Ida was equally attached to Jack. She learned to look to him for assistance in any plan she had formed, and he never disappointed her. Whenever he could, he would accompany her to school, holding her by the hand, and, fond as he was of rough play, nothing would induce him to leave her.
“How long have you been a nursemaid?” asked a boy older than himself, one day.
Jack’s fingers itched to get hold of his derisive questioner, but he had a duty to perform, and he contented himself with saying: “Just wait a few minutes, and I’ll let you know.”
“I dare say you will,” was the reply. “I rather think I shall have to wait till both of us are gray before that time.”
“You will not have to wait long before you are black and blue,” retorted Jack.
“Don’t mind what he says, Jack,” whispered Ida, fearing that he would leave her.
“Don’t be afraid, Ida; I won’t leave you. I’ll attend to his business another time. I guess he won’t trouble us to-morrow.”
Meanwhile the boy, emboldened by Jack’s passiveness, followed, with more abuse of the same sort. If he had been wiser, he would have seen a storm gathering in the flash of Jack’s eye; but he mistook the cause of his forbearance.
The next day, as they were going to school, Ida saw the same boy dodging round the corner with his head bound up.
“What’s the matter with him, Jack?” she asked.
“I licked him like blazes, that’s all,” said Jack, quietly. “I guess he’ll let us alone after this.”
Even after Jack left school, and got a position in a store at two dollars a week, he gave a large part of his spare time to Ida.
“Really,” said Mrs. Harding, “Jack is as careful of Ida as if he was her guardian.”
“A pretty sort of a guardian he is!” said Aunt Rachel. “Take my word for it, he’s only fit to lead her into mischief.”
“You do him injustice, Rachel. Jack is not a model boy, but he takes the best care of Ida.”
Rachel shrugged her shoulders, and sniffed significantly. It was quite evident that she did not have a very favorable opinion of her nephew.
A MYSTERIOUS VISITOR
About eleven o’clock one forenoon Mrs. Harding was in the kitchen, busily engaged in preparing the dinner, when a loud knock was heard at the front door.
“Who can it be?” said Mrs. Harding. “Aunt Rachel, there’s somebody at the door; won’t you be kind enough to see who it is?”
“People have no business to call at such an hour in the morning,” grumbled Rachel, as she laid down her knitting reluctantly, and rose from her seat. “Nobody seems to have any consideration for anybody else. But that’s the way of the world.”
Opening the outer door, she saw before her a tall woman, dressed in a gown of some dark stuff, with strongly marked, and not altogether pleasant, features.