A Little Princess
The Other Side of the Wall
When one lives in a row of houses, it is interesting to think of the things which are being
done and said on the other side of the wall of the very rooms one is living in. Sara was
fond of amusing herself by trying to imagine the things hidden by the wall which divided
the Select Seminary from the Indian gentleman's house. She knew that the schoolroom
was next to the Indian gentleman's study, and she hoped that the wall was thick so that
the noise made sometimes after lesson hours would not disturb him.
"I am growing quite fond of him," she said to Ermengarde; "I should not like him to be
disturbed. I have adopted him for a friend. You can do that with people you never speak
to at all. You can just watch them, and think about them and be sorry for them, until they
seem almost like relations. I'm quite anxious sometimes when I see the doctor call twice a
"I have very few relations," said Ermengarde, reflectively, "and I'm very glad of it. I don't
like those I have. My two aunts are always saying, `Dear me, Ermengarde! You are very
fat. You shouldn't eat sweets,' and my uncle is always asking me things like, `When did
Edward the Third ascend the throne?' and, `Who died of a surfeit of lampreys?'"
"People you never speak to can't ask you questions like that," she said; "and I'm sure the
Indian gentleman wouldn't even if he was quite intimate with you. I am fond of him."
She had become fond of the Large Family because they looked happy; but she had
become fond of the Indian gentleman because he looked unhappy. He had evidently not
fully recovered from some very severe illness. In the kitchen--where, of course, the
servants, through some mysterious means, knew everything--there was much discussion
of his case. He was not an Indian gentleman really, but an Englishman who had lived in
India. He had met with great misfortunes which had for a time so imperilled his whole
fortune that he had thought himself ruined and disgraced forever. The shock had been so
great that he had almost died of brain fever; and ever since he had been shattered in
health, though his fortunes had changed and all his possessions had been restored to him.
His trouble and peril had been connected with mines.
"And mines with diamonds in 'em!" said the cook. "No savin's of mine never goes into no
mines--particular diamond ones"-- with a side glance at Sara. "We all know somethin' of
THEM." "He felt as my papa felt," Sara thought. "He was ill as my papa was; but he did
So her heart was more drawn to him than before. When she was sent out at night she used
sometimes to feel quite glad, because there was always a chance that the curtains of the
house next door might not yet be closed and she could look into the warm room and see
her adopted friend. When no one was about she used sometimes to stop, and, holding to
the iron railings, wish him good night as if he could hear her.