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A stone's throw from the mansion was a neat and spacious carriage house. The late master of Castle Roscoe had been fond of driving, and kept three horses and two carriages. One of the latter was an old-fashioned coach; while there was, besides, a light buggy, which Hector was accustomed to consider his own. It was he, generally, who used this, for his father preferred to take a driver, and generally took an airing, either alone or with Hector, in the more stately carriage, drawn by two horses.
Hector walked across the lawn and entered the carriage house, where Edward, the coachman, was washing the carriage. As the former is to be our hero, we may pause to describe him.
He was fifteen, slenderly but strongly made, with a clear skin and dark eyes and a straightforward look. He had a winning smile, that attracted all who saw it, but his face could assume a different expression if need be. There were strong lines about his mouth that indicated calm resolution and strength of purpose. He was not a boy who would permit himself to be imposed upon, but was properly tenacious of his rights.
As he entered the carriage house, he looked about him in some surprise.
"Where is the buggy, Edward?" he asked.
"Master Guy is driving out in it."
"How is that?" said Hector. "Doesn't he know that it is mine? He might, at least, have asked whether I intended to use it."
"That is what I told him."
"And what did he say?"
"That it was just as much his as yours, and perhaps more so."
"What could he mean?"
"He said his father had promised to give it to him."
"Promised to give him my buggy!" exclaimed Hector, his eyes flashing.
"It's a shame, Master Hector, so it is," said Edward, sympathetically. He had known Hector since he was a boy of five, and liked him far better than Guy, who was a newcomer, and a boy disposed to domineer over those whom he considered his inferiors.
"I don't intend to submit to it," said Hector, trying, ineffectually, to curb his anger.
"I don't blame you, Master Hector, but I'm afraid you will have a hard time. As your uncle is your guardian, of course he has power over you, and he thinks everything of that boy of his, though, to my mind, he is an unmannerly cub."
"I don't know how much power he has over me, but he mustn't expect me to play second fiddle to his son. I am willing that Guy should enjoy as many privileges as I do, though the estate is mine; but he mustn't interfere with my rights."
"That's right, Master Hector. Why don't you speak to your uncle about it? I would, if I were you."
"So I will, if it is necessary. I will speak to Guy first, and that may be sufficient. I don't want to enter complaint against him if I can help it."
"You didn't see Master Guy ride out, did you?"
"'No; I was reading. If I had seen him, I would have stopped him."
"I am afraid it wouldn't have done any good."
"Do you mean that he would have taken the buggy in spite of me?" asked Hector, indignantly.
"I think he would have tried. To tell the truth, Master Hector, I refused to get the buggy ready for him, till he brought out a paper from his father commanding me to do it. Then, of course, I had no choice."
Hector was staggered by this.
"Have you got the paper?" he asked.
"Yes," answered Edward, fumbling in his vest pocket.
He drew out a small scrap of notepaper, on which was written, "My son, Guy, has my permission to ride out in the buggy. You will obey me rather than Hector."
This was signed, "Allan Roscoe."
"So it seems my uncle is the trespasser," said Hector. "It is he who takes the responsibility. I will go and speak to him at once."
"Wait a minute! There comes Master Guy, returning from his ride. You can have it out with him first."
In fact, Hector had only to look down the avenue to see the rapid approach of the buggy. Guy held the reins, and was seated in the driver's seat with all the air of a master. The sight aggravated Hector, and not without reason. He waited until Guy, flinging the reins to Edward, leaped from the buggy, then he thought it time to speak.
"Guy," he said, calmly, "it seems to me that you owe me an apology."
"Oh, I do, do I?" sneered Guy. "What for, let me ask?"
"You have driven out in my buggy, without asking my permission."
"Oh, it's your buggy, is it?" said Guy, with another sneer.
"Of course it is. You know that as well as I do."
"I don't know it at all."
"Then I inform you of it. I don't want to be selfish; I am willing that you should ride out in it occasionally; but I insist upon your asking my permission."
Guy listened to these words with a sneer upon his face. He was about the same age and size as Hector, but his features were mean and insignificant, and there was a shifty look in his eye that stamped him as unreliable. He did not look like the Roscoes, though in many respects he was in disposition and character similar to his father.
"It strikes me," he said, with an unpleasant smile, "that you're taking a little too much upon yourself, Hector Roscoe. The buggy is no more yours than mine."
"What do you say, Edward?" said Hector, appealing to the coachman.
"I say that the buggy is yours, and the horse is yours, and so I told Master Guy, but he wouldn't take no notice of it."
"Do you hear that, Guy?"
"Yes, I do; and that's what I think of it," answered Guy, snapping his fingers. "My father gave me permission to ride out in it, and I've got just as much right to it as you, and perhaps more."
"You know better, Guy," said Hector, indignantly; "and I warn you not to interfere with my rights hereafter."
"Suppose I do?" sneered Guy.
"Then I shall be under the necessity of giving you a lesson," said Hector, calmly.
"You will, will you? You'll give me a lesson?" repeated Guy, nodding vigorously. "Who are you, I'd like to know?"
"If you don't know, I can tell you."
"Tell me, then."
"I am Hector Roscoe, the owner of Roscoe Hall. Whether your father is to be my guardian or not, I don't know; but there are limits to the power of a guardian, and I hope he won't go too far."
"Hear the boy talk!" said Guy, contemptuously.
"I wish to treat my uncle with becoming respect; but he is a newcomer here—I never saw him till three months since—and he has no right to come here, and take from me all my privileges. We can all live at peace together, and I hope we shall; but he must treat me well."
"You are quite sure Roscoe Castle belongs to you, are you, Hector?"
"That's the law. Father left no will, and so the estate comes to me."
"Ho! ho!" laughed Guy, with malicious glee.
"If you only knew what I know, you wouldn't crow quite so loud. It's a splendid joke."
There was something in this that attracted Hector's attention, though he was not disposed to attach much importance to what Guy said.
"If I only knew what you know!" he repeated.
"Yes; that's what I said."
"What is it?"
"You'll know it soon enough, and I can tell you one thing, it'll surprise you. It'll take down your pride a peg or two."
Hector stared at his cousin in unaffected surprise. What could Guy possibly mean? Had his father perhaps made a will, and left the estate to some one else—his uncle, for example? Was this the meaning of Guy's malicious mirth?
"I don't know to what you refer," he said; "but if it's anything that is of importance to me, I ought to know it. What is it?"
"Go and ask father," said Guy, with a tantalizing grin.
"I will," answered Hector, "and without delay."
He turned to enter the house, but Guy had not exhausted his malice. He was in a hurry to triumph over Hector, whom he disliked heartily.
"I don't mind telling you myself," he said.
"You are not what you suppose. You're a lowborn beggar!"
He had no sooner uttered these words, than Hector resented the insult. Seizing the whip from Guy, he grasped him by the collar, flung him to the ground and lashed him with it.
"There," said he, with eyes aflame, "take that, Guy Roscoe, and look out how you insult me in future!"
Guy rose slowly from the ground, pale with fury, and, as he brushed the dust from his clothes, ejaculated:
"You'll pay dearly for this, Hector!"
"I'll take the consequences," said Hector, as coldly as his anger would allow. "Now, I shall go to your father and ask the meaning of this."
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