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Trouble in the Play Room - Harper's

 

"I don't care—I'm just as mad as I can be. To keep me in just for a little rain! I won't be good—I won't play with my dolls. I'm going to whip every one of them, and put them to bed this very minute."

Such a little termagant as Bessie Hatch looked at that moment, with her black eyes flashing, her hands clinched, and her cheeks like two flaming poppies! Half irritated, half amused, Annie, the Irish nurse, regarded her for a moment.

"Indade, but it's a swate timper you have, Bessie Hatch; and I hope for your own sake it'll be minded afore you grow up. It's not I will be lettin' you out, when your ma lift particular orders you wasn't to go if it rained. Just hear how the storm's batin' agin the windows. Your cousin won't expect you at all. Oh, bate your dolls as much as you like!" as Bessie made an angry rush toward them; "it won't hurt their feelin's much, I guess. There's Baby cryin'!" she added, suddenly, and hastened toward the room at the end of the hall.

Bessie meantime had snatched her largest doll from the chair where she was reposing, and belabored her soundly with a piece of whalebone that lay near at hand. Then, after shaking her heartily, she tossed her on to the bed, where she lay with her black eyes shut, as if overcome by her feelings. She was a very handsome wax doll, with chestnut hair done up like a lady's in puffs and curls. She had a somewhat haughty expression, carried her head a little to one side, and was dressed in the "latest style." Grace, a porcelain-headed doll, dressed simply in a blue muslin and a white apron, received her punishment next, and was deposited by Miss Augusta's side.

But Winnie, dear Winnie, Bessie's favorite doll, could she have the heart to punish her this way?—Winnie, with her golden-brown curls and beautiful hazel eyes, and her dear little face rounded and moulded like a child's. How lovely was her smiling mouth! With what confiding affection she seemed to look up at Bessie, as the latter took her up in a hesitating way! But the recollection of her lost pleasure came back to her, and with it the spite and anger that had animated her a moment before. Winnie received her whipping like the rest; but instead of tossing her on the bed, Bessie set her back in her little chair, turning her face to the window that she might not see it.

Somehow her anger seemed to have spent itself with that last whipping, and a feeling of shame was creeping into her little heart. She had intended to go through her baby-house, chastising all its inmates, but instead she took a picture-book, and lay down on the lounge by the window.

How quiet everything seemed! Annie had carried Baby down stairs to feed him. She heard no sound but the murmur of the sewing-machine in the next room, where Jane Kennedy, the seamstress, was working. She felt drowsy and sleepy. Slowly her head sank down among the cushions of the lounge, and the drooping eyelids closed.

A rustling sound near her made her open them with a start, and in a minute more she was sitting bolt-upright, staring with all her eyes. For there stood a little figure no taller than Winnie, dressed in a white fleecy robe trailing on the ground. Her soft black hair reached to her feet, and over it she wore a wreath that sparkled like dew-drops in the sun.

"A FROWN WAS ON THE FAIRY'S BROW." "A FROWN WAS ON THE FAIRY'S BROW."

Some fear mingled with Bessie's admiration as she gazed upon her. For a frown was on the fairy's brow, and the dark eyes she fixed upon the child were full of displeasure.

Tap, tap, tap, came the sound of little feet approaching. Bessie looked round, then shrank back, terror-stricken. Well she might, for her dolls Augusta and Grace had somehow found the use of their limbs, and were rapidly nearing the lounge. But they paused not far from the fairy, and reached out their little hands to her with a supplicating gesture.

"Kind fairy! good fairy!" they said, in shrill piping voices, "avenge the wrong done to us. That child, who calls herself our mother, has beaten us cruelly, just because she had nothing else to vent her spite upon; we had done no harm in any way. Punish her, good fairy; make her sorry for having treated us so."

"I will give her into your hands," said the fairy, gravely. "See that you punish her as she deserves."

Bessie, who lay trembling and burning with mingled fear and shame, now rallied her courage, and raised her head again. She could not help laughing at the idea of her own dolls punishing her.

"You foolish little fairy!" she said, laughing; "I could manage them both with one hand; and if—"

She stopped aghast, for the fairy raised her wand, and it flashed like a dazzling sunbeam full in the child's eyes. She covered them with her hands, glancing up just in time to see the fairy float away on her silver wings.

But how came she, Bessie, on the floor, and why did it seem like a great meadow stretching around her? The lounge had become a mountain, and the ceiling of the room looked nearly as broad as the sky.

It was the same room, the same familiar objects, only how monstrous everything had grown! Was that immense building in the corner her baby-house?

Bessie's little head swam; her heart beat tumultuously. A light mocking laugh near her made her glance quickly round.

Who was this tall figure in a trailing gray silk, looking down at her with severe triumph in her black eyes? That chestnut hair, that beautiful red and white complexion—could this be Augusta, her own doll?

With a scream of terror, Bessie was darting away, but waxen fingers seized her tender little arm, closing tightly upon it. Oh, how they hurt! She struggled and kicked, but could not get away.

"Let me go!" she cried out; "I'll pay you off well, Miss Augusta, if you don't. Remember, you're my doll—"

"Pay me off!" cried Augusta, with another shrill laugh. "You poor silly midget! don't you know how the fairy's wand has changed you? Why, you don't reach to my knee. No; I am going to pay you off, and handsomely too. Grace, bring that piece of whalebone directly."

"If you dare!" cried Bessie; but Grace clattered up toward her, her stolid countenance fairly beaming. Bessie tried to dodge behind Augusta, but she held her tightly by both arms.

"Lay it well over her shoulders, Grace; make 'em tingle!" she cried; and thick and fast fell the blows, while poor Bessie writhed and protested and threatened in vain. When Grace's arm was tired, Augusta took her turn. After beating Bessie to her heart's content, she seized the child by her shoulders, and shook her till her head fairly turned round.

"There!" she said, tossing her on to the doll's bed in the corner; "lie there, miss, till Winnie comes. Poor thing! she's gone away to cry somewhere, but as soon as she comes back she shall have her chance. Come, Grace, we will go for a walk."

She walked haughtily away, followed by the admiring Grace. Poor Bessie lay sobbing and crying. Her shoulders and back were smarting, her little arms black and blue from the pressure of Augusta's fingers.

"I'll run away and hide somewhere," she said at last.

Creeping off the bed very cautiously, she was stealing away, when something seized her again. She gave a cry of despair, and looking up, saw Winnie's sweet face.

"Who are you?" she asked. "Are you a new doll?" holding her gently but firmly.

"Oh, Winnie!" said Bessie, and hid her face in shame. Augusta came mincing up with a triumphant air, and related the action of the fairy.

"Now it's your turn," she said, handing the whalebone to Winnie. But she tossed it indignantly aside.

"Strike her! Never! No; I would rather remember her kindness to me. Don't cry, little mother," she added, stooping to kiss her. "If the fairy comes again, I will ask her to change you back."

"No, no!" cried Augusta and Grace, in a terrible fright, but Bessie did not hear. She was sobbing with her face in Winnie's neck.

"Oh, Winnie! Winnie! how can you be so kind? I would rather you gave me a beating."

But Winnie wiped her eyes, and smiled so brightly on her that Bessie's heart began to revive a little. Ere long they were playing together, and it would have been rare sport for any child to see Winnie wheeling Bessie in a tiny tin cart no bigger than a match-box. Then they had a grand game of hide-and-seek in the stocking basket Annie had left on the floor. Grace soon joined them, while Augusta, quite gracious by this time, sat eying them complacently from her arm-chair.


"Bessie! Bessie! your mamma's come in, and wants to see you."

Bessie started up, rubbing her eyes. She looked in a dazed sort of way at Annie, then at the corner where she kept her dolls. There they sat, all three in a row as usual.

"Who put them there—my dolls? Did they really whip me?" she asked, confusedly. Then she blushed, and hung her little head.

"Who put thim there? Why, I reckon they got tired of lying on the bed, and walked over to their chairs," said Annie, with a mischievous gleam in her eye.

"You put them there," said Bessie; but she wished she could feel quite sure. Catching up her darling Winnie, she walked off to her mother's room.

All the rest of that day Bessie treated Augusta and Grace with the utmost respect; and when she had undressed them and put them to bed, she lingered as if anxious to say something. At last she stooped down and whispered: "I don't believe it's true; but I'll never whip you or get into such a passion again. I didn't know how ugly it was till I saw you behave so yourselves. And please, if it is true, don't ask the fairy to make me little again, for I mean to be good now."

As for Winnie, darling Winnie, she lay all night in Bessie's arms, her head hugged close to her breast. And the piece of whalebone stood bolt-upright in Bessie's match-box, where she had stuck it that it might always remind her of the lesson of that day.