TO THE LITTLE COUSINS ANNIE, KITTY, AND CORDELIA
I dedicate this book to you, my dearest dears, with more love than I have ink to write out, and more good wishes and fond hopes than any printer would care to print.
You will see by these stories that the children of different countries are pretty much alike. I doubt not, if you were in France now, you would get along nicely with the little Monsieurs and Mademoiselles, after some coy hanging back and reconnoitring,—that is, if you only knew their "lingo." So with the little Signors and Signorinas of Italy, and the small Dons and Donnas of Spain. You would find the Dutch boys and girls, who look so sober and quaint, like men and women cut short, to be real children after all. If you should visit Turkey, you would find the little Turks and Turkesses full of young human nature,—love, naughtiness, grace, caprice, mischievous tricks, frolic, and all that. Should you even take a trip to China,—the country that's right under us, you know,—you would get acquainted with the Chinese young folks somehow, though you could only converse by signs. The boys would look very funny to you, with their yellow tunics, and queer hats, and long "pigtails,"—and the girls with their hair turned up into a top-knot, their slanting eyes, and their tottering walk,—for the rich young ladies there have no feet to speak of. They compress their feet instead of their waists, because, you see, they are not Christians. So you could n't dance, jump the rope, play croquet, or take a run on the great Chinese wall with them; but you could play with puzzles, have tea-parties, and pick the tea-leaves right from the bushes.
Children all the world over laugh and weep, quarrel and make up, play hard, and eat heartily, love and try their mammas, pet and tease their little brothers and sisters,—are a sweet care and a dear perplexity, and are God's little folk, all of them. I think they have the best share of His love and of this life's happiness wherever they are. But, darlings, I want you to feel that you need not envy any children on earth,—not the richest and proudest, not the daughters of a German Grand Duke, with a kingdom so large that you could scarcely walk across it in a long summer day, nor any East-Indian Princesses, twinkling with diamonds, and rattling with pearls, and riding on elephants, nor Turkish Princesses wearing baggy satin trousers and velvet jackets, and walking on costly carpets, nor Chinese Princesses that don't walk at all, nor Spanish Princesses who go to bull-fights in splendid state-coaches, and wear long trains, and are every now and then presented to the Queen, their mother, and allowed to kiss her hand, nor even English Princesses who live in castles and palaces and see the Queen every day. I really want you to feel that yours is a proud and happy lot, in being true-born American girls, in having honest and loyal parents, in having lived during our grand sad war for Union, in having heard the ringing of the bells of peace, in having loved and mourned the good, great President, Abraham Lincoln....