Street Corner Society

Skip to site-wide links.

Children's Story Garden  >  An Inventory

Girl standing in wild undergrowth, casting milkwood seeds to the breeze.

The Children's Story Garden

An Inventory


FRANCES felt very sorry for herself as she sat in First-day school just one month before Christmas. The superintendent was asking all the children please to bring some of their toys — "even some of those you are very fond of" — to pack into boxes to be sent to poor little children who hadn't anything to play with. Frances tried hard to think of something she could spare, and she stared up at the superintendent with such. big mournful round eyes that he gave her a special little smile. all for herself as he said, "Maybe you can't remember all your playthings now, and think that if you gave away two or three dolls or animals or books, you would have nothing left. Let me tell you what to do. When you go home, sit down and write out a list of all the things you own, and then see if you can spare one-tenth of them for the little children who have nothing." The superintendent knew that Frances lived in a small house with her mother, who taught school all day, and that probably Frances hadn't as many toys as other children. But, perhaps, she could spare just a few.

While Frances was wiping the dishes for her mother after their cosy little dinner, she told her what the superintendent had said. Now she was going to give away one out of every ten of her playthings. "That doesn't seem like much, but then I haven't very much," she added, a little shamefaced.

With a big yellow tablet and a nice red, white and blue pencil, Frances sat down at the little table in her own bedroom next to mother's. First, she started to write everything in sight; the little table and white chair that went with it, the doll's bureau and bed, a swinging hammock on a tiny frame that held her best china doll Irene, a set of small dishes arranged on another little table. Then her eyes fell on her bookshelves in the corner and she started to write down the titles — "Little Men," "Little Women," "Water Babies" — but this took too long, so she counted them up carefully and was surprised to find forty-eight, some thick, some thin, but all with pictures and greatly treasured. She glanced up at the walls. She had almost forgotten her Mother Goose pictures in gilt frames, and Jack, the Giant Killer, shinnying up the bean-stalk in his scarlet coat; twelve pictures altogether. That must be about all, except her dolls.

She went to the closet to count them: Little Lord Fauntleroy in a knit suit; a big Kewpie with a wide sash; twin unbreakable babies in long clothes; a rag doll with cotton leaking from its neck; old china Sallie with pantalettes, the doll that had belonged to mother when she was little; Irene, of course, her very best child — Frances was amazed to find fifteen of them, not counting the Teddy Bear or the fuzzy dog.

She Opened Each Drawer of the Dolls' Bureau

Then she remembered the shelf full of games and paper dolls, and she filled two more sheets of the tablet, carefully copying the names off the lids. There was one box of little china animals — she counted them up. The dolls' clothes occurred to her, and she opened each drawer of the dolls' bureau and counted the little dresses and hats and tiny shoes. She was almost scared at the way the list was growing.

Finally, after filling another sheet with treasures in the big bureau where her clothes were kept, she danced in to mother in the sitting-room, waving the paper and shouting, "I'm through! Now please help me add them up."

"Did you forget the cup and saucer and bowl in the sideboard that grandma gave you when you were sick; or your work-basket on the table" (mother looked around the room), "or those copies of St. Nicholas, or the crayons on my desk ——"

"Stop, mother — please don't go so fast!" cried Frances, writing wildly. Then she walked all around the other rooms and was very quiet for a long time. Finally, she came back to mother and laid eight closely filled sheets of paper on her lap.

"Mother," she asked thoughtfully, "don't the little Belgian and French children have a single thing — not even one doll?"

"No, the homes of many of them have been burned, and they have not a single toy left."

"Well, I have added these up myself," Frances continued, "and I own two hundred and fifty-eight things to play with. I divided ten into that and it goes nearly twenty-six times. I'm going to pick out thirty toys to send in our First-day school box. Wasn't it queer that I thought I had almost nothing! When the superintendent asked us for things, I just remembered that I hadn't a big doll-house like Louisa's, nor a ring like Marion's. Guess I'll send the Belgians one of my twins and the fuzzy dog ——" Frances dashed off happily to gather her tenth together.

Next story ...>

In The Children's Story Garden. Stories collected by a committee of the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting — Anna Pettit Broomell, Emily Cooper Johnson, Elizabeth W. Collins, Alice Hall Paxson, Annie Hillborn, and Anna D. White. Illustrated by Katharine Richardson Wireman and Eugénie M. Wireman. Published in 1920 by J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.