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"Mr. Hardenbrook," said his helpmate, as they
had watched the children go off, " don't you be
eilly about that boy."

"Think there's danger, Maria?"

" Men are always in danger of being silly, when
they've got a soft spot in their heart, like you."

" Women used to be called the softer sex, in my
time."

"That's all stuff. Now Mr. Hardenbrook, don't
you!"

"What?"

"Don't be silly about that boy."



THE SLED. 259

" What are you afraid I will do ? "

" I can see you have taken an immense fancy for
him ; and you're just fit to do anything ! "

" What could I do ? That's a very fine boy."

" He thinks too much of himself."

"There is not the least appearance of it. He is
as modest and quiet as a boy ought to be. He
might teach Posie manners."

" Posie is in a different position ! "

" Does that make good manners unnecessary for
her ? My dear, you cannot tell what position Ste
phen may be in before he dies."

" I can't tell what weather it will be to-morrow.
But that don't hinder me from knowing that it is
snowing to-day."

" Snowing again ! So it is, I declare," said Mr.
Hardenbrook, holding out his hand to catch some
of the light flakes that were fluttering down.
" Good that Posie has got a protector."

"A protector ! Now that is not the position for
that boy to take. To your daughter! That is
what I am afraid of, Mr. Hardenbrook; that you
will not keep him in his place."

" My dear, we live in a free country. He will
take the place he is made for, and I can neither
keep him in it nor keep him out of it. And really,
Stephen is a capital fellow. Steady as a mill, and
bright as a lighthouse. He is learning the work
over there fast; Gordon says so; and everything
trusted to him he takes care of."

"Well ! Don't trust your daughter to him, when



260 STEPHEN, M.D.

he gets a little older; that's all I ask. I shall put
it in Posie's head, that she is to marry somebody
she can look up to."

" I wish her mother had done that ! " said Mr.
Hardenbrook, provoked. "Pray do not put any
thing in Posie's head. That is something your sex
do not need. You paid a compliment to mine, a
minute ago ; you will forgive me if I return it."



CHAPTER XXII.

SCHOOL DAYS.

A FTER that, the children almost wished there
A! could be snow all the year round; so great
was the fun of the school going. Posie rode like a
queen, wrapped up in her furs; and looked like a
queen too, a small one, to Stephen's fancy. And
Stephen, hardy and strong, drew the sled along
over the snow with ease. Sometimes the road of
fered an incline of some length, up which Stephen
would patiently trudge, knowing that if there was
an up there was a down also ; and arrived at the
crest of the hill he would put himself behind the
sled, lay fast hold, lying in fact half on the sled
and half on the snow, in order that he might
guide it safely; and then what a coaster they
took together! Posie said it was magnificent,
and boasted of her progress to school, till she
was the envy of every child there.

And the evening rides were so specially pleasant.
The short winter day closing in, shades falling,
lights coming brightly aslant, the air growing
keen and keener, the day's work behind them and
the hot supper before; how they sped along the

(261)



262 STEPHEN, M.D.

way, with mounting spirits at every step; and really
making capital time. At home they unwillingly
separated ; and even that separation presently gave
way before the strength of attraction which drew
the two together. It happened one very cold
afternoon that Stephen reached home with his
fingers almost frozen. Jonto's fire was not in a
lively state; and Posie pulled Stephen in with her
to go to the parlour, where a grate full of soft coal
would be sure to give them a hospitable reception.
So it did ; and if Mrs. Hardenbrook bethought her
to ask what was the matter with Jonto's fire, she
made no further objection to the children's pleasure.
They sat and warmed themselves and chatted over
the events of the day, not taking note that any
body was listening.

" Stephen, are you drawing maps ? "
"Yes."

"Aintithard?"

"No. It's the nicest of all the things."
"I should think it was awfully hard. Sarah Ste
phens says it is. Do you know what she does?
She takes a piece of thin paper and puts it on the
map, so thin she can see through, and she takes off
the shape."

" She can't make her drawing on thin paper."
"No, but she has some way of getting the marki
from the thin to the thick."

" I don't wonder she says it's hard."
"Why? I should think that was an easy way
I'd do so, if I had it to draw."



SCHOOL DAYS. 263

" no, Posie, you wouldn't."

" Yes, I would. Why not ? "

" 'Cause it wouldn't be honest. And I think the
i ight way is really the easiest."

" Why wouldn't it be honest ? "

"Why, it's pretending to draw the map, when
she hasn't drawn it. She would never learn, that
way."

"What's the use of learning to draw maps?"

" It's one way of learning geography, I suppose.
I guess I shall never forget again all the queer shape
and the points of North America."

" I don't see the use," said Posie. " It's in the
Atlas; and you can find it there always; what for
should you have it in your head ? "

Stephen laughed. " Other things are in the books
too," said he ; " but I want some of 'em in my head,
Posie. I want all I can get."

"What for?"

"A man that don't know anything aint worth
shucks ! And I shall be a man, some day."

" I wish you wouldn't. I like you best so."

" I can't stay so, though ; and I don't want to. A
boy is no count anyhow."

" Yes, you are," said Posie. " You are worth a
great deal."

" And you won't stay so neither, Posie ; you will
grow up too; and then you will want something in
your head." %

" How funny it would be to be grown up ! Thee
you couldn't draw me to school, Stephen."



264 STEPHEN, M.D.

"No."

" I wonder what could you do, that would be as
nice ? But I think I could get along without the
shape of North America in my head."

" You can't get along at school without it. Not
honestly."

"Do you think it is dishonest to take thin
paper ? "

" Of course. It's making believe, and cheating."

" Aint it right sometimes, to cheat a little ? "

Posie's face of insinuation, combined with the
sly tone in which she put this inquiry, were too
much for the gravity of Mr. Hardenbrook who had
been listening. A roar of laughter broke up the
conversation which had been going on over the
fire, though neither of the engrossed talkers was
aware what had occasioned it. Stephen however
arose, made his bow, and was about to withdraw,
when Jonto entered with the supper. Posie im
mediately begged that Stephen might stay arid
have his supper with them.

" Yes, stay," said Mr. Hardenbrook. " I want
to talk to you, Stephen, and I never get a chance."

" I wonder what will be the next move ! " said
Mrs. Hardenbrook. But she said no more, and
Stephen sat down with the family. Mr. Harden
brook did talk to him, and drew him out to talk ;
and was so pleased with the ready, frank, intel
ligent answers the boy gave, so interested in the
honest and sweet character that belonged to him,
as it came out in these answers, arid so taken with



SCHOOL DAYS. 265

his modest pleasant manner, that from that time
he wanted to have Stephen always with them at
table. And Posie took care he should always be
called, till it became a settled thing.

And then, they could not do without him. The
steps were easy, by which they reached this point,
and soon taken. I think they could even less well
do without him than he without them ; though Ste
phen too was happy in his new relations with the
family. Yet there was less intimate sympathy to
be enjoyed in their society than he had always
found in Jonto; and the talks and readings and
conferences with the old Christian in the kitchen
were but partially balanced by all that was said
or heard in the parlour. It was more interesting
to read the Bible to Jonto, than to read the news
paper to Mrs. Hardenbrook, who moreover always
wanted only the poorest part of it; and Jonto's
comments and questions were wit and wisdom,
compared with her mistress's dissertations on what
/vas read. And Stephen always felt that nobody
in the house understood him or entered at all into
his aims and principles, except old Jonto alone.
Unless it may be said, that as time went on, Posie
herself drew more and more decidedly to Stephen's
standpoint and conformed herself more and more
to the rules of action that guided him. The two
children were knit faster in affection with every
day; and partly no doubt through the influence of
this affection, Posie was gradually and certainly
changing; her sweetness becoming more sweet



266 STEPHEN, M.D.

and at the same time taking the grace of a strength
she never used to have.

Stephen came to be more than ever indispensable
to his new friends, when Posie was sent to a dis
tance to school. This happened after some four or
five years of the intercourse I have described. It
was decided then that Cowslip offered no adequate
advantages for a young lady of her pretensions.
"She cannot learn anything there; only just the
beginnings," said her mother. "You must send
her to Boston, Mr. Hardenbrook."

" Boston ! " exclaimed the father in dismay.

" Certainly. Boston or New York ; but I suppose
you would prefer Boston, because it is nearer."

"And wouldn't you prefer Boston because it is
nearer?" asked the gentleman in mingled aston
ishment and indignation. But Mrs. Hardenbrook
put on a superior air.

"That's the difference between men and wo
men!" she informed him. "Men think just of
their own pleasure; it's all they care for."

" Do you mean that you do not care for youi
own pleasure, Maria?"

" Not where Posie's good is concerned."

This was conclusive. "What does she want to
learn, that she cannot learn nearer home?" Mr.
Hardenbrook asked, in a subdued tone.

" How can you ask ! Everything. One would
think you expected Posie to marry one of your
factory people. She must be fitted for a different
fate than that"



SCHOOL DAYS. 267

Mr. Hardenbrook half groaned, but was wholly
dubious as to how far his wife's plans might be on
better grounds justified. Certainly he would not
that Posie should miss any possible advantage, not
at any cost to himself of her sweet society. And
perhaps the big schools in the big cities

Well in short Posie went. She went to a great
boarding school in Boston ; and from that time was
seen at home only during the summer vacations,
and for a week or two at Christmas. The long
stretches of time between those wonderful bright
spots, they must do without her. Then Stephen
became indeed as a son of the house. He took the
place of a child, fully, in the affections and in the
habits of the family, in all that regarded Posie and
her father; affection must not be reckoned in the
bargain so far as we speak of Mrs. Hardenbrook.
But with her too, in all that does not include af
fection, Stephen belonged to the comfort and con
venience and pleasure of the house. Posie gave
him the full love that would have been due to a
brother, and Mr. Hardenbrook depended on the
boy more and more as a son. Stephen could be
depended on. He was growing fast, in every way ;
developing well in person, robust and agile and
strong, quick to learn, skilful to do; manly, with
a boy's brightness still; and as to honesty and
honour and temper, remaining what he had been
from the first. " True as steel," Mr. Hardenbrook
named him.

"You couldn't say more of him, if he was your



268 STEPHEN, M.D.

own boy," Mrs. Hardenbrook remarked one day,
with that play of nostril and eyebrow which had
a touch of scorn or of mockery in it.

" 1 might not say so much," her husband returned.
" Stephen has learnt of his mother what we havo
never taught our child."

"What?"

'* That boy has principle. He is a real Christian,
I believe."

"There are different sorts of Christians, Mr. Har
denbrook ! " said his wife bridling.

"Are there? Well, he is the sort I like. He
is as true as steel. Whatever he does he puts his
whole mind in it. He has learned the business
like a sprite, walked into it, you may say; Gor
don can trust him now to do what no boy of his
years ever did in my place before. In fact he can
trust him for anything ; for what Stephen cannot
do, he will not undertake to do ; and what he does
undertake to do, I believe he would do at any cost."

" I hope you don't think that cabinet making is
religion?" Mrs. Hardenbrook said, with the above
play of brow and nostril.

" And they all like him," her husband went on
musingly. " He's a universal favourite."

"I do not believe in people that are universal
favourites. There is always a reason underneath."

Mr. Hardeubrook found himself getting too pro
voked to carry on the conversation safely ; he broke off
suddenly and went across to his place of business.
Or rather, to his workpeople's place of business, for



SCHOOL DAYS. 269

Mr. Hardenbrook himself was little there. There
was a pleasant hum of activity in the rooms, and
pleasant looks greeted the master wherever he
appeared; for there was always a good understand
ing between Mr. Hardenbrook and his people ; but
he went on without stopping, through one floor
after another, till he found Stephen. He was con
ferring with Mr. Gordon over a paper that seemed
to be some matter of calculation or accounts. The
discussion was just ended, and Stephen with a
smile at his benefactor, withdrew. Mr. Harden
brook looked after him as he went down the room.
The boy had grown and developed well; he was
tall and very strong; with a good symmetrical fig
ure. Mr. Hardenbrook noticed that anew ; as also,
the peculiar quiet carriage with which the figure
moved away, among the men and things of which
the floor was full.

" What's up now ? " he asked Gordon. " Have
you advanced Stephen to the clerk's place ? "

"Not that," was the answer, "but he is quick
at a reckoning, and I knew there was a mistake
somewhere in that account of Dapperdown's; least
ways I suspicioned there was; and I set Stephen
at it."

" Did he find it ? "

" About as spry as a cat would catch a mouse."

" I didn't know that was one of his recom
mendations."

"He's got his head on his shoulders," Gordon
remarked. V* :



270 STEPHEN, M.D.

" I thought everybody had his head on his
shoulders," said the master laughing.

"You know some folks has got no head at all,
don't ye?"

" I am afraid I have made that discovery."

"Wall ye kin do the rest of that sum, I calcu
late," said the foreman. "Some folks' heads is in
their hands; and some is in the clouds; and some
is in their pockets. Stephen keeps his pockets warm,
but however his head's in its place yet."

" What do you mean by ' his pockets warm'?"

" Guess he kin put twenty-five cents together to
make a quarter, as well as you kin."

" He hasn't twenty-five cents in the world."

" Then my head's nowhere," said the foreman ;
" and I didn't know as I'd lost it yet."

" What do you mean ? "

"Don't say ye didn' know? Why that ar feller
is makin' money, hand over hand."

" How does he make money ? " demanded the as
tonished Mr. Hardenbrook.

"Wall different ways. I guess it's no harm to
tell. He keeps school, for one thing. 'Taint very
lu-crative; but I'll engage it brings him in some
thing; and every* cent he gits, Stephen sends it to
fetch in another cent; and mostly doos."

" You don't mean he gambles ? " said the master
in horror. Gordon straightened himself up from
his work to look at him.

" Gamble ! " he repeated. "Wall, ye don't know
your man, squoire. There is men and boys about



SCHOOL DAYS. 271

the house that doos that, I expect; but Stephen!
he's as safe as a steel trap, to keep all he gits.
They've tried it on him, I shouldn't wonder, but
it was no go. I told you he has his head on his
shoulders; you kin't bamboozle him; and he's as
stiff as seven pokers too," added Gordon, perhaps
remembering some old passages, when there had
been a trial of strength in which he himself was
involved.

It all stirred Mr. Hardenbrook most disagree
ably, though he pursued the subject no further.
He went away meditating. What did Stephen
want of money? Since the boy had come to his
house he had supplied all Stephen's known wants;
taken care to clothe him well, fed him at his own
table, sent him to school, and got him the books he
had need of. Money he had not given, unless a
penny now and then to buy crackers or the like ;
and as he told Gordon, he did not know that Ste
phen had twenty-five cents in the world. Now
suddenly to have him presented as a capitalist and
speculator was very bewildering and a little irritat
ing. What did Stephen want of money ? and what
could he do with it? and how could he have got
it, to begin with ? Mr. Hardenbrook resolved he
would know. Was Stephen perhaps something
other than the simple-minded, honest, open-hearted
boy he had thought him all this while? To be
sure, the world is deceitful.



CHAPTER XXIII.

SCHOOL DAYS OVER.

AN opportunity to speak to Stephen without wit
nesses was not immediately found; meanwhile
Mr. Hardenbrook studied the boy. Study could
make out no difference from what Stephen had
always seemed to him; bright, honest, frank, dili
gent, sober, and attentive to every possible want
of Mr. or Mrs. Hardenbrook in which he could pos
sibly be helpful. So Stephen had always been,
from the time he first came into the house. Then
he had been a little fellow ; now he was grown tall
and stout and strong, but not too tall; not over
grown; only well knit and well developed, and
promising to be a fine-looking man by and by, as
he was exceedingly prepossessing in appearance
now. Mr. Hardenbrook watched him, and loved
him. He had never been disappointed in this boy;
he did not believe he ever would; nevertheless he
must find out about this money-getting. A chance
came one evening when Mrs. Hardenbrook was
sick with a cold, and kept her bed in consequence.
Posie was far off in her boarding school ; Mr. Har
denbrook and Stephen were all the family at table.
(272)



SCHOOL DAYS OVER. 271

Jonto poured out tea, and left them. Mr. Haiden-
brook did not then know exactly how to begin. He
was too openhearted a man to know how to meet
guile with guile, and much too generous to like to
meet honesty with guile. Stephen was eating his
supper in the most unconcerned way. Mr. Har-
denbrook could not relish his. Nor could he devise
any means of easily introducing the subject he
wished to speak of. It had to come out at last
without introduction.

" What do you spend your money for, Stephen ? "
Mr. Hardeubrook put the point blank question.
Stephen raised his head and stared in sudden as
tonishment.

"Yes, what do you do with your money? I tm
curious to know."

" Nothing, sir," Stephen answered when he fcad
got his breath.

"You have some money, haven't you?"

" Yes, sir," said Stephen, wondering who had
told his questioner.

"Well, what do you do with it. Haven't you
everything you want, without needing to buj it ? "

" certainly, sir ! I do not want anything. T
have everything. More than everything."

" What can be more than everything ? " said Mr.
Hardenbrook grimly. "Then what do you want
money for, Stephen? that's what puzzles me
What do you do with it ? "

"Nothing, sir. I do nothing with it at all.

"How did you get it, to begin with? "



274 STEPHEN, M.D.

" Different ways " said Stephen, colouring now
a little.

" Have you any objection to tell me?"

"No, sir; you have a right to know."

" Perhaps I have. If you think so, I should like
very much to hear what you can tell me."

" I get it different ways," Stephen repeated, with
obviously a little embarrassment. " Some of the
men pay me for teaching them accounts arithme
tic, I mean."

" Do they ! How much do you charge ? "

"They give me fifty cents a month, sir."

" And you teach them arithmetic ? "

"Yes, sir. It began by one of the boys asking
me to give him lessons in writing; he was ashamed
to go to the night school, because he was so old."

"Who was that? do you mind telling?"

" It's nothing to his discredit, and he writes a
pretty fair hand now. It was two or three years
ago. That was Wilkins."

" When were the lessons given ? "

" At night sir."

" In the factory ? "

"Yes, sir."

" I wouldn't have let you go there with a light,
if I had known it," Mr. Hardenbrook said, smiling.

" Wouldn't yon, sir ?" Stephen started. "Then
we had better find another place now. We are
there every evening."

" No, no, I don't forbid it. You have done it so
long, and we have had no conflagration. I'll risk



SCHOOL DAYS OVER. 275

it. 3o ahead, my boy. You teach them arithme
tic now ? "

"Yes sir; and writing too, and book-keeping."
" Book-keeping ? Can you teach them that ? "
" Yes sir. I learnt it in the school."
"You made good use of your time. Well, go on.
What else ? "

" Well, sir," Stephen hesitated, "sometimes I
make things. I get bits out of the waste heap, bita
of stuff and veneering, and manage to make some
little things. I do it while I am giving the lessons
at night, and at odd times. Sometimes, if I want a
larger bit, I shew it to Mr. Gordon and pay him
whatever he says it is worth."
" What does he charge you ? "
"Not much, sir, but whatever it is worth."
" And you make it worth more, I suppose?"
" Yes sir. That is the use of manufacturing."
" One use."

"Yes sir. It began, all this, from the sled I
made for Posie that first year. Somebody saw it
at school and asked me to make him another; and
so I got the idea. I made one with a veneered
top, made out of scraps that were thrown away;
and it was very handsome, Mr. Hardenbrook."
" Why didn't you shew it to us? "
"I did not want" Stephen hesitated again,
' I did not want to have anybody know anything
about it."

"Why not?"

Stephen did not immediately answer.



270 STEPHEN, M.D.

" I knew you could not understand, sir, what 1
could want of money."

"Well, I couldn't, and I don't. Do you want
money for anything in particular, Stephen ? "

"Yes, sir."

"But what do you want? I thought you had
everything you wanted already," said Mr. Harden-
brook again.

"0 yes, sir, so I have. Everything I want for
myself."

" Then this is not for yourself? "

" No, sir."

" Not for yourself! For whom then ? "

Stephen flushed, his eyes fell ; and his voice was
lowered, as he answered,

" For my mother."

" For her! My dear boy, won't you explain what
you mean?"

" Yes sir ; you have a right to ask, but I don't
want to tell anybody beside. It's no harm," Ste
phen went on with a little difficulty, " and it's no
shame; but it would be, if I didn't make it right
when I can. It's a debt, sir."

"A debt!"

" Yes sir. We could not help it. After my fa
ther died, my mother was not able to earn enough
to live upon. She did all she could, and she saved
all she could; but it was impossible. We lived on
very little, but it was more than she could earn
money to pay for ; and I was only a little chap then.
I could do nothing."



SCHOOL DAYS OVER. 277

" And so she left debts ? How much ? "

"One debt, sir; no more; that was to the shop
where we got corn meal, and a little tea for mo
ther. She had to have a little tea, it was so hard
for her to eat anything, those last years."

" Yes* And what was the amount of that debt?"

"Thirty dollars, sir."

"Thirty. Humph! How much of it have you
made up ? "

" Almost all, sir," said Stephen with a smile now
that was exceedingly bright, but which somehow
brought a kind of stricture into Mr. Hardenbrook's
throat. " I have nearly made it up. I have twenty-
five dollars and seventy cents. I shall have the
rest soon, I hope ; and then, I thought, sir, I would
ask you to be so good as to give me a day, and let
me go over to Whitebrook and pay it."

" Humph ! yes, certainly," murmured Mr. Har-
denbrook. He longed to put his hand in his pocket
and produce at once the lacking four dollars and
thirty cents; but Mr. Hardenbrook had more wis
dom than is often found in men of his benevolence,
and he refrained himself forcibly. "Certainly ! " he
repeated. "Let me know when you are ready, and
I will let you take my buggy and drive over."

" thank you, sir ! "

"And I only hope, if ever my affairs should be
found in unavoidable disorder, that there may be
some one to look out for my honour as you are do
ing after your mother's."

" Posie would, sir," said Stephen with a smile.



278 STEPHEN, M.D.

" Posie don't know anything about business, bless



Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 14 of 34)