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Cast Adrift, a fiction by T. S. Arthur


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_ CHAPTER XII. Mr. Freeling fails to appear at his place of
business--Examination of his bank accounts--It is discovered that he
has borrowed largely of his friends--Mrs. Dinneford has supplied him
$20,000 from her private purse--Mrs. Dinneford falls sick, and
temporarily loses her reason--"I told you her name was Gray--Gray,
not Bray"--Half disclosures--Recovery--Mother and daughter mutually
suspicious--The visitor--Mrs. Dinneford equal to the
emergency--Edith thrown off the track

_ONE_ morning, about two weeks later, Mr. Freeling did not make his
appearance at his place of business as usual. At ten o'clock a clerk
went to the hotel where he boarded to learn the cause of his
absence. He had not been there since the night before. His trunks
and clothing were all in their places, and nothing in the room
indicated anything more than an ordinary absence.

Twelve o'clock, and still Mr. Freeling had not come to the store.
Two or three notes were to be paid that day, and the managing-clerk
began to feel uneasy. The bank and check books were in a private
drawer in the fireproof of which Mr. Freeling had the key. So there
was no means of ascertaining the balances in bank.

At one o'clock it was thought best to break open the private drawer
and see how matters stood. Freeling kept three bank-accounts, and it
was found that on the day before he had so nearly checked out all
the balances that the aggregate on deposit was not over twenty
dollars. In looking back over these bank-accounts, it was seen that
within a week he had made deposits of over fifty thousand dollars,
and that most of the checks drawn against these deposits were in
sums of five thousand dollars each.

At three o'clock he was still absent. His notes went to protest, and
on the next day his city creditors took possession of his effects.
One fact soon became apparent--he had been paying the rogue's game
on a pretty liberal scale, having borrowed on his checks, from
business friends and brokers, not less than sixty or seventy
thousand dollars. It was estimated, on a thorough examination of his
business, that he had gone off with at least a hundred thousand
dollars. To this amount Mrs. Dinneford had contributed from her
private fortune the sum of twenty thousand dollars. Not until she
had furnished him with that large amount would he consent to leave
the city. He magnified her danger, and so overcame her with terrors
that she yielded to his exorbitant demand.

On the day a public newspaper announcement of Freeling's rascality
was made, Mrs. Dinneford went to bed sick of a nervous fever, and
was for a short period out of her mind.

Neither Mr. Dinneford nor Edith had failed to notice a change in
Mrs. Dinneford. She was not able to hide her troubled feelings.
Edith was watching her far more closely than she imagined; and now
that she was temporarily out of her mind, she did not let a word or
look escape her. The first aspect of her temporary aberration was
that of fear and deprecation. She was pursued by some one who filled
her with terror, and she would lift her hands to keep him off, or
hide her head in abject alarm. Then she would beg him to keep away.
Once she said,

"It's no use; I can't do anything more. You're a vampire!"

"Who is a vampire?" asked Edith, hoping that her mother would repeat
some name.

But the question seemed to put her on her guard. The expression of
fear went out of her face, and she looked at her daughter curiously.

Edith did not repeat the question. In a little while the mother's
wandering thoughts began to find words again, and she went on
talking in broken sentences out of which little could be gleaned. At
length she said, turning to Edith and speaking with the directness
of one in her right mind,

"I told you her name was Gray, didn't I? Gray, not Bray."

It was only by a quick and strong effort that Edith could steady her
voice as she replied:

"Yes; you said it was Gray."

"Gray, not Bray. You thought it was Bray."

"But it's Gray," said Edith, falling in with her mother's humor.
Then she added, still trying to keep her voice even,

"She was my nurse when baby was born."

"Yes; she was the nurse, but she didn't--"

Checking herself, Mrs. Dinneford rose on one arm and looked at Edith
in a frightened way, then said, hurriedly,

"Oh, it's dead, it's dead! You know that; and the woman's dead,

Edith sat motionless and silent as a statue, waiting for what more
might come. But her mother shut her lips tightly, and turned her
head away.

A long time elapsed before she was able to read in her mother's
confused utterances anything to which she could attach a meaning. At
last Mrs. Dinneford spoke out again, and with an abruptness that
startled her:

"Not another dollar, sir! Remember, you don't hold _all_ the winning

Edith held her breath, and sat motionless. Her mother muttered and
mumbled incoherently for a while, and then said, sharply,

"I said I would ruin him, and I've done it!"

"Ruin who?" asked Edith, in a repressed voice.

This question, instead of eliciting an answer, as Edith had hoped,
brought her mother back to semi-consciousness. She rose again in
bed, and looked at her daughter in the same frightened way she had
done a little while before, then laid herself over on the pillows
again. Her lips were tightly shut.

Edith was almost wild with suspense. The clue to that sad and
painful mystery which was absorbing her life seemed almost in her
grasp. A word from those closely-shut lips, and she would have
certainty for uncertainty. But she waited and waited until she grew
faint, and still the lips kept silent.

But after a while Mrs. Dinneford grew uneasy, and began talking. She
moved her head from side to side, threw her arms about restlessly
and appeared greatly disturbed.

"Not dead, Mrs. Bray?" she cried out, at last, in a clear, strong

Edith became fixed as a statue once more.

A few moments, and Mrs. Dinneford added,

"No, no! I won't have her coming after me. More money! You're a

Then she muttered, and writhed and distorted her face like one in
some desperate struggle. Edith shuddered as she stood over her.

After this wild paroxysm Mrs. Dinneford grew more quiet, and seemed
to sleep. Edith remained sitting by the bedside, her thoughts intent
on the strange sentences that had fallen from her Mother's lips.
What mystery lay behind them? Of what secret were they an obscure
revelation? "Not dead!" Who not dead? And again, "It's dead! You
know that; and the woman's dead, too." Then it was plain that she
had heard aright the name of the person who had called on her
mother, and about whom her mother had made a mystery. It was Bray;
if not, why the anxiety to make her believe it Gray? And this woman
had been her nurse. It was plain, also, that money was being paid
for keeping secret. What secret? Then a life had been ruined. "I
said I would ruin him, and I've done it!" Who? who could her mother
mean but the unhappy man she had once called husband, now a criminal
in the eyes of the law, and only saved by insanity from a criminal's

Putting all together, Edith's mind quickly wrought out a theory, and
this soon settled into a conviction--a conviction so close to fact
that all the chief elements were true.

During her mother's temporary aberration, Edith never left her room
except for a few minutes at a time. Not a word or sentence escaped
her notice. But she waited and listened in vain for anything more.
The talking paroxysm was over. A stupor of mind and body followed.
Out of this a slow recovery came, but it did not progress to a full
convalescence. Mrs. Dinneford went forth from her sick-chamber weak
and nervous, starting at sudden noises, and betraying a perpetual
uneasiness and suspense. Edith was continually on the alert,
watching every look and word and act with untiring scrutiny. Mrs.
Dinneford soon became aware of this. Guilt made her wary, and danger
inspired prudence. Edith's whole manner had changed. Why? was her
natural query. Had she been wandering in her mind? Had she given any
clue to the dark secrets she was hiding? Keen observation became
mutual. Mother and daughter watched each other with a suspicion that
never slept.

It was over a month from the time Freeling disappeared before Mrs.
Dinneford was strong enough to go out, except in her carriage. In
every case where she had ridden out, Edith had gone with her.

"If you don't care about riding, it's no matter," the mother would
say, when she saw Edith getting ready. "I can go alone. I feel quite
well and strong."

But Edith always had some reason for going against which her mother
could urge no objections. So she kept her as closely under
observation as possible. One day, on returning from a ride, as the
carriage passed into the block where they lived, she saw a woman
standing on the step in front of their residence. She had pulled the
bell, and was waiting for a servant to answer it.

"There is some one at our door," said Edith.

Mrs. Dinneford leaned across her daughter, and then drew back
quickly, saying,

"It's Mrs. Barker. Tell Henry to drive past. I don't want to see
visitors, and particularly not Mrs. Barker."

She spoke hurriedly, and with ill-concealed agitation. Edith kept
her eyes on the woman, and saw her go in, but did not tell the
driver to keep on past the house. It was not Mrs. Barker. She knew
that very well. In the next moment their carriage drew up at the

"Go on, Henry!" cried Mrs. Dinneford, leaning past her daughter, and
speaking through the window that was open on that side. "Drive down
to Loring's."

"Not till I get out, Henry," said Edith, pushing open the door and
stepping to the pavement. Then with a quick movement she shut the
door and ran across the pavement, calling back to the driver as she
did so,

"Take mother to Loring's."

"Stop, Henry!" cried Mrs. Dinneford, and with an alertness that was
surprising sprung from the carriage, and was on the steps of their
house before Edith's violent ring had brought a servant to the door.
They passed in, Edith holding her place just in advance.

"I will see Mrs. Barker," said Mrs. Dinneford, trying to keep out of
her voice the fear and agitation from which she was suffering. "You
can go up to your room."

"It isn't Mrs. Barker. You are mistaken." There was as much of
betrayal in the voice of Edith as in that of her mother. Each was
trying to hide herself from the other, but the veil in both cases
was far too thin for deception.

Mother and daughter entered the parlor together. As they did so a
woman of small stature, and wearing a rusty black dress, arose from
a seat near the window. The moment she saw Edith she drew a heavy
dark veil over her face with a quickness of movement that had in it
as much of discomfiture as surprise.

Mrs. Dinneford was equal to the occasion. The imminent peril in
which she stood calmed the wild tumult within, as the strong wind
calms this turbulent ocean, and gave her thoughts clearness and her
mind decision. Edith saw before the veil fell a startled face, and
recognized the sallow countenance and black, evil eyes, the woman
who had once before called to see her mother.

"Didn't I tell you not to come here, Mrs. Gray?" cried out Mrs.
Dinneford, with an anger that was more real than feigned, advancing
quickly upon the woman as she spoke. "Go!" and she pointed to the
door, "and don't you dare to come here again. I told you when you
were here last time that I wouldn't be bothered with you any longer.
I've done all I ever intend doing. So take yourself away."

And she pointed again to the door. Mrs. Bray--for it was that
personage--comprehended the situation fully. She was as good an
actor as Mrs. Dinneford, and quite as equal to the occasion. Lifting
her hand in a weak, deprecating way, and then shrinking like one
borne down by the shock of a great disappointment, she moved back
from the excited woman and made her way to the hall, Mrs. Dinneford
following and assailing her in passionate language.

Edith was thrown completely off her guard by this unexpected scene.
She did not stir from the spot where she stood on entering the
parlor until the visitor was at the street door, whither her mother
had followed the retreating figure. She did not hear the woman say
in the tone of one who spoke more in command than entreaty,

"To-morrow at one o'clock, or take the consequences."

"It will be impossible to-morrow," Mrs. Dinneford whispered back,
hurriedly; "I have been very ill, and have only just begun to ride
out. It may be a week, but I'll surely come. I'm watched. Go now!
go! go!"

And she pushed Mrs. Bray out into the vestibule and shut the door
after her. Mrs. Dinneford did not return to the parlor, but went
hastily up to her own room, locking herself in.

She did not come out until dinner-time, when she made an effort to
seem composed, but Edith saw her hand tremble every time it was
lifted. She drank three glasses of wine during the meal. After
dinner she went to her own apartment immediately, and did not come
down again that day.

On the next morning Mrs. Dinneford tried to appear cheerful and
indifferent. But her almost colorless face, pinched about the lips
and nostrils, and the troubled expression that would not go out of
her eyes, betrayed to Edith the intense anxiety and dread that lay
beneath the surface.

Days went by, but Edith had no more signs. Now that her mother was
steadily getting back both bodily strength and mental self-poise,
the veil behind which she was hiding herself, and which had been
broken into rifts here and there during her sickness, grew thicker
and thicker. Mrs. Dinneford had too much at stake not to play her
cards with exceeding care. She knew that Edith was watching her with
an intentness that let nothing escape. Her first care, as soon as
she grew strong enough to have the mastery over herself, was so to
control voice, manner and expression of countenance as not to appear
aware of this surveillance. Her next was to re-establish the old
distance between herself and daughter, which her illness had
temporarily bridged over, and her next was to provide against any
more visits from Mrs. Bray. _


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