Susan Warner.

Stephen, M. D. online

. (page 19 of 34)
Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 19 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

most gracious air of welcome and pleasure.

"How do you do, Mr. Dumtabk/" she said, giving
that inevitable air of the head, a little to one side,
and a twist of the mouth corresponding. It was
all emphasis, although what might be called wry
emphasis; even to the accent, which she place !
oddly on the last word, as if she were correct! i^
somebody's mispronunciation of it.

" I hope I am not going to be ' Mr. Dunstable,' "
said Erick ; and he stooped and kissed his aunt with
the easiest air in the world. " Don't you welcome
me as one of the family, aunt Maria?"

"I have always thought of you so," said Mrs.
Hardenbrook with a quiver of gratification ; " but
you know it takes time for people to feel at home
with each other. Here is your cousin "

The inclination of the lady's head and the direc
tion of her eyes indicated Posie, who was however
on the other side of the fireplace. " Now if he is
going to keep that sort of thing up!" thought
Stephen ; but Erick did not attempt it. He bowed
very low over Posie's hand, with a manner of pro
found respect; that was all.

"May I not know my cousin's name?" he asked,
turning again to Mrs. Hardenbrook.

"Her name ! her name's Posie. My husband,

ERICK. 357

Mr. Dunstable! and now you know all the family,
for Stephen brought you over. Did you get wet
in the storm ? "

Erick sat down by his hostess, and began a talk
with her on the insignificant little topics with which
people are wont to feel their way to something else ;
if anything else lies in the possibilities of the case.
Mr. Hardenbrook took up a paper that Stephen
had brought him from Deepford. The other two
for a little while sat and listened to what the
talkers were saying.

" Stephen" whispered Posie at length, when this
had gone on for some time, " I now and then wish
father would quit Cowslip, and move nearer to
Boston somewhere."

She spoke in a low aside, and Stephen answered
in the same way " Why? "

" Then perhaps mother would get to speak like
other people."

Stephen's eyes expressed only mute bewilder

" Don't look at me like that, Stephen ! " ex
claimed Posie half laughing. " Don't you know
how she puts her accents sometimes? In Boston
they don't do it so."

"How do they do it? I should think you would
like her way, just because it is hers."

" Not if it isn't the right way. You do not like
wrong things, Stephen, no matter who does them.'

"This is nothing morally wrong," Stephen an-
Bwered with a smile.


" Would you like a table that stood crooked ?
said Posie impatiently. "What is it, mamma?"
For Mrs. Hardenbrook was calling to her.

" I want you to hear what your cousin is saying.
He is telling me of his having been to India."

" To India ! " exclaimed Posie.

"Yes, to India; just think of that! and it took
him months to get there ; months ! "

"Wasn't it dreadfully tiresome?"

" Not very, on the whole," said Erick. " Travel
ling isn't the worst thing a man can do."

" But so long on the ship," said Posie ; " so long
without seeing land."

" Not exactly that; we did see land several times.
At Cape Town, we made some little stay."

" Cape Town ? " repeated Posie, " where is

" Cape of Good Hope " whispered Stephen.

" Cape of Good Hope ? " said Posie looking at her
prompter. " yes ! I remember. How stupid !
But I was so far just then from the Cape of Good
Hope. what sort of a place is that, Mr. Dun-
stable? It never seems to me any sort of a
place.* 5

"It is not, compared with any sort of a place
that you ever saw. I do not think you would like
it much. Perhaps you would have liked to stand
for a little while where I stood, one day, on the
top of Table Mountain."

"Why would I have liked to stand there?" Posie

ERICK. 359

" For the wonderful view."

" What did you see ? "

"That which impressed me most was the great
stretch of waters; the miles and miles of ocean I
could look over."

" Well, really, I should think," Mrs. Hardenbrook
put in here, " after seeing nothing but sea for so
many months, it would be hardly worth while to
climb a mountain to see more of it."

" It is something, to have been there, you know,"
said Erick smiling.

44 And always, something to say you have been
there," remarked Mr. Hardenbrook.

" Certainly, sir ! I plead guilty." Erick laughed
very pleasantly as he spoke ; and there was but one
opinion in the room by this time, that he was a
very agreeable young man. I don't know ; perhaps
he knew it; and it helped him to be yet more pleas
ant. He went on to tell of his further voyage, and
of his arrival off Madras, and the terrible surf, and
the landing in catamarans. Posie left her place
on the other side of the hearth and came nearer
her mother and the speaker.

" Wasn't it terrible ? " she asked.

44 1 thought it good fun. I dare say you would
not have liked it," Erick said meeting her question
ing eyes. And he told them then of his journey
overland to Calcutta; of his adventures; of what
he saw; the country, the people, their dwellings
and their mode of life. There was no end to the
interesting details, and no exhausting the eager


curiosity of those to whom he gave them. Erick
yielded to the pressure and gratified it, unwear-
iedly; yet he did not try to put himself for
ward; he did not try to usurp the conversation,
nor to play the distinguished traveller. He was
simply good natured and well bred, and quite nat
urally and unassumingly did what his new friends
wished him to do; for their sakes, not for his own
pleasure. We all know how success reproduces
success; and no doubt the consciousness that he
was making a very good impression helped Erick
and stimulated him to make the impression the
very best possible. I think that was what he

"That must be the most wonderful country in
the world ! " exclaimed Mr. Hardenbrook, when
Erick had come to a pause, late in the evening.

" no ! " said the young man lightly. " It is only
because it is new to you. I dare say you could
shew me things here, in America, that to me would
appear quite as wonderful."

" I suppose to a Hindoo it all would," remarked

"Exactly so. There isn't a thing we do, but
they do it differently, or do something else."

" I'll tell you what, wife," said Mr. Hardenbrook,
" I should like to shew our young friend something
worth seeing on our side of the ocean. Suppose
we all make a little journey to Niagara by and by ?
Hey ? how would you like that ? "

Mrs. Hardenbrook declared, with emphatic gest-

ERICK. 361

urea of the head, that she should like it particularly.
Posie clasped her hands with delight.

"Then we'll do it," said her father. "We'll do
it. That's settled. Next month, I guess; they say
when it is hottest is the best tinx.'



OTEPHEN, as he passed to his room rather late
O in the evening, found Jonto still up. He had
never changed his quarters, though it had been
several times proposed by Mr. Hardenbrook; and
was inhabiting now the same little room above the
kitchen which Jonto had been instructed to prepare
for him the first night he came.

" Well," said Jonto, " you're a heap late, aint you,

" A little late, Jonto. "

"What sort o' a new bird ha* you got in de
house now ? "

" Good, I guess," said Stephen. " He's one of
that kind of birds that fly about a good deal."

"An' keep a screechin', to let you know it?"

"O no," said Stephen, laughing a little; "noth
ing of the sort, Jonto. He has seen a great deal,
and of course he has a great deal to tell. He tells
it very nicely, too, when he is asked."

Jonto grunted, which was with her generally
the sign of some inward displeasure or private



" There's two ways o' seein' " she remarked.

"More than two," said Stephen. "What then,
Jonto ?"

" I'll bet you done seen more in your life 'n he
has, ef he has flew roun' some."

Stephen was amused. " That would be very
strange," he said; "seeing that Mr. Dunstable has
been all over the world, and I have never stirred
a step from home."

"Dere's mo' inside o* t'ings den de outsidee,"
Jonto went on oracularly.

" Well ? what then ? "

" Dere aint a fool but what he kin see de outside,"
said Jonto. " Don't t'ink not'ing o' dat ar. Kin't
help it. Don't make no count o' dat. But to see
t'rough de outside 'clar, dat takes a right smart
pair o' eyes, it do; and a head."

Stephen laughed, half divining the old woman's
meaning; into which he made no further inquiry,
however, but went on up to his own little room.
And there, for almost the first time in his life, after
he had lain down, he kept awake thinking, instead
of going to sleep. He went over in mind the talk
of the evening, and his imagination brought up
anew one after another scene of Erick's adventures.
Somehow his imagination was very busy. The
wide spread sea with its rolling billows, the Ma
dras surf and the catamarans, jungles, tiger hunts,
elephants and howdahs, bamboo growths of beauty;
the dark, quick, supple, subtle, degraded and ele
vated, people of that far-away land, with their idols


and their superstitions and their misery of igno
rance; all these images and a thousand more danced
through Stephen's brain, and he could not sleep.
Why could he not sleep ? Certainly he had read of
these things, or of many of them, before. But that
was different from hearing the living voice of the
living person who had seen and moved among
them. They came home now to Stephen as vivid
realities. Still he did not know why they should
come so as to hinder his sleeping; there would
be time enough to think of them to-morrow. He
was wide awake, and lay uneasily staring at the
moonlight which came in at his open window
along with the warm still air, soft and soothing
and delicious. Stephen was not soothed, as I said,
but restless; and did not know why he was rest
less. Was it not a good thing to go about the
world so? to enlarge knowledge by the use of
one's own senses, instead of taking it at hear-
say? Was not a man worth more and able for
more, who had not sat in a corner all his life and
limited his experience to one set of people and one
sort of business ? Were there not stores of learn
ing, vast and varied, that one could not acquire at
Cowslip ? and was it not good to have the power,
as Erick Dunstable evidently had, of using other
languages besides one's own, both for reading and
speaking? Must it not enlarge and enrich the
mind, and qualify one for a higher mental exist
ence? In a word, had not he, Stephen, been all
nis life going round and round in a half bushel


measure, while others of his brother men roamed
the wide world ?

The course of Stephen's thoughts brought him
thus far without his being conscious of what sort
they were or whither they tended ; but as soon as
he was aware that they had passed from the ab
stract to the concrete, Stephen pulled himself up.
Was there, possibly, a little stir of discontent under
lying all these lucubrations ? What if Erick had
roamed the world, he and hundreds of others, and
Stephen had made his rounds, figuratively speak
ing, in a bushel? what then, if the bushel limited
his sphere of action and at the same time gave him
enough to do ? Who appointeth to the moon her
seasons, and to the sun his going down, and "to
every man his work " ? Should he wish his work
other than it was ? Doubtless, the manufacturing
of tables and chairs was not the most exalted line
of human activity ; but if it were the one given to
him? should he quarrel with it? The words came
back to him that he had thought of in the Station
house; "in all thy ways acknowledge Him; he shall
direct thy paths." Had He not done so? Who
had brought the orphan boy's feet to the place
where he met his benefactor, long ago ? who had
given him ever since an easy way and a thriving
career ? And friends, and opportunities ? And
what if the career were an undistinguished one,
and the way unmarked by brilliance, if it were the
way and held the work for which he was ap
pointed? Stephen came back to his moorings sud-


denly. He wanted no other way, desired no other
work, than that which God should give him. Sure
ly the Captain knows where he can best use his
men, and the Master knows what it will best serve
him to have his servants do; and the servant and
the soldier in the nature of the case cannot know.
The only chance for them to find their most fitting
service, is to let the Lord place them, and so to fol
low his lead unquestioningly. And to employ an
other figure, the child knows his Father can take
the best care of him ; and to do his Father's will is
a loving child's most supreme desire. Stephen
came back to his moorings; gave up his question
ings of Providence; turned over and went to sleep;
and never, so far as I know, took up the burden of
such thoughts again for the matter of five minutes
during all the rest of his life.

The next time he saw the new guest of the fam
ily was not until evening of the following day.
Business had claimed all Stephen's minutes ever
since the morning; his breakfast had been eaten
before anybody else was astir, and dinner time saw
him at a distance from home. Nevertheless it was
Stephen and nobody else, who drove late in the day
to Deepford to fetch Erick's boxes. " Of course,"
as anybody would have said who knew Stephen;
little as it would have been " of course " in the case
of most other people. He arrived with the boxes
rather late, and found the family at supper.

Mrs. Hardenbrook silently gave him his cup of
tea ; but Posie asked where he had been all day ?


'Busy " said her father.

"Stephen is always busy; but where have you
been, Stephen ? "

"To Chester and Fair Mountain ; lastly, to Deep*

" Deepford ! Did you give order about my lug
gage ? " asked Erick.

" No ; but I brought it home with me."

"That was uncommonly good of you. Is it
nere ? "

" Lodged safe in your room."

" Oh thanks ! I'm sorry you should have had so
much trouble."

" Did you go to Deepford on purpose, Stephen ? "
said Posie, pushing her inquiries.

" I had business there," said Stephen dryly. But
his eyes met Posie's.

" That's just like you ! " she exclaimed. " That
was good of you, Stephen."

" It is only what any one would do, with a sense
of propriety," observed Mrs. Hardenbrook.

" Upon my word," said Erick, " I think a sense
of propriety would be satisfied with sending a man
after the things. I am very much obliged."

" I was afraid of some blunder," said Stephen.
"I observed there were a number of pieces; and
it is not every one that can count baggage."

" I should excuse myself for bringing such a lot
of trash into your house, aunt Maria; but my ex
cuse is, that a good deal of it is for you and my
cousin Posie."


"Trash!" cried Posie.

"Trash, in its present boxed-up condition. If
aunt Maria will let me, we will unbox some of it
after tea. Could 1 bring a packing case in here ? "

Mrs. Hardenbrook looked doubtful, but Posie
clapped her hands, with such expressions of delight
that her mother was fain to give in. So after sup
per Stephen's services were put in requisition again ;
and he and Erick brought into the garden room a
sizeable packing case, with sundry cabalistic marks
upon it in black and red paint, telling of various
travel about the world. Mr. Hardenbrook, his
wife, and Posie, gathered round it, curious every
one of them.

" I thought, aunt Maria," said Erick, as he and
Stephen knocked off the boards of the cover, " I
thought I would bring you, if I could, something
you had never seen before. I did not know, to be
sure, how widely your knowledge of men and things
might extend ; but I hoped you would not be famil
iar with China and Japan."

"Japan!" cried Mrs. Hardenbrook, while Posie
in similar tones exclaimed, "China! Does that
box come from there, cousin ? "

" Not the box, but the things in it some of them."

" delightful ! " cried Posie. " Now we shall see
a real thing from China ! "

"Why you foolish creature," said her mother,
"the cups you have just been drinking your tea
out of, came from China."

" From India " said Erick looking up.


" India ! Aren't they china cups ? "

"Certainly, and beautiful; but they were not
made in China."

"It always seems to me they were made in Bos
ton," said Posie; while Mrs. Hardenbrook looked
incredulous and a little put out. The attention of
both however was immediately riveted on the box,
where Erick was now uncovering some large object
with great care, and then with Stephen's help lift
ing it out. A large, tall and narrow, thin object;
from which paper after paper had to be cleared

" I can not imagine" said Mrs. Hardenbrook em
phatically, " what you possibly have got there."

" A picture " said Posie.

But without speaking Erick finished uncovering
and unfolding the object, which then proved to be
a screen. It had three panels, which displayed a
field of varied but very subdued hues of colour ; the
eye receiving at first only a general impression of
olives and browns and dark purple tints, with a
shimmer of gold through and over the whole.
Dark olive was the prevailing hue, unless you
took another angle of vision, and then the whole
seemed to be dull gold. The two ladies looked at
it in silence, somewhat blank. Posie was evidently
in doubt what to think. Mrs. Hardenbrook's face
was a study, for its discomfiture. She was in no

" That is from Japan," said Erick, in a tone of
satisfaction which was in comical contrast.


"And that is Japan fashion, I presume?" said
Mrs. Hardenbrook.


" I should think they must have an odd way of
doing things in Japan ! "

" The very oddest. Nothing there is like things
with us. See these figures, now ! "

"Why didn't they make it all of a piece, each
side, I mean ? There are four patterns in each side
each leaf of the screen; four changes."

"Japanese " said Erick; "that is all you can
say. Where they got their ways of doing things,
I am sure I cannot tell."

"That upper piece looks like patchwork," Mrs.
Hardenbrook went on, surveying the screen more
nearly. " Only such shaped patches! Just look here
Posie; look here! In this little upper part of one
side of the screen there are eight different patterns
like different bits of cloth, or chintz, joined to
gether; only, do see the shape of the bits ! Jagged,
and three-cornered, and no two of them alike. I
never saw anything like it in oE my life ! The very
spots are cut in two."

" And here's a monkey down here ! " cried Posie,
- "down here in the third quarter."

" Yes; you see he is in a sort of jungle or thicket
of leaves and fruit; having a good time."

" Horrid looking creature ! " said the lady.

" It's very curious ! " said Stephen. " And very

Nobody replied to that; and Erick, perhaps guess-


ing that his screen had failed to make any very
distinguished impression, turned to the packing
case again, and with much caution drew forth and
unwrapped another object, much smaller than the
screen. The floor began to be strewn with papers
and straws; however, nobody heeded that.

"This," said Erick, "is a teapot. And there's
a lamp stand for it somewhere "

He rummaged again in the box and found the
stand. When put together, teapot and lamp stand,
the whole made a very elegant little arrangement.
Teapot and stand were both, apparently, of metal ;
looking dark like bronze, but lustrous ; the teapot,
nevertheless, as Erick made them observe, was por
celain-lined. There was no denying admiration to
this specimen of Japanese work.

"But what is all this concern for? "asked Mrs.
Hardenbrook, indicating the lamp.

"That is for alcohol."

" What has alcohol to do ? "

." Make a fire, to boil your tea."

**Boil the kettle, you mean? Tea should never
be boiled."

"I don't know," said Erick lightly; "I am no
tea-maker ; but I believe that is the idea. You have
spirits of wine in this lamp, and it keeps the tea
pot hot boiling, if you like. I know the value of
such an arrangement in making coffee."

"Coffee! But don't they have fires in Japan?
or do they live without fire? That would be like
them, I suppose."


" Fire certainly," said Erick laughing. "I was
thinking of coffee making in England, and Paris,
and America."

" With spirits of wine ! Never heard of such a
thing in all my life ! "

What Mrs. Hardenbrook had never heard of, she
generally seemed to object to hearing of. Erick
went on to something else, getting his own amuse
ment by the way. The cups and saucers which
followed the teapot occasioned however the live
liest expressions of pleasure from both Mrs. Har
denbrook and her daughter. Beautiful ware, and
of shapes and patterns hitherto unknown in Cow
slip. Then came fans. Then came boxes, of dark
wood, elegantly carved; and Mrs. Hardenbrook's
satisfaction grew unmistakeable. The wrinkle left
her forehead, and her critical eyebrow was dropped ;
and as the room became gradually littered with cu
rious and beautiful trifles some of the things were
not trifles, she and Posie by degrees worked them-
selves into an enthusiasm of delight. Vases, mats,
chains, charms, puzzles, lanterns; what not? issued
from Erick's box; till at length the box was empty
and the room was full; and it may be said, also the
heads of the ladies. Then Erick went away to wash
his hands; and Stephen began collecting the straw
and rubbish from the floor and depositing them in
the box. Having done this, he carried off the great
packing case; and came back with a dustpan and
brush to getrid of all remainder of what Mrs. Harden
brook called the ' muss.' Mr. Hardenbrook looked on


"I declare, Stephen," cried Posie at last, "you
are too good to live. Mamma, just see how nice
he has made things again. Mamma, Tie ought to
have something."

"He may have that screen, for ought I care,"
said Mrs. Hardenbrook. " Did you ever see any
thing so horrid ? What Erick brought it here for,
or why he bought it at all, I cannot conceive.
It's the homeliest concern I ever saw, that set up
to be handsome."

" I think it is handsome," Stephen put in, look
ing up from his dustpan.

" I think it's as homely as sin. Then do take it
away, and put it where my eyes will never light
on it. I don't know whether it is queerer or

"But mother," Posie ventured, "what will Mr.
Dunstable think, if you give away his gifts ? "

" Does Mr. Dunstable suppose I am going to live
in this litter the rest of my life?" Mrs. Harden
brook returned sharply. "I am going to send
away all these things, somewhere, except one or
two of those vases. Erick will never ask what
closet they are in, will he ? Take it away, Stephen,
and do what you like with it. Don't you be a
goose, Posie!"

"Perhaps Posie would like to keep the screen
herself?" said Stephen.

" No, I wouldn't," said Posie. " If you like it,
I am glad you have got it, Stephen. I do not
admire it, any more than mother does. I was only


afraid my cousin's feelings might be hurt. No, I
don't want that monkey grinning at me."

So Stephen carried off the screen to his own little
room, where it was as incongruously placed as
anything could be. It was like none of its sur
roundings; it was of kindred associations with
none. The rough white walls, the rude little cot,
the wooden chair, and the small old trunk which
neld part of Stephen's clothes, all had no connection
whatever with beauty of form or richness of colour.
Perhaps that was one reason why Stephen liked the
screen so much. It was a bit of something his soul
loved. He set it carefully down, and sat down him
self and studied it. The grave rich harmony of its
tints, the sober sheen of its subdued gold, the odd
varieties in its construction upon which Mrs. Har-
denbrook remarked with so much disgust, yet which
rather served to heighten the sense of harmony; all
were delightful to Stephen. He feasted his eyes
upon it, this first bit of art (if it may be called so)
that had ever come into his possession. For Ste
phen had an eye for colour, although the sole culti
vation the taste had received was in his association
with nature. Nature however is not a bad teacher;
and somehow, from early years, Stephen had been
an observer and student, so far as he could, of nat
ural things. He always watched the sky and the
clouds, which most people notice only for signs of

Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 19 of 34)