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56 i STEPHEN, M.D.

to be the occasion for a general letting off of steam,
without any particular machinery, or work, or any
end in view, or attained, that Stephen could see.
The members of the party it is hardly necessary to
describe. Intelligence, young vigour, fullness of life
and spirits, more or less of good features and good
manner; everyone knows the sort of thing presented
to Stephen's observation, and which to him was so
new. I might say that jollity was the ruling char
acteristic of the entertainment, pervading the ma
terial as well as the spiritual elements of it. The
table in the little room was not big enough to hold
all that should go upon it; places were improvised
in all sorts of ways for the pies and the bread and
the cream pitcher, as well as for sundry less inno
cent looking bottles; and then coffee was made,
and salad concocted, and finally the consumption
of good things began. And all this was done with
an incalculable amount of loud laughter and bustle
and slang. To be noisy, seemed to be one of the
esteemed privileges of the occasion.

The supply was most abundant. Mrs. Bell must
have plenty of means at command, and cherish a
very tender regard for her son, to judge by the
carefulness with which his tastes wei'e consulted
and provided for. Cakes and pies, fruit and lob
sters, oysters and sweetmeats, were all there, and
of excellent quality. Bell himself had added the
coffee and the wine; and the entertainment pro
ceeded upon the most approved plan of enjoying
everything; with boisterous raillery and gay jesting.



A SUPPER. 565

Stephen was certainly a marked variety from his
fellows. He was silent, he was quiet, he was grave,
he eat moderately, he talked no slang. Yet he
enjoyed himself too; for every new exhibition of
life was interesting to him. And there was besides
an odd savour the entertainment had for him, in
that Bell had said, "my mother sent it to me."
The words and the thought came back again and
again to Stephen, as he sat at the laden board and
the laughter echoed around him. The relationship
so long ago faded out for him, was here in full life
and bloom. Bell was a happy fellow. How very,
very long ago it was, since Stephen could say " my
mother," of anything still in possession. And now,
there was neither that nor anything else left.

He hardly knew what a contrast he made with
his companions; he certainly did not guess that it
was a contrast which had somewhat of an impos
ing effect upon them. Somehow, to human nature
the fact that an individual or a society does not
need you, raises inevitably an uneasy suspicion that
you need them. Stephen seemed some one apart from
his surroundings. And was truly so. He was
living, at this time of his life, like a man who has
gone up into high altitudes, beyond the line of veg
etation, and from thence looks out upon what is to
him practically a dead world. He may be nearer
heaven, but he is further from earth. With some
such a distant, separate feeling, Stephen sat at
Bell's table that night and eat oysters. Perhaps
the others felt it; perhaps it irritated them.



566 STEPHEN, M.D.

M Mr. Kay," said one, " have the kindness to hand
up that pie on the floor by you; if we don't dis
pose of some more of these things Bell will have
an indigestion. I am very fond of Bell, very ! "

" Thanks ! You don't do much to help us," re
marked another, as he took the pie from Stephen's
hand.

" I am not so fond of Bell," he returned.

" And you don't talk, either," said a third. " Now
we have been unbosoming ourselves of all our most
secret thoughts, laying ourselves bare before your
eyes, as it were; confidence always deserves
confidence."

" I never heard that," said Stephen.

There was a general outcry of assertion. "0
yes, it does." " Of course it does ! "

"Not where I was brought up," said Stephen.
"There, when any one gives me his confidence
before he knows me, I feel sure I know him too
well to give him mine."

fc Where were you raised, anyway ? " asked one
of the company, amid some laughter.

"At a small country town in a neighbouring
State."

" Don't burn much gunpowder there, do they ? "

"No. It's a quiet place."

" How do you bear the change ? " .

"I do not change," said Stephen smiling. "I
am quiet here."

" In the name of the Sphinx, are you never any-
thing else ? "



A SUPPER. 567

For the space of half a second there passed a
sudden shadow over Stephen's face; then he an
swered by a simple negative.

" Bad ! That's unhealthy ; we must do something
to wake you up. I don't like to see somebody
quieter than myself. Wherein does your great
strength lie, O Samson ? How can you be easiest
made like other men ? "

" Samson made a mistake when he told."

" Didn't he, though ! And don't you ever make
mistakes ? Come ! take a glass of wine, to the health
of cheerfulness ; maybe that will stir you up."

" I have had coffee, thank you."

" That's a reason for taking wine."

"Not with me."

"It won't hurt you, anyway," said the young
man, still holding out the bottle. " I guess Sam-
sou had a swallow of something that day before
he pulled the house down. Take it to comfort your
heart."

" It is the last quarter to which I should think
of applying for comfort."

" Eeally ? Shews you don't know this champagne.
I tell you, Bell has it good. Why man, the com
fort is in the bottle ; perdu there, like the genius
in the fisherman's bottle. You know the story of
the fisherman and the genius ? "

"No, I am sorry to say."

" Never read that book, eh ? "

" I do not know what book it is."

" I see ! " said the other, filling his own glass,



568 STEPHEN, M.D.

" I see your education has been, to say the least,
partial. Listen. A fisherman fished up a bottle,
out of the deep sea. Not being scientific, it did
not occur to him that it was a strange natural pro
duction ; but he took it to be what it seemed ; a
bottle. The bottle was well corked and sealed;
therefore of course it had something in it. And
also of course, with some trouble the fisherman
broke the seal, and pulled the cork out. Lo, what
the bottle had contained was the Spirit of cheer
fulness. There rose up first, softly, a slight vapour ;
odorous and pleasant; that was the first beginnings
of cheer, which one perceives in one's heart at tne
very sniff of the bouquet; the vapour rose, and en
larged, and grew more solid, like the comfort in
one's mind, and by degrees it began to assume
lines and a shape, and bodied itself forth into an
enormous figure of the Genius, standing above the
bottle he had come out of, with his head almost
reaching the sky."

"What happened then?" asked Stephen quietly.

What happened around the table was a general
roar. The boys shouted and almost danced in
their seats for delight. " Caught, Barbour ! by all
that's unlucky. Now you've got it. Save your
self, man ! How will you, old fellow ? "

" I am waiting for the end of the story," said
Stephen ; to whom in the mean while it had come,
that he had heard the story. Posie had told it
him. The cries around him went on ; perhaps cham
pagne had something to do with them.



A SUPPER. 569

" P'loored, Barbour ! "

" Hashed ! "

" Up a tree ! Now let's see how you'll come
down. Do it gracefully, man ! "

"The story has nothing to do with the thing,"
said Barbour a little gloomily. " I only used it for
a beastly illustration. You never expect an illus
tration to be good all through."

" It happens uncommonly well in this case," ob
served Stephen. " Fits better the second part than
the first."

" How? demanded Barbour a little wrathfully.
" And how do you know ? "

"When you began, I remembered that I had
heard the story somewhere. The fisherman found
that the spirit he had uncorked had become his
master. He was a lost fisherman. Now you un
derstand my objection to opening the bottle."

"That's the story," said another of the young
men, pouring himself out another glass as he spoke,
" but as Barbour says, it is only an illustration,
and dont fit. The spirit need not become the mas
ter. There is no necessity."

" What's to hinder ? "

" Why ! A man's own will. I need not drink
any more than I choose."

"The spirit is not under your power; you are
begging the question. And what the fisherman
saw at first, was nothing but a little cloud. He
had no idea what shape and proportions it would
take."



570 STEPHEN, M.D.

" I Bay ! " said the other, who was called Katcliffe,
pouring out another glassful of the beautiful spark
ling liquor, " I say ! I can stop whenever 1
choose ! "

" Prove it," said Stephen quietly. The others
laughed again.

" But the fisherman got the genius into the bot
tle again," said Barbour. " So can we, if we've a
mind to."

" Under Solomon's seal " added Stephen.

" What do you mean ? what was his seal ? "

" I do not know what its carvings were, if you
mean that. But I can tell you the motto."

" What ? " said Bell. " Let's hear."

"Do you wish to hear it?" said Stephen. "You
may not like it."

" I guess we can stand it, if we don't. Go ahead,
old fellow!"

" It is the motto of total abstinence. ' Look not
thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth
his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth
like an adder.' "

" I've heard that before," said Ratcliffe.

" It's stupid stuff anyhow," said Barbour.

" Yet Solomon was a wise man," said Stephen.

"What is it about 'biting like a serpent'?" asked
Bell. " Is the hurt of a snake bite so great ? "

"So dangerous," said Stephen. "And then, it
is given so in the dark, before you know danger
is there, you have death."



A SUPPER. 571

"Well, come, we've had enough of this," said
one or two of the young men, starting up from
the table. "Where are the cards, Bell? Let's
get these things out of the way somehow."

So there was a general stir. The table was
cleared, dishes and glasses and broken meat being
stowed promiscuously in Bell's closet, on shelves
and floor and everywhere. Stephen helped them ;
and pitied Bell's after work the next day. Then
the party gathered anew round the table and the
cards were produced. But Stephen would not take
one.

" You don't play ? " cried one.

" No, thank you."

"Don't know the game?" said BelL "That
don't matter, old fellow; I'll teach you in a hand
or two."

" I do not know the game," Stephen answered.
" I would rather not know it ? "

"Scruples?" said Bell, looking at him in some
dismay.

" If you like."

"Scruples about a game of whist?" exclaimed
Barbour. " come now ! that's too rich. Why a
sucking baby might play a game of whist."

There was a roar again, at the supposed capaci
ties of the infant in question; and then they all
returned to the charge upon Stephen.

" Take a hand ! " said Thorpe, the fourth of the
party; a quiet gentlemanly fellow, whose face
shewed sense and good breeding.



572 STEPHEN, M.D.

" You are not going ? " cried Bell, as Stephen
rose. " Man, if you can't play, sit still and look
on. I'd promise you a glass of punch, only you'd
throw that bottle at me. Sit down ! you sha'n't
go yet. What's your objection to a game of cards,
anyhow ? "

" Do you see any harm in little painted bits of
pasteboard ? " Thorpe asked.

"Not in the bits of pasteboard."

" In what then ? Speak up, man ; you won't
convert us, so we are not afraid of you."

" What is the use then of my speaking ? " Ste
phen asked smiling.

"Why for the sport of the thing. You don't
know what a rum thing it is for anybody to come
out as you are doing to-night. It quite gives
one a sensation. It's like a cold shower-bath,
strengthening."

There was mockery in the tone. The speaker
was Ratcliffe. Stephen stood silent, looking down
upon the group and the cards on the table.

" I should really like to hear, though," said
Thorpe, "what possible objection can lie against
a game of whist such as we are going to have
to-night. It's a beautiful game ! " he went on with
an appealing look at Stephen. " And it's a sensi
ble game."

" Is it ? " Stephen said.

"Yes. Any one will tell you so."

" What's the sense of it ? "

"The good of it, do you mean?" said Bell, who



A SUPPER. 573

was rather anxious that Stephen should leave a
tolerable impression upon the minds of his friends.
" Why, amusement recreation. There can't be a
more harmless way of getting it, to my thinking."
He was dealing busily as he spoke, and Stephen
watched him.

" The question remains," he answered, " whether
it is the best way of getting it. Is there nothing
better ? "

The three other guests of the little party were
silent now,, with undisguised looks of displeasure
and disgust. Bell replied with a counter question.
" What's the harm of this?"

" I don't know," said Stephen, slowly and gently,
looking down at the eager hands which were tak
ing up the cards and the eyes which were scanning
them ; in the midst of which occupation an angry
glance was now and then shot in his direction.
" I do not know any of the games; but I never saw
them played, anywhere, but they led to mischief.
So I made up my mind that they were the devil's
playthings, and I would have nothing to do with
them."

"Is the devil one of your friends?" asked Kat-
cliffe derisively.

" So far from it, that I will not even touch any
thing that belongs to him."

" You mean to say that cards do ! " said Bell
with some heat and scorn.

" I never saw them do any but his work."

"That is sufficient," said Thoi-pe. "We do not



574 STEPHEN, M.D.

wish to constrain any one, or offend any one's scru
ples. We must lose Mr. Kay or our game, Bell,"
he went on, putting down his cards. "Which
shall it be?"

Stephen settled the question by taking his leave
at once.

"If you staid and saw the game, you would
change your mind," said Bell regretfully.

" Don't propose it ! " cried Ratcliffe. " You for
get what company we are supposed to be in."

And Stephen went back to his room, thinking
he had been hardly wise in leaving it. One game
was followed by another in the party he had quitted ;
but somehow they did not go right comfortably to
night. The young men played, and if they thought
of Stephen thought of him indignantly; and yet,
nevertheless, his words and manner had left an ef
fect behind them. It was partly his manner, no
doubt. His manner puzzled them. Stephen had
seen almost nothing of what is known as the po
lite world; and there was nothing conventional
about him. But Stephen was standing now where
all the world and all the people in it were nothing
to him ; he had the calm, detached air of one who
is superior to it all. His companions did not un
derstand it, but felt oddly the superiority. At the
same time his heart was full of courtesy and active
good will, so that what would have been distance
became a fine simplicity. And Stephen's face cor
responded to his manner.

" What sort of a chap is that you have picked



A SUPPER. 575

up, Bell?" Thorpe asked in the course of the
evening.

" Don't know him from the Great Mogul " Bell
answered, dealing his cards.

"He's peculiar."

He's a fool," aid Katcliffe.

" He don't think small potatoes of himself," said
Harbour. " He's beastly conceited."

" He'll do himself up," said Bell. " He knows
nobody here; and I asked him to-night purely
out of good will and kindness. I am sorry I did,
now."

" He'll blow himself up, if that's the beastly tone
he takes," said Barbour. "There are some folks
you can't help, Bell ; it's no go. It's awfully good
of you, but it won't do."

" He's so beastly superior ! " added Ratcliffe.
"He deserves all he'll get."

If they could have seen Stephen at that moment,
on his knees in his little room, praying for them !
Whether however it were Stephen's words or his
looks that were the cause, somehow the play was
not as hearty as usual that night, and broke up
earlier. Thorpe was the first to throw his cards
down and rise from the table; and then he stood
moodily before the fire, while the others took leave
and went away.

" Bell," said he, " I like that chap yonder."

"Kay? Do you? "said Bell. "I was afraid he
had done himself up."

Not with me. I like to see a fellow stand up



576 STEPHEN, M.D.

for anything he thinks right. He's got a good
deal of pluck, do you know ? "

" He'll need it all," said Bell, " if he goes on like
that. 1 warned him, too."

" That's what he did for us, old fellow."

" He is a fool, though," said Bell. " You can't
rule the world by talking."

" I've heard talk like that before," said Thorpe,
by way of slow concession.

"0 so have I."

" Are you sure there isn't something in it, after
all?"

" What should there be ? There must be some
way of entertaining people, and of getting amuse
ment What better, for a quiet way, than cards ?
One can't carry a billiard table about in one's
pocket."

" Ask him some time what he does for amuse
rnent. I'm curious to know what he would say.
Anyhow he's no fool, Bell. He's got a capital good
head of his own."



CHAPTER XLVIII.

A SICK NUBSE.

IT was Bell's expectation, after this night's experi
ence, that Stephen would "do himself up with
the fellows," as he expressed it. Yet the expecta
tion was hardly made good. It is true, Stephen
was not often asked to a supper party, and still more
rarely went to one ; he could not be said to have
much society; but on the other hand he was not
outlawed or despised. It was impossible to despise
Stephen Kay. With his quiet, unobtrusive, un
demonstrative way, he simply walked to the head
of his class and staid there. In discussing him,
they said he was not brilliant; perhaps he was not;
he was something much better. A clear, calm,
comprehensive understanding, which regularly
went to the bottom of what it was busied with ; a
memory of tough tenacity, which lost nothing once
lodged in it; a power of concentration, which
shewed his mind to be the Rervant of his will; and
a will wmch was bout upon doing and attaining
the utmost possible ; no wonder it was not long be
fore both among the faculty and the under gradu-

(577)



578 STEPHEN, M.D.

ates, Stephen Kay was a marked man and a man
talked of. It had got about, more or less, that he
was an impracticable fellow, with odd notions;
nevertheless it was impossible that those who saw
his fine, lofty countenance and noticed his invaria
bly courteous manner and frank bearing, should
not feel themselves attracted to him. These are
the qualities which command respect from all sorts
of people, under graduates not excepted. So some
of them tried to draw him into their roistering
parties; that failed. Thorpe however did succeed
in getting him into some of the athletic sports and
games of his class, and there he speedily became a
coveted champion. To say that he became a fav
ourite would be going too far. Stephen was too
grave for them, and there was an instinctive want
of sympathy. However, as far as gymnastic exer
cises, races, and foot ball were concerned, he took
his place among the best; and that was much in his
favour. It went somewhat against him, as time
went on, that he was known to be invited to the
houses of some of the faculty. This had come
about partly by chance at first, in consequence
of a meeting with one of the professors in the
library. Stephen wanted a certain book, and did
not know what to ask for; and finding his oppor
tunity, approached the professor and asked to be
directed. This led to talk, and talk to an invita
tion, and one invitation led to another. And so it
came to pass, that as time went on Stephen entci'ed
into a circle ot societv and a sort of intercourse



A SICK NURSE. 579

which were invaluable to him. But with his fel
low students he remained as before; highly re
spected, and very much let alone.

This was about the state of things towards the
end of Stephen's second year in college. Of Cow
slip and its inhabitants, in all this time, he had
Been but little. A happy mistake of the post office
had saved him from Posie's wedding; something
had occasioned the time set for it to be hastened,
anticipating by a week the original date; and the
letter warning Stephen of the change had reached
nim too late, having been detained or delayed. He
gave thanks for what was to him a deliverance.
Posie left home immediately upon her marriage,
and Stephen had never seen her again. Two or
three times he had gone back to Cowslip for a short
visit; he never found it advisable to make it a long
one. The place was empty now; he had no work
to do there, for Mr. Harden brook was as able as
ever to look after his business; and if the two left
of the family found pleasure in his presence, the
pleasure was so vitiated by discontent with his go
ing away again, that on the whole the gain was
too small to be much taken into account. Stephen
kept himself informed by letter of the condition of
things in his old home; and as long as he was not
needed there, deemed it best to devote himself to
the work immediately in hand.

So the months and the terms had succeeded each
other, and each found him steadily making his way
npward and onward ; in his proper college course



580 STEPHEN, M.D.

at least, and in the regard of his superiors, if not in
the affections of those around him. Towards the
end of his second year there came an advance in
that direction too.

It came on this wise. His neighbour, Mr. Bell,
was taken ill. A violent cold and inflammation laid
him on his back and threatened to keep him there,
or do worse. This became known to Stephen after
a day or two, and he immediately took his way to
Bell's room. He found his classmate suffering and
hot with fever, lying in a little dark inner room,
off the one where they had sat that night at sup
per. The air of both apartments very close and
stifling; the fire made up to a furious degree of
power ; and in short, everything just as for a sick
room it ought not to be.

Stephen quietly and at once took things into his
own management. Indeed there was no one else
t,o manage anything; and the sick man was too ill
and suffering to make objections or care much
wuat went on around him, except so far as it
to ached his immediate condition. Neither did
otephen trouble him with asking his leave or
Counsel. Guarding the patient well, he opened the
windows and changed the air of the room; damped
the fire; relieved poor Bell of an enormous load of
Comfortables which had been piled upon him by
Ihe zeal of the landlady; arranged his pillows, and
administered draughts of refreshing. Bell let him
do what he would, only rousing himself to say,
" Don't write ! "



A SICK NURSE. 581

" Home, you mean ? "

" Yes. Not a word. No need. Promise ! "

"There will be no need, I hope," said Stephen.
And as far as the care of the invalid was con
cerned, there was no need. Everything was done
for him and in the most perfect manner. Stephen
took up his abode in the sick room, and left it
neither by night nor day. If he slept, it was when
there was nothing to do ; if he studied, and he did
study, it was when Bell did not want him. The
doctor called him a capital help; and after a few
days of some anxiety, the disorder yielded to treat
ment, or to good nursing, or to the patient's youth
and strength, and Bell began to come round again.
But then he was very weak; and Stephen's minis
trations were still needed and still given.

As soon as he could, Stephen brought his charge
out from the stuffy little dark closet and made his
bed in the outer room. There Stephen was con
stantly with him, sleeping on chairs at night, and
by day keeping all straight, maintaining a cheerful
fire, feeding Bell, and not seldom preparing what
he was to be fed with; and what was more, also
keeping him quiet. At last came the time when,
though still prostrate in bed, Bell might be allowed
to use his voice; and he was eager to avail himself
of the privilege.

" Kay," said he, watching Stephen one morning,
"you are a trump ! "

Stephen was making a piece of toast at the fire,
and Bell lay watching him.



582 STEPHEN, M.D.

" Glad to hear it " responded the former. " It
means something favourable, to judge by your ac
cent; though I don't know what it means."

" I suppose you don't. Never mind. What splen
did care you do take of a fellow ! Now there's an
other first-rate cup of tea coming to me. I never
had such cups of tea."

" You never wanted them so much, perhaps."

Stephen had brought the toast and the tea, and
was propping his friend up with pillows so that he
could take it comfortably. "You will say next,



Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 30 of 34)