Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

Ursula; a tale of country life online

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were made about my sister, if I had one, I should shut her up.'

I started. ' Remarks made upon Jessie!' I exclaimed. 'Is
she really so imprudent ? O Mr Hervey ! this is far worse than
I had imagined.'

' Now, don't be so hasty,' he answered, laughing a little. ' I
did not say anything, or, at least, mean anything, which you need
take such fright at. I am so particular myself, that to hear a
sister of mine called flighty would be enough to make me turn
the key upon her, and say, " Stay at home, because you are n t

47-2 URSULA.

fit to go out ;" but that is not the way of the world, you know.
Ursic ; and young women in the present day have very free-and-
easy fashions, and yet after a time come all right.'

'I bate their fashions,' I exclaimed; 'for a womnn to bring
herself into such notice by dress, or manner, or action, let the
thing be ever so innocent in itself, is detestable.'

'I quite agree with you,' he said; 'and all I meant
about Jessie was, that she does manage to do things which draw
such notice. Her dress is one point, and I heard Mrs Kemp
say she did think she should mention that to you. It is my
belief that somehow or other your sister-in-law takes the patterns
after Mrs Price ; any way, I know that when I saw her in church
last Sunday I did not know her, she had such a showy look, and
r was quite grave when some one joked him about it.'

' She is too silly,' I replied ; ' she has always been a perfect
baby about dress, taking to every new fashion as it came out, and
never once considering how unfitting it might be.'

' There is one thing graver than all, though,' said John, ' as
we have stumbled upon the subject. I didn't mean to worry you
about it, only'

' Tell me everything,' I exclaimed ; 'let me know the worst.'

' How impatient you are ! Not at all changed for being in
France,' said John, laughing. ' You may probably know as
much as I do, for it concerns the past more than the present.'

' The past ! ' I said ; ' what past ? What do you mean ? I
know nothing.'

' Indeed ! ' he replied. 'Not that Jessie was writing letters
to Mr Macdonald, and encouraging him, up to the very day she
accepted Roger?'

'To the best of my knowledge,' I replied, 'she refused Mr
Macdonald flatly, and afterwards never had anything to do with
him, except going over to Dene occasionally with Miss Milicent.'

' The world does not say so,' answered John, gravely.

'Then the world tells falsehoods, as it always does,' I re-

' I wouldn't have you be so sure of that,' he answered. ' It
is said that Mr Macdonald has letters of hers in his possession,
and that he shows them about as a proof of her having jilted

I did not start then, or even speak ; I sat quite still, for I felt

'Have I troubled you so very much?' said John, looking


much distressed. ' I thought, to be sure, you knew everything,
and Roger too. Many girls will flirt with one man, and then
turn round and marry another ; though I can say nothing to
excuse them. But, of course, in such a case people will talk.'

' Talk ! ' I exclaimed, and the sound of my voice was, even to
my own ears, sharpened by anger and misery. ' Talk of Roger's
wife ! O Mr Hervcy ! is it to be borne ?'

' Ursie, you must be reasonable,' he said, and his tone, though
kind, was severe. ' 1 will tell you nothing if you will not use
common sense to control yourself. I had not the least idea of
raising such a storm.'

' You don't know,' I replied, ' you can little imagine what
may come from all this. Jessie a jilt ! Think what Roger
would say ! '

' I don't like to think,' he said. ' But no one can undo the
past. What I really want to explain to you is the state of things
at present.'

' I don't want explanation,' I replied, proudly. ' I scorn the
opinion of the world. Let Jessie have been what she may, she
is as true in heart to her husband now as the most model wife
that ever breathed.'

' So say I,' replied John, ' so says Mrs Kemp, so say all who
really know her. But the world will not judge her so kindly,
Ursie, when it sees her seeking the company of such persons as
Mrs Price and her friends, — walking with them in Hove, joining
them after church, — and this besides going out visiting far more
than people are used to in our neighbourhood, and dressing in a
way which even quiet Mrs Richardson has been heard to lament
as setting a bad example. A woman's character before marriage
follows her afterwards, Ursie, as you yourself will be inclined to
allow ; and people who declare that Jessie was a flirt and a jilt
— it grieves me to use the words, though I only tell you what I
hear — before she became Roger's wife, still look askance at her;
especially when Mr Macdonald goes about talking of all that
went on with him, and Mrs Price is heard to lament that her
poor little friend has made a mistake.'

' They are mean, miserable, revengeful,' I exclaimed. ' There
is no truth nor honour in them.'

' I don't think there is,' he replied. ' I am quite sure, indeed,
from things I have heard, that Mr Macdonald speaks ill of her
from spite and wounded vanity. He does not choose to let it be
believed that another was really preferred to him.'


'And Mrs Price is spiteful also,' I said. 'She had reckoned

upon Jessie as one of her own set, and she is provoked with her
having married out of it ; and now she is resolved to have
her . whether it is Roger's will or not I don't care

for tli m, Mr Hervey. I don't care for the world, or its opinions,
or its talk, except with the anger of a moment What I do care

for is '

:,' said John, and his voice trembled, I thought, with

kindly sympathy. I would not look towards him ; I could not

bear him to sec my tears. 'You have been more Roger's wife

in devotion to him than Jessie has been,' he added, 'though her

may be great now.'

I paused to reply. An indescribable yearning for affection —
a sense of wasted feelings — oppressed me. It was sonv thing
with which I could not trust myself, and I turned from the sub-
ject abruptly, and said, 'We must talk now of Mrs Weir ; we
■ said enough of Sandcombc.'

All John Ilervey's thoughtful tenderness of manner vanished,
I could not tell why. He became the straightforward, prudent
man of business ; and in a few moments we were as deep in the
intricacies and difficulties of Mrs Weir's afi'airs as though R03 I
and Jessie, Sandcombe and Dene, had existed only in fiction.


MISS MILICENT would not see John Hervey that even-
ing, and I was half afraid that she might take it into her
head again to make some excuse the next morning ; but she
came to me soon after eight o'clock, prepared, as she said,
to go into all particulars. I think her resolution had been
strengthened by hearing that M. Dalange might be in Paris
almost immediately. She wished me to be present at the inter-
view ; but I declined. My position in the family was already
sufficiently awkward. I had more authority than could prop I
have belonged to me under ordinary circumstances, and it was
a perpetual effort to me to keep my place so as not to create
ill-will. I was more especially particular as regarded money
matters. What I had done already was entirely on the plea of
", health, for which I felt myself responsible. I 1


no business to interfere in any other way, and I had already
made John Hervey aware of the danger I dreaded from Miss
Milicent's imprudence, so that he would be quite sufficiently on
his guard.

The interview was a very long one. I began to be fidgety as
it drew near to twelve o'clock, lest Mr Weir should come out of
his room, and be roused by the sight of a stranger ; but, just as
the clock struck, the door of the salon opened, and John Hervey
ran down-stairs, whilst Miss Milicent went to her room. That
augured no satisfaction on her part ; if she had been pleased,
she would have come at once to tell me.

Mr Weir had his breakfast, and read his letters. I happened
to go into the room at the time, and remarked that he looked
troubled. He spoke to me hastily, and desired me to tell Miss
Milicent to be ready for him in ten minutes. This was an excuse
for going to her, which I was glad to have. She heard my mes-
sage without making any reply ; but as I was going away, she
called me back again.

' You are dying to know, Ursie. I wish you would speak out
and say what you want. Your John Hervey and I have had a

I replied that I had fancied as much.

' Yes ; we have had a quarrel, and we may have many more
before we have done. He talks law to me, and I can't endure

' Only, unfortunately, Miss Milicent, we are all forced to do
so,' I said.

' I don't choose to be forced. I never have attended to it yet,
and I don't see why I am to begin now. It may be law, but it
isn't justice, Ursie Grant, that a woman should not have the
control of her own money.'

' And how can Mr Hervey interfere ? ' I asked.

' He says there are trustees. I don't care for trustees. When
my old aunt left me my money, she meant me to do what I liked
with it, for she was very fond of me. She always gave me five
shillings at Christmas, and half-a-crown at Easter, and she never
dreamed of my being worried in this way.'

' But if Mr Hervey tells you the truth, Miss Milicent,' I replied,
'you will scarcely be angry with him.'

' I don't see that. When the doctor gives you a dose of medi-
cine, you are not obliged to him, and, ten to one, but you would
throw it away if you could,'

47 6 URSULA.

' Not quite,' I answered. ' I take it, though I dislike it.'

'Well! and so have I taken whit John Ileivey says. I
listened to him like a lamb ; but I told him 1 didn't believe a
word he said ; and I mean to talk to my Hither about it.'

This would indeed produce a storm. I trembled for the con-
sequences of my advice when I thought how it might affect .Mrs
Weir. 'Is Mr Hervey coming here again, Mis; Milicent?' I

'I don't know. He will be of little use if he does c
What am I to say to M. Dalange ? '

'That you can have nothing to do with his schemes, I

' Very well for you to say, Ursie,' was her answer ; ' but if you

have to save a father from ruin ' her voice trembled, and she


It was very true. In my interest for Mrs Weir I forgot the
claims of the other parent, and I longed to see John again, that
1 might hear from himself what advice he had given. From
.Miss Milicent I could expect nothing but vagueness. She went
out with her father, and left me alone with Mrs Weir. It was a
very cold day, and the wood tire, though bright and cheerful,
did not thoroughly heat the apartment like one of English coal.
Mrs Weir sat hovering over it. I could not make her warm,
though I wrapped her in shawls, and rubbed her feet and hands.
She only allowed me to do this for a little while, and said she
was afraid I should tire myself. 'And it is not well to be waited
upon so much, Ursula,' she added ; 'so you had better go out
and leave me.'

' I have not read to you to-day, dear ma'am,' I replied.
' Perhaps if you would let me do that you would be better.'

' No ; not now, thank you. I am cold, Ursula. People in
Paris are always cold. They said so when I was young. It was
a long time ago. I came to Paris then, and I had a little sister,
and she came too, and somebody else came. But I wish to do
my duty to my husband, and so I am with him. If he wishes
to go back, I shall go back too.'

There was a connection of ideas in the speech, incoherent
though it was. I, who knew her history, could trace it, and I
thought I would try the experiment of taking her back to those
old times. ' Were you a large party, ma'am,' I said, ' when you
first came to Paris ?'

'There were five of us, Ursula ; my father, and my mother,


and my sister, and — my husband doesn't like his name men-
tioned, so you won't ask me about him. But Paradise is a
haupy place. He must be quite at home there now, for he has
been there a long time.'

' It won't be very long before we shall all be at home there, I
hope, dear ma'am,' I said.

' Not long ; — no ; and Mr Richardson said, one day, I need
not be afraid, and I don't think I am. But, Ursula, I should
like to be thankful as I ought ; for you know heaven is a gift.'

' It is not easy to be thankful aright, I am afraid, ma'am,' I
said ; ' many care so much more for earth than they do for

'Is it so?' and Mrs Weir looked up at me with an air of
momentary wonder. ' They cannot know what it is. Ursula, do
you ever think how pleasant the angels' language will be?'

Think ! alas ! that future existence in which Mrs Weir
already lived, was to me — busy, and anxious, and interested
in the things of this life — still far, far off. I laid my hand upon
hers, and said : ' Dear ma'am, I have never learned to think as
I ought, though you have often tried to teach me, but if you will
tell me now about the angels' language, I am sure I shall be glad
to listen.'

' Oh no,' she replied, sadly, but very gently. ' It cannot be
told, it can only be thought about. My mind wanders when with
you, Ursula. It never wanders with my Saviour, only sometimes
it grows so mournful because He suffered, and had no help, and
no one thanked Him. And then I do not quite know about my
life now ; I cannot think, and I forget ; yet I still talk to Him ;
and if my head is confused He understands. But I should like
the angels' language. They must always tell quite what they
mean, and I cannot.'

Mrs Weir passed her hand over her eyes, and a painful look
of bewilderment rested on her features. Yes, she was confused,
troubled, — life was a misty perplexity to her ; yet through it all,
the Love which is the one great, enduring reality, was growing,
and strengthening, and gathering into itself every other feeling,
— even that which had been the blissful dream of her youth.
She was urgent with me that I should go out ; and, finding that
I really could be of no material use to her for the next hour or
two, I consented, as I had really seen very little of Paris, and the
woman of the house had promised to take me to the Hotel de
Ville, and several other places which she said were worth seeing.

478 LA.

A greater contrast could n . have existed than between the
quietness and sacredness of Mrs Weir's room, with the sociay
of one whose thou re dwelling with tl Is, and I

crowd which thronged the streets of Paris. I was am / d :
] i ,.! |p being so, and for the time I grossed by

the scene. Now, I doubt if I could be, under similar circum-
uces ; but those were comparatively young days, and life,
with all its trials, and even some at the moment very pressing,
was full of novelty and excitement in that foreign land.


WE went to the Hotel de Ville, and the Church of Notre
Dame, and afterwards to the Palais dc Justice and
the Sainte Chapelle. My eyes were dazzled with bright colours,
and I was almost tired of saying, 'How beautiful!' for I had
never seen anything in England that could be in the least
compared to the grandeur and richness of the buildings in
Paris. Put my mind was a little distracted by the thought of
John Hervey. I did so very much wish to sec him, and hear
from his own lips what had passed in his interview with Miss
Milicent. I looked for him at every turn, fancying I should
know his English face and figure at any distance ; but it was
a useless search, and I had given up the wish as foolish,
when just as we were ascending the steps leading to the Palais
de Justice, a party came up whom I recognised as .Mr Weir,
Miss Milicent, and, I thought, M. Dalange. I don't know
that I was exactly surprised to see them M. Dalange had been
expected every day, but I very much disliked meeting him, and
I hurried forward with my companion, hoping the others would
go into the Sainte Chapelle, and that I might in that way lose
sight of them. But the Sainte Chapelle did not appear to be
their object. Miss Milicent and her father remained in the
open space in front of the Palais de Justice. M. Dalange came
up the steps, hurried by me without noticing me, and went —
where I could not tell. It was along a passage, and through a
door, but he was evidently at home in the place, and his visit
had nothing to do with sight-seeing. The Palais de Justice did
not interest me ven much, and it seemed as if we were intruding


amongst the lawyers, but I still lingered, being unwilling to
encounter Mr Weir and Miss Milicent. In about five minutes,
M. Dalange appeared again. I saw him go down the steps, and
watched him talking eagerly to Mr Weir, and then they seemed
to turn upon Miss Milicent, who looked very eager and excited.
After a while they left the place, and I thought I saw Miss
Milicent and Mr Weir get into a cab, but I was not quite sure.
I had not yet been into the Sainte Chapelle, and I was told that
it was more worth seeing than anything in Paris, so very richly
ornamented with beautiful colours and gilding ; but — I don't
know why it was — the sight of the persons whom I had just
been watching, had rather destroyed my pleasure, and I felt as
though I did not care for the Sainte Chapelle. My thoughts
dwelt more upon Miss Milicent, left to be worked upon by those
men. She seemed to me entangled in a net, and I half regretted
not having gone up to her, that at least she might have had the
opportunity of speaking, if there was anything amiss. I stood
looking at the spot from which I fancied the carriage had driven
off, and without turning my head made an observation as I
thought to my companion, when to my surprise and satisfaction,
it was answered by the friendly voice of John Hervey. ' Ursie,
here alone !'

' No, not alone,' I answered, pointing to my friend ; ' but
where did you come from ? I have been looking for you all the
morning, This seems quite a meeting place. Mr Weir and
Miss Milicent and M. Dalange have just been here.'

' Who ? Not that rogue, Dalange V

'Yes,' I said ; ' I am sure I was not mistaken.' John moved
as though he would have rushed away from me, but he stopped

' How long have they been gone? which way did they go ?'

' They are but just gone, not two minutes. Mr Weir, I think,
was in a cab with Miss Milicent. Look, in that direction, to
the right. What are you so anxious about?'

' I did not expect M. Dalange so soon,' he said ; 'and Miss
Milicent is so ignorant, she knows nothing whatever of money
matters. They will get every penny from her, and it is all a
fraud, a monstrous fraud.'

' But she can't do anything without the consent of the trustees,'
I said. 'You told her that yourself.'

' But these men may make her take responsibilities upon her-
self which the trustees can't refuse to acknowledge. I talked to


Iter, Ursie, this morning, till I was hoarse. She was mad with
mc ; but I would make her hear me, and I hoped I had stop
the thing for the time. I have been writing this very day to
one of the trustees, who is a lawyer, begging him to interfere'

' That will only make matters worse,' I said ; 'the very name
ol a lawyer makes her angry.'

'Then she must go her own way,' he said. ' If it is to ruin,
it must be so.'

' No,' I exclaimed, ' it must not be. Mr Hervey, you must
stop her;' and I caught his arm as he was turning away from

He stood in silent thought.

' For her mother's sake, — for mine. O Mr Hervey ! it is
very near my heart.'

1 Everything is near your heart, Ursie,' he exclaimed, 'except
— but you wish it — I will try, though I have no hope ;' and so he
left me.

I entered the Sninte Chapellc. It was wonderfully beautiful,
but I had not the heart to enjny it. I felt thoroughly disap-
p tinted. John Hervey's coming was of no use, and the counsel
which I had thought so wise, so sure to bring everything right,
had failed. I became entirely desponding, and went back to the
lodgings, prepared to find that all I most feared with respect to
Mis Weir had occurred, that Mr Weir had taken advantage of
my absence to press upon her those unfortunate business matters,
and that, in consequence, the work of weeks had been wholly
undone. But Mrs Weir was lying quietly on the sofa, and
Louise sitting by her at work. Mr Weir and Miss Milicent, I
was told, had not returned, but the dinner was nearly ready, and
it was supposed they would be in almost immediately. Soon
afterwards, as I was in my room, I heard Miss Milicent come
up-stairs, but she went directly to her own apartment, and locked
the door. That was about half-past five. We waited till six,
seven, half-past seven, still Mr Weir did not appear, and Miss
Miliccnt's answer, when we knocked at her door to ask about
him, was that she knew nothing, she did not want any dinner,
she had a headache ; and still no one was admitted to her apart-
ment. Mrs Weir was aware of something unusual, for h r
husband generally paid her a visit of a few minutes every day
before dinner. This day of course she missed him, but she was
satisfied on being told that he must have had some engagement
to detain him. I was thankful that she remained so quiet, but I


began to be uneasy myself; and I could not prevail upon Miss
Milicent to admit me to her room, or to give any answer to what
was asked, except that she would not be disturbed. I persuaded
Mrs Weir to go to bed early. She inquired several times for
her husband, but, like a child, was satisfied as soon as the slightest
i-eason was given for his non-appearance. Miss Milicent opened
her door to take in a cup of coffee and a roll, but this was all. I
was sure that something painful had occurred, but all my trust
lay in John Hervey. Whatever it might be, he would surely
come to tell me of it, and I listened to every footstep on the
stairs, and every noise of an opening door, thinking there would
be some tidings of him. Louise went to bed. I sat up. Latterly
I had slept on a little sofa in Mrs Weir's room. She was often
restless at night, and I was afraid to leave her alone. It must
have been half-past ten o'clock, and I was thinking whether I
ought not to summon courage once more to apply to Miss Milicent
to throw some light upon the mystery, when I did really hear
sounds of an arrival, talking at the foot of the stairs, questions
and answers, and one voice, — I thought I could not be deceived,
yet I listened several times before I could feel sure — it was cer-
tainly Mrs Temple's.

The sinking of my heart, the trembling nervousness which
came over me, caused me to catch hold of the nearest chair, as
though seized with faintness. Before I could recover myself,
Miss Milicent was standing in the passage, like myself, listening.
She saw me, and seizing me by the arm, dragged me into her
room, and again locked the door.

' Ursie Grant, is it she? You have sent for her, you are in
league with her,' and she looked at me with fierce anger.

'I don't understand you, Miss Milicent,' I said. ' I believe
it is Mrs Temple ; but why she is come, I know no more than

' But you wrote to her.'

' No, indeed,' I said.

' Then John Hervey did ; some one must have told her.'

' No one,' I replied, ' that I am aware of. And, Miss Milicent,
you know she has been threatening to come for the last week.'

'But just now, — to triumph over me, — to get me under her
power ! Ursie, I won't bear it.'

It was all a mystery, and I had no time to inquire into it, for
a servant came to say that Mrs Temple was in the salon.

I drew back for Miss Milicent to pass before me ; but she

2 h


LI • the black trunl I bei arms, and said

quietly, ' I shall not

' But, indeed, Miss Milicent, 1 I observed, 'if you will excuse
me for saying so, you must. It is not my place to receive Mrs
Temple. 1

1 1 don't move. You may go and tell her what she ■
know, and send her away.'

' I have nothing to tell,' I replied ' Miss Milicent, you have
kept us all sadly in suspen

'Kept you in suspense/ she exclaimed. * Ursic, you
pretending ; it is your plan. You know as well as I do that we
are all gone to ruin again ; and that my father is off. John
Hervey may have meant well, but he has acted cruelly.'

' It is no plan of mine,' I said, trying not to be angry at her
accusation. ' I know nothing, though I can guess something.
John Hervey told me that the speculation of M. Delange was a
fraud, and I suppose he has interfered to stop it.'

'Interfered by French law!' she exclaimed, 'which is no
better than English. The man may be in prison now for aught
I know to the contrary ; perhaps it may be the best place for

Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellUrsula; a tale of country life → online text (page 46 of 56)