Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

Ursula; a tale of country life online

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friends very likely to help ; for they can, for the most, only decide
according to what you tell them. The first little sign of duty
that comes, if it is only in the way of setting your house to rights
or casting up your accounts, is the sign-post set up by God's
Providence ; and when that is done, He will be sure to open the
way wider, if you have only patience to wait. But we are all apt
to overlook the little duty, and think we will attend to it when
we have settled the great one ; and so we set out on the wrong
road, perhaps never to regain the right one. I might have
argued with myself for hours whether it was best to stay at
Dene, or go wherever Roger went, and not have come to a con-
clusion ; or, if I had, I should not have been satisfied that I had
decided rightly. But Miss Milicent's offer, and the knowledge
that I might help Mrs Weir, seemed to me to be God's sign-post,
and I was thankful that I had made up my mind to follow it.

I bustled about all the afternoon, trying to prevent myself from
over-thinking ; but there was no heart in what I did, for was not
everything to be upset and undone before long ? About five
o'clock I laid out the tea-things, expecting Roger to come in, and
I took a pleasure, though it made my heart ache all the while, in
putting some stocks, and sweet-briar, and a rose or two in a
flower- jar which Jessie Lee had given me about a fortnight
before. I thought whether such flowers grew in Canada, and it
seemed as though I could scarcely live without something bright
and sunshiny ; but I turned away from the subject, and ran
across to the house for a minute, to ask for Mrs Weir, and see
if there was anything I could do for her. Mrs Mason was
making her a cup of coffee ; so I took it up, and we had a few
minutes' conversation — not about anything particular, but there
was something in her way of speaking which made me feel how
glad she was to have me about her, and I went back com-

Roger was coming down the hill on horseback as I left the
house ; the horse was quite hot, so I knew he had been riding


fa t, not to be late for ten. Me called out to me directly, to say
he was sorry lie had kept me waiting ; and then lie jumped off,
and led his horse away to the stable. I did not go after him, for
I was ashamed of my impatience ; and besides, Roger never
liked to me made to tell things before his own time, — very few
men do. Presently he came in, looking very warm, and pushing
his hair off his forehead. He sat down just for a moment, and
then he jumped up, and said he should go in the back kitchen
and wash his hands ; he was not fit to sit clown to tea. I let
him go, but it seemed a terrible long time before he came
He drew a chair to the table, and began cutting some bread. I
gave him his cup of tea, but it didn't please him, and he took up
the milk-jug, and poured out an ocean of milk, only slowly,
almost drop by drop, looking at it intently all the while.

I could bear it no longer. ' Well ! ' I said.

1 Well ! Trot.'

He smiled so pleasnntly, I could almost have believed it was a
dream that trouble was at hand.

' Come out to Canada to see me this time next year, Trot ?'

'Then it's settled,' I said.

' Yes, settled.'

I must have cut my piece of bread into twenty bits before I
tried to speak again. Roger laid down his knife, and stretched
his hand across the table.

' Shake hands, little woman ; we will have merry days yet,
please God.'

' Merry days for you, perhaps,' I exclaimed, bitterly. 'You
are a man, and you like change.'

' I like doing what comes to me as right,' he said, gravely ;
'and so do you, Trot, when you let yourself think. I have
talked it all over with Mr Richardson. lie has known other
men go out, and do well ; and he thinks I have a better chance
than most. I have a fair sum to begin with, and it will go
farther there than here.'

'And so you are all for making money,' I said. 'That was
never your line before, Roger.'

He was very patient with me. He saw that sorrow made me

' Well ! yes,' he said, and he laughed. ' I am all for making
money, — not for money's sake, but for money's worth, — that I
might be of use in the world, and do a few things I have a fancy
for. When your wedding-day comes, Ursie, you shall have no


Cause to complain, because your brother Roger set out in life
with a wish to make money.'

That was too much for me. I jumped up and kissed him,
and then I rushed away to the window.

When I came back, we were able to discuss matters quietly.
He told me that Mr Richardson had entered into the business
very kindly, and had given him a good deal of information,
having some relations in Canada. He had lent him a book, too,
which would help him in some ways ; but the thing he most
advised was that Roger should go up to London, to consult with
a person whom Mr Richardson knew, who had been himself in
Canada, and had made money there. What was even more to
the point, Mr Richardson had advised Roger net to be too shy
of asking William for any money he might want. It might
cause him a little trouble to raise it, but it was Roger's right,
and if he gave up a good prospect of doing well merely from
over-scrupulousness, the time would come when both he and
William would repent it. This advice had helped Roger a good
deal, I could see.

' A second conscience is a great help, Ursie,' he observed to
me, as he finished what he had to say of his visit. c I had a fear
of being hard, and selfish, and pressing my own wishes against
William's. But I suppose Mr Richardson may be right. To be
just to one's self may be the first step towards being just to others.
Only it is difficult to know where justice ends and selfishness

' It can't be with you, Roger,' I said ; ' you have not a grain
of selfishness in you.'

' Not so sure of that, Ursie,' he said. ' Mr Richardson gave
me a hint this afternoon. He told me I was too fond of seeing
every one happy about me ; and so could not make up my mind
to give pain, even when it was needful ; and, after all, that is only
another kind of selfishness.'

' That was when you were talking of me,' I said.

1 Partly of you, partly of William and Leah. They will be
sadly put out ! '

'And what shall I be ?'

He came round to me and patted me on the shoulder. ' A
stout-hearted woman, who will bear whatever comes, and be

' Then Mr Richardson says I am not to go ?'

' Not for a year ; you will come then, if all goes well, and I


determine to settle there. But Mr Richardson advises me not to
be hasty. He thinks his friend in London might put me in the
way of finding some one who would let me join with him in
managing and working for a year, and so give me time to look
about me. lie says, what is very true, that to leave one's country
and one's relations in a hurry, may be a thing to be repented of
all one's life. If I do stay, I must send for you : and there are
plenty of people coming out continually, who will take care of
you on the voyage ; and I ran easily run down and meet you
wherever you land.'

I was silent.

' What are you thinking of?' asked Roger.

' Why, that you are a man, Roger, and are turning round to a
new life, and liking it ; and not knowing in the least what I shall
feel the long year when you are gone— all by myself — no

' Sandcombc,' he said — but his voice was low, almost as though
he was ashamed of saying it.

'And would you like Sandcombe yourself?' I said, reproach-

He thought for a moment — I saw he was annoyed. But the
cloud passed over ; and he answered with such a kind, honest
look — I never saw the same in any one else — ' No, I should not
like it, Trot ; and it is much harder for you to stay than for me
to go. But there will be an end.'

' God grant it ! ' 1 said ; but it mayn't be the end we arc look-
ing for.'

' It will be God's end, anyhow,' he replied.

He walked across the room to a table which stood in the
corner, by the dresser — my mother's Bible always lay upon it ;
the old Bible out of which he showed me the pictures on a Sun-
day afternoon, when I was a little girl. He turned to the parting
of David nnd Jonathan ; it was a favourite chapter of his. ' Look
here, Ursie,' he said, as he brought the book to me and pointed
to the last verses ; ' other people before us have had to part.
Just read me the verses ; I like them best in your voice.' And
I read : ' And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out
of a place towards the south, and fell on his face to the ground,
and bowed himself three times ; and they kissed one another,
and wept one with another, until David exceeded. And Jonathan
said to David : Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both
of us in the name of the Lord, saying : The Lord be between me


and thee, and between my seed and thy seed for ever. And he
arose and departed ; and Jonathan went into the city.'

I could not talk any more of business after that ; but I went
up to my own room and prayed, and had a good cry.


THE next two months were a perfect whirl. As fast as any-
thing was settled, it seemed to be unsettled ; and every
one's plans seemed to interfere with those of another. Day after
day Roger arranged to go to London, and see the Canadian
gentleman, Mr Green, who was Mr Richardson's friend ; but as
surely as he had decided to go, so surely something happened to
prevent him. And all this time he was working at William to get
the money matter settled ; and William was hanging back and
raising difficulties. At last, when it seemed the matter would
never come to an end, Farmer Kemp offered to let William have
the money, if he would give him the same interest and the same
security which had satisfied Roger ; and then there really was no
longer any reasonable excuse. I am sure Farmer Kemp did it
out of mere love to Roger ; for he and William were not even
as much friends as they used to be. The fret about the cottages
was always going on ; and Leah made matters worse, for she was
angry because Mrs Richardson and Mrs Kemp had taken up
Kitty Hobson. I did not trouble myself much about Kitty, nor
about any one just then, except Roger and Mrs Weir. When I
was not thinking of one, I was of the other. Roger approved of
my plan of staying at Dene as long as I could, but how long that
would be was a very doubtful matter. There was a report that
Mr Weir was in France ; and then Mrs Weir was wild to go to
him ; but the next day it was contradicted. A week afterwards,
some one declared he had been heard of in America, and the
week after that it was France again ; always something new,
and always something uncertain ; — and at last, Mr Richardson
and Miss Milicent consulted together, and agreed that the only
thing to keep Mrs Weir quiet was to put out of her head entirely
the notion of going to her husband. Till that was done, there
would be no coming to a conclusion about anything else.

Dene, as I think I have said, was Mrs Weir's own property,

1 20 URSULA.

settled upon her so that the creditors could not touch it ; but it
was not a place she could live at, and there was nothing to be
done but to sell it. A good thing it was, so every one said, that
there was some one at hand ready to buy it. Captain Trice
came forward fr in the first, with a good offer for the house and
grounds, not the whole estate, he was by no means rich cno<
to buy that, for his fortune had been very much overrated. The
lawyers talked of trying to obtain more by an auction in London,
but Mrs Weir's trustees would not consent. It would bring
additional expenses, and after all they could not expect more
than the fair sum which Captain Price was willing to give. The
interest of this, and a little money belonging to Miss Milicent,
which had been left her by her grandmother, would, it was
hoped, enable them to live with tolerable comfort.

Mrs Weir was as passive as a child all the time the discus-
sions were going on. I think it provoked Miss Milicent. She
once said to me that she thought it quite wicked to take every-
thing for granted in that way. How did her mother know she
had a penny? she never took the trouble to ask. It was very
true that God fed the sparrows, but if the sparrows didn't open
their mouths, no food would ever get down their throats.

There was some truth in this, and I thought I would try and
rouse Mrs Weir a little, when I had the opportunity. And th it
came soon enough ; Farmer Kemp's offer was accepted, and
Roger was to go up to London early the next week to see Mr
Green ; and then Miss Milicent proposed that I should go over
to the house and stay there. One reason was because I might
not like sleeping at the cottage alone, and another because Mrs
Mason was going away, — a source of greater regret to me I
think than to Miss Milicent. I liked Mrs Mason very much,
and never forgot the first evening of my coming to Dene, and
how kind she was, and the tea Roger and I had with her. We
had been good friends from that day, and I owed a great deal to
her, and I hope I was grateful, though I was not what might be
called fond of her. She was strict, and had not much warmth
at the bottom, though a great deal of kindliness at the top. I
did all I could for her by helping to pack her boxes, and trjing
to understand about the accounts and other things which she
had left not quite settled, and on Saturday morning I said
good-bye to her, and <die went off in Farmer Kemp's light cart,
which was to take her to Hove ; from thence I think she was
going to London, to be housekeeper in some great family. It


was the first departure, and it made the place seem very

I don't like now to recall the last Sunday with Roger at Dene.
Some troubles there are in life which it is rather pleasant to look
back upon, one feels so glad to have escaped from them. But
there are others which arouse a feeling of pity for one's self, such
as one might have for another. I remember having read a story
of a lady who cried over her own funeral, and really I could
almost cry over my mournfulness on that Sunday. There was
the last walk to Compton church over the down, and the meet-
ing with William and Leah, and the bus}' gossip of the neigh-
bours, who came up and talked to us after the service, as if it
was the commonest thing in the world that was going to happen
to us. And then William would make us go back with him to
Sandcombe and dine, and kept us so long there, that we were
late at church in the afternoon, and I felt that Roger was fretted
with himself for giving in. But we had a quiet time afterwards,
and a comforting talk as we walked back to Dene, when it was
growing cooler, and there was a breeze on the hill just enough
to give motion to the light fern-leaves and the crimson foxglove-
bells, and to lift up the hot mist which had been hanging all
day over the sea, and show the sparkle of the waves in the bay,
and beneath the white cliffs.

They are there still, — the ferns and the foxgloves on the green
hill, the white cliffs, the broad blue sea, — but they have nevei
looked to me since as they did on that evening.

The peacock screamed as we entered the Dene shrubbery. I
should not have remembered it, but that it made me silly, for I
burst into tears, and Roger, seeing Miss Milicent in the road,
told me to leave him, and turn into the walks in the plantation,
under the hill, till I could get right again. I did not go far
away, but remained watching him through the trees, and
when Miss Milicent was gone, I ran home as quickly as I

There was little to be done in the way of preparation foi
Roger's journey, so we had a nice, long evening together, talking
a good deal more of things past than of things to come. We
neither of us liked to dwell much upon them ; and we were to
meet again, we hoped, before long, and then our way would be
made clearer. Now we were like children groping about in the

'Yet not quite the dark,' was Roger's last speech to me as we

122 URSU/,1.

took our candles to go to bed. ' God always gives us light
enough for the next step.'

The next day Roger was gone, at least from Dene, and I was
going; but whither was the question? I felt it ought to be
settled soon, and that very afternoon I set myself to the task of
bringing Mrs Weir to look her affairs full in the face, and see
what she was doing, and what others were doing for her, and
what she would wish to have done herself. Mi-s Milicent, I
think, had made a mistake in one respect. She had manag d
everything for her mother so long, that Mrs Weir was completely
out of the habit of managing for herself, and now Miss Milicent
was inclined to turn round and reproach her for it.

Poor lady ! she looked quite surprised, when I said to her as I
carried her cup of coffee into the drawing-room, about five
o'clock, 'You must have enough to do, ma'am, to settle your
mind when there is so much to be done. I wish I could help

' I leave it all,' she replied. ' It will come right — as right as
it can. Do not stand, Ursula. Thank you ; please put down
the coffee, and there is a scat ; the evenings are very long.'

' But growing shorter, ma'am/ I said : ' a fortnight yesterday
past the longest day ; and then there will only be six weeks more
of what one may call summer.'

' I do not look forward, Ursula.'

' Only when you are obliged, I suppose, ma'am. Miss Milicent
tells me you think of removing to the new house that is just
built at Compton.'

' If it were God's will, I would not wish to move anywhere,
Ursula, except to my grave. I am only burdensome ; I can do
no good.'

' Not perhaps in the way you would like, ma'am,' I replied.
' But if we have life given us, I take it for granted there is some
purpose in it, if it is only to exercise others in patience.'

I really did not mean anything particular. I intended only
to answer her own words, though, when I had spoken, I saw I
ht seem rude.

But Mrs Weir took my remark so quietly ! — in the way which
made me often feel that she had only just missed being a saint.

' You are right, Ursula,' she said. ' We must be content to
be trials, if we cannot be blessings. But that will never be your
lot, I feel. God has bestowed upon you health and energy, and
you are willing, I know, to make a good use of them.'


' I hope so, ma'am, I should like to make them useful to you
now, if you would let me. I shall have a fortnight clear, whilst
Roger is in London, before I shall be called to do anything for
myself; and if you were thinking of moving, I might be able to
assist Miss Milicent in packing.'

' But, Ursula,' she slowly raised her eyes with a look of fear,
' you are not going away ? Milicent told me she had offered you
a home. You could have it as long as you liked ; and no one
would ask you to do anything you did not like.'

' It is not that, ma'am,' I replied. ' I hope, if I had duties to
attend to, I should not think about liking or disliking ; but I don't
see my way to remaining for long, and that is why I should be glad
to help you to settle yourself elsewhere now, before I leave.'

' Milicent ! where is Milicent ?' Mrs Weir laid her hand upon
a little silver bell, which was one of the many ornaments of her

'Perhaps, ma'am,' I-said, 'we might be able to manage the
matter without Miss Milicent. You are the person who must

'Yes, I know — but Milicent — I wish she would come.'

' If you tell Miss Milicent your wish, she will agree to it, I am
sure, ma'am,' I continued. ' I heard her say to Mr Richardson
the other day, that she only desired you to go where you would
be most comfortable.'

' They will not let me go abroad, Ursula ; that is the only
think I ask for.'

1 They don't see where you are to go to, ma'am,' I replied ;
' and whilst you are thinking about that, there is something else
to be done just before your eyes, if you will be good enough to
look at it.'

' I do not object to the house at Compton,' she answered, ' I
never said I did, only it is far from the church.'

'Yes, but not so far as this ; and Miss Milicent is a good
walker, and it does not much matter to you, ma'am.'

' No, Ursula, you are right there.'

' And you would be near Mr Richardson, ma'am.'

' Yes.' Her eyes brightened. ' Perhaps he would come and
see me oftener then '

'And it is better than going quite away,' I continued, whilst
I watched the expression of the poor lady's face, hoping to see
some expression of interest ; but just then, to my great annoyance,
in rushed Miss Milicent.

i :4 URSULA.

'Well, mother! Ursie! I am glad you arc here I have
been over the hill to Compton, and seen the house. They \von ! t
let us have it for less than fifty pounds unfurnished, and seventy
five furnished. I say it is a shame ; but there is nothing else to
be had ; so I have been to Mr Richardson, and he is coming up
here to-morrow, and you have only to sny yes to him, mother,
and then he will sec the landlord in I love on Wednesday, and
settle it, and we can move in by next Monday.'

Miss Milicent stuck her hands in her pockets, and leaned
against the mantel-piece. Mrs Weir sank back in her chair, ex-

'It was just what Mrs Weir and I were talking of, Miss
Milicent,' I said. ' Mrs Weir seems to think that Compton will
be the best place.'

' Of course ; there is nothing else to be done.'

'And you would not prefer any other place, ma'am ?' I said.

Miss Milicent looked daggers at me, and beckoned me out of
the room.

Instead of attending to her at once, I waited for Mrs Weir's

' I do net know, Ursula ; it comes so quickly ; but it will all
be right.'

Miss Milicent turned round at the door. ' Ursie, there is
some packing I want to talk to you about.'

I followed her; she closed the door behind her.

'Are you a fool, Ursie Grant? What do you mean by put-
ting notions into my mother's head ? The house at Compton is

'Is it quite, Miss Milicent?' I said; 'surely it is for Mrs
Weir to decide.'

' Decide ! it is decided. She has nothing to do but to say
yes. She is not fit for more, you see.'

' You will excuse me, I hope, Miss Milicent,' 1 replied ; 'but
it seems to me that Mrs Weir will never be fit to say even yes
for herself, whilst no one gives her the opportunity of saying

Any one else might have been angry at my boldness ; but I
will do Miss Milicent the justice to own that she always allowed
other people to be as free spoken as she was herself.

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



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

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

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

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

' You are very good j but I must see what my duties at Sand-
combe are first.'

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

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

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


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

There was plenty of work going on in the farm-yard and the out-
houses, but the house itself seemed dull as I went in. I missed
Jessie Lee's voice. When she was there she was generally to be
heard singing, and the notes were like a bird's, they were so sweet ;
but it was all silent now, except the sound of my own footsteps

Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellUrsula; a tale of country life → online text (page 12 of 56)