Susan Warner.

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I git you some supper. Warn't no one left, hey ?
What do de chile mean by dat? Warn't all burned
out, was dey ? Why warn't dey left ? "

" Cos God took 'em " said Stephen. And with
that he gave a great gulp, for it all rushed over him
again. But it was not his way to cry before folks
if he could help it; tears might have their time,
when he was alone; not when others were looking
on. Jon to was looking, and she saw the tremu
lous quiver of the under lip; and the colour
flushing and paling, and the determined effort
the boy made to keep down and keep back what
he felt.

" Wall, wall ! " said she more softly, " chare up,
honey ; I'se be a modder to ye. So you haint none,
hey, no mo'? nor fader noder? Is dey all gone?
Den I'se be a modder to ye. An' you'se come to de
fust-ratest place kin tell ye dat. Mr. Har'nbrook,
he's right good to lib wi' ; he aint a soft shiftless man
neider; he likes folks to step out smart and do what
he tells 'em; la! wouldn't keer to stop wid him,
ef he was one o' dem folks what have no bones in
'em ; but he's got a heart in him, and it aint a lit
tle bit o' one."

"I know that," said Stephen, who during thia
ong speech had got his voice again. " He gave
me two cents this noon to get me some ginger
bread.

"Did, hey? Clar, dat warn't no sich won'erful
doin's. Jonto'll give ye som'fin better you see ef



84 STEPHEN, M.D.

she don't. Dar now ! try dat. Pull up your cheei
and set down to it."

She had been dishing up for Stephen a great
plateful out of something she had cooking in an
old-fashioned bake oven at one side of the fireplace.
It was very strange to Stephen's eyes. She lifted
with the tongs a huge iron lid, with a raised bor
der, which was full of coals and ashes; and from
a dish within the lower receptacle she filled the
plate. The savoury smell diffused all through the
room by this proceeding was appetizing in the ex
treme; but Stephen's appetite needed no provoca
tive. He drew up his chair as she bade him ; Jonto
cut him a great slice of bread, and then left him
to appease his hunger while she dished up and
took in the supper for the family.

In the sitting-room to which she carried it the
whole little family was waiting; Mr. Hardenbrook,
and his wife, and their one little daughter. Mrs.
Hardenbrook was a small woman, who had been
pretty, after a sort, who was thought still to be
pretty by some people, herself and her husband
included. Some delicacy of feature she had, some
delicacy of tint, and made the most of both ; but
all the prettiness there was, or might have been,
was spoiled by a perpetual air of fretfulness. I
suppose she had not got from the world all the
recognition she wanted. There was a certain sharp
ness to her nose, to her smile, and to her tone of
voice when she spoke. A contrast to her husband;
for everything about Mr. Hardenbrook was round,



JONTO'S KITCHEN. 85

sound, and healthy. But oil itself dreads the bite
of vinegar.

" What have you got for us to-night, Jonto ? "
asked this lady, in acid sweet tones.

" Somefin good 'nuff for de gobernor," said the
woman confidently, setting the smoking dish on
the table.

" Pigeons ! " cried the little girl springing out of
her father's arms, " it is stewed pigeons, isn't it,
Jonto?"

" What don't dat chile know ! " exclaimed the
black woman admiringly. " Yes honey, dey's pig
eons; and nice and fat; dey's as tender as ef dey
was made to eat."

" Why so they are, Jonto, don't you think so ? "
said Mr. Harden brook.

" Dun know 'bout dat, Mr. Har'nbrook. Ef you
ax somebody else, mebbe he'll say dey is; and ef
you ax de pigeons, mebbe dey wouldn't be so sure.
I'se glad o' one of 'em to-night anyhow, for one
hungry soul."

"Ah! I didn't tell you yet, Maria," said Mr.
Hardenbrook turning to his wife. " I've brought
home somebody with me this evening."

" Brought home ! " cried the lady with a kind of
subdued scream. " Not company, Mr. Hardenbrook?
I thought you were alone."

" Company for Jonto. It's a little boy."

"A little boy! If there's anything I do hate
about a place, Mr. Hardenbrook, it is little boya
Is he to stay here ? "



86 STEPHEN, M.D.

'* That's as he turns out ; but I hope so. fc

" Mercy on us ! How old ? "

"I don't know; ten, I should think."

" He aint big for ten, noder," said Jonto.

" Where did you pick up a ten-years-old boy,
Mr. Hardenbrook ? "

"He picked me up, in Deepford."

"And what ever did you bring him home
for?"

" It was the only way I could take care of him,"
said Mr. Hardenbrook drily.

" What are you going to do with him ? "

" Set him to work."

" You have nothing that a ten-years-old boy can
do."

" Perhaps I have. If not, I'll invent something."

"He's right peart," remarked Jonto, who was
going in and out and arranging the table and the
tea. "He kin eat a pigeon as good as you kin;
and pick de bones better."

"Pigeon!" said Mrs. Hardenbrook. "Did you
give him a pigeon, Jonto ? "

" Wanted to see him do somefin," said the wo
man with an indescribable air of her head; "so I
gib him dat. Couldn't nobody ha' done it no
better. One o' dem pigeon went to de right place,
onyhow. I spects dat ar one were made to eat;
spects it was."

Mr. Hardenbrook laughed. " Hungry, was he?"
he said.

" Hungry ! Those little boys are always hungry,"



JONTO'S KITCHEN. 87

responded his wife. "They eat more than any
thing else can do."

" 'Cept big ones," Jonto added. " You jes' wait
till he's done growed bigger ! One pigeon ! "

" Mr. Hardenbrook, how could you bring such a
creature home, when you know how I hate them ? "

"Never thought of it, my dear, at first, I confess;
and then the poor little fellow was so destitute."

" Bes' not hate what de Lord loves," remarked
Jonto. " 'Taint wholesome. Aint de kingdom ob
heaven made up o' jes' sich ? An' aint we to be
like little chil'len?"

" That aint little boys," said Mrs. Hardenbrook,
with a great air of disgust.

"Is dat so, Mr. Har'nbrook?" inquired Jonto,
suddenly pausing at this, and standing with her
hands upon her hips to await the answer. Whether
she were simple or cunning, Mr. Hardenbrook could
not be sure, and his gravity gave way. Jonto stood
with immoveable composure.

" Go along, Jonto, and take care of this one,'
said he. "I don't think the Bible means ten-year-
old little children. By the time they have lived
so long in the world they have generally lost their
likeness. You'd better see what Stephen is about."

" I know ! " said Jonto. " He's gittin' into thai
pigeon." But she went.



. JONTO.

QTEPHEN had done no more than her statement
O implied ; he had got thoroughly at work with
the pigeon, but it was very far too delicious a
morsel for him to be in a hurry to be done with it.
So he was picking every bone carefully as he came
to it, and staying his hunger meanwhile with as
saults upon the bread. Stephen had never, he
thought, seen anything so good. After what
seemed years of corn mush and molasses, the
beef and greens at Mrs. Estey's board had been
sumptuous fare ; but that was barbarity compared
to the viands he was now enjoying. This belonged
to another sphere of life. And it is true Jonto was
a famous cook; she could make a delicate dish out
of what to Mrs. Estey would have been a meagre
material to work upon. As she came in now and
saw the little boy tenderly handling the bones of
the pigeon and making neat work of carving and
cleaning them, she did not smile indeed outwardly;
but an inward sense of complacency diffused itself
through her and gave a very satisfied expres-
(88



JONTO. 89

sion to her face. She stood still a minute to look
on ; and then marching into some pantry or closet
near, returned with a mug of sweet milk which
she set down beside the accumulating wrecks of
the pigeon.

" Oh ! " said the little boy, in an inimitable tone
of incredulous gladness, " is this for me ? "

"Drink it down, honey, as fast as ye like," said
Jonto heartily. " Don't folks keep no cows where
you come from ? "

" yes, they kept cows, some of 'em," said Ste
phen, after an appreciative draught from the mug;
" but they made it all into butter, some of 'em,
and hadn't any to spare not till it was sour?"

"What does dey gib deir chil'len to eat?"

" bread, and meat," said Stephen; " most of 'em.
And sour milk's good too, if you can't get any other."

" So you'se lived on bread and meat. What sort
o'meat?"

" I didn't say I lived on it," said the little boy.

"What did you live on, honey?"

" mush, a good deal ; mush and molasses. That
is, when I was at home."

" An' ye didn't have no bread nor milk ? "

" We couldn't afford it. Mother had a little bread
with her tea ; and she used to make corn cakes for
me sometimes."

" Like 'em ? " said Jonto, watching the disappear
ing pigeon.

But Stephen merely answered yes. The mention
of corn cakes called up too many things for him



90 STEPHEN, M.D.

to want to talk about them ; and Jonto let him alone
till his supper was done, and Stephen had turned
from the table.

" What's you come here fur now, do ye s'pose ? "
she asked then.

"Work, ma'am, I suppose," said little Stephen,
swinging his legs contentedly before the fire. Jonto
pursed up her face.

"What sort?"

" I don' know. Mr. Hardenbrook'll find out."

" Who sent ye, honey ? "

"Nobody sent me," said Stephen, looking up a
little surprised at the inquiry. " Except I guess,
God sent me."

" What fur you t'ink dat ? "

" 'Cause there wasn't anybody else," said Stephen
thoughtfully. "And mother shewed me the place
in the Bible."

"What place is dat?"

"I know," said Stephen. "She shewed it to me.
It says the widows are to trust in him, and he'll
take care of the fatherless. And she trusted him.
And I think he's taken care o' me."

And the swing of Stephen's little legs was pleas
ant to see, it expressed so undoubtedly the fixed
state of his mind. Jonto saw it, and was happy.

" I s'pects you'se a boy what has had a good
modder," she remarked. But Stephen did not follow
that lead ; he stopped swinging his legs and looked
meditatively in the fire.

" Haint you got no fader neider ? "



JONTO. 91

Stephen shook his head. " Not since I was seven
years old."

" How old is you now ? "

" Ten and a half."

" Is you tired ? "

" I don't know. Yes, I guess I am. 1 *

" How fur ha' you travelled to-day ? "

" I don't know. It's six miles from Whitebrook
to Deepford."

" How'd ye come dem six mile?"

" I walked."

" You did ! Who told you Mr. Har'nbrook 'ud
be at Deepford to-day ? "

"Nobody told me. I didn't know. Only God
knew, I guess."

" What ever did ye go to Deepford dem six mile
fur, den ? "

" Work. I hoped I'd find some one that would
give me work."

" What you want work fur? "

"I want' money," said Stephen gravely; "and
that's the only way I can get it."

" What you want money fur, hey ? "

Stephen looked up. " Why, I have no one to take
care of me," he said. " I must work, and get some
wages."

" Honey, you's not big 'nuff yet to earn no wages.
Can't earn your bread and salt. Not yet."

" I think I can," said Stephen ; though a little lesa
confidently. " And I shall grow bigger." His legs
began to swing again.



92 STEPHEN, M.D.

'* Why didn't you get work in dat place whar you
come from den ? 'Pears dat would ha' been nat'ral.
You didn't know, you see, Mr. Har'nbrook 'ud be
dar. Aint t'ings won'erful in dis world ! An' now
you'se here. Honey, whar's your t'ings ? "

" What things, ma'am ? you mean my clothes ?
I left 'em in Whitebrook, at Mrs. Estey's."

" What's she ? "

"Mrs. Estey? She's Mrs. Estey; farmer Josh
Estey's wife; she took care of me since since mo
ther died."

" How long's dat, honey ? "

" 'Most a month," said Stephen soberly.

" Funny sort o' keer she took o' ye ! let you go
off by yourself to seek your fortin that a way ! I'd
like to take keer o' her for a while."

" she was very good to me," cried Stephen.
" She did not want me to go. I bid her good bye, but
I don't think she believed I was going."

"Whar was her man ? "

" Mr. Estey ? Gone out to plough."

" Whar was de chil'len ? warn't dere none ? "

" yes. They were gone to school."

" Why warn't you gone to school too, 'long o
dem?"

"Nobody sent me. I haven't been to school
since father died."

" What fur no ? "

" Mother wanted me at home to help her."

Jonto's investigations were here interrupted by
he call to clear the supper table. She sat down to



JONTO. 93

her own supper then, but studied Stephen all the
while ; till she saw that the little feet were swing
ing no longer, and that the head was nodding. She
pushed her plate away then with great energy.

" Aint you wuss'n oder folks, Jonto ! " she said to
herself in an audible soliloquy. " You what knows
better. Got eberyt'ing you want; and you don't
keer ef de res' o' de world has a bed to lie in or not !
See de blessed chile can't keep his eyes open no
sort o' how. Know he's dead tired, ef he don't know
it. He's got sperrit 'nuff to go lookin* for work in
his sleep, I do b'lieve. Now, Jonto, be smart for
once, ef ye kin."

She left her table and her kitchen and Stephen
asleep before the fire, and went up a narrow stair-
way shut off from the kitchen by a door. At the
top there was a small gallery with several doors
opening into it. The first of these let Jonto into a
little bit of an unused room. Nothing whatever
was in the room. A moment she stood surveying
the place and thinking; then, late as the time was,
she fetched a broom and began operations by
making the floor broom clean. Then she lugged
in a cot from somewhere, and then a bed to put
on the cot; and coverings for the bed. Next a
chair was brought in, and then a chair with no
back to it, on which Jonto presently placed a tin
basin and a towel. Then she went down stairs
and brought the sleepy little boy up to his
quarters.

"'Taint fixed up yet," she said; "but de fust



94 STEPHEN, M.D.

t'ing is to sleep, and you kin sleep, as fast as ye
like. An' den, when you gets up in de mornin 1 ,
de next t'ing is to wash yourself; an' here's a pail
o' water and a piece o' soap, and a basin and a
towel. Now when you gits up, honey, you gib
yourself a right smart scrub, and wash off all dat
dust o' dose six mile o' walkin' dis mornin' ; make
yourself as clean as a whistle from you'se head to
you'se heels; an' I'll shake out you'se coat and
trowsers, dat I'se warrant dere's no dust left in
dem. Now honey, dis yer aint Whitebrook I 'spect
it's a better place; but onyhow de Lord's hei-e like
as he was dar; don't you go and be like Jacob,
what fought he had left de Lord whar he come
from, till he seed him atop o' de ladder o' light.
Dat aint de way for de Lord's chil'len to do ; and
you'se one of 'em, aint ye ? "

"Yes, m'm," Stephen answered, with an inno
cent but honest look.

"Den go to sleep, chile; you'se all right." y

Stephen obeyed the advice immediately. Too
tired and sleepy to think or even be glad, all he
could do was to say one very short little prayer
and get off his clothes and tumble into bed.

But the waking was another matter. At Ste
phen's age, sleep does her work of renovation fast
and thoroughly; in the morning he was another
boy. He waked up feeling strong and clear and*
bright/ it was the way he always waked up; sleep
never hung about him stupidly after its work was
done. For a few minutes however he lay still to



JONTO. 95

look and think. He hardly remembered how he
had got into this little room last night, so it was
something to be examined. It was a very little
room; his bed's head touched one wall and its foot
another; but so long as there was room enough for
his cot between them, what did that matter? and
he lay very comfortably. Stephen noticed how
sweet and clean the sheets aiid the pillow were;
not like his bed at Mrs. Estey's, where he had shared
the couch of one of her boys who would never let
anything be very nice that was used by him. Ste
phen had been trained by his mother to be fastidi
ously nice ; it was one of the bits of gentle training
she had been able to give him ; and his whole nature
responded to it. So here he was suited. The little
room was whitewashed and clean and sweet; there
hung his dusted clothes on the chair, and there
was the pail of water ready for him. Stephen lay
still a minute longer to enjoy things. How wonder
ful it was ! here was he in a room of his own, he
had found a place and work, he was a "hired boy";
which as it had been just now the object of his
ambition afforded him, we may suppose, an equal
amount of satisfaction to that given by the fulfilled
ambitions of loftier aspirants. Things are so rela
tive in this world. And then, Stephen had been
fed last night with the daintiest supper he had ever
tasted ; it was quite to be expected that the break
fast would be comfortable; and Stephen was already
beginning to feel that it would be very comfortable,
With that came anew the thought of getting up,



96 STEPHEN, M.D.

which was a necessary preliminary; and Stephen
sprang out of bed.

It was still early. The sun was not thinking of
making his appearance yet; only a soft, grey, clear
light was filling the earth and broadening and
brightening with every minute. That was as it
should be, too; Stephen would have been ashamed
to be late in bed. He had been always wont to be
up early, to do things for his mother, and so had
got the habit. He applied himself to the cold
v,ater and soap; and was as clean a boy as his
travel-worn suit permitted, when he went down
stairs to the kitchen.



CHAPTER IX.

POSIE.

IN the kitchen he found Jonto.
Jonto was crouching in front of the fireplace,
just beginning to rake open the ashes of the care
fully covered-up fire. Stephen had come in softly,
and she did not see him till he was beside her.

" I can do that " he said.

" Chile ! you skeert me," said Jonto turning. " Ha
you had a good sleep in your new bed ? "

" Yes, m'm, thank you."

"Den ha' you t'anked de Lord?"

" Yes, ma'am," said Stephen softly.

"Ef you git a good sleep, you should t'ank de
Lord. Dar is folks what can't sleep, poor critters!
Is you done rested ? "

" Yes ma'am. / can kindle the fire."

" T'ink you kin ? "

"Yes, ma'am. I used to kindle the fire for
mother."

" Den let's see you."

She got up and stood on one side, watching him.
Stephen raked the ashes open carefully till he found

97)



98 STEPHEN, M.D.

the living coals kept alive under them; then he
rolled a big log into place at the back of the chim
ney, with much labour; but Jonto let him alone and
even offered no suggestion. With much pains and
gome skill Stephen got it done. Then he laid kin
dling artistically right; piled sticks on the fire
dogs; and finally puffed at the coals till he set
them ablaze. The fire crackled and the blaze
sprung up chimney.

"Who shewed ye how, honey?" said Jonto.

" I used to see father make the fire. And I al
ways did it since for mother."

" Dat is jes' right," said Jonto. " I couldn't ha"
done it no better. Mos' folks t'ink dey mus 1 set de
sticks all crossways ; de fire won't burn dat a way ;
and I see you done laid de wood so de air kin git
in. Now you want some breakfast, hey ? "

" If you please, ma'am."

"Never see a boy what didn't want his break-
fust; widout he war sick. Was you ever sick? "

"No, ma'am, not since I had the measles."

" Did you t'ank de good Lord for dat, chile ? "

" I don't know, ma'am."

"You look out. 'Spect you'll find plenty to
t'ank him fur; and den, mind you does it."

Bustling about, Jonto soon had various things
preparing for the breakfast of the family, at;d the
kitchen air redolent of savoury cooking. Not wait
ing for these matters to come to completion how
ever, Jonto, when they were well under weigh, aet
a plate and bowl for Stephen and brought out milk



POSIE. 99

and bread and baked apples. Stephen made what
he thought a royal meal, for the milk was good,
and the bread and apples unlimited.

He had just finished his milk, and was turning
with a satisfied feeling of being ready now for any
thing; when a door slowly opened, and first a little
head and then a whole little figure came in. Carrie
in just within the door, and there stood still, look
ing at Stephen ; and Stephen on his part forgot every
thing else in the world and looked at her. It was a
delicious little apparition. A curly head, of softest,
sonsiest brown curls; a round little face, of shell-
like tints of pink and white, and skin as delicate
as a rose leaf; two blue eyes, large and grave and
curious, but gentle and tender; and a lovely child
ish mouth, at this moment supernaturally grave,
but looking like a rose bud ready to open. And
the figure crowned by this head and adorned by
this face was a charming child's figure, round and
chubby and lithe, with nothing of the stock round
ness of some children, that look as if their joints
must be stiff. The little person was supple and
pliant, and took now one and now another curve of
gracefulness, moved thereto by shyness perhaps, or
consciousness, or incipient coquetry. She stood
silently looking at Stephen; and Stephen was as
one spellbound, looking at her.

"What's you arter now, Posie?" said J oil to
" Come to see ef breakfast's ready? "

"No."

"I knowed you warn't. Who sent you, den?"



100 STEPHEN, M.D.

Nobody."

" I knowed 't warn't nobody. What you want
o' me, hey ? "

" Nothing."

"Didn't I know dat too? Come in. Come to
see my company ? "

Posie did not say. She came in however, wrig
gling her little person in those graceful curves
aforesaid, whereby shoulders and head went now
this way and now that; but not awkwardly, only
as it were coquetishly, and half shyly. From
Stephen she did not meanwhile move her eyes.
She came up close to Jonto and stood there by
her side.

" Well, aint you gwine to speak to him ? Your
pa's done brought him here last night and he's
gwine to stay, I reckon. Aint you gwine to tell
him you'se glad to see him ? Dat ar 'd be perlite,
whar I was fetched up."

"Who is she, ma'am?" said Stephen, with whom
delight overcame every other feeling. For never
had he seen such a vision of a child before. The
Whitebrook little girls were coarse in comparison,
at least in respect of dress; and very inferior in
attractiveness. This little image was clad in a
pretty nankeen frock, the short sleeves of which
were tied up with blue ribbands.

" Who is you, Posie ? " said Jonto repeating the
question.

" I'se Miss Hardenbrook."

" Oh ! Clar, now ! Is you dat. Den dis yer is



POSIE. 101

Mr. Kay; and dat's all dere is to be said. Aint
chil'len won'erful! Miss Har'nbrook and Mr. Kay!
Don't dat beat all ! An' who's me, Posie ? "

"You'se Jonto."

" Oh ! 'Spects I is. Nebber kuowed my- own
name. 'Spose I had one once; but la! what's de
differ, when a t'ing's gone done lost? 'Spects 1'se
Jonto, sure 'nuff. Won't Miss Har'nbrook take a
cheer?"

The little lady Wriggled herself into a chair,
with an inimitable air of incipient young-lady
hood. Stephen stood still regarding her, in a state
of delight that was exceedingly amusing to Jon
to. She went about her kitchen, chuckling and
talking.

" What d'ye s'pose Mr. Kay's done come fur, hey,
Posie?"

" I don't know. 'Cause father thought he was a
good boy."

"Spec' he warn't fur wrong, neider. What does
you t'ink your pa '11 do wid him ? "

"Father wants him to come to the parlour."

" Oh, do he ! Why didn't you say so before.
Well, take him along, den, and shew him to your
ma, and see what shell say to him."

"She don't want to have anything to do with
him."

" Well, take him along, dear, and let her see him.
Maybe she'll change her mind. Jes' you tell her
it's Mr. Kay, will ye ? "

"She aint down stairs yet. We haven't had



102 STEPHEN, M.D.

breakfast. Father don't want him to come till
we've had breakfast."

" Well, ye'll git it afore long, ef I don't hab too
much fine company," said Jonto, now turning her
attention to her own proper business. The two
children took no note of anything but each of the
other.

" Have you had breakfast ? " Miss Posie asked at
length."

" Yes, thank you," said Stephen.

" A good breakfast ? "

"Yes, very good."

" What did you have V " said Posie, now suddenly
slipping down from her chair and coming a step
nearer to Stephen.

" Apples, and bread, and milk."

"That all?"

"Yes."

"Didn't Jonto give you any butter?"

" Butter ! " said Jonto. " You let him alone, Posie.
What does he want wid butter, hey ? Bread and
milk good 'nuff fur him, and fur you too."

" Ah but I have cakes and butter and molasses,



Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 5 of 34)