“It is Ida,” said the cooper’s wife.
Ida looked from one to the other in silent bewilderment.
“Ida,” said Mrs. Harding, 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. Harding, evasively; “but I was not able to have the care of you all the time. Didn’t I ever mention Mrs. Hardwick to you?”
“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. Harding glanced with pride at the beautiful child, who blushed at the compliment, a rare one, for her adopted mother, whatever she might think, did not approve of openly praising her appearance.
“Ida,” said Mrs. Hardwick, “won’t you come and kiss your old nurse?”
Ida looked at her hard face, which now wore a smile intended to express affection. Without knowing why, she felt an instinctive repugnance to this stranger, 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 toward 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 moved quietly away, wondering what it was that made the woman so disagreeable to her.
“Is my nurse a good woman?” she asked, thoughtfully, when alone with Mrs. Harding, 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. Harding. “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,” answered 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 who 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 I ever shall.”