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Maida’s Little Shop
By
Inez Haynes Irwin

Author of
MAIDA'S LITTLE HOUSE,
MAIDA'S LITTLE SCHOOL, ETC.

Grosset & Dunlap, Publishers
New York

Copyright, 1909, by
B. W. HUEBSCH


TO
LITTLE P. D.
FROM
BIG P. D.


CONTENTS

Chapter I: The Ride
Chapter II: Cleaning Up
Chapter III: The First Day
Chapter IV: The Second Day
Chapter V: Primrose Court
Chapter VI: Two Calls
Chapter VII: Trouble
Chapter VIII: A Rainy Day
Chapter IX: Work
Chapter X: Play
Chapter XI: Halloween
Chapter XII: The First Snow
Chapter XIII: The Fair
Chapter XIV: Christmas Happenings


MAIDA’S LITTLE SHOP

CHAPTER I: THE RIDE


Four people sat in the big, shining automobile. Three of them were
men. The fourth was a little girl. The little girl’s name was Maida
Westabrook. The three men were “Buffalo” Westabrook, her father, Dr.
Pierce, her physician, and Billy Potter, her friend. They were
coming from Marblehead to Boston.

Maida sat in one corner of the back seat gazing dreamily out at the
whirling country. She found it very beautiful and very curious. They
were going so fast that all the reds and greens and yellows of the
autumn trees melted into one variegated band. A moment later they
came out on the ocean. And now on the water side were two other
streaks of color, one a spongy blue that was sky, another a clear
shining blue that was sea. Maida half-shut her eyes and the whole
world seemed to flash by in ribbons.

“May I get out for a moment, papa?” she asked suddenly in a thin
little voice. “I’d like to watch the waves.”

“All right,” her father answered briskly. To the chauffeur he said,
“Stop here, Henri.” To Maida, “Stay as long as you want, Posie.”

“Posie” was Mr. Westabrook’s pet-name for Maida.

Billy Potter jumped out and helped Maida to the ground. The three
men watched her limp to the sea-wall.

She was a child whom you would have noticed anywhere because of her
luminous, strangely-quiet, gray eyes and because of the ethereal
look given to her face by a floating mass of hair, pale-gold and
tendrilly. And yet I think you would have known that she was a sick
little girl at the first glance. When she moved, it was with a great
slowness as if everything tired her. She was so thin that her hands
were like claws and her cheeks scooped in instead of out. She was
pale, too, and somehow her eyes looked too big. Perhaps this was
because her little heart-shaped face seemed too small.

“You’ve got to find something that will take up her mind, Jerome,”
Dr. Pierce said, lowering his voice, “and you’ve got to be quick
about it. Just what Greinschmidt feared has come—that languor—that
lack of interest in everything. You’ve got to find something for her
to _do_.”

Dr. Pierce spoke seriously. He was a round, short man, just exactly
as long any one way as any other. He had springy gray curls all over
his head and a nose like a button. Maida thought that he looked like
a very old but a very jolly and lovable baby. When he laughed—and he
was always laughing with Maida—he shook all over like jelly that has
been turned out of a jar. His very curls bobbed. But it seemed to
Maida that no matter how hard he chuckled, his eyes were always
serious when they rested on her.

Maida was very fond of Dr. Pierce. She had known him all her life.
He had gone to college with her father. He had taken care of her
health ever since Dr. Greinschmidt left. Dr. Greinschmidt was the
great physician who had come all the way across the ocean from
Germany to make Maida well. Before the operation Maida could not
walk. Now she could walk easily. Ever since she could remember she
had always added to her prayers at night a special request that she
might some day be like other little girls. Now she was like other
little girls, except that she limped. And yet now that she could do
all the things that other little girls did, she no longer cared to
do them—not even hopping and skipping, which she had always expected
would be the greatest fun in the world. Maida herself thought this
very strange.

“But what can I find for her to do?” “Buffalo” Westabrook said.

You could tell from the way he asked this question that he was not
accustomed to take advice from other people. Indeed, he did not look
it. But he looked his name. You would know at once why the
cartoonists always represented him with the head of a buffalo; why,
gradually, people had forgotten that his first name was Jerome and
referred to him always as “Buffalo” Westabrook.

Like the buffalo, his head was big and powerful and emerged from the
midst of a shaggy mane. But it was the way in which it was set on
his tremendous shoulders that gave him his nickname. When he spoke
to you, he looked as if he were about to charge. And the glance of
his eyes, set far back of a huge nose, cut through you like a pair
of knives.

It surprised Maida very much when she found that people stood in awe
of her father. It had never occurred to her to be afraid of him.

“I’ve racked my brains to entertain her,” “Buffalo” Westabrook went
on. “I’ve bought her every gimcrack that’s made for children—her
nursery looks like a toy factory. I’ve bought her prize ponies,
prize dogs and prize cats—rabbits, guinea-pigs, dancing mice,
talking parrots, marmosets—there’s a young menagerie at the place in
the Adirondacks. I’ve had a doll-house and a little theater built
for her at Pride’s. She has her own carriage, her own automobile,
her own railroad car. She can have her own flying-machine if she
wants it. I’ve taken her off on trips. I’ve taken her to the theater
and the circus. I’ve had all kinds of nurses and governesses and
companions, but they’ve been mostly failures. Granny Flynn’s the
best of the hired people, but of course Granny’s old. I’ve had other
children come to stay with her. Selfish little brutes they all
turned out to be! They’d play with her toys and ignore her
completely. And this fall I brought her to Boston, hoping her
cousins would rouse her. But the Fairfaxes decided suddenly to go
abroad this winter. If she’d only express a desire for something,
I’d get it for her—if it were one of the moons of Jupiter.”

“It isn’t anything you can _give_ her,” Dr. Pierce said impatiently;
“you must find something for her to _do_.”

“Say, Billy, you’re an observant little duck. Can’t you tell us
what’s the matter?” “Buffalo” Westabrook smiled down at the third
man of the party.

“The trouble with the child,” Billy Potter said promptly, “is that
everything she’s had has been ‘prize.’ Not that it’s spoiled her at
all. Petronilla is as simple as a princess in a fairy-tale.”

“Petronilla” was Billy Potter’s pet-name for Maida.

“Yes, she’s wonderfully simple,” Dr. Pierce agreed. “Poor little
thing, she’s lived in a world of bottles and splints and bandages.
She’s never had a chance to realize either the value or the
worthlessness of things.”

“And then,” Billy went on, “nobody’s ever used an ounce of
imagination in entertaining the poor child.”

“Imagination!” “Buffalo” Westabrook growled. “What has imagination
to do with it?”

Billy grinned.

Next to her father and Granny Flynn, Maida loved Billy Potter better
than anybody in the world. He was so little that she could never
decide whether he was a boy or a man. His chubby, dimply face was
the pinkest she had ever seen. From it twinkled a pair of blue eyes
the merriest she had ever seen. And falling continually down into
his eyes was a great mass of flaxen hair, the most tousled she had
ever seen.

Billy Potter lived in New York. He earned his living by writing for
newspapers and magazines. Whenever there was a fuss in Wall
Street—and the papers always blamed “Buffalo” Westabrook if this
happened—Billy Potter would have a talk with Maida’s father. Then he
wrote up what Mr. Westabrook said and it was printed somewhere. Men
who wrote for the newspapers were always trying to talk with Mr.
Westabrook. Few of them ever got the chance. But “Buffalo”
Westabrook never refused to talk with Billy Potter. Indeed, the two
men were great friends.

“He’s one of the few reporters who can turn out a good story and
tell it straight as I give it to him,” Maida had once heard her
father say. Maida knew that Billy could turn out good stories—he had
turned out a great many for her.

“What has imagination to do with it?” Mr. Westabrook repeated.

“It would have a great deal to do with it, I fancy,” Billy Potter
answered, “if somebody would only imagine the right thing.”

“Well, imagine it yourself,” Mr. Westabrook snarled. “Imagination
seems to be the chief stock-in-trade of you newspaper men.”

Billy grinned. When Billy smiled, two things happened—one to you and
the other to him. Your spirits went up and his eyes seemed to
disappear. Maida said that Billy’s eyes “skrinkled up.” The effect
was so comic that she always laughed—not with him but at him.

“All right,” Billy agreed pleasantly; “I’ll put the greatest
creative mind of the century to work on the job.”

“You put it to work at once, young man,” Dr. Pierce said. “The thing
I’m trying to impress on you both is that you can’t wait too long.”

“Buffalo” Westabrook stirred uneasily. His fierce, blue eyes
retreated behind the frown in his thick brows until all you could
see were two shining points. He watched Maida closely as she limped
back to the car. “What are you thinking of, Posie?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing, father,” Maida said, smiling faintly. This was the
answer she gave most often to her father’s questions. “Is there
anything you want, Posie?” he was sure to ask every morning, or,
“What would you like me to get you to-day, little daughter?” The
answer was invariable, given always in the same soft, thin little
voice: “Nothing, father—thank you.”

“Where are we now, Jerome?” Dr. Pierce asked suddenly.

Mr. Westabrook looked about him. “Getting towards Revere.”

“Let’s go home through Charlestown,” Dr. Pierce suggested. “How
would you like to see the house where I was born, Maida—that old
place on Warrington Street I told you about yesterday. I think you’d
like it, Pinkwink.”

“Pinkwink” was Dr. Pierce’s pet-name for Maida.

“Oh, I’d love to see it.” A little thrill of pleasure sparkled in
Maida’s flat tones. “I’d just love to.”

Dr. Pierce gave some directions to the chauffeur.

For fifteen minutes or more the men talked business. They had come
away from the sea and the streams of yellow and red and green trees.
Maida pillowed her head on the cushions and stared fixedly at the
passing streets. But her little face wore a dreamy, withdrawn look
as if she were seeing something very far away. Whenever “Buffalo”
Westabrook’s glance shot her way, his thick brows pulled together
into the frown that most people dreaded to face.

“Now down the hill and then to the left,” Dr. Pierce instructed
Henri.

Warrington Street was wide and old-fashioned. Big elms marching in a
double file between the fine old houses, met in an arch above their
roofs. At intervals along the curbstones were hitching-posts of
iron, most of them supporting the head of a horse with a ring in his
nose. One, the statue of a negro boy with his arms lifted above his
head, seemed to beg the honor of holding the reins. Beside these
hitching-posts were rectangular blocks of granite—stepping-stones
for horseback riders and carriage folk.

“There, Pinkwink,” Dr. Pierce said; “that old house on the
corner—stop here, Henri, please—that’s where I was brought up. The
old swing used to hang from that tree and it was from that big bough
stretching over the fence that I fell and broke my arm.”

Maida’s eyes brightened. “And there’s the garret window where the
squirrels used to come in,” she exclaimed.

“The same!” Dr. Pierce laughed. “You don’t forget anything, do you?
My goodness me! How small the house looks and how narrow the street
has grown! Even the trees aren’t as tall as they should be.”

Maida stared. The trees looked very high indeed to her. And she
thought the street quite wide enough for anybody, the houses very
stately.

“Now show me the school,” she begged.

“Just a block or two, Henri,” Dr. Pierce directed.

The car stopped in front of a low, rambling wooden building with a
yard in front.

“That’s where you covered the ceiling with spit-balls,” Maida asked.

“The same!” Dr. Pierce laughed heartily at the remembrance. It
seemed to Maida that she had never seen his curls bob quite so
furiously before.

“It’s one of the few wooden, primary buildings left in the city,” he
explained to the two men. “It can’t last many years now. It’s
nothing but a rat-trap but how I shall hate to see it go!”

Opposite the school was a big, wide court. Shaded with beautiful
trees—maples beginning to flame, horse-chestnuts a little browned,
it was lined with wooden toy houses, set back of fenced-in yards and
veiled by climbing vines. Pigeons were flying about, alighting now
and then to peck at the ground or to preen their green and purple
necks. Boys were spinning tops. Girls were jumping rope. The dust
they kicked up had a sweet, earthy smell in Maida’s nostrils. As she
stared, charmed with the picture, a little girl in a scarlet cape
and a scarlet hat came climbing up over one of the fences. Quick,
active as a squirrel, she disappeared into the next yard.

“Primrose Court!” Dr. Pierce exclaimed. “Well, well, well!”

“Primrose Court,” Maida repeated. “Do primroses grow there?”

“Bless your heart, no,” Dr. Pierce laughed; “it was named after a
man called Primrose who used to own a great deal of the
neighborhood.”

But Maida was scarcely listening. “Oh, what a cunning little shop!”
she exclaimed. “There, opposite the court. What a perfectly darling
little place!”

“Good Lord! that’s Connors’,” Dr. Pierce explained. “Many a reckless
penny I’ve squandered there, my dear. Connors was the funniest, old,
bent, dried-up man. I wonder who keeps it now.”

As if in answer to his question, a wrinkled old lady came to the
window to take a paper-doll from the dusty display there.

“What are those yellow things in that glass jar?” Maida asked.

“Pickled limes,” Dr. Pierce responded promptly. “How I used to love
them!”

“Oh, father, buy me a pickled lime,” Maida pleaded. “I never had one
in my life and I’ve been crazy to taste one ever since I read
‘Little Women.’”

“All right,” Mr. Westabrook said. “Let’s come in and treat Maida to
a pickled lime.”

A bell rang discordantly as they opened the door. Its prolonged
clangor finally brought the old lady from the room at the back. She
looked in surprise at the three men in their automobile coats and at
the little lame girl.

Coming in from the bright sunshine, the shop seemed unpleasantly
dark to Maida. After a while she saw that its two windows gave it
light enough but that it was very confused, cluttery and dusty.

Mr. Westabrook bought four pickled limes and everybody ate—three of
them with enjoyment, Billy with many wry faces and a decided,
“Stung!” after the first taste.

“I like pickled limes,” Maida said after they had started for
Boston. “What a funny little place that was! Oh, how I would like to
keep a little shop just like it.”

Billy Potter started. For a moment it seemed as if he were about to
speak. But instead, he stared hard at Maida, falling gradually into
a brown study. From time to time he came out of it long enough to
look sharply at her. The sparkle had all gone out of her face. She
was pale and dream-absorbed again.

Her father studied her with increasing anxiety as they neared the
big house on Beacon Street. Dr. Pierce’s face was shadowed too.

“Eureka! I’ve found it!” Billy exclaimed as they swept past the
State House. “I’ve got it, Mr. Westabrook.”

“Got what?”

Billy did not answer at once. The automobile had stopped in front of
a big red-brick house. Over the beautifully fluted columns that held
up the porch hung a brilliant red vine. Lavender-colored glass, here
and there in the windows, made purple patches on the lace of the
curtains.

“Got what?” Mr. Westabrook repeated impatiently.

“That little job of the imagination that you put me on a few moments
ago,” Billy answered mysteriously. “In a moment,” he added with a
significant look at Maida. “You stay too, Dr. Pierce. I want your
approval.”

The door of the beautiful old house had opened and a man in livery
came out to assist Maida. On the threshold stood an old
silver-haired woman in a black-silk gown, a white cap and apron, a little
black shawl pinned about her shoulders.

“How’s my lamb?” she asked tenderly of Maida.

“Oh, pretty well,” Maida said dully. “Oh, Granny,” she added with a
sudden flare of enthusiasm, “I saw the cunningest little shop. I
think I’d rather tend shop than do anything else in the world.”

Billy Potter smiled all over his pink face. He followed Mr.
Westabrook and Dr. Pierce into the drawing-room.

- - - - - - - - - - -

Maida went upstairs with Granny Flynn.

Granny Flynn had come straight to the Westabrook house from the boat
that brought her from Ireland years ago. She had come to America in
search of a runaway daughter but she had never found her. She had
helped to nurse Maida’s mother in the illness of which she died and
she had always taken such care of Maida herself that Maida loved her
dearly. Sometimes when they were alone, Maida would call her “Dame,”
because, she said, “Granny looks just like the ‘Dame’ who comes into
fairy-tales.”

Granny Flynn was very little, very bent, very old. “A t’ousand and
noine, sure,” she always answered when Maida asked her how old. Her
skin had cracked into a hundred wrinkles and her long sharp nose and
her short sharp chin almost met. But the wrinkles surrounded a pair
of eyes that were a twinkling, youthful blue. And her down-turned
nose and up-growing chin could not conceal or mar the lovely
sweetness of her smile.

Just before Maida went to bed that night, she was surprised by a
visit from her father.

“Posie,” he said, sitting down on her bed, “did you really mean it
to-day when you said you would like to keep a little shop?”

“Oh, yes, father! I’ve been thinking it over ever since I came home
from our ride this afternoon. A little shop, you know, just like the
one we saw to-day.”

“Very well, dear, you shall keep a shop. You shall keep that very
one. I’m going to buy out the business for you and put you in charge
there. I’ve got to be in New York pretty steadily for the next three
months and I’ve decided that I’ll send you and Granny to live in the
rooms over the shop. I’ll fix the place all up for you, give you
plenty of money to stock it and then I expect you to run it and make
it pay.”

Maida sat up in bed with a vigor that surprised her father. She
shook her hands—a gesture that, with her, meant great delight. She
laughed. It was the first time in months that a happy note had
pealed in her laughter. “Oh, father, dear, how good you are to me!
I’m just crazy to try it and I know I can make it pay—if hard work
helps.”

“All right. That’s settled. But listen carefully to what I’m going
to say, Posie. I can’t have this getting into the papers, you know.
To prevent that, you’re to play a game while you’re working in the
shop—just as princesses in fairy-tales had to play games sometimes.
You’re going _in disguise_. Do you understand?”

“Yes, father, I understand.”

“You’re to pretend that you belong to Granny Flynn, that you’re her
grandchild. You won’t have to tell any lies about it. When the
children in the neighborhood hear you call her ‘Granny,’ they’ll
simply take it for granted that you’re her son’s child.

“Or I can pretend I’m poor Granny’s lost daughter’s little girl,”
Maida suggested.

“If you wish. Billy Potter’s going to stay here in Boston and help
you. You’re to call on him, Posie, if you get into any snarl. But I
hope you’ll try to settle all your own difficulties before turning
to anybody else. Do you understand?”

“Yes, father. Father, dear, I’m so happy. Does Granny know?”

“Yes.”

Maida heaved an ecstatic sigh. “I’m afraid I shan’t get to sleep
to-night—just thinking of it.”

But she did sleep and very hard—the best sleep she had known since
her operation. And she dreamed that she opened a shop—a big shop
this was—on the top of a huge white cloud. She dreamed that her
customers were all little boy and girl angels with floating, golden
curls and shining rainbow-colored wings. She dreamed that she sold
nothing but cake. She used to cut generous slices from an angel-cake
as big as the golden dome of the Boston state house. It was very
delicious—all honey and jelly and ice cream on the inside, and all
frosting, stuck with candies and nuts and fruits, on the outside.

- - - - - - - - - - -

The people on Warrington Street were surprised to learn in the
course of a few days that old Mrs. Murdock had sold out her business
in the little corner store. For over a week, the little place was
shut up. The school children, pouring into the street twice a day,
had to go to Main Street for their candy and lead pencils. For a
long time all the curtains were kept down. Something was going on
inside, but what, could not be guessed from the outside. Wagons
deposited all kinds of things at the door, rolls of paper, tins of
paint, furniture, big wooden boxes whose contents nobody could
guess. Every day brought more and more workmen and the more there
were, the harder they worked. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, all
the work stopped.

The next morning when the neighborhood waked up, a freshly-painted
sign had taken the place over the door of the dingy old black and
white one. The lettering was gilt, the background a skyey blue. It
read:

MAIDA’S LITTLE SHOP


CHAPTER II: CLEANING UP


The next two weeks were the busiest Maida ever knew.

In the first place she must see Mrs. Murdock and talk things over.
In the second place, she must examine all the stock that Mrs.
Murdock left. In the third place, she must order new stock from the
wholesale places. And in the fourth place, the rooms must be made
ready for her and Granny to live in. It was hard work, but it was
great fun.

First, Mrs. Murdock called, at Billy’s request, at his rooms on
Mount Vernon Street. Granny and Maida were there to meet her.

Mrs. Murdock was a tall, thin, erect old lady. Her bright black eyes
were piercing enough, but it seemed to Maida that the round-glassed
spectacles, through which she examined them all, were even more so.

“I’ve made out a list of things for the shop that I’m all out of,”
she began briskly. “You’ll know what the rest is from what’s left on
the shelves. Now about buying—there’s a wagon comes round once a
month and I’ve told them to keep right on a-coming even though I
ain’t there. They’ll sell you your candy, pickles, pickled limes and
all sich stuff. You’ll have to buy your toys in Boston—your paper,
pens, pencils, rubbers and the like also, but not at the same places
where you git the toys. I’ve put all the addresses down on the list.
I don’t see how you can make any mistakes.”

“How long will it take you to get out of the shop?” Billy asked.

Maida knew that Billy enjoyed Mrs. Murdock, for often, when he
looked at that lady, his eyes “skrinkled up,” although there was not
a smile on his face.

“A week is all I need,” Mrs. Murdock declared. “If it worn’t for
other folks who are keeping me waiting, I’d have that hull place
fixed as clean as a whistle in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Now I’ll
put a price on everything, so’s you won’t be bothered what to
charge. There’s some things I don’t ever git, because folks buy too
many of them and it’s sich an everlasting bother keeping them in
stock. But you’re young and spry, and maybe you won’t mind jumping


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