Part 8 out of 12
"There has been an event, sir, in the police-circles, since you went away.
The great Cuff has retired from business. He has got a little
cottage at Dorking; and he's up to his eyes in the growing of roses.
I have it in his own handwriting, Mr. Franklin. He has grown the white
moss rose, without budding it on the dog-rose first. And Mr. Begbie
the gardener is to go to Dorking, and own that the Sergeant has beaten him
"It doesn't much matter," I said. "I must do without Sergeant Cuff's help.
And I must trust to you, at starting."
It is likely enough that I spoke rather carelessly.
At any rate, Betteredge seemed to be piqued by something in the reply which I
had just made to him. "You might trust to worse than me, Mr. Franklin--
I can tell you that," he said a little sharply.
The tone in which he retorted, and a certain disturbance, after he had spoken,
which I detected in his manner, suggested to me that he was possessed of some
information which he hesitated to communicate.
"I expect you to help me," I said, "in picking up the fragments of evidence
which Sergeant Cuff has left behind him. I know you can do that.
Can you do no more?"
"What more can you expect from me, sir?" asked Betteredge,
with an appearance of the utmost humility.
"I expect more--from what you said just now."
"Mere boasting, Mr. Franklin," returned the old man obstinately.
"Some people are born boasters, and they never get over it to their
dying day. I'm one of them."
There was only one way to take with him. I appealed to his interest
in Rachel, and his interest in me.
"Betteredge, would you be glad to hear that Rachel and I
were good friends again?"
"I have served your family, sir, to mighty little purpose,
if you doubt it!"
"Do you remember how Rachel treated me, before I left England?"
"As well as if it was yesterday! My lady herself wrote you a letter
about it; and you were so good as to show the letter to me.
It said that Miss Rachel was mortally offended with you,
for the part you had taken in trying to recover her jewel.
And neither my lady, nor you, nor anybody else could
"Quite true, Betteredge! And I come back from my travels,
and find her mortally offended with me still.
I knew that the Diamond was at the bottom of it, last year,
and I know that the Diamond is at the bottom of it now.
I have tried to speak to her, and she won't see me.
I have tried to write to her, and she won't answer me.
How, in Heaven's name, am I to clear the matter up?
The chance of searching into the loss of the Moonstone,
is the one chance of inquiry that Rachel herself has
Those words evidently put the case before him, as he had not seen it yet.
He asked a question which satisfied me that I had shaken him.
"There is no ill-feeling in this, Mr. Franklin, on your side--
"There was some anger," I answered, "when I left London.
But that is all worn out now. I want to make Rachel come to an
understanding with me--and I want nothing more."
"You don't feel any fear, sir--supposing you make any discoveries--
in regard to what you may find out about Miss Rachel?"
I understood the jealous belief in his young mistress which prompted
"I am as certain of her as you are," I answered. "The fullest disclosure
of her secret will reveal nothing that can alter her place in your estimation,
or in mine."
Betteredge's last-left scruples vanished at that.
"If I am doing wrong to help you, Mr. Franklin," he exclaimed,
"all I can say is--I am as innocent of seeing it as the babe unborn!
I can put you on the road to discovery, if you can only go on by yourself.
You remember that poor girl of ours--Rosanna Spearman?"
"You always thought she had some sort of confession in regard to this
matter of the Moonstone, which she wanted to make to you?"
"I certainly couldn't account for her strange conduct in any other way."
"You may set that doubt at rest, Mr. Franklin, whenever you please."
It was my turn to come to a standstill now. I tried vainly,
in the gathering darkness, to see his face. In the surprise
of the moment, I asked a little impatiently what he meant.
"Steady, sir!" proceeded Betteredge. "I mean what I say.
Rosanna Spearman left a sealed letter behind her--a letter
addressed to YOU."
"Where is it?"
"In the possession of a friend of hers, at Cobb's Hole. You must
have heard tell, when you were here last, sir, of Limping Lucy--
a lame girl with a crutch."
"The fisherman's daughter?"
"The same, Mr. Franklin."
"Why wasn't the letter forwarded to me?"
"Limping Lucy has a will of her own, sir. She wouldn't give it
into any hands but yours. And you had left England before I could
write to you."
"Let's go back, Betteredge, and get it at once!"
"Too late, sir, to-night. They're great savers of candles along our coast;
and they go to bed early at Cobb's Hole."
"Nonsense! We might get there in half an hour."
"You might, sir. And when you did get there, you would find the door locked.
He pointed to a light, glimmering below us; and, at the same moment,
I heard through the stillness of the evening the bubbling of a stream.
"There's the Farm, Mr. Franklin! Make yourself comfortable for to-night, and
come to me to-morrow morning if you'll be so kind?"
"You will go with me to the fisherman's cottage?"
"As early, Mr. Franklin, as you like."
We descended the path that led to the Farm.
I have only the most indistinct recollection of what happened
at Hotherstone's Farm.
I remember a hearty welcome; a prodigious supper, which would
have fed a whole village in the East; a delightfully clean bedroom,
with nothing in it to regret but that detestable product of the folly
of our fore-fathers--a feather-bed; a restless night, with much
kindling of matches, and many lightings of one little candle;
and an immense sensation of relief when the sun rose, and there was
a prospect of getting up.
It had been arranged over-night with Betteredge, that I was to call for him,
on our way to Cobb's Hole, as early as I liked--which, interpreted by my
impatience to get possession of the letter, meant as early as I could.
Without waiting for breakfast at the Farm, I took a crust of bread in my hand,
and set forth, in some doubt whether I should not surprise the excellent
Betteredge in his bed. To my great relief he proved to be quite as excited
about the coming event as I was. I found him ready, and waiting for me,
with his stick in his hand.
"How are you this morning, Betteredge?"
"Very poorly, sir."
"Sorry to hear it. What do you complain of?"
"I complain of a new disease, Mr. Franklin, of my own inventing.
I don't want to alarm you, but you're certain to catch it before
the morning is out."
"The devil I am!"
"Do you feel an uncomfortable heat at the pit of your stomach,
sir? and a nasty thumping at the top of your head? Ah! not yet?
It will lay hold of you at Cobb's Hole, Mr. Franklin. I call
it the detective-fever; and I first caught it in the company of
"Aye! aye! and the cure in this instance is to open Rosanna Spearman's letter,
I suppose? Come along, and let's get it."
Early as it was, we found the fisherman's wife astir in her kitchen.
On my presentation by Betteredge, good Mrs. Yolland performed
a social ceremony, strictly reserved (as I afterwards learnt)
for strangers of distinction. She put a bottle of Dutch gin and a couple
of clean pipes on the table, and opened the conversation by saying,
"What news from London, sir?"
Before I could find an answer to this immensely comprehensive question,
an apparition advanced towards me, out of a dark corner of the kitchen.
A wan, wild, haggard girl, with remarkably beautiful hair, and with a fierce
keenness in her eyes, came limping up on a crutch to the table at which I
was sitting, and looked at me as if I was an object of mingled interest
and horror, which it quite fascinated her to see.
"Mr. Betteredge," she said, without taking her eyes off me,
"mention his name again, if you please."
"This gentleman's name," answered Betteredge (with a strong
emphasis on GENTLEMAN), "is Mr. Franklin Blake."
The girl turned her back on me, and suddenly left the room.
Good Mrs. Yolland--as I believe--made some apologies for her
daughter's odd behaviour, and Betteredge (probably) translated them
into polite English. I speak of this in complete uncertainty.
My attention was absorbed in following the sound of the girl's crutch.
Thump-thump, up the wooden stairs; thump-thump across the room
above our heads; thump-thump down the stairs again--and there
stood the apparition at the open door, with a letter in its hand,
beckoning me out!
I left more apologies in course of delivery behind me, and followed
this strange creature--limping on before me, faster and faster--
down the slope of the beach. She led me behind some boats,
out of sight and hearing of the few people in the fishing-village,
and then stopped, and faced me for the first time.
"Stand there," she said, "I want to look at you."
There was no mistaking the expression on her face. I inspired
her with the strongest emotions of abhorrence and disgust.
Let me not be vain enough to say that no woman had ever looked
at me in this manner before. I will only venture on the more
modest assertion that no woman had ever let me perceive it yet.
There is a limit to the length of the inspection which a man
can endure, under certain circumstances. I attempted to direct
Limping Lucy's attention to some less revolting object than
"I think you have got a letter to give me," I began. "Is it the letter there,
in your hand?"
"Say that again," was the only answer I received.
I repeated the words, like a good child learning its lesson.
"No," said the girl, speaking to herself, but keeping her eyes
still mercilessly fixed on me. "I can't find out what she saw
in his face. I can't guess what she heard in his voice."
She suddenly looked away from me, and rested her head wearily
on the top of her crutch. "Oh, my poor dear!" she said,
in the first soft tones which had fallen from her, in my hearing.
"Oh, my lost darling! what could you see in this man?"
She lifted her head again fiercely, and looked at me once more.
"Can you eat and drink?" she asked.
I did my best to preserve my gravity, and answered, "Yes."
"Can you sleep?"
"When you see a poor girl in service, do you feel no remorse?"
"Certainly not. Why should I?"
She abruptly thrust the letter (as the phrase is) into my face.
"Take it!" she exclaimed furiously. "I never set eyes on you before.
God Almighty forbid I should ever set eyes on you again."
With those parting words she limped away from me at the top of her speed.
The one interpretation that I could put on her conduct has, no doubt,
been anticipated by everybody. I could only suppose that she was mad.
Having reached that inevitable conclusion, I turned to the more
interesting object of investigation which was presented to me
by Rosanna Spearman's letter. The address was written as
follows:--'For Franklin Blake, Esq. To be given into his own hands
(and not to be trusted to any one else), by Lucy Yolland."
I broke the seal. The envelope contained a letter: and this, in its turn,
contained a slip of paper. I read the letter first:--
"Sir,--If you are curious to know the meaning of my behaviour to you,
whilst you were staying in the house of my mistress, Lady Verinder,
do what you are told to do in the memorandum enclosed with this--
and do it without any person being present to overlook you.
Your humble servant,
I turned to the slip of paper next. Here is the literal copy of it,
word for word:
"Memorandum:--To go to the Shivering Sand at the turn of the tide.
To walk out on the South Spit, until I get the South Spit Beacon,
and the flagstaff at the Coast-guard station above Cobb's Hole in a
line together. To lay down on the rocks, a stick, or any straight thing
to guide my hand, exactly in the line of the beacon and the flagstaff.
To take care, in doing this, that one end of the stick shall be at
the edge of the rocks, on the side of them which overlooks the quicksand.
To feel along the stick, among the sea-weed (beginning from the end
of the stick which points towards the beacon), for the Chain.
To run my hand along the Chain, when found, until I come to the part of it
which stretches over the edge of the rocks, down into the quicksand.
AND THEN TO PULL THE CHAIN."
Just as I had read the last words--underlined in the original--
I heard the voice of Betteredge behind me. The inventor of the
detective-fever had completely succumbed to that irresistible malady.
"I can't stand it any longer, Mr. Franklin. What does her letter say?
For mercy's sake, sir, tell us, what does her letter say?"
I handed him the letter, and the memorandum. He read the first without
appearing to be much interested in it. But the second--the memorandum--
produced a strong impression on him.
"The Sergeant said it!" cried Betteredge. "From first to last, sir,
the Sergeant said she had got a memorandum of the hiding-place.
And here it is! Lord save us, Mr. Franklin, here is the secret
that puzzled everybody, from the great Cuff downwards,
ready and waiting, as one may say, to show itself to YOU!
It's the ebb now, sir, as anybody may see for themselves.
How long will it be till the turn of the tide?" He looked up,
and observed a lad at work, at some little distance from us,
mending a net. "Tammie Bright!" he shouted at the top of
"I hear you!" Tammie shouted back.
"When's the turn of the tide?"
"In an hour's time."
We both looked at our watches.
"We can go round by the coast, Mr. Franklin," said Betteredge;
"and get to the quicksand in that way with plenty of time to spare.
What do you say, sir?"
On our way to the Shivering Sand, I applied to Betteredge to revive
my memory of events (as affecting Rosanna Spearman) at the period
of Sergeant Cuff's inquiry. With my old friend's help, I soon
had the succession of circumstances clearly registered in my mind.
Rosanna's journey to Frizinghall, when the whole household believed
her to be ill in her own room--Rosanna's mysterious employment
of the night-time with her door locked, and her candle burning till
the morning--Rosanna's suspicious purchase of the japanned tin case,
and the two dog's chains from Mrs. Yolland--the Sergeant's positive
conviction that Rosanna had hidden something at the Shivering Sand,
and the Sergeant's absolute ignorance as to what that something might be--
all these strange results of the abortive inquiry into the loss
of the Moonstone were clearly present to me again, when we reached
the quicksand, and walked out together on the low ledge of rocks called
the South Spit.
With Betteredge's help, I soon stood in the right position to see
the Beacon and the Coast-guard flagstaff in a line together.
Following the memorandum as our guide, we next laid my stick
in the necessary direction, as neatly as we could, on the uneven
surface of the rocks. And then we looked at our watches
It wanted nearly twenty minutes yet of the turn of the tide.
I suggested waiting through this interval on the beach,
instead of on the wet and slippery surface of the rocks.
Having reached the dry sand, I prepared to sit down; and, greatly to
my surprise, Betteredge prepared to leave me.
"What are you going away for?" I asked.
"Look at the letter again, sir, and you will see."
A glance at the letter reminded me that I was charged, when I made
my discovery, to make it alone.
"It's hard enough for me to leave you, at such a time as this,"
said Betteredge. "But she died a dreadful death, poor soul--
and I feel a kind of call on me, Mr. Franklin, to humour that fancy
of hers. Besides," he added, confidentially, "there's nothing
in the letter against your letting out the secret afterwards.
I'll hang about in the fir plantation, and wait till you pick me up.
Don't be longer than you can help, sir. The detective-fever isn't an easy
disease to deal with, under THESE circumstances."
With that parting caution, he left me.
The interval of expectation, short as it was when reckoned by the measure
of time, assumed formidable proportions when reckoned by the measure
of suspense. This was one of the occasions on which the invaluable habit
of smoking becomes especially precious and consolatory. I lit a cigar,
and sat down on the slope of the beach.
The sunlight poured its unclouded beauty on every object that I could see.
The exquisite freshness of the air made the mere act of living and breathing
a luxury. Even the lonely little bay welcomed the morning with a show
of cheerfulness; and the bared wet surface of the quicksand itself,
glittering with a golden brightness, hid the horror of its false brown face
under a passing smile. It was the finest day I had seen since my return
The turn of the tide came, before my cigar was finished.
I saw the preliminary heaving of the Sand, and then the awful
shiver that crept over its surface--as if some spirit of terror
lived and moved and shuddered in the fathomless deeps beneath.
I threw away my cigar, and went back again to the rocks.
My directions in the memorandum instructed me to feel along the line traced
by the stick, beginning with the end which was nearest to the beacon.
I advanced, in this manner, more than half way along the stick,
without encountering anything but the edges of the rocks.
An inch or two further on, however, my patience was rewarded.
In a narrow little fissure, just within reach of my forefinger,
I felt the chain. Attempting, next, to follow it, by touch,
in the direction of the quicksand, I found my progress stopped by a
thick growth of seaweed--which had fastened itself into the fissure,
no doubt, in the time that had elapsed since Rosanna Spearman had
chosen her hiding-place.
It was equally impossible to pull up the seaweed, or to force
my hand through it. After marking the spot indicated by the end
of the stick which was placed nearest to the quicksand,
I determined to pursue the search for the chain on a plan
of my own. My idea was to "sound" immediately under the rocks,
on the chance of recovering the lost trace of the chain at
the point at which it entered the sand. I took up the stick,
and knelt down on the brink of the South Spit.
In this position, my face was within a few feet of the surface
of the quicksand. The sight of it so near me, still disturbed
at intervals by its hideous shivering fit, shook my nerves
for the moment. A horrible fancy that the dead woman might
appear on the scene of her suicide, to assist my search--
an unutterable dread of seeing her rise through the heaving
surface of the sand, and point to the place--forced itself
into my mind, and turned me cold in the warm sunlight.
I own I closed my eyes at the moment when the point of the stick
first entered the quicksand.
The instant afterwards, before the stick could have been submerged more
than a few inches, I was free from the hold of my own superstitious terror,
and was throbbing with excitement from head to foot. Sounding blindfold,
at my first attempt--at that first attempt I had sounded right! The stick
struck the chain.
Taking a firm hold of the roots of the seaweed with my left hand,
I laid myself down over the brink, and felt with my right hand
under the overhanging edges of the rock. My right hand found
I drew it up without the slightest difficulty. And there was the japanned
tin case fastened to the end of it.
The action of the water had so rusted the chain, that it was impossible
for me to unfasten it from the hasp which attached it to the case.
Putting the case between my knees and exerting my utmost strength,
I contrived to draw off the cover. Some white substance filled the whole
interior when I looked in. I put in my hand, and found it to be linen.
In drawing out the linen, I also drew out a letter crumpled up with it.
After looking at the direction, and discovering that it bore my name,
I put the letter in my pocket, and completely removed the linen.
It came out in a thick roll, moulded, of course, to the shape of the case
in which it had been so long confined, and perfectly preserved from any injury
by the sea.
I carried the linen to the dry sand of the beach, and there unrolled
and smoothed it out. There was no mistaking it as an article of dress.
It was a nightgown.
The uppermost side, when I spread it out, presented to
view innumerable folds and creases, and nothing more.
I tried the undermost side, next--and instantly discovered
the smear of the paint from the door of Rachel's boudoir!
My eyes remained riveted on the stain, and my mind took me back at a leap
from present to past. The very words of Sergeant Cuff recurred to me,
as if the man himself was at my side again, pointing to the unanswerable
inference which he drew from the smear on the door.
"Find out whether there is any article of dress in this house
with the stain of paint on it. Find out who that dress belongs to.
Find out how the person can account for having been in the room,
and smeared the paint between midnight and three in the morning.
If the person can't satisfy you, you haven't far to look for the hand that
took the Diamond."
One after another those words travelled over my memory,
repeating themselves again and again with a wearisome,
mechanical reiteration. I was roused from what felt like a
trance of many hours--from what was really, no doubt, the pause
of a few moments only--by a voice calling to me. I looked up,
and saw that Betteredge's patience had failed him at last.
He was just visible between the sandhills, returning to
The old man's appearance recalled me, the moment I perceived it,
to my sense of present things, and reminded me that the inquiry
which I had pursued thus far still remained incomplete.
I had discovered the smear on the nightgown. To whom did
the nightgown belong?
My first impulse was to consult the letter in my pocket--
the letter which I had found in the case.
As I raised my hand to take it out, I remembered that there
was a shorter way to discovery than this. The nightgown
itself would reveal the truth, for, in all probability,
the nightgown was marked with its owner's name.
I took it up from the sand, and looked for the mark.
I found the mark, and read--
MY OWN NAME.
There were the familiar letters which told me that the nightgown was mine.
I looked up from them. There was the sun; there were the glittering waters
of the bay; there was old Betteredge, advancing nearer and nearer to me.
I looked back again at the letters. My own name. Plainly confronting me--
my own name.
"If time, pains, and money can do it, I will lay my hand on the thief
who took the Moonstone."--I had left London, with those words on my lips.
I had penetrated the secret which the quicksand had kept from every other
living creature. And, on the unanswerable evidence of the paint-stain, I
had discovered Myself as the Thief.
I have not a word to say about my own sensations.
My impression is that the shock inflicted on me completely
suspended my thinking and feeling power. I certainly could
not have known what I was about when Betteredge joined me--
for I have it on his authority that I laughed, when he asked
what was the matter, and putting the nightgown into his hands,
told him to read the riddle for himself.
Of what was said between us on the beach, I have not
the faintest recollection. The first place in which I can
now see myself again plainly is the plantation of firs.
Betteredge and I are walking back together to the house;
and Betteredge is telling me that I shall be able to face it,
and he will be able to face it, when we have had a glass
The scene shifts from the plantation, to Betteredge's little
sitting-room. My resolution not to enter Rachel's house is forgotten.
I feel gratefully the coolness and shadiness and quiet of the room.
I drink the grog (a perfectly new luxury to me, at that time of day),
which my good old friend mixes with icy-cold water from the well.
Under any other circumstances, the drink would simply stupefy me.
As things are, it strings up my nerves. I begin to "face it,"
as Betteredge has predicted. And Betteredge, on his side, begins to
"face it," too.
The picture which I am now presenting of myself, will, I suspect,
be thought a very strange one, to say the least of it.
Placed in a situation which may, I think, be described as entirely
without parallel, what is the first proceeding to which I resort?
Do I seclude myself from all human society? Do I set my mind
to analyse the abominable impossibility which, nevertheless,
confronts me as an undeniable fact? Do I hurry back to London
by the first train to consult the highest authorities,
and to set a searching inquiry on foot immediately?
No. I accept the shelter of a house which I had resolved
never to degrade myself by entering again; and I sit,
tippling spirits and water in the company of an old servant,
at ten o'clock in the morning. Is this the conduct that might
have been expected from a man placed in my horrible position?
I can only answer that the sight of old Betteredge's familiar
face was an inexpressible comfort to me, and that the drinking
of old Betteredge's grog helped me, as I believe nothing else
would have helped me, in the state of complete bodily and mental
prostration into which I had fallen. I can only offer this
excuse for myself; and I can only admire that invariable
preservation of dignity, and that strictly logical consistency
of conduct which distinguish every man and woman who may read
these lines, in every emergency of their lives from the cradle to
"Now, Mr. Franklin, there's one thing certain, at any rate,"
said Betteredge, throwing the nightgown down on the table between us,
and pointing to it as if it was a living creature that could hear him.
"HE'S a liar, to begin with."
This comforting view of the matter was not the view that presented
itself to my mind.
"I am as innocent of all knowledge of having taken the Diamond as you are,"
I said. "But there is the witness against me! The paint on the nightgown,
and the name on the nightgown are facts."
Betteredge lifted my glass, and put it persuasively into my hand.
"Facts?" he repeated. "Take a drop more grog, Mr. Franklin,
and you'll get over the weakness of believing in facts!
Foul play, sir!" he continued, dropping his voice confidentially.
"That is how I read the riddle. Foul play somewhere--and you
and I must find it out. Was there nothing else in the tin case,
when you put your hand into it?"
The question instantly reminded me of the letter in my pocket.
I took it out, and opened it. It was a letter of many pages,
closely written. I looked impatiently for the signature at the end.
As I read the name, a sudden remembrance illuminated my mind,
and a sudden suspicion rose out of the new light.
"Stop!" I exclaimed. "Rosanna Spearman came to my aunt out
of a reformatory? Rosanna Spearman had once been a thief?"
"There's no denying that, Mr. Franklin. What of it now,
if you please?"
"What of it now? How do we know she may not have stolen the Diamond
after all? How do we know she may not have smeared my nightgown
purposely with the paint?"
Betteredge laid his hand on my arm, and stopped me before I could
say any more.
"You will be cleared of this, Mr. Franklin, beyond all doubt.
But I hope you won't be cleared in THAT way. See what
the letter says, sir. In justice to the girl's memory,
see what it says."
I felt the earnestness with which he spoke--felt it as a friendly rebuke
to me. "You shall form your own judgment on her letter," I said.
"I will read it out."
I began--and read these lines:
"Sir--I have something to own to you. A confession which means much misery,
may sometimes be made in very few words. This confession can be made in
three words. I love you.
The letter dropped from my hand. I looked at Betteredge.
"In the name of Heaven," I said, "what does it mean?"
He seemed to shrink from answering the question.
"You and Limping Lucy were alone together this morning, sir, he said.
"Did she say nothing about Rosanna Spearman?"
"She never even mentioned Rosanna Spearman's name."
"Please to go back to the letter, Mr. Franklin. I tell you plainly,
I can't find it in my heart to distress you, after what you have had to
bear already. Let her speak for herself, sir. And get on with your grog.
For your own sake, get on with your grog."
I resumed the reading of the letter.
"It would be very disgraceful to me to tell you this, if I was a living woman
when you read it. I shall be dead and gone, sir, when you find my letter.
It is that which makes me bold. Not even my grave will be left to tell
of me. I may own the truth--with the quicksand waiting to hide me when the
words are written.
"Besides, you will find your nightgown in my hiding-place,
with the smear of the paint on it; and you will want to know
how it came to be hidden by me? and why I said nothing to you
about it in my life-time? I have only one reason to give.
I did these strange things, because I loved you.
"I won't trouble you with much about myself, or my life,
before you came to my lady's house. Lady Verinder took me
out of a reformatory. I had gone to the reformatory from
the prison. I was put in the prison, because I was a thief.
I was a thief, because my mother went on the streets when I
was quite a little girl. My mother went on the streets,
because the gentleman who was my father deserted her.
There is no need to tell such a common story as this, at any length.
It is told quite often enough in the newspapers.
"Lady Verinder was very kind to me, and Mr. Betteredge was very kind to me.
Those two, and the matron at the reformatory, are the only good people
I have ever met with in all my life. I might have got on in my place--
not happily--but I might have got on, if you had not come visiting.
I don't blame you, sir. It's my fault--all my fault.
"Do you remember when you came out on us from among the sand hills,
that morning, looking for Mr. Betteredge? You were like a
prince in a fairy-story. You were like a lover in a dream.
You were the most adorable human creature I had ever seen.
Something that felt like the happy life I had never led yet,
leapt up in me at the instant I set eyes on you. Don't laugh
at this if you can help it. Oh, if I could only make you feel how
serious it is to ME!
"I went back to the house, and wrote your name and mine in my work-box,
and drew a true lovers' knot under them. Then, some devil--no, I ought
to say some good angel--whispered to me, "Go and look in the glass."
The glass told me--never mind what. I was too foolish to take the warning.
I went on getting fonder and fonder of you, just as if I was a lady in your
own rank of life, and the most beautiful creature your eyes ever rested on.
I tried--oh, dear, how I tried--to get you to look at me. If you had
known how I used to cry at night with the misery and the mortification
of your never taking any notice of me, you would have pitied me perhaps,
and have given me a look now and then to live on.
"It would have been no very kind look, perhaps, if you had known how I hated
Miss Rachel. I believe I found out you were in love with her, before you knew
it yourself. She used to give you roses to wear in your button-hole. Ah,
Mr. Franklin, you wore my roses oftener than either you or she thought!
The only comfort I had at that time, was putting my rose secretly in your
glass of water, in place of hers--and then throwing her rose away.
"If she had been really as pretty as you thought her,
I might have borne it better. No; I believe I should have
been more spiteful against her still. Suppose you put Miss
Rachel into a servant's dress, and took her ornaments off?
I don't know what is the use of my writing in this way.
It can't be denied that she had a bad figure; she was too thin.
But who can tell what the men like? And young ladies may
behave in a manner which would cost a servant her place.
It's no business of mine. I can't expect you to read
my letter, if I write it in this way. But it does stir
one up to hear Miss Rachel called pretty, when one knows
all the time that it's her dress does it, and her confidence
"Try not to lose patience with me, sir. I will get on as fast as I can
to the time which is sure to interest you--the time when the Diamond
"But there is one thing which I have got it on my mind to tell you first.
"My life was not a very hard life to bear, while I was a thief.
It was only when they had taught me at the reformatory to feel
my own degradation, and to try for better things, that the days
grew long and weary. Thoughts of the future forced themselves
on me now. I felt the dreadful reproach that honest people--
even the kindest of honest people--were to me in themselves.
A heart-breaking sensation of loneliness kept with me, go where
I might, and do what I might, and see what persons I might.
It was my duty, I know, to try and get on with my fellow-servants
in my new place. Somehow, I couldn't make friends with them.
They looked (or I thought they looked) as if they suspected
what I had been. I don't regret, far from it, having been
roused to make the effort to be a reformed woman--but, indeed,
indeed it was a weary life. You had come across it like a beam
of sunshine at first--and then you too failed me. I was mad
enough to love you; and I couldn't even attract your notice.
There was great misery--there really was great misery
"Now I am coming to what I wanted to tell you. In those days
of bitterness, I went two or three times, when it was my turn to
go out, to my favourite place--the beach above the Shivering Sand.
And I said to myself, "I think it will end here. When I can bear
it no longer, I think it will end here." You will understand, sir,
that the place had laid a kind of spell on me before you came.
I had always had a notion that something would happen to me at
the quicksand. But I had never looked at it, with the thought
of its being the means of my making away with myself, till the time
came of which I am now writing. Then I did think that here was
a place which would end all my troubles for me in a moment or two--
and hide me for ever afterwards.
"This is all I have to say about myself, reckoning from the morning
when I first saw you, to the morning when the alarm was raised
in the house that the Diamond was lost.
"I was so aggravated by the foolish talk among the women servants,
all wondering who was to be suspected first; and I was so angry with you
(knowing no better at that time) for the pains you took in hunting for
the jewel, and sending for the police, that I kept as much as possible away
by myself, until later in the day, when the officer from Frizinghall came
to the house.
"Mr. Seegrave began, as you may remember, by setting a guard
on the women's bedrooms; and the women all followed him up-stairs
in a rage, to know what he meant by the insult he had put on them.
I went with the rest, because if I had done anything different
from the rest, Mr. Seegrave was the sort of man who would have
suspected me directly. We found him in Miss Rachel's room.
He told us he wouldn't have a lot of women there;
and he pointed to the smear on the painted door, and said
some of our petticoats had done the mischief, and sent us all
"After leaving Miss Rachel's room, I stopped a moment on one of the landings,
by myself, to see if I had got the paint-stain by any chance on MY gown.
Penelope Betteredge (the only one of the women with whom I was on
friendly terms) passed, and noticed what I was about.
"'You needn't trouble yourself, Rosanna,' she said.
'The paint on Miss Rachel's door has been dry for hours.
If Mr. Seegrave hadn't set a watch on our bedrooms,
I might have told him as much. I don't know what you think--
I was never so insulted before in my life!'
"Penelope was a hot-tempered girl. I quieted her, and brought her back
to what she had said about the paint on the door having been dry for hours.
"'How do you know that?' I asked.
"'I was with Miss Rachel, and Mr. Franklin, all yesterday morning,'
Penelope said, 'mixing the colours, while they finished the door.
I heard Miss Rachel ask whether the door would be dry that evening,
in time for the birthday company to see it. And Mr. Franklin shook
his head, and said it wouldn't be dry in less than twelve hours.
It was long past luncheon-time--it was three o'clock before they had done.
What does your arithmetic say, Rosanna? Mine says the door was dry by
three this morning.'
"'Did some of the ladies go up-stairs yesterday evening to see it?'
I asked. 'I thought I heard Miss Rachel warning them to keep clear
of the door.'
"'None of the ladies made the smear,' Penelope answered.
'I left Miss Rachel in bed at twelve last night. And I noticed
the door, and there was nothing wrong with it then.'
"'Oughtn't you to mention this to Mr. Seegrave, Penelope?'
"'I wouldn't say a word to help Mr. Seegrave for anything that could
be offered to me!'
"She went to her work, and I went to mine."
"My work, sir, was to make your bed, and to put your room tidy.
It was the happiest hour I had in the whole day. I used
to kiss the pillow on which your head had rested all night.
No matter who has done it since, you have never had your
clothes folded as nicely as I folded them for you.
Of all the little knick-knacks in your dressing-case,
there wasn't one that had so much as a speck on it.
You never noticed it, any more than you noticed me. I beg
your pardon; I am forgetting myself. I will make haste, and go
"Well, I went in that morning to do my work in your room.
There was your nightgown tossed across the bed, just as you
had thrown it off. I took it up to fold it--and I saw the stain
of the paint from Miss Rachel's door!
"I was so startled by the discovery that I ran out with the nightgown in
my hand, and made for the back stairs, and locked myself into my own room,
to look at it in a place where nobody could intrude and interrupt me.
"As soon as I got my breath again, I called to mind my talk with Penelope,
and I said to myself, "Here's the proof that he was in Miss Rachel's
sitting-room between twelve last night, and three this morning!"
"I shall not tell you in plain words what was the first
suspicion that crossed my mind, when I had made that discovery.
You would only be angry--and, if you were angry, you might tear
my letter up and read no more of it.
"Let it be enough, if you please, to say only this.
After thinking it over to the best of my ability, I made it out
that the thing wasn't likely, for a reason that I will tell you.
If you had been in Miss Rachel's sitting-room, at that time
of night, with Miss Rachel's knowledge (and if you had been
foolish enough to forget to take care of the wet door) SHE would
have reminded you--SHE would never have let you carry away such
a witness against her, as the witness I was looking at now!
At the same time, I own I was not completely certain in my
own mind that I had proved my own suspicion to be wrong.
You will not have forgotten that I have owned to hating Miss Rachel.
Try to think, if you can, that there was a little of that hatred
in all this. It ended in my determining to keep the nightgown,
and to wait, and watch, and see what use I might make of it.
At that time, please to remember, not the ghost of an idea
entered my head that you had stolen the Diamond."
There, I broke off in the reading of the letter for the second time.
I had read those portions of the miserable woman's confession
which related to myself, with unaffected surprise, and, I can
honestly add, with sincere distress. I had regretted,
truly regretted, the aspersion which I had thoughtlessly
cast on her memory, before I had seen a line of her letter.
But when I had advanced as far as the passage which is quoted above,
I own I felt my mind growing bitterer and bitterer against
Rosanna Spearman as I went on. "Read the rest for yourself,"
I said, handing the letter to Betteredge across the table.
"If there is anything in it that I must look at, you can tell me
as you go on."
"I understand you, Mr. Franklin," he answered. "It's natural, sir, in YOU.
And, God help us all!" he added, in a lower tone, "it's no less natural
I proceed to copy the continuation of the letter from the original,
in my own possession:--
"Having determined to keep the nightgown, and to see what use my love,
or my revenge (I hardly know which) could turn it to in the future,
the next thing to discover was how to keep it without the risk of being
"There was only one way--to make another nightgown exactly like it,
before Saturday came, and brought the laundry-woman and her inventory
to the house
"I was afraid to put it off till next day (the Friday);
being in doubt lest some accident might happen in the interval.
I determined to make the new nightgown on that same day
(the Thursday), while I could count, if I played my cards properly,
on having my time to myself. The first thing to do
(after locking up your nightgown in my drawer) was to go
back to your bed-room--not so much to put it to rights
(Penelope would have done that for me, if I had asked her)
as to find out whether you had smeared off any of the paint-stain
from your nightgown, on the bed, or on any piece of furniture in
"I examined everything narrowly, and at last, I found a few
streaks of the paint on the inside of your dressing-gown--
not the linen dressing-gown you usually wore in that summer season,
but a flannel dressing-gown which you had with you also.
I suppose you felt chilly after walking to and fro in nothing
but your nightdress, and put on the warmest thing you could find.
At any rate, there were the stains, just visible, on the inside
of the dressing-gown. I easily got rid of these by scraping
away the stuff of the flannel. This done, the only proof left
against you was the proof locked up in my drawer.
"I had just finished your room when I was sent for to be questioned
by Mr. Seegrave, along with the rest of the servants. Next came
the examination of all our boxes. And then followed the most extraordinary
event of the day--to ME--since I had found the paint on your nightgown.
This event came out of the second questioning of Penelope Betteredge
by Superintendent Seegrave.
"Penelope returned to us quite beside herself with rage
at the manner in which Mr. Seegrave had treated her.
He had hinted, beyond the possibility of mistaking him,
that he suspected her of being the thief. We were all equally
astonished at hearing this, and we all asked, Why?
"'Because the Diamond was in Miss Rachel's sitting-room," Penelope answered.
"And because I was the last person in the sitting-room at night!"
"Almost before the words had left her lips, I remembered that another person
had been in the sitting-room later than Penelope. That person was yourself.
My head whirled round, and my thoughts were in dreadful confusion.
In the midst of it all, something in my mind whispered to me that the smear on
your nightgown might have a meaning entirely different to the meaning which I
had given to it up to that time. "If the last person who was in the room is
the person to be suspected," I thought to myself, "the thief is not Penelope,
but Mr. Franklin Blake!"
"In the case of any other gentleman, I believe I should have been
ashamed of suspecting him of theft, almost as soon as the suspicion
had passed through my mind.
"But the bare thought that YOU had let yourself down to my level,
and that I, in possessing myself of your nightgown, had also possessed
myself of the means of shielding you from being discovered,
and disgraced for life--I say, sir, the bare thought of this seemed
to open such a chance before me of winning your good will, that I
passed blindfold, as one may say, from suspecting to believing.
I made up my mind, on the spot, that you had shown yourself the busiest
of anybody in fetching the police, as a blind to deceive us all;
and that the hand which had taken Miss Rachel's jewel could by no
possibility be any other hand than yours.
"The excitement of this new discovery of mine must, I think,
have turned my head for a while. I felt such a devouring eagerness
to see you--to try you with a word or two about the Diamond,
and to MAKE you look at me, and speak to me, in that way--
that I put my hair tidy, and made myself as nice as I could,
and went to you boldly in the library where I knew you
"You had left one of your rings up-stairs, which made
as good an excuse for my intrusion as I could have desired.
But, oh, sir! if you have ever loved, you will understand how it
was that all my courage cooled, when I walked into the room,
and found myself in your presence. And then, you looked up
at me so coldly, and you thanked me for finding your ring
in such an indifferent manner, that my knees trembled under me,
and I felt as if I should drop on the floor at your feet.
When you had thanked me, you looked back, if you remember,
at your writing. I was so mortified at being treated
in this way, that I plucked up spirit enough to speak.
I said, 'This is a strange thing about the Diamond, sir.'
And you looked up again, and said, 'Yes, it is!'
You spoke civilly (I can't deny that); but still you kept
a distance--a cruel distance between us. Believing, as I did,
that you had got the lost Diamond hidden about you, while you
were speaking, your coolness so provoked me that I got
bold enough, in the heat of the moment, to give you a hint.
I said, 'They will never find the Diamond, sir, will they?
No! nor the person who took it--I'll answer for that.'
I nodded, and smiled at you, as much as to say, 'I know!'
THIS time, you looked up at me with something like interest
in your eyes; and I felt that a few more words on your side
and mine might bring out the truth. Just at that moment,
Mr. Betteredge spoilt it all by coming to the door.
I knew his footstep, and I also knew that it was against
his rules for me to be in the library at that time of day--
let alone being there along with you. I had only just time to get
out of my own accord, before he could come in and tell me to go.
I was angry and disappointed; but I was not entirely without
hope for all that. The ice, you see, was broken between us--
and I thought I would take care, on the next occasion,
that Mr. Betteredge was out of the way.
"When I got back to the servants' hall, the bell was going for our dinner.
Afternoon already! and the materials for making the new nightgown were
still to be got! There was but one chance of getting them. I shammed ill
at dinner; and so secured the whole of the interval from then till tea-time
to my own use.
"What I was about, while the household believed me to be lying down
in my own room; and how I spent the night, after shamming ill again at
tea-time, and having been sent up to bed, there is no need to tell you.
Sergeant Cuff discovered that much, if he discovered nothing more.
And I can guess how. I was detected (though I kept my veil down)
in the draper's shop at Frizinghall. There was a glass in front of me,
at the counter where I was buying the longcloth; and--in that glass--
I saw one of the shopmen point to my shoulder and whisper to another.
At night again, when I was secretly at work, locked into my room,
I heard the breathing of the women servants who suspected me, outside my
"It didn't matter then; it doesn't matter now. On the Friday morning,
hours before Sergeant Cuff entered the house, there was the new nightgown--
to make up your number in place of the nightgown that I had got--
made, wrung out, dried, ironed, marked, and folded as the laundry woman
folded all the others, safe in your drawer. There was no fear (if the linen
in the house was examined) of the newness of the nightgown betraying me.
All your underclothing had been renewed, when you came to our house--
I suppose on your return home from foreign parts.
"The next thing was the arrival of Sergeant Cuff; and the next great surprise
was the announcement of what HE thought about the smear on the door.
"I had believed you to be guilty (as I have owned), more
because I wanted you to be guilty than for any other reason.
And now, the Sergeant had come round by a totally different way
to the same conclusion (respecting the nightgown) as mine!
And I had got the dress that was the only proof against you!
And not a living creature knew it--yourself included! I am afraid
to tell you how I felt when I called these things to mind--you would
hate my memory for ever afterwards."
At that place, Betteredge looked up from the letter.
"Not a glimmer of light so far, Mr. Franklin," said the old man,
taking off his heavy tortoiseshell spectacles, and pushing
Rosanna Spearman's confession a little away from him.
"Have you come to any conclusion, sir, in your own mind, while I
have been reading?"
"Finish the letter first, Betteredge; there may be something to enlighten us
at the end of it. I shall have a word or two to say to you after that."
"Very good, sir. I'll just rest my eyes, and then I'll go on again.
In the meantime, Mr. Franklin--I don't want to hurry you--but would you
mind telling me, in one word, whether you see your way out of this dreadful
"I see my way back to London," I said, "to consult Mr. Bruff.
If he can't help me----"
"And if the Sergeant won't leave his retirement at Dorking----"
"He won't, Mr. Franklin!"
"Then, Betteredge--as far as I can see now--I am at the end of my resources.
After Mr. Bruff and the Sergeant, I don't know of a living creature who can be
of the slightest use to me."
As the words passed my lips, some person outside knocked at the door
of the room.
Betteredge looked surprised as well as annoyed by the interruption.
"Come in," he called out, irritably, "whoever you are!"
The door opened, and there entered to us, quietly, the most
remarkable-looking man that I had ever seen. Judging him
by his figure and his movements, he was still young.
Judging him by his face, and comparing him with Betteredge,
he looked the elder of the two. His complexion was of a
gipsy darkness; his fleshless cheeks had fallen into deep hollows,
over which the bone projected like a pent-house. His nose
presented the fine shape and modelling so often found among
the ancient people of the East, so seldom visible among the newer
races of the West. His forehead rose high and straight
from the brow. His marks and wrinkles were innumerable.
From this strange face, eyes, stranger still, of the softest brown--
eyes dreamy and mournful, and deeply sunk in their orbits--
looked out at you, and (in my case, at least) took your attention
captive at their will. Add to this a quantity of thick
closely-curling hair, which, by some freak of Nature, had lost
its colour in the most startlingly partial and capricious manner.
Over the top of his head it was still of the deep black
which was its natural colour. Round the sides of his head--
without the slightest gradation of grey to break the force
of the extraordinary contrast--it had turned completely white.
The line between the two colours preserved no sort of regularity.
At one place, the white hair ran up into the black;
at another, the black hair ran down into the white.
I looked at the man with a curiosity which, I am ashamed to say,
I found it quite impossible to control. His soft brown eyes
looked back at me gently; and he met my involuntary rudeness
in staring at him, with an apology which I was conscious that I had
"I beg your pardon," he said. "I had no idea that Mr. Betteredge
was engaged." He took a slip of paper from his pocket,
and handed it to Betteredge. "The list for next week," he said.
His eyes just rested on me again--and he left the room as quietly
as he had entered it.
"Who is that?" I asked.
"Mr. Candy's assistant," said Betteredge. "By-the-bye, Mr. Franklin,
you will be sorry to hear that the little doctor has never recovered
that illness he caught, going home from the birthday dinner.
He's pretty well in health; but he lost his memory in the fever,
and he has never recovered more than the wreck of it since.
The work all falls on his assistant. Not much of it now, except among
the poor. THEY can't help themselves, you know. THEY must put
up with the man with the piebald hair, and the gipsy complexion--
or they would get no doctoring at all."
"You don't seem to like him, Betteredge?"
"Nobody likes him, sir."
"Why is he so unpopular?"
"Well, Mr. Franklin, his appearance is against him, to begin with. And then
there's a story that Mr. Candy took him with a very doubtful character.
Nobody knows who he is--and he hasn't a friend in the place. How can you
expect one to like him, after that?"
"Quite impossible, of course! May I ask what he wanted with you,
when he gave you that bit of paper?"
"Only to bring me the weekly list of the sick people
about here, sir, who stand in need of a little wine.
My lady always had a regular distribution of good sound port
and sherry among the infirm poor; and Miss Rachel wishes the custom
to be kept up. Times have changed! times have changed!
I remember when Mr. Candy himself brought the list to my mistress.
Now it's Mr. Candy's assistant who brings the list to me.
I'll go on with the letter, if you will allow me, sir,"
said Betteredge, drawing Rosanna Spearman's confession back to him.
"It isn't lively reading, I grant you. But, there! it
keeps me from getting sour with thinking of the past."
He put on his spectacles, and wagged his head gloomily.
"There's a bottom of good sense, Mr. Franklin, in our conduct
to our mothers, when they first start us on the journey of life.
We are all of us more or less unwilling to be brought into the world.
And we are all of us right."
Mr. Candy's assistant had produced too strong an impression
on me to be immediately dismissed from my thoughts. I passed
over the last unanswerable utterance of the Betteredge philosophy;
and returned to the subject of the man with the piebald hair.
"What is his name?" I asked.
"As ugly a name as need be," Betteredge answered gruffly.
Having told me the name of Mr. Candy's assistant, Betteredge appeared
to think that we had wasted enough of our time on an insignificant subject.
He resumed the perusal of Rosanna Spearman's letter.
On my side, I sat at the window, waiting until he had done.
Little by little, the impression produced on me by Ezra Jennings--
it seemed perfectly unaccountable, in such a situation as mine,
that any human being should have produced an impression on me at all!--
faded from my mind. My thoughts flowed back into their former channel.
Once more, I forced myself to look my own incredible position resolutely
in the face. Once more, I reviewed in my own mind the course
which I had at last summoned composure enough to plan out for
To go back to London that day; to put the whole case before Mr. Bruff;
and, last and most important, to obtain (no matter by what means
or at what sacrifice) a personal interview with Rachel--this was my
plan of action, so far as I was capable of forming it at the time.
There was more than an hour still to spare before the train started.
And there was the bare chance that Betteredge might discover
something in the unread portion of Rosanna Spearman's letter,
which it might be useful for me to know before I left the house
in which the Diamond had been lost. For that chance I was
The letter ended in these terms:
"You have no need to be angry, Mr. Franklin, even if I did feel
some little triumph at knowing that I held all your prospects
in life in my own hands. Anxieties and fears soon came back to me.
With the view Sergeant Cuff took of the loss of the Diamond,
he would be sure to end in examining our linen and our dresses.
There was no place in my room--there was no place in the house--
which I could feel satisfied would be safe from him.
How to hide the nightgown so that not even the Sergeant
could find it? and how to do that without losing one moment
of precious time?--these were not easy questions to answer.
My uncertainties ended in my taking a way that may make you laugh.
I undressed, and put the nightgown on me. You had worn it--
and I had another little moment of pleasure in wearing it after
"The next news that reached us in the servants' hall showed
that I had not made sure of the nightgown a moment too soon.
Sergeant Cuff wanted to see the washing-book.
"I found it, and took it to him in my lady's sitting-room.
The Sergeant and I had come across each other more than once
in former days. I was certain he would know me again--and I
was NOT certain of what he might do when he found me employed
as servant in a house in which a valuable jewel had been lost.
In this suspense, I felt it would be a relief to me to get
the meeting between us over, and to know the worst of it
"He looked at me as if I was a stranger, when I handed him
the washing-book; and he was very specially polite in thanking
me for bringing it. I thought those were both bad signs.
There was no knowing what he might say of me behind my back;
there was no knowing how soon I might not find myself taken
in custody on suspicion, and searched. It was then time for your
return from seeing Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite off by the railway;
and I went to your favourite walk in the shrubbery, to try
for another chance of speaking to you--the last chance, for all I
knew to the contrary, that I might have.
"You never appeared; and, what was worse still, Mr. Betteredge
and Sergeant Cuff passed by the place where I was hiding--
and the Sergeant saw me.
"I had no choice, after that, but to return to my proper place
and my proper work, before more disasters happened to me.
Just as I was going to step across the path, you came back
from the railway. You were making straight for the shrubbery,
when you saw me--I am certain, sir, you saw me--and you turned away
as if I had got the plague, and went into the house.*
* NOTE: by Franklin Blake.--The writer is entirely mistaken, poor creature.
I never noticed her. My intention was certainly to have taken a turn in
the shrubbery. But, remembering at the same moment that my aunt might wish
to see me, after my return from the railway, I altered my mind, and went into
"I made the best of my way indoors again, returning by
the servants' entrance. There was nobody in the laundry-room
at that time; and I sat down there alone. I have told you already
of the thoughts which the Shivering Sand put into my head.
Those thoughts came back to me now. I wondered in myself
which it would be harder to do, if things went on in this manner--
to bear Mr. Franklin Blake's indifference to me, or to jump
into the quicksand and end it for ever in that way?
"It's useless to ask me to account for my own conduct, at this time.
I try--and I can't understand it myself.
"Why didn't I stop you, when you avoided me in that cruel manner?
Why didn't I call out, 'Mr. Franklin, I have got something to say
to you; it concerns yourself, and you must, and shall, hear it?'
You were at my mercy--I had got the whip-hand of you, as they say.
And better than that, I had the means (if I could only make you trust me)
of being useful to you in the future. Of course, I never supposed that you--
a gentleman--had stolen the Diamond for the mere pleasure of stealing it.
No. Penelope had heard Miss Rachel, and I had heard Mr. Betteredge,
talk about your extravagance and your debts. It was plain enough to me
that you had taken the Diamond to sell it, or pledge it, and so to get
the money of which you stood in need. Well! I could have told you
of a man in London who would have advanced a good large sum on the jewel,
and who would have asked no awkward questions about it either.
"Why didn't I speak to you! why didn't I speak to you!
"I wonder whether the risks and difficulties of keeping
the nightgown were as much as I could manage, without having
other risks and difficulties added to them? This might have been
the case with some women--but how could it be the case with me?
In the days when I was a thief, I had run fifty times greater risks,
and found my way out of difficulties to which THIS difficulty
was mere child's play. I had been apprenticed, as you may say,
to frauds and deceptions--some of them on such a grand scale,
and managed so cleverly, that they became famous,
and appeared in the newspapers. Was such a little thing
as the keeping of the nightgown likely to weigh on my spirits,
and to set my heart sinking within me, at the time when I ought
to have spoken to you? What nonsense to ask the question!
The thing couldn't be.
"Where is the use of my dwelling in this way on my own folly?
The plain truth is plain enough, surely? Behind your back,
I loved you with all my heart and soul. Before your face--
there's no denying it--I was frightened of you;
frightened of making you angry with me; frightened of what
you might say to me (though you HAD taken the Diamond)
if I presumed to tell you that I had found it out.
I had gone as near to it as I dared when I spoke to you
in the library. You had not turned your back on me then.
You had not started away from me as if I had got the plague.
I tried to provoke myself into feeling angry with you,
and to rouse up my courage in that way. No! I couldn't
feel anything but the misery and the mortification of it.
"You're a plain girl; you have got a crooked shoulder; you're only
a housemaid--what do you mean by attempting to speak to Me?"
You never uttered a word of that, Mr. Franklin; but you said it all
to me, nevertheless! Is such madness as this to be accounted for?
No. There is nothing to be done but to confess it, and let it
"I ask your pardon, once more, for this wandering of my pen.
There is no fear of its happening again. I am close at the
"The first person who disturbed me by coming into the empty
room was Penelope. She had found out my secret long since,
and she had done her best to bring me to my senses--and done it
"'Ah!' she said, 'I know why you're sitting here, and fretting,
all by yourself. The best thing that can happen for your advantage,
Rosanna, will be for Mr. Franklin's visit here to come to an end.
It's my belief that he won't be long now before he leaves the house."
"In all my thoughts of you I had never thought of your going away.
I couldn't speak to Penelope. I could only look at her.
"'I've just left Miss Rachel,' Penelope went on.
'And a hard matter I have had of it to put up with her temper.
She says the house is unbearable to her with the police in it;
and she's determined to speak to my lady this evening,
and to go to her Aunt Ablewhite to-morrow. If she does that,
Mr. Franklin will be the next to find a reason for going away,
you may depend on it!'
"I recovered the use of my tongue at that. 'Do you mean to say
Mr. Franklin will go with her?' I asked.
"'Only too gladly, if she would let him; but she won't. HE has
been made to feel her temper; HE is in her black books too--
and that after having done all he can to help her, poor fellow!
No! no! If they don't make it up before to-morrow, you
will see Miss Rachel go one way, and Mr. Franklin another.
Where he may betake himself to I can't say. But he will never
stay here, Rosanna, after Miss Rachel has left us.'
"I managed to master the despair I felt at the prospect of your going away.
To own the truth, I saw a little glimpse of hope for myself if there was
really a serious disagreement between Miss Rachel and you. 'Do you know,'
I asked, 'what the quarrel is between them?'
"'It is all on Miss Rachel's side,' Penelope said. 'And, for anything I
know to the contrary, it's all Miss Rachel's temper, and nothing else.
I am loth to distress you, Rosanna; but don't run away with the notion
that Mr. Franklin is ever likely to quarrel with HER. He's a great deal too
fond of her for that!'
"She had only just spoken those cruel words when there came a call to us
from Mr. Betteredge. All the indoor servants were to assemble in the hall.
And then we were to go in, one by one, and be questioned in Mr. Betteredge's
room by Sergeant Cuff.
"It came to my turn to go in, after her ladyship's maid and the upper
housemaid had been questioned first. Sergeant Cuff's inquiries--
though he wrapped them up very cunningly--soon showed me
that those two women (the bitterest enemies I had in the house)
had made their discoveries outside my door, on the Tuesday
afternoon, and again on the Thursday night. They had told
the Sergeant enough to open his eyes to some part of the truth.
He rightly believed me to have made a new nightgown secretly,
but he wrongly believed the paint-stained nightgown to be mine.
I felt satisfied of another thing, from what he said,
which it puzzled me to understand. He suspected me, of course,
of being concerned in the disappearance of the Diamond.
But, at the same time, he let me see--purposely, as I thought--
that he did not consider me as the person chiefly answerable
for the loss of the jewel. He appeared to think that I
had been acting under the direction of somebody else.
Who that person might be, I couldn't guess then, and can't
"In this uncertainty, one thing was plain--that Sergeant Cuff
was miles away from knowing the whole truth. You were safe
as long as the nightgown was safe--and not a moment longer.
"I quite despair of making you understand the distress and terror
which pressed upon me now. It was impossible for me to risk
wearing your nightgown any longer. I might find myself taken off,
at a moment's notice, to the police court at Frizinghall,
to be charged on suspicion, and searched accordingly.
While Sergeant Cuff still left me free, I had to choose--and at once--
between destroying the nightgown, or hiding it in some safe place,
at some safe distance from the house.
"If I had only been a little less fond of you, I think I
should have destroyed it. But oh! how could destroy the only
thing I had which proved that I had saved you from discovery?
If we did come to an explanation together, and if you suspected
me of having some bad motive, and denied it all, how could I win
upon you to trust me, unless I had the nightgown to produce?
Was it wronging you to believe, as I did and do still,
that you might hesitate to let a poor girl like me be
the sharer of your secret, and your accomplice in the theft
which your money-troubles had tempted you to commit?
Think of your cold behaviour to me, sir, and you will hardly
wonder at my unwillingness to destroy the only claim on
your confidence and your gratitude which it was my fortune
"I determined to hide it; and the place I fixed on was the place I knew best--
the Shivering Sand.
"As soon as the questioning was over, I made the first excuse that came
into my head, and got leave to go out for a breath of fresh air.
I went straight to Cobb's Hole, to Mr. Yolland's cottage.
His wife and daughter were the best friends I had. Don't suppose
I trusted them with your secret--I have trusted nobody.
All I wanted was to write this letter to you, and to have a safe
opportunity of taking the nightgown off me. Suspected as I was,
I could do neither of those things with any sort of security,
at the house.
"And now I have nearly got through my long letter, writing it
alone in Lucy Yolland's bedroom. When it is done, I shall go
downstairs with the nightgown rolled up, and hidden under my cloak.
I shall find the means I want for keeping it safe and dry in its
hiding-place, among the litter of old things in Mrs. Yolland's kitchen.
And then I shall go to the Shivering Sand--don't be afraid of my letting
my footmarks betray me!--and hide the nightgown down in the sand,
where no living creature can find it without being first let into
the secret by myself.
"And, when that's done, what then?
"Then, Mr. Franklin, I shall have two reasons for making another
attempt to say the words to you which I have not said yet.
If you leave the house, as Penelope believes you will leave it,
and if I haven't spoken to you before that, I shall lose my
opportunity forever. That is one reason. Then, again, there is
the comforting knowledge--if my speaking does make you angry--
that I have got the nightgown ready to plead my cause for me
as nothing else can. That is my other reason. If these two
together don't harden my heart against the coldness which has
hitherto frozen it up (I mean the coldness of your treatment
of me), there will be the end of my efforts--and the end of
"Yes. If I miss my next opportunity--if you are as cruel
as ever, and if I feel it again as I have felt it already--
good-bye to the world which has grudged me the happiness that it
gives to others. Good-bye to life, which nothing but a little
kindness from you can ever make pleasurable to me again.
Don't blame yourself, sir, if it ends in this way. But try--
do try--to feel some forgiving sorrow for me! I shall take
care that you find out what I have done for you, when I am past
telling you of it myself. Will you say something kind of me then--
in the same gentle way that you have when you speak to Miss Rachel?
If you do that, and if there are such things as ghosts,
I believe my ghost will hear it, and tremble with the pleasure
"It's time I left off. I am making myself cry. How am I to see my way
to the hiding-place if I let these useless tears come and blind me?
"Besides, why should I look at the gloomy side? Why not believe,
while I can, that it will end well after all? I may find you in a good
humour to-night--or, if not, I may succeed better to-morrow morning.
I sha'n't improve my plain face by fretting--shall I? Who knows but I
may have filled all these weary long pages of paper for nothing?
They will go, for safety's sake (never mind now for what other reason)
into the hiding-place along with the nightgown. It has been hard,
hard work writing my letter. Oh! if we only end in understanding each other,
how I shall enjoy tearing it up!
"I beg to remain, sir, your true lover and humble servant,
The reading of the letter was completed by Betteredge in silence.
After carefully putting it back in the envelope, he sat thinking,
with his head bowed down, and his eyes on the ground.
"Betteredge," I said, "is there any hint to guide me at the end
of the letter?"
He looked up slowly, with a heavy sigh.
"There is nothing to guide you, Mr. Franklin," he answered.
"If you take my advice you will keep the letter in the cover
till these present anxieties of yours have come to an end.
It will sorely distress you, whenever you read it. Don't read
I put the letter away in my pocket-book.
A glance back at the sixteenth and seventeenth chapters
of Betteredge's Narrative will show that there really
was a reason for my thus sparing myself, at a time when my
fortitude had been already cruelly tried. Twice over,
the unhappy woman had made her last attempt to speak to me.
And twice over, it had been my misfortune (God knows
how innocently!) to repel the advances she had made to me.
On the Friday night, as Betteredge truly describes it,
she had found me alone at the billiard-table. Her manner and
language suggested to me and would have suggested to any man,
under the circumstances--that she was about to confess a guilty
knowledge of the disappearance of the Diamond. For her own sake,
I had purposely shown no special interest in what was coming;
for her own sake, I had purposely looked at the billiard-balls,
instead of looking at HER--and what had been the result?
I had sent her away from me, wounded to the heart!
On the Saturday again--on the day when she must have foreseen,
after what Penelope had told her, that my departure was close
at hand--the same fatality still pursued us. She had once
more attempted to meet me in the shrubbery walk, and she had
found me there in company with Betteredge and Sergeant Cuff.
In her hearing, the Sergeant, with his own underhand object
in view, had appealed to my interest in Rosanna Spearman.
Again for the poor creature's own sake, I had met
the police-officer with a flat denial, and had declared--
loudly declared, so that she might hear me too--that I felt
"no interest whatever in Rosanna Spearman." At those words,
solely designed to warn her against attempting to gain my private ear,
she had turned away and left the place: cautioned of her danger,
as I then believed; self-doomed to destruction, as I know now.
From that point, I have already traced the succession of events
which led me to the astounding discovery at the quicksand.
The retrospect is now complete. I may leave the miserable
story of Rosanna Spearman--to which, even at this distance
of time, I cannot revert without a pang of distress--
to suggest for itself all that is here purposely left unsaid.
I may pass from the suicide at the Shivering Sand, with its
strange and terrible influence on my present position and
future prospects, to interests which concern the living people
of this narrative, and to events which were already paving my
way for the slow and toilsome journey from the darkness to the
I walked to the railway station accompanied, it is needless to say,
by Gabriel Betteredge. I had the letter in my pocket, and the nightgown
safely packed in a little bag--both to be submitted, before I slept
that night, to the investigation of Mr. Bruff.
We left the house in silence. For the first time in my experience of him,
I found old Betteredge in my company without a word to say to me.
Having something to say on my side, I opened the conversation as soon as we
were clear of the lodge gates.
"Before I go to London," I began, "I have two questions to ask you.
They relate to myself, and I believe they will rather surprise you."
"If they will put that poor creature's letter out of my head,
Mr. Franklin, they may do anything else they like with me.
Please to begin surprising me, sir, as soon as you can."
"My first question, Betteredge, is this. Was I drunk on the night
of Rachel's Birthday?"
"YOU drunk!" exclaimed the old man. "Why it's the great defect
of your character, Mr. Franklin that you only drink with your dinner,
and never touch a drop of liquor afterwards!"
"But the birthday was a special occasion. I might have abandoned
my regular habits, on that night of all others."
Betteredge considered for a moment.
"You did go out of your habits, sir," he said. "And I'll tell you how.
You looked wretchedly ill--and we persuaded you to have a drop of brandy
and water to cheer you up a little."
"I am not used to brandy and water. It is quite possible----"
"Wait a bit, Mr. Franklin. I knew you were not used, too. I poured you out
half a wineglass-full of our fifty year old Cognac; and (more shame for me!)
I drowned that noble liquor in nigh on a tumbler-full of cold water.
A child couldn't have got drunk on it--let alone a grown man!"
I knew I could depend on his memory, in a matter of this kind.
It was plainly impossible that I could have been intoxicated.
I passed on to the second question.
"Before I was sent abroad, Betteredge, you saw a great deal
of me when I was a boy? Now tell me plainly, do you remember
anything strange of me, after I had gone to bed at night?
Did you ever discover me walking in my sleep?"
Betteredge stopped, looked at me for a moment, nodded his head,
and walked on again.
"I see your drift now, Mr. Franklin!" he said "You're trying to account
for how you got the paint on your nightgown, without knowing it yourself.
It won't do, sir. You're miles away still from getting at the truth.
Walk in your sleep? You never did such a thing in your life!"
Here again, I felt that Betteredge must be right. Neither at
home nor abroad had my life ever been of the solitary sort.
If I had been a sleep-walker, there were hundreds on hundreds
of people who must have discovered me, and who, in the interest
of my own safety, would have warned me of the habit, and have
taken precautions to restrain it.
Still, admitting all this, I clung--with an obstinacy which
was surely natural and excusable, under the circumstances--
to one or other of the only two explanations that I could see
which accounted for the unendurable position in which I then stood.
Observing that I was not yet satisfied, Betteredge shrewdly
adverted to certain later events in the history of the Moonstone;
and scattered both my theories to the wind at once and
"Let's try it another way, sir," he said. "Keep your own opinion,
and see how far it will take you towards finding out the truth.
If we are to believe the nightgown--which I don't for one--
you not only smeared off the paint from the door, without knowing it,
but you also took the Diamond without knowing it. Is that right,
"Quite right. Go on."
"Very good, sir. We'll say you were drunk, or walking in your sleep,
when you took the jewel. That accounts for the night and morning,
after the birthday. But how does it account for what has happened
since that time? The Diamond has been taken to London, since that time.
The Diamond has been pledged to Mr. Luker, since that time.
Did you do those two things, without knowing it, too? Were you drunk
when I saw you off in the pony-chaise on that Saturday evening?
And did you walk in your sleep to Mr. Luker's, when the train had brought
you to your journey's end? Excuse me for saying it, Mr. Franklin,
but this business has so upset you, that you're not fit yet to judge
for yourself. The sooner you lay your head alongside Mr. Bruff's head,
the sooner you will see your way out of the dead-lock that has got
We reached the station, with only a minute or two to spare.
I hurriedly gave Betteredge my address in London, so that
he might write to me, if necessary; promising, on my side,
to inform him of any news which I might have to communicate.
This done, and just as I was bidding him farewell, I happened
to glance towards the book-and-newspaper stall. There was
Mr. Candy's remarkable-looking assistant again, speaking to
the keeper of the stall! Our eyes met at the same moment.
Ezra Jennings took off his hat to me. I returned the salute,
and got into a carriage just as the train started.
It was a relief to my mind, I suppose, to dwell on any subject
which appeared to be, personally, of no sort of importance to me.
At all events, I began the momentous journey back which was
to take me to Mr. Bruff, wondering--absurdly enough, I admit--
that I should have seen the man with the piebald hair twice in
The hour at which I arrived in London precluded all hope
of my finding Mr. Bruff at his place of business.
I drove from the railway to his private residence at Hampstead,
and disturbed the old lawyer dozing alone in his dining-room,
with his favourite pug-dog on his lap, and his bottle of wine
at his elbow.
I shall best describe the effect which my story produced on the mind
of Mr. Bruff by relating his proceedings when he had heard it to the end.
He ordered lights, and strong tea, to be taken into his study;
and he sent a message to the ladies of his family, forbidding them
to disturb us on any pretence whatever. These preliminaries disposed of,
he first examined the nightgown, and then devoted himself to the reading of
Rosanna Spearman's letter.
The reading completed, Mr. Bruff addressed me for the first time
since we had been shut up together in the seclusion of his own room.
"Franklin Blake," said the old gentleman, "this is a very serious matter,
in more respects than one. In my opinion, it concerns Rachel quite as
nearly as it concerns you. Her extraordinary conduct is no mystery NOW.
She believes you have stolen the Diamond."
I had shrunk from reasoning my own way fairly to that revolting conclusion.
But it had forced itself on me, nevertheless. My resolution to obtain
a personal interview with Rachel, rested really and truly on the ground just
stated by Mr. Bruff.
"The first step to take in this investigation," the lawyer proceeded,
"is to appeal to Rachel. She has been silent all this time, from motives
which I (who know her character) can readily understand. It is impossible,
after what has happened, to submit to that silence any longer.
She must be persuaded to tell us, or she must be forced to tell us,
on what grounds she bases her belief that you took the Moonstone.
The chances are, that the whole of this case, serious as it seems now,
will tumble to pieces, if we can only break through Rachel's inveterate
reserve, and prevail upon her to speak out."
"That is a very comforting opinion for ME," I said. "I own I should
like to know
"You would like to know how I can justify it," inter-posed Mr. Bruff.
"I can tell you in two minutes. Understand, in the first place,
that I look at this matter from a lawyer's point of view. It's a
question of evidence, with me. Very well. The evidence breaks down,
at the outset, on one important point."
"On what point?"
"You shall hear. I admit that the mark of the name proves
the nightgown to be yours. I admit that the mark of the paint
proves the nightgown to have made the smear on Rachel's door.
But what evidence is there to prove that you are the person who
wore it, on the night when the Diamond was lost?"
The objection struck me, all the more forcibly that it reflected
an objection which I had felt myself.
"As to this," pursued the lawyer taking up Rosanna Spearman's confession,
"I can understand that the letter is a distressing one to YOU.
I can understand that you may hesitate to analyse it from a purely
impartial point of view. But I am not in your position.
I can bring my professional experience to bear on this document,
just as I should bring it to bear on any other. Without alluding
to the woman's career as a thief, I will merely remark that her letter
proves her to have been an adept at deception, on her own showing;
and I argue from that, that I am justified in suspecting her of not
having told the whole truth. I won't start any theory, at present,
as to what she may or may not have done. I will only say that,
if Rachel has suspected you ON THE EVIDENCE OF THE NIGHTGOWN ONLY,
the chances are ninety-nine to a hundred that Rosanna Spearman
was the person who showed it to her. In that case, there is
the woman's letter, confessing that she was jealous of Rachel,
confessing that she changed the roses, confessing that she saw
a glimpse of hope for herself, in the prospect of a quarrel
between Rachel and you. I don't stop to ask who took the Moonstone
(as a means to her end, Rosanna Spearman would have taken
fifty Moonstones)--I only say that the disappearance of the jewel
gave this reclaimed thief who was in love with you, an opportunity
of setting you and Rachel at variance for the rest of your lives.
She had not decided on destroying herself, THEN, remember; and, having
the opportunity, I distinctly assert that it was in her character,
and in her position at the time, to take it. What do you say
"Some such suspicion," I answered, "crossed my own mind,
as soon as I opened the letter."
"Exactly! And when you had read the letter, you pitied the poor creature,
and couldn't find it in your heart to suspect her. Does you credit,
my dear sir--does you credit!"
"But suppose it turns out that I did wear the nightgown?
"I don't see how the fact can be proved," said Mr. Bruff.
"But assuming the proof to be possible, the vindication of your
innocence would be no easy matter. We won't go into that, now.
Let us wait and see whether Rachel hasn't suspected you on
the evidence of the nightgown only."
"Good God, how coolly you talk of Rachel suspecting me!"
I broke out. "What right has she to suspect Me, on any evidence,
of being a thief?"
"A very sensible question, my dear sir. Rather hotly put--
but well worth considering for all that. What puzzles you,
puzzles me too. Search your memory, and tell me this. Did anything
happen while you were staying at the house--not, of course,
to shake Rachel's belief in your honour--but, let us say,
to shake her belief (no matter with how little reason) in your
I started, in ungovernable agitation, to my feet. The lawyer's
question reminded me, for the first time since I had left England,
that something HAD happened.
In the eighth chapter of Betteredge's Narrative, an allusion will be
found to the arrival of a foreigner and a stranger at my aunt's house,
who came to see me on business. The nature of his business was this.
I had been foolish enough (being, as usual, straitened for money
at the time) to accept a loan from the keeper of a small
restaurant in Paris, to whom I was well known as a customer.
A time was settled between us for paying the money back;
and when the time came, I found it (as thousands of other
honest men have found it) impossible to keep my engagement.
I sent the man a bill. My name was unfortunately too well known
on such documents: he failed to negotiate it. His affairs had
fallen into disorder, in the interval since I had borrowed of him;
bankruptcy stared him in the face; and a relative of his,
a French lawyer, came to England to find me, and to insist
upon the payment of my debt. He was a man of violent temper;
and he took the wrong way with me. High words passed on both sides;
and my aunt and Rachel were unfortunately in the next room,
and heard us. Lady Verinder came in, and insisted on knowing
what was the matter. The Frenchman produced his credentials,
and declared me to be responsible for the ruin of a poor man,
who had trusted in my honour. My aunt instantly paid him
the money, and sent him off. She knew me better of course
than to take the Frenchman's view of the transaction.
But she was shocked at my carelessness, and justly angry with me
for placing myself in a position, which, but for her interference,
might have become a very disgraceful one. Either her mother
told her, or Rachel heard what passed--I can't say which.
She took her own romantic, high-flown view of the matter.
I was "heartless"; I was "dishonourable"; I had "no principle";
there was "no knowing what I might do next"--in short,
she said some of the severest things to me which I had ever
heard from a young lady's lips. The breach between us
lasted for the whole of the next day. The day after,
I succeeded in making my peace, and thought no more of it.
Had Rachel reverted to this unlucky accident, at the critical
moment when my place in her estimation was again, and far
more seriously, assailed? Mr. Bruff, when I had mentioned
the circumstances to him, answered the question at once in the
"It would have its effect on her mind," he said gravely.
"And I wish, for your sake, the thing had not happened.
However, we have discovered that there WAS a predisposing
influence against you--and there is one uncertainty cleared out
of our way, at any rate. I see nothing more that we can do now.
Our next step in this inquiry must be the step that takes us
He rose, and began walking thoughtfully up and down the room. Twice, I was on
the point of telling him that I had determined on seeing Rachel personally;
and twice, having regard to his age and his character, I hesitated to take him
by surprise at an unfavourable moment.
"The grand difficulty is," he resumed, "how to make her show her whole
mind in this matter, without reserve. Have you any suggestions to offer?"
"I have made up my mind, Mr. Bruff, to speak to Rachel myself."
"You!" He suddenly stopped in his walk, and looked at me as if he thought
I had taken leave of my senses. "You, of all the people in the world!"
He abruptly checked himself, and took another turn in the room.
"Wait a little," he said. "In cases of this extraordinary kind, the rash
way is sometimes the best way." He considered the question for a moment
or two, under that new light, and ended boldly by a decision in my favour.
"Nothing venture, nothing have," the old gentleman resumed. "You have a
chance in your favour which I don't possess--and you shall be the first to try
"A chance in my favour?" I repeated, in the greatest surprise.
Mr. Bruff's face softened, for the first time, into a smile.
"This is how it stands," he said. "I tell you fairly,
I don't trust your discretion, and I don't trust your temper.
But I do trust in Rachel's still preserving, in some remote
little corner of her heart, a certain perverse weakness for YOU.
Touch that--and trust to the consequences for the fullest
disclosures that can flow from a woman's lips! The question is--
how are you to see her?"
"She has been a guest of yours at this house," I answered.
"May I venture to suggest--if nothing was said about me beforehand--
that I might see her here?"
"Cool!" said Mr. Bruff. With that one word of comment on the reply that I
had made to him, he took another turn up and down the room.
"In plain English," he said, "my house is to be turned
into a trap to catch Rachel; with a bait to tempt her,
in the shape of an invitation from my wife and daughters.
If you were anybody else but Franklin Blake, and if this matter
was one atom less serious than it really is, I should refuse
point-blank. As things are, I firmly believe Rachel will live
to thank me for turning traitor to her in my old age. Consider me
your accomplice. Rachel shall be asked to spend the day here;
and you shall receive due notice of it."
"To-morrow won't give us time enough to get her answer.
Say the day after."
"How shall I hear from you?"
"Stay at home all the morning and expect me to call on you."
I thanked him for the inestimable assistance which he was rendering to me,
with the gratitude that I really felt; and, declining a hospitable invitation
to sleep that night at Hampstead, returned to my lodgings in London.
Of the day that followed, I have only to say that it was the longest
day of my life. Innocent as I knew myself to be, certain as I was
that the abominable imputation which rested on me must sooner or later
be cleared off, there was nevertheless a sense of self-abasement in my
mind which instinctively disinclined me to see any of my friends.
We often hear (almost invariably, however, from superficial observers)
that guilt can look like innocence. I believe it to be infinitely
the truer axiom of the two that innocence can look like guilt.
I caused myself to be denied all day, to every visitor who called; and I
only ventured out under cover of the night.
The next morning, Mr. Bruff surprised me at the breakfast-table. He
handed me a large key, and announced that he felt ashamed of himself
for the first time in his life.
"Is she coming?"
"She is coming to-day, to lunch and spend the afternoon with my wife
and my girls."
"Are Mrs. Bruff, and your daughters, in the secret?"
"Inevitably. But women, as you may have observed, have no principles.
My family don't feel my pangs of conscience. The end being to bring you
and Rachel together again, my wife and daughters pass over the means employed
to gain it, as composedly as if they were Jesuits."
"I am infinitely obliged to them. What is this key?"
"The key of the gate in my back-garden wall. Be there at three
this afternoon. Let yourself into the garden, and make your way
in by the conservatory door. Cross the small drawing-room, and open
the door in front of you which leads into the music-room. There,
you will find Rachel--and find her, alone."
"How can I thank you!"
"I will tell you how. Don't blame me for what happens afterwards."
With those words, he went out.
I had many weary hours still to wait through. To while away the time,
I looked at my letters. Among them was a letter from Betteredge.
I opened it eagerly. To my surprise and disappointment, it began
with an apology warning me to expect no news of any importance.
In the next sentence the everlasting Ezra Jennings appeared again!
He had stopped Betteredge on the way out of the station,
and had asked who I was. Informed on this point,
he had mentioned having seen me to his master Mr. Candy.
Mr. Candy hearing of this, had himself driven over to Betteredge,
to express his regret at our having missed each other.
He had a reason for wishing particularly to speak to me;
and when I was next in the neighbourhood of Frizinghall, he begged
I would let him know. Apart from a few characteristic utterances
of the Betteredge philosophy, this was the sum and substance
of my correspondent's letter. The warm-hearted, faithful old man
acknowledged that he had written "mainly for the pleasure of writing
I crumpled up the letter in my pocket, and forgot it the moment after,
in the all-absorbing interest of my coming interview with Rachel.
As the clock of Hampstead church struck three, I put Mr. Bruff's key into
the lock of the door in the wall. When I first stepped into the garden,
and while I was securing the door again on the inner side, I own to having
felt a certain guilty doubtfulness about what might happen next.
I looked furtively on either side of me; suspicious of the presence
of some unexpected witness in some unknown corner of the garden.
Nothing appeared, to justify my apprehensions. The walks were,
one and all, solitudes; and the birds and the bees were the only witnesses.
I passed through the garden; entered the conservatory; and crossed