A Little Princess
"Is this a new pupil for me, madame?" he said to Miss Minchin. "I hope that is my good
"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
"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
When she began to speak Miss Minchin started quite violently and sat staring at her over
her eyeglasses, 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 to 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.