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A few days later, the MacDonald seven gathered in the sitting-room while their parents had a long and boring conversation about God knows what.

"I believe" began Oliver "that the Maynards are very much the undignified types that Mother warned us off when we were small children."

"Oliver!" cried Ermintrude, who had taken a real shine to what she had seen of the Mob. "You cannot say that! You barely know them!"

"Yet" said Peter "you know them little better. How can you be sure of their respectability?"

Ermintrude was inscensed, speechless with rage. The belief that her brothers thought that her new-found friends were unsuitable was alien to her. She did not make many friends as a rule, but the 'Die Blumen Lot' and their cousins were so...attractive.

Jane came to her sister's rescue. "Surely they deserve a chance?! Quite frankly, I believe them to be most well-mannered."

Matthew joined in at this point. He felt that, as the eldest, it was his duty to keep the family together and in with the right crowd.

"If I were to honestly express my opinion of them, I am rather worried about their upbringing - meaning, of course, their parents."

"Why? What will you find fault with now?" demanded Jane. Ermintrude just glared at her brothers.

"Well" explained Matthew "there seem to be an awful lot of them. To put it bluntly, I worry about..." He paused. "about how much they have been told, and at what age. You understand, about...Biology." he said delicately, before continuing. "I am concerned about what effect the parents'...possible behaviour may have on the innocence of the children."

Betsy's hand had flown to her mouth. Now, though, she felt called upon to help her sisters and their new friends. "What do you suggest we do?"

"I do not suggest that we do anything." said Matthew smoothly "Merely that Mother may like to meet up with this family's parents and speak to them so that she may determine what they are like and deduce whether the Maynards are suitable from there."

"We are not babies." snapped Betsy "We do not need her organising our affairs for us. We have all left school, she now trusts us to pass our own judgement."

"As the eldest, it is my responsibility to see that you don't pass incorrect judgement!" cried Matthew heatedly.

"Oh, really!" shrieked Betsy shrilly. "Well, you might as well say that to their poor little faces!"

"That would not be polite!" said Matthew triumphantly.

"Polite!" cried Betsy. "Where is the politeness in this discussion?" She suddenly turned on George, who had been watching the scene unfold with horrified eyes. "Where are you in this?"

George, surprised at being called on so suddenly, said nothing at first, but then slowly turned to his brothers.

"The girls are right. You have no right to make negative assumptions about the respectability of our fellows without a shred of evidence."

"Do numbers not count?" cried Peter.

"How do you know that the parents were unconventional about it?" countered George neatly. Ermintrude gave a sniff.

"Come on. Let us go and be no longer in the company of such...such utter...cads!"

Everyone gasped at her language, but Jane, George and Betsy swept out of the drawing-room into Ermintrude's boudior, and there, they decided that they were hungry, and Jane was halfway to the door before she turned on her heel and rang the bell instead. Well-brought-up people like themselves, go into the kitchen? They must be losing their touch!

But still...the Mob seemed to be perpetually hungry...

Ermintrude laughed as she leant back - what bad breeding! - in her chair. Maybe they were being subconciously influenced!

Be as that may, for the first time ever, a rift had been caused in the MacDonald family.



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