Meet Samantha: An American Girl is the first book in the Samantha series. It was included with the Samantha doll when the doll was available for purchase from 1986 until the collection's archival in 2009; afterward, it could be purchased separately. With the release of BeForever, it is now part of Manners and Mischief.
- Samantha Parkington
- Mary Edwards
- Gardner Edwards
- Cornelia Pitt
- Nellie O'Malley
- Eddie Ryland
- Mrs. Hawkins
Only in Meet Samantha
- Lincoln: Jessie's husband.
Chapter by Chapter Summary
Chapter One: Jessie
Samantha's name is called. An oak tree rustles and Samantha, who had been climbing in the tree, tumbles out. Eddie Ryland, her next door neighbor, is in the hedge between their houses and was the one who startled her and calls her dumb. He says Samantha is so dumb she doesn't know how to climb a tree. Samantha looks at her scraped knee, pained not by her knee, but by Eddie. She glares at Eddie icily and tells him to go away. Eddie instead replies that Samantha is so dumb that she thinks three times four is twelve. Samantha says that three times four is twelve. Eddie is about to say another thing, but Samantha cuts him off and says that if he doesn't leave right now, she will take his beetle collection from behind the shed, put it in the church offering plate on Sunday, and tell his mother he did it. Eddie makes a face and leaves to find a better hiding place for his beetle collection.
Samantha looks at her knee—the blood has stopped but her stocking is ripped. She thinks about how Grandmary will look at her if she sees it; she is very stern with Samantha when she is improper. Samantha, with her bow drooping and stockings damaged, decides that she should go see Jessie. She hurries up the walkway and into the house, slowing down at the front door so that Elsa does not catch her. Sam makes her way all the way to the third floor and to the sewing room, where Jessie is working on a dress for Grandmary.
Jessie stops when she sees Samantha. She scolds Samantha on her disarray, mentioning that she is almost a lady but still getting into mischief. Samantha stands quietly, as while Jessie will lecture her she will also clean her up; in fact, even as Jessie lectures she has gotten the grass and dust from Samantha's hair. Jessie inspects Samantha's clothes and, finding the torn stocking, has Samantha take off her shoes and stockings and asks if her knee hurts. Sam says it's okay; she's more worried about making sure she doesn't have to explain it to Grandmary. She gets a clean rag and wipes up her knee while Jessie starts working on her stocking.
Samantha sees a piece of jelly biscuit on the floor that she dropped the day before. There are three ants on it, and Samantha thinks to tell Jessie but sees more ants coming and decides to see how many will come. She says aloud that it must be boring to be grown up, and Jessie replies that it depends on the person and that Samantha will not be bored even when she is grown. Samantha says that Cornelia, a "friend" of her Uncle Gard, is probably not bored. Samantha thinks Cornelia is pretty, but not right for her uncle; she thinks someone more like Alice Roosevelt would be better, as she is in several papers and doing exciting things. Samantha asks if Gardner will marry Cornelia and Jessie tells her that it is none of her business and that children shouldn't ask those questions. Samantha grumbles that she was a lady a moment ago but is now a child again.
Samantha says that Gard is a spy, and Jessie asks where she got a foolish idea like that. Sam says that he should be as he is handsome and brave, and that everyone would give up their secrets to him easily. Jessie says that Samantha should keep such ideas to herself as she's made enough trouble today. Samantha asks if Jessie knew her parents, and Jessie says that Sam knows they died two years before Jessie came to work for Grandmary so she didn't know them. Sam thinks that she only asked out of wishing. She touches the locket pinned to the front of her dress that has a picture of her mother and father inside, then asks Jessie about New Orleans. Jessie begins to talk about the place, and Samantha listens attentively. Jessie's husband Lincoln is a porter and brings home tales of the city as well as postcards for Samantha and occasionally candy. Samantha listens to Jessie talk for an hour.
Chapter Two: A New Girl
At four o'clock, Samantha waits at the parlor doors completely cleaned up for her hour with Grandmary. She knocks on the door and then goes inside, giving her grandmother a curtsy. She thinks of Grandmary as a queen, sitting in her velvet chair with her gown around it. Samantha does try to be a proper young lady, but it's easier for her when she is being watched by Grandmary; she thinks everyone is more ladylike around her. They greet each other formally and Samantha squirms, worried Grandmary will know she's been up to trouble. Grandmary instead smiles, bids her sit next to her, and hands her her sampler to work on. Samantha has not gotten very far—the whole thing should read "Actions Speak Louder Than Words" when it is done, but Samantha is only up to ACTIONS SP.
Samantha begins to work on the sampler, glancing at her grandmother to check her mood. She then asks about a doll she saw in Schofield's Toy Store, and after brief discussion, asks if she may have her. Grandmary says that the doll is quite expensive at six dollars  and that if Samantha is to be responsible, she must learn the value of a dollar. Samantha suggests that she could earn the money by making boomerangs and selling them, having read about it in The Boys' Handy Book. Grandmary cuts her off in shock, saying that a lady does not earn her own money. Samantha replies quietly that Cornelia says that women should be able to earn money and not have to depend on men; Grandmary cuts off Samantha again by saying that Cornelia has quite a few notions she should keep to herself. Samantha goes back to her work, saying with a sigh that she would name the doll Lydia after her own mother. Grandmary becomes gentle and says there are other ways Samantha may earn the doll. She offers that if Samantha does her daily tasks well such as piano practice, she might earn the doll. Samantha eagerly promises to practice the piano an hour a day, make her sampler beautiful, help Mrs. Hawkins, and keep her clothes clean. She almost says she won't tease Eddie, but cuts herself off before promising something she might not do. She hugs Grandmary tight in thanks. Grandmary says with caution in her voice that they'll see.
Samantha works on her sampler for a half hour, then hears a low rumble that gets louder and more noisy, accompanied by angry voices and sounds of scared horses. Samantha gets up from her seat and runs to the window, seeing her Uncle Gard and his "friend", Cornelia, and announces them. Grandmary looks at the ceiling and complains that he's brought the automobile again and that she won't know what to say to the neighbors. The car comes to a jerky stop in front of the house and Gardner and Cornelia get out. They are wearing long coats; Cornelia has a hat tied down with a scarf and Gard has large goggles. They make their way up the walk, beating the dust off their coats, and in a few moments Hawkins announces their presence. Grandmary has Hawkins show them in and Elsa bring tea.
The two come into the parlor; Gard greets his mother with a hug. Grandmary says she is well and remarks on the car, saying Gard has ruined the peace with "that horrible machine." Gard says that Grandmary must keep up with the times, and that he can't teach Samantha to drive without bringing it. Samantha excitedly asks if Gard will let her drive the car, and Gard says he'll take her for a ride right then. Grandmary objects immediately, saying Samantha's clothes will be ruined. Samantha is disappointed until Cornelia offers her duster for Samantha to wear. They go into the hall to get Samantha into the coat and then she and Gard head down the walk, Samantha with the too-big coat on. Eddie was sitting in the car, but scrambles out. Gard lifts Samantha in and goes to crank up the car. Eddie tells Samantha she looks dumb and Samantha ignores him as the car lurches with the cranking. Eddie says loudly he knows something Samantha doesn't, and Gard gets into the car with Samantha and grabs the wheel as the car sways into the road. Eddie yells that a nine-year-old girl will be coming to live with them. Samantha says that he's lying, choking on dust. Eddie says he is not and that the girl's name is Nellie. Samantha doesn't respond as the automobile lurches towards town.
Inside, Grandmary shakes her head and heads inside to offer Cornelia tea. She is distracted by Jessie coming out of the kitchen in a hurry and asks what she's holding. Jessie announces that it's pepper for the sewing room as there are hundreds of ants up there.
Chapter Three: The TunnelIt is days later; Samantha makes her way out of her house with a gingerbread cookie after her piano practice. She has practiced every day for an hour; it feels very long to her and she can't wait to get outside afterwards. She takes some breaths and leaps before making her way to the tunnel—a hole worn in the lilac hedge between her house and Eddie Ryland's. She sees a girl hanging laundry in the yard. Samantha is surprised that Eddie wasn't lying; she goes through, gets closer, and asked if the girl is Nellie. The girl is surprised and says that she is—calling Samantha "miss"—without stopping her work. She is smaller than Samantha. Sam asks if she's a visitor and Nellie says that she's there to work. Samantha is a little confused, but still eager to have a friend next door. She offers Nellie some of her cookie. Nellie says that she can't and when Samantha asks if the Rylands won't let her, she says that she's got her job to do, calling Samantha "miss" again. Samantha gives her name, says she doesn't have to be called "miss", and sets her cookie down before offering to help so they can play. Nellie is embarrassed; since she can't stop Samantha, Nellie helps her finish quickly so no one will see her working.
When they're done, Samantha pulls Nellie to the tunnel and says that no one will see them there while eating. Sam asks Nellie why she's working, and Nellie turns away as she describes her family. Her father works in a factory, and her mother does laundry. But with three girls, the money they make doesn't care for them well; she mentions a lack of food and coal for heating specifically. Samantha is shocked with disbelief; she is good at imagining fanciful things, but not hunger and cold. She says that Nellie's parents sent her away and that it's awful. Nellie disagrees. She's paid a dollar a week  and, while it is not as much as in the factory, it has better conditions. In the factory she worked every day but Sunday until dark in poor conditions that have ruined her health. She was sent to work for the Rylands because the air is better, the hours are shorter, and Nellie is fed well but does not see her family much. Samantha asks when Nellie goes to school and Nellie says she has never been. Samantha is again shocked, and then gets the idea that the two can meet every day, and Samantha will teach her everything. Nellie is excited, and they make plans. Samantha tells Nellie about her life and family; Nellie is amused about hearing about Gard's automobile.
The two are interrupted by Eddie Ryland, who says that he sees them and that they're so ugly they'd scare a moose. Samantha tells him to leave, and he says that's he's going to tell and starts towards the house. Nellie looks scared and Samantha yells at him, saying that if he says anything to anyone, she'll take his new pocketknife and stuff it full of taffy. Eddie stops in his tracks, stares, covers his back pocket where the knife is, backs away, and runs off.
Nellie gets to her feet after Eddie leaves, saying that she must get back to work. Samantha follows saying that they can make a telephone using tin cans and string from Mrs. Hawkins, and string it through the hedge where Eddie can't see it to talk to each other. She is anticipating the fun they will have together.
Chapter Four: Gone!The next Tuesday after meeting Nellie, Sam is in the parlor sewing with Grandmary and the hour is almost over. Her sampler now reads "ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THA". There is a knock on the door, and Grandmary says come in. Jessie comes in dressed to leave; she curtsies and waits for Grandmary to speak. Sam thinks Jessie looks elegant, especially in her summer coat. Grandmary asks Jessie what she's there for and Jessie says she won't be coming back anymore. Samantha jumps out her chair in shock and asks why; Grandmary silences Samantha with a look, then thanks Jessie for her service, says she has been a great help, and that she will be missed. Samantha is horrified at Grandmary's words and that she is just letting Jessie leave. Grandmary continues, telling Jessie that she can see Hawkins for a bonus. Jessie thanks Grandmary, then stops by Samantha and tells her to be very good and she'll miss her. She then leaves.
Samantha waits until she is gone before speaking, asking why Jessie is leaving and why Grandmary is letting her go. Grandmary, not looking up from her own lacework, tells Samantha to sit down and not ask questions of her elders. She cites that this is Jessie's business. Samantha sits down, but is so upset she can only fidget with her sewing and has to redo all her stitches. She can't understand why Jessie left without an explanation. As soon as the sewing hour is over and she has been excused, she goes to find Mrs. Hawkins in the kitchen. Mrs. Hawkins is working on a meat pie; she asks why Samantha is rushing so, saying she looks like thunder. Sam flops into a chair, saying that Jessie's left. Mrs. Hawkins says she knows. Samantha, upset that everyone knows but her, asks why and why Grandmary didn't stop her. Mrs. Hawkins tells her not to fret, getting an onion to peel, and says that there are things that Samantha does not understand and that Samantha should think that Grandmary knows best. Samantha is more upset, feeling that she can't know if Grandmary or anyone knows best because she doesn't know anything. Sam leaves the kitchen and goes to the butlers' pantry. Hawkins is there, whistling and polishing silver. He pulls out a chair for her and gives her a polishing cloth so she can work as she speaks. Sam begins to polish a silver bowl and says that Jessie is gone; she is not surprised that Hawkins says that he knows. She says that no one will tell her why. Hawkins smiles with an understanding look in his eyes, but then says that Jessie is fine and that it might not be easy, especially when young, but she should just trust what is going on.
Sam, deciding she does not want to talk anymore, leaves. As she goes past the parlor, Grandmary calls out to her. She says that Samantha has done well these past few weeks and there is something upstairs on the bed for her. Samantha almost forgets that Jessie has left, and forgets to say thank you as she runs upstairs two at a time and to her bedroom. On her bed is the doll she saw in Schofield's. Samantha calls her "Lydia", picking up the doll gently and holding her close.
Chapter Five: Night VisitThe next morning, Samantha takes her new doll, Lydia, to show to Nellie in the tunnel. Nellie is enamoured with the doll and is overly gentle touching her. Samantha wonders if it was a bad idea to bring the dolls as Nellie has never even owned a simple doll and Lydia is quite beautiful. She says it's okay for Nellie to play with Lydia, and points out that her hat comes off and the dress has buttons. Nellie cradles Lydia as Samantha tells her what happened the day before with Jessie and how no one will tell her why. Nellie doesn't answer, playing with the buttons on Lydia's clothing. Samantha says that Jessie is going off to be an actress while Nellie takes off Lydia's hat and looks at it. Samantha goes on, saying that Jessie will become famous and come back and introduce her and Nellie to actors and actresses (and no one else in the town). Nellie continues to play with Lydia.
As the days pass, Samantha continues to think up fanciful reasons for Jessie's leaving: going to New Orleans to become a singer, that the President has asked her to be a spy in Europe and she will sew for kings and queens and learn their secrets, and that her brother was kidnapped and she must go to South America to rescue him. It is a few days later that Nellie gives a practical solution of Jessie maybe having a baby. Samantha asks why she'd do that. Nellie says that lots of people have babies because they just like them. Samantha agrees that Jessie does like babies and Nellie takes that as proof. Samantha is annoyed that Nellie's idea is less exciting, but too sensible to be dismissed. She asks why Grandmary wouldn't tell her about a baby, and Nellie says that grownups don't like talking about babies coming. Samantha agrees, saying that he one time she asked Grandmary she was told it wasn't a proper topic. She asked Mrs. Hawkins and was told that the stork brings them, but then Mrs. Hawkins wouldn't talk about it anymore. Nellie says she doesn't think that's true, because when her baby sister was born a midwife came over and she and her other sister had to go out with her uncle; when they returned the baby was there and there was no stork. Samantha asks what a midwife is; Nellie explains it's a woman who comes when babies are born. Her uncle said the midwife brought the baby in her black bag but Nellie looked in the bag and decided there was no room for a baby in there with the doctor's things.
Samantha says they must find out what happened to Jessie and that if she knew where she lived, she could ask Lincoln what happened. Nellie says she knows where they live—a woman who makes herbal medicines for headaches lives across the street from Jessie and Nellie was sent there once by Mrs. Ryland to get it. Samantha hugs Nellie and says that they can't go in the day because they'd be stopped, but they can go at night after everyone is asleep and meet at the tunnel. Grandmary turns off the gas lamps before bed, and Nellie can use that as a gauge to know that Samantha can come meet her. Nellie agrees as no one at the Rylands will notice her missing after her evening chores.That night, Samantha is disturbed by all the night noises as she makes her way out—she always thought nighttime was quiet. She closes the back door and meets Nellie in the tunnel. The two girls head down the gas-lit streets; while on familiar streets they think of the journey as exciting, but once they cross the railroad tracks, the streets become dark and narrow with dark, narrow houses. Nellie holds Samantha's hand so tight Samantha can't let go if she wanted to. She is scared and thinks they should not have come. She asks if Nellie knows the way, and Nellie shakily replies that she thinks so and it's not far. Sam asks why Jessie lives in such a drab area, and Nellie says it's the colored part of town. Samantha says in confusion that Jessie has to live here and Nellie says of course. When pressed why by Nellie, Nellie replies that it's just the way grownups do things before saying they've made it. The two girls rush to the wall under a window lit by a kerosene lamp and huddle there.
Nellie asks if Samantha is going to knock on the door. Samantha loses all her nerve, wondering if they have the wrong house or if Jessie and Lincoln have moved away. Nellie says Samantha can look in the window standing on her back, and Samantha says she's stronger so Nellie can stand on her back. She gets on her hands and knees and Nellie steps on her back. Nellie peeks in the window and says that Jessie and Lincoln are inside along with a cradle. Jessie looks up, sees Nellie, and shrieks. Nellie tries to duck, loses her balance, and kicks Samantha in the ribs. Lincoln comes out to find a tangle of girls with frightened faces and laughs aloud before getting the girls inside.Jessie cleans up the two girls, saying that she declares that she will spend the rest of her life straightening her up after mischief and asks what she is doing there late at night, even asking for Hawkins. The two girls are shy before Samantha says they came alone because Samantha didn't know what happened to her and no one would say. Jessie hugs Samantha, saying that she's sorry and that she never thought she'd worry. She then smiles and says they should come see her treasure; she reaches into the cradle and picks up a bundle, introducing him as Nathaniel. Jessie has had a baby boy. Samantha thinks he is tiny with fine brown skin like his mother's, soft black curly hair, and a tiny pink mouth and calls him beautiful. Jessie beams and sets Nathaniel back in his crib. She then explains that she couldn't stay at Grandmary's because Lincoln is often gone with his work and she's got to stay there with her son. She does say that she'll come to see her often and bring Nathaniel. She hugs Samantha again, then hustles the two girls to the door so that Lincoln can walk them home before Grandmary has both their hides.
Samantha feels the walk home is much shorter than the walk there with Lincoln with them. The two girls each creep into their respective houses and Samantha sneaks up the stairs and back to her room without getting caught. She unbuttons her shoes and takes off her stockings, hangs her dress in the wardrobe, and gets into her nightgown, thinking it sweet and warm. She gets into her bed, holds Lydia, and goes to sleep.
Chapter Six: A Fine Young Lady
Two days later, Samantha goes out and tugs on the string of her end of the tin-can phone; she and Nellie put bells on either end so that they could signal. Nellie does not respond. Samantha tugs again and, still getting no answer, goes through the tunnel. Nellie is nowhere to be seen, and Eddie is there playing with gum by taking it out of his mouth in long strings and stuffing it back. He says he knows something Samantha doesn't, looking pleased with himself. This worries Samantha, and she waits. Eddie says that Nellie is going away. Samantha feels like she's been hit and asks what he's talking about. Eddie says that their driver is taking her back to the city because she's sick and his mother doesn't think she's strong enough to work properly; Nellie is in their kitchen waiting. Next time they'll get an immigrant woman who will last. Samantha wants to punch him in the nose, but knows she can't--not even if she was a boy would she do it because not even a grown-up would do it. A grown up would also not grab Eddie's gum and shove it into his hair either, but Sam does exactly that because she is only nine and that's only half grown. She then runs to the Ryland's kitchen, leaving Eddie howling and trying to get gum out of his hair.
Nellie is there with her things in a bundle at her feet and swinging her legs. Samantha asks if Nellie is sick, and Nellie looks up. She says she's not, but she has a cough. So Mrs. Ryland is sending her back before she becomes a bother. Samantha frets that Nellie will have to work in a factory again and get sick and asks what she'll do without her. Nellie starts crying, saying it will be okay but she'll miss Samantha so much. Samantha, upset that Nellie is crying, tells her to wait and she'll be back. She runs to her kitchen, explaining to Mrs. Hawkins that the Rylands are sending Nellie away and her family doesn't have enough food, and that they have to give the family something. Mrs. Hawkins packs a basket of food and Samantha carries it and Lydia back to Nellie. She leaves the basket at her feet and puts Lydia in her arms, telling Nellie to take her to be her friend. She hugs Nellie, staying until the Ryland's driver takes her away.
That afternoon, Uncle Gard and Cornelia are over for tea. Samantha is there but she is not playing with Uncle Gard as usual. She is working on her sampler, as she is very angry and does not want to speak to grownups as they take away her friends without telling her why. She stabs at her sampler and the adults wonder why she's in a bad mood. Samantha finally blurts out that she knows why Jessie left. Grandmary, surprised, asks if she does and Samantha says yes, she had a baby. Grandmary asks how she knows and Samantha says that she and Nellie went to her house to see, expecting punishment. Grandmary looks more troubled than angry, saying that Samantha was wrong to do that. Samantha, not feeling respectful, replies that Grandmary was wrong to not tell her why Jessie left. Grandmary inhales sharply and looks at Gardner and Cornelia. They are both silent, and Grandmary confesses she was wrong not to inform Samantha. After silence, Samantha asks if Jessie can come back. Grandmary says Jessie must care for the baby, and Samantha says she can bring Nathaniel because he won't bother anyone. Grandmary looks thoughtful and says that if Jessie wants to return and Mrs. Hawkins doesn't object, it should be okay. Samantha wonders who would imagine Mrs. Hawkins objecting to Nathaniel. She thanks Grandmary, almost shouting. Grandmary is not used to making mistakes and is embarrassed. She changes the subject to the new doll, asking where it is. Samantha, her face hot, says she lost the doll. Grandmary becomes upset, starting to fuss at Samantha that she will never grow into a proper young lady and that she is trying to teach her the values of things. Gard interrupts quietly, saying that Sam's sense of value is fine. She gave the doll to Nellie as she was leaving, and Mrs. Hawkins told him this. Grandmary stops in the middle of her fussing, then nods and says that Samantha's sense of value is just fine.
Samantha runs to Grandmary, saying they must help Nellie's family because they don't have enough food or coal. Grandmary is initially shocked, then laughs and says yes—if Samantha can give up her treasure, then the family can find a way to help Nellie. She gives a smile and says that Samantha is quite a fine young lady before hugging her warmly.
Looking Back: America in 1904
Discusses life in turn of the century America. Topics discussed:
- The lives and households of well to do families like Grandmary and Samantha.
- The behavior and clothing worn by young children
- Meal preparation.
- How elegant households were maintained by servants, the hard work of servants, and the proper position of servants, including how they were expected to keep to a "proper" place and not become friendly with their employer's families.
- The gap between rich and poor.
- The expectations of the upper class.
- How many women had new ideas about equal rights and social progress
- Inventions and technology such as expanding cities, automobiles, light bulbs, and electrical equipment.
Older Illustrations by Nancy Niles
Items associated with Meet Samantha
- Samantha Parkington (doll)
- Samantha's Accessories
- Play Dress and Pinafore
- Nellie O'Malley (doll)
- Nellie's Doll
- Originally, Samantha's Meet outfit was never illustrated inside Meet Samantha, only seen on the cover and briefly underneath her plaid cape in Changes for Samantha. When Nancy Niles's illustrations were redone by Dan Andreasen, the outfit was included much more prominently.
References and Footnotes
- ↑ This would be the equivalent of roughly 154 dollars in 2012
- ↑ $25.64 in 2012 dollars.