Susan Warner.

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sham, must be discovered and put an end to ; and
the truth, if truth it were, must equally be got rid
of. Neither thing could Mr. Gordon tolerate in his
small kingdom; and he considered for some time
what would be his best way of going to work.
The boy did perfectly what was given him to do ;
that Gordon saw ; there would be no attacking him
on the score of neglect or unfaithfulness. Like as
it was in Daniel's case; "we shall find no fault in
this man, except we find it concerning the law of


his God." It was not till afternoon that Gordon
got his opportunity.

" What did you do with yourself yesterday, Mr-
Bell," he asked lightly of one of the men on the
lower floor.

" Paid attention to sleep," said the man with a
laugh. "Never do git enough the six nights o'
the week; allays hev to make up what's left when
Sunday comes."

" Then you don't do much to keep up the pew
rents ? "

"No, sir. That's for folks, as I take it, what
hasn't got no work to do, and can manage with a
snooze over their hymn books. They takes life

" Jes' so. Where did you go, Wilkins ? "

"Attended service, sir, at the nearest church.
Very solemn it was, sir, too. I shall never forget it."

"Where was it?"

"Just by, sir; in the woods church, I calls it.
Wasn't much of a congregation, and the preacher
was mighty young, to be sure, but the preachin'
was uncommon' edifyin'."

" Was you there too, Stephen?" Mr. Gordon went
on easily. "You and Wilkins was a goin' to church
together, warn't you ? Somethin' new for Wilkins ! "

" Too new, by half," said one of the men. "There
is some new things as won't stand handlin*. I'd
rayther stick by the old."

" Was you there, Stephen ? " the foreman re
peated. "You was with Wilkins?"


" No, sir."

" Warn't? Why he says you be.**

" I wasn't in church at all, sir, till the afternoon,
and then I went with somebody else."

" Where was you in the forenoon ? "

" I went nowhere, sir, to church."

" I ask, where ivas you ? " said Gordon sharply.

" In the woods, by the brook, not far from here."


" I was there with Mr. Hardenbrook's little girl,"
said Stephen, edging off from nearer disclosures as
well as he could.

" I dare say ; and what was you dolri ? " Gordon
roared. "Don't ye understand English? Speak
when you're spoken to, sir."

" We were playin' a sort of play," Stephen an
swered in growing embarrassment and trouble.
For the play had been sweet earnest to him, and
he did not want it made common or laughed at.

" Ah ! What sort o' play was it now ? ef you
haint forgotten."

" I have not forgotten, sir," said Stephen.

" Then go on and tell. And mind you, ef you
give me much more trouble o' askin' questions, I'll
give you somethin' to oil your tongue. Go ahead;
what was it ? "

"We were playin' have church," Stephen an
swered low. There was a general burst of rude
laughter, a coarse guffaw, which grated terribly
on the little boy's ears; but he stood firm, like the
manly little fellow he was.


"That's good!" said Gordon. "Who was the
minister ? "

" I was."

" Did you preach a sermon ? "

" No sir, I couldn't, not exactly."

" Wilkins says you did."

" Wilkins ! He wasn't there ! "

"Warn't he? He told us all about it though.
Seems to me he must ha' ben somewhere within
hearin'. He said it was a real edifyin' sermon."

" It was not a sermon at all," said Stephen col
ouring. " Where were you, Wilkins ? "

" In your new church," said the boy scornfully.
" It was too big, you see ; you couldn't get a sight
o' all your congregation."

Stephen thought he would, next time.

" Go ahead, Stephen," said Gordon laughing.
" Ef it warn't a sermon, what was it ? "

" It was nothing to laugh at, sir," said Stephen.

" That's as I choose. Go you on along, and an
swer me. What was it ? "

" It was just talking," said Stephen.

" And what's preachin' but talkin', I should like
to know? Now I'll tell you what; you shall just
stand up there and give us a sample o' what you
kin do. Mr. Garth, just you clear off that end o
the bench, and lift Stephen up. Stop work, men,
we're a goin' to have a sermon from a new min
ister. We want it bad, you know, and he's goin'
to give it to us. Now mind, there's to be no laugh-
in till he's done. There, set him up. Stop that


hammer, yonder! Attention. We*re ready. Now
go on, Stephen. Fork ahead."

The men, most of them much amused, had
thrown down their tools, following their leader's
fancy, and gathered somewhat together around the
great work bench on one end of which Stephen stood.
The little boy stood bravely there, facing his tor
mentors; his colour rose, but he kept his eyes dry,
with an effort of will, and fixed them on Gordon;
who had thrown himself down on a box in a loung
ing attitude and was eying Stephen with eyelids
scornfully lowered and eyes peeping out at him
from under them. Wilkins crouched in a corner

"What do you want me to say to you, sir?"
Stephen managed to bring out calmly at last.

" Anything you like ! " said Gordon roughly.
" Preachers may say what they like, you know,
and nobody takes it up or lays it agin 'em. Fire
away ! choose your own text and handlin'."

" I can't do that, sir."

" Can't choose a text ? Do you want me to do
that fur you ? Ef I choose it, you'll hev to preach
to it; that's one sure thing."

" I can't preach, sir."

" Needn't be modest. We won't be hard on ye,
seein' ye air a rather young minister. How old
mought you be, Stephen, anyhow?"

" Over ten, sir.

" Should think you was over fifty ! Well, go
ahead. Fire up, I tell ye ! "


" I can t do that, sir."

"Can't do what?"

" I cannot preach, sir."

" Call it what you like. Expoun' then. Do what
ever you did in the woods yesterday. Come ! Get
on. We'll be tired o' waitin', ef you don't fire up
pretty quick."

" I can't do it, sir," Stephen repeated. The other
swore at him.

" Curse you, what do you mean ? I tell you to
preach. Do it how you like; but do it; and don't
stand jabberin' there."

" It isn't play," said Stephen. " I can't do it in

" Do it in earnest ! " the other said with an oath.

" No sir," said Stephen, " it would be fun to you ;
and I can't do it in fun."

" How did you do it yesterday ? "

" I was in earnest."

" Well then, you fool, be in earnest now. Mind
you, I am. I order you to do it. You'd better do
it, and pretty darned shortly."

" I can't do it in fun, sir," Stephen repeated stead
ily; though the barometer of his spirits had fallen
very low, and threatened rainy weather.

" Do it in earnest ! " Gordon swore at him.

" I don't know how."

" Look here, you young sarpent," said Gordon.
" Either you was makin' believe in the wood yes
terday, or you meant it honest. I don't care a red
cent which way 'twas ; only, ef you was makin' be-


lieve then, you kin do it agin ; and ef you warn't,
why you kin be as much in earnest as you please.
We wants preachin' to, all we does, I guess, as
much as most any company you'll find. We'll
take it easy from you. Fire away! hit hard, ef
you kin; the harder the better. 'Twont kill, any

Stephen felt himself in a desperate difficulty.
Gordon would always be obeyed; and the little
consideration that he was commanding beyond the
limits of his authority, though Stephen felt it, was
a consideration he could not well urge. Make a
joke of sacred things, however, Stephen would not.
What to do, short of giving way to a helpless fit of
tears, which would win no sympathy, he was greatly
at a loss. He fought off" the tears ; but all he could
do further was to face his tormentors silently and
steadily. Gordon threatened, swore, jeered, with
out effect. At last, out of all patienc, he adminis
tered a box on the ear to Stephen, which had like
to have occasioned him a heavy fall. Stephen
reeled and lost his balance, and in another minute
would have measured his length on the floor; from
which he was saved only by a pair of strong arms
which caught him as he toppled over and set him
safely on his feet. The little boy doubled up his
knuckles in the corners of his eyes for a moment;
then conquered the desire to cry, and took up his
interrupted work.

" You're a cool one, you air ! " said one of the
men, with some admiration. It incensed Gordon,


who made the remark that Stephen " wouldn't be
cool when he had done with him," and went off up

" There ! now you'll have a set-to with Gordon,"
exclaimed Wilkins with feigned sympathy. " My !
aint you a soft head though ! "

" Let the boy alone ! " growled one of the men,
the one called Nutts. " Ef you'd ha' held your
tongue, there'd ha ben some mischief saved."

" Folks can't hold their tongues," said Wilkins.
" Warn't made to be held. I've tried, and I can't
do it. No more can you, Nutts, But aint Stephen
a fool ! He'll be sendin' fur you, Stephen, next
thing you know; and then I guess I wouldn't
like to be in your place ! "

What this meant Stephen could not imagine,
nor how far Mr. Gordon's power might extend.
He went on with what he had to do, in a divided
state of mind, with some fear and trembling and
sadness of heart, which did not make his fingers
skilful or quick. About the middle of the after
noon there came a call for him, and with height
ened apprehension Stephen went up the stairs.

"Here!" Gordon cried; "I want you to come
here and hold nails for me."

Stephen came up and looked at the work, and
at the nails which were offered him. They were
not large nails. He doubted some evil.

"I am afraid I sha'n't know how to hold 'em,
Mr. Gordon," he said.

"I'll make you know!" the other said shortly.


" Here, take the box. Now hold one here in this
place. "

Stephen thought workmen always held their
own nails; but he did not dare say so. He
crouched down by the piece where the nails were
to go, and held one as directed. He winced as
the heavy hammer came down, so close to his
fingers; but he remembered Gordon was a skilled
hand and could no doubt strike true.

" Are you afraid ? " said the man.

" Yes, sir a little."

"What of?"

" Only, I thought, if your hammer should slip
but I suppose it couldn't."

"Why couldn't it?"

" I suppose you know how to strike right, sir."

" Ah ! I suppose I do. But there's this pecooli-
arity about me; when anybody don't do what 1
tell him, I get angry, you see, and then when I'm
angry I don't see straight; and then the hammer
comes down sometimes in the wrong place Ah !
I told you so, didn't I ? Hit you, did it ? "

For Stephen had uttered a sharp cry and pulled
away his hand.

"What did you do that for? Come another
nail ! " Gordon swore at him. " Another ! do
you hear?".

Stephen strove with the passionate desire to sob,
and presently obeyed. But this time the hammer
came down on the finger already bruised, and the
little boy's voice was raised in another cry of pain.


" Go on ! " said Gordon roughly. " I told you
BO. I can't help it. Give me another."

" I can't, sir ! " said Stephen, rubbing and holding
nis hurt hand.

" I can't wait for you to have your cry out.
fake the other hand. Do as I tell you, and do it
quick ! "

Uncertain if the man's meaning were sinister
or only brutal, uncertain whether evil had been
meant or no, not seeing his way to successful dis
obedience, Stephen obeyed. Nursing his right
hurt hand, he with his left held the nails, in fear
and trembling at every descent of the hammer.
It descended in safety several times, and Stephen's
eyes were too painfully fixed on it, or rather on
the spot where it ought to light, to see an evil
emile which gathered on Gordon's lips.

"It's safe, you may take my word for't, to du
what I tell ye, young man. They all knows it,
and regulates their calkilations accordingly. I
aint a goin' to be challenged by a shaver like you,
at this time o' day. You will think better of it, I
guess, and du what I tells ye to-morrer. Hey ? '

" I'll do what I can, sir," said the little boy.

"Wall, eyther you're a precious make-believe,
or a precious fool. I don't care a red cent which
'tis, but I'm goin' to find out. So you'll come to
morrer, and stan' up there and preach your ser
mon ; that you'll du. What you could du Sunday,
you kin du Monday. There ! "

But with the last word and by way of emphasis,


came down Gordon's hammer heavily on Stephen's
left thumb. The boy drew it hastily away, with
again a smothered cry. Gordon half laughed.

"Hit you agin, did I? Sorry fur it; that's
what happens somehow when I gits riled at folks.
There ! don't shout about it. J ake yourself off,
and be quiet, d'ye hear ? " Gordon said with strong
emphasis. " And come with your sermon to-mor-
rer. Gx> along, boy ! "



OTEPHEN was a manly little fellow for his
O years; at the same time, his years did not yet
number eleven ; and he had had rather more than
he could bear. It was not the pain alone, though
his fingers were badly bruised ; he could have stood
that. It was the sense of wrong; the feeling of
being oppressed; the feeling of helplessness and
loneliness, which broke his heart. His fortitude
gave way; he sobbed bitterly, though quietly, as
he made his way, rather groping than seeing it,
down the stairs and hid himself in a corner. What
was to become of him ? The question was in his
heart, although just now he could really considei
nothing; hurt feeling, bodily and mental, and
something like despair, strove with rage in him.
And the feeling of impotent rage is itself torment
enough. He hid himself as far as he could, behind
a piece of furniture at one side, and gave way to
tears and sobs which he smothered as far as he
was able. He was not able quite to conceal him
self or them. Wilkins looked over towards him
with a malicious grin.


"He's got it!" he remarked. "I thought he
wouldn't git off jes' so easy ! "

"It's a dirty shame, it is! " said the man nearest
him. "The little chap hadn't done nothin'. That's
what I calls ty-ranny and oppression. There had
ought to be some law about sich things. Guess
there is, come to find out."

" I'd like to hear you tell Gordon so, jest."

" Ef I begin, I'll tell him more things'n one ; that
you may take your affidavy."

The man worked his way to Stephen's neighbour

" Don't ye take on, sonny ! " he said softly.
"There's a lot o' things goes wrong in this ram
shacklous world ; you've got to take your turn. Hold
up your head like a man ! and disappint 'em all."

" If I was a man, I would, " said Stephen.

" Wall, hold on, and you'll be a man in no time.
It comes fast enough. What's to pay, eh ? "

But Stephen did not say, nor explain himself
further; and Mr. Nutts, having shewn his sympa
thy, moved off again. Neither did Stephen make
any sort of complaint when he went home at night.
He was later than usual ; indeed it had been a diffi
cult job for him to get his evening work done at all.
Jonto had his supper waiting for him.

" What's kep' ye ? " she asked.

" I came just as quick as I could, Jonto. "

"I'll be boun'! But you'se right smart late.
Here's your victuals now, nice and hot, and hot
and nice dey be; see if dey aint, now! I shouldn't


wonder if dey had gone and put some'fin mo' on
you, now, aint dey, honey ? "

" Yes, Jonto," said Stephen. But he did not tell
her what. He found he must handle his knife and
fork awkwardly, his thumbs were so sore and swol

" Den you'se too tired to read me a bit by'm'by ?"
Jonto went on. " I'd sort o' set my mouf fur some o'
dat readin'. 'Pears like one feels oncommon wicked
Borne days, 'thout any particlar reason ; guess Sa
tan is temptin' me, sure; fur I feels woiinerful
cross. Hab all day ! Jes' want to do somefin to
somebody, what aint in de Bible ; and what are in
de Bible do seem to be up over my head, somehow.
I'd like to hear a bit what are in dar; fur I gits all
mixed up."

" Yes, Jonto, so do I," said little Stephen with a
sigh. " I'll read to you presently."

Jonto thought by his manner that maybe things
had gone hard with him too; and she waited on him
tenderly. When he had done, Stephen got his Bi
ble, while Jonto cleared the table. Then she sat
down, in ready expectancy, at one end, while the
little boy drew the lamp to his Bible at the other

" What shall I read, Jonto ? "

" Any thin' ye like. It's sort o' like all honey to
me, when dar aint nuffin' else sweet in de Varsal
creation. Read jes' what you come to, boy."

So it seemed to Stephen, all sweet, as he turned
the leaves over; a treasury of sweetness; only he
did not know which particular drop he was most in


need of just then. Two or three questions were
troubling him, and pressing in uncertainty for him
to make up his mind. What should he do with
Gordon's command and threat ? Should he stand
up on the work bench in the factory yonder and
make believe preach a sermon to the men ? Ste
phen's soul revolted from the idea. Should he dc
what was required of him in sober earnest ? He,
a little boy, with his ignorance and inexperience,
could he in earnestness deliver the Lord's message
to those men ? Stephen did not feel himself com
missioned to do any such thing. What then ?
Should he face Gordon's anger and bear the con
sequences of it? He did not think he could bear it.
He should give way and shout and cry in his mis
ery; and his courage failed him to face all that.
And when and where would the end be ? For the
matter of that, there was yet another question ; how
far might Mr. Gordon's demands go ? If Stephen
yielded this one point, was it at all certain that the
matter would so be disposed of?

That there was a very short way out of his diffi
culties, if he complained, Stephen was sure. Le<
him tell Jonto what had been done, or explain to
Posie the condition of his thumbs; and Stephen
was very certain a remedy would be found for his
troubles that would be effectual. But his whole
manly little soul rebelled against helping himself
so. He despised tale-bearers, and cowardly waya
of getting out of difficulty by getting other people in.
He had a genuine self-respect which forbade him


to say one word ; and he had been quite determined
that the battle should be fought out as it might,
only without anything which should derogate from
that manly self-respect. And yet, there burnt in
him a feeling of indignation which would like to
be avenged, and of injustice which cried for right
ing; he was exceedingly angry at Mr. Gordon and
Wilkins, and incensed at the other men, of whom
none had offered to help or shelter him. In this
very mixed state of mind he now turned over the
leaves of his mother's Bible. Instinctively he sought
the New Testament, and the leaves falling apart
naturally at a place where they had been often open,
Stephen accepted that indication and read there.
The fourteenth and fifteenth chapters of John were
on those pages. Stephen chose the latter.

" ' I am the true vine, and my Father is the hus
bandman.' w

"Dat ar's certainly goodl" said Jonto, with a
long breath of content.

" * Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, ha
taketh away ; and every branch that beareth fruit,
he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.'
What is the fruit, Jonto ? "

"Clar, honey, I don' know nuffin 'bout 'spoundin' ;
I spect it's de fruit ob de Spirit."

" The fruit of the Spirit" Stephen repeated.

"Reckon 'tis, chile. Dat ar's 'lub, joy, peace,
and all de rest. Dat sort aint de fruit ob nuffin
in us; dat comes from de Vine, it do."

" Love, joy, peace " said Stephen, again repeat-


ing Jonto's words slowly. "I don't hardly see how
that fruit's to grow sometimes, Jon to."

"Don't ye, honey? Is you got into a place
where it don't seem to come easy? Taint hard
to de Lord, my dear."

"What does the 'purging 1 mean? 'He purgeth
it that it may bring forth more fruit.' How, Jonto."

"Don* know. Dar is so many ways. But it's
trouble, for sure. De trouble is to make de lub
and joy and peace grow better. Dat's it, I reckon."

"How can it?"

Jonto discerned an anxious questioning and
trouble in the small face raised towards her, and
began an instant speculation as to what could
be the cause. She went on talking slowly and

"Well, you see, honey, when t'ings is all easy
and pleasant, we t'inks we kin git along widout
our good Lord ; and we gits fur off from him ; and
den aint a good time fur lub and joy and peace.
Den de good Lord he send trouble; and we gits
into rough places, like; and den, we finds we can't
git along nohow widout him. So den, when He
comes back to us, dar he brings back de lub and
joy and de peace, more'n ever. Reckon it's some
how dat a-way, honey."

"When He comes," said Stephen. "Is that
what trouble is for ? "

" Reckon 'tis, honey."

"All sorts?" said Stephen.

"I don' know," said Jonto. "But de good Lord,


he wouldn't let no harm come to his chil'en, dafa
sure. An' if he do let trouble come," she went on,
looking at Stephen's face, " he'll help us t'rough."

Stephen went on with his reading, and Jon to
not only listened but watched. He went on as
far as the eighth verse. " Herein is my Father
glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be
my disciples."

"That means, have a great deal of love, and
peace, and joy ? " said Stephen.

"An* all the rest," said Jonto. "Dat ar' aint
all. But I reckon, if anybody's filled wid de lub
and de peace and de joy, dar will all de rest come
after. He'll act so. Folks can't have lub in deir
hearts and carry on as if dey hated everybody; an'
if dey's got peace, dey won't want to be quarrel
some. What is you t'inkin' ob, honey ? "

But instead of answering, Stephen read on, which
was easier. He read on till he came to the nine
teenth and twentieth verses.

" ' If ye were of the world, the world would love
his own ; but because ye are not of the world, but I
have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world
hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto
you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If
they have persecuted me, they will also persecute
yo-i; if they have kept my saying, they will keep
yr irs also.' What is the 'world,' Jonto?"

1 Dat's all de rest o' de folks, chile, what don't
1 ong to de kingdom."

'And do they hate the others? "


" De Lord's people ? Reckon dey do."


" Nebber could make dat out, honey. Tears like
dey hadn't no 'casion; but no mo' dey hadn't to
hate de Lord hisself; and dey hated him wuss'n
all. Reckon dat's why dey hates us, 'cause dey
hates him. I nebber could make out no sense into
it; but dar! de debbil's chil'en hasn't no sense.
Who's a hatin' you, honey ? "

Stephen did not speak immediately, nor answer
her when he did speak.

" I don't understand, Jonto."

" What den ? "

" About love and peace "

"Don't ye? Den you'll hab to ax de Lord.
He'll tell ye."

Stephen presently read the next following words,
" ' But all these things will they do unto you for
my name's sake, because they know not him that
sent me.' What things did they do, Jonto ? "

"Specf 'twas all kinds o' hatefulness; but 'clar.
honey, I doesn't jes' know. Dey kill de dear Lord
hisselt; so I reckon dey warn't particlar 'bout
what dey did to his chil'en."

Stephen mused a little more over the words, and
then said he believed he would go to bed.

" You'se tireder wuss'n usual ? " said Jonto

" Yes ! " said Stephen sighing. But he went off
to his room without any more words; and Jonto
got no more light on the matter. He went hug-


ging his little Bible in his arms. What comfort
was not that book to him! Even now, in this
reading, the fact that had come out clear to St<*
phen's vision, the fact that his being a little Chris
tian was at the bottom of all the ill treatment to
which he had been subjected, was a rare support
and help. For Christ's sake; then it behoved him
to suffer as a Christian and honour the name and
the cause; and that he saw would be best done by
his keeping fast possession of "love and peace."
Joy, he thought, must be for the present left out
of the question. And yet, when he had made his
short prayer, a little longer to-night than usual,
and laid himself down in his comfortable little bed,
there came a singular sweet feeling into Stephen's
mind. He had not looked for it, but it was there,

Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 10 of 34)