“At her mother’s request,” said the nurse.
“She wants to see her, then?”
“I wonder she didn’t think of it before,” said Rachel, sharply. “She’s good at waiting. She’s waited seven years.”
“There are circumstances that cannot be explained,” commenced the nurse.
“No, I dare say not,” said Rachel, dryly. “So you were her nurse?”
“Yes, ma’am,” answered the nurse, who did not appear to enjoy this cross-examination.
“Have you lived with Ida’s mother ever since?”
“No—yes,” stammered the stranger. “Some of the time,” she added, recovering herself.
“Umph!” grunted Rachel, darting a sharp glance at her.
“Have you a husband living?” inquired the spinster.
“Yes,” answered Mrs. Hardwick. “Have you?”
“I!” repeated Rachel, scornfully. “No, neither living nor dead. I’m thankful to say I never married. I’ve had trials enough without that. Does Ida’s mother live in the city?”
“I can’t tell you,” said the nurse.
“Humph! I don’t like mystery.”
“It isn’t any mystery,” said the visitor. “If you have any objections to make, you must make them to Ida’s mother.”
“So I will, if you’ll tell me where she lives.”
“I can’t do that.”
“Where do you live yourself?” inquired Rachel, shifting her point of attack.
“In Brooklyn,” answered Mrs. Hardwick, with some hesitation.
“What street, and number?”
“Why do you want to know?” inquired the nurse.
“You ain’t ashamed to tell, be you?”
“Why should I be?”
“I don’t know. You’d orter know better than I.”
“It wouldn’t do you any good to know,” said the nurse. “I don’t care about receiving visitors.”
“I don’t want to visit you, I am sure,” said Rachel, tossing her head.
“Then you don’t need to know where I live.”
Rachel left the room, and sought her sister-in-law.
“That woman’s an impostor,” she said. “She won’t tell where she lives. I shouldn’t be surprised if she turns out to be a thief.”
“You haven’t any reason for supposing that, Rachel.”
“Wait and see,” said Rachel. “Of course I don’t expect you to pay any attention to what I say. I haven’t any influence in this house.”
“Now, Rachel, you have no cause to say that.”
But Rachel was not to be appeased. It pleased her to be considered a martyr, and at such times there was little use in arguing with her.
PREPARING FOR A JOURNEY
Later in the day, Ida returned from school. She bounded into the room, as usual, but 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.