Susan Warner.

The Old Helmet, Volume II online

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to God and the Father by him.' - Well Eleanor?"

"I cannot find anything I can do in the Lord's service at such places,
except to stand by and say by my manner that I do not enjoy them nor
approve of them."

"That won't hinder other people enjoying them, though."

"I do not think people enjoy them much. You and I have a hundred times
as much fun in one good scamper over the moor. Dear old moor! I wish we
were back again. But other people's doing is not my business."

"Then what makes you go, Eleanor?"

"Mamma would be so exceedingly vexed if I did not. I mean to get out of
it soon - as soon as I can."

"Do you think you will, in London?"

Eleanor was silent, and thoughtful.

"Well, I know one thing," said Julia, - "I am not going to dancing
school. Mamma says it will make me graceful; and I think I am as
graceful as other people now - as most other people. I don't think I am
as graceful as you are. Don't you think so, Eleanor?"

Eleanor smiled, soberly enough.

"Eleanor, must I go to dancing school?"

"Why do you wish not to go?"

"Because you think it is wrong."

"Darling, you cannot displease mamma for such a reason. You must always
honour every wish of hers, except you thought that honouring her would
be to dishonour or displease the Lord."

The words were spoken and listened to with intense feeling and
earnestness on both sides; and the tears came back in Eleanor's prayer
that morning.

With the world at large, things maintained a very unaltered position
during the rest of the stay at Brighton. Mr. Carlisle kept his
position, advancing a little where it seemed possible. Eleanor kept
hers; neither advancing nor retreating. She was very good to Mr.
Carlisle; she did not throw him off; she gave him no occasion to
complain of an unready talker or an unwilling companion. A little
particular kindness indeed she had for him, left from the old times.
Julia would have been much mystified by the brightness and life and
spirit Eleanor shewed in company, and in his company especially; which
her little sister did not see in their private intercourse alone.
Nevertheless, Mr. Carlisle's passion was rather stimulated by
difficulty than fed by hope; though hope lived high sometimes. All that
Eleanor gave him she gave shim readily, and as readily gave to others;
she gave coolly too, as coolly as she gave to others. Mr. Carlisle took
in many things the place of an accepted suitor; but never in Eleanor's
manner, he knew. It chafed him, it piqued him; it made him far more
than ever bent on obtaining her hand; her heart he could manage then.
Just now it was beyond his management; and when Mrs. Powle smiled
congratulation, Mr. Carlisle bit his lip. However, he had strong aids;
he did not despair. He hoped something from London.

So they all went to London. Eleanor could gain no satisfactory
explanation why. Only her mother asserted that her father's health must
have the advice of London physicians. The Squire himself was not much
more explicit. That his health was not good, however, was true; the
Squire was very unlike his hearty, boisterous, independent self. He
moped, and he suffered too. Eleanor could not help thinking he would
have suffered less, as he certainly would have moped less, at home; and
an unintelligible grunt and grumble now and then seemed to confirm her
view of the case; but there they were, fixed in London, and Eleanor was
called upon to enter into all sorts of London gaieties, of which always
Mr. Carlisle made part and parcel.

Eleanor made a stand, and declined to go to places where she could not
enjoy nor sympathize with what was done. She could not think it duty to
go to the opera, or the theatre, or to great routs, even to please her
mother. Mrs. Powle made a stand too, and insisted, and was very angry;
but Eleanor stood firm; and the end was, she gained her point. Mr.
Carlisle was disappointed, but counselled acquiescence; and Mrs. Powle
with no very good grace acquiesced; for though a woman, she did not
like to be foiled. Eleanor gained one point only; she was not obliged
to go where she could not go with a good conscience. She did not
thereby get her time to herself. London has many ways of spending time;
nice ways too; and in one and another of these Eleanor found hers all
gone. Day by day it was so. Nothing was left but those hours before
breakfast. And what was worse, Mr. Carlisle was at her elbow in every
place; and Eleanor became conscious that she was in spite of herself
appearing before the world as his particular property, and that the
conclusion was endorsed by her mother. She walked as straight as she
could; but the days grew to be heavy days.

She devoted herself to her father as much as possible; and in that
found a refuge. The Squire was discontented and unwell; a good deal
depressed in spirits as a consequence; he delighted to have Eleanor
come and sit with him and read to him after dinner. She escaped many an
engagement by that means. In vain Mrs. Powle came in with her appeal,
about Eleanor's good requiring him to do without her; the Squire
listened, struggled, and selfishness got the better.

"St. George and the Dragon!" he exclaimed, - "she shall do as she likes,
and as I like, for one hour in the twenty-four. You may haul her about
the rest of the time - but from dinner for a while or so you may spare
her. I choose she shall be with me."

The "while" was often three hours. Eleanor enjoyed repose then, and
enjoyed ministering to her father; who speedily became exceedingly
wedded to her services, and learned to delight in her presence after a
new manner. He would have her read to him; she might read everything
she pleased except what had a religious bearing. That he disposed of at
once, and bade her seek another book. He loved to have her brush his
hair, when his head ached, by the half hour together; at other times he
engaged her in a game of chess and a talk about Plassy. The poor Squire
was getting a good deal tamed down, to take satisfaction in such quiet
pleasures; but the truth was that he found himself unable for what he
liked better. Strength and health were both failing; he was often
suffering; drives in the park wearied him almost as much as sitting
alone in his room; he swore at them for the stupidest entertainment man
ever pleased himself with. What he did with the lonely hours he spent
entirely by himself, nobody knew; Eleanor knew that he was rejoiced
every time to see her come in. His eye brightened when she opened the
door, and he settled himself in his easy chair to have a good time; and
then even the long columns of the newspaper, read from one end to the
other, up and down, were pleasant to Eleanor too. It was soothing
repose, in contrast with the whirl of all the rest of her life. Until
the time came when Mr. Carlisle began to join the party. How he did it
Eleanor hardly knew; but he did it. He actually contrived to make one
at those evening entertainments, which admitted but two others; and
with his usual adroitness and skill he made his presence so acceptable
that Eleanor felt it would be quite in vain to attempt to hinder him.
And so her rest was gone, and her opportunity; for she had cherished
fond hopes of winning not only her own way into her father's heart, but
with that, in time, a hearing for truths the Squire had always pushed
out of his path.

Mr. Carlisle was very pleasant; there was no question. He did not at
all usurp her office, nor interfere with it. But when he saw her
getting weary of a parliamentary discussion, or a long discourse on
politics or parties, his hand would gently draw away the paper from
hers and his voice carry on the reading. And his voice was agreeable to
her father; Eleanor saw it; the Squire would turn his head a little
towards the new reader, and an expression of anything but
dissatisfaction steal over his features. Eleanor sat by, half
mortified, half feeling real good-will towards Mr. Carlisle for his
grace and kindness. Or if a game of chess were on foot, Mr. Carlisle
would sit by, he generally declined playing himself, and make the play
very lively with his talk; teaching Eleanor, whose part he invariably
took, and keeping a very general's watch over her as if she had been a
subordinate officer. Mr. Powle liked that too; it made his fighting
better fun; he chuckled a good deal over Mr. Carlisle's play by proxy.
Eleanor could not help it, nor withdraw herself. She knew what brought
Mr. Carlisle there, and she could not avoid him, nor the very easy
familiar terms on which they all sat round the chess table. She was
admirably quiet and cool; but then it is true she felt no unkindness
towards Mr. Carlisle, and sometimes she feared she shewed kindness too
frankly. It was very difficult to help that too. Nevertheless it was
plain the gentleman did not dare trust anything to his present power
over her, for he never tried it. He evidently relied on somewhat else
in his advances. And Eleanor felt that the odds were rather hard
against her. Father and mother, and such a suitor!

She was cut off from her evening refreshment; and the next step was,
that her morning pleasure with Julia was also denied her. Mrs. Powle
had been in a state of gratulation with reference to Julia's
improvement; Julia had become latterly so docile, so decorous, and so
diligent. One unlucky day it came to Mrs. Powle's knowledge that Julia
objected to going to dancing school; objected to spending money on the
accomplishment, and time on the acquisition; and furthermore, when
pressed, avowed that she did not believe in the use of it when
attained. It seemed to Mrs. Powle little less than a judgment upon her,
to have the second of her daughters holding such language; it was
traced to Eleanor's influence of course; and further and diligent
questioning brought out the fact of the sisters' daily studies in
company. They should happen no more, Mrs. Powle immediately decided.
Julia was forbidden to go to her sister's room for such purposes; and
to make matters sure she was provided with other and abundant
occupation to keep her engaged at the dangerous hour. With Eleanor
herself Mrs. Powle held no communication on the subject; having for
certain reasons an unwillingness to come into unnecessary collision
with her; but Eleanor found her little sister's society was no more to
be had. Mrs. Powle would assuredly have sent Julia quite out of the
house to get her away from mischievous influences, but that she could
not prevail on her husband. No daughter of his, he declared, should be
made a fool of in a boarding-school, while he had a foot above ground
to prevent it.

"Why Mrs. Powle," he said, "don't you know yourself that Eleanor is the
only sensible girl in London? That's growing up at home, just as you
didn't want."

"If she only had not some notions - " said Mrs. Powle dubiously. For
between her husband and Mr. Carlisle she was very much _held in_ on
Eleanor's subject; both insisting that she should let her alone. It was
difficult for Eleanor to be displeased with Mr. Carlisle in these
times; his whole behaviour was so kind and gentlemanly. The only fault
to be found with him was his pursuit of her. That was steady and
incessant; yet at the same time so brotherly and well-bred in manner
that Eleanor sometimes feared she gave him unconsciously too much
encouragement. Feeling really grateful to him, it was a little hard not
to shew it. For although Mr. Carlisle was the cause of her trouble, he
was also a shield between her and its more active manifestations. He
favoured her not dancing; _that_ was like a jealous man, Mrs. Powle
said. He smiled at Eleanor's charities, and would have helped them if
he could. He would not have her scolded on the score of religious
duties; he preferred administering the antidote to them as quietly as
possible.

"Eleanor!" said Mrs. Powle, putting her head out of the drawing-room
door one Sunday evening as she heard somebody come in - "Eleanor! is
that you? come here. Where have you been? Here is Mr. Carlisle waiting
this hour to go with you to hear the Bishop of London preach."

Eleanor came into the room. She was dressed with extreme plainness, and
looking so calm and sweet that it was no wonder Mr. Carlisle's eyes
rested on her as on a new object of admiration. Few of his acquaintance
looked so; and Eleanor did not use it, in times past.

"Now here you are, child, almost too late. Make haste and get yourself
ready. Where have you been?"

"She cannot be more ready than she is," remarked the other member of
the party.

"I think, mamma, I will not go to-night. I am a little tired."

"That's nonsense, Eleanor! When were you ever too unwell to go to
church, this winter? Go and get ready. What Mr. Carlisle says is all
very well, but he does not see you with my eyes."

"I shall not take her if she is tired," said Mr. Carlisle gently. And
Eleanor sat still.

"Where have you been then, child, to tire yourself? You do try me,
Eleanor. What can you have found to do?"

"All London, mamma," said Eleanor pleasantly.

"All London! I should like to know what that means. All wrong, I
suppose, according to you. Well, what part of London have you been
attacking to-day? I should think the best thing for London would be to
hear its Bishop. What have you been about, Eleanor?"


"Only to school, mamma - Sunday school."

"But you went there this morning?"

"That was another."

Mrs. Powle looked appealingly to Mr. Carlisle, as saying, How long
would you let this go on? Turned her dissatisfied face again to Eleanor,

"What school is this, mistress? and where?"

"Mamma, if I tell you where it is, I am afraid you will be frightened.
It is a Ragged school."

"A Ragged school! What does that mean, Eleanor? What is a Ragged
school?"

"A school to teach ragged children, mamma. Or rather, for ragged
people - they are not most of them children; and perhaps I should not
say they are ragged; for though some of them are, others of them are
not. They are some of the wretchedest of the ragged class, at any rate."

"And Eleanor Powle can find nothing more suitable to do, than to go and
teach such a set! Why you ought to have a policeman there to take care
of you."

"We have several."

"Policemen!"

"Yes, ma'am."

"And it is not safe without them!"

"It is safe with them, mamma."

"Mr. Carlisle, what do you think of such doings?" said Mrs. Powle,
appealing in despair.

"They move my curiosity," he said quietly. "I hope Eleanor will go on
to gratify it."

"And can you really find nothing better than that to do, of a Sunday?"
her mother went on.

"No, mamma, I do not think I can."

"What do they learn?" Mr. Carlisle inquired.

"A little reading, some of them; but the main thing to teach them is
the truths of the Bible. They never heard them before, anywhere, - nor
can hear them anywhere else."

"Do you think they will hear them there?"

"I am sure they do."

"And remember?"

The tears filled Eleanor's eyes, as she answered, "I am sure some of
them will."

"And suppose you lose your life in this Ragged teaching?" said Mrs.
Powle. "You might catch your death of some horrid disease, Eleanor. Do
you think that right?"

"Mamma, there was One who did lay down his life for you and for me. I
am not going to offer mine needlessly. But I do not think it is in any
danger here. Many go besides me."

"She is a confirmed Methodist!" said Mrs. Powle, turning to Mr.
Carlisle. He smiled.

"Where does your school meet, Eleanor?"

"I am afraid of terrifying mamma, if I tell you."

"We will take care of her in case she faints. I am in no danger."

"It is the Field-Lane school, Mr. Carlisle."

"The Field-Lane? Won't you enlighten me?"

"Carter's Field-Lane; but it is only called Field-Lane. Did you never
hear of it? It was in a wretched place in Saffron Hill at first - now it
is removed to an excellent room in a better street."

"Where?"

"You know where Clerkenwell is?"

This name gave no intelligence whatever to Mrs. Powle, but Mr. Carlisle
looked enlightened. His face changed and grew dark with something very
like horror and alarm.

"Do you know that is one of the worst parts of London?" he said.

"Pretty bad," said Eleanor, "and the school used to be. It is
wonderfully improved now."

"There, you see, Eleanor, Mr. Carlisle thinks it is a very improper
place for you to be; and I hope you will go there no more. I do not
mean you shall."

Eleanor was silent, looking a little anxious, though not cast down. Mr.
Carlisle marked her.

"It is not safe for you, Eleanor," he said.

"It is perfectly safe," she answered with a smile that had a curious
brightness in it. "I run no risk whatever."

"You are a bold creature," said her mother, "and always were; but that
is no reason why you should be allowed to go your own crazy ways. I
will have no more of this, Eleanor."

"Mamma, I am perfectly safe. I have nothing at all to fear. I would not
fail of going for anything in the world." She spoke with an earnest and
shadowed face now. She felt it.

"Who goes with you? or do you go alone?"

"No, ma'am - Thomas is with me always."

"How came you to get into such a strange place?"

"I heard of it - and there is sure to be more to do in such a work than
there are hands for. I know one or two of the gentlemen that teach
there also."

"Methodists, I suppose?" said Mrs. Powle sneeringly.

"One of them is, mamma; the other is a Churchman."

"And do you _teach_ there?"

"Yes, ma'am - a large class of boys." Eleanor's smile came again - and
went.

"I'll have no more of it, Eleanor. I will not. It is just absurdity and
fanaticism, the whole thing. Why shouldn't those boys go to the regular
schools, instead of your giving your time and risking your life to
teach them Sundays? _You_ indeed!"

"You do not know what sort of boys they are, mamma; or you would not
ask that."

"I suppose they have learned some things too well already?" said Mr.
Carlisle.

"Well, I'll have no more of it!" said Mrs. Powle. "I am disgusted with
the whole thing. If they are not good boys, the House of Correction is
the best place for them. Mr. Carlisle, do you not say so?"

Mr. Carlisle's knowledge of the limits of Houses of Correction and the
number of boys in London who were not good boys, forbade him to give an
affirmative answer; his character as a reformer also came up before
him. More than all, Eleanor's face, which was somewhat sad.

"Mrs. Powle, I am going to petition you to suspend judgment, and
reconsider the case of the Ragged schools. I confess to a selfish
motive in my request - I have a desire to go there myself and see this
lady with her scholars around her. The picturesque effect, I should
say, must be striking."

Mrs. Powle looked at him as a very unwise and obstinate man, who was
bewitched into false action.

"If you have a fancy for such effects," she said; "I suppose you must
do as you please. To me the effect is striking and not picturesque.
Just look at her!"

Mr. Carlisle did so, and the expression on his face was so
unsatisfactory that Mrs. Powle gave up the matter; laughed, and went
out of the room.

"I will be less striking," said Eleanor, "if you will excuse me." And
she left the room to change her dress. But when she came back an hour
after, Mr. Carlisle was still there.

"Eleanor," said he, coming and standing before her, "may I go with you
the next time you go to Field Lane?"

"No, I think not. You would not know what to do in such a place, Mr.
Carlisle."

"Do you think so?"

"They are a set of people whom you do not like; people who you think
ought to be fined - and imprisoned - and transported; and all that sort
of thing."

"And what do you think ought to be done with them?"

"I would try a different regimen."

"Pray what would it be?"

"I would tell them of the love of One who died for them. And I would
shew them that the servants of that One love them too."

She spoke quietly, but there was a light in her eye.

"How, for heaven's sake, Eleanor?"

"Mr. Carlisle, I would never condemn a man or boy very severely for
stealing, when I had left him no other way to live."

"So you would make the rest of the world responsible?"

"Are they not? These fellows never heard a word of right or of
truth - never had a word of kindness - never were brought under a good
influence, - until they found it in the Ragged school. What could you
expect? May I illustrate?"

"Pray do."

"There is a boy in a class neighbouring to mine in the room, whose
teacher I know. The boy is thirteen or fourteen years old now; he came
to the school first some four or five years ago, when he was a little
bit of a fellow. Then he had already one brother transported for
stealing, and another in prison for stealing - both only a little older
than he. They had often no other way of getting food but stealing it.
The father and mother were both of them drunkards and swallowed up
everything in liquor. This little fellow used to come to the morning
school, which was held every day, without any breakfast; many a time.
Barefooted, over the cold streets, and no breakfast to warm him. But
after what he heard at the school he promised he would never do as his
brothers had done; and he had some very hard times in keeping his
promise. At last he came to his teacher and asked him for a loan of
threepence; if he had a loan of threepence he thought he could make a
living."

Mr. Carlisle half turned on his heel, but instantly resumed his look
and attitude of fixed attention.

"Mr. Morrison lent him threepence. And Jemmy has supported himself
respectably ever since, and is now in honest employment as an errand
boy."

"I hope you can tell me how he managed it? I do not understand doing
business on such a capital."

"The threepence bought twelve boxes of matches. Those were sold for a
halfpenny each - doubling his capital at once. So he carried on that
business for two years. All day he went to school. In the end of the
day he went out with twelve boxes of matches and hawked them about
until they were disposed of. That gave him threepence for the next
day's trade, and threepence to live upon. He spent one penny for
breakfast, he said; another for dinner, and another for supper. So he
did for two years; now he does better."

"He deserves it, if anybody in London does. Is not this a strange
instance, Eleanor? - on honour?"

"If you like - but not solitary."

"What has been done for the mass of these boys in these schools? what
has been accomplished, I mean?"

"I have given you but one instance out of many, many individual
instances."

"Then you can afford to be generous and give me another."

Perhaps he said this only because he wanted to have her go on talking;
perhaps Eleanor divined that; however she hesitated a moment and went
on.

"Lord Cushley, with some other friends, has just provided for the
emigration to Australia of near a dozen promising cases of these boys."

"Was Eleanor Powle another of the friends?"

"No; I had not that honour. These are reclaimed boys, mind; reclaimed
from the very lowest and most miserable condition; and they are going
out with every prospect of respectability and every promise of doing
well. Do you want to know the antecedents of one among them?"

"By all means!"

"Notice them. First, slavery under two drunken people, one of them his
mother, who sent him out to steal for them; and refused him even the
shelter of their wretched home if he came to it with empty hands. At
such times, thrust out houseless and hungry, to wander where he could,
he led a life of such utter wretchedness, that at length he determined
to steal for himself, and to go home no more. Then came years of
struggling vagrancy - during which, Mr. Carlisle, the prison was his
pleasantest home and only comfortable shelter; and whenever he was
turned out of it he stood in London streets helpless and hopeless but
to renew his old ways of thieving and starvation. Nobody had told him
better; no one had shewed the child kindness; was he to blame?"

"Somebody shewed him kindness at last," said Mr. Carlisle, looking into
the lustrous eyes which were so full of their subject.

"Who, do you think?"

"Impossible for me to guess - since you were not here."

"One of the most noted thieves in London went to one of the city
missionaries and told him of the boy and recommended him to his
kindness."

"Impelled by what earthly motive?"

"The misery of the case."

"Why did he not teach him his own trade?"

"The question the missionary put to him. The thief answered that he
knew a thief's life too well."



Online LibrarySusan WarnerThe Old Helmet, Volume II → online text (page 6 of 25)