A Little Princess HTML version
sparrows come at her call. The rat she has fed and tamed in her loneliness. The poor slave
of the house comes to her for comfort. There is a little child who comes to her in secret;
there is one older who worships her and would listen to her forever if she might. This I
have seen when I have crept across the roof. By the mistress of the house--who is an evil
woman--she is treated like a pariah; but she has the bearing of a child who is of the blood
"You seem to know a great deal about her," the secretary said.
"All her life each day I know," answered Ram Dass. "Her going out I know, and her
coming in; her sadness and her poor joys; her coldness and her hunger. I know when she
is alone until midnight, learning from her books; I know when her secret friends steal to
her and she is happier--as children can be, even in the midst of poverty--because they
come and she may laugh and talk with them in whispers. If she were ill I should know,
and I would come and serve her if it might be done."
"You are sure no one comes near this place but herself, and that she will not return and
surprise us. She would be frightened if she found us here, and the Sahib Carrisford's plan
would be spoiled."
Ram Dass crossed noiselessly to the door and stood close to it.
"None mount here but herself, Sahib," he said. "She has gone out with her basket and
may be gone for hours. If I stand here I can hear any step before it reaches the last flight
of the stairs."
The secretary took a pencil and a tablet from his breast pocket.
"Keep your ears open," he said; and he began to walk slowly and softly round the
miserable little room, making rapid notes on his tablet as he looked at things.
First he went to the narrow bed. He pressed his hand upon the mattress and uttered an
"As hard as a stone," he said. "That will have to be altered some day when she is out. A
special journey can be made to bring it across. It cannot be done tonight." He lifted the
covering and examined the one thin pillow.
"Coverlet dingy and worn, blanket thin, sheets patched and ragged," he said. "What a bed
for a child to sleep in--and in a house which calls itself respectable! There has not been a
fire in that grate for many a day," glancing at the rusty fireplace.
"Never since I have seen it," said Ram Dass. "The mistress of the house is not one who
remembers that another than herself may be cold."
The secretary was writing quickly on his tablet. He looked up from it as he tore off a leaf
and slipped it into his breast pocket.