Elizabeth Missing Sewell.

Ursula; a tale of country life online

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the saints know what is going on upon earth ; I don't pretend to
judge upon that point, for never having been where they are, and
there being nothing about it in the Bible, I should think it pre-
sumption to decide ; but if my mother, who was a saint if ever
there was one, knows anything about your plans, she will for
certain give you her blessing on your marriage ; and as we can't
say surely, I send it to you for her, praying God that in all times
of trouble, you may meet with a friend as true as yourself, and a
greater good in an earthly way, I can't ask for any one. And
so, good-bye, — and I hope before long to come back to England,
and to see you and John Hervey at your cottage.

' From your most sincere and affectionate friend,

' Milicent Weir.

' P.S. — I should like to know what the rent of the Heath is
now. I hear the house has changed hands. I have quite for-
given John Hervey, and think him a wise man, and worthy to be
your husband. And I beg you will give him my good wishes,
and tell him so.'

Time sped on so quickly, my wedding-day drew near before I
seemed at all ready for it, though what remained to be done,
concerned others more than myself. Roger wanted to make a
list of things which it would be well for Jessie to attend to ; he
asked me to write down what I did with the servants in the way
of teaching them, and what my rules were. He was bent upon
having a strict, regular household ; and Jessie tried very much
to follow what I suggested. Of course I was obliged to make a

55'» URSULA.

good many changes ; for with her baby to attend to, she could
not possibly undertake all that I did ; and Roger was very con-
siderate, not at all wishing to press her. What she could not do,
he said, he would try to do himself; and with this hi lp 1 had

no fears for Jessie.

She had many, however, for herself. We were talking together
on the Saturday before my marriage, which was to be on the
Tuesday following, — sitting in the deep window-scat in the par-
lour, the baby lying ii. my lap, — for, now the time seemed so
short, I made Jessie spare it to me whenever I had a moment'!
Li isure. It was a beautiful, calm evening, and the fresh scent of
the mignonette and roses in the garden, and the myrtle which
was trained against the wall, seemed quite to fill the room.
Home seemed very pleasant and dear to me now I was going to
leave it, and I said so to Jessie.

'O Ursie !' she answered, and tears filled her eyes; 'how I
shall miss you. Looking back ever so long, I have always de-
pended upon you ; and I can't go to Roger for every little

' You must learn to do so,' I said ; ' he likes it, and he is
never impatient.'

' No, never, — but, — Ursie, — I think a woman can understand
one's foolish ways, and make allowance for them. I never feel
afraid of owning how ignorant I am to you.'

' You won't be ignorant soon,' I said ; ' you are setting to work
to learn so fast'

' liut it is too late to begin,' she answered, 'after one is mar-
ried. If I could only go back ! Ah ! little one,' and she bent
down to look at the baby ; ' you shall never be such a thought-
less lassie as your mother.'

' You never can remember your mother,' I said ; ' that makes
a great difference.'

' Perhaps it is an excuse ; I don't know — I believe it was in
mc to be bad, Ursie. I always pray that baby may take alter
Roger, and not after me. I never like to hear people say she is
like me.'

' There is no need for her to be so very different, dear Jessie,'
I replied ; 'all that she will want will be more careful training
than you ever had.'

' I don't mean to spoil her,' she answered.

' I am sure you don't. But, Jessie, may I tell you what my
fear is ? '


'Yes, speak out ; I don't care what I hear from you.'

' Well, then ! I am afraid you won't begin training her soon
enough ; and I think, too, that perhaps Roger will fall into the
same mistake. He was inclined to indulge me when I was little.'

' Would you have me scold her at once ?' said Jessie, laughing,
as she stooped down to kiss her baby. ' You have a cruel aunt
Ursie, little one.'

' I think the training of a child, as far as obedience is con-
cerned, ought to be over by the time it is five years old,' I

Jessie started.

' Yes,' I continued, ' I know it sounds extremely cruel, but
one thing I am quite sure of, that little things of that age will
bear any amount of strictness, — of course I don't mean unkind-
ness, — but strict order and discipline as to obedience, so long as
they have great tenderness shown them at the same time.
Children, I believe, are actually taught to be disobedient by the
folly of their parents.'

' I don't want obedience half so much as love,' said Jessie.

' You will never get one without the other,' I replied. ' Dis-
obedience is selfishness ; and a selfish child does not properly
understand what love means.'

' And what is to be done after five years old ?' asked Jessie.

' I suppose good example,' was my reply ; ' a sterner dis-
cipline for one's self than one would like to attempt with a child,
great earnestness, and especially great calmness, and a ready
sympathy and tenderness of manner.'

' I shall not be wanting in tenderness,' said Jessie ; ' I shall
love my little one too well for that.'

' What I should fear most for myself,' I said, ' would be im-
patience. I know from experience that no amount of affection
will do away with the effects of a hasty word. An irritable
person can never gain confidence; not that you are irritable,
Jessie; I was speaking more of what I remember in my own
childhood. William, when he did pet me, was much more in-
dulgent than Roger ; but I never felt sure of him, and so I never
opened my heart to him.'

' If my baby is to be taught by good example, there will be
very little hope for her,' said Jessie, ' except that she has a father
as well as a mother.'

' I scarcely see how she is to be taught without example,' I
said. 'I remember hearing Miss Milicent lecture the children


• ompton about reverence, talking to them in a loud voice in
church, just as the service was about to begin. Naturally
enough they all became irreverent directly ; whereas one look at
Rog r was sufficient to make one remember where one was.
And, Jessie, as to reverence, I cannot but think, if we mean to
make a child reverent to. God, we must begin by making it
reverent to its father and mother.'

' Roger will do that,' said Jessie.

'Yes, I think he will ; it is in him. But a great deal must
tend on the mother. You know Mrs Kemp brought up Mary
in that way. Many times I have heard her say, " My dear, you
may take liberties with your companions, but you must never
t ike them with me." Mary was obliged to come in and out of
the room quietly, and to stand aside for her mother to pass ; and
was so particular about saying, "Thank you;" and everything
her mother did for her was considered such a favour. It quite
shocks me sometimes now to see children make slaves of their
parents as they do, fancying that their only business is to please
and work for them.'

' I should never have thought Mary Kemp had been brought
up in that way,' said Jessie ; ' she always gave me the notion of
being so independent, and going her own way without contra-
diction. I know when Aunt Morris used to scold me so much,
I used to think of Mary with envy, because it seemed as though
she did just as she liked, and was never found fault with.'

'That was because there was no occasion to find fault with
her,' I replied. 'Mrs Kemp declared that she never had cause
really to scold Mary after she was fifteen. You see she had
been brought up so well till then, that her mother was able to
let the reins loose; and so, just when she was beginning to have a
will of her own— as girls will have at that nge — it was a right
will which there was no occasion to oppose. I remember Mrs
Kemp saying to me one day that what mothers frequently do
is to spoil their children up to five years old, try experiments
up n them up to fifteen, and then contradict them up to twenty,
and by that time there is an end to confidence, and too often to

' I should be afraid,' said Jessie, ' that all that kind of strict-
ness would m ike a child so formal, and so afraid of its mother.'

' No doubt it will where there there is no tenderness or sym-
pathy,' I replied. ' But Mrs Kemp has such a very affectionate way
with her, and throws herself so heartily into children's pleasures,


that they could not be afraid of her. As for being cold-mannered
to children, indeed, it seems to me impossible, though I know
people who are so upon what they call principle, thinking it right,
they say, to teach self-control. As if children's affections could
be destroyed by shutting up the natural vent, and as if they were
not the very means God has given us to soften necessary disci-
pline. I don't think myself one can be too affectionate to
children if one is only strict at the same time.'

'Well, Ursie !' said Jessie, laughing, ' there is only one thing
to be done that I can see : you must just go and tell John Hervey
that I can't spare you, for I shall never bring up my child rightly
without you.'

'I have been preaching, I know,' I said, feeling rather ashamed
of myself; 'and I have no business to do so.'

'You shall preach to baby when she grows old enough,'
said Jessie ; ' I am sure it will do her the greatest possible

' No, indeed,' I said, heartily; ' I hate preaching, I don't think
any good is ever done by it.'

' Yes, you have done me good,' replied Jessie.

' Because you sought the preaching, as you choose to call it,'
I replied. ' But, Jessie, if I had thrust it upon you, I should only
have made you angry.'

' Still one must preach a little,' replied Jessie ; or how is my
poor baby ever to become what she should be ?'

'Teach, but not preach,' I said; 'at least, to judge by my-
self, children like teaching very much, but preaching they can't
endure. It makes them shrink like a sensitive leaf when it is

'And so my little one is to grow up like a heathen,' said
Jessie, half smiling at her own exaggeration.

' So far as a baptized child, who is taught to pray, and read
the Bible, and say its Catechism, and obey its parents, can be a
heathen,' I said.

' But that is not all, Ursie,' said Jessie, earnestly.

' What there is beyond, must, I should think, be left to God,'
was my reply. ' We can't give grace ourselves, you know,
Jessie, and we shall never make it grow by searching into the
heart to see if it is there. But I believe that the grace will
never be wanting, if a child is kept in the way of duty and
obedience, while we are at the same time thoroughly in earnest
ourselves, and pray heartily for God's blessing and guidance.


'1 'lie good seed may not appear just in the way, or at the time
we wish ; but it will ripen in due time, one may be certain.'

Jessie bent sadly ever her baby. ' If I could only be sure,'
she said ; ' but 1 have gone so far wrong myself. I often
think that my punishment will be sent to me through my little

' You must remember Roger,' I replied.

' Oh yes ! that is my comfort. A blessing must rest upon hij
child, Ur-ie ; don't you think so ?'

' I am certain of it,' I said.

'Baby is like him, the eyes are like, aren't they?' continued
Jessie ; 'she does not take only after me.'

I looked into the clear dark eyes, already beginning to dawn
with something like intelligence, and fancied I saw in them the
traces of the earnest, generous spirit, which had been my guide
and support through life.

' If she was a boy she would be just like him,' said Jessie.

' But being a girl she is not at all like him,' said a merry
voice. John Hervey came up to the window, and Roger with

' What are you two wasting your time about?' asked John.

'Planning to make a wise woman of Roger's daughter,' I

John came round into the room. ' I don't believe she is a
daughter yet,' he said; 'or anything but an "it." Hand hi r
over to me, Ursie. I seem scarcely to have looked at her.' I
did as he bade me. Roger half sat, half leaned on the window-
sill, gazing intently upon the baby's face ; presently he said :
' She is not a little Christian yet ; she will be to-morrow, please
God ; but we have not settled upon a name for her.'

' Oh ! yes,' I exclaimed, ' you have. She is to be Jessie, of
course, if you insist upon only one name.'

'Jessie won't have it so,' replied Roger, gravely.

' No ! why not?' I looked at Jessie, and repented that I had
asked the question. Her eyes were swimming with tears.

Roger put his hand upon her fondly. ' My little woman, why
mustn't it be ? you see Ursie thinks it right.'

Jessie wiped away her tears, but still she answered : ' I can't,
Roger, indeed, I can't have it. She must never be Jessie in

' Not if I wish it?' he said.

' Not if you wish it. You don't understand now what Jessie is.'


' I understand she is my darling little wife,' replied Roger.

Jessie looked up at him with an expression of almost painful
gratitude. ' Not Jessie,' she whispered, ' but Ursula.' And
Roger turned to me, as I was standing close to him, and giving
me one of those kisses which seem to concentrate in them years
of affection, he joined my hand with John's, and said, ' It seems
too much to ask for the blessing of a second Ursula Grant.'


NO one can expect me to describe my wedding-day. If I
were to attempt it, it would rot be like the reality, for in
truth I had but a very indistinct consciousness of anything that
was passing around me that morning. I remember only Jessie's
sweet smiles and tearful eyes, and Roger's more than fatherly
thoughtfulness, and William's kindness, and much, much more
that was good and pleasant from neighbours and friends ; and
above all, the one happy, honest-hearted, loving countenance,
which was now dearer to me than all others. How I was
dressed, how I looked, may have been a matter of consequence
to others, it was very little to me. John was satisfied, and I
cared for nothing else ; and the .dearest ornament which I wore
was the moss rose bud gathered by him and given me in ex-
change for one which I had laughingly insisted should be worn
in his button hole on his wedding morning.

If marriage is an awful thing to those whose merely look upon
it, it is far too sacred and solemn to be described by those who
actually take part in it.

Rather 1 would tell of my first arrival at my new home a fort-
night afterwards ; — the pretty gable-ended cottage, covered with
creepers ; the pleasant little parlour, ornamented with my wed-
ding presents, and having casement windows that looked out
upon a tiny bit of lawn ; a large kitchen-garden, and a paddock
beyond, in which two cows and a pony were feeding ; the view
from the arbour of Compton church and the ruined oratory on
St Anne's Hill, the soothing murmur of the sea, which had been
familiar to me from infancy ; and the pealing welcome from the
merrv church bells. The cottage was within reach of all I loved and

2 N

562 LA.

for. I ' I evening when we fust drank tea in it as

our home, seemed the 01 a bappy life; and, God be

thanked, it lias nol Failed. I have lived to love and honour
my husband every day more and nunc. I am the mother of
three children, whom God his blessed with health and
dispositions. 1 have a competency for tl - nt. and faith

for the future ; and if 1 have known cares, and disappointments
and anxieties, they are but the lot of all ; and I trust ti
through God's infinite mercy, they are doing the work of tr.
I v < ternity.
That is the thought which is now most often with me; fir
j c ars hurry on and bring with them the consciousness that one is
hastening to the time when all these earthly blessings must be
left, and God must be all in all. There arc moments when 1
think of my husband and my children, and feel as though I could
cling hold of life, grasping it with all my strength, that it should
not be taken from me. Those are moments of temptation, the
temptation of a happy married life ; but there are others wh
God gives me another and a holier feeling ; when I can place all
in His hands, lying stdl before Him and waiting cheerfully fi>r
whatever may be to come, because I have learned not only to
trust, but to love Him. I fear it is almost bold to say so, yet Mrs
Weir often talked to me about it. It is a feeling which comes to
me most often in the long summer evenings, when the children
arc asleep, and I am waiting for John to return from some business
whicb has taken him to a distance. Then I often kneel and pray
whilst the moon shines full into my window ; and the soft night
breezes rise, seeming to wail for the world's sorrows whilst it
"deeps. The deep sounds in the calm, awful light, might well
in. i! e Hi tremble, even if tbey did not make me s id. But it i -
not so ; I can feel rest then, which I seldom do in the day — rest
which is quite rest, which has no wish for anything but to remain
rest. I know that I have God quite close to me, and I can say
what comes into my mind and be sure that every word is under-
stood. I can tell Him of my love for my precious earthly trea-
sures, and yet feel that He, who knows my heart, sees that it is
truth, when I say how I have longed all my life with a great,
great longing to love some being quite perfect ; and how, now I
have found whit I wanted, — even Him who in His wondro
mercy gave Himself for me, — and can give all in return — all ;
every wish and hope and joy, not wishing to keep anything back ;
caring for those whom He h s given me Heonlykno


but turning again to Him, oh ! with such a rush at my heart ! —
it makes the tears come, because it is so happy.

If God should give me that feeling when I am called to die,
— death would be great joy.

But I must work for Him now ; and there is still much to be
done, both for myself and others.

I see Roger and Jessie often. I think and believe they are
happy ; not so happy as John and I — our lot is rare in its
blessedness, and Jessie, gentle and affectionate though she is, can
never fully supply all the needs of such a heart as Roger's, — yet
so happy as to feel that they are journeying on the same road to
the same home of peace. They have but one child. I sometimes
am inclined to wish they had more, when I see what a pet she
is ; and yet for myself I am quite contented, for I could never
love another so well, and I should not wish to be partial. My
own children are dear to me beyond what words can express.
It would be folly to suppose that any other love could ever equal
that of a mother ; yet there is a peculiar feeling connected with
little Ursula ; a remembrance of the first moment when I held
her in my arms and thought of her as Roger's child, that must
always give her a claim upon my heart, with which no one else
can interfere. Inherited love — the love that clings to the child
because the parent has been dear — is a strong tie ; and the
second Ursula Grant is far more gentle and loving and teach-
able than the first ever was or will be. Her uncle William is
her great charge ; and she waits upon him with a devotion and
thoughtfulness. mingled with much of her father's early piety,
which are very touching ; and often I think that Roger is
blessed, through his child, by seeing his brother gradually but
surely brought to follow in the same good path which he him-
self has so long trod.

Farmer Kemp is growing old, but works as heartily as ever ;
and Mrs Kemp is young again in the happiness of having a mar-
ried daughter and grandchildren. Miss Milicent is settled at
the Heath. Her father's death, which took place about two years
after my marriage, relieved her of the claim upon her fortune,
and she has now a small but sufficient income, which is managed
oddly still, but far more sensibly than in days of yore. She is
a busy and useful person, always having some plans of charity
in her head, and occasionally much perplexing Mr and Mrs
Richardson by her desire to carry them out. But she is not
wilful as she was. Past lessons have not been forgotten, and


when she is very unmanageable, Mr Richardson generally
applies to me ; and a little talk in our parlour, or a conversation
on the sea-shore, whilst the children, of whim she is very fond,
are picking up shells, and searching for Miss Milicent's 'crea-
tures,' seldom fails to bring her to reason. It is not my own
sense or eloquence which can affect her, but (iod's grace work-
ing through the remembrance of her mother. Truly, I often
think to myself, 'the path of the just is like the shining light,'
in more ways than one, for it is a guide through many a
darkened way.

And Dene — the bright home of my childhood, the 1
spot in which my heart knew its earliest and most untroubled

Miss Milicent's prophecy has come true, it has followed the
fortunes of her family.

I will describe it as I last visited it.

I walked over St Anne's Hill, and along the top of the down,
but when I wished to descend the sloping green path, I found
myself stopped by fences and ditches, for the end of the down
was enclosed, and Dene was no longer accessible in that direc-
tion. I went down on the other side, and made my way at the
I' ck of the plantation, till I came to a gate opening into the
direct road to Hove. It was barred and padlocked. I clambered
over it, and went up to the house. The shrubbery was grown
into a thick, dark plantation ; the broad road was green with
damp ; the wood work of the stables, the coach-house, and the
cottage was unpainted ; the clock was silent. A woman with a
little child appeared at the front door, wondering apparently to
see any living being. She told me that I might walk round,
and I went to the little gate leading to the side entrance, and
when I opened it found the path blocked up, and made my
way by stooping amidst overgrown laurels to the front of the

No verandah was to be seen ; the work of the old carpenter,
which had been the pride and ornament of the place, and the
wonder of the neighbourhood, had vanished entirely ; — the plain,
stone house stood in its bare desolation, with only the broad
pavement before it. I turned to the lawn, once so exquisitely
smooth and soft. It was fast becoming rank grass. Twostrag-
ling flower-beds were left, but without a flower to brighten them.
The fountains had ceased to play, the ponds were nearly empty,
the walks round the garden were so overgrown that I did not


attempt to pass by them, nor even to mount the steps of my
favourite seat. In the inside of the house a few pieces of fur-
niture still remained in the two sitting-rooms, making a mockery
of comfort ; the bed-rooms were empty.

I asked the woman what was to be done with the place, and
she told me that she believed it was to be sold to a stranger, and
the house was to be pulled down.

Such is Dene now.

In a few years another and a grander house may stand on its
site. Lovelier flowers and walks and fountains may then adorn
it ; eyes more fitted to appreciate may look on it with delight ;
and lips more eloquent far than mine may speak its praise. Lut
to me Dene is gone for ever.

And the happiness associated with it, the rush of glee, the
entrancing dreams, the thrill of wondering admiration ! — Vain,
indeed, would be the effort by any power of wealth and taste to
recall that cloudless joy. It is to be found but in the blessed
memories of childhood and the glorious prophecies of heaven,




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Online LibraryElizabeth Missing SewellUrsula; a tale of country life → online text (page 54 of 56)