English Literature

The Story of Live Dolls by Josephine Scribner Gates

The Story of Live Dolls by Josephine Scribner Gates.jpg


“Look, what’s coming!” and with a shout of delight the children of Cloverdale village left their play and rushed into the street.

What do you think they saw?


A tiny gilded coach drawn by two beautiful white kittens, with reins of blue ribbons covered with silver bells, and through the coach window the face of a wonderful doll. On her head was a jaunty sailor hat, from under which yellow curls danced in the wind as she nodded and smiled at the children on either side.

From time to time she tossed out a handful of bills, which flew about like little white birds and then fluttered to the ground, where they were eagerly caught up by the fast gathering crowd of children, filled with wonder at the amazing sight. They made a[3] brave effort to keep up with the coach; but the driver cracked his whip, the kittens started at a mad pace down the hill, and with one last nod and smile from the doll in the window, the coach disappeared in a cloud of dust. The children watched it out of sight, then turned to go back.

But what were these bills which, in the excitement, they had forgotten and were still[4]clutching in their hot and dirty hands? Again and again they read these startling words, which stared them in the face:



That was all; and it was to happen to-morrow, for this was the third day.


They looked at one another with eyes growing larger and rounder, and cheeks growing redder than the roses blossoming in the gardens. Then such a chatter began that even the birds had to stop singing to listen.

“I never heard of such a thing!” “How could they?” “Wouldn’t it be perfectly lovely?” And suddenly realizing what a blissful thing was in store for them, if it were really true, the children began to hug each other and dance about and squeal with joy, until their various mothers came to the windows to learn the cause of the commotion. When the little ones caught[6] sight of them, remembering that they had not heard the wonderful news, they shouted:

“Let’s tell our mammas!” and quickly disappeared.

Janie Bell’s home was the nearest. She fairly flew up the steps and tumbled into the door as she said:

“O mamma, it’s going to begin to-morrow! Won’t it be lovely! A doll came in a gold carriage and she threw this bill, and a boy doll drove the white kittens all covered with ribbons and bells, and it was too pretty.… Do you think my dolls could come alive?”


Mamma wiped the little hot face and read the bill.

“It does seem strange, but I don’t know of a lovelier thing that could happen to a little girl than to have her doll come to life. What a fine time there would be in the doll house!” she said, glancing out of the window at a beautiful little house under the trees. It was just like a real house, with a porch across the front, a real door bell, tiny shades and Swiss curtains at the windows, and a little brick chimney upon the roof.

Janie clapped her hands.

“O mamma, won’t it be fine? I can[8] hardly wait.” She flew out of the door and into the doll house.

Each room was in good order, for Janie was a fine housekeeper. Papa had given the dolls’ home to her, thinking that if the little girl learned to keep this one in order she would some day be able to take care of a larger one.

She looked at the parlor with its mimic furniture, a sofa, chairs, piano, and a grate where she could build a fire if mamma were watching. Then she went into the dining-room, where the table was set all ready for dinner. How lovely it would be to see[9] the dolls sitting there and actually eating!

In the kitchen was a little range with an oven, and there Dinah, the black cook, was propped against the wall, looking as if she were only waiting for the magic word to set her marching off getting dinner. Her wig would probably fall off, as it was loose, and her leg was broken. Janie resolved to mend her at once, as it would not do to have her come alive in that condition. She peeped into the dear little pantry at the kettles, skillets and shining pans on the shelves, and at the tiny box marked “Cake.”[10] In one corner was an ice box, in another a flour barrel.

Upstairs there were dolls of all ages and sizes; papa, mamma and children. A little baby in long dresses lay in a cradle, and other dolls were sitting and standing about, some dressed and some, I am sorry to say, stark naked. Janie dressed and arranged them all in various attitudes; then, seized with a sudden inspiration, she exclaimed:

“Well, if it is true, we’ll have the best time in this little house we ever had, and I’m going to get ready for it.”

So she swept it from top to bottom, washed the little windows, tied back[11] the pretty curtains with fresh ribbons, dusted the furniture, made the beds, washed the dolls’ faces, mended Dinah’s leg and fastened her wig, flitted about from room to room, giving each one a last fond look, and then she locked the front door and hung the key on the branch of a tree, where it was safely hidden by the leaves.

The sun was setting and papas were coming home to their suppers. All seemed as usual, but it was a new and very exciting world to this little mother, for the morning was to bring strange doings. Janie hurried in to eat her supper and to get to bed early.


“It seems almost like Christmas, mamma; I can hardly wait for to-morrow,” she said as she kissed her mother good-night. Mamma laughed merrily.

“Well, close your bright eyes, and the birdies will be singing their morning song before you know it,” she said. Janie leaned out of bed to kiss her big dollie, who was sleeping peacefully in a cradle by her side.

No dollie ever had better care, for Janie was a kind little mother. She took her to the table for each meal, gave her a lovely ride every day, and at night carefully undressed her and tucked her into bed.


“Won’t it be beautiful?” Janie whispered, as she gave the cradle a little jog. But Dollie slept on, quite unconscious of the fact that in the morning she was to be as full of life and dancing gaiety as Janie herself. As for Janie, she hardly dared think about it; for if she once began to imagine what bliss was in store for her, she would never get to sleep.

During the night she dreamed all sorts of things. Toward morning it seemed that she and Dollie were riding in an egg-shell coach, drawn by two downy, yellow chickens; Dollie suddenly stood up and began to sing,[14] frightening the chickens, so that they ran away and tipped over the carriage.

Of course, at this catastrophe, Janie wakened; but her dream seemed to go on, and she still heard a voice singing. Could it be her doll?

She hardly dared move, as she remembered what was to happen to-day. She listened a moment and then peeped out. At sight of her, Dollie held up both arms and said—yes, actually said:

“O you dear little mamma, I am so glad you are awake. I want to come into your bed,” and up she popped and climbed in under the covers, and snuggled up exactly as Janie often[15] snuggled up to her mamma. Janie hugged her, but for a moment was too frightened and astonished to speak.

Miss Dollie began to laugh and giggle so loud that papa and mamma came running in.

“It’s true, mamma, it’s true! Look at her!”

“Of course it’s true,” said Dollie; “didn’t the Queen of the Dolls decide that it should be? It had to be true when she said it. But let’s get up and dress; you’ll be s’prised to see what’s happening in the doll house.”

Janie gave a little scream of delight, hopped out of bed and scrambled into[16] her clothes. Dollie was quicker than she, and was soon dressed and standing on a chair by the side of the bed; for Janie had to watch and laugh over the funny spectacle of Dollie dressing herself.

“Now brush my hair, please,” pealed out Miss Dollie as Janie finished. Janie gave her another hug, as she brushed the brown curls around her finger; then they ran pell-mell down the stairway and raced out of the house.


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