The Old Helmet. Volume II
"Not so much as the names – except Infusoria. I hope they are better than they sound."
"If the accounts are true – Mrs. Caxton, the world that we do not see, because of the imperfection of our organs, is even far more wonderful than the world that we do see. Perhaps it seems so, because of the finiteness of our own powers. But I never had a single thing give me such a view of the infinite glory of God, as one of the things detailed in that book – one of the discoveries of the microscope."
"His glory in creation," said Mrs. Caxton.
"More than that – There is to be sure the infiniteness of wisdom and of power, that makes your brain dizzy when you think of it; but there is an infinite moral glory also."
"What was the thing that struck you so much?" Eleanor inquired.
"It was a little fellow that lives in the water. He is not bigger than the diameter of the slenderest needle – and that is saying as much as I can for his size. This fellow builds himself a house of bricks, which he makes himself; and under his head he carries a little cup mould in which the bricks are made."
"Mr. Rhys," said Eleanor, "I am wondering what is the slenderest needle of your acquaintance!"
"No," said he laughing, "you are mistaken. I have seen my mother hem thin ruffles of muslin; and you know with what sort of a needle that should be done."
"Aunt Caxton," said Eleanor, "it is inconceivable!"
Mrs. Caxton did not make much answer, and the conversation turned. After breakfast, and after, as Eleanor judged, they had been a good while in the dairy, the two went out together in the car. Eleanor supposed it was to visit Nanny; and so she found when her aunt came home.
"I knew he would go," said Mrs. Caxton; "and then we made another call. Nanny is hopeful, and comfortable; but the other – Mr. Rhys came away very much agitated. He is not fit for it. I wish I could keep him from work for a few weeks. It's the best economy. But I will keep him here as long as I can, at least."
"Is he going to stay here?"
"Yes; he was not comfortably situated in the village; and now I will have him at the farm, I hope, till he goes. I shall trust you to keep the flowers fresh in his room, Eleanor. – No, my dear; Jane will stay with Nanny to-night."
So Mr. Rhys stayed at the farm, and certainly wanted for no comfort that the mistress of it could secure to him. Neither did Eleanor neglect the flowers. Mr. Rhys made his home there, and went out to his preaching and visiting and teaching as vigorously as ever; and was often a tired man when he came home. Nevertheless he gained ground, to Mrs. Caxton's great satisfaction. He grew stronger; and was less often a silent, prostrated, done-over member of their little circle. At first he was very often that. But when he felt well he was exceedingly social and conversational; and the Plassy farmhouse had never been so pleasant, nor the evenings and mornings and meal times so full of interest. In all which however Mrs. Caxton thought Eleanor took a very quiet part.
"You do not do your share, Eleanor," she said one day; "you are become nothing of a talker; and I can bear witness you had a tongue once. Has religion made you silent, my dear?"
"No, aunty," said Eleanor laughing; "but you forget – you have somebody else to talk to now."
"I am sure, and so have you."
"No ma'am – Mr. Rhys does not talk to me generally."
"I would return good for evil, then; and not silence for silence."
"I can't, aunty. Don't you know, there are some people that have a sort of quieting effect upon one?"
"I don't think anybody ever did upon me," said Mrs. Caxton; "and I am sure Mr. Rhys would be shocked if he knew the effect of his presence."
One morning Mrs. Caxton asked Mr. Rhys at breakfast if he had leisure to unpack a box for her. He said yes, with great alacrity; and Mrs. Caxton had the box brought in.
"What is it?" said Mr. Rhys as he began his work. "Am I to take care of china and glass – or to find gardener's plants nicely done up – or best of all, books?"
"I hope, something better yet," said Mrs. Caxton.
"There is a good deal of it, whatever it is," said Mr. Rhys, taking out one and another and another carefully wrapped up bit of something. "Curiosity can go no further!"
He stopped unpacking, and took the wrapping papers off one or two odd-looking little pieces of brass; paused, – then suddenly exclaimed, "Mrs. Caxton! – "
"Well?" said that lady smiling.
"It is just like you! I might have known the other morning what all that talk would end in."
Mrs. Caxton smiled in silence, and the gentleman went on with his unpacking; with added zeal and tenderness now, it was evident. It stood full in view at last, an exquisitely made and mounted microscope of one of the best London makers. Now was Mr. Rhys in his element; and proved how justly he had declared himself a boy. He got the microscope all into place and arranged, and then set himself to find out its powers and method of management.. There were some prepared objects sent with the instrument, which gave him enough to work with; and over them he was in an absorbed state for hours; not selfishly, however, for he allowed Eleanor to take her full share of the pleasure of looking, when once he had brought objects into view. At last he broke off and hurried away to an engagement.
The next day at breakfast, Eleanor was a good deal surprised to be asked if she would take a walk?
"Now?" said Eleanor. "You mean immediately after breakfast?"
"It is the only time I have to-day. All the time before dinner, I have; but I supposed we should want the whole of it. I am going after objects for the microscope – and I thought it would be selfish to go alone. Besides, we may help one another."
"I shall be very glad to go," said Eleanor laughing; "but don't expect any help of me; unless it be in the way of finding out such places as you want."
"I fancy I know those better than you do. Miss Powle, a small basket would be desirable to hold phials of water."
"I will take care of those."
Much amused, and a little excited, Eleanor made ready for the walk, and in the matter of the basket at least proved helpful. It was bright and early when they set out. Among those mountains and valleys, the dew was not off the fields yet, while the air was freshly sweet from roses and wild thyme, and primroses lingering, and numberless other sweet things; for hedgerow and meadow and mountain side were gay and rich with a multitude of flowers. There was a mingling of shadow and sunshine too, at that early time in the morning; and as the two walkers passed along they were sometimes in one, sometimes in the other. There was little conversation at first. Mr. Rhys went not with a lingering step, but as if with some purpose to reach a definite locality. Eleanor was musing to herself over the old walks taken with Julia by her present companion; never but once Eleanor's walking companion till now. How often Julia had gone with him; what a new and strange pleasure it was for herself; and how oddly life changes about things; that the impossible thing at Wiglands should be possible at Plassy.
"What sort of places are you looking for, Mr. Rhys?" Eleanor inquired at last.
"All sorts of places," he said smiling. "All sorts at least of wet places. But I know nothing about it, you know, except what I have read. They say, wherever water is found, some or other species of these minute wonders may be met with; standing pools, and rivers, and ditches all have them; and some particularly beautiful are to be found in bog water; so with, I am afraid you will think, a not very commendable impatience, I am pointing my steps towards a bog that I know – in the wish to get some of the best first."
"That is being very impatient," said Eleanor laughing. "I should be satisfied with almost anything, for the first."
"So you will very probably have to be. I am by no means sure of accomplishing my design. Am I walking too fast for you, in the meanwhile?"
"Not at all. I am thinking, Mr. Rhys, how we are to bring home the bog water when we have found it."
In answer to which, he put his hand in his pocket and brought out thence and deposited in his basket one after another of half a dozen or more little phials, all duly corked. Eleanor was very much amused.
"And what is this stick to do, that you wanted me to bring?"
"You will see."
The bog was reached in due time, after a walk over a most delicious country, for the most part new to Eleanor. Water was found, though not exactly with the conditions Mr. Rhys desired; however a phial of it was dipped up, corked and marked. Then they retraced their steps partially, diverging right and left. Just the right sort of pool was found at last; covered with duck-weed. Here Mr. Rhys stopped and tied one of the phials to the end of the stick. With this he dipped water from the surface, then he dipped from the bottom; he took from one side and from another side, where there was sunshine and where there was shade; pouring each dipping into a fresh phial, while Eleanor in a great state of amusement corked and labelled each as it was filled. At last it was done. Mr. Rhys filled his last phial, looked at Eleanor's face, and smiled.
"You do not think much is going to come of all this?" he said.
"Yes I do," said Eleanor. "At least I hope so."
"I know it. Look through that."
He put a pocket lens into her hand and bade her survey one of the phials with it. Eleanor's scepticism fled. That something was there, in pretty active life, was evident. Somethings. The kinds were plural.