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   Chapter 2 REBELLION

Jess of the Rebel Trail By H. A. Cody Characters: 10818

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


The man had been gone but a few minutes when the door was again opened and a girl entered. She was a vision fair to behold as she paused for an instant while her eyes rested upon the woman crouched before the fire. She evidently had just come in out of the night, for she wore her out-of-door cloak, and her hair was somewhat tossed by the violence of the wind. The rich colour of her cheeks betokened the healthy exercise of one who had walked some distance. An expression of anxiety came into her dark-brown eyes as she crossed the room, and bent over the woman in the chair.

"Mother, mother, what is the matter?" she demanded. "Are you ill?"

"Oh, it's you, Jess, is it?" the woman languidly asked as she lifted her head. "I thought it was Maggie. I was not expecting you so soon. What brought you home so early?"

"It must have been my guiding angel," the girl smilingly replied. "So you were lonely without me? Was that the trouble?"

"Yes, I suppose that had something to do with it. But I am not feeling well to-night. This room seems very oppressive."

"You are too warm," and the girl glanced down at the fire. Her eyes at once rested upon the stub of the cigarette lying upon the grate where Grimsby had thrown it. She also smelled the smoke of tobacco and instantly surmised that something out of the ordinary had happened to agitate her usually self-possessed mother.

"Somebody has been here annoying you," she cried, turning impulsively to the woman. "Was it Tom asking for more money?"

Again the woman bowed her head, and made no immediate answer. Her thoughts were active, and she was glad of any excuse.

"How did you know he was here?" she at length asked, without looking up.

"I met a man hurrying from the door as I came in. It was too dark to see who he was, and he did not seem to notice me at all. Tom knows my opinion of him, and so he is not anxious to meet me. I did not think of Tom, though, until I found you so upset. And he was smoking too, for there is the stub of his cigarette. Why can't he leave you alone?"

"He never will, Jess. He is just like Will and Dick. They are always bothering me about money, as if I haven't been giving to them for years. They are just like helpless children."

"Worse, mother. They are three useless men. It is well that I am a girl, for I might be tempted to follow their miserable example. Are you not glad that you have only three sons instead of four?"

Receiving no reply, the girl took off her hat, laid aside her wraps, and rang for the maid. Then she drew up a chair and sat down by her mother's side.

"My, this fire is pleasant," she remarked, as she leaned back and gazed into the glowing coals. "I am glad after all that I came home."

"Why didn't Mr. Donaster come in, Jess? I have not seen him for some time."

"Neither have I, mother." The girl's face flushed, and there was a challenge in her voice.

"You haven't! Why, I thought you were with him to-night."

"Indeed I was not. You know as well as I do that I wish to have nothing to do with that man. I have told you so over and over again."

This sudden outburst aroused the woman from her crouching position. She sat upright, and the expression in her eyes told how deeply she was offended.

"Now, look here, Jess," she began, "I want no more of this nonsense. I have made up my mind that you are to marry Mr. Donaster, and marry him you shall."

"Would you force me to marry such a man as that?" the girl asked.

"And why not?"

"Because I detest him, and hate the very sight of him."

"But he is of a fine family, and his father, Lord Donaster, is immensely rich. Burton is his only son, and he will inherit the estate, so you will be Lady Donaster. It is very seldom a girl meets with such an opportunity in this province."

The girl gave her head a slight toss, and her face flushed more than ever.

"I can hardly believe it possible that you are willing to barter your only daughter for such baubles," she indignantly replied. "It is unnatural."

The presence of the maid with tea and toast interrupted the conversation for a few minutes. Jess poured the tea for her mother, but took none herself.

"Are you not going to have any tea?" her mother asked.

"No, I do not care for any now, as I had some at Mrs. Merton's."

"So that's where you were, eh? Why didn't you go to the play?"

"I didn't want to. I preferred to spend a quiet hour or two with Mrs. Merton. She is a woman who does things of some importance instead of spending her time upon a giddy butterfly-life. She is a regular tonic, and always inspires me to be up and doing."

"You are silly, Jess." Her mother was visibly annoyed. "Why should you talk about being up and doing? Haven't you everything that you desire, with the prospect of a brilliant career before you?"

"What career?"

"As Lady Donaster, of course. To what else should I refer?"

"And you call that a career, mother? Slavery is the right word to use. I wish to be of some benefit to the world and not to drift through life like a wretched puppet."

"If this is what you have learned from Mrs. Merton you must not go there any more. I have always known that she held peculiar views, but I had no idea that she would try to unsettle the minds of young girls."

"But I am not a young girl, remember, mother. I am nearly twenty now, and should be able to think somew

hat for myself. Mrs. Merton's views were mine even before I met her. For several years I have been dissatisfied with a life that held out little or no promise of anything definite. I want to make my own way in the world."

"But you have not been trained for that, so what can you expect to do?"

"I know it only too well, mother," was the bitter reply. "You brought me up to shine in society and nothing else. But I have youth on my side, with an abundance of health, and strength, so I am not afraid."

"This is all nonsense, Jess. You are talking like an irresponsible child. You know not what it means to earn your own living. And think what a disgrace it would be to have our only daughter working as a common girl. Imagine Jess Randall as a clerk in a drygoods store or in an office. The idea is preposterous! You must give it up at once."

"I can't see anything disgraceful about it, mother. I am sure it is far better to earn one's own living than to be always depending upon others. But I shall not disgrace you, so you need not worry about that."

"What do you intend to do?"

"I have several things in view, and I know that daddy will provide me with money to carry them out."

"He will do nothing of the sort. His mind is as fully made up as mine that you are to marry Mr. Donaster. Don't you think that we are more capable of judging for your good than you?"

"I have very serious doubts about that. I know you will consider me ungrateful for saying so, but you ask me, and so I am forced to tell the truth."

"Well, I declare!" and Mrs. Randall looked her astonishment. "What has come over you, Jess? I never knew you to talk like this before. You seem to have lost all confidence in your parents' judgment."

"Not all, mother. But I know how you interfered with the boys' welfare, and look how they have turned out. There was a time when they wished to go to work and win their own way in the world. But you would not let them, and spoiled their lives by giving them too much money to spend, and telling them that it was not dignified to work. And look what they are now; helpless to do anything for themselves, and a burden to you. Daddy agreed with everything you said, and see what has happened. You made a sad mistake with them, and I am determined that it shall not be so with me."

The girl was trembling violently as she finished, and she had risen to her feet. The colour had fled from her face, and her hands were firmly clasped before her. Her mother also rose, and confronted her daughter.

"You are a rebellious and an ungrateful girl," she charged. "To think of your saying such things after all we have done for you. What do you mean?"

"Just what I have said, as you will find out. It is about time for me to assert myself when you are determined to shackle me to a creature I detest."

"Mr. Donaster is a gentleman, and the son of a gentleman, so you must not refer to him in such an offensive manner. I absolutely forbid it."

"He may be a gentleman according to the standard of some, but not according to mine. He is nothing but an unbearable cad, and with no more character than a jelly-fish. And to think of my having to put up with a thing like that for the rest of my life. Why, I would rather be dead."

"It would be almost a relief to me if you were," and Mrs. Randall gave a deep sigh of despair. "A daughter as wilful as you will only bring disgrace upon her parents."

"I am surprised at your saying such a thing," the girl replied. "One would almost imagine you are not my mother at all, you are so heartless. Would a real mother be willing to sacrifice her only daughter?"

Mrs. Randall gave a sudden start, and looked keenly into the eyes of the girl standing so defiantly before her. "Does she suspect anything?" she asked herself. Then she gave a nervous laugh, and resumed her seat.

"Leave me alone now," she ordered. "I see it is no use talking to you any more to-night, you are so unreasonable and headstrong. Your father will have to take you in hand. He will soon knock this nonsense out of your head. He is determined that you shall marry Mr. Donaster, and you might as well make up your mind to that first as last."

"Mother, I shall go now. But let me tell you, as I shall tell daddy, that nothing on earth can make me marry the man I do not love."

"Tut, tut. Love has nothing to do with marriages these days," Mrs. Randall impatiently replied. "There is no such a thing as love in marriage, it is merely a matter of convenience."

"If I believed that, I should never marry, mother."

"And don't you?"

"Indeed I do not."

"What do you know about love?"

"I know, perhaps, more than you think." The girl's face was now deeply flushed, and this her mother noted.

"Jess, what is the meaning of this? Is there someone else in whom you are interested besides Mr. Donaster? Tell me. I must know the truth at once. It is no use trying to conceal it from me."

The girl's eyes dropped, and she turned her face partly away to hide her emotion.

"In Mr. Donaster I am not even interested," she confessed. "But in

another, I am more than interested, for I love him with my whole heart.

There, you now know the truth, and so you can say and do what you like.

Goodnight."

Without another word, the girl turned and hurried out of the room, leaving her mother speechless with anger and amazement.

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