Chapter XIII. Bad Coin.
 

The baker introduced to the reader's notice in the last chapter was named Crump. Singularly enough Abel Crump, for this was his name, was a brother of Timothy Crump, 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 Crump had married, and had one child, now about the size of Ida, that is, nine years old. She had received the name of Ellen.

When the baker closed his shop for the night he did not forget the silver dollar which he had received, or the disposal which he told Ida he should make of it.

He selected it carefully from the other coins, and slipped it into his vest pocket.

Ellen ran to meet him as he entered the house.

"What do you think I have brought you, Ellen?" said her father, smiling.

"Do tell me quick," said the child, eagerly.

"What if I should tell you it was a silver dollar?"

"Oh, father, thank you," and Ellen ran to show it to her mother.

"You got it at the shop?" asked his wife.

"Yes," said the baker; "I received it from a little girl about the size of Ellen, and I suppose it was that gave me the idea of bringing it home to her."

"Was she a pretty little girl?" asked Ellen, interested.

"Yes, she was very attractive. I could not help feeling interested in her. I hope she will come again."

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 circumstances.

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 lay it away, or perhaps 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 sixty-two cents. Ellen concluded to take it, and tendered the silver dollar in payment.

The shopman took it into his hand, glancing at it carelessly at first, then scrutinizing it with considerable attention.

"What is the matter?" inquired Mrs. Crump. "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 genuine."

"But you wouldn't (sic) comdemn a piece because it was new?"

"Certainly not; but the fact is, there have been lately many cases where spurious dollars have been circulated, and I suspect this is one of them. However, I can soon test it."

"I wish you, would," said Mrs. Crump. "My husband took it at his shop, and will be likely to take more unless he is placed on his guard."

The shopman retired a moment, and then reappeared.

"It is as I thought," he said. "The coin is not good."

"And can't I pass it, then?" said Ellen, disappointed.

"I am afraid not."

"Then I don't see, Ellen," said her mother, "but you will have to give up your purchase for to-day. We must tell your father of this."

Mr. Crump was exceedingly surprised at his wife's account.

"Really," he said, "I had no suspicion of this. Can it be possible that such a beautiful child could be guilty of such a crime?"

"Perhaps not," said 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 such a child should be given to wickedness. However, I shall find out before long."

"How?"

"She will undoubtedly come again some time, and if she offers me one of the same coins I shall know what to think."

Mr. Crump watched daily for the coming of Ida. He waited some days in vain. It was not the policy of Peg 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 hands.

"How much will it be?"

"Twelve cents."

Ida offered him another silver dollar.

As if to make change, he stepped from behind the counter, and managed to place himself between Ida and the door.

"What is your name, my child?" he asked.

"Ida, sir."

"Ida? A very pretty name; but what is your other name?"

Ida hesitated a moment, because Peg had forbidden her to use the name of Crump, and told her if the inquiry was ever made, she must answer Hardwick.

She answered, reluctantly, "My name is Ida Hardwick."

The baker observed the hesitation, and this increased his suspicions.

"Hardwick!" he repeated, musingly, endeavoring to draw from the child as much information as he could 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 you hand me the change as soon as you can."

"I have no doubt of it," said the baker, his manner changing; "but you cannot go just yet."

"And why not?" asked Ida, her eyes flashing.

"Because you have been trying to deceive me."

"I trying to deceive you!" exclaimed the child, in astonishment.

"Really," thought Mr. Crump, "she does it well, but no doubt they train her to it. It is perfectly shocking, such depravity in a child."

"Don't you remember buying something here a week ago?" he said, in as stern a tone as his good nature would allow him to employ.

"Yes," said Ida, promptly; "I bought two rolls at three cents a piece."

"And what did you offer me in payment?"

"I handed you a silver dollar."

"Like this?" asked Mr. Crump, holding up the coin.

"Yes, sir."

"And do you mean to say," said the baker, sternly, "that you didn't know it was bad when you handed it to me?"

"Bad!" exclaimed Ida, in great surprise.

"Yes, spurious. It wasn't worth one tenth of a dollar."

"And is this like it?"

"Precisely."

"Indeed, sir, I didn't know anything about it," said Ida, earnestly, "I hope you will believe me when I say that I thought it was good."

"I don't know what to think," said the baker, perplexed.

"I don't know whether to believe you or not," said he. "Have you any other money?"

"That is all I have got."

Of course, I can't let you have the gingerbread. Some would deliver you up into the hands of the police. However, I will let you go if you will make me one promise."

"Oh, anything, sir."

"You have given me a bad dollar. Will you promise to bring me a good one to-morrow?"

Ida made the required promise, and was allowed to go.