“You must know there are some poor families living there that I am interested in,” said Mrs. Hardwick, who appeared amused at something. “Didn’t your mother ever tell you that it is our duty to help the poor?”
“Oh, yes, but won’t it be late before we get to the lady?”
“No, there’s plenty of time. You needn’t be afraid of that. There’s a poor man living in this house that I’ve made a good many clothes for, first and last.”
“He must be much obliged to you,” said Ida.
“We’re going up to see him now,” said her companion. “Take care of that hole in the stairs.”
Somewhat to Ida’s surprise, her guide, on reaching the first landing, opened a 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.
“Hello!” exclaimed this individual, jumping up. “So you’ve got along, old woman! Is that the gal?”
Ida stared from one to the other in amazement.
The appearance of the man whom Mrs. Hardwick addressed so familiarly was more picturesque than pleasing, He had a large, broad face, which, not having been shaved for a week, looked like a wilderness of stubble. His nose indicated habitual indulgence in alcoholic beverages. His eyes were bloodshot, and his skin looked coarse and blotched; his coat was thrown aside, displaying a shirt which bore evidence of having been useful in its day and generation. The same remark may apply to his nether integuments, which were ventilated at each knee, indicating a most praiseworthy regard to the laws of health.
Ida thought she had never seen so disgusting a man. She continued to gaze at him, half in astonishment, half in terror, till the object of her attention exclaimed:
“Well, little gal, what you’re lookin’ at? Hain’t you never seen a gentleman before?”
Ida clung the closer to her companion, who, she was surprised to find, did not resent the man’s familiarity.
“Well, Dick, how’ve you got along since I’ve been gone?” asked the nurse, to Ida’s astonishment.
“Have you felt lonely any?”
“I’ve had good company.”
“Who’s been here?”
Dick pointed significantly to a jug.
“That’s the best company I know of,” he said, “but it’s ’most empty. So you’ve brought along the gal,” he continued. “How did you get hold of her?”
There was something in these questions which terrified Ida. It seemed to indicate a degree of complicity between these two which boded no good to her.
“I’ll tell you the particulars by and by.”
At the same time she began to take off her bonnet.
“You ain’t going to stop, are you?” asked Ida, startled.
“Ain’t goin’ to stop?” repeated the man called Dick. “Why shouldn’t she stop, I’d like to know? Ain’t she at home?”