Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

Ursula; a tale of country life online

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and said that she had foreseen them, but it was evident to me
that her husband had never been open with her respecting


them. About liim she said very little. Never indeed, during
the many years that I bad known her, had she ever spoken
directly or indirectly of the causes of complaint which she had
inst him. It was a sacred grief, known only to God.
I left her about seven o'clock, more quiet, and with a promise
that she would try and sleep a little. Indeed, I persuaded her
to take a few drops of an opiate ; and Cotton being dressed by
that time, I was satisfied that she would be well looked after.


ROGER'S breakfast was ready at half-past seven ; he had
been out almost before daybreak. I don't think he had
slept well I told him how I had been sent for by Mrs Weir;
and he seemed glad, upon the whole, to think that she knew the
worst. And yet upon talking to him, I found that it was not
the worst. Now that the truth had reached Dene, Roger felt him-
self more at liberty to speak out : and I learned from him, that
Mr Weir was not only ruined, but that he had gone away with a
stain upon his character. Strangely enough, that very business
w hich he had made use of to crush young Mr Henderson had been
the cause of his temptation and his fall. It had never been a
very profitable affair ; but it gave him an opening for speculation,
and therefore he liked it. Lately he had taken a more active part
in the business. Large accounts passed through his hands, and
now the whole concern had fallen to pieces ; and the accounts
having been examined, Mr Weir was accused of fraud in the
management He was not at hand to answer the charge — he
had gone off no one knew where. It was generally supposed he
had left England.

A most dismal story it was, with scarcely a ray of hope or
comfort, except that Roger believed a portion of Mrs W T cir's
money to have been so settled upon her that it could not well be
I < mched. The Dene estate was heavily mortgaged ; yet if it
were sold it was hoped that sufficient would be left to give her
And Miss Milicent enough to live upon ; and it had been sug-
gested that perhaps also her niece, Mrs Temple, might come
forward to assist, as she had received much kindness from Mrs
Weir's family.


'But it will be a hard struggle, Ursie !' added Roger, when
he had given me all these details. ' Mrs Weir has been so
little accustomed to rough it ; and I am afraid Miss Milicenthas
no notion how to make both ends meet, and will burn a ton of
coals to save a rushlight.'

' Penny wise and pound foolish,' I said. ' Yes ; that will be
very like her. I hope they won't go far away from here.'

'That you maybe able to look after them,' he said, quickly.
I made no answer.

' They may take a cottage at Compton,' continued Roger, a
little maliciously ; ' that wouldn't be far from Sandcombe.'

' I am not going to stay at Sandcombe ! ' I exclaimed, with
some anger. ' I had rather live on a crust of bread in a garret,
than be forced to be all day with Leah.'

' We will wait and see how things turn out, Trot,' replied
Roger, quietly. 'It does not do to make rash vows, nor to set
ourselves against what God may appoint.' He left the breakfast
table, and went to the door.

'You must not go away so, Roger!' I exclaimed, following
him, ' I can't bear it. Something must be settled, one way or
the other.'

' When ?' he asked.

' Now, — at once. How can I go about my work all day, not
knowing what is going to happen to me, or where I may be to-

' I thought that was what we were obliged to do always,' he
replied. ' The settling which you wish for, Ursie, can't be made
in a minute. We must see what is going to be done here, and
then I must find out a good deal more about Canada ; and when
I have done that I must look into William's affairs, and see if I
can have the money conveniently. Can't you put it into God's
hands, my little Trot, and trust it ?'

His voice and manner brought back the feeling of reverence
and submission with which I had been accustomed to listen to
him from a child. I said it was very difficult, but I would try.
I only begged him to let me know the very moment that any-
thing certain was decided upon.

' My first claim always,' he said, laying his broad hand on my
head. ' You shall hear soon enough.'

' And you won't set yourself against common sense, and make
up your mind in a hurry that I am not to go ?' I said.

' Just the contrary, Trot. I was going to walk over to


Compton this morning, to look at Ilobson's cottage for William,
and I thought I would call in at the parsonage, and have a talk
with Mr Richardson about it all.'

'You will meet him,' I said ; 'he will be coming here to sec
Mrs Weir.'

'So much the better; I shan't have to go out of my way.
Hobson's cottage is a good way off from the parsonage.'

' Here is the boy coming back from Compton with a message
from Mr Richardson!' I said. 'We had better wait and hear
what it is.'

k iger went across to the house, and I began putting away the
breakfast things. I could not bear, that morning, to stand still
and think, even for a moment.

Roger came back again very soon. ' Mrs Richardson sends
the answer,' he said. ' Her husband has to be at Longside at
ten o'clock, and after that he will come on and see Mrs Weir. In
that case, Ursic, I had better go to Longside directly, or I shall
miss him ; for I can't wait for him here. William made an ap-
pointment with me at Hobson's.'

' And yen might take me with you,' I replied ; ' I have some
business with Mary Kemp, which I was going to do this after-
noon. W r e are to have cold meat for dinner, so it won't signify
when I go ; and cook, at the house, will boil us some potatoes.'

' Make haste, then, child. I have been wasting more time
here now than I ought. But I shall like to have you with me,'
was added, kindly.

I put my bonnet on directly, and went over to ask cook about
the potatoes, and I thought too that I would inquire about Mrs
Weir. Not that I meant to stay at home because of her, unless
there was some very special reason. Though Leah said 1 was
treated as if I was a servant of the family, I had always taken
care to show my own independence. Mrs Weir herself had
taught me that. She said to me one day, when, by some accident,
I had let out a little of what I felt about Jessie Lee, and the way
Leah went on with her, ' Ursula, our right will always be given
us sooner or later, if we choose to claim it in a proper manner ;
and if we do not, we have no reason to quarrel with others for
that which is our own fault.' I think she had learned this from
experience. If she had stood out more against her daughter's
tyrannising ways, Miss Milicent would never have got the upper
hand as she had done. Things being as they were, Mrs Weir
felt she had no right to complain. At any rate, I had profited


by the lesson, and had never given in to Miss Milicent, nor even
to Mrs Weir, as I might have done otherwise. Having so many
little fanciful ways, Mrs Weir might have taken up a great deal
of my time if I had. We were all the better friends for my in-
dependence. I suspect there is no foundation for friendship
between persons of any rank, unless there is a feeling of respect
which prevents either party from taking liberties, or being en-

As it happened, my going or staying just then was a matter of
no consequence, for Mrs Weir had fallen asleep, and Cotton was
with her ; so I left a message to tell her when I thought I should
be back, and then Roger and I set off for Longside.

It was about three-quarters of a mile from Dene, by a tolerably
direct road — Sandy Lane as we called it — which began just after
we passed the gate opening from the wide pasture land immedi-
ately about Dene. That piece of land which was neither field
nor down, but only a kind of hilly common on which cattle or
sheep might feed, was one thing which made Dene different
from other places. It was like the sea separating it from the
rest of the world. The road through it was private, and no one
but ourselves seemed to have any business with Sandy Lane ;
whilst, standing upon such high ground, we looked out, as it
were, upon the world.

Roger was not very talkative that morning ; he walked on so
fast that I could scarcely follow him. At length he said abruptly,
' Have you thought at all, Ursie, of what you will do in case we
should make up our minds that it is right to separate?'

' No,' I said, ' I won't think. I can't makeup my mind, what-
ever others may,'

' It would be better,' he said, 'and kinder to consider ; and if
you are so vehement against the notion, ten to one but it will
come to pass. John Hervey thinks you might be better staying
with Mrs Weir, even if she could only afford to keep you, than
you would be at Sandcombe.'

' I should be better living on the common by myself than I
should be at Sandcombe,' I replied ; ' Leah and I could never
help coming to a quarrel ; and she does not want me. There is always to be had.'

• If you were there you might be a help and a friend to
Jessie,' he said.

'Not I, Roger,' and I stopped short, and spoke almost angrily,
•Jane Shaw is in the way. What am I against her?'



'If the Shaws were only over the sea!' he exclaimed, vehe-
mently. 'They are a curse to the country.'

The speech was so different from his usual gentle way of judg-
ing people that I looked at him in surprise. ' You don't know
the mischief they are up to, Ursie,' he continued. ' Pity forbid
you should. John Shaw is a scamp, and Jane'

' Is what?' I asked.

'A lady, according to her own notions,' he answered, laugh-
ing ; but there was something bitter and mocking in his

'That is she, I do believe,' was my exclamation, as I looked
down the lane, and saw two people coming towards us.

' You are as blind as a beetle, Trot. It is John Hervey and
Mary Kemp. I dare say they were going up to Dene to sec if
they could do any good there. John Hervey is set upon helping
Mrs Weir in some way. He has wonderful thought for such a

tit-hearted fellow as he is.'

' Yes, he is very good-natured,' I said, and I watched him and
Mary with a kindly feeling as they came towards us, and thought
what a pleasant couple they would make ; though Mary was not
what many men would have taken to. She was plain, and had a
frightened, shy, stammering way with her, which it was difficult
to get over.

' Well met,' exclaimed John, when we were within hearing of
each other. 'Mary and I were on our wry to you. Ursie, how
did you get home last night ? Roger and you didn't lose your
way upon the down, I hope.'

' We were not late, and there was a moon,' I said, shortly. I
could not epiite bear any allusion to last evening. John must
have seen my face alter, for his manner changed directly. ' We
may spare ourselves the trouble of our walk, Mary,' he said, ' if
Roger and Ursie arc come to tell us all we want to know.'

'I was going to inquire for Mrs Weir,' observed Mary,

'And Ursie will tell us about her, no doubt,' said John, and
he turned to walk back. ' Were you going to Longsidc?'

' Yes,' said Roger, 'to sec Mr Richardson, if he is there.'

' You will find him in full parley with the farmer. They have
brought over Mr Stewart, of Hatton, between them, and \/e
have been planning cottages for the last hour. If Dene is to be
sold I wish Mr Stewart may buy it.'

'Jane Shaw says that Captain Price, the young man who was


here some time ago with Mr Weir, has his eye upon it,' said
Mary, in a tone so low that she could scarcely be heard.

' What can Jane Shaw know about the matter ? ' I asked,
quickly. ' Captain Price is not likely to have told her.'

'Jane Shaw is going to be married to Captain Price,' said

'What, Mary? what?' John Hervey actually caught hold of
her arm ; and Roger said more respectfully, ' It must be Hove
talk, it can't be true.'

1 1 don't know ; I am told that Jane says it,' said Mary. She
seemed afraid to assert the fact more strongly, even upon such
authority, when the others doubted.

'I don't see why it shouldn't be,' I said quickly ; 'they are
much of a piece. Captain Price, as far as I ever saw anything
of him, is not any better for a gentleman than Jane Shaw is for
a farmer's daughter. I don't see why they shouldn't make up

' Ursie, you are sharp,' observed Roger.

John Hervey supported me. 'Ursie is right,' he said, 'in one
way ; they are neither of them good in their station, and so they
might just as well be out of it. Captain Price has little of a
gentleman belonging to him, except it may be his birth ; and as
for Jane, it is difficult to say what she is ; certainly nothing that
is a credit to any one who has to do with her.'

'Jane thinks that to marry a gentleman will make her a lady,'
said Mary.

'Let her try!' exclaimed Mr Hervey, laughing. Then a
moment afterwards he added, ' What provokes me is, that people
can't see their own respectability, since they think so much
about it. Where is there a man in all the country more respected
than your father, Mary ?— and I may say your father's daughter,
too,' he added, looking at her and smiling. 'Where is there a
family that has more influence? And yet where is there a
truer, honester, sturdier old English farmer, than Farmer

Mary looked thoroughly pleased, and said she did think her
father was respected.

'Isn't he !' said Roger, heartily. 'If you were just to hear
what I hear said of him everywhere, — amongst high and low,
rich and poor, — you would feel it an honour to bear his name.'

* Perhaps I do feel it so,' said Mary. She smiled rather
archly, and I thought she looked quite pretty.


I had it on my lips to say thnt it was more than any of old
Mr Shaw's daughters could feel for him, but something stopped

me. No doubt I was inclined to be sharp, and Roger often
gave me a hint to keep a watch over my tongue.

' There is the old farmer out in the field by the hay- rick ! '
exclaimed Mr Ilcrvcy, pointing to a rick in a field at some
little distance ; 'and I think — yes, Roger — that is Mr Richard-
son with him. If you want to catcli him, you had better be off,
or you will miss him.'

Roger took the hint. I think his heart was full, and he longed
to have all his troubles out with Mr Richardson. He stri
forward like a giant, and was over the gate and across the field
before we had reached the house.


LONGSIDE was much larger than Sandcombe, and more of a
-* manor farm. Fronting the road, indeed, the old brick
house, and the farmyard, and the barns were such as might be
met with anywhere, but on the other side, looking into the garden,
it was a place of greater pretension. The Shaws had lived there
before they went to White Hill, and old Mr Shaw had tried to
make it look as much like a regular country-house as he could ;
and a good deal of money, I believe, had been spent by him and
the landlord in improving it, and laying out the garden. Farmer
Kemp took it as it was, and let everything stay, though it
could not have been much to his taste. But his notion, as I
once heard him say, was, that if a house did not make a gentle-
man, neither did it make a farmer. Folks would soon see what
he was, and what he wished to be, and though other people had
spent money in building up follies, he saw no reason why he
was to waste his in helping to pull them down. He was more
to be praised for that piece of economy than for many other
things which men commended him for. It was a greater sacra-
fice to him to bear with what looked like being grand and set
up, than it would be for most persons to bear with things that
are mean.

But Farmer Kemp's wish was always to be, not to seem ;
his countenance showed that. Every line in it told of ttuth.

1 URSULA. ioi

And a handsome face it was, too ! It struck me that day parti-
cularly, as we drew near, and he came to meet us with his
old English greeting, putting all his heart into the shake of the

Being in the open air so much had tanned and reddened his
complexion, but there was a freshness about it still, though he
must have been upwards of sixty. His hair was quite white,
and thin, and long, which gave him the look of even an older
man than he was ; but his blue eyes were as bright as ever,
— as full of life and eagerness, — and his mouth, though the
smile was singularly good-natured, proved that age had not
yet weakened his spirit of determination. Farmer Kemp was
no waverer nor doubter. He knew what he meant to do, and
he did it ; and even when people quarrelled with him they re-
spected him.

' Why, Mary, lass, you are come back soon ! ' he said, after
he had spoken his few kind words of welcome to me. ' I thought
you were gone up to Dene to be useful.'

' Ursie doesn't think there is any way of being useful just now,
father/ said Mary. ' Mrs Weir has heard everything, and keeps
up tolerably.'

'You should have gone in, though, child ; I would have had
you see Mrs Mason. It will be hard times with Mrs Weir and
Miss Milicent,' he added, turning to me ; ' they are away from
their own kith and kin, and they are not over friendly with the
gentry round, except it may be with Mr Richardson, who has a
short purse, and a small house, and a large family. If it came
to the point, there might be more real help for Mrs Weir to be
had from Longside than from Compton, only it might not suit
her to see it.'

' Mrs Weir is not proud,' I said ; 'at least, I don't think so.'

' Poverty is the touchstone of pride, so I have heard say,'
replied the farmer ; ' but come in, Ursie, and tell us more about
it. My good woman and I have been talking about you this
morning, thinking what an upset there would be for you from
all this.'

' It is pleasant to know that some persons can take thought
for one,' I said; and I felt my eyes filled with tears. I don't
know what there was in Farmer Kemp's manner which made
me always feel what a happiness it would be to have an earthly

' So you are sad, child, are you ?' he answered. ' Cheer up ;


rain one day, sunshine the next. Come in, and we 11 have it .ill
out. Why, there's Roger off with Mr Richardson! What is for? and we had not half settled our busin

'Indeed!' obs rved Mr Hervey, 'it was all but done when
M try and I

•1 tell you what, man,' said the farmer, quickly, 'it wasn't
fun. Give me money in hand, and bricks and mortar, and I
u ill say something to you ; but we have not brought Mr .Stewart
to that point yet.'

' He promises/ said John H( rvey.

'Promises! promises!' Farmer Kemp repeated the words
slowly. 'When you have lived as long as 1 have, John, you
will learn how to value promises, even those of good men ; Mr
Stewart, of Hatton, being one, — at least, as goodness is reckoned
now. I have been treated with promises for the last fifteen
years; and shall I tell you what I think of them? They are
uncommonly like the straw a day which the old woman's cow
was fed upon till she died.'

We all laughed ; but John Hervey said he had a better
opinion of Mr Stewart than to think he was not going to keep
his word.

' Well ! yes, — well ! he will keep it in the letter, I grant you.
Whilst he has Mr Richardson to back him, and me knocking at
his door, he can't well do otherwise. But he is not a man to
go of his own accord against what he considers his interest. If
he was, he wouldn't have let things come to the pass they arc.
lie would never have needed our eyes for spectacles to help him
to see that he can't make a poor, rgnorant man a Christian by
ing him to live like a heathen. Why, there arc cottages on
the Hatton estate which aren't two degrees better than my pig-
sty ; and there is he, with his five thousand a year, crying out
nit the expense of rebuilding them, and threatening — what
do you think now, John, he threatens?' and Farmer Kemp
stopped rs we were about to enter the house, and drew John
Hervey aside.

' We had better go in,' said Mary to me, i i her quiet voice.

But I was curious, and something better than curious — in-
terested ; for I saw the working of John Ilcrvey's face, and I
knew th it whatever Farmer Kemp might be telling him was
giving him pain.

I wondered that Mary seemed to care so little for it. She
\ 'ched them for an instant, and then said, composedly : ( Mr


Stewart told father that if Hatton was such an expense to him,
he should sell it, and he knew a person willing to buy it. And
I can tell who that is,' added Mary, with a little more of life in
her tone ; 'it's Captain Price.'

'What ! he that is to marry Jane Shaw? It can't be,' I ex-
claimed. 'Dene and Hatton! He would he the lord of the

' Father says it,' was Mary's reply.

'And you don't care about it ? You aren't worried about it?'
I exclaimed. ' Mary, you are a wonder.'

' It is not come yet, and it mayn't come at all,' said Mary.
' When it does it will be time enough to fret.'

That was very true ; but somehow the words did not quite
come home to me just then, and when I looked at John Hervey
again, I thought less of Captain Price, and the chance of his
buying Hatton, than of what John would do if he took to him-
self such a quiet wife.

' You will stay now and rest, Ursie,' said Mary, opening the
door for me. ' Mother is in the kitchen, most likely, but she
will be glad to come into the parlour and see you.'

Mary left me in the passage, for I knew how to find my way
to the parlour — a pleasant little three-sided room, having cup-
boards all round the walls, and a cheerful-looking corner fire-
place. When Longside was built it was intended for a house-
keeper's room.

Mary had much more taste than William's wife, and though
the room was not by any means as large, and not half as well
furnished as the great parlour at Sandcombe, it was much more
comfortable. There were flower-pots in the window-seat, and
flowers on the table, and over the mantelpiece ; and Mary was
not, like Leah, ashamed of homely work, and so it was lying
about ready to be taken up ; whilst some books near it showed
that there was leisure at Longside for something besides mere
drudgery. One of the books was a Bible; I think Mrs Kemp,
and Mary, and her two little sisters, generally read together the
lesson for the day in the New Testament, some time in the
course of the morning.

Mrs Kemp came in almost immediately. In her way, she was
as clever and shrewd as her husband, and quite as good ; and as
for her kind-heartedness, there was no end to it. The good
woman, as Farmer Kemp always called her, was never known to
forget a friendly word or a friendly thought for any one. She


was alwaj s especially considerate for me. T suspect she felt foi
me because I was an orphan, for she had known herself what it
was to be brought up without father or mother. Perhaps it
might h been that which made her so careful about the young
girls who came to her as servants, or had anything to do with
the farmwork. I have often known people object to take ;;irls
who have been at farm-service, thinking they might have learned
evil there, but it was never so with Mrs Kemp's <;irls ; she made
herself their friend, and kept them out of temptation, as she
would her own daughters ; until it began to be considered quite
a recommendation in the neighbourhood to have worked at

1 Early, Ursie, but always welcome,' was Mrs Kemp's greeting,
as she smoothed down her white apron, and pulled down and
fastened the sleeves of her dress, which she had turned up, I
suppose, whilst assisting in the kitchen. What a round, bright-
coloured, good-humoured face hers was ! quite pretty still, and
almost young. I could not help kissing her, though kissing was
not very much in my way with most people.

' Farmer and I spent a good half-hour, this morning, talking
about you and things at Dene,' continued Mrs Kemp, drawing
her chair close to mine. ' I should have been up myself, only I
thought it might be taken for a liberty, as I don't go there often ;
so I sent Mary, making sure she would see Mrs Mason, if she
couldn't get a glimpse of you. What can we do for you now ?'

'Nothing,' I said; 'nothing now, at least. Roger is gone to
talk to Mr Richardson about it all.'

My face must have shown my feelings — though, the moment
before, I had made a strong resolution against betraying them.

' Ah ! poor child ; yes. Dear heart ! don't take on so. Roger
can't go to a better friend. .So it is all up with you, is it ; and

Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellUrsula; a tale of country life → online text (page 10 of 56)