Chapter XXV. Ida is Found.
 

Ida was sitting alone in the dreary apartment which she was now obliged to call home. Peg had gone out, and not feeling quite certain of her prey, had bolted the door on the outside. She had left some work for the child,--some handkerchiefs to hem for Dick,--with strict orders to keep steadily at work.

While seated at work, she was aroused from thoughts of home by a knock at the, door.

"Who's there?" asked Ida.

"A friend," was the reply.

"Mrs. Hardwick--Peg isn't at home," returned Ida. "I don't know when she will be back."

"Then I will come in and wait till she comes back," said the voice outside.

"I can't open the door," said Ida. "It's fastened on the outside."

"Yes, I see. Then I will take the liberty to draw the bolt."

Mr. John Somerville entered the room, and for the first time in eight years his glance fell upon the child whom, for so long a time, he had defrauded of a mother's care and tenderness.

Ida returned to the window.

"How beautiful she is!" thought Somerville, with surprise. "She inherits all her mother's rare beauty."

On the table beside Ida was a drawing.

"Whose is this?" he inquired.

"Mine," answered Ida.

"So you have learned to draw?"

"A little," answered the child, modestly.

"Who taught you? Not the woman you live with?"

"No;" said Ida.

"You have not always lived with her, I am sure."

Ida admitted that she had not.

"You lived in New York with a family named Crump, did you not?"

"Do you know father and mother?" asked Ida, with sudden hope. "Did they send you for me?"

"I will tell you that by and by, my child; but I want to ask you a few questions first. Why does this woman Peg lock you in whenever she goes away?"

"I suppose," said Ida, "she is afraid I will run away."

"Then she knows you don't want to live with her?"

"Oh, yes, she knows that," said the child, frankly. "I have asked her to send me home, but she says she won't for a year."

"And how long have you been with her?"

"About a fortnight."

"What does she make you do?"

"I can't tell what she made me do first."

"Why not?"

"Because she would be very angry."

"Suppose I should tell you that I would deliver you from her. Would you be willing to go with me?"

"And you would carry me back to my mother and father?"

"Certainly, I would restore you to your mother," said he, evasively.

"Then I will go with you."

Ida ran quickly to get her bonnet and shawl.

"We had better go at once," said Somerville. "Peg might return, and give us trouble."

"O yes, let us go quickly," said Ida, turning pale at the remembered threats of Peg.

Neither knew yet that Peg could not return if she would; that, at this very moment, she was in legal custody on a charge of a serious nature. Still less did Ida know that, in going, she was losing the chance of seeing Jack and her mother, of whose existence, even, she was not yet aware; and that he, to whose care she consigned herself so gladly, had been her worst enemy.

"I will carry you to my room, in the first place," said her companion. "You must remain in concealment for a day or two, as Peg will, undoubtedly, be on the lookout for you, and we want to avoid all trouble."

Ida was delighted with her escape, and, with the hope of soon seeing her friends in New York, She put implicit faith in her guide, and was willing to submit to any conditions which he might impose.

On emerging into the street, her companion summoned a cab. He had reasons for not wishing to encounter any one whom he knew.

At length they reached his lodgings.

They were furnished more richly than any room Ida had yet seen; and formed, indeed, a luxurious contrast to the dark and scantily-furnished apartment which she had occupied for the last fortnight.

"Well, are you glad to get away from Peg?" asked John Somerville, giving Ida a seat at the fire.

"Oh, so glad!" said Ida.

"And you wouldn't care about going back?"

The child shuddered.

"I suppose," said she, "that Peg will be very angry. She would beat me, if she should get me back again."

"But she sha'n't. I will take good care of that."

Ida looked her gratitude. Her heart went out to those who appeared to deal kindly with her, and she felt very grateful to her companion for his instrumentality in effecting her deliverance from Peg.

"Now," said Somerville, "perhaps you will be willing to tell me what it was you were required to do."

"Yes," said Ida; "but she must never know that I told. It was to pass bad money."

"Ha!" exclaimed her companion. "Do you mean bad bills, or spurious coin?"

"It was silver dollars."

"Does she do much in that way?"

"A good deal. She goes out every day to buy things with the money."

"I am glad to learn this," said John Somerville, thoughtfully.

"Ida," said he, after a pause, "I am going out for a time. You will find books on the table, and can amuse yourself by reading; I won't make you sew, as Peg did," he said, smiling.

Ida laughed.

"Oh, yes," said she, "I like reading. I shall amuse myself very well."

Mr. Somerville went out, and Ida, as he recommended, read awhile. Then, growing tired, she went to the window and looked out. A carriage was passing slowly, on account of a press of carriages. Ida saw a face that she knew. Forgetting her bonnet in her sudden joy, she ran down the stairs, into the street, and up to the carriage window.

"O Jack!" she exclaimed; "have you come for me?"

It was Mrs. Clifton's carriage, returning from Peg's lodgings.

"Why, it's Ida!" exclaimed Jack, almost springing through the window of the carriage. "Where did you come from, and where have you been all the time?"

He opened the door of the carriage, and drew Ida in.

Till then she had not seen the lady who sat at Jack's side.

"My child, my child! Thank God, you are restored to me," exclaimed Mrs. Clifton.

She drew the astonished child to her bosom. Ida looked up into her face. Was it Nature that prompted her to return the lady's embrace?

"My God, I thank thee!" murmured Mrs. Clifton; "for this, my child, was lost and is found."

"Ida," said Jack, "this lady is your mother."

"My mother!" said the child, bewildered. "Have I two mothers?"

"Yes, but this is your real mother. You were brought to our house when you were an infant, and we have always taken care of you; but this lady is your real mother."

Ida hardly knew whether to feel glad or sorry.

"And you are not my brother?"

"You shall still consider him your brother, Ida," said Mrs. Clifton. "Heaven forbid that I should wean your heart from the friends who have cared so kindly for you! You shall keep all your old friends, and love them as dearly as ever. You will only have one friend the more."

"Where are we going?" asked Ida, suddenly.

"We are going home."

"What will the gentleman say?"

"What gentleman?"

"The one that took me away from Peg's. Why, there he is now!"

Mrs. Clifton followed the direction of Ida's finger, as she pointed to a gentleman passing.

"Is he the one?"

"Yes, mamma," said Ida, shyly.

Mrs. Clifton pressed Ida to her breast. It was the first time she had ever been called mamma. It made her realize, more fully, her present happiness.

Arrived at the house, Jack's bashfulness returned. He hung back, and hesitated about going in.

Mrs. Clifton observed this.

"Jack," said she, "this house is to be your home while you remain in Philadelphia. Come in, and Thomas shall go for your baggage."

"Perhaps I had better go with him," said Jack. "Uncle Abel will be glad to know that Ida is found."

"Very well; only return soon."

"Well!" thought Jack, as he re-entered the (sic) carraige, and gave the direction to the coachman; "won't Uncle Abel be a little surprised when he sees me coming home in such style!"