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A Little Princess

"I had no dinner," she said next, and her voice was quite low. She made it low because
she was afraid it would tremble.
"There's some bread in the pantry," said the cook. "That's all you'll get at this time of
day."
Sara went and found the bread. It was old and hard and dry. The cook was in too vicious
a humor to give her anything to eat with it. It was always safe and easy to vent her spite
on Sara. Really, it was hard for the child to climb the three long flights of stairs leading to
her attic. She often found them long and steep when she was tired; but tonight it seemed
as if she would never reach the top. Several times she was obliged to stop to rest. When
she reached the top landing she was glad to see the glimmer of a light coming from under
her door. That meant that Ermengarde had managed to creep up to pay her a visit. There
was some comfort in that. It was better than to go into the room alone and find it empty
and desolate. The mere presence of plump, comfortable Ermengarde, wrapped in her red
shawl, would warm it a little.
Yes; there Ermengarde was when she opened the door. She was sitting in the middle of
the bed, with her feet tucked safely under her. She had never become intimate with
Melchisedec and his family, though they rather fascinated her. When she found herself
alone in the attic she always preferred to sit on the bed until Sara arrived. She had, in fact,
on this occasion had time to become rather nervous, because Melchisedec had appeared
and sniffed about a good deal, and once had made her utter a repressed squeal by sitting
up on his hind legs and, while he looked at her, sniffing pointedly in her direction.
"Oh, Sara," she cried out, "I am glad you have come. Melchy WOULD sniff about so. I
tried to coax him to go back, but he wouldn't for such a long time. I like him, you know;
but it does frighten me when he sniffs right at me. Do you think he ever WOULD jump?"
"No," answered Sara.
Ermengarde crawled forward on the bed to look at her.
"You DO look tired, Sara," she said; "you are quite pale."
"I AM tired," said Sara, dropping on to the lopsided footstool. "Oh, there's Melchisedec,
poor thing. He's come to ask for his supper."
Melchisedec had come out of his hole as if he had been listening for her footstep. Sara
was quite sure he knew it. He came forward with an affectionate, expectant expression as
Sara put her hand in her pocket and turned it inside out, shaking her head.
"I'm very sorry," she said. "I haven't one crumb left. Go home, Melchisedec, and tell your
wife there was nothing in my pocket. I'm afraid I forgot because the cook and Miss
Minchin were so cross."
Melchisedec seemed to understand. He shuffled resignedly, if not contentedly, back to his
home.
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