Part 2 out of 4
"Why, Jimmy told me," continued Aggie, "that you and Alfred had
had another tiff, and that Alfred had gone for good."
"For GOOD!" echoed Zoie and her eyes were wide with terror. "Did
Alfred tell Jimmy that?"
"Then he MEANS it!" cried Zoie, at last fully convinced of the
strength of Alfred's resolve. "But he shan't," she declared
emphatically." I won't let him. I'll go after him. He has no
right----" By this time she was running aimlessly about the room.
"What did you do to him?" asked Aggie, feeling sure that Zoie was
as usual at fault.
"Nothing," answered Zoie with wide innocent eyes.
"Nothing?" echoed Aggie, with little confidence in her friend's
ability to judge impartially about so personal a matter.
"Absolutely nothing," affirmed Zoie. And there was no doubting
that she at least believed it.
"What does he SAY," questioned Aggie diplomatically.
"He SAYS I 'hurt his soul.' Whatever THAT is," answered Zoie, and
her face wore an injured expression. "Isn't that a nice excuse,"
she continued, "for leaving your lawful wedded wife?" It was
apparent that she expected Aggie to rally strongly to her
defence. But at present Aggie was bent upon getting facts.
"HOW did you hurt him?" she persisted.
"I ate lunch," said Zoie with the face of a cherub.
"With whom?" questioned Aggie slyly. She was beginning to scent
the probable origin of the misunderstanding.
"It's of no consequence," answered Zoie carelessly; "I wouldn't
have wiped my feet on the man." By this time she had entirely
forgotten Aggie's proprietorship in the source of her trouble.
"But who WAS the man?" urged Aggie, and in her mind, she had
already condemned him as a low, unprincipled creature.
"What does that matter?" asked Zoie impatiently. "It's ANY man
with Alfred--you know that--ANY man! "
Aggie sank in a chair and looked at her friend in despair. "Why
DO you do these things," she said wearily, "when you know how
Alfred feels about them?"
"You talk as though I did nothing else," answered Zoie with an
aggrieved tone. "It's the first time since I've been married
that I've ever eaten lunch with any man but Alfred. I thought
you'd have a little sympathy with me," she whimpered, "instead of
putting me on the gridiron like everyone else does."
"Everyone else?" questioned Aggie, with recurring suspicion.
"I mean Alfred," explained Zoie. "HE'S 'everyone else' to me."
And then with a sudden abandonment of grief, she threw herself
prostrate at her friend's knees. "Oh, Aggie, what can I do?" she
But Aggie was not satisfied with Zoie's fragmentary account of
her latest escapade. "Is that the only thing that Alfred has
against you?" she asked.
"That's the LATEST," sniffled Zoie, in a heap at Aggie's feet.
And then she continued in a much aggrieved tone, "You know he's
ALWAYS rowing because we haven't as many babies as the cook has
"Well, why don't you get him a baby?" asked the practical,
"It's too late NOW," moaned Zoie.
"Not at all," reassured Aggie. "It's the very thing that would
bring him back."
"How COULD I get one?" questioned Zoie, and she looked up at
Aggie with round astonished eyes.
"Adopt it," answered Aggie decisively.
Zoie regarded her friend with mingled disgust and disappointment.
"No," she said with a sigh and a shake of her head, "that
wouldn't do any good. Alfred's so fussy. He always wants his
OWN things around."
"He needn't know," declared Aggie boldly.
"What do you mean?" whispered Zoie.
Drawing herself up with an air of great importance, and regarding
the wondering young person at her knee with smiling
condescension, Aggie prepared to make a most interesting
"There was a long article in the paper only this morning," she
told Zoie, "saying that three thousand husbands in this VERY CITY
are fondling babies not their own."
Zoie turned her small head to one side, the better to study
Aggie's face. It was apparent to the latter that she must be
much more explicit.
"Babies adopted in their absence," explained Aggie, "while they
were on trips around the country."
A dangerous light began to glitter in Zoie's eyes.
"Aggie!" she cried, bringing her small hands together excitedly,
"do you think I COULD?"
"Why not?" asked Aggie, with a very superior air. Zoie's
enthusiasm was increasing her friend's admiration of her own
scheme. "This same paper tells of a woman who adopted three sons
while her husband was in Europe, and he thinks each one of them
"Where can we get some?" cried Zoie, now thoroughly enamoured of
"You can always get TONS of them at the Children's Home,"
answered Aggie confidently.
"I can't endure babies," declared Zoie, "but I'd do ANYTHING to
get Alfred back. Can we get one TO-DAY?" she asked.
Aggie looked at her small friend with positive pity. "You don't
WANT one TO-DAY," she explained.
Zoie rolled her large eyes inquiringly.
"If you were to get one to-day," continued Aggie, "Alfred would
know it wasn't yours, wouldn't he?"
A light of understanding began to show on Zoie's small features.
"There was none when he left this morning," added Aggie.
"That's true," acquiesced Zoie.
"You must wait awhile," counselled Aggie, "and then get a
perfectly new one."
But Zoie had never been taught to wait.
"Now Aggie----" she began.
Aggie continued without heeding her.
"After a few months," she explained, "when Alfred's temper has
had time to cool, we'll get Jimmy to send him a wire that he has
"A few months!" exclaimed Zoie, as though Aggie had suggested an
eternity. "I've never been away from Alfred that long in all my
Aggie was visibly annoyed. "Well, of course," she said coldly,
as she rose to go, "if you can get Alfred back WITHOUT that----"
"But I can't!" cried Zoie, and she clung to her friend as to her
last remaining hope.
"Then," answered Aggie, somewhat mollified by Zoie's complete
submission. "THIS is the only way. The President of the
Children's Home is a great friend of Jimmy's," she said proudly.
It was at this point that Zoie made her first practical
suggestion. "Then we'll LET JIMMY GET IT," she declared.
"Of course," agreed Aggie enthusiastically, as though they would
be according the poor soul a rare privilege. "Jimmy gives a
hundred dollars to the Home every Christmas,"--additional proof
why he should be selected for this very important office.
"Good Heavens!" exclaimed Zoie with shocked surprise. "If Alfred
were to give a hundred dollars to a Baby's Home, I should suspect
"Don't be silly!" snapped Aggie curtly. In spite of her firm
faith in Jimmy's innocence, she was undoubtedly annoyed by Zoie's
There was an instant's pause, then putting disagreeable thoughts
from her mind, Aggie turned to Zoie with renewed enthusiasm.
"We must get down to business," she said, "we'll begin on the
baby's outfit at once."
"Its what?" queried Zoie.
"Its clothes," explained Aggie.
"Oh, what fun!" exclaimed Zoie, and she clapped her hands merrily
like a very small child. A moment later she stopped with sudden
"But, Aggie," she said fearfully, "suppose Alfred shouldn't come
back after I've got the baby? I'd be a widow with a child."
"Oh, he's sure to come back!" answered Aggie, with a confident
air. "He'll take the first train, home."
"I believe he will," assented Zoie joyfully. All her clouds were
again dispelled. "Aggie," she cried impulsively, "you are a
darling. You have just saved my life." And she clasped her arms
so tightly around Aggie's neck that her friend was in danger of
Releasing herself Aggie continued with a ruffled collar and
raised vanity: "You can write him an insinuating letter now and
then, just to lead up to the good news gradually."
Zoie tipped her small head to one side and studied her friend
thoughtfully. "Do you know, Aggie," she said, with frank
admiration, "I believe you are a better liar than I am."
"I'm NOT a liar," objected Aggie vehemently, "at least, not
often," she corrected. "I've
never lied to Jimmy in all my life." She drew herself up with
conscious pride. "And Jimmy has NEVER LIED TO ME."
"Isn't that nice," sniffed Zoie and she pretended to be searching
for her pocket-handkerchief.
But Aggie did not see her. She was glancing at the clock.
"I must go now," she said. And she started toward the door.
"But, Aggie----" protested Zoie, unwilling to be left alone.
"I'll run in again at tea time," promised Aggie.
"I don't mind the DAYS," whined Zoie, "but when NIGHT comes I
just MUST have somebody's arms around me."
"Zoie!" gasped Aggie, both shocked and alarmed.
"I can't help it," confessed Zoie; "the moment it gets dark I'm
just scared stiff."
"That's no way for a MOTHER to talk," reproved Aggie.
"A mother!" exclaimed Zoie, horrified at the sudden realisation
that this awful appellation would undoubtedly pursue her for the
rest of her life. "Oh, don't call me that," she pleaded. "You
make me feel a thousand years old."
"Nonsense," laughed Aggie, and before Zoie could again detain her
she was out of the room.
When the outside door had closed behind her friend, Zoie gazed
about the room disconsolately, but her depression was
short-lived. Remembering Aggie's permission about the letter,
she ran quickly to the writing table, curled her small self up on
one foot, placed a brand new pen in the holder, then drew a sheet
of paper toward her and, with shoulders hunched high and her face
close to the paper after the manner of a child, she began to pen
the first of a series of veiled communications that were
ultimately to fill her young husband with amazement.
When Jimmy reached his office after his unforeseen call upon
Zoie, his subsequent encounter with Alfred, and his enforced
luncheon at home with Aggie, he found his mail, his 'phone calls,
and his neglected appointments in a state of hopeless congestion,
and try as he would, he could not concentrate upon their
disentanglement. Growing more and more furious with the long
legged secretary who stood at the corner of his desk, looking
down upon him expectantly, and waiting for his tardy
instructions, Jimmy rose and looked out of the window. He could
feel Andrew's reproachful eyes following him.
"Shall Miss Perkins take your letters now?" asked Andrew, and he
wondered how late the office staff would be kept to-night to make
up for the time that was now being wasted.
Coming after repeated wounds from his nearest and dearest,
Andrew's implied reproach was too much for Jimmy's overwrought
nerves. "Get out!" he answered unceremoniously. And when Andrew
could assure himself that he had heard aright, he stalked out of
the door with his head high in the air.
Jimmy looked after his departing secretary with positive hatred.
It was apparent to him that the whole world was against him. He
had been too easy he decided. His family, friends, and business
associates had undoubtedly lost all respect for him. From this
day forth he was determined to show himself to be a man of strong
Having made this important decision and having convinced himself
that he was about to start on a new life, Jimmy strode to the
door of the office and, without disturbing the injured Andrew, he
called sharply to Miss Perkins to come at once and take his
Poor Jimmy! Again he tried in vain to concentrate upon the
details of the "cut-glass" industry. Invariably his mind would
wander back to the unexpected incidents of the morning. Stopping
suddenly in the middle of a letter to a competing firm, he began
pacing hurriedly up and down the room.
Had she not feared that her chief might misconstrue any
suggestion from her as an act of impertinence, Miss Perkins,
having learned all the company's cut-glass quotations by rote,
could easily have supplied the remainder of the letter. As it
was, she waited impatiently, tapping the corner of the desk with
her idle pencil. Jimmy turned at the sound, and glanced at the
pencil with unmistakable disapproval. Miss Perkins waited in
silence. After one or two more uneasy laps about the room, Jimmy
went to his 'phone and called his house number.
"It's undoubtedly domestic trouble," decided Miss Perkins, and
she wondered whether it would be delicate of her, under the
circumstances, to remain in the room.
From her employer's conversation at the 'phone, it was clear to
Miss Perkins that Mrs. Jinks was spending the afternoon with Mrs
Hardy, but why this should have so annoyed MR. Jinks was a
question that Miss Perkins found it difficult to answer. Was it
possible that Mr. Jinks's present state of unrest could be
traced to the door of the beautiful young wife of his friend?" Oh
dear," thought Miss Perkins, "how scandalous!"
"That will do," commanded Jimmy, interrupting Miss Perkins's
interesting speculations, and he nodded toward the door.
"But----" stammered Miss Perkins, as she glanced at the
"I'll call you when I need you," answered Jimmy gruffly. Miss
Perkins left the room in high dudgeon.
"I'LL show them," said Jimmy to himself, determined to carry out
his recent resolve to be firm.
Then his mind wend back to his domestic troubles. "Suppose, that
Zoie, after imposing secrecy upon him, should change that thing
called her 'mind' and confide in Aggie about the luncheon?" Jimmy
was positively pale. He decided to telephone to Zoie's house and
find out how affairs were progressing. At the 'phone he
hesitated. "If Aggie HAS found out about the luncheon," he
argued, "my 'phoning to Zoie's will increase her suspicions. If
Zoie has told her nothing, she'll wonder why I'm 'phoning to
Zoie's house. There's only one thing to do," he decided. "I
must wait and say nothing. I can tell from Aggie's face when I
meet her at dinner whether Zoie has betrayed me."
Having arrived at this conclusion, Jimmy resolved to get home as
early as possible, and again Miss Perkins was called to his aid.
The flurry with which Jimmy despatched the day's remaining
business confirmed both Miss Perkins and Andrew in their previous
opinion that "the boss" had suddenly "gone off his head." And
when he at last left the office and banged the door behind him
there was a general sigh of relief from his usually tranquil
Instead of walking, as was his custom, Jimmy took a taxi to his
home but alas, to his surprise he found no wife.
"Did Mrs. Jinks leave any word?" he inquired from the butler.
"None at all," answered that unperturbed creature; and Jimmy felt
sure that the attitude of his office antagonists had communicated
itself to his household servants.
When Jimmy's anxious ear at last caught the rustle of a woman's
dress in the hallway, his dinner had been waiting half an hour,
and he had worked himself into a state of fierce antagonism
toward everything and everybody.
At the sound of Aggie's voice however, his heart began to pound
with fear. "Had she found him out for the weak miserable
deceiver that he was? Would she tell him that they were going to
Aggie's first words were reassuring. "Awfully sorry to be so
late, dear," she said.
Jimmy felt her kiss upon his chubby cheek and her dear arms about
his neck. He decided forthwith to tell her everything, and
never, never again to run the risk of deceiving her; but before
he could open his lips, she continued gaily:
"I've brought Zoie home with me, dear. There's no sense in her
eating all alone, and she's going to have ALL her dinners with
us." Jimmy groaned. "After dinner," continued Aggie, "you and I
can take her to the theatre and all those places and keep her
cheered until Alfred comes home."
"Home?" repeated Jimmy in alarm. Was it possible that Alfred had
"Oh, he doesn't know it yet," explained Aggie, "but he's coming.
We'll tell you all about it at dinner." And they did.
While waiting for Aggie, Jimmy had thought himself hungry, but
once the two women had laid before him their "nefarious
baby-snatching scheme"--food lost its savour for him, and one
course after another was taken away from him untouched.
Each time that Jimmy ventured a mild objection to his part in the
plan, as scheduled by them, he met the threatening eye of Zoie;
and by the time that the three left the table he was so harassed
and confused by the chatter of the two excited women, that he was
not only reconciled but eager to enter into any scheme that might
bring Alfred back, and free him of the enforced companionship of
Alfred's nerve-racking wife. True, he reflected, it was possible
that Alfred, on his return, might discover him to be the culprit
who lunched with Zoie and might carry out his murderous threat;
but even such a fate was certainly preferable to interminable
evenings spent under the same roof with Zoie.
"All YOU need do, Jimmy," explained Aggie sweetly, when the three
of them were comfortably settled in the library, "is to see your
friend the Superintendent of the Babies' Home, and tell him just
what kind of a baby we shall need, and when we shall need it."
"Can't we see it ourselves?" chimed in Zoie.
"Oh yes, indeed," said Aggie confidently, and she turned to Jimmy
with a matter-of-fact tone. "You'd better tell the
Superintendent to have several for us to look at when the time
"Yes, that's better," agreed Zoie.
As for Jimmy, he had long ceased to make any audible comment, but
internally he was saying to himself: "man of strong mettle,
"We'll attend to all the clothes for the child," said Aggie
generously to Jimmy.
"I want everything to be hand-made," exclaimed Zoie
"We can make a great many of the things ourselves, evenings,"
said Aggie, "while we sit here and talk to Jimmy."
"I thought we were going OUT evenings!" objected Zoie.
Jimmy rolled his eyes toward her like a dumb beast of burden.
"MOST evenings," assented Aggie. "And then toward the last, you
know, Zoie----" she hesitated to explain further, for Jimmy was
already becoming visibly embarrassed.
"Oh, yes, that's true," blushed Zoie.
There was an awkward pause, then Aggie turned again toward Jimmy,
who was pretending to rebuild the fire. "Oh yes, one more
thing," she said. "When everything is quite ready for Alfred's
return, we'll allow you, Jimmy dear, to wire him the good news."
"Thanks, so much," said Jimmy.
"I wish it were time to wire now," said Zoie pensively, and in
his mind, Jimmy fervently agreed with that sentiment.
"The next few months will slip by before you know it," declared
Aggie cheerfully. "And by the way, Zoie," she added, "why should
you go back to your lonesome flat to-night?"
Zoie began to feel for her pocket handkerchief --Jimmy sat up to
receive the next blow. "Stay here with us," suggested Aggie.
"We'll be so glad to have you." She included Jimmy in her
glance. "Won't we, dear?" she asked.
When the two girls went upstairs arm in arm that night, Jimmy
remained in his chair by the fire, too exhausted to even prepare
for bed. "A man of mettle!" he said again to himself.
This had certainly been the longest day of his life.
WHEN Aggie predicted that the few months of waiting would pass
quickly for Zoie, she was quite correct. They passed quickly for
Aggie as well; but how about Jimmy? When he afterward recalled
this interval in his life, it was always associated with long
strands of lace winding around the legs of the library chairs,
white things lying about in all the places where he had once
enjoyed sitting or lying, late dinners, lonely breakfasts, and a
sense of isolation from Aggie.
One evening when he had waited until he was out of all patience
with Aggie, he was told by his late and apologetical spouse that
she had been helping Zoie to redecorate her bedroom to fit the
"It is all done in pink and white," explained Aggie, and then
followed detailed accounts of the exquisite bed linens, the soft
lovely hangings, and even the entire relighting of the room.
"Why pink?" asked Jimmy, objecting to any scheme of Zoie's on
"It's Alfred's favourite colour," explained Aggie. "Besides,
it's so becoming," she added.
Jimmy could not help feeling that this lure to Alfred's senses
was absolutely indecent, and he said so.
"Upon my word," answered Aggie, quite affronted, "you are getting
as unreasonable as Alfred himself." Then as Jimmy prepared to
sulk, she added coaxingly, "I was GOING to tell you about Zoie's
lovely new negligee, and about the dear little crib that just
matches it. Everything is going to be in harmony."
"With Zoie in the house?" asked Jimmy sceptically.
"I can't think why you've taken such a dislike to that helpless
child," said Aggie.
A few days later, while in the midst of his morning's mail, Jimmy
was informed that it was now time for him to conduct Aggie and
Zoie to the Babies' Home to select the last, but most important,
detail for their coming campaign. According to instructions,
Jimmy had been in communication with the amused Superintendent of
the Home, and he now led the two women forth with the proud
consciousness that he, at least, had attended properly to his
part of the business. By the time they reached the Children's
Home, several babies were on view for their critical inspection.
Zoie stared into the various cribs containing the wee, red mites
with puckered faces. "Oh dear!" she exclaimed, "haven't you any
"These are supposed to be white," said the Superintendent, with
an indulgent smile," the black ones are on the other side of the
"Black ones!" cried Zoie in horror, and she faced about quickly
as though expecting an attack from their direction.
"Which particular one of these would you recommend?" asked the
practical Aggie of the Superintendent as she surveyed the first
"Well, it's largely a matter of taste, ma'am," he answered.
"This seems a healthy little chap," he added, and seizing the
long white clothes of the nearest infant, he drew him across his
arm and held him out for Aggie's inspection.
"Let's see," cried Zoie, and she stood on tiptoe to peep over the
As for Jimmy, he stood gloomily apart. This was an ordeal for
which he had long been preparing himself, and he was resolved to
accept it philosophically.
"I don't think much of that one," snipped Zoie. And in spite of
himself. Jimmy felt his temper rising.
Aggie turned to him with a smile. "Which one do YOU prefer,
"It's not MY affair," answered Jimmy curtly.
"Since when?" asked Zoie.
Aggie perceived trouble brewing, and she turned to pacify Jimmy.
"Which one do you think your FRIEND ALFRED would like?" she
"If I were in his place----" began Jimmy hotly.
"Oh, but you AREN'T," interrupted Zoie; then she turned to the
Superintendent. "What makes some of them so much larger than
others?" she asked, glancing at the babies he had CALLED "white."
"Well, you see they're of different ages," explained the
"We told Mr. Jinks they must all be of the same age," said Zoie
with a reproachful look at Jimmy.
"What age is that?" asked the Superintendent.
"I should say a week old," said Aggie.
"Then this is the one for you," decided the Superintendent,
designating his first choice.
"I think we'd better take the Superintendent's advice," said
Zoie looked around the room with a dissatisfied air. Was it
possible that all babies were as homely as these?
"You know, Zoie," explained Aggie, divining her thought, "they
get better looking as they grow older."
"They couldn't look worse!" was Zoie's disgusted comment.
"Fetch it home, Jimmy," said Aggie.
"What!" exclaimed Jimmy, who had considered his mission
"You don't expect US to carry it, do you?" asked Aggie in a hurt
The Superintendent settled the difficulty temporarily by
informing them that the baby could not possibly leave the home
until the mother had signed the necessary papers for its release.
"I thought all those details had been attended to," said Aggie,
and again the two women surveyed Jimmy with grieved
"I'll get the mother's signature the first thing in the morning,"
volunteered the Superintendent.
"Very well," said Zoie, "and in the meantime, I'll send some new
clothes for it," and with a lofty farewell to the Superintendent,
she and Aggie followed Jimmy down stairs to the taxi.
"Now," said Zoie, when they were properly seated, "let's stop at
a telegraph office and let Jimmy send a wire to Alfred."
"Wait until we get the baby," cautioned Aggie.
"We'll have it the first thing in the morning," argued Zoie.
"Jimmy can send him a night-letter," compromised Aggie, "that way
Alfred won't get the news until morning."
A few minutes later, the taxi stopped in front of Jimmy's office
and with a sigh of thanksgiving he hurried upstairs to his
When Alfred Hardy found himself on the train bound for Detroit,
he tried to assure himself that he had done the right thing in
breaking away from an association that had kept him for months in
a constant state of ferment. His business must come first, he
decided. Having settled this point to his temporary
satisfaction, he opened his afternoon paper and leaned back in
his seat, meaning to divert his mind from personal matters, by
learning what was going on in the world at large.
No sooner had his eye scanned the first headline than he was
startled by a boisterous greeting from a fellow traveller, who
was just passing down the aisle.
"Hello, Hardy!" cried his well meaning acquaintance. "Where are
you bound for?"
"Detroit," answered Alfred, annoyed by the sudden interruption.
"Where's the missus?" asked the intruder.
"Chicago," was Alfred's short reply.
"THAT'S a funny thing," declared the convivial spirit, not
guessing how funny it really was. "You know," he continued, so
loud that everyone in the vicinity could not fail to hear him,
"the last time I met you two, you were on your honeymoon--on THIS
VERY TRAIN," and with that the fellow sat himself down,
uninvited, by Alfred's side and started on a long list of
compliments about "the fine little girl" who had in his opinion
done Alfred a great favour when she consented to tie herself to a
"dull, money-grubbing chap" like him.
"So," thought Alfred, "this is the way the world sees us." And
he began to frame inaudible but desperate defences of himself.
Again he told himself that he was right; but his friend's
thoughtless words had planted an uncomfortable doubt in his mind,
and when he left the train to drive to his hotel, he was thinking
very little about the new business relations upon which he was
entering in Detroit, and very much about the domestic relations
which he had just severed in Chicago.
Had he been merely a "dull money-grubber"? Had he left his wife
too much alone? Was she not a mere child when he married her?
Could he not, with more consideration, have made of her a more
understanding companion? These were questions that were still
unanswered in his mind when he arrived at one of Detroit's most
But later, having telephoned to his office and found that several
matters of importance were awaiting his decision, he forced
himself to enter immediately upon his business obligations.
As might have been expected, Alfred soon won the respect and
serious consideration of most of his new business associates, and
this in a measure so mollified his hurt pride, that upon rare
occasions he was affable enough to accept the hospitality of
their homes. But each excursion that he made into the social
life of these new friends, only served to remind him of the
unsettled state of his domestic affairs.
"How your wife must miss you!" his hostess would remark before
they were fairly seated at table.
"They tell me she is so pretty," his vis-a-vis would exclaim.
"When is she going to join you?" the lady on his left would ask.
Then his host would laugh and tell the "dear ladies" that in HIS
opinion, Alfred was afraid to bring his wife to Detroit, lest he
might lose her to a handsomer man.
Alfred could never quite understand why remarks such as this
annoyed him almost to the point of declaring the whole truth.
His LEAVING Zoie, and his "losing" her, as these would-be
comedians expressed it, were two separate and distinct things in
his mind, and he felt an almost irresistible desire to make this
plain to all concerned.
But no sooner did he open his lips to do so, than a picture of
Zoie in all her child-like pleading loveliness, arose to dissuade
him. He could imagine his dinner companions all pretending to
sympathise with him, while they flayed poor Zoie alive. She
would never have another chance to be known as a respectable
woman, and compared to most women of his acquaintance, she WAS a
respectable woman. True, according to old- fashioned standards,
she had been indiscreet, but apparently the present day woman had
a standard of her own. Alfred found his eye wandering round the
table surveying the wives of his friends. Was there one of them,
he wondered, who had never fibbed to her husband, or eaten a
simple luncheon unchaperoned by him? Of one thing he was certain,
there was not one of them so attractive as Zoie. Might she not
be forgiven, to some extent, if her physical charms had made her
a source of dangerous temptation to unprincipled scoundrels like
the one with whom she had no doubt lunched? Then, too, had she
not offered at the moment of his departure to tell him the "real
truth"? Might this not have been the one occasion upon which she
would have done so? "She seemed so sincere," he ruminated, "so
truly penitent." Then again, how generous it was of her to
persist in writing to him with never an answer from him to
encourage her. If she cared for him so little as he had once
imagined, why should she wish to keep up even a presence of
fondness? Her letters indicated an undying devotion.
These were some of the thoughts that were going through Alfred's
mind just three months after his departure from Chicago, and all
the while his hostess was mentally dubbing him a "dull person."
"What an abstracted man he is!" she said before he was down the
"Is he really so clever in business?" a woman friend inquired.
"It's hard to believe, isn't it?" commented a third, and his host
apologised for the absent Alfred by saying that he was no doubt
worried about a particular business decision that had to be made
the next morning.
But it was not the responsibility of this business decision that
was knotting Alfred's brow, as he walked hurriedly toward the
hotel, where he had told his office boy to leave the last mail.
This had been the longest interval that Zoie had ever let slip
without writing. He recalled that her last letters had hinted at
a "slight indisposition." In fact, she had even mentioned
"seeing the doctor"--"Good Heavens!" he thought, "Suppose she
were really ill? Who would look after her?"
When Alfred reached his rooms, the boy had not yet arrived. He
crossed to the library table and took from the drawer all the
letters thus far received from Zoie. He read them consecutively.
"How could he have been so stupid as not to have realised sooner
that her illness--whatever it was--had been gradually creeping
upon her from the very first day of his departure?"
The boy arrived with the mail. It contained no letter from Zoie
and Alfred went to bed with an uneasy mind.
The next morning he was down at his office early, still no letter
Refusing his partner's invitation to lunch, Alfred sat alone in
his office, glad to be rid of intrusive eyes. "He would write to
Jimmy Jinks," he decided, "and find out whether Zoie were in any
Not willing to await the return of his stenographer, or to
acquaint her with his personal affairs, Alfred drew pen and paper
toward him and sat helplessly before it. How could he inquire
about Zoie without appearing to invite a reconciliation with her?
While he was trying to answer this vexed question, a sharp knock
came at the door. He turned to see a uniformed messenger holding
a telegram toward him. Intuitively he felt that it contained
some word about Zoie. His hand trembled so that he could
scarcely sign for the message before opening it.
A moment later the messenger boy was startled out of his lethargy
by a succession of contradictory exclamations.
"No!" cried Alfred incredulously as he gazed in ecstasy at the
telegram. "Yes!" he shouted, excitedly, as he rose from his
chair. "Where's a time table?" he asked the astonished boy, and
he began rummaging rapidly through the drawers of his desk.
"Any answer?" inquired the messenger.
"Take this," said Alfred. And he thrust a bill into the small
"Yes, sir," answered the boy and disappeared quickly, lest this
madman might reconsider his generosity.
Alfred threw down the time table in despair. "No train for
Chicago until night," he cried; but his mind was working fast.
The next moment he was at the telephone, asking for the Division
Superintendent of the railway line.
When Alfred's partner returned from luncheon he found a curt note
informing him that Alfred had left on a special for Chicago and
"I'll bet it's his wife!" said the partner.
During the evening of the same day that Alfred was enjoying such
pleasurable emotions, Zoie and Aggie were closeted in the pretty
pink and white bedroom that the latter had tried to describe to
Jimmy. On a rose-coloured couch in front of the fire sat Aggie
threading ribbons through various bits of soft white linen, and
in front of her, at the foot of a rose-draped bed, knelt Zoie.
She was trying the effect of a large pink bow against the lace
flounce of an empty but inviting bassinette.
"How's that?" she called to Aggie, as she turned her head to one
side and surveyed the result of her experiment with a critical
Aggie shot a grudging glance at the bassinette. "I wish you
wouldn't bother me every moment," she said. "I'll never get all
these things finished."
Apparently Zoie decided that the bow was properly placed, for she
applied herself to sewing it fast to the lining. In her
excitement she gave the thread a vicious pull. "Oh, dear, oh
dear, my thread is always breaking!" she sighed in vexation.
"You're excited," said Aggie.
"Wouldn't YOU be excited," questioned Zoie' "if you were
expecting a baby and a husband in the morning?"
"I suppose I should," admitted Aggie.
For a time the two friends sewed in silence, then Zoie looked up
with sudden anxiety.
"You're SURE Jimmy sent the wire?" she asked.
"I saw him write it," answered Aggie, "while I was in the office
"When will Alfred get it?" demanded Zoie eagerly.
"Oh, he won't GET it until to-morrow morning," said Aggie. "I
told you that to-day. It's a night message."
"I wonder what he'll be doing when he gets it?" mused Zoie.
There was a suspicion of a smile around her lips.
"What will he do AFTER he gets it?" questioned Aggie.
Looking up at her friend in alarm, Zoie suddenly ceased sewing.
"You don't mean he won't come?" she gasped.
"Of course I don't," answered Aggie. "He's only HUMAN if he is a
There was a sceptical expression around Zoie's mouth, but she did
not pursue the subject. "How do you suppose that red baby will
ever look in this pink basket?" she asked. And then with a
regretful little sigh, she declared that she wished she'd "used
"I didn't think the baby that we chose was so horribly red," said
"Red!" cried Zoie, "it's magenta." And again her thread broke.
"Oh, darn!" she exclaimed in annoyance, and once more rethreaded
her needle. "I couldn't look at it," she continued with a
disgusted little pucker of her face. "I wish they had let us
take it this afternoon so I could have got used to it before
Alfred gets here."
"Now don't be silly," scolded Aggie. "You know very well that
the Superintendent can't let it leave the home until its mother
signs the papers. It will be here the first thing in the
morning. You'll have all day to get used to it before Alfred
"ALL DAY," echoed Zoie, and the corners of her mouth began to
droop. "Won't Alfred be here before TO-MORROW NIGHT?"
Aggie was becoming exasperated by Zoie's endless questions. "I
told you," she explained wearily, "that the wire won't be
delivered until to-morrow morning, it will take Alfred eight
hours to get here, and there may not be a train just that
"Eight long hours," sighed Zoie dismally. And Aggie looked at
her reproachfully, forgetting that it is always the last hour
that is hardest to bear. Zoie resumed her sewing resignedly.
Aggie was meditating whether she should read her young friend a
lecture on the value of patience, when the telephone began to
Zoie looked up from her sewing with a frown. "You answer it,
will you, Aggie?" she said. "I can't let go this thread."
"Hello," called Aggie sweetly over the 'phone; then she added in
surprise, "Is this you, Jimmy dear?" Apparently it was; and as
Zoie watched Aggie's face, with its increasing distress she
surmised that Jimmy's message was anything but "dear."
"Good heavens!" cried Aggie over the telephone, "that's awful!"
"Isn't Alfred coming?" was the first question that burst from
Aggie motioned to Zoie to be quiet. "TO- NIGHT!" she exclaimed.
"To-night!" echoed Zoie joyfully; and without waiting for more
details and with no thought beyond the moment, she flew to her
dressing table and began arranging her hair, powdering her face,
perfuming her lips, and making herself particularly alluring for
the prodigal husband's return.
Now the far-sighted Aggie was experiencing less pleasant
sensations at the phone. "A special?" she was saying to Jimmy.
"When did Alfred GET the message?" There was a slight pause.
Then she asked irritably, "Well, didn't you mark it 'NIGHT
message'?" From the expression on Aggie's face it was evident
that he had not done so. "But, Jimmy," protested Aggie, "this is
dreadful! We haven't any baby!" Then calling to him to wait a
minute, and leaving the receiver dangling, she crossed the room
to Zoie, who was now thoroughly engrossed in the making of a
fresh toilet. "Zoie!" she exclaimed excitedly, "Jimmy made a
"Of course he'd do THAT," answered Zoie carelessly.
"But you don't understand," persisted Aggie. "They sent the
'NIGHT message' TO-DAY. Alfred's coming on a special. He'll be
"Thank goodness for that!" cried Zoie, and the next instant she
was waltzing gaily about the room.
"That's all very well," answered Aggie, as she followed Zoie with
anxious eyes, "but WHERE'S YOUR BABY?"
"Good heavens!" cried Zoie, and for the first time she became
conscious of their predicament. She gazed at Aggie in
consternation. "I forgot all about it," she said, and then asked
with growing anxiety, "What can we DO?"
"Do?" echoed Aggie, scarcely knowing herself what answer to make,
"we've got to GET it-- TO-NIGHT. That's all!"
"But," protested Zoie, "how CAN we get it when the mother hasn't
signed the papers yet?"
"Jimmy will have to arrange that with the Superintendent of the
Home," answered Aggie with decision, and she turned toward the
'phone to instruct Jimmy accordingly.
"Yes, that's right," assented Zoie, glad to be rid of all further
responsibility, "we'll let Jimmy fix it."
"Say, Jimmy," called Aggie excitedly, "you'll have to go straight
to the Children's Home and get that baby just as quickly as you
can. There's some red tape about the mother signing papers, but
don't mind about that. Make them give it to you to-night.
Hurry, Jimmy. Don't waste a minute."
There was evidently a protest from the other end of the wire, for
Aggie added impatiently, "Go on, Jimmy, do! You can EAT any
time." And with that she hung up the receiver.
"Its clothes," called Zoie frantically. "Tell him about the
clothes. I sent them this evening."
"Never mind about the clothes," answered Aggie. "We're lucky if
we get the baby."
"But I have to mind," persisted Zoie. "I gave all its other
things to the laundress. I wanted them to be nice and fresh.
And now the horrid old creature hasn't brought them back yet."
"You get into your OWN things," commanded Aggie.
"Where's my dressing gown?" asked Zoie, her elation revived by
the thought of her fine raiment, and with that she flew to the
foot of the bed and snatched up two of the prettiest negligees
ever imported from Paris. "Which do you like better?" she asked,
as she held them both aloft, "the pink or the blue?"
"It doesn't matter," answered Aggie wearily. "Get into
SOMETHING, that's all."
"Then unhook me," commanded Zoie gaily, as she turned her back to
Aggie, and continued to admire the two "creations" on her arm.
So pleased was she with the picture of herself in either of the
garments that she began humming a gay waltz and swaying to the
"Stand still," commanded Aggie, but her warning was unnecessary,
for at that moment Zoie was transfixed by a horrible fear.
"Suppose," she said in alarm, "that Jimmy can't GET the baby?"
"He's GOT to get it," answered Aggie emphatically, and she undid
the last stubborn hook of Zoie's gown and put the girl from her.
"There, now, you're all unfastened," she said, "hurry and get
"You mean undressed," laughed Zoie, as she let her pretty evening
gown fall lightly from her shoulders and drew on her pink
negligee. "Oh, Aggie!" she exclaimed, as she caught sight of her
reflection in the mirror, "isn't it a love? And you know," she
added. "Alfred just adores pink."
"Silly!" answered Aggie, but in spite of herself, she was quite
thrilled by the picture of the exquisite young creature before
her. Zoie had certainly never looked more irresistible. "Can't
you get some of that colour out of your cheeks," asked Aggie in
despair. "You look like a washerwoman."
"I'll put on some cold cream and powder," answered Zoie. She
flew to her dressing table; and in a moment there was a white
cloud in her immediate vicinity. She turned to Aggie to inquire
the result. Again the 'phone rang. "Who's that?" she exclaimed
"I'll see," answered Aggie.
"It couldn't be Alfred, could it?" asked Zoie with mingled hope
"Of course not," answered Aggie, as she removed the receiver from
the hook. "Alfred wouldn't 'phone, he would come right up."
Discovering that it was merely Jimmy "on the wire," Zoie's
uneasiness abated, but Aggie's anxiety was visibly increasing.
"Where ARE you?" she asked of her spouse. "The Children's Home!"
she repeated, then followed further explanations from Jimmy which
were apparently not satisfactory. "Oh, Jimmy!" cried his
disturbed wife, "it can't be! That's horrible!"
"What is it?" shrieked Zoie, trying to get her small ear close
enough to the receiver to catch a bit of the obviously terrifying
"Wait a minute," called Aggie into the 'phone. Then she turned
to Zoie with a look of despair. "The mother's changed her mind,"
she explained; "she won't give up the baby."
"Good Lord!" cried Zoie, and she sank into the nearest chair.
For an instant the two women looked at each other with blank
faces. "What can we DO," asked Zoie.
Aggie did not answer immediately. This was indeed a serious
predicament; but presently Zoie saw her friend's mouth becoming
very resolute, and she surmised that Aggie had solved the
problem. "We'll have to get ANOTHER baby, that's all," decided
Aggie. "There must be OTHER babies."
"Where?" asked Zoie.
"There, in the Children's Home," answered Aggie with great
confidence, and she returned to the 'phone.
Zoie crossed to the bed and knelt at its foot in search of her
little pink slippers.
"Oh, Aggie," she sighed, "the others were all so red!"
But Aggie did not heed her protest. "Listen, Jimmy," she called
in the 'phone, "can't you get another baby?" There was a pause,
then Aggie commanded hotly, "Well, GET in the business!" Another
pause and then Aggie continued very firmly, "Tell the
Superintendent that we JUST MUST have one."
Zoie stopped in the act of putting on her second slipper and
called a reminder to Aggie. "Tell him to get a HE one," she
said, "Alfred wants a boy."
"Take what you can get!" answered Aggie impatiently, and again
she gave her attention to the 'phone. "What!" she cried, with
growing despair, and Zoie waited to hear what had gone wrong now.
"Nothing under three months," explained Aggie.
"Won't that do?" asked Zoie innocently.
"Do!" echoed Aggie in disgust. "A three- months' old baby is as
big as a whale."
"Well, can't we say it GREW UP?" asked Zoie, priding herself on
her power of ready resource.
"Overnight, like a mushroom?" sneered Aggie.
Almost vanquished by her friend's new air of cold superiority,
Zoie was now on the verge of tears. "Somebody must have a new
baby," she faltered. "Somebody ALWAYS has a new baby."
"For their own personal USE, yes," admitted Aggie, "but who has a
new baby for US?"
"How do I know?" asked Zoie helplessly. "You're the one who
ought to know. You got me into this, and you've GOT to get me
out of it. Can you imagine," she asked, growing more and more
unhappy, "what would happen to me if Alfred were to come home now
and not find a baby? He wouldn't forgive a LITTLE lie, what would
he do with a WHOPPER like this?" Then with sudden decision, she
rushed toward the 'phone. "Let me talk to Jimmy," she said, and
the next moment she was chattering so rapidly and incoherently
over the 'phone that Aggie despaired of hearing one word that she
said, and retired to the next room to think out a new plan of
"Say, Jimmy," stammered Zoie into the 'phone, "you've GOT to get
me a baby. If you don't, I'll kill myself! I will, Jimmy, I
will. You got me into this, Jimmy," she reminded him. "You've
GOT to get me out of it." And then followed pleadings and
coaxings and cajolings, and at length, a pause, during which
Jimmy was apparently able to get in a word or so. His answer was
not satisfactory to Zoie. "What!" she shrieked, tiptoeing to get
her lips closer to the receiver; then she added with conviction,
"the mother has no business to change her mind."
Apparently Jimmy maintained that the mother had changed it none
"Well, take it away from her," commanded Zoie. "Get it quick,
while she isn't looking." Then casting a furtive glance over her
shoulder to make sure that Aggie was still out of the room, she
indulged in a few dark threats to Jimmy, also some vehement
reminders of how he had DRAGGED her into that horrid old
restaurant and been the immediate cause of all the misfortunes
that had ever befallen her.
Could Jimmy have been sure that Aggie was out of ear-shot of
Zoie's conversation, the argument would doubtless have kept up
indefinitely-- as it was--the result was a quick acquiescence on
his part and by the time that Aggie returned to the room, Zoie
was wreathed in smiles.
"It's all right," she said sweetly. "Jimmy's going to get it."
Aggie looked at her sceptically. "Goodness knows I hope so," she
said, then added in despair, "Look at your cheeks. They're
Once more the powder puff was called into requisition, and Zoie
turned a temporarily blanched face to Aggie. "Is that better?"
"Very much," answered Aggie, "but how about your hair?"
"What's the matter with it?" asked Zoie. Her reflection betrayed
a coiffure that might have turned Marie Antoinette green with
"Would anybody think you'd been in bed for days?" asked Aggie.
"Alfred likes it that way," was Zoie's defence.
"Turn around," said Aggie, without deigning to argue the matter
further. And she began to remove handfuls of hairpins from the
yellow knotted curls.
"What are you doing?" exclaimed Zoie, as she sprayed her white
neck and arms with her favourite perfume.
Aggie did not answer.
Zoie leaned forward toward the mirror to smooth out her eyebrows
with the tips of her perfumed fingers. "Good gracious," she
cried in horror as she caught sight of her reflection. "You're
not going to put my hair in a pigtail!"
"That's the way invalids always have their hair," was Aggie's
laconic reply, and she continued to plait the obstinate curls.
"I won't have it like that!" declared Zoie, and she shook herself
free from Aggie's unwelcome attentions and proceeded to unplait
the hateful pigtail. "Alfred would leave me."
Aggie shrugged her shoulders.
"If you're going to make a perfect fright of me," pouted Zoie, "I
just won't see him."
"He isn't coming to see YOU," reminded Aggie. "He's coming to
see the baby."
"If Jimmy doesn't come soon, I'll not HAVE any baby," answered
"Get into bed," said Aggie, and she proceeded to turn down the
soft lace coverlets.
"Where did I put my cap?" asked Zoie. Her eyes caught the small
knot of lace and ribbons for which she was looking, and she
pinned it on top of her saucy little curls.
"In you go," said Aggie, motioning to the bed.
"Wait," said Zoie impressively, "wait till I get my rose lights
on the pillow." She pulled the slender gold chain of her night
lamp; instantly the large white pillows were bathed in a warm
pink glow--she studied the effect very carefully, then added a
lingerie pillow to the two more formal ones, kicked off her
slippers and hopped into bed. One more glance at the pillows,
then she arranged the ribbons of her negligee to fall
"carelessly" outside the coverlet, threw one arm gracefully above
her head, half-closed her eyes, and sank languidly back against
"How's that?" she breathed faintly.
Controlling her impulse to smile, Aggie crossed to the
dressing-table with a business-like air and applied to Zoie's
pink cheeks a third coating of powder.
Zoie sat bolt upright and began to sneeze. "Aggie," she said, "I
just hate you when you act like that." But suddenly she was
seized with a new idea.
"I wonder," she mused as she looked across the room at the soft,
pink sofa bathed in firelight, "I wonder if I shouldn't look
better on that couch under those roses."
Aggie was very emphatic in her opinion to the contrary.
"Certainly not!" she said.
"Then," decided Zoie with a mischievous smile, "I'll get Alfred
to carry me to the couch. That way I can get my arms around his
neck. And once you get your arms around a man's neck, you can
Aggie looked down at the small person with distinct disapproval.
"Now, don't you make too much fuss over Alfred," she continued.
"YOU'RE the one who's to do the forgiving. Don't forget that!
What's more," she reminded Zoie, "you're very, very weak." But
before she had time to instruct Zoie further there was a sharp,
quick ring at the outer door.
The two women glanced at each other inquiringly. The next
instant a man's step was heard in the hallway.
"How is she, Mary?" demanded someone in a voice tense with
"It's Alfred!" exclaimed Zoie.
"And we haven't any baby!" gasped Aggie.
"What shall I do?" cried Zoie.
"Lie down," commanded Aggie, and Zoie had barely time to fall
back limply on the pillows when the excited young husband burst
into the room.
When Alfred entered Zoie's bedroom he glanced about him in
bewilderment. It appeared that he was in an enchanted chamber.
Through the dim rose light he could barely perceive his young
wife. She was lying white and apparently lifeless on her
pillows. He moved cautiously toward the bed, but Aggie raised a
warning finger. Afraid to speak, he grasped Aggie's hand and
searched her face for reassurance; she nodded toward Zoie, whose
eyes were closed. He tiptoed to the bedside, sank on his knees
and reverently kissed the small hand that hung limply across the
side of the bed.
To Alfred's intense surprise, his lips had barely touched Zoie's
fingertips when he felt his head seized in a frantic embrace.
"Alfred, Alfred!" cried Zoie in delight; then she smothered his
face with kisses. As she lifted her head to survey her
astonished husband, she caught the reproving eye of Aggie. With
a weak little sigh, she relaxed her tenacious hold of Alfred,
breathed his name very faintly, and sank back, apparently
exhausted, upon her pillows.
"It's been too much for her," said the terrified young husband,
and he glanced toward Aggie in anxiety.
Aggie nodded assent.
"How pale she looks," added Alfred, as he surveyed the white face
on the pillows.
"She's so weak, poor dear," sympathised Aggie, almost in a
Alfred nodded his understanding to Aggie. It was then that his
attention was for the first time attracted toward the crib.
"My boy!" he exclaimed. And again Zoie forgot Aggie's warning
and sat straight up in bed. But Alfred did not see her. He was
making determinedly for the crib, his heart beating high with the
pride of possession.
Throwing back the coverlets of the bassinette, Alfred stared at
the empty bed in silence, then he quickly turned to the two
anxious women. "Where is he?" he asked, his eyes wide with
Zoie's lips opened to answer, but no words came.
Alfred's eyes turned to Aggie. The look on her face increased
his worst fears. "Don't tell me he's----" he could not bring
himself to utter the word. He continued to look helplessly from
one woman to the other.
In vain Zoie again tried to answer. Aggie also made an
unsuccessful attempt to speak. Then, driven to desperation by
the strain of the situation, Zoie declared boldly: "He's out."
"Out?" echoed Alfred in consternation.
"With Jimmy," explained Aggie, coming to Zoie's rescue as well as
she knew how.
"Jimmy!" repeated Alfred in great astonishment.
"Just for a breath of air," explained Zoie sweetly She had now
entirely regained her self- possession.
"Isn't he very young to be out at night?" asked Alfred with a
"We told Jimmy that," answered Aggie, amazed at the promptness
with which each succeeding lie presented itself. "But you see,"
she continued, "Jimmy is so crazy about the child that we can't
do anything with him."
"Jimmy crazy about my baby?" exclaimed Alfred incredulously. "He
always said babies were 'little red worms.' "
"Not this one," answered Zoie sweetly.
"No, indeed," chimed in Aggie. "He acts as though he owned it."
"Oh, DOES he?" exclaimed Alfred hotly. "I'll soon put a stop to
that," he declared. "Where did he take him?"
Again the two women looked at each other inquiringly, then Aggie
"Oh, j-just downstairs--somewhere."
"I'll LOOK j-just downstairs somewhere," decided Alfred, and he
snatched up his hat and started toward the door.
"Alfred!" cried Zoie in alarm.
Coming back to her bedside to reassure her, Alfred was caught in
a frantic embrace. "I'll be back in a minute, dear," he said,
but Zoie clung to him and pleaded desperately.
"You aren't going to leave me the very first thing?"
Alfred hesitated. He had no wish to be cruel to Zoie, but the
thought of Jimmy out in the street with his baby at this hour of
the night was not to be borne.
Zoie renewed her efforts at persuasion. "Now, dearie," she said,
"I wish you'd go get shaved and wash up a bit. I don't wish baby
to see you looking so horrid."
"Yes, do, Alfred," insisted Aggie. "He's sure to be here in a
"My boy won't care HOW his father looks," declared Alfred
proudly, and Zoie told Aggie afterward that his chest had
momentarily expanded three inches.
"But _I_ care," persisted Zoie. "First impressions are so
"Now, Zoie," cautioned Aggie, as she crossed toward the bed with
affected solicitude. "You mustn't excite yourself."
Zoie was quick to understand the suggested change in her tactics,
and again she sank back on her pillows apparently ill and faint.
Utterly vanquished by the dire result of his apparently inhuman
thoughtlessness, Alfred glanced at Aggie, uncertain as to how to
repair the injury.
Aggie beckoned to him to come away from the bed.
"Let her have her own way," she whispered with a significant
glance toward Zoie.
Alfred nodded understandingly and put a finger to his lips to
signify that he would henceforth speak in hushed tones, then he
tiptoed back to the bed and gently stroked the curls from Zoie's
"There now, dear," he whispered, "lie still and rest and I'll go
shave and wash up a bit."
Zoie sighed her acquiescence.
"Mind," he whispered to Aggie, "you are to call me the moment my
boy comes," and then he slipped quietly into the bedroom.
No sooner had Alfred crossed the threshold, than Zoie sat up in
bed and called in a sharp whisper to Aggie, "What's keeping
them?" she asked.
"I can't imagine," answered Aggie, also in whisper.
"If I had Jimmy here," declared Zoie vindictively, "I'd wring his
little fat neck," and slipping her little pink toes from beneath
the covers, she was about to get out of bed, when Aggie, who was
facing Alfred's bedroom door, gave her a warning signal.
Zoie had barely time to get back beneath the covers, when Alfred
re-entered the room in search of his satchel. Aggie found it for
Alfred glanced solicitously at Zoie's closed eyes. "I'm so
sorry," he apologised to Aggie, and again he slipped softly out
of the room.
Aggie and Zoie drew together for consultation.
"Suppose Jimmy can't get the baby," whispered Zoie.
"In that case, he'd have 'phoned," argued Aggie.
"Let's 'phone to the Home," suggested Zoie, "and find----" She
was interrupted by Alfred's voice.
"Say, Aggie," called Alfred from the next room.
"Yes?" answered Aggie sweetly, and she crossed to the door and
"Hasn't he come yet?" called Alfred impatiently.
"Not yet, Alfred," said Aggie, and she closed the door very
softly, lest Alfred should hear her.
"I never knew Alfred could be so silly!" snapped Zoie.
"Sh! sh!" warned Aggie, and she glanced anxiously toward Alfred's
"He doesn't care a bit about me!" complained Zoie. "It's all
that horrid old baby that he's never seen.,'
"If Jimmy doesn't come soon, he never WILL see it," declared
Aggie, and she started toward the window to look out.
Just then there was a short quick ring of the bell. The two
women glanced at each other with mingled hope and fear. Then
their eyes sought the door expectantly.
With the collar of his long ulster pushed high and the brim of
his derby hat pulled low, Jimmy Jinks crept cautiously into the
room. When he at length ceased to glance over his shoulder and
came to a full stop, Aggie perceived a bit of white flannel
hanging beneath the hem of his tightly buttoned coat.
"You've GOT it!" she cried.
"Where is it ?" asked Zoie.
"Give it to me," demanded Aggie.
Jimmy stared at them as though stupefied, then glanced uneasily
over his shoulder, to make sure that no one was pursuing him.
Aggie unbuttoned his ulster, seized a wee mite wrapped in a large
shawl, and clasped it to her bosom with a sigh of relief. "Thank
heaven!" she exclaimed, then crossed quickly to the bassinette
and deposited her charge.
In the meantime, having thrown discretion to the wind, Zoie had
hopped out of bed. As usual, her greeting to Jimmy was in the
nature of a reproach. "What kept you?" she demanded crossly.
"Yes," chimed in Aggie, who was now bending over the crib. "What
made you so long?"
"See here!" answered Jimmy hotly, "if you two think you can do
any better, you're welcome to the job," and with that he threw
off his overcoat and sank sullenly on the couch.
"Sh! sh!" exclaimed Zoie and Aggie, simultaneously, and they
glanced nervously toward Alfred's bedroom door.
Jimmy looked at them without comprehending why he should "sh."
They did not bother to explain. Instead, Zoie turned her back
"Let's see it," she said, peeping into the bassinette. And then
with a little cry of disgust she again looked at Jimmy
reproachfully. "Isn't it ugly?" she said. Jimmy's contempt for
woman's ingratitude was too deep for words, and he only stared at
her in injured silence. But his reflections were quickly upset
when Alfred called from the next room, to inquire again about
"Alfred's here!" whispered Jimmy, beginning to realise the
meaning of the women's mysterious behaviour.
"Sh! sh!" said Aggie again to Jimmy, and Zoie flew toward the
bed, almost vaulting over the footboard in her hurry to get
beneath the covers.
For the present Alfred did not disturb them further. Apparently
he was still occupied with his shaving, but just as Jimmy was
about to ask for particulars, the 'phone rang. The three
culprits glanced guiltily at each other.
"Who's that?" whispered Zoie in a frightened voice.
Aggie crossed to the 'phone. "Hello," she called softly. "The
Children's Home?" she exclaimed.
Jimmy paused in the act of sitting and turned his round eyes
toward the 'phone.
Aggie's facial expression was not reassuring. "But we can't,"
she was saying; "that's impossible."
"What is it?" called Zoie across the foot of the bed, unable
longer to endure the suspense.
Aggie did not answer. She was growing more and more excited. "A
thief!" she cried wildly, over the 'phone. "How dare you call my
husband a thief!"
Jimmy was following the conversation with growing interest.
"Wait a minute," said Aggie, then she left the receiver hanging
by the cord and turned to the expectant pair behind her. "It's
the Children's Home," she explained. "That awful woman says
Jimmy STOLE her baby!"
"What!" exclaimed Zoie as though such depravity on Jimmy's part
were unthinkable. Then she looked at him accusingly, and asked
in low, measured tones, "DID you STEAL HER BABY, JIMMY?"
"Didn't you tell me to?" asked Jimmy hotly. "Not literally,"
"How else COULD I steal a baby?" demanded Jimmy.
Zoie looked at the unfortunate creature as if she could strangle
him, and Aggie addressed him with a threat in her voice.
"Well, the Superintendent says you've got to bring it straight
"I'd like to see myself!" said Jimmy.
"He sha'n't bring it back," declared Zoie. "I'll not let him!"
"What shall I tell the Superintendent?" asked Aggie, "he's
holding the wire."
"Tell him he can't have it," answered Zoie, as though that were
the end of the whole matter.
"Well," concluded Aggie, "he says if Jimmy DOESN'T bring it back
the mother's coming after it."
"Good Lord!" exclaimed Zoie.
As for Jimmy, he bolted for the door. Aggie caught him by the
sleeve as he passed. "Wait, Jimmy," she said peremptorily.
There was a moment of awful indecision, then something
approaching an idea came to Zoie.
"Tell the Superintendent that it isn't here," she whispered to
Aggie across the footboard. "Tell him that Jimmy hasn't got here
"Yes," agreed Jimmy, "tell him I haven't got here yet."
Aggie nodded wisely and returned to the 'phone. "Hello," she
called pleasantly; then proceeded to explain. "Mr. Jinks hasn't
got here yet." There was a pause, then she added in her most
conciliatory tone, "I'll tell him what you say when he comes in."
Another pause, and she hung up the receiver with a most gracious
good- bye and turned to the others with increasing misgivings.
"He says he won't be responsible for that mother much
"What right has she to be crazy?" demanded Zoie in an abused
voice. "She's a widow. She doesn't need a baby."
"Well," decided Aggie after careful deliberation, "you'd better
take it back, Jimmy, before Alfred sees it."
"What?" exclaimed Zoie in protest. And again Jimmy bolted, but
again he failed to reach the door.
His face covered with lather, and a shaving brush in one hand,
Alfred entered the room just as his friend was about to escape.
"Jimmy!" exclaimed the excited young father, "you're back."
"Oh, yes--yes," admitted Jimmy nervously, "I'm back."
"My boy!" cried Alfred, and he glanced toward the crib. "He's
"Yes--yes," agreed Aggie uneasily, as she tried to place herself
between Alfred and the bassinette. "He's here, but you mayn't
have him, Alfred."
"What?" exclaimed Alfred, trying to put her out of the way.
"Not yet," protested Aggie, "not just yet."
"Give him to me," demanded Alfred, and thrusting Aggie aside, he
took possession of the small mite in the cradle.
"But--but, Alfred," pleaded Aggie, "your face. You'll get him
Alfred did not heed her. He was bending over the cradle in an
ecstasy. "My boy!" he cried, "my boy!" Lifting the baby in his
arms he circled the room cooing to him delightedly.
"Was he away from home when his fadder came? Oh, me, oh, my!
Coochy! Coochy! Coochy!" Suddenly he remembered to whom he owed
this wondrous treasure and forgetful of the lather on his
unshaven face he rushed toward Zoie with an overflowing heart.
"My precious!" he exclaimed, and he covered her cheek with
"Go away!" cried Zoie in disgust and she pushed Alfred from her
and brushed the hateful lather from her little pink check.
But Alfred was not to be robbed of his exaltation, and again he
circled the room, making strange gurgling sounds to Baby.
"Did a horrid old Jimmy take him away from fadder?" he said
sympathetically, in the small person's ear; and he glanced at
Jimmy with frowning disapproval. "I'd just like to see him get
you away from me again!" he added to Baby, as he tickled the
mite's ear with the end of his shaving brush. "Oh, me! oh, my!"
he exclaimed in trepidation, as he perceived a bit of lather on
the infant's cheek. Then lifting the boy high in his arms and
throwing out his chest with great pride, he looked at Jimmy with
an air of superiority. "I guess I'm bad, aye?" he said.
Jimmy positively blushed. As for Zoie, she was growing more and
more impatient for a little attention to herself.
"Rock-a-bye, Baby," sang Alfred in strident tones and he swung
the child high in his arms.
Jimmy and Aggie gazed at Alfred as though hypnotised. They kept
time to his lullaby out of sheer nervousness. Suddenly Alfred
stopped, held the child from him and gazed at it in horror.
"Good heavens!" he exclaimed. The others waited breathlessly.
"Look at that baby's face," commanded Alfred.
Zoie and Aggie exchanged alarmed glances, then Zoie asked in
trepidation, "What's the matter with his face?"
"He's got a fever," declared Alfred. And he started toward the
bed to show the child to its mother.
"Go away!" shrieked Zoie, waving Alfred off in wild alarm.
"What?" asked Alfred, backing from her in surprise.
Aggie crossed quickly to Alfred's side and looked over his
shoulder at the boy. "I don't see anything wrong with its face,"
"It's scarlet!" persisted Alfred.
"Oh," said Jimmy with a superior air, "they're always like that."
"Nothing of the sort," snorted Alfred, and he glared at Jimmy
threateningly. "You've frozen the child parading him around the
"Let me have him, Alfred," begged Aggie sweetly; "I'll put him in
his crib and keep him warm."
Reluctantly Alfred released the boy. His eyes followed him to
the crib with anxiety. "Where's his nurse?" he asked, as he
glanced first from one to the other.
Zoie and Jimmy stared about the room as though expecting the
desired person to drop from the ceiling. Then Zoie turned upon
her unwary accomplice.
"Jimmy," she called in a threatening tone, "where IS his nurse?"
"Does Jimmy take the nurse out, too?" demanded Alfred, more and
more annoyed by the privileges Jimmy had apparently been usurping
in his absence.
"Never mind about the nurse," interposed Aggie. "Baby likes me
better anyway. I'll tuck him in," and she bent fondly over the
crib, but Alfred was not to be so easily pacified.
"Do you mean to tell me," he exclaimed excitedly, "that my boy
hasn't any nurse?"
"We HAD a nurse," corrected Zoie, "but--but I had to discharge
Alfred glanced from one to the other for an explanation.
"Discharge her?" he repeated, "for what?"
"She was crazy," stammered Zoie.
Alfred's eyes sought Aggie's for confirmation. She nodded. He
directed his steady gaze toward Jimmy. The latter jerked his
head up and down in nervous assent.
"Well," said Alfred, amazed at their apparent lack of resource,
"why didn't you get ANOTHER nurse?"
"Aggie is going to stay and take care of baby to-night," declared
Zoie, and then she beamed upon Aggie as only she knew how.
"Aren't you, dear?" she asked sweetly.
"Yes, indeed," answered Aggie, studiously avoiding Jimmy's eye.
"Baby is going to sleep in the spare room with Aggie and Jimmy,"
"What!" exclaimed Jimmy, too desperate to care what Alfred might
Ignoring Jimmy's implied protest, Zoie continued sweetly to
"Now, don't worry, dear; go back to your room and finish your
"Finish shaving?" repeated Alfred in a puzzled way. Then his
hand went mechanically to his cheek and he stared at Zoie in
astonishment. "By Jove!" he exclaimed, "I had forgotten all
about it. That shows you how excited I am." And with a
reluctant glance toward the cradle, he went quickly from the
room, singing a high- pitched lullaby.
Just as the three conspirators were drawing together for
consultation, Alfred returned to the room. It was apparent that
there was something important on his mind.
"By the way," he said, glancing from one to another, "I forgot to
ask--what's his name?"
The conspirators looked at each other without answering. To
Alfred their delay was annoying. Of course his son had been
given his father's name, but he wished to HEAR someone say so.
"Baby's, I mean," he explained impatiently.
Jimmy felt instinctively that Zoie's eyes were upon him. He
avoided her gaze.
"Jimmy!" called Zoie, meaning only to appeal to him for a name.
"Jimmy!" thundered the infuriated Alfred. "You've called my boy
'Jimmy'? Why 'Jimmy'?"
For once Zoie was without an answer.
After waiting in vain for any response, Alfred advanced upon the
"You seem to be very popular around here," he sneered.
Jimmy shifted uneasily from one foot to the other and studied the
pattern of the rug upon which he was standing.
After what seemed an age to Jimmy, Alfred turned his back upon
his old friend and started toward his bedroom. Jimmy peeped out
uneasily from his long eyelashes. When Alfred reached the
threshold, he faced about quickly and stared again at Jimmy for
an explanation. It seemed to Jimmy that Alfred's nostrils were
dilating. He would not have been surprised to see Alfred snort
fire. He let his eyes fall before the awful spectacle of his
friend's wrath. Alfred's upper lip began to curl. He cast a
last withering look in Jimmy's direction, retired quickly from
the scene and banged the door.
When Jimmy again had the courage to lift his eyes he was
confronted by the contemptuous gaze of Zoie, who was sitting up
in bed and regarding him with undisguised disapproval.
"Why didn't you tell him what the baby's name is?" she demanded.
"How do _I_ know what the baby's name is?" retorted Jimmy
"Sh! sh!" cautioned Aggie as she glanced nervously toward the
door through which Alfred had just passed.
"What does it matter WHAT the baby's name is so long as we have
to send it back?"
"I'll NOT send it back," declared Zoie emphatically, "at least
not until morning. That will give Jimmy a whole night to get
"Another!" shrieked Jimmy. "See here, you two can't be changing
babies every five minutes without Alfred knowing it. Even HE has
"Nonsense!" answered Aggie shortly. "You know perfectly well
that all young babies look just alike. Their own mothers
couldn't tell them apart, if it weren't for their clothes."
"But where can we GET another?" asked Zoie.
Before Aggie could answer, Alfred was again heard calling from
the next room. Apparently all his anger had subsided, for he
inquired in the most amiable tone as to what baby might be doing
and how he might be feeling. Aggie crossed quickly to the door,
and sweetly reassured the anxious father, then she closed the
door softly and turned to Zoie and Jimmy with a new inspiration
lighting her face. "I have it," she exclaimed ecstatically.
Jimmy regarded his spouse with grave suspicion.
"Now see here," he objected, "every time YOU 'HAVE IT,' I DO IT.
The NEXT time you 'HAVE IT' YOU DO IT!"
The emphasis with which Jimmy made his declaration deserved
consideration, but to his amazement it was entirely ignored by
both women. Hopping quickly out of bed, without even glancing in
his direction, Zoie gave her entire attention to Aggie. "What is
it?" she asked eagerly.
"There must be OTHER babies' Homes," said Aggie, and she glanced
at Jimmy from her superior height.
"They aren't open all night like corner drug stores," growled
"Well, they ought to be," decided Zoie.
"And surely," argued Aggie, "in an extraordinary case--like----"
"This was an 'extraordinary case,' " declared Jimmy, "and you saw
what happened this time, and the Superintendent is a friend of
mine--at least he WAS a friend of mine." And with that Jimmy sat
himself down on the far corner of the couch and proceeded to
ruminate on the havoc that these two women had wrought in his
once tranquil life.
Zoie gazed at Jimmy in deep disgust; her friend Aggie had made an
excellent suggestion, and instead of acting upon it with
alacrity, here sat Jimmy sulking like a stubborn child.
"I suppose," said Zoie, as her eyebrows assumed a bored angle,
"there are SOME babies in the world outside of Children's Homes."
"Of course," was Aggie's enthusiastic rejoinder; "there's one
born every minute."
"But I was born BETWEEN minutes," protested Jimmy.
"Who's talking about you?" snapped Zoie.
Again Aggie exclaimed that she "had it."
"She's got it twice as bad," groaned Jimmy, and he wondered what
new form her persecution of him was about to take.
"Where is the morning paper?" asked Aggie, excitedly.
"We can't advertise NOW," protested Zoie. "It's too late for
"Sh! Sh!" answered Aggie, as she snatched the paper quickly from
the table and began running her eyes up and down its third page.
"Married-- married," she murmured, and then with delight she
found the half column for which she was searching. "Born," she
exclaimed triumphantly. "Here we are! Get a pencil, Zoie, and
we'll take down all the new ones."
"Of course," agreed Zoie, clapping her hands in glee, "and Jimmy
can get a taxi and look them right up."
"Oh, CAN he?" shouted Jimmy as he rose with clenched fists. "Now
you two, see here----"
Before Jimmy could complete his threat, there was a sharp ring of
the door bell. He looked at the two women inquiringly.
"It's the mother," cried Zoie in a hoarse whisper.
"The mother!" repeated Jimmy in terror and he glanced uncertainly
from one door to the other.
"Cover up the baby!" called Zoie, and drawing Jimmy's overcoat
quickly from his arm, Aggie threw it hurriedly over the cradle.
For an instant Jimmy remained motionless in the centre of the
room, hatless, coatless, and shorn of ideas. A loud knock on the
door decided him and he sank with trembling knees behind the
nearest armchair, just as Zoie made a flying leap into the bed
and prepared to draw the cover over her head.
The knock was repeated and Aggie signalled to Zoie to answer it.
"Come in!" called Zoie very faintly.
From his hiding-place Jimmy peeped around the edge of the
armchair and saw what seemed to be a large clothes basket
entering the room. Closer inspection revealed the small figure
of Maggie, the washerwoman's daughter, propelling the basket,
which was piled high with freshly laundered clothing. Jimmy drew
a long sigh of relief, and unknotted his cramped limbs.
"Shall I lay the things on the sofa, mum?" asked Maggie as she
placed her basket on the floor and waited for Zoie's
"Yes, please," answered Zoie, too exhausted for further comment.
Taking the laundry piece by piece from the basket, Maggie made
excuses for its delay, while she placed it on the couch. Deaf to
Maggie's chatter, Zoie lay back languidly on her pillows; but she
soon heard something that lifted her straight up in bed.
"Me mother is sorry she had to kape you waitin' this week," said
Maggie over her shoulder; "but we've got twins at OUR house."
"Twins!" echoed Zoie and Aggie simultaneously. Then together
they stared at Maggie as though she had been dropped from another
Finding attention temporarily diverted from himself, Jimmy had
begun to rearrange both his mind and his cravat when he felt
rather than saw that his two persecutors were regarding him with
a steady, determined gaze. In spite of himself, Jimmy raised his
eyes to theirs.
"Twins!" was their laconic answer.
Now, Jimmy had heard Maggie's announcement about the bountiful
supply of offspring lately arrived at her house, but not until he
caught the fanatical gleam in the eyes of his companions did he
understand the part they meant him to play in their next
adventure. He waited for no explanation--he bolted toward the