It was Hester who had seen her last when she had said good-bye to a friend at the hall door. That was at eleven o'clock in the morning; now it was one o'clock in the afternoon, and there was no Sarah to be found anywhere. Not in the nursery, not in any of the bedrooms, not upstairs, not downstairs; every hole and corner and crevice much too small to hide Sarah was thoroughly searched. Her name was called in the fondest tones by every member of the family from father and mother down to little Diana, and by all the servants, but there was no answer. There could be no doubt about it—Sarah was lost!
Little Diana was heart-broken. It was dreadful to think of Sarah out alone in the noisy London streets, where she knew no one and no one would know her, where she would soon get confused and lose her way, and where all the houses looked so much alike that she would never, never be able to find her home again. Perhaps even some wicked person might steal Sarah, or she might be run over by a carriage, or bitten by a dog, or—there were no end of misfortunes which might happen to her, for it made it all the more sad to remember that Sarah could not speak.
Who was Sarah?
Perhaps you may have been thinking that she was a little girl. Nothing of the kind. She was the dearest little dog in the world, with a yellow and white silky coat, and a very turned-up nose, and goggling, affectionate dark eyes. She was a gay-tempered little creature, full of playful coaxing ways, and a great pet with everyone; but she was fondest of her mistress, Diana. She went everywhere with her, knew her step from that of any of the other children, and would prick up her ears and listen for it a long way off. Her whole name was "Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough", and she was a Blenheim spaniel.
As befitted her rank, Sarah led a life of luxury, and had a great many possessions of her very own. Smart collars and bells, a box full of different coloured ribbons, a travelling trunk with her name upon it, a brush and comb, a warm coat for cold weather, and a comfortable basket to sleep in. Everything that heart could desire for comfort or adornment was hers. She had never been used to the least roughness or hardship, and certainly was too delicate to fight her own way in the world.
And now Sarah was lost! All through that Sunday everyone was very much disturbed, and talked of nothing but how they could find her. If a visitor came in, the conversation was all about Sarah; but no one seemed to be very hopeful that she would be brought back. There were dog-stealers about, they said, and such a little dog would be easily picked up and hidden. Poor Diana listened to all this, and got more and more miserable as the day went on, for she began to feel quite sure that she should never see her dear little dog again. She moped about, got very pale, would not eat her dinner, and would have been in utter despair if Mother had not given her some comfort. For Mother was the only person who thought there was a chance of Sarah's return, and this cheered Diana, because she had a feeling that Mother knew everything.
Nevertheless when Monday morning came and there was no Sarah, Diana went downstairs in the lowest spirits.
"Immediately after breakfast," said her mother, "I shall put on my bonnet and go out to look for Sarah."
"Will you promise to bring her back?" asked poor little Diana earnestly.
Even Mother could not promise, but she would do her very best, and when she had started Diana went up to the nursery somewhat comforted, to wait as patiently as she could for her return.
Long, long before that could possibly happen she stationed herself at the window, and fixed her eyes on the busy street below. Carts, carriages, cabs, people, how they all went on and on without a pause, full of their own business or pleasure! So
many ladies, but not Mother; so many dogs, small and big, but not one quite like Sarah. Diana's mouth began to droop moreand more with disappointment, and she was very near crying. Even Mother could not bring Sarah back!
"A watched kettle never boils, Miss Diana," said Nurse. "You'd much better come away from the window and play, and then the time'd pass quicker."
But Diana would not move. Just as Nurse spoke she caught sight of a bonnet in the distance just like Mother's, but she had been so often deceived that she hardly dared to hope. It came nearer—it was opposite the house. Oh, joy! Mother's face, with an expression of triumphant satisfaction upon it, looked up to the nursery window. No wonder it was triumphant, for under her arm there appeared a yellow and white head, with silky ears and large dark eyes. Sarah was found! It seemed almost too good to be true.
You may imagine how Diana rejoiced over Sarah and petted her, and how interested she and everyone else were to hear how the little dog had been traced to a coachman's house in a mews close by. Sarah, on her side, seemed very glad to be with her dear little mistress again, and after returning her caresses curled herself up and went to sleep on the sofa, no doubt tired with her adventures. How Diana wished she could tell her all she had done and seen on that Sunday when everyone had been so unhappy about her!
"Where did you go, you darling?" she asked her over and over again, but Sarah never answered. She only wagged her fringy tail, and licked her mistress's hand, and goggled at her with her full dark eyes. And yet Diana felt quite sure that she had many strange and interesting things to tell, if she only could.
One afternoon she was lying on the school-room sofa with Sarah by her side. It was a very hot day, the blinds were down and the windows wide open, so that the distant rumble of the carts and carriages came up from the street below. There was an organ playing too, and as Diana listened dreamily to these noises, and stroked Sarah's head with one hand, she began to wonder again about those wonderful adventures.
"Tell me where you went on Sunday," she whispered once more.
To her great surprise, she plainly heard, among all the other noises, the sound of a tiny voice close to her. She listened eagerly, and this is what it said:
"You must know, my dear mistress, that I have long had a great wish to see more of the world. The park is pleasant enough, but after all if you are led on a string and not allowed to speak to other dogs, it soon becomes dull and tiresome. I wanted to go out alone, into the busy street, to stay as long as I liked, to take whatever direction I fancied, and to join in the amusements of other dogs. In short, I wanted more freedom; and although I never gave way to temper or became snappish, I grew more and more discontented with my safe and pleasant life. I was so closely watched, however, that I could never get an opportunity for the least little stroll alone, and I began to despair, when, at last, on Sunday, the chance really came. I was alone in the hall, Hester opened the door, I slipped out unseen, and there I was—free!
"It was delightful to find myself alone on the door-step, and to hear the door shut behind me; not that I did not fully intend to go back, for I love my mistress and am not ungrateful for the kindness shown me, but it was so pleasant to think that for a short time I could do just as I liked. I soon found, however, that this was very far from the case.