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   Chapter 10 BRIDGEFIELD EGREMONT.

Nuttie's Father By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 31113

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


'Let us see these handsome houses

Where the wealthy nobles dwell.'-TENNYSON.

'Mother, mother!' cried two young people, bursting open the door of the pretty dining-room of Bridgefield Rectory, where the grown-up part of the family were lingering over a late breakfast.

'Gently, gently, children,' said the dignified lady at the head of the table. 'Don't disturb papa.'

'But we really have something to say, mother!' said the elder girl, 'and Fraulein said you ought to know. Uncle Alwyn is come home, and Mrs. Egremont. And please, are we to call her Aunt Egremont, or Aunt Alwyn, or what?'

The desired sensation was produced. Canon Egremont put down his newspaper. The two elder sisters looked from one to the other in unmitigated astonishment. Mark briefly made answer to the final question, 'Aunt Alice,' and Mrs. Egremont said gravely, 'How did you hear this, Rosalind? You know I always forbid you to gossip.'

'We didn't gossip, mother. We went up to the gardens to get some mulberries for our half-holiday feast; and Ronaldson came out and told us we must ask leave first, for the ladies were come. The Squire came home at nine o'clock last night, and Mrs. Egremont and all, and only sent a telegram two hours before to have the rooms got ready.'

'Has Uncle Alwyn gone and got himself married?' exclaimed one of the young ladies, in utter amazement.

'Not just now, Blanche,' said her father. 'It is an old story now. Your uncle married this lady, who had been governess to May and Mark, many years ago, and from-circumstances in which she was not at all to blame, he lost sight of her while he was abroad with old General Egremont. Mark met her about a fortnight ago, and this has led to your uncle's going in quest of her, though he has certainly been more sudden in his proceedings than I expected.'

The mother here succeeded in sending Rosalind and Adela, with their wondering eyes, off the scene, and she would much have liked to send her two stepdaughters after them, but one-and-twenty and eighteen could not so readily be ordered off as twelve and ten; and Mark, who had been prohibited from uttering a word to his sisters, was eagerly examining Margaret whether she remembered their Edda; but she had been only three years old at the time of the adventures in the Isle of Wight, and remembered nothing distinctly but the aspect of one of the sailors in the yacht.

'Well,' said Mrs. Egremont, 'this has come very suddenly upon us. It would have been more for her own dignity if she had held out a little before coming so easily to terms, after the way in which she has been treated.'

'When you see her, mother, you will understand,' said Mark.

'Shall we have to be intimate with her?' asked May.

'I desire that she should be treated as a relation,' said the Canon decidedly. 'There is nothing against her character,' and, as his wife was about to interrupt,-'nothing but an indiscretion to which she was almost driven many years ago. She was cruelly treated, and I for one am heartily sorry for having let myself be guided by others.'

Mrs. William Egremont felt somewhat complacent, for she knew he meant Lady de Lyonnais, and there certainly had been no love lost between her and her step-children's grandmother; but she was a sensible woman, and forbore to speak, though there was a mental reservation that intimacy would a good deal depend upon circumstances. Blanche cried out that it was a perfect romance, and May gravely said, 'But is she a lady?'

'A perfect lady,' said Mark. 'Aunt Margaret says so.'

'One knows what a perfect lady means,' returned May.

'Come, May,' said Mrs. Egremont, 'do not let us begin with a prejudice. By all accounts the poor thing has conducted herself with perfect respectability all this time. What did you tell me, Mark? She has been living with an aunt, keeping a school at Micklethwayte.'

'Not quite,' said Mark. 'She has been acting as a daily governess. She seemed to be on friendly terms with the clerical folk. I came across the name at a school feast, or something of the kind, which came off in the Kirkaldys' park.'

'Oh, then, I know exactly the sort of person!' returned May, pursing up her lips.

Mark laughed and said, 'I wonder whether it is too soon to go up and see them. I wonder what my uncle thinks of his daughter.'

'What! You don't mean to say there is a daughter?' cried May.

'Even so. And exactly like you too, Miss May.'

'Then you are cut out, Mark!'

'You are cut out, I think, May. You'll have to give her all your Miss Egremont cards.'

'No,' said the young lady; 'mother made me have my Christian name printed. She said all but the daughters of the head of the family ought to have it so. I'm glad of it.'

'How old is she?' asked Blanche.

'About a year younger than you.'

'I think it is very interesting,' said Blanche. 'How wonderful it must all be to her! I will go up with you, Mark, as soon as I can get ready.'

'You had better wait till later in the day, Blanche,' said the mother. She knew the meeting was inevitable, but she preferred having it under her own eye, if she could not reconnoitre.

She was a just and sensible woman, who felt reparation due to the newly-discovered sister-in-law, and that harmony, or at least the appearance of it, must be preserved; but she was also exclusive and fastidious by nature, and did not look forward to the needful intercourse with much satisfaction either on her own account or that of her family.

She told Mark to say that she should come to see Mrs. Egremont after luncheon, since he was determined to go at once, and moreover to drag his father with him. Canon Egremont was a good and upright man, according to his lights, which were rather those of a well-beneficed clergyman of the first than of the last half of the century, intensified perhaps that the passive voice was the strongest in him. All the country knew that Canon Egremont could be relied on to give a prudent, scholarly judgment, and to be kind and liberal, when once induced to stir mind or body-but how to do that was the problem. He had not been a young man at the time of his first marriage, and was only a few years' junior to his brother, though he had the fresh, wholesome look of a man who kept regular hours and lived much in the air.

Alice knew him at once, and thought eighteen years had made little change, as, at Nuttie's call to her, she looked from the window and saw the handsome, dignified, gray-haired, close-shaven rosy face, and the clerical garb unchanged in favour of long coats and high waistcoats.

The mother and daughter were exploring the house together. Mr. Egremont had made it known that he preferred having his breakfast alone, and not being disturbed in the forenoon. So the two ladies had breakfasted together at nine, the earliest hour at which they could prevail on the household to give them a meal. Indeed Nuttie had slept till nearly that time, for between excitement and noise, her London slumbers had been broken; and her endeavour to keep Micklethwayte hours had resulted in a long, weary, hungry time in the sitting-room of the hotel, with nothing to do, when the gaze from the window palled on her, but to write to her aunt and Mary Nugent. The rest of the day had been spent in driving about in a brougham with her mother shopping, and this she could not but enjoy exceedingly, more than did the timid Mrs. Egremont, who could not but feel herself weighted with responsibility; and never having had to spend at the utmost more than ten pounds at a time, felt bewildered at the cheques put into her hands, and then was alarmed to find them melting away faster than she expected.

There was a very late dinner, after which Mr. Egremont, on the first day, made his wife play bezique with him. She enjoyed it, as a tender reminiscence of the yachting days; but Nuttie found herself de trop, and was reduced to the book she had contrived to purchase on her travels. The second night Mr. Egremont had picked up two friends, not yet gone out of town, whose talk was of horses and of yachts, quite incomprehensible to the ladies. They were very attentive to Mrs. Egremont, whom they evidently admired, one so visibly as to call up a blush; but they disregarded the daughter as a schoolgirl. Happily they appeared no more after the dinner; but Nuttie's first exclamation of astonished disgust was silenced at once by her mother with unusual determination, 'You must not speak so of your father's friends.'

'Not when-'

'Not at all,' interrupted Mrs. Egremont.

The only sense of promotion to greatness that Ursula had yet enjoyed was in these fine clothes, and the maid whom Lady Kirkaldy had recommended, a grave and severe-looking person, of whom both stood somewhat in awe. The arrival at Bridgefield had been too late for anything to be taken in but a general impression of space and dreariness, and the inevitable dinner of many courses, after which Nuttie was so tired out that her mother sent her to bed.

Since the waking she had made some acquaintance with the house. There was no show of domestics, no curtseying housekeeper to parade the new mistress over the house; Mr. Egremont had told his wife that she must fill up the establishment as she pleased, but that there was an admirable cook downstairs, and he would not have her interfered with-she suited his tastes as no one else did, and she must be left to deal with the provisions and her own underlings. There was a stable establishment, and a footman had been hired in town, but there was besides only one untidy-looking housemaid, who began by giving warning; and Alice and Nuttie had roamed about without meeting any one from the big wainscotted dining-room with faded crimson curtains and family portraits, the older grimy, the younger chalky, to the two drawing-rooms, whose gilding and pale blue damask had been preserved by pinafores of brown holland; the library, which looked and smelt as if Mr. Egremont was in the habit of sitting there, and a big billiard-room, all opening into a shivery-feeling hall, with Scagliola columns and a few dirty statues between them; then upstairs to a possible morning-room, looking out over a garden lawn, where mowing was going on in haste, and suites of dreary shut-up fusty bedrooms. Nuttie, who had notions of choosing her own bower, could not make up her mind which looked the least inviting. It did not seem as if girls could ever have laughed together, or children clattered up and down the stairs. Mrs. Egremont begged her to keep possession for the present at least of the chamber where the grim housemaid had chosen to put her, and which had the advantage of being aired.

The two windows looked out over the park, and thence it was that while Morris, the maid, was unpacking and putting away the new purchases, and Nuttie was standing, scarcely realising that such pretty hats and bonnets could be her very own, when her mother beheld the Canon and Mark advancing up the drive. It was with a great start that she called Ursula to come down directly with her, as no one would know where to find them, hastily washing the hands that had picked up a sense of dustiness during the exploration, and taking a comprehensive glance in the cheval glass, which showed her some one she felt entirely unfamiliar to her in a dainty summer costume of pale gray silk picked out with a mysterious shade of pink. Ursula too thought Miss Egremont's outer woman more like a Chelsea shepherdess than Nuttie's true self, as she tripped along in her buckled shoes and the sea green stockings that had been sent home with her skirt. With crimson cheeks and a throbbing heart, Alice was only just at the foot of the stairs when the newcomers had made their way in, and the kind Canon, ignoring all that was past, held out his hands saying, 'Well, my dear, I am glad to see you here,' kissing Mrs. Egremont on each cheek. 'And so this is your daughter. How do you do, my dear-Ursula? Isn't that your name?' And Ursula had again to submit to a kiss, much more savoury and kindly than her father's, though very stubbly. And oh! her uncle's dress was like that of no one she had ever seen except the rector of the old church, the object of unlimited contempt to the adherents of St. Ambrose's.

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

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

'I will see,' in a trembling voice.

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

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

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

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

Alice, who had dreaded nothing more than the meeting with her former master, was infinitely relieved and grateful for this kindness. She had ejaculated, 'Oh, you are so good!' in the midst, and now at the mention of her husband, she exclaimed, 'Oh! do you think he is ill? I can't help being afraid he is, but he will not tell me, and does not like to be asked.'

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

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

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

Mark had evidently some ideas of art, and was besides inclined to do the honours to the stranger; but Nuttie was not going to encourage him or anybody else to make up to her, while she had that look of Gerard Godfrey's in her mind's eye. So she made small answer, and he felt rebuffed, but supposed her shy, and wondered

when he could go back to her mother, who was so much more attractive.

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

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

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

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

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

'He is old-fashioned, my dear.'

'One of the stodgey old clergymen in books,' observed Nuttie. 'I didn't think there were any of that sort left.'

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

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

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

'Oh yes, and he was kindness itself!'

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

'I think he is very glad.'

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

Wherewith he looked full at Ursula, who, to her extreme vexation, felt herself blushing up to the ears. She fidgeted on her chair, and began a most untrue 'I'm sure-' for, indeed, the poor girl was sure of nothing, but that her father's manner was most uncomfortable to her. His laugh choked whatever she might have said, which perhaps was well, and her mother's cheeks glowed as much as hers did.

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

'Mrs. Egremont? No; she sent word that she is coming after luncheon.'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These were being arranged when Mrs. William Egremont and Miss Blanche Egremont were ushered in, and there were the regular kindred embraces, after which Alice and Nuttie were aware of a very handsome, dignified-looking lady, well though simply dressed in what was evidently her home costume, with a large shady hat and feather, her whole air curiously fitting the imposing nickname of the Canoness. Blanche was a slight, delicate-looking, rather pretty girl in a lawn-tennis dress. The visitor took the part of treating the newcomers as well-established relations.

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

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

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

'Mark walked about with us a little.'

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

'I have seen it a very few times,' said Nuttie.

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

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

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

'Nuttie.'

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

'That's not so nice as Blanche.'

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

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

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

'At school,' said Ursula.

'Ah, I remember! But you're out now, aren't you? I've been out since this spring. Mother won't let us come out till we are eighteen, isn't it horrid? And we were so worked there! I can tell you a finishing governess is an awful institution! Poor little Rosie and Adey will be in for one by and by. At present they've only got a jolly little Fraulein that they can do anything they please with.'

'Oh, I wonder if she would tell me of some German books!'

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

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

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

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

Then as to schools, it was an absolute amazement to Nuttie to find that the same plans were in force as had prevailed when her uncle had come to the living and built that pretty house-nay, were kept up at his sole expense, because he liked old-fashioned simplicity, and did not choose to be worried with Government inspection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was in the midst of her game when the two mothers came out, for the drive had been extended all round the park, under pretext of showing it to its new mistress, but really to give the Canoness an opportunity of judging of her in a tete-a-tete. Yet that sensible woman had asked no alarming questions on the past, still less had offered any advice that could seem like interference. She had only named localities, mentioned neighbours, and made little communications about the ways of the place such as might elicit remarks; and, as Alice's voice betrayed less and less constraint, she ventured on speaking of their daughters, so as to draw forth some account of how Ursula might have been educated.

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

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

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

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

'That settles it,' said Alice. 'Thank you, Mrs. Egremont. I own,' she added presently, 'that I do somewhat regret that it cannot be, for I thought that a motive for keeping up her studies would be helpful to my child;-I do not mean for the sake of the studies, but of the-the balance in all this change and novelty.'

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

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

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

'It might have been much worse,' said the lady. 'She is a good little innocent thing, and has more good sense than I expected. Governessy, that's all, but she will shake out of that.'

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

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

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