John T. Unger was born to a family, which was well-known in Hades, a small town on the Mississippi River. His father was the best player in golf, and his mother was good at politics. John could dance really well at the age of 16. He was going to leave his hometown soon, because his parents wanted him to go to St. Midas’ School. They were sure that their beloved son deserved much more than education in Hades.
John’s mother was helping him to pack his suitcases, while his father was giving him a wallet stuffed with money.
“Remember that we are always glad to see you here,” Mr. Unger said.
“I know,” John replied.
“Don’t forget where you come from,” his father said proudly. “You’re an Unger from Hades.”
They shook hands and John walked away with tears in his eyes. He was already homesick.
St. Midas’ is the most expensive and prestigious school for boys in the world. Nobody knew how far it was from Hades, except for John. It took him about half an hour to get there in Rolls-Pierce.
He spent the first two years with pleasure. As all the fathers were rich enough, John visited fashionable resorts during his holidays. He easily dealt with the boys, but he didn’t like their fathers. When John mentioned his hometown, all of them asked him the same question, “Is it hot enough there?” He tried to be polite, but this joke made him really angry.
It was the second year at school when a newcomer appeared in the class. His name was Percy Washington. He was quiet and handsome, but he didn’t make friends with other boys. He was a kind of outsider. The only person he talked to was John T. Unger. They became friends, but Percy had many secrets. When Percy invited him to spend holidays at his home “In the West”, John was happy to agree. He was curious to learn more about Percy’s family.
When they were on the train, they talked a lot. One day they were having lunch when Percy mentioned his father.
“My father is the richest man in the world,” he said.
“Oh… That’s great. I like rich people. The richer a man is the better,” John said. “I visited the Schnlitzer-Murphys last Easter. They had large rubies and sapphires,” he added.
“I love jewels,” Percy replied. “I’ve got my own collection at home, but it’s a secret!”
“They also had a diamond. Can you imagine that?” John asked.
“Sure, but I don’t think it’s as big as my father’s,” he answered. “My father has a diamond bigger than Ritz-Carlton-Hotel.”
The train stopped in the village of Fish at two past seven. There were twelve men who were looking at Percy and John getting off the train. It was unusual for citizens because it rarely happened. The negro, who was driving the buggy, met the boys. They drove away from the station and John saw a large car on the road. It was the first time he saw such an amazing car. Two well-dressed negros were waiting for them near that car.
“Get in,” Percy said to his friend, showing at the limousine. “Sorry, we brought you here in that buggy.”
“What a car!” John was surprised.
“This one?” Percy laughed. “It’s so old, so we use it instead of a wagon.”
It took them half an hour to get to Percy’s. The road was very difficult. John could see mountains and he also could feel some rocks on the road. After that he saw a beautiful lake. Finally, they saw a luxurious castle. John thought that he was in a fairy tale, because everything seemed to be so magical. He saw lights from the towers and he could hear beautiful music.
“Mother, this is my friend John Unger from Hades,” Percy said.
John was really impressed as he saw the room made of gold. Later John found himself in a room where the floor, the ceiling and the walls were covered with diamonds of different shape and size.
The boys went to the dining room where John was also shocked. Their plates were also made of diamonds. John took a glass of port and drank it. He got so relaxed and dizzy, as so many expensive and magnificent things were around him. He whispered something to himself and then laughed.
He woke up in a big room where he saw Percy standing near his bed.
“You fell asleep at dinner,” Percy said. “It was so comfortable and relaxing, so I was sleepy, too. Servants undressed you and bathed you while you were sleeping. You even didn’t open your eyes.”
“Before you go, I want to apologise,” John said.
“For what?” his friend asked.
“I didn’t believe you,” John replied.
“I know that it’s difficult to believe. The diamond is the mountain,” Percy said and smiled.
“What mountain?” John asked.
“The mountain on which the castle stands. It’s the diamond. Are you listening?” Percy asked.
But John fell asleep again.
He woke up early in the morning when the sun was shining brightly outside. When he opened his eyes saw a negro standing near his bed.
“Good evening,” he said.
“Good morning, sir. My name is Gygsum. Are you ready to take a bath?” the negro asked. “Don’t get up, I’ll bring you there if you don’t mind. But first you should unbutton your pyjamas.”
The boy thought that he would be lifted like a child, but he was wrong. His bed became like a slide and he rolled down into a bath, which was in another room. He looked around and realized that the bath was made deep in the floor. His head was just above the level of the floor. The whole bathroom the walls of the bathrooms were made of aquariums so John could see different fish swimming.
“I suppose, sir, that we can start with hot rosewater and finish with cold salt water,” the negro said.
“Yes, sure,” the boy said and smiled.
He was happy to take such an unusual bath. The negro pressed the button and a warm rain started falling and John could feel hot water. Some seconds later all his body was in foam consisted of different colorful bubbles.
“Shall I play some films for you, sir? Comedies or something serious?” the servant asked.
“No, thank you,” John answered politely.
He was sure that he had enough entertainment this morning. However, in a moment he was listening to the sound of flutes. The morning was amazing and John enjoyed every second of it.
When he finished taking a bath, he had a massage with different pleasant oils. After that he put on a warm robe. Also he was shaved and had his hair cut.
“Mr. Percy is waiting for you in the living room,” Gygsum said, when all the operations were finished.
John entered the room and saw Percy sitting in a chair and smoking.
Percy decided to tell John about his family. His grandfather, whose name was Fitz-Norman Culpepper Washington, became a colonel at the age of 25 when it was the end of the Civil War. He got some plantation and about a thousand dollars in gold. He decided to give all his plantations to his younger brother and go West. He chose about 25 negroes, who were trustworthy, because he wanted to buy some land there. Unfortunately his plans were ruined.
One day he went to the mountains and got lost. He got very hungry and tried to find food. He saw a squirrel and started chasing it. Later Fitz-Norman noticed that the squirrel was carrying something in its mouth. Before it ran into its hole it dropped that thing on the ground. Ten seconds later Fitz-Norman wasn’t hungry anymore as he found one hundred thousand dollars.
Fitz-Norman showed the negroes the place and they dug very hard. He told them that they could find many fake diamonds and the negroes believed him because they had never seen real diamonds before. Later Fitz-Norman discovered that the whole mountain was a huge diamond. He managed to sell some small stones in St. Paul. When he tried to sell a bigger stone he was arrested, but he managed to escape. He moved to New York where he also sold some diamonds and got much money.
On the one hand, Fitz-Norman understood that he could become the richest person in the world, but on the other hand it was impossible to sell such a big diamond. There wasn’t enough gold in the whole world to buy even a small part of it.
He had no choice but to send for his younger brother and ask him to look after the black slaves. Fitz-Norman was lucky as the negros didn’t know that slavery was abolished.
He travelled a lot with two trunks full of beautiful diamonds. He visited the capitals of twenty-two countries, including Russia. He communicated with five emperors, eleven kings, three princes, a shah, a khan, and a sultan. By that time he had about one billion dollars. From 1870 until his death in 1900 his life was like a poem. He married a Virginia woman, who gave birth to their son. Fitz-Norman’s brother drank a lot and their lives were at stake because of that, so Fitz-Norman had to kill him.
After his death his son, Braddock Tarleton Washington, decided to stop digging in those mines. He was sure that they had enough money for many generations. The only thing he had to do was to keep a secret about that mountain.
That was the story which John heard from his friend.
After breakfast John decided to go outside and have a walk. He was amazed by what he could see. There were wonderful lawns, lakes and parks. Also he could see some reindeer running somewhere far from him. He enjoyed looking at everything and wandering through some trees and bushes.
Then he saw a girl coming up to him. She seemed to be the most beautiful girl in the world. She was wearing a white short dress and no shoes. She looked a bit younger than John.
“Hello. I’m Kismine,” she said.
John was looking right into her eyes.
“We haven’t met before,” she explained. “You met my sister, Jasmine, last night. I was sick,” she added.
“You are really sweet and beautiful. I can see that,” he replied. “I hope you feel better today,” he added.
They walked along the path. After that they sat upon the moss. He always noticed something that he didn’t like in girls, but Kismine was perfect.
“Are you from the East?” she asked.
“No. I’m from Hades,” John answered.
Probably she had never heard of Hades, that’s why she changed the subject.
“I’m going to school in the East this autumn,” she said. “Do you think I’ll like it?” Kismine asked. “My father says that there are very strict teachers,” she added.
“He wants you to be proud,” John said.
“We are,” she replied. “My mum was surprised when she heard where you were from, you know,” she added.
“Do you spend much time here?” John asked, trying to show that her last words didn’t hurt him.
“We visit our parents every summer,” she answered.
“You know, I think that you are much more modern than I thought when I first saw you,” the boy said.
“No, I’m not! I think that modern girls are vulgar. If you think so I’m going to cry,” she said.
“I didn’t mean it. I just wanted to tease you,” John replied.
“Actually I’m an innocent girl. I don’t smoke or drink. I read nothing except for poetry. I dress very simply. I believe that girls should be intelligent and enjoy their youth,” she explained.
“I agree with you,” the boy replied.
The girl was cheerful again.
“I like you,” she said and smiled at him. “Will you spend some time with me while you are here? Nobody has fallen in love with me before. It was even forbidden for me to see boys,” she said.
John bowed as he was taught at dancing lessons.
“I think it’s high time to go,” Kismine said. “You didn’t ask me to kiss you. I thought that all boys did it,” she added.
“Some of them do, but not me. Girls don’t do such a thing in Hades,” he replied.
They went back to the house.
Mr. Braddock Washington and Percy showed John around. The elder man was about 40 and his eyes were intelligent and proud. He smelt of horses every morning — best horses.
“The slaves live here,” Braddock Washington said. “I made a silly mistake when I gave them baths,” he added.
“I suppose they kept coal in them,” John said.
“No, they didn’t,” Mr. Washington answered. “I ordered the slaves to take a bath every day, but some of them caught cold and died,” he said.
John felt stupid because his idea was wrong.
“The negroes are the descendants of the ones my father brought with him. Now there are about two hundred and fifty of them. They almost forgot their native language as they had lived far away from their home,” Mr. Washington said. “We decided to teach my secretary and two or three house servants English,” he added.
“Are there many men in the cage, father?” Percy asked.
His father’s face changed.
“One less than there should be,” he answered.
“Mother told me about that Italian teacher,” Percy replied.
“I hope that we’ll catch him. Probably he’s in the woods, dead or hiding. Anyway if he survives nobody will believe him,” Braddock Washington said. “I’ve sent some people to find him,” he added.
“Any results?” his son asked.
“They killed fourteen people with the same features. I think they did just because they wanted to get the reward,” he replied.
They came to a large cavity in the ground. John came a bit closer and heard some noises.
“Hey, throw us a rope!”
“Have you got any doughnuts or sandwiches?”
“Hit that guy, you’re with!”
It was dark there, but John could see that those people were Americans.
“These are people who found our castle,” Mr. Washington explained.
There were about twenty-five people in the cavity. They looked well-fed and healthy.
“Well, how are you, boys?” Mr. Washington asked. “What are you going to do?”
“We’re not going to stay here forever, so give us a rope!”
“I don’t want you to be here! I didn’t ask you to fly here. You’re here because of your curiosity. If you have a solution which protects me and my interests I’ll be glad to listen to you,” Braddock Washington said.
“Let me ask you a few questions!” a man asked. “You pretend to be an honest man.”
“Excuse me? How can I be honest toward you in this situation?” Mr. Washingtone asked.
“Even if you aren’t honest, you are human. You can understand how cruel it is to keep us here,” the man replied.
“I have no choice. I can guarantee you painless execution, but you don’t want that. I can bring your wives and children here and feed all of you until you die. You don’t support this idea either. If there was a chance to make you forget about everything, I would do that,” he explained.
“How about to believe us?” the man asked.
“Are you serious?” Mr. Washington. “I let one of you teach my daughter Italian and he ran away,” he added.
The prisoners got so excited and started dancing and even singing.
“I like when you are cheerful, I don’t mean any harm to you,” Washington said. “I didn’t finish my story. That man was shot at in different places,” he added.
The men didn’t know that fourteen different people were killed, but smiles on their faces vanished.
“Anyway he tried to run away!” Mr. Washington shouted. “Do you really think that I can trust you?” he asked.
“Sure!” someone answered.
“I can teach your daughter Chinese!”
“Hey, I can also speak Italian!”
“I know some Irish songs!”
Nobody could hear them as Mr. Washington and the boys left.
Mr. Washington and the two young men went hunting and fishing in the deep forests every day. John noticed that Mr. Washington didn’t care about anyone’s opinion, except for his own. Mrs. Washington was indifferent towards her two daughters. She preferred spending all her free time with Percy and she enjoyed practising Spanish with him. Jasmine, the elder daughter looked like Kismine, but she had an absolutely different temperament. She was fond of reading books about poor girls and widowed fathers.
“Who planned all your wonderful rooms and halls?” John asked once.
“Well, I kidnapped a landscape gardener, an architect and a designer,” Mr. Washington answered. “Unfortunately they couldn’t reach an agreement when they discussed where a fountain had to be. It drove all of them crazy, so now they are in an insane asylum,” he added. “One good man helped us,” he said.
It was almost the end of August and John got really upset as they had to come back to school. Kismine and he decided to run away together next June.
“It would be better to get married here, but I think I will never get my father’s permission,” the young girl said sadly.
“You’re right. We have to leave anyway,” John replied. “Sometimes I think that we’ll never get married, because you are too wealthy. Probably I should marry a girl whose father is a merchant,” he added.
“I knew one girl whose father was a merchant,” Kismine replied. “She visited us,” she added.
“Erm, did you also have other guests?” John asked.
“Oh yes, a few,” she answered.
“What about your father? Wasn’t he afraid? They could reveal your secret,” he said.
“Maybe, I don’t know,” she replied. “Let’s talk about something more pleasant,” the girl said.
“Something more pleasant? What’s unpleasant about them? Weren’t they nice people?” he fired her questions.
To his great surprise, the girl burst into tears.
“No, my sister and I liked them a lot,” she answered.
“Do you mean that they didn’t keep a secret and they were killed?” John asked.
“Even worse. Jasmine kept inviting them and they had such a great time here,” she replied. “I shouldn’t have told you that,” she cried even louder.
“Do you mean that your father had killed them before they left?” he asked.
“Usually in August or September, because we wanted to enjoy spending time with them first,” she answered.
“You killed them!” John said.
“It was painless for people. They were drugged while they were asleep,” she explained.
“I can’t understand. Why did you invite them?” he asked.
“I didn’t! Jasmine did. Probably I should also invite some guests. We are humans and we want to enjoy our lives, ” she replied.
“You told me you loved me and you kissed me, wanted to get married knowing that I wouldn’t get out alive?” John was furious and shocked.
“I did at first, but then I fell in love with you. I’m really sorry. Anyway you’d better be killed than kiss another girl!” she said.
“Better?” he shouted at her.
“I heard that it was more interesting to love a man who you could never get married to. I shouldn’t have told you. We were having a great time when you didn’t know. Now you are depressed,” Kismine said.
“Depressed?” he asked angrily. “That’s enough! You must be silly to fall in love with a corpse!” he added.
“Do you want to tell me I kissed a corpse?” she asked.
“I didn’t mean it,” he answered.
They were ready to argue forever, but they had to be silent as somebody was coming up to them.
“Who kissed a corpse?” Mr. Washington asked.
“Nobody,” Kismine said quickly. “We were joking,” she added.
“What are you doing here together? Kismine, go to play golf with your sister! This is what you must do now,” he demanded.
After these words he left.
“Do you see? He won’t let me see you anymore! You can be poisoned if he finds everything out about us,” she said.
“I’m leaving. Now.” John said.
“I’m with you,” she replied.
“Are you crazy?” he asked.
“I’m going with you without question,” she said.
“Okay, we’ll go together,” John agreed.
His love for Kasmine came back to his heart. He loved her very much and he was glad she would go with him. He hugged and kissed her.
They were walking back to the house and discussing their plan. They decided to go away next night. At dinner John was very nervous and his lips were dry, when he was eating and drinking.
John was sleeping when he heard some noise behind his door. He couldn’t say what it was: a footstep or a whisper. He got really nervous when he saw a figure standing by the door. He got scared so he decided to press the button. After that he found himself in a bath and cold water helped him to wake up.
He went out of the bathroom and went to the corridor. In that very moment three negroes appeared out of nowhere. Then John saw Braddock Washington on the other side of the corridor.
All the negroes rushed to John. He thought that probably they were professional executioners. The man in the lift ordered the negroes to come up to him. The door of the lift was closed and all of them vanished. John was alone in the corridor. He was standing still.
He got puzzled because he didn’t understand what was happening to him. John decided to meet Kismine. His clothes were wet, that’s why the boy was very cold. He came back to his room and got dressed.
John entered her room.
“Oh, it’s you,” she said. “Did you hear some noise?” she asked.
“I heard your father’s slaves in my room,” he answered.
“No, I mean aeroplanes,” the girl said.
“Probably this noise woke me up,” he replied.
“There are many of them,” the girl said.
“Why are they here?” John asked.
“It’s that Italian who ran away,” Kismine replied.
Suddenly all the lights went off, probably there was a problem with electricity.
“Come on!” she said.
The darkness made it difficult for them to find the lift, but they managed to do it. A minute later they were standing on the platform. John hugged her tightly and kissed. Kismine clapped her hands as she could see some flashes of fire in the valley. However her smile disappeared when bombs started falling and the whole valley was in fire.
“Kismine, you should be happy. I woke up because of these sounds. I could possibly be killed tonight,” the boy said.
“I can’t hear you,” she replied.
“I’m saying that we must go before they destroy the castle,” he said.
“So many slaves can die. They are very expensive by the way!” she said.
“Kismine, go! They can kill us, too!” the boy said louder.
“We must take my sister, Jasmine,” the girl said. “We’ll be poor like people in books, right? I’ll be free. Free and poor. It’ll be fun,” she added.
“It’s not fun, so take your jewelry box with you,” he replied.
Ten minutes later they met Jasmine and went to the first floor. When they were outside they found a path they needed. Kismine knew it well. She wanted to see what was happening in the valley and then went away.
It was three o’clock in the morning when they reached their destination. Jasmine fell asleep very soon. John and Kismine were looking at the valley in fire. They realized that everything was over for the Washingtons.
Kismine also fell asleep when it got quiet in the valley. It was about five o’clock in the morning when he heard some footsteps. The boy was interested to know who the people were, that’s why he followed them.
Soon John saw Braddock Washington, who was standing still. There were some negroes with him, they were carrying a really huge diamond. Mr. Washington raised his hands and his head.
“Hey, you, there!” He shouted to someone in the sky.
His speech was rather long, John could hardly hear his words. It was difficult to understand what he was saying, but John tried to listen to him very attentively. Finally, John got it. Braddock Washington wanted to bribe God. Mr. Washington wanted to give that huge diamond to God and promised to bring even more.
He wanted to return everything back. He asked God to make everything like it was yesterday. Braddock waited for some sign from the sky. Then the sky got dark, birds stopped twittering and the wind stopped blowing. God refused to take the diamond.
John ran back to the girls. They had no time for conversations so they decided to leave the mountain. When they were far away they looked back and felt that something terrible was going to happen. They saw Mr. Washington and two big negroes on the mountain. Then Mrs. Washington and her son came up to the rest. All of them bent and opened the door, which led to the underground passage. After that they disappeared.
“What are they doing?” Kismine asked.
“There is something under the ground,” John replied.
“Can’t you see?” the girl asked. “They are going to blow up the mountain!” she added.
In a second they heard loud noise and they had to close their eyes. It was impossible for those people to survive.
John and two sisters went far away from the mountain and decided to eat. Jasmine gave sandwiches to everyone.
“They smell delicious, don’t they?” she asked.
“Kismine, show the jewelry that you had taken. Probably we’ll never need money,” John asked.
The girl took off the stones and showed them.
“Not bad!” John replied. “They are not so big, but anyway…wait. They are not real!” he said.
“I’m so silly!” Kismine said.
“These ones are fake, just small stones for some decoration,” the boy said.
“Perhaps I opened the wrong jewelry box. One girl who visited us gave them to me in exchange for real diamonds,” the girl explained.
“Did you take anything else?” John asked.
“No, I’m afraid that’s all,” she replied.
“We’ll have to live in Hades.” John said and laughed.
“What’s the matter with Hades?” Kismine asked.
“If I come home with a wife at my age my father will never give me money,” John replied.
“I love washing,” Jasmine said. “I can work in a laundry and help you both,” she added. “Do they have washerwomen in Hades?” she asked.
“Of course,” John answered.
“I thought it was too hot here so people didn’t wear any clothes,” Jasmine said.
All of them laughed.
In the evening they were going to sleep. Kismine was lying and looking at the stars.
“I have never noticed stars before,” she said. “I thought they were someone’s diamonds. Everything was like a dream for me,” she added.
“It was. It really was,” John replied.
Then they fell asleep.