BURNETT FRANCES

Title:A LITTLE PRINCESS
Subject:ENGLISH FICTION Scarica il testo


A Little Princess
CONTENTS

1. Sara
2. A French Lesson
3. Ermengarde
4. Lottie
5. Becky
6. The Diamond Mines
7. The Diamond Mines Again
8. In the Attic
9. Melchisedec
10. The Indian Gentleman
11. Ram Dass
12. The Other Side of the Wall
13. One of the Populace
14. What Melchisedec Heard and Saw
15. The Magic
16. The Visitor
17. "It Is the Child"
18. "I Tried Not to Be"
19. Anne



A Little Princess


1

Sara


Once on a dark winter's day, when the yellow fog hung so thick
and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted
and the shop windows blazed with gas as they do at night, an
odd-looking little girl sat in a cab with her father and was
driven rather slowly through the big thoroughfares.

She sat with her feet tucked under her, and leaned against her father,
who held her in his arm, as she stared out of the window at the passing
people with a queer old-fashioned thoughtfulness in her big eyes.

She was such a little girl that one did not expect to see such a look
on her small face. It would have been an old look for a child
of twelve, and Sara Crewe was only seven. The fact was, however,
that she was always dreaming and thinking odd things and could
not herself remember any time when she had not been thinking
things about grown-up people and the world they belonged to.
She felt as if she had lived a long, long time.

At this moment she was remembering the voyage she had just made
from Bombay with her father, Captain Crewe. She was thinking
of the big ship, of the Lascars passing silently to and fro on it,
of the children playing about on the hot deck, and of some
young officers' wives who used to try to make her talk to them
and laugh at the things she said.

Principally, she was thinking of what a queer thing it was
that at one time one was in India in the blazing sun, and then
in the middle of the ocean, and then driving in a strange vehicle
through strange streets where the day was as dark as the night.
She found this so puzzling that she moved closer to her father.

"Papa," she said in a low, mysterious little voice which was almost
a whisper, "papa."

"What is it, darling?" Captain Crewe answered, holding her closer
and looking down into her face. "What is Sara thinking of?"

"Is this the place?" Sara whispered, cuddling still closer to him.
"Is it, papa?"

"Yes, little Sara, it is. We have reached it at last." And though
she was only seven years old, she knew that he felt sad when he
said it.

It seemed to her many years since he had begun to prepare her
mind for "the place," as she always called it. Her mother had
died when she was born, so she had never known or missed her.
Her young, handsome, rich, petting father seemed to be the only
relation she had in the world. They had always played together
and been fond of each other. She only knew he was rich because she
had heard people say so when they thought she was not listening,
and she had also heard them say that when she grew up she would
be rich, too. She did not know all that being rich meant. She had
always lived in a beautiful bungalow, and had been used to seeing
many servants who made salaams to her and called her "Missee Sahib,"
and gave her her own way in everything. She had had toys and pets
and an ayah who worshipped her, and she had gradually learned that
people who were rich had these things. That, however, was all she
knew about it.

During her short life only one thing had troubled her, and that
thing was "the place" she was to be taken to some day. The climate
of India was very bad for children, and as soon as possible they
were sent away from it--generally to England and to school.
She had seen other children go away, and had heard their fathers
and mothers talk about the letters they received from them.
She had known that she would be obliged to go also, and though
sometimes her father's stories of the voyage and the new country
had attracted her, she had been troubled by the thought that he
could not stay with her.

"Couldn't you go to that place with me, papa?" she had asked
when she was five years old. "Couldn't you go to school, too?
I would help you with your lessons."

"But you will not have to stay for a very long time, little Sara,"
he had always said. "You will go to a nice house where there will be
a lot of little girls, and you will play together, and I will send
you plenty of books, and you will grow so fast that it will seem
scarcely a year before you are big enough and clever enough to come
back and take care of papa."

She had liked to think of that. To keep the house for her father;
to ride with him, and sit at the head of his table when he had
dinner parties; to talk to him and read his books--that would be
what she would like most in the world, and if one must go away to
"the place" in England to attain it, she must make up her mind to go.
She did not care very much for other little girls, but if she
had plenty of books she could console herself. She liked books
more than anything else, and was, in fact, always inventing stories
of beautiful things and telling them to herself. Sometimes she
had told them to her father, and he had liked them as much as she did.

"Well, papa," she said softly, "if we are here I suppose we must
be resigned."

He laughed at her old-fashioned speech and kissed her. He was really
not at all resigned himself, though he knew he must keep that a secret.
His quaint little Sara had been a great companion to him, and he
felt he should be a lonely fellow when, on his return to India,
he went into his bungalow knowing he need not expect to see the
small figure in its white frock come forward to meet him. So he
held her very closely in his arms as the cab rolled into the big,
dull square in which stood the house which was their destination.

It was a big, dull, brick house, exactly like all the others
in its row, but that on the front door there shone a brass plate
on which was engraved in black letters:

MISS MINCHIN,

Select Seminary for Young Ladies.


"Here we are, Sara," said Captain Crewe, making his voice sound
as cheerful as possible. Then he lifted her out of the cab
and they mounted the steps and rang the bell. Sara often thought
afterward that the house was somehow exactly like Miss Minchin.
It was respectable and well furnished, but everything in it was ugly;
and the very armchairs seemed to have hard bones in them. In the hall
everything was hard and polished--even the red cheeks of the moon
face on the tall clock in the corner had a severe varnished look.
The drawing room into which they were ushered was covered by a carpet
with a square pattern upon it, the chairs were square, and a heavy
marble timepiece stood upon the heavy marble mantel.

As she sat down in one of the stiff mahogany chairs, Sara cast
one of her quick looks about her.

"I like it, papa," she said. "But then I dare say soldiers-even brave ones--really LIKE going into bat{tle}."

Captain Crewe laughed outright at this. He was young and full of fun,
and he never tired of hearing Sara's queer speeches.

"Oh, little Sara," he said. "What shall I do when I have no one
to say solemn things to me? No one else is as solemn as you are."

"But why do solemn things make you laugh so?" inquired Sara.

"Because you are such fun when you say them," he answered,
laughing still more. And then suddenly he swept her into his arms
and kissed her very hard, stopping laughing all at once and looking
almost as if tears had come into his eyes.

It was just then that Miss Minchin entered the room. She was very
like her house, Sara felt: tall and dull, and respectable and ugly.
She had large, cold, fishy eyes, and a large, cold, fishy smile.
It spread itself into a very large smile when she saw Sara and
Captain Crewe. She had heard a great many desirable ...

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