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A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Part 3 out of 5

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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 curtsy."

Sara knew nothing about the fact, but from that time the Large
Family was as profoundly interested in her as she was in it.
Faces used to appear at the nursery windows when she passed, and
many discussions concerning her were held round the fire.

"She is a kind of servant at the seminary," Janet said. "I
don't believe she belongs to anybody. I believe she is an
orphan. But she is not a beggar, however shabby she looks."

And afterward she was called by all of them, "The-little-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 schoolroom to give the little ones their French
lesson. Her small pupils loved her, and strove with each other
for the privilege of standing close to her and insinuating their
small hands into hers. It fed her hungry heart to feel them
nestling up to her. She made such friends with the sparrows that
when she stood upon the table, put her head and shoulders out of
the attic window, and chirped, she heard almost immediately a
flutter of wings and answering twitters, and a little flock of
dingy town birds appeared and alighted on the slates to talk to
her and make much of the crumbs she scattered. With Melchisedec
she had become so intimate that he actually brought Mrs.
Melchisedec with him sometimes, and now and then one or two of
his children. She used to talk to him, and, somehow, he looked
quite as if he understood.

There had grown in her mind rather a strange feeling about
Emily, who always sat and looked on at everything. It arose in
one of her moments of great desolateness. She would have liked
to believe or pretend to believe that Emily understood and
sympathized with her. She did not like to own to herself that
her only companion could feel and hear nothing. She used to put
her in a chair sometimes and sit opposite to her on the old red
footstool, and stare and pretend about her until her own eyes
would grow large with something which was almost like fear--
particularly at night when everything was so still, when the only
sound in the attic was the occasional sudden scurry and squeak of
Melchisedec's family in the wall. One of her "pretends" was that
Emily was a kind of good witch who could protect her. Sometimes,
after she had stared at her until she was wrought up to the
highest pitch of fancifulness, she would ask her questions and
find herself ALMOST feeling as if she would presently answer.
But she never did.

"As to answering, though," said Sara, trying to console herself,
"I don't answer very often. I never answer when I can help it.
When people are insulting you, there is nothing so good for them
as not to say a word--just to look at them and THINK. Miss
Minchin turns pale with rage when I do it, Miss Amelia looks
frightened, and so do the girls. When you will not fly into a
passion people know you are stronger than they are, because you
are strong enough to hold in your rage, and they are not, and
they say stupid things they wish they hadn't said afterward.
There's nothing so strong as rage, except what makes you hold it
in--that's stronger. It's a good thing not to answer your
enemies. I scarcely ever do. Perhaps Emily is more like me than
I am like myself. Perhaps she would rather not answer her
friends, even. She keeps it all in her heart."

But though she tried to satisfy herself with these arguments, she
did not find it easy. When, after a long, hard day, in which
she had been sent here and there, sometimes on long errands
through wind and cold and rain, she came in wet and hungry, and
was sent out again because nobody chose to remember that she was
only a child, and that her slim legs might be tired and her small
body might be chilled; when she had been given only harsh words
and cold, slighting looks for thanks; when the cook had been
vulgar and insolent; when Miss Minchin had been in her worst
mood, and when she had seen the girls sneering among themselves
at her shabbiness--then she was not always able to comfort her
sore, proud, desolate heart with fancies when Emily merely sat
upright in her old chair and stared.

One of these nights, when she came up to the attic cold and
hungry, with a tempest raging in her young breast, Emily's stare
seemed so vacant, her sawdust legs and arms so inexpressive, that
Sara lost all control over herself. There was nobody but Emily--
no one in the world. And there she sat.

"I shall die presently," she said at first.

Emily simply stared.

"I can't bear this," said the poor child, trembling. "I know I
shall die. I'm cold; I'm wet; I'm starving to death. I've
walked a thousand miles today, and they have done nothing but
scold me from morning until night. And because I could not find
that last thing the cook sent me for, they would not give me any
supper. Some men laughed at me because my old shoes made me slip
down in the mud. I'm covered with mud now. And they laughed.
Do you hear?"

She looked at the staring glass eyes and complacent face, and
suddenly a sort of heartbroken rage seized her. She lifted her
little savage hand and knocked Emily off the chair, bursting into
a passion of sobbing--Sara who never cried.

"You are nothing but a DOLL!" she cried. "Nothing but a doll--
doll--doll! You care for nothing. You are stuffed with
sawdust. You never had a heart. Nothing could ever make you
feel. You are a DOLL!" Emily lay on the floor, with her legs
ignominiously doubled up over her head, and a new flat place on
the end of her nose; but she was calm, even dignified. Sara hid
her face in her arms. The rats in the wall began to fight and
bite each other and squeak and scramble. Melchisedec was
chastising some of his family.

Sara's sobs gradually quieted themselves. It was so unlike her
to break down that she was surprised at herself. After a while
she raised her face and looked at Emily, who seemed to be gazing
at her round the side of one angle, and, somehow, by this time
actually with a kind of glassy-eyed sympathy. Sara bent and
picked her up. Remorse overtook her. She even smiled at herself
a very little smile.

"You can't help being a doll," she said with a resigned sigh,
"any more than Lavinia and Jessie can help not having any sense.
We are not all made alike. Perhaps you do your sawdust best."
And she kissed her and shook her clothes straight, and put her
back upon her chair.

She had wished very much that some one would take the empty
house next door. She wished it because of the attic window which
was so near hers. It seemed as if it would be so nice to see it
propped open someday and a head and shoulders rising out of the
square aperture.

"If it looked a nice head," she thought, "I might begin by
saying, `Good morning,' and all sorts of things might happen.
But, of course, it's not really likely that anyone but under
servants would sleep there."

One morning, on turning the corner of the square after a visit to
the grocer's, the butcher's, and the baker's, she saw, to her
great delight, that during her rather prolonged absence, a van
full of furniture had stopped before the next house, the front
doors were thrown open, and men in shirt sleeves were going in
and out carrying heavy packages and pieces of furniture.

"It's taken!" she said. "It really IS taken! Oh, I do hope a
nice head will look out of the attic window!"

She would almost have liked to join the group of loiterers who
had stopped on the pavement to watch the things carried in. She
had an idea that if she could see some of the furniture she could
guess something about the people it belonged to.

"Miss Minchin's tables and chairs are just like her," she
thought; "I remember thinking that the first minute I saw her,
even though I was so little. I told papa afterward, and he
laughed and said it was true. I am sure the Large Family have
fat, comfortable armchairs and sofas, and I can see that their
red-flowery wallpaper is exactly like them. It's warm and
cheerful and kind-looking and happy."

She was sent out for parsley to the greengrocer's later in the
day, and when she came up the area steps her heart gave quite a
quick beat of recognition. Several pieces of furniture had been
set out of the van upon the pavement. There was a beautiful
table of elaborately wrought teakwood, and some chairs, and a
screen covered with rich Oriental embroidery. The sight of them
gave her a weird, homesick feeling. She had seen things so like
them in India. One of the things Miss Minchin had taken from her
was a carved teakwood desk her father had sent her.

"They are beautiful things," she said; "they look as if they
ought to belong to a nice person. All the things look rather
grand. I suppose it is a rich family."

The vans of furniture came and were unloaded and gave place to
others all the day. Several times it so happened that Sara had
an opportunity of seeing things carried in. It became plain that
she had been right in guessing that the newcomers were people of
large means. All the furniture was rich and beautiful, and a
great deal of it was Oriental. Wonderful rugs and draperies and
ornaments were taken from the vans, many pictures, and books
enough for a library. Among other things there was a superb god
Buddha in a splendid shrine.

"Someone in the family MUST have been in India," Sara thought.
"They have got used to Indian things and like them. I AM glad.
I shall feel as if they were friends, even if a head never looks
out of the attic window."

When she was taking in the evening's milk for the cook (there
was really no odd job she was not called upon to do), she saw
something occur which made the situation more interesting than
ever. The handsome, rosy man who was the father of the Large
Family walked across the square in the most matter-of-fact
manner, and ran up the steps of the next-door house. He ran up
them as if he felt quite at home and expected to run up and down
them many a time in the future. He stayed inside quite a long
time, and several times came out and gave directions to the
workmen, as if he had a right to do so. It was quite certain
that he was in some intimate way connected with the newcomers and
was acting for them.

"If the new people have children," Sara speculated, "the Large
Family children will be sure to come and play with them, and
they MIGHT come up into the attic just for fun."

At night, after her work was done, Becky came in to see her
fellow prisoner and bring her news.

"It's a' Nindian gentleman that's comin' to live next door,
miss," she said. "I don't know whether he's a black gentleman or
not, but he's a Nindian one. He's very rich, an' he's ill, an'
the gentleman of the Large Family is his lawyer. He's had a lot
of trouble, an' it's made him ill an' low in his mind. He
worships idols, miss. He's an 'eathen an' bows down to wood an'
stone. I seen a' idol bein' carried in for him to worship.
Somebody had oughter send him a trac'. You can get a trac' for a
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.

11

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 upstairs.

She mounted her table and stood looking out. It was a
wonderful moment. There were floods of molten gold covering the
west, as if a glorious tide was sweeping over the world. A deep,
rich yellow light filled the air; the birds flying across the
tops of the houses showed quite black against it.

"It's a Splendid one," said Sara, softly, to herself. "It makes
me feel almost afraid--as if something strange was just going to
happen. The Splendid ones always make me feel like that."

She suddenly turned her head because she heard a sound a few
yards away from her. It was an odd sound like a queer little
squeaky chattering. It came from the window of the next attic.
Someone had come to look at the sunset as she had. There was a
head and a part of a body emerging from the skylight, but it was
not the head or body of a little girl or a housemaid; it was the
picturesque white-swathed form and dark-faced, gleaming-eyed,
white-turbaned head of a native Indian man-servant--"a Lascar,"
Sara said to herself quickly--and the sound she had heard came
from a small monkey he held in his arms as if he were fond of
it, and which was snuggling and chattering against his breast.

As Sara looked toward him he looked toward her. The first thing
she thought was that his dark face looked sorrowful and
homesick. She felt absolutely sure he had come up to look at the
sun, because he had seen it so seldom in England that he longed
for a sight of it. She looked at him interestedly for a second,
and then smiled across the slates. She had learned to know how
comforting a smile, even from a stranger, may be.

Hers was evidently a pleasure to him. His whole expression
altered, and he showed such gleaming white teeth as he smiled
back that it was as if a light had been illuminated in his dusky
face. The friendly look in Sara's eyes was always very effective
when people felt tired or dull.

It was perhaps in making his salute to her that he loosened his
hold on the monkey. He was an impish monkey and always ready for
adventure, and it is probable that the sight of a little girl
excited him. He suddenly broke loose, jumped on to the slates,
ran across them chattering, and actually leaped on to Sara's
shoulder, and from there down into her attic room. It made her
laugh and delighted her; but she knew he must be restored to his
master--if the Lascar was his master--and she wondered how this
was to be done. Would he let her catch him, or would he be
naughty and refuse to be caught, and perhaps get away and run off
over the roofs and be lost? That would not do at all. Perhaps
he belonged to the Indian gentleman, and the poor man was fond of
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 schoolroom as she drudged now in various parts of the
house; they would be obliged to give her more respectable
clothes, but they would be sure to be plain and ugly and to make
her look somehow like a servant. That was all there seemed to be
to look forward to, and Sara stood quite still for several
minutes and thought it over.

Then a thought came back to her which made the color rise in her
cheek and a spark light itself in her eyes. She straightened her
thin little body and lifted her head.

"Whatever comes," she said, "cannot alter one thing. If I am a
princess in rags and tatters, I can be a princess inside. It
would be easy to be a princess if I were dressed in cloth of
gold, but it is a great deal more of a triumph to be one all the
time when no one knows it. There was Marie Antoinette when she
was in prison and her throne was gone and she had only a black
gown on, and her hair was white, and they insulted her and called
her Widow Capet. She was a great deal more like a queen then
than when she was so gay and everything was so grand. I like her
best then. Those howling mobs of people did not frighten her.
She was stronger than they were, even when they cut her head
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 he rest of the world. It was as if she
scarcely heard the rude and acid things said to her; or, if she
heard them, did not care for them at all. Sometimes, when she
was in the midst of some harsh, domineering speech, Miss Minchin
would find the still, unchildish eyes fixed upon her with
something like a proud smile in them. At such times she did not
know that Sara was saying to herself:

"You don't know that you are saying these things to a princess,
and that if I chose I could wave my hand and order you to
execution. I only spare you because I am a princess, and you are
a poor, stupid, unkind, vulgar old thing, and don't know any
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 schoolroom with her small pupils. Having
finished giving them their lessons, she was putting the French
exercise-books together and thinking, as she did it, of the
various things royal personages in disguise were called upon to
do: Alfred the Great, for instance, burning the cakes and
getting his ears boxed by the wife of the neat-herd. How
frightened she must have been when she found out what she had
done. If Miss Minchin should find out that she--Sara, whose toes
were almost sticking out of her boots--was a princess--a real
one! The look in her eyes was exactly the look which Miss
Minchin most disliked. She would not have it; she was quite near
her and was so enraged that she actually flew at her and boxed
her ears--exactly as the neat-herd's wife had boxed King
Alfred's. It made Sara start. She wakened from her dream at the
shock, and, catching her breath, stood still a second. Then, not
knowing she was going to do it, she broke into a little laugh.

"What are you laughing at, you bold, impudent child?" Miss
Minchin exclaimed.

It took Sara a few seconds to control herself sufficiently to
remember that she was a princess. Her cheeks were red and
smarting from the blows she had received.

"I was thinking," she answered.

"Beg my pardon immediately," said Miss Minchin.

Sara hesitated a second before she replied.

"I will beg your pardon for laughing, if it was rude," she said
then; "but I won't beg your pardon for thinking."

"What were you thinking?" demanded Miss Minchin.

"How dare you think? What were you thinking?"

Jessie tittered, and she and Lavinia nudged each other in
unison. All the girls looked up from their books to listen.
Really, it always interested them a little when Miss Minchin
attacked Sara. Sara always said something queer, and never
seemed the least bit frightened. She was not in the least
frightened now, though her boxed ears were scarlet and her eyes
were as bright as stars.

"I was thinking," she answered grandly and politely, "that you
did not know what you were doing."

"That I did not know what I was doing?" Miss Minchin fairly
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 schoolroom! 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!"

12

The Other Side of the Wall

When one lives in a row of houses, it is interesting to think of
the things which are being done and said on the other side of
the wall of the very rooms one is living in. Sara was fond of
amusing herself by trying to imagine the things hidden by the
wall which divided the Select Seminary from the Indian
gentleman's house. She knew that the schoolroom was next to the
Indian gentleman's study, and she hoped that the wall was thick
so that the noise made sometimes after lesson hours would not
disturb him.

"I am growing quite fond of him," she said to Ermengarde; "I
should not like him to be disturbed. I have adopted him for a
friend. You can do that with people you never speak to at all.
You can just watch them, and think about them and be sorry for
them, until they seem almost like relations. I'm quite anxious
sometimes when I see the doctor call twice a day."

"I have very few relations," said Ermengarde, reflectively, "and
I'm very glad of it. I don't like those I have. My two aunts
are always saying, `Dear me, Ermengarde! You are very fat. You
shouldn't eat sweets,' and my uncle is always asking me things
like, `When did Edward the Third ascend the throne?' and, `Who
died of a surfeit of lampreys?'"

Sara laughed.

"People you never speak to can't ask you questions like that,"
she said; "and I'm sure the Indian gentleman wouldn't even if he
was quite intimate with you. I am fond of him."

She had become fond of the Large Family because they looked
happy; but she had become fond of the Indian gentleman because he
looked unhappy. He had evidently not fully recovered from some
very severe illness. In the kitchen--where, of course, the
servants, through some mysterious means, knew everything--there
was much discussion of his case. He was not an Indian gentleman
really, but an Englishman who had lived in India. He had met
with great misfortunes which had for a time so imperilled his
whole fortune that he had thought himself ruined and disgraced
forever. The shock had been so great that he had almost died of
brain fever; and ever since he had been shattered in health,
though his fortunes had changed and all his possessions had been
restored to him. His trouble and peril had been connected with
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 armchair by the fire,
nearly always in a great dressing gown, and nearly always with
his forehead resting in his hand as he gazed hopelessly into the
fire. He looked to Sara like a man who had a trouble on his mind
still, not merely like one whose troubles lay all in the past.

"He always seems as if he were thinking of something that hurts
him NOW", she said to herself, "but he has got his money back and
he will get over his brain fever in time, so he ought not to look
like that. I wonder if there is something else."

If there was something else--something even servants did not
hear of--she could not help believing that the father of the
Large Family knew it--the gentleman she called Mr. Montmorency.
Mr. Montmorency went to see him often, and Mrs. Montmorency and
all the little Montmorencys went, too, though less often. He
seemed particularly fond of the two elder little girls--the Janet
and Nora who had been so alarmed when their small brother Donald
had given Sara his sixpence. He had, in fact, a very tender
place in his heart for all children, and particularly for little
girls. Janet and Nora were as fond of him as he was of them, and
looked forward with the greatest pleasure to the afternoons when
they were allowed to cross the square and make their well-behaved
little visits to him. They were extremely decorous little visits
because he was an invalid.

"He is a poor thing," said Janet, "and he says we cheer him up.
We try to cheer him up very quietly."

Janet was the head of the family, and kept the rest of it in
order. It was she who decided when it was discreet to ask the
Indian gentleman to tell stories about India, and it was she who
saw when he was tired and it was the time to steal quietly away
and tell Ram Dass to go to him. They were very fond of Ram Dass.
He could have told any number of stories if he had been able to
speak anything but Hindustani. The Indian gentleman's real name
was Mr. Carrisford, and Janet told Mr. Carrisford about the
encounter with the little-girl-who-was-not-a-beggar. He was very
much interested, and all the more so when he heard from Ram Dass
of the adventure of the monkey on the roof. Ram Dass made for
him a very clear picture of the attic and its desolateness--of
the bare floor and broken plaster, the rusty, empty grate, and
the hard, narrow bed.

"Carmichael," he said to the father of the Large Family, after
he had heard this description, "I wonder how many of the attics in
this square are like that one, and how many wretched little
servant girls sleep on such beds, while I toss on my down
pillows, loaded and harassed by wealth that is, most of it--not
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 the particular way of this
particular subject.

"If the child at Madame Pascal's school in Paris was the one you
are in search of," he answered soothingly, "she would seem to be
in the hands of people who can afford to take care of her. They
adopted her because she had been the favorite companion of their
little daughter who died. They had no other children, and Madame
Pascal said that they were extremely well-to-do Russians."

"And the wretched woman actually did not know where they had
taken her!" exclaimed Mr. Carrisford.

Mr. Carmichael shrugged his shoulders.

"She was a shrewd, worldly Frenchwoman, and was evidently only
too glad to get the child so comfortably off her hands when the
father's death left her totally unprovided for. Women of her
type do not trouble themselves about the futures of children who
might prove burdens. The adopted parents apparently disappeared
and left no trace."

"But you say `IF the child was the one I am in search of. You
say 'if.' We are not sure. There was a difference in the
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 today, Melchisedec," she
said. "It has been harder than usual. It gets harder as the
weather grows colder and the streets get more sloppy. When
Lavinia laughed at my muddy skirt as I passed her in the hall, I
thought of something to say all in a flash--and I only just
stopped myself in time. You can't sneer back at people like that-
-if you are a princess. But you have to bite your tongue to hold
yourself in. I bit mine. It was a cold afternoon, Melchisedec.
And it's a cold night."

Quite suddenly she put her black head down in her arms, as she
often did when she was alone.

"Oh, papa," she whispered, "what a long time it seems since I was
your `Little Missus'!"

This was what happened that day on both sides of the wall.

13

One of the Populace

The winter was a wretched one. There were days on which Sara
tramped through snow when she went on her errands; there were
worse days when the snow melted and combined itself with mud to
form slush; there were others when the fog was so thick that the
lamps in the street were lighted all day and London looked as it
had looked the afternoon, several years ago, when the cab had
driven through the thoroughfares with Sara tucked up on its seat,
leaning against her father's shoulder. On such days the windows
of the house of the Large Family always looked delightfully cozy
and alluring, and the study in which the Indian gentleman sat
glowed with warmth and rich color. But the attic was dismal
beyond words. There were no longer sunsets or sunrises to look
at, and scarcely ever any stars, it seemed to Sara. The clouds
hung low over the skylight and were either gray or mud-color, or
dropping heavy rain. At four o'clock in the afternoon, even when
there was no special fog, the daylight was at an end. If it was
necessary to go to her attic for anything, Sara was obliged to
light a candle. The women in the kitchen were depressed, and
that made them more ill-tempered than ever. Becky was driven
like a little slave.

"'Twarn't for you, miss," she said hoarsely to Sara one night
when she had crept into the attic--"'twarn't for you, an' the
Bastille, an' bein' the prisoner in the next cell, I should die.
That there does seem real now, doesn't it? The missus is more
like the head jailer every day she lives. I can jest see them
big keys you say she carries. The cook she's like one of the
under-jailers. Tell me some more, please, miss--tell me about
the subt'ranean passage we've dug under the walls."

"I'll tell you something warmer," shivered Sara. "Get your
coverlet and wrap it round you, and I'll get mine, and we will
huddle close together on the bed, and I'll tell you about the
tropical forest where the Indian gentleman's monkey used to live.
When I see him sitting on the table near the window and looking
out into the street with that mournful expression, I always feel
sure he is thinking about the tropical forest where he used to
swing by his tail from coconut trees. I wonder who caught him,
and if he left a family behind who had depended on him for
coconuts."

"That is warmer, miss," said Becky, gratefully; "but, someways,
even the Bastille is sort of heatin' when you gets to tellin'
about it."

"That is because it makes you think of something else," said
Sara, wrapping the coverlet round her until only her small dark
face was to be seen looking out of it. "I've noticed this. What
you have to do with your mind, when your body is miserable, is to
make it think of something else."

"Can you do it, miss?" faltered Becky, regarding her with
admiring eyes.

Sara knitted her brows a moment.

"Sometimes I can and sometimes I can't," she said stoutly. "But
when I CAN I'm all right. And what I believe is that we always
could--if we practiced enough. I've been practicing a good deal
lately, and it's beginning to be easier than it used to be. When
things are horrible--just horrible--I think as hard as ever I can
of being a princess. I say to myself, `I am a princess, and I am
a fairy one, and because I am a fairy nothing can hurt me or make
me uncomfortable.' You don't know how it makes you forget"--
with a laugh.

She had many opportunities of making her mind think of something
else, and many opportunities of proving to herself whether or not
she was a princess. But one of the strongest tests she was ever
put to came on a certain dreadful day which, she often thought
afterward, would never quite fade out of her memory even in the
years to come.

For several days it had rained continuously; the streets were
chilly and sloppy and full of dreary, cold mist; there was mud
everywhere--sticky London mud--and over everything the pall of
drizzle and fog. Of course there were several long and tiresome
errands to be done--there always were on days like this--and
Sara was sent out again and again, until her shabby clothes were
damp through. The absurd old feathers on her forlorn hat were
more draggled and absurd than ever, and her downtrodden shoes
were so wet that they could not hold any more water. Added to
this, she had been deprived of her dinner, because Miss Minchin
had chosen to punish her. She was so cold and hungry and tired
that her face began to have a pinched look, and now and then some
kind-hearted person passing her in the street glanced at her with
sudden sympathy. But she did not know that. She hurried on,
trying to make her mind think of something else. It was really
very necessary. Her way of doing it was to "pretend" and
"suppose" with all the strength that was left in her. But really
this time it was harder than she had ever found it, and once or
twice she thought it almost made her more cold and hungry instead
of less so. But she persevered obstinately, and as the muddy
water squelched through her broken shoes and the wind seemed
trying to drag her thin jacket from her, she talked to herself as
she walked, though she did not speak aloud or even move her lips.

"Suppose I had dry clothes on," she thought. "Suppose I had
good shoes and a long, thick coat and merino stockings and a
whole umbrella. And suppose--suppose--just when I was near a
baker's where they sold hot buns, I should find sixpence--which
belonged to nobody. SUPPOSE if I did, I should go into the shop
and buy six of the hottest buns and eat them all without
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 for a few
seconds. Then she spoke to her.

"Are you hungry?" she asked.

The child shuffled herself and her rags a little more.

"Ain't I jist?" she said in a hoarse voice. "Jist ain't I?"

"Haven't you had any dinner?" said Sara.

"No dinner," more hoarsely still and with more shuffling. "Nor
yet no bre'fast--nor yet no supper. No nothin'.

"Since when?" asked Sara.

"Dunno. Never got nothin' today--nowhere. I've axed an' axed."

Just to look at her made Sara more hungry and faint. But those
queer little thoughts were at work in her brain, and she was
talking to herself, though she was sick at heart.

"If I'm a princess," she was saying, "if I'm a princess--when
they were poor and driven from their thrones--they always shared--
with the populace--if they met one poorer and hungrier than
themselves. They always shared. Buns are a penny each. If it
had been sixpence I could have eaten six. It won't be enough for
either of us. But it will be better than nothing."

"Wait a minute," she said to the beggar child.

She went into the shop. It was warm and smelled deliciously.
The woman was just going to put some more hot buns into the
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.

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-bye," said Sara.

When she reached the other side of the street she looked back.
The child had a bun in each hand and had stopped in the middle of
a bite to watch her. Sara gave her a little nod, and the child,
after another stare--a curious lingering stare--jerked her
shaggy head in response, and until Sara was out of sight she did
not take another bite or even finish the one she had begun.

At that moment the baker-woman looked out of her shop window.

"Well, I never!" she exclaimed. "If that young un hasn't given
her buns to a beggar child! It wasn't because she didn't want
them, either. Well, well, she looked hungry enough. I'd give
something to know what she did it for."

She stood behind her window for a few moments and pondered. Then
her curiosity got the better of her. She went to the door and
spoke to the beggar child.

"Who gave you those buns?" she asked her. The child nodded her
head toward Sara's vanishing figure.

"What did she say?" inquired the woman.

"Axed me if I was 'ungry," replied the hoarse voice.

"What did you say?"

"Said I was jist."

"And then she came in and got the buns, and gave them to you, did
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 't ain'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 traveler come out and stand against the
background of the warmly-lighted hall, the older children still
hovering about him.

"Will Moscow be covered with snow?" said the little girl Janet.
"Will there be ice everywhere?"

"Shall you drive in a drosky?" cried another. "Shall you see the
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 someone who was quite rich--someone who
only let her have them because they were too shabby to wear. The
people at the school always send her out on errands on the
horridest days and nights there are."

Sara crossed the square to Miss Minchin's area steps, feeling
faint and shaky.

"I wonder who the little girl is," she thought--"the little girl
he is going to look for."

And she went down the area steps, lugging her basket and finding
it very heavy indeed, as the father of the Large Family drove
quickly on his way to the station to take the train which was to
carry him to Moscow, where he was to make his best efforts to
search for the lost little daughter of Captain Crewe.

14

What Melchisedec Heard and Saw

On this very afternoon, while Sara was out, a strange thing
happened in the attic. Only Melchisedec saw and heard it; and he
was so much alarmed and mystified that he scuttled back to his
hole and hid there, and really quaked and trembled as he peeped
out furtively and with great caution to watch what was going on.

The attic had been very still all the day after Sara had left it
in the early morning. The stillness had only been broken by the
pattering of the rain upon the slates and the skylight.
Melchisedec had, in fact, found it rather dull; and when the
rain ceased to patter and perfect silence reigned, he decided to
come out and reconnoiter, though experience taught him that Sara
would not return for some time. He had been rambling and
sniffing about, and had just found a totally unexpected and
unexplained crumb left from his last meal, when his attention was
attracted by a sound on the roof. He stopped to listen with a
palpitating heart. The sound suggested that something was moving
on the roof. It was approaching the skylight; it reached the
skylight. The skylight was being mysteriously opened. A dark
face peered into the attic; then another face appeared behind it,
and both looked in with signs of caution and interest. Two men
were outside on the roof, and were making silent preparations to
enter through the skylight itself. One was Ram Dass and the
other was a young man who was the Indian gentleman's secretary;
but of course Melchisedec did not know this. He only knew that
the men were invading the silence and privacy of the attic; and
as the one with the dark face let himself down through the
aperture with such lightness and dexterity that he did not make
the slightest sound, Melchisedec turned tail and fled
precipitately back to his hole. He was frightened to death. He
had ceased to be timid with Sara, and knew she would never throw
anything but crumbs, and would never make any sound other than
the soft, low, coaxing whistling; but strange men were dangerous
things to remain near. He lay close and flat near the entrance
of his home, just managing to peep through the crack with a
bright, alarmed eye. How much he understood of the talk he heard
I am not in the least able to say; but, even if he had understood
it all, he would probably have remained greatly mystified.

The secretary, who was light and young, slipped through the
skylight as noiselessly as Ram Dass had done; and he caught a
last glimpse of Melchisedec's vanishing tail.

"Was that a rat?" he asked Ram Dass in a whisper.

"Yes; a rat, Sahib," answered Ram Dass, also whispering. "There
are many in the walls."

"Ugh!" exclaimed the young man. "It is a wonder the child is
not terrified of them."

Ram Dass made a gesture with his hands. He also smiled
respectfully. He was in this place as the intimate exponent of
Sara, though she had only spoken to him once.

"The child is the little friend of all things, Sahib," he
answered. "She is not as other children. I see her when she
does not see me. I slip across the slates and look at her many
nights to see that she is safe. I watch her from my window when
she does not know I am near. She stands on the table there and
looks out at the sky as if it spoke to her. The sparrows come at
her call. The rat she has fed and tamed in her loneliness. The
poor slave of the house comes to her for comfort. There is a
little child who comes to her in secret; there is one older who
worships her and would listen to her forever if she might. This
I have seen when I have crept across the roof. By the mistress
of the house--who is an evil woman--she is treated like a pariah;
but she has the bearing of a child who is of the blood of kings!"

"You seem to know a great deal about her," the secretary said.

"All her life each day I know," answered Ram Dass. "Her going
out I know, and her coming in; her sadness and her poor joys; her
coldness and her hunger. I know when she is alone until
midnight, learning from her books; I know when her secret friends
steal to her and she is happier--as children can be, even in the
midst of poverty--because they come and she may laugh and talk
with them in whispers. If she were ill I should know, and I
would come and serve her if it might be done."

"You are sure no one comes near this place but herself, and that
she will not return and surprise us. She would be frightened if
she found us here, and the Sahib Carrisford's plan would be
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 tonight." He lifted the covering
and examined the one thin pillow.

"Coverlet dingy and worn, blanket thin, sheets patched and
ragged," he said. "What a bed for a child to sleep in--and in a
house which calls itself respectable! There has not been a fire
in that grate for many a day," glancing at the rusty fireplace.

"Never since I have seen it," said Ram Dass. "The mistress of
the house is not one who remembers that another than herself may
be cold."

The secretary was writing quickly on his tablet. He looked up
from it as he tore off a leaf and slipped it into his breast
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.

15

The Magic

When Sara had passed the house next door she had seen Ram Dass
closing the shutters, and caught her glimpse of this room also.

"It is a long time since I saw a nice place from the inside," was
the thought which crossed her mind.

There was the usual bright fire glowing in the grate, and the
Indian gentleman was sitting before it. His head was resting in
his hand, and he looked as lonely and unhappy as ever.

"Poor man!" said Sara. "I wonder what you are supposing."

And this was what he was "supposing" at that very moment.

"Suppose," he was thinking, "suppose--even if Carmichael traces
the people to Moscow--the little girl they took from Madame
Pascal's school in Paris is NOT the one we are in search of.
Suppose she proves to be quite a different child. What steps
shall I take next?"

When Sara went into the house she met Miss Minchin, who had come
downstairs to scold the cook.

"Where have you wasted your time?" she demanded. "You have been
out for hours."

"It was so wet and muddy," Sara answered, "it was hard to walk,
because my shoes were so bad and slipped about."

"Make no excuses," said Miss Minchin, "and tell no falsehoods."

Sara went in to the cook. The cook had received a severe
lecture and was in a fearful temper as a result. She was only
too rejoiced to have someone to vent her rage on, and Sara was a
convenience, as usual.

"Why didn't you stay all night?" she snapped.

Sara laid her purchases on the table.

"Here are the things," she said.

The cook looked them over, grumbling. She was in a very savage
humor indeed.

"May I have something to eat?" Sara asked rather faintly.

"Tea's over and done with," was the answer. "Did you expect me
to keep it hot for you?"

Sara stood silent for a second.

"I had no dinner," she said next, and her voice was quite low.
She made it low because she was afraid it would tremble.

"There's some bread in the pantry," said the cook. "That's all
you'll get at this time of day."

Sara went and found the bread. It was old and hard and dry. The
cook was in too vicious a humor to give her anything to eat with
it. It was always safe and easy to vent her spite on Sara.
Really, it was hard for the child to climb the three long
flights of stairs leading to her attic. She often found them
long and steep when she was tired; but tonight it seemed as if
she would never reach the top. Several times she was obliged to
stop to rest. When she reached the top landing she was glad to
see the glimmer of a light coming from under her door. That
meant that Ermengarde had managed to creep up to pay her a visit.
There was some comfort in that. It was better than to go into
the room alone and find it empty and desolate. The mere presence
of plump, comfortable Ermengarde, wrapped in her red shawl, would
warm it a little.

Yes; there Ermengarde was when she opened the door. She was
sitting in the middle of the bed, with her feet tucked safely
under her. She had never become intimate with Melchisedec and
his family, though they rather fascinated her. When she found
herself alone in the attic she always preferred to sit on the bed
until Sara arrived. She had, in fact, on this occasion had time
to become rather nervous, because Melchisedec had appeared and
sniffed about a good deal, and once had made her utter a
repressed squeal by sitting up on his hind legs and, while he
looked at her, sniffing pointedly in her direction.

"Oh, Sara," she cried out, "I am glad you have come. Melchy
WOULD sniff about so. I tried to coax him to go back, but he
wouldn't for such a long time. I like him, you know; but it does
frighten me when he sniffs right at me. Do you think he ever
WOULD jump?"

"No," answered Sara.

Ermengarde crawled forward on the bed to look at her.

"You DO look tired, Sara," she said; "you are quite pale."

"I AM tired," said Sara, dropping on to the lopsided footstool.
"Oh, there's Melchisedec, poor thing. He's come to ask for his
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 tonight, Ermie," Sara said.
Ermengarde hugged herself in the red shawl.

"Miss Amelia has gone out to spend the night with her old aunt,"
she explained. "No one else ever comes and looks into the
bedrooms after we are in bed. I could stay here until morning if
I wanted to."

She pointed toward the table under the skylight. Sara had not
looked toward it as she came in. A number of books were piled
upon it. Ermengarde's gesture was a dejected one.

"Papa has sent me some more books, Sara," she said. "There they
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 the side of it which was made exciting by things
which were "pretended" and stories which were told. Her visits
partook of the character of adventures; and though sometimes Sara
looked rather pale, and it was not to be denied that she had
grown very thin, her proud little spirit would not admit of
complaints. She had never confessed that at times she was almost
ravenous with hunger, as she was tonight. She was growing
rapidly, and her constant walking and running about would have
given her a keen appetite even if she had had abundant and
regular meals of a much more nourishing nature than the
unappetizing, inferior food snatched at such odd times as suited
the kitchen convenience. She was growing used to a certain
gnawing feeling in her young stomach.

"I suppose soldiers feel like this when they are on a long and
weary march," she often said to herself. She liked the sound of
the phrase, "long and weary march." It made her feel rather like
a soldier. She had also a quaint sense of being a hostess in the
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 time of famine, when their
lands had been pillaged." She was a proud, brave little
chatelaine, and dispensed generously the one hospitality she
could offer--the dreams she dreamed--the visions she saw--the
imaginings which were her joy and comfort.

So, as they sat together, Ermengarde did not know that she was
faint as well as ravenous, and that while she talked she now and
then wondered if her hunger would let her sleep when she was left
alone. She felt as if she had never been quite so hungry before.

"I wish I was as thin as you, Sara," Ermengarde said suddenly.
"I believe you are thinner than you used to be. Your eyes look
so big, and look at the sharp little bones sticking out of your
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?" {another ed. has "No-
no,"}

"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."

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