Susan Warner.

Stephen, M. D. online

. (page 7 of 34)
Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 7 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


as you kin do a thing, and do it well, allays do it
the easiest way; that's my principles; and a rake'll
be your best friend. No, you couldn't sweep it up.
But what'll you do with all this trash when you've
raked it up ? eh ? "

" I don't know, sir. Wont you tell me ? "

"Would ef I knowed, but 'pon my word and
honour I don't. Ef you carried 'em out, they'd
blow all over creation, and I guess Mr. Harden-
brook 'ud give it to you and me too. I'll tell you !
Rake 'em all up in one corner; and then we'll see
whatever's to be done with 'em. That'll do for to
night."

" Please, where shall I get a rake, sir ? "

" Don't keep that article up here," said the man
with a laugh. " We've a good deal o' variety, but
we don't keep agricultural implements. I guess
you'll find one about somewheres. Good night,
and good luck to ye."

Stephen returned the good night with a rather
faint heart. The long room looked very big, now
the men were all out of it; his job looked tremen
dous, now the silence reminded him he was all alone.
He heard Mr. Gordon's departing footsteps, and



STEPHEN'S WORK. 125

cast a glance or two over the stretch of floor with
its litter, and the rows of already darkening win
dows; and for a minute he felt downhearted. In
deed so downhearted, that he felt he must have
help somehow; and there was only one help he
could be sure of. Down on his knees went Ste
phen, on a heap of chips, and prayed for courage
and strength, and help to do his work, and to do it
thoroughly. Only a minute, for the light would
be going; then he sprang at what he had to do.

There are some things that look larger in the
distance than near by; there are others that only
unfold their tedious detail upon making experience
of them. Stephen's job was of the latter kind.
To sweep a floor seems a simple thing; but a glance
over it never tells how many square yards of it
there are. He could not get a rake this evening;
he was afraid to lose time in trying, further than
by asking Jonto.

" Haint got no rakes, boy, in dis yer kitchen ! "
she declared scornfully. " Don't keep none. Whar
is dey? 'Clar, dun know. Reckon Mr. Har'nbrook
dun know, nieder. What you want o' a rake, hey ?"

"There are such heaps of chips and everything
on the floor, Jonto. There's heaps ! "

"Reckon dey is. Boy, you may hev my oven
rake, ef you don't go right off and break it, dat is.
Dar it stands, in de corner."

Stephen shook his head. " I am afraid I should
break it, Jonto. Can I have a broom ? "

" What good's a broom wid all dem, chile ? "



124 STEPHEN, M.D.

Stephen looked at the piles of shavings and rub.
bish which encumbered the floor.

" A broom wouldn't do much good," said he. " If
I could get a rake, or that, I think it would be the
easiest."

" That's it ! " said Mr. Gordon approvingly. " I
said you had a head on your shoulders. So long
as you kin do a thing, and do it well, allays do it
the easiest way; that's my principles; and a rake'll
be your best friend. No, you couldn't sweep it up.
But what'll you do with all this trash when you've
raked it up ? eh ? "

" I don't know, sir. Wont you tell me ? "

"Would ef I knowed, but 'pon my word and
honour I don't. Ef you carried 'em out, they'd
blow all over creation, and I guess Mr. Harden-
brook 'ud give it to you and me too. I'll tell you !
Eake 'em all up in one corner; and then we'll see
whatever's to be done with 'em. That'll do for to
night."

" Please, where shall I get a rake, sir ? "

" Don't keep that article up here," said the man
with a laugh. " We've a good deal o' variety, but
we dorit keep agricultural implements. I guess
you'll find one about somewheres. Good night,
and good luck to ye."

Stephen returned the good night with a rather
faint heart. The long room looked very big, now
the men were all out of it; his job looked tremen
dous, now the silence reminded him he was all alone.
He heard Mr. Gordon's departing footsteps, and



STEPHEN'S WORK. 125

cast a glance or two over the stretch of floor with
its litter, and the rows of already darkening win
dows; and for a minute he felt downhearted. In
deed so downhearted, that he felt he must have
help somehow; and there was only one help he
could be sure of. Down on his knees went Ste
phen, on a heap of chips, and prayed for courage
and strength, and help to do his work, and to do it
thoroughly. Only a minute, for the light would
be going; then he sprang at what he had to do.

There are some things that look larger in the
distance than near by; there are others that only
unfold their tedious detail upon making experience
of them. Stephen's job was of the latter kind.
To sweep a floor seems a simple thing; but a glance
over it never tells how many square yards of it
there are. He could not get a rake this evening;
he was afraid to lose time in trying, further than
by asking Jonto.

" Haint got no rakes, boy, in dis yer kitchen ! "
she declared scornfully. "Don't keep none. Whar
is dey? 'Clar, dun know. Reckon Mr. Har'nbrook
dun know, nieder. What you want o' a rake, hey?"

"There are such heaps of chips and everything
on the floor, Jonto. There's heaps ! "

"Reckon dey is. Boy, you may hev my oven
rake, ef you don't go right off and break it, dat is.
Dar it stands, in de corner."

Stephen shook his head. " I am afraid I shoulcl
break it, Jonto. Can I have a broom ? "

" What good's a broom wid all dem, chile ? "



126 STEPHEN, M.D.

" It'll take up the dust, you know."

" Take up de dust ! " said Jonto laughing. " Reck
on it will, right smart ! it'll take up de dus' !
and whar's you den, when de dus' is all a flyin' ?
It never was took up afo' ; don't see no sen^e into
it. Come along, den."

" you needn't go, Jonto; the stairs aren't easy;
and it's up two pair."

" Well, go 'long den, chile, and I's pray fur ye.
When is you comin' to supper, hey ? "

"As soon as I can," cried little Stephen as he
ran across the court. And he hurried up the stairs,
to the topmost room, which had less heavy lumber
of chips and shavings than the one beneath it.
Still he found there was a deal to be done. He
gathered up the larger pieces of wood and scraps of
veneering, and laid them in piles, as he had been di
rected; he gathered the glue pots, and put in order
the scattered tools. And then there was a great floor
full of litter. He took up that too, by armfuls, chips
and shavings, as much as he could bundle together,
and carried them for laborious deposite in a corner
of the room. But he could take so little at once !
and the room was so long and wide ! and the rub
bish upon it was piled so thick ! Stephen did not
stop to think, nor lose strength in lamenting; he.
toiled away, till he thought the broom would do
better than his hands, and he began to sweep. If
you ever handled a broom, you know that one
stroke with it clears but a little ground; and if you
will do a little bit of calculation, you will know



STEPHEN'S WORK 127

that in the long and broad area of a factory floor
there are a great many square feet. The day, or
the evening rather, darkened outside, and within
there was soon dust enough flying about to dim the
sunshine if it had been noonday.

Just as it was growing fully dark in the court,
and Jonto was beginning to think of going after
her charge, he appeared in the open door. But
such a figure !

41 Well ! " said Jonto ; " ha' you got t'rough ? What
fur do de boy stop dar ? Aint you comin' in ? "

"I'm so dirty, Jonto; I'm not fit. Your room'a
too clean."

" Rooms neber is too clean, boy. Come in and
let's look at you. Well," said Jonto with a pro
longed survey of him, " you'se a dusty boy ! How
much ha' you swallered ? Dat's what I want ter
know. How much has went inside, hey?"

" I can't tell," said Stephen laughing. " I tried
to keep my mouth shut, but I had to open it to
breathe. I'm all aver dust, Jonto."

" Go 'long up stars, boy, and clean yourself. Den
you'se git your supper. Don't ye want it bad ? Run
off now, and be smart. Dus' don't hurt."

Nevertheless Jonto shook her head once or twice
while Stephen was up stairs; giving the saucepan
on the coals an extra stir. Stephen came down
looking comfortable again.

" I shook my things out of the window," said he ;
"that was all I could do; I hadn't any clean to
put on."



128 STEPHEN, M.D.

"Whar's dey, boy?" Jonto asked, as she was
pouring out a savoury mess into a plate for him.

" They're at Whitebrook, all I have got. And my
Bible is there too. how good this is, Jonto ! "

" Don't I know dat ? What you want your Bible
fur, hey ? "

Stephen looked up, with a spoonful stayed on its
way to his mouth.

" It was my mother's little Bible."

" Oh ! DaCs why you'se so mighty sharp to want
it, hey?"

" Yes," said Stephen ; " that's one reason."

" Got anoder, boy ? "

"Why yes, Jonto; of course I have. I want it,
cause I love it. I mean, I love to read it."

" You lubs to read it. Kin you read it good ? "

" I always read it to mother."

"Den mebbe you'll read it to me."

" O yes, Jonto ! "

"We've got to git it fus'. 'Spect we'll hab to
pussecute ole Mass' Har'nbrook till he goes arter it.
You eat you'se supper, chile. Mus' hab strengt' for
all dese yer t'ings."

At this juncture Posie looked in.

"Aint Stephen done his supper yet?"

"Jes" come in from de factory. Kint eat his
supper till he gits it. You jes' let him be, Posie.
He don't want nuffin o' you to night."

But Posie disregarded this intimation, and came
close up to the table where Stephen was hastening
his meal



STEPHEN'S WORK. 129

" What have you got, Stephen ? We didn't have
any of that for our supper. What is it, Jonto? It's
something good."

" H'm ! " said Jonto with an expressive grunt,
" does ye t'ink I'se gwine to give him poor vict
uals, when he's been workin' as hard as a horse.
You haint done nothin', Posie; anythin's good 'nuff
for you; but the folks as work, dem's got to eat."

" What's he been doing ? " asked the little girl,
with some sympathy and more curiosity.

".Reckon, ef you'd go up in de factory flo'
you'd see. You take your pa and go look at it."

" I can't. It's dark."

" Den wait till mornin', and den go."

" Father don't let me go to the factory."

" 'Spect he don't. Well, Stephen has got to go
dar. You ax your pa, Posie, to tackle up some
day and go to git Stephen's Bible; he's done left it,
whar he come from. He's gwine to read it to me."

" Now you've done ! " said the little girl as Ste
phen finished his last mouthful. "Now Stephen,
will you play cat's cradle?"

" He won't play nuffin ! " said Jonto. " He's done
been workin', I tell you, Posie, and he's jes' fallin'
to pieces wid sleep. Go 'long and go to bed, boy;
don't ye see ye kint hold yer head up no mo' ? "

There was a hearty tenderness in the old woman's
voice, which both children felt, in different ways.
Stephen gratefully looking up at her, while he felt
his head swimming with sleepiness, pushed back
his chair, to obey her counsel. Then stopped.



130 STEPHEN, M.D.

"I'm so sleepy how shall I wake up in the
morning ? " he said.

" Sleep don't kill nobody. You'll wake up, fast
'nuff, when you'se got 'nuff of it."

" But, Jonto, I cannot wait for that. I muet
be up very early."

" What fur, den ? "

" 'Cause I must be over at the factory to do the
other room, before the men come."

" De oder flo'. Haint you done bofe of 'em ? "

" No. Only one."

" To' de men comes ? "

"Yes."

" Dey comes at seven o'clock."

" Yes, and I must be there at five. I shall want
all of that."

"Is you comin' back like a walkin' duf* heap
into my clean kitchen agin?"

" 1 am very sorry, Jonto, but I can't help it. I
think, after I get the rooms once clean it wot>'t ba
so hard, and I won't be so bad. I can't help i*.,"

So saying, Stephen almost staggered off. >^osia
pouted a little.

" You kin tell your pa, he's done got one d*y'a
good work out o' dat boy, anyhow," said Jonto

" But I wanted him to play with me ! "

" Ay ! Dere's some folks in dis yer world <Kt
has got to work; and oders has to play. Stephe**,
he is one what has got to work. I don't 'spec*
you II nebber do no work, Posie."

" I don't want to."



STEPHEN'S WORK. 131

" Well, dat's de differ 'tween him and you. Bress
de boy ! he done make my fire dis mornin', out o'
his own head. I nebber axed him."

" What for ? " said Posie.

"What fur? 'Spect I couldn't tell ye. Dere's
some folks what it aint no use fur to tell t'ings
dey's got no sense."

Posie found Jonto impracticable, and went away



CHAPTER XIL

SHEEP AMONG WOLVES.

OTEPHEN had been a tired little boy when he
O went to bed; but the morning found him all
made over again by the blessed ministry of sleep.
He took his cold bath, finding his pail of water
ready for him, and was nevertheless beforehand with
Jonto in getting down stairs; and when Jonto did
come, she found her fire lighted and her kettle on.
And, as she used to say with great pride and pleas
ure in after times, she never had to kindle that fire
again for ten years.

The fire was kindled, but Stephen was gone.
He was in the factory, attacking that very much
littered second floor. It was morning now and not
evening; the light waxing and not waning; that
made a wonderful difference; and Stephen was
fresh. So he took hold of his work with a light
heart. But the very first thing he did, was to
kneel down in a pile of shavings and pray. It was
a grand place to pray! nobody within possible
hearing, and all the great house to himself. In

run



SHEEP AMONG WOLVES. 133

the clear, grey, sweet early light, Stephen knelt
there by himself and felt, like Elisha's servant when
his eyes were opened, that he was anything but
alone. Or rather, like Jacob when he saw the Lord
standing at the top of the ladder, and knew He was
in that place. So Stephen knew, when he rose
from his knees ; and his work after that went lightly
on. Nevertheless it was a great job to clear that
floor; and he was not quite through with it when
he heard steps on the stairs. It was only Mr.
Gordon, for the first. He looked about him with
a curious glance.

"Who's helped you?" he asked. Stephen an
swered respectfully.

' I had nobody to help me, sir. Except "

" Hey ? Except what ? " said Gordon laughing.

'* I meant except God, sir."

''What? You little devil, are you up to that
a'ready ? "

"Up to what, sir?"

The child and the man looked at each other, in
mutual doubt of each other's meaning. The inno
cent frank eyes of the boy were however unmis-
takeable.

" What do you mean ? " said the man rather
roughly.

" I meant that," said Stephen. " I was afraid I
should never get through in time, so I asked God
to help me, and I think he did. I knew he would."

"You little hypocrite, how did you know he
would?"



134 STEPHEN, M.D.

"Because he always does, sir, if people ask
him."

"You lie there," said the other. "I've asked
him to help me, and he never did."

The two were still looking into one another's
eyes, as if each were trying to read behind what
those orbs revealed; and Gordon indeed as if he
would look the boy down. But nothing was fur
ther from his power.

" Was it something right, sir ? " Stephen asked at
length.

" Right ? " said the other, flaming out, and with
a curse which made Stephen start ; " how dare you
ask me ! What business is it of yours ? "

" No, sir," said Stephen ; " only you said He had
not helped you, and I was thinking what could be
the reason."

"Now look here," said Gordon. "Up in this
place I'm master; you understand? And I'll have
none o' that stuff here. You shut up, and keep
shut up, do you hear ? I'll have none of it. Not a
word. Ef I catch you doin' any o' that preachin'
on anybody but me, you may reckon on gettin' a
lickin', ef you never had one afore. Do your work
and hold your tongue; and ef you go agin my or
ders, you may ask God to help you, fur you'll want
it."

With which utterance Mr. Gordon stamped up
the stairs which led to the upper floor. Stephen
stood still for a minute; things had suddenly grown
dark around him. But not for much more than a



SHEEP AMONG WOLVES. 135

minute ; then he fled to that refuge which he had
already found so near; he would not wait for things
to come to extremities before he asked for the
Lord's sweet help. While he was yet on his knees
there came a thundering question shouted down
from the head of the stairs.

" Here you ! boy ! ha' you done all this this
niornin' ? "

" No, sir. I did that room last night."

Stephen heard no more, for the workmen came
pouring in and stumping up stairs, and he made
haste to finish what he had yet to do. There were
various exclamations of admiration and satisfaction
at the new condition of things; but Stephen did
not stay for compliments. He seized his broom
and fled across the court to his breakfast and Jonto.

" Is you gwine back over dar ? " she asked as she
saw he had finished his meal.

" yes."

" Gwine to stay dar all day ? "

" I suppose so. You know, I must learn, Jonto."

"Learn what?"

" How to do all that work."

Jonto gave one of her queer grunts, which
Stephen did not understand, though it certainly
gave him the notion that the honour of her ap
proval was failing to these arrangements. And
then she watched him, the steady, firm step with
which the little boy went across the yard to the
door of the factory. At another time, no doubt,
Stephen would have run ; he was tired enough now



136 STEPHEN, M.D.

to walk; and the factory had already lost some of
its attractions, besides. Jonto looked after him,
and when she turned away, somehow her eyes
did not see quite clear.

Stephen was kept pretty busy all day. In the
course of it he became better acquainted with the
character of the workmen, his associates. Some
were steady, quiet men, who talked little, minded
their business, and if they spoke to him at all did
it civilly and in the way of business. There were
others who made a good deal of noise ; Stephen did
not think they did the most work nor the best of
it; and they addressed him sometimes in the way
of banter, sometimes in impatience, always slight
ingly if not with real unkindness. One or two
half grown boys there were, learning the trade;
they looked askance at the little new comer, and
one of them obligingly shoved a bit of timber in
his way now and then, when he could do it cleverly,
to trip him up. Stephen avoided the snare, but
thought it very superfluous that such snares should
be set. You see, he was yet a very simple little
boy.

Gordon during most of the morning let him
alone; and Stephen fetched and carried for the
other men at their good pleasure. He rather
dreaded Mr. Gordon now, so was not delighted
when after dinner the man called him. Mr. Gordon
wanted to ask several questions respecting Stephen's
life and history, which the boy answered as briefly
as was consistent with civility.



SHEEP AMONG WOLVES. 137

" And what put it in your head to come here ? "

" Nothing, sir. It was never in my head."

" How come you then ? " said Gordon roughly.

" Mr. Hardenbrook "

"Yes, I know Mr. Hardenbrook brought you;
but what did he bring you fur ? that's what I
want to know. / don't want no more boys to
look arter."

" I suppose it was kindness, sir," said Stephen
hesitating.

" What ? "

"Kindness, sir."

"Look here," said Gordon with a rough word
which I will not repeat, "you needn't bring no
soft sodder here; I don't believe in it; have no use
fur it. Soft sodder never mended no leaks yet,
don't ye know that ? "

"I don't know what that is, sir."

"Well you won't learn in this here place; we
don't keep the article. What I want to know is,
be you come here to learn the business?

" Mr. Hardenbrook said so, sir."

"Want to learn?"

" Yes, sir; I want to learn anything."

" Do, hey? Wall, the fust thing I learn the boys
when they come here, is to drive nails; and the fust
thing, before you kin drive a nail, is to hold it;
and you kin begin to learn that right away."

He put a large nail in Stephen's fingers and in
dicated whei-e lie was to hold it. "No, no," said he
laughing, seeing that Stephen's eyes were looking



138 STEPHEN, M.D.

for the hammer, "J hold that. One thing at a
time. You must hold before you kin drive. I'll
send the nail home. Hold you fast there "

Stephen did not at all like this arrangement,
nor believe in the reasonableness of it. However,
it was better not to offend Mr. Gordon if he could
help it; and he stood firm and held the nail, while
the heavy blows of Mr. Gordon's hammer sent it
home.

"There ! " said the latter. " You see."

" Yes sir," said Stephen, " but if you didn't hit
true, my fingers would get it."

"That's it," said Gordon lightly; "sometimes my
fingers dont hit true. I just wanted you to know
that little fact; so you'll take care."

"How am I to take care, sir ? "

" Mind what I say to you ! " returned the other
fiercely. "It's a weakness o' mine; whenever folks
don't do what I tells 'em, my hammer don't come
down true; and then somebody, you bet, gits his
fingers mashed. Now will you mind?"

" I will mind you, sir, in everything I can."

" All right," said Gordon. " When I see you kint,
I'll make you; easy. Now go off and mind your
business."

It was all that passed that day between them.
Stephen got a lesson in the use of the saw, from
one of the quiet men in the first room. His name
was Nutts. He instructed the boy how to hold the
tool, how to keep the piece of wood firm, and how
to move the edge of the saw up and down and



SHEEP AMONG WOLVES. 139

keep the cut straight. Stephen was greatly in
terested and very much pleased, especially as the
man said he did very well. Then Stephen asked
if he might have a couple of bits of thin wood that
were lying on the floor; and having got them, he
borrowed a knife from the tool board and spent
his leisure time delightfully. Only Mr. Gordon
troubled him, or rather the thought of Mr. Gordon;
for the man himself he did not see.

When he was at his late supper in the evening,
Posie put her head in at the door; and seeing Ste
phen, she came in.

" What makes you so late? " she asked.

" Folks has to get deir work done, Posie, afore
dey kin rest," said Jonto.

" But Stephen hasn't got any work to do."

" He's done got nuffin but work. What makes
you t'ink he's eatin' his supper at dis yere time o'
day, ef he had any oder time ? He's workin' arter
all de rest o' de folks is done got home."

"What for?"

"Dun know," said Jonto shortly. "Dere's a
many t'ings in dis world what I don' know, and
dis yere's one mo'."

"Are you tired, Stephen?" said the little girl
wistfully.

" I don't mind, Posie."

"0' course he's tired!" said Jonto. "Why
wouldn't he be tired? arter putting all dat barn
o' a place in order fur dat Gordon feller! "

" Look here, Posie," said Stephen, cutting his



140 STEPHEN, M.D.

supper short, I fear, and drawing into view the
two pieces of wood on which he had been whittling
that afternoon. He displayed them with great sat
isfaction; but Posie was unenlightened.

" I see," said she. " What's that for ? "

"Something " said Stephen. "It's something
for you."

" I can't do anything with that."

" No, they are not finished yet."

" Finished ? What are they for ? "

"If I can get a chance to finish them," said
Stephen, handling his bits of wood lovingly. " I'll
tell you, Posie; they're ships."

"Ships?"

" Yes. they will be ships. they're not finished
yet; they've got to have masts, you know; and
sails ; and then you'll see how they'll go."

"Where?"

" In the brook."

Posie took fire immediately. "0 are those to
sail on the brook ! " she exclaimed in delight, and
nestling up to Stephen. "Will you finish them,
Stephen?"

" Just as quick as ever I can."

"And then shall we go and sail them on the
brook ? Stephen, shall we go to-morrow ? "

"They aren't done yet," said Stephen with a
wise shake of his head. " I must get these masts
put in, and these bows a little better shaped first."

" What's ' bows ' ? "

"This end of the boat; see? these rounded off



SHEEP AMONG WOLVES. 141

points ; those are the bows ; and this square end is
the stern. I'll finish 'em."

"And when shall we go, Stephen?"

" The very first day we can ; but I don't know,
Posie. You see, I've got work now."

The little girl edged herself upon Stephen's chair,
so that the two children occupied it together; Posie
laying one hand confidingly on Stephen's shoulder
and bringing her sunny curls into close neighbour
hood of his cheeks.

"But Stephen, I want to go to-morrow!" she



Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 7 of 34)