Susan Warner.

The Old Helmet, Volume II online

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Produced by Daniel Fromont

[Transcriber's note: Susan Warner (1819-1885), _The Old Helmet_ (1864),
Tauchnitz edition 1864, volume 2]













"Let no one ask me how it came to pass;
It seems that I am happy, that to me
A livelier emerald twinkles in the grass,
A purer sapphire melts into the sea."

Eleanor could not stay away from the Wednesday meetings at Mrs.
Powlis's house. In vain she had thought she would; she determined she
would; when the day came round she found herself drawn with a kind of
fascination towards the place. She went; and after that second time
never questioned at all about it. She went every week.

It was with no relief to her mental troubles however. She was sometimes
touched and moved; often. At other times she felt dull and hopeless.
Yet it soothed her to go; and she came away generally feeling
inspirited with hope by something she had heard, or feeling at least
the comfort that she had taken a step in the right direction. It did
not seem to bring her much more comfort. Eleanor did not see how she
could be a Christian while her heart was so hard and so full of its own
will. She found it perverse, even now, when she was wishing so much to
be different. What hope for her?

It was a great help, that during all this time Mrs. Caxton left her
unquestioned and uncounselled. She made no remarks about Eleanor's
going to class-meeting; she took it as a perfectly natural thing; never
asked her anything about it or about her liking it. A contrary course
would have greatly embarrassed Eleanor's action; as it was she felt
perfectly free; unwatched, and at ease.

The spring was flushing into mature beauty and waking up all the
flowers on the hills and in the dales, when Eleanor one afternoon came
out to her aunt in the garden. A notable change had come over the
garden by this time; its comparatively barren-looking beds were all
rejoicing in gay bloom and sending up a gush of sweetness to the house
with every stir of the air that way. From the house to the river,
terrace below terrace sloped down, brimfull already of blossoms and
fragrance. The roses were making great preparations for their coming
season of festival; the mats which had covered some tender plants were
long gone. Tulips and hyacinths and polyanthuses and primroses were in
a flush of spring glory now; violets breathed everywhere; the
snowy-flowered gooseberry and the red-flowered currant, and berberry
with its luxuriant yellow bloom, and the almond, and a magnificent
magnolia blossoming out in the arms of its evergreen sister, with many
another flower less known to Eleanor, made the garden terraces a little
wilderness of loveliness and sweetness. Near the house some very fine
auriculas in pots were displaying themselves. In the midst of all this
Mrs. Caxton was busy, with one or two people to help her and work under
direction. Planting and training and seed-sowing were going on; and the
mistress of the place moved about among her floral subjects a very
pleasant representation of a rural queen, her niece thought. Few queens
have a more queenly presence than Mrs. Caxton had; and with a trowel in
hand just as much as if it were a sceptre. And few queens indeed carry
such a calm mind under such a calm brow. Eleanor sighed and smiled.

"Among your auriculas, aunty, as usual!"

"Among everything," said Mrs. Caxton. "There is a great deal to do.
Don't you want to help, Eleanor? You may plant gladiolus bulbs - or you
may make cuttings - or you may sow seeds. I can find you work."

"Aunty, I am going down to the village."

"O it is Wednesday afternoon!" said Mrs. Caxton. And she came close up
to her niece and kissed her, while one hand was full of bulbs and the
other held a trowel. "Well go, my dear. Not at peace yet, Eleanor?" -

There was so tender a tone in these last words that Eleanor could not
reply. She dashed away without making any answer; and all along the way
to Plassy she was every now and then repeating them to herself. "Not at
peace yet, Eleanor?"

She was in a tender mood this afternoon; the questions and remarks
addressed to the other persons in the meeting frequently moved her to
tears, so that she sat with her hand to her brow to hide the watering
eyes. She did not dread the appeal to herself, for Mr. Rhys never asked
her any troublesome questions; never anything to which she had to make
a troublesome answer; though there might be perhaps matter for thought
in it. He had avoided anything, whether in his asking or replying, that
would give her any difficulty _there_, in the presence of
others, - whatever it might do in her own mind and in secret. To-day he
asked her, "Have you found peace yet?"

"No," said Eleanor.

"What is the state of your mind - if you could give it in one word?"


"What is it confused about? Do you understand - clearly - the fact that
you are a sinner? without excuse?"


"Do you understand - clearly - that Christ has suffered for sins, the
just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God?"

"Yes. I understand it."

"Is there any confusion in your mind as to the terms on which the Lord
will receive you? - forsaking your sins, and trusting in him to pardon
and save you?"

"No - I see that."

"Do you think there is any other condition besides those two?"


"Why do you not accept them?"

Eleanor raised her eyes with a feeling almost of injustice. "I
cannot!" - she said.

"That makes no difference. God never gives a command that cannot with
his help be fulfilled. There was a man once brought to Jesus - carried
by foul men; he was palsied, and lay on a litter or bed, unable to move
himself at all. To this man the Lord said, 'Arise, take up thy bed, and
walk.' Suppose he had looked up and said, 'I cannot?'"

Eleanor struggled with herself. Was this fair? Was it a parallel case?
She could not tell. She kept silence. Mr. Rhys went on, with tones
subdued to great gentleness.

"My friend, Jesus invites to no empty board - to no cold reception. On
his part all is ready; the unreadiness lies somewhere with you, or the
invitation would be accepted. In your case it is not the bodily frame
that is palsied; it is the heart; and the command comes to you, sweet
as the invitation, - '_Give it to me_.' If you are entirely willing, the
thing is done. If it be not done, it is because, somewhere, you are not
willing - or do not believe. If you can trust Jesus, as that poor man
did, you may rise up and stand upon your feet this very hour. 'Believe
ye that I am able to do this?' he asked of the blind man whom he cured."

There was silence for an instant. And again, as he turned away from
her, Mr. Rhys broke out with the song, that Eleanor thought would break
her heart in twain this time, -

"How lost was my condition
Till Jesus made me whole;
There is but one physician
Can cure a sin-sick soul.
There's balm in Gilead -
To make the wounded whole.
There's power enough in Jesus
To save a sin-sick soul."

Eleanor had been the last one spoken to; the meeting soon was ended,
and she was on her way home. But so broken-spirited and humiliated that
she did not know what to do with herself. Could it be possible that she
was not _willing_ - or that she wanted _faith_ - or that there was some
secret corner of rebellion in her heart? It humbled her wonderfully to
think it. And yet she could not disprove the reasoning. God could not
be unfaithful; and if there were not somewhere on her part a failure to
meet the conditions, surely peace would have been made before now. And
she had thought herself all this while a subject for pity, not for
blame; nay, for blame indeed, but not in this regard. Her mouth was
stopped now. She rode home broken-hearted; would not see Mrs. Caxton at
supper; and spent the evening and much of the night in weeping and
self-searching. They were very downcast days that followed this day.
Mrs. Caxton looked at her anxiously sometimes; never interfered with

Towards the end of the week there was preaching at Glanog, and the
family went as usual. Eleanor rode by herself, going and coming, and
held no communication with her aunt by the way. But late at night, some
time after Mrs. Caxton had gone to bed, a white-robed figure came into
her room and knelt down by the bedside.

"Is that you, Eleanor?"

"Aunt Caxton - it's all gone!"


"My trouble. I came to tell you. It's all gone. I am so happy!"

"How is it, my dear child?"

"When Mr. Rhys was preaching to-night, it all came to me; I saw
everything clearly. I saw how Jesus loves sinners. I saw I had nothing
to do but to give myself to him, and he would do everything. I see how
sins are forgiven through his blood; and I trust in it, and I am sure
mine are; and I feel as if I had begun a new life, aunt Caxton!"

Eleanor's tears flowed like summer rain. Mrs. Caxton rose up and put
her arms round her.

"The Lord be praised!" she said. "I was waiting for this, Eleanor."

"Aunt Caxton, I had been trying and thinking to make myself good first.
I thought I was unworthy and unfit to be Christ's servant; but now I
see that I can be nothing but unworthy, and only he can make me fit for
anything; so I give up all, and I feel that he will do all for me. I am
so happy! I was so blind before!"

Mrs. Caxton said little; she only rejoiced with Eleanor so tenderly as
if she had been her own mother. Though that is speaking very coolly on
the present occasion. Mrs. Powle had never shewed her daughter so much
of that quality in her life, as Eleanor's aunt shewed now.

The breakfast next morning was unusually quiet. Happiness does not
always make people talkative.

"How do you do, my love?" said Mrs. Caxton when they were left alone.
"After being up half the night?"

"More fresh than I have felt for a year, aunt Caxton. Did you hear that
nightingale last night?"

"I heard him. I listened to him and thought of you."

"He sang - I cannot tell you what his song sounded like to me, aunt
Caxton. I could almost have fancied there was an angel out there."

"There were a great many rejoicing somewhere else. What glory to think
of it!" They were silent again till near the end of breakfast; then
Mrs. Caxton said, - "Eleanor, I shall be engaged the whole of this
morning. This afternoon, if you will, I will go with you into the

"This afternoon - is Wednesday, aunt Caxton."

"So it is. Well, before or after you go to the village, I want you to
dress some dishes of flowers for me - will you?"

"With great pleasure, ma'am. And I can get some hawthorn blossoms, I
know. I will do it before I go, ma'am."

Was it pleasant, that morning's work? Eleanor went out early to get her
sprays of May blossoms; and in the tender beauty of the day and season
was lured on and on, and tempted to gather other wild bits of
loveliness, till she at last found her hands full, and came home laden
with tokens of where she had been. "O'er the muir, amang the heather,"
Eleanor's walk had gone; and her basket was gay with gorse and broom
just opening; but from grassy banks on her way she had brought the
bright blue speedwell; and clematis and bryony from the hedges, and
from under them wild hyacinth and white campion and crane's-bill and
primroses; and a meadow she had passed over gave her one or two pretty
kinds of orchis, with daisies and cowslips, and grasses of various
kinds. Eleanor was dressing these in flower baskets and dishes, in the
open gallery that overlooked the meadows, when Mrs. Caxton passing
through on her own business stopped a moment to look at her.

"All those from your walk, my dear! Do you not mean to apply to the

"Aunty, I could have got a great many more, if I could have gone into
the woods - but my walk did not lie that way. Yes, ma'am, I am going
into the garden presently, when I have ordered these dishes well. Where
are they to go, aunt Caxton?"

"Some in one place and some in another. You may leave them here,
Eleanor, when they are done, and I will take care of them. Shall I have
the garden flowers cut for you?"

"O no, ma'am, if you please!"

Mrs. Caxton stood a moment longer watching Eleanor; the pretty work and
the pretty worker; the confusion of fair and sweet things around her
and under her fingers, with the very fine and fair human creature busy
about them. Eleanor's face was gravely happy; more bright than Mrs.
Caxton had ever seen it; very much of kin to the flowers. She watched
her a moment, and then went nearer to kiss Eleanor's forehead. The
flowers fell from the fingers, while the two exchanged a look of mute
sympathy; then on one part and on the other, business went forward.

Eleanor's work held her all the morning. For after the wild beauties
had been disposed to her mind, there was another turn with their more
pretentious sisters of the garden. Azaleas and honeysuckles, lilies of
the valley, hyacinths and pomponium lilies, with Scotch roses and white
broom, and others, made superb floral assemblages, out of doors or in;
and Eleanor looked at her work lovingly when it was done.

So went the morning of that day, and Eleanor's ride in the afternoon
was a fit continuation. May was abroad in the bursting leaves as well
as in opening flowers; the breath of Eden seemed to sweep down the
valley of Plassy. Ay, there is a partial return to the lost paradise,
for those whom Christ leads thither, even before we get to the
everlasting hills.

Eleanor this day was the first person addressed in the meeting. It had
never happened so before. But now Mr. Rhys asked her first of all, "How
do you do to-day?"

Eleanor looked up and answered, "Well. And all changed."

"Will you tell us how you mean?"

"It was when you were preaching last night. It all I came to me. I saw
my mistake, when you told about I the love of Christ to sinners. I saw
I had been trying to make myself good."

"And how is it now?"

"Now," - said Eleanor looking up again with full eyes, - "I will know
nothing but Christ."

The murmur of thanksgiving heard from one or two voices brought her
head down. It had nearly overcome her. But she controlled herself, and
presently went on; though not daring to look again into Mr. Rhys's
face, the expression of whose eyes of gladness was harder to meet than
the spoken thanksgivings.

"I see I have nothing, and am nothing," she said. "I see that Christ is
all, and will do all for me. I wish to be his servant. All is changed.
The very hills are changed. I never saw such colours or such sunlight,
as I have seen as I rode along this afternoon."

"A true judgment," said Mr. Rhys. "It has been often said, that the eye
sees what the eye brings the means of seeing; and the love of Christ
puts a glory upon all nature that far surpasses the glory of the sun.
It is a changed world, for those who know that love for the first time!
Friends, most of us profess to have that knowledge. Do we have it so
that it puts a glory on all the outer world, in the midst of which we
live and walk and attend to our business?"

"It does to me, sir," said the venerable old man whom Eleanor had
noticed; - "it does to me. Praise the Lord!" Instead of any other answer
they broke out singing, -

"O how happy are they
Who the Saviour obey,
And have laid up their treasure above.
Tongue can never express
The sweet comfort and peace
Of a soul in its earliest love."

"The way to keep that joy," said Mr. Rhys returning to Eleanor, "and to
know more of it, is to take every succeeding step in the Christian life
exactly as you took the first one; - in self-renunciation, in entire
dependence. As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in
him. It is a simple and humble way, the way along which the heavenly
light shines. Do everything for Christ - do everything in his
strength; - and you will soon know that the secret of the Lord is with
them that fear him. Blessed be his name! He giveth power to the faint,
and to them that have no might he increaseth strength."

It was easy to see that the speaker made a personal application here,
with reference to himself; but after that there was no more said
directly to Eleanor. The subject went round the circle, receiving the
various testimony of the persons there. Eleanor's heart gave quick
sympathy to many utterances, and took home with intent interest the
answering counsels and remarks, which in some instances were framed to
put a guard against self-deception or mistake. One or two of her
neighbours when the exercises were over, came and took her hand, with a
warm simple expression of feeling which made Eleanor's heart hot; and
then she rode home.

"Did you have a pleasant time?" said her aunt.

"Aunt Caxton, I think that room where we meet is the pleasantest place
in the world!"

"What do you think of the chapel at Glanog?"

"I don't know. I believe that is as good or better."

"Are you too tired to go out again?"

"Not at all. Who wants me?"

"Nanny Croghan is very sick. I have been with her all the afternoon;
and Jane is going to sit up with her to-night; but Jane cannot go yet."

"She need not. I will stay there myself. I like it, aunt Caxton."

"Then I will send for you early in the morning."

Nanny Croghan lived a mile or two from the farmhouse. Eleanor walked
there, attended by John with a basket. The place was a narrow dell
between two uprising hills covered with heather; as wild and secluded
as it is possible to imagine. The poor woman who lived there alone was
dying of lingering disease. John delivered the basket, and left Eleanor
alone with her charge and the mountains.

It was not a night like that she had spent by the bedside of her old
nurse's daughter. Nanny was dying fast; and she needed something done
for her constantly. Through all the hours of the darkness Eleanor was
kept on the watch or actively employed, in administering medicine, or
food, or comfort. For when Nanny wanted nothing else, she wanted that.

"Tell me something I can fix my mind onto," she would say. "It seems
slipping away from me, like. And then I gets cold with fear."

Eleanor was new at the business; she had forgotten to bring her Bible
with her, and she could find none in the house; "her sister had been
there," Nanny said, "and had carried it away." Eleanor was obliged to
draw on the slender stores of her memory; and to make the most of
those, she was obliged to explain them to Nanny, and go them over and
over, and pick them to pieces, and make her rest upon each clause and
almost each word of a verse. There were some words that surely Eleanor
became well acquainted with that night. For Nanny could sleep very
little, and when she could not sleep she wanted talking incessantly.
Eleanor urged her to accept the promises and she would have the peace.
"The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him."

"Ay, but I never did fear him, you see, - till a bit agone; and now it's
all fear. I fear furder'n I can see."

"Nanny, Nanny, the blood of Christ will take all that fear away - if
only you will trust in it. He shed it for you - to pay your debts to
justice. There is no condemnation to them which are in him."

Nanny did not know exactly what so big a word as condemnation meant;
Eleanor was obliged to explain it; then what was meant by being "in
Christ." Towards morning Nanny seemed somewhat soothed and fell into a
doze. Eleanor went to the cottage door and softly opened it, to see how
the night went.

The dawn was breaking fair over the hills, the tops of which shewed the
unearthly brightness of coming day. It took Eleanor's eyes and thoughts
right up. O for the night of darkness to pass away from this weary
earth! Down in the valley the shadows lay thicker; how thick they lay
about the poor head just now resting in sleep. How thick they lay but a
day or two ago upon Eleanor herself! Now she looked up. The light was
flushing upon the mountain tops every moment stronger. The dewy scents
of the May morning were filling the air with their nameless and
numberless tokens of rich nature's bounty. The voice of a cataract,
close at hand, made merry down the rocks along with the song of the
blackbird, woodpecker and titmouse. And still, as Eleanor stood there
and looked and listened, the rush and the stir of sweet life grew more
and more; the spring breeze wakened up and floated past her face
bringing the breath of the flowers fresher and nearer; and the hill
tops ever kindled into more and more glow. "It is Spring! and it is
Day!" thought Eleanor, - "and so it is in my heart. The darkness is
gone; the light is like that light, - promising more; my life is full of
sweetness I never knew. Surely this month shall be the month of months
to me for ever. O for this day - O for this morning - to waken over all
the world!"

She stood there, for Nanny still slept, till the sunbeams struck the
hills and crept down the sides of them; and till John and Jane came in
sight round the angle of the road. John had brought the pony to take
Eleanor home; and a few minutes' ride brought her there. Morning
prayers were however done, before Eleanor could refresh herself with
cold water and a change of dress. When she came down to the
sitting-room Mrs. Caxton had stepped out on some business; and in her
place, sitting alone with a book, Eleanor was greatly surprised to see
Mr. Rhys.

He was not at all surprised to see her; rose up and gave her a very
cordial grasp of the hand, and stirred up the wood fire; which, May
morning though it was, the thick walls of the old stone house and the
neighbourhood of the mountains made useful and agreeable. In silence
and with a good deal of skill Mr. Rhys laid the logs together so that a
fresh blaze sprang up; then after a remark upon the morning he went
back to his book. Eleanor sat down, also silent, feeling very much
delighted to see him there, and to think that they would have his
company at breakfast; but not at all inclined, nor indeed competent, to
open a conversation. She looked into the fire and wondered at the turns
that had brought about this meeting; wondered over the past year of her
life; remembered her longing for the "helmet of salvation" which her
acquaintance with Mr. Rhys had begun; and sang for joy in her heart
that now she had it. Yes, it was hers, she believed; a deep rest and
peace had taken place of craving and anxiety, such as even now
disturbed poor dying Nanny. Eleanor felt very happy, in the midst of
all her care for her. The fire burned beautifully.

"I was not aware," said Mr. Rhys looking up from his book, "I was not
aware till last night that you lived with Mrs. Caxton."

Very odd, Eleanor thought; most people would have found out; however
she took it simply.

"I am her niece."

"So I find, - so I am glad to find. I can wish nothing better for any
one, in that kind, than to be connected with Mrs. Caxton."

He sat with his finger between the leaves of his book, and Eleanor
again wondered at the silence; till Mrs. Caxton came in. It was not
very flattering; but Eleanor was not troubled with vanity; she
dismissed it with a thought compounded of good-humour and humility. At
breakfast the talk went on pretty briskly; it was all between the other
two and left her on one side; yet it was good enough to listen to it.
Eleanor was well satisfied. Mr. Rhys was the principal talker; he was
telling Mrs. Caxton of different people and things in the course of his
labours; which constantly gave a reflex gleam of light upon those
labours themselves and upon the labourer. Unconsciously of course, and
merely from the necessity of the case; but it was very interesting to
Eleanor, and probably to Mrs. Caxton; she looked so. At last she turned
to her niece.

"How did you leave Nanny?"

"A little easier towards morning, I think; at least she went to sleep,
which all the night she could not do."

"Nor you neither."

"O that's nothing. I don't mind that at all. It was worth watching, to
see the dawn."

"Was the woman in so much pain?" Mr. Rhys asked.

"No; not bodily; she was uneasy in mind."

"In what way."

"Afraid of what lies before her; seeing dimly, if at all."

"Was she comforted by what you told her?"

"I had very little to tell her," said Eleanor; "I had no Bible; I had
forgotten to take it; and hers was gone. I had to get what I could from
memory, for I did not like to give her anything but the words of the

Online LibrarySusan WarnerThe Old Helmet, Volume II → online text (page 1 of 25)