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- Scenes and Characters - 13/54 -


'Did I say so?' said Claude.

'Why not?' said Jane. 'What is the use of his knowing those stupid languages? I am sure it is wasting time not to improve such a genius as he has for mechanics and natural history. Now, Claude, I wish you would answer.'

'I was waiting till you had done,' said Claude.

'Why do you not think it nonsense?' persisted Jane.

'Because I respect my father's opinion,' said Claude, letting himself fall on the grass, as if he had done with the subject.

'Pooh!' said Jane, 'that sounds like a good little boy of five years old!'

'Very likely,' said Claude.

'But you have some opinion of your own,' said Lily.

'Certainly.'

'Then I wish you would give it,' said Jane.

'Come, Emily,' said Claude, 'have you brought anything to read?'

'But your opinion, Claude,' said Jane. 'I am sure you think with me, only you are too grand, and too correct to say so.'

Claude made no answer, but Jane saw she was wrong by his countenance; before she could say anything more, however, they were interrupted by a great outcry from the Old Court regions.

'Oh,' said Emily, 'I thought it was a long time since we had heard anything of those uproarious mortals.'

'I hope there is nothing the matter,' said Lily.

'Oh no,' said Jane, 'I hear Redgie's laugh.'

'Aye, but among that party,' said Emily, 'Redgie's laugh is not always a proof of peace: they are too much in the habit of acting the boys and the frogs.'

'We were better off,' said Lily, 'with the gentle Claude, as Miss Middleton used to call him.'

'Miss Molly, as William used to call him with more propriety,' said Claude, 'not half so well worth playing with as such a fellow as Redgie.'

'Not even for young ladies?' said Emily.

'No, Phyllis and Ada are much the better for being teased,' said Claude. 'I am convinced that I never did my duty by you in that respect.'

'There were others to do it for you,' said Jane.

'Harry never teased,' said Emily, 'and William scorned us.'

'His teasing was all performed upon Claude,' said Lily, 'and a great shame it was.'

'Not at all,' said Claude, 'only an injudicious attempt to put a little life into a tortoise.'

'A bad comparison,' said Lily; 'but what is all this? Here come the children in dismay! What is the matter, my dear child?'

This was addressed to Phyllis, who was the first to come up at full speed, sobbing, and out of breath, 'Oh, the dragon-fly! Oh, do not let him kill it!'

'The dragon-fly, the poor dear blue dragon-fly!' screamed Adeline, hiding her face in Emily's lap, 'Oh, do not let him kill it! he is holding it; he is hurting it! Oh, tell him not!'

'I caught it,' said Phyllis, 'but not to have it killed. Oh, take it away!'

'A fine rout, indeed, you chicken,' said Reginald; 'I know a fellow who ate up five horse-stingers one morning before breakfast.'

'Stingers!' said Phyllis, 'they do not sting anything, pretty creatures.'

'I told you I would catch the old pony and put it on him to try,' said Reginald.

In the meantime, Maurice came up at his leisure, holding his prize by the wings. 'Look what a beautiful Libellulla Puella,' said he to Jane.

'A demoiselle dragon-fly,' said Lily; 'what a beauty! what are you going to do with it?'

'Put it into my museum,' said Maurice. 'Here, Jane, put it under this flower-pot, and take care of it, while I fetch something to kill it with.'

'Oh, Maurice, do not!' said Emily.

'One good squeeze,' said Reginald. 'I will do it.'

'How came you be so cruel?' said Lily.

'No, a squeeze will not do,' said Maurice; 'it would spoil its beauty; I must put it ever the fumes of carbonic acid.'

'Maurice, you really must not,' said Emily.

'Now do not, dear Maurice,' said Ada, 'there's a dear boy; I will give you such a kiss.'

'Nonsense; get out of the way,' said Maurice, turning away.

'Now, Maurice, this is most horrid cruelty,' said Lily; 'what right have you to shorten the brief, happy life which--'

'Well,' interrupted Maurice, 'if you make such a fuss about killing it, I will stick a pin through it into a cork, and let it shift for itself.'

Poor Phyllis ran away to the other end of the garden, sat down and sobbed, Ada screamed and argued, Emily complained, Lily exhorted Claude to interfere, while Reginald stood laughing.

'Such useless cruelty,' said Emily.

'Useless!' said Maurice. 'Pray how is any one to make a collection of natural objects without killing things?'

'I do not see the use of a collection,' said Lily; 'you can examine the creatures and let them go.'

'Such a young lady's tender-hearted notion,' said Reginald.

'Who ever heard of a man of science managing in such a ridiculous way?'

'Man of science!' exclaimed Lily, 'when he will have forgotten by next Christmas that insects ever existed.'

It was not convenient to hear this speech, so Maurice turned an empty flower-pot over his prisoner, and left it in Jane's care while he went to fetch the means of destruction, probably choosing the lawn for the place of execution, in order to show his contempt for his sisters.

'Fair damsel in boddice blue,' said Lily, peeping in at the hole at the top of the flower-pot, 'I wish I could avert your melancholy fate. I am very sorry for you, but I cannot help it.'

'You might help it now, at any rate,' muttered Claude.

'No,' said Lily, 'I know Monsieur Maurice too well to arouse his wrath so justly. If you choose to release the pretty creature, I shall be charmed.'

'You forget that I am in charge,' said Jane.

'There is a carriage coming to the front gate,' cried Ada. 'Emily, may I go into the drawing-room? Oh, Jenny, will you undo my brown holland apron?'

'That is right, little mincing Miss,' said Reginald, with a low bow; 'how fine we are to-day.'

'How visitors break into the afternoon,' said Emily, with a languid turn of her head.

'Jenny, brownie,' called Maurice from his bedroom window, 'I want the sulphuric acid.'

Jane sprang up and ran into the house, though her sisters called after her, that she would come full upon the company in the hall.

'They shall not catch me here,' cried Reginald, rushing off into the shrubbery.

'Are you coming in, Claude?' said Emily.

'Send Ada to call me, if there is any one worth seeing,' said Claude

'They will see you from the window,' said Emily.

'No,' said Claude, 'no one ever found me out last summer, under these friendly branches.'

The old butler, Joseph, now showed himself on the terrace; and the young ladies, knowing that he had no intention of crossing the lawn, hastened to learn from him who their visitors were, and entered the house. Just then Phyllis came running back from the kitchen garden, and without looking round, or perceiving Claude, she took up the flower-pot and released the captive, which, unconscious of its peril, rested on a blade of grass, vibrating its gauzy wings and rejoicing in the restored sunbeams.


Scenes and Characters - 13/54

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