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A Little Princess

Ermengarde
On that first morning, when Sara sat at Miss Minchin's side, aware that the whole
schoolroom 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 around 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 mere" meant "the mother," and "le pere," "the father,"-- when one spoke sensible
English--it was almost too much for her suddenly to 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 rather to like her and want to be her friend. It was a way of hers always to want to
spring into any fray in which someone 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 everyone 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 isn't funny, really," she said between her teeth, as she bent over her book. "They ought
not to laugh."
 
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