Bobbsey Twins in Washington by Laura Lee Hope
Chapter VI. Wonderful News
Miss Alicia Pompret began putting back in the glass-doored closet the pieces of rare china that had the blue lion in a circle of gold and the initials "J.W." on the bottom of each piece. Nan and Bert watched her, and saw how carefully her white hands took up each plate and cup.
"A hundred dollars!" murmured Bert again. "I'd like to have all that money. I'd buy--er--I'd buy a goat!"
"A goat!" exclaimed Miss Pompret.
"Yes," went on Bert. "Freddie nearly thought one once, when we went to the big city, but mother wouldn't let him keep it. Now we're back home; and if I had a hundred dollars I'd buy a goat."
"Well, if you can find my sugar bowl and pitcher I'll be glad to pay you a hundred dollars," said Miss Pompret with a smile at Bert. "But I don't know that I'd like a goat," she added.
"Do you really mean you'd pay a hundred dollars for two china dishes?" asked Nan, her eyes big with wonder.
"Yes, my dear," said Miss Pompret. "Of course if they were just two ordinary dishes, such as these," and she pointed to some on a side table, "they would not be worth a hundred dollars. But I need just those two pieces--the pitcher and sugar bowl--to make my rare set of china complete again. So if you children should happen to come across them, bring them to me and I'll pay you a hundred dollars. But, of course," she added, "they must be the pieces that match my set--they must have the lion mark on the underside. However," she concluded with a sigh, "I don't suppose you'll ever find them. The tramp must have broken them many long years ago. I'll never see them again."
"Did you know the tramp's name?" asked Bert.
"Bless you, of course not!" laughed Miss Pompret. "Tramps hardly ever tell their names, and when they do, they don't give the right one. No, I'm sure I'll never see my beautiful dishes again. Sometimes I dream that I shall, and I am disappointed when I awaken. But now I mustn't keep you children any longer. I've told you my little mystery story, and I hope you liked it."
"Yes, we did, very much," answered Nan "Only it's too bad!"
"You aren't sure the tramp took the dishes, are you?" asked Bert.
"No; and that is where the mystery comes in," said Miss Pompret. "Perhaps he didn't, and, maybe, in some unexpected way, I'll find them again. I hope I do, or that some one does, and I'll pay the hundred dollars to whoever does."
"My, that's a lot of money!" murmured Bert again, when he and Nan were once more on their way home, having said good-bye to Miss Pompret. "I wish we could find those dishes."
"So do I," agreed Nan. "But don't call 'em dishes, Bert."
"What are they?" her brother wanted to know.
"Why, they're rare china. When I grow up I'm going to have a set just like Miss Pompret's."
"With the dog on the bottom?"
"Tisn't a dog, it's a lion!" exclaimed Nan.
"Well, it looks like our dog Snap," declared Bert.
They ran on home to find their mother out at the gate looking up and down the street for them.
"Are you children just getting home from school?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey. "Were you kept in for doing something wrong?"
"Oh, no'm!" exclaimed Nan. "We went to see Miss Pompret."
"And she's going to give us a hundred dollars if we find two of her dishes!" exclaimed Bert.
"My! What's all this?" asked his mother, laughing.
"'Tisn't dishes! It's rare china," said Nan, and then, between them, she and Bert told the story of the little favor they had done for Miss Pompret, and how she had invited them in, given them cake and milk, and told them the mystery story.
"Well, you had quite a visit," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "Miss Pompret is a dear lady, rather queer, perhaps, but very kind and a good neighbor. I am glad you did her a favor. I have heard, before, about her china, and knew she had some other rare and old-fashioned things in her house. I have been there once or twice. Now I want you to go to the store for me. Sam is away and Dinah needs some things for supper."
"I want to go to the store, too!" exclaimed Freddie, who came around the corner of the house just then, with his face and hands covered with mud.
"Oh, my dear child! what have you been doing?" cried his mother.
"Oh, just makin' pies," answered Freddie, rubbing one cheek with a grimy hand. "I made the pies and Flossie put 'em in the oven to bake. We made an oven out of some bricks. But we didn't really eat the pies," he added, "'cause they were only mud."
"You look as though you had tried to eat them," laughed Nan. "Come, Freddie, I'll wash you clean."
"No, I want to go to the store!" he cried.
"So do I!" chimed in the voice of Flossie, as she, too, marched around the corner of the house, dirtier, if possible, than her little twin brother. "If Freddie goes to the store, I want to go with him!" Flossie cried.
"All right," answered Bert. "You go and wash Flossie and Freddie, Nan, and I'll get the express wagon and we'll pull them to the store with us. Then we can put the groceries in the wagon and bring them back that way."
"That will be nice," put in Mrs. Bobbsey. "I'll go and see just what Dinah wants. Run along with Nan, Flossie and Freddie, and let her wash you nice and clean."
This just suited the smaller twins, and soon they were being made, by Nan's use of soap and water in the bath room, to look a little less like mud pies. While Bert got out the express wagon, Snap, the big dog, saw his little master, and jumped about, barking in joy.
"I don't care if that is a lion on the back of Miss Pompret's dishes," murmured Bert, as he put a piece of carpet in the wagon for Flossie and Freddie to sit on, "it looks just like you, Snap. And I wonder if I could ever find that milk pitcher and sugar bowl and get that hundred dollars. I don't guess I could, but I'd like to awful much. No, I mustn't say 'awful,' but I'd like to a terrible lot. A hundred dollars is a pack of money!"
Down the street Nan and Bert pulled Flossie and Freddie in the little express wagon, with Snap running on ahead and barking in delight. This was the best part of the day for him--when the children came home from school. Flossie and Freddie came first, and then Nan and Bert, and then the fun started.
"Now don't run too fast!" exclaimed Flossie, as the express wagon began to bounce over the uneven sidewalk.
"Oh, yes, let's go real fast!" cried Freddie. "Let's go as fast as the fire engines go."
"We can't run as fast as that, Freddie," declared Nan, who was almost out of breath. "We'll just run regular."
And then she and Bert pulled the younger twins around for a little ride in the express wagon before they did the errand on which they had been sent.
"I had a letter from Mr. Martin to-day," said Mr. Bobbsey at the supper table that evening. "He asked to be remembered to you," he said to Mrs. Bobbsey. "And Billy and Nell sent their love to you children."
"They got safely back to Washington, did they?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.
"Yes," her husband answered. "And they said they had had a very nice visit here. They are anxious to have us come to Washington to see them."
"Can we go?" asked Nan.
"Well, perhaps, some day," said her father.
"I'd like to go now," murmured Bert. "Maybe we might see that tramp in Washington, and get back Miss Pompret's dishes."
"Rare china," muttered Nan, half under her breath.
"What tramp is that, and what about Miss Pompret's dishes?" asked Daddy Bobbsey, as he took his cup of tea from Dinah.
Then he had to hear the story of that afternoon's visit of Nan and Bert.
"Oh, I guess Miss Pompret will never see her two china pieces again," said Mr. Bobbsey. "If the tramp took them he must have sold them, if he didn't smash them. So don't think of that hundred dollars, Bert and Nan."
"But couldn't we go to Washington, anyhow?" Bert wanted to know.
"Well, not right away, I'm afraid," his father answered. "You have to go to school, you know."
But a few days after that something happened. About eleven o'clock in the morning Bert, Nan, Flossie and Freddie came trooping home. Into the house they burst with shouts of laughter.
"What's the matter? What is it? Has anything happened?" cried Mrs. Bobbsey. "Why are you home from school at such a time of day?"
"There isn't any school," explained Nan.
"No school?" questioned her mother.
"And there won't be any for a month, I guess!" added Bert. "Hurray!"
"What do you mean?" asked his surprised mother. "No school for a month?"
"No, Mother," added Nan "The steam boiler is broken and they can't heat our room. It got so cold the teacher sent us home."
"An' we came home, too'" added Flossie. "We couldn't stay in our school 'cause our fingers were so cold!"
"Was any one hurt when the boiler burst?" asked Mrs. Bobbsey.
"No," Bert said. "It didn't exactly burst very hard, I guess."
But Mrs. Bobbsey wanted to know just what the trouble was, so she called up the principal of the school on the telephone, and from him learned that the heating boiler of the school had broken, not exactly burst, and that it could no longer heat the rooms.
"It will probably be a month before we can get a new boiler, and until then there will be no more school," he said. "The children will have another vacation."
"A vacation so near Christmas," murmured Mrs. Bobbsey. "I wonder what I can do with my twins?"
Just then the telephone rang, and Mrs. Bobbsey listened. It was Mr. Bobbsey telephoning. He had heard of some accident at the school, and he called up his house, from the lumberyard, to make sure his little fat fairy and fireman, as well as Nan and Bert, were all right.
"Yes, they're home safe," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "But there will be no school for a month."
"Good!" exclaimed Daddy Bobbsey. "That will just suit me and the children, too. I'll be home in a little while, and I have some wonderful news for them!"
"Oh, I wonder what it can be!" exclaimed Nan, when her mother told her what Daddy Bobbsey had said.