As Jack had not yet returned, a hack was summoned, and they proceeded at once to the prison. Ida shuddered as she passed within the gloomy portal which shut out hope and the world from so many.
“This way, madam!”
They followed the officer through a gloomy corridor, until they came to the cell in which Peg was confined.
Peg looked up in surprise when she saw Ida enter with Mrs. Clifton.
“What brought you two together?” she asked, abruptly.
“A blessed Providence,” answered Mrs. Clifton.
“I saw Jack with her,” said Ida, “and I ran out into the street. I didn’t expect to find my mother.”
“There is not much for me to tell, then,” said Peg. “I had made up my mind to restore you to your mother. You see, Ida, I’ve moved,” she continued, smiling grimly.
“Oh, Peg,” said Ida, her tender heart melted by the woman’s misfortunes, “how sorry I am to find you here!”
“Are you sorry?” asked Peg, looking at her in curious surprise. “You haven’t much cause to be. I’ve been your worst enemy; at any rate, one of the worst.”
“I can’t help it,” said the child, her face beaming with a divine compassion. “It must be so sad to be shut up here, and not be able to go out into the bright sunshine. I do pity you.”
Peg’s heart was not wholly hardened. Few are. But it was long since it had been touched, as now, by this warm-hearted pity on the part of one whom she had injured.
“You’re a good girl, Ida,” she said, “and I’m sorry I’ve injured you. I didn’t think I should ever ask forgiveness of anybody; but I do ask your forgiveness.”
The child rose, and advancing toward her old enemy, took her large hand in hers and said: “I forgive you, Peg.”
“From your heart?”
“With all my heart.”
“Thank you, child. I feel better now. There have been times when I have thought I should like to lead a better life.”
“It is not too late now, Peg.”
Peg shook her head.
“Who will trust me when I come out of here?” she said.
“I will,” said Mrs. Clifton.
“You will?” repeated Peg, amazed.
“After all I have done to harm you! But I am not quite so bad as you may think. It was not my plan to take Ida from you. I was poor, and money tempted me.”
“Who could have had an interest in doing me this cruel wrong?” asked the mother.
“One whom you know well—Mr. John Somerville.”
“Surely you are wrong!” exclaimed Mrs. Clifton, in unbounded astonishment. “That cannot be. What object could he have?”
“Can you think of none?” queried Peg, looking at her shrewdly.
Mrs. Clifton changed color.
“Perhaps so,” she said. “Go on.”
Peg told the whole story, so circumstantially that there was no room for doubt.
“I did not believe him capable of such great wickedness,” ejaculated Mrs. Clifton, with a pained and indignant look. “It was a base, unmanly revenge to take. How could you lend yourself to it?”