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   Chapter 4 KEEPING STORE.

Cricket at the Seashore By Elizabeth Weston Timlow Characters: 16362

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


It was voted by all that the money in the bag belonged undeniably to Cricket, by right of discovery, but she would not touch it till she had written to mamma the astounding news. She was very anxious to cable the important announcement, and Auntie Jean had some difficulty in persuading her that a letter would convey it just as well. The money only amounted to two dollars and sixty-four cents in all, but this was larger in Cricket's eyes than any money she had ever owned before. She spent it in imagination a hundred times, and the others helped her, till even little Kenneth caught the fever, and begged "Tritet, buy Tennet bikachine," his own invention for bicycle.

"Goody!" exclaimed Cricket, "that's just what I'll do for myself. Eunice, I'm going to put the money in the really-truly bank this time, and keep putting more in, and I'll save my allowance and get a bicycle to ride when I'm too big to ride Mopsie. Wonder how long it would take."

"Years," said Eunice, with a cold-water expression. "Why, Cricket, bicycles cost lots of money. You never could do it."

"I can ride on the boys' bicycles when they get them, to learn how, and keep saving till I'm grown up. Couldn't I get enough by that time? Wish I could earn money."

"Keep a peanut stand," suggested Archie.

"I wonder if I couldn't," said Cricket, instantly attracted by the idea. "What fun! Where could I have one? I'd just love to. I'd have that big white umbrella that used to stand up in the old phaeton, over my head, and I'd have a chair and a table. Do you suppose auntie would let me go down on the dock and sell peanuts?"

"I should think not!" cried Edna, horrified.

"I'm going to ask her," returned Cricket, undaunted. "I'll make great piles of money. Everybody will stop and buy of me when they're going out sailing. Peanuts are always good when you're sailing."

"Discount to the family?" asked Will.

"Discount to me, anyway," put in Archie, insinuatingly, "for my suggestion. Really, you know you ought to supply me free."

"Free!" replied Cricket, with much scorn. "I might as well try to fill up Marbury Bay as you, Mr. Archie. I know who ate twenty-seven griddle-cakes for breakfast."

"Don't confess it right out loud, Miss Scricket, if you did get away with that number. I'm not astonished, but I'm overcome."

"Dear me," answered Cricket, tossing her curls, "you think you're abdominally smart, I know, but-"

A howl of laughter stopped her, and Cricket looked dismayed. They always made so much fun of her when she made one of her constant mistakes in the use of words.

"She means abnormally," shouted Archie, rolling on the ground. "Abdominally smart, oh, my!"

"Well, abnormally, if you like it better," returned Cricket, amiably. "I don't see much difference, anyway. I am going to ask auntie, right away, about the peanut stand," she continued, changing the subject quickly, as long experience had taught her to do. Off she ran, returning, jubilant, in a few moments.

"Auntie says to be sure I may; there, now, Edna; she says I may sell all the peanuts I like, and on the dock, if I want to, and she'll give me a pint cup to measure them out with. And since you all make so much fun of it, I'll keep it all alone, without any partner."

"You might go shares with me," pleaded Archie; but Cricket was resolute.

"If you'd been more polite to me, perhaps I might have. Now I sha'n't. I don't know that I'll even sell you any."

"But I'll be partner, sha'n't I, Cricket?" asked Eunice, accustomed to sharing everything with her younger sister.

"You all laughed at me, first about finding the bag, then about the peanuts," she said, firmly, "and I'm going to be my own partner. If I take any one it shall be Billy. He never teases."

"But if you put in the capital," urged Archie, "you should have somebody else to supply the experience."

"All the experience that any of you would supply would be experience in eating them," Cricket replied, with severity. "Then I'd lose my money and my peanuts, too. Good-by. I'm going to make my arrangements now."

"If you buy your peanuts of old Simon, at the corner, make him give them to you wholesale," called Archie after her; and then he departed on a little private expedition.

Cricket was busy all the rest of the afternoon, getting her establishment together. First, a little, square table was unearthed in the garret, and was scrubbed and polished by Cricket's own hands. Then the old white phaeton umbrella was found and brushed, and a long slit in one side of the cover mended with stitches of heroic size. This was, with much painstaking, lashed firmly to the back of the stout, wooden chair, contributed by the kitchen. All these, old Billy, proud and happy at being selected as chief aid, took down to the little dock, where she was to set up business. She decided to invest a capital of fifty cents, not part of her new-found funds, but her private and personal possession, and expected to come out of her venture a millionaire. She made up her mind that she would not take even Billy into partnership, for it would be so much fun for him to buy peanuts of her; but she graciously allowed him to go to the village store with her the next morning, after breakfast, to help her carry home her stock in trade. She would have driven Mopsie, but the cart was not yet home from the blacksmith's.

Acting on the boys' suggestion, she proposed to old Simon Hodges, who kept the village store, that he should give her the peanuts wholesale, and they struck a bargain that she should buy them at nine cents a quart instead of ten, which Cricket regarded as a most generous reduction.

She invested in four quarts to begin with.

"Say, little 'un," suddenly proposed old Billy, nudging her, "why don't you buy some o' those pep'mint drops long o' the peanits. I'd just as lives buy 'em o' you as o' Simon. Fact is, I'd liver."

"What a good idea, Billy. 'Course I will."

Billy grinned from ear to ear.

"How will you sell them, Mr. Simon?"

Simon, a weather-beaten old sailor, who had taken to keeping store in his old age, thought he could sell her as many as she could take aboard at the rate of six for five cents, instead of the regular rate of a penny apiece. These peppermint drops must have been peculiar to Marbury, I think, for I have never seen any just like them anywhere else. They were thick and round, and about two inches across, indented in the middle, like a rosette. They were not soft and creamy, but hard and crunchy, though how much of this latter property rose from the lack of absolute freshness, I am not prepared to say, for it was a standing joke with the boys that Simon had once been heard to remark that he hadn't gotten in his summer stock of candy yet. Some of the peppermints were pink, and some were striped red and white. Cricket supplied herself with six of each.

"That makes forty-six cents, doesn't it? I ought to spend the whole of my money," she said, twirling her half-dollar on the counter.

"Tobaccer?" queried Billy, quickly, thinking of his other indulgence. "I'd just as lives-"

"Oh, no, Billy, I wouldn't have tobacco for anything, nasty stuff," said Cricket.

Billy looked dejected.

"Didn't mean no harm," he said, meekly.

"Never mind, Billy. Now what shall I get?"

"Lemons," suggested Simon, deferentially. "I'll let you have 'em for a cent apiece, and water's cheap. Lemonade would sell well these hot days," for Simon had been taken into Cricket's confidence.

"That's a good idea," beamed the small merchant. "There's the sugar, and I guess grandma would give me that, and I'd let her have a glass of lemonade free. Yes, I'll take four lemons, Mr. Simon, thank you. Now, Billy, you take the peanuts and put the lemons in your coat pocket, and I'll carry the peppermints."

Thus laden the two went gaily homeward.

"For goodness sake! look there, Billy!" Cricket suddenly exclaimed, as they approached the little dock, where they had arranged the table, chair, and canopy, the night before. Archie had evidently been busy during their absence. He liked to tease Cricket, because, as he said, she w

as so "gamey." Edna would grow peevish and fretful if he teased her, and his mother would never allow it. But Cricket never cared, and enjoyed a joke on herself as well as on any one else.

She went into shrieks of laughter, at the new decorations adorning her place of business. From every rib of the umbrella hung a little, live, wriggling crab. Four horseshoe shells, stuck up on the sharp points, decorated the four corners of the table, and a drapery of seaweed festooned its legs, and the back of her chair. A flapping sign was suspended on one side, on which, in big letters, they read:

PEANUT EMPORIUM!!

SIGN OF THE CRAB

MISS SCRICKET, BILLY & CO.

PEANUTS STRICTLY FRESH EVERY YEAR

CALL EARLY AND OFTEN

Billy glanced from Cricket to the peanut stand, and back again, not knowing whether to join in her laughter or not. He didn't see anything funny himself in it, for he had a horror of creeping, crawling things.

"Drat them boys!" he said, at length; "how be we goin' to get them things off?"

"You go get me a basket and a pair of scissors, Billy," ordered Cricket of her willing slave, "and I'll take them away. Don't they look funny?"

In a very little while the crabs were restored to their native element, the seaweed was thrown over the dock, the chair and table wiped clean and dry, and everything was again in order. The horseshoe shells were left sticking up for ornaments. Then she proceeded to lay out her stock, and dispose of it to the best advantage. Grandma contributed a big cracked dish for the peanuts, which stood in the middle of the table. The peppermints were arranged in a row, a red one and a striped one alternating.

"Now, Billy, you stay here and watch things while I go to the house for a pitcher for the lemonade, and some tumblers. I mustn't forget the sugar, either, and a knife. Oh, and the lemon-squeezer. I do hope everybody will keep out of the way till I get it all fixed."

Fortunately, auntie had sent Edna and Eunice on an errand, and had told Eliza to keep the children away till the little merchant was ready to begin her sales, so Cricket was left in peace, as Archie, after he had finished his adornments, had gone for a sail with Will.

A little later, and the peanut vender had everything in order. A pitcher of lemonade-not of the strongest, it must be confessed-was added to the table. At the first signal, the twins, who had been eagerly watching from a distance, darted forward, with pennies in hand, and trade began. Then the girls appeared, and each bought a glass of lemonade, and when Will and Archie landed, as they did, a few minutes later, the demand for peanuts increased. Cricket measured them out in a teacup, and poured them into the purchaser's outstretched hands.

"Put in some more for good measure," somebody would say. "Some of mine spilled."

"Pick them right up, then," said the little store-keeper, thriftily. "'Twon't hurt the nuts a bit. No, Zaidee, you can't have another thing till you bring me some more money. A peppermint drop, Eunice? No, you can't have two for a cent. Don't they look good? B'lieve I'll just taste one," hastily putting her words into practice. "Yes, Billy, what do you want? a red one or a striped one?"

"Say, little un," asked Billy, uncertainly, "which would you take, if you was me? I want two cents' wuth. Would you get two reds, or two striped?"

"Two reds," advised Edna, as Eunice said, "Two striped."

"I can't buy so many, can I?" he asked, holding out his hand, with six cents in it. "I want some peanits, too, and some lemonade. Will this buy 'em all?"

"Get one striped and one white," said Eunice, "and two cents' worth of peanuts and a glass of lemonade."

"Lemonade is three cents a glass," said Cricket, "but, Billy, you can have it for two, because you've helped me so much."

"By the way, Will," broke in Archie, suddenly, "how much are crabs selling for, in the market, to-day?"

"Ten cents," answered Will, promptly.

"Now, then, Cricket, you owe me a lot on those crabs that I furnished you this morning. It took me all yesterday afternoon to catch them, too. You have sold them all off, I see, already. How much did they bring? Give me all the lemonade I want, and we'll call it square."

"I don't care whether you call it square or round," answered Cricket, briefly, snipping Zaidee's fingers, which were creeping too near the peppermints. "Zaidee, keep your hands away. You've broken a whole piece out of that."

"How could she break a whole piece?" teased Archie. "If it's a piece, 't isn't whole, Miss Scricket."

"If catching crabs makes you so brilliant, you'd better catch some more," said Cricket serenely. "Now, do all of you go away. I see some other people coming down to the dock, and I know they'll buy something, if you go away, so they can see me," she added, rearranging her wares. "Billy, drive them off." Thus ordered, Billy made a lunge at the twins first, and they, secretly half-terrified out of their wits if he spoke to them in his gruff tones, scampered off to Eliza. Eunice and Edna strolled off, eating peanuts, and the boys betook themselves to new sports.

All day the little maid and her faithful ally sat on the little wharf, vending her wares. The dock had half a dozen sailboats moored there, and their various owners, in passing to and fro, stopped, laughed, and bought. Soon Billy had to take some of the accumulated money and go up to Simon's to replenish the stock, and frequent expeditions there through the day were made. The two refreshed themselves in the intervals of business with sundry glasses of lemonade, and occasional "peanits," while every now and then a piece of a red or of a striped peppermint found its way down Cricket's throat. Billy scrupulously paid for all he ate. By supper-time nearly everything had disappeared.

"Now, I think, Billy, we might just as well drink up this little bit of lemonade, and eat up those peanuts," said the tired little merchant. "All the peppermints are gone, and it's most supper-time."

Billy was nothing loth, and together they soon cleared the board.

"Well, my little peanut woman, how went the day with you?" asked Auntie Jean, at supper. She had, of course, patronized the peanut stand herself during the day, with grandma. "All your wares sold?"

"Yes, auntie, everything," answered Cricket, as the always hungry tribe gathered around the supper-table. "Billy and I ate up what little there was left so it shouldn't be wasted."

"Then you don't mean to go on with your speculations in peanuts?" asked grandma.

"No-o, I think not, grandma, thank you," answered Cricket. "It was very nice to-day, but I think I couldn't stand keeping still all day for every day. But we made a lot of money," she added, with much satisfaction.

"Well, dear, that is always gratifying," replied auntie. "How much did you make? if we may be admitted to the financial secrets of the firm."

"We made twenty-one cents," cried Cricket, proudly, "and I think that's pretty good."

"Indeed, it is. You're quite a financier. And you invested fifty cents? Then you have seventy-one cents now."

"No, we haven't," returned Cricket, looking puzzled. "I have twenty-one cents, now. Oh, I spent a lot more than fifty cents. Billy went up to the store five or six times and got more peanuts and things, as fast as the money came in. Now, I have twenty-one cents to put in my box. Isn't that making twenty-one cents?" she asked, looking up, anxiously.

There was a burst of laughter from the older ones.

"My dear little girl," said Auntie Jean, "I'm afraid your affairs are not on a sound financial basis. You must have been too generous. People don't call it making money unless they get back all they spend, and more besides. As it is, you had fifty cents this morning and, to-night, you have twenty-one. That looks like losing."

Cricket stared.

"I don't believe I'm a good speculationer," she sighed, at last, looking crestfallen. "Well, I don't care much. I didn't want to keep store any more anyway. It's too poky. Can we be excused, grandma? I must have a ride on Mopsie, or I'll burst!"

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