Part 3 out of 4
little girl for that time. If you serve me faithfully, I will then send
you back to New York."
"Will you?" asked Ida, hopefully.
"Yes, but you must mind and do what I tell you."
"Oh, yes," said Ida, joyfully.
This was so much better than she had been led to fear, that the prospect
of returning home at all, even though she had to wait a year, encouraged
"What do you want me to do?" she asked.
"You may take the broom and sweep the room."
"Yes, Aunt Peg."
"And then you may wash the dishes."
"Yes, Aunt Peg."
"And after that, I will find something else for you to do."
Mrs. Hardwick threw herself into a rocking-chair, and watched with grim
satisfaction the little handmaiden, as she moved quickly about.
"I took the right course with her," she said to herself. "She won't any
more dare to run away than to chop her hands off. She thinks I'll shoot
And the unprincipled woman chuckled to herself.
Ida heard her indistinctly, and asked, timidly:
"Did you speak, Aunt Peg?"
"No, I didn't; just attend to your work and don't mind me. Did your
mother make you work?"
"No; I went to school."
"Time you learned. I'll make a smart woman of you."
The next morning Ida was asked if she would like to go out into the
"I am going to let you do a little shopping. There are various things we
want. Go and get your hat."
"It's in the closet," said Ida.
"Oh, yes, I put it there. That was before I could trust you."
She went to the closet and returned with the child's hat and shawl. As
soon as the two were ready they emerged into the street.
"This is a little better than being shut up in the closet, isn't it?"
asked her companion.
"Oh, yes, ever so much."
"You see you'll have a very good time of it, if you do as I bid you. I
don't want to do you any harm."
So they walked along together until Peg, suddenly pausing, laid her
hands on Ida's arm, and pointing to a shop near by, said to her: "Do you
see that shop?"
"Yes," said Ida.
"I want you to go in and ask for a couple of rolls. They come to three
cents apiece. Here's some money to pay for them. It is a new dollar. You
will give this to the man that stands behind the counter, and he will
give you back ninety-four cents. Do you understand?"
"Yes," said Ida, nodding her head. "I think I do."
"And if the man asks if you have anything smaller, you will say no."
"Yes, Aunt Peg."
"I will stay just outside. I want you to go in alone, so you will learn
to manage without me."
Ida entered the shop. The baker, a pleasant-looking man, stood behind
"Well, my dear, what is it?" he asked.
"I should like a couple of rolls."
"For your mother, I suppose?" said the baker.
"No," answered Ida, "for the woman I board with."
"Ha! a dollar bill, and a new one, too," said the baker, as Ida tendered
it in payment. "I shall have to save that for my little girl."
Ida left the shop with the two rolls and the silver change.
"Did he say anything about the money?" asked Peg.
"He said he should save it for his little girl."
"Good!" said the woman. "You've done well."
The baker introduced in the foregoing chapter was named Harding.
Singularly, Abel Harding was a brother of Timothy Harding, the cooper.
In many respects he resembled his brother. He was an excellent man,
exemplary in all the relations of life, and had a good heart. He was in
very comfortable circumstances, having accumulated a little property by
diligent attention to his business. Like his brother, Abel Harding had
married, and had one child. She had received the name of Ellen.
When the baker closed his shop for the night, he did not forget the new
dollar, which he had received, or the disposal he told Ida he would make
Ellen ran to meet her father as he entered the house.
"What do you think I have brought you, Ellen?" he said, with a smile.
"Do tell me quick," said the child, eagerly.
"What if I should tell you it was a new dollar?"
"Oh, papa, thank you!" and Ellen ran to show it to her mother.
"Yes," said the baker, "I received it from a little girl about the size
of Ellen, and I suppose it was that that gave me the idea of bringing it
home to her."
This was all that passed concerning Ida at that time. The thought of her
would have passed from the baker's mind, if it had not been recalled by
Ellen, like most girls of her age, when in possession of money, could
not be easy until she had spent it. Her mother advised her to deposit it
in some savings bank; but Ellen preferred present gratification.
Accordingly, one afternoon, when walking out with her mother, she
persuaded her to go into a toy shop, and price a doll which she saw in
the window. The price was seventy-five cents. Ellen concluded to buy it,
and her mother tendered the dollar in payment.
The shopman took it in his hand, glanced at it carelessly at first, then
scrutinized it with increased attention.
"What is the matter?" inquired Mrs. Harding. "It is good, isn't it?"
"That is what I am doubtful of," was the reply.
"It is new."
"And that is against it. If it were old, it would be more likely to be
"But you wouldn't condemn a bill because it is new?"
"Certainly not; but the fact is, there have been lately many cases where
counterfeit bills have been passed, and I suspect this is one of them.
However, I can soon ascertain."
"I wish you would," said the baker's wife. "My husband took it at his
shop, and will be likely to take more unless he is put on his guard."
The shopman sent it to the bank where it was pronounced counterfeit.
Mr. Harding was much surprised at his wife's story.
"Really!" he said. "I had no suspicion of this. Can it be possible that
such a young and beautiful child could be guilty of such an offense?"
"Perhaps not," answered his wife. "She may be as innocent in the matter
as Ellen or myself."
"I hope so," said the baker; "it would be a pity that so young a child
should be given to wickedness. However, I shall find out before long."
"She will undoubtedly come again sometime."
The baker watched daily for the coming of Ida. He waited some days in
vain. It was not Peg's policy to send the child too often to the same
place, as that would increase the chances of detection.
One day, however, Ida entered the shop as before.
"Good-morning," said the baker; "what will you have to-day?"
"You may give me a sheet of gingerbread, sir."
The baker placed it in her hand.
"How much will it be?"
Ida offered him another new bill.
As if to make change, he stepped from behind the counter and placed
himself between Ida and the door.
"What is your name, my child?" he asked.
"Ida? But what is your other name?"
Ida hesitated a moment, because Peg had forbidden her to use the name of
Harding, and had told her, if ever the inquiry were made, she must
She answered reluctantly: "Ida Hardwick."
The baker observed her hesitation, and this increased his suspicion.
"Hardwick!" he repeated, musingly, endeavoring to draw from the child as
much information as possible before allowing her to perceive that he
suspected her. "And where do you live?"
Ida was a child of spirit, and did not understand why she should be
questioned so closely.
She said, with some impatience: "I am in a hurry, sir, and would like to
have the change as soon as you can."
"I have no doubt of it," said the baker, his manner suddenly changing,
"but you cannot go just yet."
"Why not?" asked Ida.
"Because you have been trying to deceive me."
"I trying to deceive you!" exclaimed Ida.
"Really," thought Mr. Harding, "she does it well; but no doubt she is
trained to it. It is perfectly shocking, such artful depravity in a
"Don't you remember buying something here a week ago?" he asked, in as
stern a tone as his good nature would allow him to employ.
"Yes," answered Ida, promptly; "I bought two rolls, at three cents
"And what did you offer me in payment?"
"I handed you a dollar bill."
"Like this?" asked the baker, holding up the one she had just offered
"And do you mean to say," demanded the baker, sternly, "that you didn't
know it was bad when you offered it to me?"
"Bad!" gasped Ida.
"Yes, spurious. Not as good as blank paper."
"Indeed, sir, I didn't know anything about it," said Ida, earnestly;
"I hope you'll believe me when I say that I thought it was good."
"I don't know what to think," said the baker, perplexed. "Who gave you
"The woman I board with."
"Of course I can't give you the gingerbread. Some men, in my place,
would deliver you up to the police. But I will let you go, if you will
make me one promise."
"Oh, I will promise anything, sir," said Ida.
"You have given me a bad dollar. Will you promise to bring me a good one
Ida made the required promise, and was allowed to go.
DOUBTS AND FEARS
"Well, what kept you so long?" asked Peg, impatiently, as Ida rejoined
her at the corner of the street. "I thought you were going to stay all
the forenoon. And Where's your gingerbread?"
"He wouldn't let me have it," answered Ida.
"And why wouldn't he let you have it?" said Peg.
"Because he said the money wasn't good."
"Stuff and nonsense! It's good enough. However, it's no matter. We'll go
"But he said the money I gave him last week wasn't good, and I promised
to bring him another to-morrow, or he wouldn't have let me go."
"Well, where are you going to get your dollar?"
"Why, won't you give it to me?" said the child.
"Catch me at such nonsense!" said Mrs. Hardwick, contemptuously. "I
ain't quite a fool. But here we are at another shop. Go in and see if
you can do any better there. Here's the money."
"Why, it's the same bill I gave you."
"What if it is?"
"I don't want to pass bad money."
"Tut! What hurt will it do?"
"It's the same as stealing."
"The man won't lose anything. He'll pass it off again."
"Somebody'll have to lose it by and by," said Ida.
"So you've taken up preaching, have you?" said Peg, sneeringly. "Maybe
you know better than I what is proper to do. It won't do for you to be
so mighty particular, and so you'll find out, if you stay with me long."
"Where did you get the dollar?" asked Ida; "and how is it you have so
many of them?"
"None of your business. You mustn't pry into the affairs of other
people. Are you going to do as I told you?" she continued, menacingly.
"I can't," answered Ida, pale but resolute.
"You can't!" repeated Peg, furiously. "Didn't you promise to do whatever
I told you?"
"Except what was wicked," interposed Ida.
"And what business have you to decide what is wicked? Come home with
Peg seized the child's hand, and walked on in sullen silence,
occasionally turning to scowl upon Ida, who had been strong enough, in
her determination to do right, to resist successfully the will of the
woman whom she had so much reason to dread.
Arrived at home, Peg walked Ida into the room by the shoulder. Dick was
lounging in a chair.
"Hillo!" said he, lazily, observing his wife's frowning face. "What's
the gal been doin', hey?"
"What's she been doing?" repeated Peg. "I should like to know what she
hasn't been doing. She's refused to go in and buy gingerbread of the
"Look here, little gal," said Dick, in a moralizing vein, "isn't this
rayther undootiful conduct on your part? Ain't it a piece of
ingratitude, when Peg and I go to the trouble of earning the money to
pay for gingerbread for you to eat, that you ain't even willin' to go in
and buy it?"
"I would just as lieve go in," said Ida, "if Peg would give me good
money to pay for it."
"That don't make any difference," said the admirable moralist. "It's
your dooty to do just as she tells you, and you'll do right. She'll take
"I can't," said the child.
"You hear her!" said Peg.
"Very improper conduct!" said Dick, shaking his head in grave reproval.
"Little gal, I'm ashamed of you. Put her in the closet, Peg."
"Come along," said Peg, harshly. "I'll show you how I deal with those
that don't obey me."
So Ida was incarcerated once more in the dark closet. Yet in the midst
of her desolation, child as she was, she was sustained and comforted by
the thought that she was suffering for doing right.
When Ida failed to return on the appointed day, the Hardings, though
disappointed, did not think it strange.
"If I were her mother," said the cooper's wife, "and had been parted
from her for so long, I should want to keep her as long as I could. Dear
heart! how pretty she is and how proud her mother must be of her!"
"It's all a delusion," said Rachel, shaking her head, solemnly. "It's
all a delusion. I don't believe she's got a mother at all. That Mrs.
Hardwick is an impostor. I know it, and told you so at the time, but you
wouldn't believe me. I never expect to set eyes on Ida again in this
The next day passed, and still no tidings of Jack's ward. Her young
guardian, though not as gloomy as Aunt Rachel, looked unusually serious.
There was a cloud of anxiety even upon the cooper's usually placid face,
and he was more silent than usual at the evening meal. At night, after
Jack and his aunt had retired, he said, anxiously: "What do you think is
the cause of Ida's prolonged absence, Martha?"
"I can't tell," said his wife, seriously. "It seems to me, if her mother
wanted to keep her longer it would be no more than right that she should
drop us a line. She must know that we would feel anxious."
"Perhaps she is so taken up with Ida that she can think of no one else."
"It may be so; but if we neither see Ida to-morrow, nor hear from her, I
shall be seriously troubled."
"Suppose she should never come back," suggested the cooper, very
"Oh, husband, don't hint at such a thing," said his wife.
"We must contemplate it as a possibility," said Timothy, gravely,
"though not, as I hope, as a probability. Ida's mother has an undoubted
right to her."
"Then it would be better if she had never been placed in our charge,"
said Martha, tearfully, "for we should not have had the pain of parting
"Not so, Martha," her husband said, seriously. "We ought to be grateful
for God's blessings, even if He suffers us to retain them but a short
time. And Ida has been a blessing to us all, I am sure. The memory of
that can't be taken from us, Martha. There's some lines I came across in
the paper to-night that express just what I've been sayin'. Let me find
The cooper put on his spectacles, and hunted slowly down the columns of
the daily paper till he came to these beautiful lines of Tennyson, which
he read aloud:
"'I hold it true, whate'er befall;
I feel it when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have loved and lost,
Than never to have loved at all.'"
"There, wife," he said, as he laid down the paper; "I don't know who
writ them lines, but I'm sure it's some one that's met with a great
sorrow and conquered it."
"They are beautiful," said his wife, after a pause; "and I dare say
you're right, Timothy; but I hope we mayn't have to learn the truth of
them by experience. After all, it isn't certain but that Ida will come
"At any rate," said her husband, "there is no doubt that it is our duty
to take every means that we can to recover Ida. Of course, if her mother
insists upon keepin' her, we can't say anything; but we ought to be sure
of that before we yield her up."
"What do you mean, Timothy?" asked Martha.
"I don't know as I ought to mention it," said the cooper. "Very likely
there isn't anything in it, and it would only make you feel more
"You have already aroused my anxiety. I should feel better if you would
"Then I will," said the cooper. "I have sometimes been tempted," he
continued, lowering his voice, "to doubt whether Ida's mother really
sent for her."
"How do you account for the letter, then?"
"I have thought--mind, it is only a guess--that Mrs. Hardwick may have
got somebody to write it for her."
"It is very singular," murmured Martha.
"What is singular?"
"Why, the very same thought has occurred to me. Somehow, I can't help
feeling a little distrustful of Mrs. Hardwick, though perhaps unjustly.
What object can she have in getting possession of the child?"
"That I can't conjecture; but I have come to one determination."
"What is that?"
"Unless we learn something of Ida within a week from the time she left
here, I shall go on to Philadelphia, or else send Jack, and endeavor to
get track of her."
AUNT RACHEL'S MISHAPS
The week slipped away, and still no tidings of Ida. The house seemed
lonely without her. Not until then did they understand how largely she
had entered into their life and thoughts. But worse even than the sense
of loss was the uncertainty as to her fate.
"It is time that we took some steps about finding Ida," the cooper said.
"I would like to go to Philadelphia myself, to make inquiries about her,
but I am just now engaged upon a job which I cannot very well leave, and
so I have concluded to send Jack."
"When shall I start?" exclaimed Jack.
"To-morrow morning," answered his father.
"What good do you think it will do," interposed Rachel, "to send a mere
boy like Jack to Philadelphia?"
"A mere boy!" repeated her nephew, indignantly.
"A boy hardly sixteen years old," continued Rachel. "Why, he'll need
somebody to take care of him. Most likely you'll have to go after him."
"What's the use of provoking a fellow so, Aunt Rachel?" said Jack. "You
know I'm 'most eighteen. Hardly sixteen! Why, I might as well say you're
hardly forty, when we all know you're fifty."
"Fifty!" ejaculated the scandalized spinster. "It's a base slander. I'm
"Maybe I'm mistaken," said Jack, carelessly. "I didn't know exactly how
old you were; I only judged from your looks."
At this point, Rachel applied a segment of a pocket handkerchief to her
eyes; but, unfortunately, owing to circumstances, the effect instead of
being pathetic, as she intended it to be, was simply ludicrous.
It so happened that a short time previous, the inkstand had been
partially spilled upon the table, through Jack's carelessness and this
handkerchief had been used to sop it up. It had been placed
inadvertently upon the window seat, where it had remained until Rachel,
who was sitting beside the window, called it into requisition. The ink
upon it was by no means dry. The consequence was, that, when Rachel
removed it from her eyes, her face was discovered to be covered with ink
in streaks mingling with the tears that were falling, for Rachel always
had a plentiful supply of tears at command.
The first intimation the luckless spinster had of her mishap was
conveyed in a stentorian laugh from Jack.
He looked intently at the dark traces of sorrow on his aunt's face--of
which she was yet unconscious--and doubling up, went off into a perfect
paroxysm of laughter.
"Jack!" said his mother, reprovingly, for she had not observed the cause
of his amusement, "it's improper for you to laugh at your aunt in such a
"Oh, I can't help it, mother. Just look at her."
Thus invited, Mrs. Harding did look, and the rueful expression of
Rachel, set off by the inky stains, was so irresistibly comical, that,
after a hard struggle, she too gave way, and followed Jack's example.
Astonished and indignant at this unexpected behavior of her
sister-in-law, Rachel burst into a fresh fit of weeping, and again had
recourse to the handkerchief.
"This is too much!" she sobbed. "I've stayed here long enough, if even
my sister-in-law, as well as my own nephew, from whom I expect nothing
better, makes me her laughingstock. Brother Timothy, I can no longer
remain in your dwelling to be laughed at; I will go to the poorhouse and
end my miserable existence as a common pauper. If I only receive
Christian burial when I leave the world, it will be all I hope or expect
from my relatives, who will be glad enough to get rid of me."
The second application of the handkerchief had so increased the effect,
that Jack found it impossible to check his laughter, while the cooper,
whose attention was now drawn to his sister's face, burst out in a
This more amazed Rachel than Martha's merriment.
"Even you, Timothy, join in ridiculing your sister!" she exclaimed,
in an "_Et tu, Brute_" tone.
"We don't mean to ridicule you, Rachel," gasped her sister-in-law, "but
we can't help laughing."
"At the prospect of my death!" uttered Rachel, in a tragic tone. "Well,
I'm a poor, forlorn creetur, I know. Even my nearest relations make
sport of me, and when I speak of dying, they shout their joy to my
"Yes," gasped Jack, nearly choking, "that's it exactly. It isn't your
death we're laughing at, but your face."
"My face!" exclaimed the insulted spinster. "One would think I was a
fright by the way you laugh at it."
"So you are!" said Jack, with a fresh burst of laughter.
"To be called a fright to my face!" shrieked Rachel, "by my own nephew!
This is too much. Timothy, I leave your house forever."
The excited maiden seized her hood; which was hanging from a nail, and
was about to leave the house when she was arrested in her progress
toward the door by the cooper, who stifled his laughter sufficiently to
say: "Before you go, Rachel, just look in the glass."
Mechanically his sister did look, and her horrified eyes rested upon a
face streaked with inky spots and lines seaming it in every direction.
In her first confusion Rachel jumped to the conclusion that she had been
suddenly stricken by the plague. Accordingly she began to wring her
hands in an excess of terror, and exclaimed in tones of piercing
"It is the fatal plague spot! I am marked for the tomb. The sands of my
life are fast running out."
This convulsed Jack afresh with merriment, so that an observer might,
not without reason, have imagined him to be in imminent danger of
"You'll kill me, Aunt Rachel! I know you will," he gasped.
"You may order my coffin, Timothy," said Rachel, in a sepulchral voice;
"I shan't live twenty-four hours. I've felt it coming on for a week
past. I forgive you for all your ill-treatment. I should like to have
some one go for the doctor, though I know I'm past help."
"I think," said the cooper, trying to look sober, "you will find the
cold-water treatment efficacious in removing the plague spots, as you
Rachel turned toward him with a puzzled look. Then, as her eyes rested
for the first time upon the handkerchief she had used, its appearance at
once suggested a clew by which she was enabled to account for her own.
Somewhat ashamed of the emotion which she had betrayed, as well as the
ridiculous figure which she had cut, she left the room abruptly, and did
not make her appearance again till the next morning.
After this little episode, the conversation turned upon Jack's
"I don't know," said his mother, "but Rachel is right. Perhaps Jack
isn't old enough, and hasn't had sufficient experience to undertake such
"Now, mother," expostulated Jack, "you ain't going to side against me,
"There is no better plan," said his father, quietly.
THE FLOWER GIRL
Henry Bowen was a young artist of moderate talent, who had abandoned the
farm on which he had labored as a boy, for the sake of pursuing his
favorite profession. He was not competent to achieve the highest
success. But he had good taste and a skillful hand, and his productions
were pleasing and popular. He had formed a connection with a publisher
of prints and engravings, who had thrown considerable work in his way.
"Have you any new commission to-day?" inquired the young artist, on the
day before Ida's discovery that she had been employed to pass off
"Yes," said the publisher, "I have thought of something which may prove
attractive. Just at present, pictures of children seem to be popular. I
should like to have you supply me with a sketch of a flower girl, with,
say, a basket of flowers in her hand. Do you comprehend my idea?"
"I believe I do," answered the artist. "Give me sufficient time, and I
hope to satisfy you."
The young artist went home, and at once set to work upon the task he had
undertaken. He had conceived that it would be an easy one, but found
himself mistaken. Whether because his fancy was not sufficiently lively,
or his mind was not in tune, he was unable to produce the effect he
desired. The faces which he successively outlined were all stiff, and
though beautiful in feature, lacked the great charm of being expressive
"What is the matter with me?" he exclaimed, impatiently. "Is it
impossible for me to succeed? It's clear," he decided, "that I am not in
the vein. I will go out and take a walk, and perhaps while I am in the
street something may strike me."
He accordingly donned his coat and hat, and emerged into the great
thoroughfare, where he was soon lost in the throng. It was only natural
that, as he walked, with his task uppermost in his thoughts, he should
scrutinize carefully the faces of such young girls as he met.
"Perhaps," it occurred to him, "I may get a hint from some face I see.
It is strange," he mused, "how few there are, even in the freshness of
childhood, that can be called models of beauty. That child, for example,
has beautiful eyes, but a badly cut mouth. Here is one that would be
pretty, if the face were rounded out; and here is a child--Heaven help
it!--that was designed to be beautiful, but want and unfavorable
circumstances have pinched and cramped it."
It was at this point in the artist's soliloquy that, in turning the
corner of a street, he came upon Peg and Ida.
The artist looked earnestly at the child's face, and his own lighted up
with sudden pleasure, as one who stumbles upon success just as he had
begun to despair of it.
"The very face I have been looking for!" he exclaimed to himself. "My
flower girl is found at last."
He turned round, and followed Ida and her companion. Both stopped at a
shop window to examine some articles which were on exhibition there.
"It is precisely the face I want," he murmured. "Nothing could be more
appropriate or charming. With that face the success of the picture is
The artist's inference that Peg was Ida's attendant was natural, since
the child was dressed in a style quite superior to her companion. Peg
thought that this would enable her, with less risk, to pass spurious
The young man followed the strangely assorted pair to the apartments
which Peg occupied. From the conversation which he overheard he learned
that he had been mistaken in his supposition as to the relation between
the two, and that, singular as it seemed, Peg had the guardianship of
the child. This made his course clearer. He mounted the stairs and
knocked at the door.
"What do you want?" demanded a sharp voice.
"I should like to see you just a moment," was the reply.
Peg opened the door partially, and regarded the young man suspiciously.
"I don't know you," she said, shortly.
"I presume not," said the young man, courteously. "We have never met,
I think. I am an artist. I hope you will pardon my present intrusion."
"There is no use in your coming here," said Peg, abruptly, "and you may
as well go away. I don't want to buy any pictures. I've got plenty of
better ways to spend my money than to throw it away on such trash."
No one would have thought of doubting Peg's word, for she looked far
from being a patron of the arts.
"You have a young girl living with you, about seven or eight years old,
have you not?" inquired the artist.
Peg instantly became suspicious.
"Who told you that?" she demanded, quickly.
"No one told me. I saw her in the street."
Peg at once conceived the idea that her visitor was aware of the fact
that the child had been lured away from home; possibly he might be
acquainted with the cooper's family? or might be their emissary.
"Suppose you did see such a child on the street, what has that to do
"But I saw the child entering this house with you."
"What if you did?" demanded Peg, defiantly.
"I was about," said the artist, perceiving that he was misapprehended,
"I was about to make a proposition which may prove advantageous to both
"Eh!" said Peg, catching at the hint. "Tell me what it is and we may
come to terms."
"I must explain," said Bowen, "that I am an artist. In seeking for a
face to sketch from, I have been struck by that of your child."
"Yes, if that is her name. I will pay you five dollars if you will allow
me to copy her face."
"Well," she said, more graciously, "if that's all you want, I don't know
as I have any objections. I suppose you can copy her face here as well
"I should prefer to have her come to my studio."
"I shan't let her come," said Peg, decidedly.
"Then I will consent to your terms, and come here."
"Do you want to begin now?"
"I should like to do so."
"Come in, then. Here, Ida, I want you."
"This gentleman wants to copy your face."
Ida looked surprised.
"I am an artist," said the young man, with a reassuring smile. "I will
endeavor not to try your patience too much, or keep you too long. Do you
think you can stand still for half an hour without too much fatigue?"
He kept her in pleasant conversation, while, with a free, bold hand he
sketched the outlines of her face.
"I shall want one more sitting," he said. "I will come to-morrow at this
"Stop a minute," said Peg. "I should like the money in advance. How do I
know you will come again?"
"Certainly, if you desire it," said Henry Bowen.
"What strange fortune," he thought, "can have brought them together?
Surely there can be no relation between this sweet child and that ugly
The next day he returned and completed his sketch, which was at once
placed in the hands of the publisher, eliciting his warm approval.
JACK OBTAINS INFORMATION
Jack set out with that lightness of heart and keen sense of enjoyment
that seem natural to a young man of eighteen on his first journey.
Partly by boat, partly by cars, he traveled, till in a few hours he was
discharged, with hundreds of others, at the depot in Philadelphia.
He rejected all invitations to ride, and strode on, carpetbag in hand,
though, sooth to say, he had very little idea whether he was steering in
the right direction for his uncle's shop. By dint of diligent and
persevering inquiry he found it at last, and walking in, announced
himself to the worthy baker as his nephew Jack.
"What? Are you Jack?" exclaimed Mr. Abel Harding, pausing in his labor.
"Well, I never should have known you, that's a fact. Bless me, how
you've grown! Why, you're 'most as big as your father, ain't you?"
"Only half an inch shorter," answered Jack, complacently.
"And you're--let me see--how old are you?"
"Eighteen; that is, almost. I shall be in two months."
"Well, I'm glad to see you, Jack, though I hadn't the least idea of your
raining down so unexpectedly. How's your father and mother and your
"Father and mother are pretty well," answered Jack; "and so is Aunt
Rachel," he continued, smiling, "though she ain't so cheerful as she
"Poor Rachel!" said Abel, smiling also. "Everything goes contrary with
her. I don't suppose she's wholly to blame for it. Folks differ
constitutionally. Some are always looking on the bright side of things,
and others can never see but one side, and that's the dark one."
"You've hit it, uncle," said Jack, laughing. "Aunt Rachel always looks
as if she was attending a funeral."
"So she is, my boy," said Abel, gravely, "and a sad funeral it is."
"I don't understand you, uncle."
"The funeral of her affections--that's what I mean. Perhaps you mayn't
know that Rachel was, in early life, engaged to be married to a young
man whom she ardently loved. She was a different woman then from what
she is now. But her lover deserted her just before the wedding was to
have come off, and she's never got over the disappointment. But that
isn't what I was going to talk about. You haven't told me about your
"That's the very thing I've come to Philadelphia about," said Jack,
soberly. "Ida has been carried off, and I've come in search of her."
"Been carried off? I didn't know such things ever happened in this
country. What do you mean?"
Jack told the story of Mrs. Hardwick's arrival with a letter from Ida's
mother, conveying the request that her child might, under the guidance
of the messenger, be allowed to pay her a visit. To this and the
subsequent details Abel Harding listened with earnest attention.
"So you have reason to think the child is in Philadelphia?" he said,
"Yes," said Jack; "Ida was seen in the cars, coming here, by a boy who
knew her in New York."
"Ida?" repeated the baker. "Was that her name?"
"Yes; you knew her name, didn't you?"
"I dare say I have known it, but I have heard so little of your family
lately that I had forgotten it. It is rather a singular circumstance."
"What is a singular circumstance?"
"I will tell you, Jack. It may not amount to anything, however. A few
days since a little girl came into my shop to buy a small amount of
bread. I was at once favorably impressed with her appearance. She was
neatly dressed, and had a very honest face. Having made the purchase she
handed me in payment a new dollar bill. 'I'll keep that for my little
girl,' thought I at once. Accordingly, when I went home at night, I just
took the dollar out of, the till and gave it to her. Of course, she was
delighted with it, and, like a child, wanted to spend it at once. So her
mother agreed to go out with her the next day. Well, they selected some
knick-knack or other, but when they came to pay for it the dollar proved
"Yes; bad. Issued by a gang of counterfeiters. When they told me of
this, I said to myself, 'Can it be that this little girl knew what she
was about when she offered me that?' I couldn't think it possible, but
decided to wait till she came again."
"Did she come again?"
"Yes; only day before yesterday. As I expected, she offered me in
payment another dollar just like the other. Before letting her know that
I had discovered the imposition I asked her one or two questions with
the idea of finding out as much as possible about her. When I told her
the bill was a bad one, she seemed very much surprised. It might have
been all acting, but I didn't think so then. I even felt pity for her,
and let her go on condition that she would bring me back a good dollar
in place of the bad one the next day. I suppose I was a fool for doing
so, but she looked so pretty and innocent that I couldn't make up my
mind to speak or act harshly to her. But I am afraid that I was
deceived, and that she was an artful character after all."
"Then she didn't come back with the good money?"
"No; I haven't seen her since."
"What name did she give you?"
"Haven't I told you? It was the name that made me think of telling you.
She called herself Ida Hardwick."
"Ida Hardwick?" repeated Jack.
"Yes, Ida Hardwick. But that hasn't anything to do with your Ida, has
"Hasn't it, though?" said Jack. "Why, Mrs. Hardwick was the woman who
carried her away."
"Mrs. Hardwick--her mother?"
"No; not her mother. She said she was the woman who took care of Ida
before she was brought to us."
"Then you think this Ida Hardwick may be your missing sister?"
"That's what I don't know yet," said Jack. "If you would only describe
her, Uncle Abel, I could tell better."
"Well," said the baker, thoughtfully, "I should say this little girl was
seven or eight years old."
"Yes," said Jack, nodding; "what color were her eyes?"
"So are Ida's."
"A small mouth, with a very sweet expression, yet with something firm
and decided about it."
"And I believe her dress was a light one, with a blue ribbon round the
"Did she wear anything around her neck?"
"A brown scarf, if I remember rightly."
"That is the way Ida was dressed when she went away with Mrs. Hardwick.
I am sure it must be she. But how strange that she should come into your
"Perhaps," suggested his uncle, "this woman, representing herself as
Ida's nurse, was her mother."
"No; it can't be," said Jack, vehemently. "What, that ugly, disagreeable
woman, Ida's mother? I won't believe it. I should just as soon expect to
see strawberries growing on a thorn bush."
"You know I have not seen Mrs. Hardwick."
"No great loss," said Jack. "You wouldn't care much about seeing her
again. She is a tall, gaunt, disagreeable woman; while Ida is fair and
sweet-looking. Ida's mother, whoever she is, I am sure, is a lady in
appearance and manners, and Mrs. Hardwick is neither. Aunt Rachel was
right for once."
"What did Rachel say?"
"She said the nurse was an impostor, and declared it was only a plot to
get possession of Ida; but then, that was to be expected of Aunt
"Still it seems difficult to imagine any satisfactory motive on the part
of the woman, supposing her not to be Ida's mother."
"Mother or not," returned Jack, "she's got possession of Ida; and, from
all that you say, she is not the best person to bring her up. I am
determined to rescue Ida from this she-dragon. Will you help me, uncle?"
"You may count upon me, Jack, for all I can do."
"Then," said Jack, with energy, "we shall succeed. I feel sure of it.
'Where there's a will there's a way.'"
"I wish you success, Jack; but if the people who have got Ida are
counterfeiters, they are desperate characters, and you must proceed
"I ain't afraid of them. I'm on the warpath now, Uncle Abel, and they'd
better look out for me."
The first thing to be done by Jack was, of course, in some way to obtain
a clew to the whereabouts of Peg, or Mrs. Hardwick, to use the name by
which he knew her. No mode of proceeding likely to secure this result
occurred to him, beyond the very obvious one of keeping in the street as
much as possible, in the hope that chance might bring him face to face
with the object of his pursuit.
Following out this plan, Jack became a daily promenader in Chestnut,
Walnut and other leading thoroughfares. Jack became himself an object of
attention, on account of what appeared to be his singular behavior. It
was observed that he had no glances to spare for young ladies, but
persistently stared at the faces of all middle-aged women--a
circumstance naturally calculated to attract remark in the case of a
well-made lad like Jack.
"I am afraid," said the baker, "it will be as hard as looking for a
needle in a haystack, to find the one you seek among so many faces."
"There's nothing like trying," said Jack, courageously. "I'm not going
to give up yet a while. I'd know Ida or Mrs. Hardwick anywhere."
"You ought to write home, Jack. They will be getting anxious about you."
"I'm going to write this morning--I put it off, because I hoped to have
some news to write."
He sat down and wrote the following note:
"DEAR PARENTS: I arrived in Philadelphia right side up with care,
and am stopping at Uncle Abel's. He received me very kindly. I have
got track of Ida, though I have not found her yet. I have learned as
much as this: that this Mrs. Hardwick--who is a double-distilled
she-rascal--probably has Ida in her clutches, and has sent her on two
occasions to my uncle's. I am spending most of my time in the streets,
keeping a good lookout for her. If I do meet her, see if I don't get
Ida away from her. But it may take some time. Don't get discouraged,
therefore, but wait patiently. Whenever anything new turns up you will
receive a line from your dutiful son,
Jack had been in the city eight days when, as he was sauntering along
the street, he suddenly perceived in front of him, a shawl which struck
him as wonderfully like the one worn by Mrs. Hardwick. Not only that,
but the form of the wearer corresponded to his recollections of the
nurse. He bounded forward, and rapidly passing the suspected person,
turned suddenly and confronted the woman of whom he had been in search.
The recognition was mutual. Peg was taken aback by this unexpected
Her first impulse was to make off, but Jack's resolute expression warned
her that he was not to be trifled with.
"Mrs. Hardwick?" exclaimed Jack.
"You are right," said she, rapidly recovering her composure, "and you,
if I am not mistaken, are John Harding, the son of my worthy friends in
"Well," ejaculated Jack, internally, "she's a cool un, and no mistake."
"My name is Jack," he said, aloud.
"Did you leave all well at home?" asked Peg.
"You can't guess what I came here for?" said Jack.
"To see your sister Ida, I presume."
"Yes," answered Jack, amazed at the woman's composure.
"I thought some of you would be coming on," continued Peg, who had
already mapped out her course.
"Yes; it was only natural. What did your father and mother say to the
letter I wrote them?"
"The letter you wrote them?" exclaimed Jack.
"Certainly. You got it, didn't you?"
"I don't know what letter you mean."
"A letter, in which I wrote that Ida's mother had been so pleased with
the appearance and manners of the child, that she could not determine to
part with her."
"You don't mean to say that any such letter as that has been written?"
said Jack, incredulously.
"What? Has it not been received?" inquired Peg.
"Nothing like it. When was it written?"
"The second day after our arrival," said Peg.
"If that is the case," said Jack, not knowing what to think, "it must
have miscarried; we never received it."
"That is a pity. How anxious you all must have felt!"
"It seems as if half the family were gone. But how long does Ida's
mother mean to keep her?"
"Perhaps six months."
"But," said Jack, his suspicions returning, "I have been told that Ida
has twice called at a baker's shop in this city, and when asked what her
name was, answered, Ida Hardwick. You don't mean to say that you pretend
to be her mother."
"Yes, I do," replied Peg, calmly. "I didn't mean to tell you, but as
you've found out, I won't deny it."
"It's a lie," said Jack. "She isn't your daughter."
"Young man," said Peg, with wonderful self-command, "you are exciting
yourself to no purpose. You asked me if I pretended to be her mother.
I do pretend, but I admit frankly that it is all pretense."
"I don't understand what you mean," said Jack.
"Then I will explain to you, though you have treated me so impolitely
that I might well refuse. As I informed your father and mother in New
York, there are circumstances which stand in the way of Ida's real
mother recognizing her as her own child. Still, as she desires her
company, in order to avert suspicion and prevent embarrassing questions
being asked while she remains in Philadelphia, she is to pass as my
This explanation was tolerably plausible, and Jack was unable to gainsay
"Can I see Ida?" he asked.
To his great joy, Peg replied: "I don't think there can be any
objection. I am going to the house now. Will you come with me now, or
appoint some other time."
"Now, by all means," said Jack, eagerly. "Nothing shall stand in the way
of my seeing Ida."
A grim smile passed over Peg's face.
"Follow me, then," she said. "I have no doubt Ida will be delighted to
"I suppose," said Jack, with a pang, "that she is so taken up with her
new friends that she has nearly forgotten her old friends in New York."
"If she had," answered Peg, "she would not deserve to have friends at
all. She is quite happy here, but she will be very glad to return to New
York to those who have been so kind to her."
"Really," thought Jack, "I don't know what to make of this Mrs.
Hardwick. She talks fair enough, though looks are against her. Perhaps I
have misjudged her."
CAUGHT IN A TRAP
Jack and his guide paused in front of a large three-story brick
building. The woman rang the bell. An untidy servant girl made her
Mrs. Hardwick spoke to the servant in so low a voice that Jack couldn't
hear what she said.
"Certainly, mum," answered the servant, and led the way upstairs to a
back room on the third floor.
"Go in and take a seat," she said to Jack. "I will send Ida to you
"All right," said Jack, in a tone of satisfaction.
Peg went out, closing the door after her. She, at the same time, softly
slipped a bolt which had been placed upon the outside. Then hastening
downstairs she found the proprietor of the house, a little old man with
a shrewd, twinkling eye, and a long, aquiline nose.
"I have brought you a boarder," she said.
"Who is it?"
"A lad, who is likely to interfere in our plans. You may keep him in
confinement for the present."
"Very good. Is he likely to make a fuss?"
"I should think it very likely. He is high-spirited and impetuous, but
you know how to manage him."
"Oh, yes," nodded the old man.
"You can think of some pretext for keeping him."
"Suppose I tell him he's in a madhouse?" said the old man, laughing, and
thereby showing some yellow fangs, which by no means improved his
"Just the thing! It'll frighten him."
There was a little further conversation in a low tone, and then Peg went
"Fairly trapped, my young bird!" she thought to herself. "I think that
will put a stop to your troublesome appearance for the present."
Meanwhile Jack, wholly unsuspicious that any trick had been played upon
him, seated himself in a rocking-chair and waited impatiently for the
coming of Ida, whom he was resolved to carry back to New York.
Impelled by a natural curiosity, he examined attentively the room in
which he was seated. There was a plain carpet on the floor, and the
other furniture was that of an ordinary bed chamber. The most
conspicuous ornament was a large full-length portrait against the side
of the wall. It represented an unknown man, not particularly striking in
his appearance. There was, besides, a small table with two or three
books upon it.
Jack waited patiently for twenty minutes.
"Perhaps Ida may be out," he reflected. "Still, even if she is, Mrs.
Hardwick ought to come and let me know. It's dull work staying here
Another fifteen minutes passed, and still no Ida appeared.
"This is rather singular," thought Jack. "She can't have told Ida I am
here, or I am sure she would rush up at once to see her brother Jack."
At length, tired of waiting, Jack walked to the door and attempted to
There was a greater resistance than he anticipated.
"Good heavens!" thought Jack, in consternation, as the real state of the
case flashed upon him, "is it possible that I am locked in?"
He employed all his strength, but the door still resisted. He could no
longer doubt that it was locked.
He rushed to the windows. They were two in number, and looked out upon a
yard in the rear of the house. There was no hope of drawing the
attention of passersby to his situation.
Confounded by this discovery, Jack sank into his chair in no very
enviable state of mind.
"Well," thought he, "this is a pretty situation for me to be in. I
wonder what father would say if he knew that I had managed to get locked
up like this? I am ashamed to think I let that treacherous woman, Mrs.
Hardwick, lead me so quietly into a snare. Aunt Rachel was about right
when she said I wasn't fit to come alone. I hope she'll never find out
about this adventure of mine. If she did, I should never hear the last
Time passed. Every hour seemed to poor Jack to contain at least double
the number of minutes. Moreover, he was getting hungry.
A horrible suspicion flashed across his mind.
"The wretches can't mean to starve me, can they?" he asked himself.
Despite his constitutional courage he could not help shuddering at the
He was unexpectedly answered by the opening of the door, and the
appearance of the old man.
"Are you getting hungry, my dear sir?" he inquired, with a disagreeable
smile upon his features.
"Why am I confined here?" demanded Jack, angrily.
"Why are you confined? Really, one would think you didn't find your
"I am so far from finding them agreeable, that I insist upon leaving
them immediately," returned Jack.
"Then all you have got to do is to walk through that door."
"You have locked it."
"Why, so I have," said the old man, with a leer.
"I insist upon your opening it."
"I shall do so when I get ready to go out, myself."
"I shall go with you."
"I think not."
"Who's to prevent me?" said Jack, defiantly.
"Who's to prevent you?"
"Yes; you'd better not attempt it. I should be sorry to hurt you, but I
mean to go out. If you attempt to stop me, you must take the
"I am afraid you are a violent young man. But I've got a man who is a
match for two like you."
The old man opened the door.
"Samuel, show yourself," he said.
A brawny negro, six feet in height, and evidently very powerful, came to
"If this young man attempts to escape, Samuel, what will you do?"
"Tie him hand and foot," answered the negro.
"That'll do, Samuel. Stay where you are."
He closed the door and looked triumphantly at our hero.
Jack threw himself sullenly into a chair.
"Where is the woman that brought me here?" he asked.
"Peg? Oh, she couldn't stay. She had important business to transact, my
young friend, and so she has gone. She commended you to our particular
attention, and you will be just as well treated as if she were here."
This assurance was not calculated to comfort Jack.
"How long are you going to keep me cooped up here?" he asked,
desperately, wishing to learn the worst at once.
"Really, my young friend, I couldn't say. I don't know how long it will
be before you are cured."
"Cured?" repeated Jack, puzzled.
The old man tapped his forehead.
"You're a little affected here, you know, but under my treatment I hope
soon to restore you to your friends."
"What!" ejaculated our hero, terror-stricken, "you don't mean to say you
think I'm crazy?"
"To be sure you are," said the old man, "but--"
"But I tell you it's a lie," exclaimed Jack, energetically. "Who told
"Yes, Mrs. Hardwick. She brought you here to be treated for insanity."
"It's a base lie," said Jack, hotly. "That woman is no more my aunt than
you are. She's an impostor. She carried off my sister Ida, and this is
only a plot to get rid of me. She told me she was going to take me to
The old man shrugged his shoulders.
"My young friend," he said, "she told me all about it--that you had a
delusion about some supposed sister, whom you accused her of carrying
"This is outrageous," said Jack, hotly.
"That's what all my patients say."
"And you are a mad-doctor?"
"Then you know by my looks that I am not crazy."
"Pardon me, my young friend; that doesn't follow. There is a peculiar
appearance about your eyes which I cannot mistake. There's no mistake
about it, my good sir. Your mind has gone astray, but if you'll be
quiet, and won't excite yourself, you'll soon be well."
"Well, two or three months."
"Two or three months! You don't mean to say you want to confine me here
two or three months?"
"I hope I can release you sooner."
"You can't understand your business very well, or you would see at once
that I am not insane."
"That's what all my patients say. They won't any of them own that their
minds are affected."
"Will you supply me with some writing materials?"
"Yes; Samuel shall bring them here."
"I suppose you will excuse my suggesting also that it is dinner time?"
"He shall bring you some dinner at the same time."
The old man retired, but in fifteen minutes a plate of meat and
vegetables was brought to the room.
"I'll bring the pen and ink afterward," said the negro.
In spite of his extraordinary situation and uncertain prospects, Jack
ate with his usual appetite.
Then he penned a letter to his uncle, briefly detailing the circumstances
of his present situation.
"I am afraid," the letter concluded, "that while I am shut up here, Mrs.
Hardwick will carry Ida out of the city, where it will be more difficult
for us to get on her track. She is evidently a dangerous woman."
Two days passed and no notice was taken of the letter.
JACK BEGINS TO REALIZE HIS SITUATION
"It's very strange," thought Jack, "that Uncle Abel doesn't take any
notice of my letter."
In fact, our hero felt rather indignant, as well as surprised, and on
the next visit of Dr. Robinson, he asked: "Hasn't my uncle been here to
ask about me?"
"Yes," said the old man, unexpectedly.
"Why didn't you bring him up here to see me?"
"He just inquired how you were, and said he thought you were better off
with us than you would be at home."
Jack looked fixedly in the face of the pretended doctor, and was
convinced that he had been deceived.
"I don't believe it," he said.
"Oh! do as you like about believing it."
"I don't believe you mailed my letter to my uncle."
"Have it your own way, my young friend. Of course I can't argue with a
"Don't call me a maniac, you old humbug! You ought to be in jail for
"Ho, ho! How very amusing you are, my young friend!" said the old man.
"You'd make a first-class tragedian, you really would."
"I might do something tragic, if I had a weapon," said Jack,
significantly. "Are you going to let me out?"
"Positively, I can't part with you. You are too good company," said
Dr. Robinson, mockingly. "You'll thank me for my care of you when you
are quite cured."
"That's all rubbish," said Jack, boldly. "I'm no more crazy than you
are, and you know it. Will you answer me a question?"
"It depends on what it is," said the old man, cautiously.
"Has Mrs. Hardwick been here to ask about me?"
"Certainly. She takes a great deal of interest in you."
"Was there a little girl with her?"
"I believe so. I really don't remember."
"If she calls again, either with or without Ida, will you ask her to
come up here? I want to see her."
"Yes, I'll tell her. Now, my young friend, I must really leave you.
Business before pleasure, you know."
Jack looked about the room for something to read. He found among other
books a small volume, purporting to contain "The Adventures of Baron
It may be that the reader has never encountered a copy of this singular
book. Baron Trenck was several times imprisoned for political offenses,
and this book contains an account of the manner in which he succeeded,
after years of labor, in escaping from his dungeon.
Jack read the book with intense interest and wondered, looking about the
room, if he could not find some similar plan of escape.
THE SECRET STAIRCASE
The prospect certainly was not a bright one. The door was fast locked.
Escape from the windows seemed impracticable. This apparently exhausted
the avenues of escape that were open to the dissatisfied prisoner. But
accidentally Jack made an important discovery.
There was a full-length portrait in the room. Jack chanced to rest his
hand against it, when he must unconsciously have touched some secret
spring, for a secret door opened, dividing the picture in two parts,
and, to our hero's unbounded astonishment, he saw before him a small
spiral staircase leading down into the darkness.
"This is a queer old house!" thought Jack. "I wonder where those stairs
go to. I've a great mind to explore."
There was not much chance of detection, he reflected, as it would be
three hours before his next meal would be brought him. He left the door
open, therefore, and began slowly and cautiously to go down the
staircase. It seemed a long one, longer than was necessary to connect
two floors. Boldly Jack kept on till he reached the bottom.
"Where am I?" thought our hero. "I must be down as low as the cellar."
While this thought passed through his mind, voices suddenly struck upon
his ear. He had accustomed himself now to the darkness, and ascertained
that there was a crevice through which he could look in the direction
from which the sounds proceeded. Applying his eye, he could distinguish
a small cellar apartment, in the middle of which was a printing press,
and work was evidently going on. He could distinguish three persons. Two
were in their shirt sleeves, bending over an engraver's bench. Beside
them, and apparently superintending their work, was the old man whom
Jack knew as Dr. Robinson.
He applied his ear to the crevice, and heard these words:
"This lot is rather better than the last, Jones. We can't be too
careful, or the detectives will interfere with our business. Some of the
last lot were rather coarse."
"I know it, sir," answered the man addressed as Jones.
"There's nothing the matter with this," said the old man. "There isn't
one person in a hundred that would suspect it was not genuine."
Jack pricked up his ears.
Looking through the crevice, he ascertained that it was a bill that the
old man had in his hand.
"They're counterfeiters," he said, half audibly.
Low as the tone was, it startled Dr. Robinson.
"Ha!" said he, startled, "what's that?"
"What's what, sir?" said Jones.
"I thought I heard some one speaking."
"I didn't hear nothing, sir."
"Did you hear nothing, Ferguson?"
"I suppose I was deceived, then," said the old man.
"How many bills have you there?" he resumed.
"That's a very good day's work," said the old man, in a tone of
satisfaction. "It's a paying business."
"It pays you, sir," said Jones, grumbling.
"And it shall pay you, too, my man, never fear!"
Jack had made a great discovery. He understood now the connection
between Mrs. Hardwick and the old man whom he now knew not to be a
physician. He was at the head of a gang of counterfeiters, and she
was engaged in putting the false money into circulation.
He softly ascended the staircase, and re-entered the room he left,
closing the secret door behind him.
JACK IS DETECTED
In the course of the afternoon, Jack made another visit to the foot of
the staircase. He saw through the crevice the same two men at work, but
the old man was not with them. Ascertaining this, he ought, in prudence,
immediately to have retraced his steps, but he remained on watch for
twenty minutes. When he did return he was startled by finding the old
man seated, and waiting for him. There was a menacing expression on his
"Where have you been?" he demanded, abruptly.
"Downstairs," answered Jack.
"Ha! What did you see?"
"I may as well own up," thought Jack. "Through a crack I saw some men at
work in a basement room," he replied.
"Do you know what they were doing?"
"Counterfeiting, I should think."
"Well, is there anything wrong in that?"
"I suppose you wouldn't want to be found out," he answered.
"I didn't mean to have you make this discovery. Now there's only one
thing to be done."
"You have become possessed of an important--I may say, a dangerous
secret. You have us in your power."
"I suppose," said Jack, "you are afraid I will denounce you to the
"Well, there is a possibility of that. That class of people has a
prejudice against us, though we are only doing what everybody likes to
"Will you let me go if I keep your secret?"
"What assurance have we that you would keep your promise?"
"I would pledge my word."
"Your word!" Foley--for this was the old man's real name--snapped his
fingers. "I wouldn't give that for it. That is not sufficient."
"What will be?"
"You must become one of us."
"One of you!"
"Yes. You must make yourself liable to the same penalties, so that it
will be for your own interest to remain silent. Otherwise we can't trust
"Suppose I decline these terms?"
"Then I shall be under the painful necessity of retaining you as my
guest," said Foley, smiling disagreeably.
"What made you pretend to be a mad-doctor?"
"To put you off the track," said Foley. "You believed it, didn't you?"
"Well, what do you say?" asked Foley.
"I should like to take time to reflect upon your proposal," said Jack.
"It is of so important a character that I don't like to decide at once."
"How long do you require?"
"Two days. Suppose I join you, shall I get good pay?"
"Excellent," answered Foley. "In fact, you'll be better paid than a boy
of your age would be anywhere else."
"That's worth thinking about," said Jack, gravely. "My father is poor,
and I've got my own way to make."
"You couldn't have a better opening. You're a smart lad, and will be
sure to succeed."
"Well, I'll think of it. If I should make up my mind before the end of
two days, I will let you know."
"Very well. You can't do better."
"But there's one thing I want to ask about," said Jack, with pretended
anxiety. "It's pretty risky business, isn't it?"
"I've been in the business ten years, and they haven't got hold of me
yet," answered Foley. "All you've got to do is to be careful."
"He'll join," said Foley to himself. "He's a smart fellow, and we can
make him useful. It'll be the best way to dispose of one who might get
us into trouble."
The next day Jack had another visit from Foley. "Well," said the old
man, nodding, "have you thought over my proposal?"
"What should I have to do?" asked Jack.
"Sometimes one thing, and sometimes another. At first we might employ
you to put off some of the bills."
"That would be easy work, anyway," said Jack.
"Yes, there is nothing hard about that, except to look innocent."
"I can do that," said Jack, laughing.
"You're smart; I can tell by the looks of you."
"Do you really think so?" returned Jack, appearing flattered.
"Yes; you'll make one of our best hands."
"I suppose Mrs. Hardwick is in your employ?"
"Perhaps she is, and perhaps she isn't," said Foley, noncommittally.
"That is something you don't need to know."
"Oh, I don't care to know," said Jack, carelessly. "I only asked. I was
afraid you would set me to work down in the cellar."
"You don't know enough about the business. We need skilled workmen. You
couldn't do us any good there."
"I shouldn't like it, anyway. It must be unpleasant to be down there."
"We pay the workmen you saw good pay."
"Yes, I suppose so. When do you want me to begin?"
"I can't tell you just yet. I'll think about it."
"I hope it'll be soon, for I'm tired of staying here. By the way, that's
a capital idea about the secret staircase. Who'd ever think the portrait
concealed it?" said Jack.
As he spoke he advanced to the portrait in an easy, natural manner, and
touched the spring.
Of course it flew open. The old man also drew near.
"That was my idea," he said, in a complacent tone. "Of course we have to
keep everything as secret as possible, and I flatter myself--"
His remark came to a sudden pause. He had incautiously got between Jack
and the open door. Now our hero, who was close upon eighteen, and
strongly built, was considerably more than a match in physical strength
for Foley. He suddenly seized the old man, thrust him through the
aperture, then closed the secret door, and sprang for the door of the
The key was in the lock where Foley, whose confidence made him careless,
had left it. Turning it, he hurried downstairs, meeting no one on the
way. To open the front door and dash through it was the work of an
instant. As he descended the stairs he could hear the muffled shout of
the old man whom he had made prisoner, but this only caused him to
accelerate his speed.
Jack now directed his course as well as he could toward his uncle's
shop. One thing, however, he did not forget, and that was to note
carefully the position of the shop in which he had been confined.
"I shall want to make another visit there," he reflected.
Meantime, as may well be supposed, Abel Harding had suffered great
anxiety on account of Jack's protracted absence. Several days had
elapsed and still he was missing.
"I am afraid something has happened to Jack," he remarked to his wife on
the afternoon of Jack's escape. "I think Jack was probably rash and
imprudent, and I fear, poor boy, he may have come to harm."
"He may be confined by the parties who have taken his sister."
"It is possible that it is no worse. At all events, I don't think it
right to keep it from Timothy any longer. I've put off writing as long
as I could, hoping Jack would come back, but I don't feel as if it would
be right to hold it back any longer. I shall write this evening."
"Better wait till morning, Abel. Who knows but we may hear from Jack
before that time?"
"If we'd been going to hear we'd have heard before this," he said.
Just at that moment the door was flung open.
"Why, it's Jack!" exclaimed the baker, amazed.
"I should say it was," returned Jack. "Aunt, have you got anything to
eat? I'm 'most famished."
"Where in the name of wonder have you been, Jack?"
"I've been shut up, uncle--boarded and lodged for nothing--by some
people who liked my company better than I liked theirs. But I've just
made my escape, and here I am, well, hearty and hungry."
Jack's appetite was soon provided for. He found time between the
mouthfuls to describe the secret staircase, and his discovery of the
unlawful occupation of the man who acted as his jailer.
The baker listened with eager interest.
"Jack," said he, "you've done a good stroke of business."
"In getting away?" said Jack.
"No, in ferreting out these counterfeiters. Do you know there is a
reward of a thousand dollars offered for their apprehension?"
"You don't say so!" exclaimed Jack, laying down his knife and fork. "Do
you think I can get it?"
"You'd better try. The gang has managed matters so shrewdly that the
authorities have been unable to get any clew to their whereabouts. Can
you go to the house?"
"Yes; I took particular notice of its location."
"That's lucky. Now, if you take my advice, you'll inform the authorities
before they have time to get away."
"I'll do it!" said Jack. "Come along, uncle."
Fifteen minutes later, Jack was imparting his information to the chief
of police. It was received with visible interest and excitement.
"I will detail a squad of men to go with you," said the chief. "Go at
once. No time is to be lost."
In less than an hour from the time Jack left the haunt of the coiners,
an authoritative knock was heard at the door.
It was answered by Foley.
The old man turned pale as he set eyes on Jack and the police, and
comprehended the object of the visit.
"What do you want, gentlemen?" he asked.
"Is that the man?" asked the sergeant of Jack.
"I know him," said Foley, with a glance of hatred directed at Jack.
"He's a thief. He's been in my employ, but he's run away with fifty
dollars belonging to me."
"I don't care about stealing the kind of money you deal in," said Jack,
coolly. "It's all a lie this man tells you."
"Why do you arrest me?" said Foley. "It's an outrage. You have no right
to enter my house like this."
"What is your business?" demanded the police sergeant.
"I'm a physician."
"If you are telling the truth, no harm will be done you. Meanwhile, we
must search your house. Where is that secret staircase?"
"I'll show you," answered Jack.
He showed the way upstairs.
"How did you get out?" he asked Foley, as he touched the spring, and the
secret door flew open.
"Curse you!" exclaimed Foley, darting a look of hatred and malignity at
him. "I wish I had you in my power once more. I treated you too well."
We need not follow the police in their search. The discoveries which
they made were ample to secure the conviction of the gang who made this
house the place of their operations. To anticipate a little, we may say
that Foley was sentenced to imprisonment for a term of years, and his
subordinates to a term less prolonged. The reader will also be glad to
know that to our hero was awarded the prize of a thousand dollars which
had been offered for the apprehension of the gang of counterfeiters.
But there was another notable capture made that day.
Mrs. Hardwick was accustomed to make visits to Foley to secure false
bills, and to make settlement for what she had succeeded in passing off.
While Jack and the officers were in the house she rang the door bell.
Jack went to the door.
"How is this?" she asked.
"Oh," said Jack, "it's all right. Come in. I've gone into the business,
Mrs. Hardwick entered. No sooner was she inside than Jack closed the