‘"Course Shaver’s hungry; an’ Shaver’s goin’ to eat nice porridge Aunt Mary made 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’s patient pleading and swallowed a spoonful of the mush, Humpy holding the bowl out of sight in tactful deference to the child’s delicate aesthetic sensibilities. A tumbler of milk was sipped with grateful gasps.
[Illustration: THE HOPPER GRINNED, PROUD OF HIS SUCCESS, WHICH MARY AND HUMPY VIEWED WITH GRUDGING ADMIRATION]
The Hopper grinned, proud of his success, while Mary and Humpy viewed his efforts with somewhat grudging admiration, and waited patiently until The Hopper took the wholly surfeited Shaver in his arms and began pacing the floor, humming softly. In normal circumstances The Hopper was not musical, and Humpy and Mary exchanged looks which, when interpreted, pointed to nothing less 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. Mary discouraged the idea and Humpy took a like view.
“Ye gotta chuck ’im quick; that’s what ye gotta do,” said Mary hoarsely. “We don’t want ‘im sleepin’ here.”
Whereupon The Hopper demonstrated his entire independence by carrying the Shaver to Humpy’s bed and partially undressing him. While this was in progress, Shaver suddenly opened his eyes wide and raising one foot until it approximated 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 this was accomplished under the hostile eyes of Mary and Humpy, Shaver slept the sleep of the innocent.
They watched the child in silence for a few minutes and then Mary detached a gold locket from his neck and bore it to the kitchen for examination.
“Ye gotta move quick, Hop,” Humpy urged. “The white card’s what we wuz all goin’ to play. We wuz fixed nice here, an’ things goin’ easy; an’ the yard full o’ br’ilers. I don’t want to do no more time. I’m an ole man, Hop.”
“Cut ut!” ordered The Hopper, taking the locket from Mary and weighing it critically in his hand. They bent over him as he scrutinized the face on which was inscribed:—
Roger Livingston Talbot
June 13, 1913
“Lemme see; he’s two an’ a harf. Ye purty nigh guessed ’im right, Mary.”
The sight of the gold trinket, the probability that the Shaver belonged to a family of wealth, proved disturbing to Humpy’s late protestations of virtue.