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|A Little Princess||Frances Hodgson Burnett|
|Page 6 of 15||
"What could it be?" said Ermengarde. "Could it be--robbers?"
"No," Sara began cheerfully. "There is nothing to steal--"
She broke off in the middle of her words. They both heard the sound that checked her. It was not on the slates, but on the stairs below, and it was Miss Minchin's angry voice. Sara sprang off the bed, and put out the candle.
"She is scolding Becky," she whispered, as she stood in the darkness. "She is making her cry."
"Will she come in here?" Ermengarde whispered back, panic-stricken.
"No. She will think I am in bed. Don't stir."
It was very seldom that Miss Minchin mounted the last flight of stairs. Sara could only remember that she had done it once before. But now she was angry enough to be coming at least part of the way up, and it sounded as if she was driving Becky before her.
"You impudent, dishonest child!" they heard her say. "Cook tells me she has missed things repeatedly."
"'T warn't me, mum," said Becky sobbing. "I was 'ungry enough, but 't warn't me--never!"
"You deserve to be sent to prison," said Miss Minchin's voice. "Picking and stealing! Half a meat pie, indeed!"
"'T warn't me," wept Becky. "I could 'ave eat a whole un--but I never laid a finger on it."
Miss Minchin was out of breath between temper and mounting the stairs. The meat pie had been intended for her special late supper. It became apparent that she boxed Becky's ears.
"Don't tell falsehoods," she said. "Go to your room this instant."
Both Sara and Ermengarde heard the slap, and then heard Becky run in her slipshod shoes up the stairs and into her attic. They heard her door shut, and knew that she threw herself upon her bed.
"I could 'ave e't two of 'em," they heard her cry into her pillow. "An' I never took a bite. 'Twas cook give it to her policeman."
Sara stood in the middle of the room in the darkness. She was clenching her little teeth and opening and shutting fiercely her outstretched hands. She could scarcely stand still, but she dared not move until Miss Minchin had gone down the stairs and all was still.
"The wicked, cruel thing!" she burst forth. "The cook takes things herself and then says Becky steals them. She DOESN'T>! She DOESN'T> She's so hungry sometimes that she eats crusts out of the ash barrel!" She pressed her hands hard against her face and burst into passionate little sobs, and Ermengarde, hearing this unusual thing, was overawed by it. Sara was crying! The unconquerable Sara! It seemed to denote something new--some mood she had never known. Suppose--suppose--a new dread possibility presented itself to her kind, slow, little mind all at once. She crept off the bed in the dark and found her way to the table where the candle stood. She struck a match and lit the candle. When she had lighted it, she bent forward and looked at Sara, with her new thought growing to definite fear in her eyes.
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|A Little Princess
Frances Hodgson Burnett
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