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The Foundling

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Barlow was somewhat late, for an annoying error in posting by an under bookkeejier had detained him at the office. He walked rather more rapidly tban usual, for he knew that the major, Simpson and Granger were waitiug for him to make the fourth hand in the game of whist which alwaya preceded dinner. Collina was not home, for he had gone to Milwaukee and would not return until thenext morning, and Barlow knew that the major was impatiently tapping the table with his fingers and watching the door. For seven years the five men had lived together, and the whist game before dinuer was one of the household habits which had fastened itself upon the little coruinunity as a vital element of its placid existeuce. The men were all past rniddle age. and auy digression from the routine jarred the entire domestic inachinery for the time. Dinner was always served at 7 o'clock, and Barlow feit more than guilty, for it was not only neariy ii o'clock. but the afternoon was the Satnrday half holiday, and he should have been home several hours aarlier. He increased his pace when he turned into the street which for three blocks was the bottom of an architeotural oanyou, its eides formed of solid rows of houses each exactly like the other. As he approached the center house of the middle bloek he feit for his latchkey and drew it from his pocket when he turned to ascend the steps. The key dropped from his hand, and he feil back a pace, for cooing at him from the corner of the little porch a baby stretched its chubby arme toward him and smiled when the key jingled on the stone step. Barlow 's first thought was that he had taken the wrong steps, andhesteadily stared at the nurnber painted on the transom. The number was right, and he rapidly checked it off with the familiar window cur-ains and the doormat. The major's b'irly form came into view through thf window, and then Barlow conceutrated his attention on the baby. It cooed gently and made an effort to ! crawl down the steps. "Hold on; you'U hurt yourself, " cried Barlow as the baby leaned perilously over the edge of the doorstep. The lifctle one looked up and smilerl again, aud then f er the first time in his menjory Barlow held a baby in his arme. For several minutes he stood looking up and dewn the street, bnt no one came to help him. He pressed the baby to him as he tooped for his key, aiid opening the door walked into the sitting room with the baby under his arm as though it were a laundry bundie. "Helio, you're here at last, " said the major, looseniug the belt of his dressing gown and reaohing for a deck of cards. "What kept - Bless rny soul, what have you got there?" The baby kicked its heels and struck out with its arms as though swimming, for Barlow's hand was under its stomach as he held it against his hip. Simpson dropped the evening paper and stared at the baby with his mouth open. Granger forgot the blazing match which he was holding over his pipe bowl, and it burned to his fingers as he gazed blankly at Barlow and the kicking infant. The oppressive silence was broken by a sudden cry froin the baby, and the major caught it by one leg just in time to save it from strikiug the floor, for Barlow dropped it when the cry came. For a second the major held the baby by its leg, while a series of muffled explosions came from under the clothing, which had fallen over the baby's head. Then he gently lowered the little one to the floor, and all süently watched the strange creature squirm and struggle its wayoutof the maze of linen and flannel and finally sit up, a red faced, tearful, screaming baby. Barlow's explanation was incoherent, for he, like the major, Granger aud Simpson, was in a state of mental chaos. The baby's screams brought Bob, the coloredcook and all around servan t, from the dining room, and his black face increased the vigor of the infantile yells and deepened the scarlet hue of its face to a purplish tinge. A twisted wire brooch which held the little sack at the neck gave the baby's name as "Joey." The major was seized with an iuspiration. ánapping his fiugers, he said, "Here, Joey, here. here, here," as he used to speak to the only dog he ever owned. The other men feit au immense admiratiou for the major, for Joey suddenly stopped cryiug: The minute of silence seemed an hour to the anxious old bachelors looking down at the tiny stranger. Joey was straugely quiet. His moutli was wide open, his eyes bulged, and a rattling sound in his throat alarmed Barlow. "For heaven's sake, get some water. Thump it on the back. Open all the . windows. The baby is choking to death. " And he dropped on his knees and began beating the baby's back and chest with his palm. A pitcher and glass of water wcre brought. The windows and doors were thrown open, and the major, wildly excitad, swished a newspaper in the baby's faoo, fanning it frantically. Siinpsi 11 dashed a glass of water into Joey's eyes and mouth, nd the baby, after several gasps, buret out crying and wailing again. "Jingle some keysat him!" bellowed the major, bobbing his watcb up and down six inches f rom the baby's face. "Talk to him; talk to him. Don't yon know some baby talk? Here, Joey, here, i' here. ' ' And the major stopped his roari ing and whistled, snapping his fingers. His efforts were futile. Joey cried the louder, and the men left him in the middle of the floor and sat down to a Bolemn consultution. "We'vegot to stop thatcrying first, " sald Simpson "Now, I remember I picked up a woman's paper once in a dootor's oiïice. It had a dozen columns on the care of babies. I'll go to the corner and get some papers and magazines. " And Simpson hurried to the corner news store. He returned with his arms f uil of weekly and monthly literature and found Joey crying at the top of his voice. With uervous haste the men pored over the papers until Barlow's triumphant "Here it is" brought the others to him. "Hints to Youug Mothers, " read Barlow, peering through his spectacles. "If the liaby cries without apparent reason, tho "ause will probably be one of three thr'gs - a pin sticking its tender body, i' col ie or teething. First, search for he pin, for remember the baby cannof talk and teil you where the annoyance is. Remove the clothing gently and rub the hand over the little body. If it is colic, placo the baby, stomach down, on your knee and gently pat and rub the holiow of the back. This will sooth the little one. If it is teething, rub the gums briskly but teuderly with the index finger. ;' When Barlow had finished, the men feit the relief which comes when the enemy is known and visible. The major svalked courageously to the baby, pufïing his cigar. Granger lighted his pipe, and Barlow, repeating "First search for the pin, " seated himself on the edge of the chaii' and received the baby. from the major. Joey alternately screamed and gasped, for the major and Granger had filled the room with tobáceo smoke, but Barlow and Simpson, with grim deliberation, removed the little shoes and stockings and peeled off the other clothing, until Joey, a chubby, rosy cherub, displayed his physical charms to the intensely interested bachelors. From head to foot the wailing, chokiug Joey was inspected by the quartet, and not a pin mark was observabla "It'g either oolio or teething, " said Granger, who had dropped on his knees, with "Hints to Youns Mothers" before him. "Place the baby, stomach down, ou your knee," be read, "and gently pat and rub the holiow of the back." Catohing the naked Joey by the nape of his neck and grasping both feet, Barlow flopped him over and rubbed so energetically that Joey's back grew red, and he squirmed and screamed worse than ever. "It's not oolic; it's histeeth, " said Granger, who had waited a reasonable time to see the effeot of the treatment. "Rub the gums briskly but tender Iv with the index flnanr. " Simpson squatted to the floor on the j other side, and thrusting his flnger into Joey's mouth rubbed Joey's gurns, whilo Barlow still patted and rubbed the small I of Joey's back. Utterly exhausted, Joey's cries sank to subdued sobs, and final ly he became quiet. Barlow held hiin for half an hour, while Granger, who had been energetically studyiug the advertisements of infants' food, went to the drug store and brought half a dozen boxes and bottles to Bob, who, carefully following directions, made up half a dozen different brews of lactated food, malted milk and cornstarch preparations. Joey's oontinued silence gave Barlow and the major confidence, and they managed to clothe him after a fashion. Bob's culinary skill stood him in good stead, for Joey eagerly drank a bowl of prepared food and became so smiling and showed his pretty dimples so effectively that the major picked up his dressing gown and danced vigorously around him. The belated dinner was eaten in 6ilenoe, with Joey staring through the folding doors from the center of the sitting room. Then came the perplexing problem of providing suitable sleeping quarters for the little guest. It was voted to put Joey in Collins,' bed, and again the "Hints to Young Mothers" was consulted. The oracle said: "For sleep, baby's nightgown should be loóse, short and easy. Woolen is pref erred. ' ' Granger disappeared when Simpson read this and returned with a light flannel négligé shirt. "We can cut off the sleeves, " he said, "and the boctoui. It nmst be short, yon know. and loóse and woolen and easy. ' ' Joey was too sleepy to protest when Barlow again pulled his clothing from him. The baby was placed in Granger'6 shirt, and then, escorted by the major, Granger, Simpson and Bob, Barlow carried Joey to Collins' room, and building a nest of pillows laid Joey, now fast asleep, in it. Joey did not wake all night, but the men took tums watching him until Bob's rising bell awoke the baby. At the same moment Collins entered the house. Theu peace feil on the bachelors, for Collins was a widower, and they feit he understood the situation. "Whydidn't you inforin the pólice?" he asked. "Some mother was crazy about this baby last night. " After feeding and dressing Joey, Collins picked him up, went out of tbe house and slowly walked down the street. He had passed one of the blocks of houses when a woman's scream stopped him, and the next instant Joey was in his mother's arms. The servant girl was new to the neighborhood. She had placed Joey on the wrong steps and had then chased two small boys who had run away with the baby oarriatie. When she returned and could not find Joey, she became hysterical, and the family roamed the streetand haunted the pólice stations all night, with Joey in a bachelor's den a blook away. - Chicago Record. If man had been limited to the use of his natural weapons of defense, he would long since have been beaten out of the contest by the animal kingdom. i


Ann Arbor Argus
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