Part 3 out of 4
"Wait, Jimmy," commanded Aggie. But it was not until she had
laid firm hold of him that he waited.
Surprised by such strange behaviour on the part of those whom she
considered her superiors, Maggie looked first at Aggie, then at
Jimmy, then at Zoie, uncertain whether to go or to stay.
"Anythin' to go back, mum?" she stammered.
Zoie stared at Maggie solemnly from across the foot of the bed.
"Maggie," she asked in a deep, sepulchral tone, "where do you
"Just around the corner on High Street, mum," gasped Maggie.
Then, keeping her eyes fixed uneasily on Zoie she picked up her
basket and backed cautiously toward the door.
"Wait!" commanded Zoie; and Maggie paused, one foot in mid-air.
"Wait in the hall," said Zoie.
"Yes'um," assented Maggie, almost in a whisper. Then she nodded
her head jerkily, cast another furtive glance at the three
persons who were regarding her so strangely, and slipped quickly
through the door.
Having crossed the room and stealthily closed the door, Aggie
returned to Jimmy, who was watching her with the furtive
expression of a trapped animal.
"It's Providence," she declared, with a grave countenance.
Jimmy looked up at Aggie with affected innocence, then rolled his
round eyes away from her. He was confronted by Zoie, who had
approached from the opposite side of the room.
"It's Fate," declared Zoie, in awe-struck tones.
Jimmy was beginning to wriggle, but he kept up a last desperate
presence of not understanding them.
"You needn't tell me I'm going to take the wash to the old lady,"
he said, "for I'm not going to do it."
"It isn't the WASH," said Aggie, and her tone warned him that she
expected no nonsense from him.
"You know what we are thinking about just as well as we do," said
Zoie. "I'll write that washerwoman a note and tell her we must
have one of those babies right now." And with that she turned
toward her desk and began rummaging amongst her papers for a
pencil and pad. "The luck of these poor," she murmured.
"The luck of US," corrected Aggie, whose spirits were now
soaring. Then she turned to Jimmy with growing enthusiasm.
"Just think of it, dear," she said, "Fate has sent us a baby to
our very door."
"Well," declared Jimmy, again beginning to show signs of fight,
"if Fate has sent a baby to the door, you don't need me," and
with that he snatched his coat from the crib.
"Wait, Jimmy," again commanded Aggie, and she took his coat
gently but firmly from him.
"Now, see here," argued Jimmy, trying to get free from his
strong-minded spouse, "you know perfectly well that that
washerwoman isn't going to let us have that baby."
"Nonsense," called Zoie over her shoulder, while she scribbled a
hurried note to the washerwoman. "If she won't let us have it
'for keeps,' I'll just 'rent it.' "
"Good Lord!" exclaimed Jimmy in genuine horror. "Warm, fresh,
palpitating babies rented as you would rent a gas stove!"
"That's all a pose," declared Aggie, in a matter-of-fact tone.
"You think babies 'little red worms,' you've said so."
Jimmy could not deny it.
"She'll be only too glad to rent it," declared Zoie, as she
glanced hurriedly through the note just written, and slipped it,
together with a bill, into an envelope. "I'll pay her anything.
It's only until I can get another one."
"Another!" shouted Jimmy, and his eyes turned heavenward for
help. "An endless chain with me to put the links together!"
"Don't be so theatrical," said Aggie, irritably, as she took up
Jimmy's coat and prepared to get him into it.
"Why DO you make such a fuss about NOTHING," sighed Zoie.
"Nothing?" echoed Jimmy, and he looked at her with wondering
eyes. "I crawl about like a thief in the night snatching babies
from their mother's breasts, and you call THAT nothing?"
"You don't have to 'CRAWL,' " reminded Zoie, "you can take a
"Here's your coat, dear," said Aggie graciously, as she
endeavoured to slip Jimmy's limp arms into the sleeves of the
"You can take Maggie with you," said Zoie, with the air of
conferring a distinct favour upon him.
"And the wash on my lap," added Jimmy sarcastically.
"No," said Zoie, unruffled by Jimmy's ungracious behaviour.
"We'll send the wash later."
"That's very kind of you," sneered Jimmy, as he unconsciously
allowed his arms to slip into the sleeves of the coat Aggie was
urging upon him.
"All you need to do," said Aggie complacently, "is to get us the
"Yes," said Jimmy, "and what do you suppose my friends would say
if they were to see me riding around town with the wash-lady's
daughter and a baby on my lap? What would YOU say?" he asked
Aggie, "if you didn't know the facts?"
"Nobody's going to see you," answered Aggie impatiently; "it's
only around the corner. Go on, Jimmy, be a good boy."
"You mean a good thing," retorted Jimmy without budging from the
"How ridiculous!" exclaimed Zoie; "it's as easy as can be."
"Yes, the FIRST one SOUNDED easy, too," said Jimmy.
"All you have to do," explained Zoie, trying to restrain her
rising intolerance of his stupidity, "is to give this note to
Maggie's mother. She'll give you her baby, you bring it back
here, we'll give you THIS one, and you can take it right back to
"And meet the other mother," concluded Jimmy with a shake of his
There was a distinct threat in Zoie's voice when she again
addressed the stubborn Jimmy and the glitter of triumph was in
"You'd better meet here THERE than HERE," she warned him; "you
know what the Superintendent said."
"That's true," agreed Aggie with an anxious face. "Come now,"
she pleaded, "it will only take a minute; you can do the whole
thing before you have had time to think."
"Before I have had time to think," repeated Jimmy excitedly.
"That's how you get me to do everything. Well, this time I've
HAD time to think and I don't think I will!" and with that he
threw himself upon the couch, unmindful of the damage to the
freshly laundered clothes.
"Get up," cried Zoie.
"You haven't time to sit down," said Aggie.
"I'll TAKE time," declared Jimmy. His eyes blinked ominously and
he remained glued to the couch.
There was a short silence; the two women gazed at Jimmy in
despair. Remembering a fresh grievance, Jimmy turned upon them.
"By the way," he said, "do you two know that I haven't had
anything to eat yet?"
"And do you know," said Zoie, "that Alfred may be back at any
minute? He can't stay away forever."
"Not unless he has cut his throat," rejoined Jimmy, "and that's
what I'd do if I had a razor."
Zoie regarded Jimmy as though he were beyond redemption. "Can't
you ever think of anybody but yourself?" she asked, with a
Had Jimmy been half his age, Aggie would have felt sure that she
saw him make a face at her friend for answer. As it was, she
resolved to make one last effort to awaken her unobliging spouse
to a belated sense of duty.
"You see, dear," she said, "you might better get the
washerwoman's baby than to go from house to house for one," and
she glanced again toward the paper.
"Yes," urged Zoie, "and that's just what you'll HAVE to do, if
you don't get this one."
Jimmy's head hung dejectedly. It was apparent that his courage
was slipping from him. Aggie was quick to realise her
opportunity, and before Jimmy could protect himself from her
treacherous wiles, she had slipped one arm coyly about his neck.
"Now, Jimmy," she pleaded as she pressed her soft cheek to his
throbbing temple, and toyed with the bay curl on his perspiring
forehead, "wont you do this little teeny-weepy thing just for
Jimmy's lips puckered in a pout; he began to blink nervously.
Aggie slipped her other arm about his neck.
"You know," she continued with a baby whine, "I got Zoie into
this, and I've just got to get her out of it. You're not going
to desert me, are you, Jimmy? You WILL help me, won't you, dear?"
Her breath was on Jimmy's cheek; he could feel her lips stealing
closer to his. He had not been treated to much affection of
late. His head drooped lower--he began to twiddle the fob on his
watch chain. "Won't you?" persisted Aggie.
Jimmy studied the toes of his boots.
"Won't you?" she repeated, and her soft eyelashes just brushed
the tip of his retrousee nose.
Jimmy's head was now wagging from side to side.
"Won't you?" she entreated a fourth time, and she kissed him full
on the lips.
With a resigned sigh, Jimmy rose mechanically from the heap of
crushed laundry and held out his fat chubby hand.
"Give me the letter," he groaned.
"Here you are," said Zoie, taking Jimmy's acquiescence as a
matter of course; and she thrust the letter into the pocket of
Jimmy's ulster. "Now, when you get back with the baby," she
continued, "don't come in all of a sudden; just wait outside and
whistle. You CAN WHISTLE, can't you?" she asked with a doubtful
For answer, Jimmy placed two fingers between his lips and
produced a shrill whistle that made both Zoie and Aggie glance
nervously toward Alfred's bedroom door.
"Yes, you can WHISTLE," admitted Zoie, then she continued her
directions. "If Alfred is not in the room, I'll raise the shade
and you can come right up."
"And if he is in the room?" asked Jimmy with a fine shade of
"If he IS in the room," explained Zoie, "you must wait outside
until I can get rid of him."
Jimmy turned his eyes toward Aggie to ask if it were possible
that she still approved of Zoie's inhuman plan. For answer Aggie
stroked his coat collar fondly.
"We'll give you the signal the moment the coast is clear," she
said, then she hurriedly buttoned Jimmy's large ulster and wound
a muffler about his neck. "There now, dear, do go, you're all
buttoned up," and with that she urged him toward the door.
"Just a minute," protested Jimmy, as he paused on the threshold.
"Let me get this right, if the shade is up, I stay down."
"Not at all," corrected Aggie and Zoie in a breath. "If the
shade is up, you come up."
Jimmy cast another martyred look in Zoie's direction.
"You won't hurry will you?" he said, "you know it is only
twenty-three below zero and I haven't had anything to eat
"Yes, we know," interrupted the two women in chorus, and then
Aggie added wearily, "go on, Jimmy; don't be funny."
"Funny?" snorted Jimmy. "With a baby on my lap and the wash
lady's daughter, I won't be funny, oh no!"
It is doubtful whether Jimmy would not have worked himself into
another state of open rebellion had not Aggie put an end to his
protests by thrusting him firmly out of the room and closing the
door behind him. After this act of heroic decision on her part,
the two women listened intently, fearing that he might return;
but presently they heard the bang of the outer door, and at last
they drew a long breath of relief. For the first time since
Alfred's arrival, Aggie was preparing to sink into a chair, when
she was startled by a sharp exclamation from Zoie.
"Good heavens," cried Zoie, "I forgot to ask Maggie."
"Ask her what?" questioned Aggie.
"Boys or girls," said Zoie, with a solemn look toward the door
through which Jimmy had just disappeared.
"Well," decided Aggie, after a moment's reflection, "it's too
late now. Anyway," she concluded philosophically, "we couldn't
With more or less damage to himself consequent on his excitement,
Alfred completed his shaving and hastened to return to his wife
and the babe. Finding the supposedly ill Zoie careering about
the centre of the room expostulating with Aggie, the young man
stopped dumbfounded on the threshold.
"Zoie," he cried in astonishment. "What are you doing out of
For an instant the startled Zoie gazed at him stupefied.
"Why, I--I----" Her eyes sought Aggie's for a suggestion; there
was no answer there. It was not until her gaze fell upon the
cradle that she was seized by the desired inspiration.
"I just got up to see baby," she faltered, then putting one hand
giddily to her head, she pretended to sway.
In an instant Alfred's arms were about her. He bore her quickly
to the bed. "You stay here, my darling," he said tenderly.
"I'll bring baby to you," and after a solicitous caress he turned
toward baby's crib and bent fondly over the little one. "Ah,
there's father's man," he said. "Was he lonesome baby? Oh,
goodis g'acious," then followed an incoherent muttering of baby
talk, as he bore the youngster toward Zoie's bed. "Come, my
precious," he called to Zoie, as he sank down on the edge of the
bed. "See mother's boy."
"Mother!" shrieked Zoie in horror. It had suddenly dawned upon
her that this was the name by which Alfred would no doubt call
her for the rest of her life. She almost detested him.
But Alfred did not see the look of disgust on Zoie's face. He
was wholly absorbed by baby.
"What a funny face," he cooed as he pinched the youngster's
cheek. "Great Scott, what a grip," he cried as the infant's
fingers closed around his own. "Will you look at the size of
those hands," he exclaimed.
Zoie and Aggie exchanged worried glances; the baby had no doubt
inherited his large hands from his mother.
"Say, Aggie," called Alfred, "what are all of these little specks
on baby's forehead?" He pointed toward the infant's brow. "One,
two, three," he counted.
Zoie was becoming more and more uncomfortable at the close
proximity of the little stranger.
"Oh," said Aggie, with affected carelessness as she leaned over
Alfred's shoulder and glanced at baby's forehead. "That is just
a little rash."
"A rash!" exclaimed Alfred excitedly, "that's dangerous, isn't
it? We'd better call up the doctor." And he rose and started
hurriedly toward the telephone, baby in arms.
"Don't be silly," called Zoie, filled with vague alarm at the
thought of the family physician's appearance and the explanations
that this might entail.
Stepping between Alfred and the 'phone, Aggie protested
frantically. "You see, Alfred," she said, "it is better to have
the rash OUT, it won't do any harm unless it turns IN."
"He's perfectly well," declared Zoie, "if you'll only put him in
his crib and leave him alone."
Alfred looked down at his charge. "Is that right, son?" he
asked, and he tickled the little fellow playfully in the ribs.
"I'll tell you what," he called over his shoulder to Zoie, "he's
a fine looking boy." And then with a mysterious air, he nodded
to Aggie to approach. "Whom does he look like?" he asked.
Again Zoie sat up in anxiety. Aggie glanced at her, uncertain
what answer to make.
"I--I hadn't thought," she stammered weakly.
"Go on, go on," exclaimed the proud young father, "you can't tell
me that you can look at that boy and not see the resemblance."
"To whom?" asked Aggie, half fearfully.
"Why," said Alfred, "he's the image of Zoie."
Zoie gazed at the puckered red face in Alfred's arms. "What!"
she shrieked in disgust, then fall back on her pillows and drew
the lace coverlet over her face.
Mistaking Zoie's feeling for one of embarrassment at being
over-praised, Alfred bore the infant to her bedside. "See,
dear," he persisted, "see for yourself, look at his forehead."
"I'd rather look at you," pouted Zoie, peeping from beneath the
coverlet, "if you would only put that thing down for a minute."
"Thing?" exclaimed Alfred, as though doubting his own ears. But
before he could remonstrate further, Zoie's arms were about his
neck and she was pleading jealously for his attention.
"Please, Alfred," she begged, "I have scarcely had a look at you,
Alfred shook his head and turned to baby with an indulgent smile.
It was pleasant to have two such delightful creatures bidding for
his entire attention.
"Dear me," he said to baby. "Dear me, tink of mudder wanting to
look at a big u'gy t'ing like fadder, when she could look at a
'itty witty t'ing like dis," and he rose and crossed to the crib
where he deposited the small creature with yet more gurgling and
Zoie's dreams of rapture at Alfred's home coming had not included
such divided attention as he was now showing her and she was
growing more and more desperate at the turn affairs had taken.
She resolved to put a stop to his nonsense and to make him
realise that she and no one else was the lode star of his
existence. She beckoned to Aggie to get out of the room and to
leave her a clear field and as soon as her friend had gone
quietly into the next room, she called impatiently to Alfred who
was still cooing rapturously over the young stranger. Finding
Alfred deaf to her first entreaty, Zoie shut her lips hard,
rearranged her pretty head-dress, drew one fascinating little
curl down over her shoulder, reknotted the pink ribbon of her
negligee, and then issued a final and imperious order for her
husband to attend her.
"Yes, yes, dear," answered Alfred, with a shade of impatience.
"I'm coming, I'm coming." And bidding a reluctant farewell to
the small person in the crib, he crossed to her side.
Zoie caught Alfred's hand and drew him down to her; he smiled
"Well," he said in the patronising tone that Zoie always
resented. "How is hubby's little girl?"
"It's about time," pouted Zoie, "that you made a little fuss over
me for a change."
"My own!" murmured Alfred. He stooped to kiss the eager lips,
but just as his young wife prepared to lend herself to his long
delayed embrace, his mind was distracted by an uneasy thought.
"Do you think that Baby is----"
He was not permitted to finish the sentence.
Zoie drew him back to her with a sharp exclamation.
"Think of ME for a while," she commanded.
"My darling," expostulated Alfred with a shade of surprise at her
vehemence. "How could I think of anyone else?" Again he stooped
to embrace her and again his mind was directed otherwise. "I
wonder if Baby is warm enough," he said and attempted to rise.
"Wonder about ME for a while," snapped Zoie, clinging to him
Again Alfred looked at her in amazement. Was it possible there
was anything besides Baby worth wondering about? Whether there
was or not, Zoie was no longer to be resisted and with a last
regretful look at the crib, he resigned himself to giving his
entire attention to his spoiled young wife.
Gratified by her hard-won conquest, Zoie now settled herself in
"You haven't told me what you did all the time that you were
away," she reminded him.
"Oh, there was plenty to do," answered Alfred.
"Did you think of me every minute?" she asked jealously.
"That would be telling," laughed Alfred, as he pinched her small
"I wish to be 'told,' " declared Zoie; "I don't suppose you
realise it, but if I were to live a THOUSAND YEARS, I'd never be
quite sure what you did during those FEW MONTHS."
"It was nothing that you wouldn't have been proud of," answered
Alfred, with an unconscious expansion of his chest.
"Do you love me as much as ever?" asked Zoie.
"Behave yourself," answered Alfred, trying not to appear
flattered by the discovery that his absence had undoubtedly
caused her great uneasiness.
"Well, SAY it!" demanded Zoie.
"You know I do," answered Alfred, with the diffidence of a school
"Then kiss me," concluded Zoie, with an air of finality that left
Alfred no alternative.
As a matter of fact, Alfred was no longer seeking an alternative.
He was again under the spell of his wife's adorable charms and he
kissed her not once, but many times.
"Foolish child," he murmured, then he laid her tenderly against
the large white pillows, remonstrating with her for being so
spoiled, and cautioning her to be a good little girl while he
went again to see about Baby.
Zoie clung to his hand and feigned approaching tears.
"You aren't thinking of me at all?" she pouted. "And kisses are
no good unless you put your whole mind on them. Give me a real
kiss!" she pleaded.
Again Alfred stooped to humour the small importunate person who
was so jealous of his every thought, but just as his lips touched
her forehead his ear was arrested by a sound as yet new both to
him and to Zoie. He lifted his head and listened.
"What was that?" he asked.
"I don't know," answered Zoie, wondering if the cat could have
got into the room.
A redoubled effort on the part of the young stranger directed
their attention in the right direction.
"My God!" exclaimed Alfred tragically, "it's Baby. He's crying."
And with that, he rushed to the crib and clasped the small mite
close to his breast, leaving Zoie to pummel the pillows in an
agony of vexation.
After vain cajoling of the angry youngster, Alfred bore him
excitedly to Zoie's bedside.
"You'd better take him, dear," he said.
To the young husband's astonishment, Zoie waved him from her in
terror, and called loudly for Aggie. But no sooner had Aggie
appeared on the scene, than a sharp whistle was heard from the
"Pull down the shade!" cried Zoie frantically.
Aggie hastened toward the window.
Attributing Zoie's uneasiness to a caprice of modesty, Alfred
turned from the cradle to reassure her.
"No one can see in way up here," he said.
To Zoie's distress, the lowering of the shade was answered by a
yet shriller whistle from the street below.
"Was it 'up' or 'down'?" cried Zoie to Aggie in an agony of
doubt, as she tried to recall her instructions to Jimmy.
"I don't know," answered Aggie. "I've forgotten."
Another impatient whistle did not improve their memory. Alarmed
by Zoie's increasing excitement, and thinking she was troubled
merely by a sick woman's fancy that someone might see through the
window, Alfred placed the babe quickly in its cradle and crossed
to the young wife's bed.
"It was up, dear," he said. "You had Aggie put it down."
"Then I want it up," declared the seemingly perverse Zoie.
"But it was up," argued Alfred.
A succession of emotional whistles set Zoie to pounding the
"Put it down!" she commanded.
"But Zoie----" protested Alfred.
"Did I say 'up' or did I say 'down'?" moaned the half-demented
Zoie, while long whistles and short whistles, appealing whistles
and impatient whistles followed each other in quick succession.
"You said down, dear," persisted Alfred, now almost as distracted
as his wife.
Zoie waved him from the room. "I wish you'd get out of here,"
she cried; "you make me so nervous that I can't think at all."
"Of course, dear," murmured Alfred, "if you wish it." And with a
hurt and perplexed expression on his face he backed quickly from
When Zoie's letter asking for the O'Flarety twin had reached that
young lady's astonished mother, Mrs. O'Flarety felt herself
suddenly lifted to a position of importance.
"Think of the purty Mrs. Hardy a wantin' my little Bridget," she
exclaimed, and she began to dwell upon the romantic possibilities
of her offspring's future under the care of such a "foine stylish
lady and concluded by declaring it 'a lucky day entoirely.' "
Jimmy had his misgivings about it being Bridget's "LUCKY day,"
but it was not for him to delay matters by dwelling upon the
eccentricities of Zoie's character, and when Mrs. O'Flarety had
deposited Bridget in Jimmy's short arms and slipped a well filled
nursing bottle into his overcoat pocket, he took his leave
hastily, lest the excited woman add Bridget's twin to her willing
Once out of sight of the elated mother, Jimmy thrust the
defenceless Bridget within the folds of his already snug ulster,
buttoned the garment in such places as it would meet, and made
for the taxi which, owing to the upset condition of the street,
he had been obliged to abandon at the corner.
Whether the driver had obtained a more promising "fare" or been
run in by the police, Jimmy never knew. At any rate it was in
vain that he looked for his vehicle. So intense was the cold
that it was impossible to wait for a chance taxi; furthermore,
the meanness of the district made it extremely unlikely that one
would appear, and glancing guiltily behind him to make sure that
no one was taking cognisance of his strange exploit, Jimmy began
picking his way along dark lanes and avoiding the lighted
thoroughfare on which the "Sherwood" was situated, until he was
within a block of his destination.
Panting with haste and excitement, he eventually gained courage
to dash through a side street that brought him within a few doors
of the "Sherwood." Again glancing behind him, he turned the well
lighted corner and arrived beneath Zoie's window to find one
shade up and one down. In his perplexity he emitted a faint
whistle. Immediately he saw the other shade lowered. Uncertain
as to what arrangement he had actually made with Zoie, he
ventured a second whistle. The result was a hysterical running
up and down of the shade which left him utterly bewildered as to
what disposition he was supposed to make of the wobbly bit of
humanity pressed against his shirt front.
Reaching over his artificially curved figure to grasp a bit of
white that trailed below his coat, he looked up to see a passing
policeman eyeing him suspiciously.
"Taking the air?" asked the policeman.
"Ye-yes," mumbled Jimmy with affected nonchalence and he knocked
the heels of his boots together in order to keep his teeth from
chattering. "It's a fi-fine ni-night for air," he stuttered.
"Is it?" said the policeman, and to Jimmy's horror, he saw the
fellow's eyes fix themselves on the bit of white.
"Go-good-night," stammered Jimmy hurriedly, and trying to assume
an easy stride in spite of the uncomfortable addition to his
already rotund figure, he slipped into the hotel, where avoiding
the lighted elevator, he laboured quickly, up the stairs.
At the very moment when Zoie was driving Alfred in consternation
from the room, Jimmy entered it uninvited.
"Get out," was the inhospitable greeting received simultaneously
from Zoie and Aggie, and without waiting for further instructions
Fortunately for all concerned, Alfred, who was at the same moment
departing by way of the bedroom door, did not look behind him;
but it was some minutes before Aggie who had followed Jimmy into
the hall could persuade him to return.
After repeated and insistent signals both from Aggie and Zoie,
Jimmy's round red face appeared cautiously around the frame of
the door. It bore unmistakable indications of apoplexy. But the
eyes of the women were not upon Jimmy's face, they too had caught
sight of the bit of white that hung below his coat, and dragging
him quickly into the room and closing the door, Aggie proceeded
without inquiry or thanks to unbutton his coat and to take from
beneath it the small object for which she and Zoie had been
"Thank Heaven!" sighed Zoie, as she saw Aggie bearing the latest
acquisition to Alfred's rapidly increasing family safely toward
Suddenly remembering something in his right hand coat pocket,
Jimmy called to Aggie, who turned to him and waited expectantly.
After characteristic fumbling, he produced a well filled nursing
"What's that?" asked Zoie.
"For HER," grunted Jimmy, and he nodded toward the bundle in
"HER!" cried Zoie and Aggie in chorus. Zoie shut her lips hard
and gazed at him with contempt.
"I might have known you'd get the wrong kind," she said.
What Jimmy thought about the ingratitude of woman was not to be
expressed in language. He controlled himself as well as he could
and merely LOOKED the things that he would like to have said.
"Well, it can't be helped now," decided the philosophic Aggie;
"here, Jimmy," she said, "you hold 'HER' a minute and I'll get
you the other one."
Placing the small creature in Jimmy's protesting arms, Aggie
turned toward the cradle to make the proposed exchange when she
was startled by the unexpected return of Alfred.
Thanks to the ample folds of Jimmy's ulster, he was able to
effectually conceal his charge and he started quickly toward the
hall, but in making the necessary detour around the couch he
failed to reach the door before Alfred, who had chosen a more
"Hold on, Jimmy," exclaimed Alfred good- naturedly, and he laid a
detaining hand on his friend's shoulder. "Where are you going?"
"I'll be back," stammered Jimmy weakly, edging his way toward the
door, and contriving to keep his back toward Alfred.
"Wait a minute," said Alfred jovially, as he let his hand slip
onto Jimmy's arm, "you haven't told me the news yet."
"I'll tell you later," mumbled Jimmy, still trying to escape.
But Alfred's eye had fallen upon a bit of white flannel dangling
below the bottom of Jimmy's ulster, it travelled upward to
Jimmy's unusually rotund figure.
"What have you got there?" he demanded to know, as he pointed
toward the centre button of Jimmy's overcoat.
"Here?" echoed Jimmy vapidly, glancing at the button in question,
"why, that's just a little----" There was a faint wail from the
depths of the ulster. Jimmy began to caper about with
elephantine tread. "Oochie, coochie, oochie," he called
"What's the matter with you?" asked Alfred. The wail became a
shriek. "Good Heavens!" cried the anxious father, "it's my boy."
And with that he pounced upon Jimmy, threw wide his ulster and
snatched from his arms Jimmy's latest contribution to Zoie's
scheme of things.
As Aggie had previously remarked, all young babies look very much
alike, and to the inexperienced eye of this new and overwrought
father, there was no difference between the infant that he now
pressed to his breast, and the one that, unsuspected by him, lay
peacefully dozing in the crib, not ten feet from him. He gazed
at the face of the newcomer with the same ecstasy that he had
felt in the possession of her predecessor. But Zoie and Aggie
were looking at each other with something quite different from
"My boy," exclaimed Alfred, with deep emotion, as he clasped the
tiny creature to his breast. Then he turned to Jimmy. "What
were you doing with my baby?" he demanded hotly.
"I--I was just taking him out for a little walk!" stammered
"You just try," threatened Alfred, and he towered over the
intimidated Jimmy. "Are you crazy?"
Jimmy was of the opinion that he must be crazy or he would never
have found himself in such a predicament as this, but the anxious
faces of Zoie and Aggie, denied him the luxury of declaring
himself so. He sank mutely on the end of the couch and proceeded
to sulk in silence.
As for Aggie and Zoie, they continued to gaze open-mouthed at
Alfred, who was waltzing about the room transported into a new
heaven of delight at having snatched his heir from the danger of
another night ramble with Jimmy.
"Did a horrid old Jimmy spoil his 'itty nap'?" he gurgled to
Baby. Then with a sudden exclamation of alarm, he turned toward
the anxious women. "Aggie!" he cried, as he stared intently into
Baby's face. "Look--his rash! It's turned IN!"
Aggie pretended to glance over Alfred's shoulder.
"Why so it has," she agreed nervously.
"What shall we do?" cried the distraught Alfred.
"It's all right now," counselled Aggie, "so long as it didn't
turn in too suddenly."
"We'd better keep him warm, hadn't we?" suggested Alfred,
remembering Aggie's previous instructions on a similar occasion.
"I'll put him in his crib," he decided, and thereupon he made a
quick move toward the bassinette.
Staggering back from the cradle with the unsteadiness of a
drunken man Alfred called upon the Diety. "What is THAT?" he
demanded as he pointed toward the unexpected object before him.
Neither Zoie, Aggie, nor Jimmy could command words to assist
Alfred's rapidly waning powers of comprehension, and it was not
until he had swept each face for the third time with a look of
inquiry that Zoie found breath to stammer nervously,
"Why--why--why, that's the OTHER one."
"The other one?" echoed Alfred in a dazed manner; then he turned
to Aggie for further explanation.
"Yes," affirmed Aggie, with an emphatic nod, "the other one."
An undescribable joy was dawning on Alfred's face.
"You don't mean----" He stared from the infant in his arms to the
one in the cradle, then back again at Aggie and Zoie. The women
solemnly nodded their heads. Even Jimmy unblushingly acquiesced.
Alfred turned toward Zoie for the final confirmation of his
"Yes, dear," assented Zoie sweetly, "that's Alfred."
What Jimmy and the women saw next appeared to be the dance of a
whirling dervish; as a matter of fact, it was merely a man, mad
with delight, clasping two infants in long clothes and circling
the room with them.
When Alfred could again enunciate distinctly, he rushed to Zoie's
side with the babes in his arms.
"My darling," he exclaimed, "why didn't you tell me?"
"I was ashamed," whispered Zoie, hiding her head to shut out the
sight of the red faces pressed close to hers.
"My angel!" cried Alfred, struggling to control his complicated
emotions; then gazing at the precious pair in his arms, he cast
his eyes devoutly toward heaven, "Was ever a man so blessed?"
Zoie peeped from the covers with affected shyness.
"You love me just as much?" she queried.
"I love you TWICE as much," declared Alfred, and with that he
sank exhausted on the foot of the bed, vainly trying to teeter
one son on each knee.
When Jimmy gained courage to turn his eyes in the direction of
the family group he had helped to assemble, he was not reassured
by the reproachful glances that he met from Aggie and Zoie. It
was apparent that in their minds, he was again to blame for
something. Realising that they dared not openly reproach him
before Alfred, he decided to make his escape while his friend was
still in the room. He reached for his hat and tiptoed gingerly
toward the door, but just as he was congratulating himself upon
his decision, Alfred called to him with a mysterious air.
"Jimmy," he said, "just a minute," and he nodded for Jimmy to
It must have been Jimmy's guilty conscience that made him
powerless to disobey Alfred's every command. Anyway, he slunk
back to the fond parent's side, where he ultimately allowed
himself to be inveigled into swinging his new watch before the
unattentive eyes of the red-faced babes on Alfred's knees.
"Lower, Jimmy, lower," called Alfred as Jimmy absent-mindedly
allowed the watch to swing out of the prescribed orbit. "Look at
the darlings, Jimmy, look at them," he exclaimed as he gazed at
the small creatures admiringly.
"Yes, look at them, Jimmy," repeated Zoie, and she glared at
Jimmy behind Alfred's back.
"Don't you wish you had one of them, Jimmy?' " asked Alfred.
"Well, _I_ wish he had," commented Zoie, and she wondered how she
was ever again to detach either of them from Alfred's breast.
Before she could form any plan, the telephone rang loud and
persistently. Jimmy glanced anxiously toward the women for
"I'll answer it," said Aggie with suspicious alacrity, and she
crossed quickly toward the 'phone. The scattered bits of
conversation that Zoie was able to gather from Aggie's end of the
wire did not tend to soothe her over-excited nerves. As for
Alfred, he was fortunately so engrossed with the babies that he
took little notice of what Aggie was saying.
"What woman?" asked Aggie into the 'phone. "Where's she from?"
The answer was evidently not reassuring. "Certainly not,"
exclaimed Aggie, "don't let her come up; send her away. Mrs.
Hardy can't see anyone at all." Then followed a bit of pantomime
between Zoie and Aggie, from which it appeared that their
troubles were multiplying, then Aggie again gave her attention to
the 'phone. "I don't know anything about her," she fibbed, "that
woman must have the wrong address." And with that she hung up
the receiver and came towards Alfred, anxious to get possession
of his two small charges and to get them from the room, lest the
mother who was apparently downstairs should thrust herself into
"What's the trouble, Aggie?" asked Alfred, and he nodded toward
"Oh, just some woman with the wrong address," answered Aggie with
affected carelessness. "You'd better let me take the babies now,
"Take them where?" asked Alfred with surprise.
"To bed," answered Aggie sweetly, "they are going to sleep in the
next room with Jimmy and me." She laid a detaining hand on
"What's the hurry?" asked Alfred a bit disgruntled.
"It's very late," argued Aggie.
"Of course it is," insisted Zoie. "Please, Alfred," she pleaded,
"do let Aggie take them."
Alfred rose reluctantly. "Mother knows best," he sighed, but
ignoring Aggie's outstretched arms, he refused to relinquish the
joy of himself carrying the small mites to their room, and he
disappeared with the two of them, singing his now favourite
When Alfred had left the room, Jimmy, who was now seated
comfortably in the rocker, was rudely startled by a sharp voice
at either side of him.
"Well!" shrieked Zoie, with all the disapproval that could be got
into the one small word.
"You're very clever, aren't you?" sneered Aggie at Jimmy's other
Jimmy stared from one to the other.
"A nice fix you've got me into NOW," reproved Zoie.
"Why didn't you get out when you had the chance?" demanded Aggie.
"You would take your own sweet time, wouldn't you," said Zoie.
"What did I tell you?" asked Aggie.
"What does he care?" exclaimed Zoie, and she walked up and down
the room excitedly, oblivious of the disarrangement of her flying
negligee. "He's perfectly comfortable."
"Oh yes," assented Jimmy, as he sank back into the rocker and
began propelling himself to and fro. "I never felt better," but
a disinterested observer would have seen in him the picture of
"You're going to feel a great deal WORSE," he was warned by
Aggie. "Do you know who that was on the telephone?" she asked.
Jimmy looked at her mutely.
"The mother!" said Aggie emphatically
"What!" exclaimed Jimmy.
"She's down stairs," explained Aggie.
Jimmy had stopped rocking--his face now wore an uneasy
"It's time you showed a little human intelligence," taunted Zoie,
then she turned her back upon him and continued to Aggie, "what
did she say?"
"She says," answered Aggie, with a threatening glance toward
Jimmy, "that she won't leave this place until Jimmy gives her
"Let her have her old baby," said Jimmy. "I don't want it."
"You don't want it?" snapped Zoie indignantly, "what have YOU got
to do with it?"
"Oh nothing, nothing," acquiesced Jimmy meekly, "I'm a mere
"A lot you care what becomes of me," exclaimed Zoie
reproachfully; then she turned to Aggie with a decided nod.
"Well, I want it," she asserted.
"But Zoie," protested Aggie in astonishment, "you can't mean to
keep BOTH of them?"
"I certainly DO," said Zoie.
"What?" cried Aggie and Jimmy in concert.
"Jimmy has presented Alfred with twins," continued Zoie testily,
"and now, he has to HAVE twins."
Jimmy's eyes were growing rounder and rounder.
"Do you know," continued Zoie, with a growing sense of
indignation, "what would happen to me if I told Alfred NOW that
he WASN'T the father of twins? He'd fly straight out of that door
and I'd never see him again."
Aggie admitted that Zoie was no doubt speaking the truth.
"Jimmy has awakened Alfred's paternal instinct for twins,"
declared Zoie, with another emphatic nod of her head, "and now
Jimmy must take the consequences."
Jimmy tried to frame a few faint objections, but Zoie waved him
aside, with a positive air. "It's no use arguing. If it were
only ONE, it wouldn't be so bad, but to tell Alfred that he's
lost twins, he couldn't live through it."
"But Zoie," argued Aggie, "we can't have that mother hanging
around down stairs until that baby is an old man. She'll have us
arrested, the next thing."
"Why arrest US?" asked Zoie, with wide baby eyes. "WE didn't
take it. Old slow-poke took it." And she nodded toward the now
utterly vanquished Jimmy.
"That's right," murmured Jimmy, with a weak attempt at sarcasm,
"don't leave me out of anything good."
"It doesn't matter WHICH one she arrests," decided the practical
"Well, it matters to me," objected Zoie.
"And to me too, if it's all the same to you," protested Jimmy.
"Whoever it is," continued Aggie, "the truth is bound to come
out. Alfred will have to know sooner or later, so we might as
well make a clean breast of it, first as last."
"That's the first sensible thing you've said in three months,"
declared Jimmy with reviving hope.
"Oh, is that so?" sneered Zoie, and she levelled her most
malicious look at Jimmy. "What do you think Alfred would do to
YOU, Mr. Jimmy, if he knew the truth? YOU'RE the one who sent
him the telegram; you are the one who told him that he was a
"That's true," admitted Aggie, with a wrinkled forehead.
Zoie was quick to see her advantage. She followed it up. "And
Alfred hasn't any sense of humour, you know."
"How could he have?" groaned Jimmy; "he's married." And with
that he sank into his habitual state of dumps.
"Your sarcasm will do a great deal of good," flashed Zoie. Then
she dismissed him with a nod, and crossed to her dressing table.
"But Zoie," persisted Aggie, as she followed her young friend in
trepidation, "don't you realise that if you persist in keeping
this baby, that mother will dog Jimmy's footsteps for the rest of
"That will be nice," murmured Jimmy.
Zoie busied herself with her toilet, and turned a deaf ear to
Aggie. There was a touch of genuine emotion in Aggie's voice
when she continued.
"Just think of it, Zoie, Jimmy will never be able to come and go
like a free man again."
"What do I care how he comes and goes?" exclaimed Zoie
impatiently. "If Jimmy had gone when we told him to go, that
woman would have had her old baby by now; but he didn't, oh no!
All he ever does is to sit around and talk about his dinner."
"Yes," cried Jimmy hotly, "and that's about as far as I ever GET
"You'll never get anywhere with anything," was Zoie's
exasperating answer. "You're too slow."
"Well, there's nothing slow about you," retorted Jimmy, stung to
a frenzy by her insolence.
"Oh please, please," interposed Aggie, desperately determined to
keep these two irascible persons to the main issue. "What are we
going to tell that mother?"
"You can tell her whatever you like," answered Zoie, with an
impudent toss of her head, "but I'll NOT give up that baby until
I get ANOTHER one.'
"Another?" almost shrieked Jimmy. It was apparent that he must
needs increase the number of his brain cells if he were to follow
this extraordinary young woman's line of thought much further.
"You don't expect to go on multiplying them forever, do you?" he
"YOU are the one who has been multiplying them," was Zoie's
It was evident to Jimmy that he could not think fast enough nor
clearly enough to save himself from a mental disaster if he
continued to argue with the shameless young woman, so he
contented himself by rocking to and fro and murmuring dismally
that he had "known from the first that it was to be an endless
While Zoie and Jimmy had been wrangling, Aggie had been weighing
the pros and cons of the case. She now turned to Jimmy with a
tone of firm but motherly decision. "Zoie is quite right," she
Jimmy rolled his large eyes up at his spouse with a "you too,
Aggie continued mercilessly, "It's the only way, Jimmy."
No sooner had Aggie arrived at her decision than Zoie upset her
tranquillity by a triumphant expression of "I have it."
Jimmy and Aggie gazed at Zoie's radiant face in consternation.
They were accustomed to see only reproach there. Her sudden
enthusiasm increased Jimmy's uneasiness.
"YOU have it," he grunted without attempting to conceal his
disgust. "SHE'S the one who generally has it." And he nodded
Inflamed by her young friend's enthusiasm, Aggie rushed to her
"What is it, Zoie?" she asked.
"The washerwoman!" exclaimed Zoie, as though the revelation had
come straight from heaven. "SHE HAD TWINS," and with that, two
pairs of eyes turned expectantly toward the only man in the room.
Tracing the pattern of the rug with his toe, Jimmy remained
stubbornly oblivious of their attentions. He rearranged the
pillows on the couch, and finally, for want of a better
occupation, he wound his watch. All to no avail. He could feel
Zoie's cat-like gaze upon him.
"Jimmy can get the other one," she said.
"The hell I can," exclaimed Jimmy, starting to his feet and no
longer considering time or place.
The two women gazed at him reproachfully.
"Jimmy!" cried Aggie, in a shocked, hurt voice. "That's the
first time I've ever heard you swear."
"Well, it won't be the LAST time," declared Jimmy hotly, "if THIS
keeps up." His eyes were blazing. He paced to and fro like an
"Dearest," said Aggie, "you look almost imposing."
"Nonsense," interrupted Zoie. who found Jimmy unusually
ridiculous. "If I'd known that Jimmy was going to put such an
idea into Alfred's head, I'd have got the two in the first
"Will she let us HAVE the other?" asked Aggie with some
"Of course she will," answered Zoie, leaving Jimmy entirely out
of the conversation. "She's as poor as a church mouse. I'll pay
her well. She'll never miss it. What could she do with one
A snort of rage from Jimmy did not disturb Zoie's enthusiasm.
She proceeded to elaborate her plan.
"I'll adopt them," she declared, "I'll leave them all Alfred's
money. Think of Alfred having real live twins for keeps."
"It would be nice, wouldn't it?" commented Jimmy sarcastically.
Zoie turned to Jimmy, as though they were on the best of terms.
"How much money have you?" she asked.
Before Jimmy could declare himself penniless, Aggie answered for
him with the greatest enthusiasm, "He has a whole lot; he drew
"Good!" exclaimed Zoie to the abashed Jimmy, and then she
continued in a matter-of- fact tone, "Now, Jimmy," she said, "you
go give the washwoman what money you have on account, then tell
her to come around here in the morning when Alfred has gone out
and I'll settle all the details with her. Go on now, Jimmy," she
continued, "you don't need another letter."
"No," chimed in Aggie sweetly; "you know her now, dear."
"Oh, yes," corroborated Jimmy, with a sarcastic smile and without
budging from the spot on which he stood, "we are great pals now."
"What's the matter?" asked Zoie, astonished that Jimmy was not
starting on his mission with alacrity. "What are you waiting
Jimmy merely continued to smile enigmatically.
"You know what happened the last time you hesitated," warned
"I know what happened when I DIDN'T hesitate," ruminated Jimmy,
still holding his ground.
Zoie's eyes were wide with surprise. "You don't} mean to say,"
she exclaimed incredulously, "that you aren't GOING--after we
have thought all this out just to SAVE you?"
"Say," answered Jimmy, with a confidential air, "do me a favour,
will you? Stop thinking out things to 'save me.' "
"But, Jimmy----" protested both women simultaneously; but before
they could get further Alfred's distressed voice reached them
from the next room.
"Aggie!" he called frantically.
What seemed to be a streak of pink through the room was in
reality Zoie bolting for the bed.
While Zoie hastened to snuggle comfortably under the covers,
Aggie tried without avail to get Jimmy started on his errand.
Getting no response from Aggie, Alfred, bearing one infant in his
arms, came in search of her. Apparently he was having difficulty
with the unfastening of baby's collar.
"Aggie," he called sharply, "how on earth do you get this fool
"Take him back, Alfred," answered Aggie impatiently; "I'll be
there in a minute."
But Alfred had apparently made up his mind that he was not a
success as a nurse.
"You'd better take him now, Aggie," he decided, as he offered the
small person to the reluctant Aggie. "I'll stay here and talk to
"Oh, but Jimmy was just going out," answered Aggie; then she
turned to her obdurate spouse with mock sweetness, "Weren't you,
dear?" she asked.
"Yes," affirmed Zoie, with a threatening glance toward Jimmy.
"He was going, just now."
Still Jimmy remained rooted to the spot.
"Out?" questioned Alfred. "What for?"
"Just for a little air," explained Aggie blandly.
"Yes," growled Jimmy, "another little heir."
"Air?" repeated Alfred in surprise. "He had air a while ago with
my son. He is going to stay here and tell me the news. Sit
down, Jimmy," he commanded, and to the intense annoyance of Aggie
and Zoie, Jimmy sank resignedly on the couch.
Alfred was about to seat himself beside his friend, when the
'phone rang violently. Being nearest to the instrument, Alfred
reached it first and Zoie and Aggie awaited the consequences in
dread. What they heard did not reassure them nor Jimmy.
"Still down there?" exclaimed Alfred into the 'phone.
Jimmy began to wriggle with a vague uneasiness.
"Well," continued Alfred at the 'phone, "that woman has the wrong
number." Then with a peremptory "Wait a minute," he turned to
Zoie, "The hall boy says that woman who called a while ago is
still down stairs and she won't go away until she has seen you,
Zoie. She has some kind of an idiotic idea that you know where
her baby is."
"How absurd," sneered Zoie.
"How silly," added Aggie.
"How foolish," grunted Jimmy.
"Well," decided Alfred, "I'd better go down stairs and see what's
the matter with her," and he turned toward the door to carry out
"Alfred!" called Zoie sharply. She was half out of bed in her
anxiety. "You'll do no such thing. 'Phone down to the boy to
send her away. She's crazy."
"Oh," said Alfred, "then she's been here before? Who is she?"
"Who is she?" answered Zoie, trying to gain time for a new
inspiration. "Why, she's-- she's----" her face lit up with
satisfaction--the idea had arrived. "She's the nurse," she
"The nurse?" repeated Alfred, a bit confused.
"Yes," answered Zoie, pretending to be annoyed with his dull
memory. "She's the one I told you about, the one I had to
"Oh," said Alfred, with the relief of sudden comprehension; "the
Aggie and Zoie nodded their heads and smiled at him tolerantly,
then Zoie continued to elaborate. "You see," she said, "the poor
creature was so insane about little Jimmy that I couldn't go near
"What!" exclaimed Alfred in a mighty rage. "I'll soon tell the
boy what to do with her," he declared, and he rushed to the
'phone. Barely had Alfred taken the receiver from the hook when
the outer door was heard to bang. Before he could speak a
distracted young woman, whose excitable manner bespoke her
foreign origin, swept through the door without seeing him and
hurled herself at the unsuspecting Zoie. The woman's black hair
was dishevelled, and her large shawl had fallen from her
shoulders. To Jimmy, who was crouching behind an armchair, she
seemed a giantess.
"My baby!" cried the frenzied mother, with what was unmistakably
an Italian accent. "Where is he?" There was no answer; her eyes
sought the cradle. "Ah!" she shrieked, then upon finding the
cradle empty, she redoubled her lamentations and again she bore
down upon the terrified Zoie.
"You," she cried, "you know where my baby is!"
For answer, Zoie sank back amongst her pillows and drew the bed
covers completely over her head. Alfred approached the bed to
protect his young wife; the Italian woman wheeled about and
perceived a small child in his arms. She threw herself upon him.
"I knew it," she cried; "I knew it!"
Managing to disengage himself from what he considered a mad
woman, and elevating one elbow between her and the child, Alfred
prevented the mother from snatching the small creature from his
"Calm yourself, madam," he commanded with a superior air. "We
are very sorry for you, of course, but we can't have you coming
here and going on like this. He's OUR baby and----"
"He's NOT your baby!" cried the infuriated mother; "he's MY baby.
Give him to me. Give him to me," and with that she sprang upon
the uncomfortable Alfred like a tigress. Throwing her whole
weight on his uplifted elbow, she managed to pull down his arm
until she could look into the face of the washerwoman's promising
young offspring. The air was rent by a scream that made each
individual hair of Jimmy's head stand up in its own defence. He
could feel a sickly sensation at the top of his short thick neck.
"He's NOT my baby," wailed the now demented mother, little
dreaming that the infant for which she was searching was now
reposing comfortably on a soft pillow in the adjoining room.
As for Alfred, all of this was merely confirmation of Zoie's
statement that this poor soul was crazy, and he was tempted to
dismiss her with worthy forbearance.
"I am glad, madam," he said, "that you are coming to your
Now, all would have gone well and the bewildered mother would no
doubt have left the room convinced of her mistake, had not
Jimmy's nerves got the better of his judgment. Having slipped
cautiously from his position behind the armchair he was tiptoeing
toward the door, and was flattering himself on his escape, when
suddenly, as his forward foot cautiously touched the threshold,
he heard the cry of the captor in his wake, and before he could
possibly command the action of his other foot, he felt himself
being forcibly drawn backward by what appeared to be his too
"If only they would tear," thought Jimmy, but thanks to the
excellence of the tailor that Aggie had selected for him, they
did NOT "tear."
Not until she had anchored Jimmy safely to the centre of the rug
did the irate mother pour out the full venom of her resentment
toward him. From the mixture of English and Italian that
followed, it was apparent that she was accusing Jimmy of having
stolen her baby.
"Take me to him," she demanded tragically; "my baby--take me to
Jimmy appealed to Aggie and Zoie. Their faces were as blank as
his own. He glanced at Alfred.
"Humour her," whispered Alfred, much elated by the evidence of
his own self-control as compared to Jimmy's utter demoralisation
under the apparently same circumstances.
Still Jimmy did not budge.
Alfred was becoming vexed; he pointed first to his own forehead,
then to that of Jimmy's hysterical captor. He even illustrated
his meaning by making a rotary motion with his forefinger,
intended to remind Jimmy that the woman was a lunatic.
Still Jimmy only stared at him and all the while the woman was
becoming more and more emphatic in her declaration that Jimmy
knew where her baby was.
"Sure, Jimmy," said Alfred, out of all patience with Jimmy's
stupidity and tiring of the strain of the woman's presence. "You
know where her baby is."
"Ah!" cried the mother, and she towered over Jimmy with a wild
light in her eyes. "Take me to him," she demanded; "take me to
Jimmy rolled his large eyes first toward Aggie, then toward Zoie
and at last toward Alfred. There was no mercy to be found
"Take her to him, Jimmy," commanded a concert of voices; and
pursued by a bundle of waving colours and a medley of discordant
sounds, Jimmy shot from the room.
The departure of Jimmy and the crazed mother was the occasion for
a general relaxing among the remaining occupants of the room.
Exhausted by what had passed Zoie had ceased to interest herself
in the future. It was enough for the present that she could sink
back upon her pillows and draw a long breath without an evil face
bending over her, and without the air being rent by screams.
As for Aggie, she fell back upon the window seat and closed her
eyes. The horrors into which Jimmy might be rushing had not yet
presented themselves to her imagination.
Of the three, Alfred was the only one who had apparently received
exhilaration from the encounter. He was strutting about the room
with the babe in his arms, undoubtedly enjoying the sensations of
a hero. When he could sufficiently control his feeling of
elation, he looked down at the small person with an air of
condescension and again lent himself to the garbled sort of
language with which defenceless infants are inevitably
"Tink of dat horrid old woman wanting to steal our own little
oppsie, woppsie, toppsie babykins," he said. Then he turned to
Zoie with an air of great decision. "That woman ought to be
locked up," he declared, "she's dangerous," and with that he
crossed to Aggie and hurriedly placed the infant in her
unsuspecting arms. "Here, Aggie," he said, "you take Alfred and
get him into bed."
Glad of an excuse to escape to the next room and recover her self
control, Aggie quickly disappeared with the child.
For some moments Alfred continued to pace up and down the room;
then he came to a full stop before Zoie.
"I'll have to have something done to that woman," he declared
"Jimmy will do enough to her," sighed Zoie, weakly.
"She's no business to be at large," continued Alfred; then, with
a business-like air, he started toward the telephone.
"Where are you going?" asked Zoie.
Alfred did not answer. He was now calling into the 'phone, "Give
"What on earth are you doing?" demanded Zoie, more and more
disturbed by his mysterious manner.
"One can't be too careful," retorted Alfred in his most paternal
fashion; "there's an awful lot of kidnapping going on these
"Well, you don't suspect information, do you?" asked Zoie.
Again Alfred ignored her; he was intent upon things of more
"Hello," he called into the 'phone, "is this information?"
Apparently it was for he continued, with a satisfied air, "Well,
give me the Fullerton Street Police Station."
"The Police?" cried Zoie, sitting up in bed and looking about the
room with a new sense of alarm.
Alfred did not answer.
"Aggie!" shrieked the over-wrought young wife.
Alfred attempted to reassure her. "Now, now, dear, don't get
nervous," he said, "I am only taking the necessary precautions."
And again he turned to the 'phone.
Alarmed by Zoie's summons, Aggie entered the room hastily. She
was not reassured upon hearing Alfred's further conversation at
"Is this the Fullerton Street Police Station?" asked Alfred.
"The Police!" echoed Aggie, and her eyes sought Zoie's
"Sh! Sh!" called Alfred over his shoulder to the excited Aggie,
then he continued into the 'phone. "Is Donneghey there?" There
was a pause. Alfred laughed jovialiy. "It is? Well, hello,
Donneghey, this is your old friend Hardy, Alfred Hardy at the
Sherwood. I've just got back," then he broke the happy news to
the no doubt appreciative Donneghey. "What do you think?" he
said, "I'm a happy father."
Zoie puckered her small face in disgust.
Alfred continued to elucidate joyfully at the 'phone.
"Doubles," he said, "yes--sure--on the level."
"I don't know why you have to tell the whole neighbourhood,"
snapped Zoie. Her colour was visibly rising.
But Alfred was now in the full glow of his genial account to his
friend. "Set 'em up?" he repeated in answer to an evident
suggestion from the other end of the line, "I should say I would.
The drinks are on me. Tell the boys I'll be right over. And
say, Donneghey," he added, in a more confidential tone, "I want
to bring one of the men home with me. I want him to keep an eye
on the house to-night"; then after a pause, he concluded
confidentially, "I'll tell you all about it when I get there. It
looks like a kidnapping scheme to me," and with that he hung up
the receiver, unmistakably pleased with himself, and turned his
beaming face toward Zoie.
"It's all right, dear," he said, rubbing his hands together with
evident satisfaction, "Donneghey is going to let us have a
Special Officer to watch the house to-night."
"I won't HAVE a special officer," declared Zoie vehemently; then
becoming aware of Alfred's great surprise, she explained
half-tearfully, "I'm not going to have the police hanging around
our very door. I would feel as though I were in prison."
"You ARE in prison, my dear," returned the now irrepressible
Alfred. "A prison of love-- you and our precious boys." He
stooped and implanted a gracious kiss on her forehead, then
turned toward the table for his hat. "Now," he said, "I'll just
run around the corner, set up the drinks for the boys, and bring
the officer home with me," and drawing himself up proudly, he
cried gaily in parting, "I'll bet there's not another man in
Chicago who has what I have to- night."
"I hope not," groaned Zoie. as the door closed behind him.
Then, thrusting her two small feet from beneath the coverlet and
perching on the side of the bed, she declared to Aggie that
"Alfred was getting more idiotic every minute."
"He's worse than idiotic," corrected Aggie. "He's getting
dangerous. If he gets the police around here before we give that
baby back, they'll get the mother. She'll tell all she knows and
that will be the end of Jimmy!"
"End of Jimmy?" exclaimed Zoie, "it'll be the end of ALL of us."
"I can see our pictures in the papers, right now," groaned Aggie.
"Jimmy will be the villain."
"Jimmy IS a villain," declared Zoie. "Where is he? Why doesn't
he come back? How am I ever going to get that other twin?"
"There is only one thing to do," decided Aggie, "I must go for it
myself." And she snatched up her cape from the couch and started
toward the door.
"You?" cried Zoie, in alarm, "and leave me alone?"
"It's our only chance," argued Aggie. "I'll have to do it now,
before Alfred gets back."
"But Aggie," protested Zoie, clinging to her departing friend,
"suppose that crazy mother should come back?"
"Nonsense," replied Aggie, and before Zoie could actually realise
what was happening the bang of the outside door told her that she
Wondering what new terrors awaited her, Zoie glanced uncertainly
from door to door. So strong had become her habit of taking
refuge in the bed, that unconsciously she backed toward it now.
Barely had she reached the centre of the room when a terrific
crash of breaking glass from the adjoining room sent her
shrieking in terror over the footboard, and head first under the
covers. Here she would doubtless have remained until suffocated,
had not Jimmy in his backward flight from one of the inner rooms
overturned a large rocker. This additional shock to Zoie's
overstrung nerves forced a wild scream from her lips, and an
answering exclamation from the nerve-racked Jimmy made her sit
bolt upright. She gazed at him in astonishment. His tie was
awry, one end of his collar had taken leave of its anchorage
beneath his stout chin, and was now just tickling the edge of his
red, perspiring brow. His hair was on end and his feelings were
undeniably ruffled. As usual Zoie's greeting did not tend to
"How did YOU get here?" she asked with an air of reproach.
"The fire-escape," panted Jimmy and he nodded mysteriously toward
the inner rooms of the apartment.
"Fire-escape?" echoed Zoie. There was only one and that led
through the bathroom window.
Jimmy explained no further. He was now peeping cautiously out of
the window toward the pavement below.
"Where's the mother?" demanded Zoie.
Jimmy jerked his thumb in the direction of the street. Zoie
gazed at him with grave apprehension.
"Jimmy!" she exclaimed. "You haven't killed her?"
Jimmy shook his head and continued to peer cautiously out of the
"What did you do with her?" called the now exasperated Zoie.
"What did _I_ do with her?" repeated Jimmy, a flash of his old
resentment returning. "What did SHE do with ME?"
For the first time, Zoie became fully conscious of Jimmy's
ludicrous appearance. Her overstrained nerves gave way and she
began to laugh hysterically.
"Say," shouted Jimmy, towering over the bed and devoutly wishing
that she were his wife so that he might strike her with impunity.
"Don't you sic any more lunatics onto me."
It is doubtful whether Zoie's continued laughter might not have
provoked Jimmy to desperate measures, had not the 'phone at that
moment directed their thoughts toward worse possibilities. After
the instrument had continued to ring persistently for what seemed
to Zoie an age, she motioned to Jimmy to answer it. He responded
by retreating to the other side of the room.
"It may be Aggie," suggested Zoie.
For the first time, Jimmy became aware that Aggie was nowhere in
"Good Lord!" he exclaimed, as he realised that he was again
tete-a-tete with the terror of his dreams. "Where IS Aggie?"
"Gone to do what YOU should have done," was Zoie's characteristic
"Well," answered Jimmy hotly, "it's about time that somebody
besides me did something around this place."
"YOU," mocked Zoie, "all YOU'VE ever done was to hoodoo me from
the very beginning."
"If you'd taken my advice," answered Jimmy, "and told your
husband the truth about the luncheon, there'd never have been any
"If, if, if," cried Zoie, in an agony of impatience, "if you'd
tipped that horrid old waiter enough, he'd never have told
"I'm not buying waiters to cover up your crimes," announced Jimmy
with his most self- righteous air.
"You'll be buying more than that to cover up your OWN crimes
before you've finished," retorted Zoie.
"Before I've finished with YOU, yes," agreed Jimmy. He wheeled
upon her with increasing resentment. "Do you know where I expect
to end up?" he asked.
"I know where you OUGHT to end up," snapped Zoie.
"I'll finish in the electric chair," said Jimmy. "I can feel
blue lightning chasing up and down my spine right now."
"Well, I wish you HAD finished in the electric chair," declared
Zoie, "before you ever dragged me into that awful old
"Oh, you do, do you?" answered Jimmy shaking his fist at her
across the foot of the bed. For the want of adequate words to
express his further feelings, Jimmy was beginning to jibber, when
the outer door was heard to close, and he turned to behold Aggie
entering hurriedly with something partly concealed by her long
"It's all right," explained Aggie triumphantly to Zoie. "I've
got it." She threw her cape aside and disclosed the fruits of
"So," snorted Jimmy in disgust, slightly miffed by the apparent
ease with which Aggie had accomplished a task about which he had
made so much ado, "you've gone into the business too, have you?"
Aggie deigned no reply to him. She continued in a businesslike
tone to Zoie.
"Where's Alfred?" she asked.
"Still out," answered Zoie.
"Thank Heaven," sighed Aggie, then she turned to Jimmy and
addressed him in rapid, decided tones. "Now, dear," she said,
"I'll just put the new baby to bed, then I'll give you the other
one and you can take it right down to the mother."
Jimmy made a vain start in the direction of the fire-escape.
Four detaining hands were laid upon him.
"Don't try anything like that," warned Aggie; "you can't get out
of this house without that baby. The mother is down stairs now.
She's guarding the door. I saw her." And Aggie sailed
triumphantly out of the room to make the proposed exchange of
Before Jimmy was able to suggest to himself an escape from
Aggie's last plan of action, the telephone again began to cry for
Neither Jimmy nor Zoie could summon courage to approach the
impatient instrument, and as usual Zoie cried frantically for
Aggie was not long in returning to the room and this time she
bore in her arms the infant so strenuously demanded by its mad
"Here you are, Jimmy," she said; "here's the other one. Now
take him down stairs quickly before Alfred gets back." She
attempted to place the unresisting babe in Jimmy's chubby arms,
but Jimmy's freedom was not to be so easily disposed of.
"What!" he exclaimed, backing away from the small creature in
fear and abhorrence, "take that bundle of rags down to the hotel
office and have that woman hystericing all over me. No, thanks."
"Oh well," answered Aggie, distracted by the persistent ringing
of the 'phone, "then hold him a minute until I answer the
This at least was a compromise, and reluctantly Jimmy allowed the
now wailing infant to be placed in his arms.
"Jig it, Jimmy, jig it," cried Zoie. Jimmy looked down
helplessly at the baby's angry red face, but before he had made
much headway with the "jigging," Aggie returned to them, much
excited by the message which she had just received over the
"That mother is making a scene down stairs in the office," she
"You hear," chided Zoie, in a fury at Jimmy, "what did Aggie tell
"If she wants this thing," maintained Jimmy, looking down at the
bundle in his arms, "she can come after it."
"We can't have her up here," objected Aggie.
"Alfred may be back at any minute. He'd catch her. You know
what happened the last time we tried to change them."
"You can send it down the chimney, for all I care," concluded
"I have it!" exclaimed Aggie, her face suddenly illumined.
"Oh Lord," groaned Jimmy, who had come to regard any elation on
Zoie's or Aggie's part as a sure forewarner of ultimate
discomfort for him.
Again Aggie had recourse to the 'phone.
"Hello," she called to the office boy, "tell that woman to go
around to the back door, and we'll send something down to her."
There was a slight pause, then Aggie added sweetly, "Yes, tell
her to wait at the foot of the fire-escape."
Zoie had already caught the drift of Aggie's intention and she
now fixed her glittering eyes upon Jimmy, who was already
shifting about uneasily and glancing at Aggie, who approached him
with a business-like air.
"Now, dear," said Aggie, "come with me. I'll hand Baby out
through the bathroom window and you can run right down the
fire-escape with him."
"If I do run down the fire-escape," exclaimed Jimmy, wagging his
large head from side to side, "I'll keep right on RUNNING.
That's the last you'll ever see of me."
"But, Jimmy," protested Aggie, slightly hurt by his threat, "once
that woman gets her baby you'll have no more trouble."
"With you two still alive?" asked Jimmy, looking from one to the
"She'll be up here if you don't hurry," urged Aggie impatiently,
and with that she pulled Jimmy toward the bedroom door.
"Let her come," said Jimmy, planting his feet so as to resist
Aggie's repeated tugs, "I'm going to South America."
"Why will you act like this," cried Aggie, in utter desperation,
"when we have so little time?"
"Say," said Jimmy irrelevantly, "do you know that I haven't had
" Yes," interrupted Aggie and Zoie in chorus, "we know."
"How long," continued Zoie impatiently, "is it going to take you
to slip down that fire-escape?"
"That depends on how fast I 'slip,' " answered Jimmy doggedly.
"You'll 'slip' all right," sneered Zoie.
Further exchange of pleasantries between these two antagonists
was cut short by the banging of the outside door.
"Good Heavens!" exclaimed Aggie, glancing nervously over her
shoulder, "there's Alfred now. Hurry, Jimmy, hurry," she cried,
and with that she fairly forced Jimmy out through the bedroom
door, and followed in his wake to see him safely down the
Zoie had barely time to arrange herself after the manner of an
interesting invalid, when Alfred entered the room in the gayest
"Hello, dearie," he cried as he crossed quickly to her side.
"Already?" asked Zoie faintly and she glanced uneasily toward the
door, through which Jimmy and Aggie had just disappeared.
"I told you I shouldn't be long," said Alfred jovially, and he
implanted a condescending kiss on her forehead. "How is the
little mother, eh?" he asked, rubbing his hands together in
"You're all cold," pouted Zoie, edging away, "and you've been
"I had to have one or two with the boys," said Alfred, throwing
out his chest and strutting about the room, "but never again.
From now on I cut out all drinks and cigars. This is where I
begin to live my life for our sons."
"How about your life for me?" asked Zoie, as she began to see
long years of boredom stretching before her.
"You and our boys are one and the same, dear," answered Alfred,
coming back to her side.
"You mean you couldn't go on loving ME if it weren't for the
BOYS?" asked Zoie, with anxiety. She was beginning to realise
how completely her hold upon him depended upon her hideous
"Of course I could, Zoie," answered Alfred, flattered by what he
considered her desire for his complete devotion, "but----"
"But not so MUCH," pouted Zoie.
"Well, of course, dear," admitted Alfred evasively, as he sank
down upon the edge of the bed by her side--
"You needn't say another word," interrupted Zoie, and then with a
shade of genuine repentance, she declared shame-facedly that she
hadn't been "much of a wife" to Alfred.
"Nonsense!" contradicted the proud young father, "you've given me
the ONE thing that I wanted most in the world."
"But you see, dear," said Zoie, as she wound her little white
arms about his neck, and looked up into his face adoringly,
"YOU'VE been the 'ONE' thing that I wanted 'MOST' and I never
realised until to-night how--how crazy you are about things."
"What things?" asked Alfred, a bit puzzled.
"Well," said Zoie, letting her eyes fall before his and picking
at a bit of imaginary lint on the coverlet, "babies and things."
"Oh," said Alfred, and he was about to proceed when she again
"But now that I DO realise it," continued Zoie, earnestly, her
fingers on his lips, lest he again interrupt, "if you'll only
have a little patience with me, I'll--I'll----" again her eyes
fell bashfully to the coverlet, as she considered the possibility
of being ultimately obliged to replace the bogus twins with real
"All the patience in the world," answered Alfred, little dreaming
of the problem that confronted the contrite Zoie.
"That's all I ask," declared Zoie, her assurance completely
restored, "and in case anything SHOULD happen to THESE----" she
glanced anxiously toward the door through which Aggie had borne
"But nothing is going to happen to these, dear," interrupted
Alfred, rising and again assuming an air of fatherly protection.
"I'll attend to that. There, there," he added, patting her small
shoulder and nodding his head wisely. "That crazy woman has got
on your nerves, but you needn't worry, I've got everything fixed.
Donneghey sent a special officer over with me. He's outside
watching the house, now."
"Now!" shrieked Zoie, fixing her eyes on the bedroom door,
through which Jimmy had lately disappeared and wondering whether
he had yet "slipped" down the fire-escape.
"Yes," continued Alfred, walking up and down the floor with a
masterly stride. "If that woman is caught hanging around here
again, she'll get a little surprise. My boys are safe now, God
bless them!" Then reminded of the fact that he had not seen them
since his return, he started quickly toward the bedroom door.
"I'll just have a look at the little rascals," he decided.
"No, dear," cried Zoie. She caught Alfred's arm as he passed the
side of her bed, and clung to him in desperation. "Wait a
Alfred looked down at her in surprise.
She turned her face toward the door, and called lustily, "Aggie!
"What is it, dear?" questioned Alfred, thinking Zoie suddenly
ill, "can I get you something?"
Before Zoie was obliged to reply, Aggie answered her summons.
"Did you call?" she asked, glancing inquiringly into Zoie's
"Alfred's here," said Zoie, with a sickly smile as she stroked
his hand and glanced meaningly at Aggie. "He's GOT the OFFICER!"
"The OFFICER?" cried Aggie, and involuntarily she took a step
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