“Why not, little gentleman?”
He stamped his foot. “You better stop!”
Marjorie sent into his furious face her lovely, spiteful laughter.
“Little gentleman, little gentleman, little gentleman!” she said deliberately. “How’s the little gentleman, this afternoon? Hello, little gentleman!”
Penrod, quite beside himself, danced eccentrically.
“Dry up!” he howled.
“Dry up, dry up, dry up, dry up!”
Mitchy-Mitch shouted with delight and applied a finger to the side of the caldron—a finger immediately snatched away and wiped upon a handkerchief by his fastidious sister.
“’Ittle gellamun!” said Mitchy-Mitch.
“You better look out!” Penrod whirled upon this small offender with grim satisfaction. Here was at least something male that could without dishonour be held responsible. “You say that again, and I’ll give you the worst——”
“You will not!” snapped Marjorie, instantly vitriolic. “He’ll say just whatever he wants to, and he’ll say it just as much as he wants to. Say it again, Mitchy-Mitch!”
“’Ittle gellamun!” said Mitchy-Mitch promptly.
“Ow-yah!” Penrod’s tone-production was becoming affected by his mental condition. “You say that again, and I’ll——”
“Go on, Mitchy-Mitch,” cried Marjorie. “He can’t do a thing. He don’t dare! Say it some more, Mitchy-Mitch—say it a whole lot!”
Mitchy-Mitch, his small, fat face shining with confidence in his immunity, complied.
“’Ittle gellamun!” he squeaked malevolently. “’Ittle gellamun! ’Ittle gellamun! ’Ittle gellamun!”
The desperate Penrod bent over the whitewashed rock, lifted it, and then—outdoing Porthos, John Ridd, and Ursus in one miraculous burst of strength—heaved it into the air.
But it was too late. The big stone descended into the precise midst of the caldron and Penrod got his mighty splash. It was far, far beyond his expectations.
Spontaneously there were grand and awful effects—volcanic spectacles of nightmare and eruption. A black sheet of eccentric shape rose out of the caldron and descended upon the three children, who had no time to evade it.
After it fell, Mitchy-Mitch, who stood nearest the caldron, was the thickest, though there was enough for all. Br’er Rabbit would have fled from any of them.
When Marjorie and Mitchy-Mitch got their breath, they used it vocally; and seldom have more penetrating sounds issued from human throats. Coincidentally, Marjorie, quite baresark, laid hands upon the largest stick within reach and fell upon Penrod with blind fury. He had the presence of mind to flee, and they went round and round the caldron, while Mitchy-Mitch feebly endeavoured to follow—his appearance, in this pursuit, being pathetically like that of a bug fished out of an ink-well, alive but discouraged.