Susan Warner.

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been given him there, all swept up before him at
once, signified and symbolized by the familiar dish.
It was the last time they were to eat it together;
the long succession of such mealtimes was sud
denly broken; the home was not his home any
longer; the aff^ct-jon and the care, they were not



GETTING AWAY. 545

indeed lost, yet they would practically be his no
more. Pie stood like one in a dream.

"Come, sit down, Stephen, and take things
while they are good. Mother, will you come to the
table?"

"I cannot possibly eat at this horrible hour,
child. I don't see how you can."

" Then you ought not to have got up."

" Of course, it' you got up, I should. When the
whole house is astir, one can't lie abed. There is
no use in being abed if you are not permitted to
sleep. Your father has been threshing about for
an hour past."

"Take a cup of tea," suggested Stephen. "Shall
I bring you one?"

" You'd better attend to your own breakfast and
be off, if you mean to get to Deepford in time."

Stephen followed this counsel, so well as a man
could to whom breakfast was a tedious formality.
Yet he needed food and must take it; and Posie
hung about him and watched him and attended
to his wants with a tender care that he would wil
lingly have escaped from. It was very hard to
bear, precisely in proportion as it was so name-
lessly sweet to feel. This once, and never again !
The precious sisterly affection he had and would
preserve at any price; the sisterly intercourse no
more. Not this eye to eye and hand to hand in-
tercourse. Hearts might speak to one another;
would speak, while life was in them; the actual
presence must be forborne. So this was the end



546 STEPHEN, M.D.

of a long series of days, mornings and evenings
and mealtimes and holiday hours, made fragrantly
Bweet by the love which now must keep its perfume
under lock and key, like a dried flower, if at all.
Stephen's mind went back over the years at a
furious pace, bringing up images of delight; from
the time when the seven-year-old Posie stood be
side the little hungry waif in Jonto's kitchen and
bewildered him with a sudden charm. The charm
had held, all these years, and was fast bound round
his heart now. And he was going away ! It was
well for Stephen that he had no mental fight to
go through ; no movement of passion to hide ; only
his pain to bear. He swallowed that and his coffee
together. And at last the meal was over. Mr.
Hardenbrook had taken a hasty breakfast and al
ready gone out. Stephen rose.

"Come out here, Stephen," said Posie hurriedly;
" I want to say something to you."

" Out where ? " asked her mother. " It's too cold ;
what are you thinking of? You mustn't go out
on the piazza, Posie. Say what you have got to
say here. I am no hindrance."

Posie hesitated. Stephen stood, waiting her
commands.

"And make haste," admonished her mother.
" Do you want to make him lose his train ? If we
cannot keep him, do let him go ! "

Posie hesitated still. " I wanted to see you alone,"
she said. But then she stepped up to him and
stood close before him, hooking her finger confi-



GETTING AWAY. . 547

dentially in the buttonhole of his coat. She flushed
a little, and at the same time evidently had to
struggle with a strong temptation to tears.

" I wanted to ask you something * she began,
"two things, Stephen."

" What are they ? "

" Will you do them for me ? " she said, suddenly
lifting two very loving blue eyes to him that were
swimming full.

" You need not ask. You know I will do them
if I can."

"Then you promise to grant me two petitions?"

" If it only depends on my will."

"Stephen," Posie went on, working her finger
about in his buttonhole, "after I am gone, will
you come here sometimes, it may not be very
convenient always, but will you come home from
time to time and see how father and mother are,
and how things are going ? "

He answered a short, almost suppressed, "Yes."

" See if the people are doing their duty ; see if
the business is going on right; I know you have
been the soul of it for a great while past. And
see if everything is well, father and mother and all ;
and if anything or anybody is not well, will you
tell me ? They will not tell me, you know. Will
you tell me ? "

" If I think you can help."

"If I can't!"

"What would be the use of that? Leave me to
my discretion in that matter."



548 STEPHEN, M.D.

" Well, you will not leave me ignorant of any
thing 1 ought to know? J1

" I promise that."

Posie hesitated; her colour rose a little; she
studied Stephen's coat, apparently.

"The second thing? " he reminded her.

Then the girl raised her eyes and looked him
full in the face, he thought, somewhat inquisitively.

"Stephen, will you cotne to my wedding?"

It was a little like a thunderbolt falling at his
feet. Come to her wedding! Of all earthly things
the one he would rather not do. But she was
watching him, studying him, he thought; if he
even hesitated to give the promise, what conclu
sions might her quick-witted love draw. Once let
her divine the truth, and there would be an end
forever of all the sweet sisterly confidence and
familiar intercourse which was the most precious
thing Stephen had left to him in this world. He
could not lose that; he must not endanger that, let the
cost of maintaining it be never so great. He dared
not count the cost at this minute; at all hazards
he must not disturb Posie's confidence. He gave
the promise asked for, adding, "If you are only
half as happy as I wish you to be, Posie, you will
be happy enough." He spoke very low, but quite
distinctly; and Posie was satisfied and turned away.

How he got off then he hardly knew. It was n
chilly handclasp from Mrs. Hardenbrook accom
panied by equally chilly good wishes, scarcely
heard. Posie put her little hand in his, stood



GETTING AWAY, 549

still, and then suddenly lifted her face for a kiss.
Stephen touched her dainty cheek with his lips,
and fled.

In the kitchen there was a long, wringing clasp
of hands with Jonto.

" Good bye, lad ! " she said, as she let him go.
"Ye hab de Lord's love anyhow, and dat ar am de
best of all ! "

The old woman was the only one, he thought,
nho had understood him.



CHAPTER XLVI.

FOUE WALLS.

OTEPHEN'S course at college was like what his
O course had been elsewhere; making no show,
and making no noise, but doing thorough work.
With his quiet business habits, he had no difficulty
in finding his way and getting established, before
many days had passed from his leaving Cowslip.
Mr. Hardenbrook had given him a letter to a gen
tleman in Boston, with whom he had some busi
ness acquaintance; and Stephen's good face and
modest manner had presently won him this gen
tleman's favour and excited his .interest. He gave
Stephen all the information he needed; told him
where to go and to whom to apply at Cambridge;
and even gave him some helpful counsel as to
ways and means of lodging and living, and put
him in the way of finding the sort of place he
wanted. For Stephen, he found, had already
thought over the matter and made up his mind
what he would do.

So after a very little time had passed, Stephen
was quietly settled in his new home and surround-



FOUR WALLS. 551

ings; entered, and hard at work. He had rented a
small room in a plain little house, not far from the
College, though situated somewhat at one side of
the better parts of the town. The street was de
cent and quiet, however, and he was not the only
one by several of the students who lived in it.
Stephen's one little room he had fitted up with ex
treme simplicity; a rag carpet on the floor, a small
stove, a chair or two, a cot, and some shelves for
books. A cupboard in the wall held all his modest
outfit in china and hardware, and served for larder
and pantry too, and kitchen dresser. For though
nothing was ever wider of the mark than Gold
smith's famous saying, that " Man wants but little
here below," still, when he is so minded, he can
undoubtedly get along with much less than the
usual arrangement. "China," I said, by courtesy;
Stephen's pantry contained no such unnecessary
article. One or two brown earthenware cups and
saucers were there, and a teapot to match. The
little room did look very bare, to tell the truth ; the
only redeeming things about it being, that it was
kept as neat as wax, and that the books spoke, as
they always do speak, of a mental life which is not
poor nor mean. They did surely hold this language
in Stephen's room, for some of them were always
about, in a way that shewed they were used and
busy. For the inanimate things of our surround
ings do have a very subtle power and habit of tell
ing tales about their possessors; and although the
way is indescribable, it is undeniable, and inimita-



552 STEPHEN, M.D.

ble. Anybody with an eye, going into that little
apartment, could have presently arrived at sev
eral very satisfactory conclusions about its inmate.
Somebody lives here who loves order; somebody
who is very sparing of money, and yet lias money
to spare; for a very good and capacious desk on
the table did not look like poverty. Somebody
who is independent enough not to follow the
world's fashions; witness the rag carpet, and that
little stove. Finally, somebody who means business
with his college work; as all Stephen's books tes
tified, by the positions in which they lay open, dic
tionaries and classics and what not; never one
slung to one side, or carelessly left gaping, or with
its constitution disordered by idle handling. From
all which items of observation the summing con
clusion would be reached, that the inhabitant of
the room was a person of character.

But nobody came to see the place or its owner,
to form conclusions of any sort. Nobody knew
Mr. Kay, and he made no effort to improve their
knowledge. It cannot be said that Stephen suf
fered either for want of company. In the first
place, he was studying as hard as he could with
safety to mind and body. In the second place, he
was walking, figuratively, in a wilderness; a men
tal desert, as to human things; and the strangers
one meets in such a piece of one's life journey only
make one the more feel how wild the wilderness is.
And it may be added, that both then and at all
times, Stephen was walking in a eoHrty nnd com-



FOUR WALLS. 553

munion above the earthly, not only satisfying, but
which at times transformed the desert into some
thing better than the garden of Eden would be
with any other communion.

So in a strange world of his own Stephen lived,
for a good while; strange, because so exceedingly
far removed from the mental and social experiences
of his companions. His earthly hopes all annihi
lated, as far as personal interests were concerned;
yet content. Ambition, what is called by that
name, not astir; and yet working with an energy
that was of the sort to conquer the world. Alone,
yet living in an atmosphere of such blessed and
sunny intercourse as probably mocked the best that
others around him knew. It follows almost of ne
cessity from what has been said, that Stephen was
to a certain extent a marked man. The lives peo
ple lead are always more or less mirrored in their
faces and demeanour; and many a one noticed with
interest and curiosity the new man who kept him
self so to himself and made so little effort to gain a
footing in the society that was about him. The fine
intelligent face; the steadfast, very grave eyes,
which had such a clear and keen observance in
them ; especially the singular apartness of his whole
look and manner; struck many observers. It was
not pride, for no face had less of self-consciousness
than this face. It was not shyness, nor reserve;
the courteous and self-possessed manner was en
tirely free from either quality. And yet, Stephen
walked among men as if he belonged to a different



554 STEPHEN, M.D.

planet, and really had nothing to do with the in
habitants of this one. But at the same time, what
capital recitations he gave ; what a thorough grasp
he got of anything he took in hand ; how inevitably
the eyes of professors and lecturers got a habit of
turning to Kay's face as toward a point of light and
a point of rest; where they were sure of meeting
intelligent comprehension and response, along with
intentness of purpose. There was something too
in those grave eyes and in the calm lines of the face
which attracted not only interest but also won in
clination. The repose and evident self-mastery
were so mingled with sweetness.

"Who is that fellow? " one asked another.

"A new chap."

"I know; but where does he come from?"

" From the stars, I should say."

"Why?"

" Don't seem to take much stock in this world."

" Means work, though. He's got a capital head
of his own."

" There's Bell just ahead he rooms at the same
place. Hollo, Bell ! "

" What's the row ? " said a young man a few steps
in front of them, stopping and turning.

" Anderson wants to know about your chum."

" So do I. Who is he ? "

" Don't you live next door to that new-comer ? *
Anderson asked.

" Who ? Kay, do you mean ? Yes."

" Well, what do you know of him ? "



FOUR WALLS. 555

"Nothing whatever.**

" Don't you see him sometimes ? "

" 1 see him as you do, coming and going, and in
the class."

"Haven't you tried?"

"Yes, I have tried; and it came to nothing sig
nally. Went in there one day and asked for a
light. The fellow gave it to me civilly enough.
Then I offered him one of my cigars, and he refused
it. ' Perhaps you don't know,' said I, ' that these
are something extra?' And then he grinned a
little and said it made no difference to him, though
of course it was the more generous of me. Then
I asked him if he didn't smoke ? And he said no,
but the way he said it I can't describe to you ! "

"Cut up short?"

" Not a bit of that ; quiet as a setting hen ; but
rather as if he lived a thousand miles away from
cigars and had no wish to lessen the distance. So
I came away."

"What does his place look like?"

" Hm ! well, work."

" Work, and no pleasure ? "

" Well yes, about that. Pretty bare, except for
books. There was a little cooking stove, so I sup
pose he lives by himself altogether."

" He's from the country, I guess," was the con
cluding remark.

Aiid the whirl of the busy college life went on
for a while, without any one getting nearer into
Stephen's confidence than the above-named abor-



STEPHEN, M.D.

tive attempt resulted in. He sought admission to
no Society; he joined in no games; he went his way
like one who was of a different nationality from his
companions and did not understand their language,
And if he had been like many of them in othor
respects, no doubt he would have been let alone and
left to take his own way without intermeddling.
But with Stephen it could hardly be. His ability
was too evident, and commanded respect; his looks
and manner, gentle and steadfast, gave an impres
sion of independent strength, to which people are
always sure to feel more or less attraction; the man
who can govern himself is easily, and even without
his own effort, master of his fellows. He was
working his way up, too, in all his college studies,
hand over hand; and human creatures worship suc
cess, especially when it is attained through the in
dividual's unassisted will and power. Then Stephen
had the physique for a capital gymnast or base ball
player. He could not be suffered to go his way
alone. So at last Bell was deputed to make another
attempt. He went to Stephen's room one Sunday
evening.

Stephen's room did not look uncomfortable, in
spite of its plainness and of the ugly little stove.
A dark cloth covered his table, a good lamp gave
light upon it, and by the table sat the occupant of
the room, before an open volume. He had said
" Come in " to Bell's knock, and now looked up ex
pectantly as the latter entered.

" I mnde PIIVP von wmiM lie rf>nlv for Monday

' I V



FOUR WALLS. 557

morning," said Bell, glancing apologetically at thf
open book, "or I wouldn't have disturbed you.
Monday morning isn't much of a pull anyhow."

" Not much," said Stephen, "and I am ready for
it. What can I do for you ? "

" Will you ask me to sit down, and give me a
loan of five minutes ? "

" Willingly " Stephen answered pleasantly, as
he rose and gave his visiter one of the two chairs
the room contained. " Willingly if you come on
Sunday business."

"Sunday business? what's that? I call Sunday
business, what's done on Sunday."

" I call Sunday business, what is fit to be done
on Sunday."

" That's whatever is fit to be done any day, isn't
it ? ' The better day, the better deed,' you know,"
said the other, eyeing Stephen curiously and doubt
fully. " Proverbs speak truth, proverbially."

"Man's truth," said Stephen. "About Sunday,
what you want to know is God's truth. If you'll
excuse me, I will give you that." He turned over
a few leaves of the book before him, and then read
aloud.

"'If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath,
from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call
the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, hon
ourable; and shalt honour him ; not doing thine own
ways, or finding thine own pleasure, or speaking
thine own words; then shalt thou delight thyself
in the Lord and I will set thee upon the high



558 STEPHEN, M.D.

places of the earth, and will feed thee with the her
itage of Jacob thy father; for the mouth of the
Lord hath spoken it.'"

Stephen read, in a way that commanded his
visitor's attention, and then looked up at him.

"You are going to be a parson!" said Bell
bluntly.

" No ; that is a wrong guess."

" What then ? May I ask ? "

" I do not know."

" Well, but what are you studying for, man ? "

" To fetch up lost time, and make of myself all I
can."

"Don't know what for?"

"No. Except generally; to do the work I am
best fitted to do."

" I should say it was preaching."

"You have not heard me," said Stephen smiling.
" What I read you just now were not my words ;
but they were words I thought you might be the
better for knowing."

"There was nothing about Sunday in them,"
said Bell with a twinkle of his eye.

" Yes, excuse me. The Sabbath is the rest of
the seventh day. We have it Sunday; the Jews
have it Saturday."

The young man eyed Stephen curiously. What
sort of a fellow was this ? A new variety, certainly ;
further than that he had not made up his mind.
Yet there was something about Stephen, his calm,
perfectly frank manner, his reposeful, intelligent



FOUR WALLS. 559

face, which attracted the other in spite of himself.
" Anyhow," as he remarked to one of his friends,
" there is a flavour in novelty."

"You have not joined any Society yet, have
you ? " he began again.

"No. lam a stranger here. I know nobody."

" We don't want that to be true any longer," said
Bell pleasantly. "If you'll join us, I'll propose
you, and introduce you, and all that; and then you
will not be a stranger any longer."

" You are very kind. But I must not engage in
anything that will rob me of time; I have a great
deal of way to make up."

" It will take a little time, but none too much,"
said Bell persuasively. "A fellow's head grows
stuffy if he stays too long inside of his four
walls."

'* I believe that may be true."

" Then will you join us ? "

" Willingly ; if you will join me."

"Your Society?"

"Yes."

" I didn't know you had one. What is it ? *

"Tell me first what yours is, for I know but
very dimly."

In answer to which Bell went at some detail into
the purpose and manner of the rival Societies in
the College. Stephen listened.

" Well," said he, " that will do. I will stand to
my bargain. I will join you, if you will join me.

" You must say in what."



560 STEPHEN, M.D.

" Yes. I will do that. My Society is a very large
one, and holds people from all parts of the world.
Its object, and expectation, is to get possession of
the whole earth. Its work is to bring light into
the darkness and carry bread to the hungry. Its
privileges are manifold; one being that its mem
bers may draw upon an inexhaustible treasury,
both of riches and wisdom, in all their life affairs.
It has its assemblies and meetings, from time to
time, and in various localities; but its final place
of assembly is in the courts of its King; where
every one of the Society will receive after his la
bours the gift of eternal life. And its Chief and
King is the Lord Jesus Christ."

I should fail in trying to give the bewilderment
and astonished surprise of the other man as this
detail was given him. He sat looking at Stephen
with his mouth half open, staring as at a wonder
of nature. Indeed no natural wonder would have
moved him like this social curiosity. It was not
like anything he had ever seen or heard in his
whole life. It was not cant, and it was not even
preaching. Stephen glanced at him once or twice
as he spoke, but for the most part kept his eyes
lowered to his book; uttering sentence after sen
tence rather slowly, in the manner of one who en
joys what he is speaking of and enjoys speaking
of it; with a strange emphasis of inward and sweet
conviction and assurance of knowledge; with a
grave face, and yet a face so ennobled by the spirit
within, ;md a voice so clarified by some



FOUR WALLS. 561

elixir, that Bell, as I said, sat and stared, spell
bound. He recognized Stephen's audacity, that he
should dare to come out to a fellow student in that
tone, and he admired his bravery; but he did more;
he respected his truth. He felt no disposition to
attack him; and when Stephen ceased speaking,
there followed a silence of two or three minutes.

"There was another thing I wanted to speak
of," Bell said then, leaving the question of Societies.
" I've got a box from home came yesterday my
mother sent it to me; you know, some of the fel
lows are lucky enough to get things from home
now and then, and I'm one of the favoured ones.
Two or three of my friends are coming to-morrow
night to eat supper with me; will you come?"

" I am such a stranger I am afraid I should
spoil your sport."

" You won't be a stranger, you know, ten min
utes. You are not a stranger to me, now; and I
haven't been here much more than that. Do come,
Kay ! my mother has sent me things enough to
ruin me, if I can't get some help."

I think it was partly owing to the influence of
some far-reaching association, that Stephen did not
refuse his consent. There was something in the
words, "my mother has sent me things" which
touched some deep hidden string in his heart. Sc
another mother would have done for himself, if she
had been living and had the means; and the name
which had no living representative for him, yet
appealed to him through its relation to another.



562 STEPHEN, M.D.

Stephen gave his promise, but I doubt whether,
supposing the box had been sent to Bell by his
sister or his aunt, he would have gained that par
ticular guest for his table. However, Stephen said
he would come.

" And then we'll discuss further the question of
Societies," said Bell in conclusion.

" I'll stand to my bargain," said Stephen pleas
antly.

"All right. But I say, Kay! don't go and
serve that particular card upon the rest of the
fellows, you know.*'

" Why not ? "

"0 they might throw up the game refuse to
play with you, in short."

"They will have no chance. I play no cards,
with anybody."

" But you know what I mean ? Don't do it; they
might cut up stiff, and refuse to have anything to
do with you. And you don't wish that."

"No," said Stephen quietly, " I do not wish that'



CHAPTER XLVII.

A SUPPER.

" 'T^H AT means, it don't make much difference to
1 him," said Bell to himself as he went back
to his room. " Well, I like him anyhow." And he
told one of his friends that Stephen was a queer
chap and a study.

" I've got no time to study him," said the other;
" but I'll put in an appearance this evening, and
look at him."

There were four or five of them altogether ; and
whether or no they studied Stephen, certain it is
that he studied them. It was a new bit of experi
ence for the country-bred boy, and a new phasis of
college life. Stephen himself was quiet and silent
as usual, according to his custom in general com
pany ; all the more he took the effect of the immense
display of waste energy around him. His own
energy, and we know he had plenty, was always
contained and controlled, like the power of a steam
engine; allowed to escape only so far as it was
needful to move the works of the machinery with
which it was connected. This supper party seemed

(563)




Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 29 of 34)