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Cast Adrift, a fiction by T. S. Arthur


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_ CHAPTER VII. Pinky Swett at the mercy of the crowd in the
street--Taken to the nearest station-house--Mrs. Dinneford visits
Mrs. Bray again--Fresh alarms--"She's got you in her power"---"Money
is of no account"--The knock at the door--Mrs. Dinneford in
hiding--The visitor gone--Mrs. Bray reports the woman insatiable in
her demands--Must have two hundred dollars by sundown--No way of
escape except through police interference--"People who deal with the
devil generally have the devil to pay"--Suspicion--A mistake--Sound
of feet upon the stairs--Mrs. Dinneford again in hiding--Enter Pinky
Swett--Pinky disposed of--Mrs. Dinneford again released--Mrs. Bray's
strategy--"Let us be friends still, Mrs. Bray"--Mrs. Dinneford's
deprecation and humiliation--Mrs. Bray's triumph

_FOR_ a short time the sounds of cruel exultation came over from
Flanagan's; then all was still.

"Sal's put her mark on you," said Norah, looking steadily into
Pinky's face, and laughing in a cold, half-amused way.

Pinky raised her hand to her swollen cheek. "Does it look very bad?"
she asked.

"Spoils your beauty some."

"Will it get black?"

"Shouldn't wonder. But what can't be helped, can't. You'll mind your
own business next time, and keep out of Sal's way. She's dangerous.
What's the matter?"

"Got a sort of chill," replied the girl, who from nervous reaction
was beginning to shiver.

"Oh, want something to warm you up." Norah brought out a bottle of
spirits. Pinky poured a glass nearly half full, added some water,
and then drank off the fiery mixture.

"None of your common stuff," said Norah, with a smile, as Pinky
smacked her lips. The girl drew her handkerchief from her pocket,
and as she did so a piece of paper dropped on the floor.

"Oh, there it is!" she exclaimed, light flashing into her face.
"Going to make a splendid hit. Just look at them rows."

Norah threw an indifferent glance on the paper.

"They're lucky, every one of them," said Pinky. "Going to put half a
dollar on each row--sure to make a hit."

The queen gave one of her peculiar shrugs.

"Going to break Sam McFaddon," continued Pinky, her spirits rising
under the influence of Norah's treat.

"Soft heads don't often break hard rocks," returned the woman, with
a covert sneer.

"That's an insult!" cried Pinky, on whom the liquor she had just
taken was beginning to have a marked effect, "and I won't stand an
insult from you or anybody else."

"Well, I wouldn't if I was you," returned Norah, coolly. A hard
expression began settling about her mouth.

"And I don't mean to. I'm as good as you are, any day!"

"You may be a great deal better, for all I care," answered Norah.
"Only take my advice, and keep a civil tongue in your head." There
was a threatening undertone in the woman's voice. She drew her tall
person more erect, and shook herself like a wild beast aroused from

Pinky was too blind to see the change that had come so suddenly. A
stinging retort fell from her lips. But the words had scarcely died
on the air ere she found herself in the grip of vice-like hands.
Resistance was of no more avail than if she had been a child. In
what seemed but a moment of time she was pushed back through the
door and dropped upon the pavement. Then the door shut, and she was
alone on the outside--no, not alone, for scores of the denizens who
huddle together in that foul region were abroad, and gathered around
her as quickly as flies about a heap of offal, curious, insolent and
aggressive. As she arose to her feet she found herself hemmed in by
a jeering crowd.

"Ho! it's Pinky Swett!" cried a girl, pressing toward her. "Hi,
Pinky! what's the matter? What's up?"

"Norah pitched her out! I saw it!" screamed a boy, one of the young
thieves that harbored in the quarter.

"It's a lie!" Pinky answered back as she confronted the crowd.

At this moment another boy, who had come up behind Pinky, gave her
dress so violent a jerk that she fell over backward on the pavement,
striking her head on a stone and cutting it badly. She lay there,
unable to rise, the crowd laughing with as much enjoyment as if
witnessing a dog-fight.

"Give her a dose of mud!" shouted one of the boys; and almost as
soon as the words were out of his mouth her face was covered with a
paste of filthy dirt from the gutter. This, instead of exciting
pity, only gave a keener zest to the show. The street rang with
shouts and peals of merriment, bringing a new and larger crowd to
see the fun. With them came one or two policemen.

Seeing that it was only a drunken woman, they pushed back the crowd
and raised her to her feet. As they did so the blood streamed from
the back of her head and stained her dress to the waist. She was
taken to the nearest station-house.

At eleven o'clock on the next morning, punctual to the minute, came
Mrs. Dinneford to the little third-story room in which she had met
Mrs. Bray. She repeated her rap at the door before it was opened,
and noticed that a key was turned in the lock.

"You have seen the woman?" she said as she took an offered seat,
coming at once to the object of her visit.



"I gave her the money."


Mrs. Bray shook her head:

"Afraid I can't do much with her."

"Why?" an anxious expression coming into Mrs. Dinneford's face.

"These people suspect everybody; there is no honor nor truth in
them, and they judge every one by themselves. She half accused me of
getting a larger amount of money from you, and putting her off with
the paltry sum of thirty dollars."

Mrs. Bray looked exceedingly hurt and annoyed.

"Threatened," she went on, "to go to you herself--didn't want any
go-betweens nor brokers. I expected to hear you say that she'd been
at your house this morning."

"Good Gracious! no!" Mrs. Dinneford's face was almost distorted with

"It's the way with all these people," coolly remarked Mrs. Bray.
"You're never safe with them."

"Did you hint at her leaving the city?--going to New Orleans, for

"Oh dear, no! She isn't to be managed in that way--is deeper and
more set than I thought. The fact is, Mrs. Dinneford"--and Mrs. Bray
lowered her voice and looked shocked and mysterious--"I'm beginning
to suspect her as being connected with a gang."

"With a gang? What kind of a gang?" Mrs. Dinneford turned slightly

"A gang of thieves. She isn't the right thing; I found that out long
ago. You remember what I said when you gave her the child. I told
you that she was not a good woman, and that it was a cruel thing to
put a helpless, new-born baby into her hands."

"Never mind about that." Mrs. Dinneford waved her hand impatiently.
"The baby's out of her hands, so far as that is concerned. A gang of

"Yes, I'm 'most sure of it. Goes to people's houses on one excuse
and another, and finds out where the silver is kept and how to get
in. You don't know half the wickedness that's going on. So you see
it's no use trying to get her away."

Mrs. Bray was watching the face of her visitor with covert scrutiny,
gauging, as she did so, by its weak alarms, the measure of her power
over her.

"Dreadful! dreadful!" ejaculated Mrs. Dinneford, with dismay.

"It's bad enough," said Mrs. Bray, "and I don't see the end of it.
She's got you in her power, and no mistake, and she isn't one of the
kind to give up so splendid an advantage. I'm only surprised that
she's kept away so long."

"What's to be done about it?" asked Mrs. Dinneford, her alarm and
distress increasing.

"Ah! that's more than I can tell," coolly returned Mrs. Bray. "One
thing is certain--I don't want to have anything more to do with her.
It isn't safe to let her come here. You'll have to manage her

"No, no, no, Mrs. Bray! You mustn't desert me!" answered Mrs.
Dinneford, her face growing pallid with fear. "Money is of no
account. I'll pay 'most anything, reasonable or unreasonable, to
have her kept away."

And she drew out her pocket-book while speaking. At this moment
there came two distinct raps on the door. It had been locked after
Mrs. Dinneford's entrance. Mrs. Bray started and changed
countenance, turning her face quickly from observation. But she was
self-possessed in an instant. Rising, she said in a whisper,

"Go silently into the next room, and remain perfectly still. I
believe that's the woman now. I'll manage her as best I can."

Almost as quick as thought, Mrs. Dinneford vanished through a door
that led into an adjoining room, and closing it noiselessly, turned
a key that stood in the lock, then sat down, trembling with nervous
alarm. The room in which she found herself was small, and overlooked
the street; it was scantily furnished as a bed-room. In one corner,
partly hid by a curtain that hung from a hoop fastened to the wall,
was an old wooden chest, such as are used by sailors. Under the bed,
and pushed as far back as possible, was another of the same kind.
The air of the room was close, and she noticed the stale smell of a

A murmur of voices from the room she had left so hastily soon
reached her ears; but though she listened intently, standing close
to the door, she was not able to distinguish a word. Once or twice
she was sure that she heard the sound of a man's voice. It was
nearly a quarter of an hour by her watch--it seemed two
hours--before Mrs. Bray's visitor or visitors retired; then there
came a light rap on the door. She opened it, and stood face to face
again with the dark-eyed little woman.

"You kept me here a long time," said Mrs. Dinneford, with
ill-concealed impatience.

"No longer than I could help," replied Mrs. Bray. "Affairs of this
kind are not settled in a minute."

"Then it was that miserable woman?"


"Well, what did you make out of her?"

"Not much; she's too greedy. The taste of blood has sharpened her

"What does she want?"

"She wants two hundred dollars paid into her hand to-day, and says
that if the money isn't here by sundown, you'll have a visit from
her in less than an hour afterward."

"Will that be the end of it?"

A sinister smile curved Mrs. Bray's lips slightly.

"More than I can say," she answered.

"Two hundred dollars?"

"Yes. She put the amount higher, but I told her she'd better not go
for too big a slice or she might get nothing--that there was such a
thing as setting the police after her. She laughed at this in such a
wicked, sneering way that I felt my flesh creep, and said she knew
the police, and some of their masters, too, and wasn't afraid of
them. She's a dreadful woman;" and Mrs. Bray shivered in a very
natural manner.

"If I thought this would be the last of it!" said Mrs. Dinneford as
she moved about the room in a disturbed way, and with an anxious
look on her face.

"Perhaps," suggested her companion, "it would be best for you to
grapple with this thing at the outset--to take our vampire by the
throat and strangle her at once. The knife is the only remedy for
some forms of disease. If left to grow and prey upon the body, they
gradually suck away its life and destroy it in the end."

"If I only knew how to do it," replied Mrs. Dinneford. "If I could
only get her in my power, I'd make short works of her." Her eyes
flashed with a cruel light.

"It might be done."


"Mr. Dinneford knows the chief of police."

The light went out of Mrs. Dinneford's eyes:

"It can't be done in that way, and you know it as well as I do."

Mrs. Dinneford turned upon Mrs. Bray sharply, and with a gleam of
suspicion in her face.

"I don't know any other way, unless you go to the chief yourself,"
replied Mrs. Bray, coolly. "There is no protection in cases like
this except through the law. Without police interference, you are
wholly in this woman's power."

Mrs. Dinneford grew very pale.

"It is always dangerous," went on Mrs. Bray, "to have anything to do
with people of this class. A woman who for hire will take a new-born
baby and sell it to a beggar-woman will not stop at anything. It is
very unfortunate that you are mixed up with her."

"I'm indebted to you for the trouble," replied. Mrs. Dinneford, with
considerable asperity of manner. "You ought to have known something
about the woman before employing her in a delicate affair of this

"Saints don't hire themselves to put away new-born babies," retorted
Mrs. Bray, with an ugly gurgle in her throat. "I told you at the
time that she was a bad woman, and have not forgotten your answer."

"What did I answer?"

"That she might be the devil for all you cared!"

"You are mistaken."

"No; I repeat your very words. They surprised and shocked me at the
time, and I have not forgotten them. People who deal with the devil
usually have the devil to pay; and your case, it seems, is not to be
an exception."

Mrs. Bray had assumed an air of entire equality with her visitor.

A long silence followed, during which Mrs. Dinneford walked the
floor with the quick, restless motions of a caged animal.

"How long do you think two hundred dollars will satisfy her?" she
asked, at length, pausing and turning to her companion.

"It is impossible for me to say," was answered; "not long, unless
you can manage to frighten her off; you must threaten hard."

Another silence followed.

"I did not expect to be called on for so large a sum," Mrs.
Dinneford said at length, in a husky voice, taking out her
pocket-book as she spoke. "I have only a hundred dollars with me.
Give her that, and put her off until to-morrow."

"I will do the best I can with her," replied Mrs. Bray, reaching out
her hand for the money, "but I think it will be safer for you to let
me have the balance to-day. She will, most likely, take it into her
head that I have received the whole sum from you, and think I am
trying to cheat her. In that case she will be as good as her word,
and come down on you."

"Mrs. Bray!" exclaimed Mrs. Dinneford, suspicion blazing from her
eyes. "Mrs. Bray!"--and she turned upon her and caught her by the
arms with a fierce grip--"as I live, you are deceiving me. There is
no woman but yourself. You are the vampire!"

She held the unresisting little woman in her vigorous grasp for some
moments, gazing at her in stern and angry accusation.

Mrs. Bray stood very quit and with scarcely a change of countenance
until this outburst of passion had subsided. She was still holding
the money she had taken from Mrs. Dinneford. As the latter released
her she extended her hand, saying, in a low resolute voice, in which
not the faintest thrill of anger could be detected,

"Take your money." She waited for a moment, and then let the little
roll of bank-bills fall at Mrs. Dinneford's feet and turned away.

Mrs. Dinneford had made a mistake, and she saw it--saw that she was
now more than ever in the power of this woman, whether she was true
or false. If false, more fatally in her power.

At this dead-lock in the interview between these women there came a
diversion. The sound of feet was heard on the stairs, then a
hurrying along the narrow passage; a hand was on the door, but the
key had been prudently turned on the inside.

With a quick motion, Mrs. Bray waved her hand toward the adjoining
chamber. Mrs. Dinneford did not hesitate, but glided in noiselessly,
shutting and locking the door behind her.

"Pinky Swett!" exclaimed Mrs. Bray, in a low voice, putting her
finger to her lips, as she admitted her visitor, at the same time
giving a warning glance toward the other room. Eyeing her from head
to foot, she added, "Well, you are an object!"

Pinky had drawn aside a close veil, exhibiting a bruised and swollen
face. A dark band lay under one of her eyes, and there was a cut
with red, angry margins on the cheek.

"You are an object," repeated Mrs. Bray as Pinky moved forward into
the room.

"Well, I am, and no mistake," answered Pinky, with a light laugh.
She had been drinking enough to overcome the depression and
discomfort of her feelings consequent on the hard usage she had
received and a night in one of the city station-houses. "Who's in

Mrs. Bray's finger went again to her lips. "No matter," was replied.
"You must go away until the coast is clear. Come back in half an

And she hurried Pinky out of the door, locking it as the girl
retired. When Mrs. Dinneford came out of the room into which he had
gone so hastily, the roll of bank-notes still lay upon the floor.
Mrs. Bray had prudently slipped them into her pocket before
admitting Pinky, but as soon as she was alone had thrown them down

The face of Mrs. Dinneford was pale, and exhibited no ordinary signs
of discomfiture and anxiety.

"Who was that?" she asked.

"A friend," replied Mrs. Bray, in a cold, self-possessed manner.

A few moments of embarrassed silence followed. Mrs. Bray crossed the
room, touching with her foot the bank-bills, as if they were of no
account to her.

"I am half beside myself," said Mrs. Dinneford.

Mrs. Bray made no response, did not even turn toward her visitor.

"I spoke hastily."

"A vampire!" Mrs. Bray swept round upon her fiercely. "A
blood-sucker!" and she ground her teeth in well-feigned passion.

Mrs. Dinneford sat down trembling.

"Take your money and go," said Mrs. Bray, and she lifted the bills
from the floor and tossed them into her visitor's lap. "I am served
right. It was evil work, and good never comes of evil."

But Mrs. Dinneford did not stir. To go away at enmity with this
woman was, so far as she could see, to meet exposure and unutterable
disgrace. Anything but that.

"I shall leave this money, trusting still to your good offices," she
said, at length, rising. Her manner was much subdued. "I spoke
hastily, in a sort of blind desperation. We should not weigh too
carefully the words that are extorted by pain or fear. In less than
an hour I will send you a hundred dollars more."

Mrs. Dinneford laid the bank-bills on a table, and then moved to the
door, but she dared not leave in this uncertainty. Looking back, she
said, with an appealing humility of voice and manner foreign to her

"Let us be friends still, Mrs. Bray; we shall gain nothing by being
enemies. I can serve you, and you can serve me. My suspicions were
ill founded. I felt wild and desperate, and hardly knew what I was

She stood anxiously regarding the little dark-eyed woman, who did
not respond by word or movement.

Taking her hand from the door she was about opening, Mrs. Dinneford
came back into the room, and stood close to Mrs. Bray:

"Shall I send you the money?"

"You can do as you please," was replied, with chilling indifference.

"Are you implacable?"

"I am not used to suspicion, much less denunciation and assault. A
vampire! Do you know what that means?"

"It meant, as used by me, only madness. I did not know what I was
saying. It was a cry of pain--nothing more. Consider how I stand,
how much I have at stake, in what a wretched affair I have become
involved. It is all new to me, and I am bewildered and at fault. Do
not desert me in this crisis. I must have some one to stand between
me and this woman; and if you step aside, to whom can I go?"

Mrs. Bray relented just a little. Mrs. Dinneford pleaded and
humiliated herself, and drifted farther into the toils of her

"You are not rich, Mrs. Bray," she said, at parting, "independent in
spirit as you are. I shall add a hundred dollars for your own use;
and if ever you stand in need, you will know where to find an
unfailing friend."

Mrs. Bray put up her hands, and replied, "No, no, no; don't think of
such a thing. I am not mercenary. I never serve a friend for money."

But Mrs. Dinneford heard the "yes" which flushed into the voice that
said "no." She was not deceived.

A rapid change passed over Mrs. Bray on the instant her visitor left
the room. Her first act was to lock the door; her next, to take the
roll of bank-bills from the table and put it into her pocket. Over
her face a gleam of evil satisfaction had swept.

"Got you all right now, my lady!" fell with a chuckle from her lips.
"A vampire, ha!" The chuckle was changed for a kind of hiss. "Well,
have it so. There is rich blood in your veins, and it will be no
fault of mine if I do not fatten upon it. As for pity, you shall
have as much of it as you gave to that helpless baby. Saints don't
work in this kind of business, and I'm not a saint."

And she chuckled and hissed and muttered to herself, with many signs
of evil satisfaction. _


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