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   Chapter 14 GOING AGEE.

Nuttie's Father By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 21472

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


'Gin ye were a brig as auld as me.'-BURNS.

>

'What's the matter?' exclaimed Mrs. Egremont, waking from a doze,-'that bridge?'

'Bridge! Don't be such a fool! We aren't near it yet.'

The servant, his face looking blurred through the window, came to explain that the delay was caused by an agricultural engine, which had chosen this unlucky night, or morning, to travel from one farm to another. There was a long delay, while the monster could be heard coughing frightfully before it could be backed with its spiky companion into a field so as to let the carriages pass by; and meantime Mr. Egremont was betrayed into uttering ejaculations which made poor Nuttie round her eyes in the dark as she sat by his feet on the back seat, and Alice try to bury her ears in her hood in the corner.

On they went at last, for about a mile, and then came another sudden stop-another fierce growl from Mr. Egremont, another apparition of the servant at the window, saying, in his alert deferential manner, 'Sir, the bridge have broke under a carriage in front. Lady Delmar's, sir. The horse is plunging terrible.'

The door was torn open, and all three, regardless of ball costumes, precipitated themselves out.

The moon was up, and they saw the Rectory carriage safe on the road before them, but on the bridge beyond was a struggling mass, dimly illuminated by a single carriage lamp. Mr. Egremont and the groom hurried forward where Mark and the Rectory coachman were already rendering what help they could. May standing at the horses' heads, and her mother trying to wrap everybody up, since stay in their carriages they could not. Transferring the horses to Nuttie, the two sisters hurried on towards the scene of action, but Blanche's white satin boots did not carry her far, and she turned on meeting her uncle. He spoke with a briskness and alacrity that made him like another man in this emergency, as he assured the anxious ladies that their friends were safe, but that they could not be extricated till the carriage was lifted from the hole into which it had sunk amid bricks, stones, and broken timbers. He sent his own coachman to assist, as being the stronger man, and, mounting the box, turned and drove off in quest of further help, at a wayside cottage, or from the attendants on the engine, whose weight had probably done the mischief, and prepared the trap for the next comer.

As May came near, her brother made her available by putting the lamp into her hand, bidding her hold it so as to light those who were endeavouring to release the horse, which had cleared the portion of the bridge before the break-down under the brougham, and now lay on the road, its struggles quelled by a servant at its head. Nearly the whole of the hind wheels and most of the door had disappeared on one side, and, though more was visible on the other, it was impossible to open the door, as a mass of rubbish lay on it. Annaple was on this side, and her voice was heard calling to May in fits of the laughter which is perhaps near akin to screams-

'"London bridge is broken down,

Dance o'er my lady Lee!"

Janet will go in for second-sight ever after. Yes, she's all right, except a scratch from the glass, and that I'm sitting on her more or less. How are they getting on?' 'The horse is all but out. Not hurt, they think. Here's another man come to help-a gentleman-my dear, it is your partner, Nuttie's umbrella man.' 'Oh, making it complete-hopes, Janet-I'm sorry, but I can't help squashing you! I can't help subsiding on you! What is it now?' as the lamp-light vanished.

'They are looking for something to make levers of,' returned May; 'these wooden rails are too rotten.'

'Can't they get us through the window?' sighed a muffled voice.

'Not unless we could be elongated, like the Hope of the Katzekopfs.'

'We shall manage now,' cried Mark; 'we have found some iron bars to the hatch down there. But you must prepare for a shock or two before you can be set free.'

The two gentlemen and three servants strove and struggled, hoisted and pushed, to the tune of suppressed sounds, half of sobs, half of laughter, till at last the carriage was heaved up sufficiently to be dragged backwards beyond the hole; but even then it would not stand, for the wheels on the undermost side were crushed, neither could either door be readily opened, one being smashed in, and the other jammed fast. Annaple, however, still tried to keep up her own spirits and her sister's, observing that she now knew how to sympathise with Johnnie's tin soldiers in their box turned upside down.

Two sturdy labourers here made their appearance, having been roused in the cottage and brought back by Mr. Egremont, and at last one door was forced open by main force, and the ladies emerged, Annaple, helping her sister, beginning some droll thanks, but pausing as she perceived that Lady Delmar's dress was covered with blood.

'My dear Janet. This is worse than I guessed. Why did you not speak?'

'It is not much,' said the poor lady, rather faintly. 'My neck-'

The elder ladies came about her, and seated her on cushions, where, by the light of May's lamp, Alice, who had been to an ambulance class at Micklethwayte, detected the extent of the cut, extracted a fragment of glass, and staunched the bleeding with handkerchiefs and strips of the girls' tulle skirts, but she advised her patient to be driven at once to a surgeon to secure that no morsel of glass remained. Mr. Egremont, gratified to see his wife come to the front, undertook to drive her back to Redcastle. Indeed, they must return thither to cross by the higher bridge. 'You will go with me,' entreated Lady Delmar, holding Alice's hand; and the one hastily consigning Nuttie to her aunt's care, the other giving injunctions not to alarm her mother to Annaple, who had declared her intention of walking home, the two ladies went off under Mr. Egremont's escort.

Just then it was discovered that the Delmar coachman, Robinson, had all this time been lying insensible, not dead, for he moaned, but apparently with a broken leg, if nothing worse. Indeed, the men had known it all along, but, until the ladies had been rescued, nothing had been possible but to put his cushion under his head and his rug over him. The ladies were much shocked, and Mrs. William Egremont decided that he must be laid at the bottom of the waggonette, and that she would take him straight to the hospital.

They were only a mile and a half from Lescombe, and it was pronounced safe to cross on foot by the remains of the bridge, so that Annaple, who had a pair of fur boots, had already decided on going home on foot. The other girls wanted to accompany her, and, as May and Nuttie both had overshoes, they were permitted to do so, and desired to go to bed, and wait to be picked up by the waggonette, which must return to Bridgefield by the Lescombe road. Blanche, having a delicate throat, was sentenced to go with her stepmother. Mark undertook to ride the horse through the river, and escort the three girls, and Gerard Godfrey also joined them. The place where he was staying lay a couple of miles beyond Lescombe, and when Mrs. Elmore's fly had been met and turned back by Mr. Egremont, he had jumped off to render assistance, and had done so effectively enough to win Mark's gratitude.

It was by this time about half-past five, as was ascertained by the light of the waning moon, the carriage-lamp having burnt out. It was a fine frosty morning, and the moon was still powerful enough to reveal the droll figures of the girls. May had a fur cloak, with the hood tied over her head by Mrs. Egremont's lace shawl; Nuttie had a huge white cloud over her head, and a light blue opera cloak; Annaple had 'rowed herself in a plaidie' like the Scotch girl she was, and her eyes flashed out merrily from its dark folds. They all disdained the gentlemen's self-denying offers of their ulsters, and only Nuttie consented to have the carriage-rug added to her trappings, and ingeniously tied on cloak-fashion with her sash by Gerard. He and Mark piloted the three ladies over the narrow border of the hole, which looked a very black open gulf. Annaple had thanked the men, and bidden them come to Lescombe the next day to be paid for their assistance. Then they all stood to watch Mark ride through the river, at the shallowest place, indicated both by her and the labourers. It was perfectly fordable, so Annaple's were mock heroics when she quoted-

'Never heavier man and horse

Stemmed a midnight torrent's force.'

And Nuttie responded in a few seconds-

'Yet through good heart and our Ladye's grace

Full soon he gained the landing place.'

They were both in high spirits, admiring each other's droll appearance, and speculating on the ghosts they might appear to any one who chanced to look out of window. Annaple walked at the horse's head, calling him poor old Robin Hood, and caressing him, while Gerard and Nuttie kept together.

May began to repent of her determination to walk; Lescombe seemed very far off, and she had an instinct that she was an awkward fifth wheel. Either because Robin Hood walked too fast for her weary limbs, or because she felt it a greater duty to chaperon Nuttie than Annaple, she fell back on the couple in the rear, and was rather surprised at the tenor of their conversation.

This 'umbrella man' was telling of his vicar's delight in the beautiful chalice veil that had been sent by Mrs. Egremont, and Nuttie was communicating, as a secret she ought not to tell, that mother was working a set of stoles, and hoped to have the white ones ready by the dedication anniversary; also that there was a box being filled for the St. Ambrose Christmas tree. They were trying to get something nice for each of the choir boys and of the old women; and therewith, to May's surprise, this youth, whom she regarded as a sort of shopman, fell into full narration of all the events of a highly-worked parish,-all about the choral festival, and the guilds, and the choir, and the temperance work. A great deal of it was a strange language to May, but she half-disapproved of it, as entirely unlike the 'soberness' of Bridgefield ways, and like the Redcastle vicar, whom her father commonly called 'that madman.' Still, she had a practical soul for parish work, and could appreciate the earnestness that manifested itself, and the exertions made for people of the classes whom she had always supposed too bad or else too well off to come under clerical supervision. And her aunt and cousin and this young man all evidently had their hearts in it! For Nuttie-though her new world had put the old one apparently aside-had plunged int

o all the old interests, and asked questions eagerly, and listened to their answers, as if Micklethwayte news was water to the thirsty. The two were too happy to meet, and, it must be confessed, had not quite manners enough, to feel it needful to include in their conversation the weary figure that plodded along at a little distance from them, hardly attending to the details of their chatter, yet deriving new notions from it of the former life of Ursula and her mother, matters which she had hitherto thought beneath her attention, except so far as to be thankful that they had emerged from it so presentable. That it was a more actively religious, and perhaps a more intellectual one than her own, she had thought impossible, where everything must be second-rate. And yet, when her attention had wandered from an account of Mr. Dutton's dealings with a refractory choir boy bent on going to the races, she found a discussion going on about some past lectures upon astronomy, and Nuttie vehemently regretting the not attending two courses promised for the coming winter upon electricity and on Italian art, and mournfully observing, 'We never go to anything sensible here.'

May at first thought, 'Impertinent little thing,' and felt affronted, but then owned to herself that it was all too true. Otherwise there was hardly anything said about the contrast with Nuttie's present life; Gerard knew already that the church atmosphere was very different, and with the rector's daughter within earshot, he could not utter his commiseration, nor Nuttie her regrets.

Once there was a general start, and the whole five came together at the sight of a spectrally black apparition, with a huge tufted head on high, bearing down over a low hedge upon them. Nobody screamed except Nuttie, but everybody started, though the next moment it was plain that they were only chimney-sweepers on their way.

'Retribution for our desire to act ghosts!' said Annaple, when the sable forms had been warned of the broken bridge. 'Poor May, you are awfully tired! Shouldn't you like a lift in their cart?'

'Or I could put you up on Robin Hood,' said Mark.

'Thank you, I don't think I could stick on. Is it much farther?'

'Only up the hill and across the park,' said Annaple, still cheerily.

'Take my arm, old woman,' said Mark, and then there was a pause, before Annaple said in an odd voice, 'You may tell her, Mark.'

'Oh, Annaple! Mark! is it so?' cried May joyously, but under her breath; and with a glance to see how near the other couple were.

'Yes,' said Annaple between crying and laughing. 'Poor Janet, she'll think we have taken a frightfully mean advantage of her, but I am sure I never dreamt of such a thing; and the queer thing is, that Mark says she put it into his head!'

'No, no,' said Mark; 'you know better than that-'

'Why, you told me you only found it out when she began to trample on the fallen-'

'I told you I had only understood my own heart.'

'And I said very much the same-she made me so angry you see.'

'I can't but admire your motives!' said May, exceedingly rejoiced all the time, and ready to have embraced them both, if it had not been for the spectators behind. 'In fact, it was opposition you both wanted. I wonder how long you would have gone on not finding it out, if all had been smooth?'

'The worst of it is,' said Annaple, 'that I'm afraid it is a very bad thing for Mark.'

'Not a bit of it,' retorted he. 'It is the only thing that could have put life into my work, or made me care to find any! And find it I will now! Must we let the whole world in to know before I have found it, Annaple?'

'I could not but tell my mother,' said Annaple. 'It would come out in spite of me, even if I wished to keep it back.'

'Oh yes! Lady Ronnisglen is a different thing,' said Mark. 'Just as May here is-'

'And she will say nothing, I know, till we are ready-my dear old minnie,' said Annaple. 'Only, Mark, do pray have something definite to hinder Janet with if there are any symptoms of hawking her commodity about.'

'I will,' said Mark. 'If we could only emigrate!'

'Ah, if we could!' said Annaple. 'Ronald is doing so well in New Zealand, but I don't think my mother could spare me. She could not come out, and she must be with me, wherever I am. You know-don't you-that I am seven years younger than Alick. I was a regular surprise, and the old nurse at Ronnisglen said 'Depend upon it, my Leddy, she is given to be the comfort of your old age.' And I have always made up my mind never to leave her. I don't think she would get on with Janet or any of them without me, so you'll have to take her too, Mark.'

'With all my heart,' he answered. 'And, indeed, I have promised my father not to emigrate. I must, and will, find work at hand, and wake a home for you both!'

'But you will tell papa at once?' said May. 'It will hurt him if you do not.'

'You are right, May; I knew it when Annaple spoke of her mother, but there is no need that it should go further.'

The intelligence had lightened the way a good deal, and they were at the lodge gates by this time. Gerard began rather ruefully to take leave; but Annaple, in large-hearted happiness and gratitude, begged him to come and rest at the house, and wait for daylight, and this he was only too glad to do, especially as May's secession had made the conversation a little more personal.

Nuttie was in a certain way realising for the first time what her mother's loyalty had checked her in expressing, even if the tumult of novelties had given her full time to dwell on it.

'Everybody outside is kind,' she said to Gerard; 'they are nice in a way, and good, but oh! they are centuries behind in church matters and feeling, just like the old rector.'

'I gathered that; I am very sorry for you. Is there no one fit to be a guide?'

'I don't know,' said Nuttie. 'I didn't think-I must, somehow, before Lent.'

'There is Advent close at hand,' he said gravely. 'If you could only be at our mission services, we hope to get Father Smith!'

'Oh, if only I could! But mother never likes to talk about those kind of things. She says our duty is to my father.'

'Not the foremost.'

'No, she would not say that. But oh, Gerard! if he should be making her worldly!'

'It must be your work to hinder it,' he said, looking at her affectionately.

'Oh, Gerard! but I'm afraid I'm getting so myself. I have thought a great deal about lawn-tennis, and dress, and this ball,' said Nuttie. 'Somehow it has never quite felt real, but as if I were out on a visit.'

'You are in it, but not of it,' said Gerard admiringly.

'No, I'm not so good as that! I like it all-almost all. I thought I liked it better till you came and brought a real true breath of Micklethwayte. Oh! if I could only see Monsieur's dear curly head and bright eyes!'

This had been the tenor of the talk, and these were the actual last words before the whole five-just in the first streaks of dawn-coalesced before the front door, to be admitted by a sleepy servant; Mark tied up the horse for a moment, while Annaple sent the man to waken Sir John Delmar, and say there had been a slight accident, but no one was much hurt; and, as they all entered the warm, dimly-lighted hall, they were keenly sensible that they had been dancing or walking all night.

Rest in the chairs which stood round the big hearth and smouldering wood-fire was so extremely comfortable, as they all dropped down, that nobody moved or spoke, or knew how long it was before there was a voice on the stairs-'Eh? what's this, Annaple? An accident? Where's Janet?' and a tall burly figure, candle in hand, in a dressing-gown and slippers, was added to the group.

'Janet will be at home presently, I hope,' said Annaple, 'but she got a cut with some broken glass, and we sent her round by Dr. Raymond's to get it set to rights. Oh, John! we came to grief on Bluepost Bridge after all, and I'm afraid Robinson has got his leg broken!'

Sir John was a good-natured heavy man, whose clever wife thought for him in all that did not regard horses, dogs, and game. He looked perfectly astounded, and required to have all told him over again before he could fully take it in. Then he uttered a suppressed malediction on engines, insisted that all his impromptu guests should immediately eat, drink, and sleep, and declared his intention of going off at once to Redcastle to see about his wife.

The two gentlemen were committed to the charge of the butler, and Annaple took Nuttie and May to her sister's dressing-room, where she knew she should find fire and tea, and though they protested that it was not worth while, she made them undress and lie down in a room prepared for them in the meantime. It was a state chamber, with a big bed, far away from the entrance, shuttered and curtained up, and with double doors, excluding all noise. The two cousins lay down, Nuttie dead asleep almost before her head touched the pillow, while May was aching all over, declaring herself far too much tired and excited to sleep; and, besides that it was not worth while, for she should be called for in a very short time. And she remained conscious of a great dread of being roused, so that when she heard her cousin moving about the room, she insisted that they had scarcely lain down, whereupon Nuttie laughed, declared that she had heard a great clock strike twelve before she moved, and showed daylight coming in through the shutters.

'We can't lie here any longer, I suppose,' said May, sitting up wearily; 'and yet what can we put on? It makes one shiver to think of going down to luncheon in a ball dress!'

'Besides, mine is all torn to pieces to make bandages,' said Nuttie. 'I must put on the underskirt and my cloak again.'

'Or Annaple might lend us something. I must get out somehow to know how poor Lady Delmar is, and what has become of everybody. Ring, Ursula, please, and lie down till somebody comes.'

The bell was answered by a maid, who told them that my lady had been brought home by Mr. and Mrs. Egremont about an hour after their arrival. She was as well as could be expected, and there was no cause for anxiety. Mr. and Mrs. Egremont had then gone on to Bridgefield, leaving word that Mrs. William Egremont and Miss Blanche were sleeping at Redcastle, having sent home for their own dresses and the young ladies', and would call for the rest of their party on the way. Indeed, a box for the Miss Egremonts had been deposited by the Canon from the pony-carriage an hour ago, and was already in the dressing-room; but Miss Ruthven would not have them disturbed. Miss Ruthven,-oh yes, she was up, she had not been in bed at all.

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