The Astria Diamond
My name is Katherine Bennet, although everyone calls me just plain Kitty. I don't really mind, except for the one time when Tommy Lucas called me "Kitty the frightful Puss" and I couldn't see him without bursting into tears for weeks. Be that as it may, you may call me Kitty.
I am the fourth child in a long line of girls. Lydia was born two years after me, and there weren't any children after her as Mother and Father gave up hope of ever producing an heir. Although I have four other sisters besides me, I feel very alone at this time in my life. Three of my sisters are already married and gone.
I should have been the one to go to Brighton with Mrs. Foster as her companion. I am two years older than Lydia, as I mentioned before, and so naturally I should have been the one to be invited. Lydia was asked and went, however, and our lives changed forever. As if going to Brighton wasn't enough, Lydia had to elope with George Wickham, the most dashing officer in the regiment. They lived for weeks together before found by Mr. Darcy and forced to marry. Our family was disgraced.
Soon after Lydia's most unfortunate marriage, Mr. Bingley returned from London to the estate he had leased, that was called Netherfield. He promptly proposed to my eldest sister Jane, and was, of course, accepted immediately. They had been in love for months. Then, Lizzy accepted Mr. Darcy's proposal of marriage, having forgiven him of his past wrong behavior to her. Jane and Lizzy were married on the same day one week ago today and are both very happy.
Things would be very different and I would be much happier if I had been the one to go to Brighton. I would have stayed for a few weeks and then come home like the proper, good girl that I am, and never have even thought of eloping with Mr. Wickham. Lydia would not have married and we could still be together having a good time. Mr. Darcy would never have had to save Lydia and pay off Mr. Wickham's debts. Lizzy's heart would never have softened towards Darcy and they would never have married. Jane and Mr. Bingley would still have married, I suppose, but they live so near to us that it would not have made much difference.
As it is, I am miserable and quite deserted by everyone. Mamma is always over at Netherfield with Jane and hardly ever takes me along. Papa is always in the library.
I think that I will go in search of Mary and have her read to me from one of her dreadful books. Do you now see how utterly wretched I am?
It was snowing. I stared out of the window and watched the snowflakes lazily fall to the ground for a full half hour before becoming so bored that I could have screamed. I then took to pacing about the room and probably looked something like the caged tiger I saw once at the circus that passed through town. Soon bored of pacing as well, I again stared out of the window.
I was bored again. Ever since Lydia married I was always bored and now that Jane and Lizzy were married as well, I was lonely. I was wallowing in self-misery, but I did not really care. Lydia had been my leader. Whatever she did I would with her, even if what she did sometimes was not entirely proper. Perhaps it was wrong of me but I can never think of anything interesting to do myself.
"Mary, are you ever lonely?" I suddenly asked, surprising her and myself but speaking. Mary was rather startled by the question and looked up from her book, her already large eyes looking larger than ever. Mary could look rather pretty when she was startled.
"I - I never thought about it before," she stammered and looked back at the book. Perhaps she was embarrassed by the fact that she didn't think of anything clever to say.
"Oh," I replied. "Are you ever bored?"
Mary was a little more prepared for a second odd question and so answered in her usual manner, "When one is employed in useful work, one is never bored."
I sat for a few more minutes before picking up one of Mary's books and opening to the first page and beginning. Jane and
Mamma found us both reading when they entered the sitting room five minutes later. I am rather glad that they did, because although reading may suit Mary's tastes, it did not seem to fit me at all.
Jane radiated happiness and looked as stunningly beautiful as ever in a simple evening frock. I wish I was as beautiful as Jane; then all of the officers would be violently in love with me. Today Jane looked especially beautiful and happy and I wondered why, until she came out with the news.
"Kitty dear, how would you like to go to London with us this year?"
"Oh Jane! Could I?" I cried joyously.
"Why of course you can, Kitty," Mamma put it and Jane nodded.
"We will be going this February and would like it so much if you and Mary would come with us," Jane said, smiling. Mary sniffed, as if it meant nothing to her at all, but I was beside myself with joy.
"Thank you, Jane, of course I shall come!" I cried just as Papa entered the room.
"What's all this noise?" he asked. "Ah, hello Jane, dear."
"Papa, Jane wishes for me, (and Mary) to go to London with them this February!" I cried.
"Absolutely out of the question and positively not, now will you please stop all of this noise. It was nice to see you Jane, good day." With that, Papa left the room for the library and I burst into tears.
"Don't cry, Kitty," Jane said as she put her arm around me comfortingly. "I will speak with Papa."
Jane left the room and Mamma sat down in her favorite armchair, taking out her lace handkerchief. "How can your father be so cruel to his own poor children? He is so very unkind, is he not Kitty? I do not know how I shall bear it! How else will you ever marry if you never are seen anywhere? Oh my poor nerves!"
"Mother, considering the shameful way Lydia behaved at Brighton last summer I believe Papa is right to be cautious. Who knows what trouble Kitty might get into?" Mary sniffed, but I do not think because she was trying to behave proudly. I believe she had wanted to go as well.
In the meantime, I was furious and cried harder than ever and ran from the room as I heard Mamma scolding my unfeeling sister, "Mary, how can you say such things about poor Kitty!"
I cried until I could cry no more and then I sulked until Jane came up to my room, announcing that Mary and I would be going with them that February to town. She had convinced Papa that under her supervision and Lizzy's, of course, we would get into no trouble and that they would watch us like hawks. At that moment, I never loved anybody as I loved Jane. I was to go to London! It was, undoubtedly, one of the happiest days of my life.
Over the next few weeks I made sure that everyone of my acquaintance knew that Mary and I were going to London with Charles and Jane Bingley. Maria Lucas was wild with envy, as was every other girl I knew who could not afford to go to London. We would be staying at the Bingley's grand house and go to every ball of consequence that was thrown in London, always moving in the first circles. I spent much time with Jane. She taught me to refine my manners and behave with proper conduct. I had not known that I did not behave properly, before.
Only a few days before departing for London, poor Mary came down with a dreadful cold and decided to remain at home. I was to go with Charles and Jane, alone. Papa seemed rather glad, since he would not be alone at home with Mamma. Mamma was glad because she would have some feminine company. Mary was glad because she would not have to dance.
The ride to London was long and bumpy. I have never been far from home and did not do very well in the carriage, suffering from a severe case of travelling sickness. However, as soon as I stepped out of the carriage onto solid ground my illness vanished and I stood and feasted my eyes upon the streets of London and the large house in which we would be staying. Jane helped me up the stairs, since my knees were still a little weak, and led me to my room where I was ordered to rest for at least half an hour.
I was very excited and did not feel lonesome for Lydia at all. I wrote her a long letter during that half hour, describing everything I had seen and rather hoping that she would be as miserable as I had been when she had gone off to Brighton and left me behind. When I later told Jane about the letter she told me that I was very wicked (but I couldn't help myself).
Soon a servant came up to my room and helped me change into one of my new dresses and arranged my hair in a way that looked very becoming. I then went downstairs to join the others and discovered that the Darcys had arrived.
"Kitty!" Lizzy cried, looking much happier than I had ever seen her.
"Hello Lizzy," I said as she gave me a warm embrace.
"How are you feeling, Kitty dear?" Jane asked in her gentle way.
"Very well, not a trace of traveling sickness left," I said joyously. "Good evening Mr. Darcy," I added while noting that he looked much happier than usual, as well.
"That is excellent, Kitty!" Charles said, smiling.
"Papa informed me in his last letter that you are here only under the condition that Jane and I take good care of you," Lizzy said with a twinkle in her eye, "and make sure that you don't get into any trouble."
I blushed, mumbling: "I won't get into any trouble." Lizzy smiled.
"But I'm afraid I'm already breaking my promise! You are all invited to a ball Fitzwilliam and I are throwing next week, and I'm sure you'll find enough trouble there."
"A ball! Oh, Lizzy!" I cried rapturously. "It will be such fun, I can hardly wait!"
Charles and Jane made sure that the wait for the Darcys' ball was not too terrible and every day we did something interesting. We visited art galleries and the theater and walked in many beautiful parks. In the evenings, Jane and I often had long talks about behaviour; what is proper and what is not. Gradually, I began to see how very improper Lydia had behaved and how wrong I had been to go along with her. Jane and Lizzy also encouraged me to keep a diary so that later on I could perhaps learn about myself from it. I thought Jane was being rather silly but since she insisted I could not resist.
At last, after five days of waiting, the day of the ball arrived. I was dressed in my new dancing gown and my hair was put up stylishly. Jane said I looked very beautiful, which made me glow inside. We rode in our fine carriage to the Darcys' townhouse where music could be faintly heard playing even out on the street and the rooms were all brightly lit. I was looking forward to having a splendid evening and perhaps dancing every dance! The Darcys met us at the entrance, led us in and the ball began.
The music played beautifully as couples danced around the room. Balls always gave me a certain kind of thrill and this ball was especially exciting. I was in London and recently trained by my sisters on how to behave as would a lady of fashion. Of course, it was very hard to remember all of the new information and enjoy myself at the same time, but I tried my best and for the first hour of the evening was almost always with a partner. On one of the occasions when I was sitting down, fanning myself elegantly as Jane had shown me to do, I overheard some gossip about Lizzy.
"She is rather pretty and her style of dress is simple but stylish. They say Mr. Darcy is madly in love with her," said one woman with a large peacock feather in her hair. I used to have a similar peacock feather until Lydia took it from me and Mamma would not make her give it back. I believe Lydia eventually tore it up in a fit of rage.
"I did hear that Mrs. Darcy is only a poor country woman with very disgraceful connections, and-"
"Well I believe no such thing!" cried the lady with the peacock feather, cutting off her friend sharply. "Mr. Darcy would never marry a gentlewoman of low status. No, I believe she comes from a supposedly poor family but is in fact the heiress of thousands upon her father's death."
The second lady nodded. "Yes indeed, their family must be very rich. An excellent match."
I agreed with them silently and wished very urgently that I was to inherit thousands of pounds for then I would certainly make as good a match as Lizzy had. I sighed and listened to the gossiping ladies again. Another older woman (who wore a string of pearls so large that I thought it a wonder her head could support their weight) had joined them. The pearls were beautiful though.
"...very handsome indeed, and my goodness, I just remembered! Were Lady Diamonde and her son not invited to the ball as well?"
"I believe so, but didn't Mrs. Darcy say that they would be late on account of Mr. Diamonde only arriving in town late this afternoon?"
"You needn't worry for there are the very persons of whom you are speaking, greeting Mr. and Mrs. Darcy at this moment!"
I turned my head towards Lizzy and saw a very elegant looking woman, who I supposed was Lady Diamonde, smiling at her. Lizzy beckoned to me and I walked over to where they were standing and was introduced to the Lady, her son, and a Mr. John Wolcott. Both men were tolerably good looking from a distance but upon a closer view I saw that Mr. Wolcott was very handsome. I felt the familiar fluttering in my chest as he turned towards me and smiled.
"It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Miss Bennet," he said solemnly and I blushed.
"Thank you, Mr. Wolcott, it's a pleasure to make yours," I stammered.
"Mr. Wolcott, why don't you dance with Miss Bennet?" Lady Diamonde said, "She seems to be without a partner." Mr. Wolcott asked my permission and soon we were dancing.
After the ball I showered Lizzy with questions about Lady Diamonde and the rest of her party.
"The Diamondes are one of the richest families in England. You can sort of guess that from their name," Lizzy answered.
"Guess? How?" I asked stupidly and, perhaps it was the flickering candlelight, I thought I saw Lizzy roll her eyes.
"Why Kitty - Diamonde! Diamond! The family owns one of the most expensive diamonds in the world. They are famous for it and that's how they got their last name (only adding the 'e' for style). It's been in the family for so long that no one really even remembers their true surname. I believe the diamond was a gift from the King of England to the family for some great deed."
I hesitated before asking my next question. "Lizzy, what of Mr. Wolcott?"
"Mr. Wolcott? Oh yes! He is Mr. Diamonde's oldest friend. What was it that he did? Fitzwilliam, didn't Mr. Wolcott save Mr. Diamonde's life somehow?"
"Yes, they were in a terrible carriage accident while traveling in the North of England. The driver had been killed and the horses run off or disabled. Mr. Diamonde was unconscious and bleeding badly. Despite the wound on his leg, Mr. Wolcott carried him for over five miles to the nearest village where they were both properly taken care of," Mr. Darcy explained.
"Oh!" I breathed, my eyes widening. "How very heroic of him!"
Lizzy arched an eyebrow at me and said, "Come, Kitty. It's been a very long day and I think you need some rest."
I did not feel tired but surrendered to Lizzy's orders and went home with the Bingleys. Although I went to bed immediately after arriving at the townhouse, I did not fall asleep for some time. I had liked many men, especially officers, many times but this time, perhaps, I was really in love. 'What would my sisters do if they were in my situation?' I wondered before dropping off to sleep. I dreamt of red coats, blue coats, carriages and wedding bells. I have very odd dreams sometimes.
The next morning I woke to the sound of carriages and voices instead of the usual birds chirping out of my window at Longbourn. I didn't mind the noise as it reminded me that I was still in London and enjoying myself immensely. I relaxed against my very soft and large pillows, thinking of how much I liked having my two oldest sisters with me. I didn't feel lonely anymore, although sometimes I did miss Lydia and wished she would write me.
"Charles! Charles, come here quickly!" I sat up in bed with a start. That had been Jane, but it sounded more like Mamma! What was wrong? I heard Charles' running footsteps and jumped out of bed, throwing a robe around my shoulders and peeking out of the door.
I saw Jane and Charles standing together, Jane holding a letter in her hand. She did not look upset, in fact she looked very happy. "Charles, Lady Diamonde has invited us to an evening party at her house in London this Wednesday! I can scarce believe it!"
"That is wonderful news - what an honor!" Charles answered and kissed her on the cheek. I felt rather foolish spying on them and so crept back into bed just as Jane burst through the door.
"Kitty - oh. I hope I didn't wake you," she said quickly.
"No, I was awake."
"Kitty, we are invited to Lady Diamonde's home for an evening party!"
I didn't know what to say, and so said that exact same thing that Charles had said. "That is wonderful news! Um, what an honor!"
Jane gave me a strange look. "Would you like to join us for breakfast? We will wait for you to get dressed."
"Of course," I said hurriedly and Jane left the room.
The invitation to the evening party at Lady Diamonde's was the greatest honor I had ever had. After all, a Lady is a Lady and I was going to make sure that I looked perfect for that night, especially since Mr. Wolcott would be there as well. I had an excellent maid who managed, somehow, to fix my hair beautifully for every occasion and dress me in my most becoming frocks. I decided to remember to talk to my maid back at home about the new styles and fashions in London.
Lady Diamonde's townhouse was larger than the Darcys', and I had not thought that possible! I did expect her house to be large, but not as large as it was - much bigger than Longbourn. We entered the house and I looked at the splendid furnishings with admiration and perhaps some envy, I must admit. We entered the room where the party was to take place and saw Lady Diamonde coming forward to greet us with her son following closely behind.
"Welcome to my home," she said graciously and led us into the room where we soon joined the Darcys and Matlocks, who had also been invited.
The evening passed much more slowly than I thought it would. Jane and Lizzy talked mostly to each other and I knew no one else in the room. I was just trying to stifle another yawn when Lady Diamonde came up to me and asked if I would like to sit down with her for a little while. I did as I was told.
"Are you enjoying the party, Miss Bennet?" the Lady asked pleasantly. Not wanting to offend her ladyship, yet not wanting to be dishonest at the same time, left me with nothing to say. Lady Diamonde smiled at my obvious discomfort. "Do not worry. At my next party I will invite some other young people and then perhaps you will not be so lonesome." She sighed. "Although I fear I may not have another party in London this year, due to my health."
"Oh, are you unwell, Lady Diamonde?" I asked, puzzled. Despite the fact that she looked very old she looked perfectly healthy to me.
"Dear Barty - my husband died three years ago. I am over my terrible grief now but the seasons in London tire my spirits and health much more without him to help me. We did everything together -- he was my life."
"How very... beautiful," I said, sighing contentedly just as Mr. Diamonde came up to his mother and sat down.
"I wonder that you invited Mrs. Carry to your evening party, Mother. She has a horrid complexion and a protruding front tooth - and a lack of income that I cannot forgive. Being a widow these seven years she has taken the notion that I wish to marry her. Me! I, who have been content as a bachelor for 47 years, to marry now to such a woman - it is not to be borne. Would you ask her to leave?"
My head was spinning by the end of his long speech and even I was offended by his manner of speaking. Lady Diamonde handled the uncomfortable situation beautifully, telling her son that she could not possibly dismiss one of her guests and the daughter of one of her best friends. "You had best find enjoyment elsewhere. Find yourself a drink, it will soothe your spirits." Mr. Diamonde left us and Mrs. Diamonde sighed. "You must forgive my son, Miss Bennet. He is rather spoiled and thinks entirely too much about the amount of one's pocket book. I hope you will bear with him. Everyone does," she said anxiously and I assured her that I was not offended.
The Lady and I chatted for a few more minutes about nothing in particular and then Lizzy came up and said that it was time for us to leave. I was very sorry to go, and Lady Diamonde wished that we could have stayed longer, but we both had something to look forward to. The Matlocks were throwing another evening party the next week to which we were all invited, as well as the Diamondes. I left with the feeling that I liked dear Lady Diamonde and with the satisfaction of knowing that I would see her again.
We played Whist at the Matlocks' party. The Lady and I were partners, Mr. Diamonde and Mr. Wolcott playing against us. It was very hard for me to play against Mr. Wolcott but I managed it somehow and we won the game. Lady Diamonde was very pleased and told me that it was the first time she had won a card game since the passing of her husband.
After playing cards there was dancing. I danced with Mr. Wolcott twice. He was an excellent dancer and I overheard someone saying that we looked very fine together. I felt eternally grateful to Jane as she had also helped me improve my posture and therefore my dancing skills. Mr. Wolcott and I talked of Whist, his favorite card game. I found it most interesting to learn that it had been his first time ever to lose a game in six months. 'I am properly impressed' were his very words.
I returned to Jane and Lizzy in very high spirits. Just as we were deciding weather to go home or not, a servant came up to me and said that Lady Diamonde wished to speak with Jane and myself in private. He led us to a study not far from the evening room were we found Lady Diamonde sitting comfortably in a chair. Both very puzzled, we sat down facing her.
"Thank you for coming," she said. "I have asked you here with the sole purpose of begging your permission to take Miss Bennet back to Diamonde Hall with me when I leave."
"What do you mean?" I cried.
"I am inviting you to stay with me for a few weeks. I haven't enjoyed someone's company so much in such a long time that I wish that you would come and stay at my estate, which is not very far from London."
"I don't know what to say!" I exclaimed and looked at Jane for help.
She clearly did not know what to say either for she only stuttered, "I shall have to write my father for his permission... That is if Kitty wishes to go."
I imagined two weeks in a grand house in the company of Lady Diamonde and Mr. Wolcott and cried out, "Oh yes, I do!" Lady Diamonde smiled at me.
"I am so pleased! Of course you must write your father," she said.
"Normally," Jane began, "I would want to go with her myself but ... that is,"
"You would much rather be with your husband, of course," Lady Diamonde said with a knowing smile.
Jane smiled back and said, "I have also invited my sister-in-law to stay with us for a few weeks and so couldn't possibly take back the invitation now."
"Katharine, I am so happy! The only other company I would have had was my son and Mr. Wolcott, also my own sister-in-law who is to stay with me. She does not really like me but still lives in the house, being an old maid. I will have a fortnight of pleasures with you in the house!" Lady Diamonde took my arm as we left the room.
"I will write Papa tonight," Jane said, seeming as happy for me as I was myself.
Papa's answer arrived four days later. He didn't like to write immediate answers to letters unless it was absolutely necessary.
Upon first reading your letter I had a mind to reply immediately with a decided 'no' but then, after thinking for a little while, I decided that perhaps it would be good for Kitty to spend some time with an old Lady and an old maid. Under their supervision I'm sure she cannot possibly manage to get into much trouble in two weeks. Also, upon close examination of your previous letters I have noticed that you seem to think Kitty's character much improved since you arrived in London around a month ago. I have only one condition - that Kitty write you almost every day with a detailed description of what is going on, if anything. Perhaps I am being too kind but how could I deny anything to a woman of such importance as Lady Diamonde? Mrs. Bennet also so strongly urges me to send her to Diamonde manor that I am afraid of what would happen if I did not allow Kitty to go. Besides, Diamonde Hall is not Brighton and since Lizzy also wrote me about the scheme I cannot say 'no'. Is that enough consent to satisfy you, my dear Jane?
Your loving father,
I, to say the very least, was overjoyed. Just a moment after receiving Papa's letter I got a note from the Darcys. Lizzy wanted me to come over to take tea with her as Fitzwilliam was in the middle of a very important business meeting and she was longing for some company. Charles and Jane were out and so I set out for the Darcys' on foot, their house being only two blocks away and the streets far from dangerous.
On the way to their house I spotted a pretty little bonnet in the window of a lovely shop and couldn't pass by without stopping in the shop to at least look at the bonnet. Of course, then I couldn't possibly leave the shop without buying the bonnet, a new shawl, new gloves and two new fans (I would give one to Lizzy). As I left the shop with no money left and my arms full of packages I remembered what Jane had told me about thinking before acting and felt very foolish. I still had a block and a half to walk before reaching the Darcys'.
Practically stumbling along the street, I did not notice that I had bumped into someone until my packages fell out of my hands and landed on the street in front of me just as a carriage rode by, crushing my unfortunate bonnet.
"Oh no, I am so terribly sorry!" a male voice said behind me and I turned to face a rather handsome young man who rushed forward and picked up my packages, handing them to me. "It was my fault, completely mine. I am in a terrible rush and wasn't looking. I would accompany you to wherever you are going, but I am late as it is. Will you allow me to order you a carriage?" I nodded dumbly, not knowing what to say, and he asked a man to get one for me. "Please, take this." He dropped a handful of coins into my hands. "I hope that will be enough to buy another bonnet," he said and smiled apologetically.
"Oh more than enough. Here, take some back!" I cried, but he tipped his hat and said,
"No Madame, I beg you. Take it and buy yourself two. Good day now - I must be going!" he said and, without another word or even a look back, rushed down the street. Just then the carriage came up and I got in, paying the driver with a portion of the money the man had given me.
Breathless, I arrived at the Darcys'. "Oh Kitty, such a pity that you have come so late!" Lizzy cried when I entered the hall. "I wish you could have met the man that Fitzwilliam just had a meeting with -- he is to be given the living at Pemberley as our clergyman. I wish you had met him."
"Oh, well, I think I have had quite enough adventure for one day," I exclaimed and told her of Papa's letter and the man I had bumped into on the street. I demonstrated the crushed bonnet and showed her the coins.
Lizzy was glad about Papa's letter, yet she said not a word about the man on the street. I could tell she was thinking, guessing and connecting something, but about what I did not know. All I knew was that, in two days time, I was to be the guest of a Lady.
My trunks were packed neatly and everything was ready. I hopped into the carriage next to Lady Diamonde and her sister-in-law, cheerfully waving goodbye to Jane and Lizzy. Then the door was shut and we were on our way. The drive to her Ladyship's estate took a little over an hour after we had left London. At the beginning of the journey I was inclined to talk, but Lady Diamonde was very tired and so fell asleep quickly. Her sister-in-law, whom I was allowed to call Miss Diamonde, did not want to talk to me at all. When I tried to begin a conversation by saying that the weather was very fine, she answered by saying it would most likely rain. I was surprised by this sharp remark and so stared out of the window at the clear blue sky, deciding that it most definitely would not rain that day, although I did not tell Miss Diamonde.
We soon arrived at Diamonde Hall. I must confess that, from the beginning, I was disappointed in the Hall. I can describe it in one word; enormous. It was an enormous mansion, larger than any I had ever seen before. Huge trees surrounded the estate and so, despite the sunny day, everything seemed dark and shadowy. The grounds were run down. We stepped out of the carriage and I gazed up at the building for a moment. I then had to help Lady Diamonde up the many steps to the great doors at the front of the house. The doors were shut and Lady Diamonde instructed me to use the knocker with the head of a lion on it. I knocked with difficulty, and the great 'clang, clang, clang' seemed to echo throughout the entire house. As I heard the carriage drive away, I suddenly felt afraid and alone.
The great door abruptly swung open and I almost fell through the doorway. I did not, however, for an extremely tall and thin man was standing in the way glaring down at me. I was so very frightened by his fierce stare that I couldn't even gasp and felt stiff as a board. Lady Diamonde saved me, however, by sweeping me past the tall man and saying warmly,
"This is the young lady I told you was coming, Mr. Bents. Her name is Miss Katherine Bennet. Katherine, this is my butler." I somehow bobbed a curtsy as a middle aged, tired looking woman came up to us.
"Welcome home, Lady Diamonde," the woman said in a cold voice.
"This is the housekeeper, Mrs. Bents," Lady Diamonde explained to me. "Please show Miss Bennet to her room and send Tina up to her after she is finished attending me."
Mrs. Bents said, "Yes ma'am," and with that I was being led up stairs and then down the longest hall I had ever seen in my life. Door after door stretched out before us as we traveled farther and father down the hall. Every single door was shut. I couldn't help myself. I had to ask.
"What are in all of those rooms, Mrs. Bents?" I blurted.
"Nothing but cobwebs and old furniture covered by sheets," was my reply.
"But why waste so many rooms?" It was out of my mouth before I had time to think, but Mrs. Bents seemed to want to talk.
"Lady Diamonde has never truly recovered her spirits after Lord Diamonde passed away. After his death almost every room was shut and many servants dismissed. The cook lives here, of course, the maid Tina, scullery maid, my husband and myself. Other than that, the house is always empty unless her Ladyship is here with her son and Miss Diamonde." Mrs. Bents stopped talking as we had reached my room. She opened the door, saying, "Tina will be here in a few moments to attend you," and then closed the door.
But I was no longer afraid. Not every room was covered in cobwebs and sheets. The room I was in overlooked the great trees that did not appear nearly so towering from where I looked down upon them. The bed was large and comfortable, the armchairs as well. There was an adjoining sitting room and I thought everything to be lovely. I was put even more at ease when a pretty maid came in smiling friendly and bobbing a curtsy.
"I'm Tina the maid," she said, and I couldn't help but envy the blonde curls peeping out from under her white cap.
"I know," I said rather stupidly and then she attended me, helping me get into a fresh gown and fix my hair. By the time Mrs. Bents arrived to announce that her Ladyship and family were waiting for me in the dinning room, I had decided Tina was a very sweet girl and walked down the long halls and staircases with more curiosity than fear.
Supper was a quiet affair. Mr. Diamonde and Mr. Wolcott would not be arriving until the next day. Miss Diamonde, if not eating, was casting sour glares in my direction. Lady Diamonde was obviously exhausted from the trip and so seemed content to sip a drink, eat hardly anything at all and gaze at me with warm eyes. After dinner I went back upstairs and found upon the desk in my room some materials for writing. I wrote a letter to Lizzy and Jane, just as I had promised to do. The letter was very short and rather blotted since I was also very tired. I sent the letter and then crawled into my bed, falling asleep moments after my head touched the pillow.
I awoke the next morning feeling excited and quite refreshed. Tina came into my room and helped me dress. I wore one of my simplest frocks since I had decided that I would explore my surroundings a little that day. I ventured out of the room and somehow found my way to the breakfast room. I was the only one awake and therefore ate and got up quickly. I would go outside, the day was very fine.
Tina showed me the way out and, with a promise that I wouldn't get lost, I was off. I wandered among the great trees and firs for a long time. I marveled at the great size of everything and wondered why lady Diamonde let her estate be so run down. It would soon fall into disrepair. Dreaming of what I would do if I was the owner of such a grand estate I wandered for nearly two hours and, of course, got lost.
By the time I realized that I was lost the clouds had covered the sun and a cold wind was blowing. I was in the gardens and such gardens in great estates always have large stone walls around them. I couldn't see the house or the way out. I decided to climb and so up I went, clinging to the strong ivy that clung to the walls, and reached the top. I was an excellent climber, better than Lydia ever was. We climbed hundreds of trees together as children and I had evidently not lost my skill.
I could see far across the estate from my perch on the garden wall. I saw the house, not too far away, and I saw the rolling hills behind it. On one hill I saw a strange building made out of stone - it was not very large and looked something like a very small church. I stood looking out over the hills for some time before I took a deep breath and started to climb down. The ivy broke and I almost fell, catching onto the edge of the wall. I pulled myself up part way and struggled to get my legs up, the long skirts holding me back.
Just then I saw Mr. Wolcott riding over the lovely hills. I called for help with all of my strength. He heard me somehow and saved me. We rode back to the house together on his horse. Once there, Mrs. Bents informed us that Lady Diamonde and her son were in the library. Mr. Wolcott led the way through the maze of rooms and halls and we reached two large doors, elaborately decorated. Mr. Wolcott opened the doors effortlessly and I saw the library.
I was like nothing I had ever seen or heard of before. Our library at Longbourn is large and the library at Pemberley, I'm told, is very large. I am sure that even if you put both libraries together you would never get as many books as there were in the Diamonde Hall library. There were rows upon rows of books, covering every wall and more. There were stairs leading up to more books and more. I was in complete awe and shock. Finally recovering my senses, I looked around a little more and saw Lady Diamonde sitting on an armchair in the midst of her splendor.
Mr. Diamonde was sitting next to her, looking very much like my father as he read a history book and sipped his port. The Lady beckoned to me and I sat on another chair next to her, still gazing around the room.
"Do you like it then, Catherine?" Lady Diamonde asked quietly.
"Oh yes! I've never seen anything like it, and you've kept it in such perfect condition," I said.
"It was my dear husband's favorite room," she said and sighed.
I found myself a book of poetry to read. The poems were funny and short, reminding me greatly of something that Lizzy would write if she ever had a mind to. We sat for several hours, reading. Every day for a week we all sat together and read. I had never enjoyed reading before, being limited to the books that we owned which were all rather serious, but discovered that reading was not nearly as dull as I had thought it would be. The week passed uneventfully. I wrote to my sisters every day and they wrote back almost as often. Mr. Wolcott and I became good friends and often walked among the grounds together. I believed that I was falling in love with him.
One warm evening the Lady and I were alone in her sitting room, drinking tea. Lady Diamonde leaned over to me suddenly and said, "Dearest Kitty. I want to show you something that I have not shown anyone in the world. No one else has seen it except for dear Barty. I want to show you Astria."
"What?" I gasped.
"The diamond. I want to show you the Astria Diamond."
"But why me? Surely your son should see it as well."
The Lady shook her head. "My son thinks only of wealth. If I showed it to him he may try to take it. Please let me show you, for I know I can trust you with the secret and you," her eyes glistened with tears, "are like the little daughter that I lost long, long ago."
I was silent for a few moments before answering, "I would be honored to see it."
Lady Diamonde smiled at me and rose from her seat. She walked over to a large portrait of her husband ,when he had been young, and pressed on a part of the wall. The picture swung out to reveal the metal door of a safe with countless locks on it. Lady Diamonde pulled from a pocket hidden well within the folds of her dress, a key chain with at least ten keys dangling from it. She unlocked each lock and combination, opening the door only to reveal another and to open it, and yet two more doors until she reached the inside of the safe and pulled out a box with one last lock on it.
"Promise me, Kitty, that you will never tell anyone that you have seen the diamond or where it is. Promise me," she begged.
"I promise," I said.
Then, taking out a small golden key from a necklace that hung around her neck, Lady Diamonde undid the last lock and opened the box to reveal the Astria Diamond. It was large, fashioned in a brilliant cut, colorless and flawless. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen and shone like a star as the Lady turned it around in the light.
"This was what inspired my husband to go into the Diamond business. He saw this and then began to invest in Diamond Mines all over the world. Did you never wonder how we were so very rich? It was all his doing. I am very proud of him." Lady Diamonde put the Astria back in its box to rest on the red velvet and locked all of the doors, placing the keys back in her pocket. "Astria - it means 'Star like' or 'Of the stars'. Isn't it lovely?"
I could only smile weakly and nod. I didn't know what to say and so went to bed.
The next day Mr. Wolcott and I took our walk around the gardens. We climbed up on top of the wall and surveyed the hills together. Suddenly, Mr. Wolcott took both of my hands in his and held them for a long time. He looked deeply into my eyes and said, "Katherine, you are beautiful." No one had ever said that to me before in such a way. "Katherine," he continued, "I care, I lo-" He was cut off sharply by the crash of thunder and lightning. Rain poured down on us and we scurried down the wall and ran back to the house, completely soaked by the time we reached it.
I went back to my room to change. John, (I had taken to calling Mr. Wolcott 'John' in my mind), and Mr. Diamonde would be leaving for town that evening. I thought of what he had almost said and wondered why he hadn't finished saying it. I reconciled myself by thinking that he would soon, very soon, profess his undying love for me. I smiled to myself and opened my journal, deciding to write in it about the diamond.
...Lady Diamonde showed me the diamond yesterday evening. I found myself having very many wicked thoughts after seeing it. It would be so easy to steal her keys and open the safe! The Astria Diamond is beautiful and priceless. I wonder what it would be like to be extremely rich and own a precious jewel like she does. I would certainly never have to worry about my dowry and would certainly make a good match. (I sighed while writing those words). And yet, I don't think I would be happy. Lady Diamonde, for all of her riches, does not seem to be a very happy person. She is so lonely, rather like I was when Lydia left me behind. I must be a very wicked girl for I cannot stop thinking of the diamond shining in the light!
I fell asleep after finishing that sentence, before I had time to even close the book and blow out the candle. I was exhausted and weary from the day and so slept soundly for the whole night. I was awakened by a piercing scream. It was Lady Diamonde.
Rushing out of bed I threw my robe on and rushed from the room. I found the Lady in her sitting room, sobbing in front of the portrait of her husband, which was swung open to reveal every single safe door unlocked, the box open and the Astria diamond gone!
The room spun around five times before I was able to walk over to Lady Diamonde and put my arm around her. "It's gone," she sobbed, "It's gone."
"I can't believe it!" I cried. "Could you have perhaps misplaced it?" I heard laughter and turned around to see Mr. Bents, his wife, Miss Diamonde and Tina all standing in the room. Mrs. Bents and Tina were looking at Lady Diamonde with alarm but Mr. Bents was laughing at me.
"'Could you have misplaced it?'" He taunted in a high squeaky voice before laughing cruelly at me again. "Don't you understand, you silly girl," he cried, still laughing almost hysterically. "The diamond has been stolen!"
"The diamond has been stolen," the lady cried, "Oh who would do such a thing?" I patted her comfortingly and led her to her room, assisted by Tina. "Send for my son and Mr. Wolcott. Tell them to call for a detective. We must find the culprit!" she said before collapsing down in her bed and falling asleep.
Tina and I returned to the sitting room where the others were still assembled. "Her Ladyship wishes for her son and Mr. Wolcott to be sent for and asks that we find a detective to begin working on the case at once," I explained.
Miss Diamonde sniffed, "Of course. Bents, carry out your orders immediately."
"M-must I, Madame?" he stammered. Miss Diamonde's eyes blazed.
"Why should you have any objection to your orders?" she said sternly.
"B-but, a detective! Is that r-really necessary?" he asked.
"Necessary!" Miss Diamonde practically screamed. "You must send the express this very moment!" In one swift movement Miss Diamonde had taken charge of the house and seemed to be enjoying it. Mr. Bents scurried out of the room, Miss Diamonde following him. Mrs. Bents, Tina and I all stayed together for a few moments, looking at each other as if trying to decide if one of us had done it. My eyes filled with tears after a few moments and I tried to hold them back. I was terrified and wondered why I had ever decided to come to this awful place.
That night I had terrifying dreams about the diamond being stolen. I awoke to find that it was raining. I heard something going on outside my door and so threw on my robe and peeped out of the door. I could see John standing in front of someone. I breathed a sigh of relief. Now that they had come everything would be all right. I was just reaching for the bell to call for Tina when I heard John talking.
"How are you? I came back as soon as I heard."
"F-fine, Mr. Wolcott." It was Tina.
"Tina, won't you call me by my first name?" My eyes grew wide and I almost gasped. Tina tried to walk past him but he took hold of her arm and then both of her hands. "Tina, you are beautiful," he said in the same way he had said it to me. "I care, I love and --" whatever it was that he was going to say was cut short by a punch in the mouth.
Tina may have been small and pretty but she must have been strong, for the loathsome Mr. Wolcott let go of her to dance around the hall holding his hands up to his bleeding lip. Tina rushed past him and ran into my bedroom, knocking me over. I jumped up quickly, shutting and locking the door behind us.
"Oh Tina," I said and we clasped each other into an embrace, crying on each other's shoulders. "I actually fancied myself in love with the man (if he deserves to be called that)!"
"Oh Miss! I will surely lose my place now! What have I done?" Tina gasped, coming down with the hiccups.
"I am a witness, you did nothing wrong. Mr. Wolcott deserved it."
"But if I am turned out then what will my family do? I was the only one who was able to find work and there are thirteen of us children. We will starve if I lose my place!" Tina cried.
"I do not know what to do." We both stood silently for a moment and then I noticed that I was still wearing my nightgown. "I should get dressed as soon as possible, Tina will you help me?"
It took a longer time than usual for me to finish dressing since we both had to treat our puffy red eyes and runny noses. I was at last done. Tina crept out of the room and I soon followed, making my way to the breakfast room. It was empty and I ate alone. Not knowing what else to do after breakfast, I went down to the library and picked out a number of books to take back up into my room and read there, since I did not feel much like socializing that morning.
I was in a very similar situation to the one I had been in on that day when I had bought too many things for my own good and was staggering down the street with too many packages. I made it up some stairs and turned down the hall that led to my room, barely balancing the novels in my arms. Just then I heard running footsteps coming straight towards me and, before I had time to see who it was, Mr, Wolcott collided with me. Up went the books into the air and I toppled over. A hot cup of coffee poured, or rather splattered, onto my dress. Mr. Wolcott stood over me in surprise.
"Miss Bennet, what on earth were you doing in the middle of the hall?" he cried.
"What was I doing in the middle of the hall?" I repeated.
"Why were you hiding behind all those books? I couldn't tell you were there!" he said in an exasperated tone of voice.
"Hiding? Wasn't there?"
"Katherine, I am in a terrible rush, and so would you kindly let me pass?"
I blinked. "Let you pass?"
"Stop repeating every word that I say, Katherine!" He was angry and I scrambled to my feet.
"Don't call me Katherine!" I yelled at him. "You were in a terrible rush? You bumped into me!" Mr Wolcott looked offended.
"You, Madame, are being quite rude. I am sure Tina can help you clean up this mess. Good morning." And with that he picked up his empty cup and continued rushing down the hall.
I stared after him with an open mouth. I quite suddenly remembered the strange man I had met on the street and couldn't help but compare the stranger's conduct with Mr. Wolcott's. My mysterious young man had behaved like a gentleman should and even gave me enough money to buy two bonnets to replace the one that had been crushed. Mr. Wolcott, on the other hand, had left me with coffee all over my dress and books scattered across the floor. Why did I ever think Mr. Wolcott attractive?
After cleaning myself up and putting on a new dress, I wandered about the house for a few hours before again running into Mr. Wolcott. He tried to apologize for his behaviour but I coldly turned my head away from him.
"Katherine, let me explain! I was in a terrible rush, you see...." he said pitifully.
"There is nothing to explain," I said, quite coldly. "And Mr. Wolcott, if I ever witness another scene like the one I saw this morning between you and a certain young maid here you can be sure that I will inform her ladyship of your most un-gentleman-like behaviour." I sniffed. "And don't call me Katherine." With that, I swished from the room, feeling very much like another Lizzy, and feeling good but not much like myself.
At that moment a great 'clang, clang, clang' was heard echoing throughout the house. I remembered that sound - someone was using the knocker at the front door. Mr. Diamonde, Mr. Wolcott, Mr. Bents and I all rushed to the two great doors. Mr. Bents opened them with a flourish to reveal a short, soaking wet man in a very odd looking overcoat with a moustache much too large for his face. He looked up at us from a rather misshapen hat and said,
"I am Inspector Quigley. You were searching for a detective, I believe?" he said and then added rather pompously, "Well, I am your man."
We all stood for a few moments gaping at the queer little man. Then Mr. Bents invited him into the house and Mr. Wolcott shook the Inspector's hand, asking what had taken him so long to get there. A small, skinny boy, whom the Inspector called Sam, also accompanied Inspector Quigley. We all made our way up to the Lady's sitting room. Inspector Quigley looked around himself with satisfaction, nodding. He flipped out a small notebook and passed it to the boy, Sam.
"Take this down, Sam," he whispered and then turned to Mr. Diamonde. "This is the scene of the crime, I assume?"
"Yes." Mr. Diamonde showed him the safe behind the portrait and the empty box. "The diamond was here and now is gone. It has been stolen."
The Inspector raised his bushy eyebrows. "I know," he said. "And now, pardon me for the inconvenience but I would like to ask every single person in this house to come here for an interrogation."
"Mr. Bents," Mr. Diamonde said with a wave of his hand. Mr. Bents coughed nervously but left the room, soon returning with Lady Diamonde, who appeared very tired and unhappy, Mrs. Bents, who seemed nervous, a frightened Tina, a skinny little girl (the scullery maid) and an enormous man whom I had never met before. He was looking extremely vexed.
"Now," directed inspector Quigley, "Lady Diamonde, would you be so kind as to tell me the particulars?"
"Of course. The last I saw of the diamond was at 10 o'clock p.m. two evenings ago."
"That would be the evening of February the second," Inspector Quigley put in.
"Yes. When I woke up the next morning (yesterday) at eight o'clock a.m. the Astria Diamond was gone!" The inspector nodded. Sam scribbled furiously in his notebook.
"Thank you, Lady Diamonde." He coughed. "Mr. Diamonde, would you take a seat at the desk, please?" Mr. Diamonde sat down. "Where were you from 10 o'clock p.m. on February the 2nd until eight o'clock a.m. February the 3rd?"
"I was at my house in London!" Mr. Diamonde said indignantly.
"Um hum. Can you prove it?" the Inspector asked. More scribbling in the notebook.
"This is an outrage! You don't actually think that I would steal from my own mother!" Mr. Diamonde protested very loudly.
"So you refuse to answer the question."
"Of course I can prove it. Ask Mr. Wolcott," Mr. Diamonde said, crossing his arms.
"All in good time. Was anyone else there?" Inspector Quigley asked.
"The servants. You may ask any of them."
"Umhum. Well, with only Mr. Wolcott and your servants as proof, Sam will write you down as 'likely suspect number 1'," the Inspector said. "You, being spoiled, pompous and entirely too fond of your own pocket book could have spied on your own mother, found where she hides the diamond and stolen it quite easily, never thinking that she would suspect you, her beloved son," the Inspector paused dramatically. "Next," he said quite suddenly. "Mr. Wolcott, take your seat. Mr. Diamonde claims that you were with him on the night of February 2nd. Is this true?"
"It is absolutely true," Mr. Wolcott said calmly.
"Umhum. When did you return to Diamonde Hall?" Inspector Quigley asked.
"Can you prove it?"
"Yes, ask anyone here."
"Umhum. I will question you later and for now write you down as 'likely suspect number 2'." Mr. Wolcott looked surprised. "You see, if you are the culprit everything would be quite easy. You, being Lady Diamonde's son's best friend would think that you would not be under suspicion. But no - you could have drugged the lady and so she fell asleep earlier than usual. You crept into the sitting room, undid the locks and stole the diamond, stuffing it inside a large bun that you had brought along just in case anyone saw you! Quite as easy as eating pie." Another dramatic pause. "Next... Mr. Bents, take the seat."
"I don't see the reason for this questioning," Mr. Bents said nervously. "I didn't steal the diamond."
"That," the Inspector said importantly, "Is for me to decide." He cleared his throat. "How long have you been working for the Diamondes?"
"For fifteen years."
"And did you know about the diamond before her Ladyship announced that it was missing?"
"All of England knows of the famous Astria Diamond!" Mr. Bents shouted. "I don't know what you suspect of me!"
"So you knew of the diamond."
"Of course I knew of it," Mr. Bents spat. The Inspector looked thoughtful for a moment and then his eyes got a crafty look in them.
"Have you ever been in debt, Mr. Bents?"
Mr. Bents turned pale. "I - I-" he gasped.
"Have you ever gambled, Mr. Bents?" The Butler muttered something unintelligible. "Umhum. Where were you on the night of the burglary?"
"I - I - I would rather not say, I-inspec-ctor Qu-qu-quigley." The poor man was shaking!
"And why not, Mr. Bents?"
"I was, I was at, at..." Mr. Bents stood up and whispered something into Inspector Quigley's ear, who in turn whispered it into Sam's ear and he wrote it down. Inspector Quigley was looking rather flustered and indignant.
"Can anyone vouch that you were at this...... club?" Inspector Quigley finished lamely.
"Yes, you can ask anyone there." Mr. Bents was still visibly pale.
"I shall look into this. Next." Miss Diamonde took the seat and then, after her, Tina and the scullery maid. Everyone was written down as a 'likely suspect' -- Miss Diamonde because she actually admitted to disliking Lady Diamonde, Tina because she was poor, the scullery maid because she was desperately poor. The next to be questioned was the cook, who protested loudly in a thick French accent, saying that his wife and 7 children could vouch for where he was on the night of February 2nd. And, if the Inspector would be so kind as to stop peppering him with ridiculous questions, he would like to get back to the kitchen where, he was certain, his chickens were burnt to a crisp.
"And if zey are," the cook threatened, "You will be ze one to eat zem." With that the cook left the room and Inspector Quigley chuckled to himself.
"Is there anyone left to question?" he asked. I stood up timidly.
"Oh Kitty! There is no need to question her for I am sure-" Lady Diamonde began, but the Inspector cut her off.
"Madame, everyone is to be questioned."
I obediently sat down in the chair and watched nervously as Inspector Quigley started pacing around me. Sam's hand was poised over the notepad, ready for the moment when the inspector would begin speaking.
"Where were you on the night that the Astria Diamond was stolen, Miss Bennet?" he asked.
"In my bedroom, asleep." I answered, my voice sounding a little shaky.
"Can you prove this?"
"Umhum. I see," said the Inspector and he started pacing again. "Did you know about the diamond before the time that it was stolen?"
"You and the Lady are quite close," he said, more as a statement than as a question.
"Did she ever show you the diamond?" I hesitated. If I said yes than I would immediately be the one most suspected and would also make Mr. Diamonde angry with his mother for not showing him where the diamond was, and yet showing me. Still, I could not tell a lie.
"Y-yes," I answered.
"She showed you the diamond!" Inspector Quigley and Mr. Diamonde said at the same time. Their eyes were wide with astonishment. "Did you see where it was hidden?"
"I - yes!" I cried, on the verge of tears. Mr. Diamonde glared at me then at his mother.
"Did you steal the diamond, Miss Bennet?" Inspector Quigley asked. The room was absolutely silent, everyone waiting for my answer.
"No!" I cried, feeling deeply wounded.
"Sam, put her down as the culprit." I gasped and the Inspector continued, "You see, Miss Bennet, everyone else is accounted for. No one else knew the exact location of the diamond. I will, of course, have to look into this further before I can come to my final conclusion. For the present, I am putting you all under house arrest."
Everyone was shocked when Inspector Quigley announced that he was placing everyone under house arrest, but, nothing could prepare them for what he said next. "Well, now that the interrogation is over, I will search the rooms."
"You cannot be serious!" Mr. Diamonde cried. "Why - you would be invading our privacy!"
"Mr. Diamonde," the inspector said calmly. "I have come here to find the culprit and that is what I intend to do. I must search the rooms for evidence."
"But sir, it really is highly improper," Miss Diamonde sniffed. To answer her, Inspector Quigley walked out of the room and began his search. Tina and I followed him. Everyone else left for their own rooms, Mr. Diamonde still protesting loudly as we exited.
Inspector Quigley began searching in the cellar. He felt every single potato all over, explaining in that pompous way of his, that the culprit could have hidden the diamond in one of the potatoes.
"We are dealing with a highly intelligent and crafty criminal mind, but I do not intend to be deceived," he said, threw a glare at me and then pressed down so hard on the little potato he was holding that it was squashed.
The next room he searched was the kitchen. As we approached the kitchen door we heard loud singing coming from behind it, a strong male voice singing flat. The Inspector, Sam and I were in agony, but Tina did not seem to mind.
"You get used to it after a while," she said in answer to my strange look as we opened the door and walked inside. The cook was still singing when we entered and did not even look up from the pot of stew he was stirring. "Louie, the Inspector is here to search the kitchen for evidence," Tina said in a frightened voice. I understood why when the cook erupted with loud shouts.
"Search ze kitchen!? Search my kitchen!? Zis iz an outrage!" It was as though a volcano had exploded. Louie did not stop screaming for the whole half-hour we were there. I did not even know that a voice could be so loud.
After the kitchen we trooped upstairs, the Inspector searching high and low for any scrap of evidence. We had a little trouble when we came to Mr. Diamonde's room for he had bolted the door shut, as had Miss Diamonde. However, Inspector Quigley seemed to have some experience in this sort of thing, and lowered himself into the room from the balcony above. Mr. and Miss Diamonde were, of course, quite furious but the Inspector silenced them with a wave of his detective papers, saying that he had permission to do whatever he must to find the criminal (as long as it did not break the law). Miss Diamonde protested that surely coming into another person's room was not lawful, but Inspector Quigley silenced her with a look.
At length we reached my own room. Inspector Quigley took one look around the room, walked straight over to my bed and picked up my open diary. He read out loud the sentences that I had written about the Astria Diamond, snapped the book shut and glared at me for one full minute before saying,
"Is this yours, Miss Bennet?"
"Yes," I peeped.
"Um hmm. I see," he said and then continued on his search.
Mr. Wolcott's and Mr. Bents' rooms were also locked but not bolted and we had no other trouble. Inspector Quigley did not find any other evidence. The last room we searched was the library. It, being one of the largest rooms in the house and the most difficult to search, was saved for the last.
"This," the Inspector said, "may take all night." He took a deep breath before continuing. "And I will need extra help. Tina, Miss Katherine, search through every single book in the room for any sort of paper or message. And don't try to hide anything, I will be watching."
Tina and I were speechless and so began searching through the books, one at a time. We searched by opening them up, shaking them and flipping through the pages. For the first hour it was interesting because I had an entirely new list of books to read. After five hours, however, it became very tedious. The lightest of books felt as heavy as lead and each page seemed endlessly long. We were only through a quarter of the books when Tina openly rebelled.
"I can't stand it!" she cried, throwing down the book she was looking through.
"Tina, we must look through all of the books," the Inspector said, raising his eyebrows at her. I hoped that Tina would settle down or else have her name put down next to mine as 'most likely suspect'.
"Yes, sir," she replied as meekly as possible and picked up the book she had thrown onto the floor.
Just then my hand reached an incredibly large book. It seemed very old and I had a hard time picking it up. I tried to open the cover but it wouldn't budge. I tried opening the next page and without any success. The Inspector noticed the trouble I was having and started walking towards me. I shook the book and then pried at it with my fingers near the middle. The book suddenly popped open and I fell over backwards. Out of the book flew a very shiny object that hit the floor with a thunk and rolled around like a top until finally stopping. I gasped. It was the diamond!
All eyes in the room were on me. I felt my hands start to shake and Tina came over to help me over to a chair. Inspector Quigley was no longer looking at me, he was examining the diamond, turning it around in his hands.
"Look at this!" he cried quite suddenly and we all rushed over.
"What is it?" Sam asked.
"A scratch!" The inspector was very excited.
"What does that mean?" I asked.
"Why that means that this is not the Astria Diamond."
"It isn't?" Tina said.
"No, of course not. True diamonds never scratch so easily so this must be a fake." Inspector Quigley's mustache quivered.
"I don't believe it! But it looks exactly like the diamond the Lady showed me," I said.
"Indeed? This is all most peculiar. Take this down, Sam. I shall have to think this all over. In the meantime, I think I shall send an express to Mr Clayton and ask him to examine this diamond and see if my theory is correct. Most peculiar..."
Mr. Clayton arrived the very next morning along with Sam, who had been sent to fetch him. Mr. Clayton carried himself with an air of dignity that I found hard to comprehend. His nose was held up a good two inches higher than it should have been and it was rather long and large nose. He was the tallest man I had ever seen and the skinniest. If you compared him with the butler then Mr. Bents looked plump.
Along with Mr. Clayton and Sam came a large bag full of a variety of microscopes and lenses. He had little hammers and all sorts of other things. After thoroughly examining the diamond that I had found in the book, Mr. Clayton announced that Inspector Quigley's theory was absolutely correct: this diamond was not the real thing. In fact, it was not even a diamond but a very fancy cut piece of glass! We were all astonished and Lady Diamonde had to leave the room lest she faint again.
Inspector Quigley was very excited. He fairly hopped about the room, spouting different theories about how the culprit stole the diamond. Poor Sam almost broke his arm trying to keep up with the Inspector. The worst part of that wretched day was when I had to endure another one of Inspector Quigley's interrogations. He said, in front of the entire household, (except for Lady Diamonde since she was in her room), that I had stolen the diamond and then had this replica made and found it on purpose, hoping that I would no longer be suspected!
I don't believe that I have ever been more humiliated in all of my life. I cried for hours. No one was able to console me that evening and, although my door was knocked on several times, I did not let anyone in. I was feeling very much like the Kitty who loved to wallow in self-pity but, of course, then I didn't care. It was all too much, first the diamond being stolen, then I was blamed for it and now I was suspected of such a horrible deed! It was too much for me; I had to let it all go.
The next morning I woke up feeling more refreshed than I had since the first day I had arrived. I did not do much that morning and tried to stay out of everyone's way, especially Inspector Quigley's. Later on in the afternoon I went out of my room to see if I could remember where a lovely little sitting room was. The room was a sort of sitting room-library with a few shelves of good books on them. It was raining again and I felt like curling up with a good book.
I found the sitting room without much difficulty, having gone over the entire house with the Inspector only a few days before. But when I opened the door, to my surprise, Sam already occupied the room. I was about to leave when I saw that he hadn't even noticed I had entered. The boy was sitting on the floor, holding a piece of paper in his lap and a piece of charcoal in his hand. With his rather odd pencil he was drawing a picture of a little puppy.
"That is very good!" I said and Sam jumped up, dropping his piece of paper.
"It's nothing," he said quickly and looked around for his drawing. I walked over and picked it up for him.
"How old are you, Sam?" I asked.
"Eleven," he answered, his head hung low.
"Your drawings are very good, as I said before, especially for someone your age. Can you draw anything else?"
"You don't need to call me ''Ma'am'. I am Kitty and you are Sam." I do not know why I allowed him to call me by my first name. Perhaps it was because we were both lonely. I had Tina , of course, and Sam had the Inspector but we were still lonely. "Would you show me what else you can draw?"
"I don't have any other paper."
"Oh I have, lots!" I cried. "Would you like to have some of it?"
He gave me a strange look. "Is this some sort of trick?"
"Why would it be a trick?" I said, appalled.
"You may be trying to get information out of me," the boy answered matter-of-factly. This time I was the one to hang my head low.
"Well, I suppose if you don't want to show me your drawings I won't disturb you," I said and started out the door to go back to my room and cry some more. Even the boy, Sam, suspected me!
"What was it you said about paper?" he asked suddenly and I turned and smiled.
"I'll be back in half a minute," I said and hurried to my room to get the paper.
We sat for hours. Sam drew beautiful sketches and I watched. I had always loved art, and this funny boy had talent. We talked some; he was able to tell me some funny adventures that he and the Inspector had gone through. He never did say a thing about the present case, however, and I was glad he didn't.
"When did you begin working with Inspector Quigley?" I asked and I watched Sam begin to draw a falcon.
"Oh, I've worked with him always."
"Yes, he is my Father. He started to train me when I was still very little," Sam explained.
"Sam Quigley?" I asked.
"Um hmm," he said, sounding exactly like his father.
"But you don't look like him," I said doubtfully, looking at the skinny boy with dark red hair.
"No, I look like Mama."
Just then Tina entered the room. She stared at us for a few moments since we must have made a funny picture sitting on the floor with drawings spread all around us. She stood awkwardly, not knowing exactly what to do until I asked her to join us. We were breaking all of society's rules by talking together as the best of friends but I suppose adventure does that to people. The entrance of Inspector Quigley spoiled our lovely evening.
"Ah, there you are, Sam. I have been looking everywhere for you. Come along. I have some theories to discuss with you," he said. Sam quickly gathered up his drawings and hurried after his father.
Tina and I sat together for a few moments more until the bell rang for Tina and I went to my room. I went to bed early that night, there being nothing else to do. It was dreadfully tiresome being under house arrest. For a long time I couldn't sleep and when I finally dosed off I had dreams. Everyone was pointing their fingers at me saying: "You did it, you did it!" They, whoever they were, tied me to a chair and left me alone. All of the sudden, out of the shadows, someone was coming to rescue me. I woke up before I could see who it was.
When I woke up from my dream I felt rather vexed, since I had wanted to see who would save me, and I wondered angrily why it was dim in my room. Then I realized that it was still dark and the sounds that had awoken me were the wind howling fiercely outside and the faint clip clop of horse's footsteps. I got up from bed and walked over to the window, looking out over the garden at the tall gate near the back of the estate.
I was about to go back to bed when I thought I saw a shadowy figure come into the garden from the gate, and then another figure and another; three strange figures standing in the shadows of Lady Diamonde's garden. For what purpose? I rubbed my eyes to make sure I was seeing properly. They were still there, and not only that, but another figure was coming out to meet them, coming out of the house.
The figure was of a man, very tall and skinny, although not quite as skinny as Mr. Clayton. Suddenly the clouds parted a little and the moonlight shone on the man's face. Although he was far away from me I knew that it was Mr. Bents. The three other figures came out of the shadows to meet him. I decided that I had seen enough. I was going to find out what Mr. Bents was up to at such a time of night! I put on my robe and then hurried down the hall. I stopped when I saw Inspector Quigley.
"Miss Bennet, what on earth are you doing out of bed at such a time of night?" he asked sternly.
"I think the question should be: why is Mr. Bents out of bed at such I time of night!" I said. The Inspector gave me a queer look.
"Look for yourself, out of this window," I said and pointed. The figures were much closer from this viewpoint. We saw Mr. Bents take a bag from his coat, not large but also not too small. Inspector Quigley and I said it at the same time.
"That may be the diamond!"
Inspector Quigley and I collided into each other in our haste to get outside. For a second I saw stars and then hurried after the Inspector who was already out of the back door. He pulled a small revolver from his coat.
"Stop right there!" he cried in a terrible voice, seeming to swell up two times his original size.
The unfortunate Mr. Bents dropped the bag and shook with fear. His three companions took a step back but did not try to escape. They wore heavy cloaks that hid their faces well and did not look as if they were here to pay a friendly call. I shivered, clothed in only my nightgown and robe. It was again very dark and cloudy.
"What are you doing there," Inspector Quigley demanded rather than asked. Mr. Bents could do nothing but stammer and, although he was a foot taller than the Inspector, he seemed very small indeed. One of the three strange men answered for him.
"Bents 'ere, 'e owes us money, 'e does. And we're 'ere to get from 'im, see?" His voice was deep, gravelly and unpleasant.
"Lot o' money," another man said.
"That," said the Inspector, "is none of my concern, but the contents of that bag is my business." He picked up the bag that was still lying on the ground. I held my breath as he slowly opened up the strings and pulled out... a rather old pocket watch. Then he removed several necklaces, rings and, last of all, coins. We looked at each other. The diamond wasn't there.
"Looky 'ere, Bents! You lose all tha' money, and now ye tryin' to pay us back wi' this filth?" the man with the deep, unpleasant voice cried. The other two men swore loudly. I was disgusted.
"Gentlemen! Control yourselves!" Inspector Quigley cried. The three men laughed loudly at the use of the word 'gentlemen'.
"It's all that I have, all I can give you! I had to ask my wife to give up her jewellery to try and pay you back. Please!" Mr. Bents sobbed. The three men did not look forgiving.
"Here," The Inspector shoved some bills into the three gamblers' hands. "Now go and never come back or I shall have to turn you in. In fact, I should turn you in now!"
The three men left immediately, staring in wonder at the money in their hands. It was obviously more than enough money to pay off Mr. Bents' debts. The sound of galloping hooves was heard and then they were gone. Mr. Bents sagged.
"I hope that you have learned your lesson, Mr. Bents. Go; take your jewellery back to your wife. If I were you, I'd not be foolish enough to ever gamble again," Inspector Quigley said and handed him back his bag of valuables.
"Thank you, Inspector, thank you," Mr. Bents said and then hurried back into his quarter of the house.
We stood for a few moments in silence.
"Were you actually going to use that?" I asked, pointing at the revolver.
"This? Oh no, it wasn't even loaded," The inspector said. "Thank you, Miss Kitty, for showing me what was going on. I wouldn't have caught them had you not warned me." I smiled and then went back into the house and to bed. I suspected that perhaps I was under a little less suspicion now.
The next morning I got up early and ate my breakfast alone. None of the Diamondes nor Mr. Wolcott were early risers. I was glad for the solitude and ate quickly, afterwards hoping to go down to the kitchen. Mr. Diamonde, however, prevented me from doing so. He brought a message from his mother; Lady Diamonde wished to see me.
I walked nervously up the stairs to her room. I had not talked to Lady Diamonde since the day after the accident. True, the Lady had been feeling very ill and had not once left her room, but considering that I was a guest under her roof I should have been much more attentive to her. When I entered the room Lady Diamonde was lying in bed, looking at me with hurt in her eyes.
"I am so sorry about all of this, Kitty," she said. "I wanted to it to be a nice, relaxing trip for you and now you are under suspicion."
"It's all right," I said, coming over to the bedside. "At least the trip has been very interesting so far."
Lady Diamonde laughed. "That it has! I am also sorry that I have not been well enough to spend more time with you. You may go into any part of the house that you wish, I don't mind. I think I'll be staying mostly in my room until this whole thing is over."
"May I come and visit once in a while?" I asked, taking her hand affectionately.
"Yes, that would be lovely," she answered and then I left the room.
I made my way down to the kitchen, hoping to enjoy some time with Tina and Sam. When I neared the kitchen doors a great noise reached my ears. I couldn't understand what it was until I cautiously opened the door. Louie, the cook, was again standing over a boiling pot of soup, stirring vigorously. Standing next to him was Mr. Bents with one arm around Louie's shoulder and the other helping to stir the soup. Mr. Bents was singing tenor and Louie, bass. Nearby, Mrs. Bents was scrubbing the table as Tina washed the floor, Tina singing sweet soprano and Mrs. Bents a lovely alto. Last of all, Sam was sitting in a chair next to the apple barrel, an apple in each hand, singing between mouthfuls. It was the most beautiful singing I had ever heard, I almost cried.
"Kitty!" Tina cried out fondly, "Come and join us!"
"Oh, I don't sing," I said.
"Have you ever tried?" Louie asked.
"Well then! You don't know if you can sing unless you try," Mrs. Bents said. She looked happier than I had ever seen her and about her neck hung a string of pearls.
So I took the apple barrel away from Sam and started to peel apples for an apple pie. Tina had said it helps to be doing something useful while singing. I discovered that I have a soprano voice that isn't quite as high as Tina's but not as low as Mrs. Bents'. Mr. Bents declared me a second soprano and we sang until dark, eating whenever we got hungry. I have never had a better time in my life.
As we sang I made a great discovery; that whether a man is a King or a Servant he is still a person. He still feels and thinks and has a soul. There was no real difference between Tina and I, she was just of a lower class and I of a higher one. If the thief had never stolen the diamond and Inspector Quigley never placed us under house arrest I never would have discovered this. For the first time in my life I had friends and it did not matter that they were servants and I the daughter of a gentleman. Adventure truly does queer things to people.
By the time Inspector Quigley made it down to the kitchen to discover what was going on we were all hoarse and singing the songs much too low. He stared at us in astonishment for a few moments, especially at Mr. Bents who was quite jolly, and then cried,
"What's all this?" We burst out laughing and the Inspector looked quite offended. "Why did you not tell me earlier that you were singing?" This only made us laugh some more and finally I was able to gasp,
"Would you like a piece of apple pie?" The Inspector hesitated for a moment and then took it, declaring us all to be excellent cooks.
It was a beautiful morning, so bright and warm. The birds were singing and a warm wind was blowing. Everyone was in a cheerful mood, even grouchy Miss Diamonde, who could be heard making gurgling noises that I assume were her attempts at singing as she made her rounds inspecting the house. Sam was whistling around the house until told sharply by Mr. Diamonde to stop; he stopped but taught me how to do it. I was feebly whistling when I rounded a bend in the wall just in time to see a humming Tina, carrying a platter with letters piled up high, trip on a fold in the rug and crash to the ground.
"Oh!" she cried and began gathering up the letters that were littered across the hall. I got down on my knees to help her. In a few moments we were done but Tina was still distressed. All of the letters seemed to be back in place but Tina was still searching around frantically.
"What is it that you've lost?"
"An express. It was most important for it was placed on the top of the pile and on it was written 'URGENT' in great bold letters," Tina said.
"Oh dear," I said and quickly looked around.
"I can't find it anywhere!"
Suddenly I had a revelation. "It must be under our skirts! Let us both stand up and we will surely find it." We stood up quickly and I discovered it peeping out from underneath my skirt. "Here it is!" I cried out triumphantly and in my haste to pick it up I did not notice that I was standing on the letter. It tore a little.
"Oh no!" Tina was terrified.
"What on earth is going on?" the Inspector's voice boomed. We turned around. The inspector really had a knack for showing up whenever something odd was going on.
"I ripped an urgent express note."
"Oh, whoever wanted the express sent is going to be most displeased!" Tina wailed.
"Perhaps it can be mended," the Inspector said, taking the note from Tina's hands. "I say, who wanted it delivered?"
"I don't know. It was on the top of the pile when I went there this morning," Tina answered.
"Um hmm..." The Inspector turned it over carefully and then began to open it
"What are you doing?" Tina screeched.
"Inspector Quigley, that is a private express!" I cried.
"Precisely." He continued to open the thick seal.
"Really Inspector, it is quite improper - I tried to continue but was interrupted.
"Madame, you are beginning to sound like Mr. Diamonde. Wasn't it you I heard whistling down the halls this morning or was I mistaken?" I did not have anything to say to that.
With a final tug the letter was opened. Inspector Quigley obviously enjoyed suspense for he unfolded the express very slowly. When it was finally open everyone stared at the express - a blank sheet of paper.
"It does not make sense," I said and the Inspector snorted.
"Why would anyone send a blank express?" Tina asked.
"Perhaps they forgotten to write it down?" I said stupidly and received sour looks from the Inspector and Tina.
"No one ever forgets to write an express! No, there is a reason for everything. Someone wanted to make sure that this note was not read." Inspector Quigley began pacing the hall.
"But if we can't read it then why should anyone else be able to?" I asked.
"There must be a connection somewhere," the Inspector said and then suddenly bellowed, "Sam! Sam, come here, boy!" Tina and I covered our ears. Sam soon came running up. "It's about time you got here. Look, this is an urgent express note yet there is nothing written on it but the address. Where is the note?" Inspector Quigley asked his son.
"Is this a joke?"
"You aren't testing me?"
"Are you sure?"
"Sam!" we all cried in unison. He laughed.
"Why, there is only on explanation! The message must have been written with milk!" We stared at him in astonishment.
"My boy, where did you learn that?" The inspector said.
"You taught it to me," the boy answered.
"Oh," his father answered and then rushed into the nearest room with us close behind him.
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"Tina, light a fire."
"Just do as I say!" The Inspector said and Tina quickly lit a fire. "Not, if the message really was written in milk as the boy says there is only one way to read it." He held the note carefully over the fire.
"But it will burn!" Tina cried.
"It will, but the milk will burn faster and if I can manage to burn the milk and not the paper, then we'll be able to read the message." Slowly, brown words began to appear on the paper.
"Amazing!" I cried.
"Huh," Sam said. "This crook is not very creative or smart, leaving an express on a platter for anyone in the world to read if he wanted to."
"Inspector! It's about to burn!" Tina cried and he pulled the paper away, blowing on it to cool it down.
"Dear Napo.," the Inspector read.
"I will be sending you Barty's prize as soon as I can. Do you remember the appointed price? Don't forget. The letter is signed 'D'."
"Diamonde!" Tina said.
"Yes, but which Diamonde?" Sam said.
"And who is Napo?" Tina asked.
The Inspector shook his head and then asked, "Who is Barty?"
We sat in that study for hours, trying to solve the mystery. I knew the answer to something, and that it was all much easier than I thought, but I just couldn't remember what. "Barty's prize is obviously the diamond," I said. "So Barty must be someone who once owned the diamond. But Mr. Diamonde's name isn't Barty." Suddenly it hit me. "Barty was Lady Diamonde's husband! She'd spoken of him once, I remember."
"Well, that explains why it was called 'Barty's prize' in the letter," Tina sighed and rubbed her eyes. "I have to leave soon to help Cook make supper. He is feeling poorly today. One of his nephews was killed a few weeks ago and they only received word of it today." Inspector Quigley started.
"Where was he killed, Tina?"
"Killed in action in some war in another country."
"Would that country perhaps be France?" the Inspector asked.
"I haven't the slightest idea."
"Um hmm.... That's it!" the Inspector cried suddenly.
"What is?" I asked.
"Napo is Napoleon! It must be him since the letter is directed to France. Whoever is the criminal, he has planned to sell him the diamond! Why didn't I think of it before? It's all so simple."
"Why would the crook want to sell the diamond?" I asked. Everyone stared at me blankly.
"Miss Kitty, that diamond is worth millions of pounds," Inspector Quigley said gravely.
"Oh," I replied and wished that the floor would swallow me up or that I would disappear. Had it really been such a ridiculous question?
We puzzled over the message for several more hours before stumbling blindly into our rooms and to bed. Inspector Quigley had decided to make another search of the house the next day and promised to come and get us at six o'clock in the morning, so we must be ready. Early the next morning a bleary-eyed Tina shook me awake and we stumbled down to the sitting room we'd used the day before. Sam soon arrived but the Inspector did not come.
"Where is the Inspector?" we asked.
Sam shrugged. "Still sleeping," said he.
We waited for two hours, occasionally dozing, until at last the Inspector made his appearance. "Well," he cried, "Let us be off, it is getting late!" None of us had the strength to make any sort of sarcastic remark and so we followed obediently.
Again we started from the cellar and made our way up. Tina was soon called away to perform her duties as maid, but the three of us diligently continued our search. This time the Inspector came up with a new strategy. We were to press against all of the walls in search of hidden doors and passages. This search took longer than the first. We had only made it up one floor in four hours. I was ready to faint from lack of sleep and Sam was growling like a bear about food.
At length we came to a very interesting room. It was unused and everything was covered in what used to be white sheets. The clock on the mantelpiece stood still at the hour of 6:47. Dust and cobwebs were everywhere. The Inspector swept a glance around the room.
"This is too obvious a place for a clue to be," he said. "The criminal would want to put the clue in an obvious place so that it wouldn't be so noticeable."
"Are you sure, Father?" Sam asked, getting down onto the floor to feel the boards. "You search the walls, Kitty, I have a feeling about something."
I, like the good girl that I am, did exactly as I was told. I felt along the walls extremely carefully, feeling a sort of thrill. Sam was right, the air fairly crackled with excitement. The room was not large but also not small. After having gone over three walls the excitement died down. The Inspector was sitting in an armchair, yawning, occasionally checking his own pocket watch. I pressed the last part of the wall. It did not budge, not an inch.
I became filled with a blind rage. We were never, ever going to find any clue in this horrid mansion! With all of my might I struck against the wall with both fists. In a split second the wall came apart and I was falling forward into darkness. I did not even have time to scream, although I wanted to desperately. I did not fall far at all and landed on something soft. Darkness surrounded me but I could see. I looked up and saw the opening I had fallen through with light streaming in. I saw the outline of Sam's and the Inspector's faces.
"Kitty!" cried Sam, "you are the smartest girl I know!"
"Most peculiar," marveled Quigley. "So there really is a passage way!"
"Kitty, can you hear us? Are you all right?" Sam called.
"Fine," I called as I stood up. My shoulder hurt badly but I did not think it was broken. "Can you come down here?"
Sam lowered himself carefully out of the opening and then jumped down onto the soft thing I was on, which turned out to be a sack. "Hello," he said brightly. "Come down, Father, and close the door behind you!" I don't know how he did it, but the Inspector somehow swung out on the door, swung it back shut and dropped heavily to the ground, missing the sack.
"Well, let's go!" said Sam.
"Where?" I asked.
"Why, down the passage way, of course!"
"How? We don't have any light at all now that the door is shut," Inspector Quigley stated.
Even though it was dark I could almost see Sam's look of sheer shock. "A good detective is never found without the proper tools for a case, well, usually. I have a candle and flint." He expertly lighted the large candle and we blinked for a few moments, looking at our surroundings.
It was a large room with a door to our right. Father and son eagerly rushed over and tried to open it. The door was firmly locked. There was no way out of the horrible place. "Oh, what are we to do?" I cried, looking at Sam.
He gave a shrug of his shoulders. "I don't know, I don't know."
"Never fear!" Inspector Quigley cried. "I always was good at picking locks."
Sam and I looked at him in astonishment. "You, Father?" the boy asked skeptically. "You can pick locks?"
The Inspector did not appreciate our lack of faith and answered our questioning looks by taking out a lady's hairpin and unlocking the door's four locks. Sam and I were very impressed but we said nothing and followed the Inspector into the passage. There were many passages joining into the one we were following and many twists and turns. We went as straight as we possibly could and followed the passage for a long time.
"I believe we are definitely out of the house and somewhere in the Diamonde grounds," Inspector Quigley said.
"How long will it go on?" I asked just as we came to stairs.
"Oh, not much longer," said the Inspector as we bravely walked up the steps and reached a large stone directly above our heads. "I believe this is the opening," he said and we all pushed up and forward. The stone moved and with another mighty push came up and we were able to scramble up into the room above.
It was dim inside the room which was made completely out of stone. It seemed to be an entire building and in the middle of the room stood a great stone structure. Upon closer examination we saw that it was a stone coffin. On the top there was a statue laid with his hands over his chest and eyes closed. I had seen such graves only once before in a church. One of the great priests had been laid under it. I did not like the room at all.
"Do you know where we are?" Sam asked of no one in particular.
"I do. We are in Lord Diamonde's burial place," I said. "And that is where he was laid to rest. I saw this building from afar once. We are a great distance from Diamonde Hall. Oh let us leave, please!"
"Wait!" The Inspector said, "There must be a reason for the passage. We must find out what that reason is."
So we made our way slowly towards the stone statue and gazed upon the image of Lord Diamonde. Slowly, Sam reached out and touched the Diamonde crest ever so slightly. A part of the stone swung up, and there was the Astria diamond, right in front of our eyes.
Suddenly Inspector Quigley grabbed it and threw it on the ground. "What are you doing?" I shrieked, but he kept picking it up and smashing it on the stone floor again and again. Soon a large scratch appeared on the floor. Inspector Quigley picked up the diamond and whipped out a magnifying glass. He examined the diamond closely.
"This must be it," he said gravely. "Not a scratch, not a chip. It must be it."
"We have to make absolutely sure," Sam said as he put the stone crest back in its place.
"You are right, let's go back."
We went down the stairs and tried to pull the stone door shut. It was much harder to close than to open and we did it with great difficulty. At last, however, the task was done but it had taken up too much of our time. Sam's large candle sputtered and waved a few more times before going out completely and leaving us surrounded in absolute darkness.
The darkness was overwhelming. I began to shake. "What are we to do?" I cried.
"I don't know," Sam said. "I haven't got another candle."
"Well, perhaps this is for the best," the Inspector began. "After all, we haven't thought this out properly. Why don't we just go back into the tomb and cross the grounds to the house?"
"It's pouring rain," said Sam.
"Yes, we should all catch a dreadful cold. Besides, I'm supposed to be under house arrest," I said.
"Oh yes. Then we must go through the passage. But once we reach the room, if we do, how on earth will we climb up to the secret door? We don't have a rope - unless you carry one about with you all day, Sam."
"No, I forgot to bring it along."
"Here is what I suggest: Sam and I will go back to the house through the rain and you, Kitty, can go back through the passage. We'll meet you in that room and open the door for you," Inspector Quigley said.
"Have you gone mad? Do you expect me to find my way through pitch dark, all the way back to the house?" I cried.
"I think I remember the way back, perhaps," Sam said slowly.
"Good! Excellent! That solves all problems!" the Inspector cried. "Sam, you and Kitty will go back through the passage while I run to the house through the rain and open up the door for you."
"What if something happens to us? And it will take much longer for us to reach the house while groping through the dark." Sam said.
"If you are not back in exactly one hour I will find ten candles, bring a rope and find you, all right?"
"All right," we said in unison. Inspector Quigley opened the stone again, got out and shut it behind him. We took one last look at the dim light and then everything was again dark.
Sam took my left hand and we made our way through the darkness down the passage, groping with my right hand on the wall. We walked and walked for a long time. We did not speak, there was no need. We knew not where we were going, which direction we had taken nor if it was the right one. It was quite evident that we were completely lost. But it is human nature to continue to hope even in the darkest of situations and so we went on.
At length Sam hit a wall in front of him and I bumped into him. After feeling over the wall it turned out to be a large wooden door. The door, unfortunately, was locked. After some searching we found the lock. Sam and I both picked at it until the hairpin broke into several different pieces. In despair, the only course of action left open to us was to knock the door down. Stepping back a few paces we rammed into the door with all of our might. It crashed down immediately, with us on top of it. We were in another long passageway and streaming up from the floorboard cracks was glorious light.
The door was very thick but the wood was rotten and the hinges broken. Dust lay everywhere. We cautiously stood up and stepped into the passage. The floorboards squeaked and cracked loudly, the wood there evidently old and rotten as well. We still went on a few paces and came to stairs. We climbed up many stairs until we came to yet another passageway. The door opening to it was completely rotted away and so we had no difficulty getting inside. We walked carefully on the old wood until we thought that we heard voices coming from below.
"Is everything ready?" a woman's voice asked. We quietly lay down across the boards, pressing our ears against them to hear better.
"Everything. The express was sent this morning, I am sure. The diamond is well hidden and another fake being made. It was very annoying when the first fake was discovered. That so called Inspector is really quite a nuisance." The voice sounded strangely alike to Mr. Wolcott's.
"He is but at least he has done one thing in our favor. That little Miss Kitty is still the main suspect and that goes in accordance to the plan." The woman's voice was familiar.
"It was quite brilliant of you to actually show her where the diamond, well, the fake was only a little while before it was supposedly stolen. She was the only one to suspect!"
"Of course! And once we sell the fake to Napoleon we may have enough money, at last."
Sam and I exchanged looks. "Who is talking?" I asked.
"Why, that's Lady Diamonde and Mr. Wolcott!" Sam whispered.
"Lady Diamonde! It can't be!" I cried, much too loudly. Everything was silent.
"Did you hear something, Wolcott?" the Lady asked.
"I thought I did, coming from above us."
"Well, use my cane to bang a little on the ceiling. We can't take any chances!" Lady Diamonde cried almost frantically. Mr. Wolcott let out an exasperated sigh but did as the Lady wished. We soon felt and heard the banging of the cane.
"We've got to get out of here," I whispered.
"Yes, come on," Sam said, lifting himself up a little and beginning to crawl slowly forward to the passage in front of us. I began to follow but the board creaked loudly.
"I heard it again," the Lady cried.
"Kitty, come on!" Sam whispered urgently. Mr. Wolcott began banging more fiercely with his stick. I began to stand up and was taking a step towards Sam when I caught my foot on the hem of my dress and fell.
The impact was too much for the rotten wood. I crashed through the passageway and into the arms of Mr. Wolcott. He fell to the ground and I with him. My head was aching, my dress torn and my leg bleeding from scraping it on some piece of the wood. The next thing I knew both Mr. Wolcott and Lady Diamonde were standing over me. For an instant I looked up past them to where Sam had been sitting. He was gone and I was left alone with the thieves.
"Well, Miss Kitty," Lady Diamonde sneered. "Isn't this a pleasant surprise?"
If I hadn't been so frightened I would have fainted. Lady Diamonde was the thief? Working with Mr. Wolcott? "You, you brought me here on purpose! To blame me for stealing the diamond!" I burst out, on the verge of tears.
"Kitty, Kitty, you always were so naive. The perfect person to bring." Lady Diamonde looked positively evil.
"Why him? What has Wolcott got to do with any of this?" I asked.
"I don't like to answer questions like that, Kitty. Have you ever read a mystery novel? Have you ever thought up a brilliant plan, as I have? No, certainly not. I am not about to reveal all of my secrets to you so that, if you possibly escape or are rescued, although that is highly unlikely, you will go and tell the police all of my little secrets. But I can tell you only this; Mr. Wolcott is in charge of everything, he is the manager, since I am too old to do it myself." Lady Diamonde had a furiously calm voice, taunting me with it.
"Whatever shall we do with her?" Mr. Wolcott said impatiently.
"Perhaps you should take her with you. Wouldn't that be a delicious scandal?" Lady Diamonde laughed.
"We don't want a scandal. Besides, what on earth could I do with a baby like that?"
"She has heard us, Wolcott. She has to be taken someplace where she won't talk. Do you think we could threaten her with something?"
"Never. Her mouth is much to big for her own good. She would give it all away."
"Well then, if you can't take her with you and she can't be threatened, there is only one alternative. We shall have to put her down the well," Lady Diamonde said.
"A well! Oh, you can't!" I cried.
"Can't we?" The Lady smiled. "Wolcott, tie her hands and put something in her mouth. We'll take her immediately and we can't have her screaming for help."
In an instant my hands were tied and a large scarf wrapped so tightly around my mouth that I could not breathe through it or move my mouth. Mr. Wolcott roughly yanked me to my feet and pulled me towards another passage door that the Lady Diamonde had opened. We walked down it, the Lady leading the way with a lantern. We walked far enough for us to have gone so far from the house that we were even past the tomb. Suddenly we came to stairs that we went up and then the Lady opened the door.
We walked out onto the grounds. Everything was dripping wet from the rain and the sky was a grayish color, as if the sun was soon to rise. I slipped on the slick grass and was again yanked up and pushed towards a lone and ancient well standing near some large trees. The tomb was so far away that I could hardly see it and the house wasn't even visible.
We came to the well. Mr. Wolcott drew up a very large bucket and prepared to put me in it by dumping out the moldy water. Lady Diamonde undid the gag around my mouth. "Oh, please, please don't put me down there! I can't swim, I shall surely drown!" I begged.
"You won't drown. I've spent many days in there myself. But you will starve, that is certain, unless of course you are rescued, which will not happen. No one knows of this place but us and it is very well hidden. Perhaps, if you agree, we will say that you ran off and fix things up perfectly. That way we can come back for you someday, in about a week or two, when there is a reward for whoever finds you. By that time if you say anything about us people will think you are mad," the Lady said and Mr. Wolcott set me in the bucket, tying my feet together as well.
"I would rather die than be helped by you," I cried defiantly.
For an instant I thought that there was a gleam of anger in Lady Diamonde's eye, but then it was gone and she only shrugged, laughed and said: "It is your choice. And I most definitely do not want you to go telling tales about me. Good bye, Kitty." Mr. Wolcott replaced the gag, pushed the bucket off the side of the well and slowly lowered me down, down, down to the bottom of the well.
I waited for the gigantic splash of water which was surely to come. This was, after all, a well and I should reach water some time. No water came, however. I just kept on going down into more darkness until the round opening of the well seemed a million miles away. Then I hit the bottom. There wasn't any water, the well was absolutely dry.
I was astonished, to say the least. Now I knew what the evil Lady had meant. I would surely not drown, that was impossible, but I would definitely starve. As my eyes began to adjust a little to the dark, I could see dim shapes of what looked like furniture. Someone had used this place as a room once. My eyes however could only adjust so much in such darkness and I couldn't make anything out without getting closer.
I sat for at least an hour and wondered if anyone was coming to rescue me. I did not know how they would, no one knew where I was. As I sat and thought, I became more depressed. No one would ever think to look for me at the bottom of a dry well. For an instant I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of it all but found that I couldn't because my mouth was gagged. Instead I cried.
I didn't cry for very long because I realized that my sobbing wasn't helping the situation at all. Since there was no possible way for me to be rescued, I would have to find my own way out of the hole or die in the attempt. The first thing I needed to do was untie the hands that were behind my back. Once my hands were free then I could un-gag my mouth and untie my feet. I soon found a sharp part of metal on the bucket. I spent hours rubbing my hands up and down on the jagged piece of metal. By the time my hands were free everything was very dark and my back and arms ached... but my hands were free.
I freed my mouth from the gag and then I slept, too tired to bother with untying my legs. Of course, in such an uncomfortable position it is impossible to sleep for long and so I woke up in only a few hours. Everything was pitch black, the round shape of light was completely gone. Clumsily, I untied my legs and stood up, tripping over the bucket and landing on the floor of the well. My hands brushed against three things: A candle, a piece of flint and a spoon.
I had never been very handy with flint and so it took me a long time to get the candle successfully lighted. I, however, was in no hurry and so took my time about doing everything. On the other hand, there was a nagging thought at the back of my mind, reminding me that if I did not find a way out soon, then the results following would be most disastrous. For the first time in my life I had to rely on myself, my own judgment, my own ability.
When the candle was finally lit, light flooded the space. Unless a person has spent many hours in a completely dark place, he can never truly appreciate light. Instead of not being able to see anything in front of you, everything is visible and clear. As I blinked around my prison, I saw that the dry well I was in was not an ordinary dry well, (at least I thought so, even though I'd never been down one before).
An old, broken chair and table were pushed against the wall of the large well. Several books lay strewn across the floor. Someone, a very long time ago, had used this old well as a room - perhaps a hiding place. I reached for one of the books and opened it to the first page. On it was written: 'Property of Belle Diamonde'. Every book I opened had the same inscription. Lady Diamonde had said that she had been down here before. Why would she come down here? To be alone, to escape from something? Nothing made sense.
After having examined my surroundings I again thought about ways to get out of the well. First I thought that somehow, I could tie myself to the rope that was on the bucket and climb out, but then I discovered that Mr. Wolcott had cut the rope. I thought of all sorts of good ideas but didn't have the right materials for any. Finally, I just sat down in the middle of the well with my back against that horrid bucket and admitted that I was defeated.
At that moment I remembered the spoon. Hope surged through my body as I grasped it and knew what I must do. I had to dig my way out. That was the only possible course of action left to me. Of course, I knew that it would take weeks, perhaps months. I began working vigorously, but as the hours passed my progress slowed considerably. Then the candle sputtered and went out and the spoon broke in two, and I knew that I was at the end of all things. For a moment I actually wondered if it was the end of the world; it certainly felt like it.
I fell into a troubled sleep. I seemed to keep on waking up. Faintly, I thought that I heard a voice calling my name. Perhaps I was hallucinating.
"Kitty!" The voice called.
'Am I dead?' I wondered.
"Kitty!" The voice called again, and was joined by another voice calling, "Miss Bennet!"
I became confused. I knew now that I was not dead, but why did those people keep calling my name? With a start, I realized that I could be rescued if they were close enough to hear me. I opened my mouth to shout but no sound came out. My throat was parched and the only sound I managed to make was a soft croak. The voices began to grow fainter. In desperation, I remembered that Sam had once whistled by putting two fingers in his mouth and blowing. A very loud and shrill sound had emerged. At long last, I produced a loud enough whistle that it echoed up the walls of the well. Then my voice came back and I began shouting as loudly as I could for help.
Three faces appeared above me at the hole. One of the persons began lowering himself down by a rope. As he grew closer and closer, I could not recognize him, but his face seemed oddly familiar. Once at the bottom he quickly tied the rope around my waist, took hold of the rope himself with one arm, and with the other held tightly to me. With the words, "Pull us up, Mr. Quigley!" the rope began slowly inching its way upward.
"Kitty!" Sam shouted joyously once I reached the top. Too tired to cry and too parched to speak, I wordlessly hugged Sam and the Inspector at the same time. Just then, Mr. and Mrs. Bents came running up with Tina close by, followed by the cook. I was hugged by all of them and then practically carried into the house where I was washed and put to bed.
The next morning I woke up to see the two very concerned faces of Jane and Lizzy. After much hugging and tears on Jane's side, I got dressed and we went downstairs. I don't believe I've ever eaten so much at one sitting as I did that morning. I was famished. Jane, Lizzy and their husbands watched me gobble down food with amusement. After breakfast, I excused myself and hurried down to the kitchen where everyone was waiting for me.
"Kitty, you're a hero!" Sam cried. He was surrounded by seven other children of all ages and they all agreed with him. "Kitty, meet my brothers Tom, Joe and Bill, and sisters Sally, Sarah, Susan and Mary. And this is my mother." I turned to see the tall, beautiful woman who was the Inspector's wife. I knew we would be friends as she drew me into an embrace.
Then, for a reason I did not quite understand, I searched the room for my rescuer. "Where is the man who got me out of the well?" I asked.
"He and my father are taking care of Lady Diamonde and Mr. Wolcott. While you were lost for the day and night, he caught them and now has to make sure they are in prison and going to trial. When he comes back he'll know all of the particulars to tell us."
Just then the very man of whom we'd been speaking walked into the kitchen. "Miss Bennet!" he cried, coming over to me. "Have you yet bought a new bonnet for yourself?" He asked, his eyes twinkling.
For I moment I was puzzled, but then gasped in astonishment. "Why, you are the man I bumped into on the street so long ago!"
"The very same," he said cheerfully. "My name is Tobias Hart." I smiled and he smiled back.
"Well, what of Lady Diamonde?" Sam asked.
"Oh yes," I said. "Tell us the particulars. Start from the very beginning."
"All right," he replied and we all sat down. "To begin with, the Diamonde's have been involved in the diamond trade for years. Lord Diamonde made a fortune in his younger years but, when he was older and investing in more mines than ever, his investments failed. Mine after mine went out of business and left the Diamondes virtually penniless. The shock was too much for Lord Diamonde, he died about three years ago. Lady Diamonde, left alone and without money, decided to try and make money by selling fake copies of the Astria to foreign countries. The Astria is worth millions of pounds and the Lady made quite a bit of money in a very short amount of time, aided by her friend, Mr. Wolcott. No one knew that the real Astria Diamond had been buried with her husband when he died."
"If you knew all of this, then why didn't you stop her before?" Kitty asked.
"Miss Bennet, we knew that someone was selling fake diamonds overseas under the name of Barty, but we couldn't discover who it was - until now," Tobias explained. "Lady Diamonde was quite clever, I've been tracking this case for the past three years. She had us all fooled."
"Not me!" Sam cried. "I had my suspicions from the very beginning!"
"Then I am sure you will make an excellent detective someday!" Tobias said and Sam swelled up with pride. "Well, Miss Bennet, will you come with me to join the Darcys and Bingleys?" We rose and I took his arm.
Soon afterwards I left for London with Jane and Lizzy. It was very hard for me to leave all of my now close friends. Mr. and Mrs. Bents along with Tina would be leaving England for the United States to start over with their share of the reward money. Inspector Quigley and his family went back to their home but I kept in touch with them through Mrs. Quigley.
After my adventure, life in London had lost its glamour. I saw through the men's and ladies' finely crafted masks, not finding a sincere person in anyone. I grew unhappy with the extremely evident divide between social classes. My only comfort was Jane and Lizzy, who understood my distress. Of course, there was Tobias. We talked often. He was actually leaving the Intelligence and becoming a clergyman. I was overjoyed to discover that he was to be, in fact, the new clergyman at Pemberley!
After only two weeks in London, we departed for Pemberley. Tobias and I courted for a year before becoming man and wife. Soon afterwards he took Sam Quigley as an apprentice. Not many people knew it, but my husband was one of the best detectives that ever lived. Sam, when he grew up, became a legendary detective himself, solving more cases than any other inspector of the day. We always kept close contact with the Quigleys, often visiting each other and corresponding regularly. The Bents and Tina did very well in the New World. I never saw them again but each year I received a letter from them.
I was very happy with my station as a clergyman's wife. I was able to visit anyone I wished and do all sorts of good deeds without being looked down upon. Jane and Lizzy lived happily ever after with their husbands and many children.
Tobias and I had ten children; the youngest became famous Sam Quigley's assistant and apprentice. Tobias never again was involved in crime fighting. We were content to stay at home among children, friends and family.
This was my story; the story about how I found myself and found my place in the world. I am grateful for that fateful day when I heard the Lady's scream that the diamond was stolen (when in fact it had not been). All because of the Astria Diamond.
Author's note: I would like to thank my editors, my Grandma Sharon and Teg. Also, thank you all for reading this story - I sure enjoyed writing it!
© 2001 Copyright held by author