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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 283 pages of information about The Maid-At-Arms.

“Where the devil are those blacks?” said Dorothy, biting off her words with a crisp snap that startled me more than her profanity.  “Cato!  Where are you, you lazy—­”

“Ahm hyah, Miss Dorry,” came a patient voice from the kitchen stairs.

“Then bring something to eat—­bring it to the gun-room instantly—­something for Captain Ormond—­and a bottle of Sir Lupus’s own claret—­and two glasses—­”

“Three glasses!” cried Ruyven.

“Four!” “Five!” shouted Harry and Cecile.

“Six!” added Samuel; and little Benny piped out, “Theven!”

“Then bring two bottles, Cato,” called out Dorothy.

“I want some small-beer!” protested Benny.

“Oh, go suck your thumbs,” retorted Ruyven, with an elder brother’s brutality; but Dorothy ordered the small-beer, and bade the negro hasten.

“We all mean to bear you company, Cousin,” said Ruyven, cheerfully, patting my arm for my reassurance; and truly I lacked something of assurance among these kinsmen of mine, who appeared to lack none.

“You spoke of me as Captain Ormond,” I said, turning with a smile to Dorothy.

“Oh, it’s all one,” she said, gayly; “if you’re not a captain now, you will be soon, I’ll wager—­but I’m not to talk of that before the children—­”

“You may talk of it before me,” said Ruyven.  “Harry, take Benny and Sam and Cecile out of earshot—­”

“Pooh!” cried Harry, “I know all about Sir John’s new regiment—­”

“Will you hush your head, you little fool!” cut in Dorothy.  “Servants and asses have long ears, and I’ll clip yours if you bray again!”

The jingling of glasses on a tray put an end to the matter; Cato, the black, followed by two more blacks, entered the hall bearing silver salvers, and at a nod from Dorothy we all trooped after them.

“Guests first!” hissed Dorothy, in a fierce whisper, as Ruyven crowded past me, and he slunk back, mortified, while Dorothy, in a languid voice and with the air of a duchess, drawled, “Your arm, cousin,” and slipped her hand into my arm, tossing her head with a heavy-lidded, insolent glance at poor Ruyven.

And thus we entered the gun-room, I with Dorothy Varick on my arm, and behind me, though I was not at first aware of it, Harry, gravely conducting Cecile in a similar manner, followed by Samuel and Benny, arm-in-arm, while Ruyven trudged sulkily by himself.

III

COUSINS

There was a large, discolored table in the armory, or gun-room, as they called it; and on this, without a cloth, our repast was spread by Cato, while the other servants retired, panting and grinning like over-fat hounds after a pack-run.

And, by Heaven! they lacked nothing for solid silver, my cousins the Varicks, nor yet for fine glass, which I observed without appearance of vulgar curiosity while Cato carved a cold joint of butcher’s roast and cracked the bottles of wine—­a claret that perfumed the room like a garden in September.

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