Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

Ursula; a tale of country life online

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and William went away too ; and so Roger ar.d I were left to

er entered upon the subject directly : ' Jessie told you
what I said to her, Trot,' he be.

' Yes ; she told me in her way, which is no way, at least as far
as understanding goes. I could make neither head nor tail of
it. Why didn't you speak to me first, 1'. . r?'

lie laughed. 'Put a woman to scold a woman! you would
• .Iter than that, Ursic, if you were a man.'

' But what was the mischief?' I asked.

ief,' he answered, with a flash in his eye, as though

were angry with tl I. but Hove people are not very

careful cf what they say and Jessie doesn't think. Mrs Deer


heard a great noise, laughing and talking, in Hale's shop. Jane
Shaw, and Captain Price, and a party of officers, were there
having luncheon. Jessie was there too. Mrs Deer said she
made more noise than any, and that people stopped as they
went hy to listen, and that some one had heard one of the officers
call her Jessie, and that she laughed and seemed to like it. I
don't believe that ; but anyhow it was not what I liked to hear ;
and it's no use saying anything to old Mrs Morris, and less
talking to Leah, and so I thought that perhaps Jessie wouldn't
take it amiss from an old friend, if I gave her a word of warning
myself. You know, Ursie, I am going away, and not likely to
see her again. But I dare say I was wrong, women don't like
being talked to.'

' Whether they like it or not, they must bear it, if they need it,'
I replied. 'But I don't think, Roger, you were quite the person
to speak.'

' Likely enough ; but' — he stopped a moment, ' it was so on
my mind, it came out almost before I was aware, and now, I
suppose, she won't forgive or forget.'

' Don't fear that,' I said ; ' she is only a silly child, and quite
accustomed to be scolded.'

He shut up suddenly ; all his answer was, ' Well ! it can't be
helped,' and then he took a candle to go to bed.

I had felt cross when Leah first proposed that Jessie should
sleep in my room. It was taking things for granted in a way I
did not like ; but, as it happened, I was glad of it afterwards,
for it gave me the opportunity of a little more talk with Jessie.
There is no time like night for a free conversation. Jessie and
I said little to each other as we were undressing, but when the
candle was out I took courage, and told her what had passed
between me and Roger, and how he was afraid she was angry
and would not forgive ; but, I added, that, for my part, I could
not see what cause he had to ask for forgiveness. I felt he had
acted like a true friend, though, perhaps, he might have been a
little sudden in his way of introducing the subject ; and then I
went on to give her some more cautions for the future, tellincr
her how specially needful it was for girls, left as we were, never
to give occasion for an unkind word. ' Roger would stand by
you, Jessie,' I said, ' through thick and thin, and so would I ;
but you won't find many to do it, especially amongst the persons
whose company you think so much of now.'

She caught up my words quickly, and answered that she knew


I had a bad opinion of the Shaws ; but I knew nothing of them,
and no one had ever been able to find any real harm in them.

'As to real harm,' I replied, 'it would be dreadful indeed if

things were to come to that pass. But that is looking at matters

only as men and women look at them. There may be many

things that we count trifles, which yet are real harm in the sight


' You have lived so much with set-up ladies and grand people,'
said Jessie, 'that you are over particular, Ursie. How can a
merry girl like me be expected to sail about stiffly, and never
speak above a whisper ?'

' You turn off so, Jessie,' I replied, 'but you know quite well
what I mean. It is not the laughing and talking in proper
places, and with proper people, that any one finds fault with.
But Captain Price's gay friends are not your friends ; they arc
in your station, and there is the dang', r. When people are
all squal, they can have little friendly jokes, and no harm may
come of it. But what would be very kind in Roger, or William,
or John Hervey, would be a liberty in one of Captain Price's
idle set ; and, Jessie, Mrs Weir once said to me, and I wish to
my heart you could remember it, that the mere fact of being a
woman gives one a claim to respect ; that it is a kind of natur. 1
rank which even the beggar-girl in the street possesses, as long
as she conducts herself modestly and decently ; and she told me
tii t the least freedom of manner from a person above my own
ition, let him be gentleman, or nobleman, or prince even,
would be a disrespect which 1 ought never to allow.'

' I can't help allowing it,' said Jessie. 'They lau.^h, and say
droll things, and then I can't help laughing in return.'

' Which shows that it would be much better for you not to
mix with them,' I said.

' But I don't see,' persisted Jessie. ' There is Jane Shaw, she
is not above you or me, naturally, but she has been a good d( I
with Captain Price, and now she is going to marry him. Where
is the harm : '

' Captam Price is no real gentleman, Jessie ; you must own
that,' I replied. ' Put him by the side of Mr Stewart, of Hatton,
ycu see the difference directly.'

' But he was born a gentleman !'

'That may be; but his habits and ways are not those of a
gentleman, nor of an honest farmer neither. He is not i 1

up to by any one, and that is the reason, so far as I can see, why


he is going to marry a woman like Jane Shaw, who is much in
the same plight. If Captain Price had respected her, he would
have known well enough that he had no chance with her. An
offer from such a man is no honour, but the contrary. And as to
being intimate with him or his friends, why there is not one of
Captain Price's set that I would ever speak to again if he called
me by my Christian name ; and I have heard, Jessie, that you
only laugh and look pleased.'

She was silent, and turned away from me, and I heard she
was sobbing. Presently she said, 'Did Mr Roger tell you
that ? '

' He told me he had heard it, but he didn't believe it.'

'It was true,' said Jessie; 'I didn't think about it at the

'But you will think about it now,' I said. 'Jessie, why do
you call Roger Mr Roger? You have known him a pretty long

She quite started up. ' I could not call him anything else, he
is so good.'

'You respect him,' I said; 'and so you can't take liberties
with him. What respect could Captain Price's friend feel for
you, Jessie, when, having only seen you a few times before, he
ventured to speak to you more freely than you speak to Roger,
whom you have known all your life?'

She threw her arms round me, and kissed me, and thanked
me, and I felt how impossible it was not to love her; and then
she begged me to tell Roger that she was dreadfully sorry, and
it never should happen again ; only would he please not say
anything more about it to her. And again turning from me, she
fell asleep as quickly as a child.


I AM going to hurry over the parting with Roger. I seem
to have been telling of nothing but partings lately, and
moreover, to speak strictly, there was no parting. At the
time I felt this bitterly, but on looking back I see that it was
all for the best, and that I was saved a great deal. The fort-
night before Roger went was a very unsettled one for us all ;


so much so, that at hist, thou h every moment with him \
indescribably precious, I began to wish it was all over.
Leah, I knew, was impatient ; indeed she did not attempt to
conceal it. Everything was put aside to be done when Roger was

ae, lor William and he had so much to talk about and arranj
that there was no time to be given to an) thing else. Thenth

re perpetual interruptions from visitors; Farmer Kemp, :
John Hervcy, and Mr Shaw, and Mr Richardson, and even .Mr
Stewart, ol" HaUon, coming over to Sandcombc upon business or
from kindness. It was strange to find what an interest every one
took in Roger. I had not the least notion before, how much he
was respected ; but I don't think there is anything that makes
its way amongst country people like steady work and honesty.
It is better, even for this world, than great success, which is
thought so mucli of in town and manufacturing districts. I did
feel proud of Roger, as I watched him, with his fine, manly face,
and straightforward, yet respectful manner, standing talking to
Mr Stewart, and giving his opinions like a man who knows that
his words are of value, because they come from a true heart, and
a single eye, and a reverence for the laws of God and man. I
heard Mr Stewart say one day to William, that he never knew
before what they were all going to lose in Roger, and he couldn't
help wishing that something had been thought of to keep him in
England. But it was too late ; lime went on faster than I could
well bear to think, and at last there came the day before what I
light was to be the last parting. I scarcely saw Roger that
morning, for he went over to Ilatton to say good-bye to Mrs
iris and Jessie. He and Jessie were excellent friends again,
— all the more so for the little breeze. Nothing had been said
about it by either of them, but the few times that Jessie came to
Sandcombc whilst Roger was there, I remarked that he talked
more to her than he had ever done, whilst she on her part seemed
to lean to his opinion in all matters.

It sometimes seemed to me a pity, that he should be going
away, just when he was gaining an influence over her for good;
and yet I knew that it was little enough he could do for her. A
I of her age could not be guided by a man of Roger's age. If
any one could do her real good, it would be myself. I thought of
this still more when Roger came back from Ilatton. He had
dined there, and was going then to Longside ; and he might, he
said, be obliged to drive into Hove; but he hoped not, as it
would take up so much time. He had walked to Hatton, but


intended to ride to Longside; and while his horse ivas being
saddled, he made me come out with him into the garden; and
we walked up and down, and had a long conversation, and all
the time about Jessie, for she weighed a good deal upon my
mind. He said that she had come out more in this last meeting ,
I suppose the fact of his going away made her feel quite at ease.
She had told him that there was no one to look after her ; and that
she longed to have some person to cling to, who might guard

' She did not ask you to take her with you to Canada, did
she?' I said laughing.

He drew back his arm from me, as though I had struck him
with a dagger. ' I don't like those jokes, Ursie,' he said. ' If
you will only keep Jessie from the Shaws, she will soon find a
good husband without going to Canada to look for one.' He
was quite silent for some moments after that; and I was vexed,
though I had spoken innocently enough, knowing it was all
nonsense. He said a little more about William and Leah, and
bade me stay with them under all trials. ' You are too young,
Ursie,' he said, ' to cut the cable and set sail by yourself. Trust
to me, and if God should be pleased to give me health and
strength, we will have a home together again before many months
are over; and if not' — he stopped short in his walk, and laid
his hand upon my shoulder — 'Trot, little one, we must put
relations first, because God puts them first. God will help you
whatever comes.'

Those seem to me the last words I heard him speak ; for they
are the last which rested on my mind. He rode off to Longside,
and on his way met John Hervey, who took him on to Hove.
Things were to be done there which he found would keep him
till very late at night ; and he was obliged to be up very early
the next morning, to be in time for the London coach. Farmer
Kemp came over to tell us this, and brought a hasty note from
Roger, saying that he and John had settled that they must sleep
in Hove ; and to beg that all he had left might be sent in the
very first thing in the morning. Roger's hand shook, I am sure,
when he wrote that note ; and there was just at the end ' Cheer
up and trust ; God bless you ;' that was all. He had not a
moment to spare, Farmer Kemp said. I remember I stood quite
still in the middle of the room, and did not speak a word, till
Farmer Kemp came up to me and whispered, ' Courage, lassie;
and then quite quietly, for I could not bear to let any one see

1 84 URSULA.

what I felt, I answered, ' The things arc very nearly ready; I will
go and see about them ;' and up-stairs I went.

Not one tear did I shed till I found myself in bed at twelve
o'clock. It took me till then before all was ready; and oh!
how I longed all the time for a kind word and look. But
William was vexed that Roger had not thought of the plan
b lore ; and Leah was sadly put out because I was obliged to
keep the maid up when she would not help me herself; so they
neither of them gave me much comfort. So lonely, so \
ely I felt, when I lay down in my bed,— no words can
scribe it. I had a short night, scarcely to be called rest, and was
up at half-past four again, to finish the last box. At half-p.i t
live I watched the cart drive out of the yard ; and then I went
back to my room again, and instead of cryin \ I knelt down
and said all my troubles out to God, and that made me better.

The day after Roger went I thought i . over to sec Mrs

Weir. It must have looked, unkind not to have done so before,
but it was impossible. I was afraid Mrs Weir would not under-
stand this. People who are at leisure so little know what the
difficulties of busy people arc. Even now it was not very i
to find time for the walk ; for I had a dress to make for Mrs
Richardson, which had been put aside for Roger's work ; and I
had no means of gaining any extra hours, as Leah was inclined
to seize upon every moment to which she had the slightest claim,
and, ind-ed, upon some on which she had no claim. I had fore-
seen this from the beginning, and resolved to have, if possible, a
( 1 ar understanding with her about it. I took the opportunity,
when William was smoking his pipe after dinner, and she was
dawdling about, before setting to work for the afternoon.

'Leah,' I said, 'I thought of walking over to the Heath this
afternoon ; and perhaps I might have a cup of tea there : so you
needn't wait for me.'

"It is early days to be going, isn't it?' she said; 'and I
thought you wanted to sit quiet in the afternoon, and do your

' I should be back by half-past six,' I said, 'and I might work
between that and supper, and besides at odd times to-morrow,
and so make up. Mrs Weir will think it strange if I don't

1 There is house needlework to be done between tea and sup-
per,' replied Leah ; 'and as to odd times, I don't see where they
are to come from.'


' I might manage half-an-hcur before breakfast, perhaps/ I

Leah looked black. ' You will scarcely do needlework, and
get breakfast, too,' she said.

' I was not thinking of helping to get breakfast/ I answered.
' I thought, Leah, you always did that yourself.'

'I have done it since Jessie-went/ she replied; 'but I can't
go on with it. There are so many things to be seen to at night,
I must have more rest in the morning. And as for Martha, it is
useless to look to her ; she has to light the fires, and boil the
milk for the men. There is the dairy, too. I reckoned upon
your attending to that, Ursie. Some one must have an eye to it
early ; and then Martha can clean the milkpans, and put it in
order, whilst we are having our breakfasts.'

All very true ; only the breakfast was Leah's own duty.

' Don't you sec?' inquired Leah.

' Yes, I see,' was my reply. ' But, Leah, if I take to all this
in the morning, you must please spare me an hour to make up in
the evening. I don't mean when there is a press, but generally.'

'We can see : we'll talk about that/ she replied. 'It's best
to go on gradually. No one can mark out a day as you would
have it done, Ursie.'

. 'And I suppose you would like to have the poultry fed the
first thing after breakfast/ I said. 'Jessie used to do that, I

' 1 don't care about the poultry,' she replied, ' I have taken to
them myself", and I think it is better. But there's the meat in
the larder to be changed, and you could help Martha clean the
dishes ; and then there is the cooking.'

' I am not a good hand at cooking for so many,' I said ; ' I
suppose I shall have the girl to help ?'

' That is as may be. We shall see if she is wanted. After all,
there s not so much to be done. Bacon, and cabbage are easily
boiled for the men, and the maids eat after us.'

' You give the men fresh meat sometimes in the week, don't
you ?' I asked.

'Well! we used. But I find they do just as well without it.
And these aren't times when we can afford to have fancies.
Wiiliam is rather particular about his own dinners, Ursie ; and
I dare say, having been so much with Mrs Mason, you have
learned some things that may please him.'

'You will want a pudding, I suppose, for the men ?' I said.


'Why, res, to be sure; — it saves bacon. A], pies arc coming
in, but they are scarce this year, and I would have them kept for
William. Anything does for the men. They eat suet pudding
as often as not ; and baked rice and mill:, with a sprinkling of
sugar,— not eggs, of course. By the by, Ursie, the day after to-
morrow is baking day, and then William looks to having some
fruit tarts made ; and he complained last week that there
sweet cakes enough. He is like a child in being fond of sw

' The cooking and baking both will be more, I am afraid, than
I shall be able to undertake, Leah/ I said, ' considering that I
have needlework of my own to do besides.'

' It is only one day in the week,' she replied, ' and Jessie always
took the greatest pari upon herself.'

' Because she has nothing else to do,' I replied. ' What I can
put into the morning, I will; but I would not have you look to
for more than that, ; for, indeed, I don't think I shall
be able to manage it.'

' We shall see ; we can't settle beforehand ; only I thought,
Ursie, you were come to make yourself useful.'

I did not know what to answer, being sure that, whatever I
said, she would take my words as a kind of promise.

'And there's washing, too,' she continued, in an under-

' And help for that,' I said, boldly.

' Yes,— some.' Leah spoke doubtfully. 'Mrs Ilobson won't
come, since Kitty has been turned away, and the Hatton woman,
whom 1 've engaged, won't be enough.'

' But there arc Martha and the girl,' I said.

'Yes, but if they arc washing, who is to take their work ?'

' Really, Leah,' I said, 'if you mean that I am to do it, I don't
see how it is possible. There will be cooking on washing-days,
just as on any other, in the morning, and a great deal more fuss
in the house. If you help yourself, or have some one else to
help, we may do very well ; but all the willing horses in
England won't be able to draw a waggon if it is loaded too

' It will only come once in six weeks,' she said ; ' I have made
up my mind to that.'

'And the work will be all the more heavy,' I replied. ' If you
would have it once a month, and get proper help,. Leah, I am
sure you would find it belter.'


5 1 think, Ursie, you had best leave me to manage my own
affairs,' was the reply I had from her ; and she went off without
giving me any more definite notion of my work, or any bettet
idea of how it was all to be managed.

It was not hopeful, certainly. My thoughts turned back to
Roger and my hnppy home at Dene, with no one to interfere
with me ; all my duties regular and orderly, and Roger
always pleased- with me. I did not see how I could get on
as things were ; but still less did I see how God, by these little
trials, was teaching and training me.


FOR I bad great faults. They are clear to me now. At that
time I almost thought they were virtues. Left so early as
I was without a mother to search minutely into the defects of
my natural character, perhaps it is not surprising that they
were hidden from me ; although I can with truth say, that, in
the main, my heart's desire was to serve God and do my duty

Wilful and hasty I had no doubt that I was ; I had been
punished for these faults continually, and Roger had again and
again corrected me for them. Some people, too, said I was self-
trusting and conceited ; but my conscience, on a surface examina-
tion, in a measure, acquitted me. If persons were set over me
whom I respected, I could obey, and be glad to do so. I knew
this, and it satisfied me, and I looked no deeper. I did not see
that there was at the bottom of my heart a love of rule and in-
dependence, even underneath my apparent submission. I could
not give up my own will, merely because it was ordered by God's
providence that I should do so. I dearly loved to feel myself
my own mistress, and wherever I was placed, I was inclined to
criticise and find fault with any person who claimed authority
over me ; and all this did not appear to me wrong. I had but
one desire — that things should be done in the right way. I for-
got that it was necessary also that they should be done by the
right person.

And so again as regarded independence of character, the
wish to provide for myself, and make my own way in the world.


'1 hcse were dispositions in which I saw no harm and suspected
no danger. They had worked well hitherto. They had, I knew,

been a great resistance to Roger, and very much lessened his
anxiety in parting with me. They had given me a position in
Mrs Weir's household, and enabled me to be of far greater use to
her than I could have been if I had merely done as I was told,
without offering an opinion, or showing th it I was able to work
out my own path. I could not help feeling that I had gained a
standing for myself in the world, even beyond my age, and it
seemed to me that I had nothing to do but to go on as I had
1 . un, and all must be well. For several years past, day by d .
insensibly to myself, my self-dependence had increased. Ifl had
continued with Mrs Weir, gaining influence over her and her
household, it must have gone on increasing, and who can s ly
• the end might have been ?

We are often warned against our besetting sin. I am not at
all sure whether we do not need a much stronger warning against
our besetting characteristic. One thing I am sure of, that the
inconsistencies and weaknesses which I have marked in some of
the best persons I have ever known, have arisen from some
tendency in the natural disposition, in itself innocent, but which
altered the right balance of the character. Too much hope, or
too little, too great excitability, too great rapidity in forming
inions, too great fear of giving pain, too much caution ; many
such peculiarities there are, which are no doubt necessary as
forming the particular features of every individual character, and
yet which require in each case especially to be watched and
gu rd da .oust.

In my own case I knew that I had a great love of indi p nd-
ence ; when it became wilfulness I was scolded and punished
for it. Yet it was only because it was wilfulness ; no one would
have thought of punishing me for liking independence. It would
have been very unjust and unfair to do so ; but then no one
thought of whispering in my car : — 'Take car.- that your love
of independence does not become a fault by blinding your eyes
to duty.'

It may be said that religion ought to have set all that right,
I so no doubt it ought ; but how few become thoroughly reli-
gious at once. We may think ourselves converted because we
have gone through a certain state of sorrow and repentance, and
no doubt such feelings arc very often the beginning of a holy
life, but they are by no means the end. Religion must, I


imagine, be with us all a matter of growth ; and as to myself I
do not remember that I ever had any of those seasons of excited
feelings which I know that many pass through. Times there
were, indeed, when I was more penitent, or more earnest, or
thankful, but it was all in a quiet way — Rogers way — in which
there was very little talking about feelings.

In some respects I dare say this was a snare to me, for there
are dangers wherever one turns. I was likely to go to sleep over
my duties, or do them in a slovenly manner, and this would

Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellUrsula; a tale of country life → online text (page 18 of 56)