Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

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Come away : for Life and Thought

Here no longer dwell ;

Brtt in a city glorious,
A great and distant city, have bought

A mansion incorruptible.




D. APPLETON & CO., 346 & 348 BEOADWAY.





It is pleasant to remember the events of years gone by.
I shall try to recollect those of my own life. I may not be
able to put down everything regularly, but some things that
have happened cannot be forgotten, and these will help me to
others. Mrs. Weir was very kind in teaching me as she did
when I was a girl. I suppose she never thought of the use I
should put my learning to ; and perhaps, after all, it may
not be of use. I took little heed to advice which was given
me when I was young, and so, perhaps, no heed will be
given to me when I tell of my mistakes and difficulties. But
time goes on fast, and I would fain, if I could, act up now to
what Mrs. Weir used to say, in her gentle way : " Ursula,
my child, we must do good in our generation." God knows,
I have done little enough in mine. I may not always have
fallen short wilfully, but there is not much comfort in such a
thought when one sees what has been neglected, except as
regards oneself and the hope of forgiveness. Anyhow, I can
but strive to make up for it, and the thought of having
striven may be a comfort when I come to die.

I must begin at the beginning, the time which I can first
remember. That was when we all lived at Sandcombe — my
father, and mother, and William, and Roger, and I ; — but I
don't know much of those days. The farm must have been
very difiereut then from what it is now, and people's ways of
going on must have been difiercnt too. I remember my
mother always wore a cotton or stufi' gown, with a coloured


lumdkcrcliicf folded over her neck, and used to get up at
four o'clock in the morning, and help about all kinds of things
which we should leave to the maids, and I can quite well
recollect going out with her to see the cows milked, and her
teaching one of the dairy-maids how to churn the butter; but
almost everything else is gone from me, for I have known
Sandcombe since, and so the notions I have of it are con-
fused. My father and mother died when I was about six
years old. My father was taken first ; he had been failing a
long time : he caught a cold from being overheated at har-
vest, and never recovered it, and my poor mother took a
fever soon after, and was ill for a month, and then she went too.
It was a great grief to me, though I could not understand it
properly. My mother was a very good woman, and taught
me in the best way she could ; but she never had much
learning, and was always busy, and so I had been left a good
deal to my own ways, and was spoilt and very headstrong.
The only person who could manage me properly was my
brother Roger, and I don't know how he did it, for he was
never quick with me as William was, but somehow I loved
him more than any one else from the time I was a baby.
They used to say, that when I was in arms, if I cried, they
always gave me to Koger to be quieted ; and I suppose the
same feeling grew up with me afterwards : yet in those days
I could not have known properly what there was to love in
him, and there were some things about Lim which might
naturally have frightened me. He was a very tall, large-
made man-, quite noted all round the country for his strength,
— the best rider and cricketer to be found for miles. He
had a power of work which was quite wonderful ; up in the
morning with the labourers, and later to bed than any of us,
and never seeming to want sleep as others did. His manner,
though kind, was rough, and his voice was rather harsh. He
spoke out his mind plainly when called upon, but at other
times he was much given to silence. These things were not
likely to win a child's heart ; but there is something, I am
sure, which God gives to such little ones to teach them whom
they may trust ; and so it was that not a baby ever came into
the house but it would go to Roger at once. It was his
fancy for children which they felt, I suppose, for he was


curiously fond of tiaem. He had a tender way, indeed, with
everything which was put under his care, or made to lean
upon him : colts, and kittens, and puppies were his delight,
when he could not get hold of a child. It was such a pleasure to
him, I imagine, to feel his own great strength by the side of
their weakness. I don't think he was ever happier than
when he could take nic up in his arms and carry me out to
the yard, and set me on the back of one of the huge waggon-
liorses, and make it carry me round the field. He and the
horse seemed to be so entirely of one mind ; and when he
saw I was not frightened, he would pat me on the shoulder
and say, " There's a Trot ! " — it was his pet name for me, —
" she'll make a woman after all ! " He had a great notion
that women were not to be cowards, and I don't think I was
a coward about anything but the dark; I never liked that.
All this alone, however, would never have made me feel for
Roger as 1 did when I grew up. But when I began at all to
understand things, I felt that there was something about him
difi"ereut from most other people, beside his tender heart and
his great strength. William was kind, too, and a strong,
bluff-looking man, with a hearty, good-natured manner ; but
the two brothers were quite unlike. In those days we did
what is seldom, I believe, done now; we dined at the same
time as the servants, in a little room opening out of the
kitchen, which has since been altered. When William came
in to dinner, every one had to make way for him, and he had
the best of all there was put before him, and nothing was
thought of till he was cared for. It was all very proper, for
he was the eldest and the master ; but then he took it so
much as his right, and never seemed to consider whether
others were comfortable so long as he had what he wanted
himself. But Boger never forgot any one. Before he sat
down he had a kind word, though it might be rough-spoken,
even for the little girl who helped in the dairy, and whom he
never saw except at meal-times. He was a little hasty, and
so was William ; but lloger always said he was sorry, and
William never did. They had different ways, too, of doing
kindnesses ; W'illiam made a fuss about his, and talked as if
he was afraid they would be forgotten, but I don't think
lloger ever knew when he was kind ; it came to him as easily


as eating or drinking. He was not, like some people, put
out by being thanked, but he laughed as though it was
strange to him that what he had done should be thought of
any consequence. There were deeper things, besides, which
made the difference, — things which I can sec into now,
though I could only feel them then. William would give
out an oath sometimes, when he was very angry ; but let
Iloger be provoked to the utmost, yet a bad word never
passed his lips. He had the fear of God before his eyes
more than any man I ever knew : not in talking, — he was
shut up about religion to grown-up people, and seldom came
out about it at all, indeed, except to children, — but he made
everybody feel it, in a way which was wonderful. When
William had let out an oath, he would beg Roger's pardon,
as though he had been a clergyman. After my mother's
death, Roger was the person who took care that I should re-
member to say my prayers, and learn my catechism. He
was fond of reading himself, and liked to see me take to it,
and when I was a very little thing, he used to hear me read
a hymn on Sunday, and then, when I was older, a chapter in
the Gospel, and when I had done, he would set me on his
shoulder as a reward, and carry me round the kitchen. He
was more my teacher in those days than any one. I had a
kind of nurse to look after me, but she had work to do be-
sides, and she was very ignorant, only a labourer's widow,
who had never been to school. I might have grown up like
a little heathen but for Roger, for I was so young, and so
tiny of my age, that my brothers did not like me to go across
the down by myself to school, either to Compton or Hatton ;
and Sandcombe was a very lonely place, there were no older
children near who could take me with them. The plan was
talked about sometimes, and the clergjrman from Compton
called several times, and said it would be a good thing ; but
William always put it off, and declared there was time
enough before me. Thus I went on till I was nine years old,
without having had any teaching except what I had learnt
first from my mother and then from Roger. But I knew a
great deal, for such a child, about pigs, and horses, and
cows, and dairy-work, and that might have been as good for
me as books ; for 1 had such a natural liking for learning,


that when I was put in the way of it I took to it at once,
without any trouble, and the liking has stood by me all my

I lived at Sandcombe, never thinking of a change, for
what child ever does think of it ? Roger was all in all to
me, and I had no thought of being parted from him. So
it was, that it came upon me one day suddenly like a
thunderbolt, that there was an idea of his leaving us. I
don't think I quite believed it, — it seemed like an impossi-
bility, — but it frightened me without my understanding it,
and T jumped upon his knee (he had been playing with me
just before I went to bed, and he was sitting inside the great
open hearth in the inner kitchen), and put my arms round
his neck, and said, he was Father Roger and Brother Roger,
and I would go wherever he went, and no one should take
me from him.

I believe those words decided my ftite. My father had
died only moderately well off; he had his farm stock, but
not much else. All had been left to my mother, and after
her to my brothers. I dare say it was intended to make
some provision for me, but the business was put off and never
done. William managed the farm for my mother whilst
she lived. He and Roger were both a great many years
older than myself. There had been a number of children
between us, but they had all died very young; and I sup-
pose this circumstance made me all the more a pet.

After my mother's death, William proposed to keep on
the farm, and Roger stayed on for some time to help liiui,
but somehow it did not quite do ; William liked his own
way and was apt to speak out, and Roger remembered (I
know it, because he often told me of it in after years) that
saying in the Bible, " A brother oifendcd is harder to be won
than a strong city;" and so he would not put himself any
longer in the way of it, but proposed, instead, that there
should be some equal division of the property made, and
then that he should go forth to seek his own fortune.

That was quite Roger's fashion, — avoiding ofience, ho
used to call it. Some persons said he was often unwise, and
could not stand up properly for his own rights ; and there
might have been some truth in their words, but I loved him

8 U K S U L A .

all the better for giving up, because it was so unlike -what I
should have done myself. Of all things I hated being put
upon ; and when I was a very little thing I used to strike
my fist upon the table, and say, " You dare ! " when any
one offended me, and I might have gone on saying " You
dare ! " till now, but for lloger.

William was honest and just in his ways, according to
the world's notion of justice, and he and Roger settled their
business very amicably, both of them agreeing that a por-
tion should be set aside for me ; and, no doubt, I was as
well off as though the will had been made out by a lawyer.

When William put his name to the agreement, he said
out strongly (so lloger told me afterwards) that the child
should never know want whilst he had a penny to give her.
It was very kind of him. I dare say he talked more than
Roger, who said little about things he cared for.

They put aside two hundred and fifty pounds for me,
and then Roger and William divided the rest.

And now Roger meant to leave Sandcombe. William
intended to marry as soon as he could, for he said he should
never manage without a " missis " to look after things. As
for me, there was a notion of sending me to school. We were
about eight miles from Hove, the market-town. It was a
very good-sized, flourishing place, and there were decent
schools in it : one was kept by a cousin of my mother's, and
it was thought that I should do very well there. I was to
come back to Sandcombe for the holidays, and William hinted
that by and by, when he had a " missis," I might return
and live there entirely.

lloger had sometimes thought of going to Canada, and
setting up for himself there as a fai-mer ; and no doubt he
might have done very well. But then he could not possibly
have taken me too ; and seeing me so bent upon staying
with him, he began to think of something else. I fancy also
it came across him that I might have a doubtful kind of
life Avith William and his wife. William was all for this
world, — making money; not dishonourably, but still making
it, — and he had his eye (Roger knew this) upon a hard kind
of young woman living at Hatton Farm, two miles from us,
whose father was said to be very well to do in the world.


Leah Morris was lier name. Roger never liked lier, and she
never liked Roger. I don't think he took kindly to the no-
tion of my being left under her.

He kissed me very much when I clung to him that night,
but be made no promises ; only he whispered, " Ursie, little
one, we will do what God tells us;" and then he bade me go
to bed, and I went and cried myself to sleep.

I did not see Roger again till the next day at dinner. He
was out to work too early for me ; but I always dined with
him and with William in the little parlour. The farm-ser-
vants sat at a long table in the kitchen, and we in the inner
room could see all that went on. William was very strict
with his servants ; he kept them all in excellent order ; aTid
treated them very fairly. They had good food, and enough
of it. Sandcombe bacon had quite a name in the country ;
and the cheese, though it was so hard that it almost required
a hatchet to cut it, had a very good flavour when it had
been kept a little while ; and some of our friends at Hove
used to have a present of a cheese made them once a year,
they were so fond of it. It was a pretty sight enough to see
the dinner. The inner kitchen was much higher than the
rooms that are built in these days. It had a great oak beam
going across it, and there were odd things hung about the
walls, — a pair of stag's horns, and some guns, and an old
leathern jack, such as people used to drink out of in very
old days; it was given to my grandfather, and was very
much prized. And all the pots, and pans, and dishes
were kept bright and clean, and the stone floor was con-
stantly swept and scrubbed. It was a very bright kitchen in
summer, when the sun came in, in a kind of dancing way,
through the leaves of the clematis, and the Virginia creeper,
which had been trained up the divisions of the windows.
But I liked it best in winter ; when the flames of the wood-
tire in the open hearth made the near part of the room look
as if it was coloured red ; whilst out in the corners there was
a kind of goblin darkness, even in the day-time. Sometimes,
when it was very cold, I used to beg to have my dinner by
the kitchen fire, and then I took a little wooden stool quite
inside, under the black walls of the hearth, and sat snugly
with my plate in my lap, and the servants turning round to


look at me, and asking if I was comfortable, and trying to
entice me out to their table. That was all very happy. I
felt myself to be cared for by every one. But, on the day I
have mentioned, I had no wish to go to the kitchen hearth,
though it was very cold for the spring season. I kept close
by Roger in the little parlour, and said nothing; the sight
of him made me ready to cry. "What he had said about
going away came back to me so sadly. He and William sat
together after dinner with their pipes, as was their custom.
William wished me away, I suppose ; for I know that when
I took my doll to play with, that I might have an excuse for
sitting by Roger's knee, he said sharply, that I must be off
to the kitchen, I was only in the way there : and I ran off,
half angry, half sorrowful, and told Deborah, the kitchen-
girl, that I was come to help her put away the things ; but
all the time that I was carrying the plates into the scullery,
I was watching William and Roger, for I was quite sure that
they were talking about something which concerned me.

And so, sure enough, they were. It was a very long
conversation ; and Deborah, who was rather given to be pert,
said to me, that she thought master had forgotten there was
any work to be done in the world, he spent so much time
over his pipe ; but they both came out of the parlour to-
gether at last ; Roger looking very brimful of something im-
portant ; and before I could speak, he caught me up in his
arms, and said, " Well, Ursie, what do you say ? will you
go with brother Roger to live at Dene-? "

I don't know what I answered, for I scarcely knew what
he meant ; but my heart seemed to leap up into my mouth
for joy, and I kissed him a great many times ; and he was
in such spirits, he put me on his shoulder (for I was very
small, not much bigger than many children of six), and car-
ried me across the room as he used to do ; whilst Deborah
screamed with fright, and William told him he ought not to
make a fool of himself.

I did not understand why we were to live at Dene till a
long time afterwards, and then no one told me exactly, but I
learnt about it by degrees.

Dene was a gentleman's house lying under the down
which rose just behind Sandcombe. The two places could


not have been more than three-quarters of a mile apart; but
I had not often been close to Dene, for whenever I went
away from the farm, I used almost always to go over the
down to Compton, or in the opposite direction along the
ridge to Hatton, those being the two villages nearest to us.

The family at Dene were only there every now and then,
and we had nothing to do with them, for they kept cows, and
poultry, and pigs for themselves, and we sent all ours to the
market at Hove.

But just at this time, it seemed, Mr. Weir wanted to
make some change in the place, and had an idea that it would
be a good thing to have a respectable head man living there,
who might look after the cottages belonging to the estate,
and also superintend things about the grounds ; and search-
ing about for such a person, he heard of Roger, and made
him the offer of going there.

It was not quite to Roger's taste. He had been used to
a farm, and to more freedom in his ways. Though William
often spoke out to him when he was angry, it was not like
having a master over him. He could answer again, if he
liked it : not that he ever did ; but there is a comfort — I
have found it myself — in feeling that one might answer if one
chose. Now Mr. Weir had the character of being a stern,
fidgety man, and Roger was likely to have a good deal of
trouble, and perhaps not to please him after all ; though, if
he could not, I don't know who could. But then, on tlie
other hand, there was no risk. He would have a fixed sum,
and a house to live in, and a home for me. That told witli
him more than all the rest. He would be able to keep a girl
to look after me, and I might be taught to read, and write,
and cipher, at Compton School, and he would have mc always
with him. It might not have been a very wise reason for
Roger's choice. Perhaps it would have been better for me
to have been sent to people who could have kept me more
strictly ; but I suppose there was something in the feel of
my arms round his neck, and the many kisses I gave him,
which touched him, and made him think, as he said, that
God had given me to him, and he could not part with me.
I have felt in that way myself in after years, when a child
has seemed to love me very much. People say it is a woman's


weakness, but I think men have it oftener than they choose
to own.

What went on after that I do not at all recollect, though
I know it seemed to take a long time to settle everything.
William and Roger had a great deal to manage with the
farm, and questions about money to arrange. After a good
deal of talking, it was decided that some of Roger's money
should be left with William to lay out upon the farm, and
that he should have good interest for it, and be able to claim
it again, after due notice, whenever he wished. It seemed
the best plan for the time ; and William was very trustwor-
thy. Roger had an additional reason for being prudent, be-
cause he was to take charge of me, and he wished to put by
my little money for the time when I should be grown up,
and keep me himself now out of his own. There was no ac-
tual right in the matter, not what the world calls right ; yet
I have always felt that the fair way would have been for
William to have helped. But he never said anything ; he
seemed to take it for granted that Roger would manage it all
comfortably. He had a fashion of letting his own share of a
burden fall upon another person's shoulders, and never ap-
pearing to think that he was bound to assist in carrying it.
And because he kept so aloof, people imagined at last that
he had nothing to do with it. I don't think it ever entered
Roger's head that he was undertaking more than his share in
paying all my expenses ; and I am sure that William never
thought himself anything but a most excellent brother.


We walked over to Dene late one bright summer's evening,
about two months after the plan had been first talked about.
I just remember that. I don't recollect what the country
looked like ; but it must have been very beautiful if it at all
resembled — as of course it did — what I have known it since.
The down behind Sandcombe is a long ridge, as I have
said ; but towards the south it rises up in a great hill, called
St. Anne's Hill, from the summit of which there is a view


for many miles round, over the land and over the sea ; for it is
very near the sea, not above a mile distant. The coast forms
part of a great bay, indented by smaller ones. The shore is
closed in with red sand-clifts, rather low, broken, and jagged;
but away to the west the red sand changes into chalk,
and the cliffs become very steep, and rise to a great height;
standing out against the sky, when the sun shines on them,
until they almost dazzle the eye ; and at other times covering
themselves, as it were, with a blueish veil of mist, and look-
ing out proudly from behind it. I always liked the white
cliffs very much, yet my eye never rested upon them long,
but wandered still further, to a distant stretch of grey land,
looking like a cloud, which could be seen just where the sea
and the sky met. It was an island very far off. The shep-
herds on the down, I have been told, often watch it to see
whether it is clear or misty. Whenever it is seen quite
plainly, they say there is to be a change of weather. That
was not my reason for gazing upon it as a child ; but it was
a spot which I could not reach, or hope to reach, and I had
notions of a life there which should be quite apart from trouble
or care, and in which I should have the rule, and make every
one happy; and so it was the land of my day-dreams.

Below the ridge of Sandcombe Down the ground is very
flat for a long way. From the edge of the cliff it is level for
miles, cut up into corn-fields and pastures, with a few trees
dotting the hedge-rows. People have said that it is a barren-
looking country, and wanted wood ; but it was never barren
to me. There was always variety in it. The clouds, when
they drifted over the sky, cast shadows upon the fields ; and
the sun, when it burst out, gleamed across them in long
streaks of light ; and sometimes touched the tower of a
church, or seemed as if it were trying to light up the old
castle, standing on the hill close to Hove. For we could see
as far as Hove, and beyond it, from Sandcombe Down :
away, indeed, to where the river, which had its source close

Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellUrsula : a tale of country life (Volume 1) → online text (page 1 of 28)