"Two pencils, an india-rubber, a penknife, camp stool, easel, paint-box, a tube of Chinese white, a piece of sponge, paint rag, and water tin," said Aldred Laurence, checking each item off on her fingers. "Let me see! Can I possibly want anything else? It's so extremely aggravating to get to a place and find you've left at home what you most particularly need. My block, of course! How could I be so stupid as to forget it? It's no good taking pencils and paints if I've nothing to draw upon!"
"Hello, Aldred! What a spread!" exclaimed Keith, rousing himself from the luxuries of a comfortable chair and an absorbing book to notice that his sister had put on her hat, that her gloves lay on a chair, and that she was already beginning to pack some of the articles in question inside a home-made portfolio of dark-green American cloth. "The table looks like an art repository!" he continued. "Have you suddenly turned into a Rubens, or a Raphael? Where are you going with all those traps?"
Aldred paused to count her paint brushes, fitted the spare tube of Chinese white into a vacant corner of her paint-box, and slipped the penknife into her pocket.
"I want to make a sketch of old Mrs. Barker's cottage," she replied. "The clematis is out over the porch, and it looks lovely. I heard Mr. Bowden say yesterday that it was a splendid subject. Don't you remember, he made a picture of it last year?"
"So he did, and a jolly good one too. Yours won't be anything like up to that, Sis!"
"I dare say not, but you needn't discourage me from trying, at any rate."
"Oh, I'm not discouraging you. Go by all means, and good luck to your efforts! You can show me the masterpiece when you come back;" and the boy, flinging his legs over one arm of the chair, settled himself in an even more inelegant and reposeful attitude than before, and plunged again into the fascinating adventures of Captain Kettle.
That, however, did not at all content his sister.
"I thought you were coming with me," she said reproachfully. "I was counting upon you to hold my water tin while I painted."
Keith detached his mind from tropical Africa with an effort.
"Then you counted without your host, my dear girl!" he responded. "I'm extremely comfortable here, and I assure you I haven't the smallest intention of pounding half a mile down the dusty road, on a baking afternoon, to look at a picturesque cottage and act water-carrier when I get there!"
"The tin upsets when I hold it on my paint-box," said Aldred, in a rather aggrieved voice, "and if I put it on the ground I have to stoop every time I want to dip my brush."
"Then make a hole in each side, tie a piece of string across, and hang it on the peg of your easel. I'll fix it up for you in half a second, if you'll find me the hammer and a nail. Girls have no invention! The thing's as simple as possible. I wonder you couldn't think of it for yourself. Where's a piece of string? Now, isn't this A1? Put it inside your case. There! Off you go!"
Aldred could not but acknowledge the improvement in her painting tin, but she seemed, nevertheless, in no hurry to start. She re-arranged her paints, took off her hat and put it on again, and loitered about in so marked a manner that her brother could not fail to notice her hesitation.
"What's the matter now?" he enquired.
"You might come with me, Keith!"
"You know quite well I can't go alone."
"Because Father said I mustn't sit sketching by myself."
"That's a horse of another colour. In that case, why did Aunt Bertha let you get ready?"