A Little Princess HTML version
A French Lesson
When Sara entered the schoolroom the next morning everybody looked at her with wide,
interested eyes. By that time every pupil-- from Lavinia Herbert, who was nearly thirteen
and felt quite grown up, to Lottie Legh, who was only just four and the baby of the
school-- had heard a great deal about her. They knew very certainly that she was Miss
Minchin's show pupil and was considered a credit to the establishment. One or two of
them had even caught a glimpse of her French maid, Mariette, who had arrived the
evening before. Lavinia had managed to pass Sara's room when the door was open, and
had seen Mariette opening a box which had arrived late from some shop.
"It was full of petticoats with lace frills on them--frills and frills," she whispered to her
friend Jessie as she bent over her geography. "I saw her shaking them out. I heard Miss
Minchin say to Miss Amelia that her clothes were so grand that they were ridiculous for a
child. My mamma says that children should be dressed simply. She has got one of those
petticoats on now. I saw it when she sat down."
"She has silk stockings on!" whispered Jessie, bending over her geography also. "And
what little feet! I never saw such little feet."
"Oh," sniffed Lavinia, spitefully, "that is the way her slippers are made. My mamma says
that even big feet can be made to look small if you have a clever shoemaker. I don't think
she is pretty at all. Her eyes are such a queer color."
"She isn't pretty as other pretty people are," said Jessie, stealing a glance across the room;
"but she makes you want to look at her again. She has tremendously long eyelashes, but
her eyes are almost green."
Sara was sitting quietly in her seat, waiting to be told what to do. She had been placed
near Miss Minchin's desk. She was not abashed at all by the many pairs of eyes watching
her. She was interested and looked back quietly at the children who looked at her. She
wondered what they were thinking of, and if they liked Miss Minchin, and if they cared
for their lessons, and if any of them had a papa at all like her own. She had had a long
talk with Emily about her papa that morning.
"He is on the sea now, Emily," she had said. "We must be very great friends to each other
and tell each other things. Emily, look at me. You have the nicest eyes I ever saw--but I
wish you could speak."
She was a child full of imaginings and whimsical thoughts, and one of her fancies was
that there would be a great deal of comfort in even pretending that Emily was alive and
really heard and understood. After Mariette had dressed her in her dark-blue schoolroom
frock and tied her hair with a dark-blue ribbon, she went to Emily, who sat in a chair of
her own, and gave her a book.