Binkie and the Bell Dolls
by Margaret Widdemer
Illustrated by Hattie Longstreet Price
Philadelphia: Penn Publishing Co., 1923
Annabel begins with Rosabel and Florabel, dollies who looks like her, and the black maid/Mammy Dinah Bell (to distinguish her from Dinah, Annabel's own nurse). Rosabel is lost first, then Dinah Bell. When Binkie loses Dinah Bell, the real Dinah, who feels responsible since she was the last to handle the doll, replaces her with a Japanese doll, who becomes, apparently, the new dolls' servant:
So when Nurse came back from her next going-out day Annabel ran to meet her when she came back, and to see what she had.
"Heah yo' is, honey-baby," said Nurse, smiling all over her fat brown face. Heah's a grand new dolly to pay fo' dat Dinah-doll I helped yo' lose."
Annabel opened the queer flat package that her nurse gave her. It was tied with a queer kind of paper string. She pulled the string off, and took off the paper quickly.
There inside of a box lay a Japanese dolly, a little larger than Dinah Bell. This doll had on a red dress, too, but it was crinkly, and it had gilt butterflies printed all over it. The dolly's black hair was smooth and shiny, and done up on top in a knob. She had long queer black eyes and a smooth, cream-colored face.
"Oh, thank you, thank you, darling old nursie!" said Annabel, hugging the new dolly till she squeaked (for she had a squeak inside her). "This is a lovely dolly! I don't think I shall ever love her quite as much as I did dear Dinah Bell, because poor Dinah was named after you, and she looked like you, too. But this is a darling dolly. She can take care of Florabel beautifully. You know Dinah Bell wasn't really Florabel's nurse. She belonged with Rosabel. Oh, Nurse, do you think Dinah could have gone to hunt for Rosabel?"
"I shouldn't wonder one mite, honey," said her nurse, patting Annabel's head. "An' now what's ma honey gwine to call de new dolly?"
"I'd like it to be a name with 'Bell' in it, if I could, said Annabel, looking at the new dolly's funny shiny hairpins. "But then sheought to have a Japanese name. Mother, do little girls in Japan ever have names with 'Bell' in them?"
"Why yes indeed, sweetheart," said her mother, "often and often. How would you like to call the new dolly Bel San? That is Japanese."
So the new dolly was named Bel San, and she took care of Florabel as nice as possible....
Bel San... was a Japanese doll, with slanting black eyes and a yellow skin. Bel San made a very good nurse for Florabel, who was a little girl doll, and needed a nurse to take care of her. Every night when Florabel was put to sleep in her little white doll-bed in the doll-house under the tree, Bel San went to bed too. But she slept on a mat outside Florabel's door, because she was Japanese, and Japanese people do not use the same kind of beds we do.
[Annabel's mother discusses this arrangement; Annabel explains that Dinah Bell's bed must be saved in case she comes back, and that Bel San can't have her own room since Florabel does not want to be left alone. The mother comments:]
..."I never thought of that, dear. And very likely Bel San feels less homesick for Japan that way, too."
"Oh, do you think Bel San is homesick?"...
"Oh, no, I think she likes being here very much," said Annabel's mother, "only perhaps things her seem different o her from Japan, where she came from."
Next morning [Annabel] said to her mother after breakfast, "I am going to take Bel San and Florabel out for a ride in the doll-carriage, and we will hunt for a place to visit that looks Japanese. I don't want Bel San to be homesick."
She put Florabel and Bel San in the doll-carriage, and then she went to hunt for a place that would look Japanese, like the pictures on a screen her mother had.
"I think the corner by the cistern [in the barn] looks a little, little wee bit Japanese, don't you, Bel San?" said Annabel, lifting Bel San out. "Now I'll get some little sticks, and some hay, and build you a little house with a hay roof, like the ones on Mother's screen."
[Annabel constructs the house from twigs, grass, and hay from the loft.]
Annabel picked up Bel San, from where she had been sitting against the wall, and put her in the house. Then she lifted out Florabel.
"You will have to be the foreign lady who comes to visit the Japanese lady," said Annabel, making Floribel walk into Bel San's house and sit down. She had Bel San talk to Florablel a long time, and tell her all about Japan.
[Binkie comes along then and knocks Florabel into the cistern. Florabel is soon replaced by Baby Isabel, who is knocked by Binkie into a crevice in the attic floor. In the meantime, Annabel acquires the French doll Mirabel, but finds she is not very cuddly--the only doll "to love" she has left is Bel San, so her Grandmother begins making her a rag doll, Arabel. Meanwhile, Annabel is going to ride on the loads of hay being brought in, and Binkie joins her.]
Binkie didn't like being held, and he wriggled so that Annabel had to take both hands to hold him with, and let Bel San sit in her lap.
When they came to the barn again, and the hay-cart backed up tot he haymow, Annabel forgot that Bel San was in her lap. She jumped out on the hay, holding tight to Binkie all the time. He tried so hard to get away that Annabel had a hard time to keep him from falling to the floor below.
So poor Bel San dropped on the load of hay, and nobody saw her do it.... When [Annabel] was half-way across the barn floor, she remembered poor Bel San.
"Oh Bel San! My poor Bel San!" she cried, running back to the foot of the ladder.
[At Annabel's insistence, the workmen look for the doll, but she is buried deeply and they predict she will turn up in the winter as the hay is used up for feed. Next Mirabel is lost.
Finally Arabel, the rag doll, has a close call with a man who mistakes her for a bundle of rags to be used in upholstery. This time Binkie notices what is going on and stops the upholsterer! Now Binkie becomes the doll-rescuer, locating Mirabel first, and then helping Annabel dig Bel San up in the haymow. To get down the ladder, Binkie carries the Japanese doll in his mouth while Annabel carries him.]
"Oh, I am so happy!" said Annabel. "I was glad to get Mirabel out of the register, but I am ever and ever so much gladder to get my dear old Bel San back again.
"How glad she will be to know Arabel! ... But I'm afraid that she will miss dear little Baby Isabel, that she used to take care of.."
[Now Binkie rediscovers Baby Isabel in the attic. Next Dinah Bell turns up, then Florabel and finally Rosabel. Now Annabel has a teaparty for her doll family, and they are joined by a man doll, Mr. Arthur Bell, who will be the father of the Bell family.]
Putting three dolls to bed. Putting FIVE dolls to bed. A party for the dolls.