Nothing could well be more unlike my former home than that to which I was now introduced. Susan, my little mistress, was a child of about the same age as Rose when she first bought me; but Susan had no money to spend in toys, and very little time to play with them, though she enjoyed them as much as Rose herself. She gave me a hearty welcome; and though she could offer me no furnished house, with its elegancies and comforts, she assigned me the best place in her power—the corner of a shelf on which she kept her books, slate, needlework, and inkstand. And there I lived, sitting on my trunk, and observing human life from a new point of view. And though my dignity might appear lowered in the eyes of the unthinking, I felt that the respectability of my character was really in no way diminished; for I was able to fulfil the great object of my existence as well as ever, by giving innocent pleasure, and being useful in my humble way.
No other dolls now visited me; but I was not deprived of the enjoyments of inanimate society, for I soon struck up an intimate acquaintance with an excellent Pen in the inkstand by my side, and we passed our leisure hours very pleasantly in communicating to each other our past adventures. His knowledge of life was limited, having resided in that inkstand, and performed all the writing of the family, ever since he was a quill. But his experience was wise and virtuous; and he could bear witness to many an industrious effort at improvement, in which he had been the willing instrument; and to many a hard struggle for honesty and independence, which figures of his writing had recorded. I liked to watch the good Pen at his work when the father of the family spent an hour in the evening in teaching Susan and her brothers to write; or when the careful mother took him in hand to help her in balancing her accounts, and ascertaining that she owed no one a penny, before she ventured upon any new purchase. Then my worthy friend was in his glory; and it was delightful to see how he enjoyed his work. He had but one fault, which was a slight tendency to splutter; and as he was obliged to keep that under restraint while engaged in writing, he made himself amends by a little praise of himself, when relating his exploits to a sympathising friend like myself. On his return with the inkstand to the corner of my shelf, he could not resist sometimes boasting when he had not made a single blot; or confessing to me, in perfect confidence, how much the thinness of Susan's upstrokes, or the thickness of her downstrokes, was owing to the clearness of his slit or the fineness of his nib.
The family of which we made part lived frugally and worked hard: but they were healthy and happy. The father with his boys went out early in the morning to the daily labor by which they maintained the family. The mother remained at home, to take care of the baby and do the work of the house. She was the neatest and most careful person I ever saw, and she brought up her daughter Susan to be as notable as herself.
Susan was an industrious little girl, and in her childish way worked almost as hard as her mother. She helped to sweep the house, and nurse the baby, and mend the clothes, and was as busy as a bee. But she was always tidy; and though her clothes were often old and shabby, I never saw them dirty or ragged. Indeed, I must own that, in point of neatness, Susan was even superior to my old friend Rose. Rose would break her strings, or lose her buttons, or leave holes in her gloves, till reproved by her Mama for untidiness: but Susan never forgot that 'a stitch in time saves nine,' and the stitch was never wanting.
She used to go to school for some hours every day: and I should have liked to go with her, and help her in her studies, especially when I found that she was learning the multiplication-table, and I remembered how useful I had been to Rose in that very lesson; but dolls were not allowed at school, and I was obliged to wait patiently for Susan's company till she had finished all her business, both at school and at home.
She had so little time to bestow upon me, that at first I began to fear that I should be of no use to her. The suspicion was terrible; for the wish to be useful has been the great idea of my life. It was my earliest hope, and it will be my latest pleasure. I could be happy under almost any change of circumstances; but as long as a splinter of me remains, I should never be able to reconcile myself to the degradation of thinking that I had been of no use.
But I soon found I was in no danger of what I so much dreaded. In fact, I seemed likely to be even more useful to Susan than to Rose. Before I had been long in the house, she said one evening that she had an hour to spare, and that she would make me some clothes.
'Well and good,' answered her mother; 'only be sure to put your best work in them. If you mind your work, the doll will be of great use to you, and you can play without wasting your time.'
This was good hearing for Susan and me, and she spent most of her leisure in working for me. While she was thus employed, I came down from my shelf, and was treated with as much consideration as when Rose and her companions waited at my table.
A great change took place in my wardrobe. Rose had always dressed me in gay silks and satins, without much regard to under clothing; for, she said, as my gowns must be sewn on, what did any petticoats signify? So she sewed me up, and I looked very smart; and if there happened to be any unseemly cobbling, she hid it with beads or spangles. Once I remember a very long stitch baffled all her contrivances, and she said I must pretend it was a new-fashioned sort of embroidery.
But Susan scorned all make-shifts. Nothing could have been more unfounded than my fears of becoming ragged or dirty. My attire was plain and suited to my station, but most scrupulously finished. She saw no reason why my clothes should not be made to take off and on, as well as if I had been a doll three feet high. So I had my plain gingham gowns with strings and buttons; and my shifts and petticoats run and felled, gathered and whipped, hemmed and stitched, like any lady's; and every thing was neatly marked with my initial S. But what Susan and I were most particularly proud of, was a pair of stays. They were a long time in hand, for the fitting them was a most difficult job; but when finished, they were such curiosities of needlework, that Susan's neat mother herself used to show off the stitching and the eyelet-holes to every friend that came to see her.
Among them, Sarah the housemaid, who was sister to Susan's father, often called in to ask after us all. She was left in charge of the house where my former friends had lived, and they sometimes sent her commissions to execute for them. Then she was sure to come and bring us news of the family, as she always called Rose and her relations. Sometimes she told us that Master William was a little better; sometimes that she heard Miss Rose was very much grown; she had generally something to tell that we were all glad to hear. One evening, soon after my apparel was quite completed, I was sitting on my trunk, as pleased with myself as Susan was with me, when Sarah's head peeped in at the door.
'Good evening to you all,' said she; 'I thought as I went by you would like to hear that I have a letter from the family, and all's well. I have got a pretty little job to do for Master Willy. He is to have a set of new shirts sent out directly, made of very fine thin calico, because his own are too thick. See, here is the stuff I have been buying for them.'
'It is beautiful calico, to be sure,' said Susan's mother; 'but such fine stuff as that will want very neat work. I am afraid you will hardly be able to make them yourself.'
'Why, no,' answered Sarah, smiling and shaking her head. 'I am sorry to say, there comes in my old trouble, not having learned to work neatly when I was young. Take warning by me, Susan, and mind your needlework now-a-days. If I could work as neatly as your mother, my mistress would have made me lady's maid and housekeeper by this time. But I could not learn any but rough work, more's the pity: so I say again, take warning by me, little niece; take pattern by your mother.'
Susan looked at me and smiled, as much as to say, 'I have taken pattern by her;' but she had not time to answer, for Sarah continued, addressing the mother:
'How I wish you could have time to do this job! for it would bring you in a pretty penny, and I know my mistress would be pleased with your work; but they are to be done very quickly, in time for the next ship, and I do not see that you could get through them with only one pair of hands.'
'We have two pair of hands,' cried Susan; 'here are mine.'
'Ah, but what can they do?' asked Sarah, 'and how can they do it? It is not enough to have four fingers and a thumb. Hands must be handy.'
'And so they are,' answered Susan's mother. 'See whether any hands could do neater work than that.' And she pointed me out to Sarah.
Sarah took me up, and turned me from side to side. Then she looked at my hems, then at my seams, then at my gathers, while I felt truly proud and happy, conscious that not a long stitch could be found in either.
'Well to be sure!' exclaimed she, after examining me all over; 'do you mean that all that is really Susan's own work?'
'Every stitch of it,' replied the mother; 'and I think better need not be put into any shirt, though Master William does deserve the best of every thing.'
'You never said a truer word, neither for Master William nor for little Susan,' replied Sarah; 'and I wish you joy, Susan, of being able to help your mother so nicely, for now I can leave you the job to do between you.'
She then told them what was to be the payment for the work, which was a matter I did not myself understand, though I could see that it gave them great satisfaction.
The money came at a most convenient time, to help in fitting out Susan's brother Robert for a place which had been offered to him in the country. It was an excellent place; but there were several things, as his mother well knew, that poor Robert wanted at starting, but would not mention for fear his parents should distress themselves to obtain them for him. Both father and mother had been saving for the purpose, without saying any thing about it to Robert; but they almost despaired of obtaining more than half the things they wanted, till this little sum of money came into their hands so opportunely.
The father was in the secret, but Robert could scarcely believe his eyes, when one evening his mother and Susan laid on the table before him, one by one, all the useful articles he wished to possess. At first he seemed almost more vexed than pleased, for he thought of the saving and the slaving that his mother must have gone through to gain them; but when she told him how much of them was due to his little sister's neatness and industry, and how easy the work had been when shared between them, he was as much pleased as Susan herself.
We were all very happy that evening, including even the humble friends on the shelf; for I sat on my trunk, and related to the Pen how useful I had been in teaching Susan to work; and the worthy Pen stood bolt upright in his inkstand, and confided to me with honest pride, that Robert had been chosen to his situation on account of his excellent writing.
Time passed on, and I suppose we all grew older, as I noticed from time to time various changes that seemed to proceed from that cause. The baby, for instance, though still going by the name of 'Baby,' had become a strong able-bodied child, running alone, and very difficult to keep out of mischief. The most effectual way of keeping her quiet was to place me in her hands, when she would sit on the floor nursing me by the hour together, while her mother and sister were at work.
Susan was become a tall strong girl, more notable than ever, and, like Rose before her, she gradually bestowed less attention on me; so that I was beginning to feel myself neglected, till on a certain birthday of her little sister's, she declared her intention of making me over altogether to the baby-sister for a birthday present. Then I once more rose into importance, and found powers which I thought declining, still undiminished. The baby gave a scream of delight when I was placed in her hand as her own. Till then she had only possessed one toy in the world, an old wooden horse, in comparison with which I seemed in the full bloom of youth and beauty. This horse, which she called JACK, had lost not merely the ornaments of mane and tail, but his head, one fore and one hind leg; so that nothing remained of the once noble quadruped but a barrel with the paint scratched off, rather insecurely perched upon a stand with wheels. But he was a faithful animal, and did his work to the last. The baby used to tie me on to his barrel, and Jack and I were drawn round and round the kitchen with as much satisfaction to our mistress, as in the days when I shone forth, in my gilt coach with its four prancing piebalds.
But the baby's treatment of me, though gratifying from its cordiality, had a roughness and want of ceremony that affected my enfeebled frame. I could not conceal from myself that the infirmities I had observed in other dolls were gradually gaining ground upon me. Nobody ever said a harsh word to me, or dropped a hint of my being less pretty than ever, and the baby called me 'Beauty, beauty,' twenty times a day; but still I knew very well that not only had my rosy color and fine hair disappeared, but I had lost the whole of one leg and half of the other, and the lower joints of both my arms. In fact, as my worthy friend the Pen observed, both he and I were reduced to stumps.
The progress of decay caused me no regret, for I felt that I had done my work, and might now gracefully retire from public life, and resign my place to newer dolls. But though contented with my lot, I had still one anxious wish ungratified. The thought occupied my mind incessantly; and the more I dwelt upon it, the stronger grew the hope that I might have a chance of seeing my old first friends once more. This was now my only remaining care.
News came from them from time to time. Sarah brought word that Master William was better; that they had left Madeira, and gone travelling about elsewhere. Then that the father had been in England upon business, and gone back again; that Mr. Edward had been over to foreign parts one summer holidays to see his family, and on his return had come to give her an account of them.
Sarah was always very bustling when she had any news to bring of the family, but one day she called on us in even more flurry than usual. She was quite out of breath with eagerness.
'Sit down and rest a minute before you begin to speak,' said her quiet sister-in-law. 'There must be some great news abroad. It seems almost too much for you.'
Susan nodded, and began to unpack a great parcel she had brought with her.
'It don't seem bad news, to judge by your face,' said the other; for now that Sarah had recovered breath, her smiles succeeded one another so fast, that she seemed to think words superfluous.
'I guess, I guess,' cried Susan. 'They are coming home.'
'They are, indeed,' answered Sarah at last; 'they are coming home as fast as steam-engines can bring them: and here is work more than enough for you and mother till they come. Miss Margaret is going to be married, and you are to make the wedding-clothes.'
So saying, she finished unpacking her parcel, and produced various fine materials which required Susan's neatest work.
'These are for you to begin with,' said she, 'but there is more coming.' She then read a letter from the ladies with directions about the needlework, to which Susan and her mother listened with great attention. Then Sarah jumped up, saying she must not let the grass grow under her feet, for she had plenty to do. The whole house was to be got ready; and she would not have a thing out of its place, nor a speck of dust to be found, for any money.
Susan and her mother lost no time either; their needles never seemed to stop: and I sat on the baby's lap watching them, and enjoying the happy anticipation that my last wish would soon be accomplished.
But though Susan was as industrious as a girl could be, and just now wished to work harder than ever, she was not doomed to 'all work and no play;' for her father took care that his children should enjoy themselves at proper times. In summer evenings, after he came home from his work, they used often to go out all together for a walk in the nearest park, when he and his wife would rest under the trees, and read over Robert's last letter, while the children amused themselves. Very much we all enjoyed it, for even I was seldom left behind. Susan would please the baby by dressing me in my best clothes for the walk; and the good-natured father would laugh merrily at us, and remark how much good the fresh air did me. We were all very happy; and when my thoughts travelled to other scenes and times, I sometimes wondered whether my former friends enjoyed themselves as much in their southern gardens, as this honest family in their English fields.
Our needlework was finished and sent to Sarah's care to await Margaret's arrival, for which we were very anxious.
On returning home one evening after our walk, we passed, as we often did, through the street in which I had formerly lived. Susan was leading her little sister, who, on her part, clutched me in a way very unlike the gentleness which Susan bestowed upon her. On arriving at the well-known house, we saw Sarah standing at the area-gate. We stopped to speak to her.
'When are they expected?' asked Susan's mother.
'They may be here any minute,' answered Sarah; 'Mr. Edward has just brought the news.'
The street-door now opened, and two gentlemen came out and stood on the steps. One was a tall fine-looking boy, grown almost into a young man; but I could not mistake the open good-humored countenance of my old friend Edward. The other was older, and I recognised him as the traveller who used to describe Madeira to Willy.
They did not notice us, for we stood back so as not to intrude, and their minds were evidently fully occupied with the expected meeting.
We all gazed intently down the street, every voice hushed in eager interest. Even my own little mistress, usually the noisiest of her tribe, was silent as myself. It was a quiet street and a quiet time, and the roll of the distant carriages would scarcely have seemed to break the silence, had it not been for our intense watching, and hoping that the sound of every wheel would draw nearer. We waited long, and were more than once disappointed by carriages passing us and disappearing at the end of the street. Edward and his friend walked up and down, east and west, north and south, in hopes of descrying the travellers in the remotest distance. But after each unavailing walk, they took up their post again on the steps.
At last a travelling carriage laden with luggage turned the nearest corner, rolled towards us, and stopped at the house. The two gentlemen rushed down the steps, flung open the carriage-door, and for some moments all was hurry and agitation, and I could distinguish nothing.
I much feared that I should now be obliged to go home without actually seeing my friends, for they had passed so quickly from the carriage to the house, and there had been so much confusion and excitement during those few seconds, that my transient glance scarcely allowed me to know one from another; but in course of time Sarah came out again, and asked Susan's father to help in unloading the carriage, desiring us to sit meanwhile in the housekeeper's room. So we waited till the business was finished, when, to my great joy, we were summoned to the sitting-room, and I had the happiness of seeing all the family once more assembled.
I was delighted to find how much less they were altered than I. I had been half afraid that I might see one without a leg, another without an arm, according to the dilapidations which had taken place in my own frame; but strange to say, their sensitive bodies, which felt every change of weather, shrunk from a rough touch, and bled at the scratch of a pin, had outlasted mine, though insensible to pain or sickness. There stood the father, scarcely altered; his hair perhaps a little more gray, but his eyes as quick and bright as ever. And there was the mother, still grave and gentle, but looking less sad and careworn than in the days of Willy's constant illness. And there was, first in interest to me, my dear mistress, Rose, as tall as Margaret, and as handsome as Edward. I could not imagine her condescending to play with me now. Margaret looked just as in former times, good and graceful; but she stood a little apart with the traveller friend by her side, and I heard Rose whisper to Susan that the wedding was to take place in a fortnight. They were only waiting for Geoffrey to arrive. His ship was daily expected, and they all wished him to be present.
And Willy, for whose sake the long journey had been made, how was he? Were all their hopes realized? Edward shook his head when Susan's mother asked that question; but Willy was there to answer it himself. He was standing by the window, leaning on a stick, it is true, but yet able to stand. As he walked across the room, I saw that he limped slightly, but could move about where he pleased. He still looked thin and pale, but the former expression of suffering and distress had disappeared, and his countenance was as cheerful as his manner. I could see that he was very much better, though not in robust health like Edward's. He thanked Susan's mother for her kind inquiries, and said that, though he had not become all that his sanguine brother hoped, he had gained health more than enough to satisfy himself; that he was most thankful for his present comfort and independence; and that if he was not quite so strong as other people, he hoped he should at any rate make a good use of the strength that was allowed him. Turning to Edward, who still looked disappointed, he continued: 'Who could have ventured to hope, Edward, three years ago, that you and I should now be going to college together?' And then even Edward smiled and seemed content.
As we turned to leave the room, Susan and her little sister lingered for a moment behind the others, and the child held me up towards Rose. Rose started, and exclaimed, 'Is it possible? It really is my poor old Seraphina. Who would have thought of her being still in existence? What a good, useful doll she has been! I really must give her a kiss once more for old friendship's sake.'
So saying, she kissed both me and the baby, and we left the house.
And now there remains but little more for me to relate. My history and my existence are fast drawing to an end; my last wish has been gratified by my meeting with Rose, and my first hope realized by her praise of my usefulness. She has since given the baby a new doll, and I am finally laid on the shelf, to enjoy, in company with my respected friend the Pen, a tranquil old age. When he, like myself, was released from active work, and replaced by one of Mordan's patent steel, he kindly offered to employ his remaining leisure in writing from my dictation, and it is in compliance with his advice that I have thus ventured to record my experience.
That experience has served to teach me that, as all inanimate things have some destined use, so all rational creatures have some appointed duties, and are happy and well employed while fulfilling them.
With this reflection, I bid a grateful farewell to those young patrons of my race who have kindly taken an interest in my memoirs, contentedly awaiting the time when the small remnant of my frame shall be reduced to dust, and my quiet existence sink into a still more profound repose.