Tag/Chapter VI

< Tag
Chapter VI

The guilty pair had not retired. The door was opened at once and the detective admitted without protest. The protracted silence which followed was nerve-racking to the anxious watchers, who held their positions as if hypnotized. They were rewarded at last by seeing Mr. Burns issue alone and descend the stairs, where, after some parley, the landlady consented to make him up a sofa-bed in the sitting-room. Which factor was more potent in deferring the arrest—Patty’s beauty or Pat’s bills—is not known, but certain it is that they were not to feel the clutches of the law until the following day. Mr. Burns telephoned his superior officer and set about making his preparations for the night with much cheerful bustle and noise, whistling a lively air, as if sin and crime were things unknown.

Meanwhile, long after the other inmates had sunk wearied to rest, the lodgers of the first floor front carried on a discussion in subdued though excited tones. Mr. Patterson paced up and down, raging at the publicity entailed and cursing the hour they ever spoke to “that incubus,” “that hoodoo” —indicating, with wrathful glances, the sleeping Bateese.

“It has been the most infernal chain of circumstances any bridegroom was ever tied to. Think of you being dragged into a dirty police station all for that unknown brat, that—”

“Call him a tambourine,” suggested Patty with a rueful smile. “You have done nothing but ‘pay, pay, pay’ ever since he was presented to you.” A second later she looked contritely at the chubby face, so peaceful and. happy. “Oh, Pat, don’t let us blame him. It was not his fault, and he really is a dear, now isn’t he?”

“He seems to have put up a pretty good fight with Carrot-Tops;” admitted Pat reluctantly, at which they both laughed.

Before they slept they decided perhaps it was best things had come to a head now, and when the Frenchman received his son in safety he would probably say no more about it. “You can give him a little something for his anxiety,” said Patty comfortably. Pat groaned.

Next morning, after the young lady lodgers had departed unwillingly to work, a stir of excitement was felt through the house, the remaining occupants of which were making their several preparations for the journey to the police station; the landlady and Josephine in the capacity of witnesses. Bateese was the only one of whom a toilet was not required, for it was discovered that his small valise had been lost during some of his many adventures, and, as his present garments were in ruins from the onslaught of Carrot-Tops, he presented in his few poor rags the appearance of a plump cherub symbolical of human frailty.

Here was a problem! Even if he could be again swathed in Pat’s bridal coat, it would tell against them to have him appear in court in such a pitiable condition. The obliging Mr. Burns was consulted and agreed to accompany them to a department store where Bateese might be made presentable. In accordance with this plan he was wrapped temporarily in the coat and carried to the waiting cab. The “chien boule dog” was hustled in also under a fire of protest from Mr. Burns.

“See here, I ain’t got no orders about bull dogs. Leave the pup out of this picnic.”

“But he must go!” cried Patty. “He belongs to the Frenchman too.”

“That brute goes or I put up a fight and stay here myself,” declared Pat with decision, adding, “and I haven’t been half back on a foot ball team three years for nothing.”

So to the accompaniment of threats from the bridegroom, entreaties from the bride and ominous growls from the undesired himself, Cairlo was established under the front seat. The landlady and Josephine then settled themselves in the vehicle, the former in a state of nervous collapse between fear of the damage which might accrue to her lodgings if the story of the arrest were printed and expectation of wrath on the part of her guilty tenants. She was soon reassured on the latter head, as Pat hastened to assert she had done but her duty and all would soon be explained to the satisfaction of everyone concerned.

But Josephine! No smiles could draw her from her gloom, no coaxing advances from Bateese serve to move her. She sat with straight lips and staring eyes, her thin little hands clasped tight in her lap. Heaven knows what fearsome tales she had heard that morning while the young lady lodgers sat on her bed discussing criminal atrocities and prison terrors, nor how her anguish was augmented by the widow’s pale face, and the widow’s tears which were braided into her back hair. No one could know the exact cause, but the result was evident in a tiny face as stony and terror stricken as that of a sensitive woman doomed to see her best loved sentenced to death.

Upon reaching a colossal store Patty and Bateese descended and entered under the escort of Mr. Burns, leaving the others to the watchful eye of the cabman, who had previously been put wise as to their destination. Under the belief that fine raiment might have a softening influence upon the irate parent’s heart, Patty purchased an outfit which would have done no discredit to a Fifth Avenue mansion, and was somewhat dampened in spirit by her husband’s expression when he surveyed the glory and fingered his depleted purse.

They were soon at the end of their journey and entered the awesome precincts, Bateese and his boule dog the only members of the party entirely at ease. The Frenchman had not yet arrived and they were ushered into an anteroom, where some conversation took place between Pat, Mr. Burns, and a stout policeman, at the conclusion of which the last mentioned remarked.

“There seems no doubt the boy was nabbed, but why under the shining canopy a bridal couple should want to cart around a strange kid—”

The officer’s fat face wrinkled jovially as he beamed encouragement upon Pat. Pat was silent. He had made up his mind he would not tell that insane cream puff story again except under dire stress of circumstances. Some papers were produced and the party proceeded to a desk to sign them. No one noticed the children had quietly slipped out of the room, with Bateese’s pet in close attendance. They were now standing by the outer door, Josephine shaking poor Bateese savagely.

“You must run, Bateese. They’re goin’ to shut us up and beat us with straps, an’ p’raps kill us, an’ we’ll never git out of an iron place for years and years.”

Bateese’s placid temperament failed to become aroused at this. “You ron so you lak’, Jos’phine. I go to stay wit nice peep; buy me nice ‘chapeau,’ an’ nice ‘bottes’ an’ nice ‘habit’”—
Page 085 (Tag, August 1909).png
he was proudly enumerating his new possessions, pointing to each in turn, when cut short by a fierce grasp on his arm. Josephine was about to drag him forth, but just then a street piano struck up a lively tune and Bateese was conquered.

“Let’s run and hear the piano, Bateese, an’ then we'll come right back,” urged the temptress, and Bateese fell.

On issuing from the anteroom a moment later the detective was astonished to find the outer hall deserted; he questioned a young policeman, who stated he had just come in and had seen no one; found the matron had been busy and knew nothing; dashed wildly into the street—no sign of the runaways. He returned in a state of white rage to heap abuse on the heads of his prisoners for putting up such a slick game on him. Without the kid to show, where was the case? Oh, they were a precious pair of young innocents, they were. So that was why they wanted to wait till morning. His flow of language and the bridegroom’s attitude of tense wrath might have ended in a physical encounter had not the captain of the station entered and carried them sternly off for explanations.