Frank did not like his stepfather, he did not trust him.
“Your stepbrother, Mark Manning, enjoys the same advantages as yourself, does he not?” inquired Herbert.
“Then his father’s marriage proved a good thing for him.”
“That is true. When he first came to the house he was poorly dressed, and had evidently been used to living in a poor way. He was at once provided with a complete outfit as good as my own, and from that time as much has been spent on him as on me. Don’t think that I am mean enough to grudge him any part of the money expended upon him. If he were like you, I could like him, and enjoy his society; but he is just another as his father.”
Here Herbert’s attention was drawn to a boy who was approaching with a yellow envelope in his hand.
“Frank,” he said, suddenly, “there’s Mark Manning. He looks as if he had something to say to you. He has either a letter or a telegram in his hand.”
Frank’s heart gave a great bound at the suggestion of a telegram. A telegram could mean but one thing—that his mother had become suddenly worse.
He hurried to meet his stepbrother.
“Is that a telegram, Mark?” he asked, anxiously.
“Is it anything about mother? Tell me quick!”
“Read it for yourself, Frank.”
Frank drew the telegram from the envelope, and read it hastily:
“My wife is very sick. I wish you and Frank to come home at once.”
“When does the next train start, Herbert?” asked Frank, pale with apprehension.
“In an hour.”
“I shall go by that train.”
“I don’t think I can get ready so soon,” said Mark, deliberately.
“Then you can come by yourself,” replied Frank, impetuously. “I beg your pardon, Mark,” he added. “I cannot expect you to feel as I do. It is not your mother.”
“It is my stepmother,” said Mark.
“That is quite different. But I must not linger here. I will go at once to Dr. Brush, and tell him of my summons home. Good-bye, Herbert, till we meet again.”
“I will go with you to the depot, Frank,” said his friend, sympathizingly. “Don’t wait for me. Go ahead, and make your preparation for the journey. I will be at your room in a quarter of an hour.”
“You won’t go by the next train, Mark?” said Herbert.
“No. I don’t care to rush about as Frank is doing.”
“You would if it were your own mother who was so ill.”
“I am not sure. It wouldn’t do any good, would it?”
“You would naturally feel anxious,” said Herbert.
“Oh, yes, I suppose so!” answered Mark, indifferently.
Mark Manning was slender and dark, with a soft voice and rather effeminate ways. He didn’t care for the rough sports in which most boys delight; never played baseball or took part in athletic exercises, but liked to walk about, sprucely dressed, and had even been seen on the campus on a Saturday afternoon with his hands incased in kid gloves.