Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

Ursula; a tale of country life online

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far that it brought Mrs Kemp over to know the truth of the
report, and ask if she could be of any use. John Hervey drove
her over. I was glad to have the opportunity of talking to him
about Mrs Weir, for I knew that I might not have him long to
consult. He talked of taking another house now that he had
more money, and moreover he was so continually at Longside,
and with Mary Kemp, that I had little doubt how things were
going on, and that he would soon be entirely taken up with his
own affairs. ' What is all this I hear, Ursie ? ' said Mrs Kemp,
as she came into the parlour, looking the picture of kindness
and good-humour. ' Fine doings and strange ones they tell me !
— I hadn't a notion that Sandcombe could excite such a commo-
tion in the world.'

' What do you mean ?' I said.

'Why! I was in Hove yesterday, gossiping as you know
one always does there — and wherever I went it was " Well !
Mrs Kemp, of course we are to meet you at Sandcombe," — till
at last I opened my eyes, and found that I was in for a grand
entertainment, instead of a quiet little tea-party. Whose doing
is it?'

' I can tell,' said John Hervey ; 'not Ursie's, you may be sure.'

' Not mine, indeed,' I said ; ' but when one hasn't strength to
go against the stream, one must needs turn round and go with
it ; — so, dear Mrs Kemp, you are come just in time to give me
all kinds of advice, — and, Mr Hervey, you are just in time too,
for I wanted to ask you what you had heard lately about Stone-
cliff and Mrs Weir.'


'About Mrs Weir is soon told,' he said ; 'she is gone.'

'Gone!' I exclaimed; and I felt terribly frightened.
' Where ? What do you mean ? Gone ! By herself?'

' Not quite so bad as that. Mrs Temple has carried her off
safely enough. But the report is, that it was not till Mrs Weir
l,.i 1 made the effort to walk off by herself.'

I sat quite silent for a (c\v moments, for I was thurj
struck ; bitter tears of self-reproach gathered in my eyes, and I
d —

' I would have seen her, I would have done anything for her,
God knows ; but lately they would seldom let me go near her.
Poor lady ! and she must have thought me so neglectful. Did
she really try to go away by herself?'

'So they say,' replied John. 'That is, the night before last
she got up, and began packing her things, and saying she
couldn't be absent from her husband any longer, and talking so
that the young woman who took Jessie's place was quite fright-
ened, and called up Mrs Temple : and the end of it was, that
yesterday afternoon they all went off, where, no one seems quite
to know. Letters are to be sent to London. The cook who is
left in charge of the house brought me a note from Mrs Temple
about some business matters, and that was how I heard it all,
for they kept it very close. She says that she is nearly sure Mrs
Weir believed she was really to be taken to her husband, but of
course there is no thought of that.'

' They are much more likely to take her to a lunatic asylum,'
said Mrs Kemp.

I started up, and almost screamed. ' Oh ! never, never, it is
impossible. She is no more out of her mind than I am. It is
only the way they have gone on with her.'

'There is no fear of an asylum,' said Mr Hcrvcy. 'At least
not without clear proof that her brain is troubled. Mrs Temple
knows quite well how far she may go. Most likely she is taken
up to London for medical advice.'

' One drop of kindness would do more for her than a hundred
drops of medicine,' I exclaimed. ' Oh ! if I had never left her,
if I had only gone my own way and lived with her !'

' Matters mightn't have been one jot better,' said Mrs Kemp,
quietly. 'We mustn't judge of anything we do by its conse-
qu nces, Ursie V

I fan ied John Ilervey looked as though he rather agreed with
me, and considered I had keen wrong ; and I remembered how,


some time ago, he had blamed me for not interfering to prevent
Mrs Weir's going to Stonecliff. The thought was very painful
to me, and my head was in such a state of confusion from sur-
prise and worry that I could not reason clearly.

'Poor child! I don't like to see you take on so,' said Mrs
Kemp, for I could keep up no longer, and my tears fell fast.

' I believed I should hear from Miss Milicent to-day,' I said ;
'and then I meant to have gone over at once to Mr Richardson,
if he is come back, and consulted him.'

' He came last night,' said John ; ' I should not wonder if that
had something to do with Mrs Temple's sudden move. She has
a mortal dislike to Mr Richardson, only one degree greater than
she has to you, Ursie.'

' She is a wretch,' I exclaimed ; ' a hypocrite ! '

Mrs Kemp gently touched my arm. 'Not quite, Ursie. I
dare say she thinks that she is going the right way to work.'

' She may do so,' I replied ; 'but one thing I am quite sure
of, that the thing which deludes Mrs Temple, if she is deluded,
is her own selfishness. It was to suit her own convenience that
she first took Mrs Weir into her house, and it is to suit her own
convenience that she keeps her there, and it was for that she was
always preaching about self-denial, and taking from Mrs Weir
all the little things which amused and pleased her. And it is
selfishness, too,' I added, ' which keeps Miss Milicent abroad ;
and they may, both of them, build up ever so fine a fabric of
good in their own fashion, but the foundation is selfish, and
therefore I have no faith in any of it. I must say it out, and
then I shall be better.'

John Hervey smiled. ' Well ! Mrs Kemp,' he said ; ' we shall
know where to come if we want to learn the use of strong words.
I think I had better go out, and find William or Roger, and leave
you to calm Ursie down if you can.'

It seemed very unkind in him to leave me so ; but I was too
proud to show what I felt.

He went to the door, and then came back looking for his hat.

' You needn't part as if you were angry,' said Mrs Kemp.

' I am not angry,' I replied, ' but I know Mr Hervey blames
me. Yet it cannot be so much as I blame myself. If I had lived
with Mrs Weir, all this would never have happened.'

' That is, if you had had the ordering of events, they would
have been different,' said Mrs Kemp. ' Ursie, that is surely a
bit presumptuous. You did your duty.'


I longed, I can't tell how much, for John to say the same. I
felt it was the onl) thing which would satisfy me.

'John Hervey thinks so,' continued Mrs Kemp.

' John Hervey does not think so,' I replied, looking at him.

He stood quite silent fur an instant, then taking my hand as
though to wish me good-bye, lie said earnestly, 'John Hervey
does not know what he thinks, except that he would cut off his
right hand to see you happy. If possible, you shall have news
of Mrs Weir in the course of a clay or two.'

Mrs Kemp's eyes were fixed upon me intently.

'He is such a true, kind friend,' I said, as he left the room. I
was afraid whether she might think he was heartier in his man-
ner to me than he was to Mary.


Jessie was

KEMP and I were left alone for nearly an hour.
is gone over to Dene to call on Mrs Price. I
had wished Roger to let the acquaintance drop, but, as he said,
there seemed a kind of ungraciousness in this, when Mrs Price
had shown Jessie so much kindness, and therefore he went with
her, making an excuse of business with Captain Price. I did
not know that there was much to object to, only it was perpetually
going about, and this I said to Mrs Kemp when she asked me,
in her blunt way, how things were working.

'If I was not here,' I said, 'she and Roger would both see
matters differently, and I don't think he would be so foolish with
her ; but as it is, there is no doubt he spoils her. Sometimes I
fancy it would be right in me to determine upon making a change
for myself.'

' You had better wait till the way is pointed out,' replied Mrs
Kemp. ' It would be making yourself responsible for a good
to go away and leave Jessie to herself ; though I don't at all
say it might not be better for her by and by.'

' If one could be quite sure of her,' I said ; 'but she frightens

me a good deal sometimes. Her very good-nature is a snare,

she is so willing to please every one, and that, and the love of

; out, one can never say how much mischief it may lead to

— and Roger, so blind as he is.'


'There will come some children, by and by,' said Mrs Kemp,
' raid that will make a great difference. It sobers a woman
vastly, Ursie, to have little helpless things to take care of.'

'And till then I must look after her,' I said. 'Dear Mrs
Kemp, are sisters made for nothing but to look after their
brother's wives ? '

'You are sharp, Ursie,' replied Mrs Kemp.

Yes, I was sharp, and I was sorry for it directly.

' If it had been anyone but Roger,' I said; 'but that he
should have thrown himself away !'

' Roger was your idol, my dear,' said Mrs Kemp very gravely.

Her tone struck me forcibly. I did not know she read my
heart so well.

' Yes,' I said, ' he was my idol.'

'And God has broken your idol. It seems to me you have
more cause to be thankful than to complain.'

'Ah,' I said, 'you don't know. The feeling grew up with me
from childhood, I had no one else to look to.'

'Except God.'

I could make no answer.

' I suppose, my dear,' continued Mrs Kemp, 'most of us make
idols to ourselves some time in our lives. I know I have done so ;
and I remember how unjust I was in consequence.'

' Unjust ! ' I exclaimed.

'Yes, my dear. It must be unjust to fancy a man an angel,
and then to quarrel with him because he proves himselt a

'You mean,' I said, ' that I am hard upon Roger.'

' I think, my dear, that what would be called mistakes in other
people, are called faults in him, and that is rather hard.'

' Only because I loved him, because I do love him so dearly,'
I said ; ' there is no one like him now.'

' I don't think there is, my dear. The way he goes on work-
ing, and improving, and setting an example all round the country,
is quite a lesson, as the farmer says ; and if he does let his wife
go out a little, and see her friends, it is never at the expense of
his own business. Just see how Sandcombe has improved since
he has had it.'

'Yes,' I said, for I was delighted to hear him praised, 'he
has turned off the idle men, and the new ones are kept twice as
strictly, and he has his eye upon all the cottages ; and as to the
house, it is not like the same place.'


'And he has but one fault,' said Mrs Kemp; 'lie over-
indulges his wife'

'Only one,' I replied ; 'but that is a great fault; at least, it
may lead to great evil.'

'I grant you that,' she answered. 'A good man's one fault,
1 often think, does more mischief than a bad man's twenty sins,
which sounds a hard doctrine, but I doubt if it isn't a true one.
Anyhow, it is vexatious.'

' And it seems so unkind to dwell upon it so much,' I continued,
' when I think how very kind and thoughtful he has been towards
me. How few brothers would have hesitated to marry because
their sisters had an indirect claim upon them ? And I am sure
Roger was quite honest when he said that he would not have
thought of his own happiness if it had stood in the way of my
having a home and a provision.'

' Very few, indeed, my dear,' observed Mrs Kemp, emphati-
cally ; ' and yet it would be wrong to quarrel with those who
take a different view of duty. We must not lay more burdens
upon others than God has thought fit to do. There is no doubt
that you could very well have worked for yourself.'

' And so it was all the more kind of Roger to be so considerate,"
I added. 'Yes, I see that plainly ; it is a constant reproach to
mc when I feel provoked with him or with Jessie. But, den-
Mrs Kemp, how can one help one's feelings ? 1 think I am a
little better than I was ; but just at first, when they came home,
every word and action seemed to jar upon me.'

' There is fault on both sides, probably,' she replied. 'All
your life, Ursie, you have expected more from Roger than any
sister has a riedit to do.'

' It was love,' I said, ' not exactingness.'

' But love is no excuse,' answered Mrs Kemp ; 'at least so it
seems to me. You know, Ursie, God has been pleased to put us
in certain relations to each other, by the ordering of His provi-
dence. YYc may alter these relations, but we can't expect Hits,
therefore, to alter His providence.'

' I don't quite understand,' I said.

'Why, it is just this. God made you and Roger brother and
sister, not husband and wife. It is His will that a wife should
come first, and a sister second. Now, if you bestow upon Roger
a wife's affection, — and you do so when you arc anxious to keep
him all to yourself, and give up'everything else for him,— you do
in a way alter the arrangement which God has been pleased to


mark out, and you mustn't be surprised if things don't go quite
easily in consequence.'

I did not quite like this repeated allusion to my private feelings.
I hoped no one had ever noticed them. But Mrs Kemp was so
simple and straightforward, there was no escaping from her

' I don't think,' I said, ' that I have had any choice in the
matter. Whatever feeling I may have had for Roger, it grew up

' But there was common sense to teach you, my dear,' replied
Mrs Kemp; 'to say nothing of experience. Brothers marry,
and sisters are parted from them, every day. But I do think you
never would see that it was likely to be the same with Roger and

Mrs Kemp was right there ; I had wilfully shut my eyes.

She continued : 'And so, Ursie, I am afraid that some of the
aggravations are of your own making. That doesn't mean that
I am not sorry for you, dear child,' and she laid her hand kindly
on mine.

I felt proud for the moment, and answered, ' No doubt I am to
blame ; but I can't help thinking that if Roger had been only
like any other brother to me, I should still have been jarred by
a great many things when they first came home.'

' Very likely,' she replied. 'It is a rare case when new rela-
tions are formed in a family without jarring. Sisters are jealous,
and brothers are inconsiderate, and young wives don't quite know
their proper position ; and so between them, as often as not, they
make a-mess of it.'

* I don't think Roger is inconsiderate,' I was going to say, but
I stopped, for I remembered some trifles in which he certainly
had been so ; but not choosing to blame him, I added : ' It may
have been quite right, but it did seem strange to see Jessie, all of
a sudden, taking upon herself to do everything for Roger which
I had been accustomed to do, and to hear her enter into all our
affairs as if they were her own ; when, three or four weeks before,
she would have felt it quite a favour if we had told her anything 1
about them.'

' That is just what I meant,' replied Mrs Kemp. ' I speak the
more about it, because it was the blunder I made myself when I
married. I rushed into my husband's family, and because they
were good-natured to me, thought I couldn't do better than make
myself quite one with them ; and so I took it for granted that I

2 B


was lo everything, and talk of everything) and give my

opinion, till at last I found out that, what they were quite willing
to offer me as a favour, they were not at all willing that 1 should
all ( .f a sudden claim as a right. I drew back then, and was more
timid, and only worked my way by degrees, and in the end it all

c.uiie right, hut it was some time first, liven as regards attention
to her husband, a young wife is more prudent in keeping a little
quiet when she is with his family. She will have opportunities
enough of looking after him in her own home. Remember
though, Ursic,' added Mrs Kemp laughing, ' that is only one side
of the question. I say it is prudent and kind for a wife to
remember these things; but I don't say that a sister has any
right to quarrel if she forgets them. Husband and wife are
meant to be all in all to each other.'

'And to show that they arc so?' I said. ' I wish I could have
thought of that more when Roger and Jessie fust came home ;
I am sure I should have borne things better. Jessie has no notion
of concealing anything she feels; and it was "darling" and
"dearest" constantly, and a ileal more expression in all

ways than I should have thought Roger could bear. But I was
wrong. I do really think I was wrong in caring about it.'

' Such a time is trying to all, my dear. I don't think you were
wrong exactly. It is a thing one can't be expected to get over
suddenly, when persons who, a short time before, were just kind
and polite to each other, begin using such very affectionate terms
without hesitation. And you had but a short apprenticeship ;
for Roger and Jessie weren't engaged very long, and she always
seemed to me rather loo much afraid of him than to be very
outspoken as to her feelings. If we could place old heads upon
'young shoulders, young people would be careful how they thrust
their fondness for each other upon their relations, however near
and dear. It is not pleasant to witness, I know that by experi-

' No,' I exclaimed, ' not at all ; and what is worst, is for them
to turn round, remembering one is present, and give one a kiss,
as a kind of apology.'

Mrs Kemp smiled. ' Trials ! my dear, trials ! But there is
one cure for them, — to look at the truth. The feeling is not
wrong, only the expression is unwise. Happy marriages are
so frequent that one should be put out at anything which ;
proof of affection. If Roger had been gloomy, and Jessie cold,
you would have been much more unhappy.'


* I should have been miserable,' I exclaimed.'

*And twenty years hence, if it should please God to spare
all your lives, the very words and actions which give you
a turn now, will be your comfort and delight. I am sure,
Ursie, you like to see old married people fond of each other ;
witness what I 've heard you say about my dear old man and

' If you were to kiss and call each other " dearest " all day long,
I shouldn't care/ I exclaimed, earnestly. ' Dear Mrs Kemp, you
know it does my heart good to see the farmer and you to-
gether. It makes one feel that, after all, married love is not

' It is no delusion, my dear,' she answered ; 'it is a very great
and blessed reality. But when first granted, young folks don't
understand it, and their heads are most times turned by it ; all
the more reason, Ursie, why old folks, and quiet-minded ones,
should be patient, and exercise the " charity which beareth all
things." '

Mrs Kemp talked a good deal more after this upon more gene-
ral subjects, and in most of them I think we agreed. One piece
of advice given me I particularly remember. It was as to the way
in which I should look at disagreeable things ; such, for instance,
as the frets caused by the false position in which Jessie was
placed, — mistress, when she chose to give orders, and not mis-
tress when she wished to escape from her duties.

' It is very awkward and unpleasant, my dear,' said Mrs Kemp ;
'and I don't think you will gain anything by trying to persuade
yourself that it is not. You know, Ursie, if you go to a child
with a dose of medicine, which is not really nasty, and tell him
that it is nice wine, ten to one but the child turns quite against
it ; whereas, if you say that it is medicine, he drinks it down, and is
surprised to find it so little disagreeable. We are all like children,
it seems to me, and must needs treat ourselves upon the same
principles ; and perhaps life itself, with all its trials, would be less
hard if at the beginning we faced the fact, that it was intended
to be medicine and not wine.'

Those words were a great help to me. Roger, and Jessie, and
William, were so satisfied with everything, and so willing to
imagine that I was satisfied also, that I had been trying lately to
bring myself into their views, and fighting, as it were, against my
own convictions. My mind rested quite quietly in the certainty
that I had trials intended for my good, and that all was not as I

3 83 URSULA.

could wish, but as God saw best for me ; and I was able then to
acknowledge more thankfully the great alleviations which He had
dully provided.


FOR there were very great and hourly alleviations, and not
alleviations only, but blessings. Looking back on the tone
of complaint which has pervaded all I have lately been writing,
it would seem as though I entirely overlooked them. But I trust
this was not so. With a home and friends, and constant useful
occupation, and the prospect of a certain independence, I mi
have been a source of envy to thousands. Perhaps the very
absence of great anxieties made me all the more alive to lesser
ones. Moreover there was one circumstance which I knew I
ought never to forget. If Roger had settled in Canada, and I
had been compelled to remain with William at Sandcombc, my
life would not only have been sadly dreary; but the responsi-
bility would have been greater than I could, with any comfort,
have undertaken. As it was, the place was always cheerful, and
Jessie, in her good nature, took a great deal from me in the way
of waiting upon William, though even then she never seemed to
acknowledge that the duty belonged to her especially, and that
if she neglected it, no one else could be expected to attend to it.
If an invitation or a plan for any kind of pleasure was proposed,
she left William without a thought, considering apparently, that
it was quite my place to provide for him whilst she was away.
The result of this was, as I saw, that the occupation was in the
end likely to become irksome, for no duty is a pleasure, unless
we feel that it cannot be performed without us. Then it becomes
important, and when it is important, we like it.

But I am always talking of Jessie and her shortcomings, and
never of myself. In some ways I feel the subject too grave and
painful to be entered upon willingly, for indeed this was not a
d and happy period of my life internally. To be always in a
lr t, always prepared to be irritated, and to feel, whether justly
or unjustly, that you have a cause for such irritation, is by no
mc:;ns conducive to that holy calmness and trust which we should


ail strive to attain. And as Mrs Kemp suggested, I had begun
life with a delusion. For I do not call my love for Roger in
itself a fault. It was founded upon the pure and hallowed feel-
ings of affection which God has implanted in every breast. But,
in its extent, it was, little though I imagined it, very selfish. To
keep him to myself, I would have excluded him from the highest
happiness which earth can give. Now my heart in its loneliness
was wandering over the dreary world, seeking rest and finding
none, and at times returning to the ark, which had once been
its shelter, only to find the door closed against it, and to set
forth again on the seemingly hopeless search after a love on
which to repose undoubtingly. Yet I did not understand myself.
I did not know what I was suffering from, or what I needed,
though it is all plain to me know. I believed, indeed, I felt that
I was religious; I acted upon religious principles, I tried to
frame my life according to the precepts of the Bible. When I
spoke to others of their duties, it was always with reference to
the one great motive of pleasing God. And the thought of the
great account which I should one day have to give before Him,
if not always uppermost in my thoughts, had still sufficient in-
fluence to be a constant check upon my evil inclinations, and a
warning whenever I had given way to them.

But through it all, my heart, — my quick, earnest, devoted
love,— was given to Roger. Instead of loving him for God's
sake, I loved God, if I may say so, for his sake, and the result
was that religion had never made me thoroughly happy. I do
not say that I had yet found out my mistake, but my eyes were
opening to it. When human affection disappointed me, my
reason, if not my feelings, turned to God. Rest and comfort, and
fulness of joy were I knew to be found with Him, and in the
bitterness of my disappointment, I turned to Him almost without
understanding why. Again and again when I had no one else
to speak to, no friend to whom I could explain my wretchedness,
I said it out to my Saviour, not so much praying Him to help
me, as telling Him what I suffered. It was a relief always at
hand, and insensibly it became very precious to me, and the
thought that He could quite understand, that He knew and

Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellUrsula; a tale of country life → online text (page 37 of 56)