ill-tempered beast I am! Here’s just what I was wishing for last night come about, and I’m spoiling it all,” and in another five minutes has swallowed the last mouthful of his bile, and is repaid by seeing his little sensitive plant expand again and sun itself in his smiles.

After dinner the Madman is busy with the preparations for their expedition, fitting new straps on to his climbing-irons, filling large pill-boxes with cotton-wool, and sharpening East’s small axe. They carry all their munitions into calling-over, and directly afterwards, having dodged such præpostors as are on the look-out for fags at cricket, the four set off at a smart trot down the Lawford footpath straight for Caldecott’s Spinney and the hawk’s nest.

Martin leads the way in high feather; it is quite a new sensation to him, getting companions, and he finds it very pleasant, and means to show them all manner of proofs of his science and skill. Brown and East may be better at cricket and football and games, thinks he, but out in the fields and woods see if I can’t teach them something. He has taken the leadership already, and strides away in front with his climbing- irons strapped under one arm, his pecking-bag under the other, and his pockets and hat full of pill-boxes, cotton-wool, and other etceteras. Each of the others carries a pecking-bag, and East his hatchet.

When they had crossed three or four fields without a check, Arthur began to lag; and Tom seeing this shouted to Martin to pull up a bit: “We ain’t out Hare-and-hounds—what’s the good of grinding on at this rate?”

“There’s the Spinney,” said Martin, pulling up on the brow of a slope at the bottom of which lay Lawford brook, and pointing to the top of the opposite slope; “the nest is in one of those high fir-trees at this end. And down by the brook there I know of a sedge-bird’s nest; we’ll go and look at it coming back.”

“Oh, come on, don’t let us stop,” said Arthur, who was getting excited at the sight of the wood; so they broke into a trot again, and were soon across the brook, up the slope, and into the Spinney. Here they advanced as noiselessly as possible, lest keepers or other enemies should be about, and stopped at the foot of a tall fir, at the top of which Martin pointed out with pride the kestrel’s nest, the object of their quest.

“Oh, where! which is it?” asks Arthur, gaping up in the air, and having the most vague idea of what it would be like.

“There, don’t you see?” said East, pointing to a lump of mistletoe in the next tree, which was a beech: he saw that Martin and Tom were busy with the climbing-irons, and couldn’t resist the temptation of hoaxing. Arthur stared and wondered more than ever.

“Well, how curious! it doesn’t look a bit like what I expected,” said he.

“Very odd birds, kestrels,” said East, looking waggishly at his victim, who was still star-gazing.

“But I thought it was in a fir-tree?” objected Arthur.

“Ah, don’t you know? that’s a new sort of fir which old Caldecott brought from the Himalayas.”

“Really!” said Arthur; “I’m glad I know that—how unlike our firs they are! They do very well too here, don’t they? the Spinney’s full of them.”

“What’s that humbug he’s telling you?” cried Tom, looking up, having caught the word Himalayas, and suspecting what East was after.

“Only about this fir,” said Arthur, putting his hand on the stem of the beech.

“Fir!” shouted Tom, “why, you don’t mean to say, young ’un, you don’t know a beech when you see one?”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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