“It’s a lie!” said Ida, firmly. “They didn’t send me off, and you’re a wicked woman to tell me so.”
“Hoity-toity!” said the woman. “Is that the way you dare to speak to me? Have you anything more to say before I whip you?”
“Yes,” answered Ida, goaded to desperation. “I shall complain of you to the police, just as soon as I get a chance, and they will put you in jail and send me home. That is what I will do.”
Mrs. Hardwick was incensed, and somewhat startled at these defiant words. It was clear that Ida was not going to be a meek, submissive child, whom they might ill-treat without apprehension. She was decidedly dangerous, and her insubordination must be nipped in the bud. She seized Ida roughly by the arm, and striding with her to the closet already spoken of, unlocked it, and, rudely pushing her in, locked the door after her.
“Stay there till you know how to behave,” she said.
“How did you manage to come it over her family?” inquired Dick.
His wife gave substantially the account with which the reader is already familiar.
“Pretty well done, old woman!” exclaimed Dick, approvingly. “I always said you was a deep un. I always says, if Peg can’t find out how a thing is to be done, then it can’t be done, nohow.”
“How about the counterfeit coin?” she asked.
“We’re to be supplied with all we can put off, and we are to have half for our trouble.”
“That is good. When the girl, Ida, gets a little tamed down, we’ll give her something to do.”
“Is it safe? Won’t she betray us?”
“We’ll manage that, or at least I will. I’ll work on her fears, so she won’t any more dare to say a word about us than to cut her own head off.”
“All right, Peg. I can trust you to do what’s right.”
Ida sank down on the floor of the closet into which she had been thrust. Utter darkness was around her, and a darkness as black seemed to hang over all her prospects of future happiness. She had been snatched in a moment from parents, or those whom she regarded as such, and from a comfortable and happy, though humble home, to this dismal place. In place of the kindness and indulgence to which she had been accustomed, she was now treated with harshness and cruelty.
“It doesn’t, somehow, seem natural,” said the cooper, as he took his seat at the tea table, “to sit down without Ida. It seems as if half the family were gone.”
“Just what I’ve said to myself twenty times to-day,” remarked his wife. “Nobody can tell how much a child is to them till they lose it.”
“Not lose it,” corrected Jack.
“I didn’t mean to say that.”
“When you used that word, mother, it made me feel just as if Ida wasn’t coming back.”
“I don’t know why it is,” said Mrs. Harding, thoughtfully, “but I’ve had that same feeling several times today. I’ve felt just as if something or other would happen to prevent Ida’s coming back.”