Back to page 9                                                   Sara 10

As Sara climbed the stairs to the attic she knew that her life was going to change. She lay down on her bed and was very sad.  Her bed was very hard and the room looked dark and dingey. "But," she thought, "Many people have lives which are very much harder. Think of the soldiers at war. They have to sleep in tents and sometimes it may be very cold or very hot. I am much better off than they are."

Picture of Sara and Becky

After a while there was a knock at the door. She opened it and saw Becky standing there. She had been crying.  "I am so sad that this has happened,"said Becky.  "O'Becky!" she said, "I told you that we were just the same, just two little girls.   I was rich and you were poor but that really did not make any difference.  I don't think that you really believed me. Now you can see that there is no difference and I am pleased about that." 

During the first month or two, Sara thought that if she worked as well as she as she could and did not complain when she was being told off, then the Cook and the others would see that she was a good worker and they would stop being so hard on her. She wanted them to see that she was trying to earn her living and not accepting charity. But the time came when she saw that the harder she worked the harder they tried to drive her.
Miss Minchin saw that Sara was really very reliable . She could go to the shops and pay bills. Most errand boys could not be trusted to do this. She was also willing to dust and tidy a room. Miss Minchin should have been very pleased with her work but she did nothing but complain.

As she was no longer a pupil,Sara was not being taught by the teachers. When she had finished her work she was allowed to go into the school room and study by herself. She thought this was important and that one day she might get a good job.

Most of the pupils were no longer friendly with Sara. Most of them felt rather awkward speaking to her. She did not try to talk to them because she worried that they might not want to speak to her. In time Sara's clothes became more and more shabby and she found that there were holes in her shoes. Most of the pupils were fairly rich and they did not want to be friends with a girl who was poor. When they heard the way that the cook spoke to Sara they thought that she was really not like them. Of course all of this was quite wrong. People should not be judged by how rich or how poor they happen to be.
Sara worked like a drudge; she tramped through the wet streets, carrying parcels and baskets. She worked hard helping the little ones with their lessons even when they did not seem to want to learn. When her clothes became worn she was told she better take her meals downstairs.
"Soldiers don't complain," she would say between her small, shut teeth, "I am not going to do it; I will pretend this is part of a war."
Sometimes she felt that her heart would break but she had three good friends. The first was Becky. She was in the attic, in the room next door. Becky would come in and see her in the evenings and they would sit and talk.

The second was Emily. She had gone home for a few weeks when her mother was ill. She was away when Sara lost her money. When she came back she did not see Sara for a day or two, and when she met her for the first time Sara was coming down a corridor with her arms full of clothes which were to be taken downstairs to be mended. She looked pale and Emily could hardly recognise her.

Emily knew what had happened, but, somehow, she had never imagined Sara could look like this--so odd and poor and almost like a servant. She felt really miserable and all she could say was , "Oh, Sara, is that you?" "How are you? Are you happy?"
For a moment Sara wondered how anyone could ask such a stupid question.
"What do you think?" she said. "Do you think I am very happy?" And she marched past her without another word.At first she thought that Emily was like most of the other girls and did not want to speak to her and for a time they would walk past each other without saying anything.

Picture ofHouse with light in attic window

One night Sara was returning from doing a job for Miss Minchin. She happened to look up and saw that there was a light in the attic window. "Nobody goes there but myself," she thought quickly, "but someone has lighted a candle."

Someone had, indeed, lighted a candle, and it was not burning in the kitchen candlestick she was expected to use, but in one of those belonging to the pupils' bedrooms. She was sitting in her nightgown and wrapped up in a red shawl. It was Emily

Picture of Emily

"Emily!" cried Sara. She was so startled that she was almost frightened. "You will get into trouble."
"I know I shall--if I'm found out." she said. "But I don't care--I don't care a bit. Oh, Sara, please tell me. What is the matter? Why don't you like me any more?"
"I do like you," Sara answered. "I thought--you see, everything is different now. I thought you--were different." Emily opened her wet eyes wide.
"Why, it was you who were different!" she cried. "You didn't want to talk to me. I didn't know what to do. It was you who were different after I came back."
Sara thought a moment. She saw she had made a mistake. "I AM different," she explained, "though not in the way you think. Miss Minchin does not want me to talk to the girls. Most of them don't want to talk to me. I thought--perhaps--you didn't. So I tried to keep out of your way."
So the two girls were once more firm friends.

Forward to part 11

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