About the Author:
Janet Lunn is one of Canada’s best loved storytellers for children. She has won many awards for her books, including the Governor General’s Award, the Mr. Christie’s Book Award, and the Vicky Metcalf Award for a body of work. She is a member of the Order of Canada. Janet Lunn was born in Dallas, Texas, and grew up in Vermont and the outskirts of New York City. She came to Canada in 1946 and has lived here ever since. Janet Lunn is respected for her historical fiction focussing on American and Canadian history. She passed away in 2017.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
The twins found the doll on a cold wet Saturday in early spring. They found it in an antique shop, which was odd because neither Jane nor Elizabeth had ever thought of going into an antique shop before. At age twelve, they didn’t think much about dolls anymore, either. And yet, on this rainy Saturday morning, they did both.
They were hurrying up Yonge Street, already late home, not paying much attention to anyone or anything they passed, when suddenly they stopped. Both at once, as though they’d been jerked by an invisible cord. They turned, splashed across the sidewalk, and stared into the window of a little shop. ANTIQUES, DOLLS MENDED, it said in scratched gold letters across its front. In the window there were old books, bits of tarnished jewelry, china dolls’ heads, old cups – and the little wooden doll.
The doll was about seven inches high, with arms that stuck straight out from its sides. Its clothes were a dress and bonnet of a bygone time, tattered and faded to a soft pink-brown color. Its feet were a pair of black velvet boots with most of the velvet gone. The paint was worn from its face and chipped in spots. Except for its eyes, which were still a deep and shining blue, the doll was a neglected and forlorn little thing. Not a beauty in any way.
What was it about the doll? Jammed between a dusty green glass bowl and a broken clock, it was hard to see. But the twins had seen it, it had stopped them, pulled them, and held them spellbound.
For quite a while, they stood and stared. People bumped past. Rain drizzled uncomfortably down the necks of their yellow slickers and into the tops of their boots. Still they stood.
“Let’s go look,” Elizabeth said finally, walking toward the shop entrance.
“We promised to go home and baby-sit William,” Jane remembered.
“We only need to stay a minute.” Elizabeth’s foot was already on the doorstep.
Usually it was sensible Jane who prevailed but this time, probably because she wanted to so badly, she followed her sister.
Inside, the shop was dark and dusty but warm. All the twins could see at first were vague shapes that turned out, in a minute or two, to be high-backed chairs, bedsteads, tables, and more of the things that cluttered the window.
From somewhere at the back, a woman appeared – “sort of like a fairy godmother right up out of nowhere,” Elizabeth said later when she was telling William about it. She was little and old like the doll and seemed to belong to the shop. “How do you do,” she said, and Elizabeth was encouraged by her warm smile.
“We ... we’d like to see the little doll please,” she stammered. Elizabeth didn’t usually stammer. She felt strange and nervous.
“Which doll is it?” asked the woman. “We have quite a few as you can see.”
And, now they could see, the twins noticed that one whole long wall was covered with shelves full of dolls.
Jane took charge. “It’s the one in the window. That one.” She walked over and pointed to the straight back of the window doll.
“Oh,” the woman sounded regretful, “I’m afraid that one isn’t for sale. It’s quite old, you see. I use it just for show.”
Elizabeth felt she had to hold the doll, if only once. “Could we look at it in here, just for a minute,” she pleaded.
“I don’t see why not.” The twins watched breathlessly as the woman reached into the window case, lifted the doll out, and put it carefully into the two pairs of hands stretched out.
Their fingers touched the face gently, straightened the bonnet on its head, smoothed the old shawl. It was not a battered antique doll they held, not at this moment. It was a familiar loved thing, long lost, almost forgotten.
The feeling was gone almost at once, faded, but leaving behind, like a trailing cloud, a slight sense of somewhere else.
With a great sigh Elizabeth handed it to the shop woman. The woman took it, but didn’t move to put it back in the window. She held it, looked at it as though she were trying to make up her mind.
“How much money have you got?” she asked.
The twins poked hands into their pockets and pulled out two dollars and fifty-three cents all told.
“That’ll do,” the woman said. “I’ll get the box.” She was gone and back before they quite realized what she was doing.
The box was as old-looking as the doll. It was leather, just big enough to hold the doll. The leather had peeled off in many spots. More of it rubbed off as the shop woman held it. Its color was faded like the doll’s dress to that same pink-brown shade. It was decorated with studs around its edges and had an elaborately worked catch.
With great care the woman wrapped the doll in a piece of blue cloth from the box, laid it inside, and closed the lid.
“I don’t know why I’m doing this,” she scolded herself. “I should have my head read, I really should, but the doll seems to belong to you. I’d never feel right about keeping it now, I wouldn’t. You take care of it. You take care of it.” She thrust the box into Elizabeth’s hands.
The twins were too bewildered by what had happened to them and too surprised by this sudden gift to say anything. At last Jane remembered her manners.
“Thank you. Thank you very much. We will.” She started toward the door.
“Yes,” said Elizabeth vaguely. It was all she could think of to say. “Yes,” she said again, and trotted after her sister.
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