Part 5 out of 5
be taken away and we should be ruined. And it serves us right;
but it serves you right more than it does me, for you are a hard
woman, Maria Minchin, you're a hard, selfish, worldly woman!"
And she was in danger of making so much noise with her hysterical
chokes and gurgles that her sister was obliged to go to her and
apply salts and sal volatile to quiet her, instead of pouring
forth her indignation at her audacity.
And from that time forward, it may be mentioned, the elder Miss
Minchin actually began to stand a little in awe of a sister who,
while she looked so foolish, was evidently not quite so foolish
as she looked, and might, consequently, break out and speak
truths people did not want to hear.
That evening, when the pupils were gathered together before the
fire in the schoolroom, as was their custom before going to bed,
Ermengarde came in with a letter in her hand and a queer
expression on her round face. It was queer because, while it was
an expression of delighted excitement, it was combined with such
amazement as seemed to belong to a kind of shock just received.
"What IS the matter?" cried two or three voices at once.
"Is it anything to do with the row that has been going on?" said
Lavinia, eagerly. "There has been such a row in Miss Minchin's
room, Miss Amelia has had something like hysterics and has had to
go to bed."
Ermengarde answered them slowly as if she were half stunned.
"I have just had this letter from Sara," she said, holding it out
to let them see what a long letter it was.
"From Sara!" Every voice joined in that exclamation.
"Where is she?" almost shrieked Jessie.
"Next door," said Ermengarde, "with the Indian gentleman."
"Where? Where? Has she been sent away? Does Miss Minchin
know? Was the row about that? Why did she write? Tell us!
There was a perfect babel, and Lottie began to cry plaintively.
Ermengarde answered them slowly as if she were half plunged out
into what, at the moment, seemed the most important and self-
"There WERE diamond mines," she said stoutly; "there WERE!" Open
mouths and open eyes confronted her.
"They were real," she hurried on. "It was all a mistake about
them. Something happened for a time, and Mr. Carrisford thought
they were ruined--"
"Who is Mr. Carrisford?" shouted Jessie.
"The Indian gentleman. And Captain Crewe thought so, too--and
he died; and Mr. Carrisford had brain fever and ran away, and HE
almost died. And he did not know where Sara was. And it turned
out that there were millions and millions of diamonds in the
mines; and half of them belong to Sara; and they belonged to her
when she was living in the attic with no one but Melchisedec for
a friend, and the cook ordering her about. And Mr. Carrisford
found her this afternoon, and he has got her in his home--and she
will never come back--and she will be more a princess than she
ever was--a hundred and fifty thousand times more. And I am
going to see her tomorrow afternoon. There!"
Even Miss Minchin herself could scarcely have controlled the
uproar after this; and though she heard the noise, she did not
try. She was not in the mood to face anything more than she was
facing in her room, while Miss Amelia was weeping in bed. She
knew that the news had penetrated the walls in some mysterious
manner, and that every servant and every child would go to bed
talking about it.
So until almost midnight the entire seminary, realizing somehow
that all rules were laid aside, crowded round Ermengarde in the
schoolroom and heard read and re-read the letter containing a
story which was quite as wonderful as any Sara herself had ever
invented, and which had the amazing charm of having happened to
Sara herself and the mystic Indian gentleman in the very next
Becky, who had heard it also, managed to creep up stairs earlier
than usual. She wanted to get away from people and go and look
at the little magic room once more. She did not know what would
happen to it. It was not likely that it would be left to Miss
Minchin. It would be taken away, and the attic would be bare and
empty again. Glad as she was for Sara's sake, she went up the
last flight of stairs with a lump in her throat and tears
blurring her sight. There would be no fire tonight, and no rosy
lamp; no supper, and no princess sitting in the glow reading or
telling stories--no princess!
She choked down a sob as she pushed the attic door open, and
then she broke into a low cry.
The lamp was flushing the room, the fire was blazing, the supper
was waiting; and Ram Dass was standing smiling into her startled
"Missee sahib remembered," he said. "She told the sahib all.
She wished you to know the good fortune which has befallen her.
Behold a letter on the tray. She has written. She did not wish
that you should go to sleep unhappy. The sahib commands you to
come to him tomorrow. You are to be the attendant of missee
sahib. Tonight I take these things back over the roof."
And having said this with a beaming face, he made a little
salaam and slipped through the skylight with an agile silentness
of movement which showed Becky how easily he had done it before.
Never had such joy reigned in the nursery of the Large Family.
Never had they dreamed of such delights as resulted from an
intimate acquaintance with the little-girl-who-was-not-a-beggar.
The mere fact of her sufferings and adventures made her a
priceless possession. Everybody wanted to be told over and over
again the things which had happened to her. When one was sitting
by a warm fire in a big, glowing room, it was quite delightful to
hear how cold it could be in an attic. It must be admitted that
the attic was rather delighted in, and that its coldness and
bareness quite sank into insignificance when Melchisedec was
remembered, and one heard about the sparrows and things one could
see if one climbed on the table and stuck one's head and
shoulders out of the skylight.
Of course the thing loved best was the story of the banquet and
the dream which was true. Sara told it for the first time the
day after she had been found. Several members of the Large
Family came to take tea with her, and as they sat or curled up on
the hearth-rug she told the story in her own way, and the Indian
gentleman listened and watched her. When she had finished she
looked up at him and put her hand on his knee.
"That is my part," she said. "Now won't you tell your part of
it, Uncle Tom?" He had asked her to call him always "Uncle Tom."
"I don't know your part yet, and it must be beautiful."
So he told them how, when he sat alone, ill and dull and
irritable, Ram Dass had tried to distract him by describing the
passers by, and there was one child who passed oftener than any
one else; he had begun to be interested in her--partly perhaps
because he was thinking a great deal of a little girl, and partly
because Ram Dass had been able to relate the incident of his
visit to the attic in chase of the monkey. He had described its
cheerless look, and the bearing of the child, who seemed as if
she was not of the class of those who were treated as drudges and
servants. Bit by bit, Ram Dass had made discoveries concerning
the wretchedness of her life. He had found out how easy a matter
it was to climb across the few yards of roof to the skylight, and
this fact had been the beginning of all that followed.
"Sahib," he had said one day, "I could cross the slates and make
the child a fire when she is out on some errand. When she
returned, wet and cold, to find it blazing, she would think a
magician had done it."
The idea had been so fanciful that Mr. Carrisford's sad face had
lighted with a smile, and Ram Dass had been so filled with
rapture that he had enlarged upon it and explained to his master
how simple it would be to accomplish numbers of other things. He
had shown a childlike pleasure and invention, and the
preparations for the carrying out of the plan had filled many a
day with interest which would otherwise have dragged wearily. On
the night of the frustrated banquet Ram Dass had kept watch, all
his packages being in readiness in the attic which was his own;
and the person who was to help him had waited with him, as
interested as himself in the odd adventure. Ram Dass had been
lying flat upon the slates, looking in at the skylight, when the
banquet had come to its disastrous conclusion; he had been sure
of the profoundness of Sara's wearied sleep; and then, with a
dark lantern, he had crept into the room, while his companion
remained outside and handed the things to him. When Sara had
stirred ever so faintly, Ram Dass had closed the lantern-slide
and lain flat upon the floor. These and many other exciting
things the children found out by asking a thousand questions.
"I am so glad," Sara said. "I am so GLAD it was you who were
There never were such friends as these two became. Somehow,
they seemed to suit each other in a wonderful way. The Indian
gentleman had never had a companion he liked quite as much as he
liked Sara. In a month's time he was, as Mr. Carmichael had
prophesied he would be, a new man. He was always amused and
interested, and he began to find an actual pleasure in the
possession of the wealth he had imagined that he loathed the
burden of. There were so many charming things to plan for Sara.
There was a little joke between them that he was a magician, and
it was one of his pleasures to invent things to surprise her.
She found beautiful new flowers growing in her room, whimsical
little gifts tucked under pillows, and once, as they sat together
in the evening, they heard the scratch of a heavy paw on the
door, and when Sara went to find out what it was, there stood a
great dog--a splendid Russian boarhound--with a grand silver and
gold collar bearing an inscription. "I am Boris," it read; "I
serve the Princess Sara."
There was nothing the Indian gentleman loved more than the
recollection of the little princess in rags and tatters. The
afternoons in which the Large Family, or Ermengarde and Lottie,
gathered to rejoice together were very delightful. But the hours
when Sara and the Indian gentleman sat alone and read or talked
had a special charm of their own. During their passing many
interesting things occurred.
One evening, Mr. Carrisford, looking up from his book, noticed
that his companion had not stirred for some time, but sat gazing
into the fire.
"What are you `supposing,' Sara?" he asked.
Sara looked up, with a bright color on her cheek.
"I WAS supposing," she said; "I was remembering that hungry day,
and a child I saw."
"But there were a great many hungry days," said the Indian
gentleman, with rather a sad tone in his voice. "Which hungry
day was it?"
"I forgot you didn't know," said Sara. "It was the day the
dream came true."
Then she told him the story of the bun shop, and the fourpence
she picked up out of the sloppy mud, and the child who was
hungrier than herself. She told it quite simply, and in as few
words as possible; but somehow the Indian gentleman found it
necessary to shade his eyes with his hand and look down at the
"And I was supposing a kind of plan," she said, when she had
finished. "I was thinking I should like to do something."
"What was it?" said Mr. Carrisford, in a low tone. "You may do
anything you like to do, princess."
"I was wondering," rather hesitated Sara--"you know, you say I
have so much money--I was wondering if I could go to see the bun-
woman, and tell her that if, when hungry children--particularly
on those dreadful days--come and sit on the steps, or look in at
the window, she would just call them in and give them something
to eat, she might send the bills to me. Could I do that?"
"You shall do it tomorrow morning," said the Indian gentleman.
"Thank you," said Sara. "You see, I know what it is to be
hungry, and it is very hard when one cannot even PRETEND it
"Yes, yes, my dear," said the Indian gentleman. "Yes, yes, it
must be. Try to forget it. Come and sit on this footstool near
my knee, and only remember you are a princess."
"Yes," said Sara, smiling; "and I can give buns and bread to the
populace." And she went and sat on the stool, and the Indian
gentleman (he used to like her to call him that, too, sometimes)
drew her small dark head down on his knee and stroked her hair.
The next morning, Miss Minchin, in looking out of her window, saw
the things she perhaps least enjoyed seeing. The Indian
gentleman's carriage, with its tall horses, drew up before the
door of the next house, and its owner and a little figure, warm
with soft, rich furs, descended the steps to get into it. The
little figure was a familiar one, and reminded Miss Minchin of
days in the past. It was followed by another as familiar--the
sight of which she found very irritating. It was Becky, who, in
the character of delighted attendant, always accompanied her
young mistress to her carriage, carrying wraps and belongings.
Already Becky had a pink, round face.
A little later the carriage drew up before the door of the
baker's shop, and its occupants got out, oddly enough, just as
the bun-woman was putting a tray of smoking-hot buns into the
When Sara entered the shop the woman turned and looked at her,
and, leaving the buns, came and stood behind the counter. For a
moment she looked at Sara very hard indeed, and then her good-
natured face lighted up.
"I'm sure that I remember you, miss," she said. "And yet--"
"Yes," said Sara; "once you gave me six buns for fourpence, and--
"And you gave five of 'em to a beggar child," the woman broke in
on her. "I've always remembered it. I couldn't make it out at
first." She turned round to the Indian gentleman and spoke her
next words to him. "I beg your pardon, sir, but there's not many
young people that notices a hungry face in that way; and I've
thought of it many a time. Excuse the liberty, miss,"--to Sara--
"but you look rosier and--well, better than you did that--that--"
"I am better, thank you," said Sara. "And--I am much happier--
and I have come to ask you to do something for me."
"Me, miss!" exclaimed the bun-woman, smiling cheerfully. "Why,
bless you! Yes, miss. What can I do?"
And then Sara, leaning on the counter, made her little proposal
concerning the dreadful days and the hungry waifs and the buns.
The woman watched her, and listened with an astonished face.
"Why, bless me!" she said again when she had heard it all; "it'll
be a pleasure to me to do it. I am a working-woman myself and
cannot afford to do much on my own account, and there's sights of
trouble on every side; but, if you'll excuse me, I'm bound to say
I've given away many a bit of bread since that wet afternoon,
just along o' thinking of you--an' how wet an' cold you was, an'
how hungry you looked; an' yet you gave away your hot buns as if
you was a princess."
The Indian gentleman smiled involuntarily at this, and Sara
smiled a little, too, remembering what she had said to herself
when she put the buns down on the ravenous child's ragged lap.
"She looked so hungry," she said. "She was even hungrier than I
"She was starving," said the woman. "Many's the time she's told
me of it since--how she sat there in the wet, and felt as if a
wolf was a-tearing at her poor young insides."
"Oh, have you seen her since then?" exclaimed Sara. "Do you
know where she is?"
"Yes, I do," answered the woman, smiling more good-naturedly than
ever. "Why, she's in that there back room, miss, an' has been
for a month; an' a decent, well-meanin' girl she's goin' to turn
out, an' such a help to me in the shop an' in the kitchen as
you'd scarce believe, knowin' how she's lived."
She stepped to the door of the little back parlor and spoke; and
the next minute a girl came out and followed her behind the
counter. And actually it was the beggar-child, clean and neatly
clothed, and looking as if she had not been hungry for a long
time. She looked shy, but she had a nice face, now that she was
no longer a savage, and the wild look had gone from her eyes.
She knew Sara in an instant, and stood and looked at her as if
she could never look enough.
"You see," said the woman, "I told her to come when she was
hungry, and when she'd come I'd give her odd jobs to do; an' I
found she was willing, and somehow I got to like her; and the end
of it was, I've given her a place an' a home, and she helps me,
an' behaves well, an' is as thankful as a girl can be. Her
name's Anne. She has no other."
The children stood and looked at each other for a few minutes;
and then Sara took her hand out of her muff and held it out
across the counter, and Anne took it, and they looked straight
into each other's eyes.
"I am so glad," Sara said. "And I have just thought of
something. Perhaps Mrs. Brown will let you be the one to give
the buns and bread to the children. Perhaps you would like to do
it because you know what it is to be hungry, too."
"Yes, miss," said the girl.
And, somehow, Sara felt as if she understood her, though she
said so little, and only stood still and looked and looked after
her as she went out of the shop with the Indian gentleman, and
they got into the carriage and drove away.