," and they did not
frequent the same places as he does. However, he referred to one of
his men, and found that they had been at Epsom on the Derby day, and
moreover, that there was a report of them having lately narrowly
escaped being in a scrape about a child who had been injured. There
was no scruple as to advising me where to look for them, or as to the
best means of detection. Stone was very indignant, and made me
understand that all his young people were either to the manner born,
or willingly hired out by their parents. I saw them in private life,
and they looked happy and well-fed, but that was no guarantee for
Funny Frank. Well, I followed him up without success, trying each
place Stone had set down for me, till I came last night to Lyndhurst,
a very pretty place in the New Forest, where there is to be a fair
to-morrow, beginning this afternoon. Stone advised me to look about
before the affair opened, while unpacking and arranging was going on.
Well, after all, it was very simple. I strolled out with my dog
round the field where the vans and booths were getting into order.
There was what I thought a little girl in a faded red petticoat
sitting on the steps at the bottom of a yellow van with her head on
'That was me,' said Alwyn, lighting up. 'And Mothu came and kissed
'Yes,' said Mr. Dutton; 'I verily believe we might have missed one
another, but Monsieur ran up to him and, as I was actually whistling
him off, I heard a little voice say, "Mothu! Mothu!" and saw they
were--well, embracing one another, and then came "Mithter Button,
Mithter Button, oh, take me home!'"
Eager caressing hands were held out to Monsieur, who jumped off the
seat to receive the pats and laudations lavished on his curly round
pate, and had to be reduced to order before Mr. Dutton could answer
the question whether he had any further difficulty or danger.
'I took him up in my arms, and a handsome truculent-looking woman
burst out on me, demanding what I was about with her child. To which
I answered that she knew very well he was no such thing. Her man
came swaggering up, declaring impudently that I had better be off--
but I believe he saw that the people who came round would not take
his part, for he gave in much more easily than I expected. I
explained as loud as I could that this was a gentleman's son who had
been stolen from his nurse in the Park. The man began to protest
that they had found him deserted, and taken him with them out of
charity, requesting to be paid for his keep. So I thought it better
to give them a sovereign at once, so as to have no further trouble,
and get him away as fast as I could. The woman came after me, making
further demands, but the sight of a policeman in the distance turned
her back. I went up to him and explained. I found he knew all about
the loss and the reward, and looked regretfully at my prize. We went
back to the hotel, where I set Alwyn to rights as well as I could,
sent out for some clothes, such as the place would produce, and which
at least, as he says, made a boy of him again. I'm afraid the
process was rather trying from such unaccustomed hands, though he was
very good, and he has been asleep almost all the way home, and, his
senses all as in a dream bound up.'
The heaviness--whether weariness or content, still continued. Alwyn
seemed to find it too much trouble to talk, and only gave little
smiles, more like his mother than himself. He clung quite
desperately to his sister when Mark offered to lift him from the
carriage, but nurse was close behind, and it was good to see the
little arms stretched out, and the head laid on her shoulder, the
hand put up to stroke her cheek, and the lips whispering 'Wyn's own
nursie.' The jubilant greeting and triumphant procession with which
he was borne upstairs seemed almost to oppress him. He appeared
almost as if he was afraid of wakening from a happy dream, and his
lively merriment seemed all gone; there were only beams of
recognition and gladness at 'Wyn's own nursery, Wyn's own pretty
cup,' touching it as if to make sure that it was real, and pleased to
see the twisted crusts, his special treat.
But he could not eat much of them, and soon laid his head down, as
one weary, with the exhaustion of content; and nurse, who had allowed
that Mr. Dutton had, considering all things, done much for the
outward restoration of the daintiness of her recovered child, was
impatient to give him the hot bath and night's rest that was to bring
back the bright joyous Alwyn. So Nuttie only lingered for those
evening prayers she had yearned after so sorely. When she held his
mother's picture to him to be kissed, he raised his eyes to her and
said: 'Will she come to me at night now?'
'Who, my darling?'
'She, mother dear.'
'Here's her picture, dear boy.'
'Not only the picture--she came out of it, when I cried, up on the
nasty-smelling bundle in the van all in the dark.'
'Yes, she came, and made it so nice, and hushed me. I wasn't afraid
to go to by-by when she came. And she sang. Sister, can't you sing
'Not here, I'm afraid, dear, dear boy,' she whispered, holding him so
tight that he gave a little cry of 'It hurts.' Then came the
prayers, not a word forgotten, and the little voice joined in her
murmured thanksgiving for bringing him home.
She was much moved and awe-stricken at these words of her little
brother; but she had to dress in haste for dinner, listening the
while to her maid's rejoinings and vituperations of the wretches who
had maltreated the child.
When she came down she found no one in the drawing-room but Mr.
Dutton, whom her father had asked to the happiest meal that had
perhaps ever been eaten in that house.
She went towards him with winged steps in her white dress: 'Oh! Mr.
Dutton, we have not said half enough to you, but we never, never
He gave a curious, trembling half smile, as she held out her hands to
him, and said: 'The joy is great in itself,' speaking in a very low
'Oh! I am so glad that you did it,' cried Ursula. 'It would not have
been half so sweet to owe it to any one else.'
'Miss Egremont, do you know what you are saying?' he exclaimed.
'Don't call me Miss Egremont! You never used to. Why should you?'
'I have not dared--' he began.
'Dared! Don't you know you always were our own Mr. Dutton--best,
wisest friend of all, and now more than ever.'
'Stay,' he said, 'I cannot allow you in your fervour to say such
things to me, unaware of the strength of feeling you are stirring
'You! you! Mr. Dutton!' cried Nuttie, with a moment's recoil. 'You
don't mean that you care for _me_.'
'I know it is preposterous--' he began.
'Preposterous! Yes, that you should care one bit for silly, foolish,
naughty, self-willed me. Oh, Mr. Dutton, you can't mean it!'
'Indeed, I would have kept silence, and not disturbed you with my
'Hush!' she cried. 'Why, it makes me so glad and so proud, I don't
know what to do. I didn't think anybody was good enough for you--
unless it was dear, dear mother--and that it should be me.'
'It is true,' he said gravely, 'my younger days were spent in a vain
dream of that angel, then when all that was ended, I thought such
things were not for me; but the old feeling has wakened, it seems to
me in greater force than ever, though I meant to have kept it in
'Oh, I am glad you didn't! It seems as if the world swam round with
wonder and happiness,' and she held his hand as if to steady herself,
starting however as Annaple opened the door saying, 'We've been
sending telegrams with the good news.'
Then an arch light came into her bright eyes, but the others were
behind her, and she said no more.
FOUND AND TAKEN.
'The angels of the gateway
Bent softly to the child,
And stretched glad hands to take him
To the kingdom undefiled.'--B. M.
'Come up and see him,' said Nuttie, as the dining-room door was shut.
'I must feast my eyes on him.'
Annaple replied by throwing an arm round her and looking into her
eyes, kissing her on each cheek, and then, as they reached the
landing in the summer twilight, waltzing round and round that narrow
space with her.
'You ridiculous person!' said Nuttie. 'Do you mean that you saw!'
'Of course I did; I've seen ever so long--'
'Nonsense! That's impossible--'
'Impossible to owls and bats perhaps, but to nothing else not to see
that there was one sole and single hero in the world to you, and that
to him there was one single being in the world; and that being the
'But, Annaple, you can't guess what he has always been to me.'
'Oh! don't I know?--a sort of Archbishop of Canterbury and George
Heriot rolled into one. So much the more reason, my dear, I don't
know when I've been so glad in my life than that your good times
should be coming.'
'They are come in knowing this! It is only too wonderful,' said
Nuttie, as they stood together among the plants in the little
conservatory on the way upstairs. 'I always thought it insulting to
him when they teased me about him.'
'They did, did they?'
'My father, incited by poor Gregorio. Oh, Annaple! don't let any one
guess till we know how my father will take it. What is it, Ellen?'
as the nursery-maid appeared on the stairs.
'If you please, ma'am, Mrs. Poole would be glad if you are coming up
to the nursery.'
They both hastened up and nurse came out to meet them in the day
nursery, making a sign to Ellen to take her place by the cot, and
withholding the two ladies. She made them come as far off as
possible, and then said that she was not at all satisfied about
Master Alwyn. There had been the same drowsiness and disinclination
to speak, and when she had undressed and washed him, he had seemed
tender all over, and cried out and moaned as if her touch hurt him,
especially on one side where, she felt convinced, there was some
injury; but when she asked about it his eyes grew frightened and
bewildered, and he only cried in a feeble sort of way, as if sobs
gave him pain.
She had soothed him, and he had gone into his own bed with the same
gentle languid gladness, but had presently begun moaning, and
imploring in his sleep, wakening with screams and entreaties, 'Oh,
I'll do it! I'll try!' and she thought him very feverish. Would it
not be better that a doctor should see him?
Nurse was always an alarmist, and Nuttie could not help thinking that
to wake the child to see a stranger to-night would only add to his
terror and distress, while Annaple declared her entire belief that
though no doubt the poor little fellow had been cruelly knocked about
and bruised, a night's rest would probably restore his bright self,
and make all that was past only like a bad dream. There was no
judging to-night, and sleep was wonderful reparation to those little
Then however the moans and murmurs began again, and now the awakening
cry. They started forward, and as Nuttie came to the cot-side the
child threw himself into her bosom with, 'Sister! Sister! It is
sister!' but his eyes grew round with terror at sight of Annaple, and
clinging tightly to Nuttie he gasped, 'Send her away! don't let her
touch me! Fan's not here!'
To tell him she was Cousin Annaple, Billy's mamma, had no effect; he
did not seem able to understand, and she could only retire--nurse
being thus convinced that to let him see another stranger to-night
would only do further harm. Nuttie and nurse succeeded in reassuring
him that he was safe at home and with them, and in hushing him off
into what they hoped would be a quiet wholesome sleep in spite of the
hot sultry night, on which Annaple laid a good deal of the blame of
his restlessness and feverishness.
Nuttie only came down for a short time before the visitors went away;
and then she wrote a note to Dr. Brownlow, which Mark promised to
leave as he went to the city in the morning, Mr. Egremont, in his
present relief, pooh-poohing all fears, and backing up Annaple's
belief in the powers of 'tired nature's soft restorer'; but Mr.
Dutton looked grave and said that he had remarked the extreme
tenderness, but had hoped that much was due to his own inexperience
in handling little children. The parting clasp of the hand had a
world of meaning in it, and Nuttie openly said that she hoped to tell
him after matins at St. Michael's how the boy was. But she could not
be there. When she went upstairs at night the half-delirious terrors
had returned, and there was another difficult soothing and comforting
before the child slept again. Nurse fancied the unwonted presence
might disturb him, and insisted on her going to her own room.
When she returned in the morning it was to find that since daylight
he had been more quietly asleep; but there was a worn sunken look
about his face, and she could not be satisfied to leave him alone
while the nurses stirred about and breakfasted.
He awoke smiling and happy; he looked about and said gladly, 'Wyn at
home! Wyn's own nursery,' but he did not want to get up; 'Wyn so
tired,' he said, speaking of himself in the baby form that he had for
several months discarded, but he said his pretty 'thank you,' and
took delight in breakfasting in his cot, though still in a subdued
way, and showing great reluctance to move or be touched.
Nuttie was sent for to report of him to his father, who would not
hear for a moment of anxiety, declaring that the boy would be quite
well if they let him alone, he only wanted rest, and insisting on
following out his intention of seeing a police superintendent to
demand whether the kidnapping rascals could not be prosecuted.
Neither by Nuttie nor nurse could much be extracted from the poor
little fellow himself about his adventures. He could not bear to
think of them, and there was a mist of confusion over his mind,
partly from weakness, partly, they also thought, from the drugged
spirits with which he had been more than once dosed. He dimly
remembered missing Gregorio in the park, and that he had tried to
find his way home alone, but some one, a big boy, he thought, had
said he would show him the way, took hold of his hand, dragged him,
he knew not where, into dreadful dirt and stench, and apparently had
silenced him with a blow before stripping him. But it was all very
indistinct, he could not tell how Mother Bet got hold of him, and the
being dressed in the rags of a girl had somehow loosed his hold of
his own identity. He did not seem at all certain that the poor
little dirty petticoated thing who had wakened in a horrible cellar,
or in a dark jolting van who had been dubbed Fan, who had been forced
by the stick to dance and twist and compelled to drink burning,
choking stuff, was the same with Alwyn in his sailor suit or in his
It was Dr. Brownlow who at once detected that there had been much of
this dosing, and drew forth the fact. It had probably been done
whenever it was expedient that he should be hidden, or unable to make
any appeal to outsiders. Alwyn was quite himself by day, and showed
no unreasonable fear or shyness, but he begged not to be touched, and
though he tried to be good and manly, could not keep from cries and
screams when the doctor examined him.
Then it came out. 'It's where he kicked me.'
'That man--master, she said I must call him. He kicked poor little
Fan with his great heavy big boots--'cause Fan would say Wyn's
'Who was Fan?' asked the puzzled doctor.
'Himself,' whispered Nuttie. 'Alas! himself!'
'Wyn was Fan,' said Alwyn. 'Fan's gone now!'
'And did the man kick poor little Fan,' repeated the doctor--'here?'
'Oh don't--don't! It hurts so. Master said he would have none of
that, and he kicked with his big boot. Oh! Fan couldn't dance one
bit after that.'
He could not tell how long ago this had been. He seemed to have lost
all reckoning of days, and probably felt as if ages had past in Funny
Frank's van, but Dr. Brownlow thought the injury could not be above
two or three days old, and probably it accounted for there having
been no more obstructions put in the way of removing the child, since
he had ceased to be of use, and the discovery of the injury might
have brought the perpetrator into trouble. Indeed, as it was, Mr.
Egremont caused the police to be written to, demanding the arrest of
the man and woman Brag, but they had already decamped, and were never
traced, which was decidedly a relief to those who dreaded all that a
prosecution would have involved.
And Dr. Brownlow became very grave over the injury. He said it was a
surgical case, and he should like to have another opinion, enjoining
that the child should be kept in bed, and as quiet as possible, till
he could bring his friend in the afternoon, which was no difficult
matter, for Alwyn seemed to have no desire for anything but rest and
the sight of his friends and his treasures, which were laid beside
him to be gently handled and stroked but not played with. Mothu and
Mithter Button were among the friends he craved for, but he showed no
desire to see Billy-boy, and it was thought best to keep that young
gentleman's rampant strength at a distance.
The chief difficulty was with his father, who declared they were all
croaking, and that the boy would be as well as ever to-morrow. He
went and sat by the cot, and talked merrily of the pony that Alwyn
was to ride, and the yachting they would have in the summer; and the
little fellow smiled and was pleased, but went to sleep in the midst.
Then Mr. Egremont went out, taking Annaple with him, because Nuttie
would not go till the doctors' visit was over, though he declared
that they were certain not to come till long after her return from
the drive. He actually went to the dealer's, and had pony after pony
paraded before the carriage, choosing a charming toy Shetland at
last, subject to its behaviour with the coachman's little boy, while
Annaple hopefully agreed with him that Alwyn would be on its back in
He still maintained his opinion, outwardly at least, when he was met
on his return by Nuttie with a pale, almost thunderstruck face. Dr.
Brownlow had called her from trying to soothe away the fright and
suffering of the examination, to break to her that both he and his
colleague thought very seriously of the injury and its consequences,
and deemed it very doubtful whether the poor little fellow could be
Mr. Egremont was again angry, declared that she had misunderstood,
and made the worst of it; that Dr. Brownlow was a conceited young
ass; that his friend played into his hands; with other amenities of
the same kind, to which she listened with mingled irritation and pity
for his unreasonableness, and even at the sympathy which he found in
Annaple's hopeful nature.
The young mother never dreaded nor expected what she could not bear
to think possible, such as the death-warrant of that beautiful child,
while Nuttie's nature always expected the worst, and indeed had read
the doom in the doctor's eyes and voice rather than in his words. So
Annaple backed Mr. Egremont up when he made his daughter write to
desire Dr. Brownlow to call in the first advice in London; and among
them they made so sure that this would be effective that they
actually raised Nuttie's hopes so as to buoy her through the feverish
early hours of the night when the pain was aggravated, the terrors
returned, the boy was tormented by his duality with Fan, and the past
miseries were acted over again. Even nurse and sister did not
suffice, and Mithter Button had to be fetched by Mark before he could
feel quite secure that he was Alwyn and not Fan. Indeed, in these
light-headed moments, a better notion was gained of what he must have
endured than in the day-time, when all seemed put aside or forgotten.
After a time he became capable of being soothed by hymns, though
still asking why his sister could not sing like that vision of his
mother which had comforted him in his previous miseries, and craving
for her return. Then at last he fell quietly asleep, and Nuttie was
left with a few sustaining words and a pressure from Mr. Dutton's
Alas! the new consultation could only ratify the first opinion. The
injury need not have been necessarily fatal, though dangerous to any
young child, and here it had been aggravated by previous ill-
treatment, and by the doses of spirits that had been forced down,
besides which, Alwyn was naturally delicate, and--though the doctors
would not say so to father or sister--there were hereditary
predispositions that gave him the less chance of battling through.
Yet Mr. Egremont concluded his purchase of the pony, and insisted
that Alwyn should be carried to the window to see it; and Alwyn's
smile was almost enough to break Nuttie's heart, but his head drooped
on nurse's shoulder, he hardly lifted his heavy eyelids, and begged
for 'by-by' again. Even Annaple burst into tears at the sight, ran
out of the room with her sobs, and never augured recovery again,
though still she strove to cheer and while away the poor father's
piteous hours by making the most of every sign that the child was
happy and not suffering much.
That he would be viewed as a 'pale placid martyr' was his sister's
chief comfort. His replies as to the manner of the hurt, as well as
his light-headed wanderings, had made it more and more evident that
the man Brag's brutality had been excited by his persisting in
kneeling down to say his prayers aloud--the only way he knew how to
say them. Indeed there was a recurring anxiety night and morning to
kneel, which had to be reasoned away, even when he was too weak to
make the attempt, and was only appeased by 'Sister' kneeling by his
side, holding his hands, and repeating the little prayers with him.
It was of his own accord that he added: 'And forgive those people,
and make them good.' Annaple burst into tears again and almost
scolded when she heard of it. 'Oh dear! oh dear! now I know he won't
get well! I'm glad Billy isn't so horribly good! Nuttie, Nuttie,
don't! You know I don't mean it. Only I just can't bear it. He is
the sweetest little fellow in the world! And oh! the cruelty of it.'
'Yes,' said Nuttie in her dreary calmness; 'he is too sweet and
lovely and beautiful and good to be anywhere but safe with mother.'
For it was more apparent that they could not keep him. It did not
last long; there were a couple of piteous days of restless pain and
distress, and then came the more fatal lull and absence of suffering,
a drowsiness in which the little fellow sank gradually away, lying
with a strange calm beauty on his face, and smiling feebly when he
now and then lifted his eyes to rest them on sister or nurse. His
father could not bear the sight. It filled him more with angry
compassion than with the tender reverence and hushed awe with which
Ursula watched her darling slipping as it were from her hold. So Mr.
Egremont wandered wretchedly about the lower rooms, while Mark and
Annaple tried their best for him through the long summer evening,
darkening into night. By and by Alwyn lifted his hand, turned his
head, opened his lips, and whispered, 'Hark, sister, she is singing.'
The look of exceeding joy beamed more and more over the pinched
little face. 'She's come again,' he said; and once more, 'Come to
take Wyn to the dear Lord.' After that there were very few more long
breaths before little Alwyn Egremont's spirit was gone to that unseen
world, and only the fair little frame left with that wondrous look of
delighted recognition on the face.
THE UMBRELLA MAN.
Little Alwyn was laid to rest beside his mother in a beautiful summer
noontide. His father was not in a state to attend the funeral, and
was left under the care of Annaple, his own choice among those who
offered to stay and minister to him. It was his own wish that his
daughter should be to the last with her little brother. He had even
said to her that she had been a good sister, and his boy had been
very fond of her, and he would not keep her away on any account.
And, with a man's preference for a young and kindly woman, he chose
Annaple to be with him rather than Mr. Dutton, remembering likewise
that but for him the boy would have died in some workhouse, unknown
and unclaimed, or among the wretches who had caused his death. So
Nuttie had the comfort of Mr. Dutton's going down with her, as well
as Mark, and poor broken-down nurse, but not a word referring to the
confession of that happy evening had passed between them during the
mournful fortnight which had since elapsed.
May Condamine and her husband had made all as fair and consoling as
they could. There were white-robed children to bear the boy from the
churchyard gate, choristers sang hymns, the grave was lined with moss
and daisies, and white roses decked the little coffin and the mound.
There was as much of welcome and even of triumph as befitted the
innocent child, whose death had in it the element of testimony to the
truth. And Nuttie felt it, or would feel it by and by, when her
spirit felt less as if some precious thing had been torn up by the
roots--to be safe and waiting for her elsewhere, indeed, but that did
not solace the yearning longing for the merry loving child; nor the
aching pity for the crushed blighted creature whom she had watched
suffering and dying. It was far beyond her power as yet to acquiesce
in her aunt's consolation that it was happier for the child himself,
than if he was to grow up to temptation from without, and with an
unsound constitution, with dangerous hereditary proclivities. She
could believe it in faith, nay, she had already experienced the
difficulties her father had thrown in her way of dealing with him,
she tried to be resigned, but the good sense of the Canoness was too
much for her.
It was a day of more haste than suited the ideal of such a time, for
Mr. Egremont could not be left for a night; so there was only time
for a luncheon, with little jerks of talk, and then for an hour spent
in short private interviews. Mrs. Egremont obtained from poor Nurse
Poole all the details, and, moreover, her opinion of Mr. Mark's baby,
in whom, it having been born under her auspices, she took a special
Nuttie meantime was pacing the shady walk with her dear old friend
Miss Nugent, feeling it strange that her heart did not leap up at the
bare presence of one she loved so much, yet conscious of the soothing
of her sympathy. And Mary, watching her all through, had been struck
with the increased sweetness and nobleness her countenance had
acquired during these years of discipline. More of her mother's
expression had come than could have been thought possible in features
of such a different mould, formed for so much more strength and
energy. They had not met since Nuttie had been summoned home to her
mother's deathbed, and their time was chiefly spent on reminiscences
alike of the old sorrow and the new; but, when the time for parting
was nearly come, Mary said affectionately, 'And you, my dear?'
'Oh, I am all right,' said Nuttie, and her eyes shone with a light
Mary did not at the moment understand; 'you need not be anxious for
'I suppose that unhappy valet's death makes your task easier,' said
'I think it will,' said Nuttie. 'Poor man! He was--I can't help
saying it--the evil genius of the house. Dear mother knew it,
struggled against him, and broke down in the struggle. It seems so
strange that what she could not do has been done in such a manner,
and at such a price! I wonder whether she knew it when she welcomed
'Her influence will aid you still,' said Mary, 'and you have Mr.
Dutton to help you too. I was so glad to find he was so near you.'
'Oh, Mr. Dutton!' exclaimed Ursula, in a strange tone that sent a
thrill through Mary, though she knew not why; but at that moment they
were interrupted, very inopportunely, by Mr. Bulfinch, who could not
go away without asking Miss Egremont whether she thought her father
could see him on business if he came up to town the next day. She
thought that such an interview would rouse her father and do him
good, advising him to call on the chance.
Mark's tete-a-tete had been with his sister May, to whom he had much
to tell of his wife and her gallant patience and energy, and how
curious it was that now the incubus that had weighed on his uncle's
household was removed, the prejudice had melted away, and he had
grown so fond of her that, next to Ursula, she was his best
'I hope that will lead to more,' said May.
'I don't see how,' said Mark. The more we rely only on a blessing on
our own exertions the better.'
'Even when Annaple works within an inch of her life?'
'Now that she is on a right tack about the baby, that will be easier.
Yes, May, I do feel sometimes that I have brought her down to
drudgery and narrowness and want of variety such as was never meant
for her, but she will never let me think so. She says that it is
living in realities, and that it makes her happier than toiling after
society, or rather after the world, and I do believe it is true! I'm
sure it is with me.'
'But such work as yours, Mark.'
'Nonsense, May; I enjoy it. I did not when I was in the Greenleaf
firm, with an undeveloped sense that Goodenough was not to be
trusted, and we were drifting to the bad, yet too green to understand
or hinder it; but this I thoroughly like. What does one want but
honest effective work, with some power of dealing with and helping
those good fellows, the hands, to see the right and help themselves?'
May sighed. 'And yet, now that poor child is gone, I feel all the
more how hard it is that you should be put out of the rights of your
'I never had any rights. It was the bane of my life to be supposed
to have them. Nothing but this could have made a man of me.'
'And don't you have regrets for your boy?'
'I don't think I have--provided we can give him an education--such as
I failed to make proper use of, or Annaple might be luxuriating at
Pera at this moment.'
'Well!' said May, pausing as she looked up the vista of trees at the
great house; 'I can't bear it to go out of the old name.'
'Names may be taken!'
'You don't mean that there's any chance of--Oh! not that horrid Mr.
'Oh!' as a trim black figure appeared walking down the open space.
'I am not authorised to tell any one so, May.'
'Yes, I understand. The wretch, he is taking stock of the place
'For shame. May, no one has deserved so well of them.'
'I don't care, he got you into that horrid concern.'
'And got me out of it, and found my work for me. I tell you, May, it
is the best thing that could possibly happen to your parish, or the
estate, or my poor uncle either! And you will soon come to a better
'Never, while he is to get into your place! Turn back before he
comes within hailing distance. '
Before Mark could do anything towards bringing his sister to a better
mind he was seized on by his stepmother to propound a scheme she had
hatched, namely that, as a mutual benefit, Nurse Poole should be
allowed the consolation of bringing her chief comforter, his little
daughter, down with her on the visit Mrs. Egremont had invited her to
pay at Redcastle. He was very grateful, though doubtful whether
Annaple would accept the offer, for she was missing her children's
company, though they were only at Springfield House, and she had been
with them part of every day. And, sad as this month had been, it had
been such a rest from sheer physical toil that she had gained almost
as much by it as the little one.
There was a general assembly and coffee-drinking in the verandah,--
Mr. Condamine, Blanche, and her two young sisters were all there,--
and May had to be duly civil to Mr. Dutton, though he came back with
some water-lilies that he had fished out of the lake for Nuttie, and
she thought it taking possession. Then the Londoners set forth for
the station, and there Mark, having perhaps had a hint from his wife,
saw Nuttie and Mr. Dutton safely bestowed by Broadbent in an empty
carriage, and then discovered a desire to smoke, and left them to
They had not been alone together for more than a second since the
evening of Alwyn's return, and there was a great shyness between
them, which lasted till the first station was past without any
irruption of newcomers. Nothing had been said but a few comments on
the arrangements and the attendants, but probably both were trying to
begin to speak, and at last it was Ursula who crossed over so that
her face could not be seen, and said in an odd tone--
'Yes,' and he turned, instantly on the alert.
'Did you mean it--what I thought you meant that evening?'
'Can you doubt it?' he said earnestly. 'But even then I was
surprised into the avowal, and I would have held it back if possible,
if I had guessed what was going to happen.'
'Ah! but then I should not have had that drop of comfort through it
all,' and she laid hold of his hand, which returned the pressure
strongly, but he sedulously guarded both words and tone as he said:
'Listen, Ursula, before you speak again. How dear you must always be
to me, I cannot tell you, but when I then spoke, it was with the
sense that on every account, I should meet with strong opposition
from your father and family. And now your position is altered, so
that the unsuitability is doubled. I am not a young man, remember,
and my thoughts must be for you above all, I want you to consider
whether, in the present state of affairs, you would not do better to
look on what then passed as unsaid, or only as the ebullition of
gratitude towards your old friend. Let me go abroad, and give you
full opportunity for--for some fresh beginning likely to be fitter
'Mr. Dutton, how can you say such horrid things? As if a dukedom
would make any difference.'
'Yes,' he said, turning towards her. 'If it is only the old-friend
feeling, then it is better dropped, but if your heart is in it,
child, then we go on, come what may. It is due to you.'
She raised her face towards him now, and he gave a grave kiss to her
forehead. She drew a long breath, and said after a little pause,
'And now I have something to say. One does think of such things even
in these sad times, and you can help me. I am so glad it is you,
because I know you will, and be rejoiced to do so. You know when
Mark found us out first, dear mother and I always felt that it was a
great pity he should not have the estate he had been brought up to
expect. I believe dear mother thought it would have been the right
thing for me to marry him, but I always did mean to give it back to
him, even when I didn't like him. Well, then, you know it all seemed
settled otherwise, but now, it is so lucky you spoke to me while that
dear little fellow was with us, because now you will help me to
persuade my father that it is the only satisfactory thing to do to
let it go in the male line to Mark and his Willy.'
'I see! I see!' said Mr. Dutton eagerly. 'It would be an infinite
relief if it could be carried out.'
'I believe my father would like it,' said Nuttie. 'He cares for the
name; and now no one prevents it; he is fond of Mark, and still more
of Annaple! And you! Oh, Mr. Dutton, if he will only take it in the
right way, I think you will make me able to do what it grieved dear
mother never to have brought about for my poor father.'
'My whole self is yours to aid you,' he said. 'You know of course
that I could not ask you to detach yourself from one to whom you are
so necessary. If he will permit us, we will watch over him together
as doing her work.'
'Thank you,' was all Nuttie's lips could utter, though her hand said
And before they reached London they had arranged something of a plan
of action for propitiating Mr. Egremont, and bringing the future
prospects to be available so as to save Annaple from being worked to
death in the meantime.
ANNAPLE'S AMBITION FALLEN.
'Well, how did you get on, Annaple?'
'Oh! very well, poor old man, on the whole, though it made one pity
him doubly that he chose to make as if he forgot everything, and you
were all gone on a picnic, taking me out for a long drive in the
afternoon--where we were least likely to meet any one--that I will
say for him.'
'Forgetting is not the best for him.'
'As if he could forget! But he was very nice and friendly, and put
on his best, most courteous self. I think he looks on me rather as a
protector from the solemn Mr. Edsall.'
'Surely Edsall treats him well. He was excellently recommended. You
know I saw his master's daughter.'
'Oh! only _too_ well. He takes the management of him as if he were
three years old, or a lunatic. He simply _will_ not be offended any
more than if he had to do with a baby.'
'What should offend him?'
'That Mr. Egremont greatly resents being allowed nothing but by what
Edsall calls medical sanction. He is too blind, you know, to venture
to pour out anything for himself, and besides, Edsall has all the
drugs under lock and key, and is coolness itself about any amount of
objurgations, such as I fancy go on sometimes.'
'Do you think he will stand it?'
'Who? Your uncle? Yes, I think he will. This man really makes him
more comfortable than poor Gregorio did.'
'Yes; Nuttie said she was sure that there was neglect, if not
bullying latterly. But he must miss Gregorio terribly. They had
been together for at least five-and-twenty or thirty years, and had
plenty of gossip together.'
'Whereas the present paternal despotism and appalling dignity and
gravity will keep him more dependent on his right congeners.'
'If they are of the right sort, that's all.'
'He has been making me read him a whole heap of letters; indeed, as
you know, I have been doing that all along, when he could not get
Nuttie. There were some from Mr. Bulfinch. Do you know that bailiff
of his must be next door to a swindler?'
'Bulfinch is coming up to see him to-morrow.'
'And, Mark, do you know, he has been putting out feelers as if to
discover whether we would do--what he asked us to do five years ago.'
'If it were not for the children, and--and sometimes the extreme
pinch, I should say it was more like _life_ to work yourself up as a
City man,' said Annaple. 'If you were the Squire, with all his
opportunities, it would be a different thing, but there's no outlet
there, and I have often admired the wisdom of the Apocryphal saying,
"Make not thyself an underling to a foolish man."'
'Well, it is lucky you think so, Nannie, for though Dutton is
certainly not a foolish man, he will not want an underling. And what
do you say to my mother's proposal of having poor Poole to stay at
Redcastle, and borrowing baby to comfort her till she goes out again.
'I hate it,' said Annaple energetically. 'It is very horrid, but it
is awfully good of the Canoness; and I suppose we shall have to let
it come to pass, and miss all that most charming time of babyhood
which is coming. But most likely it will quite set the little woman
up, and be a real kindness to poor Poole.'
'If we could only keep her for good.'
'Yes, and then our children would not be half so much our own. I do
want to be away with them in our own quarters. I wonder when Nuttie
can spare us, but I should like to see her through the great crisis
with her father.'
That crisis was to involve more than Annaple in the least expected.
Nuttie found that the momentous confession could not possibly take
place before the interview with Mr. Bulfinch, at which her presence
was needed to help her father with his papers. The principal concern
was to show the full enormity of the bailiff, and decide upon the
steps to be taken, the solicitor being anxious for a prosecution,
while a certain tenderness for poor Gregorio's memory, or perhaps for
the exposure of his own carelessness, made Mr. Egremont reluctant.
There was also a proposal, brought forward with much diffidence from
Mr. Condamine's mother, to rent Bridgefield House, but on this, as
well as respecting a successor to the bailiff, Mr. Egremont was to
give his answer the next day, when Mr. Bulfinch would call again.
Nuttie was thankful for the business that had filled up the hour
after luncheon, when Alwyn used to play in the drawing-room and
delight his father; but she was feeling desperate to have the crisis
over, and resolved to speak when she went out driving with him. It
was he, however, who began. 'I sounded Mark's wife yesterday,
Ursula. She is a nice little thing enough, and a good wife in her
'A very good wife.'
'Except when she persuaded him to turn up his nose at the agency.
D'ye think he would take it now, since he has tasted the sweets of
his umbrella business?' then, as Nuttie paused, taken by surprise;
'Five hundred a year and the Home Farm would be better than, what is
it, a hundred and fifty and a floor over a warehouse! I don't like
to see old Will's son wearing himself out there, and the lad is a
good honest lad, with business habits, who would do justice to you
after I am gone.'
'Father,' said Nuttie, trembling with the effort, 'I want you to do
something better than that. I want you to let Mark take the agency
with a view to himself--not me. Let him be as he would have been if
he had never hunted us up at Micklethwayte, and put me in his place.'
'Eh!' said Mr. Egremont. 'It is not entailed--worse luck; if it had
been, I should not have been bound to dance attendance at the heels
of such an old sinner as the General.'
'No, but it ought to go to the heir male, and keep in the old name.
Think--there have been Egremonts at Bridgefield for four hundred
'Very pretty talk, but how will it be with you, Miss. We shall have
Fane, and I don't know how many more, coming after the scent of
Bridgefield now,' he said with a heavy sigh, ending with a bitter
'Hang them all!'
'And welcome,' said Nuttie, answering the thought rather than the
words. 'Father, I wanted to tell you--'
'You don't mean that any one has been after you at such a time as
this!' he cried.
'It was before--I mean it was the evening when we were all so glad,
before we began to be afraid.'
'The umbrella man! By Jove!'
'And now,' went on Nuttie, in spite of the explosion, 'he would
hardly have ventured to go on with it but for this--I mean,' as her
father gave a little laugh of his unpleasant sort, 'he said it would
be the greatest possible relief, and make it all right for the
property to go to the heir male.'
'Hein! You think so, do you? See how it will be when I come to talk
to him! A shrewd fellow like that who got out of the Micklethwayte
concern just in time. Catch him giving up a place like that, though
he may humbug you.'
'Then you will see him, father?'
'If you turn him in on me, I can't help it. Bless me! umbrellas
everywhere! And here you mean to turn me over to the mercies of that
solemn idiot, Edsall. I should have been better off with poor
'No, father; Mr. Dutton would not take me from you. We would both
try all we could to make you comfortable.'
'Convert the old reprobate? Is that his dodge?'
'Don't, father,' for the sneering tone returned.
'Come now,' he added in a much more fatherly manner, for her voice
had struck him. 'You don't mean that a well-looking girl like you,
who could have her pick of all the swells in town, can really be
smitten with a priggish old retired umbrella-monger like that. Why,
he might be your father.'
'He has been getting younger ever since I knew him,' said Nuttie.
'Well. He plays as good a game of whist as any man in England,'
muttered Mr. Egremont, leaving his daughter in actual doubt whether
he meant this as a recommendation, or as expressing a distrust of
him, as one likely to play his cards to the best advantage. She had
to remain in doubt, for they overtook Clarence Fane, who came and
spoke to them in a very friendly and solicitous manner, and showed
himself willing to accept a lift in the carriage. Mr. Egremont,
willing to escape from perplexities as well as to endeavour to drive
away if possible the oppression of his grief, invited him in, and he
had some gossip to impart, which at first seemed to amuse the hearer
after this time of seclusion, but the sick and sore heart soon
wearied of it, and long before the drive was over, Mr. Egremont was
as much bored as his daughter had been from the first.
When Mr. Fane got out, he paused a moment to hold Ursula's hand in a
tender manner, while he told her that he had not ventured to intrude
(he had left a card of inquiry every day), but that if ever he could
be of the least use in amusing Mr. Egremont, he was at her service,
and would give up any engagement.
'Hein! my fine fellow! No doubt you would!' said Mr. Egremont, when
his daughter had uttered her cold thanks, and they had driven on. 'I
see your little game, but it is soon to begin it. We may as well let
them know that she is booked before the running begins.'
It was a remarkable intimation of his acceptance of her engagement,
but Ursula was contented to take it as such, and be thankful.
Mr. Dutton had his interview as soon as Mr. Egremont had rested after
his drive, and the result was satisfactory.
No doubt much was due to the Egremont indolence and want of energy,
which always preferred to let things take their course. And now that
Gregorio was no longer present to amuse, and take all trouble off his
hands, Mr. Egremont could hardly have borne to part with his
daughter; and, despite of umbrellas and religion, was not sorry to
have a perfectly trustworthy son-in-law in the house, able to play at
cards with him, manage his household, and obviate all trouble about
suitors for the heiress. Moreover, his better feelings were stirred
by gratitude on his poor little son's account, and he knew very well
that a more brilliant match for his daughter would not have secured
for his old age the care and attention he could rely upon here. He
was obliged likewise to believe in the disinterestedness, which
disclaimed all desire for the estate, as involving cares and duties
for which there had been no training; and he was actually glad to
keep the property in the direct line. The old liking for Mark, and
sense of the hardship of his exclusion, revived, strengthened now by
regard for Annaple; together with the present relief from care
obtained by making him manager of the estate.
When once brought to a point, Mr. Egremont was always sudden and
impetuous, chiefly for the sake of having it over and being
unmolested and at rest again. So that very evening, while Nuttie
only ventured on sharing with Annaple the glad tidings that Mr.
Dutton was accepted, and in his marvellous goodness, undertook to
make his home with her father. Mark was almost stunned by the news,
confirmed to him by Mr. Dutton as well as his uncle, that he was to
be acknowledged as heir of Bridgefield Egremont, and in the meantime
manage the estate with an income suitable to an oldest son.
Presently he came upstairs by himself, and beckoned to Nuttie, rather
to the alarm of his wife.
'Ursula,' he said, and took both her hands, 'I cannot have you do
this for me.'
'Can't you, Mark? You can't prevent it, you see. And don't you know
it is the beginning of all my happiness?'
'But indeed, I cannot feel it right. It is a strained sense of
justice. Come and tell her so, Nannie.'
'What?' said Annaple coming forward.
They both paused a moment, then Nuttie said, 'Only that the estate
ought to go in the male line.'
'Oh, is that all?' said Annaple, 'I was afraid Mr. Egremont had a
'Ah! Don't you see what it means,' said Mark. 'They want it to be
as if there were an entail--to begin treating me as an eldest son at
once. It is Ursula's doing, putting herself out of the succession.'
'I always hated being an heiress,' said Nuttie.
'It would be more dreadful than ever now. Annaple, do be sensible!
Don't you see it is the only right thing to do?'
'Billy!' was the one word Annaple said.
'Yes, Billy and Jenny and all,' said Nuttie, 'before you've all died
of your horrid place--Oh! you haven't heard that part of it. Of
course Mark will have to go down to Bridgefield and look after the
place, and live like a gentleman.'
'Eight hundred a year,' murmured Mark, 'and the house at the Home
'Oh! dear,' gasped Annaple, 'I wanted you to be Lord Mayor, and now
you'll only be a stupid old country squire. No, no, Nuttie, it's--
it's--it's the sort of thing that one only laughs at because
otherwise one would have to do the other thing!'
And she gripped Nuttie tight round the waist, and laid her head on
her shoulder, shaking with a few little sobs, which might be one
thing or the other.
'It will save her youth, perhaps her life,' whispered Mark, lifting
Nuttie's hand to his lips for a moment, and then vanishing, while
Annaple recovered enough to say, 'I'm tougher than that, sir. But
little Jenny! Oh, Nuttie, I believe it has come in time. I've known
all along that one straw more might break the camel's back. We've
been very happy, but I am glad it is over before Mark got worn down
before his time. Grinding is very wholesome, but one may have too
much; and I haven't Mark's scruples, Nuttie dear, for I do think the
place is more in his line than yours or Mr. Dutton's.'
'Yes,' said Ursula, 'you see he was always happy there, and I never
The next thing was for Mr. Dutton and Ursula to keep Mr. Egremont up
to the point of making his long deferred will; nor did they find this
so difficult as they expected, for having once made up his mind, he
wished to have the matter concluded, and he gave his instructions to
Bulfinch the next day. Of course Mark had to give full notice to his
employers; but the allowance was to begin at once, so that Annaple
only went back to the warehouse to pack up, since she was to occupy
No. 5, while Mr. Egremont and his daughter were going under Mr.
Dutton's escort to the baths in Dauphine, an entirely new resort,
free from the associations he dreaded, for he could not yet bear the
sight of little Willy--the rival 'boy of Egremont.' But the will was
safely signed before he went, to the great relief of Nuttie, who,
according to the experience of fiction, could hardly believe his life
safe till what she called justice had been done.
After all Mr. Egremont became so dependent on Mr. Dutton, during this
journey, that he did not like the separation at its close, and
pressed on the marriage even sooner than either of the lovers felt
quite reverent towards the recent sorrow. He insisted on Bulfinch
having the settlements ready for them on their return, and only let
them wait long enough to keep their residence, before there was a
very quiet wedding in their parish church, with the cousins for
bridesmaids. Then Mark and Annaple took care of Mr. Egremont for the
fortnight while Mr. Dutton showed his wife his old haunts in France,
returning to Springfield House, where there was plenty of room for
Mr. Egremont to make his home with them.
Said Annaple to Miss Nugent, 'I never saw Nuttie so youthful and
bright. She is more like a girl than I ever saw her since the
'Yes,' said Mary, 'she has some one to rest on now.'
Mr. Egremont lived between three and four years, more contented and
peaceful than he had ever been, though frequently suffering, and
sometimes giving way to temper and impatience. But Mr. Dutton
understood how to manage on these occasions, and without giving up
his own extensive usefulness, could give him such care, attention,
and amusement as beguiled his discomforts, and made his daughter's
task an easier one.
How far the sluggish enfeebled nature was capable of a touch of
better things, or whether his low spirits were repentance, no one
could judge. At any rate sneers had ended, and when he was laid
beside his wife and boy at Bridgefield, Ursula stood by the grave
with a far more tender and hopeful feeling than she could have
thought possible when he had rent her away from her old home.
She looked up at her husband and said, 'Is not her work done?'