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Jenny Wren
by [?]

Her real name was Fanny Cleaver, but she had long ago dropped it, and chosen to bestow upon herself the fanciful appellation of Miss Jenny Wren, by which title she was known to the entire circle of her friends and business acquaintances.

Miss Wren’s home was in a certain little street called Church Street, running out from a certain square called Smith Square, at Millbank, and there the little lady plied her trade, early and late, having for companions her father and a lodger, Lizzie Hexam. Her father had once been a good workman at his own trade, but unfortunately for poor little Jenny Wren, was so weak in character and so confirmed in bad habits that she could place no trust in him, and had come to consider herself the head of the family, and to speak of him as “my child,” or “my bad boy,” ordering him about as if he were in truth, a child.

When Lizzie Hexam’s brother and a friend, Bradley Headstone, paid their first visit to the house on Church Street, they knocked at the door, which promptly opened and disclosed a child–a dwarf, a girl–sitting on a little, low, old-fashioned arm-chair, which had a kind of little working-bench before it.

“I can’t get up,” said the child, “because my back’s bad and my legs are queer. But I’m the person of the house.”

“Who else is at home?” asked Charley Hexam, staring?

“Nobody’s at home at present,” returned the child, with a glib assertion of her dignity, “except the person of the house.”

The queer little figure, and the queer, but not ugly little face, with its bright grey eyes, was so sharp that the sharpness of the manner seemed unavoidable.

The person of the house continued the conversation: “Your sister will be in,” she said, “in about a quarter of an hour. I’m very fond of your sister. Take a seat. And would you please to shut the street door first? I can’t very well do it myself, because my back’s so bad and my legs are so queer.”

They complied, and the little figure went on with its work of gumming or gluing together pieces of cardboard and thin wood, cut into various shapes. The scissors and knives upon the bench, showed that the child herself had cut them; and the bright scraps of velvet and silk and ribbon also strewn upon the bench showed that when duly stuffed, she was to cover them smartly. The dexterity of her nimble fingers was remarkable, and as she brought two thin edges accurately together by giving them a little bite, she would glance at the visitors out of the corners of her grey eyes with a look that out-sharpened all her other sharpness.

“You can’t tell me the name of my trade, I’ll be bound,” she said.

“You make pincushions,” said Charley.

“What else do I make?”

“Penwipers,” said his friend.

“Ha, ha! What else do I make?”

“You do something,” he returned, pointing to a corner of the little bench, “with straw; but I don’t know what.”

“Well done, you!” cried the person of the house. “I only make pincushions and penwipers, to use up my waste. But my straw really does belong to my business. Try again. What do I make with my straw?”


“Dinner-mats! I’ll give you a clue to my trade in a game of forfeits. I love my love with a B because she’s beautiful; I hate my love with a B because she is brazen; I took her to the sign of the Blue Boar; and I treated her with Bonnets; her name’s Bouncer and she lives in Bedlam–now, what do I make with my straw?”

“Ladies’ bonnets?”

“Fine ladies’,” said the person of the house, nodding assent. “Dolls’. I’m a Doll’s dressmaker.”

“I hope it’s a good business?”

The person of the house shrugged her shoulders and shook her head. “No. Poorly paid. And I’m often so pressed for time. I had a doll married last week, and was obliged to work all night. And they take no care of their clothes, and they never keep to the same fashions a month. I work for a doll with three daughters. Bless you, she’s enough to ruin her husband!” The person of the house gave a weird little laugh, and gave them another look but of the corners of her eyes. She had an elfin chin that was capable of great expression; and whenever she gave this look, she hitched this chin up, as if her eyes and her chin worked together on the same wires.