Part 2 out of 4
said Rachel, oracularly.
"But it isn't well to be always looking for it, Rachel."
"It'll come whether you look for it or not," retorted his sister,
"Then suppose we waste no time thinking about it, since, according to
your admission, it's sure to come either way."
Rachel did not deign a reply, but continued to eat in serene melancholy.
"Won't you have another piece of pudding, Timothy?" asked his wife.
"I don't care if I do, Martha, it's so good," said the cooper, passing
his plate. "Seems to me it's the best pudding you ever made."
"You've got a good appetite, that is all," said Mrs. Harding, modestly
disclaiming the compliment.
"Apple puddings are unhealthy," observed Rachel.
"Then what makes you eat them?" asked Jack.
"A body must eat something. Besides, life is so full of sorrow, it makes
little difference if it's longer or shorter."
"Won't you have another piece, Rachel?"
Aunt Rachel passed her plate, and received a second portion. Jack winked
slyly, but fortunately his aunt did not observe it.
When dinner was over, the cooper thought of the sealed envelope which
had been given him for his wife.
"Martha," he said, "I nearly forgot that I have something for you."
"Yes, from Mr. Merriam."
"But he don't know me," said Mrs. Harding, in surprise.
"At any rate, he first asked me if I was married, and then handed me
this envelope, which he asked me to give to you. I am not quite sure
whether I ought to allow strange gentlemen to write letters to my wife."
Mrs. Harding opened the envelope with considerable curiosity, and
uttered an exclamation of surprise as a bank note fell out, and
fluttered to the carpet.
"By gracious, mother!" said Jack, springing to get it, "you're in luck.
It's a hundred-dollar bill."
"So it is, I declare," said his mother, joyfully. "But, Timothy, it
isn't mine. It belongs to you."
"No, Martha, I have nothing to do with it. It belongs to you. You need
some clothes, I am sure. Use part of it, and I will put the rest in the
savings bank for you."
"I never expected to have money to invest," said Mrs. Harding. "I begin
to feel like a capitalist. When you want to borrow money, Timothy,
you'll know where to come."
"Merriam's a trump and no mistake," said Jack. "By the way, when you see
him again, father, just mention that you've got a son. Ain't we in luck,
"Boast not overmuch," said his aunt. "Pride goes before destruction, and
a haughty spirit before a fall."
"I never knew Aunt Rachel to be jolly but once," said Jack under his
breath; "and that was at a funeral."
One of the first results of the new prosperity which had dawned upon the
Hardings, was Jack's removal from the street to the school. While his
father was out of employment, his earnings seemed necessary; but now
they could be dispensed with.
To Jack, the change was not altogether agreeable. Few boys of the
immature age of eleven are devoted to study, and Jack was not one of
these few. The freedom which he had enjoyed suited him, and he tried to
impress it upon his father that there was no immediate need of his
returning to school.
"Do you want to grow up a dunce, Jack?" said his father.
"I can read and write already," said Jack.
"Are you willing to enter upon life with that scanty supply of
"Oh, I guess I can get along as well as the average."
"I don't know about that. Besides, I want you to do better than the
average. I am ambitious for you, if you are not ambitious for yourself."
"I don't see what good it does a feller to study so hard," muttered
"You won't study hard enough to do you any harm," said Aunt Rachel, who
might be excused for a little sarcasm at the expense of her mischievous
"It makes my head ache to study," said Jack.
"Perhaps your head is weak, Jack," suggested his father, slyly.
"More than likely," said Rachel, approvingly.
So it was decided that Jack should go to school.
"I'll get even with Aunt Rachel," thought he. "She's always talking
against me, and hectorin' me. See if I don't."
An opportunity for getting even with his aunt did not immediately occur.
At length a plan suggested itself to our hero. He shrewdly suspected
that his aunt's single blessedness, and her occasional denunciations
of the married state, proceeded from disappointment.
"I'll bet she'd get married if she had a chance," he thought. "I mean
to try her, anyway."
Accordingly, with considerable effort, aided by a school-fellow, he
concocted the following letter, which was duly copied and forwarded
to his aunt's address:
"DEAR GIRL: Excuse the liberty I have taken in writing to you;
but I have seen you often, though you don't know me; and you are
the only girl I want to marry. I am not young--I am about your age,
thirty-five--and I have a good trade. I have always wanted to be
married, but you are the only one I know of to suit me. If you think
you can love me, will you meet me in Washington Park, next Tuesday,
at four o'clock? Wear a blue ribbon round your neck, if you want to
encourage me. I will have a red rose pinned to my coat.
"Don't say anything to your brother's family about this. They may not
like me, and they may try to keep us apart. Now be sure and come.
This letter reached Miss Rachel just before Jack went to school one
morning. She read it through, first in surprise, then with an appearance
"Who's your letter from, Aunt Rachel?" asked Jack, innocently.
"Children shouldn't ask questions about what don't concern 'em," said
"I thought maybe it was a love letter," said he.
"Don't make fun of your aunt," said his father, reprovingly.
"Jack's question is only a natural one," said Rachel, to her brother's
unbounded astonishment. "I suppose I ain't so old but I might be married
if I wanted to."
"I thought you had put all such thoughts out of your head long ago,
"If I have, it's because the race of men are so shiftless," said his
sister. "They ain't worth marrying."
"Is that meant for me?" asked the cooper, good-naturedly.
"You're all alike," said Rachel, tossing her head.
She put the letter carefully into her pocket, without deigning any
"I suppose it's from some of her old acquaintances," thought her
brother, and he dismissed the subject.
As soon as she could, Rachel took refuge in her room. She carefully
locked the door, and read the letter again.
"Who can he be?" thought the agitated spinster. "Do I know anybody of
the name of Daniel? It must be some stranger that has fallen in love
with me unbeknown. What shall I do?"
She sat in meditation for a short time. Then she read the letter again.
"He will be very unhappy if I frown upon him," she said to herself,
complacently. "It's a great responsibility to make a fellow being
unhappy. It's a sacrifice, I know, but it's our duty to deny ourselves.
I don't know but I ought to go and meet him."
This was Rachel's conclusion.
The time was close at hand. The appointment was for that very afternoon.
"I wouldn't have my brother or Martha know it for the world," murmured
Rachel to herself, "nor that troublesome Jack. Martha's got some blue
ribbon, but I don't dare to ask her for it, for fear she'll suspect
something. No, I must go out and buy some."
"I'm goin' to walk, Martha," she said, as she came downstairs.
"Going to walk in the forenoon! Isn't that something unusual?"
"I've got a little headache. I guess it'll do me good," said Rachel.
"I hope it will," said her sister-in-law, sympathetically.
Rachel went to the nearest dry-goods store, and bought a yard of blue
"Only a yard?" inquired the clerk, in some surprise.
"That will do," said Rachel, nervously, coloring a little, as though the
use which she designed for it might be suspected.
She paid for the ribbon, and presently returned.
"Does your head feel any better, Rachel?" asked Mrs. Harding.
"A little," answered Rachel.
"You've been sewing too steady lately, perhaps?" suggested Martha.
"Perhaps I have," assented Rachel.
"You ought to spare yourself. You can't stand work as well as when you
were younger," said Martha, innocently.
"A body'd think I was a hundred by the way you talk," said Rachel,
"I didn't mean to offend you, Rachel. I thought you might feel as I do.
I get tired easier than I used to."
"I guess I'll go upstairs," said Rachel, in the same tone. "There isn't
anybody there to tell me how old I am gettin'."
"It's hard to make Rachel out," thought Mrs. Harding. "She takes offense
at the most innocent remark. She can't look upon herself as young, I am
Upstairs Rachel took out the letter again, and read it through once
more. "I wonder what sort of a man Daniel is," she said to herself. "I
wonder if I have ever noticed him. How little we know what others think
of us! If he's a likely man, maybe it's my duty to marry him. I feel I'm
a burden to Timothy. His income is small, and it'll make a difference of
one mouth. It may be a sacrifice, but it's my duty."
In this way Rachel tried to deceive herself as to the real reason which
led her to regard with favoring eyes the suit of this supposed lover
whom she had never seen, and about whom she knew absolutely nothing.
Jack came home from school at half-past two o'clock. He looked roguishly
at his aunt as he entered. She sat knitting in her usual corner.
"Will she go?" thought Jack. "If she doesn't there won't be any fun."
But Jack, whose trick I am far from defending, was not to be
At three o'clock Rachel rolled up her knitting, and went upstairs.
Fifteen minutes later she came down dressed for a walk.
"Where are you going, Aunt Rachel?" asked Jack.
"Out for a walk," she answered, shortly.
"May I go with you?" he asked, mischievously.
"No; I prefer to go alone," she said, curtly.
"Your aunt has taken a fancy to walking," said Mrs. Harding, when her
sister-in-law had left the house. "She was out this forenoon. I don't
know what has come over her."
"I do," said Jack to himself.
Five minutes later he put on his hat and bent his steps also to
MISS HARDING'S MISTAKE
Miss Rachel Harding kept on her way to Washington Park. It was less than
a mile from her brother's house, and though she walked slowly, she got
there a quarter of an hour before the time.
She sat down on a seat near the center of the park, and began to look
around her. Poor Rachel! her heart beat quicker than it had done for
thirty years, as she realized that she was about to meet one who wished
to make her his wife.
"I hope he won't be late," she murmured to herself, and she felt of the
blue ribbon to make sure that she had not forgotten it.
Meanwhile Jack reached the park, and from a distance surveyed with
satisfaction the evident nervousness of his aunt.
"Ain't it rich?" he whispered to himself.
Rachel looked anxiously for the gentleman with the red rose pinned to
She had to wait ten minutes. At last he came, but as he neared her seat,
Rachel felt like sinking into the earth with mortification when she
recognized in the wearer a stalwart negro. She hoped that it was a mere
chance coincidence, but he approached her, and raising his hat
"Are you Miss Harding?"
"What if I am?" she demanded, sharply. "What have you to do with me?"
The man looked surprised.
"Didn't you send word to me to meet you here?"
"No!" answered Rachel, "and I consider it very presumptuous in you to
write such a letter to me."
"I didn't write you a letter," said the negro, astonished.
"Then what made you come here?" demanded the spinster.
"Because you wrote to me."
"I wrote to you!" exclaimed Rachel, aghast.
"Yes, you wrote to me to come here. You said you'd wear a blue ribbon on
your neck, and I was to have a rose pinned to my coat."
Rachel was bewildered.
"How could I write to you when I never saw you before, and don't know
your name. Do you think a lady like me would marry a colored man?"
"Who said anything about that?" asked the other, opening his eyes wide
in astonishment. "I couldn't marry, nohow, for I've got a wife and four
Rachel felt ready to collapse. Was it possible that she had made a
mistake, and that this was not her unknown correspondent, Daniel?
"There is some mistake," she said, nervously. "Where is that letter you
thought I wrote? Have you got it with you?"
"Here it is, ma'am."
He handed Rachel a letter addressed in a small hand to Daniel Thompson.
She opened it and read:
"Mr. Thompson: I hear you are out of work. I may be able to give
you a job. Meet me at Washington Park, Tuesday afternoon, at four
o'clock. I shall wear a blue ribbon round my neck, and you may have
a red rose pinned to your coat. Otherwise I might not know you.
"Some villain has done this," said Rachel, wrathfully. "I never wrote
"You didn't!" said Daniel, looking perplexed. "Who went and did it,
"I don't know, but I'd like to have him punished for it," said Rachel,
"But you've got a blue ribbon," said Mr. Thompson. "I can't see through
that. That's just what the letter said."
"I suppose somebody wrote the letter that knew I wear blue. It's all a
mistake. You'd better go home."
"Then haven't you got a job for me?" asked Daniel, disappointed.
"No, I haven't," said Rachel, sharply.
She hurriedly untied the ribbon from her neck, and put it in her pocket.
"Don't talk to me any more!" she said, frowning. "You're a perfect
stranger. You have no right to speak to me."
"I guess the old woman ain't right in her head!" thought Daniel. "Must
be she's crazy!"
Poor Rachel! she felt more disconsolate than ever. There was no Daniel,
then. She had been basely imposed upon. There was no call for her to
sacrifice herself on the altar of matrimony. She ought to have been
glad, but she wasn't.
Half an hour later a drooping, disconsolate figure entered the house of
"Why, what's the matter, Rachel?" asked Martha, who noticed her
"I ain't long for this world," said Rachel, gloomily. "Death has marked
me for his own."
"Don't you feel well this afternoon, Rachel?"
"No; I feel as if life was a burden."
"You have tired yourself with walking, Rachel. You have been out twice
"This is a vale of tears," said Rachel, hysterically. "There's nothin'
but sorrow and misfortune to be expected."
"Have you met with any misfortune? I thought fortune was smiling upon us
"It'll never smile on me again," said Rachel, despondently.
Just then Jack, who had followed his aunt home, entered.
"Have you got home so quick, Aunt Rachel?" he asked. "How did you enjoy
"I shall never enjoy anything again," said his aunt, gloomily.
"Because there's nothing to enjoy."
"I don't feel so, aunt. I feel as merry as a cricket."
"You won't be long. Like as not you'll be took down with fever
to-morrow, and maybe die."
"I won't trouble myself about it till the time comes," said Jack. "I
expect to live to dance at your wedding yet, Aunt Rachel."
This reference was too much. It brought to Rachel's mind the Daniel to
whom she had expected to link her destiny, and she burst into a dismal
sob, and hurried upstairs to her own chamber.
"Rachel acts queerly to-day," said Mrs. Harding. "I think she can't be
feeling well. If she don't feel better to-morrow I shall advise her to
send for the doctor."
"I am afraid it was mean to play such a trick on Aunt Rachel," thought
Jack, half repentantly. "I didn't think she'd take it so much in
earnest. I must keep dark about that letter. She'd never forgive me if
For some days there was an added gloom on Miss Rachel's countenance, but
the wound was not deep; and after a time her disappointment ceased to
rankle in her too sensitive heart.
Seven years slipped by unmarked by any important change. The Hardings
were still prosperous in an humble way. The cooper had been able to
obtain work most of the time, and this, with the annual remittance for
little Ida, had enabled the family not only to live in comfort, but even
to save up one hundred and fifty dollars a year. They might even have
saved more, living as frugally as they were accustomed to do, but there
was one point in which they would none of them consent to be economical.
The little Ida must have everything she wanted. Timothy brought home
nearly every day some little delicacy for her, which none of the rest
thought of sharing. While Mrs. Harding, far enough from vanity, always
dressed with extreme plainness, Ida's attire was always of good material
and made up tastefully.
Sometimes the little girl asked: "Mother, why don't you buy yourself
some of the pretty things you get for me?"
Mrs. Harding would answer, smiling: "Oh, I'm an old woman, Ida. Plain
things are best for me."
"No, I'm sure you're not old, mother. You don't wear a cap. Aunt Rachel
is a good deal older than you."
"Hush, Ida. Don't let Aunt Rachel hear that. She wouldn't like it."
"But she is ever so much older than you, mother," persisted the child.
Once Rachel heard a remark of this kind, and perhaps it was that that
prejudiced her against Ida. At any rate, she was not one of those who
indulged her. Frequently she rebuked her for matters of no importance;
but it was so well understood in the cooper's household that this was
Aunt Rachel's way, that Ida did not allow it to trouble her, as the
lightest reproach from Mrs. Harding would have done.
Had Ida been an ordinary child, all this petting would have had an
injurious effect upon her mind. But, fortunately, she had the rare
simplicity, young as she was, which lifted her above the dangers which
might have spoiled her otherwise. Instead of being made vain and
conceited, she only felt grateful for the constant kindness shown her by
her father and mother, and brother Jack, as she was wont to call them.
Indeed it had not been thought best to let her know that such were not
the actual relations in which they stood to her.
There was one point, much more important than dress, in which Ida
profited by the indulgence of her friends.
"Martha," the cooper was wont to say, "Ida is a sacred charge in our
hands. If we allow her to grow up ignorant, or only allow her ordinary
advantages, we shall not fulfill our duty. We have the means, through
Providence, of giving her some of those advantages which she would enjoy
if she had remained in that sphere to which her parents doubtless
belong. Let no unwise parsimony on our part withhold them from her."
"You are right, Timothy," said his wife; "right, as you always are.
Follow the dictates of your own heart, and fear not that I shall
"Humph!" said Aunt Rachel; "you ain't actin' right, accordin' to my way
of thinkin'. Readin', writin' and cypherin' was enough for girls to
learn in my day. What's the use of stuffin' the girl's head full of
nonsense that'll never do her no good? I've got along without it, and I
ain't quite a fool."
But the cooper and his wife had no idea of restricting Ida's education
to the rather limited standard indicated by Rachel. So, from the first,
they sent her to a carefully selected private school, where she had the
advantage of good associates, and where her progress was astonishingly
Ida early displayed a remarkable taste for drawing. As soon as this was
discovered, her adopted parents took care that she should have abundant
opportunity for cultivating it. A private master was secured, who gave
her lessons twice a week, and boasted everywhere of the progress made by
his charming young pupil.
"What's the good of it?" asked Rachel. "She'd a good deal better be
learnin' to sew and knit."
"All in good time," said Timothy. "She can attend to both."
"I never wasted my time that way," said Rachel. "I'd be ashamed to."
Nothing could exceed Timothy's gratification, when, on his birthday, Ida
presented him with a beautifully drawn sketch of his wife's placid and
"When did you do it, Ida?" he asked, after earnest expressions of
"I did it in odd minutes," she answered, "when I had nothing else to
"But how could you do it, without any of us knowing what you were
"I had a picture before me, and you thought I was copying it, but,
whenever I could do it without being noticed, I looked up at mother as
she sat at her sewing, and so, after a while, I finished the picture."
"And a fine one it is," said the cooper, admiringly.
Mrs. Harding insisted that Ida had flattered her, but this Ida would not
"I couldn't make it look as good as you, mother," she said. "I tried,
but somehow I didn't succeed as I wanted to."
"You wouldn't have that difficulty with Aunt Rachel," said Jack,
Ida could not help smiling, but Rachel did not smile.
"I see," she said, with severe resignation, "that you've taken to
ridiculing your poor aunt again. But it's only what I expect. I don't
never expect any consideration in this house. I was born to be a martyr,
and I expect I shall fulfill my destiny. If my own relations laugh at
me, of course I can't expect anything better from other folks. But I
shan't be long in the way. I've had a cough for some time past, and I
expect I'm in consumption."
"You make too much of a little joke, Rachel," said the cooper,
soothingly. "I'm sure Jack didn't mean anything."
"What I said was complimentary," said Jack.
Rachel shook her head incredulously.
"Yes, it was. Ask Ida. Why won't you draw Aunt Rachel, Ida? I think
she'd make a very striking picture."
"So I will," said Ida, hesitatingly, "if she will let me."
"Now, Aunt Rachel, there's a chance for you," said Jack. "Take my
advice, and improve it. When it's finished it can be hung up in the Art
Rooms, and who knows but you may secure a husband by it."
"I wouldn't marry," said Rachel, firmly compressing her lips; "not if
anybody'd go down on their knees to me."
"Now, I'm sure, Aunt Rachel, that's cruel of you," said Jack, demurely.
"There ain't any man I'd trust my happiness to," pursued the spinster.
"She hasn't any to trust," observed Jack, _sotto voce_.
"Men are all deceivers," continued Rachel, "the best of 'em. You can't
believe what one of 'em says. It would be a great deal better if people
never married at all."
"Then where would the world be a hundred years hence?" suggested her
"Come to an end, most likely," answered Aunt Rachel; "and I'm not sure
but that would be the best thing. It's growing more and more wicked
It will be seen that no great change has come over Miss Rachel Harding,
during the years that have intervened. She takes the same disheartening
view of human nature and the world's prospects as ever. Nevertheless,
her own hold upon the world seems as strong as ever. Her appetite
continues remarkably good, and, although she frequently expresses
herself to the effect that there is little use in living, she would be
as unwilling to leave the world as anyone. It is not impossible that she
derives as much enjoyment from her melancholy as other people from their
cheerfulness. Unfortunately her peculiar mode of enjoying herself is
calculated to have rather a depressing influence upon the spirits of
those with whom she comes in contact--always excepting Jack, who has a
lively sense of the ludicrous, and never enjoys himself better than in
bantering his aunt.
"I don't expect to live more'n a week," said Rachel, one day. "My sands
of life are 'most run out."
"Are you sure of that, Aunt Rachel?" asked Jack.
"Yes, I've got a presentiment that it's so."
"Then, if you're sure of it," said her nephew, gravely, "it may be as
well to order the coffin in time. What style would you prefer?"
Rachel retreated to her room in tears, exclaiming that he needn't be in
such a hurry to get her out of the world; but she came down to supper,
and ate with her usual appetite.
Ida is no less a favorite with Jack than with the rest of the household.
Indeed, he has constituted himself her especial guardian. Rough as he is
in the playground, he is always gentle with her. When she was just
learning to walk, and in her helplessness needed the constant care of
others, he used, from choice, to relieve his mother of much of the task
of amusing the child. He had never had a little sister, and the care of
a child as young as Ida was a novelty to him. It was perhaps this very
office of guardian to the child, assumed when she was young, that made
him feel ever after as if she were placed under his special protection.
Ida was equally attached to Jack. She learned to look to him for
assistance in any plan she had formed, and he never disappointed her.
Whenever he could, he would accompany her to school, holding her by the
hand, and, fond as he was of rough play, nothing would induce him to
"How long have you been a nursemaid?" asked a boy older than himself,
Jack's fingers itched to get hold of his derisive questioner, but he had
a duty to perform, and he contented himself with saying: "Just wait a
few minutes, and I'll let you know."
"I dare say you will," was the reply. "I rather think I shall have to
wait till both of us are gray before that time."
"You will not have to wait long before you are black and blue," retorted
"Don't mind what he says, Jack," whispered Ida, fearing that he would
"Don't be afraid, Ida; I won't leave you. I'll attend to his business
another time. I guess he won't trouble us to-morrow."
Meanwhile the boy, emboldened by Jack's passiveness, followed, with more
abuse of the same sort. If he had been wiser, he would have seen a storm
gathering in the flash of Jack's eye; but he mistook the cause of his
The next day, as they were going to school, Ida saw the same boy dodging
round the corner with his head bound up.
"What's the matter with him, Jack?" she asked.
"I licked him like blazes, that's all," said Jack, quietly. "I guess
he'll let us alone after this."
Even after Jack left school, and got a position in a store at two
dollars a week, he gave a large part of his spare time to Ida.
"Really," said Mrs. Harding, "Jack is as careful of Ida as if he was her
"A pretty sort of a guardian he is!" said Aunt Rachel. "Take my word for
it, he's only fit to lead her into mischief."
"You do him injustice, Rachel. Jack is not a model boy, but he takes the
best care of Ida."
Rachel shrugged her shoulders, and sniffed significantly. It was quite
evident that she did not have a very favorable opinion of her nephew.
A MYSTERIOUS VISITOR
About eleven o'clock one forenoon Mrs. Harding was in the kitchen,
busily engaged in preparing the dinner, when a loud knock was heard at
the front door.
"Who can it be?" said Mrs. Harding. "Aunt Rachel, there's somebody at
the door; won't you be kind enough to see who it is?"
"People have no business to call at such an hour in the morning,"
grumbled Rachel, as she laid down her knitting reluctantly, and rose
from her seat. "Nobody seems to have any consideration for anybody else.
But that's the way of the world."
Opening the outer door, she saw before her a tall woman, dressed in a
gown of some dark stuff, with strongly marked, and not altogether
"Are you the lady of the house?" inquired the visitor, abruptly.
"There ain't any ladies in this house," answered Rachel. "You've come to
the wrong place. We have to work for a living here."
"The woman of the house, then," said the stranger, rather impatiently.
"It doesn't make any difference about names. Are you the one I want to
"No, I ain't," said Rachel, shortly.
"Will you tell your mistress that I want to see her, then?"
"I have no mistress," said Rachel. "What do you take me for?"
"I thought you might be the servant, but that don't matter. I want to
see Mrs. Harding. Will you call her, or shall I go and announce myself?"
"I don't know as she'll see you. She's busy in the kitchen."
"Her business can't be as important as what I've come about. Tell her
that, will you?"
Rachel did not fancy the stranger's tone or manner. Certainly she did
not manifest much politeness. But the spinster's curiosity was excited,
and this led her the more readily to comply with the request.
"Stay here, and I'll call her," she said.
"There's a woman wants to see you," announced Rachel.
"Who is it?"
"I don't know. She hasn't got any manners, that's all I know about her."
Mrs. Harding presented herself at the door.
"Won't you come in?" she asked.
"Yes, I will. What I've got to say to you may take some time."
Mrs. Harding, wondering vaguely what business this strange visitor could
have with her, led the way to the sitting room.
"You have in your family," said the woman, after seating herself, "a
girl named Ida."
Mrs. Harding looked up suddenly and anxiously. Could it be that the
secret of Ida's birth was to be revealed at last? Was it possible that
she was to be taken from her?
"Yes," she answered, simply.
"Who is not your child?"
"But I love her as much. I have always taught her to look upon me as her
"I presume so. My visit has reference to her."
"Can you tell me anything of her parentage?" inquired Mrs. Harding,
"I was her nurse," said the stranger.
Mrs. Harding scrutinized anxiously the hard features of the woman. It
was, at least, a relief to know that no tie of blood connected her with
Ida, though, even upon her assurance, she would hardly have believed it.
"Who were her parents?"
"I am not permitted to tell."
Mrs. Harding looked disappointed.
"Surely," she said, with a sudden sinking of the heart, "you have not
come to take her away?"
"This letter will explain my object in visiting you," said the woman,
drawing a sealed envelope from a bag which she carried in her hand.
The cooper's wife nervously broke open the letter, and read as follows:
"MRS. HARDING: Seven years ago last New Year's night a child was
left on your doorsteps, with a note containing a request that you
would care for it kindly as your own. Money was sent at the same
time to defray the expenses of such care. The writer of this note
is the mother of the child, Ida. There is no need to explain here
why I sent away the child from me. You will easily understand that
it was not done willingly, and that only the most imperative
necessity would have led me to such a step. The same necessity
still prevents me from reclaiming my child, and I am content still
to leave Ida in your charge. Yet there is one thing I desire. You
will understand a mother's wish to see, face to face, her own
child. With this view I have come to this neighborhood. I will not
say where I am, for concealment is necessary to me. I send this
note by a trustworthy attendant, Mrs. Hardwick, my little Ida's
nurse in her infancy, who will conduct Ida to me, and return her
again to you. Ida is not to know who she is visiting. No doubt she
believes you to be her mother, and it is well that she should so
regard you. Tell her only that it is a lady, who takes an interest
in her, and that will satisfy her childish curiosity. I make this
request as IDA'S MOTHER."
Mrs. Harding read this letter with mingled feelings. Pity for the
writer; a vague curiosity in regard to the mysterious circumstances
which had compelled her to resort to such a step; a half feeling of
jealousy, that there should be one who had a claim to her dear, adopted
daughter, superior to her own; and a strong feeling of relief at the
assurance that Ida was not to be permanently removed--all these feelings
affected the cooper's wife.
"So you were Ida's nurse?" she said, gently.
"Yes, ma'am," said the stranger. "I hope the dear child is well?"
"Perfectly well. How much her mother must have suffered from the
"Indeed you may say so, ma'am. It came near to breaking her heart."
"I don't wonder," said sympathizing Mrs. Harding. "I can judge of that
by my own feelings. I don't know what I should do, if Ida were to be
taken from me."
At this point in the conversation, the cooper entered the house. He had
come home on an errand.
"It is my husband," said Mrs. Harding, turning to her visitor, by way of
explanation. "Timothy, will you come here a moment?"
The cooper regarded the stranger with some surprise. His wife hastened
to introduce her as Mrs. Hardwick, Ida's old nurse, and placed in her
husband's hands the letter which we have already read.
He was not a rapid reader, and it took him some time to get through the
letter. He laid it down on his knee, and looked thoughtful.
"This is indeed unexpected," he said, at last. "It is a new development
in Ida's history. May I ask, Mrs. Hardwick, if you have any further
proof? I want to be careful about a child that I love as my own. Can you
furnish any other proof that you are what you represent?"
"I judged that the letter would be sufficient. Doesn't it speak of me as
"True; but how can we be sure that the writer is Ida's mother?"
"The tone of the letter, sir. Would anybody else write like that?"
"Then you have read the letter?" asked the cooper, quickly.
"It was read to me before I set out."
"By Ida's mother. I do not blame you for your caution," said the
visitor. "You must be deeply interested in the happiness of the dear
child, of whom you have taken such excellent care. I don't mind telling
you that I was the one who left her at your door, seven years ago, and
that I never left the neighborhood until I saw you take her in."
"And it was this that enabled you to find the house to-day?"
"You forget," corrected the nurse, "that you were not then living in
this house, but in another, some rods off, on the left-hand side of the
"You are right," said Timothy. "I am inclined to believe in the truth of
your story. You must pardon my testing you in such a manner, but I was
not willing to yield up Ida, even for a little time, without feeling
confident of the hands she was falling into."
"You are right," said Mrs. Hardwick. "I don't blame you in the least. I
shall report it to Ida's mother as a proof of your attachment to the
"When do you wish Ida to go with you?" asked Mrs. Harding.
"Can you let her go this afternoon?"
"Why," said the cooper's wife, hesitating, "I should like to have a
chance to wash out some clothes for her. I want her to appear as neat as
possible when she meets her mother."
The nurse hesitated, but presently replied: "I don't wish to hurry you.
If you will let me know when she will be ready, I will call for her."
"I think I can get her ready early to-morrow morning."
"That will answer. I will call for her then."
The nurse rose, and gathered her shawl about her.
"Where are you going, Mrs. Hardwick?" asked the cooper's wife.
"To a hotel," was the reply.
"We cannot allow that," said Mrs. Harding, kindly. "It's a pity if we
cannot accommodate Ida's old nurse for one night, or ten times as long,
for that matter."
"My wife is quite right," said the cooper, hesitatingly. "We must insist
on your stopping with us."
The nurse hesitated, and looked irresolute. It was plain she would have
preferred to be elsewhere, but a remark which Mrs. Harding made, decided
her to accept the invitation.
It was this: "You know, Mrs. Hardwick, if Ida is to go with you, she
ought to have a little chance to get acquainted with you before you go."
"I will accept your kind invitation," she said; "but I am afraid I shall
be in your way."
"Not in the least. It will be a pleasure to us to have you here. If you
will excuse me now, I will go out and attend to my dinner, which I am
afraid is getting behindhand."
Left to herself, the nurse behaved in a manner which might be regarded
as singular. She rose from her seat, and approached the mirror. She took
a full survey of herself as she stood there, and laughed a short, hard
laugh. Then she made a formal courtesy to her own reflection, saying:
"How do you do, Mrs. Hardwick?"
"Did you speak?" asked the cooper, who was passing through the entry on
his way out.
"No," answered the nurse, rather awkwardly. "I may have said something
to myself. It's of no consequence."
"Somehow," thought the cooper, "I don't fancy the woman's looks; but I
dare say I am prejudiced. We're all of us as God made us."
When Mrs. Harding was making preparations for the noonday meal, she
imparted to Rachel the astonishing information which has already been
detailed to the reader.
"I don't believe a word of it," said Rachel, resolutely. "The woman's an
impostor. I knew she was, the very minute I set eyes on her."
This remark was so characteristic of Rachel, that her sister-in-law did
not attach any special importance to it. Rachel, of course, had no
grounds for the opinion she so confidently expressed. It was consistent,
however, with her general estimate of human nature.
"What object could she have in inventing such a story?" asked Mrs.
"What object? Hundreds of 'em," said Rachel, rather indefinitely. "Mark
my words; if you let her carry off Ida, it'll be the last you'll ever
see of her."
"Try to look on the bright side, Rachel. Nothing is more natural than
that her mother should want to see her."
"Why couldn't she come herself?" muttered Rachel.
"The letter explains."
"I don't see that it does."
"It says that same reasons exist for concealment as ever."
"And what are they, I should like to know? I don't like mysteries, for
"We won't quarrel with them, at any rate, since they enable us to keep
Ida with us."
Aunt Rachel shook her head, as if she were far from satisfied.
"I don't know," said Mrs. Harding, "but I ought to invite Mrs. Hardwick
in here. I have left her alone in the front room."
"I don't want to see her," said Rachel. Then, changing her mind
suddenly: "Yes, you may bring her in. I'll soon find out whether she's
an impostor or not."
The cooper's wife returned with the nurse.
"Mrs. Hardwick," she said, "this is my sister, Miss Rachel Harding."
"I am glad to make your acquaintance, ma'am," said the visitor.
"Rachel, I will leave you to entertain Mrs. Hardwick, while I get ready
Rachel and the nurse eyed each other with mutual dislike.
"I hope you don't expect me to entertain you," said Rachel. "I never
expect to entertain anybody ag'in. This is a world of trial and
tribulation, and I've had my share. So you've come after Ida, I hear?"
with a sudden change of tone.
"At her mother's request," said the nurse.
"She wants to see her, then?"
"I wonder she didn't think of it before," said Rachel, sharply. "She's
good at waiting. She's waited seven years."
"There are circumstances that cannot be explained," commenced the nurse.
"No, I dare say not," said Rachel, dryly. "So you were her nurse?"
"Yes, ma'am," answered the nurse, who did not appear to enjoy this
"Have you lived with Ida's mother ever since?"
"No--yes," stammered the stranger. "Some of the time," she added,
"Umph!" grunted Rachel, darting a sharp glance at her.
"Have you a husband living?" inquired the spinster.
"Yes," answered Mrs. Hardwick. "Have you?"
"I!" repeated Rachel, scornfully. "No, neither living nor dead. I'm
thankful to say I never married. I've had trials enough without that.
Does Ida's mother live in the city?"
"I can't tell you," said the nurse.
"Humph! I don't like mystery."
"It isn't any mystery," said the visitor. "If you have any objections to
make, you must make them to Ida's mother."
"So I will, if you'll tell me where she lives."
"I can't do that."
"Where do you live yourself?" inquired Rachel, shifting her point of
"In Brooklyn," answered Mrs. Hardwick, with some hesitation.
"What street, and number?"
"Why do you want to know?" inquired the nurse.
"You ain't ashamed to tell, be you?"
"Why should I be?"
"I don't know. You'd orter know better than I."
"It wouldn't do you any good to know," said the nurse. "I don't care
about receiving visitors."
"I don't want to visit you, I am sure," said Rachel, tossing her head.
"Then you don't need to know where I live."
Rachel left the room, and sought her sister-in-law.
"That woman's an impostor," she said. "She won't tell where she lives. I
shouldn't be surprised if she turns out to be a thief."
"You haven't any reason for supposing that, Rachel."
"Wait and see," said Rachel. "Of course I don't expect you to pay any
attention to what I say. I haven't any influence in this house."
"Now, Rachel, you have no cause to say that."
But Rachel was not to be appeased. It pleased her to be considered a
martyr, and at such times there was little use in arguing with her.
PREPARING FOR A JOURNEY
Later in the day, Ida returned from school. She bounded into the room,
as usual, but stopped short in some confusion, on seeing a stranger.
"Is this my own dear child, over whose infancy I watched so tenderly?"
exclaimed the nurse, rising, her harsh features wreathed into a smile.
"It is Ida," said the cooper's wife.
Ida looked from one to the other in silent bewilderment.
"Ida," said Mrs. Harding, in a little embarrassment, "this is Mrs.
Hardwick, who took care of you when you were an infant."
"But I thought you took care of me, mother," said Ida, in surprise.
"Very true," said Mrs. Harding, evasively; "but I was not able to have
the care of you all the time. Didn't I ever mention Mrs. Hardwick to
"Although it is so long since I have seen her, I should have known her
anywhere," said the nurse, applying a handkerchief to her eyes. "So
pretty as she's grown up, too!"
Mrs. Harding glanced with pride at the beautiful child, who blushed at
the compliment, a rare one, for her adopted mother, whatever she might
think, did not approve of openly praising her appearance.
"Ida," said Mrs. Hardwick, "won't you come and kiss your old nurse?"
Ida looked at her hard face, which now wore a smile intended to express
affection. Without knowing why, she felt an instinctive repugnance to
this stranger, notwithstanding her words of endearment.
She advanced timidly, with a reluctance which she was not wholly able to
conceal, and passively submitted to a caress from the nurse.
There was a look in the eyes of the nurse, carefully guarded, yet not
wholly concealed, which showed that she was quite aware of Ida's feeling
toward her, and resented it. But whether or not she was playing a part,
she did not betray this feeling openly, but pressed the unwilling child
more closely to her bosom.
Ida breathed a sigh of relief when she was released, and moved quietly
away, wondering what it was that made the woman so disagreeable to her.
"Is my nurse a good woman?" she asked, thoughtfully, when alone with
Mrs. Harding, who was setting the table for dinner.
"A good woman! What makes you ask that?" queried her adopted mother, in
"I don't know," said Ida.
"I don't know anything to indicate that she is otherwise," said Mrs.
Harding. "And, by the way, Ida, she is going to take you on a little
"She going to take me!" exclaimed Ida. "Why, where are we going?"
"On a little pleasure trip; and perhaps she may introduce you to a
pleasant lady, who has already become interested in you, from what she
has told her."
"What could she say of me?" inquired Ida. "She has not seen me since I
was a baby."
"Why," answered the cooper's wife, a little puzzled, "she appears to
have thought of you ever since, with a good deal of affection."
"Is it wicked," asked Ida, after a pause, "not to like those who like
"What makes you ask?"
"Because, somehow or other, I don't like this Mrs. Hardwick, at all, for
all she was my old nurse, and I don't believe I ever shall."
"Oh, yes, you will," said Mrs. Harding, "when you find she is exerting
herself to give you pleasure."
"Am I going with her to-morrow morning?"
"Yes. She wanted you to go to-day, but your clothes were not in order."
"We shall come back at night, shan't we?"
"I presume so."
"I hope we shall," said Ida, decidedly, "and that she won't want me to
go with her again."
"Perhaps you will feel differently when it is over, and you find you
have enjoyed yourself better than you anticipated."
Mrs. Harding exerted herself to fit Ida up as neatly as possible, and
when at length she was got ready, she thought with sudden fear: "Perhaps
her mother will not be willing to part with her again."
When Ida was ready to start, there came upon all a little shadow of
depression, as if the child were to be separated from them for a year,
and not for a day only. Perhaps this was only natural, since even this
latter term, however brief, was longer than they had been parted from
her since, in her infancy, she had been left at their door.
The nurse expressly desired that none of the family should accompany
her, as she declared it highly important that the whereabouts of Ida's
mother should not be known.
"Of course," she added, "after Ida returns she can tell you what she
pleases. Then it will be of no consequence, for her mother will be gone.
She does not live in this neighborhood. She has only come here to see
"Shall you bring her back to-night?" asked Mrs. Harding.
"I may keep her till to-morrow," said the nurse. "After seven years'
absence her mother will think that short enough."
To this, Mrs. Harding agreed, though she felt that she should miss Ida,
though absent but twenty-four hours.
The nurse walked as far as Broadway, holding Ida by the hand.
"Where are we going?" asked the child, timidly. "Are you going to walk
all the way?"
"No," said the nurse; "not all the way--perhaps a mile. You can walk as
far as that, can't you?"
They walked on till they reached the ferry at the foot of Courtland
"Did you ever ride in a steamboat?" asked the nurse, in a tone meant to
"Once or twice," answered Ida. "I went with Brother Jack once, over to
Hoboken. Are we going there now?"
"No; we are going to the city you see over the water."
"What place is it? Is it Brooklyn?"
"No; it is Jersey City."
"Oh, that will be pleasant," said Ida, forgetting, in her childish love
of novelty, the repugnance with which the nurse had inspired her.
"Yes, and that is not all; we are going still further," said the nurse.
"Are we going further?" asked Ida, in excitement. "Where are we going?"
"To a town on the line of the railroad."
"And shall we ride in the cars?" asked Ida.
"Yes; didn't you ever ride in the cars?"
"I think you will like it."
"And how long will it take us to go to the place you are going to carry
"I don't know exactly; perhaps three hours."
"Three whole hours in the cars! How much I shall have to tell father and
Jack when I get back!"
"So you will," replied Mrs. Hardwick, with an unaccountable smile--"when
you get back."
There was something peculiar in her tone, but Ida did not notice it.
She was allowed to sit next the window in the cars, and took great
pleasure in surveying the fields and villages through which they were
"Are we 'most there?" she asked, after riding about two hours.
"It won't be long," said the nurse.
"We must have come ever so many miles," said Ida.
"Yes, it is a good ways."
An hour more passed, and still there was no sign of reaching their
journey's end. Both Ida and her companion began to feel hungry.
The nurse beckoned to her side a boy, who was selling apples and cakes,
and inquired the price.
"The apples are two cents apiece, ma'am, and the cakes are one cent
Ida, who had been looking out of the window, turned suddenly round, and
exclaimed, in great astonishment: "Why, Charlie Fitts, is that you?"
"Why, Ida, where did you come from?" asked the boy, with a surprise
equaling her own.
"I'm making a little journey with this lady," said Ida.
"So you're going to Philadelphia?" said Charlie.
"To Philadelphia!" repeated Ida, surprised. "Not that I know of."
"Why, you're 'most there now."
"Are we, Mrs. Hardwick?" inquired Ida.
"It isn't far from where we're going," she answered, shortly. "Boy, I'll
take two of your apples and four cakes. And, now, you'd better go along,
for there's somebody over there that looks as if he wanted to buy
"Who is that boy?" asked the nurse, abruptly.
"His name is Charlie Fitts."
"Where did you get acquainted with him?"
"He went to school with Jack, so I used to see him sometimes."
"Yes, Brother Jack. Don't you know him?"
"Oh, yes, I forgot. So he's a schoolmate of Jack?"
"Yes, and he's a first-rate boy," said Ida, with whom the young apple
merchant was evidently a favorite. "He's good to his mother. You see,
his mother is sick most of the time, and can't work much; and he's got a
little sister--she ain't more than four or five years old--and Charlie
supports them by selling things. He's only sixteen years old; isn't he a
"Yes," said the nurse, indifferently.
"Sometime," continued Ida, "I hope I shall be able to earn something for
father and mother, so they won't be obliged to work so hard."
"What could you do?" asked the nurse, curiously.
"I don't know as I can do much yet," answered Ida, modestly; "but
perhaps when I am older I can draw pictures that people will buy."
"Have you got any of your drawings with you?"
"No, I didn't bring any."
"I wish you had. The lady we are going to see would have liked to see
some of them."
"Are we going to see a lady?"
"Yes; didn't your mother tell you?"
"Yes, I believe she said something about a lady that was interested in
"That's the one."
"And shall we come back to New York to-night?"
"No; it wouldn't leave us any time to stay."
"West Philadelphia!" announced the conductor.
"We have arrived," said the nurse. "Keep close to me. Perhaps you had
better take hold of my hand."
As they were making their way slowly through the crowd, the young apple
merchant came up with his basket on his arm.
"When are you going back, Ida?" he asked.
"Mrs. Hardwick says not till to-morrow."
"Come, Ida," said the nurse, sharply. "I can't have you stopping all day
to talk. We must hurry along."
"Good-by, Charlie," said Ida. "If you see Jack, just tell him you saw
"Yes, I will," was the reply.
"I wonder who that woman is with Ida?" thought the boy. "I don't like
her looks much. I wonder if she's any relation of Mr. Harding. She looks
about as pleasant as Aunt Rachel."
The last-mentioned lady would hardly have felt flattered at the
Ida looked about her with curiosity. There was a novel sensation in
being in a new place, particularly a city of which she had heard so much
as Philadelphia. As far back as she could remember, she had never left
New York, except for a brief excursion to Hoboken; and one Fourth of
July was made memorable by a trip to Staten Island, under the
guardianship of Jack.
They entered a horse car just outside the depot, and rode probably a
"We get out here," said the nurse. "Take care, or you'll get run over.
Now turn down here."
They entered a narrow and dirty street, with unsightly houses on each
"This ain't a very nice-looking street," said Ida.
"Why isn't it?" demanded her companion, roughly.
"Why, it's narrow, and the houses don't look nice."
"What do you think of that house there?" asked Mrs. Hardwick, pointing
to a dilapidated-looking structure on the right-hand side of the street.
"I shouldn't like to live there," answered Ida.
"You wouldn't, hey? You don't like it so well as the house you live in
in New York?"
"No, not half so well."
The nurse smiled.
"Wouldn't you like to go in, and look at the house?"
"Go in and look at the house?" repeated Ida. "Why should we?"
"You must know there are some poor families living there that I am
interested in," said Mrs. Hardwick, who appeared amused at something.
"Didn't your mother ever tell you that it is our duty to help the poor?"
"Oh, yes, but won't it be late before we get to the lady?"
"No, there's plenty of time. You needn't be afraid of that. There's a
poor man living in this house that I've made a good many clothes for,
first and last."
"He must be much obliged to you," said Ida.
"We're going up to see him now," said her companion. "Take care of that
hole in the stairs."
Somewhat to Ida's surprise, her guide, on reaching the first landing,
opened a door without the ceremony of knocking, and revealed a poor,
untidy room, in which a coarse, unshaven man was sitting, in his shirt
sleeves, smoking a pipe.
"Hello!" exclaimed this individual, jumping up. "So you've got along,
old woman! Is that the gal?"
Ida stared from one to the other in amazement.
The appearance of the man whom Mrs. Hardwick addressed so familiarly was
more picturesque than pleasing, He had a large, broad face, which, not
having been shaved for a week, looked like a wilderness of stubble. His
nose indicated habitual indulgence in alcoholic beverages. His eyes were
bloodshot, and his skin looked coarse and blotched; his coat was thrown
aside, displaying a shirt which bore evidence of having been useful in
its day and generation. The same remark may apply to his nether
integuments, which were ventilated at each knee, indicating a most
praiseworthy regard to the laws of health.
Ida thought she had never seen so disgusting a man. She continued to
gaze at him, half in astonishment, half in terror, till the object of
her attention exclaimed:
"Well, little gal, what you're lookin' at? Hain't you never seen a
Ida clung the closer to her companion, who, she was surprised to find,
did not resent the man's familiarity.
"Well, Dick, how've you got along since I've been gone?" asked the
nurse, to Ida's astonishment.
"Have you felt lonely any?"
"I've had good company."
"Who's been here?"
Dick pointed significantly to a jug.
"That's the best company I know of," he said, "but it's 'most empty. So
you've brought along the gal," he continued. "How did you get hold of
There was something in these questions which terrified Ida. It seemed to
indicate a degree of complicity between these two which boded no good to
"I'll tell you the particulars by and by."
At the same time she began to take off her bonnet.
"You ain't going to stop, are you?" asked Ida, startled.
"Ain't goin' to stop?" repeated the man called Dick. "Why shouldn't she
stop, I'd like to know? Ain't she at home?"
"At home!" echoed Ida, apprehensively, opening wide her eyes in
"Yes; ask her."
Ida looked inquiringly at Mrs. Hardwick.
"You might as well take off your things," said the latter, grimly. "We
ain't going any further to-day."
"And where's the lady you said you were going to see?"
"The one that was interested in you?"
"Well, I'm the one," she answered, with a broad smile and a glance at
"I don't want to stay here," said Ida, now frightened.
"Well, what are you going to do about it?"
"Will you take me back early to-morrow?" entreated Ida.
"No, I don't intend to take you back at all."
Ida seemed at first stupefied with astonishment and terror. Then,
actuated by a sudden, desperate impulse, she ran to the door, and had
got it partly open, when the nurse sprang forward, and seizing her by
the arm, pulled her violently back.
"Where are you going in such a hurry?" she demanded.
"Back to father and mother," answered Ida, bursting into tears. "Oh, why
did you bring me here?"
"I'll tell you why," answered Dick, jocularly. "You see, Ida, we ain't
got any little girl to love us, and so we got you."
"But I don't love you, and I never shall," said Ida, indignantly.
"Now don't you go to saying that," said Dick. "You'll break my heart,
you naughty girl, and then Peg will be a widow."
To give due effect to this pathetic speech, Dick drew out a tattered red
handkerchief, and made a great demonstration of wiping his eyes.
The whole scene was so ludicrous that Ida, despite her fears and
disgust, could not help laughing hysterically. She recovered herself
instantly, and said imploringly: "Oh, do let me go, and father will pay
"You really think he would?" said Dick, in a tantalizing tone.
"Oh, yes; and you'll tell her to take me back, won't you?"
"No, he won't tell me any such thing," said Peg, gruffly; "so you may as
well give up all thoughts of that first as last. You're going to stay
here; so take off that bonnet of yours, and say no more about it."
Ida made no motion toward obeying this mandate.
"Then I'll do it for you," said Peg.
She roughly untied the bonnet--Ida struggling vainly in opposition--and
taking this, with the shawl, carried them to a closet, in which she
placed them, and then, locking the door, deliberately put the key in her
"There," said she, grimly, "I guess you're safe for the present."
"Ain't you ever going to carry me back?"
"Some years hence I may possibly," answered the woman, coolly. "We want
you here for the present. Besides, you're not sure that they want you
"Not want me back again?"
"That's what I said. How do you know but your father and mother sent you
off on purpose? They've been troubled with you long enough, and now
they've bound you apprentice to me till you're eighteen."
"It's a lie!" said Ida, firmly. "They didn't send me off, and you're a
wicked woman to tell me so."
"Hoity-toity!" said the woman. "Is that the way you dare to speak to me?
Have you anything more to say before I whip you?"
"Yes," answered Ida, goaded to desperation. "I shall complain of you to
the police, just as soon as I get a chance, and they will put you in
jail and send me home. That is what I will do."
Mrs. Hardwick was incensed, and somewhat startled at these defiant
words. It was clear that Ida was not going to be a meek, submissive
child, whom they might ill-treat without apprehension. She was decidedly
dangerous, and her insubordination must be nipped in the bud. She seized
Ida roughly by the arm, and striding with her to the closet already
spoken of, unlocked it, and, rudely pushing her in, locked the door
"Stay there till you know how to behave," she said.
"How did you manage to come it over her family?" inquired Dick.
His wife gave substantially the account with which the reader is already
"Pretty well done, old woman!" exclaimed Dick, approvingly. "I always
said you was a deep un. I always says, if Peg can't find out how a thing
is to be done, then it can't be done, nohow."
"How about the counterfeit coin?" she asked.
"We're to be supplied with all we can put off, and we are to have half
for our trouble."
"That is good. When the girl, Ida, gets a little tamed down, we'll give
her something to do."
"Is it safe? Won't she betray us?"
"We'll manage that, or at least I will. I'll work on her fears, so she
won't any more dare to say a word about us than to cut her own head
"All right, Peg. I can trust you to do what's right."
Ida sank down on the floor of the closet into which she had been thrust.
Utter darkness was around her, and a darkness as black seemed to hang
over all her prospects of future happiness. She had been snatched in a
moment from parents, or those whom she regarded as such, and from a
comfortable and happy, though humble home, to this dismal place. In
place of the kindness and indulgence to which she had been accustomed,
she was now treated with harshness and cruelty.
"It doesn't, somehow, seem natural," said the cooper, as he took his
seat at the tea table, "to sit down without Ida. It seems as if half the
family were gone."
"Just what I've said to myself twenty times to-day," remarked his wife.
"Nobody can tell how much a child is to them till they lose it."
"Not lose it," corrected Jack.
"I didn't mean to say that."
"When you used that word, mother, it made me feel just as if Ida wasn't
"I don't know why it is," said Mrs. Harding, thoughtfully, "but I've had
that same feeling several times today. I've felt just as if something or
other would happen to prevent Ida's coming back."
"That is only because she's never been away before," said the cooper,
cheerfully. "It isn't best to borrow trouble, Martha; we shall have
enough of it without."
"You never said a truer word, brother," said Rachel, mournfully. "Man is
born to trouble as the sparks fly upward. This world is a vale of tears,
and a home of misery. Folks may try and try to be happy, but that isn't
what they're sent here for."
"You never tried very hard, Aunt Rachel," said Jack.
"It's my fate to be misjudged," said his aunt, with the air of a martyr.
"I don't agree with you in your ideas about life, Rachel," said her
brother. "Just as there are more pleasant than stormy days, so I believe
there is much more of brightness than shadow in this life of ours, if we
would only see it."
"I can't see it," said Rachel.
"It seems to me, Rachel, you take more pains to look at the clouds than
"Yes," chimed in Jack, "I've noticed whenever Aunt Rachel takes up the
newspaper, she always looks first at the deaths, and next at the fatal
accidents and steamboat explosions."
"If," retorted Rachel, with severe emphasis, "you should ever be on
board a steamboat when it exploded, you wouldn't find much to laugh at."
"Yes, I should," said Jack, "I should laugh--"
"What!" exclaimed Rachel, horrified.
"On the other side of my mouth," concluded Jack. "You didn't wait till
I'd finished the sentence."
"I don't think it proper to make light of such serious matters."
"Nor I Aunt Rachel," said Jack, drawing down the corners of his mouth.
"I am willing to confess that this is a serious matter. I should feel as
they say the cow did, that was thrown three hundred feet up into the
"How's that?" inquired his mother.
"Rather discouraged," answered Jack.
All laughed except Aunt Rachel, who preserved the same severe composure,
and continued to eat the pie upon her plate with the air of one gulping
In the morning all felt more cheerful.
"Ida will be home to-night," said Mrs. Harding, brightly. "What an age
it seems since she went away! Who'd think it was only twenty-four
"We shall know better how to appreciate her when we get her back," said
"What time do you expect her home, mother? What did Mrs. Hardwick say?"
"Why," said Mrs. Harding, hesitating, "she didn't say as to the hour;
but I guess she'll be along in the course of the afternoon."
"If we only knew where she had gone, we could tell better when to expect
"But as we don't know," said the cooper, "we must wait patiently till
"I guess," said Mrs. Harding, with the impulse of a notable housewife,
"I'll make some apple turnovers for supper to-night. There's nothing Ida
likes so well."
"That's where Ida is right," said Jack, smacking his lips. "Apple
turnovers are splendid."
"They are very unwholesome," remarked Rachel.
"I shouldn't think so from the way you eat them, Aunt Rachel," retorted
Jack. "You ate four the last time we had them for supper."
"I didn't think you'd begrudge me the little I eat," said his aunt,
dolefully. "I didn't think you counted the mouthfuls I took."
"Come, Rachel, don't be so unreasonable," said her brother. "Nobody
begrudges you what you eat, even if you choose to eat twice as much as
you do. I dare say Jack ate more of the turnovers than you did."
"I ate six," said Jack, candidly.
Rachel, construing this into an apology, said no more.
"If it wasn't for you, Aunt Rachel, I should be in danger of getting too
jolly, perhaps, and spilling over. It always makes me sober to look at
"It's lucky there's something to make you sober and stiddy," said his
aunt. "You are too frivolous."
Evening came, but it did not bring Ida. An indefinable sense of
apprehension oppressed the minds of all. Martha feared that Ida's
mother, finding her so attractive, could not resist the temptation of
"I suppose," she said, "that she has the best claim to her, but it would
be a terrible thing for us to part with her."
"Don't let us trouble ourselves about that," said Timothy. "It seems to
me very natural that her mother should keep her a little longer than she
intended. Think how long it is since she saw her. Besides, it is not too
late for her to return to-night."
At length there came a knock at the door.
"I guess that is Ida," said Mrs. Harding, joyfully.
Jack seized a candle, and hastening to the door, threw it open. But
there was no Ida there. In her place stood Charlie Fitts, the boy who
had met Ida in the cars.
"How are you, Charlie?" said Jack, trying not to look disappointed.
"Come in and tell us all the news."
"Well," said Charlie, "I don't know of any. I suppose Ida has got home?"
"No," answered Jack; "we expected her to-night, but she hasn't come
"She told me she expected to come back to-day."
"What! have you seen her?" exclaimed all, in chorus.
"Yes; I saw her yesterday noon."
"Why, in the cars," answered Charlie.
"What cars?" asked the cooper.
"Why, the Philadelphia cars. Of course you knew it was there she was
"Philadelphia!" exclaimed all, in surprise.
"Yes, the cars were almost there when I saw her. Who was that with her?"
"Mrs. Hardwick, her old nurse."
"I didn't like her looks."
"That's where we paddle in the same canoe," said Jack.
"She didn't seem to want me to speak to Ida," continued Charlie, "but
hurried her off as quick as possible."
"There were reasons for that," said the cooper. "She wanted to keep her
"I don't know what it was," said the boy, "but I don't like the woman's
HOW IDA FARED
We left Ida confined in a dark closet, with Peg standing guard over her.
After an hour she was released.
"Well," said the nurse, grimly, "how do you feel now?"
"I want to go home," sobbed the child.
"You are at home," said the woman.
"Shall I never see father, and mother, and Jack again?"
"That depends on how you behave yourself."
"Oh, if you will only let me go," pleaded Ida, gathering hope from this
remark, "I'll do anything you say."
"Do you mean this, or do you only say it for the sake of getting away?"
"I mean just what I say. Dear, good Mrs. Hardwick, tell me what to do,
and I will obey you cheerfully."
"Very well," said Peg, "only you needn't try to come it over me by
calling me dear, good Mrs. Hardwick. In the first place, you don't care
a cent about me; in the second place, I am not good; and finally, my
name isn't Mrs. Hardwick, except in New York."
"What is it, then?" asked Ida.
"It's just Peg, no more and no less. You may call me Aunt Peg."
"I would rather call you Mrs. Hardwick."
"Then you'll have a good many years to call me so. You'd better do as I
tell you, if you want any favors. Now what do you say?"
"Yes, Aunt Peg," said Ida, with a strong effort to conceal her
"That's well. Now you're not to tell anybody that you came from New
York. That is very important; and you're to pay your board by doing
whatever I tell you."
"If it isn't wicked."
"Do you suppose I would ask you to do anything wicked?" demanded Peg,
"You said you wasn't good," mildly suggested Ida.
"I'm good enough to take care of you. Well, what do you say to that?
"There's another thing. You ain't to try to run away."
Ida hung down her head.
"Ha!" exclaimed Peg. "So you've been thinking of it, have you?"
"Yes," answered Ida, boldly, after a moment's hesitation. "I did think I
should if I got a good chance."
"Humph!" said the woman, "I see we must understand one another. Unless
you promise this, back you go into the dark closet, and I shall keep you
Ida shuddered at this fearful threat--terrible to a child of but eight
"Do you promise?"
"Yes," said Ida, faintly.
"For fear you might be tempted to break your promise, I have something
to show you."
Mrs. Hardwick went to the closet, and took down a large pistol.
"There," she said, "do you see that?"
"Yes, Aunt Peg."
"Do you know what it is for?"
"To shoot people with," answered the child.
"Yes," said the nurse; "I see you understand. Well, now, do you know
what I would do if you should tell anybody where you came from, or
attempt to run away? Can you guess, now?"
"Would you shoot me?" asked Ida, terror-stricken.
"Yes, I would," said Peg, with fierce emphasis. "That's just what I'd
do. And what's more even if you got away, and got back to your family in
New York, I would follow you, and shoot you dead in the street."
"You wouldn't be so wicked!" exclaimed Ida.
"Wouldn't I, though?" repeated Peg, significantly. "If you don't believe
I would, just try it. Do you think you would like to try it?" she asked,
"No," answered Ida, with a shudder.
"Well, that's the most sensible thing you've said yet. Now that you are
a little more reasonable, I'll tell you what I am going to do with you."
Ida looked eagerly up into her face.
"I am going to keep you with me for a year. I want the services of a