“Then we will drive home at once.”
With natural gallantry, Jack assisted the lady into the carriage, and, at her bidding, got in himself.
“Home, Thomas!” she directed the driver; “and drive as fast as possible.”
“How old was your sister when your parents adopted her?” asked Mrs. Clifton.
Jack afterward ascertained that this was her name.
“About a year old, madam.”
“And how long since was that?” asked the lady, waiting for the answer with breathless interest.
“Seven years since. She is now eight.”
“It must be,” murmured the lady, in low tones. “If it is indeed, as I hope, my life will indeed be blessed.”
“Did you speak, madam?”
“Tell me under what circumstances your family adopted her.”
Jack related briefly how Ida had been left at their door in her infancy.
“And do you recollect the month in which this happened?”
“It was at the close of December, the night before New Year’s.”
“It is, it must be she!” ejaculated Mrs. Clifton, clasping her hands, while tears of joy welled from her eyes.
“I—I don’t understand,” said Jack, naturally astonished.
“My young friend,” said the lady, “our meeting this morning seems providential. I have every reason to believe that this child—your adopted sister—is my daughter, stolen from me by an unknown enemy at the time of which I speak. From that day to this I have never been able to obtain the slightest clew that might lead to her discovery. I have long taught myself to think of her as dead.”
It was Jack’s turn to be surprised. He looked at the lady beside him. She was barely thirty. The beauty of her girlhood had ripened into the maturer beauty of womanhood. There was the same dazzling complexion, the same soft flush upon the cheeks. The eyes, too, were wonderfully like Ida’s. Jack looked, and as he looked he became convinced.
“You must be right,” he said. “Ida is very much like you.”
“You think so?” said Mrs. Clifton, eagerly.
“I had a picture—a daguerreotype—taken of Ida just before I lost her; I have treasured it carefully. I must show it to you when we get to my house.”
The carriage stopped before a stately mansion in a wide and quiet street. The driver dismounted and opened the door. Jack assisted Mrs. Clifton to alight.
Bashfully our hero followed the lady up the steps, and, at her bidding, seated himself in an elegant parlor furnished with a splendor which excited his admiration and wonder. He had little time to look about him, for Mrs. Clifton, without pausing to remove her street attire, hastened downstairs with an open daguerreotype in her hand.
“Can you remember Ida when she was first brought to your house?” she asked. “Did she look anything like this picture?”