Chapter IX. A Journey.
 

"Oh, mother," exclaimed Ida, bounding into the room, fresh from school.

She 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 Mrs. Crump.

Ida looked from one to the other in silent bewilderment.

"Ida," said Mrs. Crump, 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. Crump, evasively, "but I was not able to have the care of you all the time. Didn't I ever mention Mrs. Hardwick to you?"

"No, mother."

"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. Crump, who, as has been said, was devotedly attached to Ida, glanced with pride at the beautiful child, who blushed at the compliment.

"Ida," said Mrs. Hardwick, "won't you come and kiss your old nurse?"

Ida looked at the hard face, which now wore a smile intended to express affection. Without knowing why, she felt an instinctive repugnance to her, 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 towards 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 walked quietly away, wondering what it was that made her dislike the woman so much.

"Is my nurse a good woman?" she asked, thoughtfully, when alone with Mrs. Crump, who was setting the table for dinner.

A good woman! What makes you ask that?" queried her adopted mother, in surprise.

"I don't know," said Ida.

"I don't know anything to indicate that she is otherwise," said Mrs. Crump. "And, by the way, Ida, she is going to take you on a little excursion, to-morrow."

"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," said 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 that like us?"

"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 ever shall."

"Oh yes, you will," said Mrs. Crump, "when you find she is exerting herself to give you pleasure."

"Am I going to-morrow morning with Mrs. Hardwick?"

"Yes. She wanted you to go to-day, but your clothes were not in order."

"We shall come back at night, sha'n'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 think differently when it is over, and you find you have enjoyed yourself better than you anticipated."

Mrs. Crump exerted herself to fit Ida up as neatly as possible, and when at length she was got ready, she thought to herself, with sudden fear, "Perhaps her mother won't be willing to part with her again."

When Ida was ready to start, there came over 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, an infant, she was 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 at once. "Of course," she said, "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 have an interview with Ida."

"Shall you bring her back to-night?" asked Mrs. Crump.

"I may keep her till to-morrow," said the nurse. "After eight years' absence, that will seem short enough."

To this, Mrs. Crump agreed, but thought that it would seem long to her, she had been so accustomed to have Ida present at meals.

The nurse walked as far as Broadway, holding Ida by the hand.

"Where are we going?" asked the child, timidly. "Are we going to walk all the way?"

"No," said the nurse, "we shall ride. There is an omnibus coming now. We will get into it."

She beckoned to the driver who stopped his horse. Ida and her companion got in.

They got out at the Jersey City ferry.

"Did you ever ride in a steamboat?" asked Mrs. Hardwick, in a tone intended to be gracious.

"Once or twice," said Ida. "I went with brother Jack once, over to Hoboken. Are we going there, now?"

"No, we are going over to the city, you can see over the water."

"What 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, her eyes sparkling. "Where are we going?"

"To a town on the line of the railroad."

"And shall we ride in the cars?" asked the child, with animation.

"Yes, didn't you ever ride in the cars before?"

"No, never."

"I think you will like it."

"Oh, I know I shall. How fast do the cars go?"

"Oh, a good many miles an hour,--maybe thirty."

"And how long will it take us to go to the place you are going to carry me to!"

"I don't know exactly,--perhaps two hours."

"Two whole hours in the cars!" exclaimed Ida. "How much I shall have to tell father and Jack when I get back."

"So you will," said Mrs. Hardwick, with an unaccountable smile, "when you get back."

There was something peculiar in her tone as she pronounced these last words, but Ida did not notice it.

So Ida, despite her company, actually enjoyed, in her bright anticipation, a keen sense of pleasure.

"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.

An hour passed. She amused herself by gazing out of the car windows at the towns which seemed to flit by. At length, both Ida and her nurse became hungry.

The nurse beckoned to her side a boy who was going through the cars selling apples and seed-cakes, and inquired their price.

"The apples are two cents apiece, ma'am, and the cakes a cent apiece."

Ida, who had been looking out of the window, turned suddenly round, and exclaimed, in great astonishment; "Why, William Fitts, is that you?"

"Why, Ida, where did you come from?" asked the boy, his surprise equalling her own.

The nurse bit her lips in vexation at this unexpected recognition.

"I'm making a little journey with her," indicating Mrs. Hardwick.

"So you're going to Philadelphia," said the boy.

"To Philadelphia!" said Ida, in surprise. "Not that I know of."

"Why, you're most there now."

"Are we, Mrs. Hardwick?" asked Ida, looking in her companion's face.

"It isn't far from there where we're going," said the nurse, shortly. "Boy, I'll take two of your apples and four seed-cakes. And now you'd better go along, for there's somebody by the stove that looks as if he wanted to buy of you."

William looked back as if he would like to question Ida farther, but her companion looked forbidding, and he passed on reluctantly.

"Who is that boy?" asked the nurse, abruptly.

"His name is William Fitts."

"Where did you get acquainted with him?"

"He went to school with Jack, so I used to see him sometimes."

"With Jack! Who's Jack?"

"What! Don't you know Jack, brother Jack?" asked Ida, in childish surprise.

"O yes," replied the nurse, recollecting herself; "I didn't think of him."

He's a first-rate boy, William is," said Ida, who was disposed to be communicative. "He's good to his mother. You see his mother is sick most of the time, and can't do much; and he's got a little sister, she ain't more than four or five years old--and William supports them by selling things. "He's only sixteen; isn't he a smart boy?"

"Yes;" said the nurse, mechanically.

"Some time," 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 could do much," said Ida, modestly; "but when I have practised more, perhaps I could draw pictures that people would buy."

"So you know how to draw?"

"Yes, I've been taking lessons for over a year."

"And how do you like it?"

"Oh, ever so much! I like it a good deal better than music."

"Do you know anything of that?"

"Yes, I can play a few easy pieces."

Mrs. Hardwick looked surprised, and regarded her young charge with curiosity.

"Have you got any of your drawings with you?" she asked.

"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 me."

"That's the one."

"Where does she live? When shall we get there?"

"We shall get there before very long."

"And shall we come back to New York to-night?"

"No, it wouldn't leave us any time to stay. Besides, I feel tired and want to rest; don't you?"

"I do feel a little tired," acknowledged Ida.

"Philadelphia!" announced the conductor, opening the car-door.

"We get out, here," said the nurse. "Keep close to me, or you may get lost. Perhaps you had better take hold of my hand."

"When are you coming back, Ida?" asked William Fitts, coming up to her with his basket on his arm.

"Mrs. Hardwick says we sha'n't go back till to-morrow."

"Come, Ida," said the nurse, sharply. "We must hurry along."

"Good-by, William," said Ida. "If you see Jack, just tell him you saw me."

"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. Crump. She looks about as pleasant as Aunt Rachel."

The last-mentioned lady would hardly have felt complimented at the comparison, or the manner in which it was made.

Ida looked about her with curiosity. There was a novelty in being in a new place, since, 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 in her recollection, by a trip to Staten Island, which she had taken with Jack, and enjoyed exceedingly.

"Is this Philadelphia?" she inquired.

"Yes;" said her companion, shortly.

"How far is it from New York?"

"I don't know; a hundred miles, more or less."

"A hundred miles!" repeated Ida, to whom this seemed an immense distance. "Am I a hundred miles from father and mother, and Jack, and--and Aunt Rachel?"

The last name was mentioned last, and rather as an after-thought, if Ida felt it her duty to include the not very amiable spinster, who had never erred in the way of indulgence.

"Why, yes, of course you are," said Mrs. Hardwick, in a practical, matter-of-fact tone. "Here, cross the street here. Take care or you'll get run over. Now turn down here."

They had now entered a narrow and dirty street, with unsightly houses on either side.

"This ain't a very nice looking street," said Ida, looking about her.

"Why isn't it?" demanded the nurse, looking displeased.

"Why, it's narrow, and the houses don't look nice."

"What do you think of that house, there?" asked Mrs. Hardwick, pointing out a tall, brick tenement house.

"I shouldn't like to live there," said Ida, after a brief survey.

"You shouldn't! 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 up and look at the house?" she asked.

"Go up and look at it!" repeated Ida, in surprise.

"Yes, I mean to go in."

"Why, what should we do that for?"

"You see there are some poor families living there that I go to see sometimes," said Mrs. Hardwick, who appeared to be amused at something. "You know it is our duty to visit the poor."

"Yes, that's what mother says."

"There's a poor man living in the third story that I've made a good many clothes for, first and last," said the nurse, in the same peculiar tone.

"He must be very much obliged to you," said Ida, thinking that Mrs. Hardwick was a better woman than she had supposed.

"We're going up to see him, now," said the nurse. "Just take care of. that hole in the stairs. Here we are."

Somewhat to Ida's surprise, her companion opened the 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.

"Hallo!" exclaimed this individual, jumping up suddenly. "So you've got along, old woman! Is that the gal?"

Ida stared from one to the other, in unaffected amazement.