Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page




A St. Ulric Doll

by the Author of Catskill Fairies

The steam-ship Columbine was crossing the ocean from Liverpool to New York. On the deck the passengers walked about, looking at the sea and sky. Occasionally they saw a flock of gulls circling about overhead, or a shoal of dolphins leaping up in the blue waves. Among these passengers was the shy gentleman. Now the shy gentleman was tall and large, with a full brown beard, which should have made him quite bold, but he was not. If a stranger spoke to him, he blushed, and if he tried to say something really wise, he merely stammered, so that his meaning was lost. As for tea-cups and wine-glasses, he always broke them with his elbow, or by allowing them to slip through his big fingers, while chairs and little tables seemed placed in his way for the sole purpose of his tumbling over them.

In his cabin was his portmanteau, filled with all sorts of treasures. A Paris doll and her wardrobe were given the place of honor. The beautiful blonde hair of this fashionable lady must not be disarranged, and the boxes containing her dresses and gloves, her boots, mantles, and parasols, required much space. She was a very important person. In a corner was wedged the case of one of those mechanical bears covered with black fur, and wound up by means of a key in his side. In the opposite corner were the Venetian lion of St. Mark, made of brass, trinkets of straw and glass, and a little Neapolitan boy in mosaic on the lid of a box. The St. Ulric doll, folded in a bit of tissue-paper, had been allowed to fall down anywhere. She was made of a single stick of wood, with a head carved on top, but without arms or legs, like the Italian babies, who are wound about with cloths until they resemble little mummies.

She remained quietly where she had been placed, between a flannel waistcoat and a pair of stockings, with her head resting on a meerschaum pipe. She thought of her home, and sighed. Yes, she was homesick, because she loved her own land as only the Tyrolese and the Swiss love their native mountains.

The shy gentleman had bought the St. Ulric doll at a booth under the stone archway of one of the streets of Botzen. He could not carry away with him the beautiful Austrian Tyrol, except as pictures in his own mind, and therefore he picked up the droll and ugly little St. Ulric doll.

"When I give the doll to Nelly, I will tell her about the mountain peaks where the hunters climb to shoot the chamois and the black-cock, and the valleys down toward Italy where the grapes ripen, and all about the castles perched like watch-towers along the Brenner route," thought the shy gentleman, wrapping the purchase in the bit of tissue-paper. "I must not forget to add that this Brenner Pass, where the traveller of to-day journeys on the railway from Munich to Verona, is one of the oldest highways in the world; the Etruscan merchants used to pass here, trading in iron with the Northern nations, long before the Romans."

One day a tremendous rattling was heard inside the case of the mechanical bear.

"What is the matter? Are you seasick?" inquired the lion of St. Mark.

"No," grumbled the mechanical bear. "I have been standing on my head too long, and if this voyage does not soon end, my machinery will be out of order. I shall growl at the wrong time."

"We must be gifts for children. I hope they will like us," said the St. Ulric doll.

"I hope we shall like them," said the French doll. "I come from a shop window on the Boulevard des Italiens. How can I live out of Paris!"

Just then the lid of the portmanteau was lifted, and a Custom-house officer looked in. The steamer had reached New York.

"Here he is, mamma!" cried a little girl, as a carriage paused before the door of a house on Gramercy Square.

She had been looking out of the window. Now she ran down stairs, and opened the front door. Two gentlemen got out of the carriage; one was her uncle Fred, and the other a traveller with a brown beard, whose arms were full of mysterious parcels and boxes. This was the shy gentleman, and Nelly had always found him a good friend. Soon the parcels were distributed. The mosaic box was for mother, the brass lion for Uncle Fred, and all the rest for Nelly. She was wild with delight. The Paris doll fascinated her. All her friends were invited to admire the lady from the Boulevards. Nelly could not eat, or sleep, or study her lessons. She tried on all the dresses, gloves, bonnets, and shoes.

The St. Ulric doll had been glanced at, laid on the table, and forgotten. At length Nelly wearied of so much splendor, and her mother found the Paris doll too fine for every-day play. Nelly noticed the St. Ulric doll then.

"You have no clothes, poor thing," she said.

She opened her own work-box, sought in a bag for a piece of blue flannel, and began to sew. Soon the St. Ulric doll was clothed. To be sure, her gown was like a bag tied about her neck.

Nelly's mother, a pretty widow, said, "I did not know he loved me."

Nelly whispered to the St. Ulric doll that her mother was to marry the shy gentleman.

"I thought there was a good reason for bringing us across the sea," said the St. Ulric doll to the mechanical bear and the Paris lady.

The latter was out of temper.

"Already the little girl loves you best, because she has made your gown herself," she said.