Granted Wish by Susan Coolidge
This is a story about princesses and beggar-girls, hovels and
palaces, sweet things and sad things, fullness and scarcity. It is a
simple story enough, and mostly true. And as it touches so many and
such different extremes of human condition and human experience, it
ought by good rights to interest almost everybody; don't you think so?
Effie Wallis's great wish was to have a doll of her own. This was
not a very unreasonable wish for any little girl to feel, one would
think, yet there seemed as little likelihood of its being granted as
that the moon should come down out of the sky and offer itself to her
as a plaything; for Effie and her parents belonged to the very poorest
of the London poor, and how deep a poverty that is, only London knows.
We have poor people enough, and sin and suffering enough in our own
large cities, but I don't think the poorest of them are quite so badly
off as London's worst. Effie and her father and mother and her little
sister and her three brothers all lived in a single cellar-like room,
in the most squalid quarter of St. Giles. There was almost no furniture
in the room; in winter it was often fireless, in summer hot always, and
full of evil smells. Food was scanty, and sometimes wanting altogether,
for gin cost less than bread, and Effie's father was continuously
drunk, her mother not infrequently so. It was a miserable home and a
wretched family. The parents fought, the children cried and quarrelled,
and the parents beat them. As the boys grew bigger, they made haste to
escape into the streets, where all manner of evil was taught them.
Jack, the eldest, who was but just twelve, had twice been arrested, and
sentenced to a term of imprisonment for picking pockets. They were
growing up to be little thieves, young ruffians, and what chance for
better things was there in the squalid cellar and the comfortless life,
and how little chance of a doll for Effie, you will easily see. Poor
doll-less Effie! She was only six years old, and really a sweet little
child. The grime on her cheeks did not reach to her heart, which was as
simple and ignorant and innocent as that of white-clad children, whose
mothers kiss them, and whose faces are washed every day.
In all her life Effie had only seen one doll. It was a battered
object, with one leg gone, and only half a nose, but, to Effie's eyes,
it was a beauty and a treasure. This doll was the property of a little
girl to whom Effie had never dared to speak, she seemed to her so happy
and privileged, so far above herself, as she strutted up and down the
alley with other children, bearing the one-legged doll in her arms. It
was not the alley in which the Wallises lived, but a somewhat wider one
into which that opened. One of Effie's few pleasures was to creep away
when she could, and, crouched behind a post at the alley's foot, watch
the children playing there. No one thought of or noticed her. Once,
when the owner of the doll threw her on the ground for a moment and ran
away, Effie ventured to steal out and touch the wonderful creature with
her finger. It was only a touch, for the other children soon returned,
and Effie fled back to her hiding-place; but she never forgot it. Oh,
if only she could have a doll like that for her own, what happiness it
would be, she thought; but she never dared to mention the doll to her
mother, or to put the wish into words.
If any one had come in just then and told Effie that one day she was
to own a doll far more beautiful than the shabby treasure she so
coveted, and that the person to give it her would be the future Queen
of England,why, first it would have been needful to explain to her
what the words meant, and then she certainly wouldn't have believed
them. What a wide, wide distance there seemed from the wretched alley
where the little, half-clad child crouched behind the post, to the
sunny palace where the fair princess, England's darling, sat surrounded
by her bright-faced children,a distance too wide to bridge, as it
would appear; yet it was bridged, and there was a half-way point where
both could meet, as you will see. That half-way point was called The
Great Ormond Street Child's Hospital.
For one day a very sad thing happened to Effie. Sent by her mother
to buy a quartern of gin, she was coming back with the jug in her hand,
when a half-tipsy man, reeling against her, threw her down just where a
flight of steps led to a lower street. She was picked up and carried
home, where for some days she lay in great pain, before a kind woman
who went about to read the Bible to the poor, found her out, and sent
the dispensary doctor to see her. He shook his head gravely after he
had examined her, and said her leg was badly broken, and ought to have
been seen to long before, and that there was no use trying to cure her
there, and she must be carried to the hospital. Mrs. Wallis made a
great outcry over this, for mothers are mothers, even when they are
poor and drunken and ignorant, and do not like to have their children
taken away from them; but in the end the doctor prevailed.
Effie hardly knew when they moved her, for the doctor had given her
something which made her sleep heavily and long. It was like a dream
when she at last opened her eyes, and found herself in a place which
she had never seen before,a long, wide, airy room, with a double row
of narrow, white beds like the one in which she herself was, and in
most of the beds sick children lying. Bright colored pictures and texts
painted gaily in red and blue hung on the walls above the beds; some of
the counterpanes had pretty verses printed on them. Effie could not
read, but she liked to look at the texts, they were so bright. There
were flowers in pots and jars on the window-sills, and on some of the
little tables that stood beside the beds, and tiny chairs with rockers,
in which pale little boys and girls sat swinging to and fro. A great
many of them were playing with toys, and they all looked happy. An air
of fresh, cheerful neatness was over all the place, and altogether it
was so pleasant that for a long time Effie lay staring about her, and
speaking not a word. At last, in a faint little voice, she half
whispered, Where is this?
Faint as was the voice, some one heard it, and came at once to the
bedside. This somebody was a nice, sweet-faced, motherly looking woman,
dressed in the uniform of Miss Nightingale's nurses. She smiled so
kindly at Effie that Effie smiled feebly back.
Where is this? she asked again.
This is a nice place where they take care of little children who
are ill, and make them well again, answered the nurse, brightly.
Do you live here? said Effie, after a pause, during which her
large eyes seemed to grow larger.
Yes. My name is Nurse Johnstone, and I am your nurse. You've
had a long sleep, haven't you, dear? Now you've waked up, would you
like some nice milk to drink?
Y-es, replied Effie, doubtfully. But when the milk came, she liked
it very much, it was so cool and rich and sweet. It was brought in a
little blue cup, and Effie drank it through a glass tube, because she
must not lift her head. There was a bit of white bread to eat besides,
but Effie did not care for that. She was drowsy still, and fell asleep
as soon as the last mouthful of milk was swallowed.
When she next waked, Nurse Johnstone was there again, with such a
good little cupful of hot broth for Effie to eat, and another slice of
bread. Effie's head was clearer now, and she felt much more like
talking and questioning. The ward was dark and still, only a shaded
lamp here and there showed the little ones asleep in their cots.
This is a nice place I think, said Effie, as she slowly sipped the
I'm glad you like it, said the nurse, almost all children do.
I like you, too, said Effie, with a contented sigh, and that, pointing to the broth. She had not once asked after her mother; the
nurse noticed, and she drew her own inferences.
Now, she said, after she had smoothed the bed clothes and Effie's
hair, and given the pillow a touch or two to make it easier, now, it
would be nice if you would say one little Bible verse for me, and then
go to sleep again.
A verse? said Effie.
Yes, a little Bible verse.
Bible? repeated Effie, in a puzzled tone.
Yes, dear,a Bible verse. Don't you know one?
But you've seen a Bible, surely.
Effie shook her head. I don't know what you mean, she said.
Why, you poor lamb, cried Nurse Johnstone, I do believe you
haven't! Well, and in a Christian country, too! If that ain't too bad.
I'll tell you a verse this minute, you poor little thing, and to-morrow
we'll see if you can't learn it. Then, very slowly and reverently, she
repeated, Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them
not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven. Twice she repeated the
text, Effie listening attentively to the strange, beautiful words; then
she kissed her for good-night, and moved away. Effie lay awake awhile
saying the verse over to herself. She had a good memory, and when she
waked next morning she found that she was able to say it quite
That happened to be a Thursday, and Thursday was always a special
day in Great Ormond Street, because it was that on which the Princess
of Wales made her weekly visit to the hospital. Effie had never heard
of a princess, and had no idea what all the happy bustle meant, as
nurses and patients made ready for the coming guest. Nothing could be
cleaner than the ward in its every-day condition, but all little
possible touches were given to make it look its very best. Fresh
flowers were put into the jars, the little ones able to sit up, were
made very neat, each white bed was duly smoothed, and every face had a
look as though something pleasant was going to happen. Children easily
catch the contagion of cheerfulness, and Effie was insensibly cheered
by seeing other people so. She lay on her pillow, observing everything,
and faintly smiling, when the door opened, and in came a slender,
beautiful lady, wrapped in soft silks and laces, with two or three
children beside her. All the nurses began to courtesy, and the children
to dimple and twinkle at the sight of her. She walked straight to the
middle of the ward, then, lifting something up that all might see it,
she said in a clear sweet voice: Isn't there some one of these little
girls who can say a pretty Bible verse for me? If there is, she shall
What do you think this was? No other than a doll! A large,
beautiful creature of wax, with curly brown hair, blue eyes which could
open and shut, the reddest lips and pinkest cheeks ever seen, and a
place, somewhere about her middle, which, when pinched, made her utter
a squeaky sound like Mama. This delightful doll had on a pretty blue
dress with a scarlet sash, and a pair of brown kid boots with real
buttons. She wore a little blue hat on top of her curly head, and
sported an actual pocket-handkerchief, three inches square, or so, on
which was written her name, Dolly Varden. All the little ones stared
at her with dazzled eyes, but for a moment no one spoke. I suppose they
really were too surprised to speak, till suddenly a little hand went
up, and a small voice was heard from the far corner. The voice came
from Effie, too, and it was Effie herself who spoke.
I can say a verse, said the small voice.
Can you? That is nice. Say it, then, said the princess, turning
Then the small, piping voice repeated, very slowly and distinctly,
this text: Suffer the little children to come untoNurse Johnstone
and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven!
What a laugh rang through the ward then! The nurses laughed, the
little ones laughed too, though they did not distinctly understand at
what. Nurse Johnstone cried as well as laughed, and the princess was
almost as bad, for her eyes were dewy, though a smile was on her sweet
lips as she stepped forward and laid the doll in Effie's hands. Nurse
Johnstone eagerly explained: I said 'Come unto Me,' and she thought it
meant me, poor little lamb, and it's a shame there should be
such ignorance in a Christian land! All this time Effie was hugging
her dolly in a silent rapture. Her wish was granted, and wasn't it
strange that it should have been granted just so?
Do you want to know more about little Effie? There isn't much more
to tell. All the kindness and care which she received in Great Ormond
Street could not make her well again. She had no constitution, the
doctors said, and no strength. She lived a good many weeks, however,
and they were the happiest weeks of her life, I think. Dolly Varden was
always beside her, and Dolly was clasped tight in her arms when she
finally fell asleep to waken up no more. Nurse Johnstone, who had
learned to love the little girl dearly, wanted to lay the doll in the
small coffin; but the other nurses said it would be a pity to do so.
There are so few dolls and so many children in the world, you know; so
in the end Dolly Varden was given to another little sick girl, who took
as much pleasure in her as Effie had done.
So Effie's wish was granted, though only for a little while. It is
very often so with wishes which we make in this world. But I am very
sure that Effie doesn't miss the dolly or anything else in the happy
world to which she has gone, and that the wishes granted there are
granted fully and forever, and more freely and abundantly than we who
stay behind can even guess.