Susan Warner.

Stephen, M. D. online

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never hasty nor harsh to those under him ; only to
day perhaps he was a little more terse and dry in
giving his orders, and used fewer words to every
body than usual. If it were so, it was for that day
only; with the next, all things returned to their
old grooves. Nothing more for a time was heard
of Erick Dunstable. The spring opened fairly, the
crocuses were succeeded by the daffodils and the
moss pink and the lily of the valley ; and the pear
trees came out in white beauty, and the cherry
trees ; and then the garden was loveliest of all with
its apple blossoms. And so indeed were the fields
generally; for round about Cowslip was a good
apple country. And things in the factory and
things in the family took their wonted course;
until one day, early in June, another letter from Mr.
Dunstable came to herald his own approach. About
the first of July, he said, he hoped to get free, and
would lose no time in speeding to Cowslip.

'' It's just a bad time," remarked Mrs. Harden-
brook; "the strawberries will be gone, and the
raspberries won't be come yet."

This called out a cry of laughter from the rest
of the tableful ; as before, the letter had been read
at meal time.


" He comes to see us, I hope ; not our garden,"
Baid Mr. Hardenbrook.

" Besides, mother, I don't believe the strawberries
will be gone," said Posie. " Stephen will manage
to find you some."

" He can't find what's not there," answered Mrs.
Hardenbrook with severe scorn.

"I don't know," said Posie. "I am not sure
about that. He always finds for me what / want,
whether it's there or not."

" I will do what I can," said Stephen laughing,
" That is all I will promise."



STEPHEN," said Mr. Hardenbrook on the morn-
ing of the sixth of July, "that young man
will be at Deepford by three or four o'clock this
afternoon; the railway won't bring him any nearer;
and he must be fetched. I was going myself, but
1 find I can't. Two men are coming to see me
precisely this afternoon, and I must stay at home
to meet them."

" And you would like me to drive over, sir ? "

" If you would be so good. Somebody must go,
and it ought to be one of the family."

" I will go, sir, with pleasure."

" 1 should think he might ! " said Mrs. Harden
brook, in the tone of a commentator. "Such a
drive, in such weather, and to fetch such a person.
Why Stephen will be the first one to see him! I
wish I could go for Erick myself."

"Will you go, Mrs. Hardenbrook?" Stephen
said laughing. "There is room enough."

" It wouldn't be proper, Mr. Kay."

" Why not ? " Stephen and Posie cried at once,


" A gentleman may go to meet a strange lady,"
Mrs. Hardanbrook answered judicially; "but for a
lady to go to meet a strange gentleman would be
paying him too much attention."

" But he isn't a strange gentleman," cried Posie.

" Is he not your nephew ? " asked Stephen.

"I call him so; but really he is only the son of
my half-sister; and I haven't seen her for twenty-
five years. That makes a stranger of him, I should

"/will go with Stephen," said Posie. "I will
go for the fun of it not to shew any sort of atten
tion to Mr. Dunstable. Will you take me, Stephen?"

"No, he will not!" interposed Mrs. Hardenbrook,
with her most impressive accent and turn of the
head. " I am astonished at you, Posie. Don't you
really know any better than that ? What would
Mr. Dunstable think ? "

" Mother, I don't care what he thinks. I want
the drive; that's all. There's no reason why I
shouldn't have it."

"You will not have it to-day. To-morrow he
may take you himself, for all I care; if you like."

Posie pouted a little, one of her pretty pouts,
which never had any naughtiness in them; and
Stephen thought Mrs. Hardenbrook made an un
necessary fuss about nothing. However, they were
all accustomed to her doing that; it was quite in

The afternoon was warm, when Stephen set off
on his drive of five or six miles, and he had rather


a sultry time of it in his little open buggy. Ste
phen never minded it; his head and his nerves
were in capital order, and whatever caine in the
way of duty he was accustomed to take unques-
tioningly; I might say, unregretfully. He had
learned that somewhat rarely learned lesson, of
doing everything to the Lord; and so, nothing
could come amiss to him. It is a wonderful se
cret! He did not know Faber's words, but the
truth of them he knew well.

" I love to kiss each print where thou

Hast set thine unseen feet;
I cannot fear thee, blessed Will I
Thine empire is so sweet

"I know not what it is to doubt;

My heart is ever gay;
I run no risk, for come what will,
Thou always hast thy way."

So he drove along over the hot roads, with scarce
a thought about it except that it was hot; but that
was all in the way of business. He noticed further
in this connection that clouds were rising in the
west, of that dense quality which makes the glint
of the sun on their edges like the shining of pol
ished silver. They came up and up in the sky too,
and Stephen perceived that there would probably
be a change of weather before he could get home.
Thai was all in the day's work too, and did not
concern him. What he had to do, was to bring
Mr. Duustable home; through what weather was


not his affair. When he reached Deepford station,
however, a thoughtful look at the heavens induced
Stephen to find a shelter for his horse and buggy
in the mean while. There would be a quarter of
an hour yet before the train would be due ; and he
shrewdly concluded that the rain would be due
also about the same time. He himself went into
the station house.

It was a poor little place. Nobody in the neigh
borhood cared to have it any better. The floor was
not clean ; the wall had fearful marks of soil just
where it had been touched by the heads of the
people who took seats on the waiting settees ; above
which deplorable marks it was more or less covered
with huge maps, which gave railway lines and con
nections west and south, and with the advertise
ments of various business firms which regulated
the freight and passage upon those lines. Not a
creature was in the room; and Stephen fell to
studying these maps, half idly noticing how the
lines traced a confused network of roads across the
country, and thinking how bewildering they would
be to any stranger who did not know them. It
was quite in Stephen's way to moralize from this,
upon the unknown, crossing, seemingly entangled
paths of life. Who could be sure of his course?
who could know which would be the right course ?
and a mis-choice might be fatal and irretrievable.
What shall a man do to guard against such a dan
ger? And then came words into his mind to
answer the question. " In all thy ways acknowl-


edge Him, and he shaU direct thy paths.' How will
the direction be given, I wonder ? thought Stephen.
And then he reflected that there might be many
means, and that, for one thing, the mere fact and
habit of acknowledging the Lord in everything a man
does would of itself keep him from a great many
wrong and misleading paths. Then he remembered
the promise to the man that abides in the Lord's
ways and lives in studying his word " whatsoever
he doeth shall prosper." And then, the Christian's
warranted confidence in the good Shepherd; "he
leadeth me in the paths of righteousness." There
with it came to Stephen as it had never come
before, how the Israelites of old were led, day
and night, by the pillar of cloud and of fire.
Sometimes one, and sometimes the other, said
Stephen to himself; but it led, and they followed.
While the cloud abode upon the tabernacle, they
staid quiet where they were; though it might well
be not in a place or circumstances that they would
have chosen. And "when the cloud was taken up,
they journeyed." It might be but a few days in
one spot, or it might be months; they went, or
they stood still, at the command of their heavenly
Leader. " And he led them on safely, so that they
feared not."

The distant whistle of the train broke in here
upon Stephen's musings, and he turned away ; but
with a singular sweet feeling in his heart, which
no doubt unconsciously shone out in his face.

"Good day, Mr. Kay!" said one of the offi-


cials, meeting him. " Ton aint goin' nowheres,
I hope?"

"Not to-day, Mr. Simmons; I am expecting a

" Glad to hear it. We don't never want to hear
o' your travellin'. Wisht we hed a few more o'
your sort in this here place."

"Thank you," Stephen answered, wondering.
" Aren't we going to have a storm, do you think ? "

"Yes, and it'll be a whopper, or I don't know
the signs. You keep under shelter, Mr. Kay, till
it's over, ef you'll take a friend's advice. It's get-
tin 1 'tarnal black ! "

The train came rumbling up, and Stephen went
out upon the platform. The heavens overhead
were very dark, and thunder beginning to be
heard, as the cars came to a stop. Very few pas
sengers were for Deepford. Stephen watched care
fully each person that left the cars, and decided
that one only of them could possibly be the man he
was waiting for. Could this be he? A young
man above his own age, slight and well built at
the same time, with a bright eye, handsome face,
and curly brown hair pushing out from under his
straw hat. That which for a moment made Ste
phen doubt if he were the expected visitor, was a
certain air of the figure, which was totally unlike
the style of the country people ; and also, it may be
said, quite foreign to Mrs. Hardenbrook or her hus
band. There was nothing dandyish about him;
yet his clothes sat on him as no tailor in Deepford


or Whitebrook could make them to set ; and he had
an alert, self-possessed, man-of-the-world look, which
struck Stephen at the first minute. He did not
stand and seem to be at a loss either, or as if he
were waiting for anybody; yet Stephen felt it was
necessary to accost him. So he drew near.

" Are you the friend Mr. Hardenbrook is expect
ing ?" he asked.

The young man's eye came quick and sharp to
him, and what he saw I suppose impressed him
agreeably; for he smiled as he answered.

" Yes ! Has my aunt a son ? I was not prepared
to expect that."

"Mrs. Hardenbrook has no son," said Stephen.
" I am not in the family in that capacity."

The other hesitated a little, looked Stephen over
again, but not offensively ; and finally, yielding to
the impression of what he saw, which was provo
cative of confidence, put the question frankly

"In what capacity, then?"

" I might say, as a son," Stephen returned with a
smile ; " it is most like that; only to the name I have
no title. Mr. Hardenbrook has been as good as a
father to me."

" I see ! " said the other with another glance ; only
he did not " see." " And you have been so good aa
to come for me ? How far off are we ? "

" From Cowslip ? About six miles."

"Then we must drive, I suppose. Which way
do we go?"

" I think, into the Station house. Don't you hear


those growls of thunder ? the storm will be upon
us in a minute or two more."

Young Dunstable looked at the heavens, and fol
lowed Stephen into the house. Evidently there
was nothing else to be done. And they were hardly
under shelter before the rain came with a burst,
and accompanied by very sharp lightning. The
two young men stood and looked at it a little.
The storm was a magnificent summer shower, black
with clouds and rain, and most brilliant with the
electric flashes.

" Better under shelter just now, certainly," was
Erick's comment, as he turned to survey the place
in which he had found it. And Deepford Station
never looked much more dreary than in the dusk
of the storm it did now. The young stranger took
the effect, contrasting it, no doubt, with better or
dered railway stations that he had seen; however
he was well-bred enough to keep his thoughts to
himself. He looked out again.

"What is the name of this town?" he asked of
his silent companion. Stephen was never much of
a talker, unless in company that he both knew and
liked; hardly then, although he could talk. He
answered Erick's question now with the one word,

" Deepford " the other repeated. " In England,
now, I suppose we should say, ' Deptford.' "


" I don't know why, I'm sure, except, I suppose,
because we are an old people."


" "W hat has that to do with it ? "

" Don't you know, when one is young one is par
ticular; and when one is old one has found out that
it don't pay, and one takes things easy. Now in
the old country we have spoken the words so often
that we have come to speaking them the shortest
way. They have been rolled like stones in a brook
till they have worn off all the corners."

Stephen made no answer.

"Now here" the other went on, paused, and
took up his words again ; " Aere, everything is in
its first freshness."

Stephen glanced at the room they were in and

" Except this Station house " said he.

" Ah ! " said the other, also giving the smutty
walls and floor another look, " why don't you,
pardon me ! but why don't you make a row about
this, and have it different ? In England this could
never be; wouldn't be tolerated."

" Is everything right in England ? "

" I wish it were ! But in this sort of thing, you
see, we are particular."

Stephen made no counter remark to this, and
Mr. Dunstable began to find his situation tiresome.
Still the thunder rolled and the rain poured, as if it
never meant to stop.

" What a confounded nuisance this storm is ! " he
said presently.

" Don't say that of anything God sends," Stephen
responded gravely.


" I don't think He sent it. I think there has been
a very heated state of the atmosphere, certain elec
tric conditions have been induced, and in connec
tion with these and with the rarefied condition of
the air, these clouds have come up ; and the electric
fluid is exerting itself to restore the disturbed equi
librium of things."

"Those are what we call Second causes," said

" Well, they exist in obedience to the invariable
laws of Nature."

" And that means, an expression of the will of

" If you like ; but don't you mean to say it is
expressed in invariable laws ? "

" Do you suppose any Power cannot manage its
own laws ? "

" Manage ? How do you mean ? destroy them ?"

" No ; work by means of them ? "

" I don't see how, if they are invariable."

" Do you study your Bible, Mr. Dunstable ? "

The young man laughed a little. " I never had
any one ask me that," he said, " since I was a boy
and had a Sunday school teacher."

Stephen did not repeat the question. But after
a minute or two, Dunstable spoke again.

" Why do you ask me now ? "

" You asked me how, if God's laws are invariable;
he could manage to do his will with them."

" Yes. Well ? That always seems to me a hard
nut to crack."


"I was thinking, that God must know better
about it than human sense can; and doubting
whether you knew what he says on the subject."

Dunstable looked a little hard at his companion,
half amused, half doubtful what sort of a creature
was this. Stephen's manner was cool, he was not
pressing anything; he had not the look of an in
cipient preacher. Erick grew curious, but more
about Stephen himself than about the subject of his

"No " he said carelessly, " I do not remember
anything in the Bible which throws any light on
this matter. Is there anything ? "

"About the facts; not about the 'how' of the

" Well, what about the facts ? " inquired Erick,
with another glance at the thick-pouring rain.

" ' Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing ? and
one of them shall not fall on the ground without
your Father.' "

"And you think that means ?"

"What it says."

"Then you think, if a boy throws a stick and
brings down a bird from a bush, you think that
God has done it ? It seems to me it is the boy's

" I have told you what the Bible says," Stephen
replied quietly. " I am not going to defend the
truth of it"

" Does your case rest upon that one word ? "

"No, but it might. Christ said that heaven


and earth would pass away, but not one of his

" Of course ; but that is, according to the truth
of them."

"The truth is, that 'by him all things consist;
and that he ' upholds all things by the word of his
power.' "

" ' All things,' " said Erick; " yes, but not every
pitiful little detail. That is to me inconceivable.'

" What are pitiful little details ? " said Stephen.
" I don't believe there are any such things."

" A sparrow that is worth half a farthing."

" Do you think it is of no use in the world ? "

" Help feed a sparrow-hawk, I suppose," said
Erick, " if the boy did not knock it down first."

" I have read somewhere," Stephen went on, "that
if Napoleon had only known of a certain hollow
way on the battle-ground of Waterloo, he would
not have lost the battle."

"Ah? I never heard that before."

" His horse in their great charge plunged into
that hollow way, one rank after another, not know
ing it was there ; till their bodies, and their horses,
had filled it up; but by that time the charge was
broken. Yet if you had seen the workmen digging
out that road, some time long before, I suppose you
would have said it was a very trifling detail as con-
cerned the world's history. I think the rain is be
ginning to slacken."

No doubt it was; and quick as the storm had
come up, it passed away; lesser and lesser grew


the rainfall ; the light changed from its dusty grey
and took more and more colour from the sun; till
at last the curtain of cloud was reft and the sun
shine poured through like a golden mist and filled
the earth. The two young men gladly quitted
their grimy waiting place; Stephen brought out
his horse and buggy, and they set out upon their
way home.



IT was an enchanting drive. The sun low, send
ing its bright rays through the raindrops which
hung upon the grass and the tree branches ; glinting
from the surface of the water, and making banks
of brown earth and rocks to look royal purple or
glittering grey ; everything was in a glow and a
sparkle and a sheen that were like a kind of day
light illumination; and in place of the sultriness
that had filled all the morning and noontide, there
was now a cool freshness and life in the air which
made it nectar. Erick said so.

" What is nectar ? " inquired Stephen innocently.

Erick gave a glance of new wonderment at his
companion. In all the beauty he was enjoying, he
had by no means forgotten the talk that went be
fore, nor his curiosity about his fellow talker. Now
he looked at Stephen in fresh doubt and surprise.

"Nectar?" he repeated; "don't you remember,
it was the drink of the old gods of Olympus ? "

" Jupiter and Juno, and the rest of them ? "

"Yes. Of course it was something more deli
cious than what mortals get "


" I never read much about those fellows ; and I
never heard of nectar."

" It wasn't better than this air," said Erick, fill-
ing his lungs with it.

" It is good air we have here up in Cowslip,"
Stephen remarked.

" I have been puzzling myself about you," Erick
began again pleasantly, after a few minutes. "Are
you studying ? "

"Studying? No; I have not much time for
that. Studying what, do you mean ? I study my

" I meant," said Erick in a somewhat apologetic
tone, "I was questioning whether you were
studying for the ministry ? "

"I? Ono!"

" But you talked to me a little while ago, as if
Well, I thought maybe you were preparing to be a
preacher. You seem to know so much of the Bible,
you see."

" I did not mean to preach," said Stephen smil
ing. "You must have thought me a nuisance, I
am afraid. But the Bible everybody is bound to
know what that says."

" But everybody don't."

" I know it"

" How come you to be different ? "

" Well, I am very fond of studying the Bible."

" You spoke just now as if it were something be
sides a pleasure which may be a matter of taste.
You said, everybody is bound?"

ERICK. 353

" So he is," said Stephen, " unless he would run
a blind course, and come to a fool's end of it."

" You are at your preaching again," said Erick
laughing good-humouredly. " I think you will be a
clergyman yet before you die."

"I am not preaching," said Stephen. "I am
only doing the work of a finger post."

"But then, to do that effectively," said Erick,
"in the realm of ethics, one must be accredited.
I think you should take orders."

" From whom ? " asked Stephen quickly.

"I mean, go into orders, you know."

"I don't know what you mean," said Stephen,
" I take rny orders from God ; from no one else."

" That sounds very American I "

"Why so?"

" In the older country everybody takes orders
from some authority that nevertheless is only hu
man. Children obey their parents at least they
are supposed to do so; and apprentices obey their
masters, and servants obey their masters, and no
4 suppose ' about it."

"So would I," replied Stephen; "but that is all
included in what I said."

"Is it?"

" Certainly. You cannot obey the Bible, without
doing all that."

" I never saw such a Bible man in my life," said
Erick looking at him. "You fall back upon it
from every point."

"Ay," said Stephen; "you must, or it will fall


upon you. Do you see that clump of elms yon
der ? That's our place ; you will see the house and
factory presently; they are just among them."

Erick made no further remark till Stephen drew
rein before the house. One or two other vehicles
stood in the road and prevented the buggy from
coming quite to the door.

" Visiters, I see," said Stephen. " We do not
often have two sets at once."

" Do not let me be a third ! " said Erick. " Can't
you take me in and let me get to my room can-
nily, without meeting anybody ? I'll get rid of
my dust in the mean time the road was awfully
dusty and be more fit to make my appearance

" If you don't care which way you go in," said
Stephen; and he turned and drove back to the
great gate of the courtyard which they had passed.
So it fell out that Erick entered the house by the
same door which had first admitted himself, and
into the same room. Jonto was there as usual,
busy roasting coffee. She stood up, and looked
through the blue haze of the coffee smoke at the
stranger coming in ; but she said nothing till Ste
phen, having led Erick to his room, presently re
turned alone.

" What you done wid dat man ? " she asked then

''Shewn him to his room. That is Mr. Dun-

" Duns'tle ? de man what you done gone fetch

ERICK. 355

trom de railroad? What for don't you take him
in to see de folks ? "

" He's dusty."

Jonto gave a long look at Stephen, and then
with a most indescribable grunt turned to her pan
of coffee. No uninitiated person could have guessed
what it meant; but Stephen smiled as he went out
again to look after his horse.

He was a little curious, himself, about the new
comer, and so made no delay in getting through
what he had to do. He paid nevertheless a trifle
more attention than usual to his own appearance
before he went to the family room. The visiters
had gone ; Erick was not yet there. Stephen was
immediately pounced upon by both ladies to make
him tell what he knew, and declare his impressions.
Stephen avowed he could not know what a man
was at first sight.

" But what do you think of him ? " cried Mrs.
Hardenbrook. "Now /always know what a per
son is at once and I am never deceived. I shall
know as soon as he comes in."

"Here he comes then" said Mr. Hardenbrook,
and the stranger entered as he spoke. Stephen was
a little struck. He had seen already that the guest's
appearance was prepossessing; he had never im
agined that getting rid of a little, or of a good deal,
of dust could make such a difference in anybody.
There was no foppishness about Erick ; it was not
that; but his dress looked so gracefully cool and
neat, his brown curly hair shewed such glossy


abundance in such excellent order, and his manner
was so quietly easy and confident, with the smooth
ease of a man of the world, that Stephen's eyes
were fascinated. So were all the other eyes; and
Mrs. Hardenbrook half rose from her sofa with a

Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 18 of 34)