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WHEN I was a little animal revolting to
the sense of sight (for I date from the period
when small boys had a dreadful
high-shouldered sleeved strait-waistcoat put upon
them by their keepers, over which their
dreadful little trousers were buttoned tight,
so that they roamed about disconsolate, with
their hands in their pockets, like dreadful
little pairs of tongs that were vainly looking
for the rest of the fire-irons); when I was
this object of just contempt and horror to all
well-constituted minds, and when, according
to the best of my remembrance and
self-examination in the past, even my small shirt
was an airy superstition which had no sleeves
to it and stopped short at my chest; when I
was this exceedingly uncomfortable and
disreputable father of my present self, I
remember to have been taken, upon a New
Year's Day, to the Bazaar in Soho Square,
London, to have a present bought for me.
A distinct impression yet lingers in my soul
that a grim and unsympathetic old personage
of the female gender, flavoured with musty
dry lavender, dressed in black crape, and
wearing a pocket in which something clinked
at my ear as we went along, conducted me
on this occasion to the World of Toys. I
remember to have been incidentally escorted
a little way down some conveniently retired
street diverging from Oxford Street, for the
purpose of being shaken; and nothing has
ever slaked the burning thirst for vengeance
awakened in me by this female's manner of
insisting upon wiping my nose herself (I had
a cold and a pocket-handkerchief), on the
screw principle. For many years I was
unable to excogitate the reason why she should
have undertaken to make me a present. In
the exercise of a matured judgment, I have
now no doubt that she had done something
bad in her youth, and that she took me out
as an act of expiation.

Nearly lifted off my legs by this adamantine
woman's grasp of my glove (another
fearful invention of those dark agesa
muffler, and fastened at the wrist like a handcuff),
I was haled through the Bazaar. My
tender imagination (or conscience)
represented certain small apartments in corners,
resembling wooden cages, wherein I have
since seen reason to suppose that ladies'
collars and the like are tried on, as being, either
dark places of confinement for refractory
youth, or dens in which the lions were kept
who fattened on boys who said they didn't
care. Suffering tremendous terrors from the
vicinity of these avenging mysteries, I was
put before an expanse of toys, apparently
about a hundred and twenty acres in extent,
and was asked what I would have to the
value of half-a-crown? Having first selected
every object at half-a-guinea, and then
staked all the aspirations of my nature
on every object at five shillings, I hit, as
a last resource, upon a Harlequin's Wand
painted particoloured, like Harlequin himself.

Although of a highly hopeful and
imaginative temperament, I had no fond belief
that the possession of this talisman would
enable me to change Mrs. Pipchin at my side
into anything agreeable. When I tried the
effect of the wand upon her, behind her
bonnet, it was rather as a desperate experiment
founded on the conviction that she
could change into nothing worse, than with
any latent hope that she would change into
something better. Howbeit, I clung to the
delusion that when I got home I should do
something magical with this wand; and I
did not resign all hope of it until I had, by
many trials, proved the wand's total
incapacity. It had no effect on the staring
obstinacy of a rocking-horse; it produced
no live Clown out of the hot beefsteak-pie
at dinner; it could not even influence the
minds of my honoured parents to the extent
of suggesting the decency and propriety of
their giving me an invitation to sit up to supper.

The failure of this wand is my first very
memorable association with a New Year's
Day. Other wands have failed me since, but
the Day itself has become their substitute,
and is always potent. It is the best Harlequin's
Wand I have ever had. It has wrought
strange transformationsno more of them
its power in reproducing the Past is
admirable. Nothing ever goes wrong with
that trick. I throw up and catch my little
wand of New Year's Day, beat the dust of
years from the ground at my feet with it,
twinkle it a little, and Time reverses his