Susan Warner.

Stephen, M. D. online

. (page 25 of 34)
Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 25 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

speaking to Him, and constantly listening to his
speaking; whose thoughts and sympathies further
more are busy with the greatest and best of the
men that have lived on earth; their thoughts
and sayings and doings, their hopes and fears and
triumphs? What manner of man is he like to be,
who breakfasts with Abraham and sups with Paul
and sings David's songs in the night-time ? There


is but one answer; and yet the whole is not said.
For the mere literary qualities of the Bible must
not be overlooked. He who habitually studies it,
has his thoughts constantly engaged with the
greatest, widest, and most fundamental of all sub
jects; gains an indispensable key to all other
knowledge; and puts his taste and imagination
under the culture of the loftiest reasoning, and of
the grandest and tenderest poetry, and of the
most delicious English, that are to be found in the
whole stores of the language. It works refining
and beautifying and softening, as well as to strength
and nobleness. And so Stephen Kay, though no
college had harboured him, and no society so
called had given him its polishing touch, and
though his reading had been confined to a very
few books, was yet a thinker as well as a reader, had
a head in excellent training, and a very gentle culti
vation of the softer mental graces. And, as gener
ally happens, this cultivation shewed itself also in
the outward man and his habits; and the finest
politeness would have found no want in Stephen,
nor the most critical taste have picked out occasion
for offence.

The effect of their pleasure journey upon the
several members of the party, may be gathered from
the various reports they made of it.

" pa, it was perfectly glorious ! " Posie cried aa
she threw herself into her father's arms.

"Was it? What?" asked Mr. Hardenbrook,
holding her fast.


"0 everything, papa!"

" Everything ! That is sweeping. Well, Erick,
what do you say to Niagara ? "

" We have had a most pleasant trip, sir."

" It went off very well, " Mrs. Hardenbrook said
in private to her husband. " I really think Erick
is bitten. "

"I don't care much about that," said Mr. Har
denbrook, " if he's the only one."

" What do you mean by that, Mr. Hardenbrook?"

" Never mind," said her husband. " I am afraid
it is not what you mean."

Stephen's report was delivered to Jonto. As
he passed through the kitchen, she straightened
herself up from bending over the fire and looked
at him.

" Well, lad ! " said she," dar you is. What ha'
you got to tell folks ? "

" The Lord's works are wonderful, Jonto."

" Aint no need to go fur, fur to find out so much
as dat ! "

"No, true; and yet you do not know what my
words mean, and I cannot tell you."

" Well, what is it, anyhow ? "

"Niagara? It is a great green river, pouring
over a rock."

" Bigger 'n dis yer river ? "

" Cowslip ? that's only a mere brook to it"

" Clar ! Spect dat must ha' been a washer I An
did you get all you wanted, lad ? " she said, look
ing at him a little wistfully.


" I got a great deal more than I expected, Jonto,"
he answered, and passed on up to his own room.

" Dun no how dey's gwine to work it ! " muttered
Jonto as she turned to her cookery. "Shouldn't
wonder " But there she stopped.

Of all the party, however, Stephen was the one
who seemed to have got most good from his pleas-
are. Even the workmen in the factory noticed how
the young master, they did not call him that,
though, notwithstanding it was Stephen's real po
sition, they noticed that he was more "up to
business" than ever. His eye was more bright;
more quick it could not be, to see all it ought to
see; his spirit of enterprise seemed to have got a
spur ; he had novelties to introduce into the work.
For his second evening in New York had also
been used in making explorations, and that time
in a cabinet-maker's shop ; and he gave now orders
which Mr. Gordon was inclined to question. Gor
don went so far as to appeal to Mr. Hardenbrook
whether these new ways should be brought into
the factory. But Mr. Hardenbrook disposed of
the appeal very lightly, assuring Gordon with a
wave of his hand, that whatever Mr. Kay said Tie
eaid. And Stephen was more active than ever in
the outer part of the business; driving about and
collecting dues and engaging timber and receiving
orders, with increased spirit and success, if increase
could be, where all a young man's promptitude and
intelligence had been at work before.

With the other three of the travellers, life seemed


a little to flag. Erick was soon going away ; that
might have had its effect upon him ; and the ladies
found home a trifle hum drum after the Clifton
House and perpetual excursionizing. And then
just when things had settled down again into their
old course, Erick really did take his departure.

That made a difference in the home life that
everybody sensibly felt. Mrs. Hardenbrook in
dulged in open lamentations, and declared her-
eelf provoked that nobody else joined in with her.

"We are as dull" she said one evening at tea,
" as dull as dried peas ! "

" I always heard peas, shelled peas, referred to
as rather examples of liveliness?" Stephen said
with a roguish twinkle in his eyes.

" well ! " said the lady, " take what comparison
you like better ; of course it is nothing to you. We
are as dull as if we were on a perpetual railway

Here there was an outcry from Posie.

"0 mamma, how can you! As if a railway
journey was not something perfectly delightful ! "

" With somebody to keep your thoughts always
engaged on something else. Yes," said Mrs. Har
denbrook with lifted eyebrows, "I understand that
But now we are sunk down again into the flattest
of flats ! I do think, life at Cowslip is fit for noth
ing but one of those toads that live in trees for a
thousand years ! Nothing on earth happens, except
that we grow old."

"Stephen does not seem as flat as the rest of


you," remarked the master of the house. " He has
wound up things at the factory so that they are
going at a new rate. SJiarp's the word over there,
I should say. Gordon actually came to me this
morning to ask if that was to be the time of day I "
Mr. Hardenbrook laughed, well contented.

" What can you mean, pa ? " said Posie.

"Stephen has been introducing improvements
and making innovations. I expect he'll make his
fortune yet some day " said Mr. Hardenbrook,
complacently helping himself to butter.

"Mr. Hardenbrook," said his wife vexedly, "I
do believe you had not the taste to appreciate
Erick ! "

" He's rather a nice fellow," returned her hus
band. "I don't know whether he will make his
fortune. Anyhow, 1 can live without him. I hope
you can."

" Papa," said Posie, " I think he is very nice."

" Yes, my dear, as boys go. I am sure I have
nothing against him."

Mrs. Hardenbrook had sense enough to say no
more just then. But she let nobody forget Erick
for some time. Posie moped a little, but only a
little; and then things fell back into their old wont.



IT was quite true that Stephen shewed no depres*
sion at their guest's departure ; he acted rather
as if a weight were taken off him which had been
keeping him down. Now things went in their old
proper way again. He came at once into his place,
the place from which Erick had ousted him; he
was again installed in his rights as Posie's sole
attendant, helper, and guardian; as good as her
brother, in every way. And Posie was her old
sweet self; she did not seem to miss Erick, after the
first few days; her pretty face was as loving and
confidential and bright as ever, and her delight in
Stephen's society and her demands upon him for
all sorts of aid and comfort, were just after the old
fashion. The fall weather and frost came on, a few
weeks after Erick had gone; and Stephen and Posie
harvested quantities of nuts and brought home won
derful bunches of autumn flowers from the woods
and meadows. And they went driving, and they
took long walks together; and Posie tried to sketch,
while Stephen cut pencils and held umbrellas, and


contrived for her a capital little folding chair
which was always carried along on such occasions.
Stephen himself, too, had unaccountably taken to
botanizing. He had found or bought a book on
botany, and suddenly developed a passionate de
light in the study of all vegetable growths that
he could find near or far. He tried to draw Posie
in. Posie hearkened to his lectures, looked at his
specimens, endeavoured to understand the differ
ence between petals and stamens, and finally shook
her head.

" I like to look at the outside and you want to
get into the inside, Stephen. It is just the same
with this as with everything else. That is always
the way with you and me."

" Then we ought to teach each other," said he.

" I'll teach you, all I know myself; but I can't
go into things as deep as you do ; it's no use."

" Flowers are not deep."

"You are," said Posie laughing. "Here take
this pencil and see if you cannot draw something."

Stephen always did as she bade him, so he did now.
And by and by it was found that he had an eye
as true as a pair of compasses, and a hand as bold
and free and steady as the flight of an eagle. Posie
had very small knowledge to impart for his guid
ance ; only her entreaties stimulated him to perse-
verance, and very soon he needed no stimulating.
His delight in the work was enough of itself. And
Posie, who could do no great things with her own
pencil, had knowledge sufficient to see that Stephen


was quite outstripping her and shewing a very
marked capacity and quick growing skill. And now
the two spent literally all the time Stephen had at
command in the garden, the fields, or the woods.
In the more distant fields and woods when they
could; otherwise they betook themselves to the
garden. Those were times of supreme felicity for
both of them; they lacked nothing. What with
nature, and art, and each other, how could they
have more? And Posie's face was as fresh as a
wild rose, and as bright as a bob-o-link, and she
herself as running over with joy and merriment.
Stephen was cut in another pattern and shewed
his pleasure differently, but to one who knew him,
there was no difficulty in reading it. How shall
I liken Stephen's manifestation at these times ? I
can think of nothing but a deep inland pool or
Scotch loch; quiet and even, but touched with
every surrounding influence of beauty, and sending
back an answer to it; losing no smallest thing of
all that presented itself, yet giving the impression
not of momentary and superficial brightness, but
of an abiding depth of peace.

The two were out one day, one calm, gentle
October afternoon, at the edge of a piece of woods,
sketching. They were both working at the same
subject, and Stephen was absorbed in his drawing;
while Posie was playing with hers and thinking
of other things, more or less. Suddenly she broke

" Stephen, what makes you so happy ? "


" Why shouldn't I be happy ? "

Why indeed? for Stephen was just putting a
tree into its place in his drawing, and doing it with
a better touch and more success than heretofore.

" Well, you should be happy; and yet, Stephen,
what makes you so much more happy than other
people, who have as good as you have and more."

" I question that, mind you."

"Yes, but in many things they have. Cousin
Erick, for instance; he has everything you have,
and more of some things; why isn't he as happy
as you are ? "

" Did he say he was not happy? "

"No, no ! but I can see. It is easy to see. Erick
can be bright and lively and pleasant, and seem
to enjoy himself, but when 1 look from his face
to yours, there is such a queer difference! He
is bright, but he is not happy, He don't look

Silence, Stephen drawing very busily.

"But a man in Erick's place ought to be
happy " Posie went on.

" Everybody ought to be happy."

" Ought they ? Then people are not what they
ought to be, Stephen."


" What makes you different ? "

" Are you sure I am ? "

"Why yes! of course I am sure. Your face
shews it every day."

Stephen was again silent.


" And I don't see how you can say that every,
body ought to be happy. It is not possible for some

"There's no obligation where there is no possi

"Then how can you say they ought?"

" Because it is possible," said Stephen smiling.

" I don't see how you can say that, Stephen. It
does not seem to me reasonable. People are often
in trouble."

" Very often."

" Then they can't be happy."

" You are begging the question.**

" What is that ? "

" An expression I got from Dunstable. It means,
that you are taking for granted what you wish to

" It proves itself ! " cried Posie. " It is self-evident.
Trouble and happiness cannot go together."

" If that were true," said Stephen, going on with
his drawing, while Posie neglected hers, " there
could be no happiness upon earth."

"Why not? People are not always in trouble."

" Do you call anything ' happiness ' which will
not last ? "

" I don't know; well no ! perhaps not."

" Then the happiness which trouble would over
throw, cannot be happiness."

" Stephen," said Posie very earnestly, " have you,
do you know, a happiness which trouble iviU not
overthrow ? "


" I don't know, Posie. But I hope so."

'How can you?" said she astounded.

" Don't you remember our talking of this once
before ? Suppose I love God's will better than I
do my own?"

There was a pause, of more length than was
common when the length of it depended upon Po
sie. She studied Stephen, whose pencil went on
uninterruptedly with its busy work.

"Stephen," she asked with a voice somewhat
lowered, " does anybody do that really ? Isn't that
expression I have heard you say it before, but
isn't it well, just a way of expressing submission
to what one cannot help ? "

" Then it would not be true. For it means, that
I do not want to help it."

" Oh Stephen ! "

He lifted up his head now, and looked at her
with a singular look; it was so gentle and so
strong, and so sweet. Posie read it.

"Your face says the same thing," she cried;
"but Stephen, I do not understand how you can
mean it."

" It is nothing mysterious."

" It seems to me very mysterious. And more; it
?eems to me quite unnatural."

" It is not unnatural."

"I don't see how it is natural. I understand
submitting; it may be hard enough, but it is possible ;
but not to wish to change things Stephen, that is
extravagant ! "


"No," said he; "it is the most natural thing in
the world. It is only, loving God best."

" How do you mean, loving him best? " she asked
almost fretfully.

" Just that. Loving nothing else so well"

" But Stephen ! "

" What, Posie ? "

" I know religious books talk of that, but I al
ways thought it meant doing one's duty; doing
right, because it is what God commands, and being
patient in trouble because it is his will; but you
speak of liking the trouble ! "

" No, not at all ; only of liking the Will that
sends it. To like the trouble, would be unnatural."

" Stephen," said Posie, suddenly sitting up straight
and looking very eager, " do you mean this ? That
if I wanted something very much that you could do
for me, but you saw it would displease God, you
would do your duty of course; I understand that;
but do you mean that you would not rather please

" If I could " Stephen answered smiling

" No, no; I mean, would you rather please God
than please me? I don't mean duty; would you
rather, for the pleasure of it ? '*


" You would ? I thought you liked me better than
anything else in the world ! "

"So I do," he said in rather a lowered tone.
" And always shall."

There was again a pause; Posie perhaps trying


to order the seemingly discordant elements of
thought which had been presented to her.

" I do not see into it," she began again, in a
somewhat mortified tone. " I think I half think
you are mistaken, Stephen, and that this is fancy.
Or, what mother calls enthusiasm."

" Perhaps it is what she calls enthusiasm. Many
other people call it so too. But there are many also
to bear witness to it as sober truth. That little
book I got in New York bears witness to it. There
is a hymn there that I particularly like, which says
the same thing. It is about the ' Will of God.' It
goes on like this, Posie;

" ' I know not what it is to doubt;

My heart is ever gay;
1 run no risk, for come what wtti,
Thou always hast thy way.'

" Do you see, Posie ? "

"No, Stephen, I don't see a bit of sense in it
' His way ' is often to do just what you don't like."

" But if I love him so well that I love his will,
then, don't you see, all goes right with me always?
and nothing can go wrong ?

" 'I have no cares, O blessed Will !

For all my cares are thine;
I live in triumph, Lord, for thou
Hast made thy triumphs mine.

" ' He always wins who sides with God,

To him no chance is lost ;
God's will is sweetest to him when
It triumphs at his cost.' "


" Why ? " said Posie. " I don't see why."

" I have studied over that. I suppose, because
then he gets the taste of it pure and unmixed."

" Stephen, you do talk riddles to-day."

" No," said he, " I hope not. It is no riddle to
me. And at any rate, you see, Posie, that the
happiness that is grounded so, is beyond fear of
overturn. Take the Bible testimony.

" ' Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose
mind is stayed upon thee.'

" ' He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart
is fixed, trusting in the Lord.'

'"All things shall work together for good to
them that love God.'

" ' There shall no evil happen to the just.'

" ' The Lord God is a sun and shield ; the Lord
will give grace and glory; no good thing will he
withhold from them that walk uprightly.'

" ' Whom have I in heaven but thee ? and there
is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.'
What is the matter Posie ? ' "

For Posie was crying.

" If that is what it is to be a Christian, there are
very few Christians ! " she said without lifting her

" See you be one of the few, then."

" But if that is what it is to be a Christian, I am
not one, and I never was one ! "

"That don't follow. Everything must have a
beginning. Your Christian life, and every Chris
tian life, must have time to grow to maturity."


" How long has yours been growing ? "
" I hardly know," he replied. " It began when
I was a child, I think. There is another piece in
that book which almost tells my own story. I did
not know how to believe my eyes, when I read it

"0 Stephen, shew it to me ! "
" I haven't it here. I will when we go home."
Posie did not let him forget his promise, though
for the matter of that, Stephen never did forget his
promises; and she read the lines with intense in
terest; with even something like awe. Was this
Stephen? was this the life which she had always
supposed to flow in such narrow everyday chan
nels? Was this life of lofty imagination but
would she be right in calling it so ? was it imagi
nation ? Could it be reality ? Reality ? Posie
was ready to tremble. Who would have dreamed
all this could be true of Stephen ? that under his
very calm, unobtrusive manner, and practical, com
mon-sense way of attending to work and doing his
duty, there was hidden such an exquisite refine
ment of lofty communings and sympathies? that
his inner life was in such a sphere of sunshine and
upper air ? Posie pored over some of the verses,
feeling that sho had never known before what
manner of person this was whom she had made
her servant and playfellow and whom her father
had found his right hand manager. Was this
Stephen ?


" At school Thou wert a kindly Face

Which I could almost see;
But home and holyday appeared
Somehow more full of thee.

"I could not sleep unless Thy hand

Were underneath my head,
That I might kiss it, if I lay
Wakeful upon my bed.

' And quite alone I never felt,
I knew that Thou wert near,
A silence tingling in the room,
A strangely pleasant fear.

"And to home-Sundays long since past

How fondly memory clings;
For then my mother told of thee
Such sweet, such wondrous things.

" I lived two lives which seemed distinct,

Yet which did intertwine;
One was my mother's it is gone
The other, Lord, was thine.

"I never wandered from thee, Lord 1

But sinned before thy face;
Yet now, on looking back, my sins
Seem all beset with grace.

' With age thou grewest more divine,

More glorious than before;

I feared thee with a deeper fear,

Because I loved thee more.

" Thou broadenest out with every year,

Each breadth of life to meet;
I scarce can think thou art the same,
Thou art so much more sweet"


The whole hymn, but more especially these
verses, Posie read over and over, wondering at
what she read. Yes, this was like Stephen, she
could now see; like him and like his talk; only who
would ever have thought his quiet, even life had
such springs of power ! or that his evident happi
ness stood, like the celestial city, on such a founda
tion of gold and precious stones!



THE immediate consequence of this reading and
thinking was to make Posie feel humiliated,
and then, to make her feel poor; more really "poor
in spirit " than perhaps she had ever been in her
life. And when she gave back the book to Ste
phen, she asked him with tears to make her as
good as he was himself.

" I am not good," said Stephen smiling ; " and I
cannot make you good. Don't you know what to

" No. Stephen, won't you read the Bible with

No proposition could have seemed pleasanter to
the recipient of it; and neither could any have
wrought more pleasure to both parties in the work
ing out of it. All that whole winter there was
rarely a day that Stephen/ and Posie failed of their
reading. They had few external helps to study;
hardly a book but the Bible itself, and not either
of the two possessed even a reference Bible; but
however, perhaps it was as well, for Posie's ques


tions were simple, and best dealt with simply.
And to that work Stephen was quite equal. The
reading always developed into a talk, often very
deep talk; absorbingly interesting, exceedingly
beautiful, of personal and practical urgent concern.

Mrs. Hardenbrook grew restless.

"What is all that discussion about, that you and
Stephen are so .fond of?" she asked discontentedly.

" mother, we are just reading the Bible."

"Reading! Talking isn't reading; and it is
talking I hear all the time."

" Not exactly all the time, mother."

" What are you talking about ? "

" Stephen was explaining things to me."

" He had better keep to what he understands ! I
don't believe in discussing over such things. What
we have to do with the Bible is just to believe it
and do as we are told. You children, much you
know about explanations ! "

" Mother, it isn't that sort of explanations."

"What then?"

" I want to understand what I ought to do."

" And you think Stephen can tell you ! He, who
has not even been through college ! "

"Dear mother, college does -not teach people
their duty."

" I should like to know what it is good for,
then! Why Posie, you are ridiculous. Every
minister you ever saw in your life has been
through college; and he couldn't be a minister if
he hadn't*'


Posie let that pass. The readings continued,
and so did Mrs. Hardenbrook's uneasiness. And
if anything had been wanting to bind the two
young people faster together, truly nothing better
could have been devised. Posie's sweet, earnest,
innocent face never looked sweeter than when her
eyes were searching the Bible and Stephen's feat
ures alternately, to find out the truth and her duty.
Its honesty and simpleness and tenderness, often
with tears trembling in the soft eyes, and the
mouth grave and childlike, did well nigh bewitch
Stephen, though to do him justice he never shewed
it. And to Posie on her side, the strong, true grey
eyes into which she looked so frequently, called
unconsciously for a larger and readier tribute of
admiration and trust. And Posie paid it. They
were such true eyes ! and so gentle and so steadfast
at once! and the mouth was so quiet and firm.
Posie had got a key to Stephen's character now,
which allowed her to see much more of it than

Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 25 of 34)