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A Reversible Santa Claus   By: (1866-1947)

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A REVERSIBLE SANTA CLAUS

BY MEREDITH NICHOLSON

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY FLORENCE H. MINARD

BOSTON and NEW YORK HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

The Riverside Press, Cambridge

1917

COPYRIGHT, 1917, BY MEREDITH NICHOLSON

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Published October 1917

By Meredeth Nicholson

A REVERSIBLE SANTA CLAUS. Illustrated. THE PROOF OF THE PUDDING. Illustrated. THE POET. Illustrated. OTHERWISE PHYLLIS. With frontispiece in color. THE PROVINCIAL AMERICAN AND OTHER PAPERS. A HOOSIER CHRONICLE. With illustrations. THE SIEGE OF THE SEVEN SUITORS. With illustrations.

HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY

BOSTON AND NEW YORK

A Reversible Santa Claus

[Illustration: "DO YOU MIND TELLING ME JUST WHY YOU READ THAT NOTE?" (Page 78) ]

Illustrations

"DO YOU MIND TELLING ME JUST WHY YOU READ THAT NOTE?" Frontispiece

THE HOPPER GRINNED, PROUD OF HIS SUCCESS, WHICH MARY AND HUMPY VIEWED WITH GRUDGING ADMIRATION 44

THE FAINT CLICK OF A LATCH MARKED THE PROWLER'S PROXIMITY TO A HEDGE 116

THE THREE MEN GATHERED ROUND THEM, STARING DULLY 150

From Drawings by F. Minard

[Illustration]

A Reversible Santa Claus

I

Mr. William B. Aikins, alias "Softy" Hubbard, alias Billy The Hopper, paused for breath behind a hedge that bordered a quiet lane and peered out into the highway at a roadster whose tail light advertised its presence to his felonious gaze. It was Christmas Eve, and after a day of unseasonable warmth a slow, drizzling rain was whimsically changing to snow.

The Hopper was blowing from two hours' hard travel over rough country. He had stumbled through woodlands, flattened himself in fence corners to avoid the eyes of curious motorists speeding homeward or flying about distributing Christmas gifts, and he was now bent upon committing himself to an inter urban trolley line that would afford comfortable transportation for the remainder of his journey. Twenty miles, he estimated, still lay between him and his domicile.

The rain had penetrated his clothing and vigorous exercise had not greatly diminished the chill in his blood. His heart knocked violently against his ribs and he was dismayed by his shortness of wind. The Hopper was not so young as in the days when his agility and genius for effecting a quick "get away" had earned for him his sobriquet. The last time his Bertillon measurements were checked (he was subjected to this humiliating experience in Omaha during the Ak Sar Ben carnival three years earlier) official note was taken of the fact that The Hopper's hair, long carried in the records as black, was rapidly whitening.

At forty eight a crook even so resourceful and versatile a member of the fraternity as The Hopper begins to mistrust himself. For the greater part of his life, when not in durance vile, The Hopper had been in hiding, and the state or condition of being a fugitive, hunted by keen eyed agents of justice, is not, from all accounts, an enviable one. His latest experience of involuntary servitude had been under the auspices of the State of Oregon, for a trifling indiscretion in the way of safe blowing. Having served his sentence, he skillfully effaced himself by a year's siesta on a pine apple plantation in Hawaii. The island climate was not wholly pleasing to The Hopper, and when pine apples palled he took passage from Honolulu as a stoker, reached San Francisco (not greatly chastened in spirit), and by a series of characteristic hops, skips, and jumps across the continent landed in Maine by way of the Canadian provinces. The Hopper needed money. He was not without a certain crude philosophy, and it had been his dream to acquire by some brilliant coup a sufficient fortune upon which to retire and live as a decent, law abiding citizen for the remainder of his days. This ambition, or at least the means to its fulfillment, can hardly be defended as praiseworthy, but The Hopper was a singular character and we must take him as we find him... Continue reading book >>




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