The Old Helmet. Volume II
"Farewell – and the Lord bless you!"
Eleanor had bared her gauntleted hand; he gave it the old earnest grasp, lifted his hat, and went on his way. Eleanor turned her horse's head again and found herself alongside of Mr. Carlisle. She rode on briskly, pointing out to him how far ahead were the rest of the party.
"Was not your friend somebody that I know?" he enquired as soon as there was a convenient pause.
"I am sure I do not know," said Eleanor. "I do not know how good your memory may be. He is the gentleman that was my brother's tutor at home – some time ago."
"I thought I remembered. Is he tutoring some one else now?"
"I should think not. He just tells me he is about to sail for the South
Seas. Mr. Carlisle, Maggie has a very nice mouth."
"Her mistress has a very nice hand," he answered, bending forward to Maggie's bridle so that he could look up in Eleanor's face. "Only you let her rein be too slack, as of old. You like her better than Tippoo?"
"Tippoo is beyond my management."
"I am not going to let you say that. You shall mount Tippoo next time, and become acquainted with your own powers. You are not afraid of anything?"
"Yes, I am."
"You did not use it."
"Well I have not grown cowardly," said Eleanor; "but I am afraid of mounting Tippoo; and what I am afraid of, Mr. Carlisle, I will not do."
"Just the reverse maxim from that which I should have expected from you. Do you say your friend there is going to the South Seas?"
"Mr. Rhys?" said Eleanor, turning her face full upon him.
"If that is his name – yes. Why does he not stick to tutoring?"
"Does anybody stick to tutoring that can help it?"
"I should think not; but then as a tutor he would be in the way of better things; he could mount to something higher."
"I believe he has some expectation of that sort in going to the
Pacific," said Eleanor. She spoke it with a most commonplace coolness.
"Seems a very roundabout road to promotion," said Mr. Carlisle, watching Eleanor's hand and stealthily her face; "but I suppose he knows best. Your friend is not a Churchman, is he?"
"I remember him as a popular orator of great powers. What is he leaving
"You assume somewhat too much knowledge on my part of people's designs," said Eleanor carelessly. "I must suppose that he likes work on the other side of the world better than to work here; – for some reason or other."
"How the reason should be promotion, puzzles me," said her companion; "but that may be owing to prejudice on my part. I do not know how to conceive of promotion out of the regular line. In England and in the Church. To be sent to India to take a bishopric seems to me a descent in the scale. Have you this feeling?"
"About bishoprics?" said Eleanor smiling. "They are not in my line, you know."
"Don't be wicked! Have you this feeling about England?"
"If a bishopric in India were offered me? – "
"Well, yes! Would you accept it?"
"I really never had occasion to consider the subject before. It is such a very new thought, you see. But I will tell you, I should think the humblest curacy in England to be chosen rather, – unless for the sake of a wider sphere of doing good."
"Do you know," said Mr. Carlisle, looking very contented, and coming up closer, "your bridle hand has improved? It is very nearly faultless. What have you been riding this winter?"
"A wiry little pony."
"Honour, Eleanor!" said Mr. Carlisle laughing and bringing his hand again near enough to throw over a lock of Maggie's mane which had fallen on the wrong side. "I am really curious."
"Well I tell you the truth. But Mr. Carlisle, I wonder you people in parliament do not stir yourselves up to right some wrongs. People ought to live, if they are curates; and there was one where I was last winter – an excellent one – living, or starving, I don't know which you would call it, on thirty pounds a year."
Mr. Carlisle entered into the subject; and questions moral, legislative, and ecclesiastical, were discussed by him and Eleanor with great earnestness and diligence; by him at least with singular delight. Eleanor kept up the conversation with unflagging interest; it was broken by a proposal on Mr. Carlisle's part for a gallop, to which she willingly agreed; held her part in the ensuing scamper with perfect grace and steadiness, and as soon as it was over, plunged Mr. Carlisle deep again into reform.
"Nobody has had such honour, as I to-day," he assured her as he took her down from her horse. "I shall see you to-night, of course?"
"Of course. I suppose," said Eleanor.
It cannot be said that Eleanor made any effort to change the "of course," though the rest of the day as usual was swallowed up in a round of engagements. There was no breathing time, and the evening occasion was a public one. Mrs. Powle was in a great state of satisfaction with her daughter to-day; Eleanor had shunned no company nor exertion, had carried an unusual spirit into all; and a minute with Mr. Carlisle after the ride had shewed him in a sort of exultant mood. She looked over Eleanor's dress critically when they were about leaving home for the evening's entertainment. It was very simple indeed; yet Mrs. Powle in the depth of her heart could not find that anything was wanting to the effect.
Nor could a yet more captious critic, Mr. Carlisle; who was on the ground before them and watched and observed a little while from a distance. Admiration and passion were roused within him, as he watched anew what he had already seen in Eleanor's manner since she came to Brighton; that grace of absolute ease and unconsciousness, which only the very highest breeding can successfully imitate. No Lady Rythdale, he was obliged to confess, that ever lived, had better advanced the honours of her house, than would this one; could she be persuaded to accept the position. This manner did not use to be Eleanor's; how had she got it on the borders of Wales? Neither was the sweetness of that smile to be seen on her lip in the times gone by; and a little gravity was wanting then, which gave a charm of dignity to the exquisite poise which whether of character or manner was so at home with her now. Was she too grave? The question rose; but he answered it with a negative. Her smile came readily, and it was the sweeter for not being always seen. His meditations were interrupted by a whisper at his elbow.
"She will not dance!"
"Who will not?" said he, finding himself face to face with Mrs. Powle.
"Eleanor. She will not. I am afraid it is one of her new notions."
Mr. Carlisle smiled a peculiar smile. "Hardly a fault, I think, Mrs.
Powle. I am not inclined to quarrel with it."
"You do not see any faults at all, I believe," said the lady. "Now I am more discerning."
Mr. Carlisle did not speak his thoughts, which were complimentary only in one direction, to say truth. He went off to Eleanor, and prevented any more propositions of dancing for the rest of the evening. He could not monopolize her, though. He was obliged to see her attention divided in part among other people, and to take a share which though perfectly free and sufficiently gracious, gave him no advantage in that respect over several others. The only advantage he could make sure of was that of attending Eleanor home. The evening left him an excited man, not happy in his mind.
Eleanor, having quitted her escort, went slowly up the stairs; bade her mother good night; went into her own room and locked the door. Then methodically she took off the several parts of her evening attire and laid them away; put on a dressing-gown, threw her window open, and knelt down by it.
The stars kept watch over the night. A pleasant fresh breeze blew in from the sea. They were Eleanor's only companions, and they never missed her from the window the whole night long. I am bound to say, that the morning found her there.
But nights so spent make a heavy draft on the following day. In spite of all that cold water could do in the way of refreshment, in spite of all that the morning cup of tea could do, Eleanor was obliged to confess to a headache.