Tell A Tale — Gothic Fiction
Lady Cuthbert's Diamonds By Kate Duncan
Lady Cuthbert’s Diamonds
The twins are sitting side by side in a Hackney Carriage as the fog descends over the midnight streets of London. Caroline snakes a handful of heavy gold necklaces into her evening bag, her titian curls falling down her back.
‘This far exceeds my expectations,’ she says, her turquoise eyes glittering.
Edwina pulls her black cap firmly down over her hair with delicate fingers. From her trouser pocket she pulls out a gold fob watch and holds it out to her sister.
‘That’s beautiful!’ says Caroline.
Edwina smiles, pleased. ‘Did you pass a pleasant evening? Did Lady Cuthbert show you her collection?’
‘She took me up to her bedchamber after dinner. Lord Cuthbert does have a very good eye. Her new diamonds are exquisite.’
‘There is something to be said for owning a diamond mine,’ says Edwina, putting the watch carefully into her waistcoat pocket.
‘Lady Cuthbert invited me to accompany her to the opera. So tomorrow is the night.’
‘I hate the opera,’ says Edwina. ‘You know I do.’
‘But you have to be seen. There’s nowhere better than the opera for being seen. Everyone will be there.’
Edwina sighs with resignation. ‘I’ll do my best to stay awake.’
‘And when the opera’s over, you must go straight home. I’ll meet you there at ten.’
She stifles a yawn behind her fan and tucks a loose titian curl behind her ear.
‘How did you find the venison last night, Caroline, my dear?’ says Lady Cuthbert, peering at the stage through her opera glasses.
‘Oh yes, the venison. It was… delightful.’
‘And which of the young gentlemen caught your fancy?’
Lady Cuthbert pats the young lady gently on the back with sausage-like fingers as she starts to cough uncontrollably.
The orchestra strikes up the overture for the second act.
The clock chimes nine, the sound reverberating around the tower of the Cuthbert’s mansion. A slim figure climbs the spiral staircase to Lady Cuthbert’s bedchamber. A cloud extinguishes the pale light of the moon, plunging the chamber into darkness.
The two women link arms and attempt to keep step over the wet gas-lit cobbles.
‘My carriage is waiting for me, my dear,’ says Lady Cuthbert. ‘Can I see you safely home?’
‘I would be most grateful.’
The cloud passes, and the shadowy figure opens drawers and little boxes. Diamonds sparkle in the moonlight. She thrusts rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings into her deep trouser pockets.
The clopping of hooves echoes around the courtyard and the figure retreats towards the steep stone staircase.
The butler opens the door and Lady Cuthbert sweeps past.
Piercing screams fill the silence.
Heaped at the bottom of the staircase lies a lifeless figure, her titian hair tumbling across the stone floor. Turquoise eyes stare sightlessly into the gloom.
‘Caroline! But how can this be?’
Edwina sits by the fire in her fine lilac gown. The golden fob watch chimes midnight. She walks to the window and stares anxiously out into the gloom.
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