`Well, but, Tom - if mother would let me give you two half-crowns and a sixpence out of my purse to put into your pocket and spend, you know - and buy some more rabbits with it?'

`More rabbits? I don't want any more.'

`O, but Tom, they're all dead.'

Tom stopped immediately in his walk and turned round towards Maggie. `You forgot to feed 'em then, and Harry forgot,' he said, his colour heightening for a moment, but soon subsiding. `I'll pitch into Harry - I'll have him turned away. And I don't love you, Maggie. You shan't go fishing with me to-morrow. I told you to go and see the rabbits every day.' He walked on again.

`Yes, but I forgot - and I couldn't help it, indeed, Tom. I'm so very sorry,' said Maggie, while the tears rushed fast.

`You're a naughty girl,' said Tom, severely, `and I'm sorry I bought you the fish-line. I don't love you.'

`O Tom, it's very cruel,' sobbed Maggie, `I'd forgive you, if you forgot anything - I wouldn't mind what you did - I'd forgive you and love you.'

`Yes, you're a silly. But I never do forget things, I don't.'

`O, please forgive me, Tom; my heart will break,' said Maggie, shaking with sobs, clinging to Tom's arm, and laying her wet cheek on his shoulder.

Tom shook her off, and stopped again, saying in a per-emptory tone, `Now, Maggie, you just listen. Aren't I a good brother to you?'

`Ye-ye-es,' sobbed Maggie, her chin rising and falling convulsedly.

`Didn't I think about your fish-line all this quarter, and mean to buy it, and saved my money o' purpose, and wouldn't go halves in the toffee, and Spouncer fought me because I wouldn't?'

`Ye-ye-es... and I... lo-lo-love you so, Tom.'

`But you're a naughty girl. Last holidays you licked the paint off my lozenge-box, and the holidays before that, you let the boat drag my fish-line down when I'd set you to watch it, and you pushed your head through my kite all for nothing.'

`But I didn't mean,' said Maggie. `I couldn't help it.'

`Yes, you could,' said Tom, `if you'd minded what you were doing. And you're a naughty girl, and you shan't go fishing with me to-morrow.'

With this terrible conclusion, Tom ran away from Maggie towards the mill, meaning to greet Luke there, and complain to him of Harry.

Maggie stood motionless, except from her sobs, for a minute or two; then she turned round and ran into the house and up to her attic, where she sat on the floor and laid her head against the worm-eaten shelf, with a crushing sense of misery. Tom was come home and she had thought how happy she should be - and now he was cruel to her. What use was anything if Tom didn't love her? O, he was very cruel! Hadn't she wanted to give him the money and said how very sorry she was? She knew she was naughty to her mother, but she had never been naughty to Tom - had never meant to be naughty to him.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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