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    II. The Sheriff of Nottingham

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    Chapter 2
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    To sit beside a river on a golden afternoon listening to its whispered melody, while the air about one is fragrant with summer, and heavy with the drone of unseen wings! - What ordinary mortal could wish for more? And yet, though conscious of this fair world about me, I was still uncontent, for my world was incomplete - nay, lacked its most essential charm, and I sat with my ears on the stretch, waiting for Lisbeth's chance footstep on the path and the soft whisper of her skirts.

    The French are indeed a great people, for among many other things they alone have caught that magic sound a woman's garments make as she walks, and given it to the world in the one word "frou-frou."

    0 wondrous word! 0 word sublime! How full art thou of delicate suggestion! Truly, there can be no sweeter sound to ears masculine upon a golden summer afternoon - or any other time, for that matter - than the soft "frou-frou" that tells him SHE is coming.

    At this point my thoughts were interrupted by something which hurtled through the air and splashed into the water at my feet!" Glancing at this object, I recognised the loud-toned cricket cap affected by the Imp, and reaching for it, I fished it out on the end of my rod!" It was a hideous thing of red, white, blue, and green - a really horrible affair, and therefore much prized by its owner, as I knew.

    Behind me the bank rose some four or five feet, crowned with willows and underbrush, from the other side of which there now came a prodigious rustling and panting!" Rising to my feet therefore, I parted the leaves with extreme care, and beheld the Imp himself.

    He was armed to the teeth - that is to say, a wooden sword swung at his thigh, a tin bugle depended from his belt, and he carried a bow and arrow. Opposite him was another boy, particularly ragged at knee and elbow, who stood with hands thrust into his pockets and grinned.

    "Base caitiff, hold!" cried the Imp, fitting an arrow to the string: "stand an' deliver!" Give me my cap, thou varlet, thou!" The boy's grin expanded.

    "Give me my cap, base slave, or I'll shoot you - by my troth!" As he spoke the Imp aimed his arrow, whereupon the boy ducked promptly.

    "I ain't got yer cap," he grinned from the shelter of his arm. "It's been an' gone an' throwed itself into the river!" The Imp let fly his arrow, which was answered by a yell from the Base Varlet.

    "Yah!" he cried derisively as the Imp drew his sword with a melodramatic flourish. "Yah! put down that stick an' I'll fight yer."

    The Imp indignantly repudiated his trusty weapon being called "a stick" - "an' I don't think," he went on, "that Robin Hood ever fought without his sword!" Let's see what the book says," and he drew a very crumpled papercovered volume from his pocket, which he consulted with knitted brows, while the Base Varlet watched him, open-mouthed.

    "Oh, yes," nodded the Imp; "it's all right!" Listen to this!" and he read as follows in a stern, deep voice:

    "'Then Robin tossed aside his trusty blade, an' laying bare his knotted arm, approached the dastardly ruffian with many a merry quip and jest, prepared for the fierce death-grip.'"

    Hereupon the Imp laid aside his book and weapons and proceeded to roll up his sleeve, having done which to his satisfaction, he faced round upon the Base Varlet.

    "Have at ye, dastardly ruffian!" he cried, and therewith ensued a battle, fierce and fell.

    If his antagonist had it in height, the Imp made up for it in weight - he is a particularly solid Imp - and thus the struggle lasted for some five minutes without any appreciable advantage to either, when, in eluding one of the enemy's desperate rushes, the Imp stumbled, lost his balance, and next moment I had caught him in my arms. For a space "the enemy" remained panting on the bank above, and then with another yell turned and darted off among the bushes.

    "Hallo, Imp!" I said.

    "Hallo, Uncle Dick!" he returned.

    "Hurt?" I inquired.

    "Wounded a bit in the nose, you know," he answered, mopping that organ with his handkerchief; "but did you see me punch 'yon varlet' in the eye?"

    "Did you, Imp?"

    "I think so, Uncle Dick; only I do wish I'd made him surrender!" The book says that Robin Hood always made his enemies 'surrender an' beg their life on trembling knee!' Oh, it must be fine to see your enemies on their knee!"

    "Especially if they tremble," I added.

    "Do you s'pose that boy - I mean 'yon base varlet' would have surrendered?"

    "Not a doubt of it - if he hadn't happened to push you over the bank first"

    "Oh!" murmured the Imp rather dubiously.

    "By the way," I said as I filled my pipe, "where is your Auntie Lisbeth?"

    "Well, I chased her up the big apple-tree with my bow an' arrow."

    "Of course," I nodded!" "Very right and proper!"

    "You see," he explained, "I wanted her to be a wild elephant an' she wouldn't."

    "Extremely disobliging of her!"

    "Yes, wasn't it? So when she was right up I took away the ladder an' hid it."

    "Highly strategic, my Imp."

    "So then I turned into Robin Hood. I hung my cap on a bush to shoot at, you know, an' 'the Base Varlet' came up an' ran off with it."

    "And there it is," I said, pointing to where it lay!" The Imp received it with profuse thanks, and having wrung out the water, clapped it upon his curls and sat down beside me.

    "I found another man who wants to be me uncle," he began.

    "Oh, indeed?"

    "Yes; but I don't want any more, you know."

    "Of course not!" One like me suffices for your every-day needs - eh, my Imp?"

    The Imp nodded. "It was yesterday," he continued. "He came to see Auntie Lisbeth, an' I found them in the summer-house in the orchard. An' I heard him say, 'Miss Elizbeth, you're prettier than ever!"

    "Did he though, confound him!"

    Yes, an then Auntie Lisbeth looked silly, an' then he saw me behind a tree an' he looked silly, too, Then he said, 'Come here, little man!' An' I went, you know, though I do hate to be called 'little man.' Then he said he'd give me a shilling if I'd call him Uncle Frank."

    "And what did you answer?"

    "'Fraid I'm awfull' wicked," sighed the Imp, shaking his head, "'cause I told him a great big lie."

    "Did you, Imp?"

    "Yes!" I said I didn't want his shilling, an' I do, you know, most awfully, to buy a spring pistol with."

    "Oh, well, we'll see what can be done about the spring pistol," I answered. "And so you don't like him, eh?"

    "Should think not," returned the Imp promptly!" "He's always so - so awfull' clean, an' wears a little moustache with teeny sharp points on it.

    "Any one who does that deserves all he gets," I said, shaking my head. And what is his name?"

    "The Honourable Frank Selwyn, an' he lives at Selwyn Park - the next house to ours."

    "Oho!" I exclaimed, and whistled.

    "Uncle Dick" said the Imp, breaking in upon a somewhat unpleasant train of thought conjured up by this intelligence, "will you come an' be 'Little-John under the merry greenwood tree? Do?"

    "Why what do you know about 'the merry greenwood,' Imp?"

    "Oh lots!" he answered, hastily pulling out the tattered book. "This is all about Robin Hood an' Little-John. Ben, the gardener's boy, lent it to me. Robin Hood was a fine chap an' so was Little-John an' they used to set ambushes an' capture the Sheriff of Nottingham an' all sorts of caddish barons, an' tie them to trees.

    "My Imp," I said, shaking my head, "the times are sadly changed. One cannot tie barons - caddish or otherwise - to trees in these degenerate days."

    "No, I s'pose not," sighed the Imp dolefully; "but I do wish you would be Little-John, Uncle Dick."

    "Oh, certainly, Imp, if it will make you any happier; though of a truth, bold Robin," I continued after the manner of the story books, Little-John hath a mind to bide awhile and commune with himself here; yet give but one blast upon thy bugle horn and thou shalt find my arm and quarter-staff ready and willing enough, I'll warrant you!"

    "That sounds awfull' fine, Uncle Dick, only - you haven't got a quarter-staff, you know."

    "Yea, 'tis here!" I answered, and detached the lower joint of my fishing rod. The Imp rose, and folding his arms, surveyed me as Robin Hood himself might have done - that is to say, with an 'eye of fire.'

    "So be it, my faithful Little-John," quoth he; "meet me at the Blasted Oak at midnight. An' if I shout for help - I mean blow my bugle - you'll come an' rescue me, won't you, Uncle Dick?"

    "Ay; trust me for that," I answered, all unsuspecting.

    "'Tis well!" nodded the Imp; and with a wave of his hand he turned and scrambling up the bank disappeared. Of the existence of Mr. Selwyn I was already aware, having been notified in this particular by the Duchess, as I have told in the foregoing narrative. Now, a rival in air - in the abstract, so to speak - is one thing, but a rival who was on a sufficiently intimate footing to deal in personal compliments, and above all, one who was already approved of and encouraged by the powers that be, in the person of Lady Warburton - Lisbeth's formidable aunt - was another consideration altogether.

    "Miss Elizabeth. you're prettier than ever!"

    Somehow the expression rankled. What right had he to tell her such things? - and in a summer-house, too; - the insufferable audacity of the fellow!

    A pipe being indispensable to the occasion, I took out my matchbox, only to find that it contained but a solitary vesta.

    The afternoon had been hot and still hitherto, with never so much as a breath of wind stirring; but no sooner did I prepare to strike that match than from somewhere - Heaven knows where - there came a sudden flaw of wind that ruffled the glassy waters of the river and set every leaf whispering. Waiting until what I took to be a favourable opportunity, with infinite precaution I struck a light. It flickered in a sickly fashion for a moment between my sheltering palms, and immediately expired.

    This is but one example of that "Spirit of the Perverse" pervading all things mundane, which we poor mortals are called upon to bear as best we may. Therefore I tossed aside the charred match, and having searched fruitlessly through my pockets for another, waited philosophically for some "good Samaritan" to come along. The bank I have mentioned sloped away gently on my left, thus affording an uninterrupted view of the path.

    Now as my eyes followed this winding path I beheld an individual some distance away who crawled upon his hands and knees, evidently searching for something. As I watched, he succeeded in raking a Panama hat from beneath a bush, and having dusted it carefully with his handkerchief, replaced it upon his head and continued his advance.

    With some faint hope that there might be a loose match hiding away in some corner of my pockets, I went through them again more carefully, but alas! with no better success; whereupon I gave it up and turned to glance at the approaching figure. My astonishment may be readily imagined when I beheld him in precisely the same attitude as before - that is to say, upon his hands and knees.

    I was yet puzzling over this phenomenon when he again raked out the Panama on the end of the hunting-crop he carried, dusted it as before, looking about him the while with a bewildered air, and setting it firmly upon his head, came down the path. He was a tall young fellow, scrupulously neat and well groomed from the polish of his brown riding boots to his small, sleek moustache, which was parted with elaborate care and twisted into two fine points. There was about his whole person an indefinable air of self-complacent satisfaction, but he carried his personality in his moustache, so to speak, which, though small, as I say, and precise to a hair, yet obtruded itself upon one in a vaguely unpleasant way. Noticing all this, I thought I might make a very good guess as to his identity if need were.

    All at once, as I watched him - like a bird rising from her nest - the devoted Panama rose in the air, turned over once or twice and fluttered (I use the word figuratively) into a bramble bush. Bad language was writ large in every line of his body as he stood looking about him, the hunting-crop quivering in his grasp.

    It was at this precise juncture that his eye encountered me, and pausing only to recover his unfortunate headgear, he strode toward where I sat, "Do you know anything about this?" he inquired in a somewhat aggressive manner, holding up a length of black thread.

    "A piece of ordinary pack-thread," I answered, affecting to examine it with a critical eye.

    "Do you know anything about it?" he said again, evidently in a very bad temper.

    "Sir," I answered, "I do not."

    "Because if I thought you did - "

    "Sir." I broke in, "you'll excuse me, but that seems a very remarkable hat of yours.

    "I repeat if I thought you did - "

    "Of course," I went on, "each to his taste, but personally I prefer one with less 'gymnastic' and more 'stay -at-home, qualities."

    The hunting-crop was raised threateningly.

    "Mr. Selwyn?" I inquired in a conversational tone.

    The hunting-crop hesitated and was lowered.

    "Well, sir?"

    "Ah, I thought so," I said, bowing; "permit me to trespass upon your generosity to the extent of a match - or, say, a couple."

    Mr. Selwyn remained staring down at me for a moment, and I saw the points of his moustache positively curling with indignation. Then, without deigning a reply, he turned on his heel and strode away. He had not gone more than thirty or forty paces, however, when I heard him stop and swear savagely - I did not need to look to learn the reason - I admit I chuckled. But my merriment was short-lived, for a moment later came the feeble squeak of a horn followed by a shout and the Imp's voice upraised in dire distress.

    "Little-John! Little-John! to the rescue!" it called.

    I hesitated, for I will freely confess that when I had made that promise to the Imp it was with small expectation that I should be called upon to fulfil it. Still, a promise is a promise: so I sighed, and picking up the joint of my fishing rod, clambered up the bank. Glancing in the direction of the cries, I beheld Robin Hood struggling in the foe's indignant grasp.

    Now, there were but two methods of procedure open to me as I could see - the serious or the frankly grotesque. Naturally I chose the latter, and quarter-staff on shoulder, I swaggered down the path with an air that Little-John himself might well have envied.

    "Beshrew me!" I cried, confronting the amazed Mr. Selwyn, "who dares lay hands on bold Robin Hood? - away, base rogue, hie thee hence or I am like to fetch thee a dour ding on that pate o' thine!"

    Mr. Selwyn loosed the Imp and stared at me in speechless astonishment, as well he might.

    "Look ye, master," I continued, entering into the spirit of the thing, "no man lays hand on Robin Hood whiles Little-John can twirl a staff or draw a bow-string - no, by St. Cuthbert!"

    The Imp, retired to a safe distance, stood hearkening in a transport till, bethinking him of his part, he fished out the tattered book and began surreptitiously turning over the pages; as for Mr. Selwyn, he only fumbled at his moustache and stared.

    "Aye, but I know thee," I went on again, "by thy sly and crafty look, by thy scallopped cape and chain of office, I know thee for that same Sheriff of Nottingham that hath sworn to our undoing. Go to! didst' think to take Robin - in the greenwood? Out upon thee! Thy years should have taught thee better wisdom. Out upon thee!"

    "Now will I feed" - began the Imp, with the book carefully held behind him, "now will I feed fat mine vengeance - to thy knees for a scurvy rascal!"

    "Aye, by St. Benedict!" I nodded, "twere well he should do penance on his marrow-bones from hither to Nottingham Town; but as thou art strong - be merciful, Robin."

    Mr. Selwyn still curled the point of his moustache.

    "Are you mad," he inquired, "or only drunk?"

    "As to that, good master Sheriff, it doth concern thee nothing - but mark you! 'tis an ill thing to venture within the greenwood whiles Robin Hood and Little-John he abroad."

    Mr. Selwyn shrugged his shoulders and turned to the Imp.

    "I am on my way to see your Aunt Elizabeth, and shall make it my particular care to inform her of your conduct, and to see that you are properly punished. As for you, sir," he continued, addressing me, "I shall inform the police that there is a madman at large."

    At this double-barrelled threat the Imp was plainly much dismayed, and coming up beside me, slipped his hand into mine, and I promptly pocketed it.

    "Sweet master Sheriff," I said, sweeping off my cap in true outlaw fashion, "the way is long and something lonely; methinks - we will therefore e'en accompany you, and may perchance lighten the tedium with quip and quirk and a merry stave or so."

    Seeing the angry rejoinder upon Mr. Selwyn's lips, I burst forth incontinent into the following ditty, the words extemporised to the tune of "Bonnie Dundee":

    There lived a sheriff in Nottinghamshire, With a hey derry down and a down; He was fond of good beef, but was fonder of beer, With a hey derry down and a down

    By the time we reached the Shrubbery gate the imp was in an ecstasy and Mr. Selwyn once more reduced to speechless indignation and astonishment. Here our ways diverged, Mr. Selwyn turning toward the house, while the Imp and I made our way to the orchard at the rear.

    "Uncle Dick," he said, halting suddenly, "do you think he will tell - really?"

    "My dear Imp," I answered, "a man who wears points on his moustache is capable of anything."

    "Then I shall be sent to bed for it, I know I shall!"

    "To run into a thread tied across the path must have been very annoying," I said, shaking my head thoughtfully, "especially with a brand-new hat!"

    "They were only 'ambushes,' you know, Uncle Dick."

    "To be sure," I nodded. "Now, observe, my Imp, here is a shilling; go and buy that spring-pistol you were speaking of, and take your time about it; I'll see what can be done in the meanwhile."

    The Imp was reduced to incoherent thanks.

    "That's all right." I said, "but you'd better hurry off."

    He obeyed with alacrity, disappearing in the direction of the village, while I went on toward the orchard to find Lisbeth. And presently, sure enough, I did find her - that is to say, part of her, for the foliage of that particular tree happened to be very thick and I could see nothing of her but a foot.

    A positively delicious foot it was, too, small and shapely, that swung audaciously to and fro; a foot in a ridiculously out-of-place little patent-leather shoe, with a sheen of slender silken ankle above.

    I approached softly, with the soul of me in my eyes, so to speak, yet, despite my caution, she seemed to become aware of my presence in some way - the foot faltered in its swing and vanished as the leaves were parted and Lisbeth looked down at me.

    "Oh, it's you?" she said, and I fancied she seemed quite pleased. "You'll find a step-ladder somewhere about - it can't be very far."

    "Thanks," I answered, "but I don't want one."

    "No; but I do; I want to get down. That little wretched Imp hid the ladder, and I've been here all the afternoon," she wailed.

    "But then you refused to be an elephant, you know," I reminded her.

    "He shall go to bed for it - directly after tea!" she said.

    "Lisbeth," I returned, "I firmly believe your nature to be altogether too sweet and forgiving - "

    "I want to come down !"

    "Certainly," I said; "put your left foot in my right hand, take firm hold of the branch above and let yourself sink gently into my arms."

    "Oh!" she exclaimed suddenly, "here's Mr. Selwyn coming," and following her glance, I saw a distant Panama approaching.

    "Lisbeth," said I, "are you anxious to see him?"

    "In this ridiculous situation - of course not!"

    "Very well then, hide - just sit there and leave matters to me and - "

    "Hush," she whispered, and at that moment Selwyn emerged into full view. Catching sight of me he stopped in evident surprise.

    "I was told I should find Miss Elizabeth here," he said stiffly.

    "It would almost appear that you had been misinformed," I answered. For a moment he seemed undecided what to do. Would he go away? I wondered. Evidently not, for after glancing about him he sat himself down upon a rustic seat near-by with a certain resolute air that I did not like. I must get rid of him at all hazards.

    "Sir," said I, "can I trespass on your generosity to the extent of a match or say a couple?" After a brief hesitation he drew out a very neat silver match-box, which he handed to me.

    "A fine day, sir?" I said, puffing at my pipe.

    Mr. Selwyn made no reply.

    "I hear that the crops are looking particularly healthy this year," I went on.

    Mr. Selwyn appeared to be utterly lost in the contemplation of an adjacent tree.

    "To my mind an old apple tree is singularly picturesque," I began again, nice nobbly branches, don't you know."

    Mr. Selwyn began to fidget.

    "And then," I pursued, "they tell me that apples are so good for the blood."

    Mr. Selwyn shifted his gaze to the toe of his riding boot, and for a space there was silence, so much so, indeed, that an inquisitive rabbit crept up and sat down to watch us with much interest, until - evidently remembering some pressing engagement - he disappeared with a flash of his white tail.

    "Talking of rabbits," said I, "they are quite a pest in Australia, I believe, and are exterminated by the thousand; I have often wondered if a syndicate could not be formed to acquire the skins - this idea, so far as I know, is original, but you are quite welcome to it if - "

    Mr. Selwyn rose abruptly to his feet.

    "I once in my boyhood possessed a rabbit - of the lop-eared variety," I continued, "which overate itself and died. I remember I attempted to skin it with dire results - "

    "Sir." said Mr. Selwyn. "I beg to inform you that I am not interested in rabbits, lop-eared or otherwise, nor do I propose to become so; furthermore - "

    But at this moment of my triumph, even as he turned to depart, something small and white fluttered down from the branches above, and the next moment Selwyn had stooped and picked up a lace handkerchief. Then, while he stared at it and I at him, there came a ripple of laughter and Lisbeth peered down at us through the leaves.

    "My handkerchief-thank you," she said, as Selwyn stood somewhat taken aback by her sudden appearance.

    "The trees hereabouts certainly bear very remarkable, not to say delightful fruit," he said.

    "And as you will remember, I was always particularly fond of apple trees," I interpolated.

    "Mr. Selwyn," smiled Lisbeth, "let me introduce you to Mr. Brent."

    "Sir," said I, "I am delighted to make your acquaintance; have heard Her Grace of Chelsea speak of you - her friends are mine, I trust?"

    Mr. Selwyn's bow was rather more than distant.

    "I have already had the pleasure of meeting this - this very original gentleman before, and under rather peculiar circumstances, Miss Elizabeth," he said, and forthwith plunged into an account of the whole affair of the "ambushes," while Lisbeth, perched upon her lofty throne, surveyed us with an ever-growing astonishment.

    "Whatever does it all mean ?" she inquired as Mr. Selwyn made an end.

    "You must know, then," I explained, leaning upon my quarter-staff, "the Imp took it into his head to become Robin Hood; I was Little-John, and Mr. Selwyn here was so very obliging as to enact the role of Sheriff of Nottingham - "

    "I beg your pardon," exc1aimed Mr. Selwyn indignantly, turning upon me with a fiery eye.

    "Every one recollects the immortal exploits of Robin and his 'merrie men,'" I continued, "and you will, of course, remember that they had a habit of capturing the sheriff and tying him up to trees and things. Naturally the Imp did not proceed to that extreme. He contented himself with merely capturing the Sheriff's hat - I think that you will agree that those 'ambushes' worked line a charm, Mr. Selwyn?"

    "Miss Elizabeth," he said, disdaining any reply, "I am aware of the af - affection you lavish upon your nephew; I hope that you will take measures to restrain him from such pranks - such very disgraceful pranks - in the future. I myself should suggest a change of companionship [here he glanced at me] as the most salutary method. Good-afternoon, Miss Elizabeth." So saying, Mr. Selwyn raised his hat, bowed stiffly to me, and turning upon an indignant heel, strode haughtily away.

    "Well!" exclaimed Lisbeth, with a look of very real concern.

    "Very well, indeed!" I nodded; "we are alone at last."

    "Oh, Dick! but to have offended him like this!"

    "A highly estimable young gentleman," I said, "though deplorably lacking in that saving sense of humour which - "

    "Aunt Agatha seems to think a great deal of him."

    "So I understand," I nodded.

    "Only this morning I received a letter from her, in which, among other things, she pointed out what a very excellent match h would be."

    "And what do you think?"

    "Oh, I agree with her, of course; his family dates back ages and ages before the Conqueror, and he has two or three estates besides Selwyn Park, and one in Scotland."

    "Do you know, Lisbeth, that reminds me of another house - not at all big or splendid, but of great age; a house which stands not far from the village of Down, in Kent; a house which is going to rack and ruin for want of a mistress. Sometimes, just as evening comes on, I think it must dream of the light feet and gentle hands it has known so many years ago, and feels its loneliness more than ever."

    "Poor old house!" said Lisbeth softly.

    "Yes, a house is very human, Lisbeth, especially an old one, and feels the need of that loving care which only a woman can bestow, just as we do ourselves."

    "Dear old house 1" said Lisbeth, more softly than before.

    "How much longer must it wait - when will you come and care for it, Lisbeth?"

    She started, and I thought her cheeks seemed a trifle pinker than usual as her eyes met mine.

    "Dick," she said wistfully, "I do wish you would get the ladder; it's horribly uncomfortable to sit in a tree for hours and - "

    "First of all, Lisbeth, you will forgive the Imp - full and freely, won't you?"

    "He shall go to bed without any tea whatever."

    "That will be rank cruelty, Lisbeth; remember he is a growing boy."

    "And I have been perched up here - between heaven and earth - all the afternoon."

    "Then why not come down?" I inquired.

    "If you will only get the ladder - "

    "If you will just put your right foot in my - "

    "I won't!" said Lisbeth.

    "As you please," I nodded, and sitting down, mechanically took out my pipe and began to fill it, while she opened her book, frowning. And after she had read very studiously for perhaps two minutes, she drew out and consulted her watch. I did the same.

    "A quarter to five!" I said.

    Lisbeth glanced down at me with the air of one who is deliberating upon two courses of action, and when at length she spoke, every trace of irritation had vanished completely.

    "Dick, I'm awfully hungry."

    "So am I," I nodded.

    "It would be nice to have tea here under the trees, wouldn't it?"

    "It would be positively idyllic!" I said.

    "Then if you will please find that ladder - "

    "If you will promise to forgive the Imp - "

    "Certainly not!" she retorted.

    "So be it!" I sighed, and sat down again. As I did so she launched her book at me.

    "Beast!" she exclaimed.

    "Which means that you are ready to descend?" I inquired, rising and depositing the maltreated volume side by side with my pipe on a rustic table near-by; "very good. Place your right foot in - "

    "Oh, all right," she said quite pettishly, and next moment I had her in my arms.

    "Dick! put me down-at once!"

    "One moment, Lisbeth; that boy is a growing boy - "

    "And shall go to bed without any tea!" she broke in.

    "Very well, then," I said, and reading the purpose in my eyes, she attempted, quite vainly, to turn her head aside.

    "You will find it quite useless to struggle, Lisbeth," I warned. "Your only course is to remember that he is a growing boy."

    "And you are a brute!" she cried.

    "Undoubtedly," I answered, bending my head nearer her petulant lips.

    "But think of the Imp in bed, lying there, sleepless, tealess, and growing all the while as fast as he can."

    Lisbeth surrendered, of course, but my triumph was greatly tempered with disappointment.

    "You will then forgive him for the 'ambushes' and cherish him with much tea?" I stipulated, winking away a tress of hair that tickled most provokingly.

    "Yes," said Lisbeth.

    "And no bed until the usual hour?"

    "No," she answered, quite subdued; "and now please do put me down." So I sighed and perforce obeyed.

    She stood for a moment patting her rebellious hair into order with deft, white fingers, looking up at me meanwhile with a laugh in her eyes that seemed almost a challenge. I took a hasty step toward her, but as I did so the Imp hove into view, and the opportunity was lost.

    "Hallo, Auntie Lisbeth!" he exclaimed, eyeing her wonderingly; then his glance wandered round as if in quest of something.

    "How did she do it, Uncle Dick?" he inquired.

    "Do what, my Imp?"

    "Why, get out of the tree?" I smiled and looked at Lisbeth.

    "Did she climb down?"

    "No," said I, shaking my head.

    "Did she-jump down?"

    "No, she didn't jump down, my Imp."

    "Well, did she - did she fly down?"

    "No, nor fly down - she just came down."

    "Yes, but how did she - "

    "Reginald," said Lisbeth, "run and tell the maids to bring tea out here - for three."

    "Three?" echoed the Imp. "But Dorothy has gone out to tea, you know - is Uncle Dick going to - "

    "To be sure, Imp," I nodded.

    "Oh, that is fine - hurrah, Little-John!" he cried, and darted off to ward the house.

    "And you, Lisbeth?" I said, imprisoning her hands, "are you glad also?"

    Lisbeth did not speak, yet I was satisfied nevertheless.
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