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 XXIII. Christmas dinner at Mr. Dinneford's--The dropped
letter--It is missed--A scene of wild excitement--Mrs. Dinneford's
sudden death--Edith reads the letter--A
revelation--"Innocent!"--Edith is called to her mother--"Dead, and
better so!"--Granger's innocence established--An agony of
affection--No longer Granger's wife

_AS_ Edith glanced up, on arriving before their residence, she saw
for a moment her mother's face at the window. It vanished like the
face of a ghost, but not quick enough to prevent Edith from seeing
that it was almost colorless and had a scared look. They did not
find Mrs. Dinneford in the parlor when they came in, nor did she
make her appearance until an hour afterward, when dinner was
announced. Then it was plain to both her husband and daughter that
something had occurred since morning to trouble her profoundly. The
paleness noticed by Edith at the window and the scared look
remained. Whenever she turned her eyes suddenly upon her mother, she
found her looking at her with a strange, searching intentness. It
was plain that Mrs. Dinneford saw in Edith's face as great a change
and mystery as Edith saw in hers, and the riddle of her husband's
countenance, so altered since morning, was harder even than Edith's
to solve.

A drearier Christmas dinner, and one in which less food was taken by
those who ate it, could hardly have been found in the city. The
Briar-street feast was one of joy and gladness in comparison. The
courses came and went with unwonted quickness, plates bearing off
the almost untasted viands which they had received. Scarcely a word
was spoken during the meal. Mrs. Dinneford asked no question about
the dinner in Briar street, and no remark was made about it by
either Edith or her father. In half the usual time this meal was
ended. Mrs. Dinneford left the table first, and retired to her own
room. As she did so, in taking her handkerchief from her pocket, she
drew out a letter, which fell unnoticed by her upon the floor. Mr.
Dinneford was about calling her attention to it when Edith, who saw
his purpose and was near enough to touch his hand, gave a quick
signal to forbear. The instant her mother was out of the room she
sprang from her seat, and had just secured the letter when the
dining-room door was pushed open, and Mrs. Dinneford came in, white
and frightened. She saw the letter in Edith's hand, and with a cry
like some animal in pain leaped upon her and tried to wrest it from
her grasp. But Edith held it in her closed hand with a desperate
grip, defying all her mother's efforts to get possession of it. In
her wild fear and anger Mrs. Dinneford exclaimed,

"I'll kill you if you don't give me that letter!" and actually, in
her blind rage, reached toward the table as if to get a knife. Mr.
Dinneford, who had been for a moment stupefied, now started forward,
and throwing his arms about his wife, held her tightly until Edith
could escape with the letter, not releasing her until the sound of
his daughter's retiring feet were no longer heard. By this time she
had ceased to struggle; and when he released her, she stood still in
a passive, dull sort of way, her arms falling heavily to her sides.
He looked into her face, and saw that the eyes were staring wildly
and the muscles in a convulsive quiver. Then starting and reaching
out helplessly, she fell forward. Catching her in his arms, Mr.
Dinneford drew her toward a sofa, but she was dead before he could
raise her from the floor.

When Edith reached her room, she shut and locked the door. Then all
her excitement died away. She sat down, and opening the letter with
hands that gave no sign of inward agitation or suspense, read it
through. It was dated at Havana, and was as follows:

"MRS. HELEN DINNEFORD: MADAM--My physician tells me that I cannot
live a week--may die at any moment; and I am afraid to die with one
unconfessed and unatoned sin upon my conscience--a sin into which I
was led by you, the sharer of my guilt. I need not go into
particulars. You know to what I refer--the ruin of an innocent,
confiding young man, your daughter's husband. I do not wonder that
he lost his reason! But I have information that his insanity has
taken on the mildest form, and that his friends are only keeping him
at the hospital until they can get a pardon from the governor. It is
in your power and mine to establish his innocence at once. I leave
you a single mouth in which to do this, and at the same time screen
yourself, if that be possible. If, at the end of a month, it is not
done, then a copy of this letter, with a circumstantial statement of
the whole iniquitous affair, will be placed in the hands of your
husband, and another in the hands of your daughter. I have so
provided for this that no failure can take place. So be warned and
make the innocence of George Granger as clear as noonday.


Twice Edith read this letter through before a sign of emotion was
visible. She looked about the room, down at herself, and again at
the letter.

"Am I really awake?" she said, beginning to tremble. Then the glad
but terrible truth grappled with her convictions, and through the
wild struggle and antagonism, of feeling that shook her soul there
shone into her face a joy so great that the pale features grew
almost radiant.

"Innocent! innocent!" fell from her lips, over which crept a smile
of ineffable love. But it faded out quickly, and left in its place a
shadow of ineffable pain.

"Innocent! innocent!" she repeated, now clasping her hands and
lifting her eyes heavenward. "Dear Lord and Saviour! My heart is
full of thankfulness! Innocent! Oh, let it be made as clear as
noonday! And my baby, Lord--oh, my baby, my baby! Give him back to

She fell forward upon her bed, kneeling, her face hidden among the
pillows, trembling and sobbing.

"Edith! Edith!" came the agitated voice of her father from without.
She rose quickly, and opening the door, saw his pale, convulsed

"Quick! quick! Your mother!" and Mr. Dinneford turned and ran down
stairs, she following. On reaching the dining-room, Edith found her
mother lying on a sofa, with the servants about her in great
excitement. Better than any one did she comprehend what she saw.

"Dead," fell almost coldly from her lips.

"I have sent for Dr. Radcliffe. It may only be a fainting fit,"
answered Mr. Dinneford.

Edith stood a little way off from her mother, as if held from
personal contact by an invisible barrier, and looked upon her ashen
face without any sign of emotion.

"Dead, and better so," she said, in an undertone heard only by her

"My child! don't, don't!" exclaimed Mr. Dinneford in a deprecating

"Dead, and better so," she repeated, firmly.

While the servants chafed the hands and feet of Mrs. Dinneford, and
did what they could in their confused way to bring her back to life,
Edith stood a little way off, apparently undisturbed by what she
saw, and not once touching her mother's body or offering a
suggestion to the bewildered attendants.

When Dr. Radcliffe came and looked at Mrs. Dinneford, all saw by his
countenance that he believed her dead. A careful examination proved
the truth of his first impression. She was done with life in this

As to the cause of her death, the doctor, gathering what he could
from her husband, pronounced it heart disease. The story told
outside was this--so the doctor gave it, and so it was understood:
Mrs. Dinneford was sitting at the table when her head was seen to
sink forward, and before any one could get to her she was dead. It
was not so stated to him by either Mr. Dinneford or Edith, but he
was a prudent man, and careful of the good fame of his patients.
Family affairs he held as sacred trusts. We'll he knew that there
had been a tragedy in this home--a tragedy for which he was in part,
he feared, responsible; and he did not care to look into it too
closely. But of all that was involved in this tragedy he really knew
little. Social gossip had its guesses at the truth, often not very
remote, and he was familiar with these, believing little or much as
it suited him.

It is not surprising that Edith's father, on seeing the letter of
Lloyd Freeling, echoed his daughter's words, "Better so!"

Not a tear was shed on the grave of Mrs. Dinneford. Husband and
daughter saw her body carried forth and buried out of sight with a
feeling of rejection and a sense of relief. Death had no power to
soften their hearts toward her. Charity had no mantle broad enough
to cover her wickedness; filial love was dead, and the good heart of
her husband turned away at remembrance with a shudder of horror.

Yes, it was "better so!" They had no grief, but thankfulness, that
she was dead.

On the morning after the funeral there came a letter from Havana
addressed to Mr. Dinneford. It was from the man Freeling. In it he
related circumstantially all the reader knows about the conspiracy
to destroy Granger. The letter enclosed an affidavit made by
Freeling, and duly attested by the American consul, in which he
stated explicitly that all the forgeries were made by himself, and
that George Granger was entirely ignorant of the character of the
paper he had endorsed with the name of the firm.

Since the revelation made to Edith by Freeling's letter to her
mother, all the repressed love of years, never dead nor diminished,
but only chained, held down, covered over, shook itself free from
bonds and the wrecks and debris of crushed hopes. It filled her
heart with an agony of fullness. Her first passionate impulse was to
go to him and throw herself into his arms. But a chilling thought
came with the impulse, and sent all the outgoing heart-beats back.
She was no longer the wife of George Granger. In a weak hour she had
yielded to the importunities of her father, and consented to an
application for divorce. No, she was no longer the wife of George
Granger. She had no right to go to him. If it were true that reason
had been in part or wholly restored, would he not reject her with
scorn? The very thought made her heart stand still. It would be more
than she could bear. _


Read previous: CHAPTER XXII

Table of content of Cast Adrift


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