Susan Warner.

The Old Helmet, Volume II online

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Eleanor had given up all hopes of that; but Mrs. Caxton was beside her,
and on the other side of her was Mrs. Powle. It was a terribly
disagreeable journey to the latter; every feeling in her somewhat
passionless nature was in a state of fretful rebellion. The other
stronger and deeper characters were ready for the time and met it
bravely. Met it cheerfully too. The crisping breeze that curled the
waters of the river, the blue sky and fair sunlight, the bright and
beautiful of the scene around them, those two saw and tasted; with
hopeful though very grave hearts. The other poor lady saw nothing but a
dirty steamboat and a very unpropitious company. Among these however
were Eleanor's fellow-voyagers, Mr. Amos and his wife; and she was
introduced to them now for the first time. Various circumstances had
prevented their meeting in London.

"A very common-looking man," - whispered Mrs. Powle to Eleanor.

"I don't know, mamma, - but very good," Eleanor returned.

"You are mad on goodness!" said Mrs. Powle. "Don't you see anything
else in a man, or the want of anything else? I do; a thousand things;
and if a man is ever so good, I want him to be a gentleman too."

"So do I," said Eleanor smiling. "But much more, mamma, if a man is
ever so much a gentleman, I want him to be good. Isn't that the more
important of the two?"

"No!" said Mrs. Powle. "I don't think it is; not for society."

Eleanor thought of Paul's words - "Henceforth know I no man after the
flesh" - What was the use of talking? she and her mother must have the
same vision before they could see the same things. And she presently
forgot Mr. Amos and all about him; for in the distance she discerned
signs that the steamer was approaching Gravesend; and knew that the
time of parting drew near.

It came and was gone, and Eleanor was alone on the deck of the "Diana;"
and in that last moment of trial Mrs. Powle had been the most overcome
of the three. Eleanor's sweet face bore itself strongly as well; and
Mrs. Caxton was strong both by life-habit and nature; and the view of
each of them was far above that little ship-deck. Mrs. Powle saw
nothing else. Her distress was very deep.

"I wish I had taken Julia to her!" was the outburst of her penitent
relentings; and Mrs. Caxton was only thankful, since they had come too
late, that they were uttered too late for Eleanor to hear. _She_ went
home like a person whose earthly treasure is all lodged away from her;
not lost at all, indeed, but yet only to be enjoyed and watched over
from a distance. Even then she reckoned herself rich beyond what she
had been before Eleanor ever came to her.

For Eleanor, left on the ship's deck, at first it was hard to realize
that she had any earthly treasure at all. One part of it quitted,
perhaps for ever, with the home and the country of her childhood; the
other, so far, so vague, so uncertainly grasped in this moment of
distraction, that she felt utterly broken-hearted and alone. She had
not counted upon this; she had not expected her self-command would so
completely fail her; but it was so; and although without one shadow of
a wish to turn back or in any wise alter her course, the first
beginning of her journey was made amidst mental storms. Julia was the
particular bitter thought over which her tears poured; but they flooded
every image that rose of home things, and childish things and things at
Plassy. Mr. Amos came to her help.

"It is nothing," Eleanor said as well as she could speak, - "it is
nothing but the natural feeling which will have its way. Thank
you - don't be concerned. I don't want anything - if I only could have
seen my sister!"

"Mrs. Amos is about as bad," said her comforter with a sigh. "Ah well!
feeling must have its way, and better it should. You will both be
better by and by, I hope."

They were worse before they were better. For in a few hours sickness
took its place among present grievances; and perhaps on the whole it
acted as a relief by effecting a diversion from mental to bodily
concerns. It seemed to Eleanor that she felt them both together;
nevertheless, when at the end of a few days the sea-sickness left her
and she was able to get up again, it was with the sweet fresh quietness
of convalescence in mind as well as in body. She was herself again.
Things took their place. England was behind indeed - but Fiji was
forward - and Heaven was over all.

As soon as she was able to be up she went upon deck. Strength came
immediately with the fresh breeze. It was a cool cloudy day; the ship
speeding along under a good spread of canvas; the sea in a beautiful
state of life, but not boisterous. Nobody was on deck but some of the
sailors. Eleanor took a seat by the guards, and began to drink in
refreshment. It stole in fast, on mind as well as body, she hardly knew
how; only both were braced up together. She felt now a curious gladness
that the parting was over, the journey begun, and England fairly out of
sight. The going away had been like death; a new life was rising upon
her now; and Eleanor turned herself towards it with the same sweet
readiness as the good ship whose head is laid upon a new course.

There is a state of mind in which the soul may be aptly called the
garden of the Lord; when answering to his culture it brings forth
flowers and fruits for his pleasure. In such a state, the paradise
which Adam lost is half re-entered again; the moral victory is won over
"the works of the devil" which Christ came to destroy. The body is
dead, no doubt, because of sin; but the spirit is life, because of
righteousness. The air of that garden is peace; no hurricanes blow
there; the sunshine dwells therein; the odours of sweet things come
forth, and make known all abroad whose garden it is.

Eleanor had sat awhile very still, very busy looking over into the sea,
when she heard a step near her on the deck. She looked up, and saw a
man whom she recognized as the master of the vessel. A rather
hard-featured man, tall and strong set, with a pair of small eyes that
did not give forth their expression readily. What there was struck her
as not pleasant.

"So you've got up!" said he, in a voice which was less harsh than his
looks. "Do you feel better?"

"Much better, thank you."

"Hearty, eh?"

"Pretty well," said Eleanor smiling, "since I have got this salt air
into my lungs."

"Ah! you'll have enough of that. 'Tother lady is down yet, eh? She has
not got up."

"No."

"Are you all going to the same place?"

"I believe so."

"Missionaries, eh?"

"Yes."

"Think you'll get those dark fellows to listen to you?"

"Why not?" said Eleanor brightly.

"It's all make-believe. They only want to get your axes and hatchets,
and such things."

"Well, we want their yams and potatoes and fish and labour," said
Eleanor; "so it is a fair bargain; and no make-believe on either side."

"Why don't you stay in the Colonies? there is work enough to be done;
people enough that need it; and a fine country. Everything in the world
that you need; and not so far from home either."

Eleanor made no answer.

"Why don't you stay in the Colonies?"

"One can only be in one place," said Eleanor lightly.

"And that must always be the place where somebody else is," said the
captain maliciously. "That's the way people will congregate together,
instead of scattering where they are wanted."

"Do you know the Colonies well?" said Eleanor coolly, in answer to this
rude speech.

"I ought. I have spent about a third of my life in them. I have a
brother at Melbourne too, as rich in flocks and herds almost as Job
was. That's the place! That's a country! But you are going to Sydney?"

"Yes."

"Friends there?"

"I have one friend there who expects me."

"Who's he? Maybe I know him."

"Egbert Esthwaite is his name."

"Don't know him, though. And so you have left England to find yourself
a new home in the wilderness?"

"Yes."

"Pretty tough change you'll find it. Don't you find it already?"

"No. Don't you know," said Eleanor giving him a good look, "when one's
real home is in heaven, it does not make so much difference?"

The captain would have answered the words fast enough; but in the
strong sweet eye that had looked into his so full, there was something
that silenced him. He turned off abruptly, with the internal
conviction - "_That_ girl thinks what she says, anyhow!"

Eleanor's eyes left contemplating the waters, and were busy for some
time with the book which had lain in her lap until her colloquy with
the captain. Somebody came and sat down beside her.

"Mr. Amos! I am glad to see you," said Eleanor.

"I am glad to see you, sister," he replied; "and glad to see you able
to be here. You look well again."

"O I am."

"Mrs. Amos cannot raise her head. What are you doing? - if I may ask so
blunt a question upon so short an acquaintance."

"This is the first time I have been on deck. I was studying the sea, in
the first place; - and then something drove me to study the Bible."

"Ah, we are driven to that on every hand," he answered. "Now go on, and
tell me the point of your studies, will you?"

There was something in the utmost genial and kind in his look and way;
he was not a person from whom one would keep back anything he wanted to
know; as also evidently he was not one to ask anything he should not.
The request did not even startle Eleanor. She looked thoughtfully over
the heaving sea while she answered.

"I had been taking a great new view of the glory of creation - over the
ship's side here. Then I had the sorrow to find - or fear - that we have
an unbeliever in our captain. From that, I suppose, I took hold of
Paul's reasoning - how without excuse people are in unbelief; how the
invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly
seen, being understood by the things that are made; even his eternal
power and Godhead. And those glorious last words were what my heart
fixed upon."

"'His eternal power and Godhead.'"

Eleanor looked round without speaking; a look full of the human echo to
those words; the joy of weakness, the strength of ignorance, the
triumph of humility.

"What a grand characterizing Paul gives in those other words," said Mr.
Amos - "'the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God.' Unto
him be honour and glory forever!"

"And then those other words," said Eleanor low, - "'The eternal God is
thy refuge.'"

"That is a good text for us to keep," said Mr. Amos. "But really, with
that refuge, I don't see what we should be afraid of."

"Not even of want of success," said Eleanor.

"No. If faith didn't fail. Paul could give thanks that he was made
always to triumph in Christ, - and by the power that wrought with him,
so may we." He spoke very gravely, as if looking into himself and
pondering his own responsibilities and privileges and short-comings.
Eleanor kept silence.

"How do you like this way of life?" Mr. Amos said presently.

"The sea is beautiful. I have hardly tried the ship."

"Haven't you?" said Mr. Amos smiling. "That speaks a candid good
traveller. Another would have made the first few days the type of the
whole."

And he also took to his book, and the silence lasted this time.

Mrs. Amos continued prostrated by sea-sickness; unable to raise her
head from her pillow. Eleanor could do little for her. The evil was
remediless, and admitted of very small amelioration. But the weather
was very fine and the ship's progress excellent; and Eleanor spent
great part of her time on deck. All day, except when she was at the
side of Mrs. Amos, she was there. The sailors watched the figure in the
dark neat sea-dress and cloak and the little close straw bonnet with
chocolate ribbands; and every now and then made pretences to get near
and see how the face looked that was hidden under it. The report of the
first venturers was so favourable that Eleanor had an unconscious sort
of levee the next day or two; and then, the fresh sweet face that was
so like a flower was found to have more attractions when known than it
had before when unknown. There was not a hand on board but seized or
made opportunities every day and as often as he could to get near her;
if a chance offered and he could edge in a word and have a smile and
word in answer, that man went away esteemed both by himself and his
comrades a lucky fellow. Eleanor awoke presently to the sense of her
opportunities, though too genuinely humble to guess at the cause of
them; and she began to make every one tell for her work. Every sailor
on board soon knew what Eleanor valued more than all other things;
every one knew, "sure as guns," as he would have expressed it, that if
she had a chance of speaking to him, she would one way or another
contrive before it was ended to make him think of his duty and to
remember to whom it was owed; and yet - strange to say - there was not
one of them that for any such reason was willing to lose or to shun one
of those chances. "If all were like she" - was the comment of one Jack
tar; and the rest were precisely of his opinion. The captain himself
was no exception. He could not help frequently coming to Eleanor's
side, to break off her studies or her musings with some information or
some suggestion of his own and have a bit of a talk. His manners
mended. He grew thoroughly civil to her.

Meanwhile the vessel was speeding southwards. Fast, fast, every day
they lowered their latitude. Higher and higher rose the sun; the stars
that had been Eleanor's familiars ever since she had eyes to see them,
sank one by one below the northern horizon; and the beauty of the new,
strange, brilliant constellations of the southern sky began to tell her
in curious language of her approach to her new home. They had a most
magical charm for Eleanor. She studied and watched them unweariedly;
they had for her that curious interest which we give to any things that
are to be our life-companions. Here Mr. Amos could render her some
help; but with or without help, Eleanor nightly studied the southern
stars, watched and pondered them till she knew them well; and then she
watched them because she knew them, as well as because she was to know
them all the rest of her life.

By day she studied other things; and the days were not weary. The ocean
was a storehouse of pleasure for her; and Captain Fox declared his ship
had never carried such a clever passenger; "a girl who had plenty of
stuff, and knew what to do with herself." Certainly the last piece of
praise was true; for Eleanor had no weary moments. She had interests on
board, as well as outside the ship. She picked up the sailors' legends
and superstitions; ay, and many a little bit of life history came in
too, by favour of the sympathy and friendliness they saw in those fine
brown eyes. Never a voyage went better; and the sailors if not the
captain were very much of the mind that they had a good angel on board.

"Well how do you like _this?_" said Mr. Amos coming up one day. N.B. It
was the seventh day of a calm in the tropics.

"I would like a wind better," Eleanor said smiling.

"Can you possess your soul in patience?"

"Yes," she said, but gently and with a slight intonation that spoke of
several latent things.

"We are well on our way now, - if a wind would come!"

"It will come."

"I have never asked you," said Mr. Amos. "How do you expect to find
life in the islands?"

"In what respect? In general, I should say, as unlike this as possible."

"Of course. I understand there is no stagnation there. But as to
hardships - as to the people?"

"The people are part Christianized and part unchristianized; that gives
every variety of experience among them, I suppose. The unchristianized
are as bad as they can be, very nearly; the good, very good. As to
hardships, I have no expectation."

"You have not data to form one?"

"I cannot say that; but things are so different according to
circumstances; and there is so great a change going on continually in
the character of the people."

"How do you feel about leaving behind you all the arts and refinements
and delights of taste in the old world?"

"Will you look over the side of the ship, Mr. Amos? - down below
there - do you see anything?"

"Dolphin - ," said Mr. Amos.

"What do you think of them?"

"Beautiful!" said Mr. Amos. "Beautiful, undoubtedly! as brilliant as if
they had just come out of the jeweller's shop, polished silver. How
clear the water is! I can see them perfectly - far below."

"Isn't the sea better than a jeweller's shop?"

"I never thought of it before," said Mr. Amos laughing; "but it
certainly is; though I think it is the first time the comparison has
been made."

"Did you ever go to Tenby?"

"I never did."

"Nor I; but I have heard the sea-caves in its neighbourhood described
as more splendid in their natural treasures of vegetable and animal
growth, than any jeweller's shop could be - were he the richest in
London."

"_Splendid?_" said Mr. Amos.

"Yes - for brilliance and variety of colour."

"Is it possible? These are things that I do not know."

"You will be likely to know them. The lagoons around the Polynesian
islands - the still waters within the barrier-reefs, you understand - are
lined with most gorgeous and wonderful displays of this kind. One seems
to be sailing over a mine of gems - only not in the rough, but already
cut and set as no workman of earth could do them."

"Ah," said Mr. Amos, "I fancy you have had advantages of hearing about
these islands, that I have not enjoyed."

Eleanor was checked, and coloured a little; then rallied herself.

"Look now over yonder, Mr. Amos - at those clouds."

"I have looked at them every evening," he said.

Their eyes were turned towards the western heavens, where the setting
sun was gathering his mantle of purple and gold around him before
saying good night to the world. Every glory of light and colouring was
there, among the thick folds of his vapourous drapery; and changing and
blending and shifting softly from one hue of richness to another.

"I suppose you will tell me now," said Mr. Amos with a smile of some
humour, "that no upholsterer's hangings can rival that. I give up - as
the schoolboys say. Yet we do lose some things. What do you say to a
land without churches?"

"O it is not," said Eleanor. "Chapels are rising everywhere - in every
village, on some islands; and very neat ones."

"I am afraid," said Mr. Amos with his former look of quiet humour, "you
would not be of the mind of a lady I heard rejoicing once over the
celebration of the church service at Oxford. She remarked, that it was
a subject of joyful thought and remembrance, to know that praise so
near perfection was offered somewhere on the earth. There was the
music, you know, and the beautiful building in which we heard it, and
all the accessories. You will have nothing like that in Fiji."

"She must have forgotten those words," said Eleanor - "'Where is the
house that ye build unto me, and where is the place of my rest? ... _to
this man_ will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite
spirit, and trembleth at my word.' You will find _that_ in Fiji."

"Ah," said Mr. Amos, - "I see. My friend will have a safe wife in you.
Do you know, when I first saw you I stood in doubt. I thought you
looked like - Well, never mind! It's all right."

"Right!" said Captain Fox coming up behind them. "I am glad somebody
thinks so. Right! - lying broiling here all day, and sleeping all night
as if we were in port and had nothing to do - when we're a long way from
that. Drove you down to-day, didn't it?" said he turning to Eleanor.

"It was so hot; I could not get a bit of permanent shade anywhere. I
went below for a little while."

"And yet it's all right!" said the captain. "I am afraid you are not in
a hurry to get to the end of the voyage."

Mr. Amos smiled and Eleanor blushed. The truth was, she never let
herself think of the end of the voyage. The thought would come - the
image standing there would start up - but she always put it aside and
kept to the present; and that was one reason certainly why Eleanor's
mind was so quiet and free and why the enjoyable and useful things of
the hour were not let slip and wasted. So her spirits maintained their
healthy tone; no doubt spurred to livelier action by the abiding
consciousness of that spot of brightness in the future towards which
she would not allow herself to look in bewildering imaginations.

Meanwhile the calm came to an end, as all things will; the beneficent
trade wind took charge of the vessel again, and they sped on, south,
south; till the sky over Eleanor's head was a new one from that all her
life had known, and the bright stars at night looked at her as
strangers. For study them as she would, she could not but feel theirs
were new faces. The captain one day shewed her St. Helena in the
distance; then the Cape of Good Hope was neared - and rounded - and in
the Indian Ocean the travellers ploughed their way eastward. The island
of St. Paul was passed; and still the ship sailed on and on to the east.

Eleanor had observed for a day or two that there was an unusual degree
of activity among the sailors. They seemed to be getting things into
new trim; clearing up and cleaning; and the chain cable one day made
its appearance on deck, where room had been made for it. Eleanor looked
on at the proceedings, with a half guess at their meaning that made her
heart beat.

"What is it?" she asked Captain Fox.

"What's all this rigging up? Why, we expect to see land soon. You like
the sea so well, you'll be sorry."

"How soon?"

"I shouldn't wonder, in a day or two. You will stop in Sydney till you
get a chance to go on?"

"Yes."

"I wish I could take you the whole way, I declare! but I would not take
an angel into those awful islands. Why if you get shipwrecked there,
they will kill and eat you."

"There would be little danger of that now, Captain Fox; none at all in
most of the islands. Instead of killing and eating, they relieve and
comfort their shipwrecked countrymen."

"Believe that?" said the captain.

"I know it. I know instances."

"Whereabouts are you going among them?" said he looking at her. "If I
get driven out of my reckoning ever and find myself in those latitudes,
I'd like to know which way to steer. Where's your place?"

He was not uncivil; but he liked to see, when he could manage to bring
it, that beautiful tinge of rose in Eleanor's cheeks which answered
such an appeal as this.




CHAPTER XV.

IN PORT.


"And the magic charm of foreign lands,
With shadows of palm, and shining sands,
Where the tumbling surf
O'er the coral reefs of Madagascar,
Washes the feet of the swarthy 'Lascar.' - "


It was but the next day, and Eleanor was sitting as usual on deck
looking over the waters in a lovely bright morning, when a sound was
heard which almost stopped her heart's beating for a moment. It was the
cry, rung out from the mast-head, "Land, ho!"

"Where is it?" she said to the captain, who was behind her. "I do not
see it anywhere."

"You will see it in a little while. Wait a bit. If you could go aloft I
could shew it you now."

"What land? do you know?"

"Australia - the finest land the sun shines upon!"

"I suppose you mean, besides England."

"No, I don't, begging your pardon. England is very well for those who
can take the ripe side of the cherry; poorer folks had better come
here, if they want any chance at all."

The lucky sailor was coming down from the mast-head, and the captain
went off to join those who were giving him sundry rewarding tokens of
their joy for his news. Eleanor looked over the waste of waters
eastward, feeling as if her breath had been taken away.

So much of her journey done! The rest seemed, and was, but little.
Australia was almost - _home_. And what sort of a home? And could Mr.
Rhys possibly be at Sydney to meet her? Eleanor knew he could not; yet
the physical possibility would assert itself in spite of all the
well-allowed moral impossibility. But at any rate at Sydney she would
find letters; at Sydney she would find, perhaps very soon, the means of
making the remainder of her voyage; at Sydney she could no longer
prevent herself from _thinking_. Eleanor had staved off thought all the
way by wisely saying and insisting to herself "Time enough when I get
to Sydney." Yes; she was nearing home now. So deep, so engrossing, were
her meditations and sensations, that Mr. Amos who had come up to
congratulate her on the approaching termination of the voyage, spoke to
her once and again without being heard. He could not see her face, but


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Online LibrarySusan WarnerThe Old Helmet, Volume II → online text (page 16 of 25)