The Private Diary of Elizabeth Quatermain
by Lady Norbert
30 August 1899
I came to bed a bit late last night, and was too tired to write any further of yesterday's events. It is now morning, and I am in my quarters awaiting the call for breakfast.
It was decided that any further exploration of the cathedral would wait until today, when we all -- meaning the five League members and myself -- will go there together. So after luncheon, I ventured to the library and found Tom muttering to himself over a book of French history.
"I thought I'd come and see if there was anything useful in the history of Notre Dame itself," he said when I joined him. "Haven't found a thing, though."
"A good idea, but not worth skipping meals for," I chided him gently. I thought the conversation might go a bit more easily if we didn't face each other, so I turned my attention to the bookcases as though carefully selecting a volume. Nemo's collection is filled with every kind of book imaginable, from reference works to masterpieces of fine literature.
"Yes, well, I didn't have much of an appetite." His voice was so filled with bitterness that I couldn't help turning to look at him.
"You don't know that you have any reason to be jealous, Tom. None of us can divine what transpired between them last night."
"No, I have a pretty clear idea of what happened," he snapped. "She made her decision. I don't really blame her...he's a good man and a good friend, and he'll devote himself to her. Both sides of him will. I just feel like I got the short end of the stick again."
"No, please," I said, sitting down beside him. "I mean, if you don't mind telling me...I know so little about you."
He pulled an odd face. He didn't look angry, just hesitant and a bit regretful. "Her name was Becky," he said finally. "Becky Thatcher. I was only a boy when I first saw her, but...well, anyway, she was my girl -- my only girl -- for years."
He went on to tell me how he and his best friend, a boy known by the curious name of Huckleberry Finn, had grown up together and, after Tom had successfully solved a baffling murder mystery, had decided to become agents in the Secret Service together. Tom had been raised by his aunt, now dead; Huck (as he called him) was like the brother Tom had never had. "Huck and Becky would have been enough of a family for me," he said. "Then Huck died -- he was murdered by Moriarty, the same one who killed your father. I went home to Missouri to see him buried proper, and I found out Becky had married someone else." He shook his head. "That was when I left for England to join the League. There's nothing left for me back home anymore."
I felt such a rush of sympathy for him as he told his story. All of twenty years old, and his whole life has been filled with sadness. His family gone, his best friend gone, his childhood sweetheart married to another -- and of course he'd had to endure the loss of my father too.
"For what it's worth," I said softly, "I do understand a bit how you feel."
Tom's head came up so sharply I thought his neck might snap. "How can you?"
"A little over a year ago, I stood as the maid of honour when my best friend got married. Unfortunately for me, her choice of bridegroom was the exact same man I'd hoped to marry myself. To add insult to injury, I later discovered that he'd considered courting me until he found out that marrying Allan Quatermain's daughter and acquiring Allan Quatermain's personal wealth were not the same thing."
He looked faintly angry, and I feared my comparison had offended him. I got up and busied myself at a bookcase again, pretending to search for something to read while I discreetly dried my eyes. At length I selected Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass and, now composed, sat back down again. I deliberately avoided looking at him, but I heard him when he spoke.
"Well, he didn't deserve you, then."
I smiled, turning pages. "Thank you. I appreciate that." To change the subject, I showed him the book I had chosen. "He's an American poet, isn't he?"
"Oh, yeah. I've never read any of his stuff, but they say he's good."
I let Tom get back to his history studies and continued reading the poetry. Whitman really is quite good; I have heard some controversial things about the poet himself, but as a writer, I cannot fault his genius. One of his poems I liked so well, I read it until I had it memorized so that I could write it here.
O you whom I often and silently come where you are
that I may be with you,
As I walk by your side or sit near,
or remain in the same room with you,
Little you know the subtle electric fire
which for your sake is playing within me.
So short, and yet so eloquent.
I was on perhaps my fifth reading of the poem when Tom made an exclamation, and jumped to his feet. He was staring at the pages of his book with a stunned expression.
"What is it?"
"I think I found your bent Q," he said, all the bitterness chased away by his excitement. "Did you ever hear of a book called The Hunchback of Notre Dame?"
I started to answer in the affirmative, and then I, too, realized what he meant. "Quasimodo! The hunchback!"
"There's got to be a copy of it here," he said, and we started searching the shelves frantically. Fortunately, Nemo keeps his library quite well-organised, so it did not take us long to find what we sought.
"It's a big book," Tom noted. "This might take awhile."
So it did. The hours ticked by, unnoticed, as we passed the volume back and forth, taking turns in the reading. It grew so late, in fact, that our friends came looking for us when we did not report for the evening meal. By that time, we had found two likely prospects in the book, two somewhat secret places in the cathedral which might be related to the mystery at hand, and we presented these theories to our companions. One is called the Porte Rouge, said to be a "communication" between the church and cloisters -- by this, I am guessing, it is meant a kind of passageway. The other is a small cell, near the belfry in the tower nearest the river, which was used in the story by the hunchback's foster father as a private chamber. We have all agreed that after breakfast today, we will search the cathedral for these two places to see if we can find the key.
Thank goodness Tom realized that the bent Q was really Quasimodo, and sent us looking in Victor Hugo's book. Otherwise, this entire adventure might have dragged on endlessly. I wish Father had been just a bit more precise in his clues; he should have remembered that I am not the clever hunter he was. But even Nemo, whom I would surmise is the wisest and most learned of all our company, agreed that Father's referral to Quasimodo as "the bent Q" was very bewildering.
I do miss him, however. I miss him more than I could have guessed.
This has been a very long and frightening day.
It did not begin that way. On the contrary, after breakfast we left the Nautilus and found ourselves enjoying some truly fine weather. Nemo had originally suggested we travel to the cathedral in his automobile, but as it was such a lovely day, we all decided to walk.
Ahead of me on the street, I saw Henry offer his arm to Mina, and she took it. I am not exactly certain why, but I could not help smiling a little at this. Henry really is a very sweet person, and I can only imagine he has been lonely for a long time; if Mina is starting to return his interest, it most likely could be the best thing for him. I glanced at Tom and was relieved to see that he was composed; either he has grown much better at hiding his jealousy, or he is starting to let go of his own attraction to the lady. I cannot tell which, but I have no wish to see him hurting. He has been hurt too much already.
Skinner afforded me further amusement by offering me his own arm. I have grown dearly fond of all the members of the League, but in his own way, Skinner is dearest to me. There is no romance to my attachment, of course, but I find myself wishing that I'd had a friendship like this with my brother Harry when he was alive. Of them all, Skinner is the one around whom I feel most at ease, which I suppose is why I permit certain slight breaches of etiquette on his part. I've even come to not mind being called Bess, though I don't mean to encourage it in any of the others.
"Don't know what you've done to the boy," he said quietly.
"And I don't know what you're talking about," I replied.
"Come off it. Yesterday he was greener than the lawns at Kensington Palace. Today he's as cool and collected as I've ever seen him. You did something."
"I've done nothing at all. We just talked."
"Whatever you call it, I'd say you've got the Quatermain touch."
I believe that may be the nicest compliment I have ever received.
We reached the cathedral and, in complete opposition to our decision of earlier in the week, began trying to find someone whom we could question about Notre Dame. I know very little French -- I read it more accurately than I speak it, but my attempts at conversation would only provoke laughter from a native. Nevertheless, I was appointed to find someone who spoke English and query them about our intentions, while the others resumed their search at and near the altar. At length I located a sexton with whom I could communicate without much difficulty, and I started to ask him questions. I had scarcely mentioned Hugo, however, when he shook his head.
"Mademoiselle," he said, "I trust you do not put too much faith in that man's book! It gave great fame to Our Lady of Paris in a time when she was sadly neglected, but there is little in its pages that could be considered truth."
"Then there is no private chamber near the belfry?" I asked. I felt keenly disappointed, as I'd really hoped that would be what we needed.
"Non, no such room exists."
"And what of the Porte Rouge?"
The words were just out of my mouth when it dawned on me what they meant, and I realized how terribly stupid I must have sounded. "Porte Rouge" is French for "red door" -- it was a reference to one of the entrances to the cathedral, nothing more. I had been misled by the context in which the term was used in the book. The sexton just chuckled; he said nothing, apparently sensing that I had already answered my own question.
"Is there nothing you can tell me about any unseen locations? Something perhaps concealed beneath the altar, or near it? Anything at all would be most helpful."
"Mademoiselle, the cathedral -- she is a great lady, non? She does not tell all of her secrets. It would take centuries to understand them all. But look here," he continued, "if you and your friends are so interested in Monsieur Hugo's story, why not visit the bell tower itself? You will have to climb many stairs, but if you wish to see the gargoyles, I will show you where to go."
I thanked him earnestly and went back to my friends. Once I had related all he had said (while trying very hard not to draw attention to my own gaffe with the red door), it was suggested that we break up into groups -- one to continue searching below, the other to examine the towers. We decided that Tom, Nemo and I would visit Quasimodo's bells, while Mina, Henry and Skinner toured the rest of the main floor. Among other things, they intended to study the various stained-glass windows for possible symbolism in the patterns.
The sexton showed us the door leading to the stairs. "It is quite a climb, monsieurs et mademoiselle, but to see the bells, just go as high as you are able. Have a caution, s'il vous plait, when visiting the gargoyles!"
He was not exaggerating about the length of the climb, for I have never gone up so many stairs in my life. But at last we came to where the great bells are kept, the rooms where Quasimodo -- in fiction, at least -- had lived and worked his whole life. The bells are massive, and my mind reeled as I contemplated how they had been used to call the faithful to worship for over five hundred years.
We began by inspecting every accessible inch of bell, wall, and floor. If this was Quasimodo's lair, and he was able to help me, then it was plausible that there might be a hidden passage or secret room. But if there is, then it has remained secret and hidden, for none of us were able to find anything, though the sun shining in on us was bright.
Tom pointed out that, in the book, Quasimodo had spent some of his time befriending the stone gargoyles on the outside of the building, so we went out onto the parapets to explore their domain. A queer assortment of creatures they are, too; angels and demons sit alongside each other and study the city in quiet contemplation. Some of them look like monsters, some like animals, some like real people. They are extraordinary products of imagination, and I had to wonder about the people who had made them.
"It's very windy up here," Nemo called. "Elizabeth, be mindful of your footing on the walkways."
This is where my story turns frightening, for he gave this advice to the wrong person. I held tightly to the rails with one hand as I went, and would not venture out very far, nor look down. Tom, however, walked out as far as he could go, peering over the railings at the gargoyles out of our reach. He straightened up and turned, shaking his head at me to show he'd spotted nothing odd.
And then, as though the wind had suddenly shoved him, he was blown back against the rail and neatly flipped over. I had one instant in which to register the look of terrified surprise which crossed his face before he was gone from my sight.
I started to scream, and Nemo came rushing to join me as I ran to the place where he'd been standing. We stared down at another ledge, much too small to walk upon; it may have been nothing more than a stone drain for rainwater. Tom was somehow managing to cling to it, was in fact almost completely curled around it.
"Stay here," Nemo urged me, "and whatever you do, don't let go of the railing. We need Hyde for this."
It seemed ages that he was gone. I kept calling to Tom, but either the wind kept drowning out my voice or he just could not hear me, for he made no answer. Then I heard the wild, piercing screech of a colony of bats, which swarmed around me as though from out of nowhere. These melted almost at once into the figure of Mina, standing at my side.
"They're coming." It was all she had time to say before we heard a great noise from inside the bell towers. Nemo and Skinner came hurrying out to join us, and behind them was the largest creature I had ever seen.
So this was Hyde. He is enormous, apelike, with only traces in his features that remind one of Henry. Everything I knew was telling me to have no fear, yet as I gazed upon him, I could not help but shake.
The four of us watched helplessly as Tom, possibly losing consciousness, seemed to relax his grip on the ledge where he was so precariously perched. Hyde, however, sprang into action at once. Like one of the great daredevil artists one sees at carnivals, he leaped over the rail and began to swing himself progressively lower on the building, using different features of the architecture to support his weight. He reached Tom's lifeless form and snatched him up, then dropped as though a stone to the earth below. We heard the massive 'thud' as he hit the ground, and the shrieks of passers-by reached our ears for the first time.
"Sounds like an audience," said Skinner. "I think we'd best beat a hasty retreat." He shed his clothes and glasses swiftly, pressing them into Nemo's hands; Mina, meanwhile, resumed her bat form and flew off in the direction of the Nautilus. Nemo managed to coax my hands off of the railing, which I'd been clutching in terror, and somehow we made our way back down the stairs and out of the cathedral without attracting further notice.
Back aboard the ship, we all assembled in the infirmary, where Hyde had deposited Tom in a bed. He was very white, and not moving much. There was blood matted in his hair, from a wound which Mina was attempting to clean and dress.
"Elizabeth," said a low, rough voice I didn't recognize. Then I realized this was Hyde speaking, and I turned to look him full in the face. "Elizabeth, Henry says you should go and get the herbs with which you tried to revive Mina. They might help Tom."
Relieved to have something to do, I left the room and all but ran to my own quarters to collect the requested items. This time the herbs did succeed, for some of the colour came back to his face almost at once, and he started to cough great gulps of air as he opened his eyes. I wanted to weep with relief; when I'd seen him lying on that ledge, I was certain he was dead.
"Hi," he muttered thickly.
Skinner, who had reclaimed his garments from Nemo and was dressed again, left the room and returned with some of Henry's clothing. I didn't understand this until I turned and saw that Hyde had changed back into Henry, who was discarding the shirt which had torn during the transformation. He thanked Skinner and excused himself; a moment later he returned, fully dressed and looking entirely normal again.
"How's the head, Tom?" he asked, coming over to check Mina's bandages.
"Hurts." He looked up at all of us, his eyes vaguely unfocused. "Who pushed me?"
No one spoke. We all looked at each other, stunned. Finally I said, "No one pushed you, Tom. You just sort of...fell."
"I know you didn't push me," he said. His words were a trifle slurred, as though he were inebriated. "I was looking right at you when I fell. But someone did."
"There was no one there," I insisted.
"Yes -- but -- there was nobody there when you got thrown off the ship," he mumbled. He looked frightfully sleepy and disoriented. Then he leaned over one side of the bed and began to retch horribly. Mina snatched up a nearby basin and held it while poor Tom was sick. His nausea passed before very long, and he lay back down, his eyes still unfocused.
"Good God," said Henry quietly, "have we got another invisible person running around?"
"Hmm," was all Tom said. His eyes were closed again.
"No!" Henry shook him. "You mustn't sleep, Tom. Your head might be more badly wounded than we know. If you fall asleep we may not be able to revive you again."
"So tired," he moaned. "Let me sleep."
Henry looked at us all, his face anxious. "I think perhaps you should go," he said desperately. "At least for a while. I've got to try and determine the extent of his injuries, and the quieter it is in here, the better. Mina, I could use your assistance again, if you're willing."
She nodded. (Later, I found out that after sabotage nearly wrecked the Nautilus in the weeks prior to my father's death, Henry and Mina were put in charge of caring for all of Nemo's crew who sustained harm.) Slowly, and rather unwillingly, Nemo, Skinner and I filed out of the room.
I didn't know what to do with myself, so I came back here to outline the day's events in this diary and start reviewing some of my herbal notes. Possibly there is something in there which may be of use to Henry.
31 August 1899
I write this from the infirmary, where I am sitting watch at Tom's bedside. I found nothing in any of my notes which indicate an herb to be used for head trauma patients, and I can only hope that Henry is right when he expresses belief that Tom will pull through. Nemo, Skinner and I are sharing the duty of sitting with him so that Henry and Mina, who stayed with him all night, can get some rest.
He sleeps right now, and for the first time since I have known him, his face is peaceful -- almost fragile. There is something very childlike about the face, as though he is much younger than twenty. Yet sometimes I think he cannot be even that young, to have lived through so much.
The rest of us have conferred in low whispers about this latest attack on one of our company. It has been suggested that we should simply forget about finding this key. I am torn on this subject; on one hand, I hate to be disobedient to my father's last wish. But at the same time, I heartily long to wash my hands of the whole affair, which has brought us little except trouble. Though I am grateful for the time I have spent with the League, for the things they have taught me and the friendship we have shared, the fact is that had I not asked them to pursue this mystery, neither Tom nor Mina nor I would have ever been endangered by the circumstances of the adventure. Who is next on the unseen attacker's list? How many more times can we successfully evade death? Sooner or later, if these events continue, one of us will surely die.
And it will be all my fault.
I had to set my pen and diary aside for a time and give in to a storm of weeping. It was crying as I have never cried, and it seemed to me that the more I wept, the more I felt the need to give release to my tears. I cried for the danger in which I have placed my friends; I cried for the home in England that I have lost. I cried for my father, and for my brother, and even for the mother I have never known. I cried from fear, from guilt, from a bitter heartsickness I cannot identify.
I am quite fortunate in that no one heard me; Tom did not so much as stir all throughout my weeping. By the time Nemo came to relieve me at watch, I was quite composed again, and ready to seek refuge in the library. I found little comfort, however, in the cold words on cold pages, and so have returned to my quarters. Here I wait, and write, and pray.
If Tom does not recover, I shall never forgive myself.