Penny Nichols and the Mystery of the Lost Key
A Valuable Letter
“Hurry, Susan! We have only ten minutes before the store closes!”
Penelope Nichols, the slender girl in blue, urged her companion into the revolving doors at the entrance of the Bresham Department Store. A vigorous push sent the barriers spinning at such a rate that other shoppers turned to stare at the two girls.
“You nearly took off my heels that time, Penny,” Susan Altman protested with a laugh as they emerged into the crowded store.
“Sorry, but we’ve no time to waste if I get that pair of white earrings. The clerks are starting to put things away already.”
Threading their way through the outgoing stream of shoppers, the girls went directly to the jewelry counter. Penny peered anxiously into one of the glass cases to see if the coveted ivory ornaments were still on display. They had not been sold.
“Do you think they’ll look all right with my red party frock?” she asked her chum as they stood impatiently waiting for a clerk. In matters of dress she valued Susan’s opinion more highly than her own.
“Stunning. With your coloring you can wear anything. Now if you had a skin like mine and a snub nose—”
Penny did not hear the remainder of her chum’s oft-repeated complaint for she was trying vainly to attract the attention of a clerk. The only available girl at the counter was occupied in showing a tray of fine rings to a tall man in gray tweeds.
“We’ll never be waited on,” Penny murmured in annoyance. “You can tell it’s going to take until closing time before he makes up his mind which ring he wants.”
Susan turned to survey the customer. He was expensively dressed and upon a casual inspection appeared to be a gentleman of considerable means. Although the clerk offered several diamond rings for his approval none of them satisfied him.
“Haven’t you anything better than this?” he questioned. “Show me that large diamond, please.” He tapped the glass case lightly with his cane.
The clerk obligingly placed the ring before him. The man examined the diamond closely, comparing it with another ring previously shown him. For the first time he appeared aware of Penny and Susan.
“Wait on these young ladies while I make up my mind which ring I prefer,” he urged the clerk. “I am in no hurry and I can see that they are.”
The clerk hesitated. The rings in which the customer was interested were valuable ones. It was a rule of the store to keep them always in the locked case. Yet it would take her only a minute to wait upon the girls, and obviously the man was a gentleman. She turned to serve Penny.
“I’ll take that pair of earrings,” Penny announced, indicating the ivory pieces. “They’re three dollars, aren’t they?”
“Yes, that is correct. I’ll have them wrapped for you.”
Penny offered the girl a five dollar bill in payment. She could not restrain a little sigh as she saw it deposited in the store’s cash drawer. Perhaps she had been foolish to buy the earrings. It meant that she must do without a great many little things in order to keep within her allowance....