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The Terrible Twins By Edgar Jepson Characters: 27374

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

On reaching home the Terror displayed the two shillings and threepence to Erebus with an unusual air of triumph; as a rule he showed himself serenely unmoved alike in victory and defeat.

"That's all right," said Erebus cheerfully. "That makes-that makes twenty-eight and eleven-pence. We are getting on."

"Yes; it's twenty-eight and eleven-pence now," said the Terror quickly. "But you don't seem to see that when we've got the stole for Mum these pheasants will still be going on."

"Of course they will!" cried Erebus; and her eyes shone very brightly indeed at the joyful thought.

The next day the Terror obtained some sandwiches from Sarah after breakfast; and as soon as his lessons were over he rode hard to the clump above Great Deeping wood. He reached it at the hour when gamekeepers are at their dinner, and was able to make a thorough examination of it. He found it full of pheasant runs, and chose the two likeliest places for his snares. He did not set them then and there; a keeper on his afternoon round might see them. He came again in the evening with Erebus, laid trails of raisins and set them then. Later he sold a pheasant to the cook of Mrs. Blenkinsop and one to the cook of Mr. Carrington.

During the next fortnight they sold eight more pheasants and eight more kittens. They found themselves in the happy position of needing only six shillings more to make up the price of the fur stole.

But it had been impossible for the Twins to remain content with the clump of trees above Great Deeping wood. They had laid a trail of raisins and set a snare in the wood itself, in the nearest corner of it on the valley road which divides the wood into two nearly equal parts.

On the next afternoon they had ridden into Rowington with Wiggins; and since the roads were heavy they did not go back the shortest way over Great Deeping hill, but took the longer level road along the valley. The afternoon was still young, and for December, uncommonly clear and bright. But as they rode through the wood, the Terror decided that instead of returning to it in the favoring dusk he might as well examine the snare in the corner now, and save himself another journey. It was a risk no experienced poacher would have taken; but old heads, alas! do not grow on young shoulders.

He dismounted about the middle of the wood, informed the other two of his purpose (to the surprise of Wiggins who had not been informed of his friends' latest exploits) and made his dispositions. When they came to the corner of the wood, Erebus rode on up the road to keep a lookout ahead. The Terror slipped off his bicycle, and so did Wiggins. Wiggins held the two bicycles. The Terror listened. The wood was very still in its winter silence. He slipped through the hedge into it, and presently came back bringing with him a very nice young pheasant indeed. He put it into the basket of his bicycle, and mounted.

They had barely started when a keeper sprang out of the hedge, thirty yards ahead, and came running toward them, shouting in a very daunting fashion as he came. There was neither time nor room to turn. They rode on; and the keeper made for the Terror. The Terror swerved; and the keeper swerved. Wiggins ran bang into the keeper; and they came to the ground together as the Terror shot ahead, pedaling as hard as he could.

He caught up Erebus, and his cry of "Keeper!" set her racing beside him; but both of them kept looking back for Wiggins; and presently, when no Wiggins appeared, with one accord they slowed down, stopped and dismounted.

"The keeper's got him. This is a mess!" said the Terror, who was panting a little from their spurt.

"If only it had been one of us!" cried Erebus. "Whatever are we to do?"

"If that beastly keeper hadn't seen me with the pheasant, I'd get Wiggins away, somehow," said the Terror. "But, as it is, it's me they really want; and I'd get fined to a dead certainty. Come on, let's go back and see what's happened to him. You scout on ahead. Nobody knows you're in it."

"All right," said Erebus; and she mounted briskly.

She rode back through the wood slowly, her keen eyes straining for a sign of an ambush. The Terror followed her at a distance of sixty yards, ready to jump off, turn his machine, and fly should she give the alarm. They got no sight of Wiggins till they came, just beyond the end of the wood, to the lodges of Great Deeping Park; then, half-way up the drive, they saw the keeper and his prey. The keeper held Wiggins with his left hand and wheeled the captured bicycle with his right. The Twins dismounted. Even at that distance they could see the deep dejection of their friend.

"There's not really any reason for him to be frightened. He was never in the wood at all; and he never touched the pheasant," said the Terror.

"What does that matter? He will be frightened out of his life; he's so young," cried Erebus in a tone of acute distress, gazing after their receding friend with very anxious eyes. "He's not like us; he won't cheek the keeper all the way like we should."

"Oh, Wiggins has plenty of pluck," said the Terror in a reassuring tone.

"But he won't understand he's all right. He's only ten. And there's no saying how that beastly foreigner who shoots nightingales will bully him," cried Erebus with unabated anxiety.

This was her womanly irrational conception of a Pomeranian Briton.

"Well, the sooner we go and fetch his father the sooner he'll be out of it," said the Terror, making as if to mount his bicycle.

"No, no! That won't do at all!" cried Erebus fiercely. "We've got to rescue him now-at once. We got him into the mess; and we've got to get him out of it. You've got to find a way."

"It's all very well," said the Terror, frowning deeply; and he took off his cap to wrestle more manfully with the problem.

Erebus faced him, frowning even more deeply.

Never had the Twins been so hopelessly at a loss.

Then the Terror said in his gloomiest tone: "I can't see what we can do."

"Oh, I'm going to get him out of it somehow!" cried Erebus in a furious desperation.

With that she mounted her bicycle and rode swiftly up the drive.

The Terror mounted, started after her, and stopped at the end of fifty yards. It had occurred to him that, after all, he was the only poacher of the three, the only one in real danger. As he leaned on his machine, watching his vanishing sister, he ground his teeth. For all his natural serenity, inaction was in the highest degree repugnant to him.

Erebus reached Great Deeping Court but a few minutes after Wiggins and the keeper. She was about to ride on round the house, thinking that the keeper would, as befitted his station, enter it by the back door, when she saw Wiggins' bicycle standing against one of the pillars of the great porch. In a natural elation at having captured a poacher, and eager to display his prize without delay, the keeper had gone straight into the great hall.

Erebus dismounted and stood considering for perhaps half a minute; then she moved Wiggins' bicycle so that it was right to his hand if he came out, set her own bicycle against another of the pillars, but out of sight lest he should take it by mistake, walked up the steps, hammered the knocker firmly, and rang the bell. The moment the door opened she stepped quickly past the footman into the hall. The keeper sat on a chair facing her, and on a chair beside him sat Wiggins looking white and woebegone.

Erebus gazed at them with angry sparkling eyes, then she said sharply: "What are you doing with my little brother?"

She adopted Wiggins with this suddenness in order to strengthen her position.

The keeper opened his eyes in some surprise at her uncompromising tone, but he said triumphantly:

"I caught 'im poachin'-"

"Stand up! What do you mean by speaking to me sitting down?" cried Erebus in her most imperative tone.

The keeper stood up with uncommon quickness and a sudden sheepish air: "'E was poachin'," he said sulkily.

"He was not! A little boy like that!" cried Erebus scornfully.

"Anyways, 'e was aidin' an' abettin', an' I've brought 'im to Mr. D'Arcy Rosynimer an' it's for 'im to say," said the keeper stubbornly.

There came a faint click from the beautiful lips of Erebus, the gentle click by which the Twins called each other to attention. At the sound Wiggins, his face faintly flushed with hope, braced himself. Erebus measured the distance with the eye of an expert, just as there came into the farther end of the hall that large, flabby, pudding-faced young Pomeranian Briton, Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer.

"Where's the boacher?" he roared in an eager, angry voice, reverting in his emotion to the ancestral "b."

As the keeper turned to him Erebus sprang to the door and threw it wide.

"Bolt, Wiggins!" she cried.

Wiggins bolted for the door; the keeper grabbed at him and missed; the footman grabbed, and grabbed the interposing Erebus. She slammed the door behind the vanished Wiggins.

Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer dashed heavily down the hall with a thick howl. Erebus set her back against the door. He caught her by the left arm to sling her out of the way. It was a silly arm to choose, for she caught him a slap on his truly Pomeranian expanse of cheek with the full swing of her right, a slap that rang through the great hall like the crack of a whip-lash. Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer was large but tender. He howled again, and thumped at Erebus with big flabby fists. She caught the first blow on an uncommonly acute elbow. The second never fell, for the footman caught him by the collar and swung him round.

"It's not for the likes of you to 'it Henglish young ladies!" he cried with patriotic indignation.

Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer gasped and gurgled; then he howled furiously, "Ged out of my house! Now-at once-ged out!"

"And pleased I shall be to go-when I've bin paid my wages. It's a month to-morrow since I gave notice, anyhow. I've had enough of furriners," said the footman with cold exultation.

"Go-go-ged oud!" roared Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer.

"When I've bin paid my wages," said the footman coldly.

Erebus waited to hear no more. She turned the latch, slipped through the door, and slammed it behind her. To her dismay she saw a big motorcar coming round the corner of the house. She mounted quickly and raced down the drive. Wiggins was already out of sight.

Just outside the lodge gates she found the Terror waiting for her.

"I've sent Wiggins on!" he shouted as she passed.

"Come on! Come on!" she shrieked back. "The beastly foreigner's got a motor-car!"

He caught her up in a quarter of a mile; and she told him that the car had been ready to start. They caught up Wiggins a mile and a half down the road; and all three of them sat down to ride all they knew. They were fully eight miles from home, and the car could go three miles to their one on that good road. The Twins alone would have made a longer race of it; but the pace was set by the weaker Wiggins. They had gone little more than three miles when they heard the honk of the car as it came rapidly round a corner perhaps half a mile behind them.

"Go on, Terror!" cried Erebus. "You're the one that matters! You did the poaching! I'll look after Wiggins! He'll be all right with me."

For perhaps fifty yards the Terror hesitated; then the wisdom of the advice sank in, and he shot ahead. Erebus kept behind Wiggins; and they rode on. The car was overhauling them rapidly, but not so rapidly as it would have done had not Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer, who lacked the courage of his famous grenadier ancestors, been in it. He was howling at his straining chauffeur to go slower.

Nevertheless at the end of a mile and a half the car was less than fifty yards behind them; and then a figure came into sight swinging briskly along.

"It's your father!" gasped Erebus.

It was, indeed, the higher mathematician.

As they reached him, they flung themselves off their bicycles; and Erebus cried: "Wiggins hasn't been poaching at all! It was the Terror!"

"Was it, indeed?" said Mr. Carrington calmly.

On his words the car was on them; and as it came to a dead stop Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer tumbled clumsily out of it.

"I've got you, you liddle devil!" he bellowed triumphantly, but quite incorrectly; and he rushed at Wiggins who stepped discreetly behind his father.

"What's the matter?" said Mr. Carrington.

The excited young Pomeranian Briton, taking in his age and size at a single glance, shoved him aside with splendid violence. Mr. Carrington seemed to step lightly backward and forward in one movement; his left arm shot out; and there befell Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer what, in the technical terms affected by the fancy, is described as "an uppercut on the point which put him to sleep." He fell as falls a sack of potatoes, and lay like a log.

The keeper had just disengaged himself from the car and hurried forward.

"Do you want some too, my good man?" said Mr. Carrington in his most agreeable tone, keeping his guard rather low.

The keeper stopped short and looked down, with a satisfaction he made no effort to hide, at the body of his stricken employer which lay between them.

"I can't say as I do, sir," he said civilly; and he backed away.

"Then perhaps you'll be good enough to tell me the name of this hulking young blackguard who assaults quiet elderly gentlemen, taking constitutionals, in this most unprovoked and wanton fashion," said the higher mathematician in the same agreeable tone.

"Assaults?-'Im assault?-Yes, sir; it's Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer, of Great Deeping Court, sir," said the k

eeper respectfully.

"Then tell Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer, when he recovers the few wits he looks to have, with my compliments, that he will some time this evening be summoned for assault. Good afternoon," said Mr. Carrington, and he turned on his heel.

The keeper and the chauffeur stooped over the body of their young employer. Mr. Carrington did not so much as turn his head. He put his walking-stick under his arm, and rubbed the knuckles of his left hand with rueful tenderness. None the less he looked pleased; it was gratifying to a slight man of his sedentary habit to have knocked down such a large, round Pomeranian Briton with such exquisite neatness. Wheeling their bicycles, Erebus and Wiggins walked beside him with a proud air. They felt that they shone with his reflected glory. It was a delightful sensation.

They had gone some forty yards, when Erebus said in a hushed, awed, yet gratified tone: "Have you killed him, Mr. Carrington?"

"No, my child. I am not a pork-butcher," said Mr. Carrington amiably.

"He looked as if he was dead," said Erebus; and there was a faint ring of disappointment in her tone.

"In a short time the young man will come to himself; and let us hope that it will be a better and wiser self," said Mr. Carrington. "But what was it all about? What did that truculent young ruffian want with Rupert?"

Erebus paused, looking earnestly round to the horizon for inspiration; then she dashed at the awkward subject with commendable glibness: "It was a pheasant in Great Deeping wood," she said. "The Terror found it, I suppose. I had gone on, and I didn't see that part. But it was Wiggins the keeper caught. Of course-"

"I beg your pardon; but I should like that point a little clearer," broke in Mr. Carrington. "Had you ridden on too, Rupert? Or did you see what happened?"

"Oh, yes; I was there," said Wiggins readily. "And the Terror found the pheasant in the wood and put it in his bicycle basket. And we had just got on our bicycles when the keeper came out of the wood, and I ran into him; and he collared me and took me up to the Court. I wasn't really frightened-at least, not much."

"The keeper had no right to touch him," Erebus broke in glibly. "Wiggins never touched the pheasant; he didn't even go into the wood; and when I went into the hall, the hall of the Court, I found him and the keeper sitting there, and I let Wiggins out, of course, and then that horrid Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer who shoots nightingales, caught hold of me by the arm ever so roughly, and I slapped him just once. I should think that the mark is still there "-her speed of speech slackened to a slower vengeful gratification and then quickened again-"and he began to thump me and the footman interfered, and I came away, and they came after us in the car, and you saw what happened-at least you did it."

She stopped somewhat breathless.

"Lucidity itself," said Mr. Carrington. "But let us have the matter of the pheasant clear. Was the Terror exploring the wood on the chance of finding a pheasant, or had he reason to expect that a pheasant would be there ready to be brought home?"

Erebus blushed faintly, looked round the horizon somewhat aimlessly, and said, "Well, there was a snare, you know."

Mr. Carrington chuckled and said: "I thought so. I thought we should come to that snare in time. Did you know there was a snare, Rupert?"

"Oh, no, he didn't know anything about it!" Erebus broke in quickly. "We should never have thought of letting him into anything so dangerous! He's so young!"

"I shall be eleven in a fortnight!" said Wiggins with some heat.

"You see, we wanted a fur stole at Barker's in Rowington for a Christmas present for mother; and pheasants were the only way we could think of getting it," said Erebus in a confidential tone.

"Light! Light at last!" cried Mr. Carrington; and he laughed gently. "Well, every one has been assaulted except the poacher; exquisitely Pomeranian! But it's just as well that they have, or that ingenious brother of yours would be in a fine mess. As it is, I think we can go on teaching our young Pomeranian not to be so high-spirited." He chuckled again.

He walked on briskly; and on the way to Little Deeping, he drew from Erebus the full story of their poaching. When they reached the village he did not go to his own house, but stopped at the garden gate of Mr. Tupping, the lawyer who had sold his practise at Rowington and had retired to Little Deeping. At his gate Mr. Carrington bade Erebus good afternoon and told her to tell the Terror not to thrust himself on the notice of any of Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer's keepers who might be sent out to hunt for the real culprit. He would better keep quiet.

Erebus mounted her bicycle and rode quickly home. She found the Terror in the cats' home, awaiting her impatiently.

"Well, did Wiggins get away all right?" he cried. "I passed Mr. Carrington; and I thought he'd see that they didn't carry him off again."

Erebus told him in terms of the warmest admiration how firmly Mr. Carrington had dealt with the Pomeranian foe.

"By Jove! That was ripping! I do wish I'd been there!" said the Terror. "He only hit him once, you say?"

"Only once. And he told me to tell you to lie low in case Mr. Rosenheimer's keepers are out hunting for you," said Erebus.

"I am lying low," said the Terror. "And I've got rid of that pheasant. I sold it to Mr. Carrington's cook as I came through the village. I thought it was better out of the way."

"Then that's all right. We only want about another half-crown," said Erebus.

Mr. Carrington found Mr. Tupping at home; and he could not have gone to a better man, for though the lawyer had given up active practise, he still retained the work of a few old clients in whom he took a friendly interest; and among them was Mrs. Dangerfield.

He was eager to prevent the Terror from being prosecuted for poaching not only because the scandal would annoy her deeply but also because she could so ill afford the expense of the case. He readily fell in with the view of Mr. Carrington that they had better take the offensive, and that the violent behavior of Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer had given them the weapons.

The result of their council was that not later than seven o'clock that evening Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer was served by the constable of Little Deeping with a summons for an assault on Violet Anastasia Dangerfield, and with another summons for an assault on Bertram Carrington, F. R. S.; and in the course of the next twenty minutes his keeper was served with a summons for an assault on Rupert Carrington.

Though on recovering consciousness he had sent the keeper to scour the neighborhood for Wiggins and the Terror, Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer was in a chastened shaken mood, owing to the fact that he had been "put to sleep by an uppercut on the point." He made haste to despatch a car into Rowington to bring the lawyer who managed his local business.

The lawyer knew his client's unpopularity in the county, and advised him earnestly to try to hush these matters up. He declared that however Pomeranian one might be by extraction and in spirit, no bench of English magistrates would take a favorable view of an assault by a big young man on a middle-aged higher mathematician of European reputation, or on Miss Violet Anastasia Dangerfield, aged thirteen, gallantly rescuing that higher mathematician's little boy from wrongful arrest and detention.

Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer held his aching head with both hands, protested that they had done all the effective assaulting, and protested his devotion to the sacred bird beloved of the English magistracy. But he perceived clearly enough that he had let that devotion carry him too far, and that a Bench which never profited by it, so far as to shoot the particular sacred birds on which it was lavished, would not be deeply touched by it. Therefore he instructed the lawyer to use every effort to settle the matter out of court.

The lawyer dined with him lavishly, and then had, himself driven over to Little Deeping in the car, to Mr. Carrington's house. He found Mr. Carrington uncommonly bitter against his client; and he did his best to placate him by urging that the assault had been met with a promptitude which had robbed it of its violence, and that he could well afford to be generous to a man whom he had so neatly put to sleep with an uppercut on the point.

Mr. Carrington held out for a while; but in the background, behind the more prominent figures in the affair, lurked the Terror with a veritable poached pheasant; and at last he made terms. The summonses should be withdrawn on condition that nothing more was heard about that poached pheasant and that Mr. D'Arcy Rosenheimer contributed fifty guineas to the funds of the Deeping Cottage Hospital. The lawyer accepted the terms readily; and his client made no objection to complying with them.

The matter was at an end by noon of the next day; and Mr. Carrington sent for the Terror and talked to him very seriously about this poaching. He did not profess to consider it an enormity; he dwelt at length on the extreme annoyance his mother would feel if he were caught and prosecuted. In the end he gave him the choice of giving his word to snare no more pheasants, or of having his mother informed that he was poaching. The Terror gave his word to snare no more pheasants the more readily since if Mrs. Dangerfield were informed of his poaching, she would forbid him to set another snare for anything. Besides, he had been somewhat shaken by his narrow escape the day before. Only he pointed out that he could not be quite sure of never snaring a pheasant, for pheasants went everywhere. Mr. Carrington admitted this fact and said that it would be enough if he refrained from setting his snares on ground sacred to the sacred bird. If pheasants wandered into them on unpreserved ground, it was their own fault. Thanks therefore to the firmness of her friends Mrs. Dangerfield never learned of the Terror's narrow escape.

The Twins bore the loss of income from the sacred bird with even minds, since the sum needed for the fur stole was so nearly complete. They turned their attention to the habits of the hare, and snared one in the hedge of the farthest meadow of farmer Stubbs. Mrs. Blenkinsop's cook paid them half-a-crown for it; and the three guineas were complete.

Though it wanted a full week to Christmas, the Terror lost no time making the purchase. As he told Erebus, they would get the choice of more stoles if they bought it before the Christmas rush. Accordingly on the afternoon after the sale of the hare they rode into Rowington to buy it.

It was an uncommonly cold afternoon, for a bitter east wind was blowing hard; and when they dismounted at the door of Barker's shop, Erebus gazed wistfully across the road at the appetizing window of Springer, the confectioner, and said sadly:

"It's a pity it isn't Saturday and we had our 'overseering' salary. We might have gone to Springer's and had a jolly good blow-out for once."

The Terror gazed at Springer's window thoughtfully, and said: "Yes, it is a pity. We ought to have remembered it was Christmas-time and paid ourselves in advance."

He followed Erebus into the shop with a thoughtful air, and seemed somewhat absent-minded during her examination of the stoles. She was very thorough in it; and both of them were nearly sure that she had chosen the very best of them. The girl who was serving them made out the bill; and the Terror drew the little bag which held the three guineas (since it was all in silver they had been able to find no purse of a capacity to hold it), emptied its contents on the counter, and counted them slowly.

He had nearly finished, and the girl had nearly wrapped up the stole when a flash of inspiration brightened his face; and he said firmly: "I shall want five per cent. discount for cash."

"Oh, we don't do that sort of thing here," said the girl quickly. "This is such an old-established establishment."

"I can't help that. I must have discount for cash," said the Terror yet more firmly.

The girl hesitated; then she called Mr. Barker who, acting as his own shop-walker, was strolling up and down with great dignity. Mr. Barker came and she put the matter to him.

"Oh, no, sir; I'm afraid we couldn't think of it. Barker's is too old established a house to connive at these sharp modern ways of doing business," said Mr. Barker with a very impressive air.

The Terror looked at him with a cold thoughtful eye: "All right," he said. "You can put the stole down to me-Master Hyacinth Dangerfield, Colet House, Little Deeping."

He began to shovel the money back into the bag.

An expression of deep pain spread over the mobile face of Mr. Barker as the coins began to disappear; and he said quickly: "I'm afraid we can't do that, sir. Our terms are cash-strictly cash."

"Oh, no, they're not. My mother has had an account here for the last six years," said the Terror icily; and the last of the coins went into the bag.

Mr. Barker held out a quivering hand, and with an air and in a tone of warm geniality he cried: "Oh, that alters the case altogether! In the case of the son of an old customer like Mrs. Dangerfield we're delighted to deduct five per cent. discount for cash-delighted. Make out the bill for three pounds, Miss Perkins."

Miss Perkins made out the bill for three pounds; and Erebus bore away the stole tenderly.

As the triumphant Terror came out of the shop, he jingled the brave three shillings discount in his pocket and said: "Now for Springer's!"

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