WHAT HAPPENED AT MISS MINCHIN'S
FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT
In the first place, Miss Minchin lived in London.
Her home was a large, dull, tall one, in a large,
dull square, where all the houses were alike,
and all the sparrows were alike, and where all the
door-knockers made the same heavy sound, and
on still days--and nearly all the days were still-seemed to resound through the entire row in which
the knock was knocked. On Miss Minchin's door there
was a brass plate. On the brass plate there was
inscribed in black letters,
SELECT SEMINARY FOR YOUNG LADIES
Little Sara Crewe never went in or out of the house
without reading that door-plate and reflecting upon it.
By the time she was twelve, she had decided that
all her trouble arose because, in the first place,
she was not "Select," and in the second she was not
a "Young Lady." When she was eight years old,
she had been brought to Miss Minchin as a pupil,
and left with her. Her papa had brought her all
the way from India. Her mamma had died when she
was a baby, and her papa had kept her with him as
long as he could. And then, finding the hot climate
was making her very delicate, he had brought her to
England and left her with Miss Minchin, to be part
of the Select Seminary for Young Ladies. Sara, who
had always been a sharp little child, who remembered
things, recollected hearing him say that he had
not a relative in the world whom he knew of, and
so he was obliged to place her at a boarding-school,
and he had heard Miss Minchin's establishment
spoken of very highly. The same day, he took Sara
out and bought her a great many beautiful clothes-clothes so grand and rich that only a very young
and inexperienced man would have bought them for
a mite of a child who was to be brought up in a
boarding-school. But the fact was that he was a rash,
innocent young man, and very sad at the thought of
parting with his little girl, who was all he had left
to remind him of her beautiful mother, whom he had
dearly loved. And he wished her to have everything
the most fortunate little girl could have; and so,
when the polite saleswomen in the shops said,
"Here is our very latest thing in hats, the plumes
are exactly the same as those we sold to Lady
Diana Sinclair yesterday," he immediately bought
what was offered to him, and paid whatever was asked.
The consequence was that Sara had a most
extraordinary wardrobe. Her dresses were silk
and velvet and India cashmere, her hats and
bonnets were covered with bows and plumes, her
small undergarments were adorned with real lace,
and she returned in the cab to Miss Minchin's
with a doll almost as large as herself, dressed
quite as grandly as herself, too.
Then her papa gave Miss Minchin some money
and went away, and for several days Sara would
neither touch the doll, nor her breakfast, nor her
dinner, nor her tea, and would do nothing but
crouch in a small corner by the window and cry.
She cried so much, indeed, that she made herself ill.
She was a queer little child, with old-fashioned
ways and strong feelings, and she had adored
her papa, and could not be made to think that
India and an interesting bungalow were not
better for her than London and Miss Minchin's
Select Seminary. The instant she had entered
the house, she had begun promptly to hate Miss
Minchin, and to think little of Miss Amelia
Minchin, who was smooth and dumpy, and lisped,
and was evidently afraid of her older sister.
Miss Minchin was tall, and had large, cold, fishy
eyes, and large, cold hands, which seemed fishy,
too, because they were damp and made chills run
down Sara's back when they touched her, as
Miss Minchin pushed her hair off her forehead
"A most beautiful and promising little girl,
Captain Crewe. She will be a favorite pupil;
quite a favorite pupil, I see."
For the first year she was a favorite pupil;
at least she was indulged a great deal more than
was good for her. And when the Select Seminary
went walking, two by two, she was always decked
out in her grandest clothes, and led by the hand
at the head of the genteel procession, by Miss
Minchin herself. And when the parents of any
of the pupils came, she was always dressed and
called into the parlor with her doll; and she used
to hear Miss Minchin say that her father was a
distinguished Indian officer, and she would be
heiress to a great fortune. That her father had
inherited a great deal of money, Sara had heard
before; and also that some day it would be
hers, and that he would not remain long in
the army, but would come to live in London.
And every time a letter came, she hoped it would
say he was coming, and they were to live together again.
But about the middle of the third year a letter
came bringing very different news. Because he
was not a business man himself, her papa had
given his affairs into the hands of a friend
he trusted. The friend had deceived and robbed him.
All the money was gone, no one knew exactly where,
and the shock was so great to the poor, rash young
officer, that, being attacked by jungle fever
shortly afterward, he had no strength to rally,
and so died, leaving Sara, with no one to take care
Miss Minchin's cold and fishy eyes had never
looked so cold and fishy as they did when Sara
went into the parlor, on being sent for, a few days
after the letter was received.
No one had said anything to the child about
mourning, so, in her old-fashioned way, she had
decided to find a black dress for herself, and had
picked out a black velvet she had outgrown, and
came into the room in it, looking the queerest little
figure in the world, and a sad little figure too.
The dress was too short and too tight, her face
was white, her eyes had dark rings around them,
and her doll, wrapped in a piece of old black
crape, was held under her arm. She was not a
pretty child. She was thin, and had a weird,
interesting little face, short black hair, and very
large, green-gray eyes fringed all around with
heavy black lashes.
I am the ugliest child in the school," she had
said once, after staring at herself in the glass for
But there had been a clever, good-natured little
French teacher who had said to the music-master:
"Zat leetle Crewe. Vat a child! A so ogly beauty!
Ze so large eyes! ze so little spirituelle face.
Waid till she grow up. You shall see!"
This morning, however, in the tight, small
black frock, she looked thinner and odder than
ever, and her eyes were fixed on Miss Minchin
with a queer steadiness as she slowly advanced
into the parlor, clutching her doll.
"Put your doll down!" said Miss Minchin.
"No," said the child, I put her down;
I want her with me. She is all I have. She has
stayed with me all the time since my papa died."
She had never been an obedient child. She had
had her own way ever since she was born, and there
was about her an air of silent determination under
which Miss Minchin had always felt secretly uncomfortable.
And that lady felt even now that perhaps it would be
as well not to insist on her point. So she looked
at her as severely as possible.
"You will have no time for dolls in future,"
she said; "you will have to work and improve
yourself, and make yourself useful."
Sara kept the big odd eyes fixed on her teacher
and said nothing.
"Everything will be very different now," Miss
Minchin went on. "I sent for you to talk to
you and make you understand. Your father
is dead. You have no friends. You have
no money. You have no home and no one to take
care of you."
The little pale olive face twitched nervously,
but the green-gray eyes did not move from Miss
Minchin's, and still Sara said nothing.
"What are you staring at?" demanded Miss
Minchin sharply. "Are you so stupid you understand what I mean? I tell you that you are
quite alone in the world, and have no one to do
anything for you, unless I choose to keep you here."
The truth was, Miss Minchin was in her worst mood.
To be suddenly deprived of a ...