illustration of Cressida Garnet's head located above the silhouetted heads of three men

The Diamond Mine

by Willa Cather

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1282

The Voyage "The Diamond Mine'' begins when the narrator, Caroline, an old friend of the famous opera singer, Cressida Garnet, recounts the voyage where Cressida announced her fourth marriage, to Jerome Brown. When Cressida makes her first appearance, she displays the characteristic energy and attention to detail that have made her one of the most sought-after opera stars.

Caroline notes the presence of Miss Julia Garnet, Cressida's fifty-year-old sister, and Cressida's son, Horace, a bored young man of twenty-two. Caroline sees Miletus Poppas, Cressida's Greek accompanist, and strikes up a conversation with him. Caroline and Poppas walk over to the deck chairs where Cressida is lounging, and she jumps up to greet Caroline. The two women walk to a different part of the ship, where they talk about her recent engagement to Jerome Brown. Cressida says that with the exception of her son—who Caroline secretly notes can be easily bought—nobody else is supporting the marriage.

Cressida's Family Caroline notes Poppas, Miss Julia, and Horace sitting in the deck chairs, and speculates how the latter two would hurt Cressida—the financial and emotional hand that feeds them—if they had the chance. Caroline thinks about the other Garnets in Cressida's family, and how they try to capitalize on Cressida's fame by putting on airs in their native Columbus, Ohio. Caroline also notices how their constant notes requesting money from Cressida strain the singer very much, and how their envy for her is so much that they want to be Cressida.

One evening on the voyage, Cressida talks to Caroline in more detail about Jerome Brown. At this point, Caroline briefly remembers Cressida's first husband, Charley Wilton, an organist who died from tuberculosis. Wilton was Horace's father and Caroline's cousin. Cressida says that she's marrying Brown because she has always been able to count on him, and he has never pushed her, unlike others have. They talk about Cressida's family, who are jealous that the singer is the only talented one.

Cressida's First Two Husbands Caroline remembers meeting Cressida when they were both girls in Ohio, and starts thinking about Cressida's past husbands, beginning with Wilton, who was her first music teacher. Her second husband, Ransome McChord, did not approve of Cressida's close friendship with Poppas and forced her to choose between them; she chose Poppas. Their association has been mutually beneficial, as Poppas has helped her to develop her singing skill, while she has made Poppas a rich man in the process. This is a constant worry to the rest of the Garnets, who feel that Poppas is getting money that should be theirs.

Blasius Bouchalka Caroline notes that it is Cressida's stability and professionalism that win singing jobs, often over others who are more talented but difficult to deal with. Cressida only strayed from this strength of character once with Blasius Bouchalka. Caroline remembers back to the evening that she and Cressida first met Bouchalka, a Bohemian, when the two women were walking around New York and decided to stop for dinner at a restaurant. Bouchalka, the violinist and director of the restaurant's orchestra, notices Cressida. He gives the orchestra a new, unusual composition to play and Cressida leaves him a card, thanking him for the wonderful performance.

The next week, Caroline visits Cressida and sees that Bouchalka has sent Cressida some of his music. Cressida invites Bouchalka over the following Sunday to one of her weekly gatherings, where he talks about his life of poverty. He eats some of Cressida's muffins and cakes, and is surprised to find out that Cressida's cook is from Bohemia as well. Bouchalka talks to Caroline...

(This entire section contains 1282 words.)

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about his music, but says that the publishers are biased and do not want Bohemian songs. Cressida pulls Bouchalka aside and talks with him at length, until he realizes that he is late for work at the restaurant, and rushes out. Several weeks later, after they have heard nothing from Bouchalka, the two women go back to the restaurant, where they find out that he was fired for being late. The two women are able to track him down, and after this, Cressida starts promoting his work at her concerts and to publishers.

Bouchalka gets sick, and Cressida and Caroline go check on him, finding him in a rundown board-inghouse, where Cressida comforts him. After he gets better, he starts seeing Cressida more frequently. He idolizes the singer, and for the first time in her life, she feels truly appreciated, and starts to want something more than the life of servitude that she has with her family. Cressida and Bouchalka are married later that year, and when they return from their honeymoon and her concerts abroad, Cressida is refreshed. She begins to lighten up a little and become a little more careless, although Caroline notes that this is good for her.

Bouchalka becomes enamored of the rich lifestyle he has married into, and people start to notice that he has lost his wildness and that his domestication has affected his artistic output. He is content to sit in the house, where he eats the various creations from Ruzenka, and puts on weight. He refuses to go on tour with Cressida, and it starts to take its toll on her. In an attempt to spark some life into their marriage, Cressida cancels a rehearsal for her Chicago concert and goes home to surprise Bouchalka. It is a surprise, as she finds him in bed with Ruzenka, the Bohemian chef, who is sent away the next morning.

Bouchalka is not too far behind. When Cressida returns from her Chicago engagement, she stays in a hotel while the divorce papers are drawn up. Meanwhile, Bouchalka goes to see Cressida, miserable. He had been drunk the night he slept with Ruzenka, and he says that he wishes Cressida could forgive him, as he would her if she ever slept with Poppas while on the road. At this point, Caroline cuts him off, and he admits that he knows Cressida would never betray him that way.

Cressida's Death Caroline finally remembers Cressida's last husband, Jerome Brown, who did the most damage to the singer. Brown is a financier who insists on investing Cressida's money in a number of unsuccessful ventures. Although Cressida tries to inquire about these investments, Brown does not give her any details, and the strain starts to take its toll on the singer, who is distraught when she finds out that she needs to put a mortgage on her house. Cressida had never worried about earning money before, but at this point decides to go to England for a special money-raising tour. She returns on the ill-fated maiden voyage of the Titanic but, unlike past voyages, her lodgings on the ship are modest, and located in the lower decks. Caroline notes that Cressida was ill and apparently never left her cabin as the ship was going down.

Following Cressida's death, Caroline and Cressida's lawyer, Henry Gilbert, are named the executors of the singer's will. Since Brown has invested most of the fortune away, there is not much left to divide. Still, Poppas gets a third of the money, which Jerome Brown and the Garnets contest, unsuccessfully. Caroline notes by the letters from Brown and Cressida's relatives that none of them realized that the fortune they had enjoyed had come from one woman, instead treating her like a natural diamond mine that would continually provide them with wealth. Caroline further notes how Cressida's family went through the singer's house floor by floor, squabbling over who should get the smallest item, and that this squabbling continued long after Cressida's death. Caroline writes to Poppas, who has retired in Asia, of these horrors.