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children went home, vowing eternal secrecy, which not even tortures
should wring from them.

At breakfast that morning Mrs. Cameron appeared late on the scene. Her
eyes were red with weeping. She also looked extremely cross.

"Helen, I must request you to have some fresh coffee made for me. I
cannot bear half cold coffee. Daisy, have the goodness to ring the bell.
Yes, my dear children, I am late. I have a sad reason for being late;
the dog is nowhere to be found."

A gleam of satisfaction filled each young face. Fly crimsoning greatly,
lowered her eyes; but David looked tranquilly full at Mrs. Cameron.

"Is it that nice little Scorpion?" he asked. "I'm awfully sorry, but I
suppose he went for a walk."

Mrs. Cameron glanced with interest at David's sympathetic face.

"No, my dear boy, that isn't his habit. The dear little dog sleeps, as a
rule, until just the last moment. Then I lift him gently, and carry him
downstairs for his cream."

"I wonder how he likes that bare beef bone?" murmured Fly, almost aloud.

"He's sure to come home for his cream in a moment or two!" said David.

He gave Fly a violent kick under the table.

"Helen," said Mrs. Cameron, "be sure you keep Scorpion's cream."

"There isn't any," replied Helen. "I was obliged to send it up to
father. There was not nearly so much cream as usual this morning. I had
scarcely enough for father."

"You don't mean to tell me you have used up the dog's cream?" exclaimed
Mrs. Cameron. "Well, really, that _is_ too much. The little animal will
starve, he can't touch anything else. Oh, where is he? My little,
faithful pet! My lap feels quite empty without him. My dear children, I
trust you may never love - _love_ a little creature as I love Scorpion,
and then lose him. Yes, I am seriously uneasy, the dog would not have
left me of his own accord."

Here, to the astonishment of everybody, and the intense indignation of
Mrs. Cameron, Fly burst into a scream of hysterical laughter, and hid
her face in Polly's neck.

"What a naughty child!" exclaimed the good lady. "You have no sympathy
with my pet, my darling! Speak this minute. Where is the dog, miss?"

"I expect in his grave," said Fly.

Whereupon Dave suddenly disappeared under the table, and all the others
stared in wonder at Fly.

"Firefly, do you know anything?"

"I expect Scorpion is in his grave. Where is the use of making such a
fuss?" responded Fly.

And she made a precipitate retreat out of the window.

All the remainder of that day was occupied in a vain search for the
missing animal. Mrs. Cameron strongly suspected Firefly, but the only
remark the little girl could be got to make was:

"I am sure Scorpion is in his grave."

Mrs. Cameron said that was no answer, and further insisted that the
child should be severely punished. But as in reply to that, Helen said
firmly that as long as father was in the house no one should punish the
children but him, she felt, for the present, at least, obliged to hold
her sense of revenge in check.

After Fly had gone to bed that night, David crept into her room.

"I've done it all now," he said. "I sold Scorpion to-night for a
shilling to a man who was walking across the moor, and I have just
popped the shilling into Mrs. Cameron's purse. The horrid little brute
worked quite a big hole in the bottom of the grave, Fly, and he nearly
snapped my fingers off when I lifted him out to give him to Jones. But
he's away now, that's a comfort. What a silly thing you were, Fly, to
burst out laughing at breakfast, and then say that Scorpion was in his
grave."

"But it was so true, David. That hole looked exactly like a grave."

"But you have drawn suspicion upon you. Now, Mrs. Cameron certainly
doesn't suspect me. See what she has given me: this beautiful new
two-shilling piece. She said I was a very kind boy, and had done my best
to find her treasure for her."

"Oh, Dave, how could you take it!"

"Couldn't I, just! I'm not a little muff, like you. I intend to buy a
set of wickets with this. Well, good-night, Fly; nobody need fear
hydrophobia after this good day's work."




CHAPTER XV.

A DILEMMA.


A night's sleep had by no means improved Mrs. Cameron's temper. She came
downstairs the next morning so snappish and disagreeable, so much
inclined to find fault with everybody, and so little disposed to see the
faintest gleam of light in any direction, that the children almost
regretted Scorpion's absence, and began to wonder if, after all, he was
not a sort of safety-valve for Mrs. Cameron, and more or less essential
to her existence.

Hitherto this good woman had not seen her brother-in-law; and it was
both Helen's and Polly's constant aim to keep her from the sick room.

It was several days now since the Doctor was pronounced quite out of
danger; but the affection of his eyes which had caused his children so
many anxious fears, had become much worse. As the London oculist had
told him, any shock or chill would do this; and there was now no doubt
whatever that for a time, at least, he would have to live in a state of
total darkness.

"It is a dreadful fate," said Helen to Polly. "Oh, yes, it is a dreadful
fate, but we must not complain, for anything is better than losing him."

"Anything truly," replied Polly. "Why, what is the matter, Flower? How
you stare."

Flower had been lying full-length on the old sofa in the school-room;
she now sprang to her feet, and came up eagerly to the two sisters.

"Could a person do this," she said, her voice trembling with
eagerness - "Could such a thing as this be done: could one give their
eyes away?"

"Flower!"

"Yes, I mean it. Could I give my eyes to Dr. Maybright - I mean just do
nothing at all but read to him and look for him - manage so that he
should know everything just through my eyes. Can I do it? If I can, I
will."

"But, Flower, you are not father's daughter," said Polly in an almost
offended tone. "You speak, Flower - you speak as if he were all the
world to you."

"So he is all the world to me!" said Flower. "I owe him reparation, I
owe him just everything. Yes, Helen and Polly, I think I understand how
to keep your father from missing his eyes much. Oh, how glad I am, how
very glad I am!"

From that moment Flower became more or less a changed creature. She
developed all kinds of qualities which the Maybrights had never given
her credit for. She had a degree of tact which was quite astonishing in
a child of her age. There was never a jarring note in her melodious
voice. With her impatience gone, and her fiery, passionate temper
soothed, she was just the girl to be a charming companion to an invalid.

However restless the Doctor was, he grew quieter when Flower stole her
little hand into his; and when he was far too weak and ill and suffering
to bear any more reading aloud, he could listen to Flower as she recited
one wild ballad after another.

Flower had found her mission, and she was seldom now long away from the
Doctor's bedside.

"Don't be jealous, Polly," said Helen. "All this is saving Flower, and
doing father good."

"There is one comfort about it," said Polly, "that as Aunt Maria
perfectly detests poor Flower, or Daisy, as she calls her, she is not
likely to go into father's room."

"That is true!" said Helen. "She came to the room door the other day,
but Flower was repeating 'Hiawatha,' and acting it a little bit - you
know she can't help acting anything she tries to recite - and Aunt Maria
just threw up her hands and rolled her eyes, and went away."

"What a comfort!" said Polly. "Whatever happens, we must never allow the
dreadful old thing to come near father."

Alack! alas! something so bad had happened, so terrible a tragedy had
been enacted that even Flower and Hiawatha combined could no longer keep
Mrs. Cameron away from her brother-in-law's apartment.

On the second day after Scorpion's disappearance, the good woman called
Helen aside, and spoke some words which filled her with alarm.

"My dear!" she said, "I am very unhappy. The little dog, the little
sunbeam of my life, is lost. I am convinced, Helen! yes, I am convinced,
that there is foul play in the matter. You, every one of you, took a
most unwarrantable dislike to the poor, faithful little animal. Yes,
every one of you, with the exception of David, detested my Scorpion, and
I am quite certain that you all know where he now is."

"But really, Aunt Maria," said Helen, her fair face flushing, "really,
now, you don't seriously suppose that I had anything to say to
Scorpion's leaving you."

"I don't know, my dear. I exonerate David. Yes, David is a good boy; he
was attached to the dog, and I quite exonerate him. But as to the rest
of you, I can only say that I wish to see your father on the subject."

"Oh! Aunt Maria! you are not going to trouble father, so ill as he is,
about that poor, miserable little dog?"

"Thank you, Helen! thank you! poor miserable little dog indeed. Ah! my
dear, you have let the cat out of the bag now. Yes, my dear, I insist on
seeing your father with regard to the _poor, miserable little dog_.
Poor, indeed, am I without him, my little treasure, my little faithful
Scorpion." Here Mrs. Cameron applied her handkerchief to her eyes, and
Helen walked to the window, feeling almost driven to despair.

"I think you are doing wrong!" she said, presently. "It is wrong to
disturb a man like father about any dog, however noble. I am sure I am
right in saying that we, none of us, know anything about Scorpion's
disappearance. However, if you like, and rather than that father should
be worried, I will send for all the children, and ask them the question
one by one before you. I am absolutely sure that they won't think
Scorpion worth a lie."




CHAPTER XVI.

FIREFLY.


Helen experienced some little difficulty in getting her scattered
brothers and sisters together. She could not get any of them to think
seriously of Scorpion's departure. They laughed and lingered over their
own pursuits, and told Helen to her face that she made a great fuss
about nothing; in short, the best part of an hour had gone by before the
Maybrights and the two Dalrymples assembled in Mrs. Cameron's presence
in the morning room.

"It is just this, children," said Helen. "Aunt Maria feels very low
about Scorpion; you see she loved him." Groans here came audibly from
the lips of Bob and Bunny. "Yes!" said Helen, looking severely at her
two little brothers, "Aunt Maria did love Scorpion. She feels very
lonely without him, and she has taken an idea into her head that one or
other of you had something to say to his disappearance. Of course I know
that none of you could be so cruel and heartless, but to satisfy Aunt
Maria, I have asked you all to come here just to tell her that you did
nothing to make Scorpion run away."

"Only we are very glad he did run away!" said Bob, "but as to touching
him, why, I wouldn't with a pair of tongs."

"I wish to say a word!" said Mrs. Cameron. She came forward, and stood
looking very flushed and angry before the assembled group. "I wish to
say that I am sure some of you in your malice deprived me of my dog. I
believe David Dalrymple to be innocent, but as to the rest of you, I may
as well say that I do not believe you, whatever you may tell me."

"Well, after that!" exclaimed all the children.

"I suppose, Helen, after that we may go away?" said Firefly, who was
looking very pale.

"No, Miss!" said Aunt Maria, "you must stay. Your sister Helen does not
wish me to do anything to disturb your father, but I assure you,
children, there are limits even to my patience, and I intend to visit
him this morning and tell him the whole story, unless before you leave
the room you tell me the truth."

Firefly's sallow little face grew whiter and whiter. She glanced
imploringly at David, who looked boldly and unconcernedly back at her;
then, throwing back his head, he marched up to Mrs. Cameron's side.

"You believe that _I_ am innocent, don't you?" he said.

"Certainly, my dear boy. I have said so."

"In that case, perhaps you would not mind my going out a little way on
the moor and having a good look round for the dog, he _may_ have
wandered there, you know, and broken his leg or something." Mrs. Cameron
shuddered. "In any case," continued David, with a certain air of modest
assurance, which became him very much, "it seems a pity that I should
waste time here."

"Certainly; go, my dear lad," answered Mrs. Cameron. "Bring my little
innocent suffering treasure back with you, and I will give you half a
crown."

David instantly left the room, unheeding a short, sharp cry which issued
from Firefly's lips as he passed her.

Most of the other children were laughing; it was impossible for them to
think of anything in connection with Scorpion except as a joke.

"Listen, Aunt Maria," said Helen. "I am afraid you must not treat my
brothers and sisters as you propose. Neither must you trouble father
without the doctor's permission. The fact is, Aunt Maria, we are
Maybrights, and every one who knows anything about us at all _must_ know
that we would scorn to tell a lie. Our father and our dear, dear
mother - your sister whom you loved, Aunt Maria, and for whose sake you
are interested in us - taught us to fear a lie more than anything,
_much_ more than punishment, _much_ more than discovery. Oh, yes, we
have heaps and heaps of faults; we can tease, we can be passionate, and
idle, and selfish; but being Maybrights, being the children of our own
father and mother, we can't lie. The fact is, we'd be afraid to."

Helen's blue eyes were full of tears.

"Bravo! Helen!" said Polly, going up to her sister and kissing her. "She
says just the simple truth, Aunt Maria," she continued, flashing round
in her bright way on the old lady. "We _are_ a naughty set - _you_ know
that, don't you? - but we can't tell lies; we draw the line there."

"Yes, we draw the line there," suddenly said Firefly, in a high-pitched
voice, which sounded as if it was going to crack.

"I admire bravery," said Mrs. Cameron, after a pause. "Ask your
questions, Helen. For my dead sister's sake I will accept the word of a
Maybright. 'Pon my word, you are extraordinary young people; but I
admire girls who are not afraid to speak out, and who uphold their
parents' teaching. Ask the children quickly, Helen, if they know
anything about the dog, for after David's hint about his having strayed
on that awful moor, and perhaps having broken one of his dear little
legs, I feel more uncomfortable than ever about him. For goodness' sake,
Helen! ask your question quickly, and let me get out on the moor to look
for my dog."

"Children," said Helen, coming forward at once, "do you know anything
about Scorpion's loss, _any_thing? Now, I am going to ask you each
singly; as you answer you can leave the room. Polly, I begin with you."

One by one the Maybrights and Flower answered very clear and emphatic
"No's" to Helen's question, and one by one they retired to wait for
their companions in the passage outside.

At last Helen put the question to Firefly. Two big, green-tinted hazel
eyes were raised to her face.

"Yes, Helen, I do know," replied Firefly.

Mrs. Cameron uttered a shriek, and almost fell upon the little girl, but
Helen very gently held her back.

"One minute," she said. "Firefly, what do you know?"

"I'm not going to tell you, Helen." The child's lips quivered, but her
eyes looked up bravely.

"Why so? Please, Aunt Maria, let me speak to her. Why won't you tell
what you know, dear Fly?"

"Because I promised. There, I won't say a word more about it. I do know,
and I won't tell; no, I won't ever, ever tell. You can punish me, of
course, Aunt Maria."

"So I will, Miss. Take that slap for your impertinence. Oh! if you were
my child, should not I give you a whipping. You know what has happened
to my poor _dear_ little dog, and you refuse to tell. But you shall
tell - you wicked cruel little thing - you shall, you must!"

"Shall I take Firefly away and question her?" asked Helen. "Please, Aunt
Maria, don't be too stern with her. She is a timid little thing; she is
not accustomed to people blaming her. She has some reason for this, but
she will explain everything to her sister Nell, won't you, darling?"

The child's lips were trembling, and her eyes filling with tears.

"There's no use in my going away with you, Helen," she replied,
steadily. "I am willing Aunt Maria should punish me, but I can't tell
because I'm a Maybright. It would be telling a lie to say what I know. I
don't mind your punishing me rather badly, Aunt Maria."

"Oh, you don't, don't you?" said Aunt Maria. "Listen; was not that the
sound of wheels?"

"The doctor to see father," explained Helen. "I ought to go."

"Excuse me, my dear, I particularly wish to see your father's medical
adviser this morning. I will not detain him long, but I have a question
I wish to put to him. You stay with your little sister, Helen. I shall
be back soon."

Mrs. Cameron trotted out of the room. In about ten minutes, with an
exultant look on her face, she returned. Firefly was now clasped tightly
in Helen's arms while she sobbed her heart out on her breast.

"Well, Helen, has this _most_ impertinent, naughty child confessed?"

"She has not," said Helen. "I don't understand her; she seems in sore
trouble. Dear little Fly!"

"'Dear little Fly,' indeed! Naughty, wicked little Fly, you mean.
However, my dear, I have come to tell you that I have just had an
interview with the excellent doctor who attends your father. He has gone
up to see him now. He says he does not want to see you at all to-day,
Helen. Well, I spoke to Dr. Strong, and he was _astonished_ - absolutely
astonished, when he heard that I had not yet been permitted to see my
brother-in-law. I told him quite frankly that you girls were jealous of
my influence, and used his (Dr. Strong's) name to keep me out of my poor
brother's room. 'But my dear madam,' he said, 'the young ladies labor
under a mistake - a vast, a monstrous mistake. _Nothing_ could do my
poor patient more good than to see a sensible, practical lady like
yourself!' 'Then I may see him this afternoon?' I asked. 'Undoubtedly,
Mrs. Cameron,' he replied; 'it will be something for my patient to look
forward to.' I have arranged then, my dear Helen, to pay a visit to your
father at three o'clock to-day."

Helen could not repress a sigh.

Mrs. Cameron raised her eyebrows with a certain suggestive and
aggravating gesture.

"Ah, my dear," she said, "you must try to keep under that jealous
temperament. Jealousy fostered in the heart overshadows and overclouds
all life. Be warned in time."

"About this child," said Helen, drawing Firefly forward, "what is to be
done about her? You will be lenient, won't you, Aunt Maria, for she is
very young?"

"By the way," said Mrs. Cameron, with the manner of one who had not
heard a word of Helen's last speech, "is this naughty little girl
attached to her father?"

Firefly raised her tear-dimmed face.

"He is my darling - - " she began.

"Ah, yes, my dear; I detest exaggerated expressions. If you love him,
you can now prove it. You would not, for instance, wish to give him
anxiety, or to injure him?"

"Oh, no, oh, no! I would rather die."

"Again that sentimental exaggeration; but you shall prove your words. If
you have not confessed to me before three o'clock to-day all you know
about the loss of my treasured dog Scorpion, I shall take you into your
father's sick room, and in his presence dare you to keep your wicked
secret to yourself any longer."

"Oh, you don't mean that," said Firefly. "You can't be so awfully cruel.
Nell, Nell, do say that Aunt Maria doesn't mean that."

The child was trembling violently; her little face was white as death,
her appealing eyes would have softened most hearts.

"Oh, Nell, what shall I do if I make father worse again? For I can't
tell what I know; it would be a lie to tell it, and you said yourself,
Nell, that no Maybright told lies."

Mrs. Cameron smiled grimly.

"I have said it," she remarked; "it all rests with yourself, Firefly. I
shall be ready either to hear your confession or to take you to your
father at three o'clock to-day."

With these words the good lady walked out of the room.




CHAPTER XVII.

TO THE RESCUE.


An hour later a wildly anxious and disconsolate little figure might have
been seen knocking at Polly's door. No answer from within. A moment of
suspense on the part of the little figure, followed by another and
louder knock; then the small, nervous fingers turned the handle of the
door, and Firefly pushed her head in and peered anxiously round.

Oh, dear! oh, dear! No Polly was in the room. And why did the great
eight-day clock in the hall strike twelve? Why, on this morning of all
mornings, should time go on wings? Firefly had great faith in Polly's
powers of helping her. But the moments were too precious to waste them
in trying to find her. She had another search to make, and she must set
out at once. No, not quite at once. She clasped her hands to her beating
little heart as an idea came to her on which she might act. A delicious
and yet most sorrowful idea, which would fill her with the keenest pain,
and yet give her the very sweetest consolation. She would go and get a
kiss from her father before she set out on the search, which might be a
failure. Very swiftly she turned, flew down the long gallery which led
to Dr. Maybright's room, and went in.

Dr. Strong had paid his visit and gone away. Firefly's heart gave a
bound of delight, for her father was alone. He was lying supported high
in bed with pillows. His almost sightless eyes were not bandaged, they
were simply closed; his hands, with their long, sensitive, purposeful
fingers lay on the white sheets in a restful attitude. Already the acute
hearing of the blind had come to him, and as Firefly glided up to the
bedside, he turned his head quickly. Her two small hands went with a
kind of bound into one of his. His fingers closed over them.

"This is my Fly," said the Doctor; "a very excited and feverish Fly,
too. How these small fingers flutter! What is it, my darling?"

"A kiss, father," said Fly, "a great _hug_ of a kiss! please, please. I
want it so awfully badly."

"Climb up on the bed, and put your arms round me. Is that all right? My
dear little one, you are not well."

"I'm quite well, now, while I'm loving you. Oh! aren't you just the
darlingest of all darling fathers? There, another kiss; and another! Now
I'm better."

She glided off the bed, pressed two long, last fervent embraces on the
Doctor's white hand, and rushed out of the room.

"I'm lots stronger now," she said to herself. "_Whatever_ happens, I'll
have those kisses to hold on to and remember; but nothing shall happen,
for I'm going to find David; he is sure to put things right for me."

Meanwhile, Polly's absence from her room was accounted for, also the
fact of Fly finding her father alone. It was seldom that this dearly
loved and favorite father, physician, and friend, was left to indulge in
solitude. It was the privilege of all privileges to sit by him, read to
him, and listen to his talk; and a girl, generally two girls, occupied
the coveted chairs by his bedside. On this morning, however, poor Helen
was detained, first by Aunt Maria, and then by necessary housekeeping
cares; and Polly and Flower were deeply engrossed over a matter of
considerable importance.

When Polly had replied in the negative to Helen's question, she lingered
for a moment in the passage outside the morning-room, then started off
to find Nurse and little Pearl. Flower, however, waited with a feeling
of curiosity, or perhaps something more, to hear what the others would
say. She was witness, therefore, through the open door, of Firefly's
curious mixture of avowal and denial, and when Mrs. Cameron went away to
consult the doctor who attended Dr. Maybright, she coolly waited in an
adjoining room, and when the good woman returned, once more placed
herself within earshot. No Maybright would dream of eavesdropping, but
Flower's upbringing had been decidedly lax with regard to this and other
matters.

In full possession, therefore, of the facts of the catastrophe which was
to overpower poor little Fly and injure Dr. Maybright, she rushed off to
find Polly. Polly was feeling intensely happy, playing with and fondling
her sweet little baby sister, when Flower, pale and excited, rushed into
the room. Nurse, who had not yet forgiven Flower, turned her back upon
the young lady, and hummed audibly. Flower, however, was far too much


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