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Under the Lilacs

A Mysterious Dog
The elm-tree avenue was all overgrown, the great gate was never unlocked, and the old
house had been shut up for several years.
Yet voices were heard about the place, the lilacs nodded over the high wall as if they
said, "We could tell fine secrets if we chose," and the mullein outside the gate made haste
to reach the keyhole, that it might peep in and see what was going on. If it had suddenly
grown up like a magic bean-stalk, and looked in on a certain June day, it would have seen
a droll but pleasant sight, for somebody evidently was going to have a party.
From the gate to the porch went a wide walk, paved with smooth slabs of dark stone, and
bordered with the tall bushes which met overhead, making a green roof. All sorts of
neglected flowers and wild weeds grew between their stems, covering the walls of this
summer parlor with the prettiest tapestry. A board, propped on two blocks of wood, stood
in the middle of the walk, covered with a little plaid shawl much the worse for wear, and
on it a miniature tea-service was set forth with great elegance. To be sure, the tea-pot had
lost its spout, the cream-jug its handle, the sugar-bowl its cover, and the cups and plates
were all more or less cracked or nicked; but polite persons would not take notice of these
trifling deficiencies, and none but polite persons were invited to this party.
On either side of the porch was a seat, and here a somewhat remarkable sight would have
been revealed to any inquisitive eye peering through the aforesaid keyhole. Upon the left-
hand seat lay seven dolls, upon the right-hand seat lay six; and so varied were the
expressions of their countenances, owing to fractures, dirt, age, and other afflictions, that
one would very naturally have thought this a doll's hospital, and these the patients waiting
for their tea.
This, however, would have been a sad mistake; for if the wind had lifted the coverings
laid over them, it would have disclosed the fact that all were in full dress, and merely
reposing before the feast should begin.
There was another interesting feature of the scene which would have puzzled any but
those well acquainted with the manners and customs of dolls. A fourteenth rag baby, with
a china head, hung by her neck from the rusty knocker in the middle of the door. A sprig
of white and one of purple lilac nodded over her, a dress of yellow calico, richly trimmed
with red-flannel scallops, shrouded her slender form, a garland of small flowers crowned
her glossy curls, and a pair of blue boots touched toes in the friendliest, if not the most
graceful, manner. An emotion of grief, as well as of surprise, might well have thrilled any
youthful breast at such a spectacle; for why, oh! why, was this resplendent dolly hung up
there to be stared at by thirteen of her kindred? Was she a criminal, the sight of whose
execution threw them flat upon their backs in speechless horror? Or was she an idol, to be
adored in that humble posture? Neither, my friends. She was blonde Belinda, set, or
rather hung, aloft, in the place of honor, for this was her seventh birthday, and a superb