“What do you know about the child’s mother?” demanded Somerville, hastily.
“All about her!” said Peg, emphatically.
“How am I to credit that? It is easy to claim a knowledge you do not possess.”
“Shall I tell you the whole story, then? In the first place, she married your cousin, after rejecting you. You never forgave her for this. When, a year after marriage, her husband died, you renewed your proposals. They were rejected, and you were forbidden to renew the subject on pain of forfeiting her friendship forever. You left her presence, determined to be revenged. With this object you sought Dick and myself, and employed us to kidnap the child. There is the whole story, briefly told.”
“Woman, how came this within your knowledge?” he demanded, hoarsely.
“That is of no consequence,” said Peg. “It was for my interest to find out, and I did so.”
“I know one thing more—the residence of the child’s mother. I hesitated this morning whether to come here, or to carry Ida to her mother, trusting to her to repay from gratitude what I demand from you because it is for your interest to comply with my request.”
“You speak of carrying the child to her mother. How can you do that when she is in New York?”
“You are mistaken,” said Peg, coolly. “She is in Philadelphia.”
John Somerville paced the room with hurried steps. Peg felt that she had succeeded.
He paused after a while, and stood before her.
“You demand a thousand dollars,” he said.
“I have not that amount with me. I have recently lost a heavy sum, no matter how. But I can probably get it to-day. Call to-morrow at this time—no, in the afternoon, and I will see what I can do for you.”
“Very well,” said the woman, well satisfied.
Left to himself, John Somerville spent some time in reflection. Difficulties encompassed him—difficulties from which he found it hard to find a way of escape. He knew how difficult it would be to meet this woman’s demand. Gradually his countenance lightened. He had decided what that something should be.
When Peg left John Somerville’s apartments, it was with a high degree of satisfaction at the result of the interview. All had turned out as she wished. She looked upon the thousand dollars as already hers. The considerations which she had urged would, she was sure, induce him to make every effort to secure her silence.
Then, with a thousand dollars, what might not be done? She would withdraw from the business, for one thing. It was too hazardous. Why might not Dick and she retire to the country, lease a country inn, and live an honest life hereafter? There were times when she grew tired of the life she lived at present. It would be pleasant to go to some place where they were not known, and enroll themselves among the respectable members of the community. She was growing old; she wanted rest and a quiet home. Her early years had been passed in the country. She remembered still the green fields in which she played as a child, and to this woman, old and sin-stained, there came a yearning to have that life return.