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|A Little Princess||Frances Hodgson Burnett|
One of the Populace
|Page 4 of 7||
"Ain't I jist?" she said in a hoarse voice. "Jist ain't I?"
"Haven't you had any dinner?" said Sara.
"No dinner," more hoarsely still and with more shuffling. "Nor yet no bre'fast--nor yet no supper. No nothin'.
"Since when?" asked Sara.
"Dunno. Never got nothin' today--nowhere. I've axed an' axed."
Just to look at her made Sara more hungry and faint. But those queer little thoughts were at work in her brain, and she was talking to herself, though she was sick at heart.
"If I'm a princess," she was saying, "if I'm a princess--when they were poor and driven from their thrones--they always shared-- with the populace--if they met one poorer and hungrier than themselves. They always shared. Buns are a penny each. If it had been sixpence I could have eaten six. It won't be enough for either of us. But it will be better than nothing."
"Wait a minute," she said to the beggar child.
She went into the shop. It was warm and smelled deliciously. The woman was just going to put some more hot buns into the window.
"If you please," said Sara, "have you lost fourpence--a silver fourpence?" And she held the forlorn little piece of money out to her.
The woman looked at it and then at her--at her intense little face and draggled, once fine clothes.
"Bless us, no," she answered. "Did you find it?"
"Yes," said Sara. "In the gutter."
"Keep it, then," said the woman. "It may have been there for a week, and goodness knows who lost it. YOU could never find out."
"I know that," said Sara, "but I thought I would ask you."
"Not many would," said the woman, looking puzzled and interested and good-natured all at once.
"Do you want to buy something?" she added, as she saw Sara glance at the buns.
"Four buns, if you please," said Sara. "Those at a penny each."
The woman went to the window and put some in a paper bag.
Sara noticed that she put in six.
"I said four, if you please," she explained. "I have only fourpence."
"I'll throw in two for makeweight," said the woman with her good-natured look. "I dare say you can eat them sometime. Aren't you hungry?"
A mist rose before Sara's eyes.
"Yes," she answered. "I am very hungry, and I am much obliged to you for your kindness; and"--she was going to add--"there is a child outside who is hungrier than I am." But just at that moment two or three customers came in at once, and each one seemed in a hurry, so she could only thank the woman again and go out.
The beggar girl was still huddled up in the corner of the step. She looked frightful in her wet and dirty rags. She was staring straight before her with a stupid look of suffering, and Sara saw her suddenly draw the back of her roughened black hand across her eyes to rub away the tears which seemed to have surprised her by forcing their way from under her lids. She was muttering to herself.
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|A Little Princess
Frances Hodgson Burnett
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