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Wilkie Collins



THE MOONSTONE

A Romance

 

 

 

 

PROLOGUE

THESTORMING OF SERINGAPATAM (1799)

Extractedfrom a Family Paper

 

I addressthese lines--written in India--to my relatives in England.

My objectis to explain the motive which has induced me to refusethe righthand of friendship to my cousinJohn Herncastle.Thereserve which I have hitherto maintained in this matter has beenmisinterpretedby members of my family whose good opinion I cannotconsent toforfeit.  I request them to suspend their decision untilthey haveread my narrative.  And I declareon my word of honourthat whatI am now about to write isstrictly and literallythe truth.

Theprivate difference between my cousin and me took its risein a greatpublic event in which we were both concerned--thestorming of Seringapatamunder General Bairdon the 4thof May1799.

In orderthat the circumstances may be clearly understoodI mustrevert for a moment to the period before the assaultand to thestories current in our camp of the treasure in jewelsand goldstored up in the Palace of Seringapatam.

 

II

 

One of thewildest of these stories related to a Yellow Diamond--a famousgem in the native annals of India.

Theearliest known traditions describe the stone as having been setin theforehead of the four-handed Indian god who typifies the Moon.Partlyfrom its peculiar colourpartly from a superstition whichrepresentedit as feeling the influence of the deity whom it adornedandgrowing and lessening in lustre with the waxing and waningof themoonit first gained the name by which it continuesto beknown in India to this day--the name of THE MOONSTONE.A similarsuperstition was once prevalentas I have heardin ancientGreece and Rome; not applyinghowever (as in India)to adiamond devoted to the service of a godbut to a semi-transparentstone ofthe inferior order of gemssupposed to be affectedby thelunar influences--the moonin this latter case alsogiving thename by which the stone is still known to collectors in ourown time.

Theadventures of the Yellow Diamond begin with the eleventhcentury ofthe Christian era.

At thatdatethe Mohammedan conquerorMahmoud of Ghiznicrossed India;seized onthe holy city of Somnauth; and stripped of its treasures thefamoustemplewhich had stood for centuries--the shrine of Hindoopilgrimageand thewonder of the Eastern world.

Of all thedeities worshipped in the templethe moon-god alone escapedtherapacity of the conquering Mohammedans.  Preserved by threeBrahminstheinviolate deitybearing the Yellow Diamond in its foreheadwasremovedby nightand was transported to the second of the sacred cities of India--the cityof Benares.

Herein anew shrine--in a hall inlaid with precious stonesunder aroof supported by pillars of gold--the moon-god was set upandworshipped.  Hereon the night when the shrine was completedVishnu thePreserver appeared to the three Brahmins in a dream.

The deitybreathed the breath of his divinity on the Diamond in the foreheadof thegod.  And the Brahmins knelt and hid their faces in their robes.The deitycommanded that the Moonstone should be watchedfrom thattimeforthby three priests in turnnight and dayto the end of thegenerationsof men.  And the Brahmins heardand bowed before his will.The deitypredicted certain disaster to the presumptuous mortal who laidhands onthe sacred gemand to all of his house and name who receivedit afterhim.  And the Brahmins caused the prophecy to be written overthe gatesof the shrine in letters of gold.

One agefollowed another--and stillgeneration after generationthesuccessors of the three Brahmins watched their priceless Moonstonenight andday.  One age followed another until the first yearsof theeighteenth Christian century saw the reign of AurungzebeEmperor ofthe Moguls.  At his command havoc and rapine were letloose oncemore among the temples of the worship of Brahmah.The shrineof the four-handed god was polluted by the slaughterof sacredanimals; the images of the deities were broken in pieces;and theMoonstone was seized by an officer of rank in the armyofAurungzebe.

Powerlessto recover their lost treasure by open forcethe threeguardian priests followed and watched it in disguise.Thegenerations succeeded each other; the warrior who hadcommittedthe sacrilege perished miserably; the Moonstone passed(carryingits curse with it) from one lawless Mohammedanhand toanother; and stillthrough all chances and changesthesuccessors of the three guardian priests kept their watchwaitingthe day when the will of Vishnu the Preserver shouldrestore tothem their sacred gem.  Time rolled on from the firstto thelast years of the eighteenth Christian century.  The Diamondfell intothe possession of TippooSultan of Seringapatamwho causedit to be placed as an ornament in the handle of a daggerand whocommanded it to be kept among the choicest treasuresof hisarmoury.  Even then--in the palace of the Sultan himself--the threeguardian priests still kept their watch in secret.There werethree officers of Tippoo's householdstrangersto the restwho had won their master's confidencebyconformingor appearing to conformto the Mussulman faith;and tothose three men report pointed as the three priestsindisguise.

 

III

 

Soastold in our campran the fanciful story of the Moonstone.It made noserious impression on any of us except my cousin--whose loveof the marvellous induced him to believe it.On thenight before the assault on Seringapatamhe was absurdlyangry withmeand with othersfor treating the whole thingas afable.  A foolish wrangle followed; and Herncastle'sunluckytemper got the better of him.  He declaredin hisboastfulwaythat we should see the Diamond on his fingerif theEnglish army took Seringapatam.  The sally was salutedby a roarof laughterand thereas we all thought that nightthe thingended.

Let me nowtake you on to the day of the assault.  My cousin and Iwereseparated at the outset.  I never saw him when we forded theriver;when weplanted the English flag in the first breach; when we crossedthe ditchbeyond; andfighting every inch of our wayentered the town.It wasonly at duskwhen the place was oursand after General Bairdhimselfhad found the dead body of Tippoo under a heap of the slainthatHerncastle and I met.

We wereeach attached to a party sent out by the general's ordersto preventthe plunder and confusion which followed our conquest.Thecamp-followers committed deplorable excesses; andworse stillthesoldiers found their wayby a guarded doorinto the treasuryof thePalaceand loaded themselves with gold and jewels.It was inthe court outside the treasury that my cousin and I metto enforcethe laws of discipline on our own soldiers.  Herncastle's fierytemper hadbeenas I could plainly seeexasperated to a kindof frenzyby the terrible slaughter through which we had passed.He wasvery unfitin my opinionto perform the duty that had beenentrustedto him.

There wasriot and confusion enough in the treasurybut noviolencethat I saw.  The men (if I may use such an expression)disgracedthemselves good-humouredly. All sorts of roughjests andcatchwords were bandied about among them;and thestory of the Diamond turned up again unexpectedlyin theform of a mischievous joke.  "Who's got the Moonstone?"was therallying cry which perpetually caused the plunderingas soon asit was stopped in one placeto break out in another.While Iwas still vainly trying to establish orderI heardafrightful yelling on the other side of the courtyardand atonce rantowards the criesin dread of finding some new outbreakof thepillage in that direction.

I got toan open doorand saw the bodies of two Indians(by theirdressas I guessedofficers of the palace)lyingacross the entrancedead.

A cryinside hurried me into a roomwhich appeared to serve as an armoury.A thirdIndianmortally woundedwas sinking at the feet of a man whose backwastowards me.  The man turned at the instant when I came inand IsawJohnHerncastlewith a torch in one handand a dagger dripping withbloodin theother.  A stoneset like a pommelin the end of the dagger'shandleflashed inthe torchlightas he turned on melike a gleam of fire.The dyingIndian sank to his kneespointed to the dagger in Herncastle'shandandsaidin his native language--"The Moonstone will have itsvengeanceyet on youand yours!"  He spoke those wordsand fell dead on thefloor.

Before Icould stir in the matterthe men who had followed me acrossthecourtyard crowded in.  My cousin rushed to meet themlike amadman."Clearthe room!" he shouted to me"and set a guard on the door!"The menfell back as he threw himself on them with his torch and his dagger.I put twosentinels of my own companyon whom I could relyto keepthe door. Through the remainder of the nightI saw no more ofmy cousin.

Early inthe morningthe plunder still going onGeneral Baird announcedpubliclyby beat of drumthat any thief detected in the factbe he whomhe mightshould be hung.  The provost-marshal was in attendanceto provethat the General was in earnest; and in the throng that followedtheproclamationHerncastle and I met again.

He heldout his handas usualand said"Good morning.

I waitedbefore I gave him my hand in return.

"Tellme first" I said"how the Indian in the armoury met hisdeathand whatthose last words meantwhen he pointed to the dagger in your hand."

"TheIndian met his deathas I supposeby a mortal wound"saidHerncastle.  "What his last words meant I know no more thanyou do."

I lookedat him narrowly.  His frenzy of the previous dayhad allcalmed down.  I determined to give him another chance.

"Isthat all you have to tell me?"  I asked.

Heanswered"That is all."

I turnedmy back on him; and we have not spoken since.

 

IV

 

I beg itto be understood that what I write here about my cousin(unlesssome necessity should arise for making it public)is for theinformation of the family only.  Herncastle has saidnothingthat can justify me in speaking to our commanding officer.He hasbeen taunted more than once about the Diamondby those whorecollecthis angry outbreak before the assault; butas may easilybeimaginedhis own remembrance of the circumstances under which Isurprisedhim in the armoury has been enough to keep him silent.It isreported that he means to exchange into another regimentavowedlyfor the purpose of separating himself from ME.

Whetherthis be true or notI cannot prevail upon myself to becomehisaccuser--and I think with good reason.  If I made the matterpublicI have noevidence but moral evidence to bring forward.I have notonly no proof that he killed the two men at the door;I cannoteven declare that he killed the third man inside--for Icannot say that my own eyes saw the deed committed.It is truethat I heard the dying Indian's words; but if thosewords werepronounced to be the ravings of deliriumhow could Icontradictthe assertion from my own knowledge?  Let our relativeson eithersideform their own opinion on what I have writtenand decidefor themselves whether the aversion I now feel towardsthis manis well or ill founded.

Although Iattach no sort of credit to the fantastic Indian legendof thegemI must acknowledgebefore I concludethat I am influencedby acertain superstition of my own in this matter.  It is myconvictionor mydelusionno matter whichthat crime brings its own fatality withit.I am notonly persuaded of Herncastle's guilt; I am even fanciful enoughto believethat he will live to regret itif he keeps the Diamond;and thatothers will live to regret taking it from himif he gives theDiamondaway.

 

 

THESTORY

 

FIRSTPERIOD

 

THELOSS OF THE DIAMOND (1848)

 

The eventsrelated by GABRIEL BETTEREDGEhouse-stewardin theservice of JULIALADY VERINDER

 

CHAPTER I

In thefirst part of ROBINSON CRUSOEat page one hundred and twenty-nineyou willfind it thus written:

"NowI sawthough too latethe Folly of beginning a Work before wecount theCostand before we judge rightly of our own Strength to gothroughwith it."

OnlyyesterdayI opened my ROBINSON CRUSOE at that place.Only thismorning (May twenty-firstEighteen hundred and fifty)came mylady's nephewMr. Franklin Blakeand held a shortconversationwith meas follows:--

"Betteredge"says Mr. Franklin"I have been to the lawyer's about somefamilymatters; andamong other thingswe have been talking of the lossof theIndian Diamondin my aunt's house in Yorkshiretwo years since.Mr. Bruffthinks as I thinkthat the whole story oughtin the interestsof truthto be placed on record in writing--and the sooner the better."

Notperceiving his drift yetand thinking it always desirable for thesakeof peaceand quietness to be on the lawyer's sideI said I thought so too.Mr.Franklin went on.

"Inthis matter of the Diamond" he said"the characters ofinnocentpeoplehave suffered under suspicion already--as you know.Thememories of innocent people may sufferhereafterfor wantof arecord of the facts to which those who come after us can appeal.There canbe no doubt that this strange family story of ours oughtto betold.  And I thinkBetteredgeMr. Bruff and I together havehiton theright way of telling it."

Verysatisfactory to both of themno doubt.  But I failed to seewhat Imyself had to do with itso far.

"Wehave certain events to relate" Mr. Franklin proceeded;"andwe have certain persons concerned in those events who arecapable ofrelating them.  Starting from these plain factsthe ideais that weshould all write the story of the Moonstone in turn--as far asour own personal experience extendsand no farther.We mustbegin by showing how the Diamond first fell into the handsof myuncle Herncastlewhen he was serving in India fifty years since.Thisprefatory narrative I have already got by me in the form of an oldfamilypaperwhich relates the necessary particulars on the authorityof aneye-witness. The next thing to do is to tell how the Diamondfound itsway into my aunt's house in Yorkshiretwo years agoand how itcame to be lost in little more than twelve hours afterwards.Nobodyknows as much as you doBetteredgeabout what went on inthe houseat that time.  So you must take the pen in handand startthestory."

In thoseterms I was informed of what my personal concern waswith thematter of the Diamond.  If you are curious to knowwhatcourse I took under the circumstancesI beg to informyou that Idid what you would probably have done in my place.I modestlydeclared myself to be quite unequal to the taskimposedupon me--and I privately feltall the timethat I wasquite clever enough to perform itif I only gavemy ownabilities a fair chance.  Mr. FranklinI imaginemust haveseen my private sentiments in my face.  He declinedto believein my modesty; and he insisted on giving my abilitiesa fairchance.

Two hourshave passed since Mr. Franklin left me.  As soon as hisback wasturnedI went to my writing desk to start the story.There Ihave sat helpless (in spite of my abilities) ever since;seeingwhat Robinson Crusoe sawas quoted above--namelythe follyofbeginning a work before we count the costand before we judgerightly ofour own strength to go through with it.  Please to rememberI openedthe book by accidentat that bitonly the day before Irashlyundertook the business now in hand; andallow me to ask--if THATisn't prophecywhat is?

I am notsuperstitious; I have read a heap of books in my time;I am ascholar in my own way.  Though turned seventyI possessan activememoryand legs to correspond.  You are not to take itif youpleaseas the saying of an ignorant manwhen I expressmy opinionthat such a book as ROBINSON CRUSOE never was writtenand neverwill be written again.  I have tried that book for years--generallyin combination with a pipe of tobacco--and I have foundit myfriend in need in all the necessities of this mortal life.When myspirits are bad--ROBINSON CRUSOE.  When I want advice--ROBINSONCRUSOE.  In past times when my wife plagued me;in presenttimes when I have had a drop too much--ROBINSON CRUSOE.I haveworn out six stout ROBINSON CRUSOES with hard work in my service.On mylady's last birthday she gave me a seventh.  I took a drop toomuch onthe strength of it; and ROBINSON CRUSOE put me right again.Price fourshillings and sixpencebound in bluewith a picture intothebargain.

Stillthis don't look much like starting the story of the Diamond--does it?I seem tobe wandering off in search of Lord knows whatLord knows where.We willtake a new sheet of paperif you pleaseand begin over againwith mybest respects to you.

 

CHAPTER II

I spoke ofmy lady a line or two back.  Now the Diamond could never havebeen inour housewhere it was lostif it had not been made a presentof to mylady's daughter; and my lady's daughter would never have beeninexistence to have the presentif it had not been for my lady who(with painand travail) produced her into the world.  Consequentlyif webegin withmy ladywe are pretty sure of beginning far enough back.And thatlet me tell youwhen you have got such a job as mine in handis a realcomfort at starting.

If youknow anything of the fashionable worldyou haveheard tellof the three beautiful Miss Herncastles.MissAdelaide; Miss Caroline; and Miss Julia--this last beingtheyoungest and the best of the three sistersin my opinion;and I hadopportunities of judgingas you shall presently see.I wentinto the service of the old lordtheir father(thankGodwe have got nothing to do with himin this businessof theDiamond; he had the longest tongue and the shortesttemper ofany manhigh or lowI ever met with)--I sayI wentinto the service of the old lordas page-boy in waitingon thethree honourable young ladiesat the age of fifteen years.There Ilived till Miss Julia married the late Sir John Verinder.Anexcellent manwho only wanted somebody to manage him;andbetween ourselveshe found somebody to do it;and whatis morehe throve on it and grew fat on itand livedhappy and died easy on itdating from the daywhen mylady took him to church to be marriedto the daywhen sherelieved him of his last breathand closed his eyesfor ever.

I haveomitted to state that I went with the bride to thebride'shusband's house and lands down here.  "Sir John"she says"I can't do without Gabriel Betteredge."  "Mylady"says SirJohn"I can't do without himeither."  That washis waywith her--and that was how I went into his service.It was allone to me where I wentso long as my mistress and Iweretogether.

Seeingthat my lady took an interest in the out-of-door workand thefarmsand such likeI took an interest in them too--with allthe more reason that I was a small farmer's seventhsonmyself.  My lady got me put under the bailiffand I didmy bestand gave satisfactionand got promotion accordingly.Some yearslateron the Monday as it might bemy ladysays"Sir Johnyour bailiff is a stupid old man.Pensionhim liberallyand let Gabriel Betteredge have his place."On theTuesday as it might beSir John says"My ladythebailiff is pensioned liberally; and Gabriel Betteredge hasgot hisplace."  You hear more than enough of married peoplelivingtogether miserably.  Here is an example to the contrary.Let it bea warning to some of youand an encouragement to others.In themeantimeI will go on with my story.

Wellthere I was in cloveryou will say.  Placed in a positionof trustand honourwith a little cottage of my own to live inwith myrounds on the estate to occupy me in the morningand myaccounts in the afternoonand my pipe and my ROBINSON CRUSOEin theevening--what more could I possibly want to make me happy?Rememberwhat Adam wanted when he was alone in the Garden of Eden;and if youdon't blame it in Adamdon't blame it in me.

The womanI fixed my eye onwas the woman who kepthouse forme at my cottage.  Her name was Selina Goby.I agreewith the late William Cobbett about picking a wife.See thatshe chews her food well and sets her foot downfirmly onthe ground when she walksand you're all right.SelinaGoby was all right in both these respectswhich wasone reasonfor marrying her.  I had another reasonlikewiseentirelyof my own discovering.  Selinabeing a single womanmade mepay so much a week for her board and services.Selinabeing my wifecouldn't charge for her boardand wouldhave togive me her services for nothing.  That was the pointof view Ilooked at it from.  Economy--with a dash of love.I put itto my mistressas in duty boundjust as I had put itto myself.

"Ihave been turning Selina Goby over in my mind" I said"andI thinkmy ladyit will be cheaper to marry her thanto keepher."

My ladyburst out laughingand said she didn't knowwhich tobe most shocked at--my language or my principles.Some joketickled herI supposeof the sort that you can'ttakeunless you are a person of quality.  Understanding nothingmyself butthat I was free to put it next to SelinaI went andput it accordingly.  And what did Selina say?Lord! howlittle you must know of womenif you ask that.Of courseshe saidYes.

As my timedrew nearerand there got to be talk of my havinga new coatfor the ceremonymy mind began to misgive me.I havecompared notes with other men as to what theyfelt whilethey were in my interesting situation;and theyhave all acknowledged thatabout a week beforeithappenedthey privately wished themselves out of it.I went atrifle further than that myself; I actually rose upas itwereand tried to get out of it.  Not for nothing!I was toojust a man to expect she would let me off for nothing.Compensationto the woman when the man gets out of itis one ofthe laws of England.  In obedience to the lawsand afterturning it over carefully in my mindI offered SelinaGoby afeather-bed and fifty shillings to be off the bargain.You willhardly believe itbut it is nevertheless true--she wasfoolenough to refuse.

After thatit was all over with meof course.  I got the new coat as cheapas Icouldand I went through all the rest of it as cheap as I could.We werenot a happy coupleand not a miserable couple.  We were six ofoneandhalf-a-dozen of the other.  How it was I don't understandbutwe alwaysseemed tobe gettingwith the best of motivesin one another's way.When Iwanted to go up-stairsthere was my wife coming down; or when mywifewanted togo downthere was I coming up.  That is married lifeaccordingtomyexperience of it.

After fiveyears of misunderstandings on the stairsit pleasedanall-wise Providence to relieve us of each other by taking my wife.I was leftwith my little girl Penelopeand with no other child.Shortlyafterwards Sir John diedand my lady was left with herlittlegirlMiss Racheland no other child.  I have writtento verypoor purpose of my ladyif you require to be told that mylittlePenelope was taken care ofunder my good mistress's own eyeand wassent to school and taughtand made a sharp girland promotedwhen oldenoughto be Miss Rachel's own maid.

As for meI went on with my business as bailiff year after year uptoChristmas 1847when there came a change in my life.  On thatdaymy ladyinvited herself to a cup of tea alone with me in my cottage.Sheremarked thatreckoning from the year when I started as page-boy inthe timeof the old lordI had been more than fifty years in her serviceand sheput into my hands a beautiful waistcoat of wool that she hadworkedherselfto keep me warm in the bitter winter weather.

I receivedthis magnificent present quite at a loss to find words to thankmymistress with for the honour she had done me.  To my greatastonishmentit turnedouthoweverthat the waistcoat was not an honourbut a bribe.My ladyhad discovered that I was getting old before I had discoveredit myselfand she had come to my cottage to wheedle me (if I may usesuch anexpression) into giving up my hard out-of-door work as bailiffand takingmy ease for the rest of my days as steward in the house.  I madeas good afight of it against the indignity of taking my ease as I could.But mymistress knew the weak side of me; she put it as a favour to herself.Thedispute between us endedafter thatin my wiping my eyeslike anold foolwith my new woollen waistcoatand saying I would thinkabout it.

Theperturbation in my mindin regard to thinking about itbeing trulydreadfulafter my lady had gone awayI applied the remedy which Ihave neveryet found to fail me in cases of doubt and emergency.I smoked apipe and took a turn at ROBINSON CRUSOE.  Before I hadoccupiedmyself with that extraordinary book five minutesI cameon acomforting bit (page one hundred and fifty-eight)as follows:"To-daywe lovewhat to-morrow we hate."  I saw my way cleardirectly.To-day Iwas all for continuing to be farm-bailiff; to-morrowontheauthority of ROBINSON CRUSOEI should be all the other way.Takemyself to-morrow while in to-morrow's humourand the thingwas done. My mind being relieved in this mannerI went to sleepthat nightin the character of Lady Verinder's farm bailiffand I wokeup the next morning in the character of LadyVerinder'shouse-steward. All quite comfortableand all throughROBINSONCRUSOE!

Mydaughter Penelope has just looked over my shoulder to see what Ihave doneso far.  She remarks that it is beautifully writtenand everyword of it true.  But she points out one objection.She sayswhat I have done so far isn't in the least what I waswanted todo.  I am asked to tell the story of the Diamond andinstead ofthatI have been telling the story of my own self.Curiousand quite beyond me to account for.  I wonder whetherthegentlemen who make a business and a living out of writing booksever findtheir own selves getting in the way of their subjectslike me? If they doI can feel for them.  In the meantimehere isanother false startand more waste of good writing-paper.What's tobe done now?  Nothing that I know ofexcept for youto keepyour temperand for me to begin it all over again for thethirdtime.

 

CHAPTERIII

Thequestion of how I am to start the story properly I havetried tosettle in two ways.  Firstby scratching my headwhich ledto nothing.  Secondby consulting my daughter Penelopewhich hasresulted in an entirely new idea.

Penelope'snotion is that I should set down what happenedregularlyday by daybeginning with the day when we got the newsthat Mr.Franklin Blake was expected on a visit to the house.When youcome to fix your memory with a date in this wayit iswonderfulwhat your memory will pick up for you upon that compulsion.The onlydifficulty is to fetch out the datesin the first place.ThisPenelope offers to do for me by looking into her own diarywhich shewas taught to keep when she was at schooland which she hasgone onkeeping ever since.  In answer to an improvement on this notiondevised bymyselfnamelythat she should tell the story insteadof meoutof her own diaryPenelope observeswith a fiercelook and ared facethat her journal is for her own private eyeand thatno living creature shall ever know what is in it but herself.When Iinquire what this meansPenelope says"Fiddlesticks!"I saySweethearts.

Beginningthenon Penelope's planI beg to mention that Iwasspecially called one Wednesday morning into my lady'sownsitting-roomthe date being the twenty-fourth of MayEighteenhundred and forty-eight.

"Gabriel"says my lady"here is news that will surprise you.FranklinBlake has come back from abroad.  He has been stayingwith hisfather in Londonand he is coming to us to-morrowto stoptill next monthand keep Rachel's birthday."

If I hadhad a hat in my handnothing but respect would have prevented mefromthrowing that hat up to the ceiling.  I had not seen Mr.Franklin sincehe was aboyliving along with us in this house.  He wasout of allsight(as Iremember him)the nicest boy that ever spun a top or broke a window.MissRachelwho was presentand to whom I made that remarkobservedin returnthat SHE remembered him as the most atrocious tyrant that evertortured adolland the hardest driver of an exhausted little girlin stringharness that England could produce.  "I burn withindignationand I achewith fatigue" was the way Miss Rachel summed it up"whenI thinkofFranklin Blake."

Hearingwhat I now tell youyou will naturally ask how itwas thatMr. Franklin should have passed all the yearsfrom thetime when he was a boy to the time when he was a manout of hisown country.  I answerbecause his father hadthemisfortune to be next heir to a Dukedomand not to be ableto proveit.

In twowordsthis was how the thing happened:

My lady'seldest sister married the celebrated Mr. Blake--equallyfamous for his great richesand his great suit at law.How manyyears he went on worrying the tribunals of hiscountry toturn out the Duke in possessionand to put himselfin theDuke's place--how many lawyer's purses he filledtoburstingand how many otherwise harmless people he setby theears together disputing whether he was right or wrong--is more bya great deal than I can reckon up.  His wife diedand two ofhis three children diedbefore the tribunals could makeup theirminds to show him the door and take no more of his money.When itwas all overand the Duke in possession was leftinpossessionMr. Blake discovered that the only way of beingeven withhis country for the manner in which it had treated himwas not tolet his country have the honour of educating his son."Howcan I trust my native institutions" was the form in whichhe put it"after the way in which my native institutions havebehaved toME?"  Add to thisthat Mr. Blake disliked all boyshis ownincludedand you will admit that it could only endin oneway.  Master Franklin was taken from us in Englandand wassent to institutions which his father COULD trustin thatsuperior countryGermany; Mr. Blake himselfyou willobserveremaining snug in Englandto improve hisfellow-countrymenin the Parliament Houseand to publishastatement on the subject of the Duke in possessionwhich hasremained an unfinished statement from that dayto this.

There!thank Godthat's told!  Neither you nor I need trouble ourheads anymore about Mr. Blakesenior.  Leave him to the Dukedom;and letyou and I stick to the Diamond.
TheDiamond takes us back to Mr. Franklinwho was the innocent meansofbringing that unlucky jewel into the house.

Our niceboy didn't forget us after he went abroad.  He wrote everynow andthen; sometimes to my ladysometimes to Miss Rachelandsometimes to me.  We had had a transaction togetherbefore heleftwhich consisted in his borrowing of me a ballof stringa four-bladed knifeand seven-and-sixpence in money--the colourof which last I have not seenand never expect toseeagain.  His letters to me chiefly related to borrowing more.I heardhoweverfrom my ladyhow he got on abroadas he grewin yearsand stature.  After he had learnt what the institutionsof Germanycould teach himhe gave the French a turn nextand theItalians a turn after that.  They made him among thema sort ofuniversal geniusas well as I could understand it.He wrote alittle; he painted a little; he sang and played andcomposed alittle--borrowingas I suspectin all these casesjust as hehad borrowed from me.  His mother's fortune(sevenhundred a year) fell to him when he came of ageand ranthrough himas it might be through a sieve.The moremoney he hadthe more he wanted; there was a holein Mr.Franklin's pocket that nothing would sew up.Whereverhe wentthe livelyeasy way of him made him welcome.He livedherethereand everywhere; his address (as he usedto put ithimself) being "Post OfficeEurope--to be left tillcalledfor."  Twice overhe made up his mind to come backto Englandand see us; and twice over (saving your presence)someunmentionable woman stood in the way and stopped him.His thirdattempt succeededas you know already fromwhat mylady told me.  On Thursday the twenty-fifth of Maywe were tosee for the first time what our nice boy had grownto be as aman.  He came of good blood; he had a high courage;and he wasfive-and-twenty years of ageby our reckoning.Now youknow as much of Mr. Franklin Blake as I did--before Mr.Franklin Blake came down to our house.

 

TheThursday was as fine a summer's day as ever you saw:and mylady and Miss Rachel (not expecting Mr. Franklintilldinner-time) drove out to lunch with some friends intheneighbourhood.

When theywere goneI went and had a look at the bedroom whichhad beengot ready for our guestand saw that all was straight.Thenbeing butler in my lady's establishmentas well as steward(at my ownparticular requestmindand because it vexed meto seeanybody but myself in possession of the key of the lateSir John'scellar)--thenI sayI fetched up some of our famousLatourclaretand set it in the warm summer air to take off the chillbeforedinner.  Concluding to set myself in the warm summer air next--seeingthat what is good for old claret is equally good for old age--I took upmy beehive chair to go out into the back courtwhen Iwasstopped by hearing a sound like the soft beating of a drumon theterrace in front of my lady's residence.
Goinground to the terraceI found three mahogany-coloured Indiansin whitelinen frocks and trouserslooking up at the house.

TheIndiansas I saw on looking closerhad small hand-drums slung infrontof them. Behind them stood a little delicate-looking light-haired Englishboycarrying a bag.  I judged the fellows to be strolling conjurorsand theboy with the bag to be carrying the tools of their trade.One of thethreewho spoke English and who exhibitedI must ownthe mostelegant mannerspresently informed me that my judgment was right.Herequested permission to show his tricks in the presence of the ladyofthe house.

Now I amnot a sour old man.  I am generally all for amusementand thelast person in the world to distrust another personbecause hehappens to be a few shades darker than myself.But thebest of us have our weaknesses--and my weaknesswhen Iknow a family plate-basket to be out on a pantry-tableis to beinstantly reminded of that basket by the sightof astrolling stranger whose manners are superior to my own.Iaccordingly informed the Indian that the lady of the housewas out;and I warned him and his party off the premises.He made mea beautiful bow in return; and he and his party wentoff thepremises.  On my sideI returned to my beehive chairand setmyself down on the sunny side of the courtand fell(if thetruth must be owned)not exactly into a sleepbut intothe nextbest thing to it.

I wasroused up by my daughter Penelope running out at meas if thehouse was on fire.  What do you think she wanted?She wantedto have the three Indian jugglers instantly taken up;for thisreasonnamelythat they knew who was coming fromLondon tovisit usand that they meant some mischief toMr.Franklin Blake.

Mr.Franklin's name roused me.  I opened my eyesand made my girlexplainherself.

Itappeared that Penelope had just come from our lodgewhere shehad beenhaving a gossip with the lodge-keeper's daughter.The twogirls had seen the Indians pass outafter I hadwarnedthem offfollowed by their little boy.  Taking itinto theirheads that the boy was ill-used by the foreigners--for noreason that I could discoverexcept that he waspretty anddelicate-looking--the two girls had stolen alongthe innerside of the hedge between us and the roadand hadwatchedthe proceedings of the foreigners on the outer side.Thoseproceedings resulted in the performance of the followingextraordinarytricks.

They firstlooked up the roadand down the roadand madesure thatthey were alone.  Then they all three faced aboutand staredhard in the direction of our house.  Then theyjabberedand disputed in their own languageand looked ateach otherlike men in doubt.  Then they all turned to theirlittleEnglish boyas if they expected HIM to help them.And thenthe chief Indianwho spoke Englishsaid to the boy"Holdout your hand."

On hearingthose dreadful wordsmy daughter Penelope said she didn'tknow whatprevented her heart from flying straight out of her.I thoughtprivately that it might have been her stays.All Isaidhoweverwas"You make my flesh creep."  (NOTABENE:Women likethese little compliments.)

Wellwhenthe Indian said"Hold out your hand" the boyshrunkbackand shook his headand said he didn't like it.TheIndianthereuponasked him (not at all unkindly)whetherhe wouldlike to be sent back to Londonand left where theyhad foundhimsleeping in an empty basket in a market--a hungryraggedand forsaken little boy.  Thisit seemsended thedifficulty.  The little chap unwillingly held out his hand.Upon thatthe Indian took a bottle from his bosomand poured outof it someblack stufflike inkinto the palm of the boy's hand.TheIndian--first touching the boy's headand making signs overit in theair--then said"Look."  The boy became quite stiffand stoodlike a statuelooking into the ink in the hollow ofhis hand.

(So farit seemed to me to be jugglingaccompanied by a foolishwaste ofink.  I was beginning to feel sleepy againwhen Penelope'snext wordsstirred me up.)

TheIndians looked up the road and down the road once more--and thenthe chief Indian said these words to the boy;"Seethe English gentleman from foreign parts."

The boysaid"I see him."

The Indiansaid"Is it on the road to this houseand on no otherthat theEnglish gentleman will travel to-day?"

The boysaid"It is on the road to this houseand on no otherthat theEnglish gentleman will travel to-day." The Indian puta secondquestion--after waiting a little first.  He said:"Hasthe English gentleman got It about him?"

The boyanswered--alsoafter waiting a little first--"Yes."

The Indianput a third and last question:  "Will the English gentlemancome hereas he has promised to comeat the close of day?"

The boysaid"I can't tell."

The Indianasked why.

The boysaid"I am tired.  The mist rises in my headand puzzlesme.I can seeno more to-day."

With thatthe catechism ended.  The chief Indian said something in hisownlanguage to the other twopointing to the boyand pointing towardsthe townin which (as we afterwards discovered) they were lodged.He thenafter making more signs on the boy's headblew on his foreheadand sowoke him up with a start.  After thatthey all went on theirwaytowardsthe townand the girls saw them no more.

Mostthings they say have a moralif you only look for it.What wasthe moral of this?

The moralwasas I thought:  Firstthat the chief juggler had heardMr.Franklin's arrival talked of among the servants out-of-doorsand sawhis way tomaking a little money by it.  Secondthat he and his men andboy(with aview to making the said money) meant to hang about till they saw mylady drivehomeand then to come backand foretell Mr. Franklin's arrivalby magic. Thirdthat Penelope had heard them rehearsing their hocus-pocuslikeactors rehearsing a play.  Fourththat I should do well to havean eyethateveningon the plate-basket. Fifththat Penelope would do well tocool downand leave meher fatherto doze off again in the sun.

Thatappeared to me to be the sensible view.  If you know anything ofthe waysof youngwomenyou won't be surprised to hear that Penelope wouldn'ttake it. The moral of the thing was seriousaccording to my daughter.Sheparticularly reminded me of the Indian's third questionHas theEnglishgentlemangot It about him?  "Ohfather!" says Penelopeclasping her hands"don'tjoke about this.  What does 'It' mean?"

"We'llask Mr. Franklinmy dear" I said"if you can wait tillMr.Franklin comes.  I winked to show I meant that in joke.Penelopetook it quite seriously.  My girl's earnestness tickled me."Whaton earth should Mr. Franklin know about it?"  I inquired."Askhim" says Penelope.  "And see whether HE thinks ita laughingmattertoo."  With that parting shotmy daughterleft me.

I settledit with myselfwhen she was gonethat I reallywould askMr. Franklin--mainly to set Penelope's mind at rest.What wassaid between uswhen I did ask himlater on that same dayyou willfind set out fully in its proper place.  But as Idon't wishto raise your expectations and then disappoint themI willtake leave to warn you here--before we go any further--that youwon't find the ghost of a joke in our conversation onthesubject of the jugglers.  To my great surpriseMr. FranklinlikePenelopetook the thing seriously.  How seriouslyyou willunderstandwhen I tell you thatin his opinion"It"meant the Moonstone.

 

CHAPTER IV

I am trulysorry to detain you over me and my beehive chair.A sleepyold manin a sunny back yardis not an interesting objectI am wellaware.  But things must be put down in their placesas thingsactually happened--and you must please to jog on a littlewhilelonger with mein expectation of Mr. Franklin Blake's arrivallater inthe day.

Before Ihad time to doze off againafter my daughter Penelopehad leftmeI was disturbed by a rattling of plates and dishesin theservants' hallwhich meant that dinner was ready.Taking myown meals in my own sitting-roomI had nothing to dowith theservants' dinnerexcept to wish them a good stomach to itall roundprevious to composing myself once more in my chair.I was juststretching my legswhen out bounced another woman on me.Not mydaughter again; only Nancythe kitchen-maidthis time.I wasstraight in her way out; and I observedas she askedme to lether bythat she had a sulky face--a thing whichas head ofthe servantsI never allowon principleto pass mewithoutinquiry.

"Whatare you turning your back on your dinner for?"  I asked."What'swrong nowNancy?"

Nancytried to push bywithout answering; upon which I rose upand tookher by the ear.  She is a nice plump young lassand it iscustomary with me to adopt that manner of showingthat Ipersonally approve of a girl.

"What'swrong now?"  I said once more.

"Rosanna'slate again for dinner" says Nancy.  "And I'm sent tofetchher in. All the hard work falls on my shoulders in this house.Let mealoneMr. Betteredge!"

The personhere mentioned as Rosanna was our second housemaid.Having akind of pity for our second housemaid (whyyou shallpresentlyknow)and seeing in Nancy's facethat she would fetchherfellow-servant in with more hard words than might be needfulunder thecircumstancesit struck me that I had nothing particularto doandthat I might as well fetch Rosanna myself; giving hera hint tobe punctual in futurewhich I knew she would take kindlyfrom ME.

"Whereis Rosanna?"  I inquired.

"Atthe sandsof course!" says Nancywith a toss of her head."Shehad another of her fainting fits this morningand she askedto go outand get a breath of fresh air.  I have no patiencewith her!"

"Goback to your dinnermy girl" I said.  "I havepatience with herand I'llfetch her in."

Nancy (whohas a fine appetite) looked pleased.  When she looks pleasedshe looksnice.  When she looks niceI chuck her under the chin.It isn'timmorality--it's only habit.

WellItook my stickand set off for the sands.

No! itwon't do to set off yet.  I am sorry again to detain you;but youreally must hear the story of the sandsand the story of Rosanna--for thisreasonthat the matter of the Diamond touches them both nearly.How hard Itry to get on with my statement without stopping by the wayand howbadly I succeed!  Butthere!--Persons and Things do turn upsovexatiously in this lifeand will in a manner insist on beingnoticed.Let ustake it easyand let us take it short; we shall be in the thick ofthemysterysoonI promise you!

Rosanna(to put the Person before the Thingwhich is butcommonpoliteness) was the only new servant in our house.About fourmonths before the time I am writing ofmy ladyhad been in Londonand had gone over a Reformatoryintendedto save forlorn women from drifting back into bad waysafter theyhad got released from prison.  The matronseeing mylady tookan interest in the placepointed out a girl to hernamedRosanna Spearmanand told her a most miserable storywhich Ihaven't the heart to repeat here; for I don't liketo be madewretched without any useand no more do you.The upshotof it wasthat Rosanna Spearman had been a thiefand notbeing of the sort that get up Companies in the Cityand robfrom thousandsinstead of only robbing from onethe lawlaid hold of herand the prison and the reformatoryfollowedthe lead of the law.  The matron's opinion of Rosanna was(in spiteof what she had done) that the girl was onein athousandand that she only wanted a chance to proveherselfworthy of any Christian woman's interest in her.My lady(being a Christian womanif ever there was one yet)said tothe matronupon that"Rosanna Spearman shallhave herchancein my service."  In a week afterwardsRosannaSpearman entered this establishment as our secondhousemaid.

Not a soulwas told the girl's storyexcepting Miss Rachel and me.My ladydoing me the honour to consult me about most thingsconsultedme about Rosanna.  Having fallen a good deal latterly intothe lateSir John's way of always agreeing with my ladyI agreedwith herheartily about Rosanna Spearman.

A fairerchance no girl could have had than was given to thispoor girlof ours.  None of the servants could cast her past lifein herteethfor none of the servants knew what it had been.She hadher wages and her privilegeslike the rest of them;and everynow and then a friendly word from my ladyin privatetoencourage her.  In returnshe showed herselfI am boundto saywell worthy of the kind treatment bestowed upon her.Though farfrom strongand troubled occasionally with thosefainting-fitsalready mentionedshe went about her workmodestlyand uncomplaininglydoing it carefullyand doingit well. Butsomehowshe failed to make friends amongthe otherwomen servantsexcepting my daughter Penelopewho wasalways kind to Rosannathough never intimatewith her.

I hardlyknow what the girl did to offend them.  There wascertainlyno beauty about her to make the others envious;she wasthe plainest woman in the housewith the additionalmisfortuneof having one shoulder bigger than the other.What theservants chiefly resentedI thinkwas her silenttongue andher solitary ways.  She read or worked in leisurehours whenthe rest gossiped.  And when it came to her turnto go outnine times out of ten she quietly put on her bonnetand hadher turn by herself.  She never quarrelledshe nevertook offence; she only kept a certain distanceobstinatelyand civillybetween the rest of them and herself.Add tothis thatplain as she wasthere was just a dashofsomething that wasn't like a housemaidand that WASlike aladyabout her.  It might have been in her voiceor itmight have been in her face.  All I can say isthat theother women pounced on it like lightning the firstday shecame into the houseand said (which was most unjust)thatRosanna Spearman gave herself airs.

Having nowtold the story of RosannaI have only to notice one of the manyqueer waysof this strange girl to get on next to the story of the sands.

Our houseis high up on the Yorkshire coastand close by the sea.We havegot beautiful walks all round usin every direction but one.That one Iacknowledge to be a horrid walk.  It leadsfor a quarterof a milethrough a melancholy plantation of firsand brings yououtbetween low cliffs on the loneliest and ugliest little bay on allour coast.

Thesand-hills here run down to the seaand end in two spits of rockjuttingout opposite each othertill you lose sight of them in the water.One iscalled the North Spitand one the South.  Between the twoshiftingbackwards and forwards at certain seasons of the yearlies themost horrible quicksand on the shores of Yorkshire.At theturn of the tidesomething goes on in the unknown deeps belowwhich setsthe whole face of the quicksand shivering and tremblingin amanner most remarkable to seeand which has given to itamong thepeople in our partsthe name of the Shivering Sand.A greatbankhalf a mile outnigh the mouth of the baybreaks theforce of the main ocean coming in from the offing.Winter andsummerwhen the tide flows over the quicksandthe seaseems to leave the waves behind it on the bankand rollsits watersin smoothly with a heaveand covers the sand in silence.A lonesomeand a horrid retreatI can tell you!  No boat everventuresinto this bay.  No children from our fishing-villagecalledCobb'sHoleever come here to play.  The very birds of the airas itseems to megive the Shivering Sand a wide berth.That ayoung womanwith dozens of nice walks to choose fromandcompany to go with herif she only said "Come!" shouldpreferthisplaceand should sit and work or read in itall alonewhen it'sher turn outI grant youpasses belief.  It's trueneverthelessaccount for it as you maythat this was Rosanna Spearman'sfavouritewalkexcept when she went once or twice to Cobb's Holeto see theonly friend she had in our neighbourhoodof whom more anon.It's alsotrue that I was now setting out for this same placeto fetchthe girl in to dinnerwhich brings us round happilyto ourformer pointand starts us fair again on our way to thesands.

I saw nosign of the girl in the plantation.  When I got outthroughthe sand-hillson to the beachthere she wasin herlittle straw bonnetand her plain grey cloak that shealwayswore to hide her deformed shoulder as much as might be--there shewasall alonelooking out on the quicksand andthe sea.

Shestarted when I came up with herand turned her head away from me.Notlooking me in the face being another of the proceedingswhichas head ofthe servantsI never allowon principleto passwithoutinquiry--I turned her round my wayand saw that she was crying.Mybandanna handkerchief--one of six beauties given to me by my lady--was handyin my pocket.  I took it outand I said to Rosanna"Comeand sit downmy dearon the slope of the beach along with me.I'll dryyour eyes for you firstand then I'll make so bold as to askwhat youhave been crying about."

When youcome to my ageyou will find sitting down on the slope of a beacha muchlonger job than you think it now.  By the time I was settledRosannahad dried her own eyes with a very inferior handkerchief to mine--cheapcambric.  She looked very quietand very wretched; but she satdown by melike a good girlwhen I told her.  When you want to comforta woman bythe shortest waytake her on your knee.  I thought of thisgoldenrule.  But there!  Rosanna wasn't Nancyand that's thetruthof it!

"Nowtell memy dear" I said"what are you crying about?"

"Aboutthe years that are goneMr. Betteredge" says Rosanna quietly."Mypast life still comes back to me sometimes."

"Comecomemy girlI said"your past life is all sponged out.Why can'tyou forget it?"

She tookme by one of the lappets of my coat.  I am a slovenly old manand a gooddeal of my meat and drink gets splashed about on my clothes.Sometimesone of the womenand sometimes anothercleans me of my grease.The daybeforeRosanna had taken out a spot for me on the lappet of my coatwith a newcompositionwarranted to remove anything.  The greasewas gonebut there was a little dull place left on the nap of the clothwhere thegrease had been.  The girl pointed to that placeand shookher head.

"Thestain is taken off" she said.  "But the place showsMr. Betteredge--the placeshows!"

A remarkwhich takes a man unawares by means of his own coatis not aneasy remark to answer.  Something in the girlherselftoomade me particularly sorry for her just then.She hadnice brown eyesplain as she was in other ways--and shelooked at me with a sort of respect for my happy old ageand mygood characteras things for ever out of her own reachwhich mademy heart heavy for our second housemaid.  Not feelingmyselfable to comfort herthere was only one other thing to do.That thingwas--to take her in to dinner.

"Helpme up" I said.  "You're late for dinnerRosanna--andIhave cometo fetch you in."

"YouMr. Betteredge!" says she.

"Theytold Nancy to fetch you" I said.  "But thought youmight likeyour scolding bettermy dearif it came from me."

Instead ofhelping me upthe poor thing stole her hand into mineand gave ita littlesqueeze.  She tried hard to keep from crying againandsucceeded--for whichI respected her.  "You're very kindMr. Betteredge"she said."Idon't want any dinner to-day--let me bide a little longer here."

"Whatmakes you like to be here?"  I asked.  "What isit that bringsyoueverlastingly to this miserable place?"

"Somethingdraws me to it" says the girlmaking images with her fingerin thesand.  "I try to keep away from itand I can't.Sometimes"says shein a low voiceas if she was frightened at her own fancy"sometimesMr. BetteredgeI think that my grave is waiting for me here."

"There'sroast mutton and suet-pudding waiting for you!"says I."Go in to dinner directly.  This is what comesRosannaof thinking on an empty stomach!"  I spoke severelybeingnaturally indignant (at my time of life) to hear a youngwoman offive-and-twenty talking about her latter end!

She didn'tseem to hear me:  she put her hand on my shoulderand keptme where I wassitting by her side.

"Ithink the place has laid a spell on me" she said."Idream of it night after night; I think of it when I sitstitchingat my work.  You know I am gratefulMr. Betteredge--you know Itry to deserve your kindnessand my lady's confidencein me. But I wonder sometimes whether the life here is tooquiet andtoo good for such a woman as I amafter all I havegonethroughMr. Betteredge--after all I have gone through.It's morelonely to me to be among the other servantsknowing Iam not what they arethan it is to he here.My ladydoesn't knowthe matron at the reformatory doesn't knowwhat adreadful reproach honest people are in themselvesto a womanlike me.  Don't scold methere's a dear good man.I do myworkdon't I?  Please not to tell my lady I am discontented--I am not. My mind's unquietsometimesthat's all."Shesnatched her hand off my shoulderand suddenly pointeddown tothe quicksand.  "Look!" she said "Isn't itwonderful?isn't itterrible?  I have seen it dozens of timesand it'salways as new to me as if I had never seenitbefore!"

I lookedwhere she pointed.  The tide was on the turnand the horridsand beganto shiver.  The broad brown face of it heaved slowlyand thendimpled and quivered all over.  "Do you know what it lookslike toME?" says Rosannacatching me by the shoulder again."Itlooks as if it had hundreds of suffocating people under it--allstruggling to get to the surfaceand all sinking lower andlower inthe dreadful deeps!  Throw a stone inMr. Betteredge!Throw astone inand let's see the sand suck it down!"

Here wasunwholesome talk!  Here was an empty stomachfeeding onan unquiet mind!  My answer--a pretty sharp onein thepoor girl's own interestsI promise you!--was atmytongue's endwhen it was snapped short off on a suddenby a voiceamong the sand-hills shouting for me by my name."Betteredge!"cries the voice"where are you?" " Here!"I shoutedout in returnwithout a notion in my mind of who it was.Rosannastarted to her feetand stood looking towards the voice.I was justthinking of getting on my own legs nextwhen I wasstaggeredby a sudden change in the girl's face.

Hercomplexion turned of a beautiful redwhich I had never seen in itbefore;shebrightened all over with a kind of speechless and breathlesssurprise."Whois it?"  I asked.  Rosanna gave me back my ownquestion."Oh!who is it?" she said softlymore to herself than to me.I twistedround on the sand and looked behind me.  Therecoming outon us fromamong the hillswas a bright-eyed young gentlemandressed ina beautiful fawn-coloured suitwith gloves and hat to matchwith arose in his button-holeand a smile on his face that mighthave setthe Shivering Sand itself smiling at him in return.  Before Icould geton my legshe plumped down on the sand by the side of meput hisarm round my neckforeign fashionand gave me a hug that fairlysqueezedthe breath out of my body.  "Dear old Betteredge!"says he."Iowe you seven-and-sixpence. Now do you know who I am?"

Lord blessus and save us!  Here--four good hours before we expected him--was Mr.Franklin Blake!

Before Icould say a wordI saw Mr. Franklina littlesurprisedto all appearancelook up from me to Rosanna.Followinghis leadI looked at the girl too.  She wasblushingof a deeper red than everseemingly at having caughtMr.Franklin's eye; and she turned and left us suddenlyin aconfusion quite unaccountable to my mindwithout eithermaking hercurtsey to the gentleman or saying a word to me.Veryunlike her usual self:  a civiller and better-behaved servantingeneralyou never met with.

"That'san odd girl" says Mr. Franklin.  "I wonder what sheseesin me tosurprise her?"

"Isupposesir" I answereddrolling on our young gentleman'sContinentaleducation"it's the varnish from foreign parts."

I set downhere Mr. Franklin's careless questionand my foolish answeras aconsolation and encouragement to all stupid people--it beingas I haveremarkeda great satisfaction to our inferior fellow-creaturesto findthat their betters areon occasionsno brighter than they are.NeitherMr. Franklinwith his wonderful foreign trainingnor Iwith myageexperienceand natural mother-withad the ghost of an ideaof whatRosanna Spearman's unaccountable behaviour really meant.She wasout of our thoughtspoor soulbefore we had seen the last flutterof herlittle grey cloak among the sand-hills. And what of that? you willasknaturallyenough.  Read ongood friendas patiently as you canandperhapsyou willbe as sorry for Rosanna Spearman as I waswhen I found outthe truth.

 

CHAPTER V

The firstthing I didafter we were left together alonewas tomake a third attempt to get up from my seat on the sand.Mr.Franklin stopped me.

"Thereis one advantage about this horrid place" he said;"wehave got it all to ourselves.  Stay where you areBetteredge;I havesomething to say to you."

While hewas speakingI was looking at himand trying to see somethingof the boyI rememberedin the man before me.  The man put me out.Look as ImightI could see no more of his boy's rosy cheeks thanof hisboy's trim little jacket.  His complexion had got pale:his faceat the lower part was coveredto my great surpriseanddisappointmentwith a curly brown beard and mustachios.He had alively touch-and-go way with himvery pleasant and engagingI admit;but nothing to compare with his free-and-easy mannersof othertimes.  To make matters worsehe had promised to be talland hadnot kept his promise.  He was neatand slimand well made;but hewasn't by an inch or two up to the middle height.  In shorthe baffledme altogether.  The years that had passed had left nothingof his oldselfexcept the brightstraightforward look in his eyes.There Ifound our nice boy againand there I concluded to stop inmyinvestigation.

"Welcomeback to the old placeMr. Franklin" I said."Allthe more welcomesirthat you have come some hoursbefore weexpected you."

"Ihave a reason for coming before you expected me" answered Mr.Franklin."IsuspectBetteredgethat I have been followed and watched in Londonfor thelast three or four days; and I have travelled by the morning insteadof theafternoon trainbecause I wanted to give a certain dark-lookingstrangerthe slip."

Thosewords did more than surprise me.  They brought back to my mindin aflashthe three jugglersand Penelope's notion that they meantsomemischief to Mr. Franklin Blake.

"Who'swatching yousir--and why?"  I inquired.

"Tellme about the three Indians you have had at the house to-day"says Mr.Franklinwithout noticing my question.  "It's justpossibleBetteredgethat my stranger and your three jugglers may turn out to bepieces ofthe same puzzle."

"Howdo you come to know about the jugglerssir?"  I askedputtingone question on the top of anotherwhich was bad mannersI own. But you don't expect much from poor human nature--so don'texpect much from me.

"Isaw Penelope at the house" says Mr. Franklin; "andPenelope told me.Yourdaughter promised to be a pretty girlBetteredgeand she haskept herpromise.  Penelope has got a small ear and a small foot.Did thelate Mrs. Betteredge possess those inestimable advantages?"

"Thelate Mrs. Betteredge possessed a good many defectssir"says I."One of them (if you will pardon my mentioning it)was neverkeeping to the matter in hand.  She was more like a flythan awoman:  she couldn't settle on anything."

"Shewould just have suited me" says Mr. Franklin.  "Inever settleonanything either.  Betteredgeyour edge is better than ever.Yourdaughter said as muchwhen I asked for particulars about thejugglers."Fatherwill tell yousir.  He's a wonderful man for his age; and heexpresseshimself beautifully."  Penelope's own words--blushingdivinely.Not evenmy respect for you prevented me from--never mind; I knew herwhen shewas a childand she's none the worse for it.  Let's be serious.What didthe jugglers do?"

I wassomething dissatisfied with my daughter--not for lettingMr.Franklin kiss her; Mr. Franklin was welcome to THAT--but forforcing me to tell her foolish story at second hand.Howeverthere was no help for it now but to mentionthecircumstances.  Mr. Franklin's merriment all died away as Iwent on. He sat knitting his eyebrowsand twisting his beard.When I haddonehe repeated after me two of the questions whichthe chiefjuggler had put to the boy--seemingly for the purposeof fixingthem well in his mind.

"'Isit on the road to this houseand on no otherthat the Englishgentlemanwill travel to-day?' 'Has the English gentleman got It about him?'Isuspect" says Mr. Franklinpulling a little sealed paperparcelout of hispocket"that 'It' means THIS.  And 'this' Betteredgemeans myuncle Herncastle's famous Diamond."

"GoodLordsir!"  I broke out"how do you come to be inchargeof thewicked Colonel's Diamond?"

"Thewicked Colonel's will has left his Diamond as a birthdaypresent tomy cousin Rachel" says Mr. Franklin.  "And my fatheras thewicked Colonel's executorhas given it in charge to meto bringdown here."

If theseathen oozing in smoothly over the Shivering Sandhad beenchanged into dry land before my own eyesI doubt if Icould havebeen more surprised than I was when Mr. Franklinspokethose words.

"TheColonel's Diamond left to Miss Rachel!" says I. "Andyourfathersirthe Colonel's executor!  WhyI wouldhave laidany bet you likeMr. Franklinthat your fatherwouldn'thave touched the Colonel with a pair of tongs!"

"StronglanguageBetteredge!  What was there against the Colonel.Hebelonged to your timenot to mine.  Tell me what you know abouthimand I'lltell you how my father came to be his executorand more besides.I havemade some discoveries in London about my uncle Herncastleand hisDiamondwhich have rather an ugly look to my eyes; and I wantyou toconfirm them.  You called him the 'wicked Colonel' just now.Searchyour memorymy old friendand tell me why."

I saw hewas in earnestand I told him.

Herefollows the substance of what I saidwritten out entirelyfor yourbenefit.  Pay attention to itor you will be all abroadwhen weget deeper into the story.  Clear your mind of the childrenor thedinneror the new bonnetor what not.  Try if you can'tforgetpoliticshorsesprices in the Cityand grievances at the club.I hope youwon't take this freedom on my part amiss; it's only a wayI have ofappealing to the gentle reader.  Lord! haven't I seen youwith thegreatest authors in your handsand don't I know how readyyourattention is to wander when it's a book that asks for itinstead ofa person?

 

I spokealittle way backof my lady's fatherthe old lord withthe shorttemper and the long tongue.  He had five children in all.Two sonsto begin with; thenafter a long timehis wife broke outbreedingagainand the three young ladies came briskly one afterthe otheras fast as the nature of things would permit; my mistressas beforementionedbeing the youngest and best of the three.Of the twosonsthe eldestArthurinherited the title and estates.Thesecondthe Honourable Johngot a fine fortune left him by arelativeand wentinto the army.

It's anill birdthey saythat fouls its own nest.I look onthe noble family of the Herncastles as being my nest;and Ishall take it as a favour if I am not expected to enterintoparticulars on the subject of the Honourable John.He wasIhonestly believeone of the greatest blackguards thateverlived.  I can hardly say more or less for him than that.He wentinto the armybeginning in the Guards.  He had to leavethe Guardsbefore he was two-and-twenty--never mind why.They arevery strict in the armyand they were too strict fortheHonourable John.  He went out to India to see whether theywereequally strict thereand to try a little active service.In thematter of bravery (to give him his due)he was amixture ofbull-dog and game-cockwith a dash of the savage.He was atthe taking of Seringapatam.  Soon afterwardshe changedinto another regimentandin course of timechangedinto a third.  In the third he got his last stepaslieutenant-colonelandgetting thatgot also a sunstrokeand camehome to England.

He cameback with a character that closed the doors of all his familyagainsthimmy lady (then just married) taking the leadand declaring(with SirJohn's approvalof course) that her brother should neverenter anyhouse of hers.  There was more than one slur on the Colonelthat madepeople shy of him; but the blot of the Diamond is all I needmentionhere.

It wassaid he had got possession of his Indian jewelby meanswhichbold as he washe didn't dare acknowledge.He neverattempted to sell it--not being in need of moneyand not(to give him his due again) making money an object.He nevergave it away; he never even showed it to any living soul.Some saidhe was afraid of its getting him into a difficulty withthemilitary authorities; others (very ignorant indeed of the realnature ofthe man) said he was afraidif he showed itof itscostinghim his life.

There wasperhaps a grain of truth mixed up with this last report.It wasfalse to say that he was afraid; but it was a factthat hislife had been twice threatened in India; and it wasfirmlybelieved that the Moonstone was at the bottom of it.When hecame back to Englandand found himself avoided by everybodytheMoonstone was thought to be at the bottom of it again.Themystery of the Colonel's life got in the Colonel's wayandoutlawed himas you may sayamong his own people.The menwouldn't let him into their clubs; the women--more thanone--whom he wanted to marryrefused him;friendsand relations got too near-sighted to see him inthestreet.

Some menin this mess would have tried to set themselves rightwith theworld.  But to give ineven when he was wrongand hadallsociety against himwas not the way of the Honourable John.He hadkept the Diamondin flat defiance of assassinationin India.He keptthe Diamondin flat defiance of public opinionin England.There youhave the portrait of the man before youas in a picture:acharacter that braved everything; and a facehandsome as it wasthatlooked possessed by the devil.

We hearddifferent rumours about him from time to time.  Sometimes theysaid hewas given up to smoking opium and collecting old books;sometimeshe was reported to be trying strange things in chemistry;sometimeshe was seen carousing and amusing himself among the lowestpeople inthe lowest slums of London.  Anyhowa solitaryviciousundergroundlife was the life the Colonel led.  Onceand once onlyafter hisreturn to EnglandI myself saw himface to face.

About twoyears before the time of which I am now writingand abouta year and a half before the time of his deaththeColonel came unexpectedly to my lady's house in London.It was thenight of Miss Rachel's birthdaythe twenty-firstof June;and there was a party in honour of itas usual.I receiveda message from the footman to say that a gentleman wantedto seeme.  Going up into the hallthere I found the Colonelwastedand wornand oldand shabbyand as wild and as wickedas ever.

"Goup to my sister" says he; "and say that I have called towish my niecemany happyreturns of the day."

He hadmade attempts by lettermore than once alreadyto be reconciledwith myladyfor no other purposeI am firmly persuadedthan to annoy her.But thiswas the first time he had actually come to the house.  I had iton the tipof my tongue to say that my mistress had a party that night.But thedevilish look of him daunted me.  I went up-stairs with hismessageand lefthimby his own desirewaiting in the hall.  The servants stoodstaring athimat a distanceas if he was a walking engine of destructionloadedwith powder and shotand likely to go off among them at amoment'snotice.

My ladyhad a dash--no more--of the family temper."TellColonel Herncastle" she saidwhen I gave her herbrother'smessage"that Miss Verinder is engagedand that Idecline tosee him."  I tried to plead for a civiller answerthan that;knowing the Colonel's constitutional superiorityto therestraints which govern gentlemen in general.Quiteuseless!  The family temper flashed out at me directly."WhenI want your advice" says my lady"you know that Ialways askfor it.  I don't ask for it now."  I went downstairswith themessageof which I took the liberty of presentinga new andamended edition of my own contrivingas follows:"Mylady and Miss Rachel regret that they are engagedColonel;and beg tobe excused having the honour of seeing you."

I expectedhim to break outeven at that polite way of putting it.To mysurprise he did nothing of the sort; he alarmed meby takingthe thing with an unnatural quiet.  His eyesof aglittering bright greyjust settled on me for a moment;and helaughednot out of himselflike other peoplebut INTOhimselfin a softchucklinghorridly mischievous way."ThankyouBetteredge" he said.  "I shall remembermy niece'sbirthday."  With thathe turned on his heeland walkedout of the house.

The nextbirthday came roundand we heard he was ill in bed.Six monthsafterwards--that is to saysix months beforethe time Iam now writing of--there came a letter from a highlyrespectableclergyman to my lady.  It communicated two wonderfulthings inthe way of family news.  Firstthat the Colonelhadforgiven his sister on his death-bed. Secondthat he hadforgiveneverybody elseand had made a most edifying end.I havemyself (in spite of the bishops and the clergy)anunfeigned respect for the Church; but I am firmly persuadedat thesame timethat the devil remained in undisturbedpossessionof the Honourable Johnand that the last abominableact in thelife of that abominable man was (saving your presence)to takethe clergyman in!

This wasthe sum-total of what I had to tell Mr. Franklin.I remarkedthat he listened more and more eagerly the longer Iwent on. Alsothat the story of the Colonel being sent awayfrom hissister's dooron the occasion of his niece's birthdayseemed tostrike Mr. Franklin like a shot that had hit the mark.Though hedidn't acknowledge itI saw that I had made him uneasyplainlyenoughin his face.

"Youhave said your sayBetteredge" he remarked.  "It'smy turn now.BeforehoweverI tell you what discoveries I have made in Londonand how Icame to be mixed up in this matter of the DiamondI wantto knowone thing.  You lookmy old friendas if you didn't quiteunderstandthe object to be answered by this consultation of ours.Do yourlooks belie you?"

"Nosir" I said.  "My lookson this occasion at anyratetell thetruth."

"Inthat case" says Mr. Franklin"suppose I put you up to mypointof viewbefore we go any further.  I see three very serious questionsinvolvedin the Colonel's birthday-gift to my cousin Rachel.Follow mecarefullyBetteredge; and count me off on your fingersif it willhelp you" says Mr. Franklinwith a certain pleasurein showinghow clear-headed he could bewhich reminded me wonderfullyof oldtimes when he was a boy.  "Question the first:  Wasthe Colonel'sDiamondthe object of a conspiracy in India?  Question the second:Has theconspiracy followed the Colonel's Diamond to England?Questionthe third:  Did the Colonel know the conspiracy followedtheDiamond; and has he purposely left a legacy of trouble and dangerto hissisterthrough the innocent medium of his sister's child?THAT iswhat I am driving atBetteredge.  Don't let mefrightenyou."

It was allvery well to say thatbut he HAD frightened me.

If he wasrighthere was our quiet English house suddenly invadedby adevilish Indian Diamond--bringing after it a conspiracyof livingroguesset loose on us by the vengeance of a dead man.There wasour situation as revealed to me in Mr. Franklin's last words!Who everheard the like of it--in the nineteenth centurymind;in an ageof progressand in a country which rejoices in theblessingsof the British constitution?  Nobody ever heard the likeof itandconsequentlynobody can be expected to believe it.I shall goon with my storyhoweverin spite of that.

When youget a sudden alarmof the sort that I had got nownine timesout of ten the place you feel it in is your stomach.When youfeel it in your stomachyour attention wandersand youbegin tofidget.  I fidgeted silently in my place on the sand.Mr.Franklin noticed mecontending with a perturbed stomach or mind--which youplease; they mean the same thing--andchecking himselfjust as hewas starting with his part of the storysaid to me sharply"Whatdo you want?"

What did Iwant?  I didn't tell HIM; but I'll tell YOUin confidence.I wanted awhiff of my pipeand a turn at ROBINSON CRUSOE.

 

CHAPTER VI

Keeping myprivate sentiments to myselfI respectfully requested Mr. Franklinto go on. Mr. Franklin replied"Don't fidgetBetteredge" and wenton.

Our younggentleman's first words informed me that his discoveriesconcerningthe wicked Colonel and the Diamondhad begun with a visitwhich hehad paid (before he came to us) to the family lawyerat Hampstead.A chanceword dropped by Mr. Franklinwhen the two were aloneone dayafterdinnerrevealed that he had been charged by his father with abirthdaypresent to be taken to Miss Rachel.  One thing led to another;and itended in the lawyer mentioning what the present really wasand howthe friendly connexion between the late Colonel and Mr. Blakeseniorhad taken its rise.  The facts here are really so extraordinarythat Idoubt if I can trust my own language to do justice to them.I prefertrying to report Mr. Franklin's discoveriesas nearly as may bein Mr.Franklin's own words.

"Youremember the timeBetteredge" he said"when my fatherwas tryingto prove his title to that unlucky Dukedom?Well! thatwas also the time when my uncle Herncastle returnedfromIndia.  My father discovered that his brother-in-lawwas inpossession of certain papers which were likely to beof serviceto him in his lawsuit.  He called on the Colonelonpretence of welcoming him back to England.  The Colonel wasnot to bedeluded in that way.  "You want something" he said"oryou would never have compromised your reputation by callingon ME." My father saw that the one chance for him was to showhis hand;he admittedat oncethat he wanted the papers.TheColonel asked for a day to consider his answer.His answercame in the shape of a most extraordinary letterwhich myfriend the lawyer showed me.  The Colonel began by sayingthat hewanted something of my fatherand that he beggedto proposean exchange of friendly services between them.Thefortune of war (that was the expression he used) had placedhim inpossession of one of the largest Diamonds in the world;and he hadreason to believe that neither he nor his preciousjewel wassafe in any housein any quarter of the globewhich theyoccupied together.  Under these alarming circumstanceshe haddetermined to place his Diamond in the keeping ofanotherperson.  That person was not expected to run any risk.He mightdeposit the precious stone in any place especiallyguardedand set apart--like a banker's or jeweller's strong-room--for thesafe custody of valuables of high price.His mainpersonal responsibility in the matter was to beof thepassive kind.  He was to undertake either by himselfor by atrustworthy representative--to receive at aprearrangedaddresson certain prearranged days in every yeara notefrom the Colonelsimply stating the fact that he wasa livingman at that date.  In the event of the date passingoverwithout the note being receivedthe Colonel's silencemight betaken as a sure token of the Colonel's death by murder.In thatcaseand in no othercertain sealed instructionsrelatingto the disposal of the Diamondand depositedwith itwere to be openedand followed implicitly.If myfather chose to accept this strange chargetheColonel's papers were at his disposal in return.  That wastheletter."

"Whatdid your father dosir?"  I asked.

"Do?"says Mr. Franklin.  "I'll tell you what he did.He broughtthe invaluable facultycalled common senseto bear onthe Colonel's letter.  The whole thinghe declaredwas simplyabsurd.  Somewhere in his Indian wanderingstheColonel had picked up with some wretched crystal whichhe tookfor a diamond.  As for the danger of his being murderedand theprecautions devised to preserve his life and his pieceofcrystalthis was the nineteenth centuryand any man in hissenses hadonly to apply to the police.  The Colonel had beenanotorious opium-eater for years past; andif the only wayof gettingat the valuable papers he possessed was by acceptinga matterof opium as a matter of factmy father was quitewilling totake the ridiculous responsibility imposed on him--all themore readily that it involved no trouble to himself.TheDiamond and the sealed instructions went into his banker'sstrong-roomand the Colonel's lettersperiodically reportinghim aliving manwere received and opened by our family lawyerMr. Bruffas my father's representative.  No sensible personin asimilar positioncould have viewed the matter in any other way.Nothing inthis worldBetteredgeis probable unless it appealsto our owntrumpery experience; and we only believe in a romancewhen wesee it in a newspaper."

It wasplain to me from thisthat Mr. Franklin thought his father's notionabout theColonel hasty and wrong.

"Whatis your own private opinion about the mattersir?"I asked.

"Let'sfinish the story of the Colonel first" says Mr. Franklin."Thereis a curious want of systemBetteredgein the English mind;and yourquestionmy old friendis an instance of it.  When weare notoccupied in making machinerywe are (mentally speaking)the mostslovenly people in the universe."

"Somuch" I thought to myself"for a foreign education!He haslearned that way of girding at us in FranceIsuppose."

Mr.Franklin took up the lost threadand went on.

"Myfather" he said"got the papers he wantedand neversaw his brother-in-law again from that time.Year afteryearon the prearranged daysthe prearrangedlettercame from the Coloneland was opened by Mr. Bruff.I haveseen the lettersin a heapall of them written inthe samebriefbusiness-like form of words:  " Sir--This isto certifythat I am still a living man.  Let the Diamond be.JohnHerncastle."  That was all he ever wroteand that cameregularlyto the day; until some six or eight months sincewhen theform of the letter varied for the first time.It rannow:  "Sir--They tell me I am dying.  Come to meand helpme to make my will."  Mr. Bruff wentand found himin thelittle suburban villasurrounded by its own groundsin whichhe had lived aloneever since he had left India.He haddogscatsand birds to keep him company;but nohuman being near himexcept the person who camedaily todo the house-workand the doctor at the bedside.The willwas a very simple matter.  The Colonel had dissipatedthegreater part of his fortune in his chemical investigations.His willbegan and ended in three clauseswhich he dictatedfrom hisbedin perfect possession of his faculties.  The firstclauseprovided for the safe keeping and support of his animals.The secondfounded a professorship of experimental chemistryat anorthern university.  The third bequeathed the Moonstoneas abirthday present to his nieceon condition that my fatherwould actas executor.  My father at first refused to act.On secondthoughtshoweverhe gave waypartly because he wasassuredthat the executorship would involve him in no trouble;partlybecause Mr. Bruff suggestedin Rachel's interestthat theDiamond might be worth somethingafter all."

"Didthe Colonel give any reasonsir" I inquired"why he lefttheDiamond to Miss Rachel?"

"Henot only gave the reason--he had the reason written in his will"said Mr.Franklin.  "I have got an extractwhich you shallseepresently.  Don't be slovenly-mindedBetteredge!One thingat a time.  You have heard about the Colonel's Will;now youmust hear what happened after the Colonel's death.It wasformally necessary to have the Diamond valuedbefore theWill could be proved.  All the jewellers consultedat onceconfirmed the Colonel's assertion that he possessedone of thelargest diamonds in the world.  The questionofaccurately valuing it presented some serious difficulties.Its sizemade it a phenomenon in the diamond market;its colourplaced it in a category by itself; andto addto theseelements of uncertaintythere was a defectin theshape of a flawin the very heart of the stone.Even withthis last serious draw-backhoweverthe lowestof thevarious estimates given was twenty thousand pounds.Conceivemy father's astonishment!  He had been withinahair's-breadth of refusing to act as executorand ofallowingthis magnificent jewel to be lost to the family.Theinterest he took in the matter nowinduced him to openthe sealedinstructions which had been deposited with the Diamond.Mr. Bruffshowed this document to mewith the other papers;and itsuggests (to my mind) a clue to the nature of the conspiracywhichthreatened the Colonel's life."

"Thenyou do believesir" I said"that there was aconspiracy?"

"Notpossessing my father's excellent common sense" answered Mr.Franklin"Ibelieve the Colonel's life was threatenedexactly as the Colonelsaid.The sealedinstructionsas I thinkexplain how it was that he diedafter allquietly in his bed.  In the event of his death by violence (thatisto sayinthe absence of the regular letter from him at the appointed date)my fatherwas then directed to send the Moonstone secretly to Amsterdam.It was tobe deposited in that city with a famous diamond-cutterand itwas to becut up into from four to six separate stones.  The stones werethen to besold for what they would fetchand the proceeds were to beapplied tothe founding of that professorship of experimental chemistrywhich theColonel has since endowed by his Will.  NowBetteredgeexertthosesharp witsof yoursand observe the conclusion to which the Colonel'sinstructionspoint!"

Iinstantly exerted my wits.  They were of the slovenly Englishsort;and theyconsequently muddled it alluntil Mr. Franklin took them in handandpointed out what they ought to see.

"Remark"says Mr. Franklin"that the integrity of the Diamondas a wholestoneis here artfully made dependent onthepreservation from violence of the Colonel's life.He is notsatisfied with saying to the enemies he dreads"Kill me--and youwill be no nearer to the Diamond than you are now;it iswhere you can't get at it--in the guarded strong-roomof abank."  He says instead"Kill me--and the Diamondwillbe theDiamond no longer; its identity will be destroyed."What doesthat mean?"

Here I had(as I thought) a flash of the wonderful foreign brightness.

"Iknow" I said.  "It means lowering the value of thestoneandcheating the rogues in that way!"

"Nothingof the sort" says Mr. Franklin.  "I have inquiredaboutthat.  The flawed Diamondcut upwould actually fetchmore thanthe Diamond as it now is; for this plain reason--that fromfour to six perfect brilliants might be cut from itwhichwould becollectivelyworth more money than the large--butimperfect single stone.  If robbery for the purposeof gainwas at the bottom of the conspiracythe Colonel'sinstructionsabsolutely made the Diamond better worth stealing.More moneycould have been got for itand the disposal of itin thediamond market would have been infinitely easierif it hadpassed through the hands of the workmenofAmsterdam."

"Lordbless ussir!"  I burst out.  "What was theplotthen?"

"Aplot organised among the Indians who originally owned the jewel"says Mr.Franklin--"a plot with some old Hindoo superstition atthe bottomof it.  That is my opinionconfirmed by a family paperwhich Ihave about me at this moment."

I sawnowwhy the appearance of the three Indian jugglersat ourhouse had presented itself to Mr. Franklin in the lightof acircumstance worth noting.

"Idon't want to force my opinion on you" Mr. Franklin went on."Theidea of certain chosen servants of an old Hindoo superstitiondevotingthemselvesthrough all difficulties and dangerstowatching the opportunity of recovering their sacred gemappears tome to be perfectly consistent with everything that weknow ofthe patience of Oriental racesand the influenceofOriental religions.  But then I am an imaginative man;and thebutcherthe bakerand the tax-gathererare notthe onlycredible realities in existence to my mind.Let theguess I have made at the truth in this matter go for whatit isworthand let us get on to the only practical questionthatconcerns us.  Does the conspiracy against the Moonstonesurvivethe Colonel's death?  And did the Colonel know itwhen heleft the birthday gift to his niece?"

I began tosee my lady and Miss Rachel at the end of it allnow.Not a wordhe said escaped me.

"Iwas not very willingwhen I discovered the story of the Moonstone"said Mr.Franklin"to be the means of bringing it here.  But Mr.Bruffremindedme that somebody must put my cousin's legacy into my cousin's hands--and that Imight as well do it as anybody else.  After taking the Diamondout of thebankI fancied I was followed in the streets by a shabbydark-complexionedman.  I went to my father's house to pick up my luggageand founda letter therewhich unexpectedly detained me in London.I wentback to the bank with the Diamondand thought I saw the shabbymanagain.  Taking the Diamond once more out of the bank thismorningI saw theman for the third timegave him the slipand started(before herecovered the trace of me) by the morning instead oftheafternoon train.  Here I amwith the Diamond safe and sound--and whatis the first news that meets me?  I find that three strollingIndianshave been at the houseand that my arrival from Londonandsomething which I am expected to have about meare two specialobjectsofinvestigation to them when they believe themselves to be alone.I don'twaste time and words on their pouring the ink into the boy's handandtelling him to look in it for a man at a distanceand for somethingin thatman's pocket.  The thing (which I have often seen done in theEast)is"hocus-pocus" in my opinionas it is in yours.  Thepresent questionfor us todecide iswhether I am wrongly attaching a meaning to a mereaccident?or whether we really have evidence of the Indians being onthe trackof the Moonstonethe moment it is removed from the safe keeping ofthe bank?"

Neither henor I seemed to fancy dealing with this part of the inquiry.We lookedat each otherand then we looked at the tideoozing in smoothlyhigher andhigherover the Shivering Sand.

"Whatare you thinking of?" says Mr. Franklinsuddenly.

"Iwas thinkingsir" I answered"that I should like to shythe Diamondinto thequicksandand settle the question in THAT way."

"Ifyou have got the value of the stone in your pocket"answeredMr. Franklin"say soBetteredgeand in it goes!"

It'scurious to notewhen your mind's anxioushow very far in the way ofrelief avery small joke will go.  We found a fund of merrimentat thetimein thenotion of making away with Miss Rachel's lawful propertyand gettingMr. Blakeas executorinto dreadful trouble--though where the merriment wasI am quiteat a loss to discover now.

Mr.Franklin was the first to bring the talk back to the talk'sproperpurpose.  He took an envelope out of his pocketopened itand handedto me the paper inside.

"Betteredge"he said"we must face the question of the Colonel'smotive inleaving this legacy to his niecefor my aunt's sake.Bear inmind how Lady Verinder treated her brother from the timewhen hereturned to Englandto the time when he told you he shouldrememberhis niece's birthday.  And read that."

He gave methe extract from the Colonel's Will.  I have got itby mewhile I write these words; and I copy itas followsfor yourbenefit:

"Thirdlyand lastlyI give and bequeath to my nieceRachel Verinderdaughterand only child of my sisterJulia Verinderwidow--if her motherthe saidJulia Verindershall be living on the said Rachel Verinder'snextBirthday after my death--the yellow Diamond belonging to meandknownin theEast by the name of The Moonstone:  subject to this conditionthat hermotherthe said Julia Verindershall be living at the time.And Ihereby desire my executor to give my Diamondeither by hisown handsor by the hands of some trustworthy representative whomhe shallappointinto the personal possession of my said niece Rachelon hernext birthday after my deathand in the presenceif possibleof mysisterthe said Julia Verinder.  And I desire that my saidsistermay beinformedby means of a true copy of thisthe third and lastclause ofmy Willthat I give the Diamond to her daughter Rachelin tokenof my free forgiveness of the injury which her conduct towardsme hasbeen the means of inflicting on my reputation in my lifetime;andespecially in proof that I pardonas becomes a dying manthe insultoffered to me as an officer and a gentlemanwhen her servantby herordersclosed the door of her house against meon the occasion ofherdaughter'sbirthday."

More wordsfollowed theseproviding if my lady was deador if MissRachel was deadat the time of the testator's deceasefor theDiamond being sent to Hollandin accordancewith thesealed instructions originally deposited with it.Theproceeds of the sale werein that caseto be addedto themoney already left by the Will for the professorship ofchemistryat the university in the north.

I handedthe paper back to Mr. Franklinsorely troubled what to sayto him. Up to that momentmy own opinion had been (as you know)that theColonel had died as wickedly as he had lived.  I don't saythe copyfrom his Will actually converted me from that opinion:I only sayit staggered me.

"Well"says Mr. Franklin"now you have read the Colonel's ownstatementwhat doyou say?  In bringing the Moonstone to my aunt's houseam Iservinghis vengeance blindfoldor am I vindicating him in the characterof apenitent and Christian man?"

"Itseems hard to saysir" I answered"that he died with ahorrid revengein hisheartand a horrid lie on his lips.  God alone knows the truth.Don't askme."

Mr.Franklin sat twisting and turning the extract from the Willin hisfingersas if he expected to squeeze the truth out of itin thatmanner.  He altered quite remarkablyat the same time.From beingbrisk and brighthe now becamemost unaccountablya slowsolemnand pondering young man.

"Thisquestion has two sides" he said.  "An Objective sideand aSubjective side.  Which are we to take?"

He had hada German education as well as a French.  One of the two hadbeen inundisturbed 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 oneof my rules in lifenever to notice what I don't understand.I steereda middle course between the Objective side and the Subjective side.In plainEnglish I stared hardand said nothing.

"Let'sextract the inner meaning of this" says Mr. Franklin."Whydid my uncle leave the Diamond to Rachel?  Why didn't he leaveitto myaunt?"

"That'snot beyond guessingsirat any rate" I said."ColonelHerncastle knew my lady well enough to know that shewould haverefused to accept any legacy that came to herfrom HIM."

"Howdid he know that Rachel might not refuse to accept ittoo?"

"Isthere any young lady in existencesirwho could resist thetemptationofaccepting such a birthday present as The Moonstone?"

"That'sthe Subjective view" says Mr. Franklin.  "It does yougreatcreditBetteredgeto be able to take the Subjective view.Butthere's another mystery about the Colonel's legacy which is notaccountedfor yet.  How are we to explain his only giving Rachel herbirthdaypresent conditionally on her mother being alive?"

"Idon't want to slander a dead mansir" I answered."Butif he HAS purposely left a legacy of trouble and dangerto hissisterby the means of her childit must be a legacymadeconditional on his sister's being alive to feel the vexationof it."

"Oh! That's your interpretation of his motiveis it?TheSubjective interpretation again!  Have you ever beeninGermanyBetteredge?"

"Nosir.  What's your interpretationif you please?"

"Ican see" says Mr. Franklin"that the Colonel's objectmayquitepossiblyhave been--not to benefit his niecewhom he had neverevenseen--but to prove to his sister that he had died forgiving herand toprove it very prettily by means of a present made to her child.There is atotally different explanation from yoursBetteredgetaking itsrise in aSubjective-Objective point of view.  From all I can seeoneinterpretation is just as likely to be right as the other."

Havingbrought matters to this pleasant and comforting issueMr. Franklinappearedto think that he had completed all that was required of him.He laiddown flat on his back on the sandand asked what was to bedone next.

He hadbeen so cleverand clear-headed (before he began to talktheforeign gibberish)and had so completely taken the leadin thebusiness up to the present timethat I was quiteunpreparedfor such a sudden change as he now exhibited in thishelplessleaning upon me.  It was not till later that I learned--byassistance of Miss Rachelwho was the first to make the discovery--that thesepuzzling shifts and transformations in Mr. Franklinwere dueto the effect on him of his foreign training.At the agewhen we are all of us most apt to take our colouringin theform of a reflection from the colouring of other peoplehe hadbeen sent abroadand had been passed on from one nationtoanotherbefore there was time for any one colouring more thananother tosettle itself on him firmly.  As a consequence of thishe hadcome back with so many different sides to his characterall moreor less jarring with each otherthat he seemed to passhis lifein a state of perpetual contradiction with himself.He couldbe a busy manand a lazy man; cloudy in the headand clearin the head; a model of determinationand a spectacleofhelplessnessall together.  He had his French sideand hisGerman sideand his Italian side--the originalEnglishfoundation showing throughevery now and thenas much asto say"Here I amsorely transmogrifiedas you seebutthere's something of me left at the bottom of him still."MissRachel used to remark that the Italian side of himwasuppermoston those occasions when he unexpectedly gave inand askedyou in his nice sweet-tempered way to take his ownresponsibilitieson your shoulders.  You will do him no injusticeI thinkif you conclude that the Italian side of him wasuppermostnow.

"Isn'tit your businesssir" I asked"to know what to do next?Surely itcan't be mine?"

Mr.Franklin didn't appear to see the force of my question--not beingin a positionat the timeto see anything but the skyover hishead.

"Idon't want to alarm my aunt without reason" he said."AndI don't want to leave her without what may be a needful warning.If youwere in my placeBetteredgetell mein one wordwhat wouldyou do?"

In onewordI told him:  "Wait."

"Withall my heart" says Mr. Franklin.  "How long?"

Iproceeded to explain myself.

"As Iunderstand itsir" I said"somebody is bound to putthisplaguy Diamond into Miss Rachel's hands on her birthday--and youmay as well do it as another.  Very good.  This isthetwenty-fifth of Mayand the birthday is on the twenty-firstof June. We have got close on four weeks before us.Let's waitand see what happens in that time; and let's warnmy ladyor notas the circumstances direct us."

"PerfectBetteredgeas far as it goes!" says Mr. Franklin."Butbetween this and the birthdaywhat's to be done withtheDiamond?"

"Whatyour father did with itto be suresir!"  I answered."Yourfather put it in the safe keeping of a bank in London.You put inthe safe keeping of the bank at Frizinghall."(Frizinghallwas our nearest townand the Bank of England wasn'tsafer thanthe bank there.) "If I were yousir" I added"Iwould ride straight away with it to Frizinghall before the ladiescomeback."

Theprospect of doing something--andwhat is moreof doing thatsomethingon ahorse--brought Mr. Franklin up like lightning from the flat of hisback.He sprangto his feetand pulled me upwithout ceremonyon to mine."Betteredgeyou are worth your weight in gold" he said.  "Comealongand saddlethe best horse in the stables directly."

Here (Godbless it!) was the original English foundationof himshowing through all the foreign varnish at last!Here wasthe Master Franklin I rememberedcoming out againin thegood old way at the prospect of a rideand remindingme of thegood old times!  Saddle a horse for him?I wouldhave saddled a dozen horsesif he could only have riddenthem all!

We wentback to the house in a hurry; we had the fleetest horse inthestables saddled in a hurry; and Mr. Franklin rattled off in a hurryto lodgethe cursed Diamond once more in the strong-room of a bank.When Iheard the last of his horse's hoofs on the driveand when I turnedabout inthe yard and found I was alone againI felt half inclined to askmyself ifI hadn't woke up from a dream.

 

CHAPTERVII

While Iwas in this bewildered frame of mindsorely needinga littlequiet time by myself to put me right againmy daughterPenelopegot in my way (just as her late mother used to get in myway on thestairs)and instantly summoned me to tell her allthat hadpassed at the conference between Mr. Franklin and me.Underpresent circumstancesthe one thing to be done was toclap theextinguisher upon Penelope's curiosity on the spot.Iaccordingly replied that Mr. Franklin and I had bothtalked offoreign politicstill we could talk no longerand hadthen mutually fallen asleep in the heat of the sun.Try thatsort of answer when your wife or your daughternextworries you with an awkward question at an awkward timeand dependon the natural sweetness of women for kissing andmaking itup again at the next opportunity.

Theafternoon wore onand my lady and Miss Rachel came back.

Needlessto say how astonished they werewhen they heard thatMr.Franklin Blake had arrivedand had gone off again on horseback.Needlessalso to saythat THEY asked awkward questions directlyand thatthe "foreign politics" and the "falling asleep in thesun"wouldn'tserve a second time over with THEM.  Being at the endof myinventionI said Mr. Franklin's arrival by the early trainwasentirely attributable to one of Mr. Franklin's freaks.Beingaskedupon thatwhether his galloping off againonhorseback was another of Mr. Franklin's freaksI said"Yesit was;" and slipped out of it--I think very cleverly--in thatway.

Having gotover my difficulties with the ladiesI found moredifficultieswaiting for me when I went back to my own room.In camePenelope--with the natural sweetness of women--to kissand make it up again; and--with the natural curiosityofwomen--to ask another question.  This time she only wantedme to tellher what was the matter with our second housemaidRosannaSpearman.

Afterleaving Mr. Franklin and me at the Shivering SandRosannaitappearedhadreturned to the house in a very unaccountable state of mind.She hadturned (if Penelope was to be believed) all the colours oftherainbow.  She had been merry without reasonand sad withoutreason.In onebreath she asked hundreds of questions about Mr. Franklin Blakeand inanother breath she had been angry with Penelope for presumingto supposethat a strange gentleman could possess any interest for her.She hadbeen surprisedsmilingand scribbling Mr. Franklin's nameinside herworkbox.  She had been surprised againcrying and lookingat herdeformed shoulder in the glass.  Had she and Mr. Franklin knownanythingof each other before to-day? Quite impossible!  Had they heardanythingof each other?  Impossible again!  I could speak to Mr.Franklin'sastonishmentas genuinewhen he saw how the girl stared at him.Penelopecould speak to the girl's inquisitiveness as genuinewhen sheasked questions about Mr. Franklin.  The conference between usconductedin this waywas tiresome enoughuntil my daughter suddenly endedit bybursting out with what I thought the most monstrous supposition Ihad everheard in my life.

"Father!"says Penelopequite seriously"there's only one explanationof it. Rosanna has fallen in love with Mr. Franklin Blake at first sight!"

You haveheard of beautiful young ladies falling in love at first sightand havethought it natural enough.  But a housemaid out of areformatorywith aplain face and a deformed shoulderfalling in loveat first sightwith agentleman who comes on a visit to her mistress's housematch methatin the wayof an absurdityout of any story-book in Christendomif you can!I laughedtill the tears rolled down my cheeks.  Penelope resented mymerrimentin rather a strange way.  "I never knew you cruel beforefather"she saidvery gentlyand went out.

My girl'swords fell upon me like a splash of cold water.I wassavage with myselffor feeling uneasy in myself the momentshe hadspoken them--but so it was.  We will change the subjectif youplease.  I am sorry I drifted into writing about it;and notwithout reasonas you will see when we have gone on togethera littlelonger.

 

Theevening cameand the dressing-bell for dinner rangbefore Mr.Franklin returned from Frizinghall.  I tookhis hotwater up to his room myselfexpecting to hearafter thisextraordinary delaythat something had happened.To mygreat disappointment (and no doubt to yours also)nothinghad happened.  He had not met with the Indianseithergoing or returning.  He had deposited the Moonstonein thebank--describing it merely as a valuable of great price--and he hadgot the receipt for it safe in his pocket.I wentdown-stairsfeeling that this was rather a flat endingafter allour excitement about the Diamond earlier inthe day.

How themeeting between Mr. Franklin and his aunt and cousin went offis morethan I can tell you.

I wouldhave given something to have waited at table that day.Butin myposition in the householdwaiting at dinner (except onhighfamily festivals) was letting down my dignity in the eyesof theother servants--a thing which my lady considered me quiteproneenough to do alreadywithout seeking occasions for it.The newsbrought to me from the upper regionsthat eveningcame fromPenelope and the footman.  Penelope mentioned that she hadneverknown Miss Rachel so particular about the dressing of her hairand hadnever seen her look so bright and pretty as she did when shewent downto meet Mr. Franklin in the drawing-room. The footman'sreportwasthat the preservation of a respectful composurein thepresence of his bettersand the waiting on Mr. FranklinBlake atdinnerwere two of the hardest things to reconcilewith eachother that had ever tried his training in service.Later inthe eveningwe heard them singing and playing duetsMr.Franklin piping highMiss Rachel piping higherand my ladyon thepianofollowing them as it were over hedge and ditchand seeingthem safe through it in a manner most wonderful andpleasantto hear through the open windowson the terrace at night.LaterstillI went to Mr. Franklin in the smoking-roomwiththesoda-water and brandyand found that Miss Rachel had puttheDiamond clean out of his head.  "She's the most charminggirlI haveseen since I came back to England!" was all I could extractfrom himwhen I endeavoured to lead the conversation to moreseriousthings.

TowardsmidnightI went round the house to lock upaccompanied by mysecond incommand (Samuelthe footman)as usual.  When all the doorswere madefastexcept the side door that opened on the terraceI sentSamuel to bedand stepped out for a breath of fresh air before Itoo wentto bed in my turn.

The nightwas still and closeand the moon was at the full in the heavens.It was sosilent out of doorsthat I heard from time to timevery faintand lowthe fall of the seaas the ground-swell heaved itin on thesand-bank near the mouth of our little bay.  As the house stoodtheterrace side was the dark side; but the broad moonlight showedfair onthe gravel walk that ran along the next side to the terrace.Lookingthis wayafter looking up at the skyI saw the shadowof aperson in the moonlight thrown forward from behind the corner ofthe house.

Being oldand slyI forbore to call out; but being alsounfortunatelyold andheavymy feet betrayed me on the gravel.  Before I could stealsuddenlyround the corneras I had proposedI heard lighter feet than mine--and morethan one pair of them as I thought--retreating in a hurry.By thetime I had got to the cornerthe trespasserswhoever they werehad runinto the shrubbery at the off side of the walkand were hiddenfrom sightamong the thick trees and bushes in that part of the grounds.From theshrubberythey could easily make their wayover our fenceinto theroad.  If I had been forty years youngerI might have hada chanceof catching them before they got clear of our premises.As it wasI went back to set a-going a younger pair of legs than mine.Withoutdisturbing anybodySamuel and I got a couple of gunsand wentall roundthe house and through the shrubbery.  Having made sure that nopersonswere lurking about anywhere in our groundswe turned back.Passingover the walk where I had seen the shadowI now noticedfor thefirst timea little bright objectlying on the clean gravelunder thelight of the moon.  Picking the object upI discovered itwas asmall bottlecontaining a thick sweet-smelling liquoras black asink.

I saidnothing to Samuel.  Butremembering what Penelope had toldme aboutthe jugglersand the pouring of the little pool of inkinto thepalm of the boy's handI instantly suspected that I haddisturbedthe three Indianslurking about the houseand bentin theirheathenish wayon discovering the whereabouts of the Diamondthatnight.

 

CHAPTERVIII

Hereforone momentI find it necessary to call a halt.

Onsummoning up my own recollections--and on getting Penelope to helpmebyconsulting her journal--I find that we may pass pretty rapidly overtheinterval between Mr. Franklin Blake's arrival and Miss Rachel'sbirthday.For thegreater part of that time the days passedand brought nothing withthem worthrecording.  With your good leavethenand with Penelope'shelpI shallnotice certain dates only in this place; reserving to myselfto tellthe story day by dayonce moreas soon as we get to the timewhen thebusiness of the Moonstone became the chief business of everybodyin ourhouse.

This saidwe may now go on again--beginningof coursewith thebottle of sweet-smelling ink which I found on the gravelwalk atnight.

On thenext morning (the morning of the twenty-sixth) I showed Mr. Franklinthisarticle of juggleryand told him what I have already told you.Hisopinion wasnot only that the Indians had been lurking about aftertheDiamondbut also that they were actually foolish enough to believein theirown magic--meaning thereby the making of signs on a boy's headand thepouring of ink into a boy's handand then expecting him to seepersonsand things beyond the reach of human vision.  In our countryas well asin the EastMr. Franklin informed methere are people whopractisethis curious hocus-pocus (without the inkhowever); and who callit by aFrench namesignifying something like brightness of sight."Dependupon it" says Mr. Franklin"the Indians took it forgrantedthat weshould keep the Diamond here; and they brought their clairvoyantboy toshow them the way to itif they succeeded in getting into the houselastnight."

"Doyou think they'll try againsir?"  I asked.

"Itdepends" says Mr. Franklin"on what the boy can reallydo.If he cansee the Diamond through the iron safe of the bank at Frizinghallwe shallbe troubled with no more visits from the Indians for the present.If hecan'twe shall have another chance of catching them in theshrubberybeforemany more nights are over our heads."

I waitedpretty confidently for that latter chance; butstrange to relateit nevercame.

Whetherthe jugglers heardin the townof Mr. Franklin havingbeen seenat the bankand drew their conclusions accordingly;or whetherthe boy really did see the Diamond where the Diamondwas nowlodged (which Ifor oneflatly disbelieve); or whetherafter allit was a mere effect of chancethis at any rate isthe plaintruth--not the ghost of an Indian came near the house againthroughthe weeks that passed before Miss Rachel's birthday.Thejugglers remained in and about the town plying their trade;and Mr.Franklin and I remained waiting to see what might happenandresolute not to put the rogues on their guard by showing oursuspicionsof them too soon.  With this report of the proceedingson eithersideends all that I have to say about the Indians forthepresent.

 

On thetwenty-ninth of the monthMiss Rachel and Mr. Franklinhit on anew method of working their way together throughthe timewhich might otherwise have hung heavy on their hands.There arereasons for taking particular notice here of theoccupationthat amused them.  You will find it has a bearingonsomething that is still to come.

Gentlefolksin general have a very awkward rock ahead in life--the rockahead of their own idleness.  Their lives beingfor themost partpassed in looking about them for somethingto doitis curious to see--especially when their tastesare ofwhat is called the intellectual sort--how often theydriftblindfold into some nasty pursuit.  Nine times out of tenthey taketo torturing somethingor to spoiling something--and theyfirmly believe they are improving their mindswhen theplain truth isthey are only making a mess in the house.I haveseen them (ladiesI am sorry to sayas well as gentlemen)go outday after dayfor examplewith empty pill-boxesand catchnewtsand beetlesand spidersand frogsand comehome and stick pins through the miserable wretchesor cutthem upwithout a pang of remorseinto little pieces.You see myyoung masteror my young mistressporing overone oftheir spiders' insides with a magnifying-glass;or youmeet one of their frogs walking downstairs withouthishead--and when you wonder what this cruel nastiness meansyou aretold that it means a taste in my young master or myyoungmistress for natural history.  Sometimesagainyou seethemoccupied for hours together in spoiling a pretty flowerwithpointed instrumentsout of a stupid curiosity to knowwhat theflower is made of.  Is its colour any prettieror itsscent any sweeterwhen you DO know?  But there!the poorsouls must get through the timeyou see--they mustgetthrough the time.  You dabbled in nasty mudand made pieswhen youwere a child; and you dabble in nasty scienceanddissect spidersand spoil flowerswhen you grow up.In the onecase and in the otherthe secret of it isthat youhave got nothing to think of in your poor empty headandnothing to do with your poor idle hands.  And so it ends inyourspoiling canvas with paintsand making a smell in the house;or inkeeping tadpoles in a glass box full of dirty waterandturning everybody's stomach in the house; or in chipping offbits ofstone herethereand everywhereand dropping gritinto allthe victuals in the house; or in staining your fingersin thepursuit of photographyand doing justice without mercyoneverybody's face in the house.  It often falls heavy enoughno doubton people who are really obliged to get their livingto beforced to work for the clothes that cover themthe roofthatshelters themand the food that keeps them going.Butcompare the hardest day's work you ever did with theidlenessthat splits flowers and pokes its way into spiders'stomachsand thank your stars that your head has got somethingit MUSTthink ofand your hands something that they MUSTdo.

As for Mr.Franklin and Miss Rachelthey tortured nothingI am glad to say.Theysimply confined themselves to making a mess; and all they spoilttodothemjusticewas the panelling of a door.

Mr.Franklin's universal geniusdabbling in everythingdabbled inwhat he called "decorative painting."  He hadinventedheinformed usa new mixture to moisten paint withwhich hedescribedas a "vehicle."  What it was made ofI don't know.What itdidI can tell you in two words--it stank.MissRachel being wild to try her hand at the new processMr.Franklin sent to London for the materials; mixed them upwithaccompaniment of a smell which made the very dogs sneezewhen theycame into the room; put an apron and a bib overMissRachel's gownand set her to work decorating her ownlittlesitting-room--calledfor want of English to name it inher"boudoir."  They began with the inside of the door.Mr.Franklin scraped off all the nice varnish with pumice-stoneand madewhat he described as a surface to work on.MissRachel then covered the surfaceunder his directionsand withhis helpwith patterns and devices--griffinsbirdsflowerscupidsand such like--copied from designs madeby afamous Italian painterwhose name escapes me:the oneImeanwho stocked the world with Virgin Mariesand had asweetheart at the baker's. Viewed as workthisdecoration was slow to doand dirty to deal with.But ouryoung lady and gentleman never seemed to tire of it.When theywere not ridingor seeing companyor taking their mealsor pipingtheir songsthere they were with their heads togetheras busy asbeesspoiling the door.  Who was the poet who saidthat Satanfinds some mischief still for idle hands to do?If he hadoccupied my place in the familyand had seen MissRachelwith her brushand Mr. Franklin with his vehiclehe couldhave written nothing truer of either of them thanthat.

 

The nextdate worthy of notice is Sunday the fourth of June.

On thatevening wein the servants' halldebated a domesticquestionfor the first timewhichlike the decoration of the doorhas itsbearing on something that is still to come.

Seeing thepleasure which Mr. Franklin and Miss Rachel tookin eachother's societyand noting what a pretty matchthey werein all personal respectswe naturally speculatedon thechance of their putting their heads together withotherobjects in view besides the ornamenting of a door.Some of ussaid there would be a wedding in the house beforethe summerwas over.  Others (led by me) admitted it waslikelyenough Miss Rachel might be married; but we doubted(forreasons which will presently appear) whether her bridegroomwould beMr. Franklin Blake.

That Mr.Franklin was in loveon his sidenobody who saw and heardhim coulddoubt.  The difficulty was to fathom Miss Rachel.Let me domyself the honour of making you acquainted with her;afterwhichI will leave you to fathom for yourself--if youcan.

My younglady's eighteenth birthday was the birthday now comingon thetwenty-first of June.  If you happen to like dark women(whoI aminformedhave gone out of fashion latterly in the gayworld)and if you have no particular prejudice in favour of sizeI answerfor Miss Rachel as one of the prettiest girls your eyeseverlooked on.  She was small and slimbut all in fine proportionfrom topto toe.  To see her sit downto see her get upandspecially to see her walkwas enough to satisfy any manin hissenses that the graces of her figure (if you will pardonme theexpression) were in her flesh and not in her clothes.Her hairwas the blackest I ever saw.  Her eyes matched her hair.Her nosewas not quite large enoughI admit.  Her mouth and chin were(to quoteMr. Franklin) morsels for the gods; and her complexion(on thesame undeniable authority) was as warm as the sun itselfwith thisgreat advantage over the sunthat it was always in niceorder tolook at.  Add to the foregoing that she carried her headas uprightas a dartin a dashingspiritedthoroughbred way--that shehad a clear voicewith a ring of the right metal in itand asmile that began very prettily in her eyes before it got to herlips--and therebehold the portrait of herto the best of my paintingas largeas life!

And whatabout her disposition next?  Had this charming creature nofaults?She hadjust as many faults as you havema'am--neither more nor less.

To put itseriouslymy dear pretty Miss Rachelpossessinga host of graces and attractionshad one defectwhichstrict impartiality compels me to acknowledge.She wasunlike most other girls of her agein this--that she hadideas ofher ownand was stiff-necked enough to set the fashionsthemselvesat defianceif the fashions didn't suit her views.Intriflesthis independence of hers was all well enough;but inmatters of importanceit carried her (as my lady thoughtand as Ithought) too far.  She judged for herselfas few womenof twiceher age judge in general; never asked your advice;never toldyou beforehand what she was going to do;never camewith secrets and confidences to anybodyfrom hermotherdownwards.  In little things and greatwith peopleshe lovedand people she hated (and she did both with equalheartiness)Miss Rachel always went on a way of her ownsufficientfor herself in the joys and sorrows of her life.Over andover again I have heard my lady say"Rachel's bestfriend andRachel's worst enemy areone and the other--Rachelherself."

Add onething more to thisand I have done.

With allher secrecyand self-willthere was not so much as the shadowofanything false in her.  I never remember her breaking her word;I neverremember her saying Noand meaning Yes.  I can call to mindin herchildhoodmore than one occasion when the good little soultook theblameand suffered the punishmentfor some fault committedby aplayfellow whom she loved.  Nobody ever knew her to confess toitwhen thething was found outand she was charged with it afterwards.But nobodyever knew her to lie about iteither.  She looked youstraightin the faceand shook her little saucy headand said plainly"Iwon't tell you!"  Punished again for thisshe would own tobeingsorry forsaying "won't;" butbread and water notwithstandingshe nevertold you.  Self-willed--devilish self-willed sometimes--I grant;but thefinest creatureneverthelessthat ever walked the ways of thislowerworld.  Perhaps you think you see a certain contradiction here?In thatcasea word in your ear.  Study your wife closelyfor the nextfour-and-twentyhours.  If your good lady doesn't exhibit something inthe shapeof a contradiction in that timeHeaven help you!--you have marrieda monster.

 

I have nowbrought you acquainted with Miss Rachelwhich you will findputs usface to facenextwith the question of that young lady'smatrimonialviews.

On Junethe twelfthan invitation from my mistress was sent to agentlemanin Londonto come and help to keep Miss Rachel's birthday.This wasthe fortunate individual on whom I believed her heartto beprivately set!  Like Mr. Franklinhe was a cousin of hers.His namewas Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.

My lady'ssecond sister (don't be alarmed; we are not going very deepintofamily matters this time)--my lady's second sisterI sayhad adisappointment in love; and taking a husband afterwardson theneck or nothing principlemade what they call a misalliance.There wasterrible work in the family when the Honourable Carolineinsistedon marrying plain Mr. Ablewhitethe banker at Frizinghall.He wasvery rich and very respectableand he begot a prodigiouslargefamily--all in his favourso far.  But he had presumedto raisehimself from a low station in the world--and that wasagainsthim.  HoweverTime and the progress of modern enlightenmentput thingsright; and the mis-alliance passed muster very well.We are allgetting liberal now; and (provided you can scratch meif Iscratch you) what do I carein or out of Parliamentwhetheryou are a Dustman or a Duke?  That's the modern way oflooking atit--and I keep up with the modern way.  The Ablewhiteslived in afine house and groundsa little out of Frizinghall.Veryworthy peopleand greatly respected in the neighbourhood.We shallnot be much troubled with them in these pages--exceptingMr. Godfreywho was Mr. Ablewhite's second sonand whomust takehis proper place hereif you pleasefor Miss Rachel'ssake.

With allhis brightness and cleverness and general good qualitiesMr.Franklin's chance of topping Mr. Godfrey in our young lady'sestimationwasin my opiniona very poor chance indeed.

In thefirst placeMr. Godfrey wasin point of sizethe finestman by far of the two.  He stood over six feet high;he had abeautiful red and white colour; a smooth round faceshaved asbare as your hand; and a head of lovely longflaxenhairfalling negligently over the poll of his neck.But why doI try to give you this personal description of him?If youever subscribed to a Ladies' Charity in Londonyou knowMr. Godfrey Ablewhite as well as I do.He was abarrister by profession; a ladies' man by temperament;and a goodSamaritan by choice.  Female benevolence and femaledestitutioncould do nothing without him.  Maternal societies forconfiningpoor women; Magdalen societies for rescuing poor women;strong-mindedsocieties for putting poor women into poormen'splacesand leaving the men to shift for themselves;--he wasvice-presidentmanagerreferee to them all.Whereverthere was a table with a committee of ladies sitting roundit incouncil there was Mr. Godfrey at the bottom of the boardkeepingthe temper of the committeeand leading the dearcreaturesalong the thorny ways of businesshat in hand.I dosuppose this was the most accomplished philanthropist(on asmall independence) that England ever produced.As aspeaker at charitable meetings the like of him fordrawingyour tears and your money was not easy to find.He wasquite a public character.  The last time I was in Londonmymistress gave me two treats.  She sent me to the theatreto see adancing woman who was all the rage; and she sentme toExeter Hall to hear Mr. Godfrey.  The lady did itwith aband of music.  The gentleman did itwith a handkerchiefand aglass of water.  Crowds at the performance with the legs.Ditto atthe performance with the tongue.  And with all thisthesweetest tempered person (I allude to Mr. Godfrey)--thesimplest and pleasantest and easiest to please--you evermet with. He loved everybody.  And everybody loved HIM.Whatchance had Mr. Franklin--what chance had anybodyof averagereputation and capacities--against such a man asthis?

 

On thefourteenthcame Mr. Godfrey's answer.

Heaccepted my mistress's invitationfrom the Wednesdayof thebirthday to the evening of Friday--when his dutiesto theLadies' Charities would oblige him to return to town.He alsoenclosed a copy of verses on what he elegantly calledhiscousin's "natal day."  Miss RachelI was informedjoined Mr.Franklin in making fun of the verses at dinner;andPenelopewho was all on Mr. Franklin's sideasked mein greattriumphwhat I thought of that.  "Miss Rachel has ledyou off ona false scentmy dear" I replied; "but MY nose isnot soeasily mystified.  Wait till Mr. Ablewhite's verses arefollowedby Mr. Ablewhite himself."

Mydaughter repliedthat Mr. Franklin might strike inand tryhis luckbefore the verses were followed by the poet.In favourof this viewI must acknowledge that Mr. Franklin leftno chanceuntried of winning Miss Rachel's good graces.

Though oneof the most inveterate smokers I ever met withhe gave uphis cigarbecause she saidone dayshe hatedthe stalesmell of it in his clothes.  He slept so badlyafter thiseffort of self-denialfor want of the composingeffect ofthe tobacco to which he was usedand came downmorningafter morning looking so haggard and wornthat MissRachelherself begged him to take to his cigars again.No! hewould take to nothing again that could cause herea moment'sannoyance; he would fight it out resolutelyand getback his sleepsooner or laterby main force ofpatiencein waiting for it.  Such devotion as thisyou may say(as someof them said downstairs)could never fail of producingthe righteffect on Miss Rachel--backed uptooas it wasby thedecorating work every day on the door.  All very well--but shehad a photograph of Mr. Godfrey in her bed-room;representedspeaking at a public meetingwith all his hairblown outby the breath of his own eloquenceand his eyesmostlovelycharming the money out of your pockets.  What do yousay tothat?  Every morning--as Penelope herself owned to me--there wasthe man whom the women couldn't do withoutlooking onin effigywhile Miss Rachel was having her hair combed.He wouldbe looking onin realitybefore long--that was my opinionof it.

 

June thesixteenth brought an event which made Mr. Franklin's chance lookto myminda worse chance than ever.

A strangegentlemanspeaking English with a foreign accentcame thatmorning to the houseand asked to see Mr. Franklin Blakeonbusiness.  The business could not possibly have been connectedwith theDiamondfor these two reasons--firstthat Mr. Franklintold menothing about it; secondlythat he communicated it(when thegentleman had goneas I suppose) to my lady.Sheprobably hinted something about it next to her daughter.At anyrateMiss Rachel was reported to have said someseverethings to Mr. Franklinat the piano that eveningabout thepeople he had lived amongand the principles he hadadopted inforeign parts.  The next dayfor the first timenothingwas done towards the decoration of the door.I suspectsome imprudence of Mr. Franklin's on the Continent--with awoman or a debt at the bottom of it--had followedhim toEngland.  But that is all guesswork.  In this casenot onlyMr. Franklinbut my lady toofor a wonderleft me inthe dark.

 

On theseventeenthto all appearancethe cloud passed away again.Theyreturned to their decorating work on the doorand seemedto be asgood friends as ever.  If Penelope was to be believedMr.Franklin had seized the opportunity of the reconciliation to makean offerto Miss Racheland had neither been accepted nor refused.My girlwas sure (from signs and tokens which I need not trouble you with)that heryoung mistress had fought Mr. Franklin off by decliningto believethat he was in earnestand had then secretly regrettedtreatinghim in that way afterwards.  Though Penelope was admittedto morefamiliarity with her young mistress than maids generally are--for thetwo had been almost brought up together as children--still Iknew MissRachel's reserved character too well to believe that shewould showher mind to anybody in this way.  What my daughter told meon thepresent occasionwasas I suspectedmore what she wished thanwhat shereally knew.

 

On thenineteenth another event happened.  We had the doctorin thehouse professionally.  He was summoned to prescribe for apersonwhom I have had occasion to present to you in these pages--our secondhousemaidRosanna Spearman.

This poorgirl--who had puzzled meas you know alreadyat theShivering Sand--puzzled me more than once againin theinterval time of which I am now writing.  Penelope's notionthat herfellow-servant was in love with Mr. Franklin(which mydaughterby my orderskept strictly secret)seemed tobe just as absurd as ever.  But I must own that what Imyselfsawand what my daughter saw alsoof our secondhousemaid'sconductbegan to look mysteriousto say the leastof it.

Forexamplethe girl constantly put herself in Mr. Franklin's way--veryslylyandquietlybut she did it.  He took about as much notice of her ashe tookof thecat; it never seemed to occur to him to waste a look on Rosanna'splainface.  The poor thing's appetitenever muchfell awaydreadfully;and hereyes in the morning showed plain signs of waking and crying at night.One dayPenelope made an awkward discoverywhich we hushed up on the spot.She caughtRosanna at Mr. Franklin's dressing-tablesecretly removinga rosewhich Miss Rachel had given him to wear in his button-holeandputtinganother rose like itof her own pickingin its place.  Shewasafterthatonce or twice impudent to mewhen I gave her a well-meantgeneralhint to be careful in her conduct; andworse stillshe was notover-respectfulnowon the few occasions when Miss Rachel accidentally spoketo her.

My ladynoticed the changeand asked me what I thought about it.  Itriedto screenthe girl by answering that I thought she was out of health; and itended inthe doctor being sent foras already mentionedon the nineteenth.He said itwas her nervesand doubted if she was fit for service.My ladyoffered to remove her for change of air to one of our farmsinland.She beggedand prayedwith the tears in her eyesto be let to stop;andin anevil hourI advised my lady to try her for a little longer.As theevent provedand as you will soon seethis was the worst advice Icould havegiven.  If I could only have looked a little way into thefutureI wouldhave taken Rosanna Spearman out of the housethen and therewith myown hand.

On thetwentieththere came a note from Mr. Godfrey.  He had arrangedto stopatFrizinghall that nighthaving occasion to consult his father onbusiness.On theafternoon of the next dayhe and his two eldest sisters would rideover to uson horsebackin good time before dinner.  An elegant littlecasket inChina accompanied the notepresented to Miss Rachelwith hercousin'slove and best wishes.  Mr. Franklin had only given her a plainlocket notworth half the money.  My daughter Penelopenevertheless--suchistheobstinacy of women--still backed him to win.

Thanks beto Heavenwe have arrived at the eve of the birthday at last!You willownI thinkthat I have got you over the ground this timewithoutmuch loitering by the way.  Cheer up!  I'll ease you withanothernewchapter here--andwhat is morethat chapter shall take you straightinto thethick of the story.

 

CHAPTER IX

Junetwenty-firstthe day of the birthdaywas cloudy and unsettledatsunrisebut towards noon it cleared up bravely.

Wein theservants' hallbegan this happy anniversaryas usualby offering our little presents to Miss Rachelwith theregular speech delivered annually by me as the chief.I followthe plan adopted by the Queen in opening Parliament--namelythe plan of saying much the same thing regularly every year.Before itis deliveredmy speech (like the Queen's)is lookedfor as eagerly as if nothing of the kind had everbeen heardbefore.  When it is deliveredand turns out notto be thenovelty anticipatedthough they grumble a littlethey lookforward hopefully to something newer next year.An easypeople to governin the Parliament and in the Kitchen--that's themoral of it.  After breakfastMr. Franklin and Ihad aprivate conference on the subject of the Moonstone--the timehaving now come for removing it from the bankatFrizinghalland placing it in Miss Rachel'sown hands.

Whether hehad been trying to make love to his cousin againand hadgot a rebuff--or whether his broken restnight after nightwasaggravating the queer contradictions and uncertainties inhischaracter--I don't know.  But certain it isthat Mr. Franklinfailed toshow himself at his best on the morning of the birthday.He was intwenty different minds about the Diamond in as many minutes.For mypartI stuck fast by the plain facts a we knew them.Nothinghad happened to justify us in alarming my lady on the subjectof thejewel; and nothing could alter the legal obligation thatnow lay onMr. Franklin to put it in his cousin's possession.That wasmy view of the matter; andtwist and turn it ashe mighthe was forced in the end to make it his view too.Wearranged that he was to ride overafter lunchto Frizinghalland bringthe Diamond backwith Mr. Godfrey and the twoyoungladiesin all probabilityto keep him company on the wayhomeagain.

Thissettledour young gentleman went back to Miss Rachel.

Theyconsumed the whole morningand part of the afternoonin theeverlasting business of decorating the doorPenelopestanding by to mix the coloursas directed; and my ladyasluncheon time drew neargoing in and out of the roomwith herhandkerchief to her nose (for they used a dealof Mr.Franklin's vehicle that day)and trying vainly to getthe twoartists away from their work.  It was three o'clockbeforethey took off their apronsand released Penelope(much theworse for the vehicle)and cleaned themselves oftheirmess.  But they had done what they wanted--they had finishedthe dooron the birthdayand proud enough they were of it.Thegriffinscupidsand so onwereI must ownmost beautifulto behold;though so many in numberso entangled in flowersanddevicesand so topsy-turvy in their actions and attitudesthat youfelt them unpleasantly in your head for hoursafter youhad done with the pleasure of looking at them.If I addthat Penelope ended her part of the morning's workby beingsick in the back-kitchenit is in no unfriendlyspirittowards the vehicle.  No! no!  It left off stinkingwhen itdried; and if Art requires these sort of sacrifices--though thegirl is my own daughter--I saylet Arthave them!

Mr.Franklin snatched a morsel from the luncheon-tableand rodeoff toFrizinghall--to escort his cousinsas he told my lady.To fetchthe Moonstoneas was privately known to himself andto me.

This beingone of the high festivals on which I took my placeat theside-boardin command of the attendance at tableI hadplenty to occupy my mind while Mr. Franklin was away.Havingseen to the wineand reviewed my men and women whowere towait at dinnerI retired to collect myself beforethecompany came.  A whiff of--you know whatand a turn at acertainbook which I have had occasion to mention in these pagescomposedmebody and mind.  I was aroused from what I aminclinedto think must have beennot a napbut a reverieby theclatter of horses' hoofs outside; andgoing to the doorreceived acavalcade comprising Mr. Franklin and his three cousinsescortedby one of old Mr. Ablewhite's grooms.

Mr.Godfrey struck mestrangely enoughas being like Mr. Franklinin thisrespect--that he did not seem to be in his customary spirits.He kindlyshook hands with me as usualand was most politely gladto see hisold friend Betteredge wearing so well.  But there was a sortof cloudover himwhich I couldn't at all account for; and when I askedhow he hadfound his father in healthhe answered rather shortly"Muchas usual."  Howeverthe two Miss Ablewhites were cheerfulenoughfortwentywhich more than restored the balance.  They were nearlyas bigas theirbrother; spankingyellow-hairedrosy lassesoverflowing withsuper-abundantflesh and blood; bursting from head to foot with healthandspirits.  The legs of the poor horses trembled with carryingthem;and whenthey jumped from their saddles (without waiting to be helped)Ideclarethey bounced on the ground as if they were made of india-rubber.Everythingthe Miss Ablewhites said began with a large O; everything theydid wasdone with a bang; and they giggled and screamedin seasonand out ofseasonon the smallest provocation.  Bouncers--that's what Icall them.

Undercover of the noise made by the young ladiesI had an opportunityof sayinga private word to Mr. Franklin in the hall.

"Haveyou got the Diamond safesir?"

He noddedand tapped the breast-pocket of his coat.

"Haveyou seen anything of the Indians?"

"Nota glimpse."  With that answerhe asked for my ladyandhearingshe was in the small drawing-roomwent there straight.The bellrangbefore he had been a minute in the roomand Penelopewas sentto tell Miss Rachel that Mr. Franklin Blake wanted to speakto her.

Crossingthe hallabout half an hour afterwardsI was broughtto asudden standstill by an outbreak of screams from the smalldrawing-room.I can't say I was at all alarmed; for I recognisedin thescreams the favourite large O of the Miss Ablewhites.HoweverIwent in (on pretence of asking for instructions aboutthedinner) to discover whether anything serious had really happened.

Therestood Miss Rachel at the tablelike a person fascinatedwith theColonel's unlucky Diamond in her hand.  Thereon either sideof herknelt the two Bouncersdevouring the jewel with their eyesandscreaming with ecstasy every time it flashed on them in a new light.Thereatthe opposite side of the tablestood Mr. Godfreyclapping hishands likea large childand singing out softly"Exquisite! exquisite!"There satMr. Franklin in a chair by the book-casetugging at his beardandlooking anxiously towards the window.  And thereat the windowstood theobject he was contemplating--my ladyhaving the extract fromtheColonel's Will in her handand keeping her back turned on the wholeofthecompany.

She facedmewhen I asked for my instructions; and I saw the family frowngatheringover her eyesand the family temper twitching at the cornersof hermouth.

"Cometo my room in half an hour" she answered.  "I shallhavesomething to say to you then."

With thosewords she went out.  It was plain enough that she was posedby thesame difficulty which had posed Mr. Franklin and me in ourconferenceat the Shivering Sand.  Was the legacy of the Moonstonea proofthat she had treated her brother with cruel injustice? or was ita proofthat he was worse than the worst she had ever thought of him?Seriousquestions those for my lady to determinewhile her daughterinnocentof all knowledge of the Colonel's characterstood there withtheColonel's birthday gift in her hand.

Before Icould leave the room in my turnMiss Rachelalways considerateto the oldservant who had been in the house when she was bornstopped me."LookGabriel!" she saidand flashed the jewel before my eyes in aray ofsunlightthat poured through the window.

Lord blessus! it WAS a Diamond!  As largeor nearlyas a plover's egg!The lightthat streamed from it was like the light of the harvest moon.When youlooked down into the stoneyou looked into a yellowdeep thatdrew your eyes into it so that they saw nothing else.It seemedunfathomable; this jewelthat you could hold between yourfinger andthumbseemed unfathomable as the heavens themselves.We set itin the sunand then shut the light out of the roomand itshone awfully out of the depths of its own brightnesswith amoony gleamin the dark.  No wonder Miss Rachel was fascinated:no wonderher cousins screamed.  The Diamond laid such a hold on MEthat Iburst out with as large an "O" as the Bouncers themselves.The onlyone of us who kept his senses was Mr. Godfrey.He put anarm round each of his sister's waistsandlookingcompassionatelybackwards and forwards between the Diamondand mesaid"Carbon Betteredge! mere carbonmy good friendafterall!"

HisobjectI supposewas to instruct me.  All he didhoweverwastoremind meof the dinner.  I hobbled off to my army of waiters downstairs.As I wentoutMr. Godfrey said"Dear old BetteredgeI have the truestregard forhim!"  He was embracing his sistersand ogling MissRachelwhile hehonoured me with that testimony of affection.  Something likea stock oflove to draw on THERE!  Mr. Franklin was a perfect savage bycomparisonwith him.

At the endof half an hourI presented myselfas directedin mylady's room.

Whatpassed between my mistress and meon this occasionwasin themaina repetition of what had passed between Mr. Franklinand me atthe Shivering Sand--with this differencethat I tookcare tokeep my own counsel about the jugglersseeing that nothinghadhappened to justify me in alarming my lady on this head.When Ireceived my dismissalI could see that she took the blackestviewpossible of the Colonel's motivesand that she was bent on gettingtheMoonstone out of her daughter's possession at the first opportunity.

On my wayback to my own part of the houseI was encountered byMr.Franklin.  He wanted to know if I had seen anything of hiscousin Rachel.I had seennothing of her.  Could I tell him where his cousin Godfrey was?I didn'tknow; but I began to suspect that cousin Godfrey might not befar awayfrom cousin Rachel.  Mr. Franklin's suspicions apparently tookthe sameturn.  He tugged hard at his beardand went and shut himselfup in thelibrary with a bang of the door that had a world of meaningin it.

I wasinterrupted no more in the business of preparing for the birthdaydinnertill itwas time for me to smarten myself up for receiving the company.Just as Ihad got my white waistcoat onPenelope presented herselfat mytoileton pretence of brushing what little hair I have got leftandimproving the tie of my white cravat.  My girl was in highspiritsand I sawshe had something to say to me.  She gave me a kiss on the topof my baldheadand whispered"News for youfather!  Miss Rachelhasrefusedhim."

"Who's'HIM'?" I asked.

"Theladies' committee-manfather" says Penelope.  "Anasty sly fellow!I hate himfor trying to supplant Mr. Franklin!"

If I hadhad breath enoughI should certainly have protested againstthisindecent way of speaking of an eminent philanthropic character.But mydaughter happened to be improving the tie of my cravat at thatmomentand thewhole strength of her feelings found its way into her fingers.I neverwas more nearly strangled in my life.

"Isaw him take her away alone into the rose-garden" saysPenelope."AndI waited behind the holly to see how they came back.They hadgone out arm-in-armboth laughing.  They came backwalkingseparateas grave as grave could beand looking straightaway fromeach other in a manner which there was no mistaking.I neverwas more delightedfatherin my life!  There's one womanin theworld who can resist Mr. Godfrey Ablewhiteat any rate; andif Iwas aladyI should be another!"

Here Ishould have protested again.  But my daughter had got thehair-brushby thistimeand the whole strength of her feelings had passed into THAT.If you arebaldyou will understand how she sacrificed me.  If you arenotskip thisbitand thank God you have got something in the way of a defencebetweenyour hair-brush and your head.

"Juston the other side of the holly" Penelope went on"Mr.Godfrey came to a standstill.  'You prefer' says he'that Ishould stop here as if nothing had happened?'MissRachel turned on him like lightning.  'You have accepted mymother'sinvitation' she said; 'and you are here to meet her guests.Unless youwish to make a scandal in the houseyou will remainofcourse!'  She went on a few stepsand then seemed to relenta little. 'Let us forget what has passedGodfrey' she said'and letus remain cousins still.'  She gave him her hand.He kisseditwhich I should have considered taking a libertyand thenshe left him.  He waited a little by himselfwith hishead downand his heel grinding a hole slowlyin thegravel walk; you never saw a man look more putout inyour life.  'Awkward!' he said between his teethwhen helooked upand went on to the house--'very awkward!'If thatwas his opinion of himselfhe was quite right.AwkwardenoughI'm sure.  And the end of it isfatherwhat Itold youall along" cries Penelopefinishing me off witha lastscarificationthe hottest of all.  "Mr. Franklin'sthe man!"

I gotpossession of the hair-brushand opened my lips to administerthereproof whichyou will ownmy daughter's language and conductrichlydeserved.

Before Icould say a wordthe crash of carriage-wheels outsidestruck inand stopped me.  The first of the dinner-company had come.Penelopeinstantly ran off.  I put on my coatand looked in the glass.My headwas as red as a lobster; butin other respectsI was asnicelydressed for the ceremonies of the evening as a man need be.I got intothe hall just in time to announce the two first of the guests.Youneedn't feel particularly interested about them.  Only thephilanthropist'sfather and mother--Mr. and Mrs. Ablewhite.

 

CHAPTER X

One on thetop of the other the rest of the company followedtheAblewhitestill we had the whole tale of them complete.Includingthe familythey were twenty-four in all.It was anoble sight to seewhen they were settled in theirplacesround the dinner-tableand the Rector of Frizinghall(withbeautiful elocution) rose and said grace.

There isno need to worry you with a list of the guests.You willmeet none of them a second time--in my part of the storyat anyrate--with the exception of two.

Those twosat on either side of Miss Rachelwhoas queenof thedaywas naturally the great attraction of the party.On thisoccasion she was more particularly the centre-pointtowardswhich everybody's eyes were directed; for (to my lady'ssecretannoyance) she wore her wonderful birthday presentwhicheclipsed all the rest--the Moonstone.  It waswithoutany setting when it had been placed in her hands;but thatuniversal geniusMr. Franklinhad contrivedwith thehelp of his neat fingers and a little bit of silver wireto fix itas a brooch in the bosom of her white dress.Everybodywondered at the prodigious size and beauty of the Diamondas amatter of course.  But the only two of the company who saidanythingout of the common way about it were those two guestsI havementionedwho sat by Miss Rachel on her right hand andher left.

The gueston her left was Mr. Candyour doctor at Frizinghall.

This was apleasantcompanionable little manwith the drawbackhoweverI mustownof being too fondin season and out of seasonof his jokeand of hisplunging in rather a headlong manner into talk with strangerswithoutwaiting to feel his way first.  In society he was constantlymakingmistakesand setting people unintentionally by the ears together.In hismedical practice he was a more prudent man; picking up his discretion(as hisenemies said) by a kind of instinctand proving to be generallyrightwhere morecarefully conducted doctors turned out to be wrong.

What HEsaid about the Diamond to Miss Rachel was saidas usualby way ofa mystification or joke.  He gravely entreated her(in theinterests of science) to let him take it home and burn it."Wewill first heat itMiss Rachel" says the doctor"to suchand such adegree; then we will expose it to a current of air;andlittle by little--puff!--we evaporate the Diamondand spare youa world ofanxiety about the safe keeping of a valuable precious stone!"My ladylistening with rather a careworn expression on her faceseemed towish that the doctor had been in earnestand that he couldhave foundMiss Rachel zealous enough in the cause of science to sacrificeherbirthday gift.

The otherguestwho sat on my young lady's right handwas an eminentpubliccharacter--being no other than the celebrated Indian travellerMr.Murthwaitewhoat risk of his lifehad penetrated in disguisewhere noEuropean had ever set foot before.

This was alongleanwirybrownsilent man.  He had a weary lookand a verysteadyattentive eye.  It was rumoured that he was tiredof thehumdrum life among the people in our partsand longing to goback andwander off on the tramp again in the wild places of the East.Exceptwhat he said to Miss Rachel about her jewelI doubt if he spoke sixwords ordrank so much as a single glass of wineall through the dinner.TheMoonstone was the only object that interested him in the smallestdegree.The fameof it seemed to have reached himin some of those perilousIndianplaces where his wanderings had lain.  After looking at itsilentlyfor so long a time that Miss Rachel began to get confusedhe said toher in his cool immovable way"If you ever go to IndiaMissVerinderdon't take your uncle's birthday gift with you.  AHindoodiamond issometimes part of a Hindoo religion.  I know a certain cityand acertain temple in that citywheredressed as you are nowyour lifewould not be worth five minutes' purchase."  Miss Rachelsafe inEnglandwas quite delighted to hear of her danger in India.TheBouncers were more delighted still; they dropped their knivesand forkswith a crashand burst out together vehemently"O!how interesting!"  My lady fidgeted in her chairandchangedthesubject.

As thedinner got onI became awarelittle by littlethat thisfestival was not prospering as other like festivalshadprospered before it.

Lookingback at the birthday nowby the light of what happened afterwardsI am halfinclined to think that the cursed Diamond must have casta blighton the whole company.  I plied them well with wine;and beinga privileged characterfollowed the unpopular dishesround thetableand whispered to the company confidentially"Pleaseto change your mind and try it; for I know it will do you good."Nine timesout of ten they changed their minds--out of regardfor theirold original Betteredgethey were pleased to say--but all tono purpose.  There were gaps of silence in the talkas thedinner got onthat made me feel personally uncomfortable.When theydid use their tongues againthey used them innocentlyin themost unfortunate manner and to the worst possible purpose.Mr. Candythe doctorfor instancesaid more unlucky things than I everknew himto say before.  Take one sample of the way in which he went onand youwill understand what I had to put up with at the sideboardofficiatingas I was in the character of a man who had the prosperityof thefestival at heart.

One of ourladies present at dinner was worthy Mrs. Threadgallwidow ofthe late Professor of that name.  Talking of her deceasedhusbandperpetuallythis good lady never mentioned to strangersthat heWAS deceased.  She thoughtI supposethat everyable-bodiedadult in England ought to know as much as that.In one ofthe gaps of silencesomebody mentioned the dryand rathernasty subject of human anatomy; whereupon goodMrs.Threadgall straightway brought in her late husband as usualwithoutmentioning that he was dead.  Anatomy she describedas theProfessor's favourite recreation in his leisure hours.Asill-luck would have itMr. Candysitting opposite(who knewnothing of the deceased gentleman)heard her.Being themost polite of menhe seized the opportunityofassisting the Professor's anatomical amusements onthe spot.

"Theyhave got some remarkably fine skeletons lately at the CollegeofSurgeons" says Mr. Candyacross the tablein a loud cheerfulvoice."Istrongly recommend the Professorma'amwhen he next has an hour tospareto paythem a visit."

You mighthave heard a pin fall.  The company (out of respectto theProfessor's memory) all sat speechless.  I was behindMrs.Threadgall at the timeplying her confidentially with a glassof hock. She dropped her headand said in a very low voice"Mybeloved husband is no more."

UnluckilyMr. Candyhearing nothingand miles away from suspectingthe truthwent on across the table louder and politer than ever.

 

"TheProfessor may not be aware" says he"that the card of amemberof theCollege will admit himon any day but Sundaybetween the hoursof ten andfour."

Mrs.Threadgall dropped her head right into her tuckerandin a lowervoicestillrepeated the solemn words"My beloved husband is nomore."

I winkedhard at Mr. Candy across the table.  Miss Rachel touched hisarm.My ladylooked unutterable things at him.  Quite useless!  On hewentwith acordiality that there was no stopping anyhow.  "I shall bedelighted"says he"to send the Professor my cardif you will oblige me bymentioninghispresent address."

"Hispresent addresssiris THE GRAVE" says Mrs. Threadgallsuddenlylosing her temperand speaking with an emphasis and furythat madethe glasses ring again.  "The Professor has been deadthese tenyears."

"Ohgood heavens!" says Mr. Candy.  Excepting the Bouncerswho burstout laughingsuch a blank now fell on the companythat theymight all have been going the way of the Professorandhailing as he did from the direction of the grave.

So muchfor Mr. Candy.  The rest of them were nearly asprovokingin their different ways as the doctor himself.When theyought to have spokenthey didn't speak;or whenthey did speak they were perpetually at cross purposes.Mr.Godfreythough so eloquent in publicdeclined to exert himselfinprivate.  Whether he was sulkyor whether he was bashfulafter hisdiscomfiture in the rose-gardenI can't say.He keptall his talk for the private ear of the lady(a memberof our family) who sat next to him.  She wasone of hiscommittee-women--a spiritually-minded personwith afine show of collar-bone and a pretty taste in champagne;liked itdryyou understandand plenty of it.Beingclose behind these two at the sideboardI can testifyfrom whatI heard pass between themthat the company losta gooddeal of very improving conversationwhich I caught upwhiledrawing the corksand carving the muttonand so forth.What theysaid about their Charities I didn't hear.When I hadtime to listen to themthey had got a long way beyondtheirwomen to be confinedand their women to be rescuedand weredisputing on serious subjects.  Religion (I understandMr.Godfrey to saybetween the corks and the carving) meant love.And lovemeant religion.  And earth was heaven a little the worsefor wear. And heaven was earthdone up again to look like new.Earth hadsome very objectionable people in it; butto makeamends forthatall the women in heaven would be members of aprodigiouscommittee that never quarrelledwith all the men inattendanceon them as ministering angels.  Beautiful! beautiful!But whythe mischief did Mr. Godfrey keep it all to his ladyandhimself?

Mr.Franklin again--surelyyou will sayMr. Franklin stirred thecompanyup intomaking a pleasant evening of it?

Nothing ofthe sort!  He had quite recovered himselfand he was inwonderfulforce and spiritsPenelope having informed himI suspectof Mr.Godfrey's reception in the rose-garden. Buttalk as he mightnine timesout of ten he pitched on the wrong subjector he addressedhimself tothe wrong person; the end of it being that he offended someandpuzzled all of them.  That foreign training of his--those Frenchand Germanand Italian sides of himto which I have already alluded--came outat my lady's hospitable boardin a most bewildering manner.

What doyou thinkfor instanceof his discussing the lengthsto which amarried woman might let her admiration go for a manwho wasnot her husbandand putting it in his clear-headed wittyFrench wayto the maiden aunt of the Vicar of Frizinghall?What doyou thinkwhen he shifted to the German sideof histelling the lord of the manorwhile that great authorityon cattlewas quoting his experience in the breeding of bullsthatexperienceproperly understood counted for nothingand thatthe properway to breed bulls was to look deep into your own mindevolve outof it the idea of a perfect bulland produce him?What doyou saywhen our county membergrowing hotat cheeseand saladtimeabout the spread of democracy in Englandburst outas follows:  "If we once lose our ancient safeguardsMr. BlakeI beg to ask youwhat have we got left?"--what do yousay to Mr.Franklin answeringfrom the Italian point of view:"Wehave got three things leftsir--LoveMusicand Salad"?He notonly terrified the company with such outbreaks as thesebutwhenthe English side of him turned up in due coursehe losthis foreign smoothness; andgetting on the subjectof themedical professionsaid such downright things in ridiculeofdoctorsthat he actually put good-humoured little Mr. Candy ina rage.

Thedispute between them began in Mr. Franklin being led--I forget how--toacknowledge that he had latterly slept very badly at night.Mr. Candythereupon told him that his nerves were all out of orderand thathe ought to go through a course of medicine immediately.Mr.Franklin replied that a course of medicineand a course of gropingin thedarkmeantin his estimationone and the same thing.Mr. Candyhitting back smartlysaid that Mr Franklin himself wasconstitutionallyspeakinggroping in the dark after sleepand thatnothing but medicine could help him to find it.Mr.Franklinkeeping the ball up on his sidesaid he had oftenheard ofthe blind leading the blindand nowfor the first timehe knewwhat it meant.  In this waythey kept it going brisklycut andthrusttill they both of them got hot--Mr. Candyinparticularso completely losing his self-controlin defenceof hisprofessionthat my lady was obliged to interfereand forbidthe dispute to go on.  This necessary act of authorityput thelast extinguisher on the spirits of the company.  The talkspurted upagain here and therefor a minute or two at a time;but therewas a miserable lack of life and sparkle in it.  The Devil(or theDiamond) possessed that dinner-party; and it was a relieftoeverybody when my mistress roseand gave the ladies the signalto leavethe gentlemen over their wine.

 

I had justranged the decanters in a row before old Mr. Ablewhite(whorepresented the master of the house)when there camea soundfrom the terrace whichstartled me out of my companymanners onthe instant.  Mr. Franklin and I looked at each other;it was thesound of the Indian drum.  As I live by breadhere werethe jugglers returning to us with the return of theMoonstoneto the house!

As theyrounded the corner of the terraceand camein sightI hobbled out to warn them off.  Butas ill--luck wouldhave itthe two Bouncers were beforehand with me.Theywhizzed out on to the terrace like a couple of skyrocketswild tosee the Indians exhibit their tricks.  The otherladiesfollowed; the gentlemen came out on their side.Before youcould say"Lord bless us!" the rogues were makingtheirsalaams; and the Bouncers were kissing the prettylittleboy.

Mr.Franklin got on one side of Miss Racheland I put myself behind her.If oursuspicions were rightthere she stoodinnocent of all knowledge ofthe truthshowing the Indians the Diamond in the bosom of her dress!

I can'ttell you what tricks they performedor how they did it.What withthe vexation about the dinnerand what with theprovocationof the rogues coming back just in the nick of timeto see thejewel with their own eyesI own I lost my head.The firstthing that I remember noticing was the suddenappearanceon the scene of the Indian travellerMr. Murthwaite.Skirtingthe half-circle in which the gentlefolks stood or sathe camequietly behind the jugglers and spoke to them on a sudden inthelanguage of their own country.

If he hadpricked them with a bayonetI doubt if the Indians could havestartedand turned on him with a more tigerish quickness than they didon hearingthe first words that passed his lips.  The next moment theywerebowing and salaaming to him in their most polite and snaky way.After afew words in the unknown tongue had passed on either sideMr.Murthwaite withdrew as quietly as he had approached.The chiefIndianwho acted as interpreterthereupon wheeled about againtowardsthe gentlefolks.  I noticed that the fellow's coffee-colouredface hadturned grey since Mr. Murthwaite had spoken to him.He bowedto my ladyand informed her that the exhibition was over.TheBouncersindescribably disappointedburst out with a loud"O!"directed against Mr. Murthwaite for stopping the performance.The chiefIndian laid his hand humbly on his breastand said a secondtime thatthe juggling was over.  The little boy went round with the hat.The ladieswithdrew to the drawing--room; and the gentlemen(exceptingMr. Franklin and Mr. Murthwaite) returned to their wine.I and thefootman followed the Indiansand saw them safe offthepremises.

Going backby way of the shrubberyI smelt tobaccoand foundMr.Franklin and Mr. Murthwaite (the latter smoking a cheroot)walkingslowly up and down among the trees.  Mr. Franklin beckonedto me tojoin them.

"This"says Mr. Franklinpresenting me to the great traveller"isGabriel Betteredgethe old servant and friend of our familyof whom Ispoke to you just now.  Tell himif you pleasewhat youhave justtold me."

Mr.Murthwaite took his cheroot out of his mouthand leanedin hisweary wayagainst the trunk of a tree.

"Mr.Betteredge" he began"those three Indians are no morejugglersthan youand I are."

Here was anew surprise!  I naturally asked the traveller if he had evermetwith theIndians before.

"Never"says Mr. Murthwaite; "but I know what Indianjugglingreally is.  All you have seen to-night is a very badand clumsyimitation of it.  Unlessafter long experienceI amutterly mistakenthose men are high-caste Brahmins.I chargedthem with being disguisedand you saw how it told on themclever asthe Hindoo people are in concealing their feelings.There is amystery about their conduct that I can't explain.They havedoubly sacrificed their caste--firstin crossingthe sea;secondlyin disguising themselves as jugglers.In theland they live in that is a tremendous sacrifice to make.There mustbe some very serious motive at the bottom of itand somejustification of no ordinary kind to plead for theminrecovery of their castewhen they return to their owncountry."

I wasstruck dumb.  Mr. Murthwaite went on with his cheroot.Mr.Franklinafter what looked to me like a little privateveeringabout between the different sides of his characterbroke thesilence as follows:

"Ifeel some hesitationMr. Murthwaitein troubling you with familymattersin whichyou can have no interest and which I am not very willingto speakof out of our own circle.  Butafter what you have saidI feelboundin the interests of Lady Verinder and her daughterto tellyou something which may possibly put the clue into your hands.I speak toyou in confidence; you will oblige meI am sureby notforgettingthat?"

With thisprefacehe told the Indian traveller all that he hadtold me atthe Shivering Sand.  Even the immovable Mr. Murthwaitewas sointerested in what he heardthat he let his cheroot go out.

"Now"says Mr. Franklinwhen he had done"what does your experiencesay?"

"Myexperience" answered the traveller"says that you havehad morenarrowescapes of your lifeMr. Franklin Blakethan I have had of mine;and thatis saying a great deal."

It was Mr.Franklin's turn to be astonished now.

"Isit really as serious as that?" he asked.

"Inmy opinion it is" answered Mr. Murthwaite.  "I can'tdoubtafter whatyou have told methat the restoration of the Moonstoneto itsplace on the forehead of the Indian idolis the motive and thejustificationof that sacrifice of caste which I alluded to just now.Those menwill wait their opportunity with the patience of catsand willuse it with the ferocity of tigers.  How you have escapedthem Ican't imagine" says the eminent travellerlighting hischerootagainand staring hard at Mr. Franklin.  "You have beencarryingthe Diamond backwards and forwardshere and in Londonand youare still a living man!  Let us try and account for it.It wasdaylightboth timesI supposewhen you took the jewel out ofthe bankin London?"

"Broaddaylight" says Mr. Franklin.

"Andplenty of people in the streets?"

"Plenty."

"Yousettledof courseto arrive at Lady Verinder's house at acertaintime?  It's a lonely country between this and the station.Did youkeep your appointment?"

"No.I arrived four hours earlier than my appointment."

"Ibeg to congratulate you on that proceeding!  When did you taketheDiamond to the bank at the town here?"

"Itook it an hour after I had brought it to this house--and threehours before anybody was prepared for seeing me intheseparts."

"Ibeg to congratulate you again!  Did you bring it back herealone?"

"No.I happened to ride back with my cousins and the groom."

"Ibeg to congratulate you for the third time!  If you everfeelinclined to travel beyond the civilised limitsMr. Blakelet meknowand I will go with you.  You are a lucky man."

Here Istruck in.  This sort of thing didn't at all squarewith myEnglish ideas.

"Youdon't really mean to saysir" I asked"that theywould havetaken Mr. Franklin's lifeto get their Diamondif he hadgiven them the chance?"

"Doyou smokeMr. Betteredge?" says the traveller.

"Yessir.
"Doyou care much for the ashes left in your pipe when you empty it?"

"Nosir."

"Inthe country those men came fromthey care just as much aboutkilling amanas you care about emptying the ashes out of your pipe.If athousand lives stood between them and the getting back of theirDiamond--and ifthey thought they could destroy those lives without discovery--they wouldtake them all.  The sacrifice of caste is a serious thing inIndiaif youlike.  The sacrifice of life is nothing at all."

Iexpressed my opinion upon thisthat they were a set of murderingthieves.Mr.Murthwaite expressed HIS opinion that they were a wonderful people.Mr.Franklinexpressing no opinion at allbrought us back to the matterin hand.

"Theyhave seen the Moonstone on Miss Verinder's dress" he said."Whatis to be done?"

"Whatyour uncle threatened to do" answered Mr. Murthwaite."ColonelHerncastle understood the people he had to deal with.Send theDiamond to-morrow (under guard of more than one man) to be cutup atAmsterdam.  Make half a dozen diamonds of itinstead of one.There isan end of its sacred identity as The Moonstone--and there is anend of theconspiracy."

Mr.Franklin turned to me.

"Thereis no help for it" he said.  "We must speak to LadyVerinderto-morrow."

"Whatabout to-nightsir?"  I asked.  "Suppose theIndians come back?"

Mr.Murthwaite answered me before Mr. Franklin could speak.

"TheIndians won't risk coming back to-night" he said."Thedirect way is hardly ever the way they take to anything--let alonea matter like thisin which the slightest mistakemight befatal to their reaching their end."

"Butsuppose the rogues are bolder than you thinksir?"  Ipersisted.

"Inthat case" says Mr. Murthwaite"let the dogs loose.Have yougot any big dogs in the yard?"

"Twosir.  A mastiff and a bloodhound."

"Theywill do.  In the present emergencyMr. Betteredgethemastiff and the bloodhound have one great merit--they arenot likely to be troubled with your scruples aboutthesanctity of human life."

Thestrumming of the piano reached us from the drawing-roomas hefired that shot at me.  He threw away his cherootand tookMr. Franklin's armto go back to the ladies.I noticedthat the sky was clouding over fastas I followed themto thehouse.  Mr. Murthwaite noticed it too.  He looked roundat meinhis drydroning wayand said:

"TheIndians will want their umbrellasMr. Betteredgeto-night!"

It was allvery well for HIM to joke.  But I was not an eminent traveller--and my wayin this world had not led me into playing ducks and drakes with myown lifeamong thieves and murderers in the outlandish places of the earth.I wentinto my own little roomand sat down in my chair in a perspirationandwondered helplessly what was to be done next.  In this anxiousframeof mindother men might have ended by working themselves up into a fever;I ended ina different way.  I lit my pipeand took a turn atROBINSONCRUSOE.

Before Ihad been at it five minutesI came to this amazing bit--page onehundred and sixty-one--as follows:

"Fearof Danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than Danger itselfwhenapparent to the Eyes; and we find the Burthen of Anxiety greaterby muchthan the Evil which we are anxious about."

The manwho doesn't believe in ROBINSON CRUSOEafter THATis a manwith a screw loose in his understandingor a manlost inthe mist of his own self-conceit! Argument is thrownaway uponhim; and pity is better reserved for some personwith alivelier faith.

I was faron with my second pipeand still lost in admiration of thatwonderfulbookwhen Penelope (who had been handing round the tea)came inwith her report from the drawing-room. She had left the Bouncerssinging aduet-words beginning with a large "O" and music tocorrespond.She hadobserved that my lady made mistakes in her game of whistfor thefirst time in our experience of her.  She had seen the greattravellerasleep in a corner.  She had overheard Mr. Franklin sharpeninghis witson Mr. Godfreyat the expense of Ladies' Charities in general;and shehad noticed that Mr. Godfrey hit him back again rather more smartlythanbecame a gentleman of his benevolent character.  She haddetectedMissRachelapparently engaged in appeasing Mrs. Threadgall by showingher somephotographsand really occupied in stealing looks at Mr. Franklinwhich nointelligent lady's maid could misinterpret for a single instant.Finallyshe had missed Mr. Candythe doctorwho had mysteriouslydisappearedfrom the drawing-roomand had then mysteriously returnedandentered into conversation with Mr. Godfrey.  Upon the wholethingswere prospering better than the experience of the dinner gaveus anyright to expect.  If we could only hold on for another hourold FatherTime would bring up their carriagesand relieve us ofthemaltogether.

Everythingwears off in this world; and even the comfortingeffect ofROBINSON CRUSOE wore offafter Penelope left me.I gotfidgety againand resolved on making a survey of thegroundsbefore the rain came.  Instead of taking the footmanwhose nosewas humanand therefore useless in any emergencyI took thebloodhound with me.  HIS nose for a strangerwas to bedepended on.  We went all round the premisesand outinto the road--and returned as wise as we wenthavingdiscovered no such thing as a lurking humancreatureanywhere.

Thearrival of the carriages was the signal for the arrival of the rain.It pouredas if it meant to pour all night.  With the exception of thedoctorwhose gigwas waiting for himthe rest of the company went home snuglyundercoverin close carriages.  I told Mr. Candy that I was afraidhe wouldget wetthrough.  He told mein returnthat he wondered I had arrivedat my timeof lifewithout knowing that a doctor's skin was waterproof.So hedrove away in the rainlaughing over his own little joke; and so wegotrid of ourdinner company.

The nextthing to tell is the story of the night.

 

CHAPTER XI

When thelast of the guests had driven awayI went back intothe innerhall and found Samuel at the side-tablepresidingover thebrandy and soda-water. My lady and Miss Rachel cameout of thedrawing-roomfollowed by the two gentlemen.Mr.Godfrey had some brandy and soda-waterMr. Franklintooknothing.  He sat downlooking dead tired; the talkingon thisbirthday occasion hadI supposebeen too muchfor him.

My ladyturning round to wish them good-nightlooked hardat thewicked Colonel's legacy shining in her daughter's dress.

"Rachel"she asked"where are you going to put your Diamond to-night?"

MissRachel was in high good spiritsjust in that humourfortalking nonsenseand perversely persisting in it as if itwas sensewhich you may sometimes have observed in young girlswhen theyare highly wrought upat the end of an exciting day.Firstshedeclared she didn't know where to put the Diamond.Then shesaid"on her dressing-tableof coursealong withher otherthings."  Then she remembered that the Diamondmight taketo shining of itselfwith its awful moony lightin thedark--and that would terrify her in the dead of night.Then shebethought herself of an Indian cabinet which stoodin hersitting-room; and instantly made up her mind to putthe Indiandiamond in the Indian cabinetfor the purpose ofpermittingtwo beautiful native productions to admire each other.Having lether little flow of nonsense run on as far as that pointher motherinterposed and stopped her.

"Mydear! your Indian cabinet has no lock to it" says my lady.

"GoodHeavensmamma!" cried Miss Rachel"is this an hotel?Are therethieves in the house?"

Withouttaking notice of this fantastic way of talkingmy ladywished thegentlemen good-night. She next turned to Miss Racheland kissedher.  "Why not let ME keep the Diamond for you to-night?"she asked.

MissRachel received that proposal as she mightten years sincehavereceived a proposal to part her from a new doll.My ladysaw there was no reasoning with her that night."Comeinto my roomRachelthe first thing to-morrow morning"she said. "I shall have something to say to you."  With thoselast wordsshe left us slowly; thinking her own thoughtsandto allappearancenot best pleased with the way by which they wereleadingher.

MissRachel was the next to say good-night. She shook hands firstwith Mr.Godfreywho was standing at the other end of the halllooking ata picture.  Then she turned back to Mr. Franklinstillsitting weary and silent in a corner.

What wordspassed between them I can't say.  But standing near the oldoak framewhich holds our large looking-glassI saw her reflectedin itslyly slipping the locket which Mr. Franklin had given to herout of thebosom of her dressand showing it to him for a momentwith asmile which certainly meant something out of the commonbefore shetripped off to bed.  This incident staggered me a littlein thereliance I had previously felt on my own judgment.  I beganto thinkthat Penelope might be right about the state of her younglady'saffectionsafter all.

As soon asMiss Rachel left him eyes to see withMr. Franklin noticed me.Hisvariable humourshifting about everythinghad shifted about theIndiansalready.

"Betteredge"he said"I'm half inclined to think I took Mr. Murthwaitetooseriouslywhen we had that talk in the shrubbery.  I wonderwhetherhe hasbeen trying any of his traveller's tales on us?  Do you reallymeanto let thedogs loose?"

"I'llrelieve them of their collarssir" I answered"and leavethem freeto take a turn in the nightif they smell a reason for it."

"Allright" says Mr. Franklin.  "We'll see what is to bedone to-morrow. Iam not atall disposed to alarm my auntBetteredgewithout a very pressingreason forit.  Good-night."

He lookedso worn and pale as he nodded to meand took hiscandle togo up-stairsthat I ventured to advise his havinga drop ofbrandy-and-waterby way of night-cap. Mr. Godfreywalkingtowards us from the other end of the hallbacked me.He pressedMr. Franklinin the friendliest mannerto take somethingbefore hewent to bed.

I onlynote these trifling circumstancesbecauseafter allI had seenand heardthat dayit pleased me to observethat ourtwo gentlemen were on just as good terms as ever.Theirwarfare of words (heard by Penelope in the drawing-room)and theirrivalry for the best place in Miss Rachel's good gracesseemed tohave set no serious difference between them.But there!they were both good-temperedand both men of the world.And thereis certainly this merit in people of stationthat theyare notnearly so quarrelsome among each other as people of nostation atall.

Mr.Franklin declined the brandy-and-waterand went up-stairswith Mr.Godfreytheir rooms being next door to each other.On thelandinghowevereither his cousin persuaded himor heveered about and changed his mind as usual."PerhapsI may want it in the night" he called down to me."Sendup some brandy-and-water into my room."

I sent upSamuel with the brandy-and-water; and then went outandunbuckled the dogs' collars.  They both lost their headswithastonishment on being set loose at that time of nightand jumpedupon me like a couple of puppies!  Howeverthe rainsooncooled them down again:  they lapped a drop of water eachand creptback into their kennels.  As I went into the house Inoticedsigns in the sky which betokened a break in the weatherfor thebetter.  For the presentit still poured heavilyand theground was in a perfect sop.

Samuel andI went all over the houseand shut up as usual.I examinedeverything myselfand trusted nothing to my deputyon thisoccasion.  All was safe and fast when I rested my old bonesin bedbetween midnight and one in the morning.
Theworries of the day had been a little too much for meI suppose.At anyrateI had a touch of Mr. Franklin's malady that night.It wassunrise before I fell off at last into a sleep.All thetime I lay awake the house was as quiet as the grave.Not asound stirred but the splash of the rainand the sighingof thewind among the trees as a breeze sprang up withthemorning.

 

Abouthalf-past seven I wokeand opened my window on a fine sunshiny day.The clockhad struck eightand I was just going out to chain up the dogsagainwhen I heard a sudden whisking of petticoats on the stairs behind me.

I turnedaboutand there was Penelope flying down after me like mad."Father!"she screamed"come up-stairsfor God's sake!  THE DIAMONDIS GONE!" "Are you out of your mind?  "I asked her.

"Gone!"says Penelope.  "Gonenobody knows how!  Come up andsee."

Shedragged me after her into our young lady's sitting-roomwhich openedintoherbedroom.  Thereon the threshold of her bedroom doorstoodMiss Rachelalmost aswhite in the face as the white dressinggown that clothed her.There alsostood the two doors of the Indian cabinetwide open.  Oneofthedrawersinside was pulled out as far as it would go.

"Look!"says Penelope.  "I myself saw Miss Rachel put the Diamondinto thatdrawer last night."  I went to the cabinet.  Thedrawerwas empty.

"Isthis truemiss?"  I asked.

With alook that was not like herselfwith a voice that was not like herownMissRachel answered as my daughter had answered:  "The Diamondis gone!"Havingsaid those wordsshe withdrew into her bedroomand shut and lockedthe door.

Before weknew which way to turn nextmy lady came inhearing myvoice inher daughter's sittingroomand wondering what had happened.The newsof the loss of the Diamond seemed to petrify her.  She wentstraightto Miss Rachel's bedroomand insisted on being admitted.MissRachel let here in.

The alarmrunning through the house like firecaught the two gentlemen next.

Mr.Godfrey was the first to come out of his room.All he didwhen he heard what had happened was to hold uphis handsin a state of bewildermentwhich didn't say muchfor hisnatural strength of mind.  Mr. Franklinwhose clearhead I hadconfidently counted on to advise usseemed to beashelpless as his cousin when he heard the news in his turn.For awonderhe had had a good night's rest at last;and theunaccustomed luxury of sleep hadas he said himselfapparentlystupefied him.  Howeverwhen he had swallowedhis cup ofcoffee--which he always tookon the foreign plansome hoursbefore he ate any breakfast--his brains brightened;theclear-headed side of him turned upand he took the matterin handresolutely and cleverlymuch as follows:

He firstsent for the servantsand told them to leave all the lower doorsandwindows (with the exception of the front doorwhich I had opened)exactly asthey had been left when we locked up over night.  He nextproposedto hiscousin and to me to make quite surebefore we took any furtherstepsthat theDiamond had not accidentally dropped somewhere out of sight--say atthe backof the cabinetor down behind the table on which the cabinet stood.Havingsearched in both placesand found nothing--having also questionedPenelopeand discovered from her no more than the little she had alreadytoldme--Mr. Franklin suggested next extending our inquiries to MissRacheland sentPenelope to knock at her bed-room door.

My ladyanswered the knockand closed the door behind her.The momentafter we heard it locked inside by Miss Rachel.Mymistress came out among uslooking sorely puzzledanddistressed.  "The loss of the Diamond seems to have quiteoverwhelmedRachel" she saidin reply to Mr. Franklin."Sheshrinksin the strangest mannerfrom speaking of iteven toME.  It is impossible you can see her for the present."Havingadded to our perplexities by this account of Miss Rachelmy ladyafter a little effortrecovered her usual composureand actedwith her usual decision.

"Isuppose there is no help for it?" she saidquietly.  "Isuppose Ihave noalternative but to send for the police?"

"Andthe first thing for the police to do" added Mr. Franklincatchingher up"is to lay hands on the Indian jugglerswhoperformed here last night."

My ladyand Mr. Godfrey (not knowing what Mr. Franklin and I knew)bothstartedand both looked surprised.

"Ican't stop to explain myself now" Mr. Franklin went on."Ican only tell you that the Indians have certainly stolentheDiamond.  Give me a letter of introduction" says headdressingmy lady"to one of the magistrates at Frizinghall--merelytelling him that I represent your interests and wishesand let meride off with it instantly.  Our chance of catchingthethieves may depend on our not wasting one unnecessary minute."(Notabene:  Whether it was the French side or the Englishthe rightside of Mr. Franklin seemed to be uppermost now.  The onlyquestionwasHow long would it last?)

He putpeninkand paper before his auntwho (as it appeared to me)wrote theletter he wanted a little unwillingly.  If it had been possibletooverlook such an event as the loss of a jewel worth twenty thousandpoundsIbelieve--with my lady's opinion of her late brotherand her distrustof hisbirthday-gift--it would have been privately a relief to her to letthethieves get off with the Moonstone scot free.

I went outwith Mr. Franklin to the stablesand took the opportunityof askinghim how the Indians (whom I suspectedof courseas shrewdlyas he did)could possibly have got into the house.

"Oneof them might have slipped into the hallin the confusionwhen thedinner company were going away" says Mr. Franklin."Thefellow may have been under the sofa while my aunt and Rachelweretalking about where the Diamond was to be put for the night.He wouldonly have to wait till the house was quietand thereit wouldbe in the cabinetto be had for the taking."With thosewordshe called to the groom to open the gateandgalloped off.

Thisseemed certainly to be the only rational explanation.But howhad the thief contrived to make his escape from the house?I hadfound the front door locked and boltedas I had leftit atnightwhen I went to open itafter getting up.As for theother doors and windowsthere they were stillall safeand fastto speak for themselves.  The dogstoo?Supposethe thief had got away by dropping from one of theupperwindowshow had he escaped the dogs?  Had he come providedfor themwith drugged meat?  As the doubt crossed my mindthe dogsthemselves came galloping at me round a cornerrolling eachother overon the wet grassin such lively health and spiritsthat itwas with no small difficulty I brought them to reasonandchained them up again.  The more I turned it over in my mindthe lesssatisfactory Mr. Franklin's explanation appearedto be.

We had ourbreakfasts--whatever happens in a houserobbery or murderit doesn'tmatteryou must have your breakfast.  When we had donemy ladysent for me; and I found myself compelled to tell her all that Ihadhitherto concealedrelating to the Indians and their plot.Being awoman of a high courageshe soon got over the first startling effectof what Ihad to communicate.  Her mind seemed to be far more perturbedabout herdaughter than about the heathen rogues and their conspiracy."Youknow how odd Rachel isand how differently she behaves sometimesfrom othergirls" my lady said to me.  "But I have neverin allmyexperienceseen her so strange and so reserved as she is now.The lossof her jewel seems almost to have turned her brain.  Who wouldhavethoughtthat horrible Diamond could have laid such a hold on her in so shorta time?"

It wascertainly strange.  Taking toys and trinkets in generalMissRachel was nothing like so mad after them as most young girls.Yet thereshe wasstill locked up inconsolably in her bedroom.It is butfair to add that she was not the only one of us in the housewho wasthrown out of the regular groove.  Mr. Godfreyfor instance--thoughprofessionally a sort of consoler-general--seemed to be ata losswhere to look for his own resources.  Having no companyto amusehimand getting no chance of trying what his experienceof womenin distress could do towards comforting Miss Rachelhewandered hither and thither about the house and gardens in anaimlessuneasy way.  He was in two different minds about what itbecame himto doafter the misfortune that had happened to us.Ought heto relieve the familyin their present situationof theresponsibility of him as a guestor ought he to stay onthe chancethat even his humble services might be of some use?He decidedultimately that the last course was perhaps the mostcustomaryand considerate course to takein such a very peculiarcase offamily distress as this was.  Circumstances try the metala man isreally made of.  Mr. Godfreytried by circumstancesshowedhimself of weaker metal than I had thought him to be.As for thewomen-servants excepting Rosanna Spearmanwho kept by herself--they tookto whispering together in cornersand staring at nothingsuspiciouslyas is the manner of that weaker half of the human familywhenanything extraordinary happens in a house.  I myself acknowledgeto havebeen fidgety and ill-tempered. The cursed Moonstone hadturned usall upside down.

A littlebefore eleven Mr. Franklin came back.  The resoluteside ofhim hadto all appearancegiven wayin the intervalsince hisdepartureunder the stress that had been laid on it.He hadleft us at a gallop; he came back to us at a walk.When hewent awayhe was made of iron.  When he returnedhe wasstuffedwith cottonas 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.SuperintendentSeegraveof your local police forceand two of his men.A mereform!  The case is hopeless."

"What!have the Indians escapedsir?"  I asked.

"Thepoor ill-used Indians have been most unjustly put in prison"says Mr.Franklin.  "They are as innocent as the babe unborn.My ideathat one of them was hidden in the house has endedlike allthe rest of my ideasin smoke.  It's been proved"says Mr.Franklindwelling with great relish on his own incapacity"tobe simply impossible."

Afterastonishing us by announcing this totally new turn in the matterof theMoonstoneour young gentlemanat his aunt's requesttook a seatandexplained himself.

Itappeared that the resolute side of him had held out as farasFrizinghall.  He had put the whole case plainly beforethemagistrateand the magistrate had at once sent for the police.The firstinquiries instituted about the Indians showedthat theyhad not so much as attempted to leave the town.Furtherquestions addressed to the policeproved that allthree hadbeen seen returning to Frizinghall with their boyon theprevious night between ten and eleven--which (regard beinghad tohours and distances) also proved that they hadwalkedstraight back after performing on our terrace.Laterstillat midnightthe policehaving occasion to searchthe commonlodging-house where they livedhad seen themall threeagainand their little boy with themas usual.Soon aftermidnight I myself had safely shut up the house.Plainerevidence than thisin favour of the Indianstherecould not well be.  The magistrate said there was noteven acase of suspicion against them so far.  Butas it wasjustpossiblewhen the police came to investigate the matterthatdiscoveries affecting the jugglers might be madehe wouldcontriveby committing them as rogues and vagabondsto keepthem at our disposalunder lock and keyfor a week.They hadignorantly done something (I forget what) in the townwhichbarely brought them within the operation of the law.Everyhuman institution (justice included) will stretcha littleif you only pull it the right way.  The worthymagistratewas an old friend of my lady'sand the Indianswere"committed" for a weekas soon as the court opened thatmorning.

Such wasMr. Franklin's narrative of events at Frizinghall.The Indianclue to the mystery of the lost jewel was nowto allappearancea clue that had broken in our hands.If thejugglers were innocentwhoin the name of wonderhad takentheMoonstone out of Miss Rachel's drawer?

Tenminutes laterto our infinite relief; Superintendent Seegravearrived atthe house.  He reported passing Mr. Franklin on the terracesitting inthe sun (I suppose with the Italian side of him uppermost)andwarning the policeas they went bythat the investigation washopelessbefore theinvestigation had begun.

For afamily in our situationthe Superintendent of the Frizinghallpolice wasthe most comforting officer you could wish to see.Mr.Seegrave was tall and portlyand military in his manners.He had afine commanding voiceand a mighty resolute eyeand a grandfrock-coatwhich buttoned beautifully up to his leather stock."I'mthe man you want!" was written all over his face; and he orderedhis twoinferior police men about with a severity which convinced us allthat therewas no trifling with HIM.

He beganby going round the premisesoutside and in;the resultof that investigation proving to him that no thieveshad brokenin upon us from outsideand that the robberyconsequentlymust have been committed by some person in the house.I leaveyou to imagine the state the servants were in when thisofficialannouncement first reached their ears.  The Superintendentdecided tobegin by examining the boudoirandthat doneto examinethe servants next.  At the same timehe postedone of hismen on the staircase which led to the servants'bedroomswith instructions to let nobody in the house pass himtillfurther orders.

At thislatter proceedingthe weaker half of the human family wentdistractedon thespot.  They bounced out of their comerswhisked up-stairs in abodyto MissRachel's room (Rosanna Spearman being carried away among them thistime)burst in on Superintendent Seegraveandall looking equally guiltysummonedhim to say which of them he suspectedat once.

Mr.Superintendent proved equal to the occasion; he looked at themwith hisresolute eyeand he cowed them with his military voice.

"Nowthenyou womengo down-stairs againevery one of you;I won'thave you here.  Look!" says Mr. Superintendentsuddenlypointing to a little smear of the decorative paintingon MissRachel's doorat the outer edgejust under the lock."Lookwhat mischief the petticoats of some of you have done already.Clear out!clear out!"  Rosanna Spearmanwho was nearest to himandnearest to the little smear on the doorset the exampleofobedienceand slipped off instantly to her work.  The restfollowedher out.  The Superintendent finished his examinationof theroomandmaking nothing of itasked me who had firstdiscoveredthe robbery.  My daughter had first discovered it.Mydaughter was sent for.

Mr.Superintendent proved to be a little too sharp withPenelopeat starting.  "Nowyoung womanattend to meand mindyou speak the truth."  Penelope fired up instantly."I'venever been taught to tell lies Mr. Policeman!--and iffather can stand there and hear me accused of falsehoodandthievingand my own bed-room shut against meand mycharactertaken awaywhich is all a poor girl has lefthe's notthe good father I take him for!"  A timely word from meputJustice and Penelope on a pleasanter footing together.Thequestions and answers went swimminglyand ended in nothingworthmentioning.  My daughter had seen Miss Rachel puttheDiamond in the drawer of the cabinet the last thing at night.She hadgone in with Miss Rachel's cup of tea at eightthe nextmorningand had found the drawer open and empty.Upon thatshe had alarmed the house--and there was an end ofPenelope'sevidence.

Mr.Superintendent next asked to see Miss Rachel herself.Penelopementioned his request through the door.  The answer reachedus by thesame road:  "I have nothing to tell the policeman--I can'tsee anybody."  Our experienced officer lookedequallysurprised and offended when he heard that reply.I told himmy young lady was illand begged him to waita littleand see her later.  We thereupon went downstairs againand weremet by Mr. Godfrey and Mr. Franklin crossingthe hall.

The twogentlemenbeing inmates of the housewere summoned to say if theycouldthrow any light on the matter.  Neither of them knew anythingabout it.Had theyheard any suspicious noises during the previous night?  They hadheardnothing but the pattering of the rain.  Had Ilying awakelonger thaneither ofthemheard nothing either?  Nothing!  Released fromexaminationMr.Franklinstill sticking to the helpless view of our difficultywhisperedto me: "That man will be of no earthly use to us.  SuperintendentSeegraveis anass."  Released in his turnMr. Godfrey whispered tome--"Evidentlya mostcompetent person.  BetteredgeI have the greatest faith inhim!"Many menmany opinionsas one of the ancients saidbefore my time.

Mr.Superintendent's next proceeding took him back to the "boudoir"againwith mydaughter and me at his heels.  His object was to discoverwhether anyof thefurniture had been movedduring the nightout of its customaryplace--hisprevious investigation in the room havingapparentlynot gone quitefarenough tosatisfy his mind on this point.

While wewere still poking about among the chairs and tablesthe doorof the bed-room was suddenly opened.  After havingdeniedherself to everybodyMiss Rachelto our astonishmentwalkedinto the midst of us of her own accord.  She took upher gardenhat from a chairand then went straight to Penelopewith thisquestion:-

"Mr.Franklin Blake sent you with a message to me this morning?"

"Yesmiss."

"Hewished to speak to medidn't he?"

"Yesmiss."

"Whereis he now?"

Hearingvoices on the terrace belowI looked out of windowand sawthe two gentlemen walking up and down together.Answeringfor my daughterI said"Mr. Franklin is ontheterracemiss."

Withoutanother wordwithout heeding Mr. Superintendentwho triedto speak to herpale as deathand wrapped upstrangelyin her own thoughtsshe left the roomand wentdown toher cousins on the terrace.

It showeda want of due respectit showed a breach of good mannerson mypartbutfor the life of meI couldn't help lookingout ofwindow when Miss Rachel met the gentlemen outside.She wentup to Mr. Franklin without appearing to noticeMr.Godfreywho thereupon drew back and left them by themselves.What shesaid to Mr. Franklin appeared to be spoken vehemently.It lastedbut for a short timeandjudging by what I sawof hisface from the windowseemed to astonish him beyondall powerof expression.  While they were still togethermy ladyappeared on the terrace.  Miss Rachel saw her--said a fewlast words to Mr. Franklin--and suddenly went backinto thehouse againbefore her mother came up with her.My ladysurprised herselfand noticing Mr. Franklin's surprisespoke tohim.  Mr. Godfrey joined themand spoke also.Mr.Franklin walked away a little between the twotelling themwhat hadhappened I supposefor they both stopped shortaftertaking a few stepslike persons struck with amazement.I had justseen as much as thiswhen the door of the sitting-roomwas openedviolently.  Miss Rachel walked swiftly through to herbed-roomwild and angrywith fierce eyes and flaming cheeks.Mr.Superintendent once more attempted to question her.She turnedround on him at her bed-room door."Ihave not sent for you!" she cried out vehemently."Idon't want you.  My Diamond is lost.  Neither you noranybodyelse will ever find it!  With those words she went inand lockedthe door in our faces.  Penelopestanding nearestto itheard her burst out crying the moment she was aloneagain.

In a rageone moment; in tearsthe next!  What did it mean?

I told theSuperintendent it meant that Miss Rachel's temper was upsetby theloss of her jewel.  Being anxious for the honour of the familyitdistressed me to see my young lady forget herself--even withapolice-officer--and I made the best excuse I couldaccordingly.In my ownprivate mind I was more puzzled by Miss Rachel's extraordinarylanguageand conduct than words can tell.  Taking what she had said atherbed-roomdoor as a guide to guess byI could only conclude that she wasmortallyoffended by our sending for the policeand that Mr. Franklin'sastonishmenton the terrace was caused by her having expressed herselfto him (asthe person chiefly instrumental in fetching the police)to thateffect.  If this guess was rightwhy--having lost her Diamond--should sheobject to the presence in the house of the very people whosebusinessit was to recover it for her?  And howin Heaven's namecould SHEknow that the Moonstone would never be found again?

As thingsstoodat presentno answer to those questions was to behoped forfrom anybody in the house.  Mr. Franklin appeared to thinkit a pointof honour to forbear repeating to a servant--even to so olda servantas I was--what Miss Rachel had said to him on the terrace.Mr.Godfreywhoas a gentleman and a relativehad been probablyadmittedinto Mr. Franklin's confidencerespected that confidenceas he wasbound to do.  My ladywho was also in the secret no doubtand whoalone had access to Miss Rachelowned openly that she couldmakenothing of her.  "You madden me when you talk of theDiamond!"All hermother's influence failed to extract from her a word morethan that.

Here wewerethenat a dead-lock about Miss Rachel--and at adead-lock about the Moonstone.  In the first casemy ladywas powerless to help us.  In the second (as you shallpresentlyjudge)Mr. Seegrave was fast approaching the conditionof asuperintendent at his wits' end.

Havingferreted about all over the "boudoir" without makinganydiscoveries among the furnitureour experienced officerapplied tome to knowwhether the servants in general wereor werenot acquainted with the place in which the Diamondhad beenput for the night.

"Iknew where it was putsir" I said"to begin with.Samuelthe footmanknew also--for he was present in the hallwhen theywere talking about where the Diamond was to be keptthatnight.  My daughter knewas she has already told you.She orSamuel may have mentioned the thing to the other servants--or theother servants may have heard the talk for themselvesthroughthe side-door of the hallwhich might havebeen opento the back staircase.  For all I can telleverybodyin the house may have known where the jewel waslastnight."

My answerpresenting rather a wide field for Mr. Superintendent'ssuspicionsto range overhe tried to narrow it by asking abouttheservants' characters next.

I thoughtdirectly of Rosanna Spearman.  But it was neithermy placenor my wish to direct suspicion against a poor girlwhosehonesty had been above all doubt as long as I had known her.The matronat the Reformatory had reported her to my ladyas asincerely penitent and thoroughly trustworthy girl.It was theSuperintendent's business to discover reason forsuspectingher first--and thenand not till thenit wouldbe my dutyto tell him how she came into my lady's service."Allour people have excellent characters" I said.  "Andallhavedeserved the trust their mistress has placed in them."Afterthatthere was but one thing left for Mr. Seegravetodo--namelyto set to workand tackle the servants'charactershimself.

One afteranotherthey were examined.  One after anotherthey provedto havenothing to say--and said it (so far as the women were concerned)at greatlengthand with a very angry sense of the embargo laid on theirbed-rooms.The rest of them being sent back to their places downstairsPenelopewas then summonedand examined separately a second time.

Mydaughter's little outbreak of temper in the "boudoir"and herreadiness to think herself suspectedappeared to haveproducedan unfavourable impression on Superintendent Seegrave.It seemedalso to dwell a little on his mindthat shehad beenthe last person who saw the Diamond at night.When thesecond questioning was overmy girl came backto me in afrenzy.  There was no doubt of it any longer--thepolice-officer had almost as good as told her she was the thief!I couldscarcely believe him (taking Mr. Franklin's view)to bequite such an ass as that.  Butthough he said nothingthe eyewith which he looked at my daughter was not a very pleasanteye tosee.  I laughed it off with poor Penelopeas somethingtooridiculous to be treated seriously--which it certainly was.SecretlyI am afraid I was foolish enough to be angry too.It was alittle trying--it wasindeed.  My girl sat down in a cornerwith herapron over her headquite broken-hearted. Foolishof heryou will say.  she might have waited till he openlyaccusedher.  Wellbeing a man of just an equal temperI admitthat.  Still Mr. Superintendent might have remembered--never mindwhat he might have remembered.  The deviltake him!

The nextand last step in the investigation brought mattersas they sayto acrisis.  The officer had an interview (at which I was present)with mylady.  After informing her that the Diamond must have been takenbysomebody in the househe requested permission for himself and hismento searchthe servants' rooms and boxes on the spot.  My good mistresslike thegenerous high-bred woman she wasrefused to let us be treatedlikethieves.  "I will never consent to make such a return asthat"she said"for all I owe to the faithful servants who are employed inmy house."

Mr.Superintendent made his bowwith a look in my directionwhich saidplainly"Why employ meif you are to tie my handsin thisway?"  As head of the servantsI felt directly that wewereboundin justice to all partiesnot to profit by ourmistress'sgenerosity.  "We gratefully thank your ladyship" Isaid;"butwe ask your permission to do what is right in this matterby givingup our keys.  When Gabriel Betteredge sets the example"says Istopping Superintendent Seegrave at the door"the restof theservants will followI promise you.  There are my keysto beginwith!"  My lady took me by the handand thanked mewith thetears in her eyes.  Lord! what would I not have givenat thatmomentfor the privilege of knocking SuperintendentSeegravedown!

As I hadpromised for themthe other servants followed my leadsorelyagainst the grainof coursebut all taking the view that I took.The womenwere a sight to seewhile the police-officers were rummaging amongtheirthings.  The cook looked as if she could grill Mr.Superintendentalive on afurnaceand the other women looked as if they could eat himwhen hewas done.

The searchoverand no Diamond or sign of a Diamond being foundof courseanywhereSuperintendent Seegrave retired to mylittleroom to consider with himself what he was to do next.He and hismen had now been hours in the houseand had notadvancedus one inch towards a discovery of how the Moonstone hadbeentakenor of whom we were to suspect as the thief.

While thepolice-officer was still pondering in solitudeI was sentfor to see Mr. Franklin in the library.To myunutterable astonishmentjust as my hand was on the doorit wassuddenly opened from the insideand out walkedRosannaSpearman!

After thelibrary had been swept and cleaned in the morningneitherfirst nor second housemaid had any business in that roomat anylater period of the day.  I stopped Rosanna Spearmanandcharged her with a breach of domestic discipline onthe spot.

"Whatmight you want in the library at this time of day?"Iinquired.

"Mr.Franklin Blake dropped one of his rings up-stairs"saysRosanna; "and I have been into the library to give it to him."The girl'sface was all in a flush as she made me that answer;and shewalked away with a toss of her head and a look ofself-importancewhich I was quite at a loss to account for.Theproceedings in the house had doubtless upset all thewomen-servantsmore or less; but none of them had gone cleanout oftheir natural charactersas Rosannato all appearancehad nowgone out of hers.

I foundMr. Franklin writing at the library-table. He asked for aconveyanceto the railway station the moment I entered the room.The firstsound of his voice informed me that we now had the resoluteside ofhim uppermost once more.  The man made of cotton haddisappeared;and theman made of iron sat before me again.

"Goingto Londonsir?"  I asked.

"Goingto telegraph to London" says Mr. Franklin.  "I haveconvinced my auntthat wemust have a cleverer head than Superintendent Seegrave's to help us;and I havegot her permission to despatch a telegram to my father.He knowsthe Chief Commissioner of Policeand the Commissioner canlay hishand on the right man to solve the mystery of the Diamond.Talking ofmysteriesby-the-bye" says Mr. Franklindropping his voice"Ihave another word to say to you before you go to the stables.Don'tbreathe a word of it to anybody as yet; but either Rosanna Spearman'shead isnot quite rightor I am afraid she knows more about the Moonstonethan sheought to know."

I canhardly tell whether I was more startled or distressed at hearinghim saythat.  If I had been youngerI might have confessed as muchto Mr.Franklin.  But when you are oldyou acquire one excellenthabit.In caseswhere you don't see your way clearlyyou hold your tongue.

"Shecame in here with a ring I dropped in my bed-room"Mr.Franklin went on.  "When I had thanked herof courseI expectedher to go.  Instead of thatshe stood oppositeto me atthe tablelooking at me in the oddest manner--halffrightenedand half familiar--I couldn't make it out.'This is astrange thing about the Diamondsir' she saidin acuriously suddenheadlong way.  I said'Yesit was'andwondered what was coming next.  Upon my honourBetteredgeI thinkshe must be wrong in the head!  She said'They will neverfind theDiamondsirwill they?  No! nor the person who took it--I'llanswer for that.'  She actually nodded and smiled at me!Before Icould ask her what she meantwe heard your step outside.I supposeshe was afraid of your catching her here.At anyrateshe changed colourand left the room.What onearth does it mean?

I couldnot bring myself to tell him the girl's storyeven then.It wouldhave been almost as good as telling him that she wasthethief.  Besideseven if I had made a clean breast of itand evensupposing she was the thiefthe reason why she should letout hersecret to Mr. Franklinof all the people in the worldwould havebeen still as far to seek as ever.

"Ican't bear the idea of getting the poor girl into a scrapemerelybecause she has a flighty way with herand talks very strangely"Mr.Franklin went on.  "And yet if she had said totheSuperintendentwhat shesaid to mefool as he isI'm afraid----" He stopped thereand leftthe rest unspoken.

"Thebest waysir" I said"will be for me to say two wordsprivatelyto my mistress about it at the first opportunity.My ladyhas a very friendly interest in Rosanna; and the girlmay onlyhave been forward and foolishafter all.Whenthere's a mess of any kind in a housesirthe women-servantslike tolook at the gloomy side--it gives the poor wretchesa kind ofimportance in their own eyes.  If there's anybody illtrust thewomen for prophesying that the person will die.If it's ajewel losttrust them for prophesying that it willnever befound again."

This view(which I am bound to sayI thought a probable view myselfonreflection) seemed to relieve Mr. Franklin mightily:he foldedup his telegramand dismissed the subject.On my wayto the stablesto order the pony-chaiseI lookedin at theservants' hallwhere they were at dinner.RosannaSpearman was not among them.  On inquiryI found that shehad beensuddenly taken illand had gone up-stairs to her own roomto liedown.

"Curious! She looked well enough when I saw her last"Iremarked.

Penelopefollowed me out.  "Don't talk in that way before the restof themfather" she said.  "You only make them harder onRosanna than ever.The poorthing is breaking her heart about Mr. Franklin Blake."

Here wasanother view of the girl's conduct.  If it was possible forPenelopeto be rightthe explanation of Rosanna's strange language andbehaviourmight have been all in this--that she didn't care what she saidso long asshe could surprise Mr. Franklin into speaking to her.Grantingthat to be the right reading of the riddleit accountedperhapsfor herflightyself-conceited manner when she passed me in the hall.Though hehad only said three wordsstill she had carried her pointand Mr.Franklin had spoken to her.

I saw thepony harnessed myself.  In the infernal network of mysteriesanduncertainties that now surrounded usI declare it was a reliefto observehow well the buckles and straps understood each other!When youhad seen the pony backed into the shafts of the chaiseyou hadseen something there was no doubt about.  And thatlet metell youwas becoming a treat of the rarest kind inourhousehold.

Goinground with the chaise to the front doorI found not only Mr.Franklinbut Mr.Godfrey and Superintendent Seegrave also waiting for me on the steps.

Mr.Superintendent's reflections (after failing to findtheDiamond in the servants' rooms or boxes) had led himitappearedto an entirely new conclusion.  Still stickingto hisfirst textnamelythat somebody in the house hadstolen thejewelour experienced officer was now of opinionthat thethief (he was wise enough not to name poor Penelopewhateverhe might privately think of her!) had been actingin concertwith the Indians; and he accordingly proposed shiftinghisinquiries to the jugglers in the prison at Frizinghall.Hearing ofthis new moveMr. Franklin had volunteeredto takethe Superintendent back to the townfrom whichhe couldtelegraph to London as easily as from our station.Mr.Godfreystill devoutly believing in Mr. Seegraveand greatlyinterestedin witnessing the examination of the Indianshad beggedleave to accompany the officer to Frizinghall.One of thetwo inferior policemen was to be left at the housein caseanything happened.  The other was to go back with theSuperintendentto the town.  So the four places in the pony-chaisewere justfilled.

Before hetook the reins to drive offMr. Franklin walked me awaya fewsteps out of hearing of the others.

"Iwill wait to telegraph to London" he said"till I seewhat comesof ourexamination of the Indians.  My own conviction isthat thismuddle-headedlocal police-officer is as much in the dark as everand issimply trying to gain time.  The idea of any of the servantsbeingin leaguewith the Indians is a preposterous absurdityin my opinion.Keep aboutthe houseBetteredgetill I come backand try what youcan makeof Rosanna Spearman.  I don't ask you to do anything degradingto yourown self-respector anything cruel towards the girl.I only askyou to exercise your observation more carefully than usual.We willmake as light of it as we can before my aunt--but this is a moreimportantmatter than you may suppose."

"Itis a matter of twenty thousand poundssir" I saidthinkingof the value of the Diamond.

"It'sa matter of quieting Rachel's mind" answered Mr. Franklingravely."I amvery uneasy about her."

He left mesuddenly; as if he desired to cut short any further talkbetweenus.  I thought I understood why.  Further talk might haveletme intothe secret of what Miss Rachel had said to him on the terrace.

So theydrove away to Frizinghall.  I was ready enoughin the girl'sowninterestto have a little talk with Rosanna in private.But theneedful opportunity failed to present itself.She onlycame downstairs again at tea-time. When she did appearshe wasflighty and excitedhad what they call an hysterical attacktook adose of sal-volatile by my lady's orderand was sent back toher bed.

The daywore on to its end drearily and miserably enoughI can tellyou.  Miss Rachel still kept her roomdeclaringthat she was too ill to come down to dinner that day.My ladywas in such low spirits about her daughterthat Icould notbring myself to make her additionally anxiousbyreporting what Rosanna Spearman had said to Mr. Franklin.Penelopepersisted in believing that she was to be forthwithtriedsentencedand transported for theft.  The other womentook totheir Bibles and hymn-booksand looked as sour asverjuiceover their reading--a resultwhich I have observedin mysphere of lifeto follow generally on the performanceof acts ofpiety at unaccustomed periods of the day.As for meI hadn't even heart enough to open my ROBINSON CRUSOE.I went outinto the yardandbeing hard up for a littlecheerfulsocietyset my chair by the kennelsand talked tothe dogs.

Half anhour before dinner-timethe two gentlemen came back fromFrizinghallhavingarranged with Superintendent Seegrave that he was to return to usthe nextday.  They had called on Mr. Murthwaitethe Indian travellerat hispresent residencenear the town.  At Mr. Franklin's requesthe hadkindly given them the benefit of his knowledge of the languagein dealingwith those twoout of the three Indianswho knew nothingofEnglish.  The examinationconducted carefullyand at greatlengthhad endedin nothing; not the shadow of a reason being discovered forsuspectingthe jugglers of having tampered with any of our servants.Onreaching that conclusionMr. Franklin had sent his telegraphicmessageto Londonand there the matter now rested till to-morrow came.

So muchfor the history of the day that followed the birthday.Not aglimmer of light had broken in on usso far.A day ortwo afterhoweverthe darkness lifted a little.Howandwith what resultyou shall presently see.

 

CHAPTERXII

TheThursday night passedand nothing happened.  With the Fridaymorningcame two pieces of news.

Item thefirst:  the baker's man declared he had met RosannaSpearmanon the previous afternoonwith a thick veil onwalkingtowards Frizinghall by the foot-path way over the moor.It seemedstrange that anybody should be mistaken about Rosannawhoseshoulder marked her out pretty plainlypoor thing--butmistaken the man must have been; for Rosannaas you knowhad beenall the Thursday afternoon ill up-stairs in her room.

Item thesecond came through the postman.  Worthy Mr. Candyhad saidone more of his many unlucky thingswhen he drove offin therain on the birthday nightand told me that a doctor's skinwaswaterproof.  In spite of his skinthe wet had got through him.He hadcaught a chill that nightand was now down with a fever.The lastaccountsbrought by the postmanrepresented himto belight-headed--talking nonsense as gliblypoor manin hisdelirium as he often talked it in his sober senses.We wereall sorry for the little doctor; but Mr. Franklin appearedto regrethis illnesschiefly on Miss Rachel's account.From whathe said to my ladywhile I was in the roomatbreakfast-timehe appeared to think that Miss Rachel--if thesuspense about the Moonstone was not soon set at rest--mightstand in urgent need of the best medical advice atourdisposal.

Breakfasthad not been over longwhen a telegram from Mr. Blakethe elderarrivedin answer to his son.  It informed usthat hehad laid hands (by help of his friendthe Commissioner)on theright man to help us.  The name of him was Sergeant Cuff;and thearrival of him from London might be expected by themorningtrain.

At readingthe name of the new police-officerMr. Franklin gave a start.It seemsthat he had heard some curious anecdotes about Sergeant Cufffrom hisfather's lawyerduring his stay in London.

"Ibegin to hope we are seeing the end of our anxieties already"he said."Ifhalf the stories I have heard are truewhen it comes to unravellinga mysterythere isn't the equal in England of Sergeant Cuff!"

We all gotexcited and impatient as the time drew nearfor theappearance of this renowned and capable character.SuperintendentSeegravereturning to us at his appointed timeandhearing that the Sergeant was expectedinstantly shuthimself upin a roomwith peninkand paperto make notesof theReport which would be certainly expected from him.I shouldhave liked to have gone to the station myselfto fetchthe Sergeant.  But my lady's carriage and horseswere notto be thought ofeven for the celebrated Cuff;and thepony-chaise was required later for Mr. Godfrey.He deeplyregretted being obliged to leave his aunt at suchan anxioustime; and he kindly put off the hour of his departuretill aslate as the last trainfor the purpose of hearingwhat theclever London police-officer thought of the case.But onFriday night he must be in townhaving a Ladies'Charityin difficultieswaiting to consult him on Saturdaymorning.
When thetime came for the Sergeant's arrivalI went down to the gateto lookout for him.

A fly fromthe railway drove up as I reached the lodge; and out gotagrizzledelderly manso miserably lean that he looked as ifhe had notgot an ounce of flesh on his bones in any part of him.He wasdressed all in decent blackwith a white cravat round his neck.His facewas as sharp as a hatchetand the skin of it was as yellowand dryand withered as an autumn leaf.  His eyesof a steely lightgreyhad a verydisconcerting trickwhen they encountered your eyesof lookingas if theyexpected something more from you than you were aware of yourself.His walkwas soft; his voice was melancholy; his long lanky fingerswerehooked like claws.  He might have been a parsonor anundertaker--oranything else you likeexcept what he really was.  A morecompleteoppositeto Superintendent Seegrave than Sergeant Cuffand a less comfortingofficer tolook atfor a family in distressI defy you to discoversearchwhere you may.

"Isthis Lady Verinder's?" he asked.

"Yessir."

"I amSergeant Cuff."

"Thiswaysirif you please."

On ourroad to the houseI mentioned my name and positionin thefamilyto satisfy him that he might speak to meabout thebusiness on which my lady was to employ him.Not a worddid he say about the businesshoweverfor all that.He admiredthe groundsand remarked that he felt the seaair verybrisk and refreshing.  I privately wonderedon mysidehow the celebrated Cuff had got his reputation.We reachedthe housein the temper of two strange dogscoupled uptogether for the first time in their lives by thesamechain.

Asking formy ladyand hearing that she was in one of the conservatorieswe wentround to the gardens at the backand sent a servant to seek her.While wewere waitingSergeant Cuff looked through the evergreenarch onour leftspied out our roseryand walked straight inwith thefirst appearance of anything like interest that he had shown yet.To thegardener's astonishmentand to my disgustthis celebratedpolicemanproved to be quite a mine of learning on the trumpery subject ofrose-gardens.

"Ahyou've got the right exposure here to the south and sou'-west"says theSergeantwith a wag of his grizzled headand a streakofpleasure in his melancholy voice.  "This is the shape for arosery--nothinglike a circle set in a square.  Yesyes; with walksbetweenall the beds.  But they oughtn't to be gravel walkslikethese.  GrassMr. Gardener--grass walks between your roses;gravel'stoo hard for them.  That's a sweet pretty bed of whiteroses andblush roses.  They always mix well togetherdon't they?Here's thewhite musk roseMr. Betteredge--our old English roseholding upits head along with the best and the newest of them.Prettydear!" says the Sergeantfondling the Musk Rose withhis lankyfingersand speaking to it as if he was speaking toa child.

This was anice sort of man to recover Miss Rachel's Diamondand tofind out the thief who stole it!

"Youseem to be fond of rosesSergeant?"  I remarked.

"Ihaven't much time to be fond of anything'says Sergeant Cuff."Butwhen I HAVE a moment's fondness to bestowmost timesMr.Betteredgethe roses get it.  I began my life among themin myfather's nursery gardenand I shall end my life among themif I can. Yes.  One of these days (please God) I shall retirefromcatching thievesand try my hand at growing roses.There willbe grass walksMr. Gardenerbetween my beds"says theSergeanton whose mind the gravel paths of our rosery seemedto dwellunpleasantly.

"Itseems an odd tastesir" I ventured to say"for a manin yourline of life."

"Ifyou will look about you (which most people won't do)"saysSergeant Cuff"you will see that the nature of a man'stastes ismost timesas opposite as possible to the natureof a man'sbusiness.  Show me any two things more oppositeone fromthe other than a rose and a thief; and I'll correctmy tastesaccordingly--if it isn't too late at my time of life.You findthe damask rose a goodish stock for most of the tender sortsdon't youMr. Gardener?  Ah!  I thought so.  Here's a ladycoming.Is it LadyVerinder?"

He hadseen her before either I or the gardener had seen herthough weknew which way to lookand he didn't. I beganto thinkhim rather a quicker man than he appeared to be atfirstsight.

TheSergeant's appearanceor the Sergeant's errand--one orboth--seemed to cause my lady some little embarrassment.She wasfor the first time in all my experience of herat a losswhat to say at an interview with a stranger.SergeantCuff put her at her ease directly.  He asked if any otherperson hadbeen employed about the robbery before we sent for him;andhearing that another person had been called inand was nowin thehousebegged leave to speak to him before anything elsewas done.

My ladyled the way back.  Before he followed herthe Sergeant relievedhismind onthe subject of the gravel walks by a parting word to the gardener."Gether ladyship to try grass" he saidwith a sour look at thepaths."Nogravel! no gravel!"

WhySuperintendent Seegrave should have appeared to be severalsizessmaller than lifeon being presented to Sergeant CuffI can'tundertake to explain.  I can only state the fact.Theyretired together; and remained a weary long time shut upfrom allmortal intrusion.  When they came outMr. Superintendentwasexcitedand Mr. Sergeant was yawning.

"TheSergeant wishes to see Miss Verinder's sitting-room"says Mr.Seegraveaddressing me with great pomp and eagerness."TheSergeant may have some questions to ask.  Attend the Sergeantif youplease!"

While Iwas being ordered about in this wayI looked at the great Cuff.The greatCuffon his sidelooked at Superintendent Seegravein thatquietly expecting way which I have already noticed.I can'taffirm that he was on the watch for his brother officer'sspeedyappearance in the character of an Ass--I can only say that Istronglysuspected it.

I led theway up-stairs. The Sergeant went softly all overthe Indiancabinet and all round the "boudoir;" asking questions(occasionallyonly of Mr. Superintendentand continually of me)the driftof which I believe to have been equally unintelligibleto both ofus.  In due timehis course brought him to the doorand puthim face to face with the decorative painting that you know of.He laidone lean inquiring finger on the small smearjust underthe lockwhich Superintendent Seegrave had already noticedwhen hereproved the women-servants for all crowding together intothe room.

"That'sa pity" says Sergeant Cuff.  "How did it happen?"

He put thequestion to me.  I answered that the women-servants had crowdedinto theroom on the previous morningand that some of their petticoats haddone themischief"Superintendent Seegrave ordered them outsir"I added"beforethey did any more harm."

"Right!"says Mr. Superintendent in his military way.  "I orderedthem out.Thepetticoats did itSergeant--the petticoats did it."

"Didyou notice which petticoat did it?" asked Sergeant Cuffstilladdressing himselfnot to his brother-officerbut to me.

"Nosir."

He turnedto Superintendent Seegrave upon thatand said"You noticedIsuppose?"

Mr.Superintendent looked a little taken aback; but he made the best ofit."Ican't charge my memorySergeant" he said"a meretrifle--a mere trifle."

SergeantCuff looked at Mr. Seegraveas he had looked at the gravelwalks inthe roseryand gave usin his melancholy waythe first tasteof hisquality which we had had yet.

"Imade a private inquiry last weekMr. Superintendent" he said."Atone end of the inquiry there was a murderand at the other endthere wasa spot of ink on a table cloth that nobody could account for.In all myexperience along the dirtiest ways of this dirty little worldI havenever met with such a thing as a trifle yet.  Before we go astepfurther inthis business we must see the petticoat that made the smearand wemust know for certain when that paint was wet."

Mr.Superintendent--taking his set-down rather sulkily--asked ifhe should summon the women.  Sergeant Cuffafterconsidering a minutesighedand shook his head.

"No"he said"we'll take the matter of the paint first.It's aquestion of Yes or No with the paint--which is short.It's aquestion of petticoats with the women--which is long.Whato'clock was it when the servants were in this roomyesterdaymorning?  Eleven o'clock--eh?  Is there anybody inthe housewho knows whether that paint was wet or dryat elevenyesterdaymorning?"

"Herladyship's nephewMr. Franklin Blakeknows" I said.

"Isthe gentleman in the house?"

Mr.Franklin was as close at hand as could be--waiting for his firstchanceof beingintroduced to the great Cuff.  In half a minute he was in theroomand wasgiving his evidence as follows:

"ThatdoorSergeant" he said"has been painted by MissVerinderunder myinspectionwith my helpand in a vehicle of my own composition.Thevehicle dries whatever colours may be used with itin twelve hours."

"Doyou remember when the smeared bit was donesir?" asked theSergeant.

"Perfectly"answered Mr. Franklin.  "That was the last morsel of thedoorto befinished.  We wanted to get it doneon Wednesday last--and Imyselfcompletedit by three in the afternoonor soon after."

"To-dayis Friday" said Sergeant Cuffaddressing himself toSuperintendentSeegrave.  "Let us reckon backsir.  At three ontheWednesday afternoonthat bit of the painting was completed.Thevehicle dried it in twelve hours--that is to saydried itby threeo'clock on Thursday morning.  At eleven on Thursdaymorningyou held your inquiry here.  Take three from elevenand eightremains.  That paint had been EIGHT HOURS DRYMr.Superintendentwhen you supposed that the women-servants'petticoatssmeared it."

Firstknock-down blow for Mr. Seegrave!  If he had not suspectedpoorPenelopeI should have pitied him.

Havingsettled the question of the paintSergeant Cufffrom thatmomentgave his brother-officer up as a bad job--andaddressed himself to Mr. Franklinas the more promisingassistantof the two.

"It'squite on the cardssir" he said"that you have putthe clueinto our hands."

As thewords passed his lipsthe bedroom door openedand Miss Rachelcame outamong us suddenly.

Sheaddressed herself to the Sergeantwithout appearing to notice(or toheed) that he was a perfect stranger to her.

"Didyou say" she askedpointing to Mr. Franklin"that HEhad putthe clue into your hands?"

("Thisis Miss Verinder" I whisperedbehind the Sergeant.)

"Thatgentlemanmiss" says the Sergeant--with his steely-greyeyescarefully studying my young lady's face--"has possibly putthe clueinto our hands."

She turnedfor one momentand tried to look at Mr. Franklin.I saytriedfor she suddenly looked away again before their eyes met.Thereseemed to be some strange disturbance in her mind.Shecoloured upand then she turned pale again.  With the palenessthere camea new look into her face--a look which it startled meto see.

"Havinganswered your questionmiss" says the Sergeant"Ibeg leave to make an inquiry in my turn.  There is a smearon thepainting of your doorhere.  Do you happen to knowwhen itwas done? or who did it?"

Instead ofmaking any replyMiss Rachel went on with her questionsas if hehad not spokenor as if she had not heard him.

"Areyou another police-officer?" she asked.

"I amSergeant Cuffmissof the Detective Police."

"Doyou think a young lady's advice worth having?"

"Ishall be glad to hear itmiss."

"Doyour duty by yourself--and don't allow Mr Franklin Blake to helpyou!"

She saidthose words so spitefullyso savagelywith suchanextraordinary outbreak of ill-will towards Mr. Franklinin hervoice and in her lookthat--though I had known her froma babythough I loved and honoured her next to my lady herself--I wasashamed of Miss Rachel for the first time in my life.

SergeantCuff's immovable eyes never stirred from off her face."Thankyoumiss" he said.  "Do you happen to know anythingaboutthesmear?  Might you have done it by accident yourself?"

"Iknow nothing about the smear."

With thatanswershe turned awayand shut herself up again in herbed-room.This timeI heard her--as Penelope had heard her before--burst outcrying as soon as she was alone again.

I couldn'tbring myself to look at the Sergeant--I looked at Mr. Franklinwho stoodnearest to me.  He seemed to be even more sorely distressed atwhathad passedthan I was.

"Itold you I was uneasy about her" he said.  "And nowyou see why."

"MissVerinder appears to be a little out of temper about the lossof herDiamond" remarked the Sergeant.  "It's a valuablejewel.Naturalenough! natural enough!"

Here wasthe excuse that I had made for her (when she forgotherselfbefore Superintendent Seegraveon the previous day)being madefor her over againby a man who couldn't have hadMYinterest in making it--for he was a perfect stranger!A kind ofcold shudder ran through mewhich I couldn'taccountfor at the time.  I knownowthat I must have got myfirstsuspicionat that momentof a new light (and horrid light)havingsuddenly fallen on the casein the mind of Sergeant Cuff--purely andentirely in consequence of what he had seen inMissRacheland heard from Miss Rachelat that first interviewbetweenthem.

"Ayoung lady's tongue is a privileged membersir" says theSergeantto Mr.Franklin.  "Let us forget what has passedand go straightonwith thisbusiness.  Thanks to youwe know when the paint was dry.The nextthing to discover is when the paint was last seen withoutthatsmear.  YOU have got a head on your shoulders--and youunderstandwhat Imean."

Mr.Franklin composed himselfand came back with an effort from MissRachel tothe matter in hand.

"Ithink I do understand" he said.  "The more we narrowthe question of timethe morewe also narrow the field of inquiry."

"That'sitsir" said the Sergeant.  "Did you notice yourwork hereon theWednesday afternoonafter you had done it?"

Mr.Franklin shook his headand answered"I can't say I did."

"Didyou?" inquired Sergeant Cuffturning to me.

"Ican't say I did eithersir."

"Whowas the last person in the roomthe last thing on Wednesday night?"

"MissRachelI supposesir."

Mr.Franklin struck in there"Or possibly your daughterBetteredge."He turnedto Sergeant Cuffand explained that my daughter was MissVerinder'smaid.

"Mr.Betteredgeask your daughter to step up.  Stop!" says theSergeanttaking meaway to the windowout of earshot"Your Superintendent here"he wentonin a whisper"has made a pretty full report to meof themanner in which he has managed this case.  Among other thingshe hasbyhis own confessionset the servants' backs up.  It's veryimportantto smooth them down again.  Tell your daughterand tellthe restof themthese two thingswith my compliments:  Firstthat Ihave noevidence before meyetthat the Diamond has been stolen;I onlyknow that the Diamond has been lost.  Secondthat my businesshere withthe servants is simply to ask them to lay their heads togetherand helpme to find it."

Myexperience of the women-servantswhen Superintendent Seegravelaid hisembargo on their roomscame in handy here.

"MayI make so boldSergeantas to tell the women a third thing?"I asked. "Are they free (with your compliments) to fidget upanddownstairsand whisk in and out of their bed-roomsif the fittakesthem?"

"Perfectlyfree" said the Sergeant.

"THATwill smooth them downsir" I remarked"from the cookto thescullion."

"Goand do it at onceMr. Betteredge."

I did itin less than five minutes.  There was only one difficulty when Icame tothe bit about the bed-rooms. It took a pretty stiff exertionof myauthorityas chiefto prevent the whole of the female householdfromfollowing me and Penelope up-stairsin the character of volunteerwitnessesin a burning fever of anxiety to help Sergeant Cuff.

TheSergeant seemed to approve of Penelope.  He became a trifle lessdreary;and helooked much as he had looked when he noticed the white musk rosein theflower-garden. Here is my daughter's evidenceas drawn off fromher by theSergeant.  She gave itI thinkvery prettily--butthere! sheis mychild all over:  nothing of her mother in her; Lord bless younothing ofher mother in her!

Penelopeexamined:  Took a lively interest in the paintingon thedoorhaving helped to mix the colours.  Noticed the bitof workunder the lockbecause it was the last bit done.Had seenitsome hours afterwardswithout a smear.Had leftitas late as twelve at nightwithout a smear.Hadatthat hourwished her young lady good night in the bedroom;had heardthe clock strike in the "boudoir"; had her handat thetime on the handle of the painted door; knew the paintwas wet(having helped to mix the coloursas aforesaid);tookparticular pains not to touch it; could swear that sheheld upthe skirts of her dressand that there was no smearon thepaint then; could not swear that her dress mightn'thavetouched it accidentally in going out; remembered the dressshe hadonbecause it was newa present from Miss Rachel;her fatherrememberedand could speak to ittoo; couldand wouldand didfetch it; dress recognised by her father as the dressshe worethat night; skirts examineda long job from the sizeof them;not the ghost of a paint-stain discovered anywhere.End ofPenelope's evidence--and very pretty and convincingtoo.SignedGabriel Betteredge.

TheSergeant's next proceeding was to question me about anylarge dogsin the house who might have got into the roomand donethe mischief with a whisk of their tails.Hearingthat this was impossiblehe next sent for amagnifying-glassand tried how the smear lookedseen that way.Noskin-mark (as of a human hand) printed off on the paint.All thesigns visible--signs which told that the paint had beensmeared bysome loose article of somebody's dress touchingit ingoing by.  That somebody (putting together Penelope'sevidenceand Mr. Franklin's evidence) must have been in the roomand donethe mischiefbetween midnight and three o'clockon theThursday morning.

Havingbrought his investigation to this pointSergeant Cuff discoveredthat sucha person as Superintendent Seegrave was still left in the roomupon whichhe summed up the proceedings for his brother-officer's benefitasfollows:

"Thistrifle of yoursMr. Superintendent" says the Sergeantpointingto the place on the door"has grown a little in importancesince younoticed it last.  At the present stage of the inquiry there areas I takeitthree discoveries to makestarting from that smear.Find out(first) whether there is any article of dress in this house withthe smearof the paint on it.  Find out (second) who that dress belongsto.Find out(third) how the person can account for having been in this roomandsmeared the paintbetween midnight and three in the morning.If theperson can't satisfy youyou haven't far to look for the hand thathas gotthe Diamond.  I'll work this by myselfif you pleaseanddetainyou nolonger-from your regular business in the town.  You have got oneof yourmen hereI see.  Leave him here at my disposalin case I wanthim--and allowme to wish you good morning."

SuperintendentSeegrave's respect for the Sergeant was great;but hisrespect for himself was greater still.  Hit hard by thecelebratedCuffhe hit back smartlyto the best of his abilityon leavingthe room.

"Ihave abstained from expressing any opinionso far"says Mr.Superintendentwith his military voice stillin goodworking order.  "I have now only one remark tooffer onleaving this case in your hands.  There IS sucha thingSergeantas making a mountain out of a molehill.Goodmorning."

"Thereis also such a thing as making nothing out of a molehillinconsequence of your head being too high to see it."Havingreturned his brother-officer's compliments in those termsSergeantCuff wheeled aboutand walked away to the windowbyhimself.

Mr.Franklin and I waited to see what was coming next.TheSergeant stood at the window with his hands in his pocketslookingoutand whistling the tune of "The Last Rose of Summer"softly tohimself.  Later in the proceedingsI discoveredthat heonly forgot his manners so far as to whistlewhen hismind washard at workseeing its way inch by inch to its ownprivateendson which occasions "The Last Rose of Summer"evidentlyhelped and encouraged him.  I suppose it fittedin somehowwith his character.  It reminded himyou seeof hisfavouriterosesandas HE whistled itit was the most melancholytunegoing.

Turningfrom the windowafter a minute or twothe Sergeantwalkedinto the middle of the roomand stopped theredeep inthoughtwith his eyes on Miss Rachel's bed-room door.After alittle he roused himselfnodded his headas muchas to say"That will do" andaddressing measked fortenminutes' conversation with my mistressat her ladyship'searliestconvenience.

Leavingthe room with this messageI heard Mr. Franklin ask the Sergeantaquestionand stopped to hear the answer also at the threshold of thedoor.

"Canyou guess yet" inquired Mr. Franklin"who has stolen theDiamond?"

"NOBODYHAS STOLEN THE DIAMOND" answered Sergeant Cuff.

We bothstarted at that extraordinary view of the caseand bothearnestly begged him to tell us what he meant.

"Waita little" said the Sergeant.  "The pieces of thepuzzleare notall put together yet."

 

CHAPTERXIII

I found mylady in her own sitting room.  She started and lookedannoyedwhen I mentioned that Sergeant Cuff wished to speak to her.

"MUSTI see him?" she asked.  "Can't you represent meGabriel?"

I felt ata loss to understand thisand showed it plainlyI supposein myface.  My lady was so good as to explain herself.

"I amafraid my nerves are a little shaken" she said."Thereis something in that police-officer from London which Irecoilfrom--I don't know why.  I have a presentiment thathe isbringing trouble and misery with him into the house.Veryfoolishand very unlike ME--but so it is."

I hardlyknew what to say to this.  The more I saw of Sergeant Cuffthe betterI liked him.  My lady rallied a little after having openedher heartto me--beingnaturallya woman of a high courageas I havealreadytold you.

"If Imust see himI must" she said.  "But I can't prevailon myselfto see himalone.  Bring him inGabrieland stay here as long as hestays."

This wasthe first attack of the megrims that I rememberedin mymistress since the time when she was a young girl.I wentback to the "boudoir."  Mr. Franklin strolled out intothegardenand joined Mr. Godfreywhose time for departurewas nowdrawing near.  Sergeant Cuff and I went straight to mymistress'sroom.

I declaremy lady turned a shade paler at the sight of him!Shecommanded herselfhoweverin other respectsand askedtheSergeant if he had any objection to my being present.She was sogood as to addthat I was her trusted adviseras well asher old servantand that in anything which relatedto thehousehold I was the person whom it might be mostprofitableto consult.  The Sergeant politely answeredthat hewould take my presence as a favourhaving somethingto sayabout the servants in generaland having foundmyexperience in that quarter already of some use to him.My ladypointed to two chairsand we set in for ourconferenceimmediately.

"Ihave already formed an opinion on this casesays Sergeant Cuff"whichI beg your ladyship's permission to keep to myself for the present.Mybusiness now is to mention what I have discovered up-stairs in MissVerinder'ssitting-roomand what I have decided (with your ladyship's leave)on doingnext."

He thenwent into the matter of the smear on the paintand statedtheconclusions he drew from it--just as he had stated them(only withgreater respect of language) to Superintendent Seegrave."Onething" he saidin conclusion"is certain.  TheDiamond is missingout of thedrawer in the cabinet.  Another thing is next to certain.The marksfrom the smear on the door must be on some article of dressbelongingto somebody in this house.  We must discover that article ofdressbefore we go a step further."

"Andthat discovery" remarked my mistress"impliesI presumethediscovery of the thief?"

"Ibeg your ladyship's pardon--I don't say the Diamond is stolen.I onlysayat presentthat the Diamond is missing.  The discoveryof thestained dress may lead the way to finding it."

Herladyship looked at me.  "Do you understand this?" shesaid.

"SergeantCuff understands itmy lady" I answered.

"Howdo you propose to discover the stained dress?" inquired mymistressaddressingherself once more to the Sergeant.  "My good servantswho havebeen with me for yearshaveI am ashamed to sayhad theirboxes androoms searched already by the other officer.  I can't and won'tpermitthem to be insulted in that way a second time!"

(There wasa mistress to serve!  There was a woman in ten thousandif youlike!)

"Thatis the very point I was about to put to your ladyship"said theSergeant.  "The other officer has done a world of harmto thisinquiryby letting the servants see that he suspected them.If I givethem cause to think themselves suspected a second timethere's noknowing what obstacles they may not throw in my way--the womenespecially.  At the same timetheir boxes must besearchedagain--for this plain reasonthat the first investigationonlylooked for the Diamondand that the second investigationmust lookfor the stained dress.  I quite agree with youmy ladythat the servants' feelings ought to be consulted.But I amequally clear that the servants' wardrobes ought tobesearched."

Thislooked very like a dead-lock. My lady said soin choicer languagethan mine.

"Ihave got a plan to meet the difficulty" said Sergeant Cuff"ifyour ladyship will consent to it.  I propose explaining the caseto theservants."

"Thewomen will think themselves suspected directlyI saidinterruptinghim.

"Thewomen won'tMr. Betteredge" answered the Sergeant"if Ican tellthem I am going to examine the wardrobes of EVERYBODY--from herladyship downwards--who slept in the house on Wednesday night.It's amere formality" he addedwith a side look at my mistress;"butthe servants will accept it as even dealing between themand theirbetters; andinstead of hindering the investigationthey willmake a point of honour of assisting it."

I saw thetruth of that.  My ladyafter her first surprise was oversaw thetruth of it also.

"Youare certain the investigation is necessary?" she said.

"It'sthe shortest way that I can seemy ladyto the end we have inview."

Mymistress rose to ring the bell for her maid.  "You shallspeakto theservants" she said"with the keys of my wardrobe in yourhand."

SergeantCuff stopped her by a very unexpected question.

"Hadn'twe better make sure first" he asked"that the otherladiesandgentlemen in the house will consenttoo?"

"Theonly other lady in the house is Miss Verinder" answered mymistresswith alook of surprise.  "The only gentlemen are my nephewsMr.Blakeand Mr.Ablewhite.  There is not the least fear of a refusal from any ofthethree."

I remindedmy lady here that Mr. Godfrey was going away.As I saidthe wordsMr. Godfrey himself knocked at the door to saygood-byeand was followed in by Mr. Franklinwho was goingwith himto the station.  My lady explained the difficulty.Mr.Godfrey settled it directly.  He called to Samuelthroughthe windowto take his portmanteau up-stairs againand hethen put the key himself into Sergeant Cuff's hand."Myluggage can follow me to London" he said"when theinquiryis over." The Sergeant received the key with a becoming apology."I amsorry to put you to any inconveniencesirfor amereformality; but the example of their betters will do wondersinreconciling the servants to this inquiry."  Mr. Godfreyaftertaking leave of my ladyin a most sympathising manner?left afarewell message for Miss Rachelthe terms of which madeit clearto my mind that he had not taken No for an answerand thathe meant to put the marriage question to her once moreat thenext opportunity.  Mr. Franklinon following hiscousinoutinformed the Sergeant that all his clothes were opentoexaminationand that nothing he possessed was kept underlock andkey.  Sergeant Cuff made his best acknowledgments.His viewsyou will observehad been met with the utmostreadinessby my ladyby Mr. Godfreyand by Mr. Franklin.There wasonly Miss. Rachel now wanting to follow their leadbeforewe-called the servants togetherand began the search for thestaineddress.

My lady'sunaccountable objection to the Sergeant seemed to makeourconference more distasteful to her than everas soon as wewere leftalone again.  "If I send you down Miss Verinder's keys"she saidto him"I presume I shall have done all you want of mefor thepresent?"

"Ibeg your ladyship's pardon" said Sergeant Cuff.  "Beforewe beginI shouldlikeif convenientto have the washing-book. The stained articleof dressmay be an article of linen.  If the search leads to nothingI want tobe able to account next for all the linen in the houseand forall the linen sent to the wash.  If there is an article missingthere willbe at least a presumption that it has got the paint-stain on itand thatit has been purposely made away withyesterday or to-dayby theperson owning it.  Superintendent Seegrave" added theSergeantturning tome"pointed the attention of the women-servants to the smearwhen theyall crowded into the room on Thursday morning.  That may turnoutMr.Betteredgeto have been one more of Superintendent Seegrave'smanymistakes."

My ladydesired me to ring the belland order the washing-book.Sheremained with us until it was producedin case Sergeant Cuffhad anyfurther request to make of her after looking at it.

Thewashing-book was brought in by Rosanna Spearman.  The girl hadcomedown tobreakfast that morning miserably pale and haggardbut sufficientlyrecoveredfrom her illness of the previous day to do her usual work.SergeantCuff looked attentively at our second housemaid--at her facewhen shecame in; at her crooked shoulderwhen she went out.

"Haveyou anything more to say to me?" asked my ladystill as eageras ever tobe out of the Sergeant's society.

The greatCuff opened the washing-bookunderstood it perfectly in halfa minuteand shut it up again.  "I venture to trouble your ladyshipwith onelast question" he said.  "Has the young woman whobrought usthis bookbeen in your employment as long as the other servants?"

"Whydo you ask?" said my lady.

"Thelast time I saw her" answered the Sergeant"she was inprisonfortheft."

Afterthatthere was no help for itbut to tell him the truth.Mymistress dwelt strongly on Rosanna's good conduct in her serviceand on thehigh opinion entertained of her by the matron at the reformatory."Youdon't suspect herI hope?" my lady addedin conclusionveryearnestly.

"Ihave already told your ladyship that I don't suspect any personin thehouse of thieving--up to the present time."

After thatanswermy lady rose to go up-stairsand askfor MissRachel's keys.  The Sergeant was before-hand with mein openingthe door for her.  He made a very low bow.My ladyshuddered as she passed him.

We waitedand waitedand no keys appeared.  Sergeant Cuff madeno remarkto me.  He turned his melancholy face to the window;he put hislanky hands into his pockets; and he whistled "The LastRose ofSummer" softly to himself.

At lastSamuel came innot with the keysbut with a morsel of paperfor me. I got at my spectacleswith some fumbling and difficultyfeelingthe Sergeant's dismal eyes fixed on me all the time.There weretwo or three lines on the paperwritten in pencil by my lady.Theyinformed me that Miss Rachel flatly refused to have herwardrobeexamined.  Asked for her reasonsshe had burst out crying.Askedagainshe had said:  "I won'tbecause I won't. I mustyield toforce if you use itbut I will yield to nothing else."Iunderstood my lady's disinclination to face Sergeant Cuff with suchan answerfrom her daughter as that.  If I had not been too oldfor theamiable weaknesses of youthI believe I should have blushedat thenotion of facing him myself.

"Anynews of Miss Verinder's keys?" asked the Sergeant.

"Myyoung lady refuses to have her wardrobe examined."

"Ah!"said the Sergeant.

His voicewas not quite in such a perfect state of discipline as his face.When hesaid "Ah!" he said it in the tone of a man who had heardsomethingwhich heexpected to hear.  He half angered and half frightened me--whyIcouldn'ttellbut he did it.

"Mustthe search be given up?"  I asked.

"Yes"said the Sergeant"the search must be given upbecauseyour young lady refuses to submit to it like the rest.We mustexamine all the wardrobes in the house or none.Send Mr.Ablewhite's portmanteau to London by the next trainand returnthe washing-bookwith my compliments and thanksto theyoung woman who brought it in."

He laidthe washing-book on the tableand taking out his penknifebegan totrim his nails.

"Youdon't seem to be much disappointed" I said.

"No"said Sergeant Cuff; "I am not much disappointed."

I tried tomake him explain himself.

"Whyshould Miss Rachel put an obstacle in your way?"  Iinquired."Isn'tit her interest to help you?"

"Waita littleMr. Betteredge--wait a little."

Clevererheads than mine might have seen his drift.  Or a personless fondof Miss Rachel than I wasmight have seen his drift.My lady'shorror of him might (as I have since thought)have meantthat she saw his drift (as the scripture says)"in aglass darkly."  I didn't see it yet--that's allI know.

"What'sto be done next?"  I asked.

SergeantCuff finished the nail on which he was then at worklooked atit for a moment with a melancholy interestand put uphispenknife.

"Comeout into the garden" he said " and let's have a look atthe roses."

 

CHAPTERXIV

Thenearest way to the gardenon going out of my lady's sitting-roomwas by theshrubbery pathwhich you already know of.  For the sakeof yourbetter understanding of what is now to comeI may add to thisthat theshrubbery path was Mr. Franklin's favourite walk.  When he wasout in thegroundsand when we failed to find him anywhere elsewegenerally found him here.

I amafraid I must own that I am rather an obstinate old man.The morefirmly Sergeant Cuff kept his thoughts shut up from methe morefirmly I persisted in trying to look in at them.As weturned into the shrubbery pathI attempted to circumventhim inanother way.

"Asthings are now" I said"if I was in your placeI shouldbe atmy wits'end."

"Ifyou were in my place" answered the Sergeant"you wouldhave formedanopinion--andas things are nowany doubt you might previouslyhave feltabout your own conclusions would be completely set at rest.Never mindfor the present what those conclusions areMr. Betteredge.I haven'tbrought you out here to draw me like a badger; I have brought youout hereto ask for some information.  You might have given it to me nodoubtin thehouseinstead of out of it.  But doors and listeners have aknackof gettingtogether; andin my line of lifewe cultivate a healthy tastefor theopen air."

Who was tocircumvent THIS man?  I gave in--and waited as patientlyas I couldto hear what was coming next.

"Wewon't enter into your young lady's motives" the Sergeant wenton;"wewill only say it's a pity she declines to assist mebecauseby sodoingshe makes this investigation more difficult than itmightotherwise have been.  We must now try to solve the mysteryof thesmear on the door--whichyou may take my word for itmeans themystery of the Diamond also--in some other way.I havedecided to see the servantsand to search their thoughtsandactionsMr. Betteredgeinstead of searching their wardrobes.Before IbeginhoweverI want to ask you a question or two.You are anobservant man--did you notice anything strange in any oftheservants (making due allowanceof coursefor fright and fluster)after theloss of the Diamond was found out?  Any particular quarrelamongthem?  Any one of them not in his or her usual spirits?Unexpectedlyout of temperfor instance? or unexpectedlytakenill?"

I had justtime to think of Rosanna Spearman's sudden illnessatyesterday's dinner--but not time to make any answer--when I sawSergeantCuff's eyes suddenly turn aside towards the shrubbery;and Iheard him say softly to himself"Hullo!"

"What'sthe matter?"  I asked.

"Atouch of the rheumatics in my back" said the Sergeantin a loudvoiceas if he wanted some third person to hear us."Weshall have a change in the weather before long."

A fewsteps further brought us to the corner of the house.Turningoff sharp to the rightwe entered on the terraceand wentdownby the steps in the middleinto the garden below.SergeantCuff stopped therein the open spacewhere we could seeround uson every side.

"Aboutthat young personRosanna Spearman?" he said."Itisn't very likelywith her personal appearancethat shehas got alover.  Butfor the girl's own sakeI must ask youat oncewhether SHE has provided herself with a sweetheartpoorwretchlike the rest of them?"

What onearth did he meanunder present circumstancesby puttingsuch a question to me as that?  I stared at himinstead ofanswering him.

"Isaw Rosanna Spearman hiding in the shrubbery as we went by"said theSergeant.

"Whenyou said 'Hullo'?"

"Yes--whenI said 'Hullo!'  If there's a sweetheart in the casethe hidingdoesn't much matter.  If there isn't--as things arein thishouse--the hiding is a highly suspicious circumstanceand itwill be my painful duty to act on it accordingly."

WhatinGod's namewas I to say to him?  I knew the shrubberywas Mr.Franklin's favourite walk; I knew he would mostlikelyturn that way when he came back from the station;I knewthat Penelope had over and over again caught herfellow-servanthanging about thereand had always declared to methatRosanna's object was to attract Mr. Franklin's attention.If mydaughter was rightshe might well have been lying in waitfor Mr.Franklin's return when the Sergeant noticed her.I was putbetween the two difficulties of mentioning Penelope'sfancifulnotion as if it was mineor of leaving an unfortunatecreatureto suffer the consequencesthe very serious consequencesofexciting the suspicion of Sergeant Cuff.  Out of pure pityfor thegirl--on my soul and my characterout of pure pityfor thegirl--I gave the Sergeant the necessary explanationsand toldhim that Rosanna had been mad enough to set her heart onMr.Franklin Blake.

SergeantCuff never laughed.  On the few occasions when anything amusedhimhe curledup a little at the corners of the lipsnothing more.  He curledup now.

"Hadn'tyou better say she's mad enough to be an ugly girl and onlyaservant?" he asked.  "The falling in love with agentleman of Mr. FranklinBlake'smanners and appearance doesn't seem to me to be the maddest partof herconduct by any means.  HoweverI'm glad the thing is clearedup:itrelieves one's mind to have things cleared up.  YesI'll keepita secretMr. Betteredge.  I like to be tender to human infirmity--though Idon't get many chances of exercising that virtue in my line of life.You thinkMr. Franklin Blake hasn't got a suspicion of the girl's fancyfor him? Ah! he would have found it out fast enough if she had beennice-looking.The ugly women have a bad time of it in this world;let's hopeit will be made up to them in another.  You have got a nicegardenhereand a well-kept lawn.  See for yourself how much bettertheflowers look with grass about them instead of gravel.  Nothankyou.I won'ttake a rose.  It goes to my heart to break them off the stem.Just as itgoes to your heartyou knowwhen there's something wrongin theservants' hall.  Did you notice anything you couldn't accountfor in anyof the servants when the loss of the Diamond was firstfoundout?"

I had goton very fairly well with Sergeant Cuff so far.But theslyness with which he slipped in that last questionput me onmy guard.  In plain EnglishI didn't at all relishthe notionof helping his inquirieswhen those inquiriestook him(in the capacity of snake in the grass) among myfellow-servants.

"Inoticed nothing" I said"except that we all lost ourheads togethermyselfincluded."

"Oh"says the Sergeant"that's all you have to tell meis it?"

Iansweredwith (as I flattered myself) an unmoved countenance"Thatis all."

SergeantCuff's dismal eyes looked me hard in the face.

"Mr.Betteredge" he said"have you any objection to oblige meby shakinghands?  I have taken an extraordinary liking to you."

(Why heshould have chosen the exact moment when I was deceiving himto give methat proof of his good opinionis beyond all comprehension!I felt alittle proud--I really did feel a little proud of having been onetoo manyat last for the celebrated Cuff!)

We wentback to the house; the Sergeant requesting that I wouldgive him aroom to himselfand then send in the servants(theindoor servants only)one after anotherin the orderof theirrankfrom first to last.

I showedSergeant Cuff into my own roomand then called the servantstogetherin the hall.  Rosanna Spearman appeared among themmuch asusual.She was asquick in her way as the Sergeant in hisand I suspect shehad heardwhat he said to me about the servants in generaljust beforehediscovered her.  There she wasat any ratelooking as if shehadneverheard of such a place as the shrubbery in her life.

I sentthem inone by oneas desired.  The cook wasthe firstto enter the Court of Justiceotherwise my room.Sheremained but a short time.  Reporton coming out:"SergeantCuff is depressed in his spirits; but SergeantCuff is aperfect gentleman."  My lady's own maid followed.Remainedmuch longer.  Reporton coming out:  "If SergeantCuffdoesn't believe a respectable womanhe might keephisopinion to himselfat any rate!"  Penelope went next.Remainedonly a moment or two.  Reporton coming out:"SergeantCuff is much to be pitied.  He must have beencrossed inlovefatherwhen he was a young man."The firsthousemaid followed Penelope.  Remainedlike mylady'smaida long time.  Reporton coming out:  "I didn'tenter herladyship's serviceMr. Betteredgeto be doubtedto my faceby a low police-officer!" Rosanna Spearman went next.Remainedlonger than any of them.  No report on coming out--deadsilenceand lips as pale as ashes.  Samuelthe footmanfollowedRosanna.  Remained a minute or two.  Reporton coming out:"Whoeverblacks Sergeant Cuff's boots ought to be ashamedofhimself."  Nancythe kitchen-maidwent last. Remained a minuteor two. Reporton coming out:  "Sergeant Cuff has a heart;HE doesn'tcut jokesMr. Betteredgewith a poor hard-workinggirl."

Going intothe Court of Justicewhen it was all overto hear if therewere anyfurther commands for meI found the Sergeant at his old trick--lookingout of windowand whistling "The Last Rose of Summer"tohimself.

"Anydiscoveriessir?"  I inquired.

"IfRosanna Spearman asks leave to go out" said the Sergeant"letthe poor thing go; but let me know first."

I might aswell have held my tongue about Rosanna and Mr. Franklin!It wasplain enough; the unfortunate girl had fallen under SergeantCuff'ssuspicionsin spite of all I could do to prevent it.

"Ihope you don't think Rosanna is concerned in the loss of theDiamond?"I venturedto say.

Thecorners of the Sergeant's melancholy mouth curled upand helooked hard in my facejust as he had looked in the garden.

"Ithink I had better not tell youMr. Betteredge" he said."Youmight lose your headyou knowfor the second time."

I began todoubt whether I had been one too many for the celebrated Cuffafterall!  It was rather a relief to me that we were interruptedhere by aknock at the doorand a message from the cook.RosannaSpearman HAD asked to go outfor the usual reasonthat herhead was badand she wanted a breath of fresh air.At a signfrom the SergeantI saidYes.  "Which is the servants'way out?"he askedwhen the messenger had gone.  I showedhim theservants' way out.  "Lock the door of your room"says theSergeant; "and if anybody asks for mesay I'm in therecomposingmy mind."  He curled up again at the corners of the lipsanddisappeared.

Leftaloneunder those circumstancesa devouring curiosity pushed meon to makesome discoveries for myself.

It wasplain that Sergeant Cuff's suspicions of Rosanna had been rousedbysomething that he had found out at his examination of the servantsin myroom.  Nowthe only two servants (excepting Rosanna herself)who hadremained under examination for any length of timewere my lady's ownmaid andthe first housemaidthose two being also the women who had takenthe leadin persecuting their unfortunate fellow-servant from the first.Reachingthese conclusionsI looked in on themcasually as it might bein theservants' hallandfinding tea going forwardinstantly invitedmyself tothat meal.  (ForNOTA BENEa drop of tea is to a woman'stonguewhat adrop of oil is to a wasting lamp.)

Myreliance on the tea-potas an allydid not go unrewarded.In lessthan half an hour I knew as much as the Sergeant himself.

My lady'smaid and the housemaidhadit appearedneither of thembelievedin Rosanna's illness of the previous day.  These two devils--I ask yourpardon; but how else CAN you describe a couple of spiteful women?--had stolenup-stairsat intervals during the Thursday afternoon; had triedRosanna'sdoorand found it locked; had knockedand not been answered;hadlistenedand not heard a sound inside.  When the girl had comedown toteaand had been sent upstill out of sortsto bed againthe twodevils aforesaid had tried her door once moreand found it locked;had lookedat the keyholeand found it stopped up; had seen a lightunder thedoor at midnightand had heard the crackling of a fire (a firein aservant's bed-room in the month of June!) at four in the morning.All thisthey had told Sergeant Cuffwhoin return for their anxietytoenlighten himhad eyed them with sour and suspicious looksand hadshown themplainly that he didn't believe either one or the other.Hencetheunfavourable reports of him which these two women had broughtout withthem from the examination.  Hencealso (without reckoningtheinfluence of the tea-pot)their readiness to let their tongues runto anylength on the subject of the Sergeant's ungracious behaviourto them.

Having hadsome experience of the great Cuff's round-about waysand havinglast seen him evidently bent on following Rosannaprivatelywhen she went out for her walkit seemed clear to methat hehad thought it unadvisable to let the lady's maidand thehousemaid know how materially they had helped him.They werejust the sort of womenif he had treated their evidenceastrustworthyto have been puffed up by itand to have saidor donesomething which would have put Rosanna Spearman onher guard.

I walkedout in the fine summer afternoonvery sorry for the poor girland veryuneasy in my mind at the turn things had taken.Driftingtowards the shrubberysome time laterthere I met Mr. Franklin.Afterreturning from seeing his cousin off at the stationhe hadbeen with my ladyholding a long conversation with her.She hadtold him of Miss Rachel's unaccountable refusal to let herwardrobebe examined; and had put him in such low spirits about myyoung ladythat he seemed to shrink from speaking on the subject.The familytemper appeared in his face that eveningfor the first time inmyexperience of him.

"WellBetteredge" he said"how does the atmosphere of mysteryandsuspicion in which we are all living nowagree with you?Do youremember that morning when I first came here with the Moonstone?I wish toGod we had thrown it into the quicksand!"

Afterbreaking out in that wayhe abstained from speakingagainuntil he had composed himself.  We walked silentlyside bysidefor a minute or twoand then he asked mewhat hadbecome of Sergeant Cuff.  It was impossible to putMr.Franklin off with the excuse of the Sergeant being in my roomcomposinghis mind.  I told him exactly what had happenedmentioningparticularly what my lady's maid and the house-maidhad saidabout Rosanna Spearman.

Mr.Franklin's clear head saw the turn the Sergeant's suspicions hadtakenin thetwinkling of an eye.

"Didn'tyou tell me this morning" he said"that one of thetradespeopledeclaredhe had met Rosanna yesterdayon the footway to Frizinghallwhen wesupposed her to be ill in her room?"

"Yessir."

"Ifmy aunt's maid and the other woman have spoken the truthyou maydepend upon it the tradesman did meet her.The girl'sattack of illness was a blind to deceive us.She hadsome guilty reason for going to the town secretly.Thepaint-stained dress is a dress of hers; and the fire heardcracklingin her room at four in the morning was a fire litto destroyit.  Rosanna Spearman has stolen the Diamond.I'll go indirectlyand tell my aunt the turn thingshavetaken."

"Notjust yetif you pleasesir" said a melancholy voice behindus.

We bothturned aboutand found ourselves face to face with Sergeant Cuff.

"Whynot just yet?" asked Mr. Franklin.

"Becausesirif you tell her ladyshipher ladyship will tellMissVerinder."

"Supposeshe does.  What then?"  Mr. Franklin said those wordswith a suddenheat andvehemenceas if the Sergeant had mortally offended him.

"Doyou think it's wisesir" said Sergeant Cuffquietly"toputsuch aquestion as that to me--at such a time as this?"

There wasa moment's silence between them:  Mr. Franklin walked closeup to theSergeant.  The two looked each other straight in the face.Mr.Franklin spoke firstdropping his voice as suddenly as he hadraised it.

"Isuppose you knowMr. Cuff" he said"that you aretreadingondelicate ground?"

"Itisn't the first timeby a good many hundredsthat Ifindmyself treading on delicate ground" answered the otherasimmovable as ever.

"I amto understand that you forbid me to tell my aunt what has happened?"

"Youare to understandif you pleasesirthat I throw up the caseif youtell Lady Verinderor tell anybodywhat has happeneduntil Igive youleave."

Thatsettled it.  Mr. Franklin had no choice but to submit.He turnedaway in anger--and left us.

I hadstood there listening to themall in a tremble; not knowingwhom tosuspector what to think next.  In the midst of my confusiontwothingshoweverwere plain to me.  Firstthat my young ladywasin someunaccountable mannerat the bottom of the sharp speeches that hadpassedbetween them.  Secondthat they thoroughly understood eachotherwithouthaving previously exchanged a word of explanation on either side.

"Mr.Betteredge" says the Sergeant"you have done a veryfoolish thing inmyabsence.  You have done a little detective business on your ownaccount.For thefutureperhaps you will be so obliging as to do your detectivebusinessalong with me."

He took meby the armand walked me away with him along the roadby whichhe had come.  I dare say I had deserved his reproof--but I wasnot going to help him to set traps for Rosanna Spearmanfor allthat.  Thief or no thieflegal or not legalI don't care--I pitiedher.

"Whatdo you want of me?"  I askedshaking him offand stoppingshort.

"Onlya little information about the country round here"said theSergeant.

I couldn'twell object to improve Sergeant Cuff in his geography.

"Isthere any pathin that directionleading to the sea-beachfrom thishouse?" asked the Sergeant.  He pointedas he spoketo thefir-plantation which led to the Shivering Sand.

"Yes"I said"there is a path."

"Showit to me."

Side bysidein the grey of the summer eveningSergeant Cuff and Iset forthfor the Shivering Sand.

 

CHAPTER XV

TheSergeant remained silentthinking his own thoughtstill weenteredthe plantation of firs which led to the quicksand.There heroused himselflike a man whose mind was made upand spoketo me again.

"Mr.Betteredge" he said"as you have honoured me by taking anoarin myboatand as you mayI thinkbe of some assistance to me beforetheevening is outI see no use in our mystifying one another anylongerand Ipropose to set you an example of plain speaking on my side.  Youaredeterminedto give me no information to the prejudice of Rosanna Spearmanbecauseshe has been a good girl to YOUand because you pity her heartily.Thosehumane considerations do you a world of creditbut they happenin thisinstance to be humane considerations clean thrown away.RosannaSpearman is not in the slightest danger of getting into trouble--nonot ifI fix her with being concerned in the disappearance of the Diamondonevidence which is as plain as the nose on your face!"

"Doyou mean that my lady won't prosecute?"  I asked.

"Imean that your lady CAN'T prosecute" said the Sergeant."RosannaSpearman is simply an instrument in the handsof anotherpersonand Rosanna Spearman will be held harmlessfor thatother person's sake."

He spokelike a man in earnest--there was no denying that.StillIfelt something stirring uneasily against him in my mind."Can'tyou give that other person a name?"  I said.

"Can'tyouMr. Betteredge?"

"No."

SergeantCuff stood stock stilland surveyed me with a lookofmelancholy interest.

"It'salways a pleasure to me to be tender towards human infirmity"he said. "I feel particularly tender at the present momentMr.Betteredgetowards you.  And youwith the same excellentmotivefeelparticularly tender towards Rosanna Spearmandon't you?Do youhappen to know whether she has had a new outfit oflinenlately?"

What hemeant by slipping in this extraordinary question unawaresI was at atotal loss to imagine.  Seeing no possible injuryto Rosannaif I owned the truthI answered that the girl hadcome to usrather sparely provided with linenand that my ladyinrecompense for her good conduct (I laid a stress on her goodconduct)had given her a new outfit not a fortnight since.

"Thisis a miserable world" says the Sergeant.  "HumanlifeMr.Betteredgeis a sort of target--misfortune is always firingat itandalways hitting the mark.  But for that outfitwe shouldhave discovered a new nightgown or petticoatamongRosanna's thingsand have nailed her in that way.You're notat a loss to follow meare you?  You have examinedtheservants yourselfand you know what discoveries two of themmadeoutside Rosanna's door.  Surely you know what the girlwas aboutyesterdayafter she was taken ill?  You can't guess?Oh dearmeit's as plain as that strip of light thereat the endof the trees.  At elevenon Thursday morningSuperintendentSeegrave (who is a mass of human infirmity)points outto all the women servants the smear on the door.Rosannahas her own reasons for suspecting her own things;she takesthe first opportunity of getting to her roomfinds thepaint-stain on her night-gownor petticoator whatnotshams ill and slips away to the towngets thematerials for making a new petticoat or nightgownmakes italone in her room on the Thursday night lights a fire(not todestroy it; two of her fellow-servants are prying outsideher doorand she knows better than to make a smell of burningand tohave a lot of tinder to get rid of)--lights a fireI sayto dry andiron the substitute dress after wringing it outkeeps thestained dress hidden (probably ON her)and is at thismomentoccupied in making away with itin some convenient placeon thatlonely bit of beach ahead of us.  I have traced her thisevening toyour fishing villageand to one particular cottagewhich wemay possibly have to visitbefore we go back.Shestopped in the cottage for some timeand she cameout with(as I believe) something hidden under her cloak.A cloak(on a woman's back) is an emblem of charity--it coversa multitude of sins.  I saw her set off northwardsalong thecoastafter leaving the cottage.  Is your sea-shorehereconsidered a fine specimen of marine landscapeMr.Betteredge?"

Ianswered"Yes" as shortly as might be.

"Tastesdiffer" says Sergeant Cuff.  "Looking at it from mypointof viewInever saw a marine landscape that I admired less.If youhappen to be following another person along yoursea-coastand if that person happens to look roundthere isn'ta scrap ofcover to hide you anywhere.  I had to choosebetweentaking Rosanna in custody on suspicionor leaving herfor thetime beingwith her little game in her own hands.Forreasons which I won't trouble you withI decided on makinganysacrifice rather than give the alarm as soon as to-nightto acertain person who shall be nameless between us.I cameback to the house to ask you to take me to the north endof thebeach by another way.  Sand--in respect of its printing offpeople'sfootsteps--is one of the best detective officers I know.If wedon't meet with Rosanna Spearman by coming round onher inthis waythe sand may tell us what she has been atif thelight only lasts long enough.  Here IS the sand.If youwill excuse my suggesting it--suppose you hold your tongueand let mego first?"

If thereis such a thing known at the doctor's shop as a DETECTIVE-FEVERthatdisease had now got fast hold of your humble servant.  SergeantCuffwent onbetween the hillocks of sanddown to the beach.  I followed him(with myheart in my mouth); and waited at a little distance for what was tohappennext.

As itturned outI found myself standing nearly in the same placewhereRosanna Spearman and I had been talking together when Mr. Franklinsuddenlyappeared before uson arriving at our house from London.While myeyes were watching the Sergeantmy mind wandered away in spiteof me towhat had passedon that former occasionbetween Rosanna and me.I declareI almost felt the poor thing slip her hand again into mineand giveit a little grateful squeeze to thank me for speaking kindly to her.I declareI almost heard her voice telling me again that the ShiveringSandseemed to draw her to it against her own willwhenever she wentout--almost sawher face brighten againas it brightened when she first seteyes uponMr. Franklin coming briskly out on us from among the hillocks.My spiritsfell lower and lower as I thought of these things--and the viewof thelonesome little baywhen I looked about to rouse myselfonly servedto make mefeel more uneasy still.

The lastof the evening light was fading away; and overall thedesolate place there hung a still and awful calm.The heaveof the main ocean on the great sandbank out in the baywas aheave that made no sound.  The inner sea lay lost and dimwithout abreath of wind to stir it.  Patches of nastyoozefloatedyellow-whiteon the dead surface of the water.Scum andslime shone faintly in certain placeswhere the lastof thelight still caught them on the two great spits of rockjuttingoutnorth and southinto the sea.  It was now the timeof theturn of the tide:  and even as I stood there waitingthe broadbrown face of the quicksand began to dimple and quiver--the onlymoving thing in all the horrid place.

I saw theSergeant start as the shiver of the sand caught his eye.Afterlooking at it for a minute or sohe turned and came backto me.

"Atreacherous placeMr. Betteredge" he said; "and no signsof RosannaSpearman anywhere on the beachlook where you may."

He took medown lower on the shoreand I saw for myself that his footstepsand minewere the only footsteps printed off on the sand.

"Howdoes the fishing village bearstanding where we are now?"askedSergeant Cuff.

"Cobb'sHole" I answered (that being the name of the place)"bearsas near asmay bedue south."

"Isaw the girl this eveningwalking northward along the shorefromCobb's Hole" said the Sergeant.  "Consequentlyshemust havebeenwalking towards this place.  Is Cobb's Hole on the other sideof thatpoint of land there?  And can we get to it--now it's low water--by thebeach?"

Ianswered"Yes" to both those questions.

"Ifyou'll excuse my suggesting itwe'll step out briskly"said theSergeant.  "I want to find the place where she leftthe shorebefore it gets dark."

We hadwalkedI should saya couple of hundred yards towards Cobb's HolewhenSergeant Cuff suddenly went down on his knees on the beachto allappearanceseized with a sudden frenzy for saying his prayers.

"There'ssomething to be said for your marine landscape hereafter all"remarkedthe Sergeant.  "Here are a woman's footstepsMr.Betteredge!Let uscall them Rosanna's footstepsuntil we find evidence to the contrarythat wecan't resist.  Very confused footstepsyou will please toobserve--purposelyconfusedI should say.  Ahpoor soulshe understandsthedetective virtues of sand as well as I do!  But hasn't she beenin rathertoo great a hurry to tread out the marks thoroughly?I thinkshe has.  Here's one footstep going FROM Cobb's Hole;and hereis another going back to it.  Isn't that the toe of hershoepointing straight to the water's edge?  And don't I see twoheel-marksfurther down the beachclose at the water's edge also?I don'twant to hurt your feelingsbut I'm afraid Rosanna is sly.It looksas if she had determined to get to that place you and I havejust comefromwithout leaving any marks on the sand to trace her by.Shall wesay that she walked through the water from this point tillshe got tothat ledge of rocks behind usand came back the same wayand thentook to the beach again where those two heel marks arestillleft?  Yeswe'll say that.  It seems to fit in with mynotionthat shehad something under her cloakwhen she left the cottage.No! notsomething to destroy--forin that casewhere would have beenthe needof all these precautions to prevent my tracing the place atwhich herwalk ended?  Something to hide isI thinkthe better guessof thetwo.  Perhapsif we go on to the cottagewe may find out whatthatsomethingis?"

At thisproposalmy detective-fever suddenly cooled.  "You don'twant me"I said. "What good can I do?"

"Thelonger I know youMr. Betteredge" said the Sergeant"themore virtues I discover.  Modesty--oh dear mehow raremodesty isin this world! and how much of that rarity you possess!If I goalone to the cottagethe people's tongues will betied atthe first question I put to them.  If I go with youI gointroduced by a justly respected neighbourand a flow ofconversationis the necessary result.  It strikes me in that light;how doesit strike you?"

Not havingan answer of the needful smartness as ready as I could have wishedI tried togain time by asking him what cottage he wanted to go to.

On theSergeant describing the placeI recognised itas acottage inhabited by a fisherman named Yollandwith hiswife and two grown-up childrena son and a daughter.If youwill look backyou will find thatin first presentingRosannaSpearman to your noticeI have described herasoccasionally varying her walk to the Shivering Sandby a visitto some friends of hers at Cobb's Hole.Thosefriends were the Yollands--respectableworthy peoplea creditto the neighbourhood.  Rosanna's acquaintance with themhad begunby means of the daughterwho was afflicted with amisshapenfootand who was known in our parts by the nameof LimpingLucy.  The two deformed girls hadI supposea kind offellow-feeling for each other.  Anywaythe YollandsandRosanna always appeared to get on togetherat the fewchancesthey had of meetingin a pleasant and friendly manner.The factof Sergeant Cuff having traced the girl to THEIR cottageset thematter of my helping his inquiries in quite a new light.Rosannahad merely gone where she was in the habit of going;and toshow that she had been in company with the fisherman andhis familywas as good as to prove that she had been innocentlyoccupiedso farat any rate.  It would be doing the girla servicethereforeinstead of an injuryif I allowed myselfto beconvinced by Sergeant Cuff's logic.  I professed myselfconvincedby it accordingly.

We went onto Cobb's Holeseeing the footsteps on the sandas long asthe light lasted.

Onreaching the cottagethe fisherman and his son proved to be outin theboat; and Limping Lucyalways weak and wearywas resting onher bedup-stairs. Good Mrs. Yolland received us alone in her kitchen.When sheheard that Sergeant Cuff was a celebrated character in Londonsheclapped a bottle of Dutch gin and a couple of clean pipes on thetableand staredas if she could never see enough of him.

I satquiet in a cornerwaiting to hear how the Sergeant wouldfind hisway to the subject of Rosanna Spearman.  His usualroundaboutmanner of going to work provedon this occasionto be moreroundabout than ever.  How he managed it is morethan Icould tell at the timeand more than I can tell now.But thisis certainhe began with the Royal FamilythePrimitive Methodistsand the price of fish; and he got from that(in hisdismalunderground way) to the loss of the Moonstonethespitefulness of our first house-maidand the hard behaviourof thewomen-servants generally towards Rosanna Spearman.Havingreached his subject in this fashionhe described himselfas makinghis inquiries about the lost Diamondpartly with a viewto finditand partly for the purpose of clearing Rosannafrom theunjust suspicions of her enemies in the house.In about aquarter of an hour from the time when we enteredthekitchengood Mrs. Yolland was persuaded that she wastalking toRosanna's best friendand was pressing SergeantCuff tocomfort his stomach and revive his spirits out of theDutchbottle.

Beingfirmly persuaded that the Sergeant was wasting his breathto nopurpose on Mrs. YollandI sat enjoying the talk between themmuch as Ihave satin my timeenjoying a stage play.The greatCuff showed a wonderful patience; trying his luckdrearilythis way and that wayand firing shot after shotas itwereat randomon the chance of hitting the mark.Everythingto Rosanna's creditnothing to Rosanna's prejudice--that washow it endedtry as he might; with Mrs. Yollandtalkingnineteen to the dozenand placing the most entireconfidencein him.  His last effort was madewhen we hadlooked atour watchesand had got on our legs previous totakingleave.

"Ishall now wish you good-nightma'am" says the Sergeant."AndI shall only sayat partingthat Rosanna Spearman hasa sincerewell-wisher in myselfyour obedient servant.Butohdear me! she will never get on in her present place;and myadvice to her is--leave it."

"Blessyour heart alive! she is GOING to leave it!" cries Mrs. Yolland.(NOTABENE--I translate Mrs. Yolland out of the Yorkshire language intotheEnglish language.  When I tell you that the all-accomplishedCuffwas everynow and then puzzled to understand her until I helped himyou willdraw your own conclusions as to what your state of mind would be if Ireportedher in her native tongue.)

RosannaSpearman going to leave us!  I pricked up my ears at that.It seemedstrangeto say the least of itthat she should havegiven nowarningin the first placeto my lady or to me.A certaindoubt came up in my mind whether Sergeant Cuff's last randomshot mightnot have hit the mark.  I began to question whether my sharein theproceedings was quite as harmless a one as I had thought it.It mightbe all in the way of the Sergeant's business to mystifyan honestwoman by wrapping her round in a network of liesbut it wasmy duty to have rememberedas a good Protestantthat thefather of lies is the Devil--and that mischief and the Devilare neverfar apart.  Beginning to smell mischief in the airI tried totake Sergeant Cuff out.  He sat down again instantlyand askedfor a little drop of comfort out of the Dutch bottle.MrsYolland sat down opposite to himand gave him his nip.I went onto the doorexcessively uncomfortableand said I thought Imust bidthem good-night--and yet I didn't go.

"Soshe means to leave?" says the Sergeant.  "What is sheto do when shedoesleave?  Sadsad!  The poor creature has got no friends inthe worldexcept youand me."

"Ahbut she has though!" says Mrs. Yolland.  "She came inhereas I toldyouthis evening; andafter sitting and talking a littlewith mygirl Lucy and me she asked to go up-stairs by herselfintoLucy's room.  It's the only room in our place where there'spen andink.  "I want to write a letter to a friend" she says"andI can't do it for the prying and peeping of the servants upat thehouse."  Who the letter was written to I can't tell you:it musthave been a mortal long onejudging by the time she stoppedup-stairsover it.  I offered her a postage-stamp when she came down.She hadn'tgot the letter in her handand she didn't accept the stamp.A littleclosepoor soul (as you know)about herself and her doings.But afriend she has got somewhereI can tell you; and to that friendyou maydepend upon itshe will go."

"Soon?"asked the Sergeant.

"Assoon as she can."  says Mrs. Yolland.

Here Istepped in again from the door.  As chief of my lady'sestablishmentI couldn'tallow this sort of loose talk about a servant of ours goingor notgoingto proceed any longer in my presencewithout noticing it.

"Youmust be mistaken about Rosanna SpearmanI said."Ifshe had been going to leave her present situationshe wouldhavementioned itin the first placeto ME.

"Mistaken?"cries Mrs. Yolland.  "Whyonly an hour ago she bought somethingsshe wantedfor travelling--of my own selfMr. Betteredgein this very room.And thatreminds me" says the wearisome womansuddenly beginning tofeelin herpocket"of something I have got it on my mind to say aboutRosannaand hermoney.  Are you either of you likely to see her when you go backtothehouse?"

"I'lltake a message to the poor thingwith the greatest pleasure"answeredSergeant Cuffbefore I could put in a word edgewise.

Mrs.Yolland produced out of her pocketa few shillings and sixpencesandcounted them out with a most particular and exasperating carefulnessin thepalm of her hand.  She offered the money to the Sergeantlookingmighty loth to part with it all the while.

"MightI ask you to give this back to Rosannawith my loveandrespects?" says Mrs. Yolland.  "She insisted on payingmefor theone or two things she took a fancy to this evening--andmoney's welcome enough in our houseI don't deny it.StillI mnot easy in my mind about taking the poor thing'slittlesavings.  And to tell you the truthI don't think my manwould liketo hear that I had taken Rosanna Spearman's moneywhen hecomes back to-morrow morning from his work.  Please sayshe'sheartily welcome to the things she bought of me--as a gift.And don'tleave the money on the table" says Mrs. Yollandputting itdown suddenly before the Sergeantas if it burntherfingers--"don'tthere's a good man!  For times are hardand fleshis weak; and I MIGHT feel tempted to put it back in mypocketagain."

"Comealong!"  I said"I can't wait any longer:  Imust go backto thehouse."

"I'llfollow you directly" says Sergeant Cuff.

For thesecond timeI went to the door; andfor the second timetry as ImightI couldn't cross the threshold.

"It'sa delicate matterma'am" I heard the Sergeant say"givingmoney back.  You charged her cheap for the thingsI'm sure?"

"Cheap!"says Mrs. Yolland.  "Come and judge for yourself."

She tookup the candle and led the Sergeant to a corner of the kitchen.For thelife of meI couldn't help following them.  Shaken down in thecornerwas a heapof odds and ends (mostly old metal)which the fisherman had pickedup atdifferent times from wrecked shipsand which he hadn't found amarketfor yetto his own mind.  Mrs. Yolland dived into this rubbishandbroughtup an oldjapanned tin casewith a cover to itand a hasp to hang it up by--the sortof thing they useon board shipfor keeping their maps and chartsandsuch-likefrom the wet.

"There!"says she.  "When Rosanna came in this eveningshe boughtthe fellowto that. 'It will just do' she says'to put my cuffs and collars inand keepthem from being crumpled in my box.'  One and ninepenceMr.Cuff.As I liveby breadnot a halfpenny more!"

"Dirtcheap!" says the Sergeantwith a heavy sigh.

He weighedthe case in his hand.  I thought I heard a note or two of "TheLast Roseof Summer" as he looked at it.  There was no doubt now!He hadmade another discovery to the prejudice of Rosanna Spearmanin theplace of all others where I thought her character was safestand allthrough me!  I leave you to imagine what I feltand howsincerelyI repentedhaving been the medium of introduction between Mrs. Yolland andSergeantCuff.

"Thatwill do" I said.  "We really must go."

Withoutpaying the least attention to meMrs. Yolland tookanotherdive into the rubbishand came up out of itthis timewith adog-chain.

"Weighit in your handsir" she said to the Sergeant."Wehad three of these; and Rosanna has taken two of them.'What canyou wantmy dearwith a couple of dog's chains?'says I.'If I join them together they'll do round my box nicely'says she. 'Rope's cheapest' says I. 'Chain's surest'says she. 'Who ever heard of a box corded with chain'says I.'OhMrs. Yollanddon't make objections!' says she;'let mehave my chains!'  A strange girlMr. Cuff--good asgoldand kinder than a sister to my Lucy--but alwaysa littlestrange.  There!  I humoured her.  Three and sixpence.On theword of an honest womanthree and sixpenceMr. Cuff!"

"Each?"says the Sergeant.

"Bothtogether!" says Mrs. Yolland.  "Three and sixpence forthe two."

"Givenawayma'am" says the Sergeantshaking his head."Cleangiven away!"

"There'sthe money" says Mrs. Yollandgetting back sideways to thelittleheap ofsilver on the tableas if it drew her in spite of herself."Thetin case and the dog chains were all she boughtand all she tookaway.One andninepence and three and sixpence--totalfive and three.With mylove and respects--and I can't find it in my conscience to take apoorgirl'ssavingswhen she may want them herself."

"Ican't find it in MY consciencema'amto give the money back"saysSergeant Cuff.  "You have as good as made her a present ofthe things--you haveindeed."

"Isthat your sincere opinionsir?" says Mrs. Yolland brighteningupwonderfully.

"Therecan't be a doubt about it" answered the Sergeant."AskMr. Betteredge."

It was nouse asking ME.  All they got out of ME was"Good-night."

"Botherthe money!" says Mrs. Yolland.  With these wordssheappeared to loseallcommand over herself; andmaking a sudden snatch at the heap ofsilverput itbackholus-bolusin her pocket.  "It upsets one's temperit doesto see itlying thereand nobody taking it" cries this unreasonablewomansittingdown with a thumpand looking at Sergeant Cuffas much as to say"It'sin my pocket again now--get it out if you can!"

This timeI not only went to the doorbut went fairly out on the road back.Explain ithow you mayI felt as if one or both of them had mortallyoffendedme.  Before I had taken three steps down the villageI heardtheSergeant behind me.

"Thankyou for your introductionMr. Betteredge" he said."I amindebted to the fisherman's wife for an entirely new sensation.Mrs.Yolland has puzzled me."

It was onthe tip of my tongue to have given him a sharp answerfor nobetter reason than this--that I was out of temper with himbecause Iwas out of temper with myself.  But when he ownedto beingpuzzleda comforting doubt crossed my mind whether anygreat harmhad been done after all.  I waited in discreet silenceto hearmore.

"Yes"says the Sergeantas if he was actually reading mythoughtsin the dark.  "Instead of putting me on the scentit mayconsole you to knowMr. Betteredge (with your interestinRosanna)that you have been the means of throwing me off.What thegirl has doneto-nightis clear enoughof course.She hasjoined the two chainsand has fastened them tothe haspin the tin case.  She has sunk the casein the wateror in thequicksand.  She has made the loose end of the chainfast tosome place under the rocksknown only to herself.And shewill leave the case secure at its anchorage tillthepresent proceedings have come to an end; after which shecanprivately pull it up again out of its hiding-placeat her ownleisure and convenience.  All perfectly plainso far. But" says the Sergeantwith the first tone of impatiencein hisvoice that I had heard yet"the mystery is--what the devilhas shehidden in the tin case?"

I thoughtto myself"The Moonstone!"  But I only said toSergeant Cuff"Can'tyou guess?"

"It'snot the Diamond" says the Sergeant.  "The wholeexperienceof my lifeis at faultif Rosanna Spearman has got the Diamond."

On hearingthose wordsthe infernal detective-fever beganI supposeto burn in me again.  At any rateI forgot myselfin theinterest of guessing this new riddle.  I said rashly"Thestained dress!"

SergeantCuff stopped short in the darkand laid his hand on my arm.

"Isanything thrown into that quicksand of yoursever thrown upon thesurface again?" he asked.

"Never"I answered.  "Light or heavy whatever goes into theShiveringSand issucked downand seen no more."

"DoesRosanna Spearman know that?"

"Sheknows it as well as I do."

"Then"says the Sergeant"what on earth has she got to do but to tieup a bitof stone in the stained dress and throw it into the quicksand?Thereisn't the shadow of a reason why she should have hidden it--and yetshe musthave hidden it.  Query" says the Sergeantwalking onagain"isthe paint-stained dress a petticoat or a night-gown? or is itsomethingelse which there is a reason for preserving at any risk?Mr.Betteredgeif nothing occurs to prevent itI must go to Frizinghallto-morrowand discover what she bought in the townwhen she privatelygot thematerials for making the substitute dress.  It's a risk to leavethe houseas things are now--but it's a worse risk still to stir anotherstep inthis matter in the dark.  Excuse my being a little out oftemper;I'mdegraded in my own estimation--I have let Rosanna Spearmanpuzzleme."

When wegot backthe servants were at supper.  The first personwe saw inthe outer yard was the policeman whom SuperintendentSeegravehad left at the Sergeant's disposal.  The Sergeant askedif RosannaSpearman had returned.  Yes.  When?  Nearly an hoursince.What hadshe done?  She had gone up-stairs to take off her bonnetandcloak--and she was now at supper quietly with the rest.

Withoutmaking any remarkSergeant Cuff walked onsinking lowerand lowerin his own estimationto the back of the house.Missingthe entrance in the darkhe went on (in spite of my callingto him)till he was stopped by a wicket-gate which led into the garden.When Ijoined him to bring him back by the right wayI foundthat hewas looking up attentively at one particular windowon thebed-room floorat the back of the house.

Lookingupin my turnI discovered that the object of his contemplationwas thewindow of Miss Rachel's roomand that lights were passing backwardsandforwards there as if something unusual was going on.

"Isn'tthat Miss Verinder's room?" asked Sergeant Cuff.

I repliedthat it wasand invited him to go in with me to supper.TheSergeant remained in his placeand said something about enjoyingthe smellof the garden at night.  I left him to his enjoyment.Just as Iwas turning in at the doorI heard "The Last Rose of Summer"at thewicket-gate. Sergeant Cuff had made another discovery!And myyoung lady's window was at the bottom of it this time!

The latterreflection took me back again to the Sergeantwith a politeintimationthat I could not find it in my heart to leave him by himself."Isthere anything you don't understand up there?"  I addedpointing to MissRachel'swindow.

Judging byhis voiceSergeant Cuff had suddenly risen again to the rightplace inhis own estimation.  "You are great people for betting inYorkshireare younot?" he asked.

"Well?" I said.  "Suppose we are?"

"If Iwas a Yorkshireman" proceeded the Sergeanttaking my arm"Iwould lay you an even sovereignMr. Betteredgethat youryoung lady has suddenly resolved to leave the house.If I wonon that eventI should offer to lay another sovereignthat theidea has occurred to her within the last hour."The firstof the Sergeant's guesses startled me.The secondmixed itself up somehow in my head with the reportwe hadheard from the policemanthat Rosanna Spearmanhadreturned from the sands with in the last hour.  The twotogetherhad a curious effect on me as we went in to supper.I shookoff Sergeant Cuff's armandforgetting my mannerspushed byhim through the door to make my own inquiriesformyself.

Samuelthe footmanwas the first person I met in the passage.

"Herladyship is waiting to see you and Sergeant Cuff" he saidbefore Icould put any questions to him.

"Howlong has she been waiting?" asked the Sergeant's voice behindme.

"Forthe last hoursir."

There itwas again!  Rosanna had come back; Miss Rachelhad takensome resolution out of the common; and my lady hadbeenwaiting to see the Sergeant--all within the last hour!It was notpleasant to find these very different persons and thingslinkingthemselves together in this way.  I went on upstairswithoutlooking at Sergeant Cuffor speaking to him.My handtook a sudden fit of trembling as I lifted it to knockat mymistress's door.

"Ishouldn't be surprised" whispered the Sergeant over myshoulder"if ascandal was to burst up in the house to-night. Don't be alarmed!I have putthe muzzle on worse family difficulties than thisin mytime."

As he saidthe words I heard my mistress's voice calling to us to come in.

 

CHAPTERXVI

We foundmy lady with no light in the room but the reading-lamp.The shadewas screwed down so as to overshadow her face.Instead oflooking up at us in her usual straightforward wayshe satclose at the tableand kept her eyes fixed obstinately onan openbook.

"Officer"she said"is it important to the inquiry you are conductingto knowbeforehand if any person now in this house wishes to leave it?"

"Mostimportantmy lady."

"Ihave to tell youthenthat Miss Verinder proposes goingto staywith her auntMrs. Ablewhiteof Frizinghall.She hasarranged to leave us the first thing to-morrow morning."

SergeantCuff looked at me.  I made a step forward to speak to mymistress--andfeeling my heart fail me (if I must own it)took a step back againand saidnothing.

"MayI ask your ladyship WHEN Miss Verinder informed you that shewas goingto her aunt's?" inquired the Sergeant.

"Aboutan hour since" answered my mistress.

SergeantCuff looked at me once more.  They say old people's heartsare notvery easily moved.  My heart couldn't have thumped muchharderthan it did nowif I had been five-and-twenty again!

"Ihave no claimmy lady" says the Sergeant"to controlMissVerinder's actions.  All I can ask you to do is to putoff herdepartureif possibletill later in the day.I must goto Frizinghall myself to-morrow morning--and I shallbe back bytwo o'clockif not before.  If Miss Verinder canbe kepthere till that timeI should wish to say two wordstoher--unexpectedly--before she goes."

My ladydirected me to give the coachman her ordersthat the carriagewas not tocome for Miss Rachel until two o'clock. "Have you more to say?"she askedof the Sergeantwhen this had been done.

"Onlyone thingyour ladyship.  If Miss Verinder is surprised at thischange inthe arrangementsplease not to mention Me as being the causeof puttingoff her journey."

Mymistress lifted her head suddenly from her book as if she was goingto saysomething--checked herself by a great effort--andlooking backagain atthe open pagedismissed us with a sign of her hand.

"That'sa wonderful woman" said Sergeant Cuffwhen we wereout in thehall again.  "But for her self-controlthe mysterythatpuzzles youMr. Betteredgewould have been at an end to-night."

At thosewordsthe truth rushed at last into my stupid old head.For themomentI suppose I must have gone clean out of my senses.I seizedthe Sergeant by the collar of his coatand pinned him againstthe wall.

"Damnyou!"  I cried out"there's something wrong aboutMiss Rachel--and youhave been hiding it from me all this time!"

SergeantCuff looked up at me--flat against the wall--without stirring a handor movinga muscle of his melancholy face.

"Ah"he said"you've guessed it at last."

My handdropped from his collarand my head sunk on my breast.Please torememberas some excuse for my breaking outas I didthat I had served the family for fifty years.MissRachel had climbed upon my kneesand pulled my whiskersmany andmany a time when she was a child.  Miss Rachelwith allher faultshad beento my mindthe dearest andprettiestand best young mistress that ever an old servantwaited onand loved.  I begged Sergeant's Cuff's pardonbut I amafraid I did it with watery eyesand not in a verybecomingway.

"Don'tdistress yourselfMr. Betteredge" says the Sergeantwith morekindness than I had any right to expect from him."Inmy line of life if we were quick at taking offencewe shouldn'tbe worthsalt to our porridge.  If it's any comfort to youcollar meagain.  You don't in the least know how to do it;but I'lloverlook your awkwardness in consideration ofyourfeelings."

He curledup at the corners of his lipsandin his own dreary wayseemed tothink he had delivered himself of a very good joke.

I led himinto my own little sitting-roomand closed the door.

"Tellme the truthSergeant" I said.  "What do yoususpect?It's nokindness to hide it from me now."

"Idon't suspect" said Sergeant Cuff.  "I know."

My unluckytemper began to get the better of me again.

"Doyou mean to tell mein plain English" I said"that MissRachelhas stolenher own Diamond?"

"Yes"says the Sergeant; "that is what I mean to tell youin so manywords.MissVerinder has been in secret possession of the Moonstone fromfirst tolast; and she has taken Rosanna Spearman into her confidencebecauseshe has calculated on our suspecting Rosanna Spearman of the theft.There isthe whole case in a nutshell.  Collar me againMr. Betteredge.If it'sany vent to your feelingscollar me again."

God helpme! my feelings were not to be relieved in that way."Giveme your reasons!"  That was all I could say to him.

"Youshall hear my reasons to-morrow" said the Sergeant."IfMiss Verinder refuses to put off her visit to her aunt(which youwill find Miss Verinder will do)I shall be obligedto lay thewhole case before your mistress to-morrow. Andas I don'tknow what may come of itI shall request youto bepresentand to hear what passes on both sides.Let thematter rest for to-night. NoMr. Betteredgeyou don'tget a wordmore on the subject of the Moonstone out of me.There isyour table spread for supper.  That's one ofthe manyhuman infirmities which I always treat tenderly.If youwill ring the bellI'll say grace.  'For what we are goingtoreceive----'"

"Iwish you a good appetite to itSergeant" I said.  "Myappetite is gone.I'll waitand see you servedand then I'll ask you to excuse meif Igo awayand try to get the better of this by myself."

I saw himserved with the best of everything--and I shouldn'thave beensorry if the best of everything had choked him.The headgardener (Mr. Begbie) came in at the same timewith hisweekly account.  The Sergeant got on the subject of rosesand themerits of grass walks and gravel walks immediately.I left thetwo togetherand went out with a heavy heart.This wasthe first trouble I remember for many a long yearwhichwasn't to be blown off by a whiff of tobaccoand which wasevenbeyond the reach of ROBINSON CRUSOE.

Beingrestless and miserableand having no particular room to go toI took aturn on the terraceand thought it over in peace and quietnessbymyself.  It doesn't much matter what my thoughts were.  Ifeltwretchedlyoldand worn outand unfit for my place--and began to wonderfor thefirst time in my lifewhen it would please God to take me.With allthisI held firmnotwithstandingto my belief in Miss Rachel.IfSergeant Cuff had been Solomon in all his gloryand had told me thatmy younglady had mixed herself up in a mean and guilty plotI shouldhave hadbut one answer for Solomonwise as he was"You don't know her;and I do."

Mymeditations were interrupted by Samuel.  He brought me a writtenmessagefrom mymistress.

Going intothe house to get a light to read it bySamuel remarkedthat thereseemed a change coming in the weather.  My troubled mindhadprevented me from noticing it before.  Butnow my attentionwasrousedI heard the dogs uneasyand the wind moaning low.Looking upat the skyI saw the rack of clouds getting blackerandblackerand hurrying faster and faster over a watery moon.Wildweather coming--Samuel was rightwild weather coming.

Themessage from my lady informed methat the magistrate atFrizinghallhad written to remind her about the three Indians.Early inthe coming weekthe rogues must needs be releasedand leftfree to follow their own devices.  If we had anymorequestions to ask themthere was no time to lose.Havingforgotten to mention thiswhen she had last seenSergeantCuffmy mistress now desired me to supply the omission.TheIndians had gone clean out of my head (as they haveno doubtgone cleanout of yours). I didn't see much use in stirringthatsubject again.  HoweverI obeyed my orders on the spotas amatter of course.

I foundSergeant Cuff and the gardenerwith a bottle of Scotch whiskybetweenthemhead over ears in an argument on the growing of roses.TheSergeant was so deeply interested that he held up his handand signedto me not to interrupt the discussionwhen I came in.As far asI could understand itthe question between them waswhetherthe white moss rose didor did notrequire to be buddedon thedog-rose to make it grow well.  Mr. Begbie saidYes;andSergeant Cuff saidNo. They appealed to meas hotly as a coupleof boys. Knowing nothing whatever about the growing of rosesI steereda middle course--just as her Majesty's judges dowhen thescales of justice bother them by hanging even to a hair."Gentlemen"I remarked"there is much to be said on both sides."In thetemporary lull produced by that impartial sentenceI laidmy lady'swritten message on the tableunder the eyes of SergeantCuff.

I had gotby this timeas nearly as might beto hate the Sergeant.But truthcompels me to acknowledge thatin respect of readiness of mindhe was awonderful man.

In half aminute after he had read the messagehe had lookedback intohis memory for Superintendent Seegrave's report;had pickedout that part of it in which the Indians were concerned;and wasready with his answer.  A certain great travellerwhounderstood the Indians and their languagehad figuredin Mr.Seegrave's reporthadn't he?  Very well.  Did I knowthegentleman's name and address?  Very well again.  Would Iwritethem onthe back of my lady's message?  Much obliged to me.SergeantCuff would look that gentleman upwhen he went toFrizinghallin the morning.

"Doyou expect anything to come of it?"  I asked. "Superintendent Seegravefound theIndians as innocent as the babe unborn."

"SuperintendentSeegrave has been proved wrongup to this timein all hisconclusions" answered the Sergeant.  "It may be worthwhile tofind out to-morrow whether Superintendent Seegrave was wrongabout theIndians as well."  With that he turned to Mr. Begbieandtookup theargument again exactly at the place where it had left off."Thisquestion between us is a question of soils and seasonsandpatience and painsMr. Gardener.  Now let me put it to you fromanotherpoint of view.  You take your white moss rose----"

By thattimeI had closed the door on themand was out of hearingof therest of the dispute.

In thepassageI met Penelope hanging aboutand asked what shewaswaiting for.

She waswaiting for her young lady's bellwhen her young lady choseto callher back to go on with the packing for the next day's journey.Furtherinquiry revealed to methat Miss Rachel had given it as areason forwanting to go to her aunt at Frizinghallthat the housewasunendurable to herand that she could bear the odious presenceof apoliceman under the same roof with herself no longer.On beinginformedhalf an hour sincethat her departure would bedelayedtill two in the afternoonshe had flown into a violent passion.My ladypresent at the timehad severely rebuked herand then(havingapparently something to saywhich was reserved for herdaughter'sprivate ear) had sent Penelope out of the room.My girlwas in wretchedly low spirits about the changed state of thingsin thehouse.  "Nothing goes rightfather; nothing is like whatitused tobe.  I feel as if some dreadful misfortune was hanging overus all."

That wasmy feeling too.  But I put a good face on itbefore mydaughter.MissRachel's bell rang while we were talking.  Penelope ran up thebackstairs togo on with the packing.  I went by the other way to the halltoseewhat theglass said about the change in the weather.

Just as Iapproached the swing-door leading into the hall fromtheservants' officesit was violently opened from the other sideandRosanna Spearman ran by mewith a miserable look of painin herfaceand one of her hands pressed hard over her heartas if thepang was in that quarter.  "What's the mattermy girl?"I askedstopping her.  "Are you ill?"  "For God'ssakedon't speakto me"she answeredand twisted herself out of my handsand ran ontowards the servants' staircase.  I called to the cook(who waswithin hearing) to look after the poor girl.Two otherpersons proved to be within hearingas well as the cook.SergeantCuff darted softly out of my roomand asked what was the matter.Ianswered"Nothing."  Mr. Franklinon the other sidepulled opentheswing-doorand beckoning me into the hallinquired if I had seenanythingof Rosanna Spearman.

"Shehas just passed mesirwith a very disturbed faceand in avery odd manner."

"I amafraid I am innocently the cause of that disturbanceBetteredge."

"Yousir!"

"Ican't explain it" says Mr. Franklin; "butif the girl ISconcernedin theloss of the DiamondI do really believe she was on the pointofconfessing everything--to meof all the people in the world--not twominutes since."

Lookingtowards the swing-dooras he said those last wordsI fanciedI saw it opened a little way from the inner side.

Was thereanybody listening?  The door fell tobefore I could get to it.Lookingthroughthe moment afterI thought I saw the tails of SergeantCuff'srespectable black coat disappearing round the corner of the passage.He knewas well as I didthat he could expect no more help from menow thatI haddiscovered the turn which his investigations were really taking.Underthose circumstancesit was quite in his character to help himselfand to doit by the underground way.

Notfeeling sure that I had really seen the Sergeant--and notdesiring to make needless mischiefwhereHeaven knowsthere wasmischief enough going on already--I told Mr. Franklinthat Ithought one of the dogs had got into the house--and thenbegged him to describe what had happened between Rosannaandhimself.

"Wereyou passing through the hallsir?"  I asked.  "Didyou meetheraccidentallywhen she spoke to you?"

Mr.Franklin pointed to the billiard-table.

"Iwas knocking the balls about" he said"and trying to getthismiserable business of the Diamond out of my mind.I happenedto look up--and there stood Rosanna Spearman atthe sideof melike a ghost!  Her stealing on me in that waywas sostrangethat I hardly knew what to do at first.Seeing avery anxious expression in her faceI asked her ifshe wishedto speak to me.  She answered"Yesif I dare."Knowingwhat suspicion attached to herI could only putoneconstruction on such language as that.  I confess it mademeuncomfortable.  I had no wish to invite the girl's confidence.At thesame timein the difficulties that now beset usI couldhardly feel justified in refusing to listen to herif shewas reallybent on speaking to me.  It was an awkward position;and I daresay I got out of it awkwardly enough.  I said to her"Idon't quite understand you.  Is there anything you wantme todo?"  MindBetteredgeI didn't speak unkindly!The poorgirl can't help being ugly--I felt thatat the time.The cuewas still in my handand I went on knockingthe ballsaboutto take off the awkwardness of the thing.As itturned outI only made matters worse still.  I'm afraidImortified her without meaning it!  She suddenly turned away."Helooks at the billiard balls" I heard her say."Anythingrather than look at ME!"  Before I could stop hershe hadleft the hall.  I am not quite easy about itBetteredge.Would youmind telling Rosanna that I meant no unkindness?I havebeen a little hard on herperhapsin my own thoughts--I havealmosthoped that the loss of the Diamond might be traced to HER.Not fromany ill-will to the poor girl:  but----" He stopped thereand goingback to the billiard-tablebegan to knock the ballsabout oncemore.

After whathad passed between the Sergeant and meI knew what itwas thathe had left unspoken as well as he knew it himself.

Nothingbut the tracing of the Moonstone to our secondhousemaidcould now raise Miss Rachel above the infamoussuspicionthat rested on her in the mind of Sergeant Cuff.It was nolonger a question of quieting my young lady'snervousexcitement; it was a question of proving her innocence.If Rosannahad done nothing to compromise herselfthe hopewhich Mr.Franklin confessed to having felt would have been hardenough onher in all conscience.  But this was not the case.She hadpretended to be illand had gone secretly to Frizinghall.She hadbeen up all nightmaking something or destroying somethinginprivate.  And she had been at the Shivering Sandthateveningunder circumstances which were highly suspiciousto say theleast of them.  For all these reasons (sorry as Iwas forRosanna) I could not but think that Mr. Franklin's wayof lookingat the matter was neither unnatural nor unreasonablein Mr.Franklin's position.  I said a word to him tothateffect.

"Yesyes!" he said in return.  "But there is just achance--a verypoor onecertainly--that Rosanna's conduct may admitof someexplanation which we don't see at present.  I hatehurting awoman's feelingsBetteredge!  Tell the poor creaturewhat Itold you to tell her.  And if she wants to speak to me--I don'tcare whether I get into a scrape or not--send her to mein thelibrary."  With those kind words he laid down the cue andleft me.

Inquiry atthe servants' offices informed me that Rosanna had retiredto her ownroom.  She had declined all offers of assistance with thanksand hadonly asked to be left to rest in quiet.  Herethereforewas anendof anyconfession on her part (supposing she really had a confession tomake)for thatnight.  I reported the result to Mr. Franklinwhothereuponleft thelibraryand went up to bed.

I wasputting the lights outand making the windows fastwhenSamuel came in with news of the two guests whom I had leftin myroom.

Theargument about the white moss rose had apparently come to an end atlast.Thegardener had gone homeand Sergeant Cuff was nowhere to be found inthelowerregions of the house.

I lookedinto my room.  Quite true--nothing was to be discoveredthere buta couple of empty tumblers and a strong smell of hot grog.Had theSergeant gone of his own accord to the bed-chamber that waspreparedfor him?  I went up-stairs to see.

Afterreaching the second landingI thought I heard a sound of quietandregular breathing on my left-hand side.  My left-hand sideled to thecorridor which communicated with Miss Rachel's room.I lookedinand therecoiled up on three chairs placed right acrossthepassage--therewith a red handkerchief tied round his grizzled headand hisrespectable black coat rolled up for a pillowlay and sleptSergeantCuff!

He wokeinstantly and quietlylike a dogthe moment I approached him.

"GoodnightMr. Betteredge" he said.  "And mindif youever taketo growingrosesthe white moss rose is all the better for not beingbudded onthe dog-rosewhatever the gardener may say to the contrary!"

"Whatare you doing here?"  I asked.  "Why are you notin your proper bed?"

"I amnot in my proper bed" answered the Sergeant"because Iam one ofthe many people in this miserable world who can'tearn theirmoney honestly and easily at the same time.There wasa coincidencethis eveningbetween the periodof RosannaSpearman's return from the Sands and the periodwhen MissVerinder stated her resolution to leave the house.WhateverRosanna may have hiddenit's clear to my mind that youryoung ladycouldn't go away until she knew that it WAS hidden.The twomust have communicated privately once already to-night.If theytry to communicate againwhen the house is quietI want tobe in the wayand stop it.  Don't blame meforupsetting your sleeping arrangementsMr. Betteredge--blame theDiamond."

"Iwish to God the Diamond had never found its way into this house!"I brokeout.

SergeantCuff looked with a rueful face at the three chairson whichhe had condemned himself to pass the night.

"Sodo I" he saidgravely.

 

CHAPTERXVII

Nothinghappened in the night; and (I am happy to add)no attemptat communication between Miss Rachel and Rosannarewardedthe vigilance of Sergeant Cuff.

I hadexpected the Sergeant to set off for Frizinghall the first thingin themorning.  He waited abouthoweveras if he had something elseto dofirst.  I left him to his own devices; and going into thegroundsshortlyaftermet Mr. Franklin on his favourite walk by the shrubbery side.

Before wehad exchanged two wordsthe Sergeant unexpectedly joined us.He made upto Mr. Franklinwho received himI must ownhaughtily enough."Haveyou anything to say to me?" was all the return he got forpolitelywishingMr. Franklin good morning.

"Ihave something to say to yousir" answered the Sergeant"onthe subject of the inquiry I am conducting here.Youdetected the turn that inquiry was really takingyesterday.Naturallyenoughin your positionyou are shocked and distressed.Naturallyenoughalsoyou visit your own angry sense of your ownfamilyscandal upon Me."

"Whatdo you want?"  Mr. Franklin broke insharply enough.

"Iwant to remind yousirthat I have at any ratethus farnot beenPROVED to be wrong.  Bearing that in mindbe pleasedtorememberat the same timethat I am an officer of the lawactinghere under the sanction of the mistress of the house.Underthese circumstancesis itor is it notyour duty as agoodcitizento assist me with any special information which youmay happento possess?"

"Ipossess no special information" says Mr. Franklin.

SergeantCuff put that answer by himas if no answer had been made.

"Youmay save my timesirfrom being wasted on an inquiry at adistance"he wenton"if you choose to understand me and speak out."

"Idon't understand you" answered Mr. Franklin; "and I havenothing to say."

"Oneof the female servants (I won't mention names) spoke to youprivatelysirlastnight."

Once moreMr. Franklin cut him short; once more Mr. Franklin answered"Ihave nothing to say."

Standingby in silenceI thought of the movement in the swing-door ontheprevious eveningand of the coat-tails which I had seen disappearingdown thepassage.  Sergeant Cuff hadno doubtjust heard enoughbefore Iinterrupted himto make him suspect that Rosanna had relievedher mindby confessing something to Mr. Franklin Blake.

Thisnotion had barely struck me--when who should appear at the endof theshrubbery walk but Rosanna Spearman in her own proper person!She wasfollowed by Penelopewho was evidently trying to make herretraceher steps to the house.  Seeing that Mr. Franklin was not aloneRosannacame to a standstillevidently in great perplexity what to do next.Penelopewaited behind her.  Mr. Franklin saw the girls as soon as Isaw them. The Sergeantwith his devilish cunningtook on not to havenoticedthem at all.  All this happened in an instant.  BeforeeitherMr.Franklin or I could say a wordSergeant Cuff struck in smoothlywith anappearance of continuing the previous conversation.

"Youneedn't be afraid of harming the girlsir" he said to Mr.Franklinspeakingin a loud voiceso that Rosanna might hear him.  "On thecontraryIrecommend you to honour me with your confidenceif you feel anyinterest inRosannaSpearman."

Mr.Franklin instantly took on not to have noticed the girls either.Heansweredspeaking loudly on his side:

"Itake no interest whatever in Rosanna Spearman."

I lookedtowards the end of the walk.  All I saw at the distance wasthatRosanna suddenly turned roundthe moment Mr. Franklin had spoken.Instead ofresisting Penelopeas she had done the moment beforeshe nowlet my daughter take her by the arm and lead her back tothe house.

Thebreakfast-bell rang as the two girls disappeared--and evenSergeantCuff was now obliged to give it up as a bad job!He said tome quietly"I shall go to FrizinghallMr. Betteredge;and Ishall be back before two."  He went his way withouta wordmore--and for some few hours we were well rid of him.

"Youmust make it right with Rosanna" Mr. Franklin said to mewhenwewerealone.  "I seem to be fated to say or do something awkwardbefore thatunluckygirl.  You must have seen yourself that Sergeant Cuff laid atrapfor bothof us.  If he could confuse MEor irritate HER into breakingouteither sheor I might have said something which would answer his purpose.On thespur of the momentI saw no better way out of it than the way Itook.It stoppedthe girl from saying anythingand it showed the Sergeant that Isawthrough him.  He was evidently listeningBetteredgewhen I wasspeakingto youlast night."

He haddone worse than listenas I privately thought to myself.He hadremembered my telling him that the girl was in love withMr.Franklin; and he had calculated on THATwhen he appealed toMr.Franklin's interest in Rosanna--in Rosanna's hearing.

"Asto listeningsir" I remarked (keeping the other pointtomyself)we shall all be rowing in the same boat if thissort ofthing goes on much longer.  Pryingand peepingandlistening are the natural occupations of people situatedas weare.  In another day or twoMr. Franklinwe shall allbe struckdumb together--for this reasonthat we shall all belisteningto surprise each other's secretsand all know it.Excuse mybreaking outsir.  The horrid mystery hangingover us inthis house gets into my head like liquorand makesme wild.  I won't forget what you have told me.I'll takethe first opportunity of making it right withRosannaSpearman."

"Youhaven't said anything to her yet about last nighthave you?"Mr.Franklin asked.

"Nosir."

"Thensay nothing now.  I had better not invite the girl's confidencewith theSergeant on the look-out to surprise us together.My conductis not very consistentBetteredge--is it?I see noway out of this businesswhich isn't dreadfulto thinkofunless the Diamond is traced to Rosanna.And yet Ican'tand won'thelp Sergeant Cuff to find thegirl out."

Unreasonableenoughno doubt.  But it was my state of mind as well.Ithoroughly understood him.  If you willfor once in your liferememberthat you are mortalperhaps you will thoroughly understandhim too.

The stateof thingsindoors and outwhile Sergeant Cuff was on his waytoFrizinghallwas briefly this:

MissRachel waited for the time when the carriage was to takeher to heraunt'sstill obstinately shut up in her own room.My ladyand Mr. Franklin breakfasted together.  After breakfastMr.Franklin took one of his sudden resolutionsand wentoutprecipitately to quiet his mind by a long walk.I was theonly person who saw him go; and he toldme heshould be back before the Sergeant returned.The changein the weatherforeshadowed overnighthad come.Heavy rainhad been followed soon after dawnby high wind.It wasblowing freshas the day got on.  But though the cloudsthreatenedmore than oncethe rain still held off.It was nota bad day for a walkif you were young and strongand couldbreast the great gusts of wind which came sweeping in fromthe sea.

I attendedmy lady after breakfastand assisted her in the settlement of ourhouseholdaccounts.  She only once alluded to the matter of the Moonstoneand thatwas in the way of forbidding any present mention of it between us."Waittill that man comes back" she saidmeaning the Sergeant. "We MUSTspeak ofit then:  we are not obliged to speak of it now."

Afterleaving my mistressI found Penelope waiting for me in my room.

"Iwishfatheryou would come and speak to Rosanna" she said."I amvery uneasy about her."

Isuspected what was the matter readily enough.  But it is a maximof minethat men (being superior creatures) are bound to improve women--if theycan.  When a woman wants me to do anything (my daughteror notitdoesn't matter)I always insist on knowing why.Theoftener you make them rummage their own minds for a reasonthe moremanageable you will find them in all the relations of life.It isn'ttheir fault (poor wretches!) that they act first andthinkafterwards; it's the fault of the fools who humour them.

Penelope'sreason whyon this occasionmay be given in her own words."I amafraidfather" she said"Mr. Franklin has hurt Rosannacruellywithoutintending it."

"Whattook Rosanna into the shrubbery walk?"  I asked.

"Herown madness" says Penelope; "I can call it nothing else.She wasbent on speaking to Mr. Franklinthis morningcome whatmight of it.  I did my best to stop her; you saw that.If I couldonly have got her away before she heard thosedreadfulwords----"

"There!there!"  I said"don't lose your head.  I can'tcall to mindthatanything happened to alarm Rosanna."

"Nothingto alarm herfather.  But Mr. Franklin said he took no interestwhateverin her--andohhe said it in such a cruel voice!"

"Hesaid it to stop the Sergeant's mouth" I answered.

"Itold her that" says Penelope.  "But you seefather(though Mr. Franklinisn't toblame)he's been mortifying and disappointing her for weeksand weekspast; and now this comes on the top of it all!  She has norightof courseto expect him to take any interest in her.  It's quitemonstrousthat she should forget herself and her station in that way.But sheseems to have lost prideand proper feelingand everything.Shefrightened mefatherwhen Mr. Franklin said those words.Theyseemed to turn her into stone.  A sudden quiet came over herand shehas gone about her workever sincelike a woman in a dream."

I began tofeel a little uneasy.  There was something inthe wayPenelope put it which silenced my superior sense.I calledto mindnow my thoughts were directed that waywhat hadpassed between Mr. Franklin and Rosanna overnight.She lookedcut to the heart on that occasion; and nowasill-luck would have itshe had been unavoidably stung againpoor soulon the tender place.  Sad! sad!--all the more sadbecausethe girl had no reason to justify herand no right tofeel it.

I hadpromised Mr. Franklin to speak to Rosannaand this seemedthefittest time for keeping my word.

We foundthe girl sweeping the corridor outside the bedroomspale andcomposedand neat as ever in her modest print dress.I noticeda curious dimness and dullness in her eyes--not as ifshe had been crying but as if she had been lookingatsomething too long.  Possiblyit was a misty something raisedby her ownthoughts.  There was certainly no object about herto look atwhich she had not seen already hundreds on hundredsof times.

"CheerupRosanna!"  I said.  "You mustn't fret overyour own fancies.I have gotsomething to say to you from Mr. Franklin."

Ithereupon put the matter in the right view before herin thefriendliest and most comforting words I could find.Myprinciplesin regard to the other sexareas youmay havenoticedvery severe.  But somehow or otherwhen Icome face to face with the womenmy practice (I own)is notconformable.

"Mr.Franklin is very kind and considerate.  Please to thank him."That wasall the answer she made me.

Mydaughter had already noticed that Rosanna went about her worklike awoman in a dream.  I now added to this observationthat shealso listened and spoke like a woman in a dream.I doubtedif her mind was in a fit condition to take in what I hadsaid toher.

"Areyou quite sureRosannathat you understand me?"I asked.

"Quitesure."

She echoedmenot like a living womanbut like a creaturemoved bymachinery.  She went on sweeping all the time.I tookaway the broom as gently and as kindly as I could.

"Comecomemy girl!"  I said"this is not like yourself.You havegot something on your mind.  I'm your friend--and I'llstand your friendeven if you have done wrong.Make aclean breast of itRosanna--make a clean breastof it!"

The timehad beenwhen my speaking to her in that way wouldhavebrought the tears into her eyes.  I could see no changein themnow.

"Yes"she said"I'll make a clean breast of it."

"Tomy lady?"  I asked.

"No."

"ToMr. Franklin?"

"Yes;to Mr. Franklin."

I hardlyknew what to say to that.  She was in no conditiontounderstand the caution against speaking to him in privatewhich Mr.Franklin had directed me to give her.  Feeling my waylittle bylittleI only told her Mr. Franklin had gone out fora walk.

"Itdoesn't matter" she answered.  "I shan't trouble Mr.Franklinto-day."

"Whynot speak to my lady?"  I said.  "The way torelieve your mindis tospeak to the merciful and Christian mistress who has alwaysbeen kindto you."

She lookedat me for a moment with a grave and steady attentionas if shewas fixing what I said in her mind.  Then she tookthe broomout of my hands and moved off with it slowlya littleway down the corridor.

"No"she saidgoing on with her sweepingand speaking to herself;"Iknow a better way of relieving my mind than that."

"Whatis it?"

"Pleaseto let me go on with my work."

Penelopefollowed herand offered to help her.

Sheanswered"No. I want to do my work.  Thank youPenelope."She lookedround at me.  "Thank youMr. Betteredge."

There wasno moving her--there was nothing more to be said.I signedto Penelope to come away with me.  We left heras we hadfound hersweeping the corridorlike a woman ina dream.

"Thisis a matter for the doctor to look into" I said."It'sbeyond me."

Mydaughter reminded me of Mr. Candy's illnessowing (as you mayremember)to thechill he had caught on the night of the dinner-party. His assistant--a certainMr. Ezra Jennings--was at our disposalto be sure.  But nobodyknew muchabout him in our parts.  He had been engaged by Mr. Candy underratherpeculiar circumstances; andright or wrongwe none of us liked himor trustedhim.  There were other doctors at Frizinghall.  But theywerestrangersto our house; and Penelope doubtedin Rosanna's present statewhetherstrangers might not do her more harm than good.

I thoughtof speaking to my lady.  Butremembering the heavy weightof anxietywhich she already had on her mindI hesitated to addto all theother vexations this new trouble.  Stillthere was anecessityfor doing something.  The girl's state wasto my thinkingdownrightalarming--and my mistress ought to be informed of it.UnwillingenoughI went to her sitting-room. No one was there.My ladywas shut up with Miss Rachel.  It was impossible for me to seehertill shecame out again.
I waitedin vain till the clock on the front staircase struckthequarter to two.  Five minutes afterwardsI heard my namecalledfrom thedrive outside the house.  I knew the voice directly.SergeantCuff had returned from Frizinghall.

 

CHAPTERXVIII

Going downto the front doorI met the Sergeant on the steps.

It wentagainst the grain with meafter what had passed between usto showhim that I felt any sort of interest in his proceedings.In spiteof myselfhoweverI felt an interest that there was no resisting.My senseof dignity sank from under meand out came the words:  "WhatnewsfromFrizinghall?"

"Ihave seen the Indians" answered Sergeant Cuff.  "AndI have foundout whatRosanna bought privately in the townon Thursday last.TheIndians will be set free on Wednesday in next week.Thereisn't a doubt on my mindand there isn't a doubt onMr.Murthwaite's mindthat they came to this place to stealtheMoonstone.  Their calculations were all thrown outof courseby what happened in the house on Wednesday night;and theyhave no more to do with the actual loss of the jewelthan youhave.  But I can tell you one thingMr. Betteredge--if WEdon't find the MoonstoneTHEY will.  You have not heard thelast ofthe three jugglers yet."

Mr.Franklin came back from his walk as the Sergeant saidthosestartling words.  Governing his curiosity betterthan I hadgoverned minehe passed us without a wordand wenton into the house.

As for mehaving already dropped my dignityI determined to havethe wholebenefit of the sacrifice.  "So much for the Indians"I said."Whatabout Rosanna next?"

SergeantCuff shook his head.

"Themystery in that quarter is thicker than ever" he said."Ihave traced her to a shop at Frizinghallkept by a linendrapernamed Maltby.  She bought nothing whatever at any ofthe otherdrapers' shopsor at any milliners' or tailors' shops;and shebought nothing at Maltby's but a piece of long cloth.She wasvery particular in choosing a certain quality.As toquantityshe bought enough to make a nightgown."

"Whosenightgown?"  I asked.

"Herownto be sure.  Between twelve and threeon the Thursdaymorningshe musthave slipped down to your young lady's roomto settlethe hidingof the Moonstone while all the rest of you were in bed.In goingback to her own roomher nightgown must have brushed the wetpaint onthe door.  She couldn't wash out the stain; and she couldn'tsafelydestroy the night-gown without first providing another like itto makethe inventory of her linen complete."

"Whatproves that it was Rosanna's nightgown?"  I objected.

"Thematerial she bought for making the substitute dress"answeredthe Sergeant.  "If it had been Miss Verinder's nightgownshe wouldhave had to buy laceand frillingand Lord knowswhatbesides; and she wouldn't have had time to make it inonenight.  Plain long cloth means a plain servant's nightgown.NonoMr. Betteredge--all that is clear enough.The pinchof the question is--whyafter having providedthesubstitute dressdoes she hide the smeared nightgowninstead ofdestroying it?  If the girl won't speak outthere isonly one way of settling the difficulty.Thehiding-place at the Shivering Sand must be searched--and thetrue state of the case will be discovered there."

"Howare you to find the place?"  I inquired.

"I amsorry to disappoint you" said the Sergeant--"but that's asecretwhich Imean to keep to myself."

(Not toirritate your curiosityas he irritated mineI may here informyou thathe had come back from Frizinghall provided with a search-warrant.Hisexperience in such matters told him that Rosanna was in allprobabilitycarryingabout her a memorandum of the hiding-placeto guide herin caseshereturned to itunder changed circumstances and after a lapse oftime.Possessedof this memorandumthe Sergeant would be furnished with all thathe coulddesire.)

"NowMr. Betteredge" he went on"suppose we drop speculationand get tobusiness.  I told Joyce to have an eye on Rosanna.Where isJoyce?"

Joyce wasthe Frizinghall policemanwho had been leftbySuperintendent Seegrave at Sergeant Cuff's disposal.The clockstruck twoas he put the question; andpunctual tothemomentthe carriage came round to take Miss Rachel to heraunt's.

"Onething at a time" said the Sergeantstopping me as I was aboutto sendin searchof Joyce.  "I must attend to Miss Verinder first."

As therain was still threateningit was the close carriagethat hadbeen appointed to take Miss Rachel to Frizinghall.SergeantCuff beckoned Samuel to come down to him from therumblebehind.

"Youwill see a friend of mine waiting among the treeson this sideof thelodge gate" he said.  "My friendwithout stoppingthe carriagewill getup into the rumble with you.  You have nothing to do but to holdyourtongueand shut your eyes.  Otherwiseyou will get intotrouble."

With thatadvicehe sent the footman back to his place.WhatSamuel thought I don't know.  It was plainto my mindthat MissRachel was to be privately kept in view fromthe timewhen she left our house--if she did leave it.A watchset on my young lady!  A spy behind her in the rumbleof hermother's carriage!  I could have cut my own tongueout forhaving forgotten myself so far as to speak toSergeantCuff.

The firstperson to come out of the house was my lady.  She stood asideon the topstepposting herself there to see what happened.Not a worddid she sayeither to the Sergeant or to me.With herlips closedand her arms folded in the light gardencloakwhich she had wrapped round her on coming into the airthere shestoodas still as a statuewaiting for her daughterto appear.

In aminute moreMiss Rachel came downstairs--very nicely dressedin somesoft yellow stuffthat set off her dark complexionandclipped her tight (in the form of a jacket) round the waist.She had asmart little straw hat on her headwith a white veiltwistedround it.  She had primrose-coloured gloves that fittedher handslike a second skin.  Her beautiful black hair lookedas smoothas satin under her hat.  Her little ears were likerosyshells--they had a pearl dangling from each of them.She cameswiftly out to usas straight as a lily on its stemand aslithe and supple in every movement she made as a young cat.Nothingthat I could discover was altered in her pretty facebut hereyes and her lips.  Her eyes were brighter and fiercerthan Iliked to see; and her lips had so completely losttheircolour and their smile that I hardly knew them again.She kissedher mother in a hasty and sudden manner on the cheek.She said"Try to forgive memamma"--and then pulled down her veilover herface so vehemently that she tore it.  In another moment shehad rundown the stepsand had rushed into the carriage as if it was ahiding-place.

SergeantCuff was just as quick on his side.  He put Samuel backand stoodbefore Miss Rachelwith the open carriage-door in his handat theinstant when she settled herself in her place.

"Whatdo you want?" says Miss Rachelfrom behind her veil.

"Iwant to say one word to youmiss" answered the Sergeant"before you go.I can'tpresume to stop your paying a visit to your aunt.  I can onlyventureto saythat your leaving usas things are nowputs an obstacle in the wayof myrecovering your Diamond.  Please to understand that; and nowdecide foryourselfwhether you go or stay."

MissRachel never even answered him.  "Drive onJames!"she calledout to thecoachman.

Withoutanother wordthe Sergeant shut the carriage-door. Justas heclosed itMr. Franklin came running down the steps."Good-byeRachel" he saidholding out his hand.

"Driveon!" cried Miss Rachellouder than everand taking no morenoticeof Mr.Franklin than she had taken of Sergeant Cuff.

Mr.Franklin stepped back thunderstruckas well he might be.Thecoachmannot knowing what to dolooked towards my ladystillstanding immovable on the top step.  My ladywith angerand sorrowand shame all struggling together in her facemade him asign to start the horsesand then turned back hastilyinto thehouse.  Mr. Franklinrecovering the use of his speechcalledafter heras the carriage drove off"Aunt! you werequiteright.  Accept my thanks for all your kindness--and letme go."

My ladyturned as though to speak to him.  Thenas if distrustingherselfwaved herhand kindly.  "Let me see youbefore you leave usFranklin"she saidin a broken voice--and went on to her own room.

"Dome a last favourBetteredge" says Mr. Franklinturning to mewith thetears in his eyes.  "Get me away to the train as soonas youcan!"

He toowent his way into the house.  For the momentMiss Rachelhadcompletely unmanned him.  Judge from thathow fond he musthave beenof her!

SergeantCuff and I were left face to faceat the bottom of the steps.TheSergeant stood with his face set towards a gap in the treescommandinga view of one of the windings of the drive which ledfrom thehouse.  He had his hands in his pocketsand he was softlywhistling"The Last Rose of Summer" to himself.

"There'sa time for everything" I said savagely enough."Thisisn't a time for whistling."

At thatmomentthe carriage appeared in the distancethrough the gapon its wayto the lodge-gate. There was another manbesides Samuelplainlyvisible in the rumble behind.

"Allright!" said the Sergeant to himself.  He turned round tome."It'sno time for whistlingMr. Betteredgeas you say.It's timeto take this business in handnowwithout sparing anybody.We'llbegin with Rosanna Spearman.  Where is Joyce?"

We bothcalled for Joyceand received no answer.  I sent oneof thestable-boys to look for him.

"Youheard what I said to Miss Verinder?" remarked the Sergeantwhile wewere waiting.  "And you saw how she received it?I tell herplainly that her leaving us will be an obstaclein the wayof my recovering her Diamond--and she leavesin theface of that statement!  Your young lady has gotatravelling companion in her mother's carriageMr. Betteredge--and thename of it isthe Moonstone."

I saidnothing.  I only held on like death to my belief in Miss Rachel.

Thestable-boy came backfollowed--very unwillinglyas it appeared tome--by Joyce.

"Whereis Rosanna Spearman?" asked Sergeant Cuff.

"Ican't account for itsir" Joyce began; "and I am verysorry.Butsomehow or other----"

"BeforeI went to Frizinghall" said the Sergeantcutting him short"Itold you to keep your eyes on Rosanna Spearmanwithout allowing hertodiscover that she was being watched.  Do you mean to tell methat youhave lether give you the slip?"

"I amafraidsir" says Joycebeginning to tremble"that Iwasperhaps a little TOO careful not to let her discover me.There aresuch a many passages in the lower parts of this house----"

"Howlong is it since you missed her?"

"Nighon an hour sincesir."

"Youcan go back to your regular business at Frizinghall" said theSergeantspeakingjust as composedly as everin his usual quiet and dreary way."Idon't think your talents are at all in our lineMr. Joyce. Your presentform ofemployment is a trifle beyond you.  Good morning."

The manslunk off.  I find it very difficult to describe how Iwasaffected by the discovery that Rosanna Spearman was missing.I seemedto be in fifty different minds about itall at the same time.In thatstateI stood staring at Sergeant Cuff--and my powersoflanguage quite failed me.

"NoMr. Betteredge" said the Sergeantas if he had discoveredtheuppermost thought in meand was picking it out to be answeredbefore allthe rest.  "Your young friendRosannawon't slip throughmyfingers soeasy as you think.  As long as I know where Miss Verinder isI have themeans at my disposal of tracing Miss Verinder's accomplice.Iprevented them from communicating last night.  Very good. They will gettogetherat Frizinghallinstead of getting together here.  The presentinquirymust be simply shifted (rather sooner than I had anticipated)from thishouseto the house at which Miss Verinder is visiting.In themeantimeI'm afraid I must trouble you to call the servantstogetheragain."

I wentround with him to the servants' hall.  It is very disgracefulbut it isnot the less truethat I had another attack of the detective-feverwhen hesaid those last words.  I forgot that I hated Sergeant Cuff.I seizedhim confidentially by the arm.  I said"For goodness'saketell uswhat youare going to do with the servants now?"

The greatCuff stood stock stilland addressed himself in a kindofmelancholy rapture to the empty air.

"Ifthis man" said the Sergeant (apparently meaning me)"onlyunderstoodthe growing of roses he would be the most completelyperfectcharacter on the face of creation!"  After that strongexpressionof feelinghe sighedand put his arm through mine."Thisis how it stands" he saiddropping down again to business."Rosannahas done one of two things.  She has either gone directtoFrizinghall (before I can get there)or she has gone first to visitherhiding-place at the Shivering Sand.  The first thing to findout iswhich of the servants saw the last of her before she leftthehouse."

Oninstituting this inquiryit turned out that the last person who hadseteyes onRosanna was Nancythe kitchenmaid.

Nancy hadseen her slip out with a letter in her handand stop the butcher'sman whohad just been delivering some meat at the back door.  Nancy hadheard herask the man to post the letter when he got back to Frizinghall.The manhad looked at the addressand had said it was a roundabout wayofdelivering a letter directed to Cobb's Holeto post it atFrizinghall--and thatmoreoveron a Saturdaywhich would prevent the letter fromgetting toits destination until Monday morningRosanna had answered thatthedelivery of the letter being delayed till Monday was of noimportance.The onlything she wished to be sure of was that the man would do what shetold him. The man had promised to do itand had driven away.  Nancy hadbeencalledback to her work in the kitchen.  And no other person had seenanythingafterwardsof Rosanna Spearman.

"Well?" I askedwhen we were alone again.

"Well"says the Sergeant.  "I must go to Frizinghall."

"Aboutthe lettersir?"

"Yes. The memorandum of the hiding-place is in that letter.I must seethe address at the post-office. If it is the addressI suspectI shall pay our friendMrs. Yollandanother visit onMondaynext."

I wentwith the Sergeant to order the pony-chaise. In the stable-yardwe got anew light thrown on the missing girl.

 

CHAPTERXIX

The newsof Rosanna's disappearance hadas it appearedspreadamong the out-of-door servants.  They too had madetheirinquiries; and they had just laid hands on a quicklittleimpnicknamed "Duffy"--who was occasionally employedin weedingthe gardenand who had seen Rosanna Spearman aslately ashalf-an-hour since.  Duffy was certain that the girlhad passedhim in the fir-plantationnot walkingbut RUNNINGin thedirection of the sea-shore.

"Doesthis boy know the coast hereabouts?" asked Sergeant Cuff.

"Hehas been born and bred on the coast" I answered.

"Duffy!"says the Sergeant"do you want to earn a shilling?If you docome along with me.  Keep the pony-chaise readyMr.Betteredgetill I come back."

He startedfor the Shivering Sandat a rate that my legs(thoughwell enough preserved for my time of life) had no hopeofmatching.  Little Duffyas the way is with the young savagesin ourparts when they are in high spiritsgave a howlandtrotted off at the Sergeant's heels.

HereagainI find it impossible to give anything like a clear accountof thestate of my mind in the interval after Sergeant Cuff had left us.A curiousand stupefying restlessness got possession of me.  I did a dozendifferentneedless things in and out of the housenot one of which I cannowremember.  I don't even know how long it was after the Sergeanthadgone tothe sandswhen Duffy came running back with a message for me.SergeantCuff had given the boy a leaf torn out of his pocket-bookonwhich waswritten in pencil"Send me one of Rosanna Spearman's bootsand bequick about it."

Idespatched the first woman-servant I could find to Rosanna's room;and I sentthe boy back to say that I myself would follow him withthe boot.

ThisI amwell awarewas not the quickest way to takeof obeyingthe directions which I had received.  But I wasresolvedto see for myself what new mystification was goingon beforeI trusted Rosanna's boot in the Sergeant's hands.My oldnotion of screening the girlif I couldseemed tohave come back on me againat the eleventh hour.This stateof feeling (to say nothing of the detective-fever)hurried meoffas soon as I had got the bootat the nearestapproachto a run which a man turned seventy can reasonably hopeto make.

As I gotnear the shorethe clouds gathered blackand the rain came downdriftingin great white sheets of water before the wind.  I heard thethunderof the seaon the sand-bank at the mouth of the bay.  A little further onI passedthe boy crouching for shelter under the lee of the sand hills.Then I sawthe raging seaand the rollers tumbling in on the sand-bankandthe drivenrain sweeping over the waters like a flying garmentand the yellowwildernessof the beach with one solitary black figure standing on it--the figureof Sergeant Cuff.
He wavedhis hand towards the northwhen he first saw me."Keepon that side!" he shouted.  "And come on down hereto me!"

I wentdown to himchoking for breathwith my heart leapingas if itwas like to leap out of me.  I was past speaking.I had ahundred questions to put to him; and not oneof themwould pass my lips.  His face frightened me.I saw alook in his eyes which was a look of horror.Hesnatched the boot out of my handand set it in a footmarkon thesandbearing south from us as we stoodand pointingstraighttowards the rocky ledge called the South Spit.The markwas not yet blurred out by the rain--and the girl'sbootfitted it to a hair.

TheSergeant pointed to the boot in the footmarkwithout saying a word.

I caughtat his armand tried to speak to himand failed as Ihad failedwhen I tried before.  He went onfollowing thefootstepsdown and down to where the rocks and the sand joined.The SouthSpit was just awash with the flowing tide;the watersheaved over the hidden face of the Shivering Sand.Now thisway and now thatwith an obstinate patience that wasdreadfulto seeSergeant Cuff tried the boot in the footstepsand alwaysfound it pointing the same way--straight TO the rocks.Hunt as hemightno sign could he find anywhere of the footstepswalkingFROM them.

He gave itup at last.  Still keeping silencehe lookedagain atme; and then he looked out at the waters before usheaving indeeper and deeper over the quicksand.I lookedwhere he looked--and I saw his thought in his face.A dreadfuldumb trembling crawled all over me on a sudden.I fellupon my knees on the beach.

"Shehas been back at the hiding-place" I heard the Sergeant say tohimself."Somefatal accident has happened to her on those rocks."

The girl'saltered looksand wordsand actions--the numbeddeadened wayin whichshe listened to meand spoke to me--when I had found her sweepingthecorridor but a few hours sincerose up in my mindand warned meeven asthe Sergeant spokethat his guess was wide of the dreadful truth.I tried totell him of the fear that had frozen me up.  I tried to say"Thedeath she has diedSergeantwas a death of her own seeking."No! thewords wouldn't come.  The dumb trembling held me in its grip.I couldn'tfeel the driving rain.  I couldn't see the rising tide.As in thevision of a dreamthe poor lost creature came back before me.I saw heragain as I had seen her in the past time--on the morningwhen Iwent to fetch her into the house.  I heard her againtelling methat theShivering Sand seemed to draw her to it against her willandwondering whether her grave was waiting for her THERE.  Thehorrorof itstruck at mein some unfathomable waythrough my own child.My girlwas just her age.  My girltried as Rosanna was triedmight havelived that miserable lifeand died this dreadfuldeath.

TheSergeant kindly lifted me upand turned me away from the sightof theplace where she had perished.

With thatreliefI began to fetch my breath againand to see thingsabout meas things really were.  Looking towards the sand-hillsI sawthemen-servants from out-of-doorsand the fishermannamed Yollandallrunning down to us together; and allhaving taken the alarmcallingout to know if the girl had been found.  In the fewest wordstheSergeant showed them the evidence of the footmarksand told themthat afatal accident must have happened to her.  He then picked outthefisherman from the restand put a question to himturning aboutagaintowardsthe sea:  "Tell me" he said.  "Could a boathave taken her offin suchweather as thisfrom those rocks where her footmarks stop?"

Thefisherman pointed to the rollers tumbling in on the sand-bankand to thegreat waves leaping up in clouds of foam against the headlandson eitherside of us.

"Noboat that ever was built" he answered"could have gotto herthrough THAT."

SergeantCuff looked for the last time at the foot-marks on the sandwhich therain was now fast blurring out.

"There"he said"is the evidence that she can't have left thisplace byland.  And here" he went onlooking at the fisherman"isthe evidence that she can't have got away by sea."  Hestoppedandconsidered for a minute.  "She was seen running towardsthis placehalf anhour before I got here from the house" he said to Yolland."Sometime has passed since then.  Call italtogetheran hour ago.How highwould the water beat that timeon this side of the rocks?"He pointedto the south side--otherwisethe side which was not filled upby thequicksand.

"Asthe tide makes to-day" said the fisherman"there wouldn'thave beenwater enough to drown a kitten on that side of the Spitan hoursince."

SergeantCuff turned about northwardtowards the quicksand.

"Howmuch on this side?" he asked.

"Lessstill" answered Yolland.  "The Shivering Sand wouldhave beenjustawashand no more."

TheSergeant turned to meand said that the accident must have happenedonthe sideof the quicksand.  My tongue was loosened at that.  "Noaccident!"I toldhim.  "When she came to this placeshe came weary of herlifeto endit here."

He startedback from me.  "How do you know? " he asked.The restof them crowded round.  The Sergeant recoveredhimselfinstantly.  He put them back from me; he said I wasan oldman; he said the discovery had shaken me; he said"Lethim alone a little."  Then he turned to Yollandand asked"Isthere any chance of finding herwhen the tide ebbs again?"AndYolland answered"None.  What the Sand getsthe Sandkeepsforever."  Having said thatthe fisherman came a step nearerandaddressed himself to me.

"Mr.Betteredge" he said"I have a word to say to you aboutthe youngwoman'sdeath.  Four foot outbroadwisealong the side of the Spitthere's ashelf of rockabout half fathom down under the sand.Myquestion is--why didn't she strike that?  If she slippedbyaccidentfrom off the Spitshe fell in where there's footholdat thebottomat a depth that would barely cover her to the waist.She musthave waded outor jumped outinto the Deeps beyond--or shewouldn't be missing now.  No accidentsir!  The Deepsof theQuicksand have got her.  And they have got her by herown act."

After thattestimony from a man whose knowledge was to be relied ontheSergeant was silent.  The rest of uslike himheld our peace.With oneaccordwe all turned back up the slope of the beach.

At thesand-hillocks we were met by the under-groomrunning to us fromthehouse.  The lad is a good ladand has an honest respect for me.He handedme a little notewith a decent sorrow in his face."Penelopesent me with thisMr. Betteredge" he said.  "Shefound it inRosanna'sroom."

It was herlast farewell word to the old man who had done his best--thank Godalways done his best--to befriend her.

"Youhave often forgiven meMr. Betteredgein past times.When younext see the Shivering Sandtry to forgive me once more.I havefound my grave where my grave was waiting for me.I havelivedand diedsirgrateful for your kindness."

There wasno more than that.  Little as it wasI hadn't manhood enoughto hold upagainst it.  Your tears come easywhen you're youngandbeginning the world.  Your tears come easywhen you're oldandleaving it.  I burst out crying.

SergeantCuff took a step nearer to me--meaning kindlyI don't doubt.I shrankback from him.  "Don't touch me" I said.  "It'sthe dread of youthat hasdriven her to it."

"Youare wrongMr. Betteredge" he answeredquietly.  "Buttherewill betime enough to speak of it when we are indoors again."

I followedthe rest of themwith the help of the groom's arm.Throughthe driving rain we went back--to meet the trouble andthe terrorthat were waiting for us at the house.

 

CHAPTER XX

Those infront had spread the news before us.  We found the servantsin a stateof panic.  As we passed my lady's doorit was thrownopenviolently from the inner side.  My mistress came out among us(with Mr.Franklin followingand trying vainly to compose her)quitebesideherself with the horror of the thing.

"Youare answerable for this!" she cried outthreatening theSergeantwildlywith her hand.  "Gabriel! give that wretch his money--andreleaseme fromthe sight of him!"

TheSergeant was the only one among us who was fit to cope with her--being theonly one among us who was in possession of himself.

"I amno more answerable for this distressing calamitymy ladythan youare" he said.  "Ifin half an hour from thisyou stillinsist on my leaving the houseI will accept yourladyship'sdismissalbut not your ladyship's money."

It wasspoken very respectfullybut very firmly at the same time--and it hadits effect on my mistress as well as on me.Shesuffered Mr. Franklin to lead her back into the room.As thedoor closed on the twothe Sergeantlooking about amongthewomen-servants in his observant waynoticed that whileall therest were merely frightenedPenelope was in tears."Whenyour father has changed his wet clothes" he said to her"comeand speak to usin your father's room."

Before thehalf-hour was outI had got my dry clothes onand hadlent Sergeant Cuff such change of dress as he required.Penelopecame in to us to hear what the Sergeant wanted with her.I don'tthink I ever felt what a good dutiful daughter I hadsostrongly as I felt it at that moment.  I took her and sather on myknee and I prayed God bless her.  She hid her headon mybosomand put her arms round my neck--and we waiteda littlewhile in silence.  The poor dead girl must have beenat thebottom of itI thinkwith my daughter and with me.TheSergeant went to the windowand stood there looking out.I thoughtit right to thank him for considering us both in this way--and I did.

People inhigh life have all the luxuries to themselves--amongothersthe luxury of indulging their feelings.People inlow life have no such privilege.  Necessitywhich sparesourbettershas no pity on us.  We learn to put our feelingsback intoourselvesand to jog on with our duties as patientlyas maybe.  I don't complain of this--I only notice it.Penelopeand I were ready for the Sergeantas soon as theSergeantwas ready on his side.  Asked if she knew what had ledherfellow-servant to destroy herselfmy daughter answered(as youwill foresee) that it was for love of Mr. Franklin Blake.Askednextif she had mentioned this notion of hers to anyotherpersonPenelope answered"I have not mentioned itforRosanna's sake."  I felt it necessary to add a word tothis.I said"And for Mr. Franklin's sakemy dearas well.If RosannaHAS died for love of himit is not with his knowledgeor by hisfault.  Let him leave the house to-dayif he doesleave itwithout the useless pain of knowing the truth."SergeantCuff said"Quite right" and fell silent again;comparingPenelope's notion (as it seemed to me)with someother notion of his own which he kepttohimself.

At the endof the half-hourmy mistress's bell rang.

On my wayto answer itI met Mr. Franklin coming out of hisaunt'ssitting-room. He mentioned that her ladyship was readyto seeSergeant Cuff--in my presence as before--and he addedthat hehimself wanted to say two words to the Sergeant first.On our wayback to my roomhe stoppedand looked at the railwaytime-tablein the hall.

"Areyou really going to leave ussir? " I asked.  "MissRachelwillsurely come right againif you only give her time?"

"Shewill come right again" answered Mr. Franklin"when shehears that Ihave goneawayand that she will see me no more."

I thoughthe spoke in resentment of my young lady's treatment of him.But it wasnot so.  My mistress had noticedfrom the time when the policefirst cameinto the housethat the bare mention of him was enough to setMissRachel's temper in a flame.  He had been too fond of his cousinto like toconfess this to himselfuntil the truth had been forcedon himwhen she drove off to her aunt's. His eyes once opened in thatcruel waywhich you know ofMr. Franklin had taken his resolution--the oneresolution which a man of any spirit COULD take--to leavethe house.

What hehad to say to the Sergeant was spoken in my presence.Hedescribed her ladyship as willing to acknowledge that she hadspokenover-hastily. And he asked if Sergeant Cuff would consent--in thatcase--to accept his feeand to leave the matter of the Diamondwhere thematter stood now.  The Sergeant answered"Nosir.My fee ispaid me for doing my duty.  I decline to take ituntil my dutyis done."

"Idon't understand you" says Mr. Franklin.

"I'llexplain myselfsir" says the Sergeant.  "When I camehereIundertook to throw the necessary light on the matter of themissingDiamond.  I am now readyand waiting to redeem my pledge.When Ihave stated the case to Lady Verinder as the case now standsand when Ihave told her plainly what course of action to take for therecoveryof the Moonstonethe responsibility will be off my shoulders.Let herladyship decideafter thatwhether she doesor does notallow meto go on.  I shall then have done what I undertook to do--and I'lltake my fee."

In thosewords Sergeant Cuff reminded us thateven in the Detective Policea man mayhave a reputation to lose.

The viewhe took was so plainly the right onethat therewas nomore to be said.  As I rose to conduct him to mylady'sroomhe asked if Mr. Franklin wished to be present.Mr.Franklin answered"Not unless Lady Verinder desires it."He addedin a whisper to meas I was following the Sergeant out"Iknow what that man is going to say about Rachel; and I amtoo fondof her to hear itand keep my temper.  Leave mebymyself."

I lefthimmiserable enoughleaning on the sill of my windowwith hisface hidden in his hands and Penelope peeping through the doorlonging tocomfort him.  In Mr. Franklin's placeI should havecalled herin.  When you are ill-used by one womanthere is greatcomfort intelling it to another--becausenine times out of tenthe otheralways takes your side.  Perhapswhen my back was turnedhe didcall her in?  In that case it is only doing my daughter justiceto declarethat she would stick at nothingin the way of comfortingMr.Franklin Blake.
In themeantimeSergeant Cuff and I proceeded to my lady's room.

At thelast conference we had held with herwe had found hernot overwilling to lift her eyes from the book which she had onthetable.  On this occasion there was a change for the better.She metthe Sergeant's eye with an eye that was as steady as his own.The familyspirit showed itself in every line of her face;and I knewthat Sergeant Cuff would meet his matchwhen a womanlike mymistress was strung up to hear the worst he could sayto her.

 

CHAPTERXXI

The firstwordswhen we had taken our seatswere spoken by my lady.

"SergeantCuff" she said"there was perhaps some excusefor theinconsiderate manner in which I spoke to you halfan hoursince.  I have no wishhoweverto claim that excuse.I saywith perfect sinceritythat I regret itif Iwrongedyou."

The graceof voice and manner with which she made him that atonement had itsdue effecton the Sergeant.  He requested permission to justify himself--puttinghis justification as an act of respect to my mistress.It wasimpossiblehe saidthat he could be in any way responsiblefor thecalamitywhich had shocked us allfor this sufficient reasonthat hissuccess in bringing his inquiry to its proper end depended onhisneither saying nor doing anything that could alarm Rosanna Spearman.Heappealed to me to testify whether he hador had notcarried thatobjectout.  I couldand didbear witness that he had.  Andthereas Ithoughtthe matter might have been judiciously left to come toan end.

SergeantCuffhowevertook it a step furtherevidently (as you shallnow judge)with the purpose of forcing the most painful of all possibleexplanationsto take place between her ladyship and himself.

"Ihave heard a motive assigned for the young woman's suicide"said theSergeant"which may possibly be the right one.  It is amotivequite unconnected with the case which I am conducting here.I am boundto addhoweverthat my own opinion points the other way.Someunbearable anxiety in connexion with the missing DiamondhasIbelievedriven the poor creature to her own destruction.I don'tpretend to know what that unbearable anxiety may have been.But Ithink (with your ladyship's permission) I can lay my handon aperson who is capable of deciding whether I am rightor wrong."

"Isthe person now in the house?" my mistress askedafter waiting alittle.

"Theperson has left the house" my lady.

Thatanswer pointed as straight to Miss Rachel as straight could be.A silencedropped on us which I thought would never come to an end.Lord! howthe wind howledand how the rain drove at the windowas I sattherewaiting for one or other of them to speak again!

"Beso good as to express yourself plainly" said my lady."Doyou refer to my daughter?"

"Ido" said Sergeant Cuffin so many words.

Mymistress had her cheque-book on the table when we entered the room--no doubtto pay the Sergeant his fee.  She now put it back in the drawer.It went tomy heart to see how her poor hand trembled--the hand thathad loadedher old servant with benefits; the hand thatI pray Godmay takeminewhen my time comesand I leave my place for ever!

"Ihad hoped" said my ladyvery slowly and quietly"to haverecompensedyourservicesand to have parted with you without Miss Verinder's namehavingbeen openly mentioned between us as it has been mentioned now.My nephewhas probably said something of thisbefore you came intomy room?"

"Mr.Blake gave his messagemy lady.  And I gave Mr. Blake areason----"

"Itis needless to tell me your reason.  After what you have justsaidyou knowas well as I do that you have gone too far to go back.I owe itto myselfand I owe it to my childto insist on yourremaininghereand to insist on your speaking out."

TheSergeant looked at his watch.

"Ifthere had been timemy lady" he answered"I should havepreferredwriting myreportinstead of communicating it by word of mouth.  Butifthisinquiry isto go ontime is of too much importance to be wasted in writing.I am readyto go into the matter at once.  It is a very painful matter formeto speakofand for you to hear

There mymistress stopped him once more.

"Imay possibly make it less painful to youand to my good servantand friendhere" she said"if I set the example of speaking boldlyon myside.  You suspect Miss Verinder of deceiving us allbysecretingtheDiamond for some purpose of her own?  Is that true?"

"Quitetruemy lady."

"Verywell.  Nowbefore you beginI have to tell youas MissVerinder's motherthat she is ABSOLUTELYINCAPABLEof doing what you suppose her to have done.Yourknowledge of her character dates from a day or two since.Myknowledge of her character dates from the beginning of her life.State yoursuspicion of her as strongly as you please--it isimpossible that you can offend me by doing so.I am surebeforehandthat (with all your experience)thecircumstances have fatally misled you in this case.  Mind! I aminpossession of no private information.  I am as absolutelyshut outof my daughter's confidence as you are.  My one reasonforspeaking positivelyis the reason you have heard already.I know mychild."

She turnedto meand gave me her hand.  I kissed it in silence."Youmay go on" she saidfacing the Sergeant again as steadilyas ever.

SergeantCuff bowed.  My mistress had produced but one effect on him.Hishatchet-face softened for a momentas if he was sorry for her.As toshaking him in his own convictionit was plain to see that shehad notmoved him by a single inch.  He settled himself in his chair;and hebegan his vile attack on Miss Rachel's character in these words:

"Imust ask your ladyship" he said"to look this matterin thefacefrom my point of view as well as from yours.Will youplease to suppose yourself coming down herein my placeand withmy experience? and will you allow me to mention verybrieflywhat that experience has been?"

Mymistress signed to him that she would do this.  The Sergeantwent on:

"Forthe last twenty years" he said"I have been largelyemployedin casesof family scandalacting in the capacity of confidential man.The oneresult of my domestic practice which has any bearing onthe matternow in handis a result which I may state in two words.It is wellwithin my experiencethat young ladies of rank and positiondooccasionally have private debts which they dare not acknowledge totheirnearestrelatives and friends.  Sometimesthe milliner and the jewellerare at thebottom of it.  Sometimesthe money is wanted for purposes whichIdon'tsuspect in this caseand which I won't shock you by mentioning.Bear inmind what I have saidmy lady--and now let us see how eventsin thishouse have forced me back on my own experiencewhether I liked itor not!"

Heconsidered with himself for a momentand went on--with ahorrid clearness that obliged you to understand him;with anabominable justice that favoured nobody.

"Myfirst information relating to the loss of the Moonstone"said theSergeant"came to me from Superintendent Seegrave.He provedto my complete satisfaction that he was perfectlyincapableof managing the case.  The one thing he said whichstruck meas worth listening towas this--that Miss Verinderhaddeclined to be questioned by himand had spoken to himwith aperfectly incomprehensible rudeness and contempt.I thoughtthis curious--but I attributed it mainly to someclumsinesson the Superintendent's part which might haveoffendedthe young lady.  After thatI put it by in my mindandapplied myselfsingle-handedto the case.  It endedas you areawarein the discovery of the smear on the doorand inMr.Franklin Blake's evidence satisfying methat this same smearand theloss of the Diamondwere pieces of the same puzzle.So farifI suspected anythingI suspected that the Moonstonehad beenstolenand that one of the servants might prove to bethethief.  Very good.  In this state of thingswhat happens?MissVerinder suddenly comes out of her roomand speaks to me.I observethree suspicious appearances in that young lady.She isstill violently agitatedthough more than four-and-twentyhours havepassed since the Diamond was lost.  She treatsme as shehas already treated Superintendent Seegrave.And she ismortally offended with Mr. Franklin Blake.Very goodagain.  Here (I say to myself) is a young ladywho haslost a valuable jewel--a young ladyalsoas my owneyes andears inform mewho is of an impetuous temperament.Underthese circumstancesand with that characterwhat does she do?Shebetrays an incomprehensible resentment against Mr. BlakeMr.Superintendentand myself--otherwisethe very three peoplewho haveallin their different waysbeen trying to helpher torecover her lost jewel.  Having brought my inquiryto thatpoint--THENmy ladyand not till thenI begin to lookback intomy own mind for my own experience.  My own experienceexplainsMiss Verinder's otherwise incomprehensible conduct.Itassociates her with those other young ladies that I know of.It tellsme she has debts she daren't acknowledgethat must be paid.And itsets me asking myselfwhether the loss of the Diamond maynotmean--that the Diamond must be secretly pledged to pay them.That isthe conclusion which my experience draws fromplainfacts.  What does your ladyship's experience say againstit?"

"WhatI have said already" answered my mistress.  "Thecircumstanceshavemisled you."

I saidnothing on my side.  ROBINSON CRUSOE--God knows how--had gotinto my muddled old head.  If Sergeant Cuff hadfoundhimselfat that momenttransported to a desert islandwithout aman Friday to keep him companyor a ship to take him off--he wouldhave found himself exactly where I wished him to be!(Notabene:--I am an average good Christianwhen you don'tpush myChristianity too far.  And all the rest of you--which is agreat comfort--arein this respectmuch the same asI am.)

SergeantCuff went on:

"Rightor wrongmy lady" he said"having drawn my conclusionthe nextthing to do was to put it to the test.  I suggested toyourladyship the examination of all the wardrobes in the house.It was ameans of finding the article of dress which hadin allprobabilitymade the smear; and it was a meansof puttingmy conclusion to the test.  How did it turn out?Yourladyship consented; Mr. Blake consented; Mr. Ablewhite consented.MissVerinder alone stopped the whole proceeding by refusingpoint-blank.That result satisfied me that my view was the right one.If yourladyship and Mr. Betteredge persist in not agreeing with meyou mustbe blind to what happened before you this very day.In yourhearingI told the young lady that her leaving the house(as thingswere then) would put an obstacle in the way of my recoveringherjewel.  You saw yourselves that she drove off in the faceof thatstatement.  You saw yourself thatso far from forgivingMr. Blakefor having done more than all the rest of you to putthe clueinto my handsshe publicly insulted Mr. Blakeon the stepsof hermother's house.  What do these things mean?  If MissVerinderis notprivy to the suppression of the Diamondwhat do thesethingsmean?"

This timehe looked my way.  It was downright frightfulto hearhim piling up proof after proof against Miss Racheland toknowwhile one was longing to defend herthat therewas nodisputing the truth of what he said.  I am (thank God!)constitutionallysuperior to reason.  This enabled meto holdfirm to my lady's viewwhich was my view also.Thisroused my spiritand made me put a bold face on it beforeSergeantCuff.  Profitgood friendsI beseech youby my example.It willsave you from many troubles of the vexing sort.Cultivatea superiority to reasonand see how you pare the clawsof all thesensible people when they try to scratch you for yourown good!

Findingthat I made no remarkand that my mistress made no remarkSergeantCuff proceeded.  Lord! how it did enrage me to noticethat hewas not in the least put out by our silence!

"Thereis the casemy ladyas it stands against MissVerinderalone" he said.  "The next thing is to put the caseas itstandsagainst Miss Verinder and the deceased Rosanna Spearmantakentogether.  We will go back for a momentif you pleaseto yourdaughter's refusal to let her wardrobe be examined.My mindbeing made upafter that circumstanceI had two questionstoconsider next.  Firstas to the right method of conductingmyinquiry.  Secondas to whether Miss Verinder had an accompliceamong thefemale servants in the house.  After carefullythinkingit overI determined to conduct the inquiry inwhat weshould call at our officea highly irregular manner.For thisreason:  I had a family scandal to deal withwhich itwas my business to keep within the family limits.The lessnoise madeand the fewer strangers employed to help methebetter.  As to the usual course of taking people in custodyonsuspiciongoing before the magistrateand all the rest of it--nothing ofthe sort was to be thought ofwhen your ladyship'sdaughterwas (as I believed) at the bottom of the whole business.In thiscaseI felt that a person of Mr. Betteredge's characterandposition in the house--knowing the servants as he didand havingthe honour of the family at heart--would be saferto take asan assistant than any other person whom I couldlay myhand on.  I should have tried Mr. Blake as well--but forone obstacle in the way.  HE saw the drift of my proceedingsat a veryearly date; andwith his interest in Miss Verinderany mutualunderstanding was impossible between him and me.I troubleyour ladyship with these particulars to show youthat Ihave kept the family secret within the family circle.I am theonly outsider who knows it--and my professional existencedepends onholding my tongue."

Here Ifelt that my professional existence depended on not holdingmytongue.  To be held up before my mistressin my old ageas a sortof deputy-policemanwasonce againmore than myChristianitywas strong enough to bear.

"Ibeg to inform your ladyship" I said"that I neverto myknowledgehelpedthis abominable detective businessin any wayfrom first to last;and Isummon Sergeant Cuff to contradict meif he dares!"

Havinggiven vent in those wordsI felt greatly relieved.Herladyship honoured me by a little friendly pat on the shoulder.I lookedwith righteous indignation at the Sergeantto seewhat he thought of such a testimony as THAT.TheSergeant looked back like a lamband seemed to like me betterthan ever.

My ladyinformed him that he might continue his statement."Iunderstand" she said"that you have honestly done yourbestin whatyou believe to be my interest.  I am ready to hear what youhave tosay next."

"WhatI have to say next" answered Sergeant Cuff"relates toRosannaSpearman.  I recognised the young womanas your ladyshipmayrememberwhen she brought the washing-book into this room.Up to thattime I was inclined to doubt whether Miss Verinder hadtrustedher secret to any one.  When I saw RosannaI altered my mind.Isuspected her at once of being privy to the suppression of theDiamond.The poorcreature has met her death by a dreadful endand I don'twant yourladyship to thinknow she's gonethat I was undulyhard onher.  If this had been a common case of thievingI shouldhave givenRosanna the benefit of the doubt just as freely as Ishouldhave given it to any of the other servants in the house.Ourexperience of the Reformatory woman isthat when triedinservice--and when kindly and judiciously treated--they provethemselvesin the majority of cases to be honestly penitentandhonestly worthy of the pains taken with them.  But this was nota commoncase of thieving.  It was a case--in my mind--of a deeplyplannedfraudwith the owner of the Diamond at the bottom of it.Holdingthis viewthe first consideration which naturallypresenteditself to mein connection with Rosannawas this:Would MissVerinder be satisfied (begging your ladyship's pardon)withleading us all to think that the Moonstone was merely lost?Or wouldshe go a step furtherand delude us into believingthat theMoonstone was stolen?  In the latter event there wasRosannaSpearman--with the character of a thief--ready to her hand;the personof all others to lead your ladyship offand to lead me offon a falsescent."

Was itpossible (I asked myself) that he could put his case againstMissRachel and Rosanna in a more horrid point of view than this?It WASpossibleas you shall now see.

"Ihad another reason for suspecting the deceased woman"he said"which appears to me to have been stronger still.Who wouldbe the very person to help Miss Verinder inraisingmoney privately on the Diamond?  Rosanna Spearman.No younglady in Miss Verinder's position could managesuch arisky matter as that by herself.  A go-between shemust haveand who so fitI ask againas Rosanna Spearman?Yourladyship's deceased housemaid was at the top of herprofessionwhen she was a thief.  She had relationsto mycertain knowledgewith one of the few men in London(in themoney-lending line) who would advance a large sum on sucha notablejewel as the Moonstonewithout asking awkward questionsorinsisting on awkward conditions.  Bear this in mindmy lady;and nowlet me show you how my suspicions have been justifiedbyRosanna's own actsand by the plain inferences to be drawnfromthem."

Hethereupon passed the whole of Rosanna's proceedings under review.You arealready as well acquainted with those proceedings as I am;and youwill understand how unanswerably this part of his report fixedthe guiltof being concerned in the disappearance of the Moonstoneon thememory of the poor dead girl.  Even my mistress was dauntedby what hesaid now.  She made him no answer when he had done.It didn'tseem to matter to the Sergeant whether he was answered or not.On he went(devil take him!)just as steady as ever.

"Havingstated the whole case as I understand it" he said"Ihave only to tell your ladyshipnowwhat I propose to do next.I see twoways of bringing this inquiry successfully to an end.One ofthose ways I look upon as a certainty.  The otherI admitis a boldexperimentand nothing more.  Your ladyship shall decide.Shall wetake the certainty first?"

Mymistress made him a sign to take his own wayand choose for himself.

"Thankyou" said the Sergeant.  "We'll begin with thecertaintyas yourladyship is so good as to leave it to me.  Whether Miss Verinderremains atFrizinghallor whether she returns hereI proposein eithercaseto keep a careful watch on all her proceedings--on thepeople she seeson the rides and walks she may takeand ontheletters she may write and receive."

"Whatnext?" asked my mistress.

"Ishall next" answered the Sergeant"request yourladyship's leavetointroduce into the houseas a servant in the place of RosannaSpearmana womanaccustomed to private inquiries of this sortfor whose discretionI cananswer."

"Whatnext? " repeated my mistress.

"Next"proceeded the Sergeant"and lastI propose to send one of mybrother-officersto make an arrangement with that money-lender in Londonwhom Imentioned just now as formerly acquainted with Rosanna Spearman--and whosename and addressyour ladyship may rely on ithave beencommunicatedby Rosanna to Miss Verinder.  I don't deny that the courseof actionI am now suggesting will cost moneyand consume time.But theresult is certain.  We run a line round the Moonstoneand wedrawthat linecloser and closer till we find it in Miss Verinder's possessionsupposingshe decides to keep it.  If her debts pressand she decides onsending itawaythen we have our man readyand we meet the Moonstone on itsarrival inLondon."

To hearher own daughter made the subject of such a proposal as thisstung mymistress into speaking angrily for the first time.

"Consideryour proposal declinedin every particular" she said."Andgo on to your other way of bringing the inquiry to an end."

"Myother way" said the Sergeantgoing on as easy as ever"isto try that bold experiment to which I have alluded.  I think Ihaveformed a pretty correct estimate of Miss Verinder's temperament.She isquite capable (according to my belief) of committinga daringfraud.  But she is too hot and impetuous in temperand toolittle accustomed to deceit as a habitto act the hypocritein smallthingsand to restrain herself under all provocations.Herfeelingsin this casehave repeatedly got beyond her controlat thevery time when it was plainly her interest to conceal them.It is onthis peculiarity in her character that I now propose to act.I want togive her a great shock suddenlyunder circumstancesthat willtouch her to the quick.  In plain EnglishI want to tellMissVerinderwithout a word of warningof Rosanna's death--on thechance that her own better feelings will hurry herintomaking a clean breast of it.  Does your ladyship acceptthatalternative?"

Mymistress astonished me beyond all power of expression.Sheanswered him on the instant:

"Yes;I do."

"Thepony-chaise is ready" said the Sergeant.  "I wishyour ladyshipgoodmorning."

My ladyheld up her handand stopped him at the door.

"Mydaughter's better feelings shall be appealed toas you propose"she said. "But I claim the rightas her motherof puttingher to thetest myself.  You will remain hereif you please;and I willgo to Frizinghall."

For oncein his lifethe great Cuff stood speechless with amazementlike anordinary man.

Mymistress rang the belland ordered her water-proof things.It wasstill pouring with rain; and the close carriage had goneas youknowwith Miss Rachel to Frizinghall.  I tried to dissuadeherladyship from facing the severity of the weather.  Quiteuseless!I askedleave to go with herand hold the umbrella.  She wouldn'thear ofit.  The pony-chaise came roundwith the groom in charge."Youmay rely on two things" she said to Sergeant Cuffin the hall."Iwill try the experiment on Miss Verinder as boldly as youcould tryit yourself.  And I will inform you of the resulteitherpersonally or by letterbefore the last train leaves for Londonto-night."

With thatshe stepped into the chaiseandtaking the reins herselfdrove offto Frizinghall.

 

CHAPTERXXII

Mymistress having left usI had leisure to think of Sergeant Cuff.I foundhim sitting in a snug corner of the hallconsulting hismemorandumbookand curling up viciously at the corners of the lips.

"Makingnotes of the case? " I asked.

"No"said the Sergeant.  "Looking to see what my nextprofessionalengagementis."

"Oh!" I said.  "You think it's all over thenhere?"

"Ithink" answered Sergeant Cuff"that Lady Verinder is oneof thecleverest women in England.  I also think a rose muchbetterworth looking at than a diamond.  Where is the gardenerMr.Betteredge?"

There wasno getting a word more out of him on the matter of the Moonstone.He hadlost all interest in his own inquiry; and he would persist in lookingfor thegardener.  An hour afterwardsI heard them at high words intheconservatorywith the dog-rose once more at the bottom of thedispute.

In themeantimeit was my business to find out whether Mr. Franklinpersistedin his resolution to leave us by the afternoon train.Afterhaving been informed of the conference in my lady's roomand of howit had endedhe immediately decided on waiting to hearthe newsfrom Frizinghall.  This very natural alteration in his plans--whichwith ordinary peoplewould have led to nothing in particular--provedinMr. Franklin's caseto have one objectionable result.It lefthim unsettledwith a legacy of idle time on his handsandin sodoingit let out all the foreign sides of his characterone on thetop of anotherlike rats out of a bag.

Now as anItalian-Englishmannow as a German-Englishmanand nowas aFrench-Englishmanhe drifted in and out of all the sitting-roomsin thehousewith nothing to talk of but Miss Rachel's treatment of him;and withnobody to address himself to but me.  I found him (for example)in thelibrarysitting under the map of Modern Italyand quiteunaware ofany other method of meeting his troublesexcept the methodof talkingabout them.  "I have several worthy aspirationsBetteredge;but whatam I to do with them now?  I am full of dormant good qualitiesif Rachelwould only have helped me to bring them out!"  He was soeloquentin drawingthe picture of his own neglected meritsand so patheticinlamenting over it when it was donethat I felt quite at my wits'end how toconsole himwhen it suddenly occurred to me that here wasa case forthe wholesome application of a bit of ROBINSON CRUSOE.I hobbledout to my own roomand hobbled back with that immortal book.Nobody inthe library!  The map of Modern Italy stared at ME; and I staredat the mapof Modern Italy.

I triedthe drawing-room. There was his handkerchief on the floorto provethat he had drifted in.  And there was the empty roomto provethat he had drifted out again.

I triedthe dining-roomand discovered Samuel with a biscuitand aglass of sherrysilently investigating the empty air.A minutesinceMr. Franklin had rung furiously for a littlelightrefreshment.  On its productionin a violent hurryby SamuelMr. Franklin had vanished before the belldownstairshad quite done ringing with the pull he had givento it.

I triedthe morning-roomand found him at last.  There he was at thewindowdrawinghieroglyphics with his finger in the damp on the glass.

"Yoursherry is waiting for yousir" I said to him.I might aswell have addressed myself to one of the fourwalls ofthe room; he was down in the bottomless deep of hisownmeditationspast all pulling up.  "How do YOU explainRachel'sconductBetteredge?" was the only answer I received.Not beingready with the needful replyI produced ROBINSON CRUSOEin which Iam firmly persuaded some explanation might havebeenfoundif we had only searched long enough for it.Mr.Franklin shut up ROBINSON CRUSOEand floundered into hisGerman-Englishgibberish on the spot.  "Why not look into it?"he saidas if I had personally objected to looking into it."Whythe devil lose your patienceBetteredgewhen patience isall that'swanted to arrive at the truth?  Don't interrupt me.Rachel'sconduct is perfectly intelligibleif you will onlydo her thecommon justice to take the Objective view first.and theSubjective view nextand the Objective-Subjectiveview towind up with.  What do we know?  We know that the lossof theMoonstoneon Thursday morning lastthrew her into a stateof nervousexcitementfrom which she has not recovered yet.Do youmean to deny the Objective viewso far?  Very wellthen--don'tinterrupt me.  Nowbeing in a state of nervous excitementhow are weto expect that she should behave as she mightotherwisehave behaved to any of the people about her?Arguing inthis wayfrom within-outwardswhat do we reach?We reachthe Subjective view.  I defy you to controverttheSubjective view.  Very well then--what follows?GoodHeavens! the Objective-Subjective explanation followsofcourse!  Rachelproperly speakingis not RachelbutSomebody Else.  Do I mind being cruelly treated by SomebodyElse?You areunreasonable enoughBetteredge; but you canhardlyaccuse me of that.  Then how does it end?  It endsin spiteof your confounded English narrowness and prejudicein mybeing perfectly happy and comfortable.  Where's thesherry?"

My headwas by this time in such a conditionthat I was not quite surewhether itwas my own heador Mr. Franklin's. In this deplorable stateIcontrived to dowhat I take to have beenthree Objective things.I got Mr.Franklin his sherry; I retired to my own room; and I solacedmyselfwith the most composing pipe of tobacco I ever remember to havesmoked inmy life.

Don'tsupposehoweverthat I was quit of Mr. Franklin on sucheasy termsas these.  Drifting againout of the morning-roominto thehallhe found his way to the offices nextsmelt my pipeand wasinstantly reminded that he had been simple enough to giveup smokingfor Miss Rachel's sake.  In the twinkling of an eyehe burstin on me with his cigar-caseand came out strong on the oneeverlastingsubjectin his neatwittyunbelievingFrench way."Giveme a lightBetteredge.  Is it conceivable that a man can havesmoked aslong as I have without discovering that there is a completesystem forthe treatment of women at the bottom of his cigar-case? Followmecarefullyand I will prove it in two words.  You choose acigaryou tryitand it disappoints you.  What do you do upon that?You throwit away and try another.  Now observe the application!You choosea womanyou try herand she breaks your heart.Fool! takea lesson from your cigar-case. Throw her awayand tryanother!"

I shook myhead at that.  Wonderfully cleverI dare saybut my ownexperiencewas dead against it.  "In the time of the late Mrs.Betteredge"I said"Ifelt pretty often inclined to try your philosophyMr. Franklin.But thelaw insists on your smoking your cigarsirwhen youhave oncechosen it."  I pointed that observation with a wink.Mr.Franklin burst out laughing--and we were as merry as cricketsuntil thenext new side of his character turned up in due course.So thingswent on with my young master and me; and so (while the Sergeantand thegardener were wrangling over the roses) we two spent the intervalbefore thenews came back from Frizinghall.

Thepony-chaise returned a good half hour before I had ventured to expectit.My ladyhad decided to remain for the presentat her sister's house.The groombrought two letters from his mistress; one addressed toMr.Franklinand the other to me.

Mr.Franklin's letter I sent to him in the library--into which refugehisdriftings had now taken him for the second time.  My own letterI read inmy own room.  A chequewhich dropped out when I opened itinformedme (before I had mastered the contents) that Sergeant Cuff'sdismissalfrom the inquiry after the Moonstone was now a settled thing.

I sent tothe conservatory to say that I wished to speakto theSergeant directly.  He appearedwith his mind fullof thegardener and the dog-rosedeclaring that the equalof Mr.Begbie for obstinacy never had existed yetand neverwouldexist again.  I requested him to dismiss such wretchedtriflingas this from our conversationand to give his bestattentionto a really serious matter.  Upon that he exertedhimselfsufficiently to notice the letter in my hand."Ah!"he said in a weary way"you have heard from her ladyship.Have Ianything to do with itMr. Betteredge?"

"Youshall judge for yourselfSergeant."  I thereupon read himthe letter(with mybest emphasis and discretion)in the following words:

 

"MYGOOD GABRIEL--I request that you will inform Sergeant Cuffthat Ihave performed the promise I made to him; with this resultso far asRosanna Spearman is concerned.  Miss Verinder solemnlydeclaresthat she has never spoken a word in private to Rosannasince thatunhappy woman first entered my house.  They never metevenaccidentallyon the night when the Diamond was lost;and nocommunication of any sort whatever took place between themfrom theThursday morning when the alarm was first raised in the houseto thispresent Saturday afternoonwhen Miss Verinder left us.Aftertelling my daughter suddenlyand in so many wordsof RosannaSpearman'ssuicide--this is what has come of it."

 

Havingreached that pointI looked upand asked Sergeant Cuffwhat hethought of the letterso far?

"Ishould only offend you if I expressed MY opinion" answered theSergeant."GoonMr. Betteredge" he saidwith the most exasperatingresignation"goon."

When Iremembered that this man had had the audacity to complainof ourgardener's obstinacymy tongue itched to "go on" in otherwordsthan mymistress's. This timehowevermy Christianity held firm.Iproceeded steadily with her ladyship's letter:

 

"Havingappealed to Miss Verinder in the manner which the officerthoughtmost desirableI spoke to her next in the manner which Imyselfthought most likely to impress her.  On two different occasionsbefore mydaughter left my roofI privately warned her that shewasexposing herself to suspicion of the most unendurable and mostdegradingkind.  I have now told herin the plainest termsthat myapprehensions have been realised.

"Heranswer to thison her own solemn affirmationis as plainas wordscan be.  In the first placeshe owes no money privatelyto anyliving creature.  In the second placethe Diamond is not nowand neverhas beenin her possessionsince she put it into hercabinet onWednesday night.

"Theconfidence which my daughter has placed in me goes nofurtherthan this.  She maintains an obstinate silencewhen Iask her ifshe can explain the disappearance of the Diamond.Sherefuseswith tearswhen I appeal to her to speak outfor mysake.  "The day will come when you will know why I amcarelessabout being suspectedand why I am silent even to you.I havedone much to make my mother pity me--nothing to makemy motherblush for me."  Those are my daughter's own words.

"Afterwhat has passed between the officer and meI think--strangeras he is--that he should be made acquainted with whatMissVerinder has saidas well as you.  Read my letter to himand thenplace in his hands the cheque which I enclose.Inresigning all further claim on his servicesI have onlyto saythat I am convinced of his honesty and his intelligence;but I ammore firmly persuaded than everthat the circumstancesin thiscasehave fatally misled him."

 

There theletter ended.  Before presenting the chequeI asked SergeantCuff if hehad any remark to make.

"It'sno part of my dutyMr. Betteredge" he answered"tomake remarks on a casewhen I have done with it."

I tossedthe cheque across the table to him.  "Do you believe inTHATpart ofher ladyship's letter?"  I saidindignantly.

TheSergeant looked at the chequeand lifted up his dismaleyebrowsin acknowledgment of her ladyship's liberality.

"Thisis such a generous estimate of the value of my time"he said"that I feel bound to make some return for it.I'll bearin mind the amount in this chequeMr. Betteredgewhen theoccasion comes round for remembering it."

"Whatdo you mean? " I asked.

"Herladyship has smoothed matters over for the present very cleverly"said theSergeant.  "But THIS family scandal is of the sort thatbursts upagain whenyou least expect it.  We shall have more detective-business onour handssirbefore the Moonstone is many months older."

If thosewords meant anythingand if the manner in which he spoke themmeantanything--it came to this.  My mistress's letter had provedto hismindthat Miss Rachel was hardened enough to resistthestrongest appeal that could be addressed to herand that shehaddeceived her own mother (good Godunder what circumstances!)by aseries of abominable lies.  How other peoplein my placemight havereplied to the SergeantI don't know.  I answered whathe said inthese plain terms:

"SergeantCuffI consider your last observation as an insultto my ladyand her daughter!"

"Mr.Betteredgeconsider it as a warning to yourselfand youwill benearer the mark."

Hot andangry as I wasthe infernal confidence with which he gave methatanswer closed my lips.

I walkedto the window to compose myself.  The rain had given over;andwhoshould I see in the court-yardbut Mr. Begbiethe gardenerwaitingoutside to continue the dog-rose controversy with Sergeant Cuff.

"Mycompliments to the Sairgent" said Mr. Begbiethe momenthe seteyes on me.  "If he's minded to walk to the stationI'magreeable to go with him."

"What!"cries the Sergeantbehind me"are you not convinced yet?"

"Thede'il a bit I'm convinced!" answered Mr. Begbie.

"ThenI'll walk to the station!" says the Sergeant.

"ThenI'll meet you at the gate!" says Mr. Begbie.

I wasangry enoughas you know--but how was any man's angerto holdout against such an interruption as this?  Sergeant Cuffnoticedthe change in meand encouraged it by a word in season."Come!come!" he said"why not treat my view of the case as herladyshiptreats it?  Why not saythe circumstances have fatallymisledme?"

To takeanything as her ladyship took it was a privilege worth enjoying--even withthe disadvantage of its having been offered to me by Sergeant Cuff.I cooledslowly down to my customary level.  I regarded any other opinionof MissRachelthan my lady's opinion or minewith a lofty contempt.The onlything I could not dowas to keep off the subject of the Moonstone!My owngood sense ought to have warned meI knowto let the matter rest--butthere! the virtues which distinguish the present generation were notinventedin my time.  Sergeant Cuff had hit me on the rawandthough Idid lookdown upon him with contemptthe tender place still tingled forall that. The end of it was that I perversely led him back to the subjectof herladyship's letter.  "I am quite satisfied myself" Isaid.  "But nevermindthat!  Go onas if I was still open to conviction.  Youthink MissRachel isnot to be believed on her word; and you say we shall hear of theMoonstoneagain.  Back your opinionSergeant" I concludedin anairy way."Backyour opinion."

Instead oftaking offenceSergeant Cuff seized my handand shookit till my fingers ached again.

"Ideclare to heaven" says this strange officer solemnly"Iwould take to domestic service to-morrowMr. Betteredgeif I had achance of being employed along with You!To say youare as transparent as a childsiris to paythechildren a compliment which nine out of ten of themdon'tdeserve.  There! there! we won't begin to dispute again.You shallhave it out of me on easier terms than that.I won'tsay a word more about her ladyshipor about Miss Verinder--I'll onlyturn prophetfor once in a wayand for your sake.I havewarned you already that you haven't done with theMoonstoneyet.  Very well.  Now I'll tell youat partingof threethings which will happen in the futureand whichI believewill forcethemselves on your attentionwhether you like itor not."

"Goon!"  I saidquite unabashedand just as airy as ever.

"First"said the Sergeant"you will hear something from the Yollands--when thepostman delivers Rosanna's letter at Cobb's Holeon Monday next."

If he hadthrown a bucket of cold water over meI doubt if I couldhave feltit much more unpleasantly than I felt those words.MissRachel's assertion of her innocence had left Rosanna's conduct--the makingthe new nightgownthe hiding the smeared nightgownand allthe rest of it--entirely without explanation.  And this hadneveroccurred to metill Sergeant Cuff forced it on my mind all ina moment!

"Inthe second place" proceeded the Sergeant"you will hearofthe threeIndians again.  You will hear of them in the neighbourhoodif MissRachel remains in the neighbourhood.  You will hear of themin Londonif Miss Rachel goes to London."

Havinglost all interest in the three jugglersand havingthoroughlyconvinced myself of my young lady's innocenceI tookthis second prophecy easily enough.  "So much for twoof thethree things that are going to happen" I said."Nowfor the third!"

"Thirdand last" said Sergeant Cuff"you willsooner or laterhearsomething of that money-lender in Londonwhom I have twicetaken theliberty of mentioning already.  Give me your pocket-bookand I'llmake a note for you of his name and address--so that theremay be nomistake about it if the thing really happens."

He wroteaccordingly on a blank leaf--"Mr. Septimus LukerMiddlesex-placeLambethLondon."

"There"he saidpointing to the address"are the last wordson thesubject of the Moonstonewhich I shall trouble you withfor thepresent.  Time will show whether I am right or wrong.In themeanwhilesirI carry away with me a sincere personalliking foryouwhich I think does honour to both of us.If wedon't meet again before my professional retirement takes placeI hope youwill come and see me in a little house near Londonwhich Ihave got my eye on.  There will be grass walksMr.BetteredgeI promise youin my garden.  And as for the whitemossrose----"

"Thede'il a bit ye'll get the white moss rose to growunless youbud him on the dogue-rose first" cried a voiceat thewindow.

We bothturned round.  There was the everlasting Mr. Begbietoo eagerfor the controversy to wait any longer at the gate.TheSergeant wrung my handand darted out into the court-yardhotterstill on his side.  "Ask him about the moss rosewhen hecomes backand see if I have left him a leg to stand on!"cried thegreat Cuffhailing me through the window in his turn."Gentlemenboth!"  I answeredmoderating them again as I hadmoderatedthem once already.

In thematter of the moss rose there is a great deal to besaid onboth sides!"  I might as well (as the Irish say)havewhistled jigs to a milestone.  Away they went togetherfightingthe battle of the roses without asking or givingquarter oneither side.  The last I saw of themMr. Begbiewasshaking his obstinate headand Sergeant Cuff had gothim by thearm like a prisoner in charge.  Ahwell! well!I own Icouldn't help liking the Sergeant--though I hated him allthe time.

Explainthat state of mindif you can.  You will soon be ridnowofmeand mycontradictions.  When I have reported Mr. Franklin's departurethehistory of the Saturday's events will be finished at last.And when Ihave next described certain strange things that happenedin thecourse of the new weekI shall have done my part of the Storyand shallhand over the pen to the person who is appointed to followmy lead. If you are as tired of reading this narrative as I am ofwritingit--Lordhow we shall enjoy ourselves on both sides a few pagesfurtheron!

 

CHAPTERXXIII

I had keptthe pony chaise readyin case Mr. Franklin persistedin leavingus by the train that night.  The appearance of the luggagefolloweddownstairs by Mr. Franklin himselfinformed me plainlyenoughthat he had held firm to a resolution for once in his life.

"Soyou have really made up your mindsir?"  I saidas we metin the hall."Whynot wait a day or two longerand give Miss Rachel another chance?"

Theforeign varnish appeared to have all worn off Mr. Franklinnow thatthe time had come for saying good-bye. Instead of replyingto me inwordshe put the letter which her ladyship had addressedto himinto my hand.  The greater part of it said over again whathad beensaid already in the other communication received by me.But therewas a bit about Miss Rachel added at the endwhich willaccountfor the steadiness of Mr. Franklin's determinationif itaccountsfor nothing else.

 

"Youwill wonderI dare say" (her ladyship wrote)"at myallowingmy own daughter to keep me perfectly in the dark.A Diamondworth twenty thousand pounds has been lost--and I amleft toinfer that the mystery of its disappearance is no mysteryto Racheland that some incomprehensible obligation of silencehas beenlaid on herby some person or persons utterly unknownto mewith some object in view at which I cannot even guess.Is itconceivable that I should allow myself to be trifled with inthis way? It is quite conceivablein Rachel's present state.She is ina condition of nervous agitation pitiable to see.I dare notapproach the subject of the Moonstone again untiltime hasdone something to quiet her.  To help this endI have nothesitated to dismiss the police-officer. Themysterywhich baffles usbaffles him too.  This is not amatter inwhich any stranger can help us.  He adds to what Ihave tosuffer; and he maddens Rachel if she only hearshis name.

"Myplans for the future are as well settled as they can be.My presentidea is to take Rachel to London--partly to relieve her mindby acomplete changepartly to try what may be done by consultingthe bestmedical advice.  Can I ask you to meet us in town?My dearFranklinyouin your waymust imitate my patienceand waitas I dofor a fitter time.  The valuable assistancewhich yourendered to the inquiry after the lost jewel is still anunpardonedoffencein the present dreadful state of Rachel's mind.Movingblindfold in this matteryou have added to the burdenof anxietywhich she has had to bearby innocently threateningher secretwith discoverythrough your exertions.  It is impossiblefor me toexcuse the perversity that holds you responsible forconsequenceswhich neither you nor I could imagine or foresee.She is notto be reasoned with--she can only be pitied.I amgrieved to have to say itbut for the presentyou and Rachelare betterapart.  The only advice I can offer you isto giveher time."

 

I handedthe letter backsincerely sorry for Mr. Franklinfor I knewhow fond he was of my young lady; and I sawthat hermother's account of her had cut him to the heart."Youknow the proverbsir" was all I said to him."Whenthings are at the worstthey're sure to mend.Thingscan't be much worseMr. Franklinthan theyare now."

Mr.Franklin folded up his aunt's letterwithout appearing to be muchcomfortedby the remark which I had ventured on addressing to him.

"WhenI came here from London with that horrible Diamond"he said"I don't believe there was a happier household in Englandthanthis.  Look at the household now!  Scattereddisunited--the veryair of the place poisoned with mystery and suspicion!Do youremember that morning at the Shivering Sandwhen wetalkedabout my uncle Herncastleand his birthday gift?TheMoonstone has served the Colonel's vengeanceBetteredgeby meanswhich theColonel himself never dreamt of!"

With thathe shook me by the handand went out to the pony chaise.

I followedhim down the steps.  It was very miserable to see him leavingthe oldplacewhere he had spent the happiest years of his lifein thisway.  Penelope (sadly upset by all that had happened in thehouse)came roundcryingto bid him good-bye. Mr. Franklin kissed her.I waved myhand as much as to say"You're heartily welcomesir." Some ofthe otherfemale servants appearedpeeping after him round the corner.He was oneof those men whom the women all like.  At the last momentI stoppedthe pony chaiseand begged as a favour that he would letus hearfrom him by letter.  He didn't seem to heed what I said--he waslooking round from one thing to anothertaking a sort of farewellof the oldhouse and grounds.  "Tell us where you are going tosir!"I saidholding on by the chaiseand trying to get at his future plansin thatway.  Mr. Franklin pulled his hat down suddenly over his eyes."Going?"says heechoing the word after me.  "I am going to thedevil!"The ponystarted at the wordas if he had felt a Christian horror of it."Godbless yousirgo where you may!" was all I had time to saybefore hewas out of sight and hearing.  A sweet and pleasant gentleman!With allhis faults and folliesa sweet and pleasant gentleman!  He leftasad gapbehind himwhen he left my lady's house.

It wasdull and dreary enoughwhen the long summer evening closed inon thatSaturday night.

I kept myspirits from sinking by sticking fast to my pipeand myROBINSON CRUSOE.  The women (excepting Penelope)beguiledthe time by talking of Rosanna's suicide.  They were allobstinatelyof opinion that the poor girl had stolen the Moonstoneand thatshe had destroyed herself in terror of being found out.Mydaughterof courseprivately held fast to what she hadsaid allalong.  Her notion of the motive which was reallyat thebottom of the suicide failedoddly enoughjust wheremy younglady's assertion of her innocence failed also.It leftRosanna's secret journey to Frizinghalland Rosanna'sproceedingsin the matter of the nightgown entirely unaccounted for.There wasno use in pointing this out to Penelope; the objectionmade aboutas much impression on her as a shower of rainon awaterproof coat.  The truth ismy daughter inherits mysuperiorityto reason--andin respect to that accomplishmenthas got along way ahead of her own father.

On thenext day (Sunday)the close carriagewhich had been keptat Mr.Ablewhite'scame back to us empty.  The coachman broughta messagefor meand written instructions for my lady's own maidand forPenelope.

Themessage informed me that my mistress had determined to takeMissRachel to her house in Londonon the Monday.  The writteninstructionsinformed the two maids of the clothing that was wantedanddirected them to meet their mistresses in town at a given hour.Most ofthe other servants were to follow.  My lady had found MissRachelsounwilling to return to the houseafter what had happened in itthat shehad decided on going to London direct from Frizinghall.I was toremain in the countryuntil further ordersto look afterthingsindoors and out.  The servants left with me were to be put onboardwages.

Beingremindedby all thisof what Mr. Franklin had saidabout ourbeing a scattered and disunited householdmy mindwas lednaturally to Mr. Franklin himself.  The more I thoughtof himthe more uneasy I felt about his future proceedings.It endedin my writingby the Sunday's postto his father's valetMr. Jeffco(whom I had known in former years) to beg he wouldlet meknow what Mr. Franklin had settled to doon arrivingin London.

The Sundayevening wasif possibleduller even than the Saturday evening.We endedthe day of restas hundreds of thousands of people end it regularlyonce aweekin these islands--that is to saywe all anticipated bedtimeand fellasleep in our chairs.

 

How theMonday affected the rest of the household I don't know.The Mondaygave ME a good shake up.  The first of Sergeant Cuff'spropheciesof what was to happen--namelythat I should hear fromtheYollands--came true on that day.

I had seenPenelope and my lady's maid off in the railway with the luggageforLondonand was pottering about the groundswhen I heard my namecalled.TurningroundI found myself face to face with the fisherman's daughterLimpingLucy.  Bating her lame foot and her leanness (this last a horriddraw-backto a womanin my opinion)the girl had some pleasing qualitiesin the eyeof a man.  A darkkeenclever faceand a nice clear voiceand abeautifulbrown head of hair counted among her merits.  A crutch appearedin thelist of her misfortunes.  And a temper reckoned high in the sumtotalof herdefects.

"Wellmy dear" I said"what do you want with me?"

"Where'sthe man you call Franklin Blake?" says the girlfixing mewith a fierce lookas she rested herself on her crutch.

"That'snot a respectful way to speak of any gentleman"Ianswered.  "If you wish to inquire for my lady's nephewyou willplease to mention him as MR.  Franklin Blake."

She limpeda step nearer to meand looked as if she could haveeaten mealive.  "MR.  Franklin Blake?" she repeated afterme."MurdererFranklin Blake would be a fitter name for him."

Mypractice with the late Mrs. Betteredge came in handy here.Whenever awoman tries to put you out of temperturn the tablesand putHER out of temper instead.  They are generally preparedfor everyeffort you can make in your own defencebut that.One worddoes it as well as a hundred; and one word did itwithLimping Lucy.  I looked her pleasantly in the face;and Isaid--"Pooh!"

The girl'stemper flamed out directly.  She poised herself on her soundfootand shetook her crutchand beat it furiously three times on the ground."He'sa murderer! he's a murderer! he's a murderer!  He has been thedeathof RosannaSpearman!"  She screamed that answer out at the top of hervoice.One or twoof the people at work in the grounds near us looked up--saw it wasLimping Lucy--knew what to expect from that quarter--and lookedawayagain.

"Hehas been the death of Rosanna Spearman?"  I repeated."Whatmakes you say thatLucy?"

"Whatdo you care?  What does any man care?  Oh! if she had onlythoughtof the menas I thinkshe might have been living now!"

"Shealways thought kindly of MEpoor soul" I said;"andto the best of my abilityI always tried to act kindlyby HER."

I spokethose words in as comforting a manner as I could.  The truth isI hadn'tthe heart to irritate the girl by another of my smart replies.I had onlynoticed her temper at first.  I noticed her wretchedness now--andwretchedness is not uncommonly insolentyou will findin humblelife.My answermelted Limping Lucy.  She bent her head downand laid it on thetopof hercrutch.

"Iloved her" the girl said softly.  "She had lived amiserable lifeMr.Betteredge--vile people had ill-treated her and led her wrong--and ithadn't spoiled her sweet temper.  She was an angel.She mighthave been happy with me.  I had a plan for our goingto Londontogether like sistersand living by our needles.That mancame hereand spoilt it all.  He bewitched her.Don't tellme he didn't mean itand didn't know it.He oughtto have known it.  He ought to have taken pity on her.'I can'tlive without him--andohLucyhe never even looksat me.' That's what she said.  Cruelcruelcruel.  I said'No man isworth fretting for in that way.'  And she said'There aremen worth dying forLucyand he is one of them.'I hadsaved up a little money.  I had settled things with fatherandmother.  I meant to take her away from the mortificationshe wassuffering here.  We should have had a little lodgingin Londonand lived together like sisters.  She had agoodeducationsiras you knowand she wrote a good hand.She wasquick at her needle.  I have a good educationand Iwrite agood hand.  I am not as quick at my needle as she was--but Icould have done.  We might have got our living nicely.Andoh!what happens this morning? what happens this morning?Her lettercomes and tells me that she has done with the burdenof herlife.  Her letter comesand bids me good-bye for ever.Where ishe?" cries the girllifting her head fromthecrutchand flaming out again through her tears."Where'sthis gentleman that I mustn't speak ofexceptwith respect?  HaMr. Betteredgethe day is not faroff whenthe poor will rise against the rich.  I pray Heaventhey maybegin with HIM.  I pray Heaven they may begin withHIM."

Here wasanother of your average good Christiansand here was the usualbreak-downconsequent on that same average Christianity being pushedtoo far! The parson himself (though I own this is saying a great deal)couldhardly have lectured the girl in the state she was in now.All Iventured to do was to keep her to the point--in the hope of somethingturning upwhich might be worth hearing.

"Whatdo you want with Mr. Franklin Blake?"  I asked.

"Iwant to see him."

"Foranything particular?"

"Ihave got a letter to give him."

"FromRosanna Spearman?"

"Yes."

"Sentto you in your own letter?"

"Yes."

Was thedarkness going to lift?  Were all the discoveries that I wasdyingto makecoming and offering themselves to me of their own accord?I wasobliged to wait a moment.  Sergeant Cuff had left his infectionbehindhim.  Certain signs and tokenspersonal to myselfwarned methatthedetective-fever was beginning to set in again.

"Youcan't see Mr. Franklin" I said.

"Imustand willsee him."

"Hewent to London last night."
LimpingLucy looked me hard in the faceand saw that I was speakingthetruth.  Without a word moreshe turned about again instantlytowardsCobb'sHole.

"Stop!" I said.  "I expect news of Mr. Franklin Blake to-morrow.Give meyour letterand I'll send it on to him by the post."

LimpingLucy steadied herself on her crutch and looked back at meover hershoulder.

"I amto give it from my hands into his hands" she said."AndI am to give it to him in no other way."

"ShallI writeand tell him what you have said?"

"Tellhim I hate him.  And you will tell him the truth."

"Yesyes.  But about the letter?"

"Ifhe wants the letterhe must come back hereand get it from Me."

With thosewords she limped off on the way to Cobb's Hole.Thedetective-fever burnt up all my dignity on the spot.I followedherand tried to make her talk.  All in vain.It was mymisfortune to be a man--and Limping Lucy enjoyeddisappointingme.  Later in the dayI tried my luck with her mother.Good Mrs.Yolland could only cryand recommend a drop of comfortout of theDutch bottle.  I found the fisherman on the beach.He said itwas "a bad job" and went on mending his net.Neitherfather nor mother knew more than I knew.  The one way leftto try wasthe chancewhich might come with the morningof writingto Mr.Franklin Blake.

I leaveyou to imagine how I watched for the postman on Tuesday morning.He broughtme two letters.  Onefrom Penelope (which I had hardly patienceenough toread)announced that my lady and Miss Rachel were safelyestablishedin London.  The otherfrom Mr. Jeffcoinformed me that hismaster'sson had left England already.

Onreaching the metropolisMr. Franklin hadit appearedgonestraight to his father's residence.  He arrived at an awkwardtime.Mr. Blakethe elderwas up to his eyes in the business of the HouseofCommonsand was amusing himself at home that night with thefavouriteparliamentary plaything which they call "a private bill."Mr. Jeffcohimself showed Mr. Franklin into his father's study."Mydear Franklin! why do you surprise me in this way?  Anythingwrong?""Yes;something wrong with Rachel; I am dreadfully distressedaboutit."  "Grieved to hear it.  But I can't listen toyou now.""Whencan you listen?"  "My dear boy!  I won't deceiveyou.I canlisten at the end of the sessionnot a moment before.Good-night.""Thank yousir.  Good-night."

Such wasthe conversationinside the studyas reported to me byMr.Jeffco.  The conversation outside the studywas shorter still."Jeffcosee what time the tidal train starts to-morrow morning.""Atsix-fortyMr. Franklin."  "Have me called at five.""Goingabroadsir?"  "GoingJeffcowherever the railwaychoosesto takeme."  "Shall I tell your fathersir?" "Yes; tell him at the endof thesession."

The nextmorning Mr. Franklin had started for foreign parts.To whatparticular place he was boundnobody (himself included)couldpresume to guess.  We might hear of him next in EuropeAsiaAfricaor America.  The chances were as equally dividedaspossiblein Mr. Jeffco's opinionamong the four quarters ofthe globe.

Thisnews--by closing up all prospects of my bringingLimpingLucy and Mr. Franklin together--at once stoppedanyfurther progress of mine on the way to discovery.Penelope'sbelief that her fellow-servant had destroyed herselfthroughunrequited love for Mr. Franklin Blakewas confirmed--and thatwas all.  Whether the letter which Rosanna had leftto begiven to him after her death didor did notcontain theconfessionwhich Mr. Franklin had suspected her of tryingto make tohim in her life-timeit was impossible to say.It mightbe only a farewell wordtelling nothing but thesecret ofher unhappy fancy for a person beyond her reach.Or itmight own the whole truth about the strange proceedingsin whichSergeant Cuff had detected herfrom the time whentheMoonstone was lostto the time when she rushed to her owndestructionat the Shivering Sand.  A sealed letter it had beenplaced inLimping Lucy's handand a sealed letter it remainedto me andto every one about the girlher own parents included.We allsuspected her of having been in the dead woman's confidence;we alltried to make her speak; we all failed.  Now oneand nowanotherof the servants--still holding to the beliefthatRosanna had stolen the Diamond and had hidden it--peered andpoked about the rocks to which she had been tracedand peeredand poked in vain.  The tide ebbedand the tide flowed;the summerwent onand the autumn came.  And the Quicksandwhich hidher bodyhid her secret too.

The newsof Mr. Franklin's departure from England on the Sunday morningand thenews of my lady's arrival in London with Miss Rachel on theMondayafternoonhad reached meas you are awareby the Tuesday's post.TheWednesday cameand brought nothing.  The Thursday produced asecondbudget ofnews from Penelope.

My girl'sletter informed me that some great London doctorhad beenconsulted about her young ladyand had earneda guineaby remarking that she had better be amused.Flower-showsoperasballs--there was a whole round of gaietiesinprospect; and Miss Rachelto her mother's astonishmenteagerlytook to it all.  Mr. Godfrey had called; evidently as sweetas ever onhis cousinin spite of the reception he had met withwhen hetried his luck on the occasion of the birthday.ToPenelope's great regrethe had been most graciously receivedand hadadded Miss Rachel's name to one of his Ladies'Charitieson the spot.  My mistress was reported to be outofspiritsand to have held two long interviews with her lawyer.Certainspeculations followedreferring to a poor relationof thefamily--one Miss Clackwhom I have mentioned in myaccount ofthe birthday dinneras sitting next to Mr. Godfreyand havinga pretty taste in champagne.  Penelope wasastonishedto find that Miss Clack had not called yet.She wouldsurely not be long before she fastened herself on mylady asusual--and so forthand so forthin the way womenhave ofgirding at each otheron and off paper.  This wouldnot havebeen worth mentioningI admitbut for one reason.I hear youare likely to be turned over to Miss Clackafterparting with me.  In that casejust do me the favourof notbelieving a word she saysif she speaks of yourhumbleservant.

 

On Fridaynothing happened--except that one of the dogs showed signsof abreaking out behind the ears.  I gave him a dose of syrup ofbuckthornand puthim on a diet of pot-liquor and vegetables till further orders.Excuse mymentioning this.  It has slipped in somehow.  Pass it overplease.I am fastcoming to the end of my offences against your cultivatedmoderntaste.  Besidesthe dog was a good creatureand deserved agoodphysicking; he did indeed.

Saturdaythe last day of the weekis also the last day in my narrative.

Themorning's post brought me a surprise in the shape of a Londonnewspaper.Thehandwriting on the direction puzzled me.  I compared it with themoney-lender'sname and address as recorded in my pocket-pookand identifiedit at onceas the writing of Sergeant Cuff.

Lookingthrough the paper eagerly enoughafter this discoveryI found anink-mark drawn round one of the police reports.Here itisat your service.  Read it as I read itand youwill setthe right value on the Sergeant's polite attentionin sendingme the news of the day:

 

"LAMBETH--Shortlybefore the closing of the courtMr. Septimus Lukerthewell-known dealer in ancient gemscarvingsintagli&c.&c.applied tothe sitting magistrate for advice.  The applicant statedthat hehad been annoyedat intervals throughout the dayby theproceedingsof some of those strolling Indians who infest the streets.Thepersons complained of were three in number.  After having beensentaway bythe policethey had returned again and againand had attemptedto enterthe house on pretence of asking for charity.  Warned off inthe frontthey had been discovered again at the back of the premises.Besidesthe annoyance complained ofMr. Luker expressed himselfas beingunder some apprehension that robbery might be contemplated.Hiscollection contained many unique gemsboth classical and Orientalof thehighest value.  He had only the day before been compelledto dismissa skilled workman in ivory carving from his employment(a nativeof Indiaas we understood)on suspicion of attempted theft;and hefelt by no means sure that this man and the street jugglersof whom hecomplainedmight not be acting in concert.  It might betheirobject to collect a crowdand create a disturbance in the streetandinthe confusion thus causedto obtain access to the house.In replyto the magistrateMr. Luker admitted that he had no evidenceto produceof any attempt at robbery being in contemplation.He couldspeak positively to the annoyance and interruption causedby theIndiansbut not to anything else.  The magistrate remarkedthatif theannoyance were repeatedthe applicant could summon the Indiansto thatcourtwhere they might easily be dealt with under the Act.As to thevaluables in Mr. Luker's possessionMr. Luker himself musttake thebest measures for their safe custody.  He would do well perhapstocommunicate with the policeand to adopt such additional precautionsas theirexperience might suggest.  The applicant thanked his worshipandwithdrew."

 

One of thewise ancients is reported (I forget on what occasion)as havingrecommended his fellow-creatures to "look to the end."Looking tothe end of these pages of mineand wondering forsome dayspast how I should manage to write itI find my plainstatementof facts coming to a conclusionmost appropriatelyof its ownself.  We have gone onin this matter of the Moonstonefrom onmarvel to another; and here we end with the greatestmarvel ofall--namelythe accomplishment of Sergeant Cuff'sthreepredictions in less than a week from the time when he hadmade them.

Afterhearing from the Yollands on the MondayI had now heard oftheIndiansand heard of the money-lenderin the news from London--MissRachel herself rememberbeing also in London at the time.You seeIput things at their worsteven when they tell deadagainst myown view.  If you desert meand side with the Sergeanton theevidence before you--if the only rational explanation youcan seeisthat Miss Rachel and Mr. Luker must have got togetherand thatthe Moonstone must be now in pledge in the money-lender's house--I ownIcan't blame you for arriving at that conclusion.  In the darkI havebrought you thus far.  In the dark I am compelled to leave youwith mybest respects.

Whycompelled? it may be asked.  Why not take the persons who havegonealong withmeso farup into those regions of superior enlightenmentin which Isit myself?

In answerto thisI can only state that I am acting under ordersand thatthose orders have been given to me (as I understand)in theinterests of truth.  I am forbidden to tell more in thisnarrativethan I knew myself at the time.  Orto put it plainerI am tokeep strictly within the limits of my own experienceand am notto inform you of what other persons told me--for thevery sufficient reason that you are to have the informationfrom thoseother persons themselvesat first hand.  In thismatter ofthe Moonstone the plan isnot to present reportsbut toproduce witnesses.  I picture to myself a memberof thefamily reading these pages fifty years hence.Lord! whata compliment he will feel itto be asked to take nothingonhear-sayand to be treated in all respects like a Judge onthe bench.

At thisplacethenwe part--for the presentat least--after longjourneying togetherwith a companionable feelingI hopeonboth sides.  The devil's dance of the Indian Diamondhasthreaded its way to London; and to London you must goafter itleaving me at the country-house. Please to excusethe faultsof this composition--my talking so much of myselfand beingtoo familiarI am afraidwith you.  I mean no harm;and Idrink most respectfully (having just done dinner)to yourhealth and prosperityin a tankard of her ladyship's ale.May youfind in these leaves of my writingwhat ROBINSONCRUSOEfound in his experience on the desert island--namely"something to comfort yourselves fromand to setin theDescription of Good and Evilon the Credit Side oftheAccount."--Farewell.

 

THE END OFTHE FIRST PERIOD.

 

 

SECONDPERIOD

THEDISCOVERY OF THE TRUTH (1848-1849)

The eventsrelated in several narratives.

 

FIRSTNARRATIVE

 

Contributedby MISS CLACK; niece of the late

SIRJOHN VERINDER

 

CHAPTER I

I amindebted to my dear parents (both now in heaven) for having hadhabitsof orderand regularity instilled into me at a very early age.

In thathappy bygone timeI was taught to keep my hair tidyat allhours of the day and nightand to fold up every articleof myclothing carefullyin the same orderon the same chairin thesame place at the foot of the bedbefore retiringto rest. An entry of the day's events in my little diaryinvariablypreceded the folding up.  The "Evening Hymn"(repeatedin bed) invariably followed the folding up.And thesweet sleep of childhood invariably followed the"EveningHymn."

In laterlife (alas!) the Hymn has been succeeded by sad andbittermeditations; and the sweet sleep has been but ill exchangedfor thebroken slumbers which haunt the uneasy pillow of care.On theother handI have continued to fold my clothesand tokeep my little diary.  The former habit links me to myhappychildhood--before papa was ruined.  The latter habit--hithertomainly useful in helping me to discipline the fallennaturewhich we all inherit from Adam--has unexpectedly provedimportantto my humble interests in quite another way.It hasenabled poor Me to serve the caprice of a wealthy memberof thefamily into which my late uncle married.  I am fortunateenough tobe useful to Mr. Franklin Blake.

I havebeen cut off from all news of my relatives by marriagefor sometime past.  When we are isolated and poorwe are notinfrequentlyforgotten.  I am now livingfor economy's sakein alittle town in Brittanyinhabited by a select circleof seriousEnglish friendsand possessed of the inestimableadvantagesof a Protestant clergyman and a cheap market.

In thisretirement--a Patmos amid the howling ocean of poperythatsurrounds us--a letter from England has reached me at last.I find myinsignificant existence suddenly remembered byMr.Franklin Blake.  My wealthy relative--would that I could addmyspiritually-wealthy relative!--writeswithout even an attemptatdisguising that he wants something of me.  The whim hasseized himto stir up the deplorable scandal of the Moonstone:and I amto help him by writing the account of what I myselfwitnessedwhile visiting at Aunt Verinder's house in London.Pecuniaryremuneration is offered to me--with the wantof feelingpeculiar to the rich.  I am to re-open woundsthat Timehas barely closed; I am to recall the most intenselypainfulremembrances--and this doneI am to feel myself compensatedby a newlacerationin the shape of Mr. Blake's cheque.My natureis weak.  It cost me a hard strugglebefore Christianhumilityconquered sinful prideand self-denial acceptedthecheque.

Without mydiaryI doubt--pray let me express it in the grossest terms!--if I couldhave honestly earned my money.  With my diarythe poor labourer(whoforgives Mr. Blake for insulting her) is worthy of her hire.Nothingescaped me at the time I was visiting dear Aunt Verinder.Everythingwas entered (thanks to my early training) day by dayas ithappened; and everything down to the smallest particularshall betold here.  My sacred regard for truth is (thank God)far abovemy respect for persons.  It will be easy for Mr. Blaketosuppress what may not prove to be sufficiently flatteringin thesepages to the person chiefly concerned in them.  He haspurchasedmy timebut not even HIS wealth can purchase my consciencetoo.*

My diaryinforms methat I was accidentally passing Aunt Verinder's housein MontaguSquareon Monday3rd July1848.

Seeing theshutters openedand the blinds drawn upI felt that itwould bean act of polite attention to knockand make inquiries.The personwho answered the doorinformed me that my aunt andherdaughter (I really cannot call her my cousin!) had arrived fromthecountry a week sinceand meditated making some stay in London.I sent upa message at oncedeclining to disturb themand onlybegging toknow whether I could be of any use.

The personwho answered the doortook my message in insolent silenceand leftme standing in the hall.  She is the daughter of a heathen oldman namedBetteredge--longtoo longtolerated in my aunt's family.I sat downin the hall to wait for my answer--andhaving alwaysa fewtracts in my bagI selected one which proved to be quiteprovidentiallyapplicable to the person who answered the door.The hallwas dirtyand the chair was hard; but the blessedconsciousnessof returning good for evil raised me quite aboveanytrifling considerations of that kind.  The tract was oneof aseries addressed to young women on the sinfulness of dress.In styleit was devoutly familiar.  Its title was"A Word With YouOnYourCap-Ribbons."

"Mylady is much obligedand begs you will come and lunch to-morrow attwo."

I passedover the manner in which she gave her messageand thedreadful boldness of her look.  I thanked thisyoungcastaway; and I saidin a tone of Christian interest"Willyou favour me by accepting a tract?"

She lookedat the title.  "Is it written by a man or a womanMiss?If it'swritten by a womanI had rather not read it on that account.If it'swritten by a manI beg to inform him that he knows nothingaboutit."  She handed me back the tractand opened the door.We mustsow the good seed somehow.  I waited till the door wasshut onmeand slipped the tract into the letter-box. When I haddroppedanother tract through the area railingsI felt relievedin somesmall degreeof a heavy responsibility towards others.

 

We had ameeting that evening of the Select Committee of theMothers'-Small-Clothes-Conversion-Society.The object of this excellentCharityis--as all serious people know--to rescue unredeemed fathers'trousersfrom the pawnbrokerand to prevent their resumptionon thepart of the irreclaimable parentby abridging them immediatelyto suitthe proportions of the innocent son.  I was a memberat thattimeof the select committee; and I mention the Society herebecause myprecious and admirable friendMr. Godfrey Ablewhitewasassociated with our work of moral and material usefulness.I hadexpected to see him in the boardroomon the Monday eveningof which Iam now writingand had proposed to tell himwhen we metof dearAunt Verinder's arrival in London.  To my great disappointmenthe neverappeared.  On my expressing a feeling of surprise at hisabsencemy sistersof the Committee all looked up together from their trousers(we had agreat pressure of business that night)and asked in amazementif I hadnot heard the news.  I acknowledged my ignoranceand wasthen toldfor the first timeof an event which formsso to speakthestarting-point of this narrative.  On the previous Fridaytwogentlemen--occupying widely-different positions in society--had beenthe victims of an outrage which had startled all London.One of thegentlemen was Mr. Septimus Lukerof Lambeth.  The other wasMr.Godfrey Ablewhite.

Living inmy present isolationI have no means of introducingthenewspaper-account of the outrage into my narrative.  I wasalsodeprivedat the timeof the inestimable advantage of hearingthe eventsrelated by the fervid eloquence of Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.All I cando is to state the facts as they were statedon thatMonday eveningto me; proceeding on the plan which Ihave beentaught from infancy to adopt in folding up my clothes.Everythingshall be put neatlyand everything shall be put in its place.Theselines are written by a poor weak woman.  From a poor weak womanwho willbe cruel enough to expect more?

Thedate--thanks to my dear parentsno dictionary that everwaswritten can be more particular than I am about dates--wasFridayJune 30th1848.

Early onthat memorable dayour gifted Mr. Godfrey happenedto becashing a cheque at a banking-house in Lombard Street.The nameof the firm is accidentally blotted in my diaryand mysacredregard for truth forbids me to hazard a guess in a matterof thiskind.  Fortunatelythe name of the firm doesn't matter.What doesmatter is a circumstance that occurred when Mr. Godfreyhadtransacted his business.  On gaining the doorhe encounteredagentleman--a perfect stranger to him--who was accidentallyleavingthe office exactly at the same time as himself.Amomentary contest of politeness ensued between them as towho shouldbe the first to pass through the door of the bank.Thestranger insisted on making Mr. Godfrey precede him;Mr.Godfrey said a few civil words; they bowedand parted inthestreet.

Thoughtlessand superficial people may sayHere is surely a very trumperylittleincident related in an absurdly circumstantial manner.  Ohmyyoungfriendsand fellow-sinners! beware of presuming to exercise your poorcarnalreason.  Ohbe morally tidy.  Let your faith be as yourstockingsand yourstockings as your faith.  Both ever spotlessand both ready toputon at amoment's notice!

I beg athousand pardons.  I have fallen insensibly into mySunday-schoolstyle.  Most inappropriate in such a recordas this. Let me try to be worldly--let me say that triflesin thiscase as in many othersled to terrible results.Merelypremising that the polite stranger was Mr. LukerofLambethwe will now follow Mr. Godfrey home to his residenceatKilburn.

He foundwaiting for himin the halla poorly clad but delicateandinteresting-looking little boy.  The boy handed him a lettermerelymentioning that he had been entrusted with it by an oldlady whomhe did not knowand who had given him no instructionsto waitfor an answer.  Such incidents as these were not uncommonin Mr.Godfrey's large experience as a promoter of public charities.He let theboy goand opened the letter.

Thehandwriting was entirely unfamiliar to him.  It requested hisattendancewithin anhour's timeat a house in Northumberland StreetStrandwhich hehad never had occasion to enter before.  The object soughtwas toobtain from the worthy manager certain details on the subjectof theMothers'-Small-Clothes-Conver-sion-Societyand the informationwas wantedby an elderly lady who proposed adding largely to the resourcesof thecharityif her questions were met by satisfactory replies.Shementioned her nameand she added that the shortness of her stayin Londonprevented her from giving any longer notice to the eminentphilanthropistwhom she addressed.

Ordinarypeople might have hesitated before setting asidetheir ownengagements to suit the convenience of a stranger.TheChristian Hero never hesitates where good is to be done.Mr.Godfrey instantly turned backand proceeded to the houseinNorthumberland Street.  A most respectable though somewhatcorpulentman answered the doorandon hearing Mr. Godfrey's nameimmediatelyconducted him into an empty apartment at the backon thedrawing-room floor.  He noticed two unusual things on enteringthe room. One of them was a faint odour of musk and camphor.The otherwas an ancient Oriental manuscriptrichly illuminatedwithIndian figures and devicesthat lay open to inspection ona table.

He waslooking at the bookthe position of which caused him to standwith hisback turned towards the closed folding doors communicatingwith thefront roomwhenwithout the slightest previous noise towarn himhe felt himself suddenly seized round the neck from behind.He hadjust time to notice that the arm round his neck was naked and of atawny-browncolourbefore his eyes were bandagedhis mouth was gaggedand he wasthrown helpless on the floor by (as he judged) two men.A thirdrifled his pocketsand--ifas a ladyI may venture to usesuch anexpression--searched himwithout ceremonythrough and through tohis skin.

Here Ishould greatly enjoy saying a few cheering words on the devoutconfidencewhich could alone have sustained Mr. Godfrey in an emergencysoterrible as this.  Perhapshoweverthe position and appearanceof myadmirablefriend at the culminating period of the outrage (as above described)are hardlywithin the proper limits of female discussion.Let mepass over the next few momentsand return to Mr. Godfreyat thetime when the odious search of his person had been completed.Theoutrage had been perpetrated throughout in dead silence.At the endof it some words were exchangedamong the invisible wretchesin alanguage which he did not understandbut in tones which wereplainlyexpressive (to his cultivated ear) of disappointment and rage.He wassuddenly lifted from the groundplaced in a chairand boundthere handand foot.  The next moment he felt the air flowing in fromthe opendoorlistenedand concluded that he was alone again inthe room.

Aninterval elapsedand he heard a sound below like the rustlingsound of awoman's dress.  It advanced up the stairsand stopped.A femalescream rent the atmosphere of guilt.  A man's voicebelowexclaimed "Hullo!"  A man's feet ascended the stairs.Mr.Godfrey felt Christian fingers unfastening his bandageandextracting his gag.  He looked in amazement at tworespectablestrangersand faintly articulated"What doesit mean?" The two respectable strangers looked backand said"Exactlythe question we were going to ask YOU."

Theinevitable explanation followed.  No!  Let me bescrupulously particular.Salvolatile and water followedto compose dear Mr. Godfrey's nerves.Theexplanation came next.

Itappeared from the statement of the landlord and landlady of the house(personsof good repute in the neighbourhood)that their first andsecondfloor apartments had been engagedon the previous dayfor aweekcertainby a most respectable-looking gentleman--the same who hasbeenalready described as answering the door to Mr. Godfrey's knock.Thegentleman had paid the week's rent and all the week's extras inadvancestatingthat the apartments were wanted for three Oriental noblemenfriends ofhiswho were visiting England for the first time.Early onthe morning of the outragetwo of the Oriental strangersaccompaniedby their respectable English friendtook possessionof theapartments.  The third was expected to join them shortly;and theluggage (reported as very bulky) was announced to followwhen ithad passed through the Custom-houselate in the afternoon.Not morethan ten minutes previous to Mr. Godfrey's visitthe thirdforeignerhad arrived.  Nothing out of the common had happenedto theknowledge of the landlord and landlady down-stairsuntilwithin thelast five minutes--when they had seen the three foreignersaccompaniedby their respectable English friendall leave the house togetherwalkingquietly in the direction of the Strand.  Remembering that avisitorhad calledand not having seen the visitor also leave the housethelandlady had thought it rather strange that the gentleman should beleft byhimself up-stairs. After a short discussion with her husbandshe hadconsidered it advisable to ascertain whether anything was wrong.The resulthad followedas I have already attempted to describe it;and therethe explanation of the landlord and the landlady came to anend.

Aninvestigation was next made in the room.  Dear Mr. Godfrey'spropertywas found scattered in all directions.When thearticles were collectedhowevernothing was missing;his watchchainpursekeyspocket-handkerchiefnote-bookand allhis loose papers had been closely examinedand hadthen been left unharmed to be resumed by the owner.In thesame waynot the smallest morsel of property belongingto theproprietors of the house had been abstracted.TheOriental noblemen had removed their own illuminated manuscriptand hadremoved nothing else.

What didit mean?  Taking the worldly point of viewitappeared to mean that Mr. Godfrey had been the victim of someincomprehensibleerrorcommitted by certain unknown men.A darkconspiracy was on foot in the midst of us; and ourbelovedand innocent friend had been entangled in its meshes.When theChristian hero of a hundred charitable victories plungesinto apitfall that has been dug for him by mistakeohwhat awarning itis to the rest of us to be unceasingly on our guard!How soonmay our own evil passions prove to be Oriental noblemenwho pounceon us unawares!

I couldwrite pages of affectionate warning on this one themebut(alas!) Iam not permitted to improve--I am condemned to narrate.My wealthyrelative's cheque--henceforththe incubus of my existence--warns methat I have not done with this record of violence yet.We mustleave Mr. Godfrey to recover in Northumberland Streetand mustfollow the proceedings of Mr. Luker at a later period ofthe day.

Afterleaving the bankMr. Luker had visited various partsof Londonon business errands.  Returning to his own residencehe found aletter waiting for himwhich was described as havingbeen lefta short time previously by a boy.  In this caseas in Mr.Godfrey's casethe handwriting was strange;but thename mentioned was the name of one of Mr. Luker's customers.Hiscorrespondent announced (writing in the third person--apparentlyby the hand of a deputy) that he had beenunexpectedlysummoned to London.  He had just establishedhimself inlodgings in Alfred PlaceTottenham Court Road;and hedesired to see Mr. Luker immediatelyon the subjectof apurchase which he contemplated making.  The gentleman wasanenthusiastic collector of Oriental antiquitiesand had beenfor manyyears a liberal patron of the establishment in Lambeth.Ohwhenshall we wean ourselves from the worship of Mammon!Mr. Lukercalled a caband drove off instantly to hisliberalpatron.

Exactlywhat had happened to Mr. Godfrey in Northumberland Streetnowhappened to Mr. Luker in Alfred Place.  Once more therespectablemananswered the doorand showed the visitor up-stairs into the backdrawing-room.Thereagainlay the illuminated manuscript on a table.Mr.Luker's attention was absorbedas Mr. Godfrey's attentionhad beenabsorbedby this beautiful work of Indian art.He too wasaroused from his studies by a tawny naked arm roundhisthroatby a bandage over his eyesand by a gag in his mouth.He too wasthrown prostrate and searched to the skin.  A longer intervalhad thenelapsed than had passed in the experience of Mr. Godfrey;but it hadended as beforein the persons of the house suspectingsomethingwrongand going up-stairs to see what had happened.Preciselythe same explanation which the landlord in NorthumberlandStreet hadgiven to Mr. Godfreythe landlord in Alfred Place nowgave toMr. Luker.  Both had been imposed on in the same way by theplausibleaddress and well-filled purse of the respectable strangerwhointroduced himself as acting for his foreign friends.  The onepoint ofdifference between the two cases occurred when the scatteredcontentsof Mr. Luker's pockets were being collected from the floor.His watchand purse were safebut (less fortunate than Mr. Godfrey)one of theloose papers that he carried about him had been taken away.The paperin question acknowledged the receipt of a valuable of greatpricewhich Mr. Luker had that day left in the care of his bankers.Thisdocument would be useless for purposes of fraudinasmuch as itprovidedthat the valuable should only be given up on the personalapplicationof the owner.  As soon as he recovered himselfMr. Lukerhurried tothe bankon the chance that the thieves who had robbed himmightignorantly present themselves with the receipt.  Nothing hadbeen seenof them when he arrived at the establishmentand nothingwas seenof them afterwards.  Their respectable English friend had(in theopinion of the bankers) looked the receipt over before theyattemptedto make use of itand had given them the necessary warning ingood time.

Informationof both outrages was communicated to the policeand theneedful investigations were pursuedI believewith greatenergy.  The authorities held that a robbery hadbeenplannedon insufficient information received by the thieves.They hadbeen plainly not sure whether Mr. Luker hador had nottrustedthe transmission of his precious gem to another person;and poorpolite Mr. Godfrey had paid the penalty of havingbeen seenaccidentally speaking to him.  Add to thisthat Mr.Godfrey's absence from our Monday evening meetinghad beenoccasioned by a consultation of the authoritiesat whichhe was requested to assist--and all the explanationsrequiredbeing now givenI may proceed with the simpler storyof my ownlittle personal experiences in Montagu Square.

 

I waspunctual to the luncheon hour on Tuesday.  Reference to my diaryshowsthis tohave been a chequered day--much in it to be devoutly regrettedmuch in itto be devoutly thankful for.

Dear AuntVerinder received me with her usual grace and kindness.But Inoticedafter a little whilethat something was wrong.Certainanxious looks escaped my auntall of which took the directionof herdaughter.  I never see Rachel myself without wondering how itcan bethat so insignificant-looking a person should be the childof suchdistinguished parents as Sir John and Lady Verinder.On thisoccasionhowevershe not only disappointed--she reallyshockedme.  There was an absence of all lady-like restraintin herlanguage and manner most painful to see.  She was possessedby somefeverish excitement which made her distressingly loud whenshelaughedand sinfully wasteful and capricious in what she ateand drankat lunch.  I felt deeply for her poor mothereven beforethe truestate of the case had been confidentially made knownto me.

Luncheonovermy aunt said:  "Remember what the doctor told youRachelabout quieting yourself with a book after taking your meals."

"I'llgo into the librarymamma" she answered."Butif Godfrey callsmind I am told of it.  I am dying for morenews ofhimafter his adventure in Northumberland Street."She kissedher mother on the foreheadand looked my way."Good-byeClack" she saidcarelessly.  Her insolence rousedno angryfeeling in me; I only made a private memorandum to prayfor her.

When wewere left by ourselvesmy aunt told me the wholehorriblestory of the Indian DiamondwhichI am happy to knowit is notnecessary to repeat here.  She did not conceal from methat shewould have preferred keeping silence on the subject.But whenher own servants all knew of the loss of the Moonstoneand whensome of the circumstances had actually found their wayinto thenewspapers--when strangers were speculating whetherthere wasany connection between what had happened at LadyVerinder'scountry-houseand what had happened in NorthumberlandStreet andAlfred Place--concealment was not to be thought of;andperfect frankness became a necessity as well as a virtue.

Somepersonshearing what I now heardwould have beenprobablyoverwhelmed with astonishment.  For my own partknowingRachel's spirit to have been essentially unregeneratefrom herchildhood upwardsI was prepared for whatevermy auntcould tell me on the subject of her daughter.It mighthave gone on from bad to worse till it ended in Murder;and Ishould still have said to myselfThe natural result! ohdeardearthe natural result!  The one thing that DID shockme was thecourse my aunt had taken under the circumstances.Heresurely was a case for a clergymanif ever there was one yet!LadyVerinder had thought it a case for a physician.  All my pooraunt'searly life had been passed in her father's godless household.Thenatural result again!  Ohdeardearthe naturalresultagain!

"Thedoctors recommend plenty of exercise and amusement for Rachelandstrongly urge me to keep her mind as much as possible from dwellingon thepast" said Lady Verinder.

"Ohwhat heathen advice!"  I thought to myself.  "Inthis Christian countrywhatheathen advice!"

My auntwent on"I do my best to carry out my instructions.  Butthisstrangeadventure of Godfrey's happens at a most unfortunate time.Rachel hasbeen incessantly restless and excited since she first heard of it.She leftme no peace till I had written and asked my nephew Ablewhiteto comehere.  She even feels an interest in the other person who wasroughlyused--Mr. Lukeror some such name--though the man isof coursea totalstranger to her."

"Yourknowledge of the worlddear auntis superior to mine"Isuggested diffidently.  "But there must be a reasonsurely forthis extraordinary conduct on Rachel's part.She iskeeping a sinful secret from you and from everybody.May therenot be something in these recent events which threatens hersecretwith discovery?"

"Discovery?"repeated my aunt.  "What can you possibly mean?Discoverythrough Mr. Luker?  Discovery through my nephew?"

As theword passed her lipsa special providence occurred.Theservant opened the doorand announced Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.

 

CHAPTER II

Mr.Godfrey followed the announcement of his name--as Mr.Godfrey does everything else--exactly at the right time.He was notso close on the servant's heels as to startle us.He was notso far behind as to cause us the double inconvenienceof a pauseand an open door.  It is in the completeness of hisdaily lifethat the true Christian appears.  This dear man wasverycomplete.

"Goto Miss Verinder" said my auntaddressing the servant"andtell her Mr. Ablewhite is here."

We bothinquired after his health.  We both asked him together whetherhe feltlike himself againafter his terrible adventure of the past week.Withperfect tacthe contrived to answer us at the same moment.LadyVerinder had his reply in words.  I had his charming smile.

"What"he criedwith infinite tenderness"have I doneto deserveall this sympathy?  My dear aunt! my dearMissClack!  I have merely been mistaken for somebody else.I haveonly been blindfolded; I have only been strangled;I haveonly been thrown flat on my backon a very thin carpetcovering aparticularly hard floor.  Just think how muchworse itmight have been!  I might have been murdered;I mighthave been robbed.  What have I lost?  Nothing butNervousForce--which the law doesn't recognise as property;so thatstrictly speakingI have lost nothing at all.If I couldhave had my own wayI would have kept my adventuretomyself--I shrink from all this fuss and publicity.But Mr.Luker made HIS injuries publicand my injuriesas thenecessary consequencehave been proclaimed in their turn.I havebecome the property of the newspapersuntil the gentle readergets sickof the subject.  I am very sick indeed of it myself.May thegentle reader soon be like me!  And how is dear Rachel?Stillenjoying the gaieties of London?  So glad to hear it!MissClackI need all your indulgence.  I am sadly behind-handwith myCommittee Work and my dear Ladies.  But I reallydo hope tolook in at the Mothers'-Small-Clothes next week.Did youmake cheering progress at Monday's Committee?  Was the Boardhopefulabout future prospects?  And are we nicely off forTrousers?"

Theheavenly gentleness of his smile made his apologies irresistible.Therichness of his deep voice added its own indescribable charm totheinteresting business question which he had just addressed to me.In truthwe were almost TOO nicely off for Trousers; we were quiteoverwhelmedby them.  I was just about to say sowhen the door openedagainand anelement of worldly disturbance entered the roomin the person ofMissVerinder.

Sheapproached dear Mr. Godfrey at a most unladylike rate of speedwith herhair shockingly untidyand her facewhat I should callunbecominglyflushed.

"I amcharmed to see youGodfrey" she saidaddressing himI grieveto addin the off-hand manner of one young man talkingtoanother.  "I wish you had brought Mr. Luker with you.You and he(as long as our present excitement lasts) are the twomostinteresting men in all London.  It's morbid to say this;it'sunhealthy; it's all that a well-regulated mind like MissClack'smost instinctively shudders at.  Never mind that.Tell methe whole of the Northumberland Street story directly.I know thenewspapers have left some of it out."

Even dearMr. Godfrey partakes of the fallen nature which weallinherit from Adam--it is a very small share of ourhumanlegacybutalas! he has it.  I confess it grievedme to seehim take Rachel's hand in both of his own handsand lay itsoftly on the left side of his waistcoat.It was adirect encouragement to her reckless way of talkingand herinsolent reference to me.

"DearestRachel" he saidin the same voice which had thrilled mewhen hespoke of our prospects and our trousers"the newspapershave toldyou everything--and they have told it much better thanI can."

"Godfreythinks we all make too much of the matter" my aunt remarked."Hehas just been saying that he doesn't care to speak of it."

"Why?"

She putthe question with a sudden flash in her eyesand asudden look up into Mr. Godfrey's face.  On his sidehe lookeddown at her with an indulgence so injudicious and soill-deservedthat I really felt called on to interfere.

"Racheldarling!"  I remonstrated gently"true greatness andtrue courageare evermodest."

"Youare a very good fellow in your wayGodfrey" she said--not takingthe smallest noticeobserveof meand still speakingto hercousin as if she was one young man addressing another."ButI am quite sure you are not great; I don't believe youpossessany extraordinary courage; and I am firmly persuaded--if youever had any modesty--that your lady-worshippers relievedyou ofthat virtue a good many years since.  You have some privatereason fornot talking of your adventure in Northumberland Street;and I meanto know it."

"Myreason is the simplest imaginableand the most easily acknowledged"heansweredstill bearing with her.  "I am tired of thesubject."

"Youare tired of the subject?  My dear GodfreyI am going to make aremark."

"Whatis it?"

"Youlive a great deal too much in the society of women.And youhave contracted two very bad habits in consequence.You havelearnt to talk nonsense seriouslyand you have gotinto a wayof telling fibs for the pleasure of telling them.You can'tgo straight with your lady-worshippers. I mean to makeyou gostraight with me.  Comeand sit down.  I am brimfulofdownright questions; and I expect you to be brimful ofdownrightanswers."

Sheactually dragged him across the room to a chair by the windowwhere thelight would fall on his face.  I deeply feel being obligedto reportsuch languageand to describe such conduct.  Buthemmed inas I ambetween Mr. Franklin Blake's cheque on one side and my own sacredregard fortruth on the otherwhat am I to do?  I looked at my aunt.She satunmoved; apparently in no way disposed to interfere.I hadnever noticed this kind of torpor in her before.  It wasperhapsthereaction after the trying time she had had in the country.Not apleasant symptom to remarkbe it what it mightat dear LadyVerinder'sageand with dear Lady Verinder's autumnal exuberanceof figure.

In themeantimeRachel had settled herself at the window withouramiable and forbearing--our too forbearing--Mr. Godfrey.She beganthe string of questions with which she had threatened himtaking nomore notice of her motheror of myselfthan if we had notbeen inthe room.

"Havethe police done anythingGodfrey?"

"Nothingwhatever."

"Itis certainI supposethat the three men who laid the trap for youwere thesame three men who afterwards laid the trap for Mr. Luker?"

"Humanlyspeakingmy dear Rachelthere can be no doubt of it."

"Andnot a trace of them has been discovered?"

"Nota trace."

"Itis thought--is it not?--that these three men are the three Indianswho cameto our house in the country."

"Somepeople think so."

"Doyou think so?"

"Mydear Rachelthey blindfolded me before I could see their faces.I knownothing whatever of the matter.  How can I offer an opinionon it?"

Even theangelic gentleness of Mr. Godfrey wasyou seebeginningto give way at last under the persecution inflictedon him. Whether unbridled curiosityor ungovernable dreaddictatedMiss Verinder's questions I do not presume to inquire.I onlyreport thaton Mr. Godfrey's attempting to riseaftergiving her the answer just describedshe actuallytook himby the two shouldersand pushed him back intohischair--Ohdon't say this was immodest! don't even hintthat therecklessness of guilty terror could alone accountfor suchconduct as I have described!  We must not judge others.MyChristian friendsindeedindeedindeedwe must notjudgeothers!

She wenton with her questionsunabashed.  Earnest Biblical studentswillperhaps bereminded--as I was reminded--of the blinded children of the devilwho wenton with their orgiesunabashedin the time before the Flood.

"Iwant to know something about Mr. LukerGodfrey."

"I amagain unfortunateRachel.  No man knows less of Mr. Luker thanI do."

"Younever saw him before you and he met accidentally at the bank?"

"Never."

"Youhave seen him since?"

"Yes. We have been examined togetheras well as separatelyto assistthe police."

"Mr.Luker was robbed of a receipt which he had got from his banker's--was henot?  What was the receipt for?"

"Fora valuable gem which he had placed in the safe keeping of the bank."

"That'swhat the newspapers say.  It may be enough for the generalreader;but it isnot enough for me.  The banker's receipt must have mentionedwhatthe gemwas?"

"Thebanker's receiptRachel--as I have heard it described--mentionednothing of the kind.  A valuable gembelonging toMr. Luker;deposited by Mr. Luker; sealed with Mr. Luker's seal;and onlyto be given up on Mr. Luker's personal application.That wasthe formand that is all I know about it."

She waiteda momentafter he had said that.  She looked at her motherandsighed.  She looked back again at Mr. Godfreyand went on.

"Someof our private affairsat home" she said"seem to havegotinto thenewspapers?"

"Igrieve to sayit is so."

"Andsome idle peopleperfect strangers to usare trying to traceaconnexion between what happened at our house in Yorkshire and whathashappenedsincehere in London?"

"Thepublic curiosityin certain quartersisI feartakingthat turn."

"Thepeople who say that the three unknown men who ill-used youand Mr.Luker are the three Indiansalso say that the valuable gem----"

There shestopped.  She had become graduallywithin the last few momentswhiter andwhiter in the face.  The extraordinary blackness of her hairmade thispalenessby contrastso ghastly to look atthat we all thoughtshe wouldfaintat the moment when she checked herself in the middle ofherquestion.  Dear Mr. Godfrey made a second attempt to leave hischair.My auntentreated her to say no more.  I followed my aunt with amodestmedicinal peace-offeringin the shape of a bottle of salts.We none ofus produced the slightest effect on her.  "Godfreystaywhere youare.  Mammathere is not the least reason to be alarmedabout me. Clackyou're dying to hear the end of it--I won't faintexpresslyto oblige YOU."

Those werethe exact words she used--taken down in my diarythe momentI got home.  Butohdon't let us judge!MyChristian friendsdon't let us judge!

She turnedonce more to Mr. Godfrey.  With an obstinacy dreadful to seeshe wentback again to the place where she had checked herselfand completedherquestion in these words:

"Ispoke to youa minute sinceabout what people were sayingin certainquarters.  Tell me plainlyGodfreydo they anyof themsay that Mr. Luker's valuable gem is--the Moonstone?"

As thename of the Indian Diamond passed her lipsI saw a changecome overmy admirable friend.  His complexion deepened.  He lostthe genialsuavity of manner which is one of his greatest charms.A nobleindignation inspired his reply.

"TheyDO say it" he answered.  "There are people who don'thesitateto accuseMr. Luker of telling a falsehood to serve some privateinterestsof his own.  He has over and over again solemnly declared thatuntil thisscandal assailed himhe had never even heard of the Moonstone.And thesevile people replywithout a shadow of proof to justify themHe has hisreasons for concealment; we decline to believe him on his oath.Shameful!shameful!"

Rachellooked at him very strangely--I can't well describe how--while hewas speaking.  When he had doneshe said"ConsideringthatMr. Lukeris only a chance acquaintance of yoursyou take uphis causeGodfreyrather warmly."

My giftedfriend made her one of the most truly evangelical answers Iever heardin my life.

"IhopeRachelI take up the cause of all oppressed people ratherwarmly"he said.

The tonein which those words were spoken might have melted a stone.Butohdearwhat is the hardness of stone?  Nothingcompared tothehardness of the unregenerate human heart!  She sneered.I blush torecord it--she sneered at him to his face.

"Keepyour noble sentiments for your Ladies' CommitteesGodfrey.I amcertain that the scandal which has assailed Mr. Lukerhas notspared You."

Even myaunt's torpor was roused by those words.

"Mydear Rachel" she remonstrated"you have really no rightto say that!"

"Imean no harmmamma--I mean good.  Have a moment's patience withmeand youwill see."

She lookedback at Mr. Godfreywith what appeared to be a suddenpity forhim.  She went the length--the very unladylike length--of takinghim by the hand.

"I amcertain" she said"that I have found out the true reasonof yourunwillingnessto speak of this matter before my mother and before me.An unluckyaccident has associated you in people's minds with Mr. Luker.You havetold me what scandal says of HIM.  What does scandal sayof you?"

Even atthe eleventh hourdear Mr. Godfrey--always ready to returngood forevil--tried to spare her.

"Don'task me!" he said.  "It's better forgottenRachel--itisindeed."

"IWILL hear it!" she cried outfiercelyat the top of her voice.

"TellherGodfrey!" entreated my aunt.  "Nothing can do hersuch harmas yoursilence is doing now!"

Mr.Godfrey's fine eyes filled with tears.  He cast one lastappealinglook ather--and then he spoke the fatal words:

"Ifyou will have itRachel--scandal says that the Moonstone is inpledgeto Mr.Lukerand that I am the man who has pawned it."

Shestarted to her feet with a scream.  She looked backwardsandforwards from Mr. Godfrey to my auntand from my auntto Mr.Godfreyin such a frantic manner that I really thoughtshe hadgone mad.

"Don'tspeak to me!  Don't touch me!" she exclaimedshrinkingback fromall of us(I declare like some hunted animal!) into a corner of the room."Thisis my fault!  I must set it right.  I have sacrificedmyself--I had aright to do thatif I liked.  But to let an innocent man beruined;to keep asecret which destroys his character for life--Ohgood Godit's toohorrible!  I can't bear it!"

My aunthalf rose from her chairthen suddenly sat down again.She calledto me faintlyand pointed to a little phial in herwork-box.

"Quick!"she whispered.  "Six dropsin water.  Don't letRachel see."

Underother circumstancesI should have thought this strange.There wasno time now to think--there was only time to give the medicine.Dear Mr.Godfrey unconsciously assisted me in concealing what I was aboutfromRachelby speaking composing words to her at the other end ofthe room.

"Indeedindeedyou exaggerate" I heard him say.  "Myreputation standstoo highto be destroyed by a miserable passing scandal like this.It will beall forgotten in another week.  Let us never speak of it again."She wasperfectly inaccessibleeven to such generosity as this.She wenton from bad to worse.

"Imustand willstop it" she said.  "Mamma! hear whatI say.MissClack! hear what I say.  I know the hand that took theMoonstone.I know--"she laid a strong emphasis on the words; she stamped her footin therage that possessed her--"I KNOW THAT GODFREY ABLEWHITE ISINNOCENT.Take me tothe magistrateGodfrey!  Take me to the magistrateand I willswear it!"

My auntcaught me by the handand whispered"Stand between usfor aminute or two.  Don't let Rachel see me."  I noticed abluishtinge inher face which alarmed me.  She saw I was startled."Thedrops will put me right in a minute or two" she saidand soclosed hereyesand waited a little.

While thiswas going onI heard dear Mr. Godfrey still gently remonstrating.

"Youmust not appear publicly in such a thing as this" he sad."YOURreputationdearest Rachelis something too pure and too sacredto betrifled with."

"MYreputation!"  She burst out laughing.  "WhyI amaccusedGodfreyas well asyou.  The best detective officer in England declares that Ihavestolen my own Diamond.  Ask him what he thinks--and he will tellyou that Ihave pledged the Moonstone to pay my private debts!"Shestoppedran across the room--and fell on her knees at her mother'sfeet."Ohmamma! mamma! mamma!  I must be mad--mustn't I?--not to ownthe truthNOW?"  She was too vehement to notice her mother'scondition--she was onher feet againand back with Mr. Godfreyin an instant."Iwon't let you--I won't let any innocent man--be accused and disgracedthrough myfault.  If you won't take me before the magistratedraw out adeclaration of your innocence on paperand I will sign it.Do as Itell youGodfreyor I'll write it to the newspapers I'll go outand cry itin the streets!"

We willnot say this was the language of remorse--we will say itwas thelanguage of hysterics.  Indulgent Mr. Godfrey pacifiedher bytaking a sheet of paperand drawing out the declaration.She signedit in a feverish hurry.  "Show it everywhere--don'tthink of ME" she saidas she gave it to him.  "I amafraidGodfreyIhave not done you justicehithertoin my thoughts.You aremore unselfish--you are a better man than I believed you to be.Come herewhen you canand I will try and repair the wrong I havedone you."

She gavehim her hand.  Alasfor our fallen nature!  Alasfor Mr.Godfrey!He notonly forgot himself so far as to kiss her hand--he adoptedagentleness of tone in answering her whichin such a casewas littlebetterthan a compromise with sin.  "I will comedearest"he said"oncondition that we don't speak of this hateful subject again."Never hadI seen and heard our Christian Hero to less advantage than onthisoccasion.

Beforeanother word could be said by anybodya thundering knockat thestreet door startled us all.  I looked through the windowand sawthe Worldthe Fleshand the Devil waiting before the house--astypified in a carriage and horsesa powdered footmanand threeof the most audaciously dressed women I ever beheld inmy life.

Rachelstartedand composed herself.  She crossed the room to hermother.

"Theyhave come to take me to the flower-show" she said."Onewordmammabefore I go.  I have not distressed youhave I?"

(Is thebluntness of moral feeling which could ask such a questionas thatafter what had just happenedto be pitied or condemned?I like tolean towards mercy.  Let us pity it.)

The dropshad produced their effect.  My poor aunt's complexion waslikeitself again.  "Nonomy dear" she said.  "Gowith our friendsand enjoyyourself."

Herdaughter stoopedand kissed her.  I had left the windowand wasnear the doorwhen Rachel approached it to go out.Anotherchange had come over her--she was in tears.  I lookedwithinterest at the momentary softening of that obdurate heart.I feltinclined to say a few earnest words.  Alas! my well-meantsympathyonly gave offence.  "What do you mean by pitying me?"she askedin a bitter whisperas she passed to the door."Don'tyou see how happy I am?  I'm going to the flower-showClack;and I'vegot the prettiest bonnet in London."  She completedthe hollowmockery of that address by blowing me a kiss--and so leftthe room.

I wish Icould describe in words the compassion I felt for this miserable andmisguidedgirl.  But I am almost as poorly provided with words as withmoney.Permit meto say--my heart bled for her.

Returningto my aunt's chairI observed dear Mr. Godfrey searchingforsomething softlyhere and therein different parts of the room.Before Icould offer to assist him he had found what he wanted.He cameback to my aunt and mewith his declaration of innocence inone handand with a box of matches in the other.

"Dearaunta little conspiracy!" he said.  "Dear MissClacka piousfraud which even your high moral rectitude will excuse!Will youleave Rachel to suppose that I accept the generousself-sacrificewhich has signed this paper?  And will you kindlybearwitness that I destroy it in your presencebefore I leavethehouse?"  He kindled a matchandlighting the paperlaid it toburn in a plate on the table.  "Any triflinginconveniencethat I may suffer is as nothing" he remarked"comparedwith the importance of preserving that pure name fromthecontaminating contact of the world.  There!  We havereducedit to alittle harmless heap of ashes; and our dear impulsiveRachelwill never know what we have done!  How do you feel?Myprecious friendshow do you feel?  For my poor partI am aslight-heartedas a boy!"

He beamedon us with his beautiful smile; he held out a hand to my auntand a handto me.  I was too deeply affected by his noble conduct to speak.I closedmy eyes; I put his handin a kind of spiritual self-forgetfulnessto mylips.  He murmured a soft remonstrance.  Oh the ecstasythe pureunearthlyecstasy of that moment!  I sat--I hardly know on what--quitelostin my ownexalted feelings.  When I opened my eyes againit was likedescendingfrom heaven to earth.  There was nobody but my aunt in the room.He hadgone.

I shouldlike to stop here--I should like to close mynarrativewith the record of Mr. Godfrey's noble conduct.Unhappilythere is moremuch morewhich the unrelentingpecuniarypressure of Mr. Blake's cheque obliges me to tell.Thepainful disclosures which were to reveal themselvesin mypresenceduring that Tuesday's visit to Montagu Squarewere notat an end yet.

Findingmyself alone with Lady VerinderI turned naturallyto thesubject of her health; touching delicately on the strangeanxietywhich she had shown to conceal her indispositionand theremedy applied to itfrom the observation of her daughter.

My aunt'sreply greatly surprised me.

"Drusilla"she said (if I have not already mentioned that my Christian nameisDrusillapermit me to mention it now)"you are touching quiteinnocentlyI know--ona very distressing subject."

I roseimmediately.  Delicacy left me but one alternative--thealternativeafter first making my apologiesof takingmy leave. Lady Verinder stopped meand insisted on my sittingdownagain.

"Youhave surprised a secret" she said"which I had confidedto mysister Mrs. Ablewhiteand to my lawyer Mr. Bruffand to noone else.  I can trust in their discretion; and I am surewhen Itell you the circumstancesI can trust in yours.Have youany pressing engagementDrusilla? or is your timeyour ownthis afternoon?"

It isneedless to say that my time was entirely at my aunt's disposal.

"Keepme company then" she said"for another hour.I havesomething to tell you which I believe you will be sorryto hear. And I shall have a service to ask of you afterwardsif youdon't object to assist me."

It isagain needless to say thatso far from objectingI was alleagerness to assist her.

"Youcan wait here" she went on"till Mr. Bruff comes at five.And youcan be one of the witnessesDrusillawhen I signmy Will."

Her Will! I thought of the drops which I had seen in her work-box. Ithought ofthe bluish tinge which I had noticed in her complexion.A lightwhich was not of this world--a light shining propheticallyfrom anunmade grave--dawned on my mind.  My aunt's secret was a secretno longer.

 

CHAPTERIII

Considerationfor poor Lady Verinder forbade me even to hint that Ihadguessed the melancholy truthbefore she opened her lips.I waitedher pleasure in silence; andhaving privately arrangedto say afew sustaining words at the first convenient opportunityfeltprepared for any duty that could claim meno matter how painful itmight be.

"Ihave been seriously illDrusillafor some time past" my auntbegan."Andstrange to saywithout knowing it myself."

I thoughtof the thousands and thousands of perishing human creatureswho wereall at that moment spiritually illwithout knowing it themselves.And Igreatly feared that my poor aunt might be one of the number."Yesdear" I saidsadly.  "Yes."

"Ibrought Rachel to Londonas you knowfor medical advice" shewent on."Ithought it right to consult two doctors."

Twodoctors!  Andoh me (in Rachel's state)not one clergyman!"Yesdear?"  I said once more.  "Yes?"

"Oneof the two medical men" proceeded my aunt"was a strangerto me.The otherhad been an old friend of my husband'sand had always felta sincereinterest in me for my husband's sake.  After prescribingforRachelhe said he wished to speak to me privately in another room.Iexpectedof courseto receive some special directions for themanagementof my daughter's health.  To my surprisehe took me gravelyby thehandand said"I have been looking at youLady Verinderwith aprofessional as well as a personal interest.  You areI amafraidfar moreurgently in need of medical advice than your daughter."He putsome questions to mewhich I was at first inclined to treatlightlyenoughuntil I observed that my answers distressed him.It endedin his making an appointment to come and see meaccompanied by amedicalfriendon the next dayat an hour when Rachel would not be at home.The resultof that visit--most kindly and gently conveyed to me--satisfiedboth the physicians that there had been precious time lostwhichcould never be regainedand that my case had now passed beyondthe reachof their art.  For more than two years I have been sufferingunder aninsidious form of heart diseasewhichwithout any symptomsto alarmmehasby little and littlefatally broken me down.  I maylivefor somemonthsor I may die before another day has passed over my head--thedoctors cannotand dare notspeak more positively than this.It wouldbe vain to saymy dearthat I have not had some miserable momentssince myreal situation has been made known to me.  But I am moreresignedthan Iwasand I am doing my best to set my worldly affairs in order.My onegreat anxiety is that Rachel should be kept in ignorance of thetruth.If sheknew itshe would at once attribute my broken health to anxietyabout theDiamondand would reproach herself bitterlypoor childfor whatis in no sense her fault.  Both the doctors agree that themischiefbegan twoif not three years since.  I am sure you will keepmy secretDrusilla--for I am sure I see sincere sorrow and sympathy for mein yourface."

Sorrow andsympathy!  Ohwhat Pagan emotions to expect from a ChristianEnglishwomananchored firmly on her faith!

Little didmy poor aunt imagine what a gush of devout thankfulnessthrilledthrough me as she approached the close of her melancholy story.Here was acareer of usefulness opened before me!  Here was a belovedrelativeand perishing fellow-creatureon the eve of the great changeutterlyunprepared; and ledprovidentially ledto reveal hersituationto Me!  How can I describe the joy with which I nowrememberedthat the precious clerical friends on whom I could relywere to becountednot by ones or twosbut by tens and twenties.I took myaunt in my arms--my overflowing tenderness was not tobesatisfiednowwith anything less than an embrace.  "Oh!" I saidto herfervently"the indescribable interest with which you inspireme!Oh! thegood I mean to do youdearbefore we part!"  Afteranother wordor two ofearnest prefatory warningI gave her her choice of threepreciousfriendsall plying the work of mercy from morning to nightin her ownneighbourhood; all equally inexhaustible in exhortation;allaffectionately ready to exercise their gifts at a word from me.Alas! theresult was far from encouraging.  Poor Lady Verinder lookedpuzzledandfrightenedand met everything I could say to her with the purelyworldlyobjectionthat she was not strong enough to face strangers.  I yielded--for themoment onlyof course.  My large experience (as Reader andVisitorunder notlessfirst and lastthan fourteen beloved clerical friends)informedme that this was another case for preparation by books.Ipossessed a little library of worksall suitable to the presentemergencyallcalculated to arouseconvinceprepareenlightenand fortify myaunt."Youwill readdearwon't you?"  I saidin my most winningway."Youwill readif I bring you my own precious books?  Turned down atall theright placesaunt.  And marked in pencil where you are to stopand askyourself"Does this apply to me?""  Even thatsimple appeal--soabsolutely heathenising is the influence of the world--appeared tostartlemy aunt. She said"I will do what I canDrusillato please you"with alook of surprisewhich was at once instructive and terribleto see. Not a moment was to be lost.  The clock on the mantel-pieceinformedme that I had just time to hurry home; to provide myselfwith afirst series of selected readings (say a dozen only); and toreturn intime to meet the lawyerand witness Lady Verinder's Will.Promisingfaithfully to be back by five o'clockI left the house on myerrand ofmercy.

When nointerests but my own are involvedI am humbly content to getfrom placeto place by the omnibus.  Permit me to give an idea of mydevotionto my aunt's interests by recording thaton this occasionIcommitted the prodigality of taking a cab.

I drovehomeselected and marked my first series of readingsand droveback to Montagu Squarewith a dozen works in acarpet-bagthe like of whichI firmly believeare not tobe foundin the literature of any other country in Europe.I paid thecabman exactly his fare.  He received it with an oath;upon whichI instantly gave him a tract.  If I had presenteda pistolat his headthis abandoned wretch could hardly haveexhibitedgreater consternation.  He jumped up on his boxandwithprofane exclamations of dismaydrove off furiously.QuiteuselessI am happy to say!  I sowed the good seedin spiteof himby throwing a second tract in at the window ofthe cab.

Theservant who answered the door--not the person with the cap-ribbonsto mygreat reliefbut the foot-man--informed me that the doctorhadcalledand was still shut up with Lady Verinder.  Mr. Bruffthelawyerhad arrived a minute since and was waiting in the library.I wasshown into the library to wait too.

Mr. Brufflooked surprised to see me.  He is the family solicitorand wehad metmore than onceon previous occasionsunder Lady Verinder's roof.A manIgrieve to saygrown old and grizzled in the service of the world.A man whoin his hours of businesswas the chosen prophet of Law and Mammon;and whoin his hours of leisurewas equally capable of reading a novel andof tearingup a tract.

"Haveyou come to stay hereMiss Clack?" he askedwith a lookat mycarpet-bag.

To revealthe contents of my precious bag to such a person as thiswould havebeen simply to invite an outburst of profanity.I loweredmyself to his own leveland mentioned my business inthe house.

"Myaunt has informed me that she is about to sign her Will"Ianswered.  "She has been so good as to ask me to be one ofthewitnesses."

"Aye?aye?  WellMiss Clackyou will do.  You are overtwenty-oneand youhave not the slightest pecuniary interest in Lady Verinder's Will."

Not theslightest pecuniary interest in Lady Verinder's Will.Ohhowthankful I felt when I heard that!  If my auntpossessedof thousandshad remembered poor Meto whom fivepounds isan object--if my name had appeared in the Willwith alittle comforting legacy attached to it--my enemiesmight havedoubted the motive which had loaded me withthechoicest treasures of my libraryand had drawn uponmy failingresources for the prodigal expenses of a cab.Not thecruellest scoffer of them all could doubt now.Muchbetter as it was!  Ohsurelysurelymuch better asit was!

I wasaroused from these consoling reflections by the voice of Mr. Bruff.Mymeditative silence appeared to weigh upon the spirits of thisworldlingand toforce himas it wereinto talking to me against his own will.

"WellMiss Clackwhat's the last news in the charitable circles?How isyour friend Mr. Godfrey Ablewhiteafter the mauling he gotfrom therogues in Northumberland Street?  Egad! they're tellinga prettystory about that charitable gentleman at my club!"

I hadpassed over the manner in which this person had remarkedthat I wasmore than twenty-oneand that I had no pecuniaryinterestin my aunt's Will.  But the tone in which he alludedto dearMr. Godfrey was too much for my forbearance.Feelingboundafter what had passed in my presence that afternoonto assertthe innocence of my admirable friendwhenever Ifound itcalled in question--I own to having also felt boundto includein the accomplishment of this righteous purposea stingingcastigation in the case of Mr. Bruff.

"Ilive very much out of the world" I said; "and I don'tpossesstheadvantagesirof belonging to a club.  But I happen to knowthe storyto which you allude; and I also know that a viler falsehoodthan thatstory never was told."

"YesyesMiss Clack--you believe in your friend.  Natural enough.Mr.Godfrey Ablewhitewon't find the world in general quite so easytoconvince as a committee of charitable ladies.  Appearances aredeadagainst him.  He was in the house when the Diamond was lost.And he wasthe first person in the house to go to London afterwards.Those areugly circumstancesma'amviewed by the light oflaterevents."

I oughtIknowto have set him right before he went any farther.I ought tohave told him that he was speaking in ignorance of a testimonyto Mr.Godfrey's innocenceoffered by the only person who wasundeniablycompetent to speak from a positive knowledge of the subject.Alas! thetemptation to lead the lawyer artfully on to his own discomfiturewas toomuch for me.  I asked what he meant by "later events"--withanappearanceof the utmost innocence.

"Bylater eventsMiss ClackI mean events in which the Indiansareconcerned" proceeded Mr. Bruffgetting more and more superiorto poorMethe longer he went on.  "What do the Indians dothe momentthey are let out of the prison at Frizinghall?They gostraight to Londonand fix on Mr. Luker.Whatfollows?  Mr. Luker feels alarmed for the safety of "avaluableof great price" which he has got in the house.He lodgesit privately (under a general description)in hisbankers' strong-room. Wonderfully clever of him:but theIndians are just as clever on their side.They havetheir suspicions that the "valuable of great price"is beingshifted from one place to another; and they hit on asingularlybold and complete way of clearing those suspicions up.Whom dothey seize and search?  Not Mr. Luker only--whichwould be intelligible enough--but Mr. Godfrey Ablewhiteas well. Why?  Mr. Ablewhite's explanation isthat they actedon blindsuspicionafter seeing him accidentally speakingto Mr.Luker.  Absurd!  Half-a-dozen other people spoke toMr. Lukerthat morning.  Why were they not followed home tooanddecoyed into the trap?  No! no!  The plain inference isthat Mr.Ablewhite had his private interest in the "valuable"as well asMr. Lukerand that the Indians were so uncertainas towhich of the two had the disposal of itthat therewas noalternative but to search them both.  Public opinionsays thatMiss Clack.  And public opinionon this occasionis noteasily refuted."

He saidthose last wordslooking so wonderfully wise in hisownworldly conceitthat I really (to my shame be it spoken)could notresist leading him a little farther stillbefore Ioverwhelmedhim with the truth.

"Idon't presume to argue with a clever lawyer like you" I said."Butis it quite fairsirto Mr. Ablewhite to pass over the opinionof thefamous London police officer who investigated this case?Not theshadow of a suspicion rested upon anybody but Miss Verinderin themind of Sergeant Cuff."

"Doyou mean to tell meMiss Clackthat you agree with the Sergeant?"

"Ijudge nobodysirand I offer no opinion."

"AndI commit both those enormitiesma'am. I judge the Sergeantto havebeen utterly wrong; and I offer the opinion thatif he hadknown Rachel's character as I know ithe wouldhave suspected everybody in the house but HER.I admitthat she has her faults--she is secretand self-willed;odd andwildand unlike other girls of her age.But trueas steeland high-minded and generous to a fault.If theplainest evidence in the world pointed one wayand ifnothing but Rachel's word of honour pointed the otherI wouldtake her word before the evidencelawyer as I am!StronglanguageMiss Clack; but I mean it."

"Wouldyou object to illustrate your meaningMr. Bruffso that I may besure Iunderstand it?  Suppose you found Miss Verinder quiteunaccountablyinterestedin what has happened to Mr. Ablewhite and Mr. Luker?Supposeshe asked the strangest questions about this dreadful scandalanddisplayed the most ungovernable agitation when she found out the turnitwastaking?"

"Supposeanything you pleaseMiss Clackit wouldn't shake my beliefin RachelVerinder by a hair's-breadth."

"Sheis so absolutely to be relied on as that?"

"Soabsolutely to be relied on as that."

"Thenpermit me to inform youMr. Bruffthat Mr. Godfrey Ablewhitewas inthis house not two hours sinceand that his entire innocenceof allconcern in the disappearance of the Moonstone was proclaimedby MissVerinder herselfin the strongest language I ever heard usedby a younglady in my life.

I enjoyedthe triumph--the unholy triumphI fear I must admit--of seeingMr. Bruff utterly confounded and overthrown by a few plainwords fromMe.  He started to his feetand stared at me in silence.I kept myseatundisturbedand related the whole scene as ithadoccurred.  "And what do you say about Mr. Ablewhite now?"I askedwith the utmost possible gentlenessas soon as Ihad done.

"IfRachel has testified to his innocenceMiss ClackI don'tscruple tosay that I believe in his innocence as firmly as you do:I havebeen misled by appearanceslike the rest of the world;and I willmake the best atonement I canby publicly contradictingthescandal which has assailed your friend wherever I meet with it.In themeantimeallow me to congratulate you on the masterlymanner inwhich you have opened the full fire of your batterieson me atthe moment when I least expected it.  You would have donegreatthings in my professionma'amif you had happened to bea man."

With thosewords he turned away from meand began walking irritably upand downthe room.

I couldsee plainly that the new light I had thrown on the subjecthadgreatly surprised and disturbed him.  Certain expressionsdroppedfrom hislipsas he became more and more absorbed in his own thoughtswhichsuggested to my mind the abominable view that he had hitherto takenof themystery of the lost Moonstone.  He had not scrupled to suspectdear Mr.Godfrey of the infamy of stealing the Diamondand to attributeRachel'sconduct to a generous resolution to conceal the crime.On MissVerinder's own authority--a perfectly unassailable authorityas you areawarein the estimation of Mr. Bruff--that explanationof thecircumstances was now shown to be utterly wrong.  The perplexityinto whichI had plunged this high legal authority was so overwhelmingthat hewas quite unable to conceal it from notice.  "What a case!"I heardhim say to himselfstopping at the window in his walkand drummingon theglass with his fingers.  "It not only defies explanationit's evenbeyondconjecture."

There wasnothing in these words which made any reply at all needfulon mypart--and yetI answered them!  It seems hardly crediblethat Ishould not have been able to let Mr. Bruff aloneeven now.It seemsalmost beyond mere mortal perversity that I shouldhavediscoveredin what he had just saida new opportunity of makingmyselfpersonally disagreeable to him.  But--ahmy friends! nothingis beyondmortal perversity; and anything is credible when our fallennaturesget the better of us!

"Pardonme for intruding on your reflections" I said to theunsuspectingMr.Bruff.  "But surely there is a conjecture to make which hasnot occurredto usyet."

"MaybeMiss Clack.  I own I don't know what it is."

"BeforeI was so fortunatesiras to convince you of Mr. Ablewhite'sinnocenceyou mentioned it as one of the reasons for suspecting himthat hewas in the house at the time when the Diamond was lost.Permit meto remind you that Mr. Franklin Blake was also in the houseat thetime when the Diamond was lost."

The oldwordling left the windowtook a chair exactly opposite to mineand lookedat me steadilywith a hard and vicious smile.

"Youare not so good a lawyerMiss Clack" he remarked in ameditativemanner"as I supposed.  You don't know how to let wellalone."

"I amafraid I fail to follow youMr. Bruff" I saidmodestly.

"Itwon't doMiss Clack--it really won't do a second time.FranklinBlake is a prime favourite of mineas you arewellaware.  But that doesn't matter.  I'll adopt your viewon thisoccasionbefore you have time to turn round on me.You'requite rightma'am. I have suspected Mr. Ablewhiteon groundswhich abstractedly justify suspecting Mr. Blake too.Verygood--let's suspect them together.  It's quite in his characterwe willsayto be capable of stealing the Moonstone.The onlyquestion iswhether it was his interest todo so."

"Mr.Franklin Blake's debts" I remarked"are matters of familynotoriety."

"AndMr. Godfrey Ablewhite's debts have not arrived at thatstage ofdevelopment yet.  Quite true.  But there happento be twodifficulties in the way of your theoryMiss Clack.I manageFranklin Blake's affairsand I beg to inform youthat thevast majority of his creditors (knowing his father to bea richman) are quite content to charge interest on their debtsand towait for their money.  There is the first difficulty--which istough enough.  You will find the second tougher still.I have iton the authority of Lady Verinder herselfthat herdaughterwas ready to marry Franklin Blakebefore that infernalIndianDiamond disappeared from the house.  She had drawn himon and puthim off againwith the coquetry of a young girl.But shehad confessed to her mother that she loved cousin Franklinand hermother had trusted cousin Franklin with the secret.So therehe wasMiss Clackwith his creditors content to waitand withthe certain prospect before him of marrying an heiress.By allmeans consider him a scoundrel; but tell meif you pleasewhy heshould steal the Moonstone?"

"Thehuman heart is unsearchable" I said gently.  "Who isto fathom it?"

"Inother wordsma'am--though he hadn't the shadow of a reason fortakingtheDiamond--he might have taken itneverthelessthrough naturaldepravity.Verywell.  Say he did.  Why the devil----"

"Ibeg your pardonMr. Bruff.  If I hear the devil referredto in thatmannerI must leave the room."

"Ibeg YOUR pardonMiss Clack--I'll be more careful in mychoice oflanguage for the future.  All I meant to askwas this. Why--even supposing he did take the Diamond--shouldFranklin Blake make himself the most prominent personin thehouse in trying to recover it?  You may tell mehecunningly did that to divert suspicion from himself.I answerthat he had no need to divert suspicion--becausenobody suspected him.  He first steals the Moonstone(withoutthe slightest reason) through natural depravity;and hethen acts a partin relation to the loss of the jewelwhichthere is not the slightest necessity to actand whichleads tohis mortally offending the young lady who wouldotherwisehave married him.  That is the monstrous propositionwhich youare driven to assertif you attempt to associatethedisappearance of the Moonstone with Franklin Blake.NonoMiss Clack!  After what has passed here to-daybetween ustwothe dead-lockin this caseis complete.Rachel'sown innocence is (as her mother knowsand as I know)beyond adoubt.  Mr. Ablewhite's innocence is equally certain--or Rachelwould never have testified to it.  And Franklin Blake'sinnocenceas you have just seenunanswerably asserts itself.On the onehandwe are morally certain of all these things.Andonthe other handwe are equally sure that somebody hasbroughtthe Moonstone to Londonand that Mr. Lukeror his bankeris inprivate possession of it at this moment.  What is the useof myexperiencewhat is the use of any person's experiencein such acase as that?  It baffles me; it baffles youitbaffleseverybody."

No--noteverybody.  It had not baffled Sergeant Cuff.I wasabout to mention thiswith all possible mildnessand withevery necessary protest against being supposedto cast aslur upon Rachel--when the servant came in to saythat thedoctor had goneand that my aunt was waiting toreceiveus.

Thisstopped the discussion.  Mr. Bruff collected his paperslooking alittle exhausted by the demands which our conversationhad madeon him.  I took up my bag-full of precious publicationsfeeling asif I could have gone on talking for hours.  We proceededin silenceto Lady Verinder's room.

Permit meto add herebefore my narrative advances to other eventsthat Ihave not described what passed between the lawyer and mewithouthaving a definite object in view.  I am ordered to includein mycontribution to the shocking story of the Moonstonea plaindisclosurenot only of the turn which suspicion tookbut evenof the names of the persons on whom suspicion restedat thetime when the Indian Diamond was believed to be in London.A reportof my conversation in the library with Mr. Bruff appearedto me tobe exactly what was wanted to answer this purpose--whileatthe same timeit possessed the great moral advantageofrendering a sacrifice of sinful self-esteem essentially necessaryon mypart.  I have been obliged to acknowledge that my fallennature gotthe better of me.  In making that humiliating confessionI get thebetter of my fallen nature.  The moral balance is restored;thespiritual atmosphere feels clear once more.  Dear friendswemay goon again.

 

CHAPTER IV

Thesigning of the Will was a much shorter matter than I had anticipated.It washurried overto my thinkingin indecent haste.  Samuelthefootmanwas sentfor to act as second witness--and the pen was put at once into myaunt'shand.  I felt strongly urged to say a few appropriate words onthissolemnoccasion.  But Mr. Bruff's manner convinced me that it waswisestto checkthe impulse while he was in the room.  In less than two minutesitwas allover--and Samuel (unbenefited by what I might have said) had gonedownstairsagain.

Mr. Brufffolded up the Willand then looked my way;apparentlywondering whether I did or did not mean to leavehim alonewith my aunt.  I had my mission of mercy to fulfiland my bagof precious publications ready on my lap.He mightas well have expected to move St. Paul's Cathedralby lookingat itas to move Me.  There was one merit about him(due nodoubt to his worldly training) which I have no wish to deny.He wasquick at seeing things.  I appeared to produce almostthe sameimpression on him which I had produced on the cabman.HE toouttered a profane expressionand withdrew in a violent hurryand leftme mistress of the field.

As soon aswe were alonemy aunt reclined on the sofaand then alludedwith someappearance of confusionto the subject of her Will.

"Ihope you won't think yourself neglectedDrusilla" she said."Imean to GIVE you your little legacymy dearwith my own hand."

Here was agolden opportunity!  I seized it on the spot.In otherwordsI instantly opened my bagand took outthe toppublication.  It proved to be an early edition--only thetwenty-fifth--of the famous anonymous work (believed tobe byprecious Miss Bellows)entitled THE SERPENT AT HOME.The designof the book--with which the worldly reader may notbeacquainted--is to show how the Evil One lies in wait for usin all themost apparently innocent actions of our daily lives.Thechapters best adapted to female perusal are "Satanin theHair Brush;" "Satan behind the Looking Glass;""Satanunder the Tea Table;" "Satan out of the Window'--and manyothers.

"Giveyour attentiondear auntto this precious book--and youwill give me all I ask.  "With those wordsI handedit to heropenat a marked passage--one continuous burst ofburningeloquence!  Subject:  Satan among the Sofa Cushions.

Poor LadyVerinder (reclining thoughtlessly on her own sofa cushions)glanced atthe bookand handed it back to me looking more confusedthan ever.

"I'mafraidDrusilla" she said"I must wait till I am alittle betterbefore Ican read that.  The doctor----"

The momentshe mentioned the doctor's nameI knew what was coming.Over andover again in my past experience among my perishingfellow-creaturesthe members of the notoriously infidel professionofMedicine had stepped between me and my mission of mercy--on themiserable pretence that the patient wanted quietand thatthe disturbing influence of all others which theymostdreadedwas the influence of Miss Clack and her Books.Preciselythe same blinded materialism (working treacherouslybehind myback) now sought to rob me of the only right of propertythat mypoverty could claim--my right of spiritual property in myperishingaunt.

"Thedoctor tells me" my poor misguided relative went on"thatI am not so well to-day. He forbids me to see any strangers;and heorders meif I read at allonly to read the lightestand themost amusing books.  'Do nothingLady Verinderto wearyyour heador to quicken your pulse'--those were hislastwordsDrusillawhen he left me to-day."

There wasno help for it but to yield again--for the moment onlyas before.Any openassertion of the infinitely superior importance of such a ministryas minecompared with the ministry of the medical manwould only haveprovokedthe doctor to practise on the human weakness of his patientand tothreaten to throw up the case.  Happilythere are more waysthan oneof sowingthe good seedand few persons are better versed in those waysthanmyself.

"Youmight feel strongerdearin an hour or two" I said."Oryou might waketo-morrow morningwith a sense of something wantingand eventhis unpretending volume might be able to supply it.You willlet me leave the bookaunt?  The doctor can hardly objectto that!"

I slippedit under the sofa cushionshalf inand half outclose byher handkerchiefand her smelling-bottle. Every timeher handsearched for either of theseit would touch the book;andsooner or later (who knows?) the book might touch HER.Aftermaking this arrangementI thought it wise to withdraw."Letme leave you to reposedear aunt; I will call again to-morrow."I lookedaccidentally towards the window as I said that.  It was fullofflowersin boxes and pots.  Lady Verinder was extravagantlyfond ofthese perishable treasuresand had a habit of risingevery nowand thenand going to look at them and smell them.A new ideaflashed across my mind.  "Oh! may I take a flower?"Isaid--and got to the window unsuspectedin that way.Instead oftaking away a flowerI added onein the shapeof anotherbook from my bagwhich I leftto surprise my auntamong thegeraniums and roses.  The happy thought followed"Whynot do the same for herpoor dearin every other roomthat sheenters?"  I immediately said good-bye; andcrossingthe hallslipped into the library.  Samuelcoming up to letme outand supposing I had gonewent down-stairs again.On thelibrary table I noticed two of the "amusing books"which theinfidel doctor had recommended.  I instantly coveredthem fromsight with two of my own precious publications.In thebreakfast-room I found my aunt's favourite canarysinging inhis cage.  She was always in the habit of feedingthe birdherself.  Some groundsel was strewed on a table which stoodimmediatelyunder the cage.  I put a book among the groundsel.In thedrawing-room I found more cheering opportunitiesofemptying my bag.  My aunt's favourite musical pieces wereon thepiano.  I slipped in two more books among the music.I disposedof another in the back drawing-roomunder someunfinishedembroiderywhich I knew to be of Lady Verinder's working.A thirdlittle room opened out of the back drawing-roomfrom whichit was shut off by curtains instead of a door.My aunt'splain old-fashioned fan was on the chimney-piece. Iopened myninth book at a very special passageand put the fanin as amarkerto keep the place.  The question then camewhether Ishould go higher stilland try the bed-room floor--at theriskundoubtedlyof being insultedif the personwith thecap-ribbons happened to be in the upper regionsof thehouseand to find me put.  But ohwhat of that?It is apoor Christian that is afraid of being insulted.I wentupstairsprepared to bear anything.  All was silentandsolitary--it was the servants' tea-timeI suppose.My aunt'sroom was in front.  The minature of my latedearuncleSir Johnhung on the wall opposite the bed.It seemedto smile at me; it seemed to say"Drusilla! deposita book." There were tables on either side of my aunt's bed.She was abad sleeperand wantedor thought she wantedmanythings at night.  I put a book near the matches on one sideand a bookunder the box of chocolate drops on the other.Whethershe wanted a lightor whether she wanted a dropthere wasa precious publication to meet her eyeor to meether handand to say with silent eloquencein either case"Cometry me! try me!"  But one book was now left at the bottomof my bagand but one apartment was still unexplored--thebath-roomwhich opened out of the bed-room. I peeped in;and theholy inner voice that never deceiveswhispered to me"Youhave met herDrusillaeverywhere else; meet her atthe bathand the work is done."  I observed a dressing-gownthrownacross a chair.  It had a pocket in itand in thatpocket Iput my last book.  Can words express my exquisitesense ofduty donewhen I had slipped out of the houseunsuspectedby any of themand when I found myself in the streetwith myempty bag under my arm?  Ohmy worldly friendspursuingthe phantomPleasurethrough the guilty mazesofDissipationhow easy it is to be happyif you will only begood!

When Ifolded up my things that night--when I reflected onthe trueriches which I had scattered with such a lavish handfrom topto bottom of the house of my wealthy aunt--I declare Ifelt asfree from all anxiety as if I had been a child again.I was solight-hearted that I sang a verse of the Evening Hymn.I was solight-hearted that I fell asleep before I couldsinganother.  Quite like a child again! quite like achildagain!

So Ipassed that blissful night.  On rising the next morninghow youngI felt!  I might addhow young I lookedif I werecapable ofdwelling on the concerns of my own perishable body.But I amnot capable--and I add nothing.

Towardsluncheon time--not for the sake of the creature-comfortsbut for thecertaintyof finding dear aunt--I put on my bonnet to go to Montagu Square.Just as Iwas readythe maid at the lodgings in which I then lived lookedin at thedoorand said"Lady Verinder's servantto see Miss Clack."

I occupiedthe parlour-floorat that period of my residenceinLondon.  The front parlour was my sitting-room. Very smallvery lowin the ceilingvery poorly furnished--butohso neat!I lookedinto the passage to see which of Lady Verinder'sservantshad asked for me.  It was the young footmanSamuel--a civilfresh-coloured personwith a teachable look and averyobliging manner.  I had always felt a spiritual interestin Samueland a wish to try him with a few serious words.On thisoccasionI invited him into my sitting-room.

He cameinwith a large parcel under his arm.  When he put the parceldownitappeared to frighten him.  "My lady's loveMiss; and I wasto say that youwould finda letter inside."  Having given that messagethefresh-colouredyoungfootman surprised me by looking as if he would have liked to runaway.

I detainedhim to make a few kind inquiries.  Could I see my auntif Icalled in Montagu Square?  No; she had gone out for a drive.MissRachel had gone with herand Mr. Ablewhite had taken a seatin thecarriagetoo.  Knowing how sadly dear Mr. Godfrey's charitablework wasin arrearI thought it odd that he should be going out drivinglike anidle man.  I stopped Samuel at the doorand made a fewmore kindinquiries.  Miss Rachel was going to a ball that nightand Mr.Ablewhite had arranged to come to coffeeand go with her.There wasa morning concert advertised for to-morrowand Samuel was orderedto takeplaces for a large partyincluding a place for Mr. Ablewhite."Allthe tickets may be goneMiss" said this innocent youth"if Idon't run and get them at once!"  He ran as he said thewords--and Ifound myself alone againwith some anxious thoughts tooccupy me.

We had aspecial meeting of the Mothers'-Small-Clothes-Conversion Societythatnightsummoned expressly with a view to obtaining Mr. Godfrey'sadviceandassistance.  Instead of sustaining our sisterhoodunder anoverwhelmingflow ofTrousers which quite prostrated our little communityhe hadarrangedto take coffee in Montagu Squareand to go to a ball afterwards!Theafternoon of the next day had been selected for the Festival oftheBritish-Ladies'- Servants'-Sunday-Sweetheart-Supervision Society.Instead ofbeing presentthe life and soul of that struggling Institutionhe hadengaged to make one of a party of worldlings at a morning concert!I askedmyself what did it mean?  Alas! it meant that our Christian Herowasto revealhimself to me in a new characterand to become associated in mymind withone of the most awful backslidings of modern times.

To returnhoweverto the history of the passing day.On findingmyself alone in my roomI naturally turnedmyattention to the parcel which appeared to have sostrangelyintimidated the fresh-coloured young footman.Had myaunt sent me my promised legacy? and had it takenthe formof cast-off clothesor worn-out silver spoonsorunfashionable jewelleryor anything of that sort?Preparedto accept alland to resent nothingI opened the parcel--and whatmet my view?  The twelve precious publicationswhich Ihad scattered through the houseon the previous day;allreturned to me by the doctor's orders!  Well might the youthfulSamuelshrink when he brought his parcel into my room!Well mighthe run when he had performed his miserable errand!As to myaunt's letterit simply amountedpoor soulto this--that shedare not disobey her medical man.

What wasto be done now?  With my training and my principlesI neverhad a moment's doubt.

Onceself-supported by conscienceonce embarked on a careerofmanifest usefulnessthe true Christian never yields.Neitherpublic nor private influences produce the slightesteffect onuswhen we have once got our mission.  Taxation maybe theconsequence of a mission; riots may be the consequenceof amission; wars may be the consequence of a mission:we go onwith our workirrespective of every human considerationwhichmoves the world outside us.  We are above reason;we arebeyond ridicule; we see with nobody's eyeswe hearwithnobody's earswe feel with nobody's heartsbut our own.Gloriousglorious privilege!  And how is it earned?Ahmyfriendsyou may spare yourselves the useless inquiry!We are theonly people who can earn it--for we are the onlypeople whoare always right.

In thecase of my misguided auntthe form which pious perseverancewas nextto take revealed itself to me plainly enough.

Preparationby clerical friends had failedowing to Lady Verinder'sownreluctance.  Preparation by books had failedowing to thedoctor'sinfidelobstinacy.  So be it!  What was the next thing to try?The nextthing to try was--Preparation by Little Notes.In otherwordsthe books themselves having been sent backselectextracts from the bookscopied by different handsand alladdressedas letters to my auntweresome to be sent by postand someto be distributed about the house on the plan I had adoptedon theprevious day.  As letters they would excite no suspicion;as lettersthey would be opened--andonce openedmight be read.Some ofthem I wrote myself.  "Dear auntmay I ask your attentionto a fewlines?" &c. "Dear auntI was reading last nightand Ichanced on the following passage" &c. Other letterswerewritten for me by my valued fellow-workersthe sisterhoodat theMothers'-Small-Clothes. "Dear madampardon the interesttaken inyou by a truethough humblefriend."  " Dear madammay aserious person surprise you by saying a few cheering words?"Usingthese and other similar forms of courteous appealwereintroduced all my precious passages under a form whichnot eventhe doctor's watchful materialism could suspect.Before theshades of evening had closed around usI had a dozenawakeningletters for my auntinstead of a dozen awakening books.Six I madeimmediate arrangements for sending through the postand six Ikept in my pocket for personal distribution in the house thenext day.

Soon aftertwo o'clock I was again on the field of pious conflictaddressingmore kind inquiries to Samuel at Lady Verinder's door.

My aunthad had a bad night.  She was again in the room in which I hadwitnessedher Willresting on the sofaand trying to get a little sleep.

I said Iwould wait in the libraryon the chance of seeing her.In thefervour of my zeal to distribute the lettersit neveroccurredto me to inquire about Rachel.  The house was quietand it waspast the hour at which the musical performance began.I took itfor granted that she and her party of pleasure-seekers(Mr.Godfreyalas! included) were all at the concertand eagerly devotedmyself tomy good workwhile time and opportunity were still at myowndisposal.

My aunt'scorrespondence of the morning--including the six awakening letterswhich Ihad posted overnight--was lying unopened on the library table.She hadevidently not felt herself equal to dealing with a largemass ofletters--and she might be daunted by the number of themif sheentered the library later in the day.  I put one of my secondsetof sixletters on the chimney-piece by itself; leaving it to attracthercuriosityby means of its solitary positionapart from the rest.A secondletter I put purposely on the floor in the breakfast-room. Thefirstservant who went in after me would conclude that my aunt had droppeditand wouldbe specially careful to restore it to her.  The field thussown onthe basement storyI ran lightly upstairs to scatter my merciesnext overthe drawing-room floor.

Just as Ientered the front roomI heard a double knock atthestreet-door--a softflutteringconsiderate little knock.Before Icould think of slipping back to the library (in which Iwassupposed to be waiting)the active young footman was inthe hallanswering the door.  It mattered littleas I thought.In myaunt's state of healthvisitors in general were not admitted.To myhorror and amazementthe performer of the soft little knockproved tobe an exception to general rules.  Samuel's voice below me(afterapparently answering some questions which I did not hear)saidunmistakably"Upstairsif you pleasesir."  Thenext moment Iheardfootsteps--a man's footsteps--approaching the drawing-room floor.Who couldthis favoured male visitor possibly be?  Almost as soonas I askedmyself the questionthe answer occurred to me.Who COULDit be but the doctor?

In thecase of any other visitorI should have allowedmyself tobe discovered in the drawing-room. There wouldhave beennothing out of the common in my having got tiredof thelibraryand having gone upstairs for a change.But my ownself-respect stood in the way of my meetingthe personwho had insulted me by sending me back my books.I slippedinto the little third roomwhich I have mentionedascommunicating with the back drawing-roomand droppedthecurtains which closed the open doorway.  If I only waitedthere fora minute or twothe usual result in such cases wouldtakeplace.  That is to saythe doctor would be conducted to hispatient'sroom.

I waited aminute or twoand more than a minute or two.I heardthe visitor walking restlessly backwards and forwards.I alsoheard him talking to himself.  I even thought Irecognisedthe voice.  Had I made a mistake?  Was it notthedoctorbut somebody else?  Mr. Brufffor instance?No! anunerring instinct told me it was not Mr. Bruff.Whoever hewashe was still talking to himself.  I partedthe heavycurtains the least little morsel in the worldandlistened.

The wordsI heard were"I'll do it to-day!" And the voice that spokethem wasMr. Godfrey Ablewhite's.

 

CHAPTER V

My handdropped from the curtain.  But don't suppose--ohdon'tsuppose--that thedreadful embarrassment of my situation was the uppermostidea in mymind!  So fervent still was the sisterly interestI felt inMr. Godfreythat I never stopped to ask myself whyhe was notat the concert.  No!  I thought only of the words--thestartling words--which had just fallen from his lips.He woulddo it to-day. He had saidin a tone of terrible resolutionhe woulddo it to-day. Whatoh whatwould he do?  Something evenmoredeplorably unworthy of him than what he had done already?Would heapostatise from the faith?  Would he abandon us attheMothers'-Small-Clothes? Had we seen the last of his angelicsmile inthe committee-room? Had we heard the last of his unrivalledeloquenceat Exeter Hall?  I was so wrought up by the bare ideaof suchawful eventualities as these in connection with such a manthat Ibelieve I should have rushed from my place of concealmentandimplored him in the name of all the Ladies' Committees inLondon toexplain himself--when I suddenly heard another voicein theroom.  It penetrated through the curtains; it was loudit wasboldit was wanting in every female charm.  The voice ofRachelVerinder.

"Whyhave you come up hereGodfrey?" she asked.  "Whydidn't yougo intothe library?"

He laughedsoftlyand answered"Miss Clack is in the library."

"Clackin the library!"  She instantly seated herself on theottomanin theback drawing-room. "You are quite rightGodfrey.  We hadmuchbetterstop here."

I had beenin a burning fevera moment sinceand in somedoubt whatto do next.  I became extremely cold nowand feltno doubtwhatever.  To show myselfafter what I had heardwasimpossible.  To retreat--except into the fireplace--wasequally out of the question.  A martyrdom was before me.In justiceto myselfI noiselessly arranged the curtainsso that Icould both see and hear.  And then I met my martyrdomwith thespirit of a primitive Christian.

"Don'tsit on the ottoman" the young lady proceeded."Bringa chairGodfrey.  I like people to be opposite to mewhen Italk to them."

He tookthe nearest seat.  It was a low chair.  He was very talland manysizes too large for it.  I never saw his legs to suchdisadvantagebefore.

"Well?"she went on.  "What did you say to them?"

"Justwhat you saiddear Rachelto me."

"Thatmamma was not at all well to-day? And that I didn't quitelikeleaving her to go to the concert?"

"Thosewere the words.  They were grieved to lose you at the concertbut theyquite understood.  All sent their love; and all expressed acheeringbelief that Lady Verinder's indisposition would soon pass away."

"YOUdon't think it's seriousdo youGodfrey?"

"Farfrom it!  In a few daysI feel quite sureall will be wellagain."

"Ithink sotoo.  I was a little frightened at firstbut I thinkso too.It wasvery kind to go and make my excuses for me to people who are almoststrangersto you.  But why not have gone with them to the concert? It seemsvery hardthat you should miss the music too."

"Don'tsay thatRachel!  If you only knew how much happierIam--herewith you!"

He claspedhis handsand looked at her.  In the position which heoccupiedwhen hedid thathe turned my way.  Can words describe how I sickenedwhen Inoticedexactly the same pathetic expression on his facewhich had charmedme when hewas pleading for destitute millions of his fellow-creatures ontheplatform at Exeter Hall!

"It'shard to get over one's bad habitsGodfrey.  But do try to getover thehabit of paying compliments--doto please me."

"Inever paid you a complimentRachelin my life.Successfullove may sometimes use the language of flatteryI admit.Buthopeless lovedearestalways speaks the truth."

He drewhis chair closeand took her handwhen he said "hopelesslove."There wasa momentary silence.  Hewho thrilled everybodyhad doubtlessthrilledHER.  I thought I now understood the words which had droppedfrom himwhen he was alone in the drawing-room"I'll do it to-day."Alas! themost rigid propriety could hardly have failed to discoverthat hewas doing it now.

"Haveyou forgotten what we agreed onGodfreywhen you spoketo me inthe country?  We agreed that we were to be cousinsandnothing more."

"Ibreak the agreementRachelevery time I see you."

"Thendon't see me."

"Quiteuseless!  I break the agreement every time I think of you.OhRachel! how kindly you told meonly the other daythat my placein yourestimation was a higher place than it had ever been yet!Am I madto build the hopes I do on those dear words?  Am I madto dreamof some future day when your heart may soften to me?Don't tellme soif I am!  Leave me my delusiondearest!  I musthave THATto cherishand to comfort meif I have nothing else!"

His voicetrembledand he put his white handkerchief to his eyes.ExeterHall again!  Nothing wanting to complete the parallel buttheaudiencethe cheersand the glass of water.

Even herobdurate nature was touched.  I saw her lean a little nearer tohim.I heard anew tone of interest in her next words.

"Areyou really sureGodfreythat you are so fond of me as that?"

"Sure! You know what I wasRachel.  Let me tell you what I am.I havelost every interest in lifebut my interest in you.Atransformation has come over me which I can't account formyself.Would youbelieve it?  My charitable business is an unendurablenuisanceto me; and when I see a Ladies' Committee nowI wish myselfat theuttermost ends of the earth!"

If theannals of apostasy offer anything comparable to such a declarationas thatIcan only say that the case in point is not producible fromthe storesof my reading.  I thought of the Mothers'-Small-Clothes. Ithoughtof theSunday-Sweetheart-Supervision. I thought of the other Societiestoonumerous to mentionall built up on this man as on a tower ofstrength.I thoughtof the struggling Female Boardswhoso to speakdrew the breathof theirbusiness-life through the nostrils of Mr. Godfrey--of that sameMr.Godfrey who had just reviled our good work as a "nuisance"--andjustdeclaredthat he wished he was at the uttermost ends of the earth when hefoundhimself in our company!  My young female friends will feelencouragedtoperseverewhen I mention that it tried even My discipline before Icoulddevour myown righteous indignation in silence.  At the same timeit isonlyjustice tomyself to addthat I didn't lose a syllable of the conversation.Rachel wasthe next to speak.

"Youhave made your confession" she said.  "I wonderwhether itwould cureyou of your unhappy attachment to meif I made mine?"

Hestarted.  I confess I started too.  He thoughtand Ithoughtthat shewas about to divulge the mystery of the Moonstone.

"Wouldyou thinkto look at me" she went on"that I am thewretchedestgirlliving?  It's trueGodfrey.  What greater wretchedness cantherebe than tolive degraded in your own estimation?  That is my life now."

"Mydear Rachel! it's impossible you can have any reason to speakofyourself in that way!"

"Howdo you know I have no reason?"

"Canyou ask me the question!  I know itbecause I know you.Yoursilencedearesthas never lowered you in the estimationof yourtrue friends.  The disappearance of your preciousbirthdaygift may seem strange; your unexplained connectionwith thatevent may seem stranger still

"Areyou speaking of the MoonstoneGodfrey----"

"Icertainly thought that you referred----"

"Ireferred to nothing of the sort.  I can hear of the loss of theMoonstonelet whowill speak of itwithout feeling degraded in my own estimation.If thestory of the Diamond ever comes to lightit will be known that Iaccepted adreadful responsibility; it will be known that I involved myselfin thekeeping of a miserable secret--but it will be as clear as the sunatnoon-day that I did nothing mean!  You have misunderstood meGodfrey.It's myfault for not speaking more plainly.  Cost me what it mayIwill beplainernow.  Suppose you were not in love with me?  Suppose youwere in lovewith someother woman?"

"Yes?"

"Supposeyou discovered that woman to be utterly unworthy of you?Supposeyou were quite convinced that it was a disgrace to youto wasteanother thought on her?  Suppose the bare idea of evermarryingsuch a person made your face burnonly with thinkingof it."

"Yes?"

"Andsupposein spite of all that--you couldn't tear her from your heart?Supposethe feeling she had roused in you (in the time when youbelievedin her) was not a feeling to be hidden?  Suppose the love thiswretch hadinspired in you?  Ohhow can I find words to say it in!How can Imake a MAN understand that a feeling which horrifies me at myselfcan be afeeling that fascinates me at the same time?  It's the breathof mylifeGodfreyand it's the poison that kills me--both in one!Go away! I must be out of my mind to talk as I am talking now.No! youmustn't leave me--you mustn't carry away a wrong impression.I must saywhat is to be said in my own defence.  Mind this!  HEdoesn't know--he neverwill knowwhat I have told you.  I will never see him--I don'tcare what happens--I will nevernevernever see him again!Don't askme his name!  Don't ask me any more!  Let's change thesubject.Are youdoctor enoughGodfreyto tell me why I feel as if I was stiflingfor wantof breath?  Is there a form of hysterics that bursts into wordsinstead oftears?  I dare say!  What does it matter?  You willget over anytrouble Ihave caused youeasily enough now.  I have dropped to my rightplace inyour estimationhaven't I?  Don't notice me!  Don't pityme!For God'ssakego away!"

She turnedround on a suddenand beat her hands wildly onthe backof the ottoman.  Her head dropped on the cushions;and sheburst out crying.  Before I had time to feel shockedat thisIwas horror-struck by an entirely unexpected proceedingon thepart of Mr. Godfrey.  Will it be credited that he fellon hisknees at her feet.?--on BOTH kneesI solemnly declare!Maymodesty mention that he put his arms round her next?And mayreluctant admiration acknowledge that he electrified her withtwo words?

"Noblecreature!"

No morethan that!  But he did it with one of the bursts which have madehis fameas a public speaker.  She sateither quite thunderstruckor quitefascinated--I don't know which--without even makingan effortto put his arms back where his arms ought to have been.As for memy sense of propriety was completely bewildered.I was sopainfully uncertain whether it was my first duty to closemy eyesor to stop my earsthat I did neither.  I attributemy beingstill able to hold the curtain in the right positionforlooking and listeningentirely to suppressed hysterics.Insuppressed hystericsit is admittedeven by the doctorsthat onemust hold something.

"Yes"he saidwith all the fascination of his evangelicalvoice andmanner"you are a noble creature!  A womanwho canspeak the truthfor the truth's own sake--a womanwho willsacrifice her priderather than sacrifice an honestman wholoves her--is the most priceless of all treasures.When sucha woman marriesif her husband only wins her esteemandregardhe wins enough to ennoble his whole life.You havespokendearestof your place in my estimation.Judge whatthat place is--when I implore you on my kneesto let thecure of your poor wounded heart be my care.Rachel!will you honour mewill you bless meby beingmy wife?"
By thistime I should certainly have decided on stopping my earsif Rachelhad not encouraged me to keep them openby answering himin thefirst sensible words I had ever heard fall from her lips.

"Godfrey!"she said"you must be mad!"

"Inever spoke more reasonablydearest--in your interestsas well asin mine.  Look for a moment to the future.  Is yourhappinessto be sacrificed to a man who has never known how youfeeltowards himand whom you are resolved never to see again?Is it notyour duty to yourself to forget this ill-fated attachment?and isforgetfulness to be found in the life you are leading now?You havetried that lifeand you are wearying of it already.Surroundyourself with nobler interests than the wretched interestsof theworld.  A heart that loves and honours you; a home whosepeacefulclaims and happy duties win gently on you day by day--try theconsolationRachelwhich is to be found THERE!I don'task for your love--I will be content with your affectionandregard.  Let the rest be leftconfidently leftto yourhusband'sdevotionand to Time that heals even wounds as deepas yours."

She beganto yield already.  Ohwhat a bringing-up she must have had!Ohhowdifferently I should have acted in her place!

"Don'ttempt meGodfrey" she said; "I am wretched enough andreckless enoughas it is. Don't tempt me to be more wretched and more wreckless still!"

"OnequestionRachel.  Have you any personal objection to me?"

"I! I always liked you.  After what you have just said to meI shouldbe insensible indeed if I didn't respect and admire youas well."

"Doyou know many wivesmy dear Rachelwho respect and admiretheirhusbands?  And yet they and their husbands get on very well.How manybrides go to the altar with hearts that would bear inspectionby the menwho take them there?  And yet it doesn't end unhappily--somehow orother the nuptial establishment jogs on.  The truth isthat womentry marriage as a Refugefar more numerously than theyarewilling to admit; andwhat is morethey find that marriage hasjustifiedtheir confidence in it.  Look at your own case once again.At yourageand with your attractionsis it possible for you tosentenceyourself to a single life?  Trust my knowledge of the world--nothing isless possible.  It is merely a question of time.You maymarry some other mansome years hence.  Or you may marrythe mandearestwho is now at your feetand who prizes your respectandadmiration above the love of any other woman on the face oftheearth."

"GentlyGodfrey! you are putting something into my headwhich Inever thought of before.  You are tempting me with anewprospectwhen all my other prospects are closed before me.I tell youagainI am miserable enough and desperate enoughif you sayanother wordto marry you on your own terms.Take thewarningand go!"

"Iwon't even rise from my kneestill you have said yes!"

"If Isay yes you will repentand I shall repentwhen it is too late!"

"Weshall both bless the daydarlingwhen I pressedand when youyielded."

"Doyou feel as confidently as you speak?"

"Youshall judge for yourself.  I speak from what I have seen in myownfamily.  Tell me what you think of our household at Frizinghall.Do myfather and mother live unhappily together?"

"Farfrom it--so far as I can see."

"Whenmy mother was a girlRachel (it is no secret in the family)she hadloved asyou love--she had given her heart to a man who was unworthy of her.Shemarried my fatherrespecting himadmiring himbut nothing more.Your owneyes have seen the result.  Is there no encouragement in it foryouand forme?"

"Youwon't hurry meGodfrey?"

"Mytime shall be yours."

"Youwon't ask me for more than I can give?"

"Myangel!  I only ask you to give me yourself."

"Takeme!"

In thosetwo words she accepted him!

He hadanother burst--a burst of unholy rapture this time.He drewher nearer and nearer to him till her face touched his;andthen--No!  I really cannot prevail upon myself to carry thisshockingdisclosure any farther.  Let me only saythat I tried to closemy eyesbefore it happenedand that I was just one moment too late.I hadcalculatedyou seeon her resisting.  She submitted.To everyright-feeling person of my own sexvolumes could sayno more.

Even myinnocence in such matters began to see its way to the endof theinterview now.  They understood each other so thoroughlyby thistimethat I fully expected to see them walk off togetherarm inarmto be married.  There appearedhoweverjudging byMr.Godfrey's next wordsto be one more trifling formality which itwasnecessary to observe.  He seated himself--unforbidden thistime--on theottoman by her side.  "Shall I speak to your dear mother?"he asked. "Or will you?"

Shedeclined both alternatives.

"Letmy mother hear nothing from either of usuntil she is better.I wish itto be kept a secret for the presentGodfrey.  Go nowand comeback this evening.  We have been here alone together quitelongenough."

She roseand in risinglooked for the first time towards the littleroom inwhich my martyrdom was going on.

"Whohas drawn those curtains?" she exclaimed.

"Theroom is close enoughas it iswithout keeping the air out of itin thatway."

Sheadvanced to the curtains.  At the moment when she laid her handon them--at themoment when the discovery of me appeared to be quite inevitable--the voiceof the fresh-coloured young footmanon the stairssuddenlysuspended any further proceedings on her side or on mine.It wasunmistakably the voice of a man in great alarm.

"MissRachel!" he called out"where are youMiss Rachel?"

She sprangback from the curtainsand ran to the door.

Thefootman came just inside the room.  His ruddy colour was allgone.He said"Please to come down-stairsMiss!  My lady has faintedand wecan'tbring her to again."

In amoment more I was aloneand free to go down-stairs in my turnquiteunobserved.

Mr.Godfrey passed me in the hallhurrying outto fetch the doctor."Goinand help them!" he saidpointing to the room.  I foundRachelon herknees by the sofawith her mother's head on her bosom.One lookat my aunt's face (knowing what I knew) was enough to warn me ofthedreadful truth.  I kept my thoughts to myself till the doctorcame in.It was notlong before he arrived.  He began by sending Rachel out oftheroom--and then he told the rest of us that Lady Verinder was no more.Seriouspersonsin search of proofs of hardened scepticismmay beinterestedin hearing that he showed no signs of remorse when he lookedat Me.

At a laterhour I peeped into the breakfast-roomand the library.My aunthad died without opening one of the letters which I had addressedto her. I was so shocked at thisthat it never occurred to meuntil somedays afterwardsthat she had also died without giving me mylittlelegacy.

 

CHAPTER VI

(1.) "MissClack presents her compliments to Mr. Franklin Blake;andinsending him the fifth chapter of her humble narrativebegs tosay that she feels quite unequal to enlarge as shecould wishon an event so awfulunder the circumstancesas LadyVerinder's death.  She hasthereforeattached to herownmanuscriptscopious Extracts from precious publicationsin herpossessionall bearing on this terrible subject.And maythose Extracts (Miss Clack fervently hopes) sound asthe blastof a trumpet in the ears of her respected kinsmanMr.Franklin Blake."

(2.) "Mr.Franklin Blake presents his compliments to Miss Clackand begsto thank her for the fifth chapter of her narrative.Inreturning the extracts sent with ithe will refrain frommentioningany personal objection which he may entertain to thisspecies ofliteratureand will merely say that the proposedadditionsto the manuscript are not necessary to the fulfilmentof thepurpose that he has in view."

(3.) "MissClack begs to acknowledge the return of her Extracts.Sheaffectionately reminds Mr. Franklin Blake that she is a Christianand thatit isthereforequite impossible for him to offend her.Miss C.persists in feeling the deepest interest in Mr. Blakeandpledges herselfon the first occasion when sickness may layhim lowto offer him the use of her Extracts for the second time.In themeanwhile she would be glad to knowbefore beginningthe finalchapters of her narrativewhether she may be permittedto makeher humble contribution completeby availing herselfof thelight which later discoveries have thrown on the mystery oftheMoonstone."

(4.) "Mr.Franklin Blake is sorry to disappoint Miss Clack.He canonly repeat the instructions which he had the honourof givingher when she began her narrative.  She is requestedto limitherself to her own individual experience of personsandeventsas recorded in her diary.  Later discoveries shewill begood enough to leave to the pens of those personswho canwrite in the capacity of actual witnesses."

(5.) "MissClack is extremely sorry to trouble Mr. Franklin Blake withanotherletter.  Her Extracts have been returnedand the expressionof hermatured views on the subject of the Moonstone has been forbidden.Miss Clackis painfully conscious that she ought (in the worldly phrase)to feelherself put down.  Butno--Miss C. has learnt Perseverancein theSchool of Adversity.  Her object in writing is to know whetherMr. Blake(who prohibits everything else) prohibits the appearance ofthepresent correspondence in Miss Clack's narrative?  Someexplanationof theposition in which Mr. Blake's interference has placed her asanauthoressseems due on the ground of common justice.  And MissClackon hersideis most anxious that her letters should be produced to speakforthemselves."

(6.) "Mr.Franklin Blake agrees to Miss Clack's proposalon theunderstanding that she will kindly consider this intimationof hisconsent as closing the correspondence between them."

(7.) "MissClack feels it an act of Christian duty(beforethe correspondence closes) to inform Mr. FranklinBlake thathis last letter--evidently intended to offend her--has notsucceeded in accomplishing the object of the writer.Sheaffectionately requests Mr. Blake to retire to the privacyof his ownroomand to consider with himself whether the trainingwhich canthus elevate a poor weak woman above the reach of insultbe notworthy of greater admiration than he is now disposed to feelfor it. On being favoured with an intimation to that effectMiss C.solemnly pledges herself to send back the completeseries ofher Extracts to Mr. Franklin Blake."

[To thisletter no answer was received.  Comment is needless.

(Signed)DRUSILLA CLACK.]

 

CHAPTERVII

Theforegoing correspondence will sufficiently explain why no choice isleftto me butto pass over Lady Verinder's death with the simple announcementof thefact which ends my fifth chapter.

Keepingmyself for the future strictly within the limits of my ownpersonalexperienceI have next to relate that a month elapsed fromthe timeof my aunt's decease before Rachel Verinder and I met again.Thatmeeting was the occasion of my spending a few days under the sameroof withher.  In the course of my visitsomething happenedrelativeto her marriage-engagement with Mr. Godfrey Ablewhitewhich isimportant enough to require special notice in these pages.When thislast of many painful family circumstances has been disclosedmy taskwill be completed; for I shall then have told all that I knowas anactual (and most unwilling) witness of events.

My aunt'sremains were removed from Londonand were buriedin thelittle cemetery attached to the church in her own park.I wasinvited to the funeral with the rest of the family.But it wasimpossible (with my religious views) to rouse myselfin a fewdays only from the shock which this death had caused me.I wasinformedmoreoverthat the rector of Frizinghallwas toread the service.  Having myself in past times seenthisclerical castaway making one of the players at LadyVerinder'swhist-tableI doubteven if I had been fitto travelwhether I should have felt justified in attendingtheceremony.

LadyVerinder's death left her daughter under the care of herbrother-in-lawMr. Ablewhite the elder.  He was appointedguardianby the willuntil his niece marriedor came of age.Underthese circumstancesMr. Godfrey informed his fatherI supposeof the new relation in which he stood towards Rachel.At anyratein ten days from my aunt's deaththe secret ofthemarriage-engagement was no secret at all within the circleof thefamilyand the grand question for Mr. Ablewhite senior--anotherconfirmed castaway!--was how to make himself and his authoritymostagreeable to the wealthy young lady who was going to marryhis son.

Rachelgave him some trouble at the outsetabout the choiceof a placein which she could be prevailed upon to reside.The housein Montagu Square was associated with the calamityof hermother's death.  The house in Yorkshire was associated withthescandalous affair of the lost Moonstone.  Her guardian's ownresidenceat Frizinghall was open to neither of these objections.ButRachel's presence in itafter her recent bereavementoperatedas a check on the gaieties of her cousinsthe MissAblewhites--and she herself requested that hervisitmight be deferred to a more favourable opportunity.It endedin a proposalemanating from old Mr. Ablewhiteto tryafurnished house at Brighton.  His wifean invalid daughterand Rachelwere to inhabit it togetherand were to expect himto jointhem later in the season.  They would see no societybut a fewold friendsand they would have his son Godfreytravellingbackwards and forwards by the London trainalways attheirdisposal.

I describethis aimless flitting about from one place of residencetoanother--this insatiate restlessness of body and appallingstagnationof soul--merely with the view to arriving at results.The eventwhich (under Providence) proved to be the means of bringingRachelVerinder and myself together againwas no other than the hiringof thehouse at Brighton.

My AuntAblewhite is a largesilentfair-complexioned womanwith onenoteworthy point in her character.  From the hour ofher birthshe has never been known to do anything for herself.She hasgone through lifeaccepting everybody's helpand adoptingeverybody'sopinions.  A more hopeless personin a spiritualpoint ofviewI have never met with--there is absolutelyin thisperplexingcaseno obstructive material to work upon.  Aunt Ablewhitewouldlisten to the Grand Lama of Thibet exactly as she listens to Meand wouldreflect his views quite as readily as she reflects mine.She foundthe furnished house at Brighton by stopping at an hotelin Londoncomposing herself on a sofaand sending for her son.Shediscovered the necessary servants by breakfasting in bed one morning(still atthe hotel)and giving her maid a holiday on conditionthat thegirl "would begin enjoying herself by fetching Miss Clack."I foundher placidly fanning herself in her dressing-gown at eleveno'clock."DrusilladearI want some servants.  You are so clever--please getthem for me."  I looked round the untidy room.Thechurch-bells were going for a week-day service; they suggesteda word ofaffectionate remonstrance on my part.  "Ohaunt!"I saidsadly.  "Is THIS worthy of a Christian Englishwoman?Is thepassage from time to eternity to be made in THIS manner?"My auntanswered"I'll put on my gownDrusillaif you willbe kindenough to help me."  What was to be said after that?I havedone wonders with murderesses--I have never advanced an inchwith AuntAblewhite.  "Where is the list" I asked"of theservantswhom yourequire?"  My aunt shook her head; she hadn't even energyenough tokeep the list.  "Rachel has got itdear" she said"inthe next room."  I went into the next roomand so sawRachelagain for the first time since we had parted in MontaguSquare.

She lookedpitiably small and thin in her deep mourning.If Iattached any serious importance to such a perishabletrifle aspersonal appearanceI might be inclined to addthat herswas one of those unfortunate complexions which alwayssufferwhen not relieved by a border of white next the skin.But whatare our complexions and our looks?  Hindrances and pitfallsdeargirlswhich beset us on our way to higher things!Greatly tomy surpriseRachel rose when I entered the roomand cameforward tomeet me with outstretched hand.

"I amglad to see you" she said.  "DrusillaI have been inthe habitofspeaking very foolishly and very rudely to youon former occasions.I beg yourpardon.  I hope you will forgive me."

My faceIsupposebetrayed the astonishment I felt at this.Shecoloured up for a momentand then proceeded to explain herself.

"Inmy poor mother's lifetime" she went on"her friendswere notalways my friendstoo.  Now I have lost hermy heartturns forcomfort to the people she liked.  She liked you.Try to befriends with meDrusillaif you can."

To anyrightly-constituted mindthe motive thus acknowledged wassimplyshocking.  Here in Christian England was a young woman in astateofbereavementwith so little idea of where to look for true comfortthat sheactually expected to find it among her mother's friends!Here was arelative of mineawakened to a sense of her shortcomingstowardsothersunder the influencenot of conviction and dutybut ofsentimentand impulse!  Most deplorable to think of--butstillsuggestive ofsomethinghopefulto a person of my experience in plying the good work.Therecould be no harmI thoughtin ascertaining the extent of the changewhich theloss of her mother had wrought in Rachel's character.  Idecidedas auseful testto probe her on the subject of her marriage-engagementto Mr.Godfrey Ablewhite.

Havingfirst met her advances with all possible cordialityI sat byher on the sofaat her own request.  We discussedfamilyaffairs and future plans--always excepting that one futureplan whichwas to end in her marriage.  Try as I might to turntheconversation that wayshe resolutely declined to take the hint.Any openreference to the questionon my partwould have beenprematureat this early stage of our reconciliation.  BesidesI haddiscoveredall I wanted to know.  She was no longer the recklessdefiantcreature whom I had heard and seenon the occasionof mymartyrdom in Montagu Square.  This wasof itselfenough toencourage me to take her future conversion in hand--beginningwith a few words of earnest warning directed against the hastyformationof the marriage tieand so getting on to higher things.Looking athernowwith this new interest--and calling to mindtheheadlong suddenness with which she had met Mr. Godfrey'smatrimonialviews--I felt the solemn duty of interfering with afervourwhich assured me that I should achieve no common results.Rapidityof proceeding wasas I believedof importance in this case.I wentback at once to the question of the servants wanted for thefurnishedhouse.

"Whereis the listdear?"

Rachelproduced it.

"Cookkitchen-maidhousemaidand footman" I read.My dearRachelthese servants are only wanted for a term--the termduring which your guardian has taken the house.We shallhave great difficulty in finding persons of characterandcapacity to accept a temporary engagement of that sortif we tryin London.  Has the house in Brighton beenfoundyet?"

"Yes. Godfrey has taken it; and persons in the house wanted himto hirethem as servants.  He thought they would hardly do for usand cameback having settled nothing."

"Andyou have no experience yourself in these mattersRachel?"

"Nonewhatever."

"AndAunt Ablewhite won't exert herself?"

"Nopoor dear.  Don't blame herDrusilla.  I think she is theonly reallyhappywoman I have ever met with."

"Thereare degrees in happinessdarling.  We must have a little talksome dayon that subject.  In the meantime I will undertake to meetthedifficulty about the servants.  Your aunt will write a letterto thepeople of the house----"

"Shewill sign a letterif I write it for herwhich comesto thesame thing."

"Quitethe same thing.  I shall get the letterand I will gotoBrighton to-morrow."

"Howextremely kind of you!  We will join you as soon as youare readyfor us.  And you will stayI hopeas my guest.Brightonis so lively; you are sure to enjoy it."

In thosewords the invitation was givenand the glorious prospectofinterference was opened before me.

It wasthen the middle of the week.  By Saturday afternoonthe housewas ready for them.  In that short interval I had siftednot thecharacters onlybut the religious views as wellof all thedisengaged servants who applied to meand hadsucceededin making a selection which my conscience approved.I alsodiscoveredand called on two serious friends of mineresidentsin the townto whom I knew I could confide the piousobjectwhich had brought me to Brighton.  One of them--a clericalfriend--kindly helped me to take sittings for ourlittleparty in the church in which he himself ministered.Theother--a single ladylike myself--placed the resourcesof herlibrary (composed throughout of precious publications)entirelyat my disposal.  I borrowed half-a-dozen worksallcarefully chosen with a view to Rachel.  When these had beenjudiciouslydistributed in the various rooms she would be likelyto occupyI considered that my preparations were complete.Sounddoctrine in the servants who waited on her;sounddoctrine in the minister who preached to her; sound doctrinein thebooks that lay on her table--such was the treblewelcomewhich my zeal had prepared for the motherless girl!A heavenlycomposure filled my mindon that Saturday afternoonas I satat the window waiting the arrival of my relatives.The giddythrong passed and repassed before my eyes.Alas! howmany of them felt my exquisite sense of duty done?An awfulquestion.  Let us not pursue it.

Betweensix and seven the travellers arrived.  To my indescribablesurprisethey wereescortednot by Mr. Godfrey (as I had anticipated)but bythelawyerMr. Bruff.

"Howdo you doMiss Clack?" he said.  "I mean to stay thistime."

Thatreference to the occasion on which I had obliged himtopostpone his business to minewhen we were both visitingin MontaguSquaresatisfied me that the old worldlinghad cometo Brighton with some object of his own in view.I hadprepared quite a little Paradise for my beloved Rachel--and herewas the Serpent already!

"Godfreywas very much vexedDrusillanot to be able to come with us"said myAunt Ablewhite.  "There was something in the way which kepthimin town. Mr. Bruff volunteered to take his placeand make a holiday of ittillMonday morning.  By-the-byMr. BruffI'm ordered to takeexerciseand Idon't like it.  That" added Aunt Ablewhitepointing outofwindow toan invalid going by in a chair on wheelsdrawn by a man"ismy idea of exercise.  If it's air you wantyou get it in yourchair.And ifit's fatigue you wantI am sure it's fatigue enough to look atthe man."

Rachelstood silentat a window by herselfwith her eyes fixed on the sea.

"Tiredlove?"  I inquired.

"No.Only a little out of spirits" she answered.  "I haveoftenseen theseaon our Yorkshire coastwith that light on it.And I wasthinkingDrusillaof the days that can nevercomeagain."

Mr. Bruffremained to dinnerand stayed through the evening.The more Isaw of himthe more certain I felt that he had someprivateend to serve in coming to Brighton.  I watched him carefully.Hemaintained the same appearance of easeand talked the samegodlessgossiphour after houruntil it was time to take leave.As heshook hands with RachelI caught his hard and cunning eyesresting onher for a moment with a peculiar interest and attention.She wasplainly concerned in the object that he had in view.He saidnothing out of the common to her or to anyone on leaving.He invitedhimself to luncheon the next dayand then he went away tohis hotel.

It wasimpossible the next morning to get my Aunt Ablewhite outof herdressing-gown in time for church.  Her invalid daughter(sufferingfrom nothingin my opinionbut incurable lazinessinheritedfrom her mother) announced that she meant to remainin bed forthe day.  Rachel and I went alone together to church.Amagnificent sermon was preached by my gifted friend on the heathenindifferenceof the world to the sinfulness of little sins.For morethan an hour his eloquence (assisted by his glorious voice)thunderedthrough the sacred edifice.  I said to Rachelwhen we came out"Hasit found its way to your heartdear?"  And she answered"No;it has only made my head ache."  This might have beendiscouragingto somepeople; butonce embarked on a career of manifest usefulnessnothingdiscourages Me.

We foundAunt Ablewhite and Mr. Bruff at luncheon.  When Racheldeclinedeating anythingand gave as a reason for it that shewassuffering from a headachethe lawyer's cunning instantly sawandseizedthe chance that she had given him.

"Thereis only one remedy for a headache" said this horrible old man."AwalkMiss Rachelis the thing to cure you.  I am entirely atyourserviceif you will honour me by accepting my arm."

"Withthe greatest pleasure.  A walk is the very thing I was longingfor."

"It'spast two" I gently suggested.  "And the afternoonserviceRachelbegins at three."

"Howcan you expect me to go to church again" she askedpetulantly"withsuch a headache as mine?"

Mr. Bruffofficiously opened the door for her.  In another minutemore theywere both out of the house.  I don't know when I have feltthe solemnduty of interfering so strongly as I felt it at that moment.But whatwas to be done?  Nothing was to be done but to interfere atthe firstopportunitylater in the day.

On myreturn from the afternoon service I found that they had just gotback.One lookat them told me that the lawyer had said what he wanted to say.I hadnever before seen Rachel so silent and so thoughtful.I hadnever before seen Mr. Bruff pay her such devoted attentionand lookat her with such marked respect.  He had (or pretended that hehad)anengagement to dinner that day--and he took an early leave of us all;intendingto go back to London by the first train the next morning.

"Areyou sure of your own resolution?" he said to Rachel at the door.

"Quitesure" she answered--and so they parted.

The momenthis back was turnedRachel withdrew to her own room.She neverappeared at dinner.  Her maid (the person with the cap-ribbons)was sentdown-stairs to announce that her headache had returned.I ran upto her and made all sorts of sisterly offers through the door.It waslockedand she kept it locked.  Plenty of obstructive materialto work onhere!  I felt greatly cheered and stimulated by her lockingthe door.

When hercup of tea went up to her the next morningI followedit in. I sat by her bedside and said a few earnest words.Shelistened with languid civility.  I noticed my serious friend'spreciouspublications huddled together on a table in a corner.Had shechanced to look into them?--I asked.  Yes--and theyhad notinterested her.  Would she allow me to read a fewpassagesof the deepest interestwhich had probably escapedher eye? Nonot now--she had other things to think of.She gavethese answerswith her attention apparently absorbedin foldingand refolding the frilling on her nightgown.  It wasplainlynecessary to rouse her by some reference to those worldlyinterestswhich she still had at heart.

"Doyou knowlove" I said"I had an odd fancyyesterdayabout Mr. Bruff?I thoughtwhen I saw you after your walk with himthat he had been tellingyou somebad news."

Herfingers dropped from the frilling of her nightgownand herfierce black eyes flashed at me.

"Quitethe contrary!" she said.  "It was news I wasinterested in hearing--and I amdeeply indebted to Mr. Bruff for telling me of it."

"Yes?" I saidin a tone of gentle interest.

Herfingers went back to the frillingand she turned herheadsullenly away from me.  I had been met in this mannerin thecourse of plying the good workhundreds of times.She merelystimulated me to try again.  In my dauntless zealfor herwelfareI ran the great riskand openly alluded to hermarriageengagement.

"Newsyou were interested in hearing?"  I repeated.  "Isupposemy dearRachelthat must be news of Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite?"

Shestarted up in the bedand turned deadly pale.  It was evidentlyon the tipof her tongue to retort on me with the unbridled insolenceof formertimes.  She checked herself--laid her head back on the pillow--considereda minute--and then answered in these remarkable words:

"ISHALL NEVER MARRY MR.  GODFREY ABLEWHITE."

It was myturn to start at that.

"Whatcan you possibly mean?"  I exclaimed.  "Themarriageisconsidered by the whole family as a settled thing!"

"Mr.Godfrey Ablewhite is expected here to-day" she said doggedly."Waittill he comes--and you will see."

"Butmy dear Rachel----"

She rangthe bell at the head of her bed.  The personwith thecap-ribbons appeared.

"Penelope!my bath."

Let megive her her due.  In the state of my feelings at that momentI dosincerely believe that she had hit on the only possible wayof forcingme to leave the room.

By themere worldly mind my position towards Rachel might havebeenviewed as presenting difficulties of no ordinary kind.I hadreckoned on leading her to higher things by means of alittleearnest exhortation on the subject of her marriage.And nowif she was to be believedno such event as her marriagewas totake place at all.  But ahmy friends! a working Christianof myexperience (with an evangelising prospect before her)takesbroader views than these.  Supposing Rachel really brokeoff themarriageon which the Ablewhitesfather and soncounted asa settled thingwhat would be the result?It couldonly endif she held firmin an exchanging of hardwords andbitter accusations on both sides.  And what wouldbe theeffect on Rachel when the stormy interview was over?A salutarymoral depression would be the effect.  Her pridewould beexhaustedher stubbornness would be exhaustedby theresolute resistance which it was in her characterto makeunder the circumstances.  She would turn forsympathyto the nearest person who had sympathy to offer.And I wasthat nearest person--brimful of comfortcharged tooverflowingwith seasonable and reviving words.  Never hadtheevangelising prospect looked brighterto my eyesthan itlookednow.

She camedown to breakfastbut she ate nothingand hardly uttered a word.

Afterbreakfast she wandered listlessly from room to room--thensuddenly roused herselfand opened the piano.The musicshe selected to play was of the most scandalouslyprofanesortassociated with performances on the stagewhich itcurdles one's blood to think of.  It would have beenprematureto interfere with her at such a time as this.Iprivately ascertained the hour at which Mr. Godfrey Ablewhitewasexpectedand then I escaped the music by leavingthe house.

Being outaloneI took the opportunity of calling upon mytworesident friends.  It was an indescribable luxury to findmyselfindulging in earnest conversation with serious persons.Infinitelyencouraged and refreshedI turned my steps backagain tothe housein excellent time to await the arrivalof ourexpected visitor.  I entered the dining-roomalwaysempty atthat hour of the dayand found myself face to facewith Mr.Godfrey Ablewhite!

He made noattempt to fly the place.  Quite the contrary.Headvanced to meet me with the utmost eagerness.

"DearMiss ClackI have been only waiting to see you!Chance setme free of my London engagements to-day soonerthan I hadexpectedand I have got herein consequenceearlierthan my appointed time."

Not theslightest embarrassment encumbered his explanationthough thiswas hisfirst meeting with me after the scene in Montagu Square.He was notawareit is trueof my having been a witness of that scene.But heknewon the other handthat my attendances at the Mothers'Small-Clothesand my relations with friends attached to other charitiesmust haveinformed me of his shameless neglect of his Ladies and of his Poor.And yetthere he was before mein full possession of his charming voice andhisirresistible smile!

"Haveyou seen Rachel yet?"  I asked.

He sighedgentlyand took me by the hand.  I should certainly havesnatchedmy handawayif the manner in which he gave his answer had not paralysed mewithastonishment.

"Ihave seen Rachel" he said with perfect tranquillity."Youare awaredear friendthat she was engaged to me?Wellshehas taken a sudden resolution to break the engagement.Reflectionhas convinced her that she will best consult herwelfareand mine by retracting a rash promiseand leaving mefree tomake some happier choice elsewhere.  That is the onlyreason shewill giveand the only answer she will make to everyquestionthat I can ask of her."

"Whathave you done on your side?"  I inquired.  "Haveyou submitted."

"Yes"he said with the most unruffled composure"I have submitted."

Hisconductunder the circumstanceswas so utterly inconceivablethat Istood bewildered with my hand in his.  It is a piece of rudenessto stareat anybodyand it is an act of indelicacy to stare at a gentleman.Icommitted both those improprieties.  And I saidas if in adream"Whatdoes it mean?"

"Permitme to tell you" he replied.  "And suppose we sitdown?"

He led meto a chair.  I have an indistinct remembrance that he wasveryaffectionate.  I don't think he put his arm round my waistto supportme--but I am not sure.  I was quite helplessand hisways withladies were very endearing.  At any ratewe sat down.I cananswer for thatif I can answer for nothing more.

 

CHAPTERVIII

"Ihave lost a beautiful girlan excellent social positionand ahandsome income" Mr. Godfrey began; "and I havesubmittedto it without a struggle.  What can be the motivefor suchextraordinary conduct as that?  My precious friendthere isno motive."

"Nomotive?"  I repeated.

"Letme appealmy dear Miss Clackto your experience of children"he wenton.  "A child pursues a certain course of conduct.You aregreatly struck by itand you attempt to get at the motive.The dearlittle thing is incapable of telling you its motive.You mightas well ask the grass why it growsor the birdswhy theysing.  Well! in this matterI am like the dearlittlething--like the grass--like the birds.  I don'tknow why Imade a proposal of marriage to Miss Verinder.I don'tknow why I have shamefully neglected my dear Ladies.I don'tknow why I have apostatised from the Mothers'Small-Clothes.You say to the childWhy have you been naughty?And thelittle angel puts its finger into its mouthanddoesn't know.  My case exactlyMiss Clack!  I couldn'tconfess itto anybody else.  I feel impelled to confess it toYOU!"

I began torecover myself.  A mental problem was involved here.I amdeeply interested in mental problems--and I am notit isthoughtwithout some skill in solving them.

"Bestof friendsexert your intellectand help me" he proceeded."Tellme--why does a time come when these matrimonial proceedingsof minebegin to look like something done in a dream?Why doesit suddenly occur to me that my true happiness is inhelping mydear Ladiesin going my modest round of useful workin sayingmy few earnest words when called on by my Chairman?What do Iwant with a position?  I have got a position?What do Iwant with an income?  I can pay for my bread and cheeseand mynice little lodgingand my two coats a year.What do Iwant with Miss Verinder?  She has told me with herown lips(thisdear ladyis between ourselves) that shelovesanother manand that her only idea in marrying me isto try andput that other man out of her head.  What a horridunion isthis!  Ohdear mewhat a horrid union is this!Such aremy reflectionsMiss Clackon my way to Brighton.I approachRachel with the feeling of a criminal who is going toreceivehis sentence.  When I find that she has changed her mind too--when Ihear her propose to break the engagement--I experience(there isno sort of doubt about it) a most overpoweringsense ofrelief.  A month ago I was pressing her rapturouslyto mybosom.  An hour agothe happiness of knowing that I shallneverpress her againintoxicates me like strong liquor.The thingseems impossible--the thing can't be.And yetthere are the factsas I had the honour of statingthem whenwe first sat down together in these two chairs.I havelost a beautiful girlan excellent social positionand ahandsome income; and I have submitted to it without a struggle.Can youaccount for itdear friend?  It's quite beyondME."

Hismagnificent head sank on his breastand he gave up his own mentalproblem indespair.

I wasdeeply touched.  The case (if I may speak as a spiritualphysician)was nowquite plain to me.  It is no uncommon eventin the experienceof us allto see the possessors of exalted ability occasionally humbledto thelevel of the most poorly-gifted people about them.  The objectno doubtin the wise economy of Providenceis to remind greatness that itis mortaland that the power which has conferred it can also take it away.It wasnow--to my mind--easy to discern one of these salutary humiliationsin thedeplorable proceedings on dear Mr. Godfrey's partof which I hadbeen theunseen witness.  And it was equally easy to recognise thewelcomereappearanceof his own finer nature in the horror with which he recoiledfrom theidea of a marriage with Racheland in the charming eagerness whichhe showedto return to his Ladies and his Poor.

I put thisview before him in a few simple and sisterly words.His joywas beautiful to see.  He compared himselfas I went onto a lostman emerging from the darkness into the light.When Ianswered for a loving reception of him at the Mothers'Small-Clothesthe grateful heart of our Christian Hero overflowed.He pressedmy hands alternately to his lips.  Overwhelmed bytheexquisite triumph of having got him back among usI let himdo what heliked with my hands.  I closed my eyes.  I felt my headin anecstasy of spiritual self-forgetfulnesssinking on his shoulder.In amoment more I should certainly have swooned away in his armsbut for aninterruption from the outer worldwhich brought meto myselfagain.  A horrid rattling of knives and forks soundedoutsidethe doorand the footman came in to lay the tableforluncheon.

Mr.Godfrey started upand looked at the clock on the mantelpiece.

"Howtime flies with YOU!" he exclaimed.  "I shall barelycatch the train."

I venturedon asking why he was in such a hurry to get back to town.His answerreminded me of family difficulties that were stillto bereconciledand of family disagreements that were yetto come.

"Ihave heard from my father" he said.  "Businessobligeshim toleave Frizinghall for London to-dayand he proposescoming onhereeither this evening or to-morrow. I must tellhim whathas happened between Rachel and me.  His heart isset on ourmarriage--there will be great difficultyI fearinreconciling him to the breaking-off of the engagement.I muststop himfor all our sakesfrom coming here tillhe ISreconciled.  Best and dearest of friendswe shallmeetagain!"

With thosewords he hurried out.  In equal haste on my sideI ranupstairs to compose myself in my own room before meetingAuntAblewhite and Rachel at the luncheon-table.

I am wellaware--to dwell for a moment yet on the subject of Mr. Godfrey--that theall-profaning opinion of the world has charged him with havinghis ownprivate reasons for releasing Rachel from her engagementat thefirst opportunity she gave him.  It has also reached my earsthat hisanxiety to recover his place in my estimation has been attributedin certainquartersto a mercenary eagerness to make his peace (through me)with avenerable committee-woman at the Mothers' Small-Clothesabundantlyblessedwith the goods of this worldand a beloved and intimatefriend ofmy own.  I only notice these odious slanders for the sakeofdeclaring that they never had a moment's influence on my mind.Inobedience to my instructionsI have exhibited the fluctuations in myopinion ofour Christian Heroexactly as I find them recorded in my diary.In justiceto myselflet me here add thatonce reinstated in hisplace inmy estimationmy gifted friend never lost that place again.I writewith the tears in my eyesburning to say more.  But no--I amcruelly limited to my actual experience of persons and things.In lessthan a month from the time of which I am now writingevents inthemoney-market (which diminished even my miserable little income)forced meintoforeign exileand left me with nothing but a loving remembranceof Mr.Godfrey which the slander of the world has assailedand assailedin vain.

Let me drymy eyesand return to my narrative.

I wentdownstairs to luncheonnaturally anxious to see how Rachelwasaffected by her release from her marriage engagement.

Itappeared to me--but I own I am a poor authority in such matters--that therecovery of her freedom had set her thinking again of that otherman whomshe lovedand that she was furious with herself for not beingable tocontrol a revulsion of feeling of which she was secretly ashamed.Who wasthe man?  I had my suspicions--but it was needless to waste timein idlespeculation.  When I had converted hershe wouldas a matterof coursehave no concealments from Me.  I should hear all about the man;I shouldhear all about the Moonstone.  If I had had no higher object instirringher up to a sense of spiritual thingsthe motive of relieving hermind ofits guilty secrets would have been enough of itself to encourage meto go on.

AuntAblewhite took her exercise in the afternoon in an invalid chair.Rachelaccompanied her.  "I wish I could drag the chair"she brokeoutrecklessly.  "I wish I could fatigue myself till I wasready todrop."

She was inthe same humour in the evening.  I discovered in oneof myfriend's precious publications--the LifeLettersand Laboursof MissJane Ann Stamperforty-fourth edition--passages which borewith amarvellous appropriateness on Rachel's present position.Upon myproposing to read themshe went to the piano.Conceivehow little she must have known of serious peopleif shesupposed that my patience was to be exhausted in that way!I keptMiss Jane Ann Stamper by meand waited for events with the mostunfalteringtrust in the future.

Old Mr.Ablewhite never made his appearance that night.But I knewthe importance which his worldly greed attached to hisson'smarriage with Miss Verinder--and I felt a positive conviction(do whatMr. Godfrey might to prevent it) that we should seehim thenext day.  With his interference in the matterthe stormon which I had counted would certainly comeand thesalutary exhaustion of Rachel's resisting powers wouldascertainly follow.  I am not ignorant that old Mr. Ablewhitehas thereputation generally (especially among his inferiors)of being aremarkably good-natured man.  According to my observationof himhedeserves his reputation as long as he has his own wayand not amoment longer.

The nextdayexactly as I had foreseenAunt Ablewhitewas asnear to being astonished as her nature would permitby thesudden appearance of her husband.  He had barely beena minutein the housebefore he was followedto MY astonishmentthis timeby an unexpected complication in the shape of Mr. Bruff.

I neverremember feeling the presence of the lawyer to bemoreunwelcome than I felt it at that moment.  He lookedready foranything in the way of an obstructive proceeding--capableeven of keeping the peace with Rachel for one ofthecombatants!

"Thisis a pleasant surprisesir" said Mr. Ablewhiteaddressinghimself with his deceptive cordiality to Mr. Bruff."WhenI left your office yesterdayI didn't expect to havethe honourof seeing you at Brighton to-day."

"Iturned over our conversation in my mindafter you had gone"repliedMr. Bruff.  "And it occurred to me that I might perhaps beof someuse on this occasion.  I was just in time to catch the trainand I hadno opportunity of discovering the carriage in which youweretravelling."

Havinggiven that explanationhe seated himself by Rachel.I retiredmodestly to a corner--with Miss Jane Ann Stamperon my lapin case of emergency.  My aunt sat at the window;placidlyfanning herself as usual.  Mr. Ablewhite stood upin themiddle of the roomwith his bald head much pinker than Ihad everseen it yetand addressed himself in the most affectionatemanner tohis niece.

"Rachelmy dear" he said"I have heard some very extraordinarynews fromGodfrey.  And I am here to inquire about it.You have asitting-room of your own in this house.  Will youhonour meby showing me the way to it?"

Rachelnever moved.  Whether she was determined to bring matters to acrisisor whethershe was prompted by some private sign from Mr. Bruffis more thanI cantell.  She declined doing old Mr. Ablewhite the honour ofconducting himinto hersitting-room.

"Whateveryou wish to say to me" she answered"can be said here--in thepresence of my relativesand in the presence" (she looked atMr. Bruff)"of my mother's trusted old friend."

"Justas you pleasemy dear" said the amiable Mr. Ablewhite.He took achair.  The rest of them looked at his face--as if theyexpected itafter seventy years of worldly trainingto speakthe truth.  I looked at the top of his bald head;havingnoticed on other occasions that the temper which was really inhim had ahabit of registering itself THERE.

"Someweeks ago" pursued the old gentleman"my son informed methatMissVerinder had done him the honour to engage herself to marry him.Is itpossibleRachelthat he can have misinterpreted--or presumed upon--what youreally said to him?"

"Certainlynot" she replied.  "I did engage myself to marryhim."

"Veryfrankly answered!" said Mr. Ablewhite.  "And mostsatisfactorymy dearso far.  In respect to what happened some weeks sinceGodfreyhasmade nomistake.  The error is evidently in what he told me yesterday.I begin tosee it now.  You and he have had a lovers' quarrel--and myfoolishson hasinterpreted it seriously.  Ah!  I should have known betterthan thatat hisage."

The fallennature in Rachel--the mother Eveso to speak--began tochafe at this.

"Praylet us understand each otherMr. Ablewhite" she said."Nothingin the least like a quarrel took place yesterdaybetweenyour son and me.  If he told you that I proposed breakingoff ourmarriage engagementand that he agreed on his side--he toldyou the truth."

Theself-registering thermometer at the top of Mr. Ablewhite's bald headbegan toindicate a rise of temper.  His face was more amiable thanever--but THEREwas the pink at the top of his facea shade deeper already!

"Comecomemy dear!" he saidin his most soothing manner"nowdon't be angryand don't be hard on poor Godfrey!He hasevidently said some unfortunate thing.  He was always clumsyfrom achild--but he means wellRachelhe means well!"

"Mr.AblewhiteI have either expressed myself very badlyor you arepurposely mistaking me.  Once for allit isa settledthing between your son and myself that we remainfor therest of our livescousins and nothing more.Is thatplain enough?"

The tonein which she said those words made it impossibleeven forold Mr. Ablewhiteto mistake her any longer.Histhermometer went up another degreeand his voice whenhe nextspokeceased to be the voice which is appropriate to anotoriouslygood-natured man.

"I amto understandthen" he said"that your marriageengagementis brokenoff?"

"Youare to understand thatMr. Ablewhiteif you please."

"I amalso to take it as a matter of fact that the proposaltowithdraw from the engagement camein the first instancefrom YOU?"

"Itcamein the first instancefrom me.  And it metas I havetold youwith yourson's consent and approval."

Thethermometer went up to the top of the register.  I meanthe pinkchanged suddenly to scarlet.

"Myson is a mean-spirited hound!" cried this furious old worldling."Injustice to myself as his father--not in justice to HIM--I beg toask youMiss Verinderwhat complaint you have to make ofMr.Godfrey Ablewhite?"

Here Mr.Bruff interfered for the first time.

"Youare not bound to answer that question" he said to Rachel.

Old Mr.Ablewhite fastened on him instantly.

"Don'tforgetsir" he said"that you are a self-invited guesthere.Yourinterference would have come with a better grace if you had waiteduntilit wasasked for."

Mr. Brufftook no notice.  The smooth varnish on HIS wickedold facenever cracked.  Rachel thanked him for the advicehe hadgiven to herand then turned to old Mr. Ablewhite--preservingher composure in a manner which (having regard to herage andher sex) was simply awful to see.

"Yourson put the same question to me which you have just asked" shesaid."Ihad only one answer for himand I have only one answer for you.I proposedthat we should release each otherbecause reflection hadconvincedme that I should best consult his welfare and mine by retracting arashpromiseand leaving him free to make his choice elsewhere."

"Whathas my son done?" persisted Mr. Ablewhite.  "I have arightto knowthat.  What has my son done?"

Shepersisted just as obstinately on her side.

"Youhave had the only explanation which I think it necessary to give toyouor tohim" she answered.

"Inplain Englishit's your sovereign will and pleasureMiss Verinderto jilt myson?"

Rachel wassilent for a moment.  Sitting close behind herI heard hersigh.Mr. Brufftook her handand gave it a little squeeze.  She recoveredherselfandanswered Mr. Ablewhite as boldly as ever.

"Ihave exposed myself to worse misconstruction than that"she said. "And I have borne it patiently.  The time has gone bywhen youcould mortify me by calling me a jilt."

She spokewith a bitterness of tone which satisfied me that the scandalof theMoonstone had been in some way recalled to her mind."Ihave no more to say" she addedwearilynot addressingthe wordsto anyone in particularand looking away from us allout of thewindow that was nearest to her.

Mr.Ablewhite got upon his feetand pushed away his chair so violentlythat ittoppled over and fell on the floor.

"Ihave something more to say on my side" he announcedbringingdown the flat of his hand on the table with a bang."Ihave to say that if my son doesn't feel this insultI do!"

Rachelstartedand looked at him in sudden surprise.
"Insult?"she repeated.  "What do you mean?"

"Insult!"reiterated Mr. Ablewhite.  "I know your motiveMissVerinderfor breaking your promise to my son!  I knowit ascertainly as if you had confessed it in so many words.Yourcursed family pride is insulting Godfreyas it insultedME when Imarried your aunt.  Her family--her beggarly family--turnedtheir backs on her for marrying an honest manwho hadmade his own place and won his own fortune.I had noancestors.  I wasn't descended from a set ofcut-throatscoundrels who lived by robbery and murder.I.couldn't point to the time when the Ablewhites hadn't a shirtto theirbacksand couldn't sign their own names.  Ha! ha!I wasn'tgood enough for the Herncastleswhen I married.And nowit comes to the pinchmy son isn't good enoughfor YOU. I suspected itall along.  You have gottheHerncastle blood in youmy young lady!  I suspected itallalong."

"Avery unworthy suspicion" remarked Mr. Bruff.  "I amastonished that youhave thecourage to acknowledge it."

Before Mr.Ablewhite could find words to answer inRachel spokein a toneof the most exasperating contempt.

"Surely"she said to the lawyer"this is beneath notice.If he canthink in THAT waylet us leave him to think ashepleases."

FromscarletMr. Ablewhite was now becoming purple.  He gasped forbreath;he lookedbackwards and forwards from Rachel to Mr. Bruff in such a frenzyof ragewith both of them that he didn't know which to attack first.His wifewho had sat impenetrably fanning herself up to this timebegan tobe alarmedand attemptedquite uselesslyto quiet him.I hadthroughout this distressing interviewfelt more than one inwardcall tointerfere with a few earnest wordsand had controlled myself undera dread ofthe possible resultsvery unworthy of a Christian Englishwomanwho looksnot to what is meanly prudentbut to what is morally right.At thepoint at which matters had now arrivedI rose superior to allconsiderationsof mere expediency.  If I had contemplated interposinganyremonstrance of my own humble devisingI might possibly havestillhesitated.  But the distressing domestic emergency which nowconfrontedmewas most marvellously and beautifully provided for intheCorrespondence of Miss Jane Ann Stamper--Letter one thousand and oneon "Peacein Families."  I rose in my modest cornerand I opened mypreciousbook.

"DearMr. Ablewhite" I said"one word!"

When Ifirst attracted the attention of the company by risingI couldsee that he was on the point of saying something rude to me.Mysisterly form of address checked him.  He stared at me inheathenastonishment.

"Asan affectionate well-wisher and friend" I proceeded"andas one longaccustomedto arouseconvinceprepareenlightenand fortify otherspermit meto take the most pardonable of all liberties--the libertyofcomposing your mind."

He beganto recover himself; he was on the point of breaking out--he WOULDhave broken outwith anybody else.  But my voice(habituallygentle) possesses a high note or soin emergencies.In thisemergencyI felt imperatively called upon to have the highestvoice ofthe two.

I held upmy precious book before him; I rapped the openpageimpressively with my forefinger.  "Not my words!"Iexclaimedin a burst of fervent interruption."Ohdon't suppose that I claim attention for My humble words!Manna inthe wildernessMr. Ablewhite!  Dew on the parched earth!Words ofcomfortwords of wisdomwords of love--the blessedblessedblessed words of Miss Jane Ann Stamper!"

I wasstopped there by a momentary impediment of the breath.Before Icould recover myselfthis monster in human form shoutedoutfuriously--

"MissJane Ann Stamper be----!"

It isimpossible for me to write the awful wordwhich ishere represented by a blank.  I shrieked as itpassed hislips; I flew to my little bag on the side table;I shookout all my tracts; I seized the one particular tracton profaneswearingentitled"Hushfor Heaven's Sake!";I handedit to him with an expression of agonised entreaty.He tore itin twoand threw it back at me across the table.The restof them rose in alarmnot knowing what might happen next.Iinstantly sat down again in my corner.  There had once beenanoccasionunder somewhat similar circumstanceswhen Miss JaneAnnStamper had been taken by the two shoulders and turned outof aroom.  I waitedinspired by HER spiritfor a repetition ofHERmartyrdom.

But no--itwas not to be.  His wife was the next person whom he addressed."Who--who--who"he saidstammering with rage"who asked this impudentfanaticinto the house?  Did you?"

BeforeAunt Ablewhite could say a wordRachel answered for her.

"MissClack is here" she said"as my guest."

Thosewords had a singular effect on Mr. Ablewhite.  They suddenlychangedhim from a man in a state of red-hot anger to a man in astate oficy-cold contempt.  It was plain to everybody that Rachelhad saidsomething--short and plain as her answer had been--which gavehim the upper hand of her at last.

"Oh?"he said.  "Miss Clack is here as YOUR guest--in MY house?"

It wasRachel's turn to lose her temper at that.  Her colour roseand hereyes brightened fiercely.  She turned to the lawyerandpointingto Mr. Ablewhiteasked haughtily"What does he mean?"

Mr. Bruffinterfered for the third time.

"Youappear to forget" he saidaddressing Mr. Ablewhite"thatyou took this house as Miss Verinder's guardianfor MissVerinder'suse."

"Notquite so fast" interposed Mr. Ablewhite.  "I have alast word to saywhich Ishould have said some time sinceif this----" He looked my wayponderingwhat abominable name he should call me--"if this RampantSpinsterhad notinterrupted us.  I beg to inform yousirthatif my son isnot goodenough tobe Miss Verinder's husbandI cannot presume to consider his fathergoodenough to be Miss Verinder's guardian.  Understandif youpleasethat Irefuse toaccept the position which is offered to me by Lady Verinder's will.In yourlegal phraseI decline to act.  This house has necessarily beenhired inmy name.  I take the entire responsibility of it on myshoulders.It is myhouse.  I can keep itor let itjust as I please.  I haveno wishto hurryMiss Verinder.  On the contraryI beg her to remove her guestandherluggageat her own entire convenience."  He made a lowbowand walkedout of theroom.

That wasMr. Ablewhite's revenge on Rachelfor refusing to marry his son!

Theinstant the door closedAunt Ablewhite exhibited a phenomenonwhichsilenced us all.  She became endowed with energy enoughto crossthe room!

"Mydear" she saidtaking Rachel by the hand"I should beashamedof myhusbandif I didn't know that it is his temper which has spokento youand not himself.  You" continued Aunt Ablewhiteturningon mein mycorner with another endowment of energyin her looks this timeinstead ofher limbs--"you are the mischievous person who irritated him.I hope Ishall never see you or your tracts again."  She went backto Racheland kissed her.  "I beg your pardonmy dear" shesaid"inmy husband's name.  What can I do for you?"

Consistentlyperverse in everything--capricious and unreasonable in alltheactions of her life--Rachel melted into tears at those commonplacewordsandreturned her aunt's kiss in silence.

"If Imay be permitted to answer for Miss Verinder" said Mr. Bruff"mightI ask youMrs. Ablewhiteto send Penelope down with hermistress'sbonnet and shawl.  Leave us ten minutes together" headdedin a lowertone"and you may rely on my setting matters rightto yoursatisfaction as well as to Rachel's."

The trustof the family in this man was something wonderful to see.Without aword moreon her sideAunt Ablewhite left the room.

"Ah!"said Mr. Brufflooking after her.  "The Herncastle bloodhasitsdrawbacksI admit.  But there IS something in good breedingafter all!"

Havingmade that purely worldly remarkhe looked hard at my corneras if heexpected me to go.  My interest in Rachel--an infinitely higherinterestthan his--riveted me to my chair.

Mr. Bruffgave it upexactly as he had given it up at Aunt Verinder'sin MontaguSquare.  He led Rachel to a chair by the windowand spoketo herthere.

"Mydear young lady" he said"Mr. Ablewhite's conducthasnaturally shocked youand taken you by surprise.If it wasworth while to contest the question with such a manwe mightsoon show him that he is not to have things all his own way.But itisn't worth while.  You were quite right in what you saidjust now;he is beneath our notice."

Hestoppedand looked round at my corner.  I sat there quiteimmovablewith mytracts at my elbow and with Miss Jane Ann Stamper on my lap.

"Youknow" he resumedturning back again to Rachel"thatit was part of your poor mother's fine nature alwaysto see thebest of the people about herand never the worst.She namedher brother-in-law your guardian because she believedin himand because she thought it would please her sister.I hadnever liked Mr. Ablewhite myselfand I induced your motherto let meinsert a clause in the willempowering her executorsin certaineventsto consult with me about the appointmentof a newguardian.  One of those events has happened to-day;and I findmyself in a position to end all these drybusinessdetailsI hope agreeablywith a message from my wife.Will youhonour Mrs. Bruff by becoming her guest?  And will youremainunder my roofand be one of my familyuntil we wise peoplehave laidour heads togetherand have settled what is to bedonenext?"

At thosewordsI rose to interfere.  Mr. Bruff had done exactly what Ihaddreaded he would dowhen he asked Mrs. Ablewhite for Rachel'sbonnet andshawl.

Before Icould interpose a wordRachel had accepted his invitation inthewarmest terms.  If I suffered the arrangement thus made betweenthemto becarried out--if she once passed the threshold of Mr. Bruff's door--farewellto the fondest hope of my lifethe hope of bringing my lostsheep backto the fold!  The bare idea of such a calamity as this quiteoverwhelmedme.  I cast the miserable trammels of worldly discretionto thewindsand spoke with the fervour that filled mein the wordsthat camefirst.

"Stop!" I said--"stop! I must be heard.  Mr. Bruff! you are notrelatedto herand I am.  I invite her--I summon the executors to appointmeguardian.  Racheldearest RachelI offer you my modest home;come toLondon by the next trainloveand share it with me!"

Mr. Bruffsaid nothing.  Rachel looked at me with a cruel astonishmentwhich shemade no effort to conceal.

"Youare very kindDrusilla" she said.  "I shall hope tovisit you wheneverI happento be in London.  But I have accepted Mr. Bruff's invitationand Ithink itwill be bestfor the presentif I remain under Mr. Bruff's care."

"Ohdon't say so!"  I pleaded.  "I can't part withyouRachel--I can'tpart withyou!"

I tried tofold her in my arms.  But she drew back.  My fervourdid notcommunicate itself; it only alarmed her.

"Surely"she said"this is a very unnecessary display of agitation?I don'tunderstand it."

"Nomore do I" said Mr. Bruff.

Theirhardness--their hideousworldly hardness--revolted me.

"OhRachel!  Rachel!"  I burst out.  "Haven'tyou seen yetthat myheart yearns to make a Christian of you?Has noinner voice told you that I am trying to do for youwhat I wastrying to do for your dear mother when death snatchedher out ofmy hands?"

Racheladvanced a step nearerand looked at me very strangely.

"Idon't understand your reference to my mother" she said."MissClackwill you have the goodness to explain yourself?"

Before Icould answerMr. Bruff came forwardand offering his arm to Racheltried tolead her out of the room.

"Youhad better not pursue the subjectmy dear" he said."AndMiss Clack had better not explain herself."

If I hadbeen a stock or a stonesuch an interference as this musthaveroused me into testifying to the truth.  I put Mr. Bruff asideindignantlywith my own handandin solemn and suitable languageI statedthe view with which sound doctrine does not scruple to regardthe awfulcalamity of dying unprepared.

Rachelstarted back from me--I blush to write--with a scream of horror.

"Comeaway!" she said to Mr. Bruff.  "Come awayfor God'ssakebeforethat woman can say any more!  Ohthink of my poormother'sharmlessusefulbeautiful life!  You were at the funeralMr. Bruff;you saw how everybody loved her; you saw the poor helplesspeoplecrying at her grave over the loss of their best friend.And thatwretch stands thereand tries to make me doubt thatmy motherwho was an angel on earthis an angel in heaven now!Don't stopto talk about it!  Come away!  It stifles me to breathethe sameair with her!  It frightens me to feel that we are in the sameroomtogether!"

Deaf toall remonstranceshe ran to the door.

At thesame momenther maid entered with her bonnet and shawl.Shehuddled them on anyhow.  "Pack my things" she said"andbring them to Mr. Bruff's." I attempted to approach her--I wasshocked and grievedbutit is needless to saynot offended.I onlywished to say to her"May your hard heart be softened!I freelyforgive you!"  She pulled down her veiland toreher shawlaway from my handandhurrying outshut the doorin myface.  I bore the insult with my customary fortitude.I rememberit now with my customary superiority to all feelingofoffence.

Mr. Bruffhad his parting word of mockery for mebefore he too hurried outin histurn.

"Youhad better not have explained yourselfMiss Clack"he saidand bowedand left the room.

The personwith the cap-ribbons followed.

"It'seasy to see who has set them all by the ears together" shesaid."I'monly a poor servant--but I declare I'm ashamed of you!" She toowent outand banged the door after her.

I was leftalone in the room.  Reviled by them alldeserted by them allI was leftalone in the room.

Is theremore to be added to this plain statement of facts--to thistouching picture of a Christian persecuted by the world?No! mydiary reminds me that one more of the many chequered chaptersin my lifeends here.  From that day forthI never saw RachelVerinderagain.  She had my forgiveness at the time when she insulted me.She hashad my prayerful good wishes ever since.  And when I die--tocomplete the return on my part of good for evil--she will havethe LIFELETTERSAND LABOURS OF MISS JANE ANN STAMPER left her as alegacy bymy will.

 

 

 

SECONDNARRATIVE

Contributedby MATHEW BRUFFSolicitorof Gray's InnSquare

 

CHAPTER I

My fairfriendMiss Clackhaving laid down the penthere are two reasonsfor mytaking it up nextin my turn.

In thefirst placeI am in a position to throw the necessary light oncertainpoints of interest which have thus far been left in the dark.MissVerinder had her own private reason for breaking her marriageengagement--and I wasat the bottom of it.  Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite had his own privatereason forwithdrawing all claim to the hand of his charming cousin--and Idiscovered what it was.

In thesecond placeit was my good or ill fortuneI hardly know whichto findmyself personally involved--at the period of which I am now writing--in themystery of the Indian Diamond.  I had the honour of aninterviewat my ownofficewith an Oriental stranger of distinguished mannerswho was nootherunquestionablythan the chief of the three Indians.Add tothisthat I met with the celebrated travellerMr. Murthwaitethe dayafterwardsand that I held a conversation with him on the subjectof theMoonstonewhich has a very important bearing on later events.And thereyou have the statement of my claims to fill the position which Ioccupy inthese pages.

 

The truestory of the broken marriage engagement comes first in pointof timeand must therefore take the first place in the present narrative.Tracing myway back along the chain of eventsfrom one end to the otherI find itnecessary to open the sceneoddly enough as you will thinkat thebedside of my excellent client and friendthe late SirJohnVerinder.

Sir Johnhad his share--perhaps rather a large share--of the moreharmlessand amiable of the weaknesses incidental to humanity.AmongtheseI may mention as applicable to the matter in handaninvincible reluctance--so long as he enjoyed his usualgoodhealth--to face the responsibility of making his will.LadyVerinder exerted her influence to rouse him to a senseof duty inthis matter; and I exerted my influence.  He admittedthejustice of our views--but he went no further than thatuntil hefound himself afflicted with the illness which ultimatelybroughthim to his grave.  ThenI was sent for at lastto take myclient's instructions on the subject of his will.Theyproved to be the simplest instructions I had ever received inthe wholeof my professional career.

Sir Johnwas dozingwhen I entered the room.  He roused himselfat thesight of me.

"Howdo you doMr. Bruff?" he said.  "I sha'n't be verylong about this.And thenI'll go to sleep again."  He looked on with great interestwhile Icollected pensinkand paper.  "Are you ready?" heasked.I bowedand took a dip of inkand waited for my instructions.

"Ileave everything to my wife" said Sir John.  "That'sall."He turnedround on his pillowand composed himself to sleep again.

I wasobliged to disturb him.

"Am Ito understand" I asked"that you leave the whole of thepropertyof everysort and descriptionof which you die possessedabsolutely toLadyVerinder?"

"Yes"said Sir John.  "OnlyI put it shorter.  Why can'tyou putitshorterand let me go to sleep again?  Everything to my wife.That's myWill."

Hisproperty was entirely at his own disposaland was of two kinds.Propertyin land (I purposely abstain from using technical language)andproperty in money.  In the majority of casesI am afraid Ishouldhave feltit my duty to my client to ask him to reconsider his Will.In thecase of Sir JohnI knew Lady Verinder to benot only worthyof theunreserved trust which her husband had placed in her (all good wivesare worthyof that)--but to be also capable of properly administeringa trust(whichin my experience of the fair sexnot one in a thousandof them iscompetent to do). In ten minutesSir John's Will was drawnandexecutedand Sir John himselfgood manwas finishing hisinterruptednap.

LadyVerinder amply justified the confidence which her husband had placedin her. In the first days of her widowhoodshe sent for meand madeher Will. The view she took of her position was so thoroughly soundandsensiblethat I was relieved of all necessity for advising her.Myresponsibility began and ended with shaping her instructions intothe properlegal form.  Before Sir John had been a fortnight in his gravethe futureof his daughter had been most wisely and most affectionatelyprovidedfor.

The Willremained in its fireproof box at my officethroughmore years than I Like to reckon up.  It was not tillthe summerof eighteen hundred and forty-eight that I foundoccasionto look at it again under very melancholy circumstances.

At thedate I have mentionedthe doctors pronounced the sentenceon poorLady Verinderwhich was literally a sentence of death.I was thefirst person whom she informed of her situation; and I foundheranxious to go over her Will again with me.

It wasimpossible to improve the provisions relating to her daughter.Butinthe lapse of timeher wishes in regard to certain minor legaciesleft todifferent relativeshad undergone some modification; and itbecamenecessary to add three or four Codicils to the original document.Havingdone this at oncefor fear of accidentI obtained her ladyship'spermissionto embody her recent instructions in a second Will.My objectwas to avoid certain inevitable confusions and repetitionswhich nowdisfigured the original documentand whichto own the truthgratedsadly on my professional sense of the fitness of things.

Theexecution of this second Will has been describedby MissClackwho was so obliging as to witness it.So far asregarded Rachel Verinder's pecuniary interestsit wasword for wordthe exact counterpart of the first Will.The onlychanges introduced related to the appointment of a guardianand tocertain provisions concerning that appointmentwhich weremade under my advice.  On Lady Verinder's deaththe Willwas placed in the hands of my proctor to be "proved"(as thephrase is) in the usual way.

In aboutthree weeks from that time--as well as I can remember--the firstwarningreached me of something unusual going on under the surface.I happenedto be looking in at my friend the proctor's officeand Iobservedthat he received me with an appearance of greater interestthanusual.

"Ihave some news for you" he said.  "What do you thinkI heardatDoctors' Commons this morning?  Lady Verinder's Will has beenasked forand examinedalready!"

This wasnews indeed!  There was absolutely nothing whichcould becontested in the Will; and there was nobody I couldthink ofwho had the slightest interest in examining it.(I shallperhaps do well if I explain in this placefor thebenefit of the few people who don't know it alreadythat thelaw allows all Wills to be examined at Doctors'Commons byanybody who applieson the payment of a shilling fee.)

"Didyou hear who asked for the Will?"  I asked.

"Yes;the clerk had no hesitation in telling ME.Mr.Smalleyof the firm of Skipp and Smalleyasked for it.The Willhas not been copied yet into the great Folio Registers.So therewas no alternative but to depart from the usual courseand to lethim see the original document.  He looked itovercarefullyand made a note in his pocket-book. Have you any ideaof what hewanted with it?"

I shook myhead.  "I shall find out" I answered"before Iam a day older.With thatI went back at once to my own office.

If anyother firm of solicitors had been concerned in thisunaccountableexamination of my deceased client's WillI mighthave foundsome difficulty in making the necessary discovery.But I hada hold over Skipp and Smalley which made my coursein thismatter a comparatively easy one.  My common-law clerk(a mostcompetent and excellent man) was a brother ofMr.Smalley's; andowing to this sort of indirect connectionwith meSkipp and Smalley hadfor some years pastpicked upthe crumbs that fell from my tablein the shapeof casesbrought to my officewhichfor various reasonsI did notthink it worth while to undertake.  My professionalpatronagewasin this wayof some importance to the firm.Iintendedif necessaryto remind them of that patronageon thepresent occasion.

The momentI got back I spoke to my clerk; andafter tellinghim whathad happenedI sent him to his brother's office"withMr. Bruff's complimentsand he would be glad to knowwhyMessrs.  Skipp and Smalley had found it necessary to examineLadyVerinder's will."

Thismessage brought Mr. Smalley back to my office in companywith hisbrother.  He acknowledged that he had acted underinstructionsreceived from a client.  And then he put it to mewhether itwould not be a breach of professional confidenceon hispart to say more.

We had asmart discussion upon that.  He was rightno doubt;and I waswrong.  The truth isI was angry and suspicious--and Iinsistedon knowing more.  Worse stillI declined to consider anyadditionalinformation offered meas a secret placed in my keeping:I claimedperfect freedom to use my own discretion.  Worse eventhan thatI took an unwarrantable advantage of my position."Choosesir" I said to Mr. Smalley"between the risk of losingyourclient'sbusiness and the risk of losing Mine."  Quite indefensibleIadmit--an act of tyrannyand nothing less.  Like other tyrantsI carriedmy point.  Mr. Smalley chose his alternativewithout amoment'shesitation.

He smiledresignedlyand gave up the name of his client:

Mr.Godfrey Ablewhite.

That wasenough for me--I wanted to know no more.

 

Havingreached this point in my narrativeit now becomes necessary to placethe readerof these lines--so far as Lady Verinder's Will is concerned--on afooting of perfect equalityin respect of informationwith myself.

Let mestatethenin the fewest possible wordsthat RachelVerinderhad nothing but a life-interest in the property.Hermother's excellent senseand my long experiencehadcombined to relieve her of all responsibilityand toguard her from all danger of becoming the victim inthe futureof some needy and unscrupulous man.  Neither shenor herhusband (if she married)could raise sixpenceeither onthe property in landor on the property in money.They wouldhave the houses in London and in Yorkshire to live inand theywould have the handsome income--and that was all.

When Icame to think over what I had discoveredI was sorely perplexedwhat to donext.

Hardly aweek had passed since I had heard (to my surpriseanddistress) of Miss Verinder's proposed marriage.I had thesincerest admiration and affection for her;and I hadbeen inexpressibly grieved when I heard that shewas aboutto throw herself away on Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.And nowhere was the man--whom I had always believed to beasmooth-tongued impostor--justifying the very worst that Ihadthought of himand plainly revealing the mercenary objectof themarriageon his side!  And what of that?--you may reply--the thingis done every day.  Grantedmy dear sir.  But wouldyou thinkof it quite as lightly as you doif the thing was done(let ussay) with your own sister?

The firstconsideration which now naturally occurred to me was this.Would Mr.Godfrey Ablewhite hold to his engagementafter what his lawyerhaddiscovered for him?

Itdepended entirely on his pecuniary positionof which I knew nothing.If thatposition was not a desperate oneit would be well worth hiswhile tomarry Miss Verinder for her income alone.  Ifon the otherhandhe stoodin urgent need of realising a large sum by a given timethen LadyVerinder's Will would exactly meet the caseand would preserveherdaughter from falling into a scoundrel's hands.

In thelatter eventthere would be no need for me to distressMissRachelin the first days of her mourning for her motherby animmediate revelation of the truth.  In the former eventif Iremained silentI should be conniving at a marriage whichwould makeher miserable for life.

My doubtsended in my calling at the hotel in Londonat which Iknew Mrs. Ablewhite and Miss Verinder to be staying.Theyinformed me that they were going to Brighton the next dayand thatan unexpected obstacle prevented Mr. Godfrey Ablewhitefromaccompanying them.  I at once proposed to take his place.While Iwas only thinking of Rachel Verinderit was possibletohesitate.  When I actually saw hermy mind was made updirectlycome whatmight of itto tell her the truth.

I found myopportunitywhen I was out walking with heron the dayafter my arrival.

"MayI speak to you" I asked"about your marriage engagement?"

"Yes"she saidindifferently"if you have nothing more interestingto talkabout."

"Willyou forgive an old friend and servant of your familyMissRachelif I venture on asking whether your heart is seton thismarriage?"

"I ammarrying in despairMr. Bruff--on the chance of dropping intosome sortof stagnant happiness which may reconcile me to my life."

Stronglanguage! and suggestive of something below the surfacein theshape of a romance.  But I had my own object in viewand Ideclined (as we lawyers say) to pursue the question intoits sideissues.

"Mr.Godfrey Ablewhite can hardly be of your way of thinking" Isaid."HISheart must be set on the marriage at any rate?"

"Hesays soand I suppose I ought to believe him.  He would hardlymarry meafter whatI have owned to himunless he was fond of me."

Poorthing! the bare idea of a man marrying her for his ownselfishand mercenary ends had never entered her head.The task Ihad set myself began to look like a harder task than Ihadbargained for.

"Itsounds strangely" I went on"in my old-fashionedears----"

"Whatsounds strangely?" she asked.

"Tohear you speak of your future husband as if you were not quite sureof thesincerity of his attachment.  Are you conscious of any reasonin yourown mind for doubting him?"

Herastonishing quickness of perceptiondetected a change in my voiceor mymannerwhen I put that questionwhich warned her that I had beenspeakingall along with some ulterior object in view.  She stoppedand takingher arm out of minelooked me searchingly in the face.

"Mr.Bruff" she said"you have something to tell me aboutGodfreyAblewhite.  Tell it."

I knew herwell enough to take her at her word.  I told it.

She puther arm again into mineand walked on with me slowly.I felt herhand tightening its grasp mechanically on my armand I sawher getting paler and paler as I went on--butnot awordpassed her lips while I was speaking.  When I had doneshe stillkept silence.  Her head drooped a littleand shewalked bymy sideunconscious of my presenceunconscious ofeverythingabout her; lost--buriedI might almost say--in herownthoughts.

I made noattempt to disturb her.  My experience of her disposition warnedmeon thisas on former occasionsto give her time.

The firstinstinct of girls in generalon being told of anythingwhichinterests themis to ask a multitude of questionsand thento runoffand talk it all over with some favourite friend.RachelVerinder's first instinctunder similar circumstanceswas toshut herself up in her own mindand to think it over by herself.Thisabsolute self-dependence is a great virtue in a man.  In a womanithas aserious drawback of morally separating her from the mass of her sexand soexposing her to misconstruction by the general opinion.I stronglysuspect myself of thinking as the rest of the worldthink inthis matter--except in the case of Rachel Verinder.Theself-dependence in HER characterwas one of its virtuesin myestimation; partlyno doubtbecause I sincerely admired andliked her;partlybecause the view I took of her connexion with the lossof theMoonstone was based on my own special knowledge of her disposition.Badly asappearances might lookin the matter of the Diamond--shockingas it undoubtedly was to know that she was associatedin any waywith the mystery of an undiscovered theft--I was satisfiedneverthelessthat she had done nothing unworthy of herbecause Iwas alsosatisfied that she had not stirred a step in the businesswithoutshutting herself up in her own mindand thinking itoverfirst.

We hadwalked onfor nearly a mile I should say before Rachelrousedherself.  She suddenly looked up at me with a faintreflectionof her smile of happier times--the most irresistiblesmile Ihave ever seen on a woman's face.

"Iowe much already to your kindness" she said.  "And Ifeelmoredeeply indebted to it now than ever.  If you hear any rumoursof mymarriage when you get back to London contradict them at onceon myauthority."

"Haveyou resolved to break your engagement?"  I asked.

"Canyou doubt it?" she returned proudly"after what you havetold me!"

"Mydear Miss Rachelyou are very young--and you may findmoredifficulty in withdrawing from your present position thanyouanticipate.  Have you no one--I mean a ladyof course--whom youcould consult?"

"Noone" she answered.

Itdistressed meit did indeed distress meto hear her say that.She was soyoung and so lonely--and she bore it so well!Theimpulse to help her got the better of any sense of my ownunfitnesswhich I might have felt under the circumstances;and Istated such ideas on the subject as occurred to meon thespur of the momentto the best of my ability.I haveadvised a prodigious number of clientsand have dealtwith someexceedingly awkward difficultiesin my time.But thiswas the first occasion on which I had ever foundmyselfadvising a young lady how to obtain her release from amarriageengagement.  The suggestion I offered amounted brieflyto this. I recommended her to tell Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite--at aprivate interviewof course--that he hadto hercertainknowledgebetrayed the mercenary nature of the motiveon hisside.  She was then to add that their marriageafter whatshe had discoveredwas a simple impossibility--and shewas to put it to himwhether he thought it wisest tosecure hersilence by falling in with her viewsor to force herbyopposing themto make the motive under which she wasactinggenerally known.  If he attempted to defend himselfor to denythe factsshe wasin that eventto refer himto ME.

MissVerinder listened attentively till I had done.  She then thankedmeveryprettily for my advicebut informed me at the same time that itwasimpossible for her to follow it.

"MayI ask" I said"what objection you see to following it?"

Shehesitated--and then met me with a question on her side.

"Supposeyou were asked to express your opinion of Mr. GodfreyAblewhite'sconduct?" she began.

"Yes?"

"Whatwould you call it?"

"Ishould call it the conduct of a meanly deceitful man."

"Mr.Bruff!  I have believed in that man.  I have promised tomarry that man.How can Itell him he is meanhow can I tell him he has deceived mehow can Idisgrace him in the eyes of the world after that?  I havedegradedmyself byever thinking of him as my husband.  If I say what you tellme to sayto him--l am owning that I have degraded myself to his face.I can't dothat.  After what has passed between usI can't do that!The shameof it would be nothing to HIM.  But the shame of it would beunendurableto ME."

Here wasanother of the marked peculiarities in her characterdisclosingitself to me without reserve.  Here was hersensitivehorror of the bare contact with anything meanblindingher to every consideration of what she owed to herselfhurryingher into a false position which might compromiseher in theestimation of all her friends!  Up to this timeI had beena little diffident about the propriety of the adviceI hadgiven to her.  Butafter what she had just saidI had nosort of doubt that it was the best advice that couldhave beenoffered; and I felt no sort of hesitation in pressingit on heragain.

She onlyshook her headand repeated her objection in other words.

"Hehas been intimate enough with me to ask me to be his wife.He hasstood high enough in my estimation to obtain my consent.I can'ttell him to his face that he is the most contemptible oflivingcreaturesafter that!"

"Butmy dear Miss Rachel" I remonstrated"it's equallyimpossible for youto tellhim that you withdraw from your engagement without giving some reasonfor it."

"Ishall say that I have thought it overand that I am satisfiedit will bebest for both of us if we part.

"Nomore than that?"

"Nomore."

"Haveyou thought of what he may sayon his side?"

"Hemay say what he pleases."

It wasimpossible not to admire her delicacy and her resolutionand it wasequallyimpossible not to feel that she was putting herself in the wrong.Ientreated her to consider her own position I reminded her that shewouldbeexposing herself to the most odious misconstruction of her motives."Youcan't brave public opinion" I said"at the command ofprivate feeling."

"Ican" she answered.  "I have done it already."

"Whatdo you mean?"

"Youhave forgotten the MoonstoneMr. Bruff.  Have I not bravedpublicopinionTHEREwith my own private reasons for it?"

Her answersilenced me for the moment.  It set me trying to tracetheexplanation of her conductat the time of the loss of the Moonstoneout of thestrange avowal which had just escaped her.  I might perhapshave doneit when I was younger.  I certainly couldn't do it now.

I tried alast remonstrance before we returned to the house.She wasjust as immovable as ever.  My mind was in a strangeconflictof feelings about her when I left her that day.She wasobstinate; she was wrong.  She was interesting;she wasadmirable; she was deeply to be pitied.  I made herpromise towrite to me the moment she had any news to send.And I wentback to my business in Londonwith a mind exceedingly illat ease.

On theevening of my returnbefore it was possible for me to receive mypromisedletterI was surprised by a visit from Mr. Ablewhite the elderand wasinformed that Mr. Godfrey had got his dismissal--AND HAD ACCEPTEDIT--that veryday.

With theview I already took of the casethe bare fact statedin thewords that I have underlinedrevealed Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite'smotive forsubmission as plainly as if he had acknowledged it himself.He neededa large sum of money; and he needed it by a given time.Rachel'sincomewhich would have helped him to anything elsewould nothelp him here; and Rachel had accordingly released herselfwithoutencountering a moment's serious opposition on his part.If I amtold that this is a mere speculationI askin my turnwhat othertheory will account for his giving up a marriagewhichwould have maintained him in splendour for the rest ofhis life?

Anyexultation I might otherwise have felt at the lucky turn which thingshad nowtakenwas effectually checked by what passed at my interview witholdMr.Ablewhite.

He cameof courseto know whether I could give him any explanationof MissVerinder's extraordinary conduct.  It is needless to saythat I wasquite unable to afford him the information he wanted.Theannoyance which I thus inflictedfollowing on the irritationproducedby a recent interview with his sonthrew Mr. Ablewhiteoff hisguard.  Both his looks and his language convinced methat MissVerinder would find him a merciless man to deal withwhen hejoined the ladies at Brighton the next day.

I had arestless nightconsidering what I ought to do next.How myreflections endedand how thoroughly well founded my distrustof Mr.Ablewhite proved to beare items of information which(as I amtold) have already been put tidily in their proper placesby thatexemplary personMiss Clack.  I have only to add--incompletion of her narrative--that Miss Verinder found the quietand reposewhich she sadly neededpoor thingin my house at Hampstead.Shehonoured us by making a long stay.  My wife and daughterswerecharmed with her; andwhen the executors decided on theappointmentof a new guardianI feel sincere pride and pleasureinrecording that my guest and my family parted like old friendson eitherside.

 

CHAPTER II

The nextthing I have to dois to present such additional informationas Ipossess on the subject of the Moonstoneorto speakmorecorrectlyon the subject of the Indian plot to steal the Diamond.The littlethat I have to tell is (as I think I have already said)of someimportanceneverthelessin respect of its bearing veryremarkablyon events which are still to come.

About aweek or ten days after Miss Verinder had left usone of myclerks entered the private room at my officewith acard inhis handand informed me that a gentleman was belowwho wantedto speak to me.

I lookedat the card.  There was a foreign name written on itwhich hasescaped my memory.  It was followed by a linewritten inEnglish at the bottom of the cardwhich I rememberperfectlywell:

"Recommendedby Mr. Septimus Luker."

Theaudacity of a person in Mr. Luker's position presumingtorecommend anybody to metook me so completely by surprisethat I satsilent for the momentwondering whether my own eyeshad notdeceived me.  The clerkobserving my bewildermentfavouredme with the result of his own observation of the strangerwho waswaiting downstairs.

"Heis rather a remarkable-looking mansir.  So dark in thecomplexionthat weall set him down in the office for an Indianor somethingof thatsort."

Associatingthe clerk's idea with the line inscribed on the card in my handI thoughtit possible that the Moonstone might be at the bottom ofMr.Luker's recommendationand of the stranger's visit at my office.To theastonishment of my clerkI at once decided on granting an interviewto thegentleman below.

Injustification of the highly unprofessional sacrifice to merecuriositywhich I thus madepermit me to remind anybodywho mayread these linesthat no living person (in Englandat anyrate) can claim to have had such an intimate connexionwith theromance of the Indian Diamond as mine has been.I wastrusted with the secret of Colonel Herncastle's planforescaping assassination.  I received the Colonel'slettersperiodically reporting himself a living man.I drew hisWillleaving the Moonstone to Miss Verinder.Ipersuaded his executor to acton the chance that the jewelmightprove to be a valuable acquisition to the family.AndlastlyI combated Mr. Franklin Blake's scruplesandinduced him to be the means of transporting the Diamondto LadyVerinder's house.  If anyone can claim a prescriptiveright ofinterest in the Moonstoneand in everythingconnectedwith itI think it is hardly to be denied that I amthe man.

The momentmy mysterious client was shown inI felt an innerconvictionthat I was in the presence of one of the three Indians--probablyof the chief.  He was carefully dressed in European costume.But hisswarthy complexionhis long lithe figureand his graveandgraceful politeness of manner were enough to betray his Orientalorigin toany intelligent eyes that looked at him.

I pointedto a chairand begged to be informed of the natureof hisbusiness with me.

Afterfirst apologising--in an excellent selection of English words--for theliberty which he had taken in disturbing methe Indian produceda smallparcel the outer covering of which was of cloth of gold.Removingthis and a second wrapping of some silken fabriche placeda littleboxor casketon my tablemost beautifully and richly inlaidin jewelson an ebony ground.

"Ihave comesir" he said"to ask you to lend me somemoney.And Ileave this as an assurance to you that my debt will bepaidback."

I pointedto his card.  "And you apply to me" I rejoined"atMr. Luker's recommendation?"

The Indianbowed.

"MayI ask how it is that Mr. Luker himself did not advance the moneythat yourequire?"

"Mr.Luker informed mesirthat he had no money to lend."

"Andso he recommended you to come to me?"

TheIndianin his turnpointed to the card.  It is written there"he said.

Brieflyansweredand thoroughly to the purpose!  If the Moonstonehad beenin my possessionthis Oriental gentleman would havemurderedmeI am well awarewithout a moment's hesitation.At thesame timeand barring that slight drawbackI ambound totestify that he was the perfect model of a client.He mightnot have respected my life.  But he did what noneof my owncountrymen had ever donein all my experience of them--herespected my time.

"I amsorry" I said"that you should have had the trouble ofcoming to me.Mr. Lukeris quite mistaken in sending you here.  I am trustedlike othermenin myprofessionwith money to lend.  But I never lend it tostrangersand Inever lendit on such a security as you have produced."

Far fromattemptingas other people would have doneto induceme torelax my own rulesthe Indian only made me another bowandwrapped up his box in its two coverings without a word of protest.Herose--this admirable assassin rose to gothe moment I hadansweredhim!

"Willyour condescension towards a strangerexcuse my asking onequestion"he said"before I take my leave?"

I bowed onmy side.  Only one question at parting!  The averagein myexperience was fifty.

"Supposingsirit had been possible (and customary) for you to lend methemoney" he said"in what space of time would it have beenpossible(andcustomary) for me to pay it back?"

"Accordingto the usual course pursued in this country"Ianswered"you would have been entitled to pay the money back(if youliked) in one year's time from the date at which it wasfirstadvanced to you."

The Indianmade me a last bowthe lowest of all--and suddenly and softlywalked outof the room.

It wasdone in a momentin a noiselesssupplecat-like waywhich alittle startled meI own.  As soon as I was composedenough tothinkI arrived at one distinct conclusion in referenceto theotherwise incomprehensible visitor who had favoured mewith acall.

His facevoiceand manner--while I was in his company--were undersuch perfect control that they set all scrutinyatdefiance.  But he had given me one chance of lookingunder thesmooth outer surface of himfor all that.He had notshown the slightest sign of attempting to fix anythingthat I hadsaid to him in his minduntil I mentioned the timeat whichit was customary to permit the earliest repaymenton thepart of a debtorof money that had been advancedas aloan.  When I gave him that piece of informationhe lookedme straight in the facewhile I was speakingfor thefirst time.  The inference I drew from this was--that hehad a special purpose in asking me his last questionand aspecial interest in hearing my answer to it.The morecarefully I reflected on what had passed between usthe moreshrewdly I suspected the production of the casketand theapplication for the loanof having been mere formalitiesdesignedto pave the way for the parting inquiry addressedto me.

I hadsatisfied myself of the correctness of this conclusion--and wastrying to get on a step furtherand penetrate the Indian'smotivesnext--when a letter was brought to mewhich provedto be fromno less a person that Mr. Septimus Luker himself.He askedmy pardon in terms of sickening servilityand assuredme that hecould explain matters to my satisfactionif I wouldhonour himby consenting to a personal interview.

I madeanother unprofessional sacrifice to mere curiosity.I honouredhim by making an appointment at my officefor thenext day.

Mr. Lukerwasin every respectsuch an inferior creature to the Indian--he was sovulgarso uglyso cringingand so prosy--that he is quiteunworthyof being reportedat any lengthin these pages.  The substanceof what hehad to tell me may be fairly stated as follows:

The daybefore I had received the visit of the IndianMr. Lukerhad beenfavoured with a call from that accomplished gentleman.In spiteof his European disguiseMr. Luker had instantlyidentifiedhis visitor with the chief of the three Indianswho hadformerly annoyed him by loitering about his houseand whohad left him no alternative but to consult a magistrate.From thisstartling discovery he had rushed to the conclusion(naturallyenough I own) that he must certainly be in the companyof one ofthe three menwho had blindfolded himgagged himand robbedhim of his banker's receipt.  The result was thathe becamequite paralysed with terrorand that he firmly believedhis lasthour had come.

On hissidethe Indian preserved the character of a perfect stranger.Heproduced the little casketand made exactly the same applicationwhich hehad afterwards made to me.  As the speediest way of gettingrid ofhimMr. Luker had at once declared that he had no money.The Indianhad thereupon asked to be informed of the best and safest personto applyto for the loan he wanted.  Mr. Luker had answered that the bestand safestpersonin such caseswas usually a respectable solicitor.Asked toname some individual of that character and professionMr. Lukerhadmentioned me--for the one simple reason thatin the extremity ofhisterrormine was the first name which occurred to him.  "Theperspirationwaspouring off me like rainsir" the wretched creature concluded."Ididn't know what I was talking about.  And I hope you'll lookover itMr. Bruffsirin consideration of my having been really and truly frightenedout of mywits."

I excusedthe fellow graciously enough.  It was the readiest wayofreleasing myself from the sight of him.  Before he left meI detainedhim to make one inquiry.

Had theIndian said anything noticeableat the moment of quittingMr.Luker's house?

Yes! The Indian had put precisely the same question to Mr. Lukeratpartingwhich he had put to me; receiving of coursethe sameanswer asthe answer which I had given him.

What didit mean?  Mr. Luker's explanation gave me no assistancetowardssolving the problem.  My own unaided ingenuityconsultednextproved quite unequal to grapple with the difficulty.I had adinner engagement that evening; and I went upstairsin no verygenial frame of mindlittle suspecting that the wayto mydressing-room and the way to discoverymeanton thisparticularoccasionone and the same thing.

 

CHAPTERIII

Theprominent personage among the guests at the dinner partyI found tobe Mr. Murthwaite.

On hisappearance in Englandafter his wanderingssociety had beengreatlyinterested in the travelleras a man who had passed throughmanydangerous adventuresand who had escaped to tell the tale.He had nowannounced his intention of returning to the scene ofhisexploitsand of penetrating into regions left still unexplored.Thismagnificent indifference to placing his safety in peril for thesecondtimerevived the flagging interest of the worshippers in the hero.The law ofchances was clearly against his escaping on this occasion.It is notevery day that we can meet an eminent person at dinnerand feelthat there is a reasonable prospect of the news of his murderbeing thenews that we hear of him next.

When thegentlemen were left by themselves in the dining-roomI found myselfsittingnext to Mr. Murthwaite.  The guests present being all Englishit isneedless to say thatas soon as the wholesome check exercised bythepresence of the ladies was removedthe conversation turned onpoliticsas anecessary result.

In respectto this all-absorbing national topicI happen to be one ofthe mostun-English Englishmen living.  As a general rulepolitical talkappears tome to be of all talk the most dreary and the most profitless.Glancingat Mr. Murthwaitewhen the bottles had made their first roundof thetableI found that he was apparently of my way of thinking.He wasdoing it very dexterously--with all possible considerationfor thefeelings of his host--but it is not the less certain that he wascomposinghimself for a nap.  It struck me as an experiment worthattemptingto trywhether a judicious allusion to the subject of the Moonstone wouldkeep himawakeandif it didto see what HE thought of the last newcomplicationin the Indian conspiracyas revealed in the prosaic precinctsof myoffice.

"If Iam not mistakenMr. Murthwaite" I began"you wereacquaintedwith thelate Lady Verinderand you took some interest in the strangesuccessionof events which ended in the loss of the Moonstone?"

Theeminent traveller did me the honour of waking up in an instantand askingme who I was.

I informedhim of my professional connection with the Herncastle familynotforgetting the curious position which I had occupied towards theColoneland hisDiamond in the bygone time.

Mr.Murthwaite shifted round in his chairso as to put the restof thecompany behind him (Conservatives and Liberals alike)andconcentrated his whole attention on plain Mr. Bruffof Gray'sInnSquare.

"Haveyou heard anythinglatelyof the Indians?" he asked.

"Ihave every reason to believe" I answered"that one ofthemhad aninterview with mein my officeyesterday."

Mr.Murthwaite was not an easy man to astonish; but that last answer ofminecompletelystaggered him.  I described what had happened to Mr. Lukerand whathad happened to myselfexactly as I have described it here."Itis clear that the Indian's parting inquiry had an object" Iadded."Whyshould he be so anxious to know the time at which a borrower of moneyisusuallyprivileged to pay the money back?"

"Isit possible that you don't see his motiveMr. Bruff?"

"I amashamed of my stupidityMr. Murthwaite--but I certainly don't seeit."

The greattraveller became quite interested in sounding the immense vacuityof mydulness to its lowest depths.

"Letme ask you one question" he said.  "In what positiondoestheconspiracy to seize the Moonstone now stand?"

"Ican't say" I answered.  "The Indian plot is a mysteryto me."

"TheIndian plotMr. Bruffcan only be a mystery to youbecause youhave neverseriously examined it.  Shall we run it over togetherfrom thetime when you drew Colonel Herncastle's Willto the timewhen theIndian called at your office?  In your positionit may beof veryserious importance to the interests of Miss Verinderthat youshould beable to take a clear view of this matter in case of need.Tell mebearing that in mindwhether you will penetrate the Indian'smotive foryourself? or whether you wish me to save you the troubleof makingany inquiry into it?"

It isneedless to say that I thoroughly appreciated the practicalpurposewhich I now saw that he had in viewand that the firstof the twoalternatives was the alternative I chose.

"Verygood" said Mr. Murthwaite.  "We will take thequestionof theages of the three Indians first.  I can testify that theyall lookmuch about the same age--and you can decide for yourselfwhetherthe man whom you saw wasor was notin the prime of life.Not fortyyou think?  My idea too.  We will say not forty.Now lookback to the time when Colonel Herncastle cametoEnglandand when you were concerned in the plan he adoptedtopreserve his life.  I don't want you to count the years.I willonly sayit is clear that these present Indiansat theiragemust be the successors of three other Indians(highcaste Brahmins all of themMr. Bruffwhen they lefttheirnative country!) who followed the Colonel to these shores.Verywell.  These present men of ours have succeeded to the menwho werehere before them.  If they had only done thatthe matterwould not have been worth inquiring into.But theyhave done more.  They have succeeded to the organisationwhichtheir predecessors established in this country.Don'tstart!  The organisation is a very trumpery affairaccordingto our ideasI have no doubt.  I should reckon it upasincluding the command of money; the serviceswhen neededof thatshady sort of Englishmanwho lives in the bywaysof foreignlife in London; andlastlythe secret sympathyof suchfew men of their own countryand (formerlyat least)of theirown religionas happen to be employed in ministeringto some ofthe multitudinous wants of this great city.Nothingvery formidableas you see!  But worth noticeatstartingbecause we may find occasion to referto thismodest little Indian organisation as we go on.Having nowcleared the groundI am going to ask you a question;and Iexpect your experience to answer it.  What was the eventwhich gavethe Indians their first chance of seizing theDiamond?"

Iunderstood the allusion to my experience.

"Thefirst chance they got" I replied"was clearly offered tothemby ColonelHerncastle's death.  They would be aware of his deathI supposeas a matter of course?"

"As amatter of course.  And his deathas you saygave them theirfirstchance.  Up to that time the Moonstone was safe in thestrong-roomof thebank.  You drew the Colonel's Will leaving his jewel to hisniece;and theWill was proved in the usual way.  As a lawyeryou can be at noloss toknow what course the Indians would take (under English advice)afterTHAT."

"Theywould provide themselves with a copy of the WillfromDoctors' Commons" I said.

"Exactly. One or other of those shady Englishmen to whom Ihavealludedwould get them the copy you have described.That copywould inform them that the Moonstone was bequeathedto thedaughter of Lady Verinderand that Mr. Blake the elderor someperson appointed by himwas to place it in her hands.You willagree with me that the necessary information aboutpersons inthe position of Lady Verinder and Mr. Blakewould beperfectly easy information to obtain.  The one difficultyfor theIndians would be to decide whether they should maketheirattempt on the Diamond when it was in course of removalfrom thekeeping of the bankor whether they should wait untilit wastaken down to Yorkshire to Lady Verinder's house.The secondway would be manifestly the safest way--and there youhave theexplanation of the appearance of the Indians at Frizinghalldisguisedas jugglersand waiting their time.  In Londonit isneedless to saythey had their organisation at theirdisposalto keep them informed of events.  Two men would do it.One tofollow anybody who went from Mr. Blake's house to the bank.And one totreat the lower men servants with beerand to hearthe newsof the house.  These commonplace precautions wouldreadilyinform them that Mr. Franklin Blake had been to the bankand thatMr. Franklin Blake was the only person in the housewho wasgoing to visit Lady Verinder.  What actually followed uponthatdiscoveryyou rememberno doubtquite as correctly asI do."

Iremembered that Franklin Blake had detected one of the spiesin thestreet--that hehadin consequenceadvanced the time of his arrival in Yorkshireby somehours--and that (thanks to old Betteredge's excellent advice) he hadlodged theDiamond in the bank at Frizinghallbefore the Indians were so muchasprepared to see him in the neighbourhood.  All perfectly clearso far.But theIndians being ignorant of the precautions thus takenhow was it thatthey hadmade no attempt on Lady Verinder's house (in which they must havesupposedthe Diamond to be) through the whole of the interval that elapsedbeforeRachel's birthday?

In puttingthis difficulty to Mr. MurthwaiteI thought it rightto addthat I had heard of the little boyand the drop of inkand therest of itand that any explanation based on the theoryofclairvoyance was an explanation which would carry no convictionwhateverwith itto MY mind.

"Norto mine either" said Mr. Murthwaite.  "Theclairvoyancein thiscase is simply a development of the romantic sideof theIndian character.  It would be refreshment and anencouragementto those men--quite inconceivableI grant youto theEnglish mind--to surround their wearisome and perilouserrand inthis country with a certain halo of the marvellousand thesupernatural.  Their boy is unquestionably a sensitivesubject tothe mesmeric influence--andunder that influencehe has nodoubt reflected what was already in the mind of the personmesmerisinghim.  I have tested the theory of clairvoyance--and I havenever found the manifestations get beyond that point.TheIndians don't investigate the matter in this way;theIndians look upon their boy as a Seer of things invisibleto theireyes--andI repeatin that marvel they findthe sourceof a new interest in the purpose that unites them.I onlynotice this as offering a curious view of human characterwhich mustbe quite new to you.  We have nothing whateverto do withclairvoyanceor with mesmerismor with anythingelse thatis hard of belief to a practical manin the inquirythat weare now pursuing.  My object in following the Indian plotstep bystepis to trace results backby rational meansto naturalcauses.  Have I succeeded to your satisfactionso far?"

"Nota doubt of itMr. Murthwaite!  I am waitinghoweverwith someanxietyto hearthe rational explanation of the difficulty which I have just hadthe honourof submitting to you."

Mr.Murthwaite smiled.  "It's the easiest difficulty to dealwith of all"he said. "Permit me to begin by admitting your statement of the caseas aperfectly correct one.  The Indians were undoubtedly not awareof whatMr. Franklin Blake had done with the Diamond--for we find themmakingtheir first mistakeon the first night of Mr. Blake's arrival athis aunt'shouse."

"Theirfirst mistake?"  I repeated.

"Certainly! The mistake of allowing themselves to be surprisedlurkingabout the terrace at nightby Gabriel Betteredge.Howeverthey had the merit of seeing for themselves that theyhad takena false step--foras you sayagainwith plentyof time attheir disposalthey never came near the housefor weeksafterwards."

"WhyMr. Murthwaite?  That's what I want to know!  Why?"

"Becauseno IndianMr. Bruffever runs an unnecessary risk.The clauseyou drew in Colonel Herncastle's Willinformed them(didn'tit?) that the Moonstone was to pass absolutely intoMissVerinder's possession on her birthday.  Very well.Tell mewhich was the safest course for men in their position?To maketheir attempt on the Diamond while it was under the controlof Mr.Franklin Blakewho had shown already that he couldsuspectand outwit them?  Or to wait till the Diamond was atthedisposal of a young girlwho would innocently delightin wearingthe magnificent jewel at every possible opportunity?Perhapsyou want a proof that my theory is correct?Take theconduct of the Indians themselves as the proof.Theyappeared at the houseafter waiting all those weekson MissVerinder's birthday; and they were rewardedfor thepatient accuracy of their calculations by seeingtheMoonstone in the bosom of her dress!  When I heardthe storyof the Colonel and the Diamondlater in the eveningI felt sosure about the risk Mr. Franklin Blake had run(theywould have certainly attacked himif he had not happenedto rideback to Lady Verinder's in the company of other people);and I wasso strongly convinced of the worse risk stillin storefor Miss Verinderthat I recommended followingtheColonel's planand destroying the identity of the gemby havingit cut into separate stones.  How its extraordinarydisappearancethat nightmade my advice uselessand utterlydefeatedthe Hindoo plot--and how all further action on the partof theIndians was paralysed the next day by their confinementin prisonas rogues and vagabonds--you know as well as I do.The firstact in the conspiracy closes there.  Before we goon to thesecondmay I ask whether I have met your difficultywith anexplanation which is satisfactory to the mind of a practicalman?"

It wasimpossible to deny that he had met my difficulty fairly;thanks tohis superior knowledge of the Indian character--and thanksto his not having had hundreds of other Wills to thinkof sinceColonel Herncastle's time!

"Sofarso good" resumed Mr. Murthwaite.  "The firstchancetheIndians had of seizing the Diamond was a chance loston the daywhen they were committed to the prison at Frizinghall.When didthe second chance offer itself?  The second chanceoffereditself--as I am in a condition to prove--while they werestill inconfinement."

He tookout his pocket-bookand opened it at a particular leafbefore hewent on.

"Iwas staying" he resumed"with some friends atFrizinghallat thetime.  A day or two before the Indians were set free(on aMondayI think)the governor of the prison came to mewith aletter.  It had been left for the Indians by one Mrs. Macannof whomthey had hired the lodging in which they lived; and it hadbeendelivered at Mrs. Macann's doorin ordinary course of poston theprevious morning.  The prison authorities had noticed thatthepostmark was 'Lambeth' and that the address on the outsidethoughexpressed in correct Englishwasin formoddly at variancewith thecustomary method of directing a letter.  On opening itthey hadfound the contents to be written in a foreign languagewhich theyrightly guessed at as Hindustani.  Their object in comingto me wasof courseto have the letter translated to them.I took acopy in my pocket-book of the originaland of my translation--and therethey are at your service."

He handedme the open pocket-book. The address on the letterwas thefirst thing copied.  It was all written in one paragraphwithoutany attempt at punctuationthus:  "To the three Indian menlivingwith the lady called Macann at Frizinghall in Yorkshire."The Hindoocharacters followed; and the English translation appeared atthe endexpressed in these mysterious words:

"Inthe name of the Regent of the Nightwhose seat is on the Antelopewhose armsembrace the four corners of the earth.

"Brothersturn your faces to the southand come to me in the streetof manynoiseswhich leads down to the muddy river.

"Thereason is this.

"Myown eyes have seen it."

There theletter endedwithout either date or signature.I handedit back to Mr. Murthwaiteand owned that this curiousspecimenof Hindoo correspondence rather puzzled me.

"Ican explain the first sentence to you" he said;"andthe conduct of the Indians themselves will explain the rest.The god ofthe moon is representedin the Hindoo mythologyas afour-armed deityseated on an antelope; and one of histitles isthe regent of the night.  Herethento begin withissomething which looks suspiciously like an indirect referenceto theMoonstone.  Nowlet us see what the Indians didafter theprison authorities had allowed them to receivetheirletter.  On the very day when they were set freethey wentat once to the railway stationand tooktheirplaces in the first train that started for London.We allthought it a pity at Frizinghall that their proceedingswere notprivately watched.  Butafter Lady Verinder haddismissedthe police-officerand had stopped all furtherinquiryinto the loss of the Diamondno one else could presumeto stir inthe matter.  The Indians were free to go to Londonand toLondon they went.  What was the next news we heard of themMr.Bruff?"

"Theywere annoying Mr. Luker" I answered"by loitering aboutthe houseatLambeth."

"Didyou read the report of Mr. Luker's application to the magistrate?"

"Yes."

"Inthe course of his statement he referredif you rememberto aforeign workman in his employmentwhom he had just dismissedonsuspicion of attempted theftand whom he also distrusted aspossiblyacting in collusion with the Indians who had annoyed him.Theinference is pretty plainMr. Bruffas to who wrote that letterwhichpuzzled you just nowand as to which of Mr. Luker's Orientaltreasuresthe workman had attempted to steal."

Theinference (as I hastened to acknowledge) was too plain to needbeingpointed out.  I had never doubted that the Moonstone had foundits wayinto Mr. Luker's handsat the time Mr. Murthwaite alluded to.My onlyquestion had beenHow had the Indians discovered the circumstance?Thisquestion (the most difficult to deal with of allas I had thought)had nowreceived its answerlike the rest.  Lawyer as I wasI beganto feelthat I might trust Mr. Murthwaite to lead me blindfold throughthe lastwindings of the labyrinthalong which he had guided me thus far.I paid himthe compliment of telling him thisand found my little concessionverygraciously received.

"Youshall give me a piece of information in your turn before we go on"he said. "Somebody must have taken the Moonstone from Yorkshire toLondon.Andsomebody must have raised money on itor it would never have beenin Mr.Luker's possession.  Has there been any discovery made of whothatpersonwas?"

"Nonethat I know of."

"Therewas a story (was there not?) about Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.I am toldhe is an eminent philanthropist--which is decidedly against himto beginwith."

I heartilyagreed in this with Mr. Murthwaite.  At the same timeI feltbound to inform him (withoutit is needless to saymentioningMiss Verinder's name) that Mr. Godfrey Ablewhitehad beencleared of all suspicionon evidence which I couldanswer foras entirely beyond dispute.

"Verywell" said Mr. Murthwaitequietly"let us leave itto time toclear the matter up.  In the meanwhileMr. Bruffwe mustget back again to the Indianson your account.Theirjourney to London simply ended in their becoming the victimsof anotherdefeat.  The loss of their second chance of seizingtheDiamond is mainly attributableas I thinkto the cunningandforesight of Mr. Luker--who doesn't stand at the topof theprosperous and ancient profession of usury for nothing!By theprompt dismissal of the man in his employmenthedeprived the Indians of the assistance which theirconfederatewould have rendered them in getting into the house.By theprompt transport of the Moonstone to his banker'she tookthe conspirators by surprise before they werepreparedwith a new plan for robbing him.  How the Indiansin thislatter casesuspected what he had doneand how theycontrivedto possess themselves of his banker's receiptare eventstoo recent to need dwelling on.  Let it be enoughto saythat they know the Moonstone to be once more out oftheirreach; deposited (under the general description of "a valuableof greatprice") in a banker's strong room.  NowMr. Bruffwhat istheir third chance of seizing the Diamond? and when willit come?"

As thequestion passed his lipsI penetrated the motive of the Indian'svisit tomy office at last!

"Isee it!"  I exclaimed.  "The Indians take it forgrantedas we dothat theMoonstone has been pledged; and they want to be certainlyinformedof the earliest period at which the pledge can be redeemed--becausethat will be the earliest period at which the Diamond can be removedfrom thesafe keeping of the bank!"

"Itold you you would find it out for yourselfMr. Bruffif I onlygave you a fair chance.  In a year from the timewhen theMoonstone was pledgedthe Indians will be on the watchfor theirthird chance.  Mr. Luker's own lips have told themhow longthey will have to waitand your respectable authorityhassatisfied them that Mr. Luker has spoken the truth.When do wesupposeat a rough guessthat the Diamond foundits wayinto the money-lender's hands?"

"Towardsthe end of last June" I answered"as well as I can reckonit."

"Andwe are now in the year 'forty-eight. Very good.If theunknown person who has pledged the Moonstone can redeemit in ayearthe jewel will be in that person's possessionagain atthe end of June'forty-nine. I shall be thousandsof milesfrom England and English news at that date.But it maybe worth YOUR while to take a note of itand to arrangeto be inLondon at the time."

"Youthink something serious will happen?"  I said.

"Ithink I shall be safer" he answered"among the fiercestfanaticsof Central Asia than I should be if I crossedthe doorof the bank with the Moonstone in my pocket.TheIndians have been defeated twice runningMr. Bruff.It's myfirm belief that they won't be defeated a third time."

Those werethe last words he said on the subject.  The coffee came in;the guestsroseand dispersed themselves about the room; and we joinedthe ladiesof the dinner-party upstairs.

I made anote of the dateand it may not be amiss if I close my narrativebyrepeating that note here:

JUNE'FORTY-NINE. EXPECT NEWS OF THE INDIANSTOWARDS THE END OF THEMONTH.

And thatdoneI hand the penwhich I have now no further claim to useto thewriter who follows me next.

 

 

THIRDNARRATIVE

Contributedby FRANKLIN BLAKE

 

CHAPTER I

In thespring of the year eighteen hundred and forty-nineI waswandering in the Eastand had then recently alteredthetravelling plans which I had laid out some months beforeand whichI had communicated to my lawyer and my bankerin London.

Thischange made it necessary for me to send one of my servants to obtainmylettersand remittances from the English consul in a certain citywhich wasno longerincluded as one of my resting-places in my new travelling scheme.The manwas to join me again at an appointed place and time.  Anaccidentfor whichhe was not responsibledelayed him on his errand.  For a week Iand mypeople waitedencamped on the borders of a desert.  At the endof thattime themissing man made his appearancewith the money and the lettersat theentrance of my tent.

"I amafraid I bring you bad newssir" he saidand pointedto one ofthe letterswhich had a mourning border round itand theaddress on which was in the handwriting of Mr. Bruff.

I knownothingin a case of this kindso unendurable as suspense.The letterwith the mourning border was the letter that I opened first.

Itinformed me that my father was deadand that I was heirto hisgreat fortune.  The wealth which had thus fallen intomy handsbrought its responsibilities with itand Mr. Bruffentreatedme to lose no time in returning to England.

Bydaybreak the next morningI was on my way back to my own country.

 

Thepicture presented of meby my old friend Betteredgeat the timeof mydeparture from Englandis (as I think) a little overdrawn.He hasinhis own quaint wayinterpreted seriously one of hisyoungmistress's many satirical references to my foreign education;and haspersuaded himself that he actually saw those FrenchGermanandItalian sides to my characterwhich my lively cousin onlyprofessedto discover in jestand which never had any real existenceexcept inour good Betteredge's own brain.  Butbarring this drawbackI am boundto own that he has stated no more than the truthinrepresenting me as wounded to the heart by Rachel's treatmentand asleaving England in the first keenness of suffering caused bythebitterest disappointment of my life.

I wentabroadresolved--if change and absence could help me--to forget her.It isIam persuadedno true view of human nature which denies that changeandabsence DO help a man under these circumstances; they force hisattentionaway fromthe exclusive contemplation of his own sorrow.  I never forgother;but thepang of remembrance lost its worst bitternesslittle by littleas timedistanceand novelty interposed themselves more and more effectuallybetweenRachel and me.

On theother handit is no less certain thatwith the actof turninghomewardthe remedy which had gained its groundsosteadilybegan nowjust as steadilyto drop back.The nearerI drew to the country which she inhabitedand to theprospect of seeing her againthe more irresistiblyherinfluence began to recover its hold on me.  On leavingEnglandshe was the last person in the world whose name Iwould havesuffered to pass my lips.  On returning to Englandshe wasthe first person I inquired afterwhen Mr. Bruff and Imet again.

I wasinformedof courseof all that had happened in my absence;in otherwordsof all that has been related here in continuationofBetteredge's narrative--one circumstance only being excepted.Mr. Bruffdid notat that timefeel himself at liberty to informme of themotives which had privately influenced Rachel and GodfreyAblewhitein recalling the marriage promiseon either side.I troubledhim with no embarrassing questions on this delicate subject.It wasrelief enough to meafter the jealous disappointment causedby hearingthat she had ever contemplated being Godfrey's wifeto knowthatreflection had convinced her of acting rashlyand that she hadeffectedher own release from her marriage engagement.

Havingheard the story of the pastmy next inquiries (still inquiriesafterRachel!) advanced naturally to the present time.  Under whosecarehad shebeen placed after leaving Mr. Bruff's house? and where was shelivingnow?

She wasliving under the care of a widowed sister of the late SirJohnVerinder--one Mrs. Merridew--whom her mother's executors hadrequestedto act as guardianand who had accepted the proposal.They werereported to me as getting on together admirably welland asbeing now establishedfor the seasonin Mrs. Merridew's houseinPortland Place.

Half anhour after receiving this informationI was on my waytoPortland Place--without having had the courage to own it to Mr.Bruff!

The manwho answered the door was not sure whether Miss Verinder was at homeor not. I sent him upstairs with my cardas the speediest way of settingthequestion at rest.  The man came down again with an impenetrablefaceandinformed me that Miss Verinder was out.

I mighthave suspected other people of purposely denying themselves to me.But it wasimpossible to suspect Rachel.  I left word that I would callagainat sixo'clock that evening.

At sixo'clock I was informed for the second time that MissVerinderwas not at home.  Had any message been left for me.No messagehad been left for me.  Had Miss Verinder not receivedmy card? The servant begged my pardon--Miss Verinder HADreceivedit.

Theinference was too plain to be resisted.  Rachel declined to seeme.

On mysideI declined to be treated in this waywithout making anattemptat leastto discover a reason for it.  I sent up my name to Mrs.Merridewandrequested her to favour me with a personal interview at any hourwhich itmight bemost convenient to her to name.

Mrs.Merridew made no difficulty about receiving me at once.I wasshown into a comfortable little sitting-roomand foundmyself inthe presence of a comfortable little elderly lady.She was sogood as to feel great regret and much surpriseentirelyon my account.  She was at the same timehowevernot in aposition to offer me any explanationor to pressRachel ona matter which appeared to relate to a questionof privatefeeling alone.  This was said over and over againwith apolite patience that nothing could tire; and this wasall Igained by applying to Mrs. Merridew.

My lastchance was to write to Rachel.  My servant took a letterto her thenext daywith strict instructions to wait for an answer.

The answercame backliterally in one sentence.

"MissVerinder begs to decline entering into any correspondencewith Mr.Franklin Blake."

Fond as Iwas of herI felt indignantly the insult offered to mein thatreply.  Mr. Bruff came in to speak to me on businessbefore Ihad recovered possession of myself.  I dismissedthebusiness on the spotand laid the whole case before him.He provedto be as incapable of enlightening me as Mrs. Merridew herself.I askedhim if any slander had been spoken of me in Rachel's hearing.Mr. Bruffwas not aware of any slander of which I was the object.Had shereferred to me in any way while she was stayingunder Mr.Bruff's roof?  Never.  Had she not so much as askedduring allmy long absencewhether I was living or dead?No suchquestion had ever passed her lips.  I took out of mypocket-bookthe letter which poor Lady Verinder had written to mefromFrizinghallon the day when I left her house in Yorkshire.And Ipointed Mr. Bruff's attention to these two sentencesin it:

"Thevaluable assistance which you rendered to the inquiry afterthe lostjewel is still an unpardoned offencein the presentdreadfulstate of Rachel's mind.  Moving blindfold in this matteryou haveadded to the burden of anxiety which she has had to bearbyinnocently threatening her secret with discovery throughyourexertions."

"Isit possible" I asked"that the feeling towards me whichistheredescribedis as bitter as ever against me now?"

Mr. Brufflooked unaffectedly distressed.

"Ifyou insist on an answer" he said"I own I can placeno otherinterpretation on her conduct than that."

I rang thebelland directed my servant to pack my portmanteauand tosend out for a railway guide.  Mr. Bruff askedin astonishmentwhat I wasgoing to do.

"I amgoing to Yorkshire" I answered"by the next train."

"MayI ask for what purpose?"

"Mr.Bruffthe assistance I innocently rendered to the inquiryafter theDiamond was an unpardoned offencein Rachel's mindnearly ayear since; and it remains an unpardoned offence still.I won'taccept that position!  I am determined to find out the secretof hersilence towards her motherand her enmity towards me.If timepainsand money can do itI will lay my hand on the thief whotook theMoonstone!"

The worthyold gentleman attempted to remonstrate--to induceme tolisten to reason--to do his duty towards mein short.I was deafto everything that he could urge.  No earthlyconsiderationwouldat that momenthave shaken the resolutionthat wasin me.

"Ishall take up the inquiry again" I went on"at the pointwhere Idropped it; and I shall follow it onwardsstep by steptill Icome to the present time.  There are missing links intheevidenceas I left itwhich Gabriel Betteredge can supplyand toGabriel Betteredge I go!"

Towardssunset that evening I stood again on the well-remembered terraceand lookedonce more at the peaceful old country house.  The gardener wasthe firstperson whom I saw in the deserted grounds.  He had leftBetteredgean hoursincesunning himself in the customary corner of the back yard.I knew itwell; and I said I would go and seek him myself.

I walkedround by the familiar paths and passagesand lookedin at theopen gate of the yard.

There hewas--the dear old friend of the happy days that were neverto comeagain--there he was in the old corneron the old beehive chairwith hispipe in his mouthand his ROBINSON CRUSOE on his lapand histwo friendsthe dogsdozing on either side of him!In theposition in which I stoodmy shadow was projected in frontof me bythe last slanting rays of the sun.  Either the dogs saw itor theirkeen scent informed them of my approach; they startedup with agrowl.  Starting in his turnthe old man quietedthem by awordand then shaded his failing eyes with his handand lookedinquiringly at the figure at the gate.

My owneyes were full of tears.  I was obliged to wait a momentbefore Icould trust myself to speak to him.

 

CHAPTER II

"Betteredge!" I saidpointing to the well-remembered book on his knee"hasROBINSON CRUSOE informed youthis eveningthat you might expectto seeFranklin Blake?"

"Bythe lord HarryMr. Franklin!" cried the old man"that'sexactlywhatROBINSON CRUSOE has done!"

Hestruggled to his feet with my assistanceand stood for a momentlookingbackwards and forwards between ROBINSON CRUSOE and meapparentlyat a loss to discover which of us had surprised him most.Theverdict ended in favour of the book.  Holding it open beforehim inboth handshe surveyed the wonderful volume with a stareofunutterable anticipation--as if he expected to see RobinsonCrusoehimself walk out of the pagesand favour us with apersonalinterview.

"Here'sthe bitMr. Franklin!" he saidas soon as he hadrecoveredthe use of his speech.  "As I live by breadsirhere's thebit I was readingthe moment before you came in!Page onehundred and fifty-six as follows:--'I stood likeoneThunderstruckor as if I had seen an Apparition.'If thatisn't as much as to say:  'Expect the sudden appearanceof Mr.Franklin Blake'--there's no meaning in the English language!"saidBetteredgeclosing the book with a bangand gettingone of hishands free at last to take the hand which Iofferedhim.

I hadexpected himnaturally enough under the circumstancestooverwhelm me with questions.  But no--the hospitableimpulsewas the uppermost impulse in the old servant's mindwhen amember of the family appeared (no matter how!)as avisitor at the house.

"WalkinMr. Franklin" he saidopening the door behind himwith hisquaint old-fashioned bow.  "I'll ask what bringsyou hereafterwards--I must make you comfortable first.There havebeen sad changessince you went away.  The houseis shutupand the servants are gone.  Never mind that!I'll cookyour dinner; and the gardener's wife will make your bed--and ifthere's a bottle of our famous Latour claret left inthecellardown your throatMr. Franklinthat bottle shall go.I bid youwelcomesir!  I bid you heartily welcome!"said thepoor old fellowfighting manfully against the gloomof thedeserted houseand receiving me with the sociable andcourteousattention of the bygone time.

It vexedme to disappoint him.  But the house was Rachel's housenow.Could Ieat in itor sleep in itafter what had happened in London?Thecommonest sense of self-respect forbade me--properly forbade me--to crossthe threshold.

I tookBetteredge by the armand led him out into the garden.There wasno help for it.  I was obliged to tell him the truth.Betweenhis attachment to Racheland his attachment to mehe wassorely puzzled and distressed at the turn things had taken.Hisopinionwhen he expressed itwas given in his usual downrightmannerand wasagreeably redolent of the most positive philosophy I know--thephilosophy of the Betteredge school.

"MissRachel has her faults--I've never denied it" he began."Andriding the high horsenow and thenis one of them.She hasbeen trying to ride over you--and you have put upwith it. LordMr. Franklindon't you know women by thistimebetter than that?  You have heard me talk of the lateMrs.Betteredge?"

I hadheard him talk of the late Mrs. Betteredge pretty often--invariablyproducing her as his one undeniable exampleof theinbred frailty and perversity of the other sex.In thatcapacity he exhibited her now.

"VerywellMr. Franklin.  Now listen to me.  Different womenhavedifferentways of riding the high horse.  The late Mrs. Betteredgetook herexercise on that favourite female animal whenever Ihappenedto deny her anything that she had set her heart on.So sure asI came home form my work on these occasionsso surewas my wife to call to me up the kitchen stairsand to saythatafter my brutal treatment of hershe hadn'tthe heartto cook me my dinner.  I put up with it for some time--just asyou are putting up with it now from Miss Rachel.At last mypatience wore out.  I went downstairsand Itook Mrs.Betteredge--affectionatelyyou understand--up in myarmsand carried herholus-bolusinto the bestparlourwhere she received her company.  I said "That's the rightplace foryoumy dear" and so went back to the kitchen.I lockedmyself inand took off my coatand turned up myshirt-sleevesand cooked my own dinner.  When it was doneI servedit up in my best mannerand enjoyed it most heartily.I had mypipe and my drop of grog afterwards; and then I clearedthe tableand washed the crockeryand cleaned the knivesand forksand put the things awayand swept up the hearth.Whenthings were as bright and clean againas bright and cleancould beI opened the door and let Mrs. Betteredge in."I'vehad my dinnermy dear" I said; "and I hope you will findthatI haveleft the kitchen all that your fondest wishes can desire."For therest of that woman's lifeMr. FranklinI never had tocook mydinner again!  Moral:  You have put up with Miss Rachelin London;don't put up with her in Yorkshire.  Come back tothehouse!"

Quiteunanswerable!  I could only assure my good friend that even HISpowers ofpersuasion werein this casethrown away on me.

"It'sa lovely evening" I said.  "I shall walk toFrizinghalland stayat thehoteland you must come to-morrow morning and breakfast with me.I havesomething to say to you."

Betteredgeshook his head gravely.

"I amheartily sorry for this" he said.  "I had hopedMr.Franklinto hearthat things were all smooth and pleasant again between youand MissRachel.  If you must have your own waysir" he continuedafter amoment's reflection"there is no need to go to Frizinghallto-nightfor a bed.  It's to be had nearer than that.There'sHotherstone's Farmbarely two miles from here.  You can hardlyobject toTHAT on Miss Rachel's account" the old man added slily."HotherstonelivesMr. Franklinon his own freehold."

Iremembered the place the moment Betteredge mentioned it.Thefarm-house stood in a sheltered inland valleyon thebanks of the prettiest stream in that part of Yorkshire:and thefarmer had a spare bedroom and parlourwhich he wasaccustomedto let to artistsanglersand tourists in general.A moreagreeable place of abodeduring my stay in the neighbourhoodI couldnot have wished to find.

"Arethe rooms to let?"  I inquired.

"Mrs.Hotherstone herselfsirasked for my good word to recommendthe roomsyesterday."

"I'lltake themBetteredgewith the greatest pleasure."

We wentback to the yardin which I had left my travelling-bag. Afterputting astick through the handleand swinging the bag over his shoulderBetteredgeappeared to relapse into the bewilderment which my suddenappearancehad causedwhen I surprised him in the beehive chair.He lookedincredulously at the houseand then he wheeled aboutand lookedmoreincredulously still at me.

"I'velived a goodish long time in the world" said this best anddearestof all oldservants--"but the like of thisI never did expect to see.Therestands the houseand here stands Mr. Franklin Blake--andDammeif one ofthem isn't turning his back on the otherand going to sleepin alodging!"

He led theway outwagging his head and growling ominously."There'sonly one more miracle that CAN happen" he said to meover hisshoulder.  "The next thing you'll doMr. Franklinwill be topay me back that seven-and-sixpence you borrowed of mewhen youwere a boy."

Thisstroke of sarcasm put him in a better humour with himself and withme.We leftthe houseand passed through the lodge gates.  Once clear ofthegroundsthe duties of hospitality (in Betteredge's code of morals)ceasedand the privileges of curiosity began.

He droppedbackso as to let me get on a level with him."Fineevening for a walkMr. Franklin" he saidas if wehad justaccidentally encountered each other at that moment."Supposingyou had gone to the hotel at Frizinghallsir?"

"Yes?"

"Ishould have had the honour of breakfasting with youto-morrowmorning."

"Comeand breakfast with me at Hotherstone's Farminstead."

"Muchobliged to you for your kindnessMr. Franklin.But itwasn't exactly breakfast that I was driving at.I thinkyou mentioned that you had something to say to me?If it's nosecretsir" said Betteredgesuddenly abandoningthecrooked wayand taking the straight one"I'm burningto knowwhat's brought you down hereif you pleasein thissuddenway."

"Whatbrought me here before?"  I asked.

"TheMoonstoneMr. Franklin.  But what brings you nowsir?"

"TheMoonstone againBetteredge."

The oldman suddenly stood stilland looked at me in the grey twilightas if hesuspected his own ears of deceiving him.

"Ifthat's a jokesir" he said"I'm afraid I'm getting alittledull in myold age.  I don't take it."

"It'sno joke" I answered.  "I have come here to take upthe inquirywhich wasdropped when I left England.  I have come here to do what nobodyhas doneyet--to find out who took the Diamond."

"Letthe Diamond beMr. Franklin!  Take my adviceand let theDiamond be!Thatcursed Indian jewel has misguided everybody who has come near it.Don'twaste your money and your temper--in the fine spring time ofyour lifesir--by meddling with the Moonstone.  How can YOU hope tosucceed(savingyour presence)when Sergeant Cuff himself made a mess of it?SergeantCuff!" repeated Betteredgeshaking his forefinger at mesternly."Thegreatest policeman in England!"

"Mymind is made upmy old friend.  Even Sergeant Cuff doesn'tdaunt me.By-the-byeI may want to speak to himsooner or later.  Have you heardanythingof him lately?"

"TheSergeant won't help youMr. Franklin."

"Whynot?"

"Therehas been an eventsirin the police-circlessince you went away.The greatCuff has retired from business.  He has got a littlecottage atDorking; and he's up to his eyes in the growing of roses.I have itin his own handwritingMr. Franklin.  He has grown the whitemoss rosewithout budding it on the dog-rose first.  And Mr. Begbiethegardener is to go to Dorkingand own that the Sergeant has beatenhimat last."

"Itdoesn't much matter" I said.  "I must do withoutSergeant Cuff's help.And I musttrust to youat starting."

It islikely enough that I spoke rather carelessly.

At anyrateBetteredge seemed to be piqued by something in the reply whichIhad justmade to him.  "You might trust to worse than meMr.Franklin--I can tellyou that" he said a little sharply.

The tonein which he retortedand a certain disturbanceafter he had spokenwhich Idetected in his mannersuggested to me that he was possessed of someinformationwhich he hesitated to communicate.

"Iexpect you to help me" I said"in picking up thefragments of evidencewhichSergeant Cuff has left behind him.  I know you can do that.Can you dono more?"

"Whatmore can you expect from mesir?" asked Betteredgewith anappearance of the utmost humility.

"Iexpect more--from what you said just now."

"MereboastingMr. Franklin" returned the old man obstinately."Somepeople are born boastersand they never get over it to theirdyingday.  I'm one of them."

There wasonly one way to take with him.  I appealed to his interestin Racheland his interest in me.

"Betteredgewould you be glad to hear that Rachel and Iwere goodfriends again?"

"Ihave served your familysirto mighty little purposeif youdoubt it!"

"Doyou remember how Rachel treated mebefore I left England?"

"Aswell as if it was yesterday!  My lady herself wrote you a letterabout it;and you were so good as to show the letter to me.It saidthat Miss Rachel was mortally offended with youfor thepart you had taken in trying to recover her jewel.Andneither my ladynor younor anybody else couldguess why.

"QuitetrueBetteredge!  And I come back from my travelsand findher mortally offended with me still.I knewthat the Diamond was at the bottom of itlast yearand I knowthat the Diamond is at the bottom of it now.I havetried to speak to herand she won't see me.I havetried to write to herand she won't answer me.HowinHeaven's nameam I to clear the matter up?The chanceof searching into the loss of the Moonstoneis the onechance of inquiry that Rachel herself hasleft me."

Thosewords evidently put the case before himas he had not seen it yet.He asked aquestion which satisfied me that I had shaken him.

"Thereis no ill-feeling in thisMr. Franklinon your side--is there?"

"Therewas some anger" I answered"when I left London.But thatis all worn out now.  I want to make Rachel come to anunderstandingwith me--and I want nothing more."

"Youdon't feel any fearsir--supposing you make any discoveries--in regardto what you may find out about Miss Rachel?"

Iunderstood the jealous belief in his young mistress which promptedthosewords.

"I amas certain of her as you are" I answered.  "Thefullest disclosureof hersecret will reveal nothing that can alter her place in yourestimationor inmine."

Betteredge'slast-left scruples vanished at that.

"If Iam doing wrong to help youMr. Franklin" he exclaimed"allI can say is--I am as innocent of seeing it as the babe unborn!I can putyou on the road to discoveryif you can only go on by yourself.Youremember that poor girl of ours--Rosanna Spearman?"

"Ofcourse!"

"Youalways thought she had some sort of confession in regard to thismatter ofthe Moonstonewhich she wanted to make to you?"

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

"Youmay set that doubt at restMr. Franklinwhenever you please."

It was myturn to come to a standstill now.  I tried vainlyin thegathering darknessto see his face.  In the surpriseof themomentI asked a little impatiently what he meant.

"Steadysir!" proceeded Betteredge.  "I mean what I say.RosannaSpearman left a sealed letter behind her--a letteraddressedto YOU."

"Whereis it?"

"Inthe possession of a friend of hersat Cobb's Hole.  You musthave heardtellwhen you were here lastsirof Limping Lucy--a lamegirl with a crutch."

"Thefisherman's daughter?"

"ThesameMr. Franklin."

"Whywasn't the letter forwarded to me?"

"LimpingLucy has a will of her ownsir.  She wouldn't give itinto anyhands but yours.  And you had left England before I couldwrite toyou."

"Let'sgo backBetteredgeand get it at once!"

"Toolatesirto-night. They're great savers of candles along our coast;and theygo to bed early at Cobb's Hole."

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

"Youmightsir.  And when you did get thereyou would find the doorlocked.He pointedto a lightglimmering below us; andat the same momentI heardthrough the stillness of the evening the bubbling of a stream."There'sthe FarmMr. Franklin!  Make yourself comfortable for to-nightandcome to meto-morrow morning if you'll be so kind?"

"Youwill go with me to the fisherman's cottage?"

"Yessir."

"Early?"

"AsearlyMr. Franklinas you like."

Wedescended the path that led to the Farm.

 

CHAPTERIII

I haveonly the most indistinct recollection of what happenedatHotherstone's Farm.

I remembera hearty welcome; a prodigious supperwhich wouldhave fed awhole village in the East; a delightfully clean bedroomwithnothing in it to regret but that detestable product of the follyof ourfore-fathers--a feather-bed; a restless nightwith muchkindlingof matchesand many lightings of one little candle;and animmense sensation of relief when the sun roseand there wasa prospectof getting up.

It hadbeen arranged over-night with Betteredgethat I was to call for himon our wayto Cobb's Holeas early as I liked--whichinterpreted by myimpatienceto get possession of the lettermeant as early as I could.Withoutwaiting for breakfast at the FarmI took a crust of bread in myhandand setforthin some doubt whether I should not surprise the excellentBetteredgein his bed.  To my great relief he proved to be quite as excitedabout thecoming event as I was.  I found him readyand waiting for mewith hisstick in his hand.

"Howare you this morningBetteredge?"

"Verypoorlysir."

"Sorryto hear it.  What do you complain of?"

"Icomplain of a new diseaseMr. Franklinof my own inventing.I don'twant to alarm youbut you're certain to catch it beforethemorning is out."

"Thedevil I am!"

"Doyou feel an uncomfortable heat at the pit of your stomachsir? and anasty thumping at the top of your head?  Ah! not yet?It willlay hold of you at Cobb's HoleMr. Franklin.  I callit thedetective-fever; and I first caught it in the company ofSergeantCuff."

"Aye!aye! and the cure in this instance is to open Rosanna Spearman'sletterIsuppose?  Come alongand let's get it."

Early asit waswe found the fisherman's wife astir in her kitchen.On mypresentation by Betteredgegood Mrs. Yolland performeda socialceremonystrictly reserved (as I afterwards learnt)forstrangers of distinction.  She put a bottle of Dutch gin and acoupleof cleanpipes on the tableand opened the conversation by saying"Whatnews from Londonsir?"

Before Icould find an answer to this immensely comprehensive questionanapparition advanced towards meout of a dark corner of the kitchen.A wanwildhaggard girlwith remarkably beautiful hairand with a fiercekeennessin her eyescame limping up on a crutch to the table at which Iwassittingand looked at me as if I was an object of mingled interestandhorrorwhich it quite fascinated her to see.

"Mr.Betteredge" she saidwithout taking her eyes off me"mentionhis name againif you please."

"Thisgentleman's name" answered Betteredge (with a strongemphasison GENTLEMAN)"is Mr. Franklin Blake."

The girlturned her back on meand suddenly left the room.Good Mrs.Yolland--as I believe--made some apologies for herdaughter'sodd behaviourand Betteredge (probably) translated themintopolite English.  I speak of this in complete uncertainty.Myattention was absorbed in following the sound of the girl's crutch.Thump-thumpup the wooden stairs; thump-thump across the roomabove ourheads; thump-thump down the stairs again--and therestood theapparition at the open doorwith a letter in its handbeckoningme out!

I leftmore apologies in course of delivery behind meand followedthisstrange creature--limping on before mefaster and faster--down theslope of the beach.  She led me behind some boatsout ofsight and hearing of the few people in the fishing-villageand thenstoppedand faced me for the first time.

"Standthere" she said"I want to look at you."

There wasno mistaking the expression on her face.  I inspiredher withthe strongest emotions of abhorrence and disgust.Let me notbe vain enough to say that no woman had ever lookedat me inthis manner before.  I will only venture on the moremodestassertion that no woman had ever let me perceive it yet.There is alimit to the length of the inspection which a mancanendureunder certain circumstances.  I attempted to directLimpingLucy's attention to some less revolting object thanmy face.

"Ithink you have got a letter to give me" I began.  "Isit the letter therein yourhand?"

"Saythat again" was the only answer I received.

I repeatedthe wordslike a good child learning its lesson.

"No"said the girlspeaking to herselfbut keeping her eyesstillmercilessly fixed on me.  "I can't find out what she sawin hisface.  I can't guess what she heard in his voice."Shesuddenly looked away from meand rested her head wearilyon the topof her crutch.  "Ohmy poor dear!" she saidin thefirst soft tones which had fallen from herin my hearing."Ohmy lost darling! what could you see in this man?"She liftedher head again fiercelyand looked at me once more."Canyou eat and drink?" she asked.

I did mybest to preserve my gravityand answered"Yes."

"Canyou sleep?"

"Yes."

"Whenyou see a poor girl in servicedo you feel no remorse?"

"Certainlynot.  Why should I?"

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

"Takeit!" she exclaimed furiously.  "I never set eyes onyou before.GodAlmighty forbid I should ever set eyes on you again."

With thoseparting words she limped away from me at the top of her speed.The oneinterpretation that I could put on her conduct hasno doubtbeenanticipated by everybody.  I could only suppose that she wasmad.

Havingreached that inevitable conclusionI turned to the moreinterestingobject of investigation which was presented to meby RosannaSpearman's letter.  The address was written asfollows:--'ForFranklin BlakeEsq. To be given into his own hands(and notto be trusted to any one else)by Lucy Yolland."

I brokethe seal.  The envelope contained a letter:  and thisinits turncontaineda slip of paper.  I read the letter first:--

"Sir--Ifyou are curious to know the meaning of my behaviour to youwhilst youwere staying in the house of my mistressLady Verinderdo whatyou are told to do in the memorandum enclosed with this--and do itwithout any person being present to overlook you.Yourhumble servant

"ROSANNASPEARMAN."

 

I turnedto the slip of paper next.  Here is the literal copy of itword forword:

"Memorandum:--Togo to the Shivering Sand at the turn of the tide.To walkout on the South Spituntil I get the South Spit Beaconand theflagstaff at the Coast-guard station above Cobb's Hole in alinetogether.  To lay down on the rocksa stickor any straightthingto guidemy handexactly in the line of the beacon and the flagstaff.To takecarein doing thisthat one end of the stick shall be atthe edgeof the rockson the side of them which overlooks the quicksand.To feelalong the stickamong the sea-weed (beginning from the endof thestick which points towards the beacon)for the Chain.To run myhand along the Chainwhen founduntil I come to the part of itwhichstretches over the edge of the rocksdown into the quicksand.AND THENTO PULL THE CHAIN."

Just as Ihad read the last words--underlined in the original--I heardthe voice of Betteredge behind me.  The inventor of thedetective-feverhad completely succumbed to that irresistible malady."Ican't stand it any longerMr. Franklin.  What does her lettersay?Formercy's sakesirtell uswhat does her letter say?"

I handedhim the letterand the memorandum.  He read the first withoutappearingto be much interested in it.  But the second--the memorandum--produced astrong impression on him.

"TheSergeant said it!" cried Betteredge.  "From first tolastsirtheSergeant said she had got a memorandum of the hiding-place.And hereit is!  Lord save usMr. Franklinhere is the secretthatpuzzled everybodyfrom the great Cuff downwardsready andwaitingas one may sayto show itself to YOU!It's theebb nowsiras anybody may see for themselves.How longwill it be till the turn of the tide?"  He looked upandobserved a lad at workat some little distance from usmending anet.  "Tammie Bright!" he shouted at the top ofhis voice.

"Ihear you!"  Tammie shouted back.

"When'sthe turn of the tide?"

"Inan hour's time."

We bothlooked at our watches.

"Wecan go round by the coastMr. Franklin" said Betteredge;"andget to the quicksand in that way with plenty of time to spare.What doyou saysir?"

"Comealong!"

On our wayto the Shivering SandI applied to Betteredge to revivemy memoryof events (as affecting Rosanna Spearman) at the periodofSergeant Cuff's inquiry.  With my old friend's helpI soonhad thesuccession of circumstances clearly registered in my mind.Rosanna'sjourney to Frizinghallwhen the whole household believedher to beill in her own room--Rosanna's mysterious employmentof thenight-time with her door lockedand her candle burning tillthemorning--Rosanna's suspicious purchase of the japanned tin caseand thetwo dog's chains from Mrs. Yolland--the Sergeant's positiveconvictionthat Rosanna had hidden something at the Shivering Sandand theSergeant's absolute ignorance as to what that something might be--all thesestrange results of the abortive inquiry into the lossof theMoonstone were clearly present to me againwhen we reachedthequicksandand walked out together on the low ledge of rocks calledthe SouthSpit.

WithBetteredge's helpI soon stood in the right position to seethe Beaconand the Coast-guard flagstaff in a line together.Followingthe memorandum as our guidewe next laid my stickin thenecessary directionas neatly as we couldon the unevensurface ofthe rocks.  And then we looked at our watchesonce more.

It wantednearly twenty minutes yet of the turn of the tide.Isuggested waiting through this interval on the beachinstead ofon the wet and slippery surface of the rocks.Havingreached the dry sandI prepared to sit down; andgreatly tomysurpriseBetteredge prepared to leave me.

"Whatare you going away for?"  I asked.

"Lookat the letter againsirand you will see."

A glanceat the letter reminded me that I was chargedwhen I mademydiscoveryto make it alone.

"It'shard enough for me to leave youat such a time as this"saidBetteredge.  "But she died a dreadful deathpoor soul--and I feela kind of call on meMr. Franklinto humour that fancyof hers. Besides" he addedconfidentially"there's nothingin theletter against your letting out the secret afterwards.I'll hangabout in the fir plantationand wait till you pick me up.Don't belonger than you can helpsir.  The detective-fever isn't aneasydisease todeal withunder THESE circumstances."

With thatparting cautionhe left me.

Theinterval of expectationshort as it was when reckoned by the measureof timeassumed formidable proportions when reckoned by the measureofsuspense.  This was one of the occasions on which the invaluablehabitof smokingbecomes especially precious and consolatory.  I lit a cigarand satdown on the slope of the beach.

Thesunlight poured its unclouded beauty on every object that I couldsee.Theexquisite freshness of the air made the mere act of living andbreathinga luxury. Even the lonely little bay welcomed the morning with a showofcheerfulness; and the bared wet surface of the quicksand itselfglitteringwith a golden brightnesshid the horror of its false brown faceunder apassing smile.  It was the finest day I had seen since my returntoEngland.

The turnof the tide camebefore my cigar was finished.I saw thepreliminary heaving of the Sandand then the awfulshiverthat crept over its surface--as if some spirit of terrorlived andmoved and shuddered in the fathomless deeps beneath.I threwaway my cigarand went back again to the rocks.

Mydirections in the memorandum instructed me to feel along the linetracedby thestickbeginning with the end which was nearest to the beacon.

Iadvancedin this mannermore than half way along the stickwithoutencountering anything but the edges of the rocks.An inch ortwo further onhowevermy patience was rewarded.In anarrow little fissurejust within reach of my forefingerI felt thechain.  Attemptingnextto follow itby touchin thedirection of the quicksandI found my progress stopped by athickgrowth of seaweed--which had fastened itself into the fissureno doubtin the time that had elapsed since Rosanna Spearman hadchosen herhiding-place.

It wasequally impossible to pull up the seaweedor to forcemy handthrough it.  After marking the spot indicated by the endof thestick which was placed nearest to the quicksandIdetermined to pursue the search for the chain on a planof myown.  My idea was to "sound" immediately under therockson thechance of recovering the lost trace of the chain atthe pointat which it entered the sand.  I took up the stickand kneltdown on the brink of the South Spit.

In thispositionmy face was within a few feet of the surfaceof thequicksand.  The sight of it so near mestill disturbedatintervals by its hideous shivering fitshook my nervesfor themoment.  A horrible fancy that the dead woman mightappear onthe scene of her suicideto assist my search--anunutterable dread of seeing her rise through the heavingsurface ofthe sandand point to the place--forced itselfinto mymindand turned me cold in the warm sunlight.I own Iclosed my eyes at the moment when the point of the stickfirstentered the quicksand.

Theinstant afterwardsbefore the stick could have been submerged morethan a fewinchesI was free from the hold of my own superstitious terrorand wasthrobbing with excitement from head to foot.  Soundingblindfoldat myfirst attempt--at that first attempt I had sounded right!  Thestickstruck thechain.

Taking afirm hold of the roots of the seaweed with my left handI laidmyself down over the brinkand felt with my right handunder theoverhanging edges of the rock.  My right hand foundthe chain.

I drew itup without the slightest difficulty.  And there was the japannedtin casefastened to the end of it.

The actionof the water had so rusted the chainthat it was impossiblefor me tounfasten it from the hasp which attached it to the case.Puttingthe case between my knees and exerting my utmost strengthIcontrived to draw off the cover.  Some white substance filledthe wholeinteriorwhen I looked in.  I put in my handand found it to be linen.

In drawingout the linenI also drew out a letter crumpled up with it.Afterlooking at the directionand discovering that it bore my nameI put theletter in my pocketand completely removed the linen.It cameout in a thick rollmouldedof courseto the shape of the casein whichit had been so long confinedand perfectly preserved from any injuryby thesea.

I carriedthe linen to the dry sand of the beachand there unrolledandsmoothed it out.  There was no mistaking it as an article ofdress.It was anightgown.

Theuppermost sidewhen I spread it outpresented toviewinnumerable folds and creasesand nothing more.I triedthe undermost sidenext--and instantly discoveredthe smearof the paint from the door of Rachel's boudoir!

My eyesremained riveted on the stainand my mind took me back at a leapfrompresent to past.  The very words of Sergeant Cuff recurred tomeas if theman himself was at my side againpointing to the unanswerableinferencewhich he drew from the smear on the door.

"Findout whether there is any article of dress in this housewith thestain of paint on it.  Find out who that dress belongs to.Find outhow the person can account for having been in the roomandsmeared the paint between midnight and three in the morning.If theperson can't satisfy youyou haven't far to look for the hand thattook theDiamond."

One afteranother those words travelled over my memoryrepeatingthemselves again and again with a wearisomemechanicalreiteration.  I was roused from what felt like atrance ofmany hours--from what was reallyno doubtthe pauseof a fewmoments only--by a voice calling to me.  I looked upand sawthat Betteredge's patience had failed him at last.He wasjust visible between the sandhillsreturning tothe beach.

The oldman's appearance recalled methe moment I perceived itto mysense of present thingsand reminded me that the inquirywhich Ihad pursued thus far still remained incomplete.I haddiscovered the smear on the nightgown.  To whom didthenightgown belong?

My firstimpulse was to consult the letter in my pocket--the letterwhich I had found in the case.

As Iraised my hand to take it outI remembered that therewas ashorter way to discovery than this.  The nightgownitselfwould reveal the truthforin all probabilitythenightgown was marked with its owner's name.

I took itup from the sandand looked for the mark.

I foundthe markand read--

MY OWNNAME.

There werethe familiar letters which told me that the nightgown was mine.I lookedup from them.  There was the sun; there were the glitteringwatersof thebay; there was old Betteredgeadvancing nearer and nearer to me.I lookedback again at the letters.  My own name.  Plainlyconfronting me--my ownname.

"Iftimepainsand money can do itI will lay my hand on the thiefwho tookthe Moonstone."--I had left Londonwith those words on my lips.I hadpenetrated the secret which the quicksand had kept from every otherlivingcreature.  Andon the unanswerable evidence of the paint-stainIhaddiscovered Myself as the Thief.

 

CHAPTER IV

I have nota word to say about my own sensations.

Myimpression is that the shock inflicted on me completelysuspendedmy thinking and feeling power.  I certainly couldnot haveknown what I was about when Betteredge joined me--for I haveit on his authority that I laughedwhen he askedwhat wasthe matterand putting the nightgown into his handstold himto read the riddle for himself.

Of whatwas said between us on the beachI have notthefaintest recollection.  The first place in which I cannow seemyself again plainly is the plantation of firs.Betteredgeand I are walking back together to the house;andBetteredge is telling me that I shall be able to face itand hewill be able to face itwhen we have had a glassof grog.

 

The sceneshifts from the plantationto Betteredge's littlesitting-room.My resolution not to enter Rachel's house is forgotten.I feelgratefully the coolness and shadiness and quiet of the room.I drinkthe grog (a perfectly new luxury to meat that time of day)which mygood old friend mixes with icy-cold water from the well.Under anyother circumstancesthe drink would simply stupefy me.As thingsareit strings up my nerves.  I begin to "face it"asBetteredge has predicted.  And Betteredgeon his sidebeginsto"faceit" too.

Thepicture which I am now presenting of myselfwillI suspectbe thoughta very strange oneto say the least of it.Placed ina situation which mayI thinkbe described as entirelywithoutparallelwhat is the first proceeding to which I resort?Do Iseclude myself from all human society?  Do I set my mindto analysethe abominable impossibility whichneverthelessconfrontsme as an undeniable fact?  Do I hurry back to Londonby thefirst train to consult the highest authoritiesand to seta searching inquiry on foot immediately?No. Iaccept the shelter of a house which I had resolvednever todegrade myself by entering again; and I sittipplingspirits and water in the company of an old servantat teno'clock in the morning.  Is this the conduct that mighthave beenexpected from a man placed in my horrible position?I can onlyanswer that the sight of old Betteredge's familiarface wasan inexpressible comfort to meand that the drinkingof oldBetteredge's grog helped meas I believe nothing elsewould havehelped mein the state of complete bodily and mentalprostrationinto which I had fallen.  I can only offer thisexcuse formyself; and I can only admire that invariablepreservationof dignityand that strictly logical consistencyof conductwhich distinguish every man and woman who may readtheselinesin every emergency of their lives from the cradle tothe grave.

"NowMr. Franklinthere's one thing certainat any rate"saidBetteredgethrowing the nightgown down on the table between usandpointing to it as if it was a living creature that could hear him."HE'Sa liarto begin with."

Thiscomforting view of the matter was not the view that presenteditself tomy mind.

"I amas innocent of all knowledge of having taken the Diamond as you are"I said. "But there is the witness against me!  The paint on thenightgownand thename on the nightgown are facts."

Betteredgelifted my glassand put it persuasively into my hand.

"Facts?"he repeated.  "Take a drop more grogMr. Franklinand you'llget over the weakness of believing in facts!Foul playsir!" he continueddropping his voice confidentially."Thatis how I read the riddle.  Foul play somewhere--and youand I mustfind it out.  Was there nothing else in the tin casewhen youput your hand into it?"

Thequestion instantly reminded me of the letter in my pocket.I took itoutand opened it.  It was a letter of many pagescloselywritten.  I looked impatiently for the signature at the end."RosannaSpearman."

As I readthe namea sudden remembrance illuminated my mindand asudden suspicion rose out of the new light.

"Stop!" I exclaimed.  "Rosanna Spearman came to my aunt outof areformatory?  Rosanna Spearman had once been a thief?"

"There'sno denying thatMr. Franklin.  What of it nowif youplease?"

"Whatof it now?  How do we know she may not have stolen the Diamondafterall?  How do we know she may not have smeared my nightgownpurposelywith the paint?"

Betteredgelaid his hand on my armand stopped me before I couldsay anymore.

"Youwill be cleared of thisMr. Franklinbeyond all doubt.But I hopeyou won't be cleared in THAT way.  See whatthe lettersayssir.  In justice to the girl's memorysee whatit says."
I felt theearnestness with which he spoke--felt it as a friendly rebuketo me. "You shall form your own judgment on her letter" I said."Iwill read it out."

Ibegan--and read these lines:

"Sir--Ihave something to own to you.  A confession which means muchmiserymaysometimes be made in very few words.  This confession can bemade inthreewords.  I love you.

 

The letterdropped from my hand.  I looked at Betteredge."Inthe name of Heaven" I said"what does it mean?"

He seemedto shrink from answering the question.

"Youand Limping Lucy were alone together this morningsirhe said."Didshe say nothing about Rosanna Spearman?"

"Shenever even mentioned Rosanna Spearman's name."

"Pleaseto go back to the letterMr. Franklin.  I tell you plainlyI can'tfind it in my heart to distress youafter what you have had tobearalready.  Let her speak for herselfsir.  And get on withyour grog.For yourown sakeget on with your grog."

I resumedthe reading of the letter.

 

"Itwould be very disgraceful to me to tell you thisif I was a livingwomanwhen youread it.  I shall be dead and gonesirwhen you find myletter.It is thatwhich makes me bold.  Not even my grave will be left to tellof me. I may own the truth--with the quicksand waiting to hide me when thewords arewritten.

"Besidesyou will find your nightgown in my hiding-placewith thesmear of the paint on it; and you will want to knowhow itcame to be hidden by me? and why I said nothing to youabout itin my life-time? I have only one reason to give.I didthese strange thingsbecause I loved you.

"Iwon't trouble you with much about myselfor my lifebefore youcame to my lady's house.  Lady Verinder took meout of areformatory.  I had gone to the reformatory fromtheprison.  I was put in the prisonbecause I was a thief.I was athiefbecause my mother went on the streets when Iwas quitea little girl.  My mother went on the streetsbecausethe gentleman who was my father deserted her.There isno need to tell such a common story as thisat any length.It is toldquite often enough in the newspapers.

"LadyVerinder was very kind to meand Mr. Betteredge was very kind to me.Those twoand the matron at the reformatoryare the only good peopleI haveever met with in all my life.  I might have got on in my place--nothappily--but I might have got onif you had not come visiting.I don'tblame yousir.  It's my fault--all my fault.

"Doyou remember when you came out on us from among the sand hillsthatmorninglooking for Mr. Betteredge?  You were like aprince ina fairy-story. You were like a lover in a dream.You werethe most adorable human creature I had ever seen.Somethingthat felt like the happy life I had never led yetleapt upin me at the instant I set eyes on you.  Don't laughat this ifyou can help it.  Ohif I could only make you feel howserious itis to ME!

"Iwent back to the houseand wrote your name and mine in my work-boxand drew atrue lovers' knot under them.  Thensome devil--noI oughtto saysome good angel--whispered to me"Go and look in the glass."The glasstold me--never mind what.  I was too foolish to take thewarning.I went ongetting fonder and fonder of youjust as if I was a lady in yourown rankof lifeand the most beautiful creature your eyes ever rested on.Itried--ohdearhow I tried--to get you to look at me.  If youhadknown howI used to cry at night with the misery and the mortificationof yournever taking any notice of meyou would have pitied me perhapsand havegiven me a look now and then to live on.

"Itwould have been no very kind lookperhapsif you had known how IhatedMissRachel.  I believe I found out you were in love with herbeforeyou knewityourself.  She used to give you roses to wear in yourbutton-hole. AhMr.Franklinyou wore my roses oftener than either you or she thought!The onlycomfort I had at that timewas putting my rose secretly in yourglass ofwaterin place of hers--and then throwing her rose away.

"Ifshe had been really as pretty as you thought herI mighthave borne it better.  No; I believe I should havebeen morespiteful against her still.  Suppose you put MissRachelinto a servant's dressand took her ornaments off?I don'tknow what is the use of my writing in this way.It can'tbe denied that she had a bad figure; she was too thin.But whocan tell what the men like?  And young ladies maybehave ina manner which would cost a servant her place.It's nobusiness of mine.  I can't expect you to readmy letterif I write it in this way.  But it does stirone up tohear Miss Rachel called prettywhen one knowsall thetime that it's her dress does itand her confidenceinherself.

"Trynot to lose patience with mesir.  I will get on as fast as Icanto thetime which is sure to interest you--the time when the Diamondwas lost.

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

"Mylife was not a very hard life to bearwhile I was a thief.It wasonly when they had taught me at the reformatory to feelmy owndegradationand to try for better thingsthat the daysgrew longand weary.  Thoughts of the future forced themselveson menow.  I felt the dreadful reproach that honest people--even thekindest of honest people--were to me in themselves.Aheart-breaking sensation of loneliness kept with mego whereI mightand do what I mightand see what persons I might.It was mydutyI knowto try and get on with my fellow-servantsin my newplace.  SomehowI couldn't make friends with them.Theylooked (or I thought they looked) as if they suspectedwhat I hadbeen.  I don't regretfar from ithaving beenroused tomake the effort to be a reformed woman--butindeedindeed itwas a weary life.  You had come across it like a beamofsunshine at first--and then you too failed me.  I was madenough tolove you; and I couldn't even attract your notice.There wasgreat misery--there really was great miseryin that.

"NowI am coming to what I wanted to tell you.  In those daysofbitternessI went two or three timeswhen it was my turn togo outtomy favourite place--the beach above the Shivering Sand.And I saidto myself"I think it will end here.  When I can bearit nolongerI think it will end here."  You will understandsirthat theplace had laid a kind of spell on me before you came.I hadalways had a notion that something would happen to me atthequicksand.  But I had never looked at itwith the thoughtof itsbeing the means of my making away with myselftill the timecame ofwhich I am now writing.  Then I did think that here wasa placewhich would end all my troubles for me in a moment or two--and hideme for ever afterwards.

"Thisis all I have to say about myselfreckoning from the morningwhen Ifirst saw youto the morning when the alarm was raisedin thehouse that the Diamond was lost.

"Iwas so aggravated by the foolish talk among the women servantsallwondering who was to be suspected first; and I was so angry with you(knowingno better at that time) for the pains you took in hunting forthe jeweland sending for the policethat I kept as much as possible awayby myselfuntil later in the daywhen the officer from Frizinghall cameto thehouse.

"Mr.Seegrave beganas you may rememberby setting a guardon thewomen's bedrooms; and the women all followed him up-stairsin a rageto know what he meant by the insult he had put on them.I wentwith the restbecause if I had done anything differentfrom therestMr. Seegrave was the sort of man who would havesuspectedme directly.  We found him in Miss Rachel's room.He told ushe wouldn't have a lot of women there;and hepointed to the smear on the painted doorand saidsome ofour petticoats had done the mischiefand sent us alldown-stairsagain.

"Afterleaving Miss Rachel's roomI stopped a moment on one of thelandingsby myselfto see if I had got the paint-stain by any chance on MY gown.PenelopeBetteredge (the only one of the women with whom I was onfriendlyterms) passedand noticed what I was about.

"'Youneedn't trouble yourselfRosanna' she said.'The painton Miss Rachel's door has been dry for hours.If Mr.Seegrave hadn't set a watch on our bedroomsI mighthave told him as much.  I don't know what you think--I wasnever so insulted before in my life!'

"Penelopewas a hot-tempered girl.  I quieted herand brought her backto whatshe had said about the paint on the door having been dry for hours.

"'Howdo you know that?'  I asked.

"'Iwas with Miss Racheland Mr. Franklinall yesterday morning'Penelopesaid'mixing the colourswhile they finished the door.I heardMiss Rachel ask whether the door would be dry that eveningin timefor the birthday company to see it.  And Mr. Franklin shookhis headand said it wouldn't be dry in less than twelve hours.It waslong past luncheon-time--it was three o'clock before they had done.What doesyour arithmetic sayRosanna?  Mine says the door was dry bythree thismorning.'

"'Didsome of the ladies go up-stairs yesterday evening to see it?'I asked. 'I thought I heard Miss Rachel warning them to keep clearof thedoor.'

"'Noneof the ladies made the smear' Penelope answered.'I leftMiss Rachel in bed at twelve last night.  And I noticedthe doorand there was nothing wrong with it then.'

"'Oughtn'tyou to mention this to Mr. SeegravePenelope?'

"'Iwouldn't say a word to help Mr. Seegrave for anything that couldbe offeredto me!'

"Shewent to her workand I went to mine."

"Myworksirwas to make your bedand to put your room tidy.It was thehappiest hour I had in the whole day.  I usedto kissthe pillow on which your head had rested all night.No matterwho has done it sinceyou have never had yourclothesfolded as nicely as I folded them for you.Of all thelittle knick-knacks in your dressing-casetherewasn't one that had so much as a speck on it.You nevernoticed itany more than you noticed me.  I begyourpardon; I am forgetting myself.  I will make hasteand goon again.

"WellI went in that morning to do my work in your room.There wasyour nightgown tossed across the bedjust as youhad thrownit off.  I took it up to fold it--and I saw the stainof thepaint from Miss Rachel's door!

"Iwas so startled by the discovery that I ran out with the nightgown inmy handand made for the back stairsand locked myself into my own roomto look atit in a place where nobody could intrude and interrupt me.

"Assoon as I got my breath againI called to mind my talk withPenelopeand I saidto myself"Here's the proof that he was in Miss Rachel'ssitting-roombetween twelve last nightand three this morning!"

"Ishall not tell you in plain words what was the firstsuspicionthat crossed my mindwhen I had made that discovery.You wouldonly be angry--andif you were angryyou might tearmy letterup and read no more of it.

"Letit be enoughif you pleaseto say only this.Afterthinking it over to the best of my abilityI made it outthat thething wasn't likelyfor a reason that I will tell you.If you hadbeen in Miss Rachel's sitting-roomat that timeof nightwith Miss Rachel's knowledge (and if you had beenfoolishenough to forget to take care of the wet door) SHE wouldhavereminded you--SHE would never have let you carry away sucha witnessagainst heras the witness I was looking at now!At thesame timeI own I was not completely certain in myown mindthat I had proved my own suspicion to be wrong.You willnot have forgotten that I have owned to hating Miss Rachel.Try tothinkif you canthat there was a little of that hatredin allthis.  It ended in my determining to keep the nightgownand towaitand watchand see what use I might make of it.At thattimeplease to remembernot the ghost of an ideaentered myhead that you had stolen the Diamond."

 

ThereIbroke off in the reading of the letter for the second time.

I had readthose portions of the miserable woman's confessionwhichrelated to myselfwith unaffected surpriseandI canhonestlyaddwith sincere distress.  I had regrettedtrulyregrettedthe aspersion which I had thoughtlesslycast onher memorybefore I had seen a line of her letter.But when Ihad advanced as far as the passage which is quoted aboveI own Ifelt my mind growing bitterer and bitterer againstRosannaSpearman as I went on.  "Read the rest for yourself"I saidhanding the letter to Betteredge across the table."Ifthere is anything in it that I must look atyou can tell meas you goon."

"Iunderstand youMr. Franklin" he answered.  "It'snaturalsirin YOU.AndGodhelp us all!" he addedin a lower tone"it's no lessnaturalin HER."

I proceedto copy the continuation of the letter from the originalin my ownpossession:--

 

"Havingdetermined to keep the nightgownand to see what use my loveor myrevenge (I hardly know which) could turn it to in the futurethe nextthing to discover was how to keep it without the risk of beingfound out.

"Therewas only one way--to make another nightgown exactly like itbeforeSaturday cameand brought the laundry-woman and her inventoryto thehouse

"Iwas afraid to put it off till next day (the Friday);being indoubt lest some accident might happen in the interval.Idetermined to make the new nightgown on that same day(theThursday)while I could countif I played my cards properlyon havingmy time to myself.  The first thing to do(afterlocking up your nightgown in my drawer) was to goback toyour bed-room--not so much to put it to rights(Penelopewould have done that for meif I had asked her)as to findout whether you had smeared off any of the paint-stainfrom yournightgownon the bedor on any piece of furniture inthe room.

"Iexamined everything narrowlyand at lastI found a fewstreaks ofthe paint on the inside of your dressing-gown--not thelinen dressing-gown you usually wore in that summer seasonbut aflannel dressing-gown which you had with you also.I supposeyou felt chilly after walking to and fro in nothingbut yournightdressand put on the warmest thing you could find.At anyratethere were the stainsjust visibleon the insideof thedressing-gown. I easily got rid of these by scrapingaway thestuff of the flannel.  This donethe only proof leftagainstyou was the proof locked up in my drawer.

"Ihad just finished your room when I was sent for to be questionedby Mr.Seegravealong with the rest of the servants.  Next cametheexamination of all our boxes.  And then followed the mostextraordinaryevent ofthe day--to ME--since I had found the paint on your nightgown.This eventcame out of the second questioning of Penelope BetteredgebySuperintendent Seegrave.

"Penelopereturned to us quite beside herself with rageat themanner in which Mr. Seegrave had treated her.He hadhintedbeyond the possibility of mistaking himthat hesuspected her of being the thief.  We were all equallyastonishedat hearing thisand we all askedWhy?

"'Becausethe Diamond was in Miss Rachel's sitting-room" Penelopeanswered."Andbecause I was the last person in the sitting-room at night!"

"Almostbefore the words had left her lipsI remembered that another personhad beenin the sitting-room later than Penelope.  That person wasyourself.My headwhirled roundand my thoughts were in dreadful confusion.In themidst of it allsomething in my mind whispered to me that the smearonyournightgown might have a meaning entirely different to the meaningwhich Ihad givento it up to that time.  "If the last person who was in theroom isthe personto be suspected" I thought to myself"the thief is notPenelopebut Mr.Franklin Blake!"

"Inthe case of any other gentlemanI believe I should have beenashamed ofsuspecting him of theftalmost as soon as the suspicionhad passedthrough my mind.

"Butthe bare thought that YOU had let yourself down to my leveland thatIin possessing myself of your nightgownhad also possessedmyself ofthe means of shielding you from being discoveredanddisgraced for life--I saysirthe bare thought of this seemedto opensuch a chance before me of winning your good willthat Ipassedblindfoldas one may sayfrom suspecting to believing.I made upmy mindon the spotthat you had shown yourself the busiestof anybodyin fetching the policeas a blind to deceive us all;and thatthe hand which had taken Miss Rachel's jewel could by nopossibilitybe any other hand than yours.

"Theexcitement of this new discovery of mine mustI thinkhaveturned my head for a while.  I felt such a devouring eagernessto seeyou--to try you with a word or two about the Diamondand toMAKE you look at meand speak to mein that way--that I putmy hair tidyand made myself as nice as I couldand wentto you boldly in the library where I knew youwerewriting.

"Youhad left one of your rings up-stairswhich madeas good anexcuse for my intrusion as I could have desired.Butohsir! if you have ever lovedyou will understand how itwas thatall my courage cooledwhen I walked into the roomand foundmyself in your presence.  And thenyou looked upat me socoldlyand you thanked me for finding your ringin such anindifferent mannerthat my knees trembled under meand I feltas if I should drop on the floor at your feet.When youhad thanked meyou looked backif you rememberat yourwriting.  I was so mortified at being treatedin thiswaythat I plucked up spirit enough to speak.I said'This is a strange thing about the Diamondsir.'And youlooked up againand said'Yesit is!'You spokecivilly (I can't deny that); but still you keptadistance--a cruel distance between us.  Believingas I didthat youhad got the lost Diamond hidden about youwhile youwerespeakingyour coolness so provoked me that I gotboldenoughin the heat of the momentto give you a hint.I said'They will never find the Diamondsirwill they?No! northe person who took it--I'll answer for that.'I noddedand smiled at youas much as to say'I know!'THIS timeyou looked up at me with something like interestin youreyes; and I felt that a few more words on your sideand minemight bring out the truth.  Just at that momentMr.Betteredge spoilt it all by coming to the door.I knew hisfootstepand I also knew that it was againsthis rulesfor me to be in the library at that time of day--let alonebeing there along with you.  I had only just time to getout of myown accordbefore he could come in and tell me to go.I wasangry and disappointed; but I was not entirely withouthope forall that.  The iceyou seewas broken between us--and Ithought I would take careon the next occasionthat Mr.Betteredge was out of the way.

"WhenI got back to the servants' hallthe bell was going for our dinner.Afternoonalready! and the materials for making the new nightgown werestill tobe got!  There was but one chance of getting them.  Ishammed illat dinner;and so secured the whole of the interval from then till tea-timeto my ownuse.

"WhatI was aboutwhile the household believed me to be lying downin my ownroom; and how I spent the nightafter shamming ill again attea-timeand having been sent up to bedthere is no need to tell you.SergeantCuff discovered that muchif he discovered nothing more.And I canguess how.  I was detected (though I kept my veil down)in thedraper's shop at Frizinghall.  There was a glass in front of meat thecounter where I was buying the longcloth; and--in that glass--I saw oneof the shopmen point to my shoulder and whisper to another.At nightagainwhen I was secretly at worklocked into my roomI heardthe breathing of the women servants who suspected meoutside mydoor.

"Itdidn't matter then; it doesn't matter now.  On the Fridaymorninghoursbefore Sergeant Cuff entered the housethere was the new nightgown--to make upyour number in place of the nightgown that I had got--madewrung outdriedironedmarkedand folded as the laundry womanfolded allthe otherssafe in your drawer.  There was no fear (if thelinenin thehouse was examined) of the newness of the nightgown betraying me.All yourunderclothing had been renewedwhen you came to our house--I supposeon your return home from foreign parts.

"Thenext thing was the arrival of Sergeant Cuff; and the next greatsurprisewas theannouncement of what HE thought about the smear on the door.

"Ihad believed you to be guilty (as I have owned)morebecause Iwanted you to be guilty than for any other reason.And nowthe Sergeant had come round by a totally different wayto thesame conclusion (respecting the nightgown) as mine!And I hadgot the dress that was the only proof against you!And not aliving creature knew it--yourself included!  I am afraidto tellyou how I felt when I called these things to mind--you wouldhate mymemory for ever afterwards."

 

At thatplaceBetteredge looked up from the letter.

"Nota glimmer of light so farMr. Franklin" said the old mantaking offhis heavy tortoiseshell spectaclesand pushingRosannaSpearman's confession a little away from him."Haveyou come to any conclusionsirin your own mindwhile Ihave beenreading?"

"Finishthe letter firstBetteredge; there may be something to enlighten usat the endof it.  I shall have a word or two to say to you after that."

"Verygoodsir.  I'll just rest my eyesand then I'll go on again.In themeantimeMr. Franklin--I don't want to hurry you--but would youmindtelling mein one wordwhether you see your way out of thisdreadfulmess yet?"

"Isee my way back to London" I said"to consult Mr. Bruff.If hecan't help me----"

"Yessir?"

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

"Hewon'tMr. Franklin!"

"ThenBetteredge--as far as I can see now--I am at the end of my resources.After Mr.Bruff and the SergeantI don't know of a living creature who can beof theslightest use to me."

As thewords passed my lipssome person outside knocked at the doorof theroom.

Betteredgelooked surprised as well as annoyed by the interruption.

"Comein" he called outirritably"whoever you are!"
The dooropenedand there entered to usquietlythe mostremarkable-lookingman that I had ever seen.  Judging himby hisfigure and his movementshe was still young.Judginghim by his faceand comparing him with Betteredgehe lookedthe elder of the two.  His complexion was of agipsydarkness; his fleshless cheeks had fallen into deep hollowsover whichthe bone projected like a pent-house. His nosepresentedthe fine shape and modelling so often found amongtheancient people of the Eastso seldom visible among the newerraces ofthe West.  His forehead rose high and straightfrom thebrow.  His marks and wrinkles were innumerable.From thisstrange faceeyesstranger stillof the softest brown--eyesdreamy and mournfuland deeply sunk in their orbits--looked outat youand (in my caseat least) took your attentioncaptive attheir will.  Add to this a quantity of thickclosely-curlinghairwhichby some freak of Naturehad lostits colourin the most startlingly partial and capricious manner.Over thetop of his head it was still of the deep blackwhich wasits natural colour.  Round the sides of his head--withoutthe slightest gradation of grey to break the forceof theextraordinary contrast--it had turned completely white.The linebetween the two colours preserved no sort of regularity.At oneplacethe white hair ran up into the black;atanotherthe black hair ran down into the white.I lookedat the man with a curiosity whichI am ashamed to sayI found itquite impossible to control.  His soft brown eyeslookedback at me gently; and he met my involuntary rudenessin staringat himwith an apology which I was conscious that I hadnotdeserved.

"Ibeg your pardon" he said.  "I had no idea that Mr.Betteredgewasengaged."  He took a slip of paper from his pocketand handedit to Betteredge.  "The list for next week" he said.His eyesjust rested on me again--and he left the room as quietlyas he hadentered it.

"Whois that?"  I asked.

"Mr.Candy's assistant" said Betteredge.  "By-the-byeMr.Franklinyou willbe sorry to hear that the little doctor has never recoveredthatillness he caughtgoing home from the birthday dinner.He'spretty well in health; but he lost his memory in the feverand he hasnever recovered more than the wreck of it since.The workall falls on his assistant.  Not much of it nowexcept amongthe poor. THEY can't help themselvesyou know.  THEY must putup withthe man with the piebald hairand the gipsy complexion--or theywould get no doctoring at all."

"Youdon't seem to like himBetteredge?"

"Nobodylikes himsir."

"Whyis he so unpopular?"

"WellMr. Franklinhis appearance is against himto begin with.  Andthenthere's astory that Mr. Candy took him with a very doubtful character.Nobodyknows who he is--and he hasn't a friend in the place.  How canyouexpect oneto like himafter that?"

"Quiteimpossibleof course!  May I ask what he wanted with youwhen hegave you that bit of paper?"

"Onlyto bring me the weekly list of the sick peopleaboutheresirwho stand in need of a little wine.My ladyalways had a regular distribution of good sound portand sherryamong the infirm poor; and Miss Rachel wishes the customto be keptup.  Times have changed! times have changed!I rememberwhen Mr. Candy himself brought the list to my mistress.Now it'sMr. Candy's assistant who brings the list to me.I'll go onwith the letterif you will allow mesir"saidBetteredgedrawing Rosanna Spearman's confession back to him."Itisn't lively readingI grant you.  Butthere! itkeeps mefrom getting sour with thinking of the past."He put onhis spectaclesand wagged his head gloomily."There'sa bottom of good senseMr. Franklinin our conductto ourmotherswhen they first start us on the journey of life.We are allof us more or less unwilling to be brought into the world.And we areall of us right."

Mr.Candy's assistant had produced too strong an impressionon me tobe immediately dismissed from my thoughts.  I passedover thelast unanswerable utterance of the Betteredge philosophy;andreturned to the subject of the man with the piebald hair.

"Whatis his name?"  I asked.

"Asugly a name as need be" Betteredge answered gruffly."EzraJennings."

 

CHAPTER V

Havingtold me the name of Mr. Candy's assistantBetteredge appearedto thinkthat we had wasted enough of our time on an insignificant subject.He resumedthe perusal of Rosanna Spearman's letter.

On mysideI sat at the windowwaiting until he had done.Little bylittlethe impression produced on me by Ezra Jennings--it seemedperfectly unaccountablein such a situation as minethat anyhuman being should have produced an impression on me at all!--faded frommy mind.  My thoughts flowed back into their former channel.Once moreI forced myself to look my own incredible position resolutelyin theface.  Once moreI reviewed in my own mind the coursewhich Ihad at last summoned composure enough to plan out forthefuture.

To go backto London that day; to put the whole case before Mr. Bruff;andlastand most importantto obtain (no matter by what meansor at whatsacrifice) a personal interview with Rachel--this was myplan ofactionso far as I was capable of forming it at the time.There wasmore than an hour still to spare before the train started.And therewas the bare chance that Betteredge might discoversomethingin the unread portion of Rosanna Spearman's letterwhich itmight be useful for me to know before I left the housein whichthe Diamond had been lost.  For that chance I wasnowwaiting.

 

The letterended in these terms:

 

"Youhave no need to be angryMr. Franklineven if I did feelsomelittle triumph at knowing that I held all your prospectsin life inmy own hands.  Anxieties and fears soon came back to me.With theview Sergeant Cuff took of the loss of the Diamondhe wouldbe sure to end in examining our linen and our dresses.There wasno place in my room--there was no place in the house--which Icould feel satisfied would be safe from him.How tohide the nightgown so that not even the Sergeantcould findit? and how to do that without losing one momentofprecious time?--these were not easy questions to answer.Myuncertainties ended in my taking a way that may make you laugh.Iundressedand put the nightgown on me.  You had worn it--and I hadanother little moment of pleasure in wearing it afteryou.

"Thenext news that reached us in the servants' hall showedthat I hadnot made sure of the nightgown a moment too soon.SergeantCuff wanted to see the washing-book.

"Ifound itand took it to him in my lady's sitting-room.TheSergeant and I had come across each other more than oncein formerdays.  I was certain he would know me again--and Iwas NOTcertain of what he might do when he found me employedas servantin a house in which a valuable jewel had been lost.In thissuspenseI felt it would be a relief to me to getthemeeting between us overand to know the worst of itat once.

"Helooked at me as if I was a strangerwhen I handed himthewashing-book; and he was very specially polite in thankingme forbringing it.  I thought those were both bad signs.There wasno knowing what he might say of me behind my back;there wasno knowing how soon I might not find myself takenin custodyon suspicionand searched.  It was then time for yourreturnfrom seeing Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite off by the railway;and I wentto your favourite walk in the shrubberyto tryforanother chance of speaking to you--the last chancefor all Iknew tothe contrarythat I might have.

"Younever appeared; andwhat was worse stillMr. BetteredgeandSergeant Cuff passed by the place where I was hiding--and theSergeant saw me.

"Ihad no choiceafter thatbut to return to my proper placeand myproper workbefore more disasters happened to me.Just as Iwas going to step across the pathyou came backfrom therailway.  You were making straight for the shrubberywhen yousaw me--I am certainsiryou saw me--and you turned awayas if Ihad got the plagueand went into the house.

"Imade the best of my way indoors againreturning bytheservants' entrance.  There was nobody in the laundry-roomat thattime; and I sat down there alone.  I have told you alreadyof thethoughts which the Shivering Sand put into my head.Thosethoughts came back to me now.  I wondered in myselfwhich itwould be harder to doif things went on in this manner--to bearMr. Franklin Blake's indifference to meor to jumpinto thequicksand and end it for ever in that way?

"It'suseless to ask me to account for my own conductat this time.I try--andI can't understand it myself.

"Whydidn't I stop youwhen you avoided me in that cruel manner?Why didn'tI call out'Mr. FranklinI have got something to sayto you; itconcerns yourselfand you mustand shallhear it?'You wereat my mercy--I had got the whip-hand of youas they say.And betterthan thatI had the means (if I could only make you trust me)of beinguseful to you in the future.  Of courseI never supposed thatyou--agentleman--had stolen the Diamond for the mere pleasure of stealingit.No.Penelope had heard Miss Racheland I had heard Mr. Betteredgetalk aboutyour extravagance and your debts.  It was plain enough to methat youhad taken the Diamond to sell itor pledge itand so to getthe moneyof which you stood in need.  Well!  I could have told youof a manin London who would have advanced a good large sum on the jeweland whowould have asked no awkward questions about it either.

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

"Iwonder whether the risks and difficulties of keepingthenightgown were as much as I could managewithout havingotherrisks and difficulties added to them?  This might have beenthe casewith some women--but how could it be the case with me?In thedays when I was a thiefI had run fifty times greater risksand foundmy way out of difficulties to which THIS difficultywas merechild's play.  I had been apprenticedas you may sayto fraudsand deceptions--some of them on such a grand scaleandmanaged so cleverlythat they became famousandappeared in the newspapers.  Was such a little thingas thekeeping of the nightgown likely to weigh on my spiritsand to setmy heart sinking within meat the time when I oughtto havespoken to you?  What nonsense to ask the question!The thingcouldn't be.

"Whereis the use of my dwelling in this way on my own folly?The plaintruth is plain enoughsurely?  Behind your backI lovedyou with all my heart and soul.  Before your face--there's nodenying it--I was frightened of you;frightenedof making you angry with me; frightened of whatyou mightsay to me (though you HAD taken the Diamond)if Ipresumed to tell you that I had found it out.I had goneas near to it as I dared when I spoke to youin thelibrary.  You had not turned your back on me then.You hadnot started away from me as if I had got the plague.I tried toprovoke myself into feeling angry with youand torouse up my courage in that way.  No!  I couldn'tfeelanything but the misery and the mortification of it."You'rea plain girl; you have got a crooked shoulder; you're onlyahousemaid--what do you mean by attempting to speak to Me?"You neveruttered a word of thatMr. Franklin; but you said it allto menevertheless!  Is such madness as this to be accounted for?No. Thereis nothing to be done but to confess itand let itbe.

"Iask your pardononce morefor this wandering of my pen.There isno fear of its happening again.  I am close at theend now.

"Thefirst person who disturbed me by coming into the emptyroom wasPenelope.  She had found out my secret long sinceand shehad done her best to bring me to my senses--and done itkindlytoo.

"'Ah!'she said'I know why you're sitting hereand frettingall byyourself.  The best thing that can happen for your advantageRosannawill be for Mr. Franklin's visit here to come to an end.It's mybelief that he won't be long now before he leaves the house."

"Inall my thoughts of you I had never thought of your going away.I couldn'tspeak to Penelope.  I could only look at her.

"'I'vejust left Miss Rachel' Penelope went on.'And ahard matter I have had of it to put up with her temper.She saysthe house is unbearable to her with the police in it;and she'sdetermined to speak to my lady this eveningand to goto her Aunt Ablewhite to-morrow. If she does thatMr.Franklin will be the next to find a reason for going awayyou maydepend on it!'

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

"'Onlytoo gladlyif she would let him; but she won't. HE hasbeen madeto feel her temper; HE is in her black books too--and thatafter having done all he can to help herpoor fellow!No! no! If they don't make it up before to-morrowyouwill seeMiss Rachel go one wayand Mr. Franklin another.Where hemay betake himself to I can't say.  But he will neverstay hereRosannaafter Miss Rachel has left us.'

"Imanaged to master the despair I felt at the prospect of your goingaway.To own thetruthI saw a little glimpse of hope for myself if there wasreally aserious disagreement between Miss Rachel and you.  'Do youknow'I asked'what the quarrel is between them?'

"'Itis all on Miss Rachel's side' Penelope said.  'Andforanything Iknow tothe contraryit's all Miss Rachel's temperand nothing else.I am lothto distress youRosanna; but don't run away with the notionthat Mr.Franklin is ever likely to quarrel with HER.  He's a great dealtoofond ofher for that!'

"Shehad only just spoken those cruel words when there came a call to usfrom Mr.Betteredge.  All the indoor servants were to assemble in thehall.And thenwe were to go inone by oneand be questioned in Mr. Betteredge'sroom bySergeant Cuff.

"Itcame to my turn to go inafter her ladyship's maid and the upperhousemaidhad been questioned first.  Sergeant Cuff's inquiries--though hewrapped them up very cunningly--soon showed methat thosetwo women (the bitterest enemies I had in the house)had madetheir discoveries outside my dooron the Tuesdayafternoonand again on the Thursday night.  They had toldtheSergeant enough to open his eyes to some part of the truth.He rightlybelieved me to have made a new nightgown secretlybut hewrongly believed the paint-stained nightgown to be mine.I feltsatisfied of another thingfrom what he saidwhich itpuzzled me to understand.  He suspected meof courseof beingconcerned in the disappearance of the Diamond.Butatthe same timehe let me see--purposelyas I thought--that hedid not consider me as the person chiefly answerablefor theloss of the jewel.  He appeared to think that Ihad beenacting under the direction of somebody else.Who thatperson might beI couldn't guess thenand can'tguess now.

"Inthis uncertaintyone thing was plain--that Sergeant Cuffwas milesaway from knowing the whole truth.  You were safeas long asthe nightgown was safe--and not a moment longer.

"Iquite despair of making you understand the distress and terrorwhichpressed upon me now.  It was impossible for me to riskwearingyour nightgown any longer.  I might find myself taken offat amoment's noticeto the police court at Frizinghallto becharged on suspicionand searched accordingly.WhileSergeant Cuff still left me freeI had to choose--and at once--betweendestroying the nightgownor hiding it in some safe placeat somesafe distance from the house.

"If Ihad only been a little less fond of youI think Ishouldhave destroyed it.  But oh! how could destroy the onlything Ihad which proved that I had saved you from discovery?If we didcome to an explanation togetherand if you suspectedme ofhaving some bad motiveand denied it allhow could I winupon youto trust meunless I had the nightgown to produce?Was itwronging you to believeas I did and do stillthat youmight hesitate to let a poor girl like me bethe sharerof your secretand your accomplice in the theftwhich yourmoney-troubles had tempted you to commit?Think ofyour cold behaviour to mesirand you will hardlywonder atmy unwillingness to destroy the only claim onyourconfidence and your gratitude which it was my fortunetopossess.

"Idetermined to hide it; and the place I fixed on was the place I knewbest--theShivering Sand.

"Assoon as the questioning was overI made the first excuse that cameinto myheadand got leave to go out for a breath of fresh air.I wentstraight to Cobb's Holeto Mr. Yolland's cottage.His wifeand daughter were the best friends I had.  Don't supposeI trustedthem with your secret--I have trusted nobody.All Iwanted was to write this letter to youand to have a safeopportunityof taking the nightgown off me.  Suspected as I wasI could doneither of those things with any sort of securityat thehouse.

"Andnow I have nearly got through my long letterwriting italone inLucy Yolland's bedroom.  When it is doneI shall godownstairswith the nightgown rolled upand hidden under my cloak.I shallfind the means I want for keeping it safe and dry in itshiding-placeamong the litter of old things in Mrs. Yolland's kitchen.And then Ishall go to the Shivering Sand--don't be afraid of my lettingmyfootmarks betray me!--and hide the nightgown down in the sandwhere noliving creature can find it without being first let intothe secretby myself.

"Andwhen that's donewhat then?

"ThenMr. FranklinI shall have two reasons for making anotherattempt tosay the words to you which I have not said yet.If youleave the houseas Penelope believes you will leave itand if Ihaven't spoken to you before thatI shall lose myopportunityforever.  That is one reason.  Thenagainthere isthecomforting knowledge--if my speaking does make you angry--that Ihave got the nightgown ready to plead my cause for meas nothingelse can.  That is my other reason.  If these twotogetherdon't harden my heart against the coldness which hashithertofrozen it up (I mean the coldness of your treatmentof me)there will be the end of my efforts--and the end ofmy life.

"Yes. If I miss my next opportunity--if you are as cruelas everand if I feel it again as I have felt it already--good-byeto the world which has grudged me the happiness that itgives toothers.  Good-bye to lifewhich nothing but a littlekindnessfrom you can ever make pleasurable to me again.Don'tblame yourselfsirif it ends in this way.  But try--do try--tofeel some forgiving sorrow for me!  I shall takecare thatyou find out what I have done for youwhen I am pasttellingyou of it myself.  Will you say something kind of me then--in thesame gentle way that you have when you speak to Miss Rachel?If you dothatand if there are such things as ghostsI believemy ghost will hear itand tremble with the pleasureof it.

"It'stime I left off.  I am making myself cry.  How am I to seemy wayto thehiding-place if I let these useless tears come and blind me?

"Besideswhy should I look at the gloomy side?  Why not believewhile Icanthat it will end well after all?  I may find you in a goodhumourto-night--orif notI may succeed better to-morrow morning.I sha'n'timprove my plain face by fretting--shall I?  Who knows but Imay havefilled all these weary long pages of paper for nothing?They willgofor safety's sake (never mind now for what other reason)into thehiding-place along with the nightgown.  It has been hardhard workwriting my letter.  Oh! if we only end in understanding eachotherhow Ishall enjoy tearing it up!

"Ibeg to remainsiryour true lover and humble servant

"ROSANNASPEARMAN."

 

Thereading of the letter was completed by Betteredge in silence.Aftercarefully putting it back in the envelopehe sat thinkingwith hishead bowed downand his eyes on the ground.

"Betteredge"I said"is there any hint to guide me at the endof theletter?"

He lookedup slowlywith a heavy sigh.

"Thereis nothing to guide youMr. Franklin" he answered."Ifyou take my advice you will keep the letter in the covertill thesepresent anxieties of yours have come to an end.It willsorely distress youwhenever you read it.  Don't readit now."

I put theletter away in my pocket-book.

A glanceback at the sixteenth and seventeenth chaptersofBetteredge's Narrative will show that there reallywas areason for my thus sparing myselfat a time when myfortitudehad been already cruelly tried.  Twice overtheunhappy woman had made her last attempt to speak to me.And twiceoverit had been my misfortune (God knowshowinnocently!) to repel the advances she had made to me.On theFriday nightas Betteredge truly describes itshe hadfound me alone at the billiard-table. Her manner andlanguagesuggested to me and would have suggested to any manunder thecircumstances--that she was about to confess a guiltyknowledgeof the disappearance of the Diamond.  For her own sakeI hadpurposely shown no special interest in what was coming;for herown sakeI had purposely looked at the billiard-ballsinstead oflooking at HER--and what had been the result?I had senther away from mewounded to the heart!On theSaturday again--on the day when she must have foreseenafter whatPenelope had told herthat my departure was closeathand--the same fatality still pursued us.  She had oncemoreattempted to meet me in the shrubbery walkand she hadfound methere in company with Betteredge and Sergeant Cuff.In herhearingthe Sergeantwith his own underhand objectin viewhad appealed to my interest in Rosanna Spearman.Again forthe poor creature's own sakeI had metthepolice-officer with a flat denialand had declared--loudlydeclaredso that she might hear me too--that I felt"nointerest whatever in Rosanna Spearman."  At those wordssolelydesigned to warn her against attempting to gain my private earshe hadturned away and left the place:  cautioned of her dangeras I thenbelieved; self-doomed to destructionas I know now.From thatpointI have already traced the succession of eventswhich ledme to the astounding discovery at the quicksand.Theretrospect is now complete.  I may leave the miserablestory ofRosanna Spearman--to whicheven at this distanceof timeIcannot revert without a pang of distress--to suggestfor itself all that is here purposely left unsaid.I may passfrom the suicide at the Shivering Sandwith itsstrangeand terrible influence on my present position andfutureprospectsto interests which concern the living peopleof thisnarrativeand to events which were already paving myway forthe slow and toilsome journey from the darkness to thelight.

 

CHAPTER VI

I walkedto the railway station accompaniedit is needless to sayby GabrielBetteredge.  I had the letter in my pocketand the nightgownsafelypacked in a little bag--both to be submittedbefore I sleptthatnightto the investigation of Mr. Bruff.

We leftthe house in silence.  For the first time in my experience ofhimI foundold Betteredge in my company without a word to say to me.Havingsomething to say on my sideI opened the conversation as soon as wewere clearof the lodge gates.

"BeforeI go to London" I began"I have two questions to ask you.Theyrelate to myselfand I believe they will rather surprise you."

"Ifthey will put that poor creature's letter out of my headMr.Franklinthey may do anything else they like with me.Please tobegin surprising mesiras soon as you can."

"Myfirst questionBetteredgeis this.  Was I drunk on the nightofRachel's Birthday?"

"YOUdrunk!" exclaimed the old man.  "Why it's the greatdefectof yourcharacterMr. Franklin that you only drink with your dinnerand nevertouch a drop of liquor afterwards!"

"Butthe birthday was a special occasion.  I might have abandonedmy regularhabitson that night of all others."

Betteredgeconsidered for a moment.

"Youdid go out of your habitssir" he said.  "And I'lltell you how.You lookedwretchedly ill--and we persuaded you to have a drop of brandyand waterto cheer you up a little."

"I amnot used to brandy and water.  It is quite possible----"

"Waita bitMr. Franklin.  I knew you were not usedtoo.  Ipoured you outhalf awineglass-full of our fifty year old Cognac; and (more shame for me!)I drownedthat noble liquor in nigh on a tumbler-full of cold water.A childcouldn't have got drunk on it--let alone a grown man!"

I knew Icould depend on his memoryin a matter of this kind.It wasplainly impossible that I could have been intoxicated.I passedon to the second question.

"BeforeI was sent abroadBetteredgeyou saw a great dealof me whenI was a boy?  Now tell me plainlydo you rememberanythingstrange of meafter I had gone to bed at night?Did youever discover me walking in my sleep?"

Betteredgestoppedlooked at me for a momentnodded his headand walkedon again.

"Isee your drift nowMr. Franklin!" he said "You're tryingto accountfor howyou got the paint on your nightgownwithout knowing it yourself.It won'tdosir.  You're miles away still from getting at the truth.Walk inyour sleep?  You never did such a thing in your life!"

HereagainI felt that Betteredge must be right.  Neither athome norabroad had my life ever been of the solitary sort.If I hadbeen a sleep-walkerthere were hundreds on hundredsof peoplewho must have discovered meand whoin the interestof my ownsafetywould have warned me of the habitand havetakenprecautions to restrain it.

Stilladmitting all thisI clung--with an obstinacy whichwas surelynatural and excusableunder the circumstances--to one orother of the only two explanations that I could seewhichaccounted for the unendurable position in which I then stood.Observingthat I was not yet satisfiedBetteredge shrewdlyadvertedto certain later events in the history of the Moonstone;andscattered both my theories to the wind at once andfor ever.

"Let'stry it another waysir" he said.  "Keep your ownopinionand seehow far it will take you towards finding out the truth.If we areto believe the nightgown--which I don't for one--you notonly smeared off the paint from the doorwithout knowing itbut youalso took the Diamond without knowing it.  Is that rightso far?"

"Quiteright.  Go on."

"Verygoodsir.  We'll say you were drunkor walking in your sleepwhen youtook the jewel.  That accounts for the night and morningafter thebirthday.  But how does it account for what has happenedsince thattime?  The Diamond has been taken to Londonsince that time.TheDiamond has been pledged to Mr. Lukersince that time.Did you dothose two thingswithout knowing ittoo?  Were you drunkwhen I sawyou off in the pony-chaise on that Saturday evening?And didyou walk in your sleep to Mr. Luker'swhen the train had broughtyou toyour journey's end?  Excuse me for saying itMr. Franklinbut thisbusiness has so upset youthat you're not fit yet to judgeforyourself.  The sooner you lay your head alongside Mr. Bruff'sheadthe sooneryou will see your way out of the dead-lock that has gotyou now."

We reachedthe stationwith only a minute or two to spare.

Ihurriedly gave Betteredge my address in Londonso thathe mightwrite to meif necessary; promisingon my sideto informhim of any news which I might have to communicate.This doneand just as I was bidding him farewellI happenedto glancetowards the book-and-newspaper stall.  There wasMr.Candy's remarkable-looking assistant againspeaking tothe keeperof the stall!  Our eyes met at the same moment.EzraJennings took off his hat to me.  I returned the saluteand gotinto a carriage just as the train started.It was arelief to my mindI supposeto dwell on any subjectwhichappeared to bepersonallyof no sort of importance to me.At alleventsI began the momentous journey back which wasto take meto Mr. Bruffwondering--absurdly enoughI admit--that Ishould have seen the man with the piebald hair twice inone day!

The hourat which I arrived in London precluded all hopeof myfinding Mr. Bruff at his place of business.I drovefrom the railway to his private residence at Hampsteadanddisturbed the old lawyer dozing alone in his dining-roomwith hisfavourite pug-dog on his lapand his bottle of wineat hiselbow.

I shallbest describe the effect which my story produced on the mindof Mr.Bruff by relating his proceedings when he had heard it to the end.He orderedlightsand strong teato be taken into his study;and hesent a message to the ladies of his familyforbidding themto disturbus on any pretence whatever.  These preliminaries disposed ofhe firstexamined the nightgownand then devoted himself to the reading ofRosannaSpearman's letter.

Thereading completedMr. Bruff addressed me for the first timesince wehad been shut up together in the seclusion of his own room.

"FranklinBlake" said the old gentleman"this is a very seriousmatterin morerespects than one.  In my opinionit concerns Rachel quite asnearly asit concerns you.  Her extraordinary conduct is no mystery NOW.Shebelieves you have stolen the Diamond."

I hadshrunk from reasoning my own way fairly to that revolting conclusion.But it hadforced itself on menevertheless.  My resolution to obtaina personalinterview with Rachelrested really and truly on the ground juststated byMr. Bruff.

"Thefirst step to take in this investigation" the lawyer proceeded"isto appeal to Rachel.  She has been silent all this timefrommotiveswhich I(who know her character) can readily understand.  It isimpossibleafter whathas happenedto submit to that silence any longer.She mustbe persuaded to tell usor she must be forced to tell uson whatgrounds she bases her belief that you took the Moonstone.Thechances arethat the whole of this caseserious as it seems nowwilltumble to piecesif we can only break through Rachel's inveteratereserveand prevail upon her to speak out."

"Thatis a very comforting opinion for ME" I said.  "I ownI shouldlike toknow

"Youwould like to know how I can justify it" inter-posed Mr. Bruff."Ican tell you in two minutes.  Understandin the first placethat Ilook at this matter from a lawyer's point of view.  It's aquestionof evidencewith me.  Very well.  The evidence breaksdownat theoutseton one important point."

"Onwhat point?"

"Youshall hear.  I admit that the mark of the name provesthenightgown to be yours.  I admit that the mark of the paintproves thenightgown to have made the smear on Rachel's door.But whatevidence is there to prove that you are the person whowore iton the night when the Diamond was lost?"

Theobjection struck meall the more forcibly that it reflectedanobjection which I had felt myself.

"Asto this" pursued the lawyer taking up Rosanna Spearman'sconfession"Ican understand that the letter is a distressing one to YOU.I canunderstand that you may hesitate to analyse it from a purelyimpartialpoint of view.  But I am not in your position.I canbring my professional experience to bear on this documentjust as Ishould bring it to bear on any other.  Without alludingto thewoman's career as a thiefI will merely remark that her letterproves herto have been an adept at deceptionon her own showing;and Iargue from thatthat I am justified in suspecting her of nothavingtold the whole truth.  I won't start any theoryat presentas to whatshe may or may not have done.  I will only say thatif Rachelhas suspected you ON THE EVIDENCE OF THE NIGHTGOWN ONLYthechances are ninety-nine to a hundred that Rosanna Spearmanwas theperson who showed it to her.  In that casethere isthewoman's letterconfessing that she was jealous of Rachelconfessingthat she changed the rosesconfessing that she sawa glimpseof hope for herselfin the prospect of a quarrelbetweenRachel and you.  I don't stop to ask who took the Moonstone(as ameans to her endRosanna Spearman would have takenfiftyMoonstones)--I only say that the disappearance of the jewelgave thisreclaimed thief who was in love with youan opportunityof settingyou and Rachel at variance for the rest of your lives.She hadnot decided on destroying herselfTHENremember; andhavingtheopportunityI distinctly assert that it was in her characterand in herposition at the timeto take it.  What do you sayto that?"

"Somesuch suspicion" I answered"crossed my own mindas soon asI opened the letter."

"Exactly! And when you had read the letteryou pitied the poor creatureandcouldn't find it in your heart to suspect her.  Does you creditmy dearsir--does you credit!"

"Butsuppose it turns out that I did wear the nightgown?Whatthen?"

"Idon't see how the fact can be proved" said Mr. Bruff."Butassuming the proof to be possiblethe vindication of yourinnocencewould be no easy matter.  We won't go into thatnow.Let uswait and see whether Rachel hasn't suspected you ontheevidence of the nightgown only."

"GoodGodhow coolly you talk of Rachel suspecting me!"I brokeout.  "What right has she to suspect Meon any evidenceof being athief?"

"Avery sensible questionmy dear sir.  Rather hotly put--but wellworth considering for all that.  What puzzles youpuzzles metoo.  Search your memoryand tell me this.  Did anythinghappenwhile you were staying at the house--notof courseto shakeRachel's belief in your honour--butlet us sayto shakeher belief (no matter with how little reason) in yourprinciplesgenerally?"

I startedin ungovernable agitationto my feet.  The lawyer'squestionreminded mefor the first time since I had left Englandthatsomething HAD happened.

In theeighth chapter of Betteredge's Narrativean allusion will befound tothe arrival of a foreigner and a stranger at my aunt's housewho cameto see me on business.  The nature of his business was this.

I had beenfoolish enough (beingas usualstraitened for moneyat thetime) to accept a loan from the keeper of a smallrestaurantin Paristo whom I was well known as a customer.A time wassettled between us for paying the money back;and whenthe time cameI found it (as thousands of otherhonest menhave found it) impossible to keep my engagement.I sent theman a bill.  My name was unfortunately too well knownon suchdocuments:  he failed to negotiate it.  His affairs hadfalleninto disorderin the interval since I had borrowed of him;bankruptcystared him in the face; and a relative of hisa Frenchlawyercame to England to find meand to insistupon thepayment of my debt.  He was a man of violent temper;and hetook the wrong way with me.  High words passed on both sides;and myaunt and Rachel were unfortunately in the next roomand heardus.  Lady Verinder came inand insisted on knowingwhat wasthe matter.  The Frenchman produced his credentialsanddeclared me to be responsible for the ruin of a poor manwho hadtrusted in my honour.  My aunt instantly paid himthe moneyand sent him off.  She knew me better of coursethan totake the Frenchman's view of the transaction.But shewas shocked at my carelessnessand justly angry with meforplacing myself in a positionwhichbut for her interferencemight havebecome a very disgraceful one.  Either her mothertold heror Rachel heard what passed--I can't say which.She tookher own romantichigh-flown view of the matter.I was"heartless"; I was "dishonourable"; I had "noprinciple";there was"no knowing what I might do next"--in shortshe saidsome of the severest things to me which I had everheard froma young lady's lips.  The breach between uslasted forthe whole of the next day.  The day afterIsucceeded in making my peaceand thought no more of it.Had Rachelreverted to this unlucky accidentat the criticalmomentwhen my place in her estimation was againand farmoreseriouslyassailed?  Mr. Bruffwhen I had mentionedthecircumstances to himanswered the question at once in theaffirmative.

"Itwould have its effect on her mind" he said gravely."AndI wishfor your sakethe thing had not happened.Howeverwe have discovered that there WAS a predisposinginfluenceagainst you--and there is one uncertainty cleared outof ourwayat any rate.  I see nothing more that we can do now.Our nextstep in this inquiry must be the step that takes ustoRachel."

He roseand began walking thoughtfully up and down the room.  TwiceIwas onthe pointof telling him that I had determined on seeing Rachel personally;and twicehaving regard to his age and his characterI hesitated to take himbysurprise at an unfavourable moment.

"Thegrand difficulty is" he resumed"how to make her show herwholemind inthis matterwithout reserve.  Have you any suggestions tooffer?"

"Ihave made up my mindMr. Bruffto speak to Rachel myself."

"You!" He suddenly stopped in his walkand looked at me as if he thoughtI hadtaken leave of my senses.  "Youof all the people in theworld!"Heabruptly checked himselfand took another turn in the room."Waita little" he said.  "In cases of this extraordinarykindthe rashway issometimes the best way."  He considered the question for amomentor twounder that new lightand ended boldly by a decision in my favour."Nothingventurenothing have" the old gentleman resumed.  "Youhave achance inyour favour which I don't possess--and you shall be the first to trytheexperiment."

"Achance in my favour?"  I repeatedin the greatestsurprise.

Mr.Bruff's face softenedfor the first timeinto a smile.

"Thisis how it stands" he said.  "I tell you fairlyI don'ttrust your discretionand I don't trust your temper.But I dotrust in Rachel's still preservingin some remotelittlecorner of her hearta certain perverse weakness for YOU.Touchthat--and trust to the consequences for the fullestdisclosuresthat can flow from a woman's lips!  The question is--how areyou to see her?"

"Shehas been a guest of yours at this house" I answered."MayI venture to suggest--if nothing was said about me beforehand--that Imight see her here?"

"Cool!"said Mr. Bruff.  With that one word of comment on the reply thatIhad madeto himhe took another turn up and down the room.

"Inplain English" he said"my house is to be turnedinto atrap to catch Rachel; with a bait to tempt herin theshape of an invitation from my wife and daughters.If youwere anybody else but Franklin Blakeand if this matterwas oneatom less serious than it really isI should refusepoint-blank.As things areI firmly believe Rachel will liveto thankme for turning traitor to her in my old age.  Consider meyouraccomplice.  Rachel shall be asked to spend the day here;and youshall receive due notice of it."

"When? To-morrow?"

"To-morrowwon't give us time enough to get her answer.Say theday after."

"Howshall I hear from you?"

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

I thankedhim for the inestimable assistance which he was rendering to mewith thegratitude that I really felt; anddeclining a hospitable invitationto sleepthat night at Hampsteadreturned to my lodgings in London.

Of the daythat followedI have only to say that it was the longestday of mylife.  Innocent as I knew myself to becertain as I wasthat theabominable imputation which rested on me must sooner or laterbe clearedoffthere was nevertheless a sense of self-abasement in mymind whichinstinctively disinclined me to see any of my friends.We oftenhear (almost invariablyhoweverfrom superficial observers)that guiltcan look like innocence.  I believe it to be infinitelythe trueraxiom of the two that innocence can look like guilt.I causedmyself to be denied all dayto every visitor who called; and Ionlyventured out under cover of the night.

The nextmorningMr. Bruff surprised me at the breakfast-table. Hehanded mea large keyand announced that he felt ashamed of himselffor thefirst time in his life.

"Isshe coming?"

"Sheis coming to-dayto lunch and spend the afternoon with my wifeand mygirls."

"AreMrs. Bruffand your daughtersin the secret?"

"Inevitably. But womenas you may have observedhave no principles.My familydon't feel my pangs of conscience.  The end being to bring youand Racheltogether againmy wife and daughters pass over the means employedto gainitas composedly as if they were Jesuits."

"I aminfinitely obliged to them.  What is this key?"

"Thekey of the gate in my back-garden wall.  Be there at threethisafternoon.  Let yourself into the gardenand make your wayin by theconservatory door.  Cross the small drawing-roomand openthe doorin front of you which leads into the music-room. Thereyou willfind Rachel--and find heralone."

"Howcan I thank you!"

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

With thosewordshe went out.

I had manyweary hours still to wait through.  To while away the timeI lookedat my letters.  Among them was a letter from Betteredge.

I openedit eagerly.  To my surprise and disappointmentit beganwith anapology warning me to expect no news of any importance.In thenext sentence the everlasting Ezra Jennings appeared again!He hadstopped Betteredge on the way out of the stationand hadasked who I was.  Informed on this pointhe hadmentioned having seen me to his master Mr. Candy.Mr. Candyhearing of thishad himself driven over to Betteredgeto expresshis regret at our having missed each other.He had areason for wishing particularly to speak to me;and when Iwas next in the neighbourhood of Frizinghallhe beggedI wouldlet him know.  Apart from a few characteristic utterancesof theBetteredge philosophythis was the sum and substanceof mycorrespondent's letter.  The warm-heartedfaithful old manacknowledgedthat he had written "mainly for the pleasure of writingto me."

I crumpledup the letter in my pocketand forgot it the moment afterin theall-absorbing interest of my coming interview with Rachel.

As theclock of Hampstead church struck threeI put Mr. Bruff's key intothe lockof the door in the wall.  When I first stepped into the gardenand whileI was securing the door again on the inner sideI own to havingfelt acertain guilty doubtfulness about what might happen next.I lookedfurtively on either side of me; suspicious of the presenceof someunexpected witness in some unknown corner of the garden.Nothingappearedto justify my apprehensions.  The walks wereone andallsolitudes; and the birds and the bees were the only witnesses.

I passedthrough the garden; entered the conservatory; and crossedthe smalldrawing-room. As I laid my hand on the door oppositeI heard afew plaintive chords struck on the piano in the room within.She hadoften idled over the instrument in this waywhen I was stayingat hermother's house.  I was obliged to wait a littleto steadymyself.The pastand present rose side by sideat that supreme moment--and thecontrastshook me.

After thelapse of a minuteI roused my manhoodand opened the door.

 

CHAPTERVII

At themoment when I showed myself in the doorwayRachel rose from thepiano.

I closedthe door behind me.  We confronted each other in silencewith thefull length of the room between us.  The movement she had madein risingappeared to be the one exertion of which she was capable.All use ofevery other facultybodily or mentalseemed to be merged inthe mereact of looking at me.

A fearcrossed my mind that I had shown myself too suddenly.I advanceda few steps towards her.  I said gently"Rachel!"

The soundof my voice brought the life back to her limbsand thecolour to her face.  She advancedon her sidestillwithout speaking.  Slowlyas if acting under some influenceindependentof her own willshe came nearer and nearer to me;the warmdusky colour flushing her cheeksthe light ofrevivingintelligence brightening every instant in her eyes.I forgotthe object that had brought me into her presence;I forgotthe vile suspicion that rested on my good name;I forgotevery considerationpastpresentand futurewhich Iwas boundto remember.  I saw nothing but the woman I loved comingnearer andnearer to me.  She trembled; she stood irresolute.I couldresist it no longer--I caught her in my armsand covered herface withkisses.

There wasa moment when I thought the kisses were returned;a momentwhen it seemed as if shetoo might have forgotten.Almostbefore the idea could shape itself in my mindher firstvoluntary action made me feel that she remembered.With a crywhich was like a cry of horror--with a strengthwhich Idoubt if I could have resisted if I had tried--she thrustme back from her.  I saw merciless anger in her eyes;I sawmerciless contempt on her lips.  She looked me overfrom headto footas she might have looked at a stranger who hadinsultedher.

"Youcoward!" she said.  "You meanmiserableheartlesscoward!"

Those wereher first words!  The most unendurable reproach that a woman canaddress toa manwas the reproach that she picked out to address to Me.

"Iremember the timeRachel" I said"when you could havetold methat I had offended youin a worthier way than that.I beg yourpardon."

Somethingof the bitterness that I felt may have communicateditself tomy voice.  At the first words of my replyher eyeswhich hadbeen turned away the moment beforelooked backat meunwillingly.  She answered in a low tonewith a sullensubmissionof manner which was quite new in my experienceof her.

"Perhapsthere is some excuse for me" she said.  "After whatyou have doneis it amanly actionon your partto find your way to me as you have foundit to-day?It seems a cowardly experimentto try an experiment on myweaknessfor you.  It seems a cowardly surpriseto surprise me intolettingyou kissme.  But that is only a woman's view.  I ought to haveknown itcouldn'tbe your view.  I should have done better if I had controlledmyselfand saidnothing."

Theapology was more unendurable than the insult.  The most degradedman livingwould have felt humiliated by it.

"Ifmy honour was not in your hands" I said"I would leaveyou this instantand neversee you again.  You have spoken of what I have done.  WhathaveI done?"

"Whathave you done!  YOU ask that question of ME?"

"Iask it."

"Ihave kept your infamy a secret" she answered."AndI have suffered the consequences of concealing it.Have I noclaim to be spared the insult of your asking mewhat youhave done?  Is ALL sense of gratitude dead in you?You wereonce a gentleman.  You were once dear to my motherand dearerstill to me----"

Her voicefailed her.  She dropped into a chairand turned her back onmeandcovered her face with her hands.

I waited alittle before I trusted myself to say any more.In thatmoment of silenceI hardly know which I feltmostkeenly--the sting which her contempt had planted in meor theproud resolution which shut me out from all communitywith herdistress.

"Ifyou will not speak first" I said"I must.  I havecome herewithsomething serious to say to you.  Will you do me the commonjustice oflistening while I say it?"

Sheneither movednor answered.  I made no second appeal to her;I neveradvanced an inch nearer to her chair.  With a pridewhich wasas obstinate as her prideI told her of my discoveryat theShivering Sandand of all that had led to it.Thenarrativeof necessityoccupied some little time.Frombeginning to endshe never looked round at meand she neveruttered aword.

I kept mytemper.  My whole future dependedin all probabilityon my notlosing possession of myself at that moment.The timehad come to put Mr. Bruff's theory to the test.In thebreathless interest of trying that experimentI moved roundso as toplace myself in front of her.

"Ihave a question to ask you" I said.  "It obliges meto refer againto apainful subject.  Did Rosanna Spearman show you the nightgown.YesorNo?"

Shestarted to her feet; and walked close up to me of her own accord.Her eyeslooked me searchingly in the faceas if to read something therewhich theyhad never read yet.

"Areyou mad?" she asked.

I stillrestrained myself.  I said quietly"Rachelwill youanswermyquestion?"

She wentonwithout heeding me.

"Haveyou some object to gain which I don't understand?Some meanfear about the futurein which I am concerned?They sayyour father's death has made you a rich man.Have youcome here to compensate me for the loss of my Diamond?And haveyou heart enough left to feel ashamed of your errand?Is THATthe secret of your pretence of innocenceand yourstory about Rosanna Spearman?  Is therea motiveof shame at the bottom of all the falsehoodthistime?"

I stoppedher there.  I could control myself no longer.

"Youhave done me an infamous wrong!"  I broke out hotly."Yoususpect me of stealing your Diamond.  I have a right to knowand I WILLknowthe reason why!"

"Suspectyou!" she exclaimedher anger rising with mine."YOUVILLAINI SAW YOU TAKE THE DIAMOND WITH MY OWN EYES!"

Therevelation which burst upon me in those wordsthe overthrowwhich theyinstantly accomplished of the whole view of the case onwhich Mr.Bruff had reliedstruck me helpless.  Innocent as I wasI stoodbefore her in silence.  To her eyesto any eyesI musthavelooked like a man overwhelmed by the discovery of his own guilt.

She drewback from the spectacle of my humiliation and of her triumph.The suddensilence that had fallen upon me seemed to frighten her."Ispared youat the time" she said.  "I would havespared you nowif you hadnot forced me to speak."  She moved away as if to leave theroom--andhesitated before she got to the door.  "Why did you comehere tohumiliateyourself?" she asked.  "Why did you come here tohumiliate me?"She wenton a few stepsand paused once more.  "For God's sakesaysomething!" she exclaimedpassionately.  "If you haveany mercy leftdon't letme degrade myself in this way!  Say something--and drive me outofthe room!"

I advancedtowards herhardly conscious of what I was doing.I hadpossibly some confused idea of detaining her until shehad toldme more.  From the moment when I knew that the evidenceon which Istood condemned in Rachel's mindwas the evidence ofher owneyesnothing--not even my conviction of my own innocence--was clearto my mind.  I took her by the hand; I tried to speakfirmly andto the purpose.  All I could say was"Rachelyou onceloved me."

Sheshudderedand looked away from me.  Her hand lay powerlessandtrembling in mine.  Let go of it" she said faintly.

My touchseemed to have the same effect on her which the soundof myvoice had produced when I first entered the room.After shehad said the word which called me a cowardafter shehad made the avowal which branded me as a thief--while herhand lay in mine I was her master still!

I drew hergently back into the middle of the room.I seatedher by the side of me.  "Rachel" I said"Ican'texplainthe contradiction in what I am going to tell you.I can onlyspeak the truth as you have spoken it.  You saw me--with yourown eyesyou saw me take the Diamond.  Before God whohears usI declare that I now know I took it for the first time!Do youdoubt me still?"
She hadneither heeded nor heard me.  "Let go of my hand"sherepeated faintly.  That was her only answer.  Her head sankon myshoulder; and her hand unconsciously closed on mineat themoment when she asked me to release it.

Irefrained from pressing the question.  But there my forbearancestopped.My chanceof ever holding up my head again among honest men depended on mychance ofinducing her to make her disclosure complete.  The one hope leftfor me wasthe hope that she might have overlooked something in the chainofevidence some mere trifleperhapswhich might neverthelessundercarefulinvestigationbe made the means of vindicating my innocence in the end.I own Ikept possession of her hand.  I own I spoke to her with all thatIcouldsummon back of the sympathy and confidence of the bygone time.

"Iwant to ask you something" I said.  "I want you totell me everythingthathappenedfrom the time when we wished each other good nightto thetime when you saw me take the Diamond."

She liftedher head from my shoulderand made an effort to release her hand."Ohwhy go back to it!" she said.  "Why go back to it!"

"Iwill tell you whyRachel.  You are the victimand I am thevictimof somemonstrous delusion which has worn the mask of truth.If we lookat what happened on the night of your birthday togetherwe may endin understanding each other yet."

Her headdropped back on my shoulder.  The tears gatheredin hereyesand fell slowly over her cheeks.  "Oh!" shesaid"haveI never had that hope?  Have I not tried to see itas you aretrying now?"

"Youhave tried by yourself" I answered.  "You have nottried with meto helpyou."

Thosewords seemed to awaken in her something of the hope which I feltmyselfwhen Iuttered them.  She replied to my questions with more thandocility--sheexerted her intelligence; she willingly opened her whole mind to me.

"Letus begin" I said"with what happened after we had wishedeach othergood night.  Did you go to bed? or did you sit up?"

"Iwent to bed."

"Didyou notice the time?  Was it late?"

"Notvery.  About twelve o'clockI think."

"Didyou fall asleep?"

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

"Youwere restless?"

"Iwas thinking of you."

The answeralmost unmanned me.  Something in the toneeven morethan in the wordswent straight to my heart.It wasonly after pausing a little first that I was able togo on.

"Hadyou any light in your room?"  I asked.

"None--untilI got up againand lit my candle."

"Howlong was thatafter you had gone to bed?"

"Aboutan hour afterI think.  About one o'clock."

"Didyou leave your bedroom?"

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

"Hadyou opened your bedroom door?"

"Ihad just opened it."

"Butyou had not gone into the sitting-room?"

"No--Iwas stopped from going into it."

"Whatstopped you?

"Isaw a lightunder the door; and I heard footsteps approaching it."

"Wereyou frightened?"

"Notthen.  I knew my poor mother was a bad sleeper;and Iremembered that she had tried hardthat eveningtopersuade me to let her take charge of my Diamond.She wasunreasonably anxious about itas I thought;and Ifancied she was coming to me to see if I was in bedand tospeak to me about the Diamond againif she found that Iwas up."

"Whatdid you do?"

"Iblew out my candleso that she might think I was in bed.I wasunreasonableon my side--I was determined to keep my Diamondin theplace of my own choosing."

"Afterblowing out the candledid you go back to bed?"

"Ihad no time to go back.  At the moment when I blew the candleoutthesitting-room door openedand I saw----"

"Yousaw?"

"You."

"Dressedas usual?"

"No."

"Inmy nightgown?"

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

"Alone?"

"Alone."

"Couldyou see my face?"

"Yes."

"Plainly?"

"Quiteplainly.  The candle in your hand showed it to me."

"Weremy eyes open?"

"Yes."

"Didyou notice anything strange in them?  Anything like a fixedvacantexpression?"

"Nothingof the sort.  Your eyes were bright--brighter than usual.You lookedabout in the roomas if you knew you were where you oughtnot to beand as if you were afraid of being found out."

"Didyou observe one thing when I came into the room--did youobserve how I walked?"

"Youwalked as you always do.  You came in as far as the middle ofthe room--and thenyou stopped and looked about you."

"Whatdid you doon first seeing me?"

"Icould do nothing.  I was petrified.  I couldn't speakI couldn'tcall outI couldn't even move to shut my door."

"CouldI see youwhere you stood?"

"Youmight certainly have seen me.  But you never looked towards me.It'suseless to ask the question.  I am sure you never saw me."

"Howare you sure?"

"Wouldyou have taken the Diamond? would you have acted as youdidafterwards? would you be here now--if you had seen that I wasawake andlooking at you?  Don't make me talk of that part of it!I want toanswer you quietly.  Help me to keep as calm as I can.Go on tosomething else."

She wasright--in every wayright.  I went on to other things.

"Whatdid I doafter I had got to the middle of the roomand hadstopped there?"

"Youturned awayand went straight to the corner near the window--where myIndian cabinet stands."

"WhenI was at the cabinetmy back must have been turned towards you.How didyou see what I was doing?"

"Whenyou movedI moved."

"Soas to see what I was about with my hands?"

"Thereare three glasses in my sitting-room. As you stood thereI saw allthat you didreflected in one of them."

"Whatdid you see?"

"Youput your candle on the top of the cabinet.  You openedandshutone drawerafter anotheruntil you came to the drawer in which Ihad put myDiamond.  You looked at the open drawer for a moment.And thenyou put your hand inand took the Diamond out."

"Howdo you know I took the Diamond out?"

"Isaw your hand go into the drawer.  And I saw the gleam of thestonebetweenyour finger and thumbwhen you took your hand out."

"Didmy hand approach the drawer again--to close itfor instance?"

"No.You had the Diamond in your right hand; and you took the candlefrom thetop of the cabinet with your left hand."

"DidI look about me againafter that?"

"No."

"DidI leave the room immediately?"
"No.You stood quite stillfor what seemed a long time.I saw yourface sideways in the glass.  You looked like amanthinkingand dissatisfied with his own thoughts."

"Whathappened next?"

"Youroused yourself on a suddenand you went straight out of the room."

"DidI close the door after me?"

"No.You passed out quickly into the passageand left the door open."

"Andthen?"

"Thenyour light disappearedand the sound of your steps died awayand I wasleft alone in the dark."

"Didnothing happen--from that timeto the time when the whole houseknew thatthe Diamond was lost?"

"Nothing."

"Areyou sure of that?  Might you not have been asleep a part of thetime?"

"Inever slept.  I never went back to my bed.  Nothinghappened untilPenelopecame inat the usual time in the morning."

I droppedher handand roseand took a turn in the room.Everyquestion that I could put had been answered.Everydetail that I could desire to know had been placed before me.I had evenreverted to the idea of sleep-walkingand the ideaofintoxication; andagainthe worthlessness of the one theoryand theother had been proved--on the authoritythis timeof thewitness who had seen me.  What was to be said next? whatwas to bedone next?  There rose the horrible fact of the Theft--the onevisibletangible object that confronted mein the midstof theimpenetrable darkness which enveloped all besides!Not aglimpse of light to guide mewhen I had possessedmyself ofRosanna Spearman's secret at the Shivering Sand.And not aglimpse of light nowwhen I had appealed to Rachelherselfand had heard the hateful story of the night from herown lips.

She wasthe firstthis timeto break the silence.

"Well?"she said"you have askedand I have answered.You havemade me hope something from all thisbecause you hopedsomethingfrom it.  What have you to say now?"

The tonein which she spoke warned me that my influence over her was a lostinfluenceonce more.

"Wewere to look at what happened on my birthday nighttogether"she wentan; "and we were then to understand each other.  Have wedone that?"

She waitedpitilessly for my reply.  In answering her I committeda fatalerror--I let the exasperating helplessness of my situation getthe betterof my self-control. Rashly and uselesslyI reproached herfor thesilence which had kept me until that moment in ignorance of thetruth.

"Ifyou had spoken when you ought to have spoken" I began;"ifyou had done me the common justice to explain yourself----"

She brokein on me with a cry of fury.  The few words I had saidseemed tohave lashed her on the instant into a frenzy of rage.

"Explainmyself!" she repeated.  "Oh! is there another manlike thisin the world?  I spare himwhen my heart is breaking;I screenhim when my own character is at stake; and HE--of allhuman beingsHE--turns on me nowand tells methat Iought to have explained myself!  After believingin him asI didafter loving him as I didafter thinkingof him bydayand dreaming of him by night--he wonders Ididn'tcharge him with his disgrace the first time we met:"Myheart's darlingyou are a Thief!  My hero whom I loveandhonouryou have crept into my room under cover of the nightand stolenmy Diamond!"  That is what I ought to have said.Youvillainyou meanmeanmean villainI would have lostfiftydiamondsrather than see your face lying to meas I see itlyingnow!"

I took upmy hat.  In mercy to HER--yes!  I can honestly say it--in mercyto HERI turned away without a wordand opened the doorby which Ihad entered the room.

Shefollowedand snatched the door out of my hand; she closed itandpointed back to the place that I had left.

"No!"she said.  "Not yet!  It seems that I owe ajustificationof myconduct to you.  You shall stay and hear it.  Or you shallstoop tothe lowest infamy of alland force your way out."

It wrungmy heart to see her; it wrung my heart to hear her.I answeredby a sign--it was all I could do--that I submittedmyself toher will.

Thecrimson flush of anger began to fade out of her faceas I went backand tookmy chair in silence.  She waited a littleand steadied herself.When shewent onbut one sign of feeling was discernible in her.She spokewithout looking at me.  Her hands were fast clasped in her lapand hereyes were fixed on the ground.

"Iought to have done you the common justice to explain myself"she saidrepeatingmy own words.  "You shall see whether I did try to do youjusticeor not. I told you just now that I never sleptand never returned to my bedafter youhad left my sitting-room. It's useless to trouble you by dwellingon what Ithought--you would not understand my thoughts--I will only tellyou what Ididwhen time enough had passed to help me to recover myself.Irefrained from alarming the houseand telling everybody what hadhappened--as I oughtto have done.  In spite of what I had seenI was fond enoughof you tobelieve--no matter what!--any impossibilityrather than admit it tomy ownmind that you were deliberately a thief.  I thought andthought--and Iended inwriting to you."

"Inever received the letter."

"Iknow you never received it.  Wait a littleand you shallhear why. My letter would have told you nothing openly.It wouldnot have ruined you for lifeif it had falleninto someother person's hands.  It would only have said--in amanner which you yourself could not possibly have mistaken--that I hadreason to know you were in debtand that itwas in myexperience and in my mother's experience of youthat youwere not very discreetor very scrupulous about howyou gotmoney when you wanted it.  You would have rememberedthe visitof the French lawyerand you would have known what Ireferredto.  If you had read on with some interest after thatyou wouldhave come to an offer I had to make to you--the offerprivately (not a wordmindto be said openlyabout itbetween us!)of the loan of as large a sum of moneyas I couldget.--And I would have got it!" she exclaimedher colourbeginning to rise againand her eyes looking upat me oncemore.  "I would have pledged the Diamond myselfif I couldhave got the money in no other way!In thosewords I wrote to you.  Wait!  I did more than that.I arrangedwith Penelope to give you the letter when nobodywas near. I planned to shut myself into my bedroomand tohave thesitting-room left open and empty all the morning.And Ihoped--with all my heart and soul I hoped!--that you wouldtake theopportunityand put the Diamond back secretly inthedrawer."

Iattempted to speak.  She lifted her hand impatientlyandstopped me.In therapid alternations of her temperher anger was beginning toriseagain.  She got up from her chairand approached me.

"Iknow what you are going to say" she went on.  "Youaregoing toremind me again that you never received my letter.I can tellyou why.  I tore it up.

"Forwhat reason?"  I asked.

"Forthe best of reasons.  I preferred tearing it up to throwing itaway uponsuch a man as you!  What was the first news that reached mein themorning?  Just as my little plan was completewhat did I hear?I heardthat you--you!!!--were the foremost person in the houseinfetching the police.  You were the active man; you were theleader;you wereworking harder than any of them to recover the jewel!You evencarried your audacity far enough to ask to speak to MEabout theloss of the Diamond--the Diamond which you yourselfhadstolen; the Diamond which was all the time in your own hands!After thatproof of your horrible falseness and cunningI tore upmyletter.  But even then--even when I was maddened by thesearchingandquestioning of the policemanwhom you had sent in--even thenthere wassome infatuation in my mind which wouldn't let me give you up.I said tomyself"He has played his vile farce before everybodyelse inthe house.  Let me try if he can play it before me."Somebodytold me you were on the terrace.  I went down to the terrace.I forcedmyself to look at you; I forced myself to speak to you.  Haveyouforgottenwhat I said?"

I mighthave answered that I remembered every word of it.But whatpurposeat that momentwould the answer have served?

How couldI tell her that what she had said had astonished mehaddistressed mehad suggested to me that she was in a stateofdangerous nervous excitementhad even roused a moment'sdoubt inmy mind whether the loss of the jewel was as mucha mysteryto her as to the rest of us--but had never once givenme so muchas a glimpse at the truth?  Without the shadowof a proofto produce in vindication of my innocencehow couldI persuadeher that I knew no more than the veriest strangercould haveknown of what was really in her thoughts when shespoke tome on the terrace?

"Itmay suit your convenience to forget; it suits my convenience toremember"she wenton.  "I know what I said--for I considered it with myselfbefore Isaid it. I gave you one opportunity after another of owning the truth.I leftnothing unsaid that I COULD say--short of actually telling you that Iknew youhad committed the theft.  And all the return you madewas tolook atme withyour vile pretence of astonishmentand your false face ofinnocence--just asyou have looked at me to-day; just as you are looking at me now!I leftyouthat morningknowing you at last for what you were--for whatyouare--asbase a wretch as ever walked the earth!"

"Ifyou had spoken out at the timeyou might have left meRachelknowing that you had cruelly wronged an innocent man."

"If Ihad spoken out before other people" she retortedwith anotherburst ofindignation"you would have been disgraced for life!If I hadspoken out to no ears but yoursyou would have denied itas you aredenying it now!  Do you think I should have believed you?Would aman hesitate at a liewho had done what I saw YOU do--who hadbehaved about it afterwardsas I saw YOU behave?I tell youagainI shrank from the horror of hearing you lieafter thehorror of seeing you thieve.  You talk as if thiswas amisunderstanding which a few words might have set right!Well! themisunderstanding is at an end.  Is the thing set right?No! thething is just where it was.  I don't believe you NOW!I don'tbelieve you found the nightgownI don't believe inRosannaSpearman's letterI don't believe a word you have said.You stoleit--I saw you!  You affected to help the police--I saw you!Youpledged the Diamond to the money-lender in London--I am sure of it!You castthe suspicion of your disgrace (thanks to my base silence!)on aninnocent man!  You fled to the Continent with your plunderthe nextmorning!  After all that vilenessthere was but one thingmore youCOULD do.  You could come here with a last falsehoodon yourlips--you could come hereand tell me that I have wrongedyou!"

If I hadstayed a moment moreI know not what words might have escapedme which Ishould have remembered with vain repentance and regret.I passedby herand opened the door for the second time.For thesecond time--with the frantic perversity of a roused woman--she caughtme by the armand barred my way out.

"Letme goRachel" I said.  "It will be better for both ofus.Let mego."

Thehysterical passion swelled in her bosom--her quickened convulsivebreathingalmost beat on my faceas she held me back at the door.

"Whydid you come here?" she persisteddesperately.  "Iask you again--why didyou come here?  Are you afraid I shall expose you?Now youare a rich mannow you have got a place in the worldnow youmay marry the best lady in the land--are you afraid I shallsay thewords which I have never said yet to anybody but you?I can'tsay the words!  I can't expose you!  I am worseif worsecan bethan you are yourself."  Sobs and tears burst from her.Shestruggled with them fiercely; she held me more and more firmly."Ican't tear you out of my heart" she said"even now!You maytrust in the shamefulshameful weakness which can onlystruggleagainst you in this way!"  She suddenly let go of me--she threwup her handsand wrung them frantically in the air."Anyother woman living would shrink from the disgrace of touching him!"sheexclaimed.  "OhGod!  I despise myself even moreheartily than IdespiseHIM!"

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

"Youshall know that you have wronged meyet" I said."Oryou shall never see me again!"

With thosewordsI left her.  She started up from the chairon whichshe had dropped the moment before:  she started up--the noblecreature!--and followed me across the outer roomwith alast merciful word at parting.

"Franklin!"she said"I forgive you!  OhFranklinFranklin! weshallnever meet again.  Say you forgive ME!"

I turnedso as to let my face show her that I was past speaking--I turnedand waved my handand saw her dimlyas in a visionthroughthe tears that had conquered me at last.

The nextmomentthe worst bitterness of it was over.I was outin the garden again.  I saw herand heard herno more.

 

CHAPTERVIII

Late thateveningI was surprised at my lodgings by a visit from Mr. Bruff.

There wasa noticeable change in the lawyer's manner.It hadlost its usual confidence and spirit.  He shook handswith mefor the first time in his lifein silence.

"Areyou going back to Hampstead?"  I askedby way of sayingsomething.

"Ihave just left Hampstead" he answered.  "I knowMr.Franklinthat youhave got at the truth at last.  ButI tell you plainlyif I couldhave foreseen the price that was to be paid for itI shouldhave preferred leaving you in the dark."

"Youhave seen Rachel?"

"Ihave come here after taking her back to Portland Place;it wasimpossible to let her return in the carriage by herself.I canhardly hold you responsible--considering that yousaw her inmy house and by my permission--for the shockthat thisunlucky interview has inflicted on her.  All Ican do isto provide against a repetition of the mischief.She isyoung--she has a resolute spirit--she will get over thiswith timeand rest to help her.  I want to be assured that youwill donothing to hinder her recovery.  May I depend on yourmaking nosecond attempt to see her--except with my sanctionandapproval?"

"Afterwhat she has sufferedand after what I have suffered"I said"you may rely on me."

"Ihave your promise?"

"Youhave my promise."

Mr. Brufflooked relieved.  He put down his hatand drew his chair nearerto mine.

"That'ssettled!" he said.  "Nowabout the future--yourfutureI mean.To mymindthe result of the extraordinary turn which the matter hasnow takenis briefly this.  In the first placewe are sure that Rachelhas toldyou the whole truthas plainly as words can tell it.In thesecond place--though we know that there must be some dreadfulmistakesomewhere--we can hardly blame her for believing you to be guiltyon theevidence of her own senses; backedas that evidence has beenbycircumstances which appearon the face of themto tell deadagainstyou."

There Iinterposed.  "I don't blame Rachel" I said."Ionly regret that she could not prevail on herself to speakmoreplainly to me at the time."

"Youmight as well regret that Rachel is not somebody else"rejoinedMr. Bruff.  "And even thenI doubt if a girlof anydelicacywhose heart had been set on marrying youcould havebrought herself to charge you to your face with beinga thief. Anyhowit was not in Rachel's nature to do it.In a verydifferent matter to this matter of yours--whichplaced herhoweverin a position not altogetherunlike herposition towards you--I happen to know that shewasinfluenced by a similar motive to the motive which actuatedherconduct in your case.  Besidesas she told me herselfon our wayto town this eveningif she had spoken plainlyshe wouldno more have believed your denial then than shebelievesit now.  What answer can you make to that?There isno answer to be made to it.  ComecomeMr. Franklin!my view ofthe case has been proved to be all wrongIadmit--butas things are nowmy advice may be worth havingfor allthat.  I tell you plainlywe shall be wasting our timeandcudgelling our brains to no purposeif we attempt to try backandunravel this frightful complication from the beginning.Let usclose our minds resolutely to all that happened last yearat LadyVerinder's country house; and let us look to what we CANdiscoverin the futureinstead of to what we can NOT discover inthe past."

"Surelyyou forget" I said"that the whole thing is essentiallya matterof the past--so far as I am concerned?"

"Answerme this" retorted Mr. Bruff.  "Is the Moonstone atthe bottomof all themischief--or is it not?"

"Itis--of course."

"Verygood.  What do we believe was done with the Moonstonewhen itwas taken to London?"

"Itwas pledged to Mr. Luker."

"Weknow that you are not the person who pledged it.Do we knowwho did?"

"No."

"Wheredo we believe the Moonstone to be now?"

"Depositedin the keeping of Mr. Luker's bankers."

"Exactly. Now observe.  We are already in the month of June.Towardsthe end of the month (I can't be particular to a day)a yearwill have elapsed from the time when we believe the jewelto havebeen pledged.  There is a chance--to say the least--that theperson who pawned itmay be prepared to redeemit whenthe year's time has expired.  If he redeems itMr. Lukermust himself--according to the terms of hisownarrangement--take the Diamond out of his banker's hands.Underthese circumstancesI propose setting a watch at the bankas thepresent month draws to an endand discovering who theperson isto whom Mr. Luker restores the Moonstone.  Do you seeit now?"

I admitted(a little unwillingly) that the idea was a new oneat anyrate.

"It'sMr. Murthwaite's idea quite as much as mine"said Mr.Bruff.  "It might have never entered my headbut for aconversation we had together some time since.If Mr.Murthwaite is rightthe Indians are likely to be onthelookout at the banktowards the end of the month too--andsomething serious may come of it.  What comes of itdoesn'tmatter to you and me except as it may help us to layour handson the mysterious Somebody who pawned the Diamond.Thatpersonyou may rely on itis responsible (I don'tpretend toknow how) for the position in which you standat thismoment; and that person alone can set you right inRachel'sestimation."

"Ican't deny" I said"that the plan you propose meets thedifficultyin a waythat is very daringand very ingeniousand very new.  But----"

"Butyou have an objection to make?"

"Yes. My objection isthat your proposal obliges us to wait."

"Granted. As I reckon the timeit requires you to wait about a fortnight--more orless.  Is that so very long?"

"It'sa life-timeMr. Bruffin such a situation as mine.Myexistence will be simply unendurable to meunless I dosomethingtowards clearing my character at once."

"WellwellI understand that.  Have you thought yet of what you cando?"

"Ihave thought of consulting Sergeant Cuff."

"Hehas retired from the police.  It's useless to expect theSergeantto helpyou."

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

"Try"said Mr. Bruffafter a moment's consideration."Thecase has assumed such an extraordinary aspect since SergeantCuff'stimethat you may revive his interest in the inquiry.Tryandlet me hear the result.  In the meanwhile"hecontinuedrising"if you make no discoveries between thisand theend of the montham I free to tryon my sidewhat canbe done by keeping a lookout at the bank?"

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

Mr. Bruffsmiledand took up his hat.

"TellSergeant Cuff" he rejoined"that I say the discovery ofthe truthdepends onthe discovery of the person who pawned the Diamond.  And let mehear whatthe Sergeant's experience says to that."

So weparted.

Early thenext morningI set forth for the little town of Dorking--the placeof Sergeant Cuff's retirementas indicated to mebyBetteredge.

Inquiringat the hotelI received the necessary directionsforfinding the Sergeant's cottage.  It was approachedby a quietbye-roada little way out of the townand itstoodsnugly in the middle of its own plot of garden groundprotectedby a good brick wall at the back and the sidesand by ahigh quickset hedge in front.  The gateornamented atthe upperpart by smartly-painted trellis-workwas locked.Afterringing at the bellI peered through the trellis-workand sawthe great Cuff's favourite flower everywhere; blooming inhisgardenclustering over his doorlooking in at his windows.Far fromthe crimes and the mysteries of the great citytheillustrious thief-taker was placidly living out the last Sybariteyears ofhis lifesmothered in roses!

A decentelderly woman opened the gate to meand at once annihilatedall thehopes I had built on securing the assistance of Sergeant Cuff.He hadstartedonly the day beforeon a journey to Ireland.

"Hashe gone there on business?"  I asked.

The womansmiled.  "He has only one business nowsir" shesaid;"andthat's roses.  Some great man's gardener in Ireland has foundoutsomething new in the growing of roses--and Mr. Cuff's away toinquireinto it."

"Doyou know when he will be back?"

"It'squite uncertainsir.  Mr. Cuff said he should come backdirectlyor be awaysome timejust according as he found the new discoveryworthnothingor worth looking into.  If you have any message toleavefor himI'll take caresirthat he gets it."

I gave hermy cardhaving first written on it in pencil:"Ihave something to say about the Moonstone.  Let me hearfrom youas soon as you get back."  That donethere wasnothingleft but to submit to circumstancesand returnto London.

In theirritable condition of my mindat the time of which I am nowwritingtheabortive result of my journey to the Sergeant's cottage simplyaggravatedtherestless impulse in me to be doing something.  On the day of myreturnfromDorkingI determined that the next morning should find me bent ona neweffort at forcing my waythrough all obstaclesfrom the darknessto thelight.

What formwas my next experiment to take?

If theexcellent Betteredge had been present while I was consideringthatquestionand if he had been let into the secret of my thoughtshe wouldno doubthave declared that the German side of me wason thisoccasionmy uppermost side.  To speak seriouslyit is perhapspossiblethat my German training was in some degree responsible forthelabyrinth of useless speculations in which I now involved myself.For thegreater part of the nightI sat smokingand building up theoriesone moreprofoundly improbable than another.  When I did get to sleepmy wakingfancies pursued me in dreams.  I rose the next morningwithObjective-Subjective and Subjective-Objective inextricably entangledtogetherin my mind; and I began the day which was to witness my next effortatpractical action of some kindby doubting whether I had any sortof right(on purely philosophical grounds) to consider any sort of thing(theDiamond included) as existing at all.

How long Imight have remained lost in the mist of my own metaphysicsif I hadbeen left to extricate myselfit is impossible for me to say.As theevent provedaccident came to my rescueand happily delivered me.I happenedto wearthat morningthe same coat which I had worn on the dayof myinterview with Rachel.  Searching for something else in one ofthepocketsI came upon a crumpled piece of paperandtaking it outfoundBetteredge's forgotten letter in my hand.

It seemedhard on my good old friend to leave him without a reply.I went tomy writing-tableand read his letter again.

A letterwhich has nothing of the slightest importance in itis notalways an easy letter to answer.  Betteredge's presenteffort atcorresponding with me came within this category.Mr.Candy's assistantotherwise Ezra Jenningshad toldhis masterthat he had seen me; and Mr. Candyin his turnwanted tosee me and say something to mewhen I was next intheneighbourhood of Frizinghall.  What was to be said in answerto thatwhich would be worth the paper it was written on?I sat idlydrawing likenesses from memory of Mr. Candy'sremarkable-lookingassistanton the sheet of paper which Ihad vowedto dedicate to Betteredge--until it suddenlyoccurredto me that here was the irrepressible Ezra Jenningsgetting inmy way again!  I threw a dozen portraitsat leastof the manwith the piebald hair (the hair in every caseremarkablylike)into the waste-paper basket--and thenand therewrote my answer to Betteredge.  It was a perfectlycommonplaceletter--but it had one excellent effect on me.The effortof writing a few sentencesin plain Englishcompletelycleared my mind of the cloudy nonsense which had filled itsince theprevious day.

Devotingmyself once more to the elucidation of the impenetrablepuzzlewhich my own position presented to meI now tried to meetthedifficulty by investigating it from a plainly practical point ofview.The eventsof the memorable night being still unintelligible to meI looked alittle farther backand searched my memory of the earlierhours ofthe birthday for any incident which might prove of someassistanceto me in finding the clue.

Hadanything happened while Rachel and I were finishing the painteddoor? orlaterwhen I rode over to Frizinghall? or afterwardswhen Iwent back with Godfrey Ablewhite and his sisters? orlateragainwhen I put the Moonstone into Rachel's hands? orlaterstillwhen the company cameand we all assembled roundthedinner-table? My memory disposed of that string of questionsreadilyenoughuntil I came to the last.  Looking back at the socialevent ofthe birthday dinnerI found myself brought to a standstillat theoutset of the inquiry.  I was not even capable of accuratelyrememberingthe number of the guests who had sat at the same tablewith me.

To feelmyself completely at fault hereand to concludethereuponthat theincidents of the dinner might especially repay the trouble ofinvestigatingthemformed parts of the same mental processin my case.I believeother peoplein a similar situationwould have reasoned as I did.When thepursuit of our own interests causes us to become objects ofinquiry toourselveswe are naturally suspicious of what we don't know.Once inpossession of the names of the persons who had been present atthedinnerI resolved--as a means of enriching the deficient resourcesof my ownmemory--to appeal to the memory of the rest of the guests;to writedown all that they could recollect of the social events ofthebirthday; and to test the resultthus obtainedby the light of whathadhappened afterwardswhen the company had left the house.

This lastand newest of my many contemplated experiments in the artofinquiry--which Betteredge would probably have attributed to theclear-headedor Frenchside of me being uppermost for the moment--may fairlyclaim record hereon its own merits.  Unlikely as it may seemI had nowactually groped my way to the root of the matter at last.All Iwanted was a hint to guide me in the right direction at starting.Beforeanother day had passed over my headthat hint was given me by one ofthecompany who had been present at the birthday feast!

 

With theplan of proceeding which I now had in viewit wasfirstnecessary to possess the complete list of the guests.This Icould easily obtain from Gabriel Betteredge.Idetermined to go back to Yorkshire on that dayand to begin mycontemplatedinvestigation the next morning.

It wasjust too late to start by the train which left London before noon.There wasno alternative but to waitnearly three hoursfor the departure ofthe nexttrain.  Was there anything I could do in Londonwhich mightusefullyoccupythis interval of time?

Mythoughts went back again obstinately to the birthday dinner.

Though Ihad forgotten the numbersandin many casesthe namesof the guestsI remembered readily enough that by farthe largerproportion of them came from Frizinghallor fromitsneighbourhood.  But the larger proportion was not all.Some fewof us were not regular residents in the country.I myselfwas one of the few.  Mr. Murthwaite was another.GodfreyAblewhite was a third.  Mr. Bruff--no:  I called to mindthatbusiness had prevented Mr. Bruff from making one of the party.Had anyladies been presentwhose usual residence was in London?I couldonly remember Miss Clack as coming within thislattercategory.  Howeverhere were three of the guestsat anyratewhom it was clearly advisable for me to seebefore Ileft town.  I drove off at once to Mr. Bruff's office;notknowing the addresses of the persons of whom I was in searchandthinking it probable that he might put me in the way offindingthem.

Mr. Bruffproved to be too busy to give me more than a minute of hisvaluabletime.  In that minutehoweverhe contrived to dispose--in themost discouraging manner--of all the questions I had to putto him.

In thefirst placehe considered my newly-discovered method of finding aclueto themystery as something too purely fanciful to be seriously discussed.In thesecondthirdand fourth placesMr. Murthwaite was now on his wayback tothe scene of his past adventures; Miss Clack had suffered lossesand hadsettledfrom motives of economyin France; Mr. GodfreyAblewhitemightor might notbe discoverable somewhere in London.Suppose Iinquired at his club?  And suppose I excused Mr. Bruffif hewentback tohis business and wished me good morning?

The fieldof inquiry in Londonbeing now so narrowed as only to includethe onenecessity of discovering Godfrey's addressI took the lawyer's hintand droveto his club.

In thehallI met with one of the memberswho was an old friendof mycousin'sand who was also an acquaintance of my own.Thisgentlemanafter enlightening me on the subject ofGodfrey'saddresstold me of two recent events in his lifewhich wereof some importance in themselvesand which had notpreviouslyreached my ears.

Itappeared that Godfreyfar from being discouraged by Rachel'swithdrawalfrom her engagement to him had made matrimonial advancessoonafterwards to another young ladyreputed to be a great heiress.His suithad prosperedand his marriage had been consideredas asettled and certain thing.  Buthere againthe engagementhad beensuddenly and unexpectedly broken off--owingit was saidon thisoccasionto a serious difference of opinion between thebridegroomand the lady's fatheron the question of settlements.

As somecompensation for this second matrimonial disasterGodfreyhad soon afterwards found himself the object of fondpecuniaryremembranceon the part of one of his many admirers.A rich oldlady--highly respected at the Mothers'Small-Clothes-Conversion-Societyand a great friend ofMissClack's (to whom she left nothing but a mourning ring)--hadbequeathed to the admirable and meritorious Godfreya legacyof five thousand pounds.  After receiving thishandsomeaddition to his own modest pecuniary resourceshe hadbeen heard to say that he felt the necessityof gettinga little respite from his charitable laboursand thathis doctor prescribed "a run on the Continentas likelyto be productive of much future benefit to his health."If Iwanted to see himit would be advisable to lose no time inpaying mycontemplated visit.

I wentthen and thereto pay my visit.

The samefatality which had made me just one day too late in callingonSergeant Cuffmade me again one day too late in calling on Godfrey.He hadleft Londonon the previous morningby the tidal trainforDover.  He was to cross to Ostend; and his servant believed hewasgoing onto Brussels.  The time of his return was rather uncertain;but Imight be sure he would be away at least three months.

I wentback to my lodgings a little depressed in spirits.Three ofthe guests at the birthday dinner--and those threeallexceptionally intelligent people--were out of my reachat thevery time when it was most important to be able tocommunicatewith them.  My last hopes now rested on Betteredgeand on thefriends of the late Lady Verinder whom I might stillfindliving in the neighbourhood of Rachel's country house.

 

On thisoccasionI travelled straight to Frizinghall--the townbeing now the central point in my field of inquiry.I arrivedtoo late in the evening to be able to communicatewithBetteredge.  The next morningI sent a messengerwith aletterrequesting him to join me at the hotelat hisearliestconvenience.

Havingtaken the precaution--partly to save timepartly toaccommodateBetteredge--of sending my messenger in a flyI had areasonable prospectif no delays occurredof seeingthe old man within less than two hours fromthe timewhen I had sent for him.  During this intervalI arrangedto employ myself in opening my contemplated inquiryamong theguests present at the birthday dinner who werepersonallyknown to meand who were easily within my reach.These weremy relativesthe Ablewhitesand Mr. Candy.The doctorhad expressed a special wish to see meand thedoctor lived in the next street.  So to Mr. Candy Iwentfirst.

After whatBetteredge had told meI naturally anticipated finding tracesin thedoctor's face of the severe illness from which he had suffered.But I wasutterly unprepared for such a change as I saw in him whenhe enteredthe room and shook hands with me.  His eyes were dim; his hairhad turnedcompletely grey; his face was wizen; his figure had shrunk.I lookedat the once livelyrattlepatedhumorous little doctor--associatedin my remembrance with the perpetration of incorrigiblesocialindiscretions and innumerable boyish jokes--and I saw nothingleft ofhis former selfbut the old tendency to vulgar smartnessin hisdress.  The man was a wreck; but his clothes and his jewellery--in cruelmockery of the change in him--were as gay and as gaudyas ever.

"Ihave often thought of youMr. Blake" he said; "and I amheartilyglad tosee you again at last.  If there is anything I can do for youpraycommand my servicessir--pray command my services!"

He saidthose few commonplace words with needless hurry and eagernessand with acuriosity to know what had brought me to Yorkshirewhich hewas perfectly--I might say childishly--incapable of concealingfromnotice.

With theobject that I had in viewI had of course foreseenthenecessity of entering into some sort of personal explanationbefore Icould hope to interest peoplemostly strangers to mein doingtheir best to assist my inquiry.  On the journeytoFrizinghall I had arranged what my explanation was to be--and Iseized the opportunity now offered to me of trying the effectof it onMr. Candy.

"Iwas in Yorkshirethe other dayand I am in Yorkshire again nowon rathera romantic errand" I said.  "It is a matterMr.Candyin whichthe late Lady Verinder's friends all took some interest.Youremember the mysterious loss of the Indian Diamondnow nearlya yearsince?  Circumstances have lately happened which leadto thehope that it may yet be found--and I am interesting myselfas one ofthe familyin recovering it.  Among the obstaclesin my waythere is the necessity of collecting again all theevidencewhich was discovered at the timeand more if possible.There arepeculiarities in this case which make it desirableto revivemy recollection of everything that happened in the houseon theevening of Miss Verinder's birthday.  And I venture to appealto herlate mother's friends who were present on that occasionto lendme theassistance of their memories----"

I had gotas far as that in rehearsing my explanatory phraseswhen I wassuddenly checked by seeing plainly in Mr. Candy'sface thatmy experiment on him was a total failure.

The littledoctor sat restlessly picking at the points of his fingersall thetime I was speaking.  His dim watery eyes were fixed on my facewith anexpression of vacant and wistful inquiry very painful to see.What hewas thinking ofit was impossible to divine.  The one thingclearlyvisible was that I had failedafter the first two or three wordsin fixinghis attention.  The only chance of recalling him to himselfappearedto lie inchanging the subject.  I tried a new topic immediately.

"Somuch" I saidgaily"for what brings me to Frizinghall! NowMr. Candyit's yourturn.  You sent me a message by Gabriel Betteredge----"
He leftoff picking at his fingersand suddenly brightened up.

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

"AndBetteredge duly communicated it by letter" I went on.You hadsomething to say to methe next time I was inyourneighbourhood.  WellMr. Candyhere I am!"

"Hereyou are!" echoed the doctor.  "And Betteredge wasquite right.I hadsomething to say to you.  That was my message.  Betteredgeis awonderfulman.  What a memory!  At his agewhat a memory!"

He droppedback into silenceand began picking at his fingers again.Recollectingwhat I had heard from Betteredge about the effect of the feveron hismemoryI went on with the conversationin the hope that Imight helphim at starting.

"It'sa long time since we metI said.  "We last saw each otherat thelast birthday dinner my poor aunt was ever to give."

"That'sit!" cried Mr. Candy.  "The birthday dinner!"He startedimpulsively to his feetand looked at me.A deepflush suddenly overspread his faded faceand heabruptlysat down againas if conscious of having betrayeda weaknesswhich he would fain have concealed.  It was plainpitiablyplainthat he was aware of his own defect of memoryand thathe was bent on hiding it from the observation ofhisfriends.

Thus farhe had appealed to my compassion only.  But the wordshe hadjust said--few as they were--roused my curiosityinstantlyto the highest pitch.  The birthday dinner hadalreadybecome the one event in the pastat which I lookedback withstrangely-mixed feelings of hope and distrust.And herewas the birthday dinner unmistakably proclaiming itselfas thesubject on which Mr. Candy had something importantto say tome!

Iattempted to help him out once more.  Butthis timemy owninterests were at the bottom of my compassionate motiveand theyhurried me on a little too abruptlyto the end I hadin view.

"It'snearly a year now" I said"since we sat at that pleasanttable.Have youmade any memorandum--in your diaryor otherwise--of what you wantedto say tome?"

Mr. Candyunderstood the suggestionand showed me that he understood itas aninsult.

"Irequire no memorandumMr. Blake" he saidstiffly enough."I amnot such a very old manyet--and my memory (thank God)is to bethoroughly depended on!"

It isneedless to say that I declined to understand that he was offendedwith me.

"Iwish I could say the same of my memory" I answered."WhenI try to think of matters that are a year oldI seldomfind myremembrance as vivid as I could wish it to be.Take thedinner at Lady Verinder'sfor instance----"

Mr. Candybrightened up againthe moment the allusion passed my lips.

"Ah!the dinnerthe dinner at Lady Verinder's!" he exclaimedmoreeagerly than ever.  "I have got something to say to youaboutthat."

His eyeslooked at me again with the painful expression of inquirysowistfulso vacantso miserably helpless to see.  He wasevidentlytryinghardand trying in vainto recover the lost recollection."Itwas a very pleasant dinner" he burst out suddenlywith an airof sayingexactly what he wanted to say.  "A very pleasant dinnerMr. Blakewasn't it?"  He nodded and smiledand appeared to thinkpoorfellowthat he had succeeded in concealing the total failureof hismemoryby a well-timed exertion of his own presenceof mind.

It was sodistressing that I at once shifted the talk--deeply asI was interested in his recovering the lost remembrance--to topicsof local interest.

Herehegot on glibly enough.  Trumpery little scandalsandquarrels in the townsome of them as much as a month oldappearedto recur to his memory readily.  He chattered onwithsomething of the smooth gossiping fluency of former times.But therewere momentseven in the full flow of his talkativenesswhen hesuddenly hesitated--looked at me for a moment with the vacantinquiryonce more in his eyes--controlled himself--and went on again.Isubmitted patiently to my martyrdom (it is surely nothingless thanmartyrdom to a man of cosmopolitan sympathiesto absorbin silent resignation the news of a country town?)until theclock on the chimney-piece told me that my visithad beenprolonged beyond half an hour.  Having now some righttoconsider the sacrifice as completeI rose to take leave.As weshook handsMr. Candy reverted to the birthday festival of hisownaccord.

"I amso glad we have met again" he said.  "I had it on mymind--I reallyhad it on my mindMr. Blaketo speak to you.About thedinner at Lady Verinder'syou know?  A pleasant dinner--really apleasant dinner nowwasn't it?"

Onrepeating the phrasehe seemed to feel hardly as certainof havingprevented me from suspecting his lapse of memoryas he hadfelt on the first occasion.  The wistful look cloudedhis faceagain:  andafter apparently designing to accompany meto thestreet doorhe suddenly changed his mindrang the bellfor theservantand remained in the drawing-room.

I wentslowly down the doctor's stairsfeeling the dishearteningconvictionthat he really had something to say which it was vitallyimportantto me to hearand that he was morally incapable of saying it.The effortof remembering that he wanted to speak to me wasbut tooevidentlythe only effort that his enfeebled memory was nowable toachieve.

Just as Ireached the bottom of the stairsand had turned a corner onmy way tothe outer halla door opened softly somewhere on the groundfloor ofthe houseand a gentle voice said behind me:--

"I amafraidsiryou find Mr. Candy sadly changed?"

I turnedroundand found myself face to face with Ezra Jennings.

 

CHAPTER IX

Thedoctor's pretty housemaid stood waiting for mewith the streetdoor openin her hand.  Pouring brightly into the hallthe morninglight fellfull on the face of Mr. Candy's assistant when I turnedand lookedat him.

It wasimpossible to dispute Betteredge's assertion that the appearanceof EzraJenningsspeaking from a popular point of viewwas against him.Hisgipsy-complexionhis fleshless cheekshis gaunt facial boneshis dreamyeyeshis extraordinary parti-coloured hairthe puzzlingcontradictionbetween his face and figure which made him look oldand youngboth together--were all more or less calculated to produceanunfavourable impression of him on a stranger's mind.  And yet--feelingthis as I certainly did--it is not to be denied that EzraJenningsmade some inscrutable appeal to my sympathieswhich I found itimpossibleto resist.  While my knowledge of the world warned me to answerthequestion which he had putacknowledging that I did indeed findMr. Candysadly changedand then to proceed on my way out of the house--myinterest in Ezra Jennings held me rooted to the placeand gavehim theopportunity of speaking to me in private about his employerfor whichhe had been evidently on the watch.

"Areyou walking my wayMr. Jennings?"  I saidobserving thathe heldhis hat inhis hand.  "I am going to call on my auntMrs. Ablewhite."

EzraJennings replied that he had a patient to seeand that he waswalkingmy way.

We leftthe house together.  I observed that the pretty servant girl--who wasall smiles and amiabilitywhen I wished her good morningon my wayout--received a modest little message from Ezra Jenningsrelatingto the time at which he might be expected to returnwithpursed-up lipsand with eyes which ostentatiously lookedanywhererather than look in his face.  The poor wretch was evidentlynofavourite in the house.  Out of the houseI had Betteredge'sword forit that he was unpopular everywhere.  "What a life!"I thoughtto myselfas we descended the doctor's doorsteps.

Havingalready referred to Mr. Candy's illness on his sideEzra Jenningsnowappeared determined to leave it to me to resume the subject.Hissilence said significantly"It's your turn now."  Itoohad myreasonsfor referring to the doctor's illness:  and I readily acceptedtheresponsibility of speaking first.

"Judgingby the change I see in him" I began"Mr. Candy'sillnessmust have been far more serious that I had supposed?"

"Itis almost a miracle" said Ezra Jennings"that he livedthrough it."

"Ishis memory never any better than I have found it to-day?He hasbeen trying to speak to me----"

"Ofsomething which happened before he was taken ill?" asked theassistantobservingthat I hesitated.

"Yes."

"Hismemory of eventsat that past timeis hopelessly enfeebled"said EzraJennings.  "It is almost to be deploredpoor fellowthat eventhe wreck of it remains.  While he remembers dimlyplans thathe formed--thingshere and therethat he had to sayor dobefore his illness--he is perfectly incapable of recallingwhat theplans wereor what the thing was that he had to say or do.He ispainfully conscious of his own deficiencyand painfully anxiousas youmust have seento hide it from observation.  If he couldonly haverecovered in a complete state of oblivion as to the pasthe wouldhave been a happier man.  Perhaps we should all be happier"he addedwith a sad smile"if we could but completely forget!"

"Thereare some events surely in all men's lives" I replied"thememory of which they would be unwilling entirely to lose?"

"ThatisI hopeto be said of most menMr. Blake.  I am afraidit cannottruly be said of ALL.  Have you any reason to supposethat thelost remembrance which Mr. Candy tried to recover--while youwere speaking to him just now--was a remembrance which itwasimportant to YOU that he should recall?"

In sayingthose wordshe had touchedof his own accordon thevery point upon which I was anxious to consult him.Theinterest I felt in this strange man had impelled mein thefirst instanceto give him the opportunity of speakingto me;reserving what I might have to sayon my sideinrelation to his employeruntil I was first satisfied thathe was aperson in whose delicacy and discretion I could trust.The littlethat he had saidthus farhad been sufficienttoconvince me that I was speaking to a gentleman.He hadwhat I may venture to describe as the UNSOUGHTSELF-POSSESSIONwhich is a sure sign of good breedingnot inEngland onlybut everywhere else in the civilised world.Whateverthe object which he had in viewin puttingthequestion that he had just addressed to meI feltno doubtthat I was justified--so far--in answering himwithoutreserve.

"Ibelieve I have a strong interest" I said"in tracingthe lostremembrance which Mr. Candy was unable to recall.May I askwhether you can suggest to me any method by which Imightassist his memory?"

EzraJennings looked at mewith a sudden flash of interestin hisdreamy brown eyes.

"Mr.Candy's memory is beyond the reach of assistance" he said."Ihave tried to help it often enough since his recoveryto be ableto speakpositively on that point."

Thisdisappointed me; and I owned it.

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

EzraJennings smiled.  "It may notperhapsbe a final answerMr. Blake.It may bepossible to trace Mr. Candy's lost recollectionwithout thenecessityof appealing to Mr. Candy himself."

"Indeed? Is it an indiscretionon my partto ask how?"

"Byno means.  My only difficulty in answering your questionis thedifficulty of explaining myself.  May I trust toyourpatienceif I refer once more to Mr. Candy's illness:and if Ispeak of it this time without sparing you certainprofessionaldetails?"

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

Myeagerness seemed to amuse--perhapsI might rather sayto pleasehim.He smiledagain.  We had by this time left the last houses in the townbehindus.  Ezra Jennings stopped for a momentand picked some wildflowersfrom the hedge by the roadside.  "How beautiful they are!"he saidsimplyshowing his little nosegay to me.  "And how fewpeople inEnglandseem to admire them as they deserve!"

"Youhave not always been in England?"  I said.

"No.I was bornand partly brought upin one of our colonies.My fatherwas an Englishman; but my mother---- Weare straying away from our subjectMr. Blake; andit is myfault.  The truth isI have associations with these modestlittlehedgesideflowers----" It doesn't matter; we were speaking of Mr. Candy.To Mr.Candy let us return."

Connectingthe few words about himself which thus reluctantlyescapedhimwith the melancholy view of life which led him to placetheconditions of human happiness in complete oblivion of the pastI feltsatisfied that the story which I had read in his face wasin twoparticulars at leastthe story that it really told.He hadsuffered as few men suffer; and there was the mixture of someforeignrace in his English blood.

"Youhave heardI dare sayof the original cause of Mr. Candy'sillness?"heresumed.  "The night of Lady Verinder's dinner-party was anightof heavyrain.  My employer drove home through it in his gigandreached the house wetted to the skin.  He found an urgentmessagefrom apatientwaiting for him; and he most unfortunately went at onceto visitthe sick personwithout stopping to change his clothes.I wasmyself professionally detainedthat nightby a case at somedistancefrom Frizinghall.  When I got back the next morningI foundMr.Candy's groom waiting in great alarm to take me to his master's room.By thattime the mischief was done; the illness had set in."

"Theillness has only been described to mein general termsas a fever"I said.

"Ican add nothing which will make the description more accurate"answeredEzra Jennings.  "From first to last the fever assumednospecific form.  I sent at once to two of Mr. Candy's medicalfriends inthe townboth physiciansto come and give me theiropinion ofthe case.  They agreed with me that it looked serious;but theyboth strongly dissented from the view I took of the treatment.Wediffered entirely in the conclusions which we drew fromthepatient's pulse.  The two doctorsarguing from the rapidityof thebeatdeclared that a lowering treatment was the only treatmentto beadopted.  On my sideI admitted the rapidity of the pulsebut I alsopointed to its alarming feebleness as indicatinganexhausted condition of the systemand as showing a plainnecessityfor the administration of stimulants.  The two doctorswere forkeeping him on gruellemonadebarley-waterand so on.I was forgiving him champagneor brandyammoniaand quinine.A seriousdifference of opinionas you see! a difference betweentwophysicians of established local reputeand a strangerwho wasonly an assistant in the house.  For the first few daysI had nochoice but to give way to my elders and betters;thepatient steadily sinking all the time.  I made a second attemptto appealto the plainundeniably plainevidence of the pulse.Itsrapidity was uncheckedand its feebleness had increased.The twodoctors took offence at my obstinacy.  They said"Mr.Jenningseither we manage this caseor you manage it.Which isit to be?"  I said"Gentlemengive me five minutestoconsiderand that plain question shall have a plain reply."When thetime expiredI was ready with my answer.  I said"Youpositively refuse to try the stimulant treatment?"Theyrefused in so many words.  "I mean to try it at oncegentlemen."--"TryitMr. Jenningsand we withdraw from the case."I sentdown to the cellar for a bottle of champagne; and I administeredhalf atumbler-full of it to the patient with my own hand.The twophysicians took up their hats in silenceand left thehouse."

"Youhad assumed a serious responsibility" I said.  In yourplaceI amafraid I should have shrunk from it."

"Inmy placeMr. Blakeyou would have remembered that Mr. Candyhad takenyou into his employmentunder circumstances which made youhis debtorfor life.  In my placeyou would have seen him sinkinghour byhour; and you would have risked anythingrather than letthe oneman on earth who had befriended youdie before your eyes.Don'tsuppose that I had no sense of the terrible position in which Ihad placedmyself!  There were moments when I felt all the miseryof myfriendlessnessall the peril of my dreadful responsibility.If I hadbeen a happy manif I had led a prosperous lifeI believeI should have sunk under the task I had imposed on myself.But I hadno happy time to look back atno past peace of mindto forceitself into contrast with my present anxiety and suspense--and I heldfirm to my resolution through it all.  I took an intervalin themiddle of the daywhen my patient's condition was at its bestfor therepose I needed.  For the rest of the four-and-twenty hoursas long ashis life was in dangerI never left his bedside.Towardssunsetas usual in such casesthe delirium incidentalto thefever came on.  It lasted more or less through the night;and thenintermittedat that terrible time in the early morning--from twoo'clock to five--when the vital energies even of the healthiestof us areat their lowest.  It is then that Death gathers in hishumanharvest most abundantly.  It was then that Death and I foughtour fightover the bedwhich should have the man who lay on it.I neverhesitated in pursuing the treatment on which Ihad stakedeverything.  When wine failedI tried brandy.When theother stimulants lost their influenceI doubled the dose.After aninterval of suspense--the like of which I hope to GodI shallnever feel again--there came a day when the rapidity ofthe pulseslightlybut appreciablydiminished; andbetter stillthere camealso a change in the beat--an unmistakable changetosteadiness and strength.  THENI knew that I had saved him;and then Iown I broke down.  I laid the poor fellow's wasted handback onthe bedand burst out crying.  An hysterical reliefMr.Blake--nothing more!  Physiology saysand says trulythat somemen are born with female constitutions--and I am one ofthem!"

He madethat bitterly professional apology for his tearsspeakingquietly and unaffectedlyas he had spoken throughout.His toneand mannerfrom beginning to endshowed him tobeespeciallyalmost morbidlyanxious not to set himself upas anobject of interest to me.

"Youmay well askwhy I have wearied you with all these details?"he wenton.  "It is the only way I can seeMr. Blakeofproperly introducing to you what I have to say next.Now youknow exactly what my position wasat the timeof Mr.Candy's illnessyou will the more readily understandthe soreneed I had of lightening the burden on my mindby givingitat intervalssome sort of relief.  I have hadthepresumption to occupy my leisurefor some years pastin writinga bookaddressed to the members of my profession--a book onthe intricate and delicate subject of the brain andthenervous system.  My work will probably never be finished;and itwill certainly never be published.  It has none the lessbeen thefriend of many lonely hours; and it helped me to whileaway theanxious time--the time of waitingand nothing else--at Mr.Candy's bedside.  I told you he was deliriousI think? And I mentioned the time at which his deliriumcame on?"

"Yes."

"WellI had reached a section of my bookat that timewhichtouched on this same question of delirium.  I won't troubleyou at anylength with my theory on the subject--I will confinemyself totelling you only what it is your present interest to know.It hasoften occurred to me in the course of my medical practiceto doubtwhether we can justifiably infer--in cases of delirium--that theloss of the faculty of speaking connectedlyimplies ofnecessitythe loss of the faculty of thinking connectedly as well.Poor Mr.Candy's illness gave me an opportunity of putting thisdoubt tothe test.  I understand the art of writing in shorthand;and I wasable to take down the patient's "wanderings"exactly astheyfell fromhis lips.--Do you seeMr. Blakewhat I am coming toat last?"

I saw itclearlyand waited with breathless interest to hear more.

"Atodds and ends of time" Ezra Jennings went on"Ireproducedmyshorthand notesin the ordinary form of writing--leaving largespacesbetween the broken phrasesand even the single wordsas theyhad fallen disconnectedly from Mr. Candy's lips.I thentreated the result thus obtainedon something like theprinciplewhich one adopts in putting together a child's 'puzzle.'It is allconfusion to begin with; but it may be all broughtinto orderand shapeif you can only find the right way.Acting onthis planI filled in each blank space on the paperwith whatthe words or phrases on either side of it suggestedto me asthe speaker's meaning; altering over and over againuntil myadditions followed naturally on the spoken wordswhich camebefore themand fitted naturally into the spokenwordswhich came after them.  The result wasthat I notonlyoccupied in this way many vacant and anxious hoursbut that Iarrived at something which was (as it seemed to me)aconfirmation of the theory that I held.  In plainer wordsafterputting the broken sentences together I found the superiorfaculty ofthinking going onmore or less connectedlyin mypatient's mindwhile the inferior faculty ofexpressionwas in a state of almost complete incapacityandconfusion."

"Oneword!"  I interposed eagerly.  "Did my name occurin anyof hiswanderings?"

"Youshall hearMr. Blake.  Among my written proofs oftheassertion which I have just advanced--orI ought to sayamong thewritten experimentstending to put my assertionto theproof--there IS onein which your name occurs.For nearlythe whole of one nightMr. Candy's mindwasoccupied with SOMETHING between himself and you.I have gotthe broken wordsas they dropped from his lipson onesheet of paper.  And I have got the links of my owndiscoveringwhich connect those words togetheron anothersheet ofpaper.  The product (as the arithmeticians would say)is anintelligible statement--firstof something actually donein thepast; secondlyof something which Mr. Candy contemplateddoing inthe futureif his illness had not got in the wayandstopped him.  The question is whether this doesor does notrepresentthe lost recollection which he vainly attempted to findwhen youcalled on him this morning?"

"Nota doubt of it!"  I answered.  "Let us go backdirectlyand lookat the papers!"

"QuiteimpossibleMr. Blake."

"Why?"

"Putyourself in my position for a moment" said Ezra Jennings."Wouldyou disclose to another person what had dropped unconsciouslyfrom thelips of your suffering patient and your helpless friendwithoutfirst knowing that there was a necessity to justify youin openingyour lips?"

I feltthat he was unanswerablehere; but I tried to arguethequestionnevertheless.

"Myconduct in such a delicate matter as you describe" I replied"woulddepend greatly on whether the disclosure was of a naturetocompromise my friend or not."

"Ihave disposed of all necessity for considering that side of thequestionlongsince" said Ezra Jennings.  "Wherever my notesincluded anything whichMr. Candymight have wished to keep secretthose notes have been destroyed.Mymanuscript experiments at my friend's bedsideinclude nothingnowwhich hewould have hesitated to communicate to othersif he had recoveredthe use ofhis memory.  In your caseI have every reason to suppose thatmynotescontain something which he actually wished to say to you

"Andyetyou hesitate?"

"AndyetI hesitate.  Remember the circumstances under which Iobtainedthe information which I possess!  Harmless as it isI cannotprevail upon myself to give it up to youunless youfirstsatisfy me that there is a reason for doing so.He was somiserably illMr. Blake! and he was so helplesslydependentupon Me!  Is it too much to askif I request you onlyto hint tome what your interest is in the lost recollection--or whatyou believe that lost recollection to be?"

To haveanswered him with the frankness which his language and hismannerboth claimed from mewould have been to commit myself to openlyacknowledgingthat I was suspected of the theft of the Diamond.Stronglyas Ezra Jennings had intensified the first impulsive interestwhich Ihad felt in himhe had not overcome my unconquerablereluctanceto disclose the degrading position in which I stood.I tookrefuge once more in the explanatory phrases with which I hadpreparedmyself to meet the curiosity of strangers

This timeI had no reason to complain of a want of attentionon thepart of the person to whom I addressed myself.EzraJennings listened patientlyeven anxiouslyuntil Ihad done.

"I amsorry to have raised your expectationsMr. Blakeonly todisappoint them" he said.  "Throughout the wholeperiod ofMr. Candy's illnessfrom first to lastnot oneword aboutthe Diamond escaped his lips.  The matter withwhich Iheard him connect your name hasI can assure younodiscoverable relation whatever with the loss or the recoveryof MissVerinder's jewel."

Wearrivedas he said those wordsat a place where the highwayalongwhich we had been walking branched off into two roads.One led toMr. Ablewhite's houseand the other to a moorlandvillagesome two or three miles off.  Ezra Jennings stopped atthe roadwhich led to the village.

"Myway lies in this direction" he said.  "I am reallyand truly sorryMr. Blakethat I can be of no use to you."

His voicetold me that he spoke sincerely.  His soft brown eyesrested onme for a moment with a look of melancholy interest.He bowedand wentwithout another wordon his way tothevillage.

For aminute or more I stood and watched himwalking fartherandfarther away from me; carrying farther and farther away with himwhat I nowfirmly believed to be the clue of which I was in search.He turnedafter walking on a little wayand looked back.Seeing mestill standing at the place where we had partedhe stoppedas ifdoubting whether I might not wish to speak to him again.There wasno time for me to reason out my own situation--to remindmyself that I was losing my opportunityat what mightbe theturning point of my lifeand all to flatter nothingmoreimportant than my own self-esteem! There was only timeto callhim back firstand to think afterwards.  I suspect I amone of therashest of existing men.  I called him back--and thenI said tomyself"Now there is no help for it.  I must tell himthetruth!"

Heretraced his steps directly.  I advanced along the road to meethim.

"Mr.Jennings" I said.  "I have not treated you quitefairly.Myinterest in tracing Mr. Candy's lost recollection is nottheinterest of recovering the Moonstone.  A serious personalmatter isat the bottom of my visit to Yorkshire.  I have but oneexcuse fornot having dealt frankly with you in this matter.It is morepainful to me than I can sayto mention to anybodywhat myposition really is."

EzraJennings looked at me with the first appearance of embarrassmentwhich Ihad seen in him yet.

"Ihave no rightMr. Blakeand no wish" he said"tointrude myself intoyourprivate affairs.  Allow me to ask your pardonon my sideforhaving(mostinnocently) put you to a painful test."

"Youhave a perfect right" I rejoined"to fix the terms onwhich youfeeljustified in revealing what you heard at Mr. Candy's bedside.Iunderstand and respect the delicacy which influences you in thismatter.How can Iexpect to be taken into your confidence if I declineto admityou into mine?  You ought to knowand you shall knowwhy I aminterested in discovering what Mr. Candy wanted to say to me.If I turnout to be mistaken in my anticipationsand if you prove unableto help mewhen you are really aware of what I wantI shall trust to yourhonour tokeep my secret--and something tells me that I shall not trustin vain."
"StopMr. Blake.  I have a word to saywhich must be saidbefore yougo any farther."  I looked at him in astonishment.The gripof some terrible emotion seemed to have seized himand shakenhim to the soul.  His gipsy complexion had alteredto a lividgreyish paleness; his eyes had suddenly becomewild andglittering; his voice had dropped to a tone--lowsternand resolute--which I now heard for the first time.The latentresources in the manfor good or for evil--it washardat that momentto say which--leapt up in himand showedthemselves to mewith the suddenness of a flashof light.

"Beforeyou place any confidence in me" he went on"you ought toknowand youMUST knowunder what circumstances I have been received intoMr.Candy's house.  It won't take long.  I don't professsirto tellmy story(as the phrase is) to any man.  My story will die with me.All I askis to be permitted to tell youwhat I have told Mr. Candy.If you arestill in the mindwhen you have heard thatto say what youhaveproposed to sayyou will command my attention and command myservices.Shall wewalk on?"

Thesuppressed misery in his face silenced me.  I answered hisquestionby asign.  We walked on.

Afteradvancing a few hundred yardsEzra Jennings stopped at a gapin therough stone wall which shut off the moor from the roadat thispart of it.

"Doyou mind resting a littleMr. Blake?" he asked.  "Iam not what I was--and somethings shake me."

I agreedof course.  He led the way through the gap to a patch of turf onthe heathygroundscreened by bushes and dwarf trees on the side nearestto theroadand commanding in the opposite direction a grandly desolateview overthe broad brown wilderness of the moor.  The clouds hadgatheredwithin thelast half hour.  The light was dull; the distance was dim.The lovelyface of Nature met ussoft and still colourless--met us withouta smile.

We satdown in silence.  Ezra Jennings laid aside his hatand passedhis hand wearily over his foreheadwearily throughhisstartling white and black hair.  He tossed his littlenosegay ofwild flowers away from himas if the remembranceswhich itrecalled were remembrances which hurt him now.

"Mr.Blake!" he saidsuddenly.  "You are in bad company.The cloudof a horrible accusation has rested on me for years.I tell youthe worst at once.  I am a man whose life is a wreckand whosecharacter is gone."

Iattempted to speak.  He stopped me.

"No"he said.  "Pardon me; not yet.  Don't commit yourselftoexpressionsof sympathy which you may afterwards wish to recall.I havementioned an accusation which has rested on me for years.There arecircumstances in connexion with it that tell against me.I cannotbring myself to acknowledge what the accusation is.And I amincapableperfectly incapableof proving my innocence.I can onlyassert my innocence.  I assert itsiron my oathas aChristian.  It is useless to appeal to my honour as a man."

He pausedagain.  I looked round at him.  He never looked at me inreturn.His wholebeing seemed to be absorbed in the agony of recollectingand inthe effortto speak.

"Thereis much that I might say" he went on"aboutthe merciless treatment of me by my own familyand themerciless enmity to which I have fallen a victim.But theharm is done; the wrong is beyond all remedy.I declineto weary or distress yousirif I can help it.At theoutset of my career in this countrythe vile slanderto which Ihave referred struck me down at once and for ever.I resignedmy aspirations in my profession--obscurity wasthe onlyhope left for me.  I parted with the woman I loved--how couldI condemn her to share my disgrace?  A medicalassistant'splace offered itselfin a remote corner of England.I got theplace.  It promised me peace; it promised me obscurityas Ithought.  I was wrong.  Evil reportwith time andchance tohelp ittravels patientlyand travels far.Theaccusation from which I had fled followed me.I gotwarning of its approach.  I was able to leave mysituationvoluntarilywith the testimonials that I had earned.They gotme another situation in another remote district.Timepassed again; and again the slander that was death to mycharacterfound me out.  On this occasion I had no warning.Myemployer said"Mr. JenningsI have no complaint to makeagainstyou; but you must set yourself rightor leave me."I had butone choice--I left him.  It's useless to dwell onwhat Isuffered after that.  I am only forty years old now.Look at myfaceand let it tell for me the story of somemiserableyears.  It ended in my drifting to this placeandmeeting with Mr. Candy.  He wanted an assistant.I referredhimon the question of capacityto my last employer.Thequestion of character remained.  I told him what I have toldyou--and more. I warned him that there were difficulties in the wayeven if hebelieved me.  "Hereas elsewhere" I said "Iscorn theguilty evasion of living under an assumed name:I am nosafer at Frizinghall than at other places fromthe cloudthat follows mego where I may."  He answered"Idon't do things by halves--I believe youand I pity you.If youwill risk what may happenI will risk it too."GodAlmighty bless him!  He has given me shelterhe hasgiven me employmenthe has given me rest of mind--and I havethe certain conviction (I have had it for somemonthspast) that nothing will happen now to make him regretit."

"Theslander has died out?"  I said.

"Theslander is as active as ever.  But when it follows me hereit willcome too late."

"Youwill have left the place?"

"NoMr. Blake--I shall be dead.  For ten years past Ihavesuffered from an incurable internal complaint.  I don'tdisguisefrom you that I should have let the agony of it killme longsincebut for one last interest in lifewhich makesmyexistence of some importance to me still.  I want to providefor aperson--very dear to me--whom I shall never see again.My ownlittle patrimony is hardly sufficient to make her independentof theworld.  The hopeif I could only live long enoughofincreasing it to a certain sumhas impelled me to resistthedisease by such palliative means as I could devise.The oneeffectual palliative in my caseis--opium.  To thatall-potentand all-merciful drug I am indebted for a respiteof manyyears from my sentence of death.  But even the virtuesof opiumhave their limit.  The progress of the disease hasgraduallyforced me from the use of opium to the abuse of it.I amfeeling the penalty at last.  My nervous system is shattered;my nightsare nights of horror.  The end is not far off now.Let itcome--I have not lived and worked in vain.  The littlesum isnearly made up; and I have the means of completing itif my lastreserves of life fail me sooner than I expect.I hardlyknow how I have wandered into telling you this.I don'tthink I am mean enough to appeal to your pity.PerhapsIfancy you may be all the readier to believe meif youknow that what I have said to youI have saidwith thecertain knowledge in me that I am a dying man.There isno disguisingMr. Blakethat you interest me.I haveattempted to make my poor friend's loss of memorythe meansof bettering my acquaintance with you.  I havespeculatedon the chance of your feeling a passing curiosityabout whathe wanted to sayand of my being able to satisfy it.Is thereno excuse for my intruding myself on you?Perhapsthere is some excuse.  A man who has lived as I have livedhas hisbitter moments when he ponders over human destiny.You haveyouthhealthrichesa place in the worlda prospectbeforeyou.  Youand such as youshow me the sunny side ofhumanlifeand reconcile me with the world that I am leavingbefore Igo.  However this talk between us may endI shall notforgetthat you have done me a kindness in doing that.  It restswith yousirto say what you proposed sayingor to wish me goodmorning."

I had butone answer to make to that appeal.  Without a moment'shesitationI told himthe truthas unreservedly as I have told it in these pages.

He startedto his feetand looked at me with breathless eagernessas Iapproached the leading incident of my story.

"Itis certain that I went into the room" I said; "it iscertain that Itook theDiamond.  I can only meet those two plain facts by declaringthatdo what ImightI did it without my own knowledge----"

EzraJennings caught me excitedly by the arm.

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

"Inever tasted it in my life."

"Wereyour nerves out of orderat this time last year?Were youunusually restless and irritable?"

"Yes."

"Didyou sleep badly?"

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

"Wasthe birthday night an exception?  Tryand remember.Did yousleep well on that one occasion?"

"I doremember!  I slept soundly."

He droppedmy arm as suddenly as he had taken it--and looked at mewith theair of a man whose mind was relieved of the last doubtthatrested on it.

"Thisis a marked day in your lifeand in mine" he saidgravely. "I amabsolutelycertainMr. Blakeof one thing--I have got what Mr. Candy wantedto say toyou this morningin the notes that I took at my patient's bedside.Wait! thatis not all.  I am firmly persuaded that I can prove you to havebeenunconscious of what you were aboutwhen you entered the room andtooktheDiamond.  Give me time to thinkand time to question you. I believethevindication of your innocence is in my hands!"

"Explainyourselffor God's sake!  What do you mean?"

In theexcitement of our colloquywe had walked on a few stepsbeyond theclump of dwarf trees which had hitherto screened us from view.BeforeEzra Jennings could answer mehe was hailed from the high roadby a manin great agitationwho had been evidently on the look-outfor him.

"I amcoming" he called back; "I am coming as fast as I can!"He turnedto me.  "There is an urgent case waiting for me atthevillage yonder; I ought to have been there half an hour since--I mustattend to it at once.  Give me two hours from this timeand callat Mr. Candy's again--and I will engage to be readyfor you."

"Howam I to wait!"  I exclaimedimpatiently.  "Can'tyou quietmy mind bya word of explanation before we part?"

"Thisis far too serious a matter to be explained in a hurryMr. Blake.I am notwilfully trying your patience--I should only be addingto yoursuspenseif I attempted to relieve it as things are now.AtFrizinghallsirin two hours' time!"

The man onthe high road hailed him again.  He hurried awayand leftme.

 

CHAPTER X

How theinterval of suspense in which I was now condemned mighthaveaffected other men in my positionI cannot pretend to say.Theinfluence of the two hours' probation upon my temperament wassimplythis.  I felt physically incapable of remaining still in anyone placeand morally incapable of speaking to any one human beinguntil Ihad first heard all that Ezra Jennings had to say to me.

In thisframe of mindI not only abandoned my contemplatedvisit toMrs. Ablewhite--I even shrank from encounteringGabrielBetteredge himself.

Returningto FrizinghallI left a note for Betteredgetellinghim that I had been unexpectedly called away for afew hoursbut that he might certainly expect me to returntowardsthree o'clock in the afternoon.  I requested himin theintervalto order his dinner at the usual hourand toamuse himself as he pleased.  He hadas I well knewhosts offriends in Frizinghall; and he would be at no losshow tofill up his time until I returned to the hotel.

This doneI made the best of my way out of the town againand roamedthe lonely moorland country which surrounds Frizinghalluntil mywatch told me that it was timeat lastto returnto Mr.Candy's house.

I foundEzra Jennings ready and waiting for me.

He wassitting alone in a bare little roomwhich communicated by aglazeddoor with a surgery.  Hideous coloured diagrams of the ravagesof hideousdiseases decorated the barren buff-coloured walls.Abook-case filled with dingy medical worksand ornamented at the topwith askullin place of the customary bust; a large deal tablecopiouslysplashed with ink; wooden chairs of the sort that are seeninkitchens and cottages; a threadbare drugget in the middle of thefloor;a sink ofwaterwith a basin and waste-pipe roughly let into the wallhorriblysuggestive of its connection with surgical operations--comprisedthe entire furniture of the room.  The bees were humming amonga fewflowers placed in pots outside the window; the birds were singingin thegardenand the faint intermittent jingle of a tuneless pianoin someneighbouring house forced itself now and again on the ear.In anyother placethese everyday sounds might have spoken pleasantlyof theeveryday world outside.  Herethey came in as intruders on asilencewhich nothing but human suffering had the privilege to disturb.I lookedat the mahogany instrument caseand at the huge roll of lintoccupyingplaces of their own on the book-shelvesand shuddered inwardlyas Ithought of the soundsfamiliar and appropriate to the everyday useofEzraJennings' room.

"Imake no apologyMr. Blakefor the place in which I amreceivingyou" he said.  "It is the only room in the houseat thishour of the dayin which we can feel quite sureof beingleft undisturbed.  Here are my papers ready for you;and hereare two books to which we may have occasion to referbefore wehave done.  Bring your chair to the tableand weshall beable to consult them together."

I drew upto the table; and Ezra Jennings handed me his manuscript notes.Theyconsisted of two large folio leaves of paper.  One leafcontained writingwhich onlycovered the surface at intervals.  The other presented writingin red andblack inkwhich completely filled the page from top to bottom.In theirritated state of my curiosityat that momentI laid aside thesecondsheet of paper in despair.

"Havesome mercy on me!"  I said.  "Tell me what I amto expectbefore Iattempt to read this."

"WillinglyMr. Blake!  Do you mind my asking you one or two morequestions?"

"Askme anything you like!"

He lookedat me with the sad smile on his lipsand the kindly interestin hissoft brown eyes.

"Youhave already told me" he said"that you have never--to yourknowledge--tasted opium in your life."

"Tomy knowledge" I repeated.

"Youwill understand directly why I speak with that reservation.Let us goon.  You are not aware of ever having taken opium.At thistimelast yearyou were suffering from nervous irritationand youslept wretchedly at night.  On the night of the birthdayhoweverthere wasan exception to the rule--you slept soundly.  Am I rightso far?"

"Quiteright!"

"Canyou assign any cause for the nervous sufferingand your want ofsleep?"

"Ican assign no cause.  Old Betteredge made a guess at the causeIremember.  But that is hardly worth mentioning."

"Pardonme.  Anything is worth mentioning in such a case as this.Betteredgeattributed your sleeplessness to something.To what?"

"Tomy leaving off smoking."

"Hadyou been an habitual smoker?"

"Yes."

"Didyou leave off the habit suddenly?"
"Yes."

"Betteredgewas perfectly rightMr. Blake.  When smoking isa habit aman must have no common constitution who can leave itoffsuddenly without some temporary damage to his nervous system.Yoursleepless nights are accounted forto my mind.My nextquestion refers to Mr. Candy.  Do you rememberhavingentered into anything like a dispute with him--at thebirthday dinneror afterwards--on the subject ofhisprofession?"

Thequestion instantly awakened one of my dormant remembrancesinconnection with the birthday festival.  The foolish wranglewhich tookplaceon that occasionbetween Mr. Candy and myselfwill befound described at much greater length than itdeservesin the tenth chapter of Betteredge's Narrative.Thedetails there presented of the dispute--so little had Ithought ofit afterwards--entirely failed to recur to my memory.All that Icould now recalland all that I could tellEzraJennings wasthat I had attacked the art of medicineat thedinner-table with sufficient rashness and sufficientpertinacityto put even Mr. Candy out of temper for the moment.I alsoremembered that Lady Verinder had interfered to stopthedisputeand that the little doctor and I had "made it upagain"as thechildren sayand had become as good friends as everbefore weshook hands that night.

"Thereis one thing more" said Ezra Jennings"which it is veryimportantI shouldknow.  Had you any reason for feeling any special anxiety abouttheDiamondat this time last year?"

"Ihad the strongest reasons for feeling anxiety about the Diamond.I knew itto be the object of a conspiracy; and I was warnedto takemeasures for Miss Verinder's protectionas the possessorof thestone."

"Wasthe safety of the Diamond the subject of conversationbetweenyou and any other personimmediately before youretired torest on the birthday night?"

"Itwas the subject of a conversation between Lady Verinderand herdaughter----"

"Whichtook place in your hearing?"

"Yes."

EzraJennings took up his notes from the tableand placed them in myhands.

"Mr.Blake" he said"if you read those notes nowby the lightwhich myquestions and your answers have thrown on themyou willmake two astounding discoveries concerning yourself.You willfind--Firstthat you entered Miss Verinder'ssitting-roomand took the Diamondin a state of tranceproducedby opium.  Secondlythat the opium was given to youby Mr.Candy--without your own knowledge--as a practicalrefutationof the opinions which you had expressed to him atthebirthday dinner."

I sat withthe papers in my hand completely stupefied.

"Tryand forgive poor Mr. Candy" said the assistant gently."Hehas done dreadful mischiefI own; but he has done it innocently.If youwill look at the notesyou will see that--but for his illness--he wouldhave returned to Lady Verinder's the morning after the partyand wouldhave acknowledged the trick that he had played you.MissVerinder would have heard of itand Miss Verinder would havequestionedhim--and the truth which has laid hidden for a year would havebeendiscovered in a day."

I began toregain my self-possession. "Mr. Candy is beyond the reachof myresentment" I said angrily.  "But the trick that heplayed meis not theless an act of treacheryfor all that.  I may forgivebut Ishall not forget it."

"Everymedical man commits that act of treacheryMr. Blakein thecourse ofhis practice.  The ignorant distrust of opium (in England)is by nomeans confined to the lower and less cultivated classes.Everydoctor in large practice finds himselfevery now and thenobliged todeceive his patientsas Mr. Candy deceived you.I don'tdefend the folly of playing you a trick under the circumstances.I onlyplead with you for a more accurate and more merciful constructionofmotives."

"Howwas it done?"  I asked.  "Who gave me thelaudanumwithout myknowing it myself?"

"I amnot able to tell you.  Nothing relating to that part ofthe matterdropped from Mr. Candy's lipsall through his illness.Perhapsyour own memory may point to the person to be suspected."

"No."

"Itis uselessin that caseto pursue the inquiry.  The laudanumwassecretly given to you in some way.  Let us leave it thereand go onto matters of more immediate importance.  Read my notesif youcan.  Familiarise your mind with what has happened in the past.I havesomething very bold and very startling to propose to youwhichrelates to the future."

Those lastwords roused me.

I lookedat the papersin the order in which Ezra Jenningshad placedthem in my hands.  The paper which containedthesmaller quantity of writing was the uppermost of the two.On thisthe disconnected wordsand fragments of sentenceswhich haddropped from Mr. Candy in his deliriumappearedasfollows:

"...Mr. Franklin Blake ... and agreeable ... down a peg ... medicine ...confesses... sleep at night ... tell him ... out of order ... medicine ...he tellsme ... and groping in the dark mean one and the same thing ...all thecompany at the dinner-table ... I say ... groping after sleep ...nothingbut medicine ... he says ... leading the blind ... know what it means... witty... a night's rest in spite of his teeth ... wants sleep ... LadyVerinder'smedicine chest ... five-and-twenty minims ... without his knowingit ...to-morrow morning ... WellMr. Blake ... medicine to-day ... never...without it ... outMr. Candy ... excellent ... without it ... downonhim ...truth ... something besides ... excellent ... dose of laudanumsir ...bed ... what ... medicine now."

Therethefirst of the two sheets of paper came to an end.I handedit back to Ezra Jennings.

"Thatis what you heard at his bedside?"  I said.

"Literallyand exactly what I heard" he answered--"except thattherepetitions are not transferred here from my short-hand notes.Hereiterated certain words and phrases a dozen times overfiftytimes overjust as he attached more or less importanceto theidea which they represented.  The repetitionsin this sensewere ofsome assistance to me in putting together those fragments.Don'tsuppose" he addedpointing to the second sheet of paper"thatIclaim tohave reproduced the expressions which Mr. Candy himself wouldhave usedif he had been capable of speaking connectedly.  I only saythat Ihave penetrated through the obstacle of the disconnected expressionto thethought which was underlying it connectedly all the time.Judge foryourself."

I turnedto the second sheet of paperwhich I now knew to be the keyto thefirst.

Once moreMr. Candy's wanderings appearedcopied in black ink;theintervals between the phrases being filled up by Ezra Jenningsin redink.  I reproduce the result herein one plain form;theoriginal language and the interpretation of it coming close enoughtogetherin these pages to be easily compared and verified.

"...Mr. Franklin Blake is clever and agreeablebut he wantstakingdown a peg when he talks of medicine.  He confessesthat hehas been suffering from want of sleep at night.I tell himthat his nerves are out of orderand that he oughtto takemedicine.  He tells me that taking medicine and gropingin thedark mean one and the same thing.  This before allthecompany at the dinner-table. I say to himyou are gropingaftersleepand nothing but medicine can help you to find it.He says tomeI have heard of the blind leading the blindand now Iknow what it means.  Witty--but I can give hima night'srest in spite of his teeth.  He really wants sleep;and LadyVerinder's medicine chest is at my disposal.Give himfive-and-twenty minims of laudanum to-nightwithout hisknowingit; and then call to-morrow morning.  'WellMr. Blakewill youtry a little medicine to-day? You will never sleep withoutit.'--'Thereyou are outMr. Candy:  I have had an excellentnight'srest without it.'  Thencome down on him with the truth!'You havehad something besides an excellent night's rest;you had adose of laudanumsirbefore you went to bed.  What do yousay to theart of medicinenow?'"

Admirationof the ingenuity which had woven this smooth and finishedtextureout of the ravelled skein was naturally the first impressionthat Ifelton handing the manuscript back to Ezra Jennings.Hemodestly interrupted the first few words in which my senseofsurprise expressed itselfby asking me if the conclusion whichhe haddrawn from his notes was also the conclusion at which my ownmind hadarrived.

"Doyou believe as I believe" he said"that you were actingunder theinfluence of the laudanum in doing all that you didon thenight of Miss Verinder's birthdayin Lady Verinder's house?"

"I amtoo ignorant of the influence of laudanum to have an opinion of myown"Ianswered.  "I can only follow your opinionand feelconvinced that youareright."

"Verywell.  The next question is this.  You are convinced;and I amconvinced--how are we to carry our conviction to the mindsof otherpeople?"

I pointedto the two manuscriptslying on the table between us.EzraJennings shook his head.

"UselessMr. Blake!  Quite uselessas they stand now for threeunanswerablereasons.  In the first placethose notes have beentakenunder circumstances entirely out of the experience of the massofmankind.  Against themto begin with!  In the secondplacethosenotes represent a medical and metaphysical theory.  Againstthemoncemore!  In the third placethose notes are of my making;there isnothing but my assertion to the contraryto guaranteethat theyare not fabrications.  Remember what I told you on the moor--and askyourself what my assertion is worth.  No! my notes havebut onevaluelooking to the verdict of the world outside.Yourinnocence is to be vindicated; and they show how it can be done.We mustput our conviction to the proof--and You are the man toprove it!"

"How?" I asked.

He leanedeagerly nearer to me across the table that divided us.

"Areyou willing to try a bold experiment?"

"Iwill do anything to clear myself of the suspicion that rests on menow."

"Willyou submit to some personal inconvenience for a time?"

"Toany inconvenienceno matter what it may be."

"Willyou be guided implicitly by my advice?  It may expose youto theridicule of fools; it may subject you to the remonstrancesof friendswhose opinions you are bound to respect

"Tellme what to do!"  I broke out impatiently.  "Andcome what mayI'll doit."

"Youshall do thisMr. Blake" he answered.  "You shallstealtheDiamondunconsciouslyfor the second timein the presenceofwitnesses whose testimony is beyond dispute."

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

"Ibelieve it CAN be done" he went on.  "And it shall bedone--if youwill only help me.  Try to compose yourself--sit downand hearwhat I have to say to you.  You have resumed the habitofsmoking; I have seen that for myself.  How long have youresumedit."

"Fornearly a year."

"Doyou smoke more or less than you did?"

"More."

"Willyou give up the habit again?  Suddenlymind!--as you gaveit upbefore."

I begandimly to see his drift.  "I will give it upfrom thismoment"Ianswered.

"Ifthe same consequences followwhich followed last June"said EzraJennings--"if you suffer once more as you suffered thenfromsleepless nightswe shall have gained our first step.We shallhave put you back again into something assimilating to yournervouscondition on the birthday night.  If we can next reviveor nearlyrevivethe domestic circumstances which surrounded you;and if wecan occupy your mind again with the various questionsconcerningthe Diamond which formerly agitated itwe shallhavereplaced youas nearly as possible in the same positionphysicallyand morallyin which the opium found you last year.In thatcase we may fairly hope that a repetition of the dose will leadin agreater or lesser degreeto a repetition of the result.There ismy proposalexpressed in a few hasty words.  You shallnow seewhat reasons I have to justify me in making it."

He turnedto one of the books at his sideand opened it at a place markedby a smallslip of paper.

"Don'tsuppose that I am going to weary you with a lectureonphysiology" he said.  "I think myself bound to provein justiceto both of usthat I am not asking you to try thisexperimentin deference to any theory of my own devising.Admittedprinciplesand recognised authoritiesjustify mein theview that I take.  Give me five minutes of your attention;and I willundertake to show you that Science sanctionsmyproposalfanciful as it may seem.  Herein the first placeis thephysiological principle on which I am actingstated byno less a person than Dr. Carpenter.  Read itforyourself."

He handedme the slip of paper which had marked the place in the book.Itcontained a few lines of writingas follows:--

"Thereseems much ground for the beliefthat every sensory impressionwhich hasonce been recognised by the perceptive consciousnessis registered(so tospeak) in the brainand may be reproduced at some subsequent timealthoughthere may be no consciousness of its existence in the mind duringthe wholeintermediate period."  "Is that plainso far?"asked Ezra Jennings.

"Perfectlyplain."

He pushedthe open book across the table to meand pointed to a passagemarked bypencil lines.

"Now"he said"read that account of a casewhich has--as I believe--a directbearing on your own positionand on the experiment which Iamtempting you to try.  ObserveMr. Blakebefore you beginthatIam nowreferring you to one of the greatest of English physiologists.The bookin your hand is Doctor Elliotson's HUMAN PHYSIOLOGY;and thecase which the doctor cites rests on the well-known authority ofMr.Combe."

Thepassage pointed out to me was expressed in these terms :--

"Dr.Abel informed me" says Mr. Combe"of an Irish porter to awarehousewhoforgotwhen soberwhat he had done when drunk; butbeing drunkagainrecollected the transactions of his former state of intoxication.On oneoccasionbeing drunkhe had lost a parcel of some valueand in hissobermoments could give no account of it.  Next time he wasintoxicatedherecollected that he had left the parcel at a certain houseand therebeingno addresson itit had remained there safelyand was got on his callingfor it."

"Plainagain?" asked Ezra Jennings.

"Asplain as need be."

He putback the slip of paper in its placeand closed the book.

"Areyou satisfied that I have not spoken without good authority tosupportme?" he asked.  "If notI have only to go to thosebookshelvesand youhave only to read the passages which I can point out to you."

"I amquite satisfied" I said"without reading a word more."

"Inthat casewe may return to your own personal interestin thismatter.  I am bound to tell you that there is somethingto be saidagainst the experiment as well as for it.If wecouldthis yearexactly reproducein your casetheconditions as they existed last yearit is physiologicallycertainthat we should arrive at exactly the same result.Butthis--there is no denying it--is simply impossible.We canonly hope to approximate to the conditions;and if wedon't succeed in getting you nearly enoughback towhat you werethis venture of ours will fail.If we dosucceed--and I am myself hopeful of success--you mayat leastso far repeat your proceedings on the birthday nightas tosatisfy any reasonable person that you are guiltlessmorallyspeakingof the theft of the Diamond.  I believeMr. BlakeI have now stated the questionon both sides of itas fairlyas I canwithin the limits that I have imposedonmyself.  If there is anything that I have not made clearto youtell me what it is--and if I can enlighten youI will."

"Allthat you have explained to me" I said"I understandperfectly.But I ownI am puzzled on one pointwhich you have not made clear tome yet."

"Whatis the point?"

"Idon't understand the effect of the laudanum on me.I don'tunderstand my walking down-stairsand along corridorsand myopening and shutting the drawers of a cabinetand my goingback againto my own room.  All these are active proceedings.I thoughtthe influence of opium was first to stupefy youand thento sendyou to sleep."

"Thecommon error about opiumMr. Blake!  I amat this momentexertingmy intelligence (such as it is) in your serviceunder theinfluenceof a dose of laudanumsome ten times larger than the doseMr. Candyadministered to you.  But don't trust to my authority--even on aquestion which comes within my own personal experience.Ianticipated the objection you have just made:  and I have againprovidedmyself with independent testimony which will carry its dueweightwith it in your own mindand in the minds of your friends."

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

"There"he said"are the far-famed CONFESSIONS OF AN ENGLISHOPIUMEATER!  Take the book away with youand read it.At thepassage which I have markedyou will find that when DeQuinceyhad committed what he calls "a debauch of opium"he eitherwent to the gallery at the Opera to enjoy the musicor hewandered about the London markets on Saturday nightandinterested himself in observing all the little shiftsandbargainings of the poor in providing their Sunday's dinner.So muchfor the capacity of a man to occupy himself activelyand tomove about from place to place under the influenceof opium."

"I amanswered so far" I said; "but I am not answered yet as tothe effectproducedby the opium on myself."

"Iwill try to answer you in a few words" said Ezra Jennings."Theaction of opium is comprisedin the majority of casesin twoinfluences--a stimulating influence firstand a sedativeinfluenceafterwards.  Under the stimulating influencethe latestand most vivid impressions left on your mind--namelythe impressions relating to the Diamond--would belikelyin your morbidly sensitive nervous conditionto becomeintensified in your brainand would subordinatetothemselves your judgment and your will exactly as an ordinarydreamsubordinates to itself your judgment and your will.Little bylittleunder this actionany apprehensions aboutthe safetyof the Diamond which you might have felt duringthe daywould be liable to develop themselves from the stateof doubtto the state of certainty--would impel you intopracticalaction to preserve the jewel--would direct your stepswith thatmotive in viewinto the room which you entered--and wouldguide your hand to the drawers of the cabinetuntil youhad found the drawer which held the stone.In thespiritualised intoxication of opiumyou woulddo allthat.  Lateras the sedative action began to gainon thestimulant actionyou would slowly become inertandstupefied.  Later still you would fall into a deep sleep.When themorning cameand the effect of the opium hadbeen allslept offyou would wake as absolutely ignorantof whatyou had done in the night as if you had been livingat theAntipodes.  Have I made it tolerably clear to youso far?"

"Youhave made it so clear" I said"that I want you to gofarther.You haveshown me how I entered the roomand how I came to take the Diamond.But MissVerinder saw me leave the room againwith the jewel in my hand.Can youtrace my proceedings from that moment?  Can you guess what Idid next?"

"Thatis the very point I was coming to" he rejoined."Itis a question with me whether the experiment which Ipropose asa means of vindicating your innocencemay notalso bemade a means of recovering the lost Diamond as well.When youleft Miss Verinder's sitting-roomwith the jewelin yourhandyou went back in all probability to yourownroom----"

"Yes?and what then?"

"Itis possibleMr. Blake--I dare not say more--that youridea ofpreserving the Diamond ledby a natural sequenceto theidea of hiding the Diamondand that the placein whichyou hid it was somewhere in your bedroom.In thateventthe case of the Irish porter may be your case.You mayrememberunder the influence of the second dose of opiumthe placein which you hid the Diamond under the influence ofthefirst."

It was myturnnowto enlighten Ezra Jennings.  I stopped himbefore hecould say any more.

"Youare speculating" I said"on a result which cannotpossibly take place.TheDiamond isat this momentin London."

Hestartedand looked at me in great surprise.

"InLondon?" he repeated.  "How did it get to London fromLadyVerinder'shouse?"

"Nobodyknows."

"Youremoved it with your own hand from Miss Verinder's room.How was ittaken out of your keeping?"

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

"Didyou see itwhen you woke in the morning?"

"No."

"HasMiss Verinder recovered possession of it?"

"No."

"Mr.Blake! there seems to be something here which wants clearing up.May I askhow you know that the Diamond isat this momentinLondon?"

I had putprecisely the same question to Mr. Bruff when I mademy firstinquiries about the Moonstoneon my return to England.Inanswering Ezra JenningsI accordingly repeated what I had myselfheard fromthe lawyer's own lips--and what is already familiar tothereaders of these pages.

He showedplainly that he was not satisfied with my reply.

"Withall deference to you" he said"and with all deference toyourlegaladviserI maintain the opinion which I expressed just now.It restsI am well awareon a mere assumption.  Pardon me forremindingyouthat your opinion also rests on a mere assumptionas well."

The viewhe took of the matter was entirely new to me.I waitedanxiously to hear how he would defend it.

"Iassume" pursued Ezra Jennings"that the influence of theopium--afterimpelling you to possess yourself of the Diamondwith thepurpose of securing its safety--might also impel youactingunder the same influence and the same motiveto hideitsomewhere in your own room.  YOU assume that the Hindooconspiratorscould by no possibility commit a mistake.TheIndians went to Mr. Luker's house after the Diamond--andthereforein Mr. Luker's possession the Diamond must be!Have youany evidence to prove that the Moonstonewas takento London at all?  You can't even guess howor bywhomit was removed from Lady Verinder's house!Have youany evidence that the jewel was pledged to Mr. Luker?Hedeclares that he never heard of the Moonstone; and his bankers'receiptacknowledges nothing but the deposit of a valuableof greatprice.  The Indians assume that Mr. Luker is lying--and youassume again that the Indians are right.  All I sayindiffering with youis--that my view is possible.What moreMr. Blakeeither logicallyor legallycan be saidforyours?"

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

"Iconfess you stagger me" I replied.  "Do you object tomy writingto Mr.Bruffand telling him what you have said?"

"Onthe contraryI shall be glad if you will write to Mr. Bruff.If weconsult his experiencewe may see the matter under a new light.For thepresentlet us return to our experiment with the opium.We havedecided that you leave off the habit of smoking fromthismoment."

"Fromthis moment?"

"Thatis the first step.  The next step is to reproduceas nearly aswe canthedomestic circumstances which surrounded you last year."

How wasthis to be done?  Lady Verinder was dead.  Rachel and Iso long asthe suspicion of theft rested on mewere parted irrevocably.GodfreyAblewhite was away travelling on the Continent.  It was simplyimpossibleto reassemble the people who had inhabited the housewhen Ihad sleptin it last.  The statement of this objection did not appeartoembarrass Ezra Jennings.  He attached very little importancehesaidtoreassembling the same people--seeing that it would be vain to expectthem toreassume the various positions which they had occupied towardsme in thepast times.  On the other handhe considered it essential tothesuccess of the experimentthat I should see the same objects aboutmewhich hadsurrounded me when I was last in the house.

"Aboveall things" he said"you must sleep in the room which youslept inon the birthday nightand it must be furnished in the same way.Thestairsthe corridorsand Miss Verinder's sitting-roommust alsobe restored to what they were when you saw them last.It isabsolutely necessaryMr. Blaketo replace every articleoffurniture in that part of the house which may now be put away.Thesacrifice of your cigars will be uselessunless we can get MissVerinder'spermission to do that."

"Whois to apply to her for permission?"  I asked.

"Isit not possible for you to apply?"

"Quiteout of the question.  After what has passed between uson thesubject of the lost DiamondI can neither see hernor writeto heras things are now."

EzraJennings pausedand considered for a moment.

"MayI ask you a delicate question?" he said.

I signedto him to go on.

"Am IrightMr. Blakein fancying (from one or two things which havedroppedfrom you) that you felt no common interest in Miss Verinderin formertimes?"

"Quiteright."

"Wasthe feeling returned?"

"Itwas."

"Doyou think Miss Verinder would be likely to feel a strong interestin theattempt to prove your innocence?"

"I amcertain of it."

"Inthat caseI will write to Miss Verinder--if you will give me leave."

"Tellingher of the proposal that you have made to me?"

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

It isneedless to say that I eagerly accepted the servicewhich hehad offered to me.

"Ishall have time to write by to-day's post" he saidlooking athis watch."Don'tforget to lock up your cigarswhen you get back to the hotel!I willcall to-morrow morning and hear how you have passed the night."

I rose totake leave of him; and attempted to express the gratefulsense ofhis kindness which I really felt.

He pressedmy hand gently.  "Remember what I told you on the moor"heanswered.  "If I can do you this little serviceMr. BlakeI shallfeel it like a last gleam of sunshinefalling on the eveningof a longand clouded day."

 

Weparted.  It was then the fifteenth of June.  The eventsof thenext ten days--every one of them more or less directlyconnectedwith the experiment of which I was the passive object--are allplaced on recordexactly as they happenedin the Journalhabituallykept by Mr. Candy's assistant.  In the pages of EzraJenningsnothing is concealedand nothing is forgotten.Let EzraJennings tell how the venture with the opium was triedand how itended.

 

FOURTHNARRATIVE

Extractedfrom the Journal of EZRA JENNINGS

 

1849.--June15.... With some interruption from patientsand some interruptionfrom painI finished my letter to Miss Verinder in time for to-day's post.I failedto make it as short a letter as I could have wished.  But Ithink Ihave madeit plain.  It leaves her entirely mistress of her own decision.If sheconsents to assist the experimentshe consents of her own free willand not asa favour to Mr. Franklin Blake or to me.

 

June16th.--Rose lateafter a dreadful night; the vengeanceofyesterday's opiumpursuing me through a series offrightfuldreams.  At one time I was whirling through empty spacewith thephantoms of the deadfriends and enemies together.Atanotherthe one beloved face which I shall never see againrose at mybedsidehideously phosphorescent in the black darknessand glaredand grinned at me.  A slight return of the old painat theusual time in the early morningwas welcome as a change.Itdispelled the visions--and it was bearable because itdid that.

My badnight made it late in the morningbefore I could getto Mr.Franklin Blake.  I found him stretched on the sofabreakfastingon brandy and soda-waterand a dry biscuit.

"I ambeginningas well as you could possibly wish" he said."Amiserablerestless night; and a total failure of appetitethismorning.  Exactly what happened last yearwhen I gave upmycigars.  The sooner I am ready for my second dose of laudanumthe betterI shall be pleased."

"Youshall have it on the earliest possible day" I answered."Inthe meantimewe must be as careful of your health as we can.If weallow you to become exhaustedwe shall fail in that way.You mustget an appetite for your dinner.  In other wordsyou must geta ride ora walk this morningin the fresh air."

"Iwill rideif they can find me a horse here.  By-the-byIwrote toMr. Bruffyesterday.  Have you written to Miss Verinder?"

"Yes--bylast night's post."

"Verygood.  We shall have some news worth hearingto tell eachotherto-morrow. Don't go yet!  I have a word to say to you.Youappeared to thinkyesterdaythat our experiment with the opiumwas notlikely to be viewed very favourably by some of my friends.You werequite right.  I call old Gabriel Betteredge one of my friends;and youwill be amused to hear that he protested strongly when I sawhimyesterday.  "You have done a wonderful number of foolishthingsin thecourse of your lifeMr. Franklinbut this tops them all!"There isBetteredge's opinion!  You will make allowance for hisprejudicesI am sureif you and he happen to meet?"

I left Mr.Blaketo go my rounds among my patients; feeling the betterand thehappier even for the short interview that I had had with him.

What isthe secret of the attraction that there is for me in this man?Does itonly mean that I feel the contrast between the frankly kindmanner inwhich he has allowed me to become acquainted with himand themerciless dislike and distrust with which I am met by other people?Or isthere really something in him which answers to the yearning that Ihavefor alittle human sympathy--the yearningwhich has survived the solitudeandpersecution of many years; which seems to grow keener and keeneras thetime comes nearer and nearer when I shall endure and feel no more?Howuseless to ask these questions!  Mr. Blake has given me a newinterestin life. Let that be enoughwithout seeking to know what the newinterestis.

 

June17th.--Before breakfastthis morningMr. Candy informed me that hewasgoing awayfor a fortnighton a visit to a friend in the south of England.He gave meas many special directionspoor fellowabout the patientsas ifhe stillhad the large practice which he possessed before he was taken ill.Thepractice is worth little enough now!  Other doctors havesuperseded HIM;and nobodywho can help it will employ me.

It isperhaps fortunate that he is to be away just at this time.He wouldhave been mortified if I had not informed himof theexperiment which I am going to try with Mr. Blake.And Ihardly know what undesirable results might not have happenedif I hadtaken him into my confidence.  Better as it is.Unquestionablybetter as it is.

The postbrought me Miss Verinder's answerafter Mr. Candyhad leftthe house.

A charmingletter!  It gives me the highest opinion of her.There isno attempt to conceal the interest that she feelsin ourproceedings.  She tells mein the prettiest mannerthat myletter has satisfied her of Mr. Blake's innocencewithoutthe slightest need (so far as she is concerned)of puttingmy assertion to the proof.  She even upbraids herself--mostundeservedlypoor thing!--for not having divined atthe timewhat the true solution of the mystery might really be.The motiveunderlying all this proceeds evidently from somethingmore thana generous eagerness to make atonement for a wrongwhich shehas innocently inflicted on another person.It isplain that she has loved himthroughout the estrangementbetweenthem.  In more than one place the rapture of discoveringthat hehas deserved to be lovedbreaks its way innocentlythroughthe stoutest formalities of pen and inkand evendefies thestronger restraint still of writing to a stranger.Is itpossible (I ask myselfin reading this delightful letter)that Iofall men in the worldam chosen to be the means ofbringingthese two young people together again?  My own happinesshas beentrampled under foot; my own love has been torn from me.Shall Ilive to see a happiness of otherswhich is of my making--a loverenewedwhich is of my bringing back?  Oh merciful Deathlet me seeit before your arms enfold mebefore your voice whispersto me"Rest at last!"

There aretwo requests contained in the letter.One ofthem prevents me from showing it to Mr. Franklin Blake.I amauthorised to tell him that Miss Verinder willinglyconsentsto place her house at our disposal; andthat saidI amdesired to add no more.

So faritis easy to comply with her wishes.  But the second requestembarrassesme seriously.

Notcontent with having written to Mr. Betteredgeinstructing himto carryout whatever directions I may have to giveMiss Verinderasks leaveto assist meby personally superintending the restorationof her ownsitting-room. She only waits a word of reply from meto makethe journey to Yorkshireand to be present as one ofthewitnesses on the night when the opium is tried for the second time.

Hereagainthere is a motive under the surface; andhere againI fancythat I can find it out.

What shehas forbidden me to tell Mr. Franklin Blakeshe is(as Iinterpret it) eager to tell him with her own lipsBEFORE he isput to thetest which is to vindicate his character in the eyesof otherpeople.  I understand and admire this generous anxietyto acquithimwithout waiting until his innocence mayor may notbeproved.  It is the atonement that she is longing to makepoor girlafter having innocently and inevitably wronged him.But thething cannot be done.  I have no sort of doubt thattheagitation which a meeting between them would produce onbothsides--reviving dormant feelingsappealing to old memoriesawakeningnew hopes--wouldin their effect on the mind of Mr. Blakebe almostcertainly fatal to the success of our experiment.It is hardenoughas things areto reproduce in him the conditionsas theyexistedor nearly as they existedlast year.  With newinterestsand new emotions to agitate himthe attempt would besimplyuseless.

And yetknowing thisI cannot find it in my heart to disappoint her.I must tryif I can discover some new arrangementbefore post-timewhichwill allowme to say Yes to Miss Verinderwithout damage to the servicewhich Ihave bound myself to render to Mr. Franklin Blake.

Twoo'clock.--I have just returned from my round of medical visits;havingbegunof courseby calling at the hotel.

Mr.Blake's report of the night is the same as before.He has hadsome intervals of broken sleepand no more.But hefeels it less to-dayhaving slept after yesterday's dinner.Thisafter-dinner sleep is the resultno doubtof the ridewhich Iadvised him to take.  I fear I shall have to curtail hisrestorativeexercise in the fresh air.  He must not be too well;he mustnot be too ill.  It is a case (as a sailor would say)of veryfine steering.

He has notheard yet from Mr. Bruff.  I found him eager to knowif I hadreceived any answer from Miss Verinder.

I told himexactly what I was permitted to telland no more.It wasquite needless to invent excuses for not showing him the letter.He told mebitterly enoughpoor fellowthat he understood the delicacywhichdisinclined me to produce it.  "She consentsof courseas amatter of common courtesy and common justice" he said."Butshe keeps her own opinion of meand waits to see the result."I wassorely tempted to hint that he was now wronging her as she hadwrongedhim.  On reflectionI shrank from forestalling her in thedoubleluxury ofsurprising and forgiving him.

My visitwas a very short one.  After the experience of the other nightI havebeen compelled once more to give up my dose of opium.As anecessary resultthe agony of the disease that is in me has gotthe upperhand again.  I felt the attack coming onand left abruptlyso as notto alarm or distress him.  It only lasted a quarter of an hourthis timeand it left me strength enough to go on with my work.

Fiveo'clock.--I have written my reply to Miss Verinder.

Thearrangement I have proposed reconciles the interests on both sidesif shewill only consent to it.  After first stating the objectionsthatthere areto a meeting between Mr. Blake and herselfbefore the experimentis triedI have suggested that she should so time her journey as toarrive atthe house privatelyon the evening when we make the attempt.Travellingby the afternoon train from Londonshe would delay her arrivaluntil nineo'clock. At that hourI have undertaken to see Mr. Blakesafelyinto his bedchamber; and so to leave Miss Verinder free to occupyher ownrooms until the time comes for administering the laudanum.When thathas been donethere can be no objection to her watching the resultwith therest of us.  On the next morningshe shall show Mr. Blake(if shelikes) her correspondence with meand shall satisfy him in that waythat hewas acquitted in her estimationbefore the question of his innocencewas put tothe proof.

In thatsenseI have written to her.  This is all that I can do to-day.To-morrowI must see Mr. Betteredgeand give the necessary directionsforreopening the house.

 

June18th.--Late againin calling on Mr. Franklin Blake.More ofthat horrible pain in the early morning;followedthis timeby complete prostrationfor some hours.I foreseein spite of the penalties which it exacts from methat Ishall have to return to the opium for the hundredth time.If I hadonly myself to think ofI should prefer the sharp painsto thefrightful dreams.  But the physical suffering exhausts me.If I letmyself sinkit may end in my becoming useless to Mr. Blakeat thetime when he wants me most.

It wasnearly one o'clock before I could get to the hotel to-day. The visiteven in myshattered conditionproved to be a most amusing one--thanksentirely to the presence on the scene of Gabriel Betteredge.

I foundhim in the roomwhen I went in.  He withdrew to the windowand lookedoutwhile I put my first customary question to my patient.Mr. Blakehad slept badly againand he felt the loss of rest this morningmore thanhe had felt it yet.

I askednext if he had heard from Mr. Bruff.

A letterhad reached him that morning.  Mr. Bruff expressedthestrongest disapproval of the course which his friendand clientwas taking under my advice.  It was mischievous--for itexcited hopes that might never be realised.It wasquite unintelligible to HIS mindexcept that it lookedlike apiece of trickeryakin to the trickery of mesmerismclairvoyanceand the like.  It unsettled Miss Verinder's houseand itwould end in unsettling Miss Verinder herself.  He had putthe case(without mentioning names) to an eminent physician;and theeminent physician had smiledhad shaken his headand hadsaid--nothing.  On these groundsMr. Bruff enteredhisprotestand left it there.

My nextinquiry related to the subject of the Diamond.Had thelawyer produced any evidence to prove that the jewel wasin London?

Nothelawyer had simply declined to discuss the question.He washimself satisfied that the Moonstone had been pledgedto Mr.Luker.  His eminent absent friendMr. Murthwaite(whoseconsummate knowledge of the Indian character no onecoulddeny)was satisfied also.  Under these circumstancesand withthe many demands already made on himhe must declineenteringinto any disputes on the subject of evidence.Time wouldshow; and Mr. Bruff was willing to waitfor time.

It wasquite plain--even if Mr. Blake had not made it plainer stillbyreporting the substance of the letterinstead of reading what wasactuallywritten--that distrust of me was at the bottom of all this.Havingmyself foreseen that resultI was neither mortified nor surprised.I askedMr. Blake if his friend's protest had shaken him.  He answeredemphaticallythat it had not produced the slightest effect on his mind.I was freeafter that to dismiss Mr. Bruff from consideration--and I diddismisshim accordingly.

A pause inthe talk between usfollowed--and Gabriel Betteredgecame outfrom his retirement at the window.

"Canyou favour me with your attentionsir?" he inquiredaddressinghimself to me.

"I amquite at your service" I answered.

Betteredgetook a chair and seated himself at the table.Heproduced a huge old-fashioned leather pocket-bookwith apencil ofdimensions to match.  Having put on his spectacleshe openedthe pocket-bookat a blank pageand addressed himselfto me oncemore.

"Ihave lived" said Betteredgelooking at me sternly"nighon fifty years in the service of my late lady.I waspage-boy before thatin the service of the old lordherfather.  I am now somewhere between seventy and eighty yearsofage--never mind exactly where!  I am reckoned to have gotas prettya knowledge and experience of the world as most men.And whatdoes it all end in?  It endsMr. Ezra Jenningsin aconjuring trick being performed on Mr. Franklin Blakeby adoctor's assistant with a bottle of laudanum--and by theliving jingoI'm appointedin my old ageto beconjurer'sboy!"

Mr. Blakeburst out laughing.  I attempted to speak.Betteredgeheld up his handin token that he had not done yet.

"Nota wordMr. Jennings!" he said"It don't want a wordsirfrom you.I have gotmy principlesthank God.  If an order comes to mewhich isownbrother to an order come from Bedlamit don't matter.  So longas I getit from my master or mistressas the case may beI obey it.I may havemy own opinionwhich is alsoyou will please to remembertheopinion of Mr. Bruff--the Great Mr. Bruff!" said Betteredgeraisinghis voiceand shaking his head at me solemnly.  "It don'tmatter;I withdrawmy opinionfor all that.  My young lady says"Do it."And I say"Missit shall be done."  Here I amwith my book andmy pencil--the latternot pointed so well as I could wishbut when Christians takeleave oftheir senseswho is to expect that pencils will keep their points?Give meyour ordersMr. Jennings.  I'll have them in writingsir.I'mdetermined not to be behind 'emor before 'emby so much as ahair'sbreadth.  I'm a blind agent--that's what I am.  A blindagent!"repeatedBetteredgewith infinite relish of his own description ofhimself.

"I amvery sorry" I began"that you and I don't agree----"

"Don'tbring MEinto it!" interposed Betteredge."Thisis not a matter of agreementit's a matter of obedience.Issue yourdirectionssir--issue your directions!"

Mr. Blakemade me a sign to take him at his word.  I "issued mydirections"as plainlyand as gravely as I could.

"Iwish certain parts of the house to be reopened" I said"andto be furnishedexactly as they were furnished at thistime lastyear."

Betteredgegave his imperfectly-pointed pencil a preliminarylick withhis tongue.  "Name the partsMr. Jennings!"he saidloftily.

"Firstthe inner hallleading to the chief staircase."

"'Firstthe inner hall'" Betteredge wrote.  "Impossible tofurnishthatsiras it was furnished last year--to begin with."

"Why?"

"Becausethere was a stuffed buzzardMr. Jenningsin the hall last year.When thefamily leftthe buzzard was put away with the other things.When thebuzzard was put away--he burst."

"Wewill except the buzzard then."

Betteredgetook a note of the exception.  "'The inner hallto befurnished againas furnished last year.  A burst buzzardaloneexcepted.'  Please to go onMr. Jennings."

"Thecarpet to be laid down on the stairsas before."

"'Thecarpet to be laid down on the stairsas before.'Sorry todisappoint yousir.  But that can't be done either."

"Whynot?"

"Becausethe man who laid that carpet down is deadMr. Jennings--and thelike of him for reconciling together a carpet and a corneris not tobe found in all Englandlook where you may."

"Verywell.  We must try the next best man in England."

Betteredgetook another note; and I went on issuing my directions.

"MissVerinder's sitting-room to be restored exactly to what itwas lastyear.  Alsothe corridor leading from the sitting-roomto thefirst landing.  Alsothe second corridorleading fromthe secondlanding to the best bedrooms.  Alsothe bedroomoccupiedlast June by Mr. Franklin Blake."

Betteredge'sblunt pencil followed me conscientiouslyword by word."Goonsir" he saidwith sardonic gravity.  "There's adeal of writingleft inthe point of this pencil yet."

I told himthat I had no more directions to give.  "Sir" saidBetteredge"inthat caseI have a point or two to put on my own behalf." He openedthepocket-book at a new pageand gave the inexhaustible pencil anotherpreliminarylick.

"Iwish to know" he began"whether I mayor may notwash myhands----"

"Youmay decidedly" said Mr. Blake.  "I'll ring for thewaiter."

"----ofcertain responsibilities" pursued Betteredgeimpenetrablydeclining to see anybody in the room but himselfand me. "As to Miss Verinder's sitting-roomto begin with.When wetook up the carpet last yearMr. Jenningswe foundasurprising quantity of pins.  Am I responsible for putting backthe pins?"

"Certainlynot."

Betteredgemade a note of that concessionon the spot.

"Asto the first corridor next" he resumed.  "When wemovedtheornaments in that partwe moved a statue of a fat naked child--profanelydescribed in the catalogue of the house as "Cupidgod of Love."He had twowings last yearin the fleshy part of his shoulders.My eyebeing off himfor the momenthe lost one of them.  Am Iresponsiblefor Cupid's wing?"

I madeanother concessionand Betteredge made another note.

"Asto the second corridor" he went on.  "There havingbeen nothing in itlast yearbut the doors of the rooms (to every one of which I can swearifnecessary)my mind is easyI admitrespecting that part of thehouseonly.  Butas to Mr. Franklin's bedroom (if THAT is to be putbackto what itwas before)I want to know who is responsible for keeping itin aperpetual state of litterno matter how often it may be set right--histrousers herehis towels thereand his French novels everywhere.I saywhois responsible for untidying the tidiness of Mr. Franklin's roomhim orme?"

Mr. Blakedeclared that he would assume the whole responsibilitywith thegreatest pleasure.  Betteredge obstinately declined tolisten toany solution of the difficultywithout first referringit to mysanction and approval.  I accepted Mr. Blake's proposal;andBetteredge made a last entry in the pocket-book to that effect.

"Lookin when you likeMr. Jenningsbeginning from to-morrow"he saidgetting on his legs.  "You will find me at workwith thenecessary persons to assist me.  I respectfully begto thankyousirfor overlooking the case of the stuffed buzzardand theother case of the Cupid's wing--as also for permittingme to washmy hands of all responsibility in respect of the pinson thecarpetand the litter in Mr. Franklin's room.Speakingas a servantI am deeply indebted to you.Speakingas a manI consider you to be a person whosehead isfull of maggotsand I take up my testimonyagainstyour experiment as a delusion and a snare.Don't beafraidon that accountof my feelings as a man gettingin the wayof my duty as a servant!  You shall be obeyed.Themaggots notwithstandingsiryou shall be obeyed.If it endsin your setting the house on fireDamme if Isend forthe enginesunless you ring the bell and orderthemfirst!"

With thatfarewell assurancehe made me a bowand walked out of the room.

"Doyou think we can depend on him?"  I asked.

"Implicitly"answered Mr. Blake.  "When we go to the housewe shallfind nothing neglectedand nothing forgotten."

 

June19th.--Another protest against our contemplated proceedings!From alady this time.

Themorning's post brought me two letters.  One from Miss Verinderconsentingin the kindest mannerto the arrangement that I have proposed.The otherfrom the lady under whose care she is living--one Mrs. Merridew.

Mrs.Merridew presents her complimentsand does not pretendtounderstand the subject on which I have been correspondingwith MissVerinderin its scientific bearings.  Viewed in itssocialbearingshowevershe feels free to pronounce an opinion.I amprobablyMrs. Merridew thinksnot aware that Miss Verinderis barelynineteen years of age.  To allow a young ladyat hertime oflifeto be present (without a "chaperone") in a housefull ofmen among whom a medical experiment is being carried onis anoutrage on propriety which Mrs. Merridew cannot possibly permit.If thematter is allowed to proceedshe will feel it to be her duty--at aserious sacrifice of her own personal convenience--toaccompany Miss Verinder to Yorkshire.  Under thesecircumstancessheventures to request that I will kindly reconsider the subject;seeingthat Miss Verinder declines to be guided by any opinion but mine.Herpresence cannot possibly be necessary; and a word from meto thateffectwould relieve both Mrs. Merridew and myself of a veryunpleasantresponsibility.

Translatedfrom polite commonplace into plain Englishthe meaning of this isas I takeitthat Mrs. Merridew stands in mortal fear of the opinionof theworld.  She has unfortunately appealed to the very last maninexistence who has any reason to regard that opinion with respect.I won'tdisappoint Miss Verinder; and I won't delay a reconciliationbetweentwo young people who love each otherand who have been partedtoo longalready.  Translated from plain English into polite commonplacethis meansthat Mr. Jennings presents his compliments to Mrs. Merridewandregrets that he cannot feel justified in interfering any farther inthematter.

Mr.Blake's report of himselfthis morningwas the same as before.Wedetermined not to disturb Betteredge by overlooking him at the houseto-day.To-morrow will be time enough for our first visit of inspection.

 

June20th.--Mr. Blake is beginning to feel his continued restlessnessat night. The sooner the rooms are refurnishednowthe better.

On our wayto the housethis morninghe consulted mewith somenervous impatience and irresolutionabout a letter(forwardedto him from London) which he had received fromSergeantCuff.

TheSergeant writes from Ireland.  He acknowledges the receipt(throughhis housekeeper) of a card and message which Mr. Blakeleft athis residence near Dorkingand announces his returnto Englandas likely to take place in a week or less.In themeantimehe requests to be favoured with Mr. Blake'sreasonsfor wishing to speak to him (as stated in the message)on thesubject of the Moonstone.  If Mr. Blake can convict himof havingmade any serious mistakein the course of his lastyear'sinquiry concerning the Diamondhe will consider it a duty(after theliberal manner in which he was treated by the lateLadyVerinder) to place himself at that gentleman's disposal.If nothebegs permission to remain in his retirementsurroundedby the peaceful horticultural attractions of acountrylife.

Afterreading the letterI had no hesitation in advisingMr. Blaketo inform Sergeant Cuffin replyof all thathadhappened since the inquiry was suspended last yearand toleave him to draw his own conclusions from the plain facts.

On secondthoughts I also suggested inviting the Sergeant to be present attheexperimentin the event of his returning to England in time to joinus.He wouldbe a valuable witness to havein any case; andif I provedto bewrong in believing the Diamond to be hidden in Mr. Blake's roomhis advicemight be of great importanceat a future stage of the proceedingsover whichI could exercise no control.  This last consideration appearedto decideMr. Blake.  He promised to follow my advice.

The soundof the hammer informed us that the work of re-furnishingwas infull progressas we entered the drive that led to the house.

Betteredgeattired for the occasion in a fisherman's red capand anapron of green baizemet us in the outer hall.The momenthe saw mehe pulled out the pocket-book and pencilandobstinately insisted on taking notes of everything that Isaid tohim.  Look where we mightwe foundas Mr. Blakehadforetold that the work was advancing as rapidly and asintelligentlyas it was possible to desire.  But there was stillmuch to bedone in the inner halland in Miss Verinder's room.It seemeddoubtful whether the house would be ready for us beforethe end ofthe week.

Havingcongratulated Betteredge on the progress that he had made(hepersisted in taking notes every time I opened my lips;decliningat the same timeto pay the slightest attentiontoanything said by Mr. Blake); and having promised toreturn fora second visit of inspection in a day or twoweprepared to leave the housegoing out by the back way.Before wewere clear of the passages downstairsI was stoppedbyBetteredgejust as I was passing the door which led into hisown room.

"CouldI say two words to you in private?" he askedin a mysteriouswhisper.

Iconsented of course.  Mr. Blake walked on to wait for mein thegardenwhile I accompanied Betteredge into his room.I fullyanticipated a demand for certain new concessionsfollowingthe precedent already established in the cases ofthestuffed buzzardand the Cupid's wing.  To my great surpriseBetteredgelaid his hand confidentially on my armand put thisextraordinaryquestion to me:

"Mr.Jenningsdo you happen to be acquainted with ROBINSON CRUSOE?"

I answeredthat I had read ROBINSON CRUSOE when I was a child.

"Notsince then?" inquired Betteredge.

"Notsince then."

He fellback a few stepsand looked at me with an expressionofcompassionate curiositytempered by superstitious awe.

"Hehas not read ROBINSON CRUSOE since he was a child"saidBetteredgespeaking to himself--not to me.  "Let's tryhowROBINSON CRUSOE strikes him now!"

Heunlocked a cupboard in a cornerand produced a dirty and dog's-earedbookwhichexhaled a strong odour of stale tobacco as he turned over the leaves.Havingfound a passage of which he was apparently in searchhe requested meto joinhim in the corner; still mysteriously confidentialand stillspeakingunder hisbreath.

"Inrespect to this hocus-pocus of yourssirwith the laudanum andMr.Franklin Blake" he began.  "While the workpeople arein the housemy duty asa servant gets the better of my feelings as a man.When theworkpeople are gonemy feelings as a man get the betterof my dutyas a servant.  Very good.  Last nightMr. Jenningsit wasborne in powerfully on my mind that this new medical enterpriseof yourswould end badly.  If I had yielded to that secret DictateI shouldhave put all the furniture away again with my own handand havewarned the workmen off the premises when they came thenextmorning."

"I amglad to findfrom what I have seen up-stairs" I said"thatyou resisted the secret Dictate."

"Resistedisn't the word" answered Betteredge.  "Wrostled isthe word.Iwrostledsirbetween the silent orders in my bosom pulling me onewayand thewritten orders in my pocket-book pushing me the otheruntil(savingyour presence) I was in a cold sweat.  In that dreadfulperturbationof mindand laxity of bodyto what remedy did I apply?  To the remedysirwhichhas never failed me yet for the last thirty years and more--to ThisBook!"

He hit thebook a sounding blow with his open handand struckout of ita stronger smell of stale tobacco than ever.

"Whatdid I find here" pursued Betteredge"at the first page Iopened?This awfulbitsirpage one hundred and seventy-eightas follows.--'Upontheseandmany like ReflectionsI afterwards made it a certain rule with meThatwhenever I found those secret Hints or Pressings of my Mindtodoingor notdoing any Thing that presented; or to going this Wayor that WayI neverfailed to obey the secret Dictate."  As I live by breadMr. Jenningsthose werethe first words that met my eyeexactly at the time when I myselfwassetting the secret Dictate at defiance!  You don't see anythingat all outof thecommon in thatdo yousir?"

"Isee a coincidence--nothing more."

"Youdon't feel at all shakenMr. Jenningsin respect to thismedicalenterprise of yours?

"Notthe least in the world."

Betteredgestared hard at mein dead silence.  He closed the bookwith greatdeliberation; he locked it up again in the cupboard withextraordinarycare; he wheeled roundand stared hard at me once more.Then hespoke.

"Sir"he said gravely"there are great allowances to be madefor a manwho has not read ROBINSON CRUSOE since he was a child.I wish yougood morning."

He openedhis door with a low bowand left me at liberty to findmy own wayinto the garden.  I met Mr. Blake returning to the house.

"Youneedn't tell me what has happened" he said.  "Betteredgehas playedhis lastcard:  he has made another prophetic discovery in ROBINSONCRUSOE.Have youhumoured his favourite delusion?  No?  You have let him seethat youdon't believe in ROBINSON CRUSOE?  Mr. Jennings! you have fallento thelowest possible place in Betteredge's estimation.  Say what youlikeand dowhat you likefor the future.  You will find that he won'twasteanotherword on you now."

 

June21st.--A short entry must suffice in my journal to-day.

Mr. Blakehas had the worst night that he has passed yet.I havebeen obligedgreatly against my willto prescribe for him.Men of hissensitive organisation are fortunately quick in feelingthe effectof remedial measures.  OtherwiseI should be inclined to fearthat hewill be totally unfit for the experiment when the time comesto try it.

As formyselfafter some little remission of my pains for the last two daysI had anattack this morningof which I shall say nothing but that ithasdecided me to return to the opium.  I shall close this bookandtakemy fulldose--five hundred drops.

 

June22nd.--Our prospects look better to-day. Mr. Blake's nervoussufferingis greatly allayed.  He slept a little last night.MY nightthanks to the opiumwas the night of a man who is stunned.I can'tsay that I woke this morning; the fitter expression would bethat Irecovered my senses.

We droveto the house to see if the refurnishing was done.It will becompleted to-morrow--Saturday.  As Mr. Blake foretoldBetteredgeraised no further obstacles.  From first to lasthe wasominously politeand ominously silent.

My medicalenterprise (as Betteredge calls it) must nowinevitablybe delayeduntil Monday next.  Tomorrow evening the workmen willbe late inthe house.  On the next daythe established Sundaytyrannywhich is one of the institutions of this free countryso timesthe trains as to make it impossible to ask anybody to travelto us fromLondon.  Until Monday comesthere is nothing to be donebut towatch Mr. Blake carefullyand to keep himif possiblein thesame state in which I find him to-day.

In themeanwhileI have prevailed on him to write to Mr. Bruffmaking apoint of it that he shall be present as one of the witnesses.Iespecially choose the lawyerbecause he is strongly prejudicedagainstus.  If we convince HIMwe place our victory beyond thepossibilityof dispute.

Mr. Blakehas also written to Sergeant Cuff; and I have senta line toMiss Verinder.  With theseand with old Betteredge(who isreally a person of importance in the family)we shallhave witnesses enough for the purpose--without includingMrs.Merridewif Mrs. Merridew persists in sacrificing herselfto theopinion of the world.

 

June23rd.--The vengeance of the opium overtook me again last night.No matter;I must go on with it now till Monday is past and gone.

Mr. Blakeis not so well again to-day. At two this morningheconfesses that he opened the drawer in which his cigars are put away.He onlysucceeded in locking it up again by a violent effort.His nextproceedingin case of temptationwas to throw the keyout ofwindow.  The waiter brought it in this morningdiscovered atthe bottomof an empty cistern--such is Fate!  I have taken possessionof the keyuntil Tuesday next.

 

June24th.--Mr. Blake and I took a long drive in an open carriage.We bothfelt beneficially the blessed influence of the soft summer air.I dinedwith him at the hotel.  To my great relief--for I found himin anover-wroughtover-excited state this morning--he had two hours'soundsleep on the sofa after dinner.  If he has another bad nightnow--I amnot afraidof the consequence.

 

June 25thMonday.--The day of the experiment!  It is five o'clockin theafternoon.  We have just arrived at the house.

The firstand foremost questionis the question of Mr. Blake's health.

So far asit is possible for me to judgehe promises(physicallyspeaking) to be quite as susceptible to the actionof theopium to-night as he was at this time last year.He isthis afternoonin a state of nervous sensitivenesswhich juststops short of nervous irritation.  He changescolourreadily; his hand is not quite steady; and he startsat chancenoisesand at unexpected appearances of personsandthings.

Theseresults have all been produced by deprivation of sleepwhich isin its turn the nervous consequence of a sudden cessation inthe habitof smokingafter that habit has been carried to an extreme.Here arethe same causes at work againwhich operated last year;and hereareapparentlythe same effects.  Will the parallel stillhold goodwhen the final test has been tried?  The events of the nightmustdecide.

While Iwrite these linesMr. Blake is amusing himself at the billiardtable inthe inner hallpractising different strokes in the gameas he wasaccustomedto practise them when he was a guest in this house in June last.I havebrought my journal herepartly with a view to occupying the idlehourswhich I am sure to have on my hands between this and to-morrowmorning;partly inthe hope that something may happen which it may be worth my while toplace onrecord at the time.

Have Iomitted anythingthus far?  A glance at yesterday's entry showsme that Ihave forgotten to note the arrival of the morning's post.Let me setthis right before I close these leaves for the presentand joinMr. Blake.

I receiveda few lines thenyesterdayfrom Miss Verinder.She hasarranged to travel by the afternoon trainas I recommended.Mrs.Merridew has insisted on accompanying her.  The note hintsthat theold lady's generally excellent temper is a little ruffledandrequests all due indulgence for herin consideration of her ageand herhabits.  I will endeavourin my relations with Mrs. Merridewto emulatethe moderation which Betteredge displays in his relationswith me. He received us to-dayportentously arrayed in his bestblacksuitand his stiffest white cravat.  Whenever he looks my wayheremembers that I have not read ROBINSON CRUSOE since I was a childand herespectfully pities me.

YesterdayalsoMr. Blake had the lawyer's answer.Mr. Bruffaccepts the invitation--under protest.  It ishe thinksclearly necessary that a gentleman possessedof theaverage allowance of common senseshould accompanyMissVerinder to the scene ofwhat we will venture to calltheproposed exhibition.  For want of a better escortMr. Bruffhimself will be that gentleman.--So here is poorMissVerinder provided with two "chaperones."  It is areliefto thinkthat the opinion of the world must surely be satisfiedwith this!

Nothinghas been heard of Sergeant Cuff.  He is no doubt still inIreland.We mustnot expect to see him to-night.

Betteredgehas just come into say that Mr. Blake has asked for me.I must laydown my pen for the present.

 

* * * * ** * * * *

 

Seveno'clock.--We have been all over the refurnished rooms andstaircasesagain; and we have had a pleasant stroll in the shrubberywhich wasMr. Blake's favourite walk when he was here last.In thiswayI hope to revive the old impressions of places and thingsas vividlyas possible in his mind.

We are nowgoing to dineexactly at the hour at which the birthday dinner wasgiven lastyear.  My objectof courseis a purely medical one in thiscase.Thelaudanum must find the process of digestionas nearly as may bewhere thelaudanum found it last year.

At areasonable time after dinner I propose to lead the conversationbackagain--as inartificially as I can--to the subject of the Diamondand of theIndian conspiracy to steal it.  When I have filled his mindwith thesetopicsI shall have done all that it is in my power to dobefore thetime comes for giving him the second dose.

 

* * * * ** * * * *

 

Half-pasteight.--I have only this moment found an opportunityofattending to the most important duty of all; the duty of lookingin thefamily medicine chestfor the laudanum which Mr. Candyused lastyear.

Tenminutes sinceI caught Betteredge at an unoccupied momentand toldhim what I wanted.  Without a word of objectionwithout somuch as an attempt to produce his pocket-bookhe led theway (making allowances for me at every step)to thestore-room in which the medicine chest is kept.

Idiscovered the bottlecarefully guarded by a glass stoppertied overwith leather.  The preparation which it contained wasas I hadanticipatedthe common Tincture of Opium.Findingthe bottle still well filledI have resolved to use itinpreference to employing either of the two preparationswith whichI had taken care to provide myselfin caseofemergency.

Thequestion of the quantity which I am to administer presentscertaindifficulties.  I have thought it overand have decidedonincreasing the dose.

My notesinform me that Mr. Candy only administered twenty-five minims.This is asmall dose to have produced the results which followed--even inthe case of a person so sensitive as Mr. Blake.  I think ithighlyprobablethat Mr. Candy gave more than he supposed himself to have given--knowingas I dothat he has a keen relish of the pleasures of the tableand thathe measured out the laudanum on the birthdayafter dinner.In anycaseI shall run the risk of enlarging the dose to forty minims.On thisoccasionMr. Blake knows beforehand that he is going to takethelaudanum--which is equivalentphysiologically speakingto hishaving(unconsciouslyto himself) a certain capacity in him to resist the effects.If my viewis righta larger quantity is therefore imperatively requiredthis timeto repeat the results which the smaller quantity producedlast year.

 

* * * * ** * * * *

 

Teno'clock.--The witnessesor the company (which shall I call them?)reachedthe house an hour since.

A littlebefore nine o'clockI prevailed on Mr. Blake to accompanyme to hisbedroom; statingas a reasonthat I wished himto lookround itfor the last timein order to make quite surethatnothing had been forgotten in the refurnishing of the room.I hadpreviously arranged with Betteredgethat the bedchamber preparedfor Mr.Bruff should be the next room to Mr. Blake'sand that Ishould beinformed of the lawyer's arrival by a knock at the door.Fiveminutes after the clock in the hall had struck nineI heardthe knock; andgoing out immediatelymet Mr. Bruff inthecorridor.

Mypersonal appearance (as usual) told against me.  Mr. Bruff'sdistrustlooked at me plainly enough out of Mr. Bruff's eyes.Being wellused to producing this effect on strangersI did nothesitate a moment in saying what I wanted to saybefore thelawyer found his way into Mr. Blake's room.

"Youhave travelled hereI believein company with Mrs. Merridewand MissVerinder?"  I said.

"Yes"answered Mr. Bruffas drily as might be.

"MissVerinder has probably told youthat I wish her presence in the house(and Mrs.Merridew's presence of course) to be kept a secret from Mr. Blakeuntil myexperiment on him has been tried first?"

"Iknow that I am to hold my tonguesir!" said Mr. Bruffimpatiently."Beinghabitually silent on the subject of human follyI am all the readierto keep mylips closed on this occasion.  Does that satisfy you?"

I bowedand left Betteredge to show him to his room.Betteredgegave me one look at partingwhich saidas ifin so manywords"You have caught a TartarMr. Jennings--and thename of him is Bruff."

It wasnext necessary to get the meeting over with the two ladies.Idescended the stairs--a little nervouslyI confess--on my way toMissVerinder'ssitting-room.

Thegardener's wife (charged with looking after the accommodationof theladies) met me in the first-floor corridor.Thisexcellent woman treats me with an excessive civilitywhich isplainly the offspring of down-right terror.Shestarestremblesand curtseyswhenever I speak to her.On myasking for Miss Verindershe staredtrembledand wouldno doubthave curtseyed nextif Miss Verinder herselfhad notcut that ceremony shortby suddenly opening hersitting-roomdoor.

"Isthat Mr. Jennings?" she asked.

Before Icould answershe came out eagerly to speak to me in the corridor.We metunder the light of a lamp on a bracket.  At the first sight ofmeMissVerinder stoppedand hesitated.  She recovered herselfinstantlycolouredfor a moment--and thenwith a charming franknessoffered meher hand.

"Ican't treat you like a strangerMr. Jennings" she said."Ohif you only knew how happy your letters have made me!"

She lookedat my ugly wrinkled facewith a bright gratitude so new to me inmyexperience of my fellow-creaturesthat I was at a loss how to answerher.Nothinghad prepared me for her kindness and her beauty.  The misery ofmanyyears hasnot hardened my heartthank God.  I was as awkward and as shywith heras if I had been a lad in my teens.

"Whereis he now?" she askedgiving free expressionto her onedominant interest--the interest in Mr. Blake."Whatis he doing?  Has he spoken of me?  Is he in good spirits?How doeshe bear the sight of the houseafter what happenedin it lastyear?  When are you going to give him the laudanum?May I seeyou pour it out?  I am so interested; I am so excited--I have tenthousand things to say to youand they all crowdtogetherso that I don't know what to say first.  Do you wonder attheinterest I take in this?"

"No"I said.  "I venture to think that I thoroughly understandit."

She wasfar above the paltry affectation of being confused.Sheanswered me as she might have answered a brother ora father.

"Youhave relieved me of indescribable wretchedness; you have given mea newlife.  How can I be ungrateful enough to have any concealmentfrom you?I lovehim" she said simply"I have loved him from first tolast--even whenI was wronging him in my own thoughts; even when I was sayingthehardest and the cruellest words to him.  Is there any excuse formein that? I hope there is--I am afraid it is the only excuse I have.Whento-morrow comesand he knows that I am in the housedo youthink----"

Shestopped againand looked at me very earnestly.

"Whento-morrow comes" I said"I think you have only to tellhim what youhave justtold me."
Her facebrightened; she came a step nearer to me.  Her fingerstriflednervously with a flower which I had picked in the gardenand whichI had put into the button-hole of my coat.

"Youhave seen a great deal of him lately" she said.  "Haveyoureally andtrulyseen THAT?"

"Reallyand truly" I answered.  "I am quite certain of whatwill happento-morrow.I wish I could feel as certain of what will happen to-night."

At thatpoint in the conversationwe were interrupted by the appearance ofBetteredgewith the tea-tray. He gave me another significant look as he passedon intothe sitting-room. "Aye! aye! make your hay while the sun shines.TheTartar's upstairsMr. Jennings--the Tartar's upstairs!"

Wefollowed him into the room.  A little old ladyin a cornerverynicely dressedand very deeply absorbed over a smart pieceofembroiderydropped her work in her lapand uttered a faintlittlescream at the first sight of my gipsy complexion and mypiebaldhair.

"Mrs.Merridew" said Miss Verinder"this is Mr. Jennings."

"Ibeg Mr. Jennings's pardon" said the old ladylooking at MissVerinderandspeaking at me.  "Railway travelling always makes menervous.I amendeavouring to quiet my mind by occupying myself as usual.  Idon'tknowwhether my embroidery is out of placeon this extraordinaryoccasion.If itinterferes with Mr. Jennings's medical viewsI shall be happy to putitaway ofcourse."

I hastenedto sanction the presence of the embroideryexactly as Ihadsanctioned the absence of the burst buzzard and the Cupid's wing.Mrs.Merridew made an effort--a grateful effort--to look at my hair.No! it wasnot to be done.  Mrs. Merridew looked back again atMissVerinder.

"IfMr. Jennings will permit me" pursued the old lady"Ishould like to ask a favour.  Mr. Jennings is about to tryascientific experiment to-night. I used to attend scientificexperimentswhen I was a girl at school.  They invariablyended inan explosion.  If Mr. Jennings will be so very kindI shouldlike to be warned of the explosion this time.With aview to getting it overif possiblebefore I goto bed."

Iattempted to assure Mrs. Merridew that an explosion was not includedin theprogramme on this occasion.

"No"said the old lady.  "I am much obliged to Mr. Jennings--I am awarethat he is only deceiving me for my own good.I preferplain dealing.  I am quite resigned to the explosion--but I DOwant to get it overif possiblebefore I goto bed."

Here thedoor openedand Mrs. Merridew uttered another little scream.The adventof the explosion?  No:  only the advent of Betteredge.

"Ibeg your pardonMr. Jennings" said Betteredgein hismostelaborately confidential manner.  "Mr. Franklin wishesto knowwhere you are.  Being under your orders to deceive himin respectto the presence of my young lady in the houseI havesaid Idon't know.  That you will please to observewas a lie.Having onefoot already in the gravesirthe fewer liesyou expectme to tellthe more I shall be indebted to youwhen myconscience pricks me and my time comes."

There wasnot a moment to be wasted on the purely speculative questionofBetteredge's conscience.  Mr. Blake might make his appearancein searchof meunless I went to him at once in his own room.MissVerinder followed me out into the corridor.

"Theyseem to be in a conspiracy to persecute you" she said."Whatdoes it mean?"

"Onlythe protest of the worldMiss Verinder--on a very small scale--againstanything that is new."

"Whatare we to do with Mrs. Merridew?"

"Tellher the explosion will take place at nine to-morrow morning."

"Soas to send her to bed?"

"Yes--soas to send her to bed."

MissVerinder went back to the sitting-roomand I went upstairs to Mr.Blake.

To mysurprise I found him alone; restlessly pacing his roomand alittle irritated at being left by himself.

"Whereis Mr. Bruff?"  I asked.

He pointedto the closed door of communication between the two rooms.Mr. Bruffhad looked in on himfor a moment; had attempted to renewhisprotest against our proceedings; and had once more failedto producethe smallest impression on Mr. Blake.  Upon thisthe lawyerhad taken refuge in a black leather bagfilled toburstingwith professional papers.  "The serious business of life"headmitted"was sadly out of place on such an occasion as thepresent.But theserious business of life must be carried onfor all that.Mr. Blakewould perhaps kindly make allowance for the old-fashionedhabits ofa practical man.  Time was money--andas for Mr. Jenningshe mightdepend on it that Mr. Bruff would be forthcomingwhencalled upon."  With that apologythe lawyer had gone backto his ownroomand had immersed himself obstinately in hisblack bag.

I thoughtof Mrs. Merridew and her embroideryand of Betteredgeand hisconscience.  There is a wonderful sameness in the solid sideof theEnglish character--just as there is a wonderful samenessin thesolid expression of the English face.

"Whenare you going to give me the laudanum?" asked Mr. Blakeimpatiently.

"Youmust wait a little longer" I said.  "I will stay andkeep you companytill thetime comes."

It wasthen not ten o'clock. Inquiries which I had madeat varioustimesof Betteredge and Mr. Blakehad led meto theconclusion that the dose of laudanum given by Mr. Candycould notpossibly have been administered before eleven.I hadaccordingly determined not to try the second dose untilthat time.

We talkeda little; but both our minds were preoccupied by the coming ordeal.Theconversation soon flagged--then dropped altogether.  Mr. Blakeidlyturnedover the books on his bedroom table.  I had taken the precautionof lookingat themwhen we first entered the room.  THE GUARDIAN; THETATLER;Richardson'sPAMELA; Mackenzie's MAN OF FEELING; Roscoe's LORENZO DE MEDICI;andRobertson's CHARLES THE FIFTH--all classical works; all (of course)immeasurablysuperior to anything produced in later times; and all (from mypresentpoint of view) possessing the one great merit of enchaining nobody'sinterestand exciting nobody's brain.  I left Mr. Blake to the composinginfluenceof Standard Literatureand occupied myself in making this entry inmyjournal.

My watchinforms me that it is close on eleven o'clock. I must shut uptheseleaves once more.

 

* * * * ** * * * *

 

Twoo'clock A.M.--The experiment has been tried.  With what resultI am nowto describe.

At eleveno'clockI rang the bell for Betteredgeand told Mr. Blakethat hemight at last prepare himself for bed.

I lookedout of the window at the night.  It was mildand rainyresemblingin this respectthe night of the birthday--thetwenty-first of Junelast year.  Without professingto believein omensit was at least encouraging to find nodirectnervous influences--no stormy or electric perturbations--in theatmosphere.  Betteredge joined me at the windowandmysteriously put a little slip of paper into my hand.Itcontained these lines:

"Mrs.Merridew has gone to bedon the distinct understanding that theexplosionis to take place at nine to-morrow morningand that I am notto stirout of this part of the house until she comes and sets me free.She has noidea that the chief scene of the experiment is my sitting-room--or shewould have remained in it for the whole night!  I am aloneand veryanxious.  Pray let me see you measure out the laudanum; I wantto havesomething to do with iteven in the unimportant character of amerelooker-on.--R.V."

I followedBetteredge out of the roomand told him to removethemedicine-chest into Miss Verinder's sitting-room.

The orderappeared to take him completely by surprise.He lookedas if he suspected me of some occult medicaldesign onMiss Verinder!  "Might I presume to ask" he said"whatmy young lady and the medicine-chest have got to do witheachother?"

"Stayin the sitting-roomand you will see."

Betteredgeappeared to doubt his own unaided capacity to superintendmeeffectuallyon an occasion when a medicine-chest was includedin theproceedings.

"Isthere any objectionsir" he asked"to taking Mr. Bruffinto thispart ofthe business?"

"Quitethe contrary!  I am now going to ask Mr. Bruff to accompanymedown-stairs."

Betteredgewithdrew to fetch the medicine-chestwithout another word.I wentback into Mr. Blake's roomand knocked at the door of communication.Mr. Bruffopened itwith his papers in his hand--immersed in Law;impenetrableto Medicine.

"I amsorry to disturb you" I said.  "But I am going topreparethelaudanum for Mr. Blake; and I must request you to be presentand to seewhat I do."

"Yes?"said Mr. Bruffwith nine-tenths of his attention rivetedon hispapersand with one-tenth unwillingly accorded to me."Anythingelse?"

"Imust trouble you to return here with meand to see me administerthe dose."

"Anythingelse?"

"Onething more.  I must put you to the inconvenience of remainingin Mr.Blake's roomand of waiting to see what happens."

"Ohvery good!" said Mr. Bruff.  "My roomor Mr. Blake'sroom--it doesn'tmatter which; I can go on with my papers anywhere.Unless youobjectMr. Jenningsto my importing THAT amount of commonsense intothe proceedings?"

Before Icould answerMr. Blake addressed himself to the lawyerspeakingfrom his bed.

"Doyou really mean to say that you don't feel any interest in what weare goingto do?" he asked.  "Mr. Bruffyou have no moreimaginationthan acow!"

"Acow is a very useful animalMr. Blake" said the lawyer.With thatreply he followed me out of the roomstill keeping hispapers inhis hand.

We foundMiss Verinderpale and agitatedrestlessly pacing hersitting-roomfrom end to end.  At a table in a corner stood Betteredgeon guardover the medicine-chest. Mr. Bruff sat down on the firstchair thathe could findand (emulating the usefulness of the cow)plungedback again into his papers on the spot.

MissVerinder drew me asideand reverted instantly to heroneall-absorbing interest--her interest in Mr. Blake.

"Howis he now?" she asked.  "Is he nervous? is he out oftemper?Do youthink it will succeed?  Are you sure it will do no harm?"

"Quitesure.  Comeand see me measure it out."

"Onemoment!  It is past eleven now.  How long will it be beforeanythinghappens?"

"Itis not easy to say.  An hour perhaps."

"Isuppose the room must be darkas it was last year?"

"Certainly."

"Ishall wait in my bedroom--just as I did before.  I shall keepthe door alittle way open.  It was a little way open last year.I willwatch the sitting-room door; and the moment it movesI willblow out my light.  It all happened in that wayon mybirthdaynight.  And it must all happen again in the same waymusn'tit?"

"Areyou sure you can control yourselfMiss Verinder?"

"InHIS interestsI can do anything!" she answered fervently.

One lookat her face told me that I could trust her.Iaddressed myself again to Mr. Bruff.

"Imust trouble you to put your papers aside for a moment"I said.

"Ohcertainly!"  He got up with a start--as if I had disturbedhim at aparticularly interesting place--and followed meto themedicine-chest. Theredeprived of the breathlessexcitementincidental to the practice of his professionhe lookedat Betteredge--and yawned wearily.

MissVerinder joined me with a glass jug of cold waterwhich she hadtaken froma side-table. "Let me pour out the water" she whispered."Imust have a hand in it!"

I measuredout the forty minims from the bottleand pouredthelaudanum into a medicine glass.  "Fill it till it is threepartsfull" I saidand handed the glass to Miss Verinder.I thendirected Betteredge to lock up the medicine chest;informinghim that I had done with it now.  A look ofunutterablerelief overspread the old servant's countenance.He hadevidently suspected me of a medical design on hisyounglady!

Afteradding the water as I had directedMiss Verinder seized a moment--whileBetteredge was locking the chestand while Mr. Bruff was lookingback tohis papers--and slyly kissed the rim of the medicine glass."Whenyou give it to him" said the charming girl"give it tohim onthatside!"

I took thepiece of crystal which was to represent the Diamond from my pocketand gaveit to her.

"Youmust have a hand in thistoo" I said.  "You must putit whereyou put the Moonstone last year."

She ledthe way to the Indian cabinetand put the mock Diamond intothe drawerwhich the real Diamond had occupied on the birthday night.Mr. Bruffwitnessed this proceedingunder protestas he hadwitnessedeverything else.  But the strong dramatic interest whichtheexperiment was now assumingproved (to my great amusement)to be toomuch for Betteredge's capacity of self restraint.His handtrembled as he held the candleand he whispered anxiously"Areyou suremissit's the right drawer?"

I led theway out againwith the laudanum and water in my hand.At thedoorI stopped to address a last word to Miss Verinder.

"Don'tbe long in putting out the lights" I said.

I will putthem out at once" she answered.  "And I will wait inmy bedroomwith onlyone candle alight."

She closedthe sitting-room door behind us.  Followed by Mr. BruffandBetteredgeI went back to Mr. Blake's room.

We foundhim moving restlessly from side to side of the bedandwondering irritably whether he was to have the laudanumthatnight.  In the presence of the two witnessesI gave himthe doseand shook up his pillowsand told him to lie downagainquietly and wait.

His bedprovided with light chintz curtainswas placedwith thehead against the wall of the roomso as to leavea goodopen space on either side of it.  On one sideI drewthecurtains completely--and in the part of the room thusscreenedfrom his viewI placed Mr. Bruff and Betteredgeto waitfor the result.  At the bottom of the bed I half drewthecurtains--and placed my own chair at a little distanceso that Imight let him see me or not see mespeak to meor notspeak to mejust as the circumstances might direct.Havingalready been informed that he always slept witha light inthe roomI placed one of the two lightedcandles ona little table at the head of the bedwhere theglare of the light would not strike on his eyes.The othercandle I gave to Mr. Bruff; the lightin this instancebeingsubdued by the screen of the chintz curtains.The windowwas open at the topso as to ventilate the room.The rainfell softlythe house was quiet.  It was twenty minutespastelevenby my watchwhen the preparations were completedand I tookmy place on the chair set apart at the bottom ofthe bed.

Mr. Bruffresumed his paperswith every appearance of being as deeplyinterestedin them as ever.  But looking towards him nowI saw certainsigns andtokens which told me that the Law was beginning to lose its holdon him atlast.  The suspended interest of the situation in which we werenowplaced wasslowly asserting its influence even on HIS unimaginative mind.As forBetteredgeconsistency of principle and dignity of conduct hadbecomein hiscasemere empty words.  He forgot that I was performing aconjuringtrick onMr. Franklin Blake; he forgot that I had upset the house from topto bottom;he forgot that I had not read ROBINSON CRUSOE since I was a child."Forthe Lord's sakesir" he whispered to me"tell us when itwill beginto work."

"Notbefore midnight" I whispered back.  "Say nothingand sitstill."

Betteredgedropped to the lowest depth of familiarity with mewithout astruggle to save himself.  He answered by a wink!

Lookingnext towards Mr. BlakeI found him as restless as ever in his bed;fretfullywondering why the influence of the laudanum had not begun to assertitselfyet.  To tell himin his present humourthat the more hefidgetedandwonderedthe longer he would delay the result for which we werenowwaitingwould have been simply useless.  The wiser course totake wasto dismissthe idea of the opium from his mindby leading him insensiblyto thinkof something else.

With thisviewI encouraged him to talk to me; contriving so to directtheconversationon my sideas to lead it back again to the subjectwhich hadengaged us earlier in the evening--the subject of the Diamond.I tookcare to revert to those portions of the story of the Moonstonewhichrelated to the transport of it from London to Yorkshire; to the riskwhich Mr.Blake had run in removing it from the bank at Frizinghall:and to theunexpected appearance of the Indians at the houseon the eveningof thebirthday.  And I purposely assumedin referring to theseeventsto havemisunderstood much of what Mr. Blake himself had told me a fewhourssince.  In this wayI set him talking on the subject with whichitwas nowvitally important to fill his mind--without allowing him to suspectthat I wasmaking him talk for a purpose.  Little by littlehe becamesointerested in putting me right that he forgot to fidget in the bed.His mindwas far away from the question of the opiumat the all-importanttime whenhis eyes first told me that the opium was beginning to lay its holdon hisbrain.

I lookedat my watch.  It wanted five minutes to twelvewhen thepremonitory symptoms of the working of the laudanumfirstshowed themselves to me.

At thistimeno unpractised eyes would have detected any changein him. Butas the minutes of the new morning wore awaytheswiftly-subtle progress of the influence began to show itselfmoreplainly.  The sublime intoxication of opium gleamed in his eyes;the dew ofa stealthy perspiration began to glisten on his face.In fiveminutes morethe talk which he still kept up with mefailed incoherence.  He held steadily to the subject of the Diamond;but heceased to complete his sentences.  A little laterthesentences dropped to single words.  Thenthere was an intervalofsilence.  Thenhe sat up in bed.  Thenstill busy withthe subjectof theDiamondhe began to talk again--not to mebut to himself.Thatchange told me that the first stage in the experiment was reached.Thestimulant influence of the opium had got him.

The timenowwas twenty-three minutes past twelve.  The next half hourat mostwould decide the question of whether he wouldor would notget upfrom his bedand leave the room.

In thebreathless interest of watching him--in the unutterabletriumph ofseeing the first result of the experiment declare itselfin themannerand nearly at the timewhich I had anticipated--I hadutterly forgotten the two companions of my night vigil.Lookingtowards them nowI saw the Law (as representedby Mr.Bruff's papers) lying unheeded on the floor.Mr. Bruffhimself was looking eagerly through a crevice leftin theimperfectly-drawn curtains of the bed.  And Betteredgeobliviousof all respect for social distinctionswas peeping overMr.Bruff's shoulder.

They bothstarted backon finding that I was looking at themlike twoboys caught out by their schoolmaster in a fault.I signedto them to take off their boots quietlyas I was takingoff mine. If Mr. Blake gave us the chance of following himit wasvitally necessary to follow him without noise.

Tenminutes passed--and nothing happened.  Thenhe suddenlythrew thebed-clothes off him.  He put one leg out of bed.He waited.

"Iwish I had never taken it out of the bank" he said to himself."Itwas safe in the bank."

My heartthrobbed fast; the pulses at my temples beat furiously.The doubtabout the safety of the Diamond wasonce morethedominant impression in his brain!  On that one pivotthe wholesuccess of the experiment turned.  The prospect thussuddenlyopened before me was too much for my shattered nerves.I wasobliged to look away from him--or I should have lost myself-control.

There wasanother interval of silence.

When Icould trust myself to look back at him he was out of his bedstandingerect at the side of it.  The pupils of his eyes were nowcontracted;hiseyeballs gleamed in the light of the candle as he moved his headslowlyto andfro.  He was thinking; he was doubting--he spoke again.

"Howdo I know?" he said.  "The Indians may be hidden inthe house."

Hestoppedand walked slowly to the other end of the room.Heturned--waited--came back to the bed.

"It'snot even locked up" he went on.  "It's in the drawerof her cabinet.And thedrawer doesn't lock."

He satdown on the side of the bed.  "Anybody might take it"he said.

He roseagain restlesslyand reiterated his first words.

"Howdo I know?  The Indians may be hidden in the house."

He waitedagain.  I drew back behind the half curtain of the bed.He lookedabout the roomwith a vacant glitter in his eyes.It was abreathless moment.  There was a pause of some sort.A pause inthe action of the opium? a pause in the action ofthebrain?  Who could tell?  Everything dependednowon whathedid next.

He laidhimself down again on the bed!

A horribledoubt crossed my mind.  Was it possible that thesedativeaction of the opium was making itself felt already?It was notin my experience that it should do this.But whatis experiencewhere opium is concerned?There areprobably no two men in existence on whom the drugacts inexactly the same manner.  Was some constitutionalpeculiarityin himfeeling the influence in some new way?Were we tofail on the very brink of success?

No! He got up again abruptly.  "How the devil am I to sleep"he said"with THIS on my mind?"

He lookedat the lightburning on the table at the head of his bed.After amomenthe took the candle in his hand.

I blew outthe second candleburning behind the closed curtains.I drewbackwith Mr. Bruff and Betteredgeinto the farthest cornerby thebed.  I signed to them to be silentas if their lives haddependedon it.

Wewaited--seeing and hearing nothing.  We waitedhidden from himby thecurtains.

The lightwhich he was holding on the other side of us moved suddenly.The nextmoment he passed usswift and noiselesswith the candle inhis hand.

He openedthe bedroom doorand went out.

Wefollowed him along the corridor.  We followed him down thestairs.Wefollowed him along the second corridor.  He never looked back;he neverhesitated.

He openedthe sitting-room doorand went inleaving it open behind him.

The doorwas hung (like all the other doors in the house)on largeold-fashioned hinges.  When it was openeda crevice wasopenedbetween the door and the post.  I signed to my two companionsto lookthrough thisso as to keep them from showing themselves.I placedmyself--outside the door also--on the opposite side.A recessin the wall was at my left handin which I couldinstantlyhide myselfif he showed any signs of looking back intothecorridor.

Headvanced to the middle of the roomwith the candle still in hishand:he lookedabout him--but he never looked back.

I saw thedoor of Miss Verinder's bedroomstanding ajar.She hadput out her light.  She controlled herself nobly.The dimwhite outline of her summer dress was all that Icouldsee.  Nobody who had not known it beforehand wouldhavesuspected that there was a living creature in the room.She keptbackin the dark:  not a wordnot a movementescapedher.

It was nowten minutes past one.  I heardthrough the dead silencethe softdrip of the rain and the tremulous passage of the night airthroughthe trees.

Afterwaiting irresolutefor a minute or morein the middle of the roomhe movedto the corner near the windowwhere the Indian cabinet stood.

He put hiscandle on the top of the cabinet.  He openedand shutonedrawerafteranotheruntil he came to the drawer in which the mock Diamond wasput.He lookedinto the drawer for a moment.  Then he took the mock Diamond outwith hisright hand.  With the other handhe took the candle from thetop ofthecabinet.

He walkedback a few steps towards the middle of the roomand stoodstill again.

Thus farhe had exactly repeated what he had done on the birthday night.Would hisnext proceeding be the same as the proceeding of last year?Would heleave the room?  Would he go back nowas I believed he had goneback thento his bed-chamber? Would he show us what he had done withtheDiamondwhen he had returned to his own room?

His firstactionwhen he moved once moreproved to be an actionwhich hehad not performedwhen he was under the influence ofthe opiumfor the first time.  He put the candle down on a tableandwandered on a little towards the farther end of the room.There wasa sofa there.  He leaned heavily on the back of itwith hislefthand--then roused himselfand returned to the middle of the room.I couldnow see his eyes.  They were getting dull and heavy;theglitter in them was fast dying out.

Thesuspense of the moment proved too much for Miss Verinder'sself-control.She advanced a few steps--then stopped again.Mr. Bruffand Betteredge looked across the open doorway at mefor thefirst time.  The prevision of a coming disappointment wasimpressingitself on their minds as well as on mine.

Stillsolong as he stood where he wasthere was hope.We waitedin unutterable expectationto see what wouldhappennext.

The nextevent was decisive.  He let the mock Diamond drop out of hishand.

It fell onthe floorbefore the doorway--plainly visibleto himand to everyone.  He made no effort to pick it up:he lookeddown at it vacantlyandas he lookedhis head sankon hisbreast.  He staggered--roused himself for an instant--walkedback unsteadily to the sofa--and sat down on it.He made alast effort; he tried to riseand sank back.His headfell on the sofa cushions.  It was then twenty-five minutespast oneo'clock. Before I had put my watch back in my pockethe wasasleep.

It was allover now.  The sedative influence had got him;theexperiment was at an end.

 

I enteredthe roomtelling Mr. Bruff and Betteredge that theymightfollow me.  There was no fear of disturbing him.We werefree to move and speak.

"Thefirst thing to settle" I said"is the question of what weareto do withhim.  He will probably sleep for the next six or seven hoursat least. It is some distance to carry him back to his own room.When I wasyoungerI could have done it alone.  But my health and strengthare notwhat they were--I am afraid I must ask you to help me."

Beforethey could answerMiss Verinder called to me softly.She met meat the door of her roomwith a light shawland withthe counterpane from her own bed.

"Doyou mean to watch him while he sleeps?" she asked.

"YesI am not sure enough of the action of the opium in his caseto bewilling to leave him alone."

She handedme the shawl and the counterpane.

"Whyshould you disturb him?" she whispered.  "Make his bedon the sofa.I can shutmy doorand keep in my room."

It wasinfinitely the simplest and the safest way of disposingof him forthe night.  I mentioned the suggestion to Mr. BruffandBetteredge--who both approved of my adopting it.In fiveminutes I had laid him comfortably on the sofaand hadcovered him lightly with the counterpane and the shawl.MissVerinder wished us good nightand closed the door.At myrequestwe three then drew round the table in the middleof theroomon which the candle was still burningand onwhichwriting materials were placed.

"Beforewe separate" I began"I have a word to say about theexperimentwhich hasbeen tried to-night. Two distinct objects were to be gained by it.The firstof these objects was to provethat Mr. Blake entered this roomand tookthe Diamondlast yearacting unconsciously and irresponsiblyunder theinfluence of opium.  After what you have both seenare you bothsatisfiedso far?"

Theyanswered me in the affirmativewithout a moment's hesitation.

"Thesecond object" I went on"was to discover what he didwith theDiamondafter he was seen by Miss Verinderto leaveher sitting-room with the jewel in his handon thebirthday night.  The gaining of this object dependedof courseon his still continuing exactly to repeathisproceedings of last year.  He has failed to do that;and thepurpose of the experiment is defeated accordingly.I can'tassert that I am not disappointed at the result--but I canhonestly say that I am not surprised by it.I told Mr.Blake from the firstthat our complete successin thismatter depended on our completely reproducing in himthephysical and moral conditions of last year--and I warnedhim thatthis was the next thing to a downright impossibility.We haveonly partially reproduced the conditionsand the experimenthas beenonly partially successful in consequence.  It is alsopossiblethat I may have administered too large a dose of laudanum.But Imyself look upon the first reason that I have givenas thetrue reason why we have to lament a failureas well as torejoiceover a success."

Aftersaying those wordsI put the writing materials before Mr. Bruffand askedhim if he had any objection--before we separated for the night--to drawoutand signa plain statement of what he had seen.He at oncetook the penand produced the statement with the fluentreadinessof a practised hand.

"Iowe you this" he saidsigning the paper"as someatonementfor what passed between us earlier in the evening.I beg yourpardonMr. Jenningsfor having doubted you.You havedone Franklin Blake an inestimable service.  In ourlegalphraseyou have proved your case."

Betteredge'sapology was characteristic of the man.

"Mr.Jennings" he said"when you read ROBINSON CRUSOE again(which Istrongly recommend you to do)you will find that he neverscruplesto acknowledge itwhen he turns out to have been in the wrong.Please toconsider mesiras doing what Robinson Crusoe didon thepresent occasion."  With those words he signed the paper inhis turn.

Mr. Brufftook me asideas we rose from the table.

"Oneword about the Diamond" he said.  "Your theory isthatFranklinBlake hid the Moonstone in his room.  My theory isthat theMoonstone is in the possession of Mr. Luker'sbankers inLondon.  We won't dispute which of us is right.We willonly askwhich of us is in a position to put his theoryto thetest?"

"Thetestin my caseI answered"has been tried to-nightand hasfailed."

"Thetestin my case" rejoined Mr. Bruff"is still in processof trial.For thelast two days I have had a watch set for Mr. Luker at the bank;and Ishall cause that watch to be continued until the last day of themonth.I knowthat he must take the Diamond himself out of his bankers"hands--and Iam actingon the chance that the person who has pledged the Diamond mayforce himto do this by redeeming the pledge.  In that case I may be ableto lay myhand on the person.  If I succeedI clear up the mysteryexactly atthe point where the mystery baffles us now!  Do you admit thatso far?"

I admittedit readily.

"I amgoing back to town by the morning train" pursued the lawyer."Imay hearwhen I returnthat a discovery has been made--and it maybe of the greatest importance that I should have FranklinBlake athand to appeal toif necessary.  I intend to tell himas soon ashe wakesthat he must return with me to London.After allthat has happenedmay I trust to your influence toback me?"

"Certainly!" I said.

Mr. Bruffshook hands with meand left the room.  Betteredge followedhim out; Iwent to the sofa to look at Mr. Blake.  He had not movedsince Ihad laid him down and made his bed--he lay locked in a deepand quietsleep.

While Iwas still looking at himI heard the bedroom door softly opened.Once moreMiss Verinder appeared on the thresholdin her prettysummerdress.

"Dome a last favour?" she whispered.  "Let me watch himwith you."

Ihesitated--not in the interests of propriety; only in the interestof hernight's rest.  She came close to meand took my hand.

"Ican't sleep; I can't even sit stillin my own room" she said."OhMr. Jenningsif you were meonly think how you would long to sitand lookat him.  Sayyes!  Do!"

Is itnecessary to mention that I gave way?  Surely not!

She drew achair to the foot of the sofa.  She looked at himin asilent ecstasy of happinesstill the tears rose in her eyes.She driedher eyesand said she would fetch her work.Shefetched her workand never did a single stitch of it.It lay inher lap--she was not even able to look away from himlongenough to thread her needle.  I thought of my own youth;I thoughtof the gentle eyes which had once looked love at me.In theheaviness of my heart I turned to my Journal for reliefandwrote init what is written here.

So we keptour watch together in silence.  One of us absorbed in hiswriting;the otherabsorbed in her love.

Hour afterhour he lay in his deep sleep.  The light of the new daygrew andgrew in the roomand still he never moved.

Towardssix o'clockI felt the warning which told me that my pains werecomingback.  I was obliged to leave her alone with him for a littlewhile.I said Iwould go up-stairsand fetch another pillow for him out ofhis room. It was not a long attackthis time.  In a little while Iwas ableto venture backand let her see me again.

I foundher at the head of the sofawhen I returned.She wasjust touching his forehead with her lips.  I shookmy head assoberly as I couldand pointed to her chair.She lookedback at me with a bright smileand a charmingcolour inher face.  "You would have done it" she whispered"in myplace!"

 

* * * * ** * * * *

 

It is justeight o'clock. He is beginning to move for the first time.

MissVerinder is kneeling by the side of the sofa.  She has so placedherselfthat when his eyes first openthey must open on her face.

Shall Ileave them together?

Yes!

 

* * * * ** * * * *

 

Eleveno'clock.--The house is empty again.  They have arranged itamongthemselves; they have all gone to London by the ten o'clock train.My briefdream of happiness is over.  I have awakened again to therealitiesof myfriendless and lonely life.

I dare nottrust myself to write downthe kind words that have been saidto meespecially by Miss Verinder and Mr. Blake.  Besidesit isneedless.Thosewords will come back to me in my solitary hoursand will helpme throughwhat is left of the end of my life.  Mr. Blake is to writeand tellme what happens in London.  Miss Verinder is to return toYorkshirein theautumn (for her marriageno doubt); and I am to take a holidayand be aguest in the house.  Oh mehow I feltas the gratefulhappinesslooked atme out of her eyesand the warm pressure of her hand said"Thisis your doing!"

My poorpatients are waiting for me.  Back againthis morningto the oldroutine!  Back againto-nightto the dreadfulalternativebetween the opium and the pain!

God bepraised for His mercy!  I have seen a little sunshine--I have hada happy time.

 

FIFTHNARRATIVE

The StoryResumed by FRANKLIN BLAKE

CHAPTER I

But fewwords are neededon my partto complete the narrativethat hasbeen presented in the Journal of Ezra Jennings.

Of myselfI have only to say that I awoke on the morning of the twenty-sixthperfectlyignorant of all that I had said and done under the influenceof theopium--from the time when the drug first laid its hold on meto thetime when I opened my eyesin Rachel's sitting-room.

Of whathappened after my wakingI do not feel called upon torender anaccount in detail.  Confining myself merely to resultsI have toreport that Rachel and I thoroughly understood each otherbefore asingle word of explanation had passed on either side.I declineto accountand Rachel declines to accountfor theextraordinaryrapidity of our reconciliation.  Sir and Madamlook backat the time when you were passionately attached to each other--and youwill know what happenedafter Ezra Jennings had shut the doorof thesitting-roomas well as I know it myself.

I havehoweverno objection to addthat we should have been certainlydiscoveredby Mrs. Merridewbut for Rachel's presence of mind.She heardthe sound of the old lady's dress in the corridorandinstantly ran out to meet her; I heard Mrs. Merridew say"Whatis the matter?" and I heard Rachel answer"The explosion!"Mrs.Merridew instantly permitted herself to be taken by the armand ledinto the gardenout of the way of the impending shock.On herreturn to the houseshe met me in the hallandexpressed herself as greatly struck by the vast improvementinSciencesince the time when she was a girl at school."ExplosionsMr. Blakeare infinitely milder than they were.I assureyouI barely heard Mr. Jennings's explosion from the garden.And nosmell afterwardsthat I can detectnow we have come backto thehouse!  I must really apologise to your medical friend.It is onlydue to him to say that he has managed it beautifully!"

Soaftervanquishing Betteredge and Mr. BruffEzra Jennings vanquishedMrs.Merridew herself.  There is a great deal of undeveloped liberalfeeling inthe worldafter all!

AtbreakfastMr. Bruff made no secret of his reasons for wishingthat Ishould accompany him to London by the morning train.The watchkept at the bankand the result which might yetcome ofitappealed so irresistibly to Rachel's curiositythat sheat once decided (if Mrs. Merridew had no objection)onaccompanying us back to town--so as to be within reach of theearliestnews of our proceedings.

Mrs.Merridew proved to be all pliability and indulgenceafter thetruly considerate manner in which the explosion hadconducteditself; and Betteredge was accordingly informed that wewere allfour to travel back together by the morning train.I fullyexpected that he would have asked leave to accompany us.But Rachelhad wisely provided her faithful old servant with anoccupationthat interested him.  He was charged with completingtherefurnishing of the houseand was too full of his domesticresponsibilitiesto feel the "detective-fever" as he might have feltit underother circumstances.

Our onesubject of regretin going to Londonwas the necessityofpartingmore abruptly than we could have wishedwith Ezra Jennings.It wasimpossible to persuade him to accompany us.  I could onlypromiseto writeto him--and Rachel could only insist on his coming to see herwhen shereturned to Yorkshire.  There was every prospect of our meetingagain in afew months--and yet there was something very sad in seeingour bestand dearest friend left standing alone on the platformas thetrain moved out of the station.

On ourarrival in LondonMr. Bruff was accosted at the terminus by asmall boydressed in a jacket and trousers of threadbare black clothandpersonally remarkable in virtue of the extraordinary prominenceof hiseyes.  They projected so farand they rolled about so looselythat youwondered uneasily why they remained in their sockets.Afterlistening to the boyMr. Bruff asked the ladies whetherthey wouldexcuse our accompanying them back to Portland Place.I hadbarely time to promise Rachel that I would returnand tell hereverythingthat had happenedbefore Mr. Bruff seized me by the armandhurried me into a cab.  The boy with the ill-secured eyes tookhisplace onthe box by the driverand the driver was directed to go toLombardStreet.

"Newsfrom the bank?"  I askedas we started.

"Newsof Mr. Luker" said Mr. Bruff.  "An hour agohe wasseento leavehis house at Lambethin a cabaccompanied by two menwho wererecognised by my men as police officers in plain clothes.If Mr.Luker's dread of the Indians is at the bottom of this precautiontheinference is plain enough.  He is going to take the Diamond outofthe bank."

"Andwe are going to the bank to see what comes of it?"

"Yes--orto hear what has come of itif it is all over by this time.Did younotice my boy--on the boxthere?"

"Inoticed his eyes."

Mr. Brufflaughed.  "They call the poor little wretch "Gooseberry"at theoffice" he said.  "I employ him to go on errands--andI only wish myclerks whohave nick-named him were as thoroughly to be depended on as he is.Gooseberryis one of the sharpest boys in LondonMr. Blakein spite ofhis eyes."

It wastwenty minutes to five when we drew up before the bankin LombardStreet.  Gooseberry looked longingly at his masteras heopened the cab door.

"Doyou want to come in too?" asked Mr. Bruff kindly."Comein thenand keep at my heels till further orders.He's asquick as lightning" pursued Mr. Bruffaddressing me inawhisper.  "Two words will do with Gooseberrywhere twentywouldbe wantedwith another boy."

We enteredthe bank.  The outer office--with the long counterbehindwhich the cashiers sat--was crowded with people;allwaiting their turn to take money outor to pay money inbefore thebank closed at five o'clock.

Two menamong the crowd approached Mr. Bruffas soon as he showed himself.
"Well"asked the lawyer.  "Have you seen him?"

"Hepassed us here half an hour sincesirand went on intothe inneroffice."

"Hashe not come out again yet?"

"Nosir."

Mr. Bruffturned to me.  "Let us wait" he said.

I lookedround among the people about me for the three Indians.Not a signof them was to be seen anywhere.  The only personpresentwith a noticeably dark complexion was a tall manin a pilotcoatand a round hatwho looked like a sailor.Could thisbe one of them in disguise?  Impossible!  The manwas tallerthan any of the Indians; and his facewhere it wasnot hiddenby a bushy black beardwas twice the breadth of anyof theirfaces at least.

"Theymust have their spy somewhere" said Mr. Brufflooking at thedarksailor inhis turn.  "And he may be the man."

Before hecould say morehis coat-tail was respectfullypulled byhis attendant sprite with the gooseberry eyes.Mr. Brufflooked where the boy was looking.  "Hush!" he said."Hereis Mr. Luker!"

Themoney-lender came out from the inner regions of the bankfollowedby his two guardian policemen in plain clothes.

"Keepyour eye on him" whispered Mr. Bruff.  "If he passestheDiamond to anybodyhe will pass it here."

Withoutnoticing either of usMr. Luker slowly made his way to the door--now in thethickestnow in the thinnest part of the crowd.Idistinctly saw his hand moveas he passed a shortstout manrespectablydressed in a suit of sober grey.  The man started a littleand lookedafter him.  Mr. Luker moved on slowly through the crowd.At thedoor his guard placed themselves on either side of him.They wereall three followed by one of Mr. Bruff's men--and I saw themno more.

I lookedround at the lawyerand then looked significantly towardsthe man inthe suit of sober grey.  "Yes!" whispered Mr. Bruff"Isaw it too!"  He turned aboutin search of his second man.The secondman was nowhere to be seen.  He looked behind him for hisattendantsprite.  Gooseberry had disappeared.

"Whatthe devil does it mean?" said Mr. Bruff angrily."Theyhave both left us at the very time when we wantthemmost."

It came tothe turn of the man in the grey suit to transact his businessat thecounter.  He paid in a cheque--received a receipt for it--and turnedto go out.

"Whatis to be done?" asked Mr. Bruff.  "We can't degradeourselvesbyfollowing him."

"Ican!"  I said.  "I wouldn't lose sight of thatman for tenthousandpounds!"

"Inthat case" rejoined Mr. Bruff"I wouldn't lose sight ofyoufor twicethe money.  A nice occupation for a man in my position"hemuttered to himselfas we followed the stranger out of the bank."ForHeaven's sake don't mention it.  I should be ruined if itwasknown."

The man inthe grey suit got into an omnibusgoing westward.We got inafter him.  There were latent reserves of youth still leftin Mr.Bruff.  I assert it positively--when he took his seat intheomnibushe blushed!

The man inthe grey suit stopped the omnibusand got out in Oxford Street.Wefollowed him again.  He went into a chemist's shop.

Mr. Bruffstarted.  "My chemist!" he exclaimed.  "I amafraid wehave madea mistake."

We enteredthe shop.  Mr. Bruff and the proprietor exchanged a few wordsinprivate.  The lawyer joined me againwith a very crestfallenface.

"It'sgreatly to our credit" he saidas he took my armand led meout--"that's one comfort!"

"Whatis to our credit?"  I asked.

"Mr.Blake! you and I are the two worst amateur detectivesthat evertried their hands at the trade.  The man in the greysuit hasbeen thirty years in the chemist's service.He wassent to the bank to pay money to his master's account--and heknows no more of the Moonstone than the babe unborn."

I askedwhat was to be done next.

"Comeback to my office" said Mr. Bruff.  "Gooseberryandmy second manhaveevidently followed somebody else.  Let us hope that THEY hadtheir eyesabout themat any rate!"

When wereached Gray's Inn Squarethe second man had arrivedtherebefore us.  He had been waiting for more than a quarterof anhour.

"Well!"asked Mr. Bruff.  "What's your news?"

"I amsorry to saysir" replied the man"that I have made amistake.I couldhave taken my oath that I saw Mr. Luker pass something to anelderlygentlemanin a light-coloured paletot.  The elderly gentlemanturns outsirto be a most respectable master iron-monger in Eastcheap."

"Whereis Gooseberry?" asked Mr. Bruff resignedly.

The manstared.  "I don't knowsir.  I have seen nothing ofhimsince Ileft the bank."

Mr. Bruffdismissed the man.  "One of two things" he said tome."EitherGooseberry has run awayor he is hunting on his own account.What doyou say to dining hereon the chance that the boy may comeback in anhour or two?  I have got some good wine in the cellarand we canget a chop from the coffee-house."

We dinedat Mr. Bruff's chambers.  Before the cloth was removed"aperson" was announced as wanting to speak to the lawyer.Was theperson Gooseberry?  No:  only the man who had been employedtofollow Mr.Luker when he left the bank.

Thereportin this casepresented no feature of the slightest interest.Mr. Lukerhad gone back to his own houseand had there dismissedhisguard.  He had not gone out again afterwards.  Towardsdusktheshutters had been put upand the doors had been bolted.The streetbefore the houseand the alley behind the househad beencarefully watched.  No signs of the Indians had been visible.No personwhatever had been seen loitering about the premises.Havingstated these factsthe man waited to know whetherthere wereany further orders.  Mr. Bruff dismissed him forthe night.

"Doyou think Mr. Luker has taken the Moonstone home with him?"I asked.

"Nothe" said Mr. Bruff.  "He would never have dismissedhis two policemenif he hadrun the risk of keeping the Diamond in his own house again."

We waitedanother half-hour for the boyand waited in vain.It wasthen time for Mr. Bruff to go to Hampsteadand for meto returnto Rachel in Portland Place.  I left my cardin chargeof the porter at the chamberswith a line writtenon it tosay that I should be at my lodgings at half past tenthatnight.  The card was to be given to the boyif the boycame back.

Some menhave a knack of keeping appointments; and other menhave aknack of missing them.  I am one of the other men.Add tothisthat I passed the evening at Portland Placeon thesame seat with Rachelin a room forty feet longwith Mrs.Merridew at the further end of it.  Does anybody wonderthat I gothome at half past twelve instead of half past ten?Howthoroughly heartless that person must be!  And how earnestly Ihope I maynever make that person's acquaintance!

My servanthanded me a morsel of paper when he let me in.

I readina neat legal handwritingthese words--"If you pleasesirI amgettingsleepy.  I will come back to-morrow morningbetween nine andten."Inquiryproved that a boywith very extraordinary-looking eyeshad calledandpresented my card and messagehad waited an hourhad done nothingbutfallasleep and wake up againhad written a line for meand had gonehome--aftergravely informing the servant that "he was fit for nothingunless he gothisnight's rest."

At ninethe next morningI was ready for my visitor.  At half pastnineI heardsteps outside my door.  "Come inGooseberry!"  Icalled out."Thankyousir" answered a grave and melancholy voice.  The dooropened.I startedto my feetand confronted--Sergeant Cuff.

"Ithought I would look in hereMr. Blakeon the chance of your beingin townbefore I wrote to Yorkshire" said the Sergeant.

He was asdreary and as lean as ever.  His eyes had not losttheir oldtrick (so subtly noticed in Betteredge's NARRATIVE)of"looking as if they expected something more from you thanyou wereaware of yourself."  Butso far as dress can altera manthegreat Cuff was changed beyond all recognition.He wore abroad-brimmed white hata light shooting jacketwhitetrousersand drab gaiters.  He carried a stout oak stick.His wholeaim and object seemed to be to look as if he hadlived inthe country all his life.  When I complimented himon hisMetamorphosishe declined to take it as a joke.Hecomplainedquite gravelyof the noises and the smellsofLondon.  I declare I am far from sure that he did not speakwith aslightly rustic accent!  I offered him breakfast.Theinnocent countryman was quite shocked.  HIS breakfasthour washalf-past six--and HE went to bed with the cocksand hens!

"Ionly got back from Ireland last night" said the Sergeantcominground to the practical object of his visitin his ownimpenetrablemanner.  "Before I went to bedI read your lettertelling mewhat has happened since my inquiry after the Diamondwassuspended last year.  There's only one thing to be saidabout thematter on my side.  I completely mistook my case.How anyman living was to have seen things in their true lightin such asituation as mine was at the timeI don't professto know. But that doesn't alter the facts as they stand.I own thatI made a mess of it.  Not the first messMr. Blakewhich hasdistinguished my professional career!  It's onlyin booksthat the officers of the detective force are superiorto theweakness of making a mistake."

"Youhave come in the nick of time to recover your reputation"I said.

"Ibeg your pardonMr. Blake" rejoined the Sergeant."NowI have retired from businessI don't care a straw aboutmyreputation.  I have done with my reputationthank God!I am heresirin grateful remembrance of the late LadyVerinder'sliberality to me.  I will go back to my old work--if youwant meand if you will trust me--on that considerationand on noother.  Not a farthing of money is to passif youpleasefrom you to me.  This is on honour.Now tellmeMr. Blakehow the case stands since you wrote tome last."

I told himof the experiment with the opiumand of what had occurredafterwardsat the bank in Lombard Street.  He was greatly struckby theexperiment--it was something entirely new in his experience.And he wasparticularly interested in the theory of Ezra Jenningsrelatingto what I had done with the Diamondafter I had left Rachel'ssitting-roomon the birthday night.

"Idon't hold with Mr. Jennings that you hid the Moonstone"saidSergeant Cuff.  "But I agree with himthat you mustcertainlyhave taken it back to your own room."

"Well?" I asked.  "And what happened then?"

"Haveyou no suspicion yourself of what happenedsir?"

"Nonewhatever."

"HasMr. Bruff no suspicion?"

"Nomore than I have."

SergeantCuff roseand went to my writing-table. He came back witha sealedenvelope.  It was marked "Private;" it was addressedto me;and it hadthe Sergeant's signature in the corner.

"Isuspected the wrong personlast year" he said:"andI may be suspecting the wrong person now.  Wait to opentheenvelopeMr. Blaketill you have got at the truth.And thencompare the name of the guilty personwith the name that Ihavewritten in that sealed letter."
I put theletter into my pocket--and then asked for the Sergeant's opinionof themeasures which we had taken at the bank.

"Verywell intendedsir" he answered"and quite the rightthing to do.But therewas another person who ought to have been looked after besidesMr.Luker."

"Theperson named in the letter you have just given to me?"

"YesMr. Blakethe person named in the letter.  It can't be helpednow.I shallhave something to propose to you and Mr. Bruffsirwhen thetimecomes.  Let's waitfirstand see if the boy has anything totellus that isworth hearing."

It wasclose on ten o'clockand the boy had not made his appearance.SergeantCuff talked of other matters.  He asked after his oldfriendBetteredgeand his old enemy the gardener.  In a minute morehe wouldno doubt have got from thisto the subject of hisfavouriterosesif my servant had not interrupted us by announcingthat theboy was below.

On beingbrought into the roomGooseberry stopped at the threshold ofthe doorand looked distrustfully at the stranger who was in my company.I told theboy to come to me.

"Youmay speak before this gentleman" I said.  "He is hereto assist me;and heknows all that has happened.  Sergeant Cuff" I added"this is the boyfrom Mr.Bruff's office."

In ourmodern system of civilisationcelebrity (no matter of what kind)is thelever that will move anything.  The fame of the great Cuff hadevenreachedthe ears of the small Gooseberry.  The boy's ill-fixed eyesrolledwhen Imentioned the illustrious nametill I thought they really must havedropped onthe carpet.

"Comeheremy lad" said the Sergeantand let's hear what youhave gotto tell us."

The noticeof the great man--the hero of many a famous storyin everylawyer's office in London--appeared to fascinate the boy.He placedhimself in front of Sergeant Cuffand put his handsbehindhimafter the approved fashion of a neophyte who is examinedin hiscatechism.

"Whatis your name?" said the Sergeantbeginning with the firstquestionin thecatechism.

"OctaviusGuy" answered the boy.  "They call me Gooseberryat theoffice because of my eyes."

"OctaviusGuyotherwise Gooseberry" pursued the Sergeantwith theutmost gravity"you were missed at the bank yesterday.What wereyou about?"

"Ifyou pleasesirI was following a man."

"Whowas he?"

"Atall mansirwith a big black bearddressed like a sailor."

"Iremember the man!"  I broke in.  "Mr. Bruff and Ithoughthe was aspy employed by the Indians."

SergeantCuff did not appear to be much impressed by what Mr. Bruff and Ihadthought.  He went on catechising Gooseberry.

"Well?"he said--"and why did you follow the sailor?"

"Ifyou pleasesirMr. Bruff wanted to know whether Mr. Lukerpassedanything to anybody on his way out of the bank.I saw Mr.Luker pass something to the sailor with the black beard."

"Whydidn't you tell Mr. Bruff what you saw?"

"Ihadn't time to tell anybodysirthe sailor went out in such ahurry."

"Andyou ran out after him--eh?"

"Yessir."

"Gooseberry"said the Sergeantpatting his head"you have gotsomethingin that small skull of yours--and it isn't cotton-wool.I amgreatly pleased with youso far."

The boyblushed with pleasure.  Sergeant Cuff went on.

"Well?and what did the sailor dowhen he got into the street?"

"Hecalled a cabsir."

"Andwhat did you do?"

"Heldon behindand run after it.

Before theSergeant could put his next questionanother visitorwasannounced--the head clerk from Mr. Bruff's office.

Feelingthe importance of not interrupting Sergeant Cuff'sexaminationof the boyI received the clerk in another room.He camewith bad news of his employer.  The agitation and excitementof thelast two days had proved too much for Mr. Bruff.He hadawoke that morning with an attack of gout; he was confinedto hisroom at Hampstead; andin the present critical conditionof ouraffairshe was very uneasy at being compelled to leaveme withoutthe advice and assistance of an experienced person.The chiefclerk had received orders to hold himself atmydisposaland was willing to do his best to replaceMr. Bruff.

I wrote atonce to quiet the old gentleman's mindby telling him of SergeantCuff'svisit:  adding that Gooseberry was at that moment underexamination;andpromising to inform Mr. Bruffeither personallyor by letterofwhatever might occur later in the day.  Having despatched theclerktoHampstead with my noteI returned to the room which I had leftandfoundSergeantCuff at the fireplacein the act of ringing the bell.

"Ibeg your pardonMr. Blake" said the Sergeant.  "Iwas justgoing tosend word by your servant that I wanted to speak to you.Thereisn't a doubt on my mind that this boy--this most meritorious boy"added theSergeantpatting Gooseberry on the head"has followedthe rightman.  Precious time has been lostsirthrough yourunfortunatelynot being at home at half past ten last night.The onlything to donowis to send for a cab immediately."

In fiveminutes moreSergeant Cuff and I (with Gooseberryon the boxto guide the driver) were on our way eastwardtowardsthe City.
"Oneof these days" said the Sergeantpointing through the frontwindowof thecab"that boy will do great things in my late profession.He is thebrightest and cleverest little chap I have met withfor many along year past.  You shall hear the substanceMr. Blakeof what hetold me while you were out of the room.  You were presentI thinkwhen he mentioned that he held on behind the caband ranafter it?"

"Yes."

"Wellsirthe cab went from Lombard Street to the Tower Wharf.The sailorwith the black beard got outand spoke to the stewardof theRotterdam steamboatwhich was to start next morning.He askedif he could be allowed to go on board at onceand sleepin hisberth over-night. The steward saidNo. The cabinsand berthsandbedding were all to have a thorough cleaning that eveningand nopassenger could be allowed to come on boardbefore the morning.The sailorturned roundand left the wharf.  When he got intothe streetagainthe boy noticed for the first timea man dressedlike arespectable mechanicwalking on the opposite side of the roadandapparently keeping the sailor in view.  The sailor stoppedat aneating-house in the neighbourhoodand went in.  The boy--not beingable to make up his mindat the moment--hung about amongsome otherboysstaring at the good things in the eating-house window.He noticedthe mechanic waitingas he himself was waiting--but stillon the opposite side of the street.  After a minutea cab cameby slowlyand stopped where the mechanic was standing.The boycould only see plainly one person in the cabwho leaned forward atthe windowto speak to the mechanic.  He described that personMr. Blakewithoutany prompting from meas having a dark facelike the face ofanIndian."

It wasplainby this timethat Mr. Bruff and I had made another mistake.The sailorwith the black beard was clearly not a spy in the serviceof theIndian conspiracy.  Was heby any possibilitythe man who hadgottheDiamond?

"Aftera little" pursued the Sergeant"the cab moved on slowlydown thestreet.  The mechanic crossed the roadand went intotheeating-house. The boy waited outside till he was hungryandtired--and then went into the eating-housein his turn.He had ashilling in his pocket; and he dined sumptuouslyhe tellsmeon a black-puddingan eel-pieand a bottleofginger-beer. What can a boy not digest?  The substanceinquestion has never been found yet."

"Whatdid he see in the eating-house?" I asked.

"WellMr. Blakehe saw the sailor reading the newspaper atone tableand the mechanic reading the newspaper at another.It wasdusk before the sailor got upand left the place.He lookedabout him suspiciously when he got out into the street.Theboy--BEING a boy--passed unnoticed.  The mechanic hadnot comeout yet.  The sailor walked onlooking about himandapparently not very certain of where he was going next.Themechanic appeared once moreon the opposite side of the road.The sailorwent ontill he got to Shore Laneleading intoLowerThames Street.  There he stopped before a public-houseunder thesign of "The Wheel of Fortune" andafter examiningthe placeoutsidewent in.  Gooseberry went in too.  There werea greatmany peoplemostly of the decent sortat the bar."TheWheel of Fortune" is a very respectable houseMr. Blake;famous forits porter and pork-pies."

TheSergeant's digressions irritated me.  He saw it; and confinedhimselfmore strictly to Gooseberry's evidence when he went on.

"Thesailor" he resumed"asked if he could have a bed.Thelandlord said "No; they were full."  The barmaidcorrectedhimand said "Number Ten was empty."  A waiter wassent forto show the sailor to Number Ten.  Just before thatGooseberryhad noticed the mechanic among the people at the bar.Before thewaiter had answered the callthe mechanic had vanished.The sailorwas taken off to his room.  Not knowing what to do nextGooseberryhad the wisdom to wait and see if anything happened.Somethingdid happen.  The landlord was called for.Angryvoices were heard up-stairs. The mechanic suddenly madehisappearance againcollared by the landlordand exhibitingtoGooseberry's great surpriseall the signs and tokensof beingdrunk.  The landlord thrust him out at the doorandthreatened him with the police if he came back.From thealtercation between themwhile this was going onitappeared that the man had been discovered in Number Tenand haddeclared with drunken obstinacy that he had taken the room.Gooseberrywas so struck by this sudden intoxication of apreviouslysober personthat he couldn't resist runningout afterthe mechanic into the street.  As long as he wasin sightof the public-housethe man reeled about in the mostdisgracefulmanner.  The moment he turned the corner of the streetherecovered his balance instantlyand became as sober a memberof societyas you could wish to see.  Gooseberry went backto "TheWheel of Fortune" in a very bewildered state of mind.He waitedabout againon the chance of something happening.Nothinghappened; and nothing more was to be heardor seenof thesailor.  Gooseberry decided on going back to the office.Just as hecame to this conclusionwho should appearon theoppositeside of the street as usualbut the mechanic again!He lookedup at one particular window at the top of thepublic-housewhich was the only one that had a light in it.The lightseemed to relieve his mind.  He left the place directly.The boymade his way back to Gray's Inn--got your cardandmessage--called--and failed to find you.  There you havethe stateof the caseMr. Blakeas it stands at the presenttime."

"Whatis your own opinion of the caseSergeant?"

"Ithink it's serioussir.  Judging by what the boy sawtheIndians are in itto begin with."

"Yes. And the sailor is evidently the person to whom Mr. Lukerpassed theDiamond.  It seems odd that Mr. Bruffand Iand theman in Mr. Bruff's employmentshould all have beenmistakenabout who the person was."

"Notat allMr. Blake.  Considering the risk that person ranit'slikely enough that Mr. Luker purposely misled youbyprevious arrangement between them."

"Doyou understand the proceedings at the public-house?" I asked."Theman dressed like a mechanic was acting of course in the employmentof theIndians.  But I am as much puzzled to account for his suddenassumptionof drunkenness as Gooseberry himself."

"Ithink I can give a guess at what it meanssir" said theSergeant."Ifyou will reflectyou will see that the man must have had some prettystrictinstructions from the Indians.  They were far too noticeablethemselvesto risk being seen at the bankor in the public-house--they wereobliged to trust everything to their deputy.  Very good.Theirdeputy hears a certain number named in the public-houseas thenumber of the room which the sailor is to have for the night--that beingalso the room (unless our notion is all wrong) which the Diamondis to havefor the nighttoo.  Under those circumstancesthe Indiansyou mayrely on itwould insist on having a description of the room--of itsposition in the houseof its capability of being approached fromtheoutsideand so on.  What was the man to dowith such orders asthese?Just whathe did!  He ran up-stairs to get a look at the roombefore thesailor wastaken into it.  He was found theremaking his observations--and heshammed drunkas the easiest way of getting out of the difficulty.That's howI read the riddle.  After he was turned out of the public-househeprobably went with his report to the place where his employerswerewaiting for him.  And his employersno doubtsent him backto makesure that the sailor was really settled at the public-housetill thenext morning.  As for what happened at "The Wheel ofFortune"after theboy left--we ought to have discovered that last night.It'seleven in the morningnow.  We must hope for the bestand findout whatwe can."

In aquarter of an hour morethe cab stopped in Shore LaneandGooseberry opened the door for us to get out.

"Allright?" asked the Sergeant.

"Allright" answered the boy.

The momentwe entered "The Wheel of Fortune" it was plain even to myinexperiencedeyes that there was something wrong in the house.

The onlyperson behind the counter at which the liquors were servedwas abewildered servant girlperfectly ignorant of the business.One or twocustomerswaiting for their morning drinkwere tappingimpatientlyon the counter with their money.  The bar-maid appearedfrom theinner regions of the parlourexcited and preoccupied.Sheanswered Sergeant Cuff's inquiry for the landlordby telling himsharplythat her master was up-stairsand was not to be botheredbyanybody.

"Comealong with mesir" said Sergeant Cuffcoolly leading the wayup-stairsand beckoning to the boy to follow him.

Thebarmaid called to her masterand warned him that strangerswereintruding themselves into the house.  On the first floorwe wereencountered by the Landlordhurrying downin a highlyirritatedstateto see what was the matter.

"Whothe devil are you? and what do you want here?" he asked.

"Keepyour temper" said the Sergeantquietly.  "I'll tellyou who Iam tobegin with.  I am Sergeant Cuff."

Theillustrious name instantly produced its effect.The angrylandlord threw open the door of a sitting-roomand askedthe Sergeant's pardon.

"I amannoyed and out of sortssir--that's the truth" he said."Somethingunpleasant has happened in the house this morning.A man inmy way of business has a deal to upset his temperSergeantCuff."

"Nota doubt of it" said the Sergeant.  "I'll come atonceif youwill allow meto what brings us here.  This gentlemanand I wantto trouble you with a few inquirieson a matterof someinterest to both of us."

"Relatingto whatsir?" asked the landlord.

"Relatingto a dark mandressed like a sailorwho slept here last night."

"GoodGod! that's the man who is upsetting the whole house at this moment!"exclaimedthe landlord.  "Do youor does this gentleman knowanythingabouthim?"

"Wecan't be certain till we see him" answered the Sergeant.

"Seehim?" echoed the landlord.  "That's the one thing thatnobody hasbeen able to do since seven o'clock this morning.That wasthe time when he left wordlast nightthat he wasto becalled.  He WAS called--and there was no getting an answerfrom himand no opening his door to see what was the matter.They triedagain at eightand they tried again at nine.No use! There was the door still locked--and not a soundto beheard in the room!  I have been out this morning--and I onlygot back a quarter of an hour ago.I havehammered at the door myself--and all to no purpose.The potboyhas gone to fetch a carpenter.  If you can wait afewminutesgentlemenwe will have the door openedand see whatit means."

"Wasthe man drunk last night?" asked Sergeant Cuff.

"Perfectlysobersir--or I would never have let him sleep in my house."

"Didhe pay for his bed beforehand?"

"No."

"Couldhe leave the room in any waywithout going out by the door?"

"Theroom is a garret" said the landlord.  "But there's atrap-doorin the ceilingleading out on to the roof--and a littlelower downthe streetthere's an empty house under repair.Do youthinkSergeantthe blackguard has got off in that waywithoutpaying?"

"Asailor" said Sergeant Cuff"might have done it--early inthe morningbefore thestreet was astir.  He would be used to climbingand his headwouldn'tfail him on the roofs of the houses."

As hespokethe arrival of the carpenter was announced.We allwent up-stairsat onceto th