|Chapter Number||First Period: IX - X|
|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||The Moonstone|
BY WILKIE COLLINS. Author of "The Woman in White," "No Name," etc.
JUNE twenty-first, the day of the birthday, was cloudy and unsettled at sunrise, but toward noon it cleared up bravely. We, in the servants' hall, began this happy
anniversary, as usual, by offering our little pre sents to Miss Bachel, with the regular speech delivered annually by me as the chief. I follow the plan adopted by the Queen in opening Par liament—namely, the plan of paying much the lame thing regularly every year. Before it is delivered, my speech (like the Queen's) is looked for as eagerly as if nothing of the kind had ever been heard before. When it is delivered, and turns out not to be the novelty anticipated, though they grumble a little, they look forward hopefully to something newer next year. An easy people to govern, in the Parliament and in the Kitchen—that's the moral of it. After breakfast, Mr. Franklin and I had a private conference on the subject of the Moon stone —the time having now come for removing it from the bank at Frizinghall, and placing it in Miss Rachel's own hands. ? Whether he had been trying to make love to i bis cousin again, and had got a rebuff—or whe ther his broken rest, night after night, was ag gravating the queer contradictions and uncer tainties in his character—l don't know. But certain it is, that Mr. Franklin failed to show himself at his best on the morning of the birth day. He was in twenty different minds about the diamond in as many minutes. For my part I stuck fast by the plain facts as we knew them. Nothing had happened to justify us in alarming my lady on the subject of the jewel; and nothing
could alter the legal obligations that now lay on Mr. Franklin to put it in his cousin's possession. That was my view of the matter; and twist, and torn it as he might, he was forced in the end to make it his view too. We arranged that he was to ride over, after lunch, to h rizinghall, and bring the diamond back, with Mr. Godfrey and the two young ladies, in all probability, to keep him company on the way home again. This settled, our young gentleman went back to Miss RacheL They consumed the whole morning, and part of the afternoon, in the everlasting business of decorating the door, Penelope standing by to - mix the colors, as directed; and my lady, as drew near, going in and out of HBS~room, with her handkerchief to her nose (for they used a deal of Mr. Franklin's vehicle that day), and trying vainly to get the two artists away from their work. It was 3 o'clock before they took off their aprons, and released Penelope (much the worse for the vehicle), and cleaned themselves of their mess. But they had done what they wanted—they had finished the door on the birthday, and proud enough they were of it The griffins, cupids, and so on, were I must own, most beautiful to behold; though so many in number, so entangled in flowers and devices, and so topsy-turvy in their actions and attitudes, that you felt them unpleasantly in your head for hours after you had done with the pleasure of looking at them. If I add that Penelope ended her part of the morning's work by being sick in the back kitchen, it is in no unfriendly spirit to ward the vehicle. No! no! It left off stinking when it dried; and if Art requires these sort of sacrifices—though the girl is my .own daughter —I say, let Art have them! Mr. Franklin snatched a morsel from the luncheon-table, and rode off to Frizinghall— to escort hii cousins, as he told my lt»dy. To fetch the Moonstone, as was privately known to him self and to me. This being one of the high festivals on which I took my place at the side-board, in command of the attendance at cable, I had plenty to occupy my mind while Mr. Franklin was away. Having seen to the wine, and reviewed my men and wo men who were to wait at dinner, I retired to collect myself before the company came. A whiff of—you know what, and a turn at a certain book ris^iich I have bad occasion to mention in these ages, composed me, body and mind. I was roused from what I am inclined to think must hare been, not a nap, but a reverie, by the clatter of horses' hoofs outside, and, going to the door, received a cavalcade comprising Mr. Franklin and his three cousins, escorted by one of old Mr. " Ablewhito's grooms. Mr. Godfrey struck me, strangely enough, as being like Mr. Franklin in this respect—, that he did not seem to be in his customary spirits. He kindly shook hands with me as usual, and was most politely glad to see his old friend Better edge wearing bo well. But there was a sort of cloud over him, which I couldn't at all account for ; and when I a ked how he had found his father in health, he answered rather shortly, " Much as usual." However, the two Miss Able whites were cheerful enough for twenty, which more than restored the balance. They were nearly as big as their brother; spanking, yellow haired, rosy lasses, overflowing with superabun dant flesh and blood; bursting from head to foot with health and spirits. The legs of the poor horses trembled with carrying them; and when they jumped from their saddles (without waiting to be helped), I declare they bounced on the ground as if they were made of India* rubber. Everything the Miss Ablewhites said began with a large O ; everything they did was done with a bang; and they giggled and screamed, in season and out of season, on the smallest provocation. Bouncers—that's what I call them. Under cover of the noise made by the young ladies, I had an opportunity of saying a private word to Mr. Franklin in the hall. " Have you got the diamond safe, sir ?" He nodded, and tapped the breast-pocket of his coat. " Have you seen anything of the Indians ?" " Not a glimpse." With that answer, he asked for my lady, and, hearing she was in the small drawing-room, went there straight. The bell rang before he had been a minute in the room, and Penelope was sent to tell Miss Rachel that Mr. Franklin Blake wanted to speak to her. Crossing the hall about half an hour afterward I was brought to a sudden stand-still by an out break of screams from the small drawing-room. I can't say I was at all alarmed; for I recog nized in the screams the favorite large O of the Misß Ablewhites. However, I went in (on pre tence ofasking for instructions about the dinner) to discover whether anything serious had really happened. There stood Miss Rachel at the table, like a person fascinated, with the Colonel's unlucky diamond in her hand. There, on either Bide of her, knelt the two Bouncerß, devouring the jewel with their eyes, and screaming with ecstasy
every time it flashed on them in a new light. There, at the opposite side of the table, stood Mr. Godfrey, clapping his hands like a large child, and singing out softly, " Exquisite! ex quisite !" There sat Mr. Franklin, in a chair hy the book-case, tugging at his beard, and looking anxiously toward the window. And there, at the window, stood the object he was contemplat ing—my lady, having the extract from the Colo nel's will in her hand, and keeping her back ? turned on the whole of the company. She faced me when I asked for my instructions, and I saw the family frown gathering over her eyes, and the family temper twitching at the orners of her mouth. " Come to my room in half an hour," she
answered. " I shall have something to say to you then." With those words she went out. It was plain enough that she was posed by the same difficulty which had posed Mr. Franklin and me in our conference at the Shivering Sand. Was the legacy of the Moonstone a proof that she had treated her brother with cruel injustice? or was it a proof that he was worse than the worst she had ever thought of him ? Serious questions those for my lady to determine; while her daughter, innocent of all knowledge of the Colo nel's character, stood there with the Colonel's birthday gift in her hand. Before I could leave the room, in my turn, Miss Rachel, always considerate to the old ser vant who had been in the house when she was born, stopped me. " Look, Gabriel!" she said, and flashed the jewel before my eyes in a ray of sunlight that poured through the window. Lord bleBS us !it was a diamond ! As large, or nearly, as a egg! The light that streamed from it was like the light of. tho har vestmoon. When you looked down into thestone you looked into a yellow deep that drew your eyes into it so that they saw nothing else. It seemed unfathomable ; this jewel, that you could hold between your finger and thumb, seemed unfathomable as the heavens themselves. We set it in the sun, and then shut the light out of the room, and it shone awfully out of the depths of its own brightness, with a moony gleam, in the dark. No wonder Miss Rachel was fascina ted; no wonder her cousins screamed. The diamond laid such a bold on me that I burst out with as large an "O!" as the Bouncers themselves. The only one of us who kept his senses was Mr. Godfrey. He put an arm round each of his sisters' waists, and, looking compas sionately backward and forward between the diamond and me, said, " Carbon, Bet'eredge ! mere carbon, my good friend, after all!" His object, I suppose, was to instruct me. All he did, however, was to remind me of the dinner. I hobbled off to my army of waiters down stairs. As I went out Mr. Godfrey said," Dear old Bet teredge, I have the truest regard for him!" He was embracing his sisters and oggling Miss Rachel while he honored me with that testimony of affection. Something like a stock of love to draw on there! Mr. Franklin was a perfect savage by comparison with him, At the end of half an hour I presented myself, as directed, in my lady's room. What passed between my mistress and me on this occasion was, in the main, a repetition of what had passed between Mr. Franklin and me at the Shivering Sand—with this difference, that I took care to keep my own counsel about the jugglers, seeing that nothing had happened to justify me in alarming my lady on this head. When I received my dismissal I could see that she took the blackest view possible of the Colo nel's motives, and that she was bent on getting the Moonstone out of her daughter's possession at the first opportunity. On my way back to my own part of the house I was encountered by Mr. Franklin. He wanted to know if I had seen anything of his cousin Rachel. I had Been nothing of hor. Could I tell him where his cousin Godfrey was ? I didn't know^ but I began to suspect that Cousin God frey might not be far away from Cousin Rachel. Mr. Franklin's suspicions apparently took the same turn. He tugged hard at his beard, and went and shut himself up ia the library with a bang of the door that had a world of meaning in it. I was interrupted no more in the business of preparing for the birthday dinner till it was time for me to smarten myself up for receiving the company. Just as I had got my white waist coat on, Penelope presented herself at my toilet, on pretence of brushing what little hair I have got left, and improving the tie of my white | cravat. My girl was in high spirits and I saw she had something to say to me. She gave me a kiss on the top of my bald head, and whispered, "News for you, father! Miss Rachel has re fused him." " Who's'hia?'" I asked. "The ladies' committee-man, father," says Penelope. " A nasty, sly fellow. I hate him for trying to supplant Mr. Franklin!" If I had had breath enough I should certainly haveprotested against this indecent way of speak ing of an eminent philanthropic character. But my daughter happened to be improving the tie of my cravat at that moment, and the whole strength of her feelings found its way into her fingers. I never was more nearly strangled in my life. " I saw him take her away alone into the rose garden," says Penelope. " And I waited behind the holly to see how they came back. They had gone out arm in arm, both laughing. They came back, walking separate, as grave as grave could be, and looking straight away from each other in a manner which there was no mistaking. I never was more delighted, father, in my life! There's one woman in the world who can resist Mr. Godfrey Able white, at any rate ; and, if I was a lady, I should be another !" Here I should have protested again. But my daughter had got the hair brush by this time, and the whole strength of her feelings had passed into that. If you are bald you will understand how she scarified me. If you are not, skip this bit, and thank God you have got something in the way of a defence between your hair-brush and your head. " Just on the other side of the holly," Peue. lope went on, " Mr. Godfrey came to a stand still. ' You prefer,' says he, ' that I should stop here as if nothing had happened ?' Miss Rachel turned on him like lightning. ' You have accepted my mother's invitation,'she said ; 'and you are here to meet her guests. Unless you wish to make a scandal in the house, you will remain, of course!" She went on a few steps, and then seemed to relent a little. ' Let us for get what has passed, Godfrey, she said, ' and let us remain cousins still.' She gave him her hand. He kissed it, which' I should have con sidered taking a liberty, and then she left him. He waited a little by himself, with his head down, and his heel grinding a hole slowly in the gravel walk ; you never saw a man look more put out in your life. ' Awkward!' he said between bis teeth, when he looked up, and went on to the
house—' very awkward!' If that was his opi nion of himself, he was quite right. Awkward enough, I'm sure. And the end of it is, father, what I told you all along," cries Penelope, finish ing me off with a last scarification, the hottest of all. " Mr. Franklin's the man !" I got possession of the hair-brush, and opened my lips to administer the reproof which, you will own, my daughter's language and conduct richly deserved. Before I could say a word the crash of car riage-wheels outside struck in, and stopped me. The first of the dinner-company had come. Penelope instantly ran off. I put on my coat, and looked in the glass. My head was as red as a lobster; but, in other respects, I was as nicely dressed for the ceremonies of the evening as a man need be. I got into the hall just in time to announce the two first of the guests. Sou needn't feel particularly interested about them. Only the philanthropist's father and mother— Mr. and Mrs. Ablewhite.
Chapteb X. One on the top of the other, the rest of the company followed the Ablewhites, till we had the whole tale of them complete. Includiag the family, they were twenty-four in all. It was a noble sight to see, when they were settled in their places round the dinner-table, and the Eector of Frizinghall (with beautiful elocution) rose and said grace. There is no need to worry you with a list of the guests. You will meet none of them a second time—in my part of the story at any rate—with the exception of two. Those two sat on either side of Miss Rachel, who, as queen of the day, was naturally the great attraction of the party. On this occasion she was more particularly the centre-point to ward which everybody's eyes were directed ; for (to my lady's secret annoyance) she wore her wonderful birthday present which eclipsed all the rest—the Moonstone. It was without any setting when it had been placed in her hands; but that universal genius, Mr. Franklin, had con trived, with the help of his neat fingers and a little bit of silver wire, to fix it as a brooch in the bosom of her white dress. Everybody won dered at the prodigiouß size and beauty of the diamond, as a matter of course. But the only two of the company who said anything out of the common way about it were those two guests I have mentioned, who sat by Miss Rachel on her right hand and her left. The guest on her left was Mr. Candy, oar doctor at Frizinghall. This was a pleasant, companionable little man, with the drawback, however, I must own, of being too fond, in season and out of season, of his joke, and of plunging in rather a headlong manner into talk with strangers, without waiting to feel his way first. In society he was con stantly making mistakes, and setting people un intentionally by the ears together. In his medi cal practice he was a more prudent man ; pick^ ing up his discretion (as his enemies said) by a kind of instinct, and proving to be generally right where more carefully conducted doctors turned out to be wrong. What he said about the diamond to Miss Rachel was said, as usual, by way of a mystification or joke. He gravely entreated her (in the interests of science) to let him take it home and burn it. "We will first beat it, Miss Rachel," says the doctor, " to such and such a degree; then we will expose it to a current of air; and, little by little—puff!—we evaporate the diamond, and spare you a world of anxiety about the safe-keeping of a valuable precious stone!" My lady, listening with rather a care-worn expression on her face, seemed to wish that the doctor had been in earnest, and that he could have found Miss Rachel zealous enough in the cause of science to sacrifice her birthday gift. The other guest who Bat on my young lady's right hand was an eminent public character— being no other than the celebrated Indian tavel ler, Mr. Murthwaite, who at risk of his life had penetrated in disguise where no European had ever set foot before. This was a long, lean, wiry, brown, silent man. He had a weary look and a very steady attentive eye. It was rumored that he was tired of the humdrum life among the people in our parts, and longing to go back and wander off on the tramp again in the wild places of the East. Except what he said to Miss Rachel about her jewel, I doubt if he spoke six words, or drank so much as a single glass of wine, all through the dinner. The Moonstone wa9 the object that interested him in the smallest degree. The fame of it seemed to have reached him, in some of those perilous Indian places where his wanderings had lain. After looking at it silently for so long a time that Miss Rachel began to get confused, he said to her in his cool immovable way, " If you ever go to India, Miss Verinder, don't take your uncle's birthday gift with you. A Hindoo dia mond is sometimes a part of Hindoo religion. I know a certain city, and a certain temple in that city, where, dressed as you are now, your life would not be worth five minutes' purchase." Mits Rachel, safe in England was quite delighted to hear of her danger in India. The Bouncers were more delighted still; they dropped their knives and forks with a crash, and burst out to gether vehemently, " Oh! how interesting !" My lady fidgeted in her chair, and changed the subject. As the dinner got on I became aware, little by little, that this festival was not prospering as other like festivals had prospered before it. Looking back at the birthday now, by the light of what happened afterward, I am half inclined to think that the cursed diamond must have cast a blight on the whole company. I plied them well with wine ; and, being a privileged charac ter, followed the unpopular dishes round the table and whispered to the company, confiden tially, " Please to change your mind, and try it; for I know it will do you good." Nine times out of ten they changed their minds—out of regard for their old original Betteredge, they were pleased to say—but all to no purpose. There were gaps of silence in the talk, as the dinner got on, that made me feel personally uncomfort able. When they did use their tongues again, they used them innocently, in the roost unfortu nate manner and to the worst possible purpose. Mr. Candy, the doctor, for instance, said more unlucky things than I ever knew him to say be fore. Take one sample of the way in which he went on, and you will understand what I had to put up with at the side-board, officiating as I was in the character of a man who had the pros perity of the festival at heart. One of our ladies present at dinner was worthy Mrs. Threadgall, widow of the late Pro fessor of that name. Talking of her deceased husband perpetually, this good lady never men tioned to strangers that he was deceased. She thought, I suppose, that every able-bodied adult in England ought to know as much as that. In one of the gaps of silence somebody mentioned the dry and rather nasty subject of human an.
atomy; whereupon good Mrs. Threadgall straightway.brought in her late husband as usual, without mentioning that he was dead. Anatomy she describad as the Professor's favorite recrea tion in his leisure hours. As ill-luck would have it, Mr. Candy, sitting opposite (who knew no thing of the deceased gentleman), heard her. Being the most polite of men he seized the op portunity of assisting the Professor's anatomi cal amusements on the spot. " They have got some lemarkably fine skele tons lately at the College of Surgeons," says Mr. Candy, across the table, in a loud cheerful voice. " I strongly recommend the Professor, ma'am, when he next has an hour to spare, to pay them a visit." You might have heard a pin fall. The com pany (out of respect to the Professor's memory) all sat speechless. I was behind Mrs. Thread gall at the time, plying her confidentially with a glass of hock. She dropped her head, and said, in a very low voice, " My beloved husband is no more." Unlucky Mr. Candy, hearing nothing, and miles away from suspecting the truth, went on acroes the table louder and politer than ever. " The Professor may not be aware," says he, " that the card of a member of the College will admit him, on any day but Sunday, between the hours of 10 and 4." Mrs. Threadgall dropped her bead right into her tucker, and, in a lower voice still, repeated the solemn words, "My beloved husband is no more." I winked hard at Mr. Candy across the table. Miss Rachel touched his arm. My lady looked unutterable things at him. Quite useless! On he went with a cordiality that there was no stopping anyhow. " I shall be delighted," says he, " to send the Professor my card, if you will oblige me by mentioning his present address ?" " His present address, sir, is the grave," says Mrs. Threadgall, suddenly losing her temper, and speaking with an emphasis and fury that made the glasses ring again. " The Professor has been dead these ten years!" " Oh, good heavens 3" says Mr. Candy. Ex cepting the Bouncers, who burst out laughing, such a blank now fell on the company that they might all have been going the way of the Pro fesßor, and bailing as he did from the direction of the grave. So much for Mr. Candy. The rest of them was nearly as provoking in their different ways as the doctor himself. When they ought to have spoken, they didn't speak j or when they did speak, they were perpetually at cross pur poses. Mr. Godfrey, though so eloquent in pub lic, declined to exert himself in private. Whether he was sulky, or whether he was bashful, after his discomfiture in the rose-garden, I can't say. He kept all his talk for the private ear of the lady who eat next to him. She was one of his committee-women—a spiritually-minded person, with a fine show of collar-bone and a pretty taste for champagne; liked it dry, you under stand, and plenty of it. Being close behind these two at the side-board, I can testify, from what I heard pass between them, that the com pany lost a good deal of very improving conver sation, which I caught up while drawing the corks, and carving the mutton, and so forth. What they said about their charities I didn't hear. When I had time to listen to them, they had got a long way beyond their women to be confined, and their women to be rescued, and were buckling to on serious subjects. Religion (I understood them to say, between the corks and the carving) meant love. And lore meant religion. And earth was heaven a little the worse for wear. And heaven was earth, done up again to look like new. Earth had some very objection able people in it; but, to make amends for that, all the women in heaven would be members of a prodigious committee that never quarreled, with all the men in attendance on them as minister ing angels. Beautiful! beautiful! But why the mischief did Mr. Godfrey keep it all to his lady and himself? Mr. Franklin again—surely, you will say, Mr. Franklin stirred the company up into making a pleasant evening of it ? Nothing of the sort! He had quite recovered himself, and he was in wonderful force and Epirits, Penelope having informed him, I suspect, of Mr. Godfrey's reception in the rose-garden. But, talk a 8 he might, nine times out of ten he pitched on the wrong subject, or he addressed himself to the wrong person; the end of it being that he offended some, and puzzled all of them. That foreign training of his—those French and German and Italian sides of him, to which I have already alluded, came out, at my lady's hospitable board, in a most bewildering manner. What do you think, for instance, of his dis cussing the lengths to which a married woman might let her admiration go for a man who was not her husband, and putting it in his clear headed witty French way to the maiden aunt of the Vicar of Frizinghall? WTiat do you think, when he shifted to the German side, of his telling the lord of the manor, while that great authority on cattle was quoting his experience in the breeding of bulls, that experience, properly understood, counted for nothing, and that the proper way to breed bulls was to look deep into your own mind, evolve out of it the idea of a perfect bull, and produce him ? What do you say, when our country^nember, growing hot at cheese and salad time, about the spread of de mocracy in England, burst out as follows : "If we once lose our ancient safeguards, Mr. Blake I beg to ask you, what have we got left ?"—what do you say to Mr. Franklin answering, from the Italian point of view: "We have got three things left, sir—love, music, and salad ?" He not only terrified the company with such out breaks as these, but, when the English side of him turned up in due course, he lost his foreign smoothness ; and, getting on the subject of the medical profession, said such downright things in ridicule of doctors, that he actually put good humored little Mr. Candy in a rage. The dispute between them began in Mr. Franklin being led—l forget how—to acknow ledge that he had latterly slept very badly at night. Mr. Candy thereupon told him that his nerves were all out of order, and that he ought to go through a course of medicine immediately. Mr. Franklin replied that a course of medicine, and a course of groping in the dark, meant, in his estimation, one and the same thing. Mr. Candy, hitting back smartly, said that Mr. Franklin himself was, constitutionally speaking, groping in the dark after sleep, and that nothing but medicine could help him to find it. Mr. Frank lin, keeping the ball up on his side, said ho had often heard of the blind leading the blind, and now, for the first time he knew what it meant. In this way they kept it going briskly, cut and thrust, till they both of them got hot—Mr. Candy, in particular, so completely losing his eelf-control, in defence of his profession, that my lady was obliged to interfere, and forbid the dis pute to go on. This necessary act of authority pat the last extinguisher on the spirits of he
company. The talk spurted up again here and there for a minute or two at a time ; but there was a miserable lack of life and sparkle in it. The devil (or the diamond) possessed that din ner party; and it was a relief to everybody when my mistress rose, and gave the ladies the signal to leave the gentlemen over their wine. I had just ranged the decanters in a row be fore old Mr. Ablewhite (who represented the master of the house), when there came a sound from the terrace which startled me out of my company manners on the instant. Mr. Franklin and I looked at each other; it was the sound of the Indian drum. As I live by bread, here were the jugglers returning to us with the return of the Moonstone to the house! As they rounded the corner of the terrace, and came in sight, I hobbled out to warn them off. But, as ill luck would have it, the two Bouncers were beforehand with me. They whizzed out on to the terrace like a couple of sky-rockets, wild to see the Indians exhibit their tricks. The other ladies followed ; the gentlemen came out on their side. Before you could say " Lord, bles9 us!" the rogues were making their salams, and the Bouncers were kissing the pretty little boy. Mr. Franklin got on one side of Miss Rachel, and I put myself behind her. If our suspicions were right, there she stood, innocent of all know ledge of the truth, showing the Indians the diamond in the bosom of her dress! I can't tell you what tricks they performed, or how they did it. What with the vexation about the dinner, and what with the provoca tion of the rogues coming back just in the nick of time to see the jewel with their own eyes, I own I lost my head. The first thing that I remember noticing was the sudden appearance on the scene of the Indian traveller, Mr. Murth waite. Skirting the half-circle in which the gentlefolks stood or sat, he came quietly behind the jugglers, and spoke to them on a sudden in the language of their own country. If he had pricked them with a bayonet, I doubt if the Indians could have started and turned on him with more tigerish quickness than they did on hearing the first words that passed his lips. The next moment they were bowing and salaming to him in their most polite and snaky way. After a few words in the unknown tongue had passed on either side, Mr. Murthwaite withdrew as quietly as he had ap proached. The chief Indian, who acted as an interpreter, thereupon wheeled' about again to ward the gentlefolks. I noticed that the fellow's coffee-colored face had turned grey since Mr Murthwaite had spoken to him. He bowed to my lady, and informed her that the exhibition was over. The Bouncers, indescribably disap pointed, burst out with aloud "O!" directed against Mr. Murthwaite for stopping the per formance. The chief Indian laid his hand humbly on his breast, and said the second time that the juggling was over. The little boy went round with the hat. The ladies withdrew to the drawing-room ; and the gentlemen (except ing Mr. Franklin and Mr. Murthwaite) returned to their wine. I and the footman followed the Indians, and saw them safe off the premises. Going back by way of the shrubbery I smelled tobacco, and found Mr. Franklin and Mr. Mur thwaite (the latter smoking a cheroot) walking slowly up and down among the trees. Mr. Franklin beckoned to me to join them. " This," says Mr. Franklin, presenting me to the great traveller, "is Gabriel Betteredge, the old servant and friend of our family of whom I epoke to you just now. Tell him, if you please* what you have just told me." Mr. Murthwaite took his cheroot out of his mouth and leaned, in his weary way, against the trunk of a tree. "Mr. Betteredge," he began, "those three Indians are no more jugglers than jou and I are." Here waß a new surprise! I naturally asked the traveller if he had ever met with the Indians before. " Never," says Mr. Murthwaite; " but I know what Indian juggling really is. All you have seen to-night is a very bad and clumsy imitation of it. Unless, after long experience, lam utterly mistaken, those men are high-caste Brahmias. I charged them with being dis guised, and you saw how it told on them, clever as the Hindoo people are in concealing their feelings. There is a mystery about their con duct that I can't explain. They have doubly sacrificed their caste—first, in crossing the sea j secondly, in disguising themselves as jugglers. In the land they live in that is a tremendous sacrifice to make. There must be some very serious motive at the bottom of it, and some justification of no ordinary kind to plead for them, in recovery of their caste, when they re turn to their own country." I was struck dumb. Mr. Murthwaite went on with his cheroot. Mr. Franklin, after what looked to me-like a little private veering about between the different sides of his character, broke the silence as follows, speaking in his nice Italian manner, with his solid English founda tion showing through: " I feel some hesitation, Mr. Murthwaite, in troubling you with family matters, in which you can have no interest, and which I am not very willing to speak of out of our own circle. But, after what you have said, I feel bpund, in the interests of Lady Verinder and her daughter, to tell you something which may possibly put the clew into your hands. I speak to you in confidence ; you will oblige me, I am sure, by not forgetting that ?" With this preface he told the Indian traveller (speaking now in his clear-headed French way) all that he had told me at the Shivering Sand. Even the immovable Murthwaite was so in terested in what he heard that he let his cheroot go out. "Now," says Mr. Franklin, when he had done," what does your experience say ?" "My experience," answered the traveller, " says that you have had more narrow escapes of your life, Mr. Franklin Blake, than I have bad of mine; and that is saying a great deal." It was Mr. Franklin's turn to be astonished now. " Is it really as serious as that?" he asked. " In my opinion it is," answered Mr. Murth waite. "I can't doubt, after what you have told me, that the restoration of the Moonstone to its place on the forehead of the Indian idol is the motive and the justification of that sacri fice of caste which I alluded to just now. Those men will wait their opportunity with the patience of cats, and will use it with the ferocity of tigers. How you have escaped them I can't imagino," says the eminent traveller, lighting his charoat again, and staring hard at Mr. Franklin. " You have been carrying the dia mond backward and forward, here and in Lon don, and you are still a living man! Let us try and account for it. It was daylight, both times, I suppose, when you took the jewel out of the bank in London ?"
; " Broad daylight," says Mr. Franklin. ! " And plenty of people in the streets ?" | "Plenty." " You settled, of course, to arrive at Lady Verinder's house at a certain time? It's a lonely country between this and the station. Did you keep your appointment ?" " No. I arrived four hours earlier than my appointment." " I beg to congratulate you on that proceed ing ! When did you take the diamond to the bank at the town here ?" " I took it an hour after I had brought it to this house—and three hours before anybody was prepared for seeing me in these parts." " I beg to congratulate you again! Did you bring it back here alorfe ?" "No. I happened to ride back with my cousins aod the groom." " I beg to congratulate you for the third time! If you ever feel inclined to travel be yond the civilised limits, Mr. Blake, let me know, and I will go with you. You are a lucky man." Here I struck in. This sort of thing didn't at all square with my English ideas. " You don't really mean to say, sir," I asked, " f hat they would have taken Mr. Franklin's life, to get their diamond, if he had given them the chance ?" " Do you smoke, Mr. Betteredge ?" says the traveller. " Yes, sir." " Do you care much for the ashes left in your pipe when you empty it ?" " No, sir." " In the country those men came from they care just as much about killing a man as you care about emptying the ashes out of your pipe. If a thousand lives stood between them and the getting back of their diamond—and if they thought they could destroy those lives without discovery—they would take them all. The sacrifice of caste is a serious thing in India, if you like. The sacrifice of life is nothing at all." I expressed my opinion upon this that they were a set of murdering thieves. Mr. Murth waite expressed his opinion that they were a wonderful people. Mr. Franklin, expressing no opinion at all, brought us back to the matter in hand. "JThey have seen the .Moonstone on Miss Verinder's dress," he said. " What is to be done?" "What your uncle threatened to do," answered Mr. Murthwaite. " Colonel Herncastle under stood the people he had to deal with. Send the diamond to-morrow (under guard of more than one man) to be cut up at Amsterdam. Make half-a-dozen diamonds of it instead of*one. There is an end of its sacred identity as The Moonstone—and there is an end of the con spiracy." Mr. Franklin turned to me. "There is no help for it," he said. "We must speak to Lady Verinder to-morrow." " What about to-night, sir ?" I asked. " Sup pose the Indians come back ?" Mr. Murthwaite answered me before Mr. Franklin could speak. " The Indians won't risk coming back to night," he said. " The direct way is hardly ever the way they take to anything —let alone a matter like this, in which the slightest mis take might be fatal to their reaching their end." " But suppose the rogues are bolder than you tbink, sir ?" I persisted. " In that case," says Mr. Murthwaite, '• let the dogs loose. Have you got any big dogs in the yard ?" " Two, sir. A mastiff and a bloodhound." " They will do. In the present emergency, Mr. Betteredge, the mastiff and the bloodhound have one great merit—they are not likely to be i troubled with your scruples about the sanctity | of human life." ! The strumming of the piano reached us from I the drawing-room as he fired that shot at me. j He threw away his cheroot, and took Mr. Franklin's arm, to go back to the ladies. I noticed that the sky was clouding over fast as I ! followed them to the house. Mr. Murthwaite noticed it too. He looked round at me in his dry, drolling way, and said : " The Indians will want their umbrellas, Mr. Betteredge, to night!" It was all very well for him to joke. But I was not an eminent traveller ; and my way in this world had not led me into playing ducks and drakes with my own life among thieves and murderers in the outlandish places of the earth. I went into my own little room, and sat down in my chair in a perspiration, and wondered helplessly what was to be dona next. In this anxious frame of mind other men might have ended by working themselves up into a lever; I ended in a different way. I lit my pipe, and took a turn at Robinson Crusoe. Before I had been at it five minutes I came to this amazing bit—page one hundred and sixty-one—as follows: " Fear of danger is ten thousand times more terrifying than danger itself, when apparent to the eyes ; and we find the burthen of anxiety greater, by much, than the evil which we are anxious about." The man who doesn't believe in Robinson Crusoe after that is a man with a screw loose in his understanding, or a man lost in the mist of his own self-conceit! Argument is thrown away upon him; and pity is better reserved for some person with a livelier faith. I was far on with my second pipe, and still lost in admiration of that wonderful book, when Penelope (who had been handing round the tea) came in with her report from the drawing room. She had left the bouncers singing a duet —words beginning with a large " O," and music to correspond. She had observed that my lady-made mistakes in her game of whiat for the first time in our experience of her. She had seen the great traveller asleep in a corner. She had overheard Mr. Franklin sharpening his wits on Mr. Godfrey, at the ex pense of ladies' charities in general; and she had noticed that Mr. Godfrey hit him back again rather more smartly than became a gentleman of his benevolent character. She had detected Miss Rachel, apparently engaged in appeasing Mrs. Threadgall by showing her some photographs, and really occupied in steal ing looks at Mr. Franklin, which no intelligent lady's maid could misinterpret for a single in stant. Finally, she Lad missed Mr. Candy, the doctor, who had mysteriously disappeared from the drawing-room, and had then mysteriously returned, and entered into conversation with Mr. Godfrey. Upon the whole, things were prospering better than the experience of the dinner gave us any right to expect. If we could only hold on for another hour, old Father Time would bring up their carriages, and relieve us of them altogether. Everything wears off in this world; and even the comforting effect of Ribinson Crusoe wore off after Penelope left me. I got fidgety again, and resolved on making a survey of the grounds before the rain came. Instead of taking the footman, whose nose was human, and therefore useless in any emergency, I took the bloodhound with me. Hia nose fora stranger was to be de pended on. We went all round the premises, and out into the road —and returned as wise as we went, having discovered no such thing as a lurking human creature anywhere. I chained up the dog again for the present; and, return ing once more by way of the shrubbery, met two of our gentlemen coming out toward me from the drawing-room. The two were Mr. Candy and Mr. Godfrey, still (as Penelope had reported them) in conversation together, and laughing softly over some pleasant conceit of their own. I thought it rather odd that those two should have run up a friendship together
but passed on, of course, without appearing to notice them. The arrival of the carriages was the signal for the arrival of the rain. It poured as if it meant to pour all night. With the exception of the doctor, whose gig was waiting for him, the rest of the company went home snugly under cover in close carriages. I told Mr. Candy that I was afraid he would get wet through. He told me, in return, that he wondered 1° had ar rived at my time of life without knowing that a doctor's skin was waterproof. So he drove away in the rain, laughing over his own little joke; and so we got rid of our dinner company. The next thing to tell is the story of the night. When the last of the guests had driven away I went back into the inner hall, and found Samuel at the side-table, presiding over the brandy and soda-water. My lady and Miss Rachel came out of the drawing-room, followed by the two gentlemen. Mr. Godfrey had some brandy and soda-water. Mr. Franklin took no thing. He sat down, looking dead tired; the talking on this birthday occasion had, I suppose, been too much for him. My lady, turning round to wish them good night, looked hard at the wicked Colonel's legacy shining in her daughter's dress. " Rachel," she asked, " where are you going to put your diamond to-night ?" Miss Rachel was in high good spirits, just in that humor for talking nonsense, and perversely persisting in it as if it was sense, which you may sometimes have observed in young girls when they are highly wrought up, at the end of an ex citing day. First, she declared she didn't know where to put the diamond. Then she said, "on her dressinj-table, of course, along with her other things." Then she remembered that the diamond might take to shining of itself, with its awful moony light, in the dark, and that would terrify her in the dead of the night. Then she bethought herself of an Indian cabinet which stood in her sitting-room, and instantly made up her mind to put the Indian diamond in the Indian cabinet, for the purpose of permitting two beautiful native productions to admire each other. Having let her little flow of nonsense run on as far as that point, her mother inter* posed and Btopped her. "My dear! your Indian cabinet has no lock to it," says my lady. " Good Heavens, mamma!" cries Miss Ra chel, "is this an hotel? Are there theives in the house ?" Without taking notice of this fantastic way of talking, my lady wished the gentlemen good night. She next turned to Miss Rachel, and kissed her. " Why not let me keep the diamond for you to-night ?" she asked. Miss Rachel received that proposal as she might, ten years since, have received a proposal to part her from a new doll. My lady saw there was no reasoning with her that night. " Come into my room, Rachel, the first thing to-morrow morning," she said. " I shall have something to say to you." With those last words she left us slowly; thinking her own thoughts, and, to all appearance, not best pleased with the way by which they were leading her. Miss Rachel was the next to say good-night. She shook hands first with Mr. Godfrey, who was standing at the other end of the hall, look ing at a picture. Then she turned back to Mr. Franklin, still sitting weary and silent in « corner. What words passed between them I. can't say. But standing near the old oak frame which holds our large looking-glass, I saw her, reflected in it, slyly slipping the locket which Mr. Franklin had given to her out of the bosom of her dress, and showing it to him for a moment, with a smile which certainly meant something out of the common, before she tripped off to bed. This incident staggered me a little in the reliance I I had previously felt on my own judgment. I | began to think that Penelope might be right i about the state of her young lady's affections j after all. I As soon as Miss Rachel left him eyes to see with, Mr. Franklin noticed me. His variable humor, shifting about everything, had shifted about the Indians already. " Betteredge," he said, " I'm half inclined to think I took Mr. Murthwaite too soriously when we had that talk in the shrubbery. I wonder whether he has been trying any of his traveller's tales on us? Do you mean to let the dogs loose ?" "I'll relieve them of their collars, sir," I answered, " and leave them free to take a torn in the night, if they smell a reason for it." " All right," says Mr. Franklin. " We'll see what is, to be done to-morrow. lam not at all disposed to alarm my aunt, Betteredge, without a very pressing reason for it. Good-night." He loked so worn and pale as he nodded to i me, and took his candle to go up stairs, that I ventured to advise his having a drop of brandy i and water, by way of night-cap. Mr. Godfrey, i walking toward us from the other end of the hall, backed me. He pressed Mr. Franklin, in the friendliest manner, to take something before he went to bed. I only note these trifling circumstances, be cause, after all I had seen and heard that day, it pleased me to observe that our two gentlemen were on just as good terms as ever. Their war fare of words (heard by Penelope in the draw ing-room), and their rivalry for the beat place in Miss Rachel's good graces, seemed to hare set no serious difference between them. But there! they were both good-tempered, and both men of the world. And there is certainly this merit in people of station, that they are not nearly so quarrelsome among each other as people of no station at all. Mr. Franklin declined the brandy-and-water, and went up stairs with Mr. Godfrey, their rooms being next door to each other. On the landing, however, either his cousin persuaded him, or he veered about and changed his mind as usual. "Perhaps I may want it in the night," he called down to me. " Send np some brandy into my room." I sent up Samuel with the brandy-and-water; and then went out and unbuckled the dogs' collars. They both lost their heads with as tonishment on being set loose at that time of night, and jumped upon me like a couple of puppies! However, the rain Boon cooled them down again : they lapped a drop of water each, and crept back into their kennels. As I went into the house I noticed signs in the sky which betokened a break in the weather for the better. For the present, it still poured heavily, and the ground was in a perfect sop. Samuel and I went all over the* house, and shut up as usual. I examined everything my self, and trusted nothing to my deputy on this occasion. All was safe and fast when I rested my old bones in bed, between midnight and 1 in the morning. The worries of the day had been a little too much for me, I suppose. At any rate, I had a touch of Mr. Franklin's malady that night. It was sunrise before I fell off at last into a sleep. All the time I lay awake the house was as quiet as the grave. Not a sound stirred but the splash of the rain, and the sighing of the wind among the trees as a breeze sprang up with the morning. About half-past 7 I woke, and opened my window on a fine sunshiny day. The clock had struck 8, and I was just going out to chain np the dogs again, when I heard a sudden whisking of petticoats on tlie stairs behind me. I turned about, and there was Penelope fly ing down after me like mad. "Father!" she screamed, " come up stairs, for God's sake! The diamond is gone !" " Are you out of your mind ?" I asked her. " Gone!" says Penelope. " Gone, nobody knows how! Come up and Bee." She dragged me after her into her young lady's sitting-room, which opened into her bed room. There, on the threshold of her bedrooai door, stood Miss Rachel, almost as white in the face as the white dressing-gown that clothed her. There also stood the two doors of the Indian cabinet, wide open. One of the drawers inside was pulled out as far as it would go. "Look!" says Penelope. "I myself saw Miss Rachel put the diamond into that drawer last night." I went to the cabinet. The drawer was empty. " Is this true, miss ?" I asked. With a look that was not like herself, with a voice that was not like her own, Miss BaoheL answered, as my daughter hod answered: " The diamond is gone." Having said those words she withdrew into her bedroom, and shut and locked the door. [to be continued.]