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The Moonstone

Part 6 out of 12

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to alarm me, has, by little and little, fatally broken me down. I may live
for some months, or I may die before another day has passed over my head--
the doctors cannot, and dare not, speak more positively than this.
It would be vain to say, my dear, that I have not had some miserable moments
since my real situation has been made known to me. But I am more resigned
than I was, and I am doing my best to set my worldly affairs in order.
My one great anxiety is that Rachel should be kept in ignorance of the truth.
If she knew it, she would at once attribute my broken health to anxiety
about the Diamond, and would reproach herself bitterly, poor child,
for what is in no sense her fault. Both the doctors agree that the
mischief began two, if not three years since. I am sure you will keep
my secret, Drusilla--for I am sure I see sincere sorrow and sympathy for me
in your face."

Sorrow and sympathy! Oh, what Pagan emotions to expect from a Christian
Englishwoman anchored firmly on her faith!

Little did my poor aunt imagine what a gush of devout thankfulness
thrilled through me as she approached the close of her melancholy story.
Here was a career of usefulness opened before me! Here was a beloved
relative and perishing fellow-creature, on the eve of the great change,
utterly unprepared; and led, providentially led, to reveal her
situation to Me! How can I describe the joy with which I now
remembered that the precious clerical friends on whom I could rely,
were to be counted, not by ones or twos, but by tens and twenties.
I took my aunt in my arms--my overflowing tenderness was not to
be satisfied, now, with anything less than an embrace. "Oh!" I said
to her, fervently, "the indescribable interest with which you inspire me!
Oh! the good I mean to do you, dear, before we part!" After another word
or two of earnest prefatory warning, I gave her her choice of three
precious friends, all plying the work of mercy from morning to night
in her own neighbourhood; all equally inexhaustible in exhortation;
all affectionately ready to exercise their gifts at a word from me.
Alas! the result was far from encouraging. Poor Lady Verinder looked puzzled
and frightened, and met everything I could say to her with the purely worldly
objection that she was not strong enough to face strangers. I yielded--
for the moment only, of course. My large experience (as Reader and Visitor,
under not less, first and last, than fourteen beloved clerical friends)
informed me that this was another case for preparation by books.
I possessed a little library of works, all suitable to the present emergency,
all calculated to arouse, convince, prepare, enlighten, and fortify my aunt.
"You will read, dear, won't you?" I said, in my most winning way.
"You will read, if I bring you my own precious books? Turned down at
all the right places, aunt. And marked in pencil where you are to stop
and ask yourself, "Does this apply to me?"" Even that simple appeal--
so absolutely heathenising is the influence of the world--appeared to startle
my aunt. She said, "I will do what I can, Drusilla, to please you,"
with a look of surprise, which was at once instructive and terrible
to see. Not a moment was to be lost. The clock on the mantel-piece
informed me that I had just time to hurry home; to provide myself
with a first series of selected readings (say a dozen only); and to
return in time to meet the lawyer, and witness Lady Verinder's Will.
Promising faithfully to be back by five o'clock, I left the house on my
errand of mercy.

When no interests but my own are involved, I am humbly content to get
from place to place by the omnibus. Permit me to give an idea of my
devotion to my aunt's interests by recording that, on this occasion,
I committed the prodigality of taking a cab.

I drove home, selected and marked my first series of readings,
and drove back to Montagu Square, with a dozen works in a
carpet-bag, the like of which, I firmly believe, are not to
be found in the literature of any other country in Europe.
I paid the cabman exactly his fare. He received it with an oath;
upon which I instantly gave him a tract. If I had presented
a pistol at his head, this abandoned wretch could hardly have
exhibited greater consternation. He jumped up on his box, and,
with profane exclamations of dismay, drove off furiously.
Quite useless, I am happy to say! I sowed the good seed,
in spite of him, by throwing a second tract in at the window of
the cab.

The servant who answered the door--not the person with the cap-ribbons,
to my great relief, but the foot-man--informed me that the doctor
had called, and was still shut up with Lady Verinder. Mr. Bruff,
the lawyer, had arrived a minute since and was waiting in the library.
I was shown into the library to wait too.

Mr. Bruff looked surprised to see me. He is the family solicitor, and we
had met more than once, on previous occasions, under Lady Verinder's roof.
A man, I grieve to say, grown old and grizzled in the service of the world.
A man who, in his hours of business, was the chosen prophet of Law and Mammon;
and who, in his hours of leisure, was equally capable of reading a novel and
of tearing up a tract.

"Have you come to stay here, Miss Clack?" he asked, with a look
at my carpet-bag.

To reveal the contents of my precious bag to such a person as this
would have been simply to invite an outburst of profanity.
I lowered myself to his own level, and mentioned my business in
the house.

"My aunt has informed me that she is about to sign her Will,"
I answered. "She has been so good as to ask me to be one of
the witnesses."

"Aye? aye? Well, Miss Clack, you will do. You are over twenty-one,
and you have not the slightest pecuniary interest in Lady Verinder's Will."

Not the slightest pecuniary interest in Lady Verinder's Will.
Oh, how thankful I felt when I heard that! If my aunt,
possessed of thousands, had remembered poor Me, to whom five
pounds is an object--if my name had appeared in the Will,
with a little comforting legacy attached to it--my enemies
might have doubted the motive which had loaded me with
the choicest treasures of my library, and had drawn upon
my failing resources for the prodigal expenses of a cab.
Not the cruellest scoffer of them all could doubt now.
Much better as it was! Oh, surely, surely, much better as
it was!

I was aroused from these consoling reflections by the voice of Mr. Bruff.
My meditative silence appeared to weigh upon the spirits of this worldling,
and to force him, as it were, into talking to me against his own will.

"Well, Miss Clack, what's the last news in the charitable circles?
How is your friend Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite, after the mauling he got
from the rogues in Northumberland Street? Egad! they're telling
a pretty story about that charitable gentleman at my club!"

I had passed over the manner in which this person had remarked
that I was more than twenty-one, and that I had no pecuniary
interest in my aunt's Will. But the tone in which he alluded
to dear Mr. Godfrey was too much for my forbearance.
Feeling bound, after what had passed in my presence that afternoon,
to assert the innocence of my admirable friend, whenever I
found it called in question--I own to having also felt bound
to include in the accomplishment of this righteous purpose,
a stinging castigation in the case of Mr. Bruff.

"I live very much out of the world," I said; "and I don't possess
the advantage, sir, of belonging to a club. But I happen to know
the story to which you allude; and I also know that a viler falsehood
than that story never was told."

"Yes, yes, Miss Clack--you believe in your friend. Natural enough.
Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite, won't find the world in general quite so easy
to convince as a committee of charitable ladies. Appearances are
dead against him. He was in the house when the Diamond was lost.
And he was the first person in the house to go to London afterwards.
Those are ugly circumstances, ma'am, viewed by the light of
later events."

I ought, I know, to have set him right before he went any farther.
I ought to have told him that he was speaking in ignorance of a testimony
to Mr. Godfrey's innocence, offered by the only person who was
undeniably competent to speak from a positive knowledge of the subject.
Alas! the temptation to lead the lawyer artfully on to his own discomfiture
was too much for me. I asked what he meant by "later events"--with an
appearance of the utmost innocence.

"By later events, Miss Clack, I mean events in which the Indians
are concerned," proceeded Mr. Bruff, getting more and more superior
to poor Me, the longer he went on. "What do the Indians do,
the moment they are let out of the prison at Frizinghall?
They go straight to London, and fix on Mr. Luker.
What follows? Mr. Luker feels alarmed for the safety of "a
valuable of great price," which he has got in the house.
He lodges it privately (under a general description)
in his bankers' strong-room. Wonderfully clever of him:
but the Indians are just as clever on their side.
They have their suspicions that the "valuable of great price"
is being shifted from one place to another; and they hit on a
singularly bold and complete way of clearing those suspicions up.
Whom do they seize and search? Not Mr. Luker only--
which would be intelligible enough--but Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite
as well. Why? Mr. Ablewhite's explanation is, that they acted
on blind suspicion, after seeing him accidentally speaking
to Mr. Luker. Absurd! Half-a-dozen other people spoke to
Mr. Luker that morning. Why were they not followed home too,
and decoyed into the trap? No! no! The plain inference is,
that Mr. Ablewhite had his private interest in the "valuable"
as well as Mr. Luker, and that the Indians were so uncertain
as to which of the two had the disposal of it, that there
was no alternative but to search them both. Public opinion
says that, Miss Clack. And public opinion, on this occasion,
is not easily refuted."

He said those last words, looking so wonderfully wise in his
own worldly conceit, that I really (to my shame be it spoken)
could not resist leading him a little farther still, before I
overwhelmed him with the truth.

"I don't presume to argue with a clever lawyer like you," I said.
"But is it quite fair, sir, to Mr. Ablewhite to pass over the opinion
of the famous London police officer who investigated this case?
Not the shadow of a suspicion rested upon anybody but Miss Verinder,
in the mind of Sergeant Cuff."

"Do you mean to tell me, Miss Clack, that you agree with the Sergeant?"

"I judge nobody, sir, and I offer no opinion."

"And I commit both those enormities, ma'am. I judge the Sergeant
to have been utterly wrong; and I offer the opinion that,
if he had known Rachel's character as I know it,
he would have suspected everybody in the house but HER.
I admit that she has her faults--she is secret, and self-willed;
odd and wild, and unlike other girls of her age.
But true as steel, and high-minded and generous to a fault.
If the plainest evidence in the world pointed one way,
and if nothing but Rachel's word of honour pointed the other,
I would take her word before the evidence, lawyer as I am!
Strong language, Miss Clack; but I mean it."

"Would you object to illustrate your meaning, Mr. Bruff, so that I may be
sure I understand it? Suppose you found Miss Verinder quite unaccountably
interested in what has happened to Mr. Ablewhite and Mr. Luker?
Suppose she asked the strangest questions about this dreadful scandal,
and displayed the most ungovernable agitation when she found out the turn it
was taking?"

"Suppose anything you please, Miss Clack, it wouldn't shake my belief
in Rachel Verinder by a hair's-breadth."

"She is so absolutely to be relied on as that?"

"So absolutely to be relied on as that."

"Then permit me to inform you, Mr. Bruff, that Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite
was in this house not two hours since, and that his entire innocence
of all concern in the disappearance of the Moonstone was proclaimed
by Miss Verinder herself, in the strongest language I ever heard used
by a young lady in my life.

I enjoyed the triumph--the unholy triumph, I fear I must admit--
of seeing Mr. Bruff utterly confounded and overthrown by a few plain
words from Me. He started to his feet, and stared at me in silence.
I kept my seat, undisturbed, and related the whole scene as it
had occurred. "And what do you say about Mr. Ablewhite now?"
I asked, with the utmost possible gentleness, as soon as I
had done.

"If Rachel has testified to his innocence, Miss Clack, I don't
scruple to say that I believe in his innocence as firmly as you do:
I have been misled by appearances, like the rest of the world;
and I will make the best atonement I can, by publicly contradicting
the scandal which has assailed your friend wherever I meet with it.
In the meantime, allow me to congratulate you on the masterly
manner in which you have opened the full fire of your batteries
on me at the moment when I least expected it. You would have done
great things in my profession, ma'am, if you had happened to be
a man."

With those words he turned away from me, and began walking irritably up
and down the room.

I could see plainly that the new light I had thrown on the subject
had greatly surprised and disturbed him. Certain expressions dropped
from his lips, as he became more and more absorbed in his own thoughts,
which suggested to my mind the abominable view that he had hitherto taken
of the mystery of the lost Moonstone. He had not scrupled to suspect
dear Mr. Godfrey of the infamy of stealing the Diamond, and to attribute
Rachel's conduct to a generous resolution to conceal the crime.
On Miss Verinder's own authority--a perfectly unassailable authority,
as you are aware, in the estimation of Mr. Bruff--that explanation
of the circumstances was now shown to be utterly wrong. The perplexity
into which I had plunged this high legal authority was so overwhelming
that he was quite unable to conceal it from notice. "What a case!"
I heard him say to himself, stopping at the window in his walk, and drumming
on the glass with his fingers. "It not only defies explanation, it's even
beyond conjecture."

There was nothing in these words which made any reply at all needful,
on my part--and yet, I answered them! It seems hardly credible
that I should not have been able to let Mr. Bruff alone, even now.
It seems almost beyond mere mortal perversity that I should
have discovered, in what he had just said, a new opportunity of making
myself personally disagreeable to him. But--ah, my friends! nothing
is beyond mortal perversity; and anything is credible when our fallen
natures get the better of us!

"Pardon me for intruding on your reflections," I said to the unsuspecting
Mr. Bruff. "But surely there is a conjecture to make which has not occurred
to us yet."

"Maybe, Miss Clack. I own I don't know what it is."

"Before I was so fortunate, sir, as to convince you of Mr. Ablewhite's
innocence, you mentioned it as one of the reasons for suspecting him,
that he was in the house at the time when the Diamond was lost.
Permit me to remind you that Mr. Franklin Blake was also in the house
at the time when the Diamond was lost."

The old wordling left the window, took a chair exactly opposite to mine,
and looked at me steadily, with a hard and vicious smile.

"You are not so good a lawyer, Miss Clack," he remarked in a
meditative manner, "as I supposed. You don't know how to let well alone."

"I am afraid I fail to follow you, Mr. Bruff," I said, modestly.

"It won't do, Miss Clack--it really won't do a second time.
Franklin Blake is a prime favourite of mine, as you are
well aware. But that doesn't matter. I'll adopt your view,
on this occasion, before you have time to turn round on me.
You're quite right, ma'am. I have suspected Mr. Ablewhite,
on grounds which abstractedly justify suspecting Mr. Blake too.
Very good--let's suspect them together. It's quite in his character,
we will say, to be capable of stealing the Moonstone.
The only question is, whether it was his interest to
do so."

"Mr. Franklin Blake's debts," I remarked, "are matters of family notoriety."

"And Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite's debts have not arrived at that
stage of development yet. Quite true. But there happen
to be two difficulties in the way of your theory, Miss Clack.
I manage Franklin Blake's affairs, and I beg to inform you
that the vast majority of his creditors (knowing his father to be
a rich man) are quite content to charge interest on their debts,
and to wait for their money. There is the first difficulty--
which is tough enough. You will find the second tougher still.
I have it on the authority of Lady Verinder herself, that her
daughter was ready to marry Franklin Blake, before that infernal
Indian Diamond disappeared from the house. She had drawn him
on and put him off again, with the coquetry of a young girl.
But she had confessed to her mother that she loved cousin Franklin,
and her mother had trusted cousin Franklin with the secret.
So there he was, Miss Clack, with his creditors content to wait,
and with the certain prospect before him of marrying an heiress.
By all means consider him a scoundrel; but tell me, if you please,
why he should steal the Moonstone?"

"The human heart is unsearchable," I said gently. "Who is to fathom it?"

"In other words, ma'am--though he hadn't the shadow of a reason for taking
the Diamond--he might have taken it, nevertheless, through natural depravity.
Very well. Say he did. Why the devil----"

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Bruff. If I hear the devil referred
to in that manner, I must leave the room."

"I beg YOUR pardon, Miss Clack--I'll be more careful in my
choice of language for the future. All I meant to ask
was this. Why--even supposing he did take the Diamond--
should Franklin Blake make himself the most prominent person
in the house in trying to recover it? You may tell me
he cunningly did that to divert suspicion from himself.
I answer that he had no need to divert suspicion--
because nobody suspected him. He first steals the Moonstone
(without the slightest reason) through natural depravity;
and he then acts a part, in relation to the loss of the jewel,
which there is not the slightest necessity to act, and which
leads to his mortally offending the young lady who would
otherwise have married him. That is the monstrous proposition
which you are driven to assert, if you attempt to associate
the disappearance of the Moonstone with Franklin Blake.
No, no, Miss Clack! After what has passed here to-day,
between us two, the dead-lock, in this case, is complete.
Rachel's own innocence is (as her mother knows, and as I know)
beyond a doubt. Mr. Ablewhite's innocence is equally certain--
or Rachel would never have testified to it. And Franklin Blake's
innocence, as you have just seen, unanswerably asserts itself.
On the one hand, we are morally certain of all these things.
And, on the other hand, we are equally sure that somebody has
brought the Moonstone to London, and that Mr. Luker, or his banker,
is in private possession of it at this moment. What is the use
of my experience, what is the use of any person's experience,
in such a case as that? It baffles me; it baffles you, it
baffles everybody."

No--not everybody. It had not baffled Sergeant Cuff.
I was about to mention this, with all possible mildness,
and with every necessary protest against being supposed
to cast a slur upon Rachel--when the servant came in to say
that the doctor had gone, and that my aunt was waiting to
receive us.

This stopped the discussion. Mr. Bruff collected his papers,
looking a little exhausted by the demands which our conversation
had made on him. I took up my bag-full of precious publications,
feeling as if I could have gone on talking for hours. We proceeded
in silence to Lady Verinder's room.

Permit me to add here, before my narrative advances to other events,
that I have not described what passed between the lawyer and me,
without having a definite object in view. I am ordered to include
in my contribution to the shocking story of the Moonstone
a plain disclosure, not only of the turn which suspicion took,
but even of the names of the persons on whom suspicion rested,
at the time when the Indian Diamond was believed to be in London.
A report of my conversation in the library with Mr. Bruff appeared
to me to be exactly what was wanted to answer this purpose--
while, at the same time, it possessed the great moral advantage
of rendering a sacrifice of sinful self-esteem essentially necessary
on my part. I have been obliged to acknowledge that my fallen
nature got the better of me. In making that humiliating confession,
I get the better of my fallen nature. The moral balance is restored;
the spiritual atmosphere feels clear once more. Dear friends, we may go
on again.

CHAPTER IV

The signing of the Will was a much shorter matter than I had anticipated.
It was hurried over, to my thinking, in indecent haste. Samuel, the footman,
was sent for to act as second witness--and the pen was put at once into my
aunt's hand. I felt strongly urged to say a few appropriate words on this
solemn occasion. But Mr. Bruff's manner convinced me that it was wisest
to check the impulse while he was in the room. In less than two minutes it
was all over--and Samuel (unbenefited by what I might have said) had gone
downstairs again.

Mr. Bruff folded up the Will, and then looked my way;
apparently wondering whether I did or did not mean to leave
him alone with my aunt. I had my mission of mercy to fulfil,
and my bag of precious publications ready on my lap.
He might as well have expected to move St. Paul's Cathedral
by looking at it, as to move Me. There was one merit about him
(due no doubt to his worldly training) which I have no wish to deny.
He was quick at seeing things. I appeared to produce almost
the same impression on him which I had produced on the cabman.
HE too uttered a profane expression, and withdrew in a violent hurry,
and left me mistress of the field.

As soon as we were alone, my aunt reclined on the sofa, and then alluded,
with some appearance of confusion, to the subject of her Will.

"I hope you won't think yourself neglected, Drusilla," she said.
"I mean to GIVE you your little legacy, my dear, with my own hand."

Here was a golden opportunity! I seized it on the spot.
In other words, I instantly opened my bag, and took out
the top publication. It proved to be an early edition--
only the twenty-fifth--of the famous anonymous work (believed to
be by precious Miss Bellows), entitled THE SERPENT AT HOME.
The design of the book--with which the worldly reader may not
be acquainted--is to show how the Evil One lies in wait for us
in all the most apparently innocent actions of our daily lives.
The chapters best adapted to female perusal are "Satan
in the Hair Brush;" "Satan behind the Looking Glass;"
"Satan under the Tea Table;" "Satan out of the Window'--
and many others.

"Give your attention, dear aunt, to this precious book--
and you will give me all I ask. "With those words, I handed
it to her open, at a marked passage--one continuous burst of
burning eloquence! Subject: Satan among the Sofa Cushions.

Poor Lady Verinder (reclining thoughtlessly on her own sofa cushions)
glanced at the book, and handed it back to me looking more confused
than ever.

"I'm afraid, Drusilla," she said, "I must wait till I am a little better,
before I can read that. The doctor----"

The moment she mentioned the doctor's name, I knew what was coming.
Over and over again in my past experience among my perishing
fellow-creatures, the members of the notoriously infidel profession
of Medicine had stepped between me and my mission of mercy--
on the miserable pretence that the patient wanted quiet,
and that the disturbing influence of all others which they
most dreaded, was the influence of Miss Clack and her Books.
Precisely the same blinded materialism (working treacherously
behind my back) now sought to rob me of the only right of property
that my poverty could claim--my right of spiritual property in my
perishing aunt.

"The doctor tells me," my poor misguided relative went on,
"that I am not so well to-day. He forbids me to see any strangers;
and he orders me, if I read at all, only to read the lightest
and the most amusing books. 'Do nothing, Lady Verinder,
to weary your head, or to quicken your pulse'--those were his
last words, Drusilla, when he left me to-day."

There was no help for it but to yield again--for the moment only, as before.
Any open assertion of the infinitely superior importance of such a ministry
as mine, compared with the ministry of the medical man, would only have
provoked the doctor to practise on the human weakness of his patient,
and to threaten to throw up the case. Happily, there are more ways than one
of sowing the good seed, and few persons are better versed in those ways
than myself.

"You might feel stronger, dear, in an hour or two," I said.
"Or you might wake, to-morrow morning, with a sense of something wanting,
and even this unpretending volume might be able to supply it.
You will let me leave the book, aunt? The doctor can hardly object
to that!"

I slipped it under the sofa cushions, half in, and half out,
close by her handkerchief, and her smelling-bottle. Every time
her hand searched for either of these, it would touch the book;
and, sooner or later (who knows?) the book might touch HER.
After making this arrangement, I thought it wise to withdraw.
"Let me leave you to repose, dear aunt; I will call again to-morrow."
I looked accidentally towards the window as I said that. It was full
of flowers, in boxes and pots. Lady Verinder was extravagantly
fond of these perishable treasures, and had a habit of rising
every now and then, and going to look at them and smell them.
A new idea flashed across my mind. "Oh! may I take a flower?"
I said--and got to the window unsuspected, in that way.
Instead of taking away a flower, I added one, in the shape
of another book from my bag, which I left, to surprise my aunt,
among the geraniums and roses. The happy thought followed,
"Why not do the same for her, poor dear, in every other room
that she enters?" I immediately said good-bye; and, crossing
the hall, slipped into the library. Samuel, coming up to let
me out, and supposing I had gone, went down-stairs again.
On the library table I noticed two of the "amusing books"
which the infidel doctor had recommended. I instantly covered
them from sight with two of my own precious publications.
In the breakfast-room I found my aunt's favourite canary
singing in his cage. She was always in the habit of feeding
the bird herself. Some groundsel was strewed on a table which stood
immediately under the cage. I put a book among the groundsel.
In the drawing-room I found more cheering opportunities
of emptying my bag. My aunt's favourite musical pieces were
on the piano. I slipped in two more books among the music.
I disposed of another in the back drawing-room, under some
unfinished embroidery, which I knew to be of Lady Verinder's working.
A third little room opened out of the back drawing-room,
from which it was shut off by curtains instead of a door.
My aunt's plain old-fashioned fan was on the chimney-piece. I
opened my ninth book at a very special passage, and put the fan
in as a marker, to keep the place. The question then came,
whether I should go higher still, and try the bed-room floor--
at the risk, undoubtedly, of being insulted, if the person
with the cap-ribbons happened to be in the upper regions
of the house, and to find me put. But oh, what of that?
It is a poor Christian that is afraid of being insulted.
I went upstairs, prepared to bear anything. All was silent
and solitary--it was the servants' tea-time, I suppose.
My aunt's room was in front. The minature of my late
dear uncle, Sir John, hung on the wall opposite the bed.
It seemed to smile at me; it seemed to say, "Drusilla! deposit
a book." There were tables on either side of my aunt's bed.
She was a bad sleeper, and wanted, or thought she wanted,
many things at night. I put a book near the matches on one side,
and a book under the box of chocolate drops on the other.
Whether she wanted a light, or whether she wanted a drop,
there was a precious publication to meet her eye, or to meet
her hand, and to say with silent eloquence, in either case,
"Come, try me! try me!" But one book was now left at the bottom
of my bag, and but one apartment was still unexplored--
the bath-room, which opened out of the bed-room. I peeped in;
and the holy inner voice that never deceives, whispered to me,
"You have met her, Drusilla, everywhere else; meet her at
the bath, and the work is done." I observed a dressing-gown
thrown across a chair. It had a pocket in it, and in that
pocket I put my last book. Can words express my exquisite
sense of duty done, when I had slipped out of the house,
unsuspected by any of them, and when I found myself in the street
with my empty bag under my arm? Oh, my worldly friends,
pursuing the phantom, Pleasure, through the guilty mazes
of Dissipation, how easy it is to be happy, if you will only be
good!

When I folded up my things that night--when I reflected on
the true riches which I had scattered with such a lavish hand,
from top to bottom of the house of my wealthy aunt--I declare I
felt as free from all anxiety as if I had been a child again.
I was so light-hearted that I sang a verse of the Evening Hymn.
I was so light-hearted that I fell asleep before I could
sing another. Quite like a child again! quite like a
child again!

So I passed that blissful night. On rising the next morning,
how young I felt! I might add, how young I looked, if I were
capable of dwelling on the concerns of my own perishable body.
But I am not capable--and I add nothing.

Towards luncheon time--not for the sake of the creature-comforts, but for the
certainty of finding dear aunt--I put on my bonnet to go to Montagu Square.
Just as I was ready, the maid at the lodgings in which I then lived looked
in at the door, and said, "Lady Verinder's servant, to see Miss Clack."

I occupied the parlour-floor, at that period of my residence
in London. The front parlour was my sitting-room. Very small,
very low in the ceiling, very poorly furnished--but, oh, so neat!
I looked into the passage to see which of Lady Verinder's
servants had asked for me. It was the young footman, Samuel--
a civil fresh-coloured person, with a teachable look and a
very obliging manner. I had always felt a spiritual interest
in Samuel, and a wish to try him with a few serious words.
On this occasion, I invited him into my sitting-room.

He came in, with a large parcel under his arm. When he put the parcel down,
it appeared to frighten him. "My lady's love, Miss; and I was to say that you
would find a letter inside." Having given that message, the fresh-coloured
young footman surprised me by looking as if he would have liked to run away.

I detained him to make a few kind inquiries. Could I see my aunt,
if I called in Montagu Square? No; she had gone out for a drive.
Miss Rachel had gone with her, and Mr. Ablewhite had taken a seat
in the carriage, too. Knowing how sadly dear Mr. Godfrey's charitable
work was in arrear, I thought it odd that he should be going out driving,
like an idle man. I stopped Samuel at the door, and made a few
more kind inquiries. Miss Rachel was going to a ball that night,
and Mr. Ablewhite had arranged to come to coffee, and go with her.
There was a morning concert advertised for to-morrow, and Samuel was ordered
to take places for a large party, including a place for Mr. Ablewhite.
"All the tickets may be gone, Miss," said this innocent youth,
"if I don't run and get them at once!" He ran as he said the words--
and I found myself alone again, with some anxious thoughts to
occupy me.

We had a special meeting of the Mothers'-Small-Clothes-Conversion Society
that night, summoned expressly with a view to obtaining Mr. Godfrey's advice
and assistance. Instead of sustaining our sisterhood, under an overwhelming
flow of Trousers which quite prostrated our little community, he had
arranged to take coffee in Montagu Square, and to go to a ball afterwards!
The afternoon of the next day had been selected for the Festival of
the British-Ladies'- Servants'-Sunday-Sweetheart-Supervision Society.
Instead of being present, the life and soul of that struggling Institution,
he had engaged to make one of a party of worldlings at a morning concert!
I asked myself what did it mean? Alas! it meant that our Christian Hero was
to reveal himself to me in a new character, and to become associated in my
mind with one of the most awful backslidings of modern times.

To return, however, to the history of the passing day.
On finding myself alone in my room, I naturally turned
my attention to the parcel which appeared to have so
strangely intimidated the fresh-coloured young footman.
Had my aunt sent me my promised legacy? and had it taken
the form of cast-off clothes, or worn-out silver spoons,
or unfashionable jewellery, or anything of that sort?
Prepared to accept all, and to resent nothing, I opened the parcel--
and what met my view? The twelve precious publications
which I had scattered through the house, on the previous day;
all returned to me by the doctor's orders! Well might the youthful
Samuel shrink when he brought his parcel into my room!
Well might he run when he had performed his miserable errand!
As to my aunt's letter, it simply amounted, poor soul, to this--
that she dare not disobey her medical man.

What was to be done now? With my training and my principles,
I never had a moment's doubt.

Once self-supported by conscience, once embarked on a career
of manifest usefulness, the true Christian never yields.
Neither public nor private influences produce the slightest
effect on us, when we have once got our mission. Taxation may
be the consequence of a mission; riots may be the consequence
of a mission; wars may be the consequence of a mission:
we go on with our work, irrespective of every human consideration
which moves the world outside us. We are above reason;
we are beyond ridicule; we see with nobody's eyes, we hear
with nobody's ears, we feel with nobody's hearts, but our own.
Glorious, glorious privilege! And how is it earned?
Ah, my friends, you may spare yourselves the useless inquiry!
We are the only people who can earn it--for we are the only
people who are always right.

In the case of my misguided aunt, the form which pious perseverance
was next to take revealed itself to me plainly enough.

Preparation by clerical friends had failed, owing to Lady Verinder's
own reluctance. Preparation by books had failed, owing to the doctor's
infidel obstinacy. So be it! What was the next thing to try?
The next thing to try was--Preparation by Little Notes.
In other words, the books themselves having been sent back,
select extracts from the books, copied by different hands, and all
addressed as letters to my aunt, were, some to be sent by post,
and some to be distributed about the house on the plan I had adopted
on the previous day. As letters they would excite no suspicion;
as letters they would be opened--and, once opened, might be read.
Some of them I wrote myself. "Dear aunt, may I ask your attention
to a few lines?" &c. "Dear aunt, I was reading last night,
and I chanced on the following passage," &c. Other letters
were written for me by my valued fellow-workers, the sisterhood
at the Mothers'-Small-Clothes. "Dear madam, pardon the interest
taken in you by a true, though humble, friend." " Dear madam,
may a serious person surprise you by saying a few cheering words?"
Using these and other similar forms of courteous appeal,
we reintroduced all my precious passages under a form which
not even the doctor's watchful materialism could suspect.
Before the shades of evening had closed around us, I had a dozen
awakening letters for my aunt, instead of a dozen awakening books.
Six I made immediate arrangements for sending through the post,
and six I kept in my pocket for personal distribution in the house the
next day.

Soon after two o'clock I was again on the field of pious conflict,
addressing more kind inquiries to Samuel at Lady Verinder's door.

My aunt had had a bad night. She was again in the room in which I had
witnessed her Will, resting on the sofa, and trying to get a little sleep.

I said I would wait in the library, on the chance of seeing her.
In the fervour of my zeal to distribute the letters, it never
occurred to me to inquire about Rachel. The house was quiet,
and it was past the hour at which the musical performance began.
I took it for granted that she and her party of pleasure-seekers
(Mr. Godfrey, alas! included) were all at the concert, and eagerly devoted
myself to my good work, while time and opportunity were still at my
own disposal.

My aunt's correspondence of the morning--including the six awakening letters
which I had posted overnight--was lying unopened on the library table.
She had evidently not felt herself equal to dealing with a large
mass of letters--and she might be daunted by the number of them,
if she entered the library later in the day. I put one of my second set
of six letters on the chimney-piece by itself; leaving it to attract
her curiosity, by means of its solitary position, apart from the rest.
A second letter I put purposely on the floor in the breakfast-room. The
first servant who went in after me would conclude that my aunt had dropped it,
and would be specially careful to restore it to her. The field thus
sown on the basement story, I ran lightly upstairs to scatter my mercies
next over the drawing-room floor.

Just as I entered the front room, I heard a double knock at
the street-door--a soft, fluttering, considerate little knock.
Before I could think of slipping back to the library (in which I
was supposed to be waiting), the active young footman was in
the hall, answering the door. It mattered little, as I thought.
In my aunt's state of health, visitors in general were not admitted.
To my horror and amazement, the performer of the soft little knock
proved to be an exception to general rules. Samuel's voice below me
(after apparently answering some questions which I did not hear)
said, unmistakably, "Upstairs, if you please, sir." The next moment I
heard footsteps--a man's footsteps--approaching the drawing-room floor.
Who could this favoured male visitor possibly be? Almost as soon
as I asked myself the question, the answer occurred to me.
Who COULD it be but the doctor?

In the case of any other visitor, I should have allowed
myself to be discovered in the drawing-room. There would
have been nothing out of the common in my having got tired
of the library, and having gone upstairs for a change.
But my own self-respect stood in the way of my meeting
the person who had insulted me by sending me back my books.
I slipped into the little third room, which I have mentioned
as communicating with the back drawing-room, and dropped
the curtains which closed the open doorway. If I only waited
there for a minute or two, the usual result in such cases would
take place. That is to say, the doctor would be conducted to his
patient's room.

I waited a minute or two, and more than a minute or two.
I heard the visitor walking restlessly backwards and forwards.
I also heard him talking to himself. I even thought I
recognised the voice. Had I made a mistake? Was it not
the doctor, but somebody else? Mr. Bruff, for instance?
No! an unerring instinct told me it was not Mr. Bruff.
Whoever he was, he was still talking to himself. I parted
the heavy curtains the least little morsel in the world,
and listened.

The words I heard were, "I'll do it to-day!" And the voice that spoke
them was Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite's.

CHAPTER V

My hand dropped from the curtain. But don't suppose--oh, don't suppose--
that the dreadful embarrassment of my situation was the uppermost
idea in my mind! So fervent still was the sisterly interest
I felt in Mr. Godfrey, that I never stopped to ask myself why
he was not at the concert. No! I thought only of the words--
the startling words--which had just fallen from his lips.
He would do it to-day. He had said, in a tone of terrible resolution,
he would do it to-day. What, oh what, would he do? Something even
more deplorably unworthy of him than what he had done already?
Would he apostatise from the faith? Would he abandon us at
the Mothers'-Small-Clothes? Had we seen the last of his angelic
smile in the committee-room? Had we heard the last of his unrivalled
eloquence at Exeter Hall? I was so wrought up by the bare idea
of such awful eventualities as these in connection with such a man,
that I believe I should have rushed from my place of concealment,
and implored him in the name of all the Ladies' Committees in
London to explain himself--when I suddenly heard another voice
in the room. It penetrated through the curtains; it was loud,
it was bold, it was wanting in every female charm. The voice of
Rachel Verinder.

"Why have you come up here, Godfrey?" she asked. "Why didn't you
go into the library?"

He laughed softly, and answered, "Miss Clack is in the library."

"Clack in the library!" She instantly seated herself on the ottoman
in the back drawing-room. "You are quite right, Godfrey. We had much
better stop here."

I had been in a burning fever, a moment since, and in some
doubt what to do next. I became extremely cold now, and felt
no doubt whatever. To show myself, after what I had heard,
was impossible. To retreat--except into the fireplace--
was equally out of the question. A martyrdom was before me.
In justice to myself, I noiselessly arranged the curtains
so that I could both see and hear. And then I met my martyrdom,
with the spirit of a primitive Christian.

"Don't sit on the ottoman," the young lady proceeded.
"Bring a chair, Godfrey. I like people to be opposite to me
when I talk to them."

He took the nearest seat. It was a low chair. He was very tall,
and many sizes too large for it. I never saw his legs to such
disadvantage before.

"Well?" she went on. "What did you say to them?"

"Just what you said, dear Rachel, to me."

"That mamma was not at all well to-day? And that I didn't quite
like leaving her to go to the concert?"

"Those were the words. They were grieved to lose you at the concert,
but they quite understood. All sent their love; and all expressed a
cheering belief that Lady Verinder's indisposition would soon pass away."

"YOU don't think it's serious, do you, Godfrey?"

"Far from it! In a few days, I feel quite sure, all will be well again."

"I think so, too. I was a little frightened at first, but I think so too.
It was very kind to go and make my excuses for me to people who are almost
strangers to you. But why not have gone with them to the concert? It seems
very hard that you should miss the music too."

"Don't say that, Rachel! If you only knew how much happier
I am--here, with you!"

He clasped his hands, and looked at her. In the position which he occupied,
when he did that, he turned my way. Can words describe how I sickened when I
noticed exactly the same pathetic expression on his face, which had charmed
me when he was pleading for destitute millions of his fellow-creatures on
the platform at Exeter Hall!

"It's hard to get over one's bad habits, Godfrey. But do try to get
over the habit of paying compliments--do, to please me."

"I never paid you a compliment, Rachel, in my life.
Successful love may sometimes use the language of flattery, I admit.
But hopeless love, dearest, always speaks the truth."

He drew his chair close, and took her hand, when he said "hopeless love."
There was a momentary silence. He, who thrilled everybody, had doubtless
thrilled HER. I thought I now understood the words which had dropped
from him when he was alone in the drawing-room, "I'll do it to-day."
Alas! the most rigid propriety could hardly have failed to discover
that he was doing it now.

"Have you forgotten what we agreed on, Godfrey, when you spoke
to me in the country? We agreed that we were to be cousins,
and nothing more."

"I break the agreement, Rachel, every time I see you."

"Then don't see me."

"Quite useless! I break the agreement every time I think of you.
Oh, Rachel! how kindly you told me, only the other day, that my place
in your estimation was a higher place than it had ever been yet!
Am I mad to build the hopes I do on those dear words? Am I mad
to dream of some future day when your heart may soften to me?
Don't tell me so, if I am! Leave me my delusion, dearest! I must
have THAT to cherish, and to comfort me, if I have nothing else!"

His voice trembled, and he put his white handkerchief to his eyes.
Exeter Hall again! Nothing wanting to complete the parallel but
the audience, the cheers, and the glass of water.

Even her obdurate nature was touched. I saw her lean a little nearer to him.
I heard a new tone of interest in her next words.

"Are you really sure, Godfrey, that you are so fond of me as that?"

"Sure! You know what I was, Rachel. Let me tell you what I am.
I have lost every interest in life, but my interest in you.
A transformation has come over me which I can't account for, myself.
Would you believe it? My charitable business is an unendurable
nuisance to me; and when I see a Ladies' Committee now, I wish myself
at the uttermost ends of the earth!"

If the annals of apostasy offer anything comparable to such a declaration
as that, I can only say that the case in point is not producible from
the stores of my reading. I thought of the Mothers'-Small-Clothes. I thought
of the Sunday-Sweetheart-Supervision. I thought of the other Societies,
too numerous to mention, all built up on this man as on a tower of strength.
I thought of the struggling Female Boards, who, so to speak, drew the breath
of their business-life through the nostrils of Mr. Godfrey--of that same
Mr. Godfrey who had just reviled our good work as a "nuisance"--and just
declared that he wished he was at the uttermost ends of the earth when he
found himself in our company! My young female friends will feel encouraged
to persevere, when I mention that it tried even My discipline before I could
devour my own righteous indignation in silence. At the same time, it is only
justice to myself to add, that I didn't lose a syllable of the conversation.
Rachel was the next to speak.

"You have made your confession," she said. "I wonder whether it
would cure you of your unhappy attachment to me, if I made mine?"

He started. I confess I started too. He thought, and I thought,
that she was about to divulge the mystery of the Moonstone.

"Would you think, to look at me," she went on, "that I am the wretchedest
girl living? It's true, Godfrey. What greater wretchedness can there
be than to live degraded in your own estimation? That is my life now."

"My dear Rachel! it's impossible you can have any reason to speak
of yourself in that way!"

"How do you know I have no reason?"

"Can you ask me the question! I know it, because I know you.
Your silence, dearest, has never lowered you in the estimation
of your true friends. The disappearance of your precious
birthday gift may seem strange; your unexplained connection
with that event may seem stranger still

"Are you speaking of the Moonstone, Godfrey----"

"I certainly thought that you referred----"

"I referred to nothing of the sort. I can hear of the loss of the Moonstone,
let who will speak of it, without feeling degraded in my own estimation.
If the story of the Diamond ever comes to light, it will be known that I
accepted a dreadful responsibility; it will be known that I involved myself
in the keeping of a miserable secret--but it will be as clear as the sun
at noon-day that I did nothing mean! You have misunderstood me, Godfrey.
It's my fault for not speaking more plainly. Cost me what it may, I will be
plainer now. Suppose you were not in love with me? Suppose you were in love
with some other woman?"

"Yes?"

"Suppose you discovered that woman to be utterly unworthy of you?
Suppose you were quite convinced that it was a disgrace to you
to waste another thought on her? Suppose the bare idea of ever
marrying such a person made your face burn, only with thinking
of it."

"Yes?"

"And, suppose, in spite of all that--you couldn't tear her from your heart?
Suppose the feeling she had roused in you (in the time when you
believed in her) was not a feeling to be hidden? Suppose the love this
wretch had inspired in you? Oh, how can I find words to say it in!
How can I make a MAN understand that a feeling which horrifies me at myself,
can be a feeling that fascinates me at the same time? It's the breath
of my life, Godfrey, and it's the poison that kills me--both in one!
Go away! I must be out of my mind to talk as I am talking now.
No! you mustn't leave me--you mustn't carry away a wrong impression.
I must say what is to be said in my own defence. Mind this! HE doesn't know--
he never will know, what I have told you. I will never see him--
I don't care what happens--I will never, never, never see him again!
Don't ask me his name! Don't ask me any more! Let's change the subject.
Are you doctor enough, Godfrey, to tell me why I feel as if I was stifling
for want of breath? Is there a form of hysterics that bursts into words
instead of tears? I dare say! What does it matter? You will get over any
trouble I have caused you, easily enough now. I have dropped to my right
place in your estimation, haven't I? Don't notice me! Don't pity me!
For God's sake, go away!"

She turned round on a sudden, and beat her hands wildly on
the back of the ottoman. Her head dropped on the cushions;
and she burst out crying. Before I had time to feel shocked,
at this, I was horror-struck by an entirely unexpected proceeding
on the part of Mr. Godfrey. Will it be credited that he fell
on his knees at her feet.?--on BOTH knees, I solemnly declare!
May modesty mention that he put his arms round her next?
And may reluctant admiration acknowledge that he electrified her with
two words?

"Noble creature!"

No more than that! But he did it with one of the bursts which have made
his fame as a public speaker. She sat, either quite thunderstruck,
or quite fascinated--I don't know which--without even making
an effort to put his arms back where his arms ought to have been.
As for me, my sense of propriety was completely bewildered.
I was so painfully uncertain whether it was my first duty to close
my eyes, or to stop my ears, that I did neither. I attribute
my being still able to hold the curtain in the right position
for looking and listening, entirely to suppressed hysterics.
In suppressed hysterics, it is admitted, even by the doctors,
that one must hold something.

"Yes," he said, with all the fascination of his evangelical
voice and manner, "you are a noble creature! A woman
who can speak the truth, for the truth's own sake--a woman
who will sacrifice her pride, rather than sacrifice an honest
man who loves her--is the most priceless of all treasures.
When such a woman marries, if her husband only wins her esteem
and regard, he wins enough to ennoble his whole life.
You have spoken, dearest, of your place in my estimation.
Judge what that place is--when I implore you on my knees,
to let the cure of your poor wounded heart be my care.
Rachel! will you honour me, will you bless me, by being
my wife?"

By this time I should certainly have decided on stopping my ears,
if Rachel had not encouraged me to keep them open, by answering him
in the first sensible words I had ever heard fall from her lips.

"Godfrey!" she said, "you must be mad!"

"I never spoke more reasonably, dearest--in your interests,
as well as in mine. Look for a moment to the future. Is your
happiness to be sacrificed to a man who has never known how you
feel towards him, and whom you are resolved never to see again?
Is it not your duty to yourself to forget this ill-fated attachment?
and is forgetfulness to be found in the life you are leading now?
You have tried that life, and you are wearying of it already.
Surround yourself with nobler interests than the wretched interests
of the world. A heart that loves and honours you; a home whose
peaceful claims and happy duties win gently on you day by day--
try the consolation, Rachel, which is to be found THERE!
I don't ask for your love--I will be content with your affection
and regard. Let the rest be left, confidently left, to your
husband's devotion, and to Time that heals even wounds as deep
as yours."

She began to yield already. Oh, what a bringing-up she must have had!
Oh, how differently I should have acted in her place!

"Don't tempt me, Godfrey," she said; "I am wretched enough and reckless enough
as it is. Don't tempt me to be more wretched and more wreckless still!"

"One question, Rachel. Have you any personal objection to me?"

"I! I always liked you. After what you have just said to me,
I should be insensible indeed if I didn't respect and admire you
as well."

"Do you know many wives, my dear Rachel, who respect and admire
their husbands? And yet they and their husbands get on very well.
How many brides go to the altar with hearts that would bear inspection
by the men who take them there? And yet it doesn't end unhappily--
somehow or other the nuptial establishment jogs on. The truth is,
that women try marriage as a Refuge, far more numerously than they
are willing to admit; and, what is more, they find that marriage has
justified their confidence in it. Look at your own case once again.
At your age, and with your attractions, is it possible for you to
sentence yourself to a single life? Trust my knowledge of the world--
nothing is less possible. It is merely a question of time.
You may marry some other man, some years hence. Or you may marry
the man, dearest, who is now at your feet, and who prizes your respect
and admiration above the love of any other woman on the face of
the earth."

"Gently, Godfrey! you are putting something into my head
which I never thought of before. You are tempting me with a
new prospect, when all my other prospects are closed before me.
I tell you again, I am miserable enough and desperate enough,
if you say another word, to marry you on your own terms.
Take the warning, and go!"

"I won't even rise from my knees, till you have said yes!"

"If I say yes you will repent, and I shall repent, when it is too late!"

"We shall both bless the day, darling, when I pressed, and when you yielded."

"Do you feel as confidently as you speak?"

"You shall judge for yourself. I speak from what I have seen in my
own family. Tell me what you think of our household at Frizinghall.
Do my father and mother live unhappily together?"

"Far from it--so far as I can see."

"When my mother was a girl, Rachel (it is no secret in the family), she had
loved as you love--she had given her heart to a man who was unworthy of her.
She married my father, respecting him, admiring him, but nothing more.
Your own eyes have seen the result. Is there no encouragement in it for you
and for me?" *

* See Betteredge's Narrative, chapter viii.

"You won't hurry me, Godfrey?"

"My time shall be yours."

"You won't ask me for more than I can give?"

"My angel! I only ask you to give me yourself."

"Take me!"

In those two words she accepted him!

He had another burst--a burst of unholy rapture this time.
He drew her nearer and nearer to him till her face touched his;
and then--No! I really cannot prevail upon myself to carry this
shocking disclosure any farther. Let me only say, that I tried to close
my eyes before it happened, and that I was just one moment too late.
I had calculated, you see, on her resisting. She submitted.
To every right-feeling person of my own sex, volumes could say
no more.

Even my innocence in such matters began to see its way to the end
of the interview now. They understood each other so thoroughly
by this time, that I fully expected to see them walk off together,
arm in arm, to be married. There appeared, however, judging by
Mr. Godfrey's next words, to be one more trifling formality which it
was necessary to observe. He seated himself--unforbidden this time--
on the ottoman by her side. "Shall I speak to your dear mother?"
he asked. "Or will you?"

She declined both alternatives.

"Let my mother hear nothing from either of us, until she is better.
I wish it to be kept a secret for the present, Godfrey. Go now,
and come back this evening. We have been here alone together quite
long enough."

She rose, and in rising, looked for the first time towards the little
room in which my martyrdom was going on.

"Who has drawn those curtains?" she exclaimed.

"The room is close enough, as it is, without keeping the air out of it
in that way."

She advanced to the curtains. At the moment when she laid her hand on them--
at the moment when the discovery of me appeared to be quite inevitable--
the voice of the fresh-coloured young footman, on the stairs,
suddenly suspended any further proceedings on her side or on mine.
It was unmistakably the voice of a man in great alarm.

"Miss Rachel!" he called out, "where are you, Miss Rachel?"

She sprang back from the curtains, and ran to the door.

The footman came just inside the room. His ruddy colour was all gone.
He said, "Please to come down-stairs, Miss! My lady has fainted, and we
can't bring her to again."

In a moment more I was alone, and free to go down-stairs in my turn,
quite unobserved.

Mr. Godfrey passed me in the hall, hurrying out, to fetch the doctor.
"Go in, and help them!" he said, pointing to the room. I found Rachel
on her knees by the sofa, with her mother's head on her bosom.
One look at my aunt's face (knowing what I knew) was enough to warn me of
the dreadful truth. I kept my thoughts to myself till the doctor came in.
It was not long before he arrived. He began by sending Rachel out of
the room--and then he told the rest of us that Lady Verinder was no more.
Serious persons, in search of proofs of hardened scepticism, may be
interested in hearing that he showed no signs of remorse when he looked
at Me.

At a later hour I peeped into the breakfast-room, and the library.
My aunt had died without opening one of the letters which I had addressed
to her. I was so shocked at this, that it never occurred to me,
until some days afterwards, that she had also died without giving me my
little legacy.

CHAPTER VI

(1.) "Miss Clack presents her compliments to Mr. Franklin Blake;
and, in sending him the fifth chapter of her humble narrative,
begs to say that she feels quite unequal to enlarge as she
could wish on an event so awful, under the circumstances,
as Lady Verinder's death. She has, therefore, attached to her
own manuscripts, copious Extracts from precious publications
in her possession, all bearing on this terrible subject.
And may those Extracts (Miss Clack fervently hopes) sound as
the blast of a trumpet in the ears of her respected kinsman,
Mr. Franklin Blake."

(2.) "Mr. Franklin Blake presents his compliments to Miss Clack,
and begs to thank her for the fifth chapter of her narrative.
In returning the extracts sent with it, he will refrain from
mentioning any personal objection which he may entertain to this
species of literature, and will merely say that the proposed
additions to the manuscript are not necessary to the fulfilment
of the purpose that he has in view."

(3.) "Miss Clack begs to acknowledge the return of her Extracts.
She affectionately reminds Mr. Franklin Blake that she is a Christian,
and that it is, therefore, quite impossible for him to offend her.
Miss C. persists in feeling the deepest interest in Mr. Blake,
and pledges herself, on the first occasion when sickness may lay
him low, to offer him the use of her Extracts for the second time.
In the meanwhile she would be glad to know, before beginning
the final chapters of her narrative, whether she may be permitted
to make her humble contribution complete, by availing herself
of the light which later discoveries have thrown on the mystery of
the Moonstone."

(4.) "Mr. Franklin Blake is sorry to disappoint Miss Clack.
He can only repeat the instructions which he had the honour
of giving her when she began her narrative. She is requested
to limit herself to her own individual experience of persons
and events, as recorded in her diary. Later discoveries she
will be good enough to leave to the pens of those persons
who can write in the capacity of actual witnesses."

(5.) "Miss Clack is extremely sorry to trouble Mr. Franklin Blake with
another letter. Her Extracts have been returned, and the expression
of her matured views on the subject of the Moonstone has been forbidden.
Miss Clack is painfully conscious that she ought (in the worldly phrase)
to feel herself put down. But, no--Miss C. has learnt Perseverance
in the School of Adversity. Her object in writing is to know whether
Mr. Blake (who prohibits everything else) prohibits the appearance of
the present correspondence in Miss Clack's narrative? Some explanation
of the position in which Mr. Blake's interference has placed her as
an authoress, seems due on the ground of common justice. And Miss Clack,
on her side, is most anxious that her letters should be produced to speak
for themselves."

(6.) "Mr. Franklin Blake agrees to Miss Clack's proposal,
on the understanding that she will kindly consider this intimation
of his consent as closing the correspondence between them."

(7.) "Miss Clack feels it an act of Christian duty
(before the correspondence closes) to inform Mr. Franklin
Blake that his last letter--evidently intended to offend her--
has not succeeded in accomplishing the object of the writer.
She affectionately requests Mr. Blake to retire to the privacy
of his own room, and to consider with himself whether the training
which can thus elevate a poor weak woman above the reach of insult,
be not worthy of greater admiration than he is now disposed to feel
for it. On being favoured with an intimation to that effect,
Miss C. solemnly pledges herself to send back the complete
series of her Extracts to Mr. Franklin Blake."

[To this letter no answer was received. Comment is needless.

(Signed) DRUSILLA CLACK.]

CHAPTER VII

The foregoing correspondence will sufficiently explain why no choice is left
to me but to pass over Lady Verinder's death with the simple announcement
of the fact which ends my fifth chapter.

Keeping myself for the future strictly within the limits of my own
personal experience, I have next to relate that a month elapsed from
the time of my aunt's decease before Rachel Verinder and I met again.
That meeting was the occasion of my spending a few days under the same
roof with her. In the course of my visit, something happened,
relative to her marriage-engagement with Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite,
which is important enough to require special notice in these pages.
When this last of many painful family circumstances has been disclosed,
my task will be completed; for I shall then have told all that I know,
as an actual (and most unwilling) witness of events.

My aunt's remains were removed from London, and were buried
in the little cemetery attached to the church in her own park.
I was invited to the funeral with the rest of the family.
But it was impossible (with my religious views) to rouse myself
in a few days only from the shock which this death had caused me.
I was informed, moreover, that the rector of Frizinghall
was to read the service. Having myself in past times seen
this clerical castaway making one of the players at Lady
Verinder's whist-table, I doubt, even if I had been fit
to travel, whether I should have felt justified in attending
the ceremony.

Lady Verinder's death left her daughter under the care of her
brother-in-law, Mr. Ablewhite the elder. He was appointed
guardian by the will, until his niece married, or came of age.
Under these circumstances, Mr. Godfrey informed his father,
I suppose, of the new relation in which he stood towards Rachel.
At any rate, in ten days from my aunt's death, the secret of
the marriage-engagement was no secret at all within the circle
of the family, and the grand question for Mr. Ablewhite senior--
another confirmed castaway!--was how to make himself and his authority
most agreeable to the wealthy young lady who was going to marry
his son.

Rachel gave him some trouble at the outset, about the choice
of a place in which she could be prevailed upon to reside.
The house in Montagu Square was associated with the calamity
of her mother's death. The house in Yorkshire was associated with
the scandalous affair of the lost Moonstone. Her guardian's own
residence at Frizinghall was open to neither of these objections.
But Rachel's presence in it, after her recent bereavement,
operated as a check on the gaieties of her cousins,
the Miss Ablewhites--and she herself requested that her
visit might be deferred to a more favourable opportunity.
It ended in a proposal, emanating from old Mr. Ablewhite, to try
a furnished house at Brighton. His wife, an invalid daughter,
and Rachel were to inhabit it together, and were to expect him
to join them later in the season. They would see no society
but a few old friends, and they would have his son Godfrey,
travelling backwards and forwards by the London train, always at
their disposal.

I describe this aimless flitting about from one place of residence
to another--this insatiate restlessness of body and appalling
stagnation of soul--merely with the view to arriving at results.
The event which (under Providence) proved to be the means of bringing
Rachel Verinder and myself together again, was no other than the hiring
of the house at Brighton.

My Aunt Ablewhite is a large, silent, fair-complexioned woman,
with one noteworthy point in her character. From the hour of
her birth she has never been known to do anything for herself.
She has gone through life, accepting everybody's help, and adopting
everybody's opinions. A more hopeless person, in a spiritual
point of view, I have never met with--there is absolutely, in this
perplexing case, no obstructive material to work upon. Aunt Ablewhite
would listen to the Grand Lama of Thibet exactly as she listens to Me,
and would reflect his views quite as readily as she reflects mine.
She found the furnished house at Brighton by stopping at an hotel
in London, composing herself on a sofa, and sending for her son.
She discovered the necessary servants by breakfasting in bed one morning
(still at the hotel), and giving her maid a holiday on condition
that the girl "would begin enjoying herself by fetching Miss Clack."
I found her placidly fanning herself in her dressing-gown at eleven
o'clock. "Drusilla, dear, I want some servants. You are so clever--
please get them for me." I looked round the untidy room.
The church-bells were going for a week-day service; they suggested
a word of affectionate remonstrance on my part. "Oh, aunt!"
I said sadly. "Is THIS worthy of a Christian Englishwoman?
Is the passage from time to eternity to be made in THIS manner?"
My aunt answered, "I'll put on my gown, Drusilla, if you will
be kind enough to help me." What was to be said after that?
I have done wonders with murderesses--I have never advanced an inch
with Aunt Ablewhite. "Where is the list," I asked, "of the servants
whom you require?" My aunt shook her head; she hadn't even energy
enough to keep the list. "Rachel has got it, dear," she said,
"in the next room." I went into the next room, and so saw
Rachel again for the first time since we had parted in Montagu
Square.

She looked pitiably small and thin in her deep mourning.
If I attached any serious importance to such a perishable
trifle as personal appearance, I might be inclined to add
that hers was one of those unfortunate complexions which always
suffer when not relieved by a border of white next the skin.
But what are our complexions and our looks? Hindrances and pitfalls,
dear girls, which beset us on our way to higher things!
Greatly to my surprise, Rachel rose when I entered the room, and came
forward to meet me with outstretched hand.

"I am glad to see you," she said. "Drusilla, I have been in the habit
of speaking very foolishly and very rudely to you, on former occasions.
I beg your pardon. I hope you will forgive me."

My face, I suppose, betrayed the astonishment I felt at this.
She coloured up for a moment, and then proceeded to explain herself.

"In my poor mother's lifetime," she went on, "her friends
were not always my friends, too. Now I have lost her, my heart
turns for comfort to the people she liked. She liked you.
Try to be friends with me, Drusilla, if you can."

To any rightly-constituted mind, the motive thus acknowledged was
simply shocking. Here in Christian England was a young woman in a state
of bereavement, with so little idea of where to look for true comfort,
that she actually expected to find it among her mother's friends!
Here was a relative of mine, awakened to a sense of her shortcomings
towards others, under the influence, not of conviction and duty, but of
sentiment and impulse! Most deplorable to think of--but, still, suggestive of
something hopeful, to a person of my experience in plying the good work.
There could be no harm, I thought, in ascertaining the extent of the change
which the loss of her mother had wrought in Rachel's character. I decided,
as a useful test, to probe her on the subject of her marriage-engagement
to Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.

Having first met her advances with all possible cordiality,
I sat by her on the sofa, at her own request. We discussed
family affairs and future plans--always excepting that one future
plan which was to end in her marriage. Try as I might to turn
the conversation that way, she resolutely declined to take the hint.
Any open reference to the question, on my part, would have been
premature at this early stage of our reconciliation. Besides, I had
discovered all I wanted to know. She was no longer the reckless,
defiant creature whom I had heard and seen, on the occasion
of my martyrdom in Montagu Square. This was, of itself,
enough to encourage me to take her future conversion in hand--
beginning with a few words of earnest warning directed against the hasty
formation of the marriage tie, and so getting on to higher things.
Looking at her, now, with this new interest--and calling to mind
the headlong suddenness with which she had met Mr. Godfrey's
matrimonial views--I felt the solemn duty of interfering with a
fervour which assured me that I should achieve no common results.
Rapidity of proceeding was, as I believed, of importance in this case.
I went back at once to the question of the servants wanted for the
furnished house.

"Where is the list, dear?"

Rachel produced it.

"Cook, kitchen-maid, housemaid, and footman," I read.
My dear Rachel, these servants are only wanted for a term--
the term during which your guardian has taken the house.
We shall have great difficulty in finding persons of character
and capacity to accept a temporary engagement of that sort,
if we try in London. Has the house in Brighton been
found yet?"

"Yes. Godfrey has taken it; and persons in the house wanted him
to hire them as servants. He thought they would hardly do for us,
and came back having settled nothing."

"And you have no experience yourself in these matters, Rachel?"

"None whatever."

"And Aunt Ablewhite won't exert herself?"

"No, poor dear. Don't blame her, Drusilla. I think she is the only really
happy woman I have ever met with."

"There are degrees in happiness, darling. We must have a little talk,
some day, on that subject. In the meantime I will undertake to meet
the difficulty about the servants. Your aunt will write a letter
to the people of the house----"

"She will sign a letter, if I write it for her, which comes
to the same thing."

"Quite the same thing. I shall get the letter, and I will go
to Brighton to-morrow."

"How extremely kind of you! We will join you as soon as you
are ready for us. And you will stay, I hope, as my guest.
Brighton is so lively; you are sure to enjoy it."

In those words the invitation was given, and the glorious prospect
of interference was opened before me.

It was then the middle of the week. By Saturday afternoon
the house was ready for them. In that short interval I had sifted,
not the characters only, but the religious views as well,
of all the disengaged servants who applied to me, and had
succeeded in making a selection which my conscience approved.
I also discovered, and called on two serious friends of mine,
residents in the town, to whom I knew I could confide the pious
object which had brought me to Brighton. One of them--
a clerical friend--kindly helped me to take sittings for our
little party in the church in which he himself ministered.
The other--a single lady, like myself--placed the resources
of her library (composed throughout of precious publications)
entirely at my disposal. I borrowed half-a-dozen works,
all carefully chosen with a view to Rachel. When these had been
judiciously distributed in the various rooms she would be likely
to occupy, I considered that my preparations were complete.
Sound doctrine in the servants who waited on her;
sound doctrine in the minister who preached to her; sound doctrine
in the books that lay on her table--such was the treble
welcome which my zeal had prepared for the motherless girl!
A heavenly composure filled my mind, on that Saturday afternoon,
as I sat at the window waiting the arrival of my relatives.
The giddy throng passed and repassed before my eyes.
Alas! how many of them felt my exquisite sense of duty done?
An awful question. Let us not pursue it.

Between six and seven the travellers arrived. To my indescribable surprise,
they were escorted, not by Mr. Godfrey (as I had anticipated), but by
the lawyer, Mr. Bruff.

"How do you do, Miss Clack?" he said. "I mean to stay this time."

That reference to the occasion on which I had obliged him
to postpone his business to mine, when we were both visiting
in Montagu Square, satisfied me that the old worldling
had come to Brighton with some object of his own in view.
I had prepared quite a little Paradise for my beloved Rachel--
and here was the Serpent already!

"Godfrey was very much vexed, Drusilla, not to be able to come with us,"
said my Aunt Ablewhite. "There was something in the way which kept him
in town. Mr. Bruff volunteered to take his place, and make a holiday of it
till Monday morning. By-the-by, Mr. Bruff, I'm ordered to take exercise,
and I don't like it. That," added Aunt Ablewhite, pointing out of
window to an invalid going by in a chair on wheels, drawn by a man,
"is my idea of exercise. If it's air you want, you get it in your chair.
And if it's fatigue you want, I am sure it's fatigue enough to look at
the man."

Rachel stood silent, at a window by herself, with her eyes fixed on the sea.

"Tired, love?" I inquired.

"No. Only a little out of spirits," she answered. "I have often
seen the sea, on our Yorkshire coast, with that light on it.
And I was thinking, Drusilla, of the days that can never
come again."

Mr. Bruff remained to dinner, and stayed through the evening.
The more I saw of him, the more certain I felt that he had some
private end to serve in coming to Brighton. I watched him carefully.
He maintained the same appearance of ease, and talked the same
godless gossip, hour after hour, until it was time to take leave.
As he shook hands with Rachel, I caught his hard and cunning eyes
resting on her for a moment with a peculiar interest and attention.
She was plainly concerned in the object that he had in view.
He said nothing out of the common to her or to anyone on leaving.
He invited himself to luncheon the next day, and then he went away to
his hotel.

It was impossible the next morning to get my Aunt Ablewhite out
of her dressing-gown in time for church. Her invalid daughter
(suffering from nothing, in my opinion, but incurable laziness,
inherited from her mother) announced that she meant to remain
in bed for the day. Rachel and I went alone together to church.
A magnificent sermon was preached by my gifted friend on the heathen
indifference of the world to the sinfulness of little sins.
For more than an hour his eloquence (assisted by his glorious voice)
thundered through the sacred edifice. I said to Rachel, when we came out,
"Has it found its way to your heart, dear?" And she answered,
"No; it has only made my head ache." This might have been discouraging
to some people; but, once embarked on a career of manifest usefulness,
nothing discourages Me.

We found Aunt Ablewhite and Mr. Bruff at luncheon. When Rachel
declined eating anything, and gave as a reason for it that she
was suffering from a headache, the lawyer's cunning instantly saw,
and seized, the chance that she had given him.

"There is only one remedy for a headache," said this horrible old man.
"A walk, Miss Rachel, is the thing to cure you. I am entirely at
your service, if you will honour me by accepting my arm."

"With the greatest pleasure. A walk is the very thing I was longing for."

"It's past two," I gently suggested. "And the afternoon service,
Rachel, begins at three."

"How can you expect me to go to church again," she asked, petulantly,
"with such a headache as mine?"

Mr. Bruff officiously opened the door for her. In another minute
more they were both out of the house. I don't know when I have felt
the solemn duty of interfering so strongly as I felt it at that moment.
But what was to be done? Nothing was to be done but to interfere at
the first opportunity, later in the day.

On my return from the afternoon service I found that they had just got back.
One look at them told me that the lawyer had said what he wanted to say.
I had never before seen Rachel so silent and so thoughtful.
I had never before seen Mr. Bruff pay her such devoted attention,
and look at her with such marked respect. He had (or pretended that he had)
an engagement to dinner that day--and he took an early leave of us all;
intending to go back to London by the first train the next morning.

"Are you sure of your own resolution?" he said to Rachel at the door.

"Quite sure," she answered--and so they parted.

The moment his back was turned, Rachel withdrew to her own room.
She never appeared at dinner. Her maid (the person with the cap-ribbons)
was sent down-stairs to announce that her headache had returned.
I ran up to her and made all sorts of sisterly offers through the door.
It was locked, and she kept it locked. Plenty of obstructive material
to work on here! I felt greatly cheered and stimulated by her locking
the door.

When her cup of tea went up to her the next morning, I followed
it in. I sat by her bedside and said a few earnest words.
She listened with languid civility. I noticed my serious friend's
precious publications huddled together on a table in a corner.
Had she chanced to look into them?--I asked. Yes--and they
had not interested her. Would she allow me to read a few
passages of the deepest interest, which had probably escaped
her eye? No, not now--she had other things to think of.
She gave these answers, with her attention apparently absorbed
in folding and refolding the frilling on her nightgown. It was
plainly necessary to rouse her by some reference to those worldly
interests which she still had at heart.

"Do you know, love," I said, "I had an odd fancy, yesterday, about Mr. Bruff?
I thought, when I saw you after your walk with him, that he had been telling
you some bad news."

Her fingers dropped from the frilling of her nightgown,
and her fierce black eyes flashed at me.

"Quite the contrary!" she said. "It was news I was interested in hearing--
and I am deeply indebted to Mr. Bruff for telling me of it."

"Yes?" I said, in a tone of gentle interest.

Her fingers went back to the frilling, and she turned her
head sullenly away from me. I had been met in this manner,
in the course of plying the good work, hundreds of times.
She merely stimulated me to try again. In my dauntless zeal
for her welfare, I ran the great risk, and openly alluded to her
marriage engagement.

"News you were interested in hearing?" I repeated. "I suppose,
my dear Rachel, that must be news of Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite?"

She started up in the bed, and turned deadly pale. It was evidently
on the tip of her tongue to retort on me with the unbridled insolence
of former times. She checked herself--laid her head back on the pillow--
considered a minute--and then answered in these remarkable words:

"I SHALL NEVER MARRY MR. GODFREY ABLEWHITE."

It was my turn to start at that.

"What can you possibly mean?" I exclaimed. "The marriage
is considered by the whole family as a settled thing!"

"Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite is expected here to-day," she said doggedly.
"Wait till he comes--and you will see."

"But my dear Rachel----"

She rang the bell at the head of her bed. The person
with the cap-ribbons appeared.

"Penelope! my bath."

Let me give her her due. In the state of my feelings at that moment,
I do sincerely believe that she had hit on the only possible way
of forcing me to leave the room.

By the mere worldly mind my position towards Rachel might have
been viewed as presenting difficulties of no ordinary kind.
I had reckoned on leading her to higher things by means of a
little earnest exhortation on the subject of her marriage.
And now, if she was to be believed, no such event as her marriage
was to take place at all. But ah, my friends! a working Christian
of my experience (with an evangelising prospect before her)
takes broader views than these. Supposing Rachel really broke
off the marriage, on which the Ablewhites, father and son,
counted as a settled thing, what would be the result?
It could only end, if she held firm, in an exchanging of hard
words and bitter accusations on both sides. And what would
be the effect on Rachel when the stormy interview was over?
A salutary moral depression would be the effect. Her pride
would be exhausted, her stubbornness would be exhausted,
by the resolute resistance which it was in her character
to make under the circumstances. She would turn for
sympathy to the nearest person who had sympathy to offer.
And I was that nearest person--brimful of comfort, charged to
overflowing with seasonable and reviving words. Never had
the evangelising prospect looked brighter, to my eyes, than it
looked now.

She came down to breakfast, but she ate nothing, and hardly uttered a word.

After breakfast she wandered listlessly from room to room--
then suddenly roused herself, and opened the piano.
The music she selected to play was of the most scandalously
profane sort, associated with performances on the stage
which it curdles one's blood to think of. It would have been
premature to interfere with her at such a time as this.
I privately ascertained the hour at which Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite
was expected, and then I escaped the music by leaving
the house.

Being out alone, I took the opportunity of calling upon my
two resident friends. It was an indescribable luxury to find
myself indulging in earnest conversation with serious persons.
Infinitely encouraged and refreshed, I turned my steps back
again to the house, in excellent time to await the arrival
of our expected visitor. I entered the dining-room, always
empty at that hour of the day, and found myself face to face
with Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite!

He made no attempt to fly the place. Quite the contrary.
He advanced to meet me with the utmost eagerness.

"Dear Miss Clack, I have been only waiting to see you!
Chance set me free of my London engagements to-day sooner
than I had expected, and I have got here, in consequence,
earlier than my appointed time."

Not the slightest embarrassment encumbered his explanation, though this
was his first meeting with me after the scene in Montagu Square.
He was not aware, it is true, of my having been a witness of that scene.
But he knew, on the other hand, that my attendances at the Mothers'
Small-Clothes, and my relations with friends attached to other charities,
must have informed me of his shameless neglect of his Ladies and of his Poor.
And yet there he was before me, in full possession of his charming voice and
his irresistible smile!

"Have you seen Rachel yet?" I asked.

He sighed gently, and took me by the hand. I should certainly have snatched
my hand away, if the manner in which he gave his answer had not paralysed me
with astonishment.

"I have seen Rachel," he said with perfect tranquillity.
"You are aware, dear friend, that she was engaged to me?
Well, she has taken a sudden resolution to break the engagement.
Reflection has convinced her that she will best consult her
welfare and mine by retracting a rash promise, and leaving me
free to make some happier choice elsewhere. That is the only
reason she will give, and the only answer she will make to every
question that I can ask of her."

"What have you done on your side?" I inquired. "Have you submitted."

"Yes," he said with the most unruffled composure, "I have submitted."

His conduct, under the circumstances, was so utterly inconceivable,
that I stood bewildered with my hand in his. It is a piece of rudeness
to stare at anybody, and it is an act of indelicacy to stare at a gentleman.
I committed both those improprieties. And I said, as if in a dream,
"What does it mean?"

"Permit me to tell you," he replied. "And suppose we sit down?"

He led me to a chair. I have an indistinct remembrance that he was
very affectionate. I don't think he put his arm round my waist
to support me--but I am not sure. I was quite helpless, and his
ways with ladies were very endearing. At any rate, we sat down.
I can answer for that, if I can answer for nothing more.

CHAPTER VIII

"I have lost a beautiful girl, an excellent social position,
and a handsome income," Mr. Godfrey began; "and I have
submitted to it without a struggle. What can be the motive
for such extraordinary conduct as that? My precious friend,
there is no motive."

"No motive?" I repeated.

"Let me appeal, my dear Miss Clack, to your experience of children,"
he went on. "A child pursues a certain course of conduct.
You are greatly struck by it, and you attempt to get at the motive.
The dear little thing is incapable of telling you its motive.
You might as well ask the grass why it grows, or the birds
why they sing. Well! in this matter, I am like the dear
little thing--like the grass--like the birds. I don't
know why I made a proposal of marriage to Miss Verinder.
I don't know why I have shamefully neglected my dear Ladies.
I don't know why I have apostatised from the Mothers'
Small-Clothes. You say to the child, Why have you been naughty?
And the little angel puts its finger into its mouth,
and doesn't know. My case exactly, Miss Clack! I couldn't
confess it to anybody else. I feel impelled to confess it to
YOU!"

I began to recover myself. A mental problem was involved here.
I am deeply interested in mental problems--and I am not,
it is thought, without some skill in solving them.

"Best of friends, exert your intellect, and help me," he proceeded.
"Tell me--why does a time come when these matrimonial proceedings
of mine begin to look like something done in a dream?
Why does it suddenly occur to me that my true happiness is in
helping my dear Ladies, in going my modest round of useful work,
in saying my few earnest words when called on by my Chairman?
What do I want with a position? I have got a position?
What do I want with an income? I can pay for my bread and cheese,
and my nice little lodging, and my two coats a year.
What do I want with Miss Verinder? She has told me with her
own lips (this, dear lady, is between ourselves) that she
loves another man, and that her only idea in marrying me is
to try and put that other man out of her head. What a horrid
union is this! Oh, dear me, what a horrid union is this!
Such are my reflections, Miss Clack, on my way to Brighton.
I approach Rachel with the feeling of a criminal who is going to
receive his sentence. When I find that she has changed her mind too--
when I hear her propose to break the engagement--I experience
(there is no sort of doubt about it) a most overpowering
sense of relief. A month ago I was pressing her rapturously
to my bosom. An hour ago, the happiness of knowing that I shall
never press her again, intoxicates me like strong liquor.
The thing seems impossible--the thing can't be.
And yet there are the facts, as I had the honour of stating
them when we first sat down together in these two chairs.
I have lost a beautiful girl, an excellent social position,
and a handsome income; and I have submitted to it without a struggle.
Can you account for it, dear friend? It's quite beyond
ME."

His magnificent head sank on his breast, and he gave up his own mental
problem in despair.

I was deeply touched. The case (if I may speak as a spiritual physician)
was now quite plain to me. It is no uncommon event, in the experience
of us all, to see the possessors of exalted ability occasionally humbled
to the level of the most poorly-gifted people about them. The object,
no doubt, in the wise economy of Providence, is to remind greatness that it
is mortal and that the power which has conferred it can also take it away.
It was now--to my mind--easy to discern one of these salutary humiliations
in the deplorable proceedings on dear Mr. Godfrey's part, of which I had
been the unseen witness. And it was equally easy to recognise the welcome
reappearance of his own finer nature in the horror with which he recoiled
from the idea of a marriage with Rachel, and in the charming eagerness which
he showed to return to his Ladies and his Poor.

I put this view before him in a few simple and sisterly words.
His joy was beautiful to see. He compared himself, as I went on,
to a lost man emerging from the darkness into the light.
When I answered for a loving reception of him at the Mothers'
Small-Clothes, the grateful heart of our Christian Hero overflowed.
He pressed my hands alternately to his lips. Overwhelmed by
the exquisite triumph of having got him back among us, I let him
do what he liked with my hands. I closed my eyes. I felt my head,
in an ecstasy of spiritual self-forgetfulness, sinking on his shoulder.
In a moment more I should certainly have swooned away in his arms,
but for an interruption from the outer world, which brought me
to myself again. A horrid rattling of knives and forks sounded
outside the door, and the footman came in to lay the table
for luncheon.

Mr. Godfrey started up, and looked at the clock on the mantelpiece.

"How time flies with YOU!" he exclaimed. "I shall barely catch the train."

I ventured on asking why he was in such a hurry to get back to town.
His answer reminded me of family difficulties that were still
to be reconciled, and of family disagreements that were yet
to come.

"I have heard from my father," he said. "Business obliges
him to leave Frizinghall for London to-day, and he proposes
coming on here, either this evening or to-morrow. I must tell
him what has happened between Rachel and me. His heart is
set on our marriage--there will be great difficulty, I fear,
in reconciling him to the breaking-off of the engagement.
I must stop him, for all our sakes, from coming here till
he IS reconciled. Best and dearest of friends, we shall
meet again!"

With those words he hurried out. In equal haste on my side,
I ran upstairs to compose myself in my own room before meeting
Aunt Ablewhite and Rachel at the luncheon-table.

I am well aware--to dwell for a moment yet on the subject of Mr. Godfrey--
that the all-profaning opinion of the world has charged him with having
his own private reasons for releasing Rachel from her engagement,
at the first opportunity she gave him. It has also reached my ears,
that his anxiety to recover his place in my estimation has been attributed
in certain quarters, to a mercenary eagerness to make his peace (through me)
with a venerable committee-woman at the Mothers' Small-Clothes, abundantly
blessed with the goods of this world, and a beloved and intimate
friend of my own. I only notice these odious slanders for the sake
of declaring that they never had a moment's influence on my mind.
In obedience to my instructions, I have exhibited the fluctuations in my
opinion of our Christian Hero, exactly as I find them recorded in my diary.
In justice to myself, let me here add that, once reinstated in his
place in my estimation, my gifted friend never lost that place again.
I write with the tears in my eyes, burning to say more. But no--
I am cruelly limited to my actual experience of persons and things.
In less than a month from the time of which I am now writing, events in
the money-market (which diminished even my miserable little income) forced me
into foreign exile, and left me with nothing but a loving remembrance
of Mr. Godfrey which the slander of the world has assailed, and assailed
in vain.

Let me dry my eyes, and return to my narrative.

I went downstairs to luncheon, naturally anxious to see how Rachel
was affected by her release from her marriage engagement.

It appeared to me--but I own I am a poor authority in such matters--
that the recovery of her freedom had set her thinking again of that other
man whom she loved, and that she was furious with herself for not being
able to control a revulsion of feeling of which she was secretly ashamed.
Who was the man? I had my suspicions--but it was needless to waste time
in idle speculation. When I had converted her, she would, as a matter
of course, have no concealments from Me. I should hear all about the man;
I should hear all about the Moonstone. If I had had no higher object in
stirring her up to a sense of spiritual things, the motive of relieving her
mind of its guilty secrets would have been enough of itself to encourage me
to go on.

Aunt Ablewhite took her exercise in the afternoon in an invalid chair.
Rachel accompanied her. "I wish I could drag the chair,"
she broke out, recklessly. "I wish I could fatigue myself till I was
ready to drop."

She was in the same humour in the evening. I discovered in one
of my friend's precious publications--the Life, Letters, and Labours
of Miss Jane Ann Stamper, forty-fourth edition--passages which bore
with a marvellous appropriateness on Rachel's present position.
Upon my proposing to read them, she went to the piano.
Conceive how little she must have known of serious people,
if she supposed that my patience was to be exhausted in that way!
I kept Miss Jane Ann Stamper by me, and waited for events with the most
unfaltering trust in the future.

Old Mr. Ablewhite never made his appearance that night.
But I knew the importance which his worldly greed attached to his
son's marriage with Miss Verinder--and I felt a positive conviction
(do what Mr. Godfrey might to prevent it) that we should see
him the next day. With his interference in the matter,
the storm on which I had counted would certainly come,
and the salutary exhaustion of Rachel's resisting powers would
as certainly follow. I am not ignorant that old Mr. Ablewhite
has the reputation generally (especially among his inferiors)
of being a remarkably good-natured man. According to my observation
of him, he deserves his reputation as long as he has his own way,
and not a moment longer.

The next day, exactly as I had foreseen, Aunt Ablewhite
was as near to being astonished as her nature would permit,
by the sudden appearance of her husband. He had barely been
a minute in the house, before he was followed, to MY astonishment
this time, by an unexpected complication in the shape of Mr. Bruff.

I never remember feeling the presence of the lawyer to be
more unwelcome than I felt it at that moment. He looked
ready for anything in the way of an obstructive proceeding--
capable even of keeping the peace with Rachel for one of
the combatants!

"This is a pleasant surprise, sir," said Mr. Ablewhite,
addressing himself with his deceptive cordiality to Mr. Bruff.
"When I left your office yesterday, I didn't expect to have
the honour of seeing you at Brighton to-day."

"I turned over our conversation in my mind, after you had gone,"
replied Mr. Bruff. "And it occurred to me that I might perhaps be
of some use on this occasion. I was just in time to catch the train,
and I had no opportunity of discovering the carriage in which you
were travelling."

Having given that explanation, he seated himself by Rachel.
I retired modestly to a corner--with Miss Jane Ann Stamper
on my lap, in case of emergency. My aunt sat at the window;
placidly fanning herself as usual. Mr. Ablewhite stood up
in the middle of the room, with his bald head much pinker than I
had ever seen it yet, and addressed himself in the most affectionate
manner to his niece.

"Rachel, my dear," he said, "I have heard some very extraordinary
news from Godfrey. And I am here to inquire about it.
You have a sitting-room of your own in this house. Will you
honour me by showing me the way to it?"

Rachel never moved. Whether she was determined to bring matters to a crisis,
or whether she was prompted by some private sign from Mr. Bruff, is more than
I can tell. She declined doing old Mr. Ablewhite the honour of conducting him
into her sitting-room.

"Whatever you wish to say to me," she answered, "can be said here--
in the presence of my relatives, and in the presence" (she looked at
Mr. Bruff) "of my mother's trusted old friend."

"Just as you please, my dear," said the amiable Mr. Ablewhite.
He took a chair. The rest of them looked at his face--
as if they expected it, after seventy years of worldly training,
to speak the truth. I looked at the top of his bald head;
having noticed on other occasions that the temper which was really in
him had a habit of registering itself THERE.

"Some weeks ago," pursued the old gentleman, "my son informed me that
Miss Verinder had done him the honour to engage herself to marry him.
Is it possible, Rachel, that he can have misinterpreted--or presumed upon--
what you really said to him?"

"Certainly not," she replied. "I did engage myself to marry him."

"Very frankly answered!" said Mr. Ablewhite. "And most satisfactory,
my dear, so far. In respect to what happened some weeks since, Godfrey has
made no mistake. The error is evidently in what he told me yesterday.
I begin to see it now. You and he have had a lovers' quarrel--and my foolish
son has interpreted it seriously. Ah! I should have known better than that
at his age."

The fallen nature in Rachel--the mother Eve, so to speak--
began to chafe at this.

"Pray let us understand each other, Mr. Ablewhite," she said.
"Nothing in the least like a quarrel took place yesterday
between your son and me. If he told you that I proposed breaking
off our marriage engagement, and that he agreed on his side--
he told you the truth."

The self-registering thermometer at the top of Mr. Ablewhite's bald head
began to indicate a rise of temper. His face was more amiable than ever--
but THERE was the pink at the top of his face, a shade deeper already!

"Come, come, my dear!" he said, in his most soothing manner,
"now don't be angry, and don't be hard on poor Godfrey!
He has evidently said some unfortunate thing. He was always clumsy
from a child--but he means well, Rachel, he means well!"

"Mr. Ablewhite, I have either expressed myself very badly,
or you are purposely mistaking me. Once for all, it is
a settled thing between your son and myself that we remain,
for the rest of our lives, cousins and nothing more.
Is that plain enough?"

The tone in which she said those words made it impossible,
even for old Mr. Ablewhite, to mistake her any longer.
His thermometer went up another degree, and his voice when
he next spoke, ceased to be the voice which is appropriate to a
notoriously good-natured man.

"I am to understand, then," he said, "that your marriage engagement
is broken off?"

"You are to understand that, Mr. Ablewhite, if you please."

"I am also to take it as a matter of fact that the proposal
to withdraw from the engagement came, in the first instance,
from YOU?"

"It came, in the first instance, from me. And it met, as I have told you,
with your son's consent and approval."

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