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Chapter 10

  • Mary was not wholly pleased at the prospect of visitors, but she fell to wor_ith Humpy to put the house in order. At five o'clock not one, but thre_utomobiles drove into the yard, filling Humpy with alarm lest at last Th_opper's sins had overtaken him, and they were all about to be hauled away t_pend the rest of their lives in prison. It was not the police, but the youn_albots, with Billie and his grandfathers, on their way to a famil_elebration at the house of an aunt of Muriel's.
  • The grandfathers were restored to perfect amity, and were deeply curious no_bout The Hopper, whom the peace-loving Muriel had cajoled into robbing thei_ouses.
  • "And you're only an honest chicken farmer, after all!" exclaimed Talbot,
  • senior, when they were all sitting in a semicircle about the fireplace i_ary's parlor. "I hoped you were really a burglar; I always wanted to know _urglar."
  • Humpy had chopped down a small fir that had adorned the front yard and had se_t up as a Christmas tree—an attention that was not lost upon Billie. Th_opper had brought some mechanical toys from town, and Humpy essayed th_greeable task of teaching the youngster how to operate them. Mary produce_offee and pound cake for the guests; The Hopper assumed the rôle of lord o_he manor with a benevolent air that was intended as much to impress Mary an_umpy as the guests.
  • "Of course," said Mr. Wilton, whose appearance was the least bit comical b_eason of his bandaged head,—"of course it was very foolish for a man of you_terling character to allow a young woman like my daughter to bully you int_obbing houses for her. Why, when Roger fired at you as you were jumping ou_f the window, he didn't miss you more than a foot! It would have been ghastl_or all of us if he had killed you!"
  • "Well, o' course it all begun from my goin' into th' little house lookin' fe_haver's folks," replied The Hopper.
  • "But you haven't told us how you came to find our house," said Roger,
  • suggesting a perfectly natural line of inquiries that caused Humpy to becom_eeply preoccupied with a pump he was operating in a basin of water fo_illie's benefit.
  • "Well, ut jes' looked like a house that Shaver would belong to, cute an'
  • comfortable like," said The Hopper; "I jes' suspicioned it wuz th' place as _uz passin' along."
  • "I don't think we'd better begin trying to establish alibis," remarked Muriel,
  • very gently, "for we might get into terrible scrapes. Why, if Mr. Steven_adn't been so splendid about _everything_ and wasn't just the kindest man i_he world, he could make it very ugly for me."
  • "I shudder to think of what he might do to me," said Wilton, glancin_uardedly at his neighbor.
  • "The main thing," said Talbot,—"the main thing is that Mr. Stevens has don_or us all what nobody else could ever have done. He's made us see how foolis_t is to quarrel about mere baubles. He's settled all our troubles for us, an_or my part I'll say his solution is entirely satisfactory."
  • "Quite right," ejaculated Wilton. "If I ever have any delicate busines_egotiations that are beyond my powers I'm going to engage Mr. Stevens t_andle them."
  • "My business's hens an' eggs," said The Hopper modestly; "an' we're doin'
  • purty well."
  • When they rose to go (a move that evoked strident protests from Billie, wh_as enjoying himself hugely with Humpy) they were all in the jolliest humor.
  • "We must be neighborly," said Muriel, shaking hands with Mary, who was at th_oint of tears so great was her emotion at the success of The Hopper's party.
  • "And we're going to buy all our chickens and eggs from you. We never have an_uck raising our own."
  • Whereupon The Hopper imperturbably pressed upon each of the visitors a nea_ard stating his name (his latest and let us hope his last!) with the prope_ural route designation of Happy Hill Farm.
  • The Hopper carried Billie out to his Grandfather Wilton's car, while Hump_alked beside him bearing the gifts from the Happy Hill Farm Christmas tree.
  • From the door Mary watched them depart amid a chorus of merry Christmases, ou_f which Billie's little pipe rang cheerily.
  • When The Hopper and Humpy returned to the house, they abandoned the parlor fo_he greater coziness of the kitchen and there took account of the events o_he momentous twenty-four hours.
  • "Them's what I call nice folks," said Humpy. "They jes' put us on an' wore u_ike we wuz a pair o' ole slippers."
  • "They wuzn't uppish—not to speak of," Mary agreed. "I guess that girl's go_ore gumption than any of 'em. She's got 'em straightened up now and I gues_he'll take care they don't cut up no more monkey-shines about that Chines_tuff. Her husban' seemed sort o' gentle like."
  • "Artists is that way," volunteered The Hopper, as though from deep experienc_f art and life. "I jes' been thinkin' that knowin' folks like that an'
  • findin' 'em humin, makin' mistakes like th' rest of us, kind o' makes ut see_asier fer us all t' play th' game straight. Ut's goin' to be th' white car_er me—jes' chickens an' eggs, an' here's hopin' the bulls don't ever find ou_e're settled here."
  • Humpy, having gone into the parlor to tend the fire, returned with tw_nvelopes he had found on the mantel. There was a check for a thousand dollar_n each, one from Wilton, the other from Talbot, with "Merry Christmas"
  • written across the visiting-cards of those gentlemen. The Hopper permitte_ary and Humpy to examine them and then laid them on the kitchen table, whil_e deliberated. His meditations were so prolonged that they grew nervous.
  • "I reckon they could spare ut, after all ye done fer 'em, Hop," remarke_umpy.
  • "They's millionaires, an' money ain't nothin' to 'em," said The Hopper.
  • "We can buy a motor-truck," suggested Mary, "to haul our stuff to town; an'
  • mebbe we can build a new shed to keep ut in."
  • The Hopper set the catsup bottle on the checks and rubbed his cheek, squintin_t the ceiling in the manner of one who means to be careful of his speech.
  • "They's things wot is an' things wot ain't," he began. "We ain't none o' u_ver got nowheres bein' crooked. I been figurin' that I still got about twent_housan' o' that bunch o' green I pulled out o' that express car, planted i_laces where 'taint doin' nobody no good. I guess ef I do ut careful I ki_end ut back to the company, a little at a time, an' they'd never know wher_t come from."
  • Mary wept; Humpy stared, his mouth open, his one eye rolling queerly.
  • "I guess we kin put a little chunk away every year," The Hopper went on. "We'_e comfortabler doin' ut. We could square up ef we lived long enough, which w_on't need t' worry about, that bein' the Lord's business. You an' me'_racked a good many safes, Hump, but we never made no money at ut, takin' ou_h' time we done."
  • "He's got religion; that's wot he's got!" moaned Humpy, as though this marke_he ultimate tragedy of The Hopper's life.
  • "Mebbe ut's religion an' mebbe ut's jes' sense," pursued The Hopper, unshake_y Humpy's charge. "They wuz a chaplin in th' Minnesoty pen as used t' say e_e're all square with our own selves ut's goin' to be all right with God. _uess I got a good deal o' squarin' t' do, but I'm goin' t' begin ut. An' al_hese things happenin' along o' Chris'mus, an' little Shaver an' his ma bein'
  • so friendly like, an' her gittin' me t' help straighten out them ole gents,
  • an' doin' all I done an' not gettin' pinched seems more 'n jes' luck; it'_rovidential's wot ut is!"
  • This, uttered in a challenging tone, evoked a sob from Humpy, who announce_hat he "felt like" he was going to die.
  • "It's th' Chris'mus time, I reckon," said Mary, watching The Hopper deposi_he two checks in the clock. "It's the only decent Chris'mus I ever knowed!"