|Chapter Number||Second period. Third narrative: III|
|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||The Moonstone|
Contributed by Franklin Blake.
BY WILKIE COLLINS. Author of "The Woman in White," "No Name," etc.
I HAVE only the most indistinct recollection of what happened at Hotherstone's Farm. I remember a hearty welcome ; a prodigious supper, which would have fed a whole village in
the East; a delightfully clean bedroom, with nothing in it to regret but that detestable pro- duct of the folly of our forefathers—a feather bed ; a restless night, with much kindling of matches, and many lightings of one little candle ; and an immense sensation of relief when the sun rose, and there was a prospect of getting up. It had been arranged over-night with Better- edge, that I was to call for him, on our way to Cobb's Hole, as early as I liked —which, inter- preted by my impatience to get possession of the letter, meant as early as I could. Without waiting for breakfast at the Farm, I took a crust of bread in my hand, and set forth, in some doubt whether I should not surprise the excel- lent Betteredge in his bed. To my great relief he proved to be quite as excited about the com- ing event as I was. I found him ready and waiting for me, with his stick in his hand. "How are you this morning, Betteredge ?" " Very poorly, sir." " Sorry to hear it. What do you complain of?" " I complain of a new disease, Mr. Franklin, of my own inventing. I don't want to alarm you, but you're certain to catch it before the morning is out." "The devil I am!" "Do you feel an uncomfortable heat at the pit of your stomach, sir ? and a nasty thumping at the top of your head ? Ah! not yet ? It will lay hold of you at Cobb's Hole, Mr. Franklin. I call it the detective-fever ; and I first caught it in the company of Sergeant Cuff." "Aye! aye! and the cure in this instance is to open Rosanna Spearman's letter, I suppose ? Come along, and let's get it." Early as it was, we found the fisherman's wife astir in her kitchen. On my presentation by Betteredge, good Mrs. Yolland performed a social ceremony, strictly reserved (as I after wards learnt) for strangers of distinction. She put a bottle of Dutch gin and a couple of clean pipes on the table, and opened the conversation by saying, " What news from London, sir ?" Before I could find an answer to this im- mensely comprehensive question, an apparition advanced towards me, out of a dark corner of the kitchen. A wan, wild, haggard girl, with remarkably beautiful hair, and with a fierce keenness in her eyes, came limping up on a crutch to the table at which I was sitting, and looked at me as if I was an object of mingled interest and horror, which it quite fascinated her to see. "Mr. Betteredge," she said, without taking her eyes off me, " mention his name again, if you please." "This gentleman's name," answered Better- edge (with a strong emphasis on gentleman), "is Mr. Franklin Blake." The girl turned her back on me, and suddenly left the room. Good Mrs. Yolland—as I believe —made some apologies for her daughter's odd behaviour, and Betteredge (probably) translated them into polite English. I speak of this in complete uncertainty. My attention was ab- sorbed in following the sound of the girl's crutch. Thump-thump, up the wooden stairs ; thump-thump across the room above our heads ; thump-thump down the stairs again—and there stood the apparition at the open door, with a letter in its hand, beckoning me out! I left more apologies in course of delivery behind me, and followed this strange creature —limping on before me, faster and faster down the slope of the beach. She led me be- hind some boats, out of sight and hearing of the few people in the fishing-village, and then stopped, and faced me for the first time. " Stand there," she said. " I want to look at you." There was no mistaking the expression on her face. I inspired her with the strongest emotions of abhorrance and disgust. Let me not be vain enough to say that no woman had ever looked at me in this manner before. I will only venture on the more modest assertion that no-woman had ever let me perceive it yet. There is a limit to the length of the inspection which a man can endure, under certain circum- stances. I attempted to direct Limping Lucy's attention to some less revolting object than my face. " I think you have got a letter to give me," I began. "Is it the letter there, in your hand?" " Say that again," was the only answer I re- ceived. I repeated the words, like a good child learn- ing its lesson. " No," said the girl, speaking to herself, but keeping her eyes still mercilessly fixed on me. " I can't find out what she saw in his face. I can't guess what she heard in his voice." She suddenly looked away from me, and rested her head wearily on the top of her crutch. " Oh, my poor dear!" she said, in the first soft tones which had fallen from her, in my hearing. " Oh, my lost darling! what could you see in this man?" She lifted her head again fiercely, and looked at me once more. " Can you eat and drink?" she asked. I did my best to preserve my gravity, and answered, "Yes." " Can you sleep ?" "Yes." " When you see a poor girl in service, do you feel no remorse ?" " Certainly not. Why should I?" She abruptly thrust the letter (as the phrase is) into my face. " Take it!" she exclaimed furiously. " I never set eyes on you before. God Almighty forbid I should ever set eyes on you again." With those parting words, she limped away from me at the top of her speed. The one in- terpretation that I could put on her conduct has, no doubt, been anticipated by everybody. I could only suppose that she was mad. Having reached that inevitable conclusion, I turned to the more interesting object of investi- gation which was presented to me by Rosanna Spearman's letter. The address was written as follows:—" For Franklin Blake, Esq. To be given into his own hands (and not to be trusted to anyone else), by Lucy Yolland." I broke the seal. The envelope contained a letter ; and this, in its turn, contained a slip of paper. I read the letter first:—
Sir, —If you are curious to know the mean- ing of my behaviour to you, while you were staying in the house of my mistress, Lady Verinder, do what you are told to do in the memorandum enclosed with this —and do it without any person being present to overlook you. Your humble servant, ROSANNA SPEARMAN. I turned to the slip of paper next. Here is the literal copy of it, word for word: — Memorandum : —To go to the Shivering Sand at the turn of the tide. To walk out on the South Spit, until I get the South Spit Beacon, and the flagstaff at the coast-guard station above Cobb's Hole in a line together. To lay down on the rocks, a stick, or any straight thing to guide my hand, exactly in the line of the beacon and the flagstaff. To take care, in doing this, that one end of the stick shall be at the edge of the rocks, on the side of them which overlooks the quicksand. To feel along the stick, among the seaweed (beginning from the end of the stick which points towards the beacon) for the chain. To run my hand along the chain, when found, until I come to the part of it which stretches over the edge of the rocks, down into the quicksand. And then, to pull the chain. Just as I had read the last words—under lined in the original—I heard the voice of Betteredge behind me. The inventor of the de- tective-fever had completely succumbed to that irresistible malady. '' I can't stand it any longer Mr. Franklin. What does her letter say ? For mercy's sake, sir, tell us, what does her letter say ?" I handed him the letter and the memoran- dum. He read the first without appearing to be much interested in it. But the second—the memorandum—produced a strong impression on him. "The sergeant said it!" cried Betteredge. " From first to last, sir, the sergeant said she had got a memorandum of the hiding-place. And here it is! Lord save us, Mr. Franklin, here is the secret that puzzled everybody, from the great Cuff downwards, ready and waiting, as one may say, to show itself to you! It's the ebb now, sir, as anybody may see for them- selves. How long will it be till the turn of the tide ?" He looked up, and observed a lad at work, at some little distance from us, mending a net. " Tammie Bright!" he shouted, at the top of his voice. "I hear you!" Tammie shouted back. " When's the turn of the tide ?" " In an hour's time." We both looked at our watches. "We can go round by the coast, Mr. Frank- lin," said Betteredge ; " and get to the quick sand in that way, with plenty of time to spare. What do you say, sir ?" "Come along." On our way to the Shivering Sand, I applied to Betteredge to revive my memory of events (as affecting Rosanna Spearman) at the period of Sergeant Cuff's inquiry. With my old friend's help, I soon had the succession of cir- cumstances clearly registered again in my mind. Rosanna's journey to Frizinghall, when the whole household believed her to be ill in her own room—Rosanna's mysterious employment of the night-time, with her door locked, and her candle burning till the morning—Rosanna's suspicious purchase of the japanned tin case and the two dogs' chains, from Mrs. Yolland— the sergeant's positive conviction that Rosanna had hidden something at the Shivering Sand, and the sergeant's absolute ignorance as to what that something could be—all these strange results of the abortive enquiry into the loss of the Moonstone, were clearly present to me again, when we reached the quicksand, and walked out together on the low ledge of rocks called the South Spit. With Betteredge's help, I soon stood in the right position to see the beacon and the Coast guard flagstaff in a line together. Following the memorandum as our guide, we next laid my stick in the necessary direction, as neatly as we could, on the uneven surface of the rocks. And then we looked at our watches once more. It wanted nearly twenty minutes yet of the turn of the tide. I suggested waiting through this interval on the beach, instead of on the wet and slippery surface of the rocks. Having reached the dry sand, I prepared to sit down ; and, greatly to my surprise, Betteredge prepared to leave me. " What are you going away for ?" I asked. " Look at the letter again, sir, and you will see." A glance at the letter reminded me that I was charged, when I made my discovery, to make it alone. " It's hard enough for me to leave you, at such a time as this," said Betteredge. "But she died a dreadful death, poor soul—and I feel a kind of call on me, Mr. Franklin, to humor that fancy of hers. Besides," he added, con- fidentially, " there's nothing in the letter against your letting out the secret afterwards. I'll hang about in the fir plantation, and wait till you pick me up. Don't be longer than you can help, sir. The detective-fever isn't an easy disease to deal with under these circum- stances. With that parting caution, he left me. The interval of expectation, short as it was when reckoned, by the measure of time, as- sumed formidable proportions when reckoned by the measure of suspense. This is one of the occasions on which the invaluable habit of smoking becomes especially precious and con- solatory. I lit a cigar, and sat down on the slope of the beach. The sunlight poured its unclouded beauty on every object that I could see. The exquisite freshness of the air made the mere act of living and breathing a luxury. Even the lonely little bay welcomed the morning with a show of cheerfulness ; and the bared wet surface of the quicksand itself, glittering with a golden bright- ness, hid the horror of its false brown face under a passing smile. It was the finest day I had seen since my return to England. The turn of the tide came, before my cigar was finished. I saw the preliminary heaving of the sand, and then the awful shiver that crept over its surface—as if some spirit of terror lived and moved and shuddered in the fathom- less deeps beneath. I threw away my cigar, and went back again to the rocks. My directions in the memorandum instructed me to feel along the line traced by the stick, beginning with the end which was nearest to the beacon. I advanced, in this manner, more than half way along the stick, without encountering any thing but the edges of the rocks. An inch or two further on, however, my patience was re- warded. In a narrow little fissure, just within reach of my forefinger, I felt the chain. At tempting, next, to follow it, by touch, in the direction of the quicksand, I found my progress stopped by a thick growth of seaweed—which had fastened itself into the fissure, no doubt, in the time that had elapsed since Rosanna Spear- man had chosen her hiding place. It was equally impossible to pull up the sea-
weed, or to force my hand through it. After marking the spot indicated by the end of the stick which was placed nearest to the quick- sand, I determined to pursue the search for the chain on a plan of my own. My idea was to " sound " immediately under the rocks, on the chance of recovering the lost trace of the chain at the point at which it entered the sand. I took up the stick, and knelt down on the northern brink of the South Spit. In this position, my face was within a few feet of the surface of the quicksand. The sight of it so near me, still disturbed at intervals by its hideous shivering fit, shook my nerves for the moment. A horrible fancy that the dead woman might appear on the scene of her suicide, to assist my search—an unutterable dread of seeing her rise through the heaving surface of the sand, and point to the place— forced itself into my mind, and turned me cold in the warm sunlight. I own I closed my eyes at the moment when the point of the stick first entered the quicksand. The instant afterwards, before the stick could have been submerged more than a few inches, I was free from the hold of my own super- stitious terror, and was throbbing with excite- ment from head to foot. Sounding blindfold, at my first attempt—at that first attempt I had sounded right! The stick struck the chain. Taking a firm hold of the roots of the sea- weed with my left hand, I laid myself down over the brink, and felt with my right hand under the overhanging edges of the rock. My right hand found the chain. I drew it up without the slightest difficulty. And there was the japanned tin case fastened to the end of it. The action of the water had so rusted the chain, that it was impossible for me to unfasten it from the hasp which attached it to the case. Putting the case between my knees, and exert- ing my utmost strength, I contrived to draw off the cover. Some white substance filled the whole interior when I looked in. I put in my hand, and found it to be linen. In drawing out the linen, I also drew out a letter crumpled up with it. After looking at the direction, and discovering that it bore my name, I put the letter in my pocket, and com- pletely removed the linen. It came out in a thick roll, moulded, of course, to the shape of the case in which it had been so long confined, and perfectly preserved from any injury by the sea. I carried the linen to the dry sand of the beach, and there unrolled and smoothed it out. There was no mistaking it as an article of dress. It was a nightgown. The uppermost side, when I spread it out, presented to view innumerable folds and creases, and nothing more. I tried the undermost side, next —and instantly discovered the smear of the paint from the door of Rachel's boudoir! My eyes remained rivetted on the stain, and my mind took me back at a leap from present to past. The very words of Sergeant Cuff re- curred to me, as if the man himself was at my side again, pointing to the unanswerable in- ference which he drew from the smear on the door. "Find out whether there is any article of dress in this house with the stain of the paint on it. Find out who that dress belongs to. Find out how the person can account for hav- ing been in the room, and smeared the paint, between midnight and 3 in the morning. If the person can't satisfy you, you haven't far to look for the hand that took the diamond." One after another those words travelled over my memory, repeating themselves again and again with a wearisome, mechanical reiteration. I was roused from what felt like a trance of many hours—from what was really, no doubt, the pause of a few moments only—by a voice calling to me. I looked up, and saw that Betteredge's patience had failed him at last. He was just visible between the sand hills, re- turning to the beach. The old man's appearance recalled me, the moment I perceived it, to my sense of present things, and reminded me that the inquiry which I had pursued thus far still remained incom- plete. I had discovered the smear on the nightgown. To whom did the nightgown belong ? My first impulse was to consult the letter in my pocket—the letter which I had found in the case. As I raised my hand to take it out, I remem- bered that there was a shorter way to discovery than this. The nightgown itself would reveal the truth ; for, in all probability, the nightgown was marked with its owner's name. I took it up from the sand, and looked for the mark. I found the mark, and read— MY OWN NAME. There were the familiar letters which told me that the nightgown was mine. I looked up from them. There was the sun ; there were the glittering waters of the bay ; there was old Betteredge, advancing nearer and nearer to me. I looked back again at the letters. My own name. Plainly confronting me—my own name. " If time, pains, and money can do it, I will, lay my hand on the thief who took the Moon- stone."—I had left London, with those words on my lips. I had penetrated the secret which the quicksand had kept from every other living creature. And, on the unanswerable evidence of the paint-stain, I had discovered myself as the thief! CHAPTER IV. I have not a word to say about my own sensations. My impression is, that the shock inflicted on me completely suspended my thinking and feel- ing power. I certainly could not have known what I was about, when Betteredge joined me —for I have it on his authority that I laughed, when he asked what was the matter, and, putting the nightgown into his hands, told him to read the riddle for himself. Of what was said between us on the beach, I have not the faintest recollection. The first place in which I can now see myself again plainly is the plantation of firs. Betteredge and I are walking back together to the house ; and Betteredge is telling me that I shall be able to face it, and he will be able to face it, when we have had a glass of grog. The scene shifts from the plantation, to Bet- teredge's little sitting-room. My resolution not to enter Rachel's house is forgotten. I feel gratefully the coolness and shadiness and quiet of the room. I drink the grog (a perfectly new luxury, to me, at that time of day), which my good old friend mixes with icy-cool water from the well. Under any other circumstances, the drink would simply stupify me. As things are, it strings up my nerves. I begin to " face it," as Betteredge has predicted. And Betteredge, on his side, begins to " face it," too.
The picture which I am now presenting of myself, will, I suspect, be thought a very strange one, to say the least of it. Placed in a situation which may, I think, be described as entirely without parallel, what is the first proceeding to which I resort ? Do I seclude myself from all human society ? Do I set my mind to analyse the abominable impossibility which, neverthe- less, confronts me as an undeniable fact ? Do I hurry back to London by the first train to consult the highest authorities, and to set a searching inquiry on foot immediately ? No. I accept the shelter of a house which I had re- solved never to degrade myself by entering again ; and I sit, tippling spirits and water in the company of an old servant, at 10 o'clock in the morning. Is this the conduct that might have been expected from a man placed in my horrible position ? I can only answer, that the sight of old Betteredge's familiar face was an inexpressible comfort to me, and that the drink- ing of old Betteredge's grog, helped me, as I believe nothing else would have helped me, in the state of complete bodily and mental pros- tration into which I had fallen. I can only offer this excuse for myself ; and I can only admire that invariable preservation of dignity, and that strictly logical consistency of conduct which distinguish every man and woman who may read these lines, in every emergency of their lives from the cradle to the grave. " Now, Mr. Franklin, there's one thing cer- tain, at any rate," said Betteredge, throwing the nightgown down on the table between us, and pointing to it as if it was a living creature that could hear him. " He's a liar, to begin with." This comforting view of the matter was not the view that presented itself to my mind. " I am as innocent of all knowledge of having taken the diamond as you are," I said. " But there is the witness against me! The paint on the nightgown, and the name on the nightgown are facts." Betteredge lifted my glass, and put it per- suasively into my hand. "Facts?" he repeated. " Take a drop more grog, Mr. Franklin, and you'll get over the weakness of believing in facts! Foul play, sir!" he continued, dropping his voice confi- dentially. "That is how I read the riddle. Fool play, somewhere—and you and I must find it out. Was there nothing else in the tin case, when you put your hand into it ?" The question instantly reminded me of the letter in my pocket. I took it out, and opened it. It was a letter of many pages, closely written. I looked impatiently for the signature at the end. " Rosanna Spearman." As I read the name, a sudden remembrance illuminated my mind, and a sudden suspicion rose out of the new light. " Stop!" I exclaimed. " Rosanna Spearman came to my aunt out of a reformatory ? Ro- sanna Spearman had once been a thief?" "There's no denying that, Mr. Franklin. What of it now, if you please ?" "What of it now? How do we know she may not have stolen the diamond after all? How do we know she may not have smeared my nightgown purposely with the paint ?" Betteredge laid his hand on my arm, and stopped me before I could say any more. " You will be cleared of this, Mr. Franklin, beyond all doubt. But I hope you won't be cleared in that way. See what the letter says, sir. In justice to the girl's memory, see what the letter says." I felt the earnestness with which he spoke felt it almost as a rebuke to me. " You shall form your own judgment on her letter," I said, "I will read it out." I began—and read these lines : " Sir,—I have something to own to you. A confession which means much misery, may some times be made in a very few words. This con- fession can be made in three words. I love you." The letter dropped from my hand. I looked at Betteredge. "In the name of Heaven," I said, " what does it mean ?" He seemed to shrink from answering the question. "You and Limping Lucy were alone to- gether this morning, sir," he said. " Did she say nothing about Rosanna Spearman ?" " She never even mentioned Rosanna Spear- man's name." " Please to go back to the letter, Mr. Frank- lin. I tell you plainly, I can't find it in my heart to distress you, after what you have had to bear already. Let her speak for herself sir. And get on with your grog. For your own sake, get on with your grog." I resumed the reading of the letter. " It would be very disgraceful to me to tell you this, if I was a living woman when you read it. I shall be dead and gone, sir, when you find my letter. It is that which makes me bold. Not even my grave will be left to tell of me. I may own the truth—with the quicksand wait- ing to hide me when the words are written. "Besides, you will find your nightgown in my hiding-place, with the smear of the paint on it ; and you will want to know how it came to be hidden by me ? and why I said nothing to you about it in my life-time? I have only one reason to give. I did these strange things, be- cause I loved you. "I won't trouble you with much about my self, or my life, before you came to my lady's house. Lady Verinder took me out of a re- formatory. I had gone to the reformatory from the prison. I was put in the prison, because I was a thief. There is no need to tell such a common story as this, at any length. It is told quite often enough in the newspapers. " Lady Verinder was very kind to me, and Mr. Betteredge was very kind to me. Those two, and the matron at the reformatory are the only good people I have ever met with in all my life. I might have got on in my place—not happily—but I might have got on, if you had not come visiting. I don't blame you, sir. It's my fault—all my fault. " Do you remember when you came out on us from among the sandhills, that morning, looking for Mr. Betteredge? You were like a prince in a fairy-story. You were like a lover in a dream. You were the most adorable hu- man creature I had ever seen. Something that felt like the happy life I had never led yet leapt up in me the instant I set eyes on you. Don't laugh at this, if you can help it. Oh, if I could only make you feel how serious it is to me! I went back to the house, and wrote your name and mine in my work-box, and drew a true lovers' knot under them. Then, some devil —no, I ought to say some good angel whispered to me, ' Go, and look in the glass.' The glass told me—never mind what. I was too foolish to take the warning. I went on getting fonder and fonder of you, just as if I was a lady in your own rank of life, and the most beautiful creature your eyes ever rested on. I tried—oh, dear, how I tried—to get you to look at me. If you had known how I used to cry at night with the misery and the mortifi- cation of your never taking any notice of me, you would have pitied me perhaps, and have given me a look now and then to live on. It would have been no very kind look, per- haps, if you had known how I hated Miss Rachel. I believe I found out you were in love with her before you knew it yourself. She used to give you roses to wear in your button-hole. Ah, Mr. Franklin, you wore my roses oftener than either you or she thought! The only comfort I had at that time was putting my rose secretly
in your glass of water, in place of hers—and then throwing her rose away. If she had been really as pretty as you thought her, I might have borne it better. No ; I be- lieve I should have been more spiteful against her still. Suppose you put Miss Rachel into a servant a dress, and took her ornaments off ? I don't know what is the use of my writing in this way. It can't be denied that she had a bad figure ; she was too thin. But who can tell what the men like ? And young ladies may be have in a manner which would cost a servant her place. It's no business of mine. I can't expect you to read my letter, if I write it in this way. But it does stir one up to hear Miss Rachel called pretty, when one knows all the time that it's her dress does it, and her confi- dence in herself. Try not to lose patience with me, sir. I will get on as fast as I can to the time which is sure to interest you—the time when the diamond was lost. But there is one thing which I have got it on my mind to tell you first. My life was not a very hard life to bear, while I was a thief. It was only when they had taught me at the reformatory to feel my own degradation, and to try for better things, that the days grew long and weary. Thoughts of the future forced themselves on me now. I felt the dreadful reproach that honest people even the kindest of honest people—were to me in themselves. A heart-breaking sensation of loneliness kept with me, go where I might, and do what I might, and see what persons I might. It was my duty, I know, to try and get on with my fellow-servants in my new place. Somehow I couldn't make friends with them. They looked (or I thought they looked) as if they suspected what I had been. I don't regret, far from it, having been roused to make the effort to be a reformed woman—but, indeed, indeed it was a weary life. You had come across it like a beam of sunshine at first—and then you too failed me. I was mad enough to love you ; and I couldn't even attract your notice. There was great misery—there really was great misery in that. Now I am coining to what I wanted to tell you. In those days of bitterness, I went two or three time, when it was my turn to go out, to my favorite place—the beach above the Shivering Sand. And I said to myself, " I think it will end here. When I can bear it no longer, I think it will end here." You will understand, sir, that the place had laid a kind of spell on me before you came. I had always had a notion that something would happen to me at the quicksand. But I had never looked at it with the thought of its being the means of my making away with myself, till the time came of which I am now writing. Then I did think that here was a place which would end all my troubles for me in a moment or two—and hide me for ever afterwards. This is all I have to say about myself, reckon- ing from the morning when I first saw you, to the morning when the alarm was raised in the house that the diamond was lost. I was so aggravated by the foolish talk among the women servants, all wondering who was to be suspected first ; and I was so angry with you (knowing no better at that time) for the pains you took in hunting for the jewel, and sending for the police, that I kept as much as possible away by myself, until later in the day, when the officer from Frizinghall came to the house. Mr. Seegrave began, as you may remember, by setting a guard on the women's bedrooms ; and the women all followed him up-stairs in a rage, to know what he meant by the insult he had put on them. I went with the rest, be- cause if I had done anything different from the rest, Mr. Seegrave was the sort of man who would have suspected me directly. We found him an Miss Rachel's room. He told us he wouldn't have a lot of women there ; and he pointed to the smear on the painted door, and said some of our petticoats had done the mis- chief, and sent us all down-stairs again. After leaving Miss Rachel's room, I stopped a moment on one of the landings, by myself, to see if I had got the paint-stain by any chance on my gown. Penelope Betteredge (the only one of the women with whom I was on friendly terms) passed, and noticed what I was about. "You needn't trouble yourself, Rosanna," she said. "The paint on Miss Rachel's door has been dry for hours. If Mr. Seegrave hadn't set a watch on our bedrooms, I might have told him as much. I don't know what you think—i was never so insulted before in my life! Penelope was a hot-tempered girl. I quieted her, and brought her back to what she had said about the paint on the door having been dry for hours. " How do you know that?" I asked. "I was with Miss Rachel, and Mr. Franklin, all yesterday morning," Penelope said, " mix- ing the colors, while they finished the door. I heard Miss Rachel ask whether the door would be dry that evening, in time for the birthday company to see it. And Mr. Franklin shook his head, and said it wouldn't be dry in less than twelve hours. It was long past luncheon-time —it was 3 o'clock before they had done. What does your arithmetic say, Rosanna? Mine says the door was dry by 3 this morn- ing." "Did some of the ladies go up-stairs yester- day evening to see it ?" I asked. " I thought I heard Miss Rachel warning them to keep clear of the door." "None of the ladies made the smear," Pene- lope answered. "I left Miss Rachel in bed at 12 last night. And I noticed the door, and there was nothing wrong with it then." " Oughtn't you to mention this to Mr. See- grave, Penelope ?" "I wouldn't say a word to help Mr. Seegrave for anything that could be offered to me!" She went to her work, and I went to mine. My work, sir, was to make your bed, and to put your room tidy. It was the happiest hour I had in the whole day. I used to kiss the pillow on which your head had rested all night. No matter who has done it since, you have never had your clothes folded as nicely as I folded them for you. Of all the little knick-knacks in your dressing-case, there wasn't one that had so much as a speck on it. You never noticed it, any more than you noticed me. I beg your pardon ; I am forgetting myself. I will make haste, and go on again. Well, I went in that morning to do my work in your room. There was your nightgown tossed across the bed, just as you had thrown it off. I took it up to fold it—and I saw the stain of the paint from Miss Rachel's door! I was so startled by the discovery that I ran out, with the nightgown in my hand, and made for the back stairs, and locked myself into my own room, to look at it in a place where nobody could intrude and interrupt me. As soon as I got my breath again, I called to mind my talk with Penelope, and I said to myself, "Here s the proof that he was in Miss Rachel's sitting-room between 12 last night, and 3 this morning!" I shall not tell you in plain words what was the first suspicion that crossed my mind, when I had made that discovery. You would only be angry—and, if you were angry, you might tear my letter up and read no more of it. Let it be enough, if you please, to say only this. After thinking it over to the best of my ability, I made it out that the thing wasn't likely, for a reason that I will tell you. If you had been in Miss Rachel's sitting-room, at that time of night, with Miss Rachel's knowledge (and if you had been foolish enough to forget to take care of the wet door) she would have reminded you—she would never have let you carry away such a witness against her, as the witness I was looking at now! At the same time, I own I was not completely certain in my own mind that I had proved my own suspicion to be wrong. You will not have forgotten that ; I have owned to hating Miss Rachel. Try to think, if you can, that there was a little of that hatred in all this. It ended in my determining to keep the nightgown, and to wait, and watch, and see what use I might make of it. At that time, please to remember, not the ghost of an idea entered my head that you had stolen the diamond. There, I broke off in the reading of the letter for the second time. I had read those portions of the miserable woman's confession which related to myself, with unaffected surprise, and, I can honestly add, with sincere distress. I had regretted,
truly regretted, the aspersion which I had thoughtlessly cast on her memory, before I had seen a line of her letter. But when I had ad- vanced as far as the passage which is quoted above, I own I felt my mind growing bitterer and bitterer against Rosanna Spearman as I went on. " Read the rest for yourself," I said, handing the letter to Betteredge across the table. "If there is anything in it that I must look at, you can tell me as you go on." "I understand you, Mr. Franklin," he an- swered. It's natural, sir, in you. And, God help us all !" he added, in a lower tone, " it's no less natural in her." I proceed to copy the continuation of the letter from the original, in my own possession. Having determined to keep the nightgown, and to see what use my love, or my revenge (I hardly know which) could turn it to in the future, the next thing to discover was how to keep it without the risk of being found out. There was only one way—to make another nightgown exactly like it, before Saturday came, and brought the laundrywoman and her inven- tory to the house. I was afraid to put it off till the next day (the Friday) ; being in doubt lest some accident might happen in the interval. I determined to make the new nightgown on that same day (the Thursday), while I could count, if I played my cards properly, on having my time to myself. The first thing to do (after locking up your nightgown in my drawer) was to go back to your bedroom—not so much to put it to rights (Penelope would have done that for me, if I had asked her) as to find out whether you had smeared off any of the paint-stain from your nightgown, on the bed, or on any piece of furni- ture in the room. I examined everything narrowly, and, at last, I found a few faint streaks of the paint on the inside of your dressing-gown— not the linen dressing-gown you usually wore in that summer season, but a flannel dressing-gown which you had with you also. I suppose you felt chilly after walking to and fro in nothing but your night dress, and put on the warmest thing you could find. At any rate, there were the stains, just visible, on the inside of the dressing gown. I easily got rid of these by scraping away the stuff off the flannel. This done, the only proof left against you was the proof locked up in my drawer. I had just finished your room when I was sent for to be questioned by Mr. Seegrave, along with the rest of the servants. Next came the examination of all our boxes. And then followed the most extraordinary event of the day—to me—since I had found the paint on your nightgown. It came out of the second questioning of Penelope Betteredge by Superin- tendent Seegrave. Penelope returned to us quite beside herself with rage at the manner in which Mr. Seegrave had treated her. He had hinted, beyond the possibility of mistaking him, that he suspected her of being the thief. "We were all equally astonished at hearing this, and we all asked, Why ? " Because the diamond was in Miss Rachel's sitting-room," Penelope answered. "And be- cause I was the last person in the sitting-room at night!" Almost before the words had left her lips, I remembered that another person had been in the sitting-room later than Penelope. That person was yourself. My head whirled round, and my thoughts were in dreadful confusion. In the midst of it all, something in my mind whispered to me that the smear on your nightgown might have a meaning entirely different to the meaning which I had given to it up to that time. "If the last person who was in the room is the person to be suspected," I thought to myself, " the thief is not Penelope, but Mr. Franklin Blake!" In the case of any other gentleman, I believe I should have been ashamed of suspecting him of theft, almost as soon as the suspicion had passed through my mind. But the bare thought that YOU had let your- self down to my level, and that I, in possessing myself of your nightgown, had also possessed myself of the means of shielding you from being discovered, and disgraced for life—I say, sir, the bare thought of this seemed to open such a chance before me of winning your good will, that I passed blindfold, as one may say, from suspecting to believing. I made up my mind, on the spot, that you had shown your- self the busiest of anybody in fetching the police, as a blind to deceive us all ; and that the hand which had taken Miss Rachel's jewel could by no possibility be any other hand than yours. The excitement of this new discovery of mine must, I think, have turned my head for a while. I felt such a devouring eagerness to see you— to try you with a word or two about the dia- mond, and to make you look at me, and speak to me, in that way—that I put my hair tidy, and made myself as nice as I could, and went to you boldly in the library where I knew you were writing. You had left one of your rings up-stairs, which made as good an excuse for my intrusion as I could have desired. But, oh, sir! if you have ever loved, you will understand how it was that all my courage cooled, when I walked into the room, and found myself in your pre- sence. And then, you looked up at me so coldly, and you thanked me for finding your ring in such an indifferent manner, that my knees trembled under me, and I felt as if I should drop on the floor at your feet. When you had thanked me, you looked back, if you remember, at your writing. I was so mortified at being treated in this way, that I plucked up spirit enough to speak. I said, " This is a strange thing about the diamond, sir." And you looked up again, and said, " Yes, it is!" You spoke civilly (I can't deny that) ; but still you kept a distance—a cruel distance between us. Be- lieving, as I did, that you had got the lost dia- mond hidden about you, while you were speak- ing, your coolness so provoked me that I got bold enough, in the heat of the moment, to give you a hint. I said, "They will never find the diamond, sir, will they ? No ! nor the person who took it—I'll answer for that." I nodded, and smiled at you, as much as to say, "I know !" This time, you looked up at me with something like interest in your eyes ; and I felt that a few more words on your side and mine might bring out the truth. Just at that mo- ment, Mr. Betteredge spoilt it all by coming to the door. I knew his footstep, and I also knew that it was against his rules for me to be in the library at that time of day—let alone being there along with you. I had only just time to get out of my own accord, before he could come in and tell me to go. I was angry and disap- pointed ; but I was not entirely without hope for all that. The ice, you see, was broken be- tween us—and I thought I would take care, on the next occasion, that Mr. Betteredge was out of the way. When I got back to the servants' hall, the bell was going for our dinner. Afternoon al- ready ! and the materials for making the new nightgown were still to be got! There was but one chance of getting them. I shammed ill at dinner ; and so secured the whole of the in- terval from then till tea-time to my own use. What I was about, while the household be- lieved me to be lying down in my own room ; and how I spent the night, after shamming ill again at tea-time, and having been sent up to bed there is no need to tell you. Sergeant Cuff discovered that much, if he discovered nothing more. And I can guess how. I was detected (though I kept my veil down) in the draper's shop at Frizinghall. There was a glass in front of me, at the counter where I was buying the longcloth ; and—in that glass—I saw one of the shopmen point to my shoulder and whisper to another. At night again, when I was secretly at work, locked into my room, I heard the breathing of the women servants who suspected me, outside my door. It didn't matter then ; it doesn't matter now. On the Friday morning, hours before Sergeant Cuff entered the house—there was the new nightgown—to make up your number in place of the nightgown that I had got-made, wrung out, dried, ironed, marked, and folded as the laundry woman folded all the others, safe in your drawer. There was no fear (if the linen in the house was examined) of the newness of the nightgown betraying me. All your under- clothing had been renewed, when you came to our house—I suppose on your return home from foreign parts.
The next thing was the arrival of Sergeant Cuff ; and the next great surprise was the an- nouncement of what he thought about the smear on the door. I had believed you to be guilty (as I have owned) more because I wanted you to be guilty than for any other reason. And now, the ser- geant had come round by a totally different way to the same concision as mine! And I had got the dress that was the only proof against you! And not a living creature knew it—Yourself included ! I am afraid to tell you how I felt when I called these things to mind —you would hate my memory for ever after- wards. At that place, Betteredge looked up from the letter. [TO BE CONTINUED.]
A EUROPEAN astronomer predicts, that in August next there will be a comet of such brilliancy in the heavens and so near the earth that we shall have our nights almost as bright as our days. NEW ANTIMONY REEF, CPSTERFIELD.—At Lower Costerfield, crossing the Wappintake Creek, a lode of this metal has been recently discovered, over a foot thick, within four feet of the surface. It was first seen in the bed of the creek, and then traced up on each side. It is considered by competent judges to be of very good quality. It is intended to supersede the office of the lamp-lighter by a clock work attached to the taps of street lamps, which shall turn them full on at stated times every night, and shut them nearly off every morning, the gas being kept constantly burning during the day, with a small blue flame, duly prevented against extinction by the wind.— Once a Week. DR. CLERMONT, of Lyons, has recently pub- lished some researches of his on the ferro- arsenical waters of Vals, from which it appears that they may be useful in the case of weak stomachs, that cannot bear a strong dose of arsenic, since the waters of the spring called La Dominique only contains three milligrammes (little more than one-twentieth of a grain) of arsenic per litre (nearly two pints) ; the dose of the poison usually given being 4 centigr., or four fifths of a grain. INTERESTING AND VALUABLE CURIOSITY.—A wonderful old document, says the Montreal Gazette, is at present in Canada, being nothing less than the skin or parchment signed 230 years ago by the Scottish people, known as the "National Covenant of Scotland." The sub- stance of the deed is written in a firm beautiful hand, almost unique in its kind ; the signatures of the noblemen, including the famous Mon- trose, and many of the others, are very distinct, as also those obliterated in the blood of their subscribers, while the whole parchment is in a good state of preservation. This celebrated old document is, without any doubt, a relic of the troublous times which called it into existence. No era in the history of Scotland claims more interest or presents a greater charm than the memorable year 1638, when, on the first day of March, its vigorous and high-minded people, oppressed by restrictions on their religious liberty, and roused to resistance by the attempts of the King and his ambitious prelate to violate their conscience by forcing upon them a liturgy utterly opposed to the Presbyterian notion of simple worship, rose up en masse and, with una- nimity of views and feelings unparalleled, sub- scribed the National Covenant of Scotland. The Covenant survived the crises that brought it forth. For the following fifty years the princi- ples which produced a generation of heroes found their noblest exponents in the lives and sufferings of their sons. Purified in martyr blood, they triumphed in the cause of freedom, and left a legacy to succeeding generations, which to us was never more sensibly enjoyed than in the present age. For the past seventy years the document has been in the possession of a family named Henderson, into whose grand father's hands it came when he was the Senior Cameronian Pastor in Scotland. The existence of the document is well known in the United Kingdom, where in most of the principal towns and places it has been shown. HOW THE NEW DOMINION (CANADIAN) WORKS.—The Montreal Witness thus speaks of the New Dominion, its past, its present, and its future: Our Dominion is now a year old. How does it work ? In Canada we have appointed for it a day of rejoicing. But has our rejoicing been the bounding pulse of national life, or simply the comfort of being off work on a hot day? Every one can now judge for himself whether the feelings drawn forth by such an occasion are closely akin or not to those mani- fested by our neighbors on the 4th of July, or by ourselves on the Queen's birthday. Young Canada, at least, should feel this consciousness of national life, if there was any thing to draw it forth; but, wanting this, the sentiment seems to be but shallow. Most people seem to look upon it as a matter chiefly interesting the political schemers with whom it originated. Very differ- ent is the state of affairs in Nova Scotia. There they grind their teeth involuntarily whenever the word " Confederation " is mentioned. The state of feeling is described by well-informed people there as being too deep for utterance; and, as it takes the form of a wide-spread and deep seated movement towards annexation, it is not to be wondered that public expressions should be much more guarded than private ones. That a storm is brewing there seems very likely to be an established fact before Dominion Day. The desire of Great Britain to preserve the loyalty of her colonial subjects, and the integrity of her empire, whatever it may amount to, appears to have been of late smothered among what were to Englishmen weightier matters, and no advo- cate for a betrayed province could be found but in Mr. Bright, an acknowledged revolutionist, who, it is possible, would object very little to the annexation of all the provinces to the United States. It is to be hoped that wisdom, if not justice, will prevail among our own legislators, and that, instead of denying the most patent facts, they will set themselves to conciliate by liberal measures the affections of their fellow citizens so grievously outraged, and save their pet scheme, and us as a people, from irretrievable ruin. THE SNIDER RIFLE SUPERSEDED.—We have been favored with a sight of Mr. A. Elliott's invention of his breech-loading rifle, and were really surprised at its simplicity, strength, rapidity, and general perfection. Graham's Town should be proud of its mechanic who was the originator of the invention. At the first glance, it would appear to be an improved copy of the principle of the Snider, but Mr. Elliott perfected his gun long before the Snider was known ; he is entitled, therefore, to full credit for the invention. Its advantages over the Snider are numerous. One improvement is the mode in which the pin strikes the cap in the cartridge—that used by the military strikes the cap at an angle, whilst Mr. Elliott's strikes it dead in the centre ; this improvement makes it lees likely for the pin to break. Another advantage is, that the catch which closes the breech is stronger, and consequently less liable to an accident. Why this rifle is more rapid than the Snider is, that the breech is self-open- ing, being thrown open by the action of the lock. Simultaneously with the breech opening, an extractor works which throws out the burst cartridge. The number of shots which can be fired in a minute, with safety from the shoulder, taking aim by a practised hand, can be fifteen. Another decided advantage in this rifle is, that while in the Snider if any dirt gets underneath the breech it will not close. Mr. Elliott has ingeniously provided for this difficulty, by a cavity where all dirt that might get into the gun is received. In addition to this, his rifle is much lighter and neater in appearance than any breech-loader we have previously seen. To test its efficacy, Sir Percy Douglas appointed a day for its trial against the Snider rifle, fired by one of the picked men of the 11th Regi- ment. It must be remembered that Mr. Elliott is not a military man, drilled in the rapid use of firearms as his antagonist was. The test of the trial was to be the greatest number of shots and the best shooting in one minute. The result was, at one hundred yards:—Military with Snider—8 shots, one bull's eye, and re- mainder generally wide. Mr. Elliott with his rifle—12 shots, 3 bull's eyes, and remainder close. Captain Boileau and other military authorities on the ground expressed their approbation of the rifle, and Mr. Elliott has since left for England to offer his invention to the Home Government. We wish him every success.— Grahamstown Journal.