MoboReader > Literature > Frank and Fearless; or, The Fortunes of Jasper Kent

   Chapter 2 STRANGE NEWS.

Frank and Fearless; or, The Fortunes of Jasper Kent By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 7303

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Entering the house, Thorne reported at the doctor's study. His flushed appearance attracted the teacher's attention.

"What's the matter, Thorne?" he asked.

"The new boy pitched into me and I licked him," said Thorne.

But his sullen manner was so unlike that of a victor that the doctor shrewdly suspected that his statement was not wholly correct.

"What was the quarrel about?" he asked.

"We were playing ball," said Thorne, evasively.

"I will inquire into it. At present you are wanted in the parlor."

So Thorne left the presence of the principal and entered the opposite room. A lady, seated on a sofa, arose quickly, and advanced to meet him. She kissed the boy's cheek, to which he submitted without manifesting any responsive feeling.

"How long it is since I saw you, Nicholas, my dear boy!" she said.

"It's only about six months," said Nicholas, stolidly.

"And are not six months long for a mother to be separated from her only child?" said the lady, tenderly.

"It doesn't seem so long," said Nicholas.

The lady looked pained, but she proceeded:

"How you have grown!"

"Yes, I've grown," said Nicholas, showing a little pleasure now. "I think I shall be a large man."

"Like your father. And how are you improving in your studies, Nicholas?"

"Oh! I'm doing well enough," said the boy, indifferently, for Nicholas Thorne's taste for study was very moderate. "Did you bring me any money, mother?"

"You have your regular allowance, Nicholas."

"It isn't enough. What's a dollar a week?"

"It is a good deal for me to pay," said his mother. "Remember, I have to pay your school bills, and my means are but small."

"A dollar a week is very small for a boy of my age," grumbled Thorne. "Why, some of the little boys get more; and there's that new boy, Jasper Kent, gets five dollars, so they say."

The lady betrayed strong interest at the sound of his name.

"I forgot," she said. "So Jasper Kent has arrived, has he?"

"What, mother, do you know him?" demanded Thorne, surprised in turn.

"Yea, I know him. What do you think of him?"

"Think of him? I hate him!" said Thorne, fiercely.

"Why?"

"He tries to bully me."

"And you permit it? Why, you are larger than he."

"Yes, but he knows how to fight."

"How do you know?"

"I had a fight with him this morning," said Nicholas.

"Did he come off best?" asked the lady.

"No," answered Nicholas, with hesitation. "That is, we were only half through the fight when a boy ran up and said you had come. So we had to stop."

"Humph! That is strange," said the lady, in a low voice, more to herself than to her son, "this sudden antagonism."

"What do you know about Kent?" demanded Nicholas, his curiosity aroused.

"Perhaps I may as well tell you," said his mother, thoughtfully, "but I wish you to keep the matter secret from him."

"You won't catch me telling him anything, except that he is a scoundrel!" muttered Nicholas.

"Then sit down by me, and I will tell you much that you do not know, but ought now to hear. Is the door shut?"

"Yes."

"Go and see. It is important that no one should overhear us."

Nicholas complied with her request.

"It's shut fast enough," he said. "Now what have you got to tell me?"

"To begin with, do you know where I get the money I pay for your schooling and clothes?"

"My father left you some money, didn't he?"

"He left me a small property which rents for two hundred dollars a year."

"You pay three hundred a year for me, don't you?"

"For your school bills, yes. Besides, I give you an allowance and buy your clothes."

"How do you do it?" aske

d Nicholas, in surprise. "Have you sold the house?"

"No. If I should do that, there would soon be nothing left. That was the problem I had to solve three years ago, when your father died."

"What did you do?"

"I felt that the property must not be touched, save the income. I saw that it was necessary for me to exert myself, or I should be unable to educate you as I desired. I had a good education, and I determined to avail myself of it. I therefore went to a teacher's agency in New York and set forth my desire to obtain the position of governess in some family in the country."

"You a governess!"

"Why not? It was the only way I could think of that would yield me an income. After waiting a few weeks I succeeded. A wealthy gentleman, living in a country town of moderate size, saw my testimonials, was pleased with them, and engaged me to superintend the education of an orphan niece resident in his family. He offered me a fair salary-enough, added to the rent which I received from the property left me by your father, to justify me in putting you at this boarding-school. That was three years ago."

"Why didn't you tell me all this before, mother?"

"It would have done no good. I preferred that you should think of me as possessing an independent property. I felt that it would enable you the better to hold up your head among your school-fellows, as they could know nothing of your antecedents."

"Does Dr. Benton know this?" asked Nicholas, quickly.

"No; he only knows that I am a widow, He supposes that I have sufficient means."

"I am glad of that."

"Would it make any difference with him?"

"I don't know. Any way, I'd rather he wouldn't know it."

Nicholas Thorne sat by his mother's side thoughtful. He was disappointed to think that his mother's means were so limited, since it curtailed his future expectations. The thought of that mother working patiently to defray his expenses at school made comparatively little impression. He was essentially selfish, and, so long as his wants were provided for, he cared little who labored for him.

"You don't ask the name of the man who employs me," said his mother.

Nicholas looked up.

"I suppose it is nobody I ever heard of," he said.

"No, you never heard of him, but you know some one connected with him."

"What do you mean?" asked the boy, his curiosity aroused.

"The gentleman who employs me is father of one of your schoolmates."

"Father of one of my school-mates?"

"Yes."

"Who is it? Why don't you tell me, mother?"

"You have spoken of him to me this morning. It is Jasper Kent."

"You work for Jasper Kent's father!" exclaimed Nicholas in unbounded astonishment. "Does he know it?"

"Yes, he knows that I am, or have been, governess in his father's family. But he knows nothing of my connection with you."

"If he knew, he'd taunt me with my mother's being obliged to work for a living," said Thorne.

"I don't think he would. At any rate, the time is coming very soon when he will have no advantage over you."

"How do you make that out, mother?"

"Listen, and keep secret what I tell you. Next week I become his father's wife."

"You marry Jasper Kent's father!"

"Yes; I shall be Jasper's step-mother."

"Is old Kent rich?" asked Nicholas, eagerly.

His mother nodded.

"Yes, he is rich; that is, for the country. He is in poor health, too," she added, significantly.

"Good!" said Nicholas, with satisfaction. "You know how to play your cards, mother."

The mother smiled.

"My days of dependence are drawing to an end," she said. "Some time I can do better for you than I am doing now."

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