“At home!” echoed Ida, apprehensively, opening wide her eyes in astonishment.
“Yes; ask her.”
Ida looked inquiringly at Mrs. Hardwick.
“You might as well take off your things,” said the latter, grimly. “We ain’t going any further to-day.”
“And where’s the lady you said you were going to see?”
“The one that was interested in you?”
“Well, I’m the one,” she answered, with a broad smile and a glance at Dick.
“I don’t want to stay here,” said Ida, now frightened.
“Well, what are you going to do about it?”
“Will you take me back early to-morrow?” entreated Ida.
“No, I don’t intend to take you back at all.”
Ida seemed at first stupefied with astonishment and terror. Then, actuated by a sudden, desperate impulse, she ran to the door, and had got it partly open, when the nurse sprang forward, and seizing her by the arm, pulled her violently back.
“Where are you going in such a hurry?” she demanded.
“Back to father and mother,” answered Ida, bursting into tears. “Oh, why did you bring me here?”
“I’ll tell you why,” answered Dick, jocularly. “You see, Ida, we ain’t got any little girl to love us, and so we got you.”
“But I don’t love you, and I never shall,” said Ida, indignantly.
“Now don’t you go to saying that,” said Dick. “You’ll break my heart, you naughty girl, and then Peg will be a widow.”
To give due effect to this pathetic speech, Dick drew out a tattered red handkerchief, and made a great demonstration of wiping his eyes.
The whole scene was so ludicrous that Ida, despite her fears and disgust, could not help laughing hysterically. She recovered herself instantly, and said imploringly: “Oh, do let me go, and father will pay you.”
“You really think he would?” said Dick, in a tantalizing tone.
“Oh, yes; and you’ll tell her to take me back, won’t you?”
“No, he won’t tell me any such thing,” said Peg, gruffly; “so you may as well give up all thoughts of that first as last. You’re going to stay here; so take off that bonnet of yours, and say no more about it.”
Ida made no motion toward obeying this mandate.
“Then I’ll do it for you,” said Peg.
She roughly untied the bonnet—Ida struggling vainly in opposition—and taking this, with the shawl, carried them to a closet, in which she placed them, and then, locking the door, deliberately put the key in her pocket.
“There,” said she, grimly, “I guess you’re safe for the present.”
“Ain’t you ever going to carry me back?”
“Some years hence I may possibly,” answered the woman, coolly. “We want you here for the present. Besides, you’re not sure that they want you back.”
“Not want me back again?”
“That’s what I said. How do you know but your father and mother sent you off on purpose? They’ve been troubled with you long enough, and now they’ve bound you apprentice to me till you’re eighteen.”