Chapter 3: A little princess
“Be quiet, girls, or the head jailor(1) will hear us!” whispered Sara.
“The head jailor?” asked Ermengarde.
“The head jailor is Miss Minchin,” explained Sara ” And we are the prisoners.”
“Oh, that is so romantic!” said Ermengarde.
“Isn’t it, miss?” said Becky the maid, with bright, shining eyes “But we must hurry, or the food will become cold.”
They quickly set the table and laid down the food. It was a very cold night. Both Sara and Becky were very hungry because they had neither dinner(2) nor supper(3). Luckily, Sara’s kind friend Ermengarde brought up a basket of food at night to share with the girls.
“Oh, can’t you see how beautiful it is?” exclaimed(4) Sara “The tablecloth is red, and these plates are all golden. We are not prisoners any more but princesses.”
Ermengarde and Becky smiled. Sara was so imaginative.
“How nice and hot everything is!” Becky said “And how nice of you to think of us!”
“Oh, it is nothing.” blushed Ermengarde.
They all sat down around the table on some old, broken chairs. The warmth of the small muffins was good for their cold and empty bellies. Sara, Ermengarde and Becky ate and talked about many merry things.
Yet all of a sudden, they heard steps outside. Then slam!, the door opened, and Miss Minchin walked in. She looked very angry.
“You naughty things!” she shouted at Becky and Sara “How dare you! You will have no food tomorrow!”
Sara said nothing, but Ermengarde burst into tears.
“But she had none today!”
“All the better. And you, Ermengarde. I am very disappointed in you. You should be in bed, not in this shabby attic, sharing your expensive food with servant girls. Now go!” exclaimed Miss Minchin, and pulled Ermengarde out of the room.
“Remember, no food for both of you tomorrow!”
Becky sadly went to her attic. Sara was alone with her hunger. It was too much for her. She went to bed and cried herself to sleep.
She did not know that there was a black face pressed against the window, watching her.
In the morning, Sara woke to find herself in a dream. She could not believe her eyes. Her room was not shabby anymore. It was filled with beautiful furniture. Sara herself was lying on a soft bed, with big pillows and a thick, warm blanket. She could even smell soup and cakes, among other things. The little girl jumped up, ran to the table and found a small note. There was the line: “To the little girl in the right-hand attic. From a friend.”
“Can this be real?” she exclaimed “Oh, I have a friend who cares for me!”
In a moment, she forgot all her troubles. She woke Becky, and they ate happily. Sara even brought some of the beautiful things to Becky’s attic. For the first time in days, both of them did not feel hungry. Sara was very happy to find she had a mysterious friend.
But that was not the only surprise for the little girl that week.
A few days later, she received a big box, addressed to “the little girl in the right-hand attic”. Just then, Miss Minchin walked into the room.
“Hurry and bring that box to whom it belongs. Don’t touch things that are not yours.” she said.
“I beg your pardon(5), Miss Minchin. This box is mine. It is addressed to me.” replied Sara.
“To you?” exclaimed Miss Minchin in surprise “Then open it this instance!”
Sara obeyed(6), and became very surprised herself. In the box, there were lots and lots of clothes – dresses. coats, shoes and socks – all very fine and pretty. Did these also come from her secret friend?
“Well, somebody is very kind to you. Maybe your father did not lose all his money after all. You can put these things on and go to the schoolroom to study. You will not have to go on errands anymore.” said Miss Minchin, her voice softer than ever.
Sara went away, and hurriedly put on the clothes. When she entered the schoolroom, everyone turned and stared at her.
“Why, there is the princess Sara!” they whispered.
Though Sara could study again, she still had to stay in the attic. But that was not hard anymore, because the attic was now a warm and beautiful place. Sara loved to spend her evenings there telling stories to Becky.
One evening, when Sara and Becky sat together beside the warm fire, they heard a funny noice. Sara remembered this noice. She said to herself:
“Could it be that little monkey again?”
She went to the window to find out. It was the monkey! Sara hurriedly opened the window and took him in.
“Ah! What is it?” exclaimed Becky, surprised.
“It’s our neighbor’s monkey,” replied Sara ” I think he ran away again. It is such a cold night. He must stay here, or he will freeze. Tomorrow I will give him back to his master.”
“Why don’t you bring him back now?” asked Becky ” I don’t want to have him here, he looks so scary.”
“Our neighbor is a sick man, so I don’t want to disturb(7) him now. It’s too late, and he needs his rest.” said Sara “Come on, Becky, the little thing is not so scary. Think of him as a very ugly baby.”
They both laughed at this comparison(8), and Becky was less afraid. So the little monkey stayed in the warm attic for the rest of the night.
The next afternoon, Sara brought the monkey to her neighbor’s house. She met the Indian servant, Ram Dass, at the door. He told her to wait for him.
“I will tell the master” he said “Would you like to meet him yourself?”
After a few moments, Ram Dass went back and led Sara in a big, beautiful room. It looked quite like her father’s room in India. Sara saw a pale(9), sad-eyed, sick-looking gentleman sitting in an armchair. She bowed,
“Your monkey ran away last night,” said Sara ” I took him in because it was so cold.”
“That was very thoughtful of you.” he replied.
“Shall I give him to the Indian servant?” Sara asked.
“How do you know he is an Indian servant?” he asked, looking surprised.
“I was born in India. My father brought me to Miss Minchin’s school when I was seven.” she replied.
“So you are one of her students?” he asked.
“Well, I don’t know what I am. You see, my father died and left me no money, so now I have to work for a living.”
The gentleman looked paler than ever.
“Tell me, child,” he said “How did your father die?”
“He invested in a friend’s diamond mine. There was truly no diamond in the mine, and the friend ran away. My father lost all his money and died of shock.”
“What is his name?” the gentleman gasped(10).
“It was Captain Ralph Crewe”
Upon hearing this, the gentleman suddenly fainted.
After the gentleman woke up, he kindly explained to Sara that he was her father’s friend. There really were many diamonds in the mine, and he was rich. He knew his dead friend had a daughter, and was very happy to find Sara at last. He wanted her to live with him.
Sara thought for a moment. Then, she turned to Ram Dass,
“Is he the wicked friend who ran away?” she asked.
“No, my dear. He ran away because he was mad with brain fever. He is in truth a brave and kind gentleman. You see, when I told him about your attic and how shabby it was, he let me bring all those beautiful things over. He did not know who you were, but he wanted to help you.” Ram Dass replied.
“So you and this gentleman are my friend!” cried Sara in amazement. Then, she ran forward and pressed the gentleman’s hand. “How happy you made me feel! Because of you, I was no longer cold and hungry. You are indeed a kind person!”
So Sara left Miss Minchin’s school stayed with the gentleman. It was not like having her father back, but it was the next best thing. Becky also stayed as Sara’s personal maid, and she was always happy and contented. Both Lottie and Ermengarde visited Sara often.
It was a happy ending for everyone. The gentleman quickly recovered from his illness, and became very happy. He loved Sara very much, and liked to surprise her with little presents. They became wonderful friends.
Sara was rich again, and she gave much of her money to poor beggar children, because she knew how lonely and helpless poor people felt. She truly became a little princess.
1/jailor : a person who is in charge of prisons and prisoners
2/dinner : (in classic literature) lunch
3/supper : (in classic literature) dinner
4/exclaim : cry out suddenly from strong emotion
5/pardon : forgiveness
6/obey : do what your elders (parents, teachers,…) tell you to do
7/disturb : interrupt, b0ther, annoy
8/comparison : the pointing out of differences (noun of compare)
9/pale : having a light color (because of sickness, shock, fright,….)
10/gasp : a short, sudden intake of breath