Based on the 1995 motion picture version of Frances Hodgson Burnett's 'A
"Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork, and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg, and howlet's wing,--
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble."
Sara Crewe, just eighteen, pranced around her tiny room in the attic.
An imaginary cauldron sat in the center of the room which she danced
around. Taking a pinch of dust from her windowsill she threw it into the
She picked up a large ladle and began the strenuous task of stirring
the thick and repulsive concoction; wrinkling her nose in distaste as the
smell drifted past her nose. At that moment, Becky crept quietly into the
"What are you about, Miss?"
Startled, Sara gasped and straightened. She felt silly playing her
old childhood games, but it was the only thing that brought her joy and
allowed to be free of the depressing reality. "Just playing."
Becky smiled widely, "Up to your old games again, I've no doubt."
She settled herself on Sara's bed and nodded, "Go on, Miss. Tell me what
story you were living this time."
Sara returned the smile; it had always been this way. Becky never
scoffed at her fantasies no matter how ridiculous they were. Dropping her
voice into a low whisper, Sara cackled wickedly and said, "I'm one of the
three ugly witches in Macbeth."
"A story, written long ago." Sara hobbled forward and pulled her
shawl over her head with just her face showing. "I'm about to conjure a
Becky shuddered and pretended to be afraid, but her eyes danced with
Turning to her imaginary cauldron once again, Sara began chanting and
spinning around it. "'Eye of newt, and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue
of dog, adder's fork.' Come on Becky say it with me." She held her hands
out and Becky eagerly scrambled from the bed to take them within her own.
Sara didn't even notice the rough calluses or how filthy they were, her
hands were the same – cleanliness was not given to maids.
They chanted together, spinning faster and faster till they were too
dizzy to stand and then they fell to the floor with more gales of laughter
– and still their laughter was quiet. Maids were not allowed to be
"Oh Miss, I don't know the proper words." Becky wiped her eyes of
the tears of joy that lingered. "But it sure be fun to say."
Crossing her legs before her, Sara looked into Becky's dirty face and
grinned, "Repeat after me. 'Eye of newt, and toe of frog –"
The door banged open with a crack that shook dust from the ceiling
rafters. "Black magic? Is this what I get after all I've done for you
Sara? Your curses and spells?" It was Miss Minchin. Hair tied back in a
severe knot, it appeared that she had not yet readied herself for bed
despite the late hour. "Practicing your witch craft under my roof?"
Although her voice was low, it held an underlying tone that was filled with
Scrabbling to her feet, Sara stood meekly before the keeper. "No
Miss Minchin. I was quoting some lines from a story."
"You dare call that quoting? I've really had it up to here with your
little stories, Sara." Miss Minchin paced through Sara's room, her heels
clicked smartly on the wooden floors and her drab coloured gown swished
with every step. "All these years Sara, I've put up with so much." Facing
Sara she gave a look that to many would appear contrite, but Sara knew
better, "What would happen if any of the students caught onto your little
Sara gave Becky a look to quell her want to answer and Becky nodded
her understanding when she caught the look. Sara opened her mouth to
answer Miss Minchin's question, but the woman held her hand up and replied
distastefully, "No, don't answer that. No doubt you'll have some other
excuse for yourself." She sighed, "No Sara, this is the last draw. For
the best interest of the school, I want you to leave. I want you gone. I
want to never see you again! Do you understand?"
Sara was not one to beg and had never done so in her life, but on
this occasion, something tore at her and she immediately dropped to her
knees. Well aware that was serious, that she would be a goner if she were
to live on the streets. "Please, Miss Minchin. Give me another chance."
Miss Minchin raised her brow scornfully and scoffed, "What is this?
A 'princess' begging?" She forced a laugh and shook her head, "A princess
no more. Perhaps a princess of the streets, but not here." Her voice
shifting to quieter more menacing tone, she continued, "Too long have you
poisoned these girls minds. Too long have I fed and clothed you. Too long
have you been taking from my hand and not repaying me."
Refraining from saying that all of Miss Minchin's points were false,
Sara clasped her hands before her and attempted again, "Please, I was only
quoting. That is all. I promise I'll never do it again. I swear."
Already she could feel a lump forming in her throat. She had heard the
tales of the girls who lived on the streets; selling themselves just to
keep the rumble from their empty stomachs. Tears were already blurring her
vision, but she wouldn't allow them to fall. Not before Miss Minchin –
princesses never cried, at least not in public.
Waving her hand to dismiss Sara's pleas, Miss Minchin strode to the
door, "Becky, I hope that you didn't pick up on any of these distasteful
habits, I would sorely hate to lose such a hard worker." At these words,
Becky gave a sad and woeful look at Sara and fled to her room.
Still standing at the door, Miss Minchin held it open and said, "Come
along Sara, take what you want, but I doubt you've anything to take." She
sniffed at Sara's appearance on the floor, "I'm glad that I've ground that
little princess attitude out of you."
It was choking her and Sara couldn't do anything, she was scared.
There had been times she'd been frightened, but it had never been like this
gut wrenching fear. Her muscles were tense and bile rose in her throat.
Never had it been like this. A lone tear escaped and trailed along her
down cast face to fall to her clutched hands. More would have followed but
she closed her eyes tightly.
She bent her head forward a little more, her hair curtaining around
her face to hide her fear. Whispering, "Papa? If you can hear me wherever
you are, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that I was not perfect. I'm sorry for not
being your little angel. I'm sorry I'm not your little princess. I'm
sorry, Papa." And now she couldn't help the tears, for they flowed without
thought down her smooth cheeks. It hurt this pain, this fear.
A draft of air caressed her tear stained cheek and whispered in her
ear, 'Sara...Sara...Sara...be strong...Sara...'
She jumped, the moment broken and she rose to her feet gracefully and
straightened. She would not leave here like a whipped puppy, she would
still try to be the princess again. For Papa. Her doll she would leave
behind, Becky would be able to get more love out of it. Her locket, was
hers. "Please, if you could give my doll to Becky."
Miss Minchin made no promises, but merely nodded which Sara had to
take as her word. Sara took one last despairing look at her room and
followed the keeper down the rickety stairs, flight after flight, until
they reached the main hall where the girl's rooms led off. Not once did
Sara falter in her descent and nor would she allow her tears to blind her.
As they went down the final grand staircase down into the foyer Sara could
hear doors creak open and she felt all the more shamed for it. They were
seeing her be kicked out of a place that, despite the daily hostility and
chores, had become home.
Unlocking the inner doors and then the front doors, Miss Minchin held
it open, letting the biting air come gusting in. "Good bye Sara."
Sara stepped out of the house and into the real world. "Good bye
Miss Minchin." And Sara, without a backwards glance, marched down the
stairs as if she had a destination in mind. Little did she know, were the
faces of every girl in the house pressed to the windows; Becky at the
highest window bawling her heart out and holding Sara's doll close to her
Sara was out in the real world now where fantasies were put aside and
dreams cast away. She had to fend for herself now and despite what her
heart tried to tell her, her mind was set on the fact that she was a little
princess no more.