Read A Little Princess Online

Authors: Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Little Princess

A LITTLE PRINCESS
BEING THE WHOLE STORY OF SARA CREWE NOW TOLD FOR THE FIRST TIME
* * *
FRANCES HODGSON BURNETT

 
*

A Little Princess
Being the Whole Story of Sara Crewe Now Told for the First Time
First published in 1905.

ISBN 978-1-775415-07-7

© 2009 THE FLOATING PRESS.

While every effort has been used to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information contained in The Floating Press edition of this book, The Floating Press does not assume liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in this book. The Floating Press does not accept responsibility for loss suffered as a result of reliance upon the accuracy or currency of information contained in this book. Do not use while operating a motor vehicle or heavy equipment. Many suitcases look alike.

Visit
www.thefloatingpress.com

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

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 don't like it, papa," she said. "But then I dare say
soldiers— even brave ones—don't really LIKE going into battle."

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
things of the young soldier from the lady who had recommended her
school to him. Among other things, she had heard that he was a
rich father who was willing to spend a great deal of money on his
little daughter.

"It will be a great privilege to have charge of such a beautiful
and promising child, Captain Crewe," she said, taking Sara's
hand and stroking it. "Lady Meredith has told me of her unusual
cleverness. A clever child is a great treasure in an
establishment like mine."

Sara stood quietly, with her eyes fixed upon Miss Minchin's
face. She was thinking something odd, as usual.

"Why does she say I am a beautiful child?" she was thinking. "I
am not beautiful at all. Colonel Grange's little girl, Isobel,
is beautiful. She has dimples and rose-colored cheeks, and long
hair the color of gold. I have short black hair and green eyes;
besides which, I am a thin child and not fair in the least. I
am one of the ugliest children I ever saw. She is beginning by
telling a story."

She was mistaken, however, in thinking she was an ugly child.
She was not in the least like Isobel Grange, who had been the
beauty of the regiment, but she had an odd charm of her own. She
was a slim, supple creature, rather tall for her age, and had an
intense, attractive little face. Her hair was heavy and quite
black and only curled at the tips; her eyes were greenish gray,
it is true, but they were big, wonderful eyes with long, black
lashes, and though she herself did not like the color of them,
many other people did. Still she was very firm in her belief
that she was an ugly little girl, and she was not at all elated
by Miss Minchin's flattery.

"I should be telling a story if I said she was beautiful," she
thought; "and I should know I was telling a story. I believe I
am as ugly as she is—in my way. What did she say that for?"

After she had known Miss Minchin longer she learned why she had
said it. She discovered that she said the same thing to each
papa and mamma who brought a child to her school.

Sara stood near her father and listened while he and Miss Minchin
talked. She had been brought to the seminary because Lady
Meredith's two little girls had been educated there, and Captain
Crewe had a great respect for Lady Meredith's experience. Sara
was to be what was known as "a parlor boarder," and she was to
enjoy even greater privileges than parlor boarders usually did.
She was to have a pretty bedroom and sitting room of her own; she
was to have a pony and a carriage, and a maid to take the place
of the ayah who had been her nurse in India.

"I am not in the least anxious about her education," Captain
Crewe said, with his gay laugh, as he held Sara's hand and patted
it. "The difficulty will be to keep her from learning too fast
and too much. She is always sitting with her little nose
burrowing into books. She doesn't read them, Miss Minchin; she
gobbles them up as if she were a little wolf instead of a little
girl. She is always starving for new books to gobble, and she
wants grown-up books—great, big, fat ones—French and German as
well as English—history and biography and poets, and all sorts of
things. Drag her away from her books when she reads too much.
Make her ride her pony in the Row or go out and buy a new doll.
She ought to play more with dolls."

Other books

Forbidden by Cheryl Douglas
Lovers Never Lie by Morrison, Gael
Hyperthought by M M Buckner
Calm Like Home by Clark, Kaisa
Amazing Grace by Lesley Crewe
Nights Below Station Street by David Adams Richards
The Cottage at Glass Beach by Heather Barbieri
Cressida by Clare Darcy