A woman of unmistakable Celtic origin screamed murder from a third-story window. The thought of murder was disagreeable to The Hopper. Shaver’s father had missed him by only the matter of a foot or two, and as he had no intention of offering himself again as a target he stood not upon the order of his going.
He effected a running pick-up of the Lang-Yao, and with this art treasure under one arm and the plum-blossom vase under the other, he sprinted for the highway, stumbling over shrubbery, bumping into a stone bench that all but caused disaster, and finally reached the road on which he continued his flight toward New Haven, followed by cries in many keys and a fusillade of pistol shots.
Arriving presently at a hamlet, where he paused for breath in the rear of a country store, he found a basket and a quantity of paper in which he carefully packed his loot. Over the top he spread some faded lettuce leaves and discarded carnations which communicated something of a blithe holiday air to his encumbrance. Elsewhere he found a bicycle under a shed, and while cycling over a snowy road in the dark, hampered by a basket containing pottery representative of the highest genius of the Orient, was not without its difficulties and dangers, The Hopper made rapid progress.
Halfway through New Haven he approached two policemen and slowed down to allay suspicion.
“Merry Chris’mas!” he called as he passed them and increased his weight upon the pedals.
The officers of the law, cheered as by a greeting from Santa Claus himself, responded with an equally hearty Merry Christmas.
At three o’clock The Hopper reached Happy Hill Farm, knocked as before at the kitchen door, and was admitted by Humpy.
“Wot ye got now?” snarled the reformed yeggman.
“He’s gone and done ut ag’in!” wailed Mary, as she spied the basket.
“I sure done ut, all right,” admitted The Hopper good-naturedly, as he set the basket on the table where a few hours earlier he had deposited Shaver. “How’s the kid?”
Grudging assurances that Shaver was asleep and hostile glances directed at the mysterious basket did not disturb his equanimity.
Humpy was thwarted in an attempt to pry into the contents of the basket by a tart reprimand from The Hopper, who with maddening deliberation drew forth the two glazes, found that they had come through the night’s vicissitudes unscathed, and held them at arm’s length, turning them about in leisurely fashion as though lost in admiration of their loveliness. Then he lighted his pipe, seated himself in Mary’s rocker, and told his story.