He leant his head against the bed-post and groaned. “Milly may be here at any moment,” says he, “and I’ll have to tell her the baby’s been sent by mistake to a Dog Show! I daresn’t do it,” he says, “I daresn’t do it.”
“Go on to Birmingham,” I says, “and try and find it. You can catch the quarter to six and be back here before eight.”
“Come with me,” he says; “you’re a good man, come with me. I ain’t fit to go by myself.”
He was right; he’d have got run over outside the door, the state he was in then.
“Well,” I says, “if the guv’nor don’t object—”
“Oh! he won’t, he can’t,” cries the young fellow, wringing his hands. “Tell him it’s a matter of a life’s happiness. Tell him—”
“I’ll tell him it’s a matter of half sovereign extra on to the bill,” I says. “That’ll more likely do the trick.”
And so it did, with the result that in another twenty minutes me and young Milberry and the bull-pup in its hamper were in a third-class carriage on our way to Birmingham. Then the difficulties of the chase began to occur to me. Suppose by luck I was right; suppose the pup was booked for the Birmingham Dog Show; and suppose by a bit more luck a gent with a hamper answering description had been noticed getting out of the 5.13 train; then where were we? We might have to interview every cabman in the town. As likely as not, by the time we did find the kid, it wouldn’t be worth the trouble of unpacking. Still, it wasn’t my cue to blab my thoughts. The father, poor fellow, was feeling, I take it, just about as bad as he wanted to feel. My business was to put hope into him; so when he asked me for about the twentieth time if I thought as he would ever see his child alive again, I snapped him up shortish.
“Don’t you fret yourself about that,” I says. “You’ll see a good deal of that child before you’ve done with it. Babies ain’t the sort of things as gets lost easily. It’s only on the stage that folks ever have any particular use for other people’s children. I’ve known some bad characters in my time, but I’d have trusted the worst of ’em with a wagon-load of other people’s kids. Don’t you flatter yourself you’re going to lose it! Whoever’s got it, you take it from me, his idea is to do the honest thing, and never rest till he’s succeeded in returning it to the rightful owner.”
Well, my talking like that cheered him, and when we reached Birmingham he was easier. We tackled the station-master, and he tackled all the porters who could have been about the platform when the 5.13 came in. All of ’em agreed that no gent got out of that train carrying a hamper. The station-master was a family man himself, and when we explained the case to him he sympathised and telegraphed to Banbury. The booking-clerk at Banbury remembered only three gents booking by that particular train. One had been Mr. Jessop, the corn-chandler; the second was a stranger, who had booked to Wolverhampton; and the third had been young Milberry himself. The business began to look hopeless, when one of Smith’s newsboys, who was hanging around, struck in: