‘I’ll tell you what, Maurice,’ said Phyllis, ’I do wish you would not make me promise, for I do not think I can keep it, for I cannot bear to see the beautiful live things killed.’
‘Nonsense,’ said Maurice, fiercely, ’I am very angry indeed, you naughty child; promise—’
‘I cannot,’ said Phyllis, beginning to cry.
‘Then,’ said Maurice, ‘I will not speak to you all day.’
‘No, no,’ shouted Reginald, ’we will only treat her like the horse-stinger; you wanted a puella, Maurice—here is one for you, here, give her a dose of the turpentine.’
‘Yes,’ said Maurice, advancing with his bottle; ’and do you take the poker down to Naylor’s to be sharpened, it will just do to stick through her back. Oh! no, not Naylor’s—the girls have made a hash there, as they do everything else; but we will settle her before they come out again.’
Phyllis screamed and begged for mercy—her last ally had deserted her.
‘Promise!’ cried the boys.
‘Oh, don’t!’ was all her answer.
Reginald caught her and held her fast, Maurice advanced upon her, she struggled, and gave a scream of real terror. The matter was no joke to any one but Reginald, for Maurice was very angry and really meant to frighten her.
‘Hands off, boys, I will not have her bullied,’ said Claude, half rising.
Maurice gave a violent start, Reginald looked round laughing, and exclaimed, ‘Who would have thought of Claude sneaking there?’ and Phyllis ran to the protecting arm, which he stretched out. To her great surprise, he drew her to him, and kissed her forehead, saying, ‘Well done, Phyl!’
‘Oh, I knew he was not going to hurt me,’ said Phyllis, still panting from the struggle.
‘To be sure not,’ said Maurice, ‘I only meant to have a little fun.’
Claude, with his arm still round his sister’s waist, gave Maurice a look, expressing, ‘Is that the truth?’ and Reginald tumbled head over heels, exclaiming, ‘I would not have been Phyl just them.’
Ada now came running up to them, saying, ’Maurice and Redgie, you are to come in; Mr. and Mrs. Burnet heard your voices, and begged to see you, because they never saw you last holidays.’
‘More’s the pity they should see us now,’ said Maurice.
‘I shall not go,’ said Reginald.
‘Papa is there, and he sent for you,’ said Ada.
‘Plague,’ was the answer.
‘See what you get by making such a row,’ said Claude. ’If you had been as orderly members of society as I am—’
‘Oh, but Claude,’ said Ada, ’papa told me to see if I could find you. Dear Claude, I wish,’ she proceeded, taking his hand, and looking engaging, ’I wish you would put your arm round me as you do round Phyl.’
‘You are not worth it, Ada,’ said Reginald, and Claude did not contradict him.