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minutes the game was forgotten. Well, Her Majesty had passed, the straw hats and Scotch caps had been taken off, the curtseys bobbed, the bow made, and claimed by every one. It was time to return to business. “Come along !' cried Meg, with a flying leap over a geranium bed. «No time to be lost. Whom did I choose ? • Wasn't it- - The words died away upon her lips. We had reached the big flag-ground, and—it was occupied. Yes, there was a game of flags going on in full swing. A handkerchief fluttered from each of the two big trees which formed our flag-staffs ; by the bench under one of them stood two small prisoners holding each other's hands and dancing up and down in their eagerness for a rescue ; in front of them paraded a gaoler bent on frustrating every attempt of the enemy, who were harassing her greatly by their sudden darts from and retreats to the neutral gravel path. It was not a large party-only three on each side—but it was a very spirited and energetic one; each player was absorbed in the game, and the determination and activity of the gaoler were in particular very noticeable. “I know her,' said Meg, in low tones of suppressed wrath. • It's that girl at the French class that always knows the passé défini of everything. Just what one would expect!'
What are we to do?' asked Leonard Moss. We can't possibly go to the little ground-we've much too many for that.'
Shall we just ask them to go away quietly?' suggested his brother David, who was of rather a pacific turn of mind.
And tell them that we took the ground first ?' said little Aline West.
•What do you think, Meg?' said Cyril Dacre.
* Yes, what are we to do, Meg?' chimed in Percy and Claude.
*Do?' said Meg, wrathfully. Why, defend our just rights, to be sure! You must stand by me, all of you, for if this kind of thing is once to begin, there's no saying where it'll end ;' with which enigmatical and alarming threat, Meg strode up to the nearest flag-staff, and hauled down the flag! There was moment's pause, and then the six players, whose territory had been so ruthlessly invaded, came running up to the spot. There were two boys, little fellows in sailor suits, and four girls, three of them sisters, to judge by the resemblance in their long fair hair, and their striped cotton frocks; and one, the sturdy, determinedlooking, dark-haired young person, whom those of us who attended
the French class—and most of us did-recognised immediate y as “the passé défini girl.'
The boys evidently had a sense of the duties which devolved upon them as belonging to the sterner sex, for they both stepped up to Meg--they were about half her size—with a very deñant air indeed.
“What did you do that for?' inquired one, and · Yes, what was it for?' chimed in the other.
*To teach you not to take other people's flag-grounds,' said Meg.
*We didn't take anything,' said the little boy.
* And you're not to pull down my cousin's handkerchief. 1"} stick up for her.'
So will I,' said his brother. *And I'll stick up for Meg,' said Cyril Dacre.
'I can stick up for myself,' said Meg (which was, indeed, most true). •And I am not going to talk to babies. Look here,' she went on, addressing the girls, 'a whole lot of us came here to play flags this afternoon, and we took this ground. There are our handkerchiefs on the grass. You can see for yourselves. Then the Queen went by, and, of course, we ran to see. When we come back, we find you have taken the ground. Now that isn't fair, nor the way of the gardens, and we're not used to it. The only right thing now is for you to go off somewhere else, and leave us to have our game.' Meg stopped speaking, and we, her followers, drew up closer round her, with a feeling of pride in her eloquence and determination.
The two little boys flushed scarlet ; but they no longer felt themselves equal to the emergency. They turned with one accord to the passé défini girl. Winnie, I say — I say, Winnie
•The only right thing,' said that young woman, stepping forward, and looking Meg full in the face—the only right thing is for you to beg our pardon for having been so extremely rude, and then leave us to finish the game you have interrupted.
Here was a pretty business! This was a pretty way in which to address the champion of the gardens ! We simply stood aghast, and gazed at Meg, whose eyes were blazing with wrath.
• Beg your pardon, indeed,' she cried, 'for pulling down your flag, which ought never to have been put up! A very likely
thing, to be sure! You don't know the way of the gardens, or you'd know that nothing is thought so sneaking as to come and take away people's flags, when once they've been put up!'
• And which of us has done that ?' asked Winnie, quietly. * Why, you, to be sure!' cried Meg. Our flags
* "Are just where we found them-on the grass,' said Winnie. We didn't even know they were flags. I don't often come to the gardens now; but I used to once, and then I know the rule was that the ground was taken by the people who put up their flags first. So we are really in the right. Still, my cousins and I shouldn't have taken the ground if we had known that you meant to; and even now, if you had asked us civilly, we would have gone away. But as it is
• Yes,' said Meg, fiercely, “as it is ?' As it is,' went on Winnie, very quietly, 'we mean to stay!'
• Yes,' cried the little boys, bristling up, we do mean to stay!'
•Couldn't we all play together?' suggested Aline West, who had been consulting with her sister Edna, and come to the conclusion that, though it would not do to say so, Meg was certainly in the wrong.
'I am very sorry,' said Winnie, ‘but my cousins are rot allowed to play with any one they don't know. I never thought till to-day that there was any need for such a rule ; but I see now that having a key to the gardens doesn't prevent people from being rude.'
• Meg's not rude !' cried her five brothers in chorus.
‘And I don't care if I am !’ shouted Meg. “But I mean to play here to-day! Leonard Moss, go and take down the other flag. David, you put up ours. There are more of us than of them, and we won't be turned out like this. Now, will you go off at once?'
No,' said Winnie.
“We are not boys, and we are not wild cats,' said Winnie, and we will do nothing of the kind.'
* Then, what will you do?' said Meg, beside herself with anger, partly at Winnie's imperturbability and partly because Leonard and David had not executed her orders. “What will you do if we insist upon your going?'
• I shall speak to your governess,' said Winnie. *Well, you are a sneak!' said Meg, in tones of the deepest
scorn; and among the younger ones there began
· Tell-tale tit,
'I don't mind what you say,' said Winnie, firmly. “I would much rather settle it among ourselves, too; but if you talk about fighting and nonsensical, unladylike things of that kind, there is nothing else to do.'
Whether Winnie would have carried her threat into execution it is impossible to say, for at that moment the Dacres' French governess did actually appear upon the scene.
The loud voices and angry faces had attracted her attention as she was walking up and down with her book, and she arrived just in time to hear Meg repeat her former insulting remark.
Marguerite, j'ai honte de vous ! Venes tout-de-suite.' And before friends and foes, Meg was taken ignominiously by the hand and marched away. ' But I'll pay you out yet, see if I don't,' she said as she passed the passé défini girl. Winnie made no reply, and as the Dacres left the garden, they saw the interrupted game of flags proceeding as quietly as though nothing had happened.
I am afraid by this time that you thoroughly dislike Meg ; and perhaps it is as well that you should. But wait a bit, and remember it is never too late to mend.
It happened that the French class took place on the day after the battle of the flags. The French class-consisting of boys and girls alike—was held that year at Mrs. West's house, on Wednesdays, at twelve o'clock, and attended by a good many children, who were by no means all known to each other. Our master was a kind old M. Lerou, who took the greatest pains with us, and made our lessons very interesting indeed. One of his favourite methods was to tell us a short story in English, and make us then and there turn it into French ; or else he would tell the story in French, and make us translate it into English as he went along. If Winnie Mainwaring—for that was her real nameshone in grammar, in translation she was greatly inferior to Meg, who seemed somehow by instinct to seize upon the right words, and was always delighting M. Lerou by the aptness of her expressions. This was not to be wondered at, as the Dacres had had French nurses and governesses from the time they could speak; but we were all proud of Meg, and considered that her success reflected credit upon ourselves. On this particular day great excitement was caused by the announcement that there would only be one more class that summer, and that on the day on which the last class would naturally have been held there was to be, instead, an examination, on the results of which M. Lerou intended to award a prize. Only those who had not missed attending the class more than once during the term would be eligible to coinpete. This was most interesting news, for anything resembling an examination was quite beyond the narrow limits of our experience. Speculation was rife among us as to the probable winner of the prize, and the frequenters of the gardens loudly expressed their hope that it might prove to be
She had not missed one class that summer, and, as I have said, she had had peculiar advantages in the way of learning French. The announcement of the coming competition was received by her with the greatest enthusiasm. There was nothing she liked better than to measure her strength against other people's; and if she should be successful on this occasion, it would in some degree outweigh the mortification of the day before, and restore the position she had lost in her own esteem. I remember we all felt a little shy about speaking to her when the class was over ; for when you have last seen a person under extremely uncomfortable and awkward circumstances, you don't like to speak to them as though nothing had happened, and yet it is a little difficult to know what to say that is at once delicate and sympathetic. However, we need not have minded, for Meg began at once herself in the most unembarrassed way.
'Is not this splendid ?' she said, as we were putting on our things to go away. “It will be such fun to try for the prize ; and we must not let it go out of the gardens. And look here, all of you—the one person who must not get it is the passé défini girl. After the way she behaved yesterday, it would be a disgrace to the gardens if she did. And she shan't—not if I have to learn Noël et Chapsal backwards by heart !'
Winnie Mainwaring was standing at no very great distance from where we were, and she must have heard this speech, of which, however, she took no kind of notice, though her dark, self-cɔntained little face assumed an expression of contempt. After that day the unwonted spectacle of Meg walking up and down the gardens with a book in her hand was frequently preVOL. 85 (V.-NEW SERIES). 36