A Sweet Little Dear

A poem by Juliana Horatia Ewing

I always was a remarkable child; so old for my age, and such a sensitive nature!--Mamma often says so.
And I'm the sweetest, little dear in my blue ribbons, and quite a picture in my Pompadour hat!--Mrs. Brown told her so on Sunday, and that's how I know.
And I'm a sacred responsibility to my parents--(it was what the clergyman's wife at the seaside said),
And a solemn charge, and a fair white page, and a tender bud, and a spotless nature of wax to be moulded;--but the rest of it has gone out of my head.
There was a lot more, and she left two books as well, and I think she called me a Privilege, and Mamma said "Yes," and began to cry.
And Nurse came in with luncheon on a tray, and put away the books, and said she was as weak as a kitten, and worried to fiddlestrings, as any one with common sense could see with half an eye.
I was hopping round the room, but I stopped and said, "My kitten's not weak, and I don't believe anybody could see with only half an eye. Could they, Mamma?"
And Nurse said, "Go and play, my dear, and let your Mamma rest;" but Mamma said, "No, my love, stay where you are.
Dear Nurse, lift me up, and put a pillow to my back, I know you mean to be kind;
But she does ask such remarkable questions, and while I've strength to speak, don't let me check the inquiring mind.
If I should fail to be all a mother ought--oh, how my head throbs when the dear child jumps!" and then Nurse said, "Ugh!
When you're worried into your grave, she'll have no mother at all, and'll have to tumble up as other folks do.
There's the poor master at his wits' end--a child's not all a grown person has to think of--and Miss Jane would do well enough if she'd less of her own way;
But there's more children spoilt with care than the want of it, and more mothers murdered than there's folks hanged for, and that's what I say.
Children learns what you teach 'em, and Miss Jane's old enough to have learned to wait upon you:
And if her mother thought less of her and she thought more of her mother, it would be better for her too."
But Nurse is a nasty cross old thing--I hate her; and I hate the doctor, for he wanted me to be left behind
When Mamma went to the sea for her health; but I begged and begged till she promised I should go, for Mamma is always kind.
And she bought me a new wooden spade and a basket, and a red and green ship with three masts, and a one-and-sixpenny telescope to look at the sea;
But when I got on to the sands, I thought I'd rather be on the esplanade, for there was a little girl there who was looking at me,
Dressed in a navy-blue suit and a sailor hat, with fair hair tied with ribbons; so I told Mamma,
And she got me a suit, ready-made (but she said it was dreadfully dear), and a hat to match, in the Pebble Brooch Repository and Universal Bazaar.
It faded in the sun, and came all to pieces in the wash; but I was tired of it before.
For the esplanade is very dull, and the little girl with fair hair had got sand-boots and a shrimping-net and was playing on the shore.
And when my sand-boots came home, and I'd got a better net than hers, she went donkey-riding, and I knew it was to tease me,
But Nurse was so cross, and said if they sent a man in a herring-boat to the moon for what I wanted that nothing would please me.
So I said the seaside was a very disagreeable place, and I wished I hadn't come,
And I told Mamma so, and begged her to try and get well soon, to take us all home.
But now we've got home, it's very hot, and I'm afraid of the wasps; and I'm sure it was cooler at the sea,
And the Smiths won't be back for a fortnight, so I can't even have Matilda to tea.
I don't care much for my new doll--I think I'm too old for dolls now; I like books better, though I didn't like the last,
And I've read all I have: I always skip the dull parts, and when you skip a good deal you get through them so fast.
I like toys if they're the best kind, with works; though when I've had one good game with them, I don't much care to play with them again.
I feel as if I wanted something new to amuse me, and Mamma says it's because I've got such an active brain.
Nurse says I don't know what I want, and I know I don't, and that's just what it is.
It seems so sad a young creature like me should feel unhappy, and not know what's amiss;
But Nurse never thinks of my feelings, any more than the cruel nurse in the story about the little girl who was so good,
And if I die early as she did, perhaps then people will be sorry I've been misunderstood.
I shouldn't like to die early, but I should like people to be sorry for me, and to praise me when I was dead:
If I could only come to life again when they had missed me very much, and I'd heard what they said--
Of course that's impossible, I know, but I wish I knew what to do instead!
It seems such a pity that a sweet little dear like me should ever be sad.
And Mamma says she buys everything I want, and has taught me everything I will learn, and reads every book, and takes every hint she can pick up, and keeps me with her all day, and worries about me all night, till she's nearly mad;
And if any kind person can think of any better way to make me happy we shall both of us be glad.

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