Susan Warner.

Stephen, M. D. online

. (page 9 of 34)
Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 9 of 34)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

folks don't want to remember, it's main easy to for
get. You was goin' along 'th me this forenoon."

" I told you I would not, Wilkins."

" I told you you would, didn't I ? I allays keeps
my promises. I'm like Gordon fur that. You're
goin' along 'th me. It 'ud be too fur for the little
lady; you'd best send her home. See, sissy; I prom
ised to take this here feller to church this forenoon ;
and it's too fur for you, a long sight ; you'd best run
home, you see. He's a goin' with me."

Posie stared at the speaker, and kept fast hold of
Stephen's hand.

"Tisn't true," said Stephen. "I said no such
thing. You didn't ask me to go to church, and I
didn't say I would; and I'm not going anywhere
with you."

" Oh, aint you ! " said the other. " Come now, this
is gettin' too interestin' to be pleasant. Suppos'n'
I make you, young chap ? "

Stephen stood still, facing him, and said nothing.


" Who are you ? " Posie asked suddenly.

" Oh, who am I ! Come now, that's ray ther good.
Who am I ? Upon my word, I forget. Who air
you, fat chops ? "

"You go along!" said Posie. "If you're one of
my father's boys, I'll tell him of you; and he'll fix

This was said in great indignation, which received
no little of its point and expression from fear. Point
and expression however it had; and both boys were
a little astonished; though Wilkins answered with
an irreverent,

"Where do you come from, Goody?"

" I am Miss Harden brook," was the dignified re
turn; "and you had best let me alone."

" Goin' to, thank you. It's only this here boy I
am after. You see, Miss Hardenbrook, he engaged
positive to go along with me to-day; and now as
I've broken up everythin' else to go with him, I
can't let him loose, you see."

" I am not going with you, Wilkins. Neither now
nor any other time," Stephen said steadily.

" You'd better, if you know what's good for you,"
Wilkins said with a very ugly aspect. Stephen
said no more, but could not go forward, as Wilkins
barred the way.

" Ef you don't come along 'th me, I'll tell Gordon
of you; and then, you see, you'll wish I hadn't.
My ! can't he make it a time for you, though !
You'd better keep on Gordon's good side, I tell you I
Ef he aint a peeler, I never see one."


"Go away!" said Posie. "You're stoppin' the
road. Just go away, will you. You're in my way.''

The boy stepped a little to one side, and the two
children immediately went forward, Posie pulling
Stephen along.

" That's a bad boy. I hate him ! " she said under
her breath as soon as she judged it was safe.
"What made him bother us?"

" I don't know."

" Is he comin' after us, Stephen ? "

Stephen looked furtively, and then boldly. Wil-
kins was no more to be seen.

" What did he want, Stephen ? "

" I don't know. He wanted me to go somewhere
with him, but I don't know where and I don't know
why. It was no good, anyhow."

" Does he like you, Stephen ? "

" I don't think he does, Posie."

" Then why did he want you ? ''

" I can't tell. Maybe he wanted to get me to do
something I ought not to do to-day."

" Well, if you wouldn't for me, I guess you
wouldn't for him. Who's Gordon, Stephen? I
know ; he is father's factory man. I don't like him.
Do you like him ? "

Stephen confided to Posie that he did not; and
therewith they reached the meadow and got through
the fence. The sun was up high in the sky now;
the grass was dry; the air was warm; and as the
delicious gurgle of the brook reached their ears the
two children sprang forward to get to it. The


brook was murmuring along gently, a slender stream
now that the mill was not working; the shallow
brown water shewed all its stony bed, and made
sweet music as it flowed along. The bed of the
brook was very stony ; some stones were large and
some were small; now and then one divided the
narrow current, and many an eddy and rebellious
dash of the water shewed the hindrances it had
to fight with in its way. Its way was very devious;
the brook curled and twisted and doubled enough
to treble its length; and along its edges grew rank
grass in tufts and fringes of lush green. To the
children it was a thing of unqualified delight, in
all its features; or if there were a qualification in
Posie's mind, it was that the day was Sunday.

" Stephen ! do you think there would be any
harm in sailing boats just a little ? "

" We've got to have our preaching first," sug
gested Stephen prudently. " Let's find a place. Up
there by the waterfall by Niagara; wouldn't that

They ran thither eagerly ; but alas ! Niagara is
not favourable to the efforts of an orator in its im
mediate neighbourhood; and so the children found
that even the roar of the ten foot fall, when they
were close under it, made talking and reading im
possible, and singing no better than lost labour
But the meadow was sunny, and the ground was
cold, and there was no good, quiet, withdrawn
place to be found. The children must retrace their
steps, quit the meadow, go back over the road, till


they came to the brook above the fall. There they
left the road again and plunged into the thicket
which fringed and overhung the stream. It was
pretty there, and shady; but a good place to sit
down had still to be sought for; and they picked
their way along by the brook for some distance
till they came to the mill weir. Just above that
there were some beautiful larger rocks, with a finer
over-arching growth of wood, and smaller rocks
which would serve very conveniently for their pur
pose. Here they sat down, and looked at each other
contentedly; warm with exercise and tired with
scrambling. All around was stillness now; the
road was at some distance, and the hour for church-
going wagons was long past. It was Sabbath still
ness; only the trickle of water from the weir and
the song of the birds in the tree tops; not even
the flutter of a leaf beside. To Stephen, though
he was not in a church, it "felt like Sunday ;" after
that fashion we all know; perhaps because only
when the noises of men cease to be heard, we can
hear the choral of creation. Little Stephen seemed
to hear it, and folded his hands in glad, though
wordless, devotion. Posie missed the association.

' It's nice here," she said nevertheless. " Now
Stephen, what are we going to do ? "

" Play church, you know. I think this is a beau
tiful church, don't you ? Maybe there are angela
in the tree tops."

"Angels?" said Posie, looking up. "Can you
see them ? "


" no, we can't see them, but they're about, you
know. Now Posie, we'll begin. The first thing
is to pray. We can't kneel down here in this
muss; I guess it aint dry enough; so we must
stand up."


" We could not pray sitting down, you know.
It wouldn't be proper. It wouldn't be respectful,
when we are speaking to God."

" Are you going to speak to God ? "

" Yes. That is what prayer is."

"I didn't know that," said Posie; and she rose
up and stroked down her apron. Stephen rose too,
laid his hands together, and shut his eyes; but that
was not part of Posie's programme and she stared
straight at him. And thereby she got an impression
which quite altered the whole thing for her and
took it out of the "play " category. Stephen's face
was so grave, and so sweet, and so earnest, that
she perceived it was very real to him, what he was
doing; and somehow, by sympathy or otherwise,
something of the solemnity and a little of the sweet
ness came into her own little heart. Stephen's
first prayer was very short.

" Now Posie," he said, " we must sing a hymn."

It was quite delightful, the looking out what
hynm they would sing, and the discussion of tunes;
but at last one was hit upon which Posie thought
she knew; and as Stephen knew it very well, he
led and she joined in as she could. Posie had an
ear, albeit never cultivated in sacred melody; she


caught the tune and presently struck in heartily ;
and the sweet shrill warble of the children's voices
rose up and mingled with the bird songs over their
heads. The hymnsinging was heartily enjoyed by
both of them.

" What comes next, Stephen ? " said Posie, when
they had done.

" Next comes the preaching."

" I don't like preaching," said Posie. " Suppose
we skip that ? "

" no," said Stephen, " that would not be like
church, you know. That would not do. But first
I must read a chapter in the Bible. I forgot that.
It's so good I've got my Bible again ! "

" It isn't a very pretty one," said Posie.

" No, but it was mother's Bible, and I like it.
I'll read here. Now you sit still and don't speak,
Posie, till I have done."

Upon which adjuration followed the reading of
the ten commandments, unbroken by any question
or remark; and then Stephen shut his book and
said, " Let us pray."

" Now Posie," said he as they stood up, for some
thing in Posie's wide-open orbs had struck him at
the close of his first prayer, "Now Posie, you
must shut your eyes, and you must mean what I
say, just as I say it. I am going to ask for things,
and you must ask too. Will you ? "


"No, no! quietly, in your heart."

" Well, go on, Stephen," Posie answered in a


somewhat non-committal manner. Then Stephen
prayed, after the fashion following.

" O God, we want to keep all thy commandments.
At least I do ; I don't know about Posie, but I think
she will, too. And I think we shall find some
things very hard, and I am afraid we shall want a
great deal of help. Will you help us, to keep them
all, every one, and not to be afraid? You know
we are little children, and we don't know anything,
and we can't do much; so if you don't help us, I
am afraid we can't stand. please to teach us,
and to take care of us. Help us to keep the Sab
bath holy. Help us to speak the truth. Help us
to do everything just as the Bible says; and when
we don't understand, help us to understand. We
want to be lambs of Jesus; at least I do, and I
think Posie does. Lord be our good Shepherd I

They sat down.

"That wasn't a very long prayer," said Posie.

"No," said Stephen. "I hadn't anything else
to say."

" The minister in church has a great deal more
to say," Posie went on, " for he prays and prays,
and it seems as if he never would get to the end.
I like your praying a great deal the best, Stephen.
Now are you going to preach ? It's very funny to
preach, with only one person to hear."

" There are two," said Stephen ; " you and me."

"0, are you going to preach to yourself? I
didn't know people did that."


" I am going to. But I don't know how to make
a sermon. I guess I'll do what they sometimes
do, take a chapter and explain it. I forget the
name of it. Tisn't a sermon."

" That'll do better," said Posie stroking down her
apron. " And by that time I guess it'll be noon,
and time to go home to dinner. Now go on, Ste
phen. This is the nicest church I ever was in."

" Isn't it ! " said Stephen. " I think so too. These
trees are the pillars, and the branches make the
roof; and the birds are a nice congregation."

" The birds ? " said Posie. " I thought I was the
congregation; and so I am. Now go on, Stephen.
What are you going to preach about ? "

" I guess," said Stephen, turning over the leaves
of his little Bible, " I guess, the fall of Jericho."

" What's Jericho ? I don't know."

" Jericho was a city ; a strong city ; it had great,
high walls and towers."

"What for?"

"Why, to make it safe, if enemies came to
fight against it. The walls were so high they
could not climb them, and they were so thick, a
woman had her house on the wall."

"She couldn't," said Posie. "I don't believe that."

" O but she did. The Bible says so."

" Is everything true the Bible says ? "

" Of course."

" How do you know ? "

" Because God taught the people who wrote it
what to write; and He is always true."


" Well, go on, Stephen. What were the walls so
thick for?"

" To make them very strong, so that when the
gates were shut nobody could get in; and they
were shut now, fast, and watched; and the walls
were watched, and if anybody tried to climb over,
the people inside would shoot arrows at them and
throw stones down upon them, and kill them, be
fore ever they could get to the top."

" Then I should think they wouldn't try."

" But they had to take the city."


" Why, the Jews. They were all there, a little
way from the place, a great multitude of them ; and
they had to take the city."


" God had told them to take it. And besides,
they must. They had to take all the cities of the
land, and all the country, for God had promised to
give them the whole of it; and told them they
must destroy all the people."

" What for, Stephen ? "

"They were so wicked. They would have taught
the Hebrews their wicked ways."

"Then ought everybody that is wicked to be
killed right off?"

"No. God wants them to repent. But those
people would not repent. So the Hebrews had to
take Jericho."

" I don't see how they could, if the walls were
like that."


"Now I'll read you what they were commanded
to do." And Stephen read the order accordingly.

"To walk round it ! What good would that do ? "
cried Posie. "Why it would be no use at all,

" But God commanded it."

"What for? It was no use."

"It is always use to do what God tells us to

" Not if it's no use," insisted Posie.

" But you couldn't tell whether it was any use
or no, and they couldn't tell. Only, it is always of
dse to do what God says, whether we understand
it or no."

" If you had been there, would you have gone
marching round?"

" Yes, to be sure I would."

" I wouldn't."

" Then you'd have lost all the good."

"What was the good?"

"They took the city."

" How did they take it ? "

"Just by obeying and trusting the Lord, and
doing what you thought was of no use. They
walked round the walls seven days, once each day;
and the last day they walked round seven times;
and the last time, when the priests blew with the
trumpets, Joshua said, ' Shout, for the Lord hath
given you the city.' And then they shouted a
great ringing shout."

" Had he given them the cify ? "


"No, not yet. The walls were standing as high
and strong as ever; but the people believed God
would keep his promise, and so they shouted. You
wouldn't have shouted, either, Posie."

" No. I guess I wouldn't. I wouldn't have been

" Then you wouldn't have seen what they saw."

"What did they see?"

"They saw that great, high, strong wall fall
down flat; the whole of it, all round; so that the
men went straight up into the city, on all sides at

" Did they know the walls would fall ? "

" No indeed; they knew nothing about it. They
only knew that God had promised them the city;
how they would get it they did not know, till they
eaw the walls toppling over."

"And then, what did they do?"

" Went in and took it."

" Did they kill everybody ? "

" Yes ; except one woman that had believed the
Lord; and they brought her out safe, and every
thing and everybody that belonged to her ; and she
got no harm at all."

" Well Stephen, this is a very interesting sermon.
Is it done ? "

" I haven't made the application yet."

" What's that ? "

"It's I don't know exactly how to tell you
It's the lesson, I believe."

"What lesson?"


" The lesson of the preaching of the sermon."

"0 but we have had the sermon; we don't want
the lesson."

" But that's what the sermon's /or," insisted the
preacher. " It isn't finished without that."

" I don't see any lesson."

" I do. And I must tell you. Suppose we had
to take Jericho.'"

"But we don't!" said Posie laughing. "We
haven't got to take Jericho, and we couldn't if we

" Yes, we could."

"You and me? Take a great big city, with
walls as high as a house ? "

" Yes. We could, if God told us to do it."

" Ah, but he hasn't told us any such thing."

" He has told us to do other difficult things
almost as difficult."


"I don't know; but sometimes I guess it's pretty
hard to be good. Sometimes it is hard to tell the
truth, when it will make somebody angry. Some
times it is hard to feel right to people that are ugly
and disagreeable."

" That boy Wilkins ? " said Posie.

"Yes. I was very angry at him for a little

" So you ought to be angry. He is a wicked,
wicked boy. I hate him ! "

" Yes, but you know we mustn't hate anybody."

" Yes, we must, when they ought to be hated."


" No, we mustn't, for Jesus said we must forgive
everybody, no matter what they do."


" Because it is like God to forgive, and to love
people; and his children must be like him."

"We can't," said Posie decidedly. "We cant
love people when they are wicked."

"Then that's like the taking of Jericho," said
Stephen. " We can't do it, but God can."

" What are you going to do ? you can't walk
round it, ' said Posie, much amused with this put
ting of the case.

" No " said Stephen thoughtfully, " but we can
do whatever else the Bible tells us; that will ba
like walking round the walls; and we can shout
if we believe God will give us the victory."

"I'm going to tell pa about that Wilkins," said
Posie inconsequently.


children made their way home slowly, held
1 by the loveliness of everything around them.
The trickle and gurgle of the shallow brook; its
nameless beauties of mimic waterfall and impotent
rapid; its delightful soft voice and continual life
and movement and variety, filled their eyes and
their ears with delight. They were ever stopping
to look at something new, lingering, chatting,
planning; and got home at last only just in time
for dinner. At the kitchen they separated; Ste
phen remaining with Jonto, while Posie went in
to dine with her father and mother. Mrs. Har-
denbrook was ill content, but that surprised no
body; Mrs. Hardenbrook was never known to be
content, unless when a prophecy of hers seemed
to be fulfilled. Posie immediately set about her
remedial measures.

"Pa," said she, "do you know all the boys in
your factory ? "

"Yes, I know them pretty well."

" What makes you keep that one whose name is


" Why should I not keep him ? "

" He is bad, pa. He aint a good boy."

" How do you know ? "

" 'Cause he stopped us on the road."

" Did he ! Why did he stop you ? "

" He wanted Stephen to go to church with him."

" What harm was there in that ? "

" Now Mr. Hardenbrook," broke in his wife, " here
is the beginning, and what vnU the end be ? Here
is Posie running about all day with a couple of
your rude boys; what do you think will become
of her?"

The pinch in Mrs. Hardenbrook's nose became
more pinched, her eyebrows arched themselves
more doubtfully, and her voice was a little harsher
than even its wont, as she spoke. Posie at once
took up the cudgels.

" Mother, he isn't rude a bit, Stephen isn't He
is just the best boy that I ever saw in my life."

" I suppose he is, being the only one," said her

" Stephen is the best of anybody in the house.
I mean, you and mother aint religious, you know;
but he is."

" Ah ! How did you find that out ? "

" He's been prayin' and preachin' all the morn

Mr. Hardenbrook burst into a loud fit of laughter;
Mrs. Hardenbrook bridled and coloured.

" Where was the other boy ? " the former asked.

"Wilkins? he went away, after Stephen


wouldn't go with him. He's a real bad, mean
boy ! Pa, I wouldn't keep him in the factory, if I
Was you."

"Perhaps, if I were you, /would not; but as it
is I must do the best I can. Mr. Gordon speaks
well of him."

" Mr. Gordon aint good neither."

" Did Stephen tell you so ? "

" I know he thinks so, and he don't think Wilkins
is good, no more."

" Perhaps he would be wiser if he waited a little
longer to form his opinion. I really think, Posie, I
know best. Don't you ? "

Posie considered, and then said frankly, "No,
pa, I don't. Wilkins was very ugly.""

"Because he wanted to take your playfellow
away. I understand."

" And he said Stephen had promised to go with
him. And he never did."

"Who told you that?"

" Stephen. He said he never promised him."

" Then there is a lie between them, certainly ;
but who knows who told it?"

"I know, pa. Stephen always tells the truth."

" He does, does he ! Pray how do you know ? "

Posie had not advanced so far in her admiration
of truth as to be willing herself to face some re
proach on account of it ; she was silent. Mrs. Har-
denbrook used the interval.

"I should think, Mr. Hardenbrook, you would
see that such boys are not fit company for your


daughter! Coarse, rude, bad boys! I cannot
make out how you can allow it."

" Stephen isn't coarse or rude, ma ; he is just good.
I hate that Wilkins ! I wish pa'd send him away."

" Stephen, I suppose, put that wish in your head,"
said her father. "Wilkins probably would say
the same of Stephen. Boys are all alike. You
had better keep away from them, my little Posie."

Which recommendation Posie was so far from
regarding, that she went out to the kitchen that
same afternoon to beg Stephen to play church
again ; but Stephen was not there. He had gone
to a real service at Cowslip, with Jonto.

Meanwhile Wilkins laid his plans. Next day,
finding himself in Mr. Gordon's neighborhood at a
time when Stephen was in another part of the
building, he remarked casually.

" That's a rum little chap we've got for a recruit
down stairs. He's the oldest, for his age, of any
boy I ever see, and the rummest."

This getting no attention, Wilkins went on.

" He's a deep un, he is. He's one o' the slick
down pious kind; all the ministers in town aint
more'n fit to brush his shoes. What do you think
he was up to yesterday, Mr. Gordon ? "

" Don't know nor care. You haint got that face
true, Wilkins."

The face Mr. Gordon referred to was not Wil
kins' own, of flesh and blood, but a board surface
upon which the boy was at work.

" It'll be true afore I've done with it."


" Don't be forever about it, neither. You mayn't
think it, Mr. Wilkins, but time is an article in busi
ness. I notice an uncommonly many people hev
an idee it's like space, no end to it, and so no price
upon it."

"What is the price upon it, Mr. Gordon, if you
please ? "

"You take good care of it, and you'll know.
Some folks' lives is twice as long as others, and no
more years in 'em, neither. I expect your'n '11 be
about a quarter o' the ordinary."

" Well, Mr. Gordon, don't you think it's right to
play on a Sunday, when one has worked all through
the week?"

" I've no objection, ef he has."

" Well ask that ere chap. He don't think so. I
couldn't get no fun out o' him, or into him, yester
day. I'll tell you what he's up to, Gordon, in case
you mayn't know; he's comin' the pious over th^
folks in the house over there."

" How do you know as much ? " was the question,
with a coarse word not necessary to repeat.

" Heerd him ! Heerd him myself, and seen him.
Like to know who should know ! I seen him my
self, and I heerd him; and it was the richest thing
I ever see, or heerd either. He was along o' that
little Hardenbrook doll, and he wouldn't go no-
wheres with me; o' course he wouldn't; he was a
hitch too good for that. So they went off into the
woods, and I follered 'em, up here above the
mill, there by the weir; and there they sat down;


and he prayed, and she sung, hymn tunes, mind
you ; and then he read out o' the Bible arid talked ;
it was too good to keep to myself; I only jest wished
1 had some one else to shew it to. O he laid down
the law, you bet ! about Sundays and all sorts o'
things. And now, Mr. Gordon, aint that a leetle
too much? 0' course they're as gulled as they
can be, over there in the house ; and they'll all be
Bwearin' by Stephen Kay, you bet. Ef he was big
enough, I guess he'd get your place. I shouldn't

" Ha' you got that piece o' work done ? " inquired
Gordon grimly. Wilkins was satisfied that he had
fired his train, although just then no more was said.

But the fire was smouldering. Gordon always
declared he hated shams. In that he was not alone ;
we all hate them. And in this Mr. Gordon was
not alone either; that only more than a sham of
this kind he hated the reality. Whether it were
sham or truth in Stephen's case he did not feel
certain; he would find out. For the sham, if a

Online LibrarySusan WarnerStephen, M. D. → online text (page 9 of 34)