Susan Warner.

The Old Helmet, Volume II online

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daughter she had still remaining, whom she hoped to keep her own,
guarding her against the influences which had made so wide a separation
between her eldest and the family and sphere to which she belonged.
Julia, she hoped, would one day do her honour. As for the islands of
the South Seas, or the peculiar views and habits of life entertained by
those white people who chose them for their residence, Mrs. Powle
declared she was incapable from very ignorance of understanding or
giving judgment about them. She made the whole question, together with
her daughter, over to her sister Mrs. Caxton, who she did not doubt
would do wisely according to her notions. But as they were not the
notions of the world generally, they were quite incomprehensible to the
writer, and in a sphere entirely beyond and without her cognizance. She
hoped Eleanor would be happy - if it were not absurd to hope an

But on one point the letter was clear, if on no other. Eleanor should
not come home. She had ruined her own prospects; Mrs. Powle could not
help that; she should not ruin Julia's. Whether she stayed in England
or whether she went on her fool's voyage, _this_ was a certain thing.
She should not see Julia, to infect her. Mrs. Powle desired to be
informed of Eleanor's movements; that if she went she herself might
meet her in London before she sailed. But she would not let her see
Julia either then or at any time.

This cruel letter broke Eleanor down completely. It settled the
question of her life indeed; and settled it according to her wish and
against her fears; but for all that, it was a letter of banishment and
renunciation. With something of the feeling which makes a wounded
creature run to shelter, Eleanor gathered up her papers and went down
to Mrs. Caxton; threw them into her lap, and kneeling beside her put
herself in her arms.

"What is it, my child?" said Mrs. Caxton. "What does your mother say to

"She gives her consent - but she gives me up to you, aunt Caxton. She
counts me your child and not hers."

"My love, I asked her to do so. You have been mine, in my own mind, for
a long time past. My Eleanor!" - And Mrs. Caxton's kiss and her warm
clasping arms spoke more than her words.

"But she renounces me - and she will not let me see Julia." - Eleanor was
in very great distress.

"She will by and by. She will not hold to that."

"She says she will not at all. O aunt Caxton, I want to see Julia
again!" -

"Were you faithful to Julia while you were with her?"

"Yes - I think so - while I could. I had hardly any chance the last
winter I was at home; we were never together; but I seized what I

"Your mother kept you apart?"

"I believe so."

"My child, remember, as one day is with the Lord as a thousand years,
so one word is as a thousand words; he can make it do his work. All we
have to do is to be faithful, and then trust. You recollect the words
of that grand hymn on the Will of God -

"'I do the little I can do,
And leave the rest to thee.'

"I don't think I know it."

Mrs. Caxton went on.

"'When obstacles and trials seem
Like prison walls to be,
I do the little I can do,
And leave the rest to thee.

"'I know not what it is to doubt;
My heart is ever gay;
I run no risk, for, come what will,
Thou always hast thy way.

"'I have no cares, O blessed will!
For all my cares are thine.
I live in triumph, Lord, for thou
Hast made thy triumphs mine.'"

Eleanor lifted up her face and pressed a long kiss on her aunt's lips.
"But I want to see Julia!"

"My love, I think you will. It will be some time yet before you can
possibly leave England. I think your mother will withdraw her
prohibition before that time. Meanwhile - "

Eleanor lay with her head on Mrs. Caxton's bosom, her brown eyes
looking out with a sweet and sorrowful wistfulness towards the light.
Mrs. Caxton read them.

"This gift would be very precious to me, my child," she said,
tightening the pressure of the arms which still were wrapped round
Eleanor, - "if I were not obliged so soon to make it over to somebody
else. But I will not be selfish. It is unspeakably precious to me now.
It gives me the right to take care of you. I asked your mother for it.
I am greatly obliged to her. Now what are you going to do to-day?"

"Write - to Fiji," said Eleanor slowly and without moving.

"Right; and so will I. And do not you be overmuch concerned about
Julia. There is another verse of that hymn, which I often think of -

"'I love to see thee bring to nought,
The plans of wily men;
When simple hearts outwit the wise,
O thou art loveliest then!'"



"If Proteus like your journey, when you come,
No matter who's displeas'd when you are gone;
I fear me he will scarce be pleas'd withal."

The way was clear, and Eleanor wrote to Fiji as she had said. She could
not however get rid of her surprise that her mother had permitted the
tenor of these letters to be what it was. What had moved Mrs. Powle, so
to act against all her likings and habits of action? How came she to
allow her daughter to go to the South Seas and be a missionary?

Several things which Eleanor knew nothing of, and which so affected the
drift of Mrs. Powle's current of life that she was only, according to
custom, sailing with it and not struggling against it. When people seem
to act unlike themselves, it is either that you do not know themselves,
or do not know some other things which they know. So in this case. For
one thing, to name the greatest first, Mr. Carlisle was unmistakeably
turning his attention to another lady, a new star in the world of
society; an earl's daughter and an heiress. Whether heart-whole or not,
which was best known to himself, Mr. Carlisle was prosecuting his
addresses in this new quarter with undoubted zeal and determination. It
was not the time for Eleanor now to come home! Let her do anything
else, - was the dictate of pride. _Now_ to come home, or even not to
come home, remaining Eleanor Powle, was to confess in the world's eye a
lamentably lost game; to take place as a rejected or vainly ambitious
girl; the _would-have-been_ lady of Rythdale. Anything but that!
Eleanor might almost better die at once. She would not only have ruined
her own prospects, but would greatly injure those of Julia, on whom her
mother's hopes and pride were now all staked. Alfred was taken from her
and put under guardians; Mrs. Powle did not build anything on him; he
was a boy, and when he was a man he would be only Alfred Powle. Julia
promised to be a beauty; on her making a fine match rested all Mrs.
Powle's expectations from this world; and she was determined to spare
no pains, expense, nor precautions. Therefore she resolved that the
sisters should not be together, cost what it might. Good bye to all her
cares or hopes on Julia's behalf, looking to a great establishment, if
Julia became a Methodist! She might go on a farm like her aunt and sell
cheeses. The thought of those cheeses froze the blood in Mrs. Powle's
veins; that was a characteristic of good blood, she firmly believed.
Therefore on every account, for every reason, nothing better could
happen than that Eleanor should go to the South Seas. She would escape
the shame of coming home; Julia would be out of danger of religious
contamination; and she herself would be saved from the necessary odium
of keeping one daughter in banishment and the other in seclusion; which
odium she must incur if both of them remained in England and neither of
them ever saw the other. All this would be cleverly saved. Then also,
if Eleanor married a missionary and went to the other end of the world,
her case could be very well dismissed as one of a religious
enthusiasm - a visionary, fanatical excitement. Nay, there could be made
even a little _├ęclat_ about it. There would be no mortification, at any
rate, comparable to that which must attend supposed overthrown schemes
and disappointed ambition. Eleanor had chosen her own course, backed by
her wealthy relation, Mrs. Caxton, who had adopted her; and whose views
were entirely not of this world. Mrs. Powle deplored it, of course, but
was unable to help it. Besides, Mrs. Caxton had answered, on her own
knowledge, for the excellent character and superior qualities of the
gentleman Eleanor was to marry; there was no fault to be found with him
at all, except that he was a fanatic; and as Eleanor was a fanatic
herself, that was only a one-sided objection.

Yes, Mrs. Caxton had answered for all that, on her own knowledge, of
many years' standing; and she had said something more, which also
weighed with Mrs. Powle and which Mrs. Powle could also mention among
the good features of the case, without stating that it had had the
force of an inducement with herself. Mrs. Caxton had asked indeed to be
permitted to consider Eleanor her own, and had promised in that case to
make Eleanor entirely her own care, both during Mrs. Caxton's life and
afterwards; leaving Mrs. Powle free to devote all her fortune to Julia
that would have been shared with Julia's sister. Mrs. Powle's means
were not in her estimation large; she wanted every penny of them for
the perfecting and carrying out of her plans which regarded her
youngest daughter; she consented that the elder should own another
mother and guardian. Mrs. Powle agreed to it all. But not satisfied
with any step of the whole affair nevertheless, which all displeased
her, from beginning to end, her own action included, she expressed her
determination to Eleanor in terms which half broke Eleanor's heart; and
left a long, lingering, sore spot there. To Mrs. Caxton Mrs. Powle's
writing was much better worded; civil if not kind, and well mannered if
not motherly.

The thing was done, at all events; Eleanor was formally made over to
another mother and left free to do whatever her new guardian pleased.
Letters of a different sort of temper were sent off upon their long
journey to the South Seas; and there began a busy time at Plassy, in
anticipation of Eleanor's following them. It was still very uncertain
when that might be; opportunities must be waited for; such an
opportunity as would satisfy Mrs. Caxton. In the mean while a great
deal of business was on hand. Mrs. Caxton even made a journey up to
London and took Eleanor with her; for the sake of inquiries and
arrangements which could not be attended to from a distance. For the
sake of purchases too, which could be made nowhere but in London. For
Mrs. Caxton was bent, not only on supplying Eleanor with all that could
be thought of in the way of outfit; but also on getting together to
accompany or precede her everything that could be sent that might be
useful or helpful to Mr. Rhys or comfortable in the household; in
short, to transfer England as nearly as possible to Fiji. As freights
of course were expensive, all these matters must be found and
compressed in the smallest compass they could possibly know as their
limits; and Mrs. Caxton was very busy. London did not hold them but a
fortnight; the rest of the time work was done at Plassy.

And the months rolled on. Cheeses were turned off as usual, and Mrs.
Caxton's business was as brisk as ever. Eleanor's outfit gradually got
ready; and before and after that was true, Eleanor's visits among her
neighbours and poor people were the same as ever. She had strength and
spirit enough for all calls upon either; and her sweet diligence seemed
to be even more than ever, now that work at Plassy was drawing towards
a close. Still Eleanor gathered the spoils of the moors and the
hedge-rows, as she went and came on her errands; climbed the mountain
on Powis and explored the rocks and the waterfalls on her way. As usual
her hands came home full. The house was gay with broom again in its
season; before that the violets and wood anemone had made the tea-table
and the breakfast table sweet with their presence. Blue-bells and
butter-cups and primroses had their time, and lovely they looked,
helped out by the yellow furze blossoms which Eleanor was very fond of.
Then the scorpion grass, of both kinds, proclaimed that it was summer;
and borage was bright in the sitting-room. Eleanor could hardly look at
it without an inward smile and sigh, remembering the cheering little
couplet which attached to it by old usage; and Julia from whose lips
she had first heard it; and the other lips that had given it to Julia.
Corn-marigold was gay again in July, and the white blackberry blossoms
came with crane's bill and flax, campion and willow-herb, speedwell and
vetchling. Any one well acquainted with the wild things that grow and
blossom in the land, might have known any day what time of the year it
was by going into Mrs. Caxton's sitting parlour and using his eyes.
Until the purple ling and loosestrife, gave place to mint and maiden
pink and late meadow-sweet; and then the hop vine and meadow saffron
proclaimed that summer was over. But ferns had their representatives at
all times.

Summer was over; and no chance for Eleanor's sailing had yet presented
itself. Preparations were all made; and the two ladies lived on in
waiting and in the enjoyment of each other, and doubtless with a
mixture of thoughts that were not enjoyment. But a very sweet even glow
of love and peace and patience filled the house. Letters were written;
and once and again letters had arrived, even from Mr. Rhys. They told
of everything going on at his station; of his work and pleasures; of
the progress the truth was making; and the changes coming even while he
looked, upon the population of the islands, their manners and
character. There never were letters, I suppose, more thoroughly read
and studied and searched out in every detail, than all those letters
were by Eleanor; for every fact was of importance to her; and the
manner of every word told her something. They told her what made her
eyes fill and her pulse beat quick. But among them there was not a word
to herself. No, and not even a word about herself. In vain Eleanor
hoped for it and searched for it. There was not even an allusion that
looked her way.

"Do you want to know what I am doing?" Mr. Rhys wrote in one of these
letters. "You see by my date that I am not in the place I last wrote
from. I am alone on this island, which has never had a resident
missionary and which has people enough that need the care of one; so it
has been decided that I should pitch my tent here for some months.
There is not a large population - not quite five hundred people in the
whole island; but almost all of them that are grown up are professing
Christian - members of the church, and not disgracing their profession.
The history of the church in this place is wonderful and even of
romantic interest. One of their chiefs, being in another part of Fiji,
fell in with a chief who was a Christian. From him he learned something
of the new religion, and carried back to Ono thus much of truth - that
Jehovah is the only God and that all worship and praise is his due.
Further than this, and the understanding that the seventh day should be
especially spent in his service, the Ono chief knew nothing. Was not
that a little seed for a great tree to grow from? But his island had
just been ravaged by disease and by war; in their distress the people
had applied in vain to their old gods to save them; they were convinced
now from what they heard that help is in the Lord alone, and they
resolved to seek him. But they knew not the Lord, nor his ways, and
there was no one to teach them. Fancy that company of heathens
renouncing heathenism - setting apart the seventh day for worship,
preparing food beforehand so that the day might be hallowed, putting on
their best dresses and fresh oil, and meeting to seek the unknown God!
Oh kingdom of Christ, come, come! -

"When they were met, they did not know how to begin their service.
However, as old custom referred them to their priests for intercourse
with heaven, they bethought them to apply to one now, and told him what
I they wanted. I do not understand what influenced the man; but
however, heathen priest of a heathen god as he was, he consented to
officiate for this Christian service. The priest came; the assembly sat
down; and the priest made a prayer, after this fashion as it has been
reported to me. _He_ did not then renounce heathenism, you understand.

"'Lord, Jehovah! here are thy people; they worship thee. I turn my back
on thee for the present, and am on another tack, worshipping another
god. But do thou bless these thy people; keep them from harm, and do
them good.'

"That was the beginning; and doubtless the Lord hearkened and heard it.
For awhile they went on as they had begun; then wanting something more,
they sent messengers to Tonga to beg for teachers. Now, as I said, the
people are nearly all Christians, and not in name only; and all the
children are brought to be taught. Here am I; don't you think I am in a
good place? But I am here only for a little while; more cannot be
spared to so small a population at this time.

"To get here, one has to shoot something such a gulf as I described to
you at Vulanga. The barrier reef has a small opening. At particular
times of tide a boat can go through; but with the rush of waves from
without, meeting the tremendous current from within, it is an exciting
business; somewhat dangerous as well as fearful. The ships cannot get
inside the barrier. The night I came, canoes came out to meet me,
bringing a present of yams as their contribution to our fund; they
brought as many as the vessel could find room for. In the canoe with
the Ono people I felt myself with friends; I had visited the place
before, and they knew me. The current made fearfully hard work for
them; but it was love's labour; they felt about me, I suppose,
something as the Galatians did towards Paul. The next day was Sunday. I
preached to an attentive congregation, and had a happy time. Now I will
give you a notion of my run of employments at the present time.

"First. Playing bookbinder. Fact. One has to play all sorts of things
here - and the more the better. My work was to stitch, fold, (fold
first) and cover, so many copies of the New Testament as I had brought
with me - printed, but in sheets. I did them strong! more than that I
will not answer for; but I wish I could send you a copy. It would be
only a curiosity in art, though; you could not read it. It is an
admirable translation in Fijian. As I have had but very slight previous
practice in bookbinding, my rate of progress was at first somewhat
slow; and after a few days of solitary labour I was glad to accept the
offer of help from four or five native apprentices - some of our local
preachers. They took to the work kindly; and in five weeks we finished
the edition - sixty copies. I could do the next sixty quicker. These are
the first Fijian testaments in Ono, and you can understand - or you
cannot - what a treasure. The natives who came to purchase them found no
fault with the binding, I assure you. So you see I have been bookseller
as well as the other thing; and I received pay for my testaments in
_sinnet_ - you know what that is. It is as good as money for the mission
use here in Fiji. During these bookbinding weeks I was making
excursions hither and thither, to preach and baptize. Twice a week I
took a time to see the local preachers and teachers and examine them
and hear them read and talk to them and be talked to by them. Every
Tuesday and Friday I did this. The whole course of the week's work is
now something like the following:

"Sunday begins with a prayer-meeting. Afterwards old and young have a
catechism exercise together. Morning and afternoon, preaching.

"Monday, the morning there is a children's school, and the afternoon a
school for grown people. I question both classes on the sermons of the
preceding day; and I hope English people have as good memories. The
afternoon school is followed by a prayer-meeting. Tuesdays and Fridays
I have the teachers' meeting in addition.

"Wednesday I preach, have leaders' meeting, and give out work for the
week to come.

"Thursday, preaching at one of the neighbouring towns, and a sort of
young class-meeting.

"Friday, I have said what I do.

"Saturday has a prayer-meeting.

"So much for the regular work. Then there are the sick to look after,
and my own private studies; and there is not a minute to spare. A few
that cannot be spared are claimed by the mosquitos, which hold their
high court and revel here at Ono; of all places on the earth that I
know, their headquarters. When I was here before with Brother Lefferts
and others, two of them could not sit still to read something that
wanted to be read; they walked the floor, one holding the candle, the
other the paper; both fighting mosquitos with both hands. I am of a
less excitable temperament - for I contrive to live a little more

"Shall I tell you some of these native testimonies of Christians who a
little while ago worshipped idols? At our love-feast lately some thirty
or forty spoke. They did my heart good. So may they yours. These people
said but few words, full of feeling; my report cannot all give the
effect. I wish it could.

"One old chief, who could hardly speak for feeling, said, 'These are
new things to me in these days;' (he meant the love-feasts) 'I did not
know them formerly. My soul is humbled. I rejoice greatly in the Lord.
I rejoice greatly for sending his servants.'

"A Tongan teacher - 'I desire that God may rule over me,' (i. e., direct
me) 'I desire not to govern myself. I know that I am a child of God: I
know that God is my father. My friends wrote for me to go to Tonga; but
I wondered at it. I wish to obey the Father of my soul.'

"A local preacher - 'I know that God is near, and helps me sometimes in
my work. I love all men. I do not fear death; one thing I fear, the

"Leva Soko, a female class-leader, a very holy woman, said, - this is
but a part of what she said, - 'My child died, but I loved God the more.
My body has been much afflicted, but I love him the more. I know that
death would only unite me to God.'

"A teacher, a native of Ono, who had gone to a much less pleasant place
to preach the gospel, and was home on a visit, spoke exceedingly well.
'I did not leave Ono that I might have more food. I desired to go that
I might preach Christ. I was struck with stones twice while in my own
house; but I could bear it. When the canoes came, they pillaged my
garden; but my mind was not pained at it: I bore it only.'

"A local preacher - 'I am a very bad man; there is no good thing in me;
but I know the love of God There are not two great things in my mind;
there is one only, - the love of God for the sake of Christ. I know that
I am a child of God. I wish to repent and believe every day till I die.'

"These are but a specimen, my dear friend. The other day, in our
teachers' meeting we were reading the nineteenth chapter of John. An
old teacher read the eighteenth verse in his turn - the words, 'Where
they crucified him, and two other with him, on either side one, and
Jesus in the midst.' He could hardly get through it, and then burst
into tears and wept aloud. This man was a cannibal once. And now his
life speaks for the truth of his tears.

"Good night. The mosquitos are not favourable to epistle writing. I am
well. Remember me, as I remember you.

"R. R."

"Aunt Caxton," said Eleanor after reading this letter for the second or
third time, - "have we a supply of mosquito netting among my boxes? I
could get the better of the mosquitos, I think."

"How would you like to help bind books?" said Mrs. Caxton. "Or
translate? Mr. Rhys seems to be about that business, by what he says in
the other letter."

"He would not want help in that," said Eleanor, musing and flushing.
"Aunt Caxton - is it foolish in me to wish I could hear once more from
Mr. Rhys before I go?"

"Only a little foolish, my love; and very natural."

"Then why is it foolish?"

"Because reason would tell you that it is simply impossible your
letters could receive an answer by this time. They have perhaps but
barely got to Mr. Rhys this minute. And reason would tell you further
that there is no ground for supposing he is in any different mind from
that expressed when he wrote to you."

"But - you know - since then he does not say one word about it, nor about
me," said Eleanor flushing pretty deep.

"There is reason for that, too. He would not allow himself to indulge
hope; and therefore he would not act as if he had any. That sight of

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Online LibrarySusan WarnerThe Old Helmet, Volume II → online text (page 14 of 25)