"The Diamonds of Shomar's Queen" by Charles J. Mansford, B.A. (first published in The Straand Magazine, July 1892; collected in Shafts from an Eastern Quiver by C. J. Mansford, 1893)
Frank Denviers and Harold Derwent are a pair of English tourists and adventurers who, accompanied by their daring and faithful servant Hassan, undergo "as many hairbreadth escapes and other adventures by sea and land as can well be packed into a volume of less than three hundred pages." The twelve stories about the trio were published monthly in The Strand Magazine from July 1892 through June 1883. "The Diamonds of Shomar's Queen" is the first tale in the series which takes its flavor from Conan Doyle and Rider Haggard.
As we open, Hassan has just told the Englishmen a fabulous tale about a deserted city of marble and a rare diamond that they feel might have been embellished with a bit of fancy. Hassan has his faults (he's a bit light-fingered but Arabs tend to consider that a cardinal virtue, according to Derwent) but he has always been completely honest with his masters. (These tales suffer from the jingoism that was prevalent in England at the time; take that as you will.)
More than two thousand years ago a great king named Shomar ruled in Arabia. Shomar was used to accolades and kowtowing from his courtiers. but there was one courtier -- a prince -- who did not show Shamar the deference he felt was his due. The king was very unhappy. Because the prince was very popular, he did not dare to have him killed. What to do?
Then there were rumors of an uprising inn a distant part of the kingdom. Taking advantage of this, Shomar accused the prince of instigating the rebellion and exiled the prince. The prince, his daughter, and a few followers left the royal city, never to be seen there again. Eventually the prince founded his own city, Metra -- a marble city rising from a mighty ravine, a city of beauty and wealth that soon attracted many others. There the prince ruled until his death, after which his daughter, the Princess Idaliah, ruled. Idaliah was a woman of great beauty and many princes pursued her in hopes of winning her heart. Idaliah, however, was in love with a poor mountaineer, with whom she met during the early days of her father's exile.
Word of Metra and its beautiful ruler eventually made its way back to Shomar's palace. Shomar travelled to Metra to see for himself and was impressed with the beautiful city and even more impressed with the beautiful woman who ruled it. He asked Idaliah to marry him and she refused, saying her heart belonged to another. Asked if her lover should die, would she then consider marrying him, Idaliah plainly said that if her lover should die she, too, would die. Shamar exited after giving the Princess a fabulous diamond necklace and began plotting the mountaineer's death. Well, son of a gun, the mountaineer had an "accident" and fell of the cliff into the ravine and died. When his battered body was brought to the palace and placed before her throne, Idaliah to one look and the corpse and died.
Shomar, horrified that his evil deed had led to the Princess's death, ordered the city emptied and sealed. He appointed the oldest woman of a nearby tribe to guard the city. Since then, the oldesst crone of every generation served to guard and protect the city and the bodies of Idaliah and her lover, which remained as they were when death eased Idaliah's broken heart. Shomar, meanwhile, declared that his people were to consider the dead princess his queen. And so it was for more than two thousand years.
Oh. Did I mention that Idaliah was wearing the diamond necklace when she died.
That's the story Hassan told and the three set out to find the city of Metra and to see if the tale of the diamond necklace was true. It was. Surprisingly, the bodies were as intact as they day they died, the Princess Idaliah as beautiful as ever. And, as Denviers held back the old crone/guardian, Derwent took the necklace from the lovely corpse. As he did so Idaliah's body crumbled to dust.
Not much happens then. They leave the city with the necklace, became rich, and went on to other adventures.
The remaining eleven episodes of Shafts from an Eastern Quiver as printed in The Strand Magazine are:
- The Jasper Vale of the Falling Star (August1892)
- The Black Horsemen of Nisha the Seer (September 1892)
- Darak, the Scorn of the Afghans (October 1892)
- The Sword-Hilt of the Idol at Delhi (November 1892)
- The Hindu Fakir of the Silent City (December 1892)
- Margarita, the Bond Queen of the Wandering Dhahs (January 1893)
- The Masked Ruler of the Black Wreckers (February 1893)
- Maw-Sayah: The Keeper of the Great Burman Nat (March 1893)
- The Hunted Tribe of Three Hundred Peaks (April 1893)
- In Quest of the Lost Galleon (May 1893)
- The Daughter of Lovetski the Lost (June 1893)
Charles John Jodrell Mansford (1863-1943) was a British educator and author. Shafts from an Estern Quiver was his first book. Others were Under the Naga Banner (1896, about the discovery of the Ark of the Covenant), A Bride's Experiment: A Story of Australian Bush Life (1896), Bully, Fag, and Hero: or, In Playground and Schoolroom (1897), The Adventures of Mark Paton and Other Stories (1898), Fags and the King (1909), Sword of Scarlet (1925?), Prefect and Fag (undated, but perhaps 1926), and The Great Green Serpent (1926. a lost race novel).
He was the son of a tailor and the youngest of five brothers. His elder brothers became, respectively a hatter (who became destitute and spent time in a workhouse), a laborer (well, actually a labourer...British you know), a carpenter, and a postman. Charles, who may have conjured up his two middle names, somehow managed to graduate from the University of London, eventually becoming Headmaster at Grace, Lady Manners, Grammar School in Bakewell, Derbyshire, from 1896 to 1902; his wife Louisa served as honorary Headmistress to the girls at the co-educational school. For 1902 to 1919, Mansford was Headmaster of Dartford Grammar School. At Dartford, Mansford completely revised the school's curriculum to meet twentieth century standards; enrollment increased, two major additions were added, and the staffing was greatly improved. He also championed (unsuccessfully) for equal opportunity and equal pay for female teachers; this may have been due to the influence of his wife who had been educated by Frances Mary Buss, a pioneer in women's education.
Mansford's literary career began in 1881 when he worked as a publisher's assistant. It can assumed that this offered him entry to the popular magazines such as The Strand. His literary endeavors seemed to be divided by adventure stories for the magazines and boys' school stories for the book and juvenile market. He had great success in both but his imperialist sensibilities and his chronicles of schoolboy bullying and antisemitism do not wear well with today's readers.
Personally, Mansford was an opportunist and a snob, eager to erase any knowledge of his lower class background. Working to advance his social standing, he joined the Freemasons, applied for The Freedom of the City of London, and was elected a Fellow of the Chemical Society (allowing him to append FCS to his name) -- all to give the impression that he was on the same status level as his students. Mansford was baptized a Catholic -- a fact he kept hidden -- and espoused the Church of England. Being fifty years old during World War I, Mansford was deemed too old to fight. Rather, he established an Officer Training Corps at Dartford and assumed the title "Captain;" he maintained that title for the rest of his life.
Charles and Louisa's one child, Isobel Grace, married a Dartford pupil, Geoffrey Noakes. Noakes emigrated to America in 1920 and Isobel, along with Charles and Louisa, followed in 1921, settling in Fresno, California. Charles and Louisa eventually separated and, at least by 1934, Charles was once again settled in England. In March of 1934, Charles made a new will, cutting out entirely his wife and daughter; instead giving his entire estate to Dorothy Kate Rider, a woman some thirty years younger than Mansford. According to the 1939 census, they lived at the same address. She referred to him as her "uncle". He wasn't. She was also listed on various documents as a "Dispenser (medical)" or as a "cashier." Her exact relationship with Mansford is not known. It was 9:30 on a Monday morning, January 18, 1943, when Mansford went to visit a shop and stepped in front of a taxicab. He died later that day at the hospital. He was 79.
His estranged wife and daughter enjoyed a much longer life. Louisa passed away at age 96; Isobel lived to age 101.
All issues from July 1892 to June 1893 of The Strand Magazine, as well as Shafts from an Eastern Quiver are available to be read online.