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The Moonstone

Part 7 out of 12

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The thermometer went up to the top of the register. I mean,
the pink changed suddenly to scarlet.

"My son is a mean-spirited hound!" cried this furious old worldling.
"In justice to myself as his father--not in justice to HIM--
I beg to ask you, Miss Verinder, what complaint you have to make of
Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite?"

Here Mr. Bruff interfered for the first time.

"You are not bound to answer that question," he said to Rachel.

Old Mr. Ablewhite fastened on him instantly.

"Don't forget, sir," he said, "that you are a self-invited guest here.
Your interference would have come with a better grace if you had waited until
it was asked for."

Mr. Bruff took no notice. The smooth varnish on HIS wicked
old face never cracked. Rachel thanked him for the advice
he had given to her, and then turned to old Mr. Ablewhite--
preserving her composure in a manner which (having regard to her
age and her sex) was simply awful to see.

"Your son put the same question to me which you have just asked," she said.
"I had only one answer for him, and I have only one answer for you.
I proposed that we should release each other, because reflection had
convinced me that I should best consult his welfare and mine by retracting a
rash promise, and leaving him free to make his choice elsewhere."

"What has my son done?" persisted Mr. Ablewhite. "I have a right
to know that. What has my son done?"

She persisted just as obstinately on her side.

"You have had the only explanation which I think it necessary to give to you,
or to him," she answered.

"In plain English, it's your sovereign will and pleasure, Miss Verinder,
to jilt my son?"

Rachel was silent for a moment. Sitting close behind her, I heard her sigh.
Mr. Bruff took her hand, and gave it a little squeeze. She recovered herself,
and answered Mr. Ablewhite as boldly as ever.

"I have exposed myself to worse misconstruction than that,"
she said. "And I have borne it patiently. The time has gone by,
when you could mortify me by calling me a jilt."

She spoke with a bitterness of tone which satisfied me that the scandal
of the Moonstone had been in some way recalled to her mind.
"I have no more to say," she added, wearily, not addressing
the words to anyone in particular, and looking away from us all,
out of the window that was nearest to her.

Mr. Ablewhite got upon his feet, and pushed away his chair so violently
that it toppled over and fell on the floor.

"I have something more to say on my side," he announced,
bringing down the flat of his hand on the table with a bang.
"I have to say that if my son doesn't feel this insult,
I do!"

Rachel started, and looked at him in sudden surprise.

"Insult?" she repeated. "What do you mean?"

"Insult!" reiterated Mr. Ablewhite. "I know your motive,
Miss Verinder, for breaking your promise to my son! I know
it as certainly as if you had confessed it in so many words.
Your cursed family pride is insulting Godfrey, as it insulted
ME when I married your aunt. Her family--her beggarly family--
turned their backs on her for marrying an honest man,
who had made his own place and won his own fortune.
I had no ancestors. I wasn't descended from a set of
cut-throat scoundrels who lived by robbery and murder.
I. couldn't point to the time when the Ablewhites hadn't a shirt
to their backs, and couldn't sign their own names. Ha! ha!
I wasn't good enough for the Herncastles, when I married.
And now, it comes to the pinch, my son isn't good enough
for YOU. I suspected it, all along. You have got
the Herncastle blood in you, my young lady! I suspected it
all along."

"A very unworthy suspicion," remarked Mr. Bruff. "I am astonished that you
have the courage to acknowledge it."

Before Mr. Ablewhite could find words to answer in, Rachel spoke
in a tone of the most exasperating contempt.

"Surely," she said to the lawyer, "this is beneath notice.
If he can think in THAT way, let us leave him to think as
he pleases."

From scarlet, Mr. Ablewhite was now becoming purple. He gasped for breath;
he looked backwards and forwards from Rachel to Mr. Bruff in such a frenzy
of rage with both of them that he didn't know which to attack first.
His wife, who had sat impenetrably fanning herself up to this time,
began to be alarmed, and attempted, quite uselessly, to quiet him.
I had, throughout this distressing interview, felt more than one inward
call to interfere with a few earnest words, and had controlled myself under
a dread of the possible results, very unworthy of a Christian Englishwoman
who looks, not to what is meanly prudent, but to what is morally right.
At the point at which matters had now arrived, I rose superior to all
considerations of mere expediency. If I had contemplated interposing
any remonstrance of my own humble devising, I might possibly have
still hesitated. But the distressing domestic emergency which now
confronted me, was most marvellously and beautifully provided for in
the Correspondence of Miss Jane Ann Stamper--Letter one thousand and one,
on "Peace in Families." I rose in my modest corner, and I opened my
precious book.

"Dear Mr. Ablewhite," I said, "one word!"

When I first attracted the attention of the company by rising,
I could see that he was on the point of saying something rude to me.
My sisterly form of address checked him. He stared at me in
heathen astonishment.

"As an affectionate well-wisher and friend," I proceeded, "and as one long
accustomed to arouse, convince, prepare, enlighten, and fortify others,
permit me to take the most pardonable of all liberties--the liberty
of composing your mind."

He began to recover himself; he was on the point of breaking out--
he WOULD have broken out, with anybody else. But my voice
(habitually gentle) possesses a high note or so, in emergencies.
In this emergency, I felt imperatively called upon to have the highest
voice of the two.

I held up my precious book before him; I rapped the open
page impressively with my forefinger. "Not my words!"
I exclaimed, in a burst of fervent interruption.
"Oh, don't suppose that I claim attention for My humble words!
Manna in the wilderness, Mr. Ablewhite! Dew on the parched earth!
Words of comfort, words of wisdom, words of love--the blessed,
blessed, blessed words of Miss Jane Ann Stamper!"

I was stopped there by a momentary impediment of the breath.
Before I could recover myself, this monster in human form shouted
out furiously,--

"Miss Jane Ann Stamper be----!"

It is impossible for me to write the awful word,
which is here represented by a blank. I shrieked as it
passed his lips; I flew to my little bag on the side table;
I shook out all my tracts; I seized the one particular tract
on profane swearing, entitled, "Hush, for Heaven's Sake!";
I handed it to him with an expression of agonised entreaty.
He tore it in two, and threw it back at me across the table.
The rest of them rose in alarm, not knowing what might happen next.
I instantly sat down again in my corner. There had once been
an occasion, under somewhat similar circumstances, when Miss Jane
Ann Stamper had been taken by the two shoulders and turned out
of a room. I waited, inspired by HER spirit, for a repetition of
HER martyrdom.

But no--it was not to be. His wife was the next person whom he addressed.
"Who--who--who," he said, stammering with rage, "who asked this impudent
fanatic into the house? Did you?"

Before Aunt Ablewhite could say a word, Rachel answered for her.

"Miss Clack is here," she said, "as my guest."

Those words had a singular effect on Mr. Ablewhite. They suddenly
changed him from a man in a state of red-hot anger to a man in a
state of icy-cold contempt. It was plain to everybody that Rachel
had said something--short and plain as her answer had been--
which gave him the upper hand of her at last.

"Oh?" he said. "Miss Clack is here as YOUR guest--in MY house?"

It was Rachel's turn to lose her temper at that. Her colour rose,
and her eyes brightened fiercely. She turned to the lawyer, and,
pointing to Mr. Ablewhite, asked haughtily, "What does he mean?"

Mr. Bruff interfered for the third time.

"You appear to forget," he said, addressing Mr. Ablewhite,
"that you took this house as Miss Verinder's guardian, for Miss
Verinder's use."

"Not quite so fast," interposed Mr. Ablewhite. "I have a last word to say,
which I should have said some time since, if this----" He looked my way,
pondering what abominable name he should call me--"if this Rampant Spinster
had not interrupted us. I beg to inform you, sir, that, if my son is not good
enough to be Miss Verinder's husband, I cannot presume to consider his father
good enough to be Miss Verinder's guardian. Understand, if you please, that I
refuse to accept the position which is offered to me by Lady Verinder's will.
In your legal phrase, I decline to act. This house has necessarily been
hired in my name. I take the entire responsibility of it on my shoulders.
It is my house. I can keep it, or let it, just as I please. I have no wish
to hurry Miss Verinder. On the contrary, I beg her to remove her guest and
her luggage, at her own entire convenience." He made a low bow, and walked
out of the room.

That was Mr. Ablewhite's revenge on Rachel, for refusing to marry his son!

The instant the door closed, Aunt Ablewhite exhibited a phenomenon
which silenced us all. She became endowed with energy enough
to cross the room!

"My dear," she said, taking Rachel by the hand, "I should be ashamed
of my husband, if I didn't know that it is his temper which has spoken
to you, and not himself. You," continued Aunt Ablewhite, turning on me
in my corner with another endowment of energy, in her looks this time
instead of her limbs--"you are the mischievous person who irritated him.
I hope I shall never see you or your tracts again." She went back
to Rachel and kissed her. "I beg your pardon, my dear," she said,
"in my husband's name. What can I do for you?"

Consistently perverse in everything--capricious and unreasonable in all
the actions of her life--Rachel melted into tears at those commonplace words,
and returned her aunt's kiss in silence.

"If I may be permitted to answer for Miss Verinder," said Mr. Bruff,
"might I ask you, Mrs. Ablewhite, to send Penelope down with her
mistress's bonnet and shawl. Leave us ten minutes together," he added,
in a lower tone, "and you may rely on my setting matters right,
to your satisfaction as well as to Rachel's."

The trust of the family in this man was something wonderful to see.
Without a word more, on her side, Aunt Ablewhite left the room.

"Ah!" said Mr. Bruff, looking after her. "The Herncastle blood has
its drawbacks, I admit. But there IS something in good breeding after all!"

Having made that purely worldly remark, he looked hard at my corner,
as if he expected me to go. My interest in Rachel--an infinitely higher
interest than his--riveted me to my chair.

Mr. Bruff gave it up, exactly as he had given it up at Aunt Verinder's,
in Montagu Square. He led Rachel to a chair by the window, and spoke
to her there.

"My dear young lady," he said, "Mr. Ablewhite's conduct
has naturally shocked you, and taken you by surprise.
If it was worth while to contest the question with such a man,
we might soon show him that he is not to have things all his own way.
But it isn't worth while. You were quite right in what you said
just now; he is beneath our notice."

He stopped, and looked round at my corner. I sat there quite immovable,
with my tracts at my elbow and with Miss Jane Ann Stamper on my lap.

"You know," he resumed, turning back again to Rachel,
"that it was part of your poor mother's fine nature always
to see the best of the people about her, and never the worst.
She named her brother-in-law your guardian because she believed
in him, and because she thought it would please her sister.
I had never liked Mr. Ablewhite myself, and I induced your mother
to let me insert a clause in the will, empowering her executors,
in certain events, to consult with me about the appointment
of a new guardian. One of those events has happened to-day;
and I find myself in a position to end all these dry
business details, I hope agreeably, with a message from my wife.
Will you honour Mrs. Bruff by becoming her guest? And will you
remain under my roof, and be one of my family, until we wise people
have laid our heads together, and have settled what is to be
done next?"

At those words, I rose to interfere. Mr. Bruff had done exactly what I
had dreaded he would do, when he asked Mrs. Ablewhite for Rachel's
bonnet and shawl.

Before I could interpose a word, Rachel had accepted his invitation in
the warmest terms. If I suffered the arrangement thus made between them
to be carried out--if she once passed the threshold of Mr. Bruff's door--
farewell to the fondest hope of my life, the hope of bringing my lost
sheep back to the fold! The bare idea of such a calamity as this quite
overwhelmed me. I cast the miserable trammels of worldly discretion
to the winds, and spoke with the fervour that filled me, in the words
that came first.

"Stop!" I said--"stop! I must be heard. Mr. Bruff! you are not related
to her, and I am. I invite her--I summon the executors to appoint
me guardian. Rachel, dearest Rachel, I offer you my modest home;
come to London by the next train, love, and share it with me!"

Mr. Bruff said nothing. Rachel looked at me with a cruel astonishment
which she made no effort to conceal.

"You are very kind, Drusilla," she said. "I shall hope to visit you whenever
I happen to be in London. But I have accepted Mr. Bruff's invitation, and I
think it will be best, for the present, if I remain under Mr. Bruff's care."

"Oh, don't say so!" I pleaded. "I can't part with you, Rachel--I can't
part with you!"

I tried to fold her in my arms. But she drew back. My fervour
did not communicate itself; it only alarmed her.

"Surely," she said, "this is a very unnecessary display of agitation?
I don't understand it."

"No more do I," said Mr. Bruff.

Their hardness--their hideous, worldly hardness--revolted me.

"Oh, Rachel! Rachel!" I burst out. "Haven't you seen yet,
that my heart yearns to make a Christian of you?
Has no inner voice told you that I am trying to do for you,
what I was trying to do for your dear mother when death snatched
her out of my hands?"

Rachel advanced a step nearer, and looked at me very strangely.

"I don't understand your reference to my mother," she said.
"Miss Clack, will you have the goodness to explain yourself?"

Before I could answer, Mr. Bruff came forward, and offering his arm to Rachel,
tried to lead her out of the room.

"You had better not pursue the subject, my dear," he said.
"And Miss Clack had better not explain herself."

If I had been a stock or a stone, such an interference as this must
have roused me into testifying to the truth. I put Mr. Bruff aside
indignantly with my own hand, and, in solemn and suitable language,
I stated the view with which sound doctrine does not scruple to regard
the awful calamity of dying unprepared.

Rachel started back from me--I blush to write--with a scream of horror.

"Come away!" she said to Mr. Bruff. "Come away, for God's sake,
before that woman can say any more! Oh, think of my poor
mother's harmless, useful, beautiful life! You were at the funeral,
Mr. Bruff; you saw how everybody loved her; you saw the poor helpless
people crying at her grave over the loss of their best friend.
And that wretch stands there, and tries to make me doubt that
my mother, who was an angel on earth, is an angel in heaven now!
Don't stop to talk about it! Come away! It stifles me to breathe
the same air with her! It frightens me to feel that we are in the same
room together!"

Deaf to all remonstrance, she ran to the door.

At the same moment, her maid entered with her bonnet and shawl.
She huddled them on anyhow. "Pack my things," she said,
"and bring them to Mr. Bruff's." I attempted to approach her--
I was shocked and grieved, but, it is needless to say, not offended.
I only wished to say to her, "May your hard heart be softened!
I freely forgive you!" She pulled down her veil, and tore
her shawl away from my hand, and, hurrying out, shut the door
in my face. I bore the insult with my customary fortitude.
I remember it now with my customary superiority to all feeling
of offence.

Mr. Bruff had his parting word of mockery for me, before he too hurried out,
in his turn.

"You had better not have explained yourself, Miss Clack,"
he said, and bowed, and left the room.

The person with the cap-ribbons followed.

"It's easy to see who has set them all by the ears together," she said.
"I'm only a poor servant--but I declare I'm ashamed of you!" She too
went out, and banged the door after her.

I was left alone in the room. Reviled by them all, deserted by them all,
I was left alone in the room.

Is there more to be added to this plain statement of facts--
to this touching picture of a Christian persecuted by the world?
No! my diary reminds me that one more of the many chequered chapters
in my life ends here. From that day forth, I never saw Rachel
Verinder again. She had my forgiveness at the time when she insulted me.
She has had my prayerful good wishes ever since. And when I die--
to complete the return on my part of good for evil--she will have
the LIFE, LETTERS, AND LABOURS OF MISS JANE ANN STAMPER left her as a
legacy by my will.

SECOND NARRATIVE

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

CHAPTER I

My fair friend, Miss Clack, having laid down the pen, there are two reasons
for my taking it up next, in my turn.

In the first place, I am in a position to throw the necessary light on
certain points of interest which have thus far been left in the dark.
Miss Verinder had her own private reason for breaking her marriage engagement--
and I was at the bottom of it. Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite had his own private
reason for withdrawing all claim to the hand of his charming cousin--
and I discovered what it was.

In the second place, it was my good or ill fortune, I hardly know which,
to find myself personally involved--at the period of which I am now writing--
in the mystery of the Indian Diamond. I had the honour of an interview,
at my own office, with an Oriental stranger of distinguished manners,
who was no other, unquestionably, than the chief of the three Indians.
Add to this, that I met with the celebrated traveller, Mr. Murthwaite,
the day afterwards, and that I held a conversation with him on the subject
of the Moonstone, which has a very important bearing on later events.
And there you have the statement of my claims to fill the position which I
occupy in these pages.

The true story of the broken marriage engagement comes first in point
of time, and must therefore take the first place in the present narrative.
Tracing my way back along the chain of events, from one end to the other,
I find it necessary to open the scene, oddly enough as you will think,
at the bedside of my excellent client and friend, the late Sir
John Verinder.

Sir John had his share--perhaps rather a large share--of the more
harmless and amiable of the weaknesses incidental to humanity.
Among these, I may mention as applicable to the matter in hand,
an invincible reluctance--so long as he enjoyed his usual
good health--to face the responsibility of making his will.
Lady Verinder exerted her influence to rouse him to a sense
of duty in this matter; and I exerted my influence. He admitted
the justice of our views--but he went no further than that,
until he found himself afflicted with the illness which ultimately
brought him to his grave. Then, I was sent for at last,
to take my client's instructions on the subject of his will.
They proved to be the simplest instructions I had ever received in
the whole of my professional career.

Sir John was dozing, when I entered the room. He roused himself
at the sight of me.

"How do you do, Mr. Bruff?" he said. "I sha'n't be very long about this.
And then I'll go to sleep again." He looked on with great interest
while I collected pens, ink, and paper. "Are you ready?" he asked.
I bowed and took a dip of ink, and waited for my instructions.

"I leave everything to my wife," said Sir John. "That's all."
He turned round on his pillow, and composed himself to sleep again.

I was obliged to disturb him.

"Am I to understand," I asked, "that you leave the whole of the property,
of every sort and description, of which you die possessed, absolutely to
Lady Verinder?"

"Yes," said Sir John. "Only, I put it shorter. Why can't you put
it shorter, and let me go to sleep again? Everything to my wife.
That's my Will."

His property was entirely at his own disposal, and was of two kinds.
Property in land (I purposely abstain from using technical language),
and property in money. In the majority of cases, I am afraid I should
have felt it my duty to my client to ask him to reconsider his Will.
In the case of Sir John, I knew Lady Verinder to be, not only worthy
of the unreserved trust which her husband had placed in her (all good wives
are worthy of that)--but to be also capable of properly administering
a trust (which, in my experience of the fair sex, not one in a thousand
of them is competent to do). In ten minutes, Sir John's Will was drawn,
and executed, and Sir John himself, good man, was finishing his
interrupted nap.

Lady Verinder amply justified the confidence which her husband had placed
in her. In the first days of her widowhood, she sent for me, and made
her Will. The view she took of her position was so thoroughly sound
and sensible, that I was relieved of all necessity for advising her.
My responsibility began and ended with shaping her instructions into
the proper legal form. Before Sir John had been a fortnight in his grave,
the future of his daughter had been most wisely and most affectionately
provided for.

The Will remained in its fireproof box at my office,
through more years than I Like to reckon up. It was not till
the summer of eighteen hundred and forty-eight that I found
occasion to look at it again under very melancholy circumstances.

At the date I have mentioned, the doctors pronounced the sentence
on poor Lady Verinder, which was literally a sentence of death.
I was the first person whom she informed of her situation; and I found
her anxious to go over her Will again with me.

It was impossible to improve the provisions relating to her daughter.
But, in the lapse of time, her wishes in regard to certain minor legacies,
left to different relatives, had undergone some modification; and it
became necessary to add three or four Codicils to the original document.
Having done this at once, for fear of accident, I obtained her ladyship's
permission to embody her recent instructions in a second Will.
My object was to avoid certain inevitable confusions and repetitions
which now disfigured the original document, and which, to own the truth,
grated sadly on my professional sense of the fitness of things.

The execution of this second Will has been described
by Miss Clack, who was so obliging as to witness it.
So far as regarded Rachel Verinder's pecuniary interests,
it was, word for word, the exact counterpart of the first Will.
The only changes introduced related to the appointment of a guardian,
and to certain provisions concerning that appointment,
which were made under my advice. On Lady Verinder's death,
the Will was placed in the hands of my proctor to be "proved"
(as the phrase is) in the usual way.

In about three weeks from that time--as well as I can remember--the first
warning reached me of something unusual going on under the surface.
I happened to be looking in at my friend the proctor's office, and I
observed that he received me with an appearance of greater interest
than usual.

"I have some news for you," he said. "What do you think I heard
at Doctors' Commons this morning? Lady Verinder's Will has been
asked for, and examined, already!"

This was news indeed! There was absolutely nothing which
could be contested in the Will; and there was nobody I could
think of who had the slightest interest in examining it.
(I shall perhaps do well if I explain in this place,
for the benefit of the few people who don't know it already,
that the law allows all Wills to be examined at Doctors'
Commons by anybody who applies, on the payment of a shilling fee.)

"Did you hear who asked for the Will?" I asked.

"Yes; the clerk had no hesitation in telling ME.
Mr. Smalley, of the firm of Skipp and Smalley, asked for it.
The Will has not been copied yet into the great Folio Registers.
So there was no alternative but to depart from the usual course,
and to let him see the original document. He looked it
over carefully, and made a note in his pocket-book. Have you any idea
of what he wanted with it?"

I shook my head. "I shall find out," I answered, "before I am a day older.
With that I went back at once to my own office.

If any other firm of solicitors had been concerned in this
unaccountable examination of my deceased client's Will, I might
have found some difficulty in making the necessary discovery.
But I had a hold over Skipp and Smalley which made my course
in this matter a comparatively easy one. My common-law clerk
(a most competent and excellent man) was a brother of
Mr. Smalley's; and, owing to this sort of indirect connection
with me, Skipp and Smalley had, for some years past,
picked up the crumbs that fell from my table, in the shape
of cases brought to my office, which, for various reasons,
I did not think it worth while to undertake. My professional
patronage was, in this way, of some importance to the firm.
I intended, if necessary, to remind them of that patronage,
on the present occasion.

The moment I got back I spoke to my clerk; and, after telling
him what had happened, I sent him to his brother's office,
"with Mr. Bruff's compliments, and he would be glad to know
why Messrs. Skipp and Smalley had found it necessary to examine
Lady Verinder's will."

This message brought Mr. Smalley back to my office in company
with his brother. He acknowledged that he had acted under
instructions received from a client. And then he put it to me,
whether it would not be a breach of professional confidence
on his part to say more.

We had a smart discussion upon that. He was right, no doubt;
and I was wrong. The truth is, I was angry and suspicious--and I
insisted on knowing more. Worse still, I declined to consider any
additional information offered me, as a secret placed in my keeping:
I claimed perfect freedom to use my own discretion. Worse even
than that, I took an unwarrantable advantage of my position.
"Choose, sir," I said to Mr. Smalley, "between the risk of losing your
client's business and the risk of losing Mine." Quite indefensible,
I admit--an act of tyranny, and nothing less. Like other tyrants,
I carried my point. Mr. Smalley chose his alternative, without a
moment's hesitation.

He smiled resignedly, and gave up the name of his client:

Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.

That was enough for me--I wanted to know no more.

Having reached this point in my narrative, it now becomes necessary to place
the reader of these lines--so far as Lady Verinder's Will is concerned--
on a footing of perfect equality, in respect of information, with myself.

Let me state, then, in the fewest possible words, that Rachel
Verinder had nothing but a life-interest in the property.
Her mother's excellent sense, and my long experience,
had combined to relieve her of all responsibility,
and to guard her from all danger of becoming the victim in
the future of some needy and unscrupulous man. Neither she,
nor her husband (if she married), could raise sixpence,
either on the property in land, or on the property in money.
They would have the houses in London and in Yorkshire to live in,
and they would have the handsome income--and that was all.

When I came to think over what I had discovered, I was sorely perplexed
what to do next.

Hardly a week had passed since I had heard (to my surprise
and distress) of Miss Verinder's proposed marriage.
I had the sincerest admiration and affection for her;
and I had been inexpressibly grieved when I heard that she
was about to throw herself away on Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.
And now, here was the man--whom I had always believed to be
a smooth-tongued impostor--justifying the very worst that I
had thought of him, and plainly revealing the mercenary object
of the marriage, on his side! And what of that?--you may reply--
the thing is done every day. Granted, my dear sir. But would
you think of it quite as lightly as you do, if the thing was done
(let us say) with your own sister?

The first consideration which now naturally occurred to me was this.
Would Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite hold to his engagement, after what his lawyer
had discovered for him?

It depended entirely on his pecuniary position, of which I knew nothing.
If that position was not a desperate one, it would be well worth his
while to marry Miss Verinder for her income alone. If, on the other hand,
he stood in urgent need of realising a large sum by a given time,
then Lady Verinder's Will would exactly meet the case, and would preserve
her daughter from falling into a scoundrel's hands.

In the latter event, there would be no need for me to distress
Miss Rachel, in the first days of her mourning for her mother,
by an immediate revelation of the truth. In the former event,
if I remained silent, I should be conniving at a marriage which
would make her miserable for life.

My doubts ended in my calling at the hotel in London,
at which I knew Mrs. Ablewhite and Miss Verinder to be staying.
They informed me that they were going to Brighton the next day,
and that an unexpected obstacle prevented Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite
from accompanying them. I at once proposed to take his place.
While I was only thinking of Rachel Verinder, it was possible
to hesitate. When I actually saw her, my mind was made up directly,
come what might of it, to tell her the truth.

I found my opportunity, when I was out walking with her,
on the day after my arrival.

"May I speak to you," I asked, "about your marriage engagement?"

"Yes," she said, indifferently, "if you have nothing more interesting
to talk about."

"Will you forgive an old friend and servant of your family,
Miss Rachel, if I venture on asking whether your heart is set
on this marriage?"

"I am marrying in despair, Mr. Bruff--on the chance of dropping into
some sort of stagnant happiness which may reconcile me to my life."

Strong language! and suggestive of something below the surface,
in the shape of a romance. But I had my own object in view,
and I declined (as we lawyers say) to pursue the question into
its side issues.

"Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite can hardly be of your way of thinking," I said.
"HIS heart must be set on the marriage at any rate?"

"He says so, and I suppose I ought to believe him. He would hardly marry me,
after what I have owned to him, unless he was fond of me."

Poor thing! the bare idea of a man marrying her for his own
selfish and mercenary ends had never entered her head.
The task I had set myself began to look like a harder task than I
had bargained for.

"It sounds strangely," I went on, "in my old-fashioned ears----"

"What sounds strangely?" she asked.

"To hear you speak of your future husband as if you were not quite sure
of the sincerity of his attachment. Are you conscious of any reason
in your own mind for doubting him?"

Her astonishing quickness of perception, detected a change in my voice,
or my manner, when I put that question, which warned her that I had been
speaking all along with some ulterior object in view. She stopped,
and taking her arm out of mine, looked me searchingly in the face.

"Mr. Bruff," she said, "you have something to tell me about
Godfrey Ablewhite. Tell it."

I knew her well enough to take her at her word. I told it.

She put her arm again into mine, and walked on with me slowly.
I felt her hand tightening its grasp mechanically on my arm,
and I saw her getting paler and paler as I went on--but, not a
word passed her lips while I was speaking. When I had done,
she still kept silence. Her head drooped a little, and she
walked by my side, unconscious of my presence, unconscious of
everything about her; lost--buried, I might almost say--in her
own thoughts.

I made no attempt to disturb her. My experience of her disposition warned me,
on this, as on former occasions, to give her time.

The first instinct of girls in general, on being told of anything
which interests them, is to ask a multitude of questions, and then
to run off, and talk it all over with some favourite friend.
Rachel Verinder's first instinct, under similar circumstances,
was to shut herself up in her own mind, and to think it over by herself.
This absolute self-dependence is a great virtue in a man. In a woman it
has a serious drawback of morally separating her from the mass of her sex,
and so exposing her to misconstruction by the general opinion.
I strongly suspect myself of thinking as the rest of the world
think in this matter--except in the case of Rachel Verinder.
The self-dependence in HER character, was one of its virtues
in my estimation; partly, no doubt, because I sincerely admired and
liked her; partly, because the view I took of her connexion with the loss
of the Moonstone was based on my own special knowledge of her disposition.
Badly as appearances might look, in the matter of the Diamond--
shocking as it undoubtedly was to know that she was associated
in any way with the mystery of an undiscovered theft--I was satisfied
nevertheless that she had done nothing unworthy of her, because I
was also satisfied that she had not stirred a step in the business,
without shutting herself up in her own mind, and thinking it
over first.

We had walked on, for nearly a mile I should say before Rachel
roused herself. She suddenly looked up at me with a faint
reflection of her smile of happier times--the most irresistible
smile I have ever seen on a woman's face.

"I owe much already to your kindness," she said. "And I feel
more deeply indebted to it now than ever. If you hear any rumours
of my marriage when you get back to London contradict them at once,
on my authority."

"Have you resolved to break your engagement?" I asked.

"Can you doubt it?" she returned proudly, "after what you have told me!"

"My dear Miss Rachel, you are very young--and you may find
more difficulty in withdrawing from your present position than
you anticipate. Have you no one--I mean a lady, of course--
whom you could consult?"

"No one," she answered.

It distressed me, it did indeed distress me, to hear her say that.
She was so young and so lonely--and she bore it so well!
The impulse to help her got the better of any sense of my own
unfitness which I might have felt under the circumstances;
and I stated such ideas on the subject as occurred to me
on the spur of the moment, to the best of my ability.
I have advised a prodigious number of clients, and have dealt
with some exceedingly awkward difficulties, in my time.
But this was the first occasion on which I had ever found
myself advising a young lady how to obtain her release from a
marriage engagement. The suggestion I offered amounted briefly
to this. I recommended her to tell Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite--
at a private interview, of course--that he had, to her
certain knowledge, betrayed the mercenary nature of the motive
on his side. She was then to add that their marriage,
after what she had discovered, was a simple impossibility--
and she was to put it to him, whether he thought it wisest to
secure her silence by falling in with her views, or to force her,
by opposing them, to make the motive under which she was
acting generally known. If he attempted to defend himself,
or to deny the facts, she was, in that event, to refer him
to ME.

Miss Verinder listened attentively till I had done. She then thanked me
very prettily for my advice, but informed me at the same time that it
was impossible for her to follow it.

"May I ask," I said, "what objection you see to following it?"

She hesitated--and then met me with a question on her side.

"Suppose you were asked to express your opinion of Mr. Godfrey
Ablewhite's conduct?" she began.

"Yes?"

"What would you call it?"

"I should call it the conduct of a meanly deceitful man."

"Mr. Bruff! I have believed in that man. I have promised to marry that man.
How can I tell him he is mean, how can I tell him he has deceived me,
how can I disgrace him in the eyes of the world after that? I have degraded
myself by ever thinking of him as my husband. If I say what you tell
me to say to him--l am owning that I have degraded myself to his face.
I can't do that. After what has passed between us, I can't do that!
The shame of it would be nothing to HIM. But the shame of it would be
unendurable to ME."

Here was another of the marked peculiarities in her character
disclosing itself to me without reserve. Here was her
sensitive horror of the bare contact with anything mean,
blinding her to every consideration of what she owed to herself,
hurrying her into a false position which might compromise
her in the estimation of all her friends! Up to this time,
I had been a little diffident about the propriety of the advice
I had given to her. But, after what she had just said,
I had no sort of doubt that it was the best advice that could
have been offered; and I felt no sort of hesitation in pressing
it on her again.

She only shook her head, and repeated her objection in other words.

"He has been intimate enough with me to ask me to be his wife.
He has stood high enough in my estimation to obtain my consent.
I can't tell him to his face that he is the most contemptible of
living creatures, after that!"

"But, my dear Miss Rachel," I remonstrated, "it's equally impossible for you
to tell him that you withdraw from your engagement without giving some reason
for it."

"I shall say that I have thought it over, and that I am satisfied
it will be best for both of us if we part.

"No more than that?"

"No more."

"Have you thought of what he may say, on his side?"

"He may say what he pleases."

It was impossible not to admire her delicacy and her resolution, and it was
equally impossible not to feel that she was putting herself in the wrong.
I entreated her to consider her own position I reminded her that she would
be exposing herself to the most odious misconstruction of her motives.
"You can't brave public opinion," I said, "at the command of private feeling."

"I can," she answered. "I have done it already."

"What do you mean?"

"You have forgotten the Moonstone, Mr. Bruff. Have I not braved
public opinion, THERE, with my own private reasons for it?"

Her answer silenced me for the moment. It set me trying to trace
the explanation of her conduct, at the time of the loss of the Moonstone,
out of the strange avowal which had just escaped her. I might perhaps
have done it when I was younger. I certainly couldn't do it now.

I tried a last remonstrance before we returned to the house.
She was just as immovable as ever. My mind was in a strange
conflict of feelings about her when I left her that day.
She was obstinate; she was wrong. She was interesting;
she was admirable; she was deeply to be pitied. I made her
promise to write to me the moment she had any news to send.
And I went back to my business in London, with a mind exceedingly ill
at ease.

On the evening of my return, before it was possible for me to receive my
promised letter, I was surprised by a visit from Mr. Ablewhite the elder,
and was informed that Mr. Godfrey had got his dismissal--AND HAD ACCEPTED IT--
that very day.

With the view I already took of the case, the bare fact stated
in the words that I have underlined, revealed Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite's
motive for submission as plainly as if he had acknowledged it himself.
He needed a large sum of money; and he needed it by a given time.
Rachel's income, which would have helped him to anything else,
would not help him here; and Rachel had accordingly released herself,
without encountering a moment's serious opposition on his part.
If I am told that this is a mere speculation, I ask, in my turn,
what other theory will account for his giving up a marriage
which would have maintained him in splendour for the rest of
his life?

Any exultation I might otherwise have felt at the lucky turn which things
had now taken, was effectually checked by what passed at my interview with old
Mr. Ablewhite.

He came, of course, to know whether I could give him any explanation
of Miss Verinder's extraordinary conduct. It is needless to say
that I was quite unable to afford him the information he wanted.
The annoyance which I thus inflicted, following on the irritation
produced by a recent interview with his son, threw Mr. Ablewhite
off his guard. Both his looks and his language convinced me
that Miss Verinder would find him a merciless man to deal with,
when he joined the ladies at Brighton the next day.

I had a restless night, considering what I ought to do next.
How my reflections ended, and how thoroughly well founded my distrust
of Mr. Ablewhite proved to be, are items of information which
(as I am told) have already been put tidily in their proper places,
by that exemplary person, Miss Clack. I have only to add--
in completion of her narrative--that Miss Verinder found the quiet
and repose which she sadly needed, poor thing, in my house at Hampstead.
She honoured us by making a long stay. My wife and daughters
were charmed with her; and, when the executors decided on the
appointment of a new guardian, I feel sincere pride and pleasure
in recording that my guest and my family parted like old friends,
on either side.

CHAPTER II

The next thing I have to do, is to present such additional information
as I possess on the subject of the Moonstone, or, to speak
more correctly, on the subject of the Indian plot to steal the Diamond.
The little that I have to tell is (as I think I have already said)
of some importance, nevertheless, in respect of its bearing very
remarkably on events which are still to come.

About a week or ten days after Miss Verinder had left us,
one of my clerks entered the private room at my office, with a
card in his hand, and informed me that a gentleman was below,
who wanted to speak to me.

I looked at the card. There was a foreign name written on it,
which has escaped my memory. It was followed by a line
written in English at the bottom of the card, which I remember
perfectly well:

"Recommended by Mr. Septimus Luker."

The audacity of a person in Mr. Luker's position presuming
to recommend anybody to me, took me so completely by surprise,
that I sat silent for the moment, wondering whether my own eyes
had not deceived me. The clerk, observing my bewilderment,
favoured me with the result of his own observation of the stranger
who was waiting downstairs.

"He is rather a remarkable-looking man, sir. So dark in the complexion
that we all set him down in the office for an Indian, or something
of that sort."

Associating the clerk's idea with the line inscribed on the card in my hand,
I thought it possible that the Moonstone might be at the bottom of
Mr. Luker's recommendation, and of the stranger's visit at my office.
To the astonishment of my clerk, I at once decided on granting an interview
to the gentleman below.

In justification of the highly unprofessional sacrifice to mere
curiosity which I thus made, permit me to remind anybody
who may read these lines, that no living person (in England,
at any rate) can claim to have had such an intimate connexion
with the romance of the Indian Diamond as mine has been.
I was trusted with the secret of Colonel Herncastle's plan
for escaping assassination. I received the Colonel's
letters, periodically reporting himself a living man.
I drew his Will, leaving the Moonstone to Miss Verinder.
I persuaded his executor to act, on the chance that the jewel
might prove to be a valuable acquisition to the family.
And, lastly, I combated Mr. Franklin Blake's scruples,
and induced him to be the means of transporting the Diamond
to Lady Verinder's house. If anyone can claim a prescriptive
right of interest in the Moonstone, and in everything
connected with it, I think it is hardly to be denied that I am
the man.

The moment my mysterious client was shown in, I felt an inner
conviction that I was in the presence of one of the three Indians--
probably of the chief. He was carefully dressed in European costume.
But his swarthy complexion, his long lithe figure, and his grave
and graceful politeness of manner were enough to betray his Oriental
origin to any intelligent eyes that looked at him.

I pointed to a chair, and begged to be informed of the nature
of his business with me.

After first apologising--in an excellent selection of English words--
for the liberty which he had taken in disturbing me, the Indian produced
a small parcel the outer covering of which was of cloth of gold.
Removing this and a second wrapping of some silken fabric, he placed
a little box, or casket, on my table, most beautifully and richly inlaid
in jewels, on an ebony ground.

"I have come, sir," he said, "to ask you to lend me some money.
And I leave this as an assurance to you that my debt will be
paid back."

I pointed to his card. "And you apply to me," I rejoined,
"at Mr. Luker's recommendation?"

The Indian bowed.

"May I ask how it is that Mr. Luker himself did not advance the money
that you require?"

"Mr. Luker informed me, sir, that he had no money to lend."

"And so he recommended you to come to me?"

The Indian, in his turn, pointed to the card. It is written there,"
he said.

Briefly answered, and thoroughly to the purpose! If the Moonstone
had been in my possession, this Oriental gentleman would have
murdered me, I am well aware, without a moment's hesitation.
At the same time, and barring that slight drawback, I am
bound to testify that he was the perfect model of a client.
He might not have respected my life. But he did what none
of my own countrymen had ever done, in all my experience of them--
he respected my time.

"I am sorry," I said, "that you should have had the trouble of coming to me.
Mr. Luker is quite mistaken in sending you here. I am trusted, like other men
in my profession, with money to lend. But I never lend it to strangers, and I
never lend it on such a security as you have produced."

Far from attempting, as other people would have done, to induce
me to relax my own rules, the Indian only made me another bow,
and wrapped up his box in its two coverings without a word of protest.
He rose--this admirable assassin rose to go, the moment I had
answered him!

"Will your condescension towards a stranger, excuse my asking one question,"
he said, "before I take my leave?"

I bowed on my side. Only one question at parting! The average
in my experience was fifty.

"Supposing, sir, it had been possible (and customary) for you to lend me
the money," he said, "in what space of time would it have been possible
(and customary) for me to pay it back?"

"According to the usual course pursued in this country,"
I answered, "you would have been entitled to pay the money back
(if you liked) in one year's time from the date at which it was
first advanced to you."

The Indian made me a last bow, the lowest of all--and suddenly and softly
walked out of the room.

It was done in a moment, in a noiseless, supple, cat-like way,
which a little startled me, I own. As soon as I was composed
enough to think, I arrived at one distinct conclusion in reference
to the otherwise incomprehensible visitor who had favoured me
with a call.

His face, voice, and manner--while I was in his company--
were under such perfect control that they set all scrutiny
at defiance. But he had given me one chance of looking
under the smooth outer surface of him, for all that.
He had not shown the slightest sign of attempting to fix anything
that I had said to him in his mind, until I mentioned the time
at which it was customary to permit the earliest repayment,
on the part of a debtor, of money that had been advanced
as a loan. When I gave him that piece of information,
he looked me straight in the face, while I was speaking,
for the first time. The inference I drew from this was--
that he had a special purpose in asking me his last question,
and a special interest in hearing my answer to it.
The more carefully I reflected on what had passed between us,
the more shrewdly I suspected the production of the casket,
and the application for the loan, of having been mere formalities,
designed to pave the way for the parting inquiry addressed
to me.

I had satisfied myself of the correctness of this conclusion--
and was trying to get on a step further, and penetrate the Indian's
motives next--when a letter was brought to me, which proved
to be from no less a person that Mr. Septimus Luker himself.
He asked my pardon in terms of sickening servility, and assured
me that he could explain matters to my satisfaction, if I would
honour him by consenting to a personal interview.

I made another unprofessional sacrifice to mere curiosity.
I honoured him by making an appointment at my office,
for the next day.

Mr. Luker was, in every respect, such an inferior creature to the Indian--
he was so vulgar, so ugly, so cringing, and so prosy--that he is quite
unworthy of being reported, at any length, in these pages. The substance
of what he had to tell me may be fairly stated as follows:

The day before I had received the visit of the Indian, Mr. Luker
had been favoured with a call from that accomplished gentleman.
In spite of his European disguise, Mr. Luker had instantly
identified his visitor with the chief of the three Indians,
who had formerly annoyed him by loitering about his house,
and who had left him no alternative but to consult a magistrate.
From this startling discovery he had rushed to the conclusion
(naturally enough I own) that he must certainly be in the company
of one of the three men, who had blindfolded him, gagged him,
and robbed him of his banker's receipt. The result was that
he became quite paralysed with terror, and that he firmly believed
his last hour had come.

On his side, the Indian preserved the character of a perfect stranger.
He produced the little casket, and made exactly the same application
which he had afterwards made to me. As the speediest way of getting
rid of him, Mr. Luker had at once declared that he had no money.
The Indian had thereupon asked to be informed of the best and safest person
to apply to for the loan he wanted. Mr. Luker had answered that the best
and safest person, in such cases, was usually a respectable solicitor.
Asked to name some individual of that character and profession, Mr. Luker
had mentioned me--for the one simple reason that, in the extremity of
his terror, mine was the first name which occurred to him. "The perspiration
was pouring off me like rain, sir," the wretched creature concluded.
"I didn't know what I was talking about. And I hope you'll look over it,
Mr. Bruff, sir, in consideration of my having been really and truly frightened
out of my wits."

I excused the fellow graciously enough. It was the readiest way
of releasing myself from the sight of him. Before he left me,
I detained him to make one inquiry.

Had the Indian said anything noticeable, at the moment of quitting
Mr. Luker's house?

Yes! The Indian had put precisely the same question to Mr. Luker,
at parting, which he had put to me; receiving of course, the same
answer as the answer which I had given him.

What did it mean? Mr. Luker's explanation gave me no assistance
towards solving the problem. My own unaided ingenuity,
consulted next, proved quite unequal to grapple with the difficulty.
I had a dinner engagement that evening; and I went upstairs,
in no very genial frame of mind, little suspecting that the way
to my dressing-room and the way to discovery, meant, on this
particular occasion, one and the same thing.

CHAPTER III

The prominent personage among the guests at the dinner party
I found to be Mr. Murthwaite.

On his appearance in England, after his wanderings, society had been
greatly interested in the traveller, as a man who had passed through
many dangerous adventures, and who had escaped to tell the tale.
He had now announced his intention of returning to the scene of
his exploits, and of penetrating into regions left still unexplored.
This magnificent indifference to placing his safety in peril for the
second time, revived the flagging interest of the worshippers in the hero.
The law of chances was clearly against his escaping on this occasion.
It is not every day that we can meet an eminent person at dinner,
and feel that there is a reasonable prospect of the news of his murder
being the news that we hear of him next.

When the gentlemen were left by themselves in the dining-room, I found myself
sitting next to Mr. Murthwaite. The guests present being all English,
it is needless to say that, as soon as the wholesome check exercised by
the presence of the ladies was removed, the conversation turned on politics
as a necessary result.

In respect to this all-absorbing national topic, I happen to be one of
the most un-English Englishmen living. As a general rule, political talk
appears to me to be of all talk the most dreary and the most profitless.
Glancing at Mr. Murthwaite, when the bottles had made their first round
of the table, I found that he was apparently of my way of thinking.
He was doing it very dexterously--with all possible consideration
for the feelings of his host--but it is not the less certain that he was
composing himself for a nap. It struck me as an experiment worth attempting,
to try whether a judicious allusion to the subject of the Moonstone would
keep him awake, and, if it did, to see what HE thought of the last new
complication in the Indian conspiracy, as revealed in the prosaic precincts
of my office.

"If I am not mistaken, Mr. Murthwaite," I began, "you were acquainted
with the late Lady Verinder, and you took some interest in the strange
succession of events which ended in the loss of the Moonstone?"

The eminent traveller did me the honour of waking up in an instant,
and asking me who I was.

I informed him of my professional connection with the Herncastle family,
not forgetting the curious position which I had occupied towards the Colonel
and his Diamond in the bygone time.

Mr. Murthwaite shifted round in his chair, so as to put the rest
of the company behind him (Conservatives and Liberals alike),
and concentrated his whole attention on plain Mr. Bruff, of Gray's
Inn Square.

"Have you heard anything, lately, of the Indians?" he asked.

"I have every reason to believe," I answered, "that one of them
had an interview with me, in my office, yesterday."

Mr. Murthwaite was not an easy man to astonish; but that last answer of mine
completely staggered him. I described what had happened to Mr. Luker,
and what had happened to myself, exactly as I have described it here.
"It is clear that the Indian's parting inquiry had an object," I added.
"Why should he be so anxious to know the time at which a borrower of money is
usually privileged to pay the money back?"

"Is it possible that you don't see his motive, Mr. Bruff?"

"I am ashamed of my stupidity, Mr. Murthwaite--but I certainly don't see it."

The great traveller became quite interested in sounding the immense vacuity
of my dulness to its lowest depths.

"Let me ask you one question," he said. "In what position does
the conspiracy to seize the Moonstone now stand?"

"I can't say," I answered. "The Indian plot is a mystery to me."

"The Indian plot, Mr. Bruff, can only be a mystery to you, because you
have never seriously examined it. Shall we run it over together,
from the time when you drew Colonel Herncastle's Will, to the time
when the Indian called at your office? In your position, it may be
of very serious importance to the interests of Miss Verinder, that you
should be able to take a clear view of this matter in case of need.
Tell me, bearing that in mind, whether you will penetrate the Indian's
motive for yourself? or whether you wish me to save you the trouble
of making any inquiry into it?"

It is needless to say that I thoroughly appreciated the practical
purpose which I now saw that he had in view, and that the first
of the two alternatives was the alternative I chose.

"Very good," said Mr. Murthwaite. "We will take the question
of the ages of the three Indians first. I can testify that they
all look much about the same age--and you can decide for yourself,
whether the man whom you saw was, or was not, in the prime of life.
Not forty, you think? My idea too. We will say not forty.
Now look back to the time when Colonel Herncastle came
to England, and when you were concerned in the plan he adopted
to preserve his life. I don't want you to count the years.
I will only say, it is clear that these present Indians,
at their age, must be the successors of three other Indians
(high caste Brahmins all of them, Mr. Bruff, when they left
their native country!) who followed the Colonel to these shores.
Very well. These present men of ours have succeeded to the men
who were here before them. If they had only done that,
the matter would not have been worth inquiring into.
But they have done more. They have succeeded to the organisation
which their predecessors established in this country.
Don't start! The organisation is a very trumpery affair,
according to our ideas, I have no doubt. I should reckon it up
as including the command of money; the services, when needed,
of that shady sort of Englishman, who lives in the byways
of foreign life in London; and, lastly, the secret sympathy
of such few men of their own country, and (formerly, at least)
of their own religion, as happen to be employed in ministering
to some of the multitudinous wants of this great city.
Nothing very formidable, as you see! But worth notice
at starting, because we may find occasion to refer
to this modest little Indian organisation as we go on.
Having now cleared the ground, I am going to ask you a question;
and I expect your experience to answer it. What was the event
which gave the Indians their first chance of seizing the
Diamond?"

I understood the allusion to my experience.

"The first chance they got," I replied, "was clearly offered to them
by Colonel Herncastle's death. They would be aware of his death,
I suppose, as a matter of course?"

"As a matter of course. And his death, as you say, gave them their
first chance. Up to that time the Moonstone was safe in the strong-room
of the bank. You drew the Colonel's Will leaving his jewel to his niece;
and the Will was proved in the usual way. As a lawyer, you can be at no
loss to know what course the Indians would take (under English advice)
after THAT."

"They would provide themselves with a copy of the Will
from Doctors' Commons," I said.

"Exactly. One or other of those shady Englishmen to whom I
have alluded, would get them the copy you have described.
That copy would inform them that the Moonstone was bequeathed
to the daughter of Lady Verinder, and that Mr. Blake the elder,
or some person appointed by him, was to place it in her hands.
You will agree with me that the necessary information about
persons in the position of Lady Verinder and Mr. Blake,
would be perfectly easy information to obtain. The one difficulty
for the Indians would be to decide whether they should make
their attempt on the Diamond when it was in course of removal
from the keeping of the bank, or whether they should wait until
it was taken down to Yorkshire to Lady Verinder's house.
The second way would be manifestly the safest way--and there you
have the explanation of the appearance of the Indians at Frizinghall,
disguised as jugglers, and waiting their time. In London,
it is needless to say, they had their organisation at their
disposal to keep them informed of events. Two men would do it.
One to follow anybody who went from Mr. Blake's house to the bank.
And one to treat the lower men servants with beer, and to hear
the news of the house. These commonplace precautions would
readily inform them that Mr. Franklin Blake had been to the bank,
and that Mr. Franklin Blake was the only person in the house
who was going to visit Lady Verinder. What actually followed upon
that discovery, you remember, no doubt, quite as correctly as
I do."

I remembered that Franklin Blake had detected one of the spies, in the street--
that he had, in consequence, advanced the time of his arrival in Yorkshire
by some hours--and that (thanks to old Betteredge's excellent advice) he had
lodged the Diamond in the bank at Frizinghall, before the Indians were so much
as prepared to see him in the neighbourhood. All perfectly clear so far.
But the Indians being ignorant of the precautions thus taken, how was it that
they had made no attempt on Lady Verinder's house (in which they must have
supposed the Diamond to be) through the whole of the interval that elapsed
before Rachel's birthday?

In putting this difficulty to Mr. Murthwaite, I thought it right
to add that I had heard of the little boy, and the drop of ink,
and the rest of it, and that any explanation based on the theory
of clairvoyance was an explanation which would carry no conviction
whatever with it, to MY mind.

"Nor to mine either," said Mr. Murthwaite. "The clairvoyance
in this case is simply a development of the romantic side
of the Indian character. It would be refreshment and an
encouragement to those men--quite inconceivable, I grant you,
to the English mind--to surround their wearisome and perilous
errand in this country with a certain halo of the marvellous
and the supernatural. Their boy is unquestionably a sensitive
subject to the mesmeric influence--and, under that influence,
he has no doubt reflected what was already in the mind of the person
mesmerising him. I have tested the theory of clairvoyance--
and I have never found the manifestations get beyond that point.
The Indians don't investigate the matter in this way;
the Indians look upon their boy as a Seer of things invisible
to their eyes--and, I repeat, in that marvel they find
the source of a new interest in the purpose that unites them.
I only notice this as offering a curious view of human character,
which must be quite new to you. We have nothing whatever
to do with clairvoyance, or with mesmerism, or with anything
else that is hard of belief to a practical man, in the inquiry
that we are now pursuing. My object in following the Indian plot,
step by step, is to trace results back, by rational means,
to natural causes. Have I succeeded to your satisfaction
so far?"

"Not a doubt of it, Mr. Murthwaite! I am waiting, however, with some anxiety,
to hear the rational explanation of the difficulty which I have just had
the honour of submitting to you."

Mr. Murthwaite smiled. "It's the easiest difficulty to deal with of all,"
he said. "Permit me to begin by admitting your statement of the case
as a perfectly correct one. The Indians were undoubtedly not aware
of what Mr. Franklin Blake had done with the Diamond--for we find them
making their first mistake, on the first night of Mr. Blake's arrival at
his aunt's house."

"Their first mistake?" I repeated.

"Certainly! The mistake of allowing themselves to be surprised,
lurking about the terrace at night, by Gabriel Betteredge.
However, they had the merit of seeing for themselves that they
had taken a false step--for, as you say, again, with plenty
of time at their disposal, they never came near the house
for weeks afterwards."

"Why, Mr. Murthwaite? That's what I want to know! Why?"

"Because no Indian, Mr. Bruff, ever runs an unnecessary risk.
The clause you drew in Colonel Herncastle's Will, informed them
(didn't it?) that the Moonstone was to pass absolutely into
Miss Verinder's possession on her birthday. Very well.
Tell me which was the safest course for men in their position?
To make their attempt on the Diamond while it was under the control
of Mr. Franklin Blake, who had shown already that he could
suspect and outwit them? Or to wait till the Diamond was at
the disposal of a young girl, who would innocently delight
in wearing the magnificent jewel at every possible opportunity?
Perhaps you want a proof that my theory is correct?
Take the conduct of the Indians themselves as the proof.
They appeared at the house, after waiting all those weeks,
on Miss Verinder's birthday; and they were rewarded
for the patient accuracy of their calculations by seeing
the Moonstone in the bosom of her dress! When I heard
the story of the Colonel and the Diamond, later in the evening,
I felt so sure about the risk Mr. Franklin Blake had run
(they would have certainly attacked him, if he had not happened
to ride back to Lady Verinder's in the company of other people);
and I was so strongly convinced of the worse risk still,
in store for Miss Verinder, that I recommended following
the Colonel's plan, and destroying the identity of the gem
by having it cut into separate stones. How its extraordinary
disappearance that night, made my advice useless, and utterly
defeated the Hindoo plot--and how all further action on the part
of the Indians was paralysed the next day by their confinement
in prison as rogues and vagabonds--you know as well as I do.
The first act in the conspiracy closes there. Before we go
on to the second, may I ask whether I have met your difficulty,
with an explanation which is satisfactory to the mind of a practical
man?"

It was impossible to deny that he had met my difficulty fairly;
thanks to his superior knowledge of the Indian character--
and thanks to his not having had hundreds of other Wills to think
of since Colonel Herncastle's time!

"So far, so good," resumed Mr. Murthwaite. "The first chance
the Indians had of seizing the Diamond was a chance lost,
on the day when they were committed to the prison at Frizinghall.
When did the second chance offer itself? The second chance
offered itself--as I am in a condition to prove--while they were
still in confinement."

He took out his pocket-book, and opened it at a particular leaf,
before he went on.

"I was staying," he resumed, "with some friends at Frizinghall,
at the time. A day or two before the Indians were set free
(on a Monday, I think), the governor of the prison came to me
with a letter. It had been left for the Indians by one Mrs. Macann,
of whom they had hired the lodging in which they lived; and it had
been delivered at Mrs. Macann's door, in ordinary course of post,
on the previous morning. The prison authorities had noticed that
the postmark was 'Lambeth,' and that the address on the outside,
though expressed in correct English, was, in form, oddly at variance
with the customary method of directing a letter. On opening it,
they had found the contents to be written in a foreign language,
which they rightly guessed at as Hindustani. Their object in coming
to me was, of course, to have the letter translated to them.
I took a copy in my pocket-book of the original, and of my translation--
and there they are at your service."

He handed me the open pocket-book. The address on the letter
was the first thing copied. It was all written in one paragraph,
without any attempt at punctuation, thus: "To the three Indian men
living with the lady called Macann at Frizinghall in Yorkshire."
The Hindoo characters followed; and the English translation appeared at
the end, expressed in these mysterious words:

"In the name of the Regent of the Night, whose seat is on the Antelope,
whose arms embrace the four corners of the earth.

"Brothers, turn your faces to the south, and come to me in the street
of many noises, which leads down to the muddy river.

"The reason is this.

"My own eyes have seen it."

There the letter ended, without either date or signature.
I handed it back to Mr. Murthwaite, and owned that this curious
specimen of Hindoo correspondence rather puzzled me.

"I can explain the first sentence to you," he said;
"and the conduct of the Indians themselves will explain the rest.
The god of the moon is represented, in the Hindoo mythology,
as a four-armed deity, seated on an antelope; and one of his
titles is the regent of the night. Here, then, to begin with,
is something which looks suspiciously like an indirect reference
to the Moonstone. Now, let us see what the Indians did,
after the prison authorities had allowed them to receive
their letter. On the very day when they were set free
they went at once to the railway station, and took
their places in the first train that started for London.
We all thought it a pity at Frizinghall that their proceedings
were not privately watched. But, after Lady Verinder had
dismissed the police-officer, and had stopped all further
inquiry into the loss of the Diamond, no one else could presume
to stir in the matter. The Indians were free to go to London,
and to London they went. What was the next news we heard of them,
Mr. Bruff?"

"They were annoying Mr. Luker," I answered, "by loitering about the house
at Lambeth."

"Did you read the report of Mr. Luker's application to the magistrate?"

"Yes."

"In the course of his statement he referred, if you remember,
to a foreign workman in his employment, whom he had just dismissed
on suspicion of attempted theft, and whom he also distrusted as
possibly acting in collusion with the Indians who had annoyed him.
The inference is pretty plain, Mr. Bruff, as to who wrote that letter
which puzzled you just now, and as to which of Mr. Luker's Oriental
treasures the workman had attempted to steal."

The inference (as I hastened to acknowledge) was too plain to need
being pointed out. I had never doubted that the Moonstone had found
its way into Mr. Luker's hands, at the time Mr. Murthwaite alluded to.
My only question had been, How had the Indians discovered the circumstance?
This question (the most difficult to deal with of all, as I had thought)
had now received its answer, like the rest. Lawyer as I was, I began
to feel that I might trust Mr. Murthwaite to lead me blindfold through
the last windings of the labyrinth, along which he had guided me thus far.
I paid him the compliment of telling him this, and found my little concession
very graciously received.

"You shall give me a piece of information in your turn before we go on,"
he said. "Somebody must have taken the Moonstone from Yorkshire to London.
And somebody must have raised money on it, or it would never have been
in Mr. Luker's possession. Has there been any discovery made of who that
person was?"

"None that I know of."

"There was a story (was there not?) about Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite.
I am told he is an eminent philanthropist--which is decidedly against him,
to begin with."

I heartily agreed in this with Mr. Murthwaite. At the same time,
I felt bound to inform him (without, it is needless to say,
mentioning Miss Verinder's name) that Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite
had been cleared of all suspicion, on evidence which I could
answer for as entirely beyond dispute.

"Very well," said Mr. Murthwaite, quietly, "let us leave it
to time to clear the matter up. In the meanwhile, Mr. Bruff,
we must get back again to the Indians, on your account.
Their journey to London simply ended in their becoming the victims
of another defeat. The loss of their second chance of seizing
the Diamond is mainly attributable, as I think, to the cunning
and foresight of Mr. Luker--who doesn't stand at the top
of the prosperous and ancient profession of usury for nothing!
By the prompt dismissal of the man in his employment,
he deprived the Indians of the assistance which their
confederate would have rendered them in getting into the house.
By the prompt transport of the Moonstone to his banker's,
he took the conspirators by surprise before they were
prepared with a new plan for robbing him. How the Indians,
in this latter case, suspected what he had done, and how they
contrived to possess themselves of his banker's receipt,
are events too recent to need dwelling on. Let it be enough
to say that they know the Moonstone to be once more out of
their reach; deposited (under the general description of "a valuable
of great price") in a banker's strong room. Now, Mr. Bruff,
what is their third chance of seizing the Diamond? and when will
it come?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THIRD NARRATIVE

Contributed by FRANKLIN BLAKE

CHAPTER I

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answer came back, literally in one sentence.

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

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

"The valuable assistance which you rendered to the inquiry after
the lost jewel is still an unpardoned offence, in the present
dreadful state of Rachel's mind. Moving blindfold in this matter,
you have added to the burden of anxiety which she has had to bear,
by innocently threatening her secret with discovery through
your exertions."

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

Mr. Bruff looked unaffectedly distressed.

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

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

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

"May I ask for what purpose?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHAPTER II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Betteredge shook his head gravely.

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

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

"Are the rooms to let?" I inquired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes?"

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

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

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

"What brought me here before?" I asked.

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

"The Moonstone again, Betteredge."

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Why not?"

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