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The Moonstone
Wilkie Collins




THE MOONSTONE

A Romance

by Wilkie Collins




PROLOGUE

THE STORMING OF SERINGAPATAM (1799)


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.



II


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.



III


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.



IV


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 STORY




FIRST PERIOD

THE LOSS OF THE DIAMOND (1848)


The events related by GABRIEL BETTEREDGE, house-steward in the service
of JULIA, LADY VERINDER.



CHAPTER I


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.



CHAPTER II


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
ROBINSON CRUSOE!

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.



CHAPTER III


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.



CHAPTER IV


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 housemaid.

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 sands.

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 be 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.



CHAPTER V


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.



CHAPTER VI


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.



CHAPTER VII


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 ink.

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.



CHAPTER VIII


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 do.

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 that.

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 sake.

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 this?

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 her 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.



CHAPTER IX


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.



CHAPTER X


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 country."

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?"

"Plenty."

"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 ROBINSON CRUSOE.

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.



CHAPTER XI


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 dressing-gown
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 sitting-room, 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
morning.

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 again.

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 the
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.



CHAPTER XII


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 morning.

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 rose-gardens.

"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."



CHAPTER XIII


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 upstairs
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."



CHAPTER XIV


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 fellow-servants.

"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 girl."

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.



CHAPTER XV


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?"

"No."

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.



CHAPTER XVI


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 Cuff.

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.



CHAPTER XVII


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.

"No."

"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.



CHAPTER XVIII


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 aunt's.

"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 hiding-place.

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.



CHAPTER XIX


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 death.

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.



CHAPTER XX


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.



CHAPTER XXI


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 it?"

"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 to-night."

With that, she stepped into the chaise, and, taking the reins herself,
drove off to Frizinghall.



CHAPTER XXII


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
sherry?"

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!



CHAPTER XXIII


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 HIM."

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?"

"Yes."

"Sent to you in your own letter?"

"Yes."

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-book,
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 one 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 END OF THE FIRST PERIOD.





SECOND PERIOD

THE DISCOVERY OF THE TRUTH (1848-1849)

The events related in several narratives.




FIRST NARRATIVE

Contributed by MISS CLACK; niece of the late SIR JOHN VERINDER



CHAPTER I


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 too.*

     * 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-Conversion-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 end.

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.



CHAPTER II


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 Trousers?"

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."

"Why?"

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?"

"Never."

"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 work-box.

"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 INNOCENT.
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 said. "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.



CHAPTER III


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 worldling 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.



CHAPTER IV


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 miniature 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 good!

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 goto 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.



CHAPTER V


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?"

"Yes?"

"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."

"Yes?"

"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.



CHAPTER VI


(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.

(Signed) DRUSILLA CLACK.]



CHAPTER VII


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 Square.

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:

"I SHALL NEVER MARRY MR. GODFREY ABLEWHITE."

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.



CHAPTER VIII


"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 YOU!"

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 ME."

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 the LIFE, LETTERS, AND LABOURS OF
MISS JANE ANN STAMPER left her as a legacy by my will.



SECOND NARRATIVE

Contributed by MATHEW BRUFF, Solicitor, of Gray's Inn Square

CHAPTER I


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.

"Yes?"

"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--I 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.



CHAPTER II


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.



CHAPTER III


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 Diamond?"

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 man?"

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?"

"Yes."

"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 confederate would have rendered them in getting
into the house. By the prompt transport of the Moonstone to his
banker's, he took the conspirators by surprise before they were prepared
with a new plan for robbing him. How the Indians, in this latter case,
suspected what he had done, and how they contrived to possess themselves
of his banker's receipt, are events too recent to need dwelling on. Let
it be enough to say that they know the Moonstone to be once more out of
their reach; deposited (under the general description of 'a valuable of
great price') in a banker's strong room. Now, Mr. Bruff, what is their
third chance of seizing the Diamond? and when will it come?"

As the question passed his lips, I penetrated the motive of the Indian's
visit to my office at last!

"I see it!" I exclaimed. "The Indians take it for granted, as we do,
that the Moonstone has been pledged; and they want to be certainly
informed of the earliest period at which the pledge can be
redeemed--because that will be the earliest period at which the Diamond
can be removed from the safe keeping of the bank!"

"I told you you would find it out for yourself, Mr. Bruff, if I only
gave you a fair chance. In a year from the time when the Moonstone was
pledged, the Indians will be on the watch for their third chance. Mr.
Luker's own lips have told them how long they will have to wait, and
your respectable authority has satisfied them that Mr. Luker has spoken
the truth. When do we suppose, at a rough guess, that the Diamond found
its way into the money-lender's hands?"

"Towards the end of last June," I answered, "as well as I can reckon
it."

"And we are now in the year 'forty-eight. Very good. If the unknown
person who has pledged the Moonstone can redeem it in a year, the
jewel will be in that person's possession again at the end of June,
'forty-nine. I shall be thousands of miles from England and English news
at that date. But it may be worth YOUR while to take a note of it, and
to arrange to be in London at the time."

"You think something serious will happen?" I said.

"I think I shall be safer," he answered, "among the fiercest fanatics of
Central Asia than I should be if I crossed the door of the bank with the
Moonstone in my pocket. The Indians have been defeated twice running,
Mr. Bruff. It's my firm belief that they won't be defeated a third
time."

Those were the last words he said on the subject. The coffee came in;
the guests rose, and dispersed themselves about the room; and we joined
the ladies of the dinner-party upstairs.

I made a note of the date, and it may not be amiss if I close my
narrative by repeating that note here:

JUNE, 'FORTY-NINE. EXPECT NEWS OF THE INDIANS, TOWARDS THE END OF THE
MONTH.

And that done, I hand the pen, which I have now no further claim to use,
to the writer who follows me next.




THIRD NARRATIVE

Contributed by FRANKLIN BLAKE



CHAPTER I


In the spring of the year eighteen hundred and forty-nine I was
wandering in the East, and had then recently altered the travelling
plans which I had laid out some months before, and which I had
communicated to my lawyer and my banker in London.

This change made it necessary for me to send one of my servants to
obtain my letters and remittances from the English consul in a certain
city, which was no longer included as one of my resting-places in my new
travelling scheme. The man was to join me again at an appointed place
and time. An accident, for which he was not responsible, delayed him on
his errand. For a week I and my people waited, encamped on the
borders of a desert. At the end of that time the missing man made his
appearance, with the money and the letters, at the entrance of my tent.

"I am afraid I bring you bad news, sir," he said, and pointed to one of
the letters, which had a mourning border round it, and the address on
which was in the handwriting of Mr. Bruff.

I know nothing, in a case of this kind, so unendurable as suspense. The
letter with the mourning border was the letter that I opened first.

It informed me that my father was dead, and that I was heir to his great
fortune. The wealth which had thus fallen into my hands brought its
responsibilities with it, and Mr. Bruff entreated me to lose no time in
returning to England.

By daybreak the next morning, I was on my way back to my own country.

The picture presented of me, by my old friend Betteredge, at the time of
my departure from England, is (as I think) a little overdrawn. He has,
in his own quaint way, interpreted seriously one of his young mistress's
many satirical references to my foreign education; and has persuaded
himself that he actually saw those French, German, and Italian sides to
my character, which my lively cousin only professed to discover in jest,
and which never had any real existence, except in our good Betteredge's
own brain. But, barring this drawback, I am bound to own that he has
stated no more than the truth in representing me as wounded to the heart
by Rachel's treatment, and as leaving England in the first keenness of
suffering caused by the bitterest disappointment of my life.

I went abroad, resolved--if change and absence could help me--to forget
her. It is, I am persuaded, no true view of human nature which denies
that change and absence DO help a man under these circumstances; they
force his attention away from the exclusive contemplation of his own
sorrow. I never forgot her; but the pang of remembrance lost its worst
bitterness, little by little, as time, distance, and novelty interposed
themselves more and more effectually between Rachel and me.

On the other hand, it is no less certain that, with the act of turning
homeward, the remedy which had gained its ground so steadily, began now,
just as steadily, to drop back. The nearer I drew to the country
which she inhabited, and to the prospect of seeing her again, the more
irresistibly her influence began to recover its hold on me. On leaving
England she was the last person in the world whose name I would have
suffered to pass my lips. On returning to England, she was the first
person I inquired after, when Mr. Bruff and I met again.

I was informed, of course, of all that had happened in my absence;
in other words, of all that has been related here in continuation of
Betteredge's narrative--one circumstance only being excepted. Mr. Bruff
did not, at that time, feel himself at liberty to inform me of the
motives which had privately influenced Rachel and Godfrey Ablewhite in
recalling the marriage promise, on either side. I troubled him with no
embarrassing questions on this delicate subject. It was relief enough to
me, after the jealous disappointment caused by hearing that she had ever
contemplated being Godfrey's wife, to know that reflection had convinced
her of acting rashly, and that she had effected her own release from her
marriage engagement.

Having heard the story of the past, my next inquiries (still inquiries
after Rachel!) advanced naturally to the present time. Under whose care
had she been placed after leaving Mr. Bruff's house? and where was she
living now?

She was living under the care of a widowed sister of the late Sir John
Verinder--one Mrs. Merridew--whom her mother's executors had requested
to act as guardian, and who had accepted the proposal. They were
reported to me as getting on together admirably well, and as being now
established, for the season, in Mrs. Merridew's house in Portland Place.

Half an hour after receiving this information, I was on my way to
Portland Place--without having had the courage to own it to Mr. Bruff!

The man who answered the door was not sure whether Miss Verinder was at
home or not. I sent him upstairs with my card, as the speediest way
of setting the question at rest. The man came down again with an
impenetrable face, and informed me that Miss Verinder was out.

I might have suspected other people of purposely denying themselves to
me. But it was impossible to suspect Rachel. I left word that I would
call again at six o'clock that evening.

At six o'clock I was informed for the second time that Miss Verinder was
not at home. Had any message been left for me. No message had been left
for me. Had Miss Verinder not received my card? The servant begged my
pardon--Miss Verinder HAD received it.

The inference was too plain to be resisted. Rachel declined to see me.

On my side, I declined to be treated in this way, without making an
attempt, at least, to discover a reason for it. I sent up my name to
Mrs. Merridew, and requested her to favour me with a personal interview
at any hour which it might be most convenient to her to name.

Mrs. Merridew made no difficulty about receiving me at once. I was shown
into a comfortable little sitting-room, and found myself in the presence
of a comfortable little elderly lady. She was so good as to feel great
regret and much surprise, entirely on my account. She was at the same
time, however, not in a position to offer me any explanation, or to
press Rachel on a matter which appeared to relate to a question of
private feeling alone. This was said over and over again, with a polite
patience that nothing could tire; and this was all I gained by applying
to Mrs. Merridew.

My last chance was to write to Rachel. My servant took a letter to her
the next day, with strict instructions to wait for an answer.

The answer came back, literally in one sentence.

"Miss Verinder begs to decline entering into any correspondence with Mr.
Franklin Blake."

Fond as I was of her, I felt indignantly the insult offered to me in
that reply. Mr. Bruff came in to speak to me on business, before I had
recovered possession of myself. I dismissed the business on the spot,
and laid the whole case before him. He proved to be as incapable of
enlightening me as Mrs. Merridew herself. I asked him if any slander had
been spoken of me in Rachel's hearing. Mr. Bruff was not aware of any
slander of which I was the object. Had she referred to me in any way
while she was staying under Mr. Bruff's roof? Never. Had she not so much
as asked, during all my long absence, whether I was living or dead? No
such question had ever passed her lips. I took out of my pocket-book the
letter which poor Lady Verinder had written to me from Frizinghall, on
the day when I left her house in Yorkshire. And I pointed Mr. Bruff's
attention to these two sentences in it:

"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."

"Is it possible," I asked, "that the feeling towards me which is there
described, is as bitter as ever against me now?"

Mr. Bruff looked unaffectedly distressed.

"If you insist on an answer," he said, "I own I can place no other
interpretation on her conduct than that."

I rang the bell, and directed my servant to pack my portmanteau, and to
send out for a railway guide. Mr. Bruff asked, in astonishment, what I
was going to do.

"I am going to Yorkshire," I answered, "by the next train."

"May I ask for what purpose?"

"Mr. Bruff, the assistance I innocently rendered to the inquiry after
the Diamond was an unpardoned offence, in Rachel's mind, nearly a year
since; and it remains an unpardoned offence still. I won't accept that
position! I am determined to find out the secret of her silence towards
her mother, and her enmity towards me. If time, pains, and money can do
it, I will lay my hand on the thief who took the Moonstone!"

The worthy old gentleman attempted to remonstrate--to induce me to
listen to reason--to do his duty towards me, in short. I was deaf to
everything that he could urge. No earthly consideration would, at that
moment, have shaken the resolution that was in me.

"I shall take up the inquiry again," I went on, "at the point where I
dropped it; and I shall follow it onwards, step by step, till I come to
the present time. There are missing links in the evidence, as I left it,
which Gabriel Betteredge can supply, and to Gabriel Betteredge I go!"

Towards sunset that evening I stood again on the well-remembered
terrace, and looked once more at the peaceful old country house. The
gardener was the first person whom I saw in the deserted grounds. He had
left Betteredge, an hour since, sunning himself in the customary corner
of the back yard. I knew it well; and I said I would go and seek him
myself.

I walked round by the familiar paths and passages, and looked in at the
open gate of the yard.

There he was--the dear old friend of the happy days that were never to
come again--there he was in the old corner, on the old beehive chair,
with his pipe in his mouth, and his ROBINSON CRUSOE on his lap, and his
two friends, the dogs, dozing on either side of him! In the position
in which I stood, my shadow was projected in front of me by the last
slanting rays of the sun. Either the dogs saw it, or their keen scent
informed them of my approach; they started up with a growl. Starting
in his turn, the old man quieted them by a word, and then shaded his
failing eyes with his hand, and looked inquiringly at the figure at the
gate.

My own eyes were full of tears. I was obliged to wait a moment before I
could trust myself to speak to him.



CHAPTER II


"Betteredge!" I said, pointing to the well-remembered book on his knee,
"has ROBINSON CRUSOE informed you, this evening, that you might expect
to see Franklin Blake?"

"By the lord Harry, Mr. Franklin!" cried the old man, "that's exactly
what ROBINSON CRUSOE has done!"

He struggled to his feet with my assistance, and stood for a moment,
looking backwards and forwards between ROBINSON CRUSOE and me,
apparently at a loss to discover which of us had surprised him most. The
verdict ended in favour of the book. Holding it open before him in both
hands, he surveyed the wonderful volume with a stare of unutterable
anticipation--as if he expected to see Robinson Crusoe himself walk out
of the pages, and favour us with a personal interview.

"Here's the bit, Mr. Franklin!" he said, as soon as he had recovered
the use of his speech. "As I live by bread, sir, here's the bit I was
reading, the moment before you came in! Page one hundred and fifty-six
as follows:--'I stood like one Thunderstruck, or as if I had seen
an Apparition.' If that isn't as much as to say: 'Expect the sudden
appearance of Mr. Franklin Blake'--there's no meaning in the English
language!" said Betteredge, closing the book with a bang, and getting
one of his hands free at last to take the hand which I offered him.

I had expected him, naturally enough under the circumstances, to
overwhelm me with questions. But no--the hospitable impulse was the
uppermost impulse in the old servant's mind, when a member of the family
appeared (no matter how!) as a visitor at the house.

"Walk in, Mr. Franklin," he said, opening the door behind him, with his
quaint old-fashioned bow. "I'll ask what brings you here afterwards--I
must make you comfortable first. There have been sad changes, since you
went away. The house is shut up, and the servants are gone. Never mind
that! I'll cook your dinner; and the gardener's wife will make your
bed--and if there's a bottle of our famous Latour claret left in the
cellar, down your throat, Mr. Franklin, that bottle shall go. I bid you
welcome, sir! I bid you heartily welcome!" said the poor old fellow,
fighting manfully against the gloom of the deserted house, and receiving
me with the sociable and courteous attention of the bygone time.

It vexed me to disappoint him. But the house was Rachel's house, now.
Could I eat in it, or sleep in it, after what had happened in London?
The commonest sense of self-respect forbade me--properly forbade me--to
cross the threshold.

I took Betteredge by the arm, and led him out into the garden. There
was no help for it. I was obliged to tell him the truth. Between his
attachment to Rachel, and his attachment to me, he was sorely puzzled
and distressed at the turn things had taken. His opinion, when he
expressed it, was given in his usual downright manner, and was agreeably
redolent of the most positive philosophy I know--the philosophy of the
Betteredge school.

"Miss Rachel has her faults--I've never denied it," he began. "And
riding the high horse, now and then, is one of them. She has been trying
to ride over you--and you have put up with it. Lord, Mr. Franklin, don't
you know women by this time better than that? You have heard me talk of
the late Mrs. Betteredge?"

I had heard him talk of the late Mrs. Betteredge pretty
often--invariably producing her as his one undeniable example of the
inbred frailty and perversity of the other sex. In that capacity he
exhibited her now.

"Very well, Mr. Franklin. Now listen to me. Different women have
different ways of riding the high horse. The late Mrs. Betteredge took
her exercise on that favourite female animal whenever I happened to deny
her anything that she had set her heart on. So sure as I came home from
my work on these occasions, so sure was my wife to call to me up the
kitchen stairs, and to say that, after my brutal treatment of her,
she hadn't the heart to cook me my dinner. I put up with it for some
time--just as you are putting up with it now from Miss Rachel. At
last my patience wore out. I went downstairs, and I took Mrs.
Betteredge--affectionately, you understand--up in my arms, and carried
her, holus-bolus, into the best parlour where she received her company.
I said 'That's the right place for you, my dear,' and so went back to
the kitchen. I locked myself in, and took off my coat, and turned up my
shirt-sleeves, and cooked my own dinner. When it was done, I served it
up in my best manner, and enjoyed it most heartily. I had my pipe and
my drop of grog afterwards; and then I cleared the table, and washed the
crockery, and cleaned the knives and forks, and put the things away,
and swept up the hearth. When things were as bright and clean again, as
bright and clean could be, I opened the door and let Mrs. Betteredge in.
'I've had my dinner, my dear,' I said; 'and I hope you will find that I
have left the kitchen all that your fondest wishes can desire.' For the
rest of that woman's life, Mr. Franklin, I never had to cook my dinner
again! Moral: You have put up with Miss Rachel in London; don't put up
with her in Yorkshire. Come back to the house!"

Quite unanswerable! I could only assure my good friend that even HIS
powers of persuasion were, in this case, thrown away on me.

"It's a lovely evening," I said. "I shall walk to Frizinghall, and stay
at the hotel, and you must come to-morrow morning and breakfast with me.
I have something to say to you."

Betteredge shook his head gravely.

"I am heartily sorry for this," he said. "I had hoped, Mr. Franklin, to
hear that things were all smooth and pleasant again between you and
Miss Rachel. If you must have your own way, sir," he continued, after a
moment's reflection, "there is no need to go to Frizinghall to-night
for a bed. It's to be had nearer than that. There's Hotherstone's
Farm, barely two miles from here. You can hardly object to THAT on Miss
Rachel's account," the old man added slily. "Hotherstone lives, Mr.
Franklin, on his own freehold."

I remembered the place the moment Betteredge mentioned it. The
farm-house stood in a sheltered inland valley, on the banks of the
prettiest stream in that part of Yorkshire: and the farmer had a spare
bedroom and parlour, which he was accustomed to let to artists, anglers,
and tourists in general. A more agreeable place of abode, during my stay
in the neighbourhood, I could not have wished to find.

"Are the rooms to let?" I inquired.

"Mrs. Hotherstone herself, sir, asked for my good word to recommend the
rooms, yesterday."

"I'll take them, Betteredge, with the greatest pleasure."

We went back to the yard, in which I had left my travelling-bag. After
putting a stick through the handle, and swinging the bag over his
shoulder, Betteredge appeared to relapse into the bewilderment which my
sudden appearance had caused, when I surprised him in the beehive chair.
He looked incredulously at the house, and then he wheeled about, and
looked more incredulously still at me.

"I've lived a goodish long time in the world," said this best and
dearest of all old servants--"but the like of this, I never did expect
to see. There stands the house, and here stands Mr. Franklin Blake--and,
Damme, if one of them isn't turning his back on the other, and going to
sleep in a lodging!"

He led the way out, wagging his head and growling ominously. "There's
only one more miracle that CAN happen," he said to me, over his
shoulder. "The next thing you'll do, Mr. Franklin, will be to pay me
back that seven-and-sixpence you borrowed of me when you were a boy."

This stroke of sarcasm put him in a better humour with himself and with
me. We left the house, and passed through the lodge gates. Once clear of
the grounds, the duties of hospitality (in Betteredge's code of morals)
ceased, and the privileges of curiosity began.

He dropped back, so as to let me get on a level with him. "Fine evening
for a walk, Mr. Franklin," he said, as if we had just accidentally
encountered each other at that moment. "Supposing you had gone to the
hotel at Frizinghall, sir?"

"Yes?"

"I should have had the honour of breakfasting with you, to-morrow
morning."

"Come and breakfast with me at Hotherstone's Farm, instead."

"Much obliged to you for your kindness, Mr. Franklin. But it wasn't
exactly breakfast that I was driving at. I think you mentioned that you
had something to say to me? If it's no secret, sir," said Betteredge,
suddenly abandoning the crooked way, and taking the straight one, "I'm
burning to know what's brought you down here, if you please, in this
sudden way."

"What brought me here before?" I asked.

"The Moonstone, Mr. Franklin. But what brings you now, sir?"

"The Moonstone again, Betteredge."

The old man suddenly stood still, and looked at me in the grey twilight
as if he suspected his own ears of deceiving him.

"If that's a joke, sir," he said, "I'm afraid I'm getting a little dull
in my old age. I don't take it."

"It's no joke," I answered. "I have come here to take up the inquiry
which was dropped when I left England. I have come here to do what
nobody has done yet--to find out who took the Diamond."

"Let the Diamond be, Mr. Franklin! Take my advice, and let the Diamond
be! That cursed Indian jewel has misguided everybody who has come near
it. Don't waste your money and your temper--in the fine spring time
of your life, sir--by meddling with the Moonstone. How can YOU hope to
succeed (saving your presence), when Sergeant Cuff himself made a mess
of it? Sergeant Cuff!" repeated Betteredge, shaking his forefinger at me
sternly. "The greatest policeman in England!"

"My mind is made up, my old friend. Even Sergeant Cuff doesn't daunt me.
By-the-bye, I may want to speak to him, sooner or later. Have you heard
anything of him lately?"

"The Sergeant won't help you, Mr. Franklin."

"Why not?"

"There has been an event, sir, in the police-circles, since you went
away. The great Cuff has retired from business. He has got a little
cottage at Dorking; and he's up to his eyes in the growing of roses.
I have it in his own handwriting, Mr. Franklin. He has grown the white
moss rose, without budding it on the dog-rose first. And Mr. Begbie the
gardener is to go to Dorking, and own that the Sergeant has beaten him
at last."

"It doesn't much matter," I said. "I must do without Sergeant Cuff's
help. And I must trust to you, at starting."

It is likely enough that I spoke rather carelessly.

At any rate, Betteredge seemed to be piqued by something in the reply
which I had just made to him. "You might trust to worse than me, Mr.
Franklin--I can tell you that," he said a little sharply.

The tone in which he retorted, and a certain disturbance, after he had
spoken, which I detected in his manner, suggested to me that he was
possessed of some information which he hesitated to communicate.

"I expect you to help me," I said, "in picking up the fragments of
evidence which Sergeant Cuff has left behind him. I know you can do
that. Can you do no more?"

"What more can you expect from me, sir?" asked Betteredge, with an
appearance of the utmost humility.

"I expect more--from what you said just now."

"Mere boasting, Mr. Franklin," returned the old man obstinately. "Some
people are born boasters, and they never get over it to their dying day.
I'm one of them."

There was only one way to take with him. I appealed to his interest in
Rachel, and his interest in me.

"Betteredge, would you be glad to hear that Rachel and I were good
friends again?"

"I have served your family, sir, to mighty little purpose, if you doubt
it!"

"Do you remember how Rachel treated me, before I left England?"

"As well as if it was yesterday! My lady herself wrote you a letter
about it; and you were so good as to show the letter to me. It said that
Miss Rachel was mortally offended with you, for the part you had taken
in trying to recover her jewel. And neither my lady, nor you, nor
anybody else could guess why.

"Quite true, Betteredge! And I come back from my travels, and find her
mortally offended with me still. I knew that the Diamond was at the
bottom of it, last year, and I know that the Diamond is at the bottom of
it now. I have tried to speak to her, and she won't see me. I have tried
to write to her, and she won't answer me. How, in Heaven's name, am I
to clear the matter up? The chance of searching into the loss of the
Moonstone, is the one chance of inquiry that Rachel herself has left
me."

Those words evidently put the case before him, as he had not seen it
yet. He asked a question which satisfied me that I had shaken him.

"There is no ill-feeling in this, Mr. Franklin, on your side--is there?"

"There was some anger," I answered, "when I left London. But that is
all worn out now. I want to make Rachel come to an understanding with
me--and I want nothing more."

"You don't feel any fear, sir--supposing you make any discoveries--in
regard to what you may find out about Miss Rachel?"

I understood the jealous belief in his young mistress which prompted
those words.

"I am as certain of her as you are," I answered. "The fullest disclosure
of her secret will reveal nothing that can alter her place in your
estimation, or in mine."

Betteredge's last-left scruples vanished at that.

"If I am doing wrong to help you, Mr. Franklin," he exclaimed, "all I
can say is--I am as innocent of seeing it as the babe unborn! I can put
you on the road to discovery, if you can only go on by yourself. You
remember that poor girl of ours--Rosanna Spearman?"

"Of course!"

"You always thought she had some sort of confession in regard to this
matter of the Moonstone, which she wanted to make to you?"

"I certainly couldn't account for her strange conduct in any other way."

"You may set that doubt at rest, Mr. Franklin, whenever you please."

It was my turn to come to a standstill now. I tried vainly, in the
gathering darkness, to see his face. In the surprise of the moment, I
asked a little impatiently what he meant.

"Steady, sir!" proceeded Betteredge. "I mean what I say. Rosanna
Spearman left a sealed letter behind her--a letter addressed to YOU."

"Where is it?"

"In the possession of a friend of hers, at Cobb's Hole. You must have
heard tell, when you were here last, sir, of Limping Lucy--a lame girl
with a crutch."

"The fisherman's daughter?"

"The same, Mr. Franklin."

"Why wasn't the letter forwarded to me?"

"Limping Lucy has a will of her own, sir. She wouldn't give it into any
hands but yours. And you had left England before I could write to you."

"Let's go back, Betteredge, and get it at once!"

"Too late, sir, to-night. They're great savers of candles along our
coast; and they go to bed early at Cobb's Hole."

"Nonsense! We might get there in half an hour."

"You might, sir. And when you did get there, you would find the door
locked. He pointed to a light, glimmering below us; and, at the same
moment, I heard through the stillness of the evening the bubbling of a
stream. 'There's the Farm, Mr. Franklin! Make yourself comfortable for
to-night, and come to me to-morrow morning if you'll be so kind?'"

"You will go with me to the fisherman's cottage?"

"Yes, sir."

"Early?"

"As early, Mr. Franklin, as you like."

We descended the path that led to the Farm.



CHAPTER III


I have only the most indistinct recollection of what happened at
Hotherstone's Farm.

I remember a hearty welcome; a prodigious supper, which would have fed a
whole village in the East; a delightfully clean bedroom, with nothing
in it to regret but that detestable product of the folly of our
fore-fathers--a feather-bed; a restless night, with much kindling
of matches, and many lightings of one little candle; and an immense
sensation of relief when the sun rose, and there was a prospect of
getting up.

It had been arranged over-night with Betteredge, that I was to call for
him, on our way to Cobb's Hole, as early as I liked--which, interpreted
by my impatience to get possession of the letter, meant as early as
I could. Without waiting for breakfast at the Farm, I took a crust of
bread in my hand, and set forth, in some doubt whether I should not
surprise the excellent Betteredge in his bed. To my great relief he
proved to be quite as excited about the coming event as I was. I found
him ready, and waiting for me, with his stick in his hand.

"How are you this morning, Betteredge?"

"Very poorly, sir."

"Sorry to hear it. What do you complain of?"

"I complain of a new disease, Mr. Franklin, of my own inventing. I don't
want to alarm you, but you're certain to catch it before the morning is
out."

"The devil I am!"

"Do you feel an uncomfortable heat at the pit of your stomach, sir? and
a nasty thumping at the top of your head? Ah! not yet? It will lay hold
of you at Cobb's Hole, Mr. Franklin. I call it the detective-fever; and
I first caught it in the company of Sergeant Cuff."

"Aye! aye! and the cure in this instance is to open Rosanna Spearman's
letter, I suppose? Come along, and let's get it."

Early as it was, we found the fisherman's wife astir in her kitchen.
On my presentation by Betteredge, good Mrs. Yolland performed a social
ceremony, strictly reserved (as I afterwards learnt) for strangers of
distinction. She put a bottle of Dutch gin and a couple of clean pipes
on the table, and opened the conversation by saying, "What news from
London, sir?"

Before I could find an answer to this immensely comprehensive question,
an apparition advanced towards me, out of a dark corner of the kitchen.
A wan, wild, haggard girl, with remarkably beautiful hair, and with a
fierce keenness in her eyes, came limping up on a crutch to the table at
which I was sitting, and looked at me as if I was an object of mingled
interest and horror, which it quite fascinated her to see.

"Mr. Betteredge," she said, without taking her eyes off me, "mention his
name again, if you please."

"This gentleman's name," answered Betteredge (with a strong emphasis on
GENTLEMAN), "is Mr. Franklin Blake."

The girl turned her back on me, and suddenly left the room. Good Mrs.
Yolland--as I believe--made some apologies for her daughter's odd
behaviour, and Betteredge (probably) translated them into polite
English. I speak of this in complete uncertainty. My attention was
absorbed in following the sound of the girl's crutch. Thump-thump,
up the wooden stairs; thump-thump across the room above our heads;
thump-thump down the stairs again--and there stood the apparition at the
open door, with a letter in its hand, beckoning me out!

I left more apologies in course of delivery behind me, and followed
this strange creature--limping on before me, faster and faster--down
the slope of the beach. She led me behind some boats, out of sight and
hearing of the few people in the fishing-village, and then stopped, and
faced me for the first time.

"Stand there," she said, "I want to look at you."

There was no mistaking the expression on her face. I inspired her with
the strongest emotions of abhorrence and disgust. Let me not be vain
enough to say that no woman had ever looked at me in this manner before.
I will only venture on the more modest assertion that no woman had ever
let me perceive it yet. There is a limit to the length of the inspection
which a man can endure, under certain circumstances. I attempted to
direct Limping Lucy's attention to some less revolting object than my
face.

"I think you have got a letter to give me," I began. "Is it the letter
there, in your hand?"

"Say that again," was the only answer I received.

I repeated the words, like a good child learning its lesson.

"No," said the girl, speaking to herself, but keeping her eyes still
mercilessly fixed on me. "I can't find out what she saw in his face. I
can't guess what she heard in his voice." She suddenly looked away from
me, and rested her head wearily on the top of her crutch. "Oh, my poor
dear!" she said, in the first soft tones which had fallen from her, in
my hearing. "Oh, my lost darling! what could you see in this man?" She
lifted her head again fiercely, and looked at me once more. "Can you eat
and drink?" she asked.

I did my best to preserve my gravity, and answered, "Yes."

"Can you sleep?"

"Yes."

"When you see a poor girl in service, do you feel no remorse?"

"Certainly not. Why should I?"

She abruptly thrust the letter (as the phrase is) into my face.

"Take it!" she exclaimed furiously. "I never set eyes on you before. God
Almighty forbid I should ever set eyes on you again."

With those parting words she limped away from me at the top of her
speed. The one interpretation that I could put on her conduct has, no
doubt, been anticipated by everybody. I could only suppose that she was
mad.

Having reached that inevitable conclusion, I turned to the more
interesting object of investigation which was presented to me by Rosanna
Spearman's letter. The address was written as follows:--"For Franklin
Blake, Esq. To be given into his own hands (and not to be trusted to any
one else), by Lucy Yolland."

I broke the seal. The envelope contained a letter: and this, in its
turn, contained a slip of paper. I read the letter first:--

"Sir,--If you are curious to know the meaning of my behaviour to you,
whilst you were staying in the house of my mistress, Lady Verinder, do
what you are told to do in the memorandum enclosed with this--and do it
without any person being present to overlook you. Your humble servant,

"ROSANNA SPEARMAN."

I turned to the slip of paper next. Here is the literal copy of it, word
for word:

"Memorandum:--To go to the Shivering Sand at the turn of the tide. To
walk out on the South Spit, until I get the South Spit Beacon, and
the flagstaff at the Coast-guard station above Cobb's Hole in a line
together. To lay down on the rocks, a stick, or any straight thing to
guide my hand, exactly in the line of the beacon and the flagstaff. To
take care, in doing this, that one end of the stick shall be at the edge
of the rocks, on the side of them which overlooks the quicksand. To feel
along the stick, among the sea-weed (beginning from the end of the stick
which points towards the beacon), for the Chain. To run my hand along
the Chain, when found, until I come to the part of it which stretches
over the edge of the rocks, down into the quicksand. AND THEN TO PULL
THE CHAIN."

Just as I had read the last words--underlined in the original--I heard
the voice of Betteredge behind me. The inventor of the detective-fever
had completely succumbed to that irresistible malady. "I can't stand it
any longer, Mr. Franklin. What does her letter say? For mercy's sake,
sir, tell us, what does her letter say?"

I handed him the letter, and the memorandum. He read the first
without appearing to be much interested in it. But the second--the
memorandum--produced a strong impression on him.

"The Sergeant said it!" cried Betteredge. "From first to last, sir, the
Sergeant said she had got a memorandum of the hiding-place. And here
it is! Lord save us, Mr. Franklin, here is the secret that puzzled
everybody, from the great Cuff downwards, ready and waiting, as one may
say, to show itself to YOU! It's the ebb now, sir, as anybody may see
for themselves. How long will it be till the turn of the tide?" He
looked up, and observed a lad at work, at some little distance from us,
mending a net. "Tammie Bright!" he shouted at the top of his voice.

"I hear you!" Tammie shouted back.

"When's the turn of the tide?"

"In an hour's time."

We both looked at our watches.

"We can go round by the coast, Mr. Franklin," said Betteredge; "and get
to the quicksand in that way with plenty of time to spare. What do you
say, sir?"

"Come along!"

On our way to the Shivering Sand, I applied to Betteredge to revive
my memory of events (as affecting Rosanna Spearman) at the period of
Sergeant Cuff's inquiry. With my old friend's help, I soon had the
succession of circumstances clearly registered in my mind. Rosanna's
journey to Frizinghall, when the whole household believed her to be ill
in her own room--Rosanna's mysterious employment of the night-time with
her door locked, and her candle burning till the morning--Rosanna's
suspicious purchase of the japanned tin case, and the two dog's chains
from Mrs. Yolland--the Sergeant's positive conviction that Rosanna had
hidden something at the Shivering Sand, and the Sergeant's absolute
ignorance as to what that something might be--all these strange results
of the abortive inquiry into the loss of the Moonstone were clearly
present to me again, when we reached the quicksand, and walked out
together on the low ledge of rocks called the South Spit.

With Betteredge's help, I soon stood in the right position to see the
Beacon and the Coast-guard flagstaff in a line together. Following
the memorandum as our guide, we next laid my stick in the necessary
direction, as neatly as we could, on the uneven surface of the rocks.
And then we looked at our watches once more.

It wanted nearly twenty minutes yet of the turn of the tide. I suggested
waiting through this interval on the beach, instead of on the wet and
slippery surface of the rocks. Having reached the dry sand, I prepared
to sit down; and, greatly to my surprise, Betteredge prepared to leave
me.

"What are you going away for?" I asked.

"Look at the letter again, sir, and you will see."

A glance at the letter reminded me that I was charged, when I made my
discovery, to make it alone.

"It's hard enough for me to leave you, at such a time as this," said
Betteredge. "But she died a dreadful death, poor soul--and I feel a kind
of call on me, Mr. Franklin, to humour that fancy of hers. Besides,"
he added, confidentially, "there's nothing in the letter against
your letting out the secret afterwards. I'll hang about in the fir
plantation, and wait till you pick me up. Don't be longer than you can
help, sir. The detective-fever isn't an easy disease to deal with, under
THESE circumstances."

With that parting caution, he left me.

The interval of expectation, short as it was when reckoned by the
measure of time, assumed formidable proportions when reckoned by
the measure of suspense. This was one of the occasions on which the
invaluable habit of smoking becomes especially precious and consolatory.
I lit a cigar, and sat down on the slope of the beach.

The sunlight poured its unclouded beauty on every object that I could
see. The exquisite freshness of the air made the mere act of living and
breathing a luxury. Even the lonely little bay welcomed the morning
with a show of cheerfulness; and the bared wet surface of the quicksand
itself, glittering with a golden brightness, hid the horror of its false
brown face under a passing smile. It was the finest day I had seen since
my return to England.

The turn of the tide came, before my cigar was finished. I saw the
preliminary heaving of the Sand, and then the awful shiver that crept
over its surface--as if some spirit of terror lived and moved and
shuddered in the fathomless deeps beneath. I threw away my cigar, and
went back again to the rocks.

My directions in the memorandum instructed me to feel along the line
traced by the stick, beginning with the end which was nearest to the
beacon.

I advanced, in this manner, more than half way along the stick, without
encountering anything but the edges of the rocks. An inch or two further
on, however, my patience was rewarded. In a narrow little fissure, just
within reach of my forefinger, I felt the chain. Attempting, next,
to follow it, by touch, in the direction of the quicksand, I found my
progress stopped by a thick growth of seaweed--which had fastened itself
into the fissure, no doubt, in the time that had elapsed since Rosanna
Spearman had chosen her hiding-place.

It was equally impossible to pull up the seaweed, or to force my hand
through it. After marking the spot indicated by the end of the stick
which was placed nearest to the quicksand, I determined to pursue
the search for the chain on a plan of my own. My idea was to "sound"
immediately under the rocks, on the chance of recovering the lost trace
of the chain at the point at which it entered the sand. I took up the
stick, and knelt down on the brink of the South Spit.

In this position, my face was within a few feet of the surface of the
quicksand. The sight of it so near me, still disturbed at intervals by
its hideous shivering fit, shook my nerves for the moment. A horrible
fancy that the dead woman might appear on the scene of her suicide, to
assist my search--an unutterable dread of seeing her rise through the
heaving surface of the sand, and point to the place--forced itself into
my mind, and turned me cold in the warm sunlight. I own I closed my eyes
at the moment when the point of the stick first entered the quicksand.

The instant afterwards, before the stick could have been submerged more
than a few inches, I was free from the hold of my own superstitious
terror, and was throbbing with excitement from head to foot. Sounding
blindfold, at my first attempt--at that first attempt I had sounded
right! The stick struck the chain.

Taking a firm hold of the roots of the seaweed with my left hand, I
laid myself down over the brink, and felt with my right hand under the
overhanging edges of the rock. My right hand found the chain.

I drew it up without the slightest difficulty. And there was the
japanned tin case fastened to the end of it.

The action of the water had so rusted the chain, that it was impossible
for me to unfasten it from the hasp which attached it to the case.
Putting the case between my knees and exerting my utmost strength, I
contrived to draw off the cover. Some white substance filled the whole
interior when I looked in. I put in my hand, and found it to be linen.

In drawing out the linen, I also drew out a letter crumpled up with it.
After looking at the direction, and discovering that it bore my name, I
put the letter in my pocket, and completely removed the linen. It came
out in a thick roll, moulded, of course, to the shape of the case in
which it had been so long confined, and perfectly preserved from any
injury by the sea.

I carried the linen to the dry sand of the beach, and there unrolled and
smoothed it out. There was no mistaking it as an article of dress. It
was a nightgown.

The uppermost side, when I spread it out, presented to view innumerable
folds and creases, and nothing more. I tried the undermost side,
next--and instantly discovered the smear of the paint from the door of
Rachel's boudoir!

My eyes remained riveted on the stain, and my mind took me back at a
leap from present to past. The very words of Sergeant Cuff recurred
to me, as if the man himself was at my side again, pointing to the
unanswerable inference which he drew from the smear on the door.

"Find out whether there is any article of dress in this house with the
stain of paint on it. Find out who that dress belongs to. Find out how
the person can account for having been in the 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 took the
Diamond."

One after another those words travelled over my memory, repeating
themselves again and again with a wearisome, mechanical reiteration.
I was roused from what felt like a trance of many hours--from what was
really, no doubt, the pause of a few moments only--by a voice calling
to me. I looked up, and saw that Betteredge's patience had failed him at
last. He was just visible between the sandhills, returning to the beach.

The old man's appearance recalled me, the moment I perceived it, to my
sense of present things, and reminded me that the inquiry which I had
pursued thus far still remained incomplete. I had discovered the smear
on the nightgown. To whom did the nightgown belong?

My first impulse was to consult the letter in my pocket--the letter
which I had found in the case.

As I raised my hand to take it out, I remembered that there was a
shorter way to discovery than this. The nightgown itself would reveal
the truth, for, in all probability, the nightgown was marked with its
owner's name.

I took it up from the sand, and looked for the mark.

I found the mark, and read--MY OWN NAME.

There were the familiar letters which told me that the nightgown
was mine. I looked up from them. There was the sun; there were the
glittering waters of the bay; there was old Betteredge, advancing nearer
and nearer to me. I looked back again at the letters. My own name.
Plainly confronting me--my own name.

"If time, pains, and money can do it, I will lay my hand on the thief
who took the Moonstone."--I had left London, with those words on my
lips. I had penetrated the secret which the quicksand had kept from
every other living creature. And, on the unanswerable evidence of the
paint-stain, I had discovered Myself as the Thief.



CHAPTER IV


I have not a word to say about my own sensations.

My impression is that the shock inflicted on me completely suspended my
thinking and feeling power. I certainly could not have known what I was
about when Betteredge joined me--for I have it on his authority that I
laughed, when he asked what was the matter, and putting the nightgown
into his hands, told him to read the riddle for himself.

Of what was said between us on the beach, I have not the faintest
recollection. The first place in which I can now see myself again
plainly is the plantation of firs. Betteredge and I are walking back
together to the house; and Betteredge is telling me that I shall be able
to face it, and he will be able to face it, when we have had a glass of
grog.



The scene shifts from the plantation, to Betteredge's little
sitting-room. My resolution not to enter Rachel's house is forgotten.
I feel gratefully the coolness and shadiness and quiet of the room.
I drink the grog (a perfectly new luxury to me, at that time of day),
which my good old friend mixes with icy-cold water from the well. Under
any other circumstances, the drink would simply stupefy me. As things
are, it strings up my nerves. I begin to "face it," as Betteredge has
predicted. And Betteredge, on his side, begins to "face it," too.

The picture which I am now presenting of myself, will, I suspect,
be thought a very strange one, to say the least of it. Placed in a
situation which may, I think, be described as entirely without parallel,
what is the first proceeding to which I resort? Do I seclude myself
from all human society? Do I set my mind to analyse the abominable
impossibility which, nevertheless, confronts me as an undeniable fact?
Do I hurry back to London by the first train to consult the highest
authorities, and to set a searching inquiry on foot immediately? No.
I accept the shelter of a house which I had resolved never to degrade
myself by entering again; and I sit, tippling spirits and water in the
company of an old servant, at ten o'clock in the morning. Is this the
conduct that might have been expected from a man placed in my horrible
position? I can only answer that the sight of old Betteredge's familiar
face was an inexpressible comfort to me, and that the drinking of old
Betteredge's grog helped me, as I believe nothing else would have helped
me, in the state of complete bodily and mental prostration into which
I had fallen. I can only offer this excuse for myself; and I can only
admire that invariable preservation of dignity, and that strictly
logical consistency of conduct which distinguish every man and woman who
may read these lines, in every emergency of their lives from the cradle
to the grave.

"Now, Mr. Franklin, there's one thing certain, at any rate," said
Betteredge, throwing the nightgown down on the table between us, and
pointing to it as if it was a living creature that could hear him. "HE'S
a liar, to begin with."

This comforting view of the matter was not the view that presented
itself to my mind.

"I am as innocent of all knowledge of having taken the Diamond as you
are," I said. "But there is the witness against me! The paint on the
nightgown, and the name on the nightgown are facts."

Betteredge lifted my glass, and put it persuasively into my hand.

"Facts?" he repeated. "Take a drop more grog, Mr. Franklin, and you'll
get over the weakness of believing in facts! Foul play, sir!" he
continued, dropping his voice confidentially. "That is how I read the
riddle. Foul play somewhere--and you and I must find it out. Was there
nothing else in the tin case, when you put your hand into it?"

The question instantly reminded me of the letter in my pocket. I took
it out, and opened it. It was a letter of many pages, closely written. I
looked impatiently for the signature at the end. "Rosanna Spearman."

As I read the name, a sudden remembrance illuminated my mind, and a
sudden suspicion rose out of the new light.

"Stop!" I exclaimed. "Rosanna Spearman came to my aunt out of a
reformatory? Rosanna Spearman had once been a thief?"

"There's no denying that, Mr. Franklin. What of it now, if you please?"

"What of it now? How do we know she may not have stolen the Diamond
after all? How do we know she may not have smeared my nightgown
purposely with the paint?"

Betteredge laid his hand on my arm, and stopped me before I could say
any more.

"You will be cleared of this, Mr. Franklin, beyond all doubt. But I
hope you won't be cleared in THAT way. See what the letter says, sir. In
justice to the girl's memory, see what it says."

I felt the earnestness with which he spoke--felt it as a friendly rebuke
to me. "You shall form your own judgment on her letter," I said. "I will
read it out."

I began--and read these lines:

"Sir--I have something to own to you. A confession which means much
misery, may sometimes be made in very few words. This confession can be
made in three words. I love you."

The letter dropped from my hand. I looked at Betteredge. "In the name of
Heaven," I said, "what does it mean?"

He seemed to shrink from answering the question.

"You and Limping Lucy were alone together this morning, sir," he said.
"Did she say nothing about Rosanna Spearman?"

"She never even mentioned Rosanna Spearman's name."

"Please to go back to the letter, Mr. Franklin. I tell you plainly, I
can't find it in my heart to distress you, after what you have had to
bear already. Let her speak for herself, sir. And get on with your grog.
For your own sake, get on with your grog."

I resumed the reading of the letter.

"It would be very disgraceful to me to tell you this, if I was a living
woman when you read it. I shall be dead and gone, sir, when you find my
letter. It is that which makes me bold. Not even my grave will be left
to tell of me. I may own the truth--with the quicksand waiting to hide
me when the words are written.

"Besides, you will find your nightgown in my hiding-place, with the
smear of the paint on it; and you will want to know how it came to be
hidden by me? and why I said nothing to you about it in my life-time?
I have only one reason to give. I did these strange things, because I
loved you.

"I won't trouble you with much about myself, or my life, before you came
to my lady's house. Lady Verinder took me out of a reformatory. I
had gone to the reformatory from the prison. I was put in the prison,
because I was a thief. I was a thief, because my mother went on the
streets when I was quite a little girl. My mother went on the streets,
because the gentleman who was my father deserted her. There is no need
to tell such a common story as this, at any length. It is told quite
often enough in the newspapers.

"Lady Verinder was very kind to me, and Mr. Betteredge was very kind
to me. Those two, and the matron at the reformatory, are the only good
people I have ever met with in all my life. I might have got on in
my place--not happily--but I might have got on, if you had not come
visiting. I don't blame you, sir. It's my fault--all my fault.

"Do you remember when you came out on us from among the sand hills,
that morning, looking for Mr. Betteredge? You were like a prince in
a fairy-story. You were like a lover in a dream. You were the most
adorable human creature I had ever seen. Something that felt like the
happy life I had never led yet, leapt up in me at the instant I set eyes
on you. Don't laugh at this if you can help it. Oh, if I could only make
you feel how serious it is to ME!

"I went back to the house, and wrote your name and mine in my work-box,
and drew a true lovers' knot under them. Then, some devil--no, I ought
to say some good angel--whispered to me, 'Go and look in the glass.' The
glass told me--never mind what. I was too foolish to take the warning.
I went on getting fonder and fonder of you, just as if I was a lady in
your own rank of life, and the most beautiful creature your eyes ever
rested on. I tried--oh, dear, how I tried--to get you to look at me.
If you had known how I used to cry at night with the misery and the
mortification of your never taking any notice of me, you would have
pitied me perhaps, and have given me a look now and then to live on.

"It would have been no very kind look, perhaps, if you had known how
I hated Miss Rachel. I believe I found out you were in love with her,
before you knew it yourself. She used to give you roses to wear in your
button-hole. Ah, Mr. Franklin, you wore my roses oftener than either you
or she thought! The only comfort I had at that time, was putting my rose
secretly in your glass of water, in place of hers--and then throwing her
rose away.

"If she had been really as pretty as you thought her, I might have borne
it better. No; I believe I should have been more spiteful against her
still. Suppose you put Miss Rachel into a servant's dress, and took her
ornaments off? I don't know what is the use of my writing in this way.
It can't be denied that she had a bad figure; she was too thin. But
who can tell what the men like? And young ladies may behave in a manner
which would cost a servant her place. It's no business of mine. I can't
expect you to read my letter, if I write it in this way. But it does
stir one up to hear Miss Rachel called pretty, when one knows all the
time that it's her dress does it, and her confidence in herself.

"Try not to lose patience with me, sir. I will get on as fast as I can
to the time which is sure to interest you--the time when the Diamond was
lost.

"But there is one thing which I have got it on my mind to tell you
first.

"My life was not a very hard life to bear, while I was a thief. It
was only when they had taught me at the reformatory to feel my own
degradation, and to try for better things, that the days grew long and
weary. Thoughts of the future forced themselves on me now. I felt
the dreadful reproach that honest people--even the kindest of honest
people--were to me in themselves. A heart-breaking sensation of
loneliness kept with me, go where I might, and do what I might, and see
what persons I might. It was my duty, I know, to try and get on with my
fellow-servants in my new place. Somehow, I couldn't make friends with
them. They looked (or I thought they looked) as if they suspected what
I had been. I don't regret, far from it, having been roused to make the
effort to be a reformed woman--but, indeed, indeed it was a weary life.
You had come across it like a beam of sunshine at first--and then you
too failed me. I was mad enough to love you; and I couldn't even attract
your notice. There was great misery--there really was great misery in
that.

"Now I am coming to what I wanted to tell you. In those days of
bitterness, I went two or three times, when it was my turn to go out,
to my favourite place--the beach above the Shivering Sand. And I said to
myself, 'I think it will end here. When I can bear it no longer, I think
it will end here.' You will understand, sir, that the place had laid
a kind of spell on me before you came. I had always had a notion that
something would happen to me at the quicksand. But I had never looked
at it, with the thought of its being the means of my making away with
myself, till the time came of which I am now writing. Then I did think
that here was a place which would end all my troubles for me in a moment
or two--and hide me for ever afterwards.

"This is all I have to say about myself, reckoning from the morning when
I first saw you, to the morning when the alarm was raised in the house
that the Diamond was lost.

"I was so aggravated by the foolish talk among the women servants, all
wondering who was to be suspected first; and I was so angry with you
(knowing no better at that time) for the pains you took in hunting for
the jewel, and sending for the police, that I kept as much as
possible away by myself, until later in the day, when the officer from
Frizinghall came to the house.

"Mr. Seegrave began, as you may remember, by setting a guard on the
women's bedrooms; and the women all followed him up-stairs in a rage,
to know what he meant by the insult he had put on them. I went with
the rest, because if I had done anything different from the rest, Mr.
Seegrave was the sort of man who would have suspected me directly. We
found him in Miss Rachel's room. He told us he wouldn't have a lot of
women there; and he pointed to the smear on the painted door, and
said some of our petticoats had done the mischief, and sent us all
down-stairs again.

"After leaving Miss Rachel's room, I stopped a moment on one of the
landings, by myself, to see if I had got the paint-stain by any chance
on MY gown. Penelope Betteredge (the only one of the women with whom I
was on friendly terms) passed, and noticed what I was about.

"'You needn't trouble yourself, Rosanna,' she said. 'The paint on Miss
Rachel's door has been dry for hours. If Mr. Seegrave hadn't set a watch
on our bedrooms, I might have told him as much. I don't know what you
think--I was never so insulted before in my life!'

"Penelope was a hot-tempered girl. I quieted her, and brought her back
to what she had said about the paint on the door having been dry for
hours.

"'How do you know that?' I asked.

"'I was with Miss Rachel, and Mr. Franklin, all yesterday morning,'
Penelope said, 'mixing the colours, while they finished the door. I
heard Miss Rachel ask whether the door would be dry that evening, in
time for the birthday company to see it. And Mr. Franklin shook his
head, and said it wouldn't be dry in less than twelve hours. It was long
past luncheon-time--it was three o'clock before they had done. What does
your arithmetic say, Rosanna? Mine says the door was dry by three this
morning.'

"'Did some of the ladies go up-stairs yesterday evening to see it?' I
asked. 'I thought I heard Miss Rachel warning them to keep clear of the
door.'

"'None of the ladies made the smear,' Penelope answered. 'I left Miss
Rachel in bed at twelve last night. And I noticed the door, and there
was nothing wrong with it then.'

"'Oughtn't you to mention this to Mr. Seegrave, Penelope?'

"'I wouldn't say a word to help Mr. Seegrave for anything that could be
offered to me!'

"She went to her work, and I went to mine."

"My work, sir, was to make your bed, and to put your room tidy. It was
the happiest hour I had in the whole day. I used to kiss the pillow on
which your head had rested all night. No matter who has done it since,
you have never had your clothes folded as nicely as I folded them for
you. Of all the little knick-knacks in your dressing-case, there wasn't
one that had so much as a speck on it. You never noticed it, any more
than you noticed me. I beg your pardon; I am forgetting myself. I will
make haste, and go on again.

"Well, I went in that morning to do my work in your room. There was your
nightgown tossed across the bed, just as you had thrown it off. I took
it up to fold it--and I saw the stain of the paint from Miss Rachel's
door!

"I was so startled by the discovery that I ran out with the nightgown
in my hand, and made for the back stairs, and locked myself into my own
room, to look at it in a place where nobody could intrude and interrupt
me.

"As soon as I got my breath again, I called to mind my talk with
Penelope, and I said to myself, 'Here's the proof that he was in
Miss Rachel's sitting-room between twelve last night, and three this
morning!'

"I shall not tell you in plain words what was the first suspicion that
crossed my mind, when I had made that discovery. You would only be
angry--and, if you were angry, you might tear my letter up and read no
more of it.

"Let it be enough, if you please, to say only this. After thinking it
over to the best of my ability, I made it out that the thing wasn't
likely, for a reason that I will tell you. If you had been in Miss
Rachel's sitting-room, at that time of night, with Miss Rachel's
knowledge (and if you had been foolish enough to forget to take care of
the wet door) SHE would have reminded you--SHE would never have let you
carry away such a witness against her, as the witness I was looking at
now! At the same time, I own I was not completely certain in my own
mind that I had proved my own suspicion to be wrong. You will not have
forgotten that I have owned to hating Miss Rachel. Try to think, if you
can, that there was a little of that hatred in all this. It ended in my
determining to keep the nightgown, and to wait, and watch, and see what
use I might make of it. At that time, please to remember, not the ghost
of an idea entered my head that you had stolen the Diamond."

There, I broke off in the reading of the letter for the second time.

I had read those portions of the miserable woman's confession which
related to myself, with unaffected surprise, and, I can honestly add,
with sincere distress. I had regretted, truly regretted, the aspersion
which I had thoughtlessly cast on her memory, before I had seen a line
of her letter. But when I had advanced as far as the passage which is
quoted above, I own I felt my mind growing bitterer and bitterer against
Rosanna Spearman as I went on. "Read the rest for yourself," I said,
handing the letter to Betteredge across the table. "If there is anything
in it that I must look at, you can tell me as you go on."

"I understand you, Mr. Franklin," he answered. "It's natural, sir, in
YOU. And, God help us all!" he added, in a lower tone, "it's no less
natural in HER."

I proceed to copy the continuation of the letter from the original, in
my own possession:--

"Having determined to keep the nightgown, and to see what use my love,
or my revenge (I hardly know which) could turn it to in the future,
the next thing to discover was how to keep it without the risk of being
found out.

"There was only one way--to make another nightgown exactly like it,
before Saturday came, and brought the laundry-woman and her inventory to
the house.

"I was afraid to put it off till next day (the Friday); being in doubt
lest some accident might happen in the interval. I determined to make
the new nightgown on that same day (the Thursday), while I could count,
if I played my cards properly, on having my time to myself. The first
thing to do (after locking up your nightgown in my drawer) was to go
back to your bed-room--not so much to put it to rights (Penelope would
have done that for me, if I had asked her) as to find out whether you
had smeared off any of the paint-stain from your nightgown, on the bed,
or on any piece of furniture in the room.

"I examined everything narrowly, and at last, I found a few streaks
of the paint on the inside of your dressing-gown--not the linen
dressing-gown you usually wore in that summer season, but a flannel
dressing-gown which you had with you also. I suppose you felt chilly
after walking to and fro in nothing but your nightdress, and put on the
warmest thing you could find. At any rate, there were the stains, just
visible, on the inside of the dressing-gown. I easily got rid of these
by scraping away the stuff of the flannel. This done, the only proof
left against you was the proof locked up in my drawer.

"I had just finished your room when I was sent for to be questioned
by Mr. Seegrave, along with the rest of the servants. Next came the
examination of all our boxes. And then followed the most extraordinary
event of the day--to ME--since I had found the paint on your nightgown.
This event came out of the second questioning of Penelope Betteredge by
Superintendent Seegrave.

"Penelope returned to us quite beside herself with rage at the manner
in which Mr. Seegrave had treated her. He had hinted, beyond the
possibility of mistaking him, that he suspected her of being the thief.
We were all equally astonished at hearing this, and we all asked, Why?

"'Because the Diamond was in Miss Rachel's sitting-room," Penelope
answered. "And because I was the last person in the sitting-room at
night!"

"Almost before the words had left her lips, I remembered that another
person had been in the sitting-room later than Penelope. That person
was yourself. My head whirled round, and my thoughts were in dreadful
confusion. In the midst of it all, something in my mind whispered to me
that the smear on your nightgown might have a meaning entirely different
to the meaning which I had given to it up to that time. 'If the last
person who was in the room is the person to be suspected,' I thought to
myself, 'the thief is not Penelope, but Mr. Franklin Blake!'

"In the case of any other gentleman, I believe I should have been
ashamed of suspecting him of theft, almost as soon as the suspicion had
passed through my mind.

"But the bare thought that YOU had let yourself down to my level, and
that I, in possessing myself of your nightgown, had also possessed
myself of the means of shielding you from being discovered, and
disgraced for life--I say, sir, the bare thought of this seemed to
open such a chance before me of winning your good will, that I passed
blindfold, as one may say, from suspecting to believing. I made up my
mind, on the spot, that you had shown yourself the busiest of anybody
in fetching the police, as a blind to deceive us all; and that the hand
which had taken Miss Rachel's jewel could by no possibility be any other
hand than yours.

"The excitement of this new discovery of mine must, I think, have turned
my head for a while. I felt such a devouring eagerness to see you--to
try you with a word or two about the Diamond, and to MAKE you look at
me, and speak to me, in that way--that I put my hair tidy, and made
myself as nice as I could, and went to you boldly in the library where I
knew you were writing.

"You had left one of your rings up-stairs, which made as good an excuse
for my intrusion as I could have desired. But, oh, sir! if you have ever
loved, you will understand how it was that all my courage cooled, when
I walked into the room, and found myself in your presence. And then, you
looked up at me so coldly, and you thanked me for finding your ring in
such an indifferent manner, that my knees trembled under me, and I felt
as if I should drop on the floor at your feet. When you had thanked me,
you looked back, if you remember, at your writing. I was so mortified at
being treated in this way, that I plucked up spirit enough to speak. I
said, 'This is a strange thing about the Diamond, sir.' And you looked
up again, and said, 'Yes, it is!' You spoke civilly (I can't deny that);
but still you kept a distance--a cruel distance between us. Believing,
as I did, that you had got the lost Diamond hidden about you, while you
were speaking, your coolness so provoked me that I got bold enough, in
the heat of the moment, to give you a hint. I said, 'They will never
find the Diamond, sir, will they? No! nor the person who took it--I'll
answer for that.' I nodded, and smiled at you, as much as to say, 'I
know!' THIS time, you looked up at me with something like interest in
your eyes; and I felt that a few more words on your side and mine might
bring out the truth. Just at that moment, Mr. Betteredge spoilt it all
by coming to the door. I knew his footstep, and I also knew that it was
against his rules for me to be in the library at that time of day--let
alone being there along with you. I had only just time to get out of my
own accord, before he could come in and tell me to go. I was angry and
disappointed; but I was not entirely without hope for all that. The ice,
you see, was broken between us--and I thought I would take care, on the
next occasion, that Mr. Betteredge was out of the way.

"When I got back to the servants' hall, the bell was going for our
dinner. Afternoon already! and the materials for making the new
nightgown were still to be got! There was but one chance of getting
them. I shammed ill at dinner; and so secured the whole of the interval
from then till tea-time to my own use.

"What I was about, while the household believed me to be lying down
in my own room; and how I spent the night, after shamming ill again at
tea-time, and having been sent up to bed, there is no need to tell you.
Sergeant Cuff discovered that much, if he discovered nothing more. And
I can guess how. I was detected (though I kept my veil down) in the
draper's shop at Frizinghall. There was a glass in front of me, at the
counter where I was buying the longcloth; and--in that glass--I saw one
of the shopmen point to my shoulder and whisper to another. At night
again, when I was secretly at work, locked into my room, I heard the
breathing of the women servants who suspected me, outside my door.

"It didn't matter then; it doesn't matter now. On the Friday morning,
hours before Sergeant Cuff entered the house, there was the new
nightgown--to make up your number in place of the nightgown that I had
got--made, wrung out, dried, ironed, marked, and folded as the laundry
woman folded all the others, safe in your drawer. There was no fear (if
the linen in the house was examined) of the newness of the nightgown
betraying me. All your underclothing had been renewed, when you came to
our house--I suppose on your return home from foreign parts.

"The next thing was the arrival of Sergeant Cuff; and the next great
surprise was the announcement of what HE thought about the smear on the
door.

"I had believed you to be guilty (as I have owned), more because I
wanted you to be guilty than for any other reason. And now, the Sergeant
had come round by a totally different way to the same conclusion
(respecting the nightgown) as mine! And I had got the dress that was
the only proof against you! And not a living creature knew it--yourself
included! I am afraid to tell you how I felt when I called these things
to mind--you would hate my memory for ever afterwards."

At that place, Betteredge looked up from the letter.

"Not a glimmer of light so far, Mr. Franklin," said the old man, taking
off his heavy tortoiseshell spectacles, and pushing Rosanna Spearman's
confession a little away from him. "Have you come to any conclusion,
sir, in your own mind, while I have been reading?"

"Finish the letter first, Betteredge; there may be something to
enlighten us at the end of it. I shall have a word or two to say to you
after that."

"Very good, sir. I'll just rest my eyes, and then I'll go on again. In
the meantime, Mr. Franklin--I don't want to hurry you--but would you
mind telling me, in one word, whether you see your way out of this
dreadful mess yet?"

"I see my way back to London," I said, "to consult Mr. Bruff. If he
can't help me----"

"Yes, sir?"

"And if the Sergeant won't leave his retirement at Dorking----"

"He won't, Mr. Franklin!"

"Then, Betteredge--as far as I can see now--I am at the end of my
resources. After Mr. Bruff and the Sergeant, I don't know of a living
creature who can be of the slightest use to me."

As the words passed my lips, some person outside knocked at the door of
the room.

Betteredge looked surprised as well as annoyed by the interruption.

"Come in," he called out, irritably, "whoever you are!"

The door opened, and there entered to us, quietly, the most
remarkable-looking man that I had ever seen. Judging him by his figure
and his movements, he was still young. Judging him by his face, and
comparing him with Betteredge, he looked the elder of the two. His
complexion was of a gipsy darkness; his fleshless cheeks had fallen into
deep hollows, over which the bone projected like a pent-house. His nose
presented the fine shape and modelling so often found among the ancient
people of the East, so seldom visible among the newer races of the
West. His forehead rose high and straight from the brow. His marks and
wrinkles were innumerable. From this strange face, eyes, stranger still,
of the softest brown--eyes dreamy and mournful, and deeply sunk in
their orbits--looked out at you, and (in my case, at least) took
your attention captive at their will. Add to this a quantity of thick
closely-curling hair, which, by some freak of Nature, had lost its
colour in the most startlingly partial and capricious manner. Over the
top of his head it was still of the deep black which was its natural
colour. Round the sides of his head--without the slightest gradation
of grey to break the force of the extraordinary contrast--it had turned
completely white. The line between the two colours preserved no sort
of regularity. At one place, the white hair ran up into the black; at
another, the black hair ran down into the white. I looked at the man
with a curiosity which, I am ashamed to say, I found it quite impossible
to control. His soft brown eyes looked back at me gently; and he met
my involuntary rudeness in staring at him, with an apology which I was
conscious that I had not deserved.

"I beg your pardon," he said. "I had no idea that Mr. Betteredge was
engaged." He took a slip of paper from his pocket, and handed it to
Betteredge. "The list for next week," he said. His eyes just rested on
me again--and he left the room as quietly as he had entered it.

"Who is that?" I asked.

"Mr. Candy's assistant," said Betteredge. "By-the-bye, Mr. Franklin, you
will be sorry to hear that the little doctor has never recovered that
illness he caught, going home from the birthday dinner. He's pretty
well in health; but he lost his memory in the fever, and he has never
recovered more than the wreck of it since. The work all falls on his
assistant. Not much of it now, except among the poor. THEY can't help
themselves, you know. THEY must put up with the man with the piebald
hair, and the gipsy complexion--or they would get no doctoring at all."

"You don't seem to like him, Betteredge?"

"Nobody likes him, sir."

"Why is he so unpopular?"

"Well, Mr. Franklin, his appearance is against him, to begin with.
And then there's a story that Mr. Candy took him with a very doubtful
character. Nobody knows who he is--and he hasn't a friend in the place.
How can you expect one to like him, after that?"

"Quite impossible, of course! May I ask what he wanted with you, when he
gave you that bit of paper?"

"Only to bring me the weekly list of the sick people about here,
sir, who stand in need of a little wine. My lady always had a regular
distribution of good sound port and sherry among the infirm poor; and
Miss Rachel wishes the custom to be kept up. Times have changed! times
have changed! I remember when Mr. Candy himself brought the list to my
mistress. Now it's Mr. Candy's assistant who brings the list to me.
I'll go on with the letter, if you will allow me, sir," said Betteredge,
drawing Rosanna Spearman's confession back to him. "It isn't lively
reading, I grant you. But, there! it keeps me from getting sour with
thinking of the past." He put on his spectacles, and wagged his head
gloomily. "There's a bottom of good sense, Mr. Franklin, in our conduct
to our mothers, when they first start us on the journey of life. We are
all of us more or less unwilling to be brought into the world. And we
are all of us right."

Mr. Candy's assistant had produced too strong an impression on me to
be immediately dismissed from my thoughts. I passed over the last
unanswerable utterance of the Betteredge philosophy; and returned to the
subject of the man with the piebald hair.

"What is his name?" I asked.

"As ugly a name as need be," Betteredge answered gruffly. "Ezra
Jennings."



CHAPTER V


Having told me the name of Mr. Candy's assistant, Betteredge appeared to
think that we had wasted enough of our time on an insignificant subject.
He resumed the perusal of Rosanna Spearman's letter.

On my side, I sat at the window, waiting until he had done. Little
by little, the impression produced on me by Ezra Jennings--it seemed
perfectly unaccountable, in such a situation as mine, that any human
being should have produced an impression on me at all!--faded from my
mind. My thoughts flowed back into their former channel. Once more, I
forced myself to look my own incredible position resolutely in the face.
Once more, I reviewed in my own mind the course which I had at last
summoned composure enough to plan out for the future.

To go back to London that day; to put the whole case before Mr. Bruff;
and, last and most important, to obtain (no matter by what means or at
what sacrifice) a personal interview with Rachel--this was my plan of
action, so far as I was capable of forming it at the time. There was
more than an hour still to spare before the train started. And there was
the bare chance that Betteredge might discover something in the unread
portion of Rosanna Spearman's letter, which it might be useful for me
to know before I left the house in which the Diamond had been lost. For
that chance I was now waiting.

The letter ended in these terms:

"You have no need to be angry, Mr. Franklin, even if I did feel some
little triumph at knowing that I held all your prospects in life in
my own hands. Anxieties and fears soon came back to me. With the view
Sergeant Cuff took of the loss of the Diamond, he would be sure to
end in examining our linen and our dresses. There was no place in my
room--there was no place in the house--which I could feel satisfied
would be safe from him. How to hide the nightgown so that not even the
Sergeant could find it? and how to do that without losing one moment
of precious time?--these were not easy questions to answer. My
uncertainties ended in my taking a way that may make you laugh. I
undressed, and put the nightgown on me. You had worn it--and I had
another little moment of pleasure in wearing it after you.

"The next news that reached us in the servants' hall showed that I had
not made sure of the nightgown a moment too soon. Sergeant Cuff wanted
to see the washing-book.

"I found it, and took it to him in my lady's sitting-room. The Sergeant
and I had come across each other more than once in former days. I was
certain he would know me again--and I was NOT certain of what he might
do when he found me employed as servant in a house in which a valuable
jewel had been lost. In this suspense, I felt it would be a relief to me
to get the meeting between us over, and to know the worst of it at once.

"He looked at me as if I was a stranger, when I handed him the
washing-book; and he was very specially polite in thanking me for
bringing it. I thought those were both bad signs. There was no knowing
what he might say of me behind my back; there was no knowing how soon
I might not find myself taken in custody on suspicion, and searched. It
was then time for your return from seeing Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite off by
the railway; and I went to your favourite walk in the shrubbery, to try
for another chance of speaking to you--the last chance, for all I knew
to the contrary, that I might have.

"You never appeared; and, what was worse still, Mr. Betteredge and
Sergeant Cuff passed by the place where I was hiding--and the Sergeant
saw me.

"I had no choice, after that, but to return to my proper place and my
proper work, before more disasters happened to me. Just as I was going
to step across the path, you came back from the railway. You were making
straight for the shrubbery, when you saw me--I am certain, sir, you saw
me--and you turned away as if I had got the plague, and went into the
house.*

     * NOTE: by Franklin Blake.--The writer is entirely mistaken,
     poor creature. I never noticed her. My intention was
     certainly to have taken a turn in the shrubbery. But,
     remembering at the same moment that my aunt might wish to
     see me, after my return from the railway, I altered my mind,
     and went into the house.

"I made the best of my way indoors again, returning by the servants'
entrance. There was nobody in the laundry-room at that time; and I sat
down there alone. I have told you already of the thoughts which the
Shivering Sand put into my head. Those thoughts came back to me now. I
wondered in myself which it would be harder to do, if things went on in
this manner--to bear Mr. Franklin Blake's indifference to me, or to jump
into the quicksand and end it for ever in that way?

"It's useless to ask me to account for my own conduct, at this time. I
try--and I can't understand it myself.

"Why didn't I stop you, when you avoided me in that cruel manner? Why
didn't I call out, 'Mr. Franklin, I have got something to say to you;
it concerns yourself, and you must, and shall, hear it?' You were at
my mercy--I had got the whip-hand of you, as they say. And better than
that, I had the means (if I could only make you trust me) of being
useful to you in the future. Of course, I never supposed that you--a
gentleman--had stolen the Diamond for the mere pleasure of stealing it.
No. Penelope had heard Miss Rachel, and I had heard Mr. Betteredge, talk
about your extravagance and your debts. It was plain enough to me that
you had taken the Diamond to sell it, or pledge it, and so to get the
money of which you stood in need. Well! I could have told you of a man
in London who would have advanced a good large sum on the jewel, and who
would have asked no awkward questions about it either.

"Why didn't I speak to you! why didn't I speak to you!

"I wonder whether the risks and difficulties of keeping the nightgown
were as much as I could manage, without having other risks and
difficulties added to them? This might have been the case with some
women--but how could it be the case with me? In the days when I was
a thief, I had run fifty times greater risks, and found my way out of
difficulties to which THIS difficulty was mere child's play. I had been
apprenticed, as you may say, to frauds and deceptions--some of them on
such a grand scale, and managed so cleverly, that they became famous,
and appeared in the newspapers. Was such a little thing as the keeping
of the nightgown likely to weigh on my spirits, and to set my heart
sinking within me, at the time when I ought to have spoken to you? What
nonsense to ask the question! The thing couldn't be.

"Where is the use of my dwelling in this way on my own folly? The plain
truth is plain enough, surely? Behind your back, I loved you with all
my heart and soul. Before your face--there's no denying it--I was
frightened of you; frightened of making you angry with me; frightened
of what you might say to me (though you HAD taken the Diamond) if I
presumed to tell you that I had found it out. I had gone as near to it
as I dared when I spoke to you in the library. You had not turned your
back on me then. You had not started away from me as if I had got the
plague. I tried to provoke myself into feeling angry with you, and to
rouse up my courage in that way. No! I couldn't feel anything but the
misery and the mortification of it. You're a plain girl; you have got
a crooked shoulder; you're only a housemaid--what do you mean by
attempting to speak to Me?" You never uttered a word of that, Mr.
Franklin; but you said it all to me, nevertheless! Is such madness as
this to be accounted for? No. There is nothing to be done but to confess
it, and let it be.

"I ask your pardon, once more, for this wandering of my pen. There is no
fear of its happening again. I am close at the end now.

"The first person who disturbed me by coming into the empty room was
Penelope. She had found out my secret long since, and she had done her
best to bring me to my senses--and done it kindly too.

"'Ah!' she said, 'I know why you're sitting here, and fretting, all by
yourself. The best thing that can happen for your advantage, Rosanna,
will be for Mr. Franklin's visit here to come to an end. It's my belief
that he won't be long now before he leaves the house."

"In all my thoughts of you I had never thought of your going away. I
couldn't speak to Penelope. I could only look at her.

"'I've just left Miss Rachel,' Penelope went on. 'And a hard matter
I have had of it to put up with her temper. She says the house is
unbearable to her with the police in it; and she's determined to speak
to my lady this evening, and to go to her Aunt Ablewhite to-morrow. If
she does that, Mr. Franklin will be the next to find a reason for going
away, you may depend on it!'

"I recovered the use of my tongue at that. 'Do you mean to say Mr.
Franklin will go with her?' I asked.

"'Only too gladly, if she would let him; but she won't. HE has been made
to feel her temper; HE is in her black books too--and that after having
done all he can to help her, poor fellow! No! no! If they don't make
it up before to-morrow, you will see Miss Rachel go one way, and Mr.
Franklin another. Where he may betake himself to I can't say. But he
will never stay here, Rosanna, after Miss Rachel has left us.'

"I managed to master the despair I felt at the prospect of your going
away. To own the truth, I saw a little glimpse of hope for myself if
there was really a serious disagreement between Miss Rachel and you. 'Do
you know,' I asked, 'what the quarrel is between them?'

"'It is all on Miss Rachel's side,' Penelope said. 'And, for anything I
know to the contrary, it's all Miss Rachel's temper, and nothing else.
I am loth to distress you, Rosanna; but don't run away with the notion
that Mr. Franklin is ever likely to quarrel with HER. He's a great deal
too fond of her for that!'

"She had only just spoken those cruel words when there came a call to
us from Mr. Betteredge. All the indoor servants were to assemble in the
hall. And then we were to go in, one by one, and be questioned in Mr.
Betteredge's room by Sergeant Cuff.

"It came to my turn to go in, after her ladyship's maid and the upper
housemaid had been questioned first. Sergeant Cuff's inquiries--though
he wrapped them up very cunningly--soon showed me that those two women
(the bitterest enemies I had in the house) had made their discoveries
outside my door, on the Tuesday afternoon, and again on the Thursday
night. They had told the Sergeant enough to open his eyes to some
part of the truth. He rightly believed me to have made a new nightgown
secretly, but he wrongly believed the paint-stained nightgown to be
mine. I felt satisfied of another thing, from what he said, which it
puzzled me to understand. He suspected me, of course, of being concerned
in the disappearance of the Diamond. But, at the same time, he let me
see--purposely, as I thought--that he did not consider me as the person
chiefly answerable for the loss of the jewel. He appeared to think that
I had been acting under the direction of somebody else. Who that person
might be, I couldn't guess then, and can't guess now.

"In this uncertainty, one thing was plain--that Sergeant Cuff was
miles away from knowing the whole truth. You were safe as long as the
nightgown was safe--and not a moment longer.

"I quite despair of making you understand the distress and terror which
pressed upon me now. It was impossible for me to risk wearing your
nightgown any longer. I might find myself taken off, at a moment's
notice, to the police court at Frizinghall, to be charged on suspicion,
and searched accordingly. While Sergeant Cuff still left me free, I had
to choose--and at once--between destroying the nightgown, or hiding it
in some safe place, at some safe distance from the house.

"If I had only been a little less fond of you, I think I should have
destroyed it. But oh! how could destroy the only thing I had which
proved that I had saved you from discovery? If we did come to an
explanation together, and if you suspected me of having some bad motive,
and denied it all, how could I win upon you to trust me, unless I had
the nightgown to produce? Was it wronging you to believe, as I did and
do still, that you might hesitate to let a poor girl like me be the
sharer of your secret, and your accomplice in the theft which your
money-troubles had tempted you to commit? Think of your cold behaviour
to me, sir, and you will hardly wonder at my unwillingness to destroy
the only claim on your confidence and your gratitude which it was my
fortune to possess.

"I determined to hide it; and the place I fixed on was the place I knew
best--the Shivering Sand.

"As soon as the questioning was over, I made the first excuse that came
into my head, and got leave to go out for a breath of fresh air. I went
straight to Cobb's Hole, to Mr. Yolland's cottage. His wife and daughter
were the best friends I had. Don't suppose I trusted them with your
secret--I have trusted nobody. All I wanted was to write this letter
to you, and to have a safe opportunity of taking the nightgown off me.
Suspected as I was, I could do neither of those things with any sort of
security, at the house.

"And now I have nearly got through my long letter, writing it alone in
Lucy Yolland's bedroom. When it is done, I shall go downstairs with the
nightgown rolled up, and hidden under my cloak. I shall find the means
I want for keeping it safe and dry in its hiding-place, among the litter
of old things in Mrs. Yolland's kitchen. And then I shall go to the
Shivering Sand--don't be afraid of my letting my footmarks betray
me!--and hide the nightgown down in the sand, where no living creature
can find it without being first let into the secret by myself.

"And, when that's done, what then?

"Then, Mr. Franklin, I shall have two reasons for making another attempt
to say the words to you which I have not said yet. If you leave the
house, as Penelope believes you will leave it, and if I haven't spoken
to you before that, I shall lose my opportunity forever. That is one
reason. Then, again, there is the comforting knowledge--if my speaking
does make you angry--that I have got the nightgown ready to plead my
cause for me as nothing else can. That is my other reason. If these two
together don't harden my heart against the coldness which has hitherto
frozen it up (I mean the coldness of your treatment of me), there will
be the end of my efforts--and the end of my life.

"Yes. If I miss my next opportunity--if you are as cruel as ever, and if
I feel it again as I have felt it already--good-bye to the world which
has grudged me the happiness that it gives to others. Good-bye to life,
which nothing but a little kindness from you can ever make pleasurable
to me again. Don't blame yourself, sir, if it ends in this way. But
try--do try--to feel some forgiving sorrow for me! I shall take care
that you find out what I have done for you, when I am past telling you
of it myself. Will you say something kind of me then--in the same gentle
way that you have when you speak to Miss Rachel? If you do that, and if
there are such things as ghosts, I believe my ghost will hear it, and
tremble with the pleasure of it.

"It's time I left off. I am making myself cry. How am I to see my way to
the hiding-place if I let these useless tears come and blind me?

"Besides, why should I look at the gloomy side? Why not believe, while
I can, that it will end well after all? I may find you in a good humour
to-night--or, if not, I may succeed better to-morrow morning. I sha'n't
improve my plain face by fretting--shall I? Who knows but I may have
filled all these weary long pages of paper for nothing? They will
go, for safety's sake (never mind now for what other reason) into the
hiding-place along with the nightgown. It has been hard, hard work
writing my letter. Oh! if we only end in understanding each other, how I
shall enjoy tearing it up!

"I beg to remain, sir, your true lover and humble servant,

"ROSANNA SPEARMAN."

The reading of the letter was completed by Betteredge in silence. After
carefully putting it back in the envelope, he sat thinking, with his
head bowed down, and his eyes on the ground.

"Betteredge," I said, "is there any hint to guide me at the end of the
letter?"

He looked up slowly, with a heavy sigh.

"There is nothing to guide you, Mr. Franklin," he answered. "If you
take my advice you will keep the letter in the cover till these present
anxieties of yours have come to an end. It will sorely distress you,
whenever you read it. Don't read it now."

I put the letter away in my pocket-book.

A glance back at the sixteenth and seventeenth chapters of Betteredge's
Narrative will show that there really was a reason for my thus sparing
myself, at a time when my fortitude had been already cruelly tried.
Twice over, the unhappy woman had made her last attempt to speak to me.
And twice over, it had been my misfortune (God knows how innocently!)
to repel the advances she had made to me. On the Friday night,
as Betteredge truly describes it, she had found me alone at the
billiard-table. Her manner and language suggested to me and would have
suggested to any man, under the circumstances--that she was about to
confess a guilty knowledge of the disappearance of the Diamond. For her
own sake, I had purposely shown no special interest in what was coming;
for her own sake, I had purposely looked at the billiard-balls, instead
of looking at HER--and what had been the result? I had sent her away
from me, wounded to the heart! On the Saturday again--on the day when
she must have foreseen, after what Penelope had told her, that my
departure was close at hand--the same fatality still pursued us. She had
once more attempted to meet me in the shrubbery walk, and she had found
me there in company with Betteredge and Sergeant Cuff. In her hearing,
the Sergeant, with his own underhand object in view, had appealed to my
interest in Rosanna Spearman. Again for the poor creature's own sake, I
had met the police-officer with a flat denial, and had declared--loudly
declared, so that she might hear me too--that I felt "no interest
whatever in Rosanna Spearman." At those words, solely designed to warn
her against attempting to gain my private ear, she had turned away and
left the place: cautioned of her danger, as I then believed; self-doomed
to destruction, as I know now. From that point, I have already traced
the succession of events which led me to the astounding discovery at
the quicksand. The retrospect is now complete. I may leave the miserable
story of Rosanna Spearman--to which, even at this distance of time, I
cannot revert without a pang of distress--to suggest for itself all
that is here purposely left unsaid. I may pass from the suicide at the
Shivering Sand, with its strange and terrible influence on my present
position and future prospects, to interests which concern the living
people of this narrative, and to events which were already paving my way
for the slow and toilsome journey from the darkness to the light.



CHAPTER VI


I walked to the railway station accompanied, it is needless to say, by
Gabriel Betteredge. I had the letter in my pocket, and the nightgown
safely packed in a little bag--both to be submitted, before I slept that
night, to the investigation of Mr. Bruff.

We left the house in silence. For the first time in my experience of
him, I found old Betteredge in my company without a word to say to me.
Having something to say on my side, I opened the conversation as soon as
we were clear of the lodge gates.

"Before I go to London," I began, "I have two questions to ask you. They
relate to myself, and I believe they will rather surprise you."

"If they will put that poor creature's letter out of my head, Mr.
Franklin, they may do anything else they like with me. Please to begin
surprising me, sir, as soon as you can."

"My first question, Betteredge, is this. Was I drunk on the night of
Rachel's Birthday?"

"YOU drunk!" exclaimed the old man. "Why it's the great defect of your
character, Mr. Franklin that you only drink with your dinner, and never
touch a drop of liquor afterwards!"

"But the birthday was a special occasion. I might have abandoned my
regular habits, on that night of all others."

Betteredge considered for a moment.

"You did go out of your habits, sir," he said. "And I'll tell you how.
You looked wretchedly ill--and we persuaded you to have a drop of brandy
and water to cheer you up a little."

"I am not used to brandy and water. It is quite possible----"

"Wait a bit, Mr. Franklin. I knew you were not used, too. I poured you
out half a wineglass-full of our fifty year old Cognac; and (more shame
for me!) I drowned that noble liquor in nigh on a tumbler-full of cold
water. A child couldn't have got drunk on it--let alone a grown man!"

I knew I could depend on his memory, in a matter of this kind. It was
plainly impossible that I could have been intoxicated. I passed on to
the second question.

"Before I was sent abroad, Betteredge, you saw a great deal of me when I
was a boy? Now tell me plainly, do you remember anything strange of me,
after I had gone to bed at night? Did you ever discover me walking in my
sleep?"

Betteredge stopped, looked at me for a moment, nodded his head, and
walked on again.

"I see your drift now, Mr. Franklin!" he said "You're trying to
account for how you got the paint on your nightgown, without knowing it
yourself. It won't do, sir. You're miles away still from getting at the
truth. Walk in your sleep? You never did such a thing in your life!"

Here again, I felt that Betteredge must be right. Neither at home nor
abroad had my life ever been of the solitary sort. If I had been a
sleep-walker, there were hundreds on hundreds of people who must have
discovered me, and who, in the interest of my own safety, would have
warned me of the habit, and have taken precautions to restrain it.

Still, admitting all this, I clung--with an obstinacy which was surely
natural and excusable, under the circumstances--to one or other of
the only two explanations that I could see which accounted for the
unendurable position in which I then stood. Observing that I was not yet
satisfied, Betteredge shrewdly adverted to certain later events in the
history of the Moonstone; and scattered both my theories to the wind at
once and for ever.

"Let's try it another way, sir," he said. "Keep your own opinion, and
see how far it will take you towards finding out the truth. If we are to
believe the nightgown--which I don't for one--you not only smeared
off the paint from the door, without knowing it, but you also took the
Diamond without knowing it. Is that right, so far?"

"Quite right. Go on."

"Very good, sir. We'll say you were drunk, or walking in your sleep,
when you took the jewel. That accounts for the night and morning, after
the birthday. But how does it account for what has happened since that
time? The Diamond has been taken to London, since that time. The Diamond
has been pledged to Mr. Luker, since that time. Did you do those two
things, without knowing it, too? Were you drunk when I saw you off in
the pony-chaise on that Saturday evening? And did you walk in your sleep
to Mr. Luker's, when the train had brought you to your journey's end?
Excuse me for saying it, Mr. Franklin, but this business has so upset
you, that you're not fit yet to judge for yourself. The sooner you lay
your head alongside Mr. Bruff's head, the sooner you will see your way
out of the dead-lock that has got you now."

We reached the station, with only a minute or two to spare.

I hurriedly gave Betteredge my address in London, so that he might write
to me, if necessary; promising, on my side, to inform him of any news
which I might have to communicate. This done, and just as I was bidding
him farewell, I happened to glance towards the book-and-newspaper stall.
There was Mr. Candy's remarkable-looking assistant again, speaking to
the keeper of the stall! Our eyes met at the same moment. Ezra Jennings
took off his hat to me. I returned the salute, and got into a carriage
just as the train started. It was a relief to my mind, I suppose, to
dwell on any subject which appeared to be, personally, of no sort of
importance to me. At all events, I began the momentous journey back
which was to take me to Mr. Bruff, wondering--absurdly enough, I
admit--that I should have seen the man with the piebald hair twice in
one day!

The hour at which I arrived in London precluded all hope of my finding
Mr. Bruff at his place of business. I drove from the railway to his
private residence at Hampstead, and disturbed the old lawyer dozing
alone in his dining-room, with his favourite pug-dog on his lap, and his
bottle of wine at his elbow.

I shall best describe the effect which my story produced on the mind of
Mr. Bruff by relating his proceedings when he had heard it to the end.
He ordered lights, and strong tea, to be taken into his study; and he
sent a message to the ladies of his family, forbidding them to disturb
us on any pretence whatever. These preliminaries disposed of, he first
examined the nightgown, and then devoted himself to the reading of
Rosanna Spearman's letter.

The reading completed, Mr. Bruff addressed me for the first time since
we had been shut up together in the seclusion of his own room.

"Franklin Blake," said the old gentleman, "this is a very serious
matter, in more respects than one. In my opinion, it concerns Rachel
quite as nearly as it concerns you. Her extraordinary conduct is no
mystery NOW. She believes you have stolen the Diamond."

I had shrunk from reasoning my own way fairly to that revolting
conclusion. But it had forced itself on me, nevertheless. My resolution
to obtain a personal interview with Rachel, rested really and truly on
the ground just stated by Mr. Bruff.

"The first step to take in this investigation," the lawyer proceeded,
"is to appeal to Rachel. She has been silent all this time, from
motives which I (who know her character) can readily understand. It
is impossible, after what has happened, to submit to that silence any
longer. She must be persuaded to tell us, or she must be forced to tell
us, on what grounds she bases her belief that you took the Moonstone.
The chances are, that the whole of this case, serious as it seems now,
will tumble to pieces, if we can only break through Rachel's inveterate
reserve, and prevail upon her to speak out."

"That is a very comforting opinion for _me_," I said. "I own I should like
to know."

"You would like to know how I can justify it," inter-posed Mr. Bruff. "I
can tell you in two minutes. Understand, in the first place, that I
look at this matter from a lawyer's point of view. It's a question of
evidence, with me. Very well. The evidence breaks down, at the outset,
on one important point."

"On what point?"

"You shall hear. I admit that the mark of the name proves the nightgown
to be yours. I admit that the mark of the paint proves the nightgown
to have made the smear on Rachel's door. But what evidence is there to
prove that you are the person who wore it, on the night when the Diamond
was lost?"

The objection struck me, all the more forcibly that it reflected an
objection which I had felt myself.

"As to this," pursued the lawyer taking up Rosanna Spearman's
confession, "I can understand that the letter is a distressing one to
YOU. I can understand that you may hesitate to analyse it from a purely
impartial point of view. But I am not in your position. I can bring my
professional experience to bear on this document, just as I should bring
it to bear on any other. Without alluding to the woman's career as a
thief, I will merely remark that her letter proves her to have been an
adept at deception, on her own showing; and I argue from that, that I am
justified in suspecting her of not having told the whole truth. I won't
start any theory, at present, as to what she may or may not have done.
I will only say that, if Rachel has suspected you ON THE EVIDENCE OF THE
NIGHTGOWN ONLY, the chances are ninety-nine to a hundred that Rosanna
Spearman was the person who showed it to her. In that case, there is the
woman's letter, confessing that she was jealous of Rachel, confessing
that she changed the roses, confessing that she saw a glimpse of hope
for herself, in the prospect of a quarrel between Rachel and you. I
don't stop to ask who took the Moonstone (as a means to her end,
Rosanna Spearman would have taken fifty Moonstones)--I only say that
the disappearance of the jewel gave this reclaimed thief who was in love
with you, an opportunity of setting you and Rachel at variance for the
rest of your lives. She had not decided on destroying herself, THEN,
remember; and, having the opportunity, I distinctly assert that it was
in her character, and in her position at the time, to take it. What do
you say to that?"

"Some such suspicion," I answered, "crossed my own mind, as soon as I
opened the letter."

"Exactly! And when you had read the letter, you pitied the poor
creature, and couldn't find it in your heart to suspect her. Does you
credit, my dear sir--does you credit!"

"But suppose it turns out that I did wear the nightgown? What then?"

"I don't see how the fact can be proved," said Mr. Bruff. "But assuming
the proof to be possible, the vindication of your innocence would be
no easy matter. We won't go into that, now. Let us wait and see whether
Rachel hasn't suspected you on the evidence of the nightgown only."

"Good God, how coolly you talk of Rachel suspecting me!" I broke out.
"What right has she to suspect Me, on any evidence, of being a thief?"

"A very sensible question, my dear sir. Rather hotly put--but well worth
considering for all that. What puzzles you, puzzles me too. Search your
memory, and tell me this. Did anything happen while you were staying at
the house--not, of course, to shake Rachel's belief in your honour--but,
let us say, to shake her belief (no matter with how little reason) in
your principles generally?"

I started, in ungovernable agitation, to my feet. The lawyer's question
reminded me, for the first time since I had left England, that something
HAD happened.

In the eighth chapter of Betteredge's Narrative, an allusion will be
found to the arrival of a foreigner and a stranger at my aunt's house,
who came to see me on business. The nature of his business was this.

I had been foolish enough (being, as usual, straitened for money at the
time) to accept a loan from the keeper of a small restaurant in Paris,
to whom I was well known as a customer. A time was settled between
us for paying the money back; and when the time came, I found it (as
thousands of other honest men have found it) impossible to keep my
engagement. I sent the man a bill. My name was unfortunately too well
known on such documents: he failed to negotiate it. His affairs had
fallen into disorder, in the interval since I had borrowed of him;
bankruptcy stared him in the face; and a relative of his, a French
lawyer, came to England to find me, and to insist upon the payment of my
debt. He was a man of violent temper; and he took the wrong way with
me. High words passed on both sides; and my aunt and Rachel were
unfortunately in the next room, and heard us. Lady Verinder came in,
and insisted on knowing what was the matter. The Frenchman produced his
credentials, and declared me to be responsible for the ruin of a poor
man, who had trusted in my honour. My aunt instantly paid him the
money, and sent him off. She knew me better of course than to take
the Frenchman's view of the transaction. But she was shocked at my
carelessness, and justly angry with me for placing myself in a position,
which, but for her interference, might have become a very disgraceful
one. Either her mother told her, or Rachel heard what passed--I can't
say which. She took her own romantic, high-flown view of the matter. I
was "heartless"; I was "dishonourable"; I had "no principle"; there
was "no knowing what I might do next"--in short, she said some of the
severest things to me which I had ever heard from a young lady's lips.
The breach between us lasted for the whole of the next day. The day
after, I succeeded in making my peace, and thought no more of it. Had
Rachel reverted to this unlucky accident, at the critical moment when my
place in her estimation was again, and far more seriously, assailed?
Mr. Bruff, when I had mentioned the circumstances to him, answered the
question at once in the affirmative.

"It would have its effect on her mind," he said gravely. "And I wish,
for your sake, the thing had not happened. However, we have discovered
that there WAS a predisposing influence against you--and there is one
uncertainty cleared out of our way, at any rate. I see nothing more that
we can do now. Our next step in this inquiry must be the step that takes
us to Rachel."

He rose, and began walking thoughtfully up and down the room. Twice, I
was on the point of telling him that I had determined on seeing Rachel
personally; and twice, having regard to his age and his character, I
hesitated to take him by surprise at an unfavourable moment.

"The grand difficulty is," he resumed, "how to make her show her whole
mind in this matter, without reserve. Have you any suggestions to
offer?"

"I have made up my mind, Mr. Bruff, to speak to Rachel myself."

"You!" He suddenly stopped in his walk, and looked at me as if he
thought I had taken leave of my senses. "You, of all the people in the
world!" He abruptly checked himself, and took another turn in the room.
"Wait a little," he said. "In cases of this extraordinary kind, the rash
way is sometimes the best way." He considered the question for a moment
or two, under that new light, and ended boldly by a decision in my
favour. "Nothing venture, nothing have," the old gentleman resumed. "You
have a chance in your favour which I don't possess--and you shall be the
first to try the experiment."

"A chance in my favour?" I repeated, in the greatest surprise.

Mr. Bruff's face softened, for the first time, into a smile.

"This is how it stands," he said. "I tell you fairly, I don't trust your
discretion, and I don't trust your temper. But I do trust in Rachel's
still preserving, in some remote little corner of her heart, a certain
perverse weakness for YOU. Touch that--and trust to the consequences for
the fullest disclosures that can flow from a woman's lips! The question
is--how are you to see her?"

"She has been a guest of yours at this house," I answered. "May I
venture to suggest--if nothing was said about me beforehand--that I
might see her here?"

"Cool!" said Mr. Bruff. With that one word of comment on the reply that
I had made to him, he took another turn up and down the room.

"In plain English," he said, "my house is to be turned into a trap to
catch Rachel; with a bait to tempt her, in the shape of an invitation
from my wife and daughters. If you were anybody else but Franklin Blake,
and if this matter was one atom less serious than it really is, I should
refuse point-blank. As things are, I firmly believe Rachel will live
to thank me for turning traitor to her in my old age. Consider me your
accomplice. Rachel shall be asked to spend the day here; and you shall
receive due notice of it."

"When? To-morrow?"

"To-morrow won't give us time enough to get her answer. Say the day
after."

"How shall I hear from you?"

"Stay at home all the morning and expect me to call on you."

I thanked him for the inestimable assistance which he was rendering to
me, with the gratitude that I really felt; and, declining a hospitable
invitation to sleep that night at Hampstead, returned to my lodgings in
London.

Of the day that followed, I have only to say that it was the longest day
of my life. Innocent as I knew myself to be, certain as I was that the
abominable imputation which rested on me must sooner or later be cleared
off, there was nevertheless a sense of self-abasement in my mind which
instinctively disinclined me to see any of my friends. We often hear
(almost invariably, however, from superficial observers) that guilt can
look like innocence. I believe it to be infinitely the truer axiom of
the two that innocence can look like guilt. I caused myself to be denied
all day, to every visitor who called; and I only ventured out under
cover of the night.

The next morning, Mr. Bruff surprised me at the breakfast-table. He
handed me a large key, and announced that he felt ashamed of himself for
the first time in his life.

"Is she coming?"

"She is coming to-day, to lunch and spend the afternoon with my wife and
my girls."

"Are Mrs. Bruff, and your daughters, in the secret?"

"Inevitably. But women, as you may have observed, have no principles. My
family don't feel my pangs of conscience. The end being to bring you
and Rachel together again, my wife and daughters pass over the means
employed to gain it, as composedly as if they were Jesuits."

"I am infinitely obliged to them. What is this key?"

"The key of the gate in my back-garden wall. Be there at three this
afternoon. Let yourself into the garden, and make your way in by the
conservatory door. Cross the small drawing-room, and open the door
in front of you which leads into the music-room. There, you will find
Rachel--and find her, alone."

"How can I thank you!"

"I will tell you how. Don't blame me for what happens afterwards."

With those words, he went out.

I had many weary hours still to wait through. To while away the time, I
looked at my letters. Among them was a letter from Betteredge.

I opened it eagerly. To my surprise and disappointment, it began with
an apology warning me to expect no news of any importance. In the next
sentence the everlasting Ezra Jennings appeared again! He had stopped
Betteredge on the way out of the station, and had asked who I was.
Informed on this point, he had mentioned having seen me to his master
Mr. Candy. Mr. Candy hearing of this, had himself driven over to
Betteredge, to express his regret at our having missed each other. He
had a reason for wishing particularly to speak to me; and when I was
next in the neighbourhood of Frizinghall, he begged I would let him
know. Apart from a few characteristic utterances of the Betteredge
philosophy, this was the sum and substance of my correspondent's letter.
The warm-hearted, faithful old man acknowledged that he had written
"mainly for the pleasure of writing to me."

I crumpled up the letter in my pocket, and forgot it the moment after,
in the all-absorbing interest of my coming interview with Rachel.

As the clock of Hampstead church struck three, I put Mr. Bruff's key
into the lock of the door in the wall. When I first stepped into the
garden, and while I was securing the door again on the inner side, I
own to having felt a certain guilty doubtfulness about what might
happen next. I looked furtively on either side of me; suspicious of
the presence of some unexpected witness in some unknown corner of the
garden. Nothing appeared, to justify my apprehensions. The walks
were, one and all, solitudes; and the birds and the bees were the only
witnesses.

I passed through the garden; entered the conservatory; and crossed the
small drawing-room. As I laid my hand on the door opposite, I heard a
few plaintive chords struck on the piano in the room within. She had
often idled over the instrument in this way, when I was staying at her
mother's house. I was obliged to wait a little, to steady myself. The
past and present rose side by side, at that supreme moment--and the
contrast shook me.

After the lapse of a minute, I roused my manhood, and opened the door.



CHAPTER VII


At the moment when I showed myself in the doorway, Rachel rose from the
piano.

I closed the door behind me. We confronted each other in silence, with
the full length of the room between us. The movement she had made in
rising appeared to be the one exertion of which she was capable. All
use of every other faculty, bodily or mental, seemed to be merged in the
mere act of looking at me.

A fear crossed my mind that I had shown myself too suddenly. I advanced
a few steps towards her. I said gently, "Rachel!"

The sound of my voice brought the life back to her limbs, and the colour
to her face. She advanced, on her side, still without speaking. Slowly,
as if acting under some influence independent of her own will, she came
nearer and nearer to me; the warm dusky colour flushing her cheeks, the
light of reviving intelligence brightening every instant in her eyes.
I forgot the object that had brought me into her presence; I forgot
the vile suspicion that rested on my good name; I forgot every
consideration, past, present, and future, which I was bound to remember.
I saw nothing but the woman I loved coming nearer and nearer to me. She
trembled; she stood irresolute. I could resist it no longer--I caught
her in my arms, and covered her face with kisses.

There was a moment when I thought the kisses were returned; a moment
when it seemed as if she, too might have forgotten. Almost before the
idea could shape itself in my mind, her first voluntary action made
me feel that she remembered. With a cry which was like a cry of
horror--with a strength which I doubt if I could have resisted if I had
tried--she thrust me back from her. I saw merciless anger in her eyes;
I saw merciless contempt on her lips. She looked me over, from head to
foot, as she might have looked at a stranger who had insulted her.

"You coward!" she said. "You mean, miserable, heartless coward!"

Those were her first words! The most unendurable reproach that a woman
can address to a man, was the reproach that she picked out to address to
Me.

"I remember the time, Rachel," I said, "when you could have told me that
I had offended you, in a worthier way than that. I beg your pardon."

Something of the bitterness that I felt may have communicated itself
to my voice. At the first words of my reply, her eyes, which had been
turned away the moment before, looked back at me unwillingly. She
answered in a low tone, with a sullen submission of manner which was
quite new in my experience of her.

"Perhaps there is some excuse for me," she said. "After what you have
done, is it a manly action, on your part, to find your way to me as
you have found it to-day? It seems a cowardly experiment, to try an
experiment on my weakness for you. It seems a cowardly surprise, to
surprise me into letting you kiss me. But that is only a woman's view. I
ought to have known it couldn't be your view. I should have done better
if I had controlled myself, and said nothing."

The apology was more unendurable than the insult. The most degraded man
living would have felt humiliated by it.

"If my honour was not in your hands," I said, "I would leave you this
instant, and never see you again. You have spoken of what I have done.
What have I done?"

"What have you done! YOU ask that question of ME?"

"I ask it."

"I have kept your infamy a secret," she answered. "And I have suffered
the consequences of concealing it. Have I no claim to be spared the
insult of your asking me what you have done? Is ALL sense of gratitude
dead in you? You were once a gentleman. You were once dear to my mother,
and dearer still to me----"

Her voice failed her. She dropped into a chair, and turned her back on
me, and covered her face with her hands.

I waited a little before I trusted myself to say any more. In that
moment of silence, I hardly know which I felt most keenly--the sting
which her contempt had planted in me, or the proud resolution which shut
me out from all community with her distress.

"If you will not speak first," I said, "I must. I have come here with
something serious to say to you. Will you do me the common justice of
listening while I say it?"

She neither moved, nor answered. I made no second appeal to her; I
never advanced an inch nearer to her chair. With a pride which was as
obstinate as her pride, I told her of my discovery at the Shivering
Sand, and of all that had led to it. The narrative, of necessity,
occupied some little time. From beginning to end, she never looked round
at me, and she never uttered a word.

I kept my temper. My whole future depended, in all probability, on my
not losing possession of myself at that moment. The time had come to
put Mr. Bruff's theory to the test. In the breathless interest of trying
that experiment, I moved round so as to place myself in front of her.

"I have a question to ask you," I said. "It obliges me to refer again to
a painful subject. Did Rosanna Spearman show you the nightgown. Yes, or
No?"

She started to her feet; and walked close up to me of her own accord.
Her eyes looked me searchingly in the face, as if to read something
there which they had never read yet.

"Are you mad?" she asked.

I still restrained myself. I said quietly, "Rachel, will you answer my
question?"

She went on, without heeding me.

"Have you some object to gain which I don't understand? Some mean fear
about the future, in which I am concerned? They say your father's death
has made you a rich man. Have you come here to compensate me for the
loss of my Diamond? And have you heart enough left to feel ashamed of
your errand? Is THAT the secret of your pretence of innocence, and your
story about Rosanna Spearman? Is there a motive of shame at the bottom
of all the falsehood, this time?"

I stopped her there. I could control myself no longer.

"You have done me an infamous wrong!" I broke out hotly. "You suspect me
of stealing your Diamond. I have a right to know, and I WILL know, the
reason why!"

"Suspect you!" she exclaimed, her anger rising with mine. "YOU VILLAIN,
I SAW YOU TAKE THE DIAMOND WITH MY OWN EYES!"

The revelation which burst upon me in those words, the overthrow which
they instantly accomplished of the whole view of the case on which Mr.
Bruff had relied, struck me helpless. Innocent as I was, I stood before
her in silence. To her eyes, to any eyes, I must have looked like a man
overwhelmed by the discovery of his own guilt.

She drew back from the spectacle of my humiliation and of her triumph.
The sudden silence that had fallen upon me seemed to frighten her. "I
spared you, at the time," she said. "I would have spared you now, if you
had not forced me to speak." She moved away as if to leave the room--and
hesitated before she got to the door. "Why did you come here to
humiliate yourself?" she asked. "Why did you come here to humiliate
me?" She went on a few steps, and paused once more. "For God's sake, say
something!" she exclaimed, passionately. "If you have any mercy left,
don't let me degrade myself in this way! Say something--and drive me out
of the room!"

I advanced towards her, hardly conscious of what I was doing. I had
possibly some confused idea of detaining her until she had told me more.
From the moment when I knew that the evidence on which I stood condemned
in Rachel's mind, was the evidence of her own eyes, nothing--not even my
conviction of my own innocence--was clear to my mind. I took her by the
hand; I tried to speak firmly and to the purpose. All I could say was,
"Rachel, you once loved me."

She shuddered, and looked away from me. Her hand lay powerless and
trembling in mine. "Let go of it," she said faintly.

My touch seemed to have the same effect on her which the sound of my
voice had produced when I first entered the room. After she had said
the word which called me a coward, after she had made the avowal which
branded me as a thief--while her hand lay in mine I was her master
still!

I drew her gently back into the middle of the room. I seated her by the
side of me. "Rachel," I said, "I can't explain the contradiction in what
I am going to tell you. I can only speak the truth as you have spoken
it. You saw me--with your own eyes, you saw me take the Diamond. Before
God who hears us, I declare that I now know I took it for the first
time! Do you doubt me still?"

She had neither heeded nor heard me. "Let go of my hand," she repeated
faintly. That was her only answer. Her head sank on my shoulder; and her
hand unconsciously closed on mine, at the moment when she asked me to
release it.

I refrained from pressing the question. But there my forbearance
stopped. My chance of ever holding up my head again among honest men
depended on my chance of inducing her to make her disclosure complete.
The one hope left for me was the hope that she might have overlooked
something in the chain of evidence some mere trifle, perhaps, which
might nevertheless, under careful investigation, be made the means of
vindicating my innocence in the end. I own I kept possession of her
hand. I own I spoke to her with all that I could summon back of the
sympathy and confidence of the bygone time.

"I want to ask you something," I said. "I want you to tell me everything
that happened, from the time when we wished each other good night, to
the time when you saw me take the Diamond."

She lifted her head from my shoulder, and made an effort to release her
hand. "Oh, why go back to it!" she said. "Why go back to it!"

"I will tell you why, Rachel. You are the victim, and I am the victim,
of some monstrous delusion which has worn the mask of truth. If we look
at what happened on the night of your birthday together, we may end in
understanding each other yet."

Her head dropped back on my shoulder. The tears gathered in her eyes,
and fell slowly over her cheeks. "Oh!" she said, "have I never had that
hope? Have I not tried to see it, as you are trying now?"

"You have tried by yourself," I answered. "You have not tried with me to
help you."

Those words seemed to awaken in her something of the hope which I felt
myself when I uttered them. She replied to my questions with more than
docility--she exerted her intelligence; she willingly opened her whole
mind to me.

"Let us begin," I said, "with what happened after we had wished each
other good night. Did you go to bed? or did you sit up?"

"I went to bed."

"Did you notice the time? Was it late?"

"Not very. About twelve o'clock, I think."

"Did you fall asleep?"

"No. I couldn't sleep that night."

"You were restless?"

"I was thinking of you."

The answer almost unmanned me. Something in the tone, even more than in
the words, went straight to my heart. It was only after pausing a little
first that I was able to go on.

"Had you any light in your room?" I asked.

"None--until I got up again, and lit my candle."

"How long was that, after you had gone to bed?"

"About an hour after, I think. About one o'clock."

"Did you leave your bedroom?"

"I was going to leave it. I had put on my dressing-gown; and I was going
into my sitting-room to get a book----"

"Had you opened your bedroom door?"

"I had just opened it."

"But you had not gone into the sitting-room?"

"No--I was stopped from going into it."

"What stopped you?

"I saw a light, under the door; and I heard footsteps approaching it."

"Were you frightened?"

"Not then. I knew my poor mother was a bad sleeper; and I remembered
that she had tried hard, that evening, to persuade me to let her take
charge of my Diamond. She was unreasonably anxious about it, as I
thought; and I fancied she was coming to me to see if I was in bed, and
to speak to me about the Diamond again, if she found that I was up."

"What did you do?"

"I blew out my candle, so that she might think I was in bed. I was
unreasonable, on my side--I was determined to keep my Diamond in the
place of my own choosing."

"After blowing out the candle, did you go back to bed?"

"I had no time to go back. At the moment when I blew the candle out, the
sitting-room door opened, and I saw----"

"You saw?"

"You."

"Dressed as usual?"

"No."

"In my nightgown?"

"In your nightgown--with your bedroom candle in your hand."

"Alone?"

"Alone."

"Could you see my face?"

"Yes."

"Plainly?"

"Quite plainly. The candle in your hand showed it to me."

"Were my eyes open?"

"Yes."

"Did you notice anything strange in them? Anything like a fixed, vacant
expression?"

"Nothing of the sort. Your eyes were bright--brighter than usual. You
looked about in the room, as if you knew you were where you ought not to
be, and as if you were afraid of being found out."

"Did you observe one thing when I came into the room--did you observe
how I walked?"

"You walked as you always do. You came in as far as the middle of the
room--and then you stopped and looked about you."

"What did you do, on first seeing me?"

"I could do nothing. I was petrified. I couldn't speak, I couldn't call
out, I couldn't even move to shut my door."

"Could I see you, where you stood?"

"You might certainly have seen me. But you never looked towards me. It's
useless to ask the question. I am sure you never saw me."

"How are you sure?"

"Would you have taken the Diamond? would you have acted as you did
afterwards? would you be here now--if you had seen that I was awake and
looking at you? Don't make me talk of that part of it! I want to answer
you quietly. Help me to keep as calm as I can. Go on to something else."

She was right--in every way, right. I went on to other things.

"What did I do, after I had got to the middle of the room, and had
stopped there?"

"You turned away, and went straight to the corner near the window--where
my Indian cabinet stands."

"When I was at the cabinet, my back must have been turned towards you.
How did you see what I was doing?"

"When you moved, I moved."

"So as to see what I was about with my hands?"

"There are three glasses in my sitting-room. As you stood there, I saw
all that you did, reflected in one of them."

"What did you see?"

"You put your candle on the top of the cabinet. You opened, and shut,
one drawer after another, until you came to the drawer in which I had
put my Diamond. You looked at the open drawer for a moment. And then you
put your hand in, and took the Diamond out."

"How do you know I took the Diamond out?"

"I saw your hand go into the drawer. And I saw the gleam of the stone
between your finger and thumb, when you took your hand out."

"Did my hand approach the drawer again--to close it, for instance?"

"No. You had the Diamond in your right hand; and you took the candle
from the top of the cabinet with your left hand."

"Did I look about me again, after that?"

"No."

"Did I leave the room immediately?"

"No. You stood quite still, for what seemed a long time. I saw your face
sideways in the glass. You looked like a man thinking, and dissatisfied
with his own thoughts."

"What happened next?"

"You roused yourself on a sudden, and you went straight out of the
room."

"Did I close the door after me?"

"No. You passed out quickly into the passage, and left the door open."

"And then?"

"Then, your light disappeared, and the sound of your steps died away,
and I was left alone in the dark."

"Did nothing happen--from that time, to the time when the whole house
knew that the Diamond was lost?"

"Nothing."

"Are you sure of that? Might you not have been asleep a part of the
time?"

"I never slept. I never went back to my bed. Nothing happened until
Penelope came in, at the usual time in the morning."

I dropped her hand, and rose, and took a turn in the room. Every
question that I could put had been answered. Every detail that I could
desire to know had been placed before me. I had even reverted to the
idea of sleep-walking, and the idea of intoxication; and, again, the
worthlessness of the one theory and the other had been proved--on the
authority, this time, of the witness who had seen me. What was to be
said next? what was to be done next? There rose the horrible fact of the
Theft--the one visible, tangible object that confronted me, in the midst
of the impenetrable darkness which enveloped all besides! Not a glimpse
of light to guide me, when I had possessed myself of Rosanna Spearman's
secret at the Shivering Sand. And not a glimpse of light now, when I had
appealed to Rachel herself, and had heard the hateful story of the night
from her own lips.

She was the first, this time, to break the silence.

"Well?" she said, "you have asked, and I have answered. You have made me
hope something from all this, because you hoped something from it. What
have you to say now?"

The tone in which she spoke warned me that my influence over her was a
lost influence once more.

"We were to look at what happened on my birthday night, together," she
went on; "and we were then to understand each other. Have we done that?"

She waited pitilessly for my reply. In answering her I committed a
fatal error--I let the exasperating helplessness of my situation get the
better of my self-control. Rashly and uselessly, I reproached her for
the silence which had kept me until that moment in ignorance of the
truth.

"If you had spoken when you ought to have spoken," I began; "if you had
done me the common justice to explain yourself----"

She broke in on me with a cry of fury. The few words I had said seemed
to have lashed her on the instant into a frenzy of rage.

"Explain myself!" she repeated. "Oh! is there another man like this in
the world? I spare him, when my heart is breaking; I screen him when my
own character is at stake; and HE--of all human beings, HE--turns on me
now, and tells me that I ought to have explained myself! After believing
in him as I did, after loving him as I did, after thinking of him by
day, and dreaming of him by night--he wonders I didn't charge him with
his disgrace the first time we met: 'My heart's darling, you are a
Thief! My hero whom I love and honour, you have crept into my room under
cover of the night, and stolen my Diamond!' That is what I ought to have
said. You villain, you mean, mean, mean villain, I would have lost fifty
diamonds, rather than see your face lying to me, as I see it lying now!"

I took up my hat. In mercy to HER--yes! I can honestly say it--in mercy
to HER, I turned away without a word, and opened the door by which I had
entered the room.

She followed, and snatched the door out of my hand; she closed it, and
pointed back to the place that I had left.

"No!" she said. "Not yet! It seems that I owe a justification of my
conduct to you. You shall stay and hear it. Or you shall stoop to the
lowest infamy of all, and force your way out."

It wrung my heart to see her; it wrung my heart to hear her. I answered
by a sign--it was all I could do--that I submitted myself to her will.

The crimson flush of anger began to fade out of her face, as I went
back, and took my chair in silence. She waited a little, and steadied
herself. When she went on, but one sign of feeling was discernible in
her. She spoke without looking at me. Her hands were fast clasped in her
lap, and her eyes were fixed on the ground.

"I ought to have done you the common justice to explain myself," she
said, repeating my own words. "You shall see whether I did try to do
you justice, or not. I told you just now that I never slept, and never
returned to my bed, after you had left my sitting-room. It's useless to
trouble you by dwelling on what I thought--you would not understand my
thoughts--I will only tell you what I did, when time enough had passed
to help me to recover myself. I refrained from alarming the house, and
telling everybody what had happened--as I ought to have done. In spite
of what I had seen, I was fond enough of you to believe--no matter
what!--any impossibility, rather than admit it to my own mind that you
were deliberately a thief. I thought and thought--and I ended in writing
to you."

"I never received the letter."

"I know you never received it. Wait a little, and you shall hear why. My
letter would have told you nothing openly. It would not have ruined you
for life, if it had fallen into some other person's hands. It would
only have said--in a manner which you yourself could not possibly have
mistaken--that I had reason to know you were in debt, and that it was
in my experience and in my mother's experience of you, that you were
not very discreet, or very scrupulous about how you got money when you
wanted it. You would have remembered the visit of the French lawyer, and
you would have known what I referred to. If you had read on with some
interest after that, you would have come to an offer I had to make to
you--the offer, privately (not a word, mind, to be said openly about
it between us!), of the loan of as large a sum of money as I could
get.--And I would have got it!" she exclaimed, her colour beginning
to rise again, and her eyes looking up at me once more. "I would have
pledged the Diamond myself, if I could have got the money in no other
way! In those words I wrote to you. Wait! I did more than that. I
arranged with Penelope to give you the letter when nobody was near. I
planned to shut myself into my bedroom, and to have the sitting-room
left open and empty all the morning. And I hoped--with all my heart and
soul I hoped!--that you would take the opportunity, and put the Diamond
back secretly in the drawer."

I attempted to speak. She lifted her hand impatiently, and stopped me.
In the rapid alternations of her temper, her anger was beginning to rise
again. She got up from her chair, and approached me.

"I know what you are going to say," she went on. "You are going to
remind me again that you never received my letter. I can tell you why. I
tore it up.

"For what reason?" I asked.

"For the best of reasons. I preferred tearing it up to throwing it away
upon such a man as you! What was the first news that reached me in the
morning? Just as my little plan was complete, what did I hear? I heard
that you--you!!!--were the foremost person in the house in fetching the
police. You were the active man; you were the leader; you were working
harder than any of them to recover the jewel! You even carried your
audacity far enough to ask to speak to ME about the loss of the
Diamond--the Diamond which you yourself had stolen; the Diamond which
was all the time in your own hands! After that proof of your horrible
falseness and cunning, I tore up my letter. But even then--even when I
was maddened by the searching and questioning of the policeman, whom
you had sent in--even then, there was some infatuation in my mind which
wouldn't let me give you up. I said to myself, 'He has played his vile
farce before everybody else in the house. Let me try if he can play it
before me.' Somebody told me you were on the terrace. I went down to
the terrace. I forced myself to look at you; I forced myself to speak to
you. Have you forgotten what I said?"

I might have answered that I remembered every word of it. But what
purpose, at that moment, would the answer have served?

How could I tell her that what she had said had astonished me, had
distressed me, had suggested to me that she was in a state of dangerous
nervous excitement, had even roused a moment's doubt in my mind whether
the loss of the jewel was as much a mystery to her as to the rest of
us--but had never once given me so much as a glimpse at the truth?
Without the shadow of a proof to produce in vindication of my innocence,
how could I persuade her that I knew no more than the veriest stranger
could have known of what was really in her thoughts when she spoke to me
on the terrace?

"It may suit your convenience to forget; it suits my convenience to
remember," she went on. "I know what I said--for I considered it with
myself, before I said it. I gave you one opportunity after another
of owning the truth. I left nothing unsaid that I COULD say--short of
actually telling you that I knew you had committed the theft. And
all the return you made, was to look at me with your vile pretence of
astonishment, and your false face of innocence--just as you have looked
at me to-day; just as you are looking at me now! I left you, that
morning, knowing you at last for what you were--for what you are--as
base a wretch as ever walked the earth!"

"If you had spoken out at the time, you might have left me, Rachel,
knowing that you had cruelly wronged an innocent man."

"If I had spoken out before other people," she retorted, with another
burst of indignation, "you would have been disgraced for life! If I had
spoken out to no ears but yours, you would have denied it, as you are
denying it now! Do you think I should have believed you? Would a man
hesitate at a lie, who had done what I saw YOU do--who had behaved about
it afterwards, as I saw YOU behave? I tell you again, I shrank from the
horror of hearing you lie, after the horror of seeing you thieve. You
talk as if this was a misunderstanding which a few words might have set
right! Well! the misunderstanding is at an end. Is the thing set right?
No! the thing is just where it was. I don't believe you NOW! I don't
believe you found the nightgown, I don't believe in Rosanna Spearman's
letter, I don't believe a word you have said. You stole it--I saw you!
You affected to help the police--I saw you! You pledged the Diamond to
the money-lender in London--I am sure of it! You cast the suspicion of
your disgrace (thanks to my base silence!) on an innocent man! You fled
to the Continent with your plunder the next morning! After all that
vileness, there was but one thing more you COULD do. You could come here
with a last falsehood on your lips--you could come here, and tell me
that I have wronged you!"

If I had stayed a moment more, I know not what words might have escaped
me which I should have remembered with vain repentance and regret. I
passed by her, and opened the door for the second time. For the second
time--with the frantic perversity of a roused woman--she caught me by
the arm, and barred my way out.

"Let me go, Rachel" I said. "It will be better for both of us. Let me
go."

The hysterical passion swelled in her bosom--her quickened convulsive
breathing almost beat on my face, as she held me back at the door.

"Why did you come here?" she persisted, desperately. "I ask you
again--why did you come here? Are you afraid I shall expose you? Now you
are a rich man, now you have got a place in the world, now you may marry
the best lady in the land--are you afraid I shall say the words which I
have never said yet to anybody but you? I can't say the words! I can't
expose you! I am worse, if worse can be, than you are yourself." Sobs
and tears burst from her. She struggled with them fiercely; she held
me more and more firmly. "I can't tear you out of my heart," she said,
"even now! You may trust in the shameful, shameful weakness which can
only struggle against you in this way!" She suddenly let go of me--she
threw up her hands, and wrung them frantically in the air. "Any other
woman living would shrink from the disgrace of touching him!" she
exclaimed. "Oh, God! I despise myself even more heartily than I despise
HIM!"

The tears were forcing their way into my eyes in spite of me--the horror
of it was to be endured no longer.

"You shall know that you have wronged me, yet," I said. "Or you shall
never see me again!"

With those words, I left her. She started up from the chair on which she
had dropped the moment before: she started up--the noble creature!--and
followed me across the outer room, with a last merciful word at parting.

"Franklin!" she said, "I forgive you! Oh, Franklin, Franklin! we shall
never meet again. Say you forgive ME!"

I turned, so as to let my face show her that I was past speaking--I
turned, and waved my hand, and saw her dimly, as in a vision, through
the tears that had conquered me at last.

The next moment, the worst bitterness of it was over. I was out in the
garden again. I saw her, and heard her, no more.



CHAPTER VIII


Late that evening, I was surprised at my lodgings by a visit from Mr.
Bruff.

There was a noticeable change in the lawyer's manner. It had lost its
usual confidence and spirit. He shook hands with me, for the first time
in his life, in silence.

"Are you going back to Hampstead?" I asked, by way of saying something.

"I have just left Hampstead," he answered. "I know, Mr. Franklin, that
you have got at the truth at last. But, I tell you plainly, if I could
have foreseen the price that was to be paid for it, I should have
preferred leaving you in the dark."

"You have seen Rachel?"

"I have come here after taking her back to Portland Place; it was
impossible to let her return in the carriage by herself. I can hardly
hold you responsible--considering that you saw her in my house and by my
permission--for the shock that this unlucky interview has inflicted on
her. All I can do is to provide against a repetition of the mischief.
She is young--she has a resolute spirit--she will get over this, with
time and rest to help her. I want to be assured that you will do nothing
to hinder her recovery. May I depend on your making no second attempt to
see her--except with my sanction and approval?"

"After what she has suffered, and after what I have suffered," I said,
"you may rely on me."

"I have your promise?"

"You have my promise."

Mr. Bruff looked relieved. He put down his hat, and drew his chair
nearer to mine.

"That's settled!" he said. "Now, about the future--your future, I mean.
To my mind, the result of the extraordinary turn which the matter has
now taken is briefly this. In the first place, we are sure that Rachel
has told you the whole truth, as plainly as words can tell it. In the
second place--though we know that there must be some dreadful mistake
somewhere--we can hardly blame her for believing you to be guilty, on
the evidence of her own senses; backed, as that evidence has been, by
circumstances which appear, on the face of them, to tell dead against
you."

There I interposed. "I don't blame Rachel," I said. "I only regret that
she could not prevail on herself to speak more plainly to me at the
time."

"You might as well regret that Rachel is not somebody else," rejoined
Mr. Bruff. "And even then, I doubt if a girl of any delicacy, whose
heart had been set on marrying you, could have brought herself to charge
you to your face with being a thief. Anyhow, it was not in Rachel's
nature to do it. In a very different matter to this matter of
yours--which placed her, however, in a position not altogether unlike
her position towards you--I happen to know that she was influenced by
a similar motive to the motive which actuated her conduct in your case.
Besides, as she told me herself, on our way to town this evening, if
she had spoken plainly, she would no more have believed your denial then
than she believes it now. What answer can you make to that? There is no
answer to be made to it. Come, come, Mr. Franklin! my view of the case
has been proved to be all wrong, I admit--but, as things are now, my
advice may be worth having for all that. I tell you plainly, we shall be
wasting our time, and cudgelling our brains to no purpose, if we attempt
to try back, and unravel this frightful complication from the beginning.
Let us close our minds resolutely to all that happened last year at Lady
Verinder's country house; and let us look to what we CAN discover in the
future, instead of to what we can NOT discover in the past."

"Surely you forget," I said, "that the whole thing is essentially a
matter of the past--so far as I am concerned?"

"Answer me this," retorted Mr. Bruff. "Is the Moonstone at the bottom of
all the mischief--or is it not?"

"It is--of course."

"Very good. What do we believe was done with the Moonstone, when it was
taken to London?"

"It was pledged to Mr. Luker."

"We know that you are not the person who pledged it. Do we know who
did?"

"No."

"Where do we believe the Moonstone to be now?"

"Deposited in the keeping of Mr. Luker's bankers."

"Exactly. Now observe. We are already in the month of June. Towards
the end of the month (I can't be particular to a day) a year will have
elapsed from the time when we believe the jewel to have been pledged.
There is a chance--to say the least--that the person who pawned it, may
be prepared to redeem it when the year's time has expired. If he
redeems it, Mr. Luker must himself--according to the terms of his own
arrangement--take the Diamond out of his banker's hands. Under these
circumstances, I propose setting a watch at the bank, as the present
month draws to an end, and discovering who the person is to whom Mr.
Luker restores the Moonstone. Do you see it now?"

I admitted (a little unwillingly) that the idea was a new one, at any
rate.

"It's Mr. Murthwaite's idea quite as much as mine," said Mr. Bruff. "It
might have never entered my head, but for a conversation we had together
some time since. If Mr. Murthwaite is right, the Indians are likely to
be on the lookout at the bank, towards the end of the month too--and
something serious may come of it. What comes of it doesn't matter to
you and me except as it may help us to lay our hands on the mysterious
Somebody who pawned the Diamond. That person, you may rely on it, is
responsible (I don't pretend to know how) for the position in which
you stand at this moment; and that person alone can set you right in
Rachel's estimation."

"I can't deny," I said, "that the plan you propose meets the difficulty
in a way that is very daring, and very ingenious, and very new. But----"

"But you have an objection to make?"

"Yes. My objection is, that your proposal obliges us to wait."

"Granted. As I reckon the time, it requires you to wait about a
fortnight--more or less. Is that so very long?"

"It's a life-time, Mr. Bruff, in such a situation as mine. My existence
will be simply unendurable to me, unless I do something towards clearing
my character at once."

"Well, well, I understand that. Have you thought yet of what you can
do?"

"I have thought of consulting Sergeant Cuff."

"He has retired from the police. It's useless to expect the Sergeant to
help you."

"I know where to find him; and I can but try."

"Try," said Mr. Bruff, after a moment's consideration. "The case has
assumed such an extraordinary aspect since Sergeant Cuff's time, that
you may revive his interest in the inquiry. Try, and let me hear
the result. In the meanwhile," he continued, rising, "if you make no
discoveries between this, and the end of the month, am I free to try, on
my side, what can be done by keeping a lookout at the bank?"

"Certainly," I answered--"unless I relieve you of all necessity for
trying the experiment in the interval."

Mr. Bruff smiled, and took up his hat.

"Tell Sergeant Cuff," he rejoined, "that I say the discovery of the
truth depends on the discovery of the person who pawned the Diamond. And
let me hear what the Sergeant's experience says to that."

So we parted.

Early the next morning, I set forth for the little town of Dorking--the
place of Sergeant Cuff's retirement, as indicated to me by Betteredge.

Inquiring at the hotel, I received the necessary directions for finding
the Sergeant's cottage. It was approached by a quiet bye-road, a little
way out of the town, and it stood snugly in the middle of its own plot
of garden ground, protected by a good brick wall at the back and the
sides, and by a high quickset hedge in front. The gate, ornamented
at the upper part by smartly-painted trellis-work, was locked. After
ringing at the bell, I peered through the trellis-work, and saw the
great Cuff's favourite flower everywhere; blooming in his garden,
clustering over his door, looking in at his windows. Far from the crimes
and the mysteries of the great city, the illustrious thief-taker was
placidly living out the last Sybarite years of his life, smothered in
roses!

A decent elderly woman opened the gate to me, and at once annihilated
all the hopes I had built on securing the assistance of Sergeant Cuff.
He had started, only the day before, on a journey to Ireland.

"Has he gone there on business?" I asked.

The woman smiled. "He has only one business now, sir," she said;
"and that's roses. Some great man's gardener in Ireland has found out
something new in the growing of roses--and Mr. Cuff's away to inquire
into it."

"Do you know when he will be back?"

"It's quite uncertain, sir. Mr. Cuff said he should come back directly,
or be away some time, just according as he found the new discovery worth
nothing, or worth looking into. If you have any message to leave for
him, I'll take care, sir, that he gets it."

I gave her my card, having first written on it in pencil: "I have
something to say about the Moonstone. Let me hear from you as soon
as you get back." That done, there was nothing left but to submit to
circumstances, and return to London.

In the irritable condition of my mind, at the time of which I am now
writing, the abortive result of my journey to the Sergeant's cottage
simply aggravated the restless impulse in me to be doing something. On
the day of my return from Dorking, I determined that the next morning
should find me bent on a new effort at forcing my way, through all
obstacles, from the darkness to the light.

What form was my next experiment to take?

If the excellent Betteredge had been present while I was considering
that question, and if he had been let into the secret of my thoughts, he
would, no doubt, have declared that the German side of me was, on this
occasion, my uppermost side. To speak seriously, it is perhaps possible
that my German training was in some degree responsible for the labyrinth
of useless speculations in which I now involved myself. For the greater
part of the night, I sat smoking, and building up theories, one more
profoundly improbable than another. When I did get to sleep, my
waking fancies pursued me in dreams. I rose the next morning, with
Objective-Subjective and Subjective-Objective inextricably entangled
together in my mind; and I began the day which was to witness my next
effort at practical action of some kind, by doubting whether I had any
sort of right (on purely philosophical grounds) to consider any sort of
thing (the Diamond included) as existing at all.

How long I might have remained lost in the mist of my own metaphysics,
if I had been left to extricate myself, it is impossible for me to say.
As the event proved, accident came to my rescue, and happily delivered
me. I happened to wear, that morning, the same coat which I had worn on
the day of my interview with Rachel. Searching for something else in one
of the pockets, I came upon a crumpled piece of paper, and, taking it
out, found Betteredge's forgotten letter in my hand.

It seemed hard on my good old friend to leave him without a reply. I
went to my writing-table, and read his letter again.

A letter which has nothing of the slightest importance in it, is
not always an easy letter to answer. Betteredge's present effort at
corresponding with me came within this category. Mr. Candy's assistant,
otherwise Ezra Jennings, had told his master that he had seen me; and
Mr. Candy, in his turn, wanted to see me and say something to me, when
I was next in the neighbourhood of Frizinghall. What was to be said in
answer to that, which would be worth the paper it was written on? I sat
idly drawing likenesses from memory of Mr. Candy's remarkable-looking
assistant, on the sheet of paper which I had vowed to dedicate
to Betteredge--until it suddenly occurred to me that here was the
irrepressible Ezra Jennings getting in my way again! I threw a dozen
portraits, at least, of the man with the piebald hair (the hair in every
case, remarkably like), into the waste-paper basket--and then and
there, wrote my answer to Betteredge. It was a perfectly commonplace
letter--but it had one excellent effect on me. The effort of writing
a few sentences, in plain English, completely cleared my mind of the
cloudy nonsense which had filled it since the previous day.

Devoting myself once more to the elucidation of the impenetrable
puzzle which my own position presented to me, I now tried to meet the
difficulty by investigating it from a plainly practical point of view.
The events of the memorable night being still unintelligible to me,
I looked a little farther back, and searched my memory of the earlier
hours of the birthday for any incident which might prove of some
assistance to me in finding the clue.

Had anything happened while Rachel and I were finishing the painted
door? or, later, when I rode over to Frizinghall? or afterwards, when I
went back with Godfrey Ablewhite and his sisters? or, later again,
when I put the Moonstone into Rachel's hands? or, later still, when the
company came, and we all assembled round the dinner-table? My memory
disposed of that string of questions readily enough, until I came to the
last. Looking back at the social event of the birthday dinner, I found
myself brought to a standstill at the outset of the inquiry. I was not
even capable of accurately remembering the number of the guests who had
sat at the same table with me.

To feel myself completely at fault here, and to conclude, thereupon,
that the incidents of the dinner might especially repay the trouble of
investigating them, formed parts of the same mental process, in my case.
I believe other people, in a similar situation, would have reasoned as
I did. When the pursuit of our own interests causes us to become objects
of inquiry to ourselves, we are naturally suspicious of what we don't
know. Once in possession of the names of the persons who had been
present at the dinner, I resolved--as a means of enriching the deficient
resources of my own memory--to appeal to the memory of the rest of the
guests; to write down all that they could recollect of the social events
of the birthday; and to test the result, thus obtained, by the light of
what had happened afterwards, when the company had left the house.

This last and newest of my many contemplated experiments in the art
of inquiry--which Betteredge would probably have attributed to the
clear-headed, or French, side of me being uppermost for the moment--may
fairly claim record here, on its own merits. Unlikely as it may seem, I
had now actually groped my way to the root of the matter at last. All I
wanted was a hint to guide me in the right direction at starting. Before
another day had passed over my head, that hint was given me by one of
the company who had been present at the birthday feast!

With the plan of proceeding which I now had in view, it was first
necessary to possess the complete list of the guests. This I could
easily obtain from Gabriel Betteredge. I determined to go back to
Yorkshire on that day, and to begin my contemplated investigation the
next morning.

It was just too late to start by the train which left London before
noon. There was no alternative but to wait, nearly three hours, for the
departure of the next train. Was there anything I could do in London,
which might usefully occupy this interval of time?

My thoughts went back again obstinately to the birthday dinner.

Though I had forgotten the numbers, and, in many cases, the names of the
guests, I remembered readily enough that by far the larger proportion
of them came from Frizinghall, or from its neighbourhood. But the larger
proportion was not all. Some few of us were not regular residents in
the country. I myself was one of the few. Mr. Murthwaite was another.
Godfrey Ablewhite was a third. Mr. Bruff--no: I called to mind that
business had prevented Mr. Bruff from making one of the party. Had any
ladies been present, whose usual residence was in London? I could only
remember Miss Clack as coming within this latter category. However, here
were three of the guests, at any rate, whom it was clearly advisable for
me to see before I left town. I drove off at once to Mr. Bruff's office;
not knowing the addresses of the persons of whom I was in search, and
thinking it probable that he might put me in the way of finding them.

Mr. Bruff proved to be too busy to give me more than a minute of his
valuable time. In that minute, however, he contrived to dispose--in the
most discouraging manner--of all the questions I had to put to him.

In the first place, he considered my newly-discovered method of finding
a clue to the mystery as something too purely fanciful to be seriously
discussed. In the second, third, and fourth places, Mr. Murthwaite was
now on his way back to the scene of his past adventures; Miss Clack had
suffered losses, and had settled, from motives of economy, in France;
Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite might, or might not, be discoverable somewhere in
London. Suppose I inquired at his club? And suppose I excused Mr. Bruff,
if he went back to his business and wished me good morning?

The field of inquiry in London, being now so narrowed as only to include
the one necessity of discovering Godfrey's address, I took the lawyer's
hint, and drove to his club.

In the hall, I met with one of the members, who was an old friend of my
cousin's, and who was also an acquaintance of my own. This gentleman,
after enlightening me on the subject of Godfrey's address, told me
of two recent events in his life, which were of some importance in
themselves, and which had not previously reached my ears.

It appeared that Godfrey, far from being discouraged by Rachel's
withdrawal from her engagement to him had made matrimonial advances soon
afterwards to another young lady, reputed to be a great heiress. His
suit had prospered, and his marriage had been considered as a settled
and certain thing. But, here again, the engagement had been suddenly
and unexpectedly broken off--owing, it was said, on this occasion, to
a serious difference of opinion between the bridegroom and the lady's
father, on the question of settlements.

As some compensation for this second matrimonial disaster, Godfrey had
soon afterwards found himself the object of fond pecuniary remembrance,
on the part of one of his many admirers. A rich old lady--highly
respected at the Mothers' Small-Clothes-Conversion-Society, and a
great friend of Miss Clack's (to whom she left nothing but a mourning
ring)--had bequeathed to the admirable and meritorious Godfrey a legacy
of five thousand pounds. After receiving this handsome addition to his
own modest pecuniary resources, he had been heard to say that he felt
the necessity of getting a little respite from his charitable labours,
and that his doctor prescribed "a run on the Continent, as likely to
be productive of much future benefit to his health." If I wanted to see
him, it would be advisable to lose no time in paying my contemplated
visit.

I went, then and there, to pay my visit.

The same fatality which had made me just one day too late in calling on
Sergeant Cuff, made me again one day too late in calling on Godfrey. He
had left London, on the previous morning, by the tidal train, for Dover.
He was to cross to Ostend; and his servant believed he was going on to
Brussels. The time of his return was rather uncertain; but I might be
sure he would be away at least three months.

I went back to my lodgings a little depressed in spirits. Three of
the guests at the birthday dinner--and those three all exceptionally
intelligent people--were out of my reach, at the very time when it was
most important to be able to communicate with them. My last hopes now
rested on Betteredge, and on the friends of the late Lady Verinder
whom I might still find living in the neighbourhood of Rachel's country
house.

On this occasion, I travelled straight to Frizinghall--the town being
now the central point in my field of inquiry. I arrived too late in the
evening to be able to communicate with Betteredge. The next morning, I
sent a messenger with a letter, requesting him to join me at the hotel,
at his earliest convenience.

Having taken the precaution--partly to save time, partly to accommodate
Betteredge--of sending my messenger in a fly, I had a reasonable
prospect, if no delays occurred, of seeing the old man within less than
two hours from the time when I had sent for him. During this interval, I
arranged to employ myself in opening my contemplated inquiry, among the
guests present at the birthday dinner who were personally known to
me, and who were easily within my reach. These were my relatives, the
Ablewhites, and Mr. Candy. The doctor had expressed a special wish to
see me, and the doctor lived in the next street. So to Mr. Candy I went
first.

After what Betteredge had told me, I naturally anticipated finding
traces in the doctor's face of the severe illness from which he had
suffered. But I was utterly unprepared for such a change as I saw in him
when he entered the room and shook hands with me. His eyes were dim;
his hair had turned completely grey; his face was wizen; his figure
had shrunk. I looked at the once lively, rattlepated, humorous
little doctor--associated in my remembrance with the perpetration of
incorrigible social indiscretions and innumerable boyish jokes--and
I saw nothing left of his former self, but the old tendency to vulgar
smartness in his dress. The man was a wreck; but his clothes and his
jewellery--in cruel mockery of the change in him--were as gay and as
gaudy as ever.

"I have often thought of you, Mr. Blake," he said; "and I am heartily
glad to see you again at last. If there is anything I can do for you,
pray command my services, sir--pray command my services!"

He said those few commonplace words with needless hurry and eagerness,
and with a curiosity to know what had brought me to Yorkshire, which
he was perfectly--I might say childishly--incapable of concealing from
notice.

With the object that I had in view, I had of course foreseen the
necessity of entering into some sort of personal explanation, before I
could hope to interest people, mostly strangers to me, in doing their
best to assist my inquiry. On the journey to Frizinghall I had arranged
what my explanation was to be--and I seized the opportunity now offered
to me of trying the effect of it on Mr. Candy.

"I was in Yorkshire, the other day, and I am in Yorkshire again now, on
rather a romantic errand," I said. "It is a matter, Mr. Candy, in which
the late Lady Verinder's friends all took some interest. You remember
the mysterious loss of the Indian Diamond, now nearly a year since?
Circumstances have lately happened which lead to the hope that it may
yet be found--and I am interesting myself, as one of the family, in
recovering it. Among the obstacles in my way, there is the necessity of
collecting again all the evidence which was discovered at the time, and
more if possible. There are peculiarities in this case which make it
desirable to revive my recollection of everything that happened in the
house, on the evening of Miss Verinder's birthday. And I venture to
appeal to her late mother's friends who were present on that occasion,
to lend me the assistance of their memories----"

I had got as far as that in rehearsing my explanatory phrases, when
I was suddenly checked by seeing plainly in Mr. Candy's face that my
experiment on him was a total failure.

The little doctor sat restlessly picking at the points of his fingers
all the time I was speaking. His dim watery eyes were fixed on my face
with an expression of vacant and wistful inquiry very painful to see.
What he was thinking of, it was impossible to divine. The one thing
clearly visible was that I had failed, after the first two or three
words, in fixing his attention. The only chance of recalling him to
himself appeared to lie in changing the subject. I tried a new topic
immediately.

"So much," I said, gaily, "for what brings me to Frizinghall! Now, Mr.
Candy, it's your turn. You sent me a message by Gabriel Betteredge----"

He left off picking at his fingers, and suddenly brightened up.

"Yes! yes! yes!" he exclaimed eagerly. "That's it! I sent you a
message!"

"And Betteredge duly communicated it by letter," I went on. "You had
something to say to me, the next time I was in your neighbourhood. Well,
Mr. Candy, here I am!"

"Here you are!" echoed the doctor. "And Betteredge was quite right.
I had something to say to you. That was my message. Betteredge is a
wonderful man. What a memory! At his age, what a memory!"

He dropped back into silence, and began picking at his fingers again.
Recollecting what I had heard from Betteredge about the effect of the
fever on his memory, I went on with the conversation, in the hope that I
might help him at starting.

"It's a long time since we met," I said. "We last saw each other at the
last birthday dinner my poor aunt was ever to give."

"That's it!" cried Mr. Candy. "The birthday dinner!" He started
impulsively to his feet, and looked at me. A deep flush suddenly
overspread his faded face, and he abruptly sat down again, as if
conscious of having betrayed a weakness which he would fain have
concealed. It was plain, pitiably plain, that he was aware of his own
defect of memory, and that he was bent on hiding it from the observation
of his friends.

Thus far he had appealed to my compassion only. But the words he had
just said--few as they were--roused my curiosity instantly to the
highest pitch. The birthday dinner had already become the one event in
the past, at which I looked back with strangely-mixed feelings of hope
and distrust. And here was the birthday dinner unmistakably proclaiming
itself as the subject on which Mr. Candy had something important to say
to me!

I attempted to help him out once more. But, this time, my own interests
were at the bottom of my compassionate motive, and they hurried me on a
little too abruptly, to the end I had in view.

"It's nearly a year now," I said, "since we sat at that pleasant table.
Have you made any memorandum--in your diary, or otherwise--of what you
wanted to say to me?"

Mr. Candy understood the suggestion, and showed me that he understood
it, as an insult.

"I require no memorandum, Mr. Blake," he said, stiffly enough. "I am not
such a very old man, yet--and my memory (thank God) is to be thoroughly
depended on!"

It is needless to say that I declined to understand that he was offended
with me.

"I wish I could say the same of my memory," I answered. "When I try to
think of matters that are a year old, I seldom find my remembrance as
vivid as I could wish it to be. Take the dinner at Lady Verinder's, for
instance----"

Mr. Candy brightened up again, the moment the allusion passed my lips.

"Ah! the dinner, the dinner at Lady Verinder's!" he exclaimed, more
eagerly than ever. "I have got something to say to you about that."

His eyes looked at me again with the painful expression of inquiry,
so wistful, so vacant, so miserably helpless to see. He was evidently
trying hard, and trying in vain, to recover the lost recollection.
"It was a very pleasant dinner," he burst out suddenly, with an air
of saying exactly what he wanted to say. "A very pleasant dinner, Mr.
Blake, wasn't it?" He nodded and smiled, and appeared to think, poor
fellow, that he had succeeded in concealing the total failure of his
memory, by a well-timed exertion of his own presence of mind.

It was so distressing that I at once shifted the talk--deeply as I was
interested in his recovering the lost remembrance--to topics of local
interest.

Here, he got on glibly enough. Trumpery little scandals and quarrels in
the town, some of them as much as a month old, appeared to recur to his
memory readily. He chattered on, with something of the smooth gossiping
fluency of former times. But there were moments, even in the full flow
of his talkativeness, when he suddenly hesitated--looked at me for
a moment with the vacant inquiry once more in his eyes--controlled
himself--and went on again. I submitted patiently to my martyrdom (it is
surely nothing less than martyrdom to a man of cosmopolitan sympathies,
to absorb in silent resignation the news of a country town?) until the
clock on the chimney-piece told me that my visit had been prolonged
beyond half an hour. Having now some right to consider the sacrifice as
complete, I rose to take leave. As we shook hands, Mr. Candy reverted to
the birthday festival of his own accord.

"I am so glad we have met again," he said. "I had it on my mind--I
really had it on my mind, Mr. Blake, to speak to you. About the dinner
at Lady Verinder's, you know? A pleasant dinner--really a pleasant
dinner now, wasn't it?"

On repeating the phrase, he seemed to feel hardly as certain of having
prevented me from suspecting his lapse of memory, as he had felt on
the first occasion. The wistful look clouded his face again: and, after
apparently designing to accompany me to the street door, he suddenly
changed his mind, rang the bell for the servant, and remained in the
drawing-room.

I went slowly down the doctor's stairs, feeling the disheartening
conviction that he really had something to say which it was vitally
important to me to hear, and that he was morally incapable of saying
it. The effort of remembering that he wanted to speak to me was, but
too evidently, the only effort that his enfeebled memory was now able to
achieve.

Just as I reached the bottom of the stairs, and had turned a corner on
my way to the outer hall, a door opened softly somewhere on the ground
floor of the house, and a gentle voice said behind me:--

"I am afraid, sir, you find Mr. Candy sadly changed?"

I turned round, and found myself face to face with Ezra Jennings.



CHAPTER IX


The doctor's pretty housemaid stood waiting for me, with the street door
open in her hand. Pouring brightly into the hall, the morning light fell
full on the face of Mr. Candy's assistant when I turned, and looked at
him.

It was impossible to dispute Betteredge's assertion that the appearance
of Ezra Jennings, speaking from a popular point of view, was against
him. His gipsy-complexion, his fleshless cheeks, his gaunt facial bones,
his dreamy eyes, his extraordinary parti-coloured hair, the puzzling
contradiction between his face and figure which made him look old and
young both together--were all more or less calculated to produce an
unfavourable impression of him on a stranger's mind. And yet--feeling
this as I certainly did--it is not to be denied that Ezra Jennings made
some inscrutable appeal to my sympathies, which I found it impossible to
resist. While my knowledge of the world warned me to answer the question
which he had put, acknowledging that I did indeed find Mr. Candy sadly
changed, and then to proceed on my way out of the house--my interest in
Ezra Jennings held me rooted to the place, and gave him the opportunity
of speaking to me in private about his employer, for which he had been
evidently on the watch.

"Are you walking my way, Mr. Jennings?" I said, observing that he held
his hat in his hand. "I am going to call on my aunt, Mrs. Ablewhite."

Ezra Jennings replied that he had a patient to see, and that he was
walking my way.

We left the house together. I observed that the pretty servant girl--who
was all smiles and amiability, when I wished her good morning on my way
out--received a modest little message from Ezra Jennings, relating to
the time at which he might be expected to return, with pursed-up lips,
and with eyes which ostentatiously looked anywhere rather than look in
his face. The poor wretch was evidently no favourite in the house.
Out of the house, I had Betteredge's word for it that he was unpopular
everywhere. "What a life!" I thought to myself, as we descended the
doctor's doorsteps.

Having already referred to Mr. Candy's illness on his side, Ezra
Jennings now appeared determined to leave it to me to resume the
subject. His silence said significantly, "It's your turn now." I, too,
had my reasons for referring to the doctor's illness: and I readily
accepted the responsibility of speaking first.

"Judging by the change I see in him," I began, "Mr. Candy's illness must
have been far more serious that I had supposed?"

"It is almost a miracle," said Ezra Jennings, "that he lived through
it."

"Is his memory never any better than I have found it to-day? He has been
trying to speak to me----"

"Of something which happened before he was taken ill?" asked the
assistant, observing that I hesitated.

"Yes."

"His memory of events, at that past time, is hopelessly enfeebled," said
Ezra Jennings. "It is almost to be deplored, poor fellow, that even
the wreck of it remains. While he remembers dimly plans that he
formed--things, here and there, that he had to say or do before his
illness--he is perfectly incapable of recalling what the plans were, or
what the thing was that he had to say or do. He is painfully conscious
of his own deficiency, and painfully anxious, as you must have seen, to
hide it from observation. If he could only have recovered in a complete
state of oblivion as to the past, he would have been a happier man.
Perhaps we should all be happier," he added, with a sad smile, "if we
could but completely forget!"

"There are some events surely in all men's lives," I replied, "the
memory of which they would be unwilling entirely to lose?"

"That is, I hope, to be said of most men, Mr. Blake. I am afraid it
cannot truly be said of ALL. Have you any reason to suppose that the
lost remembrance which Mr. Candy tried to recover--while you were
speaking to him just now--was a remembrance which it was important to
YOU that he should recall?"

In saying those words, he had touched, of his own accord, on the very
point upon which I was anxious to consult him. The interest I felt in
this strange man had impelled me, in the first instance, to give him the
opportunity of speaking to me; reserving what I might have to say, on my
side, in relation to his employer, until I was first satisfied that he
was a person in whose delicacy and discretion I could trust. The little
that he had said, thus far, had been sufficient to convince me that I
was speaking to a gentleman. He had what I may venture to describe as
the UNSOUGHT SELF-POSSESSION, which is a sure sign of good breeding, not
in England only, but everywhere else in the civilised world. Whatever
the object which he had in view, in putting the question that he had
just addressed to me, I felt no doubt that I was justified--so far--in
answering him without reserve.

"I believe I have a strong interest," I said, "in tracing the lost
remembrance which Mr. Candy was unable to recall. May I ask whether you
can suggest to me any method by which I might assist his memory?"

Ezra Jennings looked at me, with a sudden flash of interest in his
dreamy brown eyes.

"Mr. Candy's memory is beyond the reach of assistance," he said. "I have
tried to help it often enough since his recovery, to be able to speak
positively on that point."

This disappointed me; and I owned it.

"I confess you led me to hope for a less discouraging answer than that,"
I said.

Ezra Jennings smiled. "It may not, perhaps, be a final answer, Mr.
Blake. It may be possible to trace Mr. Candy's lost recollection,
without the necessity of appealing to Mr. Candy himself."

"Indeed? Is it an indiscretion, on my part, to ask how?"

"By no means. My only difficulty in answering your question, is the
difficulty of explaining myself. May I trust to your patience, if I
refer once more to Mr. Candy's illness: and if I speak of it this time
without sparing you certain professional details?"

"Pray go on! You have interested me already in hearing the details."

My eagerness seemed to amuse--perhaps, I might rather say, to please
him. He smiled again. We had by this time left the last houses in the
town behind us. Ezra Jennings stopped for a moment, and picked some wild
flowers from the hedge by the roadside. "How beautiful they are!" he
said, simply, showing his little nosegay to me. "And how few people in
England seem to admire them as they deserve!"

"You have not always been in England?" I said.

"No. I was born, and partly brought up, in one of our colonies. My
father was an Englishman; but my mother--We are straying away
from our subject, Mr. Blake; and it is my fault. The truth is, I have
associations with these modest little hedgeside flowers--It doesn't
matter; we were speaking of Mr. Candy. To Mr. Candy let us return."

Connecting the few words about himself which thus reluctantly escaped
him, with the melancholy view of life which led him to place the
conditions of human happiness in complete oblivion of the past, I
felt satisfied that the story which I had read in his face was, in two
particulars at least, the story that it really told. He had suffered as
few men suffer; and there was the mixture of some foreign race in his
English blood.

"You have heard, I dare say, of the original cause of Mr. Candy's
illness?" he resumed. "The night of Lady Verinder's dinner-party was a
night of heavy rain. My employer drove home through it in his gig, and
reached the house wetted to the skin. He found an urgent message from
a patient, waiting for him; and he most unfortunately went at once to
visit the sick person, without stopping to change his clothes. I was
myself professionally detained, that night, by a case at some distance
from Frizinghall. When I got back the next morning, I found Mr. Candy's
groom waiting in great alarm to take me to his master's room. By that
time the mischief was done; the illness had set in."

"The illness has only been described to me, in general terms, as a
fever," I said.

"I can add nothing which will make the description more accurate,"
answered Ezra Jennings. "From first to last the fever assumed no
specific form. I sent at once to two of Mr. Candy's medical friends
in the town, both physicians, to come and give me their opinion of the
case. They agreed with me that it looked serious; but they both strongly
dissented from the view I took of the treatment. We differed entirely in
the conclusions which we drew from the patient's pulse. The two
doctors, arguing from the rapidity of the beat, declared that a lowering
treatment was the only treatment to be adopted. On my side, I admitted
the rapidity of the pulse, but I also pointed to its alarming feebleness
as indicating an exhausted condition of the system, and as showing a
plain necessity for the administration of stimulants. The two doctors
were for keeping him on gruel, lemonade, barley-water, and so on. I was
for giving him champagne, or brandy, ammonia, and quinine. A serious
difference of opinion, as you see! a difference between two physicians
of established local repute, and a stranger who was only an assistant in
the house. For the first few days, I had no choice but to give way to my
elders and betters; the patient steadily sinking all the time. I made a
second attempt to appeal to the plain, undeniably plain, evidence of the
pulse. Its rapidity was unchecked, and its feebleness had increased.
The two doctors took offence at my obstinacy. They said, 'Mr. Jennings,
either we manage this case, or you manage it. Which is it to be?' I
said, 'Gentlemen, give me five minutes to consider, and that plain
question shall have a plain reply.' When the time expired, I was ready
with my answer. I said, 'You positively refuse to try the stimulant
treatment?' They refused in so many words. 'I mean to try it at once,
gentlemen.'--'Try it, Mr. Jennings, and we withdraw from the case.' I
sent down to the cellar for a bottle of champagne; and I administered
half a tumbler-full of it to the patient with my own hand. The two
physicians took up their hats in silence, and left the house."

"You had assumed a serious responsibility," I said. "In your place, I am
afraid I should have shrunk from it."

"In my place, Mr. Blake, you would have remembered that Mr. Candy had
taken you into his employment, under circumstances which made you his
debtor for life. In my place, you would have seen him sinking, hour by
hour; and you would have risked anything, rather than let the one man on
earth who had befriended you, die before your eyes. Don't suppose that
I had no sense of the terrible position in which I had placed myself!
There were moments when I felt all the misery of my friendlessness, all
the peril of my dreadful responsibility. If I had been a happy man, if I
had led a prosperous life, I believe I should have sunk under the task I
had imposed on myself. But I had no happy time to look back at, no past
peace of mind to force itself into contrast with my present anxiety and
suspense--and I held firm to my resolution through it all. I took an
interval in the middle of the day, when my patient's condition was at
its best, for the repose I needed. For the rest of the four-and-twenty
hours, as long as his life was in danger, I never left his bedside.
Towards sunset, as usual in such cases, the delirium incidental to
the fever came on. It lasted more or less through the night; and then
intermitted, at that terrible time in the early morning--from two
o'clock to five--when the vital energies even of the healthiest of us
are at their lowest. It is then that Death gathers in his human harvest
most abundantly. It was then that Death and I fought our fight over
the bed, which should have the man who lay on it. I never hesitated
in pursuing the treatment on which I had staked everything. When wine
failed, I tried brandy. When the other stimulants lost their influence,
I doubled the dose. After an interval of suspense--the like of which I
hope to God I shall never feel again--there came a day when the rapidity
of the pulse slightly, but appreciably, diminished; and, better
still, there came also a change in the beat--an unmistakable change to
steadiness and strength. THEN, I knew that I had saved him; and then I
own I broke down. I laid the poor fellow's wasted hand back on the bed,
and burst out crying. An hysterical relief, Mr. Blake--nothing more!
Physiology says, and says truly, that some men are born with female
constitutions--and I am one of them!"

He made that bitterly professional apology for his tears, speaking
quietly and unaffectedly, as he had spoken throughout. His tone and
manner, from beginning to end, showed him to be especially, almost
morbidly, anxious not to set himself up as an object of interest to me.

"You may well ask, why I have wearied you with all these details?"
he went on. "It is the only way I can see, Mr. Blake, of properly
introducing to you what I have to say next. Now you know exactly what
my position was, at the time of Mr. Candy's illness, you will the more
readily understand the sore need I had of lightening the burden on my
mind by giving it, at intervals, some sort of relief. I have had the
presumption to occupy my leisure, for some years past, in writing a
book, addressed to the members of my profession--a book on the intricate
and delicate subject of the brain and the nervous system. My work will
probably never be finished; and it will certainly never be published. It
has none the less been the friend of many lonely hours; and it helped
me to while away the anxious time--the time of waiting, and nothing
else--at Mr. Candy's bedside. I told you he was delirious, I think? And
I mentioned the time at which his delirium came on?"

"Yes."

"Well, I had reached a section of my book, at that time, which touched
on this same question of delirium. I won't trouble you at any length
with my theory on the subject--I will confine myself to telling you only
what it is your present interest to know. It has often occurred to me in
the course of my medical practice, to doubt whether we can justifiably
infer--in cases of delirium--that the loss of the faculty of speaking
connectedly, implies of necessity the loss of the faculty of thinking
connectedly as well. Poor Mr. Candy's illness gave me an opportunity
of putting this doubt to the test. I understand the art of writing
in shorthand; and I was able to take down the patient's 'wanderings',
exactly as they fell from his lips.--Do you see, Mr. Blake, what I am
coming to at last?"

I saw it clearly, and waited with breathless interest to hear more.

"At odds and ends of time," Ezra Jennings went on, "I reproduced my
shorthand notes, in the ordinary form of writing--leaving large spaces
between the broken phrases, and even the single words, as they had
fallen disconnectedly from Mr. Candy's lips. I then treated the result
thus obtained, on something like the principle which one adopts in
putting together a child's 'puzzle.' It is all confusion to begin with;
but it may be all brought into order and shape, if you can only find
the right way. Acting on this plan, I filled in each blank space on the
paper, with what the words or phrases on either side of it suggested
to me as the speaker's meaning; altering over and over again, until my
additions followed naturally on the spoken words which came before them,
and fitted naturally into the spoken words which came after them. The
result was, that I not only occupied in this way many vacant and anxious
hours, but that I arrived at something which was (as it seemed to me) a
confirmation of the theory that I held. In plainer words, after putting
the broken sentences together I found the superior faculty of thinking
going on, more or less connectedly, in my patient's mind, while the
inferior faculty of expression was in a state of almost complete
incapacity and confusion."

"One word!" I interposed eagerly. "Did my name occur in any of his
wanderings?"

"You shall hear, Mr. Blake. Among my written proofs of the assertion
which I have just advanced--or, I ought to say, among the written
experiments, tending to put my assertion to the proof--there IS one, in
which your name occurs. For nearly the whole of one night, Mr. Candy's
mind was occupied with SOMETHING between himself and you. I have got the
broken words, as they dropped from his lips, on one sheet of paper. And
I have got the links of my own discovering which connect those words
together, on another sheet of paper. The product (as the arithmeticians
would say) is an intelligible statement--first, of something actually
done in the past; secondly, of something which Mr. Candy contemplated
doing in the future, if his illness had not got in the way, and stopped
him. The question is whether this does, or does not, represent the lost
recollection which he vainly attempted to find when you called on him
this morning?"

"Not a doubt of it!" I answered. "Let us go back directly, and look at
the papers!"

"Quite impossible, Mr. Blake."

"Why?"

"Put yourself in my position for a moment," said Ezra Jennings. "Would
you disclose to another person what had dropped unconsciously from the
lips of your suffering patient and your helpless friend, without first
knowing that there was a necessity to justify you in opening your lips?"

I felt that he was unanswerable, here; but I tried to argue the
question, nevertheless.

"My conduct in such a delicate matter as you describe," I replied,
"would depend greatly on whether the disclosure was of a nature to
compromise my friend or not."

"I have disposed of all necessity for considering that side of the
question, long since," said Ezra Jennings. "Wherever my notes included
anything which Mr. Candy might have wished to keep secret, those notes
have been destroyed. My manuscript experiments at my friend's bedside,
include nothing, now, which he would have hesitated to communicate to
others, if he had recovered the use of his memory. In your case, I
have every reason to suppose that my notes contain something which he
actually wished to say to you."

"And yet, you hesitate?"

"And yet, I hesitate. Remember the circumstances under which I obtained
the information which I possess! Harmless as it is, I cannot prevail
upon myself to give it up to you, unless you first satisfy me that there
is a reason for doing so. He was so miserably ill, Mr. Blake! and he was
so helplessly dependent upon Me! Is it too much to ask, if I request you
only to hint to me what your interest is in the lost recollection--or
what you believe that lost recollection to be?"

To have answered him with the frankness which his language and his
manner both claimed from me, would have been to commit myself to openly
acknowledging that I was suspected of the theft of the Diamond. Strongly
as Ezra Jennings had intensified the first impulsive interest which
I had felt in him, he had not overcome my unconquerable reluctance to
disclose the degrading position in which I stood. I took refuge once
more in the explanatory phrases with which I had prepared myself to meet
the curiosity of strangers.

This time I had no reason to complain of a want of attention on the
part of the person to whom I addressed myself. Ezra Jennings listened
patiently, even anxiously, until I had done.

"I am sorry to have raised your expectations, Mr. Blake, only to
disappoint them," he said. "Throughout the whole period of Mr. Candy's
illness, from first to last, not one word about the Diamond escaped his
lips. The matter with which I heard him connect your name has, I can
assure you, no discoverable relation whatever with the loss or the
recovery of Miss Verinder's jewel."

We arrived, as he said those words, at a place where the highway along
which we had been walking branched off into two roads. One led to Mr.
Ablewhite's house, and the other to a moorland village some two or three
miles off. Ezra Jennings stopped at the road which led to the village.

"My way lies in this direction," he said. "I am really and truly sorry,
Mr. Blake, that I can be of no use to you."

His voice told me that he spoke sincerely. His soft brown eyes rested on
me for a moment with a look of melancholy interest. He bowed, and went,
without another word, on his way to the village.

For a minute or more I stood and watched him, walking farther and
farther away from me; carrying farther and farther away with him what I
now firmly believed to be the clue of which I was in search. He turned,
after walking on a little way, and looked back. Seeing me still standing
at the place where we had parted, he stopped, as if doubting whether I
might not wish to speak to him again. There was no time for me to reason
out my own situation--to remind myself that I was losing my opportunity,
at what might be the turning point of my life, and all to flatter
nothing more important than my own self-esteem! There was only time to
call him back first, and to think afterwards. I suspect I am one of the
rashest of existing men. I called him back--and then I said to myself,
"Now there is no help for it. I must tell him the truth!"

He retraced his steps directly. I advanced along the road to meet him.

"Mr. Jennings," I said. "I have not treated you quite fairly. My
interest in tracing Mr. Candy's lost recollection is not the interest of
recovering the Moonstone. A serious personal matter is at the bottom
of my visit to Yorkshire. I have but one excuse for not having dealt
frankly with you in this matter. It is more painful to me than I can
say, to mention to anybody what my position really is."

Ezra Jennings looked at me with the first appearance of embarrassment
which I had seen in him yet.

"I have no right, Mr. Blake, and no wish," he said, "to intrude myself
into your private affairs. Allow me to ask your pardon, on my side, for
having (most innocently) put you to a painful test."

"You have a perfect right," I rejoined, "to fix the terms on which you
feel justified in revealing what you heard at Mr. Candy's bedside. I
understand and respect the delicacy which influences you in this matter.
How can I expect to be taken into your confidence if I decline to
admit you into mine? You ought to know, and you shall know, why I am
interested in discovering what Mr. Candy wanted to say to me. If I turn
out to be mistaken in my anticipations, and if you prove unable to
help me when you are really aware of what I want, I shall trust to your
honour to keep my secret--and something tells me that I shall not trust
in vain."

"Stop, Mr. Blake. I have a word to say, which must be said before you go
any farther." I looked at him in astonishment. The grip of some terrible
emotion seemed to have seized him, and shaken him to the soul. His
gipsy complexion had altered to a livid greyish paleness; his eyes
had suddenly become wild and glittering; his voice had dropped to a
tone--low, stern, and resolute--which I now heard for the first time.
The latent resources in the man, for good or for evil--it was hard, at
that moment, to say which--leapt up in him and showed themselves to me,
with the suddenness of a flash of light.

"Before you place any confidence in me," he went on, "you ought to know,
and you MUST know, under what circumstances I have been received into
Mr. Candy's house. It won't take long. I don't profess, sir, to tell my
story (as the phrase is) to any man. My story will die with me. All I
ask, is to be permitted to tell you, what I have told Mr. Candy. If you
are still in the mind, when you have heard that, to say what you have
proposed to say, you will command my attention and command my services.
Shall we walk on?"

The suppressed misery in his face silenced me. I answered his question
by a sign. We walked on.

After advancing a few hundred yards, Ezra Jennings stopped at a gap in
the rough stone wall which shut off the moor from the road, at this part
of it.

"Do you mind resting a little, Mr. Blake?" he asked. "I am not what I
was--and some things shake me."

I agreed of course. He led the way through the gap to a patch of turf
on the heathy ground, screened by bushes and dwarf trees on the side
nearest to the road, and commanding in the opposite direction a grandly
desolate view over the broad brown wilderness of the moor. The clouds
had gathered, within the last half hour. The light was dull; the
distance was dim. The lovely face of Nature met us, soft and still
colourless--met us without a smile.

We sat down in silence. Ezra Jennings laid aside his hat, and passed his
hand wearily over his forehead, wearily through his startling white and
black hair. He tossed his little nosegay of wild flowers away from him,
as if the remembrances which it recalled were remembrances which hurt
him now.

"Mr. Blake!" he said, suddenly. "You are in bad company. The cloud of a
horrible accusation has rested on me for years. I tell you the worst at
once. I am a man whose life is a wreck, and whose character is gone."

I attempted to speak. He stopped me.

"No," he said. "Pardon me; not yet. Don't commit yourself to expressions
of sympathy which you may afterwards wish to recall. I have mentioned an
accusation which has rested on me for years. There are circumstances
in connexion with it that tell against me. I cannot bring myself to
acknowledge what the accusation is. And I am incapable, perfectly
incapable, of proving my innocence. I can only assert my innocence. I
assert it, sir, on my oath, as a Christian. It is useless to appeal to
my honour as a man."

He paused again. I looked round at him. He never looked at me in return.
His whole being seemed to be absorbed in the agony of recollecting, and
in the effort to speak.

"There is much that I might say," he went on, "about the merciless
treatment of me by my own family, and the merciless enmity to which
I have fallen a victim. But the harm is done; the wrong is beyond all
remedy. I decline to weary or distress you, sir, if I can help it. At
the outset of my career in this country, the vile slander to which
I have referred struck me down at once and for ever. I resigned my
aspirations in my profession--obscurity was the only hope left for me.
I parted with the woman I loved--how could I condemn her to share my
disgrace? A medical assistant's place offered itself, in a remote
corner of England. I got the place. It promised me peace; it promised me
obscurity, as I thought. I was wrong. Evil report, with time and chance
to help it, travels patiently, and travels far. The accusation from
which I had fled followed me. I got warning of its approach. I was able
to leave my situation voluntarily, with the testimonials that I had
earned. They got me another situation in another remote district. Time
passed again; and again the slander that was death to my character
found me out. On this occasion I had no warning. My employer said, 'Mr.
Jennings, I have no complaint to make against you; but you must set
yourself right, or leave me.' I had but one choice--I left him. It's
useless to dwell on what I suffered after that. I am only forty years
old now. Look at my face, and let it tell for me the story of some
miserable years. It ended in my drifting to this place, and meeting with
Mr. Candy. He wanted an assistant. I referred him, on the question of
capacity, to my last employer. The question of character remained. I
told him what I have told you--and more. I warned him that there were
difficulties in the way, even if he believed me. 'Here, as elsewhere,'
I said 'I scorn the guilty evasion of living under an assumed name: I am
no safer at Frizinghall than at other places from the cloud that follows
me, go where I may.' He answered, 'I don't do things by halves--I
believe you, and I pity you. If you will risk what may happen, I will
risk it too.' God Almighty bless him! He has given me shelter, he
has given me employment, he has given me rest of mind--and I have the
certain conviction (I have had it for some months past) that nothing
will happen now to make him regret it."

"The slander has died out?" I said.

"The slander is as active as ever. But when it follows me here, it will
come too late."

"You will have left the place?"

"No, Mr. Blake--I shall be dead. For ten years past I have suffered from
an incurable internal complaint. I don't disguise from you that I should
have let the agony of it kill me long since, but for one last interest
in life, which makes my existence of some importance to me still. I want
to provide for a person--very dear to me--whom I shall never see again.
My own little patrimony is hardly sufficient to make her independent of
the world. The hope, if I could only live long enough, of increasing
it to a certain sum, has impelled me to resist the disease by such
palliative means as I could devise. The one effectual palliative in my
case, is--opium. To that all-potent and all-merciful drug I am indebted
for a respite of many years from my sentence of death. But even the
virtues of opium have their limit. The progress of the disease has
gradually forced me from the use of opium to the abuse of it. I am
feeling the penalty at last. My nervous system is shattered; my nights
are nights of horror. The end is not far off now. Let it come--I have
not lived and worked in vain. The little sum is nearly made up; and I
have the means of completing it, if my last reserves of life fail me
sooner than I expect. I hardly know how I have wandered into telling you
this. I don't think I am mean enough to appeal to your pity. Perhaps, I
fancy you may be all the readier to believe me, if you know that what I
have said to you, I have said with the certain knowledge in me that I am
a dying man. There is no disguising, Mr. Blake, that you interest me.
I have attempted to make my poor friend's loss of memory the means of
bettering my acquaintance with you. I have speculated on the chance of
your feeling a passing curiosity about what he wanted to say, and of my
being able to satisfy it. Is there no excuse for my intruding myself on
you? Perhaps there is some excuse. A man who has lived as I have lived
has his bitter moments when he ponders over human destiny. You have
youth, health, riches, a place in the world, a prospect before you. You,
and such as you, show me the sunny side of human life, and reconcile me
with the world that I am leaving, before I go. However this talk between
us may end, I shall not forget that you have done me a kindness in doing
that. It rests with you, sir, to say what you proposed saying, or to
wish me good morning."

I had but one answer to make to that appeal. Without a moment's
hesitation I told him the truth, as unreservedly as I have told it in
these pages.

He started to his feet, and looked at me with breathless eagerness as I
approached the leading incident of my story.

"It is certain that I went into the room," I said; "it is certain that
I took the Diamond. I can only meet those two plain facts by declaring
that, do what I might, I did it without my own knowledge----"

Ezra Jennings caught me excitedly by the arm.

"Stop!" he said. "You have suggested more to me than you suppose. Have
you ever been accustomed to the use of opium?"

"I never tasted it in my life."

"Were your nerves out of order, at this time last year? Were you
unusually restless and irritable?"

"Yes."

"Did you sleep badly?"

"Wretchedly. Many nights I never slept at all."

"Was the birthday night an exception? Try, and remember. Did you sleep
well on that one occasion?"

"I do remember! I slept soundly."

He dropped my arm as suddenly as he had taken it--and looked at me with
the air of a man whose mind was relieved of the last doubt that rested
on it.

"This is a marked day in your life, and in mine," he said, gravely.
"I am absolutely certain, Mr. Blake, of one thing--I have got what Mr.
Candy wanted to say to you this morning, in the notes that I took at my
patient's bedside. Wait! that is not all. I am firmly persuaded that I
can prove you to have been unconscious of what you were about, when you
entered the room and took the Diamond. Give me time to think, and time
to question you. I believe the vindication of your innocence is in my
hands!"

"Explain yourself, for God's sake! What do you mean?"

In the excitement of our colloquy, we had walked on a few steps, beyond
the clump of dwarf trees which had hitherto screened us from view.
Before Ezra Jennings could answer me, he was hailed from the high road
by a man, in great agitation, who had been evidently on the look-out for
him.

"I am coming," he called back; "I am coming as fast as I can!" He turned
to me. "There is an urgent case waiting for me at the village yonder;
I ought to have been there half an hour since--I must attend to it
at once. Give me two hours from this time, and call at Mr. Candy's
again--and I will engage to be ready for you."

"How am I to wait!" I exclaimed, impatiently. "Can't you quiet my mind
by a word of explanation before we part?"

"This is far too serious a matter to be explained in a hurry, Mr. Blake.
I am not wilfully trying your patience--I should only be adding to
your suspense, if I attempted to relieve it as things are now. At
Frizinghall, sir, in two hours' time!"

The man on the high road hailed him again. He hurried away, and left me.



CHAPTER X


How the interval of suspense in which I was now condemned might
have affected other men in my position, I cannot pretend to say. The
influence of the two hours' probation upon my temperament was simply
this. I felt physically incapable of remaining still in any one place,
and morally incapable of speaking to any one human being, until I had
first heard all that Ezra Jennings had to say to me.

In this frame of mind, I not only abandoned my contemplated visit to
Mrs. Ablewhite--I even shrank from encountering Gabriel Betteredge
himself.

Returning to Frizinghall, I left a note for Betteredge, telling him that
I had been unexpectedly called away for a few hours, but that he might
certainly expect me to return towards three o'clock in the afternoon. I
requested him, in the interval, to order his dinner at the usual hour,
and to amuse himself as he pleased. He had, as I well knew, hosts of
friends in Frizinghall; and he would be at no loss how to fill up his
time until I returned to the hotel.

This done, I made the best of my way out of the town again, and roamed
the lonely moorland country which surrounds Frizinghall, until my watch
told me that it was time, at last, to return to Mr. Candy's house.

I found Ezra Jennings ready and waiting for me.

He was sitting alone in a bare little room, which communicated by a
glazed door with a surgery. Hideous coloured diagrams of the ravages of
hideous diseases decorated the barren buff-coloured walls. A book-case
filled with dingy medical works, and ornamented at the top with a skull,
in place of the customary bust; a large deal table copiously splashed
with ink; wooden chairs of the sort that are seen in kitchens and
cottages; a threadbare drugget in the middle of the floor; a sink of
water, with a basin and waste-pipe roughly let into the wall, horribly
suggestive of its connection with surgical operations--comprised the
entire furniture of the room. The bees were humming among a few flowers
placed in pots outside the window; the birds were singing in the
garden, and the faint intermittent jingle of a tuneless piano in some
neighbouring house forced itself now and again on the ear. In any
other place, these everyday sounds might have spoken pleasantly of the
everyday world outside. Here, they came in as intruders on a silence
which nothing but human suffering had the privilege to disturb. I looked
at the mahogany instrument case, and at the huge roll of lint, occupying
places of their own on the book-shelves, and shuddered inwardly as I
thought of the sounds, familiar and appropriate to the everyday use of
Ezra Jennings' room.

"I make no apology, Mr. Blake, for the place in which I am receiving
you," he said. "It is the only room in the house, at this hour of the
day, in which we can feel quite sure of being left undisturbed. Here
are my papers ready for you; and here are two books to which we may have
occasion to refer, before we have done. Bring your chair to the table,
and we shall be able to consult them together."

I drew up to the table; and Ezra Jennings handed me his manuscript
notes. They consisted of two large folio leaves of paper. One leaf
contained writing which only covered the surface at intervals. The other
presented writing, in red and black ink, which completely filled the
page from top to bottom. In the irritated state of my curiosity, at that
moment, I laid aside the second sheet of paper in despair.

"Have some mercy on me!" I said. "Tell me what I am to expect, before I
attempt to read this."

"Willingly, Mr. Blake! Do you mind my asking you one or two more
questions?"

"Ask me anything you like!"

He looked at me with the sad smile on his lips, and the kindly interest
in his soft brown eyes.

"You have already told me," he said, "that you have never--to your
knowledge--tasted opium in your life."

"To my knowledge," I repeated.

"You will understand directly why I speak with that reservation. Let us
go on. You are not aware of ever having taken opium. At this time,
last year, you were suffering from nervous irritation, and you slept
wretchedly at night. On the night of the birthday, however, there was an
exception to the rule--you slept soundly. Am I right, so far?"

"Quite right!"

"Can you assign any cause for the nervous suffering, and your want of
sleep?"

"I can assign no cause. Old Betteredge made a guess at the cause, I
remember. But that is hardly worth mentioning."

"Pardon me. Anything is worth mentioning in such a case as this.
Betteredge attributed your sleeplessness to something. To what?"

"To my leaving off smoking."

"Had you been an habitual smoker?"

"Yes."

"Did you leave off the habit suddenly?"

"Yes."

"Betteredge was perfectly right, Mr. Blake. When smoking is a habit
a man must have no common constitution who can leave it off suddenly
without some temporary damage to his nervous system. Your sleepless
nights are accounted for, to my mind. My next question refers to Mr.
Candy. Do you remember having entered into anything like a dispute
with him--at the birthday dinner, or afterwards--on the subject of his
profession?"

The question instantly awakened one of my dormant remembrances in
connection with the birthday festival. The foolish wrangle which took
place, on that occasion, between Mr. Candy and myself, will be found
described at much greater length than it deserves in the tenth
chapter of Betteredge's Narrative. The details there presented of the
dispute--so little had I thought of it afterwards--entirely failed to
recur to my memory. All that I could now recall, and all that I could
tell Ezra Jennings was, that I had attacked the art of medicine at the
dinner-table with sufficient rashness and sufficient pertinacity to put
even Mr. Candy out of temper for the moment. I also remembered that Lady
Verinder had interfered to stop the dispute, and that the little doctor
and I had "made it up again," as the children say, and had become as
good friends as ever, before we shook hands that night.

"There is one thing more," said Ezra Jennings, "which it is very
important I should know. Had you any reason for feeling any special
anxiety about the Diamond, at this time last year?"

"I had the strongest reasons for feeling anxiety about the Diamond.
I knew it to be the object of a conspiracy; and I was warned to take
measures for Miss Verinder's protection, as the possessor of the stone."

"Was the safety of the Diamond the subject of conversation between you
and any other person, immediately before you retired to rest on the
birthday night?"

"It was the subject of a conversation between Lady Verinder and her
daughter----"

"Which took place in your hearing?"

"Yes."

Ezra Jennings took up his notes from the table, and placed them in my
hands.

"Mr. Blake," he said, "if you read those notes now, by the light which
my questions and your answers have thrown on them, you will make two
astounding discoveries concerning yourself. You will find--First, that
you entered Miss Verinder's sitting-room and took the Diamond, in a
state of trance, produced by opium. Secondly, that the opium was
given to you by Mr. Candy--without your own knowledge--as a practical
refutation of the opinions which you had expressed to him at the
birthday dinner."

I sat with the papers in my hand completely stupefied.

"Try and forgive poor Mr. Candy," said the assistant gently. "He has
done dreadful mischief, I own; but he has done it innocently. If you
will look at the notes, you will see that--but for his illness--he would
have returned to Lady Verinder's the morning after the party, and would
have acknowledged the trick that he had played you. Miss Verinder would
have heard of it, and Miss Verinder would have questioned him--and the
truth which has laid hidden for a year would have been discovered in a
day."

I began to regain my self-possession. "Mr. Candy is beyond the reach of
my resentment," I said angrily. "But the trick that he played me is not
the less an act of treachery, for all that. I may forgive, but I shall
not forget it."

"Every medical man commits that act of treachery, Mr. Blake, in the
course of his practice. The ignorant distrust of opium (in England) is
by no means confined to the lower and less cultivated classes. Every
doctor in large practice finds himself, every now and then, obliged
to deceive his patients, as Mr. Candy deceived you. I don't defend the
folly of playing you a trick under the circumstances. I only plead with
you for a more accurate and more merciful construction of motives."

"How was it done?" I asked. "Who gave me the laudanum, without my
knowing it myself?"

"I am not able to tell you. Nothing relating to that part of the matter
dropped from Mr. Candy's lips, all through his illness. Perhaps your own
memory may point to the person to be suspected."

"No."

"It is useless, in that case, to pursue the inquiry. The laudanum was
secretly given to you in some way. Let us leave it there, and go on
to matters of more immediate importance. Read my notes, if you can.
Familiarise your mind with what has happened in the past. I have
something very bold and very startling to propose to you, which relates
to the future."

Those last words roused me.

I looked at the papers, in the order in which Ezra Jennings had placed
them in my hands. The paper which contained the smaller quantity of
writing was the uppermost of the two. On this, the disconnected words,
and fragments of sentences, which had dropped from Mr. Candy in his
delirium, appeared as follows:

"... Mr. Franklin Blake ... and agreeable ... down a peg ... medicine
... confesses ... sleep at night ... tell him ... out of order ...
medicine ... he tells me ... and groping in the dark mean one and the
same thing ... all the company at the dinner-table ... I say ... groping
after sleep ... nothing but medicine ... he says ... leading the blind
... know what it means ... witty ... a night's rest in spite of
his teeth ... wants sleep ... Lady Verinder's medicine chest ...
five-and-twenty minims ... without his knowing it ... to-morrow morning
... Well, Mr. Blake ... medicine to-day ... never ... without it ...
out, Mr. Candy ... excellent ... without it ... down on him ... truth
... something besides ... excellent ... dose of laudanum, sir ... bed
... what ... medicine now."

There, the first of the two sheets of paper came to an end. I handed it
back to Ezra Jennings.

"That is what you heard at his bedside?" I said.

"Literally and exactly what I heard," he answered--"except that the
repetitions are not transferred here from my short-hand notes. He
reiterated certain words and phrases a dozen times over, fifty times
over, just as he attached more or less importance to the idea which they
represented. The repetitions, in this sense, were of some assistance
to me in putting together those fragments. Don't suppose," he added,
pointing to the second sheet of paper, "that I claim to have reproduced
the expressions which Mr. Candy himself would have used if he had been
capable of speaking connectedly. I only say that I have penetrated
through the obstacle of the disconnected expression, to the thought
which was underlying it connectedly all the time. Judge for yourself."

I turned to the second sheet of paper, which I now knew to be the key to
the first.

Once more, Mr. Candy's wanderings appeared, copied in black ink; the
intervals between the phrases being filled up by Ezra Jennings in
red ink. I reproduce the result here, in one plain form; the original
language and the interpretation of it coming close enough together in
these pages to be easily compared and verified.

"... Mr. Franklin Blake is clever and agreeable, but he wants taking
down a peg when he talks of medicine. He confesses that he has been
suffering from want of sleep at night. I tell him that his nerves are
out of order, and that he ought to take medicine. He tells me that
taking medicine and groping in the dark mean one and the same thing.
This before all the company at the dinner-table. I say to him, you are
groping after sleep, and nothing but medicine can help you to find it.
He says to me, I have heard of the blind leading the blind, and now I
know what it means. Witty--but I can give him a night's rest in spite of
his teeth. He really wants sleep; and Lady Verinder's medicine chest is
at my disposal. Give him five-and-twenty minims of laudanum to-night,
without his knowing it; and then call to-morrow morning. 'Well, Mr.
Blake, will you try a little medicine to-day? You will never sleep
without it.'--'There you are out, Mr. Candy: I have had an excellent
night's rest without it.' Then, come down on him with the truth! 'You
have had something besides an excellent night's rest; you had a dose
of laudanum, sir, before you went to bed. What do you say to the art of
medicine, now?'"

Admiration of the ingenuity which had woven this smooth and finished
texture out of the ravelled skein was naturally the first impression
that I felt, on handing the manuscript back to Ezra Jennings. He
modestly interrupted the first few words in which my sense of surprise
expressed itself, by asking me if the conclusion which he had drawn from
his notes was also the conclusion at which my own mind had arrived.

"Do you believe as I believe," he said, "that you were acting under the
influence of the laudanum in doing all that you did, on the night of
Miss Verinder's birthday, in Lady Verinder's house?"

"I am too ignorant of the influence of laudanum to have an opinion of
my own," I answered. "I can only follow your opinion, and feel convinced
that you are right."

"Very well. The next question is this. You are convinced; and I am
convinced--how are we to carry our conviction to the minds of other
people?"

I pointed to the two manuscripts, lying on the table between us. Ezra
Jennings shook his head.

"Useless, Mr. Blake! Quite useless, as they stand now for three
unanswerable reasons. In the first place, those notes have been taken
under circumstances entirely out of the experience of the mass of
mankind. Against them, to begin with! In the second place, those notes
represent a medical and metaphysical theory. Against them, once more! In
the third place, those notes are of my making; there is nothing but my
assertion to the contrary, to guarantee that they are not fabrications.
Remember what I told you on the moor--and ask yourself what my assertion
is worth. No! my notes have but one value, looking to the verdict of the
world outside. Your innocence is to be vindicated; and they show how it
can be done. We must put our conviction to the proof--and You are the
man to prove it!"

"How?" I asked.

He leaned eagerly nearer to me across the table that divided us.

"Are you willing to try a bold experiment?"

"I will do anything to clear myself of the suspicion that rests on me
now."

"Will you submit to some personal inconvenience for a time?"

"To any inconvenience, no matter what it may be."

"Will you be guided implicitly by my advice? It may expose you to the
ridicule of fools; it may subject you to the remonstrances of friends
whose opinions you are bound to respect."

"Tell me what to do!" I broke out impatiently. "And, come what may, I'll
do it."

"You shall do this, Mr. Blake," he answered. "You shall steal the
Diamond, unconsciously, for the second time, in the presence of
witnesses whose testimony is beyond dispute."

I started to my feet. I tried to speak. I could only look at him.

"I believe it CAN be done," he went on. "And it shall be done--if you
will only help me. Try to compose yourself--sit down, and hear what I
have to say to you. You have resumed the habit of smoking; I have seen
that for myself. How long have you resumed it."

"For nearly a year."

"Do you smoke more or less than you did?"

"More."

"Will you give up the habit again? Suddenly, mind!--as you gave it up
before."

I began dimly to see his drift. "I will give it up, from this moment," I
answered.

"If the same consequences follow, which followed last June," said Ezra
Jennings--"if you suffer once more as you suffered then, from sleepless
nights, we shall have gained our first step. We shall have put you
back again into something assimilating to your nervous condition on the
birthday night. If we can next revive, or nearly revive, the domestic
circumstances which surrounded you; and if we can occupy your mind
again with the various questions concerning the Diamond which formerly
agitated it, we shall have replaced you, as nearly as possible in the
same position, physically and morally, in which the opium found you last
year. In that case we may fairly hope that a repetition of the dose
will lead, in a greater or lesser degree, to a repetition of the result.
There is my proposal, expressed in a few hasty words. You shall now see
what reasons I have to justify me in making it."

He turned to one of the books at his side, and opened it at a place
marked by a small slip of paper.

"Don't suppose that I am going to weary you with a lecture on
physiology," he said. "I think myself bound to prove, in justice to both
of us, that I am not asking you to try this experiment in deference
to any theory of my own devising. Admitted principles, and recognised
authorities, justify me in the view that I take. Give me five minutes of
your attention; and I will undertake to show you that Science sanctions
my proposal, fanciful as it may seem. Here, in the first place, is the
physiological principle on which I am acting, stated by no less a person
than Dr. Carpenter. Read it for yourself."

He handed me the slip of paper which had marked the place in the book.
It contained a few lines of writing, as follows:--

"There seems much ground for the belief, that every sensory impression
which has once been recognised by the perceptive consciousness, is
registered (so to speak) in the brain, and may be reproduced at some
subsequent time, although there may be no consciousness of its existence
in the mind during the whole intermediate period." "Is that plain, so
far?" asked Ezra Jennings.

"Perfectly plain."

He pushed the open book across the table to me, and pointed to a
passage, marked by pencil lines.

"Now," he said, "read that account of a case, which has--as I believe--a
direct bearing on your own position, and on the experiment which I am
tempting you to try. Observe, Mr. Blake, before you begin, that I am now
referring you to one of the greatest of English physiologists. The book
in your hand is Doctor Elliotson's HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY; and the case which
the doctor cites rests on the well-known authority of Mr. Combe."

The passage pointed out to me was expressed in these terms:--

"Dr. Abel informed me," says Mr. Combe, "of an Irish porter to a
warehouse, who forgot, when sober, what he had done when drunk; but,
being drunk, again recollected the transactions of his former state of
intoxication. On one occasion, being drunk, he had lost a parcel of some
value, and in his sober moments could give no account of it. Next time
he was intoxicated, he recollected that he had left the parcel at a
certain house, and there being no address on it, it had remained there
safely, and was got on his calling for it."

"Plain again?" asked Ezra Jennings.

"As plain as need be."

He put back the slip of paper in its place, and closed the book.

"Are you satisfied that I have not spoken without good authority to
support me?" he asked. "If not, I have only to go to those bookshelves,
and you have only to read the passages which I can point out to you."

"I am quite satisfied," I said, "without reading a word more."

"In that case, we may return to your own personal interest in this
matter. I am bound to tell you that there is something to be said
against the experiment as well as for it. If we could, this year,
exactly reproduce, in your case, the conditions as they existed last
year, it is physiologically certain that we should arrive at exactly the
same result. But this--there is no denying it--is simply impossible. We
can only hope to approximate to the conditions; and if we don't succeed
in getting you nearly enough back to what you were, this venture of ours
will fail. If we do succeed--and I am myself hopeful of success--you
may at least so far repeat your proceedings on the birthday night, as to
satisfy any reasonable person that you are guiltless, morally speaking,
of the theft of the Diamond. I believe, Mr. Blake, I have now stated
the question, on both sides of it, as fairly as I can, within the limits
that I have imposed on myself. If there is anything that I have not made
clear to you, tell me what it is--and if I can enlighten you, I will."

"All that you have explained to me," I said, "I understand perfectly.
But I own I am puzzled on one point, which you have not made clear to me
yet."

"What is the point?"

"I don't understand the effect of the laudanum on me. I don't understand
my walking down-stairs, and along corridors, and my opening and shutting
the drawers of a cabinet, and my going back again to my own room. All
these are active proceedings. I thought the influence of opium was first
to stupefy you, and then to send you to sleep."

"The common error about opium, Mr. Blake! I am, at this moment, exerting
my intelligence (such as it is) in your service, under the influence
of a dose of laudanum, some ten times larger than the dose Mr. Candy
administered to you. But don't trust to my authority--even on a question
which comes within my own personal experience. I anticipated the
objection you have just made: and I have again provided myself with
independent testimony which will carry its due weight with it in your
own mind, and in the minds of your friends."

He handed me the second of the two books which he had by him on the
table.

"There," he said, "are the far-famed CONFESSIONS OF AN ENGLISH OPIUM
EATER! Take the book away with you, and read it. At the passage which
I have marked, you will find that when De Quincey had committed what he
calls 'a debauch of opium,' he either went to the gallery at the Opera
to enjoy the music, or he wandered about the London markets on Saturday
night, and interested himself in observing all the little shifts and
bargainings of the poor in providing their Sunday's dinner. So much for
the capacity of a man to occupy himself actively, and to move about from
place to place under the influence of opium."

"I am answered so far," I said; "but I am not answered yet as to the
effect produced by the opium on myself."

"I will try to answer you in a few words," said Ezra Jennings.
"The action of opium is comprised, in the majority of cases, in two
influences--a stimulating influence first, and a sedative influence
afterwards. Under the stimulating influence, the latest and most vivid
impressions left on your mind--namely, the impressions relating to the
Diamond--would be likely, in your morbidly sensitive nervous condition,
to become intensified in your brain, and would subordinate to themselves
your judgment and your will exactly as an ordinary dream subordinates to
itself your judgment and your will. Little by little, under this action,
any apprehensions about the safety of the Diamond which you might have
felt during the day would be liable to develop themselves from the
state of doubt to the state of certainty--would impel you into practical
action to preserve the jewel--would direct your steps, with that motive
in view, into the room which you entered--and would guide your hand to
the drawers of the cabinet, until you had found the drawer which held
the stone. In the spiritualised intoxication of opium, you would do
all that. Later, as the sedative action began to gain on the stimulant
action, you would slowly become inert and stupefied. Later still you
would fall into a deep sleep. When the morning came, and the effect of
the opium had been all slept off, you would wake as absolutely ignorant
of what you had done in the night as if you had been living at the
Antipodes. Have I made it tolerably clear to you so far?"

"You have made it so clear," I said, "that I want you to go farther.
You have shown me how I entered the room, and how I came to take the
Diamond. But Miss Verinder saw me leave the room again, with the jewel
in my hand. Can you trace my proceedings from that moment? Can you guess
what I did next?"

"That is the very point I was coming to," he rejoined. "It is a question
with me whether the experiment which I propose as a means of vindicating
your innocence, may not also be made a means of recovering the lost
Diamond as well. When you left Miss Verinder's sitting-room, with
the jewel in your hand, you went back in all probability to your own
room----"

"Yes? and what then?"

"It is possible, Mr. Blake--I dare not say more--that your idea of
preserving the Diamond led, by a natural sequence, to the idea of hiding
the Diamond, and that the place in which you hid it was somewhere in
your bedroom. In that event, the case of the Irish porter may be your
case. You may remember, under the influence of the second dose of
opium, the place in which you hid the Diamond under the influence of the
first."

It was my turn, now, to enlighten Ezra Jennings. I stopped him, before
he could say any more.

"You are speculating," I said, "on a result which cannot possibly take
place. The Diamond is, at this moment, in London."

He started, and looked at me in great surprise.

"In London?" he repeated. "How did it get to London from Lady Verinder's
house?"

"Nobody knows."

"You removed it with your own hand from Miss Verinder's room. How was it
taken out of your keeping?"

"I have no idea how it was taken out of my keeping."

"Did you see it, when you woke in the morning?"

"No."

"Has Miss Verinder recovered possession of it?"

"No."

"Mr. Blake! there seems to be something here which wants clearing up.
May I ask how you know that the Diamond is, at this moment, in London?"

I had put precisely the same question to Mr. Bruff when I made my first
inquiries about the Moonstone, on my return to England. In answering
Ezra Jennings, I accordingly repeated what I had myself heard from the
lawyer's own lips--and what is already familiar to the readers of these
pages.

He showed plainly that he was not satisfied with my reply.

"With all deference to you," he said, "and with all deference to your
legal adviser, I maintain the opinion which I expressed just now. It
rests, I am well aware, on a mere assumption. Pardon me for reminding
you, that your opinion also rests on a mere assumption as well."

The view he took of the matter was entirely new to me. I waited
anxiously to hear how he would defend it.

"I assume," pursued Ezra Jennings, "that the influence of the
opium--after impelling you to possess yourself of the Diamond, with the
purpose of securing its safety--might also impel you, acting under the
same influence and the same motive, to hide it somewhere in your own
room. YOU assume that the Hindoo conspirators could by no possibility
commit a mistake. The Indians went to Mr. Luker's house after the
Diamond--and, therefore, in Mr. Luker's possession the Diamond must be!
Have you any evidence to prove that the Moonstone was taken to London
at all? You can't even guess how, or by whom, it was removed from Lady
Verinder's house! Have you any evidence that the jewel was pledged to
Mr. Luker? He declares that he never heard of the Moonstone; and his
bankers' receipt acknowledges nothing but the deposit of a valuable of
great price. The Indians assume that Mr. Luker is lying--and you assume
again that the Indians are right. All I say, in differing with you,
is--that my view is possible. What more, Mr. Blake, either logically, or
legally, can be said for yours?"

It was put strongly; but there was no denying that it was put truly as
well.

"I confess you stagger me," I replied. "Do you object to my writing to
Mr. Bruff, and telling him what you have said?"

"On the contrary, I shall be glad if you will write to Mr. Bruff. If we
consult his experience, we may see the matter under a new light. For the
present, let us return to our experiment with the opium. We have decided
that you leave off the habit of smoking from this moment."

"From this moment?"

"That is the first step. The next step is to reproduce, as nearly as we
can, the domestic circumstances which surrounded you last year."

How was this to be done? Lady Verinder was dead. Rachel and I, so long
as the suspicion of theft rested on me, were parted irrevocably. Godfrey
Ablewhite was away travelling on the Continent. It was simply impossible
to reassemble the people who had inhabited the house, when I had slept
in it last. The statement of this objection did not appear to embarrass
Ezra Jennings. He attached very little importance, he said, to
reassembling the same people--seeing that it would be vain to expect
them to reassume the various positions which they had occupied towards
me in the past times. On the other hand, he considered it essential to
the success of the experiment, that I should see the same objects about
me which had surrounded me when I was last in the house.

"Above all things," he said, "you must sleep in the room which you slept
in, on the birthday night, and it must be furnished in the same way. The
stairs, the corridors, and Miss Verinder's sitting-room, must also be
restored to what they were when you saw them last. It is absolutely
necessary, Mr. Blake, to replace every article of furniture in that part
of the house which may now be put away. The sacrifice of your cigars
will be useless, unless we can get Miss Verinder's permission to do
that."

"Who is to apply to her for permission?" I asked.

"Is it not possible for you to apply?"

"Quite out of the question. After what has passed between us on the
subject of the lost Diamond, I can neither see her, nor write to her, as
things are now."

Ezra Jennings paused, and considered for a moment.

"May I ask you a delicate question?" he said.

I signed to him to go on.

"Am I right, Mr. Blake, in fancying (from one or two things which have
dropped from you) that you felt no common interest in Miss Verinder, in
former times?"

"Quite right."

"Was the feeling returned?"

"It was."

"Do you think Miss Verinder would be likely to feel a strong interest in
the attempt to prove your innocence?"

"I am certain of it."

"In that case, I will write to Miss Verinder--if you will give me
leave."

"Telling her of the proposal that you have made to me?"

"Telling her of everything that has passed between us to-day."

It is needless to say that I eagerly accepted the service which he had
offered to me.

"I shall have time to write by to-day's post," he said, looking at his
watch. "Don't forget to lock up your cigars, when you get back to the
hotel! I will call to-morrow morning and hear how you have passed the
night."

I rose to take leave of him; and attempted to express the grateful sense
of his kindness which I really felt.

He pressed my hand gently. "Remember what I told you on the moor," he
answered. "If I can do you this little service, Mr. Blake, I shall feel
it like a last gleam of sunshine, falling on the evening of a long and
clouded day."



We parted. It was then the fifteenth of June. The events of the next
ten days--every one of them more or less directly connected with the
experiment of which I was the passive object--are all placed on record,
exactly as they happened, in the Journal habitually kept by Mr. Candy's
assistant. In the pages of Ezra Jennings nothing is concealed, and
nothing is forgotten. Let Ezra Jennings tell how the venture with the
opium was tried, and how it ended.




FOURTH NARRATIVE


Extracted from the Journal of EZRA JENNINGS


1849.--June 15.... With some interruption from patients, and some
interruption from pain, I finished my letter to Miss Verinder in time
for to-day's post. I failed to make it as short a letter as I could
have wished. But I think I have made it plain. It leaves her entirely
mistress of her own decision. If she consents to assist the experiment,
she consents of her own free will, and not as a favour to Mr. Franklin
Blake or to me.


June 16th.--Rose late, after a dreadful night; the vengeance of
yesterday's opium, pursuing me through a series of frightful dreams.
At one time I was whirling through empty space with the phantoms of the
dead, friends and enemies together. At another, the one beloved
face which I shall never see again, rose at my bedside, hideously
phosphorescent in the black darkness, and glared and grinned at me. A
slight return of the old pain, at the usual time in the early morning,
was welcome as a change. It dispelled the visions--and it was bearable
because it did that.

My bad night made it late in the morning, before I could get to Mr.
Franklin Blake. I found him stretched on the sofa, breakfasting on
brandy and soda-water, and a dry biscuit.

"I am beginning, as well as you could possibly wish," he said. "A
miserable, restless night; and a total failure of appetite this morning.
Exactly what happened last year, when I gave up my cigars. The sooner I
am ready for my second dose of laudanum, the better I shall be pleased."

"You shall have it on the earliest possible day," I answered. "In the
meantime, we must be as careful of your health as we can. If we allow
you to become exhausted, we shall fail in that way. You must get an
appetite for your dinner. In other words, you must get a ride or a walk
this morning, in the fresh air."

"I will ride, if they can find me a horse here. By-the-by, I wrote to
Mr. Bruff, yesterday. Have you written to Miss Verinder?"

"Yes--by last night's post."

"Very good. We shall have some news worth hearing, to tell each other
to-morrow. Don't go yet! I have a word to say to you. You appeared to
think, yesterday, that our experiment with the opium was not likely to
be viewed very favourably by some of my friends. You were quite right. I
call old Gabriel Betteredge one of my friends; and you will be amused to
hear that he protested strongly when I saw him yesterday. 'You have done
a wonderful number of foolish things in the course of your life, Mr.
Franklin, but this tops them all!' There is Betteredge's opinion! You
will make allowance for his prejudices, I am sure, if you and he happen
to meet?"

I left Mr. Blake, to go my rounds among my patients; feeling the better
and the happier even for the short interview that I had had with him.

What is the secret of the attraction that there is for me in this man?
Does it only mean that I feel the contrast between the frankly kind
manner in which he has allowed me to become acquainted with him, and the
merciless dislike and distrust with which I am met by other people? Or
is there really something in him which answers to the yearning that I
have for a little human sympathy--the yearning, which has survived the
solitude and persecution of many years; which seems to grow keener and
keener, as the time comes nearer and nearer when I shall endure and feel
no more? How useless to ask these questions! Mr. Blake has given me a
new interest in life. Let that be enough, without seeking to know what
the new interest is.


June 17th.--Before breakfast, this morning, Mr. Candy informed me that
he was going away for a fortnight, on a visit to a friend in the south
of England. He gave me as many special directions, poor fellow, about
the patients, as if he still had the large practice which he possessed
before he was taken ill. The practice is worth little enough now! Other
doctors have superseded HIM; and nobody who can help it will employ me.

It is perhaps fortunate that he is to be away just at this time. He
would have been mortified if I had not informed him of the experiment
which I am going to try with Mr. Blake. And I hardly know what
undesirable results might not have happened, if I had taken him into my
confidence. Better as it is. Unquestionably, better as it is.

The post brought me Miss Verinder's answer, after Mr. Candy had left the
house.

A charming letter! It gives me the highest opinion of her. There is no
attempt to conceal the interest that she feels in our proceedings. She
tells me, in the prettiest manner, that my letter has satisfied her
of Mr. Blake's innocence, without the slightest need (so far as she
is concerned) of putting my assertion to the proof. She even upbraids
herself--most undeservedly, poor thing!--for not having divined at the
time what the true solution of the mystery might really be. The motive
underlying all this proceeds evidently from something more than
a generous eagerness to make atonement for a wrong which she has
innocently inflicted on another person. It is plain that she has loved
him, throughout the estrangement between them. In more than one place
the rapture of discovering that he has deserved to be loved, breaks its
way innocently through the stoutest formalities of pen and ink, and
even defies the stronger restraint still of writing to a stranger. Is
it possible (I ask myself, in reading this delightful letter) that I,
of all men in the world, am chosen to be the means of bringing these two
young people together again? My own happiness has been trampled under
foot; my own love has been torn from me. Shall I live to see a happiness
of others, which is of my making--a love renewed, which is of my
bringing back? Oh merciful Death, let me see it before your arms enfold
me, before your voice whispers to me, "Rest at last!"

There are two requests contained in the letter. One of them prevents me
from showing it to Mr. Franklin Blake. I am authorised to tell him that
Miss Verinder willingly consents to place her house at our disposal;
and, that said, I am desired to add no more.

So far, it is easy to comply with her wishes. But the second request
embarrasses me seriously.

Not content with having written to Mr. Betteredge, instructing him to
carry out whatever directions I may have to give, Miss Verinder asks
leave to assist me, by personally superintending the restoration of her
own sitting-room. She only waits a word of reply from me to make the
journey to Yorkshire, and to be present as one of the witnesses on the
night when the opium is tried for the second time.

Here, again, there is a motive under the surface; and, here again, I
fancy that I can find it out.

What she has forbidden me to tell Mr. Franklin Blake, she is (as I
interpret it) eager to tell him with her own lips, BEFORE he is put
to the test which is to vindicate his character in the eyes of other
people. I understand and admire this generous anxiety to acquit him,
without waiting until his innocence may, or may not, be proved. It
is the atonement that she is longing to make, poor girl, after having
innocently and inevitably wronged him. But the thing cannot be done. I
have no sort of doubt that the agitation which a meeting between them
would produce on both sides--reviving dormant feelings, appealing to old
memories, awakening new hopes--would, in their effect on the mind of Mr.
Blake, be almost certainly fatal to the success of our experiment. It is
hard enough, as things are, to reproduce in him the conditions as they
existed, or nearly as they existed, last year. With new interests and
new emotions to agitate him, the attempt would be simply useless.

And yet, knowing this, I cannot find it in my heart to disappoint her. I
must try if I can discover some new arrangement, before post-time, which
will allow me to say Yes to Miss Verinder, without damage to the service
which I have bound myself to render to Mr. Franklin Blake.

Two o'clock.--I have just returned from my round of medical visits;
having begun, of course, by calling at the hotel.

Mr. Blake's report of the night is the same as before. He has had some
intervals of broken sleep, and no more. But he feels it less to-day,
having slept after yesterday's dinner. This after-dinner sleep is the
result, no doubt, of the ride which I advised him to take. I fear I
shall have to curtail his restorative exercise in the fresh air. He must
not be too well; he must not be too ill. It is a case (as a sailor would
say) of very fine steering.

He has not heard yet from Mr. Bruff. I found him eager to know if I had
received any answer from Miss Verinder.

I told him exactly what I was permitted to tell, and no more. It was
quite needless to invent excuses for not showing him the letter. He told
me bitterly enough, poor fellow, that he understood the delicacy which
disinclined me to produce it. "She consents, of course, as a matter of
common courtesy and common justice," he said. "But she keeps her own
opinion of me, and waits to see the result." I was sorely tempted to
hint that he was now wronging her as she had wronged him. On reflection,
I shrank from forestalling her in the double luxury of surprising and
forgiving him.

My visit was a very short one. After the experience of the other night,
I have been compelled once more to give up my dose of opium. As a
necessary result, the agony of the disease that is in me has got the
upper hand again. I felt the attack coming on, and left abruptly, so as
not to alarm or distress him. It only lasted a quarter of an hour this
time, and it left me strength enough to go on with my work.

Five o'clock.--I have written my reply to Miss Verinder.

The arrangement I have proposed reconciles the interests on both sides,
if she will only consent to it. After first stating the objections
that there are to a meeting between Mr. Blake and herself, before
the experiment is tried, I have suggested that she should so time her
journey as to arrive at the house privately, on the evening when we make
the attempt. Travelling by the afternoon train from London, she would
delay her arrival until nine o'clock. At that hour, I have undertaken to
see Mr. Blake safely into his bedchamber; and so to leave Miss Verinder
free to occupy her own rooms until the time comes for administering
the laudanum. When that has been done, there can be no objection to her
watching the result, with the rest of us. On the next morning, she shall
show Mr. Blake (if she likes) her correspondence with me, and shall
satisfy him in that way that he was acquitted in her estimation, before
the question of his innocence was put to the proof.

In that sense, I have written to her. This is all that I can do to-day.
To-morrow I must see Mr. Betteredge, and give the necessary directions
for reopening the house.


June 18th.--Late again, in calling on Mr. Franklin Blake. More of that
horrible pain in the early morning; followed, this time, by complete
prostration, for some hours. I foresee, in spite of the penalties which
it exacts from me, that I shall have to return to the opium for the
hundredth time. If I had only myself to think of, I should prefer the
sharp pains to the frightful dreams. But the physical suffering exhausts
me. If I let myself sink, it may end in my becoming useless to Mr. Blake
at the time when he wants me most.

It was nearly one o'clock before I could get to the hotel to-day. The
visit, even in my shattered condition, proved to be a most amusing
one--thanks entirely to the presence on the scene of Gabriel Betteredge.

I found him in the room, when I went in. He withdrew to the window and
looked out, while I put my first customary question to my patient. Mr.
Blake had slept badly again, and he felt the loss of rest this morning
more than he had felt it yet.

I asked next if he had heard from Mr. Bruff.

A letter had reached him that morning. Mr. Bruff expressed the strongest
disapproval of the course which his friend and client was taking under
my advice. It was mischievous--for it excited hopes that might never be
realised. It was quite unintelligible to HIS mind, except that it
looked like a piece of trickery, akin to the trickery of mesmerism,
clairvoyance, and the like. It unsettled Miss Verinder's house, and
it would end in unsettling Miss Verinder herself. He had put the case
(without mentioning names) to an eminent physician; and the eminent
physician had smiled, had shaken his head, and had said--nothing. On
these grounds, Mr. Bruff entered his protest, and left it there.

My next inquiry related to the subject of the Diamond. Had the lawyer
produced any evidence to prove that the jewel was in London?

No, the lawyer had simply declined to discuss the question. He was
himself satisfied that the Moonstone had been pledged to Mr. Luker. His
eminent absent friend, Mr. Murthwaite (whose consummate knowledge of
the Indian character no one could deny), was satisfied also. Under these
circumstances, and with the many demands already made on him, he must
decline entering into any disputes on the subject of evidence. Time
would show; and Mr. Bruff was willing to wait for time.

It was quite plain--even if Mr. Blake had not made it plainer still
by reporting the substance of the letter, instead of reading what was
actually written--that distrust of me was at the bottom of all this.
Having myself foreseen that result, I was neither mortified nor
surprised. I asked Mr. Blake if his friend's protest had shaken him. He
answered emphatically, that it had not produced the slightest effect
on his mind. I was free after that to dismiss Mr. Bruff from
consideration--and I did dismiss him accordingly.

A pause in the talk between us, followed--and Gabriel Betteredge came
out from his retirement at the window.

"Can you favour me with your attention, sir?" he inquired, addressing
himself to me.

"I am quite at your service," I answered.

Betteredge took a chair and seated himself at the table. He produced a
huge old-fashioned leather pocket-book, with a pencil of dimensions to
match. Having put on his spectacles, he opened the pocket-book, at a
blank page, and addressed himself to me once more.

"I have lived," said Betteredge, looking at me sternly, "nigh on fifty
years in the service of my late lady. I was page-boy before that, in the
service of the old lord, her father. I am now somewhere between seventy
and eighty years of age--never mind exactly where! I am reckoned to have
got as pretty a knowledge and experience of the world as most men. And
what does it all end in? It ends, Mr. Ezra Jennings, in a conjuring
trick being performed on Mr. Franklin Blake, by a doctor's assistant
with a bottle of laudanum--and by the living jingo, I'm appointed, in my
old age, to be conjurer's boy!"

Mr. Blake burst out laughing. I attempted to speak. Betteredge held up
his hand, in token that he had not done yet.

"Not a word, Mr. Jennings!" he said, "It don't want a word, sir, from
you. I have got my principles, thank God. If an order comes to me, which
is own brother to an order come from Bedlam, it don't matter. So long
as I get it from my master or mistress, as the case may be, I obey it. I
may have my own opinion, which is also, you will please to remember, the
opinion of Mr. Bruff--the Great Mr. Bruff!" said Betteredge, raising his
voice, and shaking his head at me solemnly. "It don't matter; I withdraw
my opinion, for all that. My young lady says, 'Do it.' And I say, 'Miss,
it shall be done.' Here I am, with my book and my pencil--the latter not
pointed so well as I could wish, but when Christians take leave of their
senses, who is to expect that pencils will keep their points? Give
me your orders, Mr. Jennings. I'll have them in writing, sir. I'm
determined not to be behind 'em, or before 'em, by so much as a hair's
breadth. I'm a blind agent--that's what I am. A blind agent!" repeated
Betteredge, with infinite relish of his own description of himself.

"I am very sorry," I began, "that you and I don't agree----"

"Don't bring ME, into it!" interposed Betteredge. "This is not a
matter of agreement, it's a matter of obedience. Issue your directions,
sir--issue your directions!"

Mr. Blake made me a sign to take him at his word. I "issued my
directions" as plainly and as gravely as I could.

"I wish certain parts of the house to be reopened," I said, "and to be
furnished, exactly as they were furnished at this time last year."

Betteredge gave his imperfectly-pointed pencil a preliminary lick with
his tongue. "Name the parts, Mr. Jennings!" he said loftily.

"First, the inner hall, leading to the chief staircase."

"'First, the inner hall,'" Betteredge wrote. "Impossible to furnish
that, sir, as it was furnished last year--to begin with."

"Why?"

"Because there was a stuffed buzzard, Mr. Jennings, in the hall last
year. When the family left, the buzzard was put away with the other
things. When the buzzard was put away--he burst."

"We will except the buzzard then."

Betteredge took a note of the exception. "'The inner hall to be
furnished again, as furnished last year. A burst buzzard alone
excepted.' Please to go on, Mr. Jennings."

"The carpet to be laid down on the stairs, as before."

"'The carpet to be laid down on the stairs, as before.' Sorry to
disappoint you, sir. But that can't be done either."

"Why not?"

"Because the man who laid that carpet down is dead, Mr. Jennings--and
the like of him for reconciling together a carpet and a corner, is not
to be found in all England, look where you may."

"Very well. We must try the next best man in England."

Betteredge took another note; and I went on issuing my directions.

"Miss Verinder's sitting-room to be restored exactly to what it was
last year. Also, the corridor leading from the sitting-room to the first
landing. Also, the second corridor, leading from the second landing to
the best bedrooms. Also, the bedroom occupied last June by Mr. Franklin
Blake."

Betteredge's blunt pencil followed me conscientiously, word by word.
"Go on, sir," he said, with sardonic gravity. "There's a deal of writing
left in the point of this pencil yet."

I told him that I had no more directions to give. "Sir," said
Betteredge, "in that case, I have a point or two to put on my own
behalf." He opened the pocket-book at a new page, and gave the
inexhaustible pencil another preliminary lick.

"I wish to know," he began, "whether I may, or may not, wash my
hands----"

"You may decidedly," said Mr. Blake. "I'll ring for the waiter."

"----of certain responsibilities," pursued Betteredge, impenetrably
declining to see anybody in the room but himself and me. "As to Miss
Verinder's sitting-room, to begin with. When we took up the carpet
last year, Mr. Jennings, we found a surprising quantity of pins. Am I
responsible for putting back the pins?"

"Certainly not."

Betteredge made a note of that concession, on the spot.

"As to the first corridor next," he resumed. "When we moved
the ornaments in that part, we moved a statue of a fat naked
child--profanely described in the catalogue of the house as 'Cupid,
god of Love.' He had two wings last year, in the fleshy part of his
shoulders. My eye being off him, for the moment, he lost one of them. Am
I responsible for Cupid's wing?"

I made another concession, and Betteredge made another note.

"As to the second corridor," he went on. "There having been nothing in
it, last year, but the doors of the rooms (to every one of which I can
swear, if necessary), my mind is easy, I admit, respecting that part of
the house only. But, as to Mr. Franklin's bedroom (if THAT is to be
put back to what it was before), I want to know who is responsible for
keeping it in a perpetual state of litter, no matter how often it may
be set right--his trousers here, his towels there, and his French novels
everywhere. I say, who is responsible for untidying the tidiness of Mr.
Franklin's room, him or me?"

Mr. Blake declared that he would assume the whole responsibility with
the greatest pleasure. Betteredge obstinately declined to listen to any
solution of the difficulty, without first referring it to my sanction
and approval. I accepted Mr. Blake's proposal; and Betteredge made a
last entry in the pocket-book to that effect.

"Look in when you like, Mr. Jennings, beginning from to-morrow," he
said, getting on his legs. "You will find me at work, with the necessary
persons to assist me. I respectfully beg to thank you, sir, for
overlooking the case of the stuffed buzzard, and the other case of
the Cupid's wing--as also for permitting me to wash my hands of all
responsibility in respect of the pins on the carpet, and the litter in
Mr. Franklin's room. Speaking as a servant, I am deeply indebted to you.
Speaking as a man, I consider you to be a person whose head is full
of maggots, and I take up my testimony against your experiment as a
delusion and a snare. Don't be afraid, on that account, of my feelings
as a man getting in the way of my duty as a servant! You shall be
obeyed. The maggots notwithstanding, sir, you shall be obeyed. If it
ends in your setting the house on fire, Damme if I send for the engines,
unless you ring the bell and order them first!"

With that farewell assurance, he made me a bow, and walked out of the
room.

"Do you think we can depend on him?" I asked.

"Implicitly," answered Mr. Blake. "When we go to the house, we shall
find nothing neglected, and nothing forgotten."


June 19th.--Another protest against our contemplated proceedings! From a
lady this time.

The morning's post brought me two letters. One from Miss Verinder,
consenting, in the kindest manner, to the arrangement that I have
proposed. The other from the lady under whose care she is living--one
Mrs. Merridew.

Mrs. Merridew presents her compliments, and does not pretend to
understand the subject on which I have been corresponding with Miss
Verinder, in its scientific bearings. Viewed in its social bearings,
however, she feels free to pronounce an opinion. I am probably, Mrs.
Merridew thinks, not aware that Miss Verinder is barely nineteen years
of age. To allow a young lady, at her time of life, to be present
(without a "chaperone") in a house full of men among whom a medical
experiment is being carried on, is an outrage on propriety which Mrs.
Merridew cannot possibly permit. If the matter is allowed to proceed,
she will feel it to be her duty--at a serious sacrifice of her own
personal convenience--to accompany Miss Verinder to Yorkshire. Under
these circumstances, she ventures to request that I will kindly
reconsider the subject; seeing that Miss Verinder declines to be guided
by any opinion but mine. Her presence cannot possibly be necessary; and
a word from me, to that effect, would relieve both Mrs. Merridew and
myself of a very unpleasant responsibility.

Translated from polite commonplace into plain English, the meaning of
this is, as I take it, that Mrs. Merridew stands in mortal fear of the
opinion of the world. She has unfortunately appealed to the very last
man in existence who has any reason to regard that opinion with respect.
I won't disappoint Miss Verinder; and I won't delay a reconciliation
between two young people who love each other, and who have been parted
too long already. Translated from plain English into polite commonplace,
this means that Mr. Jennings presents his compliments to Mrs. Merridew,
and regrets that he cannot feel justified in interfering any farther in
the matter.

Mr. Blake's report of himself, this morning, was the same as before.
We determined not to disturb Betteredge by overlooking him at the house
to-day. To-morrow will be time enough for our first visit of inspection.


June 20th.--Mr. Blake is beginning to feel his continued restlessness at
night. The sooner the rooms are refurnished, now, the better.

On our way to the house, this morning, he consulted me, with some
nervous impatience and irresolution, about a letter (forwarded to him
from London) which he had received from Sergeant Cuff.

The Sergeant writes from Ireland. He acknowledges the receipt (through
his housekeeper) of a card and message which Mr. Blake left at his
residence near Dorking, and announces his return to England as likely
to take place in a week or less. In the meantime, he requests to be
favoured with Mr. Blake's reasons for wishing to speak to him (as
stated in the message) on the subject of the Moonstone. If Mr. Blake
can convict him of having made any serious mistake, in the course of his
last year's inquiry concerning the Diamond, he will consider it a duty
(after the liberal manner in which he was treated by the late Lady
Verinder) to place himself at that gentleman's disposal. If not, he
begs permission to remain in his retirement, surrounded by the peaceful
horticultural attractions of a country life.

After reading the letter, I had no hesitation in advising Mr. Blake
to inform Sergeant Cuff, in reply, of all that had happened since
the inquiry was suspended last year, and to leave him to draw his own
conclusions from the plain facts.

On second thoughts I also suggested inviting the Sergeant to be present
at the experiment, in the event of his returning to England in time to
join us. He would be a valuable witness to have, in any case; and, if I
proved to be wrong in believing the Diamond to be hidden in Mr. Blake's
room, his advice might be of great importance, at a future stage of
the proceedings over which I could exercise no control. This last
consideration appeared to decide Mr. Blake. He promised to follow my
advice.

The sound of the hammer informed us that the work of re-furnishing was
in full progress, as we entered the drive that led to the house.

Betteredge, attired for the occasion in a fisherman's red cap, and an
apron of green baize, met us in the outer hall. The moment he saw me,
he pulled out the pocket-book and pencil, and obstinately insisted on
taking notes of everything that I said to him. Look where we might, we
found, as Mr. Blake had foretold that the work was advancing as rapidly
and as intelligently as it was possible to desire. But there was still
much to be done in the inner hall, and in Miss Verinder's room. It
seemed doubtful whether the house would be ready for us before the end
of the week.

Having congratulated Betteredge on the progress that he had made (he
persisted in taking notes every time I opened my lips; declining, at
the same time, to pay the slightest attention to anything said by Mr.
Blake); and having promised to return for a second visit of inspection
in a day or two, we prepared to leave the house, going out by the back
way. Before we were clear of the passages downstairs, I was stopped by
Betteredge, just as I was passing the door which led into his own room.

"Could I say two words to you in private?" he asked, in a mysterious
whisper.

I consented of course. Mr. Blake walked on to wait for me in the garden,
while I accompanied Betteredge into his room. I fully anticipated a
demand for certain new concessions, following the precedent already
established in the cases of the stuffed buzzard, and the Cupid's wing.
To my great surprise, Betteredge laid his hand confidentially on my arm,
and put this extraordinary question to me:

"Mr. Jennings, do you happen to be acquainted with ROBINSON CRUSOE?"

I answered that I had read ROBINSON CRUSOE when I was a child.

"Not since then?" inquired Betteredge.

"Not since then."

He fell back a few steps, and looked at me with an expression of
compassionate curiosity, tempered by superstitious awe.

"He has not read ROBINSON CRUSOE since he was a child," said Betteredge,
speaking to himself--not to me. "Let's try how ROBINSON CRUSOE strikes
him now!"

He unlocked a cupboard in a corner, and produced a dirty and dog's-eared
book, which exhaled a strong odour of stale tobacco as he turned over
the leaves. Having found a passage of which he was apparently in
search, he requested me to join him in the corner; still mysteriously
confidential, and still speaking under his breath.

"In respect to this hocus-pocus of yours, sir, with the laudanum and Mr.
Franklin Blake," he began. "While the workpeople are in the house, my
duty as a servant gets the better of my feelings as a man. When the
workpeople are gone, my feelings as a man get the better of my duty as a
servant. Very good. Last night, Mr. Jennings, it was borne in powerfully
on my mind that this new medical enterprise of yours would end badly.
If I had yielded to that secret Dictate, I should have put all the
furniture away again with my own hand, and have warned the workmen off
the premises when they came the next morning."

"I am glad to find, from what I have seen up-stairs," I said, "that you
resisted the secret Dictate."

"Resisted isn't the word," answered Betteredge. "Wrostled is the word. I
wrostled, sir, between the silent orders in my bosom pulling me one way,
and the written orders in my pocket-book pushing me the other,
until (saving your presence) I was in a cold sweat. In that dreadful
perturbation of mind and laxity of body, to what remedy did I apply? To
the remedy, sir, which has never failed me yet for the last thirty years
and more--to This Book!"

He hit the book a sounding blow with his open hand, and struck out of it
a stronger smell of stale tobacco than ever.

"What did I find here," pursued Betteredge, "at the first page I
opened? This awful bit, sir, page one hundred and seventy-eight, as
follows.--'Upon these, and many like Reflections, I afterwards made it
a certain rule with me, That whenever I found those secret Hints or
Pressings of my Mind, to doing, or not doing any Thing that presented;
or to going this Way, or that Way, I never failed to obey the secret
Dictate.' As I live by bread, Mr. Jennings, those were the first words
that met my eye, exactly at the time when I myself was setting the
secret Dictate at defiance! You don't see anything at all out of the
common in that, do you, sir?"

"I see a coincidence--nothing more."

"You don't feel at all shaken, Mr. Jennings, in respect to this medical
enterprise of yours?

"Not the least in the world."

Betteredge stared hard at me, in dead silence. He closed the book
with great deliberation; he locked it up again in the cupboard with
extraordinary care; he wheeled round, and stared hard at me once more.
Then he spoke.

"Sir," he said gravely, "there are great allowances to be made for a man
who has not read ROBINSON CRUSOE since he was a child. I wish you good
morning."

He opened his door with a low bow, and left me at liberty to find my own
way into the garden. I met Mr. Blake returning to the house.

"You needn't tell me what has happened," he said. "Betteredge has played
his last card: he has made another prophetic discovery in ROBINSON
CRUSOE. Have you humoured his favourite delusion? No? You have let him
see that you don't believe in ROBINSON CRUSOE? Mr. Jennings! you have
fallen to the lowest possible place in Betteredge's estimation. Say what
you like, and do what you like, for the future. You will find that he
won't waste another word on you now."


June 21st.--A short entry must suffice in my journal to-day.

Mr. Blake has had the worst night that he has passed yet. I have been
obliged, greatly against my will, to prescribe for him. Men of his
sensitive organisation are fortunately quick in feeling the effect of
remedial measures. Otherwise, I should be inclined to fear that he will
be totally unfit for the experiment when the time comes to try it.

As for myself, after some little remission of my pains for the last two
days I had an attack this morning, of which I shall say nothing but that
it has decided me to return to the opium. I shall close this book, and
take my full dose--five hundred drops.


June 22nd.--Our prospects look better to-day. Mr. Blake's nervous
suffering is greatly allayed. He slept a little last night. MY night,
thanks to the opium, was the night of a man who is stunned. I can't
say that I woke this morning; the fitter expression would be, that I
recovered my senses.

We drove to the house to see if the refurnishing was done. It will be
completed to-morrow--Saturday. As Mr. Blake foretold, Betteredge raised
no further obstacles. From first to last, he was ominously polite, and
ominously silent.

My medical enterprise (as Betteredge calls it) must now, inevitably, be
delayed until Monday next. Tomorrow evening the workmen will be late in
the house. On the next day, the established Sunday tyranny which is one
of the institutions of this free country, so times the trains as to make
it impossible to ask anybody to travel to us from London. Until Monday
comes, there is nothing to be done but to watch Mr. Blake carefully, and
to keep him, if possible, in the same state in which I find him to-day.

In the meanwhile, I have prevailed on him to write to Mr. Bruff, making
a point of it that he shall be present as one of the witnesses. I
especially choose the lawyer, because he is strongly prejudiced against
us. If we convince HIM, we place our victory beyond the possibility of
dispute.

Mr. Blake has also written to Sergeant Cuff; and I have sent a line
to Miss Verinder. With these, and with old Betteredge (who is really a
person of importance in the family) we shall have witnesses enough for
the purpose--without including Mrs. Merridew, if Mrs. Merridew persists
in sacrificing herself to the opinion of the world.


June 23rd.--The vengeance of the opium overtook me again last night. No
matter; I must go on with it now till Monday is past and gone.

Mr. Blake is not so well again to-day. At two this morning, he confesses
that he opened the drawer in which his cigars are put away. He
only succeeded in locking it up again by a violent effort. His next
proceeding, in case of temptation, was to throw the key out of window.
The waiter brought it in this morning, discovered at the bottom of an
empty cistern--such is Fate! I have taken possession of the key until
Tuesday next.


June 24th.--Mr. Blake and I took a long drive in an open carriage. We
both felt beneficially the blessed influence of the soft summer air. I
dined with him at the hotel. To my great relief--for I found him in an
over-wrought, over-excited state this morning--he had two hours' sound
sleep on the sofa after dinner. If he has another bad night, now--I am
not afraid of the consequence.


June 25th, Monday.--The day of the experiment! It is five o'clock in the
afternoon. We have just arrived at the house.

The first and foremost question, is the question of Mr. Blake's health.

So far as it is possible for me to judge, he promises (physically
speaking) to be quite as susceptible to the action of the opium to-night
as he was at this time last year. He is, this afternoon, in a state of
nervous sensitiveness which just stops short of nervous irritation. He
changes colour readily; his hand is not quite steady; and he starts at
chance noises, and at unexpected appearances of persons and things.

These results have all been produced by deprivation of sleep, which is
in its turn the nervous consequence of a sudden cessation in the habit
of smoking, after that habit has been carried to an extreme. Here are
the same causes at work again, which operated last year; and here are,
apparently, the same effects. Will the parallel still hold good, when
the final test has been tried? The events of the night must decide.

While I write these lines, Mr. Blake is amusing himself at the billiard
table in the inner hall, practising different strokes in the game, as
he was accustomed to practise them when he was a guest in this house
in June last. I have brought my journal here, partly with a view to
occupying the idle hours which I am sure to have on my hands between
this and to-morrow morning; partly in the hope that something may happen
which it may be worth my while to place on record at the time.

Have I omitted anything, thus far? A glance at yesterday's entry shows
me that I have forgotten to note the arrival of the morning's post. Let
me set this right before I close these leaves for the present, and join
Mr. Blake.

I received a few lines then, yesterday, from Miss Verinder. She has
arranged to travel by the afternoon train, as I recommended. Mrs.
Merridew has insisted on accompanying her. The note hints that the old
lady's generally excellent temper is a little ruffled, and requests all
due indulgence for her, in consideration of her age and her habits.
I will endeavour, in my relations with Mrs. Merridew, to emulate the
moderation which Betteredge displays in his relations with me. He
received us to-day, portentously arrayed in his best black suit, and
his stiffest white cravat. Whenever he looks my way, he remembers that
I have not read ROBINSON CRUSOE since I was a child, and he respectfully
pities me.

Yesterday, also, Mr. Blake had the lawyer's answer. Mr. Bruff accepts
the invitation--under protest. It is, he thinks, clearly necessary that
a gentleman possessed of the average allowance of common sense, should
accompany Miss Verinder to the scene of, what we will venture to call,
the proposed exhibition. For want of a better escort, Mr. Bruff himself
will be that gentleman.--So here is poor Miss Verinder provided with two
"chaperones." It is a relief to think that the opinion of the world must
surely be satisfied with this!

Nothing has been heard of Sergeant Cuff. He is no doubt still in
Ireland. We must not expect to see him to-night.

Betteredge has just come in, to say that Mr. Blake has asked for me. I
must lay down my pen for the present.

* * * * *

Seven o'clock.--We have been all over the refurnished rooms and
staircases again; and we have had a pleasant stroll in the shrubbery,
which was Mr. Blake's favourite walk when he was here last. In this way,
I hope to revive the old impressions of places and things as vividly as
possible in his mind.

We are now going to dine, exactly at the hour at which the birthday
dinner was given last year. My object, of course, is a purely medical
one in this case. The laudanum must find the process of digestion, as
nearly as may be, where the laudanum found it last year.

At a reasonable time after dinner I propose to lead the conversation
back again--as inartificially as I can--to the subject of the Diamond,
and of the Indian conspiracy to steal it. When I have filled his mind
with these topics, I shall have done all that it is in my power to do,
before the time comes for giving him the second dose.

* * * * *

Half-past eight.--I have only this moment found an opportunity of
attending to the most important duty of all; the duty of looking in the
family medicine chest, for the laudanum which Mr. Candy used last year.

Ten minutes since, I caught Betteredge at an unoccupied moment, and told
him what I wanted. Without a word of objection, without so much as an
attempt to produce his pocket-book, he led the way (making allowances
for me at every step) to the store-room in which the medicine chest is
kept.

I discovered the bottle, carefully guarded by a glass stopper tied
over with leather. The preparation which it contained was, as I had
anticipated, the common Tincture of Opium. Finding the bottle still well
filled, I have resolved to use it, in preference to employing either of
the two preparations with which I had taken care to provide myself, in
case of emergency.

The question of the quantity which I am to administer presents certain
difficulties. I have thought it over, and have decided on increasing the
dose.

My notes inform me that Mr. Candy only administered twenty-five minims.
This is a small dose to have produced the results which followed--even
in the case of a person so sensitive as Mr. Blake. I think it highly
probable that Mr. Candy gave more than he supposed himself to have
given--knowing, as I do, that he has a keen relish of the pleasures of
the table, and that he measured out the laudanum on the birthday, after
dinner. In any case, I shall run the risk of enlarging the dose to forty
minims. On this occasion, Mr. Blake knows beforehand that he is going to
take the laudanum--which is equivalent, physiologically speaking, to his
having (unconsciously to himself) a certain capacity in him to resist
the effects. If my view is right, a larger quantity is therefore
imperatively required, this time, to repeat the results which the
smaller quantity produced, last year.

* * * * *

Ten o'clock.--The witnesses, or the company (which shall I call them?)
reached the house an hour since.

A little before nine o'clock, I prevailed on Mr. Blake to accompany me
to his bedroom; stating, as a reason, that I wished him to look round
it, for the last time, in order to make quite sure that nothing had been
forgotten in the refurnishing of the room. I had previously arranged
with Betteredge, that the bedchamber prepared for Mr. Bruff should
be the next room to Mr. Blake's, and that I should be informed of the
lawyer's arrival by a knock at the door. Five minutes after the clock in
the hall had struck nine, I heard the knock; and, going out immediately,
met Mr. Bruff in the corridor.

My personal appearance (as usual) told against me. Mr. Bruff's distrust
looked at me plainly enough out of Mr. Bruff's eyes. Being well used
to producing this effect on strangers, I did not hesitate a moment in
saying what I wanted to say, before the lawyer found his way into Mr.
Blake's room.

"You have travelled here, I believe, in company with Mrs. Merridew and
Miss Verinder?" I said.

"Yes," answered Mr. Bruff, as drily as might be.

"Miss Verinder has probably told you, that I wish her presence in the
house (and Mrs. Merridew's presence of course) to be kept a secret from
Mr. Blake, until my experiment on him has been tried first?"

"I know that I am to hold my tongue, sir!" said Mr. Bruff, impatiently.
"Being habitually silent on the subject of human folly, I am all the
readier to keep my lips closed on this occasion. Does that satisfy you?"

I bowed, and left Betteredge to show him to his room. Betteredge gave
me one look at parting, which said, as if in so many words, "You have
caught a Tartar, Mr. Jennings--and the name of him is Bruff."

It was next necessary to get the meeting over with the two ladies. I
descended the stairs--a little nervously, I confess--on my way to Miss
Verinder's sitting-room.

The gardener's wife (charged with looking after the accommodation of the
ladies) met me in the first-floor corridor. This excellent woman
treats me with an excessive civility which is plainly the offspring of
down-right terror. She stares, trembles, and curtseys, whenever I speak
to her. On my asking for Miss Verinder, she stared, trembled, and would
no doubt have curtseyed next, if Miss Verinder herself had not cut that
ceremony short, by suddenly opening her sitting-room door.

"Is that Mr. Jennings?" she asked.

Before I could answer, she came out eagerly to speak to me in the
corridor. We met under the light of a lamp on a bracket. At the first
sight of me, Miss Verinder stopped, and hesitated. She recovered herself
instantly, coloured for a moment--and then, with a charming frankness,
offered me her hand.

"I can't treat you like a stranger, Mr. Jennings," she said. "Oh, if you
only knew how happy your letters have made me!"

She looked at my ugly wrinkled face, with a bright gratitude so new to
me in my experience of my fellow-creatures, that I was at a loss how to
answer her. Nothing had prepared me for her kindness and her beauty.
The misery of many years has not hardened my heart, thank God. I was as
awkward and as shy with her, as if I had been a lad in my teens.

"Where is he now?" she asked, giving free expression to her one dominant
interest--the interest in Mr. Blake. "What is he doing? Has he spoken
of me? Is he in good spirits? How does he bear the sight of the house,
after what happened in it last year? When are you going to give him
the laudanum? May I see you pour it out? I am so interested; I am so
excited--I have ten thousand things to say to you, and they all crowd
together so that I don't know what to say first. Do you wonder at the
interest I take in this?"

"No," I said. "I venture to think that I thoroughly understand it."

She was far above the paltry affectation of being confused. She answered
me as she might have answered a brother or a father.

"You have relieved me of indescribable wretchedness; you have given me
a new life. How can I be ungrateful enough to have any concealment
from you? I love him," she said simply, "I have loved him from first to
last--even when I was wronging him in my own thoughts; even when I was
saying the hardest and the cruellest words to him. Is there any excuse
for me, in that? I hope there is--I am afraid it is the only excuse I
have. When to-morrow comes, and he knows that I am in the house, do you
think----"

She stopped again, and looked at me very earnestly.

"When to-morrow comes," I said, "I think you have only to tell him what
you have just told me."

Her face brightened; she came a step nearer to me. Her fingers trifled
nervously with a flower which I had picked in the garden, and which I
had put into the button-hole of my coat.

"You have seen a great deal of him lately," she said. "Have you, really
and truly, seen THAT?"

"Really and truly," I answered. "I am quite certain of what will happen
to-morrow. I wish I could feel as certain of what will happen to-night."

At that point in the conversation, we were interrupted by the appearance
of Betteredge with the tea-tray. He gave me another significant look as
he passed on into the sitting-room. "Aye! aye! make your hay while the
sun shines. The Tartar's upstairs, Mr. Jennings--the Tartar's upstairs!"

We followed him into the room. A little old lady, in a corner,
very nicely dressed, and very deeply absorbed over a smart piece of
embroidery, dropped her work in her lap, and uttered a faint little
scream at the first sight of my gipsy complexion and my piebald hair.

"Mrs. Merridew," said Miss Verinder, "this is Mr. Jennings."

"I beg Mr. Jennings's pardon," said the old lady, looking at Miss
Verinder, and speaking at me. "Railway travelling always makes me
nervous. I am endeavouring to quiet my mind by occupying myself as
usual. I don't know whether my embroidery is out of place, on this
extraordinary occasion. If it interferes with Mr. Jennings's medical
views, I shall be happy to put it away of course."

I hastened to sanction the presence of the embroidery, exactly as I had
sanctioned the absence of the burst buzzard and the Cupid's wing. Mrs.
Merridew made an effort--a grateful effort--to look at my hair. No! it
was not to be done. Mrs. Merridew looked back again at Miss Verinder.

"If Mr. Jennings will permit me," pursued the old lady, "I should like
to ask a favour. Mr. Jennings is about to try a scientific experiment
to-night. I used to attend scientific experiments when I was a girl at
school. They invariably ended in an explosion. If Mr. Jennings will be
so very kind, I should like to be warned of the explosion this time.
With a view to getting it over, if possible, before I go to bed."

I attempted to assure Mrs. Merridew that an explosion was not included
in the programme on this occasion.

"No," said the old lady. "I am much obliged to Mr. Jennings--I am aware
that he is only deceiving me for my own good. I prefer plain dealing.
I am quite resigned to the explosion--but I DO want to get it over, if
possible, before I go to bed."

Here the door opened, and Mrs. Merridew uttered another little scream.
The advent of the explosion? No: only the advent of Betteredge.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Jennings," said Betteredge, in his most
elaborately confidential manner. "Mr. Franklin wishes to know where you
are. Being under your orders to deceive him, in respect to the presence
of my young lady in the house, I have said I don't know. That you will
please to observe, was a lie. Having one foot already in the grave, sir,
the fewer lies you expect me to tell, the more I shall be indebted to
you, when my conscience pricks me and my time comes."

There was not a moment to be wasted on the purely speculative question
of Betteredge's conscience. Mr. Blake might make his appearance in
search of me, unless I went to him at once in his own room. Miss
Verinder followed me out into the corridor.

"They seem to be in a conspiracy to persecute you," she said. "What does
it mean?"

"Only the protest of the world, Miss Verinder--on a very small
scale--against anything that is new."

"What are we to do with Mrs. Merridew?"

"Tell her the explosion will take place at nine to-morrow morning."

"So as to send her to bed?"

"Yes--so as to send her to bed."

Miss Verinder went back to the sitting-room, and I went upstairs to Mr.
Blake.

To my surprise I found him alone; restlessly pacing his room, and a
little irritated at being left by himself.

"Where is Mr. Bruff?" I asked.

He pointed to the closed door of communication between the two rooms.
Mr. Bruff had looked in on him, for a moment; had attempted to renew his
protest against our proceedings; and had once more failed to produce the
smallest impression on Mr. Blake. Upon this, the lawyer had taken refuge
in a black leather bag, filled to bursting with professional papers.
"The serious business of life," he admitted, "was sadly out of place on
such an occasion as the present. But the serious business of life
must be carried on, for all that. Mr. Blake would perhaps kindly make
allowance for the old-fashioned habits of a practical man. Time was
money--and, as for Mr. Jennings, he might depend on it that Mr. Bruff
would be forthcoming when called upon." With that apology, the lawyer
had gone back to his own room, and had immersed himself obstinately in
his black bag.

I thought of Mrs. Merridew and her embroidery, and of Betteredge and
his conscience. There is a wonderful sameness in the solid side of the
English character--just as there is a wonderful sameness in the solid
expression of the English face.

"When are you going to give me the laudanum?" asked Mr. Blake
impatiently.

"You must wait a little longer," I said. "I will stay and keep you
company till the time comes."

It was then not ten o'clock. Inquiries which I had made, at various
times, of Betteredge and Mr. Blake, had led me to the conclusion that
the dose of laudanum given by Mr. Candy could not possibly have been
administered before eleven. I had accordingly determined not to try the
second dose until that time.

We talked a little; but both our minds were preoccupied by the coming
ordeal. The conversation soon flagged--then dropped altogether. Mr.
Blake idly turned over the books on his bedroom table. I had taken
the precaution of looking at them, when we first entered the room. THE
GUARDIAN; THE TATLER; Richardson's PAMELA; Mackenzie's MAN OF FEELING;
Roscoe's LORENZO DE MEDICI; and Robertson's CHARLES THE FIFTH--all
classical works; all (of course) immeasurably superior to anything
produced in later times; and all (from my present point of view)
possessing the one great merit of enchaining nobody's interest, and
exciting nobody's brain. I left Mr. Blake to the composing influence
of Standard Literature, and occupied myself in making this entry in my
journal.

My watch informs me that it is close on eleven o'clock. I must shut up
these leaves once more.

* * * * *

Two o'clock A.M.--The experiment has been tried. With what result, I am
now to describe.

At eleven o'clock, I rang the bell for Betteredge, and told Mr. Blake
that he might at last prepare himself for bed.

I looked out of the window at the night. It was mild and rainy,
resembling, in this respect, the night of the birthday--the twenty-first
of June, last year. Without professing to believe in omens, it was at
least encouraging to find no direct nervous influences--no stormy or
electric perturbations--in the atmosphere. Betteredge joined me at the
window, and mysteriously put a little slip of paper into my hand. It
contained these lines:

"Mrs. Merridew has gone to bed, on the distinct understanding that the
explosion is to take place at nine to-morrow morning, and that I am not
to stir out of this part of the house until she comes and sets me
free. She has no idea that the chief scene of the experiment is my
sitting-room--or she would have remained in it for the whole night! I am
alone, and very anxious. Pray let me see you measure out the laudanum; I
want to have something to do with it, even in the unimportant character
of a mere looker-on.--R.V."

I followed Betteredge out of the room, and told him to remove the
medicine-chest into Miss Verinder's sitting-room.

The order appeared to take him completely by surprise. He looked as if
he suspected me of some occult medical design on Miss Verinder! "Might
I presume to ask," he said, "what my young lady and the medicine-chest
have got to do with each other?"

"Stay in the sitting-room, and you will see."

Betteredge appeared to doubt his own unaided capacity to superintend me
effectually, on an occasion when a medicine-chest was included in the
proceedings.

"Is there any objection, sir" he asked, "to taking Mr. Bruff into this
part of the business?"

"Quite the contrary! I am now going to ask Mr. Bruff to accompany me
down-stairs."

Betteredge withdrew to fetch the medicine-chest, without another word.
I went back into Mr. Blake's room, and knocked at the door
of communication. Mr. Bruff opened it, with his papers in his
hand--immersed in Law; impenetrable to Medicine.

"I am sorry to disturb you," I said. "But I am going to prepare the
laudanum for Mr. Blake; and I must request you to be present, and to see
what I do."

"Yes?" said Mr. Bruff, with nine-tenths of his attention riveted on his
papers, and with one-tenth unwillingly accorded to me. "Anything else?"

"I must trouble you to return here with me, and to see me administer the
dose."

"Anything else?"

"One thing more. I must put you to the inconvenience of remaining in Mr.
Blake's room, and of waiting to see what happens."

"Oh, very good!" said Mr. Bruff. "My room, or Mr. Blake's room--it
doesn't matter which; I can go on with my papers anywhere. Unless you
object, Mr. Jennings, to my importing THAT amount of common sense into
the proceedings?"

Before I could answer, Mr. Blake addressed himself to the lawyer,
speaking from his bed.

"Do you really mean to say that you don't feel any interest in what we
are going to do?" he asked. "Mr. Bruff, you have no more imagination
than a cow!"

"A cow is a very useful animal, Mr. Blake," said the lawyer. With that
reply he followed me out of the room, still keeping his papers in his
hand.

We found Miss Verinder, pale and agitated, restlessly pacing her
sitting-room from end to end. At a table in a corner stood Betteredge,
on guard over the medicine-chest. Mr. Bruff sat down on the first chair
that he could find, and (emulating the usefulness of the cow) plunged
back again into his papers on the spot.

Miss Verinder drew me aside, and reverted instantly to her one
all-absorbing interest--her interest in Mr. Blake.

"How is he now?" she asked. "Is he nervous? is he out of temper? Do you
think it will succeed? Are you sure it will do no harm?"

"Quite sure. Come, and see me measure it out."

"One moment! It is past eleven now. How long will it be before anything
happens?"

"It is not easy to say. An hour perhaps."

"I suppose the room must be dark, as it was last year?"

"Certainly."

"I shall wait in my bedroom--just as I did before. I shall keep the door
a little way open. It was a little way open last year. I will watch the
sitting-room door; and the moment it moves, I will blow out my light. It
all happened in that way, on my birthday night. And it must all happen
again in the same way, musn't it?"

"Are you sure you can control yourself, Miss Verinder?"

"In HIS interests, I can do anything!" she answered fervently.

One look at her face told me that I could trust her. I addressed myself
again to Mr. Bruff.

"I must trouble you to put your papers aside for a moment," I said.

"Oh, certainly!" He got up with a start--as if I had disturbed him at a
particularly interesting place--and followed me to the medicine-chest.
There, deprived of the breathless excitement incidental to the practice
of his profession, he looked at Betteredge--and yawned wearily.

Miss Verinder joined me with a glass jug of cold water, which she had
taken from a side-table. "Let me pour out the water," she whispered. "I
must have a hand in it!"

I measured out the forty minims from the bottle, and poured the laudanum
into a medicine glass. "Fill it till it is three parts full," I said,
and handed the glass to Miss Verinder. I then directed Betteredge to
lock up the medicine chest; informing him that I had done with it now. A
look of unutterable relief overspread the old servant's countenance. He
had evidently suspected me of a medical design on his young lady!

After adding the water as I had directed, Miss Verinder seized a
moment--while Betteredge was locking the chest, and while Mr. Bruff was
looking back to his papers--and slyly kissed the rim of the medicine
glass. "When you give it to him," said the charming girl, "give it to
him on that side!"

I took the piece of crystal which was to represent the Diamond from my
pocket, and gave it to her.

"You must have a hand in this, too," I said. "You must put it where you
put the Moonstone last year."

She led the way to the Indian cabinet, and put the mock Diamond into the
drawer which the real Diamond had occupied on the birthday night. Mr.
Bruff witnessed this proceeding, under protest, as he had witnessed
everything else. But the strong dramatic interest which the experiment
was now assuming, proved (to my great amusement) to be too much for
Betteredge's capacity of self restraint. His hand trembled as he held
the candle, and he whispered anxiously, "Are you sure, miss, it's the
right drawer?"

I led the way out again, with the laudanum and water in my hand. At the
door, I stopped to address a last word to Miss Verinder.

"Don't be long in putting out the lights," I said.

"I will put them out at once," she answered. "And I will wait in my
bedroom, with only one candle alight."

She closed the sitting-room door behind us. Followed by Mr. Bruff and
Betteredge, I went back to Mr. Blake's room.

We found him moving restlessly from side to side of the bed, and
wondering irritably whether he was to have the laudanum that night. In
the presence of the two witnesses, I gave him the dose, and shook up his
pillows, and told him to lie down again quietly and wait.

His bed, provided with light chintz curtains, was placed, with the head
against the wall of the room, so as to leave a good open space on either
side of it. On one side, I drew the curtains completely--and in the
part of the room thus screened from his view, I placed Mr. Bruff and
Betteredge, to wait for the result. At the bottom of the bed I half drew
the curtains--and placed my own chair at a little distance, so that I
might let him see me or not see me, speak to me or not speak to me, just
as the circumstances might direct. Having already been informed that he
always slept with a light in the room, I placed one of the two lighted
candles on a little table at the head of the bed, where the glare of
the light would not strike on his eyes. The other candle I gave to Mr.
Bruff; the light, in this instance, being subdued by the screen of the
chintz curtains. The window was open at the top, so as to ventilate the
room. The rain fell softly, the house was quiet. It was twenty minutes
past eleven, by my watch, when the preparations were completed, and I
took my place on the chair set apart at the bottom of the bed.

Mr. Bruff resumed his papers, with every appearance of being as deeply
interested in them as ever. But looking towards him now, I saw certain
signs and tokens which told me that the Law was beginning to lose its
hold on him at last. The suspended interest of the situation in which
we were now placed was slowly asserting its influence even on HIS
unimaginative mind. As for Betteredge, consistency of principle and
dignity of conduct had become, in his case, mere empty words. He forgot
that I was performing a conjuring trick on Mr. Franklin Blake; he forgot
that I had upset the house from top to bottom; he forgot that I had not
read ROBINSON CRUSOE since I was a child. "For the Lord's sake, sir," he
whispered to me, "tell us when it will begin to work."

"Not before midnight," I whispered back. "Say nothing, and sit still."

Betteredge dropped to the lowest depth of familiarity with me, without a
struggle to save himself. He answered by a wink!

Looking next towards Mr. Blake, I found him as restless as ever in his
bed; fretfully wondering why the influence of the laudanum had not begun
to assert itself yet. To tell him, in his present humour, that the more
he fidgeted and wondered, the longer he would delay the result for which
we were now waiting, would have been simply useless. The wiser course to
take was to dismiss the idea of the opium from his mind, by leading him
insensibly to think of something else.

With this view, I encouraged him to talk to me; contriving so to direct
the conversation, on my side, as to lead it back again to the subject
which had engaged us earlier in the evening--the subject of the Diamond.
I took care to revert to those portions of the story of the Moonstone,
which related to the transport of it from London to Yorkshire; to
the risk which Mr. Blake had run in removing it from the bank at
Frizinghall: and to the unexpected appearance of the Indians at the
house, on the evening of the birthday. And I purposely assumed, in
referring to these events, to have misunderstood much of what Mr. Blake
himself had told me a few hours since. In this way, I set him talking
on the subject with which it was now vitally important to fill his
mind--without allowing him to suspect that I was making him talk for a
purpose. Little by little, he became so interested in putting me right
that he forgot to fidget in the bed. His mind was far away from the
question of the opium, at the all-important time when his eyes first
told me that the opium was beginning to lay its hold on his brain.

I looked at my watch. It wanted five minutes to twelve, when the
premonitory symptoms of the working of the laudanum first showed
themselves to me.

At this time, no unpractised eyes would have detected any change in him.
But, as the minutes of the new morning wore away, the swiftly-subtle
progress of the influence began to show itself more plainly. The
sublime intoxication of opium gleamed in his eyes; the dew of a stealthy
perspiration began to glisten on his face. In five minutes more, the
talk which he still kept up with me, failed in coherence. He held
steadily to the subject of the Diamond; but he ceased to complete his
sentences. A little later, the sentences dropped to single words. Then,
there was an interval of silence. Then, he sat up in bed. Then, still
busy with the subject of the Diamond, he began to talk again--not to
me, but to himself. That change told me that the first stage in the
experiment was reached. The stimulant influence of the opium had got
him.

The time, now, was twenty-three minutes past twelve. The next half hour,
at most, would decide the question of whether he would, or would not,
get up from his bed, and leave the room.

In the breathless interest of watching him--in the unutterable triumph
of seeing the first result of the experiment declare itself in the
manner, and nearly at the time, which I had anticipated--I had utterly
forgotten the two companions of my night vigil. Looking towards them
now, I saw the Law (as represented by Mr. Bruff's papers) lying unheeded
on the floor. Mr. Bruff himself was looking eagerly through a crevice
left in the imperfectly-drawn curtains of the bed. And Betteredge,
oblivious of all respect for social distinctions, was peeping over Mr.
Bruff's shoulder.

They both started back, on finding that I was looking at them, like two
boys caught out by their schoolmaster in a fault. I signed to them to
take off their boots quietly, as I was taking off mine. If Mr. Blake
gave us the chance of following him, it was vitally necessary to follow
him without noise.

Ten minutes passed--and nothing happened. Then, he suddenly threw the
bed-clothes off him. He put one leg out of bed. He waited.

"I wish I had never taken it out of the bank," he said to himself. "It
was safe in the bank."

My heart throbbed fast; the pulses at my temples beat furiously. The
doubt about the safety of the Diamond was, once more, the dominant
impression in his brain! On that one pivot, the whole success of the
experiment turned. The prospect thus suddenly opened before me was too
much for my shattered nerves. I was obliged to look away from him--or I
should have lost my self-control.

There was another interval of silence.

When I could trust myself to look back at him he was out of his bed,
standing erect at the side of it. The pupils of his eyes were now
contracted; his eyeballs gleamed in the light of the candle as he moved
his head slowly to and fro. He was thinking; he was doubting--he spoke
again.

"How do I know?" he said. "The Indians may be hidden in the house."

He stopped, and walked slowly to the other end of the room. He
turned--waited--came back to the bed.

"It's not even locked up," he went on. "It's in the drawer of her
cabinet. And the drawer doesn't lock."

He sat down on the side of the bed. "Anybody might take it," he said.

He rose again restlessly, and reiterated his first words.

"How do I know? The Indians may be hidden in the house."

He waited again. I drew back behind the half curtain of the bed. He
looked about the room, with a vacant glitter in his eyes. It was a
breathless moment. There was a pause of some sort. A pause in the
action of the opium? a pause in the action of the brain? Who could tell?
Everything depended, now, on what he did next.

He laid himself down again on the bed!

A horrible doubt crossed my mind. Was it possible that the sedative
action of the opium was making itself felt already? It was not in my
experience that it should do this. But what is experience, where opium
is concerned? There are probably no two men in existence on whom
the drug acts in exactly the same manner. Was some constitutional
peculiarity in him, feeling the influence in some new way? Were we to
fail on the very brink of success?

No! He got up again abruptly. "How the devil am I to sleep," he said,
"with THIS on my mind?"

He looked at the light, burning on the table at the head of his bed.
After a moment, he took the candle in his hand.

I blew out the second candle, burning behind the closed curtains. I drew
back, with Mr. Bruff and Betteredge, into the farthest corner by the
bed. I signed to them to be silent, as if their lives had depended on
it.

We waited--seeing and hearing nothing. We waited, hidden from him by the
curtains.

The light which he was holding on the other side of us moved suddenly.
The next moment he passed us, swift and noiseless, with the candle in
his hand.

He opened the bedroom door, and went out.

We followed him along the corridor. We followed him down the stairs. We
followed him along the second corridor. He never looked back; he never
hesitated.

He opened the sitting-room door, and went in, leaving it open behind
him.

The door was hung (like all the other doors in the house) on large
old-fashioned hinges. When it was opened, a crevice was opened between
the door and the post. I signed to my two companions to look
through this, so as to keep them from showing themselves. I placed
myself--outside the door also--on the opposite side. A recess in the
wall was at my left hand, in which I could instantly hide myself, if he
showed any signs of looking back into the corridor.

He advanced to the middle of the room, with the candle still in his
hand: he looked about him--but he never looked back.

I saw the door of Miss Verinder's bedroom, standing ajar. She had put
out her light. She controlled herself nobly. The dim white outline of
her summer dress was all that I could see. Nobody who had not known it
beforehand would have suspected that there was a living creature in the
room. She kept back, in the dark: not a word, not a movement escaped
her.

It was now ten minutes past one. I heard, through the dead silence, the
soft drip of the rain and the tremulous passage of the night air through
the trees.

After waiting irresolute, for a minute or more, in the middle of the
room, he moved to the corner near the window, where the Indian cabinet
stood.

He put his candle on the top of the cabinet. He opened, and shut, one
drawer after another, until he came to the drawer in which the mock
Diamond was put. He looked into the drawer for a moment. Then he took
the mock Diamond out with his right hand. With the other hand, he took
the candle from the top of the cabinet.

He walked back a few steps towards the middle of the room, and stood
still again.

Thus far, he had exactly repeated what he had done on the birthday
night. Would his next proceeding be the same as the proceeding of last
year? Would he leave the room? Would he go back now, as I believed he
had gone back then, to his bed-chamber? Would he show us what he had
done with the Diamond, when he had returned to his own room?

His first action, when he moved once more, proved to be an action which
he had not performed, when he was under the influence of the opium for
the first time. He put the candle down on a table, and wandered on a
little towards the farther end of the room. There was a sofa there.
He leaned heavily on the back of it, with his left hand--then roused
himself, and returned to the middle of the room. I could now see his
eyes. They were getting dull and heavy; the glitter in them was fast
dying out.

The suspense of the moment proved too much for Miss Verinder's
self-control. She advanced a few steps--then stopped again. Mr. Bruff
and Betteredge looked across the open doorway at me for the first time.
The prevision of a coming disappointment was impressing itself on their
minds as well as on mine.

Still, so long as he stood where he was, there was hope. We waited, in
unutterable expectation, to see what would happen next.

The next event was decisive. He let the mock Diamond drop out of his
hand.

It fell on the floor, before the doorway--plainly visible to him, and
to everyone. He made no effort to pick it up: he looked down at
it vacantly, and, as he looked, his head sank on his breast. He
staggered--roused himself for an instant--walked back unsteadily to the
sofa--and sat down on it. He made a last effort; he tried to rise, and
sank back. His head fell on the sofa cushions. It was then twenty-five
minutes past one o'clock. Before I had put my watch back in my pocket,
he was asleep.

It was all over now. The sedative influence had got him; the experiment
was at an end.

I entered the room, telling Mr. Bruff and Betteredge that they might
follow me. There was no fear of disturbing him. We were free to move and
speak.

"The first thing to settle," I said, "is the question of what we are to
do with him. He will probably sleep for the next six or seven hours, at
least. It is some distance to carry him back to his own room. When I was
younger, I could have done it alone. But my health and strength are not
what they were--I am afraid I must ask you to help me."

Before they could answer, Miss Verinder called to me softly. She met me
at the door of her room, with a light shawl, and with the counterpane
from her own bed.

"Do you mean to watch him while he sleeps?" she asked.

"Yes, I am not sure enough of the action of the opium in his case to be
willing to leave him alone."

She handed me the shawl and the counterpane.

"Why should you disturb him?" she whispered. "Make his bed on the sofa.
I can shut my door, and keep in my room."

It was infinitely the simplest and the safest way of disposing of
him for the night. I mentioned the suggestion to Mr. Bruff and
Betteredge--who both approved of my adopting it. In five minutes I had
laid him comfortably on the sofa, and had covered him lightly with
the counterpane and the shawl. Miss Verinder wished us good night, and
closed the door. At my request, we three then drew round the table in
the middle of the room, on which the candle was still burning, and on
which writing materials were placed.

"Before we separate," I began, "I have a word to say about the
experiment which has been tried to-night. Two distinct objects were to
be gained by it. The first of these objects was to prove, that Mr. Blake
entered this room, and took the Diamond, last year, acting unconsciously
and irresponsibly, under the influence of opium. After what you have
both seen, are you both satisfied, so far?"

They answered me in the affirmative, without a moment's hesitation.

"The second object," I went on, "was to discover what he did with the
Diamond, after he was seen by Miss Verinder to leave her sitting-room
with the jewel in his hand, on the birthday night. The gaining of this
object depended, of course, on his still continuing exactly to repeat
his proceedings of last year. He has failed to do that; and the purpose
of the experiment is defeated accordingly. I can't assert that I am
not disappointed at the result--but I can honestly say that I am not
surprised by it. I told Mr. Blake from the first, that our complete
success in this matter depended on our completely reproducing in him the
physical and moral conditions of last year--and I warned him that this
was the next thing to a downright impossibility. We have only partially
reproduced the conditions, and the experiment has been only partially
successful in consequence. It is also possible that I may have
administered too large a dose of laudanum. But I myself look upon the
first reason that I have given, as the true reason why we have to lament
a failure, as well as to rejoice over a success."

After saying those words, I put the writing materials before Mr. Bruff,
and asked him if he had any objection--before we separated for the
night--to draw out, and sign, a plain statement of what he had seen.
He at once took the pen, and produced the statement with the fluent
readiness of a practised hand.

"I owe you this," he said, signing the paper, "as some atonement for
what passed between us earlier in the evening. I beg your pardon,
Mr. Jennings, for having doubted you. You have done Franklin Blake an
inestimable service. In our legal phrase, you have proved your case."

Betteredge's apology was characteristic of the man.

"Mr. Jennings," he said, "when you read ROBINSON CRUSOE again (which I
strongly recommend you to do), you will find that he never scruples to
acknowledge it, when he turns out to have been in the wrong. Please
to consider me, sir, as doing what Robinson Crusoe did, on the present
occasion." With those words he signed the paper in his turn.

Mr. Bruff took me aside, as we rose from the table.

"One word about the Diamond," he said. "Your theory is that Franklin
Blake hid the Moonstone in his room. My theory is, that the Moonstone
is in the possession of Mr. Luker's bankers in London. We won't dispute
which of us is right. We will only ask, which of us is in a position to
put his theory to the test?"

"The test, in my case," I answered, "has been tried to-night, and has
failed."

"The test, in my case," rejoined Mr. Bruff, "is still in process of
trial. For the last two days I have had a watch set for Mr. Luker at the
bank; and I shall cause that watch to be continued until the last day
of the month. I know that he must take the Diamond himself out of his
bankers' hands--and I am acting on the chance that the person who has
pledged the Diamond may force him to do this by redeeming the pledge.
In that case I may be able to lay my hand on the person. If I succeed, I
clear up the mystery, exactly at the point where the mystery baffles us
now! Do you admit that, so far?"

I admitted it readily.

"I am going back to town by the morning train," pursued the lawyer. "I
may hear, when I return, that a discovery has been made--and it may be
of the greatest importance that I should have Franklin Blake at hand to
appeal to, if necessary. I intend to tell him, as soon as he wakes, that
he must return with me to London. After all that has happened, may I
trust to your influence to back me?"

"Certainly!" I said.

Mr. Bruff shook hands with me, and left the room. Betteredge followed
him out; I went to the sofa to look at Mr. Blake. He had not moved since
I had laid him down and made his bed--he lay locked in a deep and quiet
sleep.

While I was still looking at him, I heard the bedroom door softly
opened. Once more, Miss Verinder appeared on the threshold, in her
pretty summer dress.

"Do me a last favour?" she whispered. "Let me watch him with you."

I hesitated--not in the interests of propriety; only in the interest of
her night's rest. She came close to me, and took my hand.

"I can't sleep; I can't even sit still, in my own room," she said. "Oh,
Mr. Jennings, if you were me, only think how you would long to sit and
look at him. Say, yes! Do!"

Is it necessary to mention that I gave way? Surely not!

She drew a chair to the foot of the sofa. She looked at him in a silent
ecstasy of happiness, till the tears rose in her eyes. She dried her
eyes, and said she would fetch her work. She fetched her work, and never
did a single stitch of it. It lay in her lap--she was not even able to
look away from him long enough to thread her needle. I thought of my own
youth; I thought of the gentle eyes which had once looked love at me. In
the heaviness of my heart I turned to my Journal for relief, and wrote
in it what is written here.

So we kept our watch together in silence. One of us absorbed in his
writing; the other absorbed in her love.

Hour after hour he lay in his deep sleep. The light of the new day grew
and grew in the room, and still he never moved.

Towards six o'clock, I felt the warning which told me that my pains
were coming back. I was obliged to leave her alone with him for a little
while. I said I would go up-stairs, and fetch another pillow for him out
of his room. It was not a long attack, this time. In a little while I
was able to venture back, and let her see me again.

I found her at the head of the sofa, when I returned. She was just
touching his forehead with her lips. I shook my head as soberly as I
could, and pointed to her chair. She looked back at me with a bright
smile, and a charming colour in her face. "You would have done it," she
whispered, "in my place!"

* * * * *

It is just eight o'clock. He is beginning to move for the first time.

Miss Verinder is kneeling by the side of the sofa. She has so placed
herself that when his eyes first open, they must open on her face.

Shall I leave them together?

Yes!

* * * * *

Eleven o'clock.--The house is empty again. They have arranged it among
themselves; they have all gone to London by the ten o'clock train. My
brief dream of happiness is over. I have awakened again to the realities
of my friendless and lonely life.

I dare not trust myself to write down, the kind words that have been
said to me especially by Miss Verinder and Mr. Blake. Besides, it is
needless. Those words will come back to me in my solitary hours, and
will help me through what is left of the end of my life. Mr. Blake is to
write, and tell me what happens in London. Miss Verinder is to return to
Yorkshire in the autumn (for her marriage, no doubt); and I am to take a
holiday, and be a guest in the house. Oh me, how I felt, as the grateful
happiness looked at me out of her eyes, and the warm pressure of her
hand said, "This is your doing!"

My poor patients are waiting for me. Back again, this morning, to the
old routine! Back again, to-night, to the dreadful alternative between
the opium and the pain!

God be praised for His mercy! I have seen a little sunshine--I have had
a happy time.




FIFTH NARRATIVE

The Story Resumed by FRANKLIN BLAKE



CHAPTER I


But few words are needed, on my part, to complete the narrative that has
been presented in the Journal of Ezra Jennings.

Of myself, I have only to say that I awoke on the morning of the
twenty-sixth, perfectly ignorant of all that I had said and done under
the influence of the opium--from the time when the drug first laid its
hold on me, to the time when I opened my eyes, in Rachel's sitting-room.

Of what happened after my waking, I do not feel called upon to render an
account in detail. Confining myself merely to results, I have to report
that Rachel and I thoroughly understood each other, before a single
word of explanation had passed on either side. I decline to account,
and Rachel declines to account, for the extraordinary rapidity of our
reconciliation. Sir and Madam, look back at the time when you were
passionately attached to each other--and you will know what happened,
after Ezra Jennings had shut the door of the sitting-room, as well as I
know it myself.

I have, however, no objection to add, that we should have been certainly
discovered by Mrs. Merridew, but for Rachel's presence of mind. She
heard the sound of the old lady's dress in the corridor, and instantly
ran out to meet her; I heard Mrs. Merridew say, "What is the matter?"
and I heard Rachel answer, "The explosion!" Mrs. Merridew instantly
permitted herself to be taken by the arm, and led into the garden, out
of the way of the impending shock. On her return to the house, she met
me in the hall, and expressed herself as greatly struck by the vast
improvement in Science, since the time when she was a girl at school.
"Explosions, Mr. Blake, are infinitely milder than they were. I assure
you, I barely heard Mr. Jennings's explosion from the garden. And no
smell afterwards, that I can detect, now we have come back to the house!
I must really apologise to your medical friend. It is only due to him to
say that he has managed it beautifully!"

So, after vanquishing Betteredge and Mr. Bruff, Ezra Jennings vanquished
Mrs. Merridew herself. There is a great deal of undeveloped liberal
feeling in the world, after all!

At breakfast, Mr. Bruff made no secret of his reasons for wishing that
I should accompany him to London by the morning train. The watch kept
at the bank, and the result which might yet come of it, appealed so
irresistibly to Rachel's curiosity, that she at once decided (if Mrs.
Merridew had no objection) on accompanying us back to town--so as to be
within reach of the earliest news of our proceedings.

Mrs. Merridew proved to be all pliability and indulgence, after the
truly considerate manner in which the explosion had conducted itself;
and Betteredge was accordingly informed that we were all four to travel
back together by the morning train. I fully expected that he would have
asked leave to accompany us. But Rachel had wisely provided her faithful
old servant with an occupation that interested him. He was charged
with completing the refurnishing of the house, and was too full of his
domestic responsibilities to feel the "detective-fever" as he might have
felt it under other circumstances.

Our one subject of regret, in going to London, was the necessity of
parting, more abruptly than we could have wished, with Ezra Jennings. It
was impossible to persuade him to accompany us. I could only promise to
write to him--and Rachel could only insist on his coming to see her when
she returned to Yorkshire. There was every prospect of our meeting again
in a few months--and yet there was something very sad in seeing our best
and dearest friend left standing alone on the platform, as the train
moved out of the station.

On our arrival in London, Mr. Bruff was accosted at the terminus by a
small boy, dressed in a jacket and trousers of threadbare black cloth,
and personally remarkable in virtue of the extraordinary prominence of
his eyes. They projected so far, and they rolled about so loosely,
that you wondered uneasily why they remained in their sockets. After
listening to the boy, Mr. Bruff asked the ladies whether they would
excuse our accompanying them back to Portland Place. I had barely time
to promise Rachel that I would return, and tell her everything that had
happened, before Mr. Bruff seized me by the arm, and hurried me into a
cab. The boy with the ill-secured eyes took his place on the box by the
driver, and the driver was directed to go to Lombard Street.

"News from the bank?" I asked, as we started.

"News of Mr. Luker," said Mr. Bruff. "An hour ago, he was seen to
leave his house at Lambeth, in a cab, accompanied by two men, who were
recognised by my men as police officers in plain clothes. If Mr. Luker's
dread of the Indians is at the bottom of this precaution, the inference
is plain enough. He is going to take the Diamond out of the bank."

"And we are going to the bank to see what comes of it?"

"Yes--or to hear what has come of it, if it is all over by this time.
Did you notice my boy--on the box, there?"

"I noticed his eyes."

Mr. Bruff laughed. "They call the poor little wretch 'Gooseberry' at
the office," he said. "I employ him to go on errands--and I only wish my
clerks who have nick-named him were as thoroughly to be depended on as
he is. Gooseberry is one of the sharpest boys in London, Mr. Blake, in
spite of his eyes."

It was twenty minutes to five when we drew up before the bank in Lombard
Street. Gooseberry looked longingly at his master, as he opened the cab
door.

"Do you want to come in too?" asked Mr. Bruff kindly. "Come in then,
and keep at my heels till further orders. He's as quick as lightning,"
pursued Mr. Bruff, addressing me in a whisper. "Two words will do with
Gooseberry, where twenty would be wanted with another boy."

We entered the bank. The outer office--with the long counter, behind
which the cashiers sat--was crowded with people; all waiting their turn
to take money out, or to pay money in, before the bank closed at five
o'clock.

Two men among the crowd approached Mr. Bruff, as soon as he showed
himself.

"Well," asked the lawyer. "Have you seen him?"

"He passed us here half an hour since, sir, and went on into the inner
office."

"Has he not come out again yet?"

"No, sir."

Mr. Bruff turned to me. "Let us wait," he said.

I looked round among the people about me for the three Indians. Not a
sign of them was to be seen anywhere. The only person present with a
noticeably dark complexion was a tall man in a pilot coat, and a round
hat, who looked like a sailor. Could this be one of them in disguise?
Impossible! The man was taller than any of the Indians; and his face,
where it was not hidden by a bushy black beard, was twice the breadth of
any of their faces at least.

"They must have their spy somewhere," said Mr. Bruff, looking at the
dark sailor in his turn. "And he may be the man."

Before he could say more, his coat-tail was respectfully pulled by his
attendant sprite with the gooseberry eyes. Mr. Bruff looked where the
boy was looking. "Hush!" he said. "Here is Mr. Luker!"

The money-lender came out from the inner regions of the bank, followed
by his two guardian policemen in plain clothes.

"Keep your eye on him," whispered Mr. Bruff. "If he passes the Diamond
to anybody, he will pass it here."

Without noticing either of us, Mr. Luker slowly made his way to the
door--now in the thickest, now in the thinnest part of the crowd.
I distinctly saw his hand move, as he passed a short, stout man,
respectably dressed in a suit of sober grey. The man started a little,
and looked after him. Mr. Luker moved on slowly through the crowd. At
the door his guard placed themselves on either side of him. They were
all three followed by one of Mr. Bruff's men--and I saw them no more.

I looked round at the lawyer, and then looked significantly towards the
man in the suit of sober grey. "Yes!" whispered Mr. Bruff, "I saw it
too!" He turned about, in search of his second man. The second man
was nowhere to be seen. He looked behind him for his attendant sprite.
Gooseberry had disappeared.

"What the devil does it mean?" said Mr. Bruff angrily. "They have both
left us at the very time when we want them most."

It came to the turn of the man in the grey suit to transact his business
at the counter. He paid in a cheque--received a receipt for it--and
turned to go out.

"What is to be done?" asked Mr. Bruff. "We can't degrade ourselves by
following him."

"I can!" I said. "I wouldn't lose sight of that man for ten thousand
pounds!"

"In that case," rejoined Mr. Bruff, "I wouldn't lose sight of you,
for twice the money. A nice occupation for a man in my position," he
muttered to himself, as we followed the stranger out of the bank. "For
Heaven's sake don't mention it. I should be ruined if it was known."

The man in the grey suit got into an omnibus, going westward. We got in
after him. There were latent reserves of youth still left in Mr.
Bruff. I assert it positively--when he took his seat in the omnibus, he
blushed!

The man in the grey suit stopped the omnibus, and got out in Oxford
Street. We followed him again. He went into a chemist's shop.

Mr. Bruff started. "My chemist!" he exclaimed. "I am afraid we have made
a mistake."

We entered the shop. Mr. Bruff and the proprietor exchanged a few words
in private. The lawyer joined me again, with a very crestfallen face.

"It's greatly to our credit," he said, as he took my arm, and led me
out--"that's one comfort!"

"What is to our credit?" I asked.

"Mr. Blake! you and I are the two worst amateur detectives that ever
tried their hands at the trade. The man in the grey suit has been thirty
years in the chemist's service. He was sent to the bank to pay money
to his master's account--and he knows no more of the Moonstone than the
babe unborn."

I asked what was to be done next.

"Come back to my office," said Mr. Bruff. "Gooseberry, and my second
man, have evidently followed somebody else. Let us hope that THEY had
their eyes about them at any rate!"

When we reached Gray's Inn Square, the second man had arrived there
before us. He had been waiting for more than a quarter of an hour.

"Well!" asked Mr. Bruff. "What's your news?"

"I am sorry to say, sir," replied the man, "that I have made a mistake.
I could have taken my oath that I saw Mr. Luker pass something to an
elderly gentleman, in a light-coloured paletot. The elderly gentleman
turns out, sir, to be a most respectable master iron-monger in
Eastcheap."

"Where is Gooseberry?" asked Mr. Bruff resignedly.

The man stared. "I don't know, sir. I have seen nothing of him since I
left the bank."

Mr. Bruff dismissed the man. "One of two things," he said to me. "Either
Gooseberry has run away, or he is hunting on his own account. What do
you say to dining here, on the chance that the boy may come back in an
hour or two? I have got some good wine in the cellar, and we can get a
chop from the coffee-house."

We dined at Mr. Bruff's chambers. Before the cloth was removed, "a
person" was announced as wanting to speak to the lawyer. Was the person
Gooseberry? No: only the man who had been employed to follow Mr. Luker
when he left the bank.

The report, in this case, presented no feature of the slightest
interest. Mr. Luker had gone back to his own house, and had there
dismissed his guard. He had not gone out again afterwards. Towards dusk,
the shutters had been put up, and the doors had been bolted. The street
before the house, and the alley behind the house, had been carefully
watched. No signs of the Indians had been visible. No person whatever
had been seen loitering about the premises. Having stated these facts,
the man waited to know whether there were any further orders. Mr. Bruff
dismissed him for the night.

"Do you think Mr. Luker has taken the Moonstone home with him?" I asked.

"Not he," said Mr. Bruff. "He would never have dismissed his two
policemen, if he had run the risk of keeping the Diamond in his own
house again."

We waited another half-hour for the boy, and waited in vain. It was then
time for Mr. Bruff to go to Hampstead, and for me to return to Rachel in
Portland Place. I left my card, in charge of the porter at the chambers,
with a line written on it to say that I should be at my lodgings at half
past ten, that night. The card was to be given to the boy, if the boy
came back.

Some men have a knack of keeping appointments; and other men have a
knack of missing them. I am one of the other men. Add to this, that I
passed the evening at Portland Place, on the same seat with Rachel, in a
room forty feet long, with Mrs. Merridew at the further end of it. Does
anybody wonder that I got home at half past twelve instead of half past
ten? How thoroughly heartless that person must be! And how earnestly I
hope I may never make that person's acquaintance!

My servant handed me a morsel of paper when he let me in.

I read, in a neat legal handwriting, these words--"If you please, sir, I
am getting sleepy. I will come back to-morrow morning, between nine and
ten." Inquiry proved that a boy, with very extraordinary-looking eyes,
had called, and presented my card and message, had waited an hour, had
done nothing but fall asleep and wake up again, had written a line for
me, and had gone home--after gravely informing the servant that "he was
fit for nothing unless he got his night's rest."

At nine, the next morning, I was ready for my visitor. At half past
nine, I heard steps outside my door. "Come in, Gooseberry!" I called
out. "Thank you, sir," answered a grave and melancholy voice. The door
opened. I started to my feet, and confronted--Sergeant Cuff.

"I thought I would look in here, Mr. Blake, on the chance of your being
in town, before I wrote to Yorkshire," said the Sergeant.

He was as dreary and as lean as ever. His eyes had not lost their old
trick (so subtly noticed in Betteredge's NARRATIVE) of "looking as if
they expected something more from you than you were aware of yourself."
But, so far as dress can alter a man, the great Cuff was changed beyond
all recognition. He wore a broad-brimmed white hat, a light shooting
jacket, white trousers, and drab gaiters. He carried a stout oak stick.
His whole aim and object seemed to be to look as if he had lived in the
country all his life. When I complimented him on his Metamorphosis,
he declined to take it as a joke. He complained, quite gravely, of the
noises and the smells of London. I declare I am far from sure that he
did not speak with a slightly rustic accent! I offered him breakfast.
The innocent countryman was quite shocked. HIS breakfast hour was
half-past six--and HE went to bed with the cocks and hens!

"I only got back from Ireland last night," said the Sergeant, coming
round to the practical object of his visit, in his own impenetrable
manner. "Before I went to bed, I read your letter, telling me what has
happened since my inquiry after the Diamond was suspended last year.
There's only one thing to be said about the matter on my side. I
completely mistook my case. How any man living was to have seen things
in their true light, in such a situation as mine was at the time, I
don't profess to know. But that doesn't alter the facts as they stand.
I own that I made a mess of it. Not the first mess, Mr. Blake, which
has distinguished my professional career! It's only in books that the
officers of the detective force are superior to the weakness of making a
mistake."

"You have come in the nick of time to recover your reputation," I said.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Blake," rejoined the Sergeant. "Now I have
retired from business, I don't care a straw about my reputation. I
have done with my reputation, thank God! I am here, sir, in grateful
remembrance of the late Lady Verinder's liberality to me. I will go
back to my old work--if you want me, and if you will trust me--on that
consideration, and on no other. Not a farthing of money is to pass, if
you please, from you to me. This is on honour. Now tell me, Mr. Blake,
how the case stands since you wrote to me last."

I told him of the experiment with the opium, and of what had occurred
afterwards at the bank in Lombard Street. He was greatly struck by the
experiment--it was something entirely new in his experience. And he was
particularly interested in the theory of Ezra Jennings, relating to what
I had done with the Diamond, after I had left Rachel's sitting-room, on
the birthday night.

"I don't hold with Mr. Jennings that you hid the Moonstone," said
Sergeant Cuff. "But I agree with him, that you must certainly have taken
it back to your own room."

"Well?" I asked. "And what happened then?"

"Have you no suspicion yourself of what happened, sir?"

"None whatever."

"Has Mr. Bruff no suspicion?"

"No more than I have."

Sergeant Cuff rose, and went to my writing-table. He came back with a
sealed envelope. It was marked "Private;" it was addressed to me; and it
had the Sergeant's signature in the corner.

"I suspected the wrong person, last year," he said: "and I may be
suspecting the wrong person now. Wait to open the envelope, Mr. Blake,
till you have got at the truth. And then compare the name of the guilty
person, with the name that I have written in that sealed letter."

I put the letter into my pocket--and then asked for the Sergeant's
opinion of the measures which we had taken at the bank.

"Very well intended, sir," he answered, "and quite the right thing to
do. But there was another person who ought to have been looked after
besides Mr. Luker."

"The person named in the letter you have just given to me?"

"Yes, Mr. Blake, the person named in the letter. It can't be helped now.
I shall have something to propose to you and Mr. Bruff, sir, when the
time comes. Let's wait, first, and see if the boy has anything to tell
us that is worth hearing."

It was close on ten o'clock, and the boy had not made his appearance.
Sergeant Cuff talked of other matters. He asked after his old friend
Betteredge, and his old enemy the gardener. In a minute more, he would
no doubt have got from this, to the subject of his favourite roses, if
my servant had not interrupted us by announcing that the boy was below.

On being brought into the room, Gooseberry stopped at the threshold
of the door, and looked distrustfully at the stranger who was in my
company. I told the boy to come to me.

"You may speak before this gentleman," I said. "He is here to assist me;
and he knows all that has happened. Sergeant Cuff," I added, "this is
the boy from Mr. Bruff's office."

In our modern system of civilisation, celebrity (no matter of what kind)
is the lever that will move anything. The fame of the great Cuff had
even reached the ears of the small Gooseberry. The boy's ill-fixed
eyes rolled, when I mentioned the illustrious name, till I thought they
really must have dropped on the carpet.

"Come here, my lad," said the Sergeant, "and let's hear what you have got
to tell us."

The notice of the great man--the hero of many a famous story in every
lawyer's office in London--appeared to fascinate the boy. He placed
himself in front of Sergeant Cuff, and put his hands behind him, after
the approved fashion of a neophyte who is examined in his catechism.

"What is your name?" said the Sergeant, beginning with the first
question in the catechism.

"Octavius Guy," answered the boy. "They call me Gooseberry at the office
because of my eyes."

"Octavius Guy, otherwise Gooseberry," pursued the Sergeant, with the
utmost gravity, "you were missed at the bank yesterday. What were you
about?"

"If you please, sir, I was following a man."

"Who was he?"

"A tall man, sir, with a big black beard, dressed like a sailor."

"I remember the man!" I broke in. "Mr. Bruff and I thought he was a spy
employed by the Indians."

Sergeant Cuff did not appear to be much impressed by what Mr. Bruff and
I had thought. He went on catechising Gooseberry.

"Well?" he said--"and why did you follow the sailor?"

"If you please, sir, Mr. Bruff wanted to know whether Mr. Luker passed
anything to anybody on his way out of the bank. I saw Mr. Luker pass
something to the sailor with the black beard."

"Why didn't you tell Mr. Bruff what you saw?"

"I hadn't time to tell anybody, sir, the sailor went out in such a
hurry."

"And you ran out after him--eh?"

"Yes, sir."

"Gooseberry," said the Sergeant, patting his head, "you have got
something in that small skull of yours--and it isn't cotton-wool. I am
greatly pleased with you, so far."

The boy blushed with pleasure. Sergeant Cuff went on.

"Well? and what did the sailor do, when he got into the street?"

"He called a cab, sir."

"And what did you do?"

"Held on behind, and run after it."

Before the Sergeant could put his next question, another visitor was
announced--the head clerk from Mr. Bruff's office.

Feeling the importance of not interrupting Sergeant Cuff's examination
of the boy, I received the clerk in another room. He came with bad news
of his employer. The agitation and excitement of the last two days had
proved too much for Mr. Bruff. He had awoke that morning with an attack
of gout; he was confined to his room at Hampstead; and, in the present
critical condition of our affairs, he was very uneasy at being compelled
to leave me without the advice and assistance of an experienced person.
The chief clerk had received orders to hold himself at my disposal, and
was willing to do his best to replace Mr. Bruff.

I wrote at once to quiet the old gentleman's mind, by telling him of
Sergeant Cuff's visit: adding that Gooseberry was at that moment under
examination; and promising to inform Mr. Bruff, either personally, or by
letter, of whatever might occur later in the day. Having despatched
the clerk to Hampstead with my note, I returned to the room which I had
left, and found Sergeant Cuff at the fireplace, in the act of ringing
the bell.

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Blake," said the Sergeant. "I was just going to
send word by your servant that I wanted to speak to you. There isn't a
doubt on my mind that this boy--this most meritorious boy," added the
Sergeant, patting Gooseberry on the head, "has followed the right man.
Precious time has been lost, sir, through your unfortunately not being
at home at half past ten last night. The only thing to do, now, is to
send for a cab immediately."

In five minutes more, Sergeant Cuff and I (with Gooseberry on the box to
guide the driver) were on our way eastward, towards the City.

"One of these days," said the Sergeant, pointing through the front
window of the cab, "that boy will do great things in my late profession.
He is the brightest and cleverest little chap I have met with, for many
a long year past. You shall hear the substance, Mr. Blake, of what he
told me while you were out of the room. You were present, I think, when
he mentioned that he held on behind the cab, and ran after it?"

"Yes."

"Well, sir, the cab went from Lombard Street to the Tower Wharf. The
sailor with the black beard got out, and spoke to the steward of the
Rotterdam steamboat, which was to start next morning. He asked if
he could be allowed to go on board at once, and sleep in his berth
over-night. The steward said, No. The cabins, and berths, and bedding
were all to have a thorough cleaning that evening, and no passenger
could be allowed to come on board, before the morning. The sailor turned
round, and left the wharf. When he got into the street again, the boy
noticed for the first time, a man dressed like a respectable mechanic,
walking on the opposite side of the road, and apparently keeping
the sailor in view. The sailor stopped at an eating-house in the
neighbourhood, and went in. The boy--not being able to make up his mind,
at the moment--hung about among some other boys, staring at the good
things in the eating-house window. He noticed the mechanic waiting, as
he himself was waiting--but still on the opposite side of the street.
After a minute, a cab came by slowly, and stopped where the mechanic
was standing. The boy could only see plainly one person in the cab, who
leaned forward at the window to speak to the mechanic. He described that
person, Mr. Blake, without any prompting from me, as having a dark face,
like the face of an Indian."

It was plain, by this time, that Mr. Bruff and I had made another
mistake. The sailor with the black beard was clearly not a spy in the
service of the Indian conspiracy. Was he, by any possibility, the man
who had got the Diamond?

"After a little," pursued the Sergeant, "the cab moved on slowly
down the street. The mechanic crossed the road, and went into the
eating-house. The boy waited outside till he was hungry and tired--and
then went into the eating-house, in his turn. He had a shilling in his
pocket; and he dined sumptuously, he tells me, on a black-pudding, an
eel-pie, and a bottle of ginger-beer. What can a boy not digest? The
substance in question has never been found yet."

"What did he see in the eating-house?" I asked.

"Well, Mr. Blake, he saw the sailor reading the newspaper at one table,
and the mechanic reading the newspaper at another. It was dusk before
the sailor got up, and left the place. He looked about him suspiciously
when he got out into the street. The boy--BEING a boy--passed unnoticed.
The mechanic had not come out yet. The sailor walked on, looking about
him, and apparently not very certain of where he was going next. The
mechanic appeared once more, on the opposite side of the road. The
sailor went on, till he got to Shore Lane, leading into Lower Thames
Street. There he stopped before a public-house, under the sign of 'The
Wheel of Fortune,' and, after examining the place outside, went in.
Gooseberry went in too. There were a great many people, mostly of the
decent sort, at the bar. 'The Wheel of Fortune' is a very respectable
house, Mr. Blake; famous for its porter and pork-pies."

The Sergeant's digressions irritated me. He saw it; and confined himself
more strictly to Gooseberry's evidence when he went on.

"The sailor," he resumed, "asked if he could have a bed. The landlord
said 'No; they were full.' The barmaid corrected him, and said 'Number
Ten was empty.' A waiter was sent for to show the sailor to Number Ten.
Just before that, Gooseberry had noticed the mechanic among the people
at the bar. Before the waiter had answered the call, the mechanic had
vanished. The sailor was taken off to his room. Not knowing what to do
next, Gooseberry had the wisdom to wait and see if anything happened.
Something did happen. The landlord was called for. Angry voices were
heard up-stairs. The mechanic suddenly made his appearance again,
collared by the landlord, and exhibiting, to Gooseberry's great
surprise, all the signs and tokens of being drunk. The landlord thrust
him out at the door, and threatened him with the police if he came back.
From the altercation between them, while this was going on, it appeared
that the man had been discovered in Number Ten, and had declared with
drunken obstinacy that he had taken the room. Gooseberry was so struck
by this sudden intoxication of a previously sober person, that he
couldn't resist running out after the mechanic into the street. As long
as he was in sight of the public-house, the man reeled about in the most
disgraceful manner. The moment he turned the corner of the street, he
recovered his balance instantly, and became as sober a member of society
as you could wish to see. Gooseberry went back to 'The Wheel of Fortune'
in a very bewildered state of mind. He waited about again, on the chance
of something happening. Nothing happened; and nothing more was to be
heard, or seen, of the sailor. Gooseberry decided on going back to the
office. Just as he came to this conclusion, who should appear, on the
opposite side of the street as usual, but the mechanic again! He looked
up at one particular window at the top of the public-house, which was
the only one that had a light in it. The light seemed to relieve his
mind. He left the place directly. The boy made his way back to Gray's
Inn--got your card and message--called--and failed to find you. There
you have the state of the case, Mr. Blake, as it stands at the present
time."

"What is your own opinion of the case, Sergeant?"

"I think it's serious, sir. Judging by what the boy saw, the Indians are
in it, to begin with."

"Yes. And the sailor is evidently the person to whom Mr. Luker passed
the Diamond. It seems odd that Mr. Bruff, and I, and the man in Mr.
Bruff's employment, should all have been mistaken about who the person
was."

"Not at all, Mr. Blake. Considering the risk that person ran, it's
likely enough that Mr. Luker purposely misled you, by previous
arrangement between them."

"Do you understand the proceedings at the public-house?" I asked. "The
man dressed like a mechanic was acting of course in the employment
of the Indians. But I am as much puzzled to account for his sudden
assumption of drunkenness as Gooseberry himself."

"I think I can give a guess at what it means, sir," said the Sergeant.
"If you will reflect, you will see that the man must have had some
pretty strict instructions from the Indians. They were far too
noticeable themselves to risk being seen at the bank, or in the
public-house--they were obliged to trust everything to their
deputy. Very good. Their deputy hears a certain number named in the
public-house, as the number of the room which the sailor is to have for
the night--that being also the room (unless our notion is all
wrong) which the Diamond is to have for the night, too. Under those
circumstances, the Indians, you may rely on it, would insist on having a
description of the room--of its position in the house, of its capability
of being approached from the outside, and so on. What was the man to do,
with such orders as these? Just what he did! He ran up-stairs to get
a look at the room, before the sailor was taken into it. He was found
there, making his observations--and he shammed drunk, as the easiest way
of getting out of the difficulty. That's how I read the riddle. After he
was turned out of the public-house, he probably went with his report to
the place where his employers were waiting for him. And his employers,
no doubt, sent him back to make sure that the sailor was really settled
at the public-house till the next morning. As for what happened at 'The
Wheel of Fortune,' after the boy left--we ought to have discovered that
last night. It's eleven in the morning, now. We must hope for the best,
and find out what we can."

In a quarter of an hour more, the cab stopped in Shore Lane, and
Gooseberry opened the door for us to get out.

"All right?" asked the Sergeant.

"All right," answered the boy.

The moment we entered "The Wheel of Fortune" it was plain even to my
inexperienced eyes that there was something wrong in the house.

The only person behind the counter at which the liquors were served, was
a bewildered servant girl, perfectly ignorant of the business. One or
two customers, waiting for their morning drink, were tapping impatiently
on the counter with their money. The bar-maid appeared from the inner
regions of the parlour, excited and preoccupied. She answered Sergeant
Cuff's inquiry for the landlord, by telling him sharply that her master
was up-stairs, and was not to be bothered by anybody.

"Come along with me, sir," said Sergeant Cuff, coolly leading the way
up-stairs, and beckoning to the boy to follow him.

The barmaid called to her master, and warned him that strangers
were intruding themselves into the house. On the first floor we were
encountered by the Landlord, hurrying down, in a highly irritated state,
to see what was the matter.

"Who the devil are you? and what do you want here?" he asked.

"Keep your temper," said the Sergeant, quietly. "I'll tell you who I am
to begin with. I am Sergeant Cuff."

The illustrious name instantly produced its effect. The angry landlord
threw open the door of a sitting-room, and asked the Sergeant's pardon.

"I am annoyed and out of sorts, sir--that's the truth," he said.
"Something unpleasant has happened in the house this morning. A man in
my way of business has a deal to upset his temper, Sergeant Cuff."

"Not a doubt of it," said the Sergeant. "I'll come at once, if you will
allow me, to what brings us here. This gentleman and I want to trouble
you with a few inquiries, on a matter of some interest to both of us."

"Relating to what, sir?" asked the landlord.

"Relating to a dark man, dressed like a sailor, who slept here last
night."

"Good God! that's the man who is upsetting the whole house at this
moment!" exclaimed the landlord. "Do you, or does this gentleman know
anything about him?"

"We can't be certain till we see him," answered the Sergeant.

"See him?" echoed the landlord. "That's the one thing that nobody has
been able to do since seven o'clock this morning. That was the time when
he left word, last night, that he was to be called. He WAS called--and
there was no getting an answer from him, and no opening his door to see
what was the matter. They tried again at eight, and they tried again
at nine. No use! There was the door still locked--and not a sound to be
heard in the room! I have been out this morning--and I only got back a
quarter of an hour ago. I have hammered at the door myself--and all to
no purpose. The potboy has gone to fetch a carpenter. If you can wait
a few minutes, gentlemen, we will have the door opened, and see what it
means."

"Was the man drunk last night?" asked Sergeant Cuff.

"Perfectly sober, sir--or I would never have let him sleep in my house."

"Did he pay for his bed beforehand?"

"No."

"Could he leave the room in any way, without going out by the door?"

"The room is a garret," said the landlord. "But there's a trap-door in
the ceiling, leading out on to the roof--and a little lower down the
street, there's an empty house under repair. Do you think, Sergeant, the
blackguard has got off in that way, without paying?"

"A sailor," said Sergeant Cuff, "might have done it--early in the
morning, before the street was astir. He would be used to climbing, and
his head wouldn't fail him on the roofs of the houses."

As he spoke, the arrival of the carpenter was announced. We all went
up-stairs, at once, to the top story. I noticed that the Sergeant was
unusually grave, even for him. It also struck me as odd that he told the
boy (after having previously encouraged him to follow us), to wait in
the room below till we came down again.

The carpenter's hammer and chisel disposed of the resistance of the door
in a few minutes. But some article of furniture had been placed against
it inside, as a barricade. By pushing at the door, we thrust this
obstacle aside, and so got admission to the room. The landlord entered
first; the Sergeant second; and I third. The other persons present
followed us.

We all looked towards the bed, and all started.

The man had not left the room. He lay, dressed, on the bed--with a white
pillow over his face, which completely hid it from view.

"What does that mean?" said the landlord, pointing to the pillow.

Sergeant Cuff led the way to the bed, without answering, and removed the
pillow.

The man's swarthy face was placid and still; his black hair and beard
were slightly, very slightly, discomposed. His eyes stared wide-open,
glassy and vacant, at the ceiling. The filmy look and the fixed
expression of them horrified me. I turned away, and went to the open
window. The rest of them remained, where Sergeant Cuff remained, at the
bed.

"He's in a fit!" I heard the landlord say.

"He's dead," the Sergeant answered. "Send for the nearest doctor, and
send for the police."

The waiter was despatched on both errands. Some strange fascination
seemed to hold Sergeant Cuff to the bed. Some strange curiosity seemed
to keep the rest of them waiting, to see what the Sergeant would do
next.

I turned again to the window. The moment afterwards, I felt a soft pull
at my coat-tails, and a small voice whispered, "Look here, sir!"

Gooseberry had followed us into the room. His loose eyes rolled
frightfully--not in terror, but in exultation. He had made a
detective-discovery on his own account. "Look here, sir," he
repeated--and led me to a table in the corner of the room.

On the table stood a little wooden box, open, and empty. On one side of
the box lay some jewellers' cotton. On the other side, was a torn
sheet of white paper, with