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|A Little Princess||Frances Hodgson Burnett|
The Other Side of the Wall
|Page 4 of 5||
He was beginning to be excited. He always became excited when his still weakened brain was stirred by memories of the catastrophes of the past.
Mr. Carmichael watched him anxiously. It was necessary to ask some questions, but they must be put quietly and with caution.
"But you had reason to think the school WAS in Paris?"
"Yes," was the answer, "because her mother was a Frenchwoman, and I had heard that she wished her child to be educated in Paris. It seemed only likely that she would be there."
"Yes," Mr. Carmichael said, "it seems more than probable."
The Indian gentleman leaned forward and struck the table with a long, wasted hand.
"Carmichael," he said, "I MUST find her. If she is alive, she is somewhere. If she is friendless and penniless, it is through my fault. How is a man to get back his nerve with a thing like that on his mind? This sudden change of luck at the mines has made realities of all our most fantastic dreams, and poor Crewe's child may be begging in the street!"
"No, no," said Carmichael. "Try to be calm. Console yourself with the fact that when she is found you have a fortune to hand over to her."
"Why was I not man enough to stand my ground when things looked black?" Carrisford groaned in petulant misery. "I believe I should have stood my ground if I had not been responsible for other people's money as well as my own. Poor Crewe had put into the scheme every penny that he owned. He trusted me--he LOVED me. And he died thinking I had ruined him--I--Tom Carrisford, who played cricket at Eton with him. What a villain he must have thought me!"
"Don't reproach yourself so bitterly."
"I don't reproach myself because the speculation threatened to fail-- I reproach myself for losing my courage. I ran away like a swindler and a thief, because I could not face my best friend and tell him I had ruined him and his child."
The good-hearted father of the Large Family put his hand on his shoulder comfortingly.
"You ran away because your brain had given way under the strain of mental torture," he said. "You were half delirious already. If you had not been you would have stayed and fought it out. You were in a hospital, strapped down in bed, raving with brain fever, two days after you left the place. Remember that."
Carrisford dropped his forehead in his hands.
"Good God! Yes," he said. "I was driven mad with dread and horror. I had not slept for weeks. The night I staggered out of my house all the air seemed full of hideous things mocking and mouthing at me."
"That is explanation enough in itself," said Mr. Carmichael. "How could a man on the verge of brain fever judge sanely!"
Carrisford shook his drooping head.
"And when I returned to consciousness poor Crewe was dead--and buried. And I seemed to remember nothing. I did not remember the child for months and months. Even when I began to recall her existence everything seemed in a sort of haze."
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|A Little Princess
Frances Hodgson Burnett
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