Susan Warner.

The Old Helmet, Volume II online

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Esthwaite's table. There were oranges and pineapples on one hand,
peaches, plums, melons, from the neighbouring country; with all sorts
of English-grown fruits from Van Dieman's Land; gooseberries, pears and
grapes. Native wines also he pressed on his guest, assuring her that
some of them were as good as Sauterne, and others very fair claret and
champagne. Eleanor took the wines on credit; for the rest, her eyes
enabled her to give admiration where her taste fell short. And
admiration was expected of her. Mr. Esthwaite was in a great state of
satisfaction, having very much to do in the admiring way himself.

"Did Louisa keep you up stairs to begin upon the fashions?" said he, as
he pulled a pineapple to pieces.

"I see you have very little appreciation of that subject," said Eleanor.

"Yes!" said Mrs. Esthwaite, - "just ask him whether he thinks it
important that _his_ clothes should be cut in the newest pattern, and
how many good hats he has thrown away because he got hold of something
new that he liked better. Just ask him! He never will hear me."

"I am going to ask her something," said Mr. Esthwaite. "See here; - you
are not going to those savage and inhospitable islands, are you?"

Eleanor's smile and answer were as cool as if her whole nature had not
been in a stir of excitement.

"What in the world do _you_ expect to do there?" said her host with a
strong tone of disapprobation. "'Wasting sweetness on the desert air'
is nothing to it; this is positive desecration!"

Eleanor let the opinion pass, and eat the pineapple which he gave her
with an apparently unimpaired relish.

"You don't know what sort of a place it is!" he insisted.

"I cannot know, I suppose, without going."

"Suppose you stay here," said Mr. Esthwaite; "and we'll send for
anybody in the world you please! to make you comfortable. Seriously, we
want good people in this colony; we have got a supply of all other
sorts, but those are in a deficient minority."

"In that case, I think everybody that stays here is bound to supply

"See here - who is that gentleman that is so fortunate as to be
expecting you? what is his name?"

"Mr. Esthwaite! for shame!" said his wife. "I think you are a very
presuming cousin."

Mr. Esthwaite knew quite well that he was, but he smiled to himself
with satisfaction to see the answer his question had called up into
Eleanor's cheeks. The rich dye of crimson was pretty to behold; her
words were delayed long enough to mark either difficulty of speaking or
displeasure at the necessity for it. Mr. Esthwaite did not care which
it was. At last Eleanor answered, with calm distinctness though without
facing him.

"Do you not know the name?"

"I - I believe Mrs. Caxton must have mentioned it in one of her letters.
She ought, and I think she did."

An impatient throb of displeasure passed through Eleanor's veins. It
did not appear. She said composedly, "The name is Rhys - it is a Welsh
name - spelled R, h, y, s."

"Hm! I remember. What sort of a man is he?"

Eleanor looked up, fairly startled with the audacity of her host; and
only replied gravely, "I am unable to say."

Mr. Esthwaite at least had a sense of humour in him; for he smiled, and
his lips kept pertinaciously unsteady for some time, even while he went
on talking.

"I mean - is he a man calculated for savage, or for civilized life?"

"I hope so," said Eleanor wilfully.

"Mr. Esthwaite! you astonish me!" said his wife.

Mr. Esthwaite seemed however highly amused. "Do you know what savage
life is?" he said to Eleanor. "It is not what you think. It is not a
garden of roses, with a pineapple tucked away behind every bush. Now if
you would come here - here is a grand opening. Here is every sort of
work wanting you - and Mr. Rhys - whatever the line of his talents may
be. We'll build him a church, and we'll go and hear him, and we'll make
much of you. Seriously, if my good cousin had known what she was
sending you to, she would have wished the 'Diana' should sink with you
on board, rather than get to the end of her voyage. It is quite
self-denial enough to come here - when one does not expect to gain
anything by it."

"Mr. Esthwaite! Egbert!" cried his wife. "Now you are caught!
Self-denial to come here! That is what you mean by all your talk about
the Colonies and England!"

"Don't be - silly, - my dear," said her husband. "These people would
think it so. I don't; but I am addressing myself to their prejudices.
Self-denial is what they are after."

"It is not what I am after," said Eleanor laughing. "I must break up
your prejudices."

"What are you after, then. Seriously, what are you going to those
barbarous islands for - putting friendship and all such regards out of
the question? Wheat takes you there, - without humbug? You must excuse
me - but you are a very extraordinary person to look at, - as a

Eleanor could hardly help laughing. She doubted whether or no this was
a question to be answered; discerning a look of seriousness, as she
thought, beneath the gleam in her host's eyes, she chose to run the
risk of answering. She faced him, and them, as she spoke.

"I love Jesus. And I love to do his work, wherever he gives it to me;
or, as I am a woman and cannot do much, I am glad to help those who

Mr. Esthwaite was put out a little. He had words on his lips that he
did not speak; and piled Eleanor's plate with various fruit dainties,
and drank one or two glasses of his Australian claret before he said
anything more; an interval occupied by Eleanor in cooling down after
her last speech, which had flushed her cheeks prodigiously.

"That's a sort of work to be done anywhere," he said finally, as if
Eleanor had but just spoken. "I am sure it can be done here, and much
better for you. Now see here - I like you. Don't you suppose, if you
were to try, you could persuade this Mr. Rhys to quit those regions of
darkness and come and take the same sort of work at Sydney that he is
doing there?"


"Seems decided! - " said Mr. Esthwaite humourously, looking towards his
wife. "I am afraid this gentleman is a positive sort of character.
Well! - there is no use in struggling against fate. My dear, take your
cousin off and give her some coffee. I will be there directly."

The ladies left him accordingly; and in the pretty drawing-room Mrs.
Esthwaite plied Eleanor with questions relating to her voyage, her
destination, and above all, the England of which she had heard so much
and knew so little. Her curiosity was huge, and extended to the
smallest of imaginable details; and one thing followed another with
very little of congruous nature between them. And Eleanor answered, and
related, and described, and the while thought - where her letters were?
Nevertheless she gave herself kindly to her hostess's gratification,
and patiently put her own by; and the evening ended with Mrs. Esthwaite
being in a state of ecstatic delight with her new-found relation. Mr.
Esthwaite had kept silence and played the part of listener for the
larger portion of the evening, using his eyes and probably his judgment
freely during that time. As they were separating, he asked Eleanor
whether she could get up at six o'clock?

Eleanor asked what for?

"Do, for once; and I will take you a drive in the Domain."

"What Domain? yours, do you mean?"

"Not exactly. I have not got so far as that. No; it's the Government
Domain - everybody rides and drives there, and almost everybody goes at
six o'clock. It's worth going; botanical gardens, and all that sort of

Eleanor swiftly thought, that it was scarce likely Mr. Amos would have
her letters for her, or at least bring them, so early as that; and she
might as well indulge her host's fancy if not her own. She agreed to
the proposal, and Mrs. Esthwaite went rejoicing with her to her room.

"You'll like it," she said. "The botanical gardens are beautiful, and I
dare say you will know a great deal more about them than I do. O it's
delightful to have you here! I only cannot bear to think you must go
away again."

"You are very kind to me," said Eleanor gratefully. "My dear aunt
Caxton will be made glad to know what friends I have found among

"Don't speak about it!" said Mrs. Esthwaite, her eyes fairly glistening
with earnestness. "I am sure if Egbert can do anything he will be too
glad. Now won't you do just as if you were at home? I want you to be
completely at home with us - now and always. You must feel very much the
want of your old home in England! being so far from it, too."

"Heaven is my home," said Eleanor cheerfully; "I do not feel the loss
of England so much as you think. That other home always seems near."

"Does it?" said Mrs. Esthwaite. "It seems such an immense way off, to

"I used to think so; but it is near to me now. So it does not so much
matter whereabouts on the earth I am."

"It must be nice to feel so!" said Mrs. Esthwaite with an unconscious

"Do you not feel so?" Eleanor asked.

"O no. I do not know anything about it. I am not good - like you."

"It is not goodness - not my goodness - that makes heaven my home," said
Eleanor smiling at her and taking her hands.

"But I am sure you are good?" said Mrs. Esthwaite earnestly.

"Just as you are, - except for the grace of God, which is free to all."

"But," said Mrs. Esthwaite looking at her as if she were something
hardly of earth like ordinary mortals, - "I have not given up the world
as you have. I cannot. I like it too well."

"I have not given it up either," said Eleanor smiling again; "not in
the sense you mean. I have not given up anything but sin. I enjoy
everything else in the world as much as you do."

"What do you mean?" said Mrs. Esthwaite, much bewildered.

"Only this," said Eleanor, with very sweet gravity now. "I do not love
anything that my King hates. All that I have given up, and all that
leads to it; but I am all the more free to enjoy everything that is
really worth enjoying, quite as well as you can, or any body else."

"But - you do not go to parties and dances, and you do not drink wine,
and the theatre, and all that sort of thing; do you?"

"I do not love anything that my King hates," said Eleanor shaking her
head gently.

"But dancing, and wine, - what harm is in them?"

"Think what they lead to! - "

"Well wine - excuse me, I know so little about these things! and I want
to know what you think; - wine, I know, if people will drink too
much, - but what harm is in dancing?"

"None that I know of," said Eleanor, - "if it were always suited to
womanly delicacy, and if it took one into the society of those that
love Christ - or helped one to witness for him before those who do not."

"Well, I will tell you the truth," said Mrs. Esthwaite with a sort of
penitent laugh, - "I love dancing."

"Ay, but I love Christ," said Eleanor; "and whatever is not for his
honour I am glad to give up. It is no cross to me. I used to like some
things too; but now I love Him; and his will is my will."

"Ah, that is what I said! you are good, that is the reason. I can't
help doing wrong things, even if I want to do it ever so much, and when
I know they are wrong; and I shouldn't like to give up anything."

"Listen," said Eleanor, holding her hands fast. "It is not that I am
good. It is that I love Jesus and he helps me. I cannot do anything of
myself - I cannot give up anything - but I trust in my Lord and he does
it for me. It is he that does all in me that you would call good."

"Ah, but you love him."

"Should I not?" said Eleanor, "when he loved me, and gave himself for
me, that he might bring me from myself and sin to know him and be

"And you are happy, are you not?" said Mrs. Esthwaite, looking at her
as if it were something that she had come to believe against evidence.
There was good evidence for it now, in Eleanor's smile; which would
bear studying.

"There is nothing but happiness where Christ is."

"But I couldn't understand it - those places where you are going are so
dreadful; - and why you should go there at all - "

"No, you do not understand, and cannot till you try it. I have such joy
in the love of Christ sometimes, that I wish for nothing so much in the
world, as to bring others to know what I know!"

There was power in the lighting face, which Mrs. Esthwaite gazed at and

"I think I am willing to go anywhere and do anything, which my King may
give me, in that service."

"To be sure," said Mrs. Esthwaite, as if adding a convincing corollary
from her own mind, - "you have some other reason to wish to get
there - to the Islands, I mean."

That brought a flood of crimson over Eleanor's face; she let go her
hostess's hands and turned away.

"But there was something else I wanted to ask," said Mrs. Esthwaite
hastily. "Egbert said - Are you very tired, my dear?"

"Not at all, I assure you."

"Egbert said there was some most beautiful singing as he came up
alongside the ship to-day - was it you?"

"In part it was I."

"He said it was hymns. Won't you sing me one?"

Eleanor liked it very well; it suited her better than talking. They sat
down together, and Eleanor sang:

"'There's balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole.
There's power enough in Jesus
To save a sin-sick soul.'"

And somewhat to her surprise, before the hymn had gone far, her
companion was weeping; and kept her face hidden in her handkerchief
till the last words were sung.

"'Come then to this physician;
His help he'll freely give.
He asks no hard condition, -
'Tis only, look, and live.
For there's balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole.
There's power enough in Jesus
To save a sin-sick soul.'"

"I never heard anything so sweet in all my life!" said Mrs. Esthwaite
as she got up and wiped her eyes. "I've been keeping you up. But do
tell me," said she looking at her innocently, - "are all Methodists like

"No," said Eleanor laughing; and then she was vexed at herself that the
laugh changed to a sob and the tears came. Was _she_ hysterical? It was
very unlike her, but this seemed something like it. Neither could she
immediately conquer the strangling sensation, between laughter and
crying, which threatened her.

"My dear! I'm very sorry," said Mrs. Esthwaite. "You are too
tired! - and it is my fault. Egbert will be properly angry with me."

But Eleanor conquered the momentary oppression, threw off her tears,
and gave her hostess a peaceful kiss for good night; with which the
little lady went off comforted. Then Eleanor sat down by her window,
and with tears wet on her eyelashes yet, looked off to the beautiful
moonlit harbour in the distance - and thought. Her thoughts were her
own. Only some of them had a reference to certain words that speak of
"sowing beside all waters," and a tender earnest remembrance of the
seed she had just been scattering. "Beside all waters" - yes; and as
Eleanor looked over towards the fair, peace-speaking view of Port
Jackson, in New South Wales, she recollected the prayer that labourers
might be sent forth into the vineyard.



"Know well, my soul, God's hand controls
Whate'er thou fearest;
Round Him in calmest music rolls
Whate'er thou hearest."

"That girl is the most lovely creature!" said Mrs. Esthwaite when she
rejoined her husband.

"What have you been talking to her about? Now she will not be up in
time to take a drive in the Domain."

"Yes, she will. She has got plenty of spirit. But oh, Egbert! to think
of that girl going to put herself in those savage islands, where she
won't see anybody!"

"It is absurd?" said her husband, but somewhat faintly.

"I couldn't but think to-night as I looked at her - you should have seen
her. - Something upset her and set her to crying; then she wouldn't cry;
and the little white hand she brushed across her eyes and then rested
on the chair-back to keep herself steady - I looked at it, and I
couldn't bear to think of her going to teach those barbarians. And her
eyes were all such a glitter with tears and her feelings - I've fallen
in love with her, Egbert."

"She's a magnificent creature," said Mr. Esthwaite. "Wouldn't she set
Sydney a fire, if she was to be here a little while! But somebody has
been beforehand with Sydney - so it's no use talking."

Eleanor was ready in good time for the drive, and with spirits entirely
refreshed by the night's sleep and the morning's renewing power. Things
looked like new things, unlike those which yesterday saw. All feeling
of strangeness and loneliness was gone; her spirits were primed for
enjoyment. Mr. and Mrs. Esthwaite both watched eagerly to see the
effect of the drive and the scene upon her; one was satisfied, the
other was not. The intent delight in Eleanor's eyes escaped Mrs.
Esthwaite; she looked for more expression in words; her husband was
content that Eleanor's mind was full of what he gave it to act upon.
The Domain was an exquisite place for a morning drive; and the more
stylish inhabitants of Sydney found it so; there was a good display of
equipages, varying in shew and pretension. To Mrs. Esthwaite's
disappointment neither these nor their owners drew Eleanor's attention;
she did not even seem to see them; while the flowers in the woods
through which part of the drive was cut, the innumerable, gorgeous,
novel and sweet flowers of a new land, were a very great delight to
her. All of them were new, or nearly so; how Eleanor contrasted them
with the wild things of Plassy which she knew so well. And instead of
the blackbird and green wren, there were birds of brilliant hues,
almost as gay as the flowers over which their bright wings went, and
yet stranger than they. It was a sort of drive of enchantment to
Eleanor; the air was delightful, though warm; with no feeling of
lassitude or oppression resulting from the heat.

There were other pleasures. From point to point, as they drove through
the "bush," views opened upon them of the harbour and its islands,
glittering in the morning sun. Changes of beauty; for every view was a
little unlike the others and revealed the loveliness with a difference.
Eleanor felt herself in a new world. She was quite ready for the
gardens, when they got through the "bush."

The gardens were fine. Here she had a feast which neither of her
companions could enjoy with her in anything like fellowship. Eleanor
had not lived so long with Mrs. Caxton, entering into all her pursuits,
without becoming somewhat well acquainted with plants; and now she was
almost equally charmed at seeing her dear old home friends, and at
making acquaintance with the glorious beauties that outshone them but
could never look so kindly. Slowly Eleanor went through the gardens,
followed by her host and hostess who took their enjoyment in observing
her. In the Botanical Gardens Mr. Esthwaite came up alongside again, to
tell her names and discuss specimens; he found Eleanor knew more about
them than he did.

"All this was a wild 'bush' - nothing but rocks and trees, a few years
ago," he remarked.

"_This?_ this garden?"

"Yes, only so long ago as 1825."

"Somebody has deserved well of the community, then," said Eleanor. "It
is a delicious place."

"General Sir Ralph Darling had that good desert. It is a fine thing to
be in high place and able to execute great plans; isn't it?"

Eleanor rose up from a flower and gave Mr. Esthwaite one of her
thoughtful glances.

"I don't know," she said. "His gardeners did the work, after all."

"They don't get the thanks."

"_That_ is not what one works for," said Eleanor smiling. "So the thing
is done - what matter?"

"If it _isn't_ done, - what matter? No, no! I want to get the good of
what I do, - in praise or in something else."

"What is Sir Ralph Darling the better of my thanks now?"

"Well, he's dead!" said Mr. Esthwaite.

"So I was thinking."

"Well, what do you mean? Do you mean that you would do nothing while
you are alive, for fear you would not hear of it after you have left
the world?"

"Not exactly."

"What then? I don't know what you are after."

"You say this was all a wilderness a few years ago - why should you
despair of what you call the 'black islands?'"

"O ho!" said Mr. Esthwaite, - "we are there, are we? By a hop, skip, and
jump - leaving the argument. That's like a woman."

"Are you sure?" said Eleanor.

"Like all the women I ever saw. Not one of them can stick to the point."

"Then I will return to mine," said Eleanor laughing - "or rather bring
you up to it. I referred - and meant to refer you - to another sort of
gardening, in which the labourer receives wages and gathers fruit; but
the beauty of it is, that his wages go with him - he does not leave them
behind - and the fruit is unto life eternal."

"That's fair," said Mr. Esthwaite. "See here - you don't preach, do you?"

"I will not, to you," said Eleanor. "Mr. Esthwaite, I will look at no
more flowers I believe, this morning, since you leave the time of our
stay to me."

Mr. Esthwaite behaved himself, and though a speech was on his tongue he
was silent, and attended Eleanor home in an unexceptionable manner.
Mrs. Esthwaite was in a dissatisfied mood of mind.

"I hope it will be a great while before you find a good chance to go to
Fiji!" she said.

"Do not wish that," said Eleanor: "for in that case I may have to take
a chance that is not good."

"Ah but, you are not the sort of person to go there."

"I should be very sorry to think that," said Eleanor smiling.

"Well it is clear you are not. Just to look at you! I am sure you are
exactly a person to look always as nice as you do now."

"I hope never to look less nice than I do now," said Eleanor, rather
opening her eyes.

"What, in that place?"

"Why yes, certainly. Why not?"

"But you will not wear that flat there?"

Eleanor and Mr. Esthwaite here both gave way in a fit of laughter.

"Why yes I will; if I find it, as I suppose I shall, the most
comfortable thing."

"But you cannot wear white dresses there?"

"If I cannot, I will submit to it, but, my dear cousin, I have brought
little else but white dresses with me. For such a climate, what else is
so good?"

"Not like that you wore yesterday?"

"They are all very much alike, I believe. What was the matter with

"Why, it was so - " Mrs. Esthwaite paused. "But how can you get them
washed? do you expect to have servants there?"

"There are plenty of servants, I believe; not very well trained,
indeed, or it would not be necessary to have so many. At any rate, they
can wash, whatever else they can do."

"I don't believe they would know how to wash your dresses."

"Then I can teach them," said Eleanor merrily.

"_You!_ To wash a cambrick dress!"

"That, or any other."

"Eleanor, do not talk so!"

"Certainly not, if you do not wish it. I was only putting you to rest
on the score of my laundry work."

"With those hands!" said Mrs. Esthwaite expressively.

Eleanor looked down at her hands, for a moment a higher and graver
expression flitted over her face, then she smiled again.

"I should be ashamed of my hands if they were good for nothing."

"Capital!" said Mr. Esthwaite. "That's what I like. That is what I call
having spirit. I like to see a woman have some character of her own;
something besides hands, in fact."

"But Eleanor, I do not understand. I am serious. You never washed; how
can you know how?"

"That was precisely my reasoning; so I learned."

"Learned to _wash?_ _You?"_


"You did it with your own hands?"

"The dress you were so good as to approve," said Eleanor smiling, "it
was washed and done up by myself."

"Do you expect to have to do it for yourself?" said Mrs. Esthwaite
looking intensely horrified.

"No, not generally; but to teach somebody, or upon occasion, you know.
You see," she said smiling again her full rich smile, "I am bent upon
having my white dresses."

Mrs. Esthwaite was too full for speech, and her husband looked at his
new cousin with an eye of more absolute admiration than he had yet
bestowed on her. Eleanor's thoughts were already on something else;
springing forward to meet Mr. Amos and his letters.

Breakfast was over however before he arrived. Much to her chagrin, she
was obliged to receive him in the company of Mr. and Mrs. Esthwaite; no
private talk was possible. Mr. Esthwaite engaged him immediately in an
earnest but desultory conversation, about Sydney, Eleanor, and the
mission, and the prospect of their getting to their destination; which
Mr. Esthwaite prophesied would not be within any moderate limits of

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Online LibrarySusan WarnerThe Old Helmet, Volume II → online text (page 18 of 25)