“Mrs. Harding,” said Mrs, Clifton, her voice full of feeling, “how can I ever thank you for your kindness to my child?”
It was hard for Mrs. Harding to hear another speak of Ida this way.
“I have tried to do my duty by her,” she said, simply. “I love her as if she were my own.”
“Yes,” said the cooper, clearing his throat, and speaking a little huskily, “we love her so much that we almost forgot that she wasn’t ours. We have had her since she was a baby, and it won’t be easy at first to give her up.”
“My good friends,” said Mrs. Clifton, earnestly, “I acknowledge your claim. I shall not think of asking you to make that sacrifice. I shall always think of Ida as only a little less yours than mine.”
The cooper shook his head.
“But you live in Philadelphia,” he said. “We shall lose sight of her.”
“Not unless you refuse to come to Philadelphia, too.”
“I am a poor man. Perhaps I might not find work there.”
“That shall be my care, Mr. Harding. I have another inducement to offer. God has bestowed upon me a large share of this world’s goods. I am thankful for it since it will enable me in some slight way to express my sense of your great kindness to Ida. I own a neat brick house, in a quiet street, which you will find more comfortable than this. Just before I left Philadelphia, my lawyer, by my directions, drew up a deed of gift, conveying the house to you. It is Ida’s gift, not mine. Ida, give this to Mr. Harding.”
The child took the parchment and handed it to the cooper, who took it mechanically, quite bewildered by his sudden good fortune.
“This for me?” he said.
“It is the first installment of my debt of gratitude; it shall not be the last,” said Mrs. Clifton.
“How shall I thank you, madam?” said the cooper. “To a poor man, like me, this is a most munificent gift.”
“You will best thank me by accepting it,” said Mrs. Clifton. “Let me add, for I know it will enhance the value of the gift in your eyes, that it is only five minutes’ walk from my house, and Ida will come and see you every day.”
“Yes, mamma,” said Ida. “I couldn’t be happy away from father and mother, and Jack and Aunt Rachel.”
“You must introduce me to Aunt Rachel,” said Mrs. Clifton, with a grace all her own.
Ida did so.
“I am glad to make your acquaintance, Miss Rachel,” said Mrs. Clifton. “I need not say that I shall be glad to see you, as well as Mr. and Mrs. Harding, at my house very frequently.”
“I’m much obleeged to ye,” said Aunt Rachel; “but I don’t think I shall live long to go anywheres. The feelin’s I have sometimes warn me that I’m not long for this world.”
“You see, Mrs. Clifton,” said Jack, his eyes dancing with mischief, “we come of a short-lived family. Grandmother died at eighty-two, and that wouldn’t give Aunt Rachel long to live.”