Horatio Alger.

Jack's Ward online

. (page 8 of 11)
Online LibraryHoratio AlgerJack's Ward → online text (page 8 of 11)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

"I was about to make a proposition which may prove advantageous to both
of us."

"Eh!" said Peg, catching at the hint. "Tell me what it is and we may
come to terms."

"I must explain," said Bowen, "that I am an artist. In seeking for a
face to sketch from, I have been struck by that of your child."

"Of Ida?"

"Yes, if that is her name. I will pay you five dollars if you will allow
me to copy her face."

"Well," she said, more graciously, "if that's all you want, I don't know
as I have any objections. I suppose you can copy her face here as well
as anywhere?"

"I should prefer to have her come to my studio."

"I shan't let her come," said Peg, decidedly.

"Then I will consent to your terms, and come here."

"Do you want to begin now?"

"I should like to do so."

"Come in, then. Here, Ida, I want you."

"Yes, Peg."

"This gentleman wants to copy your face."

Ida looked surprised.

"I am an artist," said the young man, with a reassuring smile. "I will
endeavor not to try your patience too much, or keep you too long. Do you
think you can stand still for half an hour without too much fatigue?"

He kept her in pleasant conversation, while, with a free, bold hand he
sketched the outlines of her face.

"I shall want one more sitting," he said. "I will come to-morrow at this

"Stop a minute," said Peg. "I should like the money in advance. How do I
know you will come again?"

"Certainly, if you desire it," said Henry Bowen.

"What strange fortune," he thought, "can have brought them together?
Surely there can be no relation between this sweet child and that ugly
old woman!"

The next day he returned and completed his sketch, which was at once
placed in the hands of the publisher, eliciting his warm approval.



Jack set out with that lightness of heart and keen sense of enjoyment
that seem natural to a young man of eighteen on his first journey.
Partly by boat, partly by cars, he traveled, till in a few hours he was
discharged, with hundreds of others, at the depot in Philadelphia.

He rejected all invitations to ride, and strode on, carpetbag in hand,
though, sooth to say, he had very little idea whether he was steering in
the right direction for his uncle's shop. By dint of diligent and
persevering inquiry he found it at last, and walking in, announced
himself to the worthy baker as his nephew Jack.

"What? Are you Jack?" exclaimed Mr. Abel Harding, pausing in his labor.
"Well, I never should have known you, that's a fact. Bless me, how
you've grown! Why, you're 'most as big as your father, ain't you?"

"Only half an inch shorter," answered Jack, complacently.

"And you're - let me see - how old are you?"

"Eighteen; that is, almost. I shall be in two months."

"Well, I'm glad to see you, Jack, though I hadn't the least idea of your
raining down so unexpectedly. How's your father and mother and your
adopted sister?"

"Father and mother are pretty well," answered Jack; "and so is Aunt
Rachel," he continued, smiling, "though she ain't so cheerful as she
might be."

"Poor Rachel!" said Abel, smiling also. "Everything goes contrary with
her. I don't suppose she's wholly to blame for it. Folks differ
constitutionally. Some are always looking on the bright side of things,
and others can never see but one side, and that's the dark one."

"You've hit it, uncle," said Jack, laughing. "Aunt Rachel always looks
as if she was attending a funeral."

"So she is, my boy," said Abel, gravely, "and a sad funeral it is."

"I don't understand you, uncle."

"The funeral of her affections - that's what I mean. Perhaps you mayn't
know that Rachel was, in early life, engaged to be married to a young
man whom she ardently loved. She was a different woman then from what
she is now. But her lover deserted her just before the wedding was to
have come off, and she's never got over the disappointment. But that
isn't what I was going to talk about. You haven't told me about your
adopted sister."

"That's the very thing I've come to Philadelphia about," said Jack,
soberly. "Ida has been carried off, and I've come in search of her."

"Been carried off? I didn't know such things ever happened in this
country. What do you mean?"

Jack told the story of Mrs. Hardwick's arrival with a letter from Ida's
mother, conveying the request that her child might, under the guidance
of the messenger, be allowed to pay her a visit. To this and the
subsequent details Abel Harding listened with earnest attention.

"So you have reason to think the child is in Philadelphia?" he said,

"Yes," said Jack; "Ida was seen in the cars, coming here, by a boy who
knew her in New York."

"Ida?" repeated the baker. "Was that her name?"

"Yes; you knew her name, didn't you?"

"I dare say I have known it, but I have heard so little of your family
lately that I had forgotten it. It is rather a singular circumstance."

"What is a singular circumstance?"

"I will tell you, Jack. It may not amount to anything, however. A few
days since a little girl came into my shop to buy a small amount of
bread. I was at once favorably impressed with her appearance. She was
neatly dressed, and had a very honest face. Having made the purchase she
handed me in payment a new dollar bill. 'I'll keep that for my little
girl,' thought I at once. Accordingly, when I went home at night, I just
took the dollar out of, the till and gave it to her. Of course, she was
delighted with it, and, like a child, wanted to spend it at once. So her
mother agreed to go out with her the next day. Well, they selected some
knick-knack or other, but when they came to pay for it the dollar proved


"Yes; bad. Issued by a gang of counterfeiters. When they told me of
this, I said to myself, 'Can it be that this little girl knew what she
was about when she offered me that?' I couldn't think it possible, but
decided to wait till she came again."

"Did she come again?"

"Yes; only day before yesterday. As I expected, she offered me in
payment another dollar just like the other. Before letting her know that
I had discovered the imposition I asked her one or two questions with
the idea of finding out as much as possible about her. When I told her
the bill was a bad one, she seemed very much surprised. It might have
been all acting, but I didn't think so then. I even felt pity for her,
and let her go on condition that she would bring me back a good dollar
in place of the bad one the next day. I suppose I was a fool for doing
so, but she looked so pretty and innocent that I couldn't make up my
mind to speak or act harshly to her. But I am afraid that I was
deceived, and that she was an artful character after all."

"Then she didn't come back with the good money?"

"No; I haven't seen her since."

"What name did she give you?"

"Haven't I told you? It was the name that made me think of telling you.
She called herself Ida Hardwick."

"Ida Hardwick?" repeated Jack.

"Yes, Ida Hardwick. But that hasn't anything to do with your Ida, has

"Hasn't it, though?" said Jack. "Why, Mrs. Hardwick was the woman who
carried her away."

"Mrs. Hardwick - her mother?"

"No; not her mother. She said she was the woman who took care of Ida
before she was brought to us."

"Then you think this Ida Hardwick may be your missing sister?"

"That's what I don't know yet," said Jack. "If you would only describe
her, Uncle Abel, I could tell better."

"Well," said the baker, thoughtfully, "I should say this little girl was
seven or eight years old."

"Yes," said Jack, nodding; "what color were her eyes?"


"So are Ida's."

"A small mouth, with a very sweet expression, yet with something firm
and decided about it."


"And I believe her dress was a light one, with a blue ribbon round the

"Did she wear anything around her neck?"

"A brown scarf, if I remember rightly."

"That is the way Ida was dressed when she went away with Mrs. Hardwick.
I am sure it must be she. But how strange that she should come into your

"Perhaps," suggested his uncle, "this woman, representing herself as
Ida's nurse, was her mother."

"No; it can't be," said Jack, vehemently. "What, that ugly, disagreeable
woman, Ida's mother? I won't believe it. I should just as soon expect to
see strawberries growing on a thorn bush."

"You know I have not seen Mrs. Hardwick."

"No great loss," said Jack. "You wouldn't care much about seeing her
again. She is a tall, gaunt, disagreeable woman; while Ida is fair and
sweet-looking. Ida's mother, whoever she is, I am sure, is a lady in
appearance and manners, and Mrs. Hardwick is neither. Aunt Rachel was
right for once."

"What did Rachel say?"

"She said the nurse was an impostor, and declared it was only a plot to
get possession of Ida; but then, that was to be expected of Aunt

"Still it seems difficult to imagine any satisfactory motive on the part
of the woman, supposing her not to be Ida's mother."

"Mother or not," returned Jack, "she's got possession of Ida; and, from
all that you say, she is not the best person to bring her up. I am
determined to rescue Ida from this she-dragon. Will you help me, uncle?"

"You may count upon me, Jack, for all I can do."

"Then," said Jack, with energy, "we shall succeed. I feel sure of it.
'Where there's a will there's a way.'"

"I wish you success, Jack; but if the people who have got Ida are
counterfeiters, they are desperate characters, and you must proceed

"I ain't afraid of them. I'm on the warpath now, Uncle Abel, and they'd
better look out for me."



The first thing to be done by Jack was, of course, in some way to obtain
a clew to the whereabouts of Peg, or Mrs. Hardwick, to use the name by
which he knew her. No mode of proceeding likely to secure this result
occurred to him, beyond the very obvious one of keeping in the street as
much as possible, in the hope that chance might bring him face to face
with the object of his pursuit.

Following out this plan, Jack became a daily promenader in Chestnut,
Walnut and other leading thoroughfares. Jack became himself an object of
attention, on account of what appeared to be his singular behavior. It
was observed that he had no glances to spare for young ladies, but
persistently stared at the faces of all middle-aged women - a
circumstance naturally calculated to attract remark in the case of a
well-made lad like Jack.

"I am afraid," said the baker, "it will be as hard as looking for a
needle in a haystack, to find the one you seek among so many faces."

"There's nothing like trying," said Jack, courageously. "I'm not going
to give up yet a while. I'd know Ida or Mrs. Hardwick anywhere."

"You ought to write home, Jack. They will be getting anxious about you."

"I'm going to write this morning - I put it off, because I hoped to have
some news to write."

He sat down and wrote the following note:

"DEAR PARENTS: I arrived in Philadelphia right side up with care,
and am stopping at Uncle Abel's. He received me very kindly. I have
got track of Ida, though I have not found her yet. I have learned as
much as this: that this Mrs. Hardwick - who is a double-distilled
she-rascal - probably has Ida in her clutches, and has sent her on two
occasions to my uncle's. I am spending most of my time in the streets,
keeping a good lookout for her. If I do meet her, see if I don't get
Ida away from her. But it may take some time. Don't get discouraged,
therefore, but wait patiently. Whenever anything new turns up you will
receive a line from your dutiful son,


Jack had been in the city eight days when, as he was sauntering along
the street, he suddenly perceived in front of him, a shawl which struck
him as wonderfully like the one worn by Mrs. Hardwick. Not only that,
but the form of the wearer corresponded to his recollections of the
nurse. He bounded forward, and rapidly passing the suspected person,
turned suddenly and confronted the woman of whom he had been in search.

The recognition was mutual. Peg was taken aback by this unexpected

Her first impulse was to make off, but Jack's resolute expression warned
her that he was not to be trifled with.

"Mrs. Hardwick?" exclaimed Jack.

"You are right," said she, rapidly recovering her composure, "and you,
if I am not mistaken, are John Harding, the son of my worthy friends in
New York."

"Well," ejaculated Jack, internally, "she's a cool un, and no mistake."

"My name is Jack," he said, aloud.

"Did you leave all well at home?" asked Peg.

"You can't guess what I came here for?" said Jack.

"To see your sister Ida, I presume."

"Yes," answered Jack, amazed at the woman's composure.

"I thought some of you would be coming on," continued Peg, who had
already mapped out her course.

"You did?"

"Yes; it was only natural. What did your father and mother say to the
letter I wrote them?"

"The letter you wrote them?" exclaimed Jack.

"Certainly. You got it, didn't you?"

"I don't know what letter you mean."

"A letter, in which I wrote that Ida's mother had been so pleased with
the appearance and manners of the child, that she could not determine to
part with her."

"You don't mean to say that any such letter as that has been written?"
said Jack, incredulously.

"What? Has it not been received?" inquired Peg.

"Nothing like it. When was it written?"

"The second day after our arrival," said Peg.

"If that is the case," said Jack, not knowing what to think, "it must
have miscarried; we never received it."

"That is a pity. How anxious you all must have felt!"

"It seems as if half the family were gone. But how long does Ida's
mother mean to keep her?"

"Perhaps six months."

"But," said Jack, his suspicions returning, "I have been told that Ida
has twice called at a baker's shop in this city, and when asked what her
name was, answered, Ida Hardwick. You don't mean to say that you pretend
to be her mother."

"Yes, I do," replied Peg, calmly. "I didn't mean to tell you, but as
you've found out, I won't deny it."

"It's a lie," said Jack. "She isn't your daughter."

"Young man," said Peg, with wonderful self-command, "you are exciting
yourself to no purpose. You asked me if I pretended to be her mother.
I do pretend, but I admit frankly that it is all pretense."

"I don't understand what you mean," said Jack.

"Then I will explain to you, though you have treated me so impolitely
that I might well refuse. As I informed your father and mother in New
York, there are circumstances which stand in the way of Ida's real
mother recognizing her as her own child. Still, as she desires her
company, in order to avert suspicion and prevent embarrassing questions
being asked while she remains in Philadelphia, she is to pass as my

This explanation was tolerably plausible, and Jack was unable to gainsay

"Can I see Ida?" he asked.

To his great joy, Peg replied: "I don't think there can be any
objection. I am going to the house now. Will you come with me now, or
appoint some other time."

"Now, by all means," said Jack, eagerly. "Nothing shall stand in the way
of my seeing Ida."

A grim smile passed over Peg's face.

"Follow me, then," she said. "I have no doubt Ida will be delighted to
see you."

"I suppose," said Jack, with a pang, "that she is so taken up with her
new friends that she has nearly forgotten her old friends in New York."

"If she had," answered Peg, "she would not deserve to have friends at
all. She is quite happy here, but she will be very glad to return to New
York to those who have been so kind to her."

"Really," thought Jack, "I don't know what to make of this Mrs.
Hardwick. She talks fair enough, though looks are against her. Perhaps I
have misjudged her."



Jack and his guide paused in front of a large three-story brick
building. The woman rang the bell. An untidy servant girl made her

Mrs. Hardwick spoke to the servant in so low a voice that Jack couldn't
hear what she said.

"Certainly, mum," answered the servant, and led the way upstairs to a
back room on the third floor.

"Go in and take a seat," she said to Jack. "I will send Ida to you

"All right," said Jack, in a tone of satisfaction.

Peg went out, closing the door after her. She, at the same time, softly
slipped a bolt which had been placed upon the outside. Then hastening
downstairs she found the proprietor of the house, a little old man with
a shrewd, twinkling eye, and a long, aquiline nose.

"I have brought you a boarder," she said.

"Who is it?"

"A lad, who is likely to interfere in our plans. You may keep him in
confinement for the present."

"Very good. Is he likely to make a fuss?"

"I should think it very likely. He is high-spirited and impetuous, but
you know how to manage him."

"Oh, yes," nodded the old man.

"You can think of some pretext for keeping him."

"Suppose I tell him he's in a madhouse?" said the old man, laughing, and
thereby showing some yellow fangs, which by no means improved his

"Just the thing! It'll frighten him."

There was a little further conversation in a low tone, and then Peg went

"Fairly trapped, my young bird!" she thought to herself. "I think that
will put a stop to your troublesome appearance for the present."

Meanwhile Jack, wholly unsuspicious that any trick had been played upon
him, seated himself in a rocking-chair and waited impatiently for the
coming of Ida, whom he was resolved to carry back to New York.

Impelled by a natural curiosity, he examined attentively the room in
which he was seated. There was a plain carpet on the floor, and the
other furniture was that of an ordinary bed chamber. The most
conspicuous ornament was a large full-length portrait against the side
of the wall. It represented an unknown man, not particularly striking in
his appearance. There was, besides, a small table with two or three
books upon it.

Jack waited patiently for twenty minutes.

"Perhaps Ida may be out," he reflected. "Still, even if she is, Mrs.
Hardwick ought to come and let me know. It's dull work staying here

Another fifteen minutes passed, and still no Ida appeared.

"This is rather singular," thought Jack. "She can't have told Ida I am
here, or I am sure she would rush up at once to see her brother Jack."

At length, tired of waiting, Jack walked to the door and attempted to
open it.

There was a greater resistance than he anticipated.

"Good heavens!" thought Jack, in consternation, as the real state of the
case flashed upon him, "is it possible that I am locked in?"

He employed all his strength, but the door still resisted. He could no
longer doubt that it was locked.

He rushed to the windows. They were two in number, and looked out upon a
yard in the rear of the house. There was no hope of drawing the
attention of passersby to his situation.

Confounded by this discovery, Jack sank into his chair in no very
enviable state of mind.

"Well," thought he, "this is a pretty situation for me to be in. I
wonder what father would say if he knew that I had managed to get locked
up like this? I am ashamed to think I let that treacherous woman, Mrs.
Hardwick, lead me so quietly into a snare. Aunt Rachel was about right
when she said I wasn't fit to come alone. I hope she'll never find out
about this adventure of mine. If she did, I should never hear the last
of it."



Time passed. Every hour seemed to poor Jack to contain at least double
the number of minutes. Moreover, he was getting hungry.

A horrible suspicion flashed across his mind.

"The wretches can't mean to starve me, can they?" he asked himself.
Despite his constitutional courage he could not help shuddering at the

He was unexpectedly answered by the opening of the door, and the
appearance of the old man.

"Are you getting hungry, my dear sir?" he inquired, with a disagreeable
smile upon his features.

"Why am I confined here?" demanded Jack, angrily.

"Why are you confined? Really, one would think you didn't find your
quarters comfortable."

"I am so far from finding them agreeable, that I insist upon leaving
them immediately," returned Jack.

"Then all you have got to do is to walk through that door."

"You have locked it."

"Why, so I have," said the old man, with a leer.

"I insist upon your opening it."

"I shall do so when I get ready to go out, myself."

"I shall go with you."

"I think not."

"Who's to prevent me?" said Jack, defiantly.

"Who's to prevent you?"

"Yes; you'd better not attempt it. I should be sorry to hurt you, but I
mean to go out. If you attempt to stop me, you must take the

"I am afraid you are a violent young man. But I've got a man who is a
match for two like you."

The old man opened the door.

"Samuel, show yourself," he said.

A brawny negro, six feet in height, and evidently very powerful, came to
the entrance.

"If this young man attempts to escape, Samuel, what will you do?"

"Tie him hand and foot," answered the negro.

"That'll do, Samuel. Stay where you are."

He closed the door and looked triumphantly at our hero.

Jack threw himself sullenly into a chair.

"Where is the woman that brought me here?" he asked.

"Peg? Oh, she couldn't stay. She had important business to transact, my
young friend, and so she has gone. She commended you to our particular
attention, and you will be just as well treated as if she were here."

This assurance was not calculated to comfort Jack.

"How long are you going to keep me cooped up here?" he asked,
desperately, wishing to learn the worst at once.

"Really, my young friend, I couldn't say. I don't know how long it will
be before you are cured."

"Cured?" repeated Jack, puzzled.

The old man tapped his forehead.

"You're a little affected here, you know, but under my treatment I hope
soon to restore you to your friends."

"What!" ejaculated our hero, terror-stricken, "you don't mean to say you
think I'm crazy?"

"To be sure you are," said the old man, "but - "

"But I tell you it's a lie," exclaimed Jack, energetically. "Who told
you so?"

"Your aunt."

"My aunt?"

"Yes, Mrs. Hardwick. She brought you here to be treated for insanity."

"It's a base lie," said Jack, hotly. "That woman is no more my aunt than
you are. She's an impostor. She carried off my sister Ida, and this is
only a plot to get rid of me. She told me she was going to take me to
see Ida."

The old man shrugged his shoulders.

"My young friend," he said, "she told me all about it - that you had a
delusion about some supposed sister, whom you accused her of carrying

"This is outrageous," said Jack, hotly.

"That's what all my patients say."

"And you are a mad-doctor?"


"Then you know by my looks that I am not crazy."

"Pardon me, my young friend; that doesn't follow. There is a peculiar
appearance about your eyes which I cannot mistake. There's no mistake
about it, my good sir. Your mind has gone astray, but if you'll be
quiet, and won't excite yourself, you'll soon be well."

"How soon?"

"Well, two or three months."

"Two or three months! You don't mean to say you want to confine me here
two or three months?"

"I hope I can release you sooner."

"You can't understand your business very well, or you would see at once
that I am not insane."

"That's what all my patients say. They won't any of them own that their
minds are affected."

"Will you supply me with some writing materials?"

"Yes; Samuel shall bring them here."

"I suppose you will excuse my suggesting also that it is dinner time?"

"He shall bring you some dinner at the same time."

The old man retired, but in fifteen minutes a plate of meat and
vegetables was brought to the room.

"I'll bring the pen and ink afterward," said the negro.

In spite of his extraordinary situation and uncertain prospects, Jack
ate with his usual appetite.

Then he penned a letter to his uncle, briefly detailing the circumstances
of his present situation.

"I am afraid," the letter concluded, "that while I am shut up here, Mrs.
Hardwick will carry Ida out of the city, where it will be more difficult
for us to get on her track. She is evidently a dangerous woman."

Two days passed and no notice was taken of the letter.

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11

Online LibraryHoratio AlgerJack's Ward → online text (page 8 of 11)