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Cast Adrift, a fiction by T. S. Arthur


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_ CHAPTER XXVIII. Edith's visit to the children's hospital--"Oh, my
baby! thank God! my baby!"--The identification

_EVERY_ home for friendless children, every sin or poverty-blighted
ward and almost every hovel, garret and cellar where evil and
squalor shrunk from observation were searched for the missing child,
but in vain. No trace of him could be found. The agony of suspense
into which Edith's mind was brought was beginning to threaten her
reason. It was only by the strongest effort at self-compulsion that
she could keep herself to duty among the poor and suffering, and
well for her it was that she did not fail here; it was all that held
her to safe mooring.

One day, as she was on her way home from some visit of mercy, a lady
who was passing in a carriage called to her from the window, at the
same time ordering her driver to stop. The carriage drew up to the

"Come, get in," said the lady as she pushed open the carriage door.
"I was thinking of you this very moment, and want to have some talk
about our children's hospital. We must have you on our ladies'
visiting committee."

Edith shook her head, saying, "It won't be possible, Mrs. Morton. I
am overtaxed now, and must lessen, instead of increasing, my work."

"Never mind, about that now. Get in. I want to have some talk with

Edith, who knew the lady intimately, stepped into the carriage and
took a seat by her side.

"I don't believe you have ever been to our hospital," said the lady
as the carriage rolled on. "I'm going there now, and want to show
you how admirably everything is conducted, and what a blessing it is
to poor suffering children."

"It hurts me so to witness suffering in little children," returned
Edith, "that it seems as if I couldn't bear it much longer. I see so
much of it."

"The pain is not felt as deeply when we are trying to relieve that
suffering," answered her friend. "I have come away from the hospital
many times after spending an hour or two among the beds, reading and
talking to the children, with an inward peace in my soul too deep
for expression. I think that Christ draws very near to us while we
are trying to do the work that he did when he took upon himself our
nature in, the world and stood face to face visibly with men--nearer
to us, it may be, than at any other time; and in his presence there
is peace--peace that passeth understanding."

They were silent for a little while, Edith not replying. "We have
now," resumed the lady, "nearly forty children under treatment--poor
little things who, but for this charity, would have no tender care
or intelligent ministration. Most of them would be lying in garrets
or miserable little rooms, dirty and neglected, disease eating out
their lives, and pain that medical skill now relieves, racking their
poor worn bodies. I sat by the bed of a little girl yesterday who
has been in the hospital over six months. She has hip disease. When
she was brought here from one of the vilest places in the city,
taken away from a drunken mother, she was the saddest-looking child
I ever saw. Dirty, emaciated, covered with vermin and pitiable to
behold, I could hardly help crying when I saw her brought in. Now,
though still unable to leave her bed, she has as bright and happy a
face as you ever saw. The care and tenderness received since she
came to us have awakened a new life in her soul, and she exhibits a
sweetness of temper beautiful to see. After I had read a little
story for her yesterday, she put her arms about my neck and kissed
me, saying, in her frank, impulsive way, 'Oh, Mrs. Morton, I do love
you so!' I had a great reward. Never do I spend an hour among these
children without thanking God that he put it into the hearts of a
few men and women who could be touched with the sufferings of
children to establish and sustain so good an institution."

The carriage stopped, and the driver swung open the door. They were
at the children's hospital. Entering a spacious hall, the two ladies
ascended to the second story, where the wards were located. There
were two of these on opposite sides of the hall, one for boys and
one for girls. Edith felt a heavy pressure on her bosom as they
passed into the girls' ward. She was coming into the presence of
disease and pain, of suffering and weariness, in the persons of
little children.

There were twenty beds in the room. Everything was faultlessly
clean, and the air fresh and pure. On most of these beds lay, or sat
up, supported by pillows, sick or crippled children from two years
of age up to fifteen or sixteen, while a few were playing about the
room. Edith caught her breath and choked back a sob that came
swiftly to her throat as she stood a few steps within the door and
read in a few quick glances that passed from face to face the
sorrowful records that pain had written upon them.

"Oh, there's Mrs. Morton!" cried a glad voice, and Edith saw a girl
who was sitting up in one of the beds clap her hands joyfully.

"That's the little one I was telling you about," said the lady, and
she crossed to the bed, Edith following. The child reached up her
arms and put them about Mrs. Morton's neck, kissing her as she did

It took Edith some time to adjust herself to the scene before her.
Mrs. Morton knew all the children, and had a word of cheer or
sympathy for most of them as she passed from bed to bed through the
ward. Gradually the first painful impressions wore off, and Edith
felt herself drawn to the little patients, and before five minutes
had passed her heart was full of a strong desire to do whatever lay
in her power to help and comfort them. After spending half an hour
with the girls, during which time Edith talked and read to a number
of them, Mrs. Morton said,

"Now let us go into the boys' ward."

They crossed the hall together, and entered the room on the other
side. Here, as in the opposite ward, Mrs. Morton was recognized as
welcome visitor. Every face that happened to be turned to the door
brightened at her entrance.

"There's a dear child in this ward," said Mrs. Morton as they stood
for a moment in the door looking about the room. "He was picked up
in the street about a week ago, hurt by a passing vehicle, and
brought here. We have not been able to learn anything about him."

Edith's heart gave a sudden leap, but she held it down with all the
self-control she could assume, trying to be calm.

"Where is he?" she asked, in a voice so altered from its natural
tone that Mrs. Morton turned and looked at her in surprise.

"Over in that corner," she answered, pointing down the room.

Edith started forward, Mrs. Morton at her side.

"Here he is," said the latter, pausing at a bed on which child with
fair face, blue eyes and golden hair was lying. A single glance sent
the blood back to Edith's heart. A faintness came over her;
everything grew dark. She sat down to keep from falling.

As quickly as possible and by another strong effort of will she
rallied herself.

"Yes," she said, in a faint undertone in which was no apparent
interest, "he is a dear little fellow."

As she spoke she laid her hand softly on the child's head, but not
in a way to bring any response. He looked at her curiously, and
seemed half afraid.

Meanwhile, a child occupying a bed only a few feet off had started
up quickly on seeing Edith, and now sat with his large brown eyes
fixed eagerly upon her, his lips apart and his hands extended. But
Edith did not notice him. Presently she got up from beside the bed
and was turning away when the other child, with a kind of despairing
look in his face, cried out,

"Lady, lady! oh, lady!"

The voice reached Edith's ears. She turned, and saw the face of
Andy. Swift as a flash she was upon him, gathering him in her arms
and crying out, in a wild passion of joy that could not be

"Oh, my baby! my baby! my boy! my boy! Bless God! thank God! oh, my

Startled by this sudden outcry, the resident physician and two
nurses who were in the ward hurried down the room to see what it
meant. Edith had the child hugged tightly to her bosom, and resisted
all their efforts to remove him.

"My dear madam," said the doctor, "you will do him some harm if you
don't take care."

"Hurt my baby? Oh no, no!" she answered, relaxing her hold and
gazing down upon Andy as she let him fall away from her bosom. Then
lifting her eyes to the physician, her face so flooded with love and
inexpressible joy that it seemed like some heavenly transfiguration,
she murmured, in a low voice full of the deepest tenderness,

"Oh no. I will not do my baby any harm."

"My dear, dear friend," said Mrs. Morton, recovering from the shock
of her first surprise and fearing that Edith had suddenly lost her
mind, "you cannot mean what you say;" and she reached down for the
child and made a movement as if she were going to lift him away from
her arms.

A look of angry resistance swept across Edith's pale face. There was
a flash of defiance in her eyes.

"No, no! You must not touch him," she exclaimed; "I will die before
giving him up. My baby!"

And now, breaking down from her intense excitement, she bent over
the child again, weeping and sobbing. Waiting until this paroxysm
had expended itself, Mrs. Morton, who had not failed to notice that
Andy never turned his eyes for an instant away from Edith, nor
resisted her strained clasp or wild caresses, but lay passive
against her with a look of rest and peace in his face, said,

"How shall we know that he is your baby?"

At this Edith drew herself up, the light on her countenance fading
out. Then catching at the child's arm, she pulled the loose sleeve
that covered it above the elbow with hands that shook like aspens.
Another cry of joy broke from her as she saw a small red mark
standing out clear from the snowy skin. She kissed it over and over
again, sobbing,

"My baby! Yes, thank God! my own long-lost baby!"

And still the child showed no excitement, but lay very quiet,
looking at Edith whenever he could see her countenance, the peace
and rest on his face as unchanging as if it were not really a living
and mobile face, but one cut into this expression by the hands of an

"How shall you know?" asked Edith, now remembering the question of
Mrs. Morton. And she drew up her own sleeve and showed on one of her
arms a mark as clearly defined and bright as that on the child's

No one sought to hinder Edith as she rose to her feet holding Andy,
after she had wrapped the bed-clothes about him.

"Come!" she spoke to her friend, and moved away with her precious

"You must go with us," said Mrs. Morton to the physician.

They followed as Edith hurried down stairs, and entering the
carriage after her, were driven away from the hospital. _


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