At St. Midas’s School, John T. Unger befriends a new boy, Percy Washington, who invites him to spend the summer on the family estate in the Montana Rockies. Percy’s boast that his father owns a diamond as big as the Ritz-Carlton Hotel seems preposterous, but on arrival John learns that the Washingtons’ family chateau actually does sit atop a five-cubic-mile flawless diamond.
The next morning, Percy sketches the family history for his friend. In 1866, his grandfather Fitz-Norman, a “direct descendant” of George Washington and Lord Baltimore, left the defeated Confederacy accompanied by a group of faithful slaves to start a ranch in the West. The venture failed within a month. Then, while hunting for food, Fitz-Norman noticed a brilliant stone drop from a squirrel’s mouth—a perfect diamond worth one hundred thousand dollars. Returning to the site with his employees the following day, Fitz-Norman soon filled his saddlebags with diamonds. When the sale of a few of these gems in New York City loosed a wave of wild rumors, he realized that he would have to operate clandestinely lest the government seize his diamond mine and establish a monopoly to avert financial panic. Accordingly, he poured his gems into two trunks and peddled them to the courts of Europe and Asia. Later, his son Braddock (Percy’s father) sealed the mine and devoted himself to protecting the family’s incalculable fortune—and its secret.
The more complex of the story’s two strands unwinds...
(The entire section is 612 words.)