The Diamond as Big as the Ritz - XI
At sunset John and his two companions reached the huge cliff which had marked the boundaries of the Washington's dominion, and looking back found the valley tranquil and lovely in the dusk. They sat down to finish the food which Jasmine had brought with her in a basket.
"There!" she said, as she spread the table-cloth and put the sandwiches in a neat pile upon it. "Don't they look tempting? I always think that food tastes better outdoors."
"With that remark," remarked Kismine, "Jasmine enters the middle class."
"Now," said John eagerly, "turn out your pocket and let's see what jewels you brought along. If you made a good selection we three ought to live comfortably all the rest of our lives."
Obediently Kismine put her hand in her pocket and tossed two handfuls of glittering stones before him. "Not so bad," cried John enthusiastically. "They aren't very big, but-Hallo!" His expression changed as he held one of them up to the declining sun. "Why, these aren't diamonds! There's something the matter!
"By golly!" exclaimed Kismine, with a startled look. "What an idiot I am!"
"Why, these are rhinestones!" cried John.
"I know." She broke into a laugh. "I opened the wrong drawer. They belonged on the dress of a girl who visited Jasmine. I got her to give them to me in exchange for diamonds. I'd never seen anything but precious stones before."
"And this is what you brought?"
"I'm afraid so." She fingered the brilliants wistfully. "I think I like these better. I'm a little tired of diamonds."
"Very well," said John gloomily. "We'll have to live in Hades. And you will grow old telling incredulous women that you got the wrong drawer. Unfortunately, your father's bank-books were consumed with him."
"Well, what's the matter with Hades?"
"If I come home with a wife at my age my father is just as liable as not to cut me off with a hot coal, as they say down there."
Jasmine spoke up.
"I love washing," she said quietly. "I have always washed my own handkerchiefs. I'll take in laundry and support you both."
"Do they have washwomen in Hades?" asked Kismine innocently.
"Of course," answered John. "It's just like anywhere else."
"I thought—perhaps it was too hot to wear any clothes."
"Just try it!" he suggested. "They'll run you out before you're half started."
"Will father be there?" she asked.
John turned to her in astonishment.
"Your father is dead," he replied sombrely. "Why should he go to Hades? You have it confused with another place that was abolished long ago."
After supper they folded up the table-cloth and spread their blankets for the night.
"What a dream it was," Kismine sighed, gazing up at the stars. "How strange it seems to be here with one dress and a penniless fiancée!
"Under the stars," she repeated. "I never noticed the stars before. I always thought of them as great big diamonds that belonged to some one. Now they frighten me. They make me feel that it was all a dream, all my youth."
"It was a dream," said John quietly. "Everybody's youth is a dream, a form of chemical madness."
"How pleasant then to be insane!"
"So I'm told," said John gloomily. "I don't know any longer. At any rate, let us love for a while, for a year or so, you and me. That's a form of divine drunkenness that we can all try. There are only diamonds in the whole world, diamonds and perhaps the shabby gift of disillusion. Well, I have that last and I will make the usual nothing of it." He shivered. "Turn up your coat collar, little girl, the night's full of chill and you'll get pneumonia. His was a great sin who first invented consciousness. Let us lose it for a few hours."
So wrapping himself in his blanket he fell off to sleep.