“Oh, Rosie,” Maida said in a horrified tone, “Please never do it again.” In spite of herself, Maida’s eyes twinkled.
But Rosie only laughed. Maida watched her steal into her yard, watched her climb over the shed, watched her disappear through the window.
But she grieved over the matter as she walked home. Perhaps it was because she was thinking so deeply that she did not notice how quiet they all were in the living-room. But as she crossed the threshold, a pair of arms seized her and swung her into the air.
“Oh, papa, papa,” she whispered, cuddling her face against his, “how glad I am to see you.”
He marched with her over to the light.
“Well, little shop-keeper,” he said after a long pause in which he studied her keenly, “you’re beginning to look like a real live girl.” He dropped her gently to her feet. “Now show me your shop.”
But during that first two weeks a continual rush of business made long days for Maida. All the children in the neighborhood were curious to see the place. It had been dark and dingy as long as they could remember. Now it was always bright and pretty—always sweet with the perfume of flowers, always gay with the music of birds. But more, the children wanted to see the lame little girl who “tended store,” who seemed to try so hard to please her customers and who was so affectionate and respectful with the old, old lady whom she called “Granny.”
At noon and night the bell sounded a continuous tinkle.
For a week Maida kept rather close to the shop. She wanted to get acquainted with all her customers. Moreover, she wanted to find out which of the things she had bought sold quickly and which were unpopular.
After a day or two her life fell into a regular programme.
Early in the morning she would put the shop to rights for the day’s sale, dusting, replacing the things she had sold, rearranging them often according to some pretty new scheme.
About eight o’clock the bell would call her into the shop and it would be brisk work until nine. Then would come a rest of three hours, broken only by an occasional customer. In this interval she often worked in the yard, raking up the leaves that fell from vine and bush, picking the bravely-blooming dahlias, gathering sprays of woodbine for the vases, scattering crumbs to the birds.
At twelve the children would begin to flood the shop again and Maida would be on her feet constantly until two. Between two and four came another long rest. After school trade started up again. Often it lasted until six, when she locked the door for the night.
In her leisure moments she used to watch the people coming and going in Primrose Court. With Rosie’s and Dicky’s help, she soon knew everybody by name. She discovered by degrees that on the right side of the court lived the Hales, the Clarks, the Doyles and the Dores; on the left side, the Duncans, the Brines and the Allisons. In the big house at the back lived the Lathrops.