Mrs. Dan mentally applied to her daughter was "artful." She intended that Nita should realize that in gaining her ends she had by no means gained all she wanted. And as Mrs. Dan was the one person in the world whom Nita regarded with a wholesome awe, she had no doubt of accomplishing this.
Hugh took the letter unwillingly, stuffing it into his pocket. He didn't want it: it brought back too vividly the horror of the morning. That was past: the Circus had adopted him, and he was quite ready to be the son of the Circus, if Mr. Peterson were kind. Nita had whispered to him that it was all right, that Daddy was never cross for long. So he had begun to feel confident again.
But Mrs. Dan's face was grave—even a little stern. Her voice was not quite the voice with which she had spoken to him yesterday.
"Your father's left you on our hands, and it isn't your fault. But you'd better understand that no one can be in a Circus who doesn't earn his keep. I don't know yet how much you can do, but you'd better be ready to do it on the jump, if you want Mr. Peterson to keep you."
Hugh looked at her steadily. His heart thumped under his gray shirt, but he answered without hesitation.
"I'll work as hard as ever I can."
"Goodness knows what jobs we can give you, but we'11 find some, I expect. Your father said we could hand you over to the police, but I don't want to do that."
"But—but I haven't done anything!" The words were a cry.