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Nuttie's Father By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 15550

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

'For every Lamp that trembled here,

And faded in the night,

Behold a Star serene and clear

Smiles on me from the height.'-B. M.

Nuttie was not mistaken in supposing that this first day would be a fair sample of her life, though, of course, after the first weeks of mourning there were variations; and the return of the Rectory party made a good deal of brightening, and relieved her from the necessity of finding companionship and conversation for her father on more than half her afternoons and evenings.

He required her, however, almost every forenoon, and depended on her increasingly, so that all her arrangements had to be made with reference to him. It was bondage, but not as galling in the fact as she would have expected if it had been predicted to her a few months previously. In the first place, Mr. Egremont never demanded of her what was actually against her conscience, except occasionally giving up a Sunday evensong to read the paper to him, and that only when he was more unwell than usual. He was, after all, an English gentleman, and did not ask his young daughter to read to him the books which her mother had loathed. Moreover, Gregorio was on his good behaviour, perfectly aware that there was a family combination against him, and having even received a sort of warning from his master, but by no means intending to take it, and therefore abstaining from any kind of offence that could furnish a fresh handle against him; and thus for the present, Dr. Hammond's regimen was well observed, and Mr. Egremont was his better self in consequence, for, under his wife's guardianship, the perilous habit had sufficiently lost strength to prevent temper and spirits from manifestly suffering from abstinence.

The first time Nuttie found herself obliged to make any very real sacrifice to her father's will was on the occasion of Mark's marriage at Easter. Things had arranged themselves very conveniently for him at Micklethwayte, though it seemed to Nuttie that she only heard of affairs there in a sort of distant dream, while such events were taking place as once would have been to her the greatest possible revolutions.

Aunt Ursel reached home safely, but her expectations of illness were realised. She took to her bed on arriving, and though she rose from it, there was reason to think she had had a slight stroke, for her activity of mind and body were greatly decayed, and she was wholly dependent on Mary Nugent for care and comfort. Mary, remembering the consequences of the former alarm, made the best of the old lady's condition; and Nuttie, ashamed of having once cried 'wolf,' did not realise the true state of the case, nor indeed could she or would she have been spared to go to Micklethwayte.

The next news told that Gerard Godfrey, at the end of the year required by Mr. Dutton, had resigned his situation, and at the close of his quarter's notice was going to prepare for Holy Orders under the training of a clergyman who would employ him in his parish, and assist him in reading up to the requirements for admission to a theological college. Poor dear old Gerard! It gave Nuttie a sort of pang of self-reproach to own how good and devoted he was, and yet so narrow and stupid that she could never have been happy with him. Was he too good, or was he too dull for her? Had she forsaken him for the world's sake, or was it a sound instinct that had extinguished her fancy for him? No one could tell, least of all the parties concerned. He might be far above her in spiritual matters, but he was below her in intellectual ones, and though they would always feel for one another that peculiar tenderness left by the possibilities of a first love, no doubt the quarrel over the blue ribbon had been no real misfortune to either.

The next tidings were still more surprising. Mr. Dutton was leaving the firm. Though his father had died insolvent, and he had had to struggle for himself in early life, he was connected with wealthy people, and change and death among these had brought him a fair share of riches. An uncle who had emigrated to Australia at the time of the great break up had died without other heirs, leaving him what was the more welcome to him that Micklethwayte could never be to him what it had been in its golden age. He had realised enough to enable him to be bountiful, and his parting gift to St Ambrose's would complete the church; but he himself was winding up the partnership, and withdrawing his means from Greenleaf and Co. in order to go out to Australia to decide what to do with his new possessions.

Mark Egremont purchased a number of the shares, though, to gratify the family, the shelter of the Greenleaf veiled his name under the 'Co.,' and another, already in the firm, possessed of a business-like appellation, gave designation to the firm as Greenleaf, Goodenough, and Co.

Mr. Dutton's well-kept house, with the little conservatory and the magnolia, was judged sufficient for present needs, and the lease was taken off his hands, so that all was in order for the marriage of Mark and Annaple immediately after Easter.

Lady Delmar had resigned herself to the inevitable, and the wedding was to take place at Lescombe. Nuttie, whose chief relaxation was in hearing all the pros and cons from May and Blanche, was asked to be one of the bridesmaids by Annaple, who had come over to the Rectory in a droll inscrutable state of mischief, declaring that she had exasperated Janet to the verge of insanity by declaring that she should have little umbrellas like those in the Persian inscriptions on her cards, and that Mark was to present all the bridesmaids with neat parasols. If crinolines had not been gone out they could have all been dressed appropriately. Now they must wear them closely furled. All this banter was hardly liked by May and Blanche, whose little sisters were laughed at again for needing the assurance that they were really to wear white and rowan leaves and berries-the Ronnisglen badge. Nuttie, who had drawn much nearer to May, refrained from relating this part of the story at home, but was much disappointed when, on telling her father of the request, she was answered at once:

'Hein! The 24th? You'll be in London, and a very good thing too.'

'Are we to go so soon?'

'Yes. Didn't I tell you to take that house in Berkshire Road from the 20th?'

'I did not think we were to start so soon. Is there any particular reason?'

'Yes. That Scotch girl ought to have known better than to ask you in your deep mourning. I thought women made a great point of such things.'

'Aunt Jane did not seem to think it wrong,' said Nuttie, for she really wished much for consent. Not only had she grown fond both of Mark and Annaple, but she had never been a bridesmaid, and she knew that not only the Kirkaldys but Mr. Dutton had been invited; she had even ventured on offering to lodge some of the overflowing guests of the Rectory.

'Their heads are all turned by that poverty-stricken Scotch peerage,' returned Mr. Egremont; 'or the Canoness should have more sense of respect.'

Nuttie's wishes were so strong that she made one more attempt, 'I need not be a bridesmaid. They would not mind if I wore my black.'

'I should, then!' said her father curtly. 'If they don't understand the proprieties of life, I do. I won't have you have anything to do with it. If you are so set upon gaiety, you'll have enough of weddings at fitter times!'

It was the old sneering tone. Nuttie felt partly confounded, partly indignant, and terribly disappointed. She did care for the sight of the wedding-her youthful spirits had rallied enough for that, but far more now she grieved at missing the sight of Mr. Dutton, when he was going away, she knew not wher

e, and might perhaps come on purpose to see her; and it also made her sore and grieved at being accused of disregard to her mother. She was silenced, however, and presently her father observed, in the same unpleasant tone, 'Well, if you've digested your disappointment, perhaps you'll condescend to write to the agent, that I expect the house to be ready on the 21st.'

Nuttie got through her morning's work she hardly knew how, though her father was dry and fault-finding all the time. Her eyes were so full of tears when she was released that she hardly saw where she was going, and nearly ran against her aunt, who had just walked into the hall. Mrs. Egremont was too prudent a woman to let her burst out there with her grievance, but made her come into the tent-room before she exclaimed, 'He is going to take me away to London; he won't let me go to the wedding.'

'I am sorry for your disappointment,' said her aunt quietly, 'but I am old-fashioned enough to be glad that such strong respect and feeling should be shown for your dear mother. I wish Annaple had spoken to me before asking you, and I would have felt the way.'

'I'm sure it is not want of feeling,' said Nuttie, as her tears broke forth.

'I did not say it was,' returned her aunt, 'but different generations have different notions of the mode of showing it; and the present certainly errs on the side of neglect of such tokens of mourning. If I did not think that Annaple and her mother are really uncomfortable at Lescombe, I should have told Mark that it was better taste to wait till the summer.'

'If I might only have stayed at home-even if I did not go to the wedding,' sighed Nuttie, who had only half listened to the Canoness's wisdom.

'Since you do not go, it is much better that you should be out of the way,' said Mrs. Egremont. 'Is your father ready to see me?'

So Nuttie had to submit, though she pouted to herself, feeling grievously misjudged, first as if she had been wanting in regard to the memory of her mother, who had been so fond of Mark, and so rejoiced in his happiness; and then that her vexation was treated as mere love of gaiety, whereas it really was disappointment at not seeing Mr. Dutton, that good, grave, precise old friend, who could not be named in the same breath with vanity. Moreover, she could not help suspecting that respect to her mother was after all only a cloak to resentment against Mark and his marriage.

However, she bethought herself that her mother had often been disappointed and had borne it cheerfully, and after having done what Aunt Ursel would have called 'grizzling' in her room for an hour, she wrote her note to Miss Ruthven and endeavoured to be as usual, feeling keenly that there was no mother now to perceive and gratefully commend one of her only too rare efforts for good humour. On other grounds she was very sorry to leave Bridgefield. May had, in her trouble, thawed to her, and they were becoming really affectionate and intimate companions, by force of propinquity and relationship, as well as of the views that May had imbibed from Hugh Condamine. Moreover Nuttie felt her aunt's watch over the baby a great assistance to her own ignorance.

However the Canoness had resigned to the poor little heir the perfect and trustworthy nurse, whom Basil had outgrown, and who consented to the transfer on condition of having her nursery establishment entirely apart from the rest of the household. Her reasons were known though unspoken, namely, that the rejection of one or two valets highly recommended had made it plain that there had been no dislodgment of Gregorio. The strong silent objection to him of all good female servants was one of the points that told much against him. Martin and the housekeeper just endured him, and stayed on for the present chiefly because their dear lady had actually begged them not to desert her daughter if they could help it, at least not at first.

Nuttie bound over her cousins to give her a full account of the wedding, and both of them wrote to her. Blanche's letter recorded sundry scattered particulars,-as to how well the rowan-trimmed tulle dresses looked-how every one was packed into the carriages for the long drive-how there had been a triumphal arch erected over the Bluepost Bridge itself, and Annaple nearly choked with laughing at the appropriateness-how, to her delight, a shower began, and the procession out of the church actually cried out for umbrellas-how papa, when performing the ceremony, could not recollect that the bride's proper name was Annabella, and would dictate it as Anna-Maria, Sir John correcting him each time sotto voce-how Basil and little Hilda Delmar walked together and 'looked like a couple of ducks,' which, it was to be hoped, was to be taken metaphorically-how dreadfully hard the ice on the wedding-cake was, so that when Annaple tried to cut it the knife slipped and a little white dove flew away and hit May, which everyone said was a grand omen that she would be the next bride, while of course Annaple was perfectly helpless with mirth. Every one said it was the merriest wedding ever seen, for the bride's only tears were those of laughter. What Nuttie really cared for most came just at the end, and not much of that. 'Your Mr. Dutton is just gone. He got on famously with Hugh Condamine, and I forgot to tell you that he has given Mark such a jolly present, a lovely silver coffee-pot, just the one thing they wanted, and Lady Delmar said he didn't look near so like a tradesman as she expected. I see May is writing too, but I don't know what you will get out of her, as Hugh Condamine came for the day.'

Nuttie, however, had more hopes from May. Her letter certainly was fuller of interest, if shorter.

'My Dear Nuttie-Blanche has no doubt told you all the externals. I suppose there never was a brighter wedding, for as Annaple keeps her mother with her, there was no real rending asunder of ties. Indeed I almost wish her excitement did not always show itself in laughing, for it prevents people from understanding how much there is in her.

(Plainly Hugh Condamine had been rather scandalised by the 'giggling Scotch girl.')

'Dear old Lady Ronnisglen was delightful. If there were any tears, they were hers, and Lady Delmar was very cordial and affectionate. Of course Hugh and Mr. Dutton missed much that one would have liked in a wedding. I drove back with them afterwards, and it was very interesting to listen to their conversation about church matters. Hugh is very much struck with your friend; he had heard a good deal about Micklethwayte before, and says that such a lay worker is perfectly invaluable. It is a great pity that he is not going on in the firm, it would make it so much nicer for Mark, but he says he has duties towards his new property. I think he was sorry not to find you at home, but he plainly never thought it possible you should be at the wedding. I don't know whether I ought to tell you this, but I think you ought to know it. There is a lovely new wreath of Eucharis lilies and maiden-hair at dear Aunt Alice's grave, close against the rails at the feet, and Hugh told me that he looked out of his window very early yesterday morning and saw Mr. Dutton standing there, leaning on the rail, with his bare head bowed between his hands. You can't think how it impressed Hugh. He said he felt reverent towards him all through that day, and he was quite angry with Rosalind and Adela for jesting because, when the shower began as we were coming out of church, Mr. Dutton rushed up with an umbrella, being the only person there who had one, I believe. Hugh says you may be proud of such a friend. I wish you could have seen Hugh.-Your affectionate cousin,


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