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|A Little Princess||Frances Hodgson Burnett|
|Page 3 of 5||
"Why?" inquired Sara, curiously.
Ermengarde shook her head so that the pigtail wobbled.
"You heard me just now," she said. "I'm always like that. I can't SAY the words. They're so queer."
She paused a moment, and then added with a touch of awe in her voice, "You are CLEVER> aren't you?"
Sara looked out of the window into the dingy square, where the sparrows were hopping and twittering on the wet, iron railings and the sooty branches of the trees. She reflected a few moments. She had heard it said very often that she was "clever," and she wondered if she was--and IF she was, how it had happened.
"I don't know," she said. "I can't tell." Then, seeing a mournful look on the round, chubby face, she gave a little laugh and changed the subject.
"Would you like to see Emily?" she inquired.
"Who is Emily?" Ermengarde asked, just as Miss Minchin had done.
"Come up to my room and see," said Sara, holding out her hand.
They jumped down from the window-seat together, and went upstairs.
"Is it true," Ermengarde whispered, as they went through the hall--"is it true that you have a playroom all to yourself?"
"Yes," Sara answered. "Papa asked Miss Minchin to let me have one, because--well, it was because when I play I make up stories and tell them to myself, and I don't like people to hear me. It spoils it if I think people listen."
They had reached the passage leading to Sara's room by this time, and Ermengarde stopped short, staring, and quite losing her breath.
"You MAK up> stories!" she gasped. "Can you do that--as well as speak French? CAN you?"
Sara looked at her in simple surprise.
"Why, anyone can make up things," she said. "Have you never tried?"
She put her hand warningly on Ermengarde's.
"Let us go very quietly to the door," she whispered, "and then I will open it quite suddenly; perhaps we may catch her."
She was half laughing, but there was a touch of mysterious hope in her eyes which fascinated Ermengarde, though she had not the remotest idea what it meant, or whom it was she wanted to "catch," or why she wanted to catch her. Whatsoever she meant, Ermengarde was sure it was something delightfully exciting. So, quite thrilled with expectation, she followed her on tiptoe along the passage. They made not the least noise until they reached the door. Then Sara suddenly turned the handle, and threw it wide open. Its opening revealed the room quite neat and quiet, a fire gently burning in the grate, and a wonderful doll sitting in a chair by it, apparently reading a book.
"Oh, she got back to her seat before we could see her!" Sara explained. "Of course they always do. They are as quick as lightning."
Ermengarde looked from her to the doll and back again.
"Can she--walk?" she asked breathlessly.
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|A Little Princess
Frances Hodgson Burnett
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