Susan Warner.

The Old Helmet, Volume II online

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to her on what subject she pleased, and she might have won him to the
knowledge of the truth that she held dearest. Now, she had gained his
love certainly, in a measure, but so had Mr. Carlisle. Gently,
skilfully, almost unconsciously it seemed, he was as much domiciled in
her father's room as she was; and even more acceptable. The Squire had
come to depend on him, to look for him, to delight in him; and with
very evident admission that he was only anticipating by a little the
rights and privileges of sonship. Eleanor could not absent herself
neither; she tried that; her father would have her there; and there was
Mr. Carlisle, as much at home, and sharing with her in filial offices
as a matter of rule, and associating with her as already one of the
family. It is true, in his manner to Eleanor herself he did not so step
beyond bounds as to give her opportunity to check him; yet even over
this there stole insensibly a change; and Eleanor felt herself getting
deeper and deeper in the toils. Her own manner meanwhile was nearly
perfect in its simple dignity. Except in the interest of third party
measures, which led her sometimes further than she wanted to go,
Eleanor kept a very steady way, as graceful as it was steady. So
friendly and frank as to give no cause of umbrage; while it was so cool
and self-poised as to make Mr. Carlisle very uneasy and very desperate.
It was just the manner he admired in a woman; just what he would like
to see in his wife, towards all the rest of the world. Eleanor charmed
him more by her high-bred distance, than ever she had done by the
affection or submissiveness of former days. But he was pretty sure of
his game. Let this state of things go on long enough, and she would
have no power to withdraw; and once his own, let him have once again
the right to take her to his breast and whisper love or authority, and
he knew he could win that fine sweet nature to give him back love as
well as obedience, - in time. And so the bill went on in its progress
towards maturity. It did not go very fast.

All this while the sisters saw very little of each other. One morning
Eleanor waylaid Julia as she was passing her door, drew her in, and
turned the key in the lock. The first impulse of the two was to spring
to each other's arms for a warm embrace.

"I never have a chance to speak to you, darling," said the elder
sister. "What has become of you?"

"O I am so busy, you see - all the times except when you are gone out,
or talking in the drawing-room to people, or in papa's room. Then I am
out, and you are out too; somewhere else."

"Out of what?"

"Out of my studies, and teachers, and governesses. I must go now in two
minutes."

"No you must not. Sit down; I want to see you. Are you remembering what
we have learnt together?"

"Sometimes - and sometimes it is hard, you see. Everything is so
scratchy. O Eleanor, are you going to marry Mr. Carlisle?"

"No. I told you I was not."

"Everybody says you are, though. Are you _sure_ you are not?"

"Quite sure."

"I almost wish you were; and then things would go smooth again."

"What do you mean by their being 'scratchy'? that is a new word."

"Well, everything goes cross. I am in ever so many dictionaries besides
English - and shut up to learn 'em - and mamma don't care what becomes of
me if she can only keep me from you; and I don't know what you are
doing; and I wish we were all home again!"

Eleanor sighed.

"I call it _scratchy_," said Julia. "Everybody is trying to do what
somebody else don't like."

"I hope you are not going on that principle," - said her sister, with a
smile which made Julia spring to her neck again and load her lips with
kisses over and over.

"I'll try to do what you like, Eleanor - only tell me what. Tell me
something, and I will remember it."

"Julia, are you going to be a servant of Christ? have you forgotten
that you said you loved him?"

"No, and I do, Eleanor! and I want to do right; but I am so busy, and
then I get so vexed!"

"That is not like a servant of Jesus, darling."

"No. If I could only see you, Eleanor! Tell me something to remember,
and I will keep it in my head, in spite of all the dictionaries."

"Keep it in your life, Julia. Remember what Jesus said his servants
must be and how they must do - just in this one little word - 'And ye
yourselves like them that wait for their Lord.'"

"How, Eleanor?"

"That is what we are, dear. We are the Lord's servants, put here to
work for him, put just in the post where he wishes us to be, till he
comes. Now let us stand in our post and do our work, 'like them that
wait for their Lord.' You know how that would be."

Julia again kissed and caressed her, not without some tears.

"I know," she said; "it is like Mr. Rhys, and it is like you; and I
don't believe it is like anybody else."

"Shall it be like you, Julia?"

"Yes, Eleanor, yes! I will never forget it. O Eleanor, are you sure you
are not going to Rythdale?"

"What makes you ask me?"

"Why everybody thinks so, and everybody says so; and you - you are with
Mr. Carlisle all the time, talking to him."

"I have so many thoughts to put into his head," said Eleanor gravely.

"What are you so busy with him about?"

"Parliament business. It is for the poor of London, Julia. Mr. Carlisle
is preparing a bill to bring into the House of Commons, and I know more
about the matter than he does; and so he comes to me."

"Don't you think he is glad of his ignorance?" said Julia shrewdly.
Eleanor leaned her head on her hand and looked thoughtfully down.

"What do you give him thoughts about?"

"My poor boys would say, 'lots of things.' I have to convince Mr.
Carlisle that it would cost the country less to reform than to punish
these poor children, and that reforming them is impossible unless we
can give them enough to keep them from starvation; and that the common
prison is no place for them; and then a great many questions besides
these and that spring out of these have to be considered and talked
over. And it is important beyond measure; and if I should let it
alone, - the whole might fall to the ground. There are two objections
now in Mr. Carlisle's mind - or in other people's minds - to one thing
that ought to be done, and must be done; and I must shew Mr. Carlisle
how false the objections are. I have begun; I must go through with it.
The whole might fall to the ground if I took away my hand; and it would
be such an incalculable blessing to thousands and thousands in this
dreadful place - "

"Do you think London is a dreadful place?" said Julia doubtfully.

"There are very few here who stand 'like them that wait for their
Lord,'" - said Eleanor, her face taking a yearning look of
thoughtfulness.

"There aren't anywhere, _I_ don't believe. Eleanor - aren't you happy?"

"Yes!"

"You don't always look - just - so."

"Perhaps not. But to live for Jesus makes happy days - be sure of that,
Julia; however the face looks."

"Are you bothered about Mr. Carlisle?"

"What words you use!" said Eleanor smiling. "'Bother,' and 'scratchy.'
No, I am not bothered about him - I am a little troubled sometimes."

"What's the difference?"

"The difference between seeing one's way clear, and not seeing it; and
the difference between having a hand to take care of one, and not
having it."

"Well why do you talk to him so much, if he troubles you?" said Julia,
reassured by her sister's smile.

"I must," said Eleanor. "I must see through this business of the
bill - at all hazards. I cannot let that go. Mr. Carlisle knows I do not
compromise myself."

"Well, I'll tell you what," said Julia getting up to go, - "mamma means
you shall go to Rythdale; and she thinks you are going."

With a very earnest kiss to Eleanor, repeated with an emphasis which
set the seal upon all the advices and promises of the morning, Julia
went off. Eleanor sat a little while thinking; not long; and met Mr.
Carlisle the next time he came, with precisely the same sweet
self-possession, the unchanged calm cool distance, which drove that
gentleman to the last verge of passion and patience. But he was master
of himself and bided his time, and talked over the bill as usual.

It was not Eleanor alone who had occasion for the exercise of
admiration in these business consultations. Somewhat to his surprise,
Mr. Carlisle found that his quondam fair mistress was good for much
more than a plaything. With the quick wit of a woman she joined a
patience of investigation, an independent strength of judgment, a
clearness of rational vision, that fairly met him and obliged him to be
the best man he could in the business. He could not get her into a
sophistical maze; she found her way through immediately; he could not
puzzle her, for what she did not understand one day she had studied out
by the next. It is possible that Mr. Carlisle would not have fallen in
love with this clear intelligence, if he had known it in the front of
Eleanor's qualities; for he was one of those men who do not care for an
equal in a wife; but his case was by this time beyond cure. Nay, what
might have alienated him once, bound him now; he found himself matched
with Eleanor in a game of human life. The more she proved herself his
equal, the nobler the conquest, and the more the instinct of victory
stirred within him; for pride, a poor sort of pride, began to be
stirred as well as love.

So the bill went on; and prisons and laws and reformatory measures and
penal enactments and industrial schools, and the question of
interfering with the course of labour, and the question of offering a
premium upon crime, and a host of questions, were discussed and
rediscussed. And partly no doubt from policy, partly from an
intelligent view of the subject, but wholly moved thereto by Eleanor,
Mr. Carlisle gradually gave back the ground and took just the position
(on paper) that she wished to see him take.




CHAPTER VII.

IN APRIL.


"Why, how one weeps
When one's too weary! Were a witness by,
He'd say some folly - "


So the bill went on. And the season too. Winter merged into spring; the
change of temperature reminded Eleanor of the changing face of the
earth out of London; and even in London the parks gave testimony of it.
She longed for Wiglands and the Lodge; but there was no token of the
family's going home at present. Parliament was in session; Mr. Carlisle
was busy there every night almost; which did not in the least hinder
his being busied with Eleanor as well. Where she and her mother went,
for the most part he went; and at home he was very much at home indeed.
Eleanor began to feel that the motions of the family depended on him;
for she could find no sufficient explanation in her father's health or
her mother's pleasure for their continued remaining in town. The Squire
was much as he had been all winter; attended now and then by a
physician, and out of health and spirits certainly; yet Eleanor could
not help thinking he would be better at home, and somewhat suspected
her father thought so. Mrs. Powle enjoyed London, no doubt; still, she
was not a woman to run mad after pleasure, or after anything else; not
so much but that the pleasure of her husband would have outweighed
hers. Nevertheless, both the Squire and she were as quietly fixed in
London, to judge by all appearance, as if they had no other place to go
to; and the rising of parliament was sometimes hinted at as giving the
only clue to the probable time of their departure.

Did you ever lay brands together on a hearth, brands with little life
in them too, seemingly; when with no breath blown or stirring of air to
fan them, gradually, by mere action and reaction upon each other, the
cold grey ends began to sparkle and glow, till by and by the fire burst
forth and flame sprang up? Circumstances may be laid together so, and
with like effect.

Everything went on in a train at the house in Cadogan Square; nobody
changed his attitude or behaviour with respect to the others, except as
by that most insensible, unnoticeable, quiet action of elements at
work; yet the time came when Eleanor began to feel that things were
drawing towards a crisis. Her place was becoming uncomfortable. She
could not tell how, she did not know when it began, but a change in the
home atmosphere became sensible to her. It was growing to be
oppressive. Mother, father, and friends seemed by concert to say that
she was Mr. Carlisle's; and the gentleman himself began to look it,
Eleanor thought, though he did not say it. A little tacit allowance of
this mute language of assignment, and either her truth would be
forfeited or her freedom. She must make a decided protest. Yet also
Eleanor felt that quality in the moral atmosphere which threatened that
if any clouds came up they would be stormy clouds; and she dreaded to
make any move. Julia's society would have been a great solace now; when
she never could have it. Julia comforted her, whenever they were
together in company or met for a moment alone, by her energetic
whisper - "I remember, Eleanor! - " but that was all. Eleanor could get
no further speech of her. At the Ragged school Mr. Carlisle was pretty
sure to be, and generally attended her home. Eleanor remonstrated with
her mother, and got a sharp answer, that it was only thanks to Mr.
Carlisle she went there at all; if it were not for him Mrs. Powle
certainly would put a stop to it. Eleanor pondered very earnestly the
question of putting a stop to it herself; but it was at Mr. Carlisle's
own risk; the poor boys in the school wanted her ministrations; and the
"bill" was in process of preparation. Eleanor's heart was set on that
bill, and her help she knew was greatly needed in its construction; she
could not bear to give it up. So she let matters take their course; and
talked reform diligently to Mr. Carlisle all the time they were driving
from West-Smithfield home.

At last to Eleanor's joy, the important paper was drawn up according to
her mind. It satisfied her. And it was brought to a reading in the
House and ordered to be printed. So much was gained. The very next day
Mr. Carlisle came to ask Eleanor to drive out with him to Richmond,
which she had never seen. Eleanor coolly declined. He pressed the
charms of the place, and of the country at that season. Eleanor with
the same coolness of manner replied that she hoped soon to enjoy the
country at home; and that she could not go to Richmond. Mr. Carlisle
withdrew his plea, sat and talked some time, making himself very
agreeable, though Eleanor could not quite enjoy his agreeableness that
morning; and went away. He had given no sign of understanding her or of
being rebuffed; and she was not satisfied. The next morning early her
mother came to her.

"Eleanor, what do you say to a visit to Hampton Court to-day?"

"Who is going, mamma?"

"Half the world, I suppose - there or somewhere else - such a day; but
with you, your friend in parliament."

"I have several friends in parliament."

"Pshaw, Eleanor! you know I mean Mr. Carlisle. You had better dress
immediately, for he will be here for you early. He wants to have the
whole day. Put on that green silk which becomes you so well. How it
does, I don't know; for you are not blonde; but you look as handsome as
a fairy queen in it. Come, Eleanor!"

"I do not care about going, mamma."

"Nonsense, child; you do care. You have no idea what Bushy Park is,
Eleanor. It is not like Rythdale - though Rythdale will do in its way.
Come, child, get ready. You will enjoy it delightfully."

"I do not think I should, mamma. I do not think I ought to go with Mr.
Carlisle."

"Why not?"

"You know, mamma," Eleanor said calmly, though her heart beat; "you
know what conclusions people draw about me and Mr. Carlisle. If I went
to Hampton Court or to Richmond with him, I should give them, and him
too, a right to those conclusions."

"What have you been doing for months past, Eleanor? I should like to
know."

"Giving him no right to any conclusions whatever, mamma, that would be
favourable to him. He knows that."

"He knows no such thing. You are a fool, Eleanor. Have you not said to
all the world all this winter, by your actions, that you belonged to
him? All the world knows it was an engagement, and you have been
telling all the world that it is. Mr. Carlisle knows what to expect."

Eleanor coloured.

"I cannot fulfil his expectations, mamma. He has no right to them."

"I tell you, you have given him a right to them, by your behaviour
these months past. Ever since we were at Brighton. Why how you
encouraged him there!"

A great flush rose to Eleanor's cheeks.

"Mamma, - no more than I encouraged others. Grace given to all is favour
to none."

"Ay, but there was the particular favour in his case of a promise to
marry him."

"Broken off, mamma."

"The world did not know that, and you did not tell them. You rode, you
walked, you talked, you went hither and thither with Mr. Carlisle, and
suffered him to attend you."

"Not alone, mamma; rarely alone."

"Often alone, child; often of evenings. You are alone with a gentleman
in the street, if there is a crowd before and behind you."

"Mamma, all those things that I did, and that I was sorry to do, I
could hardly get out of or get rid of; they were Mr. Carlisle's doing
and yours."

"Granted; and you made them yours by acceptance. Now Eleanor, you are a
good girl; be a sensible girl. You have promised yourself to Mr.
Carlisle in the eye of all the world; now be honest, and don't be shy,
and fulfil your engagements."

"I have made none," said Eleanor getting up and beginning to walk
backwards and forwards in the room. "Mr. Carlisle has been told
distinctly that I do not love him. I will never marry any man whom I
have not a right affection for."

"You did love him once, Eleanor."

"Never! not the least; not one bit of real - Mamma, I _liked_ him, and I
do that now; and then I did not know any better; but I will never, for
I ought never, to marry any man upon mere liking."

"How come you to know any better now?"

Eleanor's blush was beautiful again for a minute; then it faded. She
did not immediately speak.

"Is Mr. Carlisle right after all, and has he a rival?"

"Mamma, you must say what you please. Surely it does not follow that a
woman must love all the world because she does not love one."

"And you may say what you please; I know you like Mr. Carlisle quite
well enough, for you as good as told me so. This is only girl's talk;
but you have got to come to the point, Eleanor. I shall not suffer you
to make a fool of him in my house; not to speak of making a fool of
yourself and me, and ruining - forever ruining - all your prospects. You
can't do it, Eleanor. You have said yea, and you can't draw back. Put
on your green gown and go to Hampton Court, and come back with the day
fixed - for that I know is what Mr. Carlisle wants."

"I cannot go, mamma."

"Eleanor, you would not forfeit your word?"

"I have not given it."

"Do not contradict me! You have given it all these months. Everybody
has understood it so. Your father looks upon Mr. Carlisle as his son
already. You would be everlastingly disgraced if you play false."

"I will play true, mamma. I will not say I give my heart where I do not
give it."

"Give your hand then. All one," said Mrs. Powle laughing. "Come! I
order you to obey me, Eleanor!"

"I must not, mamma. I will not go to Hampton Court with Mr. Carlisle."

"What is the reason?"

"I have told you."

"Do you mean, absolutely, that you will not fulfil your engagement, nor
obey me, nor save us all from dishonour, nor make your friend happy?"

Eleanor grew paler than she had been, but answered, "I mean not to
marry Mr. Carlisle, mamma."

"I understand it then," said Mrs. Powle rising. "It is not your heart
but your head. It is your religious fanaticism I will put that out of
the way!"

And without another word she departed.

Eleanor was much at a loss what would be the next move. Nevertheless
she was greatly surprised when it came. The atmosphere of the house was
heavy that day; they did not see Mr. Carlisle in the evening. The next
day, when Eleanor went to her father's room after dinner she found, not
Mr. Carlisle, but her mother with him. "Waiting for me" - thought
Eleanor. The air of Mrs. Powle said so. The squire was gathered up into
a kind of hard knot, hanging his head over his knees. When he spoke,
and was answered by his daughter, the contrast of the two voices was
striking, and in character; one gruff, the other sweet but steady.

"What's all this, Eleanor? what's all this?" he said abruptly.

"What, papa?"

"Have you refused Mr. Carlisle?"

"Long ago, sir."

"Yes, that's all past; and now this winter you have been accepting him
again; are you going to throw him over now?"

"Papa - "

"Only one thing!" roared the Squire, - "are you going to say no to him?
tell me that."

"I must, papa."

"I command you to say yes to him! What do you say now?"

"I must say the same, sir. If you command me, I must disobey you."

"You will disobey me, hey?"

"I must, papa."

"Why won't you marry him? what's the reason?" said the Squire, looking
angry and perplexed at her, but very glum.

"Papa - "

"I have seen you here myself, all winter, in this very room; you have
as good as said to him every day that you would be his wife, and he has
as good as said to you that he expected it. Has he not, now?"

"Yes, sir, - but - "

"Now why won't you have him, hey?"

"Papa, I do not like him well enough to marry him. That is reason
enough."

"Why did you tell him all the winter that you _did?_"

"Sir, Mr. Carlisle knows I did not. He has never been deceived."

"Why don't you like him well enough, then? that's the question; what
fool's nonsense! Eleanor, I am going to have you at the Priory and
mistress of it before the world is three months older. Tell me that you
will be a good girl, and do as I say."

"I cannot, papa. That is all past. I shall never be at the Priory."

"What's the reason?" roared her father.

"I have told you, sir."

"It's a lie! You do like him. I have seen it. It's some fool's
nonsense."

"Let me ask one question," said Mrs. Powle, looking up and down from
her work. "If it had not been for your religious notions, Eleanor,
would you not have married Mr. Carlisle more than a year ago? before
you went to Wales?"

"I suppose I should, mamma."

"And if you had no religious notions, would you have any difficulty
about marrying him now? You will speak the truth, I know."

"Mamma - "

"Speak!" the Squire burst out violently - "speak! truth or falsehood,
whichever you like. Speak out, and don't go round about. Answer your
mother's question."

"Will you please to repeat it, mamma?" Eleanor said, a little
faintheartedly.

"If you had never been in a Methodist Chapel, or had anything to do
with Methodists, - would you have any difficulty now about being the
wife of Mr. Carlisle, and lady of Rythdale?"

Eleanor's colour rose gradually and grew deep before she ceased
speaking.

"If I had never had anything to do with Methodists, mamma, I should be
so very different from what I am now, that perhaps, it would be as you
say."

"That's enough!" said the Squire, in a great state of rage and
determination. "Now, Eleanor Powle, take notice. I am as good as the
Methodists any day, and as well worth your minding. You'll mind me, or
I'll have nothing to do with you. Do you go to their chapels?"

"Sometimes."

"You don't go any more! St. George and the Dragon fly away with all the
Methodist Chapels that ever were built! they shall hold no daughter of
mine. And hark ye, - you shall give up this foolery altogether and tell
me you will marry Mr. Carlisle, or I won't have you in my family. You
may go where you like, but you shall not stay with me as long as I
live. I give you a month to think of it, Eleanor; - a month? what's
to-day? - the tenth? Then I give you till the first of next month. You
can think of it and make up your mind to give yourself to Mr. Carlisle
by that time; or you shall be no daughter of mine. St. George and the
Dragon! I have said it, and you will find I mean it. Now go away."

Eleanor went, wondering whether her ears had served her right; so
unnaturally strange seemed this turn of affairs. She had had no time to
think of it yet, when passing the drawing-room door a certain impulse
prompted her to go in. Mr. Carlisle was there, as something had told
her he might be. Eleanor came in, looking white, and advanced towards
him with a free steady step eyeing him fully. She was in a mood to meet



Online LibrarySusan WarnerThe Old Helmet, Volume II → online text (page 8 of 25)