THE DOLL’S GHOST
It was a terrible accident, and for one moment the splendid machinery of Cranston House got out of gear and stood still. The butler emerged from the retirement in which he spent his elegant leisure, two grooms of the chambers appeared simultaneously from opposite directions, there were actually housemaids on the grand staircase, and those who remember the facts most exactly assert that Mrs. Pringle herself positively stood upon the landing. Mrs. Pringle was the housekeeper. As for the head nurse, the under nurse, and the nursery maid, their feelings cannot be described. The head nurse laid one hand upon the polished marble balustrade and stared stupidly before her, the under nurse stood rigid and pale, leaning against the polished marble wall, and the nursery-maid collapsed and sat down upon the polished marble step, just beyond the limits of the velvet carpet, and frankly burst into tears.
The Lady Gwendolen Lancaster-Douglas-Scroop, youngest daughter of the ninth Duke of Cranston, and aged six years and three months, picked herself up quite alone, and sat down on the third step[Pg 282] from the foot of the grand staircase in Cranston House.
“Oh!” ejaculated the butler, and he disappeared again.
“Ah!” responded the grooms of the chambers, as they also went away.
“It’s only that doll,” Mrs. Pringle was distinctly heard to say, in a tone of contempt.
The under nurse heard her say it. Then the three nurses gathered round Lady Gwendolen and patted her, and gave her unhealthy things out of their pockets, and hurried her out of Cranston House as fast as they could, lest it should be found out upstairs that they had allowed the Lady Gwendolen Lancaster-Douglas-Scroop to tumble down the grand staircase with her doll in her arms. And as the doll was badly broken, the nursery-maid carried it, with the pieces, wrapped up in Lady Gwendolen’s little cloak. It was not far to Hyde Park, and when they had reached a quiet place they took means to find out that Lady Gwendolen had no bruises. For the carpet was very thick and soft, and there was thick stuff under it to make it softer.
Lady Gwendolen Douglas-Scroop sometimes yelled, but she never cried. It was because she had yelled that the nurse had allowed her to go downstairs alone with Nina, the doll, under one[Pg 283] arm, while she steadied herself with her other hand on the balustrade, and trod upon the polished marble steps beyond the edge of the carpet. So she had fallen, and Nina had come to grief.
When the nurses were quite sure that she was not hurt, they unwrapped the doll and looked at her in her turn. She had been a very beautiful doll, very large, and fair, and healthy, with real yellow hair, and eyelids that would open and shut over very grown-up dark eyes. Moreover, when you moved her right arm up and down she said “Pa-pa,” and when you moved the left she said “Ma-ma,” very distinctly.
“I heard her say ‘Pa’ when she fell,” said the under nurse, who heard everything. “But she ought to have said ‘Pa-pa.'”
“That’s because her arm went up when she hit the step,” said the head nurse. “She’ll say the other ‘Pa’ when I put it down again.”
“Pa,” said Nina, as her right arm was pushed down, and speaking through her broken face. It was cracked right across, from the upper corner of the forehead, with a hideous gash, through the nose and down to the little frilled collar of the pale green silk Mother Hubbard frock, and two little three-cornered pieces of porcelain had fallen out.
“I’m sure it’s a wonder she can speak at all, being all smashed,” said the under nurse.
“You’ll have to take her to Mr. Puckler,” said her superior. “It’s not far, and you’d better go at once.”
Lady Gwendolen was occupied in digging a hole in the ground with a little spade, and paid no attention to the nurses.
“What are you doing?” enquired the nursery-maid, looking on.
“Nina’s dead, and I’m diggin’ her a grave,” replied her ladyship thoughtfully.
“Oh, she’ll come to life again all right,” said the nursery-maid.
The under nurse wrapped Nina up again and departed. Fortunately a kind soldier, with very long legs and a very small cap, happened to be there; and as he had nothing to do, he offered to see the under nurse safely to Mr. Puckler’s and back.
Categories: The Book Lover