“That’s the very thing I’ve come to Philadelphia about,” said Jack, soberly. “Ida has been carried off, and I’ve come in search of her.”
“Been carried off? I didn’t know such things ever happened in this country. What do you mean?”
Jack told the story of Mrs. Hardwick’s arrival with a letter from Ida’s mother, conveying the request that her child might, under the guidance of the messenger, be allowed to pay her a visit. To this and the subsequent details Abel Harding listened with earnest attention.
“So you have reason to think the child is in Philadelphia?” he said, musingly.
“Yes,” said Jack; “Ida was seen in the cars, coming here, by a boy who knew her in New York.”
“Ida?” repeated the baker. “Was that her name?”
“Yes; you knew her name, didn’t you?”
“I dare say I have known it, but I have heard so little of your family lately that I had forgotten it. It is rather a singular circumstance.”
“What is a singular circumstance?”
“I will tell you, Jack. It may not amount to anything, however. A few days since a little girl came into my shop to buy a small amount of bread. I was at once favorably impressed with her appearance. She was neatly dressed, and had a very honest face. Having made the purchase she handed me in payment a new dollar bill. ’I’ll keep that for my little girl,’ thought I at once. Accordingly, when I went home at night, I just took the dollar out of, the till and gave it to her. Of course, she was delighted with it, and, like a child, wanted to spend it at once. So her mother agreed to go out with her the next day. Well, they selected some knick-knack or other, but when they came to pay for it the dollar proved counterfeit.”
“Yes; bad. Issued by a gang of counterfeiters. When they told me of this, I said to myself, ’Can it be that this little girl knew what she was about when she offered me that?’ I couldn’t think it possible, but decided to wait till she came again.”
“Did she come again?”
“Yes; only day before yesterday. As I expected, she offered me in payment another dollar just like the other. Before letting her know that I had discovered the imposition I asked her one or two questions with the idea of finding out as much as possible about her. When I told her the bill was a bad one, she seemed very much surprised. It might have been all acting, but I didn’t think so then. I even felt pity for her, and let her go on condition that she would bring me back a good dollar in place of the bad one the next day. I suppose I was a fool for doing so, but she looked so pretty and innocent that I couldn’t make up my mind to speak or act harshly to her. But I am afraid that I was deceived, and that she was an artful character after all.”
“Then she didn’t come back with the good money?”
“No; I haven’t seen her since.”