" Algernon," said William without a second's hesitation.
The name came in fact almost of its own accord. The Vicar at his last tea party had tried to instil some order into a party that was rapidly degenerating into pandemonium by reading aloud a moral story from which as a child he had derived much profit and enjoyment. Though not received quite in the spirit he would have wished, it had certainly succeeded in riveting his guest's attention. The hero—a child with a singularly beautiful disposition—had been called Algernon. For weeks afterwards " Algernon " had been the favourite epithet of abuse among the youngest set of the village.
" Algernon," she repeated. " A very pretty name, my dear." She was evidently disposed to be friendly to Algernon. " Much prettier than William, don't you think ? "
" Yes," said William with an expression of sheeplike guilelessness.
Then her gaze descended to an excrescence in William's pocket. It was an apple—the last remaining one of his morning's haul that he'd put in his pocket for refreshment on the way to the Vicarage. Suspicion replaced the lady's friendliness.
" What's that ? " she said sharply, pointing to it. William was not for a second at a loss. He drew it out of his pocket and held it out to her.
" I was bringing it back to you," he said. " I got him to give it me. It was the only one he had left when he told me about it an' I pled with him-----"
" You what ? "
" Pled," said William rather impatiently. " Don't you know what pleadin' is ? Beggin' a person. Askin' 'em. Well, I pled with him to give it me to bring back to you an' to tell you he was sorry an' to ask you not to—to—to come—come troublin' my dear parents about it."