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haste to hang an expensive wife and family round their necks.'
'I don't think poor Annaple can be accused of being expensive, papa,' said Nuttie. 'Only think, when Wynnie has two nurses always after him, her Willie has only the fraction of a little maid, who does all sorts of work besides.'
'Yes, I never saw more resolute and cheerful exertion than Mrs. Mark Egremont's,' said Mr. Dutton.
'She owes him something,' said Mr. Egremont, 'for she has been the ruin of him.'
'Of his worldly prospects in one sense,' said Mr. Dutton quietly; while Nuttie felt how much better and wiser an answer it was than the indignant denial that trembled on her tongue. 'There can be no doubt that they made a grievous mistake in their choice, and I unfortunately was concerned in leading them into it; but no one can see how they meet their troubles without great respect and admiration, and I am especially bound to seek for some new opening for them. I have little doubt that some office work might be found for him in London, but they are essentially country people, and it would be much better for them if he could have some agency. I suppose the situation you offered him before, sir, is filled up? '
'Not really,' cried Nuttie. 'We have only a very common sort of uneducated bailiff, who would be much better with some one over him. You said so, papa.'
'Did he request you to apply to me?' said Mr. Egremont sharply, looking at Mr. Dutton.
'Neither he nor she has the least idea of my intention; I only thought, sir, you might be willing to consider how best to assist a nephew, who has certainly not been wanting either in industry or economy, and who bears your name.'
'Well, I will think it over,' said Mr. Egremont, rising to take leave.
The carriage had been bidden to await them at the door for their daily drive, and as Mr. Egremont leant back with the furs disposed over him he observed: 'That's a man who knows how to take care of himself. I wonder where he gets his coffee, I've not drunk any like it since I was at Nice.' And Nuttie, though well knowing that Mr. Dutton's love of perfection was not self-indulgence, was content to accept this as high approbation, and a good augury for Mark and Annaple. Indeed, with Mr. Dutton settled near, and with the prospect of a daily walk from church with him, she felt such a complete content and trust as she had not known since she had been uprooted from Micklethwayte.
CHAPTER XXVIII. A BRAVE HEART.
'One furnace many times the good and bad may hold, Yet what consumes the chaff will only cleanse the gold.' Archbishop TRENCH.
Never was there a truer verse than that which tells us that in seeking duty we find pleasure by the way, and in seeking pleasure we meet pain. It might be varied to apply to our anticipations of enjoyment or the reverse. Ursula had embraced her lot as a necessity, and found it enlivened by a good many sunshiny hours; and when she looked upon Mr. Dutton's neighbourhood as a continual source of delight and satisfaction, she found that it gave rise to a continual course of small disappointments.
In the first place, he did not walk home from church with her every morning. She looked for him in vain, even when she knew he was in town. He only appeared there on Sundays, and at intervals when he had some especial reason for speaking to her. At first she thought he must have grown lazy or out of health to have thus dropped his old Micklethwayte habits, but after a time she discovered by accident that he frequented another church, open at a still earlier hour and a little farther off, and she was forced to come to the conclusion that he acted out of his characteristic precise scrupulosity, which would not consider it as correct for her to walk home every day with him. She chafed, and derided 'the dear old man' a little in her own mind, then ended with a sigh. Was there any one who cared so much about what was proper for her? And, after all, was he really older than Mr. Clarence Fane, whom everybody in her father's set called Clarence, or even Clare, and treated as the boy of the party, so that she had taken it as quite natural that he should be paired off with her. It was quite a discovery!
There was another and more serious disappointment. Mr. Egremont had not seemed disinclined to consider the giving the agency to Mark, and Nuttie had begun to think with great satisfaction of May Condamine's delight in welcoming him, and of the good influence that would be brought to bear on the dependents, when suddenly there came a coolness. She could trace the moment, and was sure that it was, when Gregorio became aware of what was intended. He had reason to dread Mark as an enemy, and was likely to wish to keep him at a distance; and it had been Ursula's great hope that an absolute promise might have been given before he heard of the plan; but Mr. Egremont was always slow to make up his mind, except when driven by a sudden impulse, and had never actually said that the post should be offered to his nephew. Nuttie only detected the turn of the tide by the want of cordiality, the hums and haws, and by and by the resumption of the unkind ironical tone when Mark and Annaple were mentioned; and at last, when she had been reading to him a letter from Mrs. William Egremont full of anxiety for the young people, and yet of trust in his kindness to them, he exclaimed, 'You've not been writing to her about this absurd proposal?'
'I have not mentioned any proposal at all. What do you mean?'
'Why, this ridiculous idea about the agency. As if I was going to put my affairs into the hands of a man who has made such a mull of his own.'
'But that was not Mark's fault, papa. He was junior, you know, and had no power over that Goodenough.'
'He ought, then! Never sail with an unlucky captain. No, no, Mark's honourable lady would not let him take the agency when he might have had it, and I am not going to let them live upon me now that they have nothing of their own.'
'Oh, papa, but you almost promised!'
'Almost!' he repeated with his ironical tone; 'that's a word capable of a good deal of stretching. This is what you and that umbrella fellow have made out of my not giving him a direct refusal on the spot. He may meddle with Mark's affairs if he chooses, but not with mine.'
Nuttie had learnt a certain amount of wisdom, and knew that to argue a point only made her father more determined, so she merely answered, 'Very well;' adding in a meek voice, 'Their furniture, poor things!'
'Oh ay. Their umbrella friend is making a collection for them. Yes, I believe I said I would contribute.'
Hot blood surged up within Nuttie at the contemptuous tone, and she bit her lip to keep down the answer, for she knew Mr, Dutton intended to call the next afternoon for her father's ultimatum before going down to Micklethwayte, where the crisis was fast approaching, and she had so much faith in his powers that she dreaded to forestall him by an imprudent word. Alas, Gregorio must have been on his guard, for, though Nuttie was sure she heard her friend's ring at the usual time, no entrance followed. She went up to put on her habit to ride with her father, and when she came down Mr. Egremont held out a card with the name 'Philip Dutton,' and the pencilled request below to be allowed to see Mr. Egremont later in the day.
'He has been denied!' exclaimed she in consternation.
'Hein! Before we go out, sit down and write a note for me.' And he dictated--
'Dear Sir--I will not trouble you to call again this afternoon, as I have decided on reflection that there is no employment on my estate suited to my nephew, Mark Egremont.
'As I understand that you are raising a family subscription for rescuing his furniture from the creditors, I enclose a cheque for £50 for the purpose. --I remain--'
'Yours--what--papa?--' asked Ursula, with a trembling voice, full of tears.
'Yours, etc., of course. Quite intimate enough for an ex-umbrella- monger. Here, give it to me, and I'll sign it while you fill up the cheque for me.'
That such should be the first letter that Nuttie ever addressed to Mr. Dutton, since the round-hand one in 'which Miss Ursula wished Mr. Duton to have the onner of a tee with me on my birthday, and I am your affected little Nuttie'!
She hoped to explain and lament the next morning, after church. He would surely come to talk it over with her; but he only returned a civil note with his receipt, and she did not see him again before his departure. She was greatly vexed; she had wanted so much to tell him how it was, and then came an inward consciousness that she would probably have told him a great deal too much.
Was it that tiresome prudence of his again that would think for her and prevent impulsive and indignant disclosures? It made her bring down her foot sharply on the pavement with vexation as she suspected that he thought her so foolish, and then again her heart warmed with the perception of self-denying care for her. She trusted to that same prudence for no delusive hopes having been given to Mark and his wife.
She did so justly. Mr. Dutton had thought the matter far too
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