Susan Warner.

Stephen, M. D. online

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" Do you think you know what hard times are?"
asked Erick, eyeing the pretty creature admiringly.

" yes."

" I don't believe you do."

" Yes, I do. I was away from home eight months
at a time, in a boarding school."

" That is fearful ! "

" Well I was very homesick. And do you think
there is anything much worse than homesick

" I hope you will never know anything worse ! "
said Erick heartily. " What do you think of this

"01 don't mind. It will shake off. I don't mind
at all. It is so delightful to me to be 'going'! I


don't mind anything. I only wish mother and
Stephen were not so far off."

" They're all right," said Erick, in a tone which
sounded content with the arrangement. He was
never weary of taking looks at Posie. She was
such a pretty creature ! so fresh and fair, very sweet,
a little piquant, innocent, bright, and happy. Her
blue eye had sense in it too, though sense was not
the predominant expression; one was rather struck
by the soft wilful play of feature, which must cor
respond to a like habit of mind. Erick puzzled
himself trying to find similes for her. Her fresh
ness suggested various lovely images of nature; a
strawberry peeping forth from under its screen of
green leaves, a branch of eglantine swaying its
blossoms in a breeze, a violet giving its sweetness
at your feet. Or was she rather like a kitten with
sheathed claws ? Certainly, if a kitten, with claws
sheathed; there was no scratching to be feared, in
any possible case. The most absolute sweetness
of temper and habit spoke in every look and tone;
but she was lively, and wilful. And so fresh. It
was delightful. Erick set himself to entertain her,
telling her of many sights he had seen in his wan
derings about the world; and nothing more was
said of Stephen. In due time, towards evening,
New York was reached, and the party repaired to
a hotel near the Station.

"Well," said Mrs. Hardenbrook to her daughter
when they found themselves alone in their room,
"how has the day been with you, Posie?"


"0 delightful, mother! Erick has been so en

"I am done over!" said the other lady. "The
dust was so frighfful, and the heat was so fearful,
and the noise of the cars was so dreadful/ I am
just half dead. I had nobody to amuse me"

"Didn't Stephen take care of you, mother?"

" He ? how should he ? He don't know how to
take care of himself. It was Erick brought me my
lunch ; Stephen didn't know enough to get it. A
nice person to look after the comfort of ladies trav
elling ! But your father would have it so."

" But Stephen would enjoy Niagara, mamma, as
much as any of us."

" Are we going for his pleasure, I want to know?
I have no objection to his seeing Niagara; only I
would have liked him to take another time for it.
I expect nothing but he will get us into some
scrape, lose our baggage or forget our tickets, or
something, in his stupidity."

" Mother, he is not stupid ! And Stephen is the
last person in the world to get into a scrape. He
never does."

" Do take that brush, Posie, and see if you can
get some of this dust off me."

They went to dinner, and after dinner they drew
together in a window of one of the huge drawing
rooms. Posie and her mother sheered off naturally
from the neighborhood of other people in the room,
and the window tempted them, looking out as it
did into one of the great thoroughfares. It was


unspeakably interesting to watch the crowd coming
and going past; and also now and then to steal a
furtive glance to see what was going on behind
them in the interior of the big room. This latter
for Posie and her mother; Stephen was exclusively
busy with what was outside, and Erick with his
immediate companions. At last the street grew
dark, and the more interesting passengers disap
peared from it; gone home to dinner no doubt.
Only Stephen still found food for his thoughts in
what he could see there. The others gave up

" How has the day been with you, Kay ? " Erick
asked. " Tired of the railway, aren't you, by this
time ? "

" Not at all tired except of sitting still. I should
like a good walk. No, I have enjoyed the day."

" By what process or potency of philosophy ? "

"No philosophy. I was simply looking at the
world, so much as I could see of it. You will re
member, that my eyes have had little to do with it

" But what under heaven could you see, between
Cowslip and here ? "

" Everything under heaven," said Stephen smil
ing. " I saw the country, the crops, the trees, the
houses, and the men and women."

"All pretty much alike, aren't they?"

" They did not seem so to me."

"Kay, we had a metaphysical discussion in the
cars, Miss Posie and I, about which I should like


to ask your opinion. You see, we could not find
amusement so easily as you."

"Why not?"

"Well, we did not understand crops, did not see
the trees and houses, and were not interested in
the men and women. It's all an old story to me,
you know." Stephen thought he could now under-
stand something he had once heard, and did not un
derstand, about a "law of compensation " ; but accord
ing to habit he did not speak his thought. Talking,
at least in company, was never Stephen's forte.

"You seem to find entertainment now, in the
dark," Erick went on.

" I do. I am just learning what a big place the
world is."

" Pray what part of the world are you looking
at, if one may ask ? "

"Those beautiful gas lights."

" Never saw gas until now ? "


"Well I envy you what is before you. To look
at the world for the first time, and with your eyes,
must be an experience ! "

" It's rather a bewildering experience," said Ste
phen. " The contrasts among the people that have
gone by here for this hour past, ."

" Contrasts ? " said Mrs. Hardenbrook. " Con
trasts are fashionable. Every colour is trimmed
with a different colour. The contrasts are beautiful.
1 noticed a rich purple silk a while ago, trimmed
with a border of black and gold; it was lovely."


" Yes," said Stephen, " and just behind her came
a little barefooted girl, ragged and dirty, with a
basket of fruit a great deal too heavy for her ; sh'c
had not sold half of it."

"It was covered up, Stephen; how could you
see ? " asked Posie.

"The weight of the basket bent her into a half
moon. And then came a workman with a box of
tools at his back, and a tired step, and an anxious

"Something had gone wrong with him," said
Erick lightly. " I dare say the lady with the pur
ple silk had an anxious face too."

"She had."

"You see, something had gone wrong with her.
Kay, turn about, you can't study faces now; what
a fellow you are ! Come back to our metaphysics,
and settle our question for us. Tell me; can a
man be happy when things are going wrong with

" Is that metaphysics ? " said Stephen.

" Yes. Answer."

" I should say, he could not."

"Ah! That is what I thought. Posie main
tained the contrary, and cited you as an ex

Stephen said nothing to that.

"Why can't he, Stephen?" asked the young lady.
" I thought you said, I thought you thought, "

" If things go wrong with a man," Stephen went
on, " it is because the man is going wrong."


There was a chorus here of exclamations and

" no, Stephen ! " " What absurd nonsense ! "
" But my dear fellow ! that's untenable."

" Prove it so," said Stephen calmly.

"Why it's a matter of everyday observation,
fake your man with the anxious face and the tools
at his back. He is out of work perhaps, and does
not know where to get more, and has a wife and
children. Or, the wife may be sick, and the chil
dren and the house are going to well, going to
destruction. Or he is ill himself. Is that his
fault ? in either case ? "

" Perhaps not."

"Perhaps not I"

" All three things might be his fault."

" They might. Assume, for the sake of the ar
gument, that they are not."


" Well, then what becomes of your assertion ? "

" You have not proved yet that things are going
wrong with him."

Here came another chorus of outcries.

"With wife and children sick!" " With no work
and no money and no prospects ! " " Except the
prospect of leaving his family destitute! What
do you mean, Kay ? "

" What do you mean by things going wrong with
a man ? "

Several voices answered again at once. "Why
just what we have said." " Sickness and poverty."


" Want and trouble. Why Stephen, aren't things
going wrong with a man then? When he is in
want and trouble ? "

" Not necessarily. Not always."

" What stuff! " cried Mrs. Hardenbrook scornfully.

" Explain " said Erick.

" Are things going wrong with a man, that are
to help and not to hinder him ? "

"No! But"

Posie broke in. " Stephen, how can sickness
and poverty be any thing but a hindrance?"

"They can," said Stephen. "I only mean this.
If a man is going wrong himself, not serving
God nor doing his will, God is against him and
things are against him, just to drive him back into
the way he has quitted or maybe never entered.
But if he is doing his duty and living right, serv
ing God, then, ' if God be for us, who,' or what
'can be against us ?' It is impossible."

"But it is everyday experience," said Erick.

" No, only seeming. The promise stands against

" What promise ? "

" ' All things shall work together for good ' to
him. 'Things present and things to come, all are
yours,' if you are Christ's."

There was a pause.

"Then we come to our question, Kay," Erick
said. "You think a man can be happy when
things are going wrong with him or seeming to
go wrong ? liappy ? "


"Yes," said Stephen. "But as I said, things
never do go wrong with him, if he follows Christ
And he knows that, or he ought to know it."

" Suppose a case. Suppose the dearest wishes
of your heart were brought to nothing; and you
left with nothing in the world you cared about?
Do you think you could still be happy in that
case ? Such things happen."

" I do not know," said Stephen. " I have never
been tried."

" I am glad there is a remnant of sense left in
you ! " exclaimed Mrs. Hardenbrook.

" But I want to understand your theory," Erick
persisted. "Do you think happiness is possible
under such circumstances?"

" Suppose something else first. Suppose I love
the will of God better than my own ? "

There was silence.

" Does anybody really ? " asked Erick.

" I do not see how anybody who does not, can
be what I call happy, in any circumstances."

" Why not, Stephen ? " came in a somewhat timid
question from the lips of the fourth person.

" Because, that is the will which will be done,
Posie," Stephen answered in a tone of correspond
ing gentleness.

"If you go to the bottom of things, everyone
really must prefer his own will, I should think,"
said Erick.

"Then how can he say the Lord's prayer?"

" Stephen Kay, come to the practical and leave


theories ! Yon yourself, honestly, what is the fact
with yourself? Whose will is really dearest to
you ? Don't you want to have your own way,
like other people ? "

" Yes," said Stephen smiling, " if it is also God's
way; otherwise I would rather not."

" Suppose his will took from you all you care for?"

" I should suffer, like other people, no doubt.
The difference would be, that the will I love best
is done. It is always done," Stephen added, with
an indescribable shade of expression which made
Erick for the moment dumb. It was something
involuntary and quite impossible to feign ; a hidden
ring of steadfast content and joy, before which
theories and objections fell back ashamed. In the
dusk Stephen's face could not be seen.

"Now you know what I mean, cousin Erick,'
Posie said presently.

44 It's the most ridiculous talk /ever heard in my
life ! " exclaimed Mrs. Hardenbrook. " It puts me
out of all patience to hear it. It's nothing but
mere affectation, to hear a man talk so, and he
not a clergyman either; if he were, one could for
give him for talking in the air a little; but it is
downright blasphemy, / think, to say such things
about happiness and Providence, and absurd be
sides, for it is impossible ! "

44 Dear mother ! " said Posie, 44 you forget what
blasphemy is."

44 It's improper talk, aint it? and I hope I kno\v
what is iraproDer. I ought, at this time of day."


Stephen jumped up and said he was going for a
walk ; and Erick went with him.

" There ! " said Mrs. Hardenbrook, " now he has
gone and carried Erick off ! and we are left alone.
I do wish he could have staid at home, where he

" Mother, don't ! " said Posie. " He is as good as
he can be."

" He's as good, maybe, as a fool can be. But
just look at the difference between him and Erick."

The difference was marked, and manifold. Posie
spent the rest of the evening till their return in
studying it.



r PHE evening walk of the two young men was
1 prolonged, much to Erick's amusement and
to Stephen's delight. Stephen's curiosity was in
satiable, his interest in all manner of things inex
haustible ; and his companion watched with secret
pleasure the manifestations of both. Of course Ste
phen's ignorance of the features of a great city and
of the life that is led there, was huge. He was not
ashamed of it, and frankly applied to Erick for
information whenever his own natural sense and
shrewdness could not get at the meaning of things
he saw; but Erick was surprised to find how often
this information was unnecessary. No other sort
of conversation took place between them. Several
times it happened that Stephen would turn into
some great store, and look with charmed eager
ness at all he could see of its arrangements.

One of these places was a large bookstore, very
sumptuous in its fittings and magnificent in its
wares displayed on tables, and shelves, and counters.
Here Stephen made some stay, examining bindings,


looking at engravings, and reading titles of the
books. At last Erick, who had wandered away in
search of something he wanted, t- >ming back, found
Stephen standing by one of the tables with a small
volume in his hand and completely absorbed in
reading. He started when Erick touched him,
nodded, went up to one of the clerks and asked
the price of the book. It was somewhat high for
its size and also for the size of Stephen's finances;
however, it was purchased and paid for without
hesitation ; and with the volume in his pocket and
an air of undisguised satisfaction, Stephen left the
shop. Erick was about to ask a question, when some
other subject was started; and during the rest of
the walk he never got back to the book. He re
turned to the hotel, I may remark, with his opinion
of his companion a good deal raised. He had found
Stephen not only full of curiosity, but also full of
quick appreciation ; with a ready intelligence, and
a most sound and independent power of judging.
"Quiet as he is, he is no common fellow," was
Erick's private conclusion.

The next morning all was business. An early
breakfast, an early rush to the cars, and then the
rumble began again. As before, Mrs. Hardenbrook
had contrived to let Posie and Erick go in together ;
but this time there was plenty of room, and she was
obliged to take her seat, and to let Stephen, imme
diately behind the other two.

In the early beauty of the August morning the
Hudson with its rocky western shore was something


delightful to look upon. Soft haze lingering here
and there, a splendour of slant sunbeams, cool col
ours which would soon be hot and therefore were the
more prized, a slight stir of northerly air, though
that was perhaps simulated by the motion of the
cars ; all this made the hour exceedingly delicious.
Erick pointed out places, so far as he knew them,
to Posie. Posie was in raptures. Mrs. Hardenbrook
having arranged herself to be comfortable, at least
as much as possible, never looked out at all. Ste
phen sat with folded arms gazing from the win
dow, wrapped apparently in enjoyment and in
thought. Now and then Posie glanced back at the
two behind her.

" Stephen is having a good time," she remarked
with a smile to Erick.

" I envy him. He's taking it all in."

" Why are not you ? " asked the subject of their

"How could you hear what I said?" returned
Erick twisting himself round. " I have taken it in,
old fellow. I've seen it before."

Stephen's thoughts were not complimentary. He
thought, if Erick had taken it all in, he had never
seen it ! " There's more than I could take in in a
life-time," he said.

Erick turned again to attend to Posie; and for
hours there was no more intercourse between the
two pairs. To the rocks of the Palisades succeeded
the wide reaches of Haverstraw bay and Tappan
sea; the sun rose higher and hotter and shone yel-


low upon the white marble walls of Sing Sing; then
the river shores began to close in ahead, and the
train stopped for its ten minutes at Peekskill. All
this while Mrs. Hardenbrook had noticed that the
two young people before her had plenty to say to
each other; and that Stephen still sat with folded
arms, gazing and gazing, and hardly stirred hand
or foot.

" Well ! " said Erick, looking round as the train
slowly glided up to the station. " How do you

" It's awfully hot ! " said Mrs. Hardenbrook.

" Hot ? mother ! " said Posie, " it is just pleas
ant. How are you getting along, Stephen ? "

" It's better than yesterday," he said.

"Yes, I think so too," said Posie. "The river
is pretty, isn't it ? "

You are ! was Stephen's mental answer, but he
kept it unspoken. Posie's face was so fresh, so
bright with youth and pleasure and sweetness; a
little flush on her cheeks, it might have been ex
citement, though Stephen laid it to the account of
the August day; a shining in her blue eyes, which
seemed to have sympathy for everybody; and the
rosy, pretty, variable mouth just parted with a half
smile. Mrs. Hardenbrook saw it all too, and
thought the heart must be hard that could with
stand her.

" We are just at the entrance of the Highlands,
Erick says," she went on.

" What are the Highlands ? " Stephen asked.


" The best part of the river, he says.

" Some people prefer the Catskill region," Erick

" If it's better than what we've had, it will be
very good ! " said Stephen, opening his arms and
refolding them, as if to be in readiness. for what the
further way might bring.

" Kay, I envy yon," Erick repeated.


"Your enjoyment. Your power of enjoyment.
/ never got so much out of the Hudson river."

It crossed Stephen's mind that Erick had the
best of it however, inasmuch as he sat by Posie and
had her good company quite to himself. He would
have liked to be in Erick's place, and would have
found it a great enhancement of his pleasure. He
folded his arms over his loss, and gave himself up to
the pleasure that remained to him. And as the
train rushed round Anthony's nose and through the
tunnel, and then swept up along the beautiful shore,
where the hills are highest and the river narrow
est, I confess he forgot that anything could bo
wanting to him, and breathed and lived for the
moment in the sense of wonder and beauty. Past
West Point, which Erick pointed out, past the
Crow's Nest and Butter Hill, under the tunnel at
Breakneck, and out upon Newburgh bay.

" The best is past now," observed Erick.

"This will do pretty well," answered Stephen,
looking over the broad waters to where the houses
of Newburgh climb up their steep bank.


"It's getting unbearably hot!" said Mrs. Har-

" I'll bring you a cup of tea when we come to
Poughkeepsie," said Erick. " Or lemonade, if you
like that better. We will lunch at Albany, and
can lunch very well there, too."

" It's the one comfort of travelling ! " said Mrs.
Hardenbrook, " that one's meals taste so good."

Accordingly she did enjoy her cup of tea at Pough
keepsie; but the rest of the way was sadly tiresome
to the poor lady. Erick and Posie were getting on
nicely, she saw; so she tried to go to sleep; while
Stephen was lost again in delighted wonder from the
time the range of the Catskill came into view. He
watched their blue outlines as they rose nearer and
nearer; studied all that could be seen of their forms;
fed his eye on their lights and shadows; and was
sorry when at last after many a mile of beauty the
mountains were slowly left behind. However, if
beauty for the time failed him, discovery still re
mained ; and Stephen could have stood an exami
nation on the character of the upper reaches of the
river by the time they reached Albany.

Here Mrs. Hardenbrook roused herself. Erick
had carried Posie off to get some refreshment, and
Stephen was waiting to attend Posie's mother.

"I think I won't get out," said the lady; "it's
such a bother, and I'm always so afraid I shall get
left; and there's such a horrid confusion of every
thing between here and the lunch room. I'll let
you bring me something, Stephen; that will b


best. What? anything you like; anything
you find; only make haste, or you won't have time
to get me anything, Stephen! 1 ivoifld like a cup
of tea; that cup of tea was so good at Poughkeepsie."

Stephen ran off; brought the tea and an assort
ment of other tilings less unsubstantial; sat down
with a sandwich in his hand to await the clearing
of Mrs. Hardenbrook's cup and plate, which must
be carried back again ; and studied the varied life
of the Station, so as he could from the car window,
while he munched his bread and ham. Mrs. Har-
denbrook sipped her tea, which was very hot, and
meanwhile made the most of the other viands; de
livering at last her empty cup and dish to Stephen
when he had but just time to scamper back and
restore them and scamper again over the lines of
rails to regain his place in the car. While he was
gone on this errand, Posie and her attendant came
in, with that unmistakeable air of contentment which
people wear when they have lunched to their satis
faction. Though I should have remarked that the
Hardenbrooks called it dinner.

" Well, mother dear," said Posie, " did Stephen
bring you anything good? did you make any sort
of a dinner ? "

" He did as well as he knew how, I suppose," Mrs.
Hardenbrook answered, raising her eyebrows. " I
suppose he left all the best things. I was very
glad you had Erick to attend to you, darling. It
did not matter about my dinner. What did you


" just ham sandwiches and coffee, and cake ;
pretty good."

" Why that's just what I had ! "

"And Erick got me some peaches see, lovely
peaches; and he has got some for you, mother."

" How much luncheon did you get ? " asked Erick
in a sly aside to Stephen as he came in.

" ' Man wants but little here below* when he is
travelling," Stephen answered good-hum ouredly;
and resumed his place and folded his arms again as
the train slowly moved off. Erick looked at him as
at something of a study, before he himself took his
seat. After that, things went on as in the morning.
Mrs. Hardenbrook, satisfied with the condition of
affairs before her, went to sleep; Stephen studied
the valley of the Mohawk ; and Erick and Posie en
tertained each other. But it may be said respecting
the general course of these two days' travelling,
that as they went on, by degrees Erick found the
way more and more enjoyable, while Stephen's en
joyment was rather on the wane.

After the Mohawk valley was left behind, his at
tention was less securely held by the passing objects
without the car. A little of it now and then went
to Posie and her companion just in front of him.
Posie was wide awake, that he saw; and not intent
on the outside view. She was talking, he could see,
though he could not hear much; and Erick was
talking, and had plenty to say. Erick's face was
open to his scrutiny, and it was the face of a person
a good deal engaged with what was beside him,


Why should he himself be shut up so in a corner,
and another man enjoy his privilege of taking care
of Posie ? Posie was his own charge ; had been his
charge ever since she was seven years old; what
right had this fellow, good fellow though he were,
to step into the place and do the service which be
longed to his own especial prerogative ? -Stephen
was in no sense a selfish person; nevertheless it
crossed his mind in this connection that Erich's

Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 22 of 34)