A Little Princess HTML version
and rather enjoyed ordering about the "young one" who had been made so much fuss
over for so long. They were not servants of the best class, and had neither good manners
nor good tempers, and it was frequently convenient to have at hand someone on whom
blame could be laid.
During the first month or two, Sara thought that her willingness to do things as well as
she could, and her silence under reproof, might soften those who drove her so hard. In her
proud little heart she wanted them to see that she was trying to earn her living and not
accepting charity. But the time came when she saw that no one was softened at all; and
the more willing she was to do as she was told, the more domineering and exacting
careless housemaids became, and the more ready a scolding cook was to blame her.
If she had been older, Miss Minchin would have given her the bigger girls to teach and
saved money by dismissing an instructress; but while she remained and looked like a
child, she could be made more useful as a sort of little superior errand girl and maid of all
work. An ordinary errand boy would not have been so clever and reliable. Sara could be
trusted with difficult commissions and complicated messages. She could even go and pay
bills, and she combined with this the ability to dust a room well and to set things in order.
Her own lessons became things of the past. She was taught nothing, and only after long
and busy days spent in running here and there at everybody's orders was she grudgingly
allowed to go into the deserted schoolroom, with a pile of old books, and study alone at
"If I do not remind myself of the things I have learned, perhaps I may forget them," she
said to herself. "I am almost a scullery maid, and if I am a scullery maid who knows
nothing, I shall be like poor Becky. I wonder if I could QUITE forget and begin to drop
my H'S and not remember that Henry the Eighth had six wives."
One of the most curious things in her new existence was her changed position among the
pupils. Instead of being a sort of small royal personage among them, she no longer
seemed to be one of their number at all. She was kept so constantly at work that she
scarcely ever had an opportunity of speaking to any of them, and she could not avoid
seeing that Miss Minchin preferred that she should live a life apart from that of the
occupants of the schoolroom.
"I will not have her forming intimacies and talking to the other children," that lady said.
"Girls like a grievance, and if she begins to tell romantic stories about herself, she will
become an ill-used heroine, and parents will be given a wrong impression. It is better that
she should live a separate life--one suited to her circumstances. I am giving her a home,
and that is more than she has any right to expect from me."
Sara did not expect much, and was far too proud to try to continue to be intimate with
girls who evidently felt rather awkward and uncertain about her. The fact was that Miss
Minchin's pupils were a set of dull, matter-of-fact young people. They were accustomed
to being rich and comfortable, and as Sara's frocks grew shorter and shabbier and
queerer-looking, and it became an established fact that she wore shoes with holes in them
and was sent out to buy groceries and carry them through the streets in a basket on her