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Chapter 3

  • The Hopper knocked twice at the back door, waited an instant, and knocke_gain. As he completed the signal the door was opened guardedly. A man an_oman surveyed him in hostile silence as he pushed past them, kicked the doo_hut, and deposited the blinking child on the kitchen table. Humpy, the one- eyed, jumped to the windows and jammed the green shades close into the frames.
  • The woman scowlingly waited for the head of the house to explain himself, an_his, with the perversity of one who knows the dramatic value of suspense, h_as in no haste to do.
  • "Well," Mary questioned sharply. "What ye got there, Bill?"
  • The Hopper was regarding Shaver with a grin of benevolent satisfaction. Th_oungster had seized a bottle of catsup and was making heroic efforts to rais_t to his mouth, and the Hopper was intensely tickled by Shaver's efforts t_wallow the bottle. Mrs. Stevens, _alias_ Weeping Mary, was not amused, an_er husband's enjoyment of the child's antics irritated her.
  • "Come out with ut, Bill!" she commanded, seizing the bottle. "What ye bee_oin'?"
  • Shaver's big blue eyes expressed surprise and displeasure at being deprived o_is plaything, but he recovered quickly and reached for a plate with which h_egan thumping the table.
  • "Out with ut, Hop!" snapped Humpy nervously. "Nothin' wuz said abou_idnapin', an' I don't stand for ut!"
  • "When I heard the machine comin' in the yard I knowed somethin' was wrong an'
  • I guess it couldn't be no worse," added Mary, beginning to cry. "You hadn't n_ight to do ut, Bill. Hookin' a buzz-buzz an' a kid an' when we wuz playin'
  • the white card! You ought t' 'a' told me, Bill, what ye went to town fer, an'
  • it bein' Christmas, an' all."
  • That he should have chosen for his fall the Christmas season of all times wa_eprehensible, a fact which Mary and Humpy impressed upon him in the stronges_erms. The Hopper was fully aware of the inopportuneness of hi_ransgressions, but not to the point of encouraging his wife to abuse him.
  • As he clumsily tried to unfasten Shaver's hood, Mary pushed him aside and wit_haking fingers removed the child's wraps. Shaver's cheeks were rosy from hi_rive through the cold; he was a plump, healthy little shaver and The Hoppe_iewed him with intense pride. Mary held the hood and coat to the light an_nspected them with a sophisticated eye. They were of excellent quality an_orkmanship, and she shook her head and sighed deeply as she placed the_arefully on a chair.
  • "It ain't on the square, Hop," protested Humpy, whose lone eye expressed th_ost poignant sorrow at The Hopper's derelictions. Humpy was tall and lean, with a thin, many-lined face. He was an ill-favored person at best, and hi_abit of turning his head constantly as though to compel his single eye t_erform double service gave one an impression of restless watchfulness.
  • "Cute little Shaver, ain't 'e? Give Shaver somethin' to eat, Mary. I gues_ilk'll be the right ticket considerin' th' size of 'im. How ole you make 'im?
  • Not more'n three, I reckon?"
  • "Two. He ain't more'n two, that kid."
  • "A nice little feller; you're a cute un, ain't ye, Shaver?"
  • Shaver nodded his head solemnly. Having wearied of playing with the plate h_ravely inspected the trio; found something amusing in Humpy's bizarr_ountenance and laughed merrily. Finding no response to his friendly overture_e appealed to Mary.
  • "Me wants me's paw-widge," he announced.
  • "Porridge," interpreted Humpy with the air of one whose superior breedin_akes him the proper arbiter of the speech of children of high social station.
  • Whereupon Shaver appreciatively poked his forefinger into Humpy's survivin_ptic.
  • "I'll see what I got," muttered Mary. "What ye used t' eatin' for supper, honey?"
  • The "honey" was a concession, and The Hopper, who was giving Shaver his watc_o play with, bent a commendatory glance upon his spouse.
  • "Go on an' tell us what ye done," said Mary, doggedly busying herself abou_he stove.
  • The Hopper drew a chair to the table to be within reach of Shaver and relate_uccinctly his day's adventures.
  • "A dip!" moaned Mary as he described the seizure of the purse in the subway.
  • "You hadn't no right to do ut, Hop!" bleated Humpy, who had tipped his chai_gainst the wall and was sucking a cold pipe. And then, professional curiosit_vermastering his shocked conscience, he added: "What'd she measure, Hop?"
  • The Hopper grinned.
  • "Flubbed! Nothin' but papers," he confessed ruefully.
  • Mary and Humpy expressed their indignation and contempt in unequivocal terms, which they repeated after he told of the suspected "bull" whose presence o_he local had so alarmed him. A frank description of his flight and of hi_eizure of the roadster only added to their bitterness.
  • Humpy rose and paced the floor with the quick, short stride of men habituate_o narrow spaces. The Hopper watched the telltale step so disagreeabl_eminiscent of evil times and shrugged his shoulders impatiently.
  • "Set down, Hump; ye make me nervous. I got thinkin' to do."
  • "Ye'd better be quick about doin' ut!" Humpy snorted with an oath.
  • "Cut the cussin'!" The Hopper admonished sharply. Since his retirement t_rivate life he had sought diligently to free his speech of profanity an_hieves' slang, as not only unbecoming in a respectable chicken farmer, bu_ikely to arouse suspicions as to his origin and previous condition o_ervitude. "Can't ye see Shaver ain't use to ut? Shaver's a little gent; he'_ reg'ler little juke; that's wot Shaver is."
  • "The more 'way up he is the worse fer us," whimpered Humpy. "It's kidnapin', that's wot ut is!"
  • "That's wot it _ain't_ ," declared The Hopper, averting a calamity to hi_atch, which Shaver was swinging by its chain. "He was took by accident I tel_e! I'm goin' to take Shaver back to his ma—ain't I, Shaver?"
  • "Take 'im back!" echoed Mary.
  • Humpy crumpled up in his chair at this new evidence of The Hopper's insanity.
  • "I'm goin' to make a Chris'mas present o' Shaver to his ma," reaffirmed Th_opper, pinching the nearer ruddy cheek of the merry, contented guest.
  • Shaver kicked The Hopper in the stomach and emitted a chortle expressive o_nshakable confidence in The Hopper's ability to restore him to his lawfu_wners. This confidence was not, however, manifested toward Mary, who ha_repared with care the only cereal her pantry afforded, and now approache_haver, bowl and spoon in hand. Shaver, taken by surprise, inspected hi_upper with disdain and spurned it with a vigor that sent the spoon rattlin_cross the floor.
  • "Me wants me's paw-widge bowl! Me wants me's _own_ paw-widge bowl!" h_creamed.
  • Mary expostulated; Humpy offered advice as to the best manner of dealing wit_he refractory Shaver, who gave further expression to his resentment b_hrowing The Hopper's watch with violence against the wall. That the table- service of The Hopper's establishment was not to Shaver's liking wa_anifested in repeated rejections of the plain white bowl in which Mar_ffered the porridge. He demanded his very own porridge bowl with th_ncreasing vehemence of one who is willing to starve rather than accept s_alpable a substitute. He threw himself back on the table and lay ther_icking and crying. Other needs now occurred to Shaver: he wanted his papa; h_anted his mamma; he wanted to go to his gwan'pa's. He clamored for Sant_laus and numerous Christmas trees which, it seemed, had been promised him a_he houses of his kinsfolk. It was amazing and bewildering that the heart o_ne so young could desire so many things that were not immediately attainable.
  • He had begun to suspect that he was among strangers who were not of his way o_ife, and this was fraught with the gravest danger.
  • "They'll hear 'im hollerin' in China," wailed the pessimistic Humpy, runnin_bout the room and examining the fastenings of doors and windows. "Folks goin'
  • along the road'll hear 'im, an' it's terms fer the whole bunch!"
  • The Hopper began pacing the floor with Shaver, while Humpy and Mary denounce_he child for unreasonableness and lack of discipline, not overlooking th_tupidity and criminal carelessness of The Hopper in projecting so lawless _oungster into their domestic circle.
  • "Twenty years, that's wot ut is!" mourned Humpy.
  • "Ye kin get the chair fer kidnapin'," Mary added dolefully. "Ye gotta get 'i_ut o' here, Bill."
  • Pleasant predictions of a long prison term with capital punishment as th_appy alternative failed to disturb The Hopper. To their surprise and somewha_o their shame he won the Shaver to a tractable humor. There was nothing i_he Hopper's known past to justify any expectation that he could quiet _rying baby, and yet Shaver with a child's unerring instinct realized that Th_opper meant to be kind. He patted The Hopper's face with one fat little paw, chokingly declaring that he was hungry.
  • '"Course Shaver's hungry; an' Shaver's goin' to eat nice porridge Aunt Mar_ade fer 'im. Shaver's goin' to have 'is own porridge bowl to-morry—yes, sir- ee, oo is, little Shaver!"
  • Restored to the table, Shaver opened his mouth in obedience to The Hopper'_atient pleading and swallowed a spoonful of the mush, Humpy holding the bow_ut of sight in tactful deference to the child's delicate æstheti_ensibilities. A tumbler of milk was sipped with grateful gasps.
  • The Hopper grinned, proud of his success, while Mary and Humpy viewed hi_fforts with somewhat grudging admiration, and waited patiently until Th_opper took the wholly surfeited Shaver in his arms and began pacing th_loor, humming softly. In normal circumstances The Hopper was not musical, an_umpy and Mary exchanged looks which, when interpreted, pointed to nothin_ess than a belief that the owner of Happy Hill Farm was bereft of his senses.
  • There was some question as to whether Shaver should be undressed. Mar_iscouraged the idea and Humpy took a like view.
  • "Ye gotta chuck 'im quick; that's what ye gotta do," said Mary hoarsely. "W_on't want 'im sleepin' here."
  • Whereupon The Hopper demonstrated his entire independence by carrying th_haver to Humpy's bed and partially undressing him. While this was i_rogress, Shaver suddenly opened his eyes wide and raising one foot until i_pproximated the perpendicular, reached for it with his chubby hands.
  • "Sant' Claus comin'; m'y Kwismus!"
  • "Jes' listen to Shaver!" chuckled The Hopper. "'Course Santy is comin,' an'
  • we're goin' to hang up Shaver's stockin', ain't we, Shaver?"
  • He pinned both stockings to the foot-board of Humpy's bed. By the time thi_as accomplished under the hostile eyes of Mary and Humpy, Shaver slept th_leep of the innocent.