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"I AM beginning to feel anxious about Jack," said Mrs. Crump. "It's almost a week since we heard from him. I'm afraid he's got into some trouble."
"Probably he's too busy to write," said the cooper.
"I told you so," said Rachel, in one of her usual fits of depression. "I told you Jack wasn't fit to be sent on such an errand. If you'd only taken my advice, you wouldn't have had so much worry and trouble about him now. Most likely he's got into the House of Reformation, or somewhere. I knew a young man once who went away from home, and never came back again. Nobody ever knew what became of him till his body was found in the river, half-eaten by fishes."
"How can you talk so, Rachel?" said Mrs. Crump, indignantly; "and of your own nephew, too!"
"This is a world of trial and disappointment," said Rachel; "and we might as well expect the worst, because it's sure to come."
"At that rate there wouldn't be much joy in life," said the cooper. "No, Rachel, you are wrong. God didn't 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. Then again, if he has, he can swim."
"I suppose," said Rachel, "you expect him to come home in a coach and four, bringing Ida with him."
"Well," said the cooper, good-humoredly, "I don't know but that is as probable as your anticipations."
Rachel shook her head dismally.
"Bless me!" said Mrs. Crump, in a tone of excitement; "there's a carriage just stopped at our door, and—yes, it is Jack, and Ida too!"
The strange (sic) fulfilment of the cooper's suggestion struck even Aunt Rachel. She, too, hastened to the window, and saw a handsome carriage drawn, not by four horses, but by two elegant bays, 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.
"O 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'm so glad to sec you all, and Aunt Rachel, too."
To her astonishment, Aunt Rachel, for the first time in the child's remembrance, kissed her. There was nothing wanting to her welcome home.
Scarcely had the spinster done so than her observant eyes detected what had escaped the cooper and his wife, in their joy.
"Where did you get this dress, Ida?" she asked.
Then, for the first time, all observed 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 she.
"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 Crump and his wife. Ida must leave them. After all the happy years during which they had watched over and cared for her, she must leave them at length.
Just then, an elegantly-dressed lady appeared at the threshold. Smiling, radiant with happiness, Mrs. Clifton seemed, to the cooper's family, almost a being from another sphere.
"Mother," said Ida, taking her hand, and leading her to Mrs. Crump, "this is my other mother, who has always taken such good care of me and loved me so well."
"Mrs. Crump," said Mrs. Clifton, "how can I ever thank you for your care of my child?"
It was hard for Mrs. Crump to hear another speak of Ida in this way.
"I have tried to do my duty by her," she said, simply; "I love her so much."
"Yes," said the cooper, clearing his throat, and speaking a little huskily, "we all love her as if she was our own. She has been so long with us that we have come to think of her as our own, and—and it won't be easy at first to give her up."
"My friend," said Mrs. Clifton, "think not that I shall ever ask you to make that sacrifice. I shall always think of Ida as only a little less yours than mine."
"But you live in Philadelphia. We shall lose sight of her."
"Not unless you refuse to come to Philadelphia, too."
"I am not sure whether I could find work there."
"That shall be my care. I have another inducement. 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 services 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 drew up a deed of gift, conveying the house to you. It is Ida's gift, not mine. Ida, give this to Mr. Crump."
The child took the parchment, and handed it to the cooper, who was 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 this is, indeed, an acceptable gift."
"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 own 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 your 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. Crump, at my house very frequently."
"I'm much obleeged to you," said Aunt Rachel; "but I don't think I shall live long to go anywhere. 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."
"You impudent boy!" exclaimed Miss Rachel, in great indignation. Then relapsing into melancholy, "I'm a poor afflicted creetur, and the sooner I leave this scene of trial the better."
"Let us hope," said Mrs. Clifton, politely, "that you will find the air of Philadelphia beneficial to your health. Change of air sometimes works wonders."
In the course of a few weeks the whole family removed to Philadelphia. The house which Mrs. Clifton had given them, exceeded their anticipations. It was so much better and larger than their present dwelling, that their furniture would have shown to great disadvantage in it. But Mrs. Clifton had foreseen this, and they found the house already furnished for their reception. Through Mrs. Clifton's influence the cooper was enabled to establish himself in business on a larger scale, and employ others, instead of working himself, for hire. Ida was such a frequent visitor, that it was hard to tell which she considered her home—her mother's elegant dwelling, or Mrs. Cooper's comfortable home.
For Jack, a situation was found in a merchant's counting-room, and he became a thriving young merchant, being eventually taken into partnership. Ida grew lovelier as she grew older, and her rare beauty caused her to be sought after. If she does not marry well and happily, it will not be for want of an opportunity.
Dear reader, you who deem that all stories should end with a marriage, shall not be disappointed.
One day Aunt Rachel was missing from her room. It was remembered that she had appeared singularly for some days previous, and the knowledge of her constitutional low spirits, led to the apprehension that she had made way with herself. The cooper was about to notify the police, when the front door opened and Rachel walked in. She was accompanied by a short man, stout and freckled.
"Why, Aunt Rachel," exclaimed Mrs. Crump, "where have you been? We have been so anxious about you."
A faint flush came to Aunt Rachel's sallow cheek.
"Sister Mary," said she, "you will be surprised, perhaps, but—but this is my consort. Mr. Smith, let me introduce you to my sister."
"Then you are married, Rachel," said Mrs. Crump, quite confounded.
"Yes," said Rachel; "I—I don't expect to live long, and it won't make much difference."
"I congratulate you, Mrs. Smith," said Mary Crump, heartily; "and I wish you a long and happy life, I am sure."
It is observed that, since her marriage, Aunt Rachel's fits of depression are less numerous than before. She has even been seen to smile repeatedly, and has come to bear, with philosophical equanimity, her nephew Jack's sly allusions to her elopement.
One word more. At the close of her term of confinement, Peg came to Mrs. Clifton, and reminded her of her promise. Dick was dead, and she was left alone in the world. Imprisonment had not hardened her as it so often does. She had been redeemed by the kindness of those she had injured. Mrs. Clifton secured her a position in which her energy and administrative ability found fitting exercise, and she leads a laborious and useful life, in a community where her antecedents are not known.
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