Susan Warner.

The Old Helmet, Volume II online

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you at Brighton threw him off a good deal, I judge."

"He told you he saw me?"

"He wrote to me about it."

"Did he tell you how he saw me?"


"What more?"

"He said he thought there was little chance I would have any use for
his letters; he saw the world was closing its nets around you fast; how
far they were already successful he could not know; but he was glad he
had seen what forbade him in time to indulge vain anticipations."

"Oh aunt Caxton!" said Eleanor - "Oh aunt Caxton! what a strange world
this is, for the way people's lives cross each other, and the work that
is done without people's knowing it! If you knew - what that meeting
cost me! - "

"My dear child! I can well believe it."

"And it aroused Mr. Carlisle's suspicions instantly, I knew. If I made
any mistake - if I erred at all, in my behaviour with regard to him, it
was then and in consequence of that. If I had faltered a bit
then - looked grave or hung back from what was going on, I should have
exposed myself to most cruel interpretation. I could not risk it. I
threw myself right into whatever presented itself - went into the
whirl - welcomed everybody and everything - only, I hoped, with so
general and impartial a welcome as should prove I preferred none

Eleanor stopped and the tears came into her eyes.

"My child! if I had known what danger you were in, I should have spent
even more time than I did in praying for you."

"I suppose I was in danger," said Eleanor thoughtfully. "It was a
difficult winter. Then do you think - Mr. Rhys gave me up?"

"No," said Mrs. Caxton smiling. "You remember he wrote to you after
that, from Fiji; but I suppose he tried to make himself give you up, as
far as hope went."

"For all that appears, I may be here long enough yet to have letters
before I go. We have heard of no opportunity that is likely to present
itself soon. Aunt Caxton, if my feeling is foolish, why is it natural?"

"Because you are a woman, my dear."

"And foolish?"

"Not at all; but feeling takes little counsel of reason in some cases.
I am afraid you will find that out again before you get to Mr.
Rhys - _after_ that, I do not think you will."

The conversation made Eleanor rather more anxious than she had been
before to hear of a ship; but October and November passed, and the
prospect of her voyage was as misty as ever.

Again and again, all summer, both she and Mrs. Caxton had written
begging that Mrs. Powle would make a visit to Plassy and bring or send
Julia. In vain. Mrs. Powle would not come. Julia could not.



"A wild dedication of yourselves
To unpath'd waters, undream'd shores; most certain,
To miseries enough."

In a neat plain drawing-room in a plain part of London, sat Mrs. Caxton
and Eleanor. Eleanor however soon left her seat and took post at the
window; and silence reigned in the room unbroken for some length time
except by the soft rustle of Mrs. Caxton's work. Her fingers were
rarely idle. Nor were Eleanor's hands often empty; but to-day she stood
still as a statue before the window, while now and then a tear softly
roll down and dropped on her folded hands. There were no signs of the
tears however, when the girl turned round with the short announcement,

"She's here."

Mrs. Caxton looked up a little bit anxiously at her adopted child; but
Eleanor's face was only still and pale. The next moment the door
opened, and for all the world as in old times the fair face and fair
curls of Mrs. Powle appeared. Just the same; unless just now she
appeared a trifle frightened. The good lady felt so. Two fanatics. She
hardly knew how to encounter them. And then, her own action, though she
could not certainly have called it fanatical, had been peculiar, and
might be judged divers ways. Moreover, Mrs. Powle was Eleanor's mother.

There was one in the company who remembered that, witness the still
close embrace which Eleanor threw around her, and the still hiding of
the girl's face on her mother's bosom. Mrs. Powle returned the embrace
heartily enough; but when Eleanor's motionless clasp had lasted as long
as she knew how to do anything with it and longer than she felt to be
graceful, Mrs. Powle whispered,

"Won't you introduce me to your aunt, my dear, - if this is she."

Eleanor released her mother, but sobbed helplessly for a few minutes;
then she raised her head and threw off her tears; and there was to one
of the two ladies an exquisite grace in the way she performed the
required office of making them known to each other. The gentleness of a
chastened heart, the strength of a loving one, the dignity of an humble
one, made her face and manner so lovely that Mrs. Caxton involuntarily
wished Mr. Rhys could have seen it. "But he will have chance enough,"
she thought, somewhat incongruously, as she met and returned her
sister-in-law's greetings. Mrs. Powle made them with ceremonious
respect, not make believe, and with a certain eagerness which welcomed
a diversion from Eleanor's somewhat troublesome agitation. Eleanor's
agitation troubled no one any more, however; she sat down calm and
quiet; and Mrs. Powle had leisure, glancing at her from time to time,
to get into smooth sailing intercourse with Mrs. Caxton. She took off
her bonnet, and talked about indifferent things, and sipped chocolate;
for it was just luncheon time. Ever and anon her eyes came back to
Eleanor; evidently as to something which troubled her and which puzzled
her; and Mrs. Caxton saw, which had also the effect of irritation too.
Very likely, Mrs. Caxton thought! Conscience on one hand not satisfied,
and ambition on the other hand disappointed, and Eleanor the point of
meeting for both uneasy feelings to concentrate their forces. It would
come out in words soon, Mrs. Caxton knew. But how lovely Eleanor seemed
to her. There was not even a cloud upon her brow now; fair as it was
pure and strong.

"And so you are going?" Mrs. Powle began at last, in a somewhat
constrained voice. Eleanor smiled.

"And _when_ are you going?"

"My letter said, Next Tuesday the ship sails."

"And pray, Eleanor, you are not going alone?"

"No, mamma. A gentleman and his wife are going the whole voyage with

"Who are they?"

"A Mr. Amos and his wife."

"_What_ are they then? missionaries?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Going to that same place?"

"Yes, ma'am - very nicely for me."

"Pray how long do you expect the voyage will take you?"

"I am not certain - it is made, or can be made, in four or five months;
but then we may have to stop awhile at Sydney."

"Sydney? what Sydney? Where is that?"

"Australia, mamma," said Eleanor smiling. "New South Wales. Don't you

"_Australia!_ Are you going there? To Botany Bay?"

"No, mamma; not to Botany Bay. And I only take Australia by the way. I
go further."

"_Further_ than Botany Bay?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Well certainly," said Mrs. Powle with an accent of restrained despair,
"the present age is enterprising beyond what was ever known in my young
days. What do you think, sister Caxton, of a young lady taking voyage
five months long after her husband, instead of her husband taking it
for her? He ought to be a grateful man, I think!"

"Certainly; but not too grateful," Mrs. Caxton answered composedly;
"for in this case necessity alters the rule."

"I do not understand such necessities," said Mrs. Powle; "at least if a
thing cannot be done properly, I should say it was better not to do it
at all. However, I suppose it is too late to speak now. I would not
have my daughter hold herself so lightly as to confer such an honour on
any man; but I gave her to you to dispose of, so no doubt it is all
right. I hope Mr. What's-his-name is worthy of it."

"Mamma, let me give you another cup of chocolate," said Eleanor. And
she served her with the chocolate and the toast and the hung beef, in a
way that gave Mrs. Caxton's heart a feast. There was the beautiful calm
and high grace with which Eleanor used to meet her social difficulties
two years ago, and baffle both her trials and her tempters. Mrs. Caxton
had never seen it called for. Her face shewed not the slightest
embarrassment at her mother's words; not a shade of rising colour did
dishonour to Mr. Rhys by proving that she so much as even felt the
slurs against him or the jealousy professed on her own behalf.
Eleanor's calm sweet face was an assertion both of his dignity and her
own. Perhaps Mrs. Powle felt herself in a hopeless case.

"What do you expect to live on out there?" she said, changing her
ground, as she dipped her toast into chocolate. "You won't have this
sort of thing."

"I have never thought much about it," said Eleanor smiling. "Where
other people live and grow strong, I suppose I can."

"No, it does not follow at all," replied her mother. "You are
accustomed to certain things, and you would feel the want of them. For
instance, will you have bread like this out there? wheat bread?"

"I shall not want chocolate," said Eleanor. "The climate is too hot."

"But bread?"

"Wheat flour is shipped for the use of the mission families," said Mrs.
Caxton. "It is known that many persons would suffer without it; and we
do not wish unnecessary suffering should be undergone."

"Have they cows there?"

"Mamma!" said Eleanor laughing.

"Well, have they? Because Miss Broadus or somebody was saying the other
day, that in New Zealand they never had them till we sent them out. So
I wondered directly whether they had in this place."

"I fancy not, mamma. You will have to think of me as drinking my tea
without cream."

"So you will take tea there with you?"

"Why not?"

"I have got the impression," said Mrs. Powle, "somehow, that you would
do nothing as other people do. You will drink tea, will you? I'll give
you a box."

"Thank you, mamma," said Eleanor, but the colour flushed now to the
roots of her hair, - "aunt Caxton has given me a great stock already."

"And coffee?"

"Yes, mamma - for great occasions - and concentrated milk for that."

"Do tell me what sort of a place it is, Eleanor."

"It is a great many places, mamma. It is a great many islands, large
and small, scattered over some hundreds of miles of ocean; but they are
so many and near each other often, and so surrounded with interlacing
coral reefs, that navigation there is in a kind of network of channels.
The islands are of many varieties, and of fairy-land beauty; rich in
vegetation and in all sorts of natural stores."

"Not cows."

"No, ma'am. I meant, the things that grow out of the ground," said
Eleanor smiling again. "Cows and sheep and horses are not among them."

"Nor horses either? How do you go when you travel?"

"In a canoe, I suppose."

"With savages?" exclaimed Mrs. Powle.

"Not necessarily. Many of them are Christians."

"The natives?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"Then I don't see what you are going for. Those that are Christians
already might teach those that are not. But Eleanor, who will marry

A bright rose-colour came upon the girl's cheeks. "Mamma, there are
clergymen enough there."

"_Clergymen?_ of the Church?"

"I beg your pardon, mamma; no. That is not essential?"

"Well, that is as you look at things. I know you and my sister Caxton
have wandered away, - but for me, I should feel lost out of the Church.
It would be very essential to me. Are there no Church people in the
islands at all?"

"I believe not, mamma."

"And what on earth do you expect to do there, Eleanor?"

"I cannot tell you yet, mamma; but I understand everybody finds more
than enough."

"What, pray?"

"The general great business, you know, is to carry light to those that
sit in darkness."

"Yes, but you do not expect to preach, do you?"

Eleanor smiled, she could not help it, at the bewildered air with which
this question was put. "I don't know, mamma. Do not you think I could
preach to a class of children?"

"But Eleanor! such horrid work. Such work for _you!_"

"Why, mamma?"

"Why? With your advantages and talents and education. Mr. - no matter
who, but who used to be a good judge, said that your talents would give
anybody else's talents enough to do; - and that you should throw them
away upon a class of half-naked children at the antipodes!" - -

"There will be somebody else to take the benefit of them first," Mrs.
Caxton said very composedly. "I rather think Mr. Rhys will see to it
that they are not wasted."

"Mamma, I think you do not understand this matter," Eleanor said
gently. "Whoever made that speech flattered me; but I wish my talents
were ten times so much as they are, that I might give them to this

"To this gentleman, you mean!" Mrs. Powle said tartly.

A light came into Eleanor's eyes; she was silent a minute and then with
the colour rising all over her face she said, "He is abundantly worthy
of all and much more than I am."

"Well I do not understand this matter, as you said," Mrs. Powle
answered in some discomfiture. "Tell me of something I do understand.
What society will you have where you are going, Eleanor?"

"I shall be too busy to have much time for society, mamma," Eleanor
answered, good-humouredly.

"No such thing - you will want it all the more. Sister Caxton, is it not

"People do not go out there without consenting to forego many things,"
Mrs. Caxton answered; "but there is One who has promised to be with his
servants when they are about his work; and I never heard that any one
who had that society, pined greatly for want of other."

Mrs. Powle opened her eyes at Mrs. Caxton's quiet face; she set this
speech down in her mind as uncontaminated fanaticism. She turned to

"Do the people there wear clothes?"

"The Christians clothe themselves, mamma; the heathen portion of the
people hardly do, I believe. The climate requires nothing. They have a
fashion of dress of their own, but it is not much."

"And can you help seeing these heathen?"

"No, of course not."

"Well you _are_ changed!" said Mrs. Powle. "I would never have thought
you would have consented to such degradation."

"I go that I may help mend it, mamma."

"Yes, you must stoop yourself first."

"Think how Jesus stooped - to what degradation - for us all."

Mrs. Powle paused, at the view of Eleanor's glistening eyes. It was not
easy to answer, moreover.

"I cannot help it," she said. "You and I take different views on the
subject. Do let us talk of something else; I am always getting on
something where we cannot agree. Tell me about the place, Eleanor."

"What, mamma? I have not been there."

"No, but of course you know. What do you live in? houses or tents?"

"I do not know which you would call them; they are not stone or wood.
There is a skeleton frame of posts to uphold the building; but the
walls are made of different thicknesses of reeds, laid different ways
and laced together with sinnet."

"What's _sinnet?_"

"A strong braid made of the fibre of the cocoa-nut - of the husk of the
cocoanut. It is made of more and less size and strength, and is used
instead of iron to fasten a great many sorts of things; carpentry and
boat building among them."

"Goodness! what a place. Well go on with your house."

"That is all," said Eleanor smiling; "except that it is thatched with
palm leaves, or grass, or cane leaves. Sometimes the walls are covered
with grass; and the braid work done in patterns, so as to have a very
artistic effect."

"And what is inside?"

"Not much beside the people."

"Well, tell me what, for instance. There is something, I suppose. The
walls are not bare?"

"Not quite. There are apt to be mats, to sit and lie on; - and pots for
cooking, and baskets and a chest perhaps, and a great mosquito curtain."

"Are you going to live in a house like that, Eleanor?"

Mrs. Powle's face expressed distress. Eleanor laughed and declared she
did not know.

"It will have some chairs for her to sit upon," said Mrs. Caxton; "and
I shall send some china cups, that she may not have to drink out of a
cocoa-nut shell."

"But I should like that very well," said Eleanor; "and I certainly
think a Fijian wooden dish, spread with green leaves, is as nice a
vessel for food as can be."

Mrs. Powle rose up and began to arrange her shawl, with an air which
said, "I do not understand it!"

"Mamma, what are you about?"

"Eleanor, you make me very uncomfortable."

"Do I? Why should I, mamma?"

"It is no use talking." Then suddenly facing round on Eleanor she said,
"What are you going to do for servants in that dreadful place?"

"Mr. Rhys says he has a most faithful servant - who is much attached to
him, and does as well as he can desire."

"One of those native savages?"

"He was; he is a Christian now, and a good one."

Mrs. Powle looked as if she did not know how to believe her daughter.

"Aren't you afraid of what you are about, Eleanor - to venture among
those creatures? and to take all that voyage first, alone? Are you not

There was that in the very simpleness and quietness of Eleanor's answer
that put her negative beyond a question. Mrs. Powle sat down again for
very bewilderment.

"Why are you not afraid?" she said. "You never were afraid of little
things, I know; but those houses - Are there no thieves among those

"A good many."

"What is to keep them out of your house? Anybody could cut through a
reed wall with a knife - and make no noise about it. Where is your

Alas, in the one face there was such ignorance, in the other such
sorrowful consciousness of that ignorance, that the two faces at first
looked mutely into each other across the gulf between them.

"Mamma," said Eleanor, "why will you not understand me? Do you not
know, - the Eternal God is our refuge!"

The still, grand expression of faith Mrs. Powle could not receive; but
the speaking of Eleanor's eyes she did. She turned from them.

"Good morning, sister Caxton," she said. "I will go. I cannot bear it
any longer to-day."

"You will come to-morrow, sister Powle?"

"Yes. O yes. I'll be here to-morrow. I will get my feelings quieted by
that time. Good bye, Eleanor."

"Mamma," said the girl trembling, "when will you bring Julia?"

"Now Eleanor, don't let us talk about anything more that is
disagreeable. I do not want to say anything about Julia. You have taken
your way - and I do not mean to unsettle you in it; but Julia is in
another line, and I cannot have you interfere with her. I am very sorry
it is so, - but it is not my doing. I cannot help it. I do not want to
give you pain."

Mrs. Powle departed. Eleanor came back from attending her to the door,
stopped in the middle of the room, and her cheeks grew white as she

"I shall never see her again!"

"My love," said Mrs. Caxton pityingly, - "I hardly know how to believe
it possible."

"I knew it all along," said Eleanor. She sat down and covered her face.
Mrs. Caxton sighed.

"It is as true now as it was in the old time," she said, - "'He that
will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.' So surely
as we walk like Christ, so surely the world will call us odd and
strange and fanatical, and treat us accordingly."

Eleanor's head was bent low.

"And Jesus is our only refuge - and our sufficient consolation."

"O yes! - but - "

"And he can make our silent witness-bearing bring fruits for his glory,
and for our dear ones' good, as much as years of talking to them,

"You are good comfort, aunt Caxton," said the girl putting her arms
around her and straining her close; - "but - this is something I cannot
help just now - "

It was a natural sorrow not to be struggled with successfully; and
Eleanor took it to her own room. So did Mrs. Caxton take it to hers.
But the struggle was ended then and there. No trace of it remained the
next day. Eleanor met her mother most cheerfully, and contrived
admirably to keep her from the gulf of discussion into which she had
been continually plunging at her first visit. With so much of grace and
skill, and of that poise of her own mind which left her free to extend
help to another's vacillations and uncertainties, Eleanor guided the
conversation and bore herself generally that day, that Mrs. Powle's
sighing commentary as she went away, was, "Ah, Eleanor! - you might have
been a duchess!"

But the paleness of sorrow came over her duchess's face again so soon
as she was gone. Mrs. Caxton saw that if the struggle was ended, the
pain was not; and her heart bled for Eleanor. These were days not to be
prolonged. It was good for everybody that Tuesday, the day of sailing,
was so near.

They were heavy, the hours that intervened. In spite of keeping herself
close and making no needless advertisement of her proceedings, Eleanor
could not escape many an encounter with old friends or acquaintances.
They heard of her from her mother; learned her address; and then
curiosity was enough, without affection, to bring several; and
affection mingled with curiosity to bring a few. Among others, the two
Miss Broadus's, Eleanor's friends and associates at Wiglands ever since
she had been a child, could not keep away from her and could not be
denied when they came; though they took precious time, and though they
tried Eleanor sorely. They wanted to know everything; if their wishes
had sufficed, they would have learned the whole history of Mr. Rhys's
courtship. Failing that, their inquiries went to everything else, past
and future, to which Eleanor's own knowledge could be supposed to
extend. What she had been doing through the year which was gone, and
what she expected the coming year would find her to do; when she would
get to her place of destination, and what sort of a life she would have
of it when once there. Houses, and horses, and cows and sheep, were as
interesting to these good ladies as they were to Mrs. Powle; and
feeling less concern in the matter they were free to take more
amusement, and so no side feeling or hidden feeling disturbed their
satisfaction in the flow of information they were receiving. For
Eleanor gratified them patiently, in all which did not touch
immediately herself; but when they were gone she sighed. Even Mrs.
Powle was less trying; for her annoyances were at least of a more
dignified kind. Eleanor could meet them better.

"And this is the end of you!" she exclaimed the evening before Eleanor
was to sail. "This is the end of your life and expectations! To look at
you and think of it!" Despondency could no further go.

"Not the end of either, mamma, I hope," Eleanor responded cheerfully.

"The expectation of the righteous shall be for ever, you forget," said
Mrs. Caxton smiling. "There is no fall nor failure to that."

"O yes, I know!" said Mrs. Powle impatiently; "but just look at that
girl and see what she is. She might be presented at Court now, and
reigning like a princess in her own house; yes, she might; and
to-morrow she is going off as if she were a convict, to Botany Bay!"

"No, mamma," said Eleanor smiling. "I never can persuade you of
Australian geography."

"Well it's New South Wales, isn't it?" said Mrs. Powle.

Eleanor assented.

"Very well. The girl that brings you your luncheon when you get there,
may be the very one that stole my spoons three years ago. It's all the
same thing. And you, Eleanor, you are so handsome, and you have the
manners of a queen - Sister Caxton, you have no notion what admiration
this girl excited, and what admiration she could command!"

Mrs. Caxton looked from the calm face of the girl, certainly handsome
enough, to the vexed countenance of the mother; whose fair curls failed
to look complacent for once.

"I suppose Eleanor thinks of another day," she said; "when the Lord
will come to be admired in his saints and to be glorified in all them
that believe. _That_ will be admiration worth having - if Eleanor thinks
so, I confess I think so too."

"Dear sister Caxton," said Mrs. Powle restraining herself, "what has
the one thing to do with the other?"

"Nothing," said Mrs. Caxton. "To seek both is impossible."

"_Do_ you think it is wicked to receive admiration? I did not think you
went so far."

"No," said Mrs. Caxton, with her genial smile. "We were talking of
seeking it."

Mrs. Powle was silent, and went away in a very ill humour.



"The sun came up upon the left,
Out of the sea came he!
And he shone bright, and on the right
Went down into the sea."

And the Tuesday came, and was fair; and under a bright sky the steamer
ran down to Gravesend with Eleanor and her friends on board. Not Julia;

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Online LibrarySusan WarnerThe Old Helmet, Volume II → online text (page 15 of 25)