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Frances Hodgson Burnett
A Little Princess
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Polska wersja językowa w tłumaczeniu Jadwigi Włodarkiewiczowej
Angielska wersja językowa zgodna z wydaniem z roku 1905
A LITTLE PRINCESS
I am not—I am not dreaming!
BEING THE WHOLE STORY OF SARA CREWE
NOW TOLD FOR THE FIRST TIME
FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS IN COLORS BY
ETHEL FRANKLIN BETTS
CHARLES SCRIBNER S SONS
NEW YORK . . . . . 1917
Copyright, 1888 and 1905, by
Charles Scribner s Sons
Published September, 1905
THE WHOLE OF THE STORY
I do not know whether many people realize how much more than is ever written there really is
in a story—how many parts of it are never told—how much more really happened than there is
in the book one holds in one s hand and pores over. Stories are something like letters. When a
letter is written, how often one remembers things omitted and says, Ah, why did I not tell them
that? In writing a book one relates all that one remembers at the time, and if one told all that
really happened perhaps the book would never end. Between the lines of every story there is
another story, and that is one that is never heard and can only be guessed at by the people who
are good at guessing. The person who writes the story may never know all of it, but sometimes
he does and wishes he had the chance to begin again.
When I wrote the story of Sara Crewe I guessed that a great deal more had happened at Miss
Minchin s than I had had time to find out just then. I knew, of course, that there must have been
chapters full of things going on all the time; and when I began to make a play out of the book
and called it A Little Princess I discovered three acts full of things. What interested me most
was that I found that there had been girls at the school whose names I had not even known
before. There was a little girl whose name was Lottie, who was an amusing little person; there
was a hungry scullery-maid who was Sara s adoring friend; Ermengarde was much more
entertaining than she had seemed at first; things happened in the garret which had never been
hinted at in the book; and a certain gentleman whose name was Melchisedec was an intimate
friend of Sara s who should never have been left out of the story if he had only walked into it
in time. He and Becky and Lottie lived at Miss Minchin s, and I cannot understand why they
did not mention themselves to me at first. They were as real as Sara, and it was careless of them
not to come out of the story shadowland and say, Here I am—tell about me. But they did
not—which was their fault and not mine. People who live in the story one is writing ought to
come forward at the beginning and tap the writing person on the shoulder and say, Hallo, what
about me? If they don t, no one can be blamed but themselves and their slouching, idle ways.
After the play of A Little Princess was produced in New York, and so many children went to
see it and liked Becky and Lottie and Melchisedec, my publishers asked me if I could not write
Sara s story over again and put into it all the things and people who had been left out before,
and so I have done it; and when I began I found there were actually pages and pages of things
which had happened that had never been put even into the play, so in this new Little Princess
I have put all I have been able to discover.
FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT.
A LITTLE PRINCESS
ONCE on a dark winter s day, when the yellow fog hung so thick and heavy in the streets of
London that the lamps were lighted and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night,
an odd-looking little girl sat in a cab with her father and was driven rather slowly through the
She sat with her feet tucked under her, and leaned against her father, who held her in his arm,
as she stared out of the window at the passing people with a queer old-fashioned thoughtfulness
in her big eyes.
She was such a little girl that one did not expect to see such a look on her small face. It would
have been an old look for a child of twelve, and Sara Crewe was only seven. The fact was,
however, that she was always dreaming and thinking odd things and could not herself remember
any time when she had not been thinking things about grown-up people and the world they
belonged to. She felt as if she had lived a long, long time.
At this moment she was remembering the voyage she had just made from Bombay with her
father, Captain Crewe. She was thinking of the big ship, of the Lascars passing silently to and
fro on it, of the children playing about on the hot deck, and of some young officers wives who
used to try to make her talk to them and laugh at the things she said.
Principally, she was thinking of what a queer thing it was that at one time one was in India in
the blazing sun, and then in the middle of the ocean, and then driving in a strange vehicle
through strange streets where the day was as dark as the night. She found this so puzzling that
she moved closer to her father.
Papa, she said in a low, mysterious little voice which was almost a whisper, papa.
What is it, darling? Captain Crewe answered, holding her closer and looking down into her
face. What is Sara thinking of?
Is this the place? Sara whispered, cuddling still closer to him. Is it, papa?
Yes, little Sara, it is. We have reached it at last.
And though she was only seven years old, she knew that he felt sad when he said it.
It seemed to her many years since he had begun to prepare her mind for the place, as she
always called it. Her mother had died when she was born, so she had never known or missed
her. Her young, handsome, rich, petting father seemed to be the only relation she had in the
world. They had always played together and been fond of each other. She only knew he was
rich because she had heard people say so when they thought she was not listening, and she had
also heard them say that when she grew up she would be rich, too. She did not know all that
being rich meant. She had always lived in a beautiful bungalow, and had been used to seeing
many servants who made salaams to her and called her Missee Sahib, and gave her her own
way in everything. She had had toys and pets and an ayah who worshipped her, and she had
gradually learned that people who were rich had these things. That, however, was all she knew
During her short life only one thing had troubled her, and that thing was the place she was to
be taken to some day. The climate of India was very bad for children, and as soon as possible
they were sent away from it—generally to England and to school. She had seen other children
go away, and had heard their fathers and mothers talk about the letters they received from them.
She had known that she would be obliged to go also, and though sometimes her father s stories
of the voyage and the new country had attracted her, she had been troubled by the thought that
he could not stay with her.
Could n t you go to that place with me, papa? she had asked when she was five years old.
Could n t you go to school, too? I would help you with your lessons.
But you will not have to stay for a very long time, little Sara, he had always said. You will
go to a nice house where there will be a lot of little girls, and you will play together, and I will
send you plenty of books, and you will grow so fast that it will seem scarcely a year before you
are big enough and clever enough to come back and take care of papa.
She had liked to think of that. To keep the house for her father; to ride with him, and sit at the
head of his table when he had dinner-parties; to talk to him and read his books—that would be
what she would like most in the world, and if one must go away to the place in England to
attain it, she must make up her mind to go. She did not care very much for other little girls, but
if she had plenty of books she could console herself. She liked books more than anything else,
and was, in fact, always inventing stories of beautiful things and telling them to herself.
Sometimes she had told them to her father, and he had liked them as much as she did.
Well, papa, she said softly, if we are here I suppose we must be resigned.
He laughed at her old-fashioned speech and kissed her. He was really not at all resigned himself,
though he knew he must keep that a secret. His quaint little Sara had been a great companion
to him, and he felt he should be a lonely fellow when, on his return to India, he went into his
bungalow knowing he need not expect to see the small figure in its white frock come forward
to meet him. So he held her very closely in his arm as the cab rolled into the big, dull square in
which stood the house which was their destination.
It was a big, dull, brick house, exactly like all the others in its row, but that on the front door
there shone a brass plate on which was engraved in black letters:
Select Seminary for Young Ladies.
Here we are, Sara, said Captain Crewe, making his voice sound as cheerful as possible. Then
he lifted her out of the cab and they mounted the steps and rang the bell. Sara often thought
afterward that the house was somehow exactly like Miss Minchin. It was respectable and well
furnished, but everything in it was ugly; and the very armchairs seemed to have hard bones in
them. In the hall everything was hard and polished—even the red cheeks of the moon face on
the tall clock in the corner had a severe varnished look. The drawing-room into which they were
ushered was covered by a carpet with a square pattern upon it, the chairs were square, and a
heavy marble timepiece stood upon the heavy marble mantel.
As she sat down in one of the stiff mahogany chairs, Sara cast one of her quick looks about her.
I don t like it, papa, she said. But then I dare say soldiers—even brave ones—don t really
like going into battle.
Captain Crewe laughed outright at this. He was young and full of fun, and he never tired of
hearing Sara s queer speeches.
Oh, little Sara, he said. What shall I do when I have no one to say solemn things to me? No
one else is quite as solemn as you are.
But why do solemn things make you laugh so? inquired Sara.
Because you are such fun when you say them, he answered, laughing still more. And then
suddenly he swept her into his arms and kissed her very hard, stopping laughing all at once and
looking almost as if tears had come into his eyes.
It was just then that Miss Minchin entered the room. She was very like her house, Sara felt: tall
and dull, and respectable and ugly. She had large, cold, fishy eyes, and a large, cold, fishy smile.
It spread itself into a very large smile when she saw Sara and Captain Crewe. She had heard a
great many desirable things of the young soldier from the lady who had recommended her
school to him. Among other things, she had heard that he was a rich father who was willing to
spend a great deal of money on his little daughter.
It will be a great privilege to have charge of such a beautiful and promising child. Captain
Crewe, she said, taking Sara s hand and stroking it. Lady Meredith has told me of her unusual
cleverness. A clever child is a great treasure in an establishment like mine.
Sara stood quietly, with her eyes fixed upon Miss Minchin s face. She was thinking something
odd, as usual.
Why does she say I am a beautiful child, she was thinking. I am not beautiful at all. Colonel
Grange s little girl, Isobel, is beautiful. She has dimples and rose-colored cheeks, and long hair
the color of gold. I have short black hair and green eyes; besides which, I am a thin child and
not fair in the least. I am one of the ugliest children I ever saw. She is beginning by telling a
She was mistaken, however, in thinking she was an ugly child. She was not in the least like
Isobel Grange, who had been the beauty of the regiment, but she had an odd charm of her own.
She was a slim, supple creature, rather tall for her age, and had an intense, attractive little face.
Her hair was heavy and quite black and only curled at the tips; her eyes were greenish gray, it
is true, but they were big, wonderful eyes with long, black lashes, and though she herself did
not like the color of them, many other people did. Still she was very firm in her belief that she
was an ugly little girl, and she was not at all elated by Miss Minchin s flattery.
I should be telling a story if I said she was beautiful, she thought; and I should know I was
telling a story. I believe I am as ugly as she is—in my way. What did she say that for?
After she had known Miss Minchin longer she learned why she had said it. She discovered that
she said the same thing to each papa and mamma who brought a child to her school.
Sara stood near her father and listened while he and Miss Minchin talked. She had been brought
to the seminary because Lady Meredith s two little girls had been educated there, and Captain
Crewe had a great respect for Lady Meredith s experience. Sara was to be what was known as
a parlor-boarder, and she was to enjoy even greater privileges than parlor-boarders usually
did. She was to have a pretty bedroom and sitting-room of her own; she was to have a pony and
a carriage, and a maid to take the place of the ayah who had been her nurse in India.
I am not in the least anxious about her education, Captain Crewe said, with his gay laugh, as
he held Sara s hand and patted it. The difficulty will be to keep her from learning too fast and
too much. She is always sitting with her little nose burrowing into books. She doesn t read them.
Miss Minchin; she gobbles them up as if she were a little wolf instead of a little girl. She is
always starving for new books to gobble, and she wants grown-up books—great, big, fat ones—
French and German as well as English—history and biography and poets, and all sorts of things.
Drag her away from her books when she reads too much. Make her ride her pony in the Row
or go out and buy a new doll. She ought to play more with dolls.
Papa, said Sara. You see, if I went out and bought a new doll every few days I should have
more than I could be fond of. Dolls ought to be intimate friends. Emily is going to be my
Captain Crewe looked at Miss Minchin and Miss Minchin looked at Captain Crewe.
Who is Emily? she inquired.
Tell her, Sara, Captain Crewe said, smiling.
Sara s green-gray eyes looked very solemn and quite soft as she answered.
She is a doll I have n t got yet, she said. She is a doll papa is going to buy for me. We are
going out together to find her. I have called her Emily. She is going to be my friend when papa
is gone. I want her to talk to about him.
Miss Minchin s large, fishy smile became very flattering indeed.
What an original child! she said. What a darling little creature!
Yes, said Captain Crewe, drawing Sara close. She is a darling little creature. Take great care
of her for me. Miss Minchin.
Sara stayed with her father at his hotel for several days; in fact, she remained with him until he
sailed away again to India. They went out and visited many big shops together, and bought a
great many things. They bought, indeed, a great many more things than Sara needed; but
Captain Crewe was a rash, innocent young man and wanted his little girl to have everything she
admired and everything he admired himself, so between them they collected a wardrobe much
too grand for a child of seven. There were velvet dresses trimmed with costly furs, and lace
dresses, and embroidered ones, and hats with great, soft ostrich feathers, and ermine coats and
muffs, and boxes of tiny gloves and handkerchiefs and silk stockings in such abundant supplies
that the polite young women behind the counters whispered to each other that the odd little girl
with the big, solemn eyes must be at least some foreign princess—perhaps the little daughter of
an Indian rajah. And at last they found Emily, but they went to a number of toy-shops and
looked at a great many dolls before they finally discovered her.
I want her to look as if she wasn t a doll really, Sara said. I want her to look as if she listens
when I talk to her. The trouble with dolls, papa —and she put her head on one side and reflected
as she said it— the trouble with dolls is that they never seem to hear. So they looked at big
ones and little ones—at dolls with black eyes and dolls with blue—at dolls with brown curls
and dolls with golden braids, dolls dressed and dolls undressed.
You see, Sara said when they were examining one who had no clothes. If, when I find her,
she has no frocks, we can take her to a dressmaker and have her things made to fit. They will
fit better if they are tried on.
After a number of disappointments they decided to walk and look in at the shop windows and
let the cab follow them. They had passed two or three places without even going in, when, as
they were approaching a shop which was really not a very large one, Sara suddenly started and
clutched her father s arm.
Oh, papa! she cried. There is Emily!
A flush had risen to her face and there was an expression in her green-gray eyes as if she had
just recognized some one she was intimate with and fond of.
She is actually waiting for us! she said. Let us go in to her.
Dear me! said Captain Crewe; I feel as if we ought to have some one to introduce us.
You must introduce me and I will introduce you, said Sara. But I knew her the minute I saw
her—so perhaps she knew me, too.
Perhaps she had known her. She had certainly a very intelligent expression in her eyes when
Sara took her in her arms. She was a large doll, but not too large to carry about
They decided to walk and look in at the shop windows.
easily; she had naturally curling golden-brown hair, which hung like a mantle about her, and
her eyes were a deep, clear, gray blue, with soft, thick eyelashes which were real eyelashes and
not mere painted lines.
Of course, said Sara, looking into her face as she held her on her knee— of course, papa, this
So Emily was bought and actually taken to a children s outfitter s shop, and measured for a
wardrobe as grand as Sara s own. She had lace frocks, too, and velvet and muslin ones, and hats
and coats and beautiful lace-trimmed underclothes, and gloves and handkerchiefs and furs.
I should like her always to look as if she was a child with a good mother, said Sara. I m her
mother, though I am going to make a companion of her.
Captain Crewe would really have enjoyed the shopping tremendously, but that a sad thought
kept tugging at his heart. This all meant that he was going to be separated from his beloved,
quaint little comrade.
He got out of his bed in the middle of that night and went and stood looking down at Sara, who
lay asleep with Emily in her arms. Her black hair was spread out on the pillow and Emily s
golden-brown hair mingled with it, both of them had lace-ruffled night-gowns, and both had
long eyelashes which lay and curled up on their cheeks. Emily looked so like a real child that
Captain Crewe felt glad she was there. He drew a big sigh and pulled his mustache with a boyish
Heigh-ho, little Sara! he said to himself. I don t believe you know how much your daddy
will miss you.
The next day he took her to Miss Minchin s and left her there. He was to sail away the next
morning. He explained to Miss Minchin that his solicitors, Messrs. Barrow Skipworth, had
charge of his affairs in England and would give her any advice she wanted, and that they would
pay the bills she sent in for Sara s expenses. He would write to Sara twice a week, and she was
to be given every pleasure she asked for.
She is a sensible little thing, and she never wants anything it is n t safe to give her, he said.
Then he went with Sara into her little sitting-room and they bade each other good-by. Sara sat
on his knee and held the lapels of his coat in her small hands, and looked long and hard at his
Are you learning me by heart, little Sara, he said, stroking her hair.
No, she answered. I know you by heart. You are inside my heart. And they put their arms
round each other and kissed as if they would never let each other go.
When the cab drove away from the door, Sara was sitting on the floor of her sitting-room, with
her hands under her chin and her eyes following it until it had turned the corner of the square.
Emily was sitting by her, and she looked after it, too. When Miss Minchin sent her sister, Miss
Amelia, to see what the child was doing, she found she could not open the door.
I have locked it, said a queer, polite little voice from inside. I want to be quite by myself, if
Miss Amelia was fat and dumpy, and stood very much in awe of her sister. She was really the
better-natured person of the two, but she never disobeyed Miss Minchin. She went down-stairs
again, looking almost alarmed.
I never saw such a funny old-fashioned child, sister, she said. She has locked herself in, and
she is not making the least particle of noise.
It is much better than if she kicked and screamed, as some of them do, Miss Minchin
answered. I expected that a child as much spoiled as she is would set the whole house in an
uproar. If ever a child was given her own way in everything, she is.
I ve been opening her trunks and putting her things away, said Miss Amelia. I never saw
anything like them—sable and ermine on her coats, and real Valenciennes lace on her
underclothing. You have seen some of her clothes. What do you think of them?
I think they are perfectly ridiculous, replied Miss Minchin, sharply; but they will look very
well at the head of the line when we take the school-children to church on Sunday. She has been
provided for as if she were a little princess.
And up-stairs in the locked room Sara and Emily sat on the floor and stared at the corner round
which the cab had disappeared, while Captain Crewe looked backward, waving and kissing his
hand as if he could not bear to stop.
A FRENCH LESSON
WHEN Sara entered the school-room the next morning everybody looked at her with wide,
interested eyes. By that time every pupil—from Lavinia Herbert, who was nearly thirteen and
felt quite grown up, to Lottie Legh, who was only just four and the baby of the school—had
heard a great deal about her. They knew very certainly that she was Miss Minchin s show pupil
and was considered a credit to the establishment. One or two of them had even caught a glimpse
of her French maid, Mariette, who had arrived the evening before. Lavinia had managed to pass
Sara s room when the door was open, and had seen Mariette opening a box which had arrived
late from some shop.
It was full of petticoats with lace frills on them—frills and frills, she whispered to her friend
Jessie as she bent over her geography. I saw her shaking them out. I heard Miss Minchin say
to Miss Amelia that her clothes were so grand that they were ridiculous for a child. My mamma
says that children should be dressed simply. She has got one of those petticoats on now. I saw
it when she sat down.
She was not abashed at all by the many pairs of eyes watching her
She has silk stockings on! whispered Jessie, bending over her geography also. And what
little feet! I never saw such little feet.
Oh, sniffed Lavinia, spitefully, that is the way her slippers are made. My mamma says that
even big feet can be made to look small if you have a clever shoemaker. I don t think she is
pretty at all. Her eyes are such a queer color.
She is n t pretty as other pretty people are, said Jessie, stealing a glance across the room; but
she makes you want to look at her again. She has tremendously long eyelashes, but her eyes are
Sara was sitting quietly in her seat, waiting to be told what to do. She had been placed near
Miss Minchin s desk. She was not abashed at all by the many pairs of eyes watching her. She
was interested and looked back quietly at the children who looked at her. She wondered what
they were thinking of, and if they liked Miss Minchin, and if they cared for their lessons, and if
any of them had a papa at all like her own. She had had a long talk with Emily about her papa
He is on the sea now, Emily, she had said. We must be very great friends to each other and
tell each other things. Emily, look at me. You have the nicest eyes I ever saw,—but I wish you
She was a child full of imaginings and whimsical thoughts, and one of her fancies was that there
would be a great deal of comfort in even pretending that Emily was alive and really heard and
understood. After Mariette had dressed her in her dark-blue school-room frock and tied her hair
with a dark-blue ribbon, she went to Emily, who sat in a chair of her own, and gave her a book.
You can read that while I am down-stairs, she said; and, seeing Mariette looking at her
curiously, she spoke to her with a serious little face.
What I believe about dolls, she said, is that they can do things they will not let us know
about. Perhaps, really, Emily can read and talk and walk, but she will only do it when people
are out of the room. That is her secret. You see, if people knew that dolls could do things, they
would make them work. So, perhaps, they have promised each other to keep it a secret. If you
stay in the room, Emily will just sit there and stare; but if you go out, she will begin to read,
perhaps, or go and look out of the window. Then if she heard either of us coming, she would
just run back and jump into her chair and pretend she had been there all the time.
Comme elle est drôle! Mariette said to herself, and when she went down-stairs she told the
head housemaid about it. But she had already begun to like this odd little girl who had such an
intelligent small face and such perfect manners. She had taken care of children before who were
not so polite. Sara was a very fine little person, and had a gentle, appreciative way of saying,
If you please, Mariette,
Thank you, Mariette, which was very charming. Mariette told the head housemaid that she
thanked her as if she was thanking a lady.
Elle a l air d une princesse, cette petite, she said. Indeed, she was very much pleased with her
new little mistress and liked her place greatly.
After Sara had sat in her seat in the school-room for a few minutes, being looked at by the
pupils, Miss Minchin rapped in a dignified manner upon her desk.
Young ladies, she said, I wish to introduce you to your new companion. All the little girls
rose in their places, and Sara rose also. I shall expect you all to be very agreeable to Miss
Crewe; she has just come to us from a great distance—in fact, from India. As soon as lessons
are over you must make each other s acquaintance.
The pupils bowed ceremoniously, and Sara made a little courtesy, and then they sat down and
looked at each other again.
Sara, said Miss Minchin in her school-room manner, come here to me.
She had taken a book from the desk and was turning over its leaves. Sara went to her politely.
As your papa has engaged a French maid for you, she began, I conclude that he wishes you
to make a special study of the French language.
Sara felt a little awkward.
I think he engaged her, she said, because he—he thought I would like her, Miss Minchin.
I am afraid, said Miss Minchin, with a slightly sour smile, that you have been a very spoiled
little girl and always imagine that things are done because you like them. My impression is that
your papa wished you to learn French.
If Sara had been older or less punctilious about being quite polite to people, she could have
explained herself in a very few words. But, as it was, she felt a flush rising on her cheeks. Miss
Minchin was a very severe and imposing person, and she seemed so absolutely sure that Sara
knew nothing whatever of French that she felt as if it would be almost rude to correct her. The
truth was that Sara could not remember the time when she had not seemed to know French. Her
father had often spoken it to her when she had been a baby. Her mother had been a French-
woman, and Captain Crewe had loved her language, so it happened that Sara had always heard
and been familiar with it.
I—I have never really learned French, but—but— she began, trying shyly to make herself
One of Miss Minchin s chief secret annoyances was that she did not speak French herself, and
was desirous of concealing the irritating fact. She, therefore, had no intention of discussing the
matter and laying herself open to innocent questioning by a new little pupil.
That is enough, she said with polite tartness. If you have not learned, you must begin at once.
The French master, Monsieur Dufarge, will be here in a few minutes. Take this book and look
at it until he arrives.
Sara s cheeks felt warm. She went back to her seat and opened the book. She looked at the first
page with a grave face. She knew it would be rude to smile, and she was very determined not
to be rude. But it was very odd to find herself expected to study a page which told her that le
père meant the father, and la mère meant the mother.
Miss Minchin glanced toward her scrutinizingly.
You look rather cross, Sara, she said. I am sorry you do not like the idea of learning French.
I am very fond of it, answered Sara, thinking she would try again; but—
You must not say but when you are told to do things, said Miss Minchin. Look at your book
And Sara did so, and did not smile, even when she found that le fils meant the son, and le
frère meant the brother.
When Monsieur Dufarge comes, she thought, I can make him understand.
Monsieur Dufarge arrived very shortly afterward. He was a very nice, intelligent, middle-aged
Frenchman, and he looked interested when his eyes fell upon Sara trying politely to seem
absorbed in her little book of phrases.
Is this a new pupil for me, madame? he said to Miss Minchin. I hope that is my good fortune.
Her papa—Captain Crewe—is very anxious that she should begin the language. But I am
afraid she has a childish prejudice against it. She does not seem to wish to learn, said Miss
I am sorry of that, mademoiselle, he said kindly to Sara. Perhaps, when we begin to study
together, I may show you that it is a charming tongue.
Little Sara rose in her seat. She was beginning to feel rather desperate, as if she were almost in
disgrace. She looked up into Monsieur Dufarge s face with her big, green-gray eyes, and they
were quite innocently appealing. She knew that he would understand as soon as she spoke. She
began to explain quite simply in pretty and fluent French. Madame had not understood. She had
not learned French exactly,—not out of books,—but her papa and other people had always
spoken it to her, and she had read it and written it as she had read and written English. Her papa
loved it, and she loved it because he did. Her dear mamma, who had died when she was born,
had been French. She would be glad to learn anything monsieur would teach her, but what she
had tried to explain to madame was that she already knew the words in this book—and she held
out the little book of phrases.
When she began to speak Miss Minchin started quite violently and sat staring at her over her
eye-glasses, almost indignantly, until she had finished. Monsieur Dufarge began to smile, and
his smile was one of great pleasure. To hear this pretty childish voice speaking his own language
so simply and charmingly made him feel almost as if he were in his native land—which in dark,
foggy days in London sometimes seemed worlds away. When she had finished, he took the
phrase-book from her, with a look almost affectionate. But he spoke to Miss Minchin.
Ah, madame, he said, there is not much I can teach her. She has not learned French; she is
French. Her accent is exquisite.
You ought to have told me, exclaimed Miss Minchin, much mortified, turning on Sara.
I—I tried, said Sara. I—I suppose I did not begin right.
Miss Minchin knew she had tried, and that it had not been her fault that she was not allowed to
explain. And when she saw that the pupils had been listening and that Lavinia and Jessie were
giggling behind their French grammars, she felt infuriated.
Silence, young ladies! she said severely, rapping upon the desk. Silence at once!
And she began from that minute to feel rather a grudge against her show pupil.
ON that first morning, when Sara sat at Miss Minchin s side, aware that the whole school-room
was devoting itself to observing her, she had noticed very soon one little girl, about her own
age, who looked at her very hard with a pair of light, rather dull, blue eyes. She was a fat child
who did not look as if she were in the least clever, but she had a good-naturedly pouting mouth.
Her flaxen hair was braided in a tight pigtail, tied with a ribbon, and she had pulled this pigtail
round her neck, and was biting the end of the ribbon, resting her elbows on the desk, as she
stared wonderingly at the new pupil. When Monsieur Dufarge began to speak to Sara, she
looked a little frightened; and when Sara stepped forward and, looking at him with the innocent,
appealing eyes, answered him, without any warning, in French, the fat little girl gave a startled
jump, and grew quite red in her awed amazement. Having wept hopeless tears for weeks in her
efforts to remember that la mère meant the mother, and le père the father, —when one
spoke sensible English,—it was almost too much for her to suddenly find herself listening to a
child her own age who seemed not only quite familiar with these words, but apparently knew
any number of others, and could mix them up with verbs as if they were mere trifles.
She stared so hard and bit the ribbon on her pigtail so fast that she attracted the attention of
Miss Minchin, who, feeling extremely cross at the moment, immediately pounced upon her.
Miss St. John! she exclaimed severely. What do you mean by such conduct? Remove your
elbows! Take your ribbon out of your mouth! Sit up at once!
Upon which Miss St. John gave another jump, and when Lavinia and Jessie tittered she became
redder than ever—so red, indeed, that she almost looked as if tears were coming into her poor,
dull, childish eyes; and Sara saw her and was so sorry for her that she began to rather like her
and want to be her friend. It was a way of hers always to want to spring into any fray in which
some one was made uncomfortable or unhappy.
If Sara had been a boy and lived a few centuries ago, her father used to say, she would have
gone about the country with her sword drawn, rescuing and defending every one in distress.
She always wants to fight when she sees people in trouble.
So she took rather a fancy to fat, slow, little Miss St. John, and kept glancing toward her through
the morning. She saw that lessons were no easy matter to her, and that there was no danger of
her ever being spoiled by being treated as a show pupil. Her French lesson was a pathetic thing.
Her pronunciation made even Monsieur Dufarge smile in spite of himself, and Lavinia and
Jessie and the more fortunate girls either giggled or looked at her in wondering disdain. But
Sara did not laugh. She tried to look as if she did not hear when Miss St. John called le bon
pain lee bong pang. She had a fine, hot little temper of her own, and it made her feel rather
savage when she heard the titters and saw the poor, stupid, distressed child s face.
It is n t funny, really, she said between her teeth, as she bent over her book. They ought not
When lessons were over and the pupils gathered together in groups to talk, Sara looked for Miss
St. John, and finding her bundled rather disconsolately in a window-seat, she walked over to
her and spoke. She only said the kind of thing little girls always say to each other by way of
beginning an acquaintance, but there was something nice and friendly about Sara, and people
always felt it.
What is your name? she said.
To explain Miss St. John s amazement one must recall that a new pupil is, for a short time, a
somewhat uncertain thing; and of this new pupil the entire school had talked the night before
until it fell asleep quite exhausted by excitement and contradictory stories. A new pupil with a
carriage and a pony and a maid, and a voyage from India to discuss, was not an ordinary
My name s Ermengarde St. John, she answered.
Mine is Sara Crewe, said Sara. Yours is very pretty. It sounds like a story-book.
Do you like it? fluttered Ermengarde. I—I like yours.
Miss St. John s chief trouble in life was that she had a clever father. Sometimes this seemed to
her a dreadful calamity. If you have a father who knows everything, who speaks seven or eight
languages, and has thousands of volumes which he has apparently learned by heart, he
frequently expects you to be familiar with the contents of your lesson-books at least; and it is
not improbable that he will feel you ought to be able to remember a few incidents of history
and to write a French exercise. Ermengarde was a severe trial to Mr. St. John. He could not
understand how a child of his could be a notably and unmistakably dull creature who never
shone in anything.
Good heavens! he had said more than once, as he stared at her, there are times when I think
she is as stupid as her Aunt Eliza!
If her Aunt Eliza had been slow to learn and quick to forget a thing entirely when she had
learned it, Ermengarde was strikingly like her. She was the monumental dunce of the school,
and it could not be denied.
She must be made to learn, her father said to Miss Minchin.
Consequently Ermengarde spent the greater part of her life in disgrace or in tears. She learned
things and forgot them; or, if she remembered them, she did not understand them. So it was
natural that, having made Sara s acquaintance, she should sit and stare at her with profound
You can speak French, can t you? she said respectfully.
Sara got on to the window-seat, which was a big, deep one, and, tucking up her feet, sat with
her hands clasped round her knees.
I can speak it because I have heard it all my life, she answered. You could speak it if you
had always heard it.
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