“How can you talk so, Rachel?” said Mrs. Harding, “and about your own nephew, too?”
“This is a world of trial and disappointment,” said Rachel, “and we might as well expect the worst, for it’s sure to come.”
“At that rate there wouldn’t be much joy in life,” said Timothy. “No, Rachel, you are wrong. God did not send us into the world to be melancholy. He wants us to enjoy ourselves. Now, I have no idea that Jack has jumped into the river, or become food for the fishes. Even if he should happen to tumble in, he can swim.”
“I suppose,” said Rachel, with mild sarcasm, “you expect him to come home in a coach and four, bringing Ida with him.”
“Well,” said the cooper, good-humoredly, “that’s a good deal better to anticipate than your suggestion, and I don’t know but it’s as probable.”
Rachel shook her head dismally.
“Bless me!” interrupted Mrs. Harding, looking out of the window, in a tone of excitement, “there’s a carriage just stopped at the door, and—yes, it is Jack and Ida, too!”
The strange fulfillment of her own ironical suggestion struck even Aunt Rachel. She, too, hastened to the window, and saw a handsome carriage drawn, not by four horses, but by two, standing before the door.
Jack had already jumped out, and was now assisting Ida to alight. No sooner was Ida on firm ground than she ran into the house, and was at once clasped in the arms of her adopted mother.
“Oh, mother,” she exclaimed, “how glad I am to see you once more!”
“Haven’t you a kiss for me, too, Ida?” said the cooper, his face radiant with joy. “You don’t know how much we’ve missed you.”
“And I am so glad to see you all, and Aunt Rachel too!”
To her astonishment, Aunt Rachel, for the first time in her remembrance, kissed her. There was nothing wanting to her welcome home.
But the observant eyes of the spinster detected what had escaped the cooper and his wife, in their joy at Ida’s return.
“Where did you get this handsome dress, Ida?” she asked.
Then, for the first time, the cooper’s family noticed that Ida was more elegantly dressed than when she went away. She looked like a young princess.
“That Mrs. Hardwick didn’t give you this gown, I’ll be bound!” said Aunt Rachel.
“Oh, I’ve so much to tell you,” said Ida, breathlessly. “I’ve found my mother—my other mother!”
A pang struck to the honest hearts of Timothy Harding and his wife. Ida must leave them. After all the happy years which they had watched over and cared for her, she must leave them at length.
While they were silent in view of their threatened loss, an elegantly dressed lady appeared on the threshold. Smiling, radiant with happiness, Mrs. Clifton seemed, to the cooper’s family, almost a being from another sphere.
“Mother,” said Ida, taking the hand of the stranger, and leading her up to Mrs. Harding, “this is my other mother, who has always taken such good care of me, and loved me so well.”