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Two Rough Stones
by [?]

It does not take long to make a kite, if you know how, have the right things for the purpose, and Cook is in a good temper. But then, cooks are not always amiable, and that’s a puzzle; for disagreeable people are generally yellow and stringy, while pleasant folk are pink-and-white and plump, and Mrs Lester’s Cook at “Lombardy” was extremely plump, so much so that Ned Lester used to laugh at her and say she was fat, whereupon Cook retorted by saying good-humouredly: “All right, Master Ned, so I am; but you can’t have too much of a good thing.”

There was doubt about the matter, though. Cook had a most fiery temper when she was busy, and when that morning Ned went with Tizzy–so called because she was christened Lizzie–and found Cook in her private premises–the back kitchen–peeling onions, with a piece of bread stuck at the end of the knife to keep the onion-juice from making her cry, and asked her to make him a small basin of paste, her kitchen majesty uttered a loud snort.

“Which I just shan’t,” she cried; “and if your Mar was at home you wouldn’t dare to ask. I never did see such a tiresome, worriting boy as you are, Master Ned. You’re always wanting something when I’m busy; and what your master’s a-thinking about to give you such long holidays at midsummer I don’t know.”

“They aren’t long,” said Ned, indignant at the idea of holidays being too long for a boy of eleven.

“Don’t you contradict, sir, or I’ll just tell your Mar; and the sooner you’re out of my kitchen the better for you. Be off, both of you!”

It was on Tizzy’s little red lips to say: “Oh, please do make some paste!” but she was not peeling onions, and had no knife with a piece of bread-crumb at the end to keep the tears from coming. So come they did, and sobs with them to stop the words.

“Never mind, Tiz,” cried Ned, lifting her on to a chair. “Here, get on my back and I’ll carry you. Cook’s in a tantrum this morning.”

Tizzy placed her arms round her brother’s neck and clung tightly while he played the restive steed, and raised Cook’s ire to red-hot point by purposely kicking one of the Windsor chairs, making it scroop on the beautifully-white floor of the front kitchen, and making the queen of the domain rush out at him, looking red-eyed and ferocious, for the onion-juice had affected her.

“Now, just you look here, Master Ned.”

But Ned didn’t stop to look; for, after the restive kick at the chair, he had broken into a canter, dashed down the garden and through the gate into the meadow, across which he now galloped straight for the new haystack, for only a week before that meadow had been forbidden ground and full of long, waving, flowery strands.

The grasshoppers darted right and left from the brown patches where the scythes had left their marks; the butterflies fled in their butterfly fashion.

So did a party of newly-fledged sparrowkins, and, still playing the pony, Ned kept on, drawing his sister’s attention to the various objects, as he made for the long row of Lombardy poplars which grew so tall and straight close to the deep river-side, and gave the name “Lombardy” to the charming little home.

But it was all in vain; nothing would pacify the sobbing child, not even the long red-and-yellow monkey barge gliding along the river, steered by a woman in a print hood, and drawn by a drowsy-looking grey horse at the end of a long tow-rope, bearing a whistling boy seated sidewise on his back and a dishcover-like pail hanging from his collar.

“Oh, I say, don’t cry, Tizzy,” protested Ned, at last, as he felt the hot tears trickling inside his white collar.