Retelling the Story
Becky looked out the window of her New York penthouse. So much had changed in the city since her childhood! After a life spent living abroad, the sights and sounds of the Big Apple felt both remote and strangely familiar to her.
"I must finish my letter to Maggie," she told herself as she sat down at her mahogany desk. Taking a sheet of thick, creamy paper and her favorite pen, she wrote in an elegant cursive script to her niece.
May 20, 1970
To: Margaret Graham
From: Rebecca Williams Crewe
My dearest Maggie,
I received your request in your last letter to me, and I would be delighted to add my personal story to the Crewe family archive you are presently compiling. Enclosed are some of my personal notes which I penned for my memoirs. I apologize as these are but drafts, which I hope to edit and publish in the future. But I hope they may be of use to you. I will send you more material as needed.
You have probably already collected quite a few newspaper and magazine clippings about me, but most of them focus on my career accomplishments rather than on my personal history. I hope to give you a glimpse into my childhood, when all of those wonderful things happened to me and your mother at Miss Minchin's school and beyond. It was by God's grace that I met your mother and then your grandfather, and we became a family.
I look forward to your visit next week. Please give your parents my regards.
With much love,
Your Aunt Becky
I don't know how long I stood in that rainy torrent on the terrible night when Sara and I were falsely accused by Miss Minchin and arrested. As I waited outside Mr. Randolph's house, two policemen held me fast. They seemed just as frightened of me as I was of them.
Suddenly Sara's voice pierced through the din of the storm, and I heard her screaming and pleading with someone inside.
"No! No! Papa!" she shrieked. "Pa...pa!"
As the police dragged her outside, my heart boiled with indignation at the injustice. I strained myself against arms of steel to no avail. I could only watch helplessly as everything unfolded before my eyes. To think that we might have gone from Miss Minchin's attic prison to a jail cell, and all because she thought we stole the magic! It was truly our lowest moment.
But then the magic came back, and another wonderful thing happened. A man ran outside just in the nick of time.
His anguished cry stunned us all. Almost instantly the police released Sara and she rushed into his arms. It took me a few seconds to realize that he was the spitting image of the man in Sara's locket, the man I called "The Captain." He swept his daughter into his arms and wept as he held her tight. It was a miracle.
"Papa, don't ever leave me!" she begged him.
"I love you," he declared between sobs. Not until later did I learn of Sara's harrowing moments with him just before he remembered her, or of Miss Minchin's dishonesty in calling her a fatherless child.
Miss Minchin slunk away, and I struggled free to watch Sara and her papa's tearful reunion. Maybe, I hoped, just maybe, Sara might let me stay with her as her maid. I did not wonder long, for although her face was still buried in her father's chest, Sara extended an arm out to me. I didn't hesitate and I flew straight towards them, like an arrow to its target.
"Dad!" I cried.
I still don't know to this day what possessed me to call him "dad". But The Captain seemed like the type of man who would naturally be called "dad" by every child who ever knew him. He didn't seem to mind, and put his arm around me as well. I suppose he was too caught up in his joy to notice that he was embracing a stranger, and I expected nothing else from him. But a shiver ran down my spine when I felt a soft kiss on my head.
"Could it be?" I wondered. Behind us, Ram Dass gave a hearty laugh of happiness.
I cherished our long embrace until at last the three of us separated. All that remained of the cops was one officer who cautiously approached us.
"Excuse me, I'm Officer Tom Brown. If you don't mind, I need to ask you a few questions to complete my report."
"By all means, come in, come in," urged Mr. Randolph. "We're all getting soaked out here."
We filed into his wonderfully inviting house, where Ram Dass gave us blankets and hot cocoa. As I soaked in warmth from the fireplace, I listened to The Captain tell Officer Brown who he was and how he had lost his memory during the war. Sara sat on his knee and helped him recall details about his life, to Mr. Randolph's delight. When Officer Brown asked about Miss Minchin's charges against Sara, I told him in no uncertain terms that Sara did not steal any of the wonderful things that the magic had brought to her drab attic room.
"She didn't do it, honest."
"I... see. So some "magic" brought it to her room? You do know that you're speaking to a police officer, don't you?"
"I was the one who brought all those things into their room, sahib," explained Ram Dass. "I can demonstrate how I did it, if you wish."
He corroborated my story and explained his idea to do something nice for two poor little servant girls who lived in the attic next door. Sara briefly described to Officer Brown her mistreatment at the hands of Miss Minchin, as well as my sufferings. She softened parts of her story so as not to hurt her papa, but The Captain's face hardened and his eyes flashed with anger. Yet I could see the pride in his brave little girl.
Mr. Randolph also bristled with indignation upon hearing of Sara's misery after The Captain's reported death.
"That's no way to treat a little girl!" he cried. "Why, if I had been the head of the school, I would have seen to it that you were adopted right away, Sara."
The Captain thanked him and replied pointedly, "But then perhaps I wouldn't have found my daughter as easily."
"True, my friend. But at least she wouldn't have starved and toiled like a drudge."
I listened as they bantered about Sara's hypothetical welfare, until Officer Brown interrupted them.
"Gentlemen, if you don't mind, I'm almost done with my interrogation."
This quieted them, until he pointed at me. "Now, what about her?"
I went numb. What about me? What did I have to do with any of this?
But dear Sara took my hand and squeezed it. "Becky's my sister," she proclaimed unashamedly.
I snuck a glance at The Captain, who kept his thoughtful gaze upon us.
"Your... sister?" asked Officer Brown, who scratched his forehead.
"Yes, I always thought so, especially when Miss Minchin confined me to that attic," she replied as she gave me a smile that warmed my insides. "Becky and I promised to be sisters and to always look after each other."
Silence ensued as the policeman scribbled his notes. I looked down at the floor and felt every eye in the room scrutinizing me. What did The Captain think of me now? When at last I dared to look up at him, I saw the same warmth and twinkle in his eye that Sara had for me.
"Well," he said with a sly grin hanging off his lips. "If Sara says Becky is her sister, then it is so. Any other questions, Officer Brown?"
I turned to Sara in amazement, and we hugged each other. I had a sister! A real sister! It wasn't just make believe anymore. I was too excited and tired to remember how the interrogation ended. When Ram Dass brought over our clothes from the attic, Mr. Randolph was appalled at their threadbare condition.
"What's this, Ram Dass? Don't we have anything better for these girls to wear?"
Ram Dass brought out the beautiful robes he had given us. "Just these, Sahib. We'll have to get them new dresses tomorrow."
"I'll buy them some right away," declared The Captain.
"Not so fast," returned Mr. Randolph. "I'll get the clothes, and you can pay me when you get your property back."
"Very well," resigned The Captain. "I forgot, Sara, but it seems that I am a pauper now. What do you think about that?"
Sara stroked her papa's face. "It's all right, papa. I don't care if we're rich or poor, as long as I'm with you." And she kissed him and held him close.
He fought back tears and whispered, "I wish your mother were here." And I imagined that somehow Sara's mama was up in heaven, watching their joyful reunion. I remembered her picture in Sara's locket; she was very beautiful.
"Your locket!" I gasped.
"Miss Minchin still has my locket, papa," Sara cried.
"Then we must get it back at once," replied The Captain almost ferociously. "She can keep the other things, but the locket is not negotiable."
"Ram Dass, go with him to fetch it at once," commanded Mr. Randolph. "Tell Miss Minchin I will compensate her for any losses she incurred for Sara during Captain Crewe's absence."
"Thank you, Mr. Randolph," replied The Captain with gratitude.
Sara and I waited anxiously by the fire for their return. Mr. Randolph seemed a little ill-at-ease with us, but Sara soon made him feel better when she mentioned his son, John.
"I was writing to my papa," she told him, "on the day that you said good-bye to him. I saw both of you through my window."
"Bless you, Sara," he said. "He's my only one. I hope he's still alive somewhere, just like your father is now." And they talked about all the things that made their loved ones special.
Shortly thereafter, The Captain and Ram Dass returned triumphantly with Sara's locket, and Sara wore it joyfully once again.
"I can't thank you enough, Mr. Randolph. Miss Minchin was loathe to part with Sara's locket until I gave her your financial assurance."
"The wretch!" cried Mr. Randolph. "So stingy she wouldn't give a little girl's necklace back to her! Why, it makes me so mad that I want to... to..."
"You must calm down, sahib," said Ram Dass soothingly, as he gave Mr. Randolph another cup of tea.
Sara and I were so excited that we couldn't even think of going to bed. After Mr. Randolph retired, The Captain, Ram Dass, Sara and I were still awake, talking about everything that had happened from Sara's first day of school until now. I spoke very little and mostly listened to tale upon tale of adventures, triumphs and sorrows.
When at last our eyes were too heavy to stay open, Ram Dass announced that he had prepared a room for Sara and I.
"But I want to stay with papa tonight," Sara pleaded. She had sat on his lap almost the entire night.
The Captain touched his forehead to hers.
"I assure you that you will see me in the morning, sweetheart," he said in his kind but firm way.
Sara gazed at him with all of the tenderness and affection a girl could have for her father. My heart melted.
"You promise, papa?"
"I promise," he said. He and I were both on the verge of tears. As he kissed her, one slid down my cheek. I dashed it away just as he glanced at me, but not quickly enough. He gently set Sara down and arose from his chair before reaching out to me.
"Come Becky, let's continue our conversation tomorrow, shall we? For we still have so much to talk about."
Shyly, I gave him my hand. He grasped it firmly and trotted us upstairs behind Ram Dass. I felt as if I were in the beginning of a beautiful dream.