In honor of our Jane in January Scavenger Hunt, I present you with a Quiz, a Story, and a Giveaway! Quiz first. Can you name the books from which these quotes about “Treasures” came from? (I prefer to use the word Treasure in this exercise, because Jane Austen never does seem to use the word Scavenger.) Some are obvious, but answers to all will be given at the very bottom of this post.
It is not necessary to take the quiz to enter into the Giveaway, which will be by random drawing. To enter, put your name and email address in the Comments section. (If you don’t wish to give your address here, just email it to me, Diana Birchall, at email@example.com.)
1) “Mrs. Collins, did I tell you of Lady Metcalfe’s calling yesterday to thank me? She finds Miss Pope a treasure. ‘Lady Catherine,’ said she, ‘you have given me a treasure.’ Are any of your younger sisters out, Miss Bennet?”
Lady Catherine de Burgh faced the mirror directly. It was a long cheval glass Venetian mirror, with a frame of gold rococo crescents, and her ladyship regarded it with approval before even looking at her own reflection. It was only right, and no more than she expected, visiting at Pemberley, that Darcy and his wife would give her one of the best furnished bed chambers. The mirror was one that an earlier Darcy had brought home from his tour of Italy in the last century, with little secret compartments that had once been used for poison by a Borgia, and Lady Catherine reflected complacently that it must be very nearly priceless. The image in the mirror pleased her too, for the ancient glass had a hazy patina that softened her harsh, angular features, and made her high-piled hair look like a smooth, dark cloud on her brow, which was incised from many scowls. Best of all, Dawson had done her hair very well. Really the Pemberley lady’s maid was a treasure, and she hoped Mrs. Darcy appreciated the recommendation, which Lady Catherine had made herself. Her recommendations were always good.
It was time to put on the ruby parure that had belonged to her late mother, the Countess. But now Dawson was nowhere to be seen. Turning her majestic head, Lady Catherine trumpeted out to her daughter. “Anne! Brrrring me my par-OOOR!” Anne nervously scuttled from the adjoining room, smaller and darker than Lady Catherine’s own. “Mama?” she interjected. “You are wanting your ruby parure?”
“Yes, you silly child. Don’t repeat what I say. Get me my jewel box.”
“But, Mama,” Anne protested, “Dawson had it, I know. Do you not remember, you traveled to Pemberley with the jewel-case containing the parure in your locked box, and Dawson had it in her case. She gave it to Darcy for safe-keeping, when we arrived.”
“Yes, yes I know all that,” her mother replied, annoyed, “Darcy returned it this morning when I said I wished it for the ball tonight. I am sure he is sensible of the honour I intend him, when he is so very obliging as to arrange such an entertainment especially for me. Wearing the family rubies is the least I can do.”
“To be sure, Mama, but you had better call Dawson. She knows where the jewel-case is. Has she not put it upon the lace on your dressing-table?”
“Dawson would not be so shiftless as that. Remember she came to us from Lady Scilly, recommended as a treasure; that is why I sent her to Mrs. Darcy, with the same. But where has she gone? She was in this room when I laid myself down for a little sleep.”
“Oh! I did not know she was here. I saw her walking in the garden a little while ago, out the window; yes, I am sure I did.”
“Walking in the garden!” Lady Catherine was incensed. “Dawson walking in the garden! How can you tell such a story, Anne. She was on duty, looking after me and guarding the ruby parure. She would not walk in the garden, depend upon it.”
Anne went to the long windows, that let the soft spring late afternoon sunshine into the room. “Yes, I see her there,” she said, pointing. “Is that not Dawson? She is talking to a man.”
“Stuff and nonsense!” exclaimed Lady Catherine, but she pulled up her large body, lifted her heavy red velvet train, and thumped to the window as quickly as was seemly. “Can it possibly be?”
“I do believe so,” Anne faltered. “They seem to be – going into the wilderness. Yes, they among the trees now, you cannot see them any longer.”
“Preposterous!” fumed Lady Catherine. “Summon Darcy instantly!”
Anne, who was short sighted, stumbled helplessly into the dark corridor, but could see no sign of any servant to call. She was fumbling at different doors, when a slight figure glided toward her. It was the lovely Mrs. Darcy, slender and elegant in her lavender ball gown with Valenciennes lace, her dark hair woven with amethysts and purple flowers. “What is the matter, my dear Anne?” she inquired kindly. “Have you lost your way?”
“No, Mrs. Darcy – Elizabeth – but Mama has lost her jewel-box. She was wanting to wear her ruby parure tonight, and now it cannot be found. And, and Dawson has gone into the wilderness, with a man – I saw her!”
Elizabeth took in the situation quickly. “I will call Darcy, and if necessary he can summon the men to help.”
Half an hour later, the men were searching house and gardens, but neither servant nor jewel-box had been found. Suddenly there was a halloo, and a young footman held up something he had spotted glittering under a dock leaf. It was a diamond brooch. He brought it over to Mr. Darcy who said tersely, “That belongs to Lady Catherine – I recognize it. It seems that two birds have flown, and perhaps dropped some more valuables in their flight. Spread out, men, it would seem that we must embark upon a treasure hunt. Has any one an idea of who Dawson’s companion might be?”
“She was friendly with a gent visiting in the village,” put in a groom. “Don’t know who he was, but they did say he come from London.”
Mr. and Mrs. Darcy exchanged a look. “A London thief, in collusion with Dawson! Keep searching, men.”
By evening, the first of the guests’ carriages had begun to arrive, and were turning one by one into the sweep. Darcy was forced to abandon the search, in order to receive his guests, and in any case the sky was darkening. Lady Catherine did not appear, and Anne had to report that she was keeping to her chamber, in too distressed a state to attend the ball.
One of her old friends, having arrived at the ball, compassionately visited Lady Catherine in her room, to see if there was any thing she could do for her. Lady Metcalfe seated herself by the bed, and Lady Catherine lost no time in making known her woes.
“I am still sure that Dawson is a treasure,” she insisted irately. “I could not be deceived on such a point. Lady Scilly could never be wrong. Make no mistake, Dawson has not gone; so loyal as she is, and so very fond of me.”
“To be sure,” said Lady Metcalfe collectedly. “Such a thing is not likely. She is not such a fool. If she stole the parure and was caught with it, she could be hanged, or sent out to Botany Bay. And rubies are so extremely eye-catching. She would steal something less gaudy. Why did you want to wear that particular parure tonight?” she asked curiously.
Lady Catherine was too upset not to be candid. “I wanted that girl – Mrs. Darcy – to see it. The rubies would become her rather well, with her dark hair, and I wanted her to covet them. To show her that she cannot have every treasure that she wants! That I still have some things she does not possess!”
“Is that so?” commented Lady Metcalfe, interested. “But I suppose Mr. Darcy could buy her all the rubies she wants. And now the parure is gone. What a pity. When did you see it last?”
“Oh, this afternoon. I laid it on the dressing-table, to wear tonight.”
“So.” Lady Metcalfe rose and inspected the rococo mirror. “What a fanciful object. Look at these little ornate scrolls. They would make me very uneasy; why, a snake could hide in them.”
“What are you saying, Lady Metcalfe,” cried Lady Catherine irritably, “there are no snakes allowed at Pemberley. Those were poison containers, that is all.”
“Only human snakes, I suppose, or poisonous people; which would exactly describe such villains as thieves hunting treasure,” replied Lady Metcalfe, “However, I do not believe that is the case here. There is something in this crescent – let me feel – why look!”
And a sparkle of red flashed out from the mirror’s curvature. “Why, I do declare, it is the necklace!” she exclaimed.
Lady Catherine sat up in bed. “The treasure! The missing treasure! But where, then, are the ear-rings?” In her agitation, she pushed aside her stiff curls with shaking fingers, and they became undone.
Lady Metcalfe had to laugh. “Why, Lady Catherine,” she exclaimed, “they are upon your own ears! You must have put them on, and then dropped the necklace while you were dressing yourself!”
It was so. The men were called off, and Dawson, when questioned, explained that she had been walking to the village with her visiting cousin from London, to procure some almond cream that Lady Catherine particularly liked to use for her complexion.
“I always said she was a treasure,” Lady Catherine repeated to Darcy complacently, over the breakfast-table the following morning. “Is is not so, Anne? Do you not agree, Mrs. Darcy?”
“Oh, certainly,” replied Elizabeth, calmly. “Her price is above rubies, undoubtedly.”
Lady Catherine beamed and basked as she poured more heavy cream atop her third muffin.
“I am glad you agree. Some day, you know, you may have rrrrubies of your own,” she purred, rolling her rs. “I make no promises, of course; nothing can be certain, you understand,” she added hastily, taking alarm at her own generosity.
“I understand perfectly,” answered Elizabeth, with composure.
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