The Private Diary of Elizabeth Quatermain, vol. III: The Wintering
by Lady Norbert

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12 November 1899

I have not written for a few days because, in truth, there has been little of which to write.

The news of my newfound windfall was received with both surprise and expressions of congratulations. The others inquired, as Nemo and Skinner had, whether I would continue to remain aboard the Nautilus, to which I replied that it would be my privilege to remain in their company so long as they continued to welcome me. If I may be very honest, I am somewhat astonished that everyone feels the need to ask this. I have what amounts to a family for the first time in my entire life, and I cannot fathom why anyone would expect me to give that up unless I had no choice.

Tonight Nemo held the engagement banquet for Mina and Henry, as he had promised to do. At half past six, we all reported to the stateroom for dinner; the nature of the celebration moved us all to dress more formally than we are in the habit of doing, and I was at once amused and delighted by how elegant my companions looked. Nemo's men outdid themselves with the dinner preparations, and we followed the meal with a splendid red wine Henry had purchased in Athens. Each of us, in turn, spoke a toast to the bride and groom.

Nemo offered a blessing from his native India, in which he said he wished them "dharma, artha, and kama." These are Hindustani words which mean, respectively, enlightenment, wealth, and true love.

"Well, I'm Scottish," said Skinner, when we had drunk to this. "My family's from Glasgow, originally. So here's my favourite Scottish toast for you two: May you be happy and may your enemies know it!" Coming directly after Nemo's serious and lovely tribute, this seemed twice as funny as it might otherwise have done.

I took my turn next, having remembered (after a moment's hard thinking) of a pretty toast I heard at a wedding some years ago. "May your troubles be less and your blessings be more, and may nothing but happiness come through your door!"
Finally Tom offered his toast. I wondered what he would say, for I had been curious as to how he was truly feeling about the engagement. I longed to ask him on a number of occasions, but did not quite dare; though we confide in each other fairly often, this seemed beyond delicacy.

He raised his glass to Mina and Henry, and we followed suit. "I only know one toast," he admitted. "I heard it when my half-brother Sid got married a couple years ago. May you be poor in misfortune, rich in blessings, slow to make enemies and quick to make friends, and may you know nothing but happiness from this day forward." He looked a little sheepish as he concluded the remark, but Henry and Mina both appeared gratified, and we drank heartily.

Then, to conclude the toasting, Henry offered an Irish toast to his bride. "I have known many, and liked not a few, but loved only one -- and this toast is to you." He then ventured to kiss her for the first time in front of the rest of us, and we could not restrain ourselves from applauding.

I do believe this is going to be the most wonderful wedding I have ever seen.

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14 November 1899

Oh, to be in London again, what a strange feeling! We shall be here for a number of weeks, not only to prepare for our remarkable holiday, but to visit some of the sights of the city. Tom has expressed a desire to see what can be seen while we are in the vicinity, and Henry too longs to be able to look upon London once more. (I keep thinking of how I had heard he was dead, and wonder how he intends to explain that to anyone he meets who recognizes his name. I have decided not to ask him, however, as it seems too cheeky.)

After having been in the Egyptian desert and the Mediterranean sun, foggy London seems even more damp and gloomy than ever it did when I lived here. Indeed, we all agreed the weather was too miserable to venture into the city on this, our first day here. Instead, we remained aboard the submarine, pursuing our various interests; I had another chemistry lesson with Mina, and I think I'm becoming a bit more skilled than I was. I've completed two of the monogrammed handkerchiefs for Skinner and made a list of things I wish to purchase for the herbarium while I have access to the shops with which I am familiar.

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15 November 1899

Only a brief entry today, for I'm quite tired. The weather was little better today than it was yesterday, but nevertheless I hired a carriage and delivered the boxes of Father's clothing to one of the local charities. Tom accompanied me, interested to see what he termed "ordinary city life" in London, and after the donation was thus rendered we went to the apothecary. I was pleased that the owner remembered me, though it has been many months since last I visited his shop; he inquired as to what I had been doing, and I gave him the vague answer that I am taking the 'grand tour' of Europe with friends of my father's. He offered belated condolences on Father's passing, and -- to prevent any possible suspicion of impropriety -- I introduced Tom as my cousin. This amused him greatly, and he participated in the ruse rather agreeably.

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16 November 1899

A bit of a sad day, in truth, though illuminating in some respects.

When I dwelt at Solomon Manor, I had access to the private chapel on the grounds, and it was there that the servants and I heard weekly church service. So today I had to decide which of London's churches I would attend. I settled on St. Mary's at Hill, owing to its close proximity to the river, and selected a grey ensemble which matches not only my eyes, but the dreary sky above us. I was pleased when the rest of the League members, save Nemo, decided to join me for service.

After church, I saw a young girl, dressed rather poorly, attempting to sell flowers to the parishioners as they exited. I was moved by her plight -- she could not have been more than nine years old -- and gave her a ten-pound note in exchange for all of the flowers she carried. Her eyes widened at the sight of the money, and she snatched it from my hand and raced off. If there is one especially nice thing about suddenly having money of my own, it has to be this.

I joined the others in the carriage, and gave the driver instructions to take me to Norwood Cemetery, not too far away. It had been so long since I visited my mother's grave, and as I had the flowers in hand already, it seemed like an appropriate time.

"Do you want us to wait for you?" asked Henry.

"Thank you, no. When you get back to the submarine, send the driver to Norwood again. I should be finished by the time he returns."

So, alone, I made my way through the silent graveyard. It took me a few minutes to remember where she is buried, but I found her at last. Her headstone was slightly overgrown with ivy, which I cleared away to reveal her inscription. Grace Quatermain. Born 1841, died 1879. Beloved wife of Allan.

The stone thus cleared, I arranged the flowers I had purchased in a tidy pile on the grass, then sat back on my knees. I am not in the habit of speaking to the dead, but as I contemplated her grave, I wondered what Mother might have thought of the state in which her daughter now lived. Would she disapprove of the life I have chosen? Or was she a merry spirit, as I sometimes think she must have been, who would have seen this as a great adventure? Head bowed, I murmured the Lord's Prayer, then stood and brushed at my skirts.

Well, you can imagine my surprise when I turned toward the gate and saw Skinner waiting. He came toward me then, pulling off his hat. "You came with the carriage?" I asked him.

"Yeah. You gave me ideas...it's been awhile since I visited my parents too." He stopped at the foot of Mother's grave and, surveying the stone, inclined his head in a gesture of respect which touched me deeply.

"Are they also here?" He had never mentioned his parents before.

"Over there." He pointed in the direction of the gate where the carriage awaited us. I bent and took a few of the flowers from Mother's grave; I almost whispered an apology, but something tells me she would have understood.

We walked back to his parents' graves, and I put flowers in front of each of their white stones. Adam and Martha. I noticed that their date of death was the same. After we had returned to the carriage, I inquired (as delicately as possible) what had befallen them.

"Wagon accident," he said. "I was seven. Don't remember it too well. My brother was already married, so I went to live with him. He's gone too, and my sister-in-law didn't like me well enough to keep me." He looked out the window as we rolled through the streets. "I've got a niece, somewhere. Alexandra. Haven't seen her since she was two; she's a bit younger than you, be about eighteen now."

"You've been alone all this time?" And I thought I was lonely.

"Pretty much, 'til M found me. I didn't start out as a thief for the fun of it, you know. But it was either that or starve. Didn't have much left from my parents, and Beatrice -- my sister-in-law -- took her fair share of what there was, believe me. Got away with what I did because I stole it from her, if you want to know the truth."

The sympathy I was feeling must have shown on my face, because he gave me the old grin. "Don't take on so, Bessie. My life's been a bit of a mess, but it's all right, really. It was good until my brother died, and it's good again now." We had reached the Nautilus, and after paying the driver, we boarded.

"There you two are," said Mina, when we reached the stateroom; the others were beginning luncheon. "We were starting to wonder."

"Just been taking a stroll down memory lane," Skinner said casually, shedding his hat and coat. He helped himself to a sandwich, pulling a chair away from the table as he did and waving at me to sit in it.

"I can't believe you folks actually lived in this city voluntarily," said Tom. "This is the gloomiest place I've ever seen. Does the sun ever shine here?"

We settled into a discourse on climate, but I didn't forget about Skinner's family. Poor dear thing. I think all the members of the League have spent a lot of time being terribly lonely, and that this is why they -- we -- have come to mean so much to each other.

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19 November 1899

Today I had the unusual experience of shopping with Mina for her wedding trousseau.

We bade goodbye to the gentlemen at half past twelve and headed into town. I admit I was a bit nervous about the prospect, for Mina and I are not close. One would think that we would be, given that she and I are the only women on the entire submarine, but we are rather different people. Granted, this is partly due to what she is, but it mostly has to do with who we are.

We freely admitted to each other that trousseau shopping was a new experience for both of us. That fact alone seemed to break the ice a bit, for it made us laugh. There is hardly a need for her to purchase items such as towels, bed linens, and the like, for she and Henry intend to remain aboard the Nautilus for some time yet. Instead, the most important purpose of today's excursion was to find attire for each of us to wear during the wedding ceremony, and also a dress to wear on Christmas day for the reception and festivities. As we headed toward the shopping district, we had a discussion about colours.

"I can't wear white," she said. "You could, certainly, but I can't. It's my second wedding, it wouldn't be right."

"Blue might be good," I offered. "You know what they say -- 'Married in blue, your love will be true.'"

"If I go by that rhyme, there aren't too many options, are there?" she asked dryly. "It seems to me that most of the colours foretell bad luck. 'Married in black, you'll wish yourself back.' I suppose it's a good thing these rules don't apply to the men; I've never seen a bridegroom wear anything but black."

"Green would match your eyes," I suggested next.

"Yes, but I'm not 'afraid to be seen,' you know. No, I think you're right, blue is probably the best option. Dark blue."

"Well, that takes care of 'something blue' straight off!"

Mina is very good at shopping. I might not have guessed it of her, but she has almost an instinctive feel for exactly what she likes and what she wants, and where to find it. She located the perfect sapphire-coloured gown at a reputable clothier, and I sat around for half an hour while the seamstress made alterations to her specifics. I felt a little sorry for the woman; I sensed she wanted to make suggestions, as she might have done with any other customer, but she seemed a little afraid of Mina. Our vampire lady was at her most imperious, which is to say regally commanding in a way that would have been a match for Queen Victoria herself. As she was not directing any of the sternness toward me, I could afford to find it amusing.

"Now," she said when the alterations were complete, "this young lady is to be my bridesmaid. What do you suggest she wear?"

I was then subjected to critical analysis by the seamstress, who advised dressing me also in blue, but of a lighter shade and simpler styling. So it was my turn to stand on the stool for alterations, and Mina sat and waited. "Nemo," she remarked, "will most likely wear blue, as usual. So the pair of you will more or less match."

For the festivities, Mina chose a pearl-coloured suit, which set off the snap in her icy eyes; I will be wearing Christmas green. Then there came the necessity for the bride to select more intimate apparel for her wedding night; for this I decided she ought to be left entirely alone, and waited with the carriage.

The bouquets for bride and bridesmaid will wait until we come to purchase our Christmas decorations, which will also be of a botanical persuasion; therefore, the only remaining task for today was to help Mina decide on a wedding gift for her husband-to-be. This was quite difficult, for she meant to buy not one but two gifts -- one for Henry, and one for Edward. I questioned the logic of such a plan, but she pointed out that in a very real sense, she will be marrying both of them. "I certainly hope and expect to see far more of Jekyll than of Hyde," she said, "but do you think it would be fair for me to neglect one side of the man, simply because it is the less desirable aspect?" I had to concede that she made sense, but I had no idea what we might purchase for Edward.

Henry was a much easier subject. At a jeweller's shop, she selected a pair of diamond cufflinks. "He and I will exchange our gifts the day before the wedding," she said, "so he can wear them. Have you started your Christmas shopping yet? I haven't."

I chuckled. "Will you hate me terribly when I tell you I'm finished?"

Package-laden, we returned to the submarine in time for tea with the men. Apparently there was some discussion, prior to our arrival, about arrangements for Henry's "bachelor party" the night before the wedding. Mina and I said nothing, but we exchanged looks of commiseration.

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24 November 1899

We have been busy for the past few days, showing Tom and Nemo the sights of London. Thus far we have paid visits to the White Tower, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, and Westminster Palace. Today we will visit Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery.

Apparently, back in his native America, on Thursday Tom would be celebrating Thanksgiving. When the original English expatriates settled in Massachusetts some centuries ago, looking to worship in the manner they chose (as opposed to the manner dictated by the King), they established an annual feast as a means of celebrating the harvest and their continued survival. He has asked Nemo for permission to celebrate the holiday with all of us, though it took some explaining. At length, Nemo consented, reasoning that "there can be no harm in celebrating something which is intended to give thanks." So in a few days, we will be enjoying a sumptuous banquet featuring a roast turkey. Between the engagement dinner, Tom's Thanksgiving, and our impending Christmas feast, I should perhaps look into purchasing a new corset.

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27 November 1899

Today was Tom's holiday, and he really seemed quite delighted to be presiding over the event. He claimed the privilege of slicing up the giant roast turkey and serving a portion to each of us; there was also plenty of banquet fare distributed to Nemo's hardworking men.

He also insisted that we obey what I found a rather charming custom from his America, which is that we were each asked to name, in turn, something for which we are grateful. To start us off, he declared that he was thankful concerning his most recent communication with the Secret Service in Washington, the agency to which he reports; it is the President's desire that Tom continue to work with the League, protecting people (and American interests) around the world.

"Well, I'm thankful," said Mina, "to be here. After Jonathan died, I thought I was doomed to a miserable immortality. I'm grateful to know that I was wrong."

Henry looked shy when his turn came. "I'm thankful to be among people who accept me for what I am," he said, "and who can even love me for who I am." Mina didn't say anything, but patted his arm fondly.

"Well, don't hold back, Henry, tell us how you really feel!" said Skinner. (Who else?)

"You, be quiet," said Mina. "Unless you'd care to tell us what you're thankful for, I'm sure we'd all like to know."

He pondered the subject. When he spoke, I felt my breath catch in my throat. "I'm thankful for Allan," he said.

"For Allan?" asked Nemo.

"Yeah. I mean, without him, who knows what might have happened?" Skinner has a gift for eloquence, though it shows itself but rarely. "He helped keep us together when things would have driven us apart. He's the only one who figured out who M really was. And he went in to fight him even though he knew he might not come back. The world is safe today, and it owes a fair bit of that to Allan Quatermain. Here's to you, old chap." He lifted his glass of Scotch and looked at the ceiling. We all followed suit, I with tears in my eyes.

"For my part," I said, my voice wavering slightly, "I would have to say I'm thankful not only for my father, but to my father. Everything Skinner said of him is true, and when he could no longer be here himself, he sent all of you in his place. He gave me a new family to replace the one I no longer had."

Nemo chuckled. "I cannot begin to offer a new thought on this subject," he said, "for each of you -- Elizabeth especially -- has said exactly what I am thinking."

"Can you feel the love in this room?" asked Skinner. Tom threw a roll at him.

"Let's eat," said our host.

I am quite full, to the point where I strongly suspect I will never eat again. The food was nothing short of spectacular.

Only two more days until December, when our Christmas preparations can really begin.