“I will tell you that by and by, my child. But I want to ask you a few questions first. Why does this woman, Peg, lock you in whenever she goes away?”
“I suppose,” said Ida, “she is afraid I’ll run away.”
“Then she knows you don’t want to live with her?”
“Oh, yes, she knows that,” said the child, frankly. “I have asked her to take me home, but she says she won’t for a year.”
“And how long have you been with her?”
“About three weeks, but it seems a great deal longer.”
“What does she make you do?”
“I can’t tell what she made me do first.”
“Because she would be very angry.”
“Suppose I should promise to deliver you from her, would you be willing to go with me?”
“And you would carry me back to my father and mother?” asked Ida, eagerly.
“Certainly, I would restore you to your mother,” was the evasive reply.
“Then I will go with you.”
Ida ran quickly to get her bonnet and shawl.
“We had better go at once,” said Somerville. “Peg might return, you know, and then there would be trouble.”
“Oh, yes, let us go quickly,” said Ida, turning pale at the remembered threats of Peg.
Neither knew as yet that Peg could not return if she would; that, at this very moment, she was in legal custody on a charge of a serious nature. Still less did Ida know that in going she was losing the chance of seeing Jack and her real mother, of whose existence, even, she was not yet aware; and that this man, whom she looked upon as her friend, was in reality her worst enemy.
“I will conduct you to my own rooms, in the first place,” said her companion. “You must remain in concealment for a day or two, as Peg will undoubtedly be on the look-out for you, and we want to avoid all trouble.”
Ida was delighted with her escape, and with the thoughts of soon seeing her friends in New York. She put implicit faith in her guide, and was willing to submit to any conditions which he saw fit to impose.
At length they reached his lodgings.
They were furnished more richly than any room Ida had yet seen; and formed, indeed, a luxurious contrast to the dark and scantily furnished apartment which she had occupied since her arrival in Philadelphia.
“Well, you are glad to get away from Peg?” asked John Somerville, giving Ida a comfortable seat.
“Oh, so glad!” said Ida.
“And you wouldn’t care about going back?”
The child shuddered.
“I suppose,” she said, “Peg will be very angry. She would beat me, if she got me back again.”
“But she shan’t. I will take good care of that.”
Ida looked her gratitude. Her heart went out to those who appeared to deal kindly with her, and she felt very grateful to her companion for delivering her from Peg.
“Now,” said Somerville, “perhaps you will be willing to tell me what it was Peg required you to do.”