Part 3 out of 6
horrible oaths. Well he knew what had been done--that there had been
a robbery in the "Hawk's Nest," and he not in to share the booty.
Growling like a savage dog, this wretch, in whom every instinct of
humanity had long since died--this human beast, who looked on
innocence and helplessness as a wolf looks upon a lamb--strode
across the yard and entered the den. Lying in one of the stalls upon
the foul, damp straw he found Flora Bond. Cruel beast that he was,
even he felt himself held back as by an invisible hand, as he looked
at the pure face of the insensible girl. Rarely had his eyes rested
on a countenance so full of innocence. But the wolf has no pity for
the lamb, nor the hawk for the dove. The instinct of his nature
quickly asserted itself.
Avarice first. From the face his eyes turned to see what had been
left by the two girls. An angry imprecation fell from his lips when
he saw how little remained for him. But when he lifted Flora's head
and unbound her hair, a gleam of pleasure came info his foul face.
It was a full suit of rich chestnut brown, nearly three feet long,
and fell in thick masses over her breast and shoulders. He caught it
up eagerly, drew it through his great ugly hands, and gloated over
it with something of a miser's pleasure as he counts his gold. Then
taking a pair of scissors from his pocket, he ran them over the
girl's head with the quickness and skill of a barber, cutting close
down, that he might not lose even the sixteenth part of an inch of
her rich tresses. An Indian scalping his victim could not have shown
more eagerness. An Indian's wild pleasure was in his face as he
lifted the heavy mass of brown hair and held it above his head. It
was not a trophy--not a sign of conquest and triumph over an
enemy--but simply plunder, and had a market value of fifteen or
The dress was next examined; it was new, but not of a costly
material. Removing this, the man went out with his portion of the
spoils, and locked the door, leaving the half-clothed, unconscious
girl lying on the damp, filthy straw, that swarmed with vermin. It
was cold as well as damp, and the chill of a bleak November day
began creeping into her warm blood. But the stupefying draught had
been well compounded, and held her senses locked.
Of what followed we cannot write, and we shiver as we draw a veil
over scenes that should make the heart of all Christendom
ache--scenes that are repeated in thousands of instances year by
year in our large cities, and no hand is stretched forth to succor
and no arm to save. Under the very eyes of the courts and the
churches things worse than we have described--worse than the reader
can imagine--are done every day. The foul dens into which crime goes
freely, and into which innocence is betrayed, are known to the
police, and the evil work that is done is ever before them. From one
victim to another their keepers pass unquestioned, and plunder,
debauch, ruin and murder with an impunity frightful to contemplate.
As was said by a distinguished author, speaking of a kindred social
enormity, "There is not a country throughout the earth on which a
state of things like this would not bring a curse. There is no
religion upon earth that it would not deny; there is no people on
earth that it would not put to shame."
And we are Christians!
No. Of what followed we cannot write. Those who were near the
"Hawk's Nest" heard that evening, soon after nightfall, the single
wild, prolonged cry of a woman. It was so full of terror and despair
that even the hardened ears that heard it felt a sudden pain. But
they were used to such things in that region, and no one took the
trouble to learn what it meant. Even the policeman moving on his
beat stood listening for only a moment, and then passed on.
Next day, in the local columns of a city paper, appeared the
"FOUL PLAY.--About eleven o'clock last night the body of a beautiful
young girl, who could not have been over seventeen years of age, was
discovered lying on the pavement in----street. No one knew how she
came there. She was quite dead when found. There was nothing by
which she could be identified. All her clothes but a single
undergarment had been removed, and her hair cut off close to her
head. There were marks of brutal violence on her person. The body
was placed in charge of the coroner, who will investigate the
On the day after, this paragraph appeared:
"SUSPICION OF FOUL PLAY.--The coroner's inquest elicited nothing in
regard to the young girl mentioned yesterday as having been found
dead and stripped of her clothing in----street. No one was able to
identify her. A foul deed at which the heart shudders has been done;
but the wretches by whom it was committed have been able to cover
And that was the last of it. The whole nation gives a shudder of
fear at the announcement of an Indian massacre and outrage. But in
all our large cities are savages more cruel and brutal in their
instincts than the Comanches, and they torture and outrage and
murder a hundred poor victims for every one that is exposed to
Indian brutality, and there comes no succor. Is it from ignorance of
the fact? No, no, no! There is not a Judge on the bench, not a
lawyer at the bar, not a legislator at the State capital, not a
mayor or police-officer, not a minister who preaches the gospel of
Christ, who came to seek and to save, not an intelligent citizen,
but knows of all this.
What then? Who is responsible? The whole nation arouses itself at
news of an Indian assault upon some defenseless frontier settlement,
and the general government sends troops to succor and to punish. But
who takes note of the worse than Indian massacres going on daily and
nightly in the heart of our great cities? Who hunts down and
punishes the human wolves in our midst whose mouths are red with the
blood of innocence? Their deeds of cruelty outnumber every year a
hundred--nay, a thousand--fold the deeds of our red savages. Their
haunts are known, and their work is known. They lie in wait for the
unwary, they gather in the price of human souls, none hindering, at
our very church doors. Is no one responsible for all this? Is there
no help? Is evil stronger than good, hell stronger than heaven? Have
the churches nothing to do in this matter? Christ came to seek and
to save that which was lost--came to the lowliest, the poorest and
the vilest, to those over whom devils had gained power, and cast out
the devils. Are those who call themselves by his name diligent in
the work to which he put his blessed hands? Millions of dollars go
yearly into magnificent churches, but how little to the work of
saving and succoring the weak, the helpless, the betrayed, the
outcast and the dying, who lie uncared for at the mercy of human
fiends, and often so near to the temples of God that their agonized
appeals for help are drowned by the organ and choir!
_THE_ two girls, on leaving the "Hawk's Nest" with their plunder,
did not pass from the narrow private alley into the small street at
its termination, but hurried along the way they had come, and
re-entered the restaurant by means of the gate opening into the
yard. Through the back door they gained a small, dark room, from
which a narrow stairway led to the second and third stories of the
rear building. They seemed to be entirely familiar with the place.
On reaching the third story, Pinky gave two quick raps and then a
single rap on a closed door. No movement being heard within, she
rapped again, reversing the order--that is, giving one distinct rap,
and then two in quick succession. At this the door came slowly open,
and the two girls passed in with their bundle of clothing and the
The occupant of this room was a small, thin, well-dressed man, with
cold, restless gray eyes and the air of one who was alert and
suspicious. His hair was streaked with gray, as were also his full
beard and moustache. A diamond pin of considerable value was in his
shirt bosom. The room contained but few articles. There was a worn
and faded carpet on the floor, a writing-table and two or three
chairs, and a small bookcase with a few books, but no evidence
whatever of business--not a box or bundle or article of merchandise
was to be seen.
As the two girls entered he, shut the door noiselessly, and turned
the key inside. Then his manner changed; his eyes lighted, and there
was an expression of interest in his face. He looked toward the bag
Pinky sat down upon the floor and hurriedly unlocked the
traveling-bag. Thrusting in her hand, she drew out first a muslin
nightgown and threw it down, then a light shawl, a new barege dress,
a pair of slippers, collars, cuffs, ribbons and a variety of
underclothing, and last of all a small Bible and a prayer-book.
These latter she tossed from her with a low derisive laugh, which
was echoed by her companion, Miss Peter.
The bundle was next opened, and the cloth sacque, the hat, the boots
and stockings and the collar and cuffs thrown upon the floor with
the contents of the bag.
"How much?" asked Pinky, glancing up at the man.
They were the first words that had been spoken. At this the man knit
his brows in an earnest way, and looked business. He lifted each
article from the floor, examined it carefully and seemed to be
making a close estimate of its value. The traveling-bag was new, and
had cost probably five dollars. The cloth sacque could not have been
made for less than twelve dollars. A fair valuation of the whole
would have been near forty dollars.
"How much?" repeated Pinky, an impatient quiver in her voice.
"Six dollars," replied the man.
"Six devils!" exclaimed Pinky, in a loud, angry voice.
"Six devils! you old swindler!" chimed in Miss Peter.
"You can take them away. Just as you like," returned the man, with
cool indifference. "Perhaps the police will give you more. It's the
best I can do."
"But see here, Jerkin," said Pinky: "that sacque is worth twice the
"Not to me. I haven't a store up town. I can't offer it for sale in
the open market. Don't you understand?"
"Say ten dollars."
"Here's a breast-pin and a pair of ear-rings," said Miss Peter;
"we'll throw them in;" and she handed Jerkin, as he was called, the
bits of jewelry she had taken from the person of Flora Bond. He
looked at them almost contemptuously as he replied,
"Wouldn't give you a dollar for the set."
"Say eight dollars for the whole," urged Pinky.
"Six fifty, and not a cent more," answered Jerkin.
"Hand over, then, you old cormorant!" returned the girl, fretfully.
"It's a shame to swindle us in this way."
The man took out his pocket-book and paid the money, giving half to
each of the girls.
"It's just a swindle!" repeated Pinky. "You're an old hard-fisted
money-grubber, and no better than a robber. Three dollars and a
quarter for all that work! It doesn't pay for the trouble. We ought
to have had ten apiece."
"You can make it ten or twenty, or maybe a hundred, if you will,"
said Jerkin, with a knowing twinkle in his eyes. He gave his thumb a
little movement over his shoulder as he spoke.
"That's so!" exclaimed Pinky, her manner undergoing a change, and
her face growing bright--at least as much of it as could brighten.
"Look here, Nell," speaking to Miss Peter, and drawing a piece of
paper from her pocket, "I've got ten rows here. Fanny Bray gave me
five dollars to go a half on each row. Meant to have gone to Sam
McFaddon's last night, but got into a muss with old Sal and Norah,
and was locked up."
"They make ten hits up there to one at Sam McFaddon's," said Jerkin,
again twitching his thumb over his shoulder. "It's the luckiest
office I ever heard of. Two or three hits every day for a week
past--got a lucky streak, somehow. If you go in anywhere, take my
advice and go in there," lifting his hand and twitching his thumb
upward and over his shoulder again.
The two girls passed from the room, and the door was shut and locked
inside. No sooner had they done so than Jerkin made a new
examination of the articles, and after satisfying himself as to
their value proceeded to put them out of sight. Lifting aside a
screen that covered the fireplace, he removed from the chimney back,
just above the line of sight, a few loose bricks, and through the
hole thus made thrust the articles he had bought, letting them drop
into a fireplace on the other side.
On leaving the room of this professional receiver of stolen goods,
Pinky and her friend descended to the second story, and by a door
which had been cut through into the adjoining property passed to the
rear building of the house next door. They found themselves on a
landing, or little square hall, with a stairway passing down to the
lower story and another leading to the room above. A number of
persons were going up and coming down--a forlorn set, for the most
part, of all sexes, ages and colors. Those who were going up
appeared eager and hopeful, while those who were coming down looked
disappointed, sorrowful, angry or desperate. There was a "policy
shop" in one of the rooms above, and these were some of its
miserable customers. It was the hour when the morning drawings of
the lotteries were received at the office, or "shop," and the poor
infatuated dupes who had bet on their favorite "rows" were crowding
in to learn the result.
Poor old men and women in scant or wretched clothing, young girls
with faces marred by evil, blotched and bloated creatures of both
sexes, with little that was human in their countenances, except the
bare features, boys and girls not yet in their teens, but old in
vice and crime, and drunkards with shaking nerves,--all these were
going up in hope and coming down in disappointment. Here and there
was one of a different quality, a scantily-dressed woman with a
thin, wasted face and hollow eyes, who had been fighting the wolf
and keeping fast hold of her integrity, or a tender,
innocent-looking girl, the messenger of a weak and shiftless mother,
or a pale, bright-eyed boy whose much-worn but clean and well-kept
garments gave sad evidence of a home out of which prop and stay had
been removed. The strong and the weak, the pure and the defiled,
were there. A poor washerwoman who in a moment of weakness has
pawned the garments entrusted to her care, that she might venture
upon a "row" of which she had dreamed, comes shrinking down with a
pale, frightened face, and the bitterness of despair in her heart.
She has lost. What then? She has no friend from whom she can borrow
enough money to redeem the clothing, and if it is not taken home she
may be arrested as a thief and sent to prison. She goes away, and
temptation lies close at her feet. It is her extremity and the evil
one's opportunity. So far she has kept herself pure, but the
disgrace of a public prosecution and a sentence to prison are
terrible things to contemplate. She is in peril of her soul. God
Who is this dressed in rusty black garments and closely veiled, who
comes up from the restaurant, one of the convenient and unsuspected
entrances to this robber's den?--for a "policy-shop" is simply a
robbery shop, and is so regarded by the law, which sets a penalty
upon the "writer" and the "backer" as upon other criminals. But who
is this veiled woman in faded mourning garments who comes gliding as
noiselessly as a ghost out from one of the rooms of the restaurant,
and along the narrow entry leading to the stairway, now so thronged
with visitors? Every day she comes and goes, no one seeing her face,
and every day, with rare exceptions, her step is slower and her form
visibly more shrunken when she goes out than when she comes in. She
is a broken-down gentlewoman, the widow of an officer, who left her
at his death a moderate fortune, and quite sufficient for the
comfortable maintenance of herself and two nearly grown-up
daughters. But she had lived at the South, and there acquired a
taste for lottery gambling. During her husband's lifetime she wasted
considerable money in lottery tickets, once or twice drawing small
prizes, but like all lottery dupes spending a hundred dollars for
one gained. The thing had become a sort of mania with her. She
thought so much of prizes and drawn numbers through the day that she
dreamed of them all night. She had a memorandum-book in which were
all the combinations she had ever heard of as taking prizes. It
contained page after page of lucky numbers and fancy "rows," and was
oftener in her hand than any other book.
There being no public sale of lottery tickets in Northern cities,
this weak and infatuated woman found out where some of the
"policy-shops" were kept, and instead of buying tickets, as before,
risked her money on numbers that might or might not come out of the
wheel in lotteries said to be drawn in certain Southern States, but
chiefly in Kentucky. The numbers rarely if ever came out. The
chances were too remote. After her husband's death she began
fretting over the smallness of her income. It was not sufficient to
give her daughters the advantages she desired them to have, and she
knew of but one way to increase it. That way was through the
policy-shops. So she gave her whole mind to this business, with as
much earnestness and self-absorption as a merchant gives himself to
trade. She had a dream-book, gotten up especially for policy buyers,
and consulted it as regularly as a merchant does his price-current
or a broker the sales of stock. Every day she bet on some "row" or
series of "rows," rarely venturing less than five dollars, and
sometimes, when she felt more than usually confident, laying down a
twenty-dollar bill, for the "hit" when made gave from fifty to two
hundred dollars for each dollar put down, varying according to the
nature of the combinations. So the more faith a policy buyer had in
his "row," the larger the venture he would feel inclined to make.
Usually it went all one way with the infatuated lady. Day after day
she ventured, and day after day she lost, until from hundreds the
sums she was spending had aggregated themselves into thousands. She
changed from one policy-shop to another, hoping for better luck. It
was her business to find them out, and this she was able to do by
questioning some of those whom she met at the shops. One of these
was in a building on a principal street, the second story of which
was occupied by a milliner. It was visited mostly by ladies, who
could pass in from the street, no one suspecting their errand.
Another was in the attic of a house in which were many offices and
places of business, with people going in and coming out all the
while, none but the initiated being in the secret; while another was
to be found in the rear of a photograph gallery. Every day and often
twice a day, as punctually as any man of business, did this lady
make her calls at one and another of these policy-offices to get the
drawings or make new ventures. At remote intervals she would make a
"hit;" once she drew twenty dollars, and once fifty. But for these
small gains she had paid thousands of dollars.
After a "hit" the betting on numbers would be bolder. Once she
selected what was known as a "lucky row," and determined to double
on it until it came out a prize. She began by putting down fifty
cents. On the next day she put down a dollar upon the same
combination, losing, of course, Two dollars were ventured on the
next day; and so she went on doubling, until, in her desperate
infatuation, she doubled for the ninth time, putting down two
hundred and fifty-six dollars.
If successful now, she would draw over twenty-five thousand dollars.
There was no sleep for the poor lady during the night that followed.
She walked the floor of her chamber in a state of intense nervous
excitement, sometimes in a condition of high hope and confidence and
sometimes haunted by demons of despair. She sold five shares of
stock on which she had been receiving an annual dividend of ten per
cent., in order to get funds for this desperate gambling venture, in
which over five hundred dollars had now been absorbed.
Pale and nervous, she made her appearance at the breakfast-table on
the next morning, unable to take a mouthful of food. It was in vain
that her anxious daughters urged her to eat.
A little after twelve o'clock she was at the policy-office. The
drawn numbers for the morning were already in. Her combination was
4, 10, 40. With an eagerness that could not be repressed, she caught
up the slip of paper containing the thirteen numbers out of
seventy-five, which purported to have been drawn that morning
somewhere in "Kentucky," and reported by telegraph--caught it up
with hands that shook so violently that she could not read the
figures. She had to lay the piece of paper down upon the little
counter before which she stood, in order that it might be still, so
that she could read her fate.
The first drawn number was 4. What a wild leap her heart gave! The
next was 24; the next 8; the next 70; the next 41, and the next 39.
Her heart grew almost still; the pressure as of a great hand was on
her bosom. 10 came next. Two numbers of her row were out. A quiver
of excitement ran through her frame. She caught up the paper, but it
shook as before, so that she could not see the figures. Dashing it
back upon the counter, and holding it down almost violently, she
bent over, with eyes starting from their sockets, and read the line
of figures to the end, then sank over upon the counter with a groan,
and lay there half fainting and too weak to lift herself up. If the
40 had been there, she would have made a hit of twenty-five thousand
dollars. But the 40 was not there, and this made all the difference.
"Once more," said the policy-dealer, in a tone of encouragement, as
he bent over the miserable woman. Yesterday, 4 came out; to-day, 4,
10; tomorrow will be the lucky chance; 4, 10, 40 will surely be
drawn. I never knew this order to fail. If it had been 10 first, and
then 4, 10, or 10, 4, I would not advise you to go on. But 4, 10, 40
will be drawn to-morrow as sure as fate."
"What numbers did you say? 4, 10, 40?" asked an old man, ragged and
bloated, who came shuffling in as the last remarks was made.
"Yes," answered the dealer. "This lady has been doubling, and as the
chances go, her row is certain to make a hit to-morrow."
"Ha! What's the row? 4, 10, 40?"
The old man fumbled in his pocket, and brought out ten cents.
"I'll go that on the row. Give me a piece."
The dealer took a narrow slip of paper and wrote on it the date, the
sum risked and the combination of figures, and handed it to the old
"Come here to-morrow; and if the bottom of the world doesn't drop
out, you'll find ten dollars waiting for you."
Two or three others were in by this time, eager to look over the
list of drawn numbers and to make new bets.
"Glory!" cried one of them, a vile-looking young woman, and she
commenced dancing about the room.
All was excitement now. "A hit! a hit!" was cried. "How much? how
much?" and they gathered to the little counter and desk of the
"1, 2, 3," cried the girl, dancing about and waving her little slip
of paper over her head. "I knew it would come--dreamed of them
numbers three nights hand running! Hand over the money, old chap!
Fifteen dollars for fifteen cents! That's the go!"
The policy-dealer took the girl's "piece," and after comparing it
with the record of drawn numbers, said, in a pleased voice,
"All right! A hit, sure enough. You're in luck to-day."
The girl took the money, that was promptly paid down, and as she
counted it over the dealer remarked,
"There's a doubling game going on, and it's to be up to-morrow,
"What's the row?" inquired the girl.
"4, 10, 40," said the dealer.
"Then count me in;" and she laid down five dollars on the counter.
"Take my advice and go ten," urged the policy-dealer.
"No, thank you! shouldn't know what to do with more than five
hundred dollars. I'll only go five dollars this time."
The "writer," as a policy-seller is called, took the money and gave
the usual written slip of paper containing the selected numbers;
loudly proclaiming her good luck, the girl then went away. She was
an accomplice to whom a "piece" had been secretly given after the
drawn numbers were in.
Of course this hit was the sensation of the day among the
policy-buyers at that office, and brought in large gains.
The wretched woman who had just seen five hundred dollars vanish
into nothing instead of becoming, as under the wand of an enchanter,
a great heap of gold, listened in a kind of maze to what passed
around her--listened and let the tempter get to her ear again. She
went away, stooping in her gait as one bearing a heavy burden.
Before an hour had passed hope had lifted her again into confidence.
She had to make but one venture more to double on the risk of the
day previous, and secure a fortune that would make both herself and
daughters independent for life.
Another sale of good stocks, another gambling venture and another
loss, swelling the aggregate in this wild and hopeless "doubling"
experiment to over a thousand dollars.
But she was not cured. As regularly as a drunkard goes to the bar
went she to the policy-shops, every day her fortune growing less.
Poverty began to pinch. The house in which she lived with her
daughters was sold, and the unhappy family shrunk into a single room
in a third-rate boarding-house. But their income soon became
insufficient to meet the weekly demand for board. Long before this
the daughters had sought for something to do by which to earn a
little money. Pride struggled hard with them, but necessity was
stronger than pride.
We finish the story in a few words. In a moment of weakness, with
want and hard work staring her in the face, one of the daughters
married a man who broke her heart and buried her in less than two
years. The other, a weak and sickly girl, got a situation as day
governess in the family of an old friend of her father's, where she
was kindly treated, but she lived only a short time after her
And still there was no abatement of the mother's infatuation. She
was more than half insane on the subject of policy gambling, and
confident of yet retrieving her fortunes.
At the time Pinky Swett and her friend in evil saw her come gliding
up from the restaurant in faded mourning garments and closely
veiled, she was living alone in a small, meagrely furnished room,
and cooking her own food.
Everything left to her at her husband's death was gone. She earned a
dollar or two each week by making shirts and drawers for the
slop-shops, spending every cent of this in policies. A few old
friends who pitied her, but did not know of the vice in which she
indulged, paid her rent and made occasional contributions for her
support. All of these contributions, beyond the amount required for
a very limited supply of food, went to the policy-shops. It was a
mystery to her friends how she had managed to waste the handsome
property left by her husband, but no one suspected the truth.
"_WHO'S_ that, I wonder?" asked Nell Peter as the dark, close-veiled
figure glided past them on the stairs.
"Oh, she's a policy-drunkard," answered Pinky, loud enough to be
heard by the woman, who, as if surprised or alarmed, stopped and
turned her head, her veil falling partly away, and disclosing
features so pale and wasted that she looked more like a ghost than
living flesh and blood. There was a strange gleam in her eyes. She
paused only for an instant, but her steps were slower as she went on
climbing the steep and narrow stairs that led to the policy-office.
"Good Gracious, Pinky! did you ever see such a face?" exclaimed Nell
Peter. "It's a walking ghost, I should say, and no woman at all."
"Oh, I've seen lots of 'em," answered Pinky. "She's a
policy-drunkard. Bad as drinking when it once gets hold of 'em. They
tipple all the time, sell anything, beg, borrow, steal or starve
themselves to get money to buy policies. She's one of 'em that's
By this time they had reached the policy-office. It was in a small
room on the third floor of the back building, yet as well known to
the police of the district as if it had been on the front street.
One of these public guardians soon after his appointment through
political influence, and while some wholesome sense of duty and
moral responsibility yet remained, caused the "writer" in this
particular office to be arrested. He thought that he had done a good
thing, and looked for approval and encouragement. But to his
surprise and chagrin he found that he had blundered. The case got no
farther than the alderman's. Just how it was managed he did not
know, but it was managed, and the business of the office went on as
A little light came to him soon after, on meeting a prominent
politician to whom he was chiefly indebted for his appointment. Said
this individual, with a look of warning and a threat in his voice,
"See here, my good fellow; I'm told that you've been going out of
your way and meddling with the policy-dealers. Take my advice, and
mind your own business. If you don't. it will be all day with you.
There isn't a man in town strong enough to fight this thing, so
you'd better let it alone."
And he did let it alone. He had a wife and three little children,
and couldn't afford to lose his place. So he minded his own
business, and let it alone.
Pinky and her friend entered this small third-story back room.
Behind a narrow, unpainted counter, having a desk at one end, stood
a middle-aged man, with dark, restless eyes that rarely looked you
in the face. He wore a thick but rather closely-cut beard and
moustache. The police knew him very well; so did the criminal
lawyers, when he happened to come in their way; so did the officials
of two or three State prisons in which he had served out partial
sentences. He was too valuable to political "rings" and associations
antagonistic to moral and social well-being to be left idle in the
cell of a penitentiary for the whole term of a commitment.
Politicians have great influence, and governors are human.
On the walls of the room were pasted a few pictures cut from the
illustrated papers, some of them portraits of leading politicians,
and some of them portraits of noted pugilists and sporting-men. The
picture of a certain judge, who had made himself obnoxious to the
fraternity of criminals by his severe sentences, was turned upside
down. There was neither table nor chair in the room.
The woman in black had passed in just before the girls, and was
waiting her turn to examine the drawn numbers. She had not tasted
food since the day before, having ventured her only dime on a
policy, and was feeling strangely faint and bewildered. She did not
have to wait long. It was the old story. Her combination had not
come out, and she was starving. As she moved back toward the door
she staggered a little. Pinky, who had become curious about her,
noticed this, and watched her as she went out.
"It's about up with the old lady, I guess," she said to her
companion, with an unfeeling laugh.
And she was right. On the next morning the poor old woman was found
dead in her room, and those who prepared her for burial said that
she was wasted to a skeleton. She had, in fact, starved herself in
her infatuation, spending day after day in policies what she should
have spent for food. Pinky's strange remark was but too true. She
had become a policy-drunkard--a vice almost as disastrous in its
effects as its kindred, vice, intemperance, though less brutalizing
and less openly indulged.
"Where now?" was the question of Pinky's friend as they came down,
after spending in policies all the money they had received from the
sale of Flora Bond's clothing. "Any other game?"
"Come along to my room, and I'll tell you."
"Round in Ewing street?"
"Yes. Great game up, if I can only get on the track."
"What is it?"
"There's a cast-off baby in Dirty Alley, and Fan Bray knows its
mother, and she's rich."
"Fan's getting lots of hush-money."
"Goody! but that is game!"
"Isn't it? The baby's owned by two beggar-women who board it in
Dirty Alley. It's 'most starved and frozen to death, and Fan's awful
'fraid it may die. She wants me to steal it for her, so that she may
have it better taken care of, and I was going to do it last night,
when I got into a muss."
"Who's the woman that boards it?"
"She lives in a cellar, and is drunk every night. Can steal the brat
easily enough; but if I can't find out who it belongs to, you see it
will be trouble for nothing."
"No, I don't see any such thing," answered Nell Peter. "If you can't
get hush-money out of its mother, you can bleed Fanny Bray."
"That's so, and I'm going to bleed her. The mother, you see, thinks
the baby's dead. The proud old grandmother gave it away, as soon as
was born, to a woman that Fan Bray found for her. Its mother was out
of her head, and didn't know nothing. That woman sold the baby to
the women who keep it to beg with. She's gone up the spout now, and
nobody knows who the mother and grandmother are but Fan, and nobody
knows where the baby is but me and Fan. She's bleeding the old lady,
and promises to share with me if I keep track of the baby and see
that it isn't killed or starved to death. But I don't trust her. She
puts me off with fives and tens, when I'm sure she gets hundreds.
Now, if we have the baby all to ourselves, and find out the mother
and grandmother, won't we have a splendid chance? I'll bet you on
"Won't we? Why, Pinky, this is a gold-mine!"
"Didn't I tell you there was great game up? I was just wanting some
one to help me. Met you in the nick of time."
The two girls had now reached Pinky's room in Ewing street, where
they continued in conference for a long time before settling their
"Does Fan know where you live?" queried Nell Peter.
"Then you will have to change your quarters."
"Easily done. Doesn't take half a dozen furniture-cars to move me."
"I know a room."
"It's a little too much out of the way, you'll think, maybe, but
it's just the dandy for hiding in. You cart keep the brat there, and
"Me keep the brat?" interrupted Pinky, with a derisive laugh.
"That's a good one! I see myself turned baby-tender! Ha! ha! that's
"What do you expect to do with the child after you steal it?" asked
"I don't intend to nurse it or have it about me."
"Board if with some one who doesn't get drunk or buy policies."
"You'll hunt for a long time."
"Maybe, but I'll try. Anyhow, it can't be worse off than it is now.
What I'm afraid of is that it will be out of its misery before we
can get hold of it. The woman who is paid for keeping it at night
doesn't give it any milk--just feeds it on bread soaked in water,
and that is slow starvation. It's the way them that don't want to
keep their babies get rid of them about here."
"The game's up if the baby dies," said Nell Peter, growing excited
under this view of the case. "If it only gets bread soaked in water,
it can't live. I've seen that done over and over again. They're
starving a baby on bread and water now just over from my room, and
it cries and frets and moans all the time it's awake, poor little
wretch! I've been in hopes for a week that they'd give it an
overdose of paregoric or something else."
"We must fix it to-night in some way," answered Pinky. "Where's the
room you spoke of?"
"In Grubb's court. You know Grubb's court?--a kind of elbow going
off from Rider's court. There's a room up there that you can get
where even the police would hardly find you out."
"Thieves live there," said Pinky.
"No matter. They'll not trouble you or the baby."
"Is the room furnished?"
"Yes. There's a bed and a table and two chairs."
After farther consultation it was decided that Pinky should move at
once from her present lodgings to the room in Grubb's court, and
get, if possible, possession of the baby that very night. The moving
was easily accomplished after the room was secured. Two small
bundles of clothing constituted Pinky's entire effects; and taking
these, the two girls went quietly out, leaving a week's rent unpaid.
The night that closed this early winter day was raw and cold, the
easterly wind still prevailing, with occasional dashes of rain. In a
cellar without fire, except a few bits of smouldering wood in an old
clay furnace, that gave no warmth to the damp atmosphere, and with
scarcely an article of furniture, a woman half stupid from drink sat
on a heap of straw, her bed, with her hands clasped about her knees.
She was rocking her body backward and forward, and crooning to
herself in a maudlin way. A lighted tallow candle stood on the floor
of the cellar, and near it a cup of water, in which was a spoon and
some bread soaking.
"Mother Hewitt!" called a voice from the cellar door that opened on
the street. "Here, take the baby!"
Mother Hewitt, as she was called, started up and made her way with
an unsteady gait to the front part of the cellar, where a woman in
not much better condition than herself stood holding out a bundle of
rags in which a fretting baby was wrapped.
"Quick, quick!" called the woman. "And see here," she continued as
Mother Hewitt reached her arms for the baby; "I don't believe you're
doing the right thing. Did he have plenty of milk last night and
"Just as much as he would take."
"I don't believe it. He's been frettin' and chawin' at the strings
of his hood all the afternoon, when he ought to have been asleep,
and he's looking punier every day. I believe you're giving him only
bread and water."
But Mother Hewitt protested that she gave him the best of new milk,
and as much as he would take.
"Well, here's a quarter," said the woman, handing Mother Hewitt some
money; "and see that he is well fed to-night and to-morrow morning.
He's getting 'most too deathly in his face. The people won't stand
it if they think a baby's going to die--the women 'specially, and
most of all the young things that have lost babies. One of these--I
know 'em by the way they look out of their eyes--came twice to-day
and stood over him sad and sorrowful like; she didn't give me
anything. I've seen her before. Maybe she's his mother. As like as
nor, for nobody knows where he came from. Wasn't Sally Long's baby;
always thought she'd stole him from somebody. Now, mind, he's to
have good milk every day, or I'll change his boarding-house. D'ye
And laughing at this sally, the woman turned away to spend in a
night's debauch the money she had gained in half a day's begging.
Left to herself, Mother Hewitt went staggering back with the baby in
her arms, and seated herself on the ground beside the cup of bread
and water, which was mixed to the consistence of cream. As she did
so the light of her poor candle fell on the baby's face. It was
pinched and hungry and ashen pale, the thin lips wrought by want and
suffering into such sad expressions of pain that none but the most
stupid and hardened could look at them and keep back a gush of
But Mother Hewitt saw nothing of this--felt nothing of this. Pity
and tenderness had long since died out of her heart. As she laid the
baby back on one arm she took a spoonful of the mixture prepared for
its supper, and pushed it roughly into its mouth. The baby swallowed
it with a kind of starving eagerness, but with no sign of
satisfaction on its sorrowful little face. But Mother Hewitt was too
impatient to get through with her work of feeding the child, and
thrust in spoonful after spoonful until it choked, when she shook it
angrily, calling it vile names.
The baby cried feebly at this. when she shook it again and slapped
it with her heavy hand. Then it grew still. She put the spoon again
to its lips, but it shut them tightly and turned its head away.
"Very well," said Mother Hewitt. "If you won't, you won't;" and she
tossed the helpless thing as she would have tossed a senseless
bundle over upon the heap of straw that served as a bed, adding, as
she did so, "I never coaxed my own brats."
The baby did not cry. Mother Hewitt then blew out the candle, and
groping her way to the door of the cellar that opened on the street,
went out, shutting down the heavy door behind her, and leaving the
child alone in that dark and noisome den--alone in its foul and wet
garments, but, thanks to kindly drugs, only partially conscious of
Mother Hewitt's first visit was to the nearest dram-shop. Here she
spent for liquor five cents of the money she had received. From the
dram-shop she went to Sam McFaddon's policy-office. This was not
hidden away, like most of the offices, in an upper room or a back
building or in some remote cellar, concealed from public
observation, but stood with open door on the very street, its
customers going in and out as freely and unquestioned as the
customers of its next-door neighbor, the dram-shop. Policemen passed
Sam's door a hundred times in every twenty-four hours, saw his
customers going in and out, knew their errand, talked with Sam about
his business, some of them trying their luck occasionally after
there had been an exciting "hit," but none reporting him or in any
way interfering with his unlicensed plunder of the miserable and
besotted wretches that crowded his neighborhood.
From the whisky-shop to the policy-shop went Mother Hewitt. Here she
put down five cents more; she never bet higher than this on a "row."
From the policy-shop she went back to the whisky-shop, and took
another drink. By this time she was beginning to grow noisy. It so
happened that the woman who had left the baby with her a little
while before came in just then, and being herself much the worse for
drink, picked a quarrel with Mother Hewitt, accusing her of getting
drunk on the money she received for keeping the baby, and starving
it to death. A fight was the consequence, in which they were
permitted to tear and scratch and bruise each other in a shocking
way, to the great enjoyment of the little crowd of debased and
brutal men and women who filled the dram-shop. But fearing a visit
from the police, the owner of the den, a strong, coarse Irishman,
interfered, and dragging the women apart, pushed Mother Hewitt out,
giving her so violent an impetus that she fell forward into the
middle of the narrow street, where she lay unable to rise, not from
any hurt, but from sheer intoxication.
"What's up now?" cried one and another as this little ripple of
disturbance broke upon that vile and troubled sea of humanity.
"Only Mother Hewitt drunk again!" lightly spoke a young girl not out
of her teens, but with a countenance that seemed marred by centuries
of debasing evil. Her laugh would have made an angel shiver.
A policeman came along, and stood for a little while looking at the
"It's Mother Hewitt," said one of the bystanders.
"Here, Dick," and the policeman spoke to a man near him. "Take hold
of her feet."
The man did as told, and the policeman lifting the woman's head and
shoulders, they carried her a short distance, to where a gate opened
into a large yard used for putting in carts and wagons at night, and
deposited her on the ground just inside.
"She can sleep it off there," said the policeman as he dropped his
unseemly load. "She'll have a-plenty to keep her company before
And so they left her without covering or shelter in the wet and
chilly air of a late November night, drunk and asleep.
As the little crowd gathered by this ripple of excitement melted
away, a single figure remained lurking in a corner of the yard and
out of sight in its dark shadow. It was that of a man. The moment he
was alone with the unconscious woman he glided toward her with the
alert movements of an animal, and with a quickness that made his
work seem instant, rifled her pockets. His gains were ten cents and
the policy-slip she had just received at Sam McFaddon's. He next
examined her shoes, but they were of no value, lifted her dirty
dress and felt its texture for a moment, then dropped it with a
motion of disgust and a growl of disappointment.
As he came out from the yard with his poor booty, the light from a
street-lamp fell on as miserable a looking wretch as ever hid
himself from the eyes of day--dirty, ragged, bloated, forlorn, with
scarcely a trace of manhood in his swollen and disfigured face. His
steps, quick from excitement a few moments before, were now
shambling and made with difficulty. He had not far to walk for what
he was seeking. The ministers to his appetite were all about him, a
dozen in every block of that terrible district that seemed as if
forsaken by God and man. Into the first that came in his way he went
with nervous haste, for he had not tasted of the fiery stimulant he
was craving with a fierce and unrelenting thirst for many hours. He
did not leave the bar until he had drank as much of the burning
poison its keeper dispensed as his booty would purchase. In less
than half an hour he was thrown dead drunk into the street and then
carried by policemen to the old wagon-yard, to take his night's
unconscious rest on the ground in company with Mother Hewitt and a
score besides of drunken wretches who were pitilessly turned out
from the various dram-shops after their money was spent, and who
were not considered by the police worth the trouble of taking to the
When Mother Hewitt crept back into her cellar at daylight, the baby
_FOR_ more than a week after Edith's call on Dr. Radcliffe she
seemed to take but little interest in anything, and remained alone
in her room for a greater part of the time, except when her father
was in the house. Since her questions about her baby a slight
reserve had risen up between them. During this time she went out at
least once every day, and when questioned by her mother as to where
she had been, evaded any direct answer. If questioned more closely,
she would show a rising spirit and a decision of manner that had the
effect to silence and at the same time to trouble Mrs. Dinneford,
whose mind was continually on the rack.
One day the mother and daughter met in a part of the city where
neither of them dreamed of seeing the other. It was not far from
where Mrs. Bray lived. Mrs. Dinneford had been there on a
purgational visit, and had come away lighter in purse and with a
heavier burden of fear and anxiety on her heart.
"What are you doing here?" she demanded.
"I've been to St. John's mission sewing-school," replied Edith. "I
have a class there."
"You have! Why didn't you tell me this before? I don't like such
doings. This is no place for you."
"My place is where I can do good," returned Edith, speaking slowly,
but with great firmness.
"Good! You can do good if you want to without demeaning yourself to
work like this. I don't want you mixed up with these low, vile
people, and I won't have it!" Mrs. Dinneford spoke in a sharp,
Edith made no answer, and they walked on together.
"I shall speak to your father about this," said Mrs. Dinneford. "It
isn't reputable. I wouldn't have you seen here for the world."
"I shall walk unhurt; you need not fear," returned Edith.
There was silence between them for some time, Edith not caring to
speak, and her mother in doubt as to what it were best to say.
"How long have you been going to St. John's mission school?" at
length queried Mrs. Dinneford.
"I've been only a few times," replied Edith.
"And have a class of diseased and filthy little wretches, I
"They are God's children," said Edith, in a tone of rebuke.
"Oh, don't preach to me!" was angrily replied.
"I only said what was true," remarked Edith.
There was silence again.
"Are you going directly home?" asked Mrs. Dinneford, after they had
walked the distance of several blocks. Edith replied that she was.
"Then you'd better take that car. I shall not be home for an hour
They separated, Edith taking the car. As soon as she was alone Mrs.
Dinneford quickened her steps, like a person who had been held back
from some engagement. A walk of ten minutes brought her to one of
the principal hotels of the city. Passing in, she went up to a
reception-parlor, where she was met by a man who rose from a seat
near the windows and advanced to the middle of the room. He was of
low stature, with quick, rather nervous movements, had dark,
restless eyes, and wore a heavy black moustache that was liberally
sprinkled with gray. The lower part of his face was shaved clean. He
showed some embarrassment as he came forward to meet Mrs. Dinneford.
"Mr. Feeling," she said, coldly.
The man bowed with a mixture of obsequiousness and familiarity, and
tried to look steadily into Mrs. Dinneford's face, but was not able
to do so. There was a steadiness and power in her eyes that his
could not bear.
"What do you want with me, sir?" she demanded, a little sharply.
"Take a chair, and I will tell you," replied Freeling, and he
turned, moving toward a corner of the room, she following. They sat
down, taking chairs near each other.
"There's trouble brewing," said the man, his face growing dark and
"What kind of trouble?"
"I had a letter from George Granger yesterday."
"What!" The color went out of the lady's face.
"A letter from George Granger. He wished to see me."
"Did you go?"
"What did he want?"
Freeling took a deep breath, and sighed. His manner was troubled.
"What did he want?" Mrs. Dinneford repeated the question.
"He's as sane as you or I," said Freeling.
"Is he? Oh, very well! Then let him go to the State's prison." Mrs.
Dinneford said this with some bravado in her manner. But the color
did not come back to her face.
"He has no idea of that," was replied.
"What then?" The lady leaned toward Freeling. Her hands moved
"He means to have the case in court again, but on a new issue."
"Yes; says that he's innocent, and that you and I know it--that he's
the victim of a conspiracy, and that we are the conspirators!"
"Talk!--amounts to nothing," returned Mrs. Dinneford, with a faint
"I don't know about that. It's ugly talk, and especially so, seeing
that it's true."
"No one will give credence to the ravings of an insane criminal."
"People are quick to credit an evil report. They will pity and
believe him, now that the worst is reached. A reaction in public
feeling has already taken place. He has one or two friends left who
do not hesitate to affirm that there has been foul play. One of
these has been tampering with a clerk of mine, and I came upon them
with their heads together on the street a few days ago, and had my
suspicions aroused by their startled look when they saw me."
"'What did that man want with you?' I inquired, when the clerk came
"He hesitated a moment, and then replied, 'He was asking me
something about Mr. Granger.'
"'What about him?' I queried. 'He asked me if I knew anything in
regard to the forgery,' he returned.
"I pressed him with questions, and found that suspicion was on the
right track. This friend of Granger's asked particularly about your
visits to the store, and whether he had ever noticed anything
peculiar in our intercourse--anything that showed a familiarity
beyond what would naturally arise between a customer and salesman."
"There's nothing in that," said Mrs. Dinneford. "If you and I keep
our own counsel, we are safe. The testimony of a condemned criminal
goes for nothing. People may surmise and talk as much as they
please, but no one knows anything about those notes but you and I
"A pardon from the governor may put a new aspect on the case."
"A pardon!" There was a tremor of alarm in Mrs. Dinneford's voice.
"Yes; that, no doubt, will be the first move."
"The first move! Why, Mr. Freeling, you don't think anything like
this is in contemplation?"
"I'm afraid so. George, as I have said, is no more crazy than you or
I. But he cannot come out of the asylum, as the case now stands,
without going to the penitentiary. So the first move of his friends
will be to get a pardon. Then he is our equal in the eyes of the
law. It would be an ugly thing for you and me to be sued for a
conspiracy to ruin this young man, and have the charge of forgery
added to the count."
Mrs. Dinneford gave a low cry, and shivered.
"But it may come to that."
"The prudent man foreseeth the evil and hideth himself, but the
simple pass on and are punished," said Freeling. "It is for this
that I have sent for you. It's an ugly business, and I was a weak
fool ever to have engaged in it."
"You were a free agent."
"I was a weak fool."
"As you please," returned Mrs. Dinneford, coldly, and drawing
herself away from him.
It was some moments before either of them spoke again. Then Freeling
"I was awake all night, thinking over this matter, and it looks
uglier the more I think of it. It isn't likely that enough evidence
could be found to convict either of us, but to be tried on such an
accusation would be horrible."
"Horrible! horrible!" ejaculated Mrs. Dinneford. "What is to be
done?" She gave signs of weakness and terror. Freeling observed her
closely, then felt his way onward.
"We are in great peril," he said. "There is no knowing what turn
affairs will take. I only wish I were a thousand miles from here. It
would be safer for us both." Then, after a pause, he added, "If I
were foot-free, I would be off to-morrow."
He watched Mrs. Dinneford closely, and saw a change creep over her
"If I were to disappear suddenly," he resumed, "suspicion, if it
took a definite shape, would fall on me. You would not be thought of
in the matter."
He paused again, observing his companion keenly but stealthily. He
was not able to look her fully in the face.
"Speak out plainly," said Mrs. Dinneford, with visible impatience.
"Plainly, then, madam," returned Freeling, changing his whole
bearing toward her, and speaking as one who felt that he was master
of the situation, "it has come to this: I shall have to break up and
leave the city, or there will be a new trial in which you and I will
be the accused. Now, self-preservation is the first law of nature. I
don't mean to go to the State's prison if I can help it. What I am
now debating are the chances in my favor if Granger gets a pardon,
and then makes an effort to drive us to the wall, which he most
surely will. I have settled it so far--"
Mrs. Dinneford leaned toward him with an anxious expression on her
countenance, waiting for the next sentence. But Freeling did not go
"How have you settled it?" she demanded, trembling as she spoke with
the excitement of suspense.
"That I am not going to the wall if I can help it."
"How will you help it?"
"I have an accomplice;" and this time he was able to look at Mrs.
Dinneford with such a fixed and threatening gaze that her eyes fell.
"You have?" she questioned, in a husky voice.
"Mrs. Helen Dinneford. And do you think for a moment that to save
myself I would hesitate to sacrifice her?"
The lady's face grew white. She tried to speak, but could not.
"I am talking plainly, as you desired, madam," continued Freeling.
"You led me into this thing. It was no scheme of mine; and if more
evil consequences are to come, I shall do my best to save my own
head. Let the hurt go to where it rightfully belongs."
"What do you mean?" Mrs. Dinneford tried to rally herself.
"Just this," was answered: "if I am dragged into court, I mean to go
in as a witness, and not as a criminal. At the first movement toward
an indictment, I shall see the district attorney, whom I know very
well, and give him such information in the case as will lead to
fixing the crime on you alone, while I will come in as the principal
witness. This will make your conviction certain."
"Devil!" exclaimed Mrs. Dinneford, her white face convulsed and her
eyes starting from their sockets with rage and fear. "Devil!" she
repeated, not able to control her passion.
"Then you know me," was answered, with cool self-possession, "and
what you have to expect."
Neither spoke for a considerable time. Up to this period they had
been alone in the parlor. Guests of the house now came in and took
seats near them. They arose and walked the floor for a little while,
still in silence, then passed into an adjoining parlor that happened
to be empty, and resumed the conference.
"This is a last resort," remarked Freeling, softening his voice as
they sat down--"a card that I do not wish to play, and shall not if
I can help it. But it is best that you should know that it is in my
hand. If there is any better way of escape, I shall take it."
"You spoke of going away," said Mrs. Dinneford.
"Yes. But that involves a great deal."
"The breaking up of my business, and loss of money and opportunities
that I can hardly hope ever to regain."
"Why loss of money?"
"I shall have to wind up hurriedly, and it will be impossible to
collect more than a small part of my outstanding claims. I shall
have to go away under a cloud, and it will not be prudent to return.
Most of these claims will therefore become losses. The amount of
capital I shall be able to take will not be sufficient to do more
than provide for a small beginning in some distant place and under
an assumed name. On the other hand, if I remain and fight the thing
through, as I have no doubt I can, I shall keep my business and my
place in society here--hurt, it may be, in my good name, but still
with the main chance all right. But it will be hard for you. If I
pass the ordeal safely, you will not. And the question to consider
is whether you can make it to my interest to go away, to drop out of
sight, injured in fortune and good name, while you go unscathed. You
now have it all in a nutshell. I will not press you to a decision
to-day. Your mind is too much disturbed. To-morrow, at noon, I would
like to see you again."
Freeling made a motion to rise, but Mrs. Dinneford did not stir.
"Perhaps," he said, "you decide at once to let things take their
course. Understand me, I am ready for either alternative. The
election is with yourself."
Mrs. Dinneford was too much stunned by all this to be able to come
to any conclusion. She seemed in the maze of a terrible dream, full
of appalling reality. To wait for twenty-four hours in this state of
uncertainty was more than her thoughts could endure. And yet she
must have time to think, and to get command of her mental resources.
"Will you be disengaged at five o'clock?" she asked.
"I will be here at five."
Mrs. Dinneford arose with a weary air.
"I shall want to hear from you very explicitly," she said. "If your
demand is anywhere in the range of reason and possibility, I may
meet it. If outside of that range, I shall of course reject it. It
is possible that you may not hold all the winning cards--in fact, I
know that you do not."
"I will be here at five," said Freeling.
"Very well. I shall be on time."
And they turned from each other, passing from the parlor by separate
_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
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
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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!
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.
_AS_ for Edith, all doubts and questionings as to her baby's fate
were merged into a settled conviction that it was alive, and that
her mother knew where it was to be found. From her mother's pity and
humanity she had nothing to hope for the child. It had been cruelly
cast adrift, pushed out to die; by what means was cared not, so that
it died and left no trace.
The face of Mrs. Bray had, in the single glance Edith obtained of
it, become photographed in her mind. If she had been an artist, she
could have drawn it from memory so accurately that no one who knew
the woman could have failed to recognize her likeness. Always when
in the street her eyes searched for this face; she never passed a
woman of small stature and poor dark clothing without turning to
look at her. Every day she went out, walking the streets sometimes
for hours looking for this face, but not finding it. Every day she
passed certain corners and localities where she had seen women
begging, and whenever she found one with a baby in her arms would
stop to look at the poor starved thing, and question her about it.
Gradually all her thoughts became absorbed in the condition of poor,
neglected and suffering children. Her attendance at the St. John's
mission sewing-school, which was located in the neighborhood of one
of the worst places in the city, brought her in contact with little
children in such a wretched state of ignorance, destitution and vice
that her heart was moved to deepest pity, intensified by the thought
that ever and anon flashed across her mind: "And my baby may become
like one of these!"
Sometimes this thought would drive her almost to madness. Often she
would become so wild in her suspense as to be on the verge of openly
accusing her mother with having knowledge of her baby's existence
and demanding of her its restoration. But she was held back by the
fear that such an accusation would only shut the door of hope for
ever. She had come to believe her mother capable of almost any
wickedness. Pressed to the wall she would never be if there was any
way of escape, and to prevent such at thing there was nothing so
desperate that she would not do it; and so Edith hesitated and
feared to take the doubtful issue.
Week after week and month after month now went on without a single,
occurrence that gave to Edith any new light. Mrs. Dinneford wrought
with her accomplice so effectually that she kept her wholly out of
the way. Often, in going and returning from the mission-school,
Edith would linger about the neighborhood where she had once met her
mother, hoping to see her come out of some one of the houses there,
for she had got it into her mind that the woman called Mrs. Gray
lived somewhere in this locality.
One day, in questioning a child who had come to the sewing-school as
to her home and how she lived, the little girl said something about
a baby that her mother said she knew must have been stolen.
"How old is the baby?" asked Edith, hardly able to keep the tremor
out of her voice.
"It's a little thing," answered the child. "I don't know how old it
is; maybe it's six months old, or maybe it's a year. It can sit upon
"Why does your mother think it has been stolen?"
"Because two bad girls have got it, and they pay a woman to take
care of it. It doesn't belong to them, she knows. Mother says it
would be a good thing if it died."
"Why does she say that?"
"Oh she always talks that way about babies--says she's glad when
"Is it a boy or a girl?"
"It's a boy baby," answered the child.
"Does the woman take good care of it?"
"Oh dear, no! She lets it sit on the floor 'most all the time, and
it cries so that I often go up and nurse it. The woman lives in the
room over ours."
"Where do you live?"
"In Grubb's court."
"Will you show me the way there after school is over?"
The child looked up into Edith's face with an expression of surprise
and doubt. Edith repeated her question.
"I guess you'd better not go," was answered, in a voice that meant
all the words expressed.
"It isn't a good place."
"But you live there?"
"Yes, but nobody's going to trouble me."
"Nor me," said Edith.
"Oh, but you don't know what kind of a place it is, nor what
dreadful people live there."
"I could get a policeman to go with me, couldn't I?"
"Yes, maybe you could, or Mr. Paulding, the missionary. He goes
"Where can I find Mr. Paulding?"
"At the mission in Briar street."
"You'll show me the way there after school?"
"Oh yes; it isn't a nice place for you to go, but I guess nobody'll
After the school closed, Edith, guided by the child, made her way to
the Briar st. mission-house. As she entered the narrow street in
which it was situated, the aspect of things was so strange and
shocking to her eyes that she felt a chill creep to her heart. She
had never imagined anything so forlorn and squalid, so wretched and
comfortless. Miserable little hovels, many of them no better than
pig-styes, and hardly cleaner within, were crowded together in all
stages of dilapidation. Windows with scarcely a pane of glass, the
chilly air kept out by old hats, bits of carpet or wads of
newspaper, could be seen on all sides, with here and there, showing
some remains of an orderly habit, a broken pane closed with a smooth
piece of paper pasted to the sash. Instinctively she paused,
oppressed by a sense of fear.
"It's only halfway down," said the child. "We'll 'go quick. I guess
nobody'll speak to you. They're afraid of Mr. Paulding about here.
He's down on 'em if they meddle with anybody that's coming to the
Edith, thus urged, moved on. She had gone but a few steps when two
men came in sight, advancing toward her. They were of the class to
be seen at all times in that region--debased to the lowest degree,
drunken, ragged, bloated, evil-eyed, capable of any wicked thing.
They were singing when they came in sight, but checked their drunken
mirth as soon as they saw Edith, whose heart sunk again. She
"They're only drunk," said the child. "I don't believe they'll hurt
Edith rallied herself and walked on, the men coming closer and
closer. She saw them look at each other with leering eyes, and then
at her in a way that made her shiver. When only a few paces distant,
they paused, and with the evident intention of barring her farther
"Good-afternoon, miss," said one of them, with a low bow. "Can we do
anything for you?"
The pale, frightened face of Edith was noticed by the other, and it
touched some remnant of manhood not yet wholly extinguished.
"Let her alone, you miserable cuss!" he cried, and giving his
drunken companion a shove, sent him staggering across the street.
This made the way clear, and Edith sprang forward, but she had gone
only a few feet when she came face to face with another obstruction
even more frightful, if possible, than the first. A woman with a
red, swollen visage, black eye, soiled, tattered, drunk, with arms
wildly extended, came rushing up to her. The child gave a scream.
The wretched creature caught at a shawl worn by Edith, and was
dragging it from her shoulders, when the door of one of the houses
flew open, and a woman came out hastily. Grasping the assailant, she
hurled her across the street with the strength of a giant.
"We're going to the mission," said the child.
"It's just down there. Go 'long. I'll stand here and see that no one
meddles with you again."
Edith faltered her thanks, and went on.
"That's the queen," said her companion.
"The queen!" Edith's hasty tones betrayed her surprise.
"Yes; it's Norah. They're all afraid of her. I'm glad she saw us.
She's as strong as a man."
In a few minutes they reached the mission, but in those few minutes
Edith saw more to sadden the heart, more to make it ache for
humanity, than could be described in pages.
The missionary was at home. Edith told him the purpose of her call
and the locality she desired to visit.
"I wanted to go alone," she remarked, "but this little girl, who is
in my class at the sewing-school, said it wouldn't be safe, and that
you would go with me."
"I should be sorry to have you go alone into Grubb's court," said
the missionary, kindly, and with concern in his voice, "for a worse
place can hardly be found in the city--I was going to say in the
world. You will be safe with me, however. But why do you wish to
visit Grubb's court? Perhaps I can do all that is needed."
"This little girl who lives in there, has been telling me about a
poor neglected baby that her mother says has no doubt been stolen,
and--and--" Edith voice faltered, but she quickly gained steadiness
under a strong effort of will: "I thought perhaps I might be able to
do something for it--to get it into one of the homes, maybe. It is
dreadful, sir, to think of little babies being neglected."
Mr. Paulding questioned the child who had brought Edith to the
mission-house, and learned from her that the baby was merely boarded
by the woman who had it in charge, and that she sometimes took it
out and sat on the street, begging. The child repeated what she had
said to Edith--that the baby was the property, so to speak, of two
abandoned women, who paid its board.
"I think," said the missionary, after some reflection, "that if
getting the child out of their hands is your purpose, you had better
not go there at present. Your visit would arouse suspicion; and if
the two women have anything to gain by keeping the child in their
possession, it will be at once taken to a new place. I am moving
about in these localities all the while, and can look in upon the
baby without anything being thought of it."
This seemed so reasonable that Edith, who could not get over the
nervous tremors occasioned by what she had already seen and
encountered, readily consented to leave the matter for the present
in Mr. Paulding's hands.
"If you will come here to-morrow," said the missionary, "I will tell
you all I can about the baby."
Out of a region where disease, want and crime shrunk from common
observation, and sin and death held high carnival, Edith hurried
with trembling feet, and heart beating so heavily that she could
hear it throb, the considerate missionary going with her until she
had crossed the boundary of this morally infected district.
Mr. Dinneford met Edith at the door on her arrival home.
"My child," he exclaimed as he looked into her face, back to which
the color had not returned since her fright in Briar street, "are
"I don't feel very well;" and she tried to pass him hastily in the
hall as they entered the house together. But he laid his hand on her
arm and held her back gently, then drew her into the parlor. She sat
down, trembling, weak and faint. Mr. Dinneford waited for some
moments, looking at her with a tender concern, before speaking.
"Where have you been, my dear?" he asked, at length.
After a little hesitation, Edith told her father about her visit to
Briar street and the shock she had received.
"You were wrong," he answered, gravely. "It is most fortunate for
you that you took the child's advice and called at the mission. If
you had gone to Grubb's court alone, you might not have come out
"Oh no, father! It can't be so bad as that."
"It is just as bad as that," he replied, with a troubled face and
manner. "Grubb's court is one of the traps into which unwary victims
are drawn that they may be plundered. It is as much out of common
observation almost as the lair of a wild beast in some deep
wilderness. I have heard it described by those who have been there
under protection of the police, and shudder to think of the narrow
escape you have made. I don't want you to go into that vile district
again. It is no place for such as you."
"There's a poor little baby there," said Edith, her voice trembling
and tears filling her eyes. Then, after a brief struggle with her
feelings, she threw herself upon her father, sobbing out, "And oh,
father, it may be my baby!"
"My poor child," said Mr. Dinneford, not able to keep his voice
firm--"my poor, poor child! It is all a wild dream, the suggestion
of evil spirits who delight in torment."
"What became of my baby, father? Can you tell me?"
"It died, Edith dear. We know that," returned her father, trying to
speak very confidently. But the doubt in his own mind betrayed
"Do you know it?" she asked, rising and confronting her father.
"I didn't actually see it die. But--but--"
"You know no more about it than I do," said Edith; "if you did, you
might set my heart at rest with a word. But you cannot. And so I am
left to my wild fears, that grow stronger every day. Oh, father,
help me, if you can. I must have certainty, or I shall lose my
"If you don't give up this wild fancy, you surely will," answered
Mr. Dinneford, in a distressed voice.
"If I were to shut myself up and do nothing," said Edith, with
greater calmness, "I would be in a madhouse before a week went by.
My safety lies in getting down to the truth of this wild fancy, as
you call it. It has taken such possession of me that nothing but
certainty can give me rest. Will you help me?"
"How can I help you? I have no clue to this sad mystery."
"Mystery! Then you are as much in the dark as I am--know no more of
what became of my baby than I do! Oh, father, how could you let such
a thing be done, and ask no questions--such a cruel and terrible
thing--and I lying helpless and dumb? Oh, father, my innocent baby
cast out like a dog to perish--nay, worse, like a lamb among wolves
to be torn by their cruel teeth--and no one to put forth a hand to
save! If I only knew that he was dead! If I could find his little
grave and comfort my heart over it!"
Weak, naturally good men, like Mr. Dinneford, often permit great
wrongs to be done in shrinking from conflict and evading the sterner
duties of life. They are often the faithless guardians of immortal
There was a tone of accusation and rebuke in Edith's voice that
smote painfully on her father's heart. He answered feebly:
"What could I do? How should I know that anything wrong was being
done? You were very ill, and the baby was sent away to be nursed,
and then I was told that it was dead."
"Oh, father! Sent away without your seeing it! My baby! Your little
grandson! Oh, father!"
"But you know, dear, in what a temper of mind your mother was--how
impossible it is for me to do anything with her when she once sets
herself to do a thing."
"Even if it be murder!" said Edith, in a hoarse whisper.
"Hush, hush, my child! You must not speak so," returned the agitated
A silence fell between them. A wall of separation began to grow up.
Edith arose, and was moving from the room.
"My daughter!" There was a sob in the father's voice.
"My daughter, we must not part yet. Come back; sit down with me, and
let us talk more calmly. What is past cannot be changed. It is with
the now of this unhappy business that we have to do."
Edith came back and sat down again, her father taking a seat beside
"That is just it," she answered, with a steadiness of tone and
manner that showed how great was the self-control she was able to
exert. "It is with the now of this unhappy affair that we have to
do. If I spoke strongly of the past, it was that a higher and
intenser life might be given to present duty."
"Let there be no distance between us. Let no wall of separation grow
up," said Mr. Dinneford, tenderly. "I cannot bear to think of this.
Confide in me, consult with me. I will help you in all possible ways
to solve this mystery. But do not again venture alone into that
dreadful place. I will go with you if you think any good will come