This was all very well, but the day arrived when she was strong enough to leave the hospital and once more face that world which has been described as the best of all possible worlds, and no doubt is for those who have plenty of money and friends, but which is not far from being the worst of all possible worlds for those who have not. She took five pounds from her little store and went to the sister.
“I am rather poor,” she said, with a smile, “and I cannot afford more than this. I wish it were a hundred times as much; indeed, no money could repay your goodness and kindness to me, the wonder of which I shall never cease to feel.”
The sister looked at her keenly, but said very gently:
“You can put it in the box in the hall when you go out; but you will not go to-day. I will arrange for you to stop until to-morrow; in fact, the baby—none of us—could spare you. I want you to have some ten with me in my room to-night and a little talk, Miss Heron.”
So Ida turned away quickly, that the sister might not see her tears, and accepted the reprieve.
The Herons were not very much surprised at Ida’s flight, but though John and his wife and daughter were anything but sorry to get rid of her, they were rather uncomfortable, and Joseph, who was in the doldrums after his drinking-fit, did not make them more comfortable by assuring them that he was perfectly certain she had committed suicide.
He and his father set out to look for her, but, as Ida had left no clue behind, they could find no trace of her, though they procured the assistance of Scotland Yard, and inserted guarded advertisements in the newspapers. John Heron comforted himself with the reflection that she could have come to no harm or they would have heard of it; and at last it occurred to him, when nearly a fortnight had elapsed, that she might have returned to Herondale, probably to the care of Mr. Wordley, and that he had been too indignant to acquaint the Herons with the fact.
“I think I had better run down to Herondale, Maria, and ascertain if the erring and desperate girl has returned there,” he said, one morning after prayers. “Seeing that she left my roof in so unseemly a fashion, with no word of regret or repentance, I do not consider that she has any further claim upon me; but I have a tender heart, and on this occasion I will be generous before I am just.”
“I am sure she has no further claim upon us,” said Mrs. Heron, with a sniff, “and I hope you will make it plain, John, that on no account can we take her back. We have been put to considerable trouble and expense, and I really think that her going without any fuss is quite providential.”
At this moment there came a double knock at the door, and the servant announced that Mr. Wordley was in the drawing-room. Mr. and Mrs. Heron exchanged glances, and both of them turned rather pale; for John Heron had a very vivid recollection of Mr. Wordley’s frank and candid manner of expressing himself. But he had to be faced, and the pair went down into the drawing-room with a long-suffering expression on their faces.