`I say, Magsie,' said Tom at last, shutting his books and putting them away with the energy and decision of a perfect master in the art of `leaving off,' `I've done my lessons now. Come upstairs with me.'

`What is it?' said Maggie when they were outside the door, a slight suspicion crossing her mind as she remembered Tom's Preliminary visit upstairs. `It isn't trick you're going to play me, now?'

`No, no, Maggie,' said Tom, in his most coaxing tone. `It's something you'll like ever so.'

He put his arm round her neck, and she put hers round his waist, and twined together in this way, they went upstairs.

`I say, Magsie, you must not tell anybody, you know,' said Tom, `else I shall get fifty lines.'

`Is it alive?' said Maggie, whose imagination had settled for the moment on the idea that Tom kept a ferret clandestinely.

`O, I shan't tell you,' said he. `Now you go into that corner and hide your face while I reach it out,' he added as he locked the bedroom door behind them. `I'll tell you when to turn round. You mustn't squeal out, you know'

`O, but if you frighten me, I shall,' said Maggie, beginning to look rather serious.

`You won't be frightened, you silly thing,' said Tom. `Go and hide your face and mind you don't peep.'

`Of course I shan't peep,' said Maggie, disdainfully: and she buried her face in the pillow like a person of strict honour.

But Tom looked round warily as he walked to the closet; then he stepped into the narrow space, and almost closed the door. Maggie kept her face buried without the aid of principle, for in that dream-suggestive attitude she had soon forgotten where she was, and her thoughts were busy with the poor deformed boy who was so clever, when Tom called out, `Now then, Magsie!'

Nothing but long meditation and preconcerted arrangement of effects could have enabled Tom to present so striking a figure as he did to Maggie when she looked up. Dissatisfied with the pacific aspect of a face which had no more than the faintest hint of flaxen eyebrow, together with a pair of amiable blue- grey eyes and round pink cheeks that refused to look formidable let him frown as he would before the looking-glass - (Philip had once told him of a man who had a horseshoe frown, and Tom had tried with all his frowning might to make a horseshoe on his forehead) - he had had recourse to that unfailing source of the terrible, burnt cork, and had made himself a pair of black eyebrows that met in a satisfactory manner over his nose and were matched by a less carefully adjusted blackness about the chin. He had wound a red handkerchief round his cloth cap to give it the air of a turban, and his red comforter across his breast as a scarf - an amount of red which, with the tremendous frown on his brow, and the decision with which he grasped the sword as he held it with its point resting on the ground, would suffice to convey an approximate idea of his fierce and bloodthirsty disposition.

Maggie looked bewildered for a moment, and Tom enjoyed that moment keenly; but in the next, she laughed, clapped her hands together and said, `O Tom, You've made yourself like Bluebeard at the show.'

It was clear she had not been struck with the presence of the sword - it was not unsheathed. Her frivolous mind required a more direct appeal to its sense of the terrible, and Tom prepared for his masterstroke. Frowning with a double amount of intention, if not of corrugation, he (carefully) drew the sword from its sheath and pointed it at Maggie.

`O Tom, please don't,' exclaimed Maggie, in a tone of suppressed dread, shrinking away from him into the opposite corner, `I shall scream - I'm sure I shall! O don't! I wish I'd never come upstairs!'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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