"Ah! that shows it wasn't."
"No, it doesn't."
"Yes, it does." Etc., etc., etc.
The direction of their daily walks was a fruitful subject of difference of opinion.
"Let's go on the Common to-day, nurse?"
"Oh, don't let's go there; we're always going on the Common."
"I'm sure we're not. We've not been there for ever so long."
"Oh, what a story! We were there on Wednesday. Let's go down Gipsey Lane. We never go down Gipsey Lane."
"Why, we're always going down Gipsey Lane. And there's nothing to see there."
"I don't care. I won't go on the Common, and I shall go and get papa to say we're to go down Gipsey Lane. I can run faster than you."
"That's very sneaking; but I don't care."
"Papa! papa! Polly's called me a sneak."
"No, I didn't, papa."
"No, I didn't. I only said it was sneaking of you to say you'd run faster than me, and get papa to say we were to go down Gipsey Lane."
"Then you did call him sneaking," said Mr. Skratdj. "And you're a very naughty, ill-mannered little girl. You're getting very troublesome, Polly, and I shall have to send you to school, where you'll be kept in order. Go where your brother wishes at once."
For Polly and her brother had reached an age when it was convenient, if possible, to throw the blame of all nursery differences on Polly.
In families where domestic discipline is rather fractious than firm, there comes a stage when the girls almost invariably go to the wall, because they will stand snubbing, and the boys will not. Domestic authority, like some other powers, is apt to be magnified on the weaker class.
But Mr. Skratdj would not always listen even to Harry.
"If you don't give it me back directly, I'll tell about your eating the two magnum-bonums in the kitchen garden on Sunday," said Master Harry, on one occasion.
Your tongue shall be slit, And every dog in the town shall have a little bit,'"
quoted his sister.
"Ah! You've called me a telltale. Now I'll go and tell papa. You got into a fine scrape for calling me names the other day."
"Go, then! I don't care."
"You wouldn't like me to go, I know."
"You daren't. That's what it is."
"Then why don't you?"
"Oh, I am going; but you'll see what will be the end of it."
Polly, however, had her own reasons for remaining stolid, and Harry started. But when he reached the landing he paused. Mr. Skratdj had especially announced that morning that he did not wish to be disturbed, and though he was a favorite, Harry had no desire to invade the dining-room at this crisis. So he returned to the nursery, and said, with a magnanimous air, "I don't want to get you into a scrape, Polly. If you'll beg my pardon I won't go."
"I'm sure I sha'n't," said Polly, who was equally well informed as to the position of affairs at headquarters. "Go, if you dare."
"I won't if you want me not," said Harry, discreetly waiving the question of apologies.
"But I'd rather you went," said the obdurate Polly. "You're always telling tales. Go and tell now, if you're not afraid."
So Harry went. But at the bottom of the stairs he lingered again, and was meditating how to return with most credit to his dignity, when Polly's face appeared through the banisters, and Polly's sharp tongue goaded him on.
"Ah! I see you. You're stopping. You daren't go."
"I dare," said Harry; and at last he went.
As he turned the handle of the door, Mr. Skratdj turned round.
"Please, papa--" Harry began.
"Get away with you!" cried Mr. Skratdj. "Didn't I tell you I was not to be disturbed this morning? What an extraor--"
But Harry had shut the door, and withdrawn precipitately.
Once outside, he returned to the nursery with dignified steps, and an air of apparent satisfaction, saying:
"You're to give me the bricks, please."
"Who says so?"
"Why, who should say so? Where have I been, pray?"
"I don't know, and I don't care."
"I've been to papa. There!"
"Did he say I was to give up the bricks?"
"I've told you."
"No, you've not."
"I sha'n't tell you any more."