Maida opened the door leading into the living-room. Then she squealed her delight, not once, but continuously, like a very happy little pig.
The room was as changed as if some good fairy had waved a magic wand there. All the woodwork had turned a glistening white. The wall paper blossomed with garlands of red roses, tied with snoods of red ribbons. At each of the three windows waved sash curtains of a snowy muslin. At each of the three sashes hung a golden cage with a pair of golden canaries in it. Along each of the three sills marched pots of brilliantly-blooming scarlet geraniums. A fire spluttered and sparkled in the fireplace, and drawn up in front of it was a big easy chair for Granny, and a small easy one for Maida. Familiar things lay about, too. In one corner gleamed the cheerful face of the tall old clock which marked the hours with so silvery a voice and the moon-changes by such pretty pictures. In another corner shone the polished surface of a spidery-legged little spinet. Maida loved both these things almost as much as if they had been human beings, for her mother and her grandmother and her great-grandmother had loved them before her. Needed things caught her eyes everywhere. Here was a little bookcase with all her favorite books. There was a desk, stocked with business-like-looking blank-books. Even the familiar table with Granny’s “Book of Saints” stood near the easy chair. Granny’s spectacles lay on an open page, familiarly marking the place.
In the center of the room stood a table set for three.
“It’s just the dearest place,” Maida said. “Billy, you’ve remembered everything. I thought I heard a bird peep once, but I was too busy to think about it.”
“Want to go upstairs?” Billy asked.
“I’d forgotten all about bedrooms.” Maida flew up the stairs as if she had never known a crutch.
The two bedrooms were very simple, all white—woodwork, furniture, beds, even the fur rugs on the floor. But they were wonderfully gay from the beautiful paper that Billy had selected. In Granny’s room, the walls imitated a flowered chintz. But in Maida’s room every panel was different. And they all helped to tell the same happy story of a day’s hunting in the time when men wore long feathered hats on their curls, when ladies dressed like pictures and all carried falcons on their wrists.
“Granny, Granny,” Maida called down to them, “Did you ever see any place in all your life that felt so homey?”
“I guess it will do,” Billy said in an undertone.
That night, for the first time, Maida slept in the room over the little shop.
CHAPTER III: THE FIRST DAY
If you had gone into the little shop the next day, you would have seen a very pretty picture.
First of all, I think you would have noticed the little girl who sat behind the counter—a little girl in a simple blue-serge dress and a fresh white “tire”—a little girl with shining excited eyes and masses of pale-gold hair, clinging in tendrilly rings about a thin, heart-shaped face—a little girl who kept saying as she turned round and round in her swivel-chair: