Wednesday, October 24, 2007


A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Summary: Sara Crewe, a pupil at Miss Minchin's London school, is
left in poverty when her father dies, but is later rescued by a
mysterious benefactor.
1. Sara 2. A French Lesson 3. Ermengarde 4. Lottie 5. Becky 6.
The Diamond Mines 7. The Diamond Mines Again 8. In the Attic 9.
Melchisedec 10. The Indian Gentleman 11. Ram Dass 12. The Other
Side of the Wall 13. One of the Populace 14. What Melchisedec
Heard and Saw 15. The Magic 16. The Visitor 17. "It Is the Child"
18. "I Tried Not to Be" 19. Anne
A Little Princess
Once on a dark winter's day, when the yellow fog hung so thick
and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted
and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, an oddlooking
little girl sat in a cab with her father and was driven
rather slowly through the big thoroughfares.
She sat with her feet tucked under her, and leaned against her
father, who held her in his arm, as she stared out of the window
at the passing people with a queer old-fashioned thoughtfulness
in her big eyes.
She was such a little girl that one did not expect 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 always dreaming and thinking odd things and
could not herself remember any time when she had not been
thinking things about grown-up people and the world they belonged
to. She felt as if she had lived a long, long time.
At this moment she was remembering the voyage she had just made
from Bombay with her father, Captain Crewe. She was thinking of
the big ship, of the Lascars passing silently to and fro on it,
of the children playing about on the hot deck, and of some young
officers' wives who used to try to make her talk to them and
laugh at the things she said.
Principally, she was thinking of what a queer thing it was that
at one time one was in India in the blazing sun, and then in the
middle of the ocean, and then driving in a strange vehicle
through strange streets where the day was as dark as the night.
She found this so puzzling that she moved closer to her father.
"Papa," she said in a low, mysterious little voice which was
almost a whisper, "papa."
"What is it, darling?" Captain Crewe answered, holding her
closer and looking down into her face. "What is Sara thinking
"Is this the place?" Sara whispered, cuddling still closer to
him. "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 had begun to prepare her
mind for "the place," as she always called it. Her mother had
died when she was born, so she had never known or missed her.
Her young, handsome, rich, petting father seemed to be the only
relation she had in the world. They had always played together
and been fond of each other. She only knew he was rich because
she had heard people say so when they thought she was not
listening, and she had also heard them 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 beautiful bungalow, and had
been used to seeing many servants who made salaams to her and
called her "Missee Sahib," and gave her her own way in
everything. She had had toys and pets and an ayah who worshipped
her, and she had gradually learned that people who were rich had
these things. That, however, was all she knew about it.
During her short life only one thing had troubled her, and that
thing was "the place" she was to be taken to some day. The
climate of India was very bad for children, and as soon as
possible they were sent away from it--generally to England and to
school. She had seen other children go away, and had heard their
fathers and mothers talk about the letters they received from
them. She had known that she would be obliged to go also, and
though sometimes her father's stories of the voyage and the new
country had attracted her, she had been troubled by the thought
that he could not stay with her.
"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 very long time, little
Sara," he had always said. "You will go to a nice house where
there will be a lot of little girls, and you will play together,
and I will send you plenty of books, and you will grow so fast
that it will seem scarcely a year before you are big enough and
clever enough to come back and take care of papa."
She had liked to think of that. To keep the house for her
father; to ride with him, and sit at the head of his table when
he had dinner parties; to talk to him and 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 to attain it, she must make up
her mind to go. She did not care very much for other little
girls, 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 to
herself. 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 are here I suppose we must
be resigned."
He laughed at her old-fashioned speech and kissed 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 great companion
to him, and he felt he should be a lonely fellow when, on his
return to India, he went into his bungalow knowing he need not
expect to see the small figure in its white frock come forward to
meet him. So he held her very closely in his arms as the cab
rolled into the big, dull square in which stood the house which
was their destination.
It was a big, dull, brick house, exactly like all the others in
its row, but that on the front door there shone a brass plate on
which was engraved in black letters:
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 house was somehow exactly like Miss Minchin.
It was respectable and well furnished, but everything in it was
ugly; and the very armchairs seemed to have hard bones in them.
In the hall everything was hard and polished--even the red cheeks
of the moon face on the tall clock in the corner had a severe
varnished look. The drawing room into which they were ushered
was covered by a carpet with a square pattern upon it, the chairs
were square, and a heavy marble timepiece stood upon the heavy
marble mantel.
As she sat down in one of the stiff mahogany 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 brave ones--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
"But why do solemn things make you laugh so?" inquired Sara.
"Because you are such fun when you say them," he answered,
laughing still more. And then suddenly he swept her into his
arms and kissed her very hard, stopping laughing all at once and
looking almost as if tears had come into his eyes.
It was just then that Miss Minchin entered the room. She was
very like her house, Sara felt: tall and dull, and respectable
and ugly. She had large, cold, fishy eyes, and a large, cold,
fishy smile. It spread itself into a very large smile when she
saw Sara and Captain Crewe. She had heard a great many desirable
things of the young soldier from the lady who had recommended her
school to him. Among other things, she had heard that he was a
rich father who was willing to spend a great deal of money on his
little daughter.
"It will be a great privilege to have charge of such a beautiful
and promising child, Captain Crewe," she said, taking Sara's
hand and stroking it. "Lady Meredith has told me of her unusual
cleverness. A clever child is a great treasure in an
establishment like mine."
Sara stood quietly, with her eyes fixed upon 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 Isobel Grange, who had been the
beauty of the regiment, but she had an odd charm of her own. She
was a slim, supple creature, rather tall for her age, and had an
intense, attractive little face. Her hair was heavy and quite
black and only curled 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 color of them,
many other people did. Still she was very firm in her belief
that she was an ugly little girl, and she was not at all elated
by Miss Minchin's flattery.
"I should be telling a story if I said she was 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 thing to 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 seminary because Lady
Meredith's two little girls had been educated there, and Captain
Crewe had a great respect for Lady Meredith's experience. Sara
was to be what was known as "a parlor boarder," and she was to
enjoy even greater privileges than parlor boarders usually did.
She was to have a pretty bedroom and sitting room of her own; she
was to have a pony and a carriage, and a maid to take the place
of the ayah who had been her nurse in India.
"I am not in the least anxious about her education," Captain
Crewe said, with his gay laugh, as he held Sara's hand and patted
it. "The difficulty will be to keep her from learning too fast
and too much. She is always sitting with her little nose
burrowing into books. She doesn't read them, Miss Minchin; she
gobbles them up as if she were a little wolf instead of a little
girl. She is always starving for new books to gobble, and she
wants grown-up books--great, big, fat ones--French and German as
well as English--history and biography and poets, and all sorts of
things. Drag her away from her books when she reads too much.
Make her ride her pony in the Row or go out and buy a new doll.
She ought to play more with dolls."
"Papa," said Sara, "you see, if I went out and 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
Captain Crewe looked at Miss Minchin and Miss Minchin looked at
Captain Crewe.
"Who is Emily?" she inquired.
"Tell her, Sara," Captain Crewe said, smiling.
Sara's green-gray eyes looked very solemn and quite soft as she
"She is a doll I haven't got yet," she said. "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 is gone. I want her to talk to about him."
Miss Minchin's large, fishy smile became very flattering indeed.
"What an original child!" she said. "What a darling little
"Yes," said Captain Crewe, drawing Sara close. "She is a
darling little creature. Take great care of her for me, Miss
Sara stayed with her father at his hotel for several days; in
fact, she remained with him until he sailed away again to India.
They went out and visited many big shops together, and bought a
great many things. They bought, indeed, a great many more things
than Sara needed; but Captain Crewe was a rash, innocent young
man and wanted his little girl to have everything she admired and
everything he admired himself, so between them they collected a
wardrobe much too grand for a child of seven. There were velvet
dresses trimmed with costly furs, and lace dresses, and
embroidered ones, and hats with great, soft ostrich feathers, and
ermine coats and muffs, and boxes of tiny gloves and
handkerchiefs and silk stockings in such abundant supplies that
the polite young women behind the counters whispered to each
other that the odd little girl with the big, solemn eyes must be
at least some foreign princess--perhaps the little daughter of an
Indian rajah.
And at last they found Emily, but they went to a number of toy
shops and looked at a great many dolls before they discovered
"I want her to look as if she wasn't a doll really," Sara said.
"I want her to look as if she LISTENS when I talk to her. The
trouble with dolls, papa"--and she put her head on one side and
reflected as she said it--"the trouble with dolls is that they
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 dolls with golden braids, dolls dressed and dolls
"You see," Sara said when they were examining one who had no
clothes. "If, when I find her, she has no frocks, we can 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 shop windows and let the cab follow them. They had
passed two or three places without even going in, when, as they
were approaching a shop which was really not a very 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 was an expression in her
green-gray eyes as if she had just recognized someone she was
intimate with and fond of.
"She is actually waiting there for us!" she said. "Let us go in
to her."
"Dear me," said Captain Crewe, "I feel as if 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--so perhaps she knew me,
Perhaps she had known her. She had certainly a very intelligent
expression in her eyes when Sara took her in her arms. She was a
large doll, but not too large to carry about easily; she had
naturally curling golden-brown hair, which hung like a mantle
about her, and her eyes were a deep, clear, gray-blue, with
soft, thick eyelashes which were real eyelashes and not mere
painted lines.
"Of course," said Sara, looking into her face as she held her on
her knee, "of course papa, this is Emily."
So Emily was bought and actually taken to a children's
outfitter's shop and measured for a wardrobe as grand as Sara's
own. She had lace frocks, too, and velvet and muslin ones, and
hats and coats and beautiful lace-trimmed underclothes, and
gloves and handkerchiefs and furs.
"I should like her always to look as if she was a child with a
good mother," said Sara. "I'm her mother, though I am going to
make a companion of her."
Captain Crewe would really have enjoyed the shopping
tremendously, but that a sad thought kept tugging at his heart.
This all meant that he was going to be separated from his
beloved, quaint little comrade.
He got out of his bed in the middle of that night and went and
stood looking down at Sara, who lay asleep with Emily in her
arms. Her black hair was spread out on the pillow and Emily's
golden-brown hair mingled with it, both of them had lace-ruffled
nightgowns, and both had long eyelashes which lay and curled up
on their cheeks. Emily looked so like a real child that Captain
Crewe felt glad she was there. He drew a big sigh and pulled his
mustache with 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 his affairs in England and would give her any advice
she wanted, and that they would pay the bills she sent in for
Sara's expenses. He would write to Sara twice a week, and she
was to be given every pleasure she asked for.
"She is a sensible little thing, and she never wants anything it
isn't safe to give her," he said.
Then he went with Sara into her little sitting room and they
bade each other good-by. Sara sat on his knee and held the lapels
of his coat in her small hands, and looked long and hard at his
"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 other and kissed as
if they would never let each other go.
When the cab drove away from the door, Sara was sitting on the
floor of her sitting room, with her hands under her chin and her
eyes following it until it had turned the corner of the square.
Emily was sitting by her, and she looked after it, too. When
Miss Minchin sent her sister, Miss Amelia, to see what the child
was doing, she found she could not open the door.
"I have locked it," said a queer, polite little voice from
inside. "I want to be quite by myself, if you please."
Miss Amelia was fat and dumpy, and stood very much in awe of her
sister. She was really the better-natured person of the two, but
she never disobeyed Miss Minchin. She went downstairs again,
looking almost alarmed.
"I never saw such a funny, old-fashioned child, sister," she
said. "She has locked herself in, and she is not making the
least particle of noise."
"It is much better than if she kicked and screamed, as some of
them do," Miss Minchin answered. "I expected that a child as
much spoiled as she 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 putting her things away," said
Miss Amelia. "I never saw anything like them--sable and ermine
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 line
when we take the schoolchildren to church on Sunday. She has
been provided for as if she were a little princess."
And upstairs in the locked room Sara and Emily 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 not bear to stop.
A French Lesson
When Sara entered the schoolroom the next morning everybody
looked at her with wide, interested eyes. By that time every
pupil-- from Lavinia Herbert, who was nearly thirteen and felt
quite grown up, to Lottie Legh, who was only just four and the
baby of the school-- had heard a great deal about her. They knew
very certainly that she was Miss Minchin's show pupil and was
considered a credit to the establishment. One or two of them had
even caught a glimpse of her French maid, Mariette, who had
arrived the evening before. Lavinia had managed to pass Sara's
room when the door was open, and had seen Mariette opening a box
which had arrived late from some shop.
"It was full of petticoats with lace frills on them--frills and
frills," she whispered to her friend Jessie as she bent over her
geography. "I saw her shaking them out. I heard Miss Minchin
say to Miss Amelia that 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!" whispered Jessie, bending over her
geography also. "And what little feet! I never saw such little
"Oh," sniffed Lavinia, spitefully, "that is the way her slippers
are made. My mamma says that even big feet can be made 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 people are," said Jessie,
stealing a glance across the room; "but she makes you want to
look at her again. She has tremendously long eyelashes, but her
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's desk. She was not
abashed at all by the many pairs of eyes watching her. She was
interested and looked back quietly at 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
them had a papa at all like her own. She had had a long talk
with Emily about her papa that morning.
"He is on the sea now, Emily," she had said. "We must be very
great friends to each other 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 and whimsical thoughts, and
one of her fancies was that there would be a great deal of
comfort 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
"You can read that while I am downstairs," she said; and, seeing
Mariette looking at her curiously, she spoke to her with a
serious little face.
"What I believe about dolls," she said, "is that they can do
things they will not let us know about. Perhaps, really, Emily
can read and talk and 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 do things, they would make them work. So,
perhaps, they have promised each other to keep it a secret. If
you stay in the room, Emily will just sit there and stare; but if
you go out, she will begin to read, perhaps, or go and look out
of the window. Then if she heard either of us coming, she would
just run back and jump into her chair and pretend she had been
there all the time."
"Comme elle est drole!" Mariette said to herself, and when she
went downstairs she told the head housemaid about it. But she
had already begun to like this odd little 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 had a gentle, appreciative way of saying,
"If you please, Mariette," "Thank you, Mariette," which was very
charming. Mariette told the head housemaid that she thanked her
as if she was thanking a lady.
"Elle a l'air d'une princesse, cette petite," she said. Indeed,
she was very much pleased with her new little mistress and liked
her place greatly.
After Sara had sat in her seat in the schoolroom for a few
minutes, being looked at by the pupils, Miss Minchin rapped in a
dignified manner upon her desk.
"Young ladies," she said, "I wish to introduce you to your new
companion." All the little girls rose in their places, and Sara
rose also. "I shall expect you all to be very agreeable to Miss
Crewe; she has just come to us from a great distance--in fact,
from India. As soon as lessons are over you must make each
other's acquaintance."
The pupils bowed ceremoniously, and Sara made a little curtsy,
and then they sat down and looked at each other again.
"Sara," said Miss Minchin in her schoolroom manner, "come here
to me."
She had taken a book from the desk and was turning over its
leaves. Sara went to her politely.
"As your papa has engaged a French maid for you," she began, "I
conclude that he wishes you to make a special study of the French
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 a slightly sour smile,
"that you have been a very spoiled little girl and always
imagine that things are done because you like them. My
impression is that your papa wished you to learn French."
If Sara had been older or less punctilious about being quite
polite to people, she could have explained herself in a very few
words. But, as it was, she felt a flush rising on her cheeks.
Miss Minchin was a very severe and imposing person, and she
seemed so absolutely sure that Sara knew nothing whatever of
French that she felt as if it would be almost rude to correct
her. The truth was that Sara could not remember the 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, and Captain Crewe had loved her language, so it happened
that Sara had always heard and been 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 secret annoyances was that she did
not speak French herself, and was desirous of concealing the
irritating fact. She, therefore, had no intention of discussing
the matter and laying herself open to innocent questioning by a
new little pupil.
"That is enough," she said with polite tartness. "If you have
not learned, you must begin at once. The French master, Monsieur
Dufarge, will be here in a few minutes. Take this book and look
at it until he arrives."
Sara's cheeks felt warm. She went back to her seat and opened
the book. She looked at the first page with a grave face. She
knew it would be rude to smile, and she was very determined not
to be rude. But it was very odd to find herself expected to
study a page which told her that "le pere" meant "the father,"
and "la mere" meant "the mother."
Miss Minchin glanced toward her scrutinizingly.
"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 told to do things," said
Miss Minchin. "Look at your book again."
And Sara did so, and did not smile, even when she found that "le
fils" meant "the son," and "le frere" meant "the brother."
"When Monsieur Dufarge comes," she thought, "I can make him
Monsieur Dufarge arrived very shortly afterward. He was a very
nice, intelligent, middle-aged Frenchman, and he looked
interested when his eyes fell upon Sara trying politely to seem
absorbed in her little book of phrases.
"Is this a new pupil for me, madame?" he said 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 childish prejudice
against it. She does not seem to wish to learn," said Miss
"I am sorry of that, mademoiselle," he said kindly 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 face with 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 pretty and fluent French. Madame had not understood.
She had not learned French exactly--not out of books--but her
papa and other people had always spoken it to her, and she had
read it and written it as she had read and written English. Her
papa loved it, and she loved it because he did. Her dear mamma,
who had died when she was born, had been French. She would be
glad to learn anything monsieur would teach her, but what she had
tried to explain to madame was that she already knew the words in
this book-- and she held out the little book of phrases.
When she began to speak Miss Minchin started quite violently and
sat staring at her over her eyeglasses, almost indignantly, until
she had finished. Monsieur Dufarge began to smile, and his smile
was one of great pleasure. To hear this pretty childish voice
speaking his own language so simply and charmingly made him feel
almost as if he were in his native land--which in dark, foggy
days in London sometimes seemed worlds away. When she had
finished, he took the phrase book from her, with a look almost
affectionate. But he spoke to Miss Minchin.
"Ah, madame," he said, "there is not much I can teach her. She
has not LEARNED French; she is French. Her accent is exquisite."
"You ought to have told me," exclaimed Miss Minchin, 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 that it had not been her
fault that she was not allowed to explain. And when she saw that
the pupils had been listening and that Lavinia and Jessie were
giggling behind their French grammars, she felt 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.
On that first morning, when Sara sat at Miss Minchin's side,
aware that the whole schoolroom was devoting itself to observing
her, she had noticed very soon one little girl, about her own
age, who looked at her very hard with a pair of light, rather
dull, blue eyes. She was a fat child who did not look as if she
were in the least clever, but she had a good-naturedly pouting
mouth. Her flaxen hair was braided in a tight pigtail, tied with
a ribbon, and she had pulled this pigtail around her neck, and
was biting the end of the ribbon, resting her elbows on the desk,
as she stared wonderingly at the new pupil. When Monsieur
Dufarge began to speak to Sara, she looked a little frightened;
and when Sara stepped forward and, looking at him with the
innocent, appealing eyes, answered him, without any warning, in
French, the fat little girl gave a startled jump, and grew quite
red in her awed amazement. Having wept hopeless tears for weeks
in her efforts 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 age who seemed not only quite familiar with these
words, but apparently knew any number of others, and could mix
them up with verbs as if they were mere trifles.
She stared so hard and bit the ribbon on her pigtail so fast
that she attracted the attention of Miss Minchin, who, feeling
extremely 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 her that she
began rather to like her and want to be her friend. It was a way
of hers always to want to spring into any fray in which someone
was made uncomfortable or unhappy.
"If Sara had been a boy and lived a few centuries ago," her
father used to say, "she would have gone about the country with
her sword drawn, rescuing and defending everyone in distress.
She always wants to fight when she sees people 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 to her, and that there was no danger
of her ever being spoiled by being treated as a show pupil. Her
French lesson was a pathetic thing. Her pronunciation made even
Monsieur Dufarge smile in spite of himself, and Lavinia and
Jessie and the more fortunate girls 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 her
own, and it made her feel rather savage when she heard the
titters and saw the poor, stupid, distressed child's face.
"It isn't funny, really," she said between her teeth, as she
bent over her book. "They ought not to laugh."
When lessons were over and the pupils gathered together in
groups to talk, Sara looked for Miss St. John, and finding her
bundled rather disconsolately in a window-seat, she walked over
to her and spoke. She only said the kind of thing little girls
always say to each other by way of beginning an acquaintance, but
there was something friendly about Sara, and people always felt
"What is your name?" she said.
To explain Miss St. John's amazement one must recall that a new
pupil is, for a short time, a somewhat uncertain thing; and of
this new pupil the entire school had talked the night before
until it fell asleep quite exhausted by excitement and
contradictory stories. A new pupil with a carriage and a pony
and a maid, and a voyage from India to discuss, was not an
ordinary acquaintance.
"My name's Ermengarde St. John," she answered.
"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 was that she had a clever
father. Sometimes this seemed to her a dreadful calamity. If
you have a father who knows everything, who speaks seven or eight
languages, and has thousands of volumes which he has apparently
learned by heart, he frequently expects you to be familiar with
the contents of your lesson books at least; and it is not
improbable that he will feel you ought to be able to remember a
few incidents 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 his could 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 Aunt
If her Aunt Eliza had been slow to learn and quick to forget a
thing entirely when she had learned it, Ermengarde was strikingly
like her. She was the monumental dunce of the school, and it
could not be denied.
"She must be MADE to learn," her father said to Miss Minchin.
Consequently Ermengarde spent the greater part of her life in
disgrace or in tears. She learned things and forgot them; or,
if she remembered them, she did not understand them. So it was
natural that, having made Sara's acquaintance, 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 a big, 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 heard it."
"Oh, no, I couldn't," said Ermengarde. "I NEVER could speak
"Why?" inquired Sara, curiously.
Ermengarde shook her head so that the pigtail 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 the dingy square, where the
sparrows were hopping and twittering on the wet, iron railings
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
and changed the subject.
"Would you like to see Emily?" she inquired.
"Who is Emily?" Ermengarde asked, just as Miss Minchin had
"Come up to my room and see," said Sara, holding out her hand.
They jumped down from the window-seat together, and went
"Is it true," Ermengarde whispered, as they went through the hall-
-"is it true that you have a playroom all to yourself?"
"Yes," Sara answered. "Papa asked Miss Minchin to let me have
one, because--well, it was because when I play I make up stories
and tell them to myself, and I don't like people to hear me. It
spoils it if I think people listen."
They had reached the passage leading to Sara's room by this
time, and Ermengarde stopped short, staring, and quite losing her
"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
She put her hand warningly on Ermengarde's.
"Let us go very quietly to the door," she whispered, "and then I
will open it quite suddenly; perhaps we may catch her."
She was half laughing, but there was a touch of mysterious hope
in her eyes which fascinated Ermengarde, though she had not the
remotest idea what it meant, or whom it was she wanted to
"catch," or why she wanted to catch her. Whatsoever she meant,
Ermengarde was sure it was something delightfully exciting. So,
quite thrilled with expectation, she followed her on tiptoe along
the passage. They made not the least noise until they reached
the door. Then Sara suddenly turned the handle, and threw it
wide open. Its opening revealed the room quite neat and quiet, a
fire gently burning in the grate, and a wonderful doll sitting in
a chair by it, apparently reading a book.
"Oh, she got back to her seat before we could see her!" Sara
explained. "Of course they always do. They are as quick as
Ermengarde looked from her to the doll and back 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, new companion that she
actually stared at Sara instead of at Emily--notwithstanding that
Emily was the most attractive doll person she had ever seen.
"Let us sit down," said Sara, "and I will tell you. It's so
easy that when you begin you can't stop. 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
they heard the lunch-bell ring and were obliged to go downstairs.
Sara sat upon the hearth-rug and told her strange things. She
sat rather huddled up, and her green eyes shone and her cheeks
flushed. She told stories of the voyage, and stories of India;
but what fascinated Ermengarde the most was her fancy about the
dolls who walked and talked, and who could do anything they chose
when the human beings were out of the room, but who must keep
their powers a secret and so flew back to their places "like
lightning" when people returned 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 her face suddenly change. A cloud seemed to pass
over it and put out the light in her shining eyes. She drew her
breath in so sharply that it made a funny, sad little sound, and
then she shut her lips and held them tightly closed, as if she
was determined either to do or NOT to do something. Ermengarde
had an idea that if she had been like any other little girl, she
might have suddenly burst out sobbing and crying. But she did
"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 voice which she
tried to keep quite steady, and it was this: "Do you love your
father more than anything else in all the whole world?"
Ermengarde's mouth fell open a little. She knew that it would
be far from behaving like a respectable child at a select
seminary to say that it had never occurred to you that you COULD
love your father, that you would do anything desperate to avoid
being left alone in his society for ten minutes. She was,
indeed, greatly embarrassed.
"I--I scarcely ever see him," she stammered. "He is always in
the library--reading things."
"I love mine more than all the world ten times 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 very still for a few minutes.
"She's going to cry out loud," thought Ermengarde, 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, deep wounds. And he would never say a
word--not one word."
Ermengarde could only gaze at her, but she felt that she was
beginning to adore her. She was so wonderful and different from
anyone else.
Presently, she lifted her face and shook back 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 came into 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 child in 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 gleam lighting her face--"I can help you with your
French lessons."
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 not
have been at all good for her. She was treated more as if she
were a distinguished 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 unbearable through being so much indulged and flattered. If
she had been an indolent child, she would have learned nothing.
Privately Miss Minchin disliked her, but she was far too worldly
a woman to do or say anything which might make such a desirable
pupil wish to leave her school. She knew quite well that if Sara
wrote to her papa to tell him she was uncomfortable or unhappy,
Captain Crewe would remove her at once. Miss Minchin's opinion
was that if a child were continually praised and never forbidden
to do what she liked, she would be sure to be fond of the place
where she was so treated. Accordingly, Sara was praised for her
quickness at her lessons, for her good manners, for her
amiability to her fellow pupils, for her generosity if she gave
sixpence to a beggar out of her full little purse; the simplest
thing she did was treated as if it were a virtue, and if she had
not had a disposition and a clever little brain, she might have
been a very self-satisfied young person. But the clever little
brain told her a great many sensible and true things about
herself and her circumstances, and now and then she talked these
things over to Ermengarde as time went on.
"Things happen to people by accident," she used to say. "A lot
of nice accidents have happened to me. It just HAPPENED that I
always liked lessons and books, and could remember things when I
learned them. It just happened that I was born with a father who
was beautiful and nice and clever, and could give me everything I
liked. Perhaps I have not really a good temper at all, but if
you have everything you want and everyone is kind to you, how can
you help but be good-tempered? I don't know"--looking quite
serious--"how I shall ever find out whether I am really a nice
child or a horrid one. Perhaps I'm a HIDEOUS child, and no one
will 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 nose reflectively, 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 charitable
recollection of having heard Miss Amelia say that Lavinia was
growing so fast that she believed it affected her health and
Lavinia, in fact, was spiteful. She was inordinately jealous of
Sara. Until the new pupil's arrival, she had felt herself the
leader in the school. She had led because she was capable of
making 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 the best-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 at the
head of the line. This, at the beginning, had been bitter
enough; but as time went on it became apparent that Sara was a
leader, too, and not 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' about
herself the least bit, and you know she might be, Lavvie. I
believe I couldn't help being--just a little--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 room and talk to Mrs.
Musgrave about India,'" mimicked Lavinia, in her most highly
flavored imitation of Miss Minchin. "`Dear Sara must speak
French to Lady Pitkin. Her accent is so perfect.' She didn't
learn her French at the Seminary, at any rate. And there's
nothing so clever in her knowing it. She says herself she didn't
learn it at all. She just picked it up, because she always heard
her papa speak it. And, as to her papa, there is nothing so
grand in being an Indian officer."
"Well," said Jessie, slowly, "he's killed tigers. He killed the
one in the skin Sara has in her room. That's why she likes it
so. She lies on it and strokes its head, and talks to it as if
it was a cat."
"She's always doing something silly," snapped Lavinia. "My
mamma says that way of hers of pretending 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 shared her privileges and belongings
with a free hand. The little ones, who were accustomed to being
disdained and ordered out of the way by mature ladies aged ten
and twelve, were never made to cry by this most envied of them
all. She was a motherly young person, and when people 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 or alluded
to their years as a humiliation and a blot upon their small
"If you are four you are four," she said severely to Lavinia on
an occasion of her having--it must be confessed--slapped Lottie
and called her "a brat;" "but you will be five next year, and
six the year after that. And," opening large, convicting eyes,
"it takes sixteen years to make you twenty."
"Dear me," said Lavinia, "how we can calculate!" In fact, it
was not to be denied that sixteen and four made twenty--and
twenty was an age the most daring were scarcely bold enough to
dream of.
So the younger children adored Sara. More than once she had
been known to have a tea party, made up of these despised ones,
in her own room. And Emily had been played with, and Emily's own
tea service used-- the one with cups which held quite a lot of
much-sweetened weak tea and had blue flowers on them. No one had
seen such a very real doll's tea set before. From that afternoon
Sara was regarded as a goddess and a queen by the entire alphabet
Lottle Legh worshipped her to such an extent that if Sara had not
been a motherly person, she would have found her tiresome.
Lottie had been sent to school by a rather flighty young papa
who could not imagine what else to do with her. Her young mother
had died, and as the child had been treated like a favorite doll
or a very spoiled pet monkey or lap dog ever since the first hour
of her life, she was a very appalling little creature. When she
wanted anything or did not want anything she wept and howled;
and, as she always wanted the things she could not have, and did
not want the things that were best for her, her shrill little
voice was usually to be heard uplifted in wails in one part of
the house or another.
Her strongest weapon was that in some mysterious way she had
found out that a very small girl who had lost her mother was a
person who ought to be pitied and made much of. She had probably
heard some grown-up people talking 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 was one morning when, on
passing a sitting room, she heard both Miss Minchin and Miss
Amelia trying to suppress the angry wails of some child who,
evidently, refused to be silenced. She refused so strenuously
indeed that Miss Minchin was obliged to almost shout--in a
stately and severe manner-- to make herself heard.
"What IS she crying for?" she almost yelled.
"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!" Lottle howled tempestuously. "Haven't-
"She ought to be whipped," Miss Minchin proclaimed. "You SHALL
be whipped, you naughty child!"
Lottle wailed more loudly than ever. Miss Amelia began to cry.
Miss Minchin's voice rose until it almost thundered, then
suddenly she sprang up from her chair in impotent indignation and
flounced out of the room, leaving Miss Amelia to arrange the
Sara had paused in the hall, wondering if she ought to go into
the room, because she had recently begun a friendly acquaintance
with Lottie and might be able to quiet her. When Miss Minchin
came out and saw her, she looked rather annoyed. She realized
that her voice, as heard from inside the room, could not have
sounded either dignified or amiable.
"Oh, Sara!" she exclaimed, endeavoring to produce a suitable
"I stopped," explained Sara, "because I knew 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 mouth sharply. Then, seeing that Sara looked
slightly chilled 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 was lying upon the floor,
screaming and kicking her small fat legs violently, and Miss
Amelia was bending over her in consternation and despair, looking
quite red and damp with heat. Lottie had always found, when in
her own nursery at home, that kicking and screaming would always
be quieted by any means she insisted on. Poor plump Miss Amelia
was trying first one method, and then another.
"Poor darling," she said one moment, "I know 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
going to do, but she had a vague inward conviction that it would
be better not to say 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 halfwhisper;
"but I will try."
Miss Amelia stumbled up from her knees with a 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 very much relieved to
find an excuse for doing it.
Sara stood by the howling furious child for a 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 room was quite quiet. This was a new state of
affairs for little Miss Legh, who was accustomed, when she
screamed, to hear other people protest and implore and command
and coax by turns. To lie and kick and shriek, and find the only
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 find this out, Lottie thought
she must begin again, but the quiet of the room and of Sara's
odd, interested face made her first howl rather half-hearted.
"I--haven't--any--ma--ma--ma-a!" she announced; but her voice was
not so strong.
Sara looked at her still more steadily, but with a sort of
understanding in her eyes.
"Neither have I," she said.
This was so unexpected that it was astounding. Lottie actually
dropped her legs, gave a wriggle, and lay and stared. A new idea
will stop a crying child when nothing else will. Also it was
true that while Lottie disliked Miss Minchin, who was cross, and
Miss Amelia, who was foolishly indulgent, she rather 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 sulky sob, said, "Where is she?"
Sara paused a moment. Because she had been told that her mamma
was in heaven, she had thought a great deal about the matter, and
her thoughts had not been quite like those of other people.
"She went to heaven," she said. "But I am sure she comes out
sometimes to see me--though I don't see her. So does yours.
Perhaps they can both see us now. Perhaps they are both in this
Lottle sat bolt upright, and looked about her. She was a
pretty, little, curly-headed creature, and her round eyes were
like wet forget-me-nots. If her mamma had seen her during the
last half-hour, she might not have thought her the kind of child
who ought to be related to an angel.
Sara went on talking. Perhaps some people might think that what
she said was rather like a fairy story, but it was all so real to
her own imagination that Lottie began to listen in spite of
herself. She had been told that her mamma had wings and a crown,
and she had been shown pictures of ladies in beautiful white
nightgowns, who were said to be angels. But Sara seemed to be
telling a real story about a lovely country where real people
"There are fields and fields of flowers," she said, forgetting
herself, as usual, when she began, and talking rather as if she
were in a dream, "fields and fields of lilies--and when the soft
wind blows over them it wafts the scent of them into the air--and
everybody always breathes it, because the soft wind is always
blowing. And little children run about in the lily fields and
gather armfuls of them, and laugh and make little wreaths. And
the streets are shining. And people are never tired, however far
they walk. They can float anywhere they like. And there are
walls made of pearl and gold all round the city, but they are low
enough for the people to go and lean on them, and look 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, and drank 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
Sara saw the danger signal, and came out of her dream. She took
hold of the chubby hand and pulled her 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 remember that
the whole of the last hour's tragedy had been caused by the fact
that she had refused to be washed and brushed for lunch and Miss
Minchin had been called in to use her majestic authority.
And from that time Sara was an adopted mother.
Of course the greatest power Sara possessed and the one which
gained her even more followers than her luxuries and the fact
that she was "the show pupil," the power that Lavinia and certain
other girls were most envious of, and at the same time most
fascinated by in spite of themselves, was her power of telling
stories and of making everything she talked about seem like a
story, whether it was one or not.
Anyone who has been at school with a teller of stories knows
what the wonder means--how he or she is followed about and
besought in a whisper to relate romances; how groups gather round
and hang on the outskirts of the favored party in the hope of
being allowed to join in and listen. Sara not only could tell
stories, but she adored telling them. When she sat or stood in
the midst of a circle and began to invent wonderful things, her
green eyes grew big and shining, her cheeks flushed, and, without
knowing that she was doing it, she began to act and made what she
told lovely or alarming 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 to listening
children; she saw and lived with the fairy folk, or the kings and
queens and beautiful 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 her thin,
little, quick-rising chest, and half laugh as if at herself.
"When I am telling it," she would say, "it doesn't seem as if it
was only made up. It seems more real than you are--more real
than the schoolroom. I feel as if I were all the people in the
story--one after the other. It is queer."
She had been at Miss Minchin's school about two years when, one
foggy winter's afternoon, as she was getting out of her
carriage, comfortably wrapped up in her warmest velvets and furs
and looking very much grander than she knew, she caught sight, as
she crossed the pavement, of a dingy little figure standing on
the area steps, and stretching its neck so that its wide-open
eyes might peer at her through the railings. Something in the
eagerness and timidity of the smudgy face made her look at it,
and when she looked she smiled because it was her way to smile at
But the owner of the smudgy face and the wide-open eyes
evidently was afraid that she ought not to have been caught
looking at 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 had not been such a poor little forlorn
thing, Sara would have laughed in spite of herself. That very
evening, as Sara was sitting in the midst of a group of listeners
in a corner of the schoolroom telling one of her stories, the
very same figure timidly entered the room, carrying a coal box
much too heavy for her, and knelt down upon the hearth rug to
replenish the fire and sweep up the ashes.
She was cleaner than she had been when she peeped 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 with her fingers
so that she might make no disturbing noise, and she swept about
the fire irons very softly. But Sara saw in two minutes that she
was deeply interested in what was going on, and that she was
doing her work slowly in the hope of catching a word here and
there. And realizing this, she raised her voice and spoke more
"The Mermaids swam softly about in the crystal-green water, and
dragged after them a fishing-net woven of deep-sea pearls," she
said. "The Princess sat on the white rock and watched them."
It was a wonderful story about a princess who was loved by a
Prince Merman, and went to live with him in shining caves under
the sea.
The small drudge before the grate swept the hearth once and then
swept it again. Having done it twice, she did it three times;
and, as she was doing it the third time, the sound of the story
so lured her to listen that she fell under the spell and actually
forgot that she had no right to listen at all, and also forgot
everything else. She sat down upon her heels as she knelt on the
hearth rug, and the brush hung idly in her fingers. The voice of
the storyteller went on and drew her with it into winding grottos
under the sea, glowing with soft, clear blue light, and paved
with pure golden sands. Strange sea flowers and grasses waved
about her, 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, and scrambled to her feet.
She caught at the coal box and simply scuttled 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 know whether your mamma would
like you to tell stories to servant girls, but I know MY mamma
wouldn't like ME to do it."
"My mamma!" said Sara, looking odd. "I don't believe she would
mind in the least. She knows that stories belong to everybody."
"I thought," retorted Lavinia, in severe recollection, "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 little voice.
"Sara's mamma knows everything," piped in Lottie. "So does my
mamma--'cept Sara is my mamma at Miss Minchin's--my other one
knows everything. The streets are shining, and there are fields
and fields of lilies, and everybody gathers them. Sara tells me
when she puts me to bed."
"You wicked thing," said Lavinia, turning on 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 of unheavenly
temper--"you will never find out whether they are or not if
you're not kinder to people than you are now. Come along,
Lottie." And she marched out of the room, rather hoping that she
might see the little servant again somewhere, but she found no
trace of her when she got into the hall.
"Who is that little girl who makes the fires?" she asked
Mariette that night.
Mariette broke forth into a flow of description.
Ah, indeed, Mademoiselle Sara might well ask. She was a forlorn
little thing who had just taken the place of scullery maid--
though, as to being scullery maid, she was everything else
besides. She blacked boots and grates, and carried heavy coalscuttles
up and down stairs, and scrubbed floors and cleaned
windows, and was ordered about by everybody. She was fourteen
years old, but was so stunted in growth that she looked about
twelve. In truth, Mariette was sorry for her. She was so timid
that if one chanced to speak to her it appeared as if her poor,
frightened eyes would jump out of her head.
"What is her name?" asked Sara, who had sat by the table, with
her chin on her hands, as she listened absorbedly to the recital.
Her name was Becky. Mariette heard everyone below-stairs
calling, "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 never had quite enough to eat. Her very eyes were hungry.
She hoped she should see her again, but though she caught sight
of her carrying things up or down stairs on several occasions,
she always seemed in such a hurry and so afraid of being seen
that it was impossible to speak to her.
But a few weeks later, on another foggy afternoon, when she
entered her sitting room she found herself confronting a rather
pathetic picture. In her own special and pet easy-chair before
the bright fire, Becky--with a coal smudge on her nose and
several on her apron, with her poor little cap hanging half off
her head, and an empty coal box on the floor near her--sat fast
asleep, tired out 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 she had
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 be satisfied with mere
necessaries. Sara's comfortable sitting room seemed a bower 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 in a chair of her own, with the air of a
presiding goddess, and there was always a glowing fire and a
polished grate. Becky saved it until the end of her afternoon's
work, because it rested her to go into it, and she always hoped
to snatch a few minutes to sit down in the soft chair and look
about her, and think about the wonderful good fortune of the
child who owned such surroundings and who went out on the cold
days in beautiful hats and coats one 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 and
delightful that it had seemed to soothe her whole body, and the
glow of warmth and comfort from the fire had crept over her like
a spell, until, as she looked at the red coals, a tired, slow
smile stole over her smudged face, her head nodded forward
without her being aware of it, her eyes drooped, and she fell
fast asleep. She had really been only about ten minutes in the
room when Sara entered, but she was in as deep a sleep as if she
had been, like the Sleeping Beauty, slumbering for a hundred
years. But she did not look--poor Becky-- like a Sleeping Beauty
at all. She looked only like an ugly, stunted, worn-out little
scullery drudge.
Sara seemed as much unlike her as if she were a creature from
another world.
On this particular afternoon she had been taking her dancing
lesson, and the afternoon on which the dancing master appeared
was rather a grand occasion at the seminary, though it occurred
every week. The pupils were attired in their prettiest frocks,
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 been put on her, and
Mariette had bought some real buds and made her a wreath to wear
on her black locks. She had been learning a new, delightful
dance 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, happy glow into her face.
When she entered the room, she floated in with a few of the
butterfly steps--and there sat Becky, nodding her cap sideways
off 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 the small, dingy figure. To tell the truth, she was
quite glad to find it there. When the ill-used heroine of her
story wakened, she could talk to her. She crept toward her
quietly, and stood looking 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 she found 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 best to
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 her perplexity for her that very
moment. It broke off from a large lump and fell on to the
fender. Becky started, and opened her eyes with a frightened
gasp. She did not know she had fallen asleep. She had only sat
down for one moment and felt the beautiful glow--and here she
found herself staring in wild alarm at the wonderful pupil, who
sat perched quite near her, like a rose-colored fairy, with
interested 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 now with a vengeance! To have
impudently fallen asleep on such a young lady's chair! She would
be turned out of doors without wages.
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 to her.
"Don't be frightened," she said, quite as if 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," protested Becky. "It was the warm
fire--an' me bein' so tired. It--it WASN'T impertience!"
Sara broke into a friendly little laugh, and put her hand on her
"You were tired," she said; "you could not help 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 dancing afternoon splendor--was
looking at her as if she were not a culprit at all--as if she had
a right to be tired--even to fall asleep! The touch of the
soft, slim little paw on her 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 face made her suddenly so
sorry that she could scarcely bear it. One of her queer
thoughts rushed into her mind. She put her hand against Becky's
"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 amazing thoughts, and "an accident" meant to her a calamity
in which some one was run over or fell off a ladder and was
carried to "the 'orspital."
"A' accident, miss," she fluttered respectfully. "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
Becky lost her breath again.
"Here, miss? Me?"
Sara ran to the door, opened it, and looked out and listened.
"No one is anywhere about," she explained. "If your bedrooms are
finished, perhaps you might stay a tiny while. I thought--
perhaps--you might like a piece of cake."
The next ten minutes seemed to Becky like a sort of delirium.
Sara opened a cupboard, and gave her a thick slice of cake. She
seemed to rejoice when it was devoured in hungry bites. She
talked and asked questions, and laughed until Becky's fears
actually began to calm themselves, and she once or twice
gathered boldness enough to ask a question or so herself, daring
as she felt it to be.
"Is that--" she ventured, looking longingly at the rose-colored
frock. And she asked it almost in a whisper. "Is that there
your best?"
"It is one of my dancing-frocks," answered Sara. "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 see a princess. I was
standin' in the street with the crowd outside 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 was pink 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 be a princess; I wonder what it feels like. I
believe I will begin pretending I am one."
Becky stared at her admiringly, and, as before, 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 little alarmed again. "I knowed
I hadn't orter, but it was that beautiful I--I couldn't help it."
"I liked you to listen to it," said Sara. "If you tell stories,
you like nothing so much as to tell them to people who want to
listen. I don't know why it is. Would you like to hear the
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 white Mer-babies swimming about
laughing--with stars in their hair?"
Sara nodded.
"You haven't time to hear it now, I'm afraid," she said; "but if
you will tell me just what time you come to do my rooms, I will
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 always putting new
bits to it."
"Then," breathed Becky, devoutly, "I wouldn't mind HOW heavy the
coal boxes was--or WHAT the cook done to me, if--if I might 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, loaded down by the weight of the coal scuttle. She
had an extra piece of cake in her pocket, 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 favorite perch on the end of
her table. Her feet were on a chair, her elbows on her knees,
and her chin in her hands.
"If I WAS a princess--a REAL princess," she murmured, "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 like is scattering largess.
I've scattered largess."
The Diamond Mines
Not very long after this a very exciting thing happened. Not
only Sara, but the entire school, found it exciting, and made it
the chief subject of conversation for weeks after it occurred.
In one of his letters Captain Crewe told a most interesting
story. A friend who had been at school with him when he was a
boy had unexpectedly come to see him in India. He was the owner
of a large tract of land upon which diamonds had been found, and
he was engaged in developing the mines. If all went as was
confidently expected, he would become possessed of such wealth as
it made one dizzy to think of; and because he was fond of the
friend of his school days, he had given him an opportunity to
share in this enormous fortune by becoming a partner in his
scheme. This, at least, was what Sara gathered from his letters.
It is true that any other business scheme, however magnificent,
would have had but small attraction for her or for the
schoolroom; but "diamond mines" sounded so like the Arabian
Nights that no one could be indifferent. Sara thought them
enchanting, and painted pictures, for Ermengarde and Lottie, of
labyrinthine passages in the bowels of the earth, 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, and Lottie insisted on its being retold
to her every evening. Lavinia was very spiteful about it, and
told Jessie that she didn't believe such things as diamond mines
"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 be ridiculous."
"Perhaps Sara will be so rich that she will be 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 you think Gertrude says?"
"I don't know, I'm sure; and I don't care if 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 lessons better. She wants Ermengarde to be one,
too, but Ermengarde 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 what you 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 a princess if she
was a beggar," said Lavinia. "Let us begin to call her Your
Royal Highness."
Lessons for the day were over, and they were sitting before the
schoolroom fire, enjoying the time they liked best. It was the
time when Miss Minchin and Miss Amelia were taking their tea in
the sitting room sacred to themselves. At this hour a great deal
of talking was done, and a great many secrets changed hands,
particularly if the younger pupils behaved themselves well, and
did not squabble or run about noisily, which it must be confessed
they usually did. When they made an uproar the older girls
usually interfered with scolding and shakes. They were expected
to keep order, and there was danger that if they did not, Miss
Minchin or Miss Amelia would appear and put an end to
festivities. Even as Lavinia spoke the door opened and Sara
entered with Lottie, whose habit was to trot everywhere after her
like a little dog.
"There she is, with that horrid child!" exclaimed Lavinia in a
whisper. "If she's so fond of her, why doesn't she keep her in
her own room? She will begin howling about something in five
It happened that Lottie had been seized with a sudden desire to
play in the schoolroom, and had begged her adopted parent to come
with her. She joined a group of little ones who were playing 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 and beards almost hid their faces,
and they had forgotten that an outside world existed at all, and
were like beings in a dream.
She was so far away from the schoolroom that it was not
agreeable to be dragged back suddenly by a howl from Lottie.
Never did she find anything so difficult as to keep herself from
losing her temper when she was suddenly disturbed while absorbed
in a book. People who are fond of books know the feeling of
irritation which sweeps over them at such a moment. The
temptation to be unreasonable and snappish is one not easy to
"It makes me feel as if someone had hit me," Sara had told
Ermengarde once in confidence. "And as if I want to hit back. I
have to remember things quickly to keep from saying something illtempered."
She had to remember things quickly when she laid her book on the
window-seat and jumped down from her comfortable corner.
Lottie had been sliding across the schoolroom floor, and, having
first irritated Lavinia and Jessie by making a noise, had ended
by falling down and hurting her fat knee. She was screaming and
dancing up and down in the midst of a group of friends and
enemies, who were alternately coaxing and scolding her.
"Stop this minute, you cry-baby! Stop this minute!" Lavinia
"I'm not a cry-baby . . . I'm not!" wailed Lottle. "Sara, Sa--
"If she doesn't stop, Miss Minchin will hear 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 forth
Sara flew across the room and, kneeling down, put her arms round
"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 steady voice Lottie knew.
"But if you cry, you will be one, Lottie pet. You PROMISED."
Lottle 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
"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
diamond mines?"
"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 been very deeply absorbed in the book about the Bastille,
and she had had to recall several things rapidly when she
realized that she must go and take care of her adopted child.
She was not an angel, and she was not fond of Lavinia.
"Well," she said, with some fire, "I should like to slap YOU--
but I don't want to slap you!" restraining herself. "At least I
both want to slap you--and I should 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 now Miss 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 princess was very near
to her heart, and she was shy and sensitive about it. She had
meant it to be rather a secret, and here 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, steady voice; 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 can try and behave like
Lavinia could not think of exactly the right thing to say.
Several times she had found that she could not think of a
satisfactory reply when she was dealing with Sara. The reason
for this was that, somehow, the rest 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, and they all hoped they might hear something more
definite about this one, and drew nearer Sara accordingly.
Lavinia could only invent one remark, and it fell rather flat.
"Dear me," she said, "I hope, when you ascend the throne, you
won't forget us!"
"I won't," said Sara, and she did not utter another word, but
stood quite still, and stared at her steadily as she saw her take
Jessie's arm and turn away.
After this, the girls who were jealous of her used to speak of
her as "Princess Sara" whenever they wished to be particularly
disdainful, and those who were fond of her gave her the name
among themselves as a term of affection. No one called her
"princess" instead of "Sara," but her adorers were much pleased
with the picturesqueness and grandeur of the title, and Miss
Minchin, hearing of it, mentioned it more than once to visiting
parents, feeling that it rather suggested a sort of royal
boarding school.
To Becky it seemed the most appropriate thing in the world. The
acquaintance begun on the foggy afternoon 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 Amelia knew very little about it. They were aware that Sara
was "kind" to the scullery maid, but they knew nothing of
certain delightful moments snatched perilously when, the upstairs
rooms being set in order with lightning rapidity, Sara's sitting
room was reached, and the heavy coal box set down with a sigh of
joy. At such times stories were told by installments, things of
a satisfying nature were either produced and eaten or hastily
tucked into pockets to be disposed of at night, when Becky went
upstairs to her attic to bed.
"But I has to eat 'em careful, miss," she said 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 in quite a matter-of-fact
manner. "There mostly is rats an' mice in attics. You gets used
to the noise they makes scuttling about. I've got so I don't
mind 'em s' long as they 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 a scullery maid. I'd rather have rats
than cockroaches."
"So would I," said Sara; "I suppose you might make friends with a
rat in time, but I don't believe I should like to make friends
with a cockroach."
Sometimes Becky did not dare to spend more than a few minutes in
the bright, warm room, and when this was the case perhaps only a
few words could be exchanged, and a small purchase slipped into
the old-fashioned pocket Becky carried under her dress skirt,
tied round her waist with a band of tape. The search for and
discovery of satisfying things to eat which could be packed into
small compass, added a new interest to Sara's existence. When
she drove or walked out, she used to look into shop windows
eagerly. The first time it occurred to her to bring home two or
three little meat pies, she felt that she had hit upon a
discovery. When she exhibited them, Becky's eyes quite sparkled.
"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
melts away like--if you understand, miss. These'll just STAY in
yer stummick."
"Well," hesitated Sara, "I don't think it would be good if they
stayed always, but I do believe they will be satisfying."
They were satisfying--and so were beef sandwiches, 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 the temper of the cook, and
the hardness of the work heaped upon her shoulders, she had
always the chance of the afternoon to look forward to--the
chance that Miss Sara would be able to be in her sitting room.
In fact, the mere seeing of Miss Sara would have 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 time for more, then there was an installment of a story
to be told, or some other thing one remembered afterward and
sometimes lay awake in one's bed in the attic to think over.
Sara--who was only doing what she unconsciously 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
benefactor she seemed. If Nature has made you for a giver, your
hands are born open, and so is your heart; and though there may
be times when your hands are empty, your heart is always full,
and you can give things out of that--warm things, kind things,
sweet things--help and comfort and laughter--and sometimes gay,
kind laughter is the best help of all.
Becky had scarcely known what laughter was through 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 meat pies.
A few weeks before Sara's eleventh birthday a letter came to her
from her father, which did not seem to be written in such boyish
high spirits as usual. He was not very well, and was evidently
overweighted by the business connected with the diamond mines.
"You see, little Sara," he wrote, "your daddy 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 not be awake, tossing
about, one half of the night and spend the other half in
troublesome dreams. If my little missus were here, I dare say
she would give me some solemn, good advice. You would, wouldn't
you, Little Missus?"
One of his many jokes had been to call her his "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 been ordered in Paris, and her
wardrobe was to be, indeed, a marvel of splendid perfection.
When she had replied to the letter asking her if the doll would
be an acceptable present, Sara had been very quaint.
"I am getting very old," she wrote; "you see, 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 poem about `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 or Shakespeare at all. No one
could ever take Emily's place, but I should respect the Last Doll
very much; and I am sure the school would love it. They all like
dolls, though some of the big ones--the almost fifteen ones--
pretend they are too grown up."
Captain Crewe had a splitting headache when he read this letter
in his bungalow in India. The table before him was heaped with
papers and letters which were alarming him and filling him with
anxious dread, but he laughed as he had not laughed for weeks.
"Oh," he said, "she's better fun every year she lives. God
grant this business may right itself and leave me free to run
home and see her. What wouldn't I give to have her little arms
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, and there was to be a party. The
boxes containing the presents were to be opened with great
ceremony, and there was to be a glittering feast spread in Miss
Minchin's sacred room. When the day arrived the whole house was
in a whirl of excitement. How the morning passed nobody quite
knew, because there seemed such preparations to be made. The
schoolroom was being decked with garlands of holly; the desks had
been moved away, and red covers had been put on the forms which
were arrayed round the room against the wall.
When Sara went into her sitting room in the morning, she found
on the table a small, dumpy package, tied up in a piece of brown
paper. She knew it was a present, and she thought she could
guess whom it came from. She opened it quite tenderly. It was a
square pincushion, made of not quite clean red flannel, and black
pins had been stuck carefully into it to form the words, "Menny
hapy returns."
"Oh!" cried Sara, with a warm feeling in her 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 the name
"Miss Amelia Minchin."
Sara turned it over and over.
"Miss Amelia!" she said to herself "How CAN it be!"
And just at that very moment she heard the door being cautiously
pushed open and saw Becky peeping round it.
There was an affectionate, happy grin on her 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
Becky gave a hysteric but joyful sniff, and her eyes looked
quite moist with delight.
"It ain't nothin' but flannin, an' the flannin 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' the dust-bin, was it?
Miss 'Meliar had throwed it away. I hadn't no card o' my own,
an' I knowed it wouldn'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 anyone else why there was a lump in her throat.
"Oh, Becky!" she cried out, with a queer little 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."
The Diamond Mines Again
When Sara entered the holly-hung schoolroom in 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 box containing the Last Doll, a housemaid
carried a second box, and Becky brought up the rear, carrying a
third and wearing a clean apron and a new cap. Sara would have
much preferred to enter in the usual way, but Miss Minchin had
sent for her, and, after an interview in her private sitting
room, had expressed her wishes.
"This is not an ordinary occasion," she said. "I do not desire
that it should be treated as one."
So Sara was led grandly in and felt shy when, on her entry, the
big girls stared at her and touched each other's elbows, and the
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 and remove 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, who was wriggling with rapturous
expectation. She almost dropped her box, the disapproving voice
so startled her, and her frightened, bobbing curtsy of apology
was so funny that Lavinia and Jessie tittered.
"It is not your place to look at the young ladies," said Miss
Minchin. "You forget yourself. Put your box down."
Becky obeyed with alarmed haste and hastily backed toward the
"You may leave us," Miss Minchin announced to the servants with a
wave of her hand.
Becky stepped aside respectfully to allow the superior servants
to pass out first. She could not help casting a longing glance
at the box on the table. Something made of blue satin was
peeping from 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
something like a slight jump. Then she put her eyeglass up, and
gazed at her show pupil disturbedly.
"Becky!" she exclaimed. "My dearest Sara!"
Sara advanced a step toward her.
"I want her because I know she will like to see 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 the scullery maid. Scullery
maids--er--are not little girls."
It really had not occurred to her to think of them in that
light. Scullery maids were machines who carried coal 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 may stay. Rebecca,
thank Miss Sara for her great kindness."
Becky had been backing into the corner, twisting the hem of her
apron in delighted suspense. She came forward, bobbing
curtsies, but between 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 making an alarmed bob to Miss Minchin--
"for letting me take the liberty."
Miss Minchin waved her hand again--this time it was in the
direction of the corner near the door.
"Go and stand there," she commanded. "Not too near the young
Becky went to her place, grinning. She did not care where she
was sent, so that she might have the luck of being inside the
room, instead of being downstairs in the scullery, while these
delights were going on. She did not even mind when Miss Minchin
cleared her throat ominously and spoke again.
"Now, young ladies, I have a few words to say to you," she
"She's going to make a speech," whispered one of the girls. "I
wish it was over."
Sara felt rather uncomfortable. As this was her party, it was
probable that the speech was about her. It is not agreeable to
stand in a schoolroom and have a speech made about you.
"You are aware, young ladies," the speech began--for it was a
speech--"that dear Sara is eleven years old today."
"DEAR Sara!" murmured Lavinia.
"Several of you here have also been eleven years old, but Sara's
birthdays are rather different from other little girls'
birthdays. When she is older she will be heiress to a large
fortune, which it will be her duty to spend in a meritorious
"The diamond mines," giggled Jessie, in a whisper.
Sara did not hear her; but as she stood with her green-gray eyes
fixed steadily on Miss Minchin, she felt herself growing rather
hot. When Miss Minchin talked about money, she felt somehow that
she always hated her--and, of course, it was disrespectful to
hate grown-up people.
"When her dear papa, Captain Crewe, brought her from India and
gave her into my care," the speech proceeded, "he said to me, in
a jesting way, `I am afraid she will be very rich, Miss Minchin.'
My reply was, `Her education at my seminary, 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
to the seminary. Her manners--which have caused you to call her
Princess Sara--are perfect. Her amiability she exhibits by
giving you this afternoon's party. I hope you appreciate her
generosity. I wish you to express your appreciation of it by
saying aloud all together, `Thank you, Sara!'"
The entire schoolroom rose to its feet as it 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 Miss Minchin. "That is
what a real princess does when the populace applauds her.
Lavinia"--scathingly--"the sound you just made was extremely
like a snort. If you are jealous of your fellow-pupil, I beg 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 them was broken. The door had scarcely closed
before every seat was empty. The little girls jumped or tumbled
out of theirs; 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 rueful murmur, and Ermengarde
looked aghast.
"Does your papa send you books for a birthday 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 so magnificent that the
children uttered delighted groans of joy, and actually drew back
to gaze at it in breathless rapture.
"She is almost as big as Lottie," someone gasped.
Lottie clapped her hands and danced about, giggling.
"She's dressed for the theater," said Lavinia. "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
She sat down upon the floor and turned the key. The children
crowded clamoring around her, as she lifted tray after tray and
revealed their contents. Never had the schoolroom been in such
an uproar. There were lace collars and silk stockings and
handkerchiefs; there was a jewel case containing a necklace and a
tiara which looked quite as if they were made of real diamonds;
there was a long sealskin and muff, there were ball dresses and
walking dresses and visiting dresses; there were hats and tea
gowns and fans. Even Lavinia and Jessie forgot that they were
too elderly to care for dolls, and uttered exclamations of
delight and caught up things to look at them.
"Suppose," Sara said, as she stood by the table, putting a
large, black-velvet hat on the impassively smiling owner of all
these splendors--"suppose she understands human talk and feels
proud of being admired."
"You are always supposing things," said Lavinia, 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 it seems as if it were
"It's all very well to suppose things if you have everything,"
said Lavinia. "Could you suppose and pretend if you were a
beggar and lived in a garret?"
Sara stopped arranging the Last Doll's ostrich plumes, and looked
"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
She often thought afterward how strange it was that just as she
had finished saying this--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 the
refreshments are laid in her parlor, you had all better come and
have your feast now, so that my sister can have her interview
here in the schoolroom."
Refreshments were not likely to be disdained at any hour, and
many pairs of eyes gleamed. Miss Amelia arranged the procession
into decorum, and then, with Sara at her side heading it, she led
it away, leaving the Last Doll sitting upon a chair with the
glories of her wardrobe scattered about her; dresses and coats
hung upon chair backs, piles of lace-frilled petticoats lying
upon their seats.
Becky, who was not expected to partake of refreshments, had the
indiscretion to linger a moment to look at these beauties--it
really was an indiscretion.
"Go back to your work, Becky," Miss Amelia had 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 terror at the thought
of being accused of taking liberties, she rashly darted under the
table, which hid her by its tablecloth.
Miss Minchin came into the room, accompanied by a sharpfeatured,
dry little gentleman, who looked rather disturbed.
Miss Minchin herself also looked rather disturbed, it must be
admitted, and she gazed at the dry little gentleman with an
irritated and puzzled expression.
She sat down with stiff dignity, and waved him to a chair.
"Pray, be seated, Mr. Barrow," she said.
Mr. Barrow did not sit down at once. His attention seemed
attracted by the Last Doll and the things which surrounded her.
He settled his eyeglasses and looked at them in nervous
disapproval. The Last Doll herself did not seem to mind this in
the least. She merely sat upright and returned his gaze
"A hundred pounds," Mr. Barrow remarked succinctly. "All
expensive material, and made at a Parisian modiste's. He spent
money lavishly enough, that young man."
Miss Minchin felt offended. This seemed to be a disparagement of
her best patron and was a liberty.
Even solicitors had no right to take liberties.
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Barrow," she said stiffly. "I do not
"Birthday presents," said Mr. Barrow in the same critical
manner, "to a child eleven years old! Mad extravagance, I call
Miss Minchin drew herself up still more rigidly.
"Captain Crewe is a man of fortune," she said. "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 her chair.
"What!" she cried. "What do you mean?"
"At any rate," answered Mr. Barrow, quite snappishly, "it would
have been much better if there never had been any."
"Any diamond mines?" ejaculated Miss Minchin, catching at the
back of a chair and feeling as if a splendid dream was fading
away from her.
"Diamond mines spell ruin oftener than they spell wealth," said
Mr. Barrow. "When a man is in the hands of a very dear friend
and is not a businessman himself, he had better steer clear of
the dear friend's diamond mines, or gold mines, or any other kind
of mines dear friends want his money to 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 troubles combined. The
jungle fever might not have killed him if he had not been driven
mad by the business troubles, and the business troubles 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 with alarm.
"What WERE his business troubles?" she said. "What WERE they?"
"Diamond mines," answered Mr. Barrow, "and dear friends--and
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 of the diamond mine. He put all
his own money into it, and all Captain Crewe's. Then the dear
friend ran away--Captain Crewe was already stricken with fever
when the news came. The shock was too much for him. He died
delirious, raving about his little girl--and didn't leave a
Now Miss Minchin understood, and never had she received such a
blow in her life. Her show pupil, her show patron, swept away
from the Select Seminary at one blow. She felt as if she had
been outraged and robbed, 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 little pauper instead of an
Mr. Barrow was a shrewd businessman, and felt it as well to make
his own freedom from responsibility quite clear without any
"She is certainly left a beggar," he replied. "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 the festivities
going on joyfully and rather noisily that moment over the
"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, if she's giving it,"
said Mr. Barrow, calmly. "Barrow & Skipworth are not
responsible for anything. There never was a cleaner sweep made
of a man's fortune. Captain Crewe died without paying OUR last
bill--and it was a big one."
Miss Minchin turned back from the door in increased indignation.
This was worse than anyone could have dreamed of its being.
"That is what has happened to me!" she cried. "I was always so
sure of his payments that I went to all sorts of ridiculous
expenses for the child. I paid the bills for that ridiculous
doll and 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 to remain to listen to the
story of Miss Minchin's grievances after he had made the
position of his firm clear and related the mere dry facts. He
did not feel any particular sympathy for irate 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 Miss Minchin, 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
Miss Minchin became quite white with rage.
Mr. Barrow turned to go.
"I have nothing to do with that, madam," he said uninterestedly.
"Barrow & Skipworth are not responsible. Very
sorry the thing has happened, of course."
"If you think she is to be foisted off on me, 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 would have been too discreet
to say quite so much. She saw herself burdened with an
extravagantly brought-up child whom she had always resented, and
she lost all self-control.
Mr. Barrow undisturbedly moved toward the door.
"I wouldn't do that, madam," he commented; "it wouldn't look
well. Unpleasant story to get about in connection with the
establishment. Pupil bundled out penniless and without friends."
He was a clever business man, and he knew what he was saying. He
also knew that Miss Minchin was a business woman, and would be
shrewd enough to see the truth. She could not afford to do a
thing which would make people speak of her as cruel and hardhearted.
"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 little girl.
Such money as she herself had advanced was lost and could not be
And as she stood there breathless under her sense of injury,
there fell upon her ears a burst of gay voices from her own
sacred room, 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 caught sight of the changed, angry face, fell back
a step in alarm.
"What IS the matter, sister?" she ejaculated.
Miss Minchin's voice was almost fierce when she 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 sumptuous wardrobe?"--in bitter
"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 she has outgrown it."
"Go and tell her to take off that preposterous pink silk gauze,
and put the black one on, whether it is too short or not. She
has done with finery!"
Then Miss Amelia began to wring her fat hands and cry.
"Oh, sister!" she sniffed. "Oh, sister! What CAN have
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 the nearest chair.
"Hundreds of pounds have I spent on nonsense for her. And I
shall never see a penny of it. Put a stop to this ridiculous
party of hers. 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 being called a goose. She
knew, in fact, that she was rather a goose, and that it was left
to geese to do a great many disagreeable things. It was a
somewhat embarrassing thing to go into the midst of a room full
of delighted children, and tell the giver of the feast that she
had suddenly been transformed into a little beggar, and must go
upstairs and put on an old black frock which was too small 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 handkerchief until they looked
quite red. After which she got up and went out of the room,
without venturing to say another word. When her older sister
looked and spoke as she had done just now, the wisest course to
pursue was to obey orders without any comment. Miss Minchin
walked across the room. She spoke to herself aloud without
knowing that she was doing it. During the last year the story of
the diamond mines had suggested all sorts of possibilities to
her. Even proprietors of seminaries might make fortunes in
stocks, with the aid of owners of mines. And now, instead of
looking forward to gains, she was left to look back upon losses.
"The Princess Sara, indeed!" she said. "The child has been
pampered as if she were a QUEEN." She was sweeping angrily past
the corner table as she said it, and the next moment she started
at the sound of a loud, sobbing sniff which issued from under the
"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
It was poor Becky who crawled out, and her cap was knocked on
one side, and her face was red with repressed crying.
"If you please, 'm--it's me, mum," she explained. "I know I
hadn't ought to. But I was lookin' at the doll, mum--an' I was
frightened when you come in--an' slipped under the table."
"You have been there all the time, listening," said Miss
"No, mum," Becky protested, bobbing curtsies. "Not listenin'--I
thought I could slip out without your noticin', but I couldn't
an' I had to stay. But I didn't listen, mum--I wouldn't for
nothin'. 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 so sorry for poor Miss Sara--I'm so sorry!"
"Leave the room!" ordered Miss Minchin.
Becky curtsied again, the tears openly streaming down her
"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 no maid? If--if, oh please, would you let
me wait on her after I've done my pots an' kettles? I'd do 'em
that quick--if you'd let me wait on her now she's poor. Oh,"
breaking out afresh, "poor little Miss Sara, mum--that was called
a princess."
Somehow, she made Miss Minchin feel more angry than ever. That
the very scullery maid should range herself on the side of this
child--whom she realized more fully than ever that she had never
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 and fled. She ran out of
the room and down the steps into the scullery, and there she sat
down among her pots and kettles, and wept as if her heart would
"It's exactly like the ones in the stories," she wailed. "Them
pore princess ones that was drove into the world."
Miss Minchin had never looked quite so still and hard as she did
when Sara came to her, a few hours later, in response to a
message she had sent her.
Even by that time it seemed to Sara as if the 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 been swept away; the holly had
been removed from the schoolroom walls, and the forms and desks
put back into their places. Miss Minchin's sitting room looked
as it always did--all traces of the feast were gone, and Miss
Minchin had resumed her usual dress. The pupils had been
ordered to lay aside their party frocks; and this having been
done, they had returned to the schoolroom and huddled together in
groups, whispering and talking excitedly.
"Tell Sara to come to my room," Miss Minchin had said to her
sister. "And explain to her clearly that I will have no crying
or unpleasant scenes."
"Sister," replied Miss Amelia, "she is the strangest 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 just stood 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
stood staring for a few seconds, and then her chin began to
shake, and she turned round and 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 was
saying. It made me feel quite queer not to be answered; and when
you tell anything sudden and strange, you expect people will say
SOMETHING--whatever it is."
Nobody but Sara herself ever knew what had happened in her room
after she had run upstairs and locked her door. In fact, she
herself scarcely remembered anything but that she walked up and
down, saying over and over again to herself in a voice 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 out wildly, "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 sitting room in answer to her
summons, her face was white and her eyes had dark rings around
them. Her mouth was set as if she did not wish it to reveal what
she had suffered and was suffering. She did not look in the
least like the rose-colored butterfly child who had flown about
from one of her treasures to the other 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 blackvelvet
frock. It was too short and tight, and her slender legs
looked long and thin, showing themselves from beneath the brief
skirt. As she had not found a piece of black ribbon, her short,
thick, black hair tumbled loosely about her face and contrasted
strongly with its pallor. She held Emily tightly in one arm, and
Emily 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 feel secretly uncomfortable,
and she did so now. She did not speak with rudeness so much as
with a cold steadiness with which Miss Minchin felt it difficult
to cope--perhaps because she knew she was doing a heartless and
inhuman thing.
"You will have no time for dolls in future," she said. "You
will have to work and improve yourself and make yourself useful."
Sara kept her big, strange eyes fixed on her, and said not a
"Everything will be very different now," Miss Minchin went on.
"I suppose Miss Amelia has explained matters 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 what all this meant. "It appears that you have
no relations and no home, and no one to take care of you."
For a moment the thin, pale little face twitched, but Sara again
said nothing.
"What are you staring at?" demanded Miss Minchin, sharply. "Are
you so stupid that you cannot understand? I tell you that you
are quite alone in the world, and have no one to do anything for
you, unless I choose to keep you here out of charity."
"I understand," answered Sara, in a low tone; and there was a
sound as if she had gulped down something which rose in her
throat. "I understand."
"That doll," cried Miss Minchin, pointing to the splendid
birthday gift seated near--"that ridiculous doll, with all her
nonsensical, extravagant things--I actually paid the bill for
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
If she had cried and sobbed and seemed frightened, Miss Minchin
might almost have had more patience with her. She was a woman
who liked to domineer and feel her power, and as she looked at
Sara's pale little steadfast face and heard her proud 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 plainest clothes--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 light came 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 you stay here. You speak French well, and you
can help with 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 the little ones.
You will run errands and help in the kitchen as well as in the
schoolroom. If you don't please me, you will be sent away.
Remember that. Now go."
Sara stood still just a moment, looking at her. In her young
soul, she was thinking deep and 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, strange thoughts surged up in her
"What for?" she said.
"For my kindness to you," replied Miss Minchin. "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 room before Miss
Minchin could stop her or do anything but stare after her with
stony anger.
She went up the stairs slowly, but panting for breath and she
held Emily tightly against her side.
"I wish she could talk," she said to herself. "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 the great cat's head, and look into the fire and
think and think and think. But just before she reached the
landing Miss Amelia came out of the door and closed it behind
her, and stood before it, looking nervous and awkward. The truth
was that she felt secretly ashamed of the thing she had been
ordered to do.
"You--you are not to go in there," she said.
"Not go in?" exclaimed Sara, and she fell back a pace.
"That is not your room now," Miss Amelia answered, reddening a
Somehow, all at once, Sara understood. She realized that this
was the beginning of the change Miss Minchin had spoken of.
"Where is my room?" she asked, hoping very much that her voice
did not shake.
"You are to sleep in the attic next to Becky."
Sara knew where it was. Becky had told her about it. She
turned, and mounted up two flights of stairs. The last one was
narrow, and covered with shabby strips of old carpet. She felt
as if she were walking away and leaving far behind her the world
in which that other child, who no longer seemed herself, 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 it
and looked about her.
Yes, this was another world. The room had a slanting roof and
was whitewashed. The whitewash was dingy and had fallen off in
places. There was a rusty grate, an old iron bedstead, and a
hard bed covered with a faded coverlet. Some pieces of furniture
too much worn to be used downstairs had been sent up. Under the
skylight in the roof, which showed nothing but an oblong piece of
dull gray sky, there stood an old battered red footstool. Sara
went to it and sat down. She seldom cried. She did not cry now.
She laid Emily across her knees and put her face down upon her
and her arms around her, and sat there, her little black head
resting on the black draperies, not saying one word, not making
one sound.
And as she sat in this silence there came a low 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-smeared face appeared peeping round it. It was
Becky's face, and Becky had been crying furtively for hours and
rubbing her eyes with her kitchen apron until she looked strange
"Oh, miss," she said under her breath. "Might I--would you
allow me--jest to come in?"
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 loving mournfulness of Becky's streaming eyes--her
face looked more like a child's not so much too old for her
years. She held out her hand and gave a little sob.
"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, and hugged 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."
In the Attic
The first night she spent in her attic was a thing Sara never
forgot. During its passing she lived through a wild, unchildlike
woe of which she never spoke to anyone about her. There was no
one who would have understood. It was, indeed, well for her that
as she lay awake in the darkness her mind was forcibly
distracted, now and then, by the strangeness of her surroundings.
It was, perhaps, well for her that she was reminded by her small
body of material things. If this had not been so, the anguish of
her young mind might have been too great for a child to bear.
But, really, while the night was passing she scarcely knew that
she had a body at all or remembered any other thing than one.
"My papa is dead!" she kept whispering to herself. "My papa is
It was not until long afterward that she realized that her bed
had been so hard that she turned over and over in it to find a
place to rest, that the darkness seemed more intense than any she
had ever known, and that the wind howled over the roof among the
chimneys like something which wailed aloud. Then there was
something worse. This was certain scufflings and scratchings and
squeakings in the walls and behind the skirting boards. She knew
what they meant, because Becky had described them. They meant
rats and mice who were either fighting with each other or playing
together. Once or twice she even heard sharp-toed feet scurrying
across the floor, and she remembered in those after days, when
she recalled things, that when first she heard them she started
up in bed and sat trembling, and when she lay down again covered
her head with the bedclothes.
The change in her life did not come about gradually, but was
made all at once.
"She must begin as she is to go on," Miss Minchin said to Miss
Amelia. "She must be taught at once what she is to expect."
Mariette had left the house the next morning. The glimpse Sara
caught of her sitting room, as she passed its open door, showed
her that everything had been changed. Her ornaments and luxuries
had been removed, and a bed had been placed in a corner to
transform it into a new pupil's bedroom.
When she went down to breakfast she saw that her seat at Miss
Minchin's side was occupied by Lavinia, and Miss Minchin spoke to
her coldly.
"You will begin your new duties, Sara," she said, "by taking
your seat with the younger children at a smaller table. You must
keep them quiet, and see that they behave well and do not waste
their food. You ought to have been down earlier. Lottie has
already upset her tea."
That was the beginning, and from day to day the duties given to
her were added to. She taught the younger children French and
heard their other lessons, and these were the least of her
labors. It was found that she could be made use of in numberless
directions. She could be sent on errands at any time and in all
weathers. She could be told to do things other people neglected.
The cook and the housemaids took their tone from Miss Minchin,
and rather enjoyed ordering about the "young one" who had been
made so much fuss over for so long. They were not servants of
the best class, and had neither good manners nor good tempers,
and it was frequently convenient to have at hand someone on whom
blame could be laid.
During the first month or two, Sara thought that her willingness
to do things as well as she could, and her silence under
reproof, might soften those who drove her so hard. In her proud
little heart she wanted them to see that she was trying to earn
her living and not accepting charity. But the time came when she
saw that no one was softened at all; and the more willing she was
to do as she was told, the more domineering and exacting careless
housemaids became, and the more ready a scolding cook was to
blame her.
If she had been older, Miss Minchin would have given her the
bigger girls to teach and saved money by dismissing an
instructress; but while she remained and looked like a child, she
could be made more useful as a sort of little superior errand
girl and maid of all work. An ordinary errand boy would not have
been so clever and reliable. Sara could be trusted with
difficult commissions and complicated messages. She could even
go and pay bills, and she combined with this the ability to dust
a room well and to set things in order.
Her own lessons became things of the past. She was taught
nothing, and only after long and busy days spent in running here
and there at everybody's orders was she grudgingly allowed to go
into the deserted schoolroom, with a pile of old books, and study
alone at night.
"If I do not remind myself of the things I have learned, perhaps
I may forget them," she said to herself. "I am almost a scullery
maid, and if I am a scullery maid who knows nothing, I shall be
like poor Becky. I wonder if I could QUITE forget and begin to
drop my H'S and not remember that Henry the Eighth had six
One of the most curious things in her new existence was her
changed position among the pupils. Instead of being a sort of
small royal personage among them, she no longer seemed to be one
of their number at all. She was kept so constantly at work that
she scarcely ever had an opportunity of speaking to any of them,
and she could not avoid seeing that Miss Minchin preferred that
she should live a life apart from that of the occupants of the
"I will not have her forming intimacies and talking to the other
children," that lady said. "Girls like a grievance, and if she
begins to tell romantic stories about herself, she will become an
ill-used heroine, and parents will be given a wrong impression.
It is better that she should live a separate life--one suited to
her circumstances. I am giving her a home, and that is more than
she has any right to expect from me."
Sara did not expect much, and was far too proud to try to
continue to be intimate with girls who evidently felt rather
awkward and uncertain about her. The fact was that Miss
Minchin's pupils were a set of dull, matter-of-fact young people.
They were accustomed to being rich and comfortable, and as Sara's
frocks grew shorter and shabbier and queerer-looking, and it
became an established fact that she wore shoes with holes in them
and was sent out to buy groceries and carry them through the
streets in a basket on her arm when the cook wanted them in a
hurry, they felt rather as if, when they spoke to her, they were
addressing an under servant.
"To think that she was the girl with the diamond mines, Lavinia
commented. "She does look an object. And she's queerer than
ever. I never liked her much, but I can't bear that way she has
now of looking at people without speaking--just as if she was
finding them out."
"I am," said Sara, promptly, when she heard of this. "That's
what I look at some people for. I like to know about them. I
think them over afterward."
The truth was that she had saved herself annoyance several times
by keeping her eye on Lavinia, who was quite ready to make
mischief, and would have been rather pleased to have made it for
the ex-show pupil.
Sara never made any mischief herself, or interfered with anyone.
She worked like a drudge; she tramped through the wet streets,
carrying parcels and baskets; she labored with the childish
inattention of the little ones' French lessons; as she became
shabbier and more forlorn-looking, she was told that she had
better take her meals downstairs; she was treated as if she was
nobody's concern, and her heart grew proud and sore, but she
never told anyone what she felt.
"Soldiers don't complain," she would say between her small, shut
teeth, "I am not going to do it; I will pretend this is part of a
But there were hours when her child heart might almost have
broken with loneliness but for three people.
The first, it must be owned, was Becky--just Becky. Throughout
all that first night spent in the garret, she had felt a vague
comfort in knowing that on the other side of the wall in which
the rats scuffled and squeaked there was another young human
creature. And during the nights that followed the sense of
comfort grew. They had little chance to speak to each other
during the day. Each had her own tasks to perform, and any
attempt at conversation would have been regarded as a tendency to
loiter and lose time. "Don't mind me, miss," Becky whispered
during the first morning, "if I don't say nothin' polite. Some
un'd be down on us if I did. I MEANS `please' an' `thank you'
an' `beg pardon,' but I dassn't to take time to say it."
But before daybreak she used to slip into Sara's attic and
button her dress and give her such help as she required before
she went downstairs to light the kitchen fire. And when night
came Sara always heard the humble knock at her door which meant
that her handmaid was ready to help her again if she was needed.
During the first weeks of her grief Sara felt as if she were too
stupefied to talk, so it happened that some time passed before
they saw each other much or exchanged visits. Becky's heart told
her that it was best that people in trouble should be left alone.
The second of the trio of comforters was Ermengarde, but odd
things happened before Ermengarde found her place.
When Sara's mind seemed to awaken again to the life about her,
she realized that she had forgotten that an Ermengarde lived in
the world. The two had always been friends, but Sara had felt
as if she were years the older. It could not be contested that
Ermengarde was as dull as she was affectionate. She clung to
Sara in a simple, helpless way; she brought her lessons to her
that she might be helped; she listened to her every word and
besieged her with requests for stories. But she had nothing
interesting to say herself, and she loathed books of every
description. She was, in fact, not a person one would remember
when one was caught in the storm of a great trouble, and Sara
forgot her.
It had been all the easier to forget her because she had been
suddenly called home for a few weeks. When she came back she
did not see Sara for a day or two, and when she met her for the
first time she encountered her coming down a corridor with her
arms full of garments which were to be taken downstairs to be
mended. Sara herself had already been taught to mend them. She
looked pale and unlike herself, and she was attired in the queer,
outgrown frock whose shortness showed so much thin black leg.
Ermengarde was too slow a girl to be equal to such a situation.
She could not think of anything to say. She knew what had
happened, but, somehow, she had never imagined Sara could look
like this--so odd and poor and almost like a servant. It made
her quite miserable, and she could do nothing but break into a
short hysterical laugh and exclaim--aimlessly and as if without
any meaning, "Oh, Sara, is that you?"
"Yes," answered Sara, and suddenly a strange thought passed
through her mind and made her face flush. She held the pile of
garments in her arms, and her chin rested upon the top of it to
keep it steady. Something in the look of her straight-gazing
eyes made Ermengarde lose her wits still more. She felt as if
Sara had changed into a new kind of girl, and she had never known
her before. Perhaps it was because she had suddenly grown poor
and had to mend things and work like Becky.
"Oh," she stammered. "How--how are you?"
"I don't know," Sara replied. "How are you?"
"I'm--I'm quite well," said Ermengarde, overwhelmed with
shyness. Then spasmodically she thought of something to say
which seemed more intimate. "Are you--are you very unhappy?" she
said in a rush.
Then Sara was guilty of an injustice. Just at that moment her
torn heart swelled within her, and she felt that if anyone was as
stupid as that, one had better get away from her.
"What do you think?" she said. "Do you think I am very happy?"
And she marched past her without another word.
In course of time she realized that if her wretchedness had not
made her forget things, she would have known that poor, dull
Ermengarde was not to be blamed for her unready, awkward ways.
She was always awkward, and the more she felt, the more stupid
she was given to being.
But the sudden thought which had flashed upon her had made her
"She is like the others," she had thought. "She does not really
want to talk to me. She knows no one does."
So for several weeks a barrier stood between them. When they
met by chance Sara looked the other way, and Ermengarde felt too
stiff and embarrassed to speak. Sometimes they nodded to each
other in passing, but there were times when they did not even
exchange a greeting.
"If she would rather not talk to me," Sara thought, "I will keep
out of her way. Miss Minchin makes that easy enough."
Miss Minchin made it so easy that at last they scarcely saw each
other at all. At that time it was noticed that Ermengarde was
more stupid than ever, and that she looked listless and unhappy.
She used to sit in the window-seat, huddled in a heap, and stare
out of the window without speaking. Once Jessie, who was
passing, stopped to look at her curiously.
"What are you crying for, Ermengarde?" she asked.
"I'm not crying," answered Ermengarde, in a muffled, unsteady
"You are," said Jessie. "A great big tear just rolled down the
bridge of your nose and dropped off at the end of it. And there
goes another."
"Well," said Ermengarde, "I'm miserable--and no one need
interfere." And she turned her plump back and took out her
handkerchief and boldly hid her face in it.
That night, when Sara went to her attic, she was later than
usual. She had been kept at work until after the hour at which
the pupils went to bed, and after that she had gone to her
lessons in the lonely schoolroom. When she reached the top of
the stairs, she was surprised to see a glimmer of light coming
from under the attic door.
"Nobody goes there but myself," she thought quickly, "but
someone has lighted a candle."
Someone had, indeed, lighted a candle, and it was not burning in
the kitchen candlestick she was expected to use, but in one of
those belonging to the pupils' bedrooms. The someone was
sitting upon the battered footstool, and was dressed in her
nightgown and wrapped up in a red shawl. It was Ermengarde.
"Ermengarde!" cried Sara. She was so startled that she was
almost frightened. "You will get into trouble."
Ermengarde stumbled up from her footstool. She shuffled across
the attic in her bedroom slippers, which were too large for her.
Her eyes and nose were pink with crying.
"I know I shall--if I'm found out." she said. "But I don't
care--I don't care a bit. Oh, Sara, please tell me. What is
the matter? Why don't you like me any more?"
Something in her voice made the familiar lump rise in Sara's
throat. It was so affectionate and simple--so like the old
Ermengarde who had asked her to be "best friends." It sounded as
if she had not meant what she had seemed to mean during these
past weeks.
"I do like you," Sara answered. "I thought--you see, everything
is different now. I thought you--were different.
Ermengarde opened her wet eyes wide.
"Why, it was you who were different!" she cried. "You didn't
want to talk to me. I didn't know what to do. It was you who
were different after I came back."
Sara thought a moment. She saw she had made a mistake.
"I AM different," she explained, "though not in the way you
think. Miss Minchin does not want me to talk to the girls. Most
of them don't want to talk to me. I thought--perhaps--you
didn't. So I tried to keep out of your way."
"Oh, Sara," Ermengarde almost wailed in her reproachful dismay.
And then after one more look they rushed into each other's arms.
It must be confessed that Sara's small black head lay for some
minutes on the shoulder covered by the red shawl. When
Ermengarde had seemed to desert her, she had felt horribly
Afterward they sat down upon the floor together, Sara clasping
her knees with her arms, and Ermengarde rolled up in her shawl.
Ermengarde looked at the odd, big-eyed little face adoringly.
"I couldn't bear it any more," she said. "I dare say you could
live without me, Sara; but I couldn't live without you. I was
nearly DEAD. So tonight, when I was crying under the
bedclothes, I thought all at once of creeping up here and just
begging you to let us be friends again."
"You are nicer than I am," said Sara. "I was too proud to try
and make friends. You see, now that trials have come, they have
shown that I am NOT a nice child. I was afraid they would.
Perhaps"--wrinkling her forehead wisely--"that is what they were
sent for."
"I don't see any good in them," said Ermengarde stoutly.
"Neither do I--to speak the truth," admitted Sara, frankly.
"But I suppose there MIGHT be good in things, even if we don't
see it. There MIGHT"--DOUBTFULLY--"Be good in Miss Minchin."
Ermengarde looked round the attic with a rather fearsome
"Sara," she said, "do you think you can bear living here?"
Sara looked round also.
"If I pretend it's quite different, I can," she answered; "or if
I pretend it is a place in a story."
She spoke slowly. Her imagination was beginning to work for
her. It had not worked for her at all since her troubles had
come upon her. She had felt as if it had been stunned.
"Other people have lived in worse places. Think of the Count of
Monte Cristo in the dungeons of the Chateau d'If. And think of
the people in the Bastille!"
"The Bastille," half whispered Ermengarde, watching her and
beginning to be fascinated. She remembered stories of the French
Revolution which Sara had been able to fix in her mind by her
dramatic relation of them. No one but Sara could have done it.
A well-known glow came into Sara's eyes.
"Yes," she said, hugging her knees, "that will be a good place
to pretend about. I am a prisoner in the Bastille. I have been
here for years and years--and years; and everybody has forgotten
about me. Miss Minchin is the jailer--and Becky"--a sudden light
adding itself to the glow in her eyes--"Becky is the prisoner in
the next cell."
She turned to Ermengarde, looking quite like the old Sara.
"I shall pretend that," she said; "and it will be a great
Ermengarde was at once enraptured and awed.
"And will you tell me all about it?" she said. "May I creep up
here at night, whenever it is safe, and hear the things you have
made up in the day? It will seem as if we were more `best
friends' than ever."
"Yes," answered Sara, nodding. "Adversity tries people, and
mine has tried you and proved how nice you are."
The third person in the trio was Lottie. She was a small thing
and did not know what adversity meant, and was much bewildered by
the alteration she saw in her young adopted mother. She had
heard it rumored that strange things had happened to Sara, but
she could not understand why she looked different--why she wore
an old black frock and came into the schoolroom only to teach
instead of to sit in her place of honor and learn lessons
herself. There had been much whispering among the little ones
when it had been discovered that Sara no longer lived in the
rooms in which Emily had so long sat in state. Lottie's chief
difficulty was that Sara said so little when one asked her
questions. At seven mysteries must be made very clear if one is
to understand them.
"Are you very poor now, Sara?" she had asked confidentially the
first morning her friend took charge of the small French class.
"Are you as poor as a beggar?" She thrust a fat hand into the
slim one and opened round, tearful eyes. "I don't want you to be
as poor as a beggar."
She looked as if she was going to cry. And Sara hurriedly
consoled her.
"Beggars have nowhere to live," she said courageously. "I have a
place to live in."
"Where do you live?" persisted Lottle. "The new girl sleeps in
your room, and it isn't pretty any more."
"I live in another room," said Sara.
"Is it a nice one?" inquired Lottie. "I want to go and see it."
"You must not talk," said Sara. "Miss Minchin is looking at us.
She will be angry with me for letting you whisper."
She had found out already that she was to be held accountable
for everything which was objected to. If the children were not
attentive, if they talked, if they were restless, it was she who
would be reproved.
But Lottie was a determined little person. If Sara would not
tell her where she lived, she would find out in some other way.
She talked to her small companions and hung about the elder
girls and listened when they were gossiping; and acting upon
certain information they had unconsciously let drop, she started
late one afternoon on a voyage of discovery, climbing stairs she
had never known the existence of, until she reached the attic
floor. There she found two doors near each other, and opening
one, she saw her beloved Sara standing upon an old table and
looking out of a window.
"Sara!" she cried, aghast. "Mamma Sara!" She was aghast
because the attic was so bare and ugly and seemed so far away
from all the world. Her short legs had seemed to have been
mounting hundreds of stairs.
Sara turned round at the sound of her voice. It was her turn to
be aghast. What would happen now? If Lottie began to cry and
any one chanced to hear, they were both lost. She jumped down
from her table and ran to the child.
"Don't cry and make a noise," she implored. "I shall be scolded
if you do, and I have been scolded all day. It's--it's not such
a bad room, Lottie."
"Isn't it?" gasped Lottie, and as she looked round it she bit
her lip. She was a spoiled child yet, but she was fond enough of
her adopted parent to make an effort to control herself for her
sake. Then, somehow, it was quite possible that any place in
which Sara lived might turn out to be nice. "Why isn't it,
Sara?" she almost whispered.
Sara hugged her close and tried to laugh. There was a sort of
comfort in the warmth of the plump, childish body. She had had a
hard day and had been staring out of the windows with hot eyes.
"You can see all sorts of things you can't see downstairs," she
"What sort of things?" demanded Lottie, with that curiosity
Sara could always awaken even in bigger girls.
"Chimneys--quite close to us--with smoke curling up in wreaths
and clouds and going up into the sky--and sparrows hopping about
and talking to each other just as if they were people--and other
attic windows where heads may pop out any minute and you can
wonder who they belong to. And it all feels as high up--as if
it was another world."
"Oh, let me see it!" cried Lottie. "Lift me up!"
Sara lifted her up, and they stood on the old table together and
leaned on the edge of the flat window in the roof, and looked
Anyone who has not done this does not know what a different
world they saw. The slates spread out on either side of them and
slanted down into the rain gutter-pipes. The sparrows, being at
home there, twittered and hopped about quite without fear. Two
of them perched on the chimney top nearest and quarrelled with
each other fiercely until one pecked the other and drove him
away. The garret window next to theirs was shut because the
house next door was empty.
"I wish someone lived there," Sara said. "It is so close that if
there was a little girl in the attic, we could talk to each other
through the windows and climb over to see each other, if we were
not afraid of falling."
The sky seemed so much nearer than when one saw it from the
street, that Lottie was enchanted. From the attic window, among
the chimney pots, the things which were happening in the world
below seemed almost unreal. One scarcely believed in the
existence of Miss Minchin and Miss Amelia and the schoolroom, and
the roll of wheels in the square seemed a sound belonging to
another existence.
"Oh, Sara!" cried Lottie, cuddling in her guarding arm. "I like
this attic--I like it! It is nicer than downstairs!"
"Look at that sparrow," whispered Sara. "I wish I had some
crumbs to throw to him."
"I have some!" came in a little shriek from Lottie. "I have
part of a bun in my pocket; I bought it with my penny yesterday,
and I saved a bit."
When they threw out a few crumbs the sparrow jumped and flew
away to an adjacent chimney top. He was evidently not accustomed
to intimates in attics, and unexpected crumbs startled him. But
when Lottie remained quite still and Sara chirped very softly--
almost as if she were a sparrow herself--he saw that the thing
which had alarmed him represented hospitality, after all. He
put his head on one side, and from his perch on the chimney
looked down at the crumbs with twinkling eyes. Lottie could
scarcely keep still.
"Will he come? Will he come?" she whispered.
"His eyes look as if he would," Sara whispered back. "He is
thinking and thinking whether he dare. Yes, he will! Yes, he is
He flew down and hopped toward the crumbs, but stopped a few
inches away from them, putting his head on one side again, as if
reflecting on the chances that Sara and Lottie might turn out to
be big cats and jump on him. At last his heart told him they
were really nicer than they looked, and he hopped nearer and
nearer, darted at the biggest crumb with a lightning peck, seized
it, and carried it away to the other side of his chimney.
"Now he KNOWS", said Sara. "And he will come back for the
He did come back, and even brought a friend, and the friend went
away and brought a relative, and among them they made a hearty
meal over which they twittered and chattered and exclaimed,
stopping every now and then to put their heads on one side and
examine Lottie and Sara. Lottie was so delighted that she quite
forgot her first shocked impression of the attic. In fact, when
she was lifted down from the table and returned to earthly
things, as it were, Sara was able to point out to her many
beauties in the room which she herself would not have suspected
the existence of.
"It is so little and so high above everything," she said, "that
it is almost like a nest in a tree. The slanting ceiling is so
funny. See, you can scarcely stand up at this end of the room;
and when the morning begins to come I can lie in bed and look
right up into the sky through that flat window in the roof. It
is like a square patch of light. If the sun is going to shine,
little pink clouds float about, and I feel as if I could touch
them. And if it rains, the drops patter and patter as if they
were saying something nice. Then if there are stars, you can lie
and try to count how many go into the patch. It takes such a
lot. And just look at that tiny, rusty grate in the corner. If
it was polished and there was a fire in it, just think how nice
it would be. You see, it's really a beautiful little room."
She was walking round the small place, holding Lottie's hand and
making gestures which described all the beauties she was making
herself see. She quite made Lottie see them, too. Lottie could
always believe in the things Sara made pictures of.
"You see," she said, "there could be a thick, soft blue Indian
rug on the floor; and in that corner there could be a soft little
sofa, with cushions to curl up on; and just over it could be a
shelf full of books so that one could reach them easily; and
there could be a fur rug before the fire, and hangings on the
wall to cover up the whitewash, and pictures. They would have to
be little ones, but they could be beautiful; and there could be a
lamp with a deep rose-colored shade; and a table in the middle,
with things to have tea with; and a little fat copper kettle
singing on the hob; and the bed could be quite different. It
could be made soft and covered with a lovely silk coverlet. It
could be beautiful. And perhaps we could coax the sparrows until
we made such friends with them that they would come and peck at
the window and ask to be let in."
"Oh, Sara!" cried Lottie. "I should like to live here!"
When Sara had persuaded her to go downstairs again, and, after
setting her on her way, had come back to her attic, she stood in
the middle of it and looked about her. The enchantment of her
imaginings for Lottie had died away. The bed was hard and
covered with its dingy quilt. The whitewashed wall showed its
broken patches, the floor was cold and bare, the grate was broken
and rusty, and the battered footstool, tilted sideways on its
injured leg, the only seat in the room. She sat down on it for a
few minutes and let her head drop in her hands. The mere fact
that Lottie had come and gone away again made things seem a
little worse--just as perhaps prisoners feel a little more
desolate after visitors come and go, leaving them behind.
"It's a lonely place," she said. "Sometimes it's the loneliest
place in the world."
She was sitting in this way when her attention was attracted by
a slight sound near her. She lifted her head to see where it
came from, and if she had been a nervous child she would have
left her seat on the battered footstool in a great hurry. A
large rat was sitting up on his hind quarters and sniffing the
air in an interested manner. Some of Lottie's crumbs had dropped
upon the floor and their scent had drawn him out of his hole.
He looked so queer and so like a gray-whiskered dwarf or gnome
that Sara was rather fascinated. He looked at her with his
bright eyes, as if he were asking a question. He was evidently
so doubtful that one of the child's queer thoughts came into her
"I dare say it is rather hard to be a rat," she mused. "Nobody
likes you. People jump and run away and scream out, `Oh, a
horrid rat!' I shouldn't like people to scream and jump and
say, `Oh, a horrid Sara!' the moment they saw me. And set traps
for me, and pretend they were dinner. It's so different to be a
sparrow. But nobody asked this rat if he wanted to be a rat when
he was made. Nobody said, `Wouldn't you rather be a sparrow?'"
She had sat so quietly that the rat had begun to take courage.
He was very much afraid of her, but perhaps he had a heart like
the sparrow and it told him that she was not a thing which
pounced. He was very hungry. He had a wife and a large family
in the wall, and they had had frightfully bad luck for several
days. He had left the children crying bitterly, and felt he
would risk a good deal for a few crumbs, so he cautiously dropped
upon his feet.
"Come on," said Sara; "I'm not a trap. You can have them, poor
thing! Prisoners in the Bastille used to make friends with rats.
Suppose I make friends with you."
How it is that animals understand things I do not know, but it
is certain that they do understand. Perhaps there is a language
which is not made of words and everything in the world
understands it. Perhaps there is a soul hidden in everything and
it can always speak, without even making a sound, to another
soul. But whatsoever was the reason, the rat knew from that
moment that he was safe--even though he was a rat. He knew that
this young human being sitting on the red footstool would not
jump up and terrify him with wild, sharp noises or throw heavy
objects at him which, if they did not fall and crush him, would
send him limping in his scurry back to his hole. He was really a
very nice rat, and did not mean the least harm. When he had
stood on his hind legs and sniffed the air, with his bright eyes
fixed on Sara, he had hoped that she would understand this, and
would not begin by hating him as an enemy. When the mysterious
thing which speaks without saying any words told him that she
would not, he went softly toward the crumbs and began to eat
them. As he did it he glanced every now and then at Sara, just
as the sparrows had done, and his expression was so very
apologetic that it touched her heart.
She sat and watched him without making any movement. One crumb
was very much larger than the others--in fact, it could scarcely
be called a crumb. It was evident that he wanted that piece very
much, but it lay quite near the footstool and he was still rather
"I believe he wants it to carry to his family in the wall," Sara
thought. "If I do not stir at all, perhaps he will come and get
She scarcely allowed herself to breathe, she was so deeply
interested. The rat shuffled a little nearer and ate a few more
crumbs, then he stopped and sniffed delicately, giving a side
glance at the occupant of the footstool; then he darted at the
piece of bun with something very like the sudden boldness of the
sparrow, and the instant he had possession of it fled back to the
wall, slipped down a crack in the skirting board, and was gone.
"I knew he wanted it for his children," said Sara. "I do
believe I could make friends with him."
A week or so afterward, on one of the rare nights when
Ermengarde found it safe to steal up to the attic, when she
tapped on the door with the tips of her fingers Sara did not come
to her for two or three minutes. There was, indeed, such a
silence in the room at first that Ermengarde wondered if she
could have fallen asleep. Then, to her surprise, she heard her
utter a little, low laugh and speak coaxingly to someone.
"There!" Ermengarde heard her say. "Take it and go home,
Melchisedec! Go home to your wife!"
Almost immediately Sara opened the door, and when she did so she
found Ermengarde standing with alarmed eyes upon the threshold.
"Who--who ARE you talking to, Sara?" she gasped out.
Sara drew her in cautiously, but she looked as if something
pleased and amused her.
"You must promise not to be frightened--not to scream the least
bit, or I can't tell you," she answered.
Ermengarde felt almost inclined to scream on the spot, but
managed to control herself. She looked all round the attic and
saw no one. And yet Sara had certainly been speaking TO someone.
She thought of ghosts.
"Is it--something that will frighten me?" she asked timorously.
"Some people are afraid of them," said Sara. "I was at first--
but I am not now."
"Was it--a ghost?" quaked Ermengarde.
"No," said Sara, laughing. "It was my rat."
Ermengarde made one bound, and landed in the middle of the
little dingy bed. She tucked her feet under her nightgown and
the red shawl. She did not scream, but she gasped with fright.
"Oh! Oh!" she cried under her breath. "A rat! A rat!"
"I was afraid you would be frightened," said Sara. "But you
needn't be. I am making him tame. He actually knows me and
comes out when I call him. Are you too frightened to want to see
The truth was that, as the days had gone on and, with the aid of
scraps brought up from the kitchen, her curious friendship had
developed, she had gradually forgotten that the timid creature
she was becoming familiar with was a mere rat.
At first Ermengarde was too much alarmed to do anything but
huddle in a heap upon the bed and tuck up her feet, but the sight
of Sara's composed little countenance and the story of
Melchisedec's first appearance began at last to rouse her
curiosity, and she leaned forward over the edge of the bed and
watched Sara go and kneel down by the hole in the skirting board.
"He--he won't run out quickly and jump on the bed, will he?" she
"No," answered Sara. "He's as polite as we are. He is just like
a person. Now watch!"
She began to make a low, whistling sound--so low and coaxing that
it could only have been heard in entire stillness. She did it
several times, looking entirely absorbed in it. Ermengarde
thought she looked as if she were working a spell. And at last,
evidently in response to it, a gray-whiskered, bright-eyed head
peeped out of the hole. Sara had some crumbs in her hand. She
dropped them, and Melchisedec came quietly forth and ate them. A
piece of larger size than the rest he took and carried in the
most businesslike manner back to his home.
"You see," said Sara, "that is for his wife and children. He is
very nice. He only eats the little bits. After he goes back I
can always hear his family squeaking for joy. There are three
kinds of squeaks. One kind is the children's, and one is Mrs.
Melchisedec's, and one is Melchisedec's own."
Ermengarde began to laugh.
"Oh, Sara!" she said. "You ARE queer--but you are nice."
"I know I am queer," admitted Sara, cheerfully; "and I TRY to be
nice." She rubbed her forehead with her little brown paw, and a
puzzled, tender look came into her face. "Papa always laughed at
me," she said; "but I liked it. He thought I was queer, but he
liked me to make up things. I--I can't help making up things.
If I didn't, I don't believe I could live." She paused and
glanced around the attic. "I'm sure I couldn't live here," she
added in a low voice.
Ermengarde was interested, as she always was. "When you talk
about things," she said, "they seem as if they grew real. You
talk about Melchisedec as if he was a person."
"He IS a person," said Sara. "He gets hungry and frightened,
just as we do; and he is married and has children. How do we
know he doesn't think things, just as we do? His eyes look as if
he was a person. That was why I gave him a name."
She sat down on the floor in her favorite attitude, holding her
"Besides," she said, "he is a Bastille rat sent to be my friend.
I can always get a bit of bread the cook has thrown away, and it
is quite enough to support him."
"Is it the Bastille yet?" asked Ermengarde, eagerly. "Do you
always pretend it is the Bastille?"
"Nearly always," answered Sara. "Sometimes I try to pretend it
is another kind of place; but the Bastille is generally easiest--
particularly when it is cold."
Just at that moment Ermengarde almost jumped off the bed, she
was so startled by a sound she heard. It was like two distinct
knocks on the wall.
"What is that?" she exclaimed.
Sara got up from the floor and answered quite dramatically:
"It is the prisoner in the next cell."
"Becky!" cried Ermengarde, enraptured.
"Yes," said Sara. "Listen; the two knocks meant, `Prisoner, are
you there?'"
She knocked three times on the wall herself, as if in answer.
"That means, `Yes, I am here, and all is well.'"
Four knocks came from Becky's side of the wall.
"That means," explained Sara, "`Then, fellow-sufferer, we will
sleep in peace. Good night.'"
Ermengarde quite beamed with delight.
"Oh, Sara!" she whispered joyfully. "It is like a story!"
"It IS a story," said Sara. "EVERYTHING'S a story. You are a
story--I am a story. Miss Minchin is a story."
And she sat down again and talked until Ermengarde forgot that
she was a sort of escaped prisoner herself, and had to be
reminded by Sara that she could not remain in the Bastille all
night, but must steal noiselessly downstairs again and creep back
into her deserted bed.
The Indian Gentleman
But it was a perilous thing for Ermengarde and Lottie to make
pilgrimages to the attic. They could never be quite sure when
Sara would be there, and they could scarcely ever be certain that
Miss Amelia would not make a tour of inspection through the
bedrooms after the pupils were supposed to be asleep. So their
visits were rare ones, and Sara lived a strange and lonely life.
It was a lonelier life when she was downstairs than when she was
in her attic. She had no one to talk to; and when she was sent
out on errands and walked through the streets, a forlorn little
figure carrying a basket or a parcel, trying to hold her hat on
when the wind was blowing, and feeling the water soak through her
shoes when it was raining, she felt as if the crowds hurrying
past her made her loneliness greater. When she had been the
Princess Sara, driving through the streets in her brougham, or
walking, attended by Mariette, the sight of her bright, eager
little face and picturesque coats and hats had often caused
people to look after her. A happy, beautifully cared for little
girl naturally attracts attention. Shabby, poorly dressed
children are not rare enough and pretty enough to make people
turn around to look at them and smile. No one looked at Sara in
these days, and no one seemed to see her as she hurried along the
crowded pavements. She had begun to grow very fast, and, as she
was dressed only in such clothes as the plainer remnants of her
wardrobe would supply, she knew she looked very queer, indeed.
All her valuable garments had been disposed of, and such as had
been left for her use she was expected to wear so long as she
could put them on at all. Sometimes, when she passed a shop
window with a mirror in it, she almost laughed outright on
catching a glimpse of herself, and sometimes her face went red
and she bit her lip and turned away.
In the evening, when she passed houses whose windows were
lighted up, she used to look into the warm rooms and amuse
herself by imagining things about the people she saw sitting
before the fires or about the tables. It always interested her
to catch glimpses of rooms before the shutters were closed.
There were several families in the square in which Miss Minchin
lived, with which she had become quite familiar in a way of her
own. The one she liked best she called the Large Family. She
called it the Large Family not because the members of it were big-
-for, indeed, most of them were little--but because there were
so many of them. There were eight children in the Large Family,
and a stout, rosy mother, and a stout, rosy father, and a stout,
rosy grandmother, and any number of servants. The eight children
were always either being taken out to walk or to ride in
perambulators by comfortable nurses, or they were going to drive
with their mamma, or they were flying to the door in the evening
to meet their papa and kiss him and dance around him and drag off
his overcoat and look in the pockets for packages, or they were
crowding about the nursery windows and looking out and pushing
each other and laughing--in fact, they were always doing
something enjoyable and suited to the tastes of a large family.
Sara was quite fond of them, and had given them names out of
books--quite romantic names. She called them the Montmorencys
when she did not call them the Large Family. The fat, fair baby
with the lace cap was Ethelberta Beauchamp Montmorency; the next
baby was Violet Cholmondeley Montmorency; the little boy who
could just stagger and who had such round legs was Sydney Cecil
Vivian Montmorency; and then came Lilian Evangeline Maud Marion,
Rosalind Gladys, Guy Clarence, Veronica Eustacia, and Claude
Harold Hector.
One evening a very funny thing happened--though, perhaps, in one
sense it was not a funny thing at all.
Several of the Montmorencys were evidently going to a children's
party, and just as Sara was about to pass the door they were
crossing the pavement to get into the carriage which was waiting
for them. Veronica Eustacia and Rosalind Gladys, in white-lace
frocks and lovely sashes, had just got in, and Guy Clarence, aged
five, was following them. He was such a pretty fellow and had
such rosy cheeks and blue eyes, and such a darling little round
head covered with curls, that Sara forgot her basket and shabby
cloak altogether--in fact, forgot everything but that she wanted
to look at him for a moment. So she paused and looked.
It was Christmas time, and the Large Family had been hearing
many stories about children who were poor and had no mammas and
papas to fill their stockings and take them to the pantomime--
children who were, in fact, cold and thinly clad and hungry. In
the stories, kind people--sometimes little boys and girls with
tender hearts--invariably saw the poor children and gave them
money or rich gifts, or took them home to beautiful dinners. Guy
Clarence had been affected to tears that very afternoon by the
reading of such a story, and he had burned with a desire to find
such a poor child and give her a certain sixpence he possessed,
and thus provide for her for life. An entire sixpence, he was
sure, would mean affluence for evermore. As he crossed the strip
of red carpet laid across the pavement from the door to the
carriage, he had this very sixpence in the pocket of his very
short man-o-war trousers; And just as Rosalind Gladys got into
the vehicle and jumped on the seat in order to feel the cushions
spring under her, he saw Sara standing on the wet pavement in her
shabby frock and hat, with her old basket on her arm, looking at
him hungrily.
He thought that her eyes looked hungry because she had perhaps
had nothing to eat for a long time. He did not know that they
looked so because she was hungry for the warm, merry life his
home held and his rosy face spoke of, and that she had a hungry
wish to snatch him in her arms and kiss him. He only knew that
she had big eyes and a thin face and thin legs and a common
basket and poor clothes. So he put his hand in his pocket and
found his sixpence and walked up to her benignly.
"Here, poor little girl," he said. "Here is a sixpence. I will
give it to you."
Sara started, and all at once realized that she looked exactly
like poor children she had seen, in her better days, waiting on
the pavement to watch her as she got out of her brougham. And
she had given them pennies many a time. Her face went red and
then it went pale, and for a second she felt as if she could not
take the dear little sixpence.
"Oh, no!" she said. "Oh, no, thank you; I mustn't take it,
Her voice was so unlike an ordinary street child's voice and her
manner was so like the manner of a well-bred little person that
Veronica Eustacia (whose real name was Janet) and Rosalind Gladys
(who was really called Nora) leaned forward to listen.
But Guy Clarence was not to be thwarted in his benevolence. He
thrust the sixpence into her hand.
"Yes, you must take it, poor little girl!" he insisted stoutly.
"You can buy things to eat with it. It is a whole sixpence!"
There was something so honest and kind in his face, and he
looked so likely to be heartbrokenly disappointed if she did not
take it, that Sara knew she must not refuse him. To be as proud
as that would be a cruel thing. So she actually put her pride in
her pocket, though it must be admitted her cheeks burned.
"Thank you," she said. "You are a kind, kind little darling
thing." And as he scrambled joyfully into the carriage she went
away, trying to smile, though she caught her breath quickly and
her eyes were shining through a mist. She had known that she
looked odd and shabby, but until now she had not known that she
might be taken for a beggar.
As the Large Family's carriage drove away, the children inside
it were talking with interested excitement.
"Oh, Donald," (this was Guy Clarence's name), Janet exclaimed
alarmedly, "why did you offer that little girl your sixpence?
I'm sure she is not a beggar!"
"She didn't speak like a beggar!" cried Nora. "And her face
didn't really look like a beggar's face!"
"Besides, she didn't beg," said Janet. "I was so afraid she
might be angry with you. You know, it makes people angry to be
taken for beggars when they are not beggars."
"She wasn't angry," said Donald, a trifle dismayed, but still
firm. "She laughed a little, and she said I was a kind, kind
little darling thing. And I was!"--stoutly. "It was my whole
Janet and Nora exchanged glances.
"A beggar girl would never have said that," decided Janet. "She
would have said, `Thank yer kindly, little gentleman-- thank yer,
sir;' and perhaps she would have bobbed a curtsy."
Sara knew nothing about the fact, but from that time the Large
Family was as profoundly interested in her as she was in it.
Faces used to appear at the nursery windows when she passed, and
many discussions concerning her were held round the fire.
"She is a kind of servant at the seminary," Janet said. "I
don't believe she belongs to anybody. I believe she is an
orphan. But she is not a beggar, however shabby she looks."
And afterward she was called by all of them, "The-little-girlwho-
is-not-a-beggar," which was, of course, rather a long name,
and sounded very funny sometimes when the youngest ones said it
in a hurry.
Sara managed to bore a hole in the sixpence and hung it on an
old bit of narrow ribbon round her neck. Her affection for the
Large Family increased--as, indeed, her affection for everything
she could love increased. She grew fonder and fonder of Becky,
and she used to look forward to the two mornings a week when she
went into the schoolroom to give the little ones their French
lesson. Her small pupils loved her, and strove with each other
for the privilege of standing close to her and insinuating their
small hands into hers. It fed her hungry heart to feel them
nestling up to her. She made such friends with the sparrows that
when she stood upon the table, put her head and shoulders out of
the attic window, and chirped, she heard almost immediately a
flutter of wings and answering twitters, and a little flock of
dingy town birds appeared and alighted on the slates to talk to
her and make much of the crumbs she scattered. With Melchisedec
she had become so intimate that he actually brought Mrs.
Melchisedec with him sometimes, and now and then one or two of
his children. She used to talk to him, and, somehow, he looked
quite as if he understood.
There had grown in her mind rather a strange feeling about
Emily, who always sat and looked on at everything. It arose in
one of her moments of great desolateness. She would have liked
to believe or pretend to believe that Emily understood and
sympathized with her. She did not like to own to herself that
her only companion could feel and hear nothing. She used to put
her in a chair sometimes and sit opposite to her on the old red
footstool, and stare and pretend about her until her own eyes
would grow large with something which was almost like fear--
particularly at night when everything was so still, when the only
sound in the attic was the occasional sudden scurry and squeak of
Melchisedec's family in the wall. One of her "pretends" was that
Emily was a kind of good witch who could protect her. Sometimes,
after she had stared at her until she was wrought up to the
highest pitch of fancifulness, she would ask her questions and
find herself ALMOST feeling as if she would presently answer.
But she never did.
"As to answering, though," said Sara, trying to console herself,
"I don't answer very often. I never answer when I can help it.
When people are insulting you, there is nothing so good for them
as not to say a word--just to look at them and THINK. Miss
Minchin turns pale with rage when I do it, Miss Amelia looks
frightened, and so do the girls. When you will not fly into a
passion people know you are stronger than they are, because you
are strong enough to hold in your rage, and they are not, and
they say stupid things they wish they hadn't said afterward.
There's nothing so strong as rage, except what makes you hold it
in--that's stronger. It's a good thing not to answer your
enemies. I scarcely ever do. Perhaps Emily is more like me than
I am like myself. Perhaps she would rather not answer her
friends, even. She keeps it all in her heart."
But though she tried to satisfy herself with these arguments, she
did not find it easy. When, after a long, hard day, in which
she had been sent here and there, sometimes on long errands
through wind and cold and rain, she came in wet and hungry, and
was sent out again because nobody chose to remember that she was
only a child, and that her slim legs might be tired and her small
body might be chilled; when she had been given only harsh words
and cold, slighting looks for thanks; when the cook had been
vulgar and insolent; when Miss Minchin had been in her worst
mood, and when she had seen the girls sneering among themselves
at her shabbiness--then she was not always able to comfort her
sore, proud, desolate heart with fancies when Emily merely sat
upright in her old chair and stared.
One of these nights, when she came up to the attic cold and
hungry, with a tempest raging in her young breast, Emily's stare
seemed so vacant, her sawdust legs and arms so inexpressive, that
Sara lost all control over herself. There was nobody but Emily--
no one in the world. And there she sat.
"I shall die presently," she said at first.
Emily simply stared.
"I can't bear this," said the poor child, trembling. "I know I
shall die. I'm cold; I'm wet; I'm starving to death. I've
walked a thousand miles today, and they have done nothing but
scold me from morning until night. And because I could not find
that last thing the cook sent me for, they would not give me any
supper. Some men laughed at me because my old shoes made me slip
down in the mud. I'm covered with mud now. And they laughed.
Do you hear?"
She looked at the staring glass eyes and complacent face, and
suddenly a sort of heartbroken rage seized her. She lifted her
little savage hand and knocked Emily off the chair, bursting into
a passion of sobbing--Sara who never cried.
"You are nothing but a DOLL!" she cried. "Nothing but a doll--
doll--doll! You care for nothing. You are stuffed with
sawdust. You never had a heart. Nothing could ever make you
feel. You are a DOLL!" Emily lay on the floor, with her legs
ignominiously doubled up over her head, and a new flat place on
the end of her nose; but she was calm, even dignified. Sara hid
her face in her arms. The rats in the wall began to fight and
bite each other and squeak and scramble. Melchisedec was
chastising some of his family.
Sara's sobs gradually quieted themselves. It was so unlike her
to break down that she was surprised at herself. After a while
she raised her face and looked at Emily, who seemed to be gazing
at her round the side of one angle, and, somehow, by this time
actually with a kind of glassy-eyed sympathy. Sara bent and
picked her up. Remorse overtook her. She even smiled at herself
a very little smile.
"You can't help being a doll," she said with a resigned sigh,
"any more than Lavinia and Jessie can help not having any sense.
We are not all made alike. Perhaps you do your sawdust best."
And she kissed her and shook her clothes straight, and put her
back upon her chair.
She had wished very much that some one would take the empty
house next door. She wished it because of the attic window which
was so near hers. It seemed as if it would be so nice to see it
propped open someday and a head and shoulders rising out of the
square aperture.
"If it looked a nice head," she thought, "I might begin by
saying, `Good morning,' and all sorts of things might happen.
But, of course, it's not really likely that anyone but under
servants would sleep there."
One morning, on turning the corner of the square after a visit to
the grocer's, the butcher's, and the baker's, she saw, to her
great delight, that during her rather prolonged absence, a van
full of furniture had stopped before the next house, the front
doors were thrown open, and men in shirt sleeves were going in
and out carrying heavy packages and pieces of furniture.
"It's taken!" she said. "It really IS taken! Oh, I do hope a
nice head will look out of the attic window!"
She would almost have liked to join the group of loiterers who
had stopped on the pavement to watch the things carried in. She
had an idea that if she could see some of the furniture she could
guess something about the people it belonged to.
"Miss Minchin's tables and chairs are just like her," she
thought; "I remember thinking that the first minute I saw her,
even though I was so little. I told papa afterward, and he
laughed and said it was true. I am sure the Large Family have
fat, comfortable armchairs and sofas, and I can see that their
red-flowery wallpaper is exactly like them. It's warm and
cheerful and kind-looking and happy."
She was sent out for parsley to the greengrocer's later in the
day, and when she came up the area steps her heart gave quite a
quick beat of recognition. Several pieces of furniture had been
set out of the van upon the pavement. There was a beautiful
table of elaborately wrought teakwood, and some chairs, and a
screen covered with rich Oriental embroidery. The sight of them
gave her a weird, homesick feeling. She had seen things so like
them in India. One of the things Miss Minchin had taken from her
was a carved teakwood desk her father had sent her.
"They are beautiful things," she said; "they look as if they
ought to belong to a nice person. All the things look rather
grand. I suppose it is a rich family."
The vans of furniture came and were unloaded and gave place to
others all the day. Several times it so happened that Sara had
an opportunity of seeing things carried in. It became plain that
she had been right in guessing that the newcomers were people of
large means. All the furniture was rich and beautiful, and a
great deal of it was Oriental. Wonderful rugs and draperies and
ornaments were taken from the vans, many pictures, and books
enough for a library. Among other things there was a superb god
Buddha in a splendid shrine.
"Someone in the family MUST have been in India," Sara thought.
"They have got used to Indian things and like them. I AM glad.
I shall feel as if they were friends, even if a head never looks
out of the attic window."
When she was taking in the evening's milk for the cook (there
was really no odd job she was not called upon to do), she saw
something occur which made the situation more interesting than
ever. The handsome, rosy man who was the father of the Large
Family walked across the square in the most matter-of-fact
manner, and ran up the steps of the next-door house. He ran up
them as if he felt quite at home and expected to run up and down
them many a time in the future. He stayed inside quite a long
time, and several times came out and gave directions to the
workmen, as if he had a right to do so. It was quite certain
that he was in some intimate way connected with the newcomers and
was acting for them.
"If the new people have children," Sara speculated, "the Large
Family children will be sure to come and play with them, and
they MIGHT come up into the attic just for fun."
At night, after her work was done, Becky came in to see her
fellow prisoner and bring her news.
"It's a' Nindian gentleman that's comin' to live next door,
miss," she said. "I don't know whether he's a black gentleman or
not, but he's a Nindian one. He's very rich, an' he's ill, an'
the gentleman of the Large Family is his lawyer. He's had a lot
of trouble, an' it's made him ill an' low in his mind. He
worships idols, miss. He's an 'eathen an' bows down to wood an'
stone. I seen a' idol bein' carried in for him to worship.
Somebody had oughter send him a trac'. You can get a trac' for a
Sara laughed a little.
"I don't believe he worships that idol," she said; "some people
like to keep them to look at because they are interesting. My
papa had a beautiful one, and he did not worship it."
But Becky was rather inclined to prefer to believe that the new
neighbor was "an 'eathen." It sounded so much more romantic than
that he should merely be the ordinary kind of gentleman who went
to church with a prayer book. She sat and talked long that night
of what he would be like, of what his wife would be like if he
had one, and of what his children would be like if they had
children. Sara saw that privately she could not help hoping very
much that they would all be black, and would wear turbans, and,
above all, that--like their parent--they would all be "'eathens."
"I never lived next door to no 'eathens, miss," she said; "I
should like to see what sort o' ways they'd have."
It was several weeks before her curiosity was satisfied, and
then it was revealed that the new occupant had neither wife nor
children. He was a solitary man with no family at all, and it
was evident that he was shattered in health and unhappy in mind.
A carriage drove up one day and stopped before the house. When
the footman dismounted from the box and opened the door the
gentleman who was the father of the Large Family got out first.
After him there descended a nurse in uniform, then came down the
steps two men-servants. They came to assist their master, who,
when he was helped out of the carriage, proved to be a man with a
haggard, distressed face, and a skeleton body wrapped in furs.
He was carried up the steps, and the head of the Large Family
went with him, looking very anxious. Shortly afterward a
doctor's carriage arrived, and the doctor went in--plainly to
take care of him.
"There is such a yellow gentleman next door, Sara," Lottie
whispered at the French class afterward. "Do you think he is a
Chinee? The geography says the Chinee men are yellow."
"No, he is not Chinese," Sara whispered back; "he is very ill.
Go on with your exercise, Lottie. `Non, monsieur. Je n'ai pas
le canif de mon oncle.'"
That was the beginning of the story of the Indian gentleman.
Ram Dass
There were fine sunsets even in the square, sometimes. One
could only see parts of them, however, between the chimneys and
over the roofs. From the kitchen windows one could not see them
at all, and could only guess that they were going on because the
bricks looked warm and the air rosy or yellow for a while, or
perhaps one saw a blazing glow strike a particular pane of glass
somewhere. There was, however, one place from which one could
see all the splendor of them: the piles of red or gold clouds in
the west; or the purple ones edged with dazzling brightness; or
the little fleecy, floating ones, tinged with rose-color and
looking like flights of pink doves scurrying across the blue in a
great hurry if there was a wind. The place where one could see
all this, and seem at the same time to breathe a purer air, was,
of course, the attic window. When the square suddenly seemed to
begin to glow in an enchanted way and look wonderful in spite of
its sooty trees and railings, Sara knew something was going on in
the sky; and when it was at all possible to leave the kitchen
without being missed or called back, she invariably stole away
and crept up the flights of stairs, and, climbing on the old
table, got her head and body as far out of the window as
possible. When she had accomplished this, she always drew a long
breath and looked all round her. It used to seem as if she had
all the sky and the world to herself. No one else ever looked
out of the other attics. Generally the skylights were closed;
but even if they were propped open to admit air, no one seemed to
come near them. And there Sara would stand, sometimes turning
her face upward to the blue which seemed so friendly and near--
just like a lovely vaulted ceiling--sometimes watching the west
and all the wonderful things that happened there: the clouds
melting or drifting or waiting softly to be changed pink or
crimson or snow-white or purple or pale dove-gray. Sometimes they
made islands or great mountains enclosing lakes of deep turquoiseblue,
or liquid amber, or chrysoprase-green; sometimes dark
headlands jutted into strange, lost seas; sometimes slender
strips of wonderful lands joined other wonderful lands together.
There were places where it seemed that one could run or climb or
stand and wait to see what next was coming--until, perhaps, as it
all melted, one could float away. At least it seemed so to Sara,
and nothing had ever been quite so beautiful to her as the things
she saw as she stood on the table--her body half out of the
skylight--the sparrows twittering with sunset softness on the
slates. The sparrows always seemed to her to twitter with a sort
of subdued softness just when these marvels were going on.
There was such a sunset as this a few days after the Indian
gentleman was brought to his new home; and, as it fortunately
happened that the afternoon's work was done in the kitchen and
nobody had ordered her to go anywhere or perform any task, Sara
found it easier than usual to slip away and go upstairs.
She mounted her table and stood looking out. It was a
wonderful moment. There were floods of molten gold covering the
west, as if a glorious tide was sweeping over the world. A deep,
rich yellow light filled the air; the birds flying across the
tops of the houses showed quite black against it.
"It's a Splendid one," said Sara, softly, to herself. "It makes
me feel almost afraid--as if something strange was just going to
happen. The Splendid ones always make me feel like that."
She suddenly turned her head because she heard a sound a few
yards away from her. It was an odd sound like a queer little
squeaky chattering. It came from the window of the next attic.
Someone had come to look at the sunset as she had. There was a
head and a part of a body emerging from the skylight, but it was
not the head or body of a little girl or a housemaid; it was the
picturesque white-swathed form and dark-faced, gleaming-eyed,
white-turbaned head of a native Indian man-servant--"a Lascar,"
Sara said to herself quickly--and the sound she had heard came
from a small monkey he held in his arms as if he were fond of
it, and which was snuggling and chattering against his breast.
As Sara looked toward him he looked toward her. The first thing
she thought was that his dark face looked sorrowful and
homesick. She felt absolutely sure he had come up to look at the
sun, because he had seen it so seldom in England that he longed
for a sight of it. She looked at him interestedly for a second,
and then smiled across the slates. She had learned to know how
comforting a smile, even from a stranger, may be.
Hers was evidently a pleasure to him. His whole expression
altered, and he showed such gleaming white teeth as he smiled
back that it was as if a light had been illuminated in his dusky
face. The friendly look in Sara's eyes was always very effective
when people felt tired or dull.
It was perhaps in making his salute to her that he loosened his
hold on the monkey. He was an impish monkey and always ready for
adventure, and it is probable that the sight of a little girl
excited him. He suddenly broke loose, jumped on to the slates,
ran across them chattering, and actually leaped on to Sara's
shoulder, and from there down into her attic room. It made her
laugh and delighted her; but she knew he must be restored to his
master--if the Lascar was his master--and she wondered how this
was to be done. Would he let her catch him, or would he be
naughty and refuse to be caught, and perhaps get away and run off
over the roofs and be lost? That would not do at all. Perhaps
he belonged to the Indian gentleman, and the poor man was fond of
She turned to the Lascar, feeling glad that she remembered still
some of the Hindustani she had learned when she lived with her
father. She could make the man understand. She spoke to him in
the language he knew.
"Will he let me catch him?" she asked.
She thought she had never seen more surprise and delight than the
dark face expressed when she spoke in the familiar tongue. The
truth was that the poor fellow felt as if his gods had
intervened, and the kind little voice came from heaven itself.
At once Sara saw that he had been accustomed to European
children. He poured forth a flood of respectful thanks. He was
the servant of Missee Sahib. The monkey was a good monkey and
would not bite; but, unfortunately, he was difficult to catch.
He would flee from one spot to another, like the lightning. He
was disobedient, though not evil. Ram Dass knew him as if he
were his child, and Ram Dass he would sometimes obey, but not
always. If Missee Sahib would permit Ram Dass, he himself could
cross the roof to her room, enter the windows, and regain the
unworthy little animal. But he was evidently afraid Sara might
think he was taking a great liberty and perhaps would not let him
But Sara gave him leave at once.
"Can you get across?" she inquired.
"In a moment," he answered her.
"Then come," she said; "he is flying from side to side of the
room as if he was frightened."
Ram Dass slipped through his attic window and crossed to hers as
steadily and lightly as if he had walked on roofs all his life.
He slipped through the skylight and dropped upon his feet
without a sound. Then he turned to Sara and salaamed again. The
monkey saw him and uttered a little scream. Ram Dass hastily
took the precaution of shutting the skylight, and then went in
chase of him. It was not a very long chase. The monkey
prolonged it a few minutes evidently for the mere fun of it, but
presently he sprang chattering on to Ram Dass's shoulder and sat
there chattering and clinging to his neck with a weird little
skinny arm.
Ram Dass thanked Sara profoundly. She had seen that his quick
native eyes had taken in at a glance all the bare shabbiness of
the room, but he spoke to her as if he were speaking to the
little daughter of a rajah, and pretended that he observed
nothing. He did not presume to remain more than a few moments
after he had caught the monkey, and those moments were given to
further deep and grateful obeisance to her in return for her
indulgence. This little evil one, he said, stroking the monkey,
was, in truth, not so evil as he seemed, and his master, who was
ill, was sometimes amused by him. He would have been made sad if
his favorite had run away and been lost. Then he salaamed once
more and got through the skylight and across the slates again
with as much agility as the monkey himself had displayed.
When he had gone Sara stood in the middle of her attic and
thought of many things his face and his manner had brought back
to her. The sight of his native costume and the profound
reverence of his manner stirred all her past memories. It seemed
a strange thing to remember that she--the drudge whom the cook
had said insulting things to an hour ago--had only a few years
ago been surrounded by people who all treated her as Ram Dass had
treated her; who salaamed when she went by, whose foreheads
almost touched the ground when she spoke to them, who were her
servants and her slaves. It was like a sort of dream. It was
all over, and it could never come back. It certainly seemed that
there was no way in which any change could take place. She knew
what Miss Minchin intended that her future should be. So long as
she was too young to be used as a regular teacher, she would be
used as an errand girl and servant and yet expected to remember
what she had learned and in some mysterious way to learn more.
The greater number of her evenings she was supposed to spend at
study, and at various indefinite intervals she was examined and
knew she would have been severely admonished if she had not
advanced as was expected of her. The truth, indeed, was that
Miss Minchin knew that she was too anxious to learn to require
teachers. Give her books, and she would devour them and end by
knowing them by heart. She might be trusted to be equal to
teaching a good deal in the course of a few years. This was what
would happen: when she was older she would be expected to drudge
in the schoolroom as she drudged now in various parts of the
house; they would be obliged to give her more respectable
clothes, but they would be sure to be plain and ugly and to make
her look somehow like a servant. That was all there seemed to be
to look forward to, and Sara stood quite still for several
minutes and thought it over.
Then a thought came back to her which made the color rise in her
cheek and a spark light itself in her eyes. She straightened her
thin little body and lifted her head.
"Whatever comes," she said, "cannot alter one thing. If I am a
princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It
would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of
gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the
time when no one knows it. There was Marie Antoinette when she
was in prison and her throne was gone and she had only a black
gown on, and her hair was white, and they insulted her and called
her Widow Capet. She was a great deal more like a queen then
than when she was so gay and everything was so grand. I like her
best then. Those howling mobs of people did not frighten her.
She was stronger than they were, even when they cut her head
This was not a new thought, but quite an old one, by this time.
It had consoled her through many a bitter day, and she had gone
about the house with an expression in her face which Miss Minchin
could not understand and which was a source of great annoyance to
her, as it seemed as if the child were mentally living a life
which held her above he rest of the world. It was as if she
scarcely heard the rude and acid things said to her; or, if she
heard them, did not care for them at all. Sometimes, when she
was in the midst of some harsh, domineering speech, Miss Minchin
would find the still, unchildish eyes fixed upon her with
something like a proud smile in them. At such times she did not
know that Sara was saying to herself:
"You don't know that you are saying these things to a princess,
and that if I chose I could wave my hand and order you to
execution. I only spare you because I am a princess, and you are
a poor, stupid, unkind, vulgar old thing, and don't know any
This used to interest and amuse her more than anything else; and
queer and fanciful as it was, she found comfort in it and it was
a good thing for her. While the thought held possession of her,
she could not be made rude and malicious by the rudeness and
malice of those about her.
"A princess must be polite," she said to herself.
And so when the servants, taking their tone from their mistress,
were insolent and ordered her about, she would hold her head
erect and reply to them with a quaint civility which often made
them stare at her.
"She's got more airs and graces than if she come from Buckingham
Palace, that young one," said the cook, chuckling a little
sometimes. "I lose my temper with her often enough, but I will
say she never forgets her manners. `If you please, cook'; `Will
you be so kind, cook?' `I beg your pardon, cook'; `May I trouble
you, cook?' She drops 'em about the kitchen as if they was
The morning after the interview with Ram Dass and his monkey,
Sara was in the schoolroom with her small pupils. Having
finished giving them their lessons, she was putting the French
exercise-books together and thinking, as she did it, of the
various things royal personages in disguise were called upon to
do: Alfred the Great, for instance, burning the cakes and
getting his ears boxed by the wife of the neat-herd. How
frightened she must have been when she found out what she had
done. If Miss Minchin should find out that she--Sara, whose toes
were almost sticking out of her boots--was a princess--a real
one! The look in her eyes was exactly the look which Miss
Minchin most disliked. She would not have it; she was quite near
her and was so enraged that she actually flew at her and boxed
her ears--exactly as the neat-herd's wife had boxed King
Alfred's. It made Sara start. She wakened from her dream at the
shock, and, catching her breath, stood still a second. Then, not
knowing she was going to do it, she broke into a little laugh.
"What are you laughing at, you bold, impudent child?" Miss
Minchin exclaimed.
It took Sara a few seconds to control herself sufficiently to
remember that she was a princess. Her cheeks were red and
smarting from the blows she had received.
"I was thinking," she answered.
"Beg my pardon immediately," said Miss Minchin.
Sara hesitated a second before she replied.
"I will beg your pardon for laughing, if it was rude," she said
then; "but I won't beg your pardon for thinking."
"What were you thinking?" demanded Miss Minchin.
"How dare you think? What were you thinking?"
Jessie tittered, and she and Lavinia nudged each other in
unison. All the girls looked up from their books to listen.
Really, it always interested them a little when Miss Minchin
attacked Sara. Sara always said something queer, and never
seemed the least bit frightened. She was not in the least
frightened now, though her boxed ears were scarlet and her eyes
were as bright as stars.
"I was thinking," she answered grandly and politely, "that you
did not know what you were doing."
"That I did not know what I was doing?" Miss Minchin fairly
"Yes," said Sara, "and I was thinking what would happen if I were
a princess and you boxed my ears--what I should do to you. And I
was thinking that if I were one, you would never dare to do it,
whatever I said or did. And I was thinking how surprised and
frightened you would be if you suddenly found out--"
She had the imagined future so clearly before her eyes that she
spoke in a manner which had an effect even upon Miss Minchin. It
almost seemed for the moment to her narrow, unimaginative mind
that there must be some real power hidden behind this candid
"What?" she exclaimed. "Found out what?"
"That I really was a princess," said Sara, "and could do
anything--anything I liked."
Every pair of eyes in the room widened to its full limit.
Lavinia leaned forward on her seat to look.
"Go to your room," cried Miss Minchin, breathlessly, "this
instant! Leave the schoolroom! Attend to your lessons, young
Sara made a little bow.
"Excuse me for laughing if it was impolite," she said, and
walked out of the room, leaving Miss Minchin struggling with her
rage, and the girls whispering over their books.
"Did you see her? Did you see how queer she looked?" Jessie
broke out. "I shouldn't be at all surprised if she did turn out
to be something. Suppose she should!"
The Other Side of the Wall
When one lives in a row of houses, it is interesting to think of
the things which are being done and said on the other side of
the wall of the very rooms one is living in. Sara was fond of
amusing herself by trying to imagine the things hidden by the
wall which divided the Select Seminary from the Indian
gentleman's house. She knew that the schoolroom was next to the
Indian gentleman's study, and she hoped that the wall was thick
so that the noise made sometimes after lesson hours would not
disturb him.
"I am growing quite fond of him," she said to Ermengarde; "I
should not like him to be disturbed. I have adopted him for a
friend. You can do that with people you never speak to at all.
You can just watch them, and think about them and be sorry for
them, until they seem almost like relations. I'm quite anxious
sometimes when I see the doctor call twice a day."
"I have very few relations," said Ermengarde, reflectively, "and
I'm very glad of it. I don't like those I have. My two aunts
are always saying, `Dear me, Ermengarde! You are very fat. You
shouldn't eat sweets,' and my uncle is always asking me things
like, `When did Edward the Third ascend the throne?' and, `Who
died of a surfeit of lampreys?'"
Sara laughed.
"People you never speak to can't ask you questions like that,"
she said; "and I'm sure the Indian gentleman wouldn't even if he
was quite intimate with you. I am fond of him."
She had become fond of the Large Family because they looked
happy; but she had become fond of the Indian gentleman because he
looked unhappy. He had evidently not fully recovered from some
very severe illness. In the kitchen--where, of course, the
servants, through some mysterious means, knew everything--there
was much discussion of his case. He was not an Indian gentleman
really, but an Englishman who had lived in India. He had met
with great misfortunes which had for a time so imperilled his
whole fortune that he had thought himself ruined and disgraced
forever. The shock had been so great that he had almost died of
brain fever; and ever since he had been shattered in health,
though his fortunes had changed and all his possessions had been
restored to him. His trouble and peril had been connected with
"And mines with diamonds in 'em!" said the cook. "No savin's of
mine never goes into no mines--particular diamond ones"-- with a
side glance at Sara. "We all know somethin' of THEM." "He felt
as my papa felt," Sara thought. "He was ill as my papa was; but
he did not die."
So her heart was more drawn to him than before. When she was
sent out at night she used sometimes to feel quite glad, because
there was always a chance that the curtains of the house next
door might not yet be closed and she could look into the warm
room and see her adopted friend. When no one was about she used
sometimes to stop, and, holding to the iron railings, wish him
good night as if he could hear her.
"Perhaps you can FEEL if you can't hear," was her fancy.
"Perhaps kind thoughts reach people somehow, even through
windows and doors and walls. Perhaps you feel a little warm and
comforted, and don't know why, when I am standing here in the
cold and hoping you will get well and happy again. I am so sorry
for you," she would whisper in an intense little voice. "I wish
you had a `Little Missus' who could pet you as I used to pet papa
when he had a headache. I should like to be your `Little Missus'
myself, poor dear! Good night--good night. God bless you!"
She would go away, feeling quite comforted and a little warmer
herself. Her sympathy was so strong that it seemed as if it MUST
reach him somehow as he sat alone in his armchair by the fire,
nearly always in a great dressing gown, and nearly always with
his forehead resting in his hand as he gazed hopelessly into the
fire. He looked to Sara like a man who had a trouble on his mind
still, not merely like one whose troubles lay all in the past.
"He always seems as if he were thinking of something that hurts
him NOW", she said to herself, "but he has got his money back and
he will get over his brain fever in time, so he ought not to look
like that. I wonder if there is something else."
If there was something else--something even servants did not
hear of--she could not help believing that the father of the
Large Family knew it--the gentleman she called Mr. Montmorency.
Mr. Montmorency went to see him often, and Mrs. Montmorency and
all the little Montmorencys went, too, though less often. He
seemed particularly fond of the two elder little girls--the Janet
and Nora who had been so alarmed when their small brother Donald
had given Sara his sixpence. He had, in fact, a very tender
place in his heart for all children, and particularly for little
girls. Janet and Nora were as fond of him as he was of them, and
looked forward with the greatest pleasure to the afternoons when
they were allowed to cross the square and make their well-behaved
little visits to him. They were extremely decorous little visits
because he was an invalid.
"He is a poor thing," said Janet, "and he says we cheer him up.
We try to cheer him up very quietly."
Janet was the head of the family, and kept the rest of it in
order. It was she who decided when it was discreet to ask the
Indian gentleman to tell stories about India, and it was she who
saw when he was tired and it was the time to steal quietly away
and tell Ram Dass to go to him. They were very fond of Ram Dass.
He could have told any number of stories if he had been able to
speak anything but Hindustani. The Indian gentleman's real name
was Mr. Carrisford, and Janet told Mr. Carrisford about the
encounter with the little-girl-who-was-not-a-beggar. He was very
much interested, and all the more so when he heard from Ram Dass
of the adventure of the monkey on the roof. Ram Dass made for
him a very clear picture of the attic and its desolateness--of
the bare floor and broken plaster, the rusty, empty grate, and
the hard, narrow bed.
"Carmichael," he said to the father of the Large Family, after
he had heard this description, "I wonder how many of the attics in
this square are like that one, and how many wretched little
servant girls sleep on such beds, while I toss on my down
pillows, loaded and harassed by wealth that is, most of it--not
"My dear fellow," Mr. Carmichael answered cheerily, "the sooner
you cease tormenting yourself the better it will be for you. If
you possessed all the wealth of all the Indies, you could not set
right all the discomforts in the world, and if you began to
refurnish all the attics in this square, there would still
remain all the attics in all the other squares and streets to put
in order. And there you are!"
Mr. Carrisford sat and bit his nails as he looked into the
glowing bed of coals in the grate.
"Do you suppose," he said slowly, after a pause--"do you think
it is possible that the other child--the child I never cease
thinking of, I believe--could be--could POSSIBLY be reduced to
any such condition as the poor little soul next door?"
Mr. Carmichael looked at him uneasily. He knew that the worst
thing the man could do for himself, for his reason and his
health, was to begin to think in the particular way of this
particular subject.
"If the child at Madame Pascal's school in Paris was the one you
are in search of," he answered soothingly, "she would seem to be
in the hands of people who can afford to take care of her. They
adopted her because she had been the favorite companion of their
little daughter who died. They had no other children, and Madame
Pascal said that they were extremely well-to-do Russians."
"And the wretched woman actually did not know where they had
taken her!" exclaimed Mr. Carrisford.
Mr. Carmichael shrugged his shoulders.
"She was a shrewd, worldly Frenchwoman, and was evidently only
too glad to get the child so comfortably off her hands when the
father's death left her totally unprovided for. Women of her
type do not trouble themselves about the futures of children who
might prove burdens. The adopted parents apparently disappeared
and left no trace."
"But you say `IF the child was the one I am in search of. You
say 'if.' We are not sure. There was a difference in the
"Madame Pascal pronounced it as if it were Carew instead of
Crewe--but that might be merely a matter of pronunciation. The
circumstances were curiously similar. An English officer in
India had placed his motherless little girl at the school. He
had died suddenly after losing his fortune." Mr. Carmichael
paused a moment, as if a new thought had occurred to him. "Are
you SURE the child was left at a school in Paris? Are you sure
it was Paris?"
"My dear fellow," broke forth Carrisford, with restless
bitterness, "I am SURE of nothing. I never saw either the child
or her mother. Ralph Crewe and I loved each other as boys, but
we had not met since our school days, until we met in India. I
was absorbed in the magnificent promise of the mines. He became
absorbed, too. The whole thing was so huge and glittering that
we half lost our heads. When we met we scarcely spoke of
anything else. I only knew that the child had been sent to
school somewhere. I do not even remember, now, HOW I knew it."
He was beginning to be excited. He always became excited when
his still weakened brain was stirred by memories of the
catastrophes of the past.
Mr. Carmichael watched him anxiously. It was necessary to ask
some questions, but they must be put quietly and with caution.
"But you had reason to think the school WAS in Paris?"
"Yes," was the answer, "because her mother was a Frenchwoman, and
I had heard that she wished her child to be educated in Paris.
It seemed only likely that she would be there."
"Yes," Mr. Carmichael said, "it seems more than probable."
The Indian gentleman leaned forward and struck the table with a
long, wasted hand.
"Carmichael," he said, "I MUST find her. If she is alive, she is
somewhere. If she is friendless and penniless, it is through my
fault. How is a man to get back his nerve with a thing like that
on his mind? This sudden change of luck at the mines has made
realities of all our most fantastic dreams, and poor Crewe's
child may be begging in the street!"
"No, no," said Carmichael. "Try to be calm. Console yourself
with the fact that when she is found you have a fortune to hand
over to her."
"Why was I not man enough to stand my ground when things looked
black?" Carrisford groaned in petulant misery. "I believe I
should have stood my ground if I had not been responsible for
other people's money as well as my own. Poor Crewe had put into
the scheme every penny that he owned. He trusted me--he LOVED
me. And he died thinking I had ruined him--I--Tom Carrisford,
who played cricket at Eton with him. What a villain he must have
thought me!"
"Don't reproach yourself so bitterly."
"I don't reproach myself because the speculation threatened to
fail--I reproach myself for losing my courage. I ran away like
a swindler and a thief, because I could not face my best friend
and tell him I had ruined him and his child."
The good-hearted father of the Large Family put his hand on his
shoulder comfortingly.
"You ran away because your brain had given way under the strain
of mental torture," he said. "You were half delirious already.
If you had not been you would have stayed and fought it out. You
were in a hospital, strapped down in bed, raving with brain
fever, two days after you left the place. Remember that."
Carrisford dropped his forehead in his hands.
"Good God! Yes," he said. "I was driven mad with dread and
horror. I had not slept for weeks. The night I staggered out of
my house all the air seemed full of hideous things mocking and
mouthing at me."
"That is explanation enough in itself," said Mr. Carmichael.
"How could a man on the verge of brain fever judge sanely!"
Carrisford shook his drooping head.
"And when I returned to consciousness poor Crewe was dead--and
buried. And I seemed to remember nothing. I did not remember
the child for months and months. Even when I began to recall her
existence everything seemed in a sort of haze."
He stopped a moment and rubbed his forehead. "It sometimes
seems so now when I try to remember. Surely I must sometime have
heard Crewe speak of the school she was sent to. Don't you think
"He might not have spoken of it definitely. You never seem even
to have heard her real name."
"He used to call her by an odd pet name he had invented. He
called her his `Little Missus.' But the wretched mines drove
everything else out of our heads. We talked of nothing else. If
he spoke of the school, I forgot--I forgot. And now I shall
never remember."
"Come, come," said Carmichael. "We shall find her yet. We will
continue to search for Madame Pascal's good-natured Russians.
She seemed to have a vague idea that they lived in Moscow. We
will take that as a clue. I will go to Moscow."
"If I were able to travel, I would go with you," said
Carrisford; "but I can only sit here wrapped in furs and stare at
the fire. And when I look into it I seem to see Crewe's gay
young face gazing back at me. He looks as if he were asking me a
question. Sometimes I dream of him at night, and he always
stands before me and asks the same question in words. Can you
guess what he says, Carmichael?"
Mr. Carmichael answered him in a rather low voice.
"Not exactly," he said.
"He always says, `Tom, old man--Tom--where is the Little
Missus?'" He caught at Carmichael's hand and clung to it. "I
must be able to answer him--I must!" he said. "Help me to find
her. Help me."
On the other side of the wall Sara was sitting in her garret
talking to Melchisedec, who had come out for his evening meal.
"It has been hard to be a princess today, Melchisedec," she
said. "It has been harder than usual. It gets harder as the
weather grows colder and the streets get more sloppy. When
Lavinia laughed at my muddy skirt as I passed her in the hall, I
thought of something to say all in a flash--and I only just
stopped myself in time. You can't sneer back at people like that-
-if you are a princess. But you have to bite your tongue to hold
yourself in. I bit mine. It was a cold afternoon, Melchisedec.
And it's a cold night."
Quite suddenly she put her black head down in her arms, as she
often did when she was alone.
"Oh, papa," she whispered, "what a long time it seems since I was
your `Little Missus'!"
This was what happened that day on both sides of the wall.
One of the Populace
The winter was a wretched one. There were days on which Sara
tramped through snow when she went on her errands; there were
worse days when the snow melted and combined itself with mud to
form slush; there were others when the fog was so thick that the
lamps in the street were lighted all day and London looked as it
had looked the afternoon, several years ago, when the cab had
driven through the thoroughfares with Sara tucked up on its seat,
leaning against her father's shoulder. On such days the windows
of the house of the Large Family always looked delightfully cozy
and alluring, and the study in which the Indian gentleman sat
glowed with warmth and rich color. But the attic was dismal
beyond words. There were no longer sunsets or sunrises to look
at, and scarcely ever any stars, it seemed to Sara. The clouds
hung low over the skylight and were either gray or mud-color, or
dropping heavy rain. At four o'clock in the afternoon, even when
there was no special fog, the daylight was at an end. If it was
necessary to go to her attic for anything, Sara was obliged to
light a candle. The women in the kitchen were depressed, and
that made them more ill-tempered than ever. Becky was driven
like a little slave.
"'Twarn't for you, miss," she said hoarsely to Sara one night
when she had crept into the attic--"'twarn't for you, an' the
Bastille, an' bein' the prisoner in the next cell, I should die.
That there does seem real now, doesn't it? The missus is more
like the head jailer every day she lives. I can jest see them
big keys you say she carries. The cook she's like one of the
under-jailers. Tell me some more, please, miss--tell me about
the subt'ranean passage we've dug under the walls."
"I'll tell you something warmer," shivered Sara. "Get your
coverlet and wrap it round you, and I'll get mine, and we will
huddle close together on the bed, and I'll tell you about the
tropical forest where the Indian gentleman's monkey used to live.
When I see him sitting on the table near the window and looking
out into the street with that mournful expression, I always feel
sure he is thinking about the tropical forest where he used to
swing by his tail from coconut trees. I wonder who caught him,
and if he left a family behind who had depended on him for
"That is warmer, miss," said Becky, gratefully; "but, someways,
even the Bastille is sort of heatin' when you gets to tellin'
about it."
"That is because it makes you think of something else," said
Sara, wrapping the coverlet round her until only her small dark
face was to be seen looking out of it. "I've noticed this. What
you have to do with your mind, when your body is miserable, is to
make it think of something else."
"Can you do it, miss?" faltered Becky, regarding her with
admiring eyes.
Sara knitted her brows a moment.
"Sometimes I can and sometimes I can't," she said stoutly. "But
when I CAN I'm all right. And what I believe is that we always
could--if we practiced enough. I've been practicing a good deal
lately, and it's beginning to be easier than it used to be. When
things are horrible--just horrible--I think as hard as ever I can
of being a princess. I say to myself, `I am a princess, and I am
a fairy one, and because I am a fairy nothing can hurt me or make
me uncomfortable.' You don't know how it makes you forget"--
with a laugh.
She had many opportunities of making her mind think of something
else, and many opportunities of proving to herself whether or not
she was a princess. But one of the strongest tests she was ever
put to came on a certain dreadful day which, she often thought
afterward, would never quite fade out of her memory even in the
years to come.
For several days it had rained continuously; the streets were
chilly and sloppy and full of dreary, cold mist; there was mud
everywhere--sticky London mud--and over everything the pall of
drizzle and fog. Of course there were several long and tiresome
errands to be done--there always were on days like this--and
Sara was sent out again and again, until her shabby clothes were
damp through. The absurd old feathers on her forlorn hat were
more draggled and absurd than ever, and her downtrodden shoes
were so wet that they could not hold any more water. Added to
this, she had been deprived of her dinner, because Miss Minchin
had chosen to punish her. She was so cold and hungry and tired
that her face began to have a pinched look, and now and then some
kind-hearted person passing her in the street glanced at her with
sudden sympathy. But she did not know that. She hurried on,
trying to make her mind think of something else. It was really
very necessary. Her way of doing it was to "pretend" and
"suppose" with all the strength that was left in her. But really
this time it was harder than she had ever found it, and once or
twice she thought it almost made her more cold and hungry instead
of less so. But she persevered obstinately, and as the muddy
water squelched through her broken shoes and the wind seemed
trying to drag her thin jacket from her, she talked to herself as
she walked, though she did not speak aloud or even move her lips.
"Suppose I had dry clothes on," she thought. "Suppose I had
good shoes and a long, thick coat and merino stockings and a
whole umbrella. And suppose--suppose--just when I was near a
baker's where they sold hot buns, I should find sixpence--which
belonged to nobody. SUPPOSE if I did, I should go into the shop
and buy six of the hottest buns and eat them all without
Some very odd things happen in this world sometimes.
It certainly was an odd thing that happened to Sara. She had to
cross the street just when she was saying this to herself. The mud
was dreadful--she almost had to wade. She picked her way as
carefully as she could, but she could not save herself much;
only, in picking her way, she had to look down at her feet and
the mud, and in looking down--just as she reached the pavement--
she saw something shining in the gutter. It was actually a piece
of silver--a tiny piece trodden upon by many feet, but still with
spirit enough left to shine a little. Not quite a sixpence, but
the next thing to it--a fourpenny piece.
In one second it was in her cold little red-and-blue hand.
"Oh," she gasped, "it is true! It is true!"
And then, if you will believe me, she looked straight at the
shop directly facing her. And it was a baker's shop, and a
cheerful, stout, motherly woman with rosy cheeks was putting into
the window a tray of delicious newly baked hot buns, fresh from
the oven--large, plump, shiny buns, with currants in them.
It almost made Sara feel faint for a few seconds--the shock, and
the sight of the buns, and the delightful odors of warm bread
floating up through the baker's cellar window.
She knew she need not hesitate to use the little piece of money.
It had evidently been lying in the mud for some time, and its
owner was completely lost in the stream of passing people who
crowded and jostled each other all day long.
"But I'll go and ask the baker woman if she has lost anything,"
she said to herself, rather faintly. So she crossed the
pavement and put her wet foot on the step. As she did so she saw
something that made her stop.
It was a little figure more forlorn even than herself--a little
figure which was not much more than a bundle of rags, from which
small, bare, red muddy feet peeped out, only because the rags
with which their owner was trying to cover them were not long
enough. Above the rags appeared a shock head of tangled hair,
and a dirty face with big, hollow, hungry eyes.
Sara knew they were hungry eyes the moment she saw them, and she
felt a sudden sympathy.
"This," she said to herself, with a little sigh, "is one of the
populace--and she is hungrier than I am."
The child--this "one of the populace"--stared up at Sara, and
shuffled herself aside a little, so as to give her room to pass.
She was used to being made to give room to everybody. She knew
that if a policeman chanced to see her he would tell her to
"move on."
Sara clutched her little fourpenny piece and hesitated for a few
seconds. Then she spoke to her.
"Are you hungry?" she asked.
The child shuffled herself and her rags a little more.
"Ain't I jist?" she said in a hoarse voice. "Jist ain't I?"
"Haven't you had any dinner?" said Sara.
"No dinner," more hoarsely still and with more shuffling. "Nor
yet no bre'fast--nor yet no supper. No nothin'.
"Since when?" asked Sara.
"Dunno. Never got nothin' today--nowhere. I've axed an' axed."
Just to look at her made Sara more hungry and faint. But those
queer little thoughts were at work in her brain, and she was
talking to herself, though she was sick at heart.
"If I'm a princess," she was saying, "if I'm a princess--when
they were poor and driven from their thrones--they always shared--
with the populace--if they met one poorer and hungrier than
themselves. They always shared. Buns are a penny each. If it
had been sixpence I could have eaten six. It won't be enough for
either of us. But it will be better than nothing."
"Wait a minute," she said to the beggar child.
She went into the shop. It was warm and smelled deliciously.
The woman was just going to put some more hot buns into the
"If you please," said Sara, "have you lost fourpence--a silver
fourpence?" And she held the forlorn little piece of money out
to her.
The woman looked at it and then at her--at her intense little
face and draggled, once fine clothes.
"Bless us, no," she answered. "Did you find it?"
"Yes," said Sara. "In the gutter."
"Keep it, then," said the woman. "It may have been there for a
week, and goodness knows who lost it. YOU could never find out."
"I know that," said Sara, "but I thought I would ask you."
"Not many would," said the woman, looking puzzled and interested
and good-natured all at once.
"Do you want to buy something?" she added, as she saw Sara
glance at the buns.
"Four buns, if you please," said Sara. "Those at a penny each."
The woman went to the window and put some in a paper bag.
Sara noticed that she put in six.
"I said four, if you please," she explained. "I have only
"I'll throw in two for makeweight," said the woman with her goodnatured
look. "I dare say you can eat them sometime. Aren't you
A mist rose before Sara's eyes.
"Yes," she answered. "I am very hungry, and I am much obliged
to you for your kindness; and"--she was going to add--"there is a
child outside who is hungrier than I am." But just at that
moment two or three customers came in at once, and each one
seemed in a hurry, so she could only thank the woman again and go
The beggar girl was still huddled up in the corner of the step.
She looked frightful in her wet and dirty rags. She was staring
straight before her with a stupid look of suffering, and Sara
saw her suddenly draw the back of her roughened black hand across
her eyes to rub away the tears which seemed to have surprised her
by forcing their way from under her lids. She was muttering to
Sara opened the paper bag and took out one of the hot buns, which
had already warmed her own cold hands a little.
"See," she said, putting the bun in the ragged lap, "this is
nice and hot. Eat it, and you will not feel so hungry."
The child started and stared up at her, as if such sudden,
amazing good luck almost frightened her; then she snatched up the
bun and began to cram it into her mouth with great wolfish
"Oh, my! Oh, my!" Sara heard her say hoarsely, in wild
delight. "OH my!"
Sara took out three more buns and put them down.
The sound in the hoarse, ravenous voice was awful.
"She is hungrier than I am," she said to herself. "She's
starving." But her hand trembled when she put down the fourth
bun. "I'm not starving," she said--and she put down the fifth.
The little ravening London savage was still snatching and
devouring when she turned away. She was too ravenous to give any
thanks, even if she had ever been taught politeness--which she
had not. She was only a poor little wild animal.
"Good-bye," said Sara.
When she reached the other side of the street she looked back.
The child had a bun in each hand and had stopped in the middle of
a bite to watch her. Sara gave her a little nod, and the child,
after another stare--a curious lingering stare--jerked her
shaggy head in response, and until Sara was out of sight she did
not take another bite or even finish the one she had begun.
At that moment the baker-woman looked out of her shop window.
"Well, I never!" she exclaimed. "If that young un hasn't given
her buns to a beggar child! It wasn't because she didn't want
them, either. Well, well, she looked hungry enough. I'd give
something to know what she did it for."
She stood behind her window for a few moments and pondered. Then
her curiosity got the better of her. She went to the door and
spoke to the beggar child.
"Who gave you those buns?" she asked her. The child nodded her
head toward Sara's vanishing figure.
"What did she say?" inquired the woman.
"Axed me if I was 'ungry," replied the hoarse voice.
"What did you say?"
"Said I was jist."
"And then she came in and got the buns, and gave them to you, did
The child nodded.
"How many?"
The woman thought it over.
"Left just one for herself," she said in a low voice. "And she
could have eaten the whole six--I saw it in her eyes."
She looked after the little draggled far-away figure and felt
more disturbed in her usually comfortable mind than she had felt
for many a day.
"I wish she hadn't gone so quick," she said. "I'm blest if she
shouldn't have had a dozen." Then she turned to the child.
"Are you hungry yet?" she said.
"I'm allus hungry," was the answer, "but 't ain't as bad as it
"Come in here," said the woman, and she held open the shop door.
The child got up and shuffled in. To be invited into a warm
place full of bread seemed an incredible thing. She did not
know what was going to happen. She did not care, even.
"Get yourself warm," said the woman, pointing to a fire in the
tiny back room. "And look here; when you are hard up for a bit
of bread, you can come in here and ask for it. I'm blest if I
won't give it to you for that young one's sake." * * *
Sara found some comfort in her remaining bun. At all events, it
was very hot, and it was better than nothing. As she walked
along she broke off small pieces and ate them slowly to make
them last longer.
"Suppose it was a magic bun," she said, "and a bite was as much
as a whole dinner. I should be overeating myself if I went on
like this."
It was dark when she reached the square where the Select
Seminary was situated. The lights in the houses were all
lighted. The blinds were not yet drawn in the windows of the
room where she nearly always caught glimpses of members of the
Large Family. Frequently at this hour she could see the
gentleman she called Mr. Montmorency sitting in a big chair, with
a small swarm round him, talking, laughing, perching on the arms
of his seat or on his knees or leaning against them. This
evening the swarm was about him, but he was not seated. On the
contrary, there was a good deal of excitement going on. It was
evident that a journey was to be taken, and it was Mr.
Montmorency who was to take it. A brougham stood before the
door, and a big portmanteau had been strapped upon it. The
children were dancing about, chattering and hanging on to their
father. The pretty rosy mother was standing near him, talking as
if she was asking final questions. Sara paused a moment to see
the little ones lifted up and kissed and the bigger ones bent
over and kissed also.
"I wonder if he will stay away long," she thought. "The
portmanteau is rather big. Oh, dear, how they will miss him! I
shall miss him myself--even though he doesn't know I am alive."
When the door opened she moved away--remembering the sixpence--
but she saw the traveler come out and stand against the
background of the warmly-lighted hall, the older children still
hovering about him.
"Will Moscow be covered with snow?" said the little girl Janet.
"Will there be ice everywhere?"
"Shall you drive in a drosky?" cried another. "Shall you see the
"I will write and tell you all about it," he answered, laughing.
"And I will send you pictures of muzhiks and things. Run into
the house. It is a hideous damp night. I would rather stay with
you than go to Moscow. Good night! Good night, duckies! God
bless you!" And he ran down the steps and jumped into the
"If you find the little girl, give her our love," shouted Guy
Clarence, jumping up and down on the door mat.
Then they went in and shut the door.
"Did you see," said Janet to Nora, as they went back to the room-
-"the little-girl-who-is-not-a-beggar was passing? She looked
all cold and wet, and I saw her turn her head over her shoulder
and look at us. Mamma says her clothes always look as if they
had been given her by someone who was quite rich--someone who
only let her have them because they were too shabby to wear. The
people at the school always send her out on errands on the
horridest days and nights there are."
Sara crossed the square to Miss Minchin's area steps, feeling
faint and shaky.
"I wonder who the little girl is," she thought--"the little girl
he is going to look for."
And she went down the area steps, lugging her basket and finding
it very heavy indeed, as the father of the Large Family drove
quickly on his way to the station to take the train which was to
carry him to Moscow, where he was to make his best efforts to
search for the lost little daughter of Captain Crewe.
What Melchisedec Heard and Saw
On this very afternoon, while Sara was out, a strange thing
happened in the attic. Only Melchisedec saw and heard it; and he
was so much alarmed and mystified that he scuttled back to his
hole and hid there, and really quaked and trembled as he peeped
out furtively and with great caution to watch what was going on.
The attic had been very still all the day after Sara had left it
in the early morning. The stillness had only been broken by the
pattering of the rain upon the slates and the skylight.
Melchisedec had, in fact, found it rather dull; and when the
rain ceased to patter and perfect silence reigned, he decided to
come out and reconnoiter, though experience taught him that Sara
would not return for some time. He had been rambling and
sniffing about, and had just found a totally unexpected and
unexplained crumb left from his last meal, when his attention was
attracted by a sound on the roof. He stopped to listen with a
palpitating heart. The sound suggested that something was moving
on the roof. It was approaching the skylight; it reached the
skylight. The skylight was being mysteriously opened. A dark
face peered into the attic; then another face appeared behind it,
and both looked in with signs of caution and interest. Two men
were outside on the roof, and were making silent preparations to
enter through the skylight itself. One was Ram Dass and the
other was a young man who was the Indian gentleman's secretary;
but of course Melchisedec did not know this. He only knew that
the men were invading the silence and privacy of the attic; and
as the one with the dark face let himself down through the
aperture with such lightness and dexterity that he did not make
the slightest sound, Melchisedec turned tail and fled
precipitately back to his hole. He was frightened to death. He
had ceased to be timid with Sara, and knew she would never throw
anything but crumbs, and would never make any sound other than
the soft, low, coaxing whistling; but strange men were dangerous
things to remain near. He lay close and flat near the entrance
of his home, just managing to peep through the crack with a
bright, alarmed eye. How much he understood of the talk he heard
I am not in the least able to say; but, even if he had understood
it all, he would probably have remained greatly mystified.
The secretary, who was light and young, slipped through the
skylight as noiselessly as Ram Dass had done; and he caught a
last glimpse of Melchisedec's vanishing tail.
"Was that a rat?" he asked Ram Dass in a whisper.
"Yes; a rat, Sahib," answered Ram Dass, also whispering. "There
are many in the walls."
"Ugh!" exclaimed the young man. "It is a wonder the child is
not terrified of them."
Ram Dass made a gesture with his hands. He also smiled
respectfully. He was in this place as the intimate exponent of
Sara, though she had only spoken to him once.
"The child is the little friend of all things, Sahib," he
answered. "She is not as other children. I see her when she
does not see me. I slip across the slates and look at her many
nights to see that she is safe. I watch her from my window when
she does not know I am near. She stands on the table there and
looks out at the sky as if it spoke to her. The sparrows come at
her call. The rat she has fed and tamed in her loneliness. The
poor slave of the house comes to her for comfort. There is a
little child who comes to her in secret; there is one older who
worships her and would listen to her forever if she might. This
I have seen when I have crept across the roof. By the mistress
of the house--who is an evil woman--she is treated like a pariah;
but she has the bearing of a child who is of the blood of kings!"
"You seem to know a great deal about her," the secretary said.
"All her life each day I know," answered Ram Dass. "Her going
out I know, and her coming in; her sadness and her poor joys; her
coldness and her hunger. I know when she is alone until
midnight, learning from her books; I know when her secret friends
steal to her and she is happier--as children can be, even in the
midst of poverty--because they come and she may laugh and talk
with them in whispers. If she were ill I should know, and I
would come and serve her if it might be done."
"You are sure no one comes near this place but herself, and that
she will not return and surprise us. She would be frightened if
she found us here, and the Sahib Carrisford's plan would be
Ram Dass crossed noiselessly to the door and stood close to it.
"None mount here but herself, Sahib," he said. "She has gone
out with her basket and may be gone for hours. If I stand here I
can hear any step before it reaches the last flight of the
The secretary took a pencil and a tablet from his breast pocket.
"Keep your ears open," he said; and he began to walk slowly and
softly round the miserable little room, making rapid notes on his
tablet as he looked at things.
First he went to the narrow bed. He pressed his hand upon the
mattress and uttered an exclamation.
"As hard as a stone," he said. "That will have to be altered
some day when she is out. A special journey can be made to bring
it across. It cannot be done tonight." He lifted the covering
and examined the one thin pillow.
"Coverlet dingy and worn, blanket thin, sheets patched and
ragged," he said. "What a bed for a child to sleep in--and in a
house which calls itself respectable! There has not been a fire
in that grate for many a day," glancing at the rusty fireplace.
"Never since I have seen it," said Ram Dass. "The mistress of
the house is not one who remembers that another than herself may
be cold."
The secretary was writing quickly on his tablet. He looked up
from it as he tore off a leaf and slipped it into his breast
"It is a strange way of doing the thing," he said. "Who planned
Ram Dass made a modestly apologetic obeisance.
"It is true that the first thought was mine, Sahib," he said;
"though it was naught but a fancy. I am fond of this child; we
are both lonely. It is her way to relate her visions to her
secret friends. Being sad one night, I lay close to the open
skylight and listened. The vision she related told what this
miserable room might be if it had comforts in it. She seemed to
see it as she talked, and she grew cheered and warmed as she
spoke. Then she came to this fancy; and the next day, the Sahib
being ill and wretched, I told him of the thing to amuse him. It
seemed then but a dream, but it pleased the Sahib. To hear of
the child's doings gave him entertainment. He became interested
in her and asked questions. At last he began to please himself
with the thought of making her visions real things."
"You think that it can be done while she sleeps? Suppose she
awakened," suggested the secretary; and it was evident that
whatsoever the plan referred to was, it had caught and pleased
his fancy as well as the Sahib Carrisford's.
"I can move as if my feet were of velvet," Ram Dass replied; "and
children sleep soundly--even the unhappy ones. I could have
entered this room in the night many times, and without causing
her to turn upon her pillow. If the other bearer passes to me
the things through the window, I can do all and she will not
stir. When she awakens she will think a magician has been here."
He smiled as if his heart warmed under his white robe, and the
secretary smiled back at him.
"It will be like a story from the Arabian Nights," he said.
"Only an Oriental could have planned it. It does not belong to
London fogs."
They did not remain very long, to the great relief of
Melchisedec, who, as he probably did not comprehend their
conversation, felt their movements and whispers ominous. The
young secretary seemed interested in everything. He wrote down
things about the floor, the fireplace, the broken footstool, the
old table, the walls--which last he touched with his hand again
and again, seeming much pleased when he found that a number of
old nails had been driven in various places.
"You can hang things on them," he said.
Ram Dass smiled mysteriously.
"Yesterday, when she was out," he said, "I entered, bringing
with me small, sharp nails which can be pressed into the wall
without blows from a hammer. I placed many in the plaster where
I may need them. They are ready."
The Indian gentleman's secretary stood still and looked round
him as he thrust his tablets back into his pocket.
"I think I have made notes enough; we can go now," he said. "The
Sahib Carrisford has a warm heart. It is a thousand pities that
he has not found the lost child."
"If he should find her his strength would be restored to him,"
said Ram Dass. "His God may lead her to him yet."
Then they slipped through the skylight as noiselessly as they had
entered it. And, after he was quite sure they had gone,
Melchisedec was greatly relieved, and in the course of a few
minutes felt it safe to emerge from his hole again and scuffle
about in the hope that even such alarming human beings as these
might have chanced to carry crumbs in their pockets and drop one
or two of them.
The Magic
When Sara had passed the house next door she had seen Ram Dass
closing the shutters, and caught her glimpse of this room also.
"It is a long time since I saw a nice place from the inside," was
the thought which crossed her mind.
There was the usual bright fire glowing in the grate, and the
Indian gentleman was sitting before it. His head was resting in
his hand, and he looked as lonely and unhappy as ever.
"Poor man!" said Sara. "I wonder what you are supposing."
And this was what he was "supposing" at that very moment.
"Suppose," he was thinking, "suppose--even if Carmichael traces
the people to Moscow--the little girl they took from Madame
Pascal's school in Paris is NOT the one we are in search of.
Suppose she proves to be quite a different child. What steps
shall I take next?"
When Sara went into the house she met Miss Minchin, who had come
downstairs to scold the cook.
"Where have you wasted your time?" she demanded. "You have been
out for hours."
"It was so wet and muddy," Sara answered, "it was hard to walk,
because my shoes were so bad and slipped about."
"Make no excuses," said Miss Minchin, "and tell no falsehoods."
Sara went in to the cook. The cook had received a severe
lecture and was in a fearful temper as a result. She was only
too rejoiced to have someone to vent her rage on, and Sara was a
convenience, as usual.
"Why didn't you stay all night?" she snapped.
Sara laid her purchases on the table.
"Here are the things," she said.
The cook looked them over, grumbling. She was in a very savage
humor indeed.
"May I have something to eat?" Sara asked rather faintly.
"Tea's over and done with," was the answer. "Did you expect me
to keep it hot for you?"
Sara stood silent for a second.
"I had no dinner," she said next, and her voice was quite low.
She made it low because she was afraid it would tremble.
"There's some bread in the pantry," said the cook. "That's all
you'll get at this time of day."
Sara went and found the bread. It was old and hard and dry. The
cook was in too vicious a humor to give her anything to eat with
it. It was always safe and easy to vent her spite on Sara.
Really, it was hard for the child to climb the three long
flights of stairs leading to her attic. She often found them
long and steep when she was tired; but tonight it seemed as if
she would never reach the top. Several times she was obliged to
stop to rest. When she reached the top landing she was glad to
see the glimmer of a light coming from under her door. That
meant that Ermengarde had managed to creep up to pay her a visit.
There was some comfort in that. It was better than to go into
the room alone and find it empty and desolate. The mere presence
of plump, comfortable Ermengarde, wrapped in her red shawl, would
warm it a little.
Yes; there Ermengarde was when she opened the door. She was
sitting in the middle of the bed, with her feet tucked safely
under her. She had never become intimate with Melchisedec and
his family, though they rather fascinated her. When she found
herself alone in the attic she always preferred to sit on the bed
until Sara arrived. She had, in fact, on this occasion had time
to become rather nervous, because Melchisedec had appeared and
sniffed about a good deal, and once had made her utter a
repressed squeal by sitting up on his hind legs and, while he
looked at her, sniffing pointedly in her direction.
"Oh, Sara," she cried out, "I am glad you have come. Melchy
WOULD sniff about so. I tried to coax him to go back, but he
wouldn't for such a long time. I like him, you know; but it does
frighten me when he sniffs right at me. Do you think he ever
WOULD jump?"
"No," answered Sara.
Ermengarde crawled forward on the bed to look at her.
"You DO look tired, Sara," she said; "you are quite pale."
"I AM tired," said Sara, dropping on to the lopsided footstool.
"Oh, there's Melchisedec, poor thing. He's come to ask for his
Melchisedec had come out of his hole as if he had been listening
for her footstep. Sara was quite sure he knew it. He came
forward with an affectionate, expectant expression as Sara put
her hand in her pocket and turned it inside out, shaking her
"I'm very sorry," she said. "I haven't one crumb left. Go
home, Melchisedec, and tell your wife there was nothing in my
pocket. I'm afraid I forgot because the cook and Miss Minchin
were so cross."
Melchisedec seemed to understand. He shuffled resignedly, if not
contentedly, back to his home.
"I did not expect to see you tonight, Ermie," Sara said.
Ermengarde hugged herself in the red shawl.
"Miss Amelia has gone out to spend the night with her old aunt,"
she explained. "No one else ever comes and looks into the
bedrooms after we are in bed. I could stay here until morning if
I wanted to."
She pointed toward the table under the skylight. Sara had not
looked toward it as she came in. A number of books were piled
upon it. Ermengarde's gesture was a dejected one.
"Papa has sent me some more books, Sara," she said. "There they
Sara looked round and got up at once. She ran to the table, and
picking up the top volume, turned over its leaves quickly. For
the moment she forgot her discomforts.
"Ah," she cried out, "how beautiful! Carlyle's French
Revolution. I have SO wanted to read that!"
"I haven't," said Ermengarde. "And papa will be so cross if I
don't. He'll expect me to know all about it when I go home for
the holidays. What SHALL I do?"
Sara stopped turning over the leaves and looked at her with an
excited flush on her cheeks.
"Look here," she cried, "if you'll lend me these books, _I'll_
read them--and tell you everything that's in them afterward-- and
I'll tell it so that you will remember it, too."
"Oh, goodness!" exclaimed Ermengarde. "Do you think you can?"
"I know I can," Sara answered. "The little ones always remember
what I tell them."
"Sara," said Ermengarde, hope gleaming in her round face, "if
you'll do that, and make me remember, I'll--I'll give you
"I don't want you to give me anything," said Sara. "I want your
books--I want them!" And her eyes grew big, and her chest
"Take them, then," said Ermengarde. "I wish I wanted them--but
I don't. I'm not clever, and my father is, and he thinks I ought
to be."
Sara was opening one book after the other. "What are you going
to tell your father?" she asked, a slight doubt dawning in her
"Oh, he needn't know," answered Ermengarde. "He'll think I've
read them."
Sara put down her book and shook her head slowly. "That's
almost like telling lies," she said. "And lies--well, you see,
they are not only wicked--they're VULGAR. Sometimes"--
reflectively--"I've thought perhaps I might do something wicked--
I might suddenly fly into a rage and kill Miss Minchin, you know,
when she was ill-treating me--but I COULDN'T be vulgar. Why
can't you tell your father _I_ read them?"
"He wants me to read them," said Ermengarde, a little
discouraged by this unexpected turn of affairs.
"He wants you to know what is in them," said Sara. "And if I
can tell it to you in an easy way and make you remember it, I
should think he would like that."
"He'll like it if I learn anything in ANY way," said rueful
Ermengarde. "You would if you were my father."
"It's not your fault that--" began Sara. She pulled herself up
and stopped rather suddenly. She had been going to say, "It's
not your fault that you are stupid."
"That what?" Ermengarde asked.
"That you can't learn things quickly," amended Sara. "If you
can't, you can't. If I can--why, I can; that's all."
She always felt very tender of Ermengarde, and tried not to let
her feel too strongly the difference between being able to learn
anything at once, and not being able to learn anything at all.
As she looked at her plump face, one of her wise, old-fashioned
thoughts came to her.
"Perhaps," she said, "to be able to learn things quickly isn't
everything. To be kind is worth a great deal to other people.
If Miss Minchin knew everything on earth and was like what she
is now, she'd still be a detestable thing, and everybody would
hate her. Lots of clever people have done harm and have been
wicked. Look at Robespierre--"
She stopped and examined Ermengarde's countenance, which was
beginning to look bewildered. "Don't you remember?" she
demanded. "I told you about him not long ago. I believe you've
"Well, I don't remember ALL of it," admitted Ermengarde.
"Well, you wait a minute," said Sara, "and I'll take off my wet
things and wrap myself in the coverlet and tell you over again."
She took off her hat and coat and hung them on a nail against
the wall, and she changed her wet shoes for an old pair of
slippers. Then she jumped on the bed, and drawing the coverlet
about her shoulders, sat with her arms round her knees. "Now,
listen," she said.
She plunged into the gory records of the French Revolution, and
told such stories of it that Ermengarde's eyes grew round with
alarm and she held her breath. But though she was rather
terrified, there was a delightful thrill in listening, and she
was not likely to forget Robespierre again, or to have any doubts
about the Princesse de Lamballe.
"You know they put her head on a pike and danced round it," Sara
explained. "And she had beautiful floating blonde hair; and when
I think of her, I never see her head on her body, but always on a
pike, with those furious people dancing and howling."
It was agreed that Mr. St. John was to be told the plan they had
made, and for the present the books were to be left in the attic.
"Now let's tell each other things," said Sara. "How are you
getting on with your French lessons?"
"Ever so much better since the last time I came up here and you
explained the conjugations. Miss Minchin could not understand
why I did my exercises so well that first morning."
Sara laughed a little and hugged her knees.
"She doesn't understand why Lottie is doing her sums so well,"
she said; "but it is because she creeps up here, too, and I help
her." She glanced round the room. "The attic would be rather
nice--if it wasn't so dreadful," she said, laughing again. "It's
a good place to pretend in."
The truth was that Ermengarde did not know anything of the
sometimes almost unbearable side of life in the attic and she
had not a sufficiently vivid imagination to depict it for
herself. On the rare occasions that she could reach Sara's room
she only saw the side of it which was made exciting by things
which were "pretended" and stories which were told. Her visits
partook of the character of adventures; and though sometimes Sara
looked rather pale, and it was not to be denied that she had
grown very thin, her proud little spirit would not admit of
complaints. She had never confessed that at times she was almost
ravenous with hunger, as she was tonight. She was growing
rapidly, and her constant walking and running about would have
given her a keen appetite even if she had had abundant and
regular meals of a much more nourishing nature than the
unappetizing, inferior food snatched at such odd times as suited
the kitchen convenience. She was growing used to a certain
gnawing feeling in her young stomach.
"I suppose soldiers feel like this when they are on a long and
weary march," she often said to herself. She liked the sound of
the phrase, "long and weary march." It made her feel rather like
a soldier. She had also a quaint sense of being a hostess in the
"If I lived in a castle," she argued, "and Ermengarde was the
lady of another castle, and came to see me, with knights and
squires and vassals riding with her, and pennons flying, when I
heard the clarions sounding outside the drawbridge I should go
down to receive her, and I should spread feasts in the banquet
hall and call in minstrels to sing and play and relate romances.
When she comes into the attic I can't spread feasts, but I can
tell stories, and not let her know disagreeable things. I dare
say poor chatelaines had to do that in time of famine, when their
lands had been pillaged." She was a proud, brave little
chatelaine, and dispensed generously the one hospitality she
could offer--the dreams she dreamed--the visions she saw--the
imaginings which were her joy and comfort.
So, as they sat together, Ermengarde did not know that she was
faint as well as ravenous, and that while she talked she now and
then wondered if her hunger would let her sleep when she was left
alone. She felt as if she had never been quite so hungry before.
"I wish I was as thin as you, Sara," Ermengarde said suddenly.
"I believe you are thinner than you used to be. Your eyes look
so big, and look at the sharp little bones sticking out of your
Sara pulled down her sleeve, which had pushed itself up.
"I always was a thin child," she said bravely, "and I always had
big green eyes."
"I love your queer eyes," said Ermengarde, looking into them with
affectionate admiration. "They always look as if they saw such a
long way. I love them--and I love them to be green--though they
look black generally."
"They are cat's eyes," laughed Sara; "but I can't see in the
dark with them--because I have tried, and I couldn't--I wish I
It was just at this minute that something happened at the
skylight which neither of them saw. If either of them had
chanced to turn and look, she would have been startled by the
sight of a dark face which peered cautiously into the room and
disappeared as quickly and almost as silently as it had appeared.
Not QUITE as silently, however. Sara, who had keen ears,
suddenly turned a little and looked up at the roof.
"That didn't sound like Melchisedec," she said. "It wasn't
scratchy enough."
"What?" said Ermengarde, a little startled.
"Didn't you think you heard something?" asked Sara.
"N-no," Ermengarde faltered. "Did you?" {another ed. has "Nono,"}
"Perhaps I didn't," said Sara; "but I thought I did. It sounded
as if something was on the slates--something that dragged
"What could it be?" said Ermengarde. "Could it be--robbers?"
"No," Sara began cheerfully. "There is nothing to steal--"
She broke off in the middle of her words. They both heard the
sound that checked her. It was not on the slates, but on the
stairs below, and it was Miss Minchin's angry voice. Sara sprang
off the bed, and put out the candle.
"She is scolding Becky," she whispered, as she stood in the
darkness. "She is making her cry."
"Will she come in here?" Ermengarde whispered back, panicstricken.
"No. She will think I am in bed. Don't stir."
It was very seldom that Miss Minchin mounted the last flight of
stairs. Sara could only remember that she had done it once
before. But now she was angry enough to be coming at least part
of the way up, and it sounded as if she was driving Becky before
"You impudent, dishonest child!" they heard her say. "Cook
tells me she has missed things repeatedly."
"'T warn't me, mum," said Becky sobbing. "I was 'ungry enough,
but 't warn't me--never!"
"You deserve to be sent to prison," said Miss Minchin's voice.
"Picking and stealing! Half a meat pie, indeed!"
"'T warn't me," wept Becky. "I could 'ave eat a whole un--but I
never laid a finger on it."
Miss Minchin was out of breath between temper and mounting the
stairs. The meat pie had been intended for her special late
supper. It became apparent that she boxed Becky's ears.
"Don't tell falsehoods," she said. "Go to your room this
Both Sara and Ermengarde heard the slap, and then heard Becky run
in her slipshod shoes up the stairs and into her attic. They
heard her door shut, and knew that she threw herself upon her
"I could 'ave e't two of 'em," they heard her cry into her
pillow. "An' I never took a bite. 'Twas cook give it to her
Sara stood in the middle of the room in the darkness. She was
clenching her little teeth and opening and shutting fiercely her
outstretched hands. She could scarcely stand still, but she
dared not move until Miss Minchin had gone down the stairs and
all was still.
"The wicked, cruel thing!" she burst forth. "The cook takes
things herself and then says Becky steals them. She DOESN'T!
She DOESN'T! She's so hungry sometimes that she eats crusts out
of the ash barrel!" She pressed her hands hard against her face
and burst into passionate little sobs, and Ermengarde, hearing
this unusual thing, was overawed by it. Sara was crying! The
unconquerable Sara! It seemed to denote something new--some mood
she had never known. Suppose--suppose--a new dread possibility
presented itself to her kind, slow, little mind all at once. She
crept off the bed in the dark and found her way to the table
where the candle stood. She struck a match and lit the candle.
When she had lighted it, she bent forward and looked at Sara,
with her new thought growing to definite fear in her eyes.
"Sara," she said in a timid, almost awe-stricken voice, are--are-
-you never told me--I don't want to be rude, but--are YOU ever
It was too much just at that moment. The barrier broke down.
Sara lifted her face from her hands.
"Yes," she said in a new passionate way. "Yes, I am. I'm so
hungry now that I could almost eat you. And it makes it worse to
hear poor Becky. She's hungrier than I am."
Ermengarde gasped.
"Oh, oh!" she cried woefully. "And I never knew!"
"I didn't want you to know," Sara said. "It would have made me
feel like a street beggar. I know I look like a street beggar."
"No, you don't--you don't!" Ermengarde broke in. "Your clothes
are a little queer--but you couldn't look like a street beggar.
You haven't a street-beggar face."
"A little boy once gave me a sixpence for charity," said Sara,
with a short little laugh in spite of herself. "Here it is."
And she pulled out the thin ribbon from her neck. "He wouldn't
have given me his Christmas sixpence if I hadn't looked as if I
needed it."
Somehow the sight of the dear little sixpence was good for both
of them. It made them laugh a little, though they both had
tears in their eyes.
"Who was he?" asked Ermengarde, looking at it quite as if it had
not been a mere ordinary silver sixpence.
"He was a darling little thing going to a party," said Sara. "He
was one of the Large Family, the little one with the round legs--
the one I call Guy Clarence. I suppose his nursery was crammed
with Christmas presents and hampers full of cakes and things,
and he could see I had nothing."
Ermengarde gave a little jump backward. The last sentences had
recalled something to her troubled mind and given her a sudden
"Oh, Sara!" she cried. "What a silly thing I am not to have
thought of it!"
"Of what?"
"Something splendid!" said Ermengarde, in an excited hurry.
"This very afternoon my nicest aunt sent me a box. It is full
of good things. I never touched it, I had so much pudding at
dinner, and I was so bothered about papa's books." Her words
began to tumble over each other. "It's got cake in it, and
little meat pies, and jam tarts and buns, and oranges and redcurrant
wine, and figs and chocolate. I'll creep back to my room
and get it this minute, and we'll eat it now."
Sara almost reeled. When one is faint with hunger the mention
of food has sometimes a curious effect. She clutched
Ermengarde's arm.
"Do you think--you COULD?" she ejaculated.
"I know I could," answered Ermengarde, and she ran to the door--
opened it softly--put her head out into the darkness, and
listened. Then she went back to Sara. "The lights are out.
Everybody's in bed. I can creep--and creep--and no one will
It was so delightful that they caught each other's hands and a
sudden light sprang into Sara's eyes.
"Ermie!" she said. "Let us PRETEND! Let us pretend it's a
party! And oh, won't you invite the prisoner in the next cell?"
"Yes! Yes! Let us knock on the wall now. The jailer won't
Sara went to the wall. Through it she could hear poor Becky
crying more softly. She knocked four times.
"That means, `Come to me through the secret passage under the
wall,' she explained. `I have something to communicate.'"
Five quick knocks answered her.
"She is coming," she said.
Almost immediately the door of the attic opened and Becky
appeared. Her eyes were red and her cap was sliding off, and
when she caught sight of Ermengarde she began to rub her face
nervously with her apron.
"Don't mind me a bit, Becky!" cried Ermengarde.
"Miss Ermengarde has asked you to come in," said Sara, "because
she is going to bring a box of good things up here to us."
Becky's cap almost fell off entirely, she broke in with such
"To eat, miss?" she said. "Things that's good to eat?"
"Yes," answered Sara, "and we are going to pretend a party."
"And you shall have as much as you WANT to eat," put in
Ermengarde. "I'll go this minute!"
She was in such haste that as she tiptoed out of the attic she
dropped her red shawl and did not know it had fallen. No one
saw it for a minute or so. Becky was too much overpowered by the
good luck which had befallen her.
"Oh, miss! oh, miss!" she gasped; "I know it was you that asked
her to let me come. It--it makes me cry to think of it." And
she went to Sara's side and stood and looked at her worshipingly.
But in Sara's hungry eyes the old light had begun to glow and
transform her world for her. Here in the attic--with the cold
night outside-- with the afternoon in the sloppy streets barely
passed--with the memory of the awful unfed look in the beggar
child's eyes not yet faded--this simple, cheerful thing had
happened like a thing of magic.
She caught her breath.
"Somehow, something always happens," she cried, "just before
things get to the very worst. It is as if the Magic did it. If
I could only just remember that always. The worst thing never
QUITE comes."
She gave Becky a little cheerful shake.
"No, no! You mustn't cry!" she said. "We must make haste and
set the table."
"Set the table, miss?" said Becky, gazing round the room.
"What'll we set it with?"
Sara looked round the attic, too.
"There doesn't seem to be much," she answered, half laughing.
That moment she saw something and pounced upon it. It was
Ermengarde's red shawl which lay upon the floor.
"Here's the shawl," she cried. "I know she won't mind it. It
will make such a nice red tablecloth."
They pulled the old table forward, and threw the shawl over it.
Red is a wonderfully kind and comfortable color. It began to
make the room look furnished directly.
"How nice a red rug would look on the floor!" exclaimed Sara.
"We must pretend there is one!"
Her eye swept the bare boards with a swift glance of admiration.
The rug was laid down already.
"How soft and thick it is!" she said, with the little laugh which
Becky knew the meaning of; and she raised and set her foot down
again delicately, as if she felt something under it.
"Yes, miss," answered Becky, watching her with serious rapture.
She was always quite serious.
"What next, now?" said Sara, and she stood still and put her
hands over her eyes. "Something will come if I think and wait a
little"--in a soft, expectant voice. "The Magic will tell me."
One of her favorite fancies was that on "the outside," as she
called it, thoughts were waiting for people to call them. Becky
had seen her stand and wait many a time before, and knew that in
a few seconds she would uncover an enlightened, laughing face.
In a moment she did.
"There!" she cried. "It has come! I know now! I must look
among the things in the old trunk I had when I was a princess."
She flew to its corner and kneeled down. It had not been put in
the attic for her benefit, but because there was no room for it
elsewhere. Nothing had been left in it but rubbish. But she
knew she should find something. The Magic always arranged that
kind of thing in one way or another.
In a corner lay a package so insignificant-looking that it had
been overlooked, and when she herself had found it she had kept
it as a relic. It contained a dozen small white handkerchiefs.
She seized them joyfully and ran to the table. She began to
arrange them upon the red table-cover, patting and coaxing them
into shape with the narrow lace edge curling outward, her Magic
working its spells for her as she did it.
"These are the plates," she said. "They are golden plates.
These are the richly embroidered napkins. Nuns worked them in
convents in Spain."
"Did they, miss?" breathed Becky, her very soul uplifted by the
"You must pretend it," said Sara. "If you pretend it enough, you
will see them."
"Yes, miss," said Becky; and as Sara returned to the trunk she
devoted herself to the effort of accomplishing an end so much to
be desired.
Sara turned suddenly to find her standing by the table, looking
very queer indeed. She had shut her eyes, and was twisting her
face in strange convulsive contortions, her hands hanging stiffly
clenched at her sides. She looked as if she was trying to lift
some enormous weight.
"What is the matter, Becky?" Sara cried. "What are you doing?"
Becky opened her eyes with a start.
"I was a-'pretendin',' miss," she answered a little sheepishly; "I
was tryin' to see it like you do. I almost did," with a hopeful
grin. "But it takes a lot o' stren'th."
"Perhaps it does if you are not used to it," said Sara, with
friendly sympathy; "but you don't know how easy it is when you've
done it often. I wouldn't try so hard just at first. It will
come to you after a while. I'll just tell you what things are.
Look at these."
She held an old summer hat in her hand which she had fished out
of the bottom of the trunk. There was a wreath of flowers on
it. She pulled the wreath off.
"These are garlands for the feast," she said grandly. "They
fill all the air with perfume. There's a mug on the wash-stand,
Becky. Oh--and bring the soap dish for a centerpiece."
Becky handed them to her reverently.
"What are they now, miss?" she inquired. "You'd think they was
made of crockery--but I know they ain't."
"This is a carven flagon," said Sara, arranging tendrils of the
wreath about the mug. "And this"--bending tenderly over the soap
dish and heaping it with roses--"is purest alabaster encrusted
with gems."
She touched the things gently, a happy smile hovering about her
lips which made her look as if she were a creature in a dream.
"My, ain't it lovely!" whispered Becky.
"If we just had something for bonbon dishes," Sara murmured.
"There!"--darting to the trunk again. "I remember I saw
something this minute."
It was only a bundle of wool wrapped in red and white tissue
paper, but the tissue paper was soon twisted into the form of
little dishes, and was combined with the remaining flowers to
ornament the candlestick which was to light the feast. Only the
Magic could have made it more than an old table covered with a
red shawl and set with rubbish from a long-unopened trunk. But
Sara drew back and gazed at it, seeing wonders; and Becky, after
staring in delight, spoke with bated breath.
"This 'ere," she suggested, with a glance round the attic--"is
it the Bastille now--or has it turned into somethin' different?"
"Oh, yes, yes!" said Sara. "Quite different. It is a banquet
"My eye, miss!" ejaculated Becky. "A blanket 'all!" and she
turned to view the splendors about her with awed bewilderment.
"A banquet hall," said Sara. "A vast chamber where feasts are
given. It has a vaulted roof, and a minstrels' gallery, and a
huge chimney filled with blazing oaken logs, and it is brilliant
with waxen tapers twinkling on every side."
"My eye, Miss Sara!" gasped Becky again.
Then the door opened, and Ermengarde came in, rather staggering
under the weight of her hamper. She started back with an
exclamation of joy. To enter from the chill darkness outside,
and find one's self confronted by a totally unanticipated festal
board, draped with red, adorned with white napery, and wreathed
with flowers, was to feel that the preparations were brilliant
"Oh, Sara!" she cried out. "You are the cleverest girl I ever
"Isn't it nice?" said Sara. "They are things out of my old
trunk. I asked my Magic, and it told me to go and look."
"But oh, miss," cried Becky, "wait till she's told you what they
are! They ain't just--oh, miss, please tell her," appealing to
So Sara told her, and because her Magic helped her she made her
ALMOST see it all: the golden platters--the vaulted spaces--the
blazing logs--the twinkling waxen tapers. As the things were
taken out of the hamper--the frosted cakes--the fruits--the
bonbons and the wine--the feast became a splendid thing.
"It's like a real party!" cried Ermengarde.
"It's like a queen's table," sighed Becky.
Then Ermengarde had a sudden brilliant thought.
"I'll tell you what, Sara," she said. "Pretend you are a
princess now and this is a royal feast."
"But it's your feast," said Sara; "you must be the princess, and
we will be your maids of honor."
"Oh, I can't," said Ermengarde. "I'm too fat, and I don't know
how. YOU be her."
"Well, if you want me to," said Sara.
But suddenly she thought of something else and ran to the rusty
"There is a lot of paper and rubbish stuffed in here!" she
exclaimed. "If we light it, there will be a bright blaze for a
few minutes, and we shall feel as if it was a real fire." She
struck a match and lighted it up with a great specious glow which
illuminated the room.
"By the time it stops blazing," Sara said, "we shall forget
about its not being real."
She stood in the dancing glow and smiled.
"Doesn't it LOOK real?" she said. "Now we will begin the
She led the way to the table. She waved her hand graciously to
Ermengarde and Becky. She was in the midst of her dream.
"Advance, fair damsels," she said in her happy dream-voice, "and
be seated at the banquet table. My noble father, the king, who
is absent on a long journey, has commanded me to feast you." She
turned her head slightly toward the corner of the room. "What,
ho, there, minstrels! Strike up with your viols and bassoons.
Princesses," she explained rapidly to Ermengarde and Becky,
"always had minstrels to play at their feasts. Pretend there is
a minstrel gallery up there in the corner. Now we will begin."
They had barely had time to take their pieces of cake into their
hands--not one of them had time to do more, when--they all three
sprang to their feet and turned pale faces toward the door--
Someone was coming up the stairs. There was no mistake about
it. Each of them recognized the angry, mounting tread and knew
that the end of all things had come.
"It's--the missus!" choked Becky, and dropped her piece of cake
upon the floor.
"Yes," said Sara, her eyes growing shocked and large in her
small white face. "Miss Minchin has found us out."
Miss Minchin struck the door open with a blow of her hand. She
was pale herself, but it was with rage. She looked from the
frightened faces to the banquet table, and from the banquet
table to the last flicker of the burnt paper in the grate.
"I have been suspecting something of this sort," she exclaimed;
"but I did not dream of such audacity. Lavinia was telling the
So they knew that it was Lavinia who had somehow guessed their
secret and had betrayed them. Miss Minchin strode over to Becky
and boxed her ears for a second time.
"You impudent creature!" she said. "You leave the house in the
Sara stood quite still, her eyes growing larger, her face paler.
Ermengarde burst into tears.
"Oh, don't send her away," she sobbed. "My aunt sent me the
hamper. We're--only--having a party."
"So I see," said Miss Minchin, witheringly. "With the Princess
Sara at the head of the table." She turned fiercely on Sara.
"It is your doing, I know," she cried. "Ermengarde would never
have thought of such a thing. You decorated the table, I
suppose--with this rubbish." She stamped her foot at Becky.
"Go to your attic!" she commanded, and Becky stole away, her face
hidden in her apron, her shoulders shaking.
Then it was Sara's turn again.
"I will attend to you tomorrow. You shall have neither
breakfast, dinner, nor supper!"
"I have not had either dinner or supper today, Miss Minchin,"
said Sara, rather faintly.
"Then all the better. You will have something to remember.
Don't stand there. Put those things into the hamper again."
She began to sweep them off the table into the hamper herself,
and caught sight of Ermengarde's new books.
"And you"--to Ermengarde--"have brought your beautiful new books
into this dirty attic. Take them up and go back to bed. You
will stay there all day tomorrow, and I shall write to your papa.
What would HE say if he knew where you are tonight?"
Something she saw in Sara's grave, fixed gaze at this moment
made her turn on her fiercely.
"What are you thinking of?" she demanded. "Why do you look at
me like that?"
"I was wondering," answered Sara, as she had answered that
notable day in the schoolroom.
"What were you wondering?"
It was very like the scene in the schoolroom. There was no
pertness in Sara's manner. It was only sad and quiet.
"I was wondering," she said in a low voice, "what MY papa would
say if he knew where I am tonight."
Miss Minchin was infuriated just as she had been before and her
anger expressed itself, as before, in an intemperate fashion.
She flew at her and shook her.
"You insolent, unmanageable child!" she cried. "How dare you!
How dare you!"
She picked up the books, swept the rest of the feast back into
the hamper in a jumbled heap, thrust it into Ermengarde's arms,
and pushed her before her toward the door.
"I will leave you to wonder," she said. "Go to bed this
instant." And she shut the door behind herself and poor
stumbling Ermengarde, and left Sara standing quite alone.
The dream was quite at an end. The last spark had died out of
the paper in the grate and left only black tinder; the table was
left bare, the golden plates and richly embroidered napkins, and
the garlands were transformed again into old handkerchiefs,
scraps of red and white paper, and discarded artificial flowers
all scattered on the floor; the minstrels in the minstrel gallery
had stolen away, and the viols and bassoons were still. Emily
was sitting with her back against the wall, staring very hard.
Sara saw her, and went and picked her up with trembling hands.
"There isn't any banquet left, Emily," she said. "And there
isn't any princess. There is nothing left but the prisoners in
the Bastille." And she sat down and hid her face.
What would have happened if she had not hidden it just then, and
if she had chanced to look up at the skylight at the wrong
moment, I do not know--perhaps the end of this chapter might have
been quite different--because if she had glanced at the skylight
she would certainly have been startled by what she would have
seen. She would have seen exactly the same face pressed against
the glass and peering in at her as it had peered in earlier in
the evening when she had been talking to Ermengarde.
But she did not look up. She sat with her little black head in
her arms for some time. She always sat like that when she was
trying to bear something in silence. Then she got up and went
slowly to the bed.
"I can't pretend anything else--while I am awake," she said.
"There wouldn't be any use in trying. If I go to sleep, perhaps
a dream will come and pretend for me."
She suddenly felt so tired--perhaps through want of food--that
she sat down on the edge of the bed quite weakly.
"Suppose there was a bright fire in the grate, with lots of
little dancing flames," she murmured. "Suppose there was a
comfortable chair before it--and suppose there was a small table
near, with a little hot--hot supper on it. And suppose"--as she
drew the thin coverings over her--"suppose this was a beautiful
soft bed, with fleecy blankets and large downy pillows. Suppose--
suppose--" And her very weariness was good to her, for her eyes
closed and she fell fast asleep.
She did not know how long she slept. But she had been tired
enough to sleep deeply and profoundly--too deeply and soundly to
be disturbed by anything, even by the squeaks and scamperings of
Melchisedec's entire family, if all his sons and daughters had
chosen to come out of their hole to fight and tumble and play.
When she awakened it was rather suddenly, and she did not know
that any particular thing had called her out of her sleep. The
truth was, however, that it was a sound which had called her
back--a real sound--the click of the skylight as it fell in
closing after a lithe white figure which slipped through it and
crouched down close by upon the slates of the roof--just near
enough to see what happened in the attic, but not near enough to
be seen.
At first she did not open her eyes. She felt too sleepy and--
curiously enough--too warm and comfortable. She was so warm and
comfortable, indeed, that she did not believe she was really
awake. She never was as warm and cozy as this except in some
lovely vision.
"What a nice dream!" she murmured. "I feel quite warm. I--don't-
Of course it was a dream. She felt as if warm, delightful
bedclothes were heaped upon her. She could actually FEEL
blankets, and when she put out her hand it touched something
exactly like a satin-covered eider-down quilt. She must not
awaken from this delight--she must be quite still and make it
But she could not--even though she kept her eyes closed tightly,
she could not. Something was forcing her to awaken--something
in the room. It was a sense of light, and a sound--the sound of
a crackling, roaring little fire.
"Oh, I am awakening," she said mournfully. "I can't help it--I
Her eyes opened in spite of herself. And then she actually
smiled--for what she saw she had never seen in the attic before,
and knew she never should see.
"Oh, I HAVEN'T awakened," she whispered, daring to rise on her
elbow and look all about her. "I am dreaming yet." She knew it
MUST be a dream, for if she were awake such things could not--
could not be.
Do you wonder that she felt sure she had not come back to earth?
This is what she saw. In the grate there was a glowing, blazing
fire; on the hob was a little brass kettle hissing and boiling;
spread upon the floor was a thick, warm crimson rug; before the
fire a folding-chair, unfolded, and with cushions on it; by the
chair a small folding-table, unfolded, covered with a white
cloth, and upon it spread small covered dishes, a cup, a saucer,
a teapot; on the bed were new warm coverings and a satin-covered
down quilt; at the foot a curious wadded silk robe, a pair of
quilted slippers, and some books. The room of her dream seemed
changed into fairyland--and it was flooded with warm light, for
a bright lamp stood on the table covered with a rosy shade.
She sat up, resting on her elbow, and her breathing came short
and fast.
"It does not--melt away," she panted. "Oh, I never had such a
dream before." She scarcely dared to stir; but at last she
pushed the bedclothes aside, and put her feet on the floor with a
rapturous smile.
"I am dreaming--I am getting out of bed," she heard her own voice
say; and then, as she stood up in the midst of it all, turning
slowly from side to side--"I am dreaming it stays--real! I'm
dreaming it FEELS real. It's bewitched--or I'm bewitched. I
only THINK I see it all." Her words began to hurry themselves.
"If I can only keep on thinking it," she cried, "I don't care! I
don't care!"
She stood panting a moment longer, and then cried out again.
"Oh, it isn't true!" she said. "It CAN'T be true! But oh, how
true it seems!"
The blazing fire drew her to it, and she knelt down and held out
her hands close to it--so close that the heat made her start
"A fire I only dreamed wouldn't be HOT," she cried.
She sprang up, touched the table, the dishes, the rug; she went
to the bed and touched the blankets. She took up the soft
wadded dressing-gown, and suddenly clutched it to her breast and
held it to her cheek.
"It's warm. It's soft!" she almost sobbed. "It's real. It must
She threw it over her shoulders, and put her feet into the
"They are real, too. It's all real!" she cried. "I am NOT--I
am NOT dreaming!"
She almost staggered to the books and opened the one which lay
upon the top. Something was written on the flyleaf--just a few
words, and they were these:
"To the little girl in the attic. From a friend."
When she saw that--wasn't it a strange thing for her to do-- she
put her face down upon the page and burst into tears.
"I don't know who it is," she said; "but somebody cares for me a
little. I have a friend."
She took her candle and stole out of her own room and into
Becky's, and stood by her bedside.
"Becky, Becky!" she whispered as loudly as she dared. "Wake
When Becky wakened, and she sat upright staring aghast, her face
still smudged with traces of tears, beside her stood a little
figure in a luxurious wadded robe of crimson silk. The face she
saw was a shining, wonderful thing. The Princess Sara--as she
remembered her--stood at her very bedside, holding a candle in
her hand.
"Come," she said. "Oh, Becky, come!"
Becky was too frightened to speak. She simply got up and
followed her, with her mouth and eyes open, and without a word.
And when they crossed the threshold, Sara shut the door gently
and drew her into the warm, glowing midst of things which made
her brain reel and her hungry senses faint. "It's true! It's
true!" she cried. "I've touched them all. They are as real as
we are. The Magic has come and done it, Becky, while we were
asleep--the Magic that won't let those worst things EVER quite
The Visitor
Imagine, if you can, what the rest of the evening was like. How
they crouched by the fire which blazed and leaped and made so
much of itself in the little grate. How they removed the covers
of the dishes, and found rich, hot, savory soup, which was a meal
in itself, and sandwiches and toast and muffins enough for both
of them. The mug from the washstand was used as Becky's tea cup,
and the tea was so delicious that it was not necessary to pretend
that it was anything but tea. They were warm and full-fed and
happy, and it was just like Sara that, having found her strange
good fortune real, she should give herself up to the enjoyment of
it to the utmost. She had lived such a life of imaginings that
she was quite equal to accepting any wonderful thing that
happened, and almost to cease, in a short time, to find it
"I don't know anyone in the world who could have done it," she
said; "but there has been someone. And here we are sitting by
their fire--and--and--it's true! And whoever it is--wherever
they are--I have a friend, Becky--someone is my friend."
It cannot be denied that as they sat before the blazing fire,
and ate the nourishing, comfortable food, they felt a kind of
rapturous awe, and looked into each other's eyes with something
like doubt.
"Do you think," Becky faltered once, in a whisper, "do you think
it could melt away, miss? Hadn't we better be quick?" And she
hastily crammed her sandwich into her mouth. If it was only a
dream, kitchen manners would be overlooked.
"No, it won't melt away," said Sara. "I am EATING this muffin,
and I can taste it. You never really eat things in dreams. You
only think you are going to eat them. Besides, I keep giving
myself pinches; and I touched a hot piece of coal just now, on
The sleepy comfort which at length almost overpowered them was a
heavenly thing. It was the drowsiness of happy, well-fed
childhood, and they sat in the fire glow and luxuriated in it
until Sara found herself turning to look at her transformed bed.
There were even blankets enough to share with Becky. The narrow
couch in the next attic was more comfortable that night than its
occupant had ever dreamed that it could be.
As she went out of the room, Becky turned upon the threshold and
looked about her with devouring eyes.
"If it ain't here in the mornin', miss," she said, "it's been
here tonight, anyways, an' I shan't never forget it." She looked
at each particular thing, as if to commit it to memory. "The
fire was THERE", pointing with her finger, "an' the table was
before it; an' the lamp was there, an' the light looked rosy red;
an' there was a satin cover on your bed, an' a warm rug on the
floor, an' everythin' looked beautiful; an'"--she paused a
second, and laid her hand on her stomach tenderly--"there WAS
soup an' sandwiches an' muffins--there WAS." And, with this
conviction a reality at least, she went away.
Through the mysterious agency which works in schools and among
servants, it was quite well known in the morning that Sara Crewe
was in horrible disgrace, that Ermengarde was under punishment,
and that Becky would have been packed out of the house before
breakfast, but that a scullery maid could not be dispensed with
at once. The servants knew that she was allowed to stay because
Miss Minchin could not easily find another creature helpless and
humble enough to work like a bounden slave for so few shillings a
week. The elder girls in the schoolroom knew that if Miss
Minchin did not send Sara away it was for practical reasons of
her own.
"She's growing so fast and learning such a lot, somehow," said
Jessie to Lavinia, "that she will be given classes soon, and Miss
Minchin knows she will have to work for nothing. It was rather
nasty of you, Lavvy, to tell about her having fun in the garret.
How did you find it out?"
"I got it out of Lottie. She's such a baby she didn't know she
was telling me. There was nothing nasty at all in speaking to
Miss Minchin. I felt it my duty"--priggishly. "She was being
deceitful. And it's ridiculous that she should look so grand,
and be made so much of, in her rags and tatters!"
"What were they doing when Miss Minchin caught them?"
"Pretending some silly thing. Ermengarde had taken up her
hamper to share with Sara and Becky. She never invites us to
share things. Not that I care, but it's rather vulgar of her to
share with servant girls in attics. I wonder Miss Minchin didn't
turn Sara out--even if she does want her for a teacher."
"If she was turned out where would she go?" inquired Jessie, a
trifle anxiously.
"How do I know?" snapped Lavinia. "She'll look rather queer when
she comes into the schoolroom this morning, I should think--
after what's happened. She had no dinner yesterday, and she's
not to have any today."
Jessie was not as ill-natured as she was silly. She picked up
her book with a little jerk.
"Well, I think it's horrid," she said. "They've no right to
starve her to death."
When Sara went into the kitchen that morning the cook looked
askance at her, and so did the housemaids; but she passed them
hurriedly. She had, in fact, overslept herself a little, and as
Becky had done the same, neither had had time to see the other,
and each had come downstairs in haste.
Sara went into the scullery. Becky was violently scrubbing a
kettle, and was actually gurgling a little song in her throat.
She looked up with a wildly elated face.
"It was there when I wakened, miss--the blanket," she whispered
excitedly. "It was as real as it was last night."
"So was mine," said Sara. "It is all there now--all of it.
While I was dressing I ate some of the cold things we left."
"Oh, laws! Oh, laws!" Becky uttered the exclamation in a sort
of rapturous groan, and ducked her head over her kettle just in
time, as the cook came in from the kitchen.
Miss Minchin had expected to see in Sara, when she appeared in
the schoolroom, very much what Lavinia had expected to see. Sara
had always been an annoying puzzle to her, because severity never
made her cry or look frightened. When she was scolded she stood
still and listened politely with a grave face; when she was
punished she performed her extra tasks or went without her
meals, making no complaint or outward sign of rebellion. The
very fact that she never made an impudent answer seemed to Miss
Minchin a kind of impudence in itself. But after yesterday's
deprivation of meals, the violent scene of last night, the
prospect of hunger today, she must surely have broken down. It
would be strange indeed if she did not come downstairs with pale
cheeks and red eyes and an unhappy, humbled face.
Miss Minchin saw her for the first time when she entered the
schoolroom to hear the little French class recite its lessons and
superintend its exercises. And she came in with a springing
step, color in her cheeks, and a smile hovering about the corners
of her mouth. It was the most astonishing thing Miss Minchin had
ever known. It gave her quite a shock. What was the child made
of? What could such a thing mean? She called her at once to her
"You do not look as if you realize that you are in disgrace," she
said. "Are you absolutely hardened?"
The truth is that when one is still a child--or even if one is
grown up--and has been well fed, and has slept long and softly
and warm; when one has gone to sleep in the midst of a fairy
story, and has wakened to find it real, one cannot be unhappy or
even look as if one were; and one could not, if one tried, keep a
glow of joy out of one's eyes. Miss Minchin was almost struck
dumb by the look of Sara's eyes when she made her perfectly
respectful answer.
"I beg your pardon, Miss Minchin," she said; "I know that I am in
"Be good enough not to forget it and look as if you had come
into a fortune. It is an impertinence. And remember you are to
have no food today."
"Yes, Miss Minchin," Sara answered; but as she turned away her
heart leaped with the memory of what yesterday had been. "If the
Magic had not saved me just in time," she thought, "how horrible
it would have been!"
"She can't be very hungry," whispered Lavinia. "Just look at
her. Perhaps she is pretending she has had a good breakfast"--
with a spiteful laugh.
"She's different from other people," said Jessie, watching Sara
with her class. "Sometimes I'm a bit frightened of her."
"Ridiculous thing!" ejaculated Lavinia.
All through the day the light was in Sara's face, and the color
in her cheek. The servants cast puzzled glances at her, and
whispered to each other, and Miss Amelia's small blue eyes wore
an expression of bewilderment. What such an audacious look of
well-being, under august displeasure could mean she could not
understand. It was, however, just like Sara's singular obstinate
way. She was probably determined to brave the matter out.
One thing Sara had resolved upon, as she thought things over.
The wonders which had happened must be kept a secret, if such a
thing were possible. If Miss Minchin should choose to mount to
the attic again, of course all would be discovered. But it did
not seem likely that she would do so for some time at least,
unless she was led by suspicion. Ermengarde and Lottie would be
watched with such strictness that they would not dare to steal
out of their beds again. Ermengarde could be told the story and
trusted to keep it secret. If Lottie made any discoveries, she
could be bound to secrecy also. Perhaps the Magic itself would
help to hide its own marvels.
"But whatever happens," Sara kept saying to herself all day--
"WHATEVER happens, somewhere in the world there is a heavenly
kind person who is my friend--my friend. If I never know who it
is--if I never can even thank him--I shall never feel quite so
lonely. Oh, the Magic was GOOD to me!"
If it was possible for weather to be worse than it had been the
day before, it was worse this day--wetter, muddier, colder.
There were more errands to be done, the cook was more irritable,
and, knowing that Sara was in disgrace, she was more savage. But
what does anything matter when one's Magic has just proved
itself one's friend. Sara's supper of the night before had given
her strength, she knew that she should sleep well and warmly,
and, even though she had naturally begun to be hungry again
before evening, she felt that she could bear it until breakfasttime
on the following day, when her meals would surely be given
to her again. It was quite late when she was at last allowed to
go upstairs. She had been told to go into the schoolroom and
study until ten o'clock, and she had become interested in her
work, and remained over her books later.
When she reached the top flight of stairs and stood before the
attic door, it must be confessed that her heart beat rather
"Of course it MIGHT all have been taken away," she whispered,
trying to be brave. "It might only have been lent to me for just
that one awful night. But it WAS lent to me--I had it. It was
She pushed the door open and went in. Once inside, she gasped
slightly, shut the door, and stood with her back against it
looking from side to side.
The Magic had been there again. It actually had, and it had
done even more than before. The fire was blazing, in lovely
leaping flames, more merrily than ever. A number of new things
had been brought into the attic which so altered the look of it
that if she had not been past doubting she would have rubbed her
eyes. Upon the low table another supper stood--this time with
cups and plates for Becky as well as herself; a piece of bright,
heavy, strange embroidery covered the battered mantel, and on it
some ornaments had been placed. All the bare, ugly things which
could be covered with draperies had been concealed and made to
look quite pretty. Some odd materials of rich colors had been
fastened against the wall with fine, sharp tacks--so sharp that
they could be pressed into the wood and plaster without
hammering. Some brilliant fans were pinned up, and there were
several large cushions, big and substantial enough to use as
seats. A wooden box was covered with a rug, and some cushions
lay on it, so that it wore quite the air of a sofa.
Sara slowly moved away from the door and simply sat down and
looked and looked again.
"It is exactly like something fairy come true," she said. "There
isn't the least difference. I feel as if I might wish for
anything--diamonds or bags of gold--and they would appear! THAT
wouldn't be any stranger than this. Is this my garret? Am I the
same cold, ragged, damp Sara? And to think I used to pretend and
pretend and wish there were fairies! The one thing I always
wanted was to see a fairy story come true. I am LIVING in a
fairy story. I feel as if I might be a fairy myself, and able to
turn things into anything else."
She rose and knocked upon the wall for the prisoner in the next
cell, and the prisoner came.
When she entered she almost dropped in a heap upon the floor.
For a few seconds she quite lost her breath.
"Oh, laws!" she gasped. "Oh, laws, miss!"
"You see," said Sara.
On this night Becky sat on a cushion upon the hearth rug and had
a cup and saucer of her own.
When Sara went to bed she found that she had a new thick
mattress and big downy pillows. Her old mattress and pillow had
been removed to Becky's bedstead, and, consequently, with these
additions Becky had been supplied with unheard-of comfort.
"Where does it all come from?" Becky broke forth once. "Laws,
who does it, miss?"
"Don't let us even ASK," said Sara. "If it were not that I want
to say, `Oh, thank you,' I would rather not know. It makes it
more beautiful."
From that time life became more wonderful day by day. The fairy
story continued. Almost every day something new was done. Some
new comfort or ornament appeared each time Sara opened the door
at night, until in a short time the attic was a beautiful little
room full of all sorts of odd and luxurious things. The ugly
walls were gradually entirely covered with pictures and
draperies, ingenious pieces of folding furniture appeared, a
bookshelf was hung up and filled with books, new comforts and
conveniences appeared one by one, until there seemed nothing left
to be desired. When Sara went downstairs in the morning, the
remains of the supper were on the table; and when she returned to
the attic in the evening, the magician had removed them and left
another nice little meal. Miss Minchin was as harsh and
insulting as ever, Miss Amelia as peevish, and the servants were
as vulgar and rude. Sara was sent on errands in all weathers,
and scolded and driven hither and thither; she was scarcely
allowed to speak to Ermengarde and Lottie; Lavinia sneered at the
increasing shabbiness of her clothes; and the other girls stared
curiously at her when she appeared in the schoolroom. But what
did it all matter while she was living in this wonderful
mysterious story? It was more romantic and delightful than
anything she had ever invented to comfort her starved young soul
and save herself from despair. Sometimes, when she was scolded,
she could scarcely keep from smiling.
"If you only knew!" she was saying to herself. "If you only
The comfort and happiness she enjoyed were making her stronger,
and she had them always to look forward to. If she came home
from her errands wet and tired and hungry, she knew she would
soon be warm and well fed after she had climbed the stairs.
During the hardest day she could occupy herself blissfully by
thinking of what she should see when she opened the attic door,
and wondering what new delight had been prepared for her. In a
very short time she began to look less thin. Color came into her
cheeks, and her eyes did not seem so much too big for her face.
"Sara Crewe looks wonderfully well," Miss Minchin remarked
disapprovingly to her sister.
"Yes," answered poor, silly Miss Amelia. "She is absolutely
fattening. She was beginning to look like a little starved
"Starved!" exclaimed Miss Minchin, angrily. "There was no
reason why she should look starved. She always had plenty to
"Of--of course," agreed Miss Amelia, humbly, alarmed to find that
she had, as usual, said the wrong thing.
"There is something very disagreeable in seeing that sort of
thing in a child of her age," said Miss Minchin, with haughty
"What--sort of thing?" Miss Amelia ventured.
"It might almost be called defiance," answered Miss Minchin,
feeling annoyed because she knew the thing she resented was
nothing like defiance, and she did not know what other unpleasant
term to use. "The spirit and will of any other child would have
been entirely humbled and broken by--by the changes she has had
to submit to. But, upon my word, she seems as little subdued as
if--as if she were a princess."
"Do you remember," put in the unwise Miss Amelia, "what she said
to you that day in the schoolroom about what you would do if you
found out that she was--"
"No, I don't," said Miss Minchin. "Don't talk nonsense." But
she remembered very clearly indeed.
Very naturally, even Becky was beginning to look plumper and less
frightened. She could not help it. She had her share in the
secret fairy story, too. She had two mattresses, two pillows,
plenty of bed-covering, and every night a hot supper and a seat
on the cushions by the fire. The Bastille had melted away, the
prisoners no longer existed. Two comforted children sat in the
midst of delights. Sometimes Sara read aloud from her books,
sometimes she learned her own lessons, sometimes she sat and
looked into the fire and tried to imagine who her friend could
be, and wished she could say to him some of the things in her
Then it came about that another wonderful thing happened. A man
came to the door and left several parcels. All were addressed in
large letters, "To the Little Girl in the right-hand attic."
Sara herself was sent to open the door and take them in. She
laid the two largest parcels on the hall table, and was looking
at the address, when Miss Minchin came down the stairs and saw
"Take the things to the young lady to whom they belong," she said
severely. "Don't stand there staring at them.
"They belong to me," answered Sara, quietly.
"To you?" exclaimed Miss Minchin. "What do you mean?"
"I don't know where they come from," said Sara, "but they are
addressed to me. I sleep in the right-hand attic. Becky has the
other one."
Miss Minchin came to her side and looked at the parcels with an
excited expression.
"What is in them?" she demanded.
"I don't know," replied Sara.
"Open them," she ordered.
Sara did as she was told. When the packages were unfolded Miss
Minchin's countenance wore suddenly a singular expression. What
she saw was pretty and comfortable clothing--clothing of
different kinds: shoes, stockings, and gloves, and a warm and
beautiful coat. There were even a nice hat and an umbrella.
They were all good and expensive things, and on the pocket of the
coat was pinned a paper, on which were written these words: "To
be worn every day. Will be replaced by others when necessary."
Miss Minchin was quite agitated. This was an incident which
suggested strange things to her sordid mind. Could it be that
she had made a mistake, after all, and that the neglected child
had some powerful though eccentric friend in the background--
perhaps some previously unknown relation, who had suddenly traced
her whereabouts, and chose to provide for her in this mysterious
and fantastic way? Relations were sometimes very odd--
particularly rich old bachelor uncles, who did not care for
having children near them. A man of that sort might prefer to
overlook his young relation's welfare at a distance. Such a
person, however, would be sure to be crotchety and hot-tempered
enough to be easily offended. It would not be very pleasant if
there were such a one, and he should learn all the truth about
the thin, shabby clothes, the scant food, and the hard work. She
felt very queer indeed, and very uncertain, and she gave a side
glance at Sara.
"Well," she said, in a voice such as she had never used since the
little girl lost her father, "someone is very kind to you. As
the things have been sent, and you are to have new ones when
they are worn out, you may as well go and put them on and look
respectable. After you are dressed you may come downstairs and
learn your lessons in the schoolroom. You need not go out on any
more errands today."
About half an hour afterward, when the schoolroom door opened and
Sara walked in, the entire seminary was struck dumb.
"My word!" ejaculated Jessie, jogging Lavinia's elbow. "Look at
the Princess Sara!"
Everybody was looking, and when Lavinia looked she turned quite
It was the Princess Sara indeed. At least, since the days when
she had been a princess, Sara had never looked as she did now.
She did not seem the Sara they had seen come down the back
stairs a few hours ago. She was dressed in the kind of frock
Lavinia had been used to envying her the possession of. It was
deep and warm in color, and beautifully made. Her slender feet
looked as they had done when Jessie had admired them, and the
hair, whose heavy locks had made her look rather like a Shetland
pony when it fell loose about her small, odd face, was tied back
with a ribbon.
"Perhaps someone has left her a fortune," Jessie whispered. "I
always thought something would happen to her. She's so queer."
"Perhaps the diamond mines have suddenly appeared again," said
Lavinia, scathingly. "Don't please her by staring at her in that
way, you silly thing."
"Sara," broke in Miss Minchin's deep voice, "come and sit here."
And while the whole schoolroom stared and pushed with elbows, and
scarcely made any effort to conceal its excited curiosity, Sara
went to her old seat of honor, and bent her head over her books.
That night, when she went to her room, after she and Becky had
eaten their supper she sat and looked at the fire seriously for a
long time.
"Are you making something up in your head, miss?" Becky
inquired with respectful softness. When Sara sat in silence and
looked into the coals with dreaming eyes it generally meant that
she was making a new story. But this time she was not, and she
shook her head.
"No," she answered. "I am wondering what I ought to do."
Becky stared--still respectfully. She was filled with something
approaching reverence for everything Sara did and said.
"I can't help thinking about my friend," Sara explained. "If he
wants to keep himself a secret, it would be rude to try and find
out who he is. But I do so want him to know how thankful I am to
him--and how happy he has made me. Anyone who is kind wants to
know when people have been made happy. They care for that more
than for being thanked. I wish--I do wish--"
She stopped short because her eyes at that instant fell upon
something standing on a table in a corner. It was something she
had found in the room when she came up to it only two days
before. It was a little writing-case fitted with paper and
envelopes and pens and ink.
"Oh," she exclaimed, "why did I not think of that before?"
She rose and went to the corner and brought the case back to the
"I can write to him," she said joyfully, "and leave it on the
table. Then perhaps the person who takes the things away will
take it, too. I won't ask him anything. He won't mind my
thanking him, I feel sure."
So she wrote a note. This is what she said:
I hope you will not think it is impolite that I should write
this note to you when you wish to keep yourself a secret. Please
believe I do not mean to be impolite or try to find out anything
at all; only I want to thank you for being so kind to me--so
heavenly kind--and making everything like a fairy story. I am
so grateful to you, and I am so happy--and so is Becky. Becky
feels just as thankful as I do--it is all just as beautiful and
wonderful to her as it is to me. We used to be so lonely and
cold and hungry, and now--oh, just think what you have done for
us! Please let me say just these words. It seems as if I OUGHT
to say them. THANK you--THANK you--THANK you!
The next morning she left this on the little table, and in the
evening it had been taken away with the other things; so she
knew the Magician had received it, and she was happier for the
thought. She was reading one of her new books to Becky just
before they went to their respective beds, when her attention was
attracted by a sound at the skylight. When she looked up from
her page she saw that Becky had heard the sound also, as she had
turned her head to look and was listening rather nervously.
"Something's there, miss," she whispered.
"Yes," said Sara, slowly. "It sounds--rather like a cat--trying
to get in."
She left her chair and went to the skylight. It was a queer
little sound she heard--like a soft scratching. She suddenly
remembered something and laughed. She remembered a quaint little
intruder who had made his way into the attic once before. She
had seen him that very afternoon, sitting disconsolately on a
table before a window in the Indian gentleman's house.
"Suppose," she whispered in pleased excitement--"just suppose it
was the monkey who got away again. Oh, I wish it was!"
She climbed on a chair, very cautiously raised the skylight, and
peeped out. It had been snowing all day, and on the snow, quite
near her, crouched a tiny, shivering figure, whose small black
face wrinkled itself piteously at sight of her.
"It is the monkey," she cried out. "He has crept out of the
Lascar's attic, and he saw the light."
Becky ran to her side.
"Are you going to let him in, miss?" she said.
"Yes," Sara answered joyfully. "It's too cold for monkeys to be
out. They're delicate. I'll coax him in."
She put a hand out delicately, speaking in a coaxing voice--as
she spoke to the sparrows and to Melchisedec--as if she were some
friendly little animal herself.
"Come along, monkey darling," she said. "I won't hurt you."
He knew she would not hurt him. He knew it before she laid her
soft, caressing little paw on him and drew him towards her. He
had felt human love in the slim brown hands of Ram Dass, and he
felt it in hers. He let her lift him through the skylight, and
when he found himself in her arms he cuddled up to her breast and
looked up into her face.
"Nice monkey! Nice monkey!" she crooned, kissing his funny
head. "Oh, I do love little animal things."
He was evidently glad to get to the fire, and when she sat down
and held him on her knee he looked from her to Becky with
mingled interest and appreciation.
"He IS plain-looking, miss, ain't he?" said Becky.
"He looks like a very ugly baby," laughed Sara. "I beg your
pardon, monkey; but I'm glad you are not a baby. Your mother
COULDN'T be proud of you, and no one would dare to say you looked
like any of your relations. Oh, I do like you!"
She leaned back in her chair and reflected.
"Perhaps he's sorry he's so ugly," she said, "and it's always on
his mind. I wonder if he HAS a mind. Monkey, my love, have you
a mind?"
But the monkey only put up a tiny paw and scratched his head.
"What shall you do with him?" Becky asked.
"I shall let him sleep with me tonight, and then take him back
to the Indian gentleman tomorrow. I am sorry to take you back,
monkey; but you must go. You ought to be fondest of your own
family; and I'm not a REAL relation."
And when she went to bed she made him a nest at her feet, and he
curled up and slept there as if he were a baby and much pleased
with his quarters.
"It Is the Child!"
The next afternoon three members of the Large Family sat in the
Indian gentleman's library, doing their best to cheer him up.
They had been allowed to come in to perform this office because
he had specially invited them. He had been living in a state of
suspense for some time, and today he was waiting for a certain
event very anxiously. This event was the return of Mr.
Carmichael from Moscow. His stay there had been prolonged from
week to week. On his first arrival there, he had not been able
satisfactorily to trace the family he had gone in search of.
When he felt at last sure that he had found them and had gone to
their house, he had been told that they were absent on a journey.
His efforts to reach them had been unavailing, so he had decided
to remain in Moscow until their return. Mr. Carrisford sat in
his reclining chair, and Janet sat on the floor beside him. He
was very fond of Janet. Nora had found a footstool, and Donald
was astride the tiger's head which ornamented the rug made of the
animal's skin. It must be owned that he was riding it rather
"Don't chirrup so loud, Donald," Janet said. "When you come to
cheer an ill person up you don't cheer him up at the top of your
voice. Perhaps cheering up is too loud, Mr. Carrisford?" turning
to the Indian gentleman.
But he only patted her shoulder.
"No, it isn't," he answered. "And it keeps me from thinking too
"I'm going to be quiet," Donald shouted. "We'll all be as quiet
as mice."
"Mice don't make a noise like that," said Janet.
Donald made a bridle of his handkerchief and bounced up and down
on the tiger's head.
"A whole lot of mice might," he said cheerfully. "A thousand
mice might."
"I don't believe fifty thousand mice would," said Janet,
severely; "and we have to be as quiet as one mouse."
Mr. Carrisford laughed and patted her shoulder again.
"Papa won't be very long now," she said. "May we talk about the
lost little girl?"
"I don't think I could talk much about anything else just now,"
the Indian gentleman answered, knitting his forehead with a
tired look.
"We like her so much," said Nora. "We call her the little unfairy
"Why?" the Indian gentleman inquired, because the fancies of the
Large Family always made him forget things a little.
It was Janet who answered.
"It is because, though she is not exactly a fairy, she will be
so rich when she is found that she will be like a princess in a
fairy tale. We called her the fairy princess at first, but it
didn't quite suit."
"Is it true," said Nora, "that her papa gave all his money to a
friend to put in a mine that had diamonds in it, and then the
friend thought he had lost it all and ran away because he felt as
if he was a robber?"
"But he wasn't really, you know," put in Janet, hastily.
The Indian gentleman took hold of her hand quickly.
"No, he wasn't really," he said.
"I am sorry for the friend," Janet said; "I can't help it. He
didn't mean to do it, and it would break his heart. I am sure it
would break his heart."
"You are an understanding little woman, Janet," the Indian
gentleman said, and he held her hand close.
"Did you tell Mr. Carrisford," Donald shouted again, "about the
little-girl-who-isn't-a-beggar? Did you tell him she has new
nice clothes? P'r'aps she's been found by somebody when she was
"There's a cab!" exclaimed Janet. "It's stopping before the
door. It is papa!"
They all ran to the windows to look out.
"Yes, it's papa," Donald proclaimed. "But there is no little
All three of them incontinently fled from the room and tumbled
into the hall. It was in this way they always welcomed their
father. They were to be heard jumping up and down, clapping
their hands, and being caught up and kissed.
Mr. Carrisford made an effort to rise and sank back again.
"It is no use," he said. "What a wreck I am!"
Mr. Carmichael's voice approached the door.
"No, children," he was saying; "you may come in after I have
talked to Mr. Carrisford. Go and play with Ram Dass."
Then the door opened and he came in. He looked rosier than
ever, and brought an atmosphere of freshness and health with him;
but his eyes were disappointed and anxious as they met the
invalid's look of eager question even as they grasped each
other's hands.
"What news?" Mr. Carrisford asked. "The child the Russian
people adopted?"
"She is not the child we are looking for," was Mr. Carmichael's
answer. "She is much younger than Captain Crewe's little girl.
Her name is Emily Carew. I have seen and talked to her. The
Russians were able to give me every detail."
How wearied and miserable the Indian gentleman looked! His hand
dropped from Mr. Carmichael's.
"Then the search has to be begun over again," he said. "That is
all. Please sit down."
Mr. Carmichael took a seat. Somehow, he had gradually grown
fond of this unhappy man. He was himself so well and happy, and
so surrounded by cheerfulness and love, that desolation and
broken health seemed pitifully unbearable things. If there had
been the sound of just one gay little high-pitched voice in the
house, it would have been so much less forlorn. And that a man
should be compelled to carry about in his breast the thought that
he had seemed to wrong and desert a child was not a thing one
could face.
"Come, come," he said in his cheery voice; "we'll find her yet."
"We must begin at once. No time must be lost," Mr. Carrisford
fretted. "Have you any new suggestion to make--any whatsoever?"
Mr. Carmichael felt rather restless, and he rose and began to
pace the room with a thoughtful, though uncertain face.
"Well, perhaps," he said. "I don't know what it may be worth.
The fact is, an idea occurred to me as I was thinking the thing
over in the train on the journey from Dover."
"What was it? If she is alive, she is somewhere."
"Yes; she is SOMEWHERE. We have searched the schools in Paris.
Let us give up Paris and begin in London. That was my idea--to
search London."
"There are schools enough in London," said Mr. Carrisford. Then
he slightly started, roused by a recollection. "By the way,
there is one next door."
"Then we will begin there. We cannot begin nearer than next
"No," said Carrisford. "There is a child there who interests
me; but she is not a pupil. And she is a little dark, forlorn
creature, as unlike poor Crewe as a child could be."
Perhaps the Magic was at work again at that very moment--the
beautiful Magic. It really seemed as if it might be so. What
was it that brought Ram Dass into the room--even as his master
spoke--salaaming respectfully, but with a scarcely concealed
touch of excitement in his dark, flashing eyes?
"Sahib," he said, "the child herself has come--the child the
sahib felt pity for. She brings back the monkey who had again
run away to her attic under the roof. I have asked that she
remain. It was my thought that it would please the sahib to
see and speak with her."
"Who is she?" inquired Mr. Carmichael.
"God knows," Mr. Carrrisford answered. "She is the child I spoke
of. A little drudge at the school." He waved his hand to Ram
Dass, and addressed him. "Yes, I should like to see her. Go and
bring her in." Then he turned to Mr. Carmichael. "While you
have been away," he explained, "I have been desperate. The days
were so dark and long. Ram Dass told me of this child's miseries,
and together we invented a romantic plan to help her. I suppose
it was a childish thing to do; but it gave me something to plan
and think of. Without the help of an agile, soft-footed Oriental
like Ram Dass, however, it could not have been done."
Then Sara came into the room. She carried the monkey in her
arms, and he evidently did not intend to part from her, if it
could be helped. He was clinging to her and chattering, and the
interesting excitement of finding herself in the Indian
gentleman's room had brought a flush to Sara's cheeks.
"Your monkey ran away again," she said, in her pretty voice. "He
came to my garret window last night, and I took him in because it
was so cold. I would have brought him back if it had not been so
late. I knew you were ill and might not like to be disturbed."
The Indian gentleman's hollow eyes dwelt on her with curious
"That was very thoughtful of you," he said.
Sara looked toward Ram Dass, who stood near the door.
"Shall I give him to the Lascar?" she asked.
"How do you know he is a Lascar?" said the Indian gentleman,
smiling a little.
"Oh, I know Lascars," Sara said, handing over the reluctant
monkey. "I was born in India."
The Indian gentleman sat upright so suddenly, and with such a
change of expression, that she was for a moment quite startled.
"You were born in India," he exclaimed, "were you? Come here."
And he held out his hand.
Sara went to him and laid her hand in his, as he seemed to want
to take it. She stood still, and her green-gray eyes met his
wonderingly. Something seemed to be the matter with him.
"You live next door?" he demanded.
"Yes; I live at Miss Minchin's seminary."
"But you are not one of her pupils?"
A strange little smile hovered about Sara's mouth. She hesitated
a moment.
"I don't think I know exactly WHAT I am," she replied.
"Why not?"
"At first I was a pupil, and a parlor boarder; but now--"
"You were a pupil! What are you now?"
The queer little sad smile was on Sara's lips again.
"I sleep in the attic, next to the scullery maid," she said. "I
run errands for the cook--I do anything she tells me; and I
teach the little ones their lessons."
"Question her, Carmichael," said Mr. Carrisford, sinking back as
if he had lost his strength. "Question her; I cannot."
The big, kind father of the Large Family knew how to question
little girls. Sara realized how much practice he had had when
he spoke to her in his nice, encouraging voice.
"What do you mean by `At first,' my child?" he inquired.
"When I was first taken there by my papa."
"Where is your papa?"
"He died," said Sara, very quietly. "He lost all his money and
there was none left for me. There was no one to take care of me
or to pay Miss Minchin."
"Carmichael!" the Indian gentleman cried out loudly.
"We must not frighten her," Mr. Carmichael said aside to him in a
quick, low voice. And he added aloud to Sara, "So you were sent
up into the attic, and made into a little drudge. That was about
it, wasn't it?"
"There was no one to take care of me," said Sara. "There was no
money; I belong to nobody."
"How did your father lose his money?" the Indian gentleman broke
in breathlessly.
"He did not lose it himself," Sara answered, wondering still more
each moment. "He had a friend he was very fond of--he was very
fond of him. It was his friend who took his money. He trusted
his friend too much."
The Indian gentleman's breath came more quickly.
"The friend might have MEANT to do no harm," he said. "It might
have happened through a mistake."
Sara did not know how unrelenting her quiet young voice sounded
as she answered. If she had known, she would surely have tried
to soften it for the Indian gentleman's sake.
"The suffering was just as bad for my papa," she said. It
killed him."
"What was your father's name?" the Indian gentleman said. "Tell
"His name was Ralph Crewe," Sara answered, feeling startled.
"Captain Crewe. He died in India."
The haggard face contracted, and Ram Dass sprang to his master's
"Carmichael," the invalid gasped, "it is the child--the child!"
For a moment Sara thought he was going to die. Ram Dass poured
out drops from a bottle, and held them to his lips. Sara stood
near, trembling a little. She looked in a bewildered way at Mr.
"What child am I?" she faltered.
"He was your father's friend," Mr. Carmichael answered her.
"Don't be frightened. We have been looking for you for two
Sara put her hand up to her forehead, and her mouth trembled.
She spoke as if she were in a dream.
"And I was at Miss Minchin's all the while," she half whispered.
"Just on the other side of the wall."
"I Tried Not to Be"
It was pretty, comfortable Mrs. Carmichael who explained
everything. She was sent for at once, and came across the square
to take Sara into her warm arms and make clear to her all that
had happened. The excitement of the totally unexpected discovery
had been temporarily almost overpowering to Mr. Carrisford in his
weak condition.
"Upon my word," he said faintly to Mr. Carmichael, when it was
suggested that the little girl should go into another room. "I
feel as if I do not want to lose sight of her."
"I will take care of her," Janet said, "and mamma will come in a
few minutes." And it was Janet who led her away.
"We're so glad you are found," she said. "You don't know how
glad we are that you are found."
Donald stood with his hands in his pockets, and gazed at Sara
with reflecting and self-reproachful eyes.
"If I'd just asked what your name was when I gave you my
sixpence," he said, "you would have told me it was Sara Crewe,
and then you would have been found in a minute." Then Mrs.
Carmichael came in. She looked very much moved, and suddenly
took Sara in her arms and kissed her.
"You look bewildered, poor child," she said. "And it is not to
be wondered at."
Sara could only think of one thing.
"Was he," she said, with a glance toward the closed door of the
library--"was HE the wicked friend? Oh, do tell me!"
Mrs. Carmichael was crying as she kissed her again. She felt as
if she ought to be kissed very often because she had not been
kissed for so long.
"He was not wicked, my dear," she answered. "He did not really
lose your papa's money. He only thought he had lost it; and
because he loved him so much his grief made him so ill that for a
time he was not in his right mind. He almost died of brain
fever, and long before he began to recover your poor papa was
"And he did not know where to find me," murmured Sara. "And I
was so near." Somehow, she could not forget that she had been so
"He believed you were in school in France," Mrs. Carmichael
explained. "And he was continually misled by false clues. He
has looked for you everywhere. When he saw you pass by, looking
so sad and neglected, he did not dream that you were his friend's
poor child; but because you were a little girl, too, he was sorry
for you, and wanted to make you happier. And he told Ram Dass to
climb into your attic window and try to make you comfortable."
Sara gave a start of joy; her whole look changed.
"Did Ram Dass bring the things?" she cried out. "Did he tell
Ram Dass to do it? Did he make the dream that came true?"
"Yes, my dear--yes! He is kind and good, and he was sorry for
you, for little lost Sara Crewe's sake."
The library door opened and Mr. Carmichael appeared, calling
Sara to him with a gesture.
"Mr. Carrisford is better already," he said. "He wants you to
come to him."
Sara did not wait. When the Indian gentleman looked at her as
she entered, he saw that her face was all alight.
She went and stood before his chair, with her hands clasped
together against her breast.
"You sent the things to me," she said, in a joyful emotional
little voice, "the beautiful, beautiful things? YOU sent them!"
"Yes, poor, dear child, I did," he answered her. He was weak
and broken with long illness and trouble, but he looked at her
with the look she remembered in her father's eyes--that look of
loving her and wanting to take her in his arms. It made her
kneel down by him, just as she used to kneel by her father when
they were the dearest friends and lovers in the world.
"Then it is you who are my friend," she said; "it is you who are
my friend!" And she dropped her face on his thin hand and
kissed it again and again.
"The man will be himself again in three weeks," Mr. Carmichael
said aside to his wife. "Look at his face already."
In fact, he did look changed. Here was the "Little Missus," and
he had new things to think of and plan for already. In the first
place, there was Miss Minchin. She must be interviewed and told
of the change which had taken place in the fortunes of her pupil.
Sara was not to return to the seminary at all. The Indian
gentleman was very determined upon that point. She must remain
where she was, and Mr. Carmichael should go and see Miss Minchin
"I am glad I need not go back," said Sara. "She will be very
angry. She does not like me; though perhaps it is my fault,
because I do not like her."
But, oddly enough, Miss Minchin made it unnecessary for Mr.
Carmichael to go to her, by actually coming in search of her
pupil herself. She had wanted Sara for something, and on inquiry
had heard an astonishing thing. One of the housemaids had seen
her steal out of the area with something hidden under her cloak,
and had also seen her go up the steps of the next door and enter
the house.
"What does she mean!" cried Miss Minchin to Miss Amelia.
"I don't know, I'm sure, sister," answered Miss Amelia. "Unless
she has made friends with him because he has lived in India."
"It would be just like her to thrust herself upon him and try to
gain his sympathies in some such impertinent fashion," said Miss
Minchin. "She must have been in the house for two hours. I will
not allow such presumption. I shall go and inquire into the
matter, and apologize for her intrusion."
Sara was sitting on a footstool close to Mr. Carrisford's knee,
and listening to some of the many things he felt it necessary to
try to explain to her, when Ram Dass announced the visitor's
Sara rose involuntarily, and became rather pale; but Mr.
Carrisford saw that she stood quietly, and showed none of the
ordinary signs of child terror.
Miss Minchin entered the room with a sternly dignified manner.
She was correctly and well dressed, and rigidly polite.
"I am sorry to disturb Mr. Carrisford," she said; "but I have
explanations to make. I am Miss Minchin, the proprietress of the
Young Ladies' Seminary next door."
The Indian gentleman looked at her for a moment in silent
scrutiny. He was a man who had naturally a rather hot temper,
and he did not wish it to get too much the better of him.
"So you are Miss Minchin?" he said.
"I am, sir."
"In that case," the Indian gentleman replied, "you have arrived
at the right time. My solicitor, Mr. Carmichael, was just on the
point of going to see you."
Mr. Carmichael bowed slightly, and Miiss Minchin looked from him
to Mr. Carrisford in amazement.
"Your solicitor!" she said. "I do not understand. I have come
here as a matter of duty. I have just discovered that you have
been intruded upon through the forwardness of one of my pupils--a
charity pupil. I came to explain that she intruded without my
knowledge." She turned upon Sara. "Go home at once," she
commanded indignantly. "You shall be severely punished. Go home
at once."
The Indian gentleman drew Sara to his side and patted her hand.
"She is not going."
Miss Minchin felt rather as if she must be losing her senses.
"Not going!" she repeated.
"No," said Mr. Carrisford. "She is not going home--if you give
your house that name. Her home for the future will be with me."
Miss Minchin fell back in amazed indignation.
"With YOU! With YOU sir! What does this mean?"
"Kindly explain the matter, Carmichael," said the Indian
gentleman; "and get it over as quickly as possible." And he made
Sara sit down again, and held her hands in his--which was another
trick of her papa's.
Then Mr. Carmichael explained--in the quiet, level-toned, steady
manner of a man who knew his subject, and all its legal
significance, which was a thing Miss Minchin understood as a
business woman, and did not enjoy.
"Mr. Carrisford, madam," he said, "was an intimate friend of the
late Captain Crewe. He was his partner in certain large
investments. The fortune which Captain Crewe supposed he had
lost has been recovered, and is now in Mr. Carrisford's hands."
"The fortune!" cried Miss Minchin; and she really lost color as
she uttered the exclamation. "Sara's fortune!"
"It WILL be Sara's fortune," replied Mr. Carmichael, rather
coldly. "It is Sara's fortune now, in fact. Certain events have
increased it enormously. The diamond mines have retrieved
"The diamond mines!" Miss Minchin gasped out. If this was
true, nothing so horrible, she felt, had ever happened to her
since she was born.
"The diamond mines," Mr. Carmichael repeated, and he could not
help adding, with a rather sly, unlawyer-like smile, "There are
not many princesses, Miss Minchin, who are richer than your
little charity pupil, Sara Crewe, will be. Mr. Carrisford has
been searching for her for nearly two years; he has found her at
last, and he will keep her."
After which he asked Miss Minchin to sit down while he explained
matters to her fully, and went into such detail as was necessary
to make it quite clear to her that Sara's future was an assured
one, and that what had seemed to be lost was to be restored to
her tenfold; also, that she had in Mr. Carrisford a guardian as
well as a friend.
Miss Minchin was not a clever woman, and in her excitement she
was silly enough to make one desperate effort to regain what she
could not help seeing she had lost through her worldly folly.
"He found her under my care," she protested. "I have done
everything for her. But for me she should have starved in the
Here the Indian gentleman lost his temper.
"As to starving in the streets," he said, "she might have
starved more comfortably there than in your attic."
"Captain Crewe left her in my charge," Miss Minchin argued. "She
must return to it until she is of age. She can be a parlor
boarder again. She must finish her education. The law will
interfere in my behalf"
"Come, come, Miss Minchin," Mr. Carmichael interposed, "the law
will do nothing of the sort. If Sara herself wishes to return to
you, I dare say Mr. Carrisford might not refuse to allow it. But
that rests with Sara."
"Then," said Miss Minchin, "I appeal to Sara. I have not spoiled
you, perhaps," she said awkwardly to the little girl; "but you
know that your papa was pleased with your progress. And--ahem--I
have always been fond of you."
Sara's green-gray eyes fixed themselves on her with the quiet,
clear look Miss Minchin particularly disliked.
"Have YOU, Miss Minchin?" she said. "I did not know that."
Miss Minchin reddened and drew herself up.
"You ought to have known it," said she; "but children,
unfortunately, never know what is best for them. Amelia and I
always said you were the cleverest child in the school. Will you
not do your duty to your poor papa and come home with me?"
Sara took a step toward her and stood still. She was thinking of
the day when she had been told that she belonged to nobody, and
was in danger of being turned into the street; she was thinking
of the cold, hungry hours she had spent alone with Emily and
Melchisedec in the attic. She looked Miss Minchin steadily in
the face.
"You know why I will not go home with you, Miss Minchin," she
said; "you know quite well."
A hot flush showed itself on Miss Minchin's hard, angry face.
"You will never see your companions again," she began. "I will
see that Ermengarde and Lottie are kept away--"
Mr. Carmichael stopped her with polite firmness.
"Excuse me," he said; "she will see anyone she wishes to see.
The parents of Miss Crewe's fellow-pupils are not likely to
refuse her invitations to visit her at her guardian's house. Mr.
Carrisford will attend to that."
It must be confessed that even Miss Minchin flinched. This was
worse than the eccentric bachelor uncle who might have a peppery
temper and be easily offended at the treatment of his niece. A
woman of sordid mind could easily believe that most people would
not refuse to allow their children to remain friends with a
little heiress of diamond mines. And if Mr. Carrisford chose to
tell certain of her patrons how unhappy Sara Crewe had been made,
many unpleasant things might happen.
"You have not undertaken an easy charge," she said to the Indian
gentleman, as she turned to leave the room; "you will discover
that very soon. The child is neither truthful nor grateful. I
suppose"--to Sara--"that you feel now that you are a princess
Sara looked down and flushed a little, because she thought her
pet fancy might not be easy for strangers--even nice ones--to
understand at first.
"I--TRIED not to be anything else," she answered in a low voice--
"even when I was coldest and hungriest--I tried not to be."
"Now it will not be necessary to try," said Miss Minchin,
acidly, as Ram Dass salaamed her out of the room.
She returned home and, going to her sitting room, sent at once
for Miss Amelia. She sat closeted with her all the rest of the
afternoon, and it must be admitted that poor Miss Amelia passed
through more than one bad quarter of an hour. She shed a good
many tears, and mopped her eyes a good deal. One of her
unfortunate remarks almost caused her sister to snap her head
entirely off, but it resulted in an unusual manner.
"I'm not as clever as you, sister," she said, "and I am always
afraid to say things to you for fear of making you angry.
Perhaps if I were not so timid it would be better for the school
and for both of us. I must say I've often thought it would have
been better if you had been less severe on Sara Crewe, and had
seen that she was decently dressed and more comfortable. I KNOW
she was worked too hard for a child of her age, and I know she
was only half fed--"
"How dare you say such a thing!" exclaimed Miss Minchin.
"I don't know how I dare," Miss Amelia answered, with a kind of
reckless courage; "but now I've begun I may as well finish,
whatever happens to me. The child was a clever child and a good
child--and she would have paid you for any kindness you had
shown her. But you didn't show her any. The fact was, she was
too clever for you, and you always disliked her for that reason.
She used to see through us both--"
"Amelia!" gasped her infuriated elder, looking as if she would
box her ears and knock her cap off, as she had often done to
But Miss Amelia's disappointment had made her hysterical enough
not to care what occurred next.
"She did! She did!" she cried. "She saw through us both. She
saw that you were a hard-hearted, worldly woman, and that I was a
weak fool, and that we were both of us vulgar and mean enough to
grovel on our knees for her money, and behave ill to her because
it was taken from her--though she behaved herself like a little
princess even when she was a beggar. She did--she did--like a
little princess!" And her hysterics got the better of the poor
woman, and she began to laugh and cry both at once, and rock
herself backward and forward.
"And now you've lost her," she cried wildly; "and some other
school will get her and her money; and if she were like any other
child she'd tell how she's been treated, and all our pupils would
be taken away and we should be ruined. And it serves us right;
but it serves you right more than it does me, for you are a hard
woman, Maria Minchin, you're a hard, selfish, worldly woman!"
And she was in danger of making so much noise with her hysterical
chokes and gurgles that her sister was obliged to go to her and
apply salts and sal volatile to quiet her, instead of pouring
forth her indignation at her audacity.
And from that time forward, it may be mentioned, the elder Miss
Minchin actually began to stand a little in awe of a sister who,
while she looked so foolish, was evidently not quite so foolish
as she looked, and might, consequently, break out and speak
truths people did not want to hear.
That evening, when the pupils were gathered together before the
fire in the schoolroom, as was their custom before going to bed,
Ermengarde came in with a letter in her hand and a queer
expression on her round face. It was queer because, while it was
an expression of delighted excitement, it was combined with such
amazement as seemed to belong to a kind of shock just received.
"What IS the matter?" cried two or three voices at once.
"Is it anything to do with the row that has been going on?" said
Lavinia, eagerly. "There has been such a row in Miss Minchin's
room, Miss Amelia has had something like hysterics and has had to
go to bed."
Ermengarde answered them slowly as if she were half stunned.
"I have just had this letter from Sara," she said, holding it out
to let them see what a long letter it was.
"From Sara!" Every voice joined in that exclamation.
"Where is she?" almost shrieked Jessie.
"Next door," said Ermengarde, "with the Indian gentleman."
"Where? Where? Has she been sent away? Does Miss Minchin
know? Was the row about that? Why did she write? Tell us!
Tell us!"
There was a perfect babel, and Lottie began to cry plaintively.
Ermengarde answered them slowly as if she were half plunged out
into what, at the moment, seemed the most important and selfexplaining
"There WERE diamond mines," she said stoutly; "there WERE!" Open
mouths and open eyes confronted her.
"They were real," she hurried on. "It was all a mistake about
them. Something happened for a time, and Mr. Carrisford thought
they were ruined--"
"Who is Mr. Carrisford?" shouted Jessie.
"The Indian gentleman. And Captain Crewe thought so, too--and
he died; and Mr. Carrisford had brain fever and ran away, and HE
almost died. And he did not know where Sara was. And it turned
out that there were millions and millions of diamonds in the
mines; and half of them belong to Sara; and they belonged to her
when she was living in the attic with no one but Melchisedec for
a friend, and the cook ordering her about. And Mr. Carrisford
found her this afternoon, and he has got her in his home--and she
will never come back--and she will be more a princess than she
ever was--a hundred and fifty thousand times more. And I am
going to see her tomorrow afternoon. There!"
Even Miss Minchin herself could scarcely have controlled the
uproar after this; and though she heard the noise, she did not
try. She was not in the mood to face anything more than she was
facing in her room, while Miss Amelia was weeping in bed. She
knew that the news had penetrated the walls in some mysterious
manner, and that every servant and every child would go to bed
talking about it.
So until almost midnight the entire seminary, realizing somehow
that all rules were laid aside, crowded round Ermengarde in the
schoolroom and heard read and re-read the letter containing a
story which was quite as wonderful as any Sara herself had ever
invented, and which had the amazing charm of having happened to
Sara herself and the mystic Indian gentleman in the very next
Becky, who had heard it also, managed to creep up stairs earlier
than usual. She wanted to get away from people and go and look
at the little magic room once more. She did not know what would
happen to it. It was not likely that it would be left to Miss
Minchin. It would be taken away, and the attic would be bare and
empty again. Glad as she was for Sara's sake, she went up the
last flight of stairs with a lump in her throat and tears
blurring her sight. There would be no fire tonight, and no rosy
lamp; no supper, and no princess sitting in the glow reading or
telling stories--no princess!
She choked down a sob as she pushed the attic door open, and
then she broke into a low cry.
The lamp was flushing the room, the fire was blazing, the supper
was waiting; and Ram Dass was standing smiling into her startled
"Missee sahib remembered," he said. "She told the sahib all.
She wished you to know the good fortune which has befallen her.
Behold a letter on the tray. She has written. She did not wish
that you should go to sleep unhappy. The sahib commands you to
come to him tomorrow. You are to be the attendant of missee
sahib. Tonight I take these things back over the roof."
And having said this with a beaming face, he made a little
salaam and slipped through the skylight with an agile silentness
of movement which showed Becky how easily he had done it before.
Never had such joy reigned in the nursery of the Large Family.
Never had they dreamed of such delights as resulted from an
intimate acquaintance with the little-girl-who-was-not-a-beggar.
The mere fact of her sufferings and adventures made her a
priceless possession. Everybody wanted to be told over and over
again the things which had happened to her. When one was sitting
by a warm fire in a big, glowing room, it was quite delightful to
hear how cold it could be in an attic. It must be admitted that
the attic was rather delighted in, and that its coldness and
bareness quite sank into insignificance when Melchisedec was
remembered, and one heard about the sparrows and things one could
see if one climbed on the table and stuck one's head and
shoulders out of the skylight.
Of course the thing loved best was the story of the banquet and
the dream which was true. Sara told it for the first time the
day after she had been found. Several members of the Large
Family came to take tea with her, and as they sat or curled up on
the hearth-rug she told the story in her own way, and the Indian
gentleman listened and watched her. When she had finished she
looked up at him and put her hand on his knee.
"That is my part," she said. "Now won't you tell your part of
it, Uncle Tom?" He had asked her to call him always "Uncle Tom."
"I don't know your part yet, and it must be beautiful."
So he told them how, when he sat alone, ill and dull and
irritable, Ram Dass had tried to distract him by describing the
passers by, and there was one child who passed oftener than any
one else; he had begun to be interested in her--partly perhaps
because he was thinking a great deal of a little girl, and partly
because Ram Dass had been able to relate the incident of his
visit to the attic in chase of the monkey. He had described its
cheerless look, and the bearing of the child, who seemed as if
she was not of the class of those who were treated as drudges and
servants. Bit by bit, Ram Dass had made discoveries concerning
the wretchedness of her life. He had found out how easy a matter
it was to climb across the few yards of roof to the skylight, and
this fact had been the beginning of all that followed.
"Sahib," he had said one day, "I could cross the slates and make
the child a fire when she is out on some errand. When she
returned, wet and cold, to find it blazing, she would think a
magician had done it."
The idea had been so fanciful that Mr. Carrisford's sad face had
lighted with a smile, and Ram Dass had been so filled with
rapture that he had enlarged upon it and explained to his master
how simple it would be to accomplish numbers of other things. He
had shown a childlike pleasure and invention, and the
preparations for the carrying out of the plan had filled many a
day with interest which would otherwise have dragged wearily. On
the night of the frustrated banquet Ram Dass had kept watch, all
his packages being in readiness in the attic which was his own;
and the person who was to help him had waited with him, as
interested as himself in the odd adventure. Ram Dass had been
lying flat upon the slates, looking in at the skylight, when the
banquet had come to its disastrous conclusion; he had been sure
of the profoundness of Sara's wearied sleep; and then, with a
dark lantern, he had crept into the room, while his companion
remained outside and handed the things to him. When Sara had
stirred ever so faintly, Ram Dass had closed the lantern-slide
and lain flat upon the floor. These and many other exciting
things the children found out by asking a thousand questions.
"I am so glad," Sara said. "I am so GLAD it was you who were
my friend!"
There never were such friends as these two became. Somehow,
they seemed to suit each other in a wonderful way. The Indian
gentleman had never had a companion he liked quite as much as he
liked Sara. In a month's time he was, as Mr. Carmichael had
prophesied he would be, a new man. He was always amused and
interested, and he began to find an actual pleasure in the
possession of the wealth he had imagined that he loathed the
burden of. There were so many charming things to plan for Sara.
There was a little joke between them that he was a magician, and
it was one of his pleasures to invent things to surprise her.
She found beautiful new flowers growing in her room, whimsical
little gifts tucked under pillows, and once, as they sat together
in the evening, they heard the scratch of a heavy paw on the
door, and when Sara went to find out what it was, there stood a
great dog--a splendid Russian boarhound--with a grand silver and
gold collar bearing an inscription. "I am Boris," it read; "I
serve the Princess Sara."
There was nothing the Indian gentleman loved more than the
recollection of the little princess in rags and tatters. The
afternoons in which the Large Family, or Ermengarde and Lottie,
gathered to rejoice together were very delightful. But the hours
when Sara and the Indian gentleman sat alone and read or talked
had a special charm of their own. During their passing many
interesting things occurred.
One evening, Mr. Carrisford, looking up from his book, noticed
that his companion had not stirred for some time, but sat gazing
into the fire.
"What are you `supposing,' Sara?" he asked.
Sara looked up, with a bright color on her cheek.
"I WAS supposing," she said; "I was remembering that hungry day,
and a child I saw."
"But there were a great many hungry days," said the Indian
gentleman, with rather a sad tone in his voice. "Which hungry
day was it?"
"I forgot you didn't know," said Sara. "It was the day the
dream came true."
Then she told him the story of the bun shop, and the fourpence
she picked up out of the sloppy mud, and the child who was
hungrier than herself. She told it quite simply, and in as few
words as possible; but somehow the Indian gentleman found it
necessary to shade his eyes with his hand and look down at the
"And I was supposing a kind of plan," she said, when she had
finished. "I was thinking I should like to do something."
"What was it?" said Mr. Carrisford, in a low tone. "You may do
anything you like to do, princess."
"I was wondering," rather hesitated Sara--"you know, you say I
have so much money--I was wondering if I could go to see the bunwoman,
and tell her that if, when hungry children--particularly
on those dreadful days--come and sit on the steps, or look in at
the window, she would just call them in and give them something
to eat, she might send the bills to me. Could I do that?"
"You shall do it tomorrow morning," said the Indian gentleman.
"Thank you," said Sara. "You see, I know what it is to be
hungry, and it is very hard when one cannot even PRETEND it
"Yes, yes, my dear," said the Indian gentleman. "Yes, yes, it
must be. Try to forget it. Come and sit on this footstool near
my knee, and only remember you are a princess."
"Yes," said Sara, smiling; "and I can give buns and bread to the
populace." And she went and sat on the stool, and the Indian
gentleman (he used to like her to call him that, too, sometimes)
drew her small dark head down on his knee and stroked her hair.
The next morning, Miss Minchin, in looking out of her window, saw
the things she perhaps least enjoyed seeing. The Indian
gentleman's carriage, with its tall horses, drew up before the
door of the next house, and its owner and a little figure, warm
with soft, rich furs, descended the steps to get into it. The
little figure was a familiar one, and reminded Miss Minchin of
days in the past. It was followed by another as familiar--the
sight of which she found very irritating. It was Becky, who, in
the character of delighted attendant, always accompanied her
young mistress to her carriage, carrying wraps and belongings.
Already Becky had a pink, round face.
A little later the carriage drew up before the door of the
baker's shop, and its occupants got out, oddly enough, just as
the bun-woman was putting a tray of smoking-hot buns into the
When Sara entered the shop the woman turned and looked at her,
and, leaving the buns, came and stood behind the counter. For a
moment she looked at Sara very hard indeed, and then her goodnatured
face lighted up.
"I'm sure that I remember you, miss," she said. "And yet--"
"Yes," said Sara; "once you gave me six buns for fourpence, and--
"And you gave five of 'em to a beggar child," the woman broke in
on her. "I've always remembered it. I couldn't make it out at
first." She turned round to the Indian gentleman and spoke her
next words to him. "I beg your pardon, sir, but there's not many
young people that notices a hungry face in that way; and I've
thought of it many a time. Excuse the liberty, miss,"--to Sara--
"but you look rosier and--well, better than you did that--that--"
"I am better, thank you," said Sara. "And--I am much happier--
and I have come to ask you to do something for me."
"Me, miss!" exclaimed the bun-woman, smiling cheerfully. "Why,
bless you! Yes, miss. What can I do?"
And then Sara, leaning on the counter, made her little proposal
concerning the dreadful days and the hungry waifs and the buns.
The woman watched her, and listened with an astonished face.
"Why, bless me!" she said again when she had heard it all; "it'll
be a pleasure to me to do it. I am a working-woman myself and
cannot afford to do much on my own account, and there's sights of
trouble on every side; but, if you'll excuse me, I'm bound to say
I've given away many a bit of bread since that wet afternoon,
just along o' thinking of you--an' how wet an' cold you was, an'
how hungry you looked; an' yet you gave away your hot buns as if
you was a princess."
The Indian gentleman smiled involuntarily at this, and Sara
smiled a little, too, remembering what she had said to herself
when she put the buns down on the ravenous child's ragged lap.
"She looked so hungry," she said. "She was even hungrier than I
"She was starving," said the woman. "Many's the time she's told
me of it since--how she sat there in the wet, and felt as if a
wolf was a-tearing at her poor young insides."
"Oh, have you seen her since then?" exclaimed Sara. "Do you
know where she is?"
"Yes, I do," answered the woman, smiling more good-naturedly than
ever. "Why, she's in that there back room, miss, an' has been
for a month; an' a decent, well-meanin' girl she's goin' to turn
out, an' such a help to me in the shop an' in the kitchen as
you'd scarce believe, knowin' how she's lived."
She stepped to the door of the little back parlor and spoke; and
the next minute a girl came out and followed her behind the
counter. And actually it was the beggar-child, clean and neatly
clothed, and looking as if she had not been hungry for a long
time. She looked shy, but she had a nice face, now that she was
no longer a savage, and the wild look had gone from her eyes.
She knew Sara in an instant, and stood and looked at her as if
she could never look enough.
"You see," said the woman, "I told her to come when she was
hungry, and when she'd come I'd give her odd jobs to do; an' I
found she was willing, and somehow I got to like her; and the end
of it was, I've given her a place an' a home, and she helps me,
an' behaves well, an' is as thankful as a girl can be. Her
name's Anne. She has no other."
The children stood and looked at each other for a few minutes;
and then Sara took her hand out of her muff and held it out
across the counter, and Anne took it, and they looked straight
into each other's eyes.
"I am so glad," Sara said. "And I have just thought of
something. Perhaps Mrs. Brown will let you be the one to give
the buns and bread to the children. Perhaps you would like to do
it because you know what it is to be hungry, too."
"Yes, miss," said the girl.
And, somehow, Sara felt as if she understood her, though she
said so little, and only stood still and looked and looked after
her as she went out of the shop with the Indian gentleman, and
they got into the carriage and drove away.

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