“The next morning the first rays of the sun appear over the horizon as Freddie and Ralph are awakened by a galloping sound and the rumble of churning wheels. A toy stagecoach drawn by two, harnessed guinea pigs careens around the corner of the mansion, races up the drive and pulls to a stop next to the front porch. A sign on the side of the stagecoach says ‘Guinea Pig Express’. ‘Climb aboard!’ cry the guinea pigs.
Freddie thanks Ralph for his hospitality as he departs with Isabella, fluttering her fan of yellow daisy petals, in the stagecoach.
The stagecoach speeds off across the lawn, through the tunnel in the hedge and down the long, dusty road. Before long Freddie and Isabella catch sight of the church, peeking over the tops of the trees. The freshly painted face of the clock on the church tower raises the arrow-pointed corners of its black-lined mouth in joyous welcome.
‘Hooray’ shout Freddie and Isabella exultantly, ‘St. Thomas’s Church!’”
“Hooray!” cries Johnny, unable to contain his excitement. Maria smiles affectionately at her happy son.
“Freddie, safely back in his apartment, winds up the key on the little toy soldier. With its arms flailing, Freddie and Isabella joyfully dance to the beat of its drum.
Father Michael, who believes something miraculous has happened this day though he isn’t sure what, taps his foot to the music and smiles.”
“Yes, Johnny?” asks Maria, looking into her son’s big, blue eyes gleaming with wonderment.
“When I grow up I want to live a life of adventure!”
At this very moment, the roar of an engine is heard in the street. They look out the window to see a big, black car tearing down the dirt road at breakneck speed, followed by great, billowing clouds of dust. It screeches to a halt in front of their house. The car door opens and an enormous, bearish man emerges from behind the driver’s wheel. He saunters up the walkway, spying slyly, secretly from side to side, swinging a wooden cane.
“It is Bartholomew Griswald, the landlord, come for the rent!” exclaims Maria, and she looks with despair at her money jar.
A great, thundering knock from the cane lands on the door, which creaks in on its hinges. The wicked landlord stands framed in the doorway. He enters the kitchen, seizes Johnny’s birthday cake and greedily gobbles it down in one gulp, candles and all! He washes it down with the glass of milk.
“I have come for the rent money, Maria. Give it to me and I shall be on my way.”
“I am sorry, Mr. Griswald, but I do not have all of the money. You see, today is Johnny’s birthday and I spent some of the money on his birthday gift. You understand, don’t you?”
Mr. Griswald’s black, lively eye protrudes from its dark socket and fixes itself on Maria’s face, while his grey eye remains riveted in the side of his head and quivers incessantly. His breath snorts out through his flared nostrils.