« PreviousContinue »
HE rest of the Toys having thanked
the Hoop for his story, he once more
rolled himself lazily into a comfortable position, and took his rights by calling upon the leaden Teapot, to entertain them next. But such an uproar arose among all the leaden Teathings; the cups and saucers, clattering and clanking like mad, and the milk jug even mounting on the sugar basin to be heard the better, that for a few moments no one could be heard. But the little Teapot set to work vigorously, and soon reduced her unruly family to order. She rolled one teacup here, and bowled over another there, piled up the plates before they knew where they were, and toppled down the milk jug into its proper place, before it recovered enough to defend itself. Then she sat down and
volubly began her story, while her tribe were temporarily pacified.
“I am afraid,” said she, “you will not like my story at all, for it's not half so lively and entertaining as the Hoop's, in fact there's nothing merry about it, but quite the reverse. I can tell you nothing of my birthplace or of my original history, for you see I've had a large family to keep together, and look after, and I've been so battered and knocked about in my course through life, that my memory is sadly impaired. So I can only tell you that we all came from Germany, where we were made, and were carefully packed in a little pasteboard box, in which we travelled to the English house to which we were sent, with numbers of others. We remained for some time in seclusion on the shelf of the toy warehouse, and were then drafted off to a little toy-shop at the West end of London. Our present owner was a notable little woman, the wife of a head workman at a large cabinet manufactory, and as she had two or three small children, she was glad to make ends meet by fitting out her front parlour as a little toyshop. It was a very quiet, nice street, not far from a large hotel, and as the rents were rather high, the houses were only let to fairly respectable people. The little woman let her first floor, neatly, but plainly, furnished, to an elderly lady; and by all these small helps, added to her husband's wages, they lived very comfortably, and brought up their little ones nicely. A
A younger sister of the wife's lived with them, and was a great help in waiting on the old lady and in serving the customers.
Rose was such a good-tempered girl, she was a great favourite with all the young purchasers; she never cared what trouble she took to suit them, and turned over the whole stock of toys that she might find what they wanted. All the little poor children in the neighbourhood used to watch to see when she came into the shop to make their small bargains. She never grumbled
. while they picked out the prettiest faces that suited their fancy among the halfpenny wooden dolls, and she kept a choice corner of very cheap toys on purpose for all these little ones, who so rarely knew what the pleasure of buying a toy was. But I think she had her reward when she saw the little eyes nearly sparkle, and the pale,
thin faces get a little colour, as they trotted happily off with their few and scanty treasures cuddled up in their old ragged pinafores. We lay for a long time on the counter with our lid off, to tempt the young folks who came to the shop, so I had some opportunity to see all the different customers.' I
suppose my own busy, careful life, with all my tribe of young ones, has made me understand all these things better, for I remember so much of this time, while I have forgotten a great deal else. How often I have seen the richer class of children come in with their governesses or servants, and just glancing over the toys carelessly, they have selected what they wanted, and have gone off, with no more than a passing pleasure with their possessions. And very likely in a fortnight the same party have returned again, and carried off something else, feeling more careless than before at the sight of the playthings they had almost exhausted.
Different to them, as station and dress could make them, were Rose's little friends. The golden hair, or dark braids of the little ladies, and their flower-like faces, set off with their trim hats, and tasteful, cool, well-made dresses, did not contrast more strongly with the sallow faces, ragged, short locks, tangled with wind and weather, and the patched or ragged garments of the poorer children, than did their manners and wants. These latter little ones were the small evening audience who flattened their noses against the bright, gas-lighted window of the gay toy-shop, and who knew all its contents by heart, as well as its owner. But they never hoped, poor little souls ! except in dreams, for all these beautiful toys. Dirty little Polly, who stood pointing with her smutty finger, and elbowing her sister to look at the grand doll dressed in muslin and ribbon, only gazed at it in a sort of ecstatic rapture, and had no more idea, indeed far less, of having it for her very own, than little Lady Edith had of owning the Crystal Palace. Pence, scanty, hard-earned pence, were too much wanted for bread and food, to be easily got to lay out even in two half-penny dolls in a year! But when a happy piece of good fortune did come about, and these poor little creatures really had a whole penny they could call their own, oh, how difficult it was to spend it! How much they