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as quickly as possible. I don't mind giving you breakfast, but I'm as
busy as possible to-day. I've six committee meetings on between now and
two o'clock. Say your say, Daisy, and then you can go."

"But I've come to stay."

"To _stay_? Good gracious! Scorpion, down, sir! Now, young lady, have
you or have you not taken leave of your senses?"

"No, really. May I tell you my story?"

"If you take ten minutes over it; I won't give you longer time."

"I'll try to get it into ten minutes. I'm an Australian, and so is
David. David is my brother. We came over in the _Australasia_ about six
weeks ago. Dr. Maybright met us in London, and took us down to Sleepy
Hollow."

"Bless the man! - just like him. Had he any responsible matron or
spinster in the house, child?"

"I don't know; I don't think so. There was Helen and Polly and - - "

"I don't want to hear about Polly! Go on; your ten minutes will soon be
up. Go on."

"A couple of days ago we went on a picnic - I have a way of getting into
awful passions - and Polly - Polly vexed me."

"Oh, she vexed you? You're not the first that young miss has vexed, I
can tell you."

"She vexed me; I oughtn't to have minded; I got into a passion; I felt
awful; I ran away with baby."

"Goodness me! what is the world coming to? You don't mean to say you
have dared to bring the infant here, Daisy?"

"No, no. I ran away with her on to the moors. I was so frightened, for I
thought baby had died. Then Maggie came, and she saved her life, and she
was brought home again."

"That's a good thing; but I can't see why you are troubling me with this
story."

"Yesterday morning I gave baby back to Dr. Maybright. He's not like
other people; he looked at me, and his look pierced my heart. He said
something, too, and then for the first time I began to be really, really
sorry. I went up to my room; I stayed there alone all day; I was
miserable."

"Served you right if you were, Daisy."

"In the evening I was so hungry, I went down for food. I met Firefly;
she told me the worst."

"Then the baby died? You really are an awful girl, Daisy Rymple."

"No. The baby is pretty well, and Polly, who sprained her foot running
after me, is pretty well; but it's - it's Dr. Maybright - the best man I
ever met - a man who could have helped me and made me a - a good
girl - he's very, very ill, and they think he may die. He wasn't strong,
and he was out all night looking for baby and me, and he got a bad
chill, and he - he may be dead now. It was my doing; Fly told me so."

Flower laid her head on the table; her long sustained fortitude gave
way; she sobbed violently.

Her tears stained Mrs. Cameron's snowy table-linen; her head was pressed
down on her hands; her face was hidden. She was impervious in her woe to
any angry words or to the furious barking of a small dog.

At last a succession of violent shakes recalled her to herself.

"_Will_ you sit up? - spoiling my damask and shedding tears into the
excellent coffee I have made for you. Ah, that's better; now I can see
your face. Don't you know that you are a very naughty, dangerous sort of
girl?"

"Yes, I know that quite well. Mother always said that if I didn't check
my passion I'd do great mischief some day."

"And right she was. I don't suppose the table-linen will ever get over
those coffee stains mixed with tears. Now, have the goodness to tell me,
Daisy, or Ivy, or whatever you are called, why you have come to tell
this miserable, disgraceful story to me."

"Fly said they none of them could love me now."

"I should think not, indeed! No one will love such a naughty girl. What
have you come to me for?"

"I thought I could stay with you for a little, until there was another
home found for me."

"Oh, ah! Now at last we have come to the bottom of the mystery. And I
suppose you thought I'd pet you and make much of you?"

"I didn't. I thought you'd scold me and be very cross. I came to you as
a punishment, for Polly always said you were the crossest woman she ever
met."

"Polly said that? Humph! Now eat up your breakfast quickly, Daisy. I'm
going out. Don't stir from this room until I come back."

Mrs. Cameron, who had come downstairs in her bonnet, slammed the
dining-room door after her, walked across the hall, and let herself out.
It did not take her many minutes to reach the telegraph office. From,
there she sent a brief message to Helen Maybright:

"_Sorry your father is ill. Expect me this evening with Daisy Rymple._"




CHAPTER XIII.

VERY ROUGH WEATHER.


With all her easy and languishing ways, Flower Dalrymple had often gone
through rough times. Her life in Australia had given to her experiences
both of the extreme of luxury and the extreme of roughing, but never in
the course of her young life did she go through a more uncomfortable
journey than that from Mrs. Cameron's house in Bath to Sleepy Hollow. It
was true that Scorpion, Mrs. Cameron, and Flower, traveled first-class;
it was true also that where it was necessary for them to drive the best
carriages to be procured were at their service; but, as on all and every
occasion Scorpion was king of the ceremonies these arrangements did not
add to Flower's comfort. Mrs. Cameron, who felt seriously angry with the
young girl, addressed all her conversation to the dog, and as the dog
elected to sit on Flower's lap, and snapped and snarled whenever she
moved, and as Mrs. Cameron's words were mostly directed through the
medium of Scorpion at her, her position was not an agreeable one.

"Ah-ha, my dear doggie!" said the good lady. "Somebody has come to the
wrong box, has she not? Somebody thought I would take her in, and be
kind to her, and pet her, and give her your cream, did she not? But no
one shall have my doggie's cream; no, that they shan't!"

"Mrs. Cameron," said Flower, when these particularly clever and lucid
remarks had continued for nearly an hour, "may I open the window of the
carriage at this side? I'm quite stifling."

Mrs. Cameron laid a firm, fat hand upon the window cord, and bent again
over the pampered Scorpion.

"And is my doggie's asthma not to be considered for the sake of somebody
who ought not to be here, who was never invited nor wished for, and is
now to be returned like a bad penny to where she came from? Is my own
dearest little dog to suffer for such a person's whims? Oh, fie! oh,
fie! Well, come here my Scorpion; your mistress won't reject you."

For Flower, in a fit of ungovernable temper, had suddenly dashed the
petted form of Scorpion to the ground.

The poor angry girl now buried herself in the farthest corner of the
railway carriage. From there she could hear Mrs. Cameron muttering about
"somebody's" temper, and hoping that "somebody" would get her deserts.

These remarks, uttered several times, frightened Flower so much that at
last she looked up, and said, in a queer, startled voice:

"You don't think Dr. Maybright is going to die? You can't be so awfully
wicked as to think that."

"Oh, we are wicked, are we, Scorpion?" said Mrs. Cameron, her fat hand
gently stroking down Scorpion's smooth fur from tip to tail. "Never
mind, Scorpion, my own; never mind. When the little demon of temper gets
into somebody she isn't quite accountable, is she?"

Flower wondered if any restraining power would keep her from leaping out
of the window.

But even the weariest journey comes to an end at last, and twenty-four
hours after she had left Sleepy Hollow, Flower, feeling the most
subdued, the most abject, the most brow-beaten young person in
Christendom, returned to it. Toward the end of the journey she felt
impervious to Mrs. Cameron's sly allusions, and Scorpion growled and
snapped at her in vain. Her whole heart was filled with one
over-powering dread. How should she find the Doctor? Was he better? Was
he worse? Or had all things earthly come to an end for him; and had he
reached a place where even the naughtiest girl in all the world could
vex and trouble him no longer?

When the hired fly drew up outside the porch, Flower suddenly remembered
her first arrival - the gay "Welcome" which had waved above her head;
the kind, bright young faces that had come out of the darkness to greet
her; the voice of the head of the house, that voice which she was so
soon to learn to love, uttering the cheeriest and heartiest words of
greeting. Now, although Mrs. Cameron pulled the hall-door bell with no
uncertain sound, no one, for a time at least, answered the summons, and
Flower, seizing her opportunity, sprang out of the fly and rushed into
the house.

The first person she met, the very first, was Polly. Polly was sitting
at the foot of the stairs, all alone. She had seated herself on the
bottom step. Her knees were huddled up almost to her chin. Her face was
white, and bore marks of tears. She scarcely looked up when Flower ran
to her.

"Polly! Polly! How glad I am you at least are not very ill."

"Is that you, Flower?" asked Polly.

She did not seem surprised, or in any way affected.

"Yes, my leg does still ache very much. But what of that? What of
anything now? He is worse! They have sent for another doctor. The doctor
from London is upstairs; he's with him. I'm waiting here to catch him
when he comes down, for I must know the very worst."

"The very worst!" echoed Flower in a feeble tone.

She tumbled down somehow on to the stair beside Polly, and the next
instant her death-like face lay in Polly's lap.

"Now, my dear, you need not be in the least frightened," said a shrill
voice in Polly's ears. "A most troublesome young person! a most
troublesome! She has just fainted; that's all. Let me fetch a jug of
cold water to pour over her."

"Is that _you_, Aunt Maria?" said Polly. "Oh, yes, there was a telegram,
but we forgot all about it. And is that Scorpion, and is he going to
bark? But he mustn't! Please kneel down here, Aunt Maria, and hold
Flower's head. Whatever happens, Scorpion mustn't bark. Give him to me!"

Before Mrs. Cameron had time to utter a word or in any way to
expostulate, she found herself dragged down beside Flower, Flower's head
transferred to her capacious lap, and the precious Scorpion snatched out
of her arms. Polly's firm, muscular young fingers tightly held the dog's
mouth, and in an instant Scorpion and she were out of sight.
Notwithstanding all his fighting and struggling and desperate efforts to
free himself, she succeeded in carrying him to a little deserted summer
pagoda at a distant end of the garden. Here she locked him in, and
allowed him to suffer both cold and hunger for the remainder of the
night.

There are times when even the most unkind are softened. Mrs. Cameron was
not a sympathetic person. She was a great philanthropist, it is true,
and was much esteemed, especially by those people who did not know her
well. But love, the real name for what the Bible calls charity, seldom
found an entrance into her heart. The creature she devoted most
affection to was Scorpion. But now, as she sat in the still house, which
all the time seemed to throb with a hidden intense life; when she heard
in the far distance doors opening gently and stifled sobs and moans
coming from more than one young throat; when she looked down at the
death-like face of Flower - she really did forget herself, and rose for
once to the occasion.

Very gently - for she was a strong woman - she lifted Flower, and
carried her into the Doctor's study. There she laid her on a sofa, and
gave her restoratives, and when Flower opened her dazed eyes she spoke
to her more kindly than she had done yet.

"I have ordered something for you, which you are to take at once," she
said. "Ah! here it is! Thank you, Alice. Now, Daisy, drink this off at
once."

It was a beaten-up egg in milk and brandy, and when Flower drank it she
felt no longer giddy, and was able to sit up and look around her.

In the meantime Polly and all the other children remained still as mice
outside the Doctor's door. They had stolen on tiptoe from different
quarters of the old house to this position, and now they stood perfectly
still, not looking at one another or uttering a sound, but with their
eyes fixed with pathetic earnestness and appeal at the closed door. When
would the doctors come out? When would the verdict be given? Minutes
passed. The children found this time of tension an agony.

"I can't bear it!" sobbed Firefly at last.

But the others said, "Hush!" so peremptorily, and with such a total
disregard for any one person's special emotions, that the little girl's
hysterical fit was nipped in the bud.

At last there was a sound of footsteps within the room, and the local
practitioner, accompanied by the great physician from London, opened the
door carefully and came out.

"Go in and sit with your father," said one of the doctors to Helen.

Without a word she disappeared into the darkened room, and all the
others, including little Pearl in Nurse's arms, followed the medical men
downstairs. They went into the Doctor's study, where Flower was still
lying very white and faint on the sofa. Fortunately for the peace of the
next quarter of an hour Mrs. Cameron had taken herself off in a vain
search for Scorpion.

"Now," said Polly, when they were all safely in the room - she took no
notice of Flower; she did not even see her - "now please speak; please
tell us the whole truth at once."

She went up and laid her hand on the London physician's arm.

"The whole truth? But I cannot do that, my dear young lady," he said, in
hearty, genial tones. "Bless me!" turning to the other doctor, "do all
these girls and boys belong to Maybright? And so you want the whole
truth, Miss - Miss - - "

"I'm called Polly, sir."

"The whole truth, Polly? Only God knows that. Your father was in a weak
state of health; he had a shock and a chill. We feared mischief to the
brain. Oh, no, he is by no means out of the wood yet. Still I have hope
of him; I have great hope. What do you say, Strong? Symptoms have
undoubtedly taken a more favorable turn during the last hour or two."

"I quite agree with you, Sir Andrew," said the local practitioner, with
a profound bow.

"Then, my dear young lady, my answer to you, to all of you, is that,
although only God knows the whole truth, there is, in my opinion,
considerable hope - yes, considerable. I'll have a word with you in the
other room, Strong. Good-by, children; keep up your spirits. I have
every reason to think well of the change which has set in within the
last hour."

The moment the doctors left the room Polly looked eagerly round at the
others.

"Only God knows the truth," she said. "Let us pray to Him this very
minute. Let's get on our knees at once."

They all did so, and all were silent.

"What are we to say, Polly?" asked Firefly at last. "I never did 'aloud
prayers' since mother died."

"Hush! There's the Lord's Prayer," said Polly. "Won't somebody say it?
My voice is choking."

"I will," said Flower.

Nobody had noticed her before; now she came forward, knelt down by
Polly's side, and repeated the prayer of prayers in a steady voice. When
it was over, she put up her hands to her face, and remained silent.

"What are you saying now?" asked Firefly, pulling at her skirt.

"Something about myself."

"What is that?" they all asked.

"I've been the wickedest girl in the whole of England. I have been
asking God to forgive me."

"Oh, poor Flower!" echoed the children, touched by her dreary, forsaken
aspect.

Polly put her arms round her and kissed her.

"We have quite forgiven you, so, of course, God will," she said.

"How noble you are! Will you be my friend?"

"Yes, if you want to have me. Oh, children!" continued Polly, "do you
think we can any of us ever do anything naughty again if father gets
better?"

"He will get better now," said Firefly.




CHAPTER XIV.

A NOVEL HIDING-PLACE.


Whether it was the children's faith or the children's prayer, certain it
is that from that moment the alarming symptoms in connection with Dr.
Maybright's illness abated. It was some days before he was pronounced
out of danger, but even that happy hour arrived in due course, and one
by one his children were allowed to come to see him.

Mrs. Cameron meanwhile arranged matters pretty much as she pleased
downstairs. Helen, who from the first had insisted on nursing her father
herself, had no time to housekeep. Polly's sprained ankle would not get
well in a minute, and, besides, other circumstances had combined to
reduce that young lady's accustomed fire and ardor. Consequently, Mrs.
Cameron had matters all her own way, and there is not the least doubt
that she and Scorpion between them managed to create a good deal of
moral and physical disquietude.

"Well," she said to herself, "when all is said and done, that poor man
who is on the flat of his back upstairs is my sainted Helen's husband;
and if at such a time as this Maria Cameron should harbor ill-will in
her heart it would but ill become the leader of some of the largest
philanthropic societies in Bath. No, for the present my place is here,
and no black looks, nor surly answers, nor impertinent remarks, will
keep Maria Cameron from doing her duty."

Accordingly Mrs. Power gave a month's notice, and Alice wept so
profusely that her eyes for the time being were seriously injured.
Scorpion bit the new kitchen-maid Jane twice, who went into hysterics
and expected hydrophobia daily. But notwithstanding these and sundry
other fracases, Mrs. Cameron steadily pursued her way. She looked into
account-books, she interviewed the butcher, she dismissed the baker, she
overhauled the store-room, and after her own fashion - and a
disagreeable fashion it was - did a good deal of indirect service to the
family.

Flower in particular she followed round so constantly and persistently
that the young girl began to wonder if Mrs. Cameron seriously and really
intended to punish her, by now bereaving her of her senses.

"I don't think I can stand it much longer," said Flower to Polly. "Last
night I was in bed and asleep when she came in. I was awfully tired, and
had just fallen into my first sleep, when that detestable dog snapped at
my nose. There was Mrs. Cameron standing in the middle of the room with
a lighted candle in her hand. 'Get up,' she said. 'What for?' I asked.
'Get up this minute!' she said, and she stamped her foot. I thought
perhaps she would disturb your father, for my room is not far away from
his, so I tumbled out of bed. 'Now, what is the matter?' I asked. 'The
matter?' said Mrs. Cameron. '_That's_ the matter! and _that's_ the
matter! and _that's_ the matter!' And what do you think? She was
pointing to my stockings and shoes, and my other clothes. I always do
leave them in a little heap in the middle of the floor; they're
perfectly comfortable there, and it doesn't injure them in the least.
Well! that awful woman woke me out of my sleep to put them by. She stood
over me, and made me fold the clothes up, and shake out the stockings,
and put the shoes under a chair, and all the time that fiendish dog was
snapping at my heels. Oh, it's intolerable! I'll be in a lunatic asylum
if this goes on much longer!"

Polly laughed; she could not help it; and Firefly and David, who were
both listening attentively, glanced significantly at one another.

The next morning, very, very early, Firefly was awakened by a bump. She
sat up, rubbed her eyes, and murmured, "All right!" under her breath.

"Put something on, Fly, and be quick," whispered David's voice from the
door.

Firefly soon tumbled into a warm frock, a thick outdoor jacket, and a
little fur cap; her shoes and stockings were tumbled on anyhow. Holding
her jacket together - for she was in too great a hurry to fasten
it - she joined David.

"I did it last night," he said; "it's a large hole; he'll never be
discovered there. And now the thing is to get him."

"Oh, Dave, how will you manage that?"

"Trust me, Fly. Even if I do run a risk, I don't care. Anything is
better than the chance of Flower getting into another of her passions."

"Oh, anything, of course," said Fly. "Are you going to kill him, Dave?"

"No. The hole is big; he can move about in it. What I thought of was
this - we'd sell him."

"Sell him? But he isn't ours."

"No matter! He's a public nuisance, and he must be got rid of. There are
often men wandering on the moor who would be glad to buy a small dog
like Scorpion. They'd very likely give us a shilling for him. Then we'd
drop the shilling into Mrs. Cameron's purse. Don't you see? She'd never
know how it got there. Then, you understand, it would really have been
Mrs. Cameron who sold Scorpion."

"Oh, delicious!" exclaimed Fly. "She'd very likely spend the money on
postage stamps to send round begging charity letters."

"So Scorpion would have done good in the end," propounded David. "But
come along now, Fly. The difficult thing is to catch the little brute."

It was still very early in the morning, and the corridors and passages
were quite dark. David and Fly, however, could feel their way about like
little mice, and they soon found themselves outside the door of the
green room, which was devoted to Mrs. Cameron.

"Do you feel this?" said David, putting out his hand and touching Fly.
"This is a long towel; I'm winding part of it round my hand and arm. I
don't want to get hydrophobia, like poor Jane. Now, I'm going to creep
into Mrs. Cameron's room so quietly, that even Scorpion won't wake. I
learned how to do that from the black people in Australia. You may stand
there, Fly, but you won't hear even a pin fall till I come back with
Scorpion."

"If I don't hear, I feel," replied Fly. "My heart does thump so. I'm
just awfully excited. Don't be very long away, Dave."

By this time David had managed to unhasp the door. He pushed it open a
few inches, and then lay flat down on his face and hands. The next
moment he had disappeared into the room, and all was profoundly still.
Fly could hear through the partly open door the gentle and regularly
kept-up sound of a duet of snoring. After three or four minutes the duet
became a solo. Still there was no other sound, not a gasp, not even the
pretense of a bark. More minutes passed by. Had David gone to sleep on
the floor? Was Scorpion dead that he had ceased to snore?

These alarming thoughts had scarcely passed through her mind before
David rejoined her.

"He's wrapped up in this towel," he said. "He's kicking with his hind
legs, but he can't get a squeak out; now come along."

Too careless and happy in the success of their enterprise even to
trouble to shut Mrs. Cameron's door, the two children rushed downstairs
and out of the house. They effected their exit easily by opening the
study window. In a moment or two they were in the shrubbery.

"The hole isn't here," said David. "Somebody might find him here and
bring him back, and that would never do. Do you remember Farmer Long's
six-acre field?"

"Where he keeps the bull?" exclaimed Fly. "You haven't made the hole
there, Dave?"

"Yes, I have, in one corner! It's the best place in all the world, for
not a soul will dare to come near the field while the bull is there. You
needn't be frightened, Fly! He's always taken home at night! He's not
there now. But don't you see how he'll guard Scorpion all day? Even Mrs.
Cameron won't dare to go near the field while the bull is there."

"I see!" responded Fly, in an appreciative voice. "You're a very clever
boy, Dave. Now let's come quick and pop him into the hole."

Farmer Long's six-acre field was nearly a quarter of a mile away, but
the children reached it in good time, and Fly looked down with interest
on the scene of David's excavations. The hole, which must have given the
little boy considerable labor, was nearly three feet deep, and about a
foot wide. In the bottom lay a large beef bone.

"He won't like it much!" said David. "His teeth aren't good; he can only
eat chicken bones, but hunger will make him nibble it by-and-by. Now,
Fly, will you go behind that furze bush and bring me a square, flat
board, which you will find there?"

"What a funny board!" said Fly, returning in a moment. "It's all over
little square holes."

"Those are for him to breathe through," said David. "Now, then, master,
here you go! You won't annoy any one in particular here, unless,
perhaps, you interfere with Mr. Bull's arrangements. Hold the board over
the top of the hole, so, Fly. Now then, I hope you'll enjoy yourself, my
dear amiable little friend."

The bandage which firmly bound Scorpion's mouth was removed. He was
popped into the hole, and the wooden cover made fast over the top. The


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