Susan Warner.

Stephen, M. D. online

. (page 4 of 34)
Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 4 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


ferent sort. All the better for him, he would have
s-iid; but he hardly thought about it. He wanted
to find work, and he expected to find it somehow.
Here now he was in Deepford. Where should
lie go ? He knew nobody. The only possible house
that he had a right to go to was the inn ; and there
also he might hope as well as anywhere to find
what he sought. Employment, that is; not dinner;
though Stephen's stomach did remind him that it
was dinner time, and so did many a savoury scent
of frying ham, or onions, or beef, that floated to
him from out the houses he passed. With dinner he
knew he had no business, inasmuch as he had never
u cent in his pocket to buy even a cent's worth of
one. He went on, looking sharp for the inn.



CHAPTER VL

DEEPFOED INN.

"T\EEPFORD had an inn as the place was a rail-
J way station; and there was no mistaking it,
though Stephen had never seen an inn before. He
had heard people talk of it, and he knew it for what
it was as soon as he saw it. Timidly now the little
boy stayed his steps in front of it. He did not
feel that he had any right anywhere. Another
boy lounging by, I suppose recognized him for a
stranger.

"Hullo, Counsellor!" he cried; "what' ye after?
This here aint the Court house."

" Is this the inn ? " Stephen inquired.

" Hullo ! Has your mother sent you to look arter
your father, young shaver? No you don't!"

" I don't know what you mean," said Stephen.

"Well, you do look jolly green, my pigeon.
What be you arter? And where do you hang
out?"

"Is this the inn?" Stephen repeated his question.

"Made a 'pintment to meet somebody? What

be you arter, do you hear ? "

(64)



DEEPFORD INN. 65

" I just want to find Deepford inn."

" Then there aint no sich a place. I'm blessed
ef there is. You may jest turn round agin."

Stephen however knew better. He had heard
men speak of the inn at Deepford too often, and it
had interested him, because there was nothing that
called itself by that name at Whitebrook. He
stepped out into the road a little, so that he could
look at the house better; and saw a great sign
board with " Deepford Hotel " upon it in fat letters.
He read the words aloud.

" That aint nothin'," said the other boy. " Deep-
ford Hottle aint what you want. That's 'tother
end o' the place, the hottle for boys is. This is
the hottle where men gits sold."

But Stephen was sure now. The boy's testi
mony might be taken by the rule of contraries;
and without paying any more attention to him,
Stephen went up the steps of the piazza and in at
the door. He was in a narrow entry way then,
with an open door at his left through which he
could see into a sort of common room where sev
eral men were sitting, eating and drinking. They
\vere farmer-like people in appearance, just what
Stephen had been wanting to find ; but now he did
not know how to speak to them, nor what to do
next. He stood at the open door looking in, linger
ing, wishing, afraid to put himself forward, afraid
he would be unnoticed unless he did. He could
not make any further advance than the presenting
himself there at the door implied ; he was too mod-



66 STEPHEN, M.D.

est, or too shy. He stood leaning against one of
the door posts, waiting; a pale little boy just at this
present, for he had walked far and he was tired and
nungry. How good was the savour of cooked ham
which came to his nostrils, and whiffs of the scent
of boiling coffee! It made Stephen very uncom
fortable; but he only shifted his weight from one
leg to the other, and stood there, looking in and
waiting.

One of the men dining at a table near the door
glanced that way once or twice, and finally spoke
to him.

"What' you there for, boy?"

" Yes, move off," said a girl who was acting as
waiter. " We don't want none o' your sort about.
Allers gaping ! "

" Do you want anything, boy ? " the man asked,
noticing Stephen's look.

"Yes sir, I do."

" Here girl, this chap wants some dinner. I
don't b'lieve he can pay for it."

"We don't give no dinners here to folks that
can't pay," returned the girl.

" I don't want dinner," said Stephen, goaded to
so much justification of himself. Poor fellow, how
he did want it though ! And any possible source
from which the supply might come was not even
within a distant range of vision.

"Then be off," said the girl roughly; "if you
don't want nothin'. You can't stand there."

" I do want something, please."



DEEPFORD INN. 67

"What do yon want?"

" I want work," said the little boy boldly.

" Work ! Likely ! Take yourself off, or I'll call
somebody to make you."

" Be yon little chap askin' for work ? " now said
the man who had before spoken. He asked the
question with a broad grin; and when Stephen
gave a modest "Yes, sir," he laughed out, with a
coarse guffaw.

" You, you cricket," said he. " What do you s'pose
you can do, on the face o' the 'arth ? "

" I don't know, sir. I want to do something, if
I could find something to do." Stephen's cheeks
flushed, partly with shame and partly because his
stomach was so empty and the viands smelled so
good; but his speech was steady. Nevertheless it
provoked general merry-making.

" You couldn't earn your salt ! " said one. That,
Stephen remembered, had been Mr. Harrison's
opinion.

"Could get a job maybe in haying and harvest
ing," suggested another. "Understand cradling?"

" Guess you want to steer for the factory," said a
third.

" Do they have creeturs as small as that ? " in
quired a fourth.

" Have anything ! that kin stand on its legs," re
sponded one of the men. " Don't never ask how
big it is, nor how old. Ef it kin stand, you see,
that is."

"There's law agin that," remarked one.



68 STEPHEN, M.D.

" There's more'n law on the other side."

"Where ha' you come from, boy? You don't
b'long in this place ? "

"No, sir."

" Then go back where you come from ; that's my
advice t'ye. Work, you whipper-snapper ? you aint
up to nothin' yet but eatin'. I'll warrant, you kin
do your sheer o' that."

If anybody would only have asked Stephen to
try!

" It'll be a spell yet, afore he kin pay for what he
eats," said a man. " Why, you pickaninny, what
do you s'pose you're up to, besides mischief? Let
you alone for that ! Ef there's anythin' ekal to a
boy o' that there size for upsettin' things gen'ally,
I don't know it. Any man that'd hire you, would
be a fool."

No doubt the speaker had some pressing home
experience; but Stephen never thought of that, and
felt aggrieved. But he said nothing, only an hon
est flush mounted to his childish face. What hope
for him there? Yet, as if he had his character to
maintain, he stood his ground, and still waited.
The men began soon to get through with their
meal, and one after another to leave the room;
some of them quite disregarding the little appli
cant for work, as he stood there in the doorway,
others throwing at him a few more words of jeer
ing as they passed, or a "Get out o' the way, boy!'
Stephen found it very discouraging and rather hard
to bejir. Another word of dismissal from the serv



DEEPFORD INN. 69

ing maid, and he felt he would have to go, and give
up that hope in Deepford. One, two, three, four, of
the men left the house. Only two sat there yet;
and Stephen was lingering quite against hope,
though persistent in waiting, when one of them
looked towards him and beckoned with his finger.
Stephen slowly obeyed the signal, though not with
much hope. This man had also finished his dinner,
he saw. It was a better looking man than some
of the others; several shades more respectable in
dress ; and with a face which though rough-featured
enough was not unkindly. He surveyed Stephen
attentively.

" What ever set such a little shaver as you on a
tramp ? " he asked.

Stephen understood one word. " I aint a tramp,
sir," he responded.

" No ? What be you then, eh ? "

"I'm not anything, sir."

" No ! I'll be sworn you aint," said the man with
a gleam in his eyes. "That's true enough. Well,
my man, how come you to be roamin' the country
like this ? You say you don't belong here ? "

"No sir, I don't. I come from Whitebrook."

" Whitebrook ? ay. I know there is such a place.
What made you come from Whitebrook ? "

" I couldn't get work there, sir; and I thought I
would try Dt epford."

" But what do you want work for, eh ? you're too
little yet."

" I want to earn somethin', if I could, sir."



70 STEPHEN, M.D.

"How do you s'pose you could earn anything?
Why you couldn't drive a nail into a board."

*' I don't know, sir. I would do anything I could
do."

" I shouldn't wonder ! But what's the matter, eh ?
Ha' you got nobody to take care of you ? "

"No, sir,"

"How's that?"

Stephen chokedalittle ; manned himself. "They're
all gone, sir."

" Who ? Who's that that's gone, eh ? "

Stephen managed to answer steadily again,
though not without a pause, "My father and
mother." His questioner saw the reddening eye
and the relaxed curve of the lip, and got a
respect on the spot for his little new acquaint
ance.

" But if father and mother are gone, there ought
to be others," he remarked. " What was all White-
brook about, that they let you go off like that, to
look for work among strangers ? "

This was beyond Stephen. He simply answered
that he did not know.

" When did you come away ? "

" This morning, sir."

"Just got here?"

" Yes, sir, half an hour ago."

"I wonder if I could ever find something at
home small enough for you to do? What have
you ben doin', all your life till now ? "

"I used to do things for mother, sir."



DEEPFORD INN. 71

"Ah, did you though? What things, for instance?"

" I used to cut wood for her, when it wasn't too
big; and I used to sweep the house, and make the
fire, and wash the floor; and I used to wash the
dishes for her sometimes, and fetch water, and go
to the store "

Stephen's utterance was growing a little thick.
More and more kindly the man's face looked down
upon him.

" And have you nobody at all to care for you ?
no grandmother or grandfather, or uncle or aunt,
or anybody ? "

"No, nobody, sir."

" How long have you been fighting the world on
your own hook ? "

"Sir?"

" How long since you were left all alone so ? "

" It's 'most a month, sir."

" Where have you been all this while ? "

"I was in Mrs. Estey's house; she took care
of me."

" And wouldn't she take care of you any longer?"

" She would, I guess ; but the farmer didn't want
me to stay. I know, for I heard him."

"Shouldn't wonder. And now, what's your
name?"

" Stephen Joyce Kay."

" That's a good name. And now, Stephen, what
do you think you could do ? "
' I can't tell, sir, till I try."

"No more you can't; that's a good^ answer. Do



72 STEPHEN, M.D.

you think you would go along with me, if I asked
you?"

" Yes, sir, I would." And the honest glance of
Stephen's grey eyes completed the conquest of the
man's heart.

" Well, you shall, then. I have a good many
people working for me, and I guess I can find
something to do for one more. Now, Stephen, I'm
not going out of town just yet; I have some busi
ness to see to. What'll you do, till I'm ready to
start?"

"I'll wait"

"You'll have to. Wait here. Stop, they don't
want you here; come out to my wagon. You can
get in and go to sleep if you want to ; there's straw
in the bottom ; you'll be as snug as a button. Have
you had dinner, by the way ? "

" No, sir."

"And you've come a long journey, for you.
Well, I've had mine, and I can't stop. See here
here's a couple of pennies ; go into the bar there
and get yourself a hunk of gingerbread; I saw
some famous-looking gingerbread there; and
that'll stay your stomach till we get home."

The kind man shewed him where his wagon
stood, and went off; and Stephen retraced his
steps to the bar-room, feeling himself quite an
other boy. He bought the gingerbread; would
have liked to ask a question or two about hia
benefactor; but he was shy of the rough bar
tender, and concluded to wait for the knowledge



DEEPFORD INN. 73

that would be sure to come in course of time. He
went back to the wagon, climbed into it, and sat
down in the straw to eat his lunch. It was a de
lightful feeling, that he had a rigid to be there,
and indeed that there was any place in the world
where he had a right to be. Stephen had felt
himself rather a supernumerary among the earth's
inhabitants, with no hold on anybody or anything ;
now that was changed. He was as good as a hired
man, and at home in his employer's wagon. His
tired legs were resting, and his hunger made the
gingerbread, always a favorite viand, now seem
most satisfying and delicious. Stephen eat it
slowly, making the most of every crumb; the
while watching all he could see of the life and stir
of Deepfbrd. There were other wagons hitched to
posts in front of the tavern ; and men were driving
off, and others arriving; there was a good deal of
passing to and fro of people on foot; it was not at
all like Whitebrook order and quiet.

" What business have you there, boy ? " one of
the tavern customers, coming out, suddenly called
to him.

" I don't know the gentleman's name, sir,"
Stephen began in some embarrassment

" I say, what business have you to be there, in
anybody's wagon ? "

"He told me to get in," said Stephen. "He's
goin' to take me home with him."

"That's a likely story. Who is it, is going to
take you home ? "



74 STEPHEN, M.D.

" I don't know his name, sir. He didn't tell me
his name; but this is his wagon."

"You're sharper than you look, you young
scamp. Tumble out o' that, or I'll give you some
thing to make you. And keep where you belong,
do you hear ? "

The speaker had a fearful-looking long whip in
his hand, and Stephen dared not disobey. He
clambered down out of the wagon, and stood be
side it, till his questioner had driven off and was
well out of sight. But then he ventured in again,
and sat down in his nest in the straw, feeling im
mensely comfortable. For awhile he was amused
with the varying stir in the street. By degrees
he ceased to speculate on the looks or business of
the passers-by; then their figures went before him
as images in a dream ; and then Stephen quite suc
cumbed to the united influences of rest and fatigue,
anxiety past and contentment in hand ; he toppled
down into the straw and went fast asleep. And
there he was still when the owner of the wagon
came back to it; and he was only awaked by the
noise and jar made by the laying of some dark
looking boards in the box of the wagon. Stephen
started up.

" Hullo ! there you are," cried his friend with a
pleased accent; "I didn't know but you'd sloped.
Didn't see a sign of you when I came up, and
thinks I, he's off, and I've been cheated once
more in my life. But you're there ; and all right,
eh?"



DEEPFORD INN. 75

"Yes, sir, thank you," said the little boy; "and
I never cheated anybody, sir."

"I don't believe you did, I don't believe you
did," said the man. "Now we'll go home. Did
you get your gingerbread, eh ? "

" yes, sir."

" Ah, I see. And it was good, wasn't it ! Now
we'll get home, and have something better than
gingerbread. Don't you think there is anything
better than gingerbread ? Well, we'll see. Have
you got room there, beside that lumber? or will
you come here ? there's room here by me. But my
boy, where's your luggage ? "

"What, sir?"

"Where are your clothes? Haven't you got
any ? Have you got nothing here but what yoa
stand in or sit in ? "

" No, sir."

"How is that?"

" I don't know, sir. I didn't think"

" Where are your things ? "

"They're back in Whitebrook at Mrs. Estey's.
But there aint many of 'em, sir."

" I suppose not I suppose not. Well, it's too
far to go to Whitebrook to-night. "W e'll see about
finding a chance to send for 'em. You're not old
enough to be very long-headed yet, are you? I
guess we'll manage. Are you all right ? "

Stephen had climbed over into the seat by his
benefactor, where he could see the horses, and
they drove off; and to Stephen's satisfaction left



76 STEPHEN, M.D.

Deepford quite behind them. It is difficult to tell
the delights of that drive to the little waif, who
suddenly found himself a waif no longer, but a
hired boy, and a boy with a right home and place
in the world. What the place was, or what sort
of a home, as yet he did not know; and his ten
years old head did not take up any anxiety on
that score. For the present he had got what he
wanted, he had accomplished what he sought to
do; he was a satisfied and thankful person; for
Stephen never doubted that his prayers and his
mother's prayers had been heard, and that his
benefactor was but doing a higher will and be
hest. Which did not hinder his being thankful
to him too.



CHAPTER VIL

JONTO'S KITCHEN

IT was a never-to-be forgotten drive. The way
lod out of the town along the course of the
Httle river, which flowed with a good deal of cur
rent, making ripples here and there where some
roughness of its bed interfered with the rapid pass
age of its waters. The stream went winding, but
the road followed it; lost it, and caught up with it
again; always caught up with it; and Stephen
watched to see its gleam through the alders and
willows which fringed and overhung it, whenever
for a little the road had left its pretty, playful neigh
bour. It fascinated him, dividing his attention only
with the horses. The horses were a great delight ;
large, strong, brown roadsters, well looked after
and well fed, and so bringing a cheery good will
to their work. The day was declining towards
evening; indeed, generally speaking, it was even
ing already; cool, moist, fresh, but not harsh, as
spring evenings in that region often are. Trees
were not in leaf yet, but their bare branches were
not dreary, and the grass was quite green. The

(77)



78 STEPHEN, M.D.

country was less absolutely level than Stephen was
accustomed to see it; there were low heights and
rocky ridges to be seen; and as the brown horses
went on and on, the rocks and the ridgy hillocks
were more and more plentiful, until level fields be
came the exception. Still the road kept near the
river, which sometimes, when the horses walked a
bit, could be heard gurgling and rippling with the
stones in its way. The evening fell dusk and the
air grew cooler.

"Are you warm, Stephen?" his friend asked, see
ing the boy's shoulders moved by something that
looked very like a shiver.

" I don't think I am," Stephen responded care
lessly. " I wasn't thinking about it."

" What were you thinking about, eh ? I always
think of that, when I am cold. What were you
thinking about, Stephen?"

"The river, and the horses. I was thinking
one is going as fast as the other, only they are go
ing different ways."

"Ah, yes, the river does go pretty fast; that's
what makes it so good for me ; and the beauty of
it is, it never gets tired ; always keeps on just so."

"The horses don't look tired," remarked Stephen.

" Well no ; but if they kept on night and day they
would, you know."

" Aren't they very strong horses ? "

"Well yes, they are ; but how did you know that?'

"I thought they looked strong. Has the rivei
got a name ? "



JONTO'S KITCHEN. _ 79

' certainly ; two names. Some folks call it
Deepford river, but we call it Cowslip."

"Cowslip river?"

" Yes."

"That's a pretty name. We had no river at
Whitebrook."

" You had a brook, I suppose ? "

" No sir, we didn't. There was a brook once, but
it's been turned off."

"Ah? Well we're better off, for we've got a
brook at Cowslip, as well as a river. You'll like
the brook."

"01 like the river too, very much," said Stephen. .
" I think it's beautiful."

The drive lasted so long that it was quite dusk
when they arrived. Stephen could see several build
ings; at least the masses of their roofs stood out
against the grey sky, and long and large they
seemed to be; but much more just then he could
not make out. The wagon had turned into a sort
of farmyard, which had barn and stables on one
side; and here the driver dismounted and helped
Stephen down. It was not dark, only too dusky
to see to a distance.

" Here we are, Stephen," said his friend.

" Yes, sir," said the little boy.

"Now, to begin with. Do you know how to
take a horse out of harness ? "

"No, sir."

" There is no time like the present See here
I will shew you."



80 _ STEPHEN, M.D.

So he made Stephen observe how he slipped this
buckle and undid that fastening, and the whole
course of the operation, until the horses had their
halters on and nothing else, and were led into their
stable.

"Now, do you think you would know next time ? "
asked the man as he and Stephen came out and he
shut the stable door.

" I think I would, sir."

" Could you harness a horse, do you think, if I
shewed you how ? "

" I don' know as I could reach up to his head."

" Ah ! I am glad to see you are careful about
making statements. That's right. You'll grow.
Now come along."

They crossed the yard to a corner door over which
a sort of penthouse roof extended a little shelter.
The man opened the door and went in, expecting
Stephen to follow; but he had not said so, and the
little boy's foot paused timidly. There was a min
ute or two during which he took in a picture never
afterwards in all his life to be forgotten.

The door was left partly open. Stephen, standing
on the doorstep, looked into a bright room which
was filled with the shine of a blazing fire. It was a
kitchen, he saw by the gleaming of tin pans and
the rows of dishes on a dresser; and from out the
open door, came a most savoury smell of supper.
Floor and dishes and tins and everything looked as
neat as wax; put up, and orderly, and comfortable.
On one end of the hearth, watching probably over



JONTO'S KITCHEN. 81

her cookery, stood the portly figure of a coloured
woman. She fitted in well with the rest of the
picture. A large woman, very black, as nice and
neat as her room ; and as bright, for a many-col
oured bright handkerchief was on her head, wound
up into a most wonderful turban, and her face shone
as if it had been varnished, reflecting all the light
that was flickering around.

"Well Jonto, supper's ready, eh?" said the mas
ter of the house. " I've brought somebody home
with me that I want you to take care of."

"More folks?" said the woman. "I t'ought ye
had folks enough to look arter a'ready, Mr. Har'n-
brook; more 'n you kin manage. There's some on
'em aint arnin' deir wages, I'll be boun'. What's
dis 'n, Mr. Har'nbrook ? "

" Somebody for you to look after, Jonto. I want
you to help me take care of him, too. I suppose
he'll want both. I couldn't help bringing him home,
and if he behaves himself, he'll stay. You can make
up a bed for him in the little room at the head of
the stairs there's nothing in it now; make a nice,
comfortable bed for him, and give him a good sup
per, for the child has had nothing all day but a
piece of gingerbread." The woman gave a strange
kind of grunt at this, which conveyed no informa
tion whatever to Stephen's mind.

" There's no bedstead there, I believe."

"Nor nufiin' else. What you t'inkin' ob, Mr.
Har'nbrook?"

" You can make up a bed on the floor."



82 STEPHEN, M.D.

"'SpectI kin."

"Nice and comfortable, eh? I know you will.
You can take the blue counterpane and blankets
that were on Tim's bed. Now I must go and tell
Mrs. Hardenbrook what I have brought home.
Where is he? Here, Stephen!"

Stephen, not liking to be spying, after that one
minute's view of Jonto and her kitchen had been
looking away somewhat vaguely to the stars, which
were shimmering out faintly in the darkling sky;
feeling that there was sure help and protection for
him, and sending a wordless prayer for it. At the
call he turned from the dusky sky to the bright
fire-lit room and crossed the threshold, just as his
benefactor left the kitchen by another door. He
stood face to face with Jonto. The black woman
surveyed him, and Stephen looked up to her.

"JWs he, hey?" she began. "Whar'd Mr.
Har'nbrook pick you up, like to know? What d'
ye call yerself ? Aint big enough to hev no name."

"0 yes, I have a name," said the little boy. " I
am Stephen Joyce Kay."

"Dat's free names, aint it? What for you go
and hab t'ree names fur? I has to do wid one,
and 'nuff too. Whar you come from, hey?"

" From Whitebrook, ma'am."

"Never heerd tell o' no Whitebrook in dese
parts. What made you come away from whar
you belong?"

" I don't think I belonged there," said Stephen.
" Not now. There was nobody left."



JONTO'S KITCHEN. 83

" Come along here, and sit down by de fire, till



Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 4 of 34)