Five Years Later
“Bring another lantern over here,” Robert instructed one of the Egyptian workers as they inspected the empty chamber they had just discovered in the mountains along the Valley of the Kings. The walls were covered in almost perfect condition paintings and hieroglyphics. It had been an exciting find, but it was clear this was not all.
“What did you find?” Diana asked as she came over to inspect what Robert was digging at with a small hand pick.
“It looks like it might be another doorway,” he said as a second lantern was brought over. “You see that small crack? I think there might be a second chamber behind this one.”
“Let me see,” she said, as she kneeled down and took a pick from her belt and began digging at the crack along the base of the wall. “It certainly looks like it. But we will need to be careful not to destroy anything as we dig.”
Sir Edmond came over and kneeled beside them. “What did you find?
Robert pointed. “It looks like another doorway.”
Sir Edmond, who was lead archeologist on the dig that Robert was funding, inspected the wall of the chamber. “You may be right, but it looks like this may be the top of the door, not the bottom.”
“What do you mean?” Diana asked.
“You can see the chamber we are in is very low and it is clear the paintings continue on below the level of the floor. I think what we are looking at here, is actually the top of a door that is buried beneath where we are kneeling now. There is probably a set of stairs underneath this dirt. We should start excavating it.”
“It is getting late,” Robert said, “I think we should save this until tomorrow morning. Shall we head back to camp?”
“I agree,” Sir Edmond said. “I will need to bring in a larger crew, and we can start digging at first light.”
Back in their tent, while Robert was writing about the day’s events in his journal, Diana was reading the latest letter from her mother again.
“She says the boys are growing so fast we might not recognize them,” she said.
“Yes, Diana, I have read the letter.”
She laid the letter in her lap and mused. “Richard does not seem to be growing as fast as Peter. Even though there is two years between them, they might end up the same height before you know it.”
Robert looked up from his journal. “Are you getting homesick?”
Diana sighed. “Yes, I am afraid I am. Is that terrible of me? I am not a very good adventuress, am I?”
“You are splendid. A little homesickness does not mean you fail at traveling. And remember we have the books launching next month. We will need to take the packet boat from Alexandria next week. And then you can wallow in your dear boys before you know it.”
Diana laughed. “Wallow. Oh, my, am I that bad?”
“Not at all. You just have a very pronounced maternal instinct.”
“Yes, I have. And I like that.”
“So do I.”
“And we will be home in time for the annual fete.”
“Of which you shall be the queen this year.”
“Oh, was not last year enough?”
“But you love handing out the prizes.”
“Can you believe the twins won the three-legged race again last year?
“But poor Geoffrey had to give up his welly wanging title after the village chap prevailed.”
Diana laughed. “Yes, he was despondent for a month after that.”
Robert picked up some papers and examined them. “Since we must leave soon, I want to make sure all the arrangements are made to ship the artifacts before we leave—including having everything crated up and secure.”
“Are you sending everything to the British Museum?”
“No, I am shipping it to Balfour. I want to pick a few pieces for the Balfour collection. Then I will ship the rest to the museum later.”
Sir Edmond called from outside the tent, “May I?”
“Come, Edmond,” Robert said.
Sir Edmond came inside. He was ex-military and carried himself like a soldier with his dapper mustache and searching blue eyes.
“When are you two chaps leaving?” he asked.
“Are you certain you cannot delay? It will take us longer than that to excavate the stairwell, and then more time to open the door if there is one. I would hate for you two to miss out on a major find.”
“Believe me, we would like to be here for that, but we have our next two books launching in London and we must be there on time.”
“I hope you have been keeping good notes on the dig. I feel certain there will be a book to be had out of this adventure.”
Diana said, “We basically do fiction but it might be fun for us to attempt a non-fiction book together.”
“Let us wait and see what we find. Then we can decide,” Robert offered.
Peter and Richard came running across the entryway hall and threw themselves into Robert’s and Diana’s arms, squealing like puppies.
“We missed you both so much,” Diana said. “My, look how much you have grown,” she said mussing Peter’s hair.
“I have grown too!” Richard, the older boy insisted.
“You certainly have,” Robert said.
“What did you bring us?” the boys asked.
“Treasures from Egypt. We are very close to discovering a vast chamber of buried treasure.”
“Can we go see?” Peter asked. “What is treasure?”
Diana stood up as her mother approached.
“How brown you are,” Mother said. “And so thin. Did you eat anything?”
“We lived a Spartan life in the desert. But we are both fine. How are you and Father?”
“He is fine. He has his tutorials, so he spends most of his time at home.”
“And you?” Diana asked.
“I have been painting up a storm. The views and vistas here are so magnificent, I go out and paint every day?”
“And who is taking care of Father, I cannot imagine he is cooking for himself.”
“We have engaged the Goodwin sisters to help. They are taking care of your father and watching the gallery for me. And they are very grateful for the extra income.”
The boys were focused on going through Robert’s pack looking for presents.
Sithens and the footmen came inside with the luggage from the carriage.
“Thank you, Sithens. I do not suppose the crates from Egypt have arrived yet?”
“Papa,” Richard asked, “Did you kill any lions?”
Robert laughed. “No. And although we were in Africa, we were not in that part of Africa. We were hunting treasures not animals.”
Robert stood up and took Diana in his arms. “Are you tired?”
“I could do with a lie down. It has been a hectic two weeks. The only rest we have had was on the boat trip back from Alexandria.”
“How did the book launch go?” Mother asked.
“That was the hectic part,” Diana said. “We had more to do those three or four days in London than we did the three months we were in Egypt.”
“Come along, boys. It must be time for your naps as well,” Robert said, shepherding the boys toward the stairway where their nanny was waiting to take them to their rooms.
“But where are our presents? I could not find anything,” Richard complained.
“At tea time. Naps first. Presents later,” he insisted, leading them up the stairs.
Just as Diana was about to follow, she heard a screech and turned to see Geoffrey racing toward her. He grabbed hold of her and hugged.
“I just heard you arrived. It is so-o-o good to see you. And I am so happy to see that you still have all your arms and legs.”
“Of course. Where did you think we were going?
“Deepest, darkest Africa. Land of beasts and head-hunters.”
“Well, as you can see, I am still all intact.”
“What a relief. Guess what?”
“What?” she laughed.
“I have bred my first orchid and I have named it the Lady Diana—after you.”
“What a lovely treat. I cannot wait to see it, but right now I am exhausted and need to lie down. Might I stop by to see it later?”
“You will be in the conservatory?”
“I will. Oh, and Miriam knew you were returning today so she asked me to say hello and she looks forward to seeing you at the fete.”
“Are you entering the three-legged race again this year?”
“Yes, the campions will prevail again!” he insisted, raising his hand in victory, “And I am going to get my welly wanging title back—just you wait and see.”
“Well, as I am going to be the queen of the fete—again—I must remain impartial. But good luck anyway.”
Robert was standing at the top of the stairs.
“The boys would love for you to give them a good-nap kiss. Are you up for that?”
“Most certainly. But then, will you give me a good-nap kiss as well?”
“You may count on it.”
That evening Amelia, Ludlow, and their three-year-old daughter, Rose, arrived for a welcome home dinner.
Rose immediately ran to see the boys, as they played together frequently. And once they began playing, they paid the adults almost no attention, whatsoever.
Diana opened her arms to greet Amelia. “I am so happy you could come this evening,” she said.
“I would not miss it. We are so anxious to hear about the dig and the launch of your new books.”
Ludlow shook hands with Robert. “Welcome home. Amelia tells me you two have been sporting it up in Egypt. You never cease to amaze me. You are starting to get a reputation as the Gallivanting Earl.”
“It could be worse. And all is well with you?”
“You will be happy to know the new port at Haver Hampton is almost complete. It will handle double the amount of shipping traffic we have been able to send so far.”
“No business this evening, please, Ludlow. Half of my mind is still in the Valley of the Kings. How about some wine or sherry? Let us allow the children to play for a bit before we go into dinner.”
“Excellent idea and I want to hear all about Egypt. Did you dig up any mummies?”
The annual fete was underway once again. It was less elaborate than when Victoria had attended. The village had asked Robert and Diana to judge the produce this year—the least favorite judging activity. And they figured they had been asked to judge because no one else would do it.
Diana was walking along the tables with Robert when she stopped and tried to pick up a giant squash.
“Can you lift that?” she asked. “It is larger than a pony,” she said laughing.
“Well, that certainly gets my vote for best… whatever it is.”
Peter and Richard came running up to them.
“Mommy, Daddy, it is time for the three-legged race,” Peter said.
“And you promised we could enter this year,” Richard reminded them.
Diana kneeled down and adjusted Richard’s shirt. “Are you sure you want to? You know Miriam and Geoffrey will probably win again this year. They are the undisputed champions.”
“Yes, but we need to learn,” Peter insisted.
“We are going to be the champions one day. Just you wait and see,” Richard followed.
Diana thought they were starting to sound like the twins, as they seemed to finish each other’s sentences.
“Very well. If you like. But do not be disappointed if you do not win.”
“We do not mind,”
“We really do not,” they both said.
Diana turned to Robert, “Would you mind terribly if I took them off to the race?”
“Not at all. If you do not find me later it means I was overcome by a giant carrot or a brussel sprout.”
“I am quite sure you can fend for yourself, Mr. Intrepid Traveler.”
Because the Sinclair twins had so consistently won the three-legged race there were many entrants determined to beat them.
Diana tied the boy’s two legs together in preparation for the race to start.
When all were ready the Starter clanged his cymbal and the race began. Of course, Geoffrey and Miriam were in the lead and Peter and Richard immediately fell flat on their faces. But they were not hurt and got up and gave a thumb’s up to Diana, and started up again. But they were dead last and continued to remain so.
But they had grit and carried on long after all the other contestants were over the finish line. They fell three more times, but got up and carried on.
By the end of the race, the crowd was totally behind them cheering them on and when they finished they got more cheers than Geoffrey and Miriam who had won the race—once again.
They came running over to Diana, flushed with excitement and reveling in the crowd’s cheers.
“Maybe next year,” they both said.
“We are going…”
“to practice every day,” they said.
Then Peter said, “You are the Queen, why can’t you just cut off the winner’s heads for being such showoffs?”
“That is a very mean thing to say. And they are your Auntie Miriam and Uncle Geoffrey. You would not like me cut off their heads, would you?”
“I guess not,” he replied.
Robert came over and congratulated the boys for their magnificent last place win and then said to Diana.
“I have something to show you.”
“The largest aubergine in the world?”
He laughed. “No. Something better.”
He handed her a telegram that Sithens had just brought him. It read:
Major find at dig. Come quickly. This will go down in history.
“Oh, Robert, that is so exciting.”
“But that is not all.”
Robert then led his family into the tent were the flowers had just been adjudicated. He led them over to the table where the orchids were displayed.
“There. Take a look at that,” Robert said pointing to a magnificent white catasetum orchid with a pale pink and yellow center radiating outwards.
“It is the orchid Geoffrey bred and it has won first prize—the Lady Diana.”
Diana just stood and marveled at the flower’s beauty. She turned to her husband and linked her arm to his, at the same time she put her other arm around her sons’ shoulders, who were snuggled up close to her.
Her mind went back to those days just a few years ago when she would sit alone at her desk each morning writing her few pages for the day, and she realized how much her life had changed and she gave thanks for the many blessings that had been bestowed upon her.
Ah, before you go...
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