Susan Warner.

Stephen, M. D. online

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"Wait for me a moment, cousin Erick, will you?
I want to speak to Stephen."

With the word she started off towards Stephen's
place of study, or of view-taking, leaving her com
panion in a manner forbidden to follow her. He
stood still as directed, watching her glide down the
slope, noticing that her steps were hasty, and that
she at once sat down on the bank beside Stephen
as soon as she reached him. It was too far off for


Erick to hear what she said, and he found his po
sition presently the reverse of amusing.

" Stephen ! " cried Posie eagerly, " what are
you doing here?"

"What are you doing here?" retorted Stephen

" Erick and I were just going up to look at the
fall, and I spied you under these trees. I have
missed you all the afternoon."

"Thank you."

A minute's pause.

" Stephen," Posie spoke with wistful intonation,
u were you vexed with me yesterday ? because
I went under the fall, when you told me not ? "

" I don't think I told you not."

"0 well, you said what shewed me what you
wished, and that ought to have been enough. It
was foolish of me to go ; but you see, I did not know
what it was; and Erick did not know."

" I knew that."

" How came you to know ? How came you to go
there, by yourself?"

" I wanted to find out whether it was safe and
proper for you to go."

" Stephen ! Did you go just for that ? " said
Posie, looking very much concerned and conscience

"It wasn't much use," said Stephen smiling.
"As it turned out."

" Stephen, it's horrid ! I did not want to say so
before Erick, for he would have been hurt perhaps,


as he was the cause of my going; but I never was
so glad to get out of anything in all my life.
Well, it has been a lesson to me. I will never do
anything again, as long as I live, that you tell me
not to do."

Stephen said nothing to that.

" What have you got there, Stephen ? It is not
your Bible."

"A little book that I picked up Wednesday
night in New York."

" Stephen, do you think there is any more harm
in walking and talking, than in sitting still and
talking? You won't walk on Sunday, I know;
but isn't this just as good a place as the hotel
piazza ? "

" It is much better, I think."

" Then will you come with us ? we are just going
up to look at the Horseshoe."

" Can't have a better place to look at it than I
have got here," said Stephen. " What have you
done with Mr. Dunstable? You had better join

Posie had not been without a certain conscious
ness, during these days, that Stephen had been
somewhat left out in the cold; she willingly sig
nalled Erick to come to them, who willingly obeyed;
and presently they were a cosy party of three on
the bank, in the shadow of the trees, and enjoying
a very magnificent view of the river and both falls.
They all sat silent a while, looking; and the min
utes of silence stretched themselves on. At their


right rose the column of vapour, where the mass
of waters throws itself over the rock ; opposite them
was Goat Island, illuminated by the western sun;
further down, the fair American fall with its deli
cate tones of colour; at their feet the turbulent
river, in its deep, clear, beautiful, unimaginable
green, hurrying and whirling along, with wreaths
of white foam here and there setting off the green.

" Kay," said Erick breaking the silence that had
crept upon the group, " doesn't all this make you
feel uncommonly small?"

"No," said Stephen. The answer was not ab
rupt, but however it was decided.

" Why should it ? " he asked presently, as Erick
said no more.

" It is so tremendous ! It speaks so of the great
ness of the Creator. Don't you feel almost op
pressed by that thought ? "

"No," said Stephen again. "It does not speak
his greatness to me any more than a rose does.
And the thought anyhow is not oppressive. Why
should it be oppressive ? To me it is the very re
verse. It is inspiriting."

" It crushes me," said Erick.

"That's not natural. I never heard of a child's
feeling oppressed by a knowledge of his father's
greatness, or feeling small himself in consequence,
either. It works the other way."

"That is you, Stephen," said Posie; "it is not
common folks."

" It is for common folks though," said Stephen


"It is for very common folks. Only, of course,
they must know they are God's children."

"That is too much to say," here Erick put in.
" To know that, is more than any mortal can."

" Can't you say the Lord's prayer ? " said Stephen.
" We are told to pray so. And that begins with
'Our Father.'"

" One can say that," replied Erick. " We know
he is the Father of all. That is something differ
ent. ' Our ' is different from ' My.' "

" The first person plural includes the first person
singular, though," remarked Posie.

" Grammatically "

"What's grammar good for?" said Stephen.
" But I am sure the Bible bids us ' rejoice always' ;
and how anybody can rejoice with that question
left in uncertainty, is what I cannot imagine."

" It seems to me, certainty is rather presuming."

" It would be presumption for disobedience."

There was something in Stephen's tone which
struck the two others. He was looking away at
the Great fall, speaking thoughtfully, not contro
versially; and in his words there was a slight,
unconscious, contented, accent of gladness, which
bore sufficient testimony to the fact, that in his
mind obedience knew it was not presuming. The
others were silent, gazing also at the display be
fore them, but hardly thinking of it.

"Still" Erick began again "to go back, all
this greatness and magnificence of creation makes
me feel infinitely small."


" It is the greatness and magnificence of the
Creator," responded Stephen; "and where would
we be, but for that? Listen to something I have
found here."

He turned to his book, and opened it where his
finger was keeping the place between its leaves.

" ' Majesty unspeakable and dread !

Wert thou less mighty than thou art,
Thou wert, O Lord, too great for our belief,
Too little for our heart.' "

"What is that?" said Erick.

" I don't understand it," said Posie.

"It is true," said Stephen. "It seems to me
now as if I had always thought it, only I never
put it in words till now; it seems as if I must have
written this myself. I have been enjoying it un
speakably. Just listen,

' ' But greatness which is infinite, makes room

For all things in its lap to lie;
We should be crushed by a magnificence
Short of infinity.

' We share in what is infinite: 'tis ours,

For we and it alike are thine.
What I enjoy, Great God! by right of thee

Is more than doubly mine.

1 ' Thus doth thy hospitable greatness lie
Outside us like a boundless sea;

We cannot lose ourselves where all is home,
Nor drift away from thee.


" ' Out on that sea we are in harbour still,
And scarce advert to winds and tides,
Like ships that ride at anchor, with the waves
Flapping against their sides. 1 "

" Isn't that good ? It is such an image of tran
quil security."

"That's very fine!" said Erick; "all that you
have read ; but it is somewhat beyond ordinary ex
perience, I am afraid. It bewilders me, rather."

" Go on, Stephen," Posie said. " I don't under
stand it, but all the same I love to hear it."

Stephen obeyed.

" Here's for you, Dunstable," he said.

" ' ITius doth thy grandeur make us grand ourselves;

"Tis goodness bids us fear;
Thy greatness makes us brave as children are,
When those they love are near.

'Great God ! our lowliness takes heart to play

Beneath the shadow of thy state;
The only comfort of our littleness
Is that Thou art so great

" ' Then on thy grandeur I will lay me down;

Already life is heaven for me;
No cradled child more softly lies than I,
Come soon, Eternity ! ' "

Posie's eyes had filled brimful of tears. " Ste
phen ! " she said, " I do not feel like that."

But he was silent. Nothing was plainer than
that he did.

"If that is the way you look at things," said


Erick, you must have had a royal afternoon out
here, this Sunday."

" I have had that."

" But, my dear fellow, you are taking a soaring
flight above most people's experience! We can
hardly follow you with our eyes."

Stephen again made no answer, and the silence
was this time of some continuance.

" What is that book, Stephen ? " Posie asked.

" I hardly know the name," Stephen answered,
turning the leaves. "I found it in a bookstore
Wednesday night ; and it is full of most wonderful

" I did not know you were poetical before. It
is all poetry, I see from here."

"I do not think I am poetical," he said smiling;
" at least I do not care for the poetry without the

" Poetry is never without its truth," said Erick.
" At least, so they say."

" I thought I had seen some."

" Then it was not poetry. It might have been

"You are getting beyond me now. I thought
rhyme was poetry. It isn't prose."

" It is awful prose sometimes," said Erick.

" ' Mary had a little lamb,

Its fleece was white as snow;
And everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.'

What do you think of that ? "


" But Erick," quoth Posie, " could you not quote
instances also where there is poetry without truth?
This is truth without poetry."

" I cannot," said Erick. " If you can, coz., I
should very much like to hear."

Posie meditated; and presently brought forward
one and another well known passage, which she
and Erick discussed, each trying to prove his posi
tion. The discussion grew lively. Erick's enjoy
ment in it, however, arose largely from the free
opportunity it gave him to watch his pretty oppo
nent. Posie was so very pretty; and just now
shewed it particularly. She had let her hat slip
off, as she was under the screen of the trees; and
her sweet flushed face and curly, rumpled hair
were otherwise unshaded. There was an uncom
mon mingling of youthful innocence and womanly
intelligence in the face; it was sweet, with no
insipid sweetness or insignificant good humour,
but lively and bright, and varying in its play; arch
and wilful, and at the same time true. Erick
looked, and feasted his eyes, without Posie being any
the wiser. Stephen now sat silent, with his face
turned toward the great fall ; if he knew how lovely
that other face was, Erick could not determine; his
admiration at any rate was not apparent. In the
talk about true and false poetry he took no share
at all. Erick and Posie carried it on for some time.
Both at last appealed to him.

"Stephen, I know you think as I do?" said


"Kay, you don't say a word; what are you
thinking of?" demanded Erick.

" I was thinking that it is Sunday."

" Sunday ! what of that ? "

"01 might have known what you were think
ing," said Posie. " I forgot, Stephen."

" What of Sunday ? " said Erick again. " We
are not doing anything. What on earth do you
mean, old fellow ? Do we disturb you ? "

" I do not want you to go away," said Stephen,
"if that is what you mean."

" But I know you would like us to talk of some
thing else," said Posie. " Stephen, have you been
reading that book all this afternoon ? I should
think you would be tired and want a change."

"Tired!" Stephen echoed. "With the roar of
those waters making a base to the music all the

"What music?"

" Listen. There are so many places I would like
to read to you, I do not know where to begin.
Take this:

" 'How dread are thine eternal years,

O everlasting Lord !
By prostrate spirits day and night
Incessantly adored 1

" 'How beautiful, how beautiful

The sight of thee must be,
Thine endless wisdom, boundless power,
And awful purity I ' "



" Yes," assented Erick ; " I grant you there is a
fitting accompaniment here for such words."

A little awe had fallen upon him and Posie
again, from a certain ring in Stephen's accent
which again testified how true the words were for

"But Stephen," said Posie, "one cannot bear
such thoughts too long."

" Then I'll give you another. Listen :

" ' Yet I may love thee too, Lord !

Almighty as thou art,
For thou hast stooped to ask of me
The love of my poor heart.'

And back here;

" ' For thy grandenr is all tenderness,

All motherlike and meek;
The hearts that will not come to it
Humbling itself to seek.

" ' All fathers learn their craft from thee;

All loves are shadows cast
Fi-om the beautiful eternal hills
Of thine uribeginning past.' "

" That's very fine," said Erick.
Stephen went on.

" ' There's not a craving in the mind

Thou dost not meet and still;
There's not a \rish the heart can have
Which thou dost not fulfil.' "


"0 but Stephen!" cried Posie; "that is just
one of those passages I spoke of, where poetry is
not exactly truth. That's too much to say."

" It is not more than Christ said," Stephen an
swered, closing his book upon the finger that kept
his place.

" Said where ? "

"You know 'I am the bread of life; he that
cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that be-
lieveth on me shall never thirst.' 1 "

" but, that means"

"He said the same thing to the woman of Sa
maria. ' Whosoever drinketh of this water shall
thirst again; but he that drinketh of the water
that I shall give him, shall never thirst.' "

"But, all cravings and wishes! " said Posie.
"That is too much."

"You think He cannot do it?"

" It is not human experience," said Erick.

" It was this man's experience, who wrote this

" Stephen, is it yours ? " asked Posie. " Can you
say those words ? "

Stephen did not immediately speak; his face told
nothing; it was thoughtful and calm. The other
two watched him.

"What's to become of me, if I cannot say it?"
he asked. " What is to become of all cravings and
wishes, if they cannot be stilled so ? "

" Why ? Cannot they be stilled by being grati
fied? Mine are, generally."


"You have not set your heart upon any very
great thing yet," Stephen said, turning his eyes
upon her. "You have had what you wanted,
pretty much, Posie."

"Haven't you?" she asked quickly; for some
thing in his look was beyond her reading and dis
turbed her. But he answered a quiet "yes," and
with a smile.

" Then what are you talking about ? "

"About wishes that cannot be gratified; things
people set their hearts on, that nevertheless they
must go without; or that are taken away after
they have been gained. What's to become of hap
piness then ? "

" What's to become of it in any case ? "

" It's safe enough," Stephen answered soberly,
" if it is in the Lord's hand."

" Do you mean, He can make them happy if they
have nothing else ? "

Stephen smiled again, but instead of replying,
turned to his book and read.

" 'All things that have been, all that are,

All things that can be dreamed,
All possible creations, made,
Kept faithful, or redeemed,

" 'All these may draw upon thy power,

Thy mercy may command;
And still outflows Thy silent sea,
Immutable and grand.

' little heart of mine ! shall pain
Or sorrow make thee moan,


When all this God is all for thee,
A Father all thine own? ' "

Posie looked ready to burst into tears.

" But Stephen ! " she cried, " that is power; and
power never made any one happy?"

" No," said Stephen, " it is infinity."

"But infinity " said Erick; "that is a cold
idea. We want something nearer to us; more

"Then infinite Love? And what could even
infinite love do, if it had not the power? No, if
you think of it, nothing less than infinity would
satisfy us.

" ' The only comfort of our littleness
Is that Thou art so great.' "

"But Stephen, it is so far off!" said Posie, who
seemed to have found in the line of talk something
eminently discomposing.

" That is because you are far off, then," he an
swered. " ' Draw nigh to God, and he will draw
nigh to you.' "

They were all silent again for a space ; and Eriofc
speculated about several things. Lying at ease
upon the warm turf, he looked down into the
chasm where the green water was rushing and
boiling in a kind of fury of turbulent haste; not
thinking indeed of that, but marvelling just what
sort of person Stephen might be, and what rela
tions were those which subsisted between him and
Posie. Posie was sitting there thoughtful and


troubled; Stephen was thoughtful too, but a face
less troubled it would be difficult to find. Had he
been thinking of Posie a little while ago? were
his wishes tending that way, and was he contem
plating the possibility of their turning out to be
vain wishes? Then how could he be so reposeful?
And what made Posie care so very much what he
thought and felt, or how he judged principles and
actions? She cared too much, Erick thought.
Was she then only amused with himself? Not
flattering to think ! but then, these two had grown
up together like brother and sister. Was it like
brother and sister? He had better watch and find

" It's astonishing, Stephen," said Posie as they
rose up, " how often without meaning it you make
me very uncomfortable ! "

He might make some little polite or kind answer
to that ! Erick thought. Stephen made none. He
only gave his hand to Posie to help her up from
the grass.

" Perhaps he did mean it," suggested Erick.

But Stephen still said nothing; and they walked
back to the hotel.

" Well ! " said Mrs. Hardenbrook, " so you have
brought Stephen home. Where did you find him ? "

"On the bank, mamma, with a book and the
great fall; having a good time."

"I always thought," said Mrs. Hardenbrook, "that
the right sort of religion did not make people
Unsociable! "



MONDAY morning came, and with it an end of
the Niagara sojourn. The little party set
out upon their journey homeward. And as in
coming, so now; Stephen looked after the baggage
and Mrs. Hardenbrook, and Mr. Dunstable took
care of Posie. It was not through selfishness on
the part of these latter; they were simply so en
grossed with pleasure that they did not think of
business. Even in a railway car, it was great fun,
as Posie would have called it, to have Erick devot
ing himself to her and spending his strength in
entertaining her. It was rare fun too ; the oppor
turiity did not come to he,r frequently, in her very
quiet life ; and she enjoyed it now with the sort of
keen zest with which pussy may be supposed to
taste the cream, when by an odd chance she finds
herself in the dairy. Only, to be sure, there was
no sense of getting anything by stealth in Posie's
case, or anything that did not belong to her; she
was but receiving her rights; whether anybody
else had any rights, for the moment she forgot
As for Erick. he may be forgiven too; he was over


head and ears in something more deafening than a
fur cap with ear lappets.

So three of them were happy, for Mrs. Harden-
brook had her desire. And Stephen, how went the
journey with him ?

He thought the cars moved rather slowly. To
be sure, he filled a gap and did the work com
mitted to him, which to men of his temperament is
always satisfactory; but work is not play, and he
had the view continually before him of two people
who were playing very hard. It is proverbial, that
other people's play does not rest one. Stephen took
it quietly, however ; he reflected that Erick's visit
would not last always, and that when he went away
all things would return into their accustomed chan
nels. Posie would be his own again to take care
of; for that she found only a passing amusement
in their visiter he was sure. He did not blame
her; Erick ivas very agreeable and entertaining;
and Stephen was tempted to draw contrasts again.
Travelled, educated, well looking, well mannered,
with what seemed to Stephen at least the habit and
the knowledge of the world; independent, or de
pending upon a profession which was abundantly
remunerative, or would be ; who could have more
advantages than Erick Dun stable? And himself
on the other hand, inexperienced in life, able to tell
of no adventures and to describe no foreign lands;
knowing indeed personally no larger share of the
earth's surface than Cowslip and its vicinity; not
educated nor travelled ; a poor fellow, useful certainly


in Mr. Hardenbrook's factory, but easily to be dis
pensed with even there, and entirely dependent on
the good will that kept fast hold of him. Stephen
hardly thought all this out; it was never his way
to speculate upon himself, and he had given up
fretting on that subject; but in a latent sort of way
all this was known to him and present with him ;
and he so accounted easily for Posie's fascination
and for the place the new cousin had taken in the
family. It did not make either fact exactly pleas
ant; but Stephen was not the man to brood long
over that or anything else. He went back to his
little book, which he had brought along in his
pocket; and somehow, his was not the worst time
or the dullest day of the party.

In thinking of Erick's advantages, I may remark,
Stephen had undervalued his own. He hardly
knew that he had a very fine, manly face, full of
both strength and softness; but the strength could
never be mistaken. It was seen too in the unruffled
manner, so expressive of self-poise ; in the evenness
of deportment, which testified not only to sweet
ness of temper but to steadiness of will. His person
was good too ; well knit and strong; and supple, with
that ease of motion which comes from such well-
knit joints along with unconsciousness of self and
habits of activity. So that externally Stephen had
nothing to fear from comparison with anybody.
It is true his education, in school, had been a slight
affair; but that was not the whole of the truth about
it. At home, in the workshop, and in his own little


room, as well as in business intercourse with the
world, Stephen had made the most of every open
ing to push his search after knowledge. He neg
lected nothing, and he forgot nothing. It is true,
his opportunities were not large; but every life
offers some ; and it is astonishing how much may
be done where a man does all he can. This had
been Stephen's constant practice; and one thing
more he had done; he had studied his Bible. And
if any one thinks that is only a single book and
not to be regarded as a great factor in educational
processes, let me tell him that it is more than equal
to any other hundred books he could pick out, and
a more powerful factor in the work of building up
a thorough mental structure than any other two
hundred that could be named unconnected with
it. For somehow, somehow, not only godliness
is "profitable for all things," but the Bible, the
chart and charter-book of godliness, is in another
way the same also. A man does not get mathe
matics out of it; but knowledge of human life,
knowledge of human nature, knowledge of hu
man history ; furthermore, what the schools never
give, comprehension of the true uses, end and aims
of human existence ; a balance to weigh the world
withal and all things in it, so that the small is no
longer mistaken for the great, nor the great for the
small. He finds a chrism there that clears the
mental vision ; a food that satisfies the soul hunger;
a guide that saves from false philosophy ; a leading
etar that keeps the mind's eye true. A field for


life's utmost work, a prize for its utmost endeav
ors, an object for its utmost capacities. Finding
all this, how should not strength and sweetness
both characterize his mental action? how should not
steady growth be crowned with both flower and
fruit? Or, to speak more simply, how should not
habits of thought and feeling grow to be just and
sound and generous; and all the work done in
them and through them be work to stand and last?
No energy misdirected, no powers misused, no de
sires misplaced; ah, the blessing of the first psalm
comes to such a one : " all he doeth shall prosper."
Even so, all has not been said. We know, for
it is matter of every day experience, in ourselves
and in others, that people grow like those they live
much with. Intercourse and association tell upon
the whole man; thought, action, aim, refinement,
culture, all are apt to go up or go down in the scale
according to the company one keeps; and that is
true of the company of books as well as of living
creatures. Then how will it be in the case of a
man who spends a large part of his time con
sciously in the presence of God ? who is frequently

Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 24 of 34)