Susan Warner.

The Old Helmet, Volume II online

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the little straw bonnet was as motionless as if its wearer had been in
a dream. He smiled and went away.

Then appeared on the distant horizon somewhat like a low blue cloud,
which gathered distinctness and strength of outline by degrees. It was
the land, beyond doubt; the coast of New Holland itself, as the captain
informed Eleanor; and going on and passing through Bass's Strait the
vessel soon directed her course northward. Little remained then before
reaching port.

It was under a fair and beautiful sunlight morning that they were at
last approaching Sydney. Mr. Amos was on deck as well as Eleanor, the
captain standing with them; for a pilot had come on board; the captain
had given up his charge, and was in command no longer. Before the
watching three stretched a low unpromising shore of sandstone cliffs
and sand.

"It is good to see it," said Mr. Amos; "but in this first view it don't
shew for much."

"Don't shew for anything," said Captain Fox. "Wait till we get inside
the Heads. It don't shew for anything; but it's the most glorious land
the sun shines on!"

"In what particular respects?" said Mr. Amos.

"In every respect of making a living and enjoying it," said the
captain. "That makes a good land, don't it?"

Mr. Amos allowed that it did.

"It's the most beautiful country, if you come to that," Captain Fox
went on; - "that's what Miss Powle thinks of. I wish this was Melbourne
we were coming to, instead of Sydney. I'd like to have her look at it."

"Better than this?" said Mr. Amos, for Eleanor was silent.

"A better colony, for beauty and riches," said the captain. "It's the
most glorious country, sir, you ever saw! hundreds of square miles of
it are as handsome as a duke's park; and good for something, which a
duke's park ain't. There's a great tract of country up round Mt.
Macedon - thirty or forty miles back into the land - its softly rolling
ground without a stone on it, as nice as ever you saw; and spotted with
the trees they call she-oaks - beautiful trees; and they don't grow in a
wood, but just stand round in clumps and ones or twos here and there,
like a picture; and then through the openings in the ground you can see
miles off more of just the same, till it gets blue in the distance; and
mountains beyond all. And when you put here and there a flock of
thousands of sheep spotting the country with their white backs - I ain't
poetical, sir, but I tell you! when I saw that country first, I thought
maybe I was; but it's likely I was mistaken," said the captain
laughing, "for the fit has never come back since. Miss Powle thinks
there's as much poetry in the water as on the land."

Still Eleanor did not move to answer; and Mr. Amos, perhaps for her
sake, went on.

"What is it that country is so good for? gold? or sheep?"

"Sheep, sir, sheep! the gold grows in another part. There's enough of
that too; but I'd as lieve make my money some other way. Victoria is
the country for wool-growing, sir. I've a brother there - Stephen
Fox - he went with little more than nothing; and now he has a flock of
sheep - well, I'm afraid to say how many; but I know he needs and uses a
tract of twelve thousand acres of land for them."

"That is being a pretty large land-owner, as well as sheep-owner," Mr.
Amos said with a smile.

"O he don't own it. That wouldn't do, you know. The interest of the
money would buy all the wool on his sheep's backs."

"How then?"

"He has the use of it, - that's all. Don't you know how they work it? He
pays a license fee to Government for the privilege of using the land
for a year - wherever he pitches upon a place; then he stocks it, and
goes on occupying by an annual license fee, until he has got too many
neighbours and the land is getting all taken up in his neighbourhood.
Then some one comes along who has money and don't want the plague of a
new settlement; and he sells off his stock and claim to him, packs up
his traps, pokes off through the bush with his compass till he has
found a new location somewhere; then he comes back, pays a new license
fee, and stocks the new place with flocks and shepherds and begins
again. And I never saw in my life anything so fine as one of those
Victoria sheep or cattle farms."

"Why don't you go into it?"

"Well - it's best to divide the business just now. I can be of use to
Stephen and he can be of use to me. And I'm a little of this lady's
opinion."

"How is it in this colony we are coming to?"

"Well, they are very prosperous; it's a good place to get rich. They
have contrived to get along with their gold mines without ruining every
other interest, as the other colonies have done for a time. But I think
Victoria is the queen of them all; Victoria sends home more wool than
either of the others; and she has gold, and she has other mines;
different. She has copper equal to Burla-Burra - and she has coal,
within a few miles of Melbourne, and other things; but the coal is a
great matter here, you see."

The ship all the while was rapidly approaching the Heads, which mark,
and make, the entrance to the harbour of Port Jackson. They assumed
more dignity of elevation and feature as they were nearer seen; the
rocks rising some two or three hundred feet high, with the sea foaming
at their foot. Passing swiftly onward, the vessel by and by doubled
Bradley's Head, and the magnificent sheet of water that forms the
harbour was suddenly revealed to the strangers' gaze. Full of islands,
full of sailing craft, bordered with varying shores of "promontory,
creek, and bay," pleasantly wooded, and spotted along its woody shores
with spots of white that marked where people had pretty country homes,
the quiet water glittering in the light; the view to the sea-tossed
travellers was nothing short of enchanting. Mrs. Amos had come on deck,
though scarce able to stand; a quiet, gentle, sweet-looking person; her
eyes were full of tears now. Her husband's arm was round her,
supporting her strength that she might keep up; his face was moved and
grave. Eleanor was afraid to shew anybody her face; yet it was
outwardly in good order enough; she felt as if her heart would never
get back to its accustomed beat. She sat still, breathlessly drinking
in the scene, rejoicing and trembling at once. She heard Mrs. Amos's
softly whispered, "Praise the Lord! - " and her husband's firm "Amen!"
It had like to have overset her. She pressed her hands tight together
to keep her heart still.

"They know we are coming," said the captain.

"Who?" said Eleanor quickly.

Mr. Amos pressed his wife's arm; the captain's eyes twinkled.

"Is there anybody there on the look-out for you?" he asked.

"I suppose there may be," said Eleanor calmly.

"Well, he bas got notice then, some hours ago," said the captain. "The
pilot telegraphed to the South Head, and from the South Head the news
has gone all over Sydney and Paramatta. Pretty good-looking city, is
Sydney."

It was far more than that. It had been the point of the travellers'
attention for some time. From the water up, one height above another,
the white buildings of the town rose and spread; a white city; with
forts and windmills, and fair looking country seats in its
neighbourhood.

"Where is Paramatta?" said Eleanor, "and what is it?"

"It's a nice little pleasure place, up the Paramatta river; fifteen
miles above Sydney. Fine scenery; it's as good as going to Richmond,"
added the captain.

"What is that splendid large white building?" Mrs. Amos asked, "on the
hill?"

"No great things of a hill," said the captain. "That's the
Government-house. Nice gardens and pleasure grounds there too."

"How beautiful it is!" said Mrs. Amos almost with a sigh.

"It is almost like a Scottish lake!" said her husband. "I remember one
that this scene reminds me of at this moment."

"A little of this is worth all Scotland," said the captain. "There's
pretty much everything here that a man wants - and not hard to come by,
either. O you'll stay in Sydney! why shouldn't you? There's people
enough here that want teaching, worse than the savages. I declare, I
think they do."

"Somebody else will have to teach them," said Mr. Amos. "What an array
of ships and sails of all sorts! This gives one an idea of the business
of the place."

"Business, and growing business," said the captain. "Sydney is getting
ahead as fast as it can."

"How sweet the air is!" said Eleanor.

"Ay!" said the captain. "Now you smell green things again. I'll wager
you won't want to put to sea any more, after you once get a firm foot
on land. Why this is the very place for you. Enough to do, and every
luxury a man need want, at hand when your work is done."

"When is one's work done?" said Eleanor.

"I should say, when one has worked enough and got what one is after,"
said the captain. "That's my idea. I never was for working till I
couldn't enjoy."

"What are we after? do you think - " said Eleanor looking round at him.

"What everybody else is!" the captain answered somewhat shortly.

"Luxury, namely?"

"Yes! it comes to that. Everybody is seeking happiness in his own way;
and when he has got it, then it is luxury."

Eleanor only looked at him; she did not say anything further, and
turned again to the contemplation of the scene they had in view. The
captain bustled off and was gone a few minutes.

"I wish you'd sing, sister Powle," said Mr. Amos in that interval.

"Do!" said his wife. "Please do!"

Whether Eleanor was precisely in a singing mood or no, she began as
desired. Mr. Amos joined her, in somewhat subdued tones, and Mrs. Amos
gave a still gentler seconding; while the rich notes of her own voice
filled the air; so mellow that their full power was scarcely
recognized; so powerful that the mellow sound seemed to fill the ship's
rigging. The sailors moved softly. They were accustomed to that music.
All the way out, on every Sunday service or any other that was held,
Eleanor had served for choir to the whole company, joined by here and
there a rough voice that broke in as it could, and just backed by Mr.
Amos's steady support. There was more than one in that ship's company
to whom memory would never cease to bring a reminder that 'there is
balm in Gilead;' for some reason or other that was one of Eleanor's
favourite songs. Now she gave another - sweet, clear, and wild; - the
furthest-off sailors stood still to hearken. They had heard it often
enough to know what the words were.


"O who's like Jesus! From sins and fears he frees us. He died for you,
He died for me, He died to set poor sinners free. O who's like Jesus!"


The chorus floated all over after each verse of the hymn was ended; it
went clear to the ship's bows; but Eleanor sat quite still in her old
position, clasping her hands fast on the rail and not moving her head.
During the singing the captain came back and stood behind them
listening; while people on the vessels that they passed, suspended
their work and looked up to hear. Just as the singing was finished, a
little boat was seen swiftly coming alongside; and in another minute
they were boarded by the gentleman who had been its solitary passenger.
The captain turned to meet him. He was a man rather under middle size,
black hair curling all round his head, eyes quick and bright, and whole
appearance handsome at once and business-like. He came forward briskly,
and so he spoke.

"Have you got anybody here that belongs to me?" he said. "Captain, is
there a Miss Powle on board of your ship?"

Captain Fox silently stepped on one side and made a motion of his hand
towards Eleanor. Eleanor hearing herself called, slowly rose and faced
the new-comer. There was a second's pause, as the two confronted each
other; then the gentleman bowed very low and advanced to touch the
lady's hand, which however when he touched he held.

"Is this Miss Powle? Miss _Eleanor_ Powle?"

"Yes."

"I am honoured in having such a cousin! I hope you have heard somebody
speak of a Mr. Esthwaite in these parts?"

"I have heard Mrs. Caxton speak of Mr. Esthwaite - very often."

"All right!" said the gentleman letting go Eleanor's hand. "Identity
proved. Captain, I am going to take charge of this lady. Will you see
that her luggage, personal effects and so on, are brought on
deck?" - then turning to Eleanor with real deference and cordiality in
his manner, he went on, - "Mrs. Esthwaite is longing to see you. It is
such a pleasure to have a cousin come from England, as you can but
feebly appreciate; she hopes to learn the new fashions from you, and
all that sort of thing; and she has been dressing your room with
flowers, I believe, for these three months past. If you please, we will
not wait for the ship's slow motions, but I will carry you straight to
land in my boat; and glad you will be! Will you signify your assent to
this arrangement? - as I perceive the captain is a servant of yours and
will do nothing without you bid him."

"Thank you," said-Eleanor, - "I will go with you; - but what will be done
with all my boxes in the hold?" This enquiry was addressed to the
captain.

"Don't you fear anything," said Mr. Esthwaite, "now you have overcome
so many troubles and got to this haven of rest. We will take care of
your boxes. I suppose you have brought enough to stock the whole
Navigator's group - or Fiji, is it, you are going to? I would go to any
other one rather - but never mind; the boxes shall be stored; and maybe
you'll unpack them here after all. Captain, what about that luggage? - "

Eleanor went down to give directions, and presently came on deck again,
all ready to go ashore. There was a little delay on account of the
baggage; and meanwhile Mr. Esthwaite was introduced to Mr. and Mrs.
Amos.

"I am very much obliged to you for taking care of this cousin of mine,"
he said to them. "I am sure she is worth taking care of. And now I
should like to take care of you in turn. Will you go to my house, and
make us happy?"

They explained that they were going elsewhere.

"Well, come and see her then; for she will be wanting to see somebody.
We will do the best for her we can; but still - you know - absent friends
have the best claim. By the way! didn't I hear some sweet Methodist
singing as I came up? was it on this ship? You haven't got any
Methodists on board, captain; have you?"

"I've been one myself, this voyage!" said the captain.

"I wouldn't," said Mr. Esthwaite. "The Church service is the only one
to be used at sea. Every other sounds - I don't know how - incompatible.
There is something in the gentle swell of the rolling waves, and in the
grandeur of the horizon, that calls for the finest form of words
mortals could put together; and when you have got such a form, why not
use it?"

"You did not like the form of the singing then?" said Mr. Amos smiling.

"No," said Mr. Esthwaite drily, - "it struck me that if there had been a
cathedral roof over it, one of those voices would have lifted the
rafters and gone on; and that would not have been reverential, you
know. Now, my young cousin! - "

"Mr. Amos," said Eleanor aside to him and colouring deeply, "if there
are any letters for me at the house where you are going, or at the
post-office, will you send them to me?"

"I will certainly make it my care, and bring them to you myself."

"I'll send for anything you want," said Mr. Esthwaite. "What's that?
letters? We'll get all there is in Sydney, and there is a good deal,
waiting for this young lady. I've had one floor of my warehouse half
full for some months back already. No use of it for myself."

At last they got off; and it was not quickly, for Eleanor had to give a
good bye to everybody on board. Mr. Esthwaite looked on smiling, until
he was permitted to hand her down the vessel's side, and lodged her in
the wherry.

"Now you are out of the ship," said he looking keenly at her. "Aren't
you glad?"

"I have some good friends in her," said Eleanor.

"Friends! I should think so. Those were salt tears that were shed for
your coming away. Positively, I don't think a man of them could see
clear to take his last look at you."

Neither were Eleanor's feelings quite unmixed at this moment. She
expected to see Mr. and Mrs. Amos again; with the rest her intercourse
was finished; and it had been of that character which leaves longing
and tender memories behind. She felt all that now. And she felt much
more. With the end of her voyage in the "Diana" came, at least for the
present, an end to her inward tranquillity. Now there were letters
awaiting her; letters for which she had wished nervously so long; now
she was near Fiji and her new life; now she dared to realize, she could
not help it, what all the voyage she had refused to think of, as still
in a hazy distance of the future. Here it was, nigh at hand, looming up
through the haze, taking distinctness and proportions; and Eleanor's
heart was in a state of agitation to which that sound little member was
very little accustomed. However, the outward effect of all this was to
give her manner even an unwonted degree of cool quietness; and Mr.
Esthwaite was in a state between daunted and admiring. Both of them
kept silence for a little while after leaving the ship, while the
wherry pulled along in the beautiful bay, passing among a crowd of
vessels of all sorts and descriptions, moving and still. The scene was
lively, picturesque, pleasant, in the highest degree.

"How does my cousin like us on a first view?"

"It is a beautiful scene!" said Eleanor. "What a great variety of
vessels are here!"

"And isn't this just the finest harbour in the world?"

"I have heard a great deal of Port Philip," said Eleanor smiling. "I
understand there is a second Bay of Naples there."

"I don't care for the Bay of Naples! We have sunk all that. We are in a
new world. Wait till you see what I will shew you to-morrow. Now look
at that wooded point, with the white houses spotting it; those are fine
seats; beautiful view and all that; and at Sydney you can have
everything you want, almost at command."

"You know," said Eleanor, "that is not absolutely a new experience to
me. In England, we have not far to seek."

"O you say so! Much you know about it. You have been in such a nest of
a place as my cousin Caxton spreads her wings over. I never was in a
nest, till I made one for myself. How is my good cousin?"

The talk ran upon home things now until they reached the town and
landed at a fine stone quay. Then to the Custom House, where business
was easily despatched; then Mr. Esthwaite put Eleanor into a cab and
they drove away through the streets for his house in the higher part of
the city. Eleanor's eyes were full of business. How strange it was! So
far away from home, and so long living on the sea, now on landing to be
greeted by such a multitude of familiar sounds and sights. The very cab
she was driving in; the omnibuses and carts they passed; the
English-cut faces; the same street cries; the same trades revealing
themselves, as she had been accustomed to in London. But now and then
there came a difference of Australasia. There would be a dray drawn by
three or four pair of bullocks; London streets never saw that turn-out;
and then Eleanor would start at seeing a little group of the natives of
the country, dressed in English leavings of costume. Those made her
feel where she was; otherwise the streets and houses and shops had very
much of a home air. Except indeed when a curious old edifice built of
logs peeped in among white stone fronts and handsome shop windows; the
relics, Mr. Esthwaite told her, of that not so very far distant time
when the town first began to grow up, and the "bush" covered almost all
the ground now occupied by it. Eleanor was well pleased to be so busied
in looking out that she had little leisure for talking; and Mr.
Esthwaite sat by and smiled in satisfaction. But this blessed immunity
could not last. The cab stopped before a house in George street.

"Has she come?" exclaimed a voice as the door opened; and a head full
of curls put itself out into the hall; - "have you brought her? Oh how
delightful! How glad I am! - " and the owner of the curls came near to
be introduced, hardly waiting for the introduction, and to give Eleanor
the most gleeful sort of a welcome.

"And she was on that ship, the 'Diana,' Egbert? how nice! Just as you
thought; and I was so afraid it was nothing but another disappointment.
I was afraid to look out when the cab came. Now come up stairs, cousin
Eleanor, and I will take you to your room. You must be tired to death,
are you not?"

"Why should I?" said Eleanor as she tripped up stairs after her
hostess. "I have done nothing for four months."

"Look here!" shouted Mr. Esthwaite from the hall - "Louisa, don't stop
to talk over the fashions now - it is dinner-time. How soon will you be
down?" -

"Don't mind him," said pretty Mrs. Esthwaite, leading the way into a
light pleasant room overlooking the bay; - "sit down and rest yourself.
Would you like anything before you dress? Now just think you are at
home, will you? It's too delightful to have you here!"

Eleanor went to the window, which overlooked a magnificent view of the
harbour. Very oddly, the thought in her mind at that moment was, how
soon an opportunity could be found for her to make the rest of her
voyage. Scarce landed, she wanted to see the means of getting away
again. Her way she saw, over the harbour; where was her conveyance?
While she stood looking, her new-found cousin was considering her; the
erect beautiful figure, in all the simplicity of its dress; the close
little bonnet with chocolate ribbands, the fine grave face under it,
lastly the little hand which rested on the back of the chair, for
Eleanor's sea-glove was off. And a certain awe grew up in Mrs.
Esthwaite's mind.

"Cousin Eleanor," said she, "shall I leave you to dress? Dinner will be
ready presently, and Egbert will be impatient, I know, till you come
down stairs again."

"Thank you. I will be but a few minutes. How beautiful this is! O how
beautiful, - to my eyes that have seen no beauty but sea beauty for so
long. And the air is so good."

"I am glad you like it. Is it prettier than England?"

"Prettier than England!" Eleanor looked round smiling. "Nothing could
be that."

"Well I didn't know. Mr. Esthwaite is always running down England, you
see, and I don't know how much of it he means. I came away when I was
so little, I don't remember anything of course - "

Here came such a shout of "Louisa! - Louisa!" - from below, that Mrs.
Esthwaite laughing was obliged to obey it and go, and Eleanor was left.
There was not much time then for anything; yet a minute Eleanor was
held at the window by the bay with its wooded shores and islands
glittering in the evening light; then she turned from it to pray, for
her heart needed strength, and a great sense of loneliness had suddenly
come over her. Fighting this feeling, and dressing, both eagerly, in a
little time she was ready to descend and encounter Mr. Esthwaite and
dinner.

An encounter it was to Mr. Esthwaite. He had put himself in very
careful order; though that, to do him justice, was an habitual weakness
of his; and he met his guest when she appeared with a bow of profound
recognition and appreciation. Yet Eleanor was only in the simplest of
all white dresses; without lace or embroidery. No matter. The rich hair
was in perfect arrangement; the fine figure and fine carriage in their
unconscious ease were more imposing than anything pretentious can ever
be, even to such persons as Mr. Esthwaite. He measured his young guest
correctly and at once. His wife took the measure of Eleanor's gown
meanwhile, and privately studied what it was that made it so graceful;
a problem she had not solved when they sat down to dinner.

The dinner was sumptuous, and well served. Mr. Esthwaite took delight
evidently in playing his part of host, and some pride both housekeeping
and patriotic in shewing to Eleanor all the means he had to play it
with. The turtle soup he declared was good, though she might have seen
better; the fish from Botany Bay, the wild fowl from the interior, the
game of other kinds from the Hunter river, he declared she could not
have known surpassed anywhere. Then the vegetables were excellent; the
potatoes from Van Dieman's Land, were just better than all others in
the world; and the dessert certainly in its abundance of treasures
justified his boasting that Australia was a grand country for anybody
that liked fruit. The growth of the tropics and of the cooler latitudes
of England met together in confusion of beauty and sweetness on Mr.


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Online LibrarySusan WarnerThe Old Helmet, Volume II → online text (page 17 of 25)