a little princess by frances hodgson burnettchapter 1. sara once on a dark winter's day, when theyellow fog hung so thick and heavy in the streets of london that the lamps werelighted and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, an odd-looking little girl sat in a cab with her fatherand was driven rather slowly through the big thoroughfares. she sat with her feet tucked under her, andleaned against her father, who held her in his arm, as she stared out of the window atthe passing people with a queer old-
fashioned thoughtfulness in her big eyes. she was such a little girl that one did notexpect to see such a look on her small face.it would have been an old look for a child of twelve, and sara crewe was only seven. the fact was, however, that she was alwaysdreaming and thinking odd things and could not herself remember any time when she hadnot been thinking things about grown-up people and the world they belonged to. she felt as if she had lived a long, longtime. at this moment she was remembering thevoyage she had just made from bombay with
her father, captain crewe. she was thinking of the big ship, of thelascars passing silently to and fro on it, of the children playing about on the hotdeck, and of some young officers' wives who used to try to make her talk to them andlaugh at the things she said. principally, she was thinking of what aqueer thing it was that at one time one was in india in the blazing sun, and then inthe middle of the ocean, and then driving in a strange vehicle through strange streets where the day was as dark as thenight. she found this so puzzling that she movedcloser to her father.
"papa," she said in a low, mysteriouslittle voice which was almost a whisper, "papa.""what is it, darling?" captain crewe answered, holding her closerand looking down into her face. "what is sara thinking of?""is this the place?" sara whispered, cuddling still closer tohim. "is it, papa?""yes, little sara, it is. we have reached it at last." and though she was only seven years old,she knew that he felt sad when he said it. it seemed to her many years since he hadbegun to prepare her mind for "the place,"
as she always called it. her mother had died when she was born, soshe had never known or missed her. her young, handsome, rich, petting fatherseemed to be the only relation she had in the world. they had always played together and beenfond of each other. she only knew he was rich because she hadheard people say so when they thought she was not listening, and she had also heardthem say that when she grew up she would be rich, too. she did not know all that being rich meant.
she had always lived in a beautifulbungalow, and had been used to seeing many servants who made salaams to her and calledher "missee sahib," and gave her her own way in everything. she had had toys and pets and an ayah whoworshipped her, and she had gradually learned that people who were rich had thesethings. that, however, was all she knew about it. during her short life only one thing hadtroubled her, and that thing was "the place" she was to be taken to some day. the climate of india was very bad forchildren, and as soon as possible they were
sent away from it--generally to england andto school. she had seen other children go away, andhad heard their fathers and mothers talk about the letters they received from them. she had known that she would be obliged togo also, and though sometimes her father's stories of the voyage and the new countryhad attracted her, she had been troubled by the thought that he could not stay withher. "couldn't you go to that place with me,papa?" she had asked when she was five years old. "couldn't you go to school, too?i would help you with your lessons."
"but you will not have to stay for a verylong time, little sara," he had always said. "you will go to a nice house where therewill be a lot of little girls, and you will play together, and i will send you plentyof books, and you will grow so fast that it will seem scarcely a year before you are big enough and clever enough to come backand take care of papa." she had liked to think of that. to keep the house for her father; to ridewith him, and sit at the head of his table when he had dinner parties; to talk to himand read his books--that would be what she
would like most in the world, and if one must go away to "the place" in england toattain it, she must make up her mind to go. she did not care very much for other littlegirls, but if she had plenty of books she could console herself. she liked books more than anything else,and was, in fact, always inventing stories of beautiful things and telling them toherself. sometimes she had told them to her father,and he had liked them as much as she did. "well, papa," she said softly, "if we arehere i suppose we must be resigned." he laughed at her old-fashioned speech andkissed her.
he was really not at all resigned himself,though he knew he must keep that a secret. his quaint little sara had been a greatcompanion to him, and he felt he should be a lonely fellow when, on his return toindia, he went into his bungalow knowing he need not expect to see the small figure inits white frock come forward to meet him. so he held her very closely in his arms asthe cab rolled into the big, dull square in which stood the house which was theirdestination. it was a big, dull, brick house, exactlylike all the others in its row, but that on the front door there shone a brass plate onwhich was engraved in black letters: miss minchin,select seminary for young ladies.
"here we are, sara," said captain crewe,making his voice sound as cheerful as possible.then he lifted her out of the cab and they mounted the steps and rang the bell. sara often thought afterward that the housewas somehow exactly like miss minchin. it was respectable and well furnished, buteverything in it was ugly; and the very armchairs seemed to have hard bones inthem. in the hall everything was hard andpolished--even the red cheeks of the moon face on the tall clock in the corner had asevere varnished look. the drawing room into which they wereushered was covered by a carpet with a
square pattern upon it, the chairs weresquare, and a heavy marble timepiece stood upon the heavy marble mantel. as she sat down in one of the stiffmahogany chairs, sara cast one of her quick looks about her."i don't like it, papa," she said. "but then i dare say soldiers--even braveones--don't really like going into battle." captain crewe laughed outright at this.he was young and full of fun, and he never tired of hearing sara's queer speeches. "oh, little sara," he said."what shall i do when i have no one to say solemn things to me?no one else is as solemn as you are."
"but why do solemn things make you laughso?" inquired sara. "because you are such fun when you saythem," he answered, laughing still more. and then suddenly he swept her into hisarms and kissed her very hard, stopping laughing all at once and looking almost asif tears had come into his eyes. it was just then that miss minchin enteredthe room. she was very like her house, sara felt:tall and dull, and respectable and ugly. she had large, cold, fishy eyes, and alarge, cold, fishy smile. it spread itself into a very large smilewhen she saw sara and captain crewe. she had heard a great many desirable thingsof the young soldier from the lady who had
recommended her school to him. among other things, she had heard that hewas a rich father who was willing to spend a great deal of money on his littledaughter. "it will be a great privilege to havecharge of such a beautiful and promising child, captain crewe," she said, takingsara's hand and stroking it. "lady meredith has told me of her unusualcleverness. a clever child is a great treasure in anestablishment like mine." sara stood quietly, with her eyes fixedupon miss minchin's face. she was thinking something odd, as usual."why does she say i am a beautiful child?"
she was thinking. "i am not beautiful at all.colonel grange's little girl, isobel, is beautiful.she has dimples and rose-colored cheeks, and long hair the color of gold. i have short black hair and green eyes;besides which, i am a thin child and not fair in the least.i am one of the ugliest children i ever saw. she is beginning by telling a story."she was mistaken, however, in thinking she was an ugly child.
she was not in the least like isobelgrange, who had been the beauty of the regiment, but she had an odd charm of herown. she was a slim, supple creature, rathertall for her age, and had an intense, attractive little face. her hair was heavy and quite black and onlycurled at the tips; her eyes were greenish gray, it is true, but they were big,wonderful eyes with long, black lashes, and though she herself did not like the colorof them, many other people did. still she was very firm in her belief thatshe was an ugly little girl, and she was not at all elated by miss minchin'sflattery.
"i should be telling a story if i said shewas beautiful," she thought; "and i should know i was telling a story.i believe i am as ugly as she is--in my way. what did she say that for?"after she had known miss minchin longer she learned why she had said it. she discovered that she said the same thingto each papa and mamma who brought a child to her school.sara stood near her father and listened while he and miss minchin talked. she had been brought to the seminarybecause lady meredith's two little girls
had been educated there, and captain crewehad a great respect for lady meredith's experience. sara was to be what was known as "a parlorboarder," and she was to enjoy even greater privileges than parlor boarders usuallydid. she was to have a pretty bedroom andsitting room of her own; she was to have a pony and a carriage, and a maid to take theplace of the ayah who had been her nurse in india. "i am not in the least anxious about hereducation," captain crewe said, with his gay laugh, as he held sara's hand andpatted it.
"the difficulty will be to keep her fromlearning too fast and too much. she is always sitting with her little noseburrowing into books. she doesn't read them, miss minchin; shegobbles them up as if she were a little wolf instead of a little girl. she is always starving for new books togobble, and she wants grown-up books-- great, big, fat ones--french and german aswell as english--history and biography and poets, and all sorts of things. drag her away from her books when she readstoo much. make her ride her pony in the row or go outand buy a new doll.
she ought to play more with dolls." "papa," said sara, "you see, if i went outand bought a new doll every few days i should have more than i could be fond of.dolls ought to be intimate friends. emily is going to be my intimate friend." captain crewe looked at miss minchin andmiss minchin looked at captain crewe. "who is emily?" she inquired."tell her, sara," captain crewe said, smiling. sara's green-gray eyes looked very solemnand quite soft as she answered. "she is a doll i haven't got yet," shesaid.
"she is a doll papa is going to buy for me. we are going out together to find her.i have called her emily. she is going to be my friend when papa isgone. i want her to talk to about him." miss minchin's large, fishy smile becamevery flattering indeed. "what an original child!" she said."what a darling little creature!" "yes," said captain crewe, drawing saraclose. "she is a darling little creature.take great care of her for me, miss minchin."
sara stayed with her father at his hotelfor several days; in fact, she remained with him until he sailed away again toindia. they went out and visited many big shopstogether, and bought a great many things. they bought, indeed, a great many morethings than sara needed; but captain crewe was a rash, innocent young man and wantedhis little girl to have everything she admired and everything he admired himself, so between them they collected a wardrobemuch too grand for a child of seven. there were velvet dresses trimmed withcostly furs, and lace dresses, and embroidered ones, and hats with great, softostrich feathers, and ermine coats and
muffs, and boxes of tiny gloves and handkerchiefs and silk stockings in suchabundant supplies that the polite young women behind the counters whispered to eachother that the odd little girl with the big, solemn eyes must be at least some foreign princess--perhaps the littledaughter of an indian rajah. and at last they found emily, but they wentto a number of toy shops and looked at a great many dolls before they discoveredher. "i want her to look as if she wasn't a dollreally," sara said. "i want her to look as if she listens wheni talk to her.
the trouble with dolls, papa"--and she puther head on one side and reflected as she said it--"the trouble with dolls is thatthey never seem to hear." so they looked at big ones and little ones--at dolls with black eyes and dolls with blue--at dolls with brown curls and dollswith golden braids, dolls dressed and dolls undressed. "you see," sara said when they wereexamining one who had no clothes. "if, when i find her, she has no frocks, wecan take her to a dressmaker and have her things made to fit. they will fit better if they are tried on."after a number of disappointments they
decided to walk and look in at the shopwindows and let the cab follow them. they had passed two or three places withouteven going in, when, as they were approaching a shop which was really not avery large one, sara suddenly started and clutched her father's arm. "oh, papa!" she cried."there is emily!" a flush had risen to her face and there wasan expression in her green-gray eyes as if she had just recognized someone she wasintimate with and fond of. "she is actually waiting there for us!" shesaid. "let us go in to her."
"dear me," said captain crewe, "i feel asif we ought to have someone to introduce us.""you must introduce me and i will introduce you," said sara. "but i knew her the minute i saw her--soperhaps she knew me, too." perhaps she had known her. she had certainly a very intelligentexpression in her eyes when sara took her in her arms. she was a large doll, but not too large tocarry about easily; she had naturally curling golden-brown hair, which hung likea mantle about her, and her eyes were a
deep, clear, gray-blue, with soft, thick eyelashes which were real eyelashes and notmere painted lines. "of course," said sara, looking into herface as she held her on her knee, "of course papa, this is emily." so emily was bought and actually taken to achildren's outfitter's shop and measured for a wardrobe as grand as sara's own. she had lace frocks, too, and velvet andmuslin ones, and hats and coats and beautiful lace-trimmed underclothes, andgloves and handkerchiefs and furs. "i should like her always to look as if shewas a child with a good mother," said sara.
"i'm her mother, though i am going to makea companion of her." captain crewe would really have enjoyed theshopping tremendously, but that a sad thought kept tugging at his heart. this all meant that he was going to beseparated from his beloved, quaint little comrade. he got out of his bed in the middle of thatnight and went and stood looking down at sara, who lay asleep with emily in herarms. her black hair was spread out on the pillowand emily's golden-brown hair mingled with it, both of them had lace-rufflednightgowns, and both had long eyelashes
which lay and curled up on their cheeks. emily looked so like a real child thatcaptain crewe felt glad she was there. he drew a big sigh and pulled his mustachewith a boyish expression. "heigh-ho, little sara!" he said to himself"i don't believe you know how much your daddy will miss you."the next day he took her to miss minchin's and left her there. he was to sail away the next morning.he explained to miss minchin that his solicitors, messrs. barrow & skipworth, had charge of hisaffairs in england and would give her any
advice she wanted, and that they would paythe bills she sent in for sara's expenses. he would write to sara twice a week, andshe was to be given every pleasure she asked for. "she is a sensible little thing, and shenever wants anything it isn't safe to give her," he said. then he went with sara into her littlesitting room and they bade each other good- by. sara sat on his knee and held the lapels ofhis coat in her small hands, and looked long and hard at his face."are you learning me by heart, little
sara?" he said, stroking her hair. "no," she answered."i know you by heart. you are inside my heart." and they put their arms round each otherand kissed as if they would never let each other go. when the cab drove away from the door, sarawas sitting on the floor of her sitting room, with her hands under her chin and hereyes following it until it had turned the corner of the square. emily was sitting by her, and she lookedafter it, too.
when miss minchin sent her sister, missamelia, to see what the child was doing, she found she could not open the door. "i have locked it," said a queer, politelittle voice from inside. "i want to be quite by myself, if youplease." miss amelia was fat and dumpy, and stoodvery much in awe of her sister. she was really the better-natured person ofthe two, but she never disobeyed miss minchin. she went downstairs again, looking almostalarmed. "i never saw such a funny, old-fashionedchild, sister," she said.
"she has locked herself in, and she is notmaking the least particle of noise." "it is much better than if she kicked andscreamed, as some of them do," miss minchin answered. "i expected that a child as much spoiled asshe is would set the whole house in an uproar.if ever a child was given her own way in everything, she is." "i've been opening her trunks and puttingher things away," said miss amelia. "i never saw anything like them--sable andermine on her coats, and real valenciennes lace on her underclothing.
you have seen some of her clothes.what do you think of them?" "i think they are perfectly ridiculous,"replied miss minchin, sharply; "but they will look very well at the head of the linewhen we take the schoolchildren to church on sunday. she has been provided for as if she were alittle princess." and upstairs in the locked room sara andemily sat on the floor and stared at the corner round which the cab had disappeared,while captain crewe looked backward, waving and kissing his hand as if he could notbear to stop. >
a little princess by frances hodgson burnettchapter 2. a french lesson when sara entered the schoolroom the nextmorning everybody looked at her with wide, interested eyes. by that time every pupil--from laviniaherbert, who was nearly thirteen and felt quite grown up, to lottie legh, who wasonly just four and the baby of the school-- had heard a great deal about her. they knew very certainly that she was missminchin's show pupil and was considered a credit to the establishment.
one or two of them had even caught aglimpse of her french maid, mariette, who had arrived the evening before. lavinia had managed to pass sara's roomwhen the door was open, and had seen mariette opening a box which had arrivedlate from some shop. "it was full of petticoats with lace frillson them--frills and frills," she whispered to her friend jessie as she bent over hergeography. "i saw her shaking them out. i heard miss minchin say to miss ameliathat her clothes were so grand that they were ridiculous for a child.my mamma says that children should be
dressed simply. she has got one of those petticoats on now.i saw it when she sat down." "she has silk stockings on!" whisperedjessie, bending over her geography also. "and what little feet! i never saw such little feet.""oh," sniffed lavinia, spitefully, "that is the way her slippers are made. my mamma says that even big feet can bemade to look small if you have a clever shoemaker.i don't think she is pretty at all. her eyes are such a queer color."
"she isn't pretty as other pretty peopleare," said jessie, stealing a glance across the room; "but she makes you want to lookat her again. she has tremendously long eyelashes, buther eyes are almost green." sara was sitting quietly in her seat,waiting to be told what to do. she had been placed near miss minchin'sdesk. she was not abashed at all by the manypairs of eyes watching her. she was interested and looked back quietlyat the children who looked at her. she wondered what they were thinking of,and if they liked miss minchin, and if they cared for their lessons, and if any of themhad a papa at all like her own.
she had had a long talk with emily abouther papa that morning. "he is on the sea now, emily," she hadsaid. "we must be very great friends to eachother and tell each other things. emily, look at me.you have the nicest eyes i ever saw--but i wish you could speak." she was a child full of imaginings andwhimsical thoughts, and one of her fancies was that there would be a great deal ofcomfort in even pretending that emily was alive and really heard and understood. after mariette had dressed her in her dark-blue schoolroom frock and tied her hair
with a dark-blue ribbon, she went to emily,who sat in a chair of her own, and gave her a book. "you can read that while i am downstairs,"she said; and, seeing mariette looking at her curiously, she spoke to her with aserious little face. "what i believe about dolls," she said, "isthat they can do things they will not let us know about. perhaps, really, emily can read and talkand walk, but she will only do it when people are out of the room.that is her secret. you see, if people knew that dolls could dothings, they would make them work.
so, perhaps, they have promised each otherto keep it a secret. if you stay in the room, emily will justsit there and stare; but if you go out, she will begin to read, perhaps, or go and lookout of the window. then if she heard either of us coming, shewould just run back and jump into her chair and pretend she had been there all thetime." "comme elle est drole!" mariette said to herself, and when she wentdownstairs she told the head housemaid about it. but she had already begun to like this oddlittle girl who had such an intelligent
small face and such perfect manners.she had taken care of children before who were not so polite. sara was a very fine little person, and hada gentle, appreciative way of saying, "if you please, mariette," "thank you,mariette," which was very charming. mariette told the head housemaid that shethanked her as if she was thanking a lady. "elle a l'air d'une princesse, cettepetite," she said. indeed, she was very much pleased with hernew little mistress and liked her place greatly. after sara had sat in her seat in theschoolroom for a few minutes, being looked
at by the pupils, miss minchin rapped in adignified manner upon her desk. "young ladies," she said, "i wish tointroduce you to your new companion." all the little girls rose in their places,and sara rose also. "i shall expect you all to be veryagreeable to miss crewe; she has just come to us from a great distance--in fact, fromindia. as soon as lessons are over you must makeeach other's acquaintance." the pupils bowed ceremoniously, and saramade a little curtsy, and then they sat down and looked at each other again. "sara," said miss minchin in her schoolroommanner, "come here to me."
she had taken a book from the desk and wasturning over its leaves. sara went to her politely. "as your papa has engaged a french maid foryou," she began, "i conclude that he wishes you to make a special study of the frenchlanguage." sara felt a little awkward. "i think he engaged her," she said,"because he--he thought i would like her, miss minchin." "i am afraid," said miss minchin, with aslightly sour smile, "that you have been a very spoiled little girl and always imaginethat things are done because you like them.
my impression is that your papa wished youto learn french." if sara had been older or less punctiliousabout being quite polite to people, she could have explained herself in a very fewwords. but, as it was, she felt a flush rising onher cheeks. miss minchin was a very severe and imposingperson, and she seemed so absolutely sure that sara knew nothing whatever of frenchthat she felt as if it would be almost rude to correct her. the truth was that sara could not rememberthe time when she had not seemed to know french.her father had often spoken it to her when
she had been a baby. her mother had been a french woman, andcaptain crewe had loved her language, so it happened that sara had always heard andbeen familiar with it. "i--i have never really learned french,but--but--" she began, trying shyly to make herself clear. one of miss minchin's chief secretannoyances was that she did not speak french herself, and was desirous ofconcealing the irritating fact. she, therefore, had no intention ofdiscussing the matter and laying herself open to innocent questioning by a newlittle pupil.
"that is enough," she said with politetartness. "if you have not learned, you must begin atonce. the french master, monsieur dufarge, willbe here in a few minutes. take this book and look at it until hearrives." sara's cheeks felt warm. she went back to her seat and opened thebook. she looked at the first page with a graveface. she knew it would be rude to smile, and shewas very determined not to be rude. but it was very odd to find herselfexpected to study a page which told her
that "le pere" meant "the father," and "lamere" meant "the mother." miss minchin glanced toward herscrutinizingly. "you look rather cross, sara," she said."i am sorry you do not like the idea of learning french." "i am very fond of it," answered sara,thinking she would try again; "but--" "you must not say 'but' when you are toldto do things," said miss minchin. "look at your book again." and sara did so, and did not smile, evenwhen she found that "le fils" meant "the son," and "le frere" meant "the brother.""when monsieur dufarge comes," she thought,
"i can make him understand." monsieur dufarge arrived very shortlyafterward. he was a very nice, intelligent, middle-aged frenchman, and he looked interested when his eyes fell upon sara tryingpolitely to seem absorbed in her little book of phrases. "is this a new pupil for me, madame?" hesaid to miss minchin. "i hope that is my good fortune.""her papa--captain crewe--is very anxious that she should begin the language. but i am afraid she has a childishprejudice against it.
she does not seem to wish to learn," saidmiss minchin. "i am sorry of that, mademoiselle," he saidkindly to sara. "perhaps, when we begin to study together,i may show you that it is a charming tongue." little sara rose in her seat.she was beginning to feel rather desperate, as if she were almost in disgrace. she looked up into monsieur dufarge's facewith her big, green-gray eyes, and they were quite innocently appealing.she knew that he would understand as soon as she spoke.
she began to explain quite simply in prettyand fluent french. madame had not understood. she had not learned french exactly--not outof books--but her papa and other people had always spoken it to her, and she had readit and written it as she had read and written english. her papa loved it, and she loved it becausehe did. her dear mamma, who had died when she wasborn, had been french. she would be glad to learn anythingmonsieur would teach her, but what she had tried to explain to madame was that shealready knew the words in this book--and
she held out the little book of phrases. when she began to speak miss minchinstarted quite violently and sat staring at her over her eyeglasses, almostindignantly, until she had finished. monsieur dufarge began to smile, and hissmile was one of great pleasure. to hear this pretty childish voice speakinghis own language so simply and charmingly made him feel almost as if he were in hisnative land--which in dark, foggy days in london sometimes seemed worlds away. when she had finished, he took the phrasebook from her, with a look almost affectionate.but he spoke to miss minchin.
"ah, madame," he said, "there is not much ican teach her. she has not learned french; she is french.her accent is exquisite." "you ought to have told me," exclaimed missminchin, much mortified, turning to sara. "i--i tried," said sara."i--i suppose i did not begin right." miss minchin knew she had tried, and thatit had not been her fault that she was not allowed to explain. and when she saw that the pupils had beenlistening and that lavinia and jessie were giggling behind their french grammars, shefelt infuriated. "silence, young ladies!" she said severely,rapping upon the desk.
"silence at once!"and she began from that minute to feel rather a grudge against her show pupil. a little princess by frances hodgson burnettchapter 3. ermengarde on that first morning, when sara sat atmiss minchin's side, aware that the whole schoolroom was devoting itself to observingher, she had noticed very soon one little girl, about her own age, who looked at her very hard with a pair of light, ratherdull, blue eyes. she was a fat child who did not look as ifshe were in the least clever, but she had a
good-naturedly pouting mouth. her flaxen hair was braided in a tightpigtail, tied with a ribbon, and she had pulled this pigtail around her neck, andwas biting the end of the ribbon, resting her elbows on the desk, as she staredwonderingly at the new pupil. when monsieur dufarge began to speak tosara, she looked a little frightened; and when sara stepped forward and, looking athim with the innocent, appealing eyes, answered him, without any warning, in french, the fat little girl gave a startledjump, and grew quite red in her awed amazement.
having wept hopeless tears for weeks in herefforts to remember that "la mere" meant "the mother," and "le pere," "the father,"--when one spoke sensible english--it was almost too much for her suddenly to find herself listening to a child her own agewho seemed not only quite familiar with these words, but apparently knew any numberof others, and could mix them up with verbs as if they were mere trifles. she stared so hard and bit the ribbon onher pigtail so fast that she attracted the attention of miss minchin, who, feelingextremely cross at the moment, immediately pounced upon her.
"miss st. john!" she exclaimed severely."what do you mean by such conduct? remove your elbows!take your ribbon out of your mouth! sit up at once!" upon which miss st. john gave another jump,and when lavinia and jessie tittered she became redder than ever--so red, indeed,that she almost looked as if tears were coming into her poor, dull, childish eyes; and sara saw her and was so sorry for herthat she began rather to like her and want to be her friend. it was a way of hers always to want tospring into any fray in which someone was
made uncomfortable or unhappy. "if sara had been a boy and lived a fewcenturies ago," her father used to say, "she would have gone about the country withher sword drawn, rescuing and defending everyone in distress. she always wants to fight when she seespeople in trouble." so she took rather a fancy to fat, slow,little miss st. john, and kept glancing toward her through the morning. she saw that lessons were no easy matter toher, and that there was no danger of her ever being spoiled by being treated as ashow pupil.
her french lesson was a pathetic thing. her pronunciation made even monsieurdufarge smile in spite of himself, and lavinia and jessie and the more fortunategirls either giggled or looked at her in wondering disdain. but sara did not laugh.she tried to look as if she did not hear when miss st. john called "le bon pain,""lee bong pang." she had a fine, hot little temper of herown, and it made her feel rather savage when she heard the titters and saw thepoor, stupid, distressed child's face. "it isn't funny, really," she said betweenher teeth, as she bent over her book.
"they ought not to laugh." when lessons were over and the pupilsgathered together in groups to talk, sara looked for miss st. john, and finding herbundled rather disconsolately in a window- seat, she walked over to her and spoke. she only said the kind of thing littlegirls always say to each other by way of beginning an acquaintance, but there wassomething friendly about sara, and people always felt it. "what is your name?" she said. to explain miss st. john's amazement onemust recall that a new pupil is, for a
short time, a somewhat uncertain thing; andof this new pupil the entire school had talked the night before until it fell asleep quite exhausted by excitement andcontradictory stories. a new pupil with a carriage and a pony anda maid, and a voyage from india to discuss, was not an ordinary acquaintance. "my name's ermengarde st. john," sheanswered. "mine is sara crewe," said sara."yours is very pretty. it sounds like a story book." "do you like it?" fluttered ermengarde."i--i like yours."
miss st. john's chief trouble in life wasthat she had a clever father. sometimes this seemed to her a dreadfulcalamity. if you have a father who knows everything,who speaks seven or eight languages, and has thousands of volumes which he hasapparently learned by heart, he frequently expects you to be familiar with the contents of your lesson books at least; andit is not improbable that he will feel you ought to be able to remember a fewincidents of history and to write a french exercise. ermengarde was a severe trial to mr. st.john.
he could not understand how a child of hiscould be a notably and unmistakably dull creature who never shone in anything. "good heavens!" he had said more than once,as he stared at her, "there are times when i think she is as stupid as her aunteliza!" if her aunt eliza had been slow to learnand quick to forget a thing entirely when she had learned it, ermengarde wasstrikingly like her. she was the monumental dunce of the school,and it could not be denied. "she must be made to learn," her fathersaid to miss minchin. consequently ermengarde spent the greaterpart of her life in disgrace or in tears.
she learned things and forgot them; or, ifshe remembered them, she did not understand them. so it was natural that, having made sara'sacquaintance, she should sit and stare at her with profound admiration."you can speak french, can't you?" she said respectfully. sara got on to the window-seat, which was abig, deep one, and, tucking up her feet, sat with her hands clasped round her knees."i can speak it because i have heard it all my life," she answered. "you could speak it if you had always heardit."
"oh, no, i couldn't," said ermengarde."i never could speak it!" "why?" inquired sara, curiously. ermengarde shook her head so that thepigtail wobbled. "you heard me just now," she said."i'm always like that. i can't say the words. they're so queer."she paused a moment, and then added with a touch of awe in her voice, "you are clever,aren't you?" sara looked out of the window into thedingy square, where the sparrows were hopping and twittering on the wet, ironrailings and the sooty branches of the
trees. she reflected a few moments.she had heard it said very often that she was "clever," and she wondered if she was--and if she was, how it had happened. "i don't know," she said. "i can't tell."then, seeing a mournful look on the round, chubby face, she gave a little laugh andchanged the subject. "would you like to see emily?" sheinquired. "who is emily?"ermengarde asked, just as miss minchin had done.
"come up to my room and see," said sara,holding out her hand. they jumped down from the window-seattogether, and went upstairs. "is it true," ermengarde whispered, as theywent through the hall--"is it true that you have a playroom all to yourself?""yes," sara answered. "papa asked miss minchin to let me haveone, because--well, it was because when i play i make up stories and tell them tomyself, and i don't like people to hear me. it spoils it if i think people listen." they had reached the passage leading tosara's room by this time, and ermengarde stopped short, staring, and quite losingher breath.
"you make up stories!" she gasped. "can you do that--as well as speak french?can you?" sara looked at her in simple surprise."why, anyone can make up things," she said. "have you never tried?" she put her hand warningly on ermengarde's."let us go very quietly to the door," she whispered, "and then i will open it quitesuddenly; perhaps we may catch her." she was half laughing, but there was atouch of mysterious hope in her eyes which fascinated ermengarde, though she had notthe remotest idea what it meant, or whom it was she wanted to "catch," or why shewanted to catch her.
whatsoever she meant, ermengarde was sureit was something delightfully exciting. so, quite thrilled with expectation, shefollowed her on tiptoe along the passage. they made not the least noise until theyreached the door. then sara suddenly turned the handle, andthrew it wide open. its opening revealed the room quite neatand quiet, a fire gently burning in the grate, and a wonderful doll sitting in achair by it, apparently reading a book. "oh, she got back to her seat before wecould see her!" sara explained."of course they always do. they are as quick as lightning."
ermengarde looked from her to the doll andback again. "can she--walk?" she asked breathlessly."yes," answered sara. "at least i believe she can. at least i pretend i believe she can.and that makes it seem as if it were true. have you never pretended things?""no," said ermengarde. "never. i--tell me about it." she was so bewitched by this odd, newcompanion that she actually stared at sara instead of at emily--notwithstanding thatemily was the most attractive doll person
she had ever seen. "let us sit down," said sara, "and i willtell you. it's so easy that when you begin you can'tstop. you just go on and on doing it always. and it's beautiful.emily, you must listen. this is ermengarde st. john, emily.ermengarde, this is emily. would you like to hold her?" "oh, may i?" said ermengarde."may i, really? she is beautiful!"and emily was put into her arms.
never in her dull, short life had miss st.john dreamed of such an hour as the one she spent with the queer new pupil before theyheard the lunch-bell ring and were obliged to go downstairs. sara sat upon the hearth-rug and told herstrange things. she sat rather huddled up, and her greeneyes shone and her cheeks flushed. she told stories of the voyage, and storiesof india; but what fascinated ermengarde the most was her fancy about the dolls whowalked and talked, and who could do anything they chose when the human beings were out of the room, but who must keeptheir powers a secret and so flew back to
their places "like lightning" when peoplereturned to the room. "we couldn't do it," said sara, seriously. "you see, it's a kind of magic."once, when she was relating the story of the search for emily, ermengarde saw herface suddenly change. a cloud seemed to pass over it and put outthe light in her shining eyes. she drew her breath in so sharply that itmade a funny, sad little sound, and then she shut her lips and held them tightlyclosed, as if she was determined either to do or not to do something. ermengarde had an idea that if she had beenlike any other little girl, she might have
suddenly burst out sobbing and crying.but she did not. "have you a--a pain?" ermengarde ventured."yes," sara answered, after a moment's silence."but it is not in my body." then she added something in a low voicewhich she tried to keep quite steady, and it was this: "do you love your father morethan anything else in all the whole world?" ermengarde's mouth fell open a little. she knew that it would be far from behavinglike a respectable child at a select seminary to say that it had never occurredto you that you could love your father,
that you would do anything desperate to avoid being left alone in his society forten minutes. she was, indeed, greatly embarrassed."i--i scarcely ever see him," she stammered. "he is always in the library--readingthings." "i love mine more than all the world tentimes over," sara said. "that is what my pain is. he has gone away."she put her head quietly down on her little, huddled-up knees, and sat verystill for a few minutes.
"she's going to cry out loud," thoughtermengarde, fearfully. but she did not.her short, black locks tumbled about her ears, and she sat still. then she spoke without lifting her head."i promised him i would bear it," she said. "and i will.you have to bear things. think what soldiers bear! papa is a soldier.if there was a war he would have to bear marching and thirstiness and, perhaps, deepwounds. and he would never say a word--not oneword."
ermengarde could only gaze at her, but shefelt that she was beginning to adore her. she was so wonderful and different fromanyone else. presently, she lifted her face and shookback her black locks, with a queer little smile. "if i go on talking and talking," she said,"and telling you things about pretending, i shall bear it better.you don't forget, but you bear it better." ermengarde did not know why a lump cameinto her throat and her eyes felt as if tears were in them."lavinia and jessie are 'best friends,'" she said rather huskily.
"i wish we could be 'best friends.'would you have me for yours? you're clever, and i'm the stupidest childin the school, but i--oh, i do so like you!" "i'm glad of that," said sara."it makes you thankful when you are liked. yes. we will be friends. and i'll tell you what"--a sudden gleamlighting her face--"i can help you with your french lessons." a little princess by frances hodgson burnettchapter 4. lottie
if sara had been a different kind of child,the life she led at miss minchin's select seminary for the next few years would nothave been at all good for her. she was treated more as if she were adistinguished guest at the establishment than as if she were a mere little girl. if she had been a self-opinionated,domineering child, she might have become disagreeable enough to be unbearablethrough being so much indulged and flattered. if she had been an indolent child, shewould have learned nothing. privately miss minchin disliked her, butshe was far too worldly a woman to do or
say anything which might make such adesirable pupil wish to leave her school. she knew quite well that if sara wrote toher papa to tell him she was uncomfortable or unhappy, captain crewe would remove herat once. miss minchin's opinion was that if a childwere continually praised and never forbidden to do what she liked, she wouldbe sure to be fond of the place where she was so treated. accordingly, sara was praised for herquickness at her lessons, for her good manners, for her amiability to her fellowpupils, for her generosity if she gave sixpence to a beggar out of her full little
purse; the simplest thing she did wastreated as if it were a virtue, and if she had not had a disposition and a cleverlittle brain, she might have been a very self-satisfied young person. but the clever little brain told her agreat many sensible and true things about herself and her circumstances, and now andthen she talked these things over to ermengarde as time went on. "things happen to people by accident," sheused to say. "a lot of nice accidents have happened tome. it just happened that i always likedlessons and books, and could remember
things when i learned them. it just happened that i was born with afather who was beautiful and nice and clever, and could give me everything iliked. perhaps i have not really a good temper atall, but if you have everything you want and everyone is kind to you, how can youhelp but be good-tempered? i don't know"--looking quite serious--"howi shall ever find out whether i am really a nice child or a horrid one. perhaps i'm a hideous child, and no onewill ever know, just because i never have any trials.""lavinia has no trials," said ermengarde,
stolidly, "and she is horrid enough." sara rubbed the end of her little nosereflectively, as she thought the matter over."well," she said at last, "perhaps--perhaps that is because lavinia is growing." this was the result of a charitablerecollection of having heard miss amelia say that lavinia was growing so fast thatshe believed it affected her health and temper. lavinia, in fact, was spiteful.she was inordinately jealous of sara. until the new pupil's arrival, she had feltherself the leader in the school.
she had led because she was capable ofmaking herself extremely disagreeable if the others did not follow her. she domineered over the little children,and assumed grand airs with those big enough to be her companions. she was rather pretty, and had been thebest-dressed pupil in the procession when the select seminary walked out two by two,until sara's velvet coats and sable muffs appeared, combined with drooping ostrich feathers, and were led by miss minchin atthe head of the line. this, at the beginning, had been bitterenough; but as time went on it became
apparent that sara was a leader, too, andnot because she could make herself disagreeable, but because she never did. "there's one thing about sara crewe,"jessie had enraged her "best friend" by saying honestly, "she's never 'grand' aboutherself the least bit, and you know she might be, lavvie. i believe i couldn't help being--just alittle--if i had so many fine things and was made such a fuss over.it's disgusting, the way miss minchin shows her off when parents come." "'dear sara must come into the drawing roomand talk to mrs. musgrave about india,'"
mimicked lavinia, in her most highlyflavored imitation of miss minchin. "'dear sara must speak french to ladypitkin. her accent is so perfect.'she didn't learn her french at the seminary, at any rate. and there's nothing so clever in herknowing it. she says herself she didn't learn it atall. she just picked it up, because she alwaysheard her papa speak it. and, as to her papa, there is nothing sogrand in being an indian officer." "well," said jessie, slowly, "he's killedtigers.
he killed the one in the skin sara has inher room. that's why she likes it so. she lies on it and strokes its head, andtalks to it as if it was a cat." "she's always doing something silly,"snapped lavinia. "my mamma says that way of hers ofpretending things is silly. she says she will grow up eccentric."it was quite true that sara was never "grand." she was a friendly little soul, and sharedher privileges and belongings with a free hand.
the little ones, who were accustomed tobeing disdained and ordered out of the way by mature ladies aged ten and twelve, werenever made to cry by this most envied of them all. she was a motherly young person, and whenpeople fell down and scraped their knees, she ran and helped them up and patted them,or found in her pocket a bonbon or some other article of a soothing nature. she never pushed them out of her way oralluded to their years as a humiliation and a blot upon their small characters. "if you are four you are four," she saidseverely to lavinia on an occasion of her
having--it must be confessed--slappedlottie and called her "a brat;" "but you will be five next year, and six the yearafter that. and," opening large, convicting eyes, "ittakes sixteen years to make you twenty." "dear me," said lavinia, "how we cancalculate!" in fact, it was not to be denied thatsixteen and four made twenty--and twenty was an age the most daring were scarcelybold enough to dream of. so the younger children adored sara. more than once she had been known to have atea party, made up of these despised ones, in her own room.
and emily had been played with, and emily'sown tea service used--the one with cups which held quite a lot of much-sweetenedweak tea and had blue flowers on them. no one had seen such a very real doll's teaset before. from that afternoon sara was regarded as agoddess and a queen by the entire alphabet class. lottie legh worshipped her to such anextent that if sara had not been a motherly person, she would have found her tiresome. lottie had been sent to school by a ratherflighty young papa who could not imagine what else to do with her.
her young mother had died, and as the childhad been treated like a favorite doll or a very spoiled pet monkey or lap dog eversince the first hour of her life, she was a very appalling little creature. when she wanted anything or did not wantanything she wept and howled; and, as she always wanted the things she could nothave, and did not want the things that were best for her, her shrill little voice was usually to be heard uplifted in wails inone part of the house or another. her strongest weapon was that in somemysterious way she had found out that a very small girl who had lost her mother wasa person who ought to be pitied and made
much of. she had probably heard some grown-up peopletalking her over in the early days, after her mother's death.so it became her habit to make great use of this knowledge. the first time sara took her in charge wasone morning when, on passing a sitting room, she heard both miss minchin and missamelia trying to suppress the angry wails of some child who, evidently, refused to besilenced. she refused so strenuously indeed that missminchin was obliged to almost shout--in a stately and severe manner--to make herselfheard.
"what is she crying for?" she almostyelled. "oh--oh--oh!"sara heard; "i haven't got any mam--ma-a!" "oh, lottie!" screamed miss amelia. "do stop, darling!don't cry! please don't!""oh! oh! oh! oh! oh!" lottie howled tempestuously. "haven't--got--any--mam--ma-a!""she ought to be whipped," miss minchin proclaimed."you shall be whipped, you naughty child!" lottie wailed more loudly than ever.
miss amelia began to cry. miss minchin's voice rose until it almostthundered, then suddenly she sprang up from her chair in impotent indignation andflounced out of the room, leaving miss amelia to arrange the matter. sara had paused in the hall, wondering ifshe ought to go into the room, because she had recently begun a friendly acquaintancewith lottie and might be able to quiet her. when miss minchin came out and saw her, shelooked rather annoyed. she realized that her voice, as heard frominside the room, could not have sounded either dignified or amiable.
"oh, sara!" she exclaimed, endeavoring toproduce a suitable smile. "i stopped," explained sara, "because iknew it was lottie--and i thought, perhaps- -just perhaps, i could make her be quiet. may i try, miss minchin?""if you can, you are a clever child," answered miss minchin, drawing in her mouthsharply. then, seeing that sara looked slightlychilled by her asperity, she changed her manner."but you are clever in everything," she said in her approving way. "i dare say you can manage her.go in."
and she left her. when sara entered the room, lottie waslying upon the floor, screaming and kicking her small fat legs violently, and missamelia was bending over her in consternation and despair, looking quitered and damp with heat. lottie had always found, when in her ownnursery at home, that kicking and screaming would always be quieted by any means sheinsisted on. poor plump miss amelia was trying first onemethod, and then another. "poor darling," she said one moment, "iknow you haven't any mamma, poor--" then in quite another tone, "if you don't stop,lottie, i will shake you.
poor little angel! there--!you wicked, bad, detestable child, i will smack you!i will!" sara went to them quietly. she did not know at all what she was goingto do, but she had a vague inward conviction that it would be better not tosay such different kinds of things quite so helplessly and excitedly. "miss amelia," she said in a low voice,"miss minchin says i may try to make her stop--may i?"miss amelia turned and looked at her
hopelessly. "oh, do you think you can?" she gasped."i don't know whether i can", answered sara, still in her half-whisper; "but iwill try." miss amelia stumbled up from her knees witha heavy sigh, and lottie's fat little legs kicked as hard as ever."if you will steal out of the room," said sara, "i will stay with her." "oh, sara!" almost whimpered miss amelia."we never had such a dreadful child before. i don't believe we can keep her." but she crept out of the room, and was verymuch relieved to find an excuse for doing
it. sara stood by the howling furious child fora few moments, and looked down at her without saying anything.then she sat down flat on the floor beside her and waited. except for lottie's angry screams, the roomwas quite quiet. this was a new state of affairs for littlemiss legh, who was accustomed, when she screamed, to hear other people protest andimplore and command and coax by turns. to lie and kick and shriek, and find theonly person near you not seeming to mind in the least, attracted her attention.she opened her tight-shut streaming eyes to
see who this person was. and it was only another little girl.but it was the one who owned emily and all the nice things.and she was looking at her steadily and as if she was merely thinking. having paused for a few seconds to findthis out, lottie thought she must begin again, but the quiet of the room and ofsara's odd, interested face made her first howl rather half-hearted. "i--haven't--any--ma--ma--ma-a!" sheannounced; but her voice was not so strong. sara looked at her still more steadily, butwith a sort of understanding in her eyes.
"neither have i," she said. this was so unexpected that it wasastounding. lottie actually dropped her legs, gave awriggle, and lay and stared. a new idea will stop a crying child whennothing else will. also it was true that while lottie dislikedmiss minchin, who was cross, and miss amelia, who was foolishly indulgent, sherather liked sara, little as she knew her. she did not want to give up her grievance,but her thoughts were distracted from it, so she wriggled again, and, after a sulkysob, said, "where is she?" sara paused a moment.
because she had been told that her mammawas in heaven, she had thought a great deal about the matter, and her thoughts had notbeen quite like those of other people. "she went to heaven," she said. "but i am sure she comes out sometimes tosee me--though i don't see her. so does yours.perhaps they can both see us now. perhaps they are both in this room." lottie sat bolt upright, and looked abouther. she was a pretty, little, curly-headedcreature, and her round eyes were like wet forget-me-nots.
if her mamma had seen her during the lasthalf-hour, she might not have thought her the kind of child who ought to be relatedto an angel. sara went on talking. perhaps some people might think that whatshe said was rather like a fairy story, but it was all so real to her own imaginationthat lottie began to listen in spite of herself. she had been told that her mamma had wingsand a crown, and she had been shown pictures of ladies in beautiful whitenightgowns, who were said to be angels. but sara seemed to be telling a real storyabout a lovely country where real people
were. "there are fields and fields of flowers,"she said, forgetting herself, as usual, when she began, and talking rather as ifshe were in a dream, "fields and fields of lilies--and when the soft wind blows over them it wafts the scent of them into theair--and everybody always breathes it, because the soft wind is always blowing. and little children run about in the lilyfields and gather armfuls of them, and laugh and make little wreaths.and the streets are shining. and people are never tired, however farthey walk.
they can float anywhere they like. and there are walls made of pearl and goldall round the city, but they are low enough for the people to go and lean on them, andlook down onto the earth and smile, and send beautiful messages." whatsoever story she had begun to tell,lottie would, no doubt, have stopped crying, and been fascinated into listening;but there was no denying that this story was prettier than most others. she dragged herself close to sara, anddrank in every word until the end came--far too soon.when it did come, she was so sorry that she
put up her lip ominously. "i want to go there," she cried."i--haven't any mamma in this school." sara saw the danger signal, and came out ofher dream. she took hold of the chubby hand and pulledher close to her side with a coaxing little laugh."i will be your mamma," she said. "we will play that you are my little girl. and emily shall be your sister."lottie's dimples all began to show themselves."shall she?" she said. "yes," answered sara, jumping to her feet.
"let us go and tell her.and then i will wash your face and brush your hair." to which lottie agreed quite cheerfully,and trotted out of the room and upstairs with her, without seeming even to rememberthat the whole of the last hour's tragedy had been caused by the fact that she had refused to be washed and brushed for lunchand miss minchin had been called in to use her majestic authority.and from that time sara was an adopted mother. a little princess by frances hodgson burnettchapter 5.
becky of course the greatest power sara possessedand the one which gained her even more followers than her luxuries and the factthat she was "the show pupil," the power that lavinia and certain other girls were most envious of, and at the same time mostfascinated by in spite of themselves, was her power of telling stories and of makingeverything she talked about seem like a story, whether it was one or not. anyone who has been at school with a tellerof stories knows what the wonder means--how he or she is followed about and besought ina whisper to relate romances; how groups
gather round and hang on the outskirts of the favored party in the hope of beingallowed to join in and listen. sara not only could tell stories, but sheadored telling them. when she sat or stood in the midst of acircle and began to invent wonderful things, her green eyes grew big andshining, her cheeks flushed, and, without knowing that she was doing it, she began to act and made what she told lovely oralarming by the raising or dropping of her voice, the bend and sway of her slim body,and the dramatic movement of her hands. she forgot that she was talking tolistening children; she saw and lived with
the fairy folk, or the kings and queens andbeautiful ladies, whose adventures she was narrating. sometimes when she had finished her story,she was quite out of breath with excitement, and would lay her hand on herthin, little, quick-rising chest, and half laugh as if at herself. "when i am telling it," she would say, "itdoesn't seem as if it was only made up. it seems more real than you are--more realthan the schoolroom. i feel as if i were all the people in thestory--one after the other. it is queer."
she had been at miss minchin's school abouttwo years when, one foggy winter's afternoon, as she was getting out of hercarriage, comfortably wrapped up in her warmest velvets and furs and looking very much grander than she knew, she caughtsight, as she crossed the pavement, of a dingy little figure standing on the areasteps, and stretching its neck so that its wide-open eyes might peer at her throughthe railings. something in the eagerness and timidity ofthe smudgy face made her look at it, and when she looked she smiled because it washer way to smile at people. but the owner of the smudgy face and thewide-open eyes evidently was afraid that
she ought not to have been caught lookingat pupils of importance. she dodged out of sight like a jack-in-the-box and scurried back into the kitchen, disappearing so suddenly that if she hadnot been such a poor little forlorn thing, sara would have laughed in spite ofherself. that very evening, as sara was sitting inthe midst of a group of listeners in a corner of the schoolroom telling one of herstories, the very same figure timidly entered the room, carrying a coal box much too heavy for her, and knelt down upon thehearth rug to replenish the fire and sweep up the ashes.
she was cleaner than she had been when shepeeped through the area railings, but she looked just as frightened.she was evidently afraid to look at the children or seem to be listening. she put on pieces of coal cautiously withher fingers so that she might make no disturbing noise, and she swept about thefire irons very softly. but sara saw in two minutes that she wasdeeply interested in what was going on, and that she was doing her work slowly in thehope of catching a word here and there. and realizing this, she raised her voiceand spoke more clearly. "the mermaids swam softly about in thecrystal-green water, and dragged after them
a fishing-net woven of deep-sea pearls,"she said. "the princess sat on the white rock andwatched them." it was a wonderful story about a princesswho was loved by a prince merman, and went to live with him in shining caves under thesea. the small drudge before the grate swept thehearth once and then swept it again. having done it twice, she did it threetimes; and, as she was doing it the third time, the sound of the story so lured herto listen that she fell under the spell and actually forgot that she had no right to listen at all, and also forgot everythingelse.
she sat down upon her heels as she knelt onthe hearth rug, and the brush hung idly in her fingers. the voice of the storyteller went on anddrew her with it into winding grottos under the sea, glowing with soft, clear bluelight, and paved with pure golden sands. strange sea flowers and grasses waved abouther, and far away faint singing and music echoed. the hearth brush fell from the work-roughened hand, and lavinia herbert looked round."that girl has been listening," she said. the culprit snatched up her brush, andscrambled to her feet.
she caught at the coal box and simplyscuttled out of the room like a frightened rabbit. sara felt rather hot-tempered."i knew she was listening," she said. "why shouldn't she?"lavinia tossed her head with great elegance. "well," she remarked, "i do not knowwhether your mamma would like you to tell stories to servant girls, but i know mymamma wouldn't like me to do it." "my mamma!" said sara, looking odd. "i don't believe she would mind in theleast.
she knows that stories belong toeverybody." "i thought," retorted lavinia, in severerecollection, "that your mamma was dead. how can she know things?""do you think she doesn't know things?" said sara, in her stern little voice. sometimes she had a rather stern littlevoice. "sara's mamma knows everything," piped inlottie. "so does my mamma--'cept sara is my mammaat miss minchin's--my other one knows everything. the streets are shining, and there arefields and fields of lilies, and everybody
gathers them.sara tells me when she puts me to bed." "you wicked thing," said lavinia, turningon sara; "making fairy stories about heaven.""there are much more splendid stories in revelation," returned sara. "just look and see!how do you know mine are fairy stories? but i can tell you"--with a fine bit ofunheavenly temper--"you will never find out whether they are or not if you're notkinder to people than you are now. come along, lottie." and she marched out of the room, ratherhoping that she might see the little
servant again somewhere, but she found notrace of her when she got into the hall. "who is that little girl who makes thefires?" she asked mariette that night. mariette broke forth into a flow ofdescription. ah, indeed, mademoiselle sara might wellask. she was a forlorn little thing who had justtaken the place of scullery maid--though, as to being scullery maid, she waseverything else besides. she blacked boots and grates, and carriedheavy coal-scuttles up and down stairs, and scrubbed floors and cleaned windows, andwas ordered about by everybody. she was fourteen years old, but was sostunted in growth that she looked about
twelve.in truth, mariette was sorry for her. she was so timid that if one chanced tospeak to her it appeared as if her poor, frightened eyes would jump out of her head. "what is her name?" asked sara, who had satby the table, with her chin on her hands, as she listened absorbedly to the recital.her name was becky. mariette heard everyone below-stairscalling, "becky, do this," and "becky, do that," every five minutes in the day. sara sat and looked into the fire,reflecting on becky for some time after mariette left her.she made up a story of which becky was the
ill-used heroine. she thought she looked as if she had neverhad quite enough to eat. her very eyes were hungry. she hoped she should see her again, butthough she caught sight of her carrying things up or down stairs on severaloccasions, she always seemed in such a hurry and so afraid of being seen that itwas impossible to speak to her. but a few weeks later, on another foggyafternoon, when she entered her sitting room she found herself confronting a ratherpathetic picture. in her own special and pet easy-chairbefore the bright fire, becky--with a coal
smudge on her nose and several on herapron, with her poor little cap hanging half off her head, and an empty coal box on the floor near her--sat fast asleep, tiredout beyond even the endurance of her hard- working young body.she had been sent up to put the bedrooms in order for the evening. there were a great many of them, and shehad been running about all day. sara's rooms she had saved until the last.they were not like the other rooms, which were plain and bare. ordinary pupils were expected to besatisfied with mere necessaries.
sara's comfortable sitting room seemed abower of luxury to the scullery maid, though it was, in fact, merely a nice,bright little room. but there were pictures and books in it,and curious things from india; there was a sofa and the low, soft chair; emily sat ina chair of her own, with the air of a presiding goddess, and there was always aglowing fire and a polished grate. becky saved it until the end of herafternoon's work, because it rested her to go into it, and she always hoped to snatcha few minutes to sit down in the soft chair and look about her, and think about the wonderful good fortune of the child whoowned such surroundings and who went out on
the cold days in beautiful hats and coatsone tried to catch a glimpse of through the area railing. on this afternoon, when she had sat down,the sensation of relief to her short, aching legs had been so wonderful anddelightful that it had seemed to soothe her whole body, and the glow of warmth and comfort from the fire had crept over herlike a spell, until, as she looked at the red coals, a tired, slow smile stole overher smudged face, her head nodded forward without her being aware of it, her eyesdrooped, and she fell fast asleep. she had really been only about ten minutesin the room when sara entered, but she was
in as deep a sleep as if she had been, likethe sleeping beauty, slumbering for a hundred years. but she did not look--poor becky--like asleeping beauty at all. she looked only like an ugly, stunted,worn-out little scullery drudge. sara seemed as much unlike her as if shewere a creature from another world. on this particular afternoon she had beentaking her dancing lesson, and the afternoon on which the dancing masterappeared was rather a grand occasion at the seminary, though it occurred every week. the pupils were attired in their prettiestfrocks, and as sara danced particularly
well, she was very much brought forward,and mariette was requested to make her as diaphanous and fine as possible. today a frock the color of a rose had beenput on her, and mariette had bought some real buds and made her a wreath to wear onher black locks. she had been learning a new, delightfuldance in which she had been skimming and flying about the room, like a large rose-colored butterfly, and the enjoyment and exercise had brought a brilliant, happyglow into her face. when she entered the room, she floated inwith a few of the butterfly steps--and there sat becky, nodding her cap sidewaysoff her head.
"oh!" cried sara, softly, when she saw her. "that poor thing!"it did not occur to her to feel cross at finding her pet chair occupied by thesmall, dingy figure. to tell the truth, she was quite glad tofind it there. when the ill-used heroine of her storywakened, she could talk to her. she crept toward her quietly, and stoodlooking at her. becky gave a little snore."i wish she'd waken herself," sara said. "i don't like to waken her. but miss minchin would be cross if shefound out.
i'll just wait a few minutes." she took a seat on the edge of the table,and sat swinging her slim, rose-colored legs, and wondering what it would be bestto do. miss amelia might come in at any moment,and if she did, becky would be sure to be scolded."but she is so tired," she thought. "she is so tired!" a piece of flaming coal ended herperplexity for her that very moment. it broke off from a large lump and fell onto the fender. becky started, and opened her eyes with afrightened gasp.
she did not know she had fallen asleep. she had only sat down for one moment andfelt the beautiful glow--and here she found herself staring in wild alarm at thewonderful pupil, who sat perched quite near her, like a rose-colored fairy, withinterested eyes. she sprang up and clutched at her cap.she felt it dangling over her ear, and tried wildly to put it straight. oh, she had got herself into trouble nowwith a vengeance! to have impudently fallen asleep on such ayoung lady's chair! she would be turned out of doors withoutwages.
she made a sound like a big breathless sob."oh, miss! oh, miss!" she stuttered. "i arst yer pardon, miss!oh, i do, miss!" sara jumped down, and came quite close toher. "don't be frightened," she said, quite asif she had been speaking to a little girl like herself."it doesn't matter the least bit." "i didn't go to do it, miss," protestedbecky. "it was the warm fire--an' me bein' sotired. it--it wasn't impertience!"
sara broke into a friendly little laugh,and put her hand on her shoulder. "you were tired," she said; "you could nothelp it. you are not really awake yet." how poor becky stared at her!in fact, she had never heard such a nice, friendly sound in anyone's voice before.she was used to being ordered about and scolded, and having her ears boxed. and this one--in her rose-colored dancingafternoon splendor--was looking at her as if she were not a culprit at all--as if shehad a right to be tired--even to fall asleep!
the touch of the soft, slim little paw onher shoulder was the most amazing thing she had ever known."ain't--ain't yer angry, miss?" she gasped. "ain't yer goin' to tell the missus?" "no," cried out sara."of course i'm not." the woeful fright in the coal-smutted facemade her suddenly so sorry that she could scarcely bear it. one of her queer thoughts rushed into hermind. she put her hand against becky's cheek."why," she said, "we are just the same--i am only a little girl like you.
it's just an accident that i am not you,and you are not me!" becky did not understand in the least. her mind could not grasp such amazingthoughts, and "an accident" meant to her a calamity in which some one was run over orfell off a ladder and was carried to "the 'orspital." "a' accident, miss," she flutteredrespectfully. "is it?""yes," sara answered, and she looked at her dreamily for a moment. but the next she spoke in a different tone.she realized that becky did not know what
she meant."have you done your work?" she asked. "dare you stay here a few minutes?" becky lost her breath again."here, miss? me?" sara ran to the door, opened it, and lookedout and listened. "no one is anywhere about," she explained. "if your bedrooms are finished, perhaps youmight stay a tiny while. i thought--perhaps--you might like a pieceof cake." the next ten minutes seemed to becky like asort of delirium. sara opened a cupboard, and gave her athick slice of cake.
she seemed to rejoice when it was devouredin hungry bites. she talked and asked questions, and laugheduntil becky's fears actually began to calm themselves, and she once or twice gatheredboldness enough to ask a question or so herself, daring as she felt it to be. "is that--" she ventured, looking longinglyat the rose-colored frock. and she asked it almost in a whisper."is that there your best?" "it is one of my dancing-frocks," answeredsara. "i like it, don't you?"for a few seconds becky was almost speechless with admiration.
then she said in an awed voice, "onct i seea princess. i was standin' in the street with the crowdoutside covin' garden, watchin' the swells go inter the operer. an' there was one everyone stared at most.they ses to each other, 'that's the princess.' she was a growed-up young lady, but she waspink all over--gownd an' cloak, an' flowers an' all.i called her to mind the minnit i see you, sittin' there on the table, miss. you looked like her.""i've often thought," said sara, in her
reflecting voice, "that i should like to bea princess; i wonder what it feels like. i believe i will begin pretending i amone." becky stared at her admiringly, and, asbefore, did not understand her in the least. she watched her with a sort of adoration.very soon sara left her reflections and turned to her with a new question."becky," she said, "weren't you listening to that story?" "yes, miss," confessed becky, a littlealarmed again. "i knowed i hadn't orter, but it was thatbeautiful i--i couldn't help it."
"i liked you to listen to it," said sara. "if you tell stories, you like nothing somuch as to tell them to people who want to listen.i don't know why it is. would you like to hear the rest?" becky lost her breath again."me hear it?" she cried. "like as if i was a pupil, miss! all about the prince--and the little whitemer-babies swimming about laughing--with stars in their hair?"sara nodded. "you haven't time to hear it now, i'mafraid," she said; "but if you will tell me
just what time you come to do my rooms, iwill try to be here and tell you a bit of it every day until it is finished. it's a lovely long one--and i'm alwaysputting new bits to it." "then," breathed becky, devoutly, "iwouldn't mind how heavy the coal boxes was- -or what the cook done to me, if--if imight have that to think of." "you may," said sara. "i'll tell it all to you."when becky went downstairs, she was not the same becky who had staggered up, loadeddown by the weight of the coal scuttle. she had an extra piece of cake in herpocket, and she had been fed and warmed,
but not only by cake and fire.something else had warmed and fed her, and the something else was sara. when she was gone sara sat on her favoriteperch on the end of her table. her feet were on a chair, her elbows on herknees, and her chin in her hands. "if i was a princess--a real princess," shemurmured, "i could scatter largess to the populace.but even if i am only a pretend princess, i can invent little things to do for people. things like this.she was just as happy as if it was largess. i'll pretend that to do things people likeis scattering largess.
i've scattered largess." a little princess by frances hodgson burnettchapter 6. the diamond mines not very long after this a very excitingthing happened. not only sara, but the entire school, foundit exciting, and made it the chief subject of conversation for weeks after itoccurred. in one of his letters captain crewe told amost interesting story. a friend who had been at school with himwhen he was a boy had unexpectedly come to see him in india.
he was the owner of a large tract of landupon which diamonds had been found, and he was engaged in developing the mines. if all went as was confidently expected, hewould become possessed of such wealth as it made one dizzy to think of; and because hewas fond of the friend of his school days, he had given him an opportunity to share in this enormous fortune by becoming a partnerin his scheme. this, at least, was what sara gathered fromhis letters. it is true that any other business scheme,however magnificent, would have had but small attraction for her or for theschoolroom; but "diamond mines" sounded so
like the arabian nights that no one couldbe indifferent. sara thought them enchanting, and paintedpictures, for ermengarde and lottie, of labyrinthine passages in the bowels of theearth, where sparkling stones studded the walls and roofs and ceilings, and strange,dark men dug them out with heavy picks. ermengarde delighted in the story, andlottie insisted on its being retold to her every evening. lavinia was very spiteful about it, andtold jessie that she didn't believe such things as diamond mines existed."my mamma has a diamond ring which cost forty pounds," she said.
"and it is not a big one, either.if there were mines full of diamonds, people would be so rich it would beridiculous." "perhaps sara will be so rich that she willbe ridiculous," giggled jessie. "she's ridiculous without being rich,"lavinia sniffed. "i believe you hate her," said jessie. "no, i don't," snapped lavinia."but i don't believe in mines full of diamonds.""well, people have to get them from somewhere," said jessie. "lavinia," with a new giggle, "what do youthink gertrude says?"
"i don't know, i'm sure; and i don't careif it's something more about that everlasting sara." "well, it is.one of her 'pretends' is that she is a princess.she plays it all the time--even in school. she says it makes her learn her lessonsbetter. she wants ermengarde to be one, too, butermengarde says she is too fat." "she is too fat," said lavinia. "and sara is too thin."naturally, jessie giggled again. "she says it has nothing to do with whatyou look like, or what you have.
it has only to do with what you think of,and what you do." "i suppose she thinks she could be aprincess if she was a beggar," said lavinia. "let us begin to call her your royalhighness." lessons for the day were over, and theywere sitting before the schoolroom fire, enjoying the time they liked best. it was the time when miss minchin and missamelia were taking their tea in the sitting room sacred to themselves. at this hour a great deal of talking wasdone, and a great many secrets changed
hands, particularly if the younger pupilsbehaved themselves well, and did not squabble or run about noisily, which itmust be confessed they usually did. when they made an uproar the older girlsusually interfered with scolding and shakes. they were expected to keep order, and therewas danger that if they did not, miss minchin or miss amelia would appear and putan end to festivities. even as lavinia spoke the door opened andsara entered with lottie, whose habit was to trot everywhere after her like a littledog. "there she is, with that horrid child!"exclaimed lavinia in a whisper.
"if she's so fond of her, why doesn't shekeep her in her own room? she will begin howling about something infive minutes." it happened that lottie had been seizedwith a sudden desire to play in the schoolroom, and had begged her adoptedparent to come with her. she joined a group of little ones who wereplaying in a corner. sara curled herself up in the window-seat,opened a book, and began to read. it was a book about the french revolution,and she was soon lost in a harrowing picture of the prisoners in the bastille--men who had spent so many years in dungeons that when they were dragged out by those
who rescued them, their long, gray hair andbeards almost hid their faces, and they had forgotten that an outside world existed atall, and were like beings in a dream. she was so far away from the schoolroomthat it was not agreeable to be dragged back suddenly by a howl from lottie. never did she find anything so difficult asto keep herself from losing her temper when she was suddenly disturbed while absorbedin a book. people who are fond of books know thefeeling of irritation which sweeps over them at such a moment.the temptation to be unreasonable and snappish is one not easy to manage.
"it makes me feel as if someone had hitme," sara had told ermengarde once in confidence."and as if i want to hit back. i have to remember things quickly to keepfrom saying something ill-tempered." she had to remember things quickly when shelaid her book on the window-seat and jumped down from her comfortable corner. lottie had been sliding across theschoolroom floor, and, having first irritated lavinia and jessie by making anoise, had ended by falling down and hurting her fat knee. she was screaming and dancing up and downin the midst of a group of friends and
enemies, who were alternately coaxing andscolding her. "stop this minute, you cry-baby! stop this minute!"lavinia commanded. "i'm not a cry-baby...i'm not!" wailed lottie. "sara, sa--ra!" "if she doesn't stop, miss minchin willhear her," cried jessie. "lottie darling, i'll give you a penny!" "i don't want your penny," sobbed lottie;and she looked down at the fat knee, and, seeing a drop of blood on it, burst forthagain.
sara flew across the room and, kneelingdown, put her arms round her. "now, lottie," she said."now, lottie, you promised sara." "she said i was a cry-baby," wept lottie. sara patted her, but spoke in the steadyvoice lottie knew. "but if you cry, you will be one, lottiepet. you promised." lottie remembered that she had promised,but she preferred to lift up her voice. "i haven't any mamma," she proclaimed."i haven't--a bit--of mamma." "yes, you have," said sara, cheerfully.
"have you forgotten?don't you know that sara is your mamma? don't you want sara for your mamma?"lottie cuddled up to her with a consoled sniff. "come and sit in the window-seat with me,"sara went on, "and i'll whisper a story to you.""will you?" whimpered lottie. "will you--tell me--about the diamondmines?" "the diamond mines?" broke out lavinia."nasty, little spoiled thing, i should like to slap her!" sara got up quickly on her feet.
it must be remembered that she had beenvery deeply absorbed in the book about the bastille, and she had had to recall severalthings rapidly when she realized that she must go and take care of her adopted child. she was not an angel, and she was not fondof lavinia. "well," she said, with some fire, "i shouldlike to slap you--but i don't want to slap you!" restraining herself. "at least i both want to slap you--and ishould like to slap you--but i won't slap you.we are not little gutter children. we are both old enough to know better."
here was lavinia's opportunity."ah, yes, your royal highness," she said. "we are princesses, i believe.at least one of us is. the school ought to be very fashionable nowmiss minchin has a princess for a pupil." sara started toward her.she looked as if she were going to box her ears. perhaps she was.her trick of pretending things was the joy of her life.she never spoke of it to girls she was not fond of. her new "pretend" about being a princesswas very near to her heart, and she was shy
and sensitive about it. she had meant it to be rather a secret, andhere was lavinia deriding it before nearly all the school.she felt the blood rush up into her face and tingle in her ears. she only just saved herself.if you were a princess, you did not fly into rages.her hand dropped, and she stood quite still a moment. when she spoke it was in a quiet, steadyvoice; she held her head up, and everybody listened to her."it's true," she said.
"sometimes i do pretend i am a princess. i pretend i am a princess, so that i cantry and behave like one." lavinia could not think of exactly theright thing to say. several times she had found that she couldnot think of a satisfactory reply when she was dealing with sara. the reason for this was that, somehow, therest always seemed to be vaguely in sympathy with her opponent.she saw now that they were pricking up their ears interestedly. the truth was, they liked princesses, andthey all hoped they might hear something
more definite about this one, and drewnearer sara accordingly. lavinia could only invent one remark, andit fell rather flat. "dear me," she said, "i hope, when youascend the throne, you won't forget us!" "i won't," said sara, and she did not utteranother word, but stood quite still, and stared at her steadily as she saw her takejessie's arm and turn away. after this, the girls who were jealous ofher used to speak of her as "princess sara" whenever they wished to be particularlydisdainful, and those who were fond of her gave her the name among themselves as aterm of affection. no one called her "princess" instead of"sara," but her adorers were much pleased
with the picturesqueness and grandeur ofthe title, and miss minchin, hearing of it, mentioned it more than once to visiting parents, feeling that it rather suggested asort of royal boarding school. to becky it seemed the most appropriatething in the world. the acquaintance begun on the foggyafternoon when she had jumped up terrified from her sleep in the comfortable chair,had ripened and grown, though it must be confessed that miss minchin and miss ameliaknew very little about it. they were aware that sara was "kind" to thescullery maid, but they knew nothing of certain delightful moments snatchedperilously when, the upstairs rooms being
set in order with lightning rapidity, sara's sitting room was reached, and theheavy coal box set down with a sigh of joy. at such times stories were told byinstallments, things of a satisfying nature were either produced and eaten or hastilytucked into pockets to be disposed of at night, when becky went upstairs to herattic to bed. "but i has to eat 'em careful, miss," shesaid once; "'cos if i leaves crumbs the rats come out to get 'em." "rats!" exclaimed sara, in horror."are there rats there?" "lots of 'em, miss," becky answered inquite a matter-of-fact manner.
"there mostly is rats an' mice in attics. you gets used to the noise they makesscuttling about. i've got so i don't mind 'em s' long asthey don't run over my piller." "ugh!" said sara. "you gets used to anythin' after a bit,"said becky. "you have to, miss, if you're born ascullery maid. i'd rather have rats than cockroaches." "so would i," said sara; "i suppose youmight make friends with a rat in time, but i don't believe i should like to makefriends with a cockroach."
sometimes becky did not dare to spend morethan a few minutes in the bright, warm room, and when this was the case perhapsonly a few words could be exchanged, and a small purchase slipped into the old- fashioned pocket becky carried under herdress skirt, tied round her waist with a band of tape. the search for and discovery of satisfyingthings to eat which could be packed into small compass, added a new interest tosara's existence. when she drove or walked out, she used tolook into shop windows eagerly. the first time it occurred to her to bringhome two or three little meat pies, she
felt that she had hit upon a discovery. when she exhibited them, becky's eyes quitesparkled. "oh, miss!" she murmured."them will be nice an' fillin.' it's fillin'ness that's best. sponge cake's a 'evenly thing, but it meltsaway like--if you understand, miss. these'll just stay in yer stummick." "well," hesitated sara, "i don't think itwould be good if they stayed always, but i do believe they will be satisfying." they were satisfying--and so were beefsandwiches, bought at a cook-shop--and so
were rolls and bologna sausage. in time, becky began to lose her hungry,tired feeling, and the coal box did not seem so unbearably heavy. however heavy it was, and whatsoever thetemper of the cook, and the hardness of the work heaped upon her shoulders, she hadalways the chance of the afternoon to look forward to--the chance that miss sara wouldbe able to be in her sitting room. in fact, the mere seeing of miss sara wouldhave been enough without meat pies. if there was time only for a few words,they were always friendly, merry words that put heart into one; and if there was timefor more, then there was an installment of
a story to be told, or some other thing one remembered afterward and sometimes layawake in one's bed in the attic to think over. sara--who was only doing what sheunconsciously liked better than anything else, nature having made her for a giver--had not the least idea what she meant to poor becky, and how wonderful a benefactorshe seemed. if nature has made you for a giver, yourhands are born open, and so is your heart; and though there may be times when yourhands are empty, your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that--warm
things, kind things, sweet things--help andcomfort and laughter--and sometimes gay, kind laughter is the best help of all. becky had scarcely known what laughter wasthrough all her poor, little hard-driven life. sara made her laugh, and laughed with her;and, though neither of them quite knew it, the laughter was as "fillin'" as the meatpies. a few weeks before sara's eleventh birthdaya letter came to her from her father, which did not seem to be written in such boyishhigh spirits as usual. he was not very well, and was evidentlyoverweighted by the business connected with
the diamond mines. "you see, little sara," he wrote, "yourdaddy is not a businessman at all, and figures and documents bother him.he does not really understand them, and all this seems so enormous. perhaps, if i was not feverish i should notbe awake, tossing about, one half of the night and spend the other half introublesome dreams. if my little missus were here, i dare sayshe would give me some solemn, good advice. you would, wouldn't you, little missus?" one of his many jokes had been to call herhis "little missus" because she had such an
old-fashioned air.he had made wonderful preparations for her birthday. among other things, a new doll had beenordered in paris, and her wardrobe was to be, indeed, a marvel of splendidperfection. when she had replied to the letter askingher if the doll would be an acceptable present, sara had been very quaint. "i am getting very old," she wrote; "yousee, i shall never live to have another doll given me.this will be my last doll. there is something solemn about it.
if i could write poetry, i am sure a poemabout 'a last doll' would be very nice. but i cannot write poetry.i have tried, and it made me laugh. it did not sound like watts or coleridge orshakespeare at all. no one could ever take emily's place, but ishould respect the last doll very much; and i am sure the school would love it. they all like dolls, though some of the bigones--the almost fifteen ones--pretend they are too grown up." captain crewe had a splitting headache whenhe read this letter in his bungalow in the table before him was heaped with papersand letters which were alarming him and
filling him with anxious dread, but helaughed as he had not laughed for weeks. "oh," he said, "she's better fun every yearshe lives. god grant this business may right itselfand leave me free to run home and see her. what wouldn't i give to have her littlearms round my neck this minute! what wouldn't i give!"the birthday was to be celebrated by great festivities. the schoolroom was to be decorated, andthere was to be a party. the boxes containing the presents were tobe opened with great ceremony, and there was to be a glittering feast spread in missminchin's sacred room.
when the day arrived the whole house was ina whirl of excitement. how the morning passed nobody quite knew,because there seemed such preparations to be made. the schoolroom was being decked withgarlands of holly; the desks had been moved away, and red covers had been put on theforms which were arrayed round the room against the wall. when sara went into her sitting room in themorning, she found on the table a small, dumpy package, tied up in a piece of brownpaper. she knew it was a present, and she thoughtshe could guess whom it came from.
she opened it quite tenderly. it was a square pincushion, made of notquite clean red flannel, and black pins had been stuck carefully into it to form thewords, "menny hapy returns." "oh!" cried sara, with a warm feeling inher heart. "what pains she has taken!i like it so, it--it makes me feel sorrowful." but the next moment she was mystified.on the under side of the pincushion was secured a card, bearing in neat letters thename "miss amelia minchin." sara turned it over and over.
"miss amelia!" she said to herself "how canit be!" and just at that very moment she heard thedoor being cautiously pushed open and saw becky peeping round it. there was an affectionate, happy grin onher face, and she shuffled forward and stood nervously pulling at her fingers."do yer like it, miss sara?" she said. "do yer?" "like it?" cried sara."you darling becky, you made it all yourself."becky gave a hysteric but joyful sniff, and her eyes looked quite moist with delight.
"it ain't nothin' but flannin, an' theflannin ain't new; but i wanted to give yer somethin' an' i made it of nights.i knew yer could pretend it was satin with diamond pins in. i tried to when i was makin' it.the card, miss," rather doubtfully; "'t warn't wrong of me to pick it up out o' thedust-bin, was it? miss 'meliar had throwed it away. i hadn't no card o' my own, an' i knowed itwouldn't be a proper presink if i didn't pin a card on--so i pinned miss 'meliar's."sara flew at her and hugged her. she could not have told herself or anyoneelse why there was a lump in her throat.
"oh, becky!" she cried out, with a queerlittle laugh, "i love you, becky--i do, i do!" "oh, miss!" breathed becky."thank yer, miss, kindly; it ain't good enough for that.the--the flannin wasn't new." a little princess by frances hodgson burnettchapter 7. the diamond mines again when sara entered the holly-hung schoolroomin the afternoon, she did so as the head of a sort of procession.miss minchin, in her grandest silk dress, led her by the hand.
a manservant followed, carrying the boxcontaining the last doll, a housemaid carried a second box, and becky brought upthe rear, carrying a third and wearing a clean apron and a new cap. sara would have much preferred to enter inthe usual way, but miss minchin had sent for her, and, after an interview in herprivate sitting room, had expressed her wishes. "this is not an ordinary occasion," shesaid. "i do not desire that it should be treatedas one." so sara was led grandly in and felt shywhen, on her entry, the big girls stared at
her and touched each other's elbows, andthe little ones began to squirm joyously in their seats. "silence, young ladies!" said miss minchin,at the murmur which arose. "james, place the box on the table andremove the lid. emma, put yours upon a chair. becky!" suddenly and severely.becky had quite forgotten herself in her excitement, and was grinning at lottie, whowas wriggling with rapturous expectation. she almost dropped her box, thedisapproving voice so startled her, and her frightened, bobbing curtsy of apology wasso funny that lavinia and jessie tittered.
"it is not your place to look at the youngladies," said miss minchin. "you forget yourself.put your box down." becky obeyed with alarmed haste and hastilybacked toward the door. "you may leave us," miss minchin announcedto the servants with a wave of her hand. becky stepped aside respectfully to allowthe superior servants to pass out first. she could not help casting a longing glanceat the box on the table. something made of blue satin was peepingfrom between the folds of tissue paper. "if you please, miss minchin," said sara,suddenly, "mayn't becky stay?" it was a bold thing to do.
miss minchin was betrayed into somethinglike a slight jump. then she put her eyeglass up, and gazed ather show pupil disturbedly. "becky!" she exclaimed. "my dearest sara!"sara advanced a step toward her. "i want her because i know she will like tosee the presents," she explained. "she is a little girl, too, you know." miss minchin was scandalized.she glanced from one figure to the other. "my dear sara," she said, "becky is thescullery maid. scullery maids--er--are not little girls."
it really had not occurred to her to thinkof them in that light. scullery maids were machines who carriedcoal scuttles and made fires. "but becky is," said sara. "and i know she would enjoy herself.please let her stay--because it is my birthday."miss minchin replied with much dignity: "as you ask it as a birthday favor--she maystay. rebecca, thank miss sara for her greatkindness." becky had been backing into the corner,twisting the hem of her apron in delighted suspense.
she came forward, bobbing curtsies, butbetween sara's eyes and her own there passed a gleam of friendly understanding,while her words tumbled over each other. "oh, if you please, miss! i'm that grateful, miss!i did want to see the doll, miss, that i did.thank you, miss. and thank you, ma'am,"--turning and makingan alarmed bob to miss minchin--"for letting me take the liberty." miss minchin waved her hand again--thistime it was in the direction of the corner near the door."go and stand there," she commanded.
"not too near the young ladies." becky went to her place, grinning. she did not care where she was sent, sothat she might have the luck of being inside the room, instead of beingdownstairs in the scullery, while these delights were going on. she did not even mind when miss minchincleared her throat ominously and spoke again."now, young ladies, i have a few words to say to you," she announced. "she's going to make a speech," whisperedone of the girls.
"i wish it was over."sara felt rather uncomfortable. as this was her party, it was probable thatthe speech was about her. it is not agreeable to stand in aschoolroom and have a speech made about you. "you are aware, young ladies," the speechbegan--for it was a speech--"that dear sara is eleven years old today.""dear sara!" murmured lavinia. "several of you here have also been elevenyears old, but sara's birthdays are rather different from other little girls'birthdays. when she is older she will be heiress to alarge fortune, which it will be her duty to
spend in a meritorious manner.""the diamond mines," giggled jessie, in a whisper. sara did not hear her; but as she stoodwith her green-gray eyes fixed steadily on miss minchin, she felt herself growingrather hot. when miss minchin talked about money, shefelt somehow that she always hated her-- and, of course, it was disrespectful tohate grown-up people. "when her dear papa, captain crewe, broughther from india and gave her into my care," the speech proceeded, "he said to me, in ajesting way, 'i am afraid she will be very rich, miss minchin.'
my reply was, 'her education at myseminary, captain crewe, shall be such as will adorn the largest fortune.'sara has become my most accomplished pupil. her french and her dancing are a credit tothe seminary. her manners--which have caused you to callher princess sara--are perfect. her amiability she exhibits by giving youthis afternoon's party. i hope you appreciate her generosity. i wish you to express your appreciation ofit by saying aloud all together, 'thank you, sara!'" the entire schoolroom rose to its feet asit had done the morning sara remembered so
well."thank you, sara!" it said, and it must be confessed that lottie jumped up and down. sara looked rather shy for a moment.she made a curtsy--and it was a very nice one."thank you," she said, "for coming to my party." "very pretty, indeed, sara," approved missminchin. "that is what a real princess does when thepopulace applauds her. lavinia"--scathingly--"the sound you justmade was extremely like a snort. if you are jealous of your fellow-pupil, ibeg you will express your feelings in some
more lady-like manner. now i will leave you to enjoy yourselves."the instant she had swept out of the room the spell her presence always had upon themwas broken. the door had scarcely closed before everyseat was empty. the little girls jumped or tumbled out oftheirs; the older ones wasted no time in deserting theirs. there was a rush toward the boxes.sara had bent over one of them with a delighted face."these are books, i know," she said. the little children broke into a ruefulmurmur, and ermengarde looked aghast.
"does your papa send you books for abirthday present?" she exclaimed. "why, he's as bad as mine. don't open them, sara.""i like them," sara laughed, but she turned to the biggest box. when she took out the last doll it was somagnificent that the children uttered delighted groans of joy, and actually drewback to gaze at it in breathless rapture. "she is almost as big as lottie," someonegasped. lottie clapped her hands and danced about,giggling. "she's dressed for the theater," saidlavinia.
"her cloak is lined with ermine." "oh," cried ermengarde, darting forward,"she has an opera-glass in her hand--a blue-and-gold one!""here is her trunk," said sara. "let us open it and look at her things." she sat down upon the floor and turned thekey. the children crowded clamoring around her,as she lifted tray after tray and revealed their contents. never had the schoolroom been in such anuproar. there were lace collars and silk stockingsand handkerchiefs; there was a jewel case
containing a necklace and a tiara whichlooked quite as if they were made of real diamonds; there was a long sealskin and muff, there were ball dresses and walkingdresses and visiting dresses; there were hats and tea gowns and fans. even lavinia and jessie forgot that theywere too elderly to care for dolls, and uttered exclamations of delight and caughtup things to look at them. "suppose," sara said, as she stood by thetable, putting a large, black-velvet hat on the impassively smiling owner of all thesesplendors--"suppose she understands human talk and feels proud of being admired."
"you are always supposing things," saidlavinia, and her air was very superior. "i know i am," answered sara,undisturbedly. "i like it. there is nothing so nice as supposing.it's almost like being a fairy. if you suppose anything hard enough itseems as if it were real." "it's all very well to suppose things ifyou have everything," said lavinia. "could you suppose and pretend if you werea beggar and lived in a garret?" sara stopped arranging the last doll'sostrich plumes, and looked thoughtful. "i believe i could," she said."if one was a beggar, one would have to
suppose and pretend all the time. but it mightn't be easy."she often thought afterward how strange it was that just as she had finished sayingthis--just at that very moment--miss amelia came into the room. "sara," she said, "your papa's solicitor,mr. barrow, has called to see miss minchin, and, as she must talk to him alone and therefreshments are laid in her parlor, you had all better come and have your feast now, so that my sister can have herinterview here in the schoolroom." refreshments were not likely to bedisdained at any hour, and many pairs of
eyes gleamed. miss amelia arranged the procession intodecorum, and then, with sara at her side heading it, she led it away, leaving thelast doll sitting upon a chair with the glories of her wardrobe scattered about her; dresses and coats hung upon chairbacks, piles of lace-frilled petticoats lying upon their seats. becky, who was not expected to partake ofrefreshments, had the indiscretion to linger a moment to look at these beauties--it really was an indiscretion. "go back to your work, becky," miss ameliahad said; but she had stopped to pick up
reverently first a muff and then a coat,and while she stood looking at them adoringly, she heard miss minchin upon the threshold, and, being smitten with terrorat the thought of being accused of taking liberties, she rashly darted under thetable, which hid her by its tablecloth. miss minchin came into the room,accompanied by a sharp-featured, dry little gentleman, who looked rather disturbed. miss minchin herself also looked ratherdisturbed, it must be admitted, and she gazed at the dry little gentleman with anirritated and puzzled expression. she sat down with stiff dignity, and wavedhim to a chair.
"pray, be seated, mr. barrow," she said.mr. barrow did not sit down at once. his attention seemed attracted by the lastdoll and the things which surrounded her. he settled his eyeglasses and looked atthem in nervous disapproval. the last doll herself did not seem to mindthis in the least. she merely sat upright and returned hisgaze indifferently. "a hundred pounds," mr. barrow remarkedsuccinctly. "all expensive material, and made at aparisian modiste's. he spent money lavishly enough, that youngman." miss minchin felt offended.this seemed to be a disparagement of her
best patron and was a liberty. even solicitors had no right to takeliberties. "i beg your pardon, mr. barrow," she saidstiffly. "i do not understand." "birthday presents," said mr. barrow in thesame critical manner, "to a child eleven years old!mad extravagance, i call it." miss minchin drew herself up still morerigidly. "captain crewe is a man of fortune," shesaid. "the diamond mines alone--"
mr. barrow wheeled round upon her."diamond mines!" he broke out. "there are none!never were!" miss minchin actually got up from herchair. "what!" she cried."what do you mean?" "at any rate," answered mr. barrow, quitesnappishly, "it would have been much better if there never had been any." "any diamond mines?" ejaculated missminchin, catching at the back of a chair and feeling as if a splendid dream wasfading away from her. "diamond mines spell ruin oftener than theyspell wealth," said mr. barrow.
"when a man is in the hands of a very dearfriend and is not a businessman himself, he had better steer clear of the dear friend'sdiamond mines, or gold mines, or any other kind of mines dear friends want his moneyto put into. the late captain crewe--"here miss minchin stopped him with a gasp. "the late captain crewe!" she cried out. "the late!you don't come to tell me that captain crewe is--""he's dead, ma'am," mr. barrow answered with jerky brusqueness. "died of jungle fever and business troublescombined.
the jungle fever might not have killed himif he had not been driven mad by the business troubles, and the businesstroubles might not have put an end to him if the jungle fever had not assisted. captain crewe is dead!"miss minchin dropped into her chair again. the words he had spoken filled her withalarm. "what were his business troubles?" shesaid. "what were they?""diamond mines," answered mr. barrow, "and dear friends--and ruin." miss minchin lost her breath."ruin!" she gasped out.
"lost every penny.that young man had too much money. the dear friend was mad on the subject ofthe diamond mine. he put all his own money into it, and allcaptain crewe's. then the dear friend ran away--captaincrewe was already stricken with fever when the news came.the shock was too much for him. he died delirious, raving about his littlegirl--and didn't leave a penny." now miss minchin understood, and never hadshe received such a blow in her life. her show pupil, her show patron, swept awayfrom the select seminary at one blow. she felt as if she had been outraged androbbed, and that captain crewe and sara and
mr. barrow were equally to blame. "do you mean to tell me," she cried out,"that he left nothing! that sara will have no fortune!that the child is a beggar! that she is left on my hands a littlepauper instead of an heiress?" mr. barrow was a shrewd businessman, andfelt it as well to make his own freedom from responsibility quite clear without anydelay. "she is certainly left a beggar," hereplied. "and she is certainly left on your hands,ma'am--as she hasn't a relation in the world that we know of."
miss minchin started forward.she looked as if she was going to open the door and rush out of the room to stop thefestivities going on joyfully and rather noisily that moment over the refreshments. "it is monstrous!" she said."she's in my sitting room at this moment, dressed in silk gauze and lace petticoats,giving a party at my expense." "she's giving it at your expense, madam, ifshe's giving it," said mr. barrow, calmly. "barrow & skipworth are not responsible foranything. there never was a cleaner sweep made of aman's fortune. captain crewe died without paying our lastbill--and it was a big one."
miss minchin turned back from the door inincreased indignation. this was worse than anyone could havedreamed of its being. "that is what has happened to me!" shecried. "i was always so sure of his payments thati went to all sorts of ridiculous expenses for the child. i paid the bills for that ridiculous dolland her ridiculous fantastic wardrobe. the child was to have anything she wanted. she has a carriage and a pony and a maid,and i've paid for all of them since the last cheque came."
mr. barrow evidently did not intend toremain to listen to the story of miss minchin's grievances after he had made theposition of his firm clear and related the mere dry facts. he did not feel any particular sympathy forirate keepers of boarding schools. "you had better not pay for anything more,ma'am," he remarked, "unless you want to make presents to the young lady. no one will remember you.she hasn't a brass farthing to call her own." "but what am i to do?" demanded missminchin, as if she felt it entirely his
duty to make the matter right."what am i to do?" "there isn't anything to do," said mr.barrow, folding up his eyeglasses and slipping them into his pocket."captain crewe is dead. the child is left a pauper. nobody is responsible for her but you.""i am not responsible for her, and i refuse to be made responsible!"miss minchin became quite white with rage. mr. barrow turned to go. "i have nothing to do with that, madam," hesaid uninterestedly. "barrow & skipworth are not responsible.very sorry the thing has happened, of
course." "if you think she is to be foisted off onme, you are greatly mistaken," miss minchin gasped."i have been robbed and cheated; i will turn her into the street!" if she had not been so furious, she wouldhave been too discreet to say quite so much. she saw herself burdened with anextravagantly brought-up child whom she had always resented, and she lost all self-control. mr. barrow undisturbedly moved toward thedoor.
"i wouldn't do that, madam," he commented;"it wouldn't look well. unpleasant story to get about in connectionwith the establishment. pupil bundled out penniless and withoutfriends." he was a clever business man, and he knewwhat he was saying. he also knew that miss minchin was abusiness woman, and would be shrewd enough to see the truth. she could not afford to do a thing whichwould make people speak of her as cruel and hard-hearted."better keep her and make use of her," he added.
"she's a clever child, i believe.you can get a good deal out of her as she grows older.""i will get a good deal out of her before she grows older!" exclaimed miss minchin. "i am sure you will, ma'am," said mr.barrow, with a little sinister smile. "i am sure you will.good morning!" he bowed himself out and closed the door,and it must be confessed that miss minchin stood for a few moments and glared at it.what he had said was quite true. she knew it. she had absolutely no redress.her show pupil had melted into nothingness,
leaving only a friendless, beggared littlegirl. such money as she herself had advanced waslost and could not be regained. and as she stood there breathless under hersense of injury, there fell upon her ears a burst of gay voices from her own sacredroom, which had actually been given up to the feast. she could at least stop this.but as she started toward the door it was opened by miss amelia, who, when she caughtsight of the changed, angry face, fell back a step in alarm. "what is the matter, sister?" sheejaculated.
miss minchin's voice was almost fierce whenshe answered: "where is sara crewe?" miss amelia was bewildered."sara!" she stammered. "why, she's with the children in your room,of course." "has she a black frock in her sumptuouswardrobe?"--in bitter irony. "a black frock?"miss amelia stammered again. "a black one?" "she has frocks of every other color.has she a black one?" miss amelia began to turn pale."no--ye-es!" she said.
"but it is too short for her. she has only the old black velvet, and shehas outgrown it." "go and tell her to take off thatpreposterous pink silk gauze, and put the black one on, whether it is too short ornot. she has done with finery!" then miss amelia began to wring her fathands and cry. "oh, sister!" she sniffed."oh, sister! what can have happened?" miss minchin wasted no words."captain crewe is dead," she said.
"he has died without a penny.that spoiled, pampered, fanciful child is left a pauper on my hands." miss amelia sat down quite heavily in thenearest chair. "hundreds of pounds have i spent onnonsense for her. and i shall never see a penny of it. put a stop to this ridiculous party ofhers. go and make her change her frock at once.""i?" panted miss amelia. "m-must i go and tell her now?" "this moment!" was the fierce answer."don't sit staring like a goose. go!"
poor miss amelia was accustomed to beingcalled a goose. she knew, in fact, that she was rather agoose, and that it was left to geese to do a great many disagreeable things. it was a somewhat embarrassing thing to gointo the midst of a room full of delighted children, and tell the giver of the feastthat she had suddenly been transformed into a little beggar, and must go upstairs and put on an old black frock which was toosmall for her. but the thing must be done.this was evidently not the time when questions might be asked.
she rubbed her eyes with her handkerchiefuntil they looked quite red. after which she got up and went out of theroom, without venturing to say another word. when her older sister looked and spoke asshe had done just now, the wisest course to pursue was to obey orders without anycomment. miss minchin walked across the room. she spoke to herself aloud without knowingthat she was doing it. during the last year the story of thediamond mines had suggested all sorts of possibilities to her.
even proprietors of seminaries might makefortunes in stocks, with the aid of owners of mines. and now, instead of looking forward togains, she was left to look back upon losses."the princess sara, indeed!" she said. "the child has been pampered as if she werea queen." she was sweeping angrily past the cornertable as she said it, and the next moment she started at the sound of a loud, sobbingsniff which issued from under the cover. "what is that!" she exclaimed angrily. the loud, sobbing sniff was heard again,and she stooped and raised the hanging
folds of the table cover."how dare you!" she cried out. "how dare you! come out immediately!"it was poor becky who crawled out, and her cap was knocked on one side, and her facewas red with repressed crying. "if you please, 'm--it's me, mum," sheexplained. "i know i hadn't ought to. but i was lookin' at the doll, mum--an' iwas frightened when you come in--an' slipped under the table.""you have been there all the time, listening," said miss minchin.
"no, mum," becky protested, bobbingcurtsies. "not listenin'--i thought i could slip outwithout your noticin', but i couldn't an' i had to stay. but i didn't listen, mum--i wouldn't fornothin'. but i couldn't help hearin'."suddenly it seemed almost as if she lost all fear of the awful lady before her. she burst into fresh tears."oh, please, 'm," she said; "i dare say you'll give me warnin, mum--but i'm sosorry for poor miss sara--i'm so sorry!" "leave the room!" ordered miss minchin.
becky curtsied again, the tears openlystreaming down her cheeks. "yes, 'm; i will, 'm," she said, trembling;"but oh, i just wanted to arst you: miss sara--she's been such a rich young lady,an' she's been waited on, 'and and foot; an' what will she do now, mum, without nomaid? if--if, oh please, would you let me wait onher after i've done my pots an' kettles? i'd do 'em that quick--if you'd let me waiton her now she's poor. oh," breaking out afresh, "poor little misssara, mum--that was called a princess." somehow, she made miss minchin feel moreangry than ever. that the very scullery maid should rangeherself on the side of this child--whom she
realized more fully than ever that she hadnever liked--was too much. she actually stamped her foot. "no--certainly not," she said."she will wait on herself, and on other people, too.leave the room this instant, or you'll leave your place." becky threw her apron over her head andfled. she ran out of the room and down the stepsinto the scullery, and there she sat down among her pots and kettles, and wept as ifher heart would break. "it's exactly like the ones in thestories," she wailed.
"them pore princess ones that was droveinto the world." miss minchin had never looked quite sostill and hard as she did when sara came to her, a few hours later, in response to amessage she had sent her. even by that time it seemed to sara as ifthe birthday party had either been a dream or a thing which had happened years ago,and had happened in the life of quite another little girl. every sign of the festivities had beenswept away; the holly had been removed from the schoolroom walls, and the forms anddesks put back into their places. miss minchin's sitting room looked as italways did--all traces of the feast were
gone, and miss minchin had resumed herusual dress. the pupils had been ordered to lay asidetheir party frocks; and this having been done, they had returned to the schoolroomand huddled together in groups, whispering and talking excitedly. "tell sara to come to my room," missminchin had said to her sister. "and explain to her clearly that i willhave no crying or unpleasant scenes." "sister," replied miss amelia, "she is thestrangest child i ever saw. she has actually made no fuss at all.you remember she made none when captain crewe went back to india.
when i told her what had happened, she juststood quite still and looked at me without making a sound.her eyes seemed to get bigger and bigger, and she went quite pale. when i had finished, she still stoodstaring for a few seconds, and then her chin began to shake, and she turned roundand ran out of the room and upstairs. several of the other children began to cry,but she did not seem to hear them or to be alive to anything but just what i wassaying. it made me feel quite queer not to beanswered; and when you tell anything sudden and strange, you expect people will saysomething--whatever it is."
nobody but sara herself ever knew what hadhappened in her room after she had run upstairs and locked her door. in fact, she herself scarcely rememberedanything but that she walked up and down, saying over and over again to herself in avoice which did not seem her own, "my papa is dead! my papa is dead!"once she stopped before emily, who sat watching her from her chair, and cried outwildly, "emily! do you hear? do you hear--papa is dead?he is dead in india--thousands of miles
away." when she came into miss minchin's sittingroom in answer to her summons, her face was white and her eyes had dark rings aroundthem. her mouth was set as if she did not wish itto reveal what she had suffered and was suffering. she did not look in the least like therose-colored butterfly child who had flown about from one of her treasures to theother in the decorated schoolroom. she looked instead a strange, desolate,almost grotesque little figure. she had put on, without mariette's help,the cast-aside black-velvet frock.
it was too short and tight, and her slenderlegs looked long and thin, showing themselves from beneath the brief skirt. as she had not found a piece of blackribbon, her short, thick, black hair tumbled loosely about her face andcontrasted strongly with its pallor. she held emily tightly in one arm, andemily was swathed in a piece of black material."put down your doll," said miss minchin. "what do you mean by bringing her here?" "no," sara answered."i will not put her down. she is all i have.my papa gave her to me."
she had always made miss minchin feelsecretly uncomfortable, and she did so now. she did not speak with rudeness so much aswith a cold steadiness with which miss minchin felt it difficult to cope--perhapsbecause she knew she was doing a heartless and inhuman thing. "you will have no time for dolls infuture," she said. "you will have to work and improve yourselfand make yourself useful." sara kept her big, strange eyes fixed onher, and said not a word. "everything will be very different now,"miss minchin went on. "i suppose miss amelia has explainedmatters to you."
"yes," answered sara."my papa is dead. he left me no money. i am quite poor.""you are a beggar," said miss minchin, her temper rising at the recollection of whatall this meant. "it appears that you have no relations andno home, and no one to take care of you." for a moment the thin, pale little facetwitched, but sara again said nothing. "what are you staring at?" demanded missminchin, sharply. "are you so stupid that you cannotunderstand? i tell you that you are quite alone in theworld, and have no one to do anything for
you, unless i choose to keep you here outof charity." "i understand," answered sara, in a lowtone; and there was a sound as if she had gulped down something which rose in herthroat. "i understand." "that doll," cried miss minchin, pointingto the splendid birthday gift seated near-- "that ridiculous doll, with all hernonsensical, extravagant things--i actually paid the bill for her!" sara turned her head toward the chair."the last doll," she said. "the last doll."and her little mournful voice had an odd
sound. "the last doll, indeed!" said miss minchin."and she is mine, not yours. everything you own is mine.""please take it away from me, then," said sara. "i do not want it."if she had cried and sobbed and seemed frightened, miss minchin might almost havehad more patience with her. she was a woman who liked to domineer andfeel her power, and as she looked at sara's pale little steadfast face and heard herproud little voice, she quite felt as if her might was being set at naught.
"don't put on grand airs," she said."the time for that sort of thing is past. you are not a princess any longer.your carriage and your pony will be sent away--your maid will be dismissed. you will wear your oldest and plainestclothes--your extravagant ones are no longer suited to your station.you are like becky--you must work for your living." to her surprise, a faint gleam of lightcame into the child's eyes--a shade of relief."can i work?" she said. "if i can work it will not matter so much.
what can i do?""you can do anything you are told," was the answer."you are a sharp child, and pick up things readily. if you make yourself useful i may let youstay here. you speak french well, and you can helpwith the younger children." "may i?" exclaimed sara. "oh, please let me!i know i can teach them. i like them, and they like me.""don't talk nonsense about people liking you," said miss minchin.
"you will have to do more than teach thelittle ones. you will run errands and help in thekitchen as well as in the schoolroom. if you don't please me, you will be sentaway. remember that.now go." sara stood still just a moment, looking ather. in her young soul, she was thinking deepand strange things. then she turned to leave the room. "stop!" said miss minchin."don't you intend to thank me?" sara paused, and all the deep, strangethoughts surged up in her breast.
"what for?" she said. "for my kindness to you," replied missminchin. "for my kindness in giving you a home."sara made two or three steps toward her. her thin little chest heaved up and down,and she spoke in a strange un-childishly fierce way."you are not kind," she said. "you are not kind, and it is not a home." and she had turned and run out of the roombefore miss minchin could stop her or do anything but stare after her with stonyanger. she went up the stairs slowly, but pantingfor breath and she held emily tightly
against her side."i wish she could talk," she said to "if she could speak--if she could speak!"she meant to go to her room and lie down on the tiger-skin, with her cheek upon thegreat cat's head, and look into the fire and think and think and think. but just before she reached the landingmiss amelia came out of the door and closed it behind her, and stood before it, lookingnervous and awkward. the truth was that she felt secretlyashamed of the thing she had been ordered to do."you--you are not to go in there," she "not go in?" exclaimed sara, and she fellback a pace.
"that is not your room now," miss ameliaanswered, reddening a little. somehow, all at once, sara understood. she realized that this was the beginning ofthe change miss minchin had spoken of. "where is my room?" she asked, hoping verymuch that her voice did not shake. "you are to sleep in the attic next tobecky." sara knew where it was.becky had told her about it. she turned, and mounted up two flights ofstairs. the last one was narrow, and covered withshabby strips of old carpet. she felt as if she were walking away andleaving far behind her the world in which
that other child, who no longer seemedherself, had lived. this child, in her short, tight old frock,climbing the stairs to the attic, was quite a different creature.when she reached the attic door and opened it, her heart gave a dreary little thump. then she shut the door and stood against itand looked about her. yes, this was another world.the room had a slanting roof and was whitewashed. the whitewash was dingy and had fallen offin places. there was a rusty grate, an old ironbedstead, and a hard bed covered with a
faded coverlet. some pieces of furniture too much worn tobe used downstairs had been sent up. under the skylight in the roof, whichshowed nothing but an oblong piece of dull gray sky, there stood an old battered redfootstool. sara went to it and sat down. she seldom cried.she did not cry now. she laid emily across her knees and put herface down upon her and her arms around her, and sat there, her little black headresting on the black draperies, not saying one word, not making one sound.
and as she sat in this silence there came alow tap at the door--such a low, humble one that she did not at first hear it, and,indeed, was not roused until the door was timidly pushed open and a poor tear-smearedface appeared peeping round it. it was becky's face, and becky had beencrying furtively for hours and rubbing her eyes with her kitchen apron until shelooked strange indeed. "oh, miss," she said under her breath. "might i--would you allow me--jest to comein?" sara lifted her head and looked at her.she tried to begin a smile, and somehow she could not.
suddenly--and it was all through the lovingmournfulness of becky's streaming eyes--her face looked more like a child's not so muchtoo old for her years. she held out her hand and gave a littlesob. "oh, becky," she said."i told you we were just the same--only two little girls--just two little girls. you see how true it is.there's no difference now. i'm not a princess anymore." becky ran to her and caught her hand, andhugged it to her breast, kneeling beside her and sobbing with love and pain."yes, miss, you are," she cried, and her
words were all broken. "whats'ever 'appens to you--whats'ever--you'd be a princess all the same--an' nothin' couldn't make you nothin'different."