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In Gusty Corners, as the public school closes for the day, the five Pepper children and Jasper King, a friend of the family who lives with them, are delayed getting home because Phronsie Pepper is kept late for recitation. When Jasper's aunt, Martha Wilcox, comes to the elderly Mr. King, Jasper's grandfather, to demand custody of her nephew, she is told to get a court order, because Jasper is happier living with the Peppers than with her. To elude Martha, King tells Martin, the family butler, to take the children to their new house which is under construction. That evening King tells the children they will be leaving early in the morning. The next morning, the family escapes just in time, as Martin delays the man Martha has brought from court to take Jasper. After arriving at Lansdowne Private School, the children are enrolled for the remainder of the term and introduced to the institute's regulated life. Separated into various dormitories by age and sex, Jasper and the Peppers are snubbed and ostracized by the snobbish students of Lansdowne. Polly Pepper reveals to Jasper and her brother Ben that they are at the school to keep Jasper from Martha, and so must adapt to the disagreeable situation. June, the worst of the Lansdowne girls, hears that an illicit midnight swim is planned, and so drains the pool and plants Polly's scarf so that she will receive the blame. Two girls, including the nice Pam, are hurt when they dive into the empty pool. Mrs. Lansdowne expels Polly, and Jasper and the Peppers leave the school. Upon their arrival at home, King is served with a court summons. However, he retains custody of Jasper by promising to take the family to Paris--an educational experience equal to any opportunity that Martha can provide.