"Sir, what is the price of this book, please?" Charlene asked politely, smiling largely.

"One hundred and fifty rupees miss," was the answer.

Charlene looked anxiously at the man with a white beard, and with almost white hair except for some which were blond. She managed to think of what she could do but she was not absolutely sure of it. She could not ask him to let her have the book with only one hundred and thirty rupees and then give him the remaining in a few days because it was the first time she saw him.

A poor person like her did not buy presents everyday but it was worth trying and so she said, "Can I give you twenty rupees next week? I've got only one hundred and thirty."

The man to her surprise, accepted, though reluctantly.

"Can I get some wrapping paper, please?" Charlene asked.

"Sure," the man replied without even looking at her.

Charlene excitedly tried to feel her pocket while the man handed her the book but her expression changed totally when she could not find her purse. She shook her pocket vigorously, emptied it but nothing except thirty rupees came out.

"Where is my money?" she wondered, "and my purse?" She had tears in her eyes and was about to cry when the shopkeeper snatched the book furiously away from her.

"You're not to have this book if you have only thirty rupees, girl!" the man exclaimed loudly suddenly treating her like an animal. "How can you dare come into my shop without money expecting to have something?

Go away from here and don't you dare come again near my shop, you poor people! This is a shop for rich persons to buy presents not for people like you," he said pointing at Charlene. "Now go away, I don't want to see you again!"

Charlene rushed out of the shop, crying. She had never been insulted like that in all her fifteen years' life. She was not angry, she was ashamed. Not of being poor but of being thrown out like that.

She did not anymore want to thought of her missing purse; she cried and cried of thinking that she had nothing to offer to her parents. They would be so disappointed!

"How will I explain to them that I haven't anything for them and worse, I have been chased out from a shop?" she shouted.

She walked and walked for miles not really knowing where she was going and finally arrived at her house at about 8:30 p.m. There were almost no stars in the dark sky. At the back of the garden she went and picked some flowers which she thought of giving to her parents. She stepped near the front door and knocked. Her mother opened the door and hugged her closely to her heart as if she was a treasure.

"Where were you all this time? We searched for you everywhere, I was so worried!" her mother asked sounding very worried indeed.

So, Charlene told them everything of what had happened. She intended not to say anything about the way she had been treated but as she had never lied to her parents before, she found it very difficult and decided to tell the whole story.

"But I told you you weren't to give us anything," her mother sighed, "why didn't you listen to us?"

Charlene was there, her head down, not answering and feeling guilty. So if she had listened, nothing would have happened and she would not have been humiliated that way. But then her mother gave a sudden smile and said, "That's the problem with you, you never listen to us when you're too excited!"

She gave a hug to her mother and then went to her father who made her promise to listen when she was talked to. She walked to her room and pounced herself on the bed without undressing. She did not easily fell asleep this night as she was still thinking of that day's unpleasant adventure. She kissed her teddy bear near her head, switched off the bedside lamp and fell asleep.