#Unearthed: Dolly's Skates

When you dig through skating history, you never know what you will unearth. In the spirit of cataloguing fascinating tales from skating history, #Unearthed is a once a month 'special occasion' on Skate Guard where fascinating writings by others that are of interest to skating history buffs are excavated, dusted off and shared for your reading pleasure. From forgotten fiction to long lost interviews to tales that have never been shared publicly, each #Unearthed is a fascinating journey through time.

Marshall Steele's "Dolly's Skates" came from a Victorian children's reader called "Little Bright Eyes" compiled by Helen Marion Burnside, Antony Guest and S.E. Bennett, found in the University Of Florida's Digital Collections. The book was inscribed: "A prize awarded to Ethel Margaret Smith for Good General Progress. Christmas 1898." This piece beautifully puts the importance of skating in the perspective of the holiday season. Pour yourself a cup of holiday cheer and have a read!


"You know, mother, I do really think I deserve them."

And Dolly's big brown eyes looked up very gravely into her mother's.

"Oh, and why?" said mother, trying to hide the smile that would turn the corners of her mouth.

"Because I have saved and saved, you can't think how hard, and so long, too - I should say it was years. And I haven't bought anything, no sweets, and no tea-sets, and - nothing."

"Oh yes, you have!" said mother, looking down very tenderly at the little face up-turned to hers, and giving Dolly's hand a little squeeze as they walked briskly along the frozen street. "You gave Daddy that nice pocket-book on his birthday, and me that beautiful fuchsia, on mine."

"Why, of course; what's the good of mothers and daddies if you can't give them things?"

"What, indeed?" said her mother. "And now you are going to have your reward for saving."

"Yes," cried Dolly, nodding her little head till the bright brown locks shook themselves loose beneath her pretty red hood. "Now I am going to buy my skates - four shillings and threepence."

She said "four shillings and threepence," because it sounded so much more important than "four and three." At the thought of the purchase she was going to make, she began tripping merrily along by her mother's side in little polka steps, and then suddenly dropped into a very quiet and well-behaved style of walking.

"Oh, I forgot," she said. "Nurse says ladies don't dance in the street. But I am so happy, because I'm going to learn skating, aren't I, mother?"

She held her little head up very proudly, for it really is a great and wonderful thing to learn skating when you are only six. Why, there was her cousin Nellie only just beginning to learn, and she, as Dolly said, was almost quite growed up - sixteen, or some enormous age like that.

"Let us go down here," said mother, and they turned into a bye street full of poor shabby cottages. "It's a short cut, and the road is sure to be clean in this hard frost."

They were not quite so merry now, for mother's eyes were grave and sad as she looked from time to time at the unwholesome dwellings and the poor shivering people who came in and out of them; and Dolly, seeing the children playing in the streets, and noticing what poor shabby clothes they had, and how few even of them, felt somehow - she could not understand why - a little ashamed of herself. But the poor children seemed happy enough, and laughed and shouted and scampered about.

Presently, to her great surprise, Dolly noticed a little girl, rather younger than herself, running down the street, holding in her arms a lovely wax doll, dressed in the height of doll's fashion. Just then the most terrible accident happened. The little girl was stepping on to the path, and was so wrapped up in her beautiful doll that she did not notice she was crossing over a slide the boys had made.

At that moment a boy came flying down like the wind, and he accidentally knocked the doll out of her hand. The boy behind him, not having time to stop himself, stumbled against it, and in recovering himself trod right on the doll's face and smashed it to pieces. Just as he jumped off it, a mischievous fox terrier jumped on, and seizing the doll in its mouth tore its beautiful clothes to tatters. The poor little owner of the doll set up a dismal and dreadful howl, and Dolly felt inclined to cry with her. She dropped her mother's hand, and ran over to the little girl.

"O, little girl," she cried, "I am so very sorry for you."

The little girl stopped howling and looked up surprised that anyone who looked like a fairy out of a story book should stop to speak to her, and to speak so kindly too.

"Who gave it to you?" Dolly went on.

"I dot her at a treat yast night," said the little girl, sobbing again quite bitterly. "The kind lady dave it me. O, my booful dolly - my booful ickle dolly!"

Then Dolly ran up to her mother with tears in her pretty brown eyes.

"Mother," she said, "I don't want to buy any nasty skates. I want to buy that poor little girl a new doll."

"So you shall, my darling," said her mother. "Is this your little girl?" she went on, turning to a respectable woman who, at the sound of crying, came hurrying down the street, drying her arms on her apron.

"Yes, ma'am; and whatever the poor mite 'ill do without her doll I can't say. It's cruel hard."

"My little girl," Dolly's mother went on, "has been saving up her money to buy herself something; but she tells me it will make her much happier if she may buy your child another doll. May she?"

"It's a true lady you are, ma'am, to ask me like that. And I say God bless your pretty darling for thinking of such a thing. It will make my Rosie as happy as a bird in spring; and she don't have more happiness than she can do with."

So Rosie and Dolly and Dolly's mother went off hand in hand to the toy shop, and there Dolly bought the prettiest, daintiest doll, with flaxen hair, and clothes that you could take off and put on again. And when Rosie kissed Dolly and ran away, with her little heart full of joy and pride, Dolly felt consoled for the loss of the pleasure she had been looking forward to.

"I am the wee-est little bit sorry," she whispered to her mother, as they trudged back; "because I did want the skates very badly, but I'm much more happier."

When Daddy heard the story, he looked very proud of his little girl as he bent and asked her whether she would like him to give her a pair of skates.

"Oh no, Daddy, dear," said Dolly. "That would spoil everything."

So Dolly's skates have still to be bought; but she has begun to save up again for them, and I think she will have enough money to buy them before the next frost comes.

Skate Guard is a blog dedicated to preserving the rich, colourful and fascinating history of figure skating. Over ten years, the blog has featured over a thousand free articles covering all aspects of the sport's history, as well as four compelling in-depth features. To read the latest articles, follow the blog on FacebookTwitterPinterest and YouTube. If you enjoy Skate Guard, please show your support for this archive by ordering a copy of the figure skating reference books "The Almanac of Canadian Figure Skating", "Technical Merit: A History of Figure Skating Jumps" and "A Bibliography of Figure Skating": https://skateguard1.blogspot.com/p/buy-book.html.