A Little Princess
Of course the greatest power Sara possessed and the one which gained her even more
followers than her luxuries and the fact that she was "the show pupil," the power that
Lavinia and certain other girls were most envious of, and at the same time most
fascinated by in spite of themselves, was her power of telling stories and of making
everything she talked about seem like a story, whether it was one or not.
Anyone who has been at school with a teller of stories knows what the wonder means--
how he or she is followed about and besought in a whisper to relate romances; how
groups gather round and hang on the outskirts of the favored party in the hope of being
allowed to join in and listen. Sara not only could tell stories, but she adored telling them.
When she sat or stood in the midst of a circle and began to invent wonderful things, her
green eyes grew big and shining, her cheeks flushed, and, without knowing that she was
doing it, she began to act and made what she told lovely or alarming by the raising or
dropping of her voice, the bend and sway of her slim body, and the dramatic movement
of her hands. She forgot that she was talking to listening children; she saw and lived with
the fairy folk, or the kings and queens and beautiful ladies, whose adventures she was
narrating. Sometimes when she had finished her story, she was quite out of breath with
excitement, and would lay her hand on her thin, little, quick-rising chest, and half laugh
as if at herself.
"When I am telling it," she would say, "it doesn't seem as if it was only made up. It seems
more real than you are--more real than the schoolroom. I feel as if I were all the people in
the story--one after the other. It is queer."
She had been at Miss Minchin's school about two years when, one foggy winter's
afternoon, as she was getting out of her carriage, comfortably wrapped up in her warmest
velvets and furs and looking very much grander than she knew, she caught sight, as she
crossed the pavement, of a dingy little figure standing on the area steps, and stretching its
neck so that its wide-open eyes might peer at her through the railings. Something in the
eagerness and timidity of the smudgy face made her look at it, and when she looked she
smiled because it was her way to smile at people.
But the owner of the smudgy face and the wide-open eyes evidently was afraid that she
ought not to have been caught looking at pupils of importance. She dodged out of sight
like a jack-in-the-box and scurried back into the kitchen, disappearing so suddenly that if
she had not been such a poor little forlorn thing, Sara would have laughed in spite of
herself. That very evening, as Sara was sitting in the midst of a group of listeners in a
corner of the schoolroom telling one of her stories, the very same figure timidly entered
the room, carrying a coal box much too heavy for her, and knelt down upon the hearth
rug to replenish the fire and sweep up the ashes.
She was cleaner than she had been when she peeped through the area railings, but she
looked just as frightened. She was evidently afraid to look at the children or seem to be
listening. She put on pieces of coal cautiously with her fingers so that she might make no
disturbing noise, and she swept about the fire irons very softly. But Sara saw in two