“I can’t do anything for her,” Mr. Woodstock continued, trying to look her in the face. “But you are her child, and I want to do now what I ought to have done long ago. I’ve come here to ask you if you’ll live in my house, and be like a child of my own.”
“I don’t feel to you as a child ought,” Ida said, her voice changing to sadness. “You’ve left it too late.”
“No, it isn’t too late!” exclaimed the other, with emotion he could not control. “You mustn’t think of yourself, but of me. You have all your life before you, but I’m drawing near to the end of mine. There’s no one in the world belonging to me but you. I have a right to—”
“No right! no right!” Ida interrupted him almost passionately.
“Then you have a duty,” said Abraham, with lowered voice. “My mind isn’t at ease, and it’s in your power to help me. Don’t imitate me, and put off doing good till it is too late. I don’t ask you to feel kindly to me; all I want is that you’ll let me take you to my home and do all I can for you, both now and after I’m gone.”
There was pathos in the speech, and Ida felt it.
“Do you know where I came from this morning ?” she asked, when both had been silent for some moments.
“I know all about it. I was at the trial, and I did my best for you then.”
“Do you believe that I robbed that woman?” Ida asked, leaning forward with eager eyes and quickened breath.
“Believe it! Not I! No one believes it who knows anything about her. Waymark said he wouldn’t have believed it if all the courts in England found you guilty.”
“He said that?” she exclaimed. Then, as if suddenly becoming clearer about her position: “Where is Mr. Waymark? Why didn’t he meet me as he promised?”
Abraham hesitated, but speedily made up his mind that it would be best to speak the truth.
“I know as little as you do. He ought to have come to me yesterday, but he didn’t, and I can’t discover him. I got Mr. Casti to meet you instead.”
The keenest trouble manifested itself on Ida’s countenance. She asked questions in rapid succession, and thus elicited an explanation of all the circumstances hitherto unknown to her.
“Have you been through the houses?” she inquired, all her native energy restored by apprehension. “Haven’t you thought that he may have been robbed and—”
She stopped, overcome by sudden weakness, and sank into the chair.
“Come, come, it isn’t so bad as all that,” said the old man, observing her closely. “He may turn up at any moment; all sorts of unexpected things may have happened. But I’ll go again to his lodgings, and if I can’t hear anything there, I’ll set the police to work. Will you promise me to wait here quietly?”
“No, that I can’t do. I want to move about; I must do something. Let me go with you to look for him.”
“No, no; that’ll never do, Ida.”