Susan Warner.

The Old Helmet, Volume II online

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which he threw into Eleanor's lap; and turning to her he repeated very
seriously his question.

"What is it, to be a servant of Jesus Christ?"

"I know very little," said Eleanor timidly. "I am only just beginning
to learn."

"You know the words bring for our refreshment only the meaning that we
attach to them - except so far as the Holy Spirit answering our prayers
and endeavours shews us new meaning and depth that we had not known
before."

"Of course - but I suppose I know very little. These words convey only
the mere fact to me."

"Let us weight the words. A servant is a follower. Christ said, 'If a
man serve me, let him _follow me_.'"

"Yes, - I know."

"A follower must know where his Master goes. How did Christ walk?"

"He went about doing good."

"He did; but mark, there are different ways of doing that. Get to the
root of the matter. The young man who kept all the commandments from
his youth, was not following Christ; and when it came to the pinch he
turned his back upon him."

"How then, Mr. Rhys? You mean heart-following?"

"That is what the Lord means. Look here - Paul says in the ninth
verse, - 'Whom I serve _with my spirit_ in the gospel' - Following cannot
have a different end in view from that of the person followed. And what
was Christ's? - 'My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to
finish his work.' Are we servants of Christ after that rule, Miss
Powle?"

The question had a singular intonation, as if the questioner were
charging it home upon himself. Yet Eleanor knew he could answer it in
the affirmative and that she could not; she sat silent without looking
up. The old contrast of character recurred to her, in spite of the fact
that her own had changed so much. She hung over the book, while her
companion half abstractedly repeated,

"'My meat is to do the will of him that sent me.' - That makes a way of
life of great simplicity."

"Is it always easy to find?" ventured Eleanor.

"Very! - if his will is all that we desire."

"But that is a very searching, deep question."

"Let it search, then. 'My meat is to do the will of him - ' No matter
what that may be, Miss Powle; our choice lies in this - that it is his
will. And as soon as we set our hearts upon one or the other particular
sort of work, or labour in any particular place, or even upon any given
measure of success attending our efforts, so that we are not willing to
have him reverse our arrangements, - we are getting to have too much
will about it."

Eleanor looked up with some effort.

"You are making it a great matter, to be a true servant of Christ, Mr.
Rhys."

"Would you have it a little matter?" he said with a smile of great
sweetness and brightness. "Let the Lord have all! He was among us 'as
one that serveth' - amid discouragements and disappointments, and abuse;
and he has warned us that the servant is not greater than his Lord. It
is not a little thing, to be the minister of Jesus Christ!"

"Now you are getting out of the general into the particular."

"No - I am not; a 'minister' is but a servant; what we call a minister,
is but in a more emphatic degree the servant of all. The rules of
service are the same for him and for others. Let us look at another
one. Here it is - in John - "

And the fingers that Eleanor had watched the other morning, and with
which she had a curious association, came turning over the leaves.

"'Ye call me Master, and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then,
your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one
another's feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I
have done to you.' - One thing is plain from that, Miss Eleanor - we are
not to consider ourselves too good for anything."

"No - " said Eleanor; - "but I suppose that does not forbid a just
judgment of ourselves or of others, in respect of their adaptations and
qualifications."

"Yes it does," he said quickly. "The only question is, Has the Lord put
that work in your hands? If he has, never ask whether your hands are
the right ones. He knows. What our Lord stooped to do, well may we!"

Eleanor dared not say any more; she knew of what he was thinking;
whether he had a like intuition with respect to her thoughts she did
not know, and would not risk them any nearer discovery.

"There is another thing about being a servant of Christ," he presently
went on; - "it ensures some kind and degree of persecution."

"Do you think so?" said Eleanor; "in these days? Why, it is thought
praiseworthy and honourable, is it not, through all the land, to be
good? to be a member of the Church, and to fulfil the requirements of
religion? Does anybody lose respect or liking from such a cause?"

"No. But he suffers persecution. My dear friend, what are the
'requirements of religion?' We are just considering them. Can you
remember a servant of Christ, such as we have seen the name means, in
your knowledge, whom the world allowed to live in peace?"


Eleanor was silent.

"'Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater
than his Lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute
you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.'"

"But in _these_ days, Mr. Rhys?" said Eleanor doubtfully.

"I can only say, that if you are of the world, the world will love his
own. I know no other way of securing that result. 'Because ye are not
of the world,' Jesus said, 'but I have chosen you out of the world,
therefore the world hateth you.' And it is declared, elsewhere, that
all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. Can
you remember any instance to the contrary?"

Eleanor looked up and gave Mr. Rhys a good view of her honest eyes;
they looked very intent now and somewhat sorrowful.

"Mr. Rhys, except in Plassy, I do not know such a person as you ask me
about."

"Is it possible!" he said.

"Mr. Rhys, I was thinking the servants of Christ have good need of that
'helmet of salvation' I used to wish for."

"Well, they have it!" he said brightly. "'If any man serve me, let him
follow me; _and where I am, there shall also my servant be_.' That is
the end of all. But there is another point of service that occurs to
me. We have seen that we must not lease ourselves; I recollect that in
another place Paul says that if he pleased men, he would not be the
servant of Christ. There is a point where he and the world would come
in contact of opposition."

"But I thought we ought to please everybody as much as we could?"

He smiled, put his hand over and turned two or three leaves of the
Bible which she kept open at the first of Romans, and pointed to a word
in the fifteenth chapter. "Let every one of us please his neighbour for
his good, to edification."

"There is your limit," said he. "So far thou mayest go, but no further.
And to do that you will find requires quite sufficiently that you
should not please yourself. And now how shall we do all this? - how
shall we be all this?"

"You are asking the very question!" said Eleanor gravely.

"We must come to the root and spring of all this service and
following - it is our love of the Lord himself. That will do it, and
nothing else will. 'What things were gain to me, those I counted loss
for Christ.'"

"But suppose," said Eleanor, with some difficulty commanding her
voice, - "suppose one is deficient in that very thing? suppose one wants
that love?"

"Ay!" he said, looking into her face with his eyes of light, - "suppose
one does; what then?"

Eleanor could not bear them; her own eyes fell. "What is one to
do?" - Mr. Rhys had risen up before he answered, in his deliberate
accents,

"'Seek him, that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the
shadow of night into morning.'"

He paced slowly up and down before Eleanor; then went off upon a
rambling search through the wood again; seeming to be busy with little
things in his way. Eleanor sat still. After a little he came and stood
before her with a bunch of ferns and Melic grass and lilies of the
valley, which he was ordering in his hands as he spoke.

"The effect of our following Christ in this way, Miss Powle, will be,
that we shall bear testimony to the world that He is our King, and what
sort of a king he is. We shall proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to
the glory of God the Father. We shall have the invisible army of angels
for our fellow-servants and co-workers; and we shall be passing on with
the whole redeemed world to the day of full triumph and final
restoration; when Christ will come to be glorified in his saints and to
be admired in them that believe - because our testimony among you was
believed. But now our business is to give the testimony."

He walked up and down, up and down, before Eleanor for some minutes, in
a thoughtful, abstracted way. Eleanor felt his manner as much as his
words; the subject had clearly gone home to himself. She felt both so
much that she did not like to interrupt the silence, nor to look up. At
last he stopped again before her and said in quite a different tone,
"What are the next words, Miss Powle?"

"'Called to be an apostle.'"

"We shall not get home to dinner, if we go into that," he said smiling.

"You have preached a sermon to me, Mr. Rhys."

"I do that very often to myself," he answered.

"To yourself?" said Eleanor.

"Yes. Nobody needs it more."

"But when you have so much real preaching to do - I should think it
would be the last thing you would wish to do in private, - at other
times."

"For that very reason. I need to have a sermon always ready, and to be
always ready myself. Now, let us get home and look at our
'rotifera' - if we have any."

However, there was to be no microscopical examination that morning.


"The best laid schemes o' mice and men Gang aft agley."


They had gone but half a mile further homeward when their course was
again stopped. They came up with a man and a horse; the horse standing
still, the man lying on the ground beside him. At first sight they
thought it was a case of drunkenness, for the face of the man was very
red and he was unable to give any account of himself; but they were
soon convinced it was sudden illness, not intoxication, which was the
matter. He had fallen from his horse evidently, and now was not
unconscious but in great pain; the red in his face alternating with
sudden changes of colour. Apparently his condition was that of a small
farmer or upper farm servant, who had been overtaken on some business
errand by this attack of severe sickness. His horse stood quietly
beside him.


"This is no case for a lancet," said Mr. Rhys after making a slight
examination. "It calls for greater skill than mine. How will you do? I
must take the horse and ride for it. But the first thing is to find
where I ought to go - if I can - "

For this information he sought in the man's pockets; and found
presently a pocket-book with one or two bills, which gave the name he
wanted. It was a name not unknown to Mr. Rhys; and let him know also
the direction in which he must ride; not towards the valley of Plassy.

"What will you do, Miss Powle? - will you be afraid to find your way
home alone?"

"I will stay here till you come back."

"Will you? But I may be gone some time - and I must tell you," he said
gravely, "the man is very ill."

"There is the more reason then, I am sure. I will stay and do anything
for him I can, Mr. Rhys. You go - I will stay here."

Mr. Rhys said nothing more, though Eleanor felt sure from his face that
he did not disapprove of her conclusion. He mounted the horse
immediately.

"I will send help from the way if I can, though I doubt it. The way is
lonely, till I get almost there."

He rode off at a sharp pace, and Eleanor was left quite alone. Her
attention came back to the sick person at her feet. So near the
light-hearted pleasure of ten minutes ago had been to pain and death!
And Mr. Rhys's sermon was nearer still. The first thing to consider,
was what she could do for the man.

He had fallen and lay on the grass in the broad sunshine. The sun had
mounted high now; its beams fell hot and full on the sufferer's face.
At a little distance was a grove of oaks and beeches, and good shelter;
but Eleanor's strength could not move the man thither; he was a great,
thickset, burly fellow. Yet it was miserable to see the sun beating
upon his face where the sweat of pain already stood. Eleanor went to
the wood, and with much trouble and searching managed to find or break
off two or three sticks of a few feet in length. She planted these for
a frame near the sick man's head and spread her light summer shawl over
them to make a screen. It was a light screen; nevertheless much better
than nothing. Then Eleanor kneeled down by the man to see what more she
could do. Red and pale changed fast and fearfully upon his face; big
drops stood on the brow and cheeks. Eleanor doubted whether he were
conscious, he lay so still. She took her pocket-handkerchief to wipe
the wet brow. A groan answered her at that. It startled her, for it was
the first sound she had heard the sick person utter. Putting down her
face to receive if possible some intimation of a wish, she thought he
said or tried to say something about "drink." Eleanor rose up and
sought to recollect where last and nearest she had seen water. It was
some distance behind; a little spring that had crossed their foot-way
with its own bright track. Then what could she bring some in? The
phials! Quick the precious pond water and bog water was poured out,
with one thought of the nameless treasures for Mr. Rhys's microscope
that she was spilling upon the ground; and Eleanor took the basket
again and set off on the backward way. She was in a hurry, the sun was
warm, the distance was a good quarter of a mile; by the time she had
found the stream and filled her phial and retraced again her steps to
where the sick man lay, she was heated and weary; for every step was
hurried with the thought of that suffering which the water might
alleviate. This was pure, sparkling, good water with which the phials
were now filled. But when Eleanor got back to him, the man could not
open his lips to take it. She feared he would die, and suddenly.

It was a wild uncultivated place they were in. No signs of human
habitation were to be seen, except far up away on a hillside in the
distance, where smoke went up from a farmhouse or some sort of a house;
towards which Eleanor looked with earnest longings that the human help
which was there could be brought within available distance. It was
greatly too far for that. How soon would Mr. Rhys be back? Impossible
to say; she could not tell what length of road he might have to travel.
And the man seemed dying. Eleanor knelt down again, and with the
precious contents of one of the phial bathed the brow and the lips that
she thought would never return to their natural colour again. She did
it perseveringly; it was all she could do. Perhaps it gave comfort. But
Eleanor grew tired, and felt increasingly lonely and desirous that some
one should come. No one did come by that way, nor was likely to come,
until the return of Mr. Rhys; the place was not near a highway; only on
a wild mountain track. It struck Eleanor then that the sufferer's head
lay too low, upon the ground. She could not move him to a better
position; and finally placing herself on the grass beside him, she
contrived with great exertion to lift his head upon her lap. He could
not thank her; she did not know if he were aware of what she did; but
then Eleanor had done all. She schooled herself to sit patiently and
wipe the brow that lay upon her knee, and wait; knowing that death
might come to take her charge before any other arrival relieved her of
it. Eleanor had a great many thoughts meanwhile; and as she sat there
revolved Mr. Rhys's 'sermon' in her mind over and over, and from one
end to the other and back again.

So at last Mr. Rhys found her. He came as he had gone, full speed;
jumped off his horse, and took a very grave survey of the group on the
ground. It was not early. Mr. Rhys had been a long time away; it seemed
half a day's length to Eleanor.

"Have you been there all this time?" was his question.

"O no."

"I will take your place," said he kneeling down and lifting the
unconscious head from Eleanor's lap. "There is a waggon coming. It will
be here directly."

Eleanor got up, trembling and stiff from her long constrained position.
The waggon presently came in sight; a huge covered wain which had need
to move slowly. Mr. Rhys had stayed by it to guide it, and only spurred
forward when near enough to the place. Into it they now lifted the sick
man, and the horses' heads were turned again. Mr. Rhys had not been
able to bring a doctor.

"Why here is Powis!" exclaimed Eleanor, as on the waggon coming round
she discovered her pony hitched to the back of it. Mr. Rhys unhitched
him. Powis was saddled.

"I thought you would have done enough for to-day," said he; "and I went
round by the farm to bring him. Now you will ride home as fast as you
please."

"But I thought the farm was out of your way?"

"I had time to gallop over there and meet the waggon again; it went so
slowly."

"O thank you! But I do not need Powis - I can walk perfectly well. I am
sure you need him more than I do, Mr. Rhys. I do not need him at all."

"Come, mount!" said he. "I cannot ride on a side saddle, child."

Eleanor mounted in silence, a little surprised to find that Mr. Rhys
helped her not awkwardly; and not knowing exactly whence came a curious
warm glow that filled her heart like a golden reflection. But it kept
her silent too; and it did not go away even when Mr. Rhys said in his
usual manner,

"I beg your pardon, Miss Powle - I live among the hills till I grow
unceremonious."

Eleanor did not make any answer, and if she rode home as fast as she
pleased, it was her pleasure to ride slowly; for Mr. Rhys walked beside
her all the way. But she was too tired perhaps to talk much; and he was
in one of his silent moods.

"What have you done with the phials?" said he looking into the basket
as they neared home.

"I am very sorry, Mr. Rhys! I had to empty them to get water for that
poor man. I wasn't quite sure, but I thought he asked for it."

"Oh! - And where did you go to find water?"

"Back - don't you remember? - some distance back of where we found him,
we had passed a little brook of running clear water. I had to go there."

"Yes - I know. Well, we shall have to make another expedition."




CHAPTER III.

AT HOME.


"I will have hopes that cannot fade,
For flowers the valley yields!
I will have humble thoughts instead
Of silent, dewy fields!
My spirit and my God shall be
My sea-ward hill, my boundless sea."


The promised expedition came off; and a number of others; not too
frequently however, for Mr. Rhys continued to be one of the world's
busy people, and was often engaged and often weary. The walks after
natural history came between times; when he was not under the immediate
pressure of duty, and felt that he needed recreation to fit him for it.
Eleanor was his companion generally, and grew to be as much interested
in his objects as he was himself. Perhaps that is saying too much. In
the house certainly Mr. Rhys bestowed an amount of patient time and
investigation upon his microscopical studies which Eleanor did not
emulate; time and pains which made him presently a capital manipulator,
and probably stowed away quantities of knowledge under that quiet brow
of his. Many an hour Mr. Rhys and his microscope were silent
companions, during which he was rapt and absorbed in his contemplations
or his efforts - whichever it might be; but then at other times, and
before and after these times, Eleanor and Mrs. Caxton were constantly
invited to a share in some of the results at least of what was going on.

Perhaps three people rarely enjoy more comfort together in themselves
and in each other, than these three did for some weeks following the
date of the last chapter. Mr. Rhys was a wonderful pleasant addition to
the family. He was entirely at home, and not a person be trammelled by
any ordinary considerations. He was silent when he felt like it; he
kept alone when he was busy; he put no unnatural force upon himself
when he was fatigued; but silent, or weary, or busy, there was always
and at all times where he was, the feeling of the presence of one who
was never absent from God. It was in the atmosphere about him; it was
in the look that he wore, free and simple as that always was, in its
gravity; it was in the straightforward doing of duty, all little things
as much as in great things; the little things never forgotten, the
great things never waived. It was an unconscious testimony that Mr.
Rhys carried about with him; and which his companions seeing, they
moved about with softened steps and strengthened hearts all the while.
But he was not always tired and silent; and when he was not, he was a
most delightful companion, as free to talk as a child and as full of
matter as a wise man; and entirely social and sympathetic too in his
whole temper and behaviour. He would not enjoy his natural historical
discoveries alone; Mrs. Caxton and Eleanor were made to take their full
share. The family circle was, quietly, a very lively one; there was no
stagnating anywhere. He and Mrs. Caxton had many subjects and interests
in common of which they talked freely, and Eleanor was only too glad to
listen. There were books and reviews read aloud sometimes, with very
pithy discussion of the same; in fact, there was conversation, truly
deserving the name; such as Eleanor never listened to before she came
to Plassy, and which she enjoyed hugely. Then the walks after natural
objects were on the whole frequent; and Mr. Rhys was sure to ask her to
go along; and they were full of delightful pleasure and of nice talk
too, though it never happened that they sat down under a tree again to
sermonize and Mr. Rhys never forgot himself again to speak to her by
the undignified appellation he once had given her. But Eleanor had got
over her shyness of him pretty well, and was inclined to think it quite
honour and pleasure enough to be allowed to share his walks; waited
very contentedly when he was wrapped up in his own thoughts; wrapped
herself up in hers; and was all ready for the talk when it came. With
all this she observed that he never distinguished her by any more
familiarity than Mrs. Caxton's niece and his daily neighbour at the
table and in the family, might demand from a gentleman and Mrs.
Caxton's friend and guest. The hills and the valleys around Plassy were
very beautiful that summer.

So was Mrs. Caxton's garden. The roses flushed out into bloom, with all
their contemporaries; the terraces down to the river were aglow with
richness and profusion of blossoms, and sweet with many fragrances. The
old farmhouse itself had become an object of admiration to Eleanor.
Long and low, built of dark red stone and roofed with slate, it was now
in different parts wreathed and draped in climbing roses and
honeysuckle as well as in the ivy which did duty all winter. To stand
under these roses at the back of the house, and look down over the
gorgeous terraces, to the river and the bridge and the outspread
meadows on the other side, stretching away down and up the valley and
reaching to the foot of the hills which rose beyond them; to see all
this, was to see a combination of natural features rare even in
England, though words may not make it seem so.

Mrs. Caxton and Eleanor were there one evening. It was towards the end
of the season of "June roses," though indeed it was later than the
month of June. Mr. Rhys had been called away to some distance by
business, and been detained a week; and this evening he might be
expected home. They had missed him very much, Mrs. Caxton and Eleanor.
They had missed him exceedingly at prayer-time; they had missed him
desolately at meals. To-night the tea-table was spread where he loved
to have it; on the tiled floor under the projecting roof before
mentioned. A dish was crowned with red and white strawberries in the
middle of the table, and Eleanor stood decorating it slowly with ivy
leaves and blossoms of white heath.

"It is not certain, my dear, he will come home to-night," Mrs. Caxton
said as she watched her.

"No, aunty," - said Eleanor with a slight start, but then going on with
her occupation. "What about it?"

"Nothing. We will enjoy the flowers ourselves."

"But he thought he would be at home to-night, aunt Caxton?"

"He could not be sure. He might easily be detained. You have got over



Online LibrarySusan WarnerThe Old Helmet, Volume II → online text (page 3 of 25)