Chapter XXVII
 

Early in the fall the baby was born. It proved to be a boy. Orde, nervous as a cat after the ordeal of doing nothing, tiptoed into the darkened room. He found his wife weak and pale, her dark hair framing her face, a new look of rapt inner contemplation rendering even more mysterious her always fathomless eyes. To Orde she seemed fragile, aloof, enshrined among her laces and dainty ribbons. Hardly dared he touch her when she held her hand out to him weakly, but fell on his knees beside the bed and buried his face in the clothes. She placed a gentle hand caressingly on his head.

So they remained for some time. Finally he raised his eyes. She held her lips to him. He kissed them.

"It seems sort of make-believe even yet, sweetheart," she smiled at him whimsically, "that we have a real, live baby all of our own."

"Like other people," said Orde.

"Not like other people at all!" she disclaimed, with a show of indignation.

Grandma Orde brought the newcomer in for Orde's inspection. He looked gravely down on the puckered, discoloured bit of humanity with some feeling of disappointment, and perhaps a faint uneasiness. After a moment he voiced the latter.

"Is--do you think--that is--" he hesitated, "does the doctor say he's going to be all right?"

"All right!" cried Grandma Orde indignantly. "I'd like to know if he isn't all right now! What in the world do you expect of a new- born baby?"

But Carroll was laughing softly to herself on the bed. She held out her arms for the baby, and cuddled it close to her breast.

"He's a little darling," she crooned, "and he's going to grow up big and strong, just like his daddy." She put her cheek against the sleeping babe's and looked up sidewise at the two standing above her. "But I know how you feel," she said to her husband. "When they first showed him to me, I thought he looked like a peanut a thousand years old."

Grandma Orde fairly snorted with indignation.

"Come to your old grandmother, who appreciates you!" she cried, possessing herself of the infant. "He's a beautiful baby; one of the best-looking new-born babies I ever saw!"

Orde escaped to the open air. He had to go to the office to attend to some details of the business. With every step his elation increased. At the office he threw open his desk with a slam. Newmark jumped nervously and frowned. Orde's big, open, and brusque manners bothered him as they would have bothered a cat.

"Got a son and heir over at my place," called Orde in his big voice.

"This old firm's got to rustle now, I tell you."

"Congratulate you, I'm sure," said Newmark rather shortly. "Mrs. Orde is doing well, I hope?"

"Fine, fine!" cried Orde.

Newmark dropped the subject and plunged into a business matter. Orde's attention, however, was flighty. After a little while he closed his desk with another bang.

"No use!" said he. "Got to make it a vacation. I'm going to run over to see how the family is."

Strangely enough, the young couple had not discussed before the question of a name. One evening at twilight, when Orde was perched at the foot of the bed, Carroll brought up the subject.

"He ought to be named for you," she began timidly. "I know that, Jack, and I'd love to have another Jack Orde in the family; but, dear, I've been thinking about father. He's a poor, forlorn old man, who doesn't get much out of life. And it would please him so-- oh, more than you can imagine such a thing could please anybody!"

She looked up at him doubtfully. Orde said nothing, but walked around the bed to where the baby lay in his little cradle. He leaned over and took the infant up in his gingerly awkward fashion.

"How are you to-day, Bobby Orde?" he inquired of the blinking mite.