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Betty Gordon enjoys a Christmas vacation with the Littell family in Washington. One day, while out shopping, Betty meets an unhappy girl named Ida Bellethorne, who works in a store. After Betty loses a locket in the store Ida finds and gives it to the owner but when Betty goes back to the store the owner pretends nothing was found.
165 pages with a reading time of ~2.75 hours (41282 words), and first published in 1922. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2009.
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“This doesn’t look like the street I came up through!” exclaimed Betty Gordon. “These funny streets, with their dear old–fashioned houses, all seem, so much alike! And if there are any names stuck up at the corners they must hide around behind the post when I come by like squirrels in the woods.
“I declare, there is a queer little shop stuck right in there between two of those refined–looking, if poverty–stricken, boarding–houses. Dear me! how many come–down–in–the–world families have to take ‘paying guests’ to help out. Not like the Peabodys, but really needy people. What is it Bobby calls ‘em? ‘P.G.s’—’paying guests.’
“I was a paying guest at Bramble Farm,” ruminated Betty, still staring at the little shop and the houses that flanked it on either side. “And I certainly had a hard time there. Bobby says that these people in Georgetown are the remains of Southern aristocracy that were cast up on this beach as long ago as the Civil War. Unlike the castaways on cannibal islands that we read about, Bobby says these castaways live off the ‘P.G.s’—and that’s what Joseph Peabody tried to do! He tried to live off me. There! I knew he was a cannibal.
“Oh! Isn’t that sweet?”
Her sudden cry had no reference to the army of boarding–house keepers in the neighborhood, nor to any signpost that pointed the way back to the little square where the soldiers’ monument stood and where Betty was to meet Carter, the Littells’ chauffeur, and the big limousine. For she was still staring at the window of the little shop.
“What a lovely orange color! And that starburst pattern on the front! It’s lovely! What a surprising thing to see in a little neighborhood store like this. I’m going to buy it if it fits me and I’ve money enough left in my purse.”
Impetuous as usual, Betty Gordon marched at once to the door of the little side–street shop. The most famous of such neighborhood shops, as described by Hawthorne, Betty knew all about. She had studied it in her English readings at Shadyside only the previous term. But there was no Gingerbread Man in this shop window!
In the middle of the display window, which was divided into four not very large panes, was arranged on a cross of bright metal a knitted over–blouse of the very newest burnt orange shade. The work was exquisitely done, as Betty could see even from outside the shop, and she did hope it would fit her.
On pushing open the door a silvery bell—not an annoying, jangling bell—played a very lively tune to attract the attention of a girl who sat at the back of the shop, her head bent close above the work on which she was engaged. Although the bell stopped quivering when Betty closed the door, the girl did not look up from her work.
Sharp–eyed Betty saw that the stranger was knitting, and she seemed to be engaged upon another over–blouse like that in the window, save that the silk in her lap was of a pretty dark blue shade. Betty saw her full, red lips move placidly. The girl was counting over her work and she actually was so deeply immersed in the knitting that she had not heard the bell or realized that a possible customer had entered.
“Ahem!” coughed Betty.
“And that’s twenty–four, and—cross—and two—and four―” The girl was counting aloud.
“Why,” murmured Betty Gordon, her eyes dancing, “she’s like Libbie Littell when she is somnambulating—I guess that is the right word. Anyway, when Libbie walks in her sleep she talks just like that―
This time Betty almost shouted the announcement of her presence in the shop and finally startled the other girl out of her abstraction. The latter looked up, winked her eyes very fast, and began to roll up her work in a clean towel. Betty noticed that her eyes were very blue and were shaded by dark lashes.
“I beg your pardon,” said the shopgirl. “Have you been waiting long?” She came forward quickly and with an air of assurance. Her look was not a happy one, however, and Betty wondered at her sadness. “What can I show you?” asked the shopgirl.
She was not much older than Betty herself, but she was more self–possessed and seemed much more experienced than even Betty, much as the latter had traveled and varied as her adventures had been during the previous year and a half. But now the stranger’s questions brought Betty to a renewed comprehension of what she had actually entered the shop for.
“I’m just crazy about that blouse in the window—the orange one,” she cried. “I know you must have made it yourself, for you are knitting another, I see, and that is going to be pretty, too. But I want this orange one—if it doesn’t cost too much.”
“The price is twelve dollars. I hope it is not too much,” said the shopgirl timidly. “I sold one for all of that before I left Liverpool.”
Betty was as much interested now in the other girl as she was in the orange silk over–blouse.