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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesYoung Captain Jack: The Son Of A Soldier - Chapter 11. Mrs. Ruthven Speaks Her Mind
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Young Captain Jack: The Son Of A Soldier - Chapter 11. Mrs. Ruthven Speaks Her Mind Post by :howdeedoodee Category :Long Stories Author :Horatio Alger Date :May 2012 Read :1082

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Young Captain Jack: The Son Of A Soldier - Chapter 11. Mrs. Ruthven Speaks Her Mind

CHAPTER XI. MRS. RUTHVEN SPEAKS HER MIND

Leaving the shore of the bay, St. John Ruthven walked slowly toward the home of his aunt.

It irritated him greatly to think that his cousin preferred the society of Jack to his own.

"I must speak to Aunt Alice about this," he said to himself. "It is getting worse and worse."

He found his aunt sitting in the garden reading. She looked up in surprise at his approach.

"Aunt Alice, can you spare me a few minutes?" he said, after the usual greeting.

"Surely, St. John. What is it that you wish?"

"I wish to speak to you about Marion."

"About Marion?" Mrs. Ruthven looked somewhat surprised.

"Yes. I saw her out again in a boat with that boy."

"That boy? Do you mean Jack?"

"Yes. I wonder you trust her to his care--after what happened at the wreck."

"Why should I not? Jack understands how to manage a boat. Marion is safe with her brother."

"But he is not her brother," cried St. John.

"Not in blood, perhaps, but in affection. They have been brought up together as children of one family."

"My dear Aunt Alice, do you think you have done wisely in encouraging this intimacy?" he said earnestly.

"What can you mean?" she demanded. "Jack is fourteen years old and Marion is eighteen."

"Of course. But you know nothing of the boy's parentage. He is an unknown waif, cast upon the shore in his infancy, very possibly of a low family."

"No, you are wrong there. Remember, I saw his mother. Everything indicated her to be a lady. The child's clothing was of fine texture. But even if it were otherwise, he has endeared himself to me by his noble qualities. I regard him as a son."

St. John shrugged his shoulders. "You look upon him with the eyes of affection. To me he seems----"

"Well?"

"A commonplace boy,--a mechanic's child, very possibly,--who is quite out of place among the Ruthvens."

At this Mrs. Ruthven grew indignant.

"You are prejudiced!" she cried. "I will not discuss the matter farther with you. I wish no one to speak to me against Jack. He is as dear to me as Marion herself."

The young man drew a deep breath. "I am silenced, Aunt Alice. But I wish to speak to you about Marion. She is no longer a child, but a young lady."

"Yes, she is now eighteen," answered Mrs. Ruthven slowly. "But to me she seems a child still."

"Well--er--at what age did you marry, aunt?"

"At eighteen."

"Then, Aunt Alice, you cannot be surprised if I have thought of Marion as my future wife. I love her warmly and sincerely."

At this abrupt declaration Mrs. Ruthven was considerably surprised.

"Why, St. John, do you wish to marry that child?" she exclaimed.

"Why not? She is eighteen."

"Yes, but I had never thought of her as old enough to be married. Have you spoken to her?"

"Yes," he returned slowly, and with a cloud on his face.

"And what did she say?"

"Nothing--that is, she was taken by surprise and did not wish to discuss the matter at present."

Mrs. Ruthven drew a breath of relief. "She was sensible. Have you any reason to think that she loves you?"

"I think she will soon. I am not conceited, Aunt Alice, but I think I have a good appearance and--I am a Ruthven."

"You are much older than she, St. John."

"I am, but a man of my age is still a young man."

"I should not object if she loved you, but I have never seen any indications of it."

"Will you let her know that you favor my suit?"

At this Mrs. Ruthven shrugged her shoulders.

"But I am not sure that I do," she returned slowly.

"Have you heard anything to my discredit?" he demanded stiffly.

"No, no, St. John; but don't be precipitate. Let the matter rest for the present."

"Well, if you insist upon it, Aunt Alice," he said, his face falling.

"It seems to me best."

"But still, Aunt Alice, if Marion allows her affections to drift in another direction----"

"I do not think she will, for the present. She is more interested in the war than in anything else. Why, if I would allow it, she would go off and offer her services as a nurse."

"Don't let her go, aunt--I beg of you."

Mrs. Ruthven looked at her nephew curiously.

"What makes you so afraid of this war, St. John?"

"Afraid? I am not afraid exactly," he stammered. "I was thinking of dear Marion. It would be horrible for her to put up with the hardships, and such sights!"

"But somebody must bear such sights and sounds. War is war, and our beloved country must be sustained, even in her darkest hour."

He trembled and turned pale, but quickly recovered.

"What you say is true, Aunt Alice. I have wanted to go to the front, but my mother positively refuses her permission. She is in mortal terror that the Yankees will come to our plantation and loot the place in my absence."

"Do you think you can keep them from coming?"

"No, but I can--er--I can perhaps protect my mother."

"If you went off, she could come over here and remain with me."

"She wishes to remain at home. The old place is very dear to her. It would break her heart to have the enemy destroy it."

"I should not wish our place destroyed. Yet the only way to keep the enemy back is to go to the front and fight them."

"Well--I presume you are right, and I shall go some time--when I can win my mother over," said St. John lamely.

He wanted to speak of Marion again, but, on looking across the garden, saw his cousin and Jack approaching. Soon the pair came up and Marion greeted St. John with a slight bow.

"We have been out rowing, mother," said Jack, as he came up and kissed Mrs. Ruthven. "It was lovely on the bay."

"Did you go far?"

"We went over to Hoskin's beach. Marion rowed part of the way."

"I hope you had a nice time," said St. John stiffly, turning to Marion.

"We had a lovely time," answered the girl. "Jack is the best rower around here."

"Humph! Why, he's only a boy!" sneered the spendthrift.

"Yes, I am only a boy, St. John, but I reckon I can row as good as you," replied our hero warmly. He had not forgotten the encounter on the road.

"Do you, indeed?"

"Yes, I do. Some day we can try a race. I'll give you choice of boats and beat you."

At this Marion set up a merry laugh.

"I believe Jack can beat you at rowing, St. John," she said.

"I never race with boys," answered the spendthrift, more stiffly than ever.

"I'll race you to-day," went on Jack. "And I've rowed three or four miles already."

"Oh, Jack! you are too tired and the sun is too strong," remonstrated Mrs. Ruthven, although inwardly pleased to see the lad stand up for himself.

"I said I never raced with boys," said St. John.

"I would like to see a race," came from Marion. "I dare you to row Jack, St. John."

"Let us make it to the rocks and back," said Jack. "And you can have any of the boats you please. I dare you to do it," and he looked at St. John defiantly.

"St. John may be tired. Perhaps he has been working," suggested Mrs. Ruthven, although she knew better.

"No, he has been walking and resting along shore," said Marion. "We saw him from our boat."

"I'll give you another advantage, besides choice of boats," said Jack, bound that St. John should not back out. "I'll carry Marion as extra weight."

"Oh, that wouldn't be fair!" cried the girl. "Let St. John carry mamma."

"No, I must decline to go," said Mrs. Ruthven.

"I'll take Marion, and St. John need carry only himself," said our hero. "I am certain I can beat him. I dare him to take me up."

There seemed no help for it, so St. John gave in, and soon the three were on the way to Old Ben's boathouse.

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