Tag/Chapter IX

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Chapter IX

“It’s more hopeless than ever,” groaned Pat.

It was the day after their return from the police court, and Mrs. Trent’s lodgers sat in their apartments listening to the cheerful jargon of Bateese as it floated up to them from the widow’s parlour, where he played with Josephine.

Patty gave a little sigh and nodded by way of answer.

“To-morrow,” said her husband with slow impressiveness, “we are going to take him back to the orphanage.”

Patty’s lovely eyes opened wide. “But we don’t know the way. Don’t know the orphanage nor the name of the station nor the man who put him on the train nor—oh, Pat, we don’t know anything.”

“If we had ever known anything we would have had more sense than to have noticed the little beggar in the first place. We would have left him with the conductor, where he belonged,” was the almost savage reply.

“We will learn, dear,” said Patty meekly: “Give us time. In a few years we may attain that greatest of all wisdom—the art of doing without.”

The bridegroom gave a sarcastic grin. “We may even learn to deny ourselves the inestimable bliss of supporting derelicts in second class lodgings. But we cannot go on denying ourselves honeymoons, and, by George! I will have a honeymoon, Patty. If we can get that kid back to his orphanage right away I will have enough of the needful left to give us a few days’ great and glorious fun in little old New York—a regular dizzy whirl of joy to wipe out the memory of this fiasco.”

His enthusiasm was contagious. Patty sat up and took notice. “Let’s try, anyway,” she said. “I remember there was a big red barn just by the flag station where Bateese was put on, and it was not very far the other side of that junction where we got the cream puffs—oh, fatal cream puffs!” She jumped to her feet impulsively, ruffled Pat’s hair, and began to hastily stuff a few toilet articles in a hand-bag, talking as she worked. “We will just take tooth-brushes and things, because we will be coming back right away and we will leave the rest here so Mrs. Trent won’t ask questions, then we can go to a really truly hotel with palms in the dining-room, and send for our things after, so there won’t be any fuss. We will be sure to get Bateese settled this time, Pat. I just feel we are going to be successful right away. What on earth is this in your shaving-mug? Oh, I remember, Bateese used it to mix some paint in this morning. —Now you look up the time-table, like a dear, and see how soon we can leave— Here are three of my best hankies tied up in a lump. Marbles in them. Bateese, I suppose. Well I'll put them in just as they are. —Have you found a train? In two hours! —Goody! We will catch that. Do go down and get Bateese, so we can keep him in the room with us until we get safely started, and tell Mrs. Trent we are going on a little pleasure jaunt. —And Oh, Pat, we will have to take Cairlo, I suppose. I had a sneaking idea we might forget him, but then our trunks will be here—”

By this time Mr. Patterson was half way down-stairs, his descent hastened by the sudden fear that their protégé might accomplish one of his temporary disappearances before he could reach him.

However, all went well, and that evening saw the bride and groom travelling towards Quebec in a suppressed state of excitement and accompanied by Bateese, who audibly enjoyed an orange. Their tickets were for the “cream puff junction” (as they called it), and Cairlo was safely billed for that point with other baggage. The plan was to leave the train there, hire a conveyance, and drive in the direction of Quebec until they found an orphanage and a red barn. It was rather a wild scheme, but as Pat said, no crazier than all the rest of it. They hardly hoped to carry out their programme without the interference of some untoward event, and it was quite a surprise to find that, on arriving at the junction, Bateese and Cairlo were at hand and a local livery stable contained an ancient vehicle and dilapidated horse which might be hired for two days upon payment of an exorbitant fee in advance. They learned too that the railroad took a roundabout route through that part of the country and the next few stations could be reached direct by the public highway in a comparatively short space of time. It all seemed too good to be true.

The day was beautifully mild and balmy, and as they drove along the country road there seemed to be a soothing gentle hush in the atmosphere. The wheels of the carriage rolled softly over the sandy road, the leaves of the trees were unfolding silently, stirred by a tiny breeze which lifted them tenderly now and then to see that they were being properly aired and sunned on all sides, the birds hopped almost under the horse’s feet and a great peace descended upon the harassed souls of Pat and Patty. They spoke seldom and in low tones, and Bateese was in a state of dumb content; sometimes he held Patty’s hand fast in the plump moisture of
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his own, but more often kept both arms around the neck of Cairlo. He had a blind confidence in his protectors which forbade any questioning on his part as to the why and wherefore of this latest sudden move.

That morning Mrs. Patterson had hesitatingly asked her husband how he eant to—er—explain to the good sisters; thereby provoking an outburst of vehemence.

“Explain!” he cried, “Explain! We have given up explaining. The thing has gone beyond explanations. When we find that orphanage, we simply put Bateese and his bandy legged pet inside the door and vanish —skidoo. You will stay in the carriage a little way down the road and I will restore the lost treasure and do the vanishing act, then we drive like mad back to the junction, board the first train, and lose ourselves in New York.”

And Patty had replied dubiously, “It seems so mean to dump him down that way and run. Do you know, Pat, I believe he is really fond of us.”

Her husband groaned. “Fond—I should say so. I hope I may never again have casual acquaintances so attached to me as that darned kid and his pup.”

Now the consciousness of their nefarious design gave Patty guilty thrills when the hand of Bateese stole into hers, but she steeled herself with remembrances of past tribulation and hopes of future joyous freedom. At noon, having reached a quaint whitewashed domicile bearing over the door the imposing legend, “Chateau Bel Air,” they descended and partook of luncheon. Ample justice was done to the homely fare, especially by Bateese, who was urged to eat with quite needless warmth. They here obtained some information, which caused the elder members of the party to exchange excited glances. It seemed that there was a flag station two miles further up the road, and a mile beyond was an orphan asylum kept by a colony of French nuns. Their host volunteered the information in shattered English that the good sisters performed miracles in the way of gardening, with the assistance of only one hired man, —“Jeem See-dall” by name, of a disgraceful laziness, —they produced vegetables which were the despair and envy of farmers for miles around.

“A flag station, Patty, and a hired man named Jim—the same, the same, —Eureka!” whispered Mr. Patterson as they drove off in the direction indicated by the landlord. The lonely little station soon greeted their eager gaze and—oh joy! Beside it loomed a large red barn—a rotund, florid, bumptious sort of barn and cheerful withal. Pat and Patty nudged each other and beamed. They could find no words to voice their relief. Shortly after this the road skirted a well fenced field of rich soil backed by prosperous outbuildings.

“Ah, that must be where those wonderful vegetables grow, Pat. Oh, Pat, we have arrived!” Patty murmured this in ecstatic undertones, and scarcely had she finished speaking when a shout burst from the lips of the hitherto silent Bateese.

“Jeem!” he called excitedly, “Par ici, Jeem. Come see Bateese.”

Pat pulled the horse up short and looked back just in time to see a great hulking form making hurriedly for the shelter of a barn.

“Jim!” he shouted frantically, “Oh, Jim.”

The retreating form broke into a run and was fast disappearing when the bridegroom hastily thrust the reins into his wife’s hands, leaped from the carriage, vaulted the fence and started in hot pursuit, his progress somewhat impeded by the damp, heavy soil. Before he had gone very far Jim had vanished into the recesses of the barn and Patty stood up the better to see what followed. She gave a little gasp as her husband entered the barn at a quick run, then waited with tense nerves for his re-appearance. Some ten minutes later the two men emerged
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arm in arm, not exactly with the jolly good fellow air which usually accompanies that attitude, but rather like captor and captive. Pat motioned Patty to drive to a small gate, whence he presently emerged leading his sheepish looking companion. The latter was greeted rapturously by Bateese and Cairlo. The small boy clambered from the carriage and ran to him.

“Halo, Jeem! Bateese come back on de farm, Jeem, and Cairlo ’e come aussi.”

“You come back, eh?” answered Jim, without much warmth. “Ain’t forgot the English I learned you?” Obviously he was ill at ease, avoided looking at the agitated Patty, and bestowed a furtive kick on Cairlo, who jumped and frisked about him in ponderous playfulness.

“This is the Jim,” explained Mr. Patterson to his wife, leading the reluctant giant to the side of the carriage. “The man who—you know.”

Patty nodded swiftly. “And will he?” she asked with a comprehensive gesture from Bateese to the farm.

“Yes. He is going to take Bateese to the orphanage for us,” said Mr. Patterson in slow, decided tones, getting a fresh grip on Jim’s arm.

“I said I’d take him off you. I never said I was goin’ to take him up to the home myself,” objected his stalwart captive sullenly. “I ain’t goin’ to get roped in for that. You kin have yer wad back if you like, but you don’t git me to tote the kid up there.”

“What in thunder did you mean to do with him?” asked Pat, wrathfully.

Jim was silent.

“Of course Jim is not afraid of a few women,” said Patty sweetly, “and religious women at that.”

The hired man mopped his brow. “Perhaps, Ma’am, you ain’t aware that the other kid was brung back two days ago by this one’s dad from Montreal an’ there was the H—— to pay when he found his own youngster had been shipped off to Noo York by mistake. The language that man used you'd hardly believe, ma’am, an’ he made the Mother Superior pay fer his ticket an’ said he was goin’ ter set the police on her, an’ then I had to make up a yarn about the horse runnin’ away the mornin’ the kids was shipped an’ my chasin’ it an’ a man at the station bein’ left to tie on the tags and the Lord knows what all. As fer the bull pup, why I owned him an’ was trainin’ him to fight Joe Lancey’s dog fer a wager, an’ the sisters come on me siccin’ ‘em on one day an’ they near had hystericks an’ I pretended I was scared of ’em an’ hadn’t ever seen either of ’em before. So I jest had to git rid of the pup. An’ now,” he paused to shift his tobacco quid and gloomily shake his head, “An’ now you're wantin’ me to go up there an’ hand over the kid an’ the pup to Mother Alice! She’s a saint, ma’am, is Mother Alice. Sure she’s a saint. But fer the love o’ God, Mrs. Patterson, did you ever see a saint good and mad? Righteous mad?”

There was no answer to this outburst. No words seemed fitting, but Pat was, nevertheless, doggedly determined that this man, who had been the means of saddling them with their unwelcome burdens, should now be compelled to take them off their hands.

“Oh, Lord, no,” muttered Jim. “I jest couldn’t do it. Not for all the five dollars you could give me.”

Then followed protestations, entreaties, threats from Mr. Patterson. All to no purpose. Bateese ran happily up and down the road, playing with the dog, and Patty sat with clasped hands and parted lips awaiting the outcome. At last, when there seemed to be no possibility of getting their charges back to the orphanage, she ventured a suggestion. Jim had the address of Bateese’s father in Montreal. Why not send the child there? Jim’s face cleared like magic. But—there was the railroad fare and the dog, he objected. Mr. Patterson promptly agreed to settle the former and Patty said,

“Why, we will send Cairlo along. Bateese loves him, and the father will be so perfectly delighted to get his little boy back he will gladly take the dog in too. We can send them as if they came from the orphanage. ‘With Mother Alice’s affectionate regards’ —or something like that—and then the father will leave the poor sisters alone and everything will be all right. Why, it will be just splendid.” The spirits of the grown-up members of the party rose twenty points, and when Jim remembered that the next train was due in an hour they decided to drive to the village at once, obtain tags from the express company, label Bateese and the dog, and ship them off to Montreal, sending a message by the conductor to be wired from the first telegraph station, notifying the anxious parent of the advent of his son and heir. Having carefully copied the necessary address, Mr.
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Patterson bundled Bateese and the dog back in the carriage, jumped in himself and, turning the horse in the direction whence they had come, whipped him into a gallop, leaving Jim to stand in a dazed condition, staring open-mouthed after the vanishing vehicle.

An hour later, Pat and Patty stood on the platform of a flag station watching a departing train. From the window of the last car was thrust a small tearful face surmounted by a mop of black hair. Patty kissed her hand frantically after the swiftly receding vision, then with a little sound half laugh, half sob, she turned and ran back to the carriage.