Chapter 12




THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON.

As time went on Philip and Tom found many common interests, and became, on the whole, good comrades; but they had occasional tiffs, as was to be expected, and at one time had a serious difference which promised to be final.

This occurred shortly before Maggie's second visit to Tom. She was going to a boarding school with Lucy, and wished to see Tom before setting out.

When Maggie came, she could not help looking with growing interest at the new schoolfellow, although he was the son of that wicked Lawyer Wakem who made her father so angry. She had arrived in the middle of school hours, and had sat by while Philip went through his lessons with Mr. Stelling.

Tom, some weeks before, had sent her word that Philip knew no end of stories—not stupid stories like hers; and she was convinced now that he must be very clever. She hoped he would think her rather clever too when she came to talk to him.

"I think Philip Wakem seems a nice boy, Tom," she said, when they went out of the study together into the garden. "He couldn't choose his father, you know; and I've read of very bad men who had good sons, as well as good parents who had bad children. And if Philip is good, I think we ought to be the more sorry for him because his father is not a good man. You like him, don't you?"

"Oh, he's a queer fellow," said Tom curtly, "and he's as sulky as can be with me, because I told him one day his father was a rogue. And I'd a right to tell him so, for it was true; and he began it, with calling me names. But you stop here by yourself a bit, Magsie, will you? I've got something I want to do upstairs."

"Can't I go too?" said Maggie, who, in this first day of meeting again, loved Tom's very shadow.

"No; it's something I'll tell you about by-and-by, not yet," said Tom, skipping away.

In the afternoon the boys were at their books in the study, preparing the morrow's lessons, that they might have a holiday in the evening in honour of Maggie's arrival. Tom was hanging over his Latin Grammar, and Philip, at the other end of the room, was busy with two volumes that excited Maggie's curiosity; he did not look at all as if he were learning a lesson. She sat on a low stool at nearly a right angle with the two boys, watching first one and then the other.

"I say, Magsie," said Tom at last, shutting his books, "I've done my lessons now. Come upstairs with me."

"What is it?" said Maggie, when they were outside the door. "It isn't a 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, thinking that Tom kept a ferret.

"Oh, 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."

"Oh, 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 until Tom called out, "Now, then, Magsie!"

Nothing but very careful study could have enabled Tom to present so striking a figure as he did to Maggie when she looked up. With some burnt cork he had made himself a pair of black eyebrows that met over his nose, and were matched by a 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 frown on his brow, and the firmness with which he grasped a real sword, as he held it with its point resting on the ground, made him look very fierce and bloodthirsty indeed.

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 foolish mind required a more direct appeal to its sense of the terrible; and Tom prepared for his master-stroke. Frowning fiercely, he (carefully) drew the sword—a real one—from its sheath and pointed it at Maggie.

"O Tom, please don't," cried Maggie, in a tone of dread, shrinking away from him into the opposite corner; "I shall scream—I'm sure I shall! Oh, don't! I wish I'd never come upstairs!"

"O Tom, please don't,", cried Maggie.

"O Tom, please don't,", cried Maggie.

The corners of Tom's mouth showed an inclination to a smile that was immediately checked. Slowly he let down the scabbard on the floor lest it should make too much noise, and then said sternly,—

"I'm the Duke of Wellington! March!" stamping forward with the right leg a little bent, and the sword still pointed towards Maggie, who, trembling, and with tear-filled eyes, got upon the bed, as the only means of widening the space between them.

Tom, happy in this spectator, even though it was only Maggie, proceeded to such an exhibition of the cut and thrust as would be expected of the Duke of Wellington.

"Tom, I will not bear it—I will scream," said Maggie, at the first movement of the sword. "You'll hurt yourself; you'll cut your head off!"

"One—two," said Tom firmly, though at "two" his wrist trembled a little. "Three" came more slowly, and with it the sword swung downwards, and Maggie gave a loud shriek. The sword had fallen with its edge on Tom's foot, and in a moment after he had fallen too.

Maggie leaped from the bed, still shrieking, and soon there was a rush of footsteps towards the room. Mr. Stelling, from his upstairs study, was the first to enter. He found both the children on the floor. Tom had fainted, and Maggie was shaking him by the collar of his jacket, screaming, with wild eyes.

She thought he was dead, poor child! And yet she shook him, as if that would bring him back to life. In another minute she was sobbing with joy because Tom had opened his eyes. She couldn't sorrow yet that he had hurt his foot; it seemed as if all happiness lay in his being alive.

In a very short time the wounded hero was put to bed, and a surgeon was fetched, who dressed the wound with a serious face which greatly impressed every one.






Art of Worldly Wisdom Daily
In the 1600s, Balthasar Gracian, a jesuit priest wrote 300 aphorisms on living life called "The Art of Worldly Wisdom." Join our newsletter below and read them all, one at a time.
Email:
Sonnet-a-Day Newsletter
Shakespeare wrote over 150 sonnets! Join our Sonnet-A-Day Newsletter and read them all, one at a time.
Email: