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   Chapter 13 MRS. KENT IS FOILED.

Frank and Fearless; or, The Fortunes of Jasper Kent By Jr. Horatio Alger Characters: 7142

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


Breakfast was a quiet meal. Mrs. Kent preserved a frigid silence toward Jasper, interrupted only by necessary questions. Nicholas, who understood that there was a row in prospect, occasionally smiled as he looked across the table at Jasper, but he, too, was silent.

When breakfast was over, and the three arose from the table, Mrs. Kent said, in a cold voice:

"Jasper Kent, I have something to say to you."

"Very well," said Jasper, taking a seat and looking expectant.

"Yesterday you conducted yourself in a most improper manner."

"Please explain," said Jasper, quietly.

"You ought not to require any explanation. You made an assault upon Nicholas."

"I beg pardon, Mrs. Kent, but he made an assault upon me."

"You knocked him down."

"Not until he attacked me."

"He did so by my direction."

"Did you expect me to make no resistance?" asked Jasper.

"You had insulted me, and it was his duty, as my son, to resent it."

"I don't think you have any right to say that I insulted you, and you would not have any reason to complain of me if you would treat me with ordinary justice and politeness."

"You are insulting me now," said Mrs. Kent, angrily.

"I am telling the truth. I am sorry that it is the truth. I would prefer to live on good terms with you."

"And have your own way!" said his step-mother, sarcastically. "I understand you, but I will have you know that I am mistress in this house. Are you ready to apologize for having attacked Nicholas?"

"I did not wish to do it, especially as he didn't attack me of his own accord, but if he should do so again I should act in the same manner."

"Insolent!" exclaimed his step-mother, reddening.

"You have peculiar ideas of insolence," said Jasper, quietly. "I believe in defending myself, but I shouldn't like to harm Nicholas."

"You have undertaken to rebel against my authority," said Mrs. Kent, "but you don't understand me. I am not to be bullied or overcome by a boy."

"You are in no danger of either from me, madam."

"I shall take care not to give you the power. Nicholas, call Tom."

Jasper looked at his step-mother in amazement. What had Tom Forbes to do with their colloquy.

Nicholas opened the door of the adjoining room, the kitchen, and summoned the hired man.

Ignorant of why he was wanted, for Mrs. Kent had not informed him, he came into the room, and looked about with a perplexed expression.

He was a tall, strong-looking fellow, country-bred, of about twenty-five or six.

"Where is your whip, Tom?" demanded Mrs. Kent.

"My whip?" repeated Tom.

"Yes; didn't I tell you I wanted you to have it?"

"Yes, ma'am; it's in the kitchen."

"Bring it."

Tom went into the kitchen, and returned bringing the whip.

"What am I to do with it?" he asked.

"I will tell you in a moment. Jasper Kent," said his step-mother, turning to him, "you have rebelled against my just authority, you have insulted me in my own house, you have made a brutal attack upon my son in my presence, and now I am going to have you punished. Tom, I order you to give Jasper half a dozen lashes with your whip."

It is hard to tell which looked the more surprised at this brutal command, Jasper or the hired man. They looked at each other in amazement, but Tom did not stir.

"Did you hear me?" asked Mrs. Kent, sharply, impatient of the delay.

"Yes, ma'am, I heard you," answered Tom, slowly.

"Why don't you obey, then?" she continued, in the same tone.

"Because," said Tom, with manly independence, "I didn't hire out to do anythin

g of the kind."

"Do you refuse?"

"Yes, I do. You may do your own dirty work."

"It seems you are not only disobedient, but insolent," said Mrs. Kent, angrily.

"You must be crazy, ma'am!" said the hired man, bluntly.

"No more of this. I discharge you from my employment."

"What! for not flogging Master Jasper?"

"For not obeying me."

"I'll follow your directions, ma'am, so far as they are in the line of duty, but I won't do that."

"I discharge you."

"As to that, ma'am, if I go, I'll let everybody in the village know why you sent me away."

For this Mrs. Kent was not altogether prepared. She knew that it was not prudent to defy public opinion. Perhaps she had already gone too far. She put a great constraint upon herself, and said:

"Go back to your work. I will speak of this matter hereafter."

Tom withdrew at once, glad of the opportunity. Thus far Mrs. Kent had been foiled, and she knew it. She could scarcely conceal her mortification.

Jasper, who had been passive thus far, now spoke. He felt outraged and disgusted by his step-mother's brutal purpose, though it had failed.

"Mrs. Kent," he said with quiet resolution, "after the scene of this morning I cannot remain in the same house with you. My father has not been dead a week, yet you have treated me in a manner which, though I never liked you, I could not have thought possible. You are left my guardian. I do not wish to remain another day in this house. Have I your permission to return to school?"

"No," said his step-mother.

"Why not?"

"Because you wish it. I do not mean to let you have your own way."

"I am willing to go to another school, if you insist upon it."

"You will go to no school. You will stay here."

"In this house?"

"Yes."

"With the opinion which you have of me, Mrs. Kent, I should hardly think this would be very agreeable to you."

"It will not. I hate the sight of you!" said his step-mother, with energy.

"I am sorry for that, but I am not surprised. From the way you have treated me, I should think so. Won't it be better for as both to be separated?"

"It will gratify your wishes, and therefore I order you to remain here."

"That we may have more such scenes as yesterday and to-day?"

"No; I am determined to break your rebellious will, and teach you to obey me implicitly."

"I have only to ask if you have fully made up your mind," said Jasper, quietly, but with suppressed excitement.

"I mean precisely what I say."

"Then, madam, I shall have to leave this house and go out into the world. I shall find more kindness among strangers than here."

"I have heard boys talk like this before," said Mrs. Kent, with contemptuous incredulity.

"Boys sometimes mean what they say," retorted Jasper.

He took his hat and left the room without another word.

"I say, mother," said Nicholas, "suppose he don't come back?"

"There's no fear of that," said Mrs. Kent, coldly.

"But I say, mother, he's pretty plucky, Jasper is."

"He won't run away from me as long as I have charge of his property, you may be sure of that. He'll be coming back and apologizing pretty soon."

"Suppose he doesn't?"

"Then it'll be his own fault."

"You may as well let him go back to school, mother. He'll be out of our way, and we can enjoy ourselves."

"I am not going to gratify him so far. He has defied me and insulted me, and he must take the consequences," said Mrs. Kent, with a compression of her thin lips.

On the whole, Jasper's prospects could not be said to be very flattering.

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