Monday, November 5, 2007


THE MOONSTONE A Romance by Wilkie Collins - I

A Romance
Wilkie Collins
Extracted from a Family Paper
I address these lines--written in India--to my relatives in England.
My object is to explain the motive which has induced me to refuse
the right hand of friendship to my cousin, John Herncastle.
The reserve which I have hitherto maintained in this matter has been
misinterpreted by members of my family whose good opinion I cannot
consent to forfeit. I request them to suspend their decision until
they have read my narrative. And I declare, on my word of honour,
that what I am now about to write is, strictly and literally,
the truth.
The private difference between my cousin and me took its rise
in a great public event in which we were both concerned--
the storming of Seringapatam, under General Baird, on the 4th
of May, 1799.
In order that the circumstances may be clearly understood,
I must revert for a moment to the period before the assault,
and to the stories current in our camp of the treasure in jewels
and gold stored up in the Palace of Seringapatam.
One of the wildest of these stories related to a Yellow Diamond--
a famous gem in the native annals of India.
The earliest known traditions describe the stone as having been set
in the forehead of the four-handed Indian god who typifies the Moon.
Partly from its peculiar colour, partly from a superstition which
represented it as feeling the influence of the deity whom it adorned,
and growing and lessening in lustre with the waxing and waning
of the moon, it first gained the name by which it continues
to be known in India to this day--the name of THE MOONSTONE.
A similar superstition was once prevalent, as I have heard,
in ancient Greece and Rome; not applying, however (as in India),
to a diamond devoted to the service of a god, but to a semi-transparent
stone of the inferior order of gems, supposed to be affected
by the lunar influences--the moon, in this latter case also,
giving the name by which the stone is still known to collectors in our
own time.
The adventures of the Yellow Diamond begin with the eleventh
century of the Christian era.
At that date, the Mohammedan conqueror, Mahmoud of Ghizni, crossed India;
seized on the holy city of Somnauth; and stripped of its treasures the
famous temple, which had stood for centuries--the shrine of Hindoo pilgrimage,
and the wonder of the Eastern world.
Of all the deities worshipped in the temple, the moon-god alone escaped
the rapacity of the conquering Mohammedans. Preserved by three Brahmins,
the inviolate deity, bearing the Yellow Diamond in its forehead, was removed
by night, and was transported to the second of the sacred cities of India--
the city of Benares.
Here, in a new shrine--in a hall inlaid with precious stones,
under a roof supported by pillars of gold--the moon-god was set up
and worshipped. Here, on the night when the shrine was completed,
Vishnu the Preserver appeared to the three Brahmins in a dream.
The deity breathed the breath of his divinity on the Diamond in the forehead
of the god. And the Brahmins knelt and hid their faces in their robes.
The deity commanded that the Moonstone should be watched, from that
time forth, by three priests in turn, night and day, to the end of the
generations of men. And the Brahmins heard, and bowed before his will.
The deity predicted certain disaster to the presumptuous mortal who laid
hands on the sacred gem, and to all of his house and name who received
it after him. And the Brahmins caused the prophecy to be written over
the gates of the shrine in letters of gold.
One age followed another--and still, generation after generation,
the successors of the three Brahmins watched their priceless Moonstone,
night and day. One age followed another until the first years
of the eighteenth Christian century saw the reign of Aurungzebe,
Emperor of the Moguls. At his command havoc and rapine were let
loose once more among the temples of the worship of Brahmah.
The shrine of the four-handed god was polluted by the slaughter
of sacred animals; the images of the deities were broken in pieces;
and the Moonstone was seized by an officer of rank in the army
of Aurungzebe.
Powerless to recover their lost treasure by open force,
the three guardian priests followed and watched it in disguise.
The generations succeeded each other; the warrior who had
committed the sacrilege perished miserably; the Moonstone passed
(carrying its curse with it) from one lawless Mohammedan
hand to another; and still, through all chances and changes,
the successors of the three guardian priests kept their watch,
waiting the day when the will of Vishnu the Preserver should
restore to them their sacred gem. Time rolled on from the first
to the last years of the eighteenth Christian century. The Diamond
fell into the possession of Tippoo, Sultan of Seringapatam,
who caused it to be placed as an ornament in the handle of a dagger,
and who commanded it to be kept among the choicest treasures
of his armoury. Even then--in the palace of the Sultan himself--
the three guardian priests still kept their watch in secret.
There were three officers of Tippoo's household,
strangers to the rest, who had won their master's confidence
by conforming, or appearing to conform, to the Mussulman faith;
and to those three men report pointed as the three priests
in disguise.
So, as told in our camp, ran the fanciful story of the Moonstone.
It made no serious impression on any of us except my cousin--
whose love of the marvellous induced him to believe it.
On the night before the assault on Seringapatam, he was absurdly
angry with me, and with others, for treating the whole thing
as a fable. A foolish wrangle followed; and Herncastle's
unlucky temper got the better of him. He declared, in his
boastful way, that we should see the Diamond on his finger,
if the English army took Seringapatam. The sally was saluted
by a roar of laughter, and there, as we all thought that night,
the thing ended.
Let me now take you on to the day of the assault. My cousin and I
were separated at the outset. I never saw him when we forded the river;
when we planted the English flag in the first breach; when we crossed
the ditch beyond; and, fighting every inch of our way, entered the town.
It was only at dusk, when the place was ours, and after General Baird
himself had found the dead body of Tippoo under a heap of the slain,
that Herncastle and I met.
We were each attached to a party sent out by the general's orders
to prevent the plunder and confusion which followed our conquest.
The camp-followers committed deplorable excesses; and, worse still,
the soldiers found their way, by a guarded door, into the treasury
of the Palace, and loaded themselves with gold and jewels.
It was in the court outside the treasury that my cousin and I met,
to enforce the laws of discipline on our own soldiers. Herncastle's fiery
temper had been, as I could plainly see, exasperated to a kind
of frenzy by the terrible slaughter through which we had passed.
He was very unfit, in my opinion, to perform the duty that had been
entrusted to him.
There was riot and confusion enough in the treasury, but no
violence that I saw. The men (if I may use such an expression)
disgraced themselves good-humouredly. All sorts of rough
jests and catchwords were bandied about among them;
and the story of the Diamond turned up again unexpectedly,
in the form of a mischievous joke. "Who's got the Moonstone?"
was the rallying cry which perpetually caused the plundering,
as soon as it was stopped in one place, to break out in another.
While I was still vainly trying to establish order, I heard
a frightful yelling on the other side of the courtyard, and at
once ran towards the cries, in dread of finding some new outbreak
of the pillage in that direction.
I got to an open door, and saw the bodies of two Indians
(by their dress, as I guessed, officers of the palace)
lying across the entrance, dead.
A cry inside hurried me into a room, which appeared to serve as an armoury.
A third Indian, mortally wounded, was sinking at the feet of a man whose back
was towards me. The man turned at the instant when I came in, and I saw
John Herncastle, with a torch in one hand, and a dagger dripping with blood
in the other. A stone, set like a pommel, in the end of the dagger's handle,
flashed in the torchlight, as he turned on me, like a gleam of fire.
The dying Indian sank to his knees, pointed to the dagger in Herncastle's
hand, and said, in his native language--"The Moonstone will have its vengeance
yet on you and yours!" He spoke those words, and fell dead on the floor.
Before I could stir in the matter, the men who had followed me across
the courtyard crowded in. My cousin rushed to meet them, like a madman.
"Clear the room!" he shouted to me, "and set a guard on the door!"
The men fell back as he threw himself on them with his torch and his dagger.
I put two sentinels of my own company, on whom I could rely, to keep
the door. Through the remainder of the night, I saw no more of
my cousin.
Early in the morning, the plunder still going on, General Baird announced
publicly by beat of drum, that any thief detected in the fact, be he whom
he might, should be hung. The provost-marshal was in attendance,
to prove that the General was in earnest; and in the throng that followed
the proclamation, Herncastle and I met again.
He held out his hand, as usual, and said, "Good morning.
I waited before I gave him my hand in return.
"Tell me first," I said, "how the Indian in the armoury met his death,
and what those last words meant, when he pointed to the dagger in your hand."
"The Indian met his death, as I suppose, by a mortal wound,"
said Herncastle. "What his last words meant I know no more than
you do."
I looked at him narrowly. His frenzy of the previous day
had all calmed down. I determined to give him another chance.
"Is that all you have to tell me?" I asked.
He answered, "That is all."
I turned my back on him; and we have not spoken since.
I beg it to be understood that what I write here about my cousin
(unless some necessity should arise for making it public)
is for the information of the family only. Herncastle has said
nothing that can justify me in speaking to our commanding officer.
He has been taunted more than once about the Diamond, by those who
recollect his angry outbreak before the assault; but, as may easily
be imagined, his own remembrance of the circumstances under which I
surprised him in the armoury has been enough to keep him silent.
It is reported that he means to exchange into another regiment,
avowedly for the purpose of separating himself from ME.
Whether this be true or not, I cannot prevail upon myself to become
his accuser--and I think with good reason. If I made the matter public,
I have no evidence but moral evidence to bring forward.
I have not only no proof that he killed the two men at the door;
I cannot even declare that he killed the third man inside--
for I cannot say that my own eyes saw the deed committed.
It is true that I heard the dying Indian's words; but if those
words were pronounced to be the ravings of delirium, how could I
contradict the assertion from my own knowledge? Let our relatives,
on either side, form their own opinion on what I have written,
and decide for themselves whether the aversion I now feel towards
this man is well or ill founded.
Although I attach no sort of credit to the fantastic Indian legend
of the gem, I must acknowledge, before I conclude, that I am influenced
by a certain superstition of my own in this matter. It is my conviction,
or my delusion, no matter which, that crime brings its own fatality with it.
I am not only persuaded of Herncastle's guilt; I am even fanciful enough
to believe that he will live to regret it, if he keeps the Diamond;
and that others will live to regret taking it from him, if he gives the
Diamond away.
The events related by GABRIEL BETTEREDGE, house-steward
in the service of JULIA, LADY VERINDER
In the first part of ROBINSON CRUSOE, at page one hundred and twenty-nine,
you will find it thus written:
"Now I saw, though too late, the Folly of beginning a Work before we
count the Cost, and before we judge rightly of our own Strength to go
through with it."
Only yesterday, I opened my ROBINSON CRUSOE at that place.
Only this morning (May twenty-first, Eighteen hundred and fifty),
came my lady's nephew, Mr. Franklin Blake, and held a short
conversation with me, as follows:--
"Betteredge," says Mr. Franklin, "I have been to the lawyer's about some
family matters; and, among other things, we have been talking of the loss
of the Indian Diamond, in my aunt's house in Yorkshire, two years since.
Mr. Bruff thinks as I think, that the whole story ought, in the interests
of truth, to be placed on record in writing--and the sooner the better."
Not perceiving his drift yet, and thinking it always desirable for the sake
of peace and quietness to be on the lawyer's side, I said I thought so too.
Mr. Franklin went on.
"In this matter of the Diamond," he said, "the characters of innocent
people have suffered under suspicion already--as you know.
The memories of innocent people may suffer, hereafter, for want
of a record of the facts to which those who come after us can appeal.
There can be no doubt that this strange family story of ours ought
to be told. And I think, Betteredge, Mr. Bruff and I together have hit
on the right way of telling it."
Very satisfactory to both of them, no doubt. But I failed to see
what I myself had to do with it, so far.
"We have certain events to relate," Mr. Franklin proceeded;
"and we have certain persons concerned in those events who are
capable of relating them. Starting from these plain facts, the idea
is that we should all write the story of the Moonstone in turn--
as far as our own personal experience extends, and no farther.
We must begin by showing how the Diamond first fell into the hands
of my uncle Herncastle, when he was serving in India fifty years since.
This prefatory narrative I have already got by me in the form of an old
family paper, which relates the necessary particulars on the authority
of an eye-witness. The next thing to do is to tell how the Diamond
found its way into my aunt's house in Yorkshire, two years ago,
and how it came to be lost in little more than twelve hours afterwards.
Nobody knows as much as you do, Betteredge, about what went on in
the house at that time. So you must take the pen in hand, and start
the story."
In those terms I was informed of what my personal concern was
with the matter of the Diamond. If you are curious to know
what course I took under the circumstances, I beg to inform
you that I did what you would probably have done in my place.
I modestly declared myself to be quite unequal to the task
imposed upon me--and I privately felt, all the time,
that I was quite clever enough to perform it, if I only gave
my own abilities a fair chance. Mr. Franklin, I imagine,
must have seen my private sentiments in my face. He declined
to believe in my modesty; and he insisted on giving my abilities
a fair chance.
Two hours have passed since Mr. Franklin left me. As soon as his
back was turned, I went to my writing desk to start the story.
There I have sat helpless (in spite of my abilities) ever since;
seeing what Robinson Crusoe saw, as quoted above--namely, the folly
of beginning a work before we count the cost, and before we judge
rightly of our own strength to go through with it. Please to remember,
I opened the book by accident, at that bit, only the day before I
rashly undertook the business now in hand; and, allow me to ask--
if THAT isn't prophecy, what is?
I am not superstitious; I have read a heap of books in my time;
I am a scholar in my own way. Though turned seventy, I possess
an active memory, and legs to correspond. You are not to take it,
if you please, as the saying of an ignorant man, when I express
my opinion that such a book as ROBINSON CRUSOE never was written,
and never will be written again. I have tried that book for years--
generally in combination with a pipe of tobacco--and I have found
it my friend in need in all the necessities of this mortal life.
When my spirits are bad--ROBINSON CRUSOE. When I want advice--
ROBINSON CRUSOE. In past times when my wife plagued me;
in present times when I have had a drop too much--ROBINSON CRUSOE.
I have worn out six stout ROBINSON CRUSOES with hard work in my service.
On my lady's last birthday she gave me a seventh. I took a drop too
much on the strength of it; and ROBINSON CRUSOE put me right again.
Price four shillings and sixpence, bound in blue, with a picture into
the bargain.
Still, this don't look much like starting the story of the Diamond--does it?
I seem to be wandering off in search of Lord knows what, Lord knows where.
We will take a new sheet of paper, if you please, and begin over again,
with my best respects to you.
I spoke of my lady a line or two back. Now the Diamond could never have
been in our house, where it was lost, if it had not been made a present
of to my lady's daughter; and my lady's daughter would never have been
in existence to have the present, if it had not been for my lady who
(with pain and travail) produced her into the world. Consequently, if we
begin with my lady, we are pretty sure of beginning far enough back.
And that, let me tell you, when you have got such a job as mine in hand,
is a real comfort at starting.
If you know anything of the fashionable world, you have
heard tell of the three beautiful Miss Herncastles.
Miss Adelaide; Miss Caroline; and Miss Julia--this last being
the youngest and the best of the three sisters, in my opinion;
and I had opportunities of judging, as you shall presently see.
I went into the service of the old lord, their father
(thank God, we have got nothing to do with him, in this business
of the Diamond; he had the longest tongue and the shortest
temper of any man, high or low, I ever met with)--I say,
I went into the service of the old lord, as page-boy in waiting
on the three honourable young ladies, at the age of fifteen years.
There I lived till Miss Julia married the late Sir John Verinder.
An excellent man, who only wanted somebody to manage him;
and, between ourselves, he found somebody to do it;
and what is more, he throve on it and grew fat on it,
and lived happy and died easy on it, dating from the day
when my lady took him to church to be married, to the day
when she relieved him of his last breath, and closed his eyes
for ever.
I have omitted to state that I went with the bride to the
bride's husband's house and lands down here. "Sir John,"
she says, "I can't do without Gabriel Betteredge." "My lady,"
says Sir John, "I can't do without him, either." That was
his way with her--and that was how I went into his service.
It was all one to me where I went, so long as my mistress and I
were together.
Seeing that my lady took an interest in the out-of-door work,
and the farms, and such like, I took an interest in them too--
with all the more reason that I was a small farmer's seventh
son myself. My lady got me put under the bailiff, and I did
my best, and gave satisfaction, and got promotion accordingly.
Some years later, on the Monday as it might be,
my lady says, "Sir John, your bailiff is a stupid old man.
Pension him liberally, and let Gabriel Betteredge have his place."
On the Tuesday as it might be, Sir John says, "My lady,
the bailiff is pensioned liberally; and Gabriel Betteredge has
got his place." You hear more than enough of married people
living together miserably. Here is an example to the contrary.
Let it be a warning to some of you, and an encouragement to others.
In the meantime, I will go on with my story.
Well, there I was in clover, you will say. Placed in a position
of trust and honour, with a little cottage of my own to live in,
with my rounds on the estate to occupy me in the morning,
and my accounts in the afternoon, and my pipe and my ROBINSON CRUSOE
in the evening--what more could I possibly want to make me happy?
Remember what Adam wanted when he was alone in the Garden of Eden;
and if you don't blame it in Adam, don't blame it in me.
The woman I fixed my eye on, was the woman who kept
house for me at my cottage. Her name was Selina Goby.
I agree with the late William Cobbett about picking a wife.
See that she chews her food well and sets her foot down
firmly on the ground when she walks, and you're all right.
Selina Goby was all right in both these respects, which was
one reason for marrying her. I had another reason, likewise,
entirely of my own discovering. Selina, being a single woman,
made me pay so much a week for her board and services.
Selina, being my wife, couldn't charge for her board, and would
have to give me her services for nothing. That was the point
of view I looked at it from. Economy--with a dash of love.
I put it to my mistress, as in duty bound, just as I had put it
to myself.
"I have been turning Selina Goby over in my mind," I said,
"and I think, my lady, it will be cheaper to marry her than
to keep her."
My lady burst out laughing, and said she didn't know
which to be most shocked at--my language or my principles.
Some joke tickled her, I suppose, of the sort that you can't
take unless you are a person of quality. Understanding nothing
myself but that I was free to put it next to Selina,
I went and put it accordingly. And what did Selina say?
Lord! how little you must know of women, if you ask that.
Of course she said, Yes.
As my time drew nearer, and there got to be talk of my having
a new coat for the ceremony, my mind began to misgive me.
I have compared notes with other men as to what they
felt while they were in my interesting situation;
and they have all acknowledged that, about a week before
it happened, they privately wished themselves out of it.
I went a trifle further than that myself; I actually rose up,
as it were, and tried to get out of it. Not for nothing!
I was too just a man to expect she would let me off for nothing.
Compensation to the woman when the man gets out of it,
is one of the laws of England. In obedience to the laws,
and after turning it over carefully in my mind, I offered Selina
Goby a feather-bed and fifty shillings to be off the bargain.
You will hardly believe it, but it is nevertheless true--she was
fool enough to refuse.
After that it was all over with me, of course. I got the new coat as cheap
as I could, and I went through all the rest of it as cheap as I could.
We were not a happy couple, and not a miserable couple. We were six of one
and half-a-dozen of the other. How it was I don't understand, but we always
seemed to be getting, with the best of motives, in one another's way.
When I wanted to go up-stairs, there was my wife coming down; or when my wife
wanted to go down, there was I coming up. That is married life, according to
my experience of it.
After five years of misunderstandings on the stairs, it pleased
an all-wise Providence to relieve us of each other by taking my wife.
I was left with my little girl Penelope, and with no other child.
Shortly afterwards Sir John died, and my lady was left with her
little girl, Miss Rachel, and no other child. I have written
to very poor purpose of my lady, if you require to be told that my
little Penelope was taken care of, under my good mistress's own eye,
and was sent to school and taught, and made a sharp girl, and promoted,
when old enough, to be Miss Rachel's own maid.
As for me, I went on with my business as bailiff year after year up
to Christmas 1847, when there came a change in my life. On that day,
my lady invited herself to a cup of tea alone with me in my cottage.
She remarked that, reckoning from the year when I started as page-boy in
the time of the old lord, I had been more than fifty years in her service,
and she put into my hands a beautiful waistcoat of wool that she had
worked herself, to keep me warm in the bitter winter weather.
I received this magnificent present quite at a loss to find words to thank
my mistress with for the honour she had done me. To my great astonishment,
it turned out, however, that the waistcoat was not an honour, but a bribe.
My lady had discovered that I was getting old before I had discovered
it myself, and she had come to my cottage to wheedle me (if I may use
such an expression) into giving up my hard out-of-door work as bailiff,
and taking my ease for the rest of my days as steward in the house. I made
as good a fight of it against the indignity of taking my ease as I could.
But my mistress knew the weak side of me; she put it as a favour to herself.
The dispute between us ended, after that, in my wiping my eyes,
like an old fool, with my new woollen waistcoat, and saying I would think
about it.
The perturbation in my mind, in regard to thinking about it, being truly
dreadful after my lady had gone away, I applied the remedy which I
have never yet found to fail me in cases of doubt and emergency.
I smoked a pipe and took a turn at ROBINSON CRUSOE. Before I had
occupied myself with that extraordinary book five minutes, I came
on a comforting bit (page one hundred and fifty-eight), as follows:
"To-day we love, what to-morrow we hate." I saw my way clear directly.
To-day I was all for continuing to be farm-bailiff; to-morrow, on
the authority of ROBINSON CRUSOE, I should be all the other way.
Take myself to-morrow while in to-morrow's humour, and the thing
was done. My mind being relieved in this manner, I went to sleep
that night in the character of Lady Verinder's farm bailiff,
and I woke up the next morning in the character of Lady
Verinder's house-steward. All quite comfortable, and all through
My daughter Penelope has just looked over my shoulder to see what I
have done so far. She remarks that it is beautifully written,
and every word of it true. But she points out one objection.
She says what I have done so far isn't in the least what I was
wanted to do. I am asked to tell the story of the Diamond and,
instead of that, I have been telling the story of my own self.
Curious, and quite beyond me to account for. I wonder whether
the gentlemen who make a business and a living out of writing books,
ever find their own selves getting in the way of their subjects,
like me? If they do, I can feel for them. In the meantime,
here is another false start, and more waste of good writing-paper.
What's to be done now? Nothing that I know of, except for you
to keep your temper, and for me to begin it all over again for the
third time.
The question of how I am to start the story properly I have
tried to settle in two ways. First, by scratching my head,
which led to nothing. Second, by consulting my daughter Penelope,
which has resulted in an entirely new idea.
Penelope's notion is that I should set down what happened,
regularly day by day, beginning with the day when we got the news
that Mr. Franklin Blake was expected on a visit to the house.
When you come to fix your memory with a date in this way, it is
wonderful what your memory will pick up for you upon that compulsion.
The only difficulty is to fetch out the dates, in the first place.
This Penelope offers to do for me by looking into her own diary,
which she was taught to keep when she was at school, and which she has
gone on keeping ever since. In answer to an improvement on this notion,
devised by myself, namely, that she should tell the story instead
of me, out of her own diary, Penelope observes, with a fierce
look and a red face, that her journal is for her own private eye,
and that no living creature shall ever know what is in it but herself.
When I inquire what this means, Penelope says, "Fiddlesticks!"
I say, Sweethearts.
Beginning, then, on Penelope's plan, I beg to mention that I
was specially called one Wednesday morning into my lady's
own sitting-room, the date being the twenty-fourth of May,
Eighteen hundred and forty-eight.
"Gabriel," says my lady, "here is news that will surprise you.
Franklin Blake has come back from abroad. He has been staying
with his father in London, and he is coming to us to-morrow
to stop till next month, and keep Rachel's birthday."
If I had had a hat in my hand, nothing but respect would have prevented me
from throwing that hat up to the ceiling. I had not seen Mr. Franklin since
he was a boy, living along with us in this house. He was, out of all sight
(as I remember him), the nicest boy that ever spun a top or broke a window.
Miss Rachel, who was present, and to whom I made that remark, observed,
in return, that SHE remembered him as the most atrocious tyrant that ever
tortured a doll, and the hardest driver of an exhausted little girl
in string harness that England could produce. "I burn with indignation,
and I ache with fatigue," was the way Miss Rachel summed it up, "when I think
of Franklin Blake."
Hearing what I now tell you, you will naturally ask how it
was that Mr. Franklin should have passed all the years,
from the time when he was a boy to the time when he was a man,
out of his own country. I answer, because his father had
the misfortune to be next heir to a Dukedom, and not to be able
to prove it.
In two words, this was how the thing happened:
My lady's eldest sister married the celebrated Mr. Blake--
equally famous for his great riches, and his great suit at law.
How many years he went on worrying the tribunals of his
country to turn out the Duke in possession, and to put himself
in the Duke's place--how many lawyer's purses he filled
to bursting, and how many otherwise harmless people he set
by the ears together disputing whether he was right or wrong--
is more by a great deal than I can reckon up. His wife died,
and two of his three children died, before the tribunals could make
up their minds to show him the door and take no more of his money.
When it was all over, and the Duke in possession was left
in possession, Mr. Blake discovered that the only way of being
even with his country for the manner in which it had treated him,
was not to let his country have the honour of educating his son.
"How can I trust my native institutions," was the form in which
he put it, "after the way in which my native institutions have
behaved to ME?" Add to this, that Mr. Blake disliked all boys,
his own included, and you will admit that it could only end
in one way. Master Franklin was taken from us in England,
and was sent to institutions which his father COULD trust,
in that superior country, Germany; Mr. Blake himself,
you will observe, remaining snug in England, to improve his
fellow-countrymen in the Parliament House, and to publish
a statement on the subject of the Duke in possession,
which has remained an unfinished statement from that day
to this.
There! thank God, that's told! Neither you nor I need trouble our
heads any more about Mr. Blake, senior. Leave him to the Dukedom;
and let you and I stick to the Diamond.
The Diamond takes us back to Mr. Franklin, who was the innocent means
of bringing that unlucky jewel into the house.
Our nice boy didn't forget us after he went abroad. He wrote every
now and then; sometimes to my lady, sometimes to Miss Rachel,
and sometimes to me. We had had a transaction together,
before he left, which consisted in his borrowing of me a ball
of string, a four-bladed knife, and seven-and-sixpence in money--
the colour of which last I have not seen, and never expect to
see again. His letters to me chiefly related to borrowing more.
I heard, however, from my lady, how he got on abroad, as he grew
in years and stature. After he had learnt what the institutions
of Germany could teach him, he gave the French a turn next,
and the Italians a turn after that. They made him among them
a sort of universal genius, as well as I could understand it.
He wrote a little; he painted a little; he sang and played and
composed a little--borrowing, as I suspect, in all these cases,
just as he had borrowed from me. His mother's fortune
(seven hundred a year) fell to him when he came of age,
and ran through him, as it might be through a sieve.
The more money he had, the more he wanted; there was a hole
in Mr. Franklin's pocket that nothing would sew up.
Wherever he went, the lively, easy way of him made him welcome.
He lived here, there, and everywhere; his address (as he used
to put it himself) being "Post Office, Europe--to be left till
called for." Twice over, he made up his mind to come back
to England and see us; and twice over (saving your presence),
some unmentionable woman stood in the way and stopped him.
His third attempt succeeded, as you know already from
what my lady told me. On Thursday the twenty-fifth of May,
we were to see for the first time what our nice boy had grown
to be as a man. He came of good blood; he had a high courage;
and he was five-and-twenty years of age, by our reckoning.
Now you know as much of Mr. Franklin Blake as I did--
before Mr. Franklin Blake came down to our house.
The Thursday was as fine a summer's day as ever you saw:
and my lady and Miss Rachel (not expecting Mr. Franklin
till dinner-time) drove out to lunch with some friends in
the neighbourhood.
When they were gone, I went and had a look at the bedroom which
had been got ready for our guest, and saw that all was straight.
Then, being butler in my lady's establishment, as well as steward
(at my own particular request, mind, and because it vexed me
to see anybody but myself in possession of the key of the late
Sir John's cellar)--then, I say, I fetched up some of our famous
Latour claret, and set it in the warm summer air to take off the chill
before dinner. Concluding to set myself in the warm summer air next--
seeing that what is good for old claret is equally good for old age--
I took up my beehive chair to go out into the back court, when I
was stopped by hearing a sound like the soft beating of a drum,
on the terrace in front of my lady's residence.
Going round to the terrace, I found three mahogany-coloured Indians,
in white linen frocks and trousers, looking up at the house.
The Indians, as I saw on looking closer, had small hand-drums slung in front
of them. Behind them stood a little delicate-looking light-haired English
boy carrying a bag. I judged the fellows to be strolling conjurors,
and the boy with the bag to be carrying the tools of their trade.
One of the three, who spoke English and who exhibited, I must own,
the most elegant manners, presently informed me that my judgment was right.
He requested permission to show his tricks in the presence of the lady of
the house.
Now I am not a sour old man. I am generally all for amusement,
and the last person in the world to distrust another person
because he happens to be a few shades darker than myself.
But the best of us have our weaknesses--and my weakness,
when I know a family plate-basket to be out on a pantry-table,
is to be instantly reminded of that basket by the sight
of a strolling stranger whose manners are superior to my own.
I accordingly informed the Indian that the lady of the house
was out; and I warned him and his party off the premises.
He made me a beautiful bow in return; and he and his party went
off the premises. On my side, I returned to my beehive chair,
and set myself down on the sunny side of the court, and fell
(if the truth must be owned), not exactly into a sleep, but into
the next best thing to it.
I was roused up by my daughter Penelope running out at me
as if the house was on fire. What do you think she wanted?
She wanted to have the three Indian jugglers instantly taken up;
for this reason, namely, that they knew who was coming from
London to visit us, and that they meant some mischief to
Mr. Franklin Blake.
Mr. Franklin's name roused me. I opened my eyes, and made my girl
explain herself.
It appeared that Penelope had just come from our lodge, where she
had been having a gossip with the lodge-keeper's daughter.
The two girls had seen the Indians pass out, after I had
warned them off, followed by their little boy. Taking it
into their heads that the boy was ill-used by the foreigners--
for no reason that I could discover, except that he was
pretty and delicate-looking--the two girls had stolen along
the inner side of the hedge between us and the road, and had
watched the proceedings of the foreigners on the outer side.
Those proceedings resulted in the performance of the following
extraordinary tricks.
They first looked up the road, and down the road, and made
sure that they were alone. Then they all three faced about,
and stared hard in the direction of our house. Then they
jabbered and disputed in their own language, and looked at
each other like men in doubt. Then they all turned to their
little English boy, as if they expected HIM to help them.
And then the chief Indian, who spoke English, said to the boy,
"Hold out your hand."
On hearing those dreadful words, my daughter Penelope said she didn't
know what prevented her heart from flying straight out of her.
I thought privately that it might have been her stays.
All I said, however, was, "You make my flesh creep." (NOTA BENE:
Women like these little compliments.)
Well, when the Indian said, "Hold out your hand," the boy
shrunk back, and shook his head, and said he didn't like it.
The Indian, thereupon, asked him (not at all unkindly), whether
he would like to be sent back to London, and left where they
had found him, sleeping in an empty basket in a market--
a hungry, ragged, and forsaken little boy. This, it seems,
ended the difficulty. The little chap unwillingly held out his hand.
Upon that, the Indian took a bottle from his bosom, and poured out
of it some black stuff, like ink, into the palm of the boy's hand.
The Indian--first touching the boy's head, and making signs over
it in the air--then said, "Look." The boy became quite stiff,
and stood like a statue, looking into the ink in the hollow of
his hand.
(So far, it seemed to me to be juggling, accompanied by a foolish
waste of ink. I was beginning to feel sleepy again, when Penelope's
next words stirred me up.)
The Indians looked up the road and down the road once more--
and then the chief Indian said these words to the boy;
"See the English gentleman from foreign parts."
The boy said, "I see him."
The Indian said, "Is it on the road to this house, and on no other,
that the English gentleman will travel to-day?"
The boy said, "It is on the road to this house, and on no other,
that the English gentleman will travel to-day." The Indian put
a second question--after waiting a little first. He said:
"Has the English gentleman got It about him?"
The boy answered--also, after waiting a little first--"Yes."
The Indian put a third and last question: "Will the English gentleman
come here, as he has promised to come, at the close of day?"
The boy said, "I can't tell."
The Indian asked why.
The boy said, "I am tired. The mist rises in my head, and puzzles me.
I can see no more to-day."
With that the catechism ended. The chief Indian said something in his
own language to the other two, pointing to the boy, and pointing towards
the town, in which (as we afterwards discovered) they were lodged.
He then, after making more signs on the boy's head, blew on his forehead,
and so woke him up with a start. After that, they all went on their way
towards the town, and the girls saw them no more.
Most things they say have a moral, if you only look for it.
What was the moral of this?
The moral was, as I thought: First, that the chief juggler had heard
Mr. Franklin's arrival talked of among the servants out-of-doors, and saw
his way to making a little money by it. Second, that he and his men and boy
(with a view to making the said money) meant to hang about till they saw my
lady drive home, and then to come back, and foretell Mr. Franklin's arrival
by magic. Third, that Penelope had heard them rehearsing their hocus-pocus,
like actors rehearsing a play. Fourth, that I should do well to have an eye,
that evening, on the plate-basket. Fifth, that Penelope would do well to
cool down, and leave me, her father, to doze off again in the sun.
That appeared to me to be the sensible view. If you know anything of the ways
of young women, you won't be surprised to hear that Penelope wouldn't
take it. The moral of the thing was serious, according to my daughter.
She particularly reminded me of the Indian's third question, Has the English
gentleman got It about him? "Oh, father!" says Penelope, clasping her hands,
"don't joke about this. What does 'It' mean?"
"We'll ask Mr. Franklin, my dear," I said, "if you can wait till
Mr. Franklin comes. I winked to show I meant that in joke.
Penelope took it quite seriously. My girl's earnestness tickled me.
"What on earth should Mr. Franklin know about it?" I inquired.
"Ask him," says Penelope. "And see whether HE thinks it
a laughing matter, too." With that parting shot, my daughter
left me.
I settled it with myself, when she was gone, that I really
would ask Mr. Franklin--mainly to set Penelope's mind at rest.
What was said between us, when I did ask him, later on that same day,
you will find set out fully in its proper place. But as I
don't wish to raise your expectations and then disappoint them,
I will take leave to warn you here--before we go any further--
that you won't find the ghost of a joke in our conversation on
the subject of the jugglers. To my great surprise, Mr. Franklin,
like Penelope, took the thing seriously. How seriously,
you will understand, when I tell you that, in his opinion,
"It" meant the Moonstone.
I am truly sorry to detain you over me and my beehive chair.
A sleepy old man, in a sunny back yard, is not an interesting object,
I am well aware. But things must be put down in their places,
as things actually happened--and you must please to jog on a little
while longer with me, in expectation of Mr. Franklin Blake's arrival
later in the day.
Before I had time to doze off again, after my daughter Penelope
had left me, I was disturbed by a rattling of plates and dishes
in the servants' hall, which meant that dinner was ready.
Taking my own meals in my own sitting-room, I had nothing to do
with the servants' dinner, except to wish them a good stomach to it
all round, previous to composing myself once more in my chair.
I was just stretching my legs, when out bounced another woman on me.
Not my daughter again; only Nancy, the kitchen-maid, this time.
I was straight in her way out; and I observed, as she asked
me to let her by, that she had a sulky face--a thing which,
as head of the servants, I never allow, on principle, to pass me
without inquiry.
"What are you turning your back on your dinner for?" I asked.
"What's wrong now, Nancy?"
Nancy tried to push by, without answering; upon which I rose up,
and took her by the ear. She is a nice plump young lass,
and it is customary with me to adopt that manner of showing
that I personally approve of a girl.
"What's wrong now?" I said once more.
"Rosanna's late again for dinner," says Nancy. "And I'm sent to fetch
her in. All the hard work falls on my shoulders in this house.
Let me alone, Mr. Betteredge!"
The person here mentioned as Rosanna was our second housemaid.
Having a kind of pity for our second housemaid (why, you shall
presently know), and seeing in Nancy's face, that she would fetch
her fellow-servant in with more hard words than might be needful
under the circumstances, it struck me that I had nothing particular
to do, and that I might as well fetch Rosanna myself; giving her
a hint to be punctual in future, which I knew she would take kindly
from ME.
"Where is Rosanna?" I inquired.
"At the sands, of course!" says Nancy, with a toss of her head.
"She had another of her fainting fits this morning, and she asked
to go out and get a breath of fresh air. I have no patience
with her!"
"Go back to your dinner, my girl," I said. "I have patience with her,
and I'll fetch her in."
Nancy (who has a fine appetite) looked pleased. When she looks pleased,
she looks nice. When she looks nice, I chuck her under the chin.
It isn't immorality--it's only habit.
Well, I took my stick, and set off for the sands.
No! it won't do to set off yet. I am sorry again to detain you;
but you really must hear the story of the sands, and the story of Rosanna--
for this reason, that the matter of the Diamond touches them both nearly.
How hard I try to get on with my statement without stopping by the way,
and how badly I succeed! But, there!--Persons and Things do turn up
so vexatiously in this life, and will in a manner insist on being noticed.
Let us take it easy, and let us take it short; we shall be in the thick of the
mystery soon, I promise you!
Rosanna (to put the Person before the Thing, which is but
common politeness) was the only new servant in our house.
About four months before the time I am writing of,
my lady had been in London, and had gone over a Reformatory,
intended to save forlorn women from drifting back into bad ways,
after they had got released from prison. The matron, seeing my
lady took an interest in the place, pointed out a girl to her,
named Rosanna Spearman, and told her a most miserable story,
which I haven't the heart to repeat here; for I don't like
to be made wretched without any use, and no more do you.
The upshot of it was, that Rosanna Spearman had been a thief,
and not being of the sort that get up Companies in the City,
and rob from thousands, instead of only robbing from one,
the law laid hold of her, and the prison and the reformatory
followed the lead of the law. The matron's opinion of Rosanna was
(in spite of what she had done) that the girl was one
in a thousand, and that she only wanted a chance to prove
herself worthy of any Christian woman's interest in her.
My lady (being a Christian woman, if ever there was one yet)
said to the matron, upon that, "Rosanna Spearman shall
have her chance, in my service." In a week afterwards,
Rosanna Spearman entered this establishment as our second
Not a soul was told the girl's story, excepting Miss Rachel and me.
My lady, doing me the honour to consult me about most things,
consulted me about Rosanna. Having fallen a good deal latterly into
the late Sir John's way of always agreeing with my lady, I agreed
with her heartily about Rosanna Spearman.
A fairer chance no girl could have had than was given to this
poor girl of ours. None of the servants could cast her past life
in her teeth, for none of the servants knew what it had been.
She had her wages and her privileges, like the rest of them;
and every now and then a friendly word from my lady, in private,
to encourage her. In return, she showed herself, I am bound
to say, well worthy of the kind treatment bestowed upon her.
Though far from strong, and troubled occasionally with those
fainting-fits already mentioned, she went about her work
modestly and uncomplainingly, doing it carefully, and doing
it well. But, somehow, she failed to make friends among
the other women servants, excepting my daughter Penelope,
who was always kind to Rosanna, though never intimate
with her.
I hardly know what the girl did to offend them. There was
certainly no beauty about her to make the others envious;
she was the plainest woman in the house, with the additional
misfortune of having one shoulder bigger than the other.
What the servants chiefly resented, I think, was her silent
tongue and her solitary ways. She read or worked in leisure
hours when the rest gossiped. And when it came to her turn
to go out, nine times out of ten she quietly put on her bonnet,
and had her turn by herself. She never quarrelled,
she never took offence; she only kept a certain distance,
obstinately and civilly, between the rest of them and herself.
Add to this that, plain as she was, there was just a dash
of something that wasn't like a housemaid, and that WAS
like a lady, about her. It might have been in her voice,
or it might have been in her face. All I can say is,
that the other women pounced on it like lightning the first
day she came into the house, and said (which was most unjust)
that Rosanna Spearman gave herself airs.
Having now told the story of Rosanna, I have only to notice one of the many
queer ways of this strange girl to get on next to the story of the sands.
Our house is high up on the Yorkshire coast, and close by the sea.
We have got beautiful walks all round us, in every direction but one.
That one I acknowledge to be a horrid walk. It leads, for a quarter
of a mile, through a melancholy plantation of firs, and brings you
out between low cliffs on the loneliest and ugliest little bay on all
our coast.
The sand-hills here run down to the sea, and end in two spits of rock
jutting out opposite each other, till you lose sight of them in the water.
One is called the North Spit, and one the South. Between the two,
shifting backwards and forwards at certain seasons of the year,
lies the most horrible quicksand on the shores of Yorkshire.
At the turn of the tide, something goes on in the unknown deeps below,
which sets the whole face of the quicksand shivering and trembling
in a manner most remarkable to see, and which has given to it,
among the people in our parts, the name of the Shivering Sand.
A great bank, half a mile out, nigh the mouth of the bay,
breaks the force of the main ocean coming in from the offing.
Winter and summer, when the tide flows over the quicksand,
the sea seems to leave the waves behind it on the bank, and rolls
its waters in smoothly with a heave, and covers the sand in silence.
A lonesome and a horrid retreat, I can tell you! No boat ever
ventures into this bay. No children from our fishing-village, called
Cobb's Hole, ever come here to play. The very birds of the air,
as it seems to me, give the Shivering Sand a wide berth.
That a young woman, with dozens of nice walks to choose from,
and company to go with her, if she only said "Come!" should prefer
this place, and should sit and work or read in it, all alone,
when it's her turn out, I grant you, passes belief. It's true,
nevertheless, account for it as you may, that this was Rosanna Spearman's
favourite walk, except when she went once or twice to Cobb's Hole,
to see the only friend she had in our neighbourhood, of whom more anon.
It's also true that I was now setting out for this same place,
to fetch the girl in to dinner, which brings us round happily
to our former point, and starts us fair again on our way to the
I saw no sign of the girl in the plantation. When I got out,
through the sand-hills, on to the beach, there she was,
in her little straw bonnet, and her plain grey cloak that she
always wore to hide her deformed shoulder as much as might be--
there she was, all alone, looking out on the quicksand and
the sea.
She started when I came up with her, and turned her head away from me.
Not looking me in the face being another of the proceedings, which,
as head of the servants, I never allow, on principle, to pass
without inquiry--I turned her round my way, and saw that she was crying.
My bandanna handkerchief--one of six beauties given to me by my lady--
was handy in my pocket. I took it out, and I said to Rosanna,
"Come and sit down, my dear, on the slope of the beach along with me.
I'll dry your eyes for you first, and then I'll make so bold as to ask
what you have been crying about."
When you come to my age, you will find sitting down on the slope of a beach
a much longer job than you think it now. By the time I was settled,
Rosanna had dried her own eyes with a very inferior handkerchief to mine--
cheap cambric. She looked very quiet, and very wretched; but she sat
down by me like a good girl, when I told her. When you want to comfort
a woman by the shortest way, take her on your knee. I thought of this
golden rule. But there! Rosanna wasn't Nancy, and that's the truth
of it!
"Now, tell me, my dear," I said, "what are you crying about?"
"About the years that are gone, Mr. Betteredge," says Rosanna quietly.
"My past life still comes back to me sometimes."
"Come, come, my girl, I said, "your past life is all sponged out.
Why can't you forget it?"
She took me by one of the lappets of my coat. I am a slovenly old man,
and a good deal of my meat and drink gets splashed about on my clothes.
Sometimes one of the women, and sometimes another, cleans me of my grease.
The day before, Rosanna had taken out a spot for me on the lappet of my coat,
with a new composition, warranted to remove anything. The grease
was gone, but there was a little dull place left on the nap of the cloth
where the grease had been. The girl pointed to that place, and shook
her head.
"The stain is taken off," she said. "But the place shows, Mr. Betteredge--
the place shows!"
A remark which takes a man unawares by means of his own coat
is not an easy remark to answer. Something in the girl
herself, too, made me particularly sorry for her just then.
She had nice brown eyes, plain as she was in other ways--
and she looked at me with a sort of respect for my happy old age
and my good character, as things for ever out of her own reach,
which made my heart heavy for our second housemaid. Not feeling
myself able to comfort her, there was only one other thing to do.
That thing was--to take her in to dinner.
"Help me up," I said. "You're late for dinner, Rosanna--and I
have come to fetch you in."
"You, Mr. Betteredge!" says she.
"They told Nancy to fetch you," I said. "But thought you
might like your scolding better, my dear, if it came from me."
Instead of helping me up, the poor thing stole her hand into mine, and gave it
a little squeeze. She tried hard to keep from crying again, and succeeded--
for which I respected her. "You're very kind, Mr. Betteredge," she said.
"I don't want any dinner to-day--let me bide a little longer here."
"What makes you like to be here?" I asked. "What is it that brings
you everlastingly to this miserable place?"
"Something draws me to it," says the girl, making images with her finger
in the sand. "I try to keep away from it, and I can't. Sometimes,"
says she in a low voice, as if she was frightened at her own fancy,
"sometimes, Mr. Betteredge, I think that my grave is waiting for me here."
"There's roast mutton and suet-pudding waiting for you!"
says I. "Go in to dinner directly. This is what comes,
Rosanna, of thinking on an empty stomach!" I spoke severely,
being naturally indignant (at my time of life) to hear a young
woman of five-and-twenty talking about her latter end!
She didn't seem to hear me: she put her hand on my shoulder,
and kept me where I was, sitting by her side.
"I think the place has laid a spell on me," she said.
"I dream of it night after night; I think of it when I sit
stitching at my work. You know I am grateful, Mr. Betteredge--
you know I try to deserve your kindness, and my lady's confidence
in me. But I wonder sometimes whether the life here is too
quiet and too good for such a woman as I am, after all I have
gone through, Mr. Betteredge--after all I have gone through.
It's more lonely to me to be among the other servants,
knowing I am not what they are, than it is to he here.
My lady doesn't know, the matron at the reformatory doesn't know,
what a dreadful reproach honest people are in themselves
to a woman like me. Don't scold me, there's a dear good man.
I do my work, don't I? Please not to tell my lady I am discontented--
I am not. My mind's unquiet, sometimes, that's all."
She snatched her hand off my shoulder, and suddenly pointed
down to the quicksand. "Look!" she said "Isn't it wonderful?
isn't it terrible? I have seen it dozens of times,
and it's always as new to me as if I had never seen
it before!"
I looked where she pointed. The tide was on the turn, and the horrid
sand began to shiver. The broad brown face of it heaved slowly,
and then dimpled and quivered all over. "Do you know what it looks
like to ME?" says Rosanna, catching me by the shoulder again.
"It looks as if it had hundreds of suffocating people under it--
all struggling to get to the surface, and all sinking lower and
lower in the dreadful deeps! Throw a stone in, Mr. Betteredge!
Throw a stone in, and let's see the sand suck it down!"
Here was unwholesome talk! Here was an empty stomach
feeding on an unquiet mind! My answer--a pretty sharp one,
in the poor girl's own interests, I promise you!--was at
my tongue's end, when it was snapped short off on a sudden
by a voice among the sand-hills shouting for me by my name.
"Betteredge!" cries the voice, "where are you?" " Here!"
I shouted out in return, without a notion in my mind of who it was.
Rosanna started to her feet, and stood looking towards the voice.
I was just thinking of getting on my own legs next, when I was
staggered by a sudden change in the girl's face.
Her complexion turned of a beautiful red, which I had never seen in it before;
she brightened all over with a kind of speechless and breathless surprise.
"Who is it?" I asked. Rosanna gave me back my own question.
"Oh! who is it?" she said softly, more to herself than to me.
I twisted round on the sand and looked behind me. There, coming out
on us from among the hills, was a bright-eyed young gentleman,
dressed in a beautiful fawn-coloured suit, with gloves and hat to match,
with a rose in his button-hole, and a smile on his face that might
have set the Shivering Sand itself smiling at him in return. Before I
could get on my legs, he plumped down on the sand by the side of me,
put his arm round my neck, foreign fashion, and gave me a hug that fairly
squeezed the breath out of my body. "Dear old Betteredge!" says he.
"I owe you seven-and-sixpence. Now do you know who I am?"
Lord bless us and save us! Here--four good hours before we expected him--
was Mr. Franklin Blake!
Before I could say a word, I saw Mr. Franklin, a little
surprised to all appearance, look up from me to Rosanna.
Following his lead, I looked at the girl too. She was
blushing of a deeper red than ever, seemingly at having caught
Mr. Franklin's eye; and she turned and left us suddenly,
in a confusion quite unaccountable to my mind, without either
making her curtsey to the gentleman or saying a word to me.
Very unlike her usual self: a civiller and better-behaved servant,
in general, you never met with.
"That's an odd girl," says Mr. Franklin. "I wonder what she sees
in me to surprise her?"
"I suppose, sir," I answered, drolling on our young gentleman's
Continental education, "it's the varnish from foreign parts."
I set down here Mr. Franklin's careless question, and my foolish answer,
as a consolation and encouragement to all stupid people--it being,
as I have remarked, a great satisfaction to our inferior fellow-creatures
to find that their betters are, on occasions, no brighter than they are.
Neither Mr. Franklin, with his wonderful foreign training, nor I,
with my age, experience, and natural mother-wit, had the ghost of an idea
of what Rosanna Spearman's unaccountable behaviour really meant.
She was out of our thoughts, poor soul, before we had seen the last flutter
of her little grey cloak among the sand-hills. And what of that? you will ask,
naturally enough. Read on, good friend, as patiently as you can, and perhaps
you will be as sorry for Rosanna Spearman as I was, when I found out
the truth.
The first thing I did, after we were left together alone,
was to make a third attempt to get up from my seat on the sand.
Mr. Franklin stopped me.
"There is one advantage about this horrid place," he said;
"we have got it all to ourselves. Stay where you are, Betteredge;
I have something to say to you."
While he was speaking, I was looking at him, and trying to see something
of the boy I remembered, in the man before me. The man put me out.
Look as I might, I could see no more of his boy's rosy cheeks than
of his boy's trim little jacket. His complexion had got pale:
his face, at the lower part was covered, to my great surprise
and disappointment, with a curly brown beard and mustachios.
He had a lively touch-and-go way with him, very pleasant and engaging,
I admit; but nothing to compare with his free-and-easy manners
of other times. To make matters worse, he had promised to be tall,
and had not kept his promise. He was neat, and slim, and well made;
but he wasn't by an inch or two up to the middle height. In short,
he baffled me altogether. The years that had passed had left nothing
of his old self, except the bright, straightforward look in his eyes.
There I found our nice boy again, and there I concluded to stop in
my investigation.
"Welcome back to the old place, Mr. Franklin," I said.
"All the more welcome, sir, that you have come some hours
before we expected you."
"I have a reason for coming before you expected me," answered Mr. Franklin.
"I suspect, Betteredge, that I have been followed and watched in London,
for the last three or four days; and I have travelled by the morning instead
of the afternoon train, because I wanted to give a certain dark-looking
stranger the slip."
Those words did more than surprise me. They brought back to my mind,
in a flash, the three jugglers, and Penelope's notion that they meant
some mischief to Mr. Franklin Blake.
"Who's watching you, sir,--and why?" I inquired.
"Tell me about the three Indians you have had at the house to-day,"
says Mr. Franklin, without noticing my question. "It's just possible,
Betteredge, that my stranger and your three jugglers may turn out to be
pieces of the same puzzle."
"How do you come to know about the jugglers, sir?" I asked,
putting one question on the top of another, which was bad manners,
I own. But you don't expect much from poor human nature--
so don't expect much from me.
"I saw Penelope at the house," says Mr. Franklin; "and Penelope told me.
Your daughter promised to be a pretty girl, Betteredge, and she has
kept her promise. Penelope has got a small ear and a small foot.
Did the late Mrs. Betteredge possess those inestimable advantages?"
"The late Mrs. Betteredge possessed a good many defects, sir,"
says I. "One of them (if you will pardon my mentioning it)
was never keeping to the matter in hand. She was more like a fly
than a woman: she couldn't settle on anything."
"She would just have suited me," says Mr. Franklin. "I never settle
on anything either. Betteredge, your edge is better than ever.
Your daughter said as much, when I asked for particulars about the jugglers.
"Father will tell you, sir. He's a wonderful man for his age; and he
expresses himself beautifully." Penelope's own words--blushing divinely.
Not even my respect for you prevented me from--never mind; I knew her
when she was a child, and she's none the worse for it. Let's be serious.
What did the jugglers do?"
I was something dissatisfied with my daughter--not for letting
Mr. Franklin kiss her; Mr. Franklin was welcome to THAT--
but for forcing me to tell her foolish story at second hand.
However, there was no help for it now but to mention
the circumstances. Mr. Franklin's merriment all died away as I
went on. He sat knitting his eyebrows, and twisting his beard.
When I had done, he repeated after me two of the questions which
the chief juggler had put to the boy--seemingly for the purpose
of fixing them well in his mind.
"'Is it on the road to this house, and on no other, that the English
gentleman will travel to-day?' 'Has the English gentleman got It about him?'
I suspect," says Mr. Franklin, pulling a little sealed paper parcel
out of his pocket, "that 'It' means THIS. And 'this,' Betteredge,
means my uncle Herncastle's famous Diamond."
"Good Lord, sir!" I broke out, "how do you come to be in charge
of the wicked Colonel's Diamond?"
"The wicked Colonel's will has left his Diamond as a birthday
present to my cousin Rachel," says Mr. Franklin. "And my father,
as the wicked Colonel's executor, has given it in charge to me
to bring down here."
If the sea, then oozing in smoothly over the Shivering Sand,
had been changed into dry land before my own eyes, I doubt if I
could have been more surprised than I was when Mr. Franklin
spoke those words.
"The Colonel's Diamond left to Miss Rachel!" says I. "And
your father, sir, the Colonel's executor! Why, I would
have laid any bet you like, Mr. Franklin, that your father
wouldn't have touched the Colonel with a pair of tongs!"
"Strong language, Betteredge! What was there against the Colonel.
He belonged to your time, not to mine. Tell me what you know about him,
and I'll tell you how my father came to be his executor, and more besides.
I have made some discoveries in London about my uncle Herncastle
and his Diamond, which have rather an ugly look to my eyes; and I want
you to confirm them. You called him the 'wicked Colonel' just now.
Search your memory, my old friend, and tell me why."
I saw he was in earnest, and I told him.
Here follows the substance of what I said, written out entirely
for your benefit. Pay attention to it, or you will be all abroad,
when we get deeper into the story. Clear your mind of the children,
or the dinner, or the new bonnet, or what not. Try if you can't
forget politics, horses, prices in the City, and grievances at the club.
I hope you won't take this freedom on my part amiss; it's only a way
I have of appealing to the gentle reader. Lord! haven't I seen you
with the greatest authors in your hands, and don't I know how ready
your attention is to wander when it's a book that asks for it,
instead of a person?
I spoke, a little way back, of my lady's father, the old lord with
the short temper and the long tongue. He had five children in all.
Two sons to begin with; then, after a long time, his wife broke out
breeding again, and the three young ladies came briskly one after
the other, as fast as the nature of things would permit; my mistress,
as before mentioned, being the youngest and best of the three.
Of the two sons, the eldest, Arthur, inherited the title and estates.
The second, the Honourable John, got a fine fortune left him by a relative,
and went into the army.
It's an ill bird, they say, that fouls its own nest.
I look on the noble family of the Herncastles as being my nest;
and I shall take it as a favour if I am not expected to enter
into particulars on the subject of the Honourable John.
He was, I honestly believe, one of the greatest blackguards that
ever lived. I can hardly say more or less for him than that.
He went into the army, beginning in the Guards. He had to leave
the Guards before he was two-and-twenty--never mind why.
They are very strict in the army, and they were too strict for
the Honourable John. He went out to India to see whether they
were equally strict there, and to try a little active service.
In the matter of bravery (to give him his due), he was a
mixture of bull-dog and game-cock, with a dash of the savage.
He was at the taking of Seringapatam. Soon afterwards
he changed into another regiment, and, in course of time,
changed into a third. In the third he got his last step
as lieutenant-colonel, and, getting that, got also a sunstroke,
and came home to England.
He came back with a character that closed the doors of all his family
against him, my lady (then just married) taking the lead, and declaring
(with Sir John's approval, of course) that her brother should never
enter any house of hers. There was more than one slur on the Colonel
that made people shy of him; but the blot of the Diamond is all I need
mention here.
It was said he had got possession of his Indian jewel
by means which, bold as he was, he didn't dare acknowledge.
He never attempted to sell it--not being in need of money,
and not (to give him his due again) making money an object.
He never gave it away; he never even showed it to any living soul.
Some said he was afraid of its getting him into a difficulty with
the military authorities; others (very ignorant indeed of the real
nature of the man) said he was afraid, if he showed it, of its
costing him his life.
There was perhaps a grain of truth mixed up with this last report.
It was false to say that he was afraid; but it was a fact
that his life had been twice threatened in India; and it was
firmly believed that the Moonstone was at the bottom of it.
When he came back to England, and found himself avoided by everybody,
the Moonstone was thought to be at the bottom of it again.
The mystery of the Colonel's life got in the Colonel's way,
and outlawed him, as you may say, among his own people.
The men wouldn't let him into their clubs; the women--
more than one--whom he wanted to marry, refused him;
friends and relations got too near-sighted to see him in
the street.
Some men in this mess would have tried to set themselves right
with the world. But to give in, even when he was wrong, and had
all society against him, was not the way of the Honourable John.
He had kept the Diamond, in flat defiance of assassination, in India.
He kept the Diamond, in flat defiance of public opinion, in England.
There you have the portrait of the man before you, as in a picture:
a character that braved everything; and a face, handsome as it was,
that looked possessed by the devil.
We heard different rumours about him from time to time. Sometimes they
said he was given up to smoking opium and collecting old books;
sometimes he was reported to be trying strange things in chemistry;
sometimes he was seen carousing and amusing himself among the lowest
people in the lowest slums of London. Anyhow, a solitary, vicious,
underground life was the life the Colonel led. Once, and once only,
after his return to England, I myself saw him, face to face.
About two years before the time of which I am now writing,
and about a year and a half before the time of his death,
the Colonel came unexpectedly to my lady's house in London.
It was the night of Miss Rachel's birthday, the twenty-first
of June; and there was a party in honour of it, as usual.
I received a message from the footman to say that a gentleman wanted
to see me. Going up into the hall, there I found the Colonel,
wasted, and worn, and old, and shabby, and as wild and as wicked
as ever.
"Go up to my sister," says he; "and say that I have called to wish my niece
many happy returns of the day."
He had made attempts by letter, more than once already, to be reconciled
with my lady, for no other purpose, I am firmly persuaded, than to annoy her.
But this was the first time he had actually come to the house. I had it
on the tip of my tongue to say that my mistress had a party that night.
But the devilish look of him daunted me. I went up-stairs with his message,
and left him, by his own desire, waiting in the hall. The servants stood
staring at him, at a distance, as if he was a walking engine of destruction,
loaded with powder and shot, and likely to go off among them at a
moment's notice.
My lady had a dash--no more--of the family temper.
"Tell Colonel Herncastle," she said, when I gave her her
brother's message, "that Miss Verinder is engaged, and that I
decline to see him." I tried to plead for a civiller answer
than that; knowing the Colonel's constitutional superiority
to the restraints which govern gentlemen in general.
Quite useless! The family temper flashed out at me directly.
"When I want your advice," says my lady, "you know that I
always ask for it. I don't ask for it now." I went downstairs
with the message, of which I took the liberty of presenting
a new and amended edition of my own contriving, as follows:
"My lady and Miss Rachel regret that they are engaged, Colonel;
and beg to be excused having the honour of seeing you."
I expected him to break out, even at that polite way of putting it.
To my surprise he did nothing of the sort; he alarmed me
by taking the thing with an unnatural quiet. His eyes,
of a glittering bright grey, just settled on me for a moment;
and he laughed, not out of himself, like other people,
but INTO himself, in a soft, chuckling, horridly mischievous way.
"Thank you, Betteredge," he said. "I shall remember
my niece's birthday." With that, he turned on his heel,
and walked out of the house.
The next birthday came round, and we heard he was ill in bed.
Six months afterwards--that is to say, six months before
the time I am now writing of--there came a letter from a highly
respectable clergyman to my lady. It communicated two wonderful
things in the way of family news. First, that the Colonel
had forgiven his sister on his death-bed. Second, that he had
forgiven everybody else, and had made a most edifying end.
I have myself (in spite of the bishops and the clergy)
an unfeigned respect for the Church; but I am firmly persuaded,
at the same time, that the devil remained in undisturbed
possession of the Honourable John, and that the last abominable
act in the life of that abominable man was (saving your presence)
to take the clergyman in!
This was the sum-total of what I had to tell Mr. Franklin.
I remarked that he listened more and more eagerly the longer I
went on. Also, that the story of the Colonel being sent away
from his sister's door, on the occasion of his niece's birthday,
seemed to strike Mr. Franklin like a shot that had hit the mark.
Though he didn't acknowledge it, I saw that I had made him uneasy,
plainly enough, in his face.
"You have said your say, Betteredge," he remarked. "It's my turn now.
Before, however, I tell you what discoveries I have made in London,
and how I came to be mixed up in this matter of the Diamond, I want
to know one thing. You look, my old friend, as if you didn't quite
understand the object to be answered by this consultation of ours.
Do your looks belie you?"
"No, sir," I said. "My looks, on this occasion at any rate,
tell the truth."
"In that case," says Mr. Franklin, "suppose I put you up to my point
of view, before we go any further. I see three very serious questions
involved in the Colonel's birthday-gift to my cousin Rachel.
Follow me carefully, Betteredge; and count me off on your fingers,
if it will help you," says Mr. Franklin, with a certain pleasure
in showing how clear-headed he could be, which reminded me wonderfully
of old times when he was a boy. "Question the first: Was the Colonel's
Diamond the object of a conspiracy in India? Question the second:
Has the conspiracy followed the Colonel's Diamond to England?
Question the third: Did the Colonel know the conspiracy followed
the Diamond; and has he purposely left a legacy of trouble and danger
to his sister, through the innocent medium of his sister's child?
THAT is what I am driving at, Betteredge. Don't let me
frighten you."
It was all very well to say that, but he HAD frightened me.
If he was right, here was our quiet English house suddenly invaded
by a devilish Indian Diamond--bringing after it a conspiracy
of living rogues, set loose on us by the vengeance of a dead man.
There was our situation as revealed to me in Mr. Franklin's last words!
Who ever heard the like of it--in the nineteenth century, mind;
in an age of progress, and in a country which rejoices in the
blessings of the British constitution? Nobody ever heard the like
of it, and, consequently, nobody can be expected to believe it.
I shall go on with my story, however, in spite of that.
When you get a sudden alarm, of the sort that I had got now,
nine times out of ten the place you feel it in is your stomach.
When you feel it in your stomach, your attention wanders, and you
begin to fidget. I fidgeted silently in my place on the sand.
Mr. Franklin noticed me, contending with a perturbed stomach or mind--
which you please; they mean the same thing--and, checking himself
just as he was starting with his part of the story, said to me sharply,
"What do you want?"
What did I want? I didn't tell HIM; but I'll tell YOU, in confidence.
I wanted a whiff of my pipe, and a turn at ROBINSON CRUSOE.
Keeping my private sentiments to myself, I respectfully requested Mr. Franklin
to go on. Mr. Franklin replied, "Don't fidget, Betteredge," and went on.
Our young gentleman's first words informed me that his discoveries,
concerning the wicked Colonel and the Diamond, had begun with a visit
which he had paid (before he came to us) to the family lawyer, at Hampstead.
A chance word dropped by Mr. Franklin, when the two were alone, one day,
after dinner, revealed that he had been charged by his father with a
birthday present to be taken to Miss Rachel. One thing led to another;
and it ended in the lawyer mentioning what the present really was,
and how the friendly connexion between the late Colonel and Mr. Blake,
senior, had taken its rise. The facts here are really so extraordinary,
that I doubt if I can trust my own language to do justice to them.
I prefer trying to report Mr. Franklin's discoveries, as nearly as may be,
in Mr. Franklin's own words.
"You remember the time, Betteredge," he said, "when my father
was trying to prove his title to that unlucky Dukedom?
Well! that was also the time when my uncle Herncastle returned
from India. My father discovered that his brother-in-law
was in possession of certain papers which were likely to be
of service to him in his lawsuit. He called on the Colonel,
on pretence of welcoming him back to England. The Colonel was
not to be deluded in that way. "You want something," he said,
"or you would never have compromised your reputation by calling
on ME." My father saw that the one chance for him was to show
his hand; he admitted, at once, that he wanted the papers.
The Colonel asked for a day to consider his answer.
His answer came in the shape of a most extraordinary letter,
which my friend the lawyer showed me. The Colonel began by saying
that he wanted something of my father, and that he begged
to propose an exchange of friendly services between them.
The fortune of war (that was the expression he used) had placed
him in possession of one of the largest Diamonds in the world;
and he had reason to believe that neither he nor his precious
jewel was safe in any house, in any quarter of the globe,
which they occupied together. Under these alarming circumstances,
he had determined to place his Diamond in the keeping of
another person. That person was not expected to run any risk.
He might deposit the precious stone in any place especially
guarded and set apart--like a banker's or jeweller's strong-room--
for the safe custody of valuables of high price.
His main personal responsibility in the matter was to be
of the passive kind. He was to undertake either by himself,
or by a trustworthy representative--to receive at a
prearranged address, on certain prearranged days in every year,
a note from the Colonel, simply stating the fact that he was
a living man at that date. In the event of the date passing
over without the note being received, the Colonel's silence
might be taken as a sure token of the Colonel's death by murder.
In that case, and in no other, certain sealed instructions
relating to the disposal of the Diamond, and deposited
with it, were to be opened, and followed implicitly.
If my father chose to accept this strange charge,
the Colonel's papers were at his disposal in return. That was
the letter."
"What did your father do, sir?" I asked.
"Do?" says Mr. Franklin. "I'll tell you what he did.
He brought the invaluable faculty, called common sense,
to bear on the Colonel's letter. The whole thing, he declared,
was simply absurd. Somewhere in his Indian wanderings,
the Colonel had picked up with some wretched crystal which
he took for a diamond. As for the danger of his being murdered,
and the precautions devised to preserve his life and his piece
of crystal, this was the nineteenth century, and any man in his
senses had only to apply to the police. The Colonel had been
a notorious opium-eater for years past; and, if the only way
of getting at the valuable papers he possessed was by accepting
a matter of opium as a matter of fact, my father was quite
willing to take the ridiculous responsibility imposed on him--
all the more readily that it involved no trouble to himself.
The Diamond and the sealed instructions went into his banker's
strong-room, and the Colonel's letters, periodically reporting
him a living man, were received and opened by our family lawyer,
Mr. Bruff, as my father's representative. No sensible person,
in a similar position, could have viewed the matter in any other way.
Nothing in this world, Betteredge, is probable unless it appeals
to our own trumpery experience; and we only believe in a romance
when we see it in a newspaper."
It was plain to me from this, that Mr. Franklin thought his father's notion
about the Colonel hasty and wrong.
"What is your own private opinion about the matter, sir?"
I asked.
"Let's finish the story of the Colonel first," says Mr. Franklin.
"There is a curious want of system, Betteredge, in the English mind;
and your question, my old friend, is an instance of it. When we
are not occupied in making machinery, we are (mentally speaking)
the most slovenly people in the universe."
"So much," I thought to myself, "for a foreign education!
He has learned that way of girding at us in France,
I suppose."
Mr. Franklin took up the lost thread, and went on.
"My father," he said, "got the papers he wanted,
and never saw his brother-in-law again from that time.
Year after year, on the prearranged days, the prearranged
letter came from the Colonel, and was opened by Mr. Bruff.
I have seen the letters, in a heap, all of them written in
the same brief, business-like form of words: " Sir,--This is
to certify that I am still a living man. Let the Diamond be.
John Herncastle." That was all he ever wrote, and that came
regularly to the day; until some six or eight months since,
when the form of the letter varied for the first time.
It ran now: "Sir,--They tell me I am dying. Come to me,
and help me to make my will." Mr. Bruff went, and found him,
in the little suburban villa, surrounded by its own grounds,
in which he had lived alone, ever since he had left India.
He had dogs, cats, and birds to keep him company;
but no human being near him, except the person who came
daily to do the house-work, and the doctor at the bedside.
The will was a very simple matter. The Colonel had dissipated
the greater part of his fortune in his chemical investigations.
His will began and ended in three clauses, which he dictated
from his bed, in perfect possession of his faculties. The first
clause provided for the safe keeping and support of his animals.
The second founded a professorship of experimental chemistry
at a northern university. The third bequeathed the Moonstone
as a birthday present to his niece, on condition that my father
would act as executor. My father at first refused to act.
On second thoughts, however, he gave way, partly because he was
assured that the executorship would involve him in no trouble;
partly because Mr. Bruff suggested, in Rachel's interest,
that the Diamond might be worth something, after all."
"Did the Colonel give any reason, sir," I inquired, "why he left
the Diamond to Miss Rachel?"
"He not only gave the reason--he had the reason written in his will,"
said Mr. Franklin. "I have got an extract, which you shall
see presently. Don't be slovenly-minded, Betteredge!
One thing at a time. You have heard about the Colonel's Will;
now you must hear what happened after the Colonel's death.
It was formally necessary to have the Diamond valued,
before the Will could be proved. All the jewellers consulted,
at once confirmed the Colonel's assertion that he possessed
one of the largest diamonds in the world. The question
of accurately valuing it presented some serious difficulties.
Its size made it a phenomenon in the diamond market;
its colour placed it in a category by itself; and, to add
to these elements of uncertainty, there was a defect,
in the shape of a flaw, in the very heart of the stone.
Even with this last serious draw-back, however, the lowest
of the various estimates given was twenty thousand pounds.
Conceive my father's astonishment! He had been within
a hair's-breadth of refusing to act as executor, and of
allowing this magnificent jewel to be lost to the family.
The interest he took in the matter now, induced him to open
the sealed instructions which had been deposited with the Diamond.
Mr. Bruff showed this document to me, with the other papers;
and it suggests (to my mind) a clue to the nature of the conspiracy
which threatened the Colonel's life."
"Then you do believe, sir," I said, "that there was a conspiracy?"
"Not possessing my father's excellent common sense," answered Mr. Franklin,
"I believe the Colonel's life was threatened, exactly as the Colonel said.
The sealed instructions, as I think, explain how it was that he died,
after all, quietly in his bed. In the event of his death by violence (that is
to say, in the absence of the regular letter from him at the appointed date),
my father was then directed to send the Moonstone secretly to Amsterdam.
It was to be deposited in that city with a famous diamond-cutter, and it
was to be cut up into from four to six separate stones. The stones were
then to be sold for what they would fetch, and the proceeds were to be
applied to the founding of that professorship of experimental chemistry,
which the Colonel has since endowed by his Will. Now, Betteredge, exert those
sharp wits of yours, and observe the conclusion to which the Colonel's
instructions point!"
I instantly exerted my wits. They were of the slovenly English sort;
and they consequently muddled it all, until Mr. Franklin took them in hand,
and pointed out what they ought to see.
"Remark," says Mr. Franklin, "that the integrity of the Diamond,
as a whole stone, is here artfully made dependent on
the preservation from violence of the Colonel's life.
He is not satisfied with saying to the enemies he dreads, "Kill me--
and you will be no nearer to the Diamond than you are now;
it is where you can't get at it--in the guarded strong-room
of a bank." He says instead, "Kill me--and the Diamond will
be the Diamond no longer; its identity will be destroyed."
What does that mean?"
Here I had (as I thought) a flash of the wonderful foreign brightness.
"I know," I said. "It means lowering the value of the stone,
and cheating the rogues in that way!"
"Nothing of the sort," says Mr. Franklin. "I have inquired
about that. The flawed Diamond, cut up, would actually fetch
more than the Diamond as it now is; for this plain reason--
that from four to six perfect brilliants might be cut from it,
which would be, collectively, worth more money than the large--
but imperfect single stone. If robbery for the purpose
of gain was at the bottom of the conspiracy, the Colonel's
instructions absolutely made the Diamond better worth stealing.
More money could have been got for it, and the disposal of it
in the diamond market would have been infinitely easier,
if it had passed through the hands of the workmen
of Amsterdam."
"Lord bless us, sir!" I burst out. "What was the plot, then?"
"A plot organised among the Indians who originally owned the jewel,"
says Mr. Franklin--"a plot with some old Hindoo superstition at
the bottom of it. That is my opinion, confirmed by a family paper
which I have about me at this moment."
I saw, now, why the appearance of the three Indian jugglers
at our house had presented itself to Mr. Franklin in the light
of a circumstance worth noting.
"I don't want to force my opinion on you," Mr. Franklin went on.
"The idea of certain chosen servants of an old Hindoo superstition
devoting themselves, through all difficulties and dangers,
to watching the opportunity of recovering their sacred gem,
appears to me to be perfectly consistent with everything that we
know of the patience of Oriental races, and the influence
of Oriental religions. But then I am an imaginative man;
and the butcher, the baker, and the tax-gatherer, are not
the only credible realities in existence to my mind.
Let the guess I have made at the truth in this matter go for what
it is worth, and let us get on to the only practical question
that concerns us. Does the conspiracy against the Moonstone
survive the Colonel's death? And did the Colonel know it,
when he left the birthday gift to his niece?"
I began to see my lady and Miss Rachel at the end of it all, now.
Not a word he said escaped me.
"I was not very willing, when I discovered the story of the Moonstone,"
said Mr. Franklin, "to be the means of bringing it here. But Mr. Bruff
reminded me that somebody must put my cousin's legacy into my cousin's hands--
and that I might as well do it as anybody else. After taking the Diamond
out of the bank, I fancied I was followed in the streets by a shabby,
dark-complexioned man. I went to my father's house to pick up my luggage,
and found a letter there, which unexpectedly detained me in London.
I went back to the bank with the Diamond, and thought I saw the shabby
man again. Taking the Diamond once more out of the bank this morning,
I saw the man for the third time, gave him the slip, and started
(before he recovered the trace of me) by the morning instead of
the afternoon train. Here I am, with the Diamond safe and sound--
and what is the first news that meets me? I find that three strolling
Indians have been at the house, and that my arrival from London,
and something which I am expected to have about me, are two special objects
of investigation to them when they believe themselves to be alone.
I don't waste time and words on their pouring the ink into the boy's hand,
and telling him to look in it for a man at a distance, and for something
in that man's pocket. The thing (which I have often seen done in the East)
is "hocus-pocus" in my opinion, as it is in yours. The present question
for us to decide is, whether I am wrongly attaching a meaning to a mere
accident? or whether we really have evidence of the Indians being on
the track of the Moonstone, the moment it is removed from the safe keeping of
the bank?"
Neither he nor I seemed to fancy dealing with this part of the inquiry.
We looked at each other, and then we looked at the tide, oozing in smoothly,
higher and higher, over the Shivering Sand.
"What are you thinking of?" says Mr. Franklin, suddenly.
"I was thinking, sir," I answered, "that I should like to shy the Diamond
into the quicksand, and settle the question in THAT way."
"If you have got the value of the stone in your pocket,"
answered Mr. Franklin, "say so, Betteredge, and in it goes!"
It's curious to note, when your mind's anxious, how very far in the way of
relief a very small joke will go. We found a fund of merriment, at the time,
in the notion of making away with Miss Rachel's lawful property, and getting
Mr. Blake, as executor, into dreadful trouble--though where the merriment was,
I am quite at a loss to discover now.
Mr. Franklin was the first to bring the talk back to the talk's
proper purpose. He took an envelope out of his pocket, opened it,
and handed to me the paper inside.
"Betteredge," he said, "we must face the question of the Colonel's
motive in leaving this legacy to his niece, for my aunt's sake.
Bear in mind how Lady Verinder treated her brother from the time
when he returned to England, to the time when he told you he should
remember his niece's birthday. And read that."
He gave me the extract from the Colonel's Will. I have got it
by me while I write these words; and I copy it, as follows,
for your benefit:
"Thirdly, and lastly, I give and bequeath to my niece, Rachel Verinder,
daughter and only child of my sister, Julia Verinder, widow--if her mother,
the said Julia Verinder, shall be living on the said Rachel Verinder's
next Birthday after my death--the yellow Diamond belonging to me, and known
in the East by the name of The Moonstone: subject to this condition,
that her mother, the said Julia Verinder, shall be living at the time.
And I hereby desire my executor to give my Diamond, either by his
own hands or by the hands of some trustworthy representative whom
he shall appoint, into the personal possession of my said niece Rachel,
on her next birthday after my death, and in the presence, if possible,
of my sister, the said Julia Verinder. And I desire that my said sister
may be informed, by means of a true copy of this, the third and last
clause of my Will, that I give the Diamond to her daughter Rachel,
in token of my free forgiveness of the injury which her conduct towards
me has been the means of inflicting on my reputation in my lifetime;
and especially in proof that I pardon, as becomes a dying man,
the insult offered to me as an officer and a gentleman, when her servant,
by her orders, closed the door of her house against me, on the occasion of her
daughter's birthday."
More words followed these, providing if my lady was dead,
or if Miss Rachel was dead, at the time of the testator's decease,
for the Diamond being sent to Holland, in accordance
with the sealed instructions originally deposited with it.
The proceeds of the sale were, in that case, to be added
to the money already left by the Will for the professorship of
chemistry at the university in the north.
I handed the paper back to Mr. Franklin, sorely troubled what to say
to him. Up to that moment, my own opinion had been (as you know)
that the Colonel had died as wickedly as he had lived. I don't say
the copy from his Will actually converted me from that opinion:
I only say it staggered me.
"Well," says Mr. Franklin, "now you have read the Colonel's own statement,
what do you say? In bringing the Moonstone to my aunt's house, am I
serving his vengeance blindfold, or am I vindicating him in the character
of a penitent and Christian man?"
"It seems hard to say, sir," I answered, "that he died with a horrid revenge
in his heart, and a horrid lie on his lips. God alone knows the truth.
Don't ask me."
Mr. Franklin sat twisting and turning the extract from the Will
in his fingers, as if he expected to squeeze the truth out of it
in that manner. He altered quite remarkably, at the same time.
From being brisk and bright, he now became, most unaccountably,
a slow, solemn, and pondering young man.
"This question has two sides," he said. "An Objective side,
and a Subjective side. Which are we to take?"
He had had a German education as well as a French. One of the two had
been in undisturbed possession of him (as I supposed) up to this time.
And now (as well as I could make out) the other was taking its place.
It is one of my rules in life, never to notice what I don't understand.
I steered a middle course between the Objective side and the Subjective side.
In plain English I stared hard, and said nothing.
"Let's extract the inner meaning of this," says Mr. Franklin.
"Why did my uncle leave the Diamond to Rachel? Why didn't he leave it
to my aunt?"
"That's not beyond guessing, sir, at any rate," I said.
"Colonel Herncastle knew my lady well enough to know that she
would have refused to accept any legacy that came to her
from HIM."
"How did he know that Rachel might not refuse to accept it, too?"
"Is there any young lady in existence, sir, who could resist the temptation
of accepting such a birthday present as The Moonstone?"
"That's the Subjective view," says Mr. Franklin. "It does you
great credit, Betteredge, to be able to take the Subjective view.
But there's another mystery about the Colonel's legacy which is not
accounted for yet. How are we to explain his only giving Rachel her
birthday present conditionally on her mother being alive?"
"I don't want to slander a dead man, sir," I answered.
"But if he HAS purposely left a legacy of trouble and danger
to his sister, by the means of her child, it must be a legacy
made conditional on his sister's being alive to feel the vexation
of it."
"Oh! That's your interpretation of his motive, is it?
The Subjective interpretation again! Have you ever been
in Germany, Betteredge?"
"No, sir. What's your interpretation, if you please?"
"I can see," says Mr. Franklin, "that the Colonel's object may,
quite possibly, have been--not to benefit his niece, whom he had never
even seen--but to prove to his sister that he had died forgiving her,
and to prove it very prettily by means of a present made to her child.
There is a totally different explanation from yours, Betteredge, taking its
rise in a Subjective-Objective point of view. From all I can see,
one interpretation is just as likely to be right as the other."
Having brought matters to this pleasant and comforting issue, Mr. Franklin
appeared to think that he had completed all that was required of him.
He laid down flat on his back on the sand, and asked what was to be
done next.
He had been so clever, and clear-headed (before he began to talk
the foreign gibberish), and had so completely taken the lead
in the business up to the present time, that I was quite
unprepared for such a sudden change as he now exhibited in this
helpless leaning upon me. It was not till later that I learned--
by assistance of Miss Rachel, who was the first to make the discovery--
that these puzzling shifts and transformations in Mr. Franklin
were due to the effect on him of his foreign training.
At the age when we are all of us most apt to take our colouring,
in the form of a reflection from the colouring of other people,
he had been sent abroad, and had been passed on from one nation
to another, before there was time for any one colouring more than
another to settle itself on him firmly. As a consequence of this,
he had come back with so many different sides to his character,
all more or less jarring with each other, that he seemed to pass
his life in a state of perpetual contradiction with himself.
He could be a busy man, and a lazy man; cloudy in the head,
and clear in the head; a model of determination, and a spectacle
of helplessness, all together. He had his French side,
and his German side, and his Italian side--the original
English foundation showing through, every now and then,
as much as to say, "Here I am, sorely transmogrified, as you see,
but there's something of me left at the bottom of him still."
Miss Rachel used to remark that the Italian side of him
was uppermost, on those occasions when he unexpectedly gave in,
and asked you in his nice sweet-tempered way to take his own
responsibilities on your shoulders. You will do him no injustice,
I think, if you conclude that the Italian side of him was
uppermost now.
"Isn't it your business, sir," I asked, "to know what to do next?
Surely it can't be mine?"
Mr. Franklin didn't appear to see the force of my question--
not being in a position, at the time, to see anything but the sky
over his head.
"I don't want to alarm my aunt without reason," he said.
"And I don't want to leave her without what may be a needful warning.
If you were in my place, Betteredge, tell me, in one word,
what would you do?"
In one word, I told him: "Wait."
"With all my heart," says Mr. Franklin. "How long?"
I proceeded to explain myself.
"As I understand it, sir," I said, "somebody is bound to put
this plaguy Diamond into Miss Rachel's hands on her birthday--
and you may as well do it as another. Very good. This is
the twenty-fifth of May, and the birthday is on the twenty-first
of June. We have got close on four weeks before us.
Let's wait and see what happens in that time; and let's warn
my lady, or not, as the circumstances direct us."
"Perfect, Betteredge, as far as it goes!" says Mr. Franklin.
"But between this and the birthday, what's to be done with
the Diamond?"
"What your father did with it, to be sure, sir!" I answered.
"Your father put it in the safe keeping of a bank in London.
You put in the safe keeping of the bank at Frizinghall."
(Frizinghall was our nearest town, and the Bank of England wasn't
safer than the bank there.) "If I were you, sir," I added,
"I would ride straight away with it to Frizinghall before the ladies
come back."
The prospect of doing something--and, what is more, of doing that something
on a horse--brought Mr. Franklin up like lightning from the flat of his back.
He sprang to his feet, and pulled me up, without ceremony, on to mine.
"Betteredge, you are worth your weight in gold," he said. "Come along,
and saddle the best horse in the stables directly."
Here (God bless it!) was the original English foundation
of him showing through all the foreign varnish at last!
Here was the Master Franklin I remembered, coming out again
in the good old way at the prospect of a ride, and reminding
me of the good old times! Saddle a horse for him?
I would have saddled a dozen horses, if he could only have ridden
them all!
We went back to the house in a hurry; we had the fleetest horse in
the stables saddled in a hurry; and Mr. Franklin rattled off in a hurry,
to lodge the cursed Diamond once more in the strong-room of a bank.
When I heard the last of his horse's hoofs on the drive, and when I turned
about in the yard and found I was alone again, I felt half inclined to ask
myself if I hadn't woke up from a dream.
While I was in this bewildered frame of mind, sorely needing
a little quiet time by myself to put me right again, my daughter
Penelope got in my way (just as her late mother used to get in my
way on the stairs), and instantly summoned me to tell her all
that had passed at the conference between Mr. Franklin and me.
Under present circumstances, the one thing to be done was to
clap the extinguisher upon Penelope's curiosity on the spot.
I accordingly replied that Mr. Franklin and I had both
talked of foreign politics, till we could talk no longer,
and had then mutually fallen asleep in the heat of the sun.
Try that sort of answer when your wife or your daughter
next worries you with an awkward question at an awkward time,
and depend on the natural sweetness of women for kissing and
making it up again at the next opportunity.
The afternoon wore on, and my lady and Miss Rachel came back.
Needless to say how astonished they were, when they heard that
Mr. Franklin Blake had arrived, and had gone off again on horseback.
Needless also to say, that THEY asked awkward questions directly,
and that the "foreign politics" and the "falling asleep in the sun"
wouldn't serve a second time over with THEM. Being at the end
of my invention, I said Mr. Franklin's arrival by the early train
was entirely attributable to one of Mr. Franklin's freaks.
Being asked, upon that, whether his galloping off again
on horseback was another of Mr. Franklin's freaks, I said,
"Yes, it was;" and slipped out of it--I think very cleverly--
in that way.
Having got over my difficulties with the ladies, I found more
difficulties waiting for me when I went back to my own room.
In came Penelope--with the natural sweetness of women--
to kiss and make it up again; and--with the natural curiosity
of women--to ask another question. This time she only wanted
me to tell her what was the matter with our second housemaid,
Rosanna Spearman.
After leaving Mr. Franklin and me at the Shivering Sand, Rosanna, it appeared,
had returned to the house in a very unaccountable state of mind.
She had turned (if Penelope was to be believed) all the colours of
the rainbow. She had been merry without reason, and sad without reason.
In one breath she asked hundreds of questions about Mr. Franklin Blake,
and in another breath she had been angry with Penelope for presuming
to suppose that a strange gentleman could possess any interest for her.
She had been surprised, smiling, and scribbling Mr. Franklin's name
inside her workbox. She had been surprised again, crying and looking
at her deformed shoulder in the glass. Had she and Mr. Franklin known
anything of each other before to-day? Quite impossible! Had they heard
anything of each other? Impossible again! I could speak to Mr. Franklin's
astonishment as genuine, when he saw how the girl stared at him.
Penelope could speak to the girl's inquisitiveness as genuine,
when she asked questions about Mr. Franklin. The conference between us,
conducted in this way, was tiresome enough, until my daughter suddenly ended
it by bursting out with what I thought the most monstrous supposition I
had ever heard in my life.
"Father!" says Penelope, quite seriously, "there's only one explanation
of it. Rosanna has fallen in love with Mr. Franklin Blake at first sight!"
You have heard of beautiful young ladies falling in love at first sight,
and have thought it natural enough. But a housemaid out of a reformatory,
with a plain face and a deformed shoulder, falling in love, at first sight,
with a gentleman who comes on a visit to her mistress's house, match me that,
in the way of an absurdity, out of any story-book in Christendom, if you can!
I laughed till the tears rolled down my cheeks. Penelope resented my
merriment, in rather a strange way. "I never knew you cruel before, father,"
she said, very gently, and went out.
My girl's words fell upon me like a splash of cold water.
I was savage with myself, for feeling uneasy in myself the moment
she had spoken them--but so it was. We will change the subject,
if you please. I am sorry I drifted into writing about it;
and not without reason, as you will see when we have gone on together
a little longer.
The evening came, and the dressing-bell for dinner rang,
before Mr. Franklin returned from Frizinghall. I took
his hot water up to his room myself, expecting to hear,
after this extraordinary delay, that something had happened.
To my great disappointment (and no doubt to yours also),
nothing had happened. He had not met with the Indians,
either going or returning. He had deposited the Moonstone
in the bank--describing it merely as a valuable of great price--
and he had got the receipt for it safe in his pocket.
I went down-stairs, feeling that this was rather a flat ending,
after all our excitement about the Diamond earlier in
the day.
How the meeting between Mr. Franklin and his aunt and cousin went off,
is more than I can tell you.
I would have given something to have waited at table that day.
But, in my position in the household, waiting at dinner (except on
high family festivals) was letting down my dignity in the eyes
of the other servants--a thing which my lady considered me quite
prone enough to do already, without seeking occasions for it.
The news brought to me from the upper regions, that evening,
came from Penelope and the footman. Penelope mentioned that she had
never known Miss Rachel so particular about the dressing of her hair,
and had never seen her look so bright and pretty as she did when she
went down to meet Mr. Franklin in the drawing-room. The footman's
report was, that the preservation of a respectful composure
in the presence of his betters, and the waiting on Mr. Franklin
Blake at dinner, were two of the hardest things to reconcile
with each other that had ever tried his training in service.
Later in the evening, we heard them singing and playing duets,
Mr. Franklin piping high, Miss Rachel piping higher, and my lady,
on the piano, following them as it were over hedge and ditch,
and seeing them safe through it in a manner most wonderful and
pleasant to hear through the open windows, on the terrace at night.
Later still, I went to Mr. Franklin in the smoking-room, with
the soda-water and brandy, and found that Miss Rachel had put
the Diamond clean out of his head. "She's the most charming girl
I have seen since I came back to England!" was all I could extract
from him, when I endeavoured to lead the conversation to more
serious things.
Towards midnight, I went round the house to lock up, accompanied by my
second in command (Samuel, the footman), as usual. When all the doors
were made fast, except the side door that opened on the terrace,
I sent Samuel to bed, and stepped out for a breath of fresh air before I
too went to bed in my turn.
The night was still and close, and the moon was at the full in the heavens.
It was so silent out of doors, that I heard from time to time,
very faint and low, the fall of the sea, as the ground-swell heaved it
in on the sand-bank near the mouth of our little bay. As the house stood,
the terrace side was the dark side; but the broad moonlight showed
fair on the gravel walk that ran along the next side to the terrace.
Looking this way, after looking up at the sky, I saw the shadow
of a person in the moonlight thrown forward from behind the corner of
the house.
Being old and sly, I forbore to call out; but being also, unfortunately,
old and heavy, my feet betrayed me on the gravel. Before I could steal
suddenly round the corner, as I had proposed, I heard lighter feet than mine--
and more than one pair of them as I thought--retreating in a hurry.
By the time I had got to the corner, the trespassers, whoever they were,
had run into the shrubbery at the off side of the walk, and were hidden
from sight among the thick trees and bushes in that part of the grounds.
From the shrubbery, they could easily make their way, over our fence
into the road. If I had been forty years younger, I might have had
a chance of catching them before they got clear of our premises.
As it was, I went back to set a-going a younger pair of legs than mine.
Without disturbing anybody, Samuel and I got a couple of guns, and went
all round the house and through the shrubbery. Having made sure that no
persons were lurking about anywhere in our grounds, we turned back.
Passing over the walk where I had seen the shadow, I now noticed,
for the first time, a little bright object, lying on the clean gravel,
under the light of the moon. Picking the object up, I discovered it
was a small bottle, containing a thick sweet-smelling liquor, as black as
I said nothing to Samuel. But, remembering what Penelope had told
me about the jugglers, and the pouring of the little pool of ink
into the palm of the boy's hand, I instantly suspected that I had
disturbed the three Indians, lurking about the house, and bent,
in their heathenish way, on discovering the whereabouts of the Diamond
that night.
Here, for one moment, I find it necessary to call a halt.
On summoning up my own recollections--and on getting Penelope to help me,
by consulting her journal--I find that we may pass pretty rapidly over
the interval between Mr. Franklin Blake's arrival and Miss Rachel's birthday.
For the greater part of that time the days passed, and brought nothing with
them worth recording. With your good leave, then, and with Penelope's help,
I shall notice certain dates only in this place; reserving to myself
to tell the story day by day, once more, as soon as we get to the time
when the business of the Moonstone became the chief business of everybody
in our house.
This said, we may now go on again--beginning, of course,
with the bottle of sweet-smelling ink which I found on the gravel
walk at night.
On the next morning (the morning of the twenty-sixth) I showed Mr. Franklin
this article of jugglery, and told him what I have already told you.
His opinion was, not only that the Indians had been lurking about after
the Diamond, but also that they were actually foolish enough to believe
in their own magic--meaning thereby the making of signs on a boy's head,
and the pouring of ink into a boy's hand, and then expecting him to see
persons and things beyond the reach of human vision. In our country,
as well as in the East, Mr. Franklin informed me, there are people who
practise this curious hocus-pocus (without the ink, however); and who call
it by a French name, signifying something like brightness of sight.
"Depend upon it," says Mr. Franklin, "the Indians took it for granted
that we should keep the Diamond here; and they brought their clairvoyant
boy to show them the way to it, if they succeeded in getting into the house
last night."
"Do you think they'll try again, sir?" I asked.
"It depends," says Mr. Franklin, "on what the boy can really do.
If he can see the Diamond through the iron safe of the bank at Frizinghall,
we shall be troubled with no more visits from the Indians for the present.
If he can't, we shall have another chance of catching them in the shrubbery,
before many more nights are over our heads."
I waited pretty confidently for that latter chance; but, strange to relate,
it never came.
Whether the jugglers heard, in the town, of Mr. Franklin having
been seen at the bank, and drew their conclusions accordingly;
or whether the boy really did see the Diamond where the Diamond
was now lodged (which I, for one, flatly disbelieve); or whether,
after all, it was a mere effect of chance, this at any rate is
the plain truth--not the ghost of an Indian came near the house again,
through the weeks that passed before Miss Rachel's birthday.
The jugglers remained in and about the town plying their trade;
and Mr. Franklin and I remained waiting to see what might happen,
and resolute not to put the rogues on their guard by showing our
suspicions of them too soon. With this report of the proceedings
on either side, ends all that I have to say about the Indians for
the present.
On the twenty-ninth of the month, Miss Rachel and Mr. Franklin
hit on a new method of working their way together through
the time which might otherwise have hung heavy on their hands.
There are reasons for taking particular notice here of the
occupation that amused them. You will find it has a bearing
on something that is still to come.
Gentlefolks in general have a very awkward rock ahead in life--
the rock ahead of their own idleness. Their lives being,
for the most part, passed in looking about them for something
to do, it is curious to see--especially when their tastes
are of what is called the intellectual sort--how often they
drift blindfold into some nasty pursuit. Nine times out of ten
they take to torturing something, or to spoiling something--
and they firmly believe they are improving their minds,
when the plain truth is, they are only making a mess in the house.
I have seen them (ladies, I am sorry to say, as well as gentlemen)
go out, day after day, for example, with empty pill-boxes,
and catch newts, and beetles, and spiders, and frogs,
and come home and stick pins through the miserable wretches,
or cut them up, without a pang of remorse, into little pieces.
You see my young master, or my young mistress, poring over
one of their spiders' insides with a magnifying-glass;
or you meet one of their frogs walking downstairs without
his head--and when you wonder what this cruel nastiness means,
you are told that it means a taste in my young master or my
young mistress for natural history. Sometimes, again, you see
them occupied for hours together in spoiling a pretty flower
with pointed instruments, out of a stupid curiosity to know
what the flower is made of. Is its colour any prettier,
or its scent any sweeter, when you DO know? But there!
the poor souls must get through the time, you see--they must
get through the time. You dabbled in nasty mud, and made pies,
when you were a child; and you dabble in nasty science,
and dissect spiders, and spoil flowers, when you grow up.
In the one case and in the other, the secret of it is,
that you have got nothing to think of in your poor empty head,
and nothing to do with your poor idle hands. And so it ends in
your spoiling canvas with paints, and making a smell in the house;
or in keeping tadpoles in a glass box full of dirty water,
and turning everybody's stomach in the house; or in chipping off
bits of stone here, there, and everywhere, and dropping grit
into all the victuals in the house; or in staining your fingers
in the pursuit of photography, and doing justice without mercy
on everybody's face in the house. It often falls heavy enough,
no doubt, on people who are really obliged to get their living,
to be forced to work for the clothes that cover them, the roof
that shelters them, and the food that keeps them going.
But compare the hardest day's work you ever did with the
idleness that splits flowers and pokes its way into spiders'
stomachs, and thank your stars that your head has got something
it MUST think of, and your hands something that they MUST
As for Mr. Franklin and Miss Rachel, they tortured nothing, I am glad to say.
They simply confined themselves to making a mess; and all they spoilt, to do
them justice, was the panelling of a door.
Mr. Franklin's universal genius, dabbling in everything,
dabbled in what he called "decorative painting." He had invented,
he informed us, a new mixture to moisten paint with, which he
described as a "vehicle." What it was made of, I don't know.
What it did, I can tell you in two words--it stank.
Miss Rachel being wild to try her hand at the new process,
Mr. Franklin sent to London for the materials; mixed them up,
with accompaniment of a smell which made the very dogs sneeze
when they came into the room; put an apron and a bib over
Miss Rachel's gown, and set her to work decorating her own
little sitting-room--called, for want of English to name it in,
her "boudoir." They began with the inside of the door.
Mr. Franklin scraped off all the nice varnish with pumice-stone,
and made what he described as a surface to work on.
Miss Rachel then covered the surface, under his directions
and with his help, with patterns and devices--griffins, birds,
flowers, cupids, and such like--copied from designs made
by a famous Italian painter, whose name escapes me:
the one, I mean, who stocked the world with Virgin Maries,
and had a sweetheart at the baker's. Viewed as work,
this decoration was slow to do, and dirty to deal with.
But our young lady and gentleman never seemed to tire of it.
When they were not riding, or seeing company, or taking their meals,
or piping their songs, there they were with their heads together,
as busy as bees, spoiling the door. Who was the poet who said
that Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do?
If he had occupied my place in the family, and had seen Miss
Rachel with her brush, and Mr. Franklin with his vehicle,
he could have written nothing truer of either of them than
The next date worthy of notice is Sunday the fourth of June.
On that evening we, in the servants' hall, debated a domestic
question for the first time, which, like the decoration of the door,
has its bearing on something that is still to come.
Seeing the pleasure which Mr. Franklin and Miss Rachel took
in each other's society, and noting what a pretty match
they were in all personal respects, we naturally speculated
on the chance of their putting their heads together with
other objects in view besides the ornamenting of a door.
Some of us said there would be a wedding in the house before
the summer was over. Others (led by me) admitted it was
likely enough Miss Rachel might be married; but we doubted
(for reasons which will presently appear) whether her bridegroom
would be Mr. Franklin Blake.
That Mr. Franklin was in love, on his side, nobody who saw and heard
him could doubt. The difficulty was to fathom Miss Rachel.
Let me do myself the honour of making you acquainted with her;
after which, I will leave you to fathom for yourself--
if you can.
My young lady's eighteenth birthday was the birthday now coming,
on the twenty-first of June. If you happen to like dark women
(who, I am informed, have gone out of fashion latterly in the gay
world), and if you have no particular prejudice in favour of size,
I answer for Miss Rachel as one of the prettiest girls your eyes
ever looked on. She was small and slim, but all in fine proportion
from top to toe. To see her sit down, to see her get up,
and specially to see her walk, was enough to satisfy any man
in his senses that the graces of her figure (if you will pardon
me the expression) were in her flesh and not in her clothes.
Her hair was the blackest I ever saw. Her eyes matched her hair.
Her nose was not quite large enough, I admit. Her mouth and chin were
(to quote Mr. Franklin) morsels for the gods; and her complexion
(on the same undeniable authority) was as warm as the sun itself,
with this great advantage over the sun, that it was always in nice
order to look at. Add to the foregoing that she carried her head
as upright as a dart, in a dashing, spirited, thoroughbred way--
that she had a clear voice, with a ring of the right metal in it,
and a smile that began very prettily in her eyes before it got to her lips--
and there behold the portrait of her, to the best of my painting, as large
as life!
And what about her disposition next? Had this charming creature no faults?
She had just as many faults as you have, ma'am--neither more nor less.
To put it seriously, my dear pretty Miss Rachel,
possessing a host of graces and attractions, had one defect,
which strict impartiality compels me to acknowledge.
She was unlike most other girls of her age, in this--that she had
ideas of her own, and was stiff-necked enough to set the fashions
themselves at defiance, if the fashions didn't suit her views.
In trifles, this independence of hers was all well enough;
but in matters of importance, it carried her (as my lady thought,
and as I thought) too far. She judged for herself, as few women
of twice her age judge in general; never asked your advice;
never told you beforehand what she was going to do;
never came with secrets and confidences to anybody, from her
mother downwards. In little things and great, with people
she loved, and people she hated (and she did both with equal
heartiness), Miss Rachel always went on a way of her own,
sufficient for herself in the joys and sorrows of her life.
Over and over again I have heard my lady say, "Rachel's best
friend and Rachel's worst enemy are, one and the other--
Rachel herself."
Add one thing more to this, and I have done.
With all her secrecy, and self-will, there was not so much as the shadow
of anything false in her. I never remember her breaking her word;
I never remember her saying No, and meaning Yes. I can call to mind,
in her childhood, more than one occasion when the good little soul
took the blame, and suffered the punishment, for some fault committed
by a playfellow whom she loved. Nobody ever knew her to confess to it,
when the thing was found out, and she was charged with it afterwards.
But nobody ever knew her to lie about it, either. She looked you
straight in the face, and shook her little saucy head, and said plainly,
"I won't tell you!" Punished again for this, she would own to being
sorry for saying "won't;" but, bread and water notwithstanding,
she never told you. Self-willed--devilish self-willed sometimes--I grant;
but the finest creature, nevertheless, that ever walked the ways of this
lower world. Perhaps you think you see a certain contradiction here?
In that case, a word in your ear. Study your wife closely, for the next
four-and-twenty hours. If your good lady doesn't exhibit something in
the shape of a contradiction in that time, Heaven help you!--you have married
a monster.
I have now brought you acquainted with Miss Rachel, which you will find
puts us face to face, next, with the question of that young lady's
matrimonial views.
On June the twelfth, an invitation from my mistress was sent to a
gentleman in London, to come and help to keep Miss Rachel's birthday.
This was the fortunate individual on whom I believed her heart
to be privately set! Like Mr. Franklin, he was a cousin of hers.
His name was Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.
My lady's second sister (don't be alarmed; we are not going very deep
into family matters this time)--my lady's second sister, I say,
had a disappointment in love; and taking a husband afterwards,
on the neck or nothing principle, made what they call a misalliance.
There was terrible work in the family when the Honourable Caroline
insisted on marrying plain Mr. Ablewhite, the banker at Frizinghall.
He was very rich and very respectable, and he begot a prodigious
large family--all in his favour, so far. But he had presumed
to raise himself from a low station in the world--and that was
against him. However, Time and the progress of modern enlightenment
put things right; and the mis-alliance passed muster very well.
We are all getting liberal now; and (provided you can scratch me,
if I scratch you) what do I care, in or out of Parliament,
whether you are a Dustman or a Duke? That's the modern way of
looking at it--and I keep up with the modern way. The Ablewhites
lived in a fine house and grounds, a little out of Frizinghall.
Very worthy people, and greatly respected in the neighbourhood.
We shall not be much troubled with them in these pages--
excepting Mr. Godfrey, who was Mr. Ablewhite's second son, and who
must take his proper place here, if you please, for Miss Rachel's
With all his brightness and cleverness and general good qualities,
Mr. Franklin's chance of topping Mr. Godfrey in our young lady's
estimation was, in my opinion, a very poor chance indeed.
In the first place, Mr. Godfrey was, in point of size,
the finest man by far of the two. He stood over six feet high;
he had a beautiful red and white colour; a smooth round face,
shaved as bare as your hand; and a head of lovely long
flaxen hair, falling negligently over the poll of his neck.
But why do I try to give you this personal description of him?
If you ever subscribed to a Ladies' Charity in London,
you know Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite as well as I do.
He was a barrister by profession; a ladies' man by temperament;
and a good Samaritan by choice. Female benevolence and female
destitution could do nothing without him. Maternal societies for
confining poor women; Magdalen societies for rescuing poor women;
strong-minded societies for putting poor women into poor
men's places, and leaving the men to shift for themselves;--
he was vice-president, manager, referee to them all.
Wherever there was a table with a committee of ladies sitting round
it in council there was Mr. Godfrey at the bottom of the board,
keeping the temper of the committee, and leading the dear
creatures along the thorny ways of business, hat in hand.
I do suppose this was the most accomplished philanthropist
(on a small independence) that England ever produced.
As a speaker at charitable meetings the like of him for
drawing your tears and your money was not easy to find.
He was quite a public character. The last time I was in London,
my mistress gave me two treats. She sent me to the theatre
to see a dancing woman who was all the rage; and she sent
me to Exeter Hall to hear Mr. Godfrey. The lady did it,
with a band of music. The gentleman did it, with a handkerchief
and a glass of water. Crowds at the performance with the legs.
Ditto at the performance with the tongue. And with all this,
the sweetest tempered person (I allude to Mr. Godfrey)--
the simplest and pleasantest and easiest to please--you ever
met with. He loved everybody. And everybody loved HIM.
What chance had Mr. Franklin--what chance had anybody
of average reputation and capacities--against such a man as
On the fourteenth, came Mr. Godfrey's answer.
He accepted my mistress's invitation, from the Wednesday
of the birthday to the evening of Friday--when his duties
to the Ladies' Charities would oblige him to return to town.
He also enclosed a copy of verses on what he elegantly called
his cousin's "natal day." Miss Rachel, I was informed,
joined Mr. Franklin in making fun of the verses at dinner;
and Penelope, who was all on Mr. Franklin's side, asked me,
in great triumph, what I thought of that. "Miss Rachel has led
you off on a false scent, my dear," I replied; "but MY nose is
not so easily mystified. Wait till Mr. Ablewhite's verses are
followed by Mr. Ablewhite himself."
My daughter replied, that Mr. Franklin might strike in,
and try his luck, before the verses were followed by the poet.
In favour of this view, I must acknowledge that Mr. Franklin left
no chance untried of winning Miss Rachel's good graces.
Though one of the most inveterate smokers I ever met with,
he gave up his cigar, because she said, one day, she hated
the stale smell of it in his clothes. He slept so badly,
after this effort of self-denial, for want of the composing
effect of the tobacco to which he was used, and came down
morning after morning looking so haggard and worn, that Miss
Rachel herself begged him to take to his cigars again.
No! he would take to nothing again that could cause here
a moment's annoyance; he would fight it out resolutely,
and get back his sleep, sooner or later, by main force of
patience in waiting for it. Such devotion as this, you may say
(as some of them said downstairs), could never fail of producing
the right effect on Miss Rachel--backed up, too, as it was,
by the decorating work every day on the door. All very well--
but she had a photograph of Mr. Godfrey in her bed-room;
represented speaking at a public meeting, with all his hair
blown out by the breath of his own eloquence, and his eyes,
most lovely, charming the money out of your pockets. What do you
say to that? Every morning--as Penelope herself owned to me--
there was the man whom the women couldn't do without, looking on,
in effigy, while Miss Rachel was having her hair combed.
He would be looking on, in reality, before long--that was my opinion
of it.
June the sixteenth brought an event which made Mr. Franklin's chance look,
to my mind, a worse chance than ever.
A strange gentleman, speaking English with a foreign accent,
came that morning to the house, and asked to see Mr. Franklin Blake
on business. The business could not possibly have been connected
with the Diamond, for these two reasons--first, that Mr. Franklin
told me nothing about it; secondly, that he communicated it
(when the gentleman had gone, as I suppose) to my lady.
She probably hinted something about it next to her daughter.
At any rate, Miss Rachel was reported to have said some
severe things to Mr. Franklin, at the piano that evening,
about the people he had lived among, and the principles he had
adopted in foreign parts. The next day, for the first time,
nothing was done towards the decoration of the door.
I suspect some imprudence of Mr. Franklin's on the Continent--
with a woman or a debt at the bottom of it--had followed
him to England. But that is all guesswork. In this case,
not only Mr. Franklin, but my lady too, for a wonder, left me in
the dark.
On the seventeenth, to all appearance, the cloud passed away again.
They returned to their decorating work on the door, and seemed
to be as good friends as ever. If Penelope was to be believed,
Mr. Franklin had seized the opportunity of the reconciliation to make
an offer to Miss Rachel, and had neither been accepted nor refused.
My girl was sure (from signs and tokens which I need not trouble you with)
that her young mistress had fought Mr. Franklin off by declining
to believe that he was in earnest, and had then secretly regretted
treating him in that way afterwards. Though Penelope was admitted
to more familiarity with her young mistress than maids generally are--
for the two had been almost brought up together as children--still I
knew Miss Rachel's reserved character too well to believe that she
would show her mind to anybody in this way. What my daughter told me,
on the present occasion, was, as I suspected, more what she wished than
what she really knew.
On the nineteenth another event happened. We had the doctor
in the house professionally. He was summoned to prescribe for a
person whom I have had occasion to present to you in these pages--
our second housemaid, Rosanna Spearman.
This poor girl--who had puzzled me, as you know already,
at the Shivering Sand--puzzled me more than once again,
in the interval time of which I am now writing. Penelope's notion
that her fellow-servant was in love with Mr. Franklin
(which my daughter, by my orders, kept strictly secret)
seemed to be just as absurd as ever. But I must own that what I
myself saw, and what my daughter saw also, of our second
housemaid's conduct, began to look mysterious, to say the least
of it.
For example, the girl constantly put herself in Mr. Franklin's way--very slyly
and quietly, but she did it. He took about as much notice of her as he took
of the cat; it never seemed to occur to him to waste a look on Rosanna's
plain face. The poor thing's appetite, never much, fell away dreadfully;
and her eyes in the morning showed plain signs of waking and crying at night.
One day Penelope made an awkward discovery, which we hushed up on the spot.
She caught Rosanna at Mr. Franklin's dressing-table, secretly removing
a rose which Miss Rachel had given him to wear in his button-hole, and
putting another rose like it, of her own picking, in its place. She was,
after that, once or twice impudent to me, when I gave her a well-meant
general hint to be careful in her conduct; and, worse still, she was not
over-respectful now, on the few occasions when Miss Rachel accidentally spoke
to her.
My lady noticed the change, and asked me what I thought about it. I tried
to screen the girl by answering that I thought she was out of health; and it
ended in the doctor being sent for, as already mentioned, on the nineteenth.
He said it was her nerves, and doubted if she was fit for service.
My lady offered to remove her for change of air to one of our farms, inland.
She begged and prayed, with the tears in her eyes, to be let to stop;
and, in an evil hour, I advised my lady to try her for a little longer.
As the event proved, and as you will soon see, this was the worst advice I
could have given. If I could only have looked a little way into the future,
I would have taken Rosanna Spearman out of the house, then and there, with my
own hand.
On the twentieth, there came a note from Mr. Godfrey. He had arranged to stop
at Frizinghall that night, having occasion to consult his father on business.
On the afternoon of the next day, he and his two eldest sisters would ride
over to us on horseback, in good time before dinner. An elegant little
casket in China accompanied the note, presented to Miss Rachel, with her
cousin's love and best wishes. Mr. Franklin had only given her a plain
locket not worth half the money. My daughter Penelope, nevertheless--such is
the obstinacy of women--still backed him to win.
Thanks be to Heaven, we have arrived at the eve of the birthday at last!
You will own, I think, that I have got you over the ground this time,
without much loitering by the way. Cheer up! I'll ease you with another
new chapter here--and, what is more, that chapter shall take you straight
into the thick of the story.
June twenty-first, the day of the birthday, was cloudy and unsettled
at sunrise, but towards noon it cleared up bravely.
We, in the servants' hall, began this happy anniversary,
as usual, by offering our little presents to Miss Rachel,
with the regular speech delivered annually by me as the chief.
I follow the plan adopted by the Queen in opening Parliament--
namely, the plan of saying much the same thing regularly every year.
Before it is delivered, my speech (like the Queen's)
is looked for as eagerly as if nothing of the kind had ever
been heard before. When it is delivered, and turns out not
to be the novelty anticipated, though they grumble a little,
they look forward hopefully to something newer next year.
An easy people to govern, in the Parliament and in the Kitchen--
that's the moral of it. After breakfast, Mr. Franklin and I
had a private conference on the subject of the Moonstone--
the time having now come for removing it from the bank
at Frizinghall, and placing it in Miss Rachel's
own hands.
Whether he had been trying to make love to his cousin again,
and had got a rebuff--or whether his broken rest, night after night,
was aggravating the queer contradictions and uncertainties in
his character--I don't know. But certain it is, that Mr. Franklin
failed to show himself at his best on the morning of the birthday.
He was in twenty different minds about the Diamond in as many minutes.
For my part, I stuck fast by the plain facts a we knew them.
Nothing had happened to justify us in alarming my lady on the subject
of the jewel; and nothing could alter the legal obligation that
now lay on Mr. Franklin to put it in his cousin's possession.
That was my view of the matter; and, twist and turn it as
he might, he was forced in the end to make it his view too.
We arranged that he was to ride over, after lunch, to Frizinghall,
and bring the Diamond back, with Mr. Godfrey and the two
young ladies, in all probability, to keep him company on the way
home again.
This settled, our young gentleman went back to Miss Rachel.
They consumed the whole morning, and part of the afternoon,
in the everlasting business of decorating the door,
Penelope standing by to mix the colours, as directed; and my lady,
as luncheon time drew near, going in and out of the room,
with her handkerchief to her nose (for they used a deal
of Mr. Franklin's vehicle that day), and trying vainly to get
the two artists away from their work. It was three o'clock
before they took off their aprons, and released Penelope
(much the worse for the vehicle), and cleaned themselves of
their mess. But they had done what they wanted--they had finished
the door on the birthday, and proud enough they were of it.
The griffins, cupids, and so on, were, I must own, most beautiful
to behold; though so many in number, so entangled in flowers
and devices, and so topsy-turvy in their actions and attitudes,
that you felt them unpleasantly in your head for hours
after you had done with the pleasure of looking at them.
If I add that Penelope ended her part of the morning's work
by being sick in the back-kitchen, it is in no unfriendly
spirit towards the vehicle. No! no! It left off stinking
when it dried; and if Art requires these sort of sacrifices--
though the girl is my own daughter--I say, let Art
have them!
Mr. Franklin snatched a morsel from the luncheon-table, and rode
off to Frizinghall--to escort his cousins, as he told my lady.
To fetch the Moonstone, as was privately known to himself and
to me.
This being one of the high festivals on which I took my place
at the side-board, in command of the attendance at table,
I had plenty to occupy my mind while Mr. Franklin was away.
Having seen to the wine, and reviewed my men and women who
were to wait at dinner, I retired to collect myself before
the company came. A whiff of--you know what, and a turn at a
certain book which I have had occasion to mention in these pages,
composed me, body and mind. I was aroused from what I am
inclined to think must have been, not a nap, but a reverie,
by the clatter of horses' hoofs outside; and, going to the door,
received a cavalcade comprising Mr. Franklin and his three cousins,
escorted by one of old Mr. Ablewhite's grooms.
Mr. Godfrey struck me, strangely enough, as being like Mr. Franklin
in this respect--that he did not seem to be in his customary spirits.
He kindly shook hands with me as usual, and was most politely glad
to see his old friend Betteredge wearing so well. But there was a sort
of cloud over him, which I couldn't at all account for; and when I asked
how he had found his father in health, he answered rather shortly,
"Much as usual." However, the two Miss Ablewhites were cheerful enough
for twenty, which more than restored the balance. They were nearly as big
as their brother; spanking, yellow-haired, rosy lasses, overflowing with
super-abundant flesh and blood; bursting from head to foot with health
and spirits. The legs of the poor horses trembled with carrying them;
and when they jumped from their saddles (without waiting to be helped), I
declare they bounced on the ground as if they were made of india-rubber.
Everything the Miss Ablewhites said began with a large O; everything they
did was done with a bang; and they giggled and screamed, in season
and out of season, on the smallest provocation. Bouncers--that's what I
call them.
Under cover of the noise made by the young ladies, I had an opportunity
of saying a private word to Mr. Franklin in the hall.
"Have you got the Diamond safe, sir?"
He nodded, and tapped the breast-pocket of his coat.
"Have you seen anything of the Indians?"
"Not a glimpse." With that answer, he asked for my lady, and,
hearing she was in the small drawing-room, went there straight.
The bell rang, before he had been a minute in the room, and Penelope
was sent to tell Miss Rachel that Mr. Franklin Blake wanted to speak
to her.
Crossing the hall, about half an hour afterwards, I was brought
to a sudden standstill by an outbreak of screams from the small
drawing-room. I can't say I was at all alarmed; for I recognised
in the screams the favourite large O of the Miss Ablewhites.
However, I went in (on pretence of asking for instructions about
the dinner) to discover whether anything serious had really happened.
There stood Miss Rachel at the table, like a person fascinated,
with the Colonel's unlucky Diamond in her hand. There, on either side
of her, knelt the two Bouncers, devouring the jewel with their eyes,
and screaming with ecstasy every time it flashed on them in a new light.
There, at the opposite side of the table, stood Mr. Godfrey, clapping his
hands like a large child, and singing out softly, "Exquisite! exquisite!"
There sat Mr. Franklin in a chair by the book-case, tugging at his beard,
and looking anxiously towards the window. And there, at the window,
stood the object he was contemplating--my lady, having the extract from
the Colonel's Will in her hand, and keeping her back turned on the whole of
the company.
She faced me, when I asked for my instructions; and I saw the family frown
gathering over her eyes, and the family temper twitching at the corners
of her mouth.
"Come to my room in half an hour," she answered. "I shall
have something to say to you then."
With those words she went out. It was plain enough that she was posed
by the same difficulty which had posed Mr. Franklin and me in our
conference at the Shivering Sand. Was the legacy of the Moonstone
a proof that she had treated her brother with cruel injustice? or was it
a proof that he was worse than the worst she had ever thought of him?
Serious questions those for my lady to determine, while her daughter,
innocent of all knowledge of the Colonel's character, stood there with
the Colonel's birthday gift in her hand.
Before I could leave the room in my turn, Miss Rachel, always considerate
to the old servant who had been in the house when she was born, stopped me.
"Look, Gabriel!" she said, and flashed the jewel before my eyes in a ray of
sunlight that poured through the window.
Lord bless us! it WAS a Diamond! As large, or nearly, as a plover's egg!
The light that streamed from it was like the light of the harvest moon.
When you looked down into the stone, you looked into a yellow
deep that drew your eyes into it so that they saw nothing else.
It seemed unfathomable; this jewel, that you could hold between your
finger and thumb, seemed unfathomable as the heavens themselves.
We set it in the sun, and then shut the light out of the room,
and it shone awfully out of the depths of its own brightness,
with a moony gleam, in the dark. No wonder Miss Rachel was fascinated:
no wonder her cousins screamed. The Diamond laid such a hold on ME
that I burst out with as large an "O" as the Bouncers themselves.
The only one of us who kept his senses was Mr. Godfrey.
He put an arm round each of his sister's waists, and, looking
compassionately backwards and forwards between the Diamond
and me, said, "Carbon Betteredge! mere carbon, my good friend,
after all!"
His object, I suppose, was to instruct me. All he did, however, was to
remind me of the dinner. I hobbled off to my army of waiters downstairs.
As I went out, Mr. Godfrey said, "Dear old Betteredge, I have the truest
regard for him!" He was embracing his sisters, and ogling Miss Rachel,
while he honoured me with that testimony of affection. Something like
a stock of love to draw on THERE! Mr. Franklin was a perfect savage by
comparison with him.
At the end of half an hour, I presented myself, as directed,
in my lady's room.
What passed between my mistress and me, on this occasion, was,
in the main, a repetition of what had passed between Mr. Franklin
and me at the Shivering Sand--with this difference, that I took
care to keep my own counsel about the jugglers, seeing that nothing
had happened to justify me in alarming my lady on this head.
When I received my dismissal, I could see that she took the blackest
view possible of the Colonel's motives, and that she was bent on getting
the Moonstone out of her daughter's possession at the first opportunity.
On my way back to my own part of the house, I was encountered by
Mr. Franklin. He wanted to know if I had seen anything of his cousin Rachel.
I had seen nothing of her. Could I tell him where his cousin Godfrey was?
I didn't know; but I began to suspect that cousin Godfrey might not be
far away from cousin Rachel. Mr. Franklin's suspicions apparently took
the same turn. He tugged hard at his beard, and went and shut himself
up in the library with a bang of the door that had a world of meaning
in it.
I was interrupted no more in the business of preparing for the birthday dinner
till it was time for me to smarten myself up for receiving the company.
Just as I had got my white waistcoat on, Penelope presented herself
at my toilet, on pretence of brushing what little hair I have got left,
and improving the tie of my white cravat. My girl was in high spirits,
and I saw she had something to say to me. She gave me a kiss on the top
of my bald head, and whispered, "News for you, father! Miss Rachel has
refused him."
"Who's 'HIM'?" I asked.
"The ladies' committee-man, father," says Penelope. "A nasty sly fellow!
I hate him for trying to supplant Mr. Franklin!"
If I had had breath enough, I should certainly have protested against
this indecent way of speaking of an eminent philanthropic character.
But my daughter happened to be improving the tie of my cravat at that moment,
and the whole strength of her feelings found its way into her fingers.
I never was more nearly strangled in my life.
"I saw him take her away alone into the rose-garden," says Penelope.
"And I waited behind the holly to see how they came back.
They had gone out arm-in-arm, both laughing. They came back,
walking separate, as grave as grave could be, and looking straight
away from each other in a manner which there was no mistaking.
I never was more delighted, father, in my life! There's one woman
in the world who can resist Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite, at any rate; and, if I
was a lady, I should be another!"
Here I should have protested again. But my daughter had got the hair-brush
by this time, and the whole strength of her feelings had passed into THAT.
If you are bald, you will understand how she sacrificed me. If you are not,
skip this bit, and thank God you have got something in the way of a defence
between your hair-brush and your head.
"Just on the other side of the holly," Penelope went on,
"Mr. Godfrey came to a standstill. 'You prefer,' says he,
'that I should stop here as if nothing had happened?'
Miss Rachel turned on him like lightning. 'You have accepted my
mother's invitation,' she said; 'and you are here to meet her guests.
Unless you wish to make a scandal in the house, you will remain,
of course!' She went on a few steps, and then seemed to relent
a little. 'Let us forget what has passed, Godfrey,' she said,
'and let us remain cousins still.' She gave him her hand.
He kissed it, which I should have considered taking a liberty,
and then she left him. He waited a little by himself,
with his head down, and his heel grinding a hole slowly
in the gravel walk; you never saw a man look more put
out in your life. 'Awkward!' he said between his teeth,
when he looked up, and went on to the house--'very awkward!'
If that was his opinion of himself, he was quite right.
Awkward enough, I'm sure. And the end of it is, father, what I
told you all along," cries Penelope, finishing me off with
a last scarification, the hottest of all. "Mr. Franklin's
the man!"
I got possession of the hair-brush, and opened my lips to administer
the reproof which, you will own, my daughter's language and conduct
richly deserved.
Before I could say a word, the crash of carriage-wheels outside
struck in, and stopped me. The first of the dinner-company had come.
Penelope instantly ran off. I put on my coat, and looked in the glass.
My head was as red as a lobster; but, in other respects, I was as
nicely dressed for the ceremonies of the evening as a man need be.
I got into the hall just in time to announce the two first of the guests.
You needn't feel particularly interested about them. Only the
philanthropist's father and mother--Mr. and Mrs. Ablewhite.
One on the top of the other the rest of the company followed
the Ablewhites, till we had the whole tale of them complete.
Including the family, they were twenty-four in all.
It was a noble sight to see, when they were settled in their
places round the dinner-table, and the Rector of Frizinghall
(with beautiful elocution) rose and said grace.
There is no need to worry you with a list of the guests.
You will meet none of them a second time--in my part of the story,
at any rate--with the exception of two.
Those two sat on either side of Miss Rachel, who, as queen
of the day, was naturally the great attraction of the party.
On this occasion she was more particularly the centre-point
towards which everybody's eyes were directed; for (to my lady's
secret annoyance) she wore her wonderful birthday present,
which eclipsed all the rest--the Moonstone. It was
without any setting when it had been placed in her hands;
but that universal genius, Mr. Franklin, had contrived,
with the help of his neat fingers and a little bit of silver wire,
to fix it as a brooch in the bosom of her white dress.
Everybody wondered at the prodigious size and beauty of the Diamond,
as a matter of course. But the only two of the company who said
anything out of the common way about it were those two guests
I have mentioned, who sat by Miss Rachel on her right hand and
her left.
The guest on her left was Mr. Candy, our doctor at Frizinghall.
This was a pleasant, companionable little man, with the drawback, however,
I must own, of being too fond, in season and out of season, of his joke,
and of his plunging in rather a headlong manner into talk with strangers,
without waiting to feel his way first. In society he was constantly
making mistakes, and setting people unintentionally by the ears together.
In his medical practice he was a more prudent man; picking up his discretion
(as his enemies said) by a kind of instinct, and proving to be generally right
where more carefully conducted doctors turned out to be wrong.
What HE said about the Diamond to Miss Rachel was said, as usual,
by way of a mystification or joke. He gravely entreated her
(in the interests of science) to let him take it home and burn it.
"We will first heat it, Miss Rachel," says the doctor, "to such
and such a degree; then we will expose it to a current of air;
and, little by little--puff!--we evaporate the Diamond, and spare you
a world of anxiety about the safe keeping of a valuable precious stone!"
My lady, listening with rather a careworn expression on her face,
seemed to wish that the doctor had been in earnest, and that he could
have found Miss Rachel zealous enough in the cause of science to sacrifice
her birthday gift.
The other guest, who sat on my young lady's right hand, was an eminent
public character--being no other than the celebrated Indian traveller,
Mr. Murthwaite, who, at risk of his life, had penetrated in disguise
where no European had ever set foot before.
This was a long, lean, wiry, brown, silent man. He had a weary look,
and a very steady, attentive eye. It was rumoured that he was tired
of the humdrum life among the people in our parts, and longing to go
back and wander off on the tramp again in the wild places of the East.
Except what he said to Miss Rachel about her jewel, I doubt if he spoke six
words or drank so much as a single glass of wine, all through the dinner.
The Moonstone was the only object that interested him in the smallest degree.
The fame of it seemed to have reached him, in some of those perilous
Indian places where his wanderings had lain. After looking at it
silently for so long a time that Miss Rachel began to get confused,
he said to her in his cool immovable way, "If you ever go to India,
Miss Verinder, don't take your uncle's birthday gift with you. A Hindoo
diamond is sometimes part of a Hindoo religion. I know a certain city,
and a certain temple in that city, where, dressed as you are now,
your life would not be worth five minutes' purchase." Miss Rachel,
safe in England, was quite delighted to hear of her danger in India.
The Bouncers were more delighted still; they dropped their knives
and forks with a crash, and burst out together vehemently,
"O! how interesting!" My lady fidgeted in her chair, and changed
the subject.
As the dinner got on, I became aware, little by little,
that this festival was not prospering as other like festivals
had prospered before it.
Looking back at the birthday now, by the light of what happened afterwards,
I am half inclined to think that the cursed Diamond must have cast
a blight on the whole company. I plied them well with wine;
and being a privileged character, followed the unpopular dishes
round the table, and whispered to the company confidentially,
"Please to change your mind and try it; for I know it will do you good."
Nine times out of ten they changed their minds--out of regard
for their old original Betteredge, they were pleased to say--
but all to no purpose. There were gaps of silence in the talk,
as the dinner got on, that made me feel personally uncomfortable.
When they did use their tongues again, they used them innocently,
in the most unfortunate manner and to the worst possible purpose.
Mr. Candy, the doctor, for instance, said more unlucky things than I ever
knew him to say before. Take one sample of the way in which he went on,
and you will understand what I had to put up with at the sideboard,
officiating as I was in the character of a man who had the prosperity
of the festival at heart.
One of our ladies present at dinner was worthy Mrs. Threadgall,
widow of the late Professor of that name. Talking of her deceased
husband perpetually, this good lady never mentioned to strangers
that he WAS deceased. She thought, I suppose, that every
able-bodied adult in England ought to know as much as that.
In one of the gaps of silence, somebody mentioned the dry
and rather nasty subject of human anatomy; whereupon good
Mrs. Threadgall straightway brought in her late husband as usual,
without mentioning that he was dead. Anatomy she described
as the Professor's favourite recreation in his leisure hours.
As ill-luck would have it, Mr. Candy, sitting opposite
(who knew nothing of the deceased gentleman), heard her.
Being the most polite of men, he seized the opportunity
of assisting the Professor's anatomical amusements on
the spot.
"They have got some remarkably fine skeletons lately at the College
of Surgeons," says Mr. Candy, across the table, in a loud cheerful voice.
"I strongly recommend the Professor, ma'am, when he next has an hour to spare,
to pay them a visit."
You might have heard a pin fall. The company (out of respect
to the Professor's memory) all sat speechless. I was behind
Mrs. Threadgall at the time, plying her confidentially with a glass
of hock. She dropped her head, and said in a very low voice,
"My beloved husband is no more."
Unluckily Mr. Candy, hearing nothing, and miles away from suspecting
the truth, went on across the table louder and politer than ever.
"The Professor may not be aware," says he, "that the card of a member
of the College will admit him, on any day but Sunday, between the hours
of ten and four."
Mrs. Threadgall dropped her head right into her tucker, and, in a lower
voice still, repeated the solemn words, "My beloved husband is no more."
I winked hard at Mr. Candy across the table. Miss Rachel touched his arm.
My lady looked unutterable things at him. Quite useless! On he went,
with a cordiality that there was no stopping anyhow. "I shall be delighted,"
says he, "to send the Professor my card, if you will oblige me by mentioning
his present address."
"His present address, sir, is THE GRAVE," says Mrs. Threadgall,
suddenly losing her temper, and speaking with an emphasis and fury
that made the glasses ring again. "The Professor has been dead
these ten years."
"Oh, good heavens!" says Mr. Candy. Excepting the Bouncers,
who burst out laughing, such a blank now fell on the company,
that they might all have been going the way of the Professor,
and hailing as he did from the direction of the grave.
So much for Mr. Candy. The rest of them were nearly as
provoking in their different ways as the doctor himself.
When they ought to have spoken, they didn't speak;
or when they did speak they were perpetually at cross purposes.
Mr. Godfrey, though so eloquent in public, declined to exert himself
in private. Whether he was sulky, or whether he was bashful,
after his discomfiture in the rose-garden, I can't say.
He kept all his talk for the private ear of the lady
(a member of our family) who sat next to him. She was
one of his committee-women--a spiritually-minded person,
with a fine show of collar-bone and a pretty taste in champagne;
liked it dry, you understand, and plenty of it.
Being close behind these two at the sideboard, I can testify,
from what I heard pass between them, that the company lost
a good deal of very improving conversation, which I caught up
while drawing the corks, and carving the mutton, and so forth.
What they said about their Charities I didn't hear.
When I had time to listen to them, they had got a long way beyond
their women to be confined, and their women to be rescued,
and were disputing on serious subjects. Religion (I understand
Mr. Godfrey to say, between the corks and the carving) meant love.
And love meant religion. And earth was heaven a little the worse
for wear. And heaven was earth, done up again to look like new.
Earth had some very objectionable people in it; but, to make
amends for that, all the women in heaven would be members of a
prodigious committee that never quarrelled, with all the men in
attendance on them as ministering angels. Beautiful! beautiful!
But why the mischief did Mr. Godfrey keep it all to his lady
and himself?
Mr. Franklin again--surely, you will say, Mr. Franklin stirred the company
up into making a pleasant evening of it?
Nothing of the sort! He had quite recovered himself, and he was in
wonderful force and spirits, Penelope having informed him, I suspect,
of Mr. Godfrey's reception in the rose-garden. But, talk as he might,
nine times out of ten he pitched on the wrong subject, or he addressed
himself to the wrong person; the end of it being that he offended some,
and puzzled all of them. That foreign training of his--those French
and German and Italian sides of him, to which I have already alluded--
came out, at my lady's hospitable board, in a most bewildering manner.
What do you think, for instance, of his discussing the lengths
to which a married woman might let her admiration go for a man
who was not her husband, and putting it in his clear-headed witty
French way to the maiden aunt of the Vicar of Frizinghall?
What do you think, when he shifted to the German side,
of his telling the lord of the manor, while that great authority
on cattle was quoting his experience in the breeding of bulls,
that experience, properly understood counted for nothing, and that
the proper way to breed bulls was to look deep into your own mind,
evolve out of it the idea of a perfect bull, and produce him?
What do you say, when our county member, growing hot, at cheese
and salad time, about the spread of democracy in England,
burst out as follows: "If we once lose our ancient safeguards,
Mr. Blake, I beg to ask you, what have we got left?"--what do you
say to Mr. Franklin answering, from the Italian point of view:
"We have got three things left, sir--Love, Music, and Salad"?
He not only terrified the company with such outbreaks as these,
but, when the English side of him turned up in due course,
he lost his foreign smoothness; and, getting on the subject
of the medical profession, said such downright things in ridicule
of doctors, that he actually put good-humoured little Mr. Candy in
a rage.
The dispute between them began in Mr. Franklin being led--I forget how--
to acknowledge that he had latterly slept very badly at night.
Mr. Candy thereupon told him that his nerves were all out of order
and that he ought to go through a course of medicine immediately.
Mr. Franklin replied that a course of medicine, and a course of groping
in the dark, meant, in his estimation, one and the same thing.
Mr. Candy, hitting back smartly, said that Mr Franklin himself was,
constitutionally speaking, groping in the dark after sleep,
and that nothing but medicine could help him to find it.
Mr. Franklin, keeping the ball up on his side, said he had often
heard of the blind leading the blind, and now, for the first time,
he knew what it meant. In this way, they kept it going briskly,
cut and thrust, till they both of them got hot--Mr. Candy,
in particular, so completely losing his self-control, in defence
of his profession, that my lady was obliged to interfere,
and forbid the dispute to go on. This necessary act of authority
put the last extinguisher on the spirits of the company. The talk
spurted up again here and there, for a minute or two at a time;
but there was a miserable lack of life and sparkle in it. The Devil
(or the Diamond) possessed that dinner-party; and it was a relief
to everybody when my mistress rose, and gave the ladies the signal
to leave the gentlemen over their wine.
I had just ranged the decanters in a row before old Mr. Ablewhite
(who represented the master of the house), when there came
a sound from the terrace which, startled me out of my company
manners on the instant. Mr. Franklin and I looked at each other;
it was the sound of the Indian drum. As I live by bread,
here were the jugglers returning to us with the return of the
Moonstone to the house!
As they rounded the corner of the terrace, and came
in sight, I hobbled out to warn them off. But, as ill--
luck would have it, the two Bouncers were beforehand with me.
They whizzed out on to the terrace like a couple of skyrockets,
wild to see the Indians exhibit their tricks. The other
ladies followed; the gentlemen came out on their side.
Before you could say, "Lord bless us!" the rogues were making
their salaams; and the Bouncers were kissing the pretty
little boy.
Mr. Franklin got on one side of Miss Rachel, and I put myself behind her.
If our suspicions were right, there she stood, innocent of all knowledge of
the truth, showing the Indians the Diamond in the bosom of her dress!
I can't tell you what tricks they performed, or how they did it.
What with the vexation about the dinner, and what with the
provocation of the rogues coming back just in the nick of time
to see the jewel with their own eyes, I own I lost my head.
The first thing that I remember noticing was the sudden
appearance on the scene of the Indian traveller, Mr. Murthwaite.
Skirting the half-circle in which the gentlefolks stood or sat,
he came quietly behind the jugglers and spoke to them on a sudden in
the language of their own country.
If he had pricked them with a bayonet, I doubt if the Indians could have
started and turned on him with a more tigerish quickness than they did,
on hearing the first words that passed his lips. The next moment they
were bowing and salaaming to him in their most polite and snaky way.
After a few words in the unknown tongue had passed on either side,
Mr. Murthwaite withdrew as quietly as he had approached.
The chief Indian, who acted as interpreter, thereupon wheeled about again
towards the gentlefolks. I noticed that the fellow's coffee-coloured
face had turned grey since Mr. Murthwaite had spoken to him.
He bowed to my lady, and informed her that the exhibition was over.
The Bouncers, indescribably disappointed, burst out with a loud
"O!" directed against Mr. Murthwaite for stopping the performance.
The chief Indian laid his hand humbly on his breast, and said a second
time that the juggling was over. The little boy went round with the hat.
The ladies withdrew to the drawing--room; and the gentlemen
(excepting Mr. Franklin and Mr. Murthwaite) returned to their wine.
I and the footman followed the Indians, and saw them safe off
the premises.
Going back by way of the shrubbery, I smelt tobacco, and found
Mr. Franklin and Mr. Murthwaite (the latter smoking a cheroot)
walking slowly up and down among the trees. Mr. Franklin beckoned
to me to join them.
"This," says Mr. Franklin, presenting me to the great traveller,
"is Gabriel Betteredge, the old servant and friend of our family
of whom I spoke to you just now. Tell him, if you please, what you
have just told me."
Mr. Murthwaite took his cheroot out of his mouth, and leaned,
in his weary way, against the trunk of a tree.
"Mr. Betteredge," he began, "those three Indians are no more jugglers
than you and I are."
Here was a new surprise! I naturally asked the traveller if he had ever met
with the Indians before.
"Never," says Mr. Murthwaite; "but I know what Indian
juggling really is. All you have seen to-night is a very bad
and clumsy imitation of it. Unless, after long experience,
I am utterly mistaken, those men are high-caste Brahmins.
I charged them with being disguised, and you saw how it told on them,
clever as the Hindoo people are in concealing their feelings.
There is a mystery about their conduct that I can't explain.
They have doubly sacrificed their caste--first, in crossing
the sea; secondly, in disguising themselves as jugglers.
In the land they live in that is a tremendous sacrifice to make.
There must be some very serious motive at the bottom of it,
and some justification of no ordinary kind to plead for them,
in recovery of their caste, when they return to their own
I was struck dumb. Mr. Murthwaite went on with his cheroot.
Mr. Franklin, after what looked to me like a little private
veering about between the different sides of his character,
broke the silence as follows:
"I feel some hesitation, Mr. Murthwaite, in troubling you with family matters,
in which you can have no interest and which I am not very willing
to speak of out of our own circle. But, after what you have said,
I feel bound, in the interests of Lady Verinder and her daughter,
to tell you something which may possibly put the clue into your hands.
I speak to you in confidence; you will oblige me, I am sure, by not
forgetting that?"
With this preface, he told the Indian traveller all that he had
told me at the Shivering Sand. Even the immovable Mr. Murthwaite
was so interested in what he heard, that he let his cheroot go out.
"Now," says Mr. Franklin, when he had done, "what does your experience say?"
"My experience," answered the traveller, "says that you have had more
narrow escapes of your life, Mr. Franklin Blake, than I have had of mine;
and that is saying a great deal."
It was Mr. Franklin's turn to be astonished now.
"Is it really as serious as that?" he asked.
"In my opinion it is," answered Mr. Murthwaite. "I can't doubt,
after what you have told me, that the restoration of the Moonstone
to its place on the forehead of the Indian idol, is the motive and the
justification of that sacrifice of caste which I alluded to just now.
Those men will wait their opportunity with the patience of cats,
and will use it with the ferocity of tigers. How you have escaped
them I can't imagine," says the eminent traveller, lighting his
cheroot again, and staring hard at Mr. Franklin. "You have been
carrying the Diamond backwards and forwards, here and in London,
and you are still a living man! Let us try and account for it.
It was daylight, both times, I suppose, when you took the jewel out of
the bank in London?"
"Broad daylight," says Mr. Franklin.
"And plenty of people in the streets?"
"You settled, of course, to arrive at Lady Verinder's house at a
certain time? It's a lonely country between this and the station.
Did you keep your appointment?"
"No. I arrived four hours earlier than my appointment."
"I beg to congratulate you on that proceeding! When did you take
the Diamond to the bank at the town here?"
"I took it an hour after I had brought it to this house--
and three hours before anybody was prepared for seeing me in
these parts."
"I beg to congratulate you again! Did you bring it back here alone?"
"No. I happened to ride back with my cousins and the groom."
"I beg to congratulate you for the third time! If you ever
feel inclined to travel beyond the civilised limits, Mr. Blake,
let me know, and I will go with you. You are a lucky man."
Here I struck in. This sort of thing didn't at all square
with my English ideas.
"You don't really mean to say, sir," I asked, "that they
would have taken Mr. Franklin's life, to get their Diamond,
if he had given them the chance?"
"Do you smoke, Mr. Betteredge?" says the traveller.
"Yes, sir.
"Do you care much for the ashes left in your pipe when you empty it?"
"No, sir."
"In the country those men came from, they care just as much about
killing a man, as you care about emptying the ashes out of your pipe.
If a thousand lives stood between them and the getting back of their Diamond--
and if they thought they could destroy those lives without discovery--
they would take them all. The sacrifice of caste is a serious thing in India,
if you like. The sacrifice of life is nothing at all."
I expressed my opinion upon this, that they were a set of murdering thieves.
Mr. Murthwaite expressed HIS opinion that they were a wonderful people.
Mr. Franklin, expressing no opinion at all, brought us back to the matter
in hand.
"They have seen the Moonstone on Miss Verinder's dress," he said.
"What is to be done?"
"What your uncle threatened to do," answered Mr. Murthwaite.
"Colonel Herncastle understood the people he had to deal with.
Send the Diamond to-morrow (under guard of more than one man) to be cut
up at Amsterdam. Make half a dozen diamonds of it, instead of one.
There is an end of its sacred identity as The Moonstone--and there is an
end of the conspiracy."
Mr. Franklin turned to me.
"There is no help for it," he said. "We must speak to Lady
Verinder to-morrow."
"What about to-night, sir?" I asked. "Suppose the Indians come back?"
Mr. Murthwaite answered me before Mr. Franklin could speak.
"The Indians won't risk coming back to-night," he said.
"The direct way is hardly ever the way they take to anything--
let alone a matter like this, in which the slightest mistake
might be fatal to their reaching their end."
"But suppose the rogues are bolder than you think, sir?" I persisted.
"In that case," says Mr. Murthwaite, "let the dogs loose.
Have you got any big dogs in the yard?"
"Two, sir. A mastiff and a bloodhound."
"They will do. In the present emergency, Mr. Betteredge,
the mastiff and the bloodhound have one great merit--
they are not likely to be troubled with your scruples about
the sanctity of human life."
The strumming of the piano reached us from the drawing-room,
as he fired that shot at me. He threw away his cheroot,
and took Mr. Franklin's arm, to go back to the ladies.
I noticed that the sky was clouding over fast, as I followed them
to the house. Mr. Murthwaite noticed it too. He looked round
at me, in his dry, droning way, and said:
"The Indians will want their umbrellas, Mr. Betteredge, to-night!"
It was all very well for HIM to joke. But I was not an eminent traveller--
and my way in this world had not led me into playing ducks and drakes with my
own life, among thieves and murderers in the outlandish places of the earth.
I went into my own little room, and sat down in my chair in a perspiration,
and wondered helplessly what was to be done next. In this anxious frame
of mind, other men might have ended by working themselves up into a fever;
I ended in a different way. I lit my pipe, and took a turn at
Before I had been at it five minutes, I came to this amazing bit--
page one hundred and sixty-one--as follows:
"Fear of Danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than Danger itself,
when apparent to the Eyes; and we find the Burthen of Anxiety greater,
by much, than the Evil which we are anxious about."
The man who doesn't believe in ROBINSON CRUSOE, after THAT,
is a man with a screw loose in his understanding, or a man
lost in the mist of his own self-conceit! Argument is thrown
away upon him; and pity is better reserved for some person
with a livelier faith.
I was far on with my second pipe, and still lost in admiration of that
wonderful book, when Penelope (who had been handing round the tea)
came in with her report from the drawing-room. She had left the Bouncers
singing a duet-words beginning with a large "O," and music to correspond.
She had observed that my lady made mistakes in her game of whist
for the first time in our experience of her. She had seen the great
traveller asleep in a corner. She had overheard Mr. Franklin sharpening
his wits on Mr. Godfrey, at the expense of Ladies' Charities in general;
and she had noticed that Mr. Godfrey hit him back again rather more smartly
than became a gentleman of his benevolent character. She had detected
Miss Rachel, apparently engaged in appeasing Mrs. Threadgall by showing
her some photographs, and really occupied in stealing looks at Mr. Franklin,
which no intelligent lady's maid could misinterpret for a single instant.
Finally, she had missed Mr. Candy, the doctor, who had mysteriously
disappeared from the drawing-room, and had then mysteriously returned,
and entered into conversation with Mr. Godfrey. Upon the whole,
things were prospering better than the experience of the dinner gave
us any right to expect. If we could only hold on for another hour,
old Father Time would bring up their carriages, and relieve us of
them altogether.
Everything wears off in this world; and even the comforting
effect of ROBINSON CRUSOE wore off, after Penelope left me.
I got fidgety again, and resolved on making a survey of the
grounds before the rain came. Instead of taking the footman,
whose nose was human, and therefore useless in any emergency,
I took the bloodhound with me. HIS nose for a stranger
was to be depended on. We went all round the premises,
and out into the road--and returned as wise as we went,
having discovered no such thing as a lurking human
creature anywhere.
The arrival of the carriages was the signal for the arrival of the rain.
It poured as if it meant to pour all night. With the exception of the doctor,
whose gig was waiting for him, the rest of the company went home snugly,
under cover, in close carriages. I told Mr. Candy that I was afraid he would
get wet through. He told me, in return, that he wondered I had arrived
at my time of life, without knowing that a doctor's skin was waterproof.
So he drove away in the rain, laughing over his own little joke; and so we got
rid of our dinner company.
The next thing to tell is the story of the night.
When the last of the guests had driven away, I went back into
the inner hall and found Samuel at the side-table, presiding
over the brandy and soda-water. My lady and Miss Rachel came
out of the drawing-room, followed by the two gentlemen.
Mr. Godfrey had some brandy and soda-water, Mr. Franklin
took nothing. He sat down, looking dead tired; the talking
on this birthday occasion had, I suppose, been too much
for him.
My lady, turning round to wish them good-night, looked hard
at the wicked Colonel's legacy shining in her daughter's dress.
"Rachel," she asked, "where are you going to put your Diamond to-night?"
Miss Rachel was in high good spirits, just in that humour
for talking nonsense, and perversely persisting in it as if it
was sense, which you may sometimes have observed in young girls,
when they are highly wrought up, at the end of an exciting day.
First, she declared she didn't know where to put the Diamond.
Then she said, "on her dressing-table, of course, along with
her other things." Then she remembered that the Diamond
might take to shining of itself, with its awful moony light
in the dark--and that would terrify her in the dead of night.
Then she bethought herself of an Indian cabinet which stood
in her sitting-room; and instantly made up her mind to put
the Indian diamond in the Indian cabinet, for the purpose of
permitting two beautiful native productions to admire each other.
Having let her little flow of nonsense run on as far as that point,
her mother interposed and stopped her.
"My dear! your Indian cabinet has no lock to it," says my lady.
"Good Heavens, mamma!" cried Miss Rachel, "is this an hotel?
Are there thieves in the house?"
Without taking notice of this fantastic way of talking, my lady
wished the gentlemen good-night. She next turned to Miss Rachel,
and kissed her. "Why not let ME keep the Diamond for you to-night?"
she asked.
Miss Rachel received that proposal as she might, ten years since,
have received a proposal to part her from a new doll.
My lady saw there was no reasoning with her that night.
"Come into my room, Rachel, the first thing to-morrow morning,"
she said. "I shall have something to say to you." With those
last words she left us slowly; thinking her own thoughts, and,
to all appearance, not best pleased with the way by which they were
leading her.
Miss Rachel was the next to say good-night. She shook hands first
with Mr. Godfrey, who was standing at the other end of the hall,
looking at a picture. Then she turned back to Mr. Franklin,
still sitting weary and silent in a corner.
What words passed between them I can't say. But standing near the old
oak frame which holds our large looking-glass, I saw her reflected
in it, slyly slipping the locket which Mr. Franklin had given to her,
out of the bosom of her dress, and showing it to him for a moment,
with a smile which certainly meant something out of the common,
before she tripped off to bed. This incident staggered me a little
in the reliance I had previously felt on my own judgment. I began
to think that Penelope might be right about the state of her young
lady's affections, after all.
As soon as Miss Rachel left him eyes to see with, Mr. Franklin noticed me.
His variable humour, shifting about everything, had shifted about the
Indians already.
"Betteredge," he said, "I'm half inclined to think I took Mr. Murthwaite
too seriously, when we had that talk in the shrubbery. I wonder whether
he has been trying any of his traveller's tales on us? Do you really mean
to let the dogs loose?"
"I'll relieve them of their collars, sir," I answered, "and leave
them free to take a turn in the night, if they smell a reason for it."
"All right," says Mr. Franklin. "We'll see what is to be done to-morrow. I
am not at all disposed to alarm my aunt, Betteredge, without a very pressing
reason for it. Good-night."
He looked so worn and pale as he nodded to me, and took his
candle to go up-stairs, that I ventured to advise his having
a drop of brandy-and-water, by way of night-cap. Mr. Godfrey,
walking towards us from the other end of the hall, backed me.
He pressed Mr. Franklin, in the friendliest manner, to take something,
before he went to bed.
I only note these trifling circumstances, because, after all
I had seen and heard, that day, it pleased me to observe
that our two gentlemen were on just as good terms as ever.
Their warfare of words (heard by Penelope in the drawing-room),
and their rivalry for the best place in Miss Rachel's good graces,
seemed to have set no serious difference between them.
But there! they were both good-tempered, and both men of the world.
And there is certainly this merit in people of station, that they
are not nearly so quarrelsome among each other as people of no
station at all.
Mr. Franklin declined the brandy-and-water, and went up-stairs
with Mr. Godfrey, their rooms being next door to each other.
On the landing, however, either his cousin persuaded him,
or he veered about and changed his mind as usual.
"Perhaps I may want it in the night," he called down to me.
"Send up some brandy-and-water into my room."
I sent up Samuel with the brandy-and-water; and then went out
and unbuckled the dogs' collars. They both lost their heads
with astonishment on being set loose at that time of night,
and jumped upon me like a couple of puppies! However, the rain
soon cooled them down again: they lapped a drop of water each,
and crept back into their kennels. As I went into the house I
noticed signs in the sky which betokened a break in the weather
for the better. For the present, it still poured heavily,
and the ground was in a perfect sop.
Samuel and I went all over the house, and shut up as usual.
I examined everything myself, and trusted nothing to my deputy
on this occasion. All was safe and fast when I rested my old bones
in bed, between midnight and one in the morning.
The worries of the day had been a little too much for me, I suppose.
At any rate, I had a touch of Mr. Franklin's malady that night.
It was sunrise before I fell off at last into a sleep.
All the time I lay awake the house was as quiet as the grave.
Not a sound stirred but the splash of the rain, and the sighing
of the wind among the trees as a breeze sprang up with
the morning.
About half-past seven I woke, and opened my window on a fine sunshiny day.
The clock had struck eight, and I was just going out to chain up the dogs
again, when I heard a sudden whisking of petticoats on the stairs behind me.
I turned about, and there was Penelope flying down after me like mad.
"Father!" she screamed, "come up-stairs, for God's sake! THE DIAMOND
IS GONE!" "Are you out of your mind? "I asked her.
"Gone!" says Penelope. "Gone, nobody knows how! Come up and see."
She dragged me after her into our young lady's sitting-room, which opened into
her bedroom. There, on the threshold of her bedroom door, stood Miss Rachel,
almost as white in the face as the white dressinggown that clothed her.
There also stood the two doors of the Indian cabinet, wide open. One, of the
drawers inside was pulled out as far as it would go.
"Look!" says Penelope. "I myself saw Miss Rachel put the Diamond
into that drawer last night." I went to the cabinet. The drawer
was empty.
"Is this true, miss?" I asked.
With a look that was not like herself, with a voice that was not like her own,
Miss Rachel answered as my daughter had answered: "The Diamond is gone!"
Having said those words, she withdrew into her bedroom, and shut and locked
the door.
Before we knew which way to turn next, my lady came in, hearing my
voice in her daughter's sittingroom, and wondering what had happened.
The news of the loss of the Diamond seemed to petrify her. She went
straight to Miss Rachel's bedroom, and insisted on being admitted.
Miss Rachel let here in.
The alarm, running through the house like fire, caught the two gentlemen next.
Mr. Godfrey was the first to come out of his room.
All he did when he heard what had happened was to hold up
his hands in a state of bewilderment, which didn't say much
for his natural strength of mind. Mr. Franklin, whose clear
head I had confidently counted on to advise us, seemed to be
as helpless as his cousin when he heard the news in his turn.
For a wonder, he had had a good night's rest at last;
and the unaccustomed luxury of sleep had, as he said himself,
apparently stupefied him. However, when he had swallowed
his cup of coffee--which he always took, on the foreign plan,
some hours before he ate any breakfast--his brains brightened;
the clear-headed side of him turned up, and he took the matter
in hand, resolutely and cleverly, much as follows:
He first sent for the servants, and told them to leave all the lower doors
and windows (with the exception of the front door, which I had opened)
exactly as they had been left when we locked up over night. He next proposed
to his cousin and to me to make quite sure, before we took any further steps,
that the Diamond had not accidentally dropped somewhere out of sight--say at
the back of the cabinet, or down behind the table on which the cabinet stood.
Having searched in both places, and found nothing--having also questioned
Penelope, and discovered from her no more than the little she had already
told me--Mr. Franklin suggested next extending our inquiries to Miss Rachel,
and sent Penelope to knock at her bed-room door.
My lady answered the knock, and closed the door behind her.
The moment after we heard it locked inside by Miss Rachel.
My mistress came out among us, looking sorely puzzled
and distressed. "The loss of the Diamond seems to have quite
overwhelmed Rachel," she said, in reply to Mr. Franklin.
"She shrinks, in the strangest manner, from speaking of it,
even to ME. It is impossible you can see her for the present."
Having added to our perplexities by this account of Miss Rachel,
my lady, after a little effort, recovered her usual composure,
and acted with her usual decision.
"I suppose there is no help for it?" she said, quietly. "I suppose I
have no alternative but to send for the police?"
"And the first thing for the police to do," added Mr. Franklin,
catching her up, "is to lay hands on the Indian jugglers
who performed here last night."
My lady and Mr. Godfrey (not knowing what Mr. Franklin and I knew)
both started, and both looked surprised.
"I can't stop to explain myself now," Mr. Franklin went on.
"I can only tell you that the Indians have certainly stolen
the Diamond. Give me a letter of introduction," says he,
addressing my lady, "to one of the magistrates at Frizinghall--
merely telling him that I represent your interests and wishes,
and let me ride off with it instantly. Our chance of catching
the thieves may depend on our not wasting one unnecessary minute."
(Nota bene: Whether it was the French side or the English,
the right side of Mr. Franklin seemed to be uppermost now. The only
question was, How long would it last?)
He put pen, ink, and paper before his aunt, who (as it appeared to me)
wrote the letter he wanted a little unwillingly. If it had been possible
to overlook such an event as the loss of a jewel worth twenty thousand pounds,
I believe--with my lady's opinion of her late brother, and her distrust
of his birthday-gift--it would have been privately a relief to her to let
the thieves get off with the Moonstone scot free.
I went out with Mr. Franklin to the stables, and took the opportunity
of asking him how the Indians (whom I suspected, of course, as shrewdly
as he did) could possibly have got into the house.
"One of them might have slipped into the hall, in the confusion,
when the dinner company were going away," says Mr. Franklin.
"The fellow may have been under the sofa while my aunt and Rachel
were talking about where the Diamond was to be put for the night.
He would only have to wait till the house was quiet, and there
it would be in the cabinet, to be had for the taking."
With those words, he called to the groom to open the gate,
and galloped off.
This seemed certainly to be the only rational explanation.
But how had the thief contrived to make his escape from the house?
I had found the front door locked and bolted, as I had left
it at night, when I went to open it, after getting up.
As for the other doors and windows, there they were still,
all safe and fast, to speak for themselves. The dogs, too?
Suppose the thief had got away by dropping from one of the
upper windows, how had he escaped the dogs? Had he come provided
for them with drugged meat? As the doubt crossed my mind,
the dogs themselves came galloping at me round a corner, rolling each
other over on the wet grass, in such lively health and spirits
that it was with no small difficulty I brought them to reason,
and chained them up again. The more I turned it over in my mind,
the less satisfactory Mr. Franklin's explanation appeared
to be.
We had our breakfasts--whatever happens in a house, robbery or murder,
it doesn't matter, you must have your breakfast. When we had done,
my lady sent for me; and I found myself compelled to tell her all that I
had hitherto concealed, relating to the Indians and their plot.
Being a woman of a high courage, she soon got over the first startling effect
of what I had to communicate. Her mind seemed to be far more perturbed
about her daughter than about the heathen rogues and their conspiracy.
"You know how odd Rachel is, and how differently she behaves sometimes
from other girls," my lady said to me. "But I have never, in all
my experience, seen her so strange and so reserved as she is now.
The loss of her jewel seems almost to have turned her brain. Who would have
thought that horrible Diamond could have laid such a hold on her in so short
a time?"
It was certainly strange. Taking toys and trinkets in general,
Miss Rachel was nothing like so mad after them as most young girls.
Yet there she was, still locked up inconsolably in her bedroom.
It is but fair to add that she was not the only one of us in the house
who was thrown out of the regular groove. Mr. Godfrey, for instance--
though professionally a sort of consoler-general--seemed to be at
a loss where to look for his own resources. Having no company
to amuse him, and getting no chance of trying what his experience
of women in distress could do towards comforting Miss Rachel,
he wandered hither and thither about the house and gardens in an
aimless uneasy way. He was in two different minds about what it
became him to do, after the misfortune that had happened to us.
Ought he to relieve the family, in their present situation,
of the responsibility of him as a guest, or ought he to stay on
the chance that even his humble services might be of some use?
He decided ultimately that the last course was perhaps the most
customary and considerate course to take, in such a very peculiar
case of family distress as this was. Circumstances try the metal
a man is really made of. Mr. Godfrey, tried by circumstances,
showed himself of weaker metal than I had thought him to be.
As for the women-servants excepting Rosanna Spearman, who kept by herself--
they took to whispering together in corners, and staring at nothing
suspiciously, as is the manner of that weaker half of the human family,
when anything extraordinary happens in a house. I myself acknowledge
to have been fidgety and ill-tempered. The cursed Moonstone had
turned us all upside down.
A little before eleven Mr. Franklin came back. The resolute
side of him had, to all appearance, given way, in the interval
since his departure, under the stress that had been laid on it.
He had left us at a gallop; he came back to us at a walk.
When he went away, he was made of iron. When he returned, he was
stuffed with cotton, as limp as limp could be.
"Well," says my lady, "are the police coming?"
"Yes," says Mr. Franklin; "they said they would follow me in a fly.
Superintendent Seegrave, of your local police force, and two of his men.
A mere form! The case is hopeless."
"What! have the Indians escaped, sir?" I asked.
"The poor ill-used Indians have been most unjustly put in prison,"
says Mr. Franklin. "They are as innocent as the babe unborn.
My idea that one of them was hidden in the house has ended,
like all the rest of my ideas, in smoke. It's been proved,"
says Mr. Franklin, dwelling with great relish on his own incapacity,
"to be simply impossible."
After astonishing us by announcing this totally new turn in the matter
of the Moonstone, our young gentleman, at his aunt's request, took a seat,
and explained himself.
It appeared that the resolute side of him had held out as far
as Frizinghall. He had put the whole case plainly before
the magistrate, and the magistrate had at once sent for the police.
The first inquiries instituted about the Indians showed
that they had not so much as attempted to leave the town.
Further questions addressed to the police, proved that all
three had been seen returning to Frizinghall with their boy,
on the previous night between ten and eleven--which (regard being
had to hours and distances) also proved that they had
walked straight back after performing on our terrace.
Later still, at midnight, the police, having occasion to search
the common lodging-house where they lived, had seen them
all three again, and their little boy with them, as usual.
Soon after midnight I myself had safely shut up the house.
Plainer evidence than this, in favour of the Indians,
there could not well be. The magistrate said there was not
even a case of suspicion against them so far. But, as it was
just possible, when the police came to investigate the matter,
that discoveries affecting the jugglers might be made,
he would contrive, by committing them as rogues and vagabonds,
to keep them at our disposal, under lock and key, for a week.
They had ignorantly done something (I forget what) in the town,
which barely brought them within the operation of the law.
Every human institution (justice included) will stretch
a little, if you only pull it the right way. The worthy
magistrate was an old friend of my lady's, and the Indians
were "committed" for a week, as soon as the court opened that
Such was Mr. Franklin's narrative of events at Frizinghall.
The Indian clue to the mystery of the lost jewel was now,
to all appearance, a clue that had broken in our hands.
If the jugglers were innocent, who, in the name of wonder, had taken
the Moonstone out of Miss Rachel's drawer?
Ten minutes later, to our infinite relief; Superintendent Seegrave
arrived at the house. He reported passing Mr. Franklin on the terrace,
sitting in the sun (I suppose with the Italian side of him uppermost),
and warning the police, as they went by, that the investigation was hopeless,
before the investigation had begun.
For a family in our situation, the Superintendent of the Frizinghall
police was the most comforting officer you could wish to see.
Mr. Seegrave was tall and portly, and military in his manners.
He had a fine commanding voice, and a mighty resolute eye, and a grand
frock-coat which buttoned beautifully up to his leather stock.
"I'm the man you want!" was written all over his face; and he ordered
his two inferior police men about with a severity which convinced us all
that there was no trifling with HIM.
He began by going round the premises, outside and in;
the result of that investigation proving to him that no thieves
had broken in upon us from outside, and that the robbery,
consequently, must have been committed by some person in the house.
I leave you to imagine the state the servants were in when this
official announcement first reached their ears. The Superintendent
decided to begin by examining the boudoir, and, that done,
to examine the servants next. At the same time, he posted
one of his men on the staircase which led to the servants'
bedrooms, with instructions to let nobody in the house pass him,
till further orders.
At this latter proceeding, the weaker half of the human family went distracted
on the spot. They bounced out of their comers, whisked up-stairs in a body
to Miss Rachel's room (Rosanna Spearman being carried away among them this
time), burst in on Superintendent Seegrave, and, all looking equally guilty,
summoned him to say which of them he suspected, at once.
Mr. Superintendent proved equal to the occasion; he looked at them
with his resolute eye, and he cowed them with his military voice.
"Now, then, you women, go down-stairs again, every one of you;
I won't have you here. Look!" says Mr. Superintendent,
suddenly pointing to a little smear of the decorative painting
on Miss Rachel's door, at the outer edge, just under the lock.
"Look what mischief the petticoats of some of you have done already.
Clear out! clear out!" Rosanna Spearman, who was nearest to him,
and nearest to the little smear on the door, set the example
of obedience, and slipped off instantly to her work. The rest
followed her out. The Superintendent finished his examination
of the room, and, making nothing of it, asked me who had first
discovered the robbery. My daughter had first discovered it.
My daughter was sent for.
Mr. Superintendent proved to be a little too sharp with
Penelope at starting. "Now, young woman, attend to me,
and mind you speak the truth." Penelope fired up instantly.
"I've never been taught to tell lies Mr. Policeman!--
and if father can stand there and hear me accused of falsehood
and thieving, and my own bed-room shut against me, and my
character taken away, which is all a poor girl has left,
he's not the good father I take him for!" A timely word from me
put Justice and Penelope on a pleasanter footing together.
The questions and answers went swimmingly, and ended in nothing
worth mentioning. My daughter had seen Miss Rachel put
the Diamond in the drawer of the cabinet the last thing at night.
She had gone in with Miss Rachel's cup of tea at eight
the next morning, and had found the drawer open and empty.
Upon that, she had alarmed the house--and there was an end of
Penelope's evidence.
Mr. Superintendent next asked to see Miss Rachel herself.
Penelope mentioned his request through the door. The answer reached
us by the same road: "I have nothing to tell the policeman--
I can't see anybody." Our experienced officer looked
equally surprised and offended when he heard that reply.
I told him my young lady was ill, and begged him to wait
a little and see her later. We thereupon went downstairs again,
and were met by Mr. Godfrey and Mr. Franklin crossing
the hall.
The two gentlemen, being inmates of the house, were summoned to say if they
could throw any light on the matter. Neither of them knew anything about it.
Had they heard any suspicious noises during the previous night? They had
heard nothing but the pattering of the rain. Had I, lying awake longer than
either of them, heard nothing either? Nothing! Released from examination,
Mr. Franklin, still sticking to the helpless view of our difficulty, whispered
to me: "That man will be of no earthly use to us. Superintendent Seegrave
is an ass." Released in his turn, Mr. Godfrey whispered to me--"Evidently
a most competent person. Betteredge, I have the greatest faith in him!"
Many men, many opinions, as one of the ancients said, before my time.
Mr. Superintendent's next proceeding took him back to the "boudoir" again,
with my daughter and me at his heels. His object was to discover whether any
of the furniture had been moved, during the night, out of its customary place--
his previous investigation in the room having, apparently, not gone quite far
enough to satisfy his mind on this point.
While we were still poking about among the chairs and tables,
the door of the bed-room was suddenly opened. After having
denied herself to everybody, Miss Rachel, to our astonishment,
walked into the midst of us of her own accord. She took up
her garden hat from a chair, and then went straight to Penelope
with this question:-
"Mr. Franklin Blake sent you with a message to me this morning?"
"Yes, miss."
"He wished to speak to me, didn't he?"
"Yes, miss."
"Where is he now?"
Hearing voices on the terrace below, I looked out of window,
and saw the two gentlemen walking up and down together.
Answering for my daughter, I said, "Mr. Franklin is on
the terrace, miss."
Without another word, without heeding Mr. Superintendent,
who tried to speak to her, pale as death, and wrapped up
strangely in her own thoughts, she left the room, and went
down to her cousins on the terrace.
It showed a want of due respect, it showed a breach of good manners,
on my part, but, for the life of me, I couldn't help looking
out of window when Miss Rachel met the gentlemen outside.
She went up to Mr. Franklin without appearing to notice
Mr. Godfrey, who thereupon drew back and left them by themselves.
What she said to Mr. Franklin appeared to be spoken vehemently.
It lasted but for a short time, and, judging by what I saw
of his face from the window, seemed to astonish him beyond
all power of expression. While they were still together,
my lady appeared on the terrace. Miss Rachel saw her--
said a few last words to Mr. Franklin--and suddenly went back
into the house again, before her mother came up with her.
My lady surprised herself, and noticing Mr. Franklin's surprise,
spoke to him. Mr. Godfrey joined them, and spoke also.
Mr. Franklin walked away a little between the two, telling them
what had happened I suppose, for they both stopped short,
after taking a few steps, like persons struck with amazement.
I had just seen as much as this, when the door of the sitting-room
was opened violently. Miss Rachel walked swiftly through to her
bed-room, wild and angry, with fierce eyes and flaming cheeks.
Mr. Superintendent once more attempted to question her.
She turned round on him at her bed-room door.
"I have not sent for you!" she cried out vehemently.
"I don't want you. My Diamond is lost. Neither you nor
anybody else will ever find it! With those words she went in,
and locked the door in our faces. Penelope, standing nearest
to it, heard her burst out crying the moment she was alone
In a rage, one moment; in tears, the next! What did it mean?
I told the Superintendent it meant that Miss Rachel's temper was upset
by the loss of her jewel. Being anxious for the honour of the family,
it distressed me to see my young lady forget herself--even with
a police-officer--and I made the best excuse I could, accordingly.
In my own private mind I was more puzzled by Miss Rachel's extraordinary
language and conduct than words can tell. Taking what she had said at her
bed-room door as a guide to guess by, I could only conclude that she was
mortally offended by our sending for the police, and that Mr. Franklin's
astonishment on the terrace was caused by her having expressed herself
to him (as the person chiefly instrumental in fetching the police)
to that effect. If this guess was right, why--having lost her Diamond--
should she object to the presence in the house of the very people whose
business it was to recover it for her? And how, in Heaven's name,
could SHE know that the Moonstone would never be found again?
As things stood, at present, no answer to those questions was to be
hoped for from anybody in the house. Mr. Franklin appeared to think
it a point of honour to forbear repeating to a servant--even to so old
a servant as I was--what Miss Rachel had said to him on the terrace.
Mr. Godfrey, who, as a gentleman and a relative, had been probably
admitted into Mr. Franklin's confidence, respected that confidence
as he was bound to do. My lady, who was also in the secret no doubt,
and who alone had access to Miss Rachel, owned openly that she could
make nothing of her. "You madden me when you talk of the Diamond!"
All her mother's influence failed to extract from her a word more
than that.
Here we were, then, at a dead-lock about Miss Rachel--
and at a dead-lock about the Moonstone. In the first case,
my lady was powerless to help us. In the second (as you shall
presently judge), Mr. Seegrave was fast approaching the condition
of a superintendent at his wits' end.
Having ferreted about all over the "boudoir," without making
any discoveries among the furniture, our experienced officer
applied to me to know, whether the servants in general were
or were not acquainted with the place in which the Diamond
had been put for the night.
"I knew where it was put, sir," I said, "to begin with.
Samuel, the footman, knew also--for he was present in the hall,
when they were talking about where the Diamond was to be kept
that night. My daughter knew, as she has already told you.
She or Samuel may have mentioned the thing to the other servants--
or the other servants may have heard the talk for themselves,
through the side-door of the hall, which might have
been open to the back staircase. For all I can tell,
everybody in the house may have known where the jewel was,
last night."
My answer presenting rather a wide field for Mr. Superintendent's
suspicions to range over, he tried to narrow it by asking about
the servants' characters next.
I thought directly of Rosanna Spearman. But it was neither
my place nor my wish to direct suspicion against a poor girl,
whose honesty had been above all doubt as long as I had known her.
The matron at the Reformatory had reported her to my lady
as a sincerely penitent and thoroughly trustworthy girl.
It was the Superintendent's business to discover reason for
suspecting her first--and then, and not till then, it would
be my duty to tell him how she came into my lady's service.
"All our people have excellent characters," I said. "And all
have deserved the trust their mistress has placed in them."
After that, there was but one thing left for Mr. Seegrave
to do--namely, to set to work, and tackle the servants'
characters himself.
One after another, they were examined. One after another, they proved
to have nothing to say--and said it (so far as the women were concerned)
at great length, and with a very angry sense of the embargo laid on their
bed-rooms. The rest of them being sent back to their places downstairs,
Penelope was then summoned, and examined separately a second time.
My daughter's little outbreak of temper in the "boudoir,"
and her readiness to think herself suspected, appeared to have
produced an unfavourable impression on Superintendent Seegrave.
It seemed also to dwell a little on his mind, that she
had been the last person who saw the Diamond at night.
When the second questioning was over, my girl came back
to me in a frenzy. There was no doubt of it any longer--
the police-officer had almost as good as told her she was the thief!
I could scarcely believe him (taking Mr. Franklin's view)
to be quite such an ass as that. But, though he said nothing,
the eye with which he looked at my daughter was not a very pleasant
eye to see. I laughed it off with poor Penelope, as something
too ridiculous to be treated seriously--which it certainly was.
Secretly, I am afraid I was foolish enough to be angry too.
It was a little trying--it was, indeed. My girl sat down in a corner,
with her apron over her head, quite broken-hearted. Foolish
of her, you will say. she might have waited till he openly
accused her. Well, being a man of just an equal temper,
I admit that. Still Mr. Superintendent might have remembered--
never mind what he might have remembered. The devil
take him!
The next and last step in the investigation brought matters, as they say,
to a crisis. The officer had an interview (at which I was present)
with my lady. After informing her that the Diamond must have been taken
by somebody in the house, he requested permission for himself and his men
to search the servants' rooms and boxes on the spot. My good mistress,
like the generous high-bred woman she was, refused to let us be treated
like thieves. "I will never consent to make such a return as that,"
she said, "for all I owe to the faithful servants who are employed in
my house."
Mr. Superintendent made his bow, with a look in my direction,
which said plainly, "Why employ me, if you are to tie my hands
in this way?" As head of the servants, I felt directly that we
were bound, in justice to all parties, not to profit by our
mistress's generosity. "We gratefully thank your ladyship," I said;
"but we ask your permission to do what is right in this matter
by giving up our keys. When Gabriel Betteredge sets the example,"
says I, stopping Superintendent Seegrave at the door, "the rest
of the servants will follow, I promise you. There are my keys,
to begin with!" My lady took me by the hand, and thanked me
with the tears in her eyes. Lord! what would I not have given,
at that moment, for the privilege of knocking Superintendent
Seegrave down!
As I had promised for them, the other servants followed my lead,
sorely against the grain, of course, but all taking the view that I took.
The women were a sight to see, while the police-officers were rummaging among
their things. The cook looked as if she could grill Mr. Superintendent
alive on a furnace, and the other women looked as if they could eat him
when he was done.
The search over, and no Diamond or sign of a Diamond being found,
of course, anywhere, Superintendent Seegrave retired to my
little room to consider with himself what he was to do next.
He and his men had now been hours in the house, and had not
advanced us one inch towards a discovery of how the Moonstone had
been taken, or of whom we were to suspect as the thief.
While the police-officer was still pondering in solitude,
I was sent for to see Mr. Franklin in the library.
To my unutterable astonishment, just as my hand was on the door,
it was suddenly opened from the inside, and out walked
Rosanna Spearman!
After the library had been swept and cleaned in the morning,
neither first nor second housemaid had any business in that room
at any later period of the day. I stopped Rosanna Spearman,
and charged her with a breach of domestic discipline on
the spot.
"What might you want in the library at this time of day?"
I inquired.
"Mr. Franklin Blake dropped one of his rings up-stairs,"
says Rosanna; "and I have been into the library to give it to him."
The girl's face was all in a flush as she made me that answer;
and she walked away with a toss of her head and a look of
self-importance which I was quite at a loss to account for.
The proceedings in the house had doubtless upset all the
women-servants more or less; but none of them had gone clean
out of their natural characters, as Rosanna, to all appearance,
had now gone out of hers.
I found Mr. Franklin writing at the library-table. He asked for a
conveyance to the railway station the moment I entered the room.
The first sound of his voice informed me that we now had the resolute
side of him uppermost once more. The man made of cotton had disappeared;
and the man made of iron sat before me again.
"Going to London, sir?" I asked.
"Going to telegraph to London," says Mr. Franklin. "I have convinced my aunt
that we must have a cleverer head than Superintendent Seegrave's to help us;
and I have got her permission to despatch a telegram to my father.
He knows the Chief Commissioner of Police, and the Commissioner can
lay his hand on the right man to solve the mystery of the Diamond.
Talking of mysteries, by-the-bye," says Mr. Franklin, dropping his voice,
"I have another word to say to you before you go to the stables.
Don't breathe a word of it to anybody as yet; but either Rosanna Spearman's
head is not quite right, or I am afraid she knows more about the Moonstone
than she ought to know."
I can hardly tell whether I was more startled or distressed at hearing
him say that. If I had been younger, I might have confessed as much
to Mr. Franklin. But when you are old, you acquire one excellent habit.
In cases where you don't see your way clearly, you hold your tongue.
"She came in here with a ring I dropped in my bed-room,"
Mr. Franklin went on. "When I had thanked her, of course
I expected her to go. Instead of that, she stood opposite
to me at the table, looking at me in the oddest manner--
half frightened, and half familiar--I couldn't make it out.
'This is a strange thing about the Diamond, sir,' she said,
in a curiously sudden, headlong way. I said, 'Yes, it was,'
and wondered what was coming next. Upon my honour, Betteredge,
I think she must be wrong in the head! She said, 'They will never
find the Diamond, sir, will they? No! nor the person who took it--
I'll answer for that.' She actually nodded and smiled at me!
Before I could ask her what she meant, we heard your step outside.
I suppose she was afraid of your catching her here.
At any rate, she changed colour, and left the room.
What on earth does it mean?
I could not bring myself to tell him the girl's story, even then.
It would have been almost as good as telling him that she was
the thief. Besides, even if I had made a clean breast of it,
and even supposing she was the thief, the reason why she should let
out her secret to Mr. Franklin, of all the people in the world,
would have been still as far to seek as ever.
"I can't bear the idea of getting the poor girl into a scrape,
merely because she has a flighty way with her, and talks very strangely,"
Mr. Franklin went on. "And yet if she had said to, the Superintendent
what she said to me, fool as he is, I'm afraid----" He stopped there,
and left the rest unspoken.
"The best way, sir," I said, "will be for me to say two words
privately to my mistress about it at the first opportunity.
My lady has a very friendly interest in Rosanna; and the girl
may only have been forward and foolish, after all.
When there's a mess of any kind in a house, sir, the women-servants
like to look at the gloomy side--it gives the poor wretches
a kind of importance in their own eyes. If there's anybody ill,
trust the women for prophesying that the person will die.
If it's a jewel lost, trust them for prophesying that it will
never be found again."
This view (which I am bound to say, I thought a probable view myself,
on reflection) seemed to relieve Mr. Franklin mightily:
he folded up his telegram, and dismissed the subject.
On my way to the stables, to order the pony-chaise, I looked
in at the servants' hall, where they were at dinner.
Rosanna Spearman was not among them. On inquiry, I found that she
had been suddenly taken ill, and had gone up-stairs to her own room
to lie down.
"Curious! She looked well enough when I saw her last,"
I remarked.
Penelope followed me out. "Don't talk in that way before the rest
of them, father," she said. "You only make them harder on Rosanna than ever.
The poor thing is breaking her heart about Mr. Franklin Blake."
Here was another view of the girl's conduct. If it was possible for
Penelope to be right, the explanation of Rosanna's strange language and
behaviour might have been all in this--that she didn't care what she said,
so long as she could surprise Mr. Franklin into speaking to her.
Granting that to be the right reading of the riddle, it accounted, perhaps,
for her flighty, self-conceited manner when she passed me in the hall.
Though he had only said three words, still she had carried her point,
and Mr. Franklin had spoken to her.
I saw the pony harnessed myself. In the infernal network of mysteries
and uncertainties that now surrounded us, I declare it was a relief
to observe how well the buckles and straps understood each other!
When you had seen the pony backed into the shafts of the chaise,
you had seen something there was no doubt about. And that,
let me tell you, was becoming a treat of the rarest kind in
our household.
Going round with the chaise to the front door, I found not only Mr. Franklin,
but Mr. Godfrey and Superintendent Seegrave also waiting for me on the steps.
Mr. Superintendent's reflections (after failing to find
the Diamond in the servants' rooms or boxes) had led him,
it appeared, to an entirely new conclusion. Still sticking
to his first text, namely, that somebody in the house had
stolen the jewel, our experienced officer was now of opinion
that the thief (he was wise enough not to name poor Penelope,
whatever he might privately think of her!) had been acting
in concert with the Indians; and he accordingly proposed shifting
his inquiries to the jugglers in the prison at Frizinghall.
Hearing of this new move, Mr. Franklin had volunteered
to take the Superintendent back to the town, from which
he could telegraph to London as easily as from our station.
Mr. Godfrey, still devoutly believing in Mr. Seegrave, and greatly
interested in witnessing the examination of the Indians,
had begged leave to accompany the officer to Frizinghall.
One of the two inferior policemen was to be left at the house,
in case anything happened. The other was to go back with the
Superintendent to the town. So the four places in the pony-chaise
were just filled.
Before he took the reins to drive off, Mr. Franklin walked me away
a few steps out of hearing of the others.
"I will wait to telegraph to London," he said, "till I see what comes
of our examination of the Indians. My own conviction is, that this
muddle-headed local police-officer is as much in the dark as ever,
and is simply trying to gain time. The idea of any of the servants being
in league with the Indians is a preposterous absurdity, in my opinion.
Keep about the house, Betteredge, till I come back, and try what you
can make of Rosanna Spearman. I don't ask you to do anything degrading
to your own self-respect, or anything cruel towards the girl.
I only ask you to exercise your observation more carefully than usual.
We will make as light of it as we can before my aunt--but this is a more
important matter than you may suppose."
"It is a matter of twenty thousand pounds, sir," I said,
thinking of the value of the Diamond.
"It's a matter of quieting Rachel's mind," answered Mr. Franklin gravely.
"I am very uneasy about her."
He left me suddenly; as if he desired to cut short any further talk
between us. I thought I understood why. Further talk might have let
me into the secret of what Miss Rachel had said to him on the terrace.
So they drove away to Frizinghall. I was ready enough, in the girl's
own interest, to have a little talk with Rosanna in private.
But the needful opportunity failed to present itself.
She only came downstairs again at tea-time. When she did appear,
she was flighty and excited, had what they call an hysterical attack,
took a dose of sal-volatile by my lady's order, and was sent back to
her bed.
The day wore on to its end drearily and miserably enough,
I can tell you. Miss Rachel still kept her room,
declaring that she was too ill to come down to dinner that day.
My lady was in such low spirits about her daughter, that I
could not bring myself to make her additionally anxious,
by reporting what Rosanna Spearman had said to Mr. Franklin.
Penelope persisted in believing that she was to be forthwith
tried, sentenced, and transported for theft. The other women
took to their Bibles and hymn-books, and looked as sour as
verjuice over their reading--a result, which I have observed,
in my sphere of life, to follow generally on the performance
of acts of piety at unaccustomed periods of the day.
As for me, I hadn't even heart enough to open my ROBINSON CRUSOE.
I went out into the yard, and, being hard up for a little
cheerful society, set my chair by the kennels, and talked to
the dogs.
Half an hour before dinner-time, the two gentlemen came back from Frizinghall,
having arranged with Superintendent Seegrave that he was to return to us
the next day. They had called on Mr. Murthwaite, the Indian traveller,
at his present residence, near the town. At Mr. Franklin's request,
he had kindly given them the benefit of his knowledge of the language,
in dealing with those two, out of the three Indians, who knew nothing
of English. The examination, conducted carefully, and at great length,
had ended in nothing; not the shadow of a reason being discovered for
suspecting the jugglers of having tampered with any of our servants.
On reaching that conclusion, Mr. Franklin had sent his telegraphic message
to London, and there the matter now rested till to-morrow came.
So much for the history of the day that followed the birthday.
Not a glimmer of light had broken in on us, so far.
A day or two after, however, the darkness lifted a little.
How, and with what result, you shall presently see.
The Thursday night passed, and nothing happened. With the Friday
morning came two pieces of news.
Item the first: the baker's man declared he had met Rosanna
Spearman, on the previous afternoon, with a thick veil on,
walking towards Frizinghall by the foot-path way over the moor.
It seemed strange that anybody should be mistaken about Rosanna,
whose shoulder marked her out pretty plainly, poor thing--
but mistaken the man must have been; for Rosanna, as you know,
had been all the Thursday afternoon ill up-stairs in her room.
Item the second came through the postman. Worthy Mr. Candy
had said one more of his many unlucky things, when he drove off
in the rain on the birthday night, and told me that a doctor's skin
was waterproof. In spite of his skin, the wet had got through him.
He had caught a chill that night, and was now down with a fever.
The last accounts, brought by the postman, represented him
to be light-headed--talking nonsense as glibly, poor man,
in his delirium as he often talked it in his sober senses.
We were all sorry for the little doctor; but Mr. Franklin appeared
to regret his illness, chiefly on Miss Rachel's account.
From what he said to my lady, while I was in the room
at breakfast-time, he appeared to think that Miss Rachel--
if the suspense about the Moonstone was not soon set at rest--
might stand in urgent need of the best medical advice at
our disposal.
Breakfast had not been over long, when a telegram from Mr. Blake,
the elder, arrived, in answer to his son. It informed us
that he had laid hands (by help of his friend, the Commissioner)
on the right man to help us. The name of him was Sergeant Cuff;
and the arrival of him from London might be expected by the
morning train.
At reading the name of the new police-officer, Mr. Franklin gave a start.
It seems that he had heard some curious anecdotes about Sergeant Cuff,
from his father's lawyer, during his stay in London.
"I begin to hope we are seeing the end of our anxieties already," he said.
"If half the stories I have heard are true, when it comes to unravelling
a mystery, there isn't the equal in England of Sergeant Cuff!"
We all got excited and impatient as the time drew near
for the appearance of this renowned and capable character.
Superintendent Seegrave, returning to us at his appointed time,
and hearing that the Sergeant was expected, instantly shut
himself up in a room, with pen, ink, and paper, to make notes
of the Report which would be certainly expected from him.
I should have liked to have gone to the station myself,
to fetch the Sergeant. But my lady's carriage and horses
were not to be thought of, even for the celebrated Cuff;
and the pony-chaise was required later for Mr. Godfrey.
He deeply regretted being obliged to leave his aunt at such
an anxious time; and he kindly put off the hour of his departure
till as late as the last train, for the purpose of hearing
what the clever London police-officer thought of the case.
But on Friday night he must be in town, having a Ladies'
Charity, in difficulties, waiting to consult him on Saturday
When the time came for the Sergeant's arrival, I went down to the gate
to look out for him.
A fly from the railway drove up as I reached the lodge; and out got
a grizzled, elderly man, so miserably lean that he looked as if
he had not got an ounce of flesh on his bones in any part of him.
He was dressed all in decent black, with a white cravat round his neck.
His face was as sharp as a hatchet, and the skin of it was as yellow
and dry and withered as an autumn leaf. His eyes, of a steely light grey,
had a very disconcerting trick, when they encountered your eyes, of looking
as if they expected something more from you than you were aware of yourself.
His walk was soft; his voice was melancholy; his long lanky fingers
were hooked like claws. He might have been a parson, or an undertaker--
or anything else you like, except what he really was. A more complete
opposite to Superintendent Seegrave than Sergeant Cuff, and a less comforting
officer to look at, for a family in distress, I defy you to discover,
search where you may.
"Is this Lady Verinder's?" he asked.
"Yes, sir."
"I am Sergeant Cuff."
"This way, sir, if you please."
On our road to the house, I mentioned my name and position
in the family, to satisfy him that he might speak to me
about the business on which my lady was to employ him.
Not a word did he say about the business, however, for all that.
He admired the grounds, and remarked that he felt the sea
air very brisk and refreshing. I privately wondered,
on my side, how the celebrated Cuff had got his reputation.
We reached the house, in the temper of two strange dogs,
coupled up together for the first time in their lives by the
same chain.
Asking for my lady, and hearing that she was in one of the conservatories,
we went round to the gardens at the back, and sent a servant to seek her.
While we were waiting, Sergeant Cuff looked through the evergreen
arch on our left, spied out our rosery, and walked straight in,
with the first appearance of anything like interest that he had shown yet.
To the gardener's astonishment, and to my disgust, this celebrated
policeman proved to be quite a mine of learning on the trumpery subject of
"Ah, you've got the right exposure here to the south and sou'-west,"
says the Sergeant, with a wag of his grizzled head, and a streak
of pleasure in his melancholy voice. "This is the shape for a rosery--
nothing like a circle set in a square. Yes, yes; with walks
between all the beds. But they oughtn't to be gravel walks
like these. Grass, Mr. Gardener--grass walks between your roses;
gravel's too hard for them. That's a sweet pretty bed of white
roses and blush roses. They always mix well together, don't they?
Here's the white musk rose, Mr. Betteredge--our old English rose
holding up its head along with the best and the newest of them.
Pretty dear!" says the Sergeant, fondling the Musk Rose with
his lanky fingers, and speaking to it as if he was speaking to
a child.
This was a nice sort of man to recover Miss Rachel's Diamond,
and to find out the thief who stole it!
"You seem to be fond of roses, Sergeant?" I remarked.
"I haven't much time to be fond of anything, 'says Sergeant Cuff.
"But when I HAVE a moment's fondness to bestow, most times,
Mr. Betteredge, the roses get it. I began my life among them
in my father's nursery garden, and I shall end my life among them,
if I can. Yes. One of these days (please God) I shall retire
from catching thieves, and try my hand at growing roses.
There will be grass walks, Mr. Gardener, between my beds,"
says the Sergeant, on whose mind the gravel paths of our rosery seemed
to dwell unpleasantly.
"It seems an odd taste, sir," I ventured to say, "for a man
in your line of life."
"If you will look about you (which most people won't do),"
says Sergeant Cuff, "you will see that the nature of a man's
tastes is, most times, as opposite as possible to the nature
of a man's business. Show me any two things more opposite
one from the other than a rose and a thief; and I'll correct
my tastes accordingly--if it isn't too late at my time of life.
You find the damask rose a goodish stock for most of the tender sorts,
don't you, Mr. Gardener? Ah! I thought so. Here's a lady coming.
Is it Lady Verinder?"
He had seen her before either I or the gardener had seen her,
though we knew which way to look, and he didn't. I began
to think him rather a quicker man than he appeared to be at
first sight.
The Sergeant's appearance, or the Sergeant's errand--
one or both--seemed to cause my lady some little embarrassment.
She was, for the first time in all my experience of her,
at a loss what to say at an interview with a stranger.
Sergeant Cuff put her at her ease directly. He asked if any other
person had been employed about the robbery before we sent for him;
and hearing that another person had been called in, and was now
in the house, begged leave to speak to him before anything else
was done.
My lady led the way back. Before he followed her, the Sergeant relieved his
mind on the subject of the gravel walks by a parting word to the gardener.
"Get her ladyship to try grass," he said, with a sour look at the paths.
"No gravel! no gravel!"
Why Superintendent Seegrave should have appeared to be several
sizes smaller than life, on being presented to Sergeant Cuff,
I can't undertake to explain. I can only state the fact.
They retired together; and remained a weary long time shut up
from all mortal intrusion. When they came out, Mr. Superintendent
was excited, and Mr. Sergeant was yawning.
"The Sergeant wishes to see Miss Verinder's sitting-room,"
says Mr. Seegrave, addressing me with great pomp and eagerness.
"The Sergeant may have some questions to ask. Attend the Sergeant,
if you please!"
While I was being ordered about in this way, I looked at the great Cuff.
The great Cuff, on his side, looked at Superintendent Seegrave
in that quietly expecting way which I have already noticed.
I can't affirm that he was on the watch for his brother officer's
speedy appearance in the character of an Ass--I can only say that I
strongly suspected it.
I led the way up-stairs. The Sergeant went softly all over
the Indian cabinet and all round the "boudoir;" asking questions
(occasionally only of Mr. Superintendent, and continually of me),
the drift of which I believe to have been equally unintelligible
to both of us. In due time, his course brought him to the door,
and put him face to face with the decorative painting that you know of.
He laid one lean inquiring finger on the small smear, just under
the lock, which Superintendent Seegrave had already noticed,
when he reproved the women-servants for all crowding together into
the room.
"That's a pity," says Sergeant Cuff. "How did it happen?"
He put the question to me. I answered that the women-servants had crowded
into the room on the previous morning, and that some of their petticoats had
done the mischief, "Superintendent Seegrave ordered them out, sir," I added,
"before they did any more harm."
"Right!" says Mr. Superintendent in his military way. "I ordered them out.
The petticoats did it, Sergeant--the petticoats did it."
"Did you notice which petticoat did it?" asked Sergeant Cuff,
still addressing himself, not to his brother-officer, but to me.
"No, sir."
He turned to Superintendent Seegrave upon that, and said, "You noticed,
I suppose?"
Mr. Superintendent looked a little taken aback; but he made the best of it.
"I can't charge my memory, Sergeant," he said, "a mere trifle--a mere trifle."
Sergeant Cuff looked at Mr. Seegrave, as he had looked at the gravel
walks in the rosery, and gave us, in his melancholy way, the first taste
of his quality which we had had yet.
"I made a private inquiry last week, Mr. Superintendent," he said.
"At one end of the inquiry there was a murder, and at the other end
there was a spot of ink on a table cloth that nobody could account for.
In all my experience along the dirtiest ways of this dirty little world,
I have never met with such a thing as a trifle yet. Before we go a step
further in this business we must see the petticoat that made the smear,
and we must know for certain when that paint was wet."
Mr. Superintendent--taking his set-down rather sulkily--
asked if he should summon the women. Sergeant Cuff,
after considering a minute, sighed, and shook his head.
"No," he said, "we'll take the matter of the paint first.
It's a question of Yes or No with the paint--which is short.
It's a question of petticoats with the women--which is long.
What o'clock was it when the servants were in this room
yesterday morning? Eleven o'clock--eh? Is there anybody in
the house who knows whether that paint was wet or dry, at eleven
yesterday morning?"
"Her ladyship's nephew, Mr. Franklin Blake, knows," I said.
"Is the gentleman in the house?"
Mr. Franklin was as close at hand as could be--waiting for his first chance
of being introduced to the great Cuff. In half a minute he was in the room,
and was giving his evidence as follows:
"That door, Sergeant," he said, "has been painted by Miss Verinder,
under my inspection, with my help, and in a vehicle of my own composition.
The vehicle dries whatever colours may be used with it, in twelve hours."
"Do you remember when the smeared bit was done, sir?" asked the Sergeant.
"Perfectly," answered Mr. Franklin. "That was the last morsel of the door
to be finished. We wanted to get it done, on Wednesday last--and I myself
completed it by three in the afternoon, or soon after."
"To-day is Friday," said Sergeant Cuff, addressing himself to
Superintendent Seegrave. "Let us reckon back, sir. At three on
the Wednesday afternoon, that bit of the painting was completed.
The vehicle dried it in twelve hours--that is to say, dried it
by three o'clock on Thursday morning. At eleven on Thursday
morning you held your inquiry here. Take three from eleven,
and eight remains. That paint had been EIGHT HOURS DRY,
Mr. Superintendent, when you supposed that the women-servants'
petticoats smeared it."
First knock-down blow for Mr. Seegrave! If he had not suspected
poor Penelope, I should have pitied him.
Having settled the question of the paint, Sergeant Cuff,
from that moment, gave his brother-officer up as a bad job--
and addressed himself to Mr. Franklin, as the more promising
assistant of the two.
"It's quite on the cards, sir," he said, "that you have put
the clue into our hands."
As the words passed his lips, the bedroom door opened, and Miss Rachel
came out among us suddenly.
She addressed herself to the Sergeant, without appearing to notice
(or to heed) that he was a perfect stranger to her.
"Did you say," she asked, pointing to Mr. Franklin, "that HE
had put the clue into your hands?"
("This is Miss Verinder," I whispered, behind the Sergeant.)
"That gentleman, miss," says the Sergeant--with his steely-grey
eyes carefully studying my young lady's face--"has possibly put
the clue into our hands."
She turned for one moment, and tried to look at Mr. Franklin.
I say, tried, for she suddenly looked away again before their eyes met.
There seemed to be some strange disturbance in her mind.
She coloured up, and then she turned pale again. With the paleness,
there came a new look into her face--a look which it startled me
to see.
"Having answered your question, miss," says the Sergeant,
"I beg leave to make an inquiry in my turn. There is a smear
on the painting of your door, here. Do you happen to know
when it was done? or who did it?"
Instead of making any reply, Miss Rachel went on with her questions,
as if he had not spoken, or as if she had not heard him.
"Are you another police-officer?" she asked.
"I am Sergeant Cuff, miss, of the Detective Police."
"Do you think a young lady's advice worth having?"
"I shall be glad to hear it, miss."
"Do your duty by yourself--and don't allow Mr Franklin Blake to help you!"
She said those words so spitefully, so savagely, with such
an extraordinary outbreak of ill-will towards Mr. Franklin,
in her voice and in her look, that--though I had known her from
a baby, though I loved and honoured her next to my lady herself--
I was ashamed of Miss Rachel for the first time in my life.
Sergeant Cuff's immovable eyes never stirred from off her face.
"Thank you, miss," he said. "Do you happen to know anything about
the smear? Might you have done it by accident yourself?"
"I know nothing about the smear."
With that answer, she turned away, and shut herself up again in her
bed-room. This time, I heard her--as Penelope had heard her before--
burst out crying as soon as she was alone again.
I couldn't bring myself to look at the Sergeant--I looked at Mr. Franklin,
who stood nearest to me. He seemed to be even more sorely distressed at what
had passed than I was.
"I told you I was uneasy about her," he said. "And now you see why."
"Miss Verinder appears to be a little out of temper about the loss
of her Diamond," remarked the Sergeant. "It's a valuable jewel.
Natural enough! natural enough!"
Here was the excuse that I had made for her (when she forgot
herself before Superintendent Seegrave, on the previous day)
being made for her over again, by a man who couldn't have had
MY interest in making it--for he was a perfect stranger!
A kind of cold shudder ran through me, which I couldn't
account for at the time. I know, now, that I must have got my
first suspicion, at that moment, of a new light (and horrid light)
having suddenly fallen on the case, in the mind of Sergeant Cuff--
purely and entirely in consequence of what he had seen in
Miss Rachel, and heard from Miss Rachel, at that first interview
between them.
"A young lady's tongue is a privileged member, sir," says the Sergeant
to Mr. Franklin. "Let us forget what has passed, and go straight on
with this business. Thanks to you, we know when the paint was dry.
The next thing to discover is when the paint was last seen without
that smear. YOU have got a head on your shoulders--and you understand
what I mean."
Mr. Franklin composed himself, and came back with an effort from Miss
Rachel to the matter in hand.
"I think I do understand," he said. "The more we narrow the question of time,
the more we also narrow the field of inquiry."
"That's it, sir," said the Sergeant. "Did you notice your work here,
on the Wednesday afternoon, after you had done it?"
Mr. Franklin shook his head, and answered, "I can't say I did."
"Did you?" inquired Sergeant Cuff, turning to me.
"I can't say I did either, sir."
"Who was the last person in the room, the last thing on Wednesday night?"
"Miss Rachel, I suppose, sir."
Mr. Franklin struck in there, "Or possibly your daughter, Betteredge."
He turned to Sergeant Cuff, and explained that my daughter was Miss
Verinder's maid.
"Mr. Betteredge, ask your daughter to step up. Stop!" says the Sergeant,
taking me away to the window, out of earshot, "Your Superintendent here,"
he went on, in a whisper, "has made a pretty full report to me
of the manner in which he has managed this case. Among other things,
he has, by his own confession, set the servants' backs up. It's very
important to smooth them down again. Tell your daughter, and tell
the rest of them, these two things, with my compliments: First, that I
have no evidence before me, yet, that the Diamond has been stolen;
I only know that the Diamond has been lost. Second, that my business
here with the servants is simply to ask them to lay their heads together
and help me to find it."
My experience of the women-servants, when Superintendent Seegrave
laid his embargo on their rooms, came in handy here.
"May I make so bold, Sergeant, as to tell the women a third thing?"
I asked. "Are they free (with your compliments) to fidget up
and downstairs, and whisk in and out of their bed-rooms, if the fit
takes them?"
"Perfectly free," said the Sergeant.
"THAT will smooth them down, sir," I remarked, "from the cook
to the scullion."
"Go, and do it at once, Mr. Betteredge."
I did it in less than five minutes. There was only one difficulty when I
came to the bit about the bed-rooms. It took a pretty stiff exertion
of my authority, as chief, to prevent the whole of the female household
from following me and Penelope up-stairs, in the character of volunteer
witnesses in a burning fever of anxiety to help Sergeant Cuff.
The Sergeant seemed to approve of Penelope. He became a trifle less dreary;
and he looked much as he had looked when he noticed the white musk rose
in the flower-garden. Here is my daughter's evidence, as drawn off from
her by the Sergeant. She gave it, I think, very prettily--but, there! she
is my child all over: nothing of her mother in her; Lord bless you,
nothing of her mother in her!
Penelope examined: Took a lively interest in the painting
on the door, having helped to mix the colours. Noticed the bit
of work under the lock, because it was the last bit done.
Had seen it, some hours afterwards, without a smear.
Had left it, as late as twelve at night, without a smear.
Had, at that hour, wished her young lady good night in the bedroom;
had heard the clock strike in the "boudoir"; had her hand
at the time on the handle of the painted door; knew the paint
was wet (having helped to mix the colours, as aforesaid);
took particular pains not to touch it; could swear that she
held up the skirts of her dress, and that there was no smear
on the paint then; could not swear that her dress mightn't
have touched it accidentally in going out; remembered the dress
she had on, because it was new, a present from Miss Rachel;
her father remembered, and could speak to it, too; could, and would,
and did fetch it; dress recognised by her father as the dress
she wore that night; skirts examined, a long job from the size
of them; not the ghost of a paint-stain discovered anywhere.
End of Penelope's evidence--and very pretty and convincing, too.
Signed, Gabriel Betteredge.
The Sergeant's next proceeding was to question me about any
large dogs in the house who might have got into the room,
and done the mischief with a whisk of their tails.
Hearing that this was impossible, he next sent for a
magnifying-glass, and tried how the smear looked, seen that way.
No skin-mark (as of a human hand) printed off on the paint.
All the signs visible--signs which told that the paint had been
smeared by some loose article of somebody's dress touching
it in going by. That somebody (putting together Penelope's
evidence and Mr. Franklin's evidence) must have been in the room,
and done the mischief, between midnight and three o'clock
on the Thursday morning.
Having brought his investigation to this point, Sergeant Cuff discovered
that such a person as Superintendent Seegrave was still left in the room,
upon which he summed up the proceedings for his brother-officer's benefit,
as follows:
"This trifle of yours, Mr. Superintendent," says the Sergeant,
pointing to the place on the door, "has grown a little in importance
since you noticed it last. At the present stage of the inquiry there are,
as I take it, three discoveries to make, starting from that smear.
Find out (first) whether there is any article of dress in this house with
the smear of the paint on it. Find out (second) who that dress belongs to.
Find out (third) how the person can account for having been in this room,
and smeared the paint, between midnight and three in the morning.
If the person can't satisfy you, you haven't far to look for the hand that
has got the Diamond. I'll work this by myself, if you please, and detain
you no longer-from your regular business in the town. You have got one
of your men here, I see. Leave him here at my disposal, in case I want him--
and allow me to wish you good morning."
Superintendent Seegrave's respect for the Sergeant was great;
but his respect for himself was greater still. Hit hard by the
celebrated Cuff, he hit back smartly, to the best of his ability,
on leaving the room.
"I have abstained from expressing any opinion, so far,"
says Mr. Superintendent, with his military voice still
in good working order. "I have now only one remark to
offer on leaving this case in your hands. There IS such
a thing, Sergeant, as making a mountain out of a molehill.
Good morning."
"There is also such a thing as making nothing out of a molehill,
in consequence of your head being too high to see it."
Having returned his brother-officer's compliments in those terms,
Sergeant Cuff wheeled about, and walked away to the window
by himself.
Mr. Franklin and I waited to see what was coming next.
The Sergeant stood at the window with his hands in his pockets,
looking out, and whistling the tune of "The Last Rose of Summer"
softly to himself. Later in the proceedings, I discovered
that he only forgot his manners so far as to whistle, when his
mind was hard at work, seeing its way inch by inch to its own
private ends, on which occasions "The Last Rose of Summer"
evidently helped and encouraged him. I suppose it fitted
in somehow with his character. It reminded him, you see, of his
favourite roses, and, as HE whistled it, it was the most melancholy
tune going.
Turning from the window, after a minute or two, the Sergeant
walked into the middle of the room, and stopped there,
deep in thought, with his eyes on Miss Rachel's bed-room door.
After a little he roused himself, nodded his head, as much
as to say, "That will do," and, addressing me, asked for
ten minutes' conversation with my mistress, at her ladyship's
earliest convenience.
Leaving the room with this message, I heard Mr. Franklin ask the Sergeant
a question, and stopped to hear the answer also at the threshold of the door.
"Can you guess yet," inquired Mr. Franklin, "who has stolen the Diamond?"
"NOBODY HAS STOLEN THE DIAMOND," answered Sergeant Cuff.
We both started at that extraordinary view of the case,
and both earnestly begged him to tell us what he meant.
"Wait a little," said the Sergeant. "The pieces of the puzzle
are not all put together yet."
I found my lady in her own sitting room. She started and looked
annoyed when I mentioned that Sergeant Cuff wished to speak to her.
"MUST I see him?" she asked. "Can't you represent me, Gabriel?"
I felt at a loss to understand this, and showed it plainly, I suppose,
in my face. My lady was so good as to explain herself.
"I am afraid my nerves are a little shaken," she said.
"There is something in that police-officer from London which I
recoil from--I don't know why. I have a presentiment that
he is bringing trouble and misery with him into the house.
Very foolish, and very unlike ME--but so it is."
I hardly knew what to say to this. The more I saw of Sergeant Cuff,
the better I liked him. My lady rallied a little after having opened
her heart to me--being, naturally, a woman of a high courage, as I have
already told you.
"If I must see him, I must," she said. "But I can't prevail on myself
to see him alone. Bring him in, Gabriel, and stay here as long as he stays."
This was the first attack of the megrims that I remembered
in my mistress since the time when she was a young girl.
I went back to the "boudoir." Mr. Franklin strolled out into
the garden, and joined Mr. Godfrey, whose time for departure
was now drawing near. Sergeant Cuff and I went straight to my
mistress's room.
I declare my lady turned a shade paler at the sight of him!
She commanded herself, however, in other respects, and asked
the Sergeant if he had any objection to my being present.
She was so good as to add, that I was her trusted adviser,
as well as her old servant, and that in anything which related
to the household I was the person whom it might be most
profitable to consult. The Sergeant politely answered
that he would take my presence as a favour, having something
to say about the servants in general, and having found
my experience in that quarter already of some use to him.
My lady pointed to two chairs, and we set in for our
conference immediately.
"I have already formed an opinion on this case, says Sergeant Cuff,
"which I beg your ladyship's permission to keep to myself for the present.
My business now is to mention what I have discovered up-stairs in Miss
Verinder's sitting-room, and what I have decided (with your ladyship's leave)
on doing next."
He then went into the matter of the smear on the paint, and stated
the conclusions he drew from it--just as he had stated them
(only with greater respect of language) to Superintendent Seegrave.
"One thing," he said, in conclusion, "is certain. The Diamond is missing
out of the drawer in the cabinet. Another thing is next to certain.
The marks from the smear on the door must be on some article of dress
belonging to somebody in this house. We must discover that article of
dress before we go a step further."
"And that discovery," remarked my mistress, "implies, I presume,
the discovery of the thief?"
"I beg your ladyship's pardon--I don't say the Diamond is stolen.
I only say, at present, that the Diamond is missing. The discovery
of the stained dress may lead the way to finding it."
Her ladyship looked at me. "Do you understand this?" she said.
"Sergeant Cuff understands it, my lady," I answered.
"How do you propose to discover the stained dress?" inquired my mistress,
addressing herself once more to the Sergeant. "My good servants,
who have been with me for years, have, I am ashamed to say, had their
boxes and rooms searched already by the other officer. I can't and won't
permit them to be insulted in that way a second time!"
(There was a mistress to serve! There was a woman in ten thousand,
if you like!)
"That is the very point I was about to put to your ladyship,"
said the Sergeant. "The other officer has done a world of harm
to this inquiry, by letting the servants see that he suspected them.
If I give them cause to think themselves suspected a second time,
there's no knowing what obstacles they may not throw in my way--
the women especially. At the same time, their boxes must be
searched again--for this plain reason, that the first investigation
only looked for the Diamond, and that the second investigation
must look for the stained dress. I quite agree with you,
my lady, that the servants' feelings ought to be consulted.
But I am equally clear that the servants' wardrobes ought to
be searched."
This looked very like a dead-lock. My lady said so, in choicer language
than mine.
"I have got a plan to meet the difficulty," said Sergeant Cuff,
"if your ladyship will consent to it. I propose explaining the case
to the servants."
"The women will think themselves suspected directly, I said,
interrupting him.
"The women won't, Mr. Betteredge," answered the Sergeant, "if I
can tell them I am going to examine the wardrobes of EVERYBODY--
from her ladyship downwards--who slept in the house on Wednesday night.
It's a mere formality," he added, with a side look at my mistress;
"but the servants will accept it as even dealing between them
and their betters; and, instead of hindering the investigation,
they will make a point of honour of assisting it."
I saw the truth of that. My lady, after her first surprise was over,
saw the truth of it also.
"You are certain the investigation is necessary?" she said.
"It's the shortest way that I can see, my lady, to the end we have in view."
My mistress rose to ring the bell for her maid. "You shall speak
to the servants," she said, "with the keys of my wardrobe in your hand."
Sergeant Cuff stopped her by a very unexpected question.
"Hadn't we better make sure first," he asked, "that the other ladies
and gentlemen in the house will consent, too?"
"The only other lady in the house is Miss Verinder," answered my mistress,
with a look of surprise. "The only gentlemen are my nephews, Mr. Blake
and Mr. Ablewhite. There is not the least fear of a refusal from any of
the three."
I reminded my lady here that Mr. Godfrey was going away.
As I said the words, Mr. Godfrey himself knocked at the door to say
good-bye, and was followed in by Mr. Franklin, who was going
with him to the station. My lady explained the difficulty.
Mr. Godfrey settled it directly. He called to Samuel,
through the window, to take his portmanteau up-stairs again,
and he then put the key himself into Sergeant Cuff's hand.
"My luggage can follow me to London," he said, "when the inquiry
is over." The Sergeant received the key with a becoming apology.
"I am sorry to put you to any inconvenience, sir, for a
mere formality; but the example of their betters will do wonders
in reconciling the servants to this inquiry." Mr. Godfrey,
after taking leave of my lady, in a most sympathising manner?
left a farewell message for Miss Rachel, the terms of which made
it clear to my mind that he had not taken No for an answer,
and that he meant to put the marriage question to her once more,
at the next opportunity. Mr. Franklin, on following his
cousin out, informed the Sergeant that all his clothes were open
to examination, and that nothing he possessed was kept under
lock and key. Sergeant Cuff made his best acknowledgments.
His views, you will observe, had been met with the utmost
readiness by my lady, by Mr. Godfrey, and by Mr. Franklin.
There was only Miss. Rachel now wanting to follow their lead,
before we-called the servants together, and began the search for the
stained dress.
My lady's unaccountable objection to the Sergeant seemed to make
our conference more distasteful to her than ever, as soon as we
were left alone again. "If I send you down Miss Verinder's keys,"
she said to him, "I presume I shall have done all you want of me
for the present?"
"I beg your ladyship's pardon," said Sergeant Cuff. "Before we begin,
I should like, if convenient, to have the washing-book. The stained article
of dress may be an article of linen. If the search leads to nothing,
I want to be able to account next for all the linen in the house,
and for all the linen sent to the wash. If there is an article missing,
there will be at least a presumption that it has got the paint-stain on it,
and that it has been purposely made away with, yesterday or to-day,
by the person owning it. Superintendent Seegrave," added the Sergeant,
turning to me, "pointed the attention of the women-servants to the smear,
when they all crowded into the room on Thursday morning. That may turn out,
Mr. Betteredge, to have been one more of Superintendent Seegrave's
many mistakes."
My lady desired me to ring the bell, and order the washing-book.
She remained with us until it was produced, in case Sergeant Cuff
had any further request to make of her after looking at it.
The washing-book was brought in by Rosanna Spearman. The girl had come
down to breakfast that morning miserably pale and haggard, but sufficiently
recovered from her illness of the previous day to do her usual work.
Sergeant Cuff looked attentively at our second housemaid--at her face,
when she came in; at her crooked shoulder, when she went out.
"Have you anything more to say to me?" asked my lady, still as eager
as ever to be out of the Sergeant's society.
The great Cuff opened the washing-book, understood it perfectly in half
a minute, and shut it up again. "I venture to trouble your ladyship
with one last question," he said. "Has the young woman who brought us
this book been in your employment as long as the other servants?"
"Why do you ask?" said my lady.
"The last time I saw her," answered the Sergeant, "she was in prison
for theft."
After that, there was no help for it, but to tell him the truth.
My mistress dwelt strongly on Rosanna's good conduct in her service,
and on the high opinion entertained of her by the matron at the reformatory.
"You don't suspect her, I hope?" my lady added, in conclusion,
very earnestly.
"I have already told your ladyship that I don't suspect any person
in the house of thieving--up to the present time."
After that answer, my lady rose to go up-stairs, and ask
for Miss Rachel's keys. The Sergeant was before-hand with me
in opening the door for her. He made a very low bow.
My lady shuddered as she passed him.
We waited, and waited, and no keys appeared. Sergeant Cuff made
no remark to me. He turned his melancholy face to the window;
he put his lanky hands into his pockets; and he whistled "The Last
Rose of Summer" softly to himself.
At last, Samuel came in, not with the keys, but with a morsel of paper
for me. I got at my spectacles, with some fumbling and difficulty,
feeling the Sergeant's dismal eyes fixed on me all the time.
There were two or three lines on the paper, written in pencil by my lady.
They informed me that Miss Rachel flatly refused to have her
wardrobe examined. Asked for her reasons, she had burst out crying.
Asked again, she had said: "I won't, because I won't. I must
yield to force if you use it, but I will yield to nothing else."
I understood my lady's disinclination to face Sergeant Cuff with such
an answer from her daughter as that. If I had not been too old
for the amiable weaknesses of youth, I believe I should have blushed
at the notion of facing him myself.
"Any news of Miss Verinder's keys?" asked the Sergeant.
"My young lady refuses to have her wardrobe examined."
"Ah!" said the Sergeant.
His voice was not quite in such a perfect state of discipline as his face.
When he said "Ah!" he said it in the tone of a man who had heard something
which he expected to hear. He half angered and half frightened me--why, I
couldn't tell, but he did it.
"Must the search be given up?" I asked.
"Yes," said the Sergeant, "the search must be given up,
because your young lady refuses to submit to it like the rest.
We must examine all the wardrobes in the house or none.
Send Mr. Ablewhite's portmanteau to London by the next train,
and return the washing-book, with my compliments and thanks,
to the young woman who brought it in."
He laid the washing-book on the table, and taking out his penknife,
began to trim his nails.
"You don't seem to be much disappointed," I said.
"No," said Sergeant Cuff; "I am not much disappointed."
I tried to make him explain himself.
"Why should Miss Rachel put an obstacle in your way?" I inquired.
"Isn't it her interest to help you?"
"Wait a little, Mr. Betteredge--wait a little."
Cleverer heads than mine might have seen his drift. Or a person
less fond of Miss Rachel than I was, might have seen his drift.
My lady's horror of him might (as I have since thought)
have meant that she saw his drift (as the scripture says)
"in a glass darkly." I didn't see it yet--that's all
I know.
"What's to be done next?" I asked.
Sergeant Cuff finished the nail on which he was then at work,
looked at it for a moment with a melancholy interest, and put up
his penknife.
"Come out into the garden," he said " and let's have a look at the roses."
The nearest way to the garden, on going out of my lady's sitting-room,
was by the shrubbery path, which you already know of. For the sake
of your better understanding of what is now to come, I may add to this,
that the shrubbery path was Mr. Franklin's favourite walk. When he was
out in the grounds, and when we failed to find him anywhere else,
we generally found him here.
I am afraid I must own that I am rather an obstinate old man.
The more firmly Sergeant Cuff kept his thoughts shut up from me,
the more firmly I persisted in trying to look in at them.
As we turned into the shrubbery path, I attempted to circumvent
him in another way.
"As things are now," I said, "if I was in your place, I should be at
my wits' end."
"If you were in my place," answered the Sergeant, "you would have formed
an opinion--and, as things are now, any doubt you might previously
have felt about your own conclusions would be completely set at rest.
Never mind for the present what those conclusions are, Mr. Betteredge.
I haven't brought you out here to draw me like a badger; I have brought you
out here to ask for some information. You might have given it to me no doubt,
in the house, instead of out of it. But doors and listeners have a knack
of getting together; and, in my line of life, we cultivate a healthy taste
for the open air."
Who was to circumvent THIS man? I gave in--and waited as patiently
as I could to hear what was coming next.
"We won't enter into your young lady's motives," the Sergeant went on;
"we will only say it's a pity she declines to assist me, because,
by so doing, she makes this investigation more difficult than it
might otherwise have been. We must now try to solve the mystery
of the smear on the door--which, you may take my word for it,
means the mystery of the Diamond also--in some other way.
I have decided to see the servants, and to search their thoughts
and actions, Mr. Betteredge, instead of searching their wardrobes.
Before I begin, however, I want to ask you a question or two.
You are an observant man--did you notice anything strange in any of
the servants (making due allowance, of course, for fright and fluster),
after the loss of the Diamond was found out? Any particular quarrel
among them? Any one of them not in his or her usual spirits?
Unexpectedly out of temper, for instance? or unexpectedly
taken ill?"
I had just time to think of Rosanna Spearman's sudden illness
at yesterday's dinner--but not time to make any answer--when I saw
Sergeant Cuff's eyes suddenly turn aside towards the shrubbery;
and I heard him say softly to himself, "Hullo!"
"What's the matter?" I asked.
"A touch of the rheumatics in my back," said the Sergeant,
in a loud voice, as if he wanted some third person to hear us.
"We shall have a change in the weather before long."
A few steps further brought us to the corner of the house.
Turning off sharp to the right, we entered on the terrace,
and went down, by the steps in the middle, into the garden below.
Sergeant Cuff stopped there, in the open space, where we could see
round us on every side.
"About that young person, Rosanna Spearman?" he said.
"It isn't very likely, with her personal appearance, that she
has got a lover. But, for the girl's own sake, I must ask you
at once whether SHE has provided herself with a sweetheart,
poor wretch, like the rest of them?"
What on earth did he mean, under present circumstances,
by putting such a question to me as that? I stared at him,
instead of answering him.
"I saw Rosanna Spearman hiding in the shrubbery as we went by,"
said the Sergeant.
"When you said 'Hullo'?"
"Yes--when I said 'Hullo!' If there's a sweetheart in the case,
the hiding doesn't much matter. If there isn't--as things are
in this house--the hiding is a highly suspicious circumstance,
and it will be my painful duty to act on it accordingly."
What, in God's name, was I to say to him? I knew the shrubbery
was Mr. Franklin's favourite walk; I knew he would most
likely turn that way when he came back from the station;
I knew that Penelope had over and over again caught her
fellow-servant hanging about there, and had always declared to me
that Rosanna's object was to attract Mr. Franklin's attention.
If my daughter was right, she might well have been lying in wait
for Mr. Franklin's return when the Sergeant noticed her.
I was put between the two difficulties of mentioning Penelope's
fanciful notion as if it was mine, or of leaving an unfortunate
creature to suffer the consequences, the very serious consequences,
of exciting the suspicion of Sergeant Cuff. Out of pure pity
for the girl--on my soul and my character, out of pure pity
for the girl--I gave the Sergeant the necessary explanations,
and told him that Rosanna had been mad enough to set her heart on
Mr. Franklin Blake.
Sergeant Cuff never laughed. On the few occasions when anything amused him,
he curled up a little at the corners of the lips, nothing more. He curled
up now.
"Hadn't you better say she's mad enough to be an ugly girl and only
a servant?" he asked. "The falling in love with a gentleman of Mr. Franklin
Blake's manners and appearance doesn't seem to me to be the maddest part
of her conduct by any means. However, I'm glad the thing is cleared up:
it relieves one's mind to have things cleared up. Yes, I'll keep it
a secret, Mr. Betteredge. I like to be tender to human infirmity--
though I don't get many chances of exercising that virtue in my line of life.
You think Mr. Franklin Blake hasn't got a suspicion of the girl's fancy
for him? Ah! he would have found it out fast enough if she had been
nice-looking. The ugly women have a bad time of it in this world;
let's hope it will be made up to them in another. You have got a nice
garden here, and a well-kept lawn. See for yourself how much better
the flowers look with grass about them instead of gravel. No, thank you.
I won't take a rose. It goes to my heart to break them off the stem.
Just as it goes to your heart, you know, when there's something wrong
in the servants' hall. Did you notice anything you couldn't account
for in any of the servants when the loss of the Diamond was first
found out?"
I had got on very fairly well with Sergeant Cuff so far.
But the slyness with which he slipped in that last question
put me on my guard. In plain English, I didn't at all relish
the notion of helping his inquiries, when those inquiries
took him (in the capacity of snake in the grass) among my
"I noticed nothing," I said, "except that we all lost our heads together,
myself included."
"Oh," says the Sergeant, "that's all you have to tell me,
is it?"
I answered, with (as I flattered myself) an unmoved countenance,
"That is all."
Sergeant Cuff's dismal eyes looked me hard in the face.
"Mr. Betteredge," he said, "have you any objection to oblige me
by shaking hands? I have taken an extraordinary liking to you."
(Why he should have chosen the exact moment when I was deceiving him
to give me that proof of his good opinion, is beyond all comprehension!
I felt a little proud--I really did feel a little proud of having been one
too many at last for the celebrated Cuff!)
We went back to the house; the Sergeant requesting that I would
give him a room to himself, and then send in the servants
(the indoor servants only), one after another, in the order
of their rank, from first to last.
I showed Sergeant Cuff into my own room, and then called the servants
together in the hall. Rosanna Spearman appeared among them, much as usual.
She was as quick in her way as the Sergeant in his, and I suspect she
had heard what he said to me about the servants in general, just before
he discovered her. There she was, at any rate, looking as if she had
never heard of such a place as the shrubbery in her life.
I sent them in, one by one, as desired. The cook was
the first to enter the Court of Justice, otherwise my room.
She remained but a short time. Report, on coming out:
"Sergeant Cuff is depressed in his spirits; but Sergeant
Cuff is a perfect gentleman." My lady's own maid followed.
Remained much longer. Report, on coming out: "If Sergeant
Cuff doesn't believe a respectable woman, he might keep
his opinion to himself, at any rate!" Penelope went next.
Remained only a moment or two. Report, on coming out:
"Sergeant Cuff is much to be pitied. He must have been
crossed in love, father, when he was a young man."
The first housemaid followed Penelope. Remained, like my
lady's maid, a long time. Report, on coming out: "I didn't
enter her ladyship's service, Mr. Betteredge, to be doubted
to my face by a low police-officer!" Rosanna Spearman went next.
Remained longer than any of them. No report on coming out--
dead silence, and lips as pale as ashes. Samuel, the footman,
followed Rosanna. Remained a minute or two. Report, on coming out:
"Whoever blacks Sergeant Cuff's boots ought to be ashamed
of himself." Nancy, the kitchen-maid, went last. Remained a minute
or two. Report, on coming out: "Sergeant Cuff has a heart;
HE doesn't cut jokes, Mr. Betteredge, with a poor hard-working
Going into the Court of Justice, when it was all over, to hear if there
were any further commands for me, I found the Sergeant at his old trick--
looking out of window, and whistling "The Last Rose of Summer"
to himself.
"Any discoveries, sir?" I inquired.
"If Rosanna Spearman asks leave to go out," said the Sergeant,
"let the poor thing go; but let me know first."
I might as well have held my tongue about Rosanna and Mr. Franklin!
It was plain enough; the unfortunate girl had fallen under Sergeant
Cuff's suspicions, in spite of all I could do to prevent it.
"I hope you don't think Rosanna is concerned in the loss of the Diamond?"
I ventured to say.
The corners of the Sergeant's melancholy mouth curled up,
and he looked hard in my face, just as he had looked in the garden.
"I think I had better not tell you, Mr. Betteredge," he said.
"You might lose your head, you know, for the second time."
I began to doubt whether I had been one too many for the celebrated Cuff,
after all! It was rather a relief to me that we were interrupted
here by a knock at the door, and a message from the cook.
Rosanna Spearman HAD asked to go out, for the usual reason,
that her head was bad, and she wanted a breath of fresh air.
At a sign from the Sergeant, I said, Yes. "Which is the servants'
way out?" he asked, when the messenger had gone. I showed
him the servants' way out. "Lock the door of your room,"
says the Sergeant; "and if anybody asks for me, say I'm in there,
composing my mind." He curled up again at the corners of the lips,
and disappeared.
Left alone, under those circumstances, a devouring curiosity pushed me
on to make some discoveries for myself.
It was plain that Sergeant Cuff's suspicions of Rosanna had been roused
by something that he had found out at his examination of the servants
in my room. Now, the only two servants (excepting Rosanna herself)
who had remained under examination for any length of time, were my lady's own
maid and the first housemaid, those two being also the women who had taken
the lead in persecuting their unfortunate fellow-servant from the first.
Reaching these conclusions, I looked in on them, casually as it might be,
in the servants' hall, and, finding tea going forward, instantly invited
myself to that meal. (For, NOTA BENE, a drop of tea is to a woman's tongue
what a drop of oil is to a wasting lamp.)
My reliance on the tea-pot, as an ally, did not go unrewarded.
In less than half an hour I knew as much as the Sergeant himself.
My lady's maid and the housemaid, had, it appeared, neither of them
believed in Rosanna's illness of the previous day. These two devils--
I ask your pardon; but how else CAN you describe a couple of spiteful women?--
had stolen up-stairs, at intervals during the Thursday afternoon; had tried
Rosanna's door, and found it locked; had knocked, and not been answered;
had listened, and not heard a sound inside. When the girl had come
down to tea, and had been sent up, still out of sorts, to bed again,
the two devils aforesaid had tried her door once more, and found it locked;
had looked at the keyhole, and found it stopped up; had seen a light
under the door at midnight, and had heard the crackling of a fire (a fire
in a servant's bed-room in the month of June!) at four in the morning.
All this they had told Sergeant Cuff, who, in return for their anxiety
to enlighten him, had eyed them with sour and suspicious looks, and had
shown them plainly that he didn't believe either one or the other.
Hence, the unfavourable reports of him which these two women had brought
out with them from the examination. Hence, also (without reckoning
the influence of the tea-pot), their readiness to let their tongues run
to any length on the subject of the Sergeant's ungracious behaviour
to them.
Having had some experience of the great Cuff's round-about ways,
and having last seen him evidently bent on following Rosanna
privately when she went out for her walk, it seemed clear to me
that he had thought it unadvisable to let the lady's maid
and the housemaid know how materially they had helped him.
They were just the sort of women, if he had treated their evidence
as trustworthy, to have been puffed up by it, and to have said
or done something which would have put Rosanna Spearman on
her guard.
I walked out in the fine summer afternoon, very sorry for the poor girl,
and very uneasy in my mind at the turn things had taken.
Drifting towards the shrubbery, some time later, there I met Mr. Franklin.
After returning from seeing his cousin off at the station,
he had been with my lady, holding a long conversation with her.
She had told him of Miss Rachel's unaccountable refusal to let her
wardrobe be examined; and had put him in such low spirits about my
young lady that he seemed to shrink from speaking on the subject.
The family temper appeared in his face that evening, for the first time in
my experience of him.
"Well, Betteredge," he said, "how does the atmosphere of mystery
and suspicion in which we are all living now, agree with you?
Do you remember that morning when I first came here with the Moonstone?
I wish to God we had thrown it into the quicksand!"
After breaking out in that way, he abstained from speaking
again until he had composed himself. We walked silently,
side by side, for a minute or two, and then he asked me
what had become of Sergeant Cuff. It was impossible to put
Mr. Franklin off with the excuse of the Sergeant being in my room,
composing his mind. I told him exactly what had happened,
mentioning particularly what my lady's maid and the house-maid
had said about Rosanna Spearman.
Mr. Franklin's clear head saw the turn the Sergeant's suspicions had taken,
in the twinkling of an eye.
"Didn't you tell me this morning," he said, "that one of the tradespeople
declared he had met Rosanna yesterday, on the footway to Frizinghall,
when we supposed her to be ill in her room?"
"Yes, sir."
"If my aunt's maid and the other woman have spoken the truth,
you may depend upon it the tradesman did meet her.
The girl's attack of illness was a blind to deceive us.
She had some guilty reason for going to the town secretly.
The paint-stained dress is a dress of hers; and the fire heard
crackling in her room at four in the morning was a fire lit
to destroy it. Rosanna Spearman has stolen the Diamond.
I'll go in directly, and tell my aunt the turn things
have taken."
"Not just yet, if you please, sir," said a melancholy voice behind us.
We both turned about, and found ourselves face to face with Sergeant Cuff.
"Why not just yet?" asked Mr. Franklin.
"Because, sir, if you tell her ladyship, her ladyship will tell
Miss Verinder."
"Suppose she does. What then?" Mr. Franklin said those words with a sudden
heat and vehemence, as if the Sergeant had mortally offended him.
"Do you think it's wise, sir," said Sergeant Cuff, quietly, "to put
such a question as that to me--at such a time as this?"
There was a moment's silence between them: Mr. Franklin walked close
up to the Sergeant. The two looked each other straight in the face.
Mr. Franklin spoke first, dropping his voice as suddenly as he had
raised it.
"I suppose you know, Mr. Cuff," he said, "that you are treading
on delicate ground?"
"It isn't the first time, by a good many hundreds, that I
find myself treading on delicate ground," answered the other,
as immovable as ever.
"I am to understand that you forbid me to tell my aunt what has happened?"
"You are to understand, if you please, sir, that I throw up the case,
if you tell Lady Verinder, or tell anybody, what has happened, until I
give you leave."
That settled it. Mr. Franklin had no choice but to submit.
He turned away in anger--and left us.
I had stood there listening to them, all in a tremble; not knowing
whom to suspect, or what to think next. In the midst of my confusion,
two things, however, were plain to me. First, that my young lady was,
in some unaccountable manner, at the bottom of the sharp speeches that had
passed between them. Second, that they thoroughly understood each other,
without having previously exchanged a word of explanation on either side.
"Mr. Betteredge," says the Sergeant, "you have done a very foolish thing in
my absence. You have done a little detective business on your own account.
For the future, perhaps you will be so obliging as to do your detective
business along with me."
He took me by the arm, and walked me away with him along the road
by which he had come. I dare say I had deserved his reproof--
but I was not going to help him to set traps for Rosanna Spearman,
for all that. Thief or no thief, legal or not legal, I don't care--
I pitied her.
"What do you want of me?" I asked, shaking him off, and stopping short.
"Only a little information about the country round here,"
said the Sergeant.
I couldn't well object to improve Sergeant Cuff in his geography.
"Is there any path, in that direction, leading to the sea-beach
from this house?" asked the Sergeant. He pointed, as he spoke,
to the fir-plantation which led to the Shivering Sand.
"Yes," I said, "there is a path."
"Show it to me."
Side by side, in the grey of the summer evening, Sergeant Cuff and I
set forth for the Shivering Sand.
The Sergeant remained silent, thinking his own thoughts, till we
entered the plantation of firs which led to the quicksand.
There he roused himself, like a man whose mind was made up,
and spoke to me again.
"Mr. Betteredge," he said, "as you have honoured me by taking an oar
in my boat, and as you may, I think, be of some assistance to me before
the evening is out, I see no use in our mystifying one another any longer,
and I propose to set you an example of plain speaking on my side. You are
determined to give me no information to the prejudice of Rosanna Spearman,
because she has been a good girl to YOU, and because you pity her heartily.
Those humane considerations do you a world of credit, but they happen
in this instance to be humane considerations clean thrown away.
Rosanna Spearman is not in the slightest danger of getting into trouble--
no, not if I fix her with being concerned in the disappearance of the Diamond,
on evidence which is as plain as the nose on your face!"
"Do you mean that my lady won't prosecute?" I asked.
"I mean that your lady CAN'T prosecute," said the Sergeant.
"Rosanna Spearman is simply an instrument in the hands
of another person, and Rosanna Spearman will be held harmless
for that other person's sake."
He spoke like a man in earnest--there was no denying that.
Still, I felt something stirring uneasily against him in my mind.
"Can't you give that other person a name?" I said.
"Can't you, Mr. Betteredge?"
Sergeant Cuff stood stock still, and surveyed me with a look
of melancholy interest.
"It's always a pleasure to me to be tender towards human infirmity,"
he said. "I feel particularly tender at the present moment,
Mr. Betteredge, towards you. And you, with the same excellent motive,
feel particularly tender towards Rosanna Spearman, don't you?
Do you happen to know whether she has had a new outfit of
linen lately?"
What he meant by slipping in this extraordinary question unawares,
I was at a total loss to imagine. Seeing no possible injury
to Rosanna if I owned the truth, I answered that the girl had
come to us rather sparely provided with linen, and that my lady,
in recompense for her good conduct (I laid a stress on her good
conduct), had given her a new outfit not a fortnight since.
"This is a miserable world," says the Sergeant. "Human life,
Mr. Betteredge, is a sort of target--misfortune is always firing
at it, and always hitting the mark. But for that outfit,
we should have discovered a new nightgown or petticoat
among Rosanna's things, and have nailed her in that way.
You're not at a loss to follow me, are you? You have examined
the servants yourself, and you know what discoveries two of them
made outside Rosanna's door. Surely you know what the girl
was about yesterday, after she was taken ill? You can't guess?
Oh dear me, it's as plain as that strip of light there,
at the end of the trees. At eleven, on Thursday morning,
Superintendent Seegrave (who is a mass of human infirmity)
points out to all the women servants the smear on the door.
Rosanna has her own reasons for suspecting her own things;
she takes the first opportunity of getting to her room,
finds the paint-stain on her night-gown, or petticoat,
or what not, shams ill and slips away to the town,
gets the materials for making a new petticoat or nightgown,
makes it alone in her room on the Thursday night lights a fire
(not to destroy it; two of her fellow-servants are prying outside
her door, and she knows better than to make a smell of burning,
and to have a lot of tinder to get rid of)--lights a fire, I say,
to dry and iron the substitute dress after wringing it out,
keeps the stained dress hidden (probably ON her), and is at this
moment occupied in making away with it, in some convenient place,
on that lonely bit of beach ahead of us. I have traced her this
evening to your fishing village, and to one particular cottage,
which we may possibly have to visit, before we go back.
She stopped in the cottage for some time, and she came
out with (as I believe) something hidden under her cloak.
A cloak (on a woman's back) is an emblem of charity--
it covers a multitude of sins. I saw her set off northwards
along the coast, after leaving the cottage. Is your sea-shore
here considered a fine specimen of marine landscape,
Mr. Betteredge?"
I answered, "Yes," as shortly as might be.
"Tastes differ," says Sergeant Cuff. "Looking at it from my point
of view, I never saw a marine landscape that I admired less.
If you happen to be following another person along your
sea-coast, and if that person happens to look round, there isn't
a scrap of cover to hide you anywhere. I had to choose
between taking Rosanna in custody on suspicion, or leaving her,
for the time being, with her little game in her own hands.
For reasons which I won't trouble you with, I decided on making
any sacrifice rather than give the alarm as soon as to-night
to a certain person who shall be nameless between us.
I came back to the house to ask you to take me to the north end
of the beach by another way. Sand--in respect of its printing off
people's footsteps--is one of the best detective officers I know.
If we don't meet with Rosanna Spearman by coming round on
her in this way, the sand may tell us what she has been at,
if the light only lasts long enough. Here IS the sand.
If you will excuse my suggesting it--suppose you hold your tongue,
and let me go first?"
If there is such a thing known at the doctor's shop as a DETECTIVE-FEVER,
that disease had now got fast hold of your humble servant. Sergeant Cuff
went on between the hillocks of sand, down to the beach. I followed him
(with my heart in my mouth); and waited at a little distance for what was to
happen next.
As it turned out, I found myself standing nearly in the same place
where Rosanna Spearman and I had been talking together when Mr. Franklin
suddenly appeared before us, on arriving at our house from London.
While my eyes were watching the Sergeant, my mind wandered away in spite
of me to what had passed, on that former occasion, between Rosanna and me.
I declare I almost felt the poor thing slip her hand again into mine,
and give it a little grateful squeeze to thank me for speaking kindly to her.
I declare I almost heard her voice telling me again that the Shivering
Sand seemed to draw her to it against her own will, whenever she went out--
almost saw her face brighten again, as it brightened when she first set
eyes upon Mr. Franklin coming briskly out on us from among the hillocks.
My spirits fell lower and lower as I thought of these things--and the view
of the lonesome little bay, when I looked about to rouse myself, only served
to make me feel more uneasy still.
The last of the evening light was fading away; and over
all the desolate place there hung a still and awful calm.
The heave of the main ocean on the great sandbank out in the bay,
was a heave that made no sound. The inner sea lay lost and dim,
without a breath of wind to stir it. Patches of nasty
ooze floated, yellow-white, on the dead surface of the water.
Scum and slime shone faintly in certain places, where the last
of the light still caught them on the two great spits of rock
jutting out, north and south, into the sea. It was now the time
of the turn of the tide: and even as I stood there waiting,
the broad brown face of the quicksand began to dimple and quiver--
the only moving thing in all the horrid place.
I saw the Sergeant start as the shiver of the sand caught his eye.
After looking at it for a minute or so, he turned and came back
to me.
"A treacherous place, Mr. Betteredge," he said; "and no signs
of Rosanna Spearman anywhere on the beach, look where you may."
He took me down lower on the shore, and I saw for myself that his footsteps
and mine were the only footsteps printed off on the sand.
"How does the fishing village bear, standing where we are now?"
asked Sergeant Cuff.
"Cobb's Hole," I answered (that being the name of the place), "bears
as near as may be, due south."
"I saw the girl this evening, walking northward along the shore,
from Cobb's Hole," said the Sergeant. "Consequently, she must have
been walking towards this place. Is Cobb's Hole on the other side
of that point of land there? And can we get to it--now it's low water--
by the beach?"
I answered, "Yes," to both those questions.
"If you'll excuse my suggesting it, we'll step out briskly,"
said the Sergeant. "I want to find the place where she left
the shore, before it gets dark."
We had walked, I should say, a couple of hundred yards towards Cobb's Hole,
when Sergeant Cuff suddenly went down on his knees on the beach, to all
appearance seized with a sudden frenzy for saying his prayers.
"There's something to be said for your marine landscape here, after all,"
remarked the Sergeant. "Here are a woman's footsteps, Mr. Betteredge!
Let us call them Rosanna's footsteps, until we find evidence to the contrary
that we can't resist. Very confused footsteps, you will please to observe--
purposely confused, I should say. Ah, poor soul, she understands
the detective virtues of sand as well as I do! But hasn't she been
in rather too great a hurry to tread out the marks thoroughly?
I think she has. Here's one footstep going FROM Cobb's Hole;
and here is another going back to it. Isn't that the toe of her
shoe pointing straight to the water's edge? And don't I see two
heel-marks further down the beach, close at the water's edge also?
I don't want to hurt your feelings, but I'm afraid Rosanna is sly.
It looks as if she had determined to get to that place you and I have
just come from, without leaving any marks on the sand to trace her by.
Shall we say that she walked through the water from this point till
she got to that ledge of rocks behind us, and came back the same way,
and then took to the beach again where those two heel marks are
still left? Yes, we'll say that. It seems to fit in with my notion
that she had something under her cloak, when she left the cottage.
No! not something to destroy--for, in that case, where would have been
the need of all these precautions to prevent my tracing the place at
which her walk ended? Something to hide is, I think, the better guess
of the two. Perhaps, if we go on to the cottage, we may find out what that
something is?"
At this proposal, my detective-fever suddenly cooled. "You don't want me,"
I said. "What good can I do?"
"The longer I know you, Mr. Betteredge," said the Sergeant,
"the more virtues I discover. Modesty--oh dear me, how rare
modesty is in this world! and how much of that rarity you possess!
If I go alone to the cottage, the people's tongues will be
tied at the first question I put to them. If I go with you,
I go introduced by a justly respected neighbour, and a flow of
conversation is the necessary result. It strikes me in that light;
how does it strike you?"
Not having an answer of the needful smartness as ready as I could have wished,
I tried to gain time by asking him what cottage he wanted to go to.
On the Sergeant describing the place, I recognised it
as a cottage inhabited by a fisherman named Yolland,
with his wife and two grown-up children, a son and a daughter.
If you will look back, you will find that, in first presenting
Rosanna Spearman to your notice, I have described her
as occasionally varying her walk to the Shivering Sand,
by a visit to some friends of hers at Cobb's Hole.
Those friends were the Yollands--respectable, worthy people,
a credit to the neighbourhood. Rosanna's acquaintance with them
had begun by means of the daughter, who was afflicted with a
misshapen foot, and who was known in our parts by the name
of Limping Lucy. The two deformed girls had, I suppose,
a kind of fellow-feeling for each other. Anyway, the Yollands
and Rosanna always appeared to get on together, at the few
chances they had of meeting, in a pleasant and friendly manner.
The fact of Sergeant Cuff having traced the girl to THEIR cottage,
set the matter of my helping his inquiries in quite a new light.
Rosanna had merely gone where she was in the habit of going;
and to show that she had been in company with the fisherman and
his family was as good as to prove that she had been innocently
occupied so far, at any rate. It would be doing the girl
a service, therefore, instead of an injury, if I allowed myself
to be convinced by Sergeant Cuff's logic. I professed myself
convinced by it accordingly.
We went on to Cobb's Hole, seeing the footsteps on the sand,
as long as the light lasted.
On reaching the cottage, the fisherman and his son proved to be out
in the boat; and Limping Lucy, always weak and weary, was resting on
her bed up-stairs. Good Mrs. Yolland received us alone in her kitchen.
When she heard that Sergeant Cuff was a celebrated character in London,
she clapped a bottle of Dutch gin and a couple of clean pipes on the table,
and stared as if she could never see enough of him.
I sat quiet in a corner, waiting to hear how the Sergeant would
find his way to the subject of Rosanna Spearman. His usual
roundabout manner of going to work proved, on this occasion,
to be more roundabout than ever. How he managed it is more
than I could tell at the time, and more than I can tell now.
But this is certain, he began with the Royal Family,
the Primitive Methodists, and the price of fish; and he got from that
(in his dismal, underground way) to the loss of the Moonstone,
the spitefulness of our first house-maid, and the hard behaviour
of the women-servants generally towards Rosanna Spearman.
Having reached his subject in this fashion, he described himself
as making his inquiries about the lost Diamond, partly with a view
to find it, and partly for the purpose of clearing Rosanna
from the unjust suspicions of her enemies in the house.
In about a quarter of an hour from the time when we entered
the kitchen, good Mrs. Yolland was persuaded that she was
talking to Rosanna's best friend, and was pressing Sergeant
Cuff to comfort his stomach and revive his spirits out of the
Dutch bottle.
Being firmly persuaded that the Sergeant was wasting his breath
to no purpose on Mrs. Yolland, I sat enjoying the talk between them,
much as I have sat, in my time, enjoying a stage play.
The great Cuff showed a wonderful patience; trying his luck
drearily this way and that way, and firing shot after shot,
as it were, at random, on the chance of hitting the mark.
Everything to Rosanna's credit, nothing to Rosanna's prejudice--
that was how it ended, try as he might; with Mrs. Yolland
talking nineteen to the dozen, and placing the most entire
confidence in him. His last effort was made, when we had
looked at our watches, and had got on our legs previous to
taking leave.
"I shall now wish you good-night, ma'am," says the Sergeant.
"And I shall only say, at parting, that Rosanna Spearman has
a sincere well-wisher in myself, your obedient servant.
But, oh dear me! she will never get on in her present place;
and my advice to her is--leave it."
"Bless your heart alive! she is GOING to leave it!" cries Mrs. Yolland.
(NOTA BENE--I translate Mrs. Yolland out of the Yorkshire language into
the English language. When I tell you that the all-accomplished Cuff
was every now and then puzzled to understand her until I helped him,
you will draw your own conclusions as to what your state of mind would be if I
reported her in her native tongue.)
Rosanna Spearman going to leave us! I pricked up my ears at that.
It seemed strange, to say the least of it, that she should have
given no warning, in the first place, to my lady or to me.
A certain doubt came up in my mind whether Sergeant Cuff's last random
shot might not have hit the mark. I began to question whether my share
in the proceedings was quite as harmless a one as I had thought it.
It might be all in the way of the Sergeant's business to mystify
an honest woman by wrapping her round in a network of lies
but it was my duty to have remembered, as a good Protestant,
that the father of lies is the Devil--and that mischief and the Devil
are never far apart. Beginning to smell mischief in the air,
I tried to take Sergeant Cuff out. He sat down again instantly,
and asked for a little drop of comfort out of the Dutch bottle.
Mrs Yolland sat down opposite to him, and gave him his nip.
I went on to the door, excessively uncomfortable, and said I thought I
must bid them good-night--and yet I didn't go.
"So she means to leave?" says the Sergeant. "What is she to do when she
does leave? Sad, sad! The poor creature has got no friends in the world,
except you and me."
"Ah, but she has though!" says Mrs. Yolland. "She came in here,
as I told you, this evening; and, after sitting and talking a little
with my girl Lucy and me she asked to go up-stairs by herself,
into Lucy's room. It's the only room in our place where there's
pen and ink. "I want to write a letter to a friend," she says
"and I can't do it for the prying and peeping of the servants up
at the house." Who the letter was written to I can't tell you:
it must have been a mortal long one, judging by the time she stopped
up-stairs over it. I offered her a postage-stamp when she came down.
She hadn't got the letter in her hand, and she didn't accept the stamp.
A little close, poor soul (as you know), about herself and her doings.
But a friend she has got somewhere, I can tell you; and to that friend
you may depend upon it, she will go."
"Soon?" asked the Sergeant.
"As soon as she can." says Mrs. Yolland.
Here I stepped in again from the door. As chief of my lady's establishment,
I couldn't allow this sort of loose talk about a servant of ours going,
or not going, to proceed any longer in my presence, without noticing it.
"You must be mistaken about Rosanna Spearman, I said.
"If she had been going to leave her present situation, she would
have mentioned it, in the first place, to ME.
"Mistaken?" cries Mrs. Yolland. "Why, only an hour ago she bought some things
she wanted for travelling--of my own self, Mr. Betteredge, in this very room.
And that reminds me," says the wearisome woman, suddenly beginning to feel
in her pocket, "of something I have got it on my mind to say about Rosanna
and her money. Are you either of you likely to see her when you go back to
the house?"
"I'll take a message to the poor thing, with the greatest pleasure,"
answered Sergeant Cuff, before I could put in a word edgewise.
Mrs. Yolland produced out of her pocket, a few shillings and sixpences,
and counted them out with a most particular and exasperating carefulness
in the palm of her hand. She offered the money to the Sergeant,
looking mighty loth to part with it all the while.
"Might I ask you to give this back to Rosanna, with my love
and respects?" says Mrs. Yolland. "She insisted on paying me
for the one or two things she took a fancy to this evening--
and money's welcome enough in our house, I don't deny it.
Still, I m not easy in my mind about taking the poor thing's
little savings. And to tell you the truth, I don't think my man
would like to hear that I had taken Rosanna Spearman's money,
when he comes back to-morrow morning from his work. Please say
she's heartily welcome to the things she bought of me--as a gift.
And don't leave the money on the table," says Mrs. Yolland,
putting it down suddenly before the Sergeant, as if it burnt
her fingers--"don't, there's a good man! For times are hard,
and flesh is weak; and I MIGHT feel tempted to put it back in my
pocket again."
"Come along!" I said, "I can't wait any longer: I must go back
to the house."
"I'll follow you directly," says Sergeant Cuff.
For the second time, I went to the door; and, for the second time,
try as I might, I couldn't cross the threshold.
"It's a delicate matter, ma'am," I heard the Sergeant say,
"giving money back. You charged her cheap for the things,
I'm sure?"
"Cheap!" says Mrs. Yolland. "Come and judge for yourself."
She took up the candle and led the Sergeant to a corner of the kitchen.
For the life of me, I couldn't help following them. Shaken down in the corner
was a heap of odds and ends (mostly old metal), which the fisherman had picked
up at different times from wrecked ships, and which he hadn't found a market
for yet, to his own mind. Mrs. Yolland dived into this rubbish, and brought
up an old japanned tin case, with a cover to it, and a hasp to hang it up by--
the sort of thing they use, on board ship, for keeping their maps and charts,
and such-like, from the wet.
"There!" says she. "When Rosanna came in this evening, she bought the fellow
to that. 'It will just do,' she says, 'to put my cuffs and collars in,
and keep them from being crumpled in my box.' One and ninepence, Mr. Cuff.
As I live by bread, not a halfpenny more!"
"Dirt cheap!" says the Sergeant, with a heavy sigh.
He weighed the case in his hand. I thought I heard a note or two of "The
Last Rose of Summer" as he looked at it. There was no doubt now!
He had made another discovery to the prejudice of Rosanna Spearman,
in the place of all others where I thought her character was safest,
and all through me! I leave you to imagine what I felt, and how sincerely
I repented having been the medium of introduction between Mrs. Yolland and
Sergeant Cuff.
"That will do," I said. "We really must go."
Without paying the least attention to me, Mrs. Yolland took
another dive into the rubbish, and came up out of it, this time,
with a dog-chain.
"Weigh it in your hand, sir," she said to the Sergeant.
"We had three of these; and Rosanna has taken two of them.
'What can you want, my dear, with a couple of dog's chains?'
says I. 'If I join them together they'll do round my box nicely,'
says she. 'Rope's cheapest,' says I. 'Chain's surest,'
says she. 'Who ever heard of a box corded with chain,'
says I. 'Oh, Mrs. Yolland, don't make objections!' says she;
'let me have my chains!' A strange girl, Mr. Cuff--
good as gold, and kinder than a sister to my Lucy--but always
a little strange. There! I humoured her. Three and sixpence.
On the word of an honest woman, three and sixpence,
Mr. Cuff!"
"Each?" says the Sergeant.
"Both together!" says Mrs. Yolland. "Three and sixpence for the two."
"Given away, ma'am," says the Sergeant, shaking his head.
"Clean given away!"
"There's the money," says Mrs. Yolland, getting back sideways to the little
heap of silver on the table, as if it drew her in spite of herself.
"The tin case and the dog chains were all she bought, and all she took away.
One and ninepence and three and sixpence--total, five and three.
With my love and respects--and I can't find it in my conscience to take a poor
girl's savings, when she may want them herself."
"I can't find it in MY conscience, ma'am, to give the money back,"
says Sergeant Cuff. "You have as good as made her a present of the things--
you have indeed."
"Is that your sincere opinion, sir?" says Mrs. Yolland brightening
up wonderfully.
"There can't be a doubt about it," answered the Sergeant.
"Ask Mr. Betteredge."
It was no use asking ME. All they got out of ME was, "Good-night."
"Bother the money!" says Mrs. Yolland. With these words, she appeared to lose
all command over herself; and, making a sudden snatch at the heap of silver,
put it back, holus-bolus, in her pocket. "It upsets one's temper, it does,
to see it lying there, and nobody taking it," cries this unreasonable woman,
sitting down with a thump, and looking at Sergeant Cuff, as much as to say,
"It's in my pocket again now--get it out if you can!"
This time, I not only went to the door, but went fairly out on the road back.
Explain it how you may, I felt as if one or both of them had mortally
offended me. Before I had taken three steps down the village, I heard
the Sergeant behind me.
"Thank you for your introduction, Mr. Betteredge," he said.
"I am indebted to the fisherman's wife for an entirely new sensation.
Mrs. Yolland has puzzled me."
It was on the tip of my tongue to have given him a sharp answer,
for no better reason than this--that I was out of temper with him,
because I was out of temper with myself. But when he owned
to being puzzled, a comforting doubt crossed my mind whether any
great harm had been done after all. I waited in discreet silence
to hear more.
"Yes," says the Sergeant, as if he was actually reading my
thoughts in the dark. "Instead of putting me on the scent,
it may console you to know, Mr. Betteredge (with your interest
in Rosanna), that you have been the means of throwing me off.
What the girl has done, to-night, is clear enough, of course.
She has joined the two chains, and has fastened them to
the hasp in the tin case. She has sunk the case, in the water
or in the quicksand. She has made the loose end of the chain
fast to some place under the rocks, known only to herself.
And she will leave the case secure at its anchorage till
the present proceedings have come to an end; after which she
can privately pull it up again out of its hiding-place,
at her own leisure and convenience. All perfectly plain,
so far. But," says the Sergeant, with the first tone of impatience
in his voice that I had heard yet, "the mystery is--what the devil
has she hidden in the tin case?"
I thought to myself, "The Moonstone!" But I only said to Sergeant Cuff,
"Can't you guess?"
"It's not the Diamond," says the Sergeant. "The whole experience
of my life is at fault, if Rosanna Spearman has got the Diamond."
On hearing those words, the infernal detective-fever began,
I suppose, to burn in me again. At any rate, I forgot myself
in the interest of guessing this new riddle. I said rashly,
"The stained dress!"
Sergeant Cuff stopped short in the dark, and laid his hand on my arm.
"Is anything thrown into that quicksand of yours, ever thrown up
on the surface again?" he asked.
"Never," I answered. "Light or heavy whatever goes into the Shivering
Sand is sucked down, and seen no more."
"Does Rosanna Spearman know that?"
"She knows it as well as I do."
"Then," says the Sergeant, "what on earth has she got to do but to tie
up a bit of stone in the stained dress and throw it into the quicksand?
There isn't the shadow of a reason why she should have hidden it--and yet
she must have hidden it. Query," says the Sergeant, walking on again,
"is the paint-stained dress a petticoat or a night-gown? or is it
something else which there is a reason for preserving at any risk?
Mr. Betteredge, if nothing occurs to prevent it, I must go to Frizinghall
to-morrow, and discover what she bought in the town, when she privately
got the materials for making the substitute dress. It's a risk to leave
the house, as things are now--but it's a worse risk still to stir another
step in this matter in the dark. Excuse my being a little out of temper;
I'm degraded in my own estimation--I have let Rosanna Spearman
puzzle me."
When we got back, the servants were at supper. The first person
we saw in the outer yard was the policeman whom Superintendent
Seegrave had left at the Sergeant's disposal. The Sergeant asked
if Rosanna Spearman had returned. Yes. When? Nearly an hour since.
What had she done? She had gone up-stairs to take off her bonnet
and cloak--and she was now at supper quietly with the rest.
Without making any remark, Sergeant Cuff walked on, sinking lower
and lower in his own estimation, to the back of the house.
Missing the entrance in the dark, he went on (in spite of my calling
to him) till he was stopped by a wicket-gate which led into the garden.
When I joined him to bring him back by the right way, I found
that he was looking up attentively at one particular window,
on the bed-room floor, at the back of the house.
Looking up, in my turn, I discovered that the object of his contemplation
was the window of Miss Rachel's room, and that lights were passing backwards
and forwards there as if something unusual was going on.
"Isn't that Miss Verinder's room?" asked Sergeant Cuff.
I replied that it was, and invited him to go in with me to supper.
The Sergeant remained in his place, and said something about enjoying
the smell of the garden at night. I left him to his enjoyment.
Just as I was turning in at the door, I heard "The Last Rose of Summer"
at the wicket-gate. Sergeant Cuff had made another discovery!
And my young lady's window was at the bottom of it this time!
The latter reflection took me back again to the Sergeant, with a polite
intimation that I could not find it in my heart to leave him by himself.
"Is there anything you don't understand up there?" I added, pointing to Miss
Rachel's window.
Judging by his voice, Sergeant Cuff had suddenly risen again to the right
place in his own estimation. "You are great people for betting in Yorkshire,
are you not?" he asked.
"Well?" I said. "Suppose we are?"
"If I was a Yorkshireman," proceeded the Sergeant, taking my arm,
"I would lay you an even sovereign, Mr. Betteredge,
that your young lady has suddenly resolved to leave the house.
If I won on that event, I should offer to lay another sovereign,
that the idea has occurred to her within the last hour."
The first of the Sergeant's guesses startled me.
The second mixed itself up somehow in my head with the report
we had heard from the policeman, that Rosanna Spearman
had returned from the sands with in the last hour. The two
together had a curious effect on me as we went in to supper.
I shook off Sergeant Cuff's arm, and, forgetting my manners,
pushed by him through the door to make my own inquiries
for myself.
Samuel, the footman, was the first person I met in the passage.
"Her ladyship is waiting to see you and Sergeant Cuff," he said,
before I could put any questions to him.
"How long has she been waiting?" asked the Sergeant's voice behind me.
"For the last hour, sir."
There it was again! Rosanna had come back; Miss Rachel
had taken some resolution out of the common; and my lady had
been waiting to see the Sergeant--all within the last hour!
It was not pleasant to find these very different persons and things
linking themselves together in this way. I went on upstairs,
without looking at Sergeant Cuff, or speaking to him.
My hand took a sudden fit of trembling as I lifted it to knock
at my mistress's door.
"I shouldn't be surprised," whispered the Sergeant over my shoulder,
"if a scandal was to burst up in the house to-night. Don't be alarmed!
I have put the muzzle on worse family difficulties than this,
in my time."
As he said the words I heard my mistress's voice calling to us to come in.
We found my lady with no light in the room but the reading-lamp.
The shade was screwed down so as to overshadow her face.
Instead of looking up at us in her usual straightforward way,
she sat close at the table, and kept her eyes fixed obstinately on
an open book.
"Officer," she said, "is it important to the inquiry you are conducting,
to know beforehand if any person now in this house wishes to leave it?"
"Most important, my lady."
"I have to tell you, then, that Miss Verinder proposes going
to stay with her aunt, Mrs. Ablewhite, of Frizinghall.
She has arranged to leave us the first thing to-morrow morning."
Sergeant Cuff looked at me. I made a step forward to speak to my mistress--
and, feeling my heart fail me (if I must own it), took a step back again,
and said nothing.
"May I ask your ladyship WHEN Miss Verinder informed you that she
was going to her aunt's?" inquired the Sergeant.
"About an hour since," answered my mistress.
Sergeant Cuff looked at me once more. They say old people's hearts
are not very easily moved. My heart couldn't have thumped much
harder than it did now, if I had been five-and-twenty again!
"I have no claim, my lady," says the Sergeant, "to control
Miss Verinder's actions. All I can ask you to do is to put
off her departure, if possible, till later in the day.
I must go to Frizinghall myself to-morrow morning--and I shall
be back by two o'clock, if not before. If Miss Verinder can
be kept here till that time, I should wish to say two words
to her--unexpectedly--before she goes."
My lady directed me to give the coachman her orders, that the carriage
was not to come for Miss Rachel until two o'clock. "Have you more to say?"
she asked of the Sergeant, when this had been done.
"Only one thing, your ladyship. If Miss Verinder is surprised at this
change in the arrangements, please not to mention Me as being the cause
of putting off her journey."
My mistress lifted her head suddenly from her book as if she was going
to say something--checked herself by a great effort--and, looking back
again at the open page, dismissed us with a sign of her hand.
"That's a wonderful woman," said Sergeant Cuff, when we were
out in the hall again. "But for her self-control, the mystery
that puzzles you, Mr. Betteredge, would have been at an end to-night."
At those words, the truth rushed at last into my stupid old head.
For the moment, I suppose I must have gone clean out of my senses.
I seized the Sergeant by the collar of his coat, and pinned him against
the wall.
"Damn you!" I cried out, "there's something wrong about Miss Rachel--
and you have been hiding it from me all this time!"
Sergeant Cuff looked up at me--flat against the wall--without stirring a hand,
or moving a muscle of his melancholy face.
"Ah," he said, "you've guessed it at last."
My hand dropped from his collar, and my head sunk on my breast.
Please to remember, as some excuse for my breaking out
as I did, that I had served the family for fifty years.
Miss Rachel had climbed upon my knees, and pulled my whiskers,
many and many a time when she was a child. Miss Rachel,
with all her faults, had been, to my mind, the dearest and
prettiest and best young mistress that ever an old servant
waited on, and loved. I begged Sergeant's Cuff's pardon,
but I am afraid I did it with watery eyes, and not in a very
becoming way.
"Don't distress yourself, Mr. Betteredge," says the Sergeant,
with more kindness than I had any right to expect from him.
"In my line of life if we were quick at taking offence, we shouldn't
be worth salt to our porridge. If it's any comfort to you,
collar me again. You don't in the least know how to do it;
but I'll overlook your awkwardness in consideration of
your feelings."
He curled up at the corners of his lips, and, in his own dreary way,
seemed to think he had delivered himself of a very good joke.
I led him into my own little sitting-room, and closed the door.
"Tell me the truth, Sergeant," I said. "What do you suspect?
It's no kindness to hide it from me now."
"I don't suspect," said Sergeant Cuff. "I know."
My unlucky temper began to get the better of me again.
"Do you mean to tell me, in plain English," I said, "that Miss Rachel
has stolen her own Diamond?"
"Yes," says the Sergeant; "that is what I mean to tell you, in so many words.
Miss Verinder has been in secret possession of the Moonstone from
first to last; and she has taken Rosanna Spearman into her confidence,
because she has calculated on our suspecting Rosanna Spearman of the theft.
There is the whole case in a nutshell. Collar me again, Mr. Betteredge.
If it's any vent to your feelings, collar me again."
God help me! my feelings were not to be relieved in that way.
"Give me your reasons!" That was all I could say to him.
"You shall hear my reasons to-morrow," said the Sergeant.
"If Miss Verinder refuses to put off her visit to her aunt
(which you will find Miss Verinder will do), I shall be obliged
to lay the whole case before your mistress to-morrow. And,
as I don't know what may come of it, I shall request you
to be present, and to hear what passes on both sides.
Let the matter rest for to-night. No, Mr. Betteredge, you don't
get a word more on the subject of the Moonstone out of me.
There is your table spread for supper. That's one of
the many human infirmities which I always treat tenderly.
If you will ring the bell, I'll say grace. 'For what we are going
to receive----'"
"I wish you a good appetite to it, Sergeant," I said. "My appetite is gone.
I'll wait and see you served, and then I'll ask you to excuse me, if I
go away, and try to get the better of this by myself."
I saw him served with the best of everything--and I shouldn't
have been sorry if the best of everything had choked him.
The head gardener (Mr. Begbie) came in at the same time,
with his weekly account. The Sergeant got on the subject of roses
and the merits of grass walks and gravel walks immediately.
I left the two together, and went out with a heavy heart.
This was the first trouble I remember for many a long year
which wasn't to be blown off by a whiff of tobacco, and which was
even beyond the reach of ROBINSON CRUSOE.
Being restless and miserable, and having no particular room to go to,
I took a turn on the terrace, and thought it over in peace and quietness
by myself. It doesn't much matter what my thoughts were. I felt
wretchedly old, and worn out, and unfit for my place--and began to wonder,
for the first time in my life, when it would please God to take me.
With all this, I held firm, notwithstanding, to my belief in Miss Rachel.
If Sergeant Cuff had been Solomon in all his glory, and had told me that
my young lady had mixed herself up in a mean and guilty plot, I should
have had but one answer for Solomon, wise as he was, "You don't know her;
and I do."
My meditations were interrupted by Samuel. He brought me a written message
from my mistress.
Going into the house to get a light to read it by, Samuel remarked
that there seemed a change coming in the weather. My troubled mind
had prevented me from noticing it before. But, now my attention
was roused, I heard the dogs uneasy, and the wind moaning low.
Looking up at the sky, I saw the rack of clouds getting blacker
and blacker, and hurrying faster and faster over a watery moon.
Wild weather coming--Samuel was right, wild weather coming.
The message from my lady informed me, that the magistrate at
Frizinghall had written to remind her about the three Indians.
Early in the coming week, the rogues must needs be released,
and left free to follow their own devices. If we had any
more questions to ask them, there was no time to lose.
Having forgotten to mention this, when she had last seen
Sergeant Cuff, my mistress now desired me to supply the omission.
The Indians had gone clean out of my head (as they have, no doubt,
gone clean out of yours). I didn't see much use in stirring
that subject again. However, I obeyed my orders on the spot,
as a matter of course.
I found Sergeant Cuff and the gardener, with a bottle of Scotch whisky
between them, head over ears in an argument on the growing of roses.
The Sergeant was so deeply interested that he held up his hand,
and signed to me not to interrupt the discussion, when I came in.
As far as I could understand it, the question between them was,
whether the white moss rose did, or did not, require to be budded
on the dog-rose to make it grow well. Mr. Begbie said, Yes;
and Sergeant Cuff said, No. They appealed to me, as hotly as a couple
of boys. Knowing nothing whatever about the growing of roses,
I steered a middle course--just as her Majesty's judges do,
when the scales of justice bother them by hanging even to a hair.
"Gentlemen," I remarked, "there is much to be said on both sides."
In the temporary lull produced by that impartial sentence, I laid
my lady's written message on the table, under the eyes of Sergeant
I had got by this time, as nearly as might be, to hate the Sergeant.
But truth compels me to acknowledge that, in respect of readiness of mind,
he was a wonderful man.
In half a minute after he had read the message, he had looked
back into his memory for Superintendent Seegrave's report;
had picked out that part of it in which the Indians were concerned;
and was ready with his answer. A certain great traveller,
who understood the Indians and their language, had figured
in Mr. Seegrave's report, hadn't he? Very well. Did I know
the gentleman's name and address? Very well again. Would I write
them on the back of my lady's message? Much obliged to me.
Sergeant Cuff would look that gentleman up, when he went to
Frizinghall in the morning.
"Do you expect anything to come of it?" I asked. "Superintendent Seegrave
found the Indians as innocent as the babe unborn."
"Superintendent Seegrave has been proved wrong, up to this time,
in all his conclusions," answered the Sergeant. "It may be worth
while to find out to-morrow whether Superintendent Seegrave was wrong
about the Indians as well." With that he turned to Mr. Begbie, and took
up the argument again exactly at the place where it had left off.
"This question between us is a question of soils and seasons,
and patience and pains, Mr. Gardener. Now let me put it to you from
another point of view. You take your white moss rose----"
By that time, I had closed the door on them, and was out of hearing
of the rest of the dispute.
In the passage, I met Penelope hanging about, and asked what she
was waiting for.
She was waiting for her young lady's bell, when her young lady chose
to call her back to go on with the packing for the next day's journey.
Further inquiry revealed to me, that Miss Rachel had given it as a
reason for wanting to go to her aunt at Frizinghall, that the house
was unendurable to her, and that she could bear the odious presence
of a policeman under the same roof with herself no longer.
On being informed, half an hour since, that her departure would be
delayed till two in the afternoon, she had flown into a violent passion.
My lady, present at the time, had severely rebuked her, and then
(having apparently something to say, which was reserved for her
daughter's private ear) had sent Penelope out of the room.
My girl was in wretchedly low spirits about the changed state of things
in the house. "Nothing goes right, father; nothing is like what it
used to be. I feel as if some dreadful misfortune was hanging over
us all."
That was my feeling too. But I put a good face on it, before my daughter.
Miss Rachel's bell rang while we were talking. Penelope ran up the back
stairs to go on with the packing. I went by the other way to the hall, to see
what the glass said about the change in the weather.
Just as I approached the swing-door leading into the hall from
the servants' offices, it was violently opened from the other side,
and Rosanna Spearman ran by me, with a miserable look of pain
in her face, and one of her hands pressed hard over her heart,
as if the pang was in that quarter. "What's the matter, my girl?"
I asked, stopping her. "Are you ill?" "For God's sake, don't speak
to me," she answered, and twisted herself out of my hands,
and ran on towards the servants' staircase. I called to the cook
(who was within hearing) to look after the poor girl.
Two other persons proved to be within hearing, as well as the cook.
Sergeant Cuff darted softly out of my room, and asked what was the matter.
I answered, "Nothing." Mr. Franklin, on the other side, pulled open
the swing-door, and beckoning me into the hall, inquired if I had seen
anything of Rosanna Spearman.
"She has just passed me, sir, with a very disturbed face,
and in a very odd manner."
"I am afraid I am innocently the cause of that disturbance, Betteredge."
"You, sir!"
"I can't explain it," says Mr. Franklin; "but, if the girl IS concerned
in the loss of the Diamond, I do really believe she was on the point
of confessing everything--to me, of all the people in the world--
not two minutes since."
Looking towards the swing-door, as he said those last words,
I fancied I saw it opened a little way from the inner side.
Was there anybody listening? The door fell to, before I could get to it.
Looking through, the moment after, I thought I saw the tails of Sergeant
Cuff's respectable black coat disappearing round the corner of the passage.
He knew, as well as I did, that he could expect no more help from me, now that
I had discovered the turn which his investigations were really taking.
Under those circumstances, it was quite in his character to help himself,
and to do it by the underground way.
Not feeling sure that I had really seen the Sergeant--
and not desiring to make needless mischief, where, Heaven knows,
there was mischief enough going on already--I told Mr. Franklin
that I thought one of the dogs had got into the house--
and then begged him to describe what had happened between Rosanna
and himself.
"Were you passing through the hall, sir?" I asked. "Did you meet
her accidentally, when she spoke to you?"
Mr. Franklin pointed to the billiard-table.
"I was knocking the balls about," he said, "and trying to get
this miserable business of the Diamond out of my mind.
I happened to look up--and there stood Rosanna Spearman at
the side of me, like a ghost! Her stealing on me in that way
was so strange, that I hardly knew what to do at first.
Seeing a very anxious expression in her face, I asked her if
she wished to speak to me. She answered, "Yes, if I dare."
Knowing what suspicion attached to her, I could only put
one construction on such language as that. I confess it made
me uncomfortable. I had no wish to invite the girl's confidence.
At the same time, in the difficulties that now beset us,
I could hardly feel justified in refusing to listen to her, if she
was really bent on speaking to me. It was an awkward position;
and I dare say I got out of it awkwardly enough. I said to her,
"I don't quite understand you. Is there anything you want
me to do?" Mind, Betteredge, I didn't speak unkindly!
The poor girl can't help being ugly--I felt that, at the time.
The cue was still in my hand, and I went on knocking
the balls about, to take off the awkwardness of the thing.
As it turned out, I only made matters worse still. I'm afraid
I mortified her without meaning it! She suddenly turned away.
"He looks at the billiard balls," I heard her say.
"Anything rather than look at ME!" Before I could stop her,
she had left the hall. I am not quite easy about it, Betteredge.
Would you mind telling Rosanna that I meant no unkindness?
I have been a little hard on her, perhaps, in my own thoughts--I have
almost hoped that the loss of the Diamond might be traced to HER.
Not from any ill-will to the poor girl: but----" He stopped there,
and going back to the billiard-table, began to knock the balls
about once more.
After what had passed between the Sergeant and me, I knew what it
was that he had left unspoken as well as he knew it himself.
Nothing but the tracing of the Moonstone to our second
housemaid could now raise Miss Rachel above the infamous
suspicion that rested on her in the mind of Sergeant Cuff.
It was no longer a question of quieting my young lady's
nervous excitement; it was a question of proving her innocence.
If Rosanna had done nothing to compromise herself, the hope
which Mr. Franklin confessed to having felt would have been hard
enough on her in all conscience. But this was not the case.
She had pretended to be ill, and had gone secretly to Frizinghall.
She had been up all night, making something or destroying something,
in private. And she had been at the Shivering Sand,
that evening, under circumstances which were highly suspicious,
to say the least of them. For all these reasons (sorry as I
was for Rosanna) I could not but think that Mr. Franklin's way
of looking at the matter was neither unnatural nor unreasonable,
in Mr. Franklin's position. I said a word to him to
that effect.
"Yes, yes!" he said in return. "But there is just a chance--
a very poor one, certainly--that Rosanna's conduct may admit
of some explanation which we don't see at present. I hate
hurting a woman's feelings, Betteredge! Tell the poor creature
what I told you to tell her. And if she wants to speak to me--
I don't care whether I get into a scrape or not--send her to me
in the library." With those kind words he laid down the cue and
left me.
Inquiry at the servants' offices informed me that Rosanna had retired
to her own room. She had declined all offers of assistance with thanks,
and had only asked to be left to rest in quiet. Here, therefore, was an end
of any confession on her part (supposing she really had a confession to make)
for that night. I reported the result to Mr. Franklin, who, thereupon,
left the library, and went up to bed.
I was putting the lights out, and making the windows fast,
when Samuel came in with news of the two guests whom I had left
in my room.
The argument about the white moss rose had apparently come to an end at last.
The gardener had gone home, and Sergeant Cuff was nowhere to be found in the
lower regions of the house.
I looked into my room. Quite true--nothing was to be discovered
there but a couple of empty tumblers and a strong smell of hot grog.
Had the Sergeant gone of his own accord to the bed-chamber that was
prepared for him? I went up-stairs to see.
After reaching the second landing, I thought I heard a sound of quiet
and regular breathing on my left-hand side. My left-hand side
led to the corridor which communicated with Miss Rachel's room.
I looked in, and there, coiled up on three chairs placed right across
the passage--there, with a red handkerchief tied round his grizzled head,
and his respectable black coat rolled up for a pillow, lay and slept
Sergeant Cuff!
He woke, instantly and quietly, like a dog, the moment I approached him.
"Good night, Mr. Betteredge," he said. "And mind, if you ever take
to growing roses, the white moss rose is all the better for not being
budded on the dog-rose, whatever the gardener may say to the contrary!"
"What are you doing here?" I asked. "Why are you not in your proper bed?"
"I am not in my proper bed," answered the Sergeant, "because I
am one of the many people in this miserable world who can't
earn their money honestly and easily at the same time.
There was a coincidence, this evening, between the period
of Rosanna Spearman's return from the Sands and the period
when Miss Verinder stated her resolution to leave the house.
Whatever Rosanna may have hidden, it's clear to my mind that your
young lady couldn't go away until she knew that it WAS hidden.
The two must have communicated privately once already to-night.
If they try to communicate again, when the house is quiet,
I want to be in the way, and stop it. Don't blame me
for upsetting your sleeping arrangements, Mr. Betteredge--
blame the Diamond."
"I wish to God the Diamond had never found its way into this house!"
I broke out.
Sergeant Cuff looked with a rueful face at the three chairs
on which he had condemned himself to pass the night.
"So do I," he said, gravely.
Nothing happened in the night; and (I am happy to add)
no attempt at communication between Miss Rachel and Rosanna
rewarded the vigilance of Sergeant Cuff.
I had expected the Sergeant to set off for Frizinghall the first thing
in the morning. He waited about, however, as if he had something else
to do first. I left him to his own devices; and going into the grounds
shortly after, met Mr. Franklin on his favourite walk by the shrubbery side.
Before we had exchanged two words, the Sergeant unexpectedly joined us.
He made up to Mr. Franklin, who received him, I must own, haughtily enough.
"Have you anything to say to me?" was all the return he got for politely
wishing Mr. Franklin good morning.
"I have something to say to you, sir," answered the Sergeant,
"on the subject of the inquiry I am conducting here.
You detected the turn that inquiry was really taking, yesterday.
Naturally enough, in your position, you are shocked and distressed.
Naturally enough, also, you visit your own angry sense of your own
family scandal upon Me."
"What do you want?" Mr. Franklin broke in, sharply enough.
"I want to remind you, sir, that I have at any rate, thus far,
not been PROVED to be wrong. Bearing that in mind, be pleased
to remember, at the same time, that I am an officer of the law
acting here under the sanction of the mistress of the house.
Under these circumstances, is it, or is it not, your duty as a
good citizen, to assist me with any special information which you
may happen to possess?"
"I possess no special information," says Mr. Franklin.
Sergeant Cuff put that answer by him, as if no answer had been made.
"You may save my time, sir, from being wasted on an inquiry at a distance,"
he went on, "if you choose to understand me and speak out."
"I don't understand you," answered Mr. Franklin; "and I have nothing to say."
"One of the female servants (I won't mention names) spoke to you privately,
sir, last night."
Once more Mr. Franklin cut him short; once more Mr. Franklin answered,
"I have nothing to say."
Standing by in silence, I thought of the movement in the swing-door on
the previous evening, and of the coat-tails which I had seen disappearing
down the passage. Sergeant Cuff had, no doubt, just heard enough,
before I interrupted him, to make him suspect that Rosanna had relieved
her mind by confessing something to Mr. Franklin Blake.
This notion had barely struck me--when who should appear at the end
of the shrubbery walk but Rosanna Spearman in her own proper person!
She was followed by Penelope, who was evidently trying to make her
retrace her steps to the house. Seeing that Mr. Franklin was not alone,
Rosanna came to a standstill, evidently in great perplexity what to do next.
Penelope waited behind her. Mr. Franklin saw the girls as soon as I
saw them. The Sergeant, with his devilish cunning, took on not to have
noticed them at all. All this happened in an instant. Before either
Mr. Franklin or I could say a word, Sergeant Cuff struck in smoothly,
with an appearance of continuing the previous conversation.
"You needn't be afraid of harming the girl, sir," he said to Mr. Franklin,
speaking in a loud voice, so that Rosanna might hear him. "On the contrary,
I recommend you to honour me with your confidence, if you feel any interest in
Rosanna Spearman."
Mr. Franklin instantly took on not to have noticed the girls either.
He answered, speaking loudly on his side:
"I take no interest whatever in Rosanna Spearman."
I looked towards the end of the walk. All I saw at the distance was
that Rosanna suddenly turned round, the moment Mr. Franklin had spoken.
Instead of resisting Penelope, as she had done the moment before,
she now let my daughter take her by the arm and lead her back to
the house.
The breakfast-bell rang as the two girls disappeared--and even
Sergeant Cuff was now obliged to give it up as a bad job!
He said to me quietly, "I shall go to Frizinghall, Mr. Betteredge;
and I shall be back before two." He went his way without
a word more--and for some few hours we were well rid of him.
"You must make it right with Rosanna," Mr. Franklin said to me, when we
were alone. "I seem to be fated to say or do something awkward, before that
unlucky girl. You must have seen yourself that Sergeant Cuff laid a trap
for both of us. If he could confuse ME, or irritate HER into breaking out,
either she or I might have said something which would answer his purpose.
On the spur of the moment, I saw no better way out of it than the way I took.
It stopped the girl from saying anything, and it showed the Sergeant that I
saw through him. He was evidently listening, Betteredge, when I was speaking
to you last night."
He had done worse than listen, as I privately thought to myself.
He had remembered my telling him that the girl was in love with
Mr. Franklin; and he had calculated on THAT, when he appealed to
Mr. Franklin's interest in Rosanna--in Rosanna's hearing.
"As to listening, sir," I remarked (keeping the other point
to myself), we shall all be rowing in the same boat if this
sort of thing goes on much longer. Prying, and peeping,
and listening are the natural occupations of people situated
as we are. In another day or two, Mr. Franklin, we shall all
be struck dumb together--for this reason, that we shall all be
listening to surprise each other's secrets, and all know it.
Excuse my breaking out, sir. The horrid mystery hanging
over us in this house gets into my head like liquor,
and makes me wild. I won't forget what you have told me.
I'll take the first opportunity of making it right with
Rosanna Spearman."
"You haven't said anything to her yet about last night, have you?"
Mr. Franklin asked.
"No, sir."
"Then say nothing now. I had better not invite the girl's confidence,
with the Sergeant on the look-out to surprise us together.
My conduct is not very consistent, Betteredge--is it?
I see no way out of this business, which isn't dreadful
to think of, unless the Diamond is traced to Rosanna.
And yet I can't, and won't, help Sergeant Cuff to find the
girl out."
Unreasonable enough, no doubt. But it was my state of mind as well.
I thoroughly understood him. If you will, for once in your life,
remember that you are mortal, perhaps you will thoroughly understand
him too.
The state of things, indoors and out, while Sergeant Cuff was on his way
to Frizinghall, was briefly this:
Miss Rachel waited for the time when the carriage was to take
her to her aunt's, still obstinately shut up in her own room.
My lady and Mr. Franklin breakfasted together. After breakfast,
Mr. Franklin took one of his sudden resolutions, and went
out precipitately to quiet his mind by a long walk.
I was the only person who saw him go; and he told
me he should be back before the Sergeant returned.
The change in the weather, foreshadowed overnight, had come.
Heavy rain had been followed soon after dawn, by high wind.
It was blowing fresh, as the day got on. But though the clouds
threatened more than once, the rain still held off.
It was not a bad day for a walk, if you were young and strong,
and could breast the great gusts of wind which came sweeping in from
the sea.
I attended my lady after breakfast, and assisted her in the settlement of our
household accounts. She only once alluded to the matter of the Moonstone,
and that was in the way of forbidding any present mention of it between us.
"Wait till that man comes back," she said, meaning the Sergeant. "We MUST
speak of it then: we are not obliged to speak of it now."
After leaving my mistress, I found Penelope waiting for me in my room.
"I wish, father, you would come and speak to Rosanna," she said.
"I am very uneasy about her."
I suspected what was the matter readily enough. But it is a maxim
of mine that men (being superior creatures) are bound to improve women--
if they can. When a woman wants me to do anything (my daughter,
or not, it doesn't matter), I always insist on knowing why.
The oftener you make them rummage their own minds for a reason,
the more manageable you will find them in all the relations of life.
It isn't their fault (poor wretches!) that they act first and
think afterwards; it's the fault of the fools who humour them.
Penelope's reason why, on this occasion, may be given in her own words.
"I am afraid, father," she said, "Mr. Franklin has hurt Rosanna cruelly,
without intending it."
"What took Rosanna into the shrubbery walk?" I asked.
"Her own madness," says Penelope; "I can call it nothing else.
She was bent on speaking to Mr. Franklin, this morning,
come what might of it. I did my best to stop her; you saw that.
If I could only have got her away before she heard those
dreadful words----"
"There! there!" I said, "don't lose your head. I can't call to mind
that anything happened to alarm Rosanna."
"Nothing to alarm her, father. But Mr. Franklin said he took no interest
whatever in her--and, oh, he said it in such a cruel voice!"
"He said it to stop the Sergeant's mouth," I answered.
"I told her that," says Penelope. "But you see, father (though Mr. Franklin
isn't to blame), he's been mortifying and disappointing her for weeks
and weeks past; and now this comes on the top of it all! She has no right,
of course, to expect him to take any interest in her. It's quite
monstrous that she should forget herself and her station in that way.
But she seems to have lost pride, and proper feeling, and everything.
She frightened me, father, when Mr. Franklin said those words.
They seemed to turn her into stone. A sudden quiet came over her,
and she has gone about her work, ever since, like a woman in a dream."
I began to feel a little uneasy. There was something in
the way Penelope put it which silenced my superior sense.
I called to mind, now my thoughts were directed that way,
what had passed between Mr. Franklin and Rosanna overnight.
She looked cut to the heart on that occasion; and now,
as ill-luck would have it, she had been unavoidably stung again,
poor soul, on the tender place. Sad! sad!--all the more sad
because the girl had no reason to justify her, and no right to
feel it.
I had promised Mr. Franklin to speak to Rosanna, and this seemed
the fittest time for keeping my word.
We found the girl sweeping the corridor outside the bedrooms,
pale and composed, and neat as ever in her modest print dress.
I noticed a curious dimness and dullness in her eyes--
not as if she had been crying but as if she had been looking
at something too long. Possibly, it was a misty something raised
by her own thoughts. There was certainly no object about her
to look at which she had not seen already hundreds on hundreds
of times.
"Cheer up, Rosanna!" I said. "You mustn't fret over your own fancies.
I have got something to say to you from Mr. Franklin."
I thereupon put the matter in the right view before her,
in the friendliest and most comforting words I could find.
My principles, in regard to the other sex, are, as you
may have noticed, very severe. But somehow or other,
when I come face to face with the women, my practice (I own)
is not conformable.
"Mr. Franklin is very kind and considerate. Please to thank him."
That was all the answer she made me.
My daughter had already noticed that Rosanna went about her work
like a woman in a dream. I now added to this observation,
that she also listened and spoke like a woman in a dream.
I doubted if her mind was in a fit condition to take in what I had
said to her.
"Are you quite sure, Rosanna, that you understand me?"
I asked.
"Quite sure."
She echoed me, not like a living woman, but like a creature
moved by machinery. She went on sweeping all the time.
I took away the broom as gently and as kindly as I could.
"Come, come, my girl!" I said, "this is not like yourself.
You have got something on your mind. I'm your friend--
and I'll stand your friend, even if you have done wrong.
Make a clean breast of it, Rosanna--make a clean breast
of it!"
The time had been, when my speaking to her in that way would
have brought the tears into her eyes. I could see no change
in them now.
"Yes," she said, "I'll make a clean breast of it."
"To my lady?" I asked.
"To Mr. Franklin?"
"Yes; to Mr. Franklin."
I hardly knew what to say to that. She was in no condition
to understand the caution against speaking to him in private,
which Mr. Franklin had directed me to give her. Feeling my way,
little by little, I only told her Mr. Franklin had gone out for
a walk.
"It doesn't matter," she answered. "I shan't trouble Mr. Franklin, to-day."
"Why not speak to my lady?" I said. "The way to relieve your mind
is to speak to the merciful and Christian mistress who has always
been kind to you."
She looked at me for a moment with a grave and steady attention,
as if she was fixing what I said in her mind. Then she took
the broom out of my hands and moved off with it slowly,
a little way down the corridor.
"No," she said, going on with her sweeping, and speaking to herself;
"I know a better way of relieving my mind than that."
"What is it?"
"Please to let me go on with my work."
Penelope followed her, and offered to help her.
She answered, "No. I want to do my work. Thank you, Penelope."
She looked round at me. "Thank you, Mr. Betteredge."
There was no moving her--there was nothing more to be said.
I signed to Penelope to come away with me. We left her,
as we had found her, sweeping the corridor, like a woman in
a dream.
"This is a matter for the doctor to look into," I said.
"It's beyond me."
My daughter reminded me of Mr. Candy's illness, owing (as you may remember)
to the chill he had caught on the night of the dinner-party. His assistant--
a certain Mr. Ezra Jennings--was at our disposal, to be sure. But nobody
knew much about him in our parts. He had been engaged by Mr. Candy under
rather peculiar circumstances; and, right or wrong, we none of us liked him
or trusted him. There were other doctors at Frizinghall. But they were
strangers to our house; and Penelope doubted, in Rosanna's present state,
whether strangers might not do her more harm than good.
I thought of speaking to my lady. But, remembering the heavy weight
of anxiety which she already had on her mind, I hesitated to add
to all the other vexations this new trouble. Still, there was a
necessity for doing something. The girl's state was, to my thinking,
downright alarming--and my mistress ought to be informed of it.
Unwilling enough, I went to her sitting-room. No one was there.
My lady was shut up with Miss Rachel. It was impossible for me to see her
till she came out again.
I waited in vain till the clock on the front staircase struck
the quarter to two. Five minutes afterwards, I heard my name called,
from the drive outside the house. I knew the voice directly.
Sergeant Cuff had returned from Frizinghall.
Going down to the front door, I met the Sergeant on the steps.
It went against the grain with me, after what had passed between us,
to show him that I felt any sort of interest in his proceedings.
In spite of myself, however, I felt an interest that there was no resisting.
My sense of dignity sank from under me, and out came the words: "What news
from Frizinghall?"
"I have seen the Indians," answered Sergeant Cuff. "And I have found
out what Rosanna bought privately in the town, on Thursday last.
The Indians will be set free on Wednesday in next week.
There isn't a doubt on my mind, and there isn't a doubt on
Mr. Murthwaite's mind, that they came to this place to steal
the Moonstone. Their calculations were all thrown out,
of course, by what happened in the house on Wednesday night;
and they have no more to do with the actual loss of the jewel
than you have. But I can tell you one thing, Mr. Betteredge--
if WE don't find the Moonstone, THEY will. You have not heard the
last of the three jugglers yet."
Mr. Franklin came back from his walk as the Sergeant said
those startling words. Governing his curiosity better
than I had governed mine, he passed us without a word,
and went on into the house.
As for me, having already dropped my dignity, I determined to have
the whole benefit of the sacrifice. "So much for the Indians," I said.
"What about Rosanna next?"
Sergeant Cuff shook his head.
"The mystery in that quarter is thicker than ever," he said.
"I have traced her to a shop at Frizinghall, kept by a linen
draper named Maltby. She bought nothing whatever at any of
the other drapers' shops, or at any milliners' or tailors' shops;
and she bought nothing at Maltby's but a piece of long cloth.
She was very particular in choosing a certain quality.
As to quantity, she bought enough to make a nightgown."
"Whose nightgown?" I asked.
"Her own, to be sure. Between twelve and three, on the Thursday morning,
she must have slipped down to your young lady's room, to settle
the hiding of the Moonstone while all the rest of you were in bed.
In going back to her own room, her nightgown must have brushed the wet
paint on the door. She couldn't wash out the stain; and she couldn't
safely destroy the night-gown without first providing another like it,
to make the inventory of her linen complete."
"What proves that it was Rosanna's nightgown?" I objected.
"The material she bought for making the substitute dress,"
answered the Sergeant. "If it had been Miss Verinder's nightgown,
she would have had to buy lace, and frilling, and Lord knows
what besides; and she wouldn't have had time to make it in
one night. Plain long cloth means a plain servant's nightgown.
No, no, Mr. Betteredge--all that is clear enough.
The pinch of the question is--why, after having provided
the substitute dress, does she hide the smeared nightgown,
instead of destroying it? If the girl won't speak out,
there is only one way of settling the difficulty.
The hiding-place at the Shivering Sand must be searched--
and the true state of the case will be discovered there."
"How are you to find the place?" I inquired.
"I am sorry to disappoint you," said the Sergeant--"but that's a secret
which I mean to keep to myself."
(Not to irritate your curiosity, as he irritated mine, I may here inform
you that he had come back from Frizinghall provided with a search-warrant.
His experience in such matters told him that Rosanna was in all probability
carrying about her a memorandum of the hiding-place, to guide her, in case
she returned to it, under changed circumstances and after a lapse of time.
Possessed of this memorandum, the Sergeant would be furnished with all that
he could desire.)
"Now, Mr. Betteredge," he went on, "suppose we drop speculation,
and get to business. I told Joyce to have an eye on Rosanna.
Where is Joyce?"
Joyce was the Frizinghall policeman, who had been left
by Superintendent Seegrave at Sergeant Cuff's disposal.
The clock struck two, as he put the question; and, punctual to
the moment, the carriage came round to take Miss Rachel to her
"One thing at a time," said the Sergeant, stopping me as I was about to send
in search of Joyce. "I must attend to Miss Verinder first."
As the rain was still threatening, it was the close carriage
that had been appointed to take Miss Rachel to Frizinghall.
Sergeant Cuff beckoned Samuel to come down to him from the
rumble behind.
"You will see a friend of mine waiting among the trees, on this side
of the lodge gate," he said. "My friend, without stopping the carriage,
will get up into the rumble with you. You have nothing to do but to hold
your tongue, and shut your eyes. Otherwise, you will get into trouble."
With that advice, he sent the footman back to his place.
What Samuel thought I don't know. It was plain, to my mind,
that Miss Rachel was to be privately kept in view from
the time when she left our house--if she did leave it.
A watch set on my young lady! A spy behind her in the rumble
of her mother's carriage! I could have cut my own tongue
out for having forgotten myself so far as to speak to
Sergeant Cuff.
The first person to come out of the house was my lady. She stood aside,
on the top step, posting herself there to see what happened.
Not a word did she say, either to the Sergeant or to me.
With her lips closed, and her arms folded in the light garden
cloak which she had wrapped round her on coming into the air,
there she stood, as still as a statue, waiting for her daughter
to appear.
In a minute more, Miss Rachel came downstairs--very nicely dressed
in some soft yellow stuff, that set off her dark complexion,
and clipped her tight (in the form of a jacket) round the waist.
She had a smart little straw hat on her head, with a white veil
twisted round it. She had primrose-coloured gloves that fitted
her hands like a second skin. Her beautiful black hair looked
as smooth as satin under her hat. Her little ears were like
rosy shells--they had a pearl dangling from each of them.
She came swiftly out to us, as straight as a lily on its stem,
and as lithe and supple in every movement she made as a young cat.
Nothing that I could discover was altered in her pretty face,
but her eyes and her lips. Her eyes were brighter and fiercer
than I liked to see; and her lips had so completely lost
their colour and their smile that I hardly knew them again.
She kissed her mother in a hasty and sudden manner on the cheek.
She said, "Try to forgive me, mamma"--and then pulled down her veil
over her face so vehemently that she tore it. In another moment she
had run down the steps, and had rushed into the carriage as if it was a
Sergeant Cuff was just as quick on his side. He put Samuel back,
and stood before Miss Rachel, with the open carriage-door in his hand,
at the instant when she settled herself in her place.
"What do you want?" says Miss Rachel, from behind her veil.
"I want to say one word to you, miss," answered the Sergeant, "before you go.
I can't presume to stop your paying a visit to your aunt. I can only venture
to say that your leaving us, as things are now, puts an obstacle in the way
of my recovering your Diamond. Please to understand that; and now decide for
yourself whether you go or stay."
Miss Rachel never even answered him. "Drive on, James!" she called
out to the coachman.
Without another word, the Sergeant shut the carriage-door. Just
as he closed it, Mr. Franklin came running down the steps.
"Good-bye, Rachel," he said, holding out his hand.
"Drive on!" cried Miss Rachel, louder than ever, and taking no more notice
of Mr. Franklin than she had taken of Sergeant Cuff.
Mr. Franklin stepped back thunderstruck, as well he might be.
The coachman, not knowing what to do, looked towards my lady,
still standing immovable on the top step. My lady, with anger
and sorrow and shame all struggling together in her face,
made him a sign to start the horses, and then turned back hastily
into the house. Mr. Franklin, recovering the use of his speech,
called after her, as the carriage drove off, "Aunt! you were
quite right. Accept my thanks for all your kindness--and let
me go."
My lady turned as though to speak to him. Then, as if distrusting herself,
waved her hand kindly. "Let me see you, before you leave us, Franklin,"
she said, in a broken voice--and went on to her own room.
"Do me a last favour, Betteredge," says Mr. Franklin, turning to me,
with the tears in his eyes. "Get me away to the train as soon
as you can!"
He too went his way into the house. For the moment, Miss Rachel
had completely unmanned him. Judge from that, how fond he must
have been of her!
Sergeant Cuff and I were left face to face, at the bottom of the steps.
The Sergeant stood with his face set towards a gap in the trees,
commanding a view of one of the windings of the drive which led
from the house. He had his hands in his pockets, and he was softly
whistling "The Last Rose of Summer" to himself.
"There's a time for everything," I said savagely enough.
"This isn't a time for whistling."
At that moment, the carriage appeared in the distance, through the gap,
on its way to the lodge-gate. There was another man, besides Samuel,
plainly visible in the rumble behind.
"All right!" said the Sergeant to himself. He turned round to me.
"It's no time for whistling, Mr. Betteredge, as you say.
It's time to take this business in hand, now, without sparing anybody.
We'll begin with Rosanna Spearman. Where is Joyce?"
We both called for Joyce, and received no answer. I sent one
of the stable-boys to look for him.
"You heard what I said to Miss Verinder?" remarked the Sergeant,
while we were waiting. "And you saw how she received it?
I tell her plainly that her leaving us will be an obstacle
in the way of my recovering her Diamond--and she leaves,
in the face of that statement! Your young lady has got
a travelling companion in her mother's carriage, Mr. Betteredge--
and the name of it is, the Moonstone."
I said nothing. I only held on like death to my belief in Miss Rachel.
The stable-boy came back, followed--very unwillingly, as it appeared to me--
by Joyce.
"Where is Rosanna Spearman?" asked Sergeant Cuff.
"I can't account for it, sir," Joyce began; "and I am very sorry.
But somehow or other----"
"Before I went to Frizinghall," said the Sergeant, cutting him short,
"I told you to keep your eyes on Rosanna Spearman, without allowing her
to discover that she was being watched. Do you mean to tell me that you
have let her give you the slip?"
"I am afraid, sir," says Joyce, beginning to tremble, "that I
was perhaps a little TOO careful not to let her discover me.
There are such a many passages in the lower parts of this house----"
"How long is it since you missed her?"
"Nigh on an hour since, sir."
"You can go back to your regular business at Frizinghall," said the Sergeant,
speaking just as composedly as ever, in his usual quiet and dreary way.
"I don't think your talents are at all in our line, Mr. Joyce. Your present
form of employment is a trifle beyond you. Good morning."
The man slunk off. I find it very difficult to describe how I
was affected by the discovery that Rosanna Spearman was missing.
I seemed to be in fifty different minds about it, all at the same time.
In that state, I stood staring at Sergeant Cuff--and my powers
of language quite failed me.
"No, Mr. Betteredge," said the Sergeant, as if he had discovered
the uppermost thought in me, and was picking it out to be answered,
before all the rest. "Your young friend, Rosanna, won't slip through my
fingers so easy as you think. As long as I know where Miss Verinder is,
I have the means at my disposal of tracing Miss Verinder's accomplice.
I prevented them from communicating last night. Very good. They will get
together at Frizinghall, instead of getting together here. The present
inquiry must be simply shifted (rather sooner than I had anticipated)
from this house, to the house at which Miss Verinder is visiting.
In the meantime, I'm afraid I must trouble you to call the servants
together again."
I went round with him to the servants' hall. It is very disgraceful,
but it is not the less true, that I had another attack of the detective-fever,
when he said those last words. I forgot that I hated Sergeant Cuff.
I seized him confidentially by the arm. I said, "For goodness' sake, tell us
what you are going to do with the servants now?"
The great Cuff stood stock still, and addressed himself in a kind
of melancholy rapture to the empty air.
"If this man," said the Sergeant (apparently meaning me), "only
understood the growing of roses he would be the most completely
perfect character on the face of creation!" After that strong
expression of feeling, he sighed, and put his arm through mine.
"This is how it stands," he said, dropping down again to business.
"Rosanna has done one of two things. She has either gone direct
to Frizinghall (before I can get there), or she has gone first to visit
her hiding-place at the Shivering Sand. The first thing to find
out is, which of the servants saw the last of her before she left
the house."
On instituting this inquiry, it turned out that the last person who had set
eyes on Rosanna was Nancy, the kitchenmaid.
Nancy had seen her slip out with a letter in her hand, and stop the butcher's
man who had just been delivering some meat at the back door. Nancy had
heard her ask the man to post the letter when he got back to Frizinghall.
The man had looked at the address, and had said it was a roundabout way
of delivering a letter directed to Cobb's Hole, to post it at Frizinghall--
and that, moreover, on a Saturday, which would prevent the letter from
getting to its destination until Monday morning, Rosanna had answered that
the delivery of the letter being delayed till Monday was of no importance.
The only thing she wished to be sure of was that the man would do what she
told him. The man had promised to do it, and had driven away. Nancy had been
called back to her work in the kitchen. And no other person had seen anything
afterwards of Rosanna Spearman.
"Well?" I asked, when we were alone again.
"Well," says the Sergeant. "I must go to Frizinghall."
"About the letter, sir?"
"Yes. The memorandum of the hiding-place is in that letter.
I must see the address at the post-office. If it is the address
I suspect, I shall pay our friend, Mrs. Yolland, another visit on
Monday next."
I went with the Sergeant to order the pony-chaise. In the stable-yard
we got a new light thrown on the missing girl.
The news of Rosanna's disappearance had, as it appeared,
spread among the out-of-door servants. They too had made
their inquiries; and they had just laid hands on a quick
little imp, nicknamed "Duffy"--who was occasionally employed
in weeding the garden, and who had seen Rosanna Spearman as
lately as half-an-hour since. Duffy was certain that the girl
had passed him in the fir-plantation, not walking, but RUNNING,
in the direction of the sea-shore.
"Does this boy know the coast hereabouts?" asked Sergeant Cuff.
"He has been born and bred on the coast," I answered.
"Duffy!" says the Sergeant, "do you want to earn a shilling?
If you do, come along with me. Keep the pony-chaise ready,
Mr. Betteredge, till I come back."
He started for the Shivering Sand, at a rate that my legs
(though well enough preserved for my time of life) had no hope
of matching. Little Duffy, as the way is with the young savages
in our parts when they are in high spirits, gave a howl,
and trotted off at the Sergeant's heels.
Here again, I find it impossible to give anything like a clear account
of the state of my mind in the interval after Sergeant Cuff had left us.
A curious and stupefying restlessness got possession of me. I did a dozen
different needless things in and out of the house, not one of which I can
now remember. I don't even know how long it was after the Sergeant had
gone to the sands, when Duffy came running back with a message for me.
Sergeant Cuff had given the boy a leaf torn out of his pocket-book, on
which was written in pencil, "Send me one of Rosanna Spearman's boots,
and be quick about it."
I despatched the first woman-servant I could find to Rosanna's room;
and I sent the boy back to say that I myself would follow him with
the boot.
This, I am well aware, was not the quickest way to take
of obeying the directions which I had received. But I was
resolved to see for myself what new mystification was going
on before I trusted Rosanna's boot in the Sergeant's hands.
My old notion of screening the girl, if I could,
seemed to have come back on me again, at the eleventh hour.
This state of feeling (to say nothing of the detective-fever)
hurried me off, as soon as I had got the boot, at the nearest
approach to a run which a man turned seventy can reasonably hope
to make.
As I got near the shore, the clouds gathered black, and the rain came down,
drifting in great white sheets of water before the wind. I heard the thunder
of the sea on the sand-bank at the mouth of the bay. A little further on,
I passed the boy crouching for shelter under the lee of the sand hills.
Then I saw the raging sea, and the rollers tumbling in on the sand-bank, and
the driven rain sweeping over the waters like a flying garment, and the yellow
wilderness of the beach with one solitary black figure standing on it--
the figure of Sergeant Cuff.
He waved his hand towards the north, when he first saw me.
"Keep on that side!" he shouted. "And come on down here
to me!"
I went down to him, choking for breath, with my heart leaping
as if it was like to leap out of me. I was past speaking.
I had a hundred questions to put to him; and not one
of them would pass my lips. His face frightened me.
I saw a look in his eyes which was a look of horror.
He snatched the boot out of my hand, and set it in a footmark
on the sand, bearing south from us as we stood, and pointing
straight towards the rocky ledge called the South Spit.
The mark was not yet blurred out by the rain--and the girl's
boot fitted it to a hair.
The Sergeant pointed to the boot in the footmark, without saying a word.
I caught at his arm, and tried to speak to him, and failed as I
had failed when I tried before. He went on, following the
footsteps down and down to where the rocks and the sand joined.
The South Spit was just awash with the flowing tide;
the waters heaved over the hidden face of the Shivering Sand.
Now this way and now that, with an obstinate patience that was
dreadful to see, Sergeant Cuff tried the boot in the footsteps,
and always found it pointing the same way--straight TO the rocks.
Hunt as he might, no sign could he find anywhere of the footsteps
walking FROM them.
He gave it up at last. Still keeping silence, he looked
again at me; and then he looked out at the waters before us,
heaving in deeper and deeper over the quicksand.
I looked where he looked--and I saw his thought in his face.
A dreadful dumb trembling crawled all over me on a sudden.
I fell upon my knees on the beach.
"She has been back at the hiding-place," I heard the Sergeant say to himself.
"Some fatal accident has happened to her on those rocks."
The girl's altered looks, and words, and actions--the numbed, deadened way
in which she listened to me, and spoke to me--when I had found her sweeping
the corridor but a few hours since, rose up in my mind, and warned me,
even as the Sergeant spoke, that his guess was wide of the dreadful truth.
I tried to tell him of the fear that had frozen me up. I tried to say,
"The death she has died, Sergeant, was a death of her own seeking."
No! the words wouldn't come. The dumb trembling held me in its grip.
I couldn't feel the driving rain. I couldn't see the rising tide.
As in the vision of a dream, the poor lost creature came back before me.
I saw her again as I had seen her in the past time--on the morning
when I went to fetch her into the house. I heard her again, telling me
that the Shivering Sand seemed to draw her to it against her will,
and wondering whether her grave was waiting for her THERE. The horror
of it struck at me, in some unfathomable way, through my own child.
My girl was just her age. My girl, tried as Rosanna was tried,
might have lived that miserable life, and died this dreadful
The Sergeant kindly lifted me up, and turned me away from the sight
of the place where she had perished.
With that relief, I began to fetch my breath again, and to see things
about me, as things really were. Looking towards the sand-hills, I saw
the men-servants from out-of-doors, and the fisherman, named Yolland,
all running down to us together; and all, having taken the alarm,
calling out to know if the girl had been found. In the fewest words,
the Sergeant showed them the evidence of the footmarks, and told them
that a fatal accident must have happened to her. He then picked out
the fisherman from the rest, and put a question to him, turning about again
towards the sea: "Tell me," he said. "Could a boat have taken her off,
in such weather as this, from those rocks where her footmarks stop?"
The fisherman pointed to the rollers tumbling in on the sand-bank,
and to the great waves leaping up in clouds of foam against the headlands
on either side of us.
"No boat that ever was built," he answered, "could have got
to her through THAT."
Sergeant Cuff looked for the last time at the foot-marks on the sand,
which the rain was now fast blurring out.
"There," he said, "is the evidence that she can't have left this
place by land. And here," he went on, looking at the fisherman,
"is the evidence that she can't have got away by sea." He stopped,
and considered for a minute. "She was seen running towards this place,
half an hour before I got here from the house," he said to Yolland.
"Some time has passed since then. Call it, altogether, an hour ago.
How high would the water be, at that time, on this side of the rocks?"
He pointed to the south side--otherwise, the side which was not filled up
by the quicksand.
"As the tide makes to-day," said the fisherman, "there wouldn't
have been water enough to drown a kitten on that side of the Spit,
an hour since."
Sergeant Cuff turned about northward, towards the quicksand.
"How much on this side?" he asked.
"Less still," answered Yolland. "The Shivering Sand would have been
just awash, and no more."
The Sergeant turned to me, and said that the accident must have happened on
the side of the quicksand. My tongue was loosened at that. "No accident!"
I told him. "When she came to this place, she came weary of her life, to end
it here."
He started back from me. "How do you know? " he asked.
The rest of them crowded round. The Sergeant recovered
himself instantly. He put them back from me; he said I was
an old man; he said the discovery had shaken me; he said,
"Let him alone a little." Then he turned to Yolland, and asked,
"Is there any chance of finding her, when the tide ebbs again?"
And Yolland answered, "None. What the Sand gets, the Sand keeps
for ever." Having said that, the fisherman came a step nearer,
and addressed himself to me.
"Mr. Betteredge," he said, "I have a word to say to you about the young
woman's death. Four foot out, broadwise, along the side of the Spit,
there's a shelf of rock, about half fathom down under the sand.
My question is--why didn't she strike that? If she slipped,
by accident, from off the Spit, she fell in where there's foothold
at the bottom, at a depth that would barely cover her to the waist.
She must have waded out, or jumped out, into the Deeps beyond--
or she wouldn't be missing now. No accident, sir! The Deeps
of the Quicksand have got her. And they have got her by her
own act."
After that testimony from a man whose knowledge was to be relied on,
the Sergeant was silent. The rest of us, like him, held our peace.
With one accord, we all turned back up the slope of the beach.
At the sand-hillocks we were met by the under-groom, running to us from
the house. The lad is a good lad, and has an honest respect for me.
He handed me a little note, with a decent sorrow in his face.
"Penelope sent me with this, Mr. Betteredge," he said. "She found it in
Rosanna's room."
It was her last farewell word to the old man who had done his best--
thank God, always done his best--to befriend her.
"You have often forgiven me, Mr. Betteredge, in past times.
When you next see the Shivering Sand, try to forgive me once more.
I have found my grave where my grave was waiting for me.
I have lived, and died, sir, grateful for your kindness."
There was no more than that. Little as it was, I hadn't manhood enough
to hold up against it. Your tears come easy, when you're young,
and beginning the world. Your tears come easy, when you're old,
and leaving it. I burst out crying.
Sergeant Cuff took a step nearer to me--meaning kindly, I don't doubt.
I shrank back from him. "Don't touch me," I said. "It's the dread of you,
that has driven her to it."
"You are wrong, Mr. Betteredge," he answered, quietly. "But there
will be time enough to speak of it when we are indoors again."
I followed the rest of them, with the help of the groom's arm.
Through the driving rain we went back--to meet the trouble and
the terror that were waiting for us at the house.
Those in front had spread the news before us. We found the servants
in a state of panic. As we passed my lady's door, it was thrown
open violently from the inner side. My mistress came out among us
(with Mr. Franklin following, and trying vainly to compose her), quite
beside herself with the horror of the thing.
"You are answerable for this!" she cried out, threatening the Sergeant
wildly with her hand. "Gabriel! give that wretch his money--and release
me from the sight of him!"
The Sergeant was the only one among us who was fit to cope with her--
being the only one among us who was in possession of himself.
"I am no more answerable for this distressing calamity, my lady,
than you are," he said. "If, in half an hour from this,
you still insist on my leaving the house, I will accept your
ladyship's dismissal, but not your ladyship's money."
It was spoken very respectfully, but very firmly at the same time--
and it had its effect on my mistress as well as on me.
She suffered Mr. Franklin to lead her back into the room.
As the door closed on the two, the Sergeant, looking about among
the women-servants in his observant way, noticed that while
all the rest were merely frightened, Penelope was in tears.
"When your father has changed his wet clothes," he said to her,
"come and speak to us, in your father's room."
Before the half-hour was out, I had got my dry clothes on,
and had lent Sergeant Cuff such change of dress as he required.
Penelope came in to us to hear what the Sergeant wanted with her.
I don't think I ever felt what a good dutiful daughter I had,
so strongly as I felt it at that moment. I took her and sat
her on my knee and I prayed God bless her. She hid her head
on my bosom, and put her arms round my neck--and we waited
a little while in silence. The poor dead girl must have been
at the bottom of it, I think, with my daughter and with me.
The Sergeant went to the window, and stood there looking out.
I thought it right to thank him for considering us both in this way--
and I did.
People in high life have all the luxuries to themselves--
among others, the luxury of indulging their feelings.
People in low life have no such privilege. Necessity, which spares
our betters, has no pity on us. We learn to put our feelings
back into ourselves, and to jog on with our duties as patiently
as may be. I don't complain of this--I only notice it.
Penelope and I were ready for the Sergeant, as soon as the
Sergeant was ready on his side. Asked if she knew what had led
her fellow-servant to destroy herself, my daughter answered
(as you will foresee) that it was for love of Mr. Franklin Blake.
Asked next, if she had mentioned this notion of hers to any
other person, Penelope answered, "I have not mentioned it,
for Rosanna's sake." I felt it necessary to add a word to this.
I said, "And for Mr. Franklin's sake, my dear, as well.
If Rosanna HAS died for love of him, it is not with his knowledge
or by his fault. Let him leave the house to-day, if he does
leave it, without the useless pain of knowing the truth."
Sergeant Cuff said, "Quite right," and fell silent again;
comparing Penelope's notion (as it seemed to me)
with some other notion of his own which he kept
to himself.
At the end of the half-hour, my mistress's bell rang.
On my way to answer it, I met Mr. Franklin coming out of his
aunt's sitting-room. He mentioned that her ladyship was ready
to see Sergeant Cuff--in my presence as before--and he added
that he himself wanted to say two words to the Sergeant first.
On our way back to my room, he stopped, and looked at the railway
time-table in the hall.
"Are you really going to leave us, sir? " I asked. "Miss Rachel
will surely come right again, if you only give her time?"
"She will come right again," answered Mr. Franklin, "when she hears that I
have gone away, and that she will see me no more."
I thought he spoke in resentment of my young lady's treatment of him.
But it was not so. My mistress had noticed, from the time when the police
first came into the house, that the bare mention of him was enough to set
Miss Rachel's temper in a flame. He had been too fond of his cousin
to like to confess this to himself, until the truth had been forced
on him, when she drove off to her aunt's. His eyes once opened in that
cruel way which you know of, Mr. Franklin had taken his resolution--
the one resolution which a man of any spirit COULD take--to leave
the house.
What he had to say to the Sergeant was spoken in my presence.
He described her ladyship as willing to acknowledge that she had
spoken over-hastily. And he asked if Sergeant Cuff would consent--
in that case--to accept his fee, and to leave the matter of the Diamond
where the matter stood now. The Sergeant answered, "No, sir.
My fee is paid me for doing my duty. I decline to take it, until my duty
is done."
"I don't understand you," says Mr. Franklin.
"I'll explain myself, sir," says the Sergeant. "When I came here,
I undertook to throw the necessary light on the matter of the
missing Diamond. I am now ready, and waiting to redeem my pledge.
When I have stated the case to Lady Verinder as the case now stands,
and when I have told her plainly what course of action to take for the
recovery of the Moonstone, the responsibility will be off my shoulders.
Let her ladyship decide, after that, whether she does, or does not,
allow me to go on. I shall then have done what I undertook to do--
and I'll take my fee."
In those words Sergeant Cuff reminded us that, even in the Detective Police,
a man may have a reputation to lose.
The view he took was so plainly the right one, that there
was no more to be said. As I rose to conduct him to my
lady's room, he asked if Mr. Franklin wished to be present.
Mr. Franklin answered, "Not unless Lady Verinder desires it."
He added, in a whisper to me, as I was following the Sergeant out,
"I know what that man is going to say about Rachel; and I am
too fond of her to hear it, and keep my temper. Leave me
by myself."
I left him, miserable enough, leaning on the sill of my window,
with his face hidden in his hands and Penelope peeping through the door,
longing to comfort him. In Mr. Franklin's place, I should have
called her in. When you are ill-used by one woman, there is great
comfort in telling it to another--because, nine times out of ten,
the other always takes your side. Perhaps, when my back was turned,
he did call her in? In that case it is only doing my daughter justice
to declare that she would stick at nothing, in the way of comforting
Mr. Franklin Blake.
In the meantime, Sergeant Cuff and I proceeded to my lady's room.
At the last conference we had held with her, we had found her
not over willing to lift her eyes from the book which she had on
the table. On this occasion there was a change for the better.
She met the Sergeant's eye with an eye that was as steady as his own.
The family spirit showed itself in every line of her face;
and I knew that Sergeant Cuff would meet his match, when a woman
like my mistress was strung up to hear the worst he could say
to her.
The first words, when we had taken our seats, were spoken by my lady.
"Sergeant Cuff," she said, "there was perhaps some excuse
for the inconsiderate manner in which I spoke to you half
an hour since. I have no wish, however, to claim that excuse.
I say, with perfect sincerity, that I regret it, if I
wronged you."
The grace of voice and manner with which she made him that atonement had its
due effect on the Sergeant. He requested permission to justify himself--
putting his justification as an act of respect to my mistress.
It was impossible, he said, that he could be in any way responsible
for the calamity, which had shocked us all, for this sufficient reason,
that his success in bringing his inquiry to its proper end depended on
his neither saying nor doing anything that could alarm Rosanna Spearman.
He appealed to me to testify whether he had, or had not, carried that
object out. I could, and did, bear witness that he had. And there,
as I thought, the matter might have been judiciously left to come to
an end.
Sergeant Cuff, however, took it a step further, evidently (as you shall
now judge) with the purpose of forcing the most painful of all possible
explanations to take place between her ladyship and himself.
"I have heard a motive assigned for the young woman's suicide,"
said the Sergeant, "which may possibly be the right one. It is a
motive quite unconnected with the case which I am conducting here.
I am bound to add, however, that my own opinion points the other way.
Some unbearable anxiety in connexion with the missing Diamond,
has, I believe, driven the poor creature to her own destruction.
I don't pretend to know what that unbearable anxiety may have been.
But I think (with your ladyship's permission) I can lay my hand
on a person who is capable of deciding whether I am right
or wrong."
"Is the person now in the house?" my mistress asked, after waiting a little.
"The person has left the house," my lady.
That answer pointed as straight to Miss Rachel as straight could be.
A silence dropped on us which I thought would never come to an end.
Lord! how the wind howled, and how the rain drove at the window, as I sat
there waiting for one or other of them to speak again!
"Be so good as to express yourself plainly," said my lady.
"Do you refer to my daughter?"
"I do," said Sergeant Cuff, in so many words.
My mistress had her cheque-book on the table when we entered the room--
no doubt to pay the Sergeant his fee. She now put it back in the drawer.
It went to my heart to see how her poor hand trembled--the hand that
had loaded her old servant with benefits; the hand that, I pray God,
may take mine, when my time comes, and I leave my place for ever!
"I had hoped," said my lady, very slowly and quietly, "to have recompensed
your services, and to have parted with you without Miss Verinder's name
having been openly mentioned between us as it has been mentioned now.
My nephew has probably said something of this, before you came into
my room?"
"Mr. Blake gave his message, my lady. And I gave Mr. Blake a reason----"
"It is needless to tell me your reason. After what you have just said,
you know as well as I do that you have gone too far to go back.
I owe it to myself, and I owe it to my child, to insist on your
remaining here, and to insist on your speaking out."
The Sergeant looked at his watch.
"If there had been time, my lady," he answered, "I should have preferred
writing my report, instead of communicating it by word of mouth. But, if this
inquiry is to go on, time is of too much importance to be wasted in writing.
I am ready to go into the matter at once. It is a very painful matter for me
to speak of, and for you to hear
There my mistress stopped him once more.
"I may possibly make it less painful to you, and to my good servant
and friend here," she said, "if I set the example of speaking boldly,
on my side. You suspect Miss Verinder of deceiving us all, by secreting
the Diamond for some purpose of her own? Is that true?"
"Quite true, my lady."
"Very well. Now, before you begin, I have to tell you,
as Miss Verinder's mother, that she is ABSOLUTELY
INCAPABLE of doing what you suppose her to have done.
Your knowledge of her character dates from a day or two since.
My knowledge of her character dates from the beginning of her life.
State your suspicion of her as strongly as you please--
it is impossible that you can offend me by doing so.
I am sure, beforehand, that (with all your experience)
the circumstances have fatally misled you in this case. Mind! I am
in possession of no private information. I am as absolutely
shut out of my daughter's confidence as you are. My one reason
for speaking positively, is the reason you have heard already.
I know my child."
She turned to me, and gave me her hand. I kissed it in silence.
"You may go on," she said, facing the Sergeant again as steadily
as ever.
Sergeant Cuff bowed. My mistress had produced but one effect on him.
His hatchet-face softened for a moment, as if he was sorry for her.
As to shaking him in his own conviction, it was plain to see that she
had not moved him by a single inch. He settled himself in his chair;
and he began his vile attack on Miss Rachel's character in these words:
"I must ask your ladyship," he said, "to look this matter
in the face, from my point of view as well as from yours.
Will you please to suppose yourself coming down here, in my place,
and with my experience? and will you allow me to mention very
briefly what that experience has been?"
My mistress signed to him that she would do this. The Sergeant went on:
"For the last twenty years," he said, "I have been largely employed
in cases of family scandal, acting in the capacity of confidential man.
The one result of my domestic practice which has any bearing on
the matter now in hand, is a result which I may state in two words.
It is well within my experience, that young ladies of rank and position
do occasionally have private debts which they dare not acknowledge to their
nearest relatives and friends. Sometimes, the milliner and the jeweller
are at the bottom of it. Sometimes, the money is wanted for purposes which I
don't suspect in this case, and which I won't shock you by mentioning.
Bear in mind what I have said, my lady--and now let us see how events
in this house have forced me back on my own experience, whether I liked it
or not!"
He considered with himself for a moment, and went on--
with a horrid clearness that obliged you to understand him;
with an abominable justice that favoured nobody.
"My first information relating to the loss of the Moonstone,"
said the Sergeant, "came to me from Superintendent Seegrave.
He proved to my complete satisfaction that he was perfectly
incapable of managing the case. The one thing he said which
struck me as worth listening to, was this--that Miss Verinder
had declined to be questioned by him, and had spoken to him
with a perfectly incomprehensible rudeness and contempt.
I thought this curious--but I attributed it mainly to some
clumsiness on the Superintendent's part which might have
offended the young lady. After that, I put it by in my mind,
and applied myself, single-handed, to the case. It ended,
as you are aware, in the discovery of the smear on the door, and in
Mr. Franklin Blake's evidence satisfying me, that this same smear,
and the loss of the Diamond, were pieces of the same puzzle.
So far, if I suspected anything, I suspected that the Moonstone
had been stolen, and that one of the servants might prove to be
the thief. Very good. In this state of things, what happens?
Miss Verinder suddenly comes out of her room, and speaks to me.
I observe three suspicious appearances in that young lady.
She is still violently agitated, though more than four-and-twenty
hours have passed since the Diamond was lost. She treats
me as she has already treated Superintendent Seegrave.
And she is mortally offended with Mr. Franklin Blake.
Very good again. Here (I say to myself) is a young lady
who has lost a valuable jewel--a young lady, also, as my own
eyes and ears inform me, who is of an impetuous temperament.
Under these circumstances, and with that character, what does she do?
She betrays an incomprehensible resentment against Mr. Blake,
Mr. Superintendent, and myself--otherwise, the very three people
who have all, in their different ways, been trying to help
her to recover her lost jewel. Having brought my inquiry
to that point--THEN, my lady, and not till then, I begin to look
back into my own mind for my own experience. My own experience
explains Miss Verinder's otherwise incomprehensible conduct.
It associates her with those other young ladies that I know of.
It tells me she has debts she daren't acknowledge, that must be paid.
And it sets me asking myself, whether the loss of the Diamond may
not mean--that the Diamond must be secretly pledged to pay them.
That is the conclusion which my experience draws from
plain facts. What does your ladyship's experience say against
"What I have said already," answered my mistress. "The circumstances
have misled you."
I said nothing on my side. ROBINSON CRUSOE--God knows how--
had got into my muddled old head. If Sergeant Cuff had
found himself, at that moment, transported to a desert island,
without a man Friday to keep him company, or a ship to take him off--
he would have found himself exactly where I wished him to be!
(Nota bene:--I am an average good Christian, when you don't
push my Christianity too far. And all the rest of you--
which is a great comfort--are, in this respect, much the same as
I am.)
Sergeant Cuff went on:
"Right or wrong, my lady," he said, "having drawn my conclusion,
the next thing to do was to put it to the test. I suggested to
your ladyship the examination of all the wardrobes in the house.
It was a means of finding the article of dress which had,
in all probability, made the smear; and it was a means
of putting my conclusion to the test. How did it turn out?
Your ladyship consented; Mr. Blake consented; Mr. Ablewhite consented.
Miss Verinder alone stopped the whole proceeding by refusing
point-blank. That result satisfied me that my view was the right one.
If your ladyship and Mr. Betteredge persist in not agreeing with me,
you must be blind to what happened before you this very day.
In your hearing, I told the young lady that her leaving the house
(as things were then) would put an obstacle in the way of my recovering
her jewel. You saw yourselves that she drove off in the face
of that statement. You saw yourself that, so far from forgiving
Mr. Blake for having done more than all the rest of you to put
the clue into my hands, she publicly insulted Mr. Blake, on the steps
of her mother's house. What do these things mean? If Miss Verinder
is not privy to the suppression of the Diamond, what do these
things mean?"
This time he looked my way. It was downright frightful
to hear him piling up proof after proof against Miss Rachel,
and to know, while one was longing to defend her, that there
was no disputing the truth of what he said. I am (thank God!)
constitutionally superior to reason. This enabled me
to hold firm to my lady's view, which was my view also.
This roused my spirit, and made me put a bold face on it before
Sergeant Cuff. Profit, good friends, I beseech you, by my example.
It will save you from many troubles of the vexing sort.
Cultivate a superiority to reason, and see how you pare the claws
of all the sensible people when they try to scratch you for your
own good!
Finding that I made no remark, and that my mistress made no remark,
Sergeant Cuff proceeded. Lord! how it did enrage me to notice
that he was not in the least put out by our silence!
"There is the case, my lady, as it stands against Miss
Verinder alone," he said. "The next thing is to put the case as it
stands against Miss Verinder and the deceased Rosanna Spearman
taken together. We will go back for a moment, if you please,
to your daughter's refusal to let her wardrobe be examined.
My mind being made up, after that circumstance, I had two questions
to consider next. First, as to the right method of conducting
my inquiry. Second, as to whether Miss Verinder had an accomplice
among the female servants in the house. After carefully
thinking it over, I determined to conduct the inquiry in,
what we should call at our office, a highly irregular manner.
For this reason: I had a family scandal to deal with,
which it was my business to keep within the family limits.
The less noise made, and the fewer strangers employed to help me,
the better. As to the usual course of taking people in custody
on suspicion, going before the magistrate, and all the rest of it--
nothing of the sort was to be thought of, when your ladyship's
daughter was (as I believed) at the bottom of the whole business.
In this case, I felt that a person of Mr. Betteredge's character
and position in the house--knowing the servants as he did,
and having the honour of the family at heart--would be safer
to take as an assistant than any other person whom I could
lay my hand on. I should have tried Mr. Blake as well--
but for one obstacle in the way. HE saw the drift of my proceedings
at a very early date; and, with his interest in Miss Verinder,
any mutual understanding was impossible between him and me.
I trouble your ladyship with these particulars to show you
that I have kept the family secret within the family circle.
I am the only outsider who knows it--and my professional existence
depends on holding my tongue."
Here I felt that my professional existence depended on not holding
my tongue. To be held up before my mistress, in my old age,
as a sort of deputy-policeman, was, once again, more than my
Christianity was strong enough to bear.
"I beg to inform your ladyship," I said, "that I never, to my knowledge,
helped this abominable detective business, in any way, from first to last;
and I summon Sergeant Cuff to contradict me, if he dares!"
Having given vent in those words, I felt greatly relieved.
Her ladyship honoured me by a little friendly pat on the shoulder.
I looked with righteous indignation at the Sergeant,
to see what he thought of such a testimony as THAT.
The Sergeant looked back like a lamb, and seemed to like me better
than ever.
My lady informed him that he might continue his statement.
"I understand," she said, "that you have honestly done your best,
in what you believe to be my interest. I am ready to hear what you
have to say next."
"What I have to say next," answered Sergeant Cuff, "relates to
Rosanna Spearman. I recognised the young woman, as your ladyship
may remember, when she brought the washing-book into this room.
Up to that time I was inclined to doubt whether Miss Verinder had
trusted her secret to any one. When I saw Rosanna, I altered my mind.
I suspected her at once of being privy to the suppression of the Diamond.
The poor creature has met her death by a dreadful end, and I don't
want your ladyship to think, now she's gone, that I was unduly
hard on her. If this had been a common case of thieving, I should
have given Rosanna the benefit of the doubt just as freely as I
should have given it to any of the other servants in the house.
Our experience of the Reformatory woman is, that when tried
in service--and when kindly and judiciously treated--they prove
themselves in the majority of cases to be honestly penitent,
and honestly worthy of the pains taken with them. But this was not
a common case of thieving. It was a case--in my mind--of a deeply
planned fraud, with the owner of the Diamond at the bottom of it.
Holding this view, the first consideration which naturally
presented itself to me, in connection with Rosanna, was this:
Would Miss Verinder be satisfied (begging your ladyship's pardon)
with leading us all to think that the Moonstone was merely lost?
Or would she go a step further, and delude us into believing
that the Moonstone was stolen? In the latter event there was
Rosanna Spearman--with the character of a thief--ready to her hand;
the person of all others to lead your ladyship off, and to lead me off,
on a false scent."
Was it possible (I asked myself) that he could put his case against
Miss Rachel and Rosanna in a more horrid point of view than this?
It WAS possible, as you shall now see.
"I had another reason for suspecting the deceased woman,"
he said, "which appears to me to have been stronger still.
Who would be the very person to help Miss Verinder in
raising money privately on the Diamond? Rosanna Spearman.
No young lady in Miss Verinder's position could manage
such a risky matter as that by herself. A go-between she
must have, and who so fit, I ask again, as Rosanna Spearman?
Your ladyship's deceased housemaid was at the top of her
profession when she was a thief. She had relations,
to my certain knowledge, with one of the few men in London
(in the money-lending line) who would advance a large sum on such
a notable jewel as the Moonstone, without asking awkward questions,
or insisting on awkward conditions. Bear this in mind, my lady;
and now let me show you how my suspicions have been justified
by Rosanna's own acts, and by the plain inferences to be drawn
from them."
He thereupon passed the whole of Rosanna's proceedings under review.
You are already as well acquainted with those proceedings as I am;
and you will understand how unanswerably this part of his report fixed
the guilt of being concerned in the disappearance of the Moonstone
on the memory of the poor dead girl. Even my mistress was daunted
by what he said now. She made him no answer when he had done.
It didn't seem to matter to the Sergeant whether he was answered or not.
On he went (devil take him!), just as steady as ever.
"Having stated the whole case as I understand it," he said,
"I have only to tell your ladyship, now, what I propose to do next.
I see two ways of bringing this inquiry successfully to an end.
One of those ways I look upon as a certainty. The other, I admit,
is a bold experiment, and nothing more. Your ladyship shall decide.
Shall we take the certainty first?"
My mistress made him a sign to take his own way, and choose for himself.
"Thank you," said the Sergeant. "We'll begin with the certainty,
as your ladyship is so good as to leave it to me. Whether Miss Verinder
remains at Frizinghall, or whether she returns here, I propose,
in either case, to keep a careful watch on all her proceedings--
on the people she sees, on the rides and walks she may take, and on
the letters she may write and receive."
"What next?" asked my mistress.
"I shall next," answered the Sergeant, "request your ladyship's leave
to introduce into the house, as a servant in the place of Rosanna Spearman,
a woman accustomed to private inquiries of this sort, for whose discretion
I can answer."
"What next? " repeated my mistress.
"Next," proceeded the Sergeant, "and last, I propose to send one of my
brother-officers to make an arrangement with that money-lender in London,
whom I mentioned just now as formerly acquainted with Rosanna Spearman--
and whose name and address, your ladyship may rely on it, have been
communicated by Rosanna to Miss Verinder. I don't deny that the course
of action I am now suggesting will cost money, and consume time.
But the result is certain. We run a line round the Moonstone, and we draw
that line closer and closer till we find it in Miss Verinder's possession,
supposing she decides to keep it. If her debts press, and she decides on
sending it away, then we have our man ready, and we meet the Moonstone on its
arrival in London."
To hear her own daughter made the subject of such a proposal as this,
stung my mistress into speaking angrily for the first time.
"Consider your proposal declined, in every particular," she said.
"And go on to your other way of bringing the inquiry to an end."
"My other way," said the Sergeant, going on as easy as ever,
"is to try that bold experiment to which I have alluded. I think I
have formed a pretty correct estimate of Miss Verinder's temperament.
She is quite capable (according to my belief) of committing
a daring fraud. But she is too hot and impetuous in temper,
and too little accustomed to deceit as a habit, to act the hypocrite
in small things, and to restrain herself under all provocations.
Her feelings, in this case, have repeatedly got beyond her control,
at the very time when it was plainly her interest to conceal them.
It is on this peculiarity in her character that I now propose to act.
I want to give her a great shock suddenly, under circumstances
that will touch her to the quick. In plain English, I want to tell
Miss Verinder, without a word of warning, of Rosanna's death--
on the chance that her own better feelings will hurry her
into making a clean breast of it. Does your ladyship accept
that alternative?"
My mistress astonished me beyond all power of expression.
She answered him on the instant:
"Yes; I do."
"The pony-chaise is ready," said the Sergeant. "I wish your ladyship
good morning."
My lady held up her hand, and stopped him at the door.
"My daughter's better feelings shall be appealed to, as you propose,"
she said. "But I claim the right, as her mother, of putting
her to the test myself. You will remain here, if you please;
and I will go to Frizinghall."
For once in his life, the great Cuff stood speechless with amazement,
like an ordinary man.
My mistress rang the bell, and ordered her water-proof things.
It was still pouring with rain; and the close carriage had gone,
as you know, with Miss Rachel to Frizinghall. I tried to dissuade
her ladyship from facing the severity of the weather. Quite useless!
I asked leave to go with her, and hold the umbrella. She wouldn't
hear of it. The pony-chaise came round, with the groom in charge.
"You may rely on two things," she said to Sergeant Cuff, in the hall.
"I will try the experiment on Miss Verinder as boldly as you
could try it yourself. And I will inform you of the result,
either personally or by letter, before the last train leaves for London
With that, she stepped into the chaise, and, taking the reins herself,
drove off to Frizinghall.
My mistress having left us, I had leisure to think of Sergeant Cuff.
I found him sitting in a snug corner of the hall, consulting his
memorandum book, and curling up viciously at the corners of the lips.
"Making notes of the case? " I asked.
"No," said the Sergeant. "Looking to see what my next professional
engagement is."
"Oh!" I said. "You think it's all over then, here?"
"I think," answered Sergeant Cuff, "that Lady Verinder is one
of the cleverest women in England. I also think a rose much
better worth looking at than a diamond. Where is the gardener,
Mr. Betteredge?"
There was no getting a word more out of him on the matter of the Moonstone.
He had lost all interest in his own inquiry; and he would persist in looking
for the gardener. An hour afterwards, I heard them at high words in
the conservatory, with the dog-rose once more at the bottom of the dispute.
In the meantime, it was my business to find out whether Mr. Franklin
persisted in his resolution to leave us by the afternoon train.
After having been informed of the conference in my lady's room,
and of how it had ended, he immediately decided on waiting to hear
the news from Frizinghall. This very natural alteration in his plans--
which, with ordinary people, would have led to nothing in particular--
proved, in Mr. Franklin's case, to have one objectionable result.
It left him unsettled, with a legacy of idle time on his hands, and,
in so doing, it let out all the foreign sides of his character,
one on the top of another, like rats out of a bag.
Now as an Italian-Englishman, now as a German-Englishman, and now
as a French-Englishman, he drifted in and out of all the sitting-rooms
in the house, with nothing to talk of but Miss Rachel's treatment of him;
and with nobody to address himself to but me. I found him (for example)
in the library, sitting under the map of Modern Italy, and quite
unaware of any other method of meeting his troubles, except the method
of talking about them. "I have several worthy aspirations, Betteredge;
but what am I to do with them now? I am full of dormant good qualities,
if Rachel would only have helped me to bring them out!" He was so eloquent
in drawing the picture of his own neglected merits, and so pathetic
in lamenting over it when it was done, that I felt quite at my wits'
end how to console him, when it suddenly occurred to me that here was
a case for the wholesome application of a bit of ROBINSON CRUSOE.
I hobbled out to my own room, and hobbled back with that immortal book.
Nobody in the library! The map of Modern Italy stared at ME; and I stared
at the map of Modern Italy.
I tried the drawing-room. There was his handkerchief on the floor,
to prove that he had drifted in. And there was the empty room
to prove that he had drifted out again.
I tried the dining-room, and discovered Samuel with a biscuit
and a glass of sherry, silently investigating the empty air.
A minute since, Mr. Franklin had rung furiously for a little
light refreshment. On its production, in a violent hurry,
by Samuel, Mr. Franklin had vanished before the bell
downstairs had quite done ringing with the pull he had given
to it.
I tried the morning-room, and found him at last. There he was at the window,
drawing hieroglyphics with his finger in the damp on the glass.
"Your sherry is waiting for you, sir," I said to him.
I might as well have addressed myself to one of the four
walls of the room; he was down in the bottomless deep of his
own meditations, past all pulling up. "How do YOU explain
Rachel's conduct, Betteredge?" was the only answer I received.
Not being ready with the needful reply, I produced ROBINSON CRUSOE,
in which I am firmly persuaded some explanation might have
been found, if we had only searched long enough for it.
Mr. Franklin shut up ROBINSON CRUSOE, and floundered into his
German-English gibberish on the spot. "Why not look into it?"
he said, as if I had personally objected to looking into it.
"Why the devil lose your patience, Betteredge, when patience is
all that's wanted to arrive at the truth? Don't interrupt me.
Rachel's conduct is perfectly intelligible, if you will only
do her the common justice to take the Objective view first.
and the Subjective view next, and the Objective-Subjective
view to wind up with. What do we know? We know that the loss
of the Moonstone, on Thursday morning last, threw her into a state
of nervous excitement, from which she has not recovered yet.
Do you mean to deny the Objective view, so far? Very well, then--
don't interrupt me. Now, being in a state of nervous excitement,
how are we to expect that she should behave as she might
otherwise have behaved to any of the people about her?
Arguing in this way, from within-outwards, what do we reach?
We reach the Subjective view. I defy you to controvert
the Subjective view. Very well then--what follows?
Good Heavens! the Objective-Subjective explanation follows,
of course! Rachel, properly speaking, is not Rachel,
but Somebody Else. Do I mind being cruelly treated by Somebody Else?
You are unreasonable enough, Betteredge; but you can
hardly accuse me of that. Then how does it end? It ends,
in spite of your confounded English narrowness and prejudice,
in my being perfectly happy and comfortable. Where's the
My head was by this time in such a condition, that I was not quite sure
whether it was my own head, or Mr. Franklin's. In this deplorable state,
I contrived to do, what I take to have been, three Objective things.
I got Mr. Franklin his sherry; I retired to my own room; and I solaced
myself with the most composing pipe of tobacco I ever remember to have
smoked in my life.
Don't suppose, however, that I was quit of Mr. Franklin on such
easy terms as these. Drifting again, out of the morning-room
into the hall, he found his way to the offices next, smelt my pipe,
and was instantly reminded that he had been simple enough to give
up smoking for Miss Rachel's sake. In the twinkling of an eye,
he burst in on me with his cigar-case, and came out strong on the one
everlasting subject, in his neat, witty, unbelieving, French way.
"Give me a light, Betteredge. Is it conceivable that a man can have
smoked as long as I have without discovering that there is a complete
system for the treatment of women at the bottom of his cigar-case? Follow
me carefully, and I will prove it in two words. You choose a cigar,
you try it, and it disappoints you. What do you do upon that?
You throw it away and try another. Now observe the application!
You choose a woman, you try her, and she breaks your heart.
Fool! take a lesson from your cigar-case. Throw her away,
and try another!"
I shook my head at that. Wonderfully clever, I dare say, but my own
experience was dead against it. "In the time of the late Mrs. Betteredge,"
I said, "I felt pretty often inclined to try your philosophy, Mr. Franklin.
But the law insists on your smoking your cigar, sir, when you
have once chosen it." I pointed that observation with a wink.
Mr. Franklin burst out laughing--and we were as merry as crickets,
until the next new side of his character turned up in due course.
So things went on with my young master and me; and so (while the Sergeant
and the gardener were wrangling over the roses) we two spent the interval
before the news came back from Frizinghall.
The pony-chaise returned a good half hour before I had ventured to expect it.
My lady had decided to remain for the present, at her sister's house.
The groom brought two letters from his mistress; one addressed to
Mr. Franklin, and the other to me.
Mr. Franklin's letter I sent to him in the library--into which refuge
his driftings had now taken him for the second time. My own letter,
I read in my own room. A cheque, which dropped out when I opened it,
informed me (before I had mastered the contents) that Sergeant Cuff's
dismissal from the inquiry after the Moonstone was now a settled thing.
I sent to the conservatory to say that I wished to speak
to the Sergeant directly. He appeared, with his mind full
of the gardener and the dog-rose, declaring that the equal
of Mr. Begbie for obstinacy never had existed yet, and never
would exist again. I requested him to dismiss such wretched
trifling as this from our conversation, and to give his best
attention to a really serious matter. Upon that he exerted
himself sufficiently to notice the letter in my hand.
"Ah!" he said in a weary way, "you have heard from her ladyship.
Have I anything to do with it, Mr. Betteredge?"
"You shall judge for yourself, Sergeant." I thereupon read him the letter
(with my best emphasis and discretion), in the following words:
"MY GOOD GABRIEL,--I request that you will inform Sergeant Cuff,
that I have performed the promise I made to him; with this result,
so far as Rosanna Spearman is concerned. Miss Verinder solemnly
declares, that she has never spoken a word in private to Rosanna,
since that unhappy woman first entered my house. They never met,
even accidentally, on the night when the Diamond was lost;
and no communication of any sort whatever took place between them,
from the Thursday morning when the alarm was first raised in the house,
to this present Saturday afternoon, when Miss Verinder left us.
After telling my daughter suddenly, and in so many words, of Rosanna
Spearman's suicide--this is what has come of it."
Having reached that point, I looked up, and asked Sergeant Cuff
what he thought of the letter, so far?
"I should only offend you if I expressed MY opinion," answered the Sergeant.
"Go on, Mr. Betteredge," he said, with the most exasperating resignation,
"go on."
When I remembered that this man had had the audacity to complain
of our gardener's obstinacy, my tongue itched to "go on" in other words
than my mistress's. This time, however, my Christianity held firm.
I proceeded steadily with her ladyship's letter:
"Having appealed to Miss Verinder in the manner which the officer
thought most desirable, I spoke to her next in the manner which I
myself thought most likely to impress her. On two different occasions,
before my daughter left my roof, I privately warned her that she
was exposing herself to suspicion of the most unendurable and most
degrading kind. I have now told her, in the plainest terms,
that my apprehensions have been realised.
"Her answer to this, on her own solemn affirmation, is as plain
as words can be. In the first place, she owes no money privately
to any living creature. In the second place, the Diamond is not now,
and never has been, in her possession, since she put it into her
cabinet on Wednesday night.
"The confidence which my daughter has placed in me goes no
further than this. She maintains an obstinate silence, when I
ask her if she can explain the disappearance of the Diamond.
She refuses, with tears, when I appeal to her to speak out
for my sake. "The day will come when you will know why I am
careless about being suspected, and why I am silent even to you.
I have done much to make my mother pity me--nothing to make
my mother blush for me." Those are my daughter's own words.
"After what has passed between the officer and me, I think--
stranger as he is--that he should be made acquainted with what
Miss Verinder has said, as well as you. Read my letter to him,
and then place in his hands the cheque which I enclose.
In resigning all further claim on his services, I have only
to say that I am convinced of his honesty and his intelligence;
but I am more firmly persuaded than ever, that the circumstances,
in this case, have fatally misled him."
There the letter ended. Before presenting the cheque, I asked Sergeant
Cuff if he had any remark to make.
"It's no part of my duty, Mr. Betteredge," he answered,
"to make remarks on a case, when I have done with it."
I tossed the cheque across the table to him. "Do you believe in THAT
part of her ladyship's letter?" I said, indignantly.
The Sergeant looked at the cheque, and lifted up his dismal
eyebrows in acknowledgment of her ladyship's liberality.
"This is such a generous estimate of the value of my time,"
he said, "that I feel bound to make some return for it.
I'll bear in mind the amount in this cheque, Mr. Betteredge,
when the occasion comes round for remembering it."
"What do you mean? " I asked.
"Her ladyship has smoothed matters over for the present very cleverly,"
said the Sergeant. "But THIS family scandal is of the sort that bursts up
again when you least expect it. We shall have more detective-business on
our hands, sir, before the Moonstone is many months older."
If those words meant anything, and if the manner in which he spoke them
meant anything--it came to this. My mistress's letter had proved,
to his mind, that Miss Rachel was hardened enough to resist
the strongest appeal that could be addressed to her, and that she
had deceived her own mother (good God, under what circumstances!)
by a series of abominable lies. How other people, in my place,
might have replied to the Sergeant, I don't know. I answered what
he said in these plain terms:
"Sergeant Cuff, I consider your last observation as an insult
to my lady and her daughter!"
"Mr. Betteredge, consider it as a warning to yourself, and you
will be nearer the mark."
Hot and angry as I was, the infernal confidence with which he gave me
that answer closed my lips.
I walked to the window to compose myself. The rain had given over;
and, who should I see in the court-yard, but Mr. Begbie, the gardener,
waiting outside to continue the dog-rose controversy with Sergeant Cuff.
"My compliments to the Sairgent," said Mr. Begbie, the moment
he set eyes on me. "If he's minded to walk to the station,
I'm agreeable to go with him."
"What!" cries the Sergeant, behind me, "are you not convinced yet?"
"The de'il a bit I'm convinced!" answered Mr. Begbie.
"Then I'll walk to the station!" says the Sergeant.
"Then I'll meet you at the gate!" says Mr. Begbie.
I was angry enough, as you know--but how was any man's anger
to hold out against such an interruption as this? Sergeant Cuff
noticed the change in me, and encouraged it by a word in season.
"Come! come!" he said, "why not treat my view of the case as her
ladyship treats it? Why not say, the circumstances have fatally
misled me?"
To take anything as her ladyship took it was a privilege worth enjoying--
even with the disadvantage of its having been offered to me by Sergeant Cuff.
I cooled slowly down to my customary level. I regarded any other opinion
of Miss Rachel, than my lady's opinion or mine, with a lofty contempt.
The only thing I could not do, was to keep off the subject of the Moonstone!
My own good sense ought to have warned me, I know, to let the matter rest--
but, there! the virtues which distinguish the present generation were not
invented in my time. Sergeant Cuff had hit me on the raw, and, though I
did look down upon him with contempt, the tender place still tingled for
all that. The end of it was that I perversely led him back to the subject
of her ladyship's letter. "I am quite satisfied myself," I said. "But never
mind that! Go on, as if I was still open to conviction. You think Miss
Rachel is not to be believed on her word; and you say we shall hear of the
Moonstone again. Back your opinion, Sergeant," I concluded, in an airy way.
"Back your opinion."
Instead of taking offence, Sergeant Cuff seized my hand,
and shook it till my fingers ached again.
"I declare to heaven," says this strange officer solemnly,
"I would take to domestic service to-morrow, Mr. Betteredge,
if I had a chance of being employed along with You!
To say you are as transparent as a child, sir, is to pay
the children a compliment which nine out of ten of them
don't deserve. There! there! we won't begin to dispute again.
You shall have it out of me on easier terms than that.
I won't say a word more about her ladyship, or about Miss Verinder--
I'll only turn prophet, for once in a way, and for your sake.
I have warned you already that you haven't done with the
Moonstone yet. Very well. Now I'll tell you, at parting,
of three things which will happen in the future, and which, I believe,
will force themselves on your attention, whether you like it
or not."
"Go on!" I said, quite unabashed, and just as airy as ever.
"First," said the Sergeant, "you will hear something from the Yollands--
when the postman delivers Rosanna's letter at Cobb's Hole, on Monday next."
If he had thrown a bucket of cold water over me, I doubt if I could
have felt it much more unpleasantly than I felt those words.
Miss Rachel's assertion of her innocence had left Rosanna's conduct--
the making the new nightgown, the hiding the smeared nightgown,
and all the rest of it--entirely without explanation. And this had
never occurred to me, till Sergeant Cuff forced it on my mind all in
a moment!
"In the second place," proceeded the Sergeant, "you will hear of
the three Indians again. You will hear of them in the neighbourhood,
if Miss Rachel remains in the neighbourhood. You will hear of them
in London, if Miss Rachel goes to London."
Having lost all interest in the three jugglers, and having
thoroughly convinced myself of my young lady's innocence,
I took this second prophecy easily enough. "So much for two
of the three things that are going to happen," I said.
"Now for the third!"
"Third, and last," said Sergeant Cuff, "you will, sooner or later,
hear something of that money-lender in London, whom I have twice
taken the liberty of mentioning already. Give me your pocket-book,
and I'll make a note for you of his name and address--so that there
may be no mistake about it if the thing really happens."
He wrote accordingly on a blank leaf--"Mr. Septimus Luker,
Middlesex-place, Lambeth, London."
"There," he said, pointing to the address, "are the last words,
on the subject of the Moonstone, which I shall trouble you with
for the present. Time will show whether I am right or wrong.
In the meanwhile, sir, I carry away with me a sincere personal
liking for you, which I think does honour to both of us.
If we don't meet again before my professional retirement takes place,
I hope you will come and see me in a little house near London,
which I have got my eye on. There will be grass walks,
Mr. Betteredge, I promise you, in my garden. And as for the white
moss rose----"
"The de'il a bit ye'll get the white moss rose to grow,
unless you bud him on the dogue-rose first," cried a voice
at the window.
We both turned round. There was the everlasting Mr. Begbie,
too eager for the controversy to wait any longer at the gate.
The Sergeant wrung my hand, and darted out into the court-yard,
hotter still on his side. "Ask him about the moss rose,
when he comes back, and see if I have left him a leg to stand on!"
cried the great Cuff, hailing me through the window in his turn.
"Gentlemen, both!" I answered, moderating them again as I had
moderated them once already.
In the matter of the moss rose there is a great deal to be
said on both sides!" I might as well (as the Irish say)
have whistled jigs to a milestone. Away they went together,
fighting the battle of the roses without asking or giving
quarter on either side. The last I saw of them, Mr. Begbie
was shaking his obstinate head, and Sergeant Cuff had got
him by the arm like a prisoner in charge. Ah, well! well!
I own I couldn't help liking the Sergeant--though I hated him all
the time.
Explain that state of mind, if you can. You will soon be rid, now, of me
and my contradictions. When I have reported Mr. Franklin's departure,
the history of the Saturday's events will be finished at last.
And when I have next described certain strange things that happened
in the course of the new week, I shall have done my part of the Story,
and shall hand over the pen to the person who is appointed to follow
my lead. If you are as tired of reading this narrative as I am of
writing it--Lord, how we shall enjoy ourselves on both sides a few pages
further on!
I had kept the pony chaise ready, in case Mr. Franklin persisted
in leaving us by the train that night. The appearance of the luggage,
followed downstairs by Mr. Franklin himself, informed me plainly
enough that he had held firm to a resolution for once in his life.
"So you have really made up your mind, sir?" I said, as we met in the hall.
"Why not wait a day or two longer, and give Miss Rachel another chance?"
The foreign varnish appeared to have all worn off Mr. Franklin,
now that the time had come for saying good-bye. Instead of replying
to me in words, he put the letter which her ladyship had addressed
to him into my hand. The greater part of it said over again what
had been said already in the other communication received by me.
But there was a bit about Miss Rachel added at the end, which will
account for the steadiness of Mr. Franklin's determination, if it
accounts for nothing else.
"You will wonder, I dare say" (her ladyship wrote), "at my
allowing my own daughter to keep me perfectly in the dark.
A Diamond worth twenty thousand pounds has been lost--and I am
left to infer that the mystery of its disappearance is no mystery
to Rachel, and that some incomprehensible obligation of silence
has been laid on her, by some person or persons utterly unknown
to me, with some object in view at which I cannot even guess.
Is it conceivable that I should allow myself to be trifled with in
this way? It is quite conceivable, in Rachel's present state.
She is in a condition of nervous agitation pitiable to see.
I dare not approach the subject of the Moonstone again until
time has done something to quiet her. To help this end,
I have not hesitated to dismiss the police-officer. The
mystery which baffles us, baffles him too. This is not a
matter in which any stranger can help us. He adds to what I
have to suffer; and he maddens Rachel if she only hears
his name.
"My plans for the future are as well settled as they can be.
My present idea is to take Rachel to London--partly to relieve her mind
by a complete change, partly to try what may be done by consulting
the best medical advice. Can I ask you to meet us in town?
My dear Franklin, you, in your way, must imitate my patience,
and wait, as I do, for a fitter time. The valuable assistance
which you rendered to the inquiry after the lost jewel is still an
unpardoned offence, in the present dreadful state of Rachel's mind.
Moving blindfold in this matter, you have added to the burden
of anxiety which she has had to bear, by innocently threatening
her secret with discovery, through your exertions. It is impossible
for me to excuse the perversity that holds you responsible for
consequences which neither you nor I could imagine or foresee.
She is not to be reasoned with--she can only be pitied.
I am grieved to have to say it, but for the present, you and Rachel
are better apart. The only advice I can offer you is, to give
her time."
I handed the letter back, sincerely sorry for Mr. Franklin,
for I knew how fond he was of my young lady; and I saw
that her mother's account of her had cut him to the heart.
"You know the proverb, sir," was all I said to him.
"When things are at the worst, they're sure to mend.
Things can't be much worse, Mr. Franklin, than they
are now."
Mr. Franklin folded up his aunt's letter, without appearing to be much
comforted by the remark which I had ventured on addressing to him.
"When I came here from London with that horrible Diamond,"
he said, "I don't believe there was a happier household in England
than this. Look at the household now! Scattered, disunited--
the very air of the place poisoned with mystery and suspicion!
Do you remember that morning at the Shivering Sand, when we
talked about my uncle Herncastle, and his birthday gift?
The Moonstone has served the Colonel's vengeance, Betteredge, by means
which the Colonel himself never dreamt of!"
With that he shook me by the hand, and went out to the pony chaise.
I followed him down the steps. It was very miserable to see him leaving
the old place, where he had spent the happiest years of his life,
in this way. Penelope (sadly upset by all that had happened in the house)
came round crying, to bid him good-bye. Mr. Franklin kissed her.
I waved my hand as much as to say, "You're heartily welcome, sir." Some of
the other female servants appeared, peeping after him round the corner.
He was one of those men whom the women all like. At the last moment,
I stopped the pony chaise, and begged as a favour that he would let
us hear from him by letter. He didn't seem to heed what I said--
he was looking round from one thing to another, taking a sort of farewell
of the old house and grounds. "Tell us where you are going to, sir!"
I said, holding on by the chaise, and trying to get at his future plans
in that way. Mr. Franklin pulled his hat down suddenly over his eyes.
"Going?" says he, echoing the word after me. "I am going to the devil!"
The pony started at the word, as if he had felt a Christian horror of it.
"God bless you, sir, go where you may!" was all I had time to say,
before he was out of sight and hearing. A sweet and pleasant gentleman!
With all his faults and follies, a sweet and pleasant gentleman! He left a
sad gap behind him, when he left my lady's house.
It was dull and dreary enough, when the long summer evening closed in,
on that Saturday night.
I kept my spirits from sinking by sticking fast to my pipe
and my ROBINSON CRUSOE. The women (excepting Penelope)
beguiled the time by talking of Rosanna's suicide. They were all
obstinately of opinion that the poor girl had stolen the Moonstone,
and that she had destroyed herself in terror of being found out.
My daughter, of course, privately held fast to what she had
said all along. Her notion of the motive which was really
at the bottom of the suicide failed, oddly enough, just where
my young lady's assertion of her innocence failed also.
It left Rosanna's secret journey to Frizinghall, and Rosanna's
proceedings in the matter of the nightgown entirely unaccounted for.
There was no use in pointing this out to Penelope; the objection
made about as much impression on her as a shower of rain
on a waterproof coat. The truth is, my daughter inherits my
superiority to reason--and, in respect to that accomplishment,
has got a long way ahead of her own father.
On the next day (Sunday), the close carriage, which had been kept
at Mr. Ablewhite's, came back to us empty. The coachman brought
a message for me, and written instructions for my lady's own maid
and for Penelope.
The message informed me that my mistress had determined to take
Miss Rachel to her house in London, on the Monday. The written
instructions informed the two maids of the clothing that was wanted,
and directed them to meet their mistresses in town at a given hour.
Most of the other servants were to follow. My lady had found Miss Rachel
so unwilling to return to the house, after what had happened in it,
that she had decided on going to London direct from Frizinghall.
I was to remain in the country, until further orders, to look after
things indoors and out. The servants left with me were to be put on
board wages.
Being reminded, by all this, of what Mr. Franklin had said
about our being a scattered and disunited household, my mind
was led naturally to Mr. Franklin himself. The more I thought
of him, the more uneasy I felt about his future proceedings.
It ended in my writing, by the Sunday's post, to his father's valet,
Mr. Jeffco (whom I had known in former years) to beg he would
let me know what Mr. Franklin had settled to do, on arriving
in London.
The Sunday evening was, if possible, duller even than the Saturday evening.
We ended the day of rest, as hundreds of thousands of people end it regularly,
once a week, in these islands--that is to say, we all anticipated bedtime,
and fell asleep in our chairs.
How the Monday affected the rest of the household I don't know.
The Monday gave ME a good shake up. The first of Sergeant Cuff's
prophecies of what was to happen--namely, that I should hear from
the Yollands--came true on that day.
I had seen Penelope and my lady's maid off in the railway with the luggage
for London, and was pottering about the grounds, when I heard my name called.
Turning round, I found myself face to face with the fisherman's daughter,
Limping Lucy. Bating her lame foot and her leanness (this last a horrid
draw-back to a woman, in my opinion), the girl had some pleasing qualities
in the eye of a man. A dark, keen, clever face, and a nice clear voice, and a
beautiful brown head of hair counted among her merits. A crutch appeared
in the list of her misfortunes. And a temper reckoned high in the sum total
of her defects.
"Well, my dear," I said, "what do you want with me?"
"Where's the man you call Franklin Blake?" says the girl,
fixing me with a fierce look, as she rested herself on her crutch.
"That's not a respectful way to speak of any gentleman,"
I answered. "If you wish to inquire for my lady's nephew,
you will please to mention him as MR. Franklin Blake."
She limped a step nearer to me, and looked as if she could have
eaten me alive. "MR. Franklin Blake?" she repeated after me.
"Murderer Franklin Blake would be a fitter name for him."
My practice with the late Mrs. Betteredge came in handy here.
Whenever a woman tries to put you out of temper, turn the tables,
and put HER out of temper instead. They are generally prepared
for every effort you can make in your own defence, but that.
One word does it as well as a hundred; and one word did it
with Limping Lucy. I looked her pleasantly in the face;
and I said--"Pooh!"
The girl's temper flamed out directly. She poised herself on her sound foot,
and she took her crutch, and beat it furiously three times on the ground.
"He's a murderer! he's a murderer! he's a murderer! He has been the death
of Rosanna Spearman!" She screamed that answer out at the top of her voice.
One or two of the people at work in the grounds near us looked up--
saw it was Limping Lucy--knew what to expect from that quarter--and looked
away again.
"He has been the death of Rosanna Spearman?" I repeated.
"What makes you say that, Lucy?"
"What do you care? What does any man care? Oh! if she had only thought
of the men as I think, she might have been living now!"
"She always thought kindly of ME, poor soul," I said;
"and, to the best of my ability, I always tried to act kindly
by HER."
I spoke those words in as comforting a manner as I could. The truth is,
I hadn't the heart to irritate the girl by another of my smart replies.
I had only noticed her temper at first. I noticed her wretchedness now--
and wretchedness is not uncommonly insolent, you will find, in humble life.
My answer melted Limping Lucy. She bent her head down, and laid it on the top
of her crutch.
"I loved her," the girl said softly. "She had lived a miserable life,
Mr. Betteredge--vile people had ill-treated her and led her wrong--
and it hadn't spoiled her sweet temper. She was an angel.
She might have been happy with me. I had a plan for our going
to London together like sisters, and living by our needles.
That man came here, and spoilt it all. He bewitched her.
Don't tell me he didn't mean it, and didn't know it.
He ought to have known it. He ought to have taken pity on her.
'I can't live without him--and, oh, Lucy, he never even looks
at me.' That's what she said. Cruel, cruel, cruel. I said,
'No man is worth fretting for in that way.' And she said,
'There are men worth dying for, Lucy, and he is one of them.'
I had saved up a little money. I had settled things with father
and mother. I meant to take her away from the mortification
she was suffering here. We should have had a little lodging
in London, and lived together like sisters. She had a
good education, sir, as you know, and she wrote a good hand.
She was quick at her needle. I have a good education, and I
write a good hand. I am not as quick at my needle as she was--
but I could have done. We might have got our living nicely.
And, oh! what happens this morning? what happens this morning?
Her letter comes and tells me that she has done with the burden
of her life. Her letter comes, and bids me good-bye for ever.
Where is he?" cries the girl, lifting her head from
the crutch, and flaming out again through her tears.
"Where's this gentleman that I mustn't speak of,
except with respect? Ha, Mr. Betteredge, the day is not far
off when the poor will rise against the rich. I pray Heaven
they may begin with HIM. I pray Heaven they may begin with
Here was another of your average good Christians, and here was the usual
break-down, consequent on that same average Christianity being pushed
too far! The parson himself (though I own this is saying a great deal)
could hardly have lectured the girl in the state she was in now.
All I ventured to do was to keep her to the point--in the hope of something
turning up which might be worth hearing.
"What do you want with Mr. Franklin Blake?" I asked.
"I want to see him."
"For anything particular?"
"I have got a letter to give him."
"From Rosanna Spearman?"
"Sent to you in your own letter?"
Was the darkness going to lift? Were all the discoveries that I was dying
to make, coming and offering themselves to me of their own accord?
I was obliged to wait a moment. Sergeant Cuff had left his infection
behind him. Certain signs and tokens, personal to myself, warned me that
the detective-fever was beginning to set in again.
"You can't see Mr. Franklin," I said.
"I must, and will, see him."
"He went to London last night."
Limping Lucy looked me hard in the face, and saw that I was speaking
the truth. Without a word more, she turned about again instantly towards
Cobb's Hole.
"Stop!" I said. "I expect news of Mr. Franklin Blake to-morrow.
Give me your letter, and I'll send it on to him by the post."
Limping Lucy steadied herself on her crutch and looked back at me
over her shoulder.
"I am to give it from my hands into his hands," she said.
"And I am to give it to him in no other way."
"Shall I write, and tell him what you have said?"
"Tell him I hate him. And you will tell him the truth."
"Yes, yes. But about the letter?"
"If he wants the letter, he must come back here, and get it from Me."
With those words she limped off on the way to Cobb's Hole.
The detective-fever burnt up all my dignity on the spot.
I followed her, and tried to make her talk. All in vain.
It was my misfortune to be a man--and Limping Lucy enjoyed
disappointing me. Later in the day, I tried my luck with her mother.
Good Mrs. Yolland could only cry, and recommend a drop of comfort
out of the Dutch bottle. I found the fisherman on the beach.
He said it was "a bad job," and went on mending his net.
Neither father nor mother knew more than I knew. The one way left
to try was the chance, which might come with the morning, of writing
to Mr. Franklin Blake.
I leave you to imagine how I watched for the postman on Tuesday morning.
He brought me two letters. One, from Penelope (which I had hardly patience
enough to read), announced that my lady and Miss Rachel were safely
established in London. The other, from Mr. Jeffco, informed me that his
master's son had left England already.
On reaching the metropolis, Mr. Franklin had, it appeared,
gone straight to his father's residence. He arrived at an awkward time.
Mr. Blake, the elder, was up to his eyes in the business of the House
of Commons, and was amusing himself at home that night with the
favourite parliamentary plaything which they call "a private bill."
Mr. Jeffco himself showed Mr. Franklin into his father's study.
"My dear Franklin! why do you surprise me in this way? Anything wrong?"
"Yes; something wrong with Rachel; I am dreadfully distressed
about it." "Grieved to hear it. But I can't listen to you now."
"When can you listen?" "My dear boy! I won't deceive you.
I can listen at the end of the session, not a moment before.
Good-night." "Thank you, sir. Good-night."
Such was the conversation, inside the study, as reported to me by
Mr. Jeffco. The conversation outside the study, was shorter still.
"Jeffco, see what time the tidal train starts to-morrow morning."
"At six-forty, Mr. Franklin." "Have me called at five."
"Going abroad, sir?" "Going, Jeffco, wherever the railway chooses
to take me." "Shall I tell your father, sir?" "Yes; tell him at the end
of the session."
The next morning Mr. Franklin had started for foreign parts.
To what particular place he was bound, nobody (himself included)
could presume to guess. We might hear of him next in Europe,
Asia, Africa, or America. The chances were as equally divided
as possible, in Mr. Jeffco's opinion, among the four quarters of
the globe.
This news--by closing up all prospects of my bringing
Limping Lucy and Mr. Franklin together--at once stopped
any further progress of mine on the way to discovery.
Penelope's belief that her fellow-servant had destroyed herself
through unrequited love for Mr. Franklin Blake, was confirmed--
and that was all. Whether the letter which Rosanna had left
to be given to him after her death did, or did not, contain the
confession which Mr. Franklin had suspected her of trying
to make to him in her life-time, it was impossible to say.
It might be only a farewell word, telling nothing but the
secret of her unhappy fancy for a person beyond her reach.
Or it might own the whole truth about the strange proceedings
in which Sergeant Cuff had detected her, from the time when
the Moonstone was lost, to the time when she rushed to her own
destruction at the Shivering Sand. A sealed letter it had been
placed in Limping Lucy's hand, and a sealed letter it remained
to me and to every one about the girl, her own parents included.
We all suspected her of having been in the dead woman's confidence;
we all tried to make her speak; we all failed. Now one,
and now another, of the servants--still holding to the belief
that Rosanna had stolen the Diamond and had hidden it--
peered and poked about the rocks to which she had been traced,
and peered and poked in vain. The tide ebbed, and the tide flowed;
the summer went on, and the autumn came. And the Quicksand,
which hid her body, hid her secret too.
The news of Mr. Franklin's departure from England on the Sunday morning,
and the news of my lady's arrival in London with Miss Rachel on the
Monday afternoon, had reached me, as you are aware, by the Tuesday's post.
The Wednesday came, and brought nothing. The Thursday produced a second
budget of news from Penelope.
My girl's letter informed me that some great London doctor
had been consulted about her young lady, and had earned
a guinea by remarking that she had better be amused.
Flower-shows, operas, balls--there was a whole round of gaieties
in prospect; and Miss Rachel, to her mother's astonishment,
eagerly took to it all. Mr. Godfrey had called; evidently as sweet
as ever on his cousin, in spite of the reception he had met with,
when he tried his luck on the occasion of the birthday.
To Penelope's great regret, he had been most graciously received,
and had added Miss Rachel's name to one of his Ladies'
Charities on the spot. My mistress was reported to be out
of spirits, and to have held two long interviews with her lawyer.
Certain speculations followed, referring to a poor relation
of the family--one Miss Clack, whom I have mentioned in my
account of the birthday dinner, as sitting next to Mr. Godfrey,
and having a pretty taste in champagne. Penelope was
astonished to find that Miss Clack had not called yet.
She would surely not be long before she fastened herself on my
lady as usual--and so forth, and so forth, in the way women
have of girding at each other, on and off paper. This would
not have been worth mentioning, I admit, but for one reason.
I hear you are likely to be turned over to Miss Clack,
after parting with me. In that case, just do me the favour
of not believing a word she says, if she speaks of your
humble servant.
On Friday, nothing happened--except that one of the dogs showed signs
of a breaking out behind the ears. I gave him a dose of syrup of buckthorn,
and put him on a diet of pot-liquor and vegetables till further orders.
Excuse my mentioning this. It has slipped in somehow. Pass it over please.
I am fast coming to the end of my offences against your cultivated
modern taste. Besides, the dog was a good creature, and deserved a
good physicking; he did indeed.
Saturday, the last day of the week, is also the last day in my narrative.
The morning's post brought me a surprise in the shape of a London newspaper.
The handwriting on the direction puzzled me. I compared it with the
money-lender's name and address as recorded in my pocket-pook, and identified
it at once as the writing of Sergeant Cuff.
Looking through the paper eagerly enough, after this discovery,
I found an ink-mark drawn round one of the police reports.
Here it is, at your service. Read it as I read it, and you
will set the right value on the Sergeant's polite attention
in sending me the news of the day:
"LAMBETH--Shortly before the closing of the court, Mr. Septimus Luker,
the well-known dealer in ancient gems, carvings, intagli, &c., &c.,
applied to the sitting magistrate for advice. The applicant stated
that he had been annoyed, at intervals throughout the day, by the
proceedings of some of those strolling Indians who infest the streets.
The persons complained of were three in number. After having been sent
away by the police, they had returned again and again, and had attempted
to enter the house on pretence of asking for charity. Warned off in
the front, they had been discovered again at the back of the premises.
Besides the annoyance complained of, Mr. Luker expressed himself
as being under some apprehension that robbery might be contemplated.
His collection contained many unique gems, both classical and Oriental,
of the highest value. He had only the day before been compelled
to dismiss a skilled workman in ivory carving from his employment
(a native of India, as we understood), on suspicion of attempted theft;
and he felt by no means sure that this man and the street jugglers
of whom he complained, might not be acting in concert. It might be
their object to collect a crowd, and create a disturbance in the street,
and, in the confusion thus caused, to obtain access to the house.
In reply to the magistrate, Mr. Luker admitted that he had no evidence
to produce of any attempt at robbery being in contemplation.
He could speak positively to the annoyance and interruption caused
by the Indians, but not to anything else. The magistrate remarked that,
if the annoyance were repeated, the applicant could summon the Indians
to that court, where they might easily be dealt with under the Act.
As to the valuables in Mr. Luker's possession, Mr. Luker himself must
take the best measures for their safe custody. He would do well perhaps
to communicate with the police, and to adopt such additional precautions
as their experience might suggest. The applicant thanked his worship,
and withdrew."
One of the wise ancients is reported (I forget on what occasion)
as having recommended his fellow-creatures to "look to the end."
Looking to the end of these pages of mine, and wondering for
some days past how I should manage to write it, I find my plain
statement of facts coming to a conclusion, most appropriately,
of its own self. We have gone on, in this matter of the Moonstone,
from on marvel to another; and here we end with the greatest
marvel of all--namely, the accomplishment of Sergeant Cuff's
three predictions in less than a week from the time when he had
made them.
After hearing from the Yollands on the Monday, I had now heard of
the Indians, and heard of the money-lender, in the news from London--
Miss Rachel herself remember, being also in London at the time.
You see, I put things at their worst, even when they tell dead
against my own view. If you desert me, and side with the Sergeant,
on the evidence before you--if the only rational explanation you
can see is, that Miss Rachel and Mr. Luker must have got together,
and that the Moonstone must be now in pledge in the money-lender's house--
I own, I can't blame you for arriving at that conclusion. In the dark,
I have brought you thus far. In the dark I am compelled to leave you,
with my best respects.
Why compelled? it may be asked. Why not take the persons who have gone
along with me, so far, up into those regions of superior enlightenment
in which I sit myself?
In answer to this, I can only state that I am acting under orders,
and that those orders have been given to me (as I understand)
in the interests of truth. I am forbidden to tell more in this
narrative than I knew myself at the time. Or, to put it plainer,
I am to keep strictly within the limits of my own experience,
and am not to inform you of what other persons told me--
for the very sufficient reason that you are to have the information
from those other persons themselves, at first hand. In this
matter of the Moonstone the plan is, not to present reports,
but to produce witnesses. I picture to myself a member
of the family reading these pages fifty years hence.
Lord! what a compliment he will feel it, to be asked to take nothing
on hear-say, and to be treated in all respects like a Judge on
the bench.
At this place, then, we part--for the present, at least--
after long journeying together, with a companionable feeling,
I hope, on both sides. The devil's dance of the Indian Diamond
has threaded its way to London; and to London you must go
after it, leaving me at the country-house. Please to excuse
the faults of this composition--my talking so much of myself,
and being too familiar, I am afraid, with you. I mean no harm;
and I drink most respectfully (having just done dinner)
to your health and prosperity, in a tankard of her ladyship's ale.
May you find in these leaves of my writing, what ROBINSON
CRUSOE found in his experience on the desert island--
namely, "something to comfort yourselves from, and to set
in the Description of Good and Evil, on the Credit Side of
the Account."--Farewell.
The events related in several narratives.
Contributed by MISS CLACK; niece of the late
I am indebted to my dear parents (both now in heaven) for having had habits
of order and regularity instilled into me at a very early age.
In that happy bygone time, I was taught to keep my hair tidy
at all hours of the day and night, and to fold up every article
of my clothing carefully, in the same order, on the same chair,
in the same place at the foot of the bed, before retiring
to rest. An entry of the day's events in my little diary
invariably preceded the folding up. The "Evening Hymn"
(repeated in bed) invariably followed the folding up.
And the sweet sleep of childhood invariably followed the
"Evening Hymn."
In later life (alas!) the Hymn has been succeeded by sad and
bitter meditations; and the sweet sleep has been but ill exchanged
for the broken slumbers which haunt the uneasy pillow of care.
On the other hand, I have continued to fold my clothes,
and to keep my little diary. The former habit links me to my
happy childhood--before papa was ruined. The latter habit--
hitherto mainly useful in helping me to discipline the fallen
nature which we all inherit from Adam--has unexpectedly proved
important to my humble interests in quite another way.
It has enabled poor Me to serve the caprice of a wealthy member
of the family into which my late uncle married. I am fortunate
enough to be useful to Mr. Franklin Blake.
I have been cut off from all news of my relatives by marriage
for some time past. When we are isolated and poor, we are not
infrequently forgotten. I am now living, for economy's sake,
in a little town in Brittany, inhabited by a select circle
of serious English friends, and possessed of the inestimable
advantages of a Protestant clergyman and a cheap market.
In this retirement--a Patmos amid the howling ocean of popery
that surrounds us--a letter from England has reached me at last.
I find my insignificant existence suddenly remembered by
Mr. Franklin Blake. My wealthy relative--would that I could add
my spiritually-wealthy relative!--writes, without even an attempt
at disguising that he wants something of me. The whim has
seized him to stir up the deplorable scandal of the Moonstone:
and I am to help him by writing the account of what I myself
witnessed while visiting at Aunt Verinder's house in London.
Pecuniary remuneration is offered to me--with the want
of feeling peculiar to the rich. I am to re-open wounds
that Time has barely closed; I am to recall the most intensely
painful remembrances--and this done, I am to feel myself compensated
by a new laceration, in the shape of Mr. Blake's cheque.
My nature is weak. It cost me a hard struggle, before Christian
humility conquered sinful pride, and self-denial accepted
the cheque.
Without my diary, I doubt--pray let me express it in the grossest terms!--
if I could have honestly earned my money. With my diary, the poor labourer
(who forgives Mr. Blake for insulting her) is worthy of her hire.
Nothing escaped me at the time I was visiting dear Aunt Verinder.
Everything was entered (thanks to my early training) day by day
as it happened; and everything down to the smallest particular,
shall be told here. My sacred regard for truth is (thank God)
far above my respect for persons. It will be easy for Mr. Blake
to suppress what may not prove to be sufficiently flattering
in these pages to the person chiefly concerned in them. He has
purchased my time, but not even HIS wealth can purchase my conscience
* NOTE. ADDED BY FRANKLIN BLAKE.--Miss Clack may make her mind quite
easy on this point. Nothing will be added, altered or removed,
in her manuscript, or in any of the other manuscripts which
pass through my hands. Whatever opinions any of the writers
may express, whatever peculiarities of treatment may mark,
and perhaps in a literary sense, disfigure the narratives which I
am now collecting, not a line will be tampered with anywhere,
from first to last. As genuine documents they are sent to me--
and as genuine documents I shall preserve them, endorsed by
the attestations of witnesses who can speak to the facts.
It only remains to be added that "the person chiefly concerned"
in Miss Clack's narrative, is happy enough at the present moment,
not only to brave the smartest exercise of Miss Clack's pen,
but even to recognise its unquestionable value as an instrument for
the exhibition of Miss Clack's character.
My diary informs me, that I was accidentally passing Aunt Verinder's house
in Montagu Square, on Monday, 3rd July, 1848.
Seeing the shutters opened, and the blinds drawn up, I felt that it
would be an act of polite attention to knock, and make inquiries.
The person who answered the door, informed me that my aunt and
her daughter (I really cannot call her my cousin!) had arrived from
the country a week since, and meditated making some stay in London.
I sent up a message at once, declining to disturb them, and only
begging to know whether I could be of any use.
The person who answered the door, took my message in insolent silence,
and left me standing in the hall. She is the daughter of a heathen old
man named Betteredge--long, too long, tolerated in my aunt's family.
I sat down in the hall to wait for my answer--and, having always
a few tracts in my bag, I selected one which proved to be quite
providentially applicable to the person who answered the door.
The hall was dirty, and the chair was hard; but the blessed
consciousness of returning good for evil raised me quite above
any trifling considerations of that kind. The tract was one
of a series addressed to young women on the sinfulness of dress.
In style it was devoutly familiar. Its title was, "A Word With You On
Your Cap-Ribbons."
"My lady is much obliged, and begs you will come and lunch to-morrow at two."
I passed over the manner in which she gave her message,
and the dreadful boldness of her look. I thanked this
young castaway; and I said, in a tone of Christian interest,
"Will you favour me by accepting a tract?"
She looked at the title. "Is it written by a man or a woman, Miss?
If it's written by a woman, I had rather not read it on that account.
If it's written by a man, I beg to inform him that he knows nothing
about it." She handed me back the tract, and opened the door.
We must sow the good seed somehow. I waited till the door was
shut on me, and slipped the tract into the letter-box. When I had
dropped another tract through the area railings, I felt relieved,
in some small degree, of a heavy responsibility towards others.
We had a meeting that evening of the Select Committee of the
Mothers'-Small-Clothes-Conversion-Society. The object of this excellent
Charity is--as all serious people know--to rescue unredeemed fathers'
trousers from the pawnbroker, and to prevent their resumption,
on the part of the irreclaimable parent, by abridging them immediately
to suit the proportions of the innocent son. I was a member,
at that time, of the select committee; and I mention the Society here,
because my precious and admirable friend, Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite,
was associated with our work of moral and material usefulness.
I had expected to see him in the boardroom, on the Monday evening
of which I am now writing, and had proposed to tell him, when we met,
of dear Aunt Verinder's arrival in London. To my great disappointment
he never appeared. On my expressing a feeling of surprise at his absence,
my sisters of the Committee all looked up together from their trousers
(we had a great pressure of business that night), and asked in amazement,
if I had not heard the news. I acknowledged my ignorance, and was
then told, for the first time, of an event which forms, so to speak,
the starting-point of this narrative. On the previous Friday,
two gentlemen--occupying widely-different positions in society--
had been the victims of an outrage which had startled all London.
One of the gentlemen was Mr. Septimus Luker, of Lambeth. The other was
Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.
Living in my present isolation, I have no means of introducing
the newspaper-account of the outrage into my narrative. I was
also deprived, at the time, of the inestimable advantage of hearing
the events related by the fervid eloquence of Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.
All I can do is to state the facts as they were stated,
on that Monday evening, to me; proceeding on the plan which I
have been taught from infancy to adopt in folding up my clothes.
Everything shall be put neatly, and everything shall be put in its place.
These lines are written by a poor weak woman. From a poor weak woman
who will be cruel enough to expect more?
The date--thanks to my dear parents, no dictionary that ever
was written can be more particular than I am about dates--
was Friday, June 30th, 1848.
Early on that memorable day, our gifted Mr. Godfrey happened
to be cashing a cheque at a banking-house in Lombard Street.
The name of the firm is accidentally blotted in my diary, and my
sacred regard for truth forbids me to hazard a guess in a matter
of this kind. Fortunately, the name of the firm doesn't matter.
What does matter is a circumstance that occurred when Mr. Godfrey
had transacted his business. On gaining the door, he encountered
a gentleman--a perfect stranger to him--who was accidentally
leaving the office exactly at the same time as himself.
A momentary contest of politeness ensued between them as to
who should be the first to pass through the door of the bank.
The stranger insisted on making Mr. Godfrey precede him;
Mr. Godfrey said a few civil words; they bowed, and parted in
the street.
Thoughtless and superficial people may say, Here is surely a very trumpery
little incident related in an absurdly circumstantial manner. Oh, my young
friends and fellow-sinners! beware of presuming to exercise your poor
carnal reason. Oh, be morally tidy. Let your faith be as your stockings,
and your stockings as your faith. Both ever spotless, and both ready to put
on at a moment's notice!
I beg a thousand pardons. I have fallen insensibly into my
Sunday-school style. Most inappropriate in such a record
as this. Let me try to be worldly--let me say that trifles,
in this case as in many others, led to terrible results.
Merely premising that the polite stranger was Mr. Luker,
of Lambeth, we will now follow Mr. Godfrey home to his residence
at Kilburn.
He found waiting for him, in the hall, a poorly clad but delicate
and interesting-looking little boy. The boy handed him a letter,
merely mentioning that he had been entrusted with it by an old
lady whom he did not know, and who had given him no instructions
to wait for an answer. Such incidents as these were not uncommon
in Mr. Godfrey's large experience as a promoter of public charities.
He let the boy go, and opened the letter.
The handwriting was entirely unfamiliar to him. It requested his attendance,
within an hour's time, at a house in Northumberland Street, Strand,
which he had never had occasion to enter before. The object sought
was to obtain from the worthy manager certain details on the subject
of the Mothers'-Small-Clothes-Conver-sion-Society, and the information
was wanted by an elderly lady who proposed adding largely to the resources
of the charity, if her questions were met by satisfactory replies.
She mentioned her name, and she added that the shortness of her stay
in London prevented her from giving any longer notice to the eminent
philanthropist whom she addressed.
Ordinary people might have hesitated before setting aside
their own engagements to suit the convenience of a stranger.
The Christian Hero never hesitates where good is to be done.
Mr. Godfrey instantly turned back, and proceeded to the house
in Northumberland Street. A most respectable though somewhat
corpulent man answered the door, and, on hearing Mr. Godfrey's name,
immediately conducted him into an empty apartment at the back,
on the drawing-room floor. He noticed two unusual things on entering
the room. One of them was a faint odour of musk and camphor.
The other was an ancient Oriental manuscript, richly illuminated
with Indian figures and devices, that lay open to inspection on
a table.
He was looking at the book, the position of which caused him to stand
with his back turned towards the closed folding doors communicating
with the front room, when, without the slightest previous noise to
warn him, he felt himself suddenly seized round the neck from behind.
He had just time to notice that the arm round his neck was naked and of a
tawny-brown colour, before his eyes were bandaged, his mouth was gagged,
and he was thrown helpless on the floor by (as he judged) two men.
A third rifled his pockets, and--if, as a lady, I may venture to use
such an expression--searched him, without ceremony, through and through to
his skin.
Here I should greatly enjoy saying a few cheering words on the devout
confidence which could alone have sustained Mr. Godfrey in an emergency
so terrible as this. Perhaps, however, the position and appearance of my
admirable friend at the culminating period of the outrage (as above described)
are hardly within the proper limits of female discussion.
Let me pass over the next few moments, and return to Mr. Godfrey
at the time when the odious search of his person had been completed.
The outrage had been perpetrated throughout in dead silence.
At the end of it some words were exchanged, among the invisible wretches,
in a language which he did not understand, but in tones which were
plainly expressive (to his cultivated ear) of disappointment and rage.
He was suddenly lifted from the ground, placed in a chair, and bound
there hand and foot. The next moment he felt the air flowing in from
the open door, listened, and concluded that he was alone again in
the room.
An interval elapsed, and he heard a sound below like the rustling
sound of a woman's dress. It advanced up the stairs, and stopped.
A female scream rent the atmosphere of guilt. A man's voice
below exclaimed "Hullo!" A man's feet ascended the stairs.
Mr. Godfrey felt Christian fingers unfastening his bandage,
and extracting his gag. He looked in amazement at two
respectable strangers, and faintly articulated, "What does
it mean?" The two respectable strangers looked back, and said,
"Exactly the question we were going to ask YOU."
The inevitable explanation followed. No! Let me be scrupulously particular.
Sal volatile and water followed, to compose dear Mr. Godfrey's nerves.
The explanation came next.
It appeared from the statement of the landlord and landlady of the house
(persons of good repute in the neighbourhood), that their first and
second floor apartments had been engaged, on the previous day, for a
week certain, by a most respectable-looking gentleman--the same who has
been already described as answering the door to Mr. Godfrey's knock.
The gentleman had paid the week's rent and all the week's extras in advance,
stating that the apartments were wanted for three Oriental noblemen,
friends of his, who were visiting England for the first time.
Early on the morning of the outrage, two of the Oriental strangers,
accompanied by their respectable English friend, took possession
of the apartments. The third was expected to join them shortly;
and the luggage (reported as very bulky) was announced to follow
when it had passed through the Custom-house, late in the afternoon.
Not more than ten minutes previous to Mr. Godfrey's visit, the third
foreigner had arrived. Nothing out of the common had happened,
to the knowledge of the landlord and landlady down-stairs, until
within the last five minutes--when they had seen the three foreigners,
accompanied by their respectable English friend, all leave the house together,
walking quietly in the direction of the Strand. Remembering that a
visitor had called, and not having seen the visitor also leave the house,
the landlady had thought it rather strange that the gentleman should be
left by himself up-stairs. After a short discussion with her husband,
she had considered it advisable to ascertain whether anything was wrong.
The result had followed, as I have already attempted to describe it;
and there the explanation of the landlord and the landlady came to an
An investigation was next made in the room. Dear Mr. Godfrey's
property was found scattered in all directions.
When the articles were collected, however, nothing was missing;
his watch, chain, purse, keys, pocket-handkerchief, note-book,
and all his loose papers had been closely examined,
and had then been left unharmed to be resumed by the owner.
In the same way, not the smallest morsel of property belonging
to the proprietors of the house had been abstracted.
The Oriental noblemen had removed their own illuminated manuscript,
and had removed nothing else.
What did it mean? Taking the worldly point of view,
it appeared to mean that Mr. Godfrey had been the victim of some
incomprehensible error, committed by certain unknown men.
A dark conspiracy was on foot in the midst of us; and our
beloved and innocent friend had been entangled in its meshes.
When the Christian hero of a hundred charitable victories plunges
into a pitfall that has been dug for him by mistake, oh, what a
warning it is to the rest of us to be unceasingly on our guard!
How soon may our own evil passions prove to be Oriental noblemen
who pounce on us unawares!
I could write pages of affectionate warning on this one theme, but
(alas!) I am not permitted to improve--I am condemned to narrate.
My wealthy relative's cheque--henceforth, the incubus of my existence--
warns me that I have not done with this record of violence yet.
We must leave Mr. Godfrey to recover in Northumberland Street,
and must follow the proceedings of Mr. Luker at a later period of
the day.
After leaving the bank, Mr. Luker had visited various parts
of London on business errands. Returning to his own residence,
he found a letter waiting for him, which was described as having
been left a short time previously by a boy. In this case,
as in Mr. Godfrey's case, the handwriting was strange;
but the name mentioned was the name of one of Mr. Luker's customers.
His correspondent announced (writing in the third person--
apparently by the hand of a deputy) that he had been
unexpectedly summoned to London. He had just established
himself in lodgings in Alfred Place, Tottenham Court Road;
and he desired to see Mr. Luker immediately, on the subject
of a purchase which he contemplated making. The gentleman was
an enthusiastic collector of Oriental antiquities, and had been
for many years a liberal patron of the establishment in Lambeth.
Oh, when shall we wean ourselves from the worship of Mammon!
Mr. Luker called a cab, and drove off instantly to his
liberal patron.
Exactly what had happened to Mr. Godfrey in Northumberland Street
now happened to Mr. Luker in Alfred Place. Once more the respectable
man answered the door, and showed the visitor up-stairs into the back
drawing-room. There, again, lay the illuminated manuscript on a table.
Mr. Luker's attention was absorbed, as Mr. Godfrey's attention
had been absorbed, by this beautiful work of Indian art.
He too was aroused from his studies by a tawny naked arm round
his throat, by a bandage over his eyes, and by a gag in his mouth.
He too was thrown prostrate and searched to the skin. A longer interval
had then elapsed than had passed in the experience of Mr. Godfrey;
but it had ended as before, in the persons of the house suspecting
something wrong, and going up-stairs to see what had happened.
Precisely the same explanation which the landlord in Northumberland
Street had given to Mr. Godfrey, the landlord in Alfred Place now
gave to Mr. Luker. Both had been imposed on in the same way by the
plausible address and well-filled purse of the respectable stranger,
who introduced himself as acting for his foreign friends. The one
point of difference between the two cases occurred when the scattered
contents of Mr. Luker's pockets were being collected from the floor.
His watch and purse were safe, but (less fortunate than Mr. Godfrey)
one of the loose papers that he carried about him had been taken away.
The paper in question acknowledged the receipt of a valuable of great
price which Mr. Luker had that day left in the care of his bankers.
This document would be useless for purposes of fraud, inasmuch as it
provided that the valuable should only be given up on the personal
application of the owner. As soon as he recovered himself, Mr. Luker
hurried to the bank, on the chance that the thieves who had robbed him
might ignorantly present themselves with the receipt. Nothing had
been seen of them when he arrived at the establishment, and nothing
was seen of them afterwards. Their respectable English friend had
(in the opinion of the bankers) looked the receipt over before they
attempted to make use of it, and had given them the necessary warning in
good time.
Information of both outrages was communicated to the police,
and the needful investigations were pursued, I believe,
with great energy. The authorities held that a robbery had
been planned, on insufficient information received by the thieves.
They had been plainly not sure whether Mr. Luker had, or had not,
trusted the transmission of his precious gem to another person;
and poor polite Mr. Godfrey had paid the penalty of having
been seen accidentally speaking to him. Add to this,
that Mr. Godfrey's absence from our Monday evening meeting
had been occasioned by a consultation of the authorities,
at which he was requested to assist--and all the explanations
required being now given, I may proceed with the simpler story
of my own little personal experiences in Montagu Square.
I was punctual to the luncheon hour on Tuesday. Reference to my diary shows
this to have been a chequered day--much in it to be devoutly regretted,
much in it to be devoutly thankful for.
Dear Aunt Verinder received me with her usual grace and kindness.
But I noticed, after a little while, that something was wrong.
Certain anxious looks escaped my aunt, all of which took the direction
of her daughter. I never see Rachel myself without wondering how it
can be that so insignificant-looking a person should be the child
of such distinguished parents as Sir John and Lady Verinder.
On this occasion, however, she not only disappointed--she really
shocked me. There was an absence of all lady-like restraint
in her language and manner most painful to see. She was possessed
by some feverish excitement which made her distressingly loud when
she laughed, and sinfully wasteful and capricious in what she ate
and drank at lunch. I felt deeply for her poor mother, even before
the true state of the case had been confidentially made known
to me.
Luncheon over, my aunt said: "Remember what the doctor told you,
Rachel, about quieting yourself with a book after taking your meals."
"I'll go into the library, mamma," she answered.
"But if Godfrey calls, mind I am told of it. I am dying for more
news of him, after his adventure in Northumberland Street."
She kissed her mother on the forehead, and looked my way.
"Good-bye, Clack," she said, carelessly. Her insolence roused
no angry feeling in me; I only made a private memorandum to pray
for her.
When we were left by ourselves, my aunt told me the whole
horrible story of the Indian Diamond, which, I am happy to know,
it is not necessary to repeat here. She did not conceal from me
that she would have preferred keeping silence on the subject.
But when her own servants all knew of the loss of the Moonstone,
and when some of the circumstances had actually found their way
into the newspapers--when strangers were speculating whether
there was any connection between what had happened at Lady
Verinder's country-house, and what had happened in Northumberland
Street and Alfred Place--concealment was not to be thought of;
and perfect frankness became a necessity as well as a virtue.
Some persons, hearing what I now heard, would have been
probably overwhelmed with astonishment. For my own part,
knowing Rachel's spirit to have been essentially unregenerate
from her childhood upwards, I was prepared for whatever
my aunt could tell me on the subject of her daughter.
It might have gone on from bad to worse till it ended in Murder;
and I should still have said to myself, The natural result! oh,
dear, dear, the natural result! The one thing that DID shock
me was the course my aunt had taken under the circumstances.
Here surely was a case for a clergyman, if ever there was one yet!
Lady Verinder had thought it a case for a physician. All my poor
aunt's early life had been passed in her father's godless household.
The natural result again! Oh, dear, dear, the natural
result again!
"The doctors recommend plenty of exercise and amusement for Rachel,
and strongly urge me to keep her mind as much as possible from dwelling
on the past," said Lady Verinder.
"Oh, what heathen advice!" I thought to myself. "In this Christian country,
what heathen advice!"
My aunt went on, "I do my best to carry out my instructions. But this
strange adventure of Godfrey's happens at a most unfortunate time.
Rachel has been incessantly restless and excited since she first heard of it.
She left me no peace till I had written and asked my nephew Ablewhite
to come here. She even feels an interest in the other person who was
roughly used--Mr. Luker, or some such name--though the man is, of course,
a total stranger to her."
"Your knowledge of the world, dear aunt, is superior to mine,"
I suggested diffidently. "But there must be a reason
surely for this extraordinary conduct on Rachel's part.
She is keeping a sinful secret from you and from everybody.
May there not be something in these recent events which threatens her
secret with discovery?"
"Discovery?" repeated my aunt. "What can you possibly mean?
Discovery through Mr. Luker? Discovery through my nephew?"
As the word passed her lips, a special providence occurred.
The servant opened the door, and announced Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.
Mr. Godfrey followed the announcement of his name--
as Mr. Godfrey does everything else--exactly at the right time.
He was not so close on the servant's heels as to startle us.
He was not so far behind as to cause us the double inconvenience
of a pause and an open door. It is in the completeness of his
daily life that the true Christian appears. This dear man was
very complete.
"Go to Miss Verinder," said my aunt, addressing the servant,
"and tell her Mr. Ablewhite is here."
We both inquired after his health. We both asked him together whether
he felt like himself again, after his terrible adventure of the past week.
With perfect tact, he contrived to answer us at the same moment.
Lady Verinder had his reply in words. I had his charming smile.
"What," he cried, with infinite tenderness, "have I done
to deserve all this sympathy? My dear aunt! my dear
Miss Clack! I have merely been mistaken for somebody else.
I have only been blindfolded; I have only been strangled;
I have only been thrown flat on my back, on a very thin carpet,
covering a particularly hard floor. Just think how much
worse it might have been! I might have been murdered;
I might have been robbed. What have I lost? Nothing but
Nervous Force--which the law doesn't recognise as property;
so that, strictly speaking, I have lost nothing at all.
If I could have had my own way, I would have kept my adventure
to myself--I shrink from all this fuss and publicity.
But Mr. Luker made HIS injuries public, and my injuries,
as the necessary consequence, have been proclaimed in their turn.
I have become the property of the newspapers, until the gentle reader
gets sick of the subject. I am very sick indeed of it myself.
May the gentle reader soon be like me! And how is dear Rachel?
Still enjoying the gaieties of London? So glad to hear it!
Miss Clack, I need all your indulgence. I am sadly behind-hand
with my Committee Work and my dear Ladies. But I really
do hope to look in at the Mothers'-Small-Clothes next week.
Did you make cheering progress at Monday's Committee? Was the Board
hopeful about future prospects? And are we nicely off for
The heavenly gentleness of his smile made his apologies irresistible.
The richness of his deep voice added its own indescribable charm to
the interesting business question which he had just addressed to me.
In truth, we were almost TOO nicely off for Trousers; we were quite
overwhelmed by them. I was just about to say so, when the door opened again,
and an element of worldly disturbance entered the room, in the person of
Miss Verinder.
She approached dear Mr. Godfrey at a most unladylike rate of speed,
with her hair shockingly untidy, and her face, what I should call,
unbecomingly flushed.
"I am charmed to see you, Godfrey," she said, addressing him,
I grieve to add, in the off-hand manner of one young man talking
to another. "I wish you had brought Mr. Luker with you.
You and he (as long as our present excitement lasts) are the two
most interesting men in all London. It's morbid to say this;
it's unhealthy; it's all that a well-regulated mind like Miss
Clack's most instinctively shudders at. Never mind that.
Tell me the whole of the Northumberland Street story directly.
I know the newspapers have left some of it out."
Even dear Mr. Godfrey partakes of the fallen nature which we
all inherit from Adam--it is a very small share of our
human legacy, but, alas! he has it. I confess it grieved
me to see him take Rachel's hand in both of his own hands,
and lay it softly on the left side of his waistcoat.
It was a direct encouragement to her reckless way of talking,
and her insolent reference to me.
"Dearest Rachel," he said, in the same voice which had thrilled me
when he spoke of our prospects and our trousers, "the newspapers
have told you everything--and they have told it much better than
I can."
"Godfrey thinks we all make too much of the matter," my aunt remarked.
"He has just been saying that he doesn't care to speak of it."
She put the question with a sudden flash in her eyes,
and a sudden look up into Mr. Godfrey's face. On his side,
he looked down at her with an indulgence so injudicious and so
ill-deserved, that I really felt called on to interfere.
"Rachel, darling!" I remonstrated gently, "true greatness and true courage
are ever modest."
"You are a very good fellow in your way, Godfrey," she said--
not taking the smallest notice, observe, of me, and still speaking
to her cousin as if she was one young man addressing another.
"But I am quite sure you are not great; I don't believe you
possess any extraordinary courage; and I am firmly persuaded--
if you ever had any modesty--that your lady-worshippers relieved
you of that virtue a good many years since. You have some private
reason for not talking of your adventure in Northumberland Street;
and I mean to know it."
"My reason is the simplest imaginable, and the most easily acknowledged,"
he answered, still bearing with her. "I am tired of the subject."
"You are tired of the subject? My dear Godfrey, I am going to make a remark."
"What is it?"
"You live a great deal too much in the society of women.
And you have contracted two very bad habits in consequence.
You have learnt to talk nonsense seriously, and you have got
into a way of telling fibs for the pleasure of telling them.
You can't go straight with your lady-worshippers. I mean to make
you go straight with me. Come, and sit down. I am brimful
of downright questions; and I expect you to be brimful of
downright answers."
She actually dragged him across the room to a chair by the window,
where the light would fall on his face. I deeply feel being obliged
to report such language, and to describe such conduct. But, hemmed in,
as I am, between Mr. Franklin Blake's cheque on one side and my own sacred
regard for truth on the other, what am I to do? I looked at my aunt.
She sat unmoved; apparently in no way disposed to interfere.
I had never noticed this kind of torpor in her before. It was, perhaps,
the reaction after the trying time she had had in the country.
Not a pleasant symptom to remark, be it what it might, at dear Lady
Verinder's age, and with dear Lady Verinder's autumnal exuberance
of figure.
In the meantime, Rachel had settled herself at the window with
our amiable and forbearing--our too forbearing--Mr. Godfrey.
She began the string of questions with which she had threatened him,
taking no more notice of her mother, or of myself, than if we had not
been in the room.
"Have the police done anything, Godfrey?"
"Nothing whatever."
"It is certain, I suppose, that the three men who laid the trap for you
were the same three men who afterwards laid the trap for Mr. Luker?"
"Humanly speaking, my dear Rachel, there can be no doubt of it."
"And not a trace of them has been discovered?"
"Not a trace."
"It is thought--is it not?--that these three men are the three Indians
who came to our house in the country."
"Some people think so."
"Do you think so?"
"My dear Rachel, they blindfolded me before I could see their faces.
I know nothing whatever of the matter. How can I offer an opinion
on it?"
Even the angelic gentleness of Mr. Godfrey was, you see,
beginning to give way at last under the persecution inflicted
on him. Whether unbridled curiosity, or ungovernable dread,
dictated Miss Verinder's questions I do not presume to inquire.
I only report that, on Mr. Godfrey's attempting to rise,
after giving her the answer just described, she actually
took him by the two shoulders, and pushed him back into
his chair--Oh, don't say this was immodest! don't even hint
that the recklessness of guilty terror could alone account
for such conduct as I have described! We must not judge others.
My Christian friends, indeed, indeed, indeed, we must not
judge others!
She went on with her questions, unabashed. Earnest Biblical students will
perhaps be reminded--as I was reminded--of the blinded children of the devil,
who went on with their orgies, unabashed, in the time before the Flood.
"I want to know something about Mr. Luker, Godfrey."
"I am again unfortunate, Rachel. No man knows less of Mr. Luker than I do."
"You never saw him before you and he met accidentally at the bank?"
"You have seen him since?"
"Yes. We have been examined together, as well as separately,
to assist the police."
"Mr. Luker was robbed of a receipt which he had got from his banker's--
was he not? What was the receipt for?"
"For a valuable gem which he had placed in the safe keeping of the bank."
"That's what the newspapers say. It may be enough for the general reader;
but it is not enough for me. The banker's receipt must have mentioned what
the gem was?"
"The banker's receipt, Rachel--as I have heard it described--
mentioned nothing of the kind. A valuable gem, belonging to
Mr. Luker; deposited by Mr. Luker; sealed with Mr. Luker's seal;
and only to be given up on Mr. Luker's personal application.
That was the form, and that is all I know about it."
She waited a moment, after he had said that. She looked at her mother,
and sighed. She looked back again at Mr. Godfrey, and went on.
"Some of our private affairs, at home," she said, "seem to have got
into the newspapers?"
"I grieve to say, it is so."
"And some idle people, perfect strangers to us, are trying to trace
a connexion between what happened at our house in Yorkshire and what has
happened since, here in London?"
"The public curiosity, in certain quarters, is, I fear,
taking that turn."
"The people who say that the three unknown men who ill-used you
and Mr. Luker are the three Indians, also say that the valuable gem----"
There she stopped. She had become gradually, within the last few moments,
whiter and whiter in the face. The extraordinary blackness of her hair
made this paleness, by contrast, so ghastly to look at, that we all thought
she would faint, at the moment when she checked herself in the middle of
her question. Dear Mr. Godfrey made a second attempt to leave his chair.
My aunt entreated her to say no more. I followed my aunt with a
modest medicinal peace-offering, in the shape of a bottle of salts.
We none of us produced the slightest effect on her. "Godfrey, stay
where you are. Mamma, there is not the least reason to be alarmed
about me. Clack, you're dying to hear the end of it--I won't faint,
expressly to oblige YOU."
Those were the exact words she used--taken down in my diary
the moment I got home. But, oh, don't let us judge!
My Christian friends, don't let us judge!
She turned once more to Mr. Godfrey. With an obstinacy dreadful to see,
she went back again to the place where she had checked herself, and completed
her question in these words:
"I spoke to you, a minute since, about what people were saying
in certain quarters. Tell me plainly, Godfrey, do they any
of them say that Mr. Luker's valuable gem is--the Moonstone?"
As the name of the Indian Diamond passed her lips, I saw a change
come over my admirable friend. His complexion deepened. He lost
the genial suavity of manner which is one of his greatest charms.
A noble indignation inspired his reply.
"They DO say it," he answered. "There are people who don't hesitate
to accuse Mr. Luker of telling a falsehood to serve some private
interests of his own. He has over and over again solemnly declared that,
until this scandal assailed him, he had never even heard of the Moonstone.
And these vile people reply, without a shadow of proof to justify them,
He has his reasons for concealment; we decline to believe him on his oath.
Shameful! shameful!"
Rachel looked at him very strangely--I can't well describe how--
while he was speaking. When he had done, she said, "Considering that
Mr. Luker is only a chance acquaintance of yours, you take up
his cause, Godfrey, rather warmly."
My gifted friend made her one of the most truly evangelical answers I
ever heard in my life.
"I hope, Rachel, I take up the cause of all oppressed people rather warmly,"
he said.
The tone in which those words were spoken might have melted a stone.
But, oh dear, what is the hardness of stone? Nothing, compared to
the hardness of the unregenerate human heart! She sneered.
I blush to record it--she sneered at him to his face.
"Keep your noble sentiments for your Ladies' Committees, Godfrey.
I am certain that the scandal which has assailed Mr. Luker,
has not spared You."
Even my aunt's torpor was roused by those words.
"My dear Rachel," she remonstrated, "you have really no right to say that!"
"I mean no harm, mamma--I mean good. Have a moment's patience with me,
and you will see."
She looked back at Mr. Godfrey, with what appeared to be a sudden
pity for him. She went the length--the very unladylike length--
of taking him by the hand.
"I am certain," she said, "that I have found out the true reason of your
unwillingness to speak of this matter before my mother and before me.
An unlucky accident has associated you in people's minds with Mr. Luker.
You have told me what scandal says of HIM. What does scandal say
of you?"
Even at the eleventh hour, dear Mr. Godfrey--always ready to return
good for evil--tried to spare her.
"Don't ask me!" he said. "It's better forgotten, Rachel--it is, indeed."
"I WILL hear it!" she cried out, fiercely, at the top of her voice.
"Tell her, Godfrey!" entreated my aunt. "Nothing can do her such harm
as your silence is doing now!"
Mr. Godfrey's fine eyes filled with tears. He cast one last appealing
look at her--and then he spoke the fatal words:
"If you will have it, Rachel--scandal says that the Moonstone is in pledge
to Mr. Luker, and that I am the man who has pawned it."
She started to her feet with a scream. She looked backwards
and forwards from Mr. Godfrey to my aunt, and from my aunt
to Mr. Godfrey, in such a frantic manner that I really thought
she had gone mad.
"Don't speak to me! Don't touch me!" she exclaimed, shrinking back from
all of us (I declare like some hunted animal!) into a corner of the room.
"This is my fault! I must set it right. I have sacrificed myself--
I had a right to do that, if I liked. But to let an innocent man be ruined;
to keep a secret which destroys his character for life--Oh, good God,
it's too horrible! I can't bear it!"
My aunt half rose from her chair, then suddenly sat down again.
She called to me faintly, and pointed to a little phial in her
"Quick!" she whispered. "Six drops, in water. Don't let Rachel see."
Under other circumstances, I should have thought this strange.
There was no time now to think--there was only time to give the medicine.
Dear Mr. Godfrey unconsciously assisted me in concealing what I was about
from Rachel, by speaking composing words to her at the other end of
the room.
"Indeed, indeed, you exaggerate," I heard him say. "My reputation stands
too high to be destroyed by a miserable passing scandal like this.
It will be all forgotten in another week. Let us never speak of it again."
She was perfectly inaccessible, even to such generosity as this.
She went on from bad to worse.
"I must, and will, stop it," she said. "Mamma! hear what I say.
Miss Clack! hear what I say. I know the hand that took the Moonstone.
I know--" she laid a strong emphasis on the words; she stamped her foot
in the rage that possessed her--"I KNOW THAT GODFREY ABLEWHITE IS
Take me to the magistrate, Godfrey! Take me to the magistrate, and I will
swear it!"
My aunt caught me by the hand, and whispered, "Stand between us
for a minute or two. Don't let Rachel see me." I noticed a bluish
tinge in her face which alarmed me. She saw I was startled.
"The drops will put me right in a minute or two," she said, and so
closed her eyes, and waited a little.
While this was going on, I heard dear Mr. Godfrey still gently remonstrating.
"You must not appear publicly in such a thing as this," he sad.
"YOUR reputation, dearest Rachel, is something too pure and too sacred
to be trifled with."
"MY reputation!" She burst out laughing. "Why, I am accused, Godfrey,
as well as you. The best detective officer in England declares that I
have stolen my own Diamond. Ask him what he thinks--and he will tell
you that I have pledged the Moonstone to pay my private debts!"
She stopped, ran across the room--and fell on her knees at her mother's feet.
"Oh mamma! mamma! mamma! I must be mad--mustn't I?--not to own
the truth NOW?" She was too vehement to notice her mother's condition--
she was on her feet again, and back with Mr. Godfrey, in an instant.
"I won't let you--I won't let any innocent man--be accused and disgraced
through my fault. If you won't take me before the magistrate,
draw out a declaration of your innocence on paper, and I will sign it.
Do as I tell you, Godfrey, or I'll write it to the newspapers I'll go out,
and cry it in the streets!"
We will not say this was the language of remorse--we will say it
was the language of hysterics. Indulgent Mr. Godfrey pacified
her by taking a sheet of paper, and drawing out the declaration.
She signed it in a feverish hurry. "Show it everywhere--
don't think of ME," she said, as she gave it to him. "I am afraid,
Godfrey, I have not done you justice, hitherto, in my thoughts.
You are more unselfish--you are a better man than I believed you to be.
Come here when you can, and I will try and repair the wrong I have
done you."
She gave him her hand. Alas, for our fallen nature! Alas, for Mr. Godfrey!
He not only forgot himself so far as to kiss her hand--he adopted
a gentleness of tone in answering her which, in such a case, was little
better than a compromise with sin. "I will come, dearest," he said,
"on condition that we don't speak of this hateful subject again."
Never had I seen and heard our Christian Hero to less advantage than on
this occasion.
Before another word could be said by anybody, a thundering knock
at the street door startled us all. I looked through the window,
and saw the World, the Flesh, and the Devil waiting before the house--
as typified in a carriage and horses, a powdered footman,
and three of the most audaciously dressed women I ever beheld in
my life.
Rachel started, and composed herself. She crossed the room to her mother.
"They have come to take me to the flower-show," she said.
"One word, mamma, before I go. I have not distressed you,
have I?"
(Is the bluntness of moral feeling which could ask such a question
as that, after what had just happened, to be pitied or condemned?
I like to lean towards mercy. Let us pity it.)
The drops had produced their effect. My poor aunt's complexion was
like itself again. "No, no, my dear," she said. "Go with our friends,
and enjoy yourself."
Her daughter stooped, and kissed her. I had left the window,
and was near the door, when Rachel approached it to go out.
Another change had come over her--she was in tears. I looked
with interest at the momentary softening of that obdurate heart.
I felt inclined to say a few earnest words. Alas! my well-meant
sympathy only gave offence. "What do you mean by pitying me?"
she asked in a bitter whisper, as she passed to the door.
"Don't you see how happy I am? I'm going to the flower-show, Clack;
and I've got the prettiest bonnet in London." She completed
the hollow mockery of that address by blowing me a kiss--and so left
the room.
I wish I could describe in words the compassion I felt for this miserable and
misguided girl. But I am almost as poorly provided with words as with money.
Permit me to say--my heart bled for her.
Returning to my aunt's chair, I observed dear Mr. Godfrey searching
for something softly, here and there, in different parts of the room.
Before I could offer to assist him he had found what he wanted.
He came back to my aunt and me, with his declaration of innocence in
one hand, and with a box of matches in the other.
"Dear aunt, a little conspiracy!" he said. "Dear Miss Clack,
a pious fraud which even your high moral rectitude will excuse!
Will you leave Rachel to suppose that I accept the generous
self-sacrifice which has signed this paper? And will you kindly
bear witness that I destroy it in your presence, before I leave
the house?" He kindled a match, and, lighting the paper,
laid it to burn in a plate on the table. "Any trifling
inconvenience that I may suffer is as nothing," he remarked,
"compared with the importance of preserving that pure name from
the contaminating contact of the world. There! We have reduced
it to a little harmless heap of ashes; and our dear impulsive
Rachel will never know what we have done! How do you feel?
My precious friends, how do you feel? For my poor part, I am as
light-hearted as a boy!"
He beamed on us with his beautiful smile; he held out a hand to my aunt,
and a hand to me. I was too deeply affected by his noble conduct to speak.
I closed my eyes; I put his hand, in a kind of spiritual self-forgetfulness,
to my lips. He murmured a soft remonstrance. Oh the ecstasy, the pure,
unearthly ecstasy of that moment! I sat--I hardly know on what--quite lost
in my own exalted feelings. When I opened my eyes again, it was like
descending from heaven to earth. There was nobody but my aunt in the room.
He had gone.
I should like to stop here--I should like to close my
narrative with the record of Mr. Godfrey's noble conduct.
Unhappily there is more, much more, which the unrelenting
pecuniary pressure of Mr. Blake's cheque obliges me to tell.
The painful disclosures which were to reveal themselves
in my presence, during that Tuesday's visit to Montagu Square,
were not at an end yet.
Finding myself alone with Lady Verinder, I turned naturally
to the subject of her health; touching delicately on the strange
anxiety which she had shown to conceal her indisposition,
and the remedy applied to it, from the observation of her daughter.
My aunt's reply greatly surprised me.
"Drusilla," she said (if I have not already mentioned that my Christian name
is Drusilla, permit me to mention it now), "you are touching quite innocently,
I know--on a very distressing subject."
I rose immediately. Delicacy left me but one alternative--
the alternative, after first making my apologies, of taking
my leave. Lady Verinder stopped me, and insisted on my sitting
down again.
"You have surprised a secret," she said, "which I had confided
to my sister Mrs. Ablewhite, and to my lawyer Mr. Bruff,
and to no one else. I can trust in their discretion; and I am sure,
when I tell you the circumstances, I can trust in yours.
Have you any pressing engagement, Drusilla? or is your time
your own this afternoon?"
It is needless to say that my time was entirely at my aunt's disposal.
"Keep me company then," she said, "for another hour.
I have something to tell you which I believe you will be sorry
to hear. And I shall have a service to ask of you afterwards,
if you don't object to assist me."
It is again needless to say that, so far from objecting,
I was all eagerness to assist her.
"You can wait here," she went on, "till Mr. Bruff comes at five.
And you can be one of the witnesses, Drusilla, when I sign
my Will."
Her Will! I thought of the drops which I had seen in her work-box. I
thought of the bluish tinge which I had noticed in her complexion.
A light which was not of this world--a light shining prophetically
from an unmade grave--dawned on my mind. My aunt's secret was a secret
no longer.
Consideration for poor Lady Verinder forbade me even to hint that I
had guessed the melancholy truth, before she opened her lips.
I waited her pleasure in silence; and, having privately arranged
to say a few sustaining words at the first convenient opportunity,
felt prepared for any duty that could claim me, no matter how painful it
might be.
"I have been seriously ill, Drusilla, for some time past," my aunt began.
"And, strange to say, without knowing it myself."
I thought of the thousands and thousands of perishing human creatures
who were all at that moment spiritually ill, without knowing it themselves.
And I greatly feared that my poor aunt might be one of the number.
"Yes, dear," I said, sadly. "Yes."
"I brought Rachel to London, as you know, for medical advice," she went on.
"I thought it right to consult two doctors."
Two doctors! And, oh me (in Rachel's state), not one clergyman!
"Yes, dear?" I said once more. "Yes?"
"One of the two medical men," proceeded my aunt, "was a stranger to me.
The other had been an old friend of my husband's, and had always felt
a sincere interest in me for my husband's sake. After prescribing
for Rachel, he said he wished to speak to me privately in another room.
I expected, of course, to receive some special directions for the
management of my daughter's health. To my surprise, he took me gravely
by the hand, and said, "I have been looking at you, Lady Verinder,
with a professional as well as a personal interest. You are, I am afraid,
far more urgently in need of medical advice than your daughter."
He put some questions to me, which I was at first inclined to treat
lightly enough, until I observed that my answers distressed him.
It ended in his making an appointment to come and see me, accompanied by a
medical friend, on the next day, at an hour when Rachel would not be at home.
The result of that visit--most kindly and gently conveyed to me--
satisfied both the physicians that there had been precious time lost,
which could never be regained, and that my case had now passed beyond
the reach of their art. For more than two years I have been suffering
under an insidious form of heart disease, which, without any symptoms
to alarm me, has, by little and little, fatally broken me down. I may live
for some months, or I may die before another day has passed over my head--
the doctors cannot, and dare not, speak more positively than this.
It would be vain to say, my dear, that I have not had some miserable moments
since my real situation has been made known to me. But I am more resigned
than I was, and I am doing my best to set my worldly affairs in order.
My one great anxiety is that Rachel should be kept in ignorance of the truth.
If she knew it, she would at once attribute my broken health to anxiety
about the Diamond, and would reproach herself bitterly, poor child,
for what is in no sense her fault. Both the doctors agree that the
mischief began two, if not three years since. I am sure you will keep
my secret, Drusilla--for I am sure I see sincere sorrow and sympathy for me
in your face."
Sorrow and sympathy! Oh, what Pagan emotions to expect from a Christian
Englishwoman anchored firmly on her faith!
Little did my poor aunt imagine what a gush of devout thankfulness
thrilled through me as she approached the close of her melancholy story.
Here was a career of usefulness opened before me! Here was a beloved
relative and perishing fellow-creature, on the eve of the great change,
utterly unprepared; and led, providentially led, to reveal her
situation to Me! How can I describe the joy with which I now
remembered that the precious clerical friends on whom I could rely,
were to be counted, not by ones or twos, but by tens and twenties.
I took my aunt in my arms--my overflowing tenderness was not to
be satisfied, now, with anything less than an embrace. "Oh!" I said
to her, fervently, "the indescribable interest with which you inspire me!
Oh! the good I mean to do you, dear, before we part!" After another word
or two of earnest prefatory warning, I gave her her choice of three
precious friends, all plying the work of mercy from morning to night
in her own neighbourhood; all equally inexhaustible in exhortation;
all affectionately ready to exercise their gifts at a word from me.
Alas! the result was far from encouraging. Poor Lady Verinder looked puzzled
and frightened, and met everything I could say to her with the purely worldly
objection that she was not strong enough to face strangers. I yielded--
for the moment only, of course. My large experience (as Reader and Visitor,
under not less, first and last, than fourteen beloved clerical friends)
informed me that this was another case for preparation by books.
I possessed a little library of works, all suitable to the present emergency,
all calculated to arouse, convince, prepare, enlighten, and fortify my aunt.
"You will read, dear, won't you?" I said, in my most winning way.
"You will read, if I bring you my own precious books? Turned down at
all the right places, aunt. And marked in pencil where you are to stop
and ask yourself, "Does this apply to me?"" Even that simple appeal--
so absolutely heathenising is the influence of the world--appeared to startle
my aunt. She said, "I will do what I can, Drusilla, to please you,"
with a look of surprise, which was at once instructive and terrible
to see. Not a moment was to be lost. The clock on the mantel-piece
informed me that I had just time to hurry home; to provide myself
with a first series of selected readings (say a dozen only); and to
return in time to meet the lawyer, and witness Lady Verinder's Will.
Promising faithfully to be back by five o'clock, I left the house on my
errand of mercy.
When no interests but my own are involved, I am humbly content to get
from place to place by the omnibus. Permit me to give an idea of my
devotion to my aunt's interests by recording that, on this occasion,
I committed the prodigality of taking a cab.
I drove home, selected and marked my first series of readings,
and drove back to Montagu Square, with a dozen works in a
carpet-bag, the like of which, I firmly believe, are not to
be found in the literature of any other country in Europe.
I paid the cabman exactly his fare. He received it with an oath;
upon which I instantly gave him a tract. If I had presented
a pistol at his head, this abandoned wretch could hardly have
exhibited greater consternation. He jumped up on his box, and,
with profane exclamations of dismay, drove off furiously.
Quite useless, I am happy to say! I sowed the good seed,
in spite of him, by throwing a second tract in at the window of
the cab.
The servant who answered the door--not the person with the cap-ribbons,
to my great relief, but the foot-man--informed me that the doctor
had called, and was still shut up with Lady Verinder. Mr. Bruff,
the lawyer, had arrived a minute since and was waiting in the library.
I was shown into the library to wait too.
Mr. Bruff looked surprised to see me. He is the family solicitor, and we
had met more than once, on previous occasions, under Lady Verinder's roof.
A man, I grieve to say, grown old and grizzled in the service of the world.
A man who, in his hours of business, was the chosen prophet of Law and Mammon;
and who, in his hours of leisure, was equally capable of reading a novel and
of tearing up a tract.
"Have you come to stay here, Miss Clack?" he asked, with a look
at my carpet-bag.
To reveal the contents of my precious bag to such a person as this
would have been simply to invite an outburst of profanity.
I lowered myself to his own level, and mentioned my business in
the house.
"My aunt has informed me that she is about to sign her Will,"
I answered. "She has been so good as to ask me to be one of
the witnesses."
"Aye? aye? Well, Miss Clack, you will do. You are over twenty-one,
and you have not the slightest pecuniary interest in Lady Verinder's Will."
Not the slightest pecuniary interest in Lady Verinder's Will.
Oh, how thankful I felt when I heard that! If my aunt,
possessed of thousands, had remembered poor Me, to whom five
pounds is an object--if my name had appeared in the Will,
with a little comforting legacy attached to it--my enemies
might have doubted the motive which had loaded me with
the choicest treasures of my library, and had drawn upon
my failing resources for the prodigal expenses of a cab.
Not the cruellest scoffer of them all could doubt now.
Much better as it was! Oh, surely, surely, much better as
it was!
I was aroused from these consoling reflections by the voice of Mr. Bruff.
My meditative silence appeared to weigh upon the spirits of this worldling,
and to force him, as it were, into talking to me against his own will.
"Well, Miss Clack, what's the last news in the charitable circles?
How is your friend Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite, after the mauling he got
from the rogues in Northumberland Street? Egad! they're telling
a pretty story about that charitable gentleman at my club!"
I had passed over the manner in which this person had remarked
that I was more than twenty-one, and that I had no pecuniary
interest in my aunt's Will. But the tone in which he alluded
to dear Mr. Godfrey was too much for my forbearance.
Feeling bound, after what had passed in my presence that afternoon,
to assert the innocence of my admirable friend, whenever I
found it called in question--I own to having also felt bound
to include in the accomplishment of this righteous purpose,
a stinging castigation in the case of Mr. Bruff.
"I live very much out of the world," I said; "and I don't possess
the advantage, sir, of belonging to a club. But I happen to know
the story to which you allude; and I also know that a viler falsehood
than that story never was told."
"Yes, yes, Miss Clack--you believe in your friend. Natural enough.
Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite, won't find the world in general quite so easy
to convince as a committee of charitable ladies. Appearances are
dead against him. He was in the house when the Diamond was lost.
And he was the first person in the house to go to London afterwards.
Those are ugly circumstances, ma'am, viewed by the light of
later events."
I ought, I know, to have set him right before he went any farther.
I ought to have told him that he was speaking in ignorance of a testimony
to Mr. Godfrey's innocence, offered by the only person who was
undeniably competent to speak from a positive knowledge of the subject.
Alas! the temptation to lead the lawyer artfully on to his own discomfiture
was too much for me. I asked what he meant by "later events"--with an
appearance of the utmost innocence.
"By later events, Miss Clack, I mean events in which the Indians
are concerned," proceeded Mr. Bruff, getting more and more superior
to poor Me, the longer he went on. "What do the Indians do,
the moment they are let out of the prison at Frizinghall?
They go straight to London, and fix on Mr. Luker.
What follows? Mr. Luker feels alarmed for the safety of "a
valuable of great price," which he has got in the house.
He lodges it privately (under a general description)
in his bankers' strong-room. Wonderfully clever of him:
but the Indians are just as clever on their side.
They have their suspicions that the "valuable of great price"
is being shifted from one place to another; and they hit on a
singularly bold and complete way of clearing those suspicions up.
Whom do they seize and search? Not Mr. Luker only--
which would be intelligible enough--but Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite
as well. Why? Mr. Ablewhite's explanation is, that they acted
on blind suspicion, after seeing him accidentally speaking
to Mr. Luker. Absurd! Half-a-dozen other people spoke to
Mr. Luker that morning. Why were they not followed home too,
and decoyed into the trap? No! no! The plain inference is,
that Mr. Ablewhite had his private interest in the "valuable"
as well as Mr. Luker, and that the Indians were so uncertain
as to which of the two had the disposal of it, that there
was no alternative but to search them both. Public opinion
says that, Miss Clack. And public opinion, on this occasion,
is not easily refuted."
He said those last words, looking so wonderfully wise in his
own worldly conceit, that I really (to my shame be it spoken)
could not resist leading him a little farther still, before I
overwhelmed him with the truth.
"I don't presume to argue with a clever lawyer like you," I said.
"But is it quite fair, sir, to Mr. Ablewhite to pass over the opinion
of the famous London police officer who investigated this case?
Not the shadow of a suspicion rested upon anybody but Miss Verinder,
in the mind of Sergeant Cuff."
"Do you mean to tell me, Miss Clack, that you agree with the Sergeant?"
"I judge nobody, sir, and I offer no opinion."
"And I commit both those enormities, ma'am. I judge the Sergeant
to have been utterly wrong; and I offer the opinion that,
if he had known Rachel's character as I know it,
he would have suspected everybody in the house but HER.
I admit that she has her faults--she is secret, and self-willed;
odd and wild, and unlike other girls of her age.
But true as steel, and high-minded and generous to a fault.
If the plainest evidence in the world pointed one way,
and if nothing but Rachel's word of honour pointed the other,
I would take her word before the evidence, lawyer as I am!
Strong language, Miss Clack; but I mean it."
"Would you object to illustrate your meaning, Mr. Bruff, so that I may be
sure I understand it? Suppose you found Miss Verinder quite unaccountably
interested in what has happened to Mr. Ablewhite and Mr. Luker?
Suppose she asked the strangest questions about this dreadful scandal,
and displayed the most ungovernable agitation when she found out the turn it
was taking?"
"Suppose anything you please, Miss Clack, it wouldn't shake my belief
in Rachel Verinder by a hair's-breadth."
"She is so absolutely to be relied on as that?"
"So absolutely to be relied on as that."
"Then permit me to inform you, Mr. Bruff, that Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite
was in this house not two hours since, and that his entire innocence
of all concern in the disappearance of the Moonstone was proclaimed
by Miss Verinder herself, in the strongest language I ever heard used
by a young lady in my life.
I enjoyed the triumph--the unholy triumph, I fear I must admit--
of seeing Mr. Bruff utterly confounded and overthrown by a few plain
words from Me. He started to his feet, and stared at me in silence.
I kept my seat, undisturbed, and related the whole scene as it
had occurred. "And what do you say about Mr. Ablewhite now?"
I asked, with the utmost possible gentleness, as soon as I
had done.
"If Rachel has testified to his innocence, Miss Clack, I don't
scruple to say that I believe in his innocence as firmly as you do:
I have been misled by appearances, like the rest of the world;
and I will make the best atonement I can, by publicly contradicting
the scandal which has assailed your friend wherever I meet with it.
In the meantime, allow me to congratulate you on the masterly
manner in which you have opened the full fire of your batteries
on me at the moment when I least expected it. You would have done
great things in my profession, ma'am, if you had happened to be
a man."
With those words he turned away from me, and began walking irritably up
and down the room.
I could see plainly that the new light I had thrown on the subject
had greatly surprised and disturbed him. Certain expressions dropped
from his lips, as he became more and more absorbed in his own thoughts,
which suggested to my mind the abominable view that he had hitherto taken
of the mystery of the lost Moonstone. He had not scrupled to suspect
dear Mr. Godfrey of the infamy of stealing the Diamond, and to attribute
Rachel's conduct to a generous resolution to conceal the crime.
On Miss Verinder's own authority--a perfectly unassailable authority,
as you are aware, in the estimation of Mr. Bruff--that explanation
of the circumstances was now shown to be utterly wrong. The perplexity
into which I had plunged this high legal authority was so overwhelming
that he was quite unable to conceal it from notice. "What a case!"
I heard him say to himself, stopping at the window in his walk, and drumming
on the glass with his fingers. "It not only defies explanation, it's even
beyond conjecture."
There was nothing in these words which made any reply at all needful,
on my part--and yet, I answered them! It seems hardly credible
that I should not have been able to let Mr. Bruff alone, even now.
It seems almost beyond mere mortal perversity that I should
have discovered, in what he had just said, a new opportunity of making
myself personally disagreeable to him. But--ah, my friends! nothing
is beyond mortal perversity; and anything is credible when our fallen
natures get the better of us!
"Pardon me for intruding on your reflections," I said to the unsuspecting
Mr. Bruff. "But surely there is a conjecture to make which has not occurred
to us yet."
"Maybe, Miss Clack. I own I don't know what it is."
"Before I was so fortunate, sir, as to convince you of Mr. Ablewhite's
innocence, you mentioned it as one of the reasons for suspecting him,
that he was in the house at the time when the Diamond was lost.
Permit me to remind you that Mr. Franklin Blake was also in the house
at the time when the Diamond was lost."
The old wordling left the window, took a chair exactly opposite to mine,
and looked at me steadily, with a hard and vicious smile.
"You are not so good a lawyer, Miss Clack," he remarked in a
meditative manner, "as I supposed. You don't know how to let well alone."
"I am afraid I fail to follow you, Mr. Bruff," I said, modestly.
"It won't do, Miss Clack--it really won't do a second time.
Franklin Blake is a prime favourite of mine, as you are
well aware. But that doesn't matter. I'll adopt your view,
on this occasion, before you have time to turn round on me.
You're quite right, ma'am. I have suspected Mr. Ablewhite,
on grounds which abstractedly justify suspecting Mr. Blake too.
Very good--let's suspect them together. It's quite in his character,
we will say, to be capable of stealing the Moonstone.
The only question is, whether it was his interest to
do so."
"Mr. Franklin Blake's debts," I remarked, "are matters of family notoriety."
"And Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite's debts have not arrived at that
stage of development yet. Quite true. But there happen
to be two difficulties in the way of your theory, Miss Clack.
I manage Franklin Blake's affairs, and I beg to inform you
that the vast majority of his creditors (knowing his father to be
a rich man) are quite content to charge interest on their debts,
and to wait for their money. There is the first difficulty--
which is tough enough. You will find the second tougher still.
I have it on the authority of Lady Verinder herself, that her
daughter was ready to marry Franklin Blake, before that infernal
Indian Diamond disappeared from the house. She had drawn him
on and put him off again, with the coquetry of a young girl.
But she had confessed to her mother that she loved cousin Franklin,
and her mother had trusted cousin Franklin with the secret.
So there he was, Miss Clack, with his creditors content to wait,
and with the certain prospect before him of marrying an heiress.
By all means consider him a scoundrel; but tell me, if you please,
why he should steal the Moonstone?"
"The human heart is unsearchable," I said gently. "Who is to fathom it?"
"In other words, ma'am--though he hadn't the shadow of a reason for taking
the Diamond--he might have taken it, nevertheless, through natural depravity.
Very well. Say he did. Why the devil----"
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Bruff. If I hear the devil referred
to in that manner, I must leave the room."
"I beg YOUR pardon, Miss Clack--I'll be more careful in my
choice of language for the future. All I meant to ask
was this. Why--even supposing he did take the Diamond--
should Franklin Blake make himself the most prominent person
in the house in trying to recover it? You may tell me
he cunningly did that to divert suspicion from himself.
I answer that he had no need to divert suspicion--
because nobody suspected him. He first steals the Moonstone
(without the slightest reason) through natural depravity;
and he then acts a part, in relation to the loss of the jewel,
which there is not the slightest necessity to act, and which
leads to his mortally offending the young lady who would
otherwise have married him. That is the monstrous proposition
which you are driven to assert, if you attempt to associate
the disappearance of the Moonstone with Franklin Blake.
No, no, Miss Clack! After what has passed here to-day,
between us two, the dead-lock, in this case, is complete.
Rachel's own innocence is (as her mother knows, and as I know)
beyond a doubt. Mr. Ablewhite's innocence is equally certain--
or Rachel would never have testified to it. And Franklin Blake's
innocence, as you have just seen, unanswerably asserts itself.
On the one hand, we are morally certain of all these things.
And, on the other hand, we are equally sure that somebody has
brought the Moonstone to London, and that Mr. Luker, or his banker,
is in private possession of it at this moment. What is the use
of my experience, what is the use of any person's experience,
in such a case as that? It baffles me; it baffles you, it
baffles everybody."
No--not everybody. It had not baffled Sergeant Cuff.
I was about to mention this, with all possible mildness,
and with every necessary protest against being supposed
to cast a slur upon Rachel--when the servant came in to say
that the doctor had gone, and that my aunt was waiting to
receive us.
This stopped the discussion. Mr. Bruff collected his papers,
looking a little exhausted by the demands which our conversation
had made on him. I took up my bag-full of precious publications,
feeling as if I could have gone on talking for hours. We proceeded
in silence to Lady Verinder's room.
Permit me to add here, before my narrative advances to other events,
that I have not described what passed between the lawyer and me,
without having a definite object in view. I am ordered to include
in my contribution to the shocking story of the Moonstone
a plain disclosure, not only of the turn which suspicion took,
but even of the names of the persons on whom suspicion rested,
at the time when the Indian Diamond was believed to be in London.
A report of my conversation in the library with Mr. Bruff appeared
to me to be exactly what was wanted to answer this purpose--
while, at the same time, it possessed the great moral advantage
of rendering a sacrifice of sinful self-esteem essentially necessary
on my part. I have been obliged to acknowledge that my fallen
nature got the better of me. In making that humiliating confession,
I get the better of my fallen nature. The moral balance is restored;
the spiritual atmosphere feels clear once more. Dear friends, we may go
on again.
The signing of the Will was a much shorter matter than I had anticipated.
It was hurried over, to my thinking, in indecent haste. Samuel, the footman,
was sent for to act as second witness--and the pen was put at once into my
aunt's hand. I felt strongly urged to say a few appropriate words on this
solemn occasion. But Mr. Bruff's manner convinced me that it was wisest
to check the impulse while he was in the room. In less than two minutes it
was all over--and Samuel (unbenefited by what I might have said) had gone
downstairs again.
Mr. Bruff folded up the Will, and then looked my way;
apparently wondering whether I did or did not mean to leave
him alone with my aunt. I had my mission of mercy to fulfil,
and my bag of precious publications ready on my lap.
He might as well have expected to move St. Paul's Cathedral
by looking at it, as to move Me. There was one merit about him
(due no doubt to his worldly training) which I have no wish to deny.
He was quick at seeing things. I appeared to produce almost
the same impression on him which I had produced on the cabman.
HE too uttered a profane expression, and withdrew in a violent hurry,
and left me mistress of the field.
As soon as we were alone, my aunt reclined on the sofa, and then alluded,
with some appearance of confusion, to the subject of her Will.
"I hope you won't think yourself neglected, Drusilla," she said.
"I mean to GIVE you your little legacy, my dear, with my own hand."
Here was a golden opportunity! I seized it on the spot.
In other words, I instantly opened my bag, and took out
the top publication. It proved to be an early edition--
only the twenty-fifth--of the famous anonymous work (believed to
be by precious Miss Bellows), entitled THE SERPENT AT HOME.
The design of the book--with which the worldly reader may not
be acquainted--is to show how the Evil One lies in wait for us
in all the most apparently innocent actions of our daily lives.
The chapters best adapted to female perusal are "Satan
in the Hair Brush;" "Satan behind the Looking Glass;"
"Satan under the Tea Table;" "Satan out of the Window'--
and many others.
"Give your attention, dear aunt, to this precious book--
and you will give me all I ask. "With those words, I handed
it to her open, at a marked passage--one continuous burst of
burning eloquence! Subject: Satan among the Sofa Cushions.
Poor Lady Verinder (reclining thoughtlessly on her own sofa cushions)
glanced at the book, and handed it back to me looking more confused
than ever.
"I'm afraid, Drusilla," she said, "I must wait till I am a little better,
before I can read that. The doctor----"
The moment she mentioned the doctor's name, I knew what was coming.
Over and over again in my past experience among my perishing
fellow-creatures, the members of the notoriously infidel profession
of Medicine had stepped between me and my mission of mercy--
on the miserable pretence that the patient wanted quiet,
and that the disturbing influence of all others which they
most dreaded, was the influence of Miss Clack and her Books.
Precisely the same blinded materialism (working treacherously
behind my back) now sought to rob me of the only right of property
that my poverty could claim--my right of spiritual property in my
perishing aunt.
"The doctor tells me," my poor misguided relative went on,
"that I am not so well to-day. He forbids me to see any strangers;
and he orders me, if I read at all, only to read the lightest
and the most amusing books. 'Do nothing, Lady Verinder,
to weary your head, or to quicken your pulse'--those were his
last words, Drusilla, when he left me to-day."
There was no help for it but to yield again--for the moment only, as before.
Any open assertion of the infinitely superior importance of such a ministry
as mine, compared with the ministry of the medical man, would only have
provoked the doctor to practise on the human weakness of his patient,
and to threaten to throw up the case. Happily, there are more ways than one
of sowing the good seed, and few persons are better versed in those ways
than myself.
"You might feel stronger, dear, in an hour or two," I said.
"Or you might wake, to-morrow morning, with a sense of something wanting,
and even this unpretending volume might be able to supply it.
You will let me leave the book, aunt? The doctor can hardly object
to that!"
I slipped it under the sofa cushions, half in, and half out,
close by her handkerchief, and her smelling-bottle. Every time
her hand searched for either of these, it would touch the book;
and, sooner or later (who knows?) the book might touch HER.
After making this arrangement, I thought it wise to withdraw.
"Let me leave you to repose, dear aunt; I will call again to-morrow."
I looked accidentally towards the window as I said that. It was full
of flowers, in boxes and pots. Lady Verinder was extravagantly
fond of these perishable treasures, and had a habit of rising
every now and then, and going to look at them and smell them.
A new idea flashed across my mind. "Oh! may I take a flower?"
I said--and got to the window unsuspected, in that way.
Instead of taking away a flower, I added one, in the shape
of another book from my bag, which I left, to surprise my aunt,
among the geraniums and roses. The happy thought followed,
"Why not do the same for her, poor dear, in every other room
that she enters?" I immediately said good-bye; and, crossing
the hall, slipped into the library. Samuel, coming up to let
me out, and supposing I had gone, went down-stairs again.
On the library table I noticed two of the "amusing books"
which the infidel doctor had recommended. I instantly covered
them from sight with two of my own precious publications.
In the breakfast-room I found my aunt's favourite canary
singing in his cage. She was always in the habit of feeding
the bird herself. Some groundsel was strewed on a table which stood
immediately under the cage. I put a book among the groundsel.
In the drawing-room I found more cheering opportunities
of emptying my bag. My aunt's favourite musical pieces were
on the piano. I slipped in two more books among the music.
I disposed of another in the back drawing-room, under some
unfinished embroidery, which I knew to be of Lady Verinder's working.
A third little room opened out of the back drawing-room,
from which it was shut off by curtains instead of a door.
My aunt's plain old-fashioned fan was on the chimney-piece. I
opened my ninth book at a very special passage, and put the fan
in as a marker, to keep the place. The question then came,
whether I should go higher still, and try the bed-room floor--
at the risk, undoubtedly, of being insulted, if the person
with the cap-ribbons happened to be in the upper regions
of the house, and to find me put. But oh, what of that?
It is a poor Christian that is afraid of being insulted.
I went upstairs, prepared to bear anything. All was silent
and solitary--it was the servants' tea-time, I suppose.
My aunt's room was in front. The minature of my late
dear uncle, Sir John, hung on the wall opposite the bed.
It seemed to smile at me; it seemed to say, "Drusilla! deposit
a book." There were tables on either side of my aunt's bed.
She was a bad sleeper, and wanted, or thought she wanted,
many things at night. I put a book near the matches on one side,
and a book under the box of chocolate drops on the other.
Whether she wanted a light, or whether she wanted a drop,
there was a precious publication to meet her eye, or to meet
her hand, and to say with silent eloquence, in either case,
"Come, try me! try me!" But one book was now left at the bottom
of my bag, and but one apartment was still unexplored--
the bath-room, which opened out of the bed-room. I peeped in;
and the holy inner voice that never deceives, whispered to me,
"You have met her, Drusilla, everywhere else; meet her at
the bath, and the work is done." I observed a dressing-gown
thrown across a chair. It had a pocket in it, and in that
pocket I put my last book. Can words express my exquisite
sense of duty done, when I had slipped out of the house,
unsuspected by any of them, and when I found myself in the street
with my empty bag under my arm? Oh, my worldly friends,
pursuing the phantom, Pleasure, through the guilty mazes
of Dissipation, how easy it is to be happy, if you will only be
When I folded up my things that night--when I reflected on
the true riches which I had scattered with such a lavish hand,
from top to bottom of the house of my wealthy aunt--I declare I
felt as free from all anxiety as if I had been a child again.
I was so light-hearted that I sang a verse of the Evening Hymn.
I was so light-hearted that I fell asleep before I could
sing another. Quite like a child again! quite like a
child again!
So I passed that blissful night. On rising the next morning,
how young I felt! I might add, how young I looked, if I were
capable of dwelling on the concerns of my own perishable body.
But I am not capable--and I add nothing.
Towards luncheon time--not for the sake of the creature-comforts, but for the
certainty of finding dear aunt--I put on my bonnet to go to Montagu Square.
Just as I was ready, the maid at the lodgings in which I then lived looked
in at the door, and said, "Lady Verinder's servant, to see Miss Clack."
I occupied the parlour-floor, at that period of my residence
in London. The front parlour was my sitting-room. Very small,
very low in the ceiling, very poorly furnished--but, oh, so neat!
I looked into the passage to see which of Lady Verinder's
servants had asked for me. It was the young footman, Samuel--
a civil fresh-coloured person, with a teachable look and a
very obliging manner. I had always felt a spiritual interest
in Samuel, and a wish to try him with a few serious words.
On this occasion, I invited him into my sitting-room.
He came in, with a large parcel under his arm. When he put the parcel down,
it appeared to frighten him. "My lady's love, Miss; and I was to say that you
would find a letter inside." Having given that message, the fresh-coloured
young footman surprised me by looking as if he would have liked to run away.
I detained him to make a few kind inquiries. Could I see my aunt,
if I called in Montagu Square? No; she had gone out for a drive.
Miss Rachel had gone with her, and Mr. Ablewhite had taken a seat
in the carriage, too. Knowing how sadly dear Mr. Godfrey's charitable
work was in arrear, I thought it odd that he should be going out driving,
like an idle man. I stopped Samuel at the door, and made a few
more kind inquiries. Miss Rachel was going to a ball that night,
and Mr. Ablewhite had arranged to come to coffee, and go with her.
There was a morning concert advertised for to-morrow, and Samuel was ordered
to take places for a large party, including a place for Mr. Ablewhite.
"All the tickets may be gone, Miss," said this innocent youth,
"if I don't run and get them at once!" He ran as he said the words--
and I found myself alone again, with some anxious thoughts to
occupy me.
We had a special meeting of the Mothers'-Small-Clothes-Conversion Society
that night, summoned expressly with a view to obtaining Mr. Godfrey's advice
and assistance. Instead of sustaining our sisterhood, under an overwhelming
flow of Trousers which quite prostrated our little community, he had
arranged to take coffee in Montagu Square, and to go to a ball afterwards!
The afternoon of the next day had been selected for the Festival of
the British-Ladies'- Servants'-Sunday-Sweetheart-Supervision Society.
Instead of being present, the life and soul of that struggling Institution,
he had engaged to make one of a party of worldlings at a morning concert!
I asked myself what did it mean? Alas! it meant that our Christian Hero was
to reveal himself to me in a new character, and to become associated in my
mind with one of the most awful backslidings of modern times.
To return, however, to the history of the passing day.
On finding myself alone in my room, I naturally turned
my attention to the parcel which appeared to have so
strangely intimidated the fresh-coloured young footman.
Had my aunt sent me my promised legacy? and had it taken
the form of cast-off clothes, or worn-out silver spoons,
or unfashionable jewellery, or anything of that sort?
Prepared to accept all, and to resent nothing, I opened the parcel--
and what met my view? The twelve precious publications
which I had scattered through the house, on the previous day;
all returned to me by the doctor's orders! Well might the youthful
Samuel shrink when he brought his parcel into my room!
Well might he run when he had performed his miserable errand!
As to my aunt's letter, it simply amounted, poor soul, to this--
that she dare not disobey her medical man.
What was to be done now? With my training and my principles,
I never had a moment's doubt.
Once self-supported by conscience, once embarked on a career
of manifest usefulness, the true Christian never yields.
Neither public nor private influences produce the slightest
effect on us, when we have once got our mission. Taxation may
be the consequence of a mission; riots may be the consequence
of a mission; wars may be the consequence of a mission:
we go on with our work, irrespective of every human consideration
which moves the world outside us. We are above reason;
we are beyond ridicule; we see with nobody's eyes, we hear
with nobody's ears, we feel with nobody's hearts, but our own.
Glorious, glorious privilege! And how is it earned?
Ah, my friends, you may spare yourselves the useless inquiry!
We are the only people who can earn it--for we are the only
people who are always right.
In the case of my misguided aunt, the form which pious perseverance
was next to take revealed itself to me plainly enough.
Preparation by clerical friends had failed, owing to Lady Verinder's
own reluctance. Preparation by books had failed, owing to the doctor's
infidel obstinacy. So be it! What was the next thing to try?
The next thing to try was--Preparation by Little Notes.
In other words, the books themselves having been sent back,
select extracts from the books, copied by different hands, and all
addressed as letters to my aunt, were, some to be sent by post,
and some to be distributed about the house on the plan I had adopted
on the previous day. As letters they would excite no suspicion;
as letters they would be opened--and, once opened, might be read.
Some of them I wrote myself. "Dear aunt, may I ask your attention
to a few lines?" &c. "Dear aunt, I was reading last night,
and I chanced on the following passage," &c. Other letters
were written for me by my valued fellow-workers, the sisterhood
at the Mothers'-Small-Clothes. "Dear madam, pardon the interest
taken in you by a true, though humble, friend." " Dear madam,
may a serious person surprise you by saying a few cheering words?"
Using these and other similar forms of courteous appeal,
we reintroduced all my precious passages under a form which
not even the doctor's watchful materialism could suspect.
Before the shades of evening had closed around us, I had a dozen
awakening letters for my aunt, instead of a dozen awakening books.
Six I made immediate arrangements for sending through the post,
and six I kept in my pocket for personal distribution in the house the
next day.
Soon after two o'clock I was again on the field of pious conflict,
addressing more kind inquiries to Samuel at Lady Verinder's door.
My aunt had had a bad night. She was again in the room in which I had
witnessed her Will, resting on the sofa, and trying to get a little sleep.
I said I would wait in the library, on the chance of seeing her.
In the fervour of my zeal to distribute the letters, it never
occurred to me to inquire about Rachel. The house was quiet,
and it was past the hour at which the musical performance began.
I took it for granted that she and her party of pleasure-seekers
(Mr. Godfrey, alas! included) were all at the concert, and eagerly devoted
myself to my good work, while time and opportunity were still at my
own disposal.
My aunt's correspondence of the morning--including the six awakening letters
which I had posted overnight--was lying unopened on the library table.
She had evidently not felt herself equal to dealing with a large
mass of letters--and she might be daunted by the number of them,
if she entered the library later in the day. I put one of my second set
of six letters on the chimney-piece by itself; leaving it to attract
her curiosity, by means of its solitary position, apart from the rest.
A second letter I put purposely on the floor in the breakfast-room. The
first servant who went in after me would conclude that my aunt had dropped it,
and would be specially careful to restore it to her. The field thus
sown on the basement story, I ran lightly upstairs to scatter my mercies
next over the drawing-room floor.
Just as I entered the front room, I heard a double knock at
the street-door--a soft, fluttering, considerate little knock.
Before I could think of slipping back to the library (in which I
was supposed to be waiting), the active young footman was in
the hall, answering the door. It mattered little, as I thought.
In my aunt's state of health, visitors in general were not admitted.
To my horror and amazement, the performer of the soft little knock
proved to be an exception to general rules. Samuel's voice below me
(after apparently answering some questions which I did not hear)
said, unmistakably, "Upstairs, if you please, sir." The next moment I
heard footsteps--a man's footsteps--approaching the drawing-room floor.
Who could this favoured male visitor possibly be? Almost as soon
as I asked myself the question, the answer occurred to me.
Who COULD it be but the doctor?
In the case of any other visitor, I should have allowed
myself to be discovered in the drawing-room. There would
have been nothing out of the common in my having got tired
of the library, and having gone upstairs for a change.
But my own self-respect stood in the way of my meeting
the person who had insulted me by sending me back my books.
I slipped into the little third room, which I have mentioned
as communicating with the back drawing-room, and dropped
the curtains which closed the open doorway. If I only waited
there for a minute or two, the usual result in such cases would
take place. That is to say, the doctor would be conducted to his
patient's room.
I waited a minute or two, and more than a minute or two.
I heard the visitor walking restlessly backwards and forwards.
I also heard him talking to himself. I even thought I
recognised the voice. Had I made a mistake? Was it not
the doctor, but somebody else? Mr. Bruff, for instance?
No! an unerring instinct told me it was not Mr. Bruff.
Whoever he was, he was still talking to himself. I parted
the heavy curtains the least little morsel in the world,
and listened.
The words I heard were, "I'll do it to-day!" And the voice that spoke
them was Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite's.
My hand dropped from the curtain. But don't suppose--oh, don't suppose--
that the dreadful embarrassment of my situation was the uppermost
idea in my mind! So fervent still was the sisterly interest
I felt in Mr. Godfrey, that I never stopped to ask myself why
he was not at the concert. No! I thought only of the words--
the startling words--which had just fallen from his lips.
He would do it to-day. He had said, in a tone of terrible resolution,
he would do it to-day. What, oh what, would he do? Something even
more deplorably unworthy of him than what he had done already?
Would he apostatise from the faith? Would he abandon us at
the Mothers'-Small-Clothes? Had we seen the last of his angelic
smile in the committee-room? Had we heard the last of his unrivalled
eloquence at Exeter Hall? I was so wrought up by the bare idea
of such awful eventualities as these in connection with such a man,
that I believe I should have rushed from my place of concealment,
and implored him in the name of all the Ladies' Committees in
London to explain himself--when I suddenly heard another voice
in the room. It penetrated through the curtains; it was loud,
it was bold, it was wanting in every female charm. The voice of
Rachel Verinder.
"Why have you come up here, Godfrey?" she asked. "Why didn't you
go into the library?"
He laughed softly, and answered, "Miss Clack is in the library."
"Clack in the library!" She instantly seated herself on the ottoman
in the back drawing-room. "You are quite right, Godfrey. We had much
better stop here."
I had been in a burning fever, a moment since, and in some
doubt what to do next. I became extremely cold now, and felt
no doubt whatever. To show myself, after what I had heard,
was impossible. To retreat--except into the fireplace--
was equally out of the question. A martyrdom was before me.
In justice to myself, I noiselessly arranged the curtains
so that I could both see and hear. And then I met my martyrdom,
with the spirit of a primitive Christian.
"Don't sit on the ottoman," the young lady proceeded.
"Bring a chair, Godfrey. I like people to be opposite to me
when I talk to them."
He took the nearest seat. It was a low chair. He was very tall,
and many sizes too large for it. I never saw his legs to such
disadvantage before.
"Well?" she went on. "What did you say to them?"
"Just what you said, dear Rachel, to me."
"That mamma was not at all well to-day? And that I didn't quite
like leaving her to go to the concert?"
"Those were the words. They were grieved to lose you at the concert,
but they quite understood. All sent their love; and all expressed a
cheering belief that Lady Verinder's indisposition would soon pass away."
"YOU don't think it's serious, do you, Godfrey?"
"Far from it! In a few days, I feel quite sure, all will be well again."
"I think so, too. I was a little frightened at first, but I think so too.
It was very kind to go and make my excuses for me to people who are almost
strangers to you. But why not have gone with them to the concert? It seems
very hard that you should miss the music too."
"Don't say that, Rachel! If you only knew how much happier
I am--here, with you!"
He clasped his hands, and looked at her. In the position which he occupied,
when he did that, he turned my way. Can words describe how I sickened when I
noticed exactly the same pathetic expression on his face, which had charmed
me when he was pleading for destitute millions of his fellow-creatures on
the platform at Exeter Hall!
"It's hard to get over one's bad habits, Godfrey. But do try to get
over the habit of paying compliments--do, to please me."
"I never paid you a compliment, Rachel, in my life.
Successful love may sometimes use the language of flattery, I admit.
But hopeless love, dearest, always speaks the truth."
He drew his chair close, and took her hand, when he said "hopeless love."
There was a momentary silence. He, who thrilled everybody, had doubtless
thrilled HER. I thought I now understood the words which had dropped
from him when he was alone in the drawing-room, "I'll do it to-day."
Alas! the most rigid propriety could hardly have failed to discover
that he was doing it now.
"Have you forgotten what we agreed on, Godfrey, when you spoke
to me in the country? We agreed that we were to be cousins,
and nothing more."
"I break the agreement, Rachel, every time I see you."
"Then don't see me."
"Quite useless! I break the agreement every time I think of you.
Oh, Rachel! how kindly you told me, only the other day, that my place
in your estimation was a higher place than it had ever been yet!
Am I mad to build the hopes I do on those dear words? Am I mad
to dream of some future day when your heart may soften to me?
Don't tell me so, if I am! Leave me my delusion, dearest! I must
have THAT to cherish, and to comfort me, if I have nothing else!"
His voice trembled, and he put his white handkerchief to his eyes.
Exeter Hall again! Nothing wanting to complete the parallel but
the audience, the cheers, and the glass of water.
Even her obdurate nature was touched. I saw her lean a little nearer to him.
I heard a new tone of interest in her next words.
"Are you really sure, Godfrey, that you are so fond of me as that?"
"Sure! You know what I was, Rachel. Let me tell you what I am.
I have lost every interest in life, but my interest in you.
A transformation has come over me which I can't account for, myself.
Would you believe it? My charitable business is an unendurable
nuisance to me; and when I see a Ladies' Committee now, I wish myself
at the uttermost ends of the earth!"
If the annals of apostasy offer anything comparable to such a declaration
as that, I can only say that the case in point is not producible from
the stores of my reading. I thought of the Mothers'-Small-Clothes. I thought
of the Sunday-Sweetheart-Supervision. I thought of the other Societies,
too numerous to mention, all built up on this man as on a tower of strength.
I thought of the struggling Female Boards, who, so to speak, drew the breath
of their business-life through the nostrils of Mr. Godfrey--of that same
Mr. Godfrey who had just reviled our good work as a "nuisance"--and just
declared that he wished he was at the uttermost ends of the earth when he
found himself in our company! My young female friends will feel encouraged
to persevere, when I mention that it tried even My discipline before I could
devour my own righteous indignation in silence. At the same time, it is only
justice to myself to add, that I didn't lose a syllable of the conversation.
Rachel was the next to speak.
"You have made your confession," she said. "I wonder whether it
would cure you of your unhappy attachment to me, if I made mine?"
He started. I confess I started too. He thought, and I thought,
that she was about to divulge the mystery of the Moonstone.
"Would you think, to look at me," she went on, "that I am the wretchedest
girl living? It's true, Godfrey. What greater wretchedness can there
be than to live degraded in your own estimation? That is my life now."
"My dear Rachel! it's impossible you can have any reason to speak
of yourself in that way!"
"How do you know I have no reason?"
"Can you ask me the question! I know it, because I know you.
Your silence, dearest, has never lowered you in the estimation
of your true friends. The disappearance of your precious
birthday gift may seem strange; your unexplained connection
with that event may seem stranger still
"Are you speaking of the Moonstone, Godfrey----"
"I certainly thought that you referred----"
"I referred to nothing of the sort. I can hear of the loss of the Moonstone,
let who will speak of it, without feeling degraded in my own estimation.
If the story of the Diamond ever comes to light, it will be known that I
accepted a dreadful responsibility; it will be known that I involved myself
in the keeping of a miserable secret--but it will be as clear as the sun
at noon-day that I did nothing mean! You have misunderstood me, Godfrey.
It's my fault for not speaking more plainly. Cost me what it may, I will be
plainer now. Suppose you were not in love with me? Suppose you were in love
with some other woman?"
"Suppose you discovered that woman to be utterly unworthy of you?
Suppose you were quite convinced that it was a disgrace to you
to waste another thought on her? Suppose the bare idea of ever
marrying such a person made your face burn, only with thinking
of it."
"And, suppose, in spite of all that--you couldn't tear her from your heart?
Suppose the feeling she had roused in you (in the time when you
believed in her) was not a feeling to be hidden? Suppose the love this
wretch had inspired in you? Oh, how can I find words to say it in!
How can I make a MAN understand that a feeling which horrifies me at myself,
can be a feeling that fascinates me at the same time? It's the breath
of my life, Godfrey, and it's the poison that kills me--both in one!
Go away! I must be out of my mind to talk as I am talking now.
No! you mustn't leave me--you mustn't carry away a wrong impression.
I must say what is to be said in my own defence. Mind this! HE doesn't know--
he never will know, what I have told you. I will never see him--
I don't care what happens--I will never, never, never see him again!
Don't ask me his name! Don't ask me any more! Let's change the subject.
Are you doctor enough, Godfrey, to tell me why I feel as if I was stifling
for want of breath? Is there a form of hysterics that bursts into words
instead of tears? I dare say! What does it matter? You will get over any
trouble I have caused you, easily enough now. I have dropped to my right
place in your estimation, haven't I? Don't notice me! Don't pity me!
For God's sake, go away!"
She turned round on a sudden, and beat her hands wildly on
the back of the ottoman. Her head dropped on the cushions;
and she burst out crying. Before I had time to feel shocked,
at this, I was horror-struck by an entirely unexpected proceeding
on the part of Mr. Godfrey. Will it be credited that he fell
on his knees at her feet.?--on BOTH knees, I solemnly declare!
May modesty mention that he put his arms round her next?
And may reluctant admiration acknowledge that he electrified her with
two words?
"Noble creature!"
No more than that! But he did it with one of the bursts which have made
his fame as a public speaker. She sat, either quite thunderstruck,
or quite fascinated--I don't know which--without even making
an effort to put his arms back where his arms ought to have been.
As for me, my sense of propriety was completely bewildered.
I was so painfully uncertain whether it was my first duty to close
my eyes, or to stop my ears, that I did neither. I attribute
my being still able to hold the curtain in the right position
for looking and listening, entirely to suppressed hysterics.
In suppressed hysterics, it is admitted, even by the doctors,
that one must hold something.
"Yes," he said, with all the fascination of his evangelical
voice and manner, "you are a noble creature! A woman
who can speak the truth, for the truth's own sake--a woman
who will sacrifice her pride, rather than sacrifice an honest
man who loves her--is the most priceless of all treasures.
When such a woman marries, if her husband only wins her esteem
and regard, he wins enough to ennoble his whole life.
You have spoken, dearest, of your place in my estimation.
Judge what that place is--when I implore you on my knees,
to let the cure of your poor wounded heart be my care.
Rachel! will you honour me, will you bless me, by being
my wife?"
By this time I should certainly have decided on stopping my ears,
if Rachel had not encouraged me to keep them open, by answering him
in the first sensible words I had ever heard fall from her lips.
"Godfrey!" she said, "you must be mad!"
"I never spoke more reasonably, dearest--in your interests,
as well as in mine. Look for a moment to the future. Is your
happiness to be sacrificed to a man who has never known how you
feel towards him, and whom you are resolved never to see again?
Is it not your duty to yourself to forget this ill-fated attachment?
and is forgetfulness to be found in the life you are leading now?
You have tried that life, and you are wearying of it already.
Surround yourself with nobler interests than the wretched interests
of the world. A heart that loves and honours you; a home whose
peaceful claims and happy duties win gently on you day by day--
try the consolation, Rachel, which is to be found THERE!
I don't ask for your love--I will be content with your affection
and regard. Let the rest be left, confidently left, to your
husband's devotion, and to Time that heals even wounds as deep
as yours."
She began to yield already. Oh, what a bringing-up she must have had!
Oh, how differently I should have acted in her place!
"Don't tempt me, Godfrey," she said; "I am wretched enough and reckless enough
as it is. Don't tempt me to be more wretched and more wreckless still!"
"One question, Rachel. Have you any personal objection to me?"
"I! I always liked you. After what you have just said to me,
I should be insensible indeed if I didn't respect and admire you
as well."
"Do you know many wives, my dear Rachel, who respect and admire
their husbands? And yet they and their husbands get on very well.
How many brides go to the altar with hearts that would bear inspection
by the men who take them there? And yet it doesn't end unhappily--
somehow or other the nuptial establishment jogs on. The truth is,
that women try marriage as a Refuge, far more numerously than they
are willing to admit; and, what is more, they find that marriage has
justified their confidence in it. Look at your own case once again.
At your age, and with your attractions, is it possible for you to
sentence yourself to a single life? Trust my knowledge of the world--
nothing is less possible. It is merely a question of time.
You may marry some other man, some years hence. Or you may marry
the man, dearest, who is now at your feet, and who prizes your respect
and admiration above the love of any other woman on the face of
the earth."
"Gently, Godfrey! you are putting something into my head
which I never thought of before. You are tempting me with a
new prospect, when all my other prospects are closed before me.
I tell you again, I am miserable enough and desperate enough,
if you say another word, to marry you on your own terms.
Take the warning, and go!"
"I won't even rise from my knees, till you have said yes!"
"If I say yes you will repent, and I shall repent, when it is too late!"
"We shall both bless the day, darling, when I pressed, and when you yielded."
"Do you feel as confidently as you speak?"
"You shall judge for yourself. I speak from what I have seen in my
own family. Tell me what you think of our household at Frizinghall.
Do my father and mother live unhappily together?"
"Far from it--so far as I can see."
"When my mother was a girl, Rachel (it is no secret in the family), she had
loved as you love--she had given her heart to a man who was unworthy of her.
She married my father, respecting him, admiring him, but nothing more.
Your own eyes have seen the result. Is there no encouragement in it for you
and for me?" *
* See Betteredge's Narrative, chapter viii.
"You won't hurry me, Godfrey?"
"My time shall be yours."
"You won't ask me for more than I can give?"
"My angel! I only ask you to give me yourself."
"Take me!"
In those two words she accepted him!
He had another burst--a burst of unholy rapture this time.
He drew her nearer and nearer to him till her face touched his;
and then--No! I really cannot prevail upon myself to carry this
shocking disclosure any farther. Let me only say, that I tried to close
my eyes before it happened, and that I was just one moment too late.
I had calculated, you see, on her resisting. She submitted.
To every right-feeling person of my own sex, volumes could say
no more.
Even my innocence in such matters began to see its way to the end
of the interview now. They understood each other so thoroughly
by this time, that I fully expected to see them walk off together,
arm in arm, to be married. There appeared, however, judging by
Mr. Godfrey's next words, to be one more trifling formality which it
was necessary to observe. He seated himself--unforbidden this time--
on the ottoman by her side. "Shall I speak to your dear mother?"
he asked. "Or will you?"
She declined both alternatives.
"Let my mother hear nothing from either of us, until she is better.
I wish it to be kept a secret for the present, Godfrey. Go now,
and come back this evening. We have been here alone together quite
long enough."
She rose, and in rising, looked for the first time towards the little
room in which my martyrdom was going on.
"Who has drawn those curtains?" she exclaimed.
"The room is close enough, as it is, without keeping the air out of it
in that way."
She advanced to the curtains. At the moment when she laid her hand on them--
at the moment when the discovery of me appeared to be quite inevitable--
the voice of the fresh-coloured young footman, on the stairs,
suddenly suspended any further proceedings on her side or on mine.
It was unmistakably the voice of a man in great alarm.
"Miss Rachel!" he called out, "where are you, Miss Rachel?"
She sprang back from the curtains, and ran to the door.
The footman came just inside the room. His ruddy colour was all gone.
He said, "Please to come down-stairs, Miss! My lady has fainted, and we
can't bring her to again."
In a moment more I was alone, and free to go down-stairs in my turn,
quite unobserved.
Mr. Godfrey passed me in the hall, hurrying out, to fetch the doctor.
"Go in, and help them!" he said, pointing to the room. I found Rachel
on her knees by the sofa, with her mother's head on her bosom.
One look at my aunt's face (knowing what I knew) was enough to warn me of
the dreadful truth. I kept my thoughts to myself till the doctor came in.
It was not long before he arrived. He began by sending Rachel out of
the room--and then he told the rest of us that Lady Verinder was no more.
Serious persons, in search of proofs of hardened scepticism, may be
interested in hearing that he showed no signs of remorse when he looked
at Me.
At a later hour I peeped into the breakfast-room, and the library.
My aunt had died without opening one of the letters which I had addressed
to her. I was so shocked at this, that it never occurred to me,
until some days afterwards, that she had also died without giving me my
little legacy.
(1.) "Miss Clack presents her compliments to Mr. Franklin Blake;
and, in sending him the fifth chapter of her humble narrative,
begs to say that she feels quite unequal to enlarge as she
could wish on an event so awful, under the circumstances,
as Lady Verinder's death. She has, therefore, attached to her
own manuscripts, copious Extracts from precious publications
in her possession, all bearing on this terrible subject.
And may those Extracts (Miss Clack fervently hopes) sound as
the blast of a trumpet in the ears of her respected kinsman,
Mr. Franklin Blake."
(2.) "Mr. Franklin Blake presents his compliments to Miss Clack,
and begs to thank her for the fifth chapter of her narrative.
In returning the extracts sent with it, he will refrain from
mentioning any personal objection which he may entertain to this
species of literature, and will merely say that the proposed
additions to the manuscript are not necessary to the fulfilment
of the purpose that he has in view."
(3.) "Miss Clack begs to acknowledge the return of her Extracts.
She affectionately reminds Mr. Franklin Blake that she is a Christian,
and that it is, therefore, quite impossible for him to offend her.
Miss C. persists in feeling the deepest interest in Mr. Blake,
and pledges herself, on the first occasion when sickness may lay
him low, to offer him the use of her Extracts for the second time.
In the meanwhile she would be glad to know, before beginning
the final chapters of her narrative, whether she may be permitted
to make her humble contribution complete, by availing herself
of the light which later discoveries have thrown on the mystery of
the Moonstone."
(4.) "Mr. Franklin Blake is sorry to disappoint Miss Clack.
He can only repeat the instructions which he had the honour
of giving her when she began her narrative. She is requested
to limit herself to her own individual experience of persons
and events, as recorded in her diary. Later discoveries she
will be good enough to leave to the pens of those persons
who can write in the capacity of actual witnesses."
(5.) "Miss Clack is extremely sorry to trouble Mr. Franklin Blake with
another letter. Her Extracts have been returned, and the expression
of her matured views on the subject of the Moonstone has been forbidden.
Miss Clack is painfully conscious that she ought (in the worldly phrase)
to feel herself put down. But, no--Miss C. has learnt Perseverance
in the School of Adversity. Her object in writing is to know whether
Mr. Blake (who prohibits everything else) prohibits the appearance of
the present correspondence in Miss Clack's narrative? Some explanation
of the position in which Mr. Blake's interference has placed her as
an authoress, seems due on the ground of common justice. And Miss Clack,
on her side, is most anxious that her letters should be produced to speak
for themselves."
(6.) "Mr. Franklin Blake agrees to Miss Clack's proposal,
on the understanding that she will kindly consider this intimation
of his consent as closing the correspondence between them."
(7.) "Miss Clack feels it an act of Christian duty
(before the correspondence closes) to inform Mr. Franklin
Blake that his last letter--evidently intended to offend her--
has not succeeded in accomplishing the object of the writer.
She affectionately requests Mr. Blake to retire to the privacy
of his own room, and to consider with himself whether the training
which can thus elevate a poor weak woman above the reach of insult,
be not worthy of greater admiration than he is now disposed to feel
for it. On being favoured with an intimation to that effect,
Miss C. solemnly pledges herself to send back the complete
series of her Extracts to Mr. Franklin Blake."
[To this letter no answer was received. Comment is needless.
The foregoing correspondence will sufficiently explain why no choice is left
to me but to pass over Lady Verinder's death with the simple announcement
of the fact which ends my fifth chapter.
Keeping myself for the future strictly within the limits of my own
personal experience, I have next to relate that a month elapsed from
the time of my aunt's decease before Rachel Verinder and I met again.
That meeting was the occasion of my spending a few days under the same
roof with her. In the course of my visit, something happened,
relative to her marriage-engagement with Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite,
which is important enough to require special notice in these pages.
When this last of many painful family circumstances has been disclosed,
my task will be completed; for I shall then have told all that I know,
as an actual (and most unwilling) witness of events.
My aunt's remains were removed from London, and were buried
in the little cemetery attached to the church in her own park.
I was invited to the funeral with the rest of the family.
But it was impossible (with my religious views) to rouse myself
in a few days only from the shock which this death had caused me.
I was informed, moreover, that the rector of Frizinghall
was to read the service. Having myself in past times seen
this clerical castaway making one of the players at Lady
Verinder's whist-table, I doubt, even if I had been fit
to travel, whether I should have felt justified in attending
the ceremony.
Lady Verinder's death left her daughter under the care of her
brother-in-law, Mr. Ablewhite the elder. He was appointed
guardian by the will, until his niece married, or came of age.
Under these circumstances, Mr. Godfrey informed his father,
I suppose, of the new relation in which he stood towards Rachel.
At any rate, in ten days from my aunt's death, the secret of
the marriage-engagement was no secret at all within the circle
of the family, and the grand question for Mr. Ablewhite senior--
another confirmed castaway!--was how to make himself and his authority
most agreeable to the wealthy young lady who was going to marry
his son.
Rachel gave him some trouble at the outset, about the choice
of a place in which she could be prevailed upon to reside.
The house in Montagu Square was associated with the calamity
of her mother's death. The house in Yorkshire was associated with
the scandalous affair of the lost Moonstone. Her guardian's own
residence at Frizinghall was open to neither of these objections.
But Rachel's presence in it, after her recent bereavement,
operated as a check on the gaieties of her cousins,
the Miss Ablewhites--and she herself requested that her
visit might be deferred to a more favourable opportunity.
It ended in a proposal, emanating from old Mr. Ablewhite, to try
a furnished house at Brighton. His wife, an invalid daughter,
and Rachel were to inhabit it together, and were to expect him
to join them later in the season. They would see no society
but a few old friends, and they would have his son Godfrey,
travelling backwards and forwards by the London train, always at
their disposal.
I describe this aimless flitting about from one place of residence
to another--this insatiate restlessness of body and appalling
stagnation of soul--merely with the view to arriving at results.
The event which (under Providence) proved to be the means of bringing
Rachel Verinder and myself together again, was no other than the hiring
of the house at Brighton.
My Aunt Ablewhite is a large, silent, fair-complexioned woman,
with one noteworthy point in her character. From the hour of
her birth she has never been known to do anything for herself.
She has gone through life, accepting everybody's help, and adopting
everybody's opinions. A more hopeless person, in a spiritual
point of view, I have never met with--there is absolutely, in this
perplexing case, no obstructive material to work upon. Aunt Ablewhite
would listen to the Grand Lama of Thibet exactly as she listens to Me,
and would reflect his views quite as readily as she reflects mine.
She found the furnished house at Brighton by stopping at an hotel
in London, composing herself on a sofa, and sending for her son.
She discovered the necessary servants by breakfasting in bed one morning
(still at the hotel), and giving her maid a holiday on condition
that the girl "would begin enjoying herself by fetching Miss Clack."
I found her placidly fanning herself in her dressing-gown at eleven
o'clock. "Drusilla, dear, I want some servants. You are so clever--
please get them for me." I looked round the untidy room.
The church-bells were going for a week-day service; they suggested
a word of affectionate remonstrance on my part. "Oh, aunt!"
I said sadly. "Is THIS worthy of a Christian Englishwoman?
Is the passage from time to eternity to be made in THIS manner?"
My aunt answered, "I'll put on my gown, Drusilla, if you will
be kind enough to help me." What was to be said after that?
I have done wonders with murderesses--I have never advanced an inch
with Aunt Ablewhite. "Where is the list," I asked, "of the servants
whom you require?" My aunt shook her head; she hadn't even energy
enough to keep the list. "Rachel has got it, dear," she said,
"in the next room." I went into the next room, and so saw
Rachel again for the first time since we had parted in Montagu
She looked pitiably small and thin in her deep mourning.
If I attached any serious importance to such a perishable
trifle as personal appearance, I might be inclined to add
that hers was one of those unfortunate complexions which always
suffer when not relieved by a border of white next the skin.
But what are our complexions and our looks? Hindrances and pitfalls,
dear girls, which beset us on our way to higher things!
Greatly to my surprise, Rachel rose when I entered the room, and came
forward to meet me with outstretched hand.
"I am glad to see you," she said. "Drusilla, I have been in the habit
of speaking very foolishly and very rudely to you, on former occasions.
I beg your pardon. I hope you will forgive me."
My face, I suppose, betrayed the astonishment I felt at this.
She coloured up for a moment, and then proceeded to explain herself.
"In my poor mother's lifetime," she went on, "her friends
were not always my friends, too. Now I have lost her, my heart
turns for comfort to the people she liked. She liked you.
Try to be friends with me, Drusilla, if you can."
To any rightly-constituted mind, the motive thus acknowledged was
simply shocking. Here in Christian England was a young woman in a state
of bereavement, with so little idea of where to look for true comfort,
that she actually expected to find it among her mother's friends!
Here was a relative of mine, awakened to a sense of her shortcomings
towards others, under the influence, not of conviction and duty, but of
sentiment and impulse! Most deplorable to think of--but, still, suggestive of
something hopeful, to a person of my experience in plying the good work.
There could be no harm, I thought, in ascertaining the extent of the change
which the loss of her mother had wrought in Rachel's character. I decided,
as a useful test, to probe her on the subject of her marriage-engagement
to Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.
Having first met her advances with all possible cordiality,
I sat by her on the sofa, at her own request. We discussed
family affairs and future plans--always excepting that one future
plan which was to end in her marriage. Try as I might to turn
the conversation that way, she resolutely declined to take the hint.
Any open reference to the question, on my part, would have been
premature at this early stage of our reconciliation. Besides, I had
discovered all I wanted to know. She was no longer the reckless,
defiant creature whom I had heard and seen, on the occasion
of my martyrdom in Montagu Square. This was, of itself,
enough to encourage me to take her future conversion in hand--
beginning with a few words of earnest warning directed against the hasty
formation of the marriage tie, and so getting on to higher things.
Looking at her, now, with this new interest--and calling to mind
the headlong suddenness with which she had met Mr. Godfrey's
matrimonial views--I felt the solemn duty of interfering with a
fervour which assured me that I should achieve no common results.
Rapidity of proceeding was, as I believed, of importance in this case.
I went back at once to the question of the servants wanted for the
furnished house.
"Where is the list, dear?"
Rachel produced it.
"Cook, kitchen-maid, housemaid, and footman," I read.
My dear Rachel, these servants are only wanted for a term--
the term during which your guardian has taken the house.
We shall have great difficulty in finding persons of character
and capacity to accept a temporary engagement of that sort,
if we try in London. Has the house in Brighton been
found yet?"
"Yes. Godfrey has taken it; and persons in the house wanted him
to hire them as servants. He thought they would hardly do for us,
and came back having settled nothing."
"And you have no experience yourself in these matters, Rachel?"
"None whatever."
"And Aunt Ablewhite won't exert herself?"
"No, poor dear. Don't blame her, Drusilla. I think she is the only really
happy woman I have ever met with."
"There are degrees in happiness, darling. We must have a little talk,
some day, on that subject. In the meantime I will undertake to meet
the difficulty about the servants. Your aunt will write a letter
to the people of the house----"
"She will sign a letter, if I write it for her, which comes
to the same thing."
"Quite the same thing. I shall get the letter, and I will go
to Brighton to-morrow."
"How extremely kind of you! We will join you as soon as you
are ready for us. And you will stay, I hope, as my guest.
Brighton is so lively; you are sure to enjoy it."
In those words the invitation was given, and the glorious prospect
of interference was opened before me.
It was then the middle of the week. By Saturday afternoon
the house was ready for them. In that short interval I had sifted,
not the characters only, but the religious views as well,
of all the disengaged servants who applied to me, and had
succeeded in making a selection which my conscience approved.
I also discovered, and called on two serious friends of mine,
residents in the town, to whom I knew I could confide the pious
object which had brought me to Brighton. One of them--
a clerical friend--kindly helped me to take sittings for our
little party in the church in which he himself ministered.
The other--a single lady, like myself--placed the resources
of her library (composed throughout of precious publications)
entirely at my disposal. I borrowed half-a-dozen works,
all carefully chosen with a view to Rachel. When these had been
judiciously distributed in the various rooms she would be likely
to occupy, I considered that my preparations were complete.
Sound doctrine in the servants who waited on her;
sound doctrine in the minister who preached to her; sound doctrine
in the books that lay on her table--such was the treble
welcome which my zeal had prepared for the motherless girl!
A heavenly composure filled my mind, on that Saturday afternoon,
as I sat at the window waiting the arrival of my relatives.
The giddy throng passed and repassed before my eyes.
Alas! how many of them felt my exquisite sense of duty done?
An awful question. Let us not pursue it.
Between six and seven the travellers arrived. To my indescribable surprise,
they were escorted, not by Mr. Godfrey (as I had anticipated), but by
the lawyer, Mr. Bruff.
"How do you do, Miss Clack?" he said. "I mean to stay this time."
That reference to the occasion on which I had obliged him
to postpone his business to mine, when we were both visiting
in Montagu Square, satisfied me that the old worldling
had come to Brighton with some object of his own in view.
I had prepared quite a little Paradise for my beloved Rachel--
and here was the Serpent already!
"Godfrey was very much vexed, Drusilla, not to be able to come with us,"
said my Aunt Ablewhite. "There was something in the way which kept him
in town. Mr. Bruff volunteered to take his place, and make a holiday of it
till Monday morning. By-the-by, Mr. Bruff, I'm ordered to take exercise,
and I don't like it. That," added Aunt Ablewhite, pointing out of
window to an invalid going by in a chair on wheels, drawn by a man,
"is my idea of exercise. If it's air you want, you get it in your chair.
And if it's fatigue you want, I am sure it's fatigue enough to look at
the man."
Rachel stood silent, at a window by herself, with her eyes fixed on the sea.
"Tired, love?" I inquired.
"No. Only a little out of spirits," she answered. "I have often
seen the sea, on our Yorkshire coast, with that light on it.
And I was thinking, Drusilla, of the days that can never
come again."
Mr. Bruff remained to dinner, and stayed through the evening.
The more I saw of him, the more certain I felt that he had some
private end to serve in coming to Brighton. I watched him carefully.
He maintained the same appearance of ease, and talked the same
godless gossip, hour after hour, until it was time to take leave.
As he shook hands with Rachel, I caught his hard and cunning eyes
resting on her for a moment with a peculiar interest and attention.
She was plainly concerned in the object that he had in view.
He said nothing out of the common to her or to anyone on leaving.
He invited himself to luncheon the next day, and then he went away to
his hotel.
It was impossible the next morning to get my Aunt Ablewhite out
of her dressing-gown in time for church. Her invalid daughter
(suffering from nothing, in my opinion, but incurable laziness,
inherited from her mother) announced that she meant to remain
in bed for the day. Rachel and I went alone together to church.
A magnificent sermon was preached by my gifted friend on the heathen
indifference of the world to the sinfulness of little sins.
For more than an hour his eloquence (assisted by his glorious voice)
thundered through the sacred edifice. I said to Rachel, when we came out,
"Has it found its way to your heart, dear?" And she answered,
"No; it has only made my head ache." This might have been discouraging
to some people; but, once embarked on a career of manifest usefulness,
nothing discourages Me.
We found Aunt Ablewhite and Mr. Bruff at luncheon. When Rachel
declined eating anything, and gave as a reason for it that she
was suffering from a headache, the lawyer's cunning instantly saw,
and seized, the chance that she had given him.
"There is only one remedy for a headache," said this horrible old man.
"A walk, Miss Rachel, is the thing to cure you. I am entirely at
your service, if you will honour me by accepting my arm."
"With the greatest pleasure. A walk is the very thing I was longing for."
"It's past two," I gently suggested. "And the afternoon service,
Rachel, begins at three."
"How can you expect me to go to church again," she asked, petulantly,
"with such a headache as mine?"
Mr. Bruff officiously opened the door for her. In another minute
more they were both out of the house. I don't know when I have felt
the solemn duty of interfering so strongly as I felt it at that moment.
But what was to be done? Nothing was to be done but to interfere at
the first opportunity, later in the day.
On my return from the afternoon service I found that they had just got back.
One look at them told me that the lawyer had said what he wanted to say.
I had never before seen Rachel so silent and so thoughtful.
I had never before seen Mr. Bruff pay her such devoted attention,
and look at her with such marked respect. He had (or pretended that he had)
an engagement to dinner that day--and he took an early leave of us all;
intending to go back to London by the first train the next morning.
"Are you sure of your own resolution?" he said to Rachel at the door.
"Quite sure," she answered--and so they parted.
The moment his back was turned, Rachel withdrew to her own room.
She never appeared at dinner. Her maid (the person with the cap-ribbons)
was sent down-stairs to announce that her headache had returned.
I ran up to her and made all sorts of sisterly offers through the door.
It was locked, and she kept it locked. Plenty of obstructive material
to work on here! I felt greatly cheered and stimulated by her locking
the door.
When her cup of tea went up to her the next morning, I followed
it in. I sat by her bedside and said a few earnest words.
She listened with languid civility. I noticed my serious friend's
precious publications huddled together on a table in a corner.
Had she chanced to look into them?--I asked. Yes--and they
had not interested her. Would she allow me to read a few
passages of the deepest interest, which had probably escaped
her eye? No, not now--she had other things to think of.
She gave these answers, with her attention apparently absorbed
in folding and refolding the frilling on her nightgown. It was
plainly necessary to rouse her by some reference to those worldly
interests which she still had at heart.
"Do you know, love," I said, "I had an odd fancy, yesterday, about Mr. Bruff?
I thought, when I saw you after your walk with him, that he had been telling
you some bad news."
Her fingers dropped from the frilling of her nightgown,
and her fierce black eyes flashed at me.
"Quite the contrary!" she said. "It was news I was interested in hearing--
and I am deeply indebted to Mr. Bruff for telling me of it."
"Yes?" I said, in a tone of gentle interest.
Her fingers went back to the frilling, and she turned her
head sullenly away from me. I had been met in this manner,
in the course of plying the good work, hundreds of times.
She merely stimulated me to try again. In my dauntless zeal
for her welfare, I ran the great risk, and openly alluded to her
marriage engagement.
"News you were interested in hearing?" I repeated. "I suppose,
my dear Rachel, that must be news of Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite?"
She started up in the bed, and turned deadly pale. It was evidently
on the tip of her tongue to retort on me with the unbridled insolence
of former times. She checked herself--laid her head back on the pillow--
considered a minute--and then answered in these remarkable words:
It was my turn to start at that.
"What can you possibly mean?" I exclaimed. "The marriage
is considered by the whole family as a settled thing!"
"Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite is expected here to-day," she said doggedly.
"Wait till he comes--and you will see."
"But my dear Rachel----"
She rang the bell at the head of her bed. The person
with the cap-ribbons appeared.
"Penelope! my bath."
Let me give her her due. In the state of my feelings at that moment,
I do sincerely believe that she had hit on the only possible way
of forcing me to leave the room.
By the mere worldly mind my position towards Rachel might have
been viewed as presenting difficulties of no ordinary kind.
I had reckoned on leading her to higher things by means of a
little earnest exhortation on the subject of her marriage.
And now, if she was to be believed, no such event as her marriage
was to take place at all. But ah, my friends! a working Christian
of my experience (with an evangelising prospect before her)
takes broader views than these. Supposing Rachel really broke
off the marriage, on which the Ablewhites, father and son,
counted as a settled thing, what would be the result?
It could only end, if she held firm, in an exchanging of hard
words and bitter accusations on both sides. And what would
be the effect on Rachel when the stormy interview was over?
A salutary moral depression would be the effect. Her pride
would be exhausted, her stubbornness would be exhausted,
by the resolute resistance which it was in her character
to make under the circumstances. She would turn for
sympathy to the nearest person who had sympathy to offer.
And I was that nearest person--brimful of comfort, charged to
overflowing with seasonable and reviving words. Never had
the evangelising prospect looked brighter, to my eyes, than it
looked now.
She came down to breakfast, but she ate nothing, and hardly uttered a word.
After breakfast she wandered listlessly from room to room--
then suddenly roused herself, and opened the piano.
The music she selected to play was of the most scandalously
profane sort, associated with performances on the stage
which it curdles one's blood to think of. It would have been
premature to interfere with her at such a time as this.
I privately ascertained the hour at which Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite
was expected, and then I escaped the music by leaving
the house.
Being out alone, I took the opportunity of calling upon my
two resident friends. It was an indescribable luxury to find
myself indulging in earnest conversation with serious persons.
Infinitely encouraged and refreshed, I turned my steps back
again to the house, in excellent time to await the arrival
of our expected visitor. I entered the dining-room, always
empty at that hour of the day, and found myself face to face
with Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite!
He made no attempt to fly the place. Quite the contrary.
He advanced to meet me with the utmost eagerness.
"Dear Miss Clack, I have been only waiting to see you!
Chance set me free of my London engagements to-day sooner
than I had expected, and I have got here, in consequence,
earlier than my appointed time."
Not the slightest embarrassment encumbered his explanation, though this
was his first meeting with me after the scene in Montagu Square.
He was not aware, it is true, of my having been a witness of that scene.
But he knew, on the other hand, that my attendances at the Mothers'
Small-Clothes, and my relations with friends attached to other charities,
must have informed me of his shameless neglect of his Ladies and of his Poor.
And yet there he was before me, in full possession of his charming voice and
his irresistible smile!
"Have you seen Rachel yet?" I asked.
He sighed gently, and took me by the hand. I should certainly have snatched
my hand away, if the manner in which he gave his answer had not paralysed me
with astonishment.
"I have seen Rachel," he said with perfect tranquillity.
"You are aware, dear friend, that she was engaged to me?
Well, she has taken a sudden resolution to break the engagement.
Reflection has convinced her that she will best consult her
welfare and mine by retracting a rash promise, and leaving me
free to make some happier choice elsewhere. That is the only
reason she will give, and the only answer she will make to every
question that I can ask of her."
"What have you done on your side?" I inquired. "Have you submitted."
"Yes," he said with the most unruffled composure, "I have submitted."
His conduct, under the circumstances, was so utterly inconceivable,
that I stood bewildered with my hand in his. It is a piece of rudeness
to stare at anybody, and it is an act of indelicacy to stare at a gentleman.
I committed both those improprieties. And I said, as if in a dream,
"What does it mean?"
"Permit me to tell you," he replied. "And suppose we sit down?"
He led me to a chair. I have an indistinct remembrance that he was
very affectionate. I don't think he put his arm round my waist
to support me--but I am not sure. I was quite helpless, and his
ways with ladies were very endearing. At any rate, we sat down.
I can answer for that, if I can answer for nothing more.
"I have lost a beautiful girl, an excellent social position,
and a handsome income," Mr. Godfrey began; "and I have
submitted to it without a struggle. What can be the motive
for such extraordinary conduct as that? My precious friend,
there is no motive."
"No motive?" I repeated.
"Let me appeal, my dear Miss Clack, to your experience of children,"
he went on. "A child pursues a certain course of conduct.
You are greatly struck by it, and you attempt to get at the motive.
The dear little thing is incapable of telling you its motive.
You might as well ask the grass why it grows, or the birds
why they sing. Well! in this matter, I am like the dear
little thing--like the grass--like the birds. I don't
know why I made a proposal of marriage to Miss Verinder.
I don't know why I have shamefully neglected my dear Ladies.
I don't know why I have apostatised from the Mothers'
Small-Clothes. You say to the child, Why have you been naughty?
And the little angel puts its finger into its mouth,
and doesn't know. My case exactly, Miss Clack! I couldn't
confess it to anybody else. I feel impelled to confess it to
I began to recover myself. A mental problem was involved here.
I am deeply interested in mental problems--and I am not,
it is thought, without some skill in solving them.
"Best of friends, exert your intellect, and help me," he proceeded.
"Tell me--why does a time come when these matrimonial proceedings
of mine begin to look like something done in a dream?
Why does it suddenly occur to me that my true happiness is in
helping my dear Ladies, in going my modest round of useful work,
in saying my few earnest words when called on by my Chairman?
What do I want with a position? I have got a position?
What do I want with an income? I can pay for my bread and cheese,
and my nice little lodging, and my two coats a year.
What do I want with Miss Verinder? She has told me with her
own lips (this, dear lady, is between ourselves) that she
loves another man, and that her only idea in marrying me is
to try and put that other man out of her head. What a horrid
union is this! Oh, dear me, what a horrid union is this!
Such are my reflections, Miss Clack, on my way to Brighton.
I approach Rachel with the feeling of a criminal who is going to
receive his sentence. When I find that she has changed her mind too--
when I hear her propose to break the engagement--I experience
(there is no sort of doubt about it) a most overpowering
sense of relief. A month ago I was pressing her rapturously
to my bosom. An hour ago, the happiness of knowing that I shall
never press her again, intoxicates me like strong liquor.
The thing seems impossible--the thing can't be.
And yet there are the facts, as I had the honour of stating
them when we first sat down together in these two chairs.
I have lost a beautiful girl, an excellent social position,
and a handsome income; and I have submitted to it without a struggle.
Can you account for it, dear friend? It's quite beyond
His magnificent head sank on his breast, and he gave up his own mental
problem in despair.
I was deeply touched. The case (if I may speak as a spiritual physician)
was now quite plain to me. It is no uncommon event, in the experience
of us all, to see the possessors of exalted ability occasionally humbled
to the level of the most poorly-gifted people about them. The object,
no doubt, in the wise economy of Providence, is to remind greatness that it
is mortal and that the power which has conferred it can also take it away.
It was now--to my mind--easy to discern one of these salutary humiliations
in the deplorable proceedings on dear Mr. Godfrey's part, of which I had
been the unseen witness. And it was equally easy to recognise the welcome
reappearance of his own finer nature in the horror with which he recoiled
from the idea of a marriage with Rachel, and in the charming eagerness which
he showed to return to his Ladies and his Poor.
I put this view before him in a few simple and sisterly words.
His joy was beautiful to see. He compared himself, as I went on,
to a lost man emerging from the darkness into the light.
When I answered for a loving reception of him at the Mothers'
Small-Clothes, the grateful heart of our Christian Hero overflowed.
He pressed my hands alternately to his lips. Overwhelmed by
the exquisite triumph of having got him back among us, I let him
do what he liked with my hands. I closed my eyes. I felt my head,
in an ecstasy of spiritual self-forgetfulness, sinking on his shoulder.
In a moment more I should certainly have swooned away in his arms,
but for an interruption from the outer world, which brought me
to myself again. A horrid rattling of knives and forks sounded
outside the door, and the footman came in to lay the table
for luncheon.
Mr. Godfrey started up, and looked at the clock on the mantelpiece.
"How time flies with YOU!" he exclaimed. "I shall barely catch the train."
I ventured on asking why he was in such a hurry to get back to town.
His answer reminded me of family difficulties that were still
to be reconciled, and of family disagreements that were yet
to come.
"I have heard from my father," he said. "Business obliges
him to leave Frizinghall for London to-day, and he proposes
coming on here, either this evening or to-morrow. I must tell
him what has happened between Rachel and me. His heart is
set on our marriage--there will be great difficulty, I fear,
in reconciling him to the breaking-off of the engagement.
I must stop him, for all our sakes, from coming here till
he IS reconciled. Best and dearest of friends, we shall
meet again!"
With those words he hurried out. In equal haste on my side,
I ran upstairs to compose myself in my own room before meeting
Aunt Ablewhite and Rachel at the luncheon-table.
I am well aware--to dwell for a moment yet on the subject of Mr. Godfrey--
that the all-profaning opinion of the world has charged him with having
his own private reasons for releasing Rachel from her engagement,
at the first opportunity she gave him. It has also reached my ears,
that his anxiety to recover his place in my estimation has been attributed
in certain quarters, to a mercenary eagerness to make his peace (through me)
with a venerable committee-woman at the Mothers' Small-Clothes, abundantly
blessed with the goods of this world, and a beloved and intimate
friend of my own. I only notice these odious slanders for the sake
of declaring that they never had a moment's influence on my mind.
In obedience to my instructions, I have exhibited the fluctuations in my
opinion of our Christian Hero, exactly as I find them recorded in my diary.
In justice to myself, let me here add that, once reinstated in his
place in my estimation, my gifted friend never lost that place again.
I write with the tears in my eyes, burning to say more. But no--
I am cruelly limited to my actual experience of persons and things.
In less than a month from the time of which I am now writing, events in
the money-market (which diminished even my miserable little income) forced me
into foreign exile, and left me with nothing but a loving remembrance
of Mr. Godfrey which the slander of the world has assailed, and assailed
in vain.
Let me dry my eyes, and return to my narrative.
I went downstairs to luncheon, naturally anxious to see how Rachel
was affected by her release from her marriage engagement.
It appeared to me--but I own I am a poor authority in such matters--
that the recovery of her freedom had set her thinking again of that other
man whom she loved, and that she was furious with herself for not being
able to control a revulsion of feeling of which she was secretly ashamed.
Who was the man? I had my suspicions--but it was needless to waste time
in idle speculation. When I had converted her, she would, as a matter
of course, have no concealments from Me. I should hear all about the man;
I should hear all about the Moonstone. If I had had no higher object in
stirring her up to a sense of spiritual things, the motive of relieving her
mind of its guilty secrets would have been enough of itself to encourage me
to go on.
Aunt Ablewhite took her exercise in the afternoon in an invalid chair.
Rachel accompanied her. "I wish I could drag the chair,"
she broke out, recklessly. "I wish I could fatigue myself till I was
ready to drop."
She was in the same humour in the evening. I discovered in one
of my friend's precious publications--the Life, Letters, and Labours
of Miss Jane Ann Stamper, forty-fourth edition--passages which bore
with a marvellous appropriateness on Rachel's present position.
Upon my proposing to read them, she went to the piano.
Conceive how little she must have known of serious people,
if she supposed that my patience was to be exhausted in that way!
I kept Miss Jane Ann Stamper by me, and waited for events with the most
unfaltering trust in the future.
Old Mr. Ablewhite never made his appearance that night.
But I knew the importance which his worldly greed attached to his
son's marriage with Miss Verinder--and I felt a positive conviction
(do what Mr. Godfrey might to prevent it) that we should see
him the next day. With his interference in the matter,
the storm on which I had counted would certainly come,
and the salutary exhaustion of Rachel's resisting powers would
as certainly follow. I am not ignorant that old Mr. Ablewhite
has the reputation generally (especially among his inferiors)
of being a remarkably good-natured man. According to my observation
of him, he deserves his reputation as long as he has his own way,
and not a moment longer.
The next day, exactly as I had foreseen, Aunt Ablewhite
was as near to being astonished as her nature would permit,
by the sudden appearance of her husband. He had barely been
a minute in the house, before he was followed, to MY astonishment
this time, by an unexpected complication in the shape of Mr. Bruff.
I never remember feeling the presence of the lawyer to be
more unwelcome than I felt it at that moment. He looked
ready for anything in the way of an obstructive proceeding--
capable even of keeping the peace with Rachel for one of
the combatants!
"This is a pleasant surprise, sir," said Mr. Ablewhite,
addressing himself with his deceptive cordiality to Mr. Bruff.
"When I left your office yesterday, I didn't expect to have
the honour of seeing you at Brighton to-day."
"I turned over our conversation in my mind, after you had gone,"
replied Mr. Bruff. "And it occurred to me that I might perhaps be
of some use on this occasion. I was just in time to catch the train,
and I had no opportunity of discovering the carriage in which you
were travelling."
Having given that explanation, he seated himself by Rachel.
I retired modestly to a corner--with Miss Jane Ann Stamper
on my lap, in case of emergency. My aunt sat at the window;
placidly fanning herself as usual. Mr. Ablewhite stood up
in the middle of the room, with his bald head much pinker than I
had ever seen it yet, and addressed himself in the most affectionate
manner to his niece.
"Rachel, my dear," he said, "I have heard some very extraordinary
news from Godfrey. And I am here to inquire about it.
You have a sitting-room of your own in this house. Will you
honour me by showing me the way to it?"
Rachel never moved. Whether she was determined to bring matters to a crisis,
or whether she was prompted by some private sign from Mr. Bruff, is more than
I can tell. She declined doing old Mr. Ablewhite the honour of conducting him
into her sitting-room.
"Whatever you wish to say to me," she answered, "can be said here--
in the presence of my relatives, and in the presence" (she looked at
Mr. Bruff) "of my mother's trusted old friend."
"Just as you please, my dear," said the amiable Mr. Ablewhite.
He took a chair. The rest of them looked at his face--
as if they expected it, after seventy years of worldly training,
to speak the truth. I looked at the top of his bald head;
having noticed on other occasions that the temper which was really in
him had a habit of registering itself THERE.
"Some weeks ago," pursued the old gentleman, "my son informed me that
Miss Verinder had done him the honour to engage herself to marry him.
Is it possible, Rachel, that he can have misinterpreted--or presumed upon--
what you really said to him?"
"Certainly not," she replied. "I did engage myself to marry him."
"Very frankly answered!" said Mr. Ablewhite. "And most satisfactory,
my dear, so far. In respect to what happened some weeks since, Godfrey has
made no mistake. The error is evidently in what he told me yesterday.
I begin to see it now. You and he have had a lovers' quarrel--and my foolish
son has interpreted it seriously. Ah! I should have known better than that
at his age."
The fallen nature in Rachel--the mother Eve, so to speak--
began to chafe at this.
"Pray let us understand each other, Mr. Ablewhite," she said.
"Nothing in the least like a quarrel took place yesterday
between your son and me. If he told you that I proposed breaking
off our marriage engagement, and that he agreed on his side--
he told you the truth."
The self-registering thermometer at the top of Mr. Ablewhite's bald head
began to indicate a rise of temper. His face was more amiable than ever--
but THERE was the pink at the top of his face, a shade deeper already!
"Come, come, my dear!" he said, in his most soothing manner,
"now don't be angry, and don't be hard on poor Godfrey!
He has evidently said some unfortunate thing. He was always clumsy
from a child--but he means well, Rachel, he means well!"
"Mr. Ablewhite, I have either expressed myself very badly,
or you are purposely mistaking me. Once for all, it is
a settled thing between your son and myself that we remain,
for the rest of our lives, cousins and nothing more.
Is that plain enough?"
The tone in which she said those words made it impossible,
even for old Mr. Ablewhite, to mistake her any longer.
His thermometer went up another degree, and his voice when
he next spoke, ceased to be the voice which is appropriate to a
notoriously good-natured man.
"I am to understand, then," he said, "that your marriage engagement
is broken off?"
"You are to understand that, Mr. Ablewhite, if you please."
"I am also to take it as a matter of fact that the proposal
to withdraw from the engagement came, in the first instance,
from YOU?"
"It came, in the first instance, from me. And it met, as I have told you,
with your son's consent and approval."
The thermometer went up to the top of the register. I mean,
the pink changed suddenly to scarlet.
"My son is a mean-spirited hound!" cried this furious old worldling.
"In justice to myself as his father--not in justice to HIM--
I beg to ask you, Miss Verinder, what complaint you have to make of
Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite?"
Here Mr. Bruff interfered for the first time.
"You are not bound to answer that question," he said to Rachel.
Old Mr. Ablewhite fastened on him instantly.
"Don't forget, sir," he said, "that you are a self-invited guest here.
Your interference would have come with a better grace if you had waited until
it was asked for."
Mr. Bruff took no notice. The smooth varnish on HIS wicked
old face never cracked. Rachel thanked him for the advice
he had given to her, and then turned to old Mr. Ablewhite--
preserving her composure in a manner which (having regard to her
age and her sex) was simply awful to see.
"Your son put the same question to me which you have just asked," she said.
"I had only one answer for him, and I have only one answer for you.
I proposed that we should release each other, because reflection had
convinced me that I should best consult his welfare and mine by retracting a
rash promise, and leaving him free to make his choice elsewhere."
"What has my son done?" persisted Mr. Ablewhite. "I have a right
to know that. What has my son done?"
She persisted just as obstinately on her side.
"You have had the only explanation which I think it necessary to give to you,
or to him," she answered.
"In plain English, it's your sovereign will and pleasure, Miss Verinder,
to jilt my son?"
Rachel was silent for a moment. Sitting close behind her, I heard her sigh.
Mr. Bruff took her hand, and gave it a little squeeze. She recovered herself,
and answered Mr. Ablewhite as boldly as ever.
"I have exposed myself to worse misconstruction than that,"
she said. "And I have borne it patiently. The time has gone by,
when you could mortify me by calling me a jilt."
She spoke with a bitterness of tone which satisfied me that the scandal
of the Moonstone had been in some way recalled to her mind.
"I have no more to say," she added, wearily, not addressing
the words to anyone in particular, and looking away from us all,
out of the window that was nearest to her.
Mr. Ablewhite got upon his feet, and pushed away his chair so violently
that it toppled over and fell on the floor.
"I have something more to say on my side," he announced,
bringing down the flat of his hand on the table with a bang.
"I have to say that if my son doesn't feel this insult,
I do!"
Rachel started, and looked at him in sudden surprise.
"Insult?" she repeated. "What do you mean?"
"Insult!" reiterated Mr. Ablewhite. "I know your motive,
Miss Verinder, for breaking your promise to my son! I know
it as certainly as if you had confessed it in so many words.
Your cursed family pride is insulting Godfrey, as it insulted
ME when I married your aunt. Her family--her beggarly family--
turned their backs on her for marrying an honest man,
who had made his own place and won his own fortune.
I had no ancestors. I wasn't descended from a set of
cut-throat scoundrels who lived by robbery and murder.
I. couldn't point to the time when the Ablewhites hadn't a shirt
to their backs, and couldn't sign their own names. Ha! ha!
I wasn't good enough for the Herncastles, when I married.
And now, it comes to the pinch, my son isn't good enough
for YOU. I suspected it, all along. You have got
the Herncastle blood in you, my young lady! I suspected it
all along."
"A very unworthy suspicion," remarked Mr. Bruff. "I am astonished that you
have the courage to acknowledge it."
Before Mr. Ablewhite could find words to answer in, Rachel spoke
in a tone of the most exasperating contempt.
"Surely," she said to the lawyer, "this is beneath notice.
If he can think in THAT way, let us leave him to think as
he pleases."
From scarlet, Mr. Ablewhite was now becoming purple. He gasped for breath;
he looked backwards and forwards from Rachel to Mr. Bruff in such a frenzy
of rage with both of them that he didn't know which to attack first.
His wife, who had sat impenetrably fanning herself up to this time,
began to be alarmed, and attempted, quite uselessly, to quiet him.
I had, throughout this distressing interview, felt more than one inward
call to interfere with a few earnest words, and had controlled myself under
a dread of the possible results, very unworthy of a Christian Englishwoman
who looks, not to what is meanly prudent, but to what is morally right.
At the point at which matters had now arrived, I rose superior to all
considerations of mere expediency. If I had contemplated interposing
any remonstrance of my own humble devising, I might possibly have
still hesitated. But the distressing domestic emergency which now
confronted me, was most marvellously and beautifully provided for in
the Correspondence of Miss Jane Ann Stamper--Letter one thousand and one,
on "Peace in Families." I rose in my modest corner, and I opened my
precious book.
"Dear Mr. Ablewhite," I said, "one word!"
When I first attracted the attention of the company by rising,
I could see that he was on the point of saying something rude to me.
My sisterly form of address checked him. He stared at me in
heathen astonishment.
"As an affectionate well-wisher and friend," I proceeded, "and as one long
accustomed to arouse, convince, prepare, enlighten, and fortify others,
permit me to take the most pardonable of all liberties--the liberty
of composing your mind."
He began to recover himself; he was on the point of breaking out--
he WOULD have broken out, with anybody else. But my voice
(habitually gentle) possesses a high note or so, in emergencies.
In this emergency, I felt imperatively called upon to have the highest
voice of the two.
I held up my precious book before him; I rapped the open
page impressively with my forefinger. "Not my words!"
I exclaimed, in a burst of fervent interruption.
"Oh, don't suppose that I claim attention for My humble words!
Manna in the wilderness, Mr. Ablewhite! Dew on the parched earth!
Words of comfort, words of wisdom, words of love--the blessed,
blessed, blessed words of Miss Jane Ann Stamper!"
I was stopped there by a momentary impediment of the breath.
Before I could recover myself, this monster in human form shouted
out furiously,--
"Miss Jane Ann Stamper be----!"
It is impossible for me to write the awful word,
which is here represented by a blank. I shrieked as it
passed his lips; I flew to my little bag on the side table;
I shook out all my tracts; I seized the one particular tract
on profane swearing, entitled, "Hush, for Heaven's Sake!";
I handed it to him with an expression of agonised entreaty.
He tore it in two, and threw it back at me across the table.
The rest of them rose in alarm, not knowing what might happen next.
I instantly sat down again in my corner. There had once been
an occasion, under somewhat similar circumstances, when Miss Jane
Ann Stamper had been taken by the two shoulders and turned out
of a room. I waited, inspired by HER spirit, for a repetition of
HER martyrdom.
But no--it was not to be. His wife was the next person whom he addressed.
"Who--who--who," he said, stammering with rage, "who asked this impudent
fanatic into the house? Did you?"
Before Aunt Ablewhite could say a word, Rachel answered for her.
"Miss Clack is here," she said, "as my guest."
Those words had a singular effect on Mr. Ablewhite. They suddenly
changed him from a man in a state of red-hot anger to a man in a
state of icy-cold contempt. It was plain to everybody that Rachel
had said something--short and plain as her answer had been--
which gave him the upper hand of her at last.
"Oh?" he said. "Miss Clack is here as YOUR guest--in MY house?"
It was Rachel's turn to lose her temper at that. Her colour rose,
and her eyes brightened fiercely. She turned to the lawyer, and,
pointing to Mr. Ablewhite, asked haughtily, "What does he mean?"
Mr. Bruff interfered for the third time.
"You appear to forget," he said, addressing Mr. Ablewhite,
"that you took this house as Miss Verinder's guardian, for Miss
Verinder's use."
"Not quite so fast," interposed Mr. Ablewhite. "I have a last word to say,
which I should have said some time since, if this----" He looked my way,
pondering what abominable name he should call me--"if this Rampant Spinster
had not interrupted us. I beg to inform you, sir, that, if my son is not good
enough to be Miss Verinder's husband, I cannot presume to consider his father
good enough to be Miss Verinder's guardian. Understand, if you please, that I
refuse to accept the position which is offered to me by Lady Verinder's will.
In your legal phrase, I decline to act. This house has necessarily been
hired in my name. I take the entire responsibility of it on my shoulders.
It is my house. I can keep it, or let it, just as I please. I have no wish
to hurry Miss Verinder. On the contrary, I beg her to remove her guest and
her luggage, at her own entire convenience." He made a low bow, and walked
out of the room.
That was Mr. Ablewhite's revenge on Rachel, for refusing to marry his son!
The instant the door closed, Aunt Ablewhite exhibited a phenomenon
which silenced us all. She became endowed with energy enough
to cross the room!
"My dear," she said, taking Rachel by the hand, "I should be ashamed
of my husband, if I didn't know that it is his temper which has spoken
to you, and not himself. You," continued Aunt Ablewhite, turning on me
in my corner with another endowment of energy, in her looks this time
instead of her limbs--"you are the mischievous person who irritated him.
I hope I shall never see you or your tracts again." She went back
to Rachel and kissed her. "I beg your pardon, my dear," she said,
"in my husband's name. What can I do for you?"
Consistently perverse in everything--capricious and unreasonable in all
the actions of her life--Rachel melted into tears at those commonplace words,
and returned her aunt's kiss in silence.
"If I may be permitted to answer for Miss Verinder," said Mr. Bruff,
"might I ask you, Mrs. Ablewhite, to send Penelope down with her
mistress's bonnet and shawl. Leave us ten minutes together," he added,
in a lower tone, "and you may rely on my setting matters right,
to your satisfaction as well as to Rachel's."
The trust of the family in this man was something wonderful to see.
Without a word more, on her side, Aunt Ablewhite left the room.
"Ah!" said Mr. Bruff, looking after her. "The Herncastle blood has
its drawbacks, I admit. But there IS something in good breeding after all!"
Having made that purely worldly remark, he looked hard at my corner,
as if he expected me to go. My interest in Rachel--an infinitely higher
interest than his--riveted me to my chair.
Mr. Bruff gave it up, exactly as he had given it up at Aunt Verinder's,
in Montagu Square. He led Rachel to a chair by the window, and spoke
to her there.
"My dear young lady," he said, "Mr. Ablewhite's conduct
has naturally shocked you, and taken you by surprise.
If it was worth while to contest the question with such a man,
we might soon show him that he is not to have things all his own way.
But it isn't worth while. You were quite right in what you said
just now; he is beneath our notice."
He stopped, and looked round at my corner. I sat there quite immovable,
with my tracts at my elbow and with Miss Jane Ann Stamper on my lap.
"You know," he resumed, turning back again to Rachel,
"that it was part of your poor mother's fine nature always
to see the best of the people about her, and never the worst.
She named her brother-in-law your guardian because she believed
in him, and because she thought it would please her sister.
I had never liked Mr. Ablewhite myself, and I induced your mother
to let me insert a clause in the will, empowering her executors,
in certain events, to consult with me about the appointment
of a new guardian. One of those events has happened to-day;
and I find myself in a position to end all these dry
business details, I hope agreeably, with a message from my wife.
Will you honour Mrs. Bruff by becoming her guest? And will you
remain under my roof, and be one of my family, until we wise people
have laid our heads together, and have settled what is to be
done next?"
At those words, I rose to interfere. Mr. Bruff had done exactly what I
had dreaded he would do, when he asked Mrs. Ablewhite for Rachel's
bonnet and shawl.
Before I could interpose a word, Rachel had accepted his invitation in
the warmest terms. If I suffered the arrangement thus made between them
to be carried out--if she once passed the threshold of Mr. Bruff's door--
farewell to the fondest hope of my life, the hope of bringing my lost
sheep back to the fold! The bare idea of such a calamity as this quite
overwhelmed me. I cast the miserable trammels of worldly discretion
to the winds, and spoke with the fervour that filled me, in the words
that came first.
"Stop!" I said--"stop! I must be heard. Mr. Bruff! you are not related
to her, and I am. I invite her--I summon the executors to appoint
me guardian. Rachel, dearest Rachel, I offer you my modest home;
come to London by the next train, love, and share it with me!"
Mr. Bruff said nothing. Rachel looked at me with a cruel astonishment
which she made no effort to conceal.
"You are very kind, Drusilla," she said. "I shall hope to visit you whenever
I happen to be in London. But I have accepted Mr. Bruff's invitation, and I
think it will be best, for the present, if I remain under Mr. Bruff's care."
"Oh, don't say so!" I pleaded. "I can't part with you, Rachel--I can't
part with you!"
I tried to fold her in my arms. But she drew back. My fervour
did not communicate itself; it only alarmed her.
"Surely," she said, "this is a very unnecessary display of agitation?
I don't understand it."
"No more do I," said Mr. Bruff.
Their hardness--their hideous, worldly hardness--revolted me.
"Oh, Rachel! Rachel!" I burst out. "Haven't you seen yet,
that my heart yearns to make a Christian of you?
Has no inner voice told you that I am trying to do for you,
what I was trying to do for your dear mother when death snatched
her out of my hands?"
Rachel advanced a step nearer, and looked at me very strangely.
"I don't understand your reference to my mother," she said.
"Miss Clack, will you have the goodness to explain yourself?"
Before I could answer, Mr. Bruff came forward, and offering his arm to Rachel,
tried to lead her out of the room.
"You had better not pursue the subject, my dear," he said.
"And Miss Clack had better not explain herself."
If I had been a stock or a stone, such an interference as this must
have roused me into testifying to the truth. I put Mr. Bruff aside
indignantly with my own hand, and, in solemn and suitable language,
I stated the view with which sound doctrine does not scruple to regard
the awful calamity of dying unprepared.
Rachel started back from me--I blush to write--with a scream of horror.
"Come away!" she said to Mr. Bruff. "Come away, for God's sake,
before that woman can say any more! Oh, think of my poor
mother's harmless, useful, beautiful life! You were at the funeral,
Mr. Bruff; you saw how everybody loved her; you saw the poor helpless
people crying at her grave over the loss of their best friend.
And that wretch stands there, and tries to make me doubt that
my mother, who was an angel on earth, is an angel in heaven now!
Don't stop to talk about it! Come away! It stifles me to breathe
the same air with her! It frightens me to feel that we are in the same
room together!"
Deaf to all remonstrance, she ran to the door.
At the same moment, her maid entered with her bonnet and shawl.
She huddled them on anyhow. "Pack my things," she said,
"and bring them to Mr. Bruff's." I attempted to approach her--
I was shocked and grieved, but, it is needless to say, not offended.
I only wished to say to her, "May your hard heart be softened!
I freely forgive you!" She pulled down her veil, and tore
her shawl away from my hand, and, hurrying out, shut the door
in my face. I bore the insult with my customary fortitude.
I remember it now with my customary superiority to all feeling
of offence.
Mr. Bruff had his parting word of mockery for me, before he too hurried out,
in his turn.
"You had better not have explained yourself, Miss Clack,"
he said, and bowed, and left the room.
The person with the cap-ribbons followed.
"It's easy to see who has set them all by the ears together," she said.
"I'm only a poor servant--but I declare I'm ashamed of you!" She too
went out, and banged the door after her.
I was left alone in the room. Reviled by them all, deserted by them all,
I was left alone in the room.
Is there more to be added to this plain statement of facts--
to this touching picture of a Christian persecuted by the world?
No! my diary reminds me that one more of the many chequered chapters
in my life ends here. From that day forth, I never saw Rachel
Verinder again. She had my forgiveness at the time when she insulted me.
She has had my prayerful good wishes ever since. And when I die--
to complete the return on my part of good for evil--she will have
legacy by my will.
Contributed by MATHEW BRUFF, Solicitor, of Gray's Inn
My fair friend, Miss Clack, having laid down the pen, there are two reasons
for my taking it up next, in my turn.
In the first place, I am in a position to throw the necessary light on
certain points of interest which have thus far been left in the dark.
Miss Verinder had her own private reason for breaking her marriage engagement--
and I was at the bottom of it. Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite had his own private
reason for withdrawing all claim to the hand of his charming cousin--
and I discovered what it was.
In the second place, it was my good or ill fortune, I hardly know which,
to find myself personally involved--at the period of which I am now writing--
in the mystery of the Indian Diamond. I had the honour of an interview,
at my own office, with an Oriental stranger of distinguished manners,
who was no other, unquestionably, than the chief of the three Indians.
Add to this, that I met with the celebrated traveller, Mr. Murthwaite,
the day afterwards, and that I held a conversation with him on the subject
of the Moonstone, which has a very important bearing on later events.
And there you have the statement of my claims to fill the position which I
occupy in these pages.
The true story of the broken marriage engagement comes first in point
of time, and must therefore take the first place in the present narrative.
Tracing my way back along the chain of events, from one end to the other,
I find it necessary to open the scene, oddly enough as you will think,
at the bedside of my excellent client and friend, the late Sir
John Verinder.
Sir John had his share--perhaps rather a large share--of the more
harmless and amiable of the weaknesses incidental to humanity.
Among these, I may mention as applicable to the matter in hand,
an invincible reluctance--so long as he enjoyed his usual
good health--to face the responsibility of making his will.
Lady Verinder exerted her influence to rouse him to a sense
of duty in this matter; and I exerted my influence. He admitted
the justice of our views--but he went no further than that,
until he found himself afflicted with the illness which ultimately
brought him to his grave. Then, I was sent for at last,
to take my client's instructions on the subject of his will.
They proved to be the simplest instructions I had ever received in
the whole of my professional career.
Sir John was dozing, when I entered the room. He roused himself
at the sight of me.
"How do you do, Mr. Bruff?" he said. "I sha'n't be very long about this.
And then I'll go to sleep again." He looked on with great interest
while I collected pens, ink, and paper. "Are you ready?" he asked.
I bowed and took a dip of ink, and waited for my instructions.
"I leave everything to my wife," said Sir John. "That's all."
He turned round on his pillow, and composed himself to sleep again.
I was obliged to disturb him.
"Am I to understand," I asked, "that you leave the whole of the property,
of every sort and description, of which you die possessed, absolutely to
Lady Verinder?"
"Yes," said Sir John. "Only, I put it shorter. Why can't you put
it shorter, and let me go to sleep again? Everything to my wife.
That's my Will."
His property was entirely at his own disposal, and was of two kinds.
Property in land (I purposely abstain from using technical language),
and property in money. In the majority of cases, I am afraid I should
have felt it my duty to my client to ask him to reconsider his Will.
In the case of Sir John, I knew Lady Verinder to be, not only worthy
of the unreserved trust which her husband had placed in her (all good wives
are worthy of that)--but to be also capable of properly administering
a trust (which, in my experience of the fair sex, not one in a thousand
of them is competent to do). In ten minutes, Sir John's Will was drawn,
and executed, and Sir John himself, good man, was finishing his
interrupted nap.
Lady Verinder amply justified the confidence which her husband had placed
in her. In the first days of her widowhood, she sent for me, and made
her Will. The view she took of her position was so thoroughly sound
and sensible, that I was relieved of all necessity for advising her.
My responsibility began and ended with shaping her instructions into
the proper legal form. Before Sir John had been a fortnight in his grave,
the future of his daughter had been most wisely and most affectionately
provided for.
The Will remained in its fireproof box at my office,
through more years than I Like to reckon up. It was not till
the summer of eighteen hundred and forty-eight that I found
occasion to look at it again under very melancholy circumstances.
At the date I have mentioned, the doctors pronounced the sentence
on poor Lady Verinder, which was literally a sentence of death.
I was the first person whom she informed of her situation; and I found
her anxious to go over her Will again with me.
It was impossible to improve the provisions relating to her daughter.
But, in the lapse of time, her wishes in regard to certain minor legacies,
left to different relatives, had undergone some modification; and it
became necessary to add three or four Codicils to the original document.
Having done this at once, for fear of accident, I obtained her ladyship's
permission to embody her recent instructions in a second Will.
My object was to avoid certain inevitable confusions and repetitions
which now disfigured the original document, and which, to own the truth,
grated sadly on my professional sense of the fitness of things.
The execution of this second Will has been described
by Miss Clack, who was so obliging as to witness it.
So far as regarded Rachel Verinder's pecuniary interests,
it was, word for word, the exact counterpart of the first Will.
The only changes introduced related to the appointment of a guardian,
and to certain provisions concerning that appointment,
which were made under my advice. On Lady Verinder's death,
the Will was placed in the hands of my proctor to be "proved"
(as the phrase is) in the usual way.
In about three weeks from that time--as well as I can remember--the first
warning reached me of something unusual going on under the surface.
I happened to be looking in at my friend the proctor's office, and I
observed that he received me with an appearance of greater interest
than usual.
"I have some news for you," he said. "What do you think I heard
at Doctors' Commons this morning? Lady Verinder's Will has been
asked for, and examined, already!"
This was news indeed! There was absolutely nothing which
could be contested in the Will; and there was nobody I could
think of who had the slightest interest in examining it.
(I shall perhaps do well if I explain in this place,
for the benefit of the few people who don't know it already,
that the law allows all Wills to be examined at Doctors'
Commons by anybody who applies, on the payment of a shilling fee.)
"Did you hear who asked for the Will?" I asked.
"Yes; the clerk had no hesitation in telling ME.
Mr. Smalley, of the firm of Skipp and Smalley, asked for it.
The Will has not been copied yet into the great Folio Registers.
So there was no alternative but to depart from the usual course,
and to let him see the original document. He looked it
over carefully, and made a note in his pocket-book. Have you any idea
of what he wanted with it?"
I shook my head. "I shall find out," I answered, "before I am a day older.
With that I went back at once to my own office.
If any other firm of solicitors had been concerned in this
unaccountable examination of my deceased client's Will, I might
have found some difficulty in making the necessary discovery.
But I had a hold over Skipp and Smalley which made my course
in this matter a comparatively easy one. My common-law clerk
(a most competent and excellent man) was a brother of
Mr. Smalley's; and, owing to this sort of indirect connection
with me, Skipp and Smalley had, for some years past,
picked up the crumbs that fell from my table, in the shape
of cases brought to my office, which, for various reasons,
I did not think it worth while to undertake. My professional
patronage was, in this way, of some importance to the firm.
I intended, if necessary, to remind them of that patronage,
on the present occasion.
The moment I got back I spoke to my clerk; and, after telling
him what had happened, I sent him to his brother's office,
"with Mr. Bruff's compliments, and he would be glad to know
why Messrs. Skipp and Smalley had found it necessary to examine
Lady Verinder's will."
This message brought Mr. Smalley back to my office in company
with his brother. He acknowledged that he had acted under
instructions received from a client. And then he put it to me,
whether it would not be a breach of professional confidence
on his part to say more.
We had a smart discussion upon that. He was right, no doubt;
and I was wrong. The truth is, I was angry and suspicious--and I
insisted on knowing more. Worse still, I declined to consider any
additional information offered me, as a secret placed in my keeping:
I claimed perfect freedom to use my own discretion. Worse even
than that, I took an unwarrantable advantage of my position.
"Choose, sir," I said to Mr. Smalley, "between the risk of losing your
client's business and the risk of losing Mine." Quite indefensible,
I admit--an act of tyranny, and nothing less. Like other tyrants,
I carried my point. Mr. Smalley chose his alternative, without a
moment's hesitation.
He smiled resignedly, and gave up the name of his client:
Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.
That was enough for me--I wanted to know no more.
Having reached this point in my narrative, it now becomes necessary to place
the reader of these lines--so far as Lady Verinder's Will is concerned--
on a footing of perfect equality, in respect of information, with myself.
Let me state, then, in the fewest possible words, that Rachel
Verinder had nothing but a life-interest in the property.
Her mother's excellent sense, and my long experience,
had combined to relieve her of all responsibility,
and to guard her from all danger of becoming the victim in
the future of some needy and unscrupulous man. Neither she,
nor her husband (if she married), could raise sixpence,
either on the property in land, or on the property in money.
They would have the houses in London and in Yorkshire to live in,
and they would have the handsome income--and that was all.
When I came to think over what I had discovered, I was sorely perplexed
what to do next.
Hardly a week had passed since I had heard (to my surprise
and distress) of Miss Verinder's proposed marriage.
I had the sincerest admiration and affection for her;
and I had been inexpressibly grieved when I heard that she
was about to throw herself away on Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.
And now, here was the man--whom I had always believed to be
a smooth-tongued impostor--justifying the very worst that I
had thought of him, and plainly revealing the mercenary object
of the marriage, on his side! And what of that?--you may reply--
the thing is done every day. Granted, my dear sir. But would
you think of it quite as lightly as you do, if the thing was done
(let us say) with your own sister?
The first consideration which now naturally occurred to me was this.
Would Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite hold to his engagement, after what his lawyer
had discovered for him?
It depended entirely on his pecuniary position, of which I knew nothing.
If that position was not a desperate one, it would be well worth his
while to marry Miss Verinder for her income alone. If, on the other hand,
he stood in urgent need of realising a large sum by a given time,
then Lady Verinder's Will would exactly meet the case, and would preserve
her daughter from falling into a scoundrel's hands.
In the latter event, there would be no need for me to distress
Miss Rachel, in the first days of her mourning for her mother,
by an immediate revelation of the truth. In the former event,
if I remained silent, I should be conniving at a marriage which
would make her miserable for life.
My doubts ended in my calling at the hotel in London,
at which I knew Mrs. Ablewhite and Miss Verinder to be staying.
They informed me that they were going to Brighton the next day,
and that an unexpected obstacle prevented Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite
from accompanying them. I at once proposed to take his place.
While I was only thinking of Rachel Verinder, it was possible
to hesitate. When I actually saw her, my mind was made up directly,
come what might of it, to tell her the truth.
I found my opportunity, when I was out walking with her,
on the day after my arrival.
"May I speak to you," I asked, "about your marriage engagement?"
"Yes," she said, indifferently, "if you have nothing more interesting
to talk about."
"Will you forgive an old friend and servant of your family,
Miss Rachel, if I venture on asking whether your heart is set
on this marriage?"
"I am marrying in despair, Mr. Bruff--on the chance of dropping into
some sort of stagnant happiness which may reconcile me to my life."
Strong language! and suggestive of something below the surface,
in the shape of a romance. But I had my own object in view,
and I declined (as we lawyers say) to pursue the question into
its side issues.
"Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite can hardly be of your way of thinking," I said.
"HIS heart must be set on the marriage at any rate?"
"He says so, and I suppose I ought to believe him. He would hardly marry me,
after what I have owned to him, unless he was fond of me."
Poor thing! the bare idea of a man marrying her for his own
selfish and mercenary ends had never entered her head.
The task I had set myself began to look like a harder task than I
had bargained for.
"It sounds strangely," I went on, "in my old-fashioned ears----"
"What sounds strangely?" she asked.
"To hear you speak of your future husband as if you were not quite sure
of the sincerity of his attachment. Are you conscious of any reason
in your own mind for doubting him?"
Her astonishing quickness of perception, detected a change in my voice,
or my manner, when I put that question, which warned her that I had been
speaking all along with some ulterior object in view. She stopped,
and taking her arm out of mine, looked me searchingly in the face.
"Mr. Bruff," she said, "you have something to tell me about
Godfrey Ablewhite. Tell it."
I knew her well enough to take her at her word. I told it.
She put her arm again into mine, and walked on with me slowly.
I felt her hand tightening its grasp mechanically on my arm,
and I saw her getting paler and paler as I went on--but, not a
word passed her lips while I was speaking. When I had done,
she still kept silence. Her head drooped a little, and she
walked by my side, unconscious of my presence, unconscious of
everything about her; lost--buried, I might almost say--in her
own thoughts.
I made no attempt to disturb her. My experience of her disposition warned me,
on this, as on former occasions, to give her time.
The first instinct of girls in general, on being told of anything
which interests them, is to ask a multitude of questions, and then
to run off, and talk it all over with some favourite friend.
Rachel Verinder's first instinct, under similar circumstances,
was to shut herself up in her own mind, and to think it over by herself.
This absolute self-dependence is a great virtue in a man. In a woman it
has a serious drawback of morally separating her from the mass of her sex,
and so exposing her to misconstruction by the general opinion.
I strongly suspect myself of thinking as the rest of the world
think in this matter--except in the case of Rachel Verinder.
The self-dependence in HER character, was one of its virtues
in my estimation; partly, no doubt, because I sincerely admired and
liked her; partly, because the view I took of her connexion with the loss
of the Moonstone was based on my own special knowledge of her disposition.
Badly as appearances might look, in the matter of the Diamond--
shocking as it undoubtedly was to know that she was associated
in any way with the mystery of an undiscovered theft--I was satisfied
nevertheless that she had done nothing unworthy of her, because I
was also satisfied that she had not stirred a step in the business,
without shutting herself up in her own mind, and thinking it
over first.
We had walked on, for nearly a mile I should say before Rachel
roused herself. She suddenly looked up at me with a faint
reflection of her smile of happier times--the most irresistible
smile I have ever seen on a woman's face.
"I owe much already to your kindness," she said. "And I feel
more deeply indebted to it now than ever. If you hear any rumours
of my marriage when you get back to London contradict them at once,
on my authority."
"Have you resolved to break your engagement?" I asked.
"Can you doubt it?" she returned proudly, "after what you have told me!"
"My dear Miss Rachel, you are very young--and you may find
more difficulty in withdrawing from your present position than
you anticipate. Have you no one--I mean a lady, of course--
whom you could consult?"
"No one," she answered.
It distressed me, it did indeed distress me, to hear her say that.
She was so young and so lonely--and she bore it so well!
The impulse to help her got the better of any sense of my own
unfitness which I might have felt under the circumstances;
and I stated such ideas on the subject as occurred to me
on the spur of the moment, to the best of my ability.
I have advised a prodigious number of clients, and have dealt
with some exceedingly awkward difficulties, in my time.
But this was the first occasion on which I had ever found
myself advising a young lady how to obtain her release from a
marriage engagement. The suggestion I offered amounted briefly
to this. I recommended her to tell Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite--
at a private interview, of course--that he had, to her
certain knowledge, betrayed the mercenary nature of the motive
on his side. She was then to add that their marriage,
after what she had discovered, was a simple impossibility--
and she was to put it to him, whether he thought it wisest to
secure her silence by falling in with her views, or to force her,
by opposing them, to make the motive under which she was
acting generally known. If he attempted to defend himself,
or to deny the facts, she was, in that event, to refer him
to ME.
Miss Verinder listened attentively till I had done. She then thanked me
very prettily for my advice, but informed me at the same time that it
was impossible for her to follow it.
"May I ask," I said, "what objection you see to following it?"
She hesitated--and then met me with a question on her side.
"Suppose you were asked to express your opinion of Mr. Godfrey
Ablewhite's conduct?" she began.
"What would you call it?"
"I should call it the conduct of a meanly deceitful man."
"Mr. Bruff! I have believed in that man. I have promised to marry that man.
How can I tell him he is mean, how can I tell him he has deceived me,
how can I disgrace him in the eyes of the world after that? I have degraded
myself by ever thinking of him as my husband. If I say what you tell
me to say to him--l am owning that I have degraded myself to his face.
I can't do that. After what has passed between us, I can't do that!
The shame of it would be nothing to HIM. But the shame of it would be
unendurable to ME."
Here was another of the marked peculiarities in her character
disclosing itself to me without reserve. Here was her
sensitive horror of the bare contact with anything mean,
blinding her to every consideration of what she owed to herself,
hurrying her into a false position which might compromise
her in the estimation of all her friends! Up to this time,
I had been a little diffident about the propriety of the advice
I had given to her. But, after what she had just said,
I had no sort of doubt that it was the best advice that could
have been offered; and I felt no sort of hesitation in pressing
it on her again.
She only shook her head, and repeated her objection in other words.
"He has been intimate enough with me to ask me to be his wife.
He has stood high enough in my estimation to obtain my consent.
I can't tell him to his face that he is the most contemptible of
living creatures, after that!"
"But, my dear Miss Rachel," I remonstrated, "it's equally impossible for you
to tell him that you withdraw from your engagement without giving some reason
for it."
"I shall say that I have thought it over, and that I am satisfied
it will be best for both of us if we part.
"No more than that?"
"No more."
"Have you thought of what he may say, on his side?"
"He may say what he pleases."
It was impossible not to admire her delicacy and her resolution, and it was
equally impossible not to feel that she was putting herself in the wrong.
I entreated her to consider her own position I reminded her that she would
be exposing herself to the most odious misconstruction of her motives.
"You can't brave public opinion," I said, "at the command of private feeling."
"I can," she answered. "I have done it already."
"What do you mean?"
"You have forgotten the Moonstone, Mr. Bruff. Have I not braved
public opinion, THERE, with my own private reasons for it?"
Her answer silenced me for the moment. It set me trying to trace
the explanation of her conduct, at the time of the loss of the Moonstone,
out of the strange avowal which had just escaped her. I might perhaps
have done it when I was younger. I certainly couldn't do it now.
I tried a last remonstrance before we returned to the house.
She was just as immovable as ever. My mind was in a strange
conflict of feelings about her when I left her that day.
She was obstinate; she was wrong. She was interesting;
she was admirable; she was deeply to be pitied. I made her
promise to write to me the moment she had any news to send.
And I went back to my business in London, with a mind exceedingly ill
at ease.
On the evening of my return, before it was possible for me to receive my
promised letter, I was surprised by a visit from Mr. Ablewhite the elder,
and was informed that Mr. Godfrey had got his dismissal--AND HAD ACCEPTED IT--
that very day.
With the view I already took of the case, the bare fact stated
in the words that I have underlined, revealed Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite's
motive for submission as plainly as if he had acknowledged it himself.
He needed a large sum of money; and he needed it by a given time.
Rachel's income, which would have helped him to anything else,
would not help him here; and Rachel had accordingly released herself,
without encountering a moment's serious opposition on his part.
If I am told that this is a mere speculation, I ask, in my turn,
what other theory will account for his giving up a marriage
which would have maintained him in splendour for the rest of
his life?
Any exultation I might otherwise have felt at the lucky turn which things
had now taken, was effectually checked by what passed at my interview with old
Mr. Ablewhite.
He came, of course, to know whether I could give him any explanation
of Miss Verinder's extraordinary conduct. It is needless to say
that I was quite unable to afford him the information he wanted.
The annoyance which I thus inflicted, following on the irritation
produced by a recent interview with his son, threw Mr. Ablewhite
off his guard. Both his looks and his language convinced me
that Miss Verinder would find him a merciless man to deal with,
when he joined the ladies at Brighton the next day.
I had a restless night, considering what I ought to do next.
How my reflections ended, and how thoroughly well founded my distrust
of Mr. Ablewhite proved to be, are items of information which
(as I am told) have already been put tidily in their proper places,
by that exemplary person, Miss Clack. I have only to add--
in completion of her narrative--that Miss Verinder found the quiet
and repose which she sadly needed, poor thing, in my house at Hampstead.
She honoured us by making a long stay. My wife and daughters
were charmed with her; and, when the executors decided on the
appointment of a new guardian, I feel sincere pride and pleasure
in recording that my guest and my family parted like old friends,
on either side.
The next thing I have to do, is to present such additional information
as I possess on the subject of the Moonstone, or, to speak
more correctly, on the subject of the Indian plot to steal the Diamond.
The little that I have to tell is (as I think I have already said)
of some importance, nevertheless, in respect of its bearing very
remarkably on events which are still to come.
About a week or ten days after Miss Verinder had left us,
one of my clerks entered the private room at my office, with a
card in his hand, and informed me that a gentleman was below,
who wanted to speak to me.
I looked at the card. There was a foreign name written on it,
which has escaped my memory. It was followed by a line
written in English at the bottom of the card, which I remember
perfectly well:
"Recommended by Mr. Septimus Luker."
The audacity of a person in Mr. Luker's position presuming
to recommend anybody to me, took me so completely by surprise,
that I sat silent for the moment, wondering whether my own eyes
had not deceived me. The clerk, observing my bewilderment,
favoured me with the result of his own observation of the stranger
who was waiting downstairs.
"He is rather a remarkable-looking man, sir. So dark in the complexion
that we all set him down in the office for an Indian, or something
of that sort."
Associating the clerk's idea with the line inscribed on the card in my hand,
I thought it possible that the Moonstone might be at the bottom of
Mr. Luker's recommendation, and of the stranger's visit at my office.
To the astonishment of my clerk, I at once decided on granting an interview
to the gentleman below.
In justification of the highly unprofessional sacrifice to mere
curiosity which I thus made, permit me to remind anybody
who may read these lines, that no living person (in England,
at any rate) can claim to have had such an intimate connexion
with the romance of the Indian Diamond as mine has been.
I was trusted with the secret of Colonel Herncastle's plan
for escaping assassination. I received the Colonel's
letters, periodically reporting himself a living man.
I drew his Will, leaving the Moonstone to Miss Verinder.
I persuaded his executor to act, on the chance that the jewel
might prove to be a valuable acquisition to the family.
And, lastly, I combated Mr. Franklin Blake's scruples,
and induced him to be the means of transporting the Diamond
to Lady Verinder's house. If anyone can claim a prescriptive
right of interest in the Moonstone, and in everything
connected with it, I think it is hardly to be denied that I am
the man.
The moment my mysterious client was shown in, I felt an inner
conviction that I was in the presence of one of the three Indians--
probably of the chief. He was carefully dressed in European costume.
But his swarthy complexion, his long lithe figure, and his grave
and graceful politeness of manner were enough to betray his Oriental
origin to any intelligent eyes that looked at him.
I pointed to a chair, and begged to be informed of the nature
of his business with me.
After first apologising--in an excellent selection of English words--
for the liberty which he had taken in disturbing me, the Indian produced
a small parcel the outer covering of which was of cloth of gold.
Removing this and a second wrapping of some silken fabric, he placed
a little box, or casket, on my table, most beautifully and richly inlaid
in jewels, on an ebony ground.
"I have come, sir," he said, "to ask you to lend me some money.
And I leave this as an assurance to you that my debt will be
paid back."
I pointed to his card. "And you apply to me," I rejoined,
"at Mr. Luker's recommendation?"
The Indian bowed.
"May I ask how it is that Mr. Luker himself did not advance the money
that you require?"
"Mr. Luker informed me, sir, that he had no money to lend."
"And so he recommended you to come to me?"
The Indian, in his turn, pointed to the card. It is written there,"
he said.
Briefly answered, and thoroughly to the purpose! If the Moonstone
had been in my possession, this Oriental gentleman would have
murdered me, I am well aware, without a moment's hesitation.
At the same time, and barring that slight drawback, I am
bound to testify that he was the perfect model of a client.
He might not have respected my life. But he did what none
of my own countrymen had ever done, in all my experience of them--
he respected my time.
"I am sorry," I said, "that you should have had the trouble of coming to me.
Mr. Luker is quite mistaken in sending you here. I am trusted, like other men
in my profession, with money to lend. But I never lend it to strangers, and I
never lend it on such a security as you have produced."
Far from attempting, as other people would have done, to induce
me to relax my own rules, the Indian only made me another bow,
and wrapped up his box in its two coverings without a word of protest.
He rose--this admirable assassin rose to go, the moment I had
answered him!
"Will your condescension towards a stranger, excuse my asking one question,"
he said, "before I take my leave?"
I bowed on my side. Only one question at parting! The average
in my experience was fifty.
"Supposing, sir, it had been possible (and customary) for you to lend me
the money," he said, "in what space of time would it have been possible
(and customary) for me to pay it back?"
"According to the usual course pursued in this country,"
I answered, "you would have been entitled to pay the money back
(if you liked) in one year's time from the date at which it was
first advanced to you."
The Indian made me a last bow, the lowest of all--and suddenly and softly
walked out of the room.
It was done in a moment, in a noiseless, supple, cat-like way,
which a little startled me, I own. As soon as I was composed
enough to think, I arrived at one distinct conclusion in reference
to the otherwise incomprehensible visitor who had favoured me
with a call.
His face, voice, and manner--while I was in his company--
were under such perfect control that they set all scrutiny
at defiance. But he had given me one chance of looking
under the smooth outer surface of him, for all that.
He had not shown the slightest sign of attempting to fix anything
that I had said to him in his mind, until I mentioned the time
at which it was customary to permit the earliest repayment,
on the part of a debtor, of money that had been advanced
as a loan. When I gave him that piece of information,
he looked me straight in the face, while I was speaking,
for the first time. The inference I drew from this was--
that he had a special purpose in asking me his last question,
and a special interest in hearing my answer to it.
The more carefully I reflected on what had passed between us,
the more shrewdly I suspected the production of the casket,
and the application for the loan, of having been mere formalities,
designed to pave the way for the parting inquiry addressed
to me.
I had satisfied myself of the correctness of this conclusion--
and was trying to get on a step further, and penetrate the Indian's
motives next--when a letter was brought to me, which proved
to be from no less a person that Mr. Septimus Luker himself.
He asked my pardon in terms of sickening servility, and assured
me that he could explain matters to my satisfaction, if I would
honour him by consenting to a personal interview.
I made another unprofessional sacrifice to mere curiosity.
I honoured him by making an appointment at my office,
for the next day.
Mr. Luker was, in every respect, such an inferior creature to the Indian--
he was so vulgar, so ugly, so cringing, and so prosy--that he is quite
unworthy of being reported, at any length, in these pages. The substance
of what he had to tell me may be fairly stated as follows:
The day before I had received the visit of the Indian, Mr. Luker
had been favoured with a call from that accomplished gentleman.
In spite of his European disguise, Mr. Luker had instantly
identified his visitor with the chief of the three Indians,
who had formerly annoyed him by loitering about his house,
and who had left him no alternative but to consult a magistrate.
From this startling discovery he had rushed to the conclusion
(naturally enough I own) that he must certainly be in the company
of one of the three men, who had blindfolded him, gagged him,
and robbed him of his banker's receipt. The result was that
he became quite paralysed with terror, and that he firmly believed
his last hour had come.
On his side, the Indian preserved the character of a perfect stranger.
He produced the little casket, and made exactly the same application
which he had afterwards made to me. As the speediest way of getting
rid of him, Mr. Luker had at once declared that he had no money.
The Indian had thereupon asked to be informed of the best and safest person
to apply to for the loan he wanted. Mr. Luker had answered that the best
and safest person, in such cases, was usually a respectable solicitor.
Asked to name some individual of that character and profession, Mr. Luker
had mentioned me--for the one simple reason that, in the extremity of
his terror, mine was the first name which occurred to him. "The perspiration
was pouring off me like rain, sir," the wretched creature concluded.
"I didn't know what I was talking about. And I hope you'll look over it,
Mr. Bruff, sir, in consideration of my having been really and truly frightened
out of my wits."
I excused the fellow graciously enough. It was the readiest way
of releasing myself from the sight of him. Before he left me,
I detained him to make one inquiry.
Had the Indian said anything noticeable, at the moment of quitting
Mr. Luker's house?
Yes! The Indian had put precisely the same question to Mr. Luker,
at parting, which he had put to me; receiving of course, the same
answer as the answer which I had given him.
What did it mean? Mr. Luker's explanation gave me no assistance
towards solving the problem. My own unaided ingenuity,
consulted next, proved quite unequal to grapple with the difficulty.
I had a dinner engagement that evening; and I went upstairs,
in no very genial frame of mind, little suspecting that the way
to my dressing-room and the way to discovery, meant, on this
particular occasion, one and the same thing.
The prominent personage among the guests at the dinner party
I found to be Mr. Murthwaite.
On his appearance in England, after his wanderings, society had been
greatly interested in the traveller, as a man who had passed through
many dangerous adventures, and who had escaped to tell the tale.
He had now announced his intention of returning to the scene of
his exploits, and of penetrating into regions left still unexplored.
This magnificent indifference to placing his safety in peril for the
second time, revived the flagging interest of the worshippers in the hero.
The law of chances was clearly against his escaping on this occasion.
It is not every day that we can meet an eminent person at dinner,
and feel that there is a reasonable prospect of the news of his murder
being the news that we hear of him next.
When the gentlemen were left by themselves in the dining-room, I found myself
sitting next to Mr. Murthwaite. The guests present being all English,
it is needless to say that, as soon as the wholesome check exercised by
the presence of the ladies was removed, the conversation turned on politics
as a necessary result.
In respect to this all-absorbing national topic, I happen to be one of
the most un-English Englishmen living. As a general rule, political talk
appears to me to be of all talk the most dreary and the most profitless.
Glancing at Mr. Murthwaite, when the bottles had made their first round
of the table, I found that he was apparently of my way of thinking.
He was doing it very dexterously--with all possible consideration
for the feelings of his host--but it is not the less certain that he was
composing himself for a nap. It struck me as an experiment worth attempting,
to try whether a judicious allusion to the subject of the Moonstone would
keep him awake, and, if it did, to see what HE thought of the last new
complication in the Indian conspiracy, as revealed in the prosaic precincts
of my office.
"If I am not mistaken, Mr. Murthwaite," I began, "you were acquainted
with the late Lady Verinder, and you took some interest in the strange
succession of events which ended in the loss of the Moonstone?"
The eminent traveller did me the honour of waking up in an instant,
and asking me who I was.
I informed him of my professional connection with the Herncastle family,
not forgetting the curious position which I had occupied towards the Colonel
and his Diamond in the bygone time.
Mr. Murthwaite shifted round in his chair, so as to put the rest
of the company behind him (Conservatives and Liberals alike),
and concentrated his whole attention on plain Mr. Bruff, of Gray's
Inn Square.
"Have you heard anything, lately, of the Indians?" he asked.
"I have every reason to believe," I answered, "that one of them
had an interview with me, in my office, yesterday."
Mr. Murthwaite was not an easy man to astonish; but that last answer of mine
completely staggered him. I described what had happened to Mr. Luker,
and what had happened to myself, exactly as I have described it here.
"It is clear that the Indian's parting inquiry had an object," I added.
"Why should he be so anxious to know the time at which a borrower of money is
usually privileged to pay the money back?"
"Is it possible that you don't see his motive, Mr. Bruff?"
"I am ashamed of my stupidity, Mr. Murthwaite--but I certainly don't see it."
The great traveller became quite interested in sounding the immense vacuity
of my dulness to its lowest depths.
"Let me ask you one question," he said. "In what position does
the conspiracy to seize the Moonstone now stand?"
"I can't say," I answered. "The Indian plot is a mystery to me."
"The Indian plot, Mr. Bruff, can only be a mystery to you, because you
have never seriously examined it. Shall we run it over together,
from the time when you drew Colonel Herncastle's Will, to the time
when the Indian called at your office? In your position, it may be
of very serious importance to the interests of Miss Verinder, that you
should be able to take a clear view of this matter in case of need.
Tell me, bearing that in mind, whether you will penetrate the Indian's
motive for yourself? or whether you wish me to save you the trouble
of making any inquiry into it?"
It is needless to say that I thoroughly appreciated the practical
purpose which I now saw that he had in view, and that the first
of the two alternatives was the alternative I chose.
"Very good," said Mr. Murthwaite. "We will take the question
of the ages of the three Indians first. I can testify that they
all look much about the same age--and you can decide for yourself,
whether the man whom you saw was, or was not, in the prime of life.
Not forty, you think? My idea too. We will say not forty.
Now look back to the time when Colonel Herncastle came
to England, and when you were concerned in the plan he adopted
to preserve his life. I don't want you to count the years.
I will only say, it is clear that these present Indians,
at their age, must be the successors of three other Indians
(high caste Brahmins all of them, Mr. Bruff, when they left
their native country!) who followed the Colonel to these shores.
Very well. These present men of ours have succeeded to the men
who were here before them. If they had only done that,
the matter would not have been worth inquiring into.
But they have done more. They have succeeded to the organisation
which their predecessors established in this country.
Don't start! The organisation is a very trumpery affair,
according to our ideas, I have no doubt. I should reckon it up
as including the command of money; the services, when needed,
of that shady sort of Englishman, who lives in the byways
of foreign life in London; and, lastly, the secret sympathy
of such few men of their own country, and (formerly, at least)
of their own religion, as happen to be employed in ministering
to some of the multitudinous wants of this great city.
Nothing very formidable, as you see! But worth notice
at starting, because we may find occasion to refer
to this modest little Indian organisation as we go on.
Having now cleared the ground, I am going to ask you a question;
and I expect your experience to answer it. What was the event
which gave the Indians their first chance of seizing the
I understood the allusion to my experience.
"The first chance they got," I replied, "was clearly offered to them
by Colonel Herncastle's death. They would be aware of his death,
I suppose, as a matter of course?"
"As a matter of course. And his death, as you say, gave them their
first chance. Up to that time the Moonstone was safe in the strong-room
of the bank. You drew the Colonel's Will leaving his jewel to his niece;
and the Will was proved in the usual way. As a lawyer, you can be at no
loss to know what course the Indians would take (under English advice)
after THAT."
"They would provide themselves with a copy of the Will
from Doctors' Commons," I said.
"Exactly. One or other of those shady Englishmen to whom I
have alluded, would get them the copy you have described.
That copy would inform them that the Moonstone was bequeathed
to the daughter of Lady Verinder, and that Mr. Blake the elder,
or some person appointed by him, was to place it in her hands.
You will agree with me that the necessary information about
persons in the position of Lady Verinder and Mr. Blake,
would be perfectly easy information to obtain. The one difficulty
for the Indians would be to decide whether they should make
their attempt on the Diamond when it was in course of removal
from the keeping of the bank, or whether they should wait until
it was taken down to Yorkshire to Lady Verinder's house.
The second way would be manifestly the safest way--and there you
have the explanation of the appearance of the Indians at Frizinghall,
disguised as jugglers, and waiting their time. In London,
it is needless to say, they had their organisation at their
disposal to keep them informed of events. Two men would do it.
One to follow anybody who went from Mr. Blake's house to the bank.
And one to treat the lower men servants with beer, and to hear
the news of the house. These commonplace precautions would
readily inform them that Mr. Franklin Blake had been to the bank,
and that Mr. Franklin Blake was the only person in the house
who was going to visit Lady Verinder. What actually followed upon
that discovery, you remember, no doubt, quite as correctly as
I do."
I remembered that Franklin Blake had detected one of the spies, in the street--
that he had, in consequence, advanced the time of his arrival in Yorkshire
by some hours--and that (thanks to old Betteredge's excellent advice) he had
lodged the Diamond in the bank at Frizinghall, before the Indians were so much
as prepared to see him in the neighbourhood. All perfectly clear so far.
But the Indians being ignorant of the precautions thus taken, how was it that
they had made no attempt on Lady Verinder's house (in which they must have
supposed the Diamond to be) through the whole of the interval that elapsed
before Rachel's birthday?
In putting this difficulty to Mr. Murthwaite, I thought it right
to add that I had heard of the little boy, and the drop of ink,
and the rest of it, and that any explanation based on the theory
of clairvoyance was an explanation which would carry no conviction
whatever with it, to MY mind.
"Nor to mine either," said Mr. Murthwaite. "The clairvoyance
in this case is simply a development of the romantic side
of the Indian character. It would be refreshment and an
encouragement to those men--quite inconceivable, I grant you,
to the English mind--to surround their wearisome and perilous
errand in this country with a certain halo of the marvellous
and the supernatural. Their boy is unquestionably a sensitive
subject to the mesmeric influence--and, under that influence,
he has no doubt reflected what was already in the mind of the person
mesmerising him. I have tested the theory of clairvoyance--
and I have never found the manifestations get beyond that point.
The Indians don't investigate the matter in this way;
the Indians look upon their boy as a Seer of things invisible
to their eyes--and, I repeat, in that marvel they find
the source of a new interest in the purpose that unites them.
I only notice this as offering a curious view of human character,
which must be quite new to you. We have nothing whatever
to do with clairvoyance, or with mesmerism, or with anything
else that is hard of belief to a practical man, in the inquiry
that we are now pursuing. My object in following the Indian plot,
step by step, is to trace results back, by rational means,
to natural causes. Have I succeeded to your satisfaction
so far?"
"Not a doubt of it, Mr. Murthwaite! I am waiting, however, with some anxiety,
to hear the rational explanation of the difficulty which I have just had
the honour of submitting to you."
Mr. Murthwaite smiled. "It's the easiest difficulty to deal with of all,"
he said. "Permit me to begin by admitting your statement of the case
as a perfectly correct one. The Indians were undoubtedly not aware
of what Mr. Franklin Blake had done with the Diamond--for we find them
making their first mistake, on the first night of Mr. Blake's arrival at
his aunt's house."
"Their first mistake?" I repeated.
"Certainly! The mistake of allowing themselves to be surprised,
lurking about the terrace at night, by Gabriel Betteredge.
However, they had the merit of seeing for themselves that they
had taken a false step--for, as you say, again, with plenty
of time at their disposal, they never came near the house
for weeks afterwards."
"Why, Mr. Murthwaite? That's what I want to know! Why?"
"Because no Indian, Mr. Bruff, ever runs an unnecessary risk.
The clause you drew in Colonel Herncastle's Will, informed them
(didn't it?) that the Moonstone was to pass absolutely into
Miss Verinder's possession on her birthday. Very well.
Tell me which was the safest course for men in their position?
To make their attempt on the Diamond while it was under the control
of Mr. Franklin Blake, who had shown already that he could
suspect and outwit them? Or to wait till the Diamond was at
the disposal of a young girl, who would innocently delight
in wearing the magnificent jewel at every possible opportunity?
Perhaps you want a proof that my theory is correct?
Take the conduct of the Indians themselves as the proof.
They appeared at the house, after waiting all those weeks,
on Miss Verinder's birthday; and they were rewarded
for the patient accuracy of their calculations by seeing
the Moonstone in the bosom of her dress! When I heard
the story of the Colonel and the Diamond, later in the evening,
I felt so sure about the risk Mr. Franklin Blake had run
(they would have certainly attacked him, if he had not happened
to ride back to Lady Verinder's in the company of other people);
and I was so strongly convinced of the worse risk still,
in store for Miss Verinder, that I recommended following
the Colonel's plan, and destroying the identity of the gem
by having it cut into separate stones. How its extraordinary
disappearance that night, made my advice useless, and utterly
defeated the Hindoo plot--and how all further action on the part
of the Indians was paralysed the next day by their confinement
in prison as rogues and vagabonds--you know as well as I do.
The first act in the conspiracy closes there. Before we go
on to the second, may I ask whether I have met your difficulty,
with an explanation which is satisfactory to the mind of a practical
It was impossible to deny that he had met my difficulty fairly;
thanks to his superior knowledge of the Indian character--
and thanks to his not having had hundreds of other Wills to think
of since Colonel Herncastle's time!
"So far, so good," resumed Mr. Murthwaite. "The first chance
the Indians had of seizing the Diamond was a chance lost,
on the day when they were committed to the prison at Frizinghall.
When did the second chance offer itself? The second chance
offered itself--as I am in a condition to prove--while they were
still in confinement."
He took out his pocket-book, and opened it at a particular leaf,
before he went on.
"I was staying," he resumed, "with some friends at Frizinghall,
at the time. A day or two before the Indians were set free
(on a Monday, I think), the governor of the prison came to me
with a letter. It had been left for the Indians by one Mrs. Macann,
of whom they had hired the lodging in which they lived; and it had
been delivered at Mrs. Macann's door, in ordinary course of post,
on the previous morning. The prison authorities had noticed that
the postmark was 'Lambeth,' and that the address on the outside,
though expressed in correct English, was, in form, oddly at variance
with the customary method of directing a letter. On opening it,
they had found the contents to be written in a foreign language,
which they rightly guessed at as Hindustani. Their object in coming
to me was, of course, to have the letter translated to them.
I took a copy in my pocket-book of the original, and of my translation--
and there they are at your service."
He handed me the open pocket-book. The address on the letter
was the first thing copied. It was all written in one paragraph,
without any attempt at punctuation, thus: "To the three Indian men
living with the lady called Macann at Frizinghall in Yorkshire."
The Hindoo characters followed; and the English translation appeared at
the end, expressed in these mysterious words:
"In the name of the Regent of the Night, whose seat is on the Antelope,
whose arms embrace the four corners of the earth.
"Brothers, turn your faces to the south, and come to me in the street
of many noises, which leads down to the muddy river.
"The reason is this.
"My own eyes have seen it."
There the letter ended, without either date or signature.
I handed it back to Mr. Murthwaite, and owned that this curious
specimen of Hindoo correspondence rather puzzled me.
"I can explain the first sentence to you," he said;
"and the conduct of the Indians themselves will explain the rest.
The god of the moon is represented, in the Hindoo mythology,
as a four-armed deity, seated on an antelope; and one of his
titles is the regent of the night. Here, then, to begin with,
is something which looks suspiciously like an indirect reference
to the Moonstone. Now, let us see what the Indians did,
after the prison authorities had allowed them to receive
their letter. On the very day when they were set free
they went at once to the railway station, and took
their places in the first train that started for London.
We all thought it a pity at Frizinghall that their proceedings
were not privately watched. But, after Lady Verinder had
dismissed the police-officer, and had stopped all further
inquiry into the loss of the Diamond, no one else could presume
to stir in the matter. The Indians were free to go to London,
and to London they went. What was the next news we heard of them,
Mr. Bruff?"
"They were annoying Mr. Luker," I answered, "by loitering about the house
at Lambeth."
"Did you read the report of Mr. Luker's application to the magistrate?"
"In the course of his statement he referred, if you remember,
to a foreign workman in his employment, whom he had just dismissed
on suspicion of attempted theft, and whom he also distrusted as
possibly acting in collusion with the Indians who had annoyed him.
The inference is pretty plain, Mr. Bruff, as to who wrote that letter
which puzzled you just now, and as to which of Mr. Luker's Oriental
treasures the workman had attempted to steal."
The inference (as I hastened to acknowledge) was too plain to need
being pointed out. I had never doubted that the Moonstone had found
its way into Mr. Luker's hands, at the time Mr. Murthwaite alluded to.
My only question had been, How had the Indians discovered the circumstance?
This question (the most difficult to deal with of all, as I had thought)
had now received its answer, like the rest. Lawyer as I was, I began
to feel that I might trust Mr. Murthwaite to lead me blindfold through
the last windings of the labyrinth, along which he had guided me thus far.
I paid him the compliment of telling him this, and found my little concession
very graciously received.
"You shall give me a piece of information in your turn before we go on,"
he said. "Somebody must have taken the Moonstone from Yorkshire to London.
And somebody must have raised money on it, or it would never have been
in Mr. Luker's possession. Has there been any discovery made of who that
person was?"
"None that I know of."
"There was a story (was there not?) about Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.
I am told he is an eminent philanthropist--which is decidedly against him,
to begin with."
I heartily agreed in this with Mr. Murthwaite. At the same time,
I felt bound to inform him (without, it is needless to say,
mentioning Miss Verinder's name) that Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite
had been cleared of all suspicion, on evidence which I could
answer for as entirely beyond dispute.
"Very well," said Mr. Murthwaite, quietly, "let us leave it
to time to clear the matter up. In the meanwhile, Mr. Bruff,
we must get back again to the Indians, on your account.
Their journey to London simply ended in their becoming the victims
of another defeat. The loss of their second chance of seizing
the Diamond is mainly attributable, as I think, to the cunning
and foresight of Mr. Luker--who doesn't stand at the top
of the prosperous and ancient profession of usury for nothing!
By the prompt dismissal of the man in his employment,
he deprived the Indians of the assistance which their

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