A Little Princess
If Sara had been a different kind of child, the life she led at Miss Minchin's Select
Seminary for the next few years would not have been at all good for her. She was treated
more as if she were a distinguished guest at the establishment than as if she were a mere
little girl. If she had been a self-opinionated, domineering child, she might have become
disagreeable enough to be unbearable through being so much indulged and flattered. If
she had been an indolent child, she would have learned nothing. Privately Miss Minchin
disliked her, but she was far too worldly a woman to do or say anything which might
make such a desirable pupil wish to leave her school. She knew quite well that if Sara
wrote to her papa to tell him she was uncomfortable or unhappy, Captain Crewe would
remove her at once. Miss Minchin's opinion was that if a child were continually praised
and never forbidden to do what she liked, she would be sure to be fond of the place where
she was so treated. Accordingly, Sara was praised for her quickness at her lessons, for her
good manners, for her amiability to her fellow pupils, for her generosity if she gave
sixpence to a beggar out of her full little purse; the simplest thing she did was treated as if
it were a virtue, and if she had not had a disposition and a clever little brain, she might
have been a very self-satisfied young person. But the clever little brain told her a great
many sensible and true things about herself and her circumstances, and now and then she
talked these things over to Ermengarde as time went on.
"Things happen to people by accident," she used to say. "A lot of nice accidents have
happened to me. It just HAPPENED that I always liked lessons and books, and could
remember things when I learned them. It just happened that I was born with a father who
was beautiful and nice and clever, and could give me everything I liked. Perhaps I have
not really a good temper at all, but if you have everything you want and everyone is kind
to you, how can you help but be good-tempered? I don't know"--looking quite serious--
"how I shall ever find out whether I am really a nice child or a horrid one. Perhaps I'm a
HIDEOUS child, and no one will ever know, just because I never have any trials."
"Lavinia has no trials," said Ermengarde, stolidly, "and she is horrid enough."
Sara rubbed the end of her little nose reflectively, as she thought the matter over.
"Well," she said at last, "perhaps--perhaps that is because Lavinia is GROWING." This
was the result of a charitable recollection of having heard Miss Amelia say that Lavinia
was growing so fast that she believed it affected her health and temper.
Lavinia, in fact, was spiteful. She was inordinately jealous of Sara. Until the new pupil's
arrival, she had felt herself the leader in the school. She had led because she was capable
of making herself extremely disagreeable if the others did not follow her. She domineered
over the little children, and assumed grand airs with those big enough to be her
companions. She was rather pretty, and had been the best-dressed pupil in the procession
when the Select Seminary walked out two by two, until Sara's velvet coats and sable
muffs appeared, combined with drooping ostrich feathers, and were led by Miss Minchin
at the head of the line. This, at the beginning, had been bitter enough; but as time went on