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Baby Mine By Margaret Mayo Characters: 8481

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

The double wedding of four of Chicago's "Younger Set" had been adequately noticed in the papers, the conventional "honeymoon" journey had been made, and Alfred Hardy and Jimmy Jinks had now settled down to the routine of their respective business interests.

Having plunged into his office work with the same vigour with which he had attacked higher mathematics, Alfred had quickly gained the confidence of the elders of his firm, and they had already begun to give way to him in many important decisions. In fact, he was now practically at the head of his particular department with one office doing well in Chicago and a second office promising well in Detroit.

As for Jimmy, he had naturally started his business career with fewer pyrotechnics; but he was none the less contented. He seldom saw his old friend Alfred now, but Aggie kept more or less in touch with Zoie; and over the luncheon table the affairs of the two husbands were often discussed by their wives. It was after one of these luncheons that Aggie upset Jimmy's evening repose by the fireside by telling him that she was a wee bit worried about Zoie and Alfred.

"Alfred is so unreasonable," said Aggie, "so peevish."

"Nonsense!" exclaimed Jimmy shortly. "If he's peevish he has some good reason. You can be sure of that."

"You needn't get cross with me, Jimmy," said Aggie in a hurt voice.

"Why should I be cross with you?" snapped Jimmy. "It isn't YOUR fault if Alfred's made a fool of himself by marrying the last person on earth whom he should have married."

"I think he was very lucky to get her," argued Aggie in defence of her friend.

"Oh, you do, do you?" answered Jimmy in a very aggrieved tone.

"She is one of the prettiest girls in Chicago," said Aggie.

"You're pretty too," answered Jimmy, "but it doesn't make an idiot of you."

"It's TIME you said something nice to me," purred Aggie; and her arm stole fondly around Jimmy's large neck.

"I don't know why it is," said Jimmy, shaking his head dejectedly, "but every time Zoie Hardy's name is mentioned in this house it seems to stir up some sort of a row between you and me."

"That's because you're so prejudiced," answered Aggie with a touch of irritation.

"There you go again," said Jimmy.

"I didn't mean it!" interposed Aggie contritely. "Oh, come now, Jimmy," she pleaded, "let's trundle off to bed and forget all about it." And they did.

But the next day, as Jimmy was heading for the La Salle restaurant to get his luncheon, who should call to him airily from a passing taxi but Zoie. It was apparent that she wished him to wait until she could alight; and in spite of his disinclination to do so, he not only waited but followed the taxi to its stopping place and helped the young woman to the pavement.

"Oh, you darling!" exclaimed Zoie, all of a flutter, and looking exactly like an animated doll. "You've just saved my life." She called to the taxi driver to "wait."

"Are you in trouble?" asked the guileless Jimmy.

"Yes, dreadful," answered Zoie, and she thrust a half-dozen small parcels into Jimmy's arms. "I have to be at my dressmaker's in half an hour; and I haven't had a bite of lunch. I'm miles and miles from home; and I can't go into a restaurant and eat just by myself without being stared at. Wasn't it lucky that I saw you when I did?"

There was really very little left for Jimmy to say, so he said it; and a few minutes later they were seated tete-a-tete in one of Chicago's most fashionable restaurants, and Zoie the unconscious flirt was looking up at Jimmy with apparently adoring eyes, and suggesting all the eatables which he particularly abominated.

No sooner had the unfortunate man acquiesced in one thing and communicated Zoie's wish to the waiter, than the flighty young person found something else on the menu that she considered more tempting to her palate. Time and again the waiter had to be recalled and the order had to be given over until Jimmy felt himself laying up a store of nervous indigestion that would doubtless last him for days.

When the coveted food at last arrived, Zoie had become completely engrossed in the headgear of one of her neighbours, and it was only after Jimmy had been induced t

o make himself ridiculous by craning his neck to see things of no possible interest to him that Zoie at last gave her attention to her plate.

In obeyance of Jimmy's order the waiter managed to rush the lunch through within three-quarters of an hour; but when Jimmy and Zoie at length rose to go he was so insanely irritated, that he declared they had been in the place for hours; demanded that the waiter hurry his bill; and then finally departed in high dudgeon without leaving the customary "tip" behind him.

But all this was without its effect upon Zoie, who, a few moments later rode away in her taxi, waving gaily to Jimmy who was now late for business and thoroughly at odds with himself and the world.

As a result of the time lost at luncheon Jimmy missed an appointment that had to wait over until after office hours, and as a result of this postponement, he missed Aggie, who went to a friend's house for dinner, leaving word for him to follow. For the first time in his life, Jimmy disobeyed Aggie's orders, and, later on, when he "trundled off to bed" alone, he again recalled that it was Zoie Hardy who was always causing hard feeling between him and his spouse.

Some hours later, when Aggie reached home with misgivings because Jimmy had not joined her, she was surprised to find him sleeping as peacefully as a cherub. "Poor dear," she murmured, "I hope he wasn't lonesome." And she stole away to her room.

The next morning when Aggie did not appear at the breakfast table, Jimmy rushed to her room in genuine alarm. It was now Aggie's turn to sleep peacefully; and he stole dejectedly back to the dining-room and for the first time since their marriage, he munched his cold toast and sipped his coffee alone.

So thoroughly was his life now disorganised, and so low were his spirits that he determined to walk to his office, relying upon the crisp morning air to brace him for the day's encounters. By degrees, he regained his good cheer and as usual when in rising spirits, his mind turned toward Aggie. The second anniversary of their wedding was fast approaching-he began to take notice of various window displays. By the time he had reached his office, the weightiest decision on his mind lay in choosing between a pearl pendant and a diamond bracelet for his now adorable spouse.

But a more difficult problem awaited him. Before he was fairly in his chair, the telephone bell rang violently. Never guessing who was at the other end of the wire, he picked up his receiver and answered.

"What?" he exclaimed in surprise. "Mrs. Hardy?" Several times he opened his lips to ask a question, but it was apparent that the person at the other end of the line had a great deal to say and very little time to say it, and it was only after repeated attempts that he managed to get in a word or so edgewise.

"What's happened?" he asked.

"Say nothing to anybody," was Zoie's noncommittal answer, "not even to Aggie. Jump in a taxi and come as quickly as you can."

"But what IS it?" persisted Jimmy. The dull sound of the wire told him that the person at the other end had "hung up."

Jimmy gazed about the room in perplexity. What was he to do? Why on earth should he leave his letters unanswered and his mail topsy turvy to rush forth in the shank of the morning at the bidding of a young woman whom he abhorred. Ridiculous! He would do no such thing. He lit a cigar and began to open a few letters marked "private." For the life of him he could not understand one word that he read. A worried look crossed his face.

"Suppose Zoie were really in need of help, Aggie would certainly never forgive him if he failed her." He rose and walked up and down.

"Why was he not to tell Aggie?"

"Where was Alfred?" He stopped abruptly. His over excited imagination had suggested a horrible but no doubt accurate answer. "Wedded to an abomination like Zoie, Alfred had sought the only escape possible to a man of his honourable ideals-he had committed suicide."

Seizing his coat and hat Jimmy dashed through the outer office without instructing his astonished staff as to when he might possibly return.

"Family troubles," said the secretary to himself as he appropriated one of Jimmy's best cigars.

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