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

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little good to her, and less to Miss Milicent, and I knew that
I left a snake in the grass behind me in IMrs. Temple. Rut
for Mrs. Kemp's warning, I might have been even more dis-
appointed, but I was learning (very slowly, though, for it
was a hard lesson to one of my disposition) to make doing my
duty my object, without caring for seeing the fruits. Miss
Milicent was surly when she found I was resolved to go.
Mrs. Temple, who had scarcely noticed me before, became
suddenly very patronising and amiable, and poor Mrs. Weir,
to whom I broke the news as gently as I could, cried a good
deal, and said if God ever made her rich agaift, she would
send for me, and beg me to come back and live with her ;
but her mind was for the time finding a new rest, and when
the day of my departure drew near, she was consoled by 3Irs.
Temple's promise of staying with her another fortnight.
Iler conscience indeed was a little troubled about Mr.
Temple, who, she said, must find it so dull to be living there
Avith three ladies ; but Mrs. Temple assured her, that solitude
aT)d conteujplation were his delight, and if it was so, he cer
taiuly must have been in Paradise all the time he was at the
Heath, for he wandered about on the rocks and by the shore


all day, and never spoke to any one, except I believe to Mr.
Perry, the Preventive lieutenant. He was a meek man now,
and gifted with much endurance, whatever he might have
been formerly. I never heard him say anything in opposition
to his wife except, " Perhaps it would be better not, my

On the day fixed William's cart was to be sent for me
and my boxes. It was to go into Hove first, and to come
back by Compton, so that I was not likely to leave till the
evening. All the afternoon. Miss Milicent was in and out
of my room, upon some pretence or another, talking about all
kinds of things in a rambling way, and often in a very cross
tone, especially prophesying that everything would go wrong
when I was gone, and as the climax of evil, declaring that
neither Jenny Dale nor Cotton would ever know how to
make her mother's cofiee. When the last box was packed,
and just going to be corded, she brought in a beautiful large
prayer-book, with a very clear print. " There is no room
for it," she said, as she put it down upon the top of my
frilled collars.

I took it out and looked at it. She had written in it
" Ursula G-rant," nothing more.

" Oh ! Miss Milicent," I exclaimed, " it is very good of
you, and I shall value it so much."

" I have crumpled your frills," she said ; " you had better
give up wearing frills, Ursie Grant. There will be no time
for getting them up at Sandcombe."

" I don't care about the frills," I replied; " but if you
would please. Miss Milicent, to put your name in the book
too, I should be greatly obliged."

" I have put enough to prevent its being stolen," she

I could get nothing more from her. She would put the
book into the box herself, hiding it underneath, as though
she was ashamed of it; and not allowing me to say another
word of thanks.

Fanny came to tell me the cart was ready, and to heljj
me carry down my boxes ; but Miss Milicent peeped over
the stairs, and told her to go and fetch Dale, — her mother
wanted me ; and I went to Mrs. Weir.

U E S U L A . 187

Mrs. Temple was with her. " A pleasant afternoon you
have for your drive, Ursula;" she said, before Mrs. Weir
could speak ; " I hope you will enjoy it ! "

" Thank you. Ma'am," was all my reply ; it always made
me feel cross when she called me Ursula, though I dou't
know what other name she could well have given me.

"I had a commission to be executed in Hatton; " she
continued, " and I felt sure that you would be glad to attend
to it for me. The Compton carpenter charges more than I
think right for the little workframe he made for me the other
day ; and I wished you to see the other man, — I forget his
name, — at Ilatton, and inquire what he would do the same
for; I shall not pay more than he sa3"S."

" The frame cost eighteen pence, I believe, Ma'am," I

'' Yes, and it ought to have been only fifteen. I could
have had it made for fifteen at home ; but these country
people are very exorbitant, and it is not right to encourage
them, dear aunt, is it ? " and she addressed Mrs. Weir.

" I dare say not, my dear. I generally give what they
ask, but then I am not a person of business."

" It was Smithson who made the frame, I think. Ma'am,"
I said.

" Yes, Smithson I believe was the name."

'• He is very poor, and not a very good workman," I
continued, " and I think. Ma'am, you had the frame taken
back twice."

Mrs. Temple's black eyes flashed as they did the first
night I ever saw her.

" Is that Smithson, whose wife had twins last week ? "
asked Mrs. Weir.

" Yes, Ma'am ; and Miss Milicent, if you remember, sent
her some gruel, llis girl goes to Compton school."

" I remember. Pray, Ursula, take care " — but poor
Mrs. Weir stopped short, and I saw a tear in her eye ; " you
are going away, Ursula, I must not trouble you. Matilda, I
should like Milicent to see what the poor woman wants. It
must be a great trial to have two babies at a time."

" Certainly, dear aunt. I have no doubt that Milicent
will do all that is necessary, if it is a deserving case ; but


the man, I should fear, is not honest. However, I will not
trouble Ursula Grant to make inquiries for me about him ;
I forgot that I was speaking to a person who took care to
inform me, the first night I saw her, that she was not Mrs.
Weir's servant."

There was a little red spot upon Mrs. Weir's cheek,
burning and increasing. Her eyes turned uneasily from one
to the other ; I don't think anything ever so perplexed her
as anger. Mrs. Temple rose haughtily ; I think she fancied
I was going to reply, and that she should put me down ; but
I merely said to Mrs. Weir, "Dear Ma'am, the cart is come;
I think, if you please, I must go."

" Perhaps, Matilda, if you would not mind, — I think I
should like to speak to Ursula alone."

Mrs. Temple said not a word, but walked out of the
room, like a tragedy queen, I was going to say, only I never
saw one, though I have heard people talk of them.

Mrs. Weir held my hands fast in hers, not even trying to
speak ; but the tears coursing each other down her face.

" I must come over again, and see you very soon, Ma'am,"
I said.

" Yes, you are not going away far, I desire to remember
that. But, Ursula, I won't keep you ; do you think you
could sit down? " It was one of her little fancies, that she
could not bear to see any one standing; it gave her the
notion of hurry. I sat down. She pointed to an Indian box
on her work-table. " I wished to show you before 3^011 went ;
I have chosen my things for Mrs. Temple's charity. I
asked Milicent to look at them, but she said there were
enough without them. But I desire to give them, Ursula.
God gave them to me, and I should like to give them back
to Him."

I brought the box to her, and she unlocked it, took the
things out, one by one, and ranged them in order upon the
table. They were nearly all foreign, and mostly Indian;
and some of them so delicate, that it seemed as though any
other fingers than Mrs. Weir's would have been unable to
handle them. Particularly I remember a little chess-board
of carved ivory, with the tiniest set of chessmen that can be
imagined standing upon it. It had been sent her only a few


months before ; and she had taken the trouble herself to
fasten the little figures upon the board with gum. It used
to stand upon the table at Dene, with a glass case over it ;
but I had not seen it since we came to the cottage.

She looked at her pretty things as a child might have
done, when they were all put before her. Just for the mo-
ment she seemed to have forgotten that they were to be
parted with.

" Perhaps they will not be wanted, Ma'am," I ventured
to say ; for I felt quite a silly dislike to her giving them

" Do you think so, Ursula ? " She seemed pained at the
notion. " Mrs. Temple says they will make her stall very

" I dare say they will. Ma'am," I answered, shortly.

" And it ought not to be a sacrifice to me," she con-
tinued. " They are very little things ; I do not know why I
liked them so much."

It Avas upon my lips to say that I should not care what
was done with them, if they were to go for a good object ;
but I stopped myself, — God looks at motives, not objects.
No doubt in His sight it was a holy ofiering. I could not
take upon myself to cast a doubt into Mrs. Weir's mind,
though in my heart I felt that I could have seen the things
thrown into the sea, rather than put into Mrs. Temple's
bauds, to give her the opportunity of making a show without

" And you think they arc enough, Ursula ? " added Mrs.
Weir, simply.

" Quite, Ma'am," I said. " I don't know how Mrs.
Temple will contrive to take them."

" yVnd I shall learn to do without them," she continued.
" Mrs. Temple has written out a text for me, Ursula, and I
have put it in my work-box, that I may remember to try and
iiot care for all which I have cared for. She has made it very
pretty; it is illuminated."

I could scarcely help smiling. The poor lady's taste for
pretty things was so strong, in spite of all she did to over-
come it. Mrs. Temple had written the text upon perforated
card-board, and the capital letters were coloured.

190 U E S U L A .

The words were, " We brought nothing into this world,
and it is certain we can carry nothing out ; and having food
and raiment, let us be therewith content." I returned the
text, merely saying, that I wished we could all remember
it ; it might save us a great deal of anxiety. It did not
strike me till afterwards what a wonderful power God has
given to simple earnestness of heart. Mrs. Weir was like
the bee, she could only extract honey even from intercourse
with a woman like Mrs. Temple.

" And you must go now, Ursula," she said, as I went up
to her, after putting the carved box back into its place.

" Yes, dear Ma'am, I think I must. I know my brother
would rather the cart should not be kept."

" And you will see Mr. Grant at Sandcombe, I suppose.
That will make you happy."

My heart was too full for a reply. Mrs. Weir continued,
•' I wish you to be happy, Ursula. I pray God to make you
so. You have not been able to make me hajDpy, but you
have comforted me."

" Not so much as you have comforted me. Ma'am," I
said. " You have taught me things which I shall remember
all my life."

She clasped her little thin hands together. " God be
thanked for it, Ursula. I had a hope once that I should live
actively to His glory ; but now I can only ' stand and wait.'
I should like to ask you to mention my name in your prayers,
— only you will have so many to think of."

I caught hold of her hand and kissed it.

" Do you think I could ever forget it, dear Ma'am ? " I
said. " But I don't like to think I am going away. I shall
hope to come and see you very often ; and you must always
tell me what I can do for you."

" I thank you, Ursula ; I know I may depend upon you.
But Mrs. Temple says that I have accustomed myself to
lean upon you too much."

I believe I gave an angry start. Mrs. Weir did not
notice it. "I have a little book," she continued, " which I
should wish you to keep for my sake ; it is ' Bishop Wilson's
Sacra Privata.' Mrs. Temple recommended another, but I
was not sure you would like it. I am afraid I vexed her by


choosing this ; but you have often read part of it to me, and
so I thought it would help you to remember me."

She put into my hands a tiny book, bound in purple mo-
rocco, quite plain, except that the edges were gilt. My name
was written in it, — " Ursula Grant, from her sincere friend,
Margaret Weir," — and beneath, that text from the First
Epistle of St. Peter, — " But the God of all grace, who hath
called you unto His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that
ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strength-
en, settle you." The words " after ye have suffered awhile "
were underlined.

Mrs. Weir pointed to them. " I would not have you
without suffering, Ursula," she said. " It is the highway to
the peace that passeth understanding. God bless you."

It was all I could do not to break down, but I thanked
her in few words and a troubled voice, and left her with a
heart full of love ; yet fearing, lest with Mrs. Temple by
her side, she might one day cease to care for me.


I EXPECTED to meet Ptoger at Sandcombe, and yet I
could think of Mrs. Weir. That was, I suppose, partly be-
cause I always had lived so much in the present moment ;
but it was partly also because I had forced myself of late to
turn away from the recollection of Roger, and to think of
life for a time without him. If I had done otherwise I should
have been too unhappy to attend to my daily duties. The
trials of life are, I believe, after all, very much what we
choose to make them. It was a kind of instinct with me to
take every one as it came, and twist and turn it, till I saw it
in the point of view which made it most bearable. I have
sometimes fancied that untoward events are like those curious
padlocks formed of rings of. brass, with separate letters en-
graven upon them ; when the rings are all turned properly,
so that the letters form a certain word, the key goes through
easily ; but till this is done, one may try forever and not bo
able to unfasten the padlock. Perhaps the word which all


human trials are intended to form is Faith, for by that alone
the mysteries of God's Providence are unlocked.

At any rate, I know that I could never go on fretting
about anything, however painful ; and, when once I had
made up my mind that Roger and I were to be parted for a
year, I said to myself, " It is God's Will, for some good pur-
pose, to take from me for a while the greatest happiness I
have ; but He has left me a good many blessings still, and
so, instead of grieving over what I can't have, I will make
the best of what I have."

I don't mean to say, however, that I could do all this at
once. Many and many a struggle did I go through with the
yearning for the old times, or the dread of the new ones ; and
even that afternoon as I drove away from Compton Heath,
and drew near to Sandcombe, all the slumbering anxieties
and sorrows seemed to rouse themselves up to depress me.

In a future state of existence, it will, no doubt, be very
pleasant to go from one star to another, and see what the
different inhabitants are like. Where there is no sin there
will be no sorrow. But in this evil world, where a sudden
change in a home often means only a turning from troubles
of one kind to those of another, such a move comes to one
with a kind of shock.

The cart drove into the yard, and there I saw Roger and
William standing together. I jumped out before the man
could help me, and ran up to them.

" What, Ursie ? How d'ye do ? " said William, good-
naturedly. " You are rather late, aren't you ? "

Roger kissed me very hard on both cheeks, but said
nothing. They went on talking about some alteration in the
farm. Leah was gone in the chaise to Hatton, and was not
returned ; so I went up-stairs to my room, and unpacked my
boxes, and put my things away in the drawers. Stupidly
enough, I had forgotten that I should not be at Sandcombe
in time for tea ; and now I should have to wait for supper,
unless William thought of offei-ing me anything. I dare say
people would call that very strange and silly, and inquire
why I did not ask for some tea in my brother's house ; and
I can give no reason except that anything which put the
Sandcombe household out of its regular way of going on was


a trouble. You might ask, and have, but you were certain
to be reminded of it afterwards ; and if Leah had come
home and found me at tea, she would have been sure to say
in the course of the evening that something or another was
left undone, because Martha had been obliged to get Ursie's
tea ; and this, though I had put on the kettle, and cut the
bread and butter for myself.

Putting my things away took a long time ; after that I
thought I would sit down and read a chapter in the Bible,
which would make me feel more homelike and natural than
anything else ; but I had no time, for Roger knocked at my
door, and, of coui-se, I was only too glad to bid him come in,
and hear all he had to say.

He was in excellent spirits, seeing everything so hope-
fully, that he made me hopeful too. Mr. Richardson's friend
had smoothed the way for him, and his good character had
gone before him. He had received an offer which would
n\ake all easy. It was proposed to him to accompany a gen-
tleman, named Pierce, who was going out to Canada on his
own account ; he was to stay with him for six months at
least, and help him in his first setting off, and thus he would
have time to look about him, and decide as to whether he
should finally settle in the country. This plan satisfied Wil-
liam, because it did not require such an outlay of money at
the present time, and Roger was quite willing to take things
quietly, and not be an independent man all at once ; he had
managed the greater part of his business, and the little that
remained was to be done by John Hervey, who was forced
to go up to London the next week. The ship was to sail in
about a fortnight's time. For myself I confess the idea that
his plans were only settled for six months was a great relief.
At the end of that time something might happen to bring
him back, — who knew ? At any rate the definite time was a
limit beyond which I felt I was not permitted to look.

We talked on so long about Canada that I did not think
of putting in a word about Mrs. "Weir, but Roger was very
unlike most people in one respect. Instead of conversing as
so many do only about what interests themselves, and because
others listen and appear interested, fancying they have been
very kind and agreeable, and never asking a question or giv-
VoL. 1—9


ing a thought in return, Roger gave what he took, and be-
cause I liked to hear what he had been doing, he liked to
hear what I had been doing.

" Now, Trot," he said, when there was a pause, "you
have had my say, let me have yours. How has the world
gone with you ? "

" Pretty well," I said, " but I don't think, Roger, the
world misses me much. Mrs. Weir has taken up with her
niece, and so she could well spare me."

" If it's Mrs. Temple you mean," he replied, " Mrs. Weir
won't be friends with her long ; at least, if what John Her-
vey says is true."

" Mrs. Weir is easily imposed upon," I said, " and Mrs.
Temple can talk good, and I can't. Besides she is a lady,
and her relation ; only I should like to think that all the
things I am sure will be said of me behind my back would
not be believed."

" You will be in Canada with me, Trot, soon, and then
we shan't either of us care what any one says of us."

I knew that I should care. If I were to go to Canada,
or to the other side of the globe, and to feel certain of never
setting foot in England again, I should care. But Roger's
thought just then was that Canada was a cure for all evils.

" I am thankful you are staying here, Ursie," he con-
tinued ; " it is best to be with relations. After all, they are
more to be depended on, and William talks very kindly
about you."

" Yes," I said, " but perhaps it is more safe to reckon
upon myself for comfort than upon William or any one.
That is not wrong, I hope, Roger."

He looked grave. " It now and then strikes me, Ursie,
that you have something to learn in this world," he said.
" But so we all have for that matter. And you are a bravo

" You mean, I trust to myself," I said; " but whom have
I else to trust to, Roger ? Putting aside religion, I mean."

" No, you will make your way anyhow."

" What do you mean '? " I asked.

" Nothing, Trot, nothing. That's Leah's voice, isn't it?
and whom has she with her ? "


I knewjlbr I bad seen the chaise drive up with Leah
and Jessie Lee.

Roger opened the door and listened. " She has brought
back little Jessie," he said, thoughtfully. " I was going to
say something to you about lier. I'm glad she is come."

" It is more than I am," I replied, " I wanted to have
you all to myself, and now I must go and talk to her."

Hoger and I went out into the passage together.

Leah and Jessie were talking at the foot of the stairs,
and the next minute Jessie's light step was heard as she ran
up two stairs at a time. She pushed against Roger, by an
accident, when she reached the top, and stumbled. When
she saw him she burst into one of her pretty, merry laughs.
" Oh ! Mr. Roger," she said, " you frightened me. I
thought you were a giant."

" I never meant to frighten you," he said, " but you are
so giddy, Jessie, You run without thinking where you are

" Very likely," she replied, " I know it is always my
own fault, whatever happens. But, Mr. Roger," and she
looked up at him with a pleasant smile, " what business
have you here ? "

" Ursie ! " called out Leah, several times, from the foot
of the stairs. Her voice sounded to me like the croaking of
a raven ; it quite drowned what Roger was saying.

" I am here," I said ; " do you want me ? "

" Oh ! I was coming up ; but I'm so tired. Just let
Jessie put her bonnet and shawl in your room, will you ?
Have you settled yourself? Supper's nearly ready."

I was heartily glad to hear it, for I was very hungr}'.
" You will go down and speak to Leah, won't you ? " said
Roger ; and he stood rather aside for me to pass.

I did not feel in the least inclined, but I saw he wished
it, so I just kissed Jessie and told her to go into my room,
and down-stairs I went.

" I was sorry to be out when you came, Ursie," said Leah,
as she threw aside a handsome silk cloak, which she always
Avrapped round her when she went in the chaise, '' but I
was obliged to see about our new washerwoman; I don't
want to be washing more than once in six weeks, now you
are come, and I can put things in better order."


" Oh ! " I replied. I don't know how it was, but I felt
so unwilling to be mixed up as one with Leah in her house-
hold concerns.

" Jessie is to sleep here to-night," said Leah. " I told
her I was sure she could have part of your bed, if the spare
attic wasn't ready, and I don't think it is ; and, besides, it is
not worth while to have the bed in the attic made up just for
one night,"

" Supper, my good woman ! Supper ! " William came
out of the parlour and clapped Leah on the shoulder.

She gathered up her cloak. " Ursie, if you don't mind,
you can just take this up-stairs. I shall go and see about

" And come down directly," said William to me ; " don't
stay gossiping with Jessie. I am as hungry as a hunter."

Up-stairs I went again. Jessie had not moved from her
place, nor Roger from his. Jessie looked ashamed of her-
self I thought they must have touched upon some serious
matter, for I heard Jessie say, " I can't be always working
and thinking like Ursie, Mr. Koger, to please any one." She
spoke a little pettishly, and not quite so simply as was her
wont. Roger had a very kind smile upon his face. He
always seemed to look upon Jessie as a spoilt child, and he
said, " You know, Jessie, it is not for me to find fault, only I
disliked to hear it said, and so, as I was going away for so
long, I thought I would e'en tell you myself"

Jessie looked so put out as she followed me into my room
that I could not help asking her what was the matter. She
avoided answering at first. "It was nothing," she said;
" people were very cross ; they had no right to say such
things, and Mr. Roger was very unkind to believe them."

" Then there is something," I replied. " You had better
tell me, Jessie, and if Roger is wrong, I can put him right."

" It was not half as bad as he declared," she exclaimed ;
" the girls in Hove do much worse, and that he knows, and
you know too."

"I don't know," I said, '-'for you have not told me what
you did."

" Miss Shaw and Captain Price were there," continued
Jessie, tossing her head pettishly; " and if they saw nothing


wrong, I don't see -what business other folks have to find

" But what is it ? what is it ? " I felt provoked with
her, though I tried not to show it.

" It is Mr. John Hervey's tale, I am certain," exclaimed
Jessie. " He is always sp3^ing."

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