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A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Part 4 out of 5

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"'T warn't me, mum," said Becky sobbing. "I was 'ungry enough,
but 't warn't me--never!"

"You deserve to be sent to prison," said Miss Minchin's voice.
"Picking and stealing! Half a meat pie, indeed!"

"'T warn't me," wept Becky. "I could 'ave eat a whole un--but I
never laid a finger on it."

Miss Minchin was out of breath between temper and mounting the
stairs. The meat pie had been intended for her special late
supper. It became apparent that she boxed Becky's ears.

"Don't tell falsehoods," she said. "Go to your room this
instant."

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

"I could 'ave e't two of 'em," they heard her cry into her
pillow. "An' I never took a bite. 'Twas cook give it to her
policeman."

Sara stood in the middle of the room in the darkness. She was
clenching her little teeth and opening and shutting fiercely her
outstretched hands. She could scarcely stand still, but she
dared not move until Miss Minchin had gone down the stairs and
all was still.

"The wicked, cruel thing!" she burst forth. "The cook takes
things herself and then says Becky steals them. She DOESN'T!
She DOESN'T! She's so hungry sometimes that she eats crusts out
of the ash barrel!" She pressed her hands hard against her face
and burst into passionate little sobs, and Ermengarde, hearing
this unusual thing, was overawed by it. Sara was crying! The
unconquerable Sara! It seemed to denote something new--some mood
she had never known. Suppose--suppose--a new dread possibility
presented itself to her kind, slow, little mind all at once. She
crept off the bed in the dark and found her way to the table
where the candle stood. She struck a match and lit the candle.
When she had lighted it, she bent forward and looked at Sara,
with her new thought growing to definite fear in her eyes.

"Sara," she said in a timid, almost awe-stricken voice, are--are-
-you never told me--I don't want to be rude, but--are YOU ever
hungry?"

It was too much just at that moment. The barrier broke down.
Sara lifted her face from her hands.

"Yes," she said in a new passionate way. "Yes, I am. I'm so
hungry now that I could almost eat you. And it makes it worse to
hear poor Becky. She's hungrier than I am."

Ermengarde gasped.

"Oh, oh!" she cried woefully. "And I never knew!"

"I didn't want you to know," Sara said. "It would have made me
feel like a street beggar. I know I look like a street beggar."

"No, you don't--you don't!" Ermengarde broke in. "Your clothes
are a little queer--but you couldn't look like a street beggar.
You haven't a street-beggar face."

"A little boy once gave me a sixpence for charity," said Sara,
with a short little laugh in spite of herself. "Here it is."
And she pulled out the thin ribbon from her neck. "He wouldn't
have given me his Christmas sixpence if I hadn't looked as if I
needed it."

Somehow the sight of the dear little sixpence was good for both
of them. It made them laugh a little, though they both had
tears in their eyes.

"Who was he?" asked Ermengarde, looking at it quite as if it had
not been a mere ordinary silver sixpence.

"He was a darling little thing going to a party," said Sara. "He
was one of the Large Family, the little one with the round legs--
the one I call Guy Clarence. I suppose his nursery was crammed
with Christmas presents and hampers full of cakes and things,
and he could see I had nothing."

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

"Oh, Sara!" she cried. "What a silly thing I am not to have
thought of it!"

"Of what?"

"Something splendid!" said Ermengarde, in an excited hurry.
"This very afternoon my nicest aunt sent me a box. It is full
of good things. I never touched it, I had so much pudding at
dinner, and I was so bothered about papa's books." Her words
began to tumble over each other. "It's got cake in it, and
little meat pies, and jam tarts and buns, and oranges and red-
currant wine, and figs and chocolate. I'll creep back to my room
and get it this minute, and we'll eat it now."

Sara almost reeled. When one is faint with hunger the mention
of food has sometimes a curious effect. She clutched
Ermengarde's arm.

"Do you think--you COULD?" she ejaculated.

"I know I could," answered Ermengarde, and she ran to the door--
opened it softly--put her head out into the darkness, and
listened. Then she went back to Sara. "The lights are out.
Everybody's in bed. I can creep--and creep--and no one will
hear."

It was so delightful that they caught each other's hands and a
sudden light sprang into Sara's eyes.

"Ermie!" she said. "Let us PRETEND! Let us pretend it's a
party! And oh, won't you invite the prisoner in the next cell?"

"Yes! Yes! Let us knock on the wall now. The jailer won't
hear."

Sara went to the wall. Through it she could hear poor Becky
crying more softly. She knocked four times.

"That means, `Come to me through the secret passage under the
wall,' she explained. `I have something to communicate.'"

Five quick knocks answered her.

"She is coming," she said.

Almost immediately the door of the attic opened and Becky
appeared. Her eyes were red and her cap was sliding off, and
when she caught sight of Ermengarde she began to rub her face
nervously with her apron.

"Don't mind me a bit, Becky!" cried Ermengarde.

"Miss Ermengarde has asked you to come in," said Sara, "because
she is going to bring a box of good things up here to us."

Becky's cap almost fell off entirely, she broke in with such
excitement.

"To eat, miss?" she said. "Things that's good to eat?"

"Yes," answered Sara, "and we are going to pretend a party."

"And you shall have as much as you WANT to eat," put in
Ermengarde. "I'll go this minute!"

She was in such haste that as she tiptoed out of the attic she
dropped her red shawl and did not know it had fallen. No one
saw it for a minute or so. Becky was too much overpowered by the
good luck which had befallen her.

"Oh, miss! oh, miss!" she gasped; "I know it was you that asked
her to let me come. It--it makes me cry to think of it." And
she went to Sara's side and stood and looked at her worshipingly.

But in Sara's hungry eyes the old light had begun to glow and
transform her world for her. Here in the attic--with the cold
night outside-- with the afternoon in the sloppy streets barely
passed--with the memory of the awful unfed look in the beggar
child's eyes not yet faded--this simple, cheerful thing had
happened like a thing of magic.

She caught her breath.

"Somehow, something always happens," she cried, "just before
things get to the very worst. It is as if the Magic did it. If
I could only just remember that always. The worst thing never
QUITE comes."

She gave Becky a little cheerful shake.

"No, no! You mustn't cry!" she said. "We must make haste and
set the table."

"Set the table, miss?" said Becky, gazing round the room.
"What'll we set it with?"

Sara looked round the attic, too.

"There doesn't seem to be much," she answered, half laughing.

That moment she saw something and pounced upon it. It was
Ermengarde's red shawl which lay upon the floor.

"Here's the shawl," she cried. "I know she won't mind it. It
will make such a nice red tablecloth."

They pulled the old table forward, and threw the shawl over it.
Red is a wonderfully kind and comfortable color. It began to
make the room look furnished directly.

"How nice a red rug would look on the floor!" exclaimed Sara.
"We must pretend there is one!"

Her eye swept the bare boards with a swift glance of admiration.
The rug was laid down already.

"How soft and thick it is!" she said, with the little laugh which
Becky knew the meaning of; and she raised and set her foot down
again delicately, as if she felt something under it.

"Yes, miss," answered Becky, watching her with serious rapture.
She was always quite serious.

"What next, now?" said Sara, and she stood still and put her
hands over her eyes. "Something will come if I think and wait a
little"--in a soft, expectant voice. "The Magic will tell me."

One of her favorite fancies was that on "the outside," as she
called it, thoughts were waiting for people to call them. Becky
had seen her stand and wait many a time before, and knew that in
a few seconds she would uncover an enlightened, laughing face.

In a moment she did.

"There!" she cried. "It has come! I know now! I must look
among the things in the old trunk I had when I was a princess."

She flew to its corner and kneeled down. It had not been put in
the attic for her benefit, but because there was no room for it
elsewhere. Nothing had been left in it but rubbish. But she
knew she should find something. The Magic always arranged that
kind of thing in one way or another.

In a corner lay a package so insignificant-looking that it had
been overlooked, and when she herself had found it she had kept
it as a relic. It contained a dozen small white handkerchiefs.
She seized them joyfully and ran to the table. She began to
arrange them upon the red table-cover, patting and coaxing them
into shape with the narrow lace edge curling outward, her Magic
working its spells for her as she did it.

"These are the plates," she said. "They are golden plates.
These are the richly embroidered napkins. Nuns worked them in
convents in Spain."

"Did they, miss?" breathed Becky, her very soul uplifted by the
information.

"You must pretend it," said Sara. "If you pretend it enough, you
will see them."

"Yes, miss," said Becky; and as Sara returned to the trunk she
devoted herself to the effort of accomplishing an end so much to
be desired.

Sara turned suddenly to find her standing by the table, looking
very queer indeed. She had shut her eyes, and was twisting her
face in strange convulsive contortions, her hands hanging stiffly
clenched at her sides. She looked as if she was trying to lift
some enormous weight.

"What is the matter, Becky?" Sara cried. "What are you doing?"

Becky opened her eyes with a start.

"I was a-'pretendin',' miss," she answered a little sheepishly; "I
was tryin' to see it like you do. I almost did," with a hopeful
grin. "But it takes a lot o' stren'th."

"Perhaps it does if you are not used to it," said Sara, with
friendly sympathy; "but you don't know how easy it is when you've
done it often. I wouldn't try so hard just at first. It will
come to you after a while. I'll just tell you what things are.
Look at these."

She held an old summer hat in her hand which she had fished out
of the bottom of the trunk. There was a wreath of flowers on
it. She pulled the wreath off.

"These are garlands for the feast," she said grandly. "They
fill all the air with perfume. There's a mug on the wash-stand,
Becky. Oh--and bring the soap dish for a centerpiece."

Becky handed them to her reverently.

"What are they now, miss?" she inquired. "You'd think they was
made of crockery--but I know they ain't."

"This is a carven flagon," said Sara, arranging tendrils of the
wreath about the mug. "And this"--bending tenderly over the soap
dish and heaping it with roses--"is purest alabaster encrusted
with gems."

She touched the things gently, a happy smile hovering about her
lips which made her look as if she were a creature in a dream.

"My, ain't it lovely!" whispered Becky.

"If we just had something for bonbon dishes," Sara murmured.
"There!"--darting to the trunk again. "I remember I saw
something this minute."

It was only a bundle of wool wrapped in red and white tissue
paper, but the tissue paper was soon twisted into the form of
little dishes, and was combined with the remaining flowers to
ornament the candlestick which was to light the feast. Only the
Magic could have made it more than an old table covered with a
red shawl and set with rubbish from a long-unopened trunk. But
Sara drew back and gazed at it, seeing wonders; and Becky, after
staring in delight, spoke with bated breath.

"This 'ere," she suggested, with a glance round the attic--"is
it the Bastille now--or has it turned into somethin' different?"

"Oh, yes, yes!" said Sara. "Quite different. It is a banquet
hall!"

"My eye, miss!" ejaculated Becky. "A blanket 'all!" and she
turned to view the splendors about her with awed bewilderment.

"A banquet hall," said Sara. "A vast chamber where feasts are
given. It has a vaulted roof, and a minstrels' gallery, and a
huge chimney filled with blazing oaken logs, and it is brilliant
with waxen tapers twinkling on every side."

"My eye, Miss Sara!" gasped Becky again.

Then the door opened, and Ermengarde came in, rather staggering
under the weight of her hamper. She started back with an
exclamation of joy. To enter from the chill darkness outside,
and find one's self confronted by a totally unanticipated festal
board, draped with red, adorned with white napery, and wreathed
with flowers, was to feel that the preparations were brilliant
indeed.

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

"Isn't it nice?" said Sara. "They are things out of my old
trunk. I asked my Magic, and it told me to go and look."

"But oh, miss," cried Becky, "wait till she's told you what they
are! They ain't just--oh, miss, please tell her," appealing to
Sara.

So Sara told her, and because her Magic helped her she made her
ALMOST see it all: the golden platters--the vaulted spaces--the
blazing logs--the twinkling waxen tapers. As the things were
taken out of the hamper--the frosted cakes--the fruits--the
bonbons and the wine--the feast became a splendid thing.

"It's like a real party!" cried Ermengarde.

"It's like a queen's table," sighed Becky.

Then Ermengarde had a sudden brilliant thought.

"I'll tell you what, Sara," she said. "Pretend you are a
princess now and this is a royal feast."

"But it's your feast," said Sara; "you must be the princess, and
we will be your maids of honor."

"Oh, I can't," said Ermengarde. "I'm too fat, and I don't know
how. YOU be her."

"Well, if you want me to," said Sara.

But suddenly she thought of something else and ran to the rusty
grate.

"There is a lot of paper and rubbish stuffed in here!" she
exclaimed. "If we light it, there will be a bright blaze for a
few minutes, and we shall feel as if it was a real fire." She
struck a match and lighted it up with a great specious glow which
illuminated the room.

"By the time it stops blazing," Sara said, "we shall forget
about its not being real."

She stood in the dancing glow and smiled.

"Doesn't it LOOK real?" she said. "Now we will begin the
party."

She led the way to the table. She waved her hand graciously to
Ermengarde and Becky. She was in the midst of her dream.

"Advance, fair damsels," she said in her happy dream-voice, "and
be seated at the banquet table. My noble father, the king, who
is absent on a long journey, has commanded me to feast you." She
turned her head slightly toward the corner of the room. "What,
ho, there, minstrels! Strike up with your viols and bassoons.
Princesses," she explained rapidly to Ermengarde and Becky,
"always had minstrels to play at their feasts. Pretend there is
a minstrel gallery up there in the corner. Now we will begin."

They had barely had time to take their pieces of cake into their
hands--not one of them had time to do more, when--they all three
sprang to their feet and turned pale faces toward the door--
listening--listening.

Someone was coming up the stairs. There was no mistake about
it. Each of them recognized the angry, mounting tread and knew
that the end of all things had come.

"It's--the missus!" choked Becky, and dropped her piece of cake
upon the floor.

"Yes," said Sara, her eyes growing shocked and large in her
small white face. "Miss Minchin has found us out."

Miss Minchin struck the door open with a blow of her hand. She
was pale herself, but it was with rage. She looked from the
frightened faces to the banquet table, and from the banquet
table to the last flicker of the burnt paper in the grate.

"I have been suspecting something of this sort," she exclaimed;
"but I did not dream of such audacity. Lavinia was telling the
truth."

So they knew that it was Lavinia who had somehow guessed their
secret and had betrayed them. Miss Minchin strode over to Becky
and boxed her ears for a second time.

"You impudent creature!" she said. "You leave the house in the
morning!"

Sara stood quite still, her eyes growing larger, her face paler.
Ermengarde burst into tears.

"Oh, don't send her away," she sobbed. "My aunt sent me the
hamper. We're--only--having a party."

"So I see," said Miss Minchin, witheringly. "With the Princess
Sara at the head of the table." She turned fiercely on Sara.
"It is your doing, I know," she cried. "Ermengarde would never
have thought of such a thing. You decorated the table, I
suppose--with this rubbish." She stamped her foot at Becky.
"Go to your attic!" she commanded, and Becky stole away, her face
hidden in her apron, her shoulders shaking.

Then it was Sara's turn again.

"I will attend to you tomorrow. You shall have neither
breakfast, dinner, nor supper!"

"I have not had either dinner or supper today, Miss Minchin,"
said Sara, rather faintly.

"Then all the better. You will have something to remember.
Don't stand there. Put those things into the hamper again."

She began to sweep them off the table into the hamper herself,
and caught sight of Ermengarde's new books.

"And you"--to Ermengarde--"have brought your beautiful new books
into this dirty attic. Take them up and go back to bed. You
will stay there all day tomorrow, and I shall write to your papa.
What would HE say if he knew where you are tonight?"

Something she saw in Sara's grave, fixed gaze at this moment
made her turn on her fiercely.

"What are you thinking of?" she demanded. "Why do you look at
me like that?"

"I was wondering," answered Sara, as she had answered that
notable day in the schoolroom.

"What were you wondering?"

It was very like the scene in the schoolroom. There was no
pertness in Sara's manner. It was only sad and quiet.

"I was wondering," she said in a low voice, "what MY papa would
say if he knew where I am tonight."

Miss Minchin was infuriated just as she had been before and her
anger expressed itself, as before, in an intemperate fashion.
She flew at her and shook her.

"You insolent, unmanageable child!" she cried. "How dare you!
How dare you!"

She picked up the books, swept the rest of the feast back into
the hamper in a jumbled heap, thrust it into Ermengarde's arms,
and pushed her before her toward the door.

"I will leave you to wonder," she said. "Go to bed this
instant." And she shut the door behind herself and poor
stumbling Ermengarde, and left Sara standing quite alone.

The dream was quite at an end. The last spark had died out of
the paper in the grate and left only black tinder; the table was
left bare, the golden plates and richly embroidered napkins, and
the garlands were transformed again into old handkerchiefs,
scraps of red and white paper, and discarded artificial flowers
all scattered on the floor; the minstrels in the minstrel gallery
had stolen away, and the viols and bassoons were still. Emily
was sitting with her back against the wall, staring very hard.
Sara saw her, and went and picked her up with trembling hands.

"There isn't any banquet left, Emily," she said. "And there
isn't any princess. There is nothing left but the prisoners in
the Bastille." And she sat down and hid her face.

What would have happened if she had not hidden it just then, and
if she had chanced to look up at the skylight at the wrong
moment, I do not know--perhaps the end of this chapter might have
been quite different--because if she had glanced at the skylight
she would certainly have been startled by what she would have
seen. She would have seen exactly the same face pressed against
the glass and peering in at her as it had peered in earlier in
the evening when she had been talking to Ermengarde.

But she did not look up. She sat with her little black head in
her arms for some time. She always sat like that when she was
trying to bear something in silence. Then she got up and went
slowly to the bed.

"I can't pretend anything else--while I am awake," she said.
"There wouldn't be any use in trying. If I go to sleep, perhaps
a dream will come and pretend for me."

She suddenly felt so tired--perhaps through want of food--that
she sat down on the edge of the bed quite weakly.

"Suppose there was a bright fire in the grate, with lots of
little dancing flames," she murmured. "Suppose there was a
comfortable chair before it--and suppose there was a small table
near, with a little hot--hot supper on it. And suppose"--as she
drew the thin coverings over her--"suppose this was a beautiful
soft bed, with fleecy blankets and large downy pillows. Suppose--
suppose--" And her very weariness was good to her, for her eyes
closed and she fell fast asleep.

She did not know how long she slept. But she had been tired
enough to sleep deeply and profoundly--too deeply and soundly to
be disturbed by anything, even by the squeaks and scamperings of
Melchisedec's entire family, if all his sons and daughters had
chosen to come out of their hole to fight and tumble and play.

When she awakened it was rather suddenly, and she did not know
that any particular thing had called her out of her sleep. The
truth was, however, that it was a sound which had called her
back--a real sound--the click of the skylight as it fell in
closing after a lithe white figure which slipped through it and
crouched down close by upon the slates of the roof--just near
enough to see what happened in the attic, but not near enough to
be seen.

At first she did not open her eyes. She felt too sleepy and--
curiously enough--too warm and comfortable. She was so warm and
comfortable, indeed, that she did not believe she was really
awake. She never was as warm and cozy as this except in some
lovely vision.

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

Of course it was a dream. She felt as if warm, delightful
bedclothes were heaped upon her. She could actually FEEL
blankets, and when she put out her hand it touched something
exactly like a satin-covered eider-down quilt. She must not
awaken from this delight--she must be quite still and make it
last.

But she could not--even though she kept her eyes closed tightly,
she could not. Something was forcing her to awaken--something
in the room. It was a sense of light, and a sound--the sound of
a crackling, roaring little fire.

"Oh, I am awakening," she said mournfully. "I can't help it--I
can't."

Her eyes opened in spite of herself. And then she actually
smiled--for what she saw she had never seen in the attic before,
and knew she never should see.

"Oh, I HAVEN'T awakened," she whispered, daring to rise on her
elbow and look all about her. "I am dreaming yet." She knew it
MUST be a dream, for if she were awake such things could not--
could not be.

Do you wonder that she felt sure she had not come back to earth?
This is what she saw. In the grate there was a glowing, blazing
fire; on the hob was a little brass kettle hissing and boiling;
spread upon the floor was a thick, warm crimson rug; before the
fire a folding-chair, unfolded, and with cushions on it; by the
chair a small folding-table, unfolded, covered with a white
cloth, and upon it spread small covered dishes, a cup, a saucer,
a teapot; on the bed were new warm coverings and a satin-covered
down quilt; at the foot a curious wadded silk robe, a pair of
quilted slippers, and some books. The room of her dream seemed
changed into fairyland--and it was flooded with warm light, for
a bright lamp stood on the table covered with a rosy shade.

She sat up, resting on her elbow, and her breathing came short
and fast.

"It does not--melt away," she panted. "Oh, I never had such a
dream before." She scarcely dared to stir; but at last she
pushed the bedclothes aside, and put her feet on the floor with a
rapturous smile.

"I am dreaming--I am getting out of bed," she heard her own voice
say; and then, as she stood up in the midst of it all, turning
slowly from side to side--"I am dreaming it stays--real! I'm
dreaming it FEELS real. It's bewitched--or I'm bewitched. I
only THINK I see it all." Her words began to hurry themselves.
"If I can only keep on thinking it," she cried, "I don't care! I
don't care!"

She stood panting a moment longer, and then cried out again.

"Oh, it isn't true!" she said. "It CAN'T be true! But oh, how
true it seems!"

The blazing fire drew her to it, and she knelt down and held out
her hands close to it--so close that the heat made her start
back.

"A fire I only dreamed wouldn't be HOT," she cried.

She sprang up, touched the table, the dishes, the rug; she went
to the bed and touched the blankets. She took up the soft
wadded dressing-gown, and suddenly clutched it to her breast and
held it to her cheek.

"It's warm. It's soft!" she almost sobbed. "It's real. It must
be!"

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

"They are real, too. It's all real!" she cried. "I am NOT--I
am NOT dreaming!"

She almost staggered to the books and opened the one which lay
upon the top. Something was written on the flyleaf--just a few
words, and they were these:

"To the little girl in the attic. From a friend."

When she saw that--wasn't it a strange thing for her to do-- she
put her face down upon the page and burst into tears.

"I don't know who it is," she said; "but somebody cares for me a
little. I have a friend."

She took her candle and stole out of her own room and into
Becky's, and stood by her bedside.

"Becky, Becky!" she whispered as loudly as she dared. "Wake
up!"

When Becky wakened, and she sat upright staring aghast, her face
still smudged with traces of tears, beside her stood a little
figure in a luxurious wadded robe of crimson silk. The face she
saw was a shining, wonderful thing. The Princess Sara--as she
remembered her--stood at her very bedside, holding a candle in
her hand.

"Come," she said. "Oh, Becky, come!"

Becky was too frightened to speak. She simply got up and
followed her, with her mouth and eyes open, and without a word.

And when they crossed the threshold, Sara shut the door gently
and drew her into the warm, glowing midst of things which made
her brain reel and her hungry senses faint. "It's true! It's
true!" she cried. "I've touched them all. They are as real as
we are. The Magic has come and done it, Becky, while we were
asleep--the Magic that won't let those worst things EVER quite
happen."

16

The Visitor

Imagine, if you can, what the rest of the evening was like. How
they crouched by the fire which blazed and leaped and made so
much of itself in the little grate. How they removed the covers
of the dishes, and found rich, hot, savory soup, which was a meal
in itself, and sandwiches and toast and muffins enough for both
of them. The mug from the washstand was used as Becky's tea cup,
and the tea was so delicious that it was not necessary to pretend
that it was anything but tea. They were warm and full-fed and
happy, and it was just like Sara that, having found her strange
good fortune real, she should give herself up to the enjoyment of
it to the utmost. She had lived such a life of imaginings that
she was quite equal to accepting any wonderful thing that
happened, and almost to cease, in a short time, to find it
bewildering.

"I don't know anyone in the world who could have done it," she
said; "but there has been someone. And here we are sitting by
their fire--and--and--it's true! And whoever it is--wherever
they are--I have a friend, Becky--someone is my friend."

It cannot be denied that as they sat before the blazing fire,
and ate the nourishing, comfortable food, they felt a kind of
rapturous awe, and looked into each other's eyes with something
like doubt.

"Do you think," Becky faltered once, in a whisper, "do you think
it could melt away, miss? Hadn't we better be quick?" And she
hastily crammed her sandwich into her mouth. If it was only a
dream, kitchen manners would be overlooked.

"No, it won't melt away," said Sara. "I am EATING this muffin,
and I can taste it. You never really eat things in dreams. You
only think you are going to eat them. Besides, I keep giving
myself pinches; and I touched a hot piece of coal just now, on
purpose."

The sleepy comfort which at length almost overpowered them was a
heavenly thing. It was the drowsiness of happy, well-fed
childhood, and they sat in the fire glow and luxuriated in it
until Sara found herself turning to look at her transformed bed.

There were even blankets enough to share with Becky. The narrow
couch in the next attic was more comfortable that night than its
occupant had ever dreamed that it could be.

As she went out of the room, Becky turned upon the threshold and
looked about her with devouring eyes.

"If it ain't here in the mornin', miss," she said, "it's been
here tonight, anyways, an' I shan't never forget it." She looked
at each particular thing, as if to commit it to memory. "The
fire was THERE", pointing with her finger, "an' the table was
before it; an' the lamp was there, an' the light looked rosy red;
an' there was a satin cover on your bed, an' a warm rug on the
floor, an' everythin' looked beautiful; an'"--she paused a
second, and laid her hand on her stomach tenderly--"there WAS
soup an' sandwiches an' muffins--there WAS." And, with this
conviction a reality at least, she went away.

Through the mysterious agency which works in schools and among
servants, it was quite well known in the morning that Sara Crewe
was in horrible disgrace, that Ermengarde was under punishment,
and that Becky would have been packed out of the house before
breakfast, but that a scullery maid could not be dispensed with
at once. The servants knew that she was allowed to stay because
Miss Minchin could not easily find another creature helpless and
humble enough to work like a bounden slave for so few shillings a
week. The elder girls in the schoolroom knew that if Miss
Minchin did not send Sara away it was for practical reasons of
her own.

"She's growing so fast and learning such a lot, somehow," said
Jessie to Lavinia, "that she will be given classes soon, and Miss
Minchin knows she will have to work for nothing. It was rather
nasty of you, Lavvy, to tell about her having fun in the garret.
How did you find it out?"

"I got it out of Lottie. She's such a baby she didn't know she
was telling me. There was nothing nasty at all in speaking to
Miss Minchin. I felt it my duty"--priggishly. "She was being
deceitful. And it's ridiculous that she should look so grand,
and be made so much of, in her rags and tatters!"

"What were they doing when Miss Minchin caught them?"

"Pretending some silly thing. Ermengarde had taken up her
hamper to share with Sara and Becky. She never invites us to
share things. Not that I care, but it's rather vulgar of her to
share with servant girls in attics. I wonder Miss Minchin didn't
turn Sara out--even if she does want her for a teacher."

"If she was turned out where would she go?" inquired Jessie, a
trifle anxiously.

"How do I know?" snapped Lavinia. "She'll look rather queer when
she comes into the schoolroom this morning, I should think--
after what's happened. She had no dinner yesterday, and she's
not to have any today."

Jessie was not as ill-natured as she was silly. She picked up
her book with a little jerk.

"Well, I think it's horrid," she said. "They've no right to
starve her to death."

When Sara went into the kitchen that morning the cook looked
askance at her, and so did the housemaids; but she passed them
hurriedly. She had, in fact, overslept herself a little, and as
Becky had done the same, neither had had time to see the other,
and each had come downstairs in haste.

Sara went into the scullery. Becky was violently scrubbing a
kettle, and was actually gurgling a little song in her throat.
She looked up with a wildly elated face.

"It was there when I wakened, miss--the blanket," she whispered
excitedly. "It was as real as it was last night."

"So was mine," said Sara. "It is all there now--all of it.
While I was dressing I ate some of the cold things we left."

"Oh, laws! Oh, laws!" Becky uttered the exclamation in a sort
of rapturous groan, and ducked her head over her kettle just in
time, as the cook came in from the kitchen.

Miss Minchin had expected to see in Sara, when she appeared in
the schoolroom, very much what Lavinia had expected to see. Sara
had always been an annoying puzzle to her, because severity never
made her cry or look frightened. When she was scolded she stood
still and listened politely with a grave face; when she was
punished she performed her extra tasks or went without her
meals, making no complaint or outward sign of rebellion. The
very fact that she never made an impudent answer seemed to Miss
Minchin a kind of impudence in itself. But after yesterday's
deprivation of meals, the violent scene of last night, the
prospect of hunger today, she must surely have broken down. It
would be strange indeed if she did not come downstairs with pale
cheeks and red eyes and an unhappy, humbled face.

Miss Minchin saw her for the first time when she entered the
schoolroom to hear the little French class recite its lessons and
superintend its exercises. And she came in with a springing
step, color in her cheeks, and a smile hovering about the corners
of her mouth. It was the most astonishing thing Miss Minchin had
ever known. It gave her quite a shock. What was the child made
of? What could such a thing mean? She called her at once to her
desk.

"You do not look as if you realize that you are in disgrace," she
said. "Are you absolutely hardened?"

The truth is that when one is still a child--or even if one is
grown up--and has been well fed, and has slept long and softly
and warm; when one has gone to sleep in the midst of a fairy
story, and has wakened to find it real, one cannot be unhappy or
even look as if one were; and one could not, if one tried, keep a
glow of joy out of one's eyes. Miss Minchin was almost struck
dumb by the look of Sara's eyes when she made her perfectly
respectful answer.

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

"Be good enough not to forget it and look as if you had come
into a fortune. It is an impertinence. And remember you are to
have no food today."

"Yes, Miss Minchin," Sara answered; but as she turned away her
heart leaped with the memory of what yesterday had been. "If the
Magic had not saved me just in time," she thought, "how horrible
it would have been!"

"She can't be very hungry," whispered Lavinia. "Just look at
her. Perhaps she is pretending she has had a good breakfast"--
with a spiteful laugh.

"She's different from other people," said Jessie, watching Sara
with her class. "Sometimes I'm a bit frightened of her."

"Ridiculous thing!" ejaculated Lavinia.

All through the day the light was in Sara's face, and the color
in her cheek. The servants cast puzzled glances at her, and
whispered to each other, and Miss Amelia's small blue eyes wore
an expression of bewilderment. What such an audacious look of
well-being, under august displeasure could mean she could not
understand. It was, however, just like Sara's singular obstinate
way. She was probably determined to brave the matter out.

One thing Sara had resolved upon, as she thought things over.
The wonders which had happened must be kept a secret, if such a
thing were possible. If Miss Minchin should choose to mount to
the attic again, of course all would be discovered. But it did
not seem likely that she would do so for some time at least,
unless she was led by suspicion. Ermengarde and Lottie would be
watched with such strictness that they would not dare to steal
out of their beds again. Ermengarde could be told the story and
trusted to keep it secret. If Lottie made any discoveries, she
could be bound to secrecy also. Perhaps the Magic itself would
help to hide its own marvels.

"But whatever happens," Sara kept saying to herself all day--
"WHATEVER happens, somewhere in the world there is a heavenly
kind person who is my friend--my friend. If I never know who it
is--if I never can even thank him--I shall never feel quite so
lonely. Oh, the Magic was GOOD to me!"

If it was possible for weather to be worse than it had been the
day before, it was worse this day--wetter, muddier, colder.
There were more errands to be done, the cook was more irritable,
and, knowing that Sara was in disgrace, she was more savage. But
what does anything matter when one's Magic has just proved
itself one's friend. Sara's supper of the night before had given
her strength, she knew that she should sleep well and warmly,
and, even though she had naturally begun to be hungry again
before evening, she felt that she could bear it until breakfast-
time on the following day, when her meals would surely be given
to her again. It was quite late when she was at last allowed to
go upstairs. She had been told to go into the schoolroom and
study until ten o'clock, and she had become interested in her
work, and remained over her books later.

When she reached the top flight of stairs and stood before the
attic door, it must be confessed that her heart beat rather
fast.

"Of course it MIGHT all have been taken away," she whispered,
trying to be brave. "It might only have been lent to me for just
that one awful night. But it WAS lent to me--I had it. It was
real."

She pushed the door open and went in. Once inside, she gasped
slightly, shut the door, and stood with her back against it
looking from side to side.

The Magic had been there again. It actually had, and it had
done even more than before. The fire was blazing, in lovely
leaping flames, more merrily than ever. A number of new things
had been brought into the attic which so altered the look of it
that if she had not been past doubting she would have rubbed her
eyes. Upon the low table another supper stood--this time with
cups and plates for Becky as well as herself; a piece of bright,
heavy, strange embroidery covered the battered mantel, and on it
some ornaments had been placed. All the bare, ugly things which
could be covered with draperies had been concealed and made to
look quite pretty. Some odd materials of rich colors had been
fastened against the wall with fine, sharp tacks--so sharp that
they could be pressed into the wood and plaster without
hammering. Some brilliant fans were pinned up, and there were
several large cushions, big and substantial enough to use as
seats. A wooden box was covered with a rug, and some cushions
lay on it, so that it wore quite the air of a sofa.

Sara slowly moved away from the door and simply sat down and
looked and looked again.

"It is exactly like something fairy come true," she said. "There
isn't the least difference. I feel as if I might wish for
anything--diamonds or bags of gold--and they would appear! THAT
wouldn't be any stranger than this. Is this my garret? Am I the
same cold, ragged, damp Sara? And to think I used to pretend and
pretend and wish there were fairies! The one thing I always
wanted was to see a fairy story come true. I am LIVING in a
fairy story. I feel as if I might be a fairy myself, and able to
turn things into anything else."

She rose and knocked upon the wall for the prisoner in the next
cell, and the prisoner came.

When she entered she almost dropped in a heap upon the floor.
For a few seconds she quite lost her breath.

"Oh, laws!" she gasped. "Oh, laws, miss!"

"You see," said Sara.

On this night Becky sat on a cushion upon the hearth rug and had
a cup and saucer of her own.

When Sara went to bed she found that she had a new thick
mattress and big downy pillows. Her old mattress and pillow had
been removed to Becky's bedstead, and, consequently, with these
additions Becky had been supplied with unheard-of comfort.

"Where does it all come from?" Becky broke forth once. "Laws,
who does it, miss?"

"Don't let us even ASK," said Sara. "If it were not that I want
to say, `Oh, thank you,' I would rather not know. It makes it
more beautiful."

From that time life became more wonderful day by day. The fairy
story continued. Almost every day something new was done. Some
new comfort or ornament appeared each time Sara opened the door
at night, until in a short time the attic was a beautiful little
room full of all sorts of odd and luxurious things. The ugly
walls were gradually entirely covered with pictures and
draperies, ingenious pieces of folding furniture appeared, a
bookshelf was hung up and filled with books, new comforts and
conveniences appeared one by one, until there seemed nothing left
to be desired. When Sara went downstairs in the morning, the
remains of the supper were on the table; and when she returned to
the attic in the evening, the magician had removed them and left
another nice little meal. Miss Minchin was as harsh and
insulting as ever, Miss Amelia as peevish, and the servants were
as vulgar and rude. Sara was sent on errands in all weathers,
and scolded and driven hither and thither; she was scarcely
allowed to speak to Ermengarde and Lottie; Lavinia sneered at the
increasing shabbiness of her clothes; and the other girls stared
curiously at her when she appeared in the schoolroom. But what
did it all matter while she was living in this wonderful
mysterious story? It was more romantic and delightful than
anything she had ever invented to comfort her starved young soul
and save herself from despair. Sometimes, when she was scolded,
she could scarcely keep from smiling.

"If you only knew!" she was saying to herself. "If you only
knew!"

The comfort and happiness she enjoyed were making her stronger,
and she had them always to look forward to. If she came home
from her errands wet and tired and hungry, she knew she would
soon be warm and well fed after she had climbed the stairs.
During the hardest day she could occupy herself blissfully by
thinking of what she should see when she opened the attic door,
and wondering what new delight had been prepared for her. In a
very short time she began to look less thin. Color came into her
cheeks, and her eyes did not seem so much too big for her face.

"Sara Crewe looks wonderfully well," Miss Minchin remarked
disapprovingly to her sister.

"Yes," answered poor, silly Miss Amelia. "She is absolutely
fattening. She was beginning to look like a little starved
crow."

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

"Of--of course," agreed Miss Amelia, humbly, alarmed to find that
she had, as usual, said the wrong thing.

"There is something very disagreeable in seeing that sort of
thing in a child of her age," said Miss Minchin, with haughty
vagueness.

"What--sort of thing?" Miss Amelia ventured.

"It might almost be called defiance," answered Miss Minchin,
feeling annoyed because she knew the thing she resented was
nothing like defiance, and she did not know what other unpleasant
term to use. "The spirit and will of any other child would have
been entirely humbled and broken by--by the changes she has had
to submit to. But, upon my word, she seems as little subdued as
if--as if she were a princess."

"Do you remember," put in the unwise Miss Amelia, "what she said
to you that day in the schoolroom about what you would do if you
found out that she was--"

"No, I don't," said Miss Minchin. "Don't talk nonsense." But
she remembered very clearly indeed.

Very naturally, even Becky was beginning to look plumper and less
frightened. She could not help it. She had her share in the
secret fairy story, too. She had two mattresses, two pillows,
plenty of bed-covering, and every night a hot supper and a seat
on the cushions by the fire. The Bastille had melted away, the
prisoners no longer existed. Two comforted children sat in the
midst of delights. Sometimes Sara read aloud from her books,
sometimes she learned her own lessons, sometimes she sat and
looked into the fire and tried to imagine who her friend could
be, and wished she could say to him some of the things in her
heart.

Then it came about that another wonderful thing happened. A man
came to the door and left several parcels. All were addressed in
large letters, "To the Little Girl in the right-hand attic."

Sara herself was sent to open the door and take them in. She
laid the two largest parcels on the hall table, and was looking
at the address, when Miss Minchin came down the stairs and saw
her.

"Take the things to the young lady to whom they belong," she said
severely. "Don't stand there staring at them.

"They belong to me," answered Sara, quietly.

"To you?" exclaimed Miss Minchin. "What do you mean?"

"I don't know where they come from," said Sara, "but they are
addressed to me. I sleep in the right-hand attic. Becky has the
other one."

Miss Minchin came to her side and looked at the parcels with an
excited expression.

"What is in them?" she demanded.

"I don't know," replied Sara.

"Open them," she ordered.

Sara did as she was told. When the packages were unfolded Miss
Minchin's countenance wore suddenly a singular expression. What
she saw was pretty and comfortable clothing--clothing of
different kinds: shoes, stockings, and gloves, and a warm and
beautiful coat. There were even a nice hat and an umbrella.
They were all good and expensive things, and on the pocket of the
coat was pinned a paper, on which were written these words: "To
be worn every day. Will be replaced by others when necessary."

Miss Minchin was quite agitated. This was an incident which
suggested strange things to her sordid mind. Could it be that
she had made a mistake, after all, and that the neglected child
had some powerful though eccentric friend in the background--
perhaps some previously unknown relation, who had suddenly traced
her whereabouts, and chose to provide for her in this mysterious
and fantastic way? Relations were sometimes very odd--
particularly rich old bachelor uncles, who did not care for
having children near them. A man of that sort might prefer to
overlook his young relation's welfare at a distance. Such a
person, however, would be sure to be crotchety and hot-tempered
enough to be easily offended. It would not be very pleasant if
there were such a one, and he should learn all the truth about
the thin, shabby clothes, the scant food, and the hard work. She
felt very queer indeed, and very uncertain, and she gave a side
glance at Sara.

"Well," she said, in a voice such as she had never used since the
little girl lost her father, "someone is very kind to you. As
the things have been sent, and you are to have new ones when
they are worn out, you may as well go and put them on and look
respectable. After you are dressed you may come downstairs and
learn your lessons in the schoolroom. You need not go out on any
more errands today."

About half an hour afterward, when the schoolroom door opened and
Sara walked in, the entire seminary was struck dumb.

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

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

It was the Princess Sara indeed. At least, since the days when
she had been a princess, Sara had never looked as she did now.
She did not seem the Sara they had seen come down the back
stairs a few hours ago. She was dressed in the kind of frock
Lavinia had been used to envying her the possession of. It was
deep and warm in color, and beautifully made. Her slender feet
looked as they had done when Jessie had admired them, and the
hair, whose heavy locks had made her look rather like a Shetland
pony when it fell loose about her small, odd face, was tied back
with a ribbon.

"Perhaps someone has left her a fortune," Jessie whispered. "I
always thought something would happen to her. She's so queer."

"Perhaps the diamond mines have suddenly appeared again," said
Lavinia, scathingly. "Don't please her by staring at her in that
way, you silly thing."

"Sara," broke in Miss Minchin's deep voice, "come and sit here."

And while the whole schoolroom stared and pushed with elbows, and
scarcely made any effort to conceal its excited curiosity, Sara
went to her old seat of honor, and bent her head over her books.

That night, when she went to her room, after she and Becky had
eaten their supper she sat and looked at the fire seriously for a
long time.

"Are you making something up in your head, miss?" Becky
inquired with respectful softness. When Sara sat in silence and
looked into the coals with dreaming eyes it generally meant that
she was making a new story. But this time she was not, and she
shook her head.

"No," she answered. "I am wondering what I ought to do."

Becky stared--still respectfully. She was filled with something
approaching reverence for everything Sara did and said.

"I can't help thinking about my friend," Sara explained. "If he
wants to keep himself a secret, it would be rude to try and find
out who he is. But I do so want him to know how thankful I am to
him--and how happy he has made me. Anyone who is kind wants to
know when people have been made happy. They care for that more
than for being thanked. I wish--I do wish--"

She stopped short because her eyes at that instant fell upon
something standing on a table in a corner. It was something she
had found in the room when she came up to it only two days
before. It was a little writing-case fitted with paper and
envelopes and pens and ink.

"Oh," she exclaimed, "why did I not think of that before?"

She rose and went to the corner and brought the case back to the
fire.

"I can write to him," she said joyfully, "and leave it on the
table. Then perhaps the person who takes the things away will
take it, too. I won't ask him anything. He won't mind my
thanking him, I feel sure."

So she wrote a note. This is what she said:

I hope you will not think it is impolite that I should write
this note to you when you wish to keep yourself a secret. Please
believe I do not mean to be impolite or try to find out anything
at all; only I want to thank you for being so kind to me--so
heavenly kind--and making everything like a fairy story. I am
so grateful to you, and I am so happy--and so is Becky. Becky
feels just as thankful as I do--it is all just as beautiful and
wonderful to her as it is to me. We used to be so lonely and
cold and hungry, and now--oh, just think what you have done for
us! Please let me say just these words. It seems as if I OUGHT
to say them. THANK you--THANK you--THANK you!

THE LITTLE GIRL IN THE ATTIC.

The next morning she left this on the little table, and in the
evening it had been taken away with the other things; so she
knew the Magician had received it, and she was happier for the
thought. She was reading one of her new books to Becky just
before they went to their respective beds, when her attention was
attracted by a sound at the skylight. When she looked up from
her page she saw that Becky had heard the sound also, as she had
turned her head to look and was listening rather nervously.

"Something's there, miss," she whispered.

"Yes," said Sara, slowly. "It sounds--rather like a cat--trying
to get in."

She left her chair and went to the skylight. It was a queer
little sound she heard--like a soft scratching. She suddenly
remembered something and laughed. She remembered a quaint little
intruder who had made his way into the attic once before. She
had seen him that very afternoon, sitting disconsolately on a
table before a window in the Indian gentleman's house.

"Suppose," she whispered in pleased excitement--"just suppose it
was the monkey who got away again. Oh, I wish it was!"

She climbed on a chair, very cautiously raised the skylight, and
peeped out. It had been snowing all day, and on the snow, quite
near her, crouched a tiny, shivering figure, whose small black
face wrinkled itself piteously at sight of her.

"It is the monkey," she cried out. "He has crept out of the
Lascar's attic, and he saw the light."

Becky ran to her side.

"Are you going to let him in, miss?" she said.

"Yes," Sara answered joyfully. "It's too cold for monkeys to be
out. They're delicate. I'll coax him in."

She put a hand out delicately, speaking in a coaxing voice--as
she spoke to the sparrows and to Melchisedec--as if she were some
friendly little animal herself.

"Come along, monkey darling," she said. "I won't hurt you."

He knew she would not hurt him. He knew it before she laid her
soft, caressing little paw on him and drew him towards her. He
had felt human love in the slim brown hands of Ram Dass, and he
felt it in hers. He let her lift him through the skylight, and
when he found himself in her arms he cuddled up to her breast and
looked up into her face.

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

He was evidently glad to get to the fire, and when she sat down
and held him on her knee he looked from her to Becky with
mingled interest and appreciation.

"He IS plain-looking, miss, ain't he?" said Becky.

"He looks like a very ugly baby," laughed Sara. "I beg your
pardon, monkey; but I'm glad you are not a baby. Your mother
COULDN'T be proud of you, and no one would dare to say you looked
like any of your relations. Oh, I do like you!"

She leaned back in her chair and reflected.

"Perhaps he's sorry he's so ugly," she said, "and it's always on
his mind. I wonder if he HAS a mind. Monkey, my love, have you
a mind?"

But the monkey only put up a tiny paw and scratched his head.

"What shall you do with him?" Becky asked.

"I shall let him sleep with me tonight, and then take him back
to the Indian gentleman tomorrow. I am sorry to take you back,
monkey; but you must go. You ought to be fondest of your own
family; and I'm not a REAL relation."

And when she went to bed she made him a nest at her feet, and he
curled up and slept there as if he were a baby and much pleased
with his quarters.

17

"It Is the Child!"

The next afternoon three members of the Large Family sat in the
Indian gentleman's library, doing their best to cheer him up.
They had been allowed to come in to perform this office because
he had specially invited them. He had been living in a state of
suspense for some time, and today he was waiting for a certain
event very anxiously. This event was the return of Mr.
Carmichael from Moscow. His stay there had been prolonged from
week to week. On his first arrival there, he had not been able
satisfactorily to trace the family he had gone in search of.
When he felt at last sure that he had found them and had gone to
their house, he had been told that they were absent on a journey.
His efforts to reach them had been unavailing, so he had decided
to remain in Moscow until their return. Mr. Carrisford sat in
his reclining chair, and Janet sat on the floor beside him. He
was very fond of Janet. Nora had found a footstool, and Donald
was astride the tiger's head which ornamented the rug made of the
animal's skin. It must be owned that he was riding it rather
violently.

"Don't chirrup so loud, Donald," Janet said. "When you come to
cheer an ill person up you don't cheer him up at the top of your
voice. Perhaps cheering up is too loud, Mr. Carrisford?" turning
to the Indian gentleman.

But he only patted her shoulder.

"No, it isn't," he answered. "And it keeps me from thinking too
much."

"I'm going to be quiet," Donald shouted. "We'll all be as quiet
as mice."

"Mice don't make a noise like that," said Janet.

Donald made a bridle of his handkerchief and bounced up and down
on the tiger's head.

"A whole lot of mice might," he said cheerfully. "A thousand
mice might."

"I don't believe fifty thousand mice would," said Janet,
severely; "and we have to be as quiet as one mouse."

Mr. Carrisford laughed and patted her shoulder again.

"Papa won't be very long now," she said. "May we talk about the
lost little girl?"

"I don't think I could talk much about anything else just now,"
the Indian gentleman answered, knitting his forehead with a
tired look.

"We like her so much," said Nora. "We call her the little un-
fairy princess."

"Why?" the Indian gentleman inquired, because the fancies of the
Large Family always made him forget things a little.

It was Janet who answered.

"It is because, though she is not exactly a fairy, she will be
so rich when she is found that she will be like a princess in a
fairy tale. We called her the fairy princess at first, but it
didn't quite suit."

"Is it true," said Nora, "that her papa gave all his money to a
friend to put in a mine that had diamonds in it, and then the
friend thought he had lost it all and ran away because he felt as
if he was a robber?"

"But he wasn't really, you know," put in Janet, hastily.

The Indian gentleman took hold of her hand quickly.

"No, he wasn't really," he said.

"I am sorry for the friend," Janet said; "I can't help it. He
didn't mean to do it, and it would break his heart. I am sure it
would break his heart."

"You are an understanding little woman, Janet," the Indian
gentleman said, and he held her hand close.

"Did you tell Mr. Carrisford," Donald shouted again, "about the
little-girl-who-isn't-a-beggar? Did you tell him she has new
nice clothes? P'r'aps she's been found by somebody when she was
lost."

"There's a cab!" exclaimed Janet. "It's stopping before the
door. It is papa!"

They all ran to the windows to look out.

"Yes, it's papa," Donald proclaimed. "But there is no little
girl."

All three of them incontinently fled from the room and tumbled
into the hall. It was in this way they always welcomed their
father. They were to be heard jumping up and down, clapping
their hands, and being caught up and kissed.

Mr. Carrisford made an effort to rise and sank back again.

"It is no use," he said. "What a wreck I am!"

Mr. Carmichael's voice approached the door.

"No, children," he was saying; "you may come in after I have
talked to Mr. Carrisford. Go and play with Ram Dass."

Then the door opened and he came in. He looked rosier than
ever, and brought an atmosphere of freshness and health with him;
but his eyes were disappointed and anxious as they met the
invalid's look of eager question even as they grasped each
other's hands.

"What news?" Mr. Carrisford asked. "The child the Russian
people adopted?"

"She is not the child we are looking for," was Mr. Carmichael's
answer. "She is much younger than Captain Crewe's little girl.
Her name is Emily Carew. I have seen and talked to her. The
Russians were able to give me every detail."

How wearied and miserable the Indian gentleman looked! His hand
dropped from Mr. Carmichael's.

"Then the search has to be begun over again," he said. "That is
all. Please sit down."

Mr. Carmichael took a seat. Somehow, he had gradually grown
fond of this unhappy man. He was himself so well and happy, and
so surrounded by cheerfulness and love, that desolation and
broken health seemed pitifully unbearable things. If there had
been the sound of just one gay little high-pitched voice in the
house, it would have been so much less forlorn. And that a man
should be compelled to carry about in his breast the thought that
he had seemed to wrong and desert a child was not a thing one
could face.

"Come, come," he said in his cheery voice; "we'll find her yet."

"We must begin at once. No time must be lost," Mr. Carrisford
fretted. "Have you any new suggestion to make--any whatsoever?"

Mr. Carmichael felt rather restless, and he rose and began to
pace the room with a thoughtful, though uncertain face.

"Well, perhaps," he said. "I don't know what it may be worth.
The fact is, an idea occurred to me as I was thinking the thing
over in the train on the journey from Dover."

"What was it? If she is alive, she is somewhere."

"Yes; she is SOMEWHERE. We have searched the schools in Paris.
Let us give up Paris and begin in London. That was my idea--to
search London."

"There are schools enough in London," said Mr. Carrisford. Then
he slightly started, roused by a recollection. "By the way,
there is one next door."

"Then we will begin there. We cannot begin nearer than next
door."

"No," said Carrisford. "There is a child there who interests
me; but she is not a pupil. And she is a little dark, forlorn
creature, as unlike poor Crewe as a child could be."

Perhaps the Magic was at work again at that very moment--the
beautiful Magic. It really seemed as if it might be so. What
was it that brought Ram Dass into the room--even as his master
spoke--salaaming respectfully, but with a scarcely concealed
touch of excitement in his dark, flashing eyes?

"Sahib," he said, "the child herself has come--the child the
sahib felt pity for. She brings back the monkey who had again
run away to her attic under the roof. I have asked that she
remain. It was my thought that it would please the sahib to
see and speak with her."

"Who is she?" inquired Mr. Carmichael.

"God knows," Mr. Carrrisford answered. "She is the child I spoke
of. A little drudge at the school." He waved his hand to Ram
Dass, and addressed him. "Yes, I should like to see her. Go and
bring her in." Then he turned to Mr. Carmichael. "While you
have been away," he explained, "I have been desperate. The days
were so dark and long. Ram Dass told me of this child's miseries,
and together we invented a romantic plan to help her. I suppose
it was a childish thing to do; but it gave me something to plan
and think of. Without the help of an agile, soft-footed Oriental
like Ram Dass, however, it could not have been done."

Then Sara came into the room. She carried the monkey in her
arms, and he evidently did not intend to part from her, if it
could be helped. He was clinging to her and chattering, and the
interesting excitement of finding herself in the Indian
gentleman's room had brought a flush to Sara's cheeks.

"Your monkey ran away again," she said, in her pretty voice. "He
came to my garret window last night, and I took him in because it
was so cold. I would have brought him back if it had not been so
late. I knew you were ill and might not like to be disturbed."

The Indian gentleman's hollow eyes dwelt on her with curious
interest.

"That was very thoughtful of you," he said.

Sara looked toward Ram Dass, who stood near the door.

"Shall I give him to the Lascar?" she asked.

"How do you know he is a Lascar?" said the Indian gentleman,
smiling a little.

"Oh, I know Lascars," Sara said, handing over the reluctant
monkey. "I was born in India."

The Indian gentleman sat upright so suddenly, and with such a
change of expression, that she was for a moment quite startled.

"You were born in India," he exclaimed, "were you? Come here."
And he held out his hand.

Sara went to him and laid her hand in his, as he seemed to want
to take it. She stood still, and her green-gray eyes met his
wonderingly. Something seemed to be the matter with him.

"You live next door?" he demanded.

"Yes; I live at Miss Minchin's seminary."

"But you are not one of her pupils?"

A strange little smile hovered about Sara's mouth. She hesitated
a moment.

"I don't think I know exactly WHAT I am," she replied.

"Why not?"

"At first I was a pupil, and a parlor boarder; but now--"

"You were a pupil! What are you now?"

The queer little sad smile was on Sara's lips again.

"I sleep in the attic, next to the scullery maid," she said. "I
run errands for the cook--I do anything she tells me; and I
teach the little ones their lessons."

"Question her, Carmichael," said Mr. Carrisford, sinking back as
if he had lost his strength. "Question her; I cannot."

The big, kind father of the Large Family knew how to question
little girls. Sara realized how much practice he had had when
he spoke to her in his nice, encouraging voice.

"What do you mean by `At first,' my child?" he inquired.

"When I was first taken there by my papa."

"Where is your papa?"

"He died," said Sara, very quietly. "He lost all his money and
there was none left for me. There was no one to take care of me
or to pay Miss Minchin."

"Carmichael!" the Indian gentleman cried out loudly.
"Carmichael!"

"We must not frighten her," Mr. Carmichael said aside to him in a
quick, low voice. And he added aloud to Sara, "So you were sent
up into the attic, and made into a little drudge. That was about
it, wasn't it?"

"There was no one to take care of me," said Sara. "There was no
money; I belong to nobody."

"How did your father lose his money?" the Indian gentleman broke
in breathlessly.

"He did not lose it himself," Sara answered, wondering still more
each moment. "He had a friend he was very fond of--he was very
fond of him. It was his friend who took his money. He trusted
his friend too much."

The Indian gentleman's breath came more quickly.

"The friend might have MEANT to do no harm," he said. "It might
have happened through a mistake."

Sara did not know how unrelenting her quiet young voice sounded
as she answered. If she had known, she would surely have tried
to soften it for the Indian gentleman's sake.

"The suffering was just as bad for my papa," she said. It
killed him."

"What was your father's name?" the Indian gentleman said. "Tell
me."

"His name was Ralph Crewe," Sara answered, feeling startled.
"Captain Crewe. He died in India."

The haggard face contracted, and Ram Dass sprang to his master's
side.

"Carmichael," the invalid gasped, "it is the child--the child!"

For a moment Sara thought he was going to die. Ram Dass poured
out drops from a bottle, and held them to his lips. Sara stood
near, trembling a little. She looked in a bewildered way at Mr.
Carmichael.

"What child am I?" she faltered.

"He was your father's friend," Mr. Carmichael answered her.
"Don't be frightened. We have been looking for you for two
years."

Sara put her hand up to her forehead, and her mouth trembled.
She spoke as if she were in a dream.

"And I was at Miss Minchin's all the while," she half whispered.
"Just on the other side of the wall."

18

"I Tried Not to Be"

It was pretty, comfortable Mrs. Carmichael who explained
everything. She was sent for at once, and came across the square
to take Sara into her warm arms and make clear to her all that
had happened. The excitement of the totally unexpected discovery
had been temporarily almost overpowering to Mr. Carrisford in his
weak condition.

"Upon my word," he said faintly to Mr. Carmichael, when it was
suggested that the little girl should go into another room. "I
feel as if I do not want to lose sight of her."

"I will take care of her," Janet said, "and mamma will come in a
few minutes." And it was Janet who led her away.

"We're so glad you are found," she said. "You don't know how
glad we are that you are found."

Donald stood with his hands in his pockets, and gazed at Sara
with reflecting and self-reproachful eyes.

"If I'd just asked what your name was when I gave you my
sixpence," he said, "you would have told me it was Sara Crewe,
and then you would have been found in a minute." Then Mrs.
Carmichael came in. She looked very much moved, and suddenly
took Sara in her arms and kissed her.

"You look bewildered, poor child," she said. "And it is not to
be wondered at."

Sara could only think of one thing.

"Was he," she said, with a glance toward the closed door of the
library--"was HE the wicked friend? Oh, do tell me!"

Mrs. Carmichael was crying as she kissed her again. She felt as
if she ought to be kissed very often because she had not been
kissed for so long.

"He was not wicked, my dear," she answered. "He did not really
lose your papa's money. He only thought he had lost it; and
because he loved him so much his grief made him so ill that for a
time he was not in his right mind. He almost died of brain
fever, and long before he began to recover your poor papa was
dead."

"And he did not know where to find me," murmured Sara. "And I
was so near." Somehow, she could not forget that she had been so
near.

"He believed you were in school in France," Mrs. Carmichael
explained. "And he was continually misled by false clues. He
has looked for you everywhere. When he saw you pass by, looking
so sad and neglected, he did not dream that you were his friend's
poor child; but because you were a little girl, too, he was sorry
for you, and wanted to make you happier. And he told Ram Dass to
climb into your attic window and try to make you comfortable."

Sara gave a start of joy; her whole look changed.

"Did Ram Dass bring the things?" she cried out. "Did he tell
Ram Dass to do it? Did he make the dream that came true?"

"Yes, my dear--yes! He is kind and good, and he was sorry for
you, for little lost Sara Crewe's sake."

The library door opened and Mr. Carmichael appeared, calling
Sara to him with a gesture.

"Mr. Carrisford is better already," he said. "He wants you to
come to him."

Sara did not wait. When the Indian gentleman looked at her as
she entered, he saw that her face was all alight.

She went and stood before his chair, with her hands clasped
together against her breast.

"You sent the things to me," she said, in a joyful emotional
little voice, "the beautiful, beautiful things? YOU sent them!"

"Yes, poor, dear child, I did," he answered her. He was weak
and broken with long illness and trouble, but he looked at her
with the look she remembered in her father's eyes--that look of
loving her and wanting to take her in his arms. It made her
kneel down by him, just as she used to kneel by her father when
they were the dearest friends and lovers in the world.

"Then it is you who are my friend," she said; "it is you who are
my friend!" And she dropped her face on his thin hand and
kissed it again and again.

"The man will be himself again in three weeks," Mr. Carmichael
said aside to his wife. "Look at his face already."

In fact, he did look changed. Here was the "Little Missus," and
he had new things to think of and plan for already. In the first
place, there was Miss Minchin. She must be interviewed and told
of the change which had taken place in the fortunes of her pupil.

Sara was not to return to the seminary at all. The Indian
gentleman was very determined upon that point. She must remain
where she was, and Mr. Carmichael should go and see Miss Minchin
himself.

"I am glad I need not go back," said Sara. "She will be very
angry. She does not like me; though perhaps it is my fault,
because I do not like her."

But, oddly enough, Miss Minchin made it unnecessary for Mr.
Carmichael to go to her, by actually coming in search of her
pupil herself. She had wanted Sara for something, and on inquiry
had heard an astonishing thing. One of the housemaids had seen
her steal out of the area with something hidden under her cloak,
and had also seen her go up the steps of the next door and enter
the house.

"What does she mean!" cried Miss Minchin to Miss Amelia.

"I don't know, I'm sure, sister," answered Miss Amelia. "Unless
she has made friends with him because he has lived in India."

"It would be just like her to thrust herself upon him and try to
gain his sympathies in some such impertinent fashion," said Miss
Minchin. "She must have been in the house for two hours. I will
not allow such presumption. I shall go and inquire into the
matter, and apologize for her intrusion."

Sara was sitting on a footstool close to Mr. Carrisford's knee,
and listening to some of the many things he felt it necessary to
try to explain to her, when Ram Dass announced the visitor's
arrival.

Sara rose involuntarily, and became rather pale; but Mr.
Carrisford saw that she stood quietly, and showed none of the
ordinary signs of child terror.

Miss Minchin entered the room with a sternly dignified manner.
She was correctly and well dressed, and rigidly polite.

"I am sorry to disturb Mr. Carrisford," she said; "but I have
explanations to make. I am Miss Minchin, the proprietress of the
Young Ladies' Seminary next door."

The Indian gentleman looked at her for a moment in silent
scrutiny. He was a man who had naturally a rather hot temper,
and he did not wish it to get too much the better of him.

"So you are Miss Minchin?" he said.

"I am, sir."

"In that case," the Indian gentleman replied, "you have arrived
at the right time. My solicitor, Mr. Carmichael, was just on the
point of going to see you."

Mr. Carmichael bowed slightly, and Miiss Minchin looked from him
to Mr. Carrisford in amazement.

"Your solicitor!" she said. "I do not understand. I have come
here as a matter of duty. I have just discovered that you have
been intruded upon through the forwardness of one of my pupils--a
charity pupil. I came to explain that she intruded without my
knowledge." She turned upon Sara. "Go home at once," she
commanded indignantly. "You shall be severely punished. Go home
at once."

The Indian gentleman drew Sara to his side and patted her hand.

"She is not going."

Miss Minchin felt rather as if she must be losing her senses.

"Not going!" she repeated.

"No," said Mr. Carrisford. "She is not going home--if you give
your house that name. Her home for the future will be with me."

Miss Minchin fell back in amazed indignation.

"With YOU! With YOU sir! What does this mean?"

"Kindly explain the matter, Carmichael," said the Indian
gentleman; "and get it over as quickly as possible." And he made
Sara sit down again, and held her hands in his--which was another
trick of her papa's.

Then Mr. Carmichael explained--in the quiet, level-toned, steady
manner of a man who knew his subject, and all its legal
significance, which was a thing Miss Minchin understood as a
business woman, and did not enjoy.

"Mr. Carrisford, madam," he said, "was an intimate friend of the
late Captain Crewe. He was his partner in certain large
investments. The fortune which Captain Crewe supposed he had
lost has been recovered, and is now in Mr. Carrisford's hands."

"The fortune!" cried Miss Minchin; and she really lost color as
she uttered the exclamation. "Sara's fortune!"

"It WILL be Sara's fortune," replied Mr. Carmichael, rather
coldly. "It is Sara's fortune now, in fact. Certain events have
increased it enormously. The diamond mines have retrieved
themselves."

"The diamond mines!" Miss Minchin gasped out. If this was
true, nothing so horrible, she felt, had ever happened to her
since she was born.

"The diamond mines," Mr. Carmichael repeated, and he could not
help adding, with a rather sly, unlawyer-like smile, "There are
not many princesses, Miss Minchin, who are richer than your
little charity pupil, Sara Crewe, will be. Mr. Carrisford has
been searching for her for nearly two years; he has found her at
last, and he will keep her."

After which he asked Miss Minchin to sit down while he explained
matters to her fully, and went into such detail as was necessary
to make it quite clear to her that Sara's future was an assured
one, and that what had seemed to be lost was to be restored to
her tenfold; also, that she had in Mr. Carrisford a guardian as
well as a friend.

Miss Minchin was not a clever woman, and in her excitement she
was silly enough to make one desperate effort to regain what she
could not help seeing she had lost through her worldly folly.

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

Here the Indian gentleman lost his temper.

"As to starving in the streets," he said, "she might have
starved more comfortably there than in your attic."

"Captain Crewe left her in my charge," Miss Minchin argued. "She
must return to it until she is of age. She can be a parlor
boarder again. She must finish her education. The law will
interfere in my behalf"

"Come, come, Miss Minchin," Mr. Carmichael interposed, "the law
will do nothing of the sort. If Sara herself wishes to return to
you, I dare say Mr. Carrisford might not refuse to allow it. But
that rests with Sara."

"Then," said Miss Minchin, "I appeal to Sara. I have not spoiled
you, perhaps," she said awkwardly to the little girl; "but you
know that your papa was pleased with your progress. And--ahem--I
have always been fond of you."

Sara's green-gray eyes fixed themselves on her with the quiet,
clear look Miss Minchin particularly disliked.

"Have YOU, Miss Minchin?" she said. "I did not know that."

Miss Minchin reddened and drew herself up.

"You ought to have known it," said she; "but children,
unfortunately, never know what is best for them. Amelia and I
always said you were the cleverest child in the school. Will you
not do your duty to your poor papa and come home with me?"

Sara took a step toward her and stood still. She was thinking of
the day when she had been told that she belonged to nobody, and
was in danger of being turned into the street; she was thinking
of the cold, hungry hours she had spent alone with Emily and
Melchisedec in the attic. She looked Miss Minchin steadily in
the face.

"You know why I will not go home with you, Miss Minchin," she
said; "you know quite well."

A hot flush showed itself on Miss Minchin's hard, angry face.

"You will never see your companions again," she began. "I will
see that Ermengarde and Lottie are kept away--"

Mr. Carmichael stopped her with polite firmness.

"Excuse me," he said; "she will see anyone she wishes to see.
The parents of Miss Crewe's fellow-pupils are not likely to
refuse her invitations to visit her at her guardian's house. Mr.
Carrisford will attend to that."

It must be confessed that even Miss Minchin flinched. This was
worse than the eccentric bachelor uncle who might have a peppery
temper and be easily offended at the treatment of his niece. A
woman of sordid mind could easily believe that most people would
not refuse to allow their children to remain friends with a
little heiress of diamond mines. And if Mr. Carrisford chose to
tell certain of her patrons how unhappy Sara Crewe had been made,
many unpleasant things might happen.

"You have not undertaken an easy charge," she said to the Indian
gentleman, as she turned to leave the room; "you will discover
that very soon. The child is neither truthful nor grateful. I
suppose"--to Sara--"that you feel now that you are a princess
again."

Sara looked down and flushed a little, because she thought her
pet fancy might not be easy for strangers--even nice ones--to
understand at first.

"I--TRIED not to be anything else," she answered in a low voice--
"even when I was coldest and hungriest--I tried not to be."

"Now it will not be necessary to try," said Miss Minchin,
acidly, as Ram Dass salaamed her out of the room.

She returned home and, going to her sitting room, sent at once
for Miss Amelia. She sat closeted with her all the rest of the
afternoon, and it must be admitted that poor Miss Amelia passed
through more than one bad quarter of an hour. She shed a good
many tears, and mopped her eyes a good deal. One of her
unfortunate remarks almost caused her sister to snap her head
entirely off, but it resulted in an unusual manner.

"I'm not as clever as you, sister," she said, "and I am always
afraid to say things to you for fear of making you angry.
Perhaps if I were not so timid it would be better for the school
and for both of us. I must say I've often thought it would have
been better if you had been less severe on Sara Crewe, and had
seen that she was decently dressed and more comfortable. I KNOW
she was worked too hard for a child of her age, and I know she
was only half fed--"

"How dare you say such a thing!" exclaimed Miss Minchin.

"I don't know how I dare," Miss Amelia answered, with a kind of
reckless courage; "but now I've begun I may as well finish,
whatever happens to me. The child was a clever child and a good
child--and she would have paid you for any kindness you had
shown her. But you didn't show her any. The fact was, she was
too clever for you, and you always disliked her for that reason.
She used to see through us both--"

"Amelia!" gasped her infuriated elder, looking as if she would
box her ears and knock her cap off, as she had often done to
Becky.

But Miss Amelia's disappointment had made her hysterical enough
not to care what occurred next.

"She did! She did!" she cried. "She saw through us both. She
saw that you were a hard-hearted, worldly woman, and that I was a
weak fool, and that we were both of us vulgar and mean enough to
grovel on our knees for her money, and behave ill to her because
it was taken from her--though she behaved herself like a little
princess even when she was a beggar. She did--she did--like a
little princess!" And her hysterics got the better of the poor
woman, and she began to laugh and cry both at once, and rock
herself backward and forward.

"And now you've lost her," she cried wildly; "and some other
school will get her and her money; and if she were like any other
child she'd tell how she's been treated, and all our pupils would

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