But her dream was rudely broken by her encounter with the officers of the law at the house of her employer.
A PROVIDENTIAL MEETING
“By gracious, if that isn’t Ida!” exclaimed Jack, in profound surprise.
He had been sauntering along Chestnut Street, listlessly troubled by the thought that though he had given Mrs. Hardwick into custody, he was apparently no nearer the discovery of his young ward than before. What steps should he take to find her? He could not decide. In his perplexity his eyes rested suddenly upon the print of the “Flower Girl.”
“Yes,” he said, “that is Ida, fast enough. Perhaps they will know in the store where she is to be found.”
He at once entered the store.
“Can you tell me anything about the girl in that picture?” he asked, abruptly, of the nearest clerk.
“It is a fancy picture,” he said. “I think you would need a long time to find the original.”
“It has taken a long time,” said Jack. “But you are mistaken. That is a picture of my sister.”
“Of your sister!” repeated the salesman, with surprise, half incredulous.
“Yes,” persisted Jack. “She is my sister.”
“If it is your sister,” said the clerk, “you ought to know where she is.”
Jack was about to reply, when the attention of both was called by a surprised exclamation from a lady who had paused beside them. Her eyes also were fixed upon the “Flower Girl.”
“Who is this?” she asked, in visible excitement. “Is it taken from life?”
“This young man says it is his sister,” said the clerk.
“Your sister?” repeated the lady, her eyes fixed inquiringly upon Jack.
In her tone there was a mingling both of surprise and disappointment.
“Yes, madam,” answered Jack, respectfully.
“Pardon me,” she said, “there is very little personal resemblance. I should not have suspected that you were her brother.”
“She is not my own sister,” explained Jack, “but I love her just the same.”
“Do you live in Philadelphia? Could I see her?” asked the lady, eagerly.
“I live in New York, madam,” said Jack; “but Ida was stolen from us about three weeks since, and I have come here in pursuit of her. I have not been able to find her yet.”
“Did you call her Ida?” demanded the lady, in strange agitation.
“My young friend,” said the woman, rapidly, “I have been much interested in the story of your sister. I should like to hear more, but not here. Would you have any objection to coming home with me, and telling me the rest? Then we will together concert measures for recovering her.”
“You are very kind, madam,” said Jack, bashfully; for the lady was elegantly dressed, and it had never been his fortune to converse with a lady of her social position. “I shall be glad to go home with you, and shall be very much obliged for your advice and assistance.”