The Land of the Lost Toys
by Juliana Horatia Ewing
AN EARTHQUAKE IN THE NURSERY.
It was certainly an aggravated offence. It is generally understood in
families that "boys will be boys," but there is a limit to the
forbearance implied in the extenuating axiom. Master Sam was condemned
to the back nursery for the rest of the day.
He always had had the knack of breaking his own toys,—he not
unfrequently broke other people's; but accidents will happen, and his
twin-sister and factotum, Dot, was long-suffering.
Dot was fat, resolute, hasty, and devotedly unselfish. When Sam scalped
her new doll, and fastened the glossy black curls to a wigwam
improvised with the curtains of the four-post bed in the best bedroom,
Dot was sorely tried. As her eyes passed from the crown-less doll on
the floor to the floss-silk ringlets hanging from the bed-furniture,
her round rosy face grew rounder and rosier, and tears burst from her
eyes. But in a moment more she clenched her little fists, forced back
the tears, and gave vent to her favourite saying, "I don't care."
That sentence was Dot's bane and antidote; it was her vice and her
virtue. It was her standing consolation, and it brought her into all
her scrapes. It was her one panacea for all the ups and downs of her
life (and in the nursery where Sam developed his organ of
destructiveness there were ups and downs not a few); and it was the
form her naughtiness took when she was naughty.
"Don't care fell into a goose-pond, Miss Dot," said Nurse, on one
occasion of the kind.
"I don't care if he did," said Miss Dot; and as Nurse knew no further
feature of the goose-pond adventure which met this view of it, she
closed the subject by putting Dot into the corner.
In the strength of Don't care, and her love for Sam, Dot bore
much and long. Her dolls perished by ingenious but untimely deaths. Her
toys were put to purposes for which they were never intended, and
suffered accordingly. But Sam was penitent and Dot was heroic.
Florinda's scalp was mended with a hot knitting-needle and a perpetual
bonnet, and Dot rescued her paint-brushes from the glue-pot, and smelt
her india-rubber as it boiled down in Sam's waterproof manufactory,
with long-suffering forbearance.
There are, however, as we have said, limits to everything. An
earthquake celebrated with the whole contents of the toy cupboard is
not to be borne.
The matter was this. Early one morning Sam announced that he had a
glorious project on hand. He was going to give a grand show and
entertainment, far surpassing all the nursery imitations of circuses,
conjurors, lectures on chemistry, and so forth, with which they had
ever amused themselves. He refused to confide his plans to the faithful
Dot; but he begged her to lend him all the toys she possessed, in
return for which she was to be the sole spectator of the fun. He let
out that the idea had suggested itself to him after the sight of a
Diorama to which they had been taken, but he would not allow that it
was anything of the same kind; in proof of which she was at liberty to
keep back her paint-box. Dot tried hard to penetrate the secret, and to
reserve some of her things from the general conscription. But Sam was
obstinate. He would tell nothing, and he wanted everything. The dolls,
the bricks (especially the bricks), the tea-things, the German farm,
the Swiss cottages, the animals, and all the dolls' furniture. Dot gave
them with a doubtful mind, and consoled herself as she watched Sam
carrying pieces of board and a green table cover into the back nursery,
with the prospect of the show. At last, Sam threw open the door and
ushered her into the nursery rocking-chair.
The boy had certainly some constructive as well as destructive talent.
Upon a sort of impromptu table covered with green cloth he had arranged
all the toys in rough imitation of a town, with its streets and
buildings. The relative proportion of the parts was certainly not good;
but it was not Sam's fault that the doll's house and the German farm,
his own brick buildings, and the Swiss cottages, were all on totally
different scales of size. He had ingeniously put the larger things in
the foreground, keeping the small farm-buildings from the German box at
the far end of the streets, yet after all the perspective was extreme.
The effect of three large horses from the toy stables in front, with
the cows from the small Noah's Ark in the distance, was admirable; but
the big dolls seated in an unroofed building, made with the wooden
bricks on no architectural principle but that of a pound, and taking
tea out of the new china tea-things, looked simply ridiculous.
Dot's eyes, however, saw no defects, and she clapped vehemently.
"Here, ladies and gentlemen," said Sam, waving his hand politely
towards the rocking-chair, "you see the great city of Lisbon, the
capital of Portugal—"
At this display of geographical accuracy Dot fairly cheered, and rocked
herself to and fro in unmitigated enjoyment.
"—as it appeared," continued the showman, "on the morning of November
Never having had occasion to apply Mangnall's Questions to the
exigencies of every-day life, this date in no way disturbed Dot's
"In this house," Sam proceeded, "a party of Portuguese ladies of rank
may be seen taking tea together."
"Breakfast, you mean," said Dot, "you said it was in the
morning, you know."
"Well, they took tea to their breakfast," said Sam. "Don't interrupt
me, Dot. You are the audience, and you mustn't speak. Here you see the
horses of the English ambassador out airing with his groom. There you
see two peasants—no! they are not Noah and his wife, Dot, and
if you go on talking I shall shut up. I say they are peasants
peacefully driving cattle. At this moment a rumbling sound startles
everyone in the city"—here Sam rolled some croquet balls up and down
in a box, but the dolls sat as quiet as before, and Dot alone was
startled,—"this was succeeded by a slight shock"—here he shook the table, which upset some of the buildings belonging to the German
farm.—"Some houses fell."—Dot began to look anxious.—"This shock was followed by several others"—-"Take care," she begged—"of increasing magnitude."—"Oh, Sam!" Dot shrieked, jumping up, "you're breaking
the china!"—"The largest buildings shook to their foundations."—"Sam!
Sam! the doll's house is falling," Dot cried, making wild efforts to
save it: but Sam held her back with one arm, while with the other he
began to pull at the boards which formed his table.—"Suddenly the
ground split and opened with a fearful yawn"—Dot's shrieks shamed the
impassive dolls, as Sam jerked out the boards by a dexterous movement,
and doll's house, brick buildings, the farm, the Swiss cottages, and
the whole toy-stock of the nursery sank together in ruins. Quite
unabashed by the evident damage, Sam continued—"and in a moment the
whole magnificent city of Lisbon was swallowed up. Dot! Dot! don't be a
muff! What is the matter? It's splendid fun. Things must be broken some
time, and I'm sure it was exactly like the real thing. Dot! why don't
you speak? Dot! my dear Dot! You don't care, do you? I didn't think
you'd mind it so. It was such a splendid earthquake. Oh! try not to go
on like that!"
But Dot's feelings were far beyond her own control, much more that of
Master Sam, at this moment. She was gasping and choking, and when at
last she found breath it was only to throw herself on her face upon the
floor with bitter and uncontrollable sobbing. It was certainly a mild
punishment that condemned Master Sam to the back nursery for the rest
of the day. It had, however, this additional severity, that during the
afternoon Aunt Penelope was expected to arrive.
Aunt Penelope was one of those dear, good souls who, single themselves,
have, as real or adopted relatives, the interests of a dozen families,
instead of one, at heart. There are few people whose youth has not
owned the influence of at least one such friend. It may be a good
habit, the first interest in some life-loved pursuit or favourite
author, some pretty feminine art, or delicate womanly counsel enforced
by those narratives of real life that are more interesting than any
fiction: it may be only the periodical return of gifts and kindness,
and the store of family histories that no one else can tell; but we all
owe something to such an aunt or uncle—the fairy godmothers of real
The benefits which Sam and Dot reaped from Aunt Penelope's visits may
be summed up under the heads of presents and stories, with a general
leaning to indulgence in the matters of punishment, lessons, and going
to bed, which perhaps is natural to aunts and uncles who have no
positive responsibilities in the young people's education, and are not
the daily sufferers by the lack of due discipline.
Aunt Penelope's presents were lovely. Aunt Penelope's stories were
charming. There was generally a moral wrapped up in them, like the
motto in a cracker-bonbon; but it was quite in the inside, so to speak,
and there was abundance of smart paper and sugar-plums.
All things considered, it was certainly most proper that the
much-injured Dot should be dressed out in her best, and have access to
dessert, the dining-room, and Aunt Penelope, whilst Sam was kept
up-stairs. And yet it was Dot who (her first burst of grief being over)
fought stoutly for his pardon all the time she was being dressed, and
was afterwards detected in the act of endeavouring to push fragments of
raspberry tart through the nursery keyhole.
"You GOOD thing!" Sam emphatically exclaimed, as he heard her in fierce
conflict on the other side of the door with the nurse who found
her—"You GOOD thing! leave me alone, for I deserve it."
He really was very penitent He was too fond of Dot not to regret the
unexpected degree of distress he had caused her; and Dot made much of
his penitence in her intercessions in the drawing-room.
"Sam is so very sorry," she said; "he says he knows he deserves it. I
think he ought to come down. He is so very sorry!"
Aunt Penelope, as usual, took the lenient side, joining her entreaties
to Dot's, and it ended in Master Sam's being hurriedly scrubbed and
brushed, and shoved into his black velvet suit, and sent down-stairs,
rather red about the eyelids, and looking very sheepish.
"Oh, Dot!" he exclaimed, as soon as he could get her into a corner, "I
am so very, very sorry! particularly about the tea-things."
"Never mind," said Dot, "I don't care; and I've asked for a story, and
we're going into the library." As Dot said this, she jerked her head
expressively in the direction of the sofa, where Aunt Penelope was just
casting on stitches preparatory to beginning a pair of her famous
ribbed socks for Papa, whilst she gave to Mamma's conversation that
sympathy which (like her knitting-needles) was always at the service of
her large circle of friends. Dot anxiously watched the bow on the top
of her cap as it danced and nodded with the force of Mamma's
observations. At last it gave a little chorus of jerks, as one should
say, "Certainly, undoubtedly." And then the story came to an end, and
Dot, who had been slowly creeping nearer, fairly took Aunt Penelope by
the hand, and carried her off, knitting and all, to the library.
"Now, please," said Dot, when she had struggled into a chair that was
too tall for her.
"Stop a minute!" cried Sam, who was perched in the opposite one, "the
horse-hair tickles my legs."
"Put your pocket-handkerchief under them, as I do," said Dot.
"Now, Aunt Penelope."
"No, wait," groaned Sam; "it isn't big enough; it only covers one leg."
Dot slid down again, and ran to Sam.
"Take my handkerchief for the other."
"But what will you do?" said Sam.
"Oh, I don't care," said Dot, scrambling back into her place. "Now,
And Aunt Penelope began.
"THE LAND OF LOST TOYS.
"I suppose people who have children transfer their childish follies and
fancies to them, and become properly sedate and grown-up. Perhaps it is because
I am an old maid, and have none, that some of my nursery whims stick to me, and
I find myself liking things, and wanting things, quite out of keeping with my
cap and time of life. For instance. Anything in the shape of a toy-shop (from a
London bazaar to a village window, with Dutch dolls, leather balls, and wooden
battledores) quite unnerves me, so to speak. When I see one of those boxes
containing a jar, a churn, a kettle, a pan, a coffee-pot, a cauldron on three
legs, and sundry dishes, all of the smoothest wood, and with the immemorial red
flower on one side of each vessel, I fairly long for an excuse for playing with
them, and for trying (positively for the last time) if the lids
do come off, and whether the kettle will (literally, as well as
metaphorically) hold water. Then if, by good or ill luck, there is a child
flattening its little nose against the window with longing eyes, my purse is
soon empty; and as it toddles off with a square parcel under one arm, and a
lovely being in black ringlets and white tissue paper in the other, I wish that
I were worthy of being asked to join the ensuing play. Don't suppose there is
any generosity in this. I have only done what we are all glad to do. I have
found an excuse for indulging a pet weakness. As I said, it is not merely the
new and expensive toys that attract me; I think my weakest corner is where the
penny boxes lie, the wooden tea-things (with the above-named flower in
miniature), the soldiers on their lazy tongs, the nine-pins, and the tiny farm.
"I need hardly say that the toy booth in a village fair tries me very hard.
It tried me in childhood, when I was often short of pence, and when 'the Feast'
came once a year. It never tried me more than on one occasion, lately, when I
was re-visiting my old home.
"It was deep Midsummer, and the Feast. I had children with me of course (I
find children, somehow, wherever I go), and when we got into the fair, there
were children of people whom I had known as children, with just the same love
for a monkey going up one side of a yellow stick and coming down the other, and
just as strong heads for a giddy-go-round on a hot day and a diet of peppermint
lozenges, as their fathers and mothers before them. There were the very same
names—and here and there it seemed the very same faces—I knew so long ago. A few
shillings were indeed well expended in brightening those familiar eyes: and then
there were the children with me.... Besides, there really did seem to be an
unusually nice assortment of things, and the man was very intelligent (in
reference to his wares):.... Well, well! It was two o'clock P.M. when we went in
at one end of that glittering avenue of drums, dolls, trumpets, accordions,
workboxes, and what not; but what o'clock it was when I came out at the other
end, with a shilling and some coppers in my pocket, and was cheered, I can't
say, though I should like to have been able to be accurate about the time,
because of what followed.
"I thought the best thing I could do was to get out of the fair at once, so I
went up the village and struck off across some fields into a little wood that
lay near. (A favourite walk in old times.) As I turned out of the booth, my foot
struck against one of the yellow sticks of the climbing monkeys. The monkey was
gone, and the stick broken. It set me thinking as I walked along.
"What an untold number of pretty and ingenious things one does (not wear out
in honourable wear and tear, but) utterly lose, and wilfully destroy, in one's
young days—things that would have given pleasure to so many more young eyes, if
they had been kept a little longer—things that one would so value in later
years, if some of them had survived the dissipating and destructive days of
Nurserydom. I recalled a young lady I knew, whose room was adorned with
knick-knacks of a kind I had often envied. They were not plaster figures, old
china, wax-work flowers under glass, or ordinary ornaments of any kind. They
were her old toys. Perhaps she had not had many of them, and had been the more
careful of those she had. She had certainly been very fond of them, and had kept
more of them than any one I ever knew. A faded doll slept in its cradle at the
foot of her bed. A wooden elephant stood on the dressing-table, and a poodle
that had lost his bark put out a red-flannel tongue with quixotic violence at a
windmill on the opposite corner of the mantelpiece. Everything had a story of
its own. Indeed the whole room must have been redolent with the sweet story of
childhood, of which the toys were the illustrations, or like a poem of which the
toys were the verses. She used to have children to play with them sometimes, and
this was a high honour. She is married now, and has children of her own, who on
birthdays and holidays will forsake the newest of their own possessions to play
with 'mamma's toys.'
"I was roused from these recollections by the pleasure of getting into the
"If I have a stronger predilection than my love for toys, it is my love for
woods, and, like the other, it dates from childhood. It was born and bred with
me, and I fancy will stay with me till I die. The soothing scents of leaf-mould,
moss, and fern (not to speak of flowers)—the pale green veil in spring, the rich
shade in summer, the rustle of the dry leaves in autumn, I suppose an old woman
may enjoy all these, my dears, as well as you. But I think I could make 'fairy
jam' of hips and haws in acorn cups now, if any child would be condescending
enough to play with me. "This wood, too, had associations.
"I strolled on in leisurely enjoyment, and at last seated myself at the foot
of a tree to rest. I was hot and tired; partly with the mid-day heat and the
atmosphere of the fair, partly with the exertion of calculating change in the
purchase of articles ranging in price from three farthings upwards. The tree
under which I sat was an old friend. There was a hole at its base that I knew
well. Two roots covered with exquisite moss ran out from each side, like the
arms of a chair, and between them there accumulated year after year a rich,
though tiny store of dark leaf-mould. We always used to say that fairies lived
within, though I never saw anything go in myself but wood-beetles. There was one
going in at that moment.
"How little the wood was changed! I bent my head for a few seconds, and,
closing my eyes, drank in the delicious and suggestive scents of earth and moss
about the dear old tree. I had been so long parted from the place that I could
hardly believe that I was in the old familiar spot. Surely it was only one of
the many dreams in which I had played again beneath those trees! But when I
re-opened my eyes there was the same hole, and, oddly enough, the same beetle or
one just like it. I had not noticed till that moment how much larger the hole
was than it used to be in my young days.
"'I suppose the rain and so forth wears them away in time,' I said vaguely.
"'I suppose it does,' said the beetle politely; 'will you walk in?'
"I don't know why I was not so overpoweringly astonished as you would
imagine. I think I was a good deal absorbed in considering the size of the hole,
and the very foolish wish that seized me to do what I had often longed to do in
childhood, and creep in. I had so much regard for propriety as to see
that there was no one to witness the escapade. Then I tucked my skirts round me,
put my spectacles into my pocket for fear they should get broken, and in I went.
"I must say one thing. A wood is charming enough (no one appreciates it more
than myself), but, if you have never been there, you have no idea how much nicer
it is inside than on the surface. Oh, the mosses—the gorgeous mosses! The
fretted lichens! The fungi like flowers for beauty, and the flowers like nothing
you have ever seen!
"Where the beetle went to I don't know. I could stand up now quite well, and
I wandered on till dusk in unwearied admiration. I was among some large beeches
as it grew dark, and was beginning to wonder how I should find my way (not that
I had lost it, having none to lose), when suddenly lights burst from every tree,
and the whole place was illuminated. The nearest approach to this scene that I
ever witnessed above ground was in a wood near the Hague in Holland. There, what
look like tiny glass tumblers holding floating wicks, are fastened to the trunks
of the fine old trees, at intervals of sufficient distance to make the light and
shade mysterious, and to give effect to the full blaze when you reach the spot
where hanging chains of lamps illuminate the 'Pavilion' and the open space where
the band plays, and where the townsfolk assemble by hundreds to drink coffee and
enjoy the music. I was the more reminded of the Dutch 'bosch' because, after
wandering some time among the lighted trees, I heard distant sounds of music,
and came at last upon a glade lit up in a similar manner, except that the whole
effect was incomparably more brilliant.
"As I stood for a moment doubting whether I should proceed, and a good deal
puzzled about the whole affair, I caught sight of a large spider crouched up in
a corner with his stomach on the ground and his knees above his head, as some
spiders do sit, and looking at me, as I fancied, through a pair of spectacles.
(About the spectacles I do not feel sure. It may have been two of his bent legs
in apparent connection with his prominent eyes.) I thought of the beetle, and
said civilly, 'Can you tell me, sir, if this is Fairyland?' The spider took off
his spectacles (or untucked his legs), and took a sideways run out of his
"'Well,' he said, 'it's a Province. The fact is, it's the Land of Lost Toys.
You haven't such a thing as a fly anywhere about you, have you?'
"'No,' I said, 'I'm sorry to say I have not.' This was not strictly true, for
I was not at all sorry; but I wished to be civil to the old gentleman, for he
projected his eyes at me with such an intense (I had almost said greedy) gaze,
that I felt quite frightened.
"'How did you pass the sentries?' he inquired.
"'I never saw any,' I answered.
"'You couldn't have seen anything if you didn't see them,' he said; 'but
perhaps you don't know. They're the glow-worms. Six to each tree, so they light
the road, and challenge the passers-by. Why didn't they challenge you?'
"'I don't know,' I began, 'unless the beetle—'
"'I don't like beetles,' interrupted the spider, stretching each leg in turn
by sticking it up above him, 'all shell, and no flavour. You never tried walking
on anything of that sort, did you?' and he pointed with one leg to a long thread
that fastened a web above his head.
"'Certainly not,' said I.
"'I'm afraid it wouldn't bear you,' he observed slowly.
"'I'm quite sure it wouldn't,' I hastened to reply. I wouldn't try for
worlds. It would spoil your pretty work in a moment. Good-evening.'
"And I hurried forward. Once I looked back, but the spider was not following
me. He was in his hole again, on his stomach, with his knees above his head, and
looking (apparently through his spectacles) down the road up which I came.
"I soon forgot him in the sight before me. I had reached the open place with
the lights and the music; but how shall I describe the spectacle that I beheld?
"I have spoken of the effect of a toy-shop on my feelings. Now imagine a
toy-fair, brighter and gayer than the brightest bazaar ever seen, held in an
open glade, where forest-trees stood majestically behind the glittering stalls,
and stretched their gigantic arms above our heads, brilliant with a thousand
hanging lamps. At the moment of my entrance all was silent and quiet. The toys
lay in their places looking so incredibly attractive that I reflected with
disgust that all my ready cash, except one shilling and some coppers, had melted
away amid the tawdry fascinations of a village booth. I was counting the coppers
(sevenpence halfpenny), when all in a moment a dozen sixpenny fiddles leaped
from their places and began to play, accordions of all sizes joined them, the
drumsticks beat upon the drums, the penny trumpets sounded, and the yellow
flutes took up the melody on high notes, and bore it away through the trees. It
was weird fairy-music, but quite delightful. The nearest approach to it that I
know of above ground is to hear a wild dreamy air very well whistled to a
"When the music began, all the toys rose. The dolls jumped down and began to
dance. The poodles barked, the pannier donkeys wagged their ears, the wind-mills
turned, the puzzles put themselves together, the bricks built houses, the balls
flew from side to side, the battledores and shuttlecocks kept it up among
themselves, and the skipping-ropes went round, the hoops ran off, and the sticks
ran after them, the cobbler's wax at the tails of all the green frogs gave way,
and they jumped at the same moment, whilst an old-fashioned go-cart ran madly
about with nobody inside. It was most exhilarating.
"I soon became aware that the beetle was once more at my elbow.
"'There are some beautiful toys here,' I said.
"'Well, yes,' he replied, 'and some odd-looking ones too. You see, whatever
has been really used by any child as a plaything gets a right to come down here
in the end; and there is some very queer company, I assure you. Look there.'
"I looked, and said, 'It seems to be a potato.'
"'So it is,' said the beetle. 'It belonged to an Irish child in one of your
great cities. But to whom the child belonged I don't know, and I don't think he
knew himself. He lived in the corner of a dirty, overcrowded room, and into this
corner, one day, the potato rolled. It was the only plaything he ever had. He
stuck two cinders into it for eyes, scraped a nose and mouth, and loved it. He
sat upon it during the day, for fear it should be taken from him, but in the
dark he took it out and played with it. He was often hungry, but he never ate
that potato. When he died it rolled out of the corner, and was swept into the
ashes. Then it came down here.'
"'What a sad story!' I exclaimed.
"The beetle seemed in no way affected.
"'It is a curious thing,' he rambled on, 'that potato takes quite a good
place among the toys. You see, rank and precedence down here is entirely a
question of age; that is, of the length of time that any plaything has been in
the possession of a child; and all kinds of ugly old things hold the first rank;
whereas the most costly and beautiful works of art have often been smashed or
lost by the spoilt children of rich people in two or three days. If you care for
sad stories, there is another queer thing belonging to a child who died.'
"It appeared to be a large sheet of canvas with some strange kind of
needlework upon it.
"'It belonged to a little girl in a rich household,' the beetle continued;
'she was an invalid, and difficult to amuse. We have lots of her toys, and very
pretty ones too. At last some one taught her to make caterpillars in wool-work.
A bit of work was to be done in a certain stitch and then cut with scissors,
which made it look like a hairy caterpillar. The child took to this, and cared
for nothing else. Wool of every shade was procured for her, and she made
caterpillars of all colours. Her only complaint was that they did not turn into
butterflies. However, she was a sweet, gentle-tempered child, and she went on,
hoping that they would do so, and making new ones. One day she was heard talking
and laughing in her bed for joy. She said that all the caterpillars had become
butterflies of many colours, and that the room was full of them. In that happy
fancy she died.'
"'And the caterpillars came down here?'
"'Not for a long time,' said the beetle; 'her mother kept them while
she lived, and then they were lost and came down. No toys come down here
till they are broken or lost.'
"'What are those sticks doing here?' I asked.
"The music had ceased, and all the toys were lying quiet. Up in a corner
leaned a large bundle of walking-sticks. They are often sold in toy-shops, but I
wondered on what grounds they came here.
"'Did you ever meet with a too benevolent old gentleman wondering where on
earth his sticks go to?' said the beetle. 'Why do they lend them to their
grandchildren? The young rogues use them as hobby-horses and lose them, and down
they come, and the sentinels cannot stop them. The real hobby-horses won't allow
them to ride with them, however. There was a meeting on the subject. Every stick
was put through an examination. "Where is your nose? Where is your mane? Where
are your wheels?" The last was a poser. Some of them had got noses, but none of
them had got wheels. So they were not true hobby-horses. Something of the kind
occurred with the elder-whistles.'
"'The what?' I asked.
"'Whistles that boys make of elder-sticks with the pith scooped out,' said
the beetle. 'The real instruments would not allow them to play with them. The
elder-whistles said they would not have joined had they been asked. They were
amateurs, and never played with professionals. So they have private concerts
with the combs and curl-papers. But, bless you, toys of this kind are endless
here! Teetotums made of old cotton reels, tea-sets of acorn cups, dinner-sets of
old shells, monkeys made of bits of sponge, all sorts of things made of
breastbones and merrythoughts, old packs of cards that are always building
themselves into houses and getting knocked down when the band begins to play,
feathers, rabbits' tails—'
"'Ah! I have heard about the rabbits' tails,' I said.
"'There they are,' the beetle continued; 'and when the band plays you will
see how they skip and run. I don't believe you would find out that they had no
bodies, for my experience of a warren is, that when rabbits skip and run it is
the tails chiefly that you do see. But of all the amateur toys the most
successful are the boats. We have a lake for our craft, you know, and there's
quite a fleet of boats made out of old cork floats in fishing villages. Then,
you see, the old bits of cork have really been to sea, and seen a good deal of
service on the herring-nets, and so they quite take the lead of the smart shop
ships, that have never been beyond a pond or a tub of water. But that's an
exception. Amateur toys are mostly very dowdy. Look at that box.'
"I looked, thought I must have seen it before, and wondered why a very
common-looking box without a lid should affect me so strangely, and why my
memory should seem struggling to bring it back out of the past. Suddenly it came
to me—it was our old Toy Box.
"I had completely forgotten that nursery institution till recalled by the
familiar aspect of the inside, which was papered with proof-sheets of some old
novel on which black stars had been stamped by way of ornament. Dim memories of
how these stars, and the angles of the box, and certain projecting nails
interfered with the letter-press and defeated all attempts to trace the thread
of the nameless narrative, stole back over my brain; and I seemed once more,
with my head in the Toy Box, to beguile a wet afternoon by apoplectic endeavours
to follow the fortunes of Sir Charles and Lady Belinda, as they took a
favourable turn in the left-hand corner at the bottom of the trunk.
"'What are you staring at?' said the beetle.
"'It's my old Toy Box!' I exclaimed.
"The beetle rolled on to his back, and struggled helplessly with his legs: I
turned him over. (Neither the first nor the last time of my showing that
attention to beetles.)
"'That's right,' he said, 'set me on my legs. What a turn you gave me! You
don't mean to say you have any toys here? If you have, the sooner you make your
way home the better.'
"'Why?' I inquired.
"'Well,' he said, 'there's a very strong feeling in the place. The toys think
that they are ill-treated, and not taken care of by children in general. And
there is some truth in it. Toys come down here by scores that have been broken
the first day. And they are all quite resolved that if any of their old masters
or mistresses come this way they shall be punished.'
"'How will they be punished?' I inquired.
"'Exactly as they did to their toys, their toys will do to them. All is
perfectly fair and regular.'
"'I don't know that I treated mine particularly badly,' I said; 'but I think
I would rather go.'
"'I think you'd better,' said the beetle. 'Good-evening!' and I saw him no
"I turned to go, but somehow I lost the road. At last, as I thought, I found
it, and had gone a few steps when I came on a detachment of wooden soldiers,
drawn up on their lazy tongs. I thought it better to wait till they got out of
the way, so I turned back, and sat down in a corner in some alarm. As I did so,
I heard a click, and the lid of a small box covered with mottled paper burst
open, and up jumped a figure in a blue striped shirt and a rabbit-skin beard,
whose eyes were intently fixed on me. He was very like my old Jack-in-a-box. My
back began to creep, and I wildly meditated escape, frantically trying at the
same time to recall whether it were I or my brother who originated the idea of
making a small bonfire of our own one 5th of November, and burning the old
Jack-in-a-box for Guy Fawkes, till nothing was left of him but a twirling bit of
red-hot wire and a strong smell of frizzled fur. At this moment he nodded to me
"'Oh! that's you, is it?' he said.
"'No, it's not,' I answered hastily; for I was quite demoralized by fear and
the strangeness of the situation.
"'Who is it, then?' he inquired.
"'I'm sure I don't know,' I said; and really I was so confused that I hardly
"'Well, we know,' said the Jack-in-a-box, 'and that's all that's
needed. Now, my friends,' he continued, addressing the toys who had begun to
crowd round us, 'whoever recognizes a mistress and remembers a grudge—the hour
of our revenge has come. Can we any of us forget the treatment we received at
her hands? No! When we think of the ingenious fancy, the patient skill, that
went to our manufacture; that fitted the delicate joints and springs, laid on
the paint and varnish, and gave back-hair-combs and ear-rings to our smallest
dolls, we feel that we deserved more care than we received. When we reflect upon
the kind friends who bought us with their money, and gave us away in the
benevolence of their hearts, we know that for their sakes we ought to have been
longer kept and better valued. And when we remember that the sole object of our
own existence was to give pleasure and amusement to our possessors, we have no
hesitation in believing that we deserved a handsomer return than to have had our
springs broken, our paint dirtied, and our earthly careers so untimely shortened
by wilful mischief or fickle neglect. My friends, the prisoner is at the bar.'
"'I am not,' I said; for I was determined not to give in as long as
resistance was possible. But as I said it I became aware, to my unutterable
amazement, that I was inside the go-cart. How I got there is to this moment a
mystery to me—but there I was.
"There was a great deal of excitement about the Jack-in-a-box's speech. It
was evident that he was considered an orator, and, indeed, I have seen counsel
in a real court look wonderfully like him. Meanwhile, my old toys appeared to be
getting together. I had no idea that I had had so many. I had really been very
fond of most of them, and my heart beat as the sight of them recalled scenes
long forgotten, and took me back to childhood and home. There were my little
gardening tools, and my slate, and there was the big doll's bedstead, that had a
real mattress, and real sheets and blankets, all marked with the letter D, and a
work-basket made in the blind school, and a shilling School of Art paint-box,
and a wooden doll we used to call the Dowager, and innumerable other toys which
I had forgotten till the sight of them recalled them to my memory, but which
have again passed from my mind. Exactly opposite to me stood the Chinese
mandarin, nodding as I had never seen him nod since the day when I finally
stopped his performances by ill-directed efforts to discover how he did it.
"And what was that familiar figure among the rest, in a yellow silk dress and
maroon velvet cloak and hood trimmed with black lace? How those clothes recalled
the friends who gave them to me! And surely this was no other than my dear doll
Rosa—the beloved companion of five years of my youth, whose hair I wore in a
locket after I was grown up. No one could say I had ill-treated her.
Indeed, she fixed her eyes on me with a most encouraging smile—but then she
always smiled, her mouth was painted so.
"'All whom it may concern, take notice,' shouted the Jack-in-a-box, at this
point, 'that the rule of this honourable court is tit for tat.'
"'Tit, tat, tumble two,' muttered the slate in a cracked voice. (How well I
remembered the fall that cracked it, and the sly games of tit tat that varied
the monotony of our long multiplication sums!)
"'What are you talking about?' said the Jack-in-a-box, sharply; 'if you have
grievances, state them, and you shall have satisfaction, as I told you before.'
"'—— and five make nine,' added the slate promptly, 'and six are fifteen, and
eight are twenty-seven—there we go again.' I wonder why I never get up to the
top of a line of figures right. It will never prove at this rate.'
"'His mind is lost in calculations,' said the Jack-in-a-box, 'besides—between
ourselves—he has been "cracky" for some time. Let some one else speak, and
observe that no one is at liberty to pass a sentence on the prisoner heavier
than what he has suffered from her. I reserve my judgment to the last.'
"'I know what that will be,' thought I; 'oh dear! oh dear! that a respectable
maiden lady should live to be burnt as a Guy Fawkes!'
"'Let the prisoner drink a gallon of iced water at once, and then be left to
die of thirst.'
"The horrible idea that the speaker might possibly have the power to enforce
his sentence diverted my attention from the slate, and I looked round. In front
of the Jack-in-a-box stood a tiny red flower-pot and saucer, in which was a
miniature cactus. My thoughts flew back to a bazaar in London where, years ago,
a stand of these fairy plants had excited my warmest longings, and where a
benevolent old gentleman whom I had not seen before, and never saw again, bought
this one and gave it to me. Vague memories of his directions for repotting and
tending it reproached me from the past. My mind misgave me that after all it had
died a dusty death for lack of water. True, the cactus tribe being succulent
plants do not demand much moisture, but I had reason to fear that, in this
instance, the principle had been applied too far, and that after copious baths
of cold spring water in the first days of its popularity it had eventually
perished by drought. I suppose I looked guilty, for it nodded its prickly head
towards me, and said, 'Ah! you know me. You remember what I was, do you? Did you
ever think of what I might have been? There was a fairy rose which came down
here not long ago—a common rose enough, in a broken pot patched with string and
white paint. It had lived in a street where it was the only pure beautiful thing
your eyes could see. When the girl who kept it died there were eighteen roses
upon it. She was eighteen years old, and they put the roses in the coffin with
her when she was buried. That was worth living for. Who knows what I might have
done? And what right had you to cut short a life that might have been useful?'
"Before I could think of a reply to these too just reproaches, the flower-pot
enlarged, the plant shot up, putting forth new branches as it grew; then buds
burst from the prickly limbs, and in a few moments there hung about it great
drooping blossoms of lovely pink, with long white tassels in their throats. I
had been gazing at it some time in silent and self-reproachful admiration, when
I became aware that the business of this strange court was proceeding, and that
the other toys were pronouncing sentence against me.
"'Tie a string round her neck and take her out bathing in the brooks,' I
heard an elderly voice say in severe tones. It was the Dowager Doll. She was
inflexibly wooden, and had been in the family for more than one generation.
"'It's not fair,' I exclaimed, 'the string was only to keep you from being
carried away by the stream. The current is strong and the bank steep by the
Hollow Oak Pool, and you had no arms or legs. You were old and ugly, but you
would wash, and we loved you better than many waxen beauties.'
"'Old and ugly!' shrieked the Dowager. 'Tear her wig off! Scrub the paint off
her face! Flatten her nose on the pavement! Saw off her legs and give her no
crinoline! Take her out bathing, I say, and bring her home in a wheelbarrow with
fern roots on the top of her.'
"I was about to protest again, when the paint-box came forward, and balancing
itself in an artistic, undecided kind of way on two camel's-hair brushes which
seemed to serve it for feet, addressed the Jack-in-a-box.
"'Never dip your paint into the water. Never put your brush into your mouth—"
"'That's not evidence,' said the Jack-in-a-box.
"'Your notions are crude,' said the paint-box loftily; 'it's in print, and
here, all of it, or words to that effect;' with which he touched the lid, as a
gentleman might lay his hand upon his heart.
"'It's not evidence,' repeated the Jack-in-a-box. 'Let us proceed.'
"'Take her to pieces and see what she's made of, if you please,' tittered a
pretty German toy that moved to a tinkling musical accompaniment. 'If her works
are available after that it will be an era in natural science.'
"The idea tickled me, and I laughed.
"'Hard-hearted wretch!' growled the Dowager Doll.
"'Dip her in water and leave her to soak on a white soup-plate,' said the
paint-box; 'if that doesn't soften her feelings, deprive me of my medal from the
School of Art!'
"'Give her a stiff neck!' muttered the mandarin. 'Ching Fo! give her a stiff
"'Knock her teeth out,' growled the rake in a scratchy voice; and then the
tools joined in chorus.
"'Take her out when it's fine and leave her out when it's wet, and lose her
"'The coal-hole,' said the spade.
"'The hay-field,' said the rake.
"'The shrubbery,' said the hoe.
"This difference of opinion produced a quarrel, which in turn seemed to
affect the general behaviour of the toys, for a disturbance arose which the
Jack-in-a-box vainly endeavoured to quell. A dozen voices shouted for a dozen
different punishments, and (happily for me) each toy insisted upon its own
wrongs being the first to be avenged, and no one would hear of the claims of any
one else being attended to for an instant. Terrible sentences were passed, which
I either failed to hear through the clamour then, or have forgotten now. I have
a vague idea that several voices cried that I was to be sent to wash in
somebody's pocket; that the work-basket wished to cram my mouth with unfinished
needlework; and that through all the din the thick voice of my old leather ball
"'Throw her into the dust-hole.'
"Suddenly a clear voice pierced the confusion, and Rosa tripped up.
"'My dears,' she began, 'the only chance of restoring order is to observe
method. Let us follow our usual rule of precedence. I claim the first turn as
the prisoner's oldest toy.'
"'That you are not, Miss,' snapped the Dowager; 'I was in the family for
"'In the family. Yes, ma'am; but you were never her doll in particular. I was
her very own, and she kept me longer than any other plaything. My judgment must
"'She is right,' said the Jack-in-a-box; 'and now let us get on. The prisoner
is delivered unreservedly into the hands of our trusty and well-beloved
Rosa—doll of the first class—for punishment according to the strict law of tit
"'I shall request the assistance of the pewter tea-things,' said Rosa, with
her usual smile. 'And now, my love,' she added, turning to me, 'we will come and
"Where the go-cart vanished to I cannot remember, nor how I got out of it; I
only know that I suddenly found myself free, and walking away with my hand in
Rosa's. I remember vacantly feeling the rough edge of the stitches on her flat
kid fingers, and wondering what would come next.
"'How very oddly you hold your feet, my dear,' she said; 'you stick out your
toes in such an eccentric fashion, and you lean on your legs as if they were
table legs, instead of supporting yourself by my hand. Turn your heels well out,
and bring your toes together. You may even let them fold over each other a
little; it is considered to have a pretty effect among dolls,'
"Under one of the big trees Miss Rosa made me sit down, propping me against
the trunk as if I should otherwise have fallen; and in a moment more a square
box of pewter tea-things came tumbling up to our feet, where the lid burst open,
and all the tea-things fell out in perfect order; the cups on the saucers, the
lid on the teapot, and so on.
"'Take a little tea, my love?' said Miss Rosa, pressing a pewter teacup to my
"I made believe to drink, but was only conscious of inhaling a draught of air
with a slight flavour of tin. In taking my second cup I was nearly choked with
the teaspoon, which got into my throat.
"'What are you doing?' roared the Jack-in-a-box at this moment; 'you are not
"'I am treating her as she treated me,' answered Rosa, looking as severe as
her smile would allow. 'I believe that tit for tat is the rule, and that at
present it is my turn.'
"'It will be mine soon,' growled the Jack-in-a-box, and I thought of the
bonfire with a shudder. However, there was no knowing what might happen before
his turn did come, and meanwhile I was in friendly hands. It was not the first
time my dolly and I had sat together under a tree, and, truth to say, I do not
think she had any injuries to avenge.
"'When your wig comes off,' murmured Rosa, as she stole a pink kid arm
tenderly round my neck, 'I'll make you a cap with blue and white rosettes, and
pretend that you have had a fever.'
"I thanked her gratefully, and was glad to reflect that I was not yet in need
of an attention which I distinctly remember having shown to her in the days of
her dollhood. Presently she jumped up.
"'I think you shall go to bed now, dear,' she said, and, taking my hand once
more, she led me to the big doll's bedstead, which, with its pretty bed-clothes
and white dimity furniture, looked tempting enough to a sleeper of suitable
size. It could not have supported one quarter of my weight.
"'I have not made you a night-dress, my love,' Rosa continued; 'I am not fond
of my needle, you know. You were not fond of your needle, I think, I fear
you must go to bed in your clothes, my dear.'
"'You are very kind,' I said, 'but I am not tired, and—it would not bear my
"'Pooh! pooh!' said Rosa. 'My love! I remember passing one Sunday in it with
the rag-doll, and the Dowager, and the Punch and Judy (the amount of pillow
their two noses took up I shall never forget!), and the old doll that had
nothing on, because her clothes were in the dolls' wash and did not get ironed
on Saturday night, and the Highlander, whose things wouldn't come off, and who
slept in his kilt. Not bear you? Nonsense! You must go to bed, my dear. I've got
other things to do, and I can't leave you lying about.'
"'The whole lot of you did not weigh one quarter of what I do,' I cried
desperately. 'I cannot and will not get into that bed; I should break it all to
pieces, and hurt myself into the bargain.'
"'Well, if you will not go to bed I must put you there,' said Rosa, and
without more ado, she snatched me up in her kid arms, and laid me down.
"Of course it was just as I expected. I had hardly touched the two little
pillows (they had a meal-baggy smell from being stuffed with bran), when the
woodwork gave way with a crash, and I fell—fell—fell—
"Though I fully believed every bone in my body to be broken, it was really a
relief to get to the ground. As soon as I could, I sat up, and felt myself all
over. A little stiff, but, as it seemed, unhurt. Oddly enough, I found that I
was back again under the tree; and more strange still, it was not the tree where
I sat with Rosa, but the old oak-tree in the little wood. Was it all a dream?
The toys had vanished, the lights were out, the mosses looked dull in the
growing dusk, the evening was chilly, the hole no larger than it was thirty
years ago, and when I felt in my pocket for my spectacles I found that they were
on my nose.
"I have returned to the spot many times since, but I never could induce a
beetle to enter into conversation on the subject, the hole remains obstinately
impassable, and I have not been able to repeat my visit to the Land of Lost
"When I recall my many sins against the playthings of my childhood, I am
constrained humbly to acknowledge that perhaps this is just as well."
SAM SETS UP SHOP.
"I think you might help me, Dot," cried Sam, in dismal and rather injured
It was the morning following the day of the earthquake, and of Aunt
Penelope's arrival. Sam had his back to Dot, and his face to the fire, over
which indeed he had bent for so long that he appeared to be half roasted.
"What do you want?" asked Dot, who was working at a doll's night-dress that
had for long been partly finished, and now seemed in a fair way to completion.
"It's the glue-pot," Sam continued. "It does take so long to boil. And I have
been stirring at the glue with a stick for ever so long to get it to melt. It is
very hot work. I wish you would take it for a bit. It's as much for your good as
"Is it?" said Dot.
"Yes, it is, Miss," cried Sam. "You must know I've got a splendid idea."
"Not another earthquake, I hope?" said Dot, smiling.
"Now, Dot, that's truly unkind of you. I thought it was to be forgotten."
"So it is," said Dot, getting up. "I was only joking. What is the idea?"
"I don't think I shall tell you till I have finished my shop. I want to get
to it now, and I wish you would take a turn at the glue-pot."
Sam was apt to want a change of occupation. Dot, on the other hand, was
equally averse from leaving what she was about till it was finished, so they
suited each other like Jack Sprat and his wife. It had been an effort to Dot to
leave the night-dress which she had hoped to finish at a sitting; but when she
was fairly set to work on the glue business she never moved till the glue was in
working order, and her face as red as a ripe tomato.
By this time Sam had set up business in the window-seat, and was fastening a
large paper inscription over his shop. It ran thus:—
Dolls' Doctor and Toymender to Her Majesty
the Queen, and all other Potentates.
"Splendid!" shouted Dot, who was serving up the glue as if it had been a
kettle of soup, and who looked herself very like an over-toasted cook.
Sam took the glue, and began to bustle about.
"Now, Dot, get me all the broken toys, and we'll see what we can do. And
here's a second splendid idea. Do you see that box? Into that we shall put all
the toys that are quite spoiled and cannot possibly be mended. It is to be
called the Hospital for Incurables. I've got a placard for that. At least it's
not written yet, but here's the paper, and perhaps you would write it, Dot, for
I am tired of writing, and I want to begin the mending."
"For the future," he presently resumed, "when I want a doll to scalp or
behead, I shall apply to the Hospital for Incurables, and the same with any
other toy that I want to destroy. And you will see, my dear Dot, that I shall be
quite a blessing to the nursery; for I shall attend the dolls gratis, and keep
all the furniture in repair."
Sam really kept his word. He had a natural turn for mechanical work, and,
backed by Dot's more methodical genius, he prolonged the days of the broken toys
by skilful mending, and so acquired an interest in them which was still more
favourable to their preservation. When his birthday came round, which was some
months after these events, Dot (assisted by Mamma and Aunt Penelope) had
prepared for him a surprise that was more than equal to any of his own "splendid
ideas." The whole force of the toy cupboard was assembled on the nursery table,
to present Sam with a fine box of joiner's tools as a reward for his services,
Papa kindly acting as spokesman on the occasion.
And certain gaps in the china tea-set, some scars on the dolls' faces, and a
good many new legs, both amongst the furniture and the animals, are now the only
remaining traces of Sam's earthquake.