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A Terrible Tomboy by Angela Brazil

Peggy put her hand under her dress


path which Peggy was following ran along a lane with the wood on one side and a tall hedge on the other. It was a lonely spot, for there was not even a farmhouse in sight, and as it was only a by-road it was very seldom frequented, even by the country people. As she swung the gate open, and passed from the field into the lane, she saw a sight which for a moment made her hang back doubtfully, for a tramp lay stretched out full length asleep in the sunshine, his tattered clothes and broken boots a strange contrast to the bed of white daisies and celandine upon which he lay. Peggy was not generally afraid of poor people, but even in sleep this man had an evil, hang-dog look about his face, which might have warned many an older person to give him a wide berth. She stood for a little while with the gate in her hand, hesitating whether to go forward or not, then, thinking she could probably pass him quietly without waking him, she walked on, treading on tip-toe. But he could not have been so fast asleep as she supposed, for he sprang up as she neared him, and casting a swift glance round to see whether she were accompanied or alone, held out his hand, and begged for money.

'I have none to give you,' said Peggy, trying to pass him by; but he stood over the path before her with a blustering air.

'No money! What's that in your hand?' he said roughly.

Peggy put her hand under her dress,

and tried to beat a retreat to the gate.

'Now then!' cried the man, with a horrible oath, 'none of your slinking off! You give me what you have there, or I'll break every bone in your body, and worse! Here! Hand it over, quick!'

He came a step nearer, but at that moment there was a rush and a rustle, and Rollo bounded like an arrow through the gate, and flew at his throat. The two rolled over together, and Peggy clung trembling to the gatepost as she watched the confused heap at her feet, Rollo scratching, snarling, and biting like a wild beast, and the tramp kicking, fighting, and swearing in a way which made her blood go cold to hear. She was too terrified to run away, and could only stand there, a breathless witness of the scuffle. Now the dog had the mastery, and now the man, as each panted and fought for his life; but at length something bright gleamed in the sunlight, there was a cry of agony, and Rollo lay in a pool of blood upon the grass. The tramp raised himself slowly up, and looked at Peggy. Peggy shrieked, such a shriek of ghastly terror that it might have been heard a mile away, and mercifully it _was_ heard, for there was an answering call from the wood, followed by a rustle of branches and dead leaves, and the keeper and his son burst through the thick undergrowth, and came scrambling over the fence, almost before the echo of her cry had died away. The tramp took to his heels, and was off down the lane with sturdy Harry Adams racing after him, in less time than it takes to tell it.

'After him, Hal!' yelled his father. 'Don't let the villain escape! Send a shot through his leg if he's gaining on you! Has the brute hurt you, Miss Vaughan?'--looking Peggy tenderly over to see that no damage was done.

Peggy shook her head, for speech seemed almost impossible at that moment, and she broke away from the keeper's eager inquiries to kneel down by Rollo's side, trying vainly to staunch the crimson stream that was draining his life away. But Rollo was beyond the reach of help now. The poor beast made a feeble effort to raise himself up to greet his loved little mistress; he whined, licked her hand, and with one last affectionate glance from his rapidly-glazing eyes, rolled over on his side--quite dead.

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