The Old Helmet. Volume II
"Why Eleanor, child, you look dreadfully!" said Mrs. Powle, who came into her room and found her lying down. "You are as white! – and black rings under your eyes. You will never be able to go with the riding party this morning."
"I am afraid not, mamma. I am sorry. I would go if I could; but I believe I must lie still. Then I shall be fit for this evening, perhaps."
She was not; but that one day of solitude and silence was all that Eleanor took for herself. The next day she joined the riders again; and from that time held herself back from no engagement to which her mother or Mr. Carlisle urged her.
Mr. Carlisle felt it with a little of his old feeling of pride. It was the only thing in which Eleanor could be said to give the feeling much chance; for while she did not reject his attendance, which she could not easily do, nor do at all without first vanquishing her mother; and while she allowed a certain remains of the old wonted familiarity, she at the same never gave Mr. Carlisle any reason to think that he had regained the least power over her. She received him well, but as she received a hundred others. He was her continual attendant, but he never felt that it was by Eleanor's choice; and he knew sometimes that it was by her choice that he was thrown out of his office. She bewildered him with her sweet dignity, which was more utterly unmanageable than any form of pride or passion. The pride and passion were left to be Mr. Carlisle's own. Pride was roused, that he was stopped by so gentle a barrier in his advances; and passion was stimulated, by uncertainty not merely, but by the calm grace and indefinable sweetness which he did not remember in Eleanor, well as he had loved her before. He loved her better now. That charm of manner was the very thing to captivate Mr. Carlisle; he valued it highly; and did not appreciate it the less because it baffled him.
"He's ten times worse than ever," Mrs. Powle said exultingly to her husband. "I believe he'd go through fire and water to make sure of her."
"And how's she?" growled the Squire.
"She's playing with him, girl-fashion," said Mrs. Powle chuckling. "She is using her power."
"What is she using it for?" said the Squire threateningly.
"O to enjoy herself, and make him value her properly. She will come round by and by."
How was Eleanor? The world had opportunities of judging most of the time, as far as the outside went; yet there were still a few times of the day which the world did not intrude upon; and of those there was an hour before breakfast, when Eleanor was pretty secure against interruption even from her mother. Mrs. Powle was a late riser. Julia, who was very much cast away at Brighton and went wandering about like a rudderless vessel, found out that Eleanor was dressed and using the sunshine long before anybody else in the house knew the day was begun. It was a golden discovery. Eleanor was alone, and Julia could have her to herself a little while at least. Even if Eleanor was bent on reading or writing, still it was a joy to be near her, to watch her, to smooth her soft hair, and now and then break her off from other occupations to have a talk.
"Eleanor," said Julia one day, a little while after these oases in time had been discovered by her, "what has become of Mr. Rhys? do you know?"
"He has gone," said Eleanor. She was sitting by her open window, a book open on her lap. She looked out of the window as she spoke.
"Gone? Do you mean he has gone away from England? You don't mean that?"
"To that dreadful place?"
"What dreadful place?"
"Where he was going, you know, – somewhere. Are you sure he has gone,
"Yes. I saw it in the paper – the mention of his going – He and two others."
"And has he gone to that horrible place?"
"Yes, I suppose so. That is where he wished to go."
"I don't see how he could!" said Julia. "How could he! where the people are so bad! – and leave England?"
"Why Julia, have you forgotten? Don't you know whose servant Mr. Rhys is?"
"Yes," said Julia mutteringly, – "but I should think he would be afraid.
Why the people there are as wicked as they can be."
"That is no reason why he should be afraid. What harm could they do to him?"
"Why! – they could kill him, easily," said Julia.
"And would that be great harm to Mr. Rhys?" said Eleanor looking round at her. "What if they did, and he were called quick home to the court of his King, – do you think his reception there would be a sorrowful thing?"
"Why Nell," said Julia, "do you mean heaven?"
"Do you not think that is Mr. Rhys's home?"
"I haven't thought much about it at all," said Julia laying her head down on Eleanor's shoulder. "You see, nobody talked to me ever since he went away; and mamma talks everything else."
"Come here in the mornings, and we'll talk about it," said Eleanor. Her voice was a little husky.
"Shall we?" said Julia rousing up again. "But Eleanor, what are your eyes full for? Did you love Mr. Rhys too?"
It was an innocent question; but instead of answering, Eleanor turned again to the window. She sat with her hand pressed upon her mouth, while the full eyes brimmed and ran over, and filled again; and drop after drop plashed upon the window-sill. It was impossible to help it, for that minute; and Julia looked on wonderingly.
"O Nell," she repeated almost awe-struck, "what is it? What has made you sorry too? – " But she had to wait a little while for her answer.
"He was a good friend to me," said Eleanor at last, wiping her eyes; "and I suppose it is not very absurd to cry for a friend that is gone, that one will never see again."
"Maybe he will come back some time," said Julia sorrowfully.
"Not while there is work there for him to do," said Eleanor. She waited a little while. There was some difficulty in going on. When she did speak her tone was clear and firm.
"Julia, shall we follow the Lord as Mr. Rhys does?"
"By doing whatever Jesus gives us to do."
"What has he given us to do?" said Julia.
"If you come to my room in the mornings, we will read and find out. And we will pray, and ask to be taught."
Julia's countenance lightened and clouded with alternate changes.
"Will you, Eleanor! But what have we got to do?"
"Well I – O I did use to, Eleanor! and I think I do now; only I have forgotten to think about anything, this ever so long."
"Then if we love him, we shall find plenty of things to do for him."
"What, Eleanor? I would like to do something."
"Just whatever he gives us, Julia. Come, darling, – have you not duties?"