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what she thinks of it. All we will ask, Ursula, is that you
should mention the notion to Mrs. Grant, at Sandcombe, and
try to persuade her to let us send a girl to her."


There was no fear of a refusal. Leah would like any
help she could get when there was no eating and drinking in
the case ; and I said at once, heartily, that I was sure there
would be no difficulty. I confess I felt very glad not to
have to give an opinion as to whether the scheme would suc-
ceed. I had always a quick eye for diflSculties ; and I
thought, moreover, that ladies and gentlemen could not well
understand the ins and outs of farm-houses.

The principle on which Mr. Richardson acted was be-
yond me then. He said something to his wife just before
we parted, which, though it rested in my mind, it required a
long experience to understand.

" These are no days for waiting for perfect plans," he
said. " Evils are crowding upon us so fast, that we must
seize the first weapon which offers itself to withstand them,
so that it is one which we can use conscientiously ; and we
must be contented to fight feebly — to strike at hazard — often
uselessly ; yet always with zeal, hope, and faith, remember-
ing that the battle is not ours, but the Lord's."

Note. — The plan alluded to has been tried successfully in different
places, with modifications according to the wants and peculiarities of
the neighbourhood.


" You will find my mother in her room, Ursie," said Miss
Milicent ; and she walked on with Mrs. Richardson, whilst
T went back to the cottage alone, pondering in my own mind
upon the strange way we human beings have of looking at
our duties ; and how Miss Milicent could throw her whole
heart and soul into a plan for making Esther Smithson a
good respectable girl, and yet could not put herself out of
her way for an hour to cheer her poor sick mother. I hope
I did not forget that I was liable to the same kind of de-
lusion myself

Jenny Dale kept me talking for a few minutes in the
kitchen, before I could go up-stairs. She was full of com-
plaints, and I could almost fancy that things were worse,


because I was not there. Mrs. Temple, she said, was be-
coming so domineering, there was no bearing her. She had
actually taken to ordering dinner, and came out into the
kitchen every morning, and would peer about in the larder
to see after the scraps. She was very fond of having scrap
dinners for the kitchen, and did not approve of having the
bits given away ; and this had nearly caused a downright
quarrel between her and Jenny ; for Jenny had been told by
Miss Milicent to keep the bits, and give them to the poor
people who were down in Mr. Richardson's list. Miss Mili-
cent had interfered, and been angry ; but I suppose she did
not see that she had no one to thank for the storms but her-
self. I told Jenny plainly that I thought she ought not to
give in to Mrs. Temple, but go to Miss Milicent at once,
whenever such things were done, and she promised me she
would ; but she was a weak kind of woman, and I could not
reckon much upon her words. Then she complained of
Fanny, who was made much of by Mrs. Temple, because she
waited upon her. Fanny was always a little inclined to be
set up, and Mrs. Temple had turned her into a kind of lady's
maid, for she and Cotton had quarrelled, and Cotton would
do nothing for her. Fanny dressed Mrs. Temple in the
morning, and was learning to do her hair, and Mrs. Temple
talked to her all the time ; and Fanny, it seemed, was begin-
ning to think herself a great person. Oh, dear, the mischief
that one tiresome woman may do in a house !

I did not say half nor a quarter of what I thought about
it all, but I went up-stairs to Mrs. Weir in no very pleasant
humour. The ill-feeling vanished directly I saw her. She
was by herself, which was a great relief, and looking so
sweet and kind — but thin, and I fancied rather harassed.

" I heard you were here half an hour ago, Ursula," she
said, as I went up to her sofa, " and I have been hoping you
would come up to me ; but my niece said you were gone back
part of the way to the Parsonage, and I have no doubt that
was pleasant for you."

" Mr. Richardson wished to speak to me, Ma'am," I
said ; " that was the reason I went. I hoped you had not
been told I was come. I know you don't like waiting."

" I am afraid, Ursula, I do not like many things. I


have wished to see you often since you went away ; but you
have not been able, I suppose, to take so long a walk."

I was just a little chilled by her manner, and answered,
" I have not stirred beyond the farm, Ma'am, except to go to
church on Sundays. My brother's going and the settling in
a new place have taken up all my time."

" Very likely, Ursula ; but you promised ; I should not
have thought so much about it else."

The tone was a little — a very little — impatient ; but the
poor, dear lady was on the watch, and a smile came over her
face directly after, and she held out her hand to me, and
said, " If we did not like persons, Ursula, we should not care
how long they stayed away from us. Will you sit down and
tell me about your brother ? "

And I did sit down, and told her everything I could
think of; making it as well as I could into a kind of story,
for that was what she liked. She was no great talker,
indeed, talking soon tired her ; but she enjoyed listening, and
even when I was a little girl I was in the habit of describing
minutely what I did and said, yet with great exactness, for
she was very quick and particular, and always stopped me
when she thought I was in the least exaggerating. She used
to say to me that the habit of exaggeration is a leak in a per-
son's character, through which truth, and therefore confi-
dence, escape unnoticed. This may seem rather contrary to
what I said before of her liking to live in a dream, but it is
not so really. There is a great difference between inventing
facts and arranging them. Mrs. Weir had a special power of
the latter kind, and I think being with her had helped me a
little in the same way, for it certainly was not in me by
nature. Her eye turned to what was bright and beautiful in
everything — mine, I am afraid, was inclined rather to the
reverse. If we had both looked upwards on a summer day,
her gaze would have rested upon the blue sky, mine would
have dwelt upon the clouds.

It did me good to talk about Roger and my new life in
this way ; it was rather like reading a book, and took ofi" the
hard edge from my troubles. For a short time I was so
carried away that I could have imagined myself back again
at Dene ; but there was an end to the enjoyment very soon.


The door happened to be open. I heard in the passage the
kind of sweeping rustle which always accompanied Mrs.
Temple's movements, and Mrs. Weir's attention was immedi-
ately withdrawn from me, and she said, a little nervously, " I
think, Ursula, you had better explain to my niece why you
were not able to come and see me before. She thought that
it seemed unkind, but I was sure that it was not."

Explain to Mrs. Temple ! Why should I ? My proud
temper was up at the very notion. When she came in I
would willingly have left the room, but she waved her hand
graciously, and said, "Sit down, Ursula, don't let me disturb
you. My dear aunt, I have brought you your medicine."

" It is a tonic, Ursula," said Mrs. Weir, looking at me.
" My niece has persuaded me to try it, and I think it does
me a gi-eat deal of good."

" I hope it may. Ma'am, " I said ; though I could scarcely
find it in my heart to be pleased with any remedy proposed
by Mrs. Temple.

Mrs. Weir smiled as she used to when I was a child, and
she wanted to put good thoughts into my head. " I pray
that it may, Ursula," she said ; '' and I have not had the neu-
ralgic pain so violently since I have tried it, so I have great
reason to be tliankful."

Mrs. Teni] le chimed in with a sentence of the same kind ;
yet what I listened to with pleasure and profit when spoken
by Mrs. Weir, was utterly distasteful to me when uttered by
her niece. I>oubtless it was the sense of efi'ort and a want
of reality. Mrs. Weir's words were natural, Mrs. Temple's
forced. From Mrs. Weir indeed I could bear anything.
She seemed always to understand how and when to introduce
religion. Sho never jarred upon me by dragging it in at a
wrong moment ; and I was then much more sensitive upon
that point than I am now. Young people with the hopes and
joys of this life before them shrink from the sudden mention
of subjects connected with Death and Eternity ; but when
the thought of Death rises with us in the morning, and lies
down with us at night, and Eternity is the long day on which
we feel that we have even now entered, there is no moment at
which a reference to them can find us unprepared.

Mrs. Weir, in her simple way, took her niece's words as


being spoken in all earnestness, but she was not disposed to
say much; indeed, I could not help perceiving that she was
less at ease with me now than before we were interrupted.
Mrs. Temple, who never thought it possible for her to inter-
rupt any one, sat herself down opposite to us, as though de-
termined to listen to what we were saying. I was resolved
not to seem awed by her, so I went on with something I had
been telling Mrs. Weir about Roger, but Mrs. Temple
scarcely let me finish my sentence before she broke in
with —

" My dear aunt, forgive me for reminding you, but have
you spoken to Ursula about the chess-board ? The circum-
stance requires to be cleared up."

Mrs. Weir's pale face was tinged with pink ; the nearest
approach to excitement which ever betrayed itself. " It is
of no consequence, Matilda ; I would rather nothing should
be said about it."

" But it is right, my dear aunt ; excuse me, but such
mysteries ought to be investigated."

" Do you mean, Ma'am, about the broken chess-man ? " I

" Yes ; you see, aunt, she knows it ; " and Mrs. Temple
was put quite off her guard, and spoke hurriedly. " We have
reason to complain, Ursula, that it was not mentioned before.
It was due to Mrs. Weir that it should have been, and it has
interfered with her excellent intentions ; the little toy is quite
useless now, and it might have been turned to excellent

" But it does not signify, Ursula," said Mrs. Weir, gently ;
" only if you had told me that the chess-man was broken I
should have have been less sorry."

" Really, Ma'am," I exclaimed, and I stood up, and I
have no doubt looked very angry, " I don't understand you."

Mrs. Temple's voice sank to the softest tone, as she
answered, for her aunt, " Restrain yourself, Ursula. Re-
collect that agitation may do harm."

" I do not care about it, Ursula," said Mrs. Weir, her
voice shaking, and her hand trembling. " I had no wish to
mention the subject ; indeed I do not care. I cannot bear
to vex you." She took hold of my hand and looked at me
quite beseechingly.


" Dear Ma'am," I said, " you can't vex me. I could
bear anything from you ; but, if you please, I will go into
another room and have my say with Mrs. Temple, for I must
know what she thinks, and what you think too."

" There is no occasion for any such explanation," replied
Mrs. Temple ; " we only wish to warn you, Ursula, as you
are setting out in life by yourself, that openness and straight-
forwardness will gain you more friends than the contrary line
of conduct."

" But you were in haste when you left me," said Mrs.
Weir, " and you were unhappy ; I have no doubt that you did
not remember it, Ursula; if you please we will think no more
about it."

By this time I was so indignant that the very strength
of my feelings forced me to try and put a restraint upon
them. " I have not been told yet, Ma'am," I said, " what I
have been accused of; I imagine Mrs. Temple means to say
that I was like a naughty child, and, having broken the
chess-man, did not like to mention it. I may have broken it,
I won't say that I did not. I am afraid I have not the
knack of handling such delicate things properly, but I had
no idea of having done it."

" Only you knew what we meant the moment the subject
was brought forward," said Mrs. Temple, and she looked at
Mrs. Weir triumphantly.

Was it in human nature to bear such an aggravation
quietly ? I know it was not in mine ; and it was in no gentle
tone that I answered, " If you would have the goodness,
Ma'am, to inquire before you make charges, you would be
more likely to be correct. Miss Miliceut mentioned that the
chess-man was broken, and that was the first I heard of it.
If you please. Ma'am," I added, speaking to Mrs. Weir, " I
will come and see you again another day, for I am sure you are
quite tired now, and I am very sorry I have been the cause
of it."

I could not help saying this, for Mrs, Weir was looking
so ill from nervousness and vexation that she quite fidgeted
me. Mrs. Temple suggested that she would be the better
for a little more of the medicine, and made me pour it out
whilst she gave it. She made no answer herself to anything
Vol. I.— 10*

226 U E S U L A .

I had said, but treated me coldly and haughtily, whilst Mrs.
Weir, whose voice was quite faint, could only manage to say
in broken sentences : " I have no doubt it is right. Ursula,
if you will come again soon, I shall be better, I dare say.
I hope you will hear from Mr. Grant ; you will please to let
me know when you do."

Explanation and conversation were out of the question in
such a state of things, and as for staying to help Mrs. Weir,
it was simply useless. Mrs. Temple had stepped into all her
ways, and the poor lady turned to her as naturally as she
used to do to me. I stood by her side a few minutes, and
was asked to fetch a shawl, but I was not allowed to put it
over her. Evidently I had no further business with her.
Mrs. Temple said, in a very pointed way : " My aunt has
had too much agitation, Ursula ; she needs perfect rest," and
all I could do was to wish Mrs. Weir good-bye, without say-
ing another word.

I found Miss Milicent waiting for me at the foot of the
stairs : — " Come here, Ursie," she said ; and she opened the
dining-room door. " I want to speak to you ; you have no
need to be in a hurry, I told Jenny Dale to get you a cup of
tea before you went back."

" It is very good of you. Miss Milicent," I replied, " but
if you please I had rather go." Instead of entering the
dining-room I drew back.

" That's perverse of you, Ursie ; I have a great deal to
say to you, and you must stay. What have you paid such a
short visit for ? "

" Mrs. Weir was tired," I replied ; " and I think. Miss
Milicent, that having Mrs. Temple and me together was too
much for her."

" Oh ! that is the matter, is it ? " she exclaimed ; " I was
sure by your face something had gone wrong ; but, Ursie, I
told you how it would be if you went away, so you have no
one to thank but yourself."

" And Mrs. Temple," I could not help adding. " Indeed,
Miss Milicent, I cant believe that anything would be wrong
if she was away."

" Come in ; why will you stand talking in the passage? '
She seized my dress and actually forced me to enter, shut-


ting the door behind her. " Now sit down, and hear what I
have to say, Ursie Grant; it is all your doing, and, what is
more,, worse things will come. She is rooted here; she
never would have been that if you had remained. You
would have made the house too hot to hold her."

I did not think that much of a compliment, I confess,
but, before I could reply. Miss Milicent continued : " She
has been working at my mother ever since you went away,
putting things into her head ; and my mother, as you know
well enough, always takes what is given her without asking
questions ; so Matilda has had it all her own way. No use
for me to say anything, even if I had time, and I have been
very busy. Mr. Temple has been finding out new creatures
for my glass, and he and I have been down on the shore a
good deal ; and twice a week there is a class of ploughboys
and such like, who come to me to learn to write and cipher;
and all that, to say nothing of putting the house to rights,
has taken up more time than I can say. So you see there
has been no one to interfere with Matilda Temple, and the
end is that she has bewitched my mother, who can't get on
without her. Then the servants have all been at sixes and
sevens. Cotton and Matilda Temple have quarrelled, and
Jenny Dale threatens to leave, and what is to become of us
all I don't know, for Fanny, poor silly thing, says she can't
do the work she used because she wants time to read Mrs.
Temple's books. If it was not for the girl from the school
who is to come now, we might just stand still altogether."

I did not sec Avhat Miss Milicent meant by standing still ;
I always had a notion that there was no standing still in
this life, — that it was always going on, in some form or
other ; the difference being only whether you drove yourself,
or let others drive you.

But Miss Milicent continued, and my ideas became
clearer. " It's a great trouble, all this, Ursie, and if you
were here, as I said before, it wouldn't have happened. But
there is a new notion come up, which Matilda Temple thinks
is to set everything right, and I should just like to know your
opinion about it."

" For Mrs. Temple to go and live at Stonecliff?" I

228 U K S U L A .

" Now, who told you that ? How things do get about !
But it is not that exactly. She is wild to go there herself,
but she and her husband can't go alone because of the ex-
pense ; and she wants us to join housekeeping, and share the
rent between us."

" Live together ! " I exclaimed, in a tone of amazement.
" Oh, Miss Milicent ! "

" I knew what you would say," she replied, in a disap-
pointed tone. " I told her that I was sure any one who
knew the ways of the house, — and I mentioned you particu-
larly, — would decide that it couldn't be. But she took the
high hand then, and said she didn't know why we were to
trouble ourselves with the opinions of this person or that ;
what we chose to do ourselves was the question."

" Mrs. Temple was right there. Miss Milicent," I replied.
" It could not be of consequence what I, or any one in my
position, might say, though, of course, we are at liberty to
form an opinion for ourselves ; and I can't but think you
would do better if you never mentioned my name to Mrs.

" She can't abide you, Ursie Grant, and that's a fact,"
said Miss Milicent, thrusting her hands into the pockets of
her jacket; "I don't know what you have done to spite

" Let her see that I don't like her, I suppose. Miss Mili-
cent," I replied ; " there can't be a greater offence than that
for any one."

Miss Milicent laughed. " Matilda might hate me, too, if
it was only that," she said ; " but, anyhow, we are neither of
us in her good books just now, for I kept back in giving an
opinion about this new plan, and I said I should talk it over
with you, just because you knew my mother so much better
than any one else."

Those blundering ways ! Miss Milicent could have done
nothing worse, either for herself or me.

" If you will excuse my saying so," I replied, " I think,
Miss Milicent, you made a mistake there. As for this new
plan, you really must be the judge yourself I dou't know
how the money matters would answer, and I can't pretend to
say whether Mrs. Weir would like it."


" There is no doubt of that," she replied ; " my mother
is like a child in giving up, and certainly Matilda does know
how to manage her. She has got her to dress an hour ear-
lier since you went away ; and yesterday my mother actually
went for a drive for the first time since we came here. I
should never have thought of the plan for a moment, if I had
not felt that it would be lonely for her when the Temples
were gone."

" Then the money question is the only difficulty," I said.
" Perhaps, Miss Milicent, your lawyer could help you about
that better than I can."

" You have a twist, Ursie Grant; you don't like the plan,
and you won't say it out like an honest woman."

" I have no objection to saying it out," I replied. " I
don't like the plan, Miss Milicent; but my liking or dis-
liking has nothing to do with it."

It had, though ; more than I could at the moment see.
Miss Milicent's conscience was uneasy, and she wanted sup-
port. She felt that she was putting ease for the present be-
fore what would be good in the long run ; that is what many
of us do.

" And why don't you like it ? " she inquired.

" I beg your pardon if I have to speak plainly," I re-
plied ; " but. Miss Milicent, I don't think that mixing two
families together ever answers, unless it is so ordered by
God that it cannot be helped ; and then His blessing goes
with it, and makes things smooth."

" Wo shouldn't quarrel," said Miss Milicent; " we have
not quarrelled now. I should keep house, and Matilda Tem-
ple would look after my mother."

I smiled. This reversing of duties reminded me of what
had passed in my own mind when I disliked going to Sand-
combe. I could not help saying, " That sounds very much,
Miss Milicent, as though you were Mr. Temple's wife, and
Mrs. Temple was Mrs. Weir's daughter."

" It might have been better if it had been so," she said ;
" not that 1 could have married a little man like Mr. Tem-
ple ; he is too meek; but we get on very well together."

" They are on a visit," I replied. " People on a visit and
people at home are very different."


" It would give me time to help Mrs. Richardson," con-
tinued Miss Milicent ; " and if Matilda Temple had a larger
house, she could have a friend or two occasionally to see her,
and that would help to amuse my mother."

Or rather, as I could not help saying to myself, save Miss
Milicent the trouble of doing it. The whole scheme seemed
to me so silly, that I had scarcely patience to talk of it. I
was silent for a few seconds, and, indeed, looked towards the
door, as though I intended to go.

" Speak out ! " exclaimed Miss Milicent ; " I know you
have a good opinion of your own judgment, Ursie Grant."

" No, indeed. Miss Milicent," I answered ; " I have had
too much experience of it lately to have a good opinion of
it. I could not say that the plan is a wrong one, or that it
mayn't be a comfort to Mrs. Weir, or set you more free.
But I do think that it is against the common ways of the
world, and, in a measure, of the Bible, too, and so I don't
think it will answer."

" The Bible ! " she exclaimed, " well, that is too foolish !
What has the Bible to do with our taking StonecliiF? "

" You know. Miss Milicent," I replied, " that when God
ordered men to marry he told them that they were not only
to cleave to their wives, but to leave their fathers and
mothers. It strikes me that must have meant that they
were to live distinct, what we call setting up housekeeping
for themselves. And being placed in separate families, I sup-
pose we should do well to remain so."

" It is no argument, at all," exclaimed Miss Milicent. "If
people were to act in that way, the world couldn't go on."

I did not feel that it was an argument; a great deal
might be said against it ; but I did think it a kind of hint,
and I knew that it was safer to follow God's hints than man's
reasons. But Miss Milicent was not a person whom any
one could really talk to with any hope of convincing her.
That one great omission in her duties — her neglect of her
mother — had warped her mind. She never dared look her
own motives in the face ; and so, though naturally truth-
telling and open, she had got into a way of deceiving her-
self. She did not like Mrs. Temple ; she neither trusted
nor respected her ; but she liked anything better than hav-

U K S U L A . 231

ing her time taken up by attending upon her mother ; and
so she smoothed it all over, and thought she was only wish-
ing to do what would be best for every one, and make Mrs.
Weir most comfortable. She would not, however, say this,
when she found that I did not give in; she kept on repeat-
ing that it was only an idea, it might never come to anything.
Mrs. Temple might change her mind ; Mrs. Weir might not
like it. But I knew in my heart that it would come, even
if it had been twenty times as objectionable. I knew it as
surely as we may all know by experience, that the proposal
which is brought forward year after year, by those who rule
the nation, let it be never so contrary to long established

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