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|A Little Princess||Frances Hodgson Burnett|
|Page 8 of 15||
It was so delightful that they caught each other's hands and a sudden light sprang into Sara's eyes.
"Ermie!" she said. "Let us PRETEND>! Let us pretend it's a party! And oh, won't you invite the prisoner in the next cell?"
"Yes! Yes! Let us knock on the wall now. The jailer won't hear."
Sara went to the wall. Through it she could hear poor Becky crying more softly. She knocked four times.
"That means, `Come to me through the secret passage under the wall,' she explained. `I have something to communicate.'"
Five quick knocks answered her.
"She is coming," she said.
Almost immediately the door of the attic opened and Becky appeared. Her eyes were red and her cap was sliding off, and when she caught sight of Ermengarde she began to rub her face nervously with her apron.
"Don't mind me a bit, Becky!" cried Ermengarde.
"Miss Ermengarde has asked you to come in," said Sara, "because she is going to bring a box of good things up here to us."
Becky's cap almost fell off entirely, she broke in with such excitement.
"To eat, miss?" she said. "Things that's good to eat?"
"Yes," answered Sara, "and we are going to pretend a party."
"And you shall have as much as you WANT to eat," put in Ermengarde. "I'll go this minute!"
She was in such haste that as she tiptoed out of the attic she dropped her red shawl and did not know it had fallen. No one saw it for a minute or so. Becky was too much overpowered by the good luck which had befallen her.
"Oh, miss! oh, miss!" she gasped; "I know it was you that asked her to let me come. It--it makes me cry to think of it." And she went to Sara's side and stood and looked at her worshipingly.
But in Sara's hungry eyes the old light had begun to glow and transform her world for her. Here in the attic--with the cold night outside-- with the afternoon in the sloppy streets barely passed--with the memory of the awful unfed look in the beggar child's eyes not yet faded-- this simple, cheerful thing had happened like a thing of magic.
She caught her breath.
"Somehow, something always happens," she cried, "just before things get to the very worst. It is as if the Magic did it. If I could only just remember that always. The worst thing never QUITE comes."
She gave Becky a little cheerful shake.
"No, no! You mustn't cry!" she said. "We must make haste and set the table."
"Set the table, miss?" said Becky, gazing round the room. "What'll we set it with?"
Sara looked round the attic, too.
"There doesn't seem to be much," she answered, half laughing.
That moment she saw something and pounced upon it. It was Ermengarde's red shawl which lay upon the floor.
"Here's the shawl," she cried. "I know she won't mind it. It will make such a nice red tablecloth."
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|A Little Princess
Frances Hodgson Burnett
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