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

   Chapter 8 SUDDEN DEATH.

Frank and Fearless; or, The Fortunes of Jasper Kent By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 7748

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Two months later there was a vacation for a week. Nicholas expected to spend this with his mother, but for some reason Mrs. Kent gave him no invitation. Probably she thought that Nicholas, though a paragon in her eyes, was not likely to win favor in the eyes of Mr. Kent. His rough, brutal disposition would have repelled the sick man, who had become gentle in his enforced seclusion.

Thorne was disappointed, but his disappointment was softened by a timely remittance of ten dollars from his mother, which he spent partly in surreptitious games of billiards, partly in overloading his stomach with pastry and nearly making himself sick.

Jasper spent the week at home. His company was the source of great comfort and joy to his father, and this repaid him for the intrusion of his step-mother.

She treated him with politeness and apparent cordiality, but once or twice, when he chanced to look up unexpectedly, he detected her eyes fixed upon him with a glance that seemed to express detestation. On these occasions her expression changed instantly, and she addressed him in a soft, friendly voice.

All this puzzled him.

"Does she hate me or not?" he asked himself. "I certainly don't like her. Still, I shall force myself to treat her politely as long as she treats my father well."

His father seldom spoke of his wife to his son, but sometimes Jasper noticed that he breathed a sigh of relief when she left the room, as if her presence had been a restraint upon him.

He didn't like to ask his father any question directly as to the relations between them. He hoped that at least they did not add to his father's discomfort.

At the end of the week Jasper was about to return to school.

"How long before you have another vacation, Jasper?" asked his father, wistfully.

"Eleven weeks, father."

"It seems a long time, Jasper."

"I can come home during that time."

"To my mind such interruptions of study are bad for a boy," said Mrs. Kent.

"Perhaps they are," assented Mr. Kent, reluctantly.

"I won't let them be an interruption, father," said Jasper. "If you want me to come home, I will."

"I hope, Jasper, you will understand my motive for speaking," said Mrs. Kent, softly. "I should really be glad to see you, but sometimes we have to sacrifice our own inclinations-don't we, Mr. Kent?"

"Yes, my dear," said Mr. Kent, listlessly.

And he turned his eyes once more to Jasper, who had his overcoat on and was waiting for the carriage to convey him to the depot.

"Do you feel as well as usual, father?" asked Jasper, anxiously.

"Yes, I don't know but I do; perhaps a little more languid, but that is not unusual."

"Well, good-bye, father. If you want to see me at any time, write a line, and I'll come at once."

"Thank you, my dear boy. Don't overwork yourself at school."

There was a slight smile on Mrs. Kent's thin lips. Jasper noticed and mentally resented it. But the time had come for leave-taking, and he hurried away.

Six weeks passed. Jasper heard from home that his father was about the same, and this assurance relieved him of anxiety. Still, he made up his mind that he would spend the next Sunday at home. He would go on Saturday morning and come back on Monday morning, and he knew that his father would enjoy even this brief visit. But he was destined to go home quicker.

On Thursday afternoon a boy came up to the main entrance of Dr. Benton's school.

"It's the boy from the telegraph office," said Wilder to Jasper.

"I wonder whether he's got a message for the doctor or one of us boys?" said Jasper, not suspecting that it was for himself.

"I'll ask," said Wilder. "Here, you, boy! who's your telegram for?"

"For Jasper Kent," said the boy. "Will you call him?"

"I am he," said Jasper, hurrying forward, with pale face and beating heart, for a telegram always inspires

fear.

"Then here it is. Just sign the book," said the boy.

Jasper scrawled his name hurriedly and tore open the envelope.

These were the brief words of the dispatch:

"Come home, for the Lord's sake, Master Jasper. Your father's dying.

"Margaret Bower."

The paper swam before Jasper's eyes.

"What is it, Jasper-bad news?" asked Wilder; but Jasper did not wait to answer. He rushed to Dr. Benton's office, got his permission to go home, packed his valise, and in five minutes was on his way to the depot.

He was just in time for the afternoon train. At seven o'clock in the evening he entered the avenue that led to his father's house. Throwing open the front door, he met Margaret in the hall.

"I'm glad you're here, Master Jasper," said the faithful handmaiden, heartily.

"Is it too late?"

"I hope not; indeed, I hope not."

Jasper waited for no more, but rushed up stairs and into his father's room.

There were two persons there-the step-mother and a man of thirty, with black whiskers and sallow complexion, with whom she was talking earnestly. They, started when Jasper entered, and looked discouraged. Mrs. Kent looked displeased and annoyed.

"How is my father?" exclaimed Jasper, excitedly.

"Hush! He is very low," said Mrs. Kent "You shouldn't have dashed in here so abruptly."

"Is there no hope for him?" asked the boy, sorrowfully.

"No, my young friend," said the man, smoothly. "All has been done that human skill can do, but without avail."

"Are you the doctor?"

"I am."

"Where is Dr. Graham, my father's old doctor?"

"I dismissed him," said his step-mother, "He was not competent to attend so critical a case. This is Dr. Kenyon."

"I never before heard Dr. Graham's skill doubted," said Jasper. "Is my father conscious?"

"No; he is under the influence of morphine. Do not wake him up."

"Was he, then, in great pain?"

"Yes, in great pain."

Quietly Jasper drew near the bedside.

His father lay unconscious, his form rigid, his face thin and betraying marks of weariness and suffering. The tears rose to the eyes of Jasper as he realized that his father was passing away. As he looked on there was a slight convulsive movement; then repose. In that one moment his father had passed on to another world.

The doctor had approached the bedside also, and he, too, saw the movement.

"He is dead!" he announced.

"Dead!" repeated Mrs. Kent, in a voice rather of surprise than of sorrow.

"Yes."

"Well," she said, coolly, "we must all die. We have the satisfaction of knowing that we have done all we could do to preserve his life."

"Certainly, my dear madam; you may comfort yourself by that thought," said the physician.

"Why did you not send for me before?" asked Jasper, turning with moist eyes to his step-mother, "that I might see my father before he died?"

"We could not foresee his sudden death," said Mrs. Kent. "How do you happen to be here this afternoon?"

"Didn't you direct Margaret to telegraph for me?" asked Jasper, surprised.

"Did Margaret take upon herself to telegraph to you?" asked Mrs. Kent, in a tone of displeasure.

"Yes," said Jasper, bitterly. "Did you mean to keep me wholly unacquainted with my father's illness?"

"No; I wrote a line this afternoon, which I should have sent to the office at once."

"When it was too late!"

"Your reproaches are unseemly and uncalled for," said his step-mother, quite coldly.

"I think differently," said Jasper, bitterly. "You should have sent for me as soon as my father got worse than usual."

"In consideration of your grief I will overlook your impertinence," said Mrs. Kent, compressing her thin lips, as she left the room.

The doctor followed her out, and Jasper was left alone with the dead.

He did not realize it, but his father's death was to seriously affect his fortunes.

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