"Uncle Tom" said Sara to The Indian Gentleman, Mr Carrisford "I am very rich; am I rich enough to pay the wages of two or three school teachers and the keep of a number of girls?"
"Quite easily, my dear" said Mr Carrisford "You are thinking of endowing a school for the poor and deserving?"
Sara wrinkled her nose.
"Dear me!" she said "I was not being as good as that; though I think it would be a good idea to have some of them as well. I was just thinking of how miserable poor Ermengarde and Lottie will be at Miss Minchin's; and thinking how jolly it would be, rather than having a governess, to have a school all of our own. And with KIND teachers who don't humiliate her, I should think that Ermengarde would do better at her lessons and would please her father better, don't you? And Lottie can be totally uncontrollable when she wants to be and I imagine that without me to make her mind she will choose to be. And perhaps the girls of the Large Family – I mean the Carmichaels – might like to be day pupils."
"My goodness!" said Mr Carrisford "You've thought about that all right, Sara!"
"Yes I have" said Sara "I saw Ermengarde when they were all going to church and she looked as though she had been crying; and Lottie was SUCH a mess! And I thought perhaps if you wrote to Mr St John and explained that your ward would like his daughter as a companion in a smaller school where she would find it easier to learn he might listen to you. And Lottie's father doesn't seem to care where she is so long as she is being looked after. Will you? Please?"
Mr Carrisford could never resist a request from the little girl it had taken him so much effort to find, who was more to him than any diamond mine.
"I will certainly write" he said "Ram Dass shall enter that wretched place and find the names and addresses of the girls. He has already been there setting humane traps for your friend Melchisidec and his family who will have luxurious accommodation and all the food they can eat; for though I love you for your compassion for a rat I would rather see that he is kept healthy and away from the diseases rats can carry and become a pet rat."
"Oh!" said Sara "I hope he will not think me unkind to CAGE him! It would be better that he should have to forage for himself than that he be a prisoner! Perhaps Ram Dass had better leave him as he is!"
"Oh he will not have a simple cage" said Mr Carrisford "Ram Dass has constructed a whole series of runs and rooms for him and his family in one of the attic rooms that emulates the wainscoting space most carefully, so that Melchisidec does not even realise he is not free. Save that he will be confined in one room. And he may come out into the room to see you as before."
"Oh, that is all right then!" said Sara "I don't think he went far – not at least if he could find food without having to. And I shall train Boris not to chase rats."
"Excellent my dear" said Mr Carrisford. "Well now, I expect you would like me to put advertisements in the paper for school teachers?"
"If you please, Uncle Tom" said Sara. "Dear me, will there be room? I do not want to crowd you."
Mr Carrisford laughed.
"Why, Sara, I have had an idea that you might approve even more" he said. "At the end of the garden there is another garden – to a house that opens onto the road that runs parallel to the square. And it is for sale. If you wish to eventually have free pupils who are drawn from girls who could not afford the fees of a young ladies' academy then that would make a school with accommodation for them and for teachers and classrooms. And we might build further into the garden, or perhaps buy up other houses in THAT row to expand into if the school grows; can you imagine that?"
"Oh yes; I can suppose that very easily" sighed Sara in contentment "And a library in the school with all the best story books in it. Will Ermengarde and Lottie live there?"
"Now I thought you might like them to be parlour boarders here with you" said Mr Carrisford.
"Oh I should like that of all things, Uncle Tom!" said Sara.
A/N This is by way of a prelude to a longer school story I am hoping to write with Sara and Ermengarde, Janet and Nora and of course little Lottie and their adventures in a school with a bit more education and a lot less snobbery than Miss Minchin's. There will of course be rivalry with the likes of Lavinia and Miss Minchin herself who is going to resent the school when she finds out about it. However I have a lot of writing on hand at the moment so it may be a while before I get that off the ground. I would however be grateful for reviews to let me know if you would like to see more of Sara and her friends at a new school.