Chapter XXI. Just Suppose
 

Nan Bobbsey gave gasp, just as if she had fallen into a bath tub full of cold water. Bert quickly glanced at his friend Billy. Nell had hurried over to the other side of the room to stop Flossie from pulling a pile of dusty magazines from a shelf down on top of herself. Billy seemed to be the only one who was not excited.

"Two dollars?" he repeated. "That's a lot of money." "What? A lot of money for rich childrens? Ha! Ha! That's only a little moneys!" laughed the man, rubbing his hands.

"We aren't rich," said Bert. "And I don't believe we have two dollars." He was pretty sure he and Nan had not that much, at any rate.

"How much you got?" asked the man eagerly. "Maybe I let you have these dishes cheaper, but they's worth more as two dollars. How much you all got?"

"How much have you?" asked Billy of Bert. Bert pulled some change from his pocket. The two boys counted it.

"Eighty-seven cents," announced Bert, when they had counted it twice.

"Oh, that isn't half enough!" cried the old man.

"I have some money," announced Nan, bringing out her little purse.

"How much?" asked the man. That seemed to be all he could think about.

Nan and Nell counted the change. It amounted to thirty-two cents.

"How much is thirty-two and eighty-seven?" asked Nell.

Bert and Billy figured it on a piece of paper.

"A dollar and twenty-nine cents," announced, Bert.

"No, it's only a dollar and nineteen," declared Billy, who was a little better at figures than was his chum.

"How much?" asked the old man, for the children had done their counting on the other side of the room, and in whispers.

"A dollar and nineteen cents!" announced Billy.

"Oh, I couldn't let you have these dishes, for that," said the old man, and he seemed about to take them from the counter where they had been put, to place them back in the window.

"Wait a minute," said Billy. "These dishes are worth only a dollar, but I have fifteen cents I can lend you, Bert. That will make a dollar and thirty-four cents. That's all we have and if you don't want to sell the dishes for that, we can go and get 'em somewhere else."

Nan was about to gasp out: "Oh!" but a look from Billy stopped her. She saw what he was trying to do.

"A dollar thirty-four--that's all the moneys you got?" asked the old man.

"Every cent we're going to give!" declared Billy firmly. "If you'll sell the play dishes for that all right. If you won't--"

He seemed about to leave.

"Oh, well, what I cares if I die in the poor-house?" asked the old man. "Here! Take 'em. But I am losing money. Those is valuable dishes. If I had more I could sell 'em for ten dollars maybe. But as they is all I got take 'em for a dollar and thirty-four. You couldn't make it a dollar thirty-five, could you?"

"No," said Bert decidedly, "we couldn't!"

"Oh, dear!" sighed the old man. "Take 'em, then."

"They're awfully dusty," complained Nell, as she looked at the sugar bowl and pitcher.

"That's 'cause they're so old and valuable, my dear," snarled the old man. "But my wife she dust them off for you, and I wrap them up, though I ought to charge you a penny for a sheet of paper. But what I care if I dies in the poorhouse."

"Are you goin' there soon?" asked Flossie. "We've got a poorhouse at Lakeport, and it's awful nice."

"Oh, well, little one, maybe I don't go there just yet," said the man who spoke wrong words sometimes. "Here, Mina!" he called, and a woman, almost as old as he, came from the back room. "Wipe off the dust. I have sold the old dishes--the valuable old dishes."

"Ah, such a bargain as they got!" murmured the old woman. "Them is valuable china. Such a bargains!"

"Where did you get them?" asked Nan, as the dishes were being wrapped and the old man was counting over the nickels, dimes and pennies of the children's money.

"Where I get them? Of how should I know? Maybe they come in by somebody what sell them for money. Maybe we buy them in some old house like Washington's. It is long ago. We have had them in the shop a long time, but the older they are the better they get. They is all the better for being old--a better bargain, my dear!" and the old woman smiled, showing a mouth from which many teeth were missing.

"Well, come on," said Billy, when the dishes had been wrapped and given to Bert, who carried them carefully. "But I wish you had some sailboats," he said to the old man, as if that was all they had come in to buy.

"I have some next week," answered the old man. "Comes around then and have a big bargains in a sailsboats."

"Maybe I will," agreed Billy.

Out of the shop walked the Bobbsey twins and their chums, the Martin children of Washington. And the hearts of Bert and Nan, at least, were beating quickly with excitement and hope. As for Flossie, she was holding her doll, and Freddie was blowing his whistle.

"I'm a regular fire engine now," declared Freddie. "Don't you hear how the engine is blowing the whistle?"

"You'll have everybody looking at you, Freddie Bobbsey!" exclaimed Flossie. "Nan, do make him stop his noise."

"Oh, let him blow his whistle if he wants to," said Bert. "It isn't hurting anybody."

"I know what I'm going to do when I get home," said Flossie. "I'm going to put a brand new dress on this doll, and give her a new hat, too."

"That will be nice," said Nan.

At that moment they had to cross at a street corner which was much crowded. There was a policeman there to regulate the coming and going of the people and carriages and automobiles, and when he blew his whistle the traffic would go up and down one street, and then when he blew his whistle again it would go up and down the other.

The policeman had just blown on his whistle, and the traffic was going past the Bobbsey twins when Freddie gave a sudden loud blow. Immediately some of the carriages and automobiles going in one direction stopped short and the others commenced to go the other way.

"For gracious sake, Freddie! see what you have done," gasped Bert.

The traffic policeman who stood in the middle of the two streets looked very much surprised. Then he saw it was Freddie who had blown the whistle, and he shook his finger at the little boy in warning.

"He wants you to stop," said Nan, and made Freddie put the whistle in his pocket for the time being.

Then the Bobbseys and their friends hurried on their way.

"I'll give you the fifteen cents as soon as we get back to the hotel, Billy," said Bert.

"Oh, that's all right," his chum answered. "I'm in no hurry. Do you think we paid too much for the dishes?"

"Oh, no!" exclaimed Nan. "I'd have given the two dollars if I'd had it. Why, Miss Pompret will give us a hundred dollars for these two pieces."

"That's fifty dollars apiece!" exclaimed Nell. "It doesn't seem that they could be worth that."

"Oh, but she wants them to make up her set," said Bert. "Just these two pieces are missing. I wonder how they came to be in that second-hand store?"

"Maybe the tramp who took them years ago brought them here and sold them," suggested Nan. "But I don't suppose we'll ever really find out."

Eager and excited, the Bobbsey twins and their friends walked back toward the hotel.

"Won't mother and father be surprised when they find we have the Pompret china?" asked Nan of her brother.

"Yes," he answered, "I guess they will. But, oh, Nan! Just suppose!"

"Suppose what?" she asked, for Bert seemed worried over something.

"Suppose these aren't the right dishes, after all? S'posin' these aren't the ones Miss Pompret wants?"