At stake--the deed to The Clifton Heights Home for Children. Emmaline Gremlin wants to close the orphanage. Her runaway husband wants to turn the deed over to Mr. Bloober, Superintendent of the Home, to ensure its continuation.
Mickey Allston, age nine, and his friend Warren Towers, who is visiting from the Clifton Heights Home for Children, join forces with Mr. Camden Chatsworth, owner of a marvelous collection of old toys, and the runaway Mr. Gremlin, newly arrived in Pennypack and living under the name of Montague Dobson.
As the Monday deadline looms, Emmaline steals the deed, but as the clock ticks down, Warren hatches a clever plot which Camden Chatsworth, Montague Dobson, and the two boys attempt to pull off in the library of the Home as the deadline looms. Will they succeed? Can they reclaim the deed in time to save the Home?
Emmaline paused when they reached the first corner. Shanks, looking over the top of the heavy paperbags, stopped next to her. The tiny woman pointed at three children walking down the other side of the street.
“What do you think, Shanks?” she said. “Do they look like orphans to you?”
“There, there, you blind boob,” and she reached up and twisted Shanks’ head in the proper direction.
Shanks gave his grocery bags a little shake-up and studied the children, two girls and a boy. “No, they don’t.”
Emmaline faced him. “Why not?”
“Because they’re laughing. They’re smiling. I have never seen you do either.”
“That’s because I was an orphan, Shanks. A poor unfortunate orphan.”
“Then you should be kind to other poor unfortunate orphans, don’t you think?”
Shanks began this same conversation whenever Emmaline got on his nerves as she had back in Mr. Bumbey’s store. It always ignited a red-faced reaction in Emmaline, which delighted Shanks. He mouthed the words along with the angry, sputtering woman.
“I will never . . . never be kind to those who were unkind to me.” Shanks shifted the grocery bags again. He’d forgotten about them in his glee at sending Emmaline into her usual rant about being an orphan.
“Can we go?” he asked. “These bags are heavy.” Emmaline would ignore his plea, he knew, until she finished her standard arm-waving speech.
“The other orphans despised me. They wouldn’t play with me. They teased me. They called me . . . ugly! Do you believe it, Shanks? Me? Ugly! The orphan-keepers wouldn’t stop them. They sent me back for more. They all despised me, and I will never forget.” She lifted her right arm and waggled her index finger.
“Despised you,” Shanks muttered. “I wonder why?”
“Excuuuse me, Shanks. What did you say?”
“Oh my. I said oh my. That’s all I said.”