Part 1 out of 5
A Little Princess
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
A LITTLE PRINCESS
Summary: Sara Crewe, a pupil at Miss Minchin's London school, is
left in poverty when her father dies, but is later rescued by a
1. Sara 2. A French Lesson 3. Ermengarde 4. Lottie 5. Becky 6.
The Diamond Mines 7. The Diamond Mines Again 8. In the Attic 9.
Melchisedec 10. The Indian Gentleman 11. Ram Dass 12. The Other
Side of the Wall 13. One of the Populace 14. What Melchisedec
Heard and Saw 15. The Magic 16. The Visitor 17. "It Is the Child"
18. "I Tried Not to Be" 19. Anne
A Little Princess
Once on a dark winter's day, when the yellow fog hung so thick
and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted
and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, an 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
"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
He laughed at her old-fashioned speech and kissed her. He was
really not at all resigned himself, though he knew he must keep
that a secret. His quaint little Sara had been a great companion
to him, and he felt he should be a lonely fellow when, on his
return to India, he went into his bungalow knowing he need not
expect to see the small figure in its white frock come forward to
meet him. So he held her very closely in his arms as the cab
rolled into the big, dull square in which stood the house which
was their destination.
It was a big, dull, brick house, exactly like all the others in
its row, but that on the front door there shone a brass plate on
which was engraved in black letters:
Select Seminary for Young Ladies.
"Here we are, Sara," said Captain Crewe, making his voice sound
as cheerful as possible. Then he lifted her out of the cab and
they mounted the steps and rang the bell. Sara often thought
afterward that the house was somehow exactly like Miss Minchin.
It was respectable and well furnished, but everything in it was
ugly; and the very armchairs seemed to have hard bones in them.
In the hall everything was hard and polished--even the red cheeks
of the moon face on the tall clock in the corner had a severe
varnished look. The drawing room into which they were ushered
was covered by a carpet with a square pattern upon it, the chairs
were square, and a heavy marble timepiece stood upon the heavy
As she sat down in one of the stiff mahogany chairs, Sara cast
one of her quick looks about her.
"I don't like it, papa," she said. "But then I dare say
soldiers-- even brave ones--don't really LIKE going into battle."
Captain Crewe laughed outright at this. He was young and full
of fun, and he never tired of hearing Sara's queer speeches.
"Oh, little Sara," he said. "What shall I do when I have no one
to say solemn things to me? No one else is as solemn as you
"But why do solemn things make you laugh so?" inquired Sara.
"Because you are such fun when you say them," he answered,
laughing still more. And then suddenly he swept her into his
arms and kissed her very hard, stopping laughing all at once and
looking almost as if tears had come into his eyes.
It was just then that Miss Minchin entered the room. She was
very like her house, Sara felt: tall and dull, and respectable
and ugly. She had large, cold, fishy eyes, and a large, cold,
fishy smile. It spread itself into a very large smile when she
saw Sara and Captain Crewe. She had heard a great many desirable
things of the young soldier from the lady who had recommended her
school to him. Among other things, she had heard that he was a
rich father who was willing to spend a great deal of money on his
"It will be a great privilege to have charge of such a beautiful
and promising child, Captain Crewe," she said, taking Sara's
hand and stroking it. "Lady Meredith has told me of her unusual
cleverness. A clever child is a great treasure in an
establishment like mine."
Sara stood quietly, with her eyes fixed upon Miss Minchin's
face. She was thinking something odd, as usual.
"Why does she say I am a beautiful child?" she was thinking. "I
am not beautiful at all. Colonel Grange's little girl, Isobel,
is beautiful. She has dimples and rose-colored cheeks, and long
hair the color of gold. I have short black hair and green eyes;
besides which, I am a thin child and not fair in the least. I
am one of the ugliest children I ever saw. She is beginning by
telling a story."
She was mistaken, however, in thinking she was an ugly child.
She was not in the least like Isobel Grange, who had been the
beauty of the regiment, but she had an odd charm of her own. She
was a slim, supple creature, rather tall for her age, and had an
intense, attractive little face. Her hair was heavy and quite
black and only curled at the tips; her eyes were greenish gray,
it is true, but they were big, wonderful eyes with long, black
lashes, and though she herself did not like the color of them,
many other people did. Still she was very firm in her belief
that she was an ugly little girl, and she was not at all elated
by Miss Minchin's flattery.
"I should be telling a story if I said she was beautiful," she
thought; "and I should know I was telling a story. I believe I
am as ugly as she is--in my way. What did she say that for?"
After she had known Miss Minchin longer she learned why she had
said it. She discovered that she said the same thing to each
papa and mamma who brought a child to her school.
Sara stood near her father and listened while he and Miss Minchin
talked. She had been brought to the seminary because Lady
Meredith's two little girls had been educated there, and Captain
Crewe had a great respect for Lady Meredith's experience. Sara
was to be what was known as "a parlor boarder," and she was to
enjoy even greater privileges than parlor boarders usually did.
She was to have a pretty bedroom and sitting room of her own; she
was to have a pony and a carriage, and a maid to take the place
of the ayah who had been her nurse in India.
"I am not in the least anxious about her education," Captain
Crewe said, with his gay laugh, as he held Sara's hand and patted
it. "The difficulty will be to keep her from learning too fast
and too much. She is always sitting with her little nose
burrowing into books. She doesn't read them, Miss Minchin; she
gobbles them up as if she were a little wolf instead of a little
girl. She is always starving for new books to gobble, and she
wants grown-up books--great, big, fat ones--French and German as
well as English--history and biography and poets, and all sorts of
things. Drag her away from her books when she reads too much.
Make her ride her pony in the Row or go out and buy a new doll.
She ought to play more with dolls."
"Papa," said Sara, "you see, if I went out and bought a new doll
every few days I should have more than I could be fond of. Dolls
ought to be intimate friends. Emily is going to be my intimate
Captain Crewe looked at Miss Minchin and Miss Minchin looked at
"Who is Emily?" she inquired.
"Tell her, Sara," Captain Crewe said, smiling.
Sara's green-gray eyes looked very solemn and quite soft as she
"She is a doll I haven't got yet," she said. "She is a doll
papa is going to buy for me. We are going out together to find
her. I have called her Emily. She is going to be my friend when
papa is gone. I want her to talk to about him."
Miss Minchin's large, fishy smile became very flattering indeed.
"What an original child!" she said. "What a darling little
"Yes," said Captain Crewe, drawing Sara close. "She is a
darling little creature. Take great care of her for me, Miss
Sara stayed with her father at his hotel for several days; in
fact, she remained with him until he sailed away again to India.
They went out and visited many big shops together, and bought a
great many things. They bought, indeed, a great many more things
than Sara needed; but Captain Crewe was a rash, innocent young
man and wanted his little girl to have everything she admired and
everything he admired himself, so between them they collected a
wardrobe much too grand for a child of seven. There were velvet
dresses trimmed with costly furs, and lace dresses, and
embroidered ones, and hats with great, soft ostrich feathers, and
ermine coats and muffs, and boxes of tiny gloves and
handkerchiefs and silk stockings in such abundant supplies that
the polite young women behind the counters whispered to each
other that the odd little girl with the big, solemn eyes must be
at least some foreign princess--perhaps the little daughter of an
And at last they found Emily, but they went to a number of toy
shops and looked at a great many dolls before they discovered
"I want her to look as if she wasn't a doll really," Sara said.
"I want her to look as if she LISTENS when I talk to her. The
trouble with dolls, papa"--and she put her head on one side and
reflected as she said it--"the trouble with dolls is that they
never seem to HEAR." So they looked at big ones and little ones--
at dolls with black eyes and dolls with blue--at dolls with
brown curls and dolls with golden braids, dolls dressed and dolls
"You see," Sara said when they were examining one who had no
clothes. "If, when I find her, she has no frocks, we can take
her to a dressmaker and have her things made to fit. They will
fit better if they are tried on."
After a number of disappointments they decided to walk and look
in at the shop windows and let the cab follow them. They had
passed two or three places without even going in, when, as they
were approaching a shop which was really not a very large one,
Sara suddenly started and clutched her father's arm.
"Oh, papa!" she cried. "There is Emily!"
A flush had risen to her face and there was an expression in her
green-gray eyes as if she had just recognized someone she was
intimate with and fond of.
"She is actually waiting there for us!" she said. "Let us go in
"Dear me," said Captain Crewe, "I feel as if we ought to have
someone to introduce us."
"You must introduce me and I will introduce you," said Sara.
"But I knew her the minute I saw her--so perhaps she knew me,
Perhaps she had known her. She had certainly a very intelligent
expression in her eyes when Sara took her in her arms. She was a
large doll, but not too large to carry about easily; she had
naturally curling golden-brown hair, which hung like a mantle
about her, and her eyes were a deep, clear, gray-blue, with
soft, thick eyelashes which were real eyelashes and not mere
"Of course," said Sara, looking into her face as she held her on
her knee, "of course papa, this is Emily."
So Emily was bought and actually taken to a children's
outfitter's shop and measured for a wardrobe as grand as Sara's
own. She had lace frocks, too, and velvet and muslin ones, and
hats and coats and beautiful lace-trimmed underclothes, and
gloves and handkerchiefs and furs.
"I should like her always to look as if she was a child with a
good mother," said Sara. "I'm her mother, though I am going to
make a companion of her."
Captain Crewe would really have enjoyed the shopping
tremendously, but that a sad thought kept tugging at his heart.
This all meant that he was going to be separated from his
beloved, quaint little comrade.
He got out of his bed in the middle of that night and went and
stood looking down at Sara, who lay asleep with Emily in her
arms. Her black hair was spread out on the pillow and Emily's
golden-brown hair mingled with it, both of them had lace-ruffled
nightgowns, and both had long eyelashes which lay and curled up
on their cheeks. Emily looked so like a real child that Captain
Crewe felt glad she was there. He drew a big sigh and pulled his
mustache with a boyish expression.
"Heigh-ho, little Sara!" he said to himself "I don't believe you
know how much your daddy will miss you."
The next day he took her to Miss Minchin's and left her there.
He was to sail away the next morning. He explained to Miss
Minchin that his solicitors, Messrs. Barrow & Skipworth, had
charge of his affairs in England and would give her any advice
she wanted, and that they would pay the bills she sent in for
Sara's expenses. He would write to Sara twice a week, and she
was to be given every pleasure she asked for.
"She is a sensible little thing, and she never wants anything it
isn't safe to give her," he said.
Then he went with Sara into her little sitting room and they
bade each other good-by. Sara sat on his knee and held the lapels
of his coat in her small hands, and looked long and hard at his
"Are you learning me by heart, little Sara?" he said, stroking
"No," she answered. "I know you by heart. You are inside my
heart." And they put their arms round each other and kissed as
if they would never let each other go.
When the cab drove away from the door, Sara was sitting on the
floor of her sitting room, with her hands under her chin and her
eyes following it until it had turned the corner of the square.
Emily was sitting by her, and she looked after it, too. When
Miss Minchin sent her sister, Miss Amelia, to see what the child
was doing, she found she could not open the door.
"I have locked it," said a queer, polite little voice from
inside. "I want to be quite by myself, if you please."
Miss Amelia was fat and dumpy, and stood very much in awe of her
sister. She was really the better-natured person of the two, but
she never disobeyed Miss Minchin. She went downstairs again,
looking almost alarmed.
"I never saw such a funny, old-fashioned child, sister," she
said. "She has locked herself in, and she is not making the
least particle of noise."
"It is much better than if she kicked and screamed, as some of
them do," Miss Minchin answered. "I expected that a child as
much spoiled as she is would set the whole house in an uproar.
If ever a child was given her own way in everything, she is."
"I've been opening her trunks and putting her things away," said
Miss Amelia. "I never saw anything like them--sable and ermine
on her coats, and real Valenciennes lace on her underclothing.
You have seen some of her clothes. What DO you think of them?"
"I think they are perfectly ridiculous," replied Miss Minchin,
sharply; "but they will look very well at the head of the line
when we take the schoolchildren to church on Sunday. She has
been provided for as if she were a little princess."
And upstairs in the locked room Sara and Emily sat on the floor
and stared at the corner round which the cab had disappeared,
while Captain Crewe looked backward, waving and kissing his hand
as if he could not bear to stop.
A French Lesson
When Sara entered the schoolroom the next morning everybody
looked at her with wide, interested eyes. By that time every
pupil-- from Lavinia Herbert, who was nearly thirteen and felt
quite grown up, to Lottie Legh, who was only just four and the
baby of the school-- had heard a great deal about her. They knew
very certainly that she was Miss Minchin's show pupil and was
considered a credit to the establishment. One or two of them had
even caught a glimpse of her French maid, Mariette, who had
arrived the evening before. Lavinia had managed to pass Sara's
room when the door was open, and had seen Mariette opening a box
which had arrived late from some shop.
"It was full of petticoats with lace frills on them--frills and
frills," she whispered to her friend Jessie as she bent over her
geography. "I saw her shaking them out. I heard Miss Minchin
say to Miss Amelia that her clothes were so grand that they were
ridiculous for a child. My mamma says that children should be
dressed simply. She has got one of those petticoats on now. I
saw it when she sat down."
"She has silk stockings on!" whispered Jessie, bending over her
geography also. "And what little feet! I never saw such little
"Oh," sniffed Lavinia, spitefully, "that is the way her slippers
are made. My mamma says that even big feet can be made to look
small if you have a clever shoemaker. I don't think she is
pretty at all. Her eyes are such a queer color."
"She isn't pretty as other pretty people are," said Jessie,
stealing a glance across the room; "but she makes you want to
look at her again. She has tremendously long eyelashes, but her
eyes are almost green."
Sara was sitting quietly in her seat, waiting to be told what to
do. She had been placed near Miss Minchin's desk. She was not
abashed at all by the many pairs of eyes watching her. She was
interested and looked back quietly at the children who looked at
her. She wondered what they were thinking of, and if they liked
Miss Minchin, and if they cared for their lessons, and if any of
them had a papa at all like her own. She had had a long talk
with Emily about her papa that morning.
"He is on the sea now, Emily," she had said. "We must be very
great friends to each other and tell each other things. Emily,
look at me. You have the nicest eyes I ever saw--but I wish you
She was a child full of imaginings and whimsical thoughts, and
one of her fancies was that there would be a great deal of
comfort in even pretending that Emily was alive and really heard
and understood. After Mariette had dressed her in her dark-blue
schoolroom frock and tied her hair with a dark-blue ribbon, she
went to Emily, who sat in a chair of her own, and gave her a
"You can read that while I am downstairs," she said; and, seeing
Mariette looking at her curiously, she spoke to her with a
serious little face.
"What I believe about dolls," she said, "is that they can do
things they will not let us know about. Perhaps, really, Emily
can read and talk and walk, but she will only do it when people
are out of the room. That is her secret. You see, if people
knew that dolls could do things, they would make them work. So,
perhaps, they have promised each other to keep it a secret. If
you stay in the room, Emily will just sit there and stare; but if
you go out, she will begin to read, perhaps, or go and look out
of the window. Then if she heard either of us coming, she would
just run back and jump into her chair and pretend she had been
there all the time."
"Comme elle est drole!" Mariette said to herself, and when she
went downstairs she told the head housemaid about it. But she
had already begun to like this odd little girl who had such an
intelligent small face and such perfect manners. She had taken
care of children before who were not so polite. Sara was a very
fine little person, and had a gentle, appreciative way of saying,
"If you please, Mariette," "Thank you, Mariette," which was very
charming. Mariette told the head housemaid that she thanked her
as if she was thanking a lady.
"Elle a l'air d'une princesse, cette petite," she said. Indeed,
she was very much pleased with her new little mistress and liked
her place greatly.
After Sara had sat in her seat in the schoolroom for a few
minutes, being looked at by the pupils, Miss Minchin rapped in a
dignified manner upon her desk.
"Young ladies," she said, "I wish to introduce you to your new
companion." All the little girls rose in their places, and Sara
rose also. "I shall expect you all to be very agreeable to Miss
Crewe; she has just come to us from a great distance--in fact,
from India. As soon as lessons are over you must make each
The pupils bowed ceremoniously, and Sara made a little curtsy,
and then they sat down and looked at each other again.
"Sara," said Miss Minchin in her schoolroom manner, "come here
She had taken a book from the desk and was turning over its
leaves. Sara went to her politely.
"As your papa has engaged a French maid for you," she began, "I
conclude that he wishes you to make a special study of the French
Sara felt a little awkward.
"I think he engaged her," she said, "because he--he thought I
would like her, Miss Minchin."
"I am afraid," said Miss Minchin, with a slightly sour smile,
"that you have been a very spoiled little girl and always
imagine that things are done because you like them. My
impression is that your papa wished you to learn French."
If Sara had been older or less punctilious about being quite
polite to people, she could have explained herself in a very few
words. But, as it was, she felt a flush rising on her cheeks.
Miss Minchin was a very severe and imposing person, and she
seemed so absolutely sure that Sara knew nothing whatever of
French that she felt as if it would be almost rude to correct
her. The truth was that Sara could not remember the time when
she had not seemed to know French. Her father had often spoken
it to her when she had been a baby. Her mother had been a French
woman, and Captain Crewe had loved her language, so it happened
that Sara had always heard and been familiar with it.
"I--I have never really learned French, but--but--" she began,
trying shyly to make herself clear.
One of Miss Minchin's chief secret annoyances was that she did
not speak French herself, and was desirous of concealing the
irritating fact. She, therefore, had no intention of discussing
the matter and laying herself open to innocent questioning by a
new little pupil.
"That is enough," she said with polite tartness. "If you have
not learned, you must begin at once. The French master, Monsieur
Dufarge, will be here in a few minutes. Take this book and look
at it until he arrives."
Sara's cheeks felt warm. She went back to her seat and opened
the book. She looked at the first page with a grave face. She
knew it would be rude to smile, and she was very determined not
to be rude. But it was very odd to find herself expected to
study a page which told her that "le pere" meant "the father,"
and "la mere" meant "the mother."
Miss Minchin glanced toward her scrutinizingly.
"You look rather cross, Sara," she said. "I am sorry you do not
like the idea of learning French."
"I am very fond of it," answered Sara, thinking she would try
"You must not say `but' when you are told to do things," said
Miss Minchin. "Look at your book again."
And Sara did so, and did not smile, even when she found that "le
fils" meant "the son," and "le frere" meant "the brother."
"When Monsieur Dufarge comes," she thought, "I can make him
Monsieur Dufarge arrived very shortly afterward. He was a very
nice, intelligent, middle-aged Frenchman, and he looked
interested when his eyes fell upon Sara trying politely to seem
absorbed in her little book of phrases.
"Is this a new pupil for me, madame?" he said to Miss Minchin.
"I hope that is my good fortune."
"Her papa--Captain Crewe--is very anxious that she should begin
the language. But I am afraid she has a childish prejudice
against it. She does not seem to wish to learn," said Miss
"I am sorry of that, mademoiselle," he said kindly to Sara.
"Perhaps, when we begin to study together, I may show you that
it is a charming tongue."
Little Sara rose in her seat. She was beginning to feel rather
desperate, as if she were almost in disgrace. She looked up into
Monsieur Dufarge's face with her big, green-gray eyes, and they
were quite innocently appealing. She knew that he would
understand as soon as she spoke. She began to explain quite
simply in pretty and fluent French. Madame had not understood.
She had not learned French exactly--not out of books--but her
papa and other people had always spoken it to her, and she had
read it and written it as she had read and written English. Her
papa loved it, and she loved it because he did. Her dear mamma,
who had died when she was born, had been French. She would be
glad to learn anything monsieur would teach her, but what she had
tried to explain to madame was that she already knew the words in
this book-- and she held out the little book of phrases.
When she began to speak Miss Minchin started quite violently and
sat staring at her over her eyeglasses, almost indignantly, until
she had finished. Monsieur Dufarge began to smile, and his smile
was one of great pleasure. To hear this pretty childish voice
speaking his own language so simply and charmingly made him feel
almost as if he were in his native land--which in dark, foggy
days in London sometimes seemed worlds away. When she had
finished, he took the phrase book from her, with a look almost
affectionate. But he spoke to Miss Minchin.
"Ah, madame," he said, "there is not much I can teach her. She
has not LEARNED French; she is French. Her accent is exquisite."
"You ought to have told me," exclaimed Miss Minchin, much
mortified, turning to Sara.
"I--I tried," said Sara. "I--I suppose I did not begin right."
Miss Minchin knew she had tried, and that it had not been her
fault that she was not allowed to explain. And when she saw that
the pupils had been listening and that Lavinia and Jessie were
giggling behind their French grammars, she felt infuriated.
"Silence, young ladies!" she said severely, rapping upon the
desk. "Silence at once!"
And she began from that minute to feel rather a grudge against
her show pupil.
On that first morning, when Sara sat at Miss Minchin's side,
aware that the whole schoolroom was devoting itself to observing
her, she had noticed very soon one little girl, about her own
age, who looked at her very hard with a pair of light, rather
dull, blue eyes. She was a fat child who did not look as if she
were in the least clever, but she had a good-naturedly pouting
mouth. Her flaxen hair was braided in a tight pigtail, tied with
a ribbon, and she had pulled this pigtail around her neck, and
was biting the end of the ribbon, resting her elbows on the desk,
as she stared wonderingly at the new pupil. When Monsieur
Dufarge began to speak to Sara, she looked a little frightened;
and when Sara stepped forward and, looking at him with the
innocent, appealing eyes, answered him, without any warning, in
French, the fat little girl gave a startled jump, and grew quite
red in her awed amazement. Having wept hopeless tears for weeks
in her efforts to remember that "la mere" meant "the mother," and
"le pere," "the father,"-- when one spoke sensible English--it
was almost too much for her suddenly to find herself listening to
a child her own age who seemed not only quite familiar with these
words, but apparently knew any number of others, and could mix
them up with verbs as if they were mere trifles.
She stared so hard and bit the ribbon on her pigtail so fast
that she attracted the attention of Miss Minchin, who, feeling
extremely cross at the moment, immediately pounced upon her.
"Miss St. John!" she exclaimed severely. "What do you mean by
such conduct? Remove your elbows! Take your ribbon out of your
mouth! Sit up at once!"
Upon which Miss St. John gave another jump, and when Lavinia and
Jessie tittered she became redder than ever--so red, indeed, that
she almost looked as if tears were coming into her poor, dull,
childish eyes; and Sara saw her and was so sorry for her that she
began rather to like her and want to be her friend. It was a way
of hers always to want to spring into any fray in which someone
was made uncomfortable or unhappy.
"If Sara had been a boy and lived a few centuries ago," her
father used to say, "she would have gone about the country with
her sword drawn, rescuing and defending everyone in distress.
She always wants to fight when she sees people in trouble."
So she took rather a fancy to fat, slow, little Miss St. John,
and kept glancing toward her through the morning. She saw that
lessons were no easy matter to her, and that there was no danger
of her ever being spoiled by being treated as a show pupil. Her
French lesson was a pathetic thing. Her pronunciation made even
Monsieur Dufarge smile in spite of himself, and Lavinia and
Jessie and the more fortunate girls either giggled or looked at
her in wondering disdain. But Sara did not laugh. She tried to
look as if she did not hear when Miss St. John called "le bon
pain," "lee bong pang." She had a fine, hot little temper of her
own, and it made her feel rather savage when she heard the
titters and saw the poor, stupid, distressed child's face.
"It isn't funny, really," she said between her teeth, as she
bent over her book. "They ought not to laugh."
When lessons were over and the pupils gathered together in
groups to talk, Sara looked for Miss St. John, and finding her
bundled rather disconsolately in a window-seat, she walked over
to her and spoke. She only said the kind of thing little girls
always say to each other by way of beginning an acquaintance, but
there was something friendly about Sara, and people always felt
"What is your name?" she said.
To explain Miss St. John's amazement one must recall that a new
pupil is, for a short time, a somewhat uncertain thing; and of
this new pupil the entire school had talked the night before
until it fell asleep quite exhausted by excitement and
contradictory stories. A new pupil with a carriage and a pony
and a maid, and a voyage from India to discuss, was not an
"My name's Ermengarde St. John," she answered.
"Mine is Sara Crewe," said Sara. "Yours is very pretty. It
sounds like a story book."
"Do you like it?" fluttered Ermengarde. "I--I like yours."
Miss St. John's chief trouble in life was that she had a clever
father. Sometimes this seemed to her a dreadful calamity. If
you have a father who knows everything, who speaks seven or eight
languages, and has thousands of volumes which he has apparently
learned by heart, he frequently expects you to be familiar with
the contents of your lesson books at least; and it is not
improbable that he will feel you ought to be able to remember a
few incidents of history and to write a French exercise.
Ermengarde was a severe trial to Mr. St. John. He could not
understand how a child of his could be a notably and unmistakably
dull creature who never shone in anything.
"Good heavens!" he had said more than once, as he stared at her,
"there are times when I think she is as stupid as her Aunt
If her Aunt Eliza had been slow to learn and quick to forget a
thing entirely when she had learned it, Ermengarde was strikingly
like her. She was the monumental dunce of the school, and it
could not be denied.
"She must be MADE to learn," her father said to Miss Minchin.
Consequently Ermengarde spent the greater part of her life in
disgrace or in tears. She learned things and forgot them; or,
if she remembered them, she did not understand them. So it was
natural that, having made Sara's acquaintance, she should sit
and stare at her with profound admiration.
"You can speak French, can't you?" she said respectfully.
Sara got on to the window-seat, which was a big, deep one, and,
tucking up her feet, sat with her hands clasped round her knees.
"I can speak it because I have heard it all my life," she
answered. "You could speak it if you had always heard it."
"Oh, no, I couldn't," said Ermengarde. "I NEVER could speak
"Why?" inquired Sara, curiously.
Ermengarde shook her head so that the pigtail wobbled.
"You heard me just now," she said. "I'm always like that. I
can't SAY the words. They're so queer."
She paused a moment, and then added with a touch of awe in her
voice, "You are CLEVER, aren't you?"
Sara looked out of the window into the dingy square, where the
sparrows were hopping and twittering on the wet, iron railings
and the sooty branches of the trees. She reflected a few
moments. She had heard it said very often that she was "clever,"
and she wondered if she was--and IF she was, how it had happened.
"I don't know," she said. "I can't tell." Then, seeing a
mournful look on the round, chubby face, she gave a little laugh
and changed the subject.
"Would you like to see Emily?" she inquired.
"Who is Emily?" Ermengarde asked, just as Miss Minchin had
"Come up to my room and see," said Sara, holding out her hand.
They jumped down from the window-seat together, and went
"Is it true," Ermengarde whispered, as they went through the hall-
-"is it true that you have a playroom all to yourself?"
"Yes," Sara answered. "Papa asked Miss Minchin to let me have
one, because--well, it was because when I play I make up stories
and tell them to myself, and I don't like people to hear me. It
spoils it if I think people listen."
They had reached the passage leading to Sara's room by this
time, and Ermengarde stopped short, staring, and quite losing her
"You MAKE up stories!" she gasped. "Can you do that--as well as
speak French? CAN you?"
Sara looked at her in simple surprise.
"Why, anyone can make up things," she said. "Have you never
She put her hand warningly on Ermengarde's.
"Let us go very quietly to the door," she whispered, "and then I
will open it quite suddenly; perhaps we may catch her."
She was half laughing, but there was a touch of mysterious hope
in her eyes which fascinated Ermengarde, though she had not the
remotest idea what it meant, or whom it was she wanted to
"catch," or why she wanted to catch her. Whatsoever she meant,
Ermengarde was sure it was something delightfully exciting. So,
quite thrilled with expectation, she followed her on tiptoe along
the passage. They made not the least noise until they reached
the door. Then Sara suddenly turned the handle, and threw it
wide open. Its opening revealed the room quite neat and quiet, a
fire gently burning in the grate, and a wonderful doll sitting in
a chair by it, apparently reading a book.
"Oh, she got back to her seat before we could see her!" Sara
explained. "Of course they always do. They are as quick as
Ermengarde looked from her to the doll and back again.
"Can she--walk?" she asked breathlessly.
"Yes," answered Sara. "At least I believe she can. At least I
PRETEND I believe she can. And that makes it seem as if it were
true. Have you never pretended things?"
"No," said Ermengarde. "Never. I--tell me about it."
She was so bewitched by this odd, new companion that she
actually stared at Sara instead of at Emily--notwithstanding that
Emily was the most attractive doll person she had ever seen.
"Let us sit down," said Sara, "and I will tell you. It's so
easy that when you begin you can't stop. You just go on and on
doing it always. And it's beautiful. Emily, you must listen.
This is Ermengarde St. John, Emily. Ermengarde, this is Emily.
Would you like to hold her?"
"Oh, may I?" said Ermengarde. "May I, really? She is
beautiful!" And Emily was put into her arms.
Never in her dull, short life had Miss St. John dreamed of such
an hour as the one she spent with the queer new pupil before
they heard the lunch-bell ring and were obliged to go downstairs.
Sara sat upon the hearth-rug and told her strange things. She
sat rather huddled up, and her green eyes shone and her cheeks
flushed. She told stories of the voyage, and stories of India;
but what fascinated Ermengarde the most was her fancy about the
dolls who walked and talked, and who could do anything they chose
when the human beings were out of the room, but who must keep
their powers a secret and so flew back to their places "like
lightning" when people returned to the room.
"WE couldn't do it," said Sara, seriously. "You see, it's a
kind of magic."
Once, when she was relating the story of the search for Emily,
Ermengarde saw her face suddenly change. A cloud seemed to pass
over it and put out the light in her shining eyes. She drew her
breath in so sharply that it made a funny, sad little sound, and
then she shut her lips and held them tightly closed, as if she
was determined either to do or NOT to do something. Ermengarde
had an idea that if she had been like any other little girl, she
might have suddenly burst out sobbing and crying. But she did
"Have you a--a pain?" Ermengarde ventured.
"Yes," Sara answered, after a moment's silence. "But it is not
in my body." Then she added something in a low voice which she
tried to keep quite steady, and it was this: "Do you love your
father more than anything else in all the whole world?"
Ermengarde's mouth fell open a little. She knew that it would
be far from behaving like a respectable child at a select
seminary to say that it had never occurred to you that you COULD
love your father, that you would do anything desperate to avoid
being left alone in his society for ten minutes. She was,
indeed, greatly embarrassed.
"I--I scarcely ever see him," she stammered. "He is always in
the library--reading things."
"I love mine more than all the world ten times over," Sara said.
"That is what my pain is. He has gone away."
She put her head quietly down on her little, huddled-up knees,
and sat very still for a few minutes.
"She's going to cry out loud," thought Ermengarde, fearfully.
But she did not. Her short, black locks tumbled about her ears,
and she sat still. Then she spoke without lifting her head.
"I promised him I would bear it," she said. "And I will. You
have to bear things. Think what soldiers bear! Papa is a
soldier. If there was a war he would have to bear marching and
thirstiness and, perhaps, deep wounds. And he would never say a
word--not one word."
Ermengarde could only gaze at her, but she felt that she was
beginning to adore her. She was so wonderful and different from
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
If Sara had been a different kind of child, the life she led at
Miss Minchin's Select Seminary for the next few years would not
have been at all good for her. She was treated more as if she
were a distinguished guest at the establishment than as if she
were a mere little girl. If she had been a self-opinionated,
domineering child, she might have become disagreeable enough to
be unbearable through being so much indulged and flattered. If
she had been an indolent child, she would have learned nothing.
Privately Miss Minchin disliked her, but she was far too worldly
a woman to do or say anything which might make such a desirable
pupil wish to leave her school. She knew quite well that if Sara
wrote to her papa to tell him she was uncomfortable or unhappy,
Captain Crewe would remove her at once. Miss Minchin's opinion
was that if a child were continually praised and never forbidden
to do what she liked, she would be sure to be fond of the place
where she was so treated. Accordingly, Sara was praised for her
quickness at her lessons, for her good manners, for her
amiability to her fellow pupils, for her generosity if she gave
sixpence to a beggar out of her full little purse; the simplest
thing she did was treated as if it were a virtue, and if she had
not had a disposition and a clever little brain, she might have
been a very self-satisfied young person. But the clever little
brain told her a great many sensible and true things about
herself and her circumstances, and now and then she talked these
things over to Ermengarde as time went on.
"Things happen to people by accident," she used to say. "A lot
of nice accidents have happened to me. It just HAPPENED that I
always liked lessons and books, and could remember things when I
learned them. It just happened that I was born with a father who
was beautiful and nice and clever, and could give me everything I
liked. Perhaps I have not really a good temper at all, but if
you have everything you want and everyone is kind to you, how can
you help but be good-tempered? I don't know"--looking quite
serious--"how I shall ever find out whether I am really a nice
child or a horrid one. Perhaps I'm a HIDEOUS child, and no one
will ever know, just because I never have any trials."
"Lavinia has no trials," said Ermengarde, stolidly, "and she is
Sara rubbed the end of her little nose reflectively, as she
thought the matter over.
"Well," she said at last, "perhaps--perhaps that is because
Lavinia is GROWING." This was the result of a charitable
recollection of having heard Miss Amelia say that Lavinia was
growing so fast that she believed it affected her health and
Lavinia, in fact, was spiteful. She was inordinately jealous of
Sara. Until the new pupil's arrival, she had felt herself the
leader in the school. She had led because she was capable of
making herself extremely disagreeable if the others did not
follow her. She domineered over the little children, and assumed
grand airs with those big enough to be her companions. She was
rather pretty, and had been the best-dressed pupil in the
procession when the Select Seminary walked out two by two, until
Sara's velvet coats and sable muffs appeared, combined with
drooping ostrich feathers, and were led by Miss Minchin at the
head of the line. This, at the beginning, had been bitter
enough; but as time went on it became apparent that Sara was a
leader, too, and not because she could make herself disagreeable,
but because she never did.
"There's one thing about Sara Crewe," Jessie had enraged her
"best friend" by saying honestly, "she's never `grand' about
herself the least bit, and you know she might be, Lavvie. I
believe I couldn't help being--just a little--if I had so many
fine things and was made such a fuss over. It's disgusting, the
way Miss Minchin shows her off when parents come."
"`Dear Sara must come into the drawing room and talk to Mrs.
Musgrave about India,'" mimicked Lavinia, in her most highly
flavored imitation of Miss Minchin. "`Dear Sara must speak
French to Lady Pitkin. Her accent is so perfect.' She didn't
learn her French at the Seminary, at any rate. And there's
nothing so clever in her knowing it. She says herself she didn't
learn it at all. She just picked it up, because she always heard
her papa speak it. And, as to her papa, there is nothing so
grand in being an Indian officer."
"Well," said Jessie, slowly, "he's killed tigers. He killed the
one in the skin Sara has in her room. That's why she likes it
so. She lies on it and strokes its head, and talks to it as if
it was a cat."
"She's always doing something silly," snapped Lavinia. "My
mamma says that way of hers of pretending things is silly. She
says she will grow up eccentric."
It was quite true that Sara was never "grand." She was a
friendly little soul, and shared her privileges and belongings
with a free hand. The little ones, who were accustomed to being
disdained and ordered out of the way by mature ladies aged ten
and twelve, were never made to cry by this most envied of them
all. She was a motherly young person, and when people fell down
and scraped their knees, she ran and helped them up and patted
them, or found in her pocket a bonbon or some other article of a
soothing nature. She never pushed them out of her way or alluded
to their years as a humiliation and a blot upon their small
"If you are four you are four," she said severely to Lavinia on
an occasion of her having--it must be confessed--slapped Lottie
and called her "a brat;" "but you will be five next year, and
six the year after that. And," opening large, convicting eyes,
"it takes sixteen years to make you twenty."
"Dear me," said Lavinia, "how we can calculate!" In fact, it
was not to be denied that sixteen and four made twenty--and
twenty was an age the most daring were scarcely bold enough to
So the younger children adored Sara. More than once she had
been known to have a tea party, made up of these despised ones,
in her own room. And Emily had been played with, and Emily's own
tea service used-- the one with cups which held quite a lot of
much-sweetened weak tea and had blue flowers on them. No one had
seen such a very real doll's tea set before. From that afternoon
Sara was regarded as a goddess and a queen by the entire alphabet
Lottle Legh worshipped her to such an extent that if Sara had not
been a motherly person, she would have found her tiresome.
Lottie had been sent to school by a rather flighty young papa
who could not imagine what else to do with her. Her young mother
had died, and as the child had been treated like a favorite doll
or a very spoiled pet monkey or lap dog ever since the first hour
of her life, she was a very appalling little creature. When she
wanted anything or did not want anything she wept and howled;
and, as she always wanted the things she could not have, and did
not want the things that were best for her, her shrill little
voice was usually to be heard uplifted in wails in one part of
the house or another.
Her strongest weapon was that in some mysterious way she had
found out that a very small girl who had lost her mother was a
person who ought to be pitied and made much of. She had probably
heard some grown-up people talking her over in the early days,
after her mother's death. So it became her habit to make great
use of this knowledge.
The first time Sara took her in charge was one morning when, on
passing a sitting room, she heard both Miss Minchin and Miss
Amelia trying to suppress the angry wails of some child who,
evidently, refused to be silenced. She refused so strenuously
indeed that Miss Minchin was obliged to almost shout--in a
stately and severe manner-- to make herself heard.
"What IS she crying for?" she almost yelled.
"Oh--oh--oh!" Sara heard; "I haven't got any mam--ma-a!"
"Oh, Lottie!" screamed Miss Amelia. "Do stop, darling! Don't
cry! Please don't!"
"Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!" Lottle howled tempestuously. "Haven't-
"She ought to be whipped," Miss Minchin proclaimed. "You SHALL
be whipped, you naughty child!"
Lottle wailed more loudly than ever. Miss Amelia began to cry.
Miss Minchin's voice rose until it almost thundered, then
suddenly she sprang up from her chair in impotent indignation and
flounced out of the room, leaving Miss Amelia to arrange the
Sara had paused in the hall, wondering if she ought to go into
the room, because she had recently begun a friendly acquaintance
with Lottie and might be able to quiet her. When Miss Minchin
came out and saw her, she looked rather annoyed. She realized
that her voice, as heard from inside the room, could not have
sounded either dignified or amiable.
"Oh, Sara!" she exclaimed, endeavoring to produce a suitable
"I stopped," explained Sara, "because I knew it was Lottie-- and
I thought, perhaps--just perhaps, I could make her be quiet. May
I try, Miss Minchin?"
"If you can, you are a clever child," answered Miss Minchin,
drawing in her mouth sharply. Then, seeing that Sara looked
slightly chilled by her asperity, she changed her manner. "But
you are clever in everything," she said in her approving way. "I
dare say you can manage her. Go in." And she left her.
When Sara entered the room, Lottie was lying upon the floor,
screaming and kicking her small fat legs violently, and Miss
Amelia was bending over her in consternation and despair, looking
quite red and damp with heat. Lottie had always found, when in
her own nursery at home, that kicking and screaming would always
be quieted by any means she insisted on. Poor plump Miss Amelia
was trying first one method, and then another.
"Poor darling," she said one moment, "I know you haven't any
mamma, poor--" Then in quite another tone, "If you don't stop,
Lottie, I will shake you. Poor little angel! There--! You
wicked, bad, detestable child, I will smack you! I will!"
Sara went to them quietly. She did not know at all what she was
going to do, but she had a vague inward conviction that it would
be better not to say such different kinds of things quite so
helplessly and excitedly.
"Miss Amelia," she said in a low voice, "Miss Minchin says I may
try to make her stop--may I?"
Miss Amelia turned and looked at her hopelessly. "Oh, DO you
think you can?" she gasped.
"I don't know whether I CAN", answered Sara, still in her 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
"Oh, Sara!" almost whimpered Miss Amelia. "We never had such a
dreadful child before. I don't believe we can keep her."
But she crept out of the room, and was very much relieved to
find an excuse for doing it.
Sara stood by the howling furious child for a few moments, and
looked down at her without saying anything. Then she sat down
flat on the floor beside her and waited. Except for Lottie's
angry screams, the room was quite quiet. This was a new state of
affairs for little Miss Legh, who was accustomed, when she
screamed, to hear other people protest and implore and command
and coax by turns. To lie and kick and shriek, and find the only
person near you not seeming to mind in the least, attracted her
attention. She opened her tight-shut streaming eyes to see who
this person was. And it was only another little girl. But it
was the one who owned Emily and all the nice things. And she was
looking at her steadily and as if she was merely thinking.
Having paused for a few seconds to find this out, Lottie thought
she must begin again, but the quiet of the room and of Sara's
odd, interested face made her first howl rather half-hearted.
"I--haven't--any--ma--ma--ma-a!" she announced; but her voice was
not so strong.
Sara looked at her still more steadily, but with a sort of
understanding in her eyes.
"Neither have I," she said.
This was so unexpected that it was astounding. Lottie actually
dropped her legs, gave a wriggle, and lay and stared. A new idea
will stop a crying child when nothing else will. Also it was
true that while Lottie disliked Miss Minchin, who was cross, and
Miss Amelia, who was foolishly indulgent, she rather liked Sara,
little as she knew her. She did not want to give up her
grievance, but her thoughts were distracted from it, so she
wriggled again, and, after a sulky sob, said, "Where is she?"
Sara paused a moment. Because she had been told that her mamma
was in heaven, she had thought a great deal about the matter, and
her thoughts had not been quite like those of other people.
"She went to heaven," she said. "But I am sure she comes out
sometimes to see me--though I don't see her. So does yours.
Perhaps they can both see us now. Perhaps they are both in this
Lottle sat bolt upright, and looked about her. She was a
pretty, little, curly-headed creature, and her round eyes were
like wet forget-me-nots. If her mamma had seen her during the
last half-hour, she might not have thought her the kind of child
who ought to be related to an angel.
Sara went on talking. Perhaps some people might think that what
she said was rather like a fairy story, but it was all so real to
her own imagination that Lottie began to listen in spite of
herself. She had been told that her mamma had wings and a crown,
and she had been shown pictures of ladies in beautiful white
nightgowns, who were said to be angels. But Sara seemed to be
telling a real story about a lovely country where real people
"There are fields and fields of flowers," she said, forgetting
herself, as usual, when she began, and talking rather as if she
were in a dream, "fields and fields of lilies--and when the soft
wind blows over them it wafts the scent of them into the air--and
everybody always breathes it, because the soft wind is always
blowing. And little children run about in the lily fields and
gather armfuls of them, and laugh and make little wreaths. And
the streets are shining. And people are never tired, however far
they walk. They can float anywhere they like. And there are
walls made of pearl and gold all round the city, but they are low
enough for the people to go and lean on them, and look down onto
the earth and smile, and send beautiful messages."
Whatsoever story she had begun to tell, Lottie would, no doubt,
have stopped crying, and been fascinated into listening; but
there was no denying that this story was prettier than most
others. She dragged herself close to Sara, and drank in every
word until the end came--far too soon. When it did come, she was
so sorry that she put up her lip ominously.
"I want to go there," she cried. "I--haven't any mamma in this
Sara saw the danger signal, and came out of her dream. She took
hold of the chubby hand and pulled her close to her side with a
coaxing little laugh.
"I will be your mamma," she said. "We will play that you are my
little girl. And Emily shall be your sister."
Lottie's dimples all began to show themselves.
"Shall she?" she said.
"Yes," answered Sara, jumping to her feet. "Let us go and tell
her. And then I will wash your face and brush your hair."
To which Lottie agreed quite cheerfully, and trotted out of the
room and upstairs with her, without seeming even to remember that
the whole of the last hour's tragedy had been caused by the fact
that she had refused to be washed and brushed for lunch and Miss
Minchin had been called in to use her majestic authority.
And from that time Sara was an adopted mother.
Of course the greatest power Sara possessed and the one which
gained her even more followers than her luxuries and the fact
that she was "the show pupil," the power that Lavinia and certain
other girls were most envious of, and at the same time most
fascinated by in spite of themselves, was her power of telling
stories and of making everything she talked about seem like a
story, whether it was one or not.
Anyone who has been at school with a teller of stories knows
what the wonder means--how he or she is followed about and
besought in a whisper to relate romances; how groups gather round
and hang on the outskirts of the favored party in the hope of
being allowed to join in and listen. Sara not only could tell
stories, but she adored telling them. When she sat or stood in
the midst of a circle and began to invent wonderful things, her
green eyes grew big and shining, her cheeks flushed, and, without
knowing that she was doing it, she began to act and made what she
told lovely or alarming by the raising or dropping of her voice,
the bend and sway of her slim body, and the dramatic movement of
her hands. She forgot that she was talking to listening
children; she saw and lived with the fairy folk, or the kings and
queens and beautiful ladies, whose adventures she was narrating.
Sometimes when she had finished her story, she was quite out of
breath with excitement, and would lay her hand on her thin,
little, quick-rising chest, and half laugh as if at herself.
"When I am telling it," she would say, "it doesn't seem as if it
was only made up. It seems more real than you are--more real
than the schoolroom. I feel as if I were all the people in the
story--one after the other. It is queer."
She had been at Miss Minchin's school about two years when, one
foggy winter's afternoon, as she was getting out of her
carriage, comfortably wrapped up in her warmest velvets and furs
and looking very much grander than she knew, she caught sight, as
she crossed the pavement, of a dingy little figure standing on
the area steps, and stretching its neck so that its wide-open
eyes might peer at her through the railings. Something in the
eagerness and timidity of the smudgy face made her look at it,
and when she looked she smiled because it was her way to smile at
But the owner of the smudgy face and the wide-open eyes
evidently was afraid that she ought not to have been caught
looking at pupils of importance. She dodged out of sight like a
jack-in-the-box and scurried back into the kitchen, disappearing
so suddenly that if she had not been such a poor little forlorn
thing, Sara would have laughed in spite of herself. That very
evening, as Sara was sitting in the midst of a group of listeners
in a corner of the schoolroom telling one of her stories, the
very same figure timidly entered the room, carrying a coal box
much too heavy for her, and knelt down upon the hearth rug to
replenish the fire and sweep up the ashes.
She was cleaner than she had been when she peeped through the
area railings, but she looked just as frightened. She was
evidently afraid to look at the children or seem to be
listening. She put on pieces of coal cautiously with her fingers
so that she might make no disturbing noise, and she swept about
the fire irons very softly. But Sara saw in two minutes that she
was deeply interested in what was going on, and that she was
doing her work slowly in the hope of catching a word here and
there. And realizing this, she raised her voice and spoke more
"The Mermaids swam softly about in the crystal-green water, and
dragged after them a fishing-net woven of deep-sea pearls," she
said. "The Princess sat on the white rock and watched them."
It was a wonderful story about a princess who was loved by a
Prince Merman, and went to live with him in shining caves under
The small drudge before the grate swept the hearth once and then
swept it again. Having done it twice, she did it three times;
and, as she was doing it the third time, the sound of the story
so lured her to listen that she fell under the spell and actually
forgot that she had no right to listen at all, and also forgot
everything else. She sat down upon her heels as she knelt on the
hearth rug, and the brush hung idly in her fingers. The voice of
the storyteller went on and drew her with it into winding grottos
under the sea, glowing with soft, clear blue light, and paved
with pure golden sands. Strange sea flowers and grasses waved
about her, and far away faint singing and music echoed.
The hearth brush fell from the work-roughened hand, and Lavinia
Herbert looked round.
"That girl has been listening," she said.
The culprit snatched up her brush, and scrambled to her feet.
She caught at the coal box and simply scuttled out of the room
like a frightened rabbit.
Sara felt rather hot-tempered.
"I knew she was listening," she said. "Why shouldn't she?"
Lavinia tossed her head with great elegance.
"Well," she remarked, "I do not know whether your mamma would
like you to tell stories to servant girls, but I know MY mamma
wouldn't like ME to do it."
"My mamma!" said Sara, looking odd. "I don't believe she would
mind in the least. She knows that stories belong to everybody."
"I thought," retorted Lavinia, in severe recollection, "that your
mamma was dead. How can she know things?"
"Do you think she DOESN'T know things?" said Sara, in her stern
little voice. Sometimes she had a rather stern little voice.
"Sara's mamma knows everything," piped in Lottie. "So does my
mamma--'cept Sara is my mamma at Miss Minchin's--my other one
knows everything. The streets are shining, and there are fields
and fields of lilies, and everybody gathers them. Sara tells me
when she puts me to bed."
"You wicked thing," said Lavinia, turning on Sara; "making fairy
stories about heaven."
"There are much more splendid stories in Revelation," returned
Sara. "Just look and see! How do you know mine are fairy
stories? But I can tell you"--with a fine bit of unheavenly
temper--"you will never find out whether they are or not if
you're not kinder to people than you are now. Come along,
Lottie." And she marched out of the room, rather hoping that she
might see the little servant again somewhere, but she found no
trace of her when she got into the hall.
"Who is that little girl who makes the fires?" she asked
Mariette that night.
Mariette broke forth into a flow of description.
Ah, indeed, Mademoiselle Sara might well ask. She was a forlorn
little thing who had just taken the place of scullery maid--
though, as to being scullery maid, she was everything else
besides. She blacked boots and grates, and carried heavy 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 everyone below-stairs
calling, "Becky, do this," and "Becky, do that," every five
minutes in the day.
Sara sat and looked into the fire, reflecting on Becky for some
time after Mariette left her. She made up a story of which
Becky was the ill-used heroine. She thought she looked as if she
had never had quite enough to eat. Her very eyes were hungry.
She hoped she should see her again, but though she caught sight
of her carrying things up or down stairs on several occasions,
she always seemed in such a hurry and so afraid of being seen
that it was impossible to speak to her.
But a few weeks later, on another foggy afternoon, when she
entered her sitting room she found herself confronting a rather
pathetic picture. In her own special and pet easy-chair before
the bright fire, Becky--with a coal smudge on her nose and
several on her apron, with her poor little cap hanging half off
her head, and an empty coal box on the floor near her--sat fast
asleep, tired out beyond even the endurance of her hard-working
young body. She had been sent up to put the bedrooms in order
for the evening. There were a great many of them, and she had
been running about all day. Sara's rooms she had saved until the
last. They were not like the other rooms, which were plain and
bare. Ordinary pupils were expected to be satisfied with mere
necessaries. Sara's comfortable sitting room seemed a bower of
luxury to the scullery maid, though it was, in fact, merely a
nice, bright little room. But there were pictures and books in
it, and curious things from India; there was a sofa and the low,
soft chair; Emily sat in a chair of her own, with the air of a
presiding goddess, and there was always a glowing fire and a
polished grate. Becky saved it until the end of her afternoon's
work, because it rested her to go into it, and she always hoped
to snatch a few minutes to sit down in the soft chair and look
about her, and think about the wonderful good fortune of the
child who owned such surroundings and who went out on the cold
days in beautiful hats and coats one tried to catch a glimpse of
through the area railing.
On this afternoon, when she had sat down, the sensation of
relief to her short, aching legs had been so wonderful and
delightful that it had seemed to soothe her whole body, and the
glow of warmth and comfort from the fire had crept over her like
a spell, until, as she looked at the red coals, a tired, slow
smile stole over her smudged face, her head nodded forward
without her being aware of it, her eyes drooped, and she fell
fast asleep. She had really been only about ten minutes in the
room when Sara entered, but she was in as deep a sleep as if she
had been, like the Sleeping Beauty, slumbering for a hundred
years. But she did not look--poor Becky-- like a Sleeping Beauty
at all. She looked only like an ugly, stunted, worn-out little
Sara seemed as much unlike her as if she were a creature from
On this particular afternoon she had been taking her dancing
lesson, and the afternoon on which the dancing master appeared
was rather a grand occasion at the seminary, though it occurred
every week. The pupils were attired in their prettiest frocks,
and as Sara danced particularly well, she was very much brought
forward, and Mariette was requested to make her as diaphanous and
fine as possible.
Today a frock the color of a rose had been put on her, and
Mariette had bought some real buds and made her a wreath to wear
on her black locks. She had been learning a new, delightful
dance in which she had been skimming and flying about the room,
like a large rose-colored butterfly, and the enjoyment and
exercise had brought a brilliant, happy glow into her face.
When she entered the room, she floated in with a few of the
butterfly steps--and there sat Becky, nodding her cap sideways
off her head.
"Oh!" cried Sara, softly, when she saw her. "That poor thing!"
It did not occur to her to feel cross at finding her pet chair
occupied by the small, dingy figure. To tell the truth, she was
quite glad to find it there. When the ill-used heroine of her
story wakened, she could talk to her. She crept toward her
quietly, and stood looking at her. Becky gave a little snore.
"I wish she'd waken herself," Sara said. "I don't like to waken
her. But Miss Minchin would be cross if she found out. I'll
just wait a few minutes."
She took a seat on the edge of the table, and sat swinging her
slim, rose-colored legs, and wondering what it would be best to
do. Miss Amelia might come in at any moment, and if she did,
Becky would be sure to be scolded.
"But she is so tired," she thought. "She is so tired!"
A piece of flaming coal ended her perplexity for her that very
moment. It broke off from a large lump and fell on to the
fender. Becky started, and opened her eyes with a frightened
gasp. She did not know she had fallen asleep. She had only sat
down for one moment and felt the beautiful glow--and here she
found herself staring in wild alarm at the wonderful pupil, who
sat perched quite near her, like a rose-colored fairy, with
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
"I didn't go to do it, miss," protested Becky. "It was the warm
fire--an' me bein' so tired. It--it WASN'T impertience!"
Sara broke into a friendly little laugh, and put her hand on her
"You were tired," she said; "you could not help it. You are not
really awake yet."
How poor Becky stared at her! In fact, she had never heard such
a nice, friendly sound in anyone's voice before. She was used to
being ordered about and scolded, and having her ears boxed. And
this one--in her rose-colored dancing afternoon splendor--was
looking at her as if she were not a culprit at all--as if she had
a right to be tired--even to fall asleep! The touch of the
soft, slim little paw on her shoulder was the most amazing thing
she had ever known.
"Ain't--ain't yer angry, miss?" she gasped. "Ain't yer goin' to
tell the missus?"
"No," cried out Sara. "Of course I'm not."
The woeful fright in the coal-smutted face made her suddenly so
sorry that she could scarcely bear it. One of her queer
thoughts rushed into her mind. She put her hand against Becky's
"Why," she said, "we are just the same--I am only a little girl
like you. It's just an accident that I am not you, and you are
Becky did not understand in the least. Her mind could not grasp
such amazing thoughts, and "an accident" meant to her a calamity
in which some one was run over or fell off a ladder and was
carried to "the 'orspital."
"A' accident, miss," she fluttered respectfully. "Is it?"
"Yes," Sara answered, and she looked at her dreamily for a
moment. But the next she spoke in a different tone. She
realized that Becky did not know what she meant.
"Have you done your work?" she asked. "Dare you stay here a few
Becky lost her breath again.
"Here, miss? Me?"
Sara ran to the door, opened it, and looked out and listened.
"No one is anywhere about," she explained. "If your bedrooms are
finished, perhaps you might stay a tiny while. I thought--
perhaps--you might like a piece of cake."
The next ten minutes seemed to Becky like a sort of delirium.
Sara opened a cupboard, and gave her a thick slice of cake. She
seemed to rejoice when it was devoured in hungry bites. She
talked and asked questions, and laughed until Becky's fears
actually began to calm themselves, and she once or twice
gathered boldness enough to ask a question or so herself, daring
as she felt it to be.
"Is that--" she ventured, looking longingly at the rose-colored
frock. And she asked it almost in a whisper. "Is that there
"It is one of my dancing-frocks," answered Sara. "I like it,
For a few seconds Becky was almost speechless with admiration.
Then she said in an awed voice, "Onct I see a princess. I was
standin' in the street with the crowd outside Covin' Garden,
watchin' the swells go inter the operer. An' there was one
everyone stared at most. They ses to each other, `That's the
princess.' She was a growed-up young lady, but she was pink all
over--gownd an' cloak, an' flowers an' all. I called her to
mind the minnit I see you, sittin' there on the table, miss. You
looked like her."
"I've often thought," said Sara, in her reflecting voice, "that
I should like to be a princess; I wonder what it feels like. I
believe I will begin pretending I am one."
Becky stared at her admiringly, and, as before, did not
understand her in the least. She watched her with a sort of
adoration. Very soon Sara left her reflections and turned to her
with a new question.
"Becky," she said, "weren't you listening to that story?"
"Yes, miss," confessed Becky, a little alarmed again. "I knowed
I hadn't orter, but it was that beautiful I--I couldn't help it."
"I liked you to listen to it," said Sara. "If you tell stories,
you like nothing so much as to tell them to people who want to
listen. I don't know why it is. Would you like to hear the
Becky lost her breath again.
"Me hear it?" she cried. "Like as if I was a pupil, miss! All
about the Prince--and the little white Mer-babies swimming about
laughing--with stars in their hair?"
"You haven't time to hear it now, I'm afraid," she said; "but if
you will tell me just what time you come to do my rooms, I will
try to be here and tell you a bit of it every day until it is
finished. It's a lovely long one--and I'm always putting new
bits to it."
"Then," breathed Becky, devoutly, "I wouldn't mind HOW heavy the
coal boxes was--or WHAT the cook done to me, if--if I might have
that to think of."
"You may," said Sara. "I'll tell it ALL to you."
When Becky went downstairs, she was not the same Becky who had
staggered up, loaded down by the weight of the coal scuttle. She
had an extra piece of cake in her pocket, and she had been fed
and warmed, but not only by cake and fire. Something else had
warmed and fed her, and the something else was Sara.
When she was gone Sara sat on her favorite perch on the end of
her table. Her feet were on a chair, her elbows on her knees,
and her chin in her hands.
"If I WAS a princess--a REAL princess," she murmured, "I could
scatter largess to the populace. But even if I am only a pretend
princess, I can invent little things to do for people. Things
like this. She was just as happy as if it was largess. I'll
pretend that to do things people like is scattering largess.
I've scattered largess."
The Diamond Mines
Not very long after this a very exciting thing happened. Not
only Sara, but the entire school, found it exciting, and made it
the chief subject of conversation for weeks after it occurred.
In one of his letters Captain Crewe told a most interesting
story. A friend who had been at school with him when he was a
boy had unexpectedly come to see him in India. He was the owner
of a large tract of land upon which diamonds had been found, and
he was engaged in developing the mines. If all went as was
confidently expected, he would become possessed of such wealth as
it made one dizzy to think of; and because he was fond of the
friend of his school days, he had given him an opportunity to
share in this enormous fortune by becoming a partner in his
scheme. This, at least, was what Sara gathered from his letters.
It is true that any other business scheme, however magnificent,
would have had but small attraction for her or for the
schoolroom; but "diamond mines" sounded so like the Arabian
Nights that no one could be indifferent. Sara thought them
enchanting, and painted pictures, for Ermengarde and Lottie, of
labyrinthine passages in the bowels of the earth, where
sparkling stones studded the walls and roofs and ceilings, and
strange, dark men dug them out with heavy picks. Ermengarde
delighted in the story, and Lottie insisted on its being retold
to her every evening. Lavinia was very spiteful about it, and
told Jessie that she didn't believe such things as diamond mines
"My mamma has a diamond ring which cost forty pounds," she said.
"And it is not a big one, either. If there were mines full of
diamonds, people would be so rich it would be ridiculous."
"Perhaps Sara will be so rich that she will be ridiculous,"
"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
Lessons for the day were over, and they were sitting before the
schoolroom fire, enjoying the time they liked best. It was the
time when Miss Minchin and Miss Amelia were taking their tea in
the sitting room sacred to themselves. At this hour a great deal
of talking was done, and a great many secrets changed hands,
particularly if the younger pupils behaved themselves well, and
did not squabble or run about noisily, which it must be confessed
they usually did. When they made an uproar the older girls
usually interfered with scolding and shakes. They were expected
to keep order, and there was danger that if they did not, Miss
Minchin or Miss Amelia would appear and put an end to
festivities. Even as Lavinia spoke the door opened and Sara
entered with Lottie, whose habit was to trot everywhere after her
like a little dog.
"There she is, with that horrid child!" exclaimed Lavinia in a
whisper. "If she's so fond of her, why doesn't she keep her in
her own room? She will begin howling about something in five
It happened that Lottie had been seized with a sudden desire to
play in the schoolroom, and had begged her adopted parent to come
with her. She joined a group of little ones who were playing in
a corner. Sara curled herself up in the window-seat, opened a
book, and began to read. It was a book about the French
Revolution, and she was soon lost in a harrowing picture of the
prisoners in the Bastille--men who had spent so many years in
dungeons that when they were dragged out by those who rescued
them, their long, gray hair and beards almost hid their faces,
and they had forgotten that an outside world existed at all, and
were like beings in a dream.
She was so far away from the schoolroom that it was not
agreeable to be dragged back suddenly by a howl from Lottie.
Never did she find anything so difficult as to keep herself from
losing her temper when she was suddenly disturbed while absorbed
in a book. People who are fond of books know the feeling of
irritation which sweeps over them at such a moment. The
temptation to be unreasonable and snappish is one not easy to
"It makes me feel as if someone had hit me," Sara had told
Ermengarde once in confidence. "And as if I want to hit back. I
have to remember things quickly to keep from saying something ill-
She had to remember things quickly when she laid her book on the
window-seat and jumped down from her comfortable corner.
Lottie had been sliding across the schoolroom floor, and, having
first irritated Lavinia and Jessie by making a noise, had ended
by falling down and hurting her fat knee. She was screaming and
dancing up and down in the midst of a group of friends and
enemies, who were alternately coaxing and scolding her.
"Stop this minute, you cry-baby! Stop this minute!" Lavinia
"I'm not a cry-baby . . . I'm not!" wailed Lottle. "Sara, Sa--
"If she doesn't stop, Miss Minchin will hear her," cried Jessie.
"Lottie darling, I'll give you a penny!"
"I don't want your penny," sobbed Lottie; and she looked down at
the fat knee, and, seeing a drop of blood on it, burst forth
Sara flew across the room and, kneeling down, put her arms round
"Now, Lottie," she said. "Now, Lottie, you PROMISED Sara."
"She said I was a cry-baby," wept Lottie.
Sara patted her, but spoke in the steady voice Lottie knew.
"But if you cry, you will be one, Lottie pet. You PROMISED."
Lottle remembered that she had promised, but she preferred to
lift up her voice.
"I haven't any mamma," she proclaimed. "I haven't--a bit--of
"Yes, you have," said Sara, cheerfully. "Have you forgotten?
Don't you know that Sara is your mamma? Don't you want Sara for
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
"The diamond mines?" broke out Lavinia. "Nasty, little spoiled
thing, I should like to SLAP her!"
Sara got up quickly on her feet. It must be remembered that she
had been very deeply absorbed in the book about the Bastille,
and she had had to recall several things rapidly when she
realized that she must go and take care of her adopted child.
She was not an angel, and she was not fond of Lavinia.
"Well," she said, with some fire, "I should like to slap YOU--
but I don't want to slap you!" restraining herself. "At least I
both want to slap you--and I should LIKE to slap you--but I
WON'T slap you. We are not little gutter children. We are both
old enough to know better."
Here was Lavinia's opportunity.
"Ah, yes, your royal highness," she said. "We are princesses, I
believe. At least one of us is. The school ought to be very
fashionable now Miss Minchin has a princess for a pupil."
Sara started toward her. She looked as if she were going to box
her ears. Perhaps she was. Her trick of pretending things was
the joy of her life. She never spoke of it to girls she was not
fond of. Her new "pretend" about being a princess was very near
to her heart, and she was shy and sensitive about it. She had
meant it to be rather a secret, and here was Lavinia deriding it
before nearly all the school. She felt the blood rush up into
her face and tingle in her ears. She only just saved herself.
If you were a princess, you did not fly into rages. Her hand
dropped, and she stood quite still a moment. When she spoke it
was in a quiet, steady voice; she held her head up, and everybody
listened to her.
"It's true," she said. "Sometimes I do pretend I am a princess.
I pretend I am a princess, so that I can try and behave like
Lavinia could not think of exactly the right thing to say.
Several times she had found that she could not think of a
satisfactory reply when she was dealing with Sara. The reason
for this was that, somehow, the rest always seemed to be vaguely
in sympathy with her opponent. She saw now that they were
pricking up their ears interestedly. The truth was, they liked
princesses, and they all hoped they might hear something more
definite about this one, and drew nearer Sara accordingly.
Lavinia could only invent one remark, and it fell rather flat.
"Dear me," she said, "I hope, when you ascend the throne, you
won't forget us!"
"I won't," said Sara, and she did not utter another word, but
stood quite still, and stared at her steadily as she saw her take
Jessie's arm and turn away.
After this, the girls who were jealous of her used to speak of
her as "Princess Sara" whenever they wished to be particularly
disdainful, and those who were fond of her gave her the name
among themselves as a term of affection. No one called her
"princess" instead of "Sara," but her adorers were much pleased
with the picturesqueness and grandeur of the title, and Miss
Minchin, hearing of it, mentioned it more than once to visiting
parents, feeling that it rather suggested a sort of royal
To Becky it seemed the most appropriate thing in the world. The
acquaintance begun on the foggy afternoon when she had jumped up
terrified from her sleep in the comfortable chair, had ripened
and grown, though it must be confessed that Miss Minchin and
Miss Amelia knew very little about it. They were aware that Sara
was "kind" to the scullery maid, but they knew nothing of
certain delightful moments snatched perilously when, the upstairs
rooms being set in order with lightning rapidity, Sara's sitting
room was reached, and the heavy coal box set down with a sigh of
joy. At such times stories were told by installments, things of
a satisfying nature were either produced and eaten or hastily
tucked into pockets to be disposed of at night, when Becky went
upstairs to her attic to bed.
"But I has to eat 'em careful, miss," she said once; "'cos if I
leaves crumbs the rats come out to get 'em."
"Rats!" exclaimed Sara, in horror. "Are there RATS there?"
"Lots of 'em, miss," Becky answered in quite a matter-of-fact
manner. "There mostly is rats an' mice in attics. You gets used
to the noise they makes scuttling about. I've got so I don't
mind 'em s' long as they don't run over my piller."