She stared straight ahead of her. Eyes open, yet seeing nothing, Sarah Crewe did not speak as she fought against emotion. It was too much; she could not believe that her father was dead. Clenching her jaw resolutely against sorrow, she turned her head back to Miss Minchin.
"Sarah, aren't you listening to me? Say something, for God's sake!"
Calmly, coldly, Sarah replied, "I understand, Ma'am." She mockingly placed extra emphasis on the last word. There was no room in her heart for liking or even respecting the woman before her. Sarah's gaze, piercing and almost frightening for its intensity, lingered on Miss Minchin as if to defeat her wordlessly.
Uncomfortable, Miss Minchin blinked a few times and began speaking, her focus directed upon a globe in the corner of the room. Sarah felt, for a moment, a flicker of satisfaction. The simple act of holding her gaze was enough to break Miss Minchin. Then, the spark faded from her eyes as she allowed the cruel, biting words to pass over her. Miss Minchin was saying something about Sarah's father having left the school at a financial disadvantage and how Sarah would need to repay the debt by working as a servant.
The tall, dark figure of Miss Minchin rose and Sarah stood to follow. Her legs moved but she felt nothing. She was numb: emotionally and physically. Her father's death had taken all joy and feeling from her. Her brown eyes saw only vague shapes and shadows. Only when they reached the attic did Sarah realize how many steps she must have climbed. Lifting her head, she took in the room. Drops of rain plummetted from the high, sloping eaves. An occasional gust of wind blew in from a broken window at the opposite end of the room.
Miss Minchin strode firmly across the room to place a candle beside the bed. With a cruel leer, she turned on her heel and shut the door loudly. Alone, Sarah stood. For how long she stood in the cold, damp entrance she did not know. Waves of emotion, torrents of sadness, all the pain she could have fathomed seemed to fill her soul at once. She sank to the ground as if all the substance that had existed inside her had crumbled. Finally, the hurt rose to her throat, and she groaned, "Papa."