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Cast Adrift, a fiction by T. S. Arthur


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_ CHAPTER XIV. Mr. Dinneford sets out for the mission-house--An
incident on the way--Encounters Mr. Paulding--Mr. Paulding makes his
report--"The vicious mark their offspring with unmistakable signs of
moral depravity; this baby has signs of a better origin"--A
profitable conversation--"I think you had better act promptly"

_ON_ the next morning, after some persuasion, Edith consented to
postpone her visit to Grubb's court until after her father had seen
Mr. Paulding, the missionary.

"Let me go first and gain what information I can," he urged. "It may
save you a fruitless errand."

It was not without a feeling of almost unconquerable repugnance that
Mr. Dinneford took his way to the mission-house, in Briar street.
His tastes, his habits and his naturally kind and sensitive feelings
all made him shrink from personal contact with suffering and
degradation. He gave much time and care to the good work of helping
the poor and the wretched, but did his work in boards and on
committees, rather than in the presence of the needy and suffering.
He was not one of those who would pass over to the other side and
leave a wounded traveler to perish, but he would avoid the road to
Jericho, if he thought it likely any such painful incident would
meet him in the way and shock his fine sensibilities. He was willing
to work for the downcast, the wronged, the suffering and the vile,
but preferred doing so at a distance, and not in immediate contact.
Thus it happened that, although one of the managers of the Briar
street mission and familiar with its work in a general way, he had
never been at the mission-house--had never, in fact, set his foot
within the morally plague-stricken district in which it stood. He
had often been urged to go, but could not overcome his reluctance to
meet humanity face to face in its sadder and more degraded aspects.

Now a necessity was upon him, and he had to go. It was about ten
o'clock in the morning when, at almost a single step, he passed from
what seemed paradise to purgatory, the sudden contrast was so great.
There were but few persons in the little street; where the mission
was situated at that early hour, and most of these were
children--poor, half-clothed, dirty, wan-faced, keen-eyed and alert
bits of humanity, older by far than their natural years, few of them
possessing any higher sense of right and wrong than young savages.
The night's late orgies or crimes had left most of their elders in a
heavy morning sleep, from which they did not usually awaken before
midday. Here and there one and another came creeping out, impelled
by a thirst no water could quench. Now it was a bloated, wild-eyed
man, dirty and forlorn beyond description, shambling into sight, but
disappearing in a moment or two in one of the dram-shops, whose name
was legion, and now it was a woman with the angel all gone out of
her face, barefooted, blotched, coarse, red-eyed, bruised and
awfully disfigured by her vicious, drunken life. Her steps too made
haste to the dram-shop.

Such houses for men and women to live in as now stretched before his
eyes in long dreary rows Mr. Dinneford had never seen, except in
isolated cases of vice and squalor. To say that he was shocked would
but faintly express his feelings. Hurrying along, he soon came in
sight of the mission. At this moment a jar broke the quiet of the
scene. Just beyond the mission-house two women suddenly made their
appearance, one of them pushing the other out upon the street. Their
angry cries rent the air, filling it with profane and obscene oaths.
They struggled together for a little while, and then one of them, a
woman with gray hair and not less than sixty years of age, fell
across the curb with her head on the cobble-stones.

As if a sorcerer had stamped his foot, a hundred wretched creatures,
mostly women and children, seemed to spring up from the ground. It
was like a phantasy. They gathered about the prostrate woman,
laughing and jeering. A policeman who was standing at the corner a
little way off came up leisurely, and pushing the motley crew aside,
looked down at the prostrate woman.

"Oh, it's you again!" he said, in a tone of annoyance, taking hold
of one arm and raising her so that she sat on the curb-stone. Mr.
Dinneford now saw her face distinctly; it was that of an old woman,
but red, swollen and terribly marred. Her thin gray hair had fallen
over her shoulders, and gave her a wild and crazy look.

"Come," said the policeman, drawing on the woman's arm and trying to
raise her from the ground. But she would not move.

"Come," he said, more imperatively.

"Nature you going to do with me?" she demanded.

"I'm going to lock you up. So come along. Have had enough of you
about here. Always drunk and in a row with somebody."

Her resistance was making the policeman angry.

"It'll take two like you to do that," returned the woman, in a
spiteful voice, swearing foully at the same time.

At this a cheer arose from the crowd. A negro with a push-cart came
along at the moment.

"Here! I want you," called the policeman.

The negro pretended not to hear, and the policeman had to threaten
him before he would stop.

Seeing the cart, the drunken woman threw herself back upon the
pavement and set every muscle to a rigid strain. And now came one of
those shocking scenes--too familiar, alas! in portions of our large
Christian cities--at which everything pure and merciful and holy in
our nature revolts: a gray-haired old woman, so debased by drink and
an evil life that all sense of shame and degradation had been
extinguished, fighting with a policeman, and for a time showing
superior strength, swearing vilely, her face distorted with passion,
and a crowd made up chiefly of women as vile and degraded as
herself, and of all ages, and colors, laughing, shouting and
enjoying the scene intensely.

At last, by aid of the negro, the woman was lifted into the cart and
thrown down upon the floor, her head striking one of the sides with
a sickening _thud_. She still swore and struggled, and had to be
held down by the policeman, who stood over her, while the cart was
pushed off to the nearest station-house, the excited crowd following
with shouts and merry huzzas.

Mr. Dinneford was standing in a maze, shocked and distressed by this
little episode, when a man at his side said in a grave, quiet voice,

"I doubt if you could see a sight just like that anywhere else in
all Christendom." Then added, as he extended his hand,

"I am glad to see you here, Mr. Dinneford."

"Oh, Mr. Paulding!" and Mr. Dinneford put out his hand and grasped
that of the missionary with a nervous grip. "This is awful! I am
sixty years old, but anything so shocking my eyes have not before
looked upon."

"We see things worse than this every day," said the missionary. "It
is only one of the angry boils on the surface, and tells of the
corrupt and vicious blood within. But I am right glad to find you
here, Mr. Dinneford. Unless you see these things with your own eyes,
it is impossible for you to comprehend the condition of affairs in
this by-way to hell."

"Hell, itself, better say," returned Mr. Dinneford. "It is hell
pushing itself into visible manifestation--hell establishing itself
on the earth, and organizing its forces for the destruction of human
souls, while the churches are too busy enlarging their phylacteries
and making broader and more attractive the hems of their garments to
take note of this fatal vantage-ground acquired by the enemy."

Mr. Dinneford stood and looked around him in a dazed sort of way.

"Is Grubb's court near this?" he asked, recollecting the errand upon
which he had come.


"A young lady called to see you yesterday afternoon to ask about a
child in that court?"

"Oh yes! You know the lady?"

"She is my daughter. One of the poor children in her sewing-class
told her of a neglected baby in Grubb's court, and so drew upon her
sympathies that she started to go there, but was warned by the child
that it would be dangerous for a young lady like her to be seen in
that den of thieves and harlots, and so she came to you. And now I
am here in her stead to get your report about the baby. I would not
consent to her visiting this place again."

Mr. Paulding took his visitor into the mission-house, near which
they were standing. After they were seated, he said,

"I have seen the baby about which your daughter wished me to make
inquiry. The woman who has the care of it is a vile creature, well
known in this region--drunken and vicious. She said at first that it
was her own baby, but afterward admitted that she didn't know who
its mother was, and that she was paid for taking care of it. I found
out, after a good deal of talking round, and an interview with the
mother of the child who is in your daughter's sewing-class, that a
girl of notoriously bad character, named Pinky Swett, pays the
baby's board. There's a mystery about the child, and I am of the
opinion that it has been stolen, or is known to be the offcast of
some respectable family. The woman who has the care of it was
suspicious, and seemed annoyed at my questions."

"Is it a boy?" asked Mr. Dinneford.

"Yes, and has a finely-formed head and a pair of large, clear, hazel
eyes. Evidently it is of good parentage. The vicious, the sensual
and the depraved mark their offspring with the unmistakable signs of
their moral depravity. You cannot mistake them. But this baby has in
its poor, wasted, suffering little face, in its well-balanced head
and deep, almost spiritual eyes, the signs of a better origin."

"It ought at once to be taken away from the woman," said Mr.
Dinneford, in a very decided manner.

"Who is to take it?" asked the missionary.

Mr. Dinneford was silent.

"Neither you nor I have any authority to do so. If I were to see it
cast out upon the street, I might have it sent to the almshouse; but
until I find it abandoned or shamefully abused, I have no right to

"I would like to see the baby," said Mr. Dinneford, on whose mind
painful suggestions akin to those that were so disturbing his
daughter were beginning to intrude themselves.

"It would hardly be prudent to go there to-day," said Mr. Paulding.

"Why not?"

"It would arouse suspicion; and if there is anything wrong, the baby
would drop out of sight. You would not find it if you went again.
These people are like birds with their wings half lifted, and fly
away at the first warning of danger. As it is, I fear my visit and
inquiries will be quite sufficient to the cause the child's removal
to another place."

Mr. Dinneford mused for a while:

"There ought to be some way to reach a case like this, and there is,
I am sure. From what you say, it is more than probable that this
poor little waif may have drifted out of some pleasant home, where
love would bless it with the tenderest care, into this hell of
neglect and cruelty. It should be rescued on the instant. It is my
duty--it is yours--to see that it is done, and that without delay. I
will go at once to the mayor and state the case. He will send an
officer with me, I know, and we will take the child by force. If its
real mother then comes forward and shows herself at all worthy to
have the care of it, well; if not, I will see that it is taken care
of. I know where to place it."

To this proposition Mr. Paulding had no objection to offer.

"If you take that course, and act promptly, you can no doubt get
possession of the poor thing. Indeed, sir"--and the missionary spoke
with much earnestness--"if men of influence like yourself would come
here and look the evil of suffering and neglected children in the
face, and then do what they could to destroy that evil, there would
soon be joy in heaven over the good work accomplished by their
hands. I could give you a list of ten or twenty influential citizens
whose will would be next to law in a matter like this who could in a
month, if they put heart and hand to it, do such a work for humanity
here as would make the angels glad. But they are too busy with their
great enterprises to give thought and effort to a work like this."

A shadow fell across the missionary's face. There was a tone of
discouragement in his voice.

"The great question is _what_ to do," said Mr. Dinneford. "There are
no problems so hard to solve as these problems of social evil. If
men and women choose to debase themselves, who is to hinder? The
vicious heart seeks a vicious life. While the heart is depraved the
life will be evil. So long as the fountain is corrupt the water will
be foul."

"There is a side to all this that most people do not consider,"
answered Mr. Paulding. "Self-hurt is one thing, hurt of the neighbor
quite another. It may be questioned whether society has a right to
touch the individual freedom of a member in anything that affects
himself alone. But the moment he begins to hurt his neighbor,
whether from ill-will or for gain, then it is the duty of society to
restrain him. The common weal demands this, to say nothing of
Christian obligation. If a man were to set up an exhibition in our
city dangerous to life and limb, but so fascinating as to attract
large numbers to witness and participate therein, and if hundreds
were maimed or killed every year, do you think any one would
question the right of our authorities to repress it? And yet to-day
there are in our city more than twenty thousand persons who live by
doing things a thousand times more hurtful to the people than any
such exhibition could possibly be. And what is marvelous to think
of, the larger part of these persons are actually licensed by the
State to get gain by hurting, depraving and destroying the people.
Think of it, Mr. Dinneford! The whole question lies in a nutshell.
There is no difficulty about the problem. Restrain men from doing
harm to each other, and the work is more than half done."

"Is not the law all the while doing this?"

"The law," was answered. "is weakly dealing with effect--how weakly
let prison and police statistics show. Forty thousand arrests in our
city for a single year, and the cause of these arrests clearly
traced to the liquor licenses granted to five or six thousand
persons to make money by debasing and degrading the people. If all
of these were engaged in useful employments, serving, as every true
citizen is bound to do, the common good, do you think we should have
so sad and sickening a record? No, sir! We must go back to the
causes of things. Nothing but radical work will do."

"You think, then," said Mr. Dinneford, "that the true remedy for all
these dreadful social evils lies in restrictive legislation?"

"Restrictive only on the principles of eternal right," answered the
missionary. "Man's freedom over himself must not be touched. Only
his freedom to hurt his neighbor must be abridged. Here society has
a right to put bonds on its members--to say to each individual, You
are free to do anything by which your neighbor is served, but
nothing to harm him. Here is where the discrimination must be made;
and when the mass of the people come to see this, we shall have the
beginning of a new day. There will then be hope for such poor
wretches as crowd this region; or if most of them are so far lost as
to be without hope, their places, when they die, will not be filled
with new recruits for the army of perdition."

"If the laws we now have were only executed," said Mr. Dinneford,
"there might be hope in our legislative restrictions. But the people
are defrauded of justice through defects in its machinery. There are
combinations to defeat good laws. There are men holding high office
notoriously in league with scoundrels who prey upon the people.
Through these, justice perpetually fails."

"The people are alone to blame," replied the missionary. "Each is
busy with his farm and his merchandise with his own affairs,
regardless of his neighbor. The common good is nothing, so that his
own good is served. Each weakly folds his hands and is sorry when
these troublesome questions are brought to his notice, but doesn't
see that he can do anything. Nor can the people, unless some strong
and influential leaders rally them, and, like great generals, lead
them to the battle. As I said a little while ago, there are ten or
twenty men in this city who, if they could be made to feel their
high responsibility--who, if they could be induced to look away for
a brief period from their great enterprises and concentrate thought
and effort upon these questions of social evil, abuse of justice and
violations of law--would in a single month inaugurate reforms and
set agencies to work that would soon produce marvelous changes. They
need not touch the rottenness of this half-dead carcass with knife
or poultice. Only let them cut off the sources of pollution and
disease, and the purified air will do the work of restoration where
moral vitality remains, or hasten the end in those who are debased
beyond hope."

"What could these men do? Where would their work begin?" asked Mr.

"Their own intelligence would soon discover the way to do this work
if their hearts were in it. Men who can organize and successfully
conduct great financial and industrial enterprises, who know how to
control the wealth and power of the country and lead the people
almost at will, would hardly be at fault in the adjustment of a
matter like this. What would be the money influence of 'whisky
rings' and gambling associations, set against the social and money
influence of these men? Nothing, sir, nothing! Do you think we
should long have over six thousand bars and nearly four hundred
lottery-policy shops in our city if the men to whom I refer were to
take the matter in hand?"

"Are there so many policy-shops?" asked Mr. Dinneford, in surprise.

"There may be more. You will find them by scores in every locality
where poor and ignorant people are crowded together, sucking out
their substance, and in the neighborhood of all the market-houses
and manufactories, gathering in spoil. The harm they are doing is
beyond computation. The men who control this unlawful business are
rich and closely organized. They gather in their dishonest gains at
the rate of hundreds of thousands of dollars every year, and know
how and where to use this money for the protection of their agents
in the work of defrauding the people, and the people are helpless
because our men of wealth and influence have no time to give to
public justice or the suppression of great social wrongs. With them,
as things now are, rests the chief responsibility. They have the
intelligence, the wealth and the public confidence, and are fully
equal to the task if they will put their hands to the work. Let them
but lift the standard and sound the trumpet of reform, and the
people will rally instantly at the call. It must not be a mere
spasmodic effort--a public meeting with wordy resolutions and strong
speeches only--but organized work based on true principles of social
order and the just rights of the people."

"You are very much in earnest about this matter," said Mr.
Dinneford, seeing how excited the missionary had grown.

"And so would you and every other good citizen become if, standing
face to face, as I do daily, with this awful debasement and crime
and suffering, you were able to comprehend something of its real
character. If I could get the influential citizens to whom I have
referred to come here and see for themselves, to look upon this
pandemonium in their midst and take in an adequate idea of its
character, significance and aggressive force, there would be some
hope of making them see their duty, of arousing them to action. But
they stand aloof, busy with personal and material interest, while
thousands of men, women and children are yearly destroyed, soul and
body, through their indifference to duty and ignorance of their
fellows' suffering."

"It is easy to say such things," answered Mr. Dinneford, who felt
the remarks of Mr. Paulding as almost personal.

"Yes, it is easy to say them," returned the missionary, his voice
dropping to a lower key, "and it may be of little use to say them. I
am sometimes almost in despair, standing so nearly alone as I do
with my feet on the very brink of this devastating flood of evil,
and getting back only faint echoes to my calls for help. But when
year after year I see some sheaves coming in as the reward of my
efforts and of the few noble hearts that work with me, I thank God
and take courage, and I lift my voice and call more loudly for help,
trusting that I may be heard by some who, if they would only come up
to the help of the Lord against the mighty, would scatter his foes
like chaff on the threshing-floor. But I am holding you back from
your purpose to visit the mayor; I think you had better act promptly
if you would get possession of the child. I shall be interested in
the result, and will take it as a favor if you will call at the
mission again." _

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