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Baby Mine by Margaret Mayo

Part 4 out of 4

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backward, as though to guard the bedroom door.

"Yes," said Alfred, mistaking Aggie's surprise for a compliment
to his resource; "and now, Aggie, if you'll just stay with Zoie
for a minute I'll have a look at my boys."

"No, no!" exclaimed Aggie, nervously, and she placed herself
again in front of the bedroom door.

Alfred was plainly annoyed by her proprietory air.

"They're asleep," explained Aggie.

"I'll not WAKE them," persisted Alfred, "I just wish to have a
LOOK at them," and with that he again made a move toward the

"But Alfred," protested Zoie, still clinging to his hand, "you're
not going to leave me again-- so soon."

Alfred was becoming more and more restive under the seeming
absurdity of their persistent opposition, but before he could
think of a polite way of over-ruling them, Aggie continued

"You stay with Zoie," she said. "I'll bring the boys in here and
you can both have a look at them."

"But Aggie," argued Alfred, puzzled by her illogical behaviour,
"would it be wise to wake them?"

"Just this once," said Aggie. "Now you stay here and I'll get
them." Before Alfred could protest further she was out of the
room and the door had closed behind her, so he resigned himself
to her decision, banished his temporary annoyance at her
obstinacy, and glanced about the room with a new air of

"This is certainly a great night, Zoie," he said.

"It certainly is," acquiesced Zoie, with an over emphasis that
made Alfred turn to her with new concern.

"I'm afraid that mad woman made you very nervous, dear," he said.

"She certainly did," said Zoie.

Zoie's nerves were destined to bear still further strain, for at
that moment, there came a sharp ring at the door.

Beside herself with anxiety Zoie threw her arms about Alfred, who
had advanced to soothe her, drew him down by her side and buried
her head on his breast.

"You ARE jumpy," said Alfred, and at that instant a wrangle of
loud voices, and a general commotion was heard in the outer hall.
"What's that?" asked Alfred, endeavouring to disentangle himself
from Zoie's frantic embrace.

Zoie clung to him so tightly that he was unable to rise, but his
alert ear caught the sound of a familiar voice rising above the
din of dispute in the hallway.

"That sounds like the officer," he exclaimed.

"The officer?" cried Zoie, and she wound her arms more tightly
about him.


Propelled by a large red fist, attached to the back of his badly
wilted collar, the writhing form of Jimmy was now thrust through
the outer door.

"Let go of me," shouted the hapless Jimmy.

The answer was a spasmodic shaking administered by the fist; then
a large burly officer, carrying a small babe in his arms, shoved
the reluctant Jimmy into the centre of the room and stood guard
over him.

"I got him for you, sir," announced the officer proudly, to the
astonished Alfred, who had just managed to untwine Zoie's arms
and to struggle to his feet.

Alfred's eyes fell first upon the dejected Jimmy, then they
travelled to the bundle of long clothes in the officer's arms.

"My boy!" he cried. "My boy!" He snatched the infant from the
officer and pressed him jealously to his breast. "I don't
understand," he said, gazing at the officer in stupefaction.
"Where was he?"

"You mean this one?" asked the officer, nodding toward the
unfortunate Jimmy. "I caught him slipping down your

"I KNEW it," exclaimed Zoie in a rage, and she cast a vindictive
look at Jimmy for his awkwardness.

"Knew WHAT, dear?" asked Alfred, now thoroughly puzzled.

Zoie did not answer. Her powers of resource were fast waning.
Alfred turned again to the officer, then to Jimmy, who was still
flashing defiance into the officer's threatening eyes.

"My God!" he exclaimed, "this is awful. What's the matter with
you, Jimmy? This is the third time that you have tried to take my
baby out into the night."

"Then you've had trouble with him before?" remarked the officer.
He studied Jimmy with new interest, proud in the belief that he
had brought a confirmed "baby-snatcher" to justice.

"I've had a little trouble myself," declared Jimmy hotly, now
resolved to make a clean breast of it.

"I'm not asking about your troubles," interrupted the officer
savagely, and Jimmy felt the huge creature's obnoxious fingers
tightening again on his collar. "Go ahead, sir," said the
officer to Alfred.

"Well," began Alfred, nodding toward the now livid Jimmy, "he was
out with my boy when I arrived. I stopped him from going out
with him a second time, and now you, officer, catch him slipping
down the fire-escape. I don't know what to say," he finished

"_I_ do," exclaimed Jimmy, feeling more and more like a high
explosive, "and I'll say it."

"Cut it," shouted the officer. And before Jimmy could get
further, Alfred resumed with fresh vehemence.

"He's supposed to be a friend of mine," he explained to the
officer, as he nodded toward the wriggling Jimmy. "He was all
right when I left him a few months ago."

"You'll think I'm all right again," shouted Jimmy, trying to get
free from the officer, "before I've finished telling all I----"

"That won't help any," interrupted the officer firmly, and with
another twist of Jimmy's badly wilted collar he turned to Alfred
with his most civil manner, "What shall I do with him, sir?"

"I don't know," said Alfred, convinced that his friend was a fit
subject for a straight jacket. "This is horrible."

"It's absurd," cried Zoie, on the verge of hysterics, and in
utter despair of ever disentangling the present complication
without ultimately losing Alfred, "you're all absurd," she cried

"Absurd?" exclaimed Alfred, turning upon her in amazement, "what
do you mean?"

"It's a joke," said Zoie, without the slightest idea of where the
joke lay. "If you had any sense you could see it."

"I DON'T see it," said Alfred, with hurt dignity.

"Neither do I," said Jimmy, with boiling resentment.

"Can you call it a joke," asked Alfred, incredulously, "to have
our boy----" He stopped suddenly, remembering that there was a
companion piece to this youngster. "The other one!" he
exclaimed, "our other boy----" He rushed to the crib, found it
empty, and turned a terrified face to Zoie. "Where is he?" he

"Now, Alfred," pleaded Zoie, "don't get excited; he's all right."

"How do you know?" asked the distracted father.

Zoie did not know, but at that moment her eyes fell upon Jimmy,
and as usual he was the source of an inspiration for her.

"Jimmy never cared for the other one," she said, "did you,

Alfred turned to the officer, with a tone of command. "Wait," he
said, then he started toward the bedroom door to make sure that
his other boy was quite safe. The picture that confronted him
brought the hair straight up on his head. True to her promise,
and ignorant of Jimmy's return with the first baby, Aggie had
chosen this ill-fated moment to appear on the threshold with one
babe on each arm.

"Here they are," she said graciously, then stopped in amazement
at sight of the horrified Alfred, clasping a third infant to his

"Good God!" exclaimed Alfred, stroking his forehead with his
unoccupied hand, and gazing at what he firmly believed must be an
apparition, "THOSE aren't MINE," he pointed to the two red mites
in Aggie's arms.

"Wh--why not, Alfred?" stammered Aggie for the want of something
better to say.

"What?" shrieked Alfred. Then he turned in appeal to his young
wife, whose face had now become utterly expressionless. "Zoie?"
he entreated.

There was an instant's pause, then the blood returned to Zoie's
face and she proved herself the artist that Alfred had once
declared her.

"OURS, dear," she murmured softly, with a bashful droop of her

"But THIS one?" persisted Alfred, pointing to the baby in his
arms, and feeling sure that his mind was about to give way.

"Why--why--why," stuttered Zoie, "THAT'S the JOKE."

"The joke?" echoed Alfred, looking as though he found it anything
but such.

"Yes," added Aggie, sharing Zoie's desperation to get out of
their temporary difficulty, no matter at what cost in the future.
"Didn't Jimmy tell you?"

"Tell me WHAT?" stammered Alfred, "what IS there to tell?"

"Why, you see," said Aggie, growing more enthusiastic with each
elaboration of Zoie's lie, "we didn't dare to break it to you too

"Break it to me?" gasped Alfred; a new light was beginning to
dawn on his face.

"So," concluded Zoie, now thoroughly at home in the new
situation, "we asked Jimmy to take THAT one OUT."

Jimmy cast an inscrutable glance in Zoie's direction. Was it
possible that she was at last assisting him out of a difficulty?

"You 'ASKED Jimmy'?" repeated Alfred.

"Yes," confirmed Aggie, with easy confidence, "we wanted you to
get used to the idea gradually."

"The idea," echoed Alfred. He was afraid to allow his mind to
accept too suddenly the whole significance of their disclosure,
lest his joy over- power him. "You--you--do--don't mean----" he

"Yes, dear," sighed Zoie, with the face of an angel, and then
with a languid sigh, she sank back contentedly on her pillows.

"My boys! My boys!" cried Alfred, now delirious with delight.
"Give them to me," he called to Aggie, and he snatched the
surprised infants savagely from her arms. "Give me ALL of them,
ALL of them." He clasped the three babes to his breast, then
dashed to the bedside of the unsuspecting Zoie and covered her
small face with rapturous kisses.

Feeling the red faces of the little strangers in such close
proximity to hers, Zoie drew away from them with abhorrence, but
unconscious of her unmotherly action, Alfred continued his mad
career about the room, his heart overflowing with gratitude
toward Zoie in particular and mankind in general. Finding Aggie
in the path of his wild jubilee, he treated that bewildered young
matron to an unwelcome kiss. A proceeding which Jimmy did not at
all approve.

Hardly had Aggie recovered from her surprise when the disgruntled
Jimmy was startled out of his dark mood by the supreme insult of
a loud resounding kiss implanted on his own cheek by his
excitable young friend. Jimmy raised his arm to resist a second
assault, and Alfred veered off in the direction of the officer,
who stepped aside just in time to avoid similar demonstration
from the indiscriminating young father.

Finding a wide circle prescribed about himself and the babies,
Alfred suddenly stopped and gazed about from one astonished face
to the other.

"Well," said the officer, regarding Alfred with an injured air,
and feeling much downcast at being so ignominiously deprived of
his short-lived heroism in capturing a supposed criminal, "if
this is all a joke, I'll let the woman go."

"The woman," repeated Alfred; "what woman?"

"I nabbed a woman at the foot of the fire-escape," explained the
officer. Zoie and Aggie glanced at each other inquiringly. "I
thought she might be an accomplice."

"What does she look like, officer?" asked Alfred. His manner was
becoming more paternal, not to say condescending, with the
arrival of each new infant.

"Don't be silly, Alfred," snapped Zoie, really ashamed that
Alfred was making such an idiot of himself. "It's only the

"Oh, that's it," said Alfred, with a wise nod of comprehension;
"the nurse, then she's in the joke too?" He glanced from one to
the other. They all nodded. "You're all in it," he exclaimed,
flattered to think that they had considered it necessary to
combine the efforts of so many of them to deceive him.

"Yes," assented Jimmy sadly, "we are all 'in it.' "

"Well, she's a great actress," decided Alfred, with the air of a

"She sure is," admitted Donneghey, more and more disgruntled as
he felt his reputation for detecting fraud slipping from him.
"She put up a phoney story about the kid being hers," he added.
"But I could tell she wasn't on the level. Good-night, sir," he
called to Alfred, and ignoring Jimmy, he passed quickly from the

"Oh, officer," Alfred called after him. "Hang around downstairs.
I'll be down later and fix things up with you." Again Alfred
gave his whole attention to his new-found family. He leaned over
the cradle and gazed ecstatically into the three small faces
below his. "This is too much," he murmured.

"Much too much," agreed Jimmy, who was now sitting hunched up on
the couch in his customary attitude of gloom.

"You were right not to break it to me too suddenly," said Alfred,
and with his arms encircling three infants he settled himself on
the couch by Jimmy's side. "You're a cute one," he continued to
Jimmy, who was edging away from the three mites with aversion.
In the absence of any answer from Jimmy, Alfred appealed to Zoie,
"Isn't he a cute one, dear?" he asked.

"Oh, yes, VERY," answered Zoie, sarcastically.

Shutting his lips tight and glancing at Zoie with a determined
effort at self restraint, Jimmy rose from the couch and started
toward the door.

"If you women are done with me," he said, "I'll clear out."

"Clear out?" exclaimed Alfred, rising quickly and placing himself
between his old friend and the door. "What a chance," and he
laughed boisterously. "You're not going to get out of my sight
this night," he declared. "I'm just beginning to appreciate all
you've done for me."

"So am I," assented Jimmy, and unconsciously his hand sought the
spot where his dinner should have been, but Alfred was not to be

"A man needs someone around," he declared, "when he's going
through a thing like this. I need all of you, all of you," and
with his eyes he embraced the weary circle of faces about him.
"I feel as though I could go out of my head," he explained and
with that he began tucking the three small mites in the pink and
white crib designed for but one.

Zoie regarded him with a bored expression'

"You act as though you WERE out of your head," she commented, but
Alfred did not heed her. He was now engaged in the unhoped for
bliss of singing three babies to sleep with one lullaby.

The other occupants of the room were just beginning to relax and
to show some resemblance to their natural selves, when their
features were again simultaneously frozen by a ring at the
outside door.


Annoyed at being interrupted in the midst of his lullaby, to
three, Alfred looked up to see Maggie, hatless and out of breath,
bursting into the room, and destroying what was to him an ideally
tranquil home scene. But Maggie paid no heed to Alfred's look of
inquiry. She made directly for the side of Zoie's bed.

"If you plaze, mum," she panted, looking down at Zoie, and
wringing her hands.

"What is it?" asked Aggie, who had now reached the side of the

" 'Scuse me for comin' right in"--Maggie was breathing hard--"but
me mother sint me to tell you that me father is jus afther comin'
home from work, and he's fightin' mad about the babies, mum."

"Sh! Sh!" cautioned Aggie and Zoie, as they glanced nervously
toward Alfred who was rising from his place beside the cradle
with increasing interest in Maggie's conversation.

"Babies?" he repeated, "your father is mad about babies?"

"It's all right, dear," interrupted Zoie nervously; "you see,"
she went on to explain, pointing toward the trembling Maggie,
"this is our washerwoman's little girl. Our washerwoman has had
twins, too, and it made the wash late, and her husband is angry
about it."

"Oh," said Alfred, with a comprehensive nod, but Maggie was not
to be so easily disposed of.

"If you please, mum," she objected, "it ain't about the wash.
It's about our baby girls."

"Girls?" exclaimed Zoie involuntarily.

"Girls?" repeated Alfred, drawing himself up in the fond
conviction that all his heirs were boys, "No wonder your pa's
angry. I'd be angry too. Come now," he said to Maggie, patting
the child on the shoulder and regarding her indulgently, "you go
straight home and tell your father that what HE needs is BOYS."

"Well, of course, sir," answered the bewildered Maggie, thinking
that Alfred meant to reflect upon the gender of the offspring
donated by her parents, "if you ain't afther likin' girls, me
mother sint the money back," and with that she began to feel for
the pocket in her red flannel petticoat.

"The money?" repeated Alfred, in a puzzled way, "what money?"

It was again Zoie's time to think quickly.

"The money for the wash, dear," she explained.

"Nonsense!" retorted Alfred, positively beaming generosity, "who
talks of money at such a time as this?" And taking a ten dollar
bill from his pocket, he thrust it in Maggie's outstretched hand,
while she was trying to return to him the original purchase
money. "Here," he said to the astonished girl, "you take this to
your father. Tell him I sent it to him for his babies. Tell him
to start a bank account with it."

This was clearly not a case with which one small addled mind
could deal, or at least, so Maggie decided. She had a hazy idea
that Alfred was adding something to the original purchase price
of her young sisters, but she was quite at a loss to know how to
refuse the offer of such a "grand 'hoigh" gentleman, even though
her failure to do so would no doubt result in a beating when she
reached home. She stared at Alfred undecided what to do, the
money still lay in her outstretched hand.

"I'm afraid Pa'll niver loike it, sir," she said.

"Like it?" exclaimed Alfred in high feather, and he himself
closed her red little fingers over the bill, "he's GOT to like
it. He'll GROW to like it. Now you run along," he concluded to
Maggie, as he urged her toward the door, "and tell him what I

"Yes, sir," murmured Maggie, far from sharing Alfred's

Feeling no desire to renew his acquaintance with Maggie,
particularly under Alfred's watchful eye, Jimmy had sought his
old refuge, the high backed chair. As affairs progressed and
there seemed no doubt of Zoie's being able to handle the
situation to the satisfaction of all concerned, Jimmy allowed
exhaustion and the warmth of the firelight to have their way with
him. His mind wandered toward other things and finally into
space. His head dropped lower and lower on his chest; his
breathing became laboured-- so laboured in fact that it attracted
the attention of Maggie, who was about to pass him on her way to
the door.

"Sure an it's Mr. Jinks!" exclaimed Maggie. Then coming close
to the side of the unsuspecting sleeper, she hissed a startling
message in his ear. "Me mother said to tell you that me fadder's
hoppin' mad at you, sir."

Jimmy sat up and rubbed his eyes. He studied the young person at
his elbow, then he glanced at Alfred, utterly befuddled as to
what had happened while he had been on a journey to happier
scenes. Apparently Maggie was waiting for an answer to
something, but to what? Jimmy thought he detected an ominous look
in Alfred's eyes. Letting his hand fall over the arm of the
chair so that Alfred could not see it, Jimmy began to make
frantic signals to Maggie to depart; she stared at him the

"Go away," whispered Jimmy, but Maggie did not move. "Shoo,
shoo!" he said, and waved her off with his hand.

Puzzled by Jimmy's sudden aversion to this apparently harmless
child, Alfred turned to Maggie with a puckered brow.

"Your father's mad at Jimmy?" he repeated. "What about?"

For once Jimmy found it in his heart to be grateful to Zoie for
the prompt answer that came from her direction.

"The wash, dear," said Zoie to Alfred; "Jimmy had to go after the
wash," and then with a look which Maggie could not mistake for an
invitation to stop longer, Zoie called to her haughtily, "You
needn't wait, Maggie; we understand."

"Sure, an' it's more 'an I do," answered Maggie, and shaking her
head sadly, she slipped from the room.

But Alfred could not immediately dismiss from his mind the
picture of Maggie's inhuman parent.

"Just fancy," he said, turning his head to one side meditatively,
"fancy any man not liking to be the father of twins," and with
that he again bent over the cradle and surveyed its contents.
"Think, Jimmy," he said, when he had managed to get the three
youngsters in his arms, "just think of the way THAT father feels,
and then think of the way _I_ feel."

"And then think of the way _I_ feel," grumbled Jimmy.

"You!" exclaimed Alfred; "what have you to feel about?"

Before Jimmy could answer, the air was rent by a piercing scream
and a crash of glass from the direction of the inner rooms.

"What's that?" whispered Aggie, with an anxious glance toward

"Sounded like breaking glass," said Alfred.

"Burglars!" exclaimed Zoie, for want of anything better to

"Burglars?" repeated Alfred with a superior air; "nonsense!
Nonsense! Here," he said, turning to Jimmy, "you hold the boys
and I'll go see----" and before Jimmy was aware of the honour
about to be thrust upon him, he felt three red, spineless
morsels, wriggling about in his arms. He made what lap he could
for the armful, and sat up in a stiff, strained attitude on the
edge of the couch. In the meantime, Alfred had strode into the
adjoining room with the air of a conqueror. Aggie looked at
Zoie, with dreadful foreboding.

"You don't suppose it could be?" she paused.

"My baby!" shrieked the voice of the Italian mother from the
adjoining room. "Where IS he?"

Regardless of the discomfort of his three disgruntled charges,
Jimmy began to circle the room. So agitated was his mind that he
could scarcely hear Aggie, who was reporting proceedings from her
place at the bedroom door.

"She's come up the fire-escape," cried Aggie; "she's beating
Alfred to death."

"What?" shrieked Zoie, making a flying leap from her coverlets.

"She's locking him in the bathroom," declared Aggie, and with
that she disappeared from the room, bent on rescue.

"My Alfred!" cried Zoie, tragically, and she started in pursuit
of Aggie.

"Wait a minute," called Jimmy, who had not yet been able to find
a satisfactory place in which to deposit his armful of clothes
and humanity. "What shall I do with these things?"

"Eat 'em," was Zoie's helpful retort, as the trailing end of her
negligee disappeared from the room.


Now, had Jimmy been less perturbed during the latter part of this
commotion, he might have heard the bell of the outside door,
which had been ringing violently for some minutes. As it was, he
was wholly unprepared for the flying advent of Maggie.

"Oh, plaze, sir," she cried, pointing with trembling fingers
toward the babes in Jimmy's arms, "me fadder's coming right
behind me. He's a-lookin' for you sir."

"For me," murmured Jimmy, wondering vaguely why everybody on
earth seemed to be looking for HIM.

"Put 'em down, sir," cried Maggie, still pointing to the three
babies, "put 'em down. He's liable to wallop you."

"Put 'em where?" asked Jimmy, now utterly confused as to which
way to turn.

"There," said Maggie, and she pointed to the cradle beneath his
very eyes.

"Of course," said Jimmy vapidly, and he sank on his knees and
strove to let the wobbly creatures down easily.

Bang went the outside door.

"That's Pa now," cried Maggie. "Oh hide, sir, hide." And with
that disconcerting warning, she too deserted him.

"Hide where?" gasped Jimmy.

There was a moment's awful silence. Jimmy rose very cautiously
from the cradle, his eyes sought the armchair. It had always
betrayed him. He glanced toward the window. It was twelve
stories to the pavement. He looked towards the opposite door;
beyond that was the mad Italian woman. His one chance lay in
slipping unnoticed through the hallway; he made a determined dash
in that direction, but no sooner had he put his head through the
door, than he drew it back quickly. The conversation between
O'Flarety and the maid in the hallway was not reassuring. Jimmy
decided to take a chance with the Italian mother, and as fast as
he could, he streaked it toward the opposite door. The shrieks
and denunciations that he met from this direction were more
disconcerting than those of the Irish father. For an instant he
stood in the centre of the room, wavering as to which side to
surrender himself.

The thunderous tones of the enraged father drew nearer; he threw
himself on the floor and attempted to roll under the bed; the
space between the railing and the floor was far too narrow. Why
had he disregarded Aggie's advice as to diet? The knob of the
door handle was turning--he vaulted into the bed and drew the
covers over his head just as O'Flarety, trembling with
excitement, and pursued by Maggie, burst into the room.

"Lave go of me," cried O'Flarety to Maggie, who clung to his arm
in a vain effort to soothe him, and flinging her off, he made
straight for the bed.

"Ah," he cried, gazing with dilated nostrils at the trembling
object beneath the covers, "there you are, mum," and he shook his
fist above what he believed to be the cowardly Mrs. Hardy. "
'Tis well ye may cover up your head," said he, "for shame on yez!
Me wife may take in washing, but when I comes home at night I
wants me kids, and I'll be after havin' 'em too. Where ar'
they?" he demanded. Then getting no response from the agitated
covers, he glanced wildly about the room. "Glory be to God!" he
exclaimed as his eyes fell on the crib; but he stopped short in
astonishment, when upon peering into it, he found not one, or
two, but three "barren."

"They're child stalers, that's what they are," he declared to
Maggie, as he snatched Bridget and Norah to his no doubt
comforting breast. "Me little Biddy," he crooned over his much
coveted possession. "Me little Norah," he added fondly, looking
down at his second. The thought of his narrow escape from losing
these irreplaceable treasures rekindled his wrath. Again he
strode toward the bed and looked down at the now semi-quiet

"The black heart of ye, mum," he roared, then ordering Maggie to
give back "every penny of that shameless creetur's money" he
turned toward the door.

So intense had been O'Flarety's excitement and so engrossed was
he in his denunciation that he had failed to see the wild-eyed
Italian woman rushing toward him from the opposite door.

"You, you!" cried the frenzied woman and, to O'Flarety's
astonishment, she laid two strong hands upon his arm and drew him
round until he faced her. "Where are you going with my baby?"
she asked, then peering into the face of the infant nearest to
her, she uttered a disappointed moan. " 'Tis not my baby!" she
cried. She scanned the face of the second infant--again she

Having begun to identify this hysterical creature as the possible
mother of the third infant, O'Flarety jerked his head in the
direction of the cradle.

"I guess you'll find what you're lookin' for in there," he said.
Then bidding Maggie to "git along out o' this" and shrugging his
shoulders to convey his contempt for the fugitive beneath the
coverlet, he swept quickly from the room.

Clasping her long-sought darling to her heart and weeping with
delight, the Italian mother was about to follow O'Flarety through
the door when Zoie staggered into the room, weak and exhausted.

"You, you!" called the indignant Zoie to the departing mother.
"How dare you lock my husband in the bathroom?" She pointed to
the key, which the woman still unconsciously clasped in her hand.
"Give me that key," she demanded, "give it to me this instant."

"Take your horrid old key," said the mother, and she threw it on
the floor. "If you ever try to get my baby again, I'll lock your
husband in JAIL," and murmuring excited maledictions in her
native tongue, she took her welcome departure.

Zoie stooped for the key, one hand to her giddy head, but Aggie,
who had just returned to the room, reached the key first and
volunteered to go to the aid of the captive Alfred, who was
pounding desperately on the bathroom door and demanding his
instant release.

"I'll let him out," said Aggie. "You get into bed," and she
slipped quickly from the room.

Utterly exhausted and half blind with fatigue Zoie lifted the
coverlet and slipped beneath it. Her first sensation was of
touching something rough and scratchy, then came the awful
conviction that the thing against which she lay was alive.

Without stopping to investigate the identity of her uninvited
bed-fellow, or even daring to look behind her, Zoie fled from the
room emitting a series of screams that made all her previous
efforts in that direction seem mere baby cries. So completely
had Jimmy been enveloped in the coverlets and for so long a time
that he had acquired a vague feeling of aloftness toward the rest
of his fellows, and had lost all knowledge of their goings and
comings. But when his unexpected companion was thrust upon him
he was galvanised into sudden action by her scream, and swathed
in a large pink comforter, he rolled ignominiously from the upper
side of the bed, where he lay on the floor panting and enmeshed,
awaiting further developments. Of one thing he was certain, a
great deal had transpired since he had sought the friendly solace
of the covers and he had no mind to lose so good a friend as the
pink comforter. By the time he had summoned sufficient courage
to peep from under its edge, a babel of voices was again drawing
near, and he hastily drew back in his shell and waited.

Not daring to glance at the scene of her fright, Zoie pushed
Aggie before her into the room and demanded that she look in the

Seeing the bed quite empty and noticing nothing unusual in the
fact that the pink comforter, along with other covers, had
slipped down behind it, Aggie hastened to reassure her terrified

"You imagined it, Zoie," she declared, "look for yourself."

Zoie's small face peeped cautiously around the edge of the

"Well, perhaps I did," she admitted; then she slipped gingerly
into the room, "my nerves are jumping like fizzy water."

They were soon to "jump" more, for at this instant, Alfred,
burning with anger at the indignity of having been locked in the
bathroom, entered the room, demanding to know the whereabouts of
the lunatic mother, who had dared to make him a captive in his
own house.

"Where is she?" he called to Zoie and Aggie, and his eye roved
wildly about the room. Then his mind reverted with anxiety to
his newly acquired offspring. "My boys!" he cried, and he rushed
toward the crib. "They're gone!" he declared tragically.

"Gone?" echoed Aggie.

"Not ALL of them," said Zoie.

"All," insisted Alfred, and his hands went distractedly toward
his head. "She's taken them all."

Zoie and Aggie looked at each other in a dazed way. They had a
hazy recollection of having seen one babe disappear with the
Italian woman, but what had become of the other two?

"Where did they go?" asked Aggie.

"I don't know," said Zoie, with the first truth she had spoken
that night, "I left them with Jimmy."

"Jimmy!" shrieked Alfred, and a diabolical light lit his
features. "Jimmy!" he snorted, with sudden comprehension, "then
he's at it again. He's crazy as she is. This is inhuman. This
joke has got to stop!" And with that decision he started toward
the outer door.

"But Allie!" protested Zoie, really alarmed by the look that she
saw on his face.

Alfred turned to his trembling wife with suppressed excitement,
and patted her shoulder condescendingly.

"Control yourself, my dear," he said. "Control yourself; I'll
get your babies for you--trust me, I'll get them. And then," he
added with parting emphasis from the doorway, "I'll SETTLE WITH

By uncovering one eye, Jimmy could now perceive that Zoie and
Aggie were engaged in a heated argument at the opposite side of
the room. By uncovering one ear he learned that they were
arranging a line of action for him immediately upon his
reappearance. He determined not to wait for the details.

Fixing himself cautiously on all fours, and making sure that he
was well covered by the pink comforter, he began to crawl slowly
toward the bedroom door.

Turning away from Aggie with an impatient exclamation, Zoie
suddenly beheld what seemed to her a large pink monster with
protruding claws wriggling its way hurriedly toward the inner

"Look!" she screamed, and pointing in horror toward the dreadful
creature now dragging itself across the threshold, she sank
fainting into Aggie's outstretched arms.


Having dragged the limp form of her friend to the near-by couch,
Aggie was bending over her to apply the necessary restoratives,
when Alfred returned in triumph. He was followed by the officer
in whose arms were three infants, and behind whom was the irate
O'Flarety, the hysterical Italian woman, and last of all, Maggie.

"Bring them all in here, officer," called Alfred over his
shoulder. "I'll soon prove to you whose babies those are." Then
turning to Aggie, who stood between him and the fainting Zoie he
cried triumphantly, "I've got them Aggie, I've got them." He
glanced toward the empty bed. "Where's Zoie?" he asked.

"She's fainted," said Aggie, and stepping from in front of the
young wife, she pointed toward the couch.

"Oh, my darling!" cried Alfred, with deep concern as he rushed to
Zoie and began frantically patting her hands. "My poor
frightened darling!" Then he turned to the officer, his sense of
injury welling high within him, "You see what these people have
done to my wife? She's fainted." Ignoring the uncomplimentary
remarks of O'Flarety, he again bent over Zoie.

"Rouse yourself, my dear," he begged of her. "Look at me," he
pleaded. "Your babies are safe."

"HER babies!" snorted O'Flarety, unable longer to control his
pent up indignation.

"I'll let you know when I want to hear from you," snarled the
officer to O'Flarety.

"But they're NOT her babies," protested the Italian woman

"Cut it," shouted the officer, and with low mutterings, the
outraged parents were obliged to bide their time.

Lifting Zoie to a sitting posture Alfred fanned her gently until
she regained her senses. "Your babies are all right," he assured
her. "I've brought them all back to you."

"All?" gasped Zoie weakly, and she wondered what curious fate had
been intervening to assist Alfred in such a prodigious

"Yes, dear," said Alfred, "every one," and he pointed toward the
three infants in the officer's arms. "See, dear, see."

Zoie turned her eyes upon what SEEMED to her numberless red
faces. "Oh!" she moaned and again she swooned.

"I told you she'd be afraid to face us," shouted the now
triumphant O'Flarety.

"You brute!" retorted the still credulous Alfred, "how dare you
persecute this poor demented mother?"

Alfred's persistent solicitude for Zoie was too much for the
resentful Italian woman.

"She didn't persecute me, oh no!" she exclaimed sarcastically.

"Keep still, you!" commanded the officer.

Again Zoie was reviving and again Alfred lifted her in his arms
and begged her to assure the officer that the babies in question
were hers.

"Let's hear her SAY it," demanded O'Flarety.

"You SHALL hear her," answered Alfred, with confidence. Then he
beckoned to the officer to approach, explaining that Zoie was
very weak.

"Sure," said the officer; then planting himself directly in front
of Zoie's half closed eyes, he thrust the babies upon her

"Look, Zoie!" pleaded Alfred. "Look!"

Zoie opened her eyes to see three small red faces immediately
opposite her own.

"Take them away!" she cried, with a frantic wave of her arm,
"take them away!"

"What?" exclaimed Alfred in astonishment.

"What did I tell you?" shouted O'Flarety. This hateful reminder
brought Alfred again to the protection of his young and
defenceless wife.

"The excitement has unnerved her," he said to the officer.

"Ain't you about done with my kids?" asked O'Flarety, marvelling
how any man with so little penetration as the officer, managed to
hold down a "good payin' job."

"What do you want for your proof anyway?" asked the mother. But
Alfred's faith in the validity of his new parenthood was not to
be so easily shaken.

"My wife is in no condition to be questioned," he declared.
"She's out of her head, and if you don't----"

He stepped suddenly, for without warning, the door was thrown
open and a second officer strode into their midst dragging by the
arm the reluctant Jimmy.

"I guess I've got somethin' here that you folks need in your
business," he called, nodding toward the now utterly demoralised

"Jimmy!" exclaimed Aggie, having at last got her breath.

"The Joker!" cried Alfred, bearing down upon the panting Jimmy
with a ferocious expression.

"I caught him slipping down the fire-escape," explained the

"Again?" exclaimed Aggie and Alfred in tones of deep reproach.

"Jimmy," said Alfred, coming close to his friend, and fixing his
eyes upon him in a determined effort to control the poor
creature's fast failing faculties, "you know the truth of this
thing. You are the one who sent me that telegram, you are the
one who told me that I was a father."

"Well, aren't you a father?" asked Aggie, trying to protect her
dejected spouse.

"Of course I am," replied Alfred, with every confidence, "but I
have to prove it to the officer. Jimmy knows," he concluded.
Then turning to the uncomfortable man at his side, he demanded
imperatively, "Tell the officer the truth, you idiot. No more of
your jokes. Am I a father or am I not?"

"If you're depending on ME for your future offspring," answered
Jimmy, wagging his head with the air of a man reckless of
consequences, "you are NOT a father."

"Depending on YOU?" gasped Alfred, and he stared at his friend in
bewilderment. "What do you mean by that?"

"Ask them," answered Jimmy, and he nodded toward Zoie and Aggie.

Alfred appealed to Aggie.

"Ask Zoie," said Aggie.

Alfred bent over the form of the again prostrate Zoie. "My
darling," he entreated, "rouse yourself." Slowly she opened her
eyes. "Now," said Alfred, with enforced self-control, "you must
look the officer squarely in the eye and tell him whose babies
those are," and he nodded toward the officer, who was now
beginning to entertain grave doubts on the subject.

"How should _I_ know?" cried Zoie, too exhausted for further

"What!" exclaimed Alfred, his hand on his forehead.

"I only borrowed them," said Zoie, "to get you home," and with
that she sank back on the couch and closed her eyes.

"What did I tell you?" cried the triumphant O'Flarety.

"I guess they're your'n all right," admitted the officer
doggedly, and he grudgingly released the three infants to their
rightful parents.

"I guess they'd better be," shouted O'Flarety; then he and the
Italian woman made for the door with their babes pressed close to
their hearts.

"Wait a minute," cried Alfred. "I want an understanding."

O'Flarety turned in the doorway and raised a warning fist.

"If you don't leave my kids alone, you'll GIT 'an understanding.'

"Me too," added the mother.

"On your way," commanded the officer to the pair of them, and
together with Maggie and the officer, they disappeared forever
from the Hardy household.

Alfred gazed about the room. "My God!" he exclaimed; then he
turned to Jimmy who was still in the custody of the second
officer: "If I'm not a father, what am I?"

"I'd hate to tell you," was Jimmy's unsympathetic reply, and in
utter dejection Alfred sank on the foot of the bed and buried his
head in his hands.

"What shall I do with this one, sir?" asked the officer,
undecided as to Jimmy's exact standing in the household.

"Shoot him, for all I care," groaned Alfred, and he rocked to and

"How ungrateful!" exclaimed Aggie, then she signalled to the
officer to go.

"No more of your funny business," said the officer with a parting
nod at Jimmy and a vindictive light in his eyes when he
remembered the bruises that Jimmy had left on his shins.

"Oh, Jimmy!" said Aggie sympathetically, and she pressed her hot
face against his round apoplectic cheek. "You poor dear! And
after all you have done for us!"

"Yes," sneered Zoie, having regained sufficient strength to
stagger to her feet, "he's done a lot, hasn't he?" And then
forgetting that her original adventure with Jimmy which had
brought about such disastrous results was still unknown to Aggie
and Alfred, she concluded bitterly, "All this would never have
happened, if it hadn't been for Jimmy and his horrid old

Jimmy was startled. This was too much, and just as he had seemed
to be well out of complications for the remainder of his no doubt
short life. He turned to bolt for the door but Aggie's eyes were
upon him.

"Luncheon?" exclaimed Aggie and she regarded him with a puzzled

Zoie's hand was already over her lips, but too late.

Recovering from his somewhat bewildering sense of loss, Alfred,
too, was now beginning to sit up and take notice.

"What luncheon?" he demanded.

Zoie gazed from Alfred to Aggie, then at Jimmy, then resolving to
make a clean breast of the matter, she sidled toward Alfred with
her most ingratiating manner.

"Now, Alfred," she purred, as she endeavoured to act one arm
about his unsuspecting neck, "if you'll only listen, I'll tell
you the REAL TRUTH."

A wild despairing cry from Alfred, a dash toward the door by
Jimmy, and a determined effort on Aggie's part to detain her
spouse, temporarily interrupted Zoie's narrative.

But in spite of these discouragements, Zoie did eventually tell
Alfred the real truth, and before the sun had risen on the
beginning of another day, she had added to her confession,
promises whose happy fulfillment was evidenced for many years
after by the chatter of glad young voices, up and down the
stairway of Alfred's new suburban home, and the flutter of golden
curls in and out amongst the sunlight and shadows of his ample,
well kept grounds.

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