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   Chapter 2 2

Baby Mine By Margaret Mayo Characters: 8985

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

Now Jimmy had no intention of going to the "hop." He had tried to tell Alfred so a dozen times during dinner, but each time he had been interrupted by one of Alfred's enthusiastic rhapsodies about Zoie.

"Most marvellous girl I have ever met!" exclaimed Alfred over his soup. "So sensible; so modest. And did you see how simply she dresses?" he asked. Jimmy recalled his first vision of billowy fluff; but before he could answer, Alfred had continued excitedly:

"I'll tell you what first attracted me toward her." He looked at Jimmy as though he expected some especial mark of gratitude for the favour about to be bestowed; then he explained with a serious weighing of his words, "It was her love of children. I had barely been introduced to her when she turned her back upon me and gave her whole attention to Professor Peck's little boy Willie. I said to myself, 'any girl of that age who prefers children to young chaps of my age, is the girl for me.'"

"I see," assented Jimmy lamely. It was his first remark during dinner.

"After that, I no longer hesitated. You know, Jimmy, I have decision."

"Yes, I have noticed," admitted Jimmy, without conviction.

"In fifteen minutes," said Alfred, "I had learned all about the young lady's antecedents."

Having finished his soup, and resisted a childish impulse to tip the plate and scrape the bottom of it, Jimmy was now looking anxiously toward the door through which the roast ought to come.

"I'll tell you all about her," volunteered Alfred. But Jimmy's eyes were upon Alfred's plate; his friend had not yet devoured more than two spoonfuls of soup; at that rate, argued Jimmy, the roast would reach them about the time that he was usually trying to make his dessert last as long as possible.

"She is here with her aunt," continued Alfred. "They are on a short visit to Professor Peck."

Jimmy approved of the "short."

"That's good," he murmured, hopeful that a separation from the minx might restore his friend's reason.

"And Jimmy," exclaimed Alfred with glistening eyes, "what do you think?"

Jimmy thought a great deal but he forebore to say it, and Alfred continued very enthusiastically.

"She lives right in the same town with us."

"What!" ejaculated Jimmy, and he felt his appetite going.

"Within a stone's throw of my house-and yours," added Alfred triumphantly. "Think of our never having met her before!"

"I am thinking," said Jimmy.

"Of course she has been away from home a great deal," went on Alfred. "She's been in school in the East; but there were the summers."

"So there were," assented Jimmy, thinking of his hitherto narrow escapes.

"Her father is old John Merton," continued Alfred. "Merton the stationer-you know him, Jimmy. Unfortunately, he has a great deal of money; but that hasn't spoilt her. Oh no! She is just as simple and considerate in her behaviour as if she were some poor little struggling school teacher. She is the one for me, Jimmy. There is no doubt about it, and I'll tell you a secret."

Jimmy looked at him blankly.

"I am going to propose to her this very night."

"Good Lord!" groaned Jimmy, as if his friend had been suddenly struck down in the flower of his youth.

"That's why you simply must come with me to the hop," continued Alfred. "I want you to take care of her friend Aggie, and leave me alone with Zoie as much as possible."

"Zoie!" sniffed Jimmy. The name to him was as flippant as its owner.

"True, strong name," commented Alfred. "So simple, so direct, so like her. I'll have to leave you now," he said, rising. "I must send her some flowers for the dance." He turned at the door. Suppose I add a few from you for Aggie."

"What!" exploded Jimmy.

"Just by way of introduction," called Alfred gaily. "It's a good idea."

Before Jimmy could protest further, he found himself alone for the second time that day. He ate his roast in gloomy silence. It seemed dry and tasteless. Even his favourite desert of plum pudding failed to rouse him from his dark meditations, and he rose from the table dejected and forlorn.

A few hours later, when Alfred led Jimmy into the ballroom, the latter was depressed, not only by his friend's impending danger, but he felt an uneasy foreboding as to his own future. With his college course practically finished and Alfred attaching himself to unforeseen entities, Jimmy had come to the ball with a curious feeling of having been left suspended in mid-air.

Before he could

voice his misgivings to Alfred, the young men were surrounded by a circle of chattering females. And then it was that Jimmy found himself looking into a pair of level brown eyes, and felt himself growing hot and cold by turns. When the little knot of youths and maidens disentangled itself into pairs of dancers, it became clear to Jimmy that he had been introduced to Aggie, and that he was expected to dance with her.

As a matter of fact, Jimmy had danced with many girls; true, it was usually when there was no other man left to "do duty"; but still he had done it. Why then should he feel such distressing hesitation about placing his arm around the waist of this brown-eyed Diana? Try as he would he could not find words to break the silence that had fallen between them. She was so imposing; so self-controlled. It really seemed to Jimmy that she should be the one to ask him to dance. As a matter of fact, that was just what happened; and after the dance she suggested that they sit in the garden; and in the garden, with the moonlight barely peeping through the friendly overhanging boughs of the trees, Jimmy found Aggie capable of a courage that filled him with amazement; and later that night, when he and Alfred exchanged confidences, it became apparent to the latter that Aggie had volunteered to undertake the responsibility of outlining Jimmy's entire future.

He was to follow his father's wishes and take up a business career in Chicago at once; and as soon as all the relatives concerned on both sides had been duly consulted, he and Aggie were to embark upon matrimony.

"Good!" cried Alfred, when Jimmy had managed to stammer his shame-faced confession. "We'll make it a double wedding. I can be ready to-morrow, so far as I'm concerned." And then followed another rhapsody upon the fitness of Zoie as the keeper of his future home and hearth, and the mother of his future sons and daughters. In fact, it was far into the night when the two friends separated-separated in more than one sense, as they afterward learned.

While Alfred and Jimmy were saying "good-night" to each other, Zoie and Aggie in one of the pretty chintz bedrooms of Professor Peck's modest home, were still exchanging mutual confidences.

"The thing I like about Alfred," said Zoie, as she gazed at the tip of her dainty satin slipper, and turned her head meditatively to one side, "is his positive nature. I've never before met any one like him. Do you know," she added with a sly twinkle in her eye, "it was all I could do to keep from laughing at him. He's so awfully serious." She giggled to herself at the recollection of him; then she leaned forward to Aggie, her small hands clasped across her knees and her face dimpling with mischief. "He hasn't the remotest idea what I'm like."

Aggie studied her young friend with unmistakable reproach. "I MADE Jimmy know what I'M like," she said. "I told him ALL my ideas about everything."

"Good Heavens!" exclaimed Zoie in shocked surprise.

"He's sure to find out sooner or later," said Aggie sagely. "I think that's the only sensible way to begin."

"If I'd told Alfred all MY ideas about things," smiled Zoie, "there'd have BEEN no beginning."

"What do you mean?" asked Aggie, with a troubled look.

"Well, take our meeting," explained Zoie. "Just as we were introduced, that horrid little Willie Peck caught his heel in a flounce of my skirt. I turned round to slap him, but I saw Alfred looking, so I patted his ugly little red curls instead. And what do you think? Alfred told me to-night that it was my devotion to Willie that first made him adore me."

"And you didn't explain to him?" asked Aggie in amazement.

"And lose him before I'd got him!" exclaimed Zoie.

"It might be better than losing him AFTER you've got him," concluded the elder girl.

"Oh, Aggie," pouted Zoie, "I think you are horrid. You're just trying to spoil all the fun of my engagement."

"I am not," cried Aggie, and the next moment she was sitting on the arm of Zoie's chair.

"Goose!" she said, "how dare you be cross with me?"

"I am NOT cross," declared Zoie, and after the customary apologies from Aggie, confidence was fully restored on both sides and Zoie continued gaily: "Don't you worry about Alfred and me," she said as she kicked off her tiny slippers and hopped into bed. "Just you wait until I get him. I'll manage him all right."

"I dare say," answered Aggie; not without misgivings, as she turned off the light.

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