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Only in Samantha and the Missing Pearls
Nellie and Samantha are running from Jones's dog, who is chasing them. They get across the drive and up the stairs to the backporch before getting inside and in the kitchen; Nellie slams the door, making the Christmas wreath on the door swing. They can hear the dog barking and his paws scrabbling. Samantha, panting, says she hates that dog, and Nellie says he's as mean as his owner, Jones—the new hired man at the Van Sicklens, who never smiles and only speaks in growls to shoo Samantha and Nellie away. Samantha says he's as gray as a ghost, and Nellie complains that he's an old crosspatch and scolded her for cutting holly branches she needed to make wreaths.Samantha asks to be taught how to make a wreath, and Nellie says she can't, since Mrs. Van Sicklen is having a tea party and she has to get everything ready since her parents are away. Samantha offers to help and asks who's coming. Nellie says Mrs. Eddleton and Mrs. Ryland, and Samantha makes a face and mimics Mrs. Eddleton's voice. Nellie grins as she fills the kettle, and discusses how the ladies are going to exchange gifts. Mrs. Van Sicklen has already opened a gift from her mother—a black pearl necklace. As she's explaining that they're not exactly black, Mrs. Van Sicklen calls Nellie in distress. Samantha and Nellie run out of the kitchen to see Mrs. Van Sicklen running down the stairs in distress; she wails that her pearls are missing and that they are priceless. Nellie asks where the pearls were last seen, and Mrs. Van Sicklen explains she put them on her dressing table last night; she had been in bed all day with a headache so just now noticed they were missing when she went to put them on to show at the tea.
Nellie and Samantha don't get to say anything else before the doorbell rings. Nellie answers the door; Mrs. Eddleton and Mrs. Ryland are there with their gifts and ask Mrs. Van Sicklen what's wrong. When she explains that her pearls are missing, Mrs. Ryland shrieks that she's been robbed and clutches her packages to her. Mrs. Eddleton takes Mrs. Van Sicklen by the elbow and into the parlor, where she implies in a low voice that Nellie's family wasn't worth hiring and they have caused the trouble. Mrs. Van Sicklen states that the others in Nellie's family aren't there, and Mrs. Eddleton says just before the door closes behind her that she never trusted her.
Nellie and Samantha are horrified at the accusation towards Nellie. Nellie insists that they have to find the pearls right away. Samantha suggests that they search Mrs. Van Sicklen's room in case she didn't search hard enough. As they arrive Nellie explains that she came in this morning while Mrs. Van Sicklen was asleep, set her breakfast tray on the dressing table, and swept out the ashes before starting a fire and taking the ashes to the cellar. She didn't see the pearls then, but it was dark. Samantha and Nellie search every inch of the dressing table and the room, but don't locate the pearls. Nellie wonders if a thief came in and stole them; Samantha wonders if he planned it carefully. Nellie says no, she only got the necklace the day before and the only people who would have seen it are her, Mrs. Van Sicklen, and Jones—who was in the parlor repairing a chair when Nellie brought the package. Samantha is sure he store the pearls and that they should search his room. Nellie says she doesn't dare—and that he couldn't have gotten in last night since he doesn't have a key and the house was locked up tight. Samantha says he could have broken a window and they should look around the outside of the house.They make their way out of the house and past the parlor where the women are waiting for the police, then get their coats and, after making sure Jones isn't there, go out and down the back stairs. As they come around the corner of the house, they see Jones and his dog coming towards them and Samantha holds out her arm to stop Nellie until they pass; Samantha thinks that if he sees them searching he'll know they suspect him and might do anything to stop them from proving he's a thief.
Nellie and Samantha search every window and door for signs of a break in, but find nothing. Samantha says she can't see the second- and third-floor windows, and that they should find a ladder to look. Nellie is skeptical of this, but Samantha says it's the only way she can think of that Jones could have broken in. Nellie slumps against the coal chute and agrees. Samantha points out that the chute is never locked and Jones could have gone in that way. Nellie says it's too narrow and he wouldn't fit. Samantha opens it to see, and they hear the clanking of the dog's collar. In fright of being chased again, Samantha suggests that they hide by sliding down the coal chute. Nellie is nervous until Jones and the dog see them, and Jones yells for them to get away from it. Then they both leap down, first Nellie and then Samantha.The two girls slide down the chute and into the pile of coal, spilling it as they fall to the floor. They knock over full ashcans and send ashes everywhere, and are coughing and choking when the door to the cellar opens to show Mrs. Eddleton, Mrs. Ryland, and Mrs. Van Sickle. Mrs. Van Sicklen asks what's going on, and Jones hollers down the chute that they jumped down the chute foolishly and is about to say more when Mrs. Van Sicklen says that that's enough, and he slams the door to the chute angrily. Mrs. Van Sicklen asks how they made such a mess, and Samantha says they did in fact jump down the chute, and they meant no harm. Nellie isn't paying any attention though, and is looking at something in the ashes. Samantha starts that they were trying to find her necklace, and Nellie says that they did—the pearls are in her hand, ashy but unbroken. Nellie hands it over to Mrs. Van Sicklen, who asks how the necklace got down there. Nellie says that the necklace must have fallen off the dressing table and been swept up with the ashes; since the pearls are grey, they blended with the ashes and got swept up into the scuttle where Nellie then dumped them in the ashcan. When the cans were knocked over, the pearls were found when Nellie tried to stand up. Mrs. Ryland fusses, wanting to know why they were near the chute anyways and why they leaped down. Samantha and Nellie look at each other shamed, and Samantha explains that they were searching because they suspected a thief (Samantha stops short of saying they suspected Jones). Mrs. Van Sicklen says that they weren't the only ones to suspect someone wrongly—giving a cool look towards Mrs. Eddleton—and that she's proud that they figured out where the pearls went and wonders how they came to a clever conclusion. Samantha says that she and Nellie might have "jumped" to a conclusion, but they aren't likely to do so anymore, and Nellie agrees.
Meet the Author
Valerie Tripp discusses how she liked to read Nancy Drew books with her sisters and they admired the character; however, she didn't want to be a detective and instead wanted to write mysteries.
Looking Back: The Boxcar Children
Discusses the writing career of Gertrude Chandler Warner. Topics include:
- Gertrude's early childhood in the 1900s, including her decision to become and author when she was five years old, and the first book she created with her sister.
- Some of Gertrude's favorite childhood hobbies, such as reading and making dollhouse furniture, which eventually came the subject of Gertrude's first published book in 1916.
- The inspiration for Gertrude's Boxcar Children book series, which was a fascination over the caboose of a passing freight train.
- When Gertrude published her first Boxcar Children story, and how many more stories she added to the series.
- Why the workroom in her house was Gertrude's favorite place to write, and the technique that Gertrude used when she wrote her stories by hand.
Activity: Uncover a Mystery
Gives ideas on how to plan a mystery night and solve mysteries with your friends: a list of mystery books and series are included, and the games Tableaux Vivants, Twenty Questions, and Assumed Characters.