Susan Warner.

Stephen, M. D. online

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The conversation with that took another turn
and rather died out. Stephen was driving over an
unaccustomed road, and Posie was interested and
curious. Beyond the hill mentioned they came to
a wild and waste piece of country, somewhat broken
and very thinly wooded; and here Stephen tied his
horse to the fence, and they got out of the buggy,


and in the light of the sinking sun roamed over the
ground, looking for the desired flower. And they
found it, just as the sun went down, lifting its blue,
fair, fringed blossoms under an evening sky that
was not more fair. Posie broke out into raptures;
Stephen stood still, contemplating the flower he had

" You do not object to some things being blue,"
he remarked.

" This sort of blue " said Posie.

" The two sorts are not so different," said Stephen.

" Stephen, how ridiculous ! This is a colour,
and a flower."

"The things go together, though. You may
notice, if anybody is true, people will call him

" I did not mean anything lovely like this blue, 1
can tell you."

" No ; you are taking the Lord's view of it now.
The blue gentian always seems to me like a real
Christian; just so true and pure and lovely, and just
so living pretty much alone and not known by the
world. Come, we must be jogging home; the sun
is down."

" What do you mean by 'the Lord's view of it'?"
Posie asked as they went back to the road.

"What do you suppose he made the gentian

" I don't know the same as all the other flowers,
I suppose; to give us pleasure."

"And to teach us lessons. A great many of the


flowers are always saying to me, ' Be like me ; be
like me!'"

"Not all of them?"

"No, not all of them."

" What do the others say ? "

"A great many different things," said Stephen

" Stephen, I never thought before that you had
any poetry in you."

" Pray do not think it now," said Stephen. " I
certainly have not a bit."

" But that's poetical."

" No, it is merely truth."

Into the close connection between poetry and
truth, however, neither of them was qualified to



F)AINTING flowers was only one of Posie's fan-
1 cies. The fancies succeeded one another, at
various intervals. The sight of an alum basket at a
house in Deepford made a diversion from the flowers ;
they lost their supremacy; and from that time there
was a reign of alum baskets. Stephen came into
requisition for these too, just as much ; for it fell to
him to build the wire frames, which then by Posie's
arts were manufactured into white glistering crys
tallisations, as beautiful, she thought, as if they had
come out of Aladdin's cave. Stephen thought so
too, although he was not quite so enthusiastic
about them. However, his part of the business,
the constructing baskets of wire of all sorts of
sizes and patterns; even the forming sometimes of
model shapes, over and round which the wires were
twisted and bent artistically; all this, with Posie
sitting by and looking on, and putting in her word
continually, of suggestion or correction, or it might
well be of admiration ; all this was very fascinating;
it was about as good as going after flowers. For


indeed to be serving Posie and to be with Posia
was the real kernel of the enjoyment in both cases
to him. The crystallisation of alum went on till
Mr. Hardenbrook complained he could not move
about in his house without the danger of throwing
down something fragile, the destruction of which
caused an outcry.

In the nature of things this could not last.
Suddenly, as it were, the alum pot was no longer
called for, and alum baskets could be broken with
out any very great display of feeling. Posie had
taken to embroidery.

Not the kind which means patient labour in
white cotton and muslin. Posie wanted to produce
quicker and more brilliant effects. Worsteds and
crewels were her new working material; and as
these were to be had in only very scant variety and
poor quality at the village of Cowslip, Stephen's
help was again and frequently invoked. Posie
must go to Deepford to see what could be got
there; and Deepford supply proving quite insuffi
cient, it followed that more distant expeditions
must be undertaken, one even so far as to Concord,
which was somewhat more reachable than Boston.
Then indeed Posie buried herself in her work, and
Stephen had little attention. He might sit and
look on, as her fingers worked ; and now and then
be asked "how he liked it?" to which question his
answers were not always satisfactory. I suppose
crewel work is not generally appreciated by the
masculine part of creation. He could look at Posie,


it is true, undisturbed, by the half hour together;
out Stephen was not one of those men who give
up their own existence, as it were, and even for
half hours dawdle about any woman. So long as
he might help her, or serve her, he took it as & de
lightful privilege, and never counted the hours nor
weighed the work; it Stephen could do nothing,
he presently turned to some other quarter where
he could be active. Sometimes he got hold of a
book, and if it was of a sort to get hold of him,
Stephen could be as absorbed as Posie herself.

So it happened one very warm day in early
September that she missed him. Posie had been
for hours at work upon a crewel rose, which she
was declaring to her mother did "look quite a
good deal like a rose." Fingers and eyes were
tired at last, and Posie began to ask for her play
fellow. He had passed through the room, Mrs.
Hardenbrook said, a long while ago in the middle
of the afternoon; she did not understand for her
part why Stephen was not in the workroom with
the rest; it seemed to her that he was let loose
from all rules.

" Why mother, he went to Deepford this after
noon on some business for father. He could not
have got back by the middle of the afternoon, if
he had tried."

"I have no doubt he tried," rejoined Mrs. Har
denbrook. " It seems to me your father would do
better to attend to his own business; but he has his
own way. / think differently."


"Mother, where is Stephen?" said Posie impa

" If you sit still, I have no doubt he will be here
soon. The sun is almost down ; he will come to sup
per, from wherever he is. He never misses that."

" Why should be miss it ? '' said Posie, laughing,
though she was vexed. " I don't miss suppertime
either; nor you, mother. You never miss it, unless
you have a headache. Stephen and I don't have
headaches. Did he come through here?"

" I don't know I believe so I paid no attention.
His goings and comings are nothing to me."

But it was a different case with Posie; and she
went forthwith out of a glass door that was stand
ing open and led into the garden, and marched
down one of the walks, looking as she went on
every side. The garden was an old-fashioried
place, a fruit and flower wilderness; in which both
abounded, but in which luxuriance ran riot. There
was neither order nor plan. Plum trees, pear trees,
apple trees, grew here and there and throve well;
between and under and around them flowers of
every homely and wonted sort grew almost wild
and pretty much where they would; and by the
walls in places were plantations of- raspberry and
blackberry bushes, and strawberry vines covered
great patches, and currants and gooseberries bris
tled up everywhere along the walks. Yet though
it was unordered and wild, the place had a cer
tain prettiness of its own; a charm of rich, rank
abundance ; and it was not in one sense neglected,


for there were no weeds. Here too Stephen's ac
tivity had been at work. Disorder was abhorrent
to him; he simply could not eat his breakfast in
the summer room, which looked out upon the gar
den, and see the latter a mass of untlmfty growth.
When he had done his work there, nobody could
tell ; often it had been by snatches ; but it was done.
The garden was wild, but sightly; and as Posie
passed down the walks a sweet spicy smell came to
her nostrils from the late flowers; asters, artemisias,
and honeysuckle, and pinks, and I know not what
all; which were still blooming on every side of her.
She did not regard it, or them ; indeed Stephen was
the one in the family for whom flowers had the
most attraction ; unless, to be sure, they were to be
painted or embroidered.

Posie felt pretty sure that in some thicket of this
wilderness she would find the person she sought;
and presently she caught sight of him. At the end
of a grape arbour thick hung with purple clusters,
half in and half out of it, prone on a grassy bank,
Stephen was lying, with a book in his hand. From
afar Posie discerned his head; and stepping upon
the grass border of the walk she went on with soft
steps, meaning to take him by siirprise. So it came
to pass, that she saw some odd movements of Ste
phen's hand across his forehead, or over his eyes.
which excited much her curiosity; she went slower
still. Yes, she was sure of it; Stephen's fingers
were passed again over his eyes, with an unmis-
takeable gesture ; he must have got hold of a very


extraordinary book that could move him like that
Posie was bewildered to such a degree that she for
got to tread only on the grass; Stephen's head made
a quick movement, and then he sat up and smiled
at her.

" What are you doing here, Stephen ? "

Stephen shewed a book in his hancl.

"What is that?"

" The life of John Howard."

"The philanthropist?"

" The lover of men. There cannot have been but
one John Howard."

"Does it interest you so much?" said Posie

"So much as what?"

" So much as to keep you here all the afternoon."

" It was not exactly that," said Stephen slowly.
" It set me to thinking."

" About what ? "

" How a man can make his life worth something."

"Life worth something!" Posie echoed. "To
have life worth something, one must enjoy it, I
should think. What is it good for if you don't ? ''

" It is good for nothing, if that is all."

" But what is it good for if you don't enjoy it,

"Howard's life was good for something. It is
grand ! Do you know what the state of things
was, in jails and prisons, before he began to work
in them?"

" He did not work in them, Stephen."


"He went all over visiting them. You would
have called that work, I think, and hard work too;
terrible work. Think of going into such places.
Here was one at Durham and this is only a spec
imen. Men who had committed no crime, only
were unable to pay their debts, were shut up in
little rooms ten feet four inches square ; and they
were kept there all the time, unless sometimes they
went to chapel on Sunday. They had no yard to
walk in, and never did get out to have a breath of
fresh air. And in that jail the criminals, or felons
rather, were in regular dungeons. Think of three
men in a room seven feet square, and never
cleaned ! "

" I don't want to think of it, I am sure, Stephen.
What horrors ! "

"At another place, the prisoners were in cells
underground, with no opening at all to the air;
only a little hole over each cell door opening into
a breathless underground passage ; and four men
sometimes put in one of these cells, not eight feet
by three ! It is past belief! "

"What do you read such disagreeable things

"What do you think of visiting them ? going
into them ? going from one to another, and spend
ing one's time in doing just that?"

Posie writhed a little in her disgust.

" I suppose he liked to do it," she said. " Or he
wouldn't have done it. Do you enjoy that book


"Yes. It shews one what a man can do. It
makes me think what life may be good for."

"But Stephen, all that is better now. That
work is done. People build comfortable prisons
now, and take good care of the prisoners."

Stephen was silent ; leaned his head on his hand,
and looked very thoughtful.

" Stephen, what are you thinking about ? " said
Posie with a little uneasy impatience.

" I don't suppose all the wrong is righted yet,"
said the young man without altering his attitude.
" Prisons may be better, but there are other things
that want mending."

" Well, it isn't your business to mend them."

"How do I know that? or how do you?"

" Why Stephen, your business is here. You are
helping papa, and taking care of me. And getting
in the way to make your fortune. Papa says you
will. He says you have a capital head for busi

" All that is just for myself," said Stephen in the
same thoughtful way.

"No it isn't; it is for me, and for us. And what
if it were for yourself? Why shouldn't it be?
what's the harm ? "

" What's a life worth, Posie, that begins and ends
with oneself?"

" Why worth the pleasure of it ! What would it
be worth, I should like to know, if you went pok
ing into all sorts of horrid places and people like
John Howard ? One had better die at once."


"Not till one has done one's work," said Stephen.

"It is not your work not this sort of thing.
That's certain."

"I have been thinking about it, Posie; and I
believe, something of this sort of thing is every
body's work. What does it mean, to do to others
as we would like to have them do to us ? I don't
see but it sets every one of us to righting wrongs
and supplying wants and putting everybody in as
much comfort as we can give them."

Posie looked extremely disturbed, and inquired
what wrongs he wanted to redress ?

" 1 don't know yet."

"Then, I should think, the wrongs you do not
know, you are not bound to relieve."

"Job says, 'The cause I knew not I searched
out.' I noticed that the other day."

"Bat Stephen, you cannot do much unless you
have a great deal of money. Job had it, and you
haven't it."

" That's a reason for making money then," said
Stephen. " Posie, a life that begins and ends with
oneself is ignoble and not worth living. Better be
a vegetable, for that at least does its work while it
lives and when it dies enriches the ground where
it grew. And a servant of Christ ought to follow
his Master; and you know, Posie, Christ pleased
not himself."

" And what are you going to do then, Stephen ? "
Posie asked with a very discomfited expression of


" I shall find out, I suppose, if I ain willing to
find out; and I think I am."

"And you would go away and leave us and
leave me, ? and think you were doing right ? "

" If I ever do, it will be because I think I am
doing right," Stephen answered with a grave sort
of smile. "That would not be easy, Posie. Perhaps
I should not be able to go of my own accord, and
must be driven. That happens, often, I fancy."

"I'll burn up that Howard book!" exclaimed
Posie. " Just come in and forget all this stuff."

" I'll come in," said Stephen, rising with a mei-
rier smile this time; "but as to forgetting, Sup
pose Mr. Hardenbrook had forgotten, when he
found me, a poor little helpless beggar, in the inn
at Deepford? What would have become of me?
Nobody else remembered."

Posie's answer was to lock her arm affectionately,
clingingly, in his, and so, slowly and silently the^
went back to the house.



r pHINGS went on quite the usual way after thia
1 talk, which seemed to have left no traces be
hind it If it had brought a momentary cloud, it
was the only one which shadowed the family sky
for many months. It was a sunshiny time. Such
times come in the Spring of the year not infre
quently; days of absolute perfection; when the
winds are lulled, and the very sunshine is soft,
and the air is full of the perfume of young life,
and the colouring of the world is not only beauty
but promise, and the vapours that rise from earth
have no errand seemingly but to float in peace
upon the blue of heaven. Such days come too in
the Springtime of life, and are even so lovely. But
neither in nature nor experience are they any
guaranty against storms that may come after.
However, if storms were to follow upon this bright
time at Cowslip, at least the approach of them car
ried no threatening with it.

All the fall, and all through the winter, the
sweet family life was unchanged. Except indeed



in some outward features of its surroundings; for
the asters died, and the snow came; but that
brought only a change of enjoyment. Stephen
was Mr. Hardenbrook's right hand, busy and use
ful as ever; and he was Posie's bondman, to do all
her behests in the time that he could call his own.
If any practical effects resulted from that reading
which Posie one afternoon interrupted, perhaps the
prisoners in the jail knew; but nobody at home.

The epistolary correspondence of this family with
the rest of the world, as may be supposed, was riot
large. Posie sometimes had a letter from a school
friend, and her father received business communi
cations. Nobody ever wrote to Stephen, and very
rarely anybody to Mrs. Hardenbrook. Therefore
it was an event, when one day in spring a letter
for that lady was brought her by Stephen from the
Deepford postoffice. She read it at the supper
table; and brightened up very notably in the

" Whom is it from, mother ? " inquired Posie.

"Somebody you never heard of."

" But you seem glad ? "

"Certainly; why shouldn't I be? There don't
so very often anything come to give me occasion,
does there ? I do think, living at Cowslip is like
living in a hole."

" You do not live at Cowslip, my dear," objected
her husband. " And it is a pretty comfortable sort
of a hole, if you did. Speak well of the bridge that
carries you over."


" Carries me over what, Mr. Hardenbrook ? Do
you think I want to be 'carried over' life, as if
the sooner it was passed the better? Bread and
butter isn't the only thing, either."

"No," said Mr. Hardenbrook. " Jontohas given
us some pretty good waffles this evening. And the
other day, how many yards of black satin was it ? "

"Nonsense, Mr. Hardenbrook! That satin will
not be worth much, unless I have a good many
yards of black lace to trim it." Mrs. Hardenbrook
had a way, quite peculiar to herself, of emphasiz
ing certain words in her speech; which emphasis
she was wont to accompany with an energetic nod
of her head, which made the whole quite striking.
Mr. Hardenbrook shrugged his shoulders.

" But the letter, mother," said Posie. " What is
in the letter?"

" A good deal, I can tell you. Something quite
new, and refreshing."

"Whom is it from?"

"It is from a gentleman; and his name is Erick

"Dunstable! I never heard that name before,
except I have heard of Dunstable straws."

" Let us hope this man is not a man of straw,"
put in her father.

" He is no such thing," said Mrs. Hardenbrook.
"He is a man of iron, rather; if you like that

"Does the iron come out in the letter?"

" How should I know, if it didn't? This letter


is from Erick Dunstable, the son of my half-sister,
who married and went to England so many years
ago ; and he is in this country, and studying min
ing; so that's where the iron comes in; and he
wants to come to see us."

" Did he need to ask permission for that ? "

" Mr. Hardenbrook, he wants to come and spend
his vacation with us ! He has a long summer va
cation, and he knows of course nobody in this
country yet; and he says his mother charged him
to look us up and make friends with us, the first
chance he got."

" Well that is news ! " exclaimed Posie. " How
nice to have something happen, out of the common
run. You'll tell him to come, mother ? "

" Unless your father puts his veto upon it. He
seems undecided what to make of my nephew."

"The question will be, what he has made of
himself. But give him a hospitable answer, by all

" Now if he should be nice ! " said Posie. " When
will he come, mother ? "

" His vacation begins about the first of July, he

" And how long does it last ? "

" 0, two or three months, I suppose."

" If he should be nice ! " Posie repeated. " I am
so glad he has got an uncommon name. I am tired
of these everlasting Charles's and William's and
John's and James's. Erick is very pretty; does he
spell it with a k, or merely E, r, i, c ? "


" He spells it with a k"

" I am glad of that," said Posie; while her father
laughed at her, and even Stephen glanced up from
his supper with a smile. "You needn't laugh;
there is a prettiness in names, as well as in
everything else. I don't like Dunstable much,

" You will, if you like him," said her father.

" Stephen," said the girl suddenly, " come along
and see the crocuses ! They are out, in the grass
at the end of the arbour."

The two young people went away, and Mrs. Har-
denbrook looked after them significantly. " Weft I "
she said, with two or three emphatic movements
of her head to accompany her accented words
''"now I hope we shall see something new ! "

"That sounds, my dear, as if you did not like
what you see that is not new."

" I think you are blind, Mr. Hardenbrook ; that
is all."

" Of which eye, may I ask ? "

" Well, Mr. Hardenbrook, of the eye that looks
at your daughter. And anybody else would say so

' 1 should like to know how my blindness ap
pears," said Mr. Hardenbrook, taking another

" Mr. Hardenbrook," said the lady with increased
impressiveness, " do you know what a very pretty
girl your daughter is ? "

" Yes, I know it. I am not blind so far."


"Do you remember that she will come into a
very excellent fortune one of these days?"

"I should remember it, seeing I have made it
for her. And Stephen is doing his part now to
enlarge it, I can tell you."

"Yes, and did it never strike you that he has
his reasons?"

"Certainly; and I always thought they were
very admirable reasons."

" I said you were blind!" said the lady scornfully.

"I know what you mean, Maria; and you are
desperately mistaken."

" How do you know ? " said Mrs. Hardenbrook,
setting her head a one side, with a smile that was
not thoroughly agreeable.

"Because I know Stephen Kay and it seems
you don't."

" Mr. Hardenbrook, all the world is alike."

" I'd go out of the world, if I thought that."

" A young man, and a pretty girl, and lots of
money. Why, Mr. Hardenbrook, it couldnt go but
one way. Anybody but a man would have known
it long ago."

" I don't care. I am willing."

" That's just what I thought I " said the lady with
indescribable expression of superiority and con
tempt. "You would be willing to give Posie to
such a nobody; Posie, and your money, and all ! "

"To such a nobody yes, I would. What's the
matter with the boy ? He's as good as gold, and
as true as steel ; and I can tell you, he's not one of


those who must grow rich upon other men's money.
Let him alone, and he'll make his own fortune, no
fear. He's got a capital head ; sees straight to the
point of a thing; understands all the bearings of it
with half a word; and what's more perhaps, when
he has taken hold of a piece of business he never
lets go till he has carried it through. You won't
find another like Stephen in hundreds. If he's poor,
that's nothing to the purpose. So was I poor, once."

" Very well," replied Mrs. Hardenbrook in a sat
isfied tone of voice ; " now you'll see another sort
of young man. Wait and you'll see. And Posie
will see too, I hope."

"You don't know this other young man; and
you don't know anything about him."

" He is studying to be an engineer ! " said Mrs.
Hardenbrook triumphantly. " I know so much. I
always did want my daughter to rise in the world
when she married."

" We are talking in the air ! " said Mr. Harden
brook, rising from table with a vexed expression.
" I don't know that Stephen wants her, and you
don't know that this other fellow wants her; it ia
rather too soon to quarrel about it. But mind my
words, which you won't do ; Stephen Kay is quite
as likely to set her in high places, if that's what
you want, as this other boy. The trade don't make
the man, wife; don't you know that?"

" I know that you are infatuated about Stephen
Kay," said Mrs. Hardenbrook with a little nod of
her head.


The young people meanwhile had gone out and
looked at the crocuses on the bank ; but never a word
was said by either of them about Erick Dunstable.

I am not sure but Stephen was somewhat more
short in his business communications with the men
next day than was ordinarily his custom. He was

Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 17 of 34)