Susan Warner.

Stephen, M. D. online

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for his coming home again. With her sharp eyes
perhaps she would be able to discern then some
thing of what was the matter; she never thought
of attacking him with questions. Simple and gen
tle as Stephen's manner was, and his nature too,
and though he had grown up from a little boy under
her eye, Jonto had an enormous respect for him ;
and she would sooner have taken a liberty with any
one else in the house.

She waited long, and Stephen did not come in.
She became very sleepy after a while, and dosed off;
starting to consciousness now and then, snuffing
her candle, and setting herself to renew her watch.
It grew late. She fell fast asleep at last, and waked
to find her candle burnt low, guttering fearfully, and
the room growing chill. Stephen might have come
in while she was nodding, and gone through to
his room; she would not sit up any longer. She
would have liked to go and peep into his room to
see if he were really in it, but she did not dare.
So she sought her own bed, feeling an uneasy cer
tainty all the while nevertheless that Stephen had
not come in. What then* could he be doing out
side ? It was starlight, soft and quiet; not a breath
of air sending down the elm leaves which were


ready to fall. Stephen would come to no harm out
of doors; but what could he be doing there?

Stephen was fighting such a fight as it is given
to only a few to know in all their lifetime. In the
top of the chestnut trees that afternoon he had
fought another, and gained it; the victory over
himself; the command of his feelings and mastery
of his reason ; so that he could lay his plans and
make his decisions and quietly communicate them
and entirely hide his springs of action from the
notice or sympathy of others. That had been done
and was over. What remained was harder; it was
even to take the will of the Lord and make it his
own. For Stephen lost no time nor strength in
wrestling with second causes. True, he might
have spoken sooner to Posie; he might have been
beforehand with any other wooer and so have se
cured her for himself. No doubt ; but at the same
time if she only loved him as a brother, Stephen
did not want to have her for a wife; he would not
wish to catch her so in the trap of an affection
which she simply did not understand. But he did
not even think of all this. He had acted as it be
came him to act, when he had waited; he had done
well to wait ; and now that waiting had turned out
to his own confusion, he saw in it a Will and a
Hand above all human agencies. He saw that ac
cording to that will, his place was not to be at
Cowslip, nor his work that of a cabinet maker.
For to stay there now, would have been, not diffi
cult or inexpedient, but merely impossible. He


saw the order to go away, as plainly as he saw
the denial of his heart's one wish. He must go,
and he must give up ; and what Stephen had now
to fight for was the power to do it willingly. I do
not speak of submission ; he had submitted. I do
not mean resignation, though he was not resigned.
Resignation does not express the need of the heart
of a child of God who lives, as Stephen lived, in
childlike confidence and peace with his heavenly
Father. That tenderness of love and union cannot
subsist where the wills are twain; and Stephen
could not live a day at a distance and deprived of
that love and union. But the fight to be fought to
give up one's will, is one of the hardest. To see
all you care for taken from you; plans for life
broken to pieces ; to feel the one thing your heart
cherishes torn from your hold ; and while yet bleed
ing and trembling to say with all your heart, " So
be it ! I am content ; " that is a task before which
human nature may well fear. And the soft, sweet
October starlight looked down on such a struggle
that night. It brought Stephen to the ground,
literally. On the short, warm, mossy turf under
the trees he lay prone ; for hours ; fighting his fight.
Some of your quiet, strong natures can make terri
ble opposition against what is contrary to them.
I think it is like the devil that possessed the boy
told of in the New Testament ; that " rent him sore "
before it came out of him. Something like such a
struggle as that is often necessary before the work
can be done. And note well, it is one thing to


give up all endeavour to change what is seen to be
the Lord's will ; it is another thing to give up the
ivish to change it. But without this latter attain
ment Stephen could not go on with another day's
work, nor go to his bed for a night's rest; no rest
was possible. There is a significant word in the
Bible, among many others, "Can two walk to
gether, except they be agreed? " Such a walk as
some of the children of God keep with their Father,
oears no shadow of disagreement; the joy of it and
the fellowship are gone with the first assertion of
t$elf-will. This was Stephen's case now; and till
this state of things could be changed and the old
one restored, he would neither come into his bed
nor into the house. For Stephen could live with
out Posie, but not without his Master !

Jonto came down in the morning at the usual
;ime, to find her kitchen fire in more than the usual
forwardness and the kettle boiling. While she
stood there before it, Stephen came in. She turned
Jo give a quick look at him. His face was certainly
pale, but placid as the soft eastern sky, where the
sun had not yet risen.

" Can you give me something early, Jonto ? " he
asked. " I have a long day's ride before me, and
want to be off."

" Dey has deir breakfust in de house by half past
seven aint dat early nuff to suit ye? "

"No; I want to be off by seven o'clock."

4 Den you sail. 'Spect I rrius' ha' been takin' a
nap when you came in last night; I didn' hear you.'


" I think not. You were not here when I came

" Did you lock de do' ? "

" I found it unlocked."

Jonto asked no more ; something in Stephen's face
deterred her; and indeed it was curious, the deep
respect with which the old woman always regarded
him, for anything less exacting than Stephen's
manner or temper cannot even be thought of.
Something of the same however was true in the
factory, and in the world at large; nobody ever
took liberties with Stephen. Jonto got ready his
breakfast now with a swiftness of which she was
well capable when she chose it; and gave him some
capital coffee, and baked cakes for him as atten
tively as if he had been a king. She noticed that
he drank his coffee somewhat eagerly, but had lit-
tle^appetite to bring to bear upon more solid food.
And he did not talk. Jonto sighed once or twice.
When breakfast was done and he was just ready
to go, Stephen paused a minute, looking at the old
woman quietly.

" Jonto," said he, " I expect to be back to-night.
But in a few days 1 shall go and not come back.
I am going away."

" I 'spects dat's a mistake," said the old woman,
meeting this announcement with incredulity and
dismay at once.

"No," said Stephen. " It is the Lord's will; and
you know he makes no mistakes."

"Mebbe 'taint his will, chile! How you know?"


" I know I must go. It will be all good, some,
how, Jonto."

And nodding to her kindly, Stephen left the
house. Jonto sat down suddenly, as if unable to

" What's dat now ? " said she, speaking to her
self in a low monologue and staring into the fire
as if it could answer her. " Dar aint nuffin' stays
still in dis yer world ! Aint no sense in dat, any
how. What's he gwine 'way fur? Don't b'lieve in
no sich motions. Aint he to home here ? and in
de hull arth he hain't no od'er; and aint a man
boun' to stay whar his home is ? An' dar's Posie
An' dar's de missus! aint she gone done sum-
fin ridiculous now ? An' dar's dat ar nefly
Wall, wall ! de Lord reigns ! but you's kingdom
is a confuse' place, Lord ! and t'ings don't get
whar dey b'longs, somehow, widout it's de wrong
t'ings. 'All be good,' did he say? Wall, boy, I
wish 'twould begin wid your face, den ! "

The day seemed long to more than Jonto. To
wards evening, indeed the dusk was falling already,
so that the glow of the kitchen fire was asserting
itself, Posie came in and sat down. Jonto was idly
sitting before the fire; her work done up; only she
was watching some apples that were roasting for

"Jonto," said Posie, "why is Stephen going
away ? "

" I dun know."

Jonto's speech was somewhat short, but that, as


everybody knew, with Jonto meant trouble; not

* : You know he is going?"

44 I knows it. Anyhow, he says so."

44 What Stephen says he will do, he will do."

44 Dat ar am his natur'."

44 But Jonto, what does it mean ? " said Posie with
a very troubled expression of countenance.

' 4 Laws, honey, I 'spect de debbil has been at
some o' his work somewheres. 'Taint like it's de
angels. I fought, Stephen Kay 'ud live here for
ever; sure; and I war jest a fool. 'Pears like dis
yer war de place fur him ; but sumfin's done gone
and druv him away."

44 But what can it be ? I thought so too, that
he would stay here always; it's his home; it's
where he ought to be. Jonto, Jonto! I
thought he would be here to take care of father
and mother after I am gone ! "

The old woman straightened herself up suddenly.

44 Whar's you gwine, Miss Posie ? "

44 didn't mother tell you ? "

44 Mis' Har'nbrook don't nebber tell me nuffin; about de fish and de waffles, and sich t'ings."

Posie hesitated.

44 1 am going too, Jonto," she said softly.

"Whar, den?"

44 1 don't know just where, yet."

44 What's you gwine fur?" Jonto demanded

44 O somebody wants me to go."


" Who's dat?"

"That is my cousin; you know; my cousin, Mr.

" An' dafs what he come here fur, hey ? "

There was a long pause, during which Jonto's
dark face shewed an access of gloom and dis

" So yous gwine away too ! " she began again.
"An* dar aint nobody what wants you to stay,
does you t'ink?"

Posie made no answer. Perhaps she was look
ing again at all that lay in the opposite scale of
the balance to that which Erick weighed down
so heavily; people do take such looks; although
they result in nothing but fresh conviction of the
weight in the descending scale. And Jonto after
that last question was quite silent, and sat study
ing the fire as if she had found something in it.
She seemed to have no more curiosity about Posie.

" I thought to be sure he would be here," Posie
then began again mournfully. " I thought Ste
phen would always be here to take care of father
and mother. O Jonto, I am so grieved!"

"'Spect you aint de only one." Jonto's words
were short.

" Why do you say that ? " said Posie looking up
from her tears. " Is he troubled ? "

"'Spect he haint forgot how he come here fust;
'taint like him, anyhow."

"But did he tell you anything?"

The old woman shook her head. " Dar is some


folks t'inks a heap, but dey don't say nuffin; I
guess he's one o' dat kind."

" Didn't tell you anything ! I thought perhaps
he had. But there must be some reason, Jonto ? "

"Dis yer's a fallin'-to-pieces world," said the old
woman thoughtfully. " I'd got it sort o' in my
head, dat dis yer family 'd stick togedder like;
'pears like everybody wants all de rest; but dar
aint gwine to be no family left. You's a gwine
one way, and Mr. Stephen he's a gwine anoder
way ; and clar, Miss Posie ! I'd like to go right
up along home myself. I jes* wish Mr. Stephen
war gwine to be whar you's to be I do ! "


"To take care o' you, chile; and mebbe a little
bit to take care o' him. I can't make out who's
gwine to do dat."

"Stephen will always be taken care of," said
Posie, breaking into fresh tears.

" 'Spect he will. But laws, Miss Posie, de world
is a mighty big place ! and I dunno if he'll find his
way. 'Pears I feels all onsartain about him. And
dat's onbelievin'; but I allus was weak when it
come to believin'."

" I would like to take care of him," cried Posie
weeping; "for I love him dearly."

" 'Spect you doos " said Jonto drily.

" And papa witt take care of him, Jonto. "

" Laws, chile, I don't 'spect he'll be poor, as fur
as de silber and de gold goes; taint dat ar what's
a worritin' me. De silber and do ^ld is de Lord's,


and I reckon he'll gib Stephen as much as '11 be
good for him. What's Stephen gwine to do, any
how, Miss Posie ? "

" I don't know ! He's going to college first."

"College? what's dat?"

"A place where young men go to get a great
education ; to get ready to be lawyers and doctors
and clergymen and learned men, and all that."

" Hm ! " said Jonto, with a mingled expression
of surprise and intelligence. " It's school, like."

" Not for boys, little boys. It's a school, if you
please, for men ; where they can fit themselves for
any work or place in the world."

"Hm ! " was Jonto's repeated commentary, as if
she had got some new light which partly contented
her. But she said no more.

For the next day and for several following days
nobody in the house got much speech of Stephen.
He was incessantly busy, much of the time away
from Cowslip, driving things to the point of order
and readiness at which he could safely leave them.
He did not take breakfast with the family; he was
off before that time; and he returned too late at
night to join them at the tea-table. Then Jonto
would give him a nice supper in the kitchen, and
Posie would come in to see him eat it, and to put
all the questions she dared. She could not see but
Stephen was very much like himself, at those times
His eye did not shun hers ; his answers were ready ;
his smile was free, and as sweet as it was wont to
be. But Jonto once, coming in as Posie left tho


room, saw that Stephen's head had dropped in his
hands; and his face when he raised it was graver
than she liked; and once or twice she caught a
long-drawn breath, what nobody ever formerly
heard from Stephen Kay.



days passed quick, and the last hard hours
1 drew near. Stephen went in to tea with the
family ; his preparations were all made, and he was
to set off early the next morning. Until that even
ing Mrs. Harden brook had hardly seen him since
his plans were made known; she gave him a bitter
sweet reception. Mr. Hardenbrook and Posie had
no words; but she kept the talk going.

" I think it is very hard of you, Stephen," she
said, " after the way we have been friends to you,
that you should go away now and leave us alone
just when you could be of use to us."

u It is hard, " Stephen answered.

" Mother," said Posie warmly, " he has always
been of use to us ! more than we to him."

"No," said Stephen; "that was not possible."

" Pretty near the truth, though," said Mr. Har
denbrook. "You have so much of the cat nature
about you, Stephen, that you would have fallen on
your feet anywhere; somewhere else if net here.
Of that I am convinced."



"Something else of the cat nature too," tne lady
went on ; " for when pussy has got enough of you,
she lets you feel her claws."

" mother ! " cried Posie indignant, " what do
you mean ? how can you speak so ? mother,
mother ! " Her face was aflame.

Stephen coloured a little, but said nothing.

" Nothing but a scratch," said Mr. Hardenbrook
quietly. " We all of us are more or less cats ; and
when pussy don't feel comfortable she puts out her
paw, and does not know herself how it hurts."

This brought the blood to the lady's face, and
for a minute or two she was silent; no longer.

" And what is it that is taking you away from
us, Stephen ? " she went on with her eyebrow very
much lifted. " Is it permitted to inquire ? I have
not been able to get any light on the subject."

"There is not much to tell," said Stephen. "I
am going out to find my work in the world; and
to do it; if I can."

*'Pray why can't you do it here, where you
belong? Have you asked yourself that question ? "

" It was not needful to ask it. I have not the
necessary preparation."

"For what?"

" For my work."

" What is your wort ? "

" I cannot tell yet. I do not know."

" How do you expect to find out ? "

" I shall stumble upon it somehow," said Stephen,
smiling a little, though it was a verv sober smile.


" Now I'll tell you what, Stephen Kay," said the
lady judicially and eyeing him hard; "the thing
is, you are ambitious."

"Of what, Mrs. Hardenbrook ? "

" You are going to college, aren't you ? "


"Well, that's it. You want to study Latin and
Greek, and make yourself a name in the world."

" I hope not."

" What harm if he did ? " broke out Mr. Harden
brook. "For my part, /should like him to make
a name in the world; and what's more, I expect he
will. I expect nothing else. He'll maybe be Presi
dent of the United States yet. It wouldn't surprise

" Wouldn't that be jolly ! " said Posie, who had
caught a little slang from her lover. "Then we
should all go to Washington, to pay our respects
and make our court to Stephen."

Stephen raised his eyes and gave a look over his
cup at the girl, which she was very far from un
derstanding. She had not the key. But it was a
pathetic look, grave, sorrowful, wondering, submis
sive. Posie took it as rather reproachful, though
there was no conscious reproach in it.

" I do believe," she went on half-laughing, " Ste
phen would say he did not care ! "

" Why should I care ? "

"Why does anybody care to be distinguished
and honoured, and to stand in high places?"

"I suppose," said Stephen slowly and meeting


her eyes fully again, "it is because they do not
know anything better."

"You do, I suppose?" said Mrs. Hardenbrook

" It's natural," said Mr. Hardenbrook. " It's quite
right. It's right for everybody to like to stand
high, when he likes to deserve it too. Stephen
has the making of something better in him than
what he's been, up to now; he's quite justified to
go out into the world for it, seeing he cannot pos
sibly get it here. I'm a loser for it, but I'm glad
for his gain."

" Father ! " cried Posie with her eyes all full of
tears, " do you think Stephen is quitting us all for
no better reason but to make a great man of him
self? Don't you know him better?"

"For what reason then is he going?" demanded
her mother sharply.

"Because he thinks he ought, mother. To Ste
phen it is duty."

" What is duty ? What have we done, that he
should forsake us all in this cavalier way ? that it
should be his duty to forsake us? Posie, you do
talk the most stupid nonsense ! "

" It is the truth," observed Stephen quietly, whose
supper, such as it was, had come to an untimely end.
To eat was impossible. " I may not know myself,
but 1 think I have no visions of greatness before
me; and if 1 had, I am very sure they would have
no power to draw me away from home. I think
God has different work for me to do, from any I


have done or could do here. I am following hie
leading, and am going to follow it; but not because
I think there is anything great for me to be or do,
as the world counts greatness."

" How do you count it ? " asked the lady acidly.

" I count it great, to be the smallest in the king
dom of heaven," said the young man rising. " I
must be off very early in the morning, Mrs. Har-
deubrook I shall not see you again "

"0 but you will see me" cried Posie; "I shall
be down to pour out your coffee. Yes, I shall;
you need not say a word. Of course I shall! do
you think I could lie still and sleep " But her
voice suddenly choked.

Mrs. Hardenbrook shook hands, but remarked at
the same time that she would probably see him in
the morning too. Mr. Hardenbrook declared Tie
was going to drive to Deepfurd with him. So the
good byes could not be said, and Stephen was
obliged to pass yet another night with the con
sciousness that they were before him. He would
have given a good deal to turn Posie from her
purpose; knowing however that it would be in
vain to try. It must be borne. He went out to
Jonto, and once more, though that was hard too,
read a chapter for her and prayed with her. The
only family prayers in the house were those held in
the kitchen and by those two. Usually the min
utes were much enjoyed, both by Stephen and
Jonto; to-night it was a comfort, and yet very
hard; for Jonto could not keep back a sob now


and then, and Stephen had to put a force upon
himself to keep his voice clear and calm. Yet he
was very calm; his fight was fought out; it had
been finished that night when he lay till morn
ing on the turf under the trees. He was still and
content, though the power and the fact of feeling
pain remained; but it was only pain; neither re
gret nor struggle mingled with it.

"0 lad, whatever are ye gwine away fur ! " Jonto
exclaimed, when they had risen from their knees
and Stephen was lighting his lamp to go to bed.

" I suppose we shall know, one day, " he an
swered, after he had got the lamp burning right.

"You's clar o' your way now, is you?" she

" Quite clear."

And so they parted. Stephen went up stairs,
and the old woman sat down again before her

" Dis yer world is oncommon ! " she spoke to
herself. " What fur, now ? He t'inks he knows.
Mebbe. But looks as if warn't no sense in it,
no way. Tears like de folks is all crazy like;
and all on 'em mournin' for what's deir own fau't.
It's along o' dat ar Englisher! Well, Jonto, de
likes o' you can't set dis yer ole world straight-
Why does t'ings go so one-sided, I wonder? But
de good Lord, he'll bring it out all straight 'nuff
by 'm by."

She drew one or two heavy sighs, nevertheless,
as she set about covering up her fire.


As for Stephen, he would have been very thank
ful to let Jon to give him his cup of coffee, and then
steal away early the next morning without seeing
anybody beside. It was very hard, what he had
to go through; would have been well nigh un
bearable, but for that poise to which his spirit had
come. It was the quiet and security of a ship
at anchor in the harbour; passing winds might
shake her sails and mourn in the cordage; but she
would ride free and safe. So he was not troubled
with anxieties, or made unsteady by passion; as
quietly as usual, and with as cool nerves, he dressed
and went through the house to the sitting room.

The world was still dark outside. Within, the
room had that peculiar brightness which is wont
to shine upon the traveller's vision who is about
to make an "early start." The fire was spark
ling and blazing and throwing its ruddy glow
everywhere. That glow was met by the yellow
brilliance streaming from the lamp on the table;
and the table itself, with its white naperies and
shining glass, and silver, seemed to concentrate
and give back all the light of both. By the table
stood Posie, pouring hot water in and out of the
cups; and Stephen was rather glad to see that
Posie's mother was sitting on the sofa. He hardly
desired a tete-a-tete alone with his quondam sister
that morning. But indeed was she not his sister
still ? He had kept that relationship at least, if he
had lost all other. He stood also by the table,,
thinking that, after a short greeting. For Posie's


eyes were downcast, and tears dropped every now
and then from her eyelashes, and her face was pale
with sorrow. She made herself nervously busy
with the cups and the sugar tongs; she was evi
dently afraid to test the stability of her composure
by either words or looks. Mrs. Hardenbrook on
the sofa was suffering under a severe fit of impa
tience, as might be seen by her lifted eyebrow and
the uneasy beating of her foot upon the footstool
which supported it. But Stephen did not see it.
How sweet Posie was this morning, with her ten
der, troubled face I

"Stephen, I told Jonto to have something you
like," said Posie, as the old woman came in bring
ing the breakfast. " She has done some kidneys
for you. Those look beautiful, Jonto ! "

As if he cared what they gave him that morn
ing ! Yet the mealtimes of a family are like a
thread upon which all the events and experiences
of the family life are strung; and as Stephen's eye
fell upon the dish Jonto's hand was putting down,
it seemed to him as if the years past, the mornings
and evenings, the cosy gatherings round the table
in summer and winter, the shelter and warm com
fort and affectionate care of the home that had

Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 28 of 34)