Maggie Behaves Worse than She Expected

THE startling object which thus made an epoch for uncle Pullet was no other than little Lucy, with one side of her person, from her small foot to her bonnet-crown, wet and discoloured with mud, holding out two tiny blackened hands and making a very piteous face. To account for this unprecedented apparition in aunt Pullet's parlour, we must return to the moment when the three children went to play out of doors and the small demons who had taken possession of Maggie's soul at an early period of the day had returned in all the greater force after a temporary absence. All the disagreeable recollections of the morning were thick upon her, when Tom, whose displeasure towards her had been considerably refreshed by her foolish trick of causing him to upset his cowslip wine, said, `Here, Lucy, you come along with me,' and walked off to the area where the toads were, as if there were no Maggie in existence. Seeing this Maggie lingered at a distance looking like a small Medusa with her snakes cropped. Lucy was naturally pleased that cousin Tom was so good to her, and it was very amusing to see him tickling a fat toad with a piece of string when the toad was safe down the area with an iron grating over him. Still Lucy wished Maggie to enjoy the spectacle also, especially as she would doubtless find a name for the toad and say what had been his past history; for Lucy had a delighted semi-belief in Maggie's stories about the live things they came upon by accident - how Mrs Earwig had a wash at home, and one of her children had fallen into the hot copper, for which reason, she was running so fast to fetch the doctor. Tom had a profound contempt for this nonsense of Maggie's, smashing the earwig at once as a superfluous yet easy means of proving the entire unreality of such a story; but Lucy, for the life of her, could not help fancying there was something in it, and at all events thought it was very pretty make-believe. So now the desire to know the history of a very portly toad, added to her habitual affectionateness, made her run back to Maggie and say, `O, there is such a big, funny toad, Maggie! Do come and see.' Maggie said nothing, but turned away from her with a deeper frown. As long as Tom seemed to prefer Lucy to her, Lucy made part of his unkindness. Maggie would have thought a little while ago that she could never be cross with pretty little Lucy, any more than she could be cruel to a little white mouse; but then, Tom had always been quite indifferent to Lucy before, and it had been left to Maggie to pet and make much of her. As it was, she was actually beginning to think that she should like to make Lucy cry, by slapping or pinching her, especially as it might vex Tom, whom it was of no use to slap even if she dared, because he didn't mind it. And if Lucy hadn't been there, Maggie was sure he would have got friends with her sooner.

Tickling a fat toad who is not highly sensitive is an amusement that it is possible to exhaust, and Tom by-and-by began to look round for some other mode of passing the time. But in so prim a garden where they were not to go off the paved walks, there was not a great choice of sport. The only great pleasure such a restriction allowed was the pleasure of breaking it, and Tom began to meditate an insurrectionary visit to the pond, about a field's length beyond the garden.

`I say, Lucy,' he began, nodding his head up and down with great significance as he coiled up his string again. `What do you think I mean to do?'

`What, Tom?' said Lucy, with curiosity.

`I mean to go to the pond, and look at the pike. You may go with me if you like,' said the young Sultan.

`O, Tom, dare you?' said Lucy. `Aunt said we mustn't go out of the garden.'

`O, I shall go out at the other end of the garden,' said Tom. `Nobody 'ull see us. Besides I don't care if they do - I'll run off home.'

`But I couldn't run,' said Lucy, who had never before been exposed to such severe temptation.

`O, never mind - they won't be cross with you,' said Tom. `You say I took you.'

Tom walked along, and Lucy trotted by his side timidly enjoying the rare treat of doing something naughty - excited also by the mention of that celebrity, the pike, about which she was quite uncertain whether it was a fish or a fowl. Maggie saw them leaving the garden, and could not resist the impulse to follow.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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