How old was I when I smashed the fair doll’s face? I remember vividly the satisfaction of being wicked. The guilt that was half triumph.
Two dolls had arrived from England, a present from Irish Granny I suppose. One was fair, one was dark. Both beautiful. But as soon as I saw the dark doll I wanted her as I had never wanted anything in my life before. While I was still gazing my little sister made a quick grab.
“Oh no,” I said. “Oh no, I saw her first.”
But when I tried to take the doll away she yelled and my mother rushed to her rescue.
“You must let your little sister have it. You don’t want to grow up a selfish girl whom nobody will love, do you?”
“I don’t care.”
“Silly. You ought to be pleased she’s so happy.”
“Now here’s the fair one. She’s just as pretty. Even prettier. And look, her eyes open and shut.”
“I don’t like her,” I said.
“Don’t be silly. Don’t be selfish.”
With the fair doll in my arms I walked away.
“Where are you going?”
“Into the garden.” I walked out of the sun, into the shadow of the big mango tree. I laid the fair doll down. Her eyes were shut. Then I searched for a big stone, brought it down with all my force on her face and heard the smashing sound with delight.
There was a great fuss about this. Why? Why had I done such a naughty, such a really wicked thing?”
I didn’t know. I was puzzled myself. Only I was sure that I must do it and for me it was right. My mother was so uneasy that she spoke to my father about my extraordinary behaviour.
In his consulting-room I stood and looked at him. I’d asked my mother once. “What colour are his eyes?”
“Your father has beautiful hazel eyes,” she’d answered.
Hazel. A new word. I must remember that.
And now what? What’s going to happen?
“What am I going to do with you? It was a very stupid thing to do,” he said, looking away.
“I wanted the other one. I saw her first,” I managed to say. “She only wanted it because I did. It wasn’t fair.”
“Nothing is fair,” he answered rather grimly. “Nothing. And the sooner you understand that the better. You weren’t very fair to the poor doll if it comes to that. So silly, so naughty. Why not give it away if you didn’t want it?”
This was a new idea. Why not? No, that wouldn’t have been enough.
“Your mother thinks that Great-aunt Jane spoils you,” he said, still looking away. “Encourages you to imagine that you must always get your own way or you will kick up a hell of a row. Perhaps you’d better stay here instead of going to Geneva next week.”
Not go to Geneva? Not see Great-aunt Jane?
“Oh no, no!”
“Well, this time, then. But you must not worry your mother like this. I will not have it. You must turn over a new leaf or I’ll be very angry.”
But he hadn’t told me why I’d done it and I thought he knew everything.
It was only in Great-aunt Jane’s arms that I could talk about it.
“They are always expecting me to do things I don’t want to do and I won’t. I won’t. I won’t. I think about it all the time. I’ll never do it again.” (Never, never.)
She said, “Don’t think about it anymore.”
For the first time I wept for the fair doll. “I’ll bury her in the garden,” I sniffed. “I’ll put flowers on her grave.”
“Well now, that will be a nice thing to do,” said Aunt Jane.
“I can’t imagine what will become of you,” my mother often said. And Auntie B doesn’t like me because I hate sewing.