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THE DUCIE DIAMONDS.

By C. BLATHERWICK,
AUTHOR OF “PERSONAL RECOLLECTIONS OF PETER STONNOR, ESQ.," ETC.

CHAPTER I.

Y name is Benny- James Benny-at your

service. I have been Mr. Dilling's servant for-well, for longer than I can remember. You see, my mother was maid to old Mr. Dilling, so I was in a manner born to the place; and it is through her that I know all about the old family history.

Now, there has been a deal of talk about these diamonds—too much by halfI'm sick of it! I've had to tell the story so often that now I'm going to write it down, and have done with it for good and all.

Master's mother was a Ducie. How she came to marry Dr. Dilling, the country medical practitioner at Richfield, in Hamp

shire, was a puzzle to everybody. She was not what may be called a young lady when she married, and there was some talk of her not being

over happy up there at the Towers with her old father; but for all that folks wagged their heads, and would have been well-behaved enough if it wondered how the Honourable Miss Augusta hadn't been for his mother. She spoilt him. Ducie could so far forget herself. “Forget Too high and mighty by half was Mrs. Dilherself,” indeed! Why, the doctor did more ling. Master Ducie's cloth was too superfine good than all the Ducies put together! But for the Richfield set. Poor little chap! that is what they said. They made a grand Why, one of the servant girls was sent off at mystery of it.

The old lord had got all the a moment's notice for calling him “Ducky doctor's hard-earned money, and the doctor Dilly," and I got a rare wigging one day just had got some awful secret in return.

for letting him play with Charley Spencer, Nothing was too wild for them to believe, the lawyer's son, while she went in to make except the marriage. This they couldn't a call. swallow; but married they were, and the old I remember how we went to see the old lord gave her away in the parish church. lord at Ducie Towers. Master Ducie was

A rare rumpus there was with the rest of left alone with him in the library. I peeped the family. All of them-eldest brother, through the door. There he was in mortal sisters, and other relatives—would have no- terror, perched on a chair in the middle of thing to do with her. Every man-Jack of the room, tucking in cake and fruit as fast as them gave her the cold shoulder, except her the old 'lord handed them. He didn't speak, younger brother, “Mad Tom," a rollicking but he stared. His old grandfather's face, London gentleman. He came to the wed with its deep seams and heavy, white, ropy ding, was as affable as you please, and bor- moustache, looked for all the world like one of rowed a hundred pounds of the doctor before the grim monsters I had seen carved on the he went back.

stone escutcheon outside. He plied Master And the fuss ,they made about Master Ducie with pears and cakes, walking round Ducie when he came into the world! Never and round, pulling his moustache, and taking was such a baby! Why, he had two nurses, stock of the lad from various standpoints, and was carried about in lace that cost as then, at last, nearly knocked me over by much as ten years of my clothing. When bouncing out of the room with a big oath. he grew older I was told off as his page, and We did not go there again, but whenever mighty proud I was of my charge, I can tell Mrs. Dilling drove past the

Towers in her little you. He was a fine chubby fellow, and pony phaeton afterwards she would point her whip at the battered old stone monsters get well besomed,” said he. But, bless over the gates, and tell Master Ducie some- you, his mother wouldn't hear of it. Why, thing wonderful about the family.

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she wouldn't let him out of her sight. The We went that way when we took the young house was all ajar, and it was a pretty rough gentleman to Dr. Basom's school at Wing- time for us all, I can tell you. The doctor ham. A second-rate sort of school it was, was riled to see his old friends dropping off and I puzzled my head to know how they one by one owing to Madam's stuck-up ways, could think of sending this precious young and Madam herself was always in hot water master there, till I remembered that his about the tutors. They came and went by aunt, “the Honourable Mrs. Ducie Spencer,” | dozens. Then, after a big wrangle, Mr. as she was called, lived at Wingham House. Ducie at last went off to college, where he She was a widow and reckoned to be very stopped, off and on, for four years. Then rich and very queer. Maybe they thought his father, the poor, dear, old doctor, died some good might come of his being near her. suddenly. A bad blow for us all. The old

I didn't think much of her. Like her lord had gone off a year before, and Mrs. father, she reminded me of one of the stone Dilling, being sick of Richfield and all its griffins. "Here's the pair of them,” thought surroundings, moved up to London, and set I; "one here and one at the Towers." But up housekeeping with Mr. Tom Ducie at her jewelry! It winked and blinked at South Kensington. She wasn't happy here you with a hundred eyes whenever she moved. either. Hers was the sort of nature that These were some of the Ducie Diamonds. never was, and never could be, quite happy. Like her father, too, she took stock of her She worrited herself about every blessed thing. nephew, and just as he was leaving popped The Towers didn't suit her, Richfield didn't up her gold eye-glasses, and said to her suit her, and now London didn't suit her. sister, as if suddenly struck with his plump. She was angry with her sister for being so ness, “Good heavens, Augusta, how ap- rich; and so sure as Mrs. Spencer came up pallingly like a pill!"

to her London house for the season, so sure My young master was not long at school. the two would be bickering about some I never thought that coarse, common place thing." Sometimes it would be about the would do for the like of him. I knew he young Lady Ducie at the Towers, who was was plucky to the backbone, and wasn't a supposed to have talked Mrs. Spencer over bit surprised when I saw him one evening into leaving her the diamonds; sometimes trudging along the road, tired and dusty, but about Mr. Ducie, and sometimes about Wing. game as a bantam cock. A stout-set young ham and Richfield. Poor lady! she hadn't man was walking by his side, and when a contented mind to feed upon, so she got Master Ducie ran up he says to me, “I've thinner and thinner; and my mother solemnly helped Master Dilling to get quit of Basom's believes to this day that she worried herself place yonder. I shall get into fine trouble to death. about it; but, there, I'm that tender-hearted Master was as fine and handsome a lookI couldn't help it. Just you run in and tell ing gentleman as you'll see in a day's march. his mamma as Luke Puller is here. I'm A Ducie every inch of him. Mad about art, carpenter at Wingham, but don't want no but a poor, poor painter-leastways to my reward."

mind. President, too, of the Botticellian “Why, I only met you outside on the Club—a queer lot, who met once a week in road !” cries little Ducie.

his studio to jaw away about beautifying the “Never you mind! Just run in, youngster, world. Some of them, with Mr. Powell at and tell her ladyship as Luke Puller is here. their head, went in for pictures, and some, He's run away from school, and I helped led by Mr. Delannoy, went in for ghosthim. That's about the size of it! But I hunting. don't want no reward !"

They would go hundreds of miles to ferret Thinks I to myself, “No, you don't look out a real ghost, and every ghost story was as if you did.” However, in I went. Mr. popped down in a ledger, as if it had been a Luke has a long jaw with the missis, and bale of goods. went off with two sovereigns in one pocket Now and then master went to call on his and a letter of recommendation to Mrs. aunt, Mrs. Ducie Spencer. She lived in Ducie Spencer in the other, for having ren- Park Lane, and in her little house there was dered such mighty service to a Ducie. besieged by her many relatives. All the poor

Dr. Dilling was terribly put out about this and proud Ducies, the Stanriggs, the Durbusiness. “He ought to be sent back and fords, and sometimes Lady Duci: herself,

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would make it their business to come up and “I say, uncle," he begins, “who is the look after her and her diamonds. Mr. Ducie girl they call Ada stopping with my aunt in seldom went, but for all that she was fonder Park Lane?" of him than of any of the rest. One day “ Can't say, I'm sure," replied Mr. Tom. a ter calling he came back in a bit of a pucker. “ One of my stray nieces, I should think, by I was helping Mr. Tom to pack away his the name.” cigars in the library, when in bursts Mr. “She is not a bit like a Ducie." Ducie. My, he did look handsome! He “Not got the style ? Eh ?" was just beaming all over. There was a Master hated being chaffed about the sparkle in his eye, and a dash about him I Ducies, so says, a little warmly, “I don't had never seen before.

know what the . Ducie style' may be, but I girl?"

never saw a Ducie with her perfect figure and Clymene, for sale. The Botticellians palavered sapphire eyes. She is the most beautiful crea- over it once or twice, and it ended by master ture I ever saw !”.

buying her. Then the Club redecorated her, Hillo !" cried Mr. Tom, looking down and one fine morning away we went, leaving from the top of the steps with his arm full of my mother in charge of the South Kensingcigar-boxes. “You're hit pretty hard, young ton House. We intended to sail round the 'un. Cupid's arrow gone slick through you. Land's End, up the west coast, and spend By Jove, there's the barb sticking out of your some weeks in the Scotch waters, but didn't back! I should like to see this divinity.” manage all we hoped for. She was a beauti

“Do you mean it ? Will you come ?” | tul craft, was the Clymene. Sea life was all new asked Mr. Ducie eagerly.

to me, so for a time I was pretty bad with the “Of course I will ! Don't you know I'd sickness. This wore off though. In a couple go a hundred miles any day to see a pretty of days I had my sea-legs, and then, when I

got on deck, my heart fairly bounded to see “Well, come with me tomorrow. We will our big bird spread her white wings, and sail go to lunch. Aunt Ada is uncommonly civil to away straight into Cloudland. Mi. Ducie, me just now. Why, I don't know. But too, picked up at sea. The farther we got írom come and see if I'm not right.”

Park Lane the better he grew. He and Mr. They went, but I don't think they saw the Tom knew all about the yachting business. “ Divinity.” Anyway Mr. Ducie came back I didn't, and so got knocked clean oververy different from what he did the day before. board by the big boom as we were putting From that time he got moody and irritable. about just before making the Clyde. It would He neglected the club gentlemen, and found have gone hard with me if it hadn't been for fault with everything. I had been with him Mr. Ducie. He was in the water as soon as so long that I could read him like a book. I. Ah, a fine strong swimmer was master! I knew all about it. He was over head and It was touch and go with us, but he kept me tars in love! Just like him. Slap-dash at up till they got the boat out; and when I everything

came to myself I knew that it was Mr. Ducie Then followed a deal of correspondence who had saved my life. with Park Lane, and Mr. Tom went there This will show you the sort of stuff he was pretty often. They talked so freely before made of, and it must be a queer sort of fellow me that I soon got at the bottom of it. Mrs. who wouldn't stick to him through thick and Spencer wanted to make Mr. Ducie her heir, thin ever after. There was nobody like himbut he was to drop his name and take hers. nobody! and my heart was sore when I saw Not one word would she tell him about that him pining about that Park Lane business. young lady, nor let him have so much as a It was just his nature. My mother couldn't peep at his divinity till he agreed to it. tell me much about Park Lane, but Richfield

“I tell you,” Mr. Ducie was saying one being so near to Wingham House, she knew day in answer to something his uncle had a little about Mrs. Spencer. This is what told him, “ I tell you she coupled the condi. she told me. tions with such insults, to my father and Wingham House, with some houses and mother that I won't have anything to do with land in the adjoining village, had belonged it. Of course I'm not ass enough to throw for ever so long to the Squires Hortell. away a chance like this for a bit of senti- Somehow or other they came to the bad, and ment, but I won't stand her insults!" Mrs. Ducie Spencer bought the property from

“You're right, my boy!" cried Uncle Tom, the last squire, Stephen. Queer, queer stories slapping him on the back, and there was an were told about it. " It was an unrighteous end of it.

bargain;" "the place was haunted," and But Mr. Ducie got worse and worse.

He so on. But Mrs. Spencer loved a mystery. went about looking as haggard as a starved Nothing pleased her better than to be called owl, and worried my mother's life out because the Wingham Witch with the Ducie Diahe ate nothing. All this, too, on account of a monds. Jewelry was her craze. Her degirl he had only seen once, and whose name light was to flaunt her diamonds, rubies, he didn't even know. At last the doctor emeralds, and what not, before the greedy came. He pretty soon saw it wasn't a case eyes of her many nephews and nieces. 'Twas for pills. “A sea voyage,” says he. Now they who christened her the witch, and she this was the sort of medicine to rouse him. kept up the character by worrying each of Mr. Powell was a famous yachtsman, and them in turn with hopes of being her heir

. there, by luck, was his fine schooner, the Suddenly, without warning, she would give

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