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Chapter 2

  • The Hopper waited for a limousine to pass and then crawled out of his hiding-
  • place, jumped into the roadster, and was at once in motion. He glanced back,
  • fearing that the owner might have heard his departure, and then, satisfied o_is immediate security, negotiated a difficult turn in the road and settle_imself with a feeling of relief to careful but expeditious flight. It was a_his moment, when he had urged the car to its highest speed, that a nois_tartled him—an amazing little chirrupy sound which corresponded to none o_he familiar forewarnings of engine trouble. With his eyes to the front h_istened for a repetition of the sound. It rose again—it was like a perplexin_heep and chirrup, changing to a chortle of glee.
  • "Goo-goo! Goo-goo-goo!"
  • The car was skimming a dark stretch of road and a superstitious awe fell upo_he Hopper. Murder, he gratefully remembered, had never been among his crimes,
  • though he had once winged a too-inquisitive policeman in Kansas City. H_lanced over his shoulder, but saw no pursuing ghost in the snowy highway;
  • then, looking down apprehensively, he detected on the seat beside him wha_ppeared to be an animate bundle, and, prompted by a louder "goo-goo," he pu_ut his hand. His fingers touched something warm and soft and were promptl_eized and held by Something.
  • The Hopper snatched his hand free of the tentacles of the unknown and shook i_iolently. The nature of the Something troubled him. He renewed hi_xperiments, steering with his left hand and exposing the right to what no_eemed to be the grasp of two very small mittened hands.
  • "Goo-goo! Goody; teep wunnin'!"
  • "A kid!" The Hopper gasped.
  • That he had eloped with a child was the blackest of the day's calamities. H_xperienced a strange sinking feeling in the stomach. In moments o_pprehension a crook's thoughts run naturally into periods of penal servitude,
  • and the punishment for kidnaping, The Hopper recalled, was severe. He stoppe_he car and inspected his unwelcome fellow passenger by the light of matches.
  • Two big blue eyes stared at him from a hood and two mittens were poked int_is face. Two small feet, wrapped tightly in a blanket, kicked at hi_nergetically.
  • "Detup! Mate um skedaddle!"
  • Obedient to this command The Hopper made the car skedaddle, but superstitiou_read settled upon him more heavily. He was satisfied now that from the momen_e transferred the strap-hanger's bill-book to his own pocket he had bee_oodooed. Only a jinx of the most malevolent type could have prompted hi_urried exit from a train to dodge an imaginary "bull." Only the blackest o_vil spirits could be responsible for this involuntary kidnaping!
  • "Mate um wun! Mate um 'ippity stip!"
  • The mittened hands reached for the wheel at this juncture and an unlooked-for
  • "jippity skip" precipitated the young passenger into The Hopper's lap.
  • This mishap was attended with the jolliest baby laughter. Gently but with muc_irmness The Hopper restored the youngster to an upright position an_upported him until sure he was able to sustain himself.
  • "Ye better set still, little feller," he admonished.
  • The little feller seemed in no wise astonished to find himself abroad with _erfect stranger and his courage and good cheer were not lost upon The Hopper.
  • He wanted to be severe, to vent his rage for the day's calamities upon th_nly human being within range, but in spite of himself he felt no animosit_oward the friendly little bundle of humanity beside him. Still, he had stole_ baby and it was incumbent upon him to free himself at once of the appallin_urden; but a baby is not so easily disposed of. He could not, withou_eriously imperiling his liberty, return to the cottage. It was the rule o_ouse-breakers, he recalled, to avoid babies. He had heard it said by burglar_f wide experience and unquestioned wisdom that babies were the most dangerou_f all burglar alarms. All things considered, kidnaping and automobile thef_ere not a happy combination with which to appear before a criminal court. Th_opper was vexed because the child did not cry; if he had shown a ba_isposition The Hopper might have abandoned him; but the youngster was th_heeriest and most agreeable of traveling companions. Indeed, The Hopper'_pirits rose under his continued "goo-gooing" and chirruping.
  • "Nice little Shaver!" he said, patting the child's knees.
  • Little Shaver was so pleased by this friendly demonstration that he threw u_is arms in an effort to embrace The Hopper.
  • "Bil-lee," he gurgled delightedly.
  • The Hopper was so astonished at being addressed in his own lawful name by _trange baby that he barely averted a collision with a passing motor truck. I_as unbelievable that the baby really knew his name, but perhaps it was a goo_men that he had hit upon it. The Hopper's resentment against the dark fat_hat seemed to pursue him vanished. Even though he had stolen a baby, it was _erry, brave little baby who didn't mind at all being run away with! H_ismissed the thought of planting the little shaver at a door, ringing th_ell and running away; this was no way to treat a friendly child that had don_im no injury, and The Hopper highly resolved to do the square thing by th_oungster even at personal inconvenience and risk.
  • The snow was now falling in generous Christmasy flakes, and the high speed th_ar had again attained was evidently deeply gratifying to the young person,
  • whose reckless tumbling about made it necessary for The Hopper to keep a han_n him.
  • "Steady, little un; steady!" The Hopper kept mumbling.
  • His wits were busy trying to devise some means of getting rid of the youngste_ithout exposing himself to the danger of arrest. By this time some one wa_ndoubtedly busily engaged in searching for both baby and car; the police fa_nd near would be notified, and would be on the lookout for a smart roadste_ontaining a stolen child.
  • "Merry Christmas!" a boy shouted from a farm gate.
  • "M'y Kwismus!" piped Shaver.
  • The Hopper decided to run the machine home and there ponder the disposition o_is blithe companion with the care the unusual circumstances demanded.
  • "'Urry up; me's goin' 'ome to me's gwanpa's kwismus t'ee!"
  • "Right ye be, little un; right ye be!" affirmed The Hopper.
  • The youngster was evidently blessed with a sanguine and confiding nature. Hi_eference to his grandfather's Christmas tree impinged sharply upon Th_opper's conscience. Christmas had never figured very prominently in hi_cheme of life. About the only Christmases that he recalled with any pleasur_ere those that he had spent in prison, and those were marked only b_hristmas dinners varying with the generosity of a series of wardens.
  • But Shaver was entitled to all the joys of Christmas, and The Hopper had n_esire to deprive him of them.
  • "Keep a-larfin', Shaver, keep a-larfin'," said the Hopper. "Ole Hop ain'_-goin' to hurt ye!"
  • The Hopper, feeling his way cautiously round the fringes of New Haven, arrive_resently at Happy Hill Farm, where he ran the car in among the chicken shed_ehind the cottage and carefully extinguished the lights.
  • "Now, Shaver, out ye come!"
  • Whereupon Shaver obediently jumped into his arms.