French Children Merely Answer "Oui" When Questioned by the Consul of France and Contentedly Play With Little Boats Made of Brightly Painted Tin.
BY NICOLA GREELEY-SMITH
Of all the survivors of the Titanic those two whose impressions would be most worth gathering remain resolutely silent. The two little waifs whose father perished in the disaster and who gained a temporary home with Miss Margaret Hayes, a fellow passenger on the ill fated steamer, they are still at Miss Hayes' home at No. 304 West Eighty Third Street, and not a word have they vouchsafed to anyone as to their names, their relatives or any other matter which might shed a ray of light on their antecedents or identity.
Under the shadow of a giant azalea they sat yesterday afternoon, each with a brand-new boat in hand with which they entertained themselves while the French Consul to New York strove vainly to extract some enlightening word from the elder boy, whose age has been given as three and a half.
To every question the little curly haired chap replied with a polite and baffling "Oui" and said nothing more.
"Do you like to play with your boat?" asked the Consul, taking the little fello on his knee.
"Oui," came the monotonous reply.
"What city do you come from?"
"Do you remember the big boat that brought you away from France?"
This time the child's assent was rather bored as though he wished to add: "Why do you bother me with questions about that old boat when I have this new shiny, painted, wonderful boat of tin in my hands?"
Probably I am the only person to whom it seemed in the least incongruous that these two babies should be playing with brand new tin boats. The boats obviously delight them and bring back no memory of the night of horror which saw the younger boy tossed naked from the Titanic into a lifeboat while the older boy followed later clad in a flannel shirt.
IT IS EVIDENT THE CHILDREN ARE BROTHERS
That the two children are brothers is evident from their striking resemblance to each other. There is said to be a difference of a year in their ages, but I think the older boy is more than three and a half years of age. If not, he is very tall for his years. Both children have unusually beautiful chestnut brown hair which curls in loose ringlets about their heads. Their eyes are dark. Their faces of cherubic plumpness wear that expression of mingled melancholy and mischief so charactristic of children of the Latin races.
"I have read in the papers that the older boy has said his name is Louis" the French Consul remarked, "but I can get nothing from him to prove it. It seems more likely to me that as he answers oui-oui to everything, he is understood to say that his name is Louis, which might seem to have the same saound to an American. I cabled to France and will do everything I can to find the relatives of the children, but as yet I have gained nothing from them to aid in the search."
Yet the children are by no means stupid. They are sweet, well-mannered, gentle little fellows, and my only hope for them is that having survived the perils of the iceberg and the open sea they may not be adopted by some American family which was born with a gold knife in its mouth.
Incidentally, the question of their adoption in the event that no relatives can be found remains unsettled.
"We have no intention of keeping them," remarked Miss Hays's father, beyond the time when their relatives are found or the search for them is given up. A Montreal family who were passengers on the Titanic are anxious to adopt them, and my daughter says they shall have the preference. Of course, many persons here in New York have also offered to take them.
NOT IN THE SAME BOAT WITH MISS HAYES
"The published story that the children were in the same boat with my daughter and clung to her instinctively, is a misstatement. My daughter left in the first lifeboat and the two children followed on in later boats. The smaller boy was tossed from the deck of the Titanic into a lifeboat without a stitch of clothing. The older child wore only a shirt when he was taken aboard the Carpathia. The survivors of the Titanic on board formed a ladies' committee, and as my daughter was the only one among them who had not suffered some personal loss through the disaster she was asked to care for the two children, and gladly did so. She was told that the two children had been in the second cabin of the Titanic in the care of a man named Hoffman, but we have been unable to get any clue to their whereabouts from the White Star line or anywhere else.
"But I believe the companies exact certain definate information as to the destination, etc., from purchasers of second cabin tickets," I said. "Why is it not pssible to get such information from the office where a man named Hoffman purchased his ticket?"
"I'm sure I can't say." Mr. Hays replied grandiloquently. "I have never travelled second cabin or steerage, so I don't know anything about such matters."
Why, oh why, can I never learn to keep my distance from the aristocracy of West End avenue, even when it has given shelter to two charming, well-mannered little children of the second cabin? I dont know, I'm sure.
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Nicola Greeley-Smith (1912) No Light on the Mystery Hiding the Identity Of Two Waifs of the Sea Evening World (ref: #15151, accessed 30th September 2014 12:48:30 PM)
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Added to Encyclopedia Titanica Friday 6th January 2012, last updated Tuesday 30th September 2014.