Susan Warner.

Stephen, M. D. online

. (page 11 of 34)
Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 11 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

yet what it was he could not easily have told. I
believe it was the sense of fellowship with his Sa
viour. It came home to him, that he was suffering
for Christ's sake, and because the people who
troubled him did not know the Lord ; and pity for
them mingled with this wonderful sweetness in
his own heart. Yes, above all things he must do
nothing to make the name of Christian less fair or
more suspicious in their eyes than it was at present.
And though his thumbs were aching, Stephen fell



THE next morning, however, I will not say that
the waking was as pleasant as the going to
sleep had been. Stephen looked forward to the
day with doubt and heart-beating. What would
Gordon do? and how much could he stand? those
were the two points with which his mind was
busy. His thumbs were swollen and sore and
unusable ; what if he were required to hold nails
again, and if that cruel hammer were again to
emphasize its owner's displeasure? Stephen hardly
knew how to face the thought. If Cranmer and
Savonarola, and others like them; good men and
true, but gifted by nature with a fearful suscepti
bility to pain; if they could give way for a moment
under the pressure of torture, what wonder if a
little child like Stephen should shake at the fear of
a carpenter's hammer, even with no stake and fire
pile beyond it. Stephen did not know how things
would go with him ; he could only pray. It may be
thought, the thing asked of him was not after all
BO very difficult; the answer is, that to Stephen


it was not difficult but impossible. He could
not preach to the workmen in the factory, making
earnest of it; and he equally could not, making
jest of it. He went down and kindled the fire as
usual; went over to the factory, and with much
difficulty did his morning work there, putting the
place in order; for he could grasp nothing with his
thumbs, and so went awkwardly and slowly about
what he had to do. It followed that he was late
at breakfast.

"What's kep' you so, boy?" said Jonto. "Here's
your cakes mighty old, waitin' for you. Dey's done
ruined ! "

" no, Jonto, they're so nice." Stephen spoke
heartily; nevertheless Jouto thought she discerned
an unwonted shadow on the frank fine little face.
She had done her breakfast, and so was at leisure
to look.

" What's come to your thumb ? " she said sud

" Oh that was the hammer " said Stephen in
some embarrassment, hiding his other hand undei
the table.

" Dat ar's your right han' what was you doin'
wid de hammer in de oder?"

" I couldn't help it, Jonto." Stephen had the
greatest difficulty not to cry; so near approach of
sympathy unmanned him.

" Let's look at it, boy."

Stephen must submit to have her examine into
the condition of that hand. Jonto gave an inde-


terminate grunt, which no doubt expressed her
own feelings, though it did not convey to any
third person the intimation what they were; and
then went off, as she said, to get some " stuff from
de missus," which was good for such hurts. Next
thing came Posie flying in, and insisting on also
making an examination of Stephen's fingers. But
Posie demanded to see both thumbs, and went fly
ing back to her father before Jonto had got her
"stuff" and come away.

"Pa, pa!" cried the little girl, "Stephen has
hurt himself; his thumbs are all black and blue and

"Ah I" said Mr. Hardenbrook, "I dare say.
That is the way with boys, Posie ; they are always
getting themselves smashed up "

" Smashed up, pa ? Why ? "

" I don't know ! It is the manner of boys."

" But he can't work, pa."

"I guess he can."

' Pa, he can't ! his thumbs are all black and blue,
and dreadful."

" Did he tell you how they came to be in such a
condition ? "

" It was a hammer came down on 'em, he said ;
a heavy hammer."

"Ah! Came down on both thumbs at once,
hey ? How could that be, Posie ? "

" I don't know. Maybe it wasn't both at once,

" Maybe it wasn't. I should say, probably not.


Then ask Stephen how he came to be handling a
heavy hammer in his left hand ? "

"But pa, he can't work; his hands are too bad."

" He should have been more careful, then. If I
were to let Stephen off from work because he has
pounded his fingers, the next thing would be Wil-
kins coming to me with a scratch or a bruise of
some sort and begging that he might be let off.
Don't you see, Posie ? "

" Stephen don't want to be let off from work, pa.'

" Then why do you ask it ? "

" Because I want him to be let off. I know hia
hands hurt him awfully ; and I want him to go and
sail boats with me. Do, pa ! "

" I hope you won't, Mr. Hardenbrook ! " said his
wife. " Posie will just get herself all mussed up
again. And it seems to me, your factory boys are
not just the best company for her." With a su
perior air.

" But ma, he's so hurt ! " said the little girl, al
most crying.

"Come, come," said her father; "we'll go to the
kitchen and see what all this amounts to. You
are not accustomed to boys' ways, Posie; you don't
know how little they care for knocks and bruises."

However when Mr. Hardenbrook came to the
kitchen and saw Stephen's thumbs he did look
grave, not to say severe.

" How did this happen, sir ? " he asked, as Ste
phen unwillingly held forth his hands for exami
nation and Posie cried appealingly to her father.


"They got pounded " Stephen said, not too

"With what?"

"A hammer, sir."

" And how came you to pound both thumbs, one
after another ? "

" I couldn't help it, sir."

" Seems to me that is a very stupid answer,
Stephen. Why couldn't you help it ? "

Stephen was silent. He felt that this was rather

" Pa, he carit work ? " reiterated Posie in plead
ing tones. " He can't ; they're too bad, pa."

" Does Mr. Gordon know about this ? "

" Yes, sir."

" Tell Mr. Gordon that if he thinks proper to let
you off from work, I am willing."

"Yes, sir."'

But Mr. Hardenbrook was quick enough to dis
cern that the boy's tone had no joy in it and no

"Aren't you and Mr. Gordon on good terms?"

" No, sir. At least he don't like me."

" You like him, I suppose ? "

Stephen hesitated, and then said low, "No, sir."
Mr. Hardenbrook laughed.

" No love lost, hey ? " said he. " Why don't he
like you, boy ? "

Stephen was in great difficiilty. " I would rather
not tell," he said at length.

"Hey? What? You would rather not tell?


Have you been doing something to make him
angry with you ? "

" Yes, sir."

"Well, that was not what I expected of you,
somehow, Stephen," Mr. Hardenbrook said gently.

It was more than the little boy could stand. If
he could have righted himself ! But he felt, with
a fine sense of what was manly as well as what
was Christian, that it did not become him to be an
informant against his superior or his fellows, in a
matter that did not concern his employer's interests.
He must let it pass and submit to unrighteous mis-
judgment; and the kind tone of sorrow in which
Mr. Hardenbrook spoke, broke his heart. He was
unable to bear it; he turned away and laid his head
in his hands on the edge of the table, and burst
into tears. They were quiet tears, however.

" Papa," said Posie indignantly, " Stephen hasn't
done anything bad ! "

" Let him tell me so," said Mr. Hardenbrook.

Stephen heard that, swallowed his tears, and
faced round again, with a wet face to be sure, but
steadfast. " Well I haven't, sir," he said.

Truth has a way of proving itself, and some
how Mr. Hardenbrook believed the boy on the

"Then why cannot you tell me all about it?"
he asked kindly.

"I don't think I had better," Stephen said

"Well, come along," said the master. "1 don't


think you are in condition to do much to-day ; let
me see Mr. Gordon."

They crossed the yard and met the foreman just
at the door of the factory.

" Gordon, this fellow is hardly fit for work to-
lay. He has got his thumbs well mashed. I
think you had better let him off till his fingers
are in condition to take hold of something."

Mr. Hardenbrook noticed the quick look that
went from the man's eyes to Stephen; the,re was
dislike in it, and suspicion, and also, he was sure,
there was something like quick apprehension.

" For all I care," he answered doggedly. " He's
no good in the place anyhow 1 "

" Perhaps not much now, but under your teach
ing he will be. Well Stephen, run off, and let
Posie have what she has been crying for. How
did the boy get his hands in such a way ? " he
went on as Stephen was out of hearing. " Both
his thumbs ! "

" It's been corn to his mill," said Gordon. " I
don't know They'll be getting another mashing
in a day or two, I shouldn't wonder."

Stephen however with a lightened heart went
back to Posie and told her the news. And with
no more delay the two children forthwith set out
for the meadow. Posie had put on her little white
sunbonnet, and Stephen carried the little mimic
boats which had by this time been furnished with
masts. Other furniture they had none. A flat bit
of thin wood, cut at one end to a pretty sharp bow,


and at the other neatly rounded off for the stern,
and with a mast stuck somewhere in the middle;
that was all that Stephen's skill in ship-building
as yet had attained to; but to the blessed eyes of
eight and ten years old they were most elegant
models of naval architecture. Down the road went
the children, in the fair lustre of the April sun, with
light feet and light hearts and tripping tongues,
talking to one another.

"Did Mr. Gordon say you might come, Ste

" Yes. Said, 'for all he cared.' "

" That was because pa spoke to him."

" Yes," said Stephen ; " but I guess it was be
cause God is so good."

" Why, what had God to do with it ? It was pa
spoke to Mr. Gordon."

"Well Posie, I don't know; but God has to do
with everything; and every good thing comes
from him."

" Who do the bad things come from ? "

"I don't know. I guess they come from the

"Who's he?"

"Well I don't know exactly; but he was an
angel once; a great, beautiful, glorious angel; and
then he disobeyed God; and then he fell."

"Where did he fall to ?"

"01 don't know. He had to go away from
heaven, and he wasn't an angel any more ; or if he
was, he was a sort of a black angel; he lost his


beauty and his goodness, and though he is strong,
for he is very strong, he has no power but over
bad people."

" Is the devil alive ? " asked Posie in some awe.

" yes, to be sure he is."

" And has he power now over people ? "

"Over bad people."

" Who are bad people ? People in jail ? "

" Well," said Stephen slowly, " I guess he has
power over everybody but the people that Jesus
takes care of."

" What does he do to 'em ? "

" First he makes 'em worse and worse. He gets
them to do wrong things all sorts of wrong
things to cheat, and to lie, and to be angry, and
to be unkind; and all sorts of wrong things; every
sort. And then, when he has got them to be bad
enough, then Posie," said Stephen speaking sol
emnly, " there is no place for them to be but with
the devil always. They cannot be with God in
heaven, for they do not love him; and they are
just lost."

"My pa never told me about all this," said

" But it is true," said Stephen, " for it is in the

" You are sure, Stephen ? "

" yes, Posie. God tells people the truth, and
the Bible is his word."

" And can't the people get away from the devil,
if they want to ? "


" They can, if they ask Jesus to help them. He
came to save those that were lost. That was the
very thing he came for."

" Came where ? "

" Here, he came here. He came and taught
the people, and then he died for them."

" Did he come here, to Cowslip ? "

"No, I don't think it was just in this place; it
was a good way off."

" Where did he come from ? "

" He came from heaven; there is where he lived.
He is the Son of God. And he came here to save
that which was lost."

" Do you think / am lost, Stephen ? " said lit
tle Posie very seriously. Stephen stopped short
in the road, though they were very near the

" Posie, won't you let Jesus save you ? "

" Has he saved you ? "

" Yes," said Stephen nodding ; "I love him. He
is my Saviour."

"And then that bad angel has no power over

"No" said Stephen shaking his head, "because
Jesus takes care of me, and he has promised to take
care of me always."

" Do you think," said Posie, with slow emphatic
utterance; "do you think, that black angel has
power over me ? "

Stephen looked at the bright little figure, and
looked away, and his eyes came back again.


" Didn't lie make you tell a story the other day,

Posie looked at her questioner in a maze, and
then answered very decidedly. "No, he didn't
make me. I did it myself."

" What did you do it for?"

" 1 didn't tell a story ! I didn't say anything."

" But it was just the same. What did you do it
for, Posie ? "

" I didn't want mother to make a fuss ! She
always makes a fuss. It wasn't any harm."

Stephen did not at all want to get into a discus
sion with Posie ; so instead of answering he turned
off to the place in the fence where it was easy to
get through, and he and Posie crossed into the
meadow. It was sunny and dry this morning,
though still so early; there had been no dew in the
night, and the springing grass was pleasant to the
feet. Posie, however, intent as she was upon the
sport in hand, was also, woman like, intent upon
making her side good.

" Why didn't you tell a little white lie that morn
ing, and save all the fuss?" she asked.

" There are no white lies, Posie."

"Yes there are. Mother says there are. She
says a white lie sometimes when she wants to make
me do something."

" But don't you know, Posie, the Bible says the
devil is the father of lies. Mother shewed me the
words once, and I've got 'em marked in my Bible.
It's in John."


" How could he be the father of lies ? and what
do you mean, Stephen ? I don't believe it. How
do you know ? "

"Only because Jesus said so," said Stephen; "and
he knows."

" Is that why you thought he made me do that,
that morning ? "

Stephen nodded.

" But he couldn't. I never saw him."

" no," said Stephen, " you didn't see him. I
don't know how he does it, Posie, but he comes and
puts bad things in people's heads to get them to do
wrong; and when they do it, then he is glad."

"Where are you going to begin?" said Posie,
with a sudden change of subject.

" I guess we'll go up to the top of the brook, up
near the waterfall "

" Niagara," said Posie.

" Yes, Niagara ; and then we'll come down, and
go as far as we can."

Posie clapped her hands, and the two children
hurried, on gay feet, to reach the head of the
meadow; choosing then the spot where the waters
having recovered from their dash and plunge set
out upon a steady course again. There Stephen
carefully launched one of his vessels.

" It must have a name," said he; " we must know
them apart. This one is yours; now you name it."

As he spoke he advanced carefully to the very
edge of the stream, where the tufts of rank grasa
made a very slippery and uncertain footing; and


stretching out his arm as far as was possible, he set
the little mimic skiff in the free current. If the
current could be said to be anywhere free. It was
very rapid; it was somewhat encumbered by the
rough stones of its bed; and over and around them
it hurried away with tumbling haste and energy.
The confusion of which was heightened by the
fact that its channel made numerous sudden and
sharp turns and windings; so that the owner of
the meadow declared the brook lost him half an
acre of hay. It was a model brook ! hurrying, toss
ing, whirling, rushing, and thereby making the most
delicious laugh and gurgle of waters that the ear
of man or child could delight in.

" What's the name, Posie ? " cried Stephen, while
he held the little, certainly flat-bottomed boat, sus
pended above the current. " Say quick, before I
let go ! "

"01 don't know. You name it ! " cried Posie.

"Then here goes the 'President'" said Stephen,
carefully setting the slip of wood upon the waves.
Alas for the State, if the fate of its head were typi
cal. The ' President ' made one violent dash for
ward, then struck her bows against an obstacle in
the shape of a big stone, and stuck fast; the force
of the stream lifting her stern and driving hex
bows under water. Hopeless shipwreck ! every
sea, speaking figuratively, went over her. And she
was now quite beyond Stephen's reach.

" What will you do now, Stephen ? " asked his
little playmate.


" I'll get her off again. She's quite sound," said
the shipmaster. " I'll set her afloat. But first
we'll try the other. Now what's her name, Posie ?
Here she goes ! The the what? "

" Call her the ' Maria.' That's mother's name."

The " Maria " had better fate, at least for a time.
Better launched perhaps, she escaped the big stone
and one or two other dangers, and went sweeping
down the meadow in quite splendid style. It is
true her manner of sailing was somewhat unsteady;
a trifle toppling ; ballast was probably wanting ; nev
ertheless she sailed, that was the great point, and
the children followed with shouts of joy. Truly they
had to run for it to keep up with her, for the water
swept on almost with violence. Once the " Maria "
lodged for a minute behind a stick, and there was
a moment of intense anxiety; but then the force
of the current bore her away, and for another space
she floated triumphantly. At last she too brought
up hopelessly against a hummock of grass at a bend
of the shore. She was freed with some difficulty,
only to make another mad dash into another hum
mock of grass at the opposite bend. Now what
was to be done ?

The brook was far too wide to be leapt over.
Stephen's arms could not reach across. And there
was the " Maria " stranded ; not in harbour, and
apparently never to reach harbour, wherever that
might be supposed to be. An involuntary stop
page could not answer to the idea.

"I'll tell you what," said Stephen, after a m


ment's dismayed considering of the situation, " we'll
go up and set the ' President ' off again."

" How can you ? " said Posie, running along side
of him however eagerly as she spoke; "you can't
get at her, Stephen."

" I must get at her."

" But you can't reach it, you know."

"I vnU reach it!"

To this there was no more to be said ; only there
grew up a certain admiration of Stephen's resources
and spirit. Stephen explained. He would get a
long stick, with which the shipwrecked " President"
might be dislodged from the rock and set afloat
again. This offered a delightful possibility.

It was done too. But with how much expendi
ture of strength and skill, how much outlay of
patience, how much force of determination, and
how much ruthless cost of time, the muse of His
tory judges not best at this period to record in
detail. The stick was procured, with infinite pains,
from out of the copse; the "President" was set on
her way. And she ended in an ignoble stranding
in a hummock of grass, just like the " Maria," and
on the same side.

Then the counselling. Then the resolve on Ste
phen's part that the brook must be crossed, by him
at least. Then the adventure, which he found de
lightful and Posie enviable; though he assured her
that the water almost threw him down. Finding
themselves on opposite sides was a new sensation
which had its advantages to be sure, for Posia


could guide the navigation on the one bank while
Stephen took care of it on the other. Or rather,
they acted as a coast-guard and life-boat service ;
whereby it was frequently necessary to come to
the very edge and assume dangerous positions,
treading on slippery tufts of rank grass, and im
pending their small persons over the wave at the
imminent risk of losing balance and toppling over
into it. What wonder, if this at last happened,
while the "President " and the " Maria " were still
at some distance from their goal, the fence under
which the brook left the meadow. What wonder
if this did not happen until the sun was high in
the sky and the hour of dinner long passed. What
recked they of time? It happened to Stephen
first, who got a good sousing; shook himself like a
water dog, and went on with the play, nothing the
worse. But then it came Posie's turn ; she toppled
over into the water, lay for a moment half sub
merged, and then with Stephen's help struggled to
her feet; for Stephen had instantly dashed in again
and rushed across to help her. Laughing and wet
they stood on the bank and looked at each other.

" That water is the strongest water I ever saw ! "
said Posie. " It seemed as if it would not let me get

" you are so wet ! " cried Stephen.

" Aint I ! " said the little one, looking down at

" We must run home. Posie, T am afraid your
mother won't like it."


" Like it ! " said Posie. " I guess slie won't. But
la, Stephen, she never likes anything," the little
girl added confidentially.

They were running up the road as hard as their
foet could carry them.

" It's the greatest fun I ever saw in all my life,"
Posie went on. "Stephen, we'll go sailing boats
every day we can, won't we ? "

"Yes, but Mrs. Hardenbrook won't let us, I'm

" Mr. Hardenbrook will," said Posie ; " and 1
shan't tell ma."

' But she will see you, Posie ; you'll have to tell

" I won't let her see me. I'll go to Jonto."

" O but that wouldn't be right."

"Yes it would. She'd only fuss. It's no use to
tell ma anything. I never do."

" I always told my mother, everything," said
Stephen ; " and then she would help me."

"Ma's no good to help," said Posie. "She only
just makes a great fuss; and that don't help any
body. Jonto '11 do."

Eunning along the road in wet garments was
not exactly the best time for a lesson in ethics; and
Stephen held his peace; the more especially as
Jonto presently found the truants. She was com
ing to look for them.



IT was two days before Stephen was allowed to
go to the factory again, except for his morning
and evening work which he persisted in doing.
The interval was of great use to him. . Gordon had
nad time to reflect that his proceeding against the
ooy, as threatened, might not be popular even
among his immediate companions; and very cer
tainly would gain him no favour at " the house."
The passage of two days allowed him gracefully
to let the matter drop, as if passed out of mind;
and it was a very agreeable disappointment to
Stephen and one for which he gave earnest thanks
in his little room at night, that Mr. Gordon made
no more mention of the subject of their late quarrel.
Stephen was not therefore, however, out of all

He attended to his duties with such a mingling
of cleverness and determination that he won the
respect of his neighbours; and his manner was the
fruit of so much humility and good will that he
gradually gained the favour of almost all of them.
Mr. Gordon, he knew, was an exception, and Wil-


kins could never be civil when he came in contact
with his little workfellow. However, Stephen was
making his way, and he knew it, and was very glad
of it. Then one day, with a sudden revolution of
manner, Wilkins invited him to go to church at
Deepford. They would go in a wagon, he said,
jind the ride would be " splendid." Stephen would
have liked the drive well enough, but he was shy
of Wilkins' company, and declined the invitation.
It was pressed, in vain. The next week another
of the hands, a young man of the name of Calcott,
renewed the invitation in very similar terms. Ste
phen did not trust Calcott and refused it. He
thought the matter was ended. But a few weeks
later, one Sunday morning, Stephen going along
by the brook side, near the mill, where the stream
ran under the shadow of trees and was very pretty,
was suddenly surprised by both the young men at
once. One came up on one side, and the other on
the other side ; half laughing, half jeering, they
seized Stephen's arms and drew him along with
them towards the road.

" Let me go, Calcott ! what do you want with
me?" he said, struggling to free himself.

" Hold on ! don't be so like a fish in a basket,"

Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 11 of 34)