I N the nursery a number of toys lay strewn about; high up, on the wardrobe, stood the money-box, made of clay in the shape of a little pig; the pig had by nature a chink in its back, and this chink had been so enlarged with a knife that whole dollar pieces could slip through; and, indeed, two such had slipped into the box, beside a number of pence. The Money-pig was stuffed so full that it could no longer rattle, and that is the highest point of perfection a money-pig can attain. There it stood upon the cupboard, high and lofty, looking down upon everything else in the room. It knew very well that what it had in its stomach would have bought all the toys, and that's what we call having self-respect.
The others thought of that too, even if they did not say it, for there were many other things to speak of. One of the drawers was half pulled out, and there lay a great handsome Doll, though she was somewhat old, and her neck had been mended. She looked out and said,—
"Now we'll play at men and women, for that is always something!"
And now there was a general uproar, and even the framed prints on the walls turned round and showed that there was a wrong side to them; but that was not because they objected.
It was late at night; the moon shone through the window-frames and afforded the cheapest light. The game was now to begin, and all, even the children's Go-cart, which certainly belonged to the coarser playthings, were invited to take part in the sport.
"Each one has his own peculiar value," said the Go-cart; "we cannot all be noblemen. There must be some who do the work, as the saying is."
The Money-pig was the only one who received a written invitation, for he was of high standing, and they were afraid he could not accept a verbal message. Indeed, he did not answer to say whether he would come, nor did he come: if he was to take a part, he must enjoy the sport from his own home; they were to arrange accordingly, and so they did.
The little toy theatre was now put up in such a way that the Money-pig could look directly in. They wanted to begin with a comedy, and afterwards there was to be a tea-party and a discussion for mental improvement, and with this latter part they began immediately. The Rocking-horse spoke of training and race, the Go-cart of railways and steam power, for all this belonged to their profession, and it was quite right they should talk of it. The Clock talked politics—tick—tick—and knew what was the time of day, though it was whispered he did not go correctly; the Bamboo Cane stood there, stiff and proud, for he was conceited about his brass ferule and his silver top, for being thus bound above and below; and on the sofa lay two worked cushions, pretty and stupid. And now the play began.
All sat and looked on, and it was requested that the audience should applaud and crack and stamp according as they were gratified. But the Riding-whip said he never cracked for old people, only for young ones who were not yet married.
"I crack for everything," said the Cracker.
"There will be one good place at any rate," thought the Sawdust Box, and that was what each one in the comedy was thinking.
The piece was worthless, but it was well played; all the characters turned their painted side to the audience, for they were so made that they should only be looked at from that side, and not from the other; and all played wonderfully well, coming out quite beyond the lamps, because the wires were a little too long, but that only made them come out the more. The darned Doll was quite exhausted with excitement—so thoroughly exhausted that she burst at the darned place in her neck; and the Money-pig was so enchanted in his way that he formed the resolution to do something for one of the players and to remember in his will as the one who should be buried with him in the family vault, when matters were so far advanced.
It was true enjoyment, such true enjoyment that they quite gave up the thoughts of tea, and only carried out the idea of an exercise of wits. That's what they called playing at men and women; and there was nothing wrong in it, for they were only playing; and each one thought of himself and of what the Money-pig might think; and the Money-pig thought farthest of all, for he thought of making his will and of his burial. And when might this come to pas? Certainly far sooner than was expected. Crack! it fell down from the cupboard—fell on the ground, and was broken to pieces; and pennies hopped and danced in comical style: the little ones turned round like tops and the bigger ones rolled away, particularly the one great silver dollar who wanted to go out into the world. And he came out into the world, and so did they all. And the pieces of the Money-pig were put into the dust-bin; but the next day a new money-pig was standing on the cupboard: it had not yet a farthing in its stomach, and therefore it could not rattle, and in this it was like the other. And that was a beginning—and with that we will make an end.