A Little Princess HTML version

One of the Populace
The winter was a wretched one. There were days on which Sara tramped through snow
when she went on her errands; there were worse days when the snow melted and
combined itself with mud to form slush; there were others when the fog was so thick that
the lamps in the street were lighted all day and London looked as it had looked the
afternoon, several years ago, when the cab had driven through the thoroughfares with
Sara tucked up on its seat, leaning against her father's shoulder. On such days the
windows of the house of the Large Family always looked delightfully cozy and alluring,
and the study in which the Indian gentleman sat glowed with warmth and rich color. But
the attic was dismal beyond words. There were no longer sunsets or sunrises to look at,
and scarcely ever any stars, it seemed to Sara. The clouds hung low over the skylight and
were either gray or mud-color, or dropping heavy rain. At four o'clock in the afternoon,
even when there was no special fog, the daylight was at an end. If it was necessary to go
to her attic for anything, Sara was obliged to light a candle. The women in the kitchen
were depressed, and that made them more ill-tempered than ever. Becky was driven like a
little slave.
"'Twarn't for you, miss," she said hoarsely to Sara one night when she had crept into the
attic--"'twarn't for you, an' the Bastille, an' bein' the prisoner in the next cell, I should die.
That there does seem real now, doesn't it? The missus is more like the head jailer every
day she lives. I can jest see them big keys you say she carries. The cook she's like one of
the under-jailers. Tell me some more, please, miss--tell me about the subt'ranean passage
we've dug under the walls."
"I'll tell you something warmer," shivered Sara. "Get your coverlet and wrap it round
you, and I'll get mine, and we will huddle close together on the bed, and I'll tell you about
the tropical forest where the Indian gentleman's monkey used to live. When I see him
sitting on the table near the window and looking out into the street with that mournful
expression, I always feel sure he is thinking about the tropical forest where he used to
swing by his tail from coconut trees. I wonder who caught him, and if he left a family
behind who had depended on him for coconuts."
"That is warmer, miss," said Becky, gratefully; "but, someways, even the Bastille is sort
of heatin' when you gets to tellin' about it."
"That is because it makes you think of something else," said Sara, wrapping the coverlet
round her until only her small dark face was to be seen looking out of it. "I've noticed
this. What you have to do with your mind, when your body is miserable, is to make it
think of something else."
"Can you do it, miss?" faltered Becky, regarding her with admiring eyes.
Sara knitted her brows a moment.
"Sometimes I can and sometimes I can't," she said stoutly. "But when I CAN I'm all right.
And what I believe is that we always could--if we practiced enough. I've been practicing