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The Diamond as Big as the Ritz

The Diamond as Big as the Ritz is a novella by novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. It was first published in the June 1922 issue of The Smart Set magazine, and was included in Fitzgerald's 1922 short story collection Tales of the Jazz Age. Much of the story is set in Montana, a setting that may have been inspired by the summer that Fitzgerald spent near White Sulphur Springs, Montana in 1915.

Mickey Mouse no. 47 (Apr./May 1956) contains a retelling of Fitzgerald's story under the title The Mystery of Diamond Mountain, scripted by William F. Nolan and Charles Beaumont and illustrated by Paul Murry.

Plot Summary

The story tells of John T. Unger, a teenager from the town of Hades, Mississippi, who was sent to a private boarding school in Boston. During the summer he would visit the homes of his classmates, the vast majority of whom were from wealthy families.

In the middle of his sophomore year, a young man named Percy Washington was placed in Unger's form. He would speak only to Unger, and then very rarely, but invited him for the summer to his home, the location of which he would only state as being "in the West", an invitation Unger accepted.

During the train ride Percy boasted that his father was "by far the richest man in the world", and when challenged by Unger boasted that his father "has a diamond bigger than the Ritz-Carlton Hotel."

Unger would later learn that he was in Montana, in the "only five square miles of land in the country that's never been surveyed," and the unusual and bizarre story that proved Percy's boasts to be incredibly true.

Percy's ancestry traces back to both George Washington and Lord Baltimore. His grandfather, Fitz-Norman Culpepper Washington, decided to leave Virginia and head west with his slaves to enter the sheep and cattle ranching business. However, on his claim he discovered not only a diamond mine, but a mountain consisting of one solid diamond.

Washington immediately found himself in a quandary. By all accounts he would be the richest man ever to live – however, the sheer quantity of diamonds would (based on the economic law of supply) drive their value to virtually nothing.

He immediately hatched a plan, whereby his brother read to the negroes a fabricated proclamation by General Nathan Bedford Forrest that the South had defeated the North in the American Civil War – thus keeping them in perpetual slavery. Washington travels the world selling only a few diamonds at a time, in order to avoid flooding the market, but enough to give him enormous wealth.

In order to keep the diamond a secret, the Washington family goes to appalling lengths. Airmen who stray into the area are captured and kept in a dungeon. People who visit are killed and their parents told that they have succumbed to an illness while staying there.

John falls in love with Percy's sister, Kismine, who accidentally lets slip that he too will be killed before he's allowed to leave. That night, an escaped airman launches an attack on the property and Percy's father offers a bribe to God, "the greatest diamond in the world", but God refuses. John, Kismine and Jasmine, another sister, escape while Percy and his mother and father choose to blow up the mountain rather than leave it in the hands of others. Penniless, John, Kismine and Jasmine are left to ponder their fate.

Notes

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