Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

Ursula : a tale of country life (Volume 2) online

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_ A


'^ 4



■ ETC., ETC.

Come away : for Life, and Thought

Here no longer dwell ;

But in a city glorious,
A gi'eat and distant city, have bought

A mansion incorruptible.




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



i^iunAn I





The first waking the next morning would have repaid me
for double the pain I had sufi"ered since Roger's absence. It
was so wonderfully happy. My nature was not one to dwell
long on future troubles, so I took the blessings brought by
the present moment, and only felt that Roger was with me,
and that for the time all must go well. And my feeling
was shared by every one in the house. Roger's return was
like letting the light of the sun break in upon our sad house-
hold. William expanded, as it were, under its influence in a
manner which was surpris ing to me ; especially as he had a
good deal to make him uncomfortable in other ways. I men-
tioned that the evening of the wreck he came in shading his
face from the light, and putting a handkerchief to his eyes.
All that evening he complained of a shooting pain in them,
and the next day they were very much inflamed. He had
caught cold in them ; for in consequence of being so silly as
not to take a great- coat with him, he had no defence against
the snow, and he had been exposed to it a long time. We
forced him to send for the Comjjton doctor, but the lotion
which was ordered did no good, and then he said he would
see some one in Hove. Instead, however, of letting the
doctor come to him, he would go into Hove himself on a day
when there was a bitter wind blowing, and of course he
returned worse than he went. These things were very vex -
atious, but I could talk out my troubles to Roger, and that
was sufiicient comfort to me for the time. The accounts
from Hatton continued very indiff"erent. Mrs. Morris kept

4 U E S U L A .

her bed, and Jessie was in constant attendance upon her.
lloger and I saw Jessie for a short time the day he drove
nie over, and she was very pleasant in her behaviour to both
of us, — very ghxd to see Koger, and full of thanks for our
coming ; but her mi.nd was so engrossed by all the cares
pressing upon her, that she did not seem to take in anything
else thoroughly. I thought myself how much prettier and
more Avinniug she Avas in this subdued mood than in any of
her wilful humours, and I was pleased that Roger should see
her to advantage, even though her manner contradicted some
of the things I had lately written to him about her. Jessie
tdld me that day that JMiss Miliccnt was actually gone. She
hud learnt it from some one who came over from Dene, and
said that Mr. Macdonald knew it for certain. There was a
great deal too much communication kept up still between
l)ene and Jessie and the Lieutenant. I did not feel at all
uasy in my mind as to the end.

After Jessie's information, I resolved to make an effort
to go and see Mrs. Weir, even at the risk of facing Mrs.
Tem23le, and perhaps offending her. It was a little pleasure
to me also whilst Roger was away, for he was obliged to go
to London for a few days to see Mr. Pierce's relations. Yet
I did not feel comfortable in thinking what kind of recep-
tion I might meet with, and I was rather nervous as I rang
the bell. The page opened the door, and I asked if I might
see Mrs. Weir. He did not know — he would go and sec —
and he ran off. I stood looking down the road, and saw Mrs.
Temple coming up. She was going on beyond the house,
but on perceiving me she drew near. I made a curtsy, and.
said I had walked over to inquire after Mrs. Weir.

" Oh ! Mrs. Weir is not at all well to-day."

" I was afraid she might not be. Ma'am," I replied.
" Parting with Miss Miliccnt must have made her anxious."

" Mrs. AVeir is too excellent a person to allow herself to
be anxious upon any subject," w^as the answer. " I will tell
her that you called."

" 1 had hoped that I might have seen her. Ma'am," I
said. " Having been accustomed to me so long, I fancied it
would not make her nervous."

" Mrs. Weir sees no one but her friends," was Mrs. Tern-


pie's answer ; " I will tell her that you caMed to inquire, and
no doubt she will be much obliged to you."

Just then Mr. Temple and some strange gentlemen came
up, and Mr. Temple asked his wife if she was going on
farther. I saw she disliked leaving me at the door, and
again she repeated, " I will tell Mrs. Weir that you called,"
— which was as much as to say, " You have come, and now
you may go back again," but I kept my stand, waiting for the
answer from Mrs. A Voir herself.

" Are you ready, my dear ? " said Mr. Temple, in his meek
voice, and he offered her his arm : she really had no excuse
then, and was obliged to depart.

The page came back almost directly afterwards, followed
by Cotton. He began telling me that Mrs. Weir was very
ill, that she had had a bad night, that she did not see any
one, — but Cotton gave him a tap on the shoulder and sent
him off to the kitchen, and even before he was out of sight
exclaimed, " Little rascal ! — he would say his face was cop-
per-coloured for sixpence ! "

" Isn't Mrs. Weir ill ? " I said. " Can she see me ? "

Cotton replied by stepping out into the road, and looking
up and down it.

" She is gone. That is her purple bonnet. Now, Miss
Grant, if you wish to come you must make the most of your

" What does it mean, Cotton ? " I exclaimed ; " I don't

" Don't ask questions, and you won't have answers. At
any rate, seeing you will do my mistress good, for yours will
be the first face belonging to any one out of the house that
she has caught sight of for the last three weeks."

" Has she been so ill as that ? " I inquired.

" Only learning to be quiet, she will tell you," said Cot-
ton. " Before I would put up with such folly ! But we
aren't all made alike, that is one blessing."

I followed her, greatly perplexed and pained.

" Mrs. Weir's sitting-room was wanted for any stray
visitors," whispered Cotton to me, as she saw me look round
the lobby at the head of the stairs, not quite knowing wJiere
I was to be ^aken to. She has Mr. Temple's little di*essiug


room fitted up for licr now, and her bed-room is along the
passage to the right."

" It is not comfortable for her, is it ? " I asked ; and
Cotton shrugged her shoulders, and answered : " We must
like what is given us, when we are not mistresses in our own

Mrs. Weir looked at least a year older since the last time
I had seen her. Her complexion, naturally so singularly
clear and smooth, had become withered and sallow, and her
eyes were heavy ; but she was much more self-controlled,
and if I could have felt that her appearance and manner were
natural, I might have fancied there was a change for the

" You find me in a new room, Ursula," she said, as Cot-
ton left us, and I sat down beside her. " It must seem
strange to you."

Yes, it was very strange, so cold-looking, and comfort-
less ! Nothing but Mrs. Weir's work-basket, and a Bible on
the table ; no flowers even to brighten it.

" I have been here since Milicent left me," she continued.
" My niece wished me to be near her ; and she has friends
coming to see her, so that the house will be full."

" It doesn't look like your room, certainly, Ma'am," I

"You miss the little ornaments; but they were better
in the visitors' room; and you know, Ursula, all things
increase in value when they give pleasure to others."

" This room is very small, Ma'am," I observed, " and I
am afraid you will feel the draught from the door."

" My niece has lent me a thick shawl, and I put it on
when I feel the cold. You see, Ursula, I am not fit to
travel, because I do feel things so much. My niece tells me

Her voice faltered a little, and I heard her mui'mur to
herself, " It is right; God help me ; it is all right.''

" You will be better, Ma'am, when you have heard from
Miss Milicent," I said ; " her being away must make you

" I ought not to be anxious, Ursula. I have so many
blessings; and I could not go. Milicent will do without me


— she always does -without mo; hut it is lonely, and I
■v^ish " she did not finish the sentence.

" What do you wish, dear Ma'am ? " I asked.

" Nothing, Ursula. God has taught me that I must have
no wishes," and Mrs. Weir folded her little hands together
as a child would do in prayer.

" Only perhaps it would do you good, just to say out your
wish. Ma'am," I said; " even if you don't think it right to
encourage it."

" No, Ursula ; no wishes, no longings."

" Some, dear Ma'am," I exclaimed, " some we must have,
whilst we live upon earth."

" If God would grant me to see my duty, clearly," she
answered ; " I try to understand what they tell me, — yes, I
try. But, Ursula, a wife has a great duty to a husband."

" No one would wish you to go to Mr. Weir now, Ma'am,"
I answered.

" That is what is said. Is it true, Ursula ? I made a
vow once. Does God forget our vows ? "

" He does not wish us to do what is impossible, Ma'am,"
I replied, " and your friends judge rightly, I am sure, in
telling you that you would do harm to yourself, and no good
to Mr. Weir, by insisting upon joining him."

" You say so, do you ? you are like them all, but I for-
got — I am to be quiet. Cotton ought not to have brought
you here, it was wrong. My niece would not like me to see
you, and she knows what is best. But I am quiet, — only if
they would tell me why they allowed Milicent to go without
me. Ursula, I will pray. God will help me if I pray."

All the assumed self-control was over. Her hands
trembled violently. I took hold of them to keep them still,
but she did not seem to think of my presence as, with her
eyes closed, she poured out her prayer with all the simplicity
of a child, and the earnestness and devotion of a saint. She
prayed for submission, for guidance, for humility and charity.
I could with difficulty follow the course of her thoughts.
There seemed to be a burden upon her heart, which she
could scarcely find words to express.

jifter a few moments she lay back upon the sofa. I
thought she was faint, and offered her a bottle of salts, but


she would not take it. " No, Ursula," she said, " I am
better now, I will not talk any more; and you had better

" I can't leave you alone, Ma'am," I replied.

" Cotton will come to me, and my niece will return. I
would rather, Ursula."

" Rather," meant duty not inclination, I was sure, and I
felt very determined. "I was in hopes. Ma'am," I said,
" that I might have stayed a little with you to tell you about
my brother, Roger — the one who went to Canada, you knOw
— he is come back."

Her eyes quite brightened at this little bit of news from
the outer world. She said eagerly, " Oh ! Ursula, that must
be very pleasant ; will you not tell me about it ? Was that
why you did not come to see me ? My niece thought you
had forgotten me."

" I have had a great deal of trouble. Ma'am," I said, and
I began to give her an account of Leah's illness, lengthening
out what I had to say, so as to gain her attention thoroughly,
and it was quite curious to me to watch the eflFect my little
story had upon her. She laid her hand upon mine when I
spoke of the sorrow that had come upon us, smoothing it
kindly, and looking at me at the same time intently, and
though she grieved with me, and tears stood in her eyes, yet
the haggard look passed from her face, until I told her how
I had watched Leah, and nursed her, and been with her at
her death. Then it came back again most painfully, and she
said, " You have done all you could, Ursula ; you have
nothing on your conscience, and now God has sent you a

The words gave me a pang, as I thought how little they
were deserved. I changed the subject, knowing what was in
her thoughts, and spoke of Roger, Wt I could not seize upon
her attention again, and as she looked towards the door ner-
vously, I felt that I had been there long enough.

I rose to go, promising to come and see her again, but I
had no response. It almost seemed that she wished me not
to come, for she only said, " Yes, Ursula, when you have
time ; but you are very busy, and you have your brother."

I did not notice the chang-e iu her manner, and insisted


upon placing the cusliions comfortably, and throwing a shawl
over her, as in the good old days at Dene. Just as I was
leaving the room, I said, " I think I must send you over a
few crocuses and snow-drops. Ma'am, from Sandcombc. You
don't seem to have any, and you used to like them so

" Oh! Ursula; thank you, indeed that will be so kind ;
but my niece would like some for the visitors' room, if you
could spare them. She says we must all try and make that
pretty and comfortable for her friends." I made no more
offers. If it had been possible to be angry with Mrs. Weir,
I think I should have been then.

Cotton was keeping guard in the lobby. I was going
down-stairs, but she hurried me away to her own room — a
little attic.

" I shall get into a scrape for this," she said; " but I
couldn't help it. I couldn't bear it any longer by myself."

" I don't understand it all," I said.

" How should you, or any one who doesn't live in the
house ? I thought Mr. Richardson might have been of use,
but she's too much for him."

" She I who ? Mrs. Weir ? "

" No, no ; how foolish ! Mrs. Temple. She keeps him
at arm's length. Ever since Miss Milicent went has he been
trying to get in, and never succeeded once."

" But why not ? " I exclaimed ; " why shouldn't he
come ? "

" Just sit down, and I'll tell you;" and Cotton gave me
a chair and seated herself on a trunk, delighted, as I per-
ceived, to have some one to whom to pour out her troubles.
It seemed that ever since the first news had been heard of
Mr. Weir, Mrs. Weir's nervousness and fidgets, as Cotton
called them, had increased tenfold. It was the old feeling
which we had battled with at Dene, only much more vehe-
ment. Mrs. Weir could never have loved her husband, latterly
she must have been very unhappy with him ; yet she had
kept herself up by the one principle which was, in ftict, all
the strength of mind she possessed, — a sense of religious
duty. But for this she might long ago have been considered
incapable of judgment upon any subject. I suppose, natur-
VoL. IL— 1*


ally enough in her state of health, tlie principle had become
exairgerated. She was morbid in her conscientiousness, but
still it was the only thing to rest upon in dealing with her.
In the present instance I gathered from what Cotton said,
that slie might have been managed easily enough but for
Miss iNIilicent's wilfulness. If any one else had been sent to
find Mr. Weir, and inquire into his condition, Mrs. Weir
would, at least for a while, have been satisfied; but the
moment Miss Milicent talked of going, Mrs. Weir became
excited, and said she must go too — and the idea so possessed
her that it became a kind of monomania.

'' I should have given in to her," I exclaimed, as Cotton
told me this.

" So should I," she replied. " Mrs. Weir is just one of
those odd, nervous persons, who can do wonderful things
when they have their own way, and can't stir an inch when
they have not. I heard Mr. Richardson say this myself to
Mrs. Temple. He did all he could to keep IMiss Milicent
from her wild scheme, and I know he put before her the harm
all the fuss was doing her mother, — but you might as well
have talked to a stone wall ; and then he took the other tack,
and turned to Mrs. Temple, hoping something might be
managed to satisfy Mrs. Weir, — and there was another stone

" He must have had enought to do with them all," I said.

'' You would think so if you had known everything that
went on; how we used to be kept up, night after night, —
Mrs. Temple preaching to my poor mistress about patience,
and trying her so that she must have been better than Job if
she had not been impatient, and at last sending her ofi" into
hysterics ; and Miss Milicent coming in in the middle, with
worries about her boxes, and what she should take, and what
she should leave behind, and never seeing that the very men-
tion of packing set Mrs. Weir ofl" worse than ever."

" Mrs. AVeir is quiet enough, now," I said.

" Hasn't she been tutored, — fairly tutored and trained
into it ? But the trouble is not over."

" I suppose Mrs. Temple did only what she thought was
for the best," I said.

Cotton gave a little contemptuous laugh. " Why, Miss



Grant, you are not taken in by her, are you ? She thinks it
the best for herself that Mrs. Weir should stay, there is no
doubt of that. If she did not, my poor mistress would have
been oif for France, or for Australia, or for any other country
by the next packet."

" I don't precisely see what good it can do Mrs. Temple
to have Mrs. Weir here," I said, " she can be only a trouble."

" There is a house to be kept up," replied Cotton.

" Yes," I said, " but Mrs. Weir's income is very small."

" Not so small but it helps Mrs. Temple pretty consider-
ably ; that I know from good authority," continued Cotton.
" And just see in what a style we have things, — footman, and
page, and pony-carriage, and gardener. Mrs. Temple didn't
live in that way in her own home, and she would not live so
here, if it was not for Mrs. Weir's help. She has all the
money in her own hands, and she dosen't choose it should go
out of them."

" Still," I said, not choosing to own to Cotton how much
I agreed as to her opinion of Mrs. Temple, " it was best for
Mrs. Weir to stay."

" That may or mayn't be," replied Cotton. " As you
yourself said just now. Miss Grant, when her heart was so
set upon it, I should have run the risk. But I wouldn't
quarrel about the plan, only the way it has been managed.
If ever there was a hard gaoler it's Mrs. Temple. You must
have seen enough yourself to make you guess that."

" I see that Mrs. Weir is afraid of Mrs. Temple," I said,
" and I don't like her being moved into that small room, and
not having everything comfortable about her."

" Oh ! that's sacrifice, discipline," exclaimed Cotton ; " I
know the words by heart, for I've heard nothing else since
we came to Stoneclifi". If it's possible, Miss Grant, for a
woman to make her way to Heaven by proxy, depend upon
it that woman's Mrs. Temple. Why there isn't a duty that
she has to perform which she dosen't make some one or
another do for her. Miss Milicent — she sees the poor for
her, and goes to the school ; and Mr, Temple, he pays her
visits, and writes her letters ; and Mrs. Weir finds money for
charity, and does poor-work, and gives up all her little comforts
to make things pleasant to the visitors, and Mrs. Temple

12 U K S U L A .

counts up all that is done, and takes the sum total to her-

" I eau't bear to hear you talk so, Cotton, I said. " I don't
believe it can be true."

" Just come here for a month, and see if it isn't," ex-
claimed Cotton. " A month ! why you'd find it out in a
week ! I have gone in and out of the room whilst visitors
have been there, and have heard her go on — ' We do this, and,
we do that ' — till, you wouldn't believe it, but I have been
almost taken in myself; and no wonder my poor mistress is."

" Then it was not Mrs. Weir's wish to change her room ? "
I asked.

" No more than it is to cut her head off. It was all done
by Mrs. Temple's preaching about sacrifice and discipline.
Mrs. Temple has the command of the whole house, and goes
where she likes, and docs what she likes ; and because she is
in the drawing-room all day, and does not want a sitting-room
to herself, she made my poor mistress fancy that it was too
great a luxury for her to have the comfortable south room,
which she chose when she came here ; and so, after Miss Mili-
cent was gone, and when there was actually an additional
spare bed-room, she teased her into moving into that little
poky dressing-room."

" Miss Milicent ought not to have gone," I could not help

" She wasn't much good when she was here," continued
Cotton; " she never saw anything that went on."

Cotton was mistaken there. Miss Milicent, I was sure,
saw a great deal, only with her awkwardness she did not know
how to remedy it, I felt really afraid for Mrs. Weir,
especially as Cotton continued her tissue of complaints, which
might indeed be exaggerated, but for which I could scarcely
doubt there was a foundation of truth. She had her own
special grievance, which was natural enough ; it was one
which the servants could not help feeling, — Mrs. Temple's
stinginess. I was aware of the characteristic, but I confess
1 was not prepared for all the little ways in which Cotton
declared it was shown, The Dene housekeeping had been
lavish, wrongly so very often, and no doubt there was much
which required correction ; but I could feel keenly with Cot-


ton when she described Low even the charwoman's wages
were cut down, and all kind of make-shifts forced upon the
kitchen in order to make a show in the parlour.

"What I heard was very painful to me, and as for remedy-
ing any part of the evil, I saw no way to it. For unless
Mr. and Mrs. Richardson were freely admitted to the house,
there were none of Mrs. Weir's friends near to be aware
how things went on, or to take her part.

" Mrs. Temple is very jealous of you, Miss Grant," said
Cotton, as the conversation ended, " and I don't know
whether it isn't as much as my place is worth to have let you
in now. But I felt I must get hold of you, and if you can
come over again before long, I'll try and smuggle you in ;
and if I can't, perhaps you won't mind the trouble of the
walk for nothing, for I assure you it's charity."

Cotton did not feel the difficulty which was present to
me. Mrs. Temple was the mistress of the house. If she did
not like me to go there openly, I could not be smuggled in
by the lady's maid — that would be entirely against all my
principles, and I felt it would do no good in the end. If I
was ever to be allowed to be any comfort to Mrs. Weir, there
must be no flaw in my conduct for ]\Irs. Temple to seize
upon. No, I must let it all rest in God's hands, knowing
that, when the time came for me to be of use, He would
open the door for me.


Miss MiLicENT crossed over to France safely, we heard
that from John Hervey, and she was going on to Paris, hoping
to find Mr. Weir there, and to be with him in his lodging,
and learn his plans, and help him with her advice. It
sounded, just at first, very dutiful and self-denying, and I be-
lieve Miss Milicent herself thought it so ; but I hope it was
not very wicked in me, I could not help remembering that
she would find more amusement in Paris than at Stonecliff,
and that if her father claimed her on the one side, her mother
had an equal claim on the other. I was glad, however, to


hear that so far her journey had prospered, and I tried not
to be uneasy about what might come afterwards. Some
persons might have wondered why I should have cared
enough for her to feel anything like uneasiness ; but it must
be remembered that my circle of interests was small, and
that it was in my nature to throw myself very much into
other people's concerns. An orphan as I was, and having
no sister, I suppose I kept my heart more open than I might
otherwise have done, for what befell my friends, especially
those connected with my childhood. Many a heart-ache
have I had for Mrs. Weir, which I dared not speak of to
anyone, not even to kind Mrs. Kemp, knowing she would not
understand it.

Roger's stay was uncertain. It depended upon some
business connnccted with Mr. Pierce's affairs ; but he had
made up his mind that it should not be more than three
months ; and I knew, he would keep to this determination if
possible. We seldom spoke of the coming final separation.
Sometimes I faced it. Sometimes I buoyed myself up with
the hope that even yet events might occur to prevent it,
I would not let myself be miserable. I only felt that I
might be so. And we had soon one engrossing thought at
Sandcombe. Mrs. Morris was sinking rapidly. I was with
Jessie as much as possible, and William and Roger were
both as kind and considerate as could be desired, willing to

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