The Private Diary of Elizabeth Quatermain
by Lady Norbert
(Warning: It starts off a bit slow.)
Editor's note: Although Miss Quatermain was in the habit of keeping a personal diary for several years prior to 1899, it was in that year that she first made the acquaintance of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Therefore, we have elected only to publish the relevant diary entries from July 1899 onward.
12 July 1899
There was a letter from Father in the post today. It was the first word I've had of him since the new year, which in and of itself is nothing so unusual. He is not in the habit of writing letters. But this particular letter was very strange, even by Allan Quatermain standards. Dear Elizabeth,
You no doubt are aware of the strange and terrible things which are happening throughout Europe. I trust that you are well and safe. I have been asked to help put an end to the destruction, before the world is brought to the brink of war, and I have agreed to the mission.
I dare not say where I am to go when I leave Kenya, in case this letter falls into unfriendly hands. But there is something which I need you to remember, in case I never return, and it is this.
In the city of lights, where Our Lady cradles the body of her Son, you will find the key. The bent Q can help you locate it. You alone can I entrust with this secret, and should the day come when you learn that I have failed on my mission, you must go and recover the key. You will know what to do when you find it. Godspeed, my daughter.
I find this cryptic message most unnerving. The city of lights, of course, is Paris; everyone knows that. But Our Lady -- that suggests a place of religious significance, and I have never known the great Allan Quatermain to rely very heavily on faith. Of what key does he speak? What in the world is a bent Q?
Worst of all, I have a lingering suspicion that this will be the last letter I ever receive from my father. Whatever mission he is about to undertake is going to be his last.
2 August 1899
My worst fears are confirmed. Father is dead. I received the following telegram from Prime Minister Salisbury today.
My dear Miss Quatermain:
Today I received communication from some of the residents in Her Majesty's colony in Kenya. It is now my sorrowful duty to inform you of the passing of your father, Allan Quatermain. He was a fine man and his legend will live on after we have all departed this soil. Please accept my sincere condolences.
It pains me to burden you with such matters at this difficult time, but as you are no doubt aware, the residence known as Solomon Manor was a gift to your father from His Majesty, the late King William, uncle to our beloved Queen Victoria. Your father, regrettably, left no Will and Testament prior to his death, and as a result, the property and its furnishings are being repossessed by the British Crown. I can give you until the end of the present month to make the needed arrangements for your relocation.
There followed a list of items which, he says, are part of the manor property and must be left behind once I have vacated the premises. I found the whole letter extremely distasteful.
I cannot say that it particularly startles me to know that Father left no documented Will. As he told me on my last visit, "Africa will never let me die." Undoubtedly he thought he would live forever. I am much aggrieved by the speed with which our government intends to reclaim ownership of my home. It seems most disrespectful to make me rush through the obsequies of proper mourning in order to move to new quarters.
I do not even know where I will go. I have no family left, and no fortune of my own. With few exceptions, everything that the Crown will allow me to take can be packed into four trunks. The household servants are expected to remain until some new aristocrat takes up residence here. I have a few small jewels which were the personal property of my mother, which I suppose I shall have to sell in order to provide my own maid with severance pay.
Heaven help me, why must I be bothered with such trifles at this time? My father has died, and the Prime Minister did not even mention making arrangements to have the body brought to London for proper burial. I do not suppose he simply vanished into thin air!
Allan Quatermain may not have been much of a father, but he was the only one I had, and I loved him as much as he let me. I must retire now to the chapel to pray for his soul.
13 August 1899
A strange meeting with strange persons! Solomon Manor was today visited by the most peculiar assortment of people ever to cross her threshold. These, then, are the current members of something called the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen -- though one is a lady -- and it was alongside these that my father fell in battle. He, too, was a member.
The servants showed them into the blue sitting room and brought tea and biscuits, but I had to dismiss them before my guests would speak of their intentions in coming. There were five, all looking somewhat grave and uncomfortable. They apologized for not finding me sooner; Father, typically, had never mentioned me to any of them, and it was only a chance comment from one of his friends in Kenya that alerted them to the existence of Quatermain's daughter. Once they knew where to find me, however, they had come to London with all due speed and diligence to pay their respects.
"Please," I said, "tell me how my father died. Tell me what happened." I was dressed in black, of course, in proper mourning, but it was awhile before I realized that so were all of my guests. They, too, were grieving for the loss of my father, their comrade in arms, and I could not help but warm to them as I began to realize how much they had respected and liked him.
They told me their odd tale, though I suspect they left out many of the details in order to spare me. His death was honourable. He took a fatal knife wound when he turned his back on his enemy in order to save the life of another. Their mission, to stop the one bent on starting a global war, had succeeded, and they all agreed that they owed a large measure of their success to Father.
When I was in school, I was taught to observe much and say little, so here I will record my observations about my five visitors.
The first to make his name known to me was the legendary Captain Nemo, commander of the Nautilus and onetime terror of the seas. He was dressed in the splendid garments of his native India, though as I have said, all in black. I would put his age near that of my father, to judge by the lines on his bearded face. His manner was extremely formal, with a military crispness, but his tone was warm and sympathetic. I think he and Father probably got on well together.
The lady of the company is Wilhelmina Harker, the celebrated English chemist. We had never been formally introduced, but I know I have seen her before today. She is tall and very graceful, with a soft voice and sharp eyes. Though she was no less cordial than the rest, there is something about her which makes me uneasy. The others call her Mina.
The shy red-haired man was none other than Henry Jekyll, the doctor of renown. I was impressed to meet him, but also very puzzled, for I had heard that he was dead. He has a kindly demeanor, though slightly nervous, and I found myself wondering what purpose he and Mrs. Harker serve in the League of "Extraordinary" Gentlemen.
I have no idea what my next guest looks like, for the man is invisible. Though everything I was ever taught would have me disbelieve it, the fact is that Rodney Skinner is completely transparent. He wore a black suit and black-tinted glasses, and had smeared some form of white cream all over his head and hands in order to be somewhat visible. He is quite irreverent; I honestly believe that if he were introduced to the Queen herself, he would salute her with a merry "Cheers, ducky!" But there is something refreshing and enjoyable about such a cad, so long as nothing disappears from the house during his stay -- he was most open and honest about being, as he said, "a gentleman thief."
The last of my visitors is also the youngest; although I am not precisely certain, I believe we are near the same age. Special agent Thomas Sawyer joined the League shortly after my father did. He hails from the United States, where he is a member of the elite Secret Service. He has a rather uncontrolled mop of blond hair which is always falling in his face, very much unlike the style here in London just now. Agent Sawyer seemed the saddest and most heavily grieved of all the group, which is fitting, since it was while saving his life that my father had taken his mortal wound. He apologized to me personally for that, though I cannot imagine that there is anything requiring forgiveness. I have never met an American before, though I have heard much of their uncouth manners and disregard for propriety. But if all Americans are accurately represented by the one currently under the roof of Solomon Manor, then they must be an amiable breed, for Agent Sawyer is as pleasant as one could wish. He is not so cheeky as Skinner, but neither does he exude the formality of the others.
Tea time was well over before they had finished telling me everything, so I invited them all to supper and to stay for a few days. There are many guest rooms here, and I desire to make good use of the house while I can still claim it as my home. Besides, I wish to know more of my father's companions. They all call me "Miss Elizabeth," all except Skinner, who has given me the less desirable appellation of "Bess." I have decided to tolerate it from him, as I sense he could not be dissuaded even if I tried.
Tomorrow I will speak to my guests of my father's last letter, for I believe that he trusted these people, and they can more likely make sense of the puzzling instructions he sent than I can. Perhaps, too, they can make suggestions as to what the key he mentions unlocks. If it is their wish to go to Paris and attempt to solve the mystery, I will consent to parting with the letter.
14 August 1899
I spent the morning in the garden. A few of the small army of gardeners who are attached to Solomon Manor are in the process of transferring my precious herbs into a system of portable containers for replanting later. It will not break my heart to leave behind the elegant statuary or fine tapestries of the manor, but the herb garden has been my private treasure for years and I will not abandon it to be ruined by someone less educated about its residents. Cataloguing members of the mint family is surely an unusual task to be performing in the midst of the formal mourning period, but the pressures of time allow me no opportunity to dawdle.
It was while I was supervising the gardeners that Captain Nemo came and bade me a good morning. He seemed extremely interested in the project; Nemo is a scientist, after all, and they are known for their insatiable curiosity. It afforded me rare pleasure to be able to describe for him the medicinal properties of peppermint and sage, and he in turn spoke of some of the plants of India used for similar purposes. At half past noon, still trading snippets of our knowledge, we joined the other members of the League for luncheon.
I found Skinner examining one of the golden candelabra on the sideboard in the dining room. "Mr. Skinner," I said in what I hoped was a light, amused tone, "I'm sorry to say that you worry me. If anything should happen to...wander out of the manor, the authorities will be after me, not you."
"Why's that, Bess? I mean, it's yours, isn't it?"
"No, I'm afraid it is not." The company sat down, and I explained, albeit reluctantly. "My father left no Will, and so the Quatermain property has reverted to the Crown. I have until the end of August to -- how did the Prime Minister put it? Ah, yes, 'relocate.'" I turned to Nemo. "That is why the gardeners are potting all of my herbs, as you saw. I refuse to leave them behind, so they must be made ready to travel."
"Where will you go?" asked the breathy voice of Mrs. Harker.
I grimaced. "I regret to say that I have no idea." Composing myself, I continued, "But let us not speak of that now. There is something which I need to confide to you all."
As we ate our meal, I explained to them about the last letter I received from Father and its curious message about the key. "I realize that he wants me to go somewhere in Paris," I concluded, "but beyond that I cannot fathom what he means."
Dr. Jekyll spoke up. "I lived in Paris for several months," he said, "and I think I know what Allan meant about the Lady and her Son. In Notre Dame Cathedral, there is a statue -- a copy of one in Italy -- called La Pieta. It shows the Virgin Mary holding the body of Christ after the Crucifixion."
"Fits, doesn't it," mused Agent Sawyer. "Sounds like all we have to do is go check out the statue. But what's a bent Q?"
"Sounds like a bad Quatermain joke -- begging your pardon, Bessie," said Skinner breezily. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes.
"In any event," I said, "from what you have told me of your time with him, I firmly believe you all had my father's trust, even his admiration. I am quite certain that you are far better fitted than I to go and recover this key of his."
"Don't you want to know what it is?" asked Dr. Jekyll.
I thought about that. "I suppose I do," I admitted. "But as you can see, I've quite a bit on my plate just now."
"That's 'cause you're not eating," Skinner interjected. Mrs. Harker shushed him.
"You can see what a job I have here," I said lightly. "The manor must be shut down, my personal servants dismissed, and of course I have to find a new place to live."
"You are the last of the Quatermains, are you not, Miss Elizabeth?" inquired Captain Nemo, politely.
I nodded. "I don't know whether my father ever told you about Harry -- his son." Four of the faces looked utterly blank, but Agent Sawyer nodded. "If he were alive, the situation would be much changed, as I'm sure my father would have made absolutely certain that the manor went to him."
"What -- if I may ask -- what happened to your brother?" Dr. Jekyll looked puzzled.
"He accompanied Father on a mission, his last mission before he met all of you, and was killed. I don't know many of the details, Father wouldn't speak of it." I started playing with a corner of my napkin. "Father and I...we were not close. Harry was the child of his first wife, while I was the child of his second. He preferred Harry's company. When he died, Father retired to Kenya. I only saw him twice after that. I finished my formal schooling and took up residence here in the manor."
"You never married?" This from Mrs. Harker.
I gave her a very wry smile. "I'm not exactly what you would call a good prospect in the marriage game of London society, Mrs. Harker. I may be the daughter of a national hero, but we have no title, no family fortune. What money we have left from the sale of King Solomon's diamonds is part of the property being reclaimed by the Crown. I don't even have a dowry to offer a bridegroom; I believe the term for what I've become would be baggage."
"You've got your father's sense of humour, at least," said Agent Sawyer.
"And it serves me well, sir," I returned. "Or at least, as well as anything can in such trying times. Now," I said, changing the subject, "is it the intention of the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen to seek out the key of their late member, Allan Quatermain? If you plan to solve his mystery, I will do all I can to help you get started."
"I think you should do more than that," said Captain Nemo firmly. "My friends, it is my feeling that we should not agree to undertake this quest unless Miss Elizabeth Quatermain consents to join us."
I need hardly state how utterly startled I was by his suggestion. Had I had any food in my mouth at that instant, it is likely I would have choked.
"Captain," I managed to say, "you honour me deeply, but --"
"I do not think I would add much to the League's skills," I said. "My father taught me to shoot, but I was always more interested in preserving life than in taking it. My education and talents are somewhat limited in scope. If the crew of the Nautilus has need of someone who can embroider, or make candles, I should be pleased to help. But as an adventurer, I am sadly lacking."
"No, I think Nemo is right," said Skinner. "Besides, it wouldn't feel right setting off on another mission without a Quatermain on board. I vote yes."
"As do I," said Dr. Jekyll. Mrs. Harker seemed to hesitate just slightly, but she too agreed. Agent Sawyer looked extremely thoughtful; then he nodded.
"As you can see, we are in agreement," said Captain Nemo. "We all wish you to join us. And you yourself said you have nowhere to go once you leave the manor, so it will be a beneficial move for us all."
I felt utterly overwhelmed by their kindness, their welcoming. I am fearful of letting them down, however; I pale next to my father, of whom they were all so fond. But with great relief, and not without battling against tears, I accepted their invitation. If nothing else, I can now spend my last days in this house without fear of where to go.
Luncheon being over, I encouraged my guests -- my friends -- to explore the manor as they liked until tea time, while I returned to the garden. I was surprised when Agent Sawyer asked if he could accompany me, and he followed me out into the afternoon warmth.
"So, I said, as we walked the paths among the roses and honeysuckle, "my father told you of Harry?"
"Not much, but yes." He looked slightly embarrassed. "I think he still felt guilty about your brother's death."
"He missed him sadly. I was a poor substitute." I paused, frowning, to pull some dead leaves off of a bush. "I'm not surprised he never told any of you about me."
Then Agent Sawyer said something which quite astonished me. "Maybe he was trying to protect you."
"Protect me? From what?"
"Well -- like Moriarty, for instance. Imagine what kind of trouble he could have caused if he'd known Allan Quatermain had a daughter. He could have held you hostage, or killed you to lure your father into a trap. Any of your father's enemies could have used you against him. Maybe he just wanted you to be safe."
I confess, I have never even entertained that notion. I stared at the agent for a moment, wondering if it could be true. I didn't think he cared that much for me. Now I feel as though I have wronged my father by that belief.
We continued walking in silence until we reached the herbarium, where the gardeners had ceased their labours in order to take their own luncheon. Suddenly, Agent Sawyer turned to me, and I found out why he had wanted to join me in the garden.
"Miss Elizabeth, I owe your father a lot. He taught me how to make the shot that brought down Moriarty. More than that, he saved my life twice during the mission, and the second time it cost him his own."
I started to speak, but he interrupted me. "My point is, I owe him, and I can't repay him. But if I can help you, or protect you, while we're on this adventure, I'll do it. You need anything, you say the word."
I have promised him that I will. I felt a little dazed, and had the uncomfortable sensation that I was blushing. It was absurd of me, of course. It is my father of whom he was fond, not me. Still, I must admit that there is something rather attractive about this Agent Sawyer.