She had put on, without Mariette's help, the cast-aside black-velvet frock. It was too short and tight, and her slender legs looked long and thin, showing themselves from beneath the brief skirt. As she had not found a piece of black ribbon, her short, thick, black hair tumbled loosely about her face and contrasted strongly with its pallor. She held Emily tightly in one arm, and Emily was swathed in a piece of black material.
"Put down your doll," said Miss Minchin. "What do you mean by bringing her here?"
She had always made Miss Minchin feel secretly uncomfortable, and she did so now. She did not speak with rudeness so much as with a cold steadiness with which Miss Minchin felt it difficult to cope--perhaps because she knew she was doing a heartless and inhuman thing.
"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 her big, strange eyes fixed on her, and said not a
"Everything will be very different now," Miss Minchin went on.
"I suppose Miss Amelia has explained matters to you."
"Yes," answered Sara. "My papa is dead. He left me no money. I
am quite poor."
"You are a beggar," said Miss Minchin, her temper rising at the
recollection of what all this meant. "It appears that you have
no relations and no home, and no one to take care of you."
For a moment the thin, pale little face twitched, but Sara again
"What are you staring at?" demanded Miss Minchin, sharply. "Are
you so stupid that you cannot understand? 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 out of charity."
"I understand," answered Sara, in a low tone; and there was a
sound as if she had gulped down something which rose in her
throat. "I understand."
"That doll," cried Miss Minchin, pointing to the splendid
birthday gift seated near--"that ridiculous doll, with all her
nonsensical, extravagant things--I actually paid the bill for
Sara turned her head toward the chair.
"The Last Doll," she said. "The Last Doll." And her little
mournful voice had an odd sound.
"The Last Doll, indeed!" said Miss Minchin. "And she is mine,
not yours. Everything you own is mine."
"Please take it away from me, then," said Sara. "I do not want
If she had cried and sobbed and seemed frightened, Miss Minchin
might almost have had more patience with her. She was a woman
who liked to domineer and feel her power, and as she looked at
Sara's pale little steadfast face and heard her proud little
voice, she quite felt as if her might was being set at naught.
"Don't put on grand airs," she said. "The time for that sort of
thing is past. You are not a princess any longer. Your
carriage and your pony will be sent away--your maid will be
dismissed. You will wear your oldest and plainest clothes--your
extravagant ones are no longer suited to your station. You are
like Becky--you must work for your living."
To her surprise, a faint gleam of light came into the child's
eyes--a shade of relief.
"Can I work?" she said. "If I can work it will not matter so
much. What can I do?"
"You can do anything you are told," was the answer. "You are a
sharp child, and pick up things readily. If you make yourself
useful I may let you stay here. You speak French well, and you
can help with the younger children."
"May I?" exclaimed Sara. "Oh, please let me! I know I can
teach them. I like them, and they like me."
"Don't talk nonsense about people liking you," said Miss
Minchin. "You will have to do more than teach the little ones.
You will run errands and help in the kitchen as well as in the
schoolroom. If you don't please me, you will be sent away.
Remember that. Now go."
Sara stood still just a moment, looking at her. In her young
soul, she was thinking deep and strange things. Then she turned
to leave the room.
"Stop!" said Miss Minchin. "Don't you intend to thank me?"
Sara paused, and all the deep, strange thoughts surged up in her
"What for?" she said.
"For my kindness to you," replied Miss Minchin. "For my
kindness in giving you a home."
Sara made two or three steps toward her. Her thin little chest
heaved up and down, and she spoke in a strange un-childishly
"You are not kind," she said. "You are NOT kind, and it is NOT a
home." And she had turned and run out of the room before Miss
Minchin could stop her or do anything but stare after her with
She went up the stairs slowly, but panting for breath and she
held Emily tightly against her side.
"I wish she could talk," she said to herself. "If she could
speak--if she could speak!"
She meant to go to her room and lie down on the tiger-skin, with
her cheek upon the great cat's head, and look into the fire and
think and think and think. But just before she reached the
landing Miss Amelia came out of the door and closed it behind
her, and stood before it, looking nervous and awkward. The truth
was that she felt secretly ashamed of the thing she had been
ordered to do.
"You--you are not to go in there," she said.
"Not go in?" exclaimed Sara, and she fell back a pace.
"That is not your room now," Miss Amelia answered, reddening a
Somehow, all at once, Sara understood. She realized that this
was the beginning of the change Miss Minchin had spoken of.
"Where is my room?" she asked, hoping very much that her voice
did not shake.
"You are to sleep in the attic next to Becky."
Sara knew where it was. Becky had told her about it. She
turned, and mounted up two flights of stairs. The last one was
narrow, and covered with shabby strips of old carpet. She felt
as if she were walking away and leaving far behind her the world
in which that other child, who no longer seemed herself, had
lived. This child, in her short, tight old frock, climbing the
stairs to the attic, was quite a different creature.
When she reached the attic door and opened it, her heart gave a
dreary little thump. Then she shut the door and stood against it
and looked about her.
Yes, this was another world. The room had a slanting roof and
was whitewashed. The whitewash was dingy and had fallen off in
places. There was a rusty grate, an old iron bedstead, and a
hard bed covered with a faded coverlet. Some pieces of furniture
too much worn to be used downstairs had been sent up. Under the
skylight in the roof, which showed nothing but an oblong piece of
dull gray sky, there stood an old battered red footstool. Sara
went to it and sat down. She seldom cried. She did not cry now.
She laid Emily across her knees and put her face down upon her
and her arms around her, and sat there, her little black head
resting on the black draperies, not saying one word, not making
And as she sat in this silence there came a low tap at the door--
such a low, humble one that she did not at first hear it, and,
indeed, was not roused until the door was timidly pushed open and
a poor tear-smeared face appeared peeping round it. It was
Becky's face, and Becky had been crying furtively for hours and
rubbing her eyes with her kitchen apron until she looked strange
"Oh, miss," she said under her breath. "Might I--would you
allow me--jest to come in?"
Sara lifted her head and looked at her. She tried to begin a
smile, and somehow she could not. Suddenly--and it was all
through the loving mournfulness of Becky's streaming eyes--her
face looked more like a child's not so much too old for her
years. She held out her hand and gave a little sob.
"Oh, Becky," she said. "I told you we were just the same--only
two little girls--just two little girls. You see how true it is.
There's no difference now. I'm not a princess anymore."
Becky ran to her and caught her hand, and hugged it to her
breast, kneeling beside her and sobbing with love and pain.
"Yes, miss, you are," she cried, and her words were all broken.
"Whats'ever 'appens to you--whats'ever--you'd be a princess all
the same--an' nothin' couldn't make you nothin' different."
Next: In the Attic