Christmas is coming, and with it, Christmas gifts. Mrs. Van Sicklen, who employs Nellie's family, has gotten an early present from her mother: a string of black pearls. But before she's had a chance to enjoy them, they mysteriously disappear. Mrs. Ryland and Mrs. Eddleton are over for tea, and the neighbors immediately accuse Nellie of stealing the necklace. Samantha and Nellie overhear them, and carefully retrace events, trying to find the necklace. They suspect the taciturn handyman, Jones, and attempt to sneak into his room. But Jones and his intimidating dog happen across their path, and they jump down the nearby coal chute to evade him.
The crashing alerts Mrs. Van Sicklen and her guests. They rush down to the cellar to see Samantha and Nellie in the coal pile. As Samantha is trying to come with an explanation, Nellie notices something in the dust. The necklace! It must have slipped off Mrs. Van Sicklen's dresser into the bucket of ashes Nellie took down to the cellar that morning! The mystery is solved, Nellie is exonerated (in the eyes of the neighbors; Mrs. Van Sicklen trusted her), and the girls realize they made the same mistake in assuming Jones had taken it. Happy endings all around!
About the time Samantha was growing up, Gertrude Chandler Warner, the author of the Boxcar Children books was too. The Looking Back section is about her.
My short story collection book is inscribed in the front with "Elysa #21 Mrs. Able."
I know people whose last names are in two pieces like Mrs. Van Sicklen. But they don't capitalize the "v" in their names, it's always van Rest-of-the-name.