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Title: A Little Princess - Being the whole story of Sara Crewe now told for the first time
Author: Burnett, Frances Hodgson, 1849-1924
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Little Princess - Being the whole story of Sara Crewe now told for the first time" ***

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[Illustration: "I am _not_--I am _not_ dreaming!"]



  A
  LITTLE PRINCESS

  BEING THE WHOLE STORY OF SARA CREWE
  NOW TOLD FOR THE FIRST TIME

  BY
  FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT

  WITH ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLORS BY
  ETHEL FRANKLIN BETTS

  CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS
  NEW YORK . . . . . 1937



  COPYRIGHT, 1888 AND 1905, BY
  CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS

  COPYRIGHT, 1916, BY
  FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT

  Printed in the United States of America

  _All rights reserved. No part of this book
  may be reproduced in any form without
  the permission of Charles Scribner's Sons_

  [Illustration]



_THE WHOLE OF THE STORY_


_I do not know whether many people realize how much more than is ever
written there really is in a story--how many parts of it are never
told--how much more really happened than there is in the book one holds
in one's hand and pores over. Stories are something like letters. When a
letter is written, how often one remembers things omitted and says, "Ah,
why did I not tell them that?" In writing a book one relates all that
one remembers at the time, and if one told all that really happened
perhaps the book would never end. Between the lines of every story there
is another story, and that is one that is never heard and can only be
guessed at by the people who are good at guessing. The person who writes
the story may never know all of it, but sometimes he does and wishes he
had the chance to begin again._

_When I wrote the story of "Sara Crewe" I guessed that a great deal
more had happened at Miss Minchin's than I had had time to find out
just then. I knew, of course, that there must have been chapters full
of things going on all the time; and when I began to make a play out
of the book and called it "A Little Princess," I discovered three acts
full of things. What interested me most was that I found that there
had been girls at the school whose names I had not even known before.
There was a little girl whose name was Lottie, who was an amusing
little person; there was a hungry scullery-maid who was Sara's adoring
friend; Ermengarde was much more entertaining than she had seemed at
first; things happened in the garret which had never been hinted at in
the book; and a certain gentleman whose name was Melchisedec was an
intimate friend of Sara's who should never have been left out of the
story if he had only walked into it in time. He and Becky and Lottie
lived at Miss Minchin's, and I cannot understand why they did not
mention themselves to me at first. They were as real as Sara, and it
was careless of them not to come out of the story shadowland and say,
"Here I am--tell about me." But they did not--which was their fault
and not mine. People who live in the story one is writing ought to
come forward at the beginning and tap the writing person on the
shoulder and say, "Hallo, what about me?" If they don't, no one can
be blamed but themselves and their slouching, idle ways._

_After the play of "A Little Princess" was produced in New York, and so
many children went to see it and liked Becky and Lottie and Melchisedec,
my publishers asked me if I could not write Sara's story over again and
put into it all the things and people who had been left out before, and
so I have done it; and when I began I found there were actually pages
and pages of things which had happened that had never been put even into
the play, so in this new "Little Princess" I have put all I have been
able to discover._

                                      _FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT._



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER                               PAGE

      I  SARA                              3

     II  A FRENCH LESSON                  16

    III  ERMENGARDE                       24

     IV  LOTTIE                           34

      V  BECKY                            45

     VI  THE DIAMOND-MINES                58

    VII  THE DIAMOND-MINES AGAIN          72

   VIII  IN THE ATTIC                     97

     IX  MELCHISEDEC                     110

      X  THE INDIAN GENTLEMAN            124

     XI  RAM DASS                        139

    XII  THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WALL      151

   XIII  ONE OF THE POPULACE             162

    XIV  WHAT MELCHISEDEC HEARD AND SAW  175

     XV  THE MAGIC                       182

    XVI  THE VISITOR                     213

   XVII  "IT IS THE CHILD!"              233

  XVIII  "I TRIED NOT TO BE"             243

    XIX  "ANNE"                          258



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


  "I am _not_--I am _not_ dreaming!"                     _Frontispiece_

  She was not abashed at all by the many pairs of eyes watching her  16

  More than once she had been known to have a tea-party              38

  The children crowded clamoring around her                          76

  She seldom cried. She did not cry now                              94

  The sparrows twittered and hopped about quite without fear        112

  The beggar girl was still huddled up in the corner                168

  She sat down and held him on her knee                             230

  Noticed that his companion ... sat gazing into the fire           260



A LITTLE PRINCESS



CHAPTER I

SARA


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 odd-looking 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 of?"

"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 arm
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:

                           MISS MINCHIN,
                  Select Seminary for Young Ladies.

"Here we are, Sara," said Captain Crewe, making his voice sound as
cheerful as possible. Then he lifted her out of the cab and they mounted
the steps and rang the bell. Sara often thought afterward that the house
was somehow exactly like Miss Minchin. It was respectable and well
furnished, but everything in it was ugly; and the very arm-chairs
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 quite as solemn as you are."

"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 friend."

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
answered.

"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 creature!"

"Yes," said Captain Crewe, drawing Sara close. "She is a darling little
creature. Take great care of her for me, Miss Minchin."

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 finally discovered her.

"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 undressed.

"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 some one she was intimate
with and fond of.

"She is actually waiting for us!" she said. "Let us go in to her."

"Dear me!" said Captain Crewe; "I feel as if we ought to have some one
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, too."

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 night-gowns, 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 face.

"Are you learning me by heart, little Sara," he said, stroking her hair.

"No," she answered. "I know you by heart. You are inside my heart." And
they put their arms round each 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 down-stairs 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
school-children to church on Sunday. She has been provided for as if she
were a little princess."

And up-stairs 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.



CHAPTER II

A FRENCH LESSON


When Sara entered the school-room 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 feet."

"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."

[Illustration: She was not abashed at all by the many pairs of eyes
watching her.]

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 school-room frock and tied
her hair with a dark-blue ribbon, she went to Emily, who sat in a chair
of her own, and gave her a book.

"You can read that while I am down-stairs," 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 drôle!_" Mariette said to herself, and when she went
down-stairs 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 school-room 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 courtesy, and
then they sat down and looked at each other again.

"Sara," said Miss Minchin in her school-room 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 language."

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 Frenchwoman, 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 père_" meant "the father," and "_la mère_" 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 frère_" meant "the brother."

"When Monsieur Dufarge comes," she thought, "I can make him understand."

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 Minchin.

"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 eye-glasses, 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 on 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.



CHAPTER III

ERMENGARDE


On that first morning, when Sara sat at Miss Minchin's side, aware that
the whole school-room 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 round 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 mère_"
meant "the mother," and "_le père_," "the father,"--when one spoke
sensible English,--it was almost too much for her to suddenly 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 to rather like her
and want to be her friend. It was a way of hers always to want to spring
into any fray in which some one 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 every one 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 nice and friendly
about Sara, and people always felt it.

"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 Eliza!"

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 it!"

"Why?" inquired Sara, curiously.

Ermengarde shook her head so that the pigtail wabbled.

"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 done.

"Come up to my room and see," said Sara, holding out her hand.

They jumped down from the window-seat together, and went up-stairs.

"Is it true," Ermengarde whispered, as they went through the hall--"is
it true that you have a play-room 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 breath.

"You _make up_ stories!" she gasped. "Can you do that--as well as speak
French? _Can_ you?"

Sara looked at her in simple surprise.

"Why, any one can make up things," she said. "Have you never tried?"

She put her hand warningly on Ermengarde's.

"Let us go very quietly to the door," she whispered, "and then I will
open it 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 exclaimed.
"Of course they always do. They are as quick as lightning."

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 down-stairs.

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 not.

"Have you a--a pain?" Ermengarde ventured.

"Yes," Sara answered, after a moment's silence. "But it is not in my
body." Then she added something in a low 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 any one 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."



CHAPTER IV

LOTTIE


If Sara had been a different kind of child, the life she led at Miss
Minchin's Select Seminary for the next ten 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
every one 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 temper.

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 characters.

"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 only 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.

[Illustration: More than once she had been known to have a
tea-party....]

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 class.

Lottie 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!" Lottie howled tempestuously. "Haven't--got--any--mam--ma-a!"

"She ought to be whipped," Miss Minchin proclaimed. "You _shall_ be
whipped, you naughty child!"

Lottie wailed more loudly than ever. Miss Amelia began to cry. Miss
Minchin's voice rose until it 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 matter.

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 smile.

"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--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
half-whisper; "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 room."

Lottie 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 night-gowns, who were said to
be angels. But Sara seemed to be telling a real story about a lovely
country where real people were.

"There are fields and fields of flowers," she said, forgetting herself,
as usual, when she began, and talking rather as 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 armsful of them, and
laugh and make little wreaths. And the streets are shining. And no one
is ever 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 on
to 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 school."

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
up-stairs 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.



CHAPTER V

BECKY


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.

Any one 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 it 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
school-room. 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
people.

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 school-room 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 clearly.

"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 story-teller 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 coal-scuttles 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 every one 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.

To-day 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_ imperence!"

Sara broke into a friendly little laugh, and put her hand on her
shoulder.

"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 any one'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 woful 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 cheek.

"Why," she said, "we are just the same--I am only a little girl like
you. It's just an accident that I am not you, and you are not me!"

Becky did not understand in the least. Her mind could not grasp such
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
minutes?"

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 every one 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 rest?"

Becky lost her breath again.

"Me hear it?" she cried. "Like as if I was a pupil, miss! All about the
Prince--and the little white Merbabies 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 down-stairs, 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."



CHAPTER VI

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 school-room; 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
existed.

"My mamma has a diamond ring which cost forty pounds," she said. "And it
is not a big one, either. If there were mines full of diamonds, people
would be so rich it would 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
school-room 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 scoldings 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 minutes."

It happened that Lottie had been seized with a sudden desire to play in
the school-room, 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 school-room 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 manage.

"It makes me feel as if some one 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 ill-tempered."

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 school-room 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 commanded.

"I'm not a cry-baby--I'm not!" wailed Lottie. "Sara, Sa--ra!"

"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 again.

Sara flew across the room and, kneeling down, put her arms round her.

"Now, Lottie," she said. "Now, Lottie, you _promised_ Sara."

"She said I was a cry-baby," wept Lottie.

Sara patted her, but spoke in the steady voice Lottie knew.

"But if you cry, you will be one, Lottie pet. You _promised_."

Lottie remembered that she had promised, but she preferred to lift up
her voice.

"I haven't any mamma," she proclaimed. "I haven't--a bit--of mamma."

"Yes, you have," said Sara, cheerfully. "Have you forgotten? Don't you
know that Sara is your mamma? Don't you want Sara for your mamma?"

Lottie cuddled up to her with a consoled sniff.

"Come and sit in the window-seat with me," Sara went on, "and I'll
whisper a story to you."

"Will you?" whimpered Lottie. "Will you--tell me--about the
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 one."

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 of 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 up-stairs 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
instalments, things of a satisfying nature were either produced and
eaten or hastily tucked into pockets to be disposed of at night, when
Becky went up-stairs 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 'evingly 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
instalment 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 business man 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 school-room
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 school-room 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 yourself."

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 any
one 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."



CHAPTER VII

THE DIAMOND-MINES AGAIN


When Sara entered the holly-hung school-room 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 man-servant 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 courtesy 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 door.

"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 eye-glass 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 courtesies, 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 ladies."

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 down-stairs 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 announced.

"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
school-room 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 to-day."

"_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 manner."

"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 school-room 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
courtesy--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 ladylike 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," some one gasped.

Lottie clapped her hands and danced about, giggling.

"She's dressed for the theatre," 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 things."

[Illustration: The children crowded clamoring around 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 school-room 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 real."

"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
thoughtful.

"I _believe_ I could," she said. "If one was a beggar, one would have
to suppose and pretend all the time. But it mightn't be easy."

She often thought afterward how strange it was that just as she had
finished 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 school-room."

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 reverently pick up 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
table-cloth.

Miss Minchin came into the room, accompanied by a sharp-featured, 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
eye-glasses 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 indifferently.

"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
understand."

"Birthday presents," said Mr. Barrow in the same critical manner, "to a
child eleven years old! Mad extravagance, I call it."

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
business man 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 ruin."

Miss Minchin lost her breath.

"Ruin!" she gasped out.

"Lost every penny. That young man had too much money. The dear friend
was mad on the subject 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 penny."

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 heiress?"

Mr. Barrow was a shrewd business man, and felt it as well to make his
own freedom from responsibility quite clear without any delay.

"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 refreshments.

"It is monstrous!" she said. "She's in my sitting-room at this moment,
dressed in silk gauze and lace petticoats, giving a party at my
expense."

"She's giving it at your expense, madam, 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 any one 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
eye-glasses and slipping them into his pocket. "Captain Crewe is dead.
The child is left a pauper. Nobody is responsible for her but you."

"I am not responsible for her, and I refuse to be made responsible!"

Miss Minchin became quite white with rage.

Mr. Barrow turned to go.

"I have nothing to do with that, madam," 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 hard-hearted.

"Better keep her and make use of her," he added. "She's a clever child,
I believe. You can get a good deal out of her as she grows older."

"I will get a good deal out of her before she grows older!" exclaimed
Miss Minchin.

"I am sure you will, ma'am," said Mr. Barrow, with a little sinister
smile. "I am sure you will. Good morning!"

He bowed himself out and closed the door, and it must be confessed that
Miss Minchin stood for a few moments and glared at it. What he had said
was quite true. She knew it. She had absolutely no redress. Her show
pupil had melted into nothingness, leaving only a friendless, beggared
little girl. Such money as she herself had advanced was lost and could
not be regained.

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 irony.

"A black frock?" Miss Amelia stammered again. "A _black_ one?"

"She has frocks of every other color. Has she a black one?"

Miss Amelia began to turn pale.

"No--ye-es!" she said. "But it is too short for her. She has only the
old black velvet, and 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 happened?"

Miss Minchin wasted no words.

"Captain Crewe is dead," she said. "He has died without a penny. That
spoiled, pampered, fanciful child is left a pauper on my hands."

Miss Amelia sat down quite heavily in 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 up-stairs 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 cover.

"What is that!" she exclaimed angrily. The loud, sobbing sniff was heard
again, and she stooped and raised the hanging folds of the table-cover.

"How _dare_ you!" she cried out. "How _dare_ you! Come out immediately!"

It was poor Becky who crawled out, and her cap was knocked on one side,
and her 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 Minchin.

"No, mum," Becky protested, bobbing courtesies. "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 courtesied again, the tears openly streaming down her cheeks.

"Yes, 'm; I will, 'm," she said, trembling; "but oh, I just wanted to
arst you: Miss Sara--she's been such a rich young lady, an' she's been
waited on, 'and and foot; an' what will she do now, mum, without 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 break.

"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 school-room 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 school-room
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
up-stairs. 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 up-stairs 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 school-room. She looked instead a strange,
desolate, almost grotesque little figure.

She had put on, without Mariette's help, the cast-aside black-velvet
frock. It was too short and tight, and her 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 word.

"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 her!"

Sara turned her head toward the chair.

"The Last Doll," she said. "The Last Doll." And her little mournful
voice had an odd sound.

"The Last Doll, indeed!" said Miss Minchin. "And she is mine, not yours.
Everything you own is mine."

"Please take it away from me, then," said Sara. "I do not want it."

If she had cried and sobbed and seemed frightened, Miss Minchin might
almost 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 school-room. 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 breast.

"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, unchildishly 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 little.

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.

[Illustration: She seldom cried. She did not cry now.]

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
down-stairs 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 indeed.

"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 any more."

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."



CHAPTER VIII

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 any one 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 dead!"

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 some one 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
school-room, 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 wives."

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 school-room.

"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 like 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 about 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 any one. 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
down-stairs; she was treated as if she was nobody's concern, and her
heart grew proud and sore, but she never told any one 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 war."

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 down-stairs
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 down-stairs 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 any one 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
over-sensitive.

"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 voice.

"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
school-room. 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 some one has
lighted a candle."

Some one 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 some one was sitting upon the
battered footstool, and was dressed in her night-gown 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 lonely.

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 to-night, 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 curiosity.

"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 Château 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 comfort."

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."



CHAPTER IX

MELCHISEDEC


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
school-room 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 Lottie. "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 down-stairs," she said.

"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 out.

[Illustration: The sparrows twittered and hopped about quite without
fear.]

Any one 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 some one 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 school-room, 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 down-stairs!"

"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 coming!"

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 others."

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 down-stairs again, and, after setting
her in 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 mind.

"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 timid.

"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 it."

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 some one.

"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_ some one. 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 night-gown 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 him?"

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 said.

"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 round 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 knees.

"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 down-stairs again and creep back into her deserted bed.



CHAPTER X

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 down-stairs
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 to
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, indeed!"

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 sixpence."

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 courtesy."

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-girl-who-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 school-room 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 to-day, 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 some day 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 any one 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 arm-chairs and sofas, and I
can see that their red-flowery wall-paper 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
teak-wood, 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 teak-wood 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 new-comers 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.

"Some one 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 new-comers 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 penny."

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.



CHAPTER XI

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 turquoise-blue, 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 up-stairs.

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. Some one had come to look at the
sunset as she had. There was a head and 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 him.

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 come.

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 school-room 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 off."

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 the 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 better."

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 nothing."

The morning after the interview with Ram Dass and his monkey, Sara was
in the school-room 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 neatherd. 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 neatherd'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 gasped.

"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 daring.

"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 school-room! Attend to your lessons, young ladies!"

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!"



CHAPTER XII

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
school-room 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 mines.

"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 arm-chair 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 mine."

"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 this 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 name."

"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 so?"

"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 to-day, 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.



CHAPTER XIII

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 cosey 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.

"'T warn't for you, miss," she said hoarsely to Sara one night when she
had crept into the attic--"'t warn'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 cocoanut-trees. I wonder who
caught him, and if he left a family behind who had depended on him for
cocoanuts."

"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 practised enough. I've been practising 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 stopping."

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 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' to-day--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 window.

"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 fourpence."

"I'll throw in two for makeweight," said the woman, with her
good-natured look. "I dare say you can eat them sometime. Aren't
you hungry?"

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 out.

[Illustration: The beggar girl was still huddled up in the corner.]

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 herself.

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 bites.

"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-by," 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 she?"

The child nodded.

"How many?"

"Five."

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 'tain't as bad as it was."

"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 traveller 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 Czar?"

"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 brougham.

"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 some one
who was quite rich--some one 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.



CHAPTER XIV

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 reconnoitre, 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 sits 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 spoiled."

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 stairs."

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 to-night." 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 pocket.

"It is a strange way of doing the thing," he said. "Who planned it?"

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.



CHAPTER XV

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
down-stairs 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 some
one 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
to-night 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 lop-sided footstool. "Oh,
there's Melchisedec, poor thing. He's come to ask for his supper."

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 head.

"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 to-night, 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 are."

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 anything."

"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 heaved.

"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 mind.

"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 forgotten."

"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 that 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 to-night. 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 attic.

"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 times 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 elbow!"

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 could."

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?"

"Perhaps I didn't," said Sara; "but I thought I did. It sounded as if
something was on the slates--something that dragged softly."

"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, panic-stricken.

"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 her.

"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 instant."

Both Sara and Ermengarde heard the slap, and then heard Becky run in her
slip-shod shoes up the stairs and into her attic. They heard her door
shut, and knew that she threw herself upon her bed.

"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 policeman."

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 hungry?"

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 wofully; "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 had
nothing."

Ermengarde gave a little jump backward. The last sentences had recalled
something to her troubled mind and given her a sudden inspiration.

"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 red-currant 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 hear."

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 hear."

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
excitement.

"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 worshippingly.

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 table-cloth."

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
information.

"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 centrepiece."

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-hall!"

"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 indeed.

"Oh, Sara!" she cried out. "You are the cleverest girl I ever saw!"

"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 Sara.

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 grate.

"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 party."

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--listening--listening.

Some one 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 truth."

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 morning!"

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 to-morrow. You shall have neither breakfast,
dinner, nor supper!"

"I have not had either dinner or supper to-day, 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 to-morrow, and I shall write to your papa. What would _he_ say
if he knew where you are to-night?"

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 school-room.

"What were you wondering?"

It was very like the scene in the school-room. 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 to-night."

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 cosey as this except in some lovely vision.

"What a nice dream!" she murmured. "I feel quite warm.
I--don't--want--to--wake--up."

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 last.

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 can't."

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 tea-pot; 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 back.

"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 be!"

She threw it over her shoulders, and put her feet into the slippers.

"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 fly-leaf--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 up!"

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
happen."



CHAPTER XVI

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 else 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 bewildering.

"I don't know any one in the world who could have done it," she
said; "but there has been some one. 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--some one 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 purpose."

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
to-night, anyways, an' I sha'n'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 school-room 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 school-room this morning, I should think--after what's
happened. She had no dinner yesterday, and she's not to have any
to-day."

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 down-stairs 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
school-room, 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 to-day, she must surely have broken down. It would
be strange indeed if she did not come down-stairs with pale cheeks and
red eyes and an unhappy, humbled face.

Miss Minchin saw her for the first time when she entered the school-room
to hear the little French class 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 desk.

"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
lifted them and made her perfectly respectful answer.

"I beg your pardon, Miss Minchin," she said; "I know that I am in
disgrace."

"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
to-day."

"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--"what_ever_
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 breakfast-time 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 up-stairs. She had
been told to go into the school-room 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 fast.

"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 real."

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!" just as she had done in the
scullery.

"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 book-shelf 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 down-stairs 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 school-room. 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 knew!"

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 crow."

"Starved!" exclaimed Miss Minchin, angrily. "There was no reason why she
should look starved. She always had plenty to eat!"

"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 vagueness.

"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 school-room 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
heart.

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 took 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 her.

"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, "some one 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 down-stairs and learn your lessons in the school-room. You
need not go out on any more errands to-day."

About half an hour afterward, when the school-room door opened and Sara
walked in, the entire seminary was struck dumb with amazement.

"My word!" ejaculated Jessie, jogging Lavinia's elbow. "Look at the
Princess Sara!"

Everybody was looking, and when Lavinia looked she turned quite red.

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 some one has left her a fortune," Jessie whispered. "I always
thought something would happen to her. She is 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 school-room 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. Any one 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 fire.

"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 LITTLE GIRL IN THE ATTIC."

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 had 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 and lovingly understood their timid wildness.

"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 toward 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 took friendly hold of a piece of her
hair, looking up into her face.

"Nice monkey! Nice monkey!" she crooned, kissing his funny head. "Oh, I
do love little animal things."

[Illustration: She sat down and held him on her knee.]

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 to-night, and then take him back to the
Indian gentleman to-morrow. 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.



CHAPTER XVII

"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 to-day 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 violently.

"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 much."

"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 _un_-fairy
princess."

"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 lost."

"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 girl."

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 into his
chair.

"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 door."

"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. Carrisford 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 interest.

"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; "Carmichael!"

"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 me."

"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 side.

"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. Carmichael.

"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 years."

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."



CHAPTER XVIII

"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 dead."

"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 near.

"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 himself.

"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 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 arrival.

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 Miss 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 themselves."

"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 own worldly folly.

"He found her under my care," she protested. "I have done everything
for her. But for me she would have starved in the streets."

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 any one 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 again."

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 Becky.

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
before 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 in such a way as made Miss
Minchin stare aghast.

"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 school-room, 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, still slowly; "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 self-explaining
thing.

"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 to-morrow 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 school-room 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 house.

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 to-night,
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 face.

"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 to-morrow. You are to be
the attendant of missee sahib. To-night 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.



CHAPTER XIX

"ANNE"


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 had 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 in raised letters.
"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.

[Illustration: Noticed that his companion ... sat gazing into the fire.]

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 carpet.

"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 bun-woman, 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 to-morrow 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 away."

"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 upon his knee and stroked her hair.

The next morning, Miss Minchin, in looking out of her window, saw the
thing 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 window.

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 good-natured 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 hot 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 was."

"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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Transcriber's notes: Spaces have been removed from contractions like
"she 's" and "you 'd". Original spelling and hyphenation have been
preserved. The illustrations have been moved slightly for reader
convenience.





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