The Old Helmet. Volume II
"It was like Mrs. Caxton, to order this lens with the microscope," Mr. Rhys went on. "I suppose she made her order general – to include everything that would be necessary for a naturalist in making his observations. I not being a naturalist. Did you ever see the 'Bundle' of Helig?"
"I do not know what it is."
"'Bundle' or 'Bandel' – I do not know how it got the name, I am sure; but I suppose it is a corruption of something. Would you like to go a little out of your way to see it?"
"You can judge better than I, Mr. Rhys!" Eleanor said with her full, rich smile, which that gentleman had not often seen before. He answered it with his own very peculiar one, sober and sweet.
"I will take so much responsibility. You ought not to come so near and miss it."
Turning from the course of their return way, they followed a wild woody dell for a little distance; then making a sudden angle with that, a few steps brought them in sight of a waterfall. It poured over a rocky barrier of considerable height, the face of which was corrugated, as it were, with great projecting ridges of rock. Separated of necessity by these, the waters left the top of the precipice in four or five distinct bands or ribbands of bright wave and foam, soon dashed into whiteness; and towards the bottom of the fall at last found their way all together; which they celebrated with a rush and a dance and a sparkle and a roar that filled all the rocky abyss into which they plunged. The life, the brightness, the peculiar form, the wild surroundings, of this cataract made it a noted beauty. In front of it the rocks closed in so nearly that spectators could only look at it through a wild narrow gap. Above, beyond the top of the fall, the waving branches could be seen of the trees and bushes that stood on the borders of the water; to reach which was a mere impossibility, unless by taking a very long way round. At the foot, the waters turned off suddenly and sought their course where the eye could not follow them.
It was out of the question to talk in the presence of the shout of those glad waters. Mr. Rhys leaned against the rock, and looked at them, so motionless that more than once the eye of Eleanor went from them to him with a little note-taking. When at last he turned away and they got back into the stillness of the glen, he asked her, "how looking at such a thing made her feel?"
"Nothing but surprise and pleasure, I think," said Eleanor; "but a great deal of both those." Then as he still remained silent, she went on, – "To tell the truth, Mr. Rhys, I think my mental eye is only beginning to get educated. I used always to enjoy natural beauty, but I think it was in a superficial kind of way. Since I have been at Plassy – and especially since a few weeks back, – all nature is much more to me than it was."
"It is sure to be so," he said. "Nature without and nature within are made for each other; and till the two are set to the same key, you cannot have a good tune. – There is a fellow who is in pretty good order! Do you hear that blackbird?"
"Sweet!" said Eleanor. "And what is that other note – 'chee chee, chee,' so many times?"
"That is a green wren."
"You are something of a naturalist, Mr. Rhys," said Eleanor.
"Not at all! no more than my acquaintance with you and Mrs. Caxton makes me a philosopher."
Eleanor wanted to ask what looking at the cataract made him think of; but as she had told her aunt, Mr. Rhys exercised a sort of quieting influence over her. No natural audacity, of which she had an innocent share, remained to her in his company. She walked along in demure silence. And to say the truth, the sun was now growing warm, and the two had walked not a few good miles that morning; which also has a quieting influence. Eleanor queried with herself whether all the bright part of the walk were over.
"I think it is time we varied our attention," said Mr. Rhys breaking silence. "We have been upon one class of subjects a good while; – suppose we try another. Don't you want to rest?"
"I am not tired, – but I have no objection."
"You are not easily tired?"
"Not about anything I like."
"You have struck a great secret of power and usefulness," he said gravely. "What do you think of this bank? – it is dry, and it is pleasant."
It would have been hardly possible to find a spot in all their way that would not have been pleasant; and from this bank they looked over a wide rich valley bordered with hills. It was not the valley where the farmhouse of Plassy stood, with its meadows and river; this was different in its features, and moreover some miles distant. Eleanor and Mr. Rhys sat down on the moss at the foot of the trees, which gave both shade and rest. It was the edge of a piece of woods, and a blackbird was again heard saluting them.
"Now if you want refreshment," said Mr. Rhys, "I can give it to you; but only of one kind."
"I don't know – I should say of several kinds," said Eleanor looking into the basket – "but the quality doubtful."
"Did you think I meant that?"
Eleanor laughed at the earnest gravity of this speech. "Mr. Rhys, I saw no other refreshment you had to offer me; but indeed I do not want any – more than I am taking."
"I was going to offer it to you of another kind, but there is no kind like it. What is your way of reading the Bible?"
"I have no particular 'way,'" said Eleanor in some surprise. "I read several chapters a day – or at least always a chapter at morning and another at evening. What 'way' do you mean?"
"There are a great many ways; and it is good to use them all at different times. But what way would be good for a half hour's refreshment, at such a time as this?"
"I am sure, I don't know," said Eleanor. "I have no way but the one."
"Yes, but we should not have seen the 'Bandel' of Helig, if we had not turned aside to look at it; and you would not have heard the blackbird and the wren perhaps, unless you had stopped to listen to them. I suppose we have missed a million of other things, for want of looking."
"Yes, but we could not look at everything all along these miles of our way," said Eleanor, her smile breaking forth again.
"Very true. On the other hand, if we go but a very little way, we can examine all around us. Have you a Bible with you?"
"No. I never carry one."
"I am better off than you. Let us try a little of this – the first chapter of Romans. Will you read the first verse, and consider it."
He handed her his Bible and Eleanor read.
"'Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God' – "
"What do you find there?" said her companion.
"Not much. This verse seems to be a sort of opening, or introduction to the rest. Paul tells who he is, or what he is."
"And what does he say he is?"
"A servant of Jesus Christ."
"You think that is 'not much?'"
"Certainly it is much, in itself; but here I took it for a mere statement of fact."
"But what a fact. A servant of Jesus Christ. Only that! Do you know what a fact that is? What is it, to be a servant of Jesus Christ?"
Without waiting for the answer, which was not ready, Mr. Rhys rose up from his seat and began an abstracted exploration of the bit of woodland at the edge of which they had been sitting; wandering in and out among the trees, and stooping now and then to pluck a flower or a fern or to examine one; apparently too full of his thoughts to be quiet. Eleanor heard him sometimes and watched him when she could; he was very busy; she wished he I would give some of his thoughts to her.
"I thought you wanted rest, Mr. Rhys," she said boldly, when she got a chance. "Please sit down here and take it, along with your other refreshment."
He smiled and came immediately with a bunch of Myosotis in his hand, which he threw into Eleanor's lap; and turning to her he repeated very seriously his question.
"What is it, to be a servant of Jesus Christ?"
"I know very little," said Eleanor timidly. "I am only just beginning to learn."
"You know the words bring for our refreshment only the meaning that we attach to them – except so far as the Holy Spirit answering our prayers and endeavours shews us new meaning and depth that we had not known before."
"Of course – but I suppose I know very little. These words convey only the mere fact to me."
"Let us weight the words. A servant is a follower. Christ said, 'If a man serve me, let him follow me.'"