|A School for Ordinary Princesses
Author: slytherinsal PM
Sara Crewe's idea for a school for her friends to attend with her, and places for clever but poor girls comes to fruition. Jealousy from other quarters might marr the start of this new endeavour but not for long. Rated for implied unpleasantness later.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Friendship - Sara C. & Ermengarde - Chapters: 12 - Words: 23,160 - Reviews: 34 - Favs: 16 - Follows: 4 - Updated: 07-27-11 - Published: 05-14-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6989834
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N I am going to assume a timeline based on the original publication date of the serialised Tale of Sara Crewe and What Happened at Miss Minchin's Academy which was 1889 rather than the publish date of the book in 1905. I have been asked to publish this although I only have a few chapters and will be erratic in my updates. Please be patient!
Chapter 1: A New School!
"Oh Sara! It will be splendid to go to school with you!" said Janet, the oldest of the girls from the Large Family next door. "Nora and I are very excited! We shall be at school with almost a real princess!"
Janet and Nora were fast friends with Sara and loved to come to see her after their day school to curl up in the windowseat of her big, comfortable room with its gay indian rugs and bright cushions, everything that Ram Das had used to brighten the cold dour attic room at Miss Minchin's and more!
Sara Crewe laughed.
"Oh I am only a little princess because however bad it might have been, I always pretended to myself that I was a princess; and princesses are all gracious all the time, and never lose their temper however much they might like to do so; and do not take retribution when they are finally recognised. But they can think about how they would like to" she added with a little edge to her voice.
"That Minchin woman is just foul" said Janet "And I shall NOT apologise for using such a word to describe her!"
"She is not at all a lady" she said. "I feel sorry for Miss Amelia at times though. It must be hard to be domineered so by your own sister. I've never had a sister so I don't quite know what it's like; but I'm sure you and Nora would never act like that."
"No indeed!" said Janet indignantly. "Has Mr Carrisford written to the fathers of your friends?"
"Yes; and both Ermengarde and Lottie will be joining us!" said Sara excitedly. "Uncle Tom managed to persuade them!"
Sara was not aware, in her innocence, that both fathers were easily persuaded by her wealth. Their daughters would have advantages in life if they were part of the court of one of the wealthiest young women in Europe whether they had a better education or not than continuing in Miss Minchin's dubious academy.
Mr St John was more concerned that Ermengarde should be assimilating education; but with Mr Carrisford's assurances that he would be engaging the best teachers it was possible that his daughter might do better; and she could scarcely do worse. Indeed the only time she had displayed any signs of intelligence had been when she had spoken to him quite animatedly about the French Revolution that this child Sara had somehow managed to give his dull little daughter some interest in and indeed given her the incentive to retain a few facts. And if the girl was as stupid as Mr St John feared if she could not fulfil the destiny of study he had dreamed of for her, then a good marriage would be her only recourse and associating with someone like Sara Crewe would at least introduce her to the right society. Mr St John was bitterly disappointed; he had visions of a clever daughter studying at Oxford, and perhaps by the time she had done with her studies the universities might even be issuing degrees for women.
Mr Legh capitulated much more quickly and without even thinking about it; his Lottie had written so enthusiastically about Sara and so tragically about her loss of fortune and so happily about her regaining of it that he was happy for her to be somewhere where she would be happy. The young widower had put Lottie into school at the age of four because he had no idea how to bring up a small child; and had known no better than to spoil her up to the point of sending her to school where only Sara had managed to make her mind. Now Lottie was a big girl of nearly eleven she was going home for the holidays and her artless prattle made Mr Legh realise what a big debt he owed Sara Crewe. And for his little girl's happiness he was willing to do anything; especially now she was promising to look so much like his adored dead wife.
So there were five girls already for the school; and Mr Carrisford had also engaged teachers. He had discussed the matter with Sara and she had been willing to agree that it would be unpleasant for any preceptress to be engaged by a little girl she would then be teaching. Ram Dass accordingly had made an ingenious peephole so that Sara might watch the interviews and discuss the teachers with her guardian; because she was determined to have kind women to teach Ermengarde and too teachers who were not vulgarians like the Misses Minchin who would look down on any paupers that were deserving who were admitted to the school.
The headmistress was a Mrs Ferris; she was a widow who had taught school before her marriage and who was a great reader. She was a neat little woman with soft brown hair and a genteel quiet manner but was quite sure of herself. She had two sons who were grown up, one in India in the army, following his father's footsteps – which had been one of the deciding factors in her favour as well as her fondness for books – and one at university, his education costs partly born by his older brother. Mrs Ferris did not deny that having a good salary would be welcome; her pension from her husband's own army service was frugal. She admitted a trifle shyly but in no wise apologetically to having held an informal school for native children when in India; and that was the final deciding factor. The poor woman was quite overwhelmed to receive a letter telling her that not only was she engaged to teach Geography with Globes, History, Grammar and Literature but was also to be the Headmistress.
There were two other teachers to start with; because with only five girls having any more seemed a little unnecessary!
Mademoiselle Duchesne was at her last hope; and had come to the interview hoping that her faded and mended clothing would not tell against her. She was the daughter of a métis woman of Martinique and a French civil servant who had seen to her education and treated her with offhand kindness; but on his death she had found that he had made no will, and as an illegitimate child there was nothing for her. She had used most of her savings to travel to France where she found that his widow, who had refused to travel to the West Indies for her husand's tour of duty, was utterly unsympathetic over what she called her husband's 'native spawn'. Mlle Duschene had found herself wishful to flee from France and took a package to England where she had been looking for work. She told her story with simple dignity; and without reference to Sara, Mr Carrisford engaged her on the spot with an advance on her wages to re-equip herself. She was a tall woman not much past girlhood, with an olive cast to her skin and curly black hair suggesting her very mixed origins, and snapping black eyes. She was to teach French, sewing and cookery; her excellent mending speaking, said Mr Carrisford, for her abilities in that direction.
Miss Williamson was a plain, raw boned woman whose piercing blue eyes were her best feature, the daughter of a parson, who studied for study's sake and who had a straightforward manner to her. Mr Carrisford spoke to her of a pupil who was not clever and who was easily flustered by questions; and was pleased to be told firmly that a child who was easily flustered must proceed at their own pace with encouragement and aid not questions and must be led not driven.
"Is this your ward of whom you speak?" she asked bluntly.
"No; it is a friend of hers who has trouble with remembering things" said Mr Carrisford.
"Then memory-enhancing games would probably do the poor child the world of good" said Miss Williamson firmly.
That she combined sympathy with a brusque manner had decided the employment of Miss Williamson to teach Mathematics, Botany and Object Lesson and Science and to offer Latin for those who wished it as an extra. Mr Carrisford was delighted that Mathematics and Science might be offered since Miss Minchin's had covered no more than household accounting; and the nearest the children had come to scientific study was what was called botany and was little more than drawing plants with accuracy. Sara was practically skipping on the spot when Miss Williamson listed the subjects she felt herself qualified to teach. Miss Williamson was also quite capable of taking grammar, and suggested that she would take a remedial class with any girls who needed extra study as a voluntary matter on her own part.
"Sometimes if a child is not succeeding the approach of a different person may give them an insight from a different perspective" she said. "And no child can be expected to learn a foreign language who has not grasped the essentials of their own."
Mr Carrisford was very satisfied, though he waited to discuss Miss Williamson with Sara; who agreed that she seemed quite ideal and that when the school expanded and more teachers were required, Miss Williamson should be considered the senior mistress.
"I liked that she said 'if a child is not succeeding' not 'if a child is failing'" said Sara.
A Mr Peckham was to come in weekly to teach music; this was to be a general lesson and any instrumental lessons were to be arranged as seemed fit, either by parents wishing their child to learn, or, said Sara, if any of the foundlings who they were bound to collect showed an unusual aptitude. He was a quiet and gentle man, who suffered from infantile paralysis and walked with a stick and a dragging leg. He was inordinately fond of the works of Bach; and that, and his soulful brown eyes led to Janet Carmichael affectionately dubbing him 'Doggie' behind his back since he began on basic piano lessons for Sara, Janet and Nora before the next term began.
And so the school was ready to begin!