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|A Little Princess||Frances Hodgson Burnett|
The Diamond Mines Again
|Page 5 of 13||
Mr. Barrow wheeled round upon her. "Diamond mines!" he broke out. "There are none! Never were!"
Miss Minchin actually got up from her chair.
"What!" she cried. "What do you mean?"
"At any rate," answered Mr. Barrow, quite snappishly, "it would have been much better if there never had been any."
"Any diamond mines?" ejaculated Miss Minchin, catching at the back of a chair and feeling as if a splendid dream was fading away from her.
"Diamond mines spell ruin oftener than they spell wealth," said Mr. Barrow. "When a man is in the hands of a very dear friend and is not a businessman himself, he had better steer clear of the dear friend's diamond mines, or gold mines, or any other kind of mines dear friends want his money to put into. The late Captain Crewe--"
Here Miss Minchin stopped him with a gasp.
"The LATE Captain Crewe!" she cried out. "The LATE>! You don't come to tell me that Captain Crewe is--"
"He's dead, ma'am," Mr. Barrow answered with jerky brusqueness. "Died of jungle fever and business troubles combined. The jungle fever might not have killed him if he had not been driven mad by the business troubles, and the business troubles might not have put an end to him if the jungle fever had not assisted. Captain Crewe is dead!"
Miss Minchin dropped into her chair again. The words he had spoken filled her with alarm.
"What WERE his business troubles?" she said. "What WERE they?"
"Diamond mines," answered Mr. Barrow, "and dear friends--and ruin."
Miss Minchin lost her breath.
"Ruin!" she gasped out.
"Lost every penny. That young man had too much money. The dear friend was mad on the subject of the diamond mine. He put all his own money into it, and all Captain Crewe's. Then the dear friend ran away-- Captain Crewe was already stricken with fever when the news came. The shock was too much for him. He died delirious, raving about his little girl--and didn't leave a penny."
Now Miss Minchin understood, and never had she received such a blow in her life. Her show pupil, her show patron, swept away from the Select Seminary at one blow. She felt as if she had been outraged and robbed, and that Captain Crewe and Sara and Mr. Barrow were equally to blame.
"Do you mean to tell me," she cried out, "that he left NOTHING>! That Sara will have no fortune! That the child is a beggar! That she is left on my hands a little pauper instead of an heiress?"
Mr. Barrow was a shrewd businessman, and felt it as well to make his own freedom from responsibility quite clear without any delay.
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|A Little Princess
Frances Hodgson Burnett
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