LADY TEMPLE’S TROUBLES.
“The pheasant in the falcon’s claw,
He scarce will yield, to please a daw.”—Scott.
Early in the afternoon of a warm October day, the brothers arrived at Avomnouth, and ten minutes after both were upon the lawn at Myrtlewood, where croquet was still in progress. Shouts of delight greeted the Colonel, and very gracefully did Bessie Keith come to meet him, with the frank confiding sweetness befitting his recent ward, the daughter of his friend. A reassuring smile and monosyllable had scarcely time to pass between him and the governess before a flood of tidings was poured on him by the four elder boys, while their mother was obliged to be mannerly, and to pace leisurely along with the elder guest, and poor Mr. Touchett waited a little aloof, hammering his own boot with his mallet, as if he found the enchanted ground failing him. But the boys had no notion of losing their game, and vociferated an inquiry whether the Colonel knew croquet. Yes, he had several times played with his cousins in Scotland. “Then,” insisted Conrade, “he must take mamma’s place, whilst she was being devoured, and how surprised she would be at being so helped on!”
“Not now, not to-day,” he answered. “I may go to your sister, Ailie? Yes, boys, you must close up your ranks without me.”
“Then please,” entreated Hubert, “take him away,” pointing to the engrosser of their mother.
“Do you find elder brothers so easily disposed of, Hubert?” said the Colonel. “Do you take Conrade away when you please?”
“I should punch him,” returned Francis.
“He knows better,” quoth Conrade in the same breath, both with infinite contempt for Hubert.
“And I know better,” returned Colonel Keith; “never mind, boys, I’ll come back in—in reasonable time to carry him off,” and he waved a gay farewell.
“Surely you wish to go too,” said Bessie to Alison, “if only to relieve them of the little girl! I’ll take care of the boys. Pray go.”
“Thank you,” said Alison, surprised at her knowledge of the state of things, “but they are quite hardened to Rose’s presence, and I think would rather miss her.”
And in fact Alison did not feel at all sure that, when stimulated by Bessie’s appreciation of their mischief, her flock might not in her absence do something that might put their mother in despair, and make their character for naughtiness irretrievable; so Leoline and Hubert were summoned, the one from speculations whether Lord Keith would have punched his brother, the other from amaze that there was anything our military secretary could not do, and Conrade and Francis were arrested in the midst of a significant contraction of the nostrils and opening of the mouth, which would have exploded in an “eehaw” but for Bessie’s valiant undertaking to be herself and Lady Temple both at once.