“We’re going to take you home,” cried Muriel, beaming.
“Yer car’s at the back gate, all right-side-up,” said The Hopper, “but I kin go on the trolley.”
“Indeed you won’t! Roger will take you home. Oh, don’t be alarmed! My husband knows everything about our conspiracy. And we want you to come back this afternoon. You know I owe you an apology for thinking—for thinking you were—you were—a—”
“They’s things wot is an’ things wot ain’t, miss. Circumstantial evidence sends lots o’ men to th’ chair. Ut’s a heap more happy like,” The Hopper continued in his best philosophical vein, “t’ play th’ white card, helpin’ widders an’ orfants an’ settlin’ fusses. When ye ast me t’ steal them jugs I hadn’t th’ heart t’ refuse ye, miss. I wuz scared to tell ye I had yer baby an’ ye seemed so sort o’ trustin’ like. An’ ut bein’ Chris’mus an’ all.”
When he steadfastly refused to promise to return, Muriel announced that they would visit The Hopper late in the afternoon and bring Billie along to express their thanks more formally.
“I’ll be glad to see ye,” replied The Hopper, though a little doubtfully and shame-facedly. “But ye mustn’t git me into no more house-breakin’ scrapes,” he added with a grin. “It’s mighty dangerous, miss, fer amachures, like me an’ yer pa!”
Mary was not wholly pleased at the prospect of visitors, but she fell to work with Humpy to put the house in order. At five o’clock not one, but three automobiles drove into the yard, filling Humpy with alarm lest at last The Hopper’s sins had overtaken him, and they were all about to be hauled away to spend the rest of their lives in prison. It was not the police, but the young Talbots, with Billie and his grandfathers, on their way to a family celebration at the house of an aunt of Muriel’s.
The grandfathers were restored to perfect amity, and were deeply curious now about The Hopper, whom the peace-loving Muriel had cajoled into robbing their houses.
“And you’re only an honest chicken farmer, after all!” exclaimed Talbot, senior, when they were all sitting in a semicircle about the fireplace in Mary’s parlor. “I hoped you were really a burglar; I always wanted to know a burglar.”
Humpy had chopped down a small fir that had adorned the front yard and had set it up as a Christmas tree—an attention that was not lost upon Billie. The Hopper had brought some mechanical toys from town, and Humpy essayed the agreeable task of teaching the youngster how to operate them. Mary produced coffee and pound cake for the guests; The Hopper assumed the role of lord of the manor with a benevolent air that was intended as much to impress Mary and Humpy as the guests.
“Of course,” said Mr. Wilton, whose appearance was the least bit comical by reason of his bandaged head,—“of course it was very foolish for a man of your sterling character to allow a young woman like my daughter to bully you into robbing houses for her. Why, when Roger fired at you as you were jumping out of the window, he didn’t miss you more than a foot! It would have been ghastly for all of us if he had killed you!”