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DEAR MISS MANNERS, At a baseball game last evening, two men sat behind me with their young daughters who appeared to be about 7 and 5 years old. One of the gentlemen told the other that he was going to the concession stand, to which the second replied, "I'll help you." He then tapped me on the shoulder and said, "You'll watch the girls, won't you?"

I replied, "Sir, I know nothing of children, and will not be responsible for yours."

He then turned to the children, pointed to a women with three children several rows distant, and said, "OK, see that mommy? She'll help you if you need anything," and left with his companion.

Miss Manners, what should a maiden lady have done? My only contact with children is with my college-age nieces and nephews who write polite thank-you notes from distant states. Was it at all appropriate for this man to leave his children in the care of complete strangers? Should I have acquiesced to what seemed to me to be callous abandonment of children? I have never run into this situation before.

Gentle Reader -- Little as Miss Manners wants to assist irresponsible fathers, she would be even more reluctant to ignore the children they deserted.

Your response was certainly justified, and should have shamed the fathers into realizing that it was an improper request, impolitely put. As it did not, and as they then deserted their charges without so much as securing an agreement from the other stranger, you should have notified a stadium authority about abandoned small children. The resulting fuss would at least teach the fathers that there are consequences, and perhaps alert the children's mothers.

Flatware inquiry

Dear Miss Manners -- I know how you love a good flatware question, so here's mine: I am planning to buy -- finally! -- a set of flatware that actually matches, probably good quality stainless. However, nobody who makes stainless seems to make round-bowled soupspoons, also known as bouillon spoons. These are the sort of soupspoons with which I grew up (though in sterling -- I'll inherit these someday, but being very fond of my dear mother, I'm in no hurry).

If I can find some round-bowled soupspoons in an online auction, how tacky would it be for them to not match my new stainless flatware?

Gentle Reader -- The good news is that, yes, you may mix patterns. The bad news confirms what you already know: that soup eaten from a bowl requires round spoons (although these should not be confused with the smaller round bouillon spoons used to eat bouillon from a two-handled soup cup).

Taking your word for it that round-bowled stainless steel spoons do not exist, Miss Manners recommends exhausting yourself by trying to track down soup plates, rather than bowls, that go with your china or pottery.

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