The Ponsonby Diamonds
by L.T. Meade
FEW cases in their day interested me more than that of
Beryl Temple, and this, not so much from the medical point
of view as from the character of this strong-minded and
It was on the occasion of her mother's death
that I first became acquainted with Beryl. She suffered
keenly at the time, but her courage and presence of mind and
fine self-suppression aroused my interest, and when, a month
afterwards, she came to me and told me in the simple manner
which always characterized her that she was not only
friendless but without means of support, I eagerly asked in
what way I could help her.
She replied with a blush, and something like
tears in her eyes.
"Of all things in the world," she
said, "I should like best to be trained as a hospital
nurse--do you think I am suited to the profession?"
"Admirably," I replied. "You
have nerve and self-control; you have also good health and,
although I am sure that you have plenty of heart, you would
never be mawkishly sentimental."
"Oh, no," she answered; "I am
glad you approve."
"I cordially approve," I replied.
"In many cases the profession of nursing is best
undertaken by women who are not too highly cultivated, and
whose position is below that of the supposed lady---but you,
Miss Temple, will make an admirable nurse. Your peculiar
characteristics fit you for this calling.
I saw by the expression on her face that my
words pleased her. I helped her to take the necessary steps
to become a probationer at one of the large hospitals. She
entered on her profession with enthusiasm--her time of
training passed without hitch, and in due course I placed
her on my own special staff of nurses.
I had been by no means mistaken in Miss
Temple's qualifications--her nerve was wonderful, her tact
perfect. Although slight and rather delicate looking, she
had a great reserve of strength, and I never knew her to
break down or fail in any way, even when the case she had to
attend to was involved in serious difficulties.
For nervous cases in especial, I found Miss
Temple invaluable, and it so happened that she was the first
person I applied to in the case of a very peculiar patient,
Lady Violet Dalrymple.
I was sent for to the country to see Lady
Violet in the autumn of the year 1889.
I remember the night when the telegram came
to me from her mother, the Countess of Erstfield. Lady
Violet was the only child--a girl of seventeen. Lady
Erstfield had once brought her to see me in town. I then
considered her an overgrown, somewhat nervous girl, had
ordered change, a quiet life, plenty of fresh air, plenty of
nourishment, plenty of congenial occupation, and had felt
assured that if these remedies were systematically followed
out, the young girl would quickly recover from the nervous
derangements which were just then interfering with her
health and happiness.
By the tenor of Lady Erstfield's telegram,
however, I feared that this was not the case.
"I am very anxious about Violet. Come
without delay," she wired.
I replied by telegram that I would arrive at
Beeches by a late train that evening. I did so. Lady
Erstfield was up. I had a long interview with her, and got
all possible information with regard to my patient's state
of health I did not see Lady Violet herself, however, until
the following morning.
At an early hour that day, I was taken into
the pretty boudoir, where I found my patient lying on a
sofa. It was a room furnished with all that taste, money,
and love could suggest. Books, flowers, pictures, birds in
cages, all that was gay and bright, surrounded the lovely
girl who lay pale and languid on a sofa drawn close to the
open window. This window commanded a perfect view of river,
wood, and meadow, with a distant peep of low-lying hills
against the horizon. To my eyes, accustomed to London bustle
and noise, this view alone was restful and delightful.
Drawing a chair forward, I sat down by my
patient and entered into a common-place talk with her. I had
purposely asked Lady Erstfield to leave us, for I knew by
experience that in nervous cases the patient was far more
inclined to be confidential and to reply truthfully to
questions when alone with the physician.
Having carefully examined Lady Violet, and
made certain that she was suffering from no organic disease,
it only remained for me to conclude that she was a victim to
one of those many ill-defined and misunderstood nervous
disorders, which, by their variety and complexity, present
the greatest difficulty in medical practice.
The treatment I saw at once must be moral,
"I don t find much the matter with
you," I said, cheerfully; "your disease is more
fancy than reality--instead of lying here, you ought to be
having a gallop across those moors yonder."
Lady Violet gazed at me with a look of
surprise and even faint displeasure in her large brown eyes.
"I love riding," she said, in a
gentle voice, "but it is long since I have had the
pleasure of a canter over the moors or anywhere else."
"You should not give up riding," I
said; "it is a most healthful exercise and a splendid
tonic for the nerves."
"I don't think you can realize how very
weak I am," she answered, something like tears dimming
her eyes. "Did not mother explain to you the strange
symptoms from which I suffer?"
"The symptoms of which you complain are
clearly due to an over-wrought imagination," I replied.
"You must try to curb it by every means in your power.
I assure you I am only telling you the true state of the
case when I say that there is nothing serious the matter
She sighed and looked away from me.
I took her slim hand in mine and felt her
pulse. It was weak, fluttering, and uneven. I bent forward
and looked into her eyes--the pupils were slightly dilated.
Still I held firmly to my opinion that nervous derangement,
that most convenient phrase, was at the bottom of all that
"Now," I said, rising as I spoke,
"I will prescribe a drive for you this afternoon, and
in a day or two, I have no doubt, you will be strong enough
to get on horseback again. Take no medicines; eat plenty,
and amuse yourself in every way in your power."
Soon afterwards I left the room, and saw Lady
"Your daughter is an instance of that
all too common condition which we call neurasthenia," I
said. "Although, unlike the name, the disease is not a
coinage of the nineteenth century, still it has greatly
increased of late, and claims for its victims those who have
fallen out of the ranks of the marching army of women, in
the advancing education and culture of their sex."
"I don't understand your placing Violet
in that position," said Lady Erstfield, with reddening
"My dear madam," I replied,
"your daughter is the undoubted victim of over-culture
and little to do. Were she a farmer's daughter, or were she
obliged in any other way to work for her living, she would
be quite well. The treatment which I prescribe is simply
this--healthy occupation of every muscle and every faculty.
Do all in your power to turn her thoughts outwards, and to
arouse an active interest in her mind for something or
someone. I assure you that although I am not anxious about
her present state, yet cases like hers, if allowed to drift,
frequently end in impairment of intellect in some degree,
either small or great."
Lady Erstfield looked intensely unhappy.
"Violet is our only child," she
said; "her father and I are wrapped up in her. Although
you seem to apprehend no danger to her life----"
"There is none," I interrupted.
"Yet you allude to other troubles which
fill me with terror. There is nothing Lord Erstfield and I
would not do for our child. Will you kindly tell me how we
are to provide her with the interests and occupations which
are to restore her mind to a healthy condition?"
I thought for a moment.
"Lady Violet is very weak just
now," I said, "her whole constitution has been so
enfeebled with imaginary fears and nervous disorders that a
little good nursing would not come amiss for her. I propose,
therefore, to send a nurse to look after your
Lady Erstfield uttered an exclamation of
"A hospital nurse!" she exclaimed;
"the mere word will terrify Violet into
"Nothing of the kind," I answered.
"The nurse I propose to send here is not an ordinary
one. She is a lady--well born and well educated. She is
extremely clever, and is remarkable both for her tact and
gentleness. She thoroughly understands her duties--in this
case they will consist mainly in amusing Lady Violet in the
most strengthening and invigorating manner. Her name is
Temple. I will ask you to call her Miss Temple, and never to
speak of her or to her as nurse. She will soon win her own
way with your daughter, and I shall be greatly surprised if
she does not become more or less indispensable to her. She
is just as healthy-minded, as bright, as strong as Lady
Violet is the reverse."
After a little more conversation with Lady
Erstfield, it was arranged that Miss Temple was to be
telegraphed for at once.
I wrote her a long letter, giving her full
directions with regard to the patient. This letter I left
with Lady Erstfield, and asked her to deliver it to Miss
Temple as soon as ever she arrived. I then went to bid Lady
She looked even more wan and exhausted than
when I had seen her in the morning. I thought it well to let
her know about Miss Temple's arrival.
"She is a thoroughly nice girl," I
said. "She will nurse you when you want to be nursed,
and amuse you when you wish to be amused, and let you alone
when you want quiet, and you will find her so fresh and
bright and entertaining that you will soon, I am persuaded,
be unable to do without her. Good-bye, now--I hope you will
soon be much better, both for your mother's sake and your
Lady Violet raised her brows.
"Is mother unhappy about me?" she
"She loves you," I replied,
steadily, "and is getting quite worn out with anxiety
about you. I wish her mind to be relieved as soon as
possible, and I think it is your duty to do what you can
towards this end."
"What can you mean?" asked Lady
"In your mother's presence," I
answered, "you ought to endeavour as much as possible
to overcome the melancholy which has taken such possession
of you. Seem to be gay, even when you don't feel it. Try to
appear well, even when you don't think you are. When you are
alone with Miss Temple, you can do, of course, exactly as
you please. But when with your father and mother, you ought
to make a strenuous effort to overcome the morbid feelings,
which are due entirely to the nervous weakness from which
you are suffering."
Lady Violet looked at me intently.
"I love my father and mother," she
exclaimed. "I would not willingly hurt the feelings of
either. But, oh! how little you know what I suffer when you
speak of my suppressing my trouble and terrible depression.
Am I not always--always suppressing my fears? Oh, how
hateful life is to me--how distasteful, how hollow. I should
like to die beyond anything, and yet I am such a coward that
the near approach of death would terrify me. Why was I born
to be so miserable?"
"You were born to be happy," I
answered, "or, at least, to be useful and contented.
Your fear of death is perfectly natural, and I hope it will
be many a long day before you are called upon to resign so
precious a possession as life.
Remember, you have only one life--use it
well--you will have to account for it some day; and now,
I returned to London, and in about a week's
time I received a letter from Miss Temple. It satisfied me
thoroughly. Lady Violet was better. She went out for a
little daily. She read to herself, and allowed Miss Temple
to read to her. She was interested in a fancy fair which was
to be held in the neighbourhood, and was helping Miss Temple
to work for it. The nurse had also discovered that her
patient had a love, almost a passion, for music. Miss Temple
was an accomplished pianist before she took up her present
profession, and she and Lady Violet spent a considerable
portion of each day over the piano.
In short, Miss Temple was doing all that I
expected her to do for the young girl whose life was so
valuable. Lady Violet was undoubtedly already acquiring that
outward view which means health both of mind and body.
Miss Temple's first letter was followed in
the course of time by another, which was even more hopeful
than the first. Lady Violet was devotedly attached to her,
and could scarcely bear her out of her presence. The girls
rode together, walked together, sketched and played
together. The colour of health was coming back to Lady
Violet's pale cheeks; she would soon, in Miss Temple's
opinion, be restored to perfect health.
Lady Erstfield also wrote to me about this
time, and spoke in rapture of the companion whom I had
secured for her daughter.
"I cannot tell you what Beryl Temple is
to us," she said; "we owe Violet's recovery to her
wonderful tact, her sympathy, her genius. She is like no
girl I ever met before--she fascinates and subjugates us
all--we do not want ever to part with her--as to Violet, it
would almost kill her, I think, were Beryl Temple now to
About a month after receiving these two
letters I was astonished and much pleased to see an
announcement in the Morning Post to the effect
that a matrimonial alliance was arranged between Lady Violet
Dalrymple, only daughter of the Earl and Countess of
Erstfield, and Captain Geoffrey Ponsonby, of the Coldstream
Guards, and that the marriage was likely to take place in
On reading this short paragraph I turned to
my case-book, and under Lady Violet's name made the
"A case of neuasthenia, in which
environment with moral treatment caused recovery."
I then dismissed the subject from my mind,
with the final reflection that I should not have much more
to do with Lady Violet.
The following circumstances quickly proved my
On the evening of that same day I had a
letter from Miss Temple, confirming the news of the
approaching marriage; telling me that it had been
contemplated for some time by the parents of the young
people, but that a formal engagement had been deferred owing
to the state of Lady Violet's health. Captain Ponsonby had
arrived at Beeches about a fortnight ago, had proposed for
Lady Violet, who had accepted him not without a certain
unwillingness, and the marriage was arranged to take place
immediately after Christmas.
"Lady Violet is not as well as I could
wish," continued Miss Temple, towards the close of her
letter. "At first she refused absolutely to engage
herself to Captain Ponsonby, but yielded to the entreaties
of both her parents, who are most desirous for the match.
She is once more languid, and inclined to be uninterested in
her surroundings. I am not satisfied about her state, and
deeply regret Captain Ponsonby's arrival--she was really in
radiant health when he came to the house a fortnight ago.
Lord and Lady Erstfield quite fail to observe their
daughter's state of depression--they are both in the highest
spirits, and active preparations for the wedding are going
This letter caused me uneasiness--it was
followed almost immediately by a second.
DR. HALIFAX," wrote
Miss Temple, "I am in great, in dreadful, trouble--not
alone about Lady Violet, whose condition alarms me much, but
on my own account. In short, I am bewildered by the fearful
calamity which has suddenly overtaken me. I have not a soul
to confide in, and greatly long to see you. I know I must
not expect you to come here, and yet it is impossible for
me, under existing circumstances, to ask for a day off duty.
God help me; I am the most unhappy girl in the world!
I received this letter by the last post one
night. It caused me some wakeful hours, for I was greatly
puzzled how to act. By the morning I resolved to write a
line to Lady Erstfield, telling her that I had heard from
Miss Temple of Lady Violet's altered condition, and offering
to come to see her. That letter was not destined to be
written however. As I was sitting at breakfast a telegram
was put into my hand. It was from Lord Erstfield, requesting
me to go to Beeches immediately.
I started off by an early train and arrived
at my destination about noon. I was shown at once into a
reception-room, where Lady Erstfield awaited me.
"It is good of you to respond so quickly
to our telegram," she said. "We are in terrible
trouble here. Violet is in the strangest condition. She is
very feverish: her strength seems completely gone. She lies
hour after hour moaning to herself, and takes little notice
"How long has this state of things gone
on?" I asked.
"The complete breakdown only took place
yesterday, but Miss Temple assures me that Violet has been
failing for some time. Her father and I noticed on one or
two occasions that she seemed pale and languid, but as there
was a good deal to excite her, we put her fatigue down to
that source. Under your judicious treatment and the
admirable care Miss Temple gave her we considered her
perfectly recovered, and it did not enter into our minds
that a recurrence of the old attack was possible."
"When you speak of Lady Violet having
much to excite her, you doubtless allude to her
engagement?" I said. "I saw it officially
announced in the Morning Post. I judged from it
that she had quite recovered."
Lady Erstfield coloured.
"We thought so," she said;
"her father and I both thought so. We were much pleased
at the contemplated marriage, and we imagined that our child
was happy, too. Captain Ponsonby is all that anyone can
"And you have reason not to be satisfied
now?" I asked.
"The fact is this," said Lady
Erstfield, shortly: "Violet is unhappy--she does not
wish the engagement to go on. She told Miss Temple so this
morning. I have seen my dear child on the subject an hour
ago--we cannot account for her caprice in this matter."
"I will see Lady Violet now, if you will
permit me," I said. "The engagement is, doubtless,
the cause of this strange breakdown. Will you take me to her
Lady Erstfield led the way without a word.
I found my patient even worse than her mother
had given me to understand. In addition to much nervous
trouble, she had unquestionably taken a chill of some sort,
and symptoms of pneumonia were manifesting themselves. When
I bent over her, I noticed the deep flush on her cheeks, her
eyes were closed--her breathing was short and hurried. Miss
Temple was standing by the bedside---she gave me an earnest
glance, her face was as pale as Lady Violet's was flushed. I
noticed that Lady Erstfield avoided speaking to the nurse,
who, on her part, moved slightly away as she approached. The
despair, however, which must have filled the poor mother's
heart as she watched her suffering child might in itself
account for her manner. I was very anxious to see the nurse
alone, and asked Lady Erstfield if I could do so.
"Certainly," she answered; "I
will watch here until Miss Temple is able to resume her
"I will not be long away," answered
Beryl. She took me at once into Lady Violet's pretty little
boudoir and shut the door.
"I must be very quick," she said,
"my place is with Violet. You think her very ill?"
"I do," I answered. "Her life
is in danger. She is threatened with pneumonia. If the
symptoms grow worse, she will not have strength to bear up
under the attack."
"Oh, then, I must not think of
myself--even now I manage to soothe her as no one else can.
Let me go back!"
"Sit down," I answered; "you
will not be fit long to nurse anyone unless you look after
yourself. What is the matter with you? You are greatly
"Did I not tell you in my letter that I
am in great trouble?"
Miss Temple's words were interrupted by a
knock at the door of the boudoir.
She said "Come in," and a
manservant entered. He approached Lady Violet's little
writing-table, disturbed a book or two, and finally
retreated with an "A B C" in his hand, apologizing
as he did so.
"Do you know who that man is?"
asked Miss Temple.
"One of the servants," I replied;
"never mind him--tell me your trouble as quickly as
"He is connected with it, unfortunately.
He is not one of the usual servants of the house, although
he wears the livery. That man is a detective from Scotland
Yard, and he came into the room just now to watch me. He, or
his fellow detective, for there are two here, watch me
wherever I go. On one excuse or another, they enter each
room where I am found."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"I will tell you in as few words as
possible--can you wonder that I am changed?"
"I am lost in conjecture as to what you
can possibly mean," I answered, looking at her
In truth I had cause for my anxiety.
Her fine face looked absolutely aged and
worn. Her eyes were almost too large--their expression was
strained--they had heavy black lines under them. Her mouth
showed extreme dejection. When I remembered the blooming,
healthy girl who had gone to Beeches two months ago, I was
appalled by the change.
"Speak," I said; "I am deeply
interested. You know that I will do everything in my power
to help you."
"This is my story," she said:
"Lady Violet got quite well--I was much attached to
her, we were very happy--it seemed like the old life back
again, when my mother was alive and I had a luxurious home.
Lord and Lady Erstfield treated me more like a daughter than
a nurse; Lady Violet was my dear sister. Then Captain
Ponsonby came. He proposed, and was accepted. Immediately
after the engagement Lady Violet drooped; she no longer gave
me her confidence; she lost her appetite; she became
constrained and silent. Once or twice I caught her
crying--she turned away when I tried to question her. Lord
and Lady Erstfield noticed no change, and Captain Ponsonby
came and went as an honoured guest. No one seemed to notice
the efforts Lady Violet made to seem at home in his society.
"One morning about ten days ago Lady
Erstfield, accompanied by Captain Ponsonby, came into this
room, where I was reading aloud to my dear little patient. I
could not imagine why they did not observe her pale cheeks
and her languor. I saw, however, at a glance that Lady
Erstfield was in a high state of excitement and delight. She
held a jewel-case in her hand. She opened it and, bending
down, showed its glittering contents to her daughter. I was
startled at the effect on the Lady Violet. She clapped her
hands in ecstasy and sat upright on the sofa. Her eyes had
grown suddenly bright, and her cheeks rosy.
"'How I adore diamonds,' she said, 'and
what beauties these are: oh, you lovely creatures! But,
mother, why do you show them to me?'
"'They are my present to you, Violet,'
said Captain Ponsonby. 'Those diamonds are heirlooms in the
family, and are of great value. They will be yours when we
"'Come and look at them, Beryl,"
exclaimed Lady Violet. 'Are they not splendid?' As she spoke
she lifted a diamond necklace of extraordinary brilliancy
and quaint device out of the case. I knelt down by her and
examined the gems with delight almost equal to her own. I
have always had a great love for jewels, and for diamonds in
particular, and these were quite the most magnificent I had
ever seen. The necklace was accompanied by a tiara and
earrings, and the gems were worth, Lady Erstfield said, from
fifteen to twenty thousand pounds.
"We spent some time examining and
criticising them. Violet sent for a looking-glass from one
of the bedrooms in order to see the effect of the jewels
round her throat. She insisted on my trying them on as well
as herself. Lady Violet is fair, but, as you know, I am very
dark. I could not help seeing for myself that the jewels
suited me. Lady Violet uttered an exclamation when she saw
them on me. 'You look beautiful, Beryl,' she said.
"I laughed, and was about to answer her,
when I met Captain Ponsonby's eyes. There was something in
his expression which I did not quite like. I unfastened the
necklace quickly and laid it back in its velvet bed.
"'Thank you for letting me try it on,' I
said. 'I feel as if for one brief moment I had imprisoned
"I don't know why I said those words.
They did me no good afterwards, but I was excited at the
time. The magnificent diamonds had really cast a spell over
me. Lady Erstfield suggested that Violet should go out for
her usual ride.
"'No, mother; I am too tired,' she
replied. 'I will drive instead, shall come with me.'
"'Run and get ready, then,' Erstfield to
"I was leaving the room when she
suddenly called me back.
"'My dear,' she said, giving me the case
which held the diamonds as she spoke, 'will you have the
goodness to take these to my room, and lock them up in my
jewel safe? Here is the key. You must turn the lock twice,
and when the revolving shutter moves back, use this smaller
key to unlock the inner compartment. Put the case in there,
and bring me back the keys when you have changed your
"I promised to obey, and ran off with a
"The safe where Lady Erstfield kept her
jewels was built into the wall, and was of a very ingenious
device. Following her directions implicitly I opened it,
placed the case within, and locked the safe carefully again.
I then went and changed my dress and returned the keys to
Lady Erstfield. Captain Ponsonby, Lady Violet, and I had a
pleasant drive, and nothing more was said about the
diamonds---I really think we all forgot them.
"The next morning Lady Violet came clown
to breakfast, looking so ghastly pale and so depressed, that
even her mother uttered an exclamation of surprise when she
"'My darling, you look positively ill,'
she said, going up and kissing her.
"Lady Violet gave her a startled and
queer look. She made some remark in a very low voice, and
with a pettish movement. She then crossed the room to my
side, and Lady Erstfield did not question her any further.
"Just as we were leaving the
breakfast-table, Captain Ponsonby announced his
intention of running up to town for the day, and suddenly
suggested that he should take the diamonds with him in order
to give the jeweller plenty of time to re-set them in the
most thorough manner.
"'That is a good thought, Geoffrey,'
said Lady Erstfield. Then she turned to me.
"'You know where the jewels are, Beryl,'
she said--'here are my keys--run, dear, and fetch them. I
don't allow even my own maid to know the secret of my jewel
safe,' she continued, looking at Captain Ponsonby as she
"I ran away, reached Lady Erstfield's
room, unlocked the safe, and put in my hand to take out the
case. It had vanished. I searched for it at first without
any uneasiness, then in bewilderment, then in a sort of
frantic terror. I here was the empty spot on the floor of
the safe where I had placed the case--there were the other
cases of jewels pushed aside in some little confusion, but
the Ponsonby diamonds had absolutely vanished.
"The full horror of the situation had
not yet burst upon me--I had not yet even begun to
think that anyone would suspect me, but,
nevertheless, I felt sick with a sort of nameless terror.
"I locked the safe and returned to the
"Lord Erstfield was standing by the
hearth, talking to Captain Ponsonby--Lady Erstfield was
reading the Times, and Violet was kneeling on
the floor playing with her favourite pug. Their peaceful
faces added to my misery. I know I must have looked wild and
frightened--I know when I spoke that my voice must have
"'The diamonds are gone,' I said; 'they
are not in the safe.'
"It was just as if I had flung a bomb
into the midst of the cheerful party. Lord Erstfield drew
himself up with a dazed expression. Captain Ponsonby turned
white, and Lady Erstfield, with a sharp cry, rushed from the
room, snatching the keys from my hand as she did so.
"'There is no use in Lady Erstfield
examining the safe,' I said, 'the diamonds are certainly not
there--I have searched all the shelves. The spot where I
placed them yesterday is empty; the case has vanished.'
"'I don't believe it,' said Violet. 'The
diamonds must be there. You must be mistaken, Beryl.'
"I made no reply, but when the others
left the room I followed.
"We all now went up in a body to Lady
Erstfield's room, and the safe was carefully examined by
Lord Erstfield and Captain Ponsonby. The case containing the
diamonds was indeed missing, but not another jewel not even
the smallest ring had been touched. There was no mark of the
safe having been tampered with in any way, and as it was
made on a perfectly unique pattern, and there was not
supposed to be a key in the world to fit it, except the
special ones made for it, the whole affair seemed buried in
hopeless mystery. No one accused me in any way, and it never
occurred to me, as I stood in that room, to accuse myself.
We discussed the matter in all its bearings. We stood round
the open safe and talked until we were tired. I described
the exact position in which I had placed the case. Lady
Erstfield was certain that from the moment I returned her
the keys they had not been out of her possession until she
had again placed them in my hands that morning.
"Finally we left the room in a state of
hopeless bewilderment. Violet and I went away by ourselves,
and, sitting down together, discussed the strange mystery
from every point of view. The loss of the jewels had much
excited her. She had regained her colour and her manner was
"'I thought, at least, I should have the
diamonds,' she said, with a queer sort of desolate echo in
her voice, 'and I love diamonds: they seem to comfort me in
the strangest way. I feel akin to them. When they sparkle
and leap and glitter, they appear to me to be alive; they
tell me secrets of the strange things they have witnessed in
the course of their long existence. Think, if the Ponsonby
diamonds could speak, what stories they could tell of the
queer, queer things they have seen and heard; eh, Beryl?'
"I tried to turn the conversation--Lady
Violet was always worse after indulging in wild talk of this
"'We have now to consider how to get the
Ponsonby diamonds back,' I said. 'Who can have stolen them?'
"We talked the matter threadbare,
arriving, of course, at no conclusion.
"At lunch we were surprised to find that
Captain Ponsonby had not gone to London. When the servants
withdrew, we were told that the affair of the diamonds had
been put not only into the hands of the local police, but
that the authorities in Scotland Yard had been communicated
with, and that in all probability a couple of detectives
would be sent to Beeches that night.
"'We have decided,' said Lord Erstfield,
'not to say anything of our loss to the servants. The person
who stole those diamonds is quite clever enough to hide them
if the least alarm is raised. Our best chance of recovering
the treasure is through detectives, who will come here, of
course, in plain clothes. We are expecting several fresh
guests to-morrow, and in consequence the servants have heard
that two new men-servants from London are coming here to
help them. We have communicated this fact to Scotland Yard,
and the men will be provided with the house livery.'
"After making this statement, which he
did very briefly, Lord Erstfield left the room.
"The early part of the afternoon passed
listlessly. Lady Violet was once more pale, deadly tired,
and too languid to care to do anything. I persuaded her to
lie down, and offered to read her to sleep.
"'No,' she answered; 'I don't want
anyone to read to me. I will shut my eyes and think of the
diamonds. Go and take a walk, Beryl; you look pale and tired
"I saw she did not want me, and putting
on my hat, I went out for a stroll. I had gone a little way
from the house when I heard footsteps behind me. I turned
and saw, to my surprise, that Captain Ponsonby was following
"'I noticed that you had gone out,' he
said, 'and took the liberty of coming after you.' He grew
red as he spoke. 'I want to say something to you,' he said;
'something of importance. Can we go somewhere where we can
"I told him that I was going to walk
through the shrubbery, and that he might, if he pleased,
accompany me there; 'but,' I added, 'I shall not be out
long, for I am anxious about Lady Violet and want to return
"We entered the shrubbery as I spoke. He
did not speak at all for a moment; then he said, with a sort
of abruptness which surprised me:--
"'I will not keep you long. I am glad of
this opportunity.' Here he paused, and, turning, looked me
full in the face.
"'If you will give me back the
diamonds,' he said, 'I will faithfully promise to arrange
matters so that not a breath of suspicion shall rest upon
"I felt as if I were shot. His words
took me so completely by surprise that I could no: find
either breath or speech for a moment.
"'Do you really think,' I said then, in
a choking voice--'is it possible that you think, really,
that I--I have stolen the diamonds?'
"I suppose my agitation confirmed his
"He looked at me with a queer sort of
"'I could see yesterday how struck you
were with their beauty,' he said. 'Do you remember what you
said about imprisoning the rainbow? The opportunity to take
the diamonds was put into your hands. You could not resist
the sudden temptation, but I am sure you are sorry now, and
would return them if it were possible. I believe I can
manage this for you, if you will confide in me.
"I turned quickly; my face was hot; my
heart was beating so fast I thought it would burst.
"'Come with me at once to Lady
Erstfield,' I said: 'say those words again in her presence.
She shall search all my possessions. Come, don't delay a
"'You must be mad,' he said. 'For
Heaven's sake don't inculpate yourself in that manner. As
far as I am aware, I am the only person who, at present,
suspects you. It has never, I know, even entered into
Violet's head that you could have had anything to do with
the robbery, and Lord and Lady Erstfield, I am sure, think
you as innocent as themselves--they are the most loyal
people in the world--they believe, and rightly, that they
owe Violet's life to you. I don't think they could harbour
an unkind thought of you. Lord Erstfield and I have talked
over the loss for a couple of hours this morning, and your
name has not once been mentioned in connection with it--I
"'You alone,' I interrupted, I entertain
this horrible doubt against a defenceless girl?'
"'I am very sorry,' he replied, in a
steady voice, 'but it is not even a doubt.' Here he looked
full at me. 'In my mind it takes the form of a certainty. It
is absolutely impossible that anyone else could have taken
the diamonds. They are gone--you were last seen with
them--you put them into the safe. You returned the keys to
Lady Erstfield, who did not let them out of her possession
until she gave them to you again this morning. You must see
for yourself what the logical conclusion is--you are the
"'No one else has come to that logical
conclusion,' I answered.
"'I am a man of the world,' he replied.
"I stood perfectly still for a moment.
His cool assurance seemed to deprive me almost of the power
of thought. I turned to walk towards the house, but he
barred my path.
"'What can I do to induce you to be
guided by my common-sense?' he said. 'I can understand the
sudden temptation--if you return the jewels to me, not a
shadow of suspicion shall ever rest upon you from any other
"'I think,' I said, in a trembling
voice, 'that the only thing for me to do will be to adhere
to my first resolution, to see Lady Erstfield in your
presence--to ask you to accuse me of the theft before
her---to insist upon having all my possessions searched, and
then to leave Beeches immediately.'
"'You won't screen yourself by any such
plan,' said Captain Ponsonby--'nay, your wish to leave
Beeches will seem to all interested as a certain proof of
your guilt. I wish I could get you to understand that I do
not feel unkindly to you--that I am sincerely anxious to be
your friend in this matter. I know you to be
guilty. If you protested from now until Doomsday, the
firm conviction in my mind would still be unshaken. May I
state the case very briefly to you? Will you try and listen
as if I were telling you about some other girl? You took the
diamonds in a moment of acute temptation. You are, I
presume, a penniless girl. You admired the gems, not only
for themselves but also for the effect they produced when
they shone like so many suns round your warm, white throat.
The price of these jewels was named in your presence. If you
could sell them, you would be rich--if you could keep them
and wear them, you would be beautiful enough to turn any
man's bead. Yes, I understand--I pity, and I am most anxious
to screen you. No one else suspects you at present at
Beeches, but that state of things will not continue there
much longer. As soon as the detectives from London arrive,
their suspicions will naturally be fastened on you. Your
youth and apparent innocence will in no way deceive them.
They will whisper doubts into the minds of Lord and Lady
Erstfield, and into the mind also of Lady Violet. The
Ponsonby diamonds are of immense historical importance--they
have been mixed up with the fortunes of the family for a
couple of centuries, and it is absolutely impossible that a
girl like you can hide them successfully. Go where you will,
you will never be able to sell that necklace and pendant.
Each diamond has a story, and can be traced by experts into
whatever hands it falls. You can never sell the necklace,
nor would you ever dare to wear it, except in the privacy of
your own room. I beg of you, therefore; to let me have it
back, and I solemnly swear that the secret shall never pass
"I listened to Captain Ponsonby's speech
with great attention. The buzzing m my ears and the great
tumult round my heart had now to a considerable extent
subsided. I was able to bring my common-sense to bear upon
the matter, and to absolutely force myself to look the facts
in the face as they were presented to me from Captain
Ponsonby's point of view. Strange as it may seem, my whole
nature became subjected to a sort of revulsion, and far now
from being angry with Captain Ponsonby for his accusations,
I could not but admire something chivalrous in him which
made him come as he thought to my assistance. My only wonder
now was, that the Erstfields and Lady Violet were not also
convinced of my guilt.
"I remained silent, therefore, for a
couple of minutes before I replied.
"'I understand,' I said then, slowly,
'you have explained the position of affairs. I see plainly
how very black the circumstantial evidence is against me. I
am not surprised at your suspicions, and my wonder is that
they are not shared by the rest of the family. As it
happens, I am not the thief you imagine me.'
"When I said this, he sighed heavily,
shook his head, and, turning, began to walk slowly back with
me towards the house.
"'I am not a thief,' I continued, 'for
the simple reason that the temptation you spoke about did
not exist. The beauty of the gems attracted me yesterday,
and I looked at them with pleasure, as I like to look at all
lovely things, but I never coveted them the thought never
even occurred to me to wish to possess them. I am not as
other girls--my life is consecrated--consecrated to the
cause of suffering and pain. I live to help people who are
obliged to keep on the shady side of life. My whole mind and
heart are occupied with these people and their concerns. I
do not want money, for my profession supplies me with
plenty, and if I had diamonds ten times as beautiful, when
as a professional nurse, could I wear them? I have listened
to your side of the affair--I must beg of you to listen to
mine. You must see for yourself that, the temptation not
existing, it could not be acted upon. I believe you mean
kindly by all that you have said, and I thank you for the
kindness. Now I will go indoors.'
"I left him--he did not say another
word, but I saw by the expression of his face that I had
only puzzled without convincing him.
"I went straight up to my own room, and
sitting down, thought over the queer turn of events. The
horror of the thing grew greater and greater the more I
thought it over. I felt torn in two--longing one moment to
rush to Lady Erstfield and tell her everything, and the next
being kept back by the thought that by so doing I might only
put a suspicion into her head which did not exist.
"I was presently sent for to attend to
Violet. She had awakened after a bad dream and was in a very
uncomfortable and depressed condition. Notwithstanding
my own great unhappiness, I could see that she had something
on her mind, but although I did all in my power to break the
ice, I could not get her to talk to me in a free and natural
"That evening the detectives arrived
from London, and the next day several visitors came to the
house. Everything went on with outward smoothness, and the
subject of the diamonds was by mutual consent never alluded
to. Lady Violet grew worse, and the gay house party
dispersed sooner than was intended. Captain Ponsonby stayed
on, however. I met him occasionally, but we scarcely
exchanged a word. I could see that he was anxious and
haggard, but I set this down to his fears with regard to
Lady Violet who steadily refused to see him, and never left
her bedroom and boudoir. I spent almost all my time with
her, but as the days wore on I could not but feel the horror
of my position more and more. I saw plainly that the
suspicion which Captain Ponsonby harboured was shared by the
two detectives, and also, in process of time, the poisonous
thought was communicated to Lord and Lady Erstfield. Lady
Erstfield's manner to me completely altered Instead of
treating me with almost the affection of a mother, she was
cold and distant; she avoided meeting my eyes, and never
spoke to me on any subject except what related to Violet's
health. That is the position of affairs to-day, Dr. Halifax.
I am suspected of the most horrible theft, and have not a
chance of clearing myself. Lady Violet alone loves me as of
old. She is my dear sister, and for her sake I----"
Here the poor girl completely broke down,
and, covering her face with her hands, sobbed aloud.
"Take courage," I said to her.
"I have, at least, one bit of comfort for you: I also
fully believe in you. You no more stole the diamonds than I
"Oh, thank you--that is like you,"
she said. "God bless you for those words."
"I am glad I have come here, for every
reason," I continued. "My presence here is
necessary not only on account of Lady Violet, but also on
your account. I introduced you to this house, and am
responsible for your conduct; I shall therefore not leave a
stone unturned to clear you, and now you must go back to
your work with as brave a heart as you can."
She rose at once, wiping her eyes and trying
to look cheerful.
"One word before you return to Lady
Violet," I said. "Is it true that she has broken
off her engagement?"
"Lady Erstfield told me that she gave
you her confidence in this matter."
"Yes, she spoke to me this
"Do you mind telling me what
"She was very weak and had a difficulty
in using her voice, but she whispered to me. Her words were
something like these:--
"'Tell my father and mother that I do
not love Captain Ponsonby, and will never marry him. From
the first he never attracted me, and now there is no
inducement--not even the diamonds!'"
"Did she really say 'not even the
"Yes, she certainly did. I thought it
strange at the time."
"It was undoubtedly strange. Now go back
to your patient and keep up all the courage you can. I shall
remain at Beeches until to-morrow, and even longer if
necessary. I wish to take care of Lady Violet myself
to-night, in order to give you rest."
Miss Temple left the room, and after thinking
matters over I went downstairs. Captain Ponsonby was still
in the house. When I abruptly entered one of the
drawing-rooms, I found him talking with Lady Erstfield.
"Can I speak to you?" I said to the
"Certainly," she replied, starting
up. "Is Violet worse? What is the matter?"
"There is no change in Lady Violet's
condition," I replied. "What I have to speak about
refers to Miss Temple."
Captain Ponsonby rose when I said this and
prepared to leave the room.
I interrupted this movement.
"I beg of you not to go," I said.
"I particularly want you to hear what I have come to
He turned and walked slowly back to one of
the windows. I could see by the expression of his face that
he was a good deal annoyed. He was a handsome, soldierly
looking man at least five-and-thirty years of age, with a
somewhat overbearing manner. I could understand a child like
Lady Violet shrinking from him in possible fear, and yet
there was nothing, underhand about him. I could see that he
was scrupulously honourable, although his tact would
probably not be of the finest.
"I should like you to hear what I have
got to say," I continued, "for you seem to be
mixed up in the matter. I refer to the loss of the
"Oh, the diamonds!" exclaimed Lady
Erstfield. "Do you suppose we, any of us care about
them in an hour of terrible sorrow like this?"
"Pardon me," I continued,
"there is one person who cares a great deal about them.
A young girl, who came here at my recommendation--I allude
to Miss Temple. It seems that you, sir,"--here I turned
to Captain Ponsonby--"have accused Miss Temple in the
most unmistakable manner of having stolen the diamonds. You
accused her of the theft nearly ten days ago, and since then
she has reason to believe that you, Lady Erstfield, share
Lady Erstfield's face grew pale and troubled.
"Beryl has told you," she
exclaimed. "Poor child, I feared that she would not
fail to see the alteration in my manner. Try hard as I would
to hide my feelings, I could not treat her as I did before.
"Well," she continued, "I am
sorry, deeply sorry, to say that we all, with the exception
of Violet, suspect her now. She alone had access to the
safe---not a breath of suspicion falls on anyone else. Miss
Temple has managed to hide the diamonds with wonderful skill
for the time being--but in the end she must betray herself.
We wish if possible to avoid having her arrested; she is
closely watched, however, for there can be little doubt of
"And believing this," I said, in a
stern voice, "you allow this girl to continue to nurse
"Certainly," replied Lady
Erstfield; "in Violet's present condition it would kill
her to part with Miss Temple."
I had some difficulty in controlling my
"I am glad I have come," I said,
after a pause, "and that not only on Lady Violet's
account. I cannot leave Beeches until this matter is
satisfactorily cleared up. It is my firm conviction that
Miss Temple no more stole the diamonds than you did, Lady
Lady Erstfield murmured something which I
could not quite hear.
"I can say with the utmost truth that we
are all only too anxious to clear Miss Temple from this
horrible suspicion if it can be done," remarked Captain
"Oh, certainly--most certainly,"
added Lady Erstfield. "Anything you can suggest, Dr.
Her words were interrupted--there came a
hurried message from the sick room. Lady Violet had awakened
in a high state of delirium. Lady Erstfield and I both
hurried to her side. I saw that the case was truly one of
life or death, and nothing further was said about the
diamonds for the present.
Towards evening the sick girl seemed to grow
a little easier; she sank into another heavy slumber, and I
saw, with satisfaction, that the remedies I had employed
were already getting the pneumonia under.<-- sic; do they
mean under control? --> I now arranged that Miss Temple was
to have a night's rest, and that Lady Erstfield and I should
watch by the patient for the night.
Lady Erstfield lay down on a sofa at the far
end of the spacious bedroom, and I sat by Lady Violet. Her
sleep was frequently broken by sharp cries of pain and
distress, but I generally managed by a firm word or touch to
control her wild fits of delirium. She did not know me,
however, although she submitted immediately when I spoke to
her. I had many anxious thoughts to occupy me during the
night watches. These were chiefly centred round Beryl
Temple. I could not help seeing that there was abundant
ground for the suspicion which attached to her. She was, I
knew well, innocent; but unless the diamonds were
discovered, grave doubts would always arise when her name
was mentioned. I did not think the Erstfields would
prosecute her, but I almost wished them to do so, in order
to bring the matter to an issue.
As the night wore on, I fell for a few
moments into an uneasy sleep. In my sleep I dreamt of the
diamonds. I saw them sparkling round the neck of Lady
Violet, whose eyes shone with a strange, fierce fire which
made them look almost as bright as the glittering gems. I
awoke with certain words on my lips. Lady Violet had said to
Miss Temple: "Now there is no inducement to my
marriage--not even the diamonds." I thought the words
queer at the time--I pondered over them now.
Rising from my chair, I went over to the bed
and looked at the sick girl. She was breathing more quietly.
I laid my hand on her forehead, and knew at once that her
temperature was less high.
I went across the room to Lady Erstfield. She
had been asleep, but woke when I approached her.
"I think' my patient is a shade
easier," I said. The poor mother uttered a thankful
"I will go and sit by her now for an
hour or two," she answered. "I have had a long
sleep and am refreshed. Won't you lie down, Dr. Halifax? I
will call you if Violet requires anything."
I told her that I would go into the outer
room and lie on the sofa. I was by habit a light sleeper,
and the least word from Lady Erstfield would bring me back
to my patient. I lay down, and in a moment was asleep.
I had not slept long when the sound of
conversation in the sick room aroused me.
I sprang to my feet, and went back there at
once. Lady Erstfield did not hear me. She was standing,
facing the bed. Lady Violet was sitting up and speaking in
an eager voice.
"I am better," she said;
"mother, I want the diamonds--mother, get them for
me--I want to feel them and to look at them--they will
comfort me--mother, do get them for me at once--the Ponsonby
diamonds, you know what I mean--do, mother, dear,
fetch me the Ponsonby diamonds."
"You must lie down," I said, going
to the other side of the bed; "here, let me cover you
She turned to look at me. I forced her back
on her pillow and put the bedclothes over her.
"Who are you?" she inquired, gazing
at me with her bright, too bright, eyes.
"Your friend and doctor--my name is
"Oh, have you come back again, Dr.
Halifax? I like you very much. Thank you for sending me
Beryl. I love Beryl. Where is she now?"
"Lying down, tired out; you must not
disturb her: your mother and I will do anything for you that
you want. Now you must not talk any more. Let me give you
She allowed me to put my hand under her head
to raise her, and drank a little milk and soda-water, with a
sigh of relief.
"That is nice," she said; "I
am so thirsty."
"Turn on your side now and go to
sleep," I said.
"I cannot; I cannot. Are you there,
mother? Mother, don't leave me. Mother, won't you give me
the diamonds? I shall sleep sound, very sound if I may wear
them round my neck! Do, mother, dear, give me the Ponsonby
diamonds--you don't know how I long for them."
"My darling," said Lady Erstfield,
falling suddenly on her knees by the bedside, and bursting
into tears, "I would give them to you if I could; but
they are lost, Violet, dear--the Ponsonby diamonds are
"Oh! no, they aren't, mother,"
replied the girl, in a voice of astonishment; "they are
in my jewel-case--in the lower drawer. The case which holds
the diamonds just fits into the lower drawer of my
jewel-case. You will find my keys on the dressing-table. Do,
do fetch the diamonds, mother."
Lady Erstfield sprang to her feet and looked
with a kind of horrified consternation at her child.
"No, my love," she said then, in a
soothing voice, "you are dreaming--you are not well and
have had a bad dream. Go to sleep, my sweet darling, go to
"But I am not dreaming,," said Lady
Violet--"the Ponsonby diamonds are in my dressing-case.
I remember putting them there quite well--I had forgotten,
but remember now quite well. Dr. Halifax, won't you fetch
"Certainly," I replied. "Lady
Erstfield, will you direct me to Lady Violet's
"Yes," replied Lady Erstfield.
The poor woman staggered rather than walked
across the room. She gave me the key of the jewel-case. I
opened it and lifted out the several compartments until I
came to the bottom drawer. There lay an old-fashioned
morocco case. I opened it, and the Ponsonby jewels in all
their magnificence lay before me.
"My God, what does this mean?"
gasped Lady Erstfield.
"Hush," I said, "don't say
anything--take them to her."
"You must do it, I cannot," she
I took the case up to the bedside. Lady
Violet gave a little cry of rapture when she saw it. In a
twinkling, she had lifted the necklace from its bed of ruby
velvet and had clasped it round her white throat.
"Oh, my beautiful, sparkling treasures
" she exclaimed; "how I love you--how you comfort
She lay down at once and closed her eyes. In
a moment she was in sound and dreamless sleep.
The case was one, without any doubt, of
sudden and acute kleptomania. This strange nervous disorder
had in all probability been developed in Lady Violet by the
depression caused by her uncongenial engagement to Captain
Ponsonby. The whole thing was now clear as daylight--poor
Lady Violet was the unconscious thief. She had stolen the
diamonds and then forgotten all about her theft. In her
delirium memory returned to her, and in her desire to
possess the gems she recalled where she had placed them. How
she secured the keys of the safe was an unsolved mystery for
some time, but Lady Erstfield, in thinking matters over,
remembered how close Violet had sat by her sidc on the sofa
in one of the drawing-rooms the evening before the loss was
"She was often fond of putting her hand
into my pocket in play," said the lady; "it was a
trick of hers as a child, and I used to be quite cross about
it, sometimes. She must have transferred the keys from my
pocket to her own on that occasion, gone upstairs and removed
the diamonds from my jewel safe to her own jewel-case, and
then once more slipped the keys back into my pocket."
This explanation seemed sufficiently likely to
satisfy people; anyhow, no other was ever forthcoming. Poor
Beryl was, of course, restored to higher favour than ever;
indeed, Lord and Lady Erstfield felt that they could not
possibly make enough of her. The finding of the diamonds was
the turning-point in Lady Violet's illness. She slept for many
hours with the sparkling gems round her neck, and when she
awoke it was to consciousness and recovery.
The diamonds were returned to Captain Ponsonby
on the following day, and the engagement between him and Lady
Violet was at an end. There is only one strange thing to add
to this strange story. Lady Violet has never, from the moment
of her awakening to now, alluded to the Ponsonby diamonds. It
is my belief that she has forgotten all about them, and, as
far as I can tell, I do not think she will ever be visited by
another attack of kleptomania.