Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

Ursula; a tale of country life online

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and I went to Mrs Weir.

Mrs Temple was with her. * A pi asant afternoon you have
for your drive, Ursula,' she said, before Mrs Weir could speak ;
' 1 hope you will enjoy it ! '

'Thank you, ma'am,' was all my reply ; it always made me feel
cross when she called me Ursula, though 1 don't know what
other name she could well have given m !.

'I had a commission to be executed in Ilatton;' she con-
tinued, 'and I felt sure that you would be glad to attend to it
I r me. The Compton carpenter charges more than I thi

ht for the little work-frame he made forme the other day ;
and I wish you to see the other man,— I forget his name. — at
Ilatton, and inquire what he would do the same for; I shall not
pay more than he says.'

' The frame cost eighteen pence, I believe, ma'am,' I said.
' Yes, and it ought to have been only fifteen. I could have
had it made for fifteen at home; but these country people are
very exorbitant, and it is not ri-lit to encourage them, dear aunt,
is it?' and she addressed Mrs Weir.

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

' It was Smithson who made the frame, I think, ma'am,' I

' Yes, Smithson, I believe, was the name.'
'He is very poor, and not a very good workman,' I continued,
'and I think, ma'am, you had the frame taken back twice.'

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

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

'Yes, ma'am ; and Miss Miliccnt, if you remember, sent her
some j;ruel. His girl goes to Compton school.'

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

' Certainly, dear aunt. I have no doubt that Miliccnt will do
all that is necessary, if it is a deserving case; but the man, I
bhould fear, is not honest. However, I will not trouble Ursula
Grant to make inquiries for me about him ; I forgot that I was


speaking to a person who took care to inform me, the first night
I saw her, that she was not Mrs Weir s servant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I brought the box to her, and she unlocked it, took the things
out, one by one, and ranged them in order upon the table.
They were nearly all foreign, and mostly Indian ; and some of
them so delicate, that it seemed as though any other fingers
than Mrs Weirs would have been unable to handle them. Par-
ticularly I remember a little chess-board of carved ivory, with
the tiniest set of chessmen that can be imagined standing upon
it. It had been sent her only a few months before ; and she
had taken the trouble herself to fasten the little figures upon the
board with gum. It used to stand upon the table at Dene, with
a glass case over it ; but I had not seen it since we came to
the cottage.

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

1 70 URSULA.

1 Perhaps they will not be wanted, ma'am,' I ventured to

for I felt quite a silly dislike to her giving them away.

• I )o you think so, Ursula ?' She seemed pained at the notion.
' Mrs Temple says they will make her stall very beautiful.'

* 1 dare say they will, ma'am,' I answered, shortly.
'And it ought not to be a sacrifice to me,' she conlii

' They arc very little things ; I do not know why I liked them
so much.'

It was upon my lips to say that I should not care what was
done with them, if they were to go for a good object ; but I
stopped myself, — God looks at motives, not objects. No doubt
in His sight it was a holy offering. I could not take upon
myself to cast a doubt into Mrs Weir's mind, though in my
heart I felt that I could have seen the things thrown into the

1, rather than put into Mrs Temple's hands, to give her the
opportunity of making a show without expense.

' And you think they are enough, Ursula ?' added Mrs Weir,

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

' And I shall learn to do without them,' she continued. ' Mrs
Temple has written out a text for me, Ursula, and I have put it
in my work-box, that I may remember to try and not care for
all which I have cared for. She has made it very pretty ; it is

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

The words were, ' Wc brought nothing into this world, and it
is cert. in we can carry nothing out ; and having food and
raiment, let us be therewith content.' 1 returned the text,
merely saying, that I wished we could all remember it ; it
might save us a great deal of anxiety. It did not strike me till
afterwards what a wonderful power God has given to simple
earnestness of heart. Mis Weir was like the bee, she could
only extract honey even from intercourse with a woman like
Mrs Temple.

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

'Yes, dear ma'am, I think I must. I know my brother would
rather the cart should not be keut.'


' And ,/ou will see Mr Grant at Sandcombe, I suppose. That
will make you happy.'

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

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

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

I caught hold of her hand and kissed it.

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

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

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

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

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

It was all I could do not to break down, but I thanked her in

few words and a troubled voice, and left her with a heart full of
love : t with Mrs Tcmj le by her side, she might

one day ce are for me.


I EXPECTED to meet Roger at Sandconibc, and yet I could
think of Mrs Weir. That was, I suppose, partly because I
always had lived so much in the present moment ; but it was
partly also because I had forced myself of late to turn away from
the recollection of Roger, and to think of life for a time without
him. If 1 had done otherwise, I should have been too unhappy
to attend to my daily duties. The trials of life arc, I believe,
after all, wry much what we choose to make them. It was a
kind of instinct with me to take every one as it came, and twi t
and turn it till I saw it in the point of view which made it most
bearable. I have sometimes fancied that untoward events arc
like those curious padlocks formed of rings of brass, with sepa
rate letters engraven upon them ; when the rings arc all tur;.' d
properly, so that the letters form a certain word, the key goes
through easily ; but till this is done, one may try for ever and not
be able to unfasten the padlock. Perhaps the word which all
human trials are intended to form is Faith, for by that alone the
mysteries of God's Providence are unlocked.

At any rate, I know that I could never go on fretting about
anything, however painful ; and, when once I had made up my
mind that Roger and I were to be parted for a year, I said to
myself, 'It is God's will for some good purpose, to take fn
me for a while the greatest happiness I have ; but Me has left
me a good many blessings still, and so, instead of grieving o\ r
what 1 ( an't have, I will make the best of what I have.'

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

In a future state of existence, it will, no doubt, be very pleasant
to go h r to another, and see what the different inhabi-


tants are like. Where there is no sin there will be no sorrow.
Lut in this evil world, where a sudden change in a home ofcen
means only a turning from troubles of one kind to those of
another, such a move comes to one with a kind of shock.

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

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

Roger kissed me very hard on both cheeks, but said nothing.
They went on talking about some alteration in the farm. Leah
was gone in the chase to Hatton, and was not returned ; so I
went up-stairs to my room, and unpacked my boxes, and put my
things away in the drawers. Stupidly enough, I had forgotten
that I should not be at Sandcombe in time for tea ; and now I
should have to wait for supper, unless William thought of offer-
ing me anything. I dare say people would call that very
strange and silly, and inquire why I did not ask for some tea in
my brother's house ; and I can give no reason, except that any-
thing which put the Sandcombe household cut of its regular way
of going on was a trouble. You might ask and have, but you
were certain to be reminded of it afterwards ; and if Leah had
come home and found me at tea, she would have been sure to
say in the course of the evening that something or another was
left undone, because Martha had been obliged to get Ursie's tea ;
and this though I had put on the kettle, and cut the bread and
butter for myself.

Putting my things away took a long time ; after that 1 thought
I would sit down and read a chapter in the Bible, which would
make me feel more homelike and natural than anything else ;
but 1 had no time, for Roger knocked at my door, and, of course,
I was only too glad to bid him come in and hear all he had to

He was in excellent spirits, seeing everything so hopefully,
that he made me hopeful too. Mr Richardson's friend had
smoothed the way for him, and his good character had gone
before him. He had received an offer which would make all
easy. It was proposed to him to accompany a gentleman,
named Pierce, who was going out to Canada on his own account ;
he was to stay with him for six months at least, and help him
in his first setting off, and thus he would have time to look
about him, and decide as to whether he should finally settle

174 I RSULA.

in the country. This plan satisfied William, because it did
not require such an outlay of money at the present time, and
Roger was quite willing to take things quietly, and not be an
independent man all at once ; he had managed the greater ]
of his business, and the little that remained was to be done by
John Hervey, who was forced to go up to London the n
week. The ship was to sail in about a fortnight's time. For
myself, I confess the idea that his plans were only settled for
six months was a great relief. At the end of that time some-
thing might happen to bring him back, — who knew ? At any
rate, the definite time was a limit beyond which I felt I was not
permitted to look.

We talked on so long about Canada that I did not think of
putting in a word about Mis Weir, but Roger was very unlike
most people in one respect. Instead of conversing as so many
do only aboirt what interests themselves, and because others
listen and appear interested, fancying they hnve been very
kind and agreeable, and never asking a question or giving a
thought in return, Roger gave what he took, and because I
liked to hear what he had been doing, he liked to hear what I
had been doing.

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

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

' If it's Mrs Temple you mean,' he replied, 'Mrs Weir won't
be friends with her long ; at least, if what John Hervey says is

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

' No, you will make your way anyhow.'

' What do you mean ? ' I asked.

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

I knew, for I had seen the chaise drive up with Leah and
Jessie Lee.

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

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

Roger and I went out into the passage together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I did not feel in the least inclined, but I saw he wished it, so

176 VRSV/.A.

I just kissed Jessie, and told her to go into my room, and down
stairs I went

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

'Oh!' I replied. I don't know how it was, but I felt so
unwilling to be mixed up as one with Leah in her househi 11

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

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

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

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

Up-stairs I went again. Jessie had not moved from her place,
nor Roger from his. Jessie looked ashamed of herself. I
thought they must have touched upon some serious matter, tor
I heard Jessie say, 'I can't be always working and thinking
like Ursie, Mr Roger, to please any one.' She spoke a little

ttishly, and not quite so simply as was her wont. Roger had
a very kind smile upon his face. He always seemed to look
upon Jessie as a spoiled child, and he s.ud, ' You know, Jessie, it
is not for me to find fault, only I disliked to hear it said, and so,
as I was going away tor so long, I thought I would e'en tell you
mys It.'

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

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

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



'I don't knew/ I said, 'for you have not told me what you

' Miss Shaw and Captain Price were there,' continued Jessie,
tossing her head pettishly ; ' and if they saw nothing wrong, I
don't see what business other folks have to find fault.'

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

' It is Mr John Hervey's tale, I am certain,' exclaimed Jessie
1 He is always spying.'

'Really, Jessie,' I replied, ' I can't stand here all night in this
senseless way ; if you don't choose to explain, I must needs leave
you and go down to supper.'

Jessie was very much inclined to cry, but when she saw that,
instead of attending to her, I was going towards the door, she
pulled me back: 'Miss Shaw and Captain Price were in the
shop,' she said, ' and the two officers were their friends, and I
only talked and laughed a little. Miss Shaw talked a great deal
the loudest.'

'The old complaint !' I said rather shortly. 'Jane Shaw will
make herself noticed wherever she goes, and if you will go about
with her, Jessie, you must expect the same. Was that all Roger
had to say?'

' He told me that Mrs Deer, the stationers wife, had talked to
him about it, and said that if I didn't take care I should get
myself a bad name. But Mrs Deer is envious of Jane Shaw,
that I know. Jane told me so herself. Hetty Deer was at the
race ball, and Captain Price danced with her, and so Mrs Deer
thought there was a chance for her, and now she is disap-

' That may or mayn't be, Jessie,' I replied. ' One thing is
quite clear, that Roger has heard your name mentioned in a way
he doesn't like, and being an old friend, he did quite right to tell
you of it ; and if you will take my advice, you will give heed to
the warning, and not go into Hove again with Jane Shaw, or any
of her set. You know, Jessie, because you are left so much to
yourself, there is the more reason for you to be careful.'

Jessie's little fit of temper was over when she had given it
vent. She still held my gown, and said, ' Don't go, Ursie ; I am
very unhappy, and Mr Roger thinks so ill of me.'

'No, indeed!' I exclaimed. 'It is not in Roger's way to
think ill of any person, much less of one he has known like you,
Jessie, from a baby. But no doubt he is very particular as to


i 7 3 URSULA.

ways of those he is interested in, and that may make him
s i ak out more strongly than seems quite kind.'

' 1 do mean to be careful,' sobbed Jessie; 'you know, Ursic,
I never go on in that fashion when I am with you ; and I want
to be steady, indeed I do ; and I only went to Hove with Miss
Shaw because she begged so hard, and I thought it was the
only chance I might have of seeing about a dress for the wed-

' If you girls don't come down to supper, there will be none for
you,' cried out William, from the passage below. Jessie washed
h r face, and dried her eyes, and went to the glass to smooth her
hair, staying longer than I thought necessary; so I left her there
and went down aione.

Roger just looked up from his plate, when I entered, and not

seeing Jessie, ate his supper in silence. I could discover from

his troubled face that it had cost him a good deal to say what

In have seemed an unkind word to the poor little motherless

thing, but she quite needed it.

I forget exactly what passed at supper-time. I know it was

I effort to me to talk to Leah, and that Roger scarcely

spoke, and Jessie looked as shy as a frightened bird. \Yc were

not any of us natural, but we did not understand each other, and

so how could we be natural ?

There was never much time between supper and going to bed,
but I longed to have Roger alone, and find out what was really
the matter about Jessie ; and it happened that I had the oppor-
tunity, for Leah look advantage of having Jessie there to send
the maid to bed early, and she and Jessie carried away the
supper things, and then stayed some time talking in the kitchen,

Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellUrsula; a tale of country life → online text (page 17 of 56)