"Bang'!" went the fire cracker.
"Oh!" cried Nell, and she gave a little jump, she was so surprised. And many other were surprised, too, including the little Oriental children. And they were so surprised that the smaller ones burst out crying.
"Oh dear! Oh dear!" they cried, in their own language, of course, and the two smallest hid their faces down in their father's lap and cried salty tears on his beautiful blue robe. But he didn't seem to mind a bit.
He patted the heads of the little, sobbing tots, and every one in the theater looked over toward the box, for the crying of the Chinese children, who were frightened by the bang of the fire cracker, was very loud crying indeed.
FOR a time the actors on the stage, taking part in the fairy play, had to stop. They could not go on because the Chinese children were crying so hard. And really it was a strange thing to have happen.
Then Cinderella herself—or at least the young lady who was playing that part—seeing what the matter was, stepped to the front of the stage and said to the Chinese minister:
"Tell your little children there will be no more shooting. They will not be frightened again. I am sorry it happened," and she bowed and kissed her hand to the older boys and girls, in the box. They were not frightened as were the smaller ones.
"It is all right. They will be themselves again soon. I thank you," said the Chinese minister, rising and bowing to the actress. He spoke in English, but with a queer little twist to his words, just as we would speak queerly if we tried to talk Chinese.
Then the sobbing of the frightened children gradually ceased, and the play went on. But the Bobbsey twins were almost as much interested in the queer, beautifully dressed foreign children in the box as they were in the play itself. Indeed Flossie and Freddie looked from the stage to the box and from the box back to the stage again so often that their mother said they would have stiff necks. However, they didn't have, which only goes to show that children's necks can stand a great deal of twisting and turning without getting tired.
So the play went on, and very pretty it was. Cinderella tried on the glass slipper. It fitted perfectly, and everything came out all right, and she and the prince lived happily forever after.
"Is that all?" asked Flossie, when the curtain went down for the last time, and the people began getting up to leave.
"That's all," her mother told her. "Didn't you like it?"
"Oh, yes, it was nice," said Flossie. "But they didn't have as much red fire as I wanted to see."
"And they didn't have a single fire engine!" sighed Freddie.
"Too bad!" laughed Bert. "We'll look for a show for you, Freddie, where they have nothing but fire engines!"
But, after all, even without quite enough red fire and not a fire engine on the stage, the play was enjoyed by the Bobbsey twins and their little friends, the Martin children.
"Where are we going?' asked Nan, as they came out of the theater and Mr. Bobbsey led the children toward a big automobile that stood at the curb.
"We are going to the Martins for the evening," answered Daddy Bobbsey. "Mr. Martin sent down his auto for us, so we don't have to go out in the storm."
"It was very kind of him," added Mrs. Bobbsey.
"I like the snow!" cried Freddie. "I'm going to make a snow fort, to- morrow, and a snow man."
"And I'm going to make a little snow doll!" declared Flossie.
"Wait until you see if there's snow enough," advised Bert.
"Will there be much, do you think?" Nan inquired of Nell.
"Well, we don't often have a very heavy fall of snow here," was the answer, "though it sometimes happens. It's snowing hard now."
And so it was, And the weather was getting cold, too, almost as cold as back in Lakeport. But the Bobbseys were used to it. Their eyes were shining and their cheeks were red. Flossie and Freddie tried to catch the drifting snow flakes dancing down from the sky. But there was quite a crowd on the side-walk coming out of the theater, and every one seemed to get in the way of the little Bobbsey twins, so they did not have much luck catching the white crystals.
Into the big, closed auto they piled, and soon they were rolling along the snow-covered streets of Washington toward the home of Nell and Billy Martin. Mr. and Mrs. Martin would be waiting at their house to greet the Bobbseys. It was dark, now, and the lighted lamps made the snow sparkle like a million diamonds.
"Oh, it's just lovely!" sighed Nan, as she leaned back against the cushions and peered from the window.
"It looks just like a fairy play out there," and Nell pointed to the glittering snow.
"It looks like—like one of those funny Christmas cards that twinkle so!" declared Freddie.
"Oh, it will soon be Christmas, won't it?" exclaimed Flossie, who sat on her mother's lap. "I wonder what I'll get!"
"I want something, too!" cried Freddie. "Oh, won't it be nice at Christmas!"
"Yes, it will soon be here—much sooner than we think," said Mr. Bobbsey.
"Shall we go home for Christmas?" Nan asked.
"Oh, yes," her father told her. "My business here is nearly finished, and we'll go back to Lakeport next week."
"Aren't we going to buy anything to take home—souvenirs I mean?" added Bert. "I promised to bring Sam something."
"And I want to take Dinah a present!" declared Nan.
"Yes, we must do a little shopping for things like that," said Mrs. Bobbsey. "You children will have a chance next week."
And they talked of that, and the things they would buy, until the automobile stopped at the Martin house, when they all went inside.
After supper, or dinner as it is more often called, the children had fun playing games and looking at picture books, while the older folk talked among themselves. Mr. and Mrs. Martin were quite interested in hearing of how the Chinese children cried when the fire cracker went off.
"I have never seen any of the ambassadors or the ministers from the Oriental countries wear their native dress," said Mr. Martin. "But there is no reason why they shouldn't."
"No," said Mr. Bobbsey, "there isn't. If we went to a foreign country we would want to wear the clothes we had always worn at home, and we wouldn't like to be stared at for doing it, either."
The evening passed pleasantly, but at last Mrs. Bobbsey noticed that Flossie and Freddie were getting sleepy, so she said they would have to go back to the hotel and to bed.
"And I hope the fire engines don't wake us up to-night," said Nan. "I want to sleep."
"I do, too," added her mother. Nothing happened that night, and in the morning there was enough snow on the ground for the making of a small snow man, at least, and as many snowballs as the children wanted to throw at him. Flossie and Freddie were warmly dressed, and allowed to play out in a little yard in front of the hotel. It was rather a treat for Washington children to have as much snow as they now had, and many were out enjoying it.
Flossie and Freddie played as they did at home, and Bert and Nan, with Nell and Billy Martin, who came over, watched the smaller twins.
"Let's throw snowballs at a target," said Freddie presently. "I'm going to play I'm a soldier and shoot the cannon."
"You haven't any target, Freddie Bobbsey," declared Flossie.
"Yes, I have, too!" answered her twin brother. "Just look here!"
Freddie had espied a small tin can standing in an areaway not far away. He ran to get this, and then set it up on a near-by iron railing.
"There's my target!" he exclaimed; and both he and Flossie began to throw snowballs at it and were in high glee when the can tumbled over.
Thus the fun went on for some time.
After lunch Mrs. Bobbsey said:
"Now, children, if you wish, you may go out and buy some souvenirs. As long as Nell and Billy are here to go with you, I will not have to go, since they know their way about the streets near our hotel. I'm going to give you each a certain sum, and you may spend it in any way you like for souvenirs to take home to Sam, Dinah and your other friends. Now start out and have a good time."
The snow had stopped and the sun was shining, which meant that the white covering would not last long. But it gave a touch of winter to Washington, and the children liked it.
Down the street went the six children, two by two, the four Bobbsey twins and Nell and Billy Martin. Flossie and Freddie walked together, then came Billy and Bert, while Nan walked with Nell.
"Here's a store where they have nice things," said Nell, as they stopped in front of one, the windows of which held all sorts of light and pretty articles, from fans and postcards to vases and pocket knives, some with tiny photographic views of Washington set in the handles.
"Let's go in there and buy something," proposed Bert.
In they trooped, and you may well believe me when I say that the woman who kept this store had a busy half-hour trying to wait on the four Bobbsey twins at once. Nell and Billy did not want to buy anything, but the Bobbseys did.
At last, however, each one had bought something, and then Bert said:
"I know where to go next."
"Where?" asked Nan.
"Around the corner," her brother answered as they came out of the souvenir shop. "There's a cheaper place there. I looked in the windows yesterday and saw the prices marked. We haven't got much money left, and we've got to go to a cheap place for the rest of our things."
"All right," agreed Nan, and Bert led the way. The other store, just as he said, was only around the corner, and, as he had told his sister, the windows were filled with many things, some of them marked at prices which were very low.
Suddenly, as Nan was peering in through the glass, she gave a startled cry, and, plucking Bert by the sleeve, exclaimed:
A GREAT BARGAIN
Bert Bobbsey turned to look at his sister Nan. She was staring at something in the jumble of articles in the second-hand shop window, and what she saw seemed to excite Nan.
"What is it? What's the matter?" asked Bert, as Nan, once more, exclaimed:
"Look! Oh, look!"
"Is it a fire?" eagerly asked Freddie, as he wiggled about to get a better view of the window, since Bert and Nan stood so near it he could not see very well. "Is it a fire?"
"Oh, you and your fires!" laughed Nell, as she put her hands lovingly on his shoulders. "Don't you ever think of anything else?"
"Oh, is it a fire?" asked Freddie again.
"No, there isn't any fire," answered Billy, laughing, as his sister Nell was doing, at Freddie's funny ideas.
"But it's something!" insisted Flossie, who had, by this time, wiggled herself to a place beside Freddie, and so near the window that she could flatten her little nose against it.
"What is it you see, Nan?" asked Bert. "If it's more souvenirs I don't believe we can buy any. My money is 'most gone."
"Oh, but we must get these even if we have to go home for more money!" exclaimed Nan. "Look, Bert! Right near those old brass candlesticks. See that sugar bowl and pitcher?"
"I see 'em!" answered Bert.
"Don't you know whose they are?" rapidly whispered Nan. "Look at the way they're painted? And see! On the bottom of the sugar bowl is a blue lion! I can't see the letters 'J. W.' but they must be there. Oh, Bert! don't you know what this means? Can't you see? Those are Miss Pompret's missing dishes that she told us she'd give a hundred dollars to get back! And oh, Bert! we've got to go in there and buy that sugar bowl and cream pitcher, and we can take 'em back to Miss Pompret at Lakeport, and she'll give us a hundred dollars, and—and—"
But Nan was so excited and out of breath that she could not say another word. She could just manage to hold Bert's sleeve and point at the window of the second-hand shop.
At last Bert "woke up," as he said afterward. His eyes opened wider, and he stared with all his might at what Nan was pointing toward. There, surely enough, among some old candlesticks, a pair of andirons, a bellows for blowing a fire, was a sugar bowl and cream pitcher. And it needed only a glance to make Bert feel sure that the two pieces of china were decorated just as were Miss Pompret's.
But there was something more than this. The sugar bowl was turned over so that the bottom part was toward the street. And on the bottom, plainly to be seen, was a circle of gold. Inside the circle was a picture of some animal in blue, and Nan, at least, felt sure it was a blue lion. As she had said, no letters could be seen, but they might be there.
"Don't you see, Bert?" asked Nan, as her brother waited several seconds before speaking. "Don't you see that those are Miss Pompret's dishes?"
"Well," admitted the Bobbsey lad, "they look like 'em."
"They surely are!" declared Nan. "Oh, I'm so excited! Let's go right in and buy them. Then we'll get a hundred dollars!"
She darted away from Bert's side, and was about to move toward the door of the shop when Billy caught her by the coat sleeve.
"Wait a minute, Nan," he said.
"What for?" she asked.
"Until Bert and I talk this over," went on Billy, who, though he was not much older than Nan, seemed to be, perhaps because he had lived in a large city all his life. "You don't want to rush in and buy those dishes so quick."
"Why not?" demanded Nan. "If I don't get 'em somebody else may, and you know Miss Pompret offered a reward of a hundred dollars. These are the two pieces missing from her set. Her set is 'broken' as she calls it, if she doesn't have this sugar bowl and pitcher."
"Yes, I remember your telling me about Miss Pompret's reward," said Billy. "But you'd better go a bit slow."
"Maybe somebody else'll buy 'em!" exclaimed Nan.
"Oh, I don't believe they will," said Nell, "This is a quiet street, and this shop doesn't do much business. We only come here once in a while because some things are cheaper. We never bought any second-hand things."
"There's nobody coming down the street now," observed Bert, who was beginning to agree with Billy in the matter. "If we see any one going in that we think will buy the dishes, we can hurry in ahead of 'em. We'll stand here and talk a minute. What is it you want to say, Billy?"
"Well, it's like this," went on the Washington boy. "I know these second-hand men. If they think you want a thing they'll charge you a lot of money for it. But if they think you don't want it very much they will let you have it cheap. I know, 'cause a fellow and I wanted to get a baseball glove in here one day. It was a second-hand one, but good. The fellow I was with knew just how to do it.
"He went in, and asked the price of a lot of things, and said they were all too high. Then he asked the price of the glove, just as if he didn't care much whether he got it or not. The man said it was a dollar, but when Jimmie—the boy who was with me—said he only had eighty cents, the man let him have the glove for that."
"Oh, I see what you mean!" cried Nan. "You mean we must try to get a bargain."
"Yes," said Billy. "Otherwise, if you go in and want to buy those dishes first thing, the man may want five dollars for 'em."
"Oh, we haven't that much money!" cried Nan, much surprised.
"That's why I say we must go slow," said Billy. "Now you leave this to me and Bert."
"I think it would be a good idea," declared Nell.
"All right! I will," agreed Nan. "But, oh, I do hope we can get those dishes for Miss Pompret."
"And I hope we can get the reward of a hundred dollars," murmured Bert.
"I only hope they're the right dishes," said Billy.
"Oh, I'm sure they are," declared Nan. They have the blue lion on and everything. And if they have the letters 'J. W.' on, then we'll know for sure. Let's go in and see."
"We've got to go slow," declared Billy. "Mustn't be too fast. Let Bert and me go ahead."
"I want to come in, too!" declared Freddie. "I want to buy a whistle. Do they have whistles in here?"
"I guess so," answered Bert. "It will be a good thing to go in and ask for, anyhow."
"Sort of excuse for going in," suggested Nell.
"Do they have ice cream cones?" asked Flossie. "I want something to eat."
"I don't believe they have anything to eat in here," said Nell. "But we can get that later, Flossie. Now you and Freddie be nice when we go in, and after we come out I'll get you some ice cream."
"I'll be good!" promised Flossie.
"So'll I," agreed Freddie. "But I want a whistle, and if they have a little fire engine I want that."
"You don't want much!" laughed Bert.
"Well, let's go in!" suggested Billy.
So, with the two boys in the lead, followed by Nell and Nan and Flossie and Freddie, the children entered the second-hand and souvenir store.
A bell on the door rang with a loud clang as Billy opened it, and when the children stepped inside the shop an old man with a black, curly beard and long black hair that seemed as if it had never been combed, came out from a back room.
"What you want to buy, little childrens?" he asked. "I got a lot of nice things, cheap! Very cheap!"
"Well, if you've got something very cheap we might buy it," answered Billy, with as nearly a grown-up manner as he could assume. "But we haven't much money."
"Ha! Ha! That's what they all say!" exclaimed the old man. "But everybody has more money that what I has. I'm very poor. I don't hardly make a living I sell things so cheap. What you want to buy, little childrens?"
"Have you got any whistles or fire engines?" burst out Freddie, unable to wait any longer.
"Whistles? Lots of 'em!" exclaimed the man. "Here is a finest whistle what ever was. Listen to it!"
He took one from the show case and blew into it. Not a sound came out.
"Ach! I guess that one is damaged," he said. "But I got other ones. Here! Listen to this!"
The next one blew loud and shrill.
"I want that!" cried Freddie.
"Ten cents!" said the man, holding it out to the little boy.
"What?" cried Billy. "Why, I can buy those whistles for five cents anywhere in Washington! Ten cents? I guess not!"
"Oh, well, take it for seven cents then," said the man. "What I care if I die poor. Take it for seven cents!"
"No, sir!" exclaimed Billy firmly. "Five cents is all they cost, and this is an old one."
"Oh, well. Take it for five then. What I care if you cheats a poor old man? Such a boy as you are! Take it for five cents!" and he handed the whistle to Freddie. But before he could take it Nan said, gently:
"I think it would be better for him to have a fresh one from the box. That is all dusty."
The truth was she did not want Freddie to take a whistle the old man had blown into.
"Oh, well, I gives you a fresh one," he said, and he took a new and shining one from the box. Freddie blew it, making a shrill sound.
"What else you want to buy, little childrens?" asked the old man. "I sell everythings cheap—everythings!"
"Ask how much the dishes are," whispered Nan to Billy. But he shook his head, and looked around the shop. He looked everywhere but at the window where the dishes were.
"Any sailboats?" asked Billy, as if that was all he had come in to inquire about.
"Sailboats?" cried the man. "Sailboats?"
"Yes, toy sailboats."
"No, I haven't got any of them, but I got a nice football. Here I show you!"
"I don't want a football. You can't play football when the snow is on the ground!" exclaimed Bert, as the man started toward some shelves on the other side of the room.
"I want a doll," whispered Flossie. "Just a little doll."
"A doll!" exclaimed the man. "Sure I gots a fine lot of dolls. See!"
Quickly he held out a large one with very blue eyes and hair just like Flossie's.
"Only a dollar seventy-five," he said. "Very cheap!"
"Oh, that's too much!" exclaimed Nan. "We haven't that much money. She wants only a little ten-cent doll."
"Oh, well, I have them kinds too!" said the man, in disappointed tones. "Here you are!"
He held out one that did not appear to be very nice.
"You can get those for five cents in the other stores," whispered Nell.
"Better take it," said her brother. "Then I'll ask about the dishes."
"Yes, we'll take it," agreed Nan.
So Flossie was given her doll, and, even though it might have been only five cents somewhere else, she liked it just as well.
"What else you wants to buy, childrens?" asked the old man. "I got lots more things so cheap—oh, so very cheap!"
Billy and Bert strolled over to the window. They looked down in. Nan crowded to their side. She felt sure, now, that the two pieces of china were the very ones Miss Pompret wanted. If they could only get that sugar bowl and pitcher!
"I wish you had a sailboat!" murmured Billy, as if that was all he cared about. Then, turning to Nan he asked: "Would you like that sugar bowl and pitcher?"
"Oh, yes, I think I would!" she exclaimed, trying not to make her voice seem too eager.
"You might have a play party with them," Billy went on. If Miss Pompret could have heard him then I feel sure she would have fainted, or had what Dinah would call "a cat in a fit."
"You want those dishes?" asked the old man, as he reached over and lifted the sugar bowl and pitcher from his window. "Ach! them is a great bargain. I let you have them cheap. And see, not a chip or a crack on 'em. Good china, too! Very valuable, but they is all I have left. I sells 'em cheap."
Bert took the sugar bowl and looked closely at it, while Nan took the pitcher. The children felt sure these were the same pieces that would fill out Miss Pompret's set.
"Look at the mark on the bottom," whispered Nan to Bert, as the storekeeper hurried to the other side of the room to rescue a pile of chairs which Freddie seemed bent on pulling down. "Is the blue lion there?"
"Yes," answered Bert, "it is."
"And the letters 'J. W.'?"
"Yes," Bert replied. "But, somehow, it doesn't look like the one on Miss Pompret's plates."
"Oh, I'm sure it's the same one!" insisted Nan. "We've found the missing pieces, Bert, and we'll get—"
"Hush!" cautioned Billy, for the old man was coming back.
"You want to buy them?" he asked. "I sell cheap. It's a great bargain."
"Where did they come from?" asked Bert.
"Come from? How shoulds I know. Maybe I get 'em at a fire sale, or maybe all the other dishes in that set get broken, and these all what are left. Somebody bring 'em in, and I buys 'em, or my wife she buys 'em. How can I tells so long ago?"
"Oh, well, maybe we might take 'em for the girls to have a play party with their own set of dishes," went on Billy. "But I wish you had a toy ship. How much for these dishes—this sugar bowl and pitcher?"
"How much? Oh, I let you have these very cheap. They is worth five dollars—very rare china—very thin but hard to break. These is a good bargain—a great bargain. You shall have them for—two dollars!"
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?"
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.