Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

Ursula : a tale of country life (Volume 1) online

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I will do Miss Milicent the justice to own that she always
allowed other people to be as free spoken as she was herself.

" There is nothing for her to say, no, about," she replied.
" What she wishes is to go to Compton, and it is what the
trustees, and Mr. Richardson, and all consider to be best."

" I only thought it was respectful to ask Mrs. Weir's
opinion," was my reply. " But I beg your pardon for in-
terfering. Miss Milicent ; it is no business of mine."

She scarcely heeded the remark ; but, as I was moving
away, she caught me by the arm, and said, " There is a room
for you at Compton, Ursie Grant."

" Thank you. Miss Milicent ; but I am afraid it won't
quite suit me to use it."

" But it will be ready for you ; I am going to have a bed
put up."

" You are very good ; but I must sec what my duties at
Sandcombe are first."

" You have no duties at Sandcombe, Ursie, none half so
great as staying with us and helping my mother. Mr. Rich-
ardson and I settled it was the best thing you could do."

My spirit was up then, and I felt my cheek flush.

" I thank you for troubling yourself about me. Miss Mili-
cent," I said, " but I think it might be better for me to de-
cide for myself If you please, I will let you know what I
determine by next Thursday." And making an excuse of
business, that I might not be urged any more, I hurried away.



The next clay I went over to Sandcombe. Little as I
fancied taking advice from Leab, I yet felt that it would be
right to hear what her ideas were as to giving me a home
there, and whether I should be a help or a burden to her.
Besides, it was Roger's wish that I should talk matters over
with her and William, and though I should have liked to go
my own way independently, it did not seem right to keep
aloof from relations.

There was plenty of work going on in the farm-yard and
the out-houses, but the house itself seemed dull as I went in.
I missed Jessie Lee's voice. When she was there she was
generally to be heard singing, and the notes were like a bird's,
they were so sweet ; but it was all silent now, except the
sound of my own footsteps as I walked up the stone passage.
I went straight to the little parlour, and knocked, thinking
I should be sure to find Leah there. It was William who
said " Come in ; " and when I went in, I found them both
together, looking as thovigh something was very much amiss.

Leah broke out directly, scarcely allowing time for Wil-
liam to shake hands : " Here is a fuss, Ursie ; Jessie has
been as good as brought up by us, and now mother is going
to take her quite away. So that we are not to depend upon
her any more. It is too hard, after all the trouble I have
had with her; but mother complains of feeling lonely."

This was not surprising, for Mr. Morris had died shortly
before, and Mrs. Morris had left the farm, and was living in
a comfortable little house, in Hatton, whilst her son was try-
ing farming in a distant county.

" I thought we shouldn't be allowed to keep Jessie much
longer," said William ; " especially now Mrs. Morris is ill."

" It is only rheumatism ; she will be well enough before
long," said Leah ; " and, of course," she added, seeing, I
suspect, that I looked a little ashamed of her cool way of
talking, " I shouldn't mind giving her up for a time, just
till mother is well ; but I had put off getting extra help,
quite depending upon Jessie; and now there is hay-making


scarcely over, and harvest coming on, and ever so mucli to
be done, and I have not a creature to look to."

My heart sank ; I saw which way things were tending,
and I don't think I knew till then how I dreaded the notion
of a home at Sandcombe. I made no answer, and Leah went
on with her complaints.

" The new girl wants a sharp eye upon her, and I can't
be in two places at once, and Jessie looked after the dairy,
and took the poulti-y quite off my hands, and was a very fair
cook, thanks to my teaching. It is too hard that she should
be taken from me at a moment's notice."

" Another girl will only be another mouth to feed," said
William, decidedly. " We have too many about the place
already ; Farmer Kemp does with one, and I don't see why
we shouldn't."

Leah bit her lip, and observed that she had not married
to be made a slave, and have the Kemps thrown in her face
always. Mrs. Kemp had Mary to help her, and she was
worth fifty girls.

" Well then, here is Ursie," said William, trying to look
very good-natured and disinterested. " She is coming to
make a home here, and I am sure she will be willing enough
to work for her board."

A fair proposal it was ; but Roger would not have said
it. I answered, cautiously, " You must not depend upon
me, William ; Mrs. Weir wants me to stay with her."

" Stay with Mrs. Weir ; why she has scarcely butter
enough for her own bread, much less for yours," exclaimed
Leah. " You are not going to be such a goose, Ursie, as to
stay with her ! "

" I suppose I am not likely to get much more than butter
here," I replied, laughing. " You are not going to hire me
as your servant ; neither you nor Mrs. Weir are. In both
places I should be required to work for my board ; and at
Mrs. Weir's I might have time to make a little money over
and above for myself, by nccdle-work."

" And what is to hinder you from having time here ? "
replied Leah.

" Jessie had none," I answered. " If I am to work as hard
as Jessie, I shall not be -better off."


I could not help saying this, for I had always felt that it
was a shame for them to put so much upon Jessie, and not
let her have any help when they could very well afford it,

" She does not want to come," said William, speaking
to Leah, in a vexed tone ; " that is the long and the short of
the matter."

He was quite right ; but I ought not to have let it out.
I was wrong, as I always was when I did not like things or
people. No wonder that I was often called ungracious. I
tried to correct myself, and answered, " Please don't say that,
William ; the long and the short of the matter, as you call
it, is, that it is my duty to do the best I can for myself dur-
ing Roger's absence. I have a fair supply of needle-work
now, and could get more, and that is what I have to look to
to keep me in clothes, unless I take from the little I have
laid by, which is against Roger's wish, and my own too.
Wherever I go I must either be paid for my services or have
certain times to myself, and it would only be deceiving you
to pretend to come here and take Jessie's place, when I could
not take Jessie's duties."

" Then what did you think of doing if you came here ? "
asked Leah, sharply.

" I had not thought much about it," I replied. I could
not say more, for my voice was quite choked.

I think William perceived what I felt, for he said in a
tone of excuse, " Of course, Ursie, we should not talk of
your working for your board if we could help it, and if we.
didn't know it would make you more comfortable. But we
are sure you would never bear to be a burden, and this has
been a bad year, you see ; the hay is poor, and little enough
of it ; and turnips want rain ; and our wheat is not looking
half as well as that on the other side of Hove ; and, what
with the repairs of the cottages, and the lawyer's expenses
which have come from Roger's whim, I am likely to find my-
self short at Christmas. I thought you and Roger would
have understood this, and would have been willing to lend a
helping hand."

" I am willing, quite willing," I exclaimed, " I wouldn't
be indebted " — I was going to be ungracious again, but
something brought the thought of Mrs. Weir and her patient


gentleness to my mind, and I added quietly, " If I do come
to you, William, I don't think you will ever find me un-
willing to lend a helping hand to the utmost. I should be
bound to do it, just as I was bound to help Roger. But it
would be foolish to promise to take a girl's place, or do the
things Jessie did, because I should require to have some
time to myself in the afternoons. That is all I meant to

" And that would do very well, Leah, wouldn't it ? " said
William, and he walked to the door, and waited with the
handle in his hand, impatient to be gone.

" If Ursie wasn't so uppish, she would have seen long
ago that it was all we wanted," said Leah ; " I don't under-
stand myself what all the fuss has been about."

" Nor I neither," said William, and he came back and
kissed me. " You know, Ursie, if I was a rich man you
should have a home here as long as you liked, just for the

" Thank you, William. When Roger and I are in
Canada, whether we are rich or poor, you shall have a home
without the asking."

William went ofi" quickly, trying to hum a tune, which
somehow I don't think came quite easily. Leah turned to
me rather sharply. " What did you mean, Ursie, just now,
by saying you were going to stay with Mrs. Weir, when she
won't have a house over her head ? Dene is to be sold, and
the whole estate is mortgaged up to its full value and over,
and there is to be a subscription raised for Mrs. Weir
amongst her friends, and Miss Milicent is going out as a

I burst into a fit of laughter, which made Leah quite
angry. " It is very well for you to laugh," she said, " but
it's true. I had it from the best authority ; of course they
don't tell you everything ; why should tliey ? But you will
find it so ; and as for your notion of living with Mrs. Weir,
you might as well think of living with the man in the moon."

" I am not sure that I shan't think of living with him
soon," I replied. " There will be a chance of hearing less
gossip and more truth there than here. Jane Shaw, I sup-
pose, told you this nonsense."


" And ste is more likely to know than any one else,"
answered Leah, " seeing she is to be mistress of Dene."

I waited before answering, for, often lately as I had
heard Jane's prospects spoken of, I could not yet make up
my mind to take the notion patiently.

" The wedding is to come off the end of September,"
continued Leah, anxious to pour out all she knew. " Captain
Price's sisters and an aunt are coming, and a good many
gentlemen friends, and Jane is thinking already about her
dress, Jessie says. I don't believe, though, for my part,
that Dene will be ready for them by that time. There will
be a good deal to do with papering, and painting, and fur-
nishing, after the old lady is gone. Jane says she is not
going to be particular, and they can wait for the new dining-
room furniture till next year, but I don't fancy they will
when it comes to the point. By the by, Ursie, you must be
upon your best behaviour, and remember to say Miss Shaw
now. Jessie tells me Jane quite expects it."

" I am very willing," I answered. " She would never
have been Jane Shaw to me, if I had not known her from a
child. Is there anything I can do for you in Hatton, Leah ?
I am going on there to get a few things for the house."

" Nothing ; unless — well, you might, perhaps, carry a
parcel over to Jessie. She left a gown here, and a pair of

One of the farm boys lived at Hatton, and might very
well have taken the parcel, but I was unwilling to appear
unkind. Besides, it saved Leah a penny ; for the child might
have expected something for his trouble. I knew she would
not forget that.

" And when are you coming, Ursie ? " was Leah's gra-
cious invitation at parting.

" I will let you know, when I have settled about Mrs.
Weir," I replied. " Good-bye," and, burdened with my
parcel, I departed.

I made my way up the cart-road to the top of the down,
and then sat down to rest for a few minutes, and if I could,
to think. I was in a greater perplexity than before, for I
felt as though I had been drawn on farther than I intended.
My only thought in going over to Sandcome was to find out


whether William and Leah really wished me to stay with
them, and were likely to be in any way hearty about it. In
that case, and if they had thrown themselves at all into my
position, I could have talked over everything openly and
easily. But this fashion of bargaining, and making the most
of me, threw me back upon myself. It was no use to ask
advice of people who were only bent upon seeing things their
own way, for their own advantage. I could, indeed, write to
Roger, but it might make ill-will between him and William
to explain what I felt, and that would never do, especially
just as he was going away from England, perhaps never to
come back again. If a disagreeable thing is to be done, the
fewer people there are concerned in it the better. Moreover,
at the bottom of my heart lay a doubt as to what Roger
would say. He would very likely tell me that it was a safe
home, and that I had better be patient and bear up, and it
would soon be over, and I should join him in Canada.

But that would be his man's way of looking at the great
end, and not seeing the little steps by which it is to be
reached ; and I never shut my eyes as he did to the pos-
sibility that the day for me to join him in Canada might
never come, and that the step I was going to take now was
one which must have an influence upon my future life.

I hated Sandcombe. I really don't think the word is too
strong. I did not hate William and Leah, but I hated all
their ways of looking at things.

When I was with them I felt, as it were, unable to
breathe. I had to think of every word I said, and check even
the tone of my voice, lest I should show the feelings which
would rise up in spite of myself, and must, I knew, give
offence. A room to myself in a cottage would have been
Paradise compared to a home at Sandcombe. And there
was Mrs. Weir in great trouble, and wanting me ; and even
Miss Milicent setting her heart upon having me. There
seemed no question which would be the best. Let William
and Leah, and even Roger, say what they might, I would
make up my mind to remain with Mrs. Weir.

If only I had not disliked Sandcombe quite so much !
It was the one thing which made me pause.

As I sat upon the hill, meaning every minute to walk
Vol. I.— 7


on, and yet tempted to rest a little longer, I heard the soft
sounds of horses' hoofs upon the turf. Two men were can-
tering across the down, from the direction of Hatton gate.
As they came nearer, I knew them to be Farmer Kemp and
John Hervey.

They passed me at first without knowing me ; but, im-
mediately afterwards, I heard John say, " Why, there is
Ursie Grant ! " and he turned his horse and rode up to me,
and the Farmer trotted up after him.

" Here, all alone, lassie ! " called out the Farmer, as he
drew in his horse. " I should never have expected to see
you sitting, doing nothing, so early in the day."

" Only resting," I replied, and I stood up, " I have
been to Sandcombe, and I am going on to Hatton."

" And carrying a good-sized load with you," said John,
looking at Jessie's parcel.

" Not a very heavy one," I answered, and I smiled a lit-
tle; but I suppose the smile was not a very hearty one, for
the Farmer changed his tone directly, as he said, " You are
not doing well for yourself, Ursie ; you had much better
come down to Longside, and have a talk with my goodwoman ;
it will do you more good than thinking."

" I have some things to buy at the grocer's, at Hatton,"
I said, " and here is Jessie Lee's parcel to be taken to her ;
I don't think I can come to Longside to-day."

" It wouldn't take me ten minutes to ride back with the
parcel," said John very good-naturedly ; " but I don't know
so well about the grocer. What is to be done there, Ursie ?
My housekeeping has been on a small scale hitherto, so I am
not up to the needs of a family."

" Then it is time you should learn," said the Farmer,
sharply, but laughing as he spoke. " Don't you think so,
Ursie ? It is not every man who has a wife he can trust to
manage her own housekeeping."

" He is a foolish man who marries a wife he can't trust,
I replied.

John laughed merrily, and said I had made a good an-
swer, and he quite agreed with me ; and if ever he married
a woman who couldn't go to the grocer's, he should think he
deserved the fate of a fool.


" The fjxte of George Price, Esq., when he marries Miss
Jane Shaw," said the Farmer, twirling his whip in the air.
'' If ever there was a man bent upon riding to ruin, full
gallop, it's that young jackanapes. There must be some-
thing in the air of Dene that's catching. But come. Ursie,
hand up your parcel to John, and turn back with me. I can
walk my horse, and you shall tell me about Roger."

It was a great temptation ; a kind word and a friendly
thought were so specially dear to me just then ; but I was
in a difficulty as to managing my purchases at the grocer's.

John Hervey noticed my hesitation. " Shopping and
all," he said ; " I can manage it, Ursie."

" I have known you long enough to be sure of that," I

" Don't trust him too far, though," said the Farmer.
" He is well enough wlien there's no fun in the way, but let
him get a scent of the hounds — they are out to-day — and
your parcel would go to the winds, and the grocer's business
after it. I vow that mare understands ; she pricks up her
ears at the very name."

" I would trust Mr. Hervey, hounds or no hounds," I
said ; " if he undertook it he would do it."

John's face, which was like a sunbeam generally, clouded
over for a moment. I thought I had been too bold, and
spoken as if I was his equal ; which I was not, for he was a
man when I was a child, and I had always been taught to
look up to him.

" I should not like to give you the trouble, though, Mr.
Hervey," I said. " Mary Kemp and I might be able to walk
over to Hatton, late."

The mare was becoming restive, and John jumped off
and caught up the parcel from the ground. "Now, Ursie,
the list ; I shall overtake you before you are at Longside."

I had the paper inside my glove, and I took it out and
gave it to him. He returned me such a squeeze of the hand.
I cried out, and we both laughed ; and he was mounted
again, with the parcel before him, and galloping towards
Hatton gate, before I had time to put my glove on.

" A capital good fellow ! " said the Farmer, " and a
merry one too ! Now, lassie, step out, and my Dobbin shall
step in, and so we'll keep together."



Farmer Kemp and I had but little conversation upon
anything specially important to me, on our way to Longside.
I told him what I knew about Roger's plans, but it was little
use to consult him about Mrs. Weir and Leah. It was not
in his way to give advice upon such matters, and the very
reason ho was taking me back with him to Longside was,
that I might talk things over with his wife and Mary. But
in his honest, kind-hearted way, he showed me true sym-
pathy ; even when he talked about his own concerns, such as
draining, and horse-hoeing, and drilling, he had always a
word to say about Roger and his prospects, and it cheered
me to hear him speak of the probability of his doing well as
almost a certainty. Not that Farmer Kemp knew much
about Canada, or how people farmed there; but I was in
such a maze and doubt about everything that I clung even to
straws for comfort.

The Farmer took me into the parlour at Longside, and
sent Mary to fetch a piece of cake and a glass of wine, order-
ing, at the same time, a cup of ale for himself, with which he
drank to my good health and good fortune, and a husband by
that time twelvemonth ; and then he kissed me on both
cheeks, saying, " he didn't know why he wasn't to have an
old man's privilege," and went away, tramping down the
passage, calling for his wife, and singing the chorus of a har-
vest song.

Mrs. Kemp came in soon afterwards. Mary offered to
go away, and I said nothing to prevent her, for I felt I might
have things to mention about others which might seem un-
kind, and there was no need to have them poured into more
ears than was necessary.

" Well, Ursie ! so the Farmer says you are come to have
a talk," said Mrs. Kemp ; and she went to the cupboard, and
fetched her work-box ; and, sitting down in the leathern arm-
chair, began to mend a pair of her husband's worsted stock-
ings. "Can I help you, child ? I am willing, as you


Something of a daughter's fech'ng towards a mother came
over me, as I drew my scat towards her chair, aud rested my
haud ujoon the arm, aud said, " Dear Mrs. Kemp, if I knew
what was right to be done, I shoukln't care for anything."

" Except doing it, I suppose, you mean," she said.

" It would be easy enough to do, either way," I replied.
" Roger says it is not to be for long ; and the Farmer tells
me it will all come right with him and me in the end. But
it is the present time that is the difficulty, — whether to stay
with Mrs. Weir, or go to Sandcombe; " and I told her all
that had passed, and the offers I had had about both places.
She listened very kindly ; but when I stopped she made no

" Well ! " I said, a little impatiently.

" You have it in your heart, Ursie, to stay with Mrs.

" How do you know that ? " I asked.

" From your way of putting things ; and I don't say but
that it is natural. Leah Grant's is not such a very tempting
home, setting aside that it is your brother's."

"That makes it worse," I said; "if it was not my
brother's I could put up with it; but the aggravation of one's
own relations is past bearing."

" Well ! it is hard, certainly ; but it is God's will to give
us relations."

" And it is His will that they should act as such, I sup-
pose," was my reply.

" Surely; and I dou't sec quite how William Grant and
his wife have failed. They will give you a home and be kind
to you."

"Oh! Mrs. Kemp! please — 1 don't think you under-
stand at all," I exclaimed. " If you had only been there
and heard them "

" I should have said they took things coolly," said Mrs.
Kemp ; " but I should not have thought they were wanting
in duty."

" I don't care for duty ; it is love I need."

" Oh ! " said Mrs. Kemp, thouglitfully.

" Don't you know what I want? " I continued. " If I
am to be left alone all this year, I must be with people who
are fond of me."


" Oil ! " again repeated Mrs. Kemp.

I was vexed with her ; and I dare say showed it by my
face ; for I would not speak.

" Now don't be fretted, Ursie, dear," continued Mrs.
Kemp, kindly. " You see I am not so quick at taking
things in as some people are ; and I must make out what you
are aiming at before I can lend you a helping hand. If you
want to know where you will be most cared for, that is one
thing ; but if you want to find out where it is right you should
be, that is another."

" Then you are like Roger, and all the rest," I exclaim-
ed ; " you would have me go and be a slave at Sandcombe,
dancing attendance upon Leah's whims, and not getting,
'thank you,' for my pains; and you would have me leave
poor Mrs. Weir in her trouble, and Miss Milicent not know-
ing in the least how to manage for her. Poor lady ! she may
die, for aught I know, if she is left to Miss Milicent's care."

" Well ! but Ursie, child," exclaimed Mrs. Kemp, look-
ing up in surprise, " she has had no one but Miss Milicent to
look after her these many years."

" Oh ! but it was different then ; she was in less trouble,
and she had not been accustomed to depend upon me so
much ; and her husband was at home ; and — it was quite
different then — it was indeed."

" She was in less trouble," said Mrs. Kemp ; " that is
true ; she must want more comfort just now. But, Ursie, —
then you have a notion of living with her always."

" I ! dear Mrs. Kemp, how could such a thought enter
your head ? "

" Only, my dear, you said she was becoming accustomed
to depend upon you ; and I fancied what it would be next
year, when you would probably have to leave her."

" I must let next year take care of itself," I replied ;
" she must learn then to do without me."

" Well ! yes, that may be the best way. But, perhaps,
in that case, she might learn to do without you now." See-
ing that I made no reply, Mrs. Kemp went on, taking my
hand kindly, and fixing her sweet brown eyes on my face, as
though begging me to bear with her if she said things I dis-
liked to hear. " My dear, I don't want to cross you. There

U E SU L A . 151

is not much need to tell yon that ; but you have no mother,
and I would fain be one to you. You see, it strikes me that
you have rather a twisty way of looking at this matter, to

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