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said the other. " I want to shew you something.
Come along you're going with me. When I take
the trouble to invite a little chap like you, I aint a
going to be said no to. Learn to have more respect
for your betters, young man."

" I don't want to go ! " said Stephen struggling



220 STEPHEN, M.D.

"Good for yon, sir; you're getting your own way
too much entirely. You want a little discipline.
Hold hard, Wilkins; now hoist him in! "

And with small ceremony Stephen was lifted into
a buggy that was waiting in the road; and Wilkins
and Calcott tumbling in hastily after him, the lat
ter took the reins and drove off furiously.

It was no use to resist any longer, and Stephen
gave over resistance. He felt a little anxious, but
not much. What could they indeed do to him ? A
few hours' forced detention, and probably some dis
agreeable spending of the time, were the worst he
had to expect. But it was more disagreeable than
Stephen had ever thought it could be.

They drove to Deepford. There they dismounted
at a third class little inn. The horse was put up, and
the three companions entered a room where a num
ber of roistering young fellows already were gath
ered. Calcott and Wilkins were noisily greeted;
and as nobody took any notice of Stephen, he sat
down in a corner, used his eyes upon what was be
fore them, and meditated a possible escape. That
however seemed very doubtfully possible. The peo
ple in the room were not tipsy, and they were in a
very lively state of mind. Of body too ; for in their
superabundant spirits nothing would serve them
but pulling each other about and wrestling and box
ing. Any movement of Stephen's would have been
instantly observed, and any attempt to get away
as surely thwarted. He kept still, and looked, and
listened. And the boy's heart sank within him.



BAD COMPANY. 221

Not with fear; he knew no precise cause why he
should fear; but with dislike and displeasure that
amounted to loathing. They were rude and coarse
in manner and speech, these fellows; oaths came
out with facile frequency; and by the whole run ol
the talk it was evident enough that tempers were
irritable and not to be depended on. And it was
Sunday. Stephen saw that he was in a perfectly
lawless assembly. How came he to be there ? He
feared mischief, without knowing in what shape it
could come.

After a while the company settled to business.
They drew round a table, ordered supplies of li
quor, and produced several packs of cards. The
noisy clamour of tongues somewhat subsided; they
had something now on hand that was earnest work.
And they for a while went at it earnestly. Drink
ing to sweeten their play, and swearing occasionally
to emphasize it, they bent their attention steadily
to the game ; and for a half hour or so were toler
ably quiet. Stephen saw that they were playing
for money; watching them, as ha could not help
doing, he saw that some were winning and others
losing; that tempers were rising or falling in har
mony with the "luck"; and even he could feel that
the coarse revelry of the beginning was taking a
deeper and fiercer tone. Perhaps he might have
slipped out now unobserved ; but he thought not, and
was afraid to draw attention to himself by the least
movement. Among those who had been success
ful at the play, he saw, was Calcott. He began



222 STEPHEN, M.D.

to grow careless and supercilious; leaned back in
his chair, clapped his neighbour on the back, drank
often and deep; and finally, to Stephen's great ter
ror, suddenly looked round and accosted him.

" By the way ! here's a new hand that hasn't
learnt the game yet. Come here, Steve; here's a
place for you. Come here, and see what jolly life
is. Mr. Kay, gentlemen a very new hand; his
mother's milk is hardly out of him, but I want to
stand his friend."

Stephen had not dared to hold back, when called
to the table; and now he stood there and confronted
all the circle. They eyed him with scornful, rather
impatient eyes ; what was he, to interrupt their game.

" Look here, Calcott, what do you mean ? " cried
one of the young men. " We are after business,
I take it; and don't want a sucking pig turning
over the cards. How came that young shaver
here?"

" I brought him. I tell you, I want to introduce
him to life. He aint half a bad fellow, but he's
young; he is that. Not too young to begin. Here,
Stephen, sit down. Now you shall play the next
game. Here, hand along the cards, Dixon."

" I don't know how to play, sir," said Stephen,
trembling inwardly.

" I'll learn you. Here, hold fast all I give you."
Calcott began dealing.

" I cannot play, sir," Stephen repeated, leaving
the cards untouched.

"I tell you, I'll teach you. Here's some grog



BAD COMPANY. 223

for you that'll make you take heart of grace.
Drink boy, and don't let the fellows call you a
sucking pig again. You can taste something be
sides milk now, and be a man. There's spunk
enough in you, I know. Drink ! "

"No, thank you, sir; I don't want it."

" Then let it alone, and go on with the game."
And Calcott stopped here to give a short explana
tion of the manner in which it should be played.
Stephen listened, looking down at the cards; what
should he do ? But Sunday ? and he a servant of
God ? and with the remembrance of his mother's
words fresh in his heart? and with the ocular proof
all around him that the players were the servants
of the Evil one ? Stephen set his teeth. He waited
till Calcott's instructions were given ; then he looked
up at him steadfastly.

" I will not play cards to-day, Mr. Calcott. "

"Yes, you will. What makes you think you
won't ? "

" It is Sunday."

" Well, of course it is. Sunday's the only day a
follow has to rest and enjoy himself. ' If it wasn't
Sunday, you and I'd be somewheres else. Take
the good of it while you can."

" But not in cards, thank you."

"Yes, you will," said Calcott coolly. "Where's
your drink ? Here ! take a swallow or two of
this; that'll put heart into you."

"What's the little sneak's objection to cards?' 1
asked carelessly one of the others.



224 STEPHEN, M.D.

"He's been told, and he believes it, that the
picture cards are portraits of the devil and his fam
ily; and accurate likenesses. Now I've always
heard of giving the devil his due; and that aint it."

There was a senseless roar at the table in answer
to this miserable witticism ; under cover of which
Calcott repeated, " Drink, you scamp ! "

" I would rather not, thank you."

Calcott swore an oath that fairly froze Stephen's
blood. "You'll do what I tell you ! " said he ; " or I
can tell you, you shall have something to remem
ber the day by. Do you set up to oppose me, you
little rascal? You can't do it here. Mind me,
every word I say, or if you never had a lickin' be
fore you shall know what it means now."

" I promised mother I would never drink," said
Stephen, pale but steady.

" I promise you, you shall ! Drink ! "

The glass was held to his lips. Its fiery fumes
were violently disagreeable to Stephen; but he
would not have hesitated for that. He would have
swallowed anything, for he was in bodily fear of ill
treatment; only it was contrary to the boy's whole
nature to swallow his words. To him it seemed
an impossibility. He set his teeth and refused to
let any drops of the liquor pass them. Calcott grew
enraged, while from the rest of the company there
rose various cries which all helped to inflame his
passion. Some laughed at the struggle in which
the stronger was so nearly worsted; some called to
him to let the boy alone; others stimulated him



BAD COMPANY. 225

by mockery or encouragement to carry through
his purpose and break down Stephen's obstinacy.
There were some of those present to whom any
persistence in truth or right doing is exceedingly
hateful, because it reproaches themselves; and to
get rid of that reproach by destroying the example
that brings it, is, in part at least, the object of most
persecution, if not of all. Calcott grew furious un
der all these different stimulations of his evil nature.
He again, with oaths, commanded Stephen to drink;
which the little boy bravely refused to do.

"Curse you, then sit down and play," cried his
tormentor. "Take your cards and begin. Mind,
or I'll half kill you. Take up your cards."

"It is Sunday," said Stephen, though he trem
bled. " I will not, Calcott."

Amid jeers and taunts, Calcott's rage got beyond
bounds. Some there would perhaps have hindered
him, but others enjoyed the sport ; and Stephen had
to endure pretty rough handling. He endured it
with persistent bravery; would not cry and would
not let tears come ; and neither would he touch the
cards. Calcott gave him a far worse beating than
Stephen had ever had in his life ; but though sore
and in fear of more trouble, Stephen could not be
made to touch the game.

" What can't be done one way can be done an
other," cried Calcott. " We'll make him so drunk
he can't see; and then I'll bet he'll do what we
like. Wilkins Brand come here and help. "

They held the boy, whose strength was unable



226 STEPHEN, M.D

to cope with them; and Calcott taking a spoon
forced some of the hot brandy and water between
Stephen's lips. Stephen struggled, but the brandy
and water got into his mouth, he had to swallow
it or be strangled; and then when he gasped for
air after the fiery draught Calcott took his advan
tage and poured down half the tumblerful. The
young men laughed and shouted and made very
merry over their victim, and Calcott sat down,
satisfied, to the interrupted game. "Let him
alone; he'll play fast enough directly," he said,
leaving Stephen to get his breath and come to
the bewildering effects of the dram he had taken.

But he had miscalculated the effects. The brandy
and water had been mixed "stiff"; Stephen had
never tasted anything of the sort in his life before ;
the consequence was, not a little bewildering and
elation which might have put him in Calcott's
power, but an utter stupefaction which completely
withdrew him from it. Stephen was dead drunk,
and went into a deep and stupid sleep with which
there was nothing to be done.

" Now you've got it, Calcott ! " they said.

" Who'd ha' thought any one could ha' been so
green as that ! " said Calcott, looking at the helpless
and unconscious child. "I wish I'd burned my
fingers before I'd meddled with him ! Ugh ! "

"Your own fault. The child would ha' been
harmless enough if you had let him alone."

Calcott retorted sharply and nearly got into a
serious quarrel ; and the game was spoiled for that



BAD COMPANY. 227

day. Somehow the taste was taken out of it. The
company scattered after a while ; and Calcott and
Wilkins had to make up their minds what was next
to do. Stephen was helpless and stupid in sleep.

" Well you have made a mess of it, Calcott ! "
ejaculated his companion in mischief.

"Hold your tongue!" said the other roughly;
"the thing is now to get rid of him."

" Hoist him into the bottom of the buggy," sug
gested Wilkins, "and take him home, like a bag
of sand. When he wakes up, he won't know any
thing."

"Think so ?"

" Not a blessed thing of it all.**

" What shall we do with him ? where shall we
drop him, I mean ? "

"Just leave him where we picked him up; leave
him to give his own account of himself."

"The little beggar might make an ugly story
of it, hey?"

"Hedursn't!"

" I tell you, he's game, he is. I never see jest
sich a ten year old, in all my experience. He's as
tough as well, my conscience."

"Never mind," said Wilkins; "he won't blow on
us. 'Taint his way. I don't quite make him out;
but he didn't tell on Gordon."

" How do you know ? "

" Well, if he had, we'd ha' heard of it, I'm think
ing. Besides, we're two to one. What you say
I'll stand to. It's no use for him to try that little



228 STEPHEN, M.D.

game ; and he's sharp enough to know it. He aint
no ways dull."

" I wisht I'd let him alone and not meddled with
nim," said the other roughly and with an oath.
"Well, come along; let's hoist him up into the
buggy. It was you got me into this scrape, Wil-
kins; and if I get into trouble about it, I'll hold a
reckoning with you, you see ! "

" There won't be no trouble," said "VVilkins. But
he too privately cursed the folly that had led him
into this business. They lifted unconscious little
Stephen into the buggy, where he lay at full length
on the straw with which the bottom was carpeted,
and drove home as fast as they could. Arrived
near the factory they stopped, lifted Stephen out,
carried him into the fringe of woodland that bor
dered the brook, and there laid him down; on a
Boft bank of moss unfler a tree.



CHAPTER XIX.

SYMPATHY.

IT was falling dusk, and the kitchen fire was
burning bright for the preparation of the Sun
day supper, when Posie came and put her head in
at the door.

" Jonto where's Stephen ? "

" Dat's jes' what I don' know, Posie."

" But where is he ? Aint he here? "

" I haint seen him this hull blessed day. I fought
he wor wi' you. Aint you had him somewheres ? "

"No ! I haven't seen him at all."

" Ah ! Well, den, 'pears he mus' gib 'count o' his-
self, when he comes. Aint dat him now, crossin
ober de yard? Boys gin'lly knows when supper
time aint fur off. Hi Stephen ! is dat you ? "

But it did not look like Stephen, when the boy
came in; at least not like the Stephen who had
gone out in the morning r and Jonto's instant
question was,

"What's come to de cmT? What ails you,
honey ? Sit down dar, and tell. Is you sick ? "

" My head," said the little boy.

" What's de matter wid your head ? "



230 STEPHEN, M.D.

" It aches so, Jonto ! "

"Whar's you been and gone, since de mornin'?
Haint nobody seen no sign o' you. Whar ha' you
been, boy? What's you done gone and do to
yourself, hey ? Sit down dar, den ! "

And Stephen sat down, as if stupefied. He had
been much puzzled as to what he should say for
himself, in giving an account of the day, and
the puzzle was not yet solved. On awaking un
der the trees some little time ago, feeling his head
aching and his body sore, he had not immediately
been able to give an account of it to himself. He
felt very confused. But presently the confusion
cleared up, and he remembered where he had been,
remembered the threats, and the blows, and the
tumbler of steaming punch which he had been
obliged to swallow. He was aching now all over,
from head to foot, aching and lame; yet the diffi
culty of explaining matters gave him by far the
most trouble. To tell tales, as Wilkins had truly
said, was not Stephen's "way;" it was not in accord
ance with his temper, which was singularly manly
and sweet at once; indeed the two things do go
together. And besides, Stephen was an honest
little Christian, and the spirit of forgiveness had
not to be simulated in him ; it was there in living
truth. At the same time, he knew he had been
missed at home; he knew he must present himself
there now sick and miserable ; what should he say
about it? He did not want to expose his torment
ors; and a fine feeling told him it would not be



SYMPATHY. 231

Christ-like to do it ; therefore not right for him to
do, if he could manage to avoid speaking. He sat
down and leaned his sick head in his hands. The
next thing he knew, Posie's fingers were tenderly-
stroking the hair from his temples.

"Poor Stephen!" she said. "0 Jonto, can't you
give him something to make him well ? "

" Mebbe, ef I knowed what had made him sick,"
said Jonto. "Whar did ye get your dinner, boy?"

44 1 I don't think I had any."

"Haint had none!" cried Jonto. "No wonder
den you's sick. 0' course you is ! What ha' you
been a doin', Stephen ? "

" Where were you, Stephen ? " Posie added.

" I couldn't help it. I couldn't get anything to
eat," said Stephen.

" Whar was you, chil' ? "

"Jonto, please don't ask me. I can't tell you
now."

< Jonto looked at him, with anxious and unsatis
fied eyes, and Posie too looked troubled as well a?
curious. She was much too curious to go away
she waited and looked on, while Joiito got oui
some cold meat and gave Stephen bread and milk.
But Stephen could not eat.

"Whar has you been, all dis Sabba' day?" she
asked severely.

" I don't want to tell " said Stephen.

" Has you been in mischief? "

"Yes, but I could not help it. It was not my
fault. don't tell your father, Posie ! please ! "



'232 STEPHEN, M.D.

" Folks don't git into mischief widout it's some-
body's fau't," said Jonto.

" Has somebody played you a trick, Stephen ? "
the little girl asked. " Stephen ! was it that
Wilkins ? I do believe it was ! I'll tell pa."

But Stephen caught hold of her hand and held
It fast.

" Don't, Posie ! You mustn't."

"Why mustn't I?"

"Because I don't want you to do it. Posie, I
don't want you to do it. Don't say anything !
Posie, if you love me."

" Wall, I do 'clar ! " said Jonto. " Does you lub
him a'ready, Posie, so much as dat ? "

"Stephen, tell me" Posie begged. "Tell me .
and I won't say anything. I promise. Was it Wil
kins ? Say, Stephen ? was it ? "

Stephen hesitated, and then gave a little, very
slight, nod of acquiescence. Posie uttered there
upon a shout of mingled triumph and indignation;
while Jonto set down her teapot, forgetting her
ordinary business in this most extraordinary con
juncture of affairs.

" What did he do, Stephen ? " Posie's eagernesa
thus far gratified, was now insatiable. She poured
a very rain of questions upon Stephen, who never
theless observed a most provoking silence. It waa
hard for him ; but he had not yet made up his mind
that it was best to tell anybody of what had hap
pened; and young as he was, he was standing by
his convictions. Suddenly Posie descried a red



SYMPATHY. 233

weal on Stephen's hand. She seized the hand be
fore he knew what she was about.

" What is this ? you've been hurt. Stephen,
what is this? Look here, Jonto look here! just
see this long red mark! How did you do this,
Stephen?"

" Whar's de oder end of it ? " said Jonto, also
pouncing upon the hand. "You let a be Posie,
till I see. It runs up here under his sleeve, it
do; dis mus' be examine'; here, you Stephen, let's
off wid de coat; dar's no telling t'rough all dis
yer."

And though Stephen feebly resisted, Jonto had
her way; Stephen was indeed in no condition to
resist vigorously anything; his head was dazed
and aching, and he felt miserably lame and sore
and stiff all over. Jonto dragged off his coat and
then stripped up the shirt sleeve ; and so they saw
that the arm was in places black and blue.

"Now you Stephen, what's dat ar?" Jonto
demanded.

"0 Stephen, what is it? how could you do it?"
Posie cried in horror. Poor Stephen said he did
not do it.

"How did you come by it, then? what has
happened ? "

" It's been the worst Sunday I ever lived through ! "
said the little boy, bursting into tears. But he tried
to stop them, for it did not suit his notions of self-
respect to cry "before folks," as he would have said ;
though he felt so very forlorn.



234 STEPHEN, M.D.

"And it was that Wilkins' fault!" said Posie.
" I'll go straight and tell pa."

Stephen held her fast. "Wilkins didn't do it.
Posie, you mustn't tell. I don't want you to tell.
It wasn't Wilkins."

" But you said he played you a trick ? "

"My arm aint a trick. Never mind, Posie; I'll
tell you about it some time, if you'll keep still. My
head aches so, I can't now. my head aches ! "

Curiosity was fain to stand by, and Jonto her
self went up with the little boy to put him to bed.
Perhaps she had some design in so doing; if she
had, it was successful ; and she shook her head sig
nificantly many times during the rest of the even
ing, as she went about her work.

Next morning it was later than usual when Ste
phen came down, and Jonto found him just kin
dling her fire.

"How's you's feelin's dis mornin'?" she asked
him with an inquisitorial look.

"My head aches some " Stephen allowed.

" An' you feels kind o' lame and sore, don't ye,
all over like ? Stiff, aint ye ? "

"Yes," said Stephen with a little sigh; "but it
will wear off, I guess."

" Whar's you gwine now ? over to de factory ? No
you aint! Now you jes' goes up and lays down
agin ; and when it's time I'll call you. Dat ar fac
tory don't see you dis day, nor none o' de folks
what's in it nieder. You jest go to bed agin,
Stephen Kay ef dat's your name. Go! you's not



SYMPATHY. 235

gwine out nohow. Master's 'way to-day, and I'm
boss here. You minds me ! "

Stephen made little resistance. He obeyed Jonto,
and slept away the time till she called him to a
late breakfast. A very nice breakfast she had pre
pared for the little boy, and had deferred her own
till she could take it with him. And then she
watched him and served him and petted him, till
she had coaxed him to do fair justice to her prep
arations; and till then she did not enter upon
business.

"You looks a heap better," was her opening re
mark then. " Feels sort o' peart agin ? "

" I don't know yes, I suppose so. I do not
know what peart is."

" Nebber mind. Now you tell me what war all
dat yesterday. Dar is somefin to tell, and Fee set
my mind Fse gwine to hear it. What war it all?
Some o' de debbil's work dat I know."

Stephen looked undecided. "Jonto, I don't want
to tell," he said.

" You'se got to tell somebody. Ef you don't tell
me, Fll jes' fetch Mr. Har'nbrook in ; and I reckon
you'd best tell me. Den we'll see what's next to
be done."

Thus constrained, Stephen saw no help for it,
and gave an account of his yesterday's trials, more
full and detailed than he had meant to make it;
but sympathy was alluring, and Jonto's black face
was shining and twinkling with sympathy. She
never took her eyes off Stephen, she never inter-



236 STEPHEN, M.D.

rupted him, only now and then put a word of que&.
tion to help her understanding of the whole.

" Wall I allays knowed Satan war busy," she
remarked then ; " but I didri know as he had quite
sich a grip o' our folks. What is you gwine to
do about it, hey ? "

" I don't think I'll do anything, Jonto."

"Tell de master?"

" No, I guess not."

" Why so not, hey ? "

"I think it's best not, Jonto. You know, the
Bible says we must forgive people; and that would
be punishing them."

" 'Spect it would ! Like to see Mr. Har'nbrook's
eyes, once, ef he knowed. My ! he'd be powerful
mad. Kin you forgive dose folks, Stephen ? "

" I guess I can, Jonto."

"Den I don't! Dar! I aint boun' to forgive
nobody widout it's my enemies, and I haint got
none. I'd like to hab my hands in dat ar Wilkins'
har! and dat oder what you call him? so I would.
A.n' what's you gwine to say to Posie ? for she'll be
arter you ; and here she are ! "

In came Posie, to be sure. She had been there
once before that morning and Jonto had put her
off. Now the little girl laid hold of Stephen, after
tender inquiries as to how he felt.

" Come along," she said, pulling his hand ; " let's
go somewheres where we can talk. Shall we go
to the brook, Stephen ? "

"Jes* you keep indoors, Posie," said Jonto.



SYMPATHY. 237

"Your pa aint home, and Stephen aint fit to go
to de factory nohow; and I wouldn' trust dat ar
Gordon ef he found him roun'. You keep him
whar dar won't nobody cotch sight of him. Take
him up to your garret window, why don't you ? "



CHAPTER XX.

THE CHILDREN.

F)OSIE hailed this idea and dragged Stephen off
1 with her. Up all the stairs there were to go
up, until they came to the garret loft; which was
but a small space, most of the floor being parti
tioned off for chambers and store and lumber
rooms. From this little loft, at one side, was a
step ladder of six or eight steps, leading out
through a dormer window to the flat roof; and
at the threshold of this window door was a most
beautiful place for sitting and enjoying a lovely
view. Over the flat roof the eye went to a wide
stretch of level green country, with its houses,
fences, trees, farm fields, and roads; through this
country, at some distance, on one side, rolled a
faint blue river, like a pale ribband; and in an
other direction, broad and fair, lay the water of a
large lake, with wooded borders. Stephen had
never been up here before, and was greatly de
lighted. The air was warm and sweet, and the
lofty outlook was inspiring.
"Aint it nice!" said Posie in answer to his

(238)



THE CHILDREN. 239

words. " And nobody will find us up here. No
body can. Pa likes this place, and so do I."

" Don't Mrs. Hardenbrook like it ? "

"No. She says it's too much trouble. She never
comes here. Ma minds trouble; pa and I don't.



Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 12 of 34)