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Baby Mine By Margaret Mayo Characters: 9559

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

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 desperately.

"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 undertaking.

"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 attention.

"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.

"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 officer.

"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 dej

ected 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 lying.

"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 fro.

"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 luncheon."

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 frown.

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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