Read CHAPTER II of Young Captain Jack The Son of a Soldier , free online book, by Horatio Alger and Arthur M. Winfield, on ReadCentral.com.

Darcy GILBERT’S story.

“He said I didn’t belong to the Ruthven family?” said Jack slowly, when he felt able to speak.

“He did, and I told him I didn’t believe him.”

“But but I don’t understand you, Darcy. Am I not Jack Ruthven, the son of the late Colonel Martin Ruthven?”

“He says not.”

“What! Does he mean to say that my mother isn’t my mother at all?” ejaculated Jack, with wide-open eyes.

“That’s it exactly, and he added that Marion wasn’t your sister.”

“I’ll I’ll punch his head for that!” was the quick return.

“I felt like doing that, too, Jack, even though he is so much older than either of us. I told him he was a mean fellow and that I wouldn’t believe him under oath.”

“But how did it all come about?”

“Oh, it started at the boathouse back of Old Ben’s place. He wanted to bully me, and I told him I wouldn’t let him lord it over me any more than you let him bully you. That got him started, for it seems he was sore over the fact that you took Marion out for a boatride one afternoon when he wanted her to go along with him on horseback. One word brought on another, and at last he said he reckoned you would have to clear out some day that you were only a low upstart anyway, with no real claim on the Ruthvens.”

“He said that, did he?” Jack drew a long breath and set his teeth hard. “Did he try to prove his words?”

“I didn’t give him a chance. I was so upset I merely told him I didn’t believe him, and came away.”

“And where did he go?”

“He started off toward town.”

“When he comes back I’m going to find out the truth of this matter.”

“I don’t believe his story, Jack, and I wouldn’t worry myself about it.”

“But supposing it were true, Darcy that I was a a nobody, as he says?”

“I should think just as much of you,” answered the other lad quickly.

“Thank you for that.”

“St. John always talks too much don’t mind him.”

“But I shall. If he tells the truth I want to know it and, if not, I shall take steps to make him take back the stories he is circulating.”

“It’s a wonder he hasn’t gone to the war. Why doesn’t he enlist, like the rest of the young men in this neighborhood?”

“He says he must stay with his mother. But the real reason is, I think, that he is a coward.”

“Perhaps you are right. I remember once, when there was a cry of mad dog in the town, he hid in a warehouse and was almost scared to death.”

“Yes, I remember that, and I remember, too, when Big Bill, the slave, ran away and threatened to kill the first white man he met, St. John hid in the mansion and didn’t come outside the door for a week.”

“Such a coward wouldn’t be above circulating falsehoods.”

“I wish I knew just where to find him. I would have it out with him in short order,” concluded Jack.

The youth was in no humor for further fishing and soon wound up his line and started for home.

As he passed along over the plantation road his thoughts were busy. Could there be any truth in what St. John Ruthven had said? Was he really a nobody, with no claim upon the lady he called mother and the girl he looked upon as his sister? A chill passed down his backbone, and, as he came in sight of the stately old mansion that he called home, he paused to wipe the cold perspiration from his forehead.

“I will go to mother and ask her the truth,” he told himself. “I can’t wait to find out in any other way.” Yet the thought of facing that kind-hearted lady was not a pleasant one. How should he begin to tell her of what was in his mind?

“Is my mother in?” he asked of the maid whom he met in the hallway.

“No, Massah Jack, she dun went to town,” was the answer of the colored girl.

“Did she say when she would be back?”

“No, sah.”

“Do you know if my sister is around?”

“She dun gone off not five minutes ago, Massah Jack.”

“Where to?”

“I heard her say she was gwine down to Olé Ben’s boathouse. I ’spect she dun t’ought yo’ was dar.”

Jack said no more, but giving the colored girl the fish, to take around to the cook, he ran upstairs, washed and brushed up, and sallied forth to find Marion.

The boathouse which had been mentioned was an old affair, standing upon the shore of a wide bay overlooking the Atlantic ocean. It belonged to a colored man called “Old Ben,” a fellow who had once been a slave on the Ruthven plantation.

As Jack approached it he saw Marion sitting on a bench in the shade, with a book in her lap. Instead of reading, however, the girl was gazing out to sea in a meditative way.

“Marion, I was looking for you.”

“Oh, Jack! is that you? I thought you had gone fishing for the day.”

“I just got home, after catching a pretty good mess. Want to go rowing with me?”

“Yes, I’d like that very much. I was wishing you or Old Ben would come.”

“Or, perhaps, St. John?” said Jack inquiringly.

“No; I didn’t wish for him, you tease.”

“I am glad of it, Marion. I don’t want you to give me up for St. John.”

“I do not intend to, Jack. But why are you looking so serious. Have you anything on your mind? I never saw you look so thoughtful before.”

“Yes, I have a lot on my mind, Marion. Come, I’ll tell you when we are out on the bay.”

A rowboat was handy and oars were in the rack in the boathouse, and soon the pair were out on the water. Although but a boy, Jack took to the water naturally and handled the oars as skillfully as the average sailor.

When they were about halfway across the bay he ceased rowing and looked earnestly at the girl before him.

“Marion, I want to find out that is, I’ve got some questions to ask,” he blurted out. “I don’t know how to go at it.”

“Why, what in the world is the matter, Jack? You were red a moment ago. Now you are as pale as a sheet.”

“I want to know about something awfully important.”

“I’m sure I cannot imagine what it is.”

“Marion, aren’t we real sister and brother?”

The question was out at last, and as he asked it his eyes dropped, for he had not the courage to look into her face. He felt her start and give a shiver.

“Oh, Jack! what put that in your head,” she said slowly.

“Never mind that. Tell me, are we real sister and brother or not?”

“Jack, we are not.”

“Oh, Marion!” The words almost choked him, and for the moment he could say no more.

“We are not real sister and brother, Jack, but to me you will always be as a real brother,” and Marion caught his hand and held it tightly.

“And and mother isn’t my my real mother?” he faltered.

“No, Jack; she is only your foster mother. But she thinks just as much of you as if you were her real son. She has told me that over and over again.”

“You are sure of this?”

“Yes, Jack.”

“Sure I am a a nobody.” His voice sunk to a mere whisper.

“Yon are not a nobody, Jack. When you were a mere boy of three or four my father and mother adopted you, and you are now John Ruthven, my own brother,” and she gave his brown hand another tight squeeze.

He was too confused and bewildered to answer at once. The dreadful news was true, he was not really a Ruthven. He was a nobody no, he must be somebody. But who was he?