Mysteries By Candice: Less Fortunate
1910 New York City
"Tha' wind hithers so deeply, tis almost the sound of a blizzard." The doctor cautioned, taking hold of the lady's hand. Then he added, "seeing tha' is expecting soon, I rec'mend tha' stays in tha' bed now on. Tha' women folk does much runnin' about an' cookin' an' feedin'. The weather tis only getting worse..."
"Eh, Doctor! Tha' worries too much!" The cheerful woman replied optimistically.
"Tis a crowded day in the city, eh, the patients keep askin'n beggin' doctor?" She teased.
"Aye! Las, tis the time o' the month influenza takes a toll on the lot of us. Tha' baby, miss, is looking like a January babe!" He said, rubbing her stomach.
"I pray to God for tha' little one to be a lad, baby boy. Doctor, how am I to be sure?"
"Oh, m'lady..." The doctor said blushing. "Only God himself would answer tha's question truthfully!" He laughed, then grew solemn again, seeing the lady's serious look on her brow.
"Doctor, tha' knows how poor we women folk are these blessed days...I just doesn't know tha' use of a lassie to feed. A boy of certainty would help put food on the table. But a girl!"
"Tis not like tha' can send her back! Eh! But tha' is a fine lady, Miss Adeline. Tha's always got an answer." The doctor soothed. Then, he hesitated and added, "Tha' only have to wait a fortnight or so to find out." The woman curtsied and rushed out of the room, trying to hide her tears. Although, in the end, it didn't matter; the wind slapped her face as soon as she ventured out, leaving snow melting onto her cheeks.
Adeline Dredsen quietly knocked on her husbands door.
"C'min!" The pleasant Yorkshire voice responded.
"Tis only me..." She said laughing as he stood to greet him.
"Oh m'lady, tha' wishes to call on Mr. Dredsen?" He said loftily.
"Why what ever for?" She teased, spinning her dress. Then she stopped, and sat herself down solemnly.
"Tha' looks troubled..." He kindly spoke, eyeing her carefully. He removed his spectacles and sat beside her. He took hold of her hand and looked tenderly into her eyes.
"Tell me, what ails the las?" She tried hard not to make eye contact.
"I saw Doctor Brewin today. He-he told me that the baby was to come in a fortnight. I did what tha' said, Jon. I asked him if 'twas a boy or girl. And-and he answered with solemness...he didn't know." Jon let go of her hand and began pacing.
"We shan't take any chances, Adeline. Why, It would be pure murder giving birth then killing the las. But if we-"
"No, Jon!" Adeline said taking a hold of his hand. Jon sighed and sat down.
"Look, Addy. We's poor as 'tis. I barely making enough money to feed us, let alone another young'n. I don't want anything to do with this matter no longer. Take care of it yourself...and let me know if luck ends up being on tha' side." Jon walked out of the room.
Adeline put her head in her hands and cried.
She stumbled her way through the crowds, causing herself to numb her flesh's aches. The accumulating snow and dreadful, icy wind stung her face, alas, but that pain was put aside. Jon was forced to sell the home they so dearly loved, and were moved to a small apartment building with hardly enough room to live in. Later that month, Jon committed suicide. Days before the baby was expected, Adeline rushed around the town gathering supplies. She was determined to raise this baby, no matter what happened. The snow was shoveled up against the cobblestone streets. Gentlemen and ladies alike busied the streets as automobiles and animals roamed the streets as they pleased. Facing the
14 days later...
"Why miss Adeline! It is not a boy you've got, but a girl! She is as plain looking as ever!
Look at those big brown eyes!" The nurse exclaimed. Adeline arose from the bed with a grief stricken face.
"Oh dear! Send her back! I don't want her!"
"Miss Adeline, please calm down!" The younger nurse comforted. But it didn't work.
"Maybe it would help if you showed her the little'n." She ventured. But the older nurse shook her head.
"Adeline would fret at the thought of this plump little thing."
"But she will have to keep the baby! She must accept it or it will be sent to the orphanage. That is the most terrible place in all o' New York." The young nurse cautioned. The elder nurse sighed and placed the baby in the blue cradle Adeline had ordered from the carpenter. She wrapped it in the red patch quilt for warmth, while The mother lay there, weeping.
4 years later
The two nurses cared for the little babe as long as they could, until bankruptcy came and they were forced to the streets. Their religious ways were now behind them. And they began living the life of thieves.
"The young'n s better with a roof over her head than robb'n and stealin' on the streets." The older nurse said, frail and weak. The younger nurse, which now had a good bit of experience, braided the little girls hair. Her eyes were brown circles that left a trace of originality to her common features. The clothes she wore were little boys frocks and jumpers.
"Aye, where am I to go?" The girl inquired, holding her quilt in her hand.
"To the orphanage, Run by Mrs. Franklin. She will make sure you don't go hungry." The older nurse said factually.
A look of sad expression fell over the girls face.
"Oh little'n, don't fret so. We will visit you on your fifth birthday! That is not but a month away." The younger nurse added, trying to sound cheerful.
"I have never left you one day in my life." The girl said, a tear running down her cheek.
"Stop this non sense." The older nurse said, getting emotional herself. She opened the girl's hand and placed in it a sixpence, wrapped in a hanky with two roses sewn into the corner. The younger nurse tied her right braid up and opened her other hand, giving her a French cheese roll; her favorite.
"Will you always remember me?" The girl said holding her handkerchief, biscuit, and blanket.
The ladies did not answer, but walked her across the street and up the crookedly stairs leading to the orphanage. The door opened and a tall, stout looking woman appeared with a cross look across her brow.
"Mrs. Franklin, I presume?" The elder nurse said.
"Yes indeed. And may I ask who is inquiring?"
"Susan Kindle. And my younger sister Rebecca. We have looked after this young'n for going on five years. We only see it fitting that since we can't look after her to send her here."
"I see." Mrs. Franklin said pulling the child inside.
"Good day." She said.
"Good day." Susan said waving at the girl.
Rebecca stepped forward and kissed the girl on the cheek.
"I will be seeing you awful soon. Be good."
5 minutes later
"What is your name, girl?" Mrs. Franklin asked sitting down at her desk.
"I don't know." The girl said shyly.
"You don't know?" Mrs. Franklin said sternly.
"Why sensible people like the Kindle sisters must have at least named you! Tell me, smarty. What did they call you?" She looked down to the girl who clutched her biscuit and sixpence in her hands.
"They call me "young'n" and "little'n" but that's about it."
Mrs. Franklin bit her lip and tightened her brow.
"Well, girl, it looks as if I will be obliged to naming you. Tell me, girl, what was your mothers name?"
"Adeline." She answered, half unsure of herself.
"Then Madelyn is a good and sensible name. It portrays your mother- and look at those big brown eyes!" Madelyn blushed.
"You are to be summoned by everyone with the name Madelyn. Understand?"
"What is that filthy red thing you are holding?" She said quite dignified.
Madelyn clutched it even tighter.
"My mother gave it to me when I was a baby."
"Well you can't go toppling around with that thing!" Mrs. Franklin snatched it and threw it into a pile of clothes.
Mrs. Franklin led her up to a dorm with several mattresses. 19 girls, ranging from 4-14 were placed here in the dark, cold attic. She picked the bed on the far corner to the left, hiding behind a bunk bed holding 6 girls. Mrs. Franklin locked the door behind her, and madelyn was utterly alone. Alone, in the sense of no one who looked familiar. She was more upset about the absents of her nurses than the deplorable setting. The handkerchief, carefully wrapped, fell onto the bed. Her biscuit had crumbled some. But since she had not eaten but once all day, she took a bite of the stale, crumbly, cheese biscuit. That night she cried herself to sleep; longing, aching, and hurting.
2 years later
Madelyn's life there wasn't enough exercise and nutrition. She soon grew weak from exhaustion and tiresome daily work. Her fifth birthday came and went. There was no sign of her two nurses. Another year came by, and now Madelyn began to worry. Space tightened more so everyday. Her bed was now shared by two other girls; Gertie and Martha. They were 4 and 7.
After their daily tasks, Martha and Madelyn were assigned to beg on the street for some sixpence. If they were lucky, a few kind gentlemen would give them a nickel of some sort. Then they were to return to Mrs. Franklin and give her the money. As you may remember, Madelyn was given a sixpence the day her nurses dropped her off. She never turned it in to Mrs. Franklin. However, one sickening day, the day before her 7th birthday, she lost her sixpence. Martha, who could keep a secret (unlike Gertie) was so terribly frightened that the girls would get punished if Mrs. Franklin found a sixpence lying about.
"Have you checked your hanky?" She said nervously twisting her fingers.
"Yes, two times! I have always put it back there ever since I got it. I only took it out to look at it for a few when Mrs. Franklin told us she wanted more money and so we went to the market to beg again. I came back and it was gone!"
"Oh Madi. You are in so much trouble!" Martha said. Just then Mrs. Franklin stormed into the dorm. Martha and Madelyn sat straight up.
"Can anyone tell me whom this belongs to?" She held up the old sixpence. Madelyn gasped.
"Well?" Mrs. Franklin said with rage.
Martha nudged Madelyn who stood up unable to keep her balance.
"I ugh ma'am it is mine."
"And when my child did you steal this from me?!" She stared right through the girl, who trembled with fear. Everyone in the room had stopped their daily chores to watch.
"I didn't steal it, ma'am." She mumbled. Everyone gasped.
"That is a lie! Come here at once!" Mrs. Franklin ordered grabbing her hand.
This happened almost everyday. But today was different, because Madelyn had never once disobeyed.
3 days later
People, horses, sheep, buggys, policemen, and more busied theirselves up and down the town. After an hour of pleading, they began to tire and sat on the cobblestone street to rest.
"I am fed up with that Mrs. Franklin. She drives me crazy!"
"She drives all of us crazy!" Martha added.
"I do so ever wish we could escape."
"Madelyn! What a shameful thing to say!" 9-year-old Martha said.
"Why should we have to stay here when somewhere out there is our parents. I do so ever wish to see my mother. Even if she will never like me. Besides, how dare she take my blanket. It smelled like my mother, and I want it back.."
Martha put her arm around Madelyn. Unlike her, Martha did know her parents, awful well. But money was tight, and they both thought it fitting to send Martha and Gertrude to the orphanage. Martha's mother was a kind, gentle lady. Her name was Mrs. Blush. She would visit her girls for holidays and bring them an orange. Everyone liked Mrs. Blush.
Madelyn and Martha's break was interrupted by 6-year-old Gertie who came flying out the door into the street.
"Martha Madelyn! What on earth are you doing?" She stared harshly at the two girls sitting down.
"We just sat for a minute to catch our breath." Martha said shocked.
"Don't tell Mrs. Franklin!" Madelyn said cautiously.
"It is to be told, that is told to be hidden, the truth of the fault." Gertie quoted from her new book she received from her mother.
"Stop being a dictionary, Gertie!" Martha complained.
"Promise us you won't tell Mrs. Franklin. Promise!" Madelyn said pushing her up against a fence.
"Alright alright! I won't!" Gertie said laughing.
"You girls better get to work..."
The next day, while begging, Madelyn brought up the subject again...
"I am planning to escape."
"Escape! The orphanage?!" Martha said shocked.
"Yes the orphanage! I'm leaving tonight. Just as soon as she gives us our piece of bread for dinner."
"...and what do you expect me to do?" Martha said.
"Stay here and keep me covered." Madelyn ordered.
"When will you return?"
"In a fortnight I suppose. Actually, I don't suppose I will go back. Anyhow, why would I want to?"
"Because I'm here!"
"Well, possibly. Wherever we meet, I promise you we will meet again." Madelyn said. Martha reached out to hug her, but Madelyn pushed her away.
That night, Madelyn escaped.
2 days later
Stuck in her own train of thought, she brushed it away as a automobile barely missed her. With a nibbled on piece of bread, wrapped in a handkerchief, she crouched under a popcorn stand to get away from the cold.
"If I only had my sixpence!" She said to herself, smelling the rich scent of buttery popcorn. Oh how she hated Mrs. Franklin!
She gritted her teeth at the thought of her sixpence in the hands of Mrs. Franklin.
A young paper boy crouched down and noticed a little girl sitting under the popcorn stand.
"Oiy! What 'a the las doing ' under here popcorn stand? Was you hiding!" He said in Yorkshire.
"I wasn't hiding!" She said stubbornly, getting up and brushing off her romper.
"No offense asked for me las! Where's your mum, anyhow?" He said noticing her boy clothes.
"I don't know. I am an orphan." She said, not trying to sound brave.
"Oh, you're one of us too." He said grinning.
"What do you mean?" She said inquiringly.
"Aye, a bunch of us lads are orphaned. Thrown into the streets, las. We all live together and steal on the streets, make a Livn that is. Do you know how to beg?" He said curious.
"Yes. I beg everyday for Mrs. Franklin, the orphanage lady. That is, I used to."
She turned her head towards the orphanage.
"You don't mind me asking, miss. What is your name?"
Madelyn thought for a moment.
"I don't have a name." She finally decided.
It isn't a lie. She kept telling herself. After all, Madelyn was her name in the orphanage. Not on the streets of New York.
"Eh! Tis starting to snow! Come, I will take the lassie to me hideout. The gang will meet there to meet the las." He tugged her hand through the crowd down the streets and into a ditch. It wasn't really a ditch, but down a few concrete stairs to an open "cave" where a table, two lanterns, and a number of sheets roamed the surroundings.
"This is me hideout." He said smiling ear to ear.
"It's awful cold down here." She said shivering.
"Eh, at least it's out of the snow. How old is the las?" He said lighting a lantern.
"7." She said proudly.
"Tha' a good age. I am ten. Although i can't be certain about me age, that is, I just came up with it one day."
"You look a lot older than ten." She said, wrapping herself in a towel. Two little boys ran down the steps and into the hideout, freezing when they saw Madelyn.
"Eh! Who is this, Henry?" The two little boys looked terribly frightened. Stuffed in their pockets was some peanuts, and they smelled as if they had been smoking.
"This is-" Henry started. But Madelyn interrupted.
"I am Madelyn."
Henry's eyes widened.
"Why didn't the las tell me she got a name?"
"Because Madelyn is a dreadful name. If i were to stay with you, I would be ever so cross if you called me Madelyn. So please, pick a different name." Henry stared confused for a moment, then walked over to a corner and picked up a torn piece of cloth. On the cloth was a clothing tag. He studied it for a moment.
"We all got our names from these stolen clothes." He said motioning his head to the back corner.
"Those two boys are fabric and panel. I'm Henry, because one of the shirts had the name Henry stitched into it. There is another boy in the Gang called George, because a handkerchief had the word George on it. He is the leader. We have never had a girl here before. Eh, there is one name on here that is not taken. Welcome to the group cotton!" He said shaking her hand. Fabric and Panel clapped with excitement.
"Welcome cotton!" They both said together. Just then George came into the hideout.
"Henry! What is tha doing with a lassie? Tis a boy hideout!" He said this looking rather cross.
"Now George, this is another orphan. Her name is cotton."
"And what good does that do us?" He said impatiently.
"She's begged before! She can help us get money and food!"
He walked towards her.
The evening went along faster than any others at Mrs. Franklins orphanage. The children were broken into pairs, each with a disguise to wear. Each pair was told where to look, what to find, and how to do it. Luckily, cotton had some experience in this area. Martha called her the master of manipulation.
Her partner was Pane, because pane was 5 and the closest in age to her. George made Henry and Fabby go together and then everyone had their partner. But then, cotton looked around and noticed everyone had a partner besides George! Just as she was about to question, a tall girl came from behind one of the barrels. Her face was long and dreary, and she looked tired. George slapped her on the face and said somethang in a whisper. Then the girl turned to cotton and commanded, "I'm feign. You are to report to me with your money when you return. And one of the rules here is no never, ever, keep anything for yourself. We all bring our belongings back and out them on this table. Then George divides them up evenly. Second, don't you dad tell anyone about us. We are a gang, and gangs stay together. If you dare squeal on us to the constable or likewise, we won't ever let you get away with it. Understand??" She tightened her lips and got into cottons face.
"Yes." Cotton mumbled.
"Don't be afraid of the las feign, Cotton. Tha' an elder las to tha George. Tha will like her someday." Henry said after feign left to steal with george.
Cotton nodded confidently, but on the inside knew that she was still afraid of this "feign" person, no matter what others said.
2 days later
Robbing and begging was much more fun than at the orphanage; because Cotton and Pane could go anywhere they wanted! As long as they returned to the hideout before sunset. One specific night, Cotton found herself tempted at a dress in the store window. How in the world would she steal that? She asked herself. But then she imagined George asking her, "what did you bring?" And him ripping the dress into six equal pieces for everyone to share. The thought flew past her mind as pane came racing from the other store. A man that was drunk called after him, "you little animal! I'd kill you if I had me chance!" Pane yanked cottons hand and they both headed for the hideout. When they arrived, it was empty. "Good." Pane said as he placed on the table a sack of money.
"What on earth!" Cotton said as he poured it all onto the table.
"Ain't we lucky!" He said with a smile.
"I never thought a boy of your age could ever rob a bar! How clever!" She said hugging him. Then she remembered the dress. That money would surely pay for that pretty gray dress! She thought. But the thought raced out of her mind as Henry and Fabby came down the stairs and placed a box of nails on the table, along with two wallets and a hat.
"Pane! How on earth did the lad do such a thing?" Fabby said surprised. Henry grinned.
"Me always knew the lad was a good robber." George and feign now entered with a heavy box of salmon.
"We stole it from behind the store." George said, not noticing the money on the table. Feign saw it first.
"How on earth did you?" Pane smiled with joy. George spat onto the ground.
"You don't praising the lad?" He said impatiently. He always liked to be the best robber of the day, and today, it was pane who was.
"What did you bring, Cotton?" Feign said daringly. Cotton reached into her pocket and pulled out two sixpences.
"I found these on the street." She said nervously. Everyone was silent for a moment, then George took them from her trembling hands and grunted.
"Not bad for tha's first day on tha' job." George took all of the items and placed them evenly: the hat, the fish, the tokens, the wallets, everything. Cotton wasn't surprised when she ended up with two tokens and a piece of fish. Of course, George gave feign and him the sixpences, as well as himself the hat. Nevertheless, he still rewarded Henry and Fabric but letting them both share a wallet.
The sun slowly set while everyone found a place to sleep. Fabric and Panel had a shared blanket and duck feathered pillow, while George and Henry slept together. feign and Cotton were assigned to pick a spot, gather some sheets, and go to sleep. But it didn't just happen like that.
"Ow! Feign! You took my share of the blanket!" Cotton said tugging at it.
Feign tugged even harder, leaving cotton with no blanket at all.
"Tis me blanket. Go find tha own if tha want to be comfortable." Feign said sleepily. Cotton shrugged and went over to the pile of stolen clothes to search. As she was searching for a decent one, without crawling lice or dirt of the sort, she noticed a red corner peaking out from behind a burlap sack. She reached for it, and as she keep pulling, she yelled with excitement.
"This is it! This is it! My mothers patchwork quilt! You've found it!" Everyone scrambled to their feet.
"Cotton, what ever are you taking about?" George said rubbing his eyes. She ran to meet him and squeezed him.
"Oh thank you George! How ever did you find it!"
"Yes yes now go to sleep!" He said drearily. Feign, who had stayed in bed rolled her eyes and went back to bed. Cotton snuggled up next to her and grinned. Soon, she too was sound asleep with the red blanket close to her lips. A feeling of restoration tingled down her spine at the familiar smell from the patchwork quilt.
A whole year passed, and Cotton stayed true to the gang. Until one horrible night.