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Cast Adrift, a fiction by T. S. Arthur


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_ CHAPTER XXVII. No trace of Andy--Account of Andy's abduction--Andy's
prison--An outlook from prison--A loose nail--The escape--The
sprained ankle--The accident

_FOR_ weeks the search for Andy was kept up with unremitting
vigilance, but no word of him came to the anxious searchers. A few
days after the meeting with Mrs. Bray, the police report mentioned
the arrest of both Pinky Swett and Mrs. Bray, _alias_ Hoyt, _alias_
Jewett, charged with stealing a diamond ring of considerable value
from a jewelry store. They were sent to prison, in default of bail,
to await trial. Mr. Dinneford immediately went to the prison and had
an interview with the two women, who could give him no information
about Andy beyond what Mrs. Bray had already communicated in her
hurried talk with Edith. Pinky could get no trace of him after he
had escaped. Mr. Dinneford did not leave the two women until he had
drawn from them a minute and circumstantial account of all they knew
of Edith's child from the time it was cast adrift. When he left
them, he had no doubt as to its identity with Andy. There was no
missing link in the chain of evidence.

The new life that had opened to little Andy since the dreary night
on which, like a stray kitten, he had crept into Andrew Hall's
miserable hovel, had been very pleasant. To be loved and caressed
was a strange and sweet experience. Poor little heart! It fluttered
in wild terror, like a tiny bird in the talons of a hawk, when Pinky
Swett swooped down and struck her foul talons into the frightened
child and bore him off.

"If you scream, I'll choke you to death!" she said, stooping to his
ear, as she hurried him from the mission-house. Scared into silence,
Andy did not cry out, and the arm that grasped and dragged him away
was so strong that he felt resistance to be hopeless. Passing from
Briar street, Pinky hurried on for a distance of a block, when she
signaled a street-car. As she lifted Andy upon the platform, she
gave him another whispered threat:

"Mind! if you cry, I'll kill you!"

There were but few persons in the car, and Pinky carried the child
to the upper end and sat him down with his face turned forward to
the window, so as to keep it as much out of observation as possible.
He sat motionless, stunned with surprise and fear. Pinky kept her
eyes upon him. His hands were laid across his breast and held
against it tightly. They had not gone far before Pinky saw great
tear-drops falling upon the little hands.

"Stop crying!" she whispered, close to his ear; "I won't have it!
You're not going to be killed."

Andy tried to keep back the tears, but in spite of all he could do
they kept blinding his eyes and falling over his hands.

"What's the matter with your little boy?" asked a sympathetic,
motherly woman who had noticed the child's distress.

"Cross, that's all." Pinky threw out the sentence in at snappish,
mind-your-own-business tone.

The motherly woman, who had leaned forward, a look of kindly
interest on her face, drew back, chilled by this repulse, but kept
her eyes upon the child, greatly to Pinky's annoyance. After riding
for half a mile, Pinky got out and took another car. Andy was
passive. He had ceased crying, and was endeavoring to get back some
of the old spirit of brave endurance. He was beginning to feel like
one who had awakened from a beautiful dream in which dear ideals had
almost reached fruition, to the painful facts of a hard and
suffering life, and was gathering up his patience and strength to
meet them. He sat motionless by the side of Pinky, with his eyes
cast down, his chin on his breast and his lips shut closely

Another ride of nearly half a mile, when Pinky left the car and
struck away from the common thoroughfare into a narrow alley, down
which she walked for a short distance, and then disappeared in one
of the small houses. No one happened to observe her entrance.
Through a narrow passage and stairway she reached a second-story
room. Taking a key from her pocket, she unlocked the door and went
in. There was a fire in a small stove, and the room was comfortable.
Locking the door on the inside she said to Andy, in a voice changed
and kinder,

"My! your hands are as red as beets. Go up to the stove and warm

Andy obeyed, spreading out his little hands, and catching the
grateful warmth, every now and then looking up into Pinky's face,
and trying with a shrewder insight than is usually given to a child
of his age to read the character and purposes it half concealed and
half made known.

"Now, Andy," said Pinky, in a mild but very decided way--"your
name's Andy?"

"Yes, ma'am," answered the child, fixing his large, intelligent eyes
on her face.

"Well, Andy, if you'll be a good and quiet boy, you needn't be
afraid of anything--you won't get hurt. But if you make a fuss, I'll
throw you at once right out of the window."

Pinky frowned and looked so wicked as she uttered the last sentence
that Andy was frightened. It seemed as if a devouring beast glared
at him out of her eyes. She saw the effect of her threat, and was

The short afternoon soon passed away. The girl did not leave the
room, nor talk with the child except in very low tones, so as not to
attract the attention of any one in the house. As the day waned snow
began to fall, and by the time night set in it was coming down thick
and fast. As soon as it was fairly dark, Pinky wrapped a shawl about
Andy, pinning it closely, so as to protect him from the cold, and
quietly left the house. He made no resistance. A car was taken, in
which they rode for a long distance, until they were on the
outskirts of the city. The snow had already fallen to a depth of two
or three inches, and the storm was increasing. When she left the car
in that remote neighborhood, not a person was to be seen on the
street. Catching Andy into her arms, Pinky ran with him for the
distance of half a block, and then turned into a close alley with
small houses on each side. At the lower end she stopped before one
of these houses, and without knocking pushed open the door.

"Who's that?" cried a voice from an upper room, the stairway to
which led up from the room below.

"It's me. Come down, and be quiet," answered Pinky, in a warning

A woman, old and gray, with all the signs of a bad life on her
wrinkled face, came hastily down stairs and confronted Pinky.

"What now? What's brought you here?" she demanded, in no friendly

"There, there, Mother Peter! smooth down your feathers. I've got
something for you to do, and it will pay," answered Pinky, who had
shut the outside door and slipped the bolt.

At this, the manner of Mother Peter, as Pinky had called her,
softened, and she said,

"What's up? What deviltry are you after now, you huzzy?"

Without replying to this, Pinky began shaking the snow from Andy and
unwinding the shawl with which she had bound him up. After he was
free from his outside wrappings, she said, looking toward the woman,

"Now, isn't he a nice little chap? Did you ever see such eyes?"

The worn face of the woman softened as she turned toward the
beautiful child, but not with pity. To that feeling she had long
been a stranger.

"I want you to keep him for a few days," said Pinky, speaking in the
woman's ears. "I'll tell you more about it after he's in bed and

"He's to be kept shut up out of sight, mind," was Pinky's
injunction, in the conference that followed. "Not a living soul in
the neighborhood must know he's in the house, for the police will be
sharp after him. I'll pay you five dollars a week, and put it down
in advance. Give him plenty to eat, and be as good to him as you
can, for you see it's a fat job, and I'll make it fatter for you if
all comes out right."

The woman was not slow to promise all that Pinky demanded. The house
in which she lived had three rooms, one below and two smaller ones
above. From the room below a stove-pipe went up through the floor
into a sheet-iron drum in the small back chamber, and kept it
partially heated. It was arranged that Andy should be made a close
prisoner in this room, and kept quiet by fear. It had only one
window, looking out upon the yard, and there was no shed or porch
over the door leading into the yard below upon which he could climb
out and make his escape. In order to have things wholly secure the
two women, after Andy was asleep, pasted paper over the panes of
glass in the lower sash, so that no one could see his face at the
window, and fastened the sash down by putting a nail into a
gimlet-hole at the top.

"I guess thatt will fix him," said Pinky, in a tone of satisfaction.
"All you've got to do now is to see that he doesn't make a noise."

On the next morning Andy was awake by day-dawn. At first he did not
know where he was, but he kept very still, looking around the small
room and trying to make out what it all meant. Soon it came to him,
and a vague terror filled his heart. By his side lay the woman into
whose hands Pinky had given him. She was fast asleep, and her face,
as he gazed in fear upon it, was even more repulsive than it had
looked on the night before. His first impulse, after comprehending
his situation, was to escape if possible. Softly and silently he
crept out of bed, and made his way to the door. It was fastened. He
drew the bolt back, when it struck the guard with a sharp click. In
an instant the old woman was sitting up in bed and glaring at him.

"You imp of Satan!" she cried, springing after him with a singular
agility for one of her age, and catching him by the arm with a
vice-like grip that bruised the tender flesh and left it marked for
weeks, drew him back from the door and flung him upon the bed.

"Stay there till I tell you to get up," she added, with a cruel
threat in her voice. "And mind you, there's to be no fooling with

The frightened child crept under the bed-clothes, and hid his face
beneath them. Mother Peter did not lie down again, but commenced
dressing herself, muttering and grumbling as she did so.

"Keep where you are till I come back," she said to Andy, with the
same cruel threat in her voice. Going out, she bolted the door on
the other side. It was nearly half an hour before the woman
returned, bringing a plate containing two or three slices of bread
and butter and a cup of milk.

"Now get up and dress yourself," was her sharply-spoken salutation
to Andy as she came into the room. "And you're to be just as still
as a mouse, mind. There's your breakfast." She set the plate on a
table and went out, bolting, as before, the door on the other side.
Andy did not see her again for over an hour. Left entirely alone in
his prison, his restless spirit chafed for freedom. He moved about
the apartment, examining everything it contained with the closest
scrutiny, yet without making any noise, for the woman's threat,
accompanied as it had been with such a wicked look, was not
forgotten. He had seen in that look a cruel spirit of which he was
afraid. Two or three times he thought he heard a step and a movement
in the adjoining chamber, and waited, almost holding his breath,
with his eyes upon the door, expecting every moment to see the
scowling face of his jailer. But no hand touched the door.

Tired at last with everything in the room, he went to the window and
sought to look out, as he had already done many times. He could not
understand why this window, was so different from any he had ever
seen, and puzzled over it in his weak, childish way. As he moved
from pane to pane, trying to see through, he caught a glimpse of
something outside, but it was gone in a moment. He stepped back,
then came up quickly to the glass, all the dull quietude of manner
leaving him. As he did so a glimpse of the outside world came again,
and now he saw a little hole in the paper not larger than a pin's
head. To scrape at this was a simple instinct. In a moment he saw it
enlarging, as the paper peeled off from the glass. Scraping away
with his finger-nail, the glass was soon cleared of paper for the
space of an inch in diameter, and through this opening he stood
gazing out upon the yards, below, and the houses that came up to
them from a neighboring street. There was a woman in one of these
yards, and she looked up toward the window where Andy stood,

"You imp of Satan!" were the terrible words that fell upon his ears
at this juncture, and he felt himself caught up as by a vulture. He
knew the cruel voice and the grip of the cruel hands that had
already left their marks in his tender flesh. Mother Peter, her face
red with passion and her eyes slowing like coals of fire, held him
high in the air, and shook him with savage violence. She did not
strike, but continued shaking him until the sudden heat of her
passion had a little cooled.

"Didn't I tell you not to meddle with anything in this room?" and
with another bruising grip of Andy's arms, she threw him roughly
upon the floor.

The little hole in the paper was then repaired by pasting another
piece of paper over it, after which Andy was left alone, but with a
threat from Mother Peter that if he touched the window again she
would beat the life out of him. She had no more trouble with him
that day. Every half hour or so she would come up stairs
noiselessly, and listen at the door, or break in upon the child
suddenly and without warning. But she did not find him again at the
window. The restlessness at first exhibited had died out, and he sat
or lay upon the floor in a kind of dull, despairing stupor. So that
day passed.

On the second day of Andy's imprisonment he distinctly heard the old
woman go out at the street door and lock it after her. He listened
for a long time, but could hear no sound in the house. A feeling of
relief and a sense of safety came over him. He had not been so long
in his prison alone without the minutest examination of every part,
and it had not escaped his notice that the panes of glass in the
upper sash of the window were not covered with paper, as were those
below. But for the fear of one of Mother Peter's noiseless pouncings
in upon him, he would long since have climbed upon the sill and
taken a look through the upper sash. He waited now for full half an
hour to be sure that his jailer had left the house, and then,
climbing to the window-sill with the agility of a squirrel, held on
to the edge of the lower sash and looked out through the clear glass
above. Dreary and unsightly as was all that lay under his gaze, it
was beautiful in the eyes of the child. His little heart swelled and
glowed; he longed, as a prisoner, for freedom. As he stood there he
saw that a nail held down the lower sash, which he had so often
tried, but in vain, to lift. Putting his finger on this nail, he
felt it move. It had been placed loosely in a gimlet-hole, and could
be drawn out easily. For a little while he stood there, taking out
and putting in the nail. While doing this he thought he heard a
sound below, and instantly dropped noiselessly from the window. He
had scarcely done so when the door of his room opened and Mother
Peter came in. She looked at him sharply, and then retired without

All the next day Andy listened after Mother Peter, waiting to hear
her go out. But she did not leave the house until after he was
asleep in the evening.

On the next day, after waiting until almost noon, the child's
impatience of confinement grew so strong that he could no longer
defer his meditated escape from the window, for ever since he had
looked over the sash and discovered how it was fastened down, his
mind had been running on this thing. He had noticed that Mother
Peter's visits to his room were made after about equal intervals of
time, and that after she gave him his dinner she did not come up
stairs again for at least an hour. This had been brought, and he was
again alone.

For nearly five minutes after the woman went out, he sat by the
untasted food, his head bent toward the door, listening. Then he got
up quietly, climbed upon the window-sill and pulled the nail out.
Dropping back upon the floor noiselessly, he pushed his hands upward
against the sash, and it rose easily. Like an animal held in
unwilling confinement, he did not stop to think of any danger that
might lie in the way of escape when opportunity for escape offered.
The fear behind was worse than any imagined fear that could lie
beyond. Pushing up the sash, Andy, without looking down from the
window, threw himself across the sill and dropped his body over,
supporting himself with his hands on the snow-encrusted ledge for a
moment, and then letting himself fall to the ground, a distance of
nearly ten feet. He felt his breath go as he swept through the air,
and lost his senses for an instant or two.

Stunned by the fall, he did not rise for several minutes. Then he
got up with a slow, heavy motion and looked about him anxiously. He
was in a yard from which there was no egress except by way of the
house. It was bitter cold, and he had on nothing but the clothing
worn in the room from which he had just escaped. His head was bare.

The dread of being found here by Mother Peter soon lifted him above
physical impediment or suffering. Through a hole in the fence he saw
an alley-way; and by the aid of an old barrel that stood in the
yard, he climbed to the top of the fence and let himself down on the
other side, falling a few feet. A sharp pain was felt in one of his
ankles as his feet touched the ground. He had sprained it in his
leap from the window, and now felt the first pangs attendant on the

Limping along, he followed the narrow alley-way, and in a little
while came out upon a street some distance from the one in which
Mother Peter lived. There were very few people abroad, and no one
noticed or spoke to him as he went creeping along, every step
sending a pain from the hurt ankle to his heart. Faint with
suffering and chilled to numbness, Andy stumbled and fell as he
tried, in crossing a street, to escape from a sleigh that turned a
corner suddenly. It was too late for the driver to rein up his
horse. One foot struck the child, throwing him out of the track of
the sleigh. He was insensible when taken up, bleeding and apparently
dead. A few people came out of the small houses in the neighborhood,
attracted by the accident, but no one knew the child or offered to
take him in.

There were two ladies in the sleigh, and both were greatly pained
and troubled. After a hurried consultation, one of them reached out
her hands for the child, and as she received and covered him with
the buffalo-robe said something to the driver, who turned his
horse's head and drove off at a rapid speed. _


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