Tag/Chapter II

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Chapter II

The next morning found the waif looking as joyously rotund as ever and not one whit elated by the fact that he had slept in a drawing room section. His protectors were fresh and smiling also, having decided that all they required to do upon their arrival at the station was to march slowly round the waiting room with Bateese well in evidence until an eager French father should dash forward and snatch his child to his bosom. They would then stand by with smiles of benevolence and, waving aside the parent’s fervid blessing, would kiss dear little Bateese, shake his father’s honest hand, and gracefully withdraw. It was the imagining of this drama which kept Mr. Patterson serene in spite of the enormous breakfast eaten by Bateese, “a la carte,” this and the sight of his bride daintily arrayed for the conquest of the metropolis and with the light of anticipation in her eyes. Red brown eyes they were, almost the colour of the wavy hair above, and her skin was very smooth and very white in contrast to the vivid red of her lips with their corners curling up for laughter on the slightest provocation—like the petals of a flower, cup-shaped to receive the sun. Of a verity she was good to look upon.

Having alighted in the humming New York station, the bride and groom proceeded to carry out their plan. Bateese, frightened and dazed by the noise and jostling of the crowd, was glad to be placed between them, clinging to a hand of each, and thus they walked with methodical slowness over every foot of the huge waiting room; Pat and Patty stiffening

their arms to thrust the small boy well forward, as if mutely offering him to the public. He was instructed to call out upon sight of his father, while they keenly scanned the throng for a lone man with an expression of yearning
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parenthood. Trains came and went, the crowds surged in and out, families were disunited or made complete according to the time table, and still Bateese remained fatherless. Officials were interviewed; no one had seen a Frenchman who looked as if he had lost his one ewe lamb, no inquiries had been made. They had marched through the station
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so often they were all weary when an awful suspicion dawned upon the bride-groom; they were, perhaps, the victims of a well designed plot and no father would ever claim Bateese. As time wore on the suspicion became a horrible certainty in his mind, but he forbore to mention it. After two fruitless hours they seated themselves to discuss the situation. Patty had an idea. She would take their protégé to the matron in charge of the ladies’ waiting room, leave money with her for his lunch, and request that he be handed over to his father when that person appeared to claim him. They were surprised they had not thought of such a simple arrangement long ago. A few moments later Patty was interviewing a prim-faced matron. The little boy’s father had failed to meet him, she stated, but would arrive later, and if the matron would kindly take him in charge until that time and see that he was provided with food if necessary (here a frivolous little metal purse came into play) Patty would be most grateful. The radiant smile which terminated this speech failed to produce any softening expression in response; the listener merely asked for the name of the little boy and some description of the father whereby he might be identified.

“Well, we don’t know his name, you see—only Bateese. He was put on the train by some man and we—well, we just happened to get him.”

“I suppose he was given in charge of the conductor. Why didn’t you leave him with him?” Evidently the woman was not favourably impressed.

“The conductor left the train, you see, and the other men knew nothing about him.”

“Oh!” said the matron and looked intently into space.

“He was sent from a Home of some kind, poor baby,” added Patty in pathetic accents.

“Oh, then,” brightening, “of course he has a tag with his address somewhere about him. Those institutions always use something or that kind.” She fastened an X ray eye on Bateese as if to penetrate the innermost recesses of his plump person and discover this appendage.

“Why, of course, he had a tag on,” began Patty promptly, “but,” here her unruly lips curled up and a twinkle danced in her eye— “his dog—a chien boule dog he is—chewed it up, and so—”

The woman’s icy tones broke in,

“I would advise you to see the police about it, madam. I don’t care to be mixed up in anything of the kind.” Whereupon she drew herself up and walked resolutely away, leaving the astonished and indignant Patty to grasp Bateese’s hand and drag him back to where Pat was soothing his spirit with a good cigar and the reflection that in about one hour he and his bride would be enjoying a cosy tête-à-tête luncheon in one of the city’s palatial hotels. His jaw fell when he saw his wife racing excitedly towards him with the small boy trotting in her wake

“Horrid creature! She won’t keep him; said to take him to the police; she was positively clammy about it!” Patty was breathing hard and her cheeks were pink with wrath.

Her husband whistled, looked sadly at the weed in his hand as if asking where was now its solace, then suggested he should speak to the station master and see if he would put forth the hand of fellowship. So leaving Bateese pledged not to move from his bench, they bearded the busy official. Pat told the tale of their enforced adoption of the small unknown quite eloquently until he reached the point where Cairlo came in. Then he hesitated, cleared his throat, and stated that an “accident” had deprived the young traveller of the tag whereon was his address.

“What was the nature of the accident?” asked the official curtly.

Pat hesitated. Patty grew flushed and anxious. She was not doing any smiling or twinkling now.

The station master looked keenly from one to the other, and as Pat could think of nothing else to say but the truth, he told it frankly, ending with,

“I know it sounds foolish, but foolish things do happen.”

“That’s right,” assented the railway man with marked emphasis, “They happen round here mighty often.” Then he added musingly, “A French kid, name unknown, put on train by man, also unknown, at unknown station; nameless conductor transfers kid to young couple—name unknown,” (this with a bow) “and disappears. Kid’s dog—by the way,” with cheerful interest, “has the dog a name?— Kid’s dog, nameless—buries the secret of the lost child’s parentage in innermost recesses of his being. Unknown father fails to claim offspring and I am asked to assume his duties. Ever been in New York before?” he asked irrelevantly.

Mrs. Patterson moved away, her head at a haughty angle, and before her husband could frame an angry reply the older man exchanged his tone of banter for one sternly businesslike.

“Let me give you a piece of advice, young man,” he said. “Don’t pipe that tune oftener than you can help in little old New York unless you want to find yourself in the foolish house or the coop. I don’t know why you want to get rid of the youngster and I ain’t goin’ to ask, but if you can think up any kind of a fairy tale that would go in the nursery, waltz over to the police station and tell it. That’s all. Good morning,” and he swung off whistling “Since I first met you.”

Pat joined his bride with gloom upon his brow. They moved on in silence for a moment, then she said,

“I suppose we will just have to go to the police now and tell that ridiculous story all over again.”

“We can’t go to the police!” savagely exclaimed the partner of her woes. “I see now how utterly improbable the whole thing sounds; they would run us in for child desertion or kidnapping, whichever crime called for the higher fine— And where would our honeymoon be then!” Their young faces were tragic. “Darn the luck—let’s skin off and leave the little beggar. We didn’t want him anyhow.”

Just here they sighted a mourner’s bench whereon was seated a small, plump figure looking so weary, so patiently forlorn, their hearts smote them.

“The poor, wee, lost thing,” murmured Patty, and Pat gave her arm a surreptitious and responsive squeeze. “We'll have to take him with us to-day, dearest, and we'll advertise, put his picture in the paper or something,” and she kissed Bateese in her contrition.

“We will get a cab,” said Pat. Somehow the zest had gone from things and he felt flat and tired.

As they turned to go Patty spelled on her fingers, “D-O-G.” Her husband’s face hardened.

“No,” he answered, loudly and emphatically. “Not if I know it.”

By some process of mental telepathy Bateese seemed to divine their meaning.

“Cairlo!” he cried, stopping short and looking about anxiously.

“Come, come, Bateese. Cairlo is all right. We are going to have a nice ride in a cab, and lunch—dejeuner,” coaxed the bridegroom.

But Bateese was obdurate, his face puckered, “Cairlo!” he cried again, “Don’ lak no dejeuner. Wan’ mon chien boule dog.”

They attempted to drag him away and he threw his small body flat on the floor and yelled with anguish. A crowd began to collect and Pat descried the station master looking their way.

“Get up, you little devil!” he muttered, at the same time jerking him to his feet. “I’ll get your confounded pup,” and he strode off in the direction of the baggage room.

Some moments later, as the now smiling but tear-stained Bateese and his bull pet were being stowed into a four wheeler, a distracted Frenchman ran from an adjacent subway, headed for the main door of the depot. His eye was caught and held by the back of Bateese in its ill-fitting uniform of the institution he had so recently left. He stopped as if frozen to the spot and gasped with open mouth until the cab man touched up his horse and the vehicle moved off at a brisk pace, whereupon he clapped his hand to his head, looked around wildly as if seeking assistance, then started in pursuit.

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