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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 misalliance 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 as 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
her 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, "