Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > T. S. Arthur > Cast Adrift > This page

Cast Adrift, a fiction by T. S. Arthur


< Previous
Table of content
Next >
_ CHAPTER V. Mrs. Dinneford visits Mrs. Bray--"The woman to whom you
gave that baby was here yesterday"--The woman must be put out of the
way--Exit Mrs. Dinneford, enter Pinky Swett--"You know your
fate--New Orleans and the yellow fever"--"All I want of you is to
keep track of the baby"--Division of the spoils--Lucky
dreams--Consultation of the dream-book for lucky figures--Sam
McFaddon and his backer, who "drives in the Park and wears a two
thousand dollar diamond pin"--The fate of a baby begged with--The
baby must not die--The lottery-policies

_MEANTIME_, obeying the unwelcome summons, Mrs. Dinneford had gone
to see Mrs. Bray. She found her in a small third-story room in the
lower part of the city, over a mile away from her own residence. The
meeting between the two women was not over-gracious, but in keeping
with their relations to each other. Mrs. Dinneford was half angry
and impatient; Mrs. Bray cool and self-possessed.

"And now what is it you have to say?" asked the former, almost as
soon as she had entered.

"The woman to whom you gave that baby was here yesterday."

A frightened expression came into Mrs. Dinneford's face. Mrs. Bray
watched her keenly as, with lips slightly apart, she waited for what
more was to come.

"Unfortunately, she met me just as I was at my own door, and so
found out my residence," continued Mrs. Bray. "I was in hopes I
should never see her again. We shall have trouble, I'm afraid."

"In what way?"

"A bad woman who has you in her power can trouble you in many ways,"
answered Mrs. Bray.

"She did not know my name--you assured me of that. It was one of the

"She does know, and your daughter's name also. And she knows where
the baby is. She's deeper than I supposed. It's never safe to trust
such people; they have no honor."

Fear sent all the color out of Mrs. Dinneford's face.

"What does she want?"


"She was paid liberally."

"That has nothing to do with it. These people have no honor, as I
said; they will get all they can."

"How much does she want?"

"A hundred dollars; and it won't end there, I'm thinking. If she is
refused, she will go to your house; she gave me that
alternative--would have gone yesterday, if good luck had not thrown
her in my way. I promised to call on you and see what could be

Mrs. Dinneford actually groaned in her fear and distress.

"Would you like to see her yourself?" coolly asked Mrs. Bray.

"Oh dear! no, no!" and the lady put up her hands in dismay.

"It might be best," said her wily companion.

"No, no, no! I will have nothing to do with her! You must keep her
away from me," replied Mrs. Dinneford, with increasing agitation.

"I cannot keep her away without satisfying her demands. If you were
to see her yourself, you would know just what her demands were. If
you do not see her, you will only have my word for it, and I am left
open to misapprehension, if not worse. I don't like to be placed in
such a position."

And Mrs. Bray put on a dignified, half-injured manner.

"It's a wretched business in every way," she added, "and I'm sorry
that I ever had anything to do with it. It's something dreadful, as
I told you at the time, to cast a helpless baby adrift in such a
way. Poor little soul! I shall never feel right about it."

"That's neither here nor there;" and Mrs. Dinneford waved her hand
impatiently. "The thing now in hand is to deal with this woman."

"Yes, that's it--and as I said just now, I would rather have you
deal with her yourself; you may be able to do it better than I can."

"It's no use to talk, Mrs. Bray. I will not see the woman."

"Very well; you must be your own judge in the case."

"Can't you bind her up to something, or get her out of the city? I'd
pay almost anything to have her a thousand miles away. See if you
can't induce her to go to New Orleans. I'll pay her passage, and
give her a hundred dollars besides, if she'll go."

Mrs. Bray smiled a faint, sinister smile:

"If you could get her off there, it would be the end of her. She'd
never stand the fever."

"Then get her off, cost what it may," said Mrs. Dinneford.

"She will be here in less than half an hour." Mrs. Bray looked at
the face of a small cheap clock that stood on the mantel.

"She will?" Mrs. Dinneford became uneasy, and arose from her chair.

"Yes; what shall I say to her?"

"Manage her the best you can. Here are thirty dollars--all the money
I have with me. Give her that, and promise more if necessary. I will
see you again."

"When?" asked Mrs. Bray.

"At any time you desire."

"Then you had better come to-morrow morning. I shall not go out."

"I will be here at eleven o'clock. Induce her if possible to leave
the city--to go South, so that she may never come back."

"The best I can shall be done," replied Mrs. Bray as she folded the
bank-bills she had received from Mrs. Dinneford in a fond, tender
sort of way and put them into her pocket.

Mrs. Dinneford retired, saying as she did so,

"I will be here in the morning."

An instant change came over the shallow face of the wiry little
woman as the form of Mrs. Dinneford vanished through the door. A
veil seemed to fall away from it. All its virtuous sobriety was
gone, and a smile of evil satisfaction curved about her lips and
danced in her keen black eyes. She stood still, listening to the
retiring steps of her visitor, until she heard the street door shut.
Then, with a quick, cat-like step, she crossed to the opposite side
of the room, and pushed open a door that led to an adjoining
chamber. A woman came forward to meet her. This woman was taller and
stouter than Mrs. Bray, and had a soft, sensual face, but a resolute
mouth, the under jaw slightly protruding. Her eyes were small and
close together, and had that peculiar wily and alert expression you
sometimes see, making you think of a serpent's eyes. She was dressed
in common finery and adorned by cheap jewelry.

"What do you think of that, Pinky Swett?" exclaimed Mrs. Bray, in a
voice of exultation. "Got her all right, haven't I?"

"Well, you have!" answered the woman, shaking all over with
unrestrained laughter. "The fattest pigeon I've happened to see for
a month of Sundays. Is she very rich?"

"Her husband is, and that's all the same. And now, Pinky"--Mrs. Bray
assumed a mock gravity of tone and manner--"you know your fate--New
Orleans and the yellow fever. You must pack right off. Passage free
and a hundred dollars for funeral expenses. Nice wet graves down
there--keep off the fire;" and she gave a low chuckle.

"Oh yes; all settled. When does the next steamer sail?" and Pinky
almost screamed with merriment. She had been drinking.

"H-u-s-h! h-u-s-h! None of that here, Pinky. The people down stairs
are good Methodists, and think me a saint."

"You a saint? Oh dear!" and she shook with repressed enjoyment.

After this the two women grew serious, and put their heads together
for business.

"Who is this woman, Fan? What's her name, and where does she live?"
asked Pinky Swett.

"That's my secret, Pinky," replied Mrs. Bray, "and I can't let it
go; it wouldn't be safe. You get a little off the handle sometimes,
and don't know what you say--might let the cat out of the bag. Sally
Long took the baby away, and she died two months ago; so I'm the
only one now in the secret. All I want of you is to keep track of
the baby. Here is a five-dollar bill; I can't trust you with more at
a time. I know your weakness, Pinky;" and she touched her under the
chin in a familiar, patronizing way.

Pinky wasn't satisfied with this, and growled a little, just showing
her teeth like an unquiet dog.

"Give me ten," she said; "the woman gave you thirty. I heard her say
so. And she's going to bring you seventy to-morrow."

"You'll only waste it, Pinky," remonstrated Mrs. Bray. "It will all
be gone before morning."

"Fan," said the woman, leaning toward Mrs. Bray and speaking in a
low, confidential tone, "I dreamed of a cow last night, and that's
good luck, you know. Tom Oaks made a splendid hit last
Saturday--drew twenty dollars--and Sue Minty got ten. They're all
buzzing about it down in our street, and going to Sam McFaddon's
office in a stream."

"Do they have good luck at Sam McFaddon's?" asked Mrs. Bray, with
considerable interest in her manner.

"It's the luckiest place that I know. Never dreamed of a cow or a
hen that I didn't make a hit, and I dreamed of a cow last night. She
was giving such a splendid pail of milk, full to the brim, just as
old Spot and Brindle used to give. You remember our Spot and
Brindle, Fan?"

"Oh yes." There was a falling inflection in Mrs. Bray's voice, as if
the reference had sent her thoughts away back to other and more
innocent days.

The two women sat silent for some moments after that; and when Pinky
spoke, which she did first, it was in lower and softer tones:

"I don't like to think much about them old times, Fan; do you? I
might have done better. But it's no use grizzling about it now.
What's done's done, and can't be helped. Water doesn't run up hill
again after it's once run down. I've got going, and can't stop, you
see. There's nothing to catch at that won't break as soon as you
touch it. So I mean to be jolly as I move along."

"Laughing is better than crying at any time," returned Mrs. Bray;
"here are five more;" and she handed Pinky Swett another bank-bill.
"I'm going to try my luck. Put half a dollar on ten different rows,
and we'll go shares on what is drawn. I dreamed the other night that
I saw a flock of sheep, and that's good luck, isn't it?"

Pinky thrust her hand into her pocket and drew out a worn and soiled

"A flock of sheep; let me see;" and she commenced turning over the
leaves. "Sheep; here it is: 'To see them is a sign of sorrow--11,
20, 40, 48. To be surrounded by many sheep denotes good luck--2, 11,
55.' That's your row; put down 2, 11, 55. We'll try that. Next put
down 41 11, 44--that's the lucky row when you dream of a cow."

As Pinky leaned toward her friend she dropped her parasol.

"That's for luck, maybe," she said, with a brightening face. "Let's
see what it says about a parasol;" and she turned over her

"For a maiden to dream she loses her parasol shows that her
sweetheart is false and will never marry her--5, 51, 56."

"But you didn't dream about a parasol, Pinky."

"That's no matter; it's just as good as a dream. 5, 51, 56 is the
row. Put that down for the second, Fan."

As Mrs. Bray was writing out these numbers the clock on the mantel
struck five.

"8, 12, 60," said Pinky, turning to the clock; "that's the clock

And Mrs. Bray put down these figures also.

"That's three rows," said Pinky, "and we want ten." She arose, as
she spoke, and going to the front window, looked down upon the

"There's an organ-grinder; it's the first thing I saw;" and she came
back fingering the leaves of her dream-book. "Put down 40, 50, 26."

Mrs. Bray wrote the numbers on her slip of paper.

"It's November; let's find the November row." Pinky consulted her
book again. "Signifies you will have trouble through life--7, 9, 63.
That's true as preaching; I was born in November, and I've had it
all trouble. How many rows does that make?"


"Then we will cut cards for the rest;" and Pinky drew a soiled pack
from her pocket, shuffled the cards and let her friends cut them.

"Ten of diamonds;" she referred to the dream-book. "10, 13, 31; put
that down."

The cards were shuffled and cut again.

"Six of clubs--6, 35, 39."

Again they were cut and shuffled. This time the knave of clubs was
turned up.

"That's 17, 19, 28," said Pinky, reading from her book.

The next cut gave the ace of clubs, and the policy numbers were 18,
63, 75.

"Once more, and the ten rows will be full;" and the cards were cut

"Five of hearts--5, 12, 60;" and the ten rows were complete.

"There's luck there, Fan; sure to make a hit," said Pinky, with
almost childish confidence, as she gazed at the ten rows of figures.
'One of 'em can't help coming out right, and that would be fifty
dollars--twenty-five for me and twenty-five for you; two rows would
give a hundred dollars, and the whole ten a thousand. Think of that,
Fan! five hundred dollars apiece."

"It would break Sam McFaddon, I'm afraid," remarked Mrs. Bray.

"Sam's got nothing to do with it," returned Pinky.

"He hasn't?"


"Who has, then?"

"His backer."

"What's that?"

"Oh, I found it all out--I know how it's done. Sam's got a backer--a
man that puts up the money. Sam only sells for his backer. When
there's a hit, the backer pays."

"Who's Sam's backer, as you call him?"

"Couldn't get him to tell; tried him hard, but he was close as an
oyster. Drives in the Park and wears a two thousand dollar diamond
pin; he let that out. So he's good for the hits. Sam always puts the
money down, fair and square."

"Very well; you get the policy, and do it right off, Pinky, or the
money'll slip through your fingers."

"All right," answered Pinky as she folded the slip of paper
containing the lucky rows. "Never you fear. I'll be at Sam
McFaddon's in ten minutes after I leave here."

"And be sure," said Mrs. Bray, "to look after the baby to-night, and
see that it doesn't perish with cold; the air's getting sharp."

"It ought to have something warmer than cotton rags on its poor
little body," returned Pinky. "Can't you get it some flannel? It
will die if you don't."

"I sent it a warm petticoat last week," said Mrs. Bray.

"You did?"

"Yes; I bought one at a Jew shop, and had it sent to the woman."

"Was it a nice warm one?"


Pinky drew a sigh. "I saw the poor baby last night; hadn't anything
on but dirty cotton rags. It was lying asleep in a cold cellar on a
little heap of straw. The woman had given it something, I guess, by
the way it slept. The petticoat had gone, most likely, to Sam
McFaddon's. She spends everything she can lay her hands on in
policies and whisky."

"She's paid a dollar a week for taking care of the baby at night and
on Sundays," said Mrs. Bray.

"It wouldn't help the baby any if she got ten dollars," returned
Pinky. "It ought to be taken away from her."

"But who's to do that? Sally Long sold it to the two beggar women,
and they board it out. I have no right to interfere; they own the
baby, and can do as they please with it."

"It could be got to the almshouse," said Pinky; "it would be a
thousand times better off."

"It mustn't go to the almshouse," replied Mrs. Bray; "I might lose
track of it, and that would never do."

"You'll lose track of it for good and all before long, if you don't
get it out of them women's bands. No baby can hold out being begged
with long; it's too hard on the little things. For you know how it
is, Fan; they must keep 'em half starved and as sick as they will
bear without dying right off, so as to make 'em look pitiful. You
can't do much at begging with a fat, hearty-looking baby."

"What's to be done about it?" asked Mrs. Bray. "I don't want that
baby to die."

"Would its mother know it if she saw it?" asked Pinky.

"No; for she never set eyes on it."

"Then, if it dies, get another baby, and keep track of that. You can
steal one from a drunken mother any night in the week. I'll do it
for you. One baby is as good as another."

"It will be safer to have the real one," replied Mrs. Bray. "And
now, Pinky that you have put this thing into my head, I guess I'll
commission you to get the baby away from that woman."

"All right!"

"But what are we to do with it? I can't have it here."

"Of course you can't. But that's easily managed, if your're willing
to pay for it."

"Pay for it?"

"Yes; if it isn't begged with, and made to pay its way and earn
something into the bargain, it's got to be a dead weight on
somebody. So you see how it is, Fan. Now, if you'll take a fool's
advice, you'll let 'it go to the almshouse, or let it alone to die
and get out of its misery as soon as possible. You can find another
baby that will do just as well, if you should ever need one."

"How much would it cost, do you think, to have it boarded with some
one who wouldn't abuse it? She might beg with it herself, or hire it
out two or three times a week. I guess it would stand that."

"Beggars don't belong to the merciful kind," answered Pinky;
"there's no trusting any of them. A baby in their hands is never
safe. I've seen 'em brought in at night more dead than alive, and
tossed on a dirty rag-heap to die before morning. I'm always glad
when they're out of their misery, poor things! The fact is, Fan, if
you expect that baby to live, you've got to take it clean out of the
hands of beggars."

"What could I get it boarded for outright?" asked Mrs. Bray.

"For 'most anything, 'cording to how it's done. But why not, while
you're about it, bleed the old lady, its grandmother, a little
deeper, and take a few drops for the baby?"

"Guess you're kind o' right about that, Fan; anyhow, we'll make a
start on it. You find another place for the brat."

"'Greed; when shall I do it?"

"The sooner, the better. It might die of cold any night in that
horrible den. Ugh!"

"I've been in worse places. Bedlow street is full of them, and so is
Briar street and Dirty alley. You don't know anything about it."

"Maybe not, and maybe I don't care to know. At present I want to
settle about this baby. You'll find another place for it?"


"And then steal it from the woman who has it now?"

"Yes; no trouble in the world. She's drunk every night," answered
Pinky Swett, rising to go.

"You'll see me to-morrow?" said Mrs. Bray.

"Oh yes."

"And you won't forget about the policies?"

"Not I. We shall make a grand hit, or I'm a fool. Day-day!" Pinky
waved her hand gayly, and then retired. _

Read next: CHAPTER VI

Read previous: CHAPTER IV

Table of content of Cast Adrift


Post your review
Your review will be placed after the table of content of this book