Chapter XXII. Happy Days
 

Nan Bobbsey was so surprised by what Bert said that she stood still in the street and looked at her brother. Then she looked at the precious package he was carrying.

"Bert Bobbsey!" she exclaimed, "these must be the same as Miss Pompret's! Why they have the blue lion on, and the circle of gold, and the letters 'J. W.' and--and everything!"

"Yes, I saw that, too," agreed Bert. "But still they might not be the same dishes."

"Oh, dear!" sighed Nan. "And we paid all that money, too!"

"Oh, I guess they must be the same," put in Nell. "Anyhow, you can take 'em to the hotel and ask your mother."

"Yes, mother might know," agreed Nan.

"And if she says those dishes aren't the ones you want, why we can take 'em back and the man will give us our money," said Billy.

"Oh, he'd never do that!" declared Bert.

"Well, we can ask him," went on the Washington lad.

"Maybe the dishes are Miss Pompret's, after all," said Bert. "I was just s'posin'. And if they aren't, why we can give 'em to Dinah for souvenirs. I was going to get her something anyhow."

"But they cost a lot of money," objected Nan.

"Well, Dinah is awful good to us," said Bert. "And she'd like these dishes if they aren't Miss Pompret's."

"But I do hope they are," sighed Nan. "Think of a whole hundred dollars!"

"It would scare me to get all that money," said Nell. "Oh, I do hope they are the right sugar bowl and pitcher!"

Back to the hotel hurried the Bobbsey twins. Flossie and Freddie, happy with their toys--the doll and the whistles--did not care much one way or the other about the dishes and the reward. But Bert and Nan were very much excited.

"Well, you've been gone rather a long time buying souvenirs," said Mrs. Bobbsey, when the twins and the Martin children came in.

"And oh, Mother, we've had the most wonderful time!" burst out Nan. "We've found Miss Pompret's missing china dishes--the two she has wanted so long--the ones the tramp took and she's going to give a reward of a hundred dollars for, you know--and--and--"

"Yes, and I know you're excited!" exclaimed Mrs. Bobbsey. "Now cool down and tell me all about it."

"And here are the dishes," added Bert, as he set the precious bundle down on the table. "Look at 'em, Mother, and see if they are the ones like Miss Pompret's set. You saw her dishes, didn't you?"

"Yes, but I am not sure I would know them again."

"I owe Billy fifteen cents," went on Bert, as he unwrapped the dishes. "We didn't have money enough. The man wanted two dollars, but Billy got him down to a dollar and thirty-four cents."

"Billy is quite a little bargainer," said Mrs. Bobbsey, with a smile. "And now to look at the dishes."

She carefully examined the sugar bowl and cream pitcher. There was no doubt about the blue lion in the circle of gold being stamped on the bottom of each piece. There were also the initials "J. W." which might stand for Jonathan Waredon, the man who made such rare china.

"Well, I should say that these pieces were just like those in Miss Pompret's set," said Mrs. Bobbsey, after a pause. "But whether they are exactly the same or not, I can't tell. She would have to look at them herself."

"I wish we could hurry home and show them to her," sighed Nan.

"So do I," said Bert. "I want to get that hundred dollars."

"Well, we'll be going back to Lakeport in a few days now," said his mother. "Our stay in Washington is nearly over."

"Oh, dear!" sighed Nell. "I wish you could stay longer."

"So do I," added her brother Billy.

Bert gave Billy back the borrowed fifteen cents, and when Mr. Bobbsey, having been out on lumber business, came home, he, too, said he thought the pieces belonged to Miss Pompret's set of rare china.

"But there is only one sure way to tell," the twins' father said. "Miss Pompret must see them herself."

The few remaining days the Bobbsey twins spent in Washington were filled with good times. They were nicely entertained by the Martins, and went on many excursions to places of interest. But, all the while, Bert and Nan, at least, were thinking of the sugar bowl and pitcher, and the hundred dollars reward Miss Pompret had promised.

"I do hope we don't have to give the dishes to Dinah for souvenirs," said Nan to Bert.

"I hope so, too," he agreed. "Anyhow, I bought Dinah a red handkerchief with a yellow border and a green center. She likes bright colors."

"I bought her something, too, and for Sam I got something he can hang on his watch chain," said Nan. "So if we have to give Dinah the dishes, too, she'll have a lot of souvenirs."

At last the day came when the Bobbseys must leave Washington for Lakeport. Goodbyes were said to the Martins, and they promised to visit the Bobbseys at Lakeport some time. Mr. Bobbsey finished his lumber business, and then with trunks and valises packed and locked, and with the precious dishes put carefully in the middle of a satchel which Bert insisted on carrying, the homeward trip was begun.

Not very much happened on it, except that once Bert forgot the valise with the dishes in it, having left it in a car, but he thought of it in time and ran back to get it just before the train was about to start away with it. After that he was more careful.

"Well, honey lambs! I suah is glad to see yo' all back!" cried Dinah, as she welcomed the Bobbsey twins at their own door. "Come right in, I'se got lots fo' yo' all to eat! Come in, honey lambs! How am mah little fat fairy and' mah little fireman?"

"Oh, we're fine, Dinah!" said Freddie, "And I saw a real fire and I pulled the fire bell on the boat an'--an'--an'--everything!"

"Bress yo' heart, honey lamb! I guess yo' did!" laughed Dinah.

"And I got a little doll and my hat blew off the steeple!" cried Flossie.

"Lan' sakes! Do tell!" cried Dinah.

"And we found Miss Pompret's dishes!" broke in Nan.

"And we're going to get the hundred dollars reward," added Bert. "'Cept, of course, if they aren't the right ones you can have 'em for souvenirs, Dinah."

"Bress yo' heart, honey lamb! Dinah's got all she wants when yo' all come back. Now I go an' git somethin' to eat!"

The children--at least Nan and Bert--were so eager to have Miss Pompret see the two dishes that they hardly ate any of the good things Dinah provided. They wanted to go at once and call on the dear, old-fashioned lady, but their father and mother made them wait.

At last, however, when they had all rested a bit, Mr. Bobbsey took Nan and Bert with him and went to call on Miss Pompret. The dishes, carefully washed by Mrs. Bobbsey, were carried along, wrapped in soft paper.

"Oh, I am glad to see my little friends again," said Miss Pompret, as she greeted Nan and Bert. "Did you have a nice time in Washington?"

"Yes'm," answered Bert. "And we brought you--"

"We found your missing sugar bowl and pitcher!" broke in Nan. "Anyhow, we hope they're yours, and we paid the old man a dollar and thirty-four cents and--"

"You--you found my sugar bowl and pitcher!" exclaimed Miss Pompret, and Mr. Bobbsey said, afterward, that she turned a little pale. "Really do you mean it--after all these years?"

"Well, they look like your dishes," said Mr. Bobbsey. "The children saw them in a second-hand store window, and went in and bought them. I hope, for your sake, they are the right pieces."

"I can soon tell," said the old lady. "There is not another set like the ancient Pompret china in this country. Oh, I am so anxious!"

Her thin, white hands, themselves almost like china, trembled as she unwrapped the pieces. And then, as she saw them, she gave a cry of joy and exclaimed:

"Yes! They are the very same! Those are the two pieces missing from my set! Now it is complete! Oh, how thankful I am that I have the Pompret china set together again! Oh, thank you, children, thank you!" and she threw her arms about Nan and kissed her, while she shook hands with Bert, much to that young boy's relief. He hated being kissed.

"Are you sure these are the two pieces from your set?" asked Mr. Bobbsey.

"Positive," answered Miss Pompret. "See? Here is the blue lion in the circle of gold, and initials 'J. W.' There can be no mistake. And now how did you find them?"

Bert and Nan told, and related how Billy had bargained for the two pieces. They all wondered how the second-hand man had come by them, but they never found out.

Miss Pompret carefully placed the sugar bowl and pitcher in the glass- doored closet with her other pieces. She looked at them for several seconds. They matched perfectly.

"Now, once more, after many years, my precious set of china is together again," she murmured.

She went over to a desk and began to write. A little later she handed a slip of blue paper to Mr. Bobbsey.

"What is this?" he asked.

"A check for one hundred dollars," answered Miss Pompret. "It is the reward I promised for the finding of my china. I have made the check out to you, Mr. Bobbsey. You can get the money and give half to Nan and half to Bert."

Mr. Bobbsey slowly shook his head. Then he handed the blue check back to Miss Pompret.

"Their mother and I couldn't think of letting the children take the hundred dollars just for having discovered your dishes, Miss Pompret," he said. "I thank you very much, but Nan and Bert would not want it, themselves," he went on." They really did not earn the money. It was just good luck; and so, I'm sure, they would rather the money would go to the Red Cross. Wouldn't you?" he asked Nan and Bert.

For a moment only did they hesitate. Then with a sigh, which she tried hard to keep back. Nan said:

"Oh, yes. It wouldn't be right to take a hundred dollars just for two dishes."

"No," agreed Bert, "it wouldn't. Please give the money to the Red Cross."

Miss Pompret looked from the children to their father, then to the china in the closet and next at the check in her white, thin hand.

"Very well," said the old lady. "Since you wish it, I'll give the hundred dollars to the Red Cross; and very glad I am to do it, Mr. Bobbsey. I would gladly have paid even more to get back my sugar bowl and pitcher."

"It would hardly be right for the children to have so much money," he said. "The Red Cross needs it for poor and starving children in other lands."

"Very well," answered Miss Pompret. "But at least let me give them back the dollar and thirty-four cents they spent to get the dishes. That was their own spending money, I presume."

"Yes," said Mr. Bobbsey, "it was. And I don't mind if you give that back."

So Nan and Bert did not really lose anything, and soon the disappointed feeling about not getting the reward wore off. They were glad it was to go to the Red Cross.

And the next morning, when they awakened to find the ground a foot deep in snow, their joy knew no bounds. They forgot all about rewards, china dishes, and even Washington.

"Now for some coasting!" cried Bert.

"And snow men!" added Freddie.

"And I'm going to make a snow house for my Washington doll!" cried Flossie.

"Oh, I love snow!" ejaculated Nan. "It's lovely to have it come so near Christmas!"

"That's so!" exclaimed Bert. "It soon will be Christmas! Now let's go out and have some fun in the snow!"

And they did, rolling and tumbling about, making snow men and houses, and coasting on their sleds.

Miss Pompret wrote Mr. Bobbsey a letter. stating that she had sent a check for one hundred dollars to the Red Cross in the names of Bert and Nan Bobbsey.

"That was certainly very nice of her," said Mrs. Bobbsey, when her husband read this letter to her.

"Well, Miss Pompret is a very nice lady," answered Mr. Bobbsey. "I am very glad that the children got those missing dishes back for her."

"So am I. She has been greatly worried for years over them."

Slowly the snow flakes drifted down, another storm following the first. It was the night before Christmas.

"I wonder what we'll get?" murmured Nan as she and Bert went up to their rooms.

"I hope I get a pair of shoe-hockeys," he said.

"And I want a fur coat," said Nan.

And when Christmas morning dawned, with the sun shining on the new, sparkling snow, it also shone on the piles of presents for the Bobbsey twins.

There were a number for each one, and, in a separate place on the table were two large packages. One was marked for Nan and the other for Bert, and each bore the words: "From Miss Alicia Pompret, to the little friends who restored my missing china."

"Oh, mine's a fur coat!" cried Nan, as she opened her package. "A fur coat and story books!"

"And mine's shoe-hockeys--the best ever!" shouted Bert. "And an air rifle and books too!"

And so their dreams came true, and it was the happiest Christmas they ever remembered. And Miss Pompret was happy too.

The End.