Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

Ursula; a tale of country life online

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him ; but my father is off again, and now you may go and tell
Matilda Temple that, and let her rejoice over it.'

She stood up and pointed to the door with an air which was
almost dignified in its proud bitterness. I could not urge my point
further. The key was turned as soon as I had left the apart-
ment, and I had to face Mrs Temple alone. As I passed Mrs
Weir's room, I looked in. She was sleeping, and oh ! how ear-
nestly I prayed that she might be gaining strength for the trials
which were awaiting her !

'I was not expected, I perceive,' was Mrs Temple's
greeting, as I entered the salon. She had drawn her chair to
the fire, and was endeavouring to stir up the dying embers.

' Xo, ma'am,' I replied, 'you were not expected, and I am
afraid you will find it cold. Can anything be got for you?
Weir is not at hi 1 Miss Milicent has a bad head-


' I see,' she said, sternly, ' it is as I expected. Young woman,
you are to understand that you are no longer mistress in this
family. If Milicent Weir is as weakly blind as her mother, I
warn you there are others on the watch for her interests, who will
not let her be cajoled to ruin by the arts of a cunning girL' I
was taken by surprise, yet I did not lose my calmness. Mrs


Temple's manner and words always had the effect of giving me
a feeling of indifference and self-possession.

' I suppose, ma'am,' I said, ' that you refer to myself. If you
will have the goodness to explain your meaning, I will answer
you as best I may.'

' No doubt you have an answer ready,' she exclaimed ; ' but I
require actions, not words. I insist upon your instantly giving
up the charge of Mrs Weir to me, and making your arrange-
ments for returning to England to-morrow. It is for that pur-
pose I am come.'

' I am afraid it will be impossible to oblige you, ma'am,' I
replied ; ' I am responsible to Dr Green, who placed me in my
present position, and Mr Weir and Miss Milicent also must have
a voice in the matter. When they and Mrs Weir wish me to go,
I shall be quite ready, indeed glad, to do so, but I could not
make any change by myself. And perhaps,' I added, ' you will
be good enough to let me know the grounds upon which you
wish me to do so.'

' It is easy to pretend ignorance,' she replied ; 'but there are
proofs which you will find it anything but easy to answer. Do
you know this handwriting ? ' and she produced a portion of a
torn letter from her pocket-book, and pushed the candle towards

' It is my sister-in-law's handwriting,' I said, feeling very
much startled.

' Ah ! you own that ; perhaps this too will throw some light
upon my business.' She showed me another long letter signed
' J. Macdonald,' and pointed to the postscript, ' I enclose a
portion of a note from Mrs Grant, which will confirm my asser-

I felt the colour forsake my cheeks, and I sat down in the
nearest chair, for I trembled all over ; but it was not for any
cause that Mrs Temple would divine.

She kept her eyes fixed upon me. ' You had better confess at
once,' she said. 'You see that I have the power of discerning
all your machinations. Your giddy sister-in-law is not likely to
keep your secrets from her friends at Dene.'

Angry and agitated though I was, I managed to reply, quietly :
' Whatever my sister-in-law's note may have contained, ma'am, it
could be no confidential communication about me, for Jessie has
nothing to tell.'

' That may or may not be,' said Mrs Temple, in the same


satirical tone. ' Mrs Grant at least writes to them openly, and
tells them your plans, and your address, as you may sec for your-
self,' and she again put the torn paper into my hand.

My eyes were dim ; everything seemed to swim before me, and
it was with difficulty I could make out the words : ' Indeed you
must believe that I tell you all I know. Ursula does not say
when she shall return home. She is still at the same lodgings in
Paris with Mrs Weir, and I do not see how she can leave her.
I think but for her they would all go to ruin again, but she
manages everything her own way ; even Mr Weir docs exactly
what she wishes.'

' Mrs Weir is much obliged to you, doubtless,' continued
Mrs Temple, scarcely giving me time to finish, 'for managing
everything for her, but her friends would like to inquire a little
more minutely into the particulars of this management. There
have been some singular interferences of late. Mr Hervcy, I
understand, is in Paris, summoned thither by Milicent Weir. A
very singular adviser, certainly. Doubtless that was upon your

I made no direct answer to this last remark. I cared nothing
for Mrs Temple's insinuations, nothing at that moment for any-
thing or any person except Roger and Jessie. With the heavy,
heavy aching at my heart, I was only anxious to come at once to
the root of all this mystery, and so to rid myself of it. Confront-
ing Mrs Temple without shrinking, I answered, ' I can make no
l ply or explanation as to anything you have said, ma'am, unless
you will do me the favour to tell me plainly and openly what it
is which you accuse me of, and how you have gained your infor-
mation. If you decline this, I am afraid I shall be obliged to
leave you as it is very late, and I shall be afraid of disturbing
Mrs Weir by conversing any longer.'

I suppose she saw from my manner that I was epiite deter-
mined, and that nothing was to be obtained from me by indirect
means, for, in a more hasty and .'ess sarcastic tone, she answered :
' Suspicions are quickly told when the) arc certainties. I accuse
you of using undue influence in this house. I know that you
assume the entire control not only of Mrs Weir's income, but of
her daughter's ; I know that you have been planning to get
Milicent Weir's money into the hands of this man, Hervcy, who
is a mere land-surveyor and speculator, — for what purpose I do
pretend to say ; but he and you are too well known as
acquaintances and friends of long standing not to make it certain


that there is a complete understanding between you. I have
reason to believe, moreover, that you are striving to work upon
Mrs. Weir's mind in your own favour, and are taking advantage
of her insanity, whilst you persist in the assertion that she is in
the possession of sound reason. Some of these accusations I
make from my own observation and experience ; others I have
heard from persons residing in the neighbourhood of Stonecliff,
and acquainted with the Mr. Macdonald in whom Milicent Weir
has so strangely confided ; and who, as well as Mrs. Price of
Dene, is, as every one knows, most intimate with your family,
whether to your credit I do not pretend to say.' And with the
air of profound Christian charity, Mrs. Temple heaved a deep

Such a maze of truth and falsehood. I was in complete be-
wilderment. How was I to extricate myself, and where was I
to begin ? Mrs. Temple waited patiently, though trying to awe
me by severe looks ; at last I said : ' If you please, ma'am, I will
refer you to Miss Milicent to-morrow, to explain all things. Per-
haps to-night you will be contented to know that Mr. W T eir has
again got himself into great difficulties, and that Mr. Hervey has
helped him out of them. Mr. Weir is not expected home to-night,
and if you would wish to have his room I will order it to be made
ready for you at once, otherwise I am afraid the people of the
house will be gone to bed.'

I never in my life saw any one so angry as Mrs. Temple was
then. I believe my quiet indifference exasperated her more than
the fiercest storm of passion. 1 could not repeat all she said, nor
even all she did, as she paced up and down the room ; in the
midst I heard a shrill cry, like the voice of a terrified child, and,
rushing to Mrs. Weirs room, found her in a state of frightful
nervous excitement. Happily my first impulse was to lock the
door behind me. When I went up to the bedside, the poor lady
actually clung to me in alarm. ' She is come back, Ursula, she
is come to take me ; I must go. They will shut me up. Oh !
save me.' And then she nearly threw herself out of bed in her
fright, and when I forced her back, and made her rest her head
on the pillow, she sank into a state of complete exhaustion for a
few minutes, only to be roused again to fresh fears. She had
heard Mrs. Temple's voice. She must hear it again. I felt there
was nothing to be done but to acknowledge the truth, and try to
reassure her by saying that I would remain with her, and that no
one could take her from me. She made me repeat the words


n and again ; she caught at tbem as the drowning sailor
hes at the plank that is to save him. Uut Mrs. Temple
', ked at ; r and inquired how her aunt was, and the

us horror returned again. What was to be done with her
I could not tell. When she was again calm for a few minutes I
left her, 1 eking the door on the outside and carrying away the
key, and went to call Louise and make her wait upon Mrs.
Temple, and then 1 returned to watch by the bedside. Mrs.
Temple, I believe, went to bed, for she did not endeavour to
admittance again ; probably she felt it would be useless.
It was a sad and most anxious night. If the case had been
merely physical, I should instantly have sent for medical advice
but what could a strange physician do in an illness so compli-
cated and distressing? Mrs. Weir's pulse was fearfully quick.
I trembled lest violent fever might be coming on, but I was
afraid to call up Louise or Miss Milicent to ask their opinion
as to what should be done, lest Mrs. Temple should insist upon
joining in the consultation. Of course I had no rest ; I had not
even an hour's quiet watching which might enable me to think
over my difficulties, and seek for help in so great anxieties. I
could but say a few short prayers from time to time for Mrs.
Weir, Miss Milicent, myself, above all — oh, with what depth
of earnestness was the petition offered !— for my dear Roger
and for jeasie.


THERE was no doubt as to Mrs. Weir's state in the morn-
Fever had not only begun, but was increasing
rapidly. A physician was sent for before Mrs. Temple was
. .Mi Milicent was thoroughly frightened, and willing
to do everything she was told, though in her own peculiar way ;
and it was by her representations that I obtained from the
physician, what I most desired, a strict command that no fresh
person should be admitted to Mrs Weir's room. ' I told him,
id Miss Milicent, when relating her interview, 'that
da Temple was a Turk, and that the sight of her would
.• my mother into convulsions, and that quite decided him-
Temple was extremely indignant, and threatened all kinds
of interference in revenge, but she did not venture to do more ;


and I kept carefully out of her way, and made Miss Milicent
take upon herself the part which fitly belonged to her. If this
state of things could but last, I felt we might be able to weather
the present storm. Miss Milicent, subdued by fright and anxiety,
was more able now to give me a rational account of the proceed-
ings of the previous day. In low tones, as she watched by Mrs
Weir, who lay tossing on her bed in restless unconciousness, she
informed me that after leaving the Palais de Justice, she, and Mr
Weir, and M. Dalange, had gone direct to the hotel where the
latter had for the time taken up his abode. There M. Dalange
proposed to put before her the state of her father's entanglements,
which he declared demanded instant relief. She was not to be
called upon to pay down any money at once, but she was only
to be guarantee for certain sums which M. Dalange was to
advance. She was frightened, and did not know how to refuse,
and her father seemed quite desperate when he found she hesi-
tated. They were in the midst of the discussion when they
were interrupted by the entrance of John Hervey and a French-
man, who appeared to have some legal authority. Miss Milicent
said she could not understand all that went on, they talked so
fast, and M. Dalange got into a violent passion ; but he was
taken off at last, evidently against his will, and John Hervey then
brought her home.

' And what became of Mr Weir ? ' I said.

' He went off. John Hervey tells me he is gone to Brussels.'

' But was he allowed to go ? ' I said. ' Was he not in as much
danger as M. Dalange ? '

' My father is no swindler, Ursie,' replied Miss Milicent,
haughtily; 'he may speculate, but it is in good faith. John
Hervey says there is no such accusation against him as there is
against these Frenchmen ; but he is gone. The Frenchman did
not know who he was, and had no directions about him, and
almost as soon as the fuss began, my father slipped away, and
that was the last I saw of him !'

It did not seem very like innocence, yet I felt thankful that
Mr Weir was at least saved from more public disgrace.

Miss Milicent was silent after this ; she seemed very unwilling
to allude to common subjects, and I did not wonder at it. It'
anything could convince her of the folly of trusting as she had
done to her own judgment, I should suppose it would be the
present condition of her family affairs ; but she would say
nothing, not one word of regret or acknowledgment, and when


not actually attending upon her mother, sat brooding over tlie
lire with her hands upon her knees, apparently lost in melancholy
reflections, Mrs Temple bad a dreary, solitary day, but she
showed no symptoms of being tired or of intending to leave us.
She remained alone in the salon, working, and reading, and
keeping watch, and when the doctor came in the middle of the
day, had along private conference with him. She spoke not one
word to mc, indeed I scarcely gave her ihe opportunity of doing
so, and her communications with Miss Milicent were very brief.
As to myself, I went on from hour to hour doing what was
i eded, and longing for two things, — one, that I might sec John
Hervey, and the other, that 1 might find half an hour's leisure
before the post went out to write to Jessie. Neither was granted.
No John Hervey came, and as it drew towards the evening,
Mrs Weir became much worse, and I could not possibly leave
her. The doctor, when he was sent for about eight o'clock,
looked very grave. Mrs Temple insisted upon coming into the
room, and as Mrs Weir was then quite insensible to what was
passing, it did not signify. I think she was shocked by the
change that had already taken place ; indeed I never saw her
so really distressed, but the result was different from my expec-
tation. Instead of declaring, as I had feared, that she would
herself be head nurse, she took a sudden fright, and when the
physician was gone, summoned Miss Milicent, announced bi r
belief that it was a case of decided infection, and stated that
she should leave the house and go to a neighbouring hotel. It
may well be believed that no one objected ; and when Louise
had packed up her things, and seen her set off in a cab to an
hotel in the next street, 1 think we one and all felt as if half the
burden of our care was removed.

The next morning brought mc letters from home. I read
them as I went to lie down in Miss Milicent's room after my
night of watching. Weary though I was, every feeling of
fatigue, or inclination for sleep, was forgotten in the anxiety
with which I opened them. One was from Mrs Kemp, the
other from Roger. I put the latter aside. Mrs Kemp wrote as
follows : —

' My Dear Ursif.,—
' It has been no want of thought or of love which has kept me
from writing, but we have had busy times, with a change of ser-
v?nts, and Mary and I have had a good deal of needlework on


hand, besides other matters, and we wish you had been here to
help us. Of course, after your letter, I have tried to have an
eye upon Mrs Roger, but she has been here very little, not more
than once for the last month, and what I hear I don't take much
notice of, though it is not so much to her credit as I could like,
and the farmer tells me her name is mentioned in a light way at
Hove, which is to be expected if she will be so free with the
Dene people. But there is nothing for me to take up or talk
about to Roger, though I pity him, poor man ! from my heart,
and can't help seeing, as everybody else sees, that he has had a
grave look of late, which he did not use to have. He is very
anxious for his wife that she shouldn't over-fatigue herself, and
so he must be the more vexed at her going out so much. She
was dining at Dene, I heard say, last week, when Roger went to
London for a day or two on business. That does not sound well
in itself, besides its being wrong in her to leave William alone.
Anyhow, my dear, things will be much better when you are at
home, and my plain opinion is, that you have more claim there
than you have with poor Mrs Weir, who, they say, scarcely
knows one person from another, and who, at any rate, is no
relation. You won't mind my saying that, I hope, seeing we
are such old friends. One thing which tells against Mrs Roger,
in everybody's opinion, is the way Mrs Price talks about her.
A person I know heard Mrs Price say in Hove, that her mar-
riage was all a mistake, and that she was very much in love with
Mr Macdonald at the time. I contradicted it, because I had
heaid from you of her having refused him, but people won't
believe that, and one person, — I won't mention names for fear of
making mischief, — said that Mr Macdonald had letters in his
possession which proved that she had jilted him. However, I
don't believe all that the world says, and I only tell you, my
dear, because you asked me to let you know everything. Now I
will only repeat that it will be a happy day for us all, and a
very fortunate one for Sandcombe and Mrs Roger, when you
are at home again to put things straight ; so hoping to see you
before long,

' I remain,

' Your affectionate friend,

'Anne Kemp.
( P.S. — I have forgotten to tell you about Mary ; but I take it
for granted you will hear everything from John Hervey. We
like Richard Bennett very much, and are well pleased upon the


whole. Mary says she would rather talk than write ; but she
sends you her be:-! love'

Richard Bennett : who was he ? A new labourer most likely ;

but his name came in oddly. I put down the Letter and took up

Just then there was a knock at my door and Louise

came to tell me that Mr Hervey was in the salon, and wished

to speak to me.

1 must have looked like a ghost after my sleepless nights
and anxious thoughts; but I went up to John Hervey with
a smile on my face, for my heart was gladdened by the sight
of him.

' Are we alone ?' he said, and he looked round uneasily.
' Yes, quite. Mrs Temple is gone, frightened by the thought
of infection. Don't look so horrified, it is only her fidget ; but
she keeps away. Perhaps, though,' I added, 'you didn't know
she was here.'

' Yes, I have seen her. She is mad with you and me, Ursie.'
'Is she?' I said. 'I can't say that I care. Tell me about
Mr Weir.'

• Miss Milicent has given you the story, of course,' he said.
' She promised me she would.'

' 1 hen she did not keep her promise,' I replied. ' She came
k and locked herself up in her room, and would say nothing
to any one. It was only yesterday morning that I drew a few
particulars from her.'

'She is so strange,' he said, 'one never knows how to deal

with her. I thought I had made her see the matter rightly.

There was no other way of managing it, Ursie. Before I came

abroad, I inquired of persons who knew our friend, Mr Mac-

lald, and this M. Dalange, and I found out quite enough to

ce me that ihcy were both as great rogues as one could

desire to sec, and Miss Milicent's own information as to their

proceedings put me on the right scent for discovering more.

Since I have been in Paris, a friend has helped me to get at the

ile truth. Mr Weir, with all his shrewdness, has been fairly

n in by them. The case is a serious one as regards M.

i !e is accused of forgery ; but that does not concern

us, only I wanted, if possible, to have the affair put into the

Is of the authorities quietly, so as to prevent Miss Milicent's

from being brought forward, and to save Mr Weir from

being in any way publicly disgraced. If Miss Milicent had been


less wilful, it might all have been managed ; but at last, as you
yourself know, there was no way of saving her from becoming
entangled, except by having the Frenchman seized at once.
Mr Weir has taken fright, and is off to Brussels. Though said
to be innocent, I suspect he feels safer there than in Paris for
the present.'

'And have you explained this to Mrs Temple?' I asked
' She came to Paris, imagining, I actually believe, that you and
I were in a plot to cheat Mrs Weir and Miss Milicent out of all
their money. I don't know clearly now who put the notion into
her head.'

' That man, Macdonald, from what I can understand,' replied
John. ' He was mixed up with the French business, and no
doubt learned from M. Ualange that you were standing in the
way of their getting possession of Miss Milicent's money. At
any rate, it was a letter of his, which Mrs Temple showed me,
written to a friend of hers who has taken Stonecliff, which made
her so alarmed as to what you and I were about, that she came
off directly.'

I thought of the scrap in Jessie's handwriting, and longed to
know if he had seen that also ; but I could not bring myself to

' This letter,' continued John, ' pretended to be strictly con-
fidential, but said that it was high time that Mrs Weir's friends
should interfere to have you recalled.'

' Hypocrite ! ' I exclaimed ; ' when he himself was working
to get everything into his own hands ! But Mrs Temple be-
lieved the folly, and that is not much better.'

' It is too absurd to make one angry,' replied John ; ' who can
care what such a woman thinks ?'

'You would not say so if you had to deal with her,' I said ;
' she has been a thorn in my side for months.'

' But she will not continue so,' he replied ; ' I must leave
Paris this afternoon, and grieve to my heart that you should bear
the brunt of this trouble alone ; but it will be over before long,
Ursie. Whichever way it ends, you will come back to us, and
Be happy again.'

The word happy touched me to the quick. I was very silly,
but both mind and body were overworked, and I leaned my
head upon the table, and my tears fell fast.

He drew near me, and his voice was kind and very soothing.
He called me dear Ursie ; he said there were many who loved


me, and rested upon me ; that I was Roger's comfort, and Jessie's

irdian angel : that I d< served happiness, and I must be happy.
But my heart was very heavy, and, raising my head, I answered
bitterly, as I wiped away my tears, ' Ah, Mr Hervey ! it is easy
for you to talk of happiness ; life is bright before you. Mary
Kemp will never disappoint you as Jessie has disappointed

lie drew back. 'Mary Kemp!' lie said, ' disappoint me!
I don't understand you, Ursic. Mary Kemp is going to be
happy, I trust, but there is no question of disappointment as far
as I am concerned.'

' Not when she is to be your wife ?' I replied, and my burst
of sorrow ended in a feeling of angry amazement.

' My wife ! Ursie, you are talking wildly. Mary Kemp is en-
gaged to my cousin Richard Bennett. lie made an offer to her
just before you left England.

A sense of the ridiculous seized me, and feeling too weak to
control myself, I laughed almost hysterically. But John Hervey
stood by me quite grave and silent.

' Richard Bennett, I thought he was a labourer ! ' was my ex-
clamation, as soon as I could recover my breath. ' No wonder
I was puzzled. But, Mr Hervey, what has all the mystery be< n ?
Farmer Kemp, and Mary, and Mrs Kemp have all misled me.
What have you had to do with the matter?'

' Merely,' he replied, in the same grave tone, ' that there was
a difficulty as usual about money matters. Richard Bennett is
a clerk in a counting-house with a very good prospect of rising ;
but his salary was not sufficient, so the farmer thought, to insure
Mary's having a comfortable home, and I managed to have it
increased. Mary is indebted to me for this, and nothing more.
I can't think how you could have made such a mi-take, Ursie,'
lie I, a little bitterly, 'you always spoke as if you under-

stood, and it must have struck you as strange that I never
talked about Mary.'

'We have scarcely seen each other lately, if you remember,' I
said ; 'and 1 am afraid I was too much engrossed in my own

Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellUrsula; a tale of country life → online text (page 47 of 56)