back to page 11                                              Sara 12  The sixpence

One evening a very funny thing happened--though, perhaps, in one sense it was not a funny thing at all. The Carrisford Family lived in the house next to Miss Minchin's school.

It was Christmas time and Mrs Carrisford had been reading a story to her children It was a story about two children who were poor and hungry. They had no mother or father to buy them presents or take them to the pantomime. In this story a kind boy and girl saw the poor children and gave them some money to buy food.

Donald Carrisford was  the youngest boy  in the Carrisford Family. He had been really sad when he heard the story.

He wished that he could help a poor child.  His grandmother had just given him a sixpence and he wondered if he could give it to a poor child.

Now in those days there was actually a sixpenny coin.  It may not seem so much to us now but in those days a sixpence could buy quite a lot.  As Donald and his mother were walking up to their  their carriage he saw Sara 

standing on the wet pavement in her shabby frock and hat, with her old basket on her arm.  He thought she must be very poor. "Here, poor little girl," he said.  "Here is a sixpence. I will give it to you."

Sara started, and all at once realized that she looked exactly like poor children she had seen, when she was well off.
And she had given them pennies many a time. Her face went red and then it went pale, and for a second she felt as if she could not take the dear little sixpence.

"Oh, no!" she said. "Oh, no, thank you; I mustn't take it, indeed!"

"Yes, you must take it, poor little girl!" said Donald. "You can buy things to eat with it. It is a whole sixpence!"

Sara looked at him. His face looked so kind. She knew that if she did not take it he would be very disappointed. To say "No," would be cruel.

"Thank you," she said. "You are a kind, kind little darling."

And as he got into the carriage smiling. Sara tried to smile but tears were coming into her eyes. She had known that she her clothes were shabby but she did not think that anyone would believe that she was a beggar.

"Oh, Donald," said his mother," "Why did you offer that little girl your sixpence? I'm sure
she is not a beggar!"

"But her clothes looked so shabby." said Donald.

"She didn't speak like a beggar!" said Mrs Carrisford"And she said "No" the first time you offered her the money. I was so afraid she might be angry with you. You know, it makes people angry when people think they are beggars when they are not."

"She wasn't angry," said Donald, "She laughed a little, and she said I was a kind, kind little darling."

Now in one way, Sara did not really want to spend the sixpence but she was feeling really hungry and she knew that the little boy really wanted her to buy something to eat. She decided to go to the baker's on the way back to the school. As she crossed the pavement to the shop she saw something that made her stop.

It was a little girl whose clothes were even shabbier than hers. When Sara looked at her face she could see that the girl was very hungry indeed.

"Are you hungry?" Sara asked. The child shuffled herself and her rags a little more.

"Yes," said the girl.

"Haven't you had any dinner?" said Sara.
"No dinner no breakfast, no supper. No nothin'.

"Did no one give you anything?" said Sara.

"No. I have asked and asked."

"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.

"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?"

"Yes," she answered. "I am very hungry, and I am much obliged to you for your kindness

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 and Sara saw that she was suffering.

Sara opened the paper bag and took out one of the hot buns, which had already warmed her own cold hands a little.

"See," she said, putting the bun in the ragged lap, "this is nice and hot. Eat it, and you will not feel so hungry."
The child started and stared up at her, as if she could hardly believe that Sara could be so kind.

"Oh, my! Oh, my!"she said , in wild delight. "OH my!"

Sara took out three more buns and put them down. The girl ate so quickly that Sara could see that she was very hungry indeed. "She is hungrier than I am," she said to herself. "She's starving."
But her hand trembled when she put down two more buns. "I'm not starving," she said.

"Good-bye," said Sara as she left to return to the school.

When she reached the other side of the street she looked back. The child had a bun in each hand.

At that moment the baker-woman looked out of her shop window.

"Well, I never!" she exclaimed. "If that young girl hasn't given her buns to a beggar child! It wasn't because she didn't want them, either. Well, well, she looked hungry enough. I'd give something to know what she did it for."

She stood behind her window for a few moments and pondered. Then her curiosity got the better of her. She went to the door and spoke to the beggar child

."Who gave you those buns?" she asked her. The child pointed towards Sara.

"What did she say?" inquired the woman.

"She asked me if I was hungry," replied the girl.

"What did you say?"

"Said I was very hungry."

"And then she came in and got the buns, and gave them to you, did she?"

The child nodded.

"How many?"


The woman thought it over.

"Left just two for herself," she said in a low voice. "And she was so hungry she could have eaten the whole eight."

She watched Sara disappearing and wished she could have done more to help.
"I wish she hadn't gone away so quickly," she said. "If I had known I would have given her a dozen buns."

Then she turned to the child. "Are you still hungry?" she said. "I'm always hungry," was the answer, "but I feel better after eating those buns."

"Come in here," said the woman, and she held open the shop door. The child got up and shuffled in.

"Get yourself warm," said the woman, pointing to a fire in the tiny back room. "Now when you feel you want to eat a bit of bread, you can come in here and ask for it."

Sara enjoyed the two remaining buns. They were nice and hot. As she walked along she
broke off small pieces and ate them slowly to make them last longer.

Now a short time later, another customer came into the bread shop. He was a policeman called Bill.

"You are looking very thoughtful." he said to the lady behind the counter.

"Well I am just thinking about a young girl who came into the shop. She had old, raggy clothes on and she looked half starved. She bought eight buns and then she went outside and gave them to a beggar girl in the street. I wish I knew who she was. "

"What did she look like?" asked the policeman.

The lady told him. Then she said, "The strange thing is that she was dressed like a beggar and she looked half starved, but she did not seem to me like a beggar."

"Well, said the policeman, "My wife's brother described someone just like that." My little nephew offered her sixpence. She did not want to take it at first and when she did so, I'm sure it was because she did not want to upset him. I will ask around and see if anyone knows anything about her."

Forward to part 13

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