A Little Princess HTML version
What Melchisedec Heard and Saw
On this very afternoon, while Sara was out, a strange thing happened in the attic. Only
Melchisedec saw and heard it; and he was so much alarmed and mystified that he scuttled
back to his hole and hid there, and really quaked and trembled as he peeped out furtively
and with great caution to watch what was going on.
The attic had been very still all the day after Sara had left it in the early morning. The
stillness had only been broken by the pattering of the rain upon the slates and the
skylight. Melchisedec had, in fact, found it rather dull; and when the rain ceased to patter
and perfect silence reigned, he decided to come out and reconnoiter, though experience
taught him that Sara would not return for some time. He had been rambling and sniffing
about, and had just found a totally unexpected and unexplained crumb left from his last
meal, when his attention was attracted by a sound on the roof. He stopped to listen with a
palpitating heart. The sound suggested that something was moving on the roof. It was
approaching the skylight; it reached the skylight. The skylight was being mysteriously
opened. A dark face peered into the attic; then another face appeared behind it, and both
looked in with signs of caution and interest. Two men were outside on the roof, and were
making silent preparations to enter through the skylight itself. One was Ram Dass and the
other was a young man who was the Indian gentleman's secretary; but of course
Melchisedec did not know this. He only knew that the men were invading the silence and
privacy of the attic; and as the one with the dark face let himself down through the
aperture with such lightness and dexterity that he did not make the slightest sound,
Melchisedec turned tail and fled precipitately back to his hole. He was frightened to
death. He had ceased to be timid with Sara, and knew she would never throw anything
but crumbs, and would never make any sound other than the soft, low, coaxing whistling;
but strange men were dangerous things to remain near. He lay close and flat near the
entrance of his home, just managing to peep through the crack with a bright, alarmed eye.
How much he understood of the talk he heard I am not in the least able to say; but, even
if he had understood it all, he would probably have remained greatly mystified.
The secretary, who was light and young, slipped through the skylight as noiselessly as
Ram Dass had done; and he caught a last glimpse of Melchisedec's vanishing tail.
"Was that a rat?" he asked Ram Dass in a whisper.
"Yes; a rat, Sahib," answered Ram Dass, also whispering. "There are many in the walls."
"Ugh!" exclaimed the young man. "It is a wonder the child is not terrified of them."
Ram Dass made a gesture with his hands. He also smiled respectfully. He was in this
place as the intimate exponent of Sara, though she had only spoken to him once.
"The child is the little friend of all things, Sahib," he answered. "She is not as other
children. I see her when she does not see me. I slip across the slates and look at her many
nights to see that she is safe. I watch her from my window when she does not know I am
near. She stands on the table there and looks out at the sky as if it spoke to her. The