|Chapter Number||Fourth narrative|
|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||The Moonstone|
Extracted from the Journal of Ezra Jennings.
BY WILKIE COLLINS. Author of "The Woman in White," "No Name," etc.
1849.—JUNE 15......With some interruption from patients, and some interruption from pain, I finished my letter to Miss Verinder in time for to-day's post. I failed to make it as short a let-
ter as I could have wished. But I think I have made it plain. It leaves her entirely mistress of her own decision. If she consents to assist the experiment, she consents of her own free will, and not as a favor to Mr. Franklin Blake or to me. June 16. —Rose late, after a dreadful night ; the vengeance of yesterday's opium pursuing me through a series of frightful dreams. At one time, I was whirling through empty space with the phantoms of the dead, friends and enemies together. At another, the one beloved face which I shall never see again, lose at my bedside, hideously phosphorescent in the black darkness, and glared and grinned at me. A slight return of the old pain, at the usual time in the early morning, was welcome as a change. It dispelled the visions—and it was bearable because it did that. My bad night made it late in the morning before I could get to Mr. Franklin Blake. I found him stretched on the sofa, breakfasting on brandy and soda-water, and a dry biscuit. " I am beginning as well as you could possibly wish," he said. "A miserable, restless night ; and a total failure of appetite this morning. Exactly what happened last year when I gave up my cigars. The sooner I am ready for my second dose of laudanum the better I shall be pleased." "You shall have it on the earliest possible day," I answered. "In the mean time, we must be as careful of your health as we can. If we allow you to become exhausted, we shall fail in that way. You must get an appetite for your dinner. In other words, you must get a ride or a walk this morning in the fresh air." " I will ride, if they can find me a horse here. By-the-by, I wrote to Mr. Bruff yesterday. Have you written to Miss Verinder ?" " Yes—by last night's post." " Very good. We shall have some news worth hearing to tell each other to-morrow. Don't go yet! I have a word to say to you. You appeared to think, yesterday, that our ex- periment with the opium was not likely to be viewed very favorably by some of my friends. You were quite right, I call old Gabriel Better- edge one of my friends ; and you will be amused to hear that he protested strongly when I saw him yesterday. You have done a wonderful number of foolish things in the course of your life, Mr. Franklin ; but this tops them all!' There is Betteredge's opinion ! You will make allowances for his prejudices, I am sure, if you and he happen to meet." June 17. —Before breakfast this morning Mr. Candy informed me that he was going away for a fortnight, on a visit to a friend in the south of England. He gave me as many special direc- tions, poor fellow, about the patients, as if he still had the large practice which he possessed before he was taken ill. The practice is worth little enough now! Other doctors have super- seded him ; and nobody who can help it will employ me. It is perhaps fortunate that he is to be away just at this time. He would have been morti- fied if I had not informed him of the experiment which I am going to try with Mr. Blake. And I hardly know what undesirable results might not have happened if I had taken him into my confidence. Better as it is. Unquestionably, better as it is. The post brought me Miss Verinder's answer after Mr. Candy had left the house. A charming letter! It gives me the highest opinion of her. There is no attempt to conceal the interest that she feels in our proceedings. She tells me, in the prettiest manner, that my letter has satisfied her of Mr. Blake's innocence, without the slightest need (so far as she is con- cerned) of putting my assertion to the proof. She even upbraids herself—most undeservedly, poor thing!—for not having divined at the time what the true solution of the mistery might really be. The motive underlying all this pro- ceeds evidently from something more than a generous eagerness to make atonement for a wrong which she has innocently inflicted on an- other person. It is plain that she has loved him throughout the estrangement between them. In more than one place the rapture of discover- ing that he has deserved to be loved breaks its way innocently through the stoutest formalities of pen and ink, and even defies the stronger re- straint still of writing to a stranger. Is it pos- sible (I ask myself, in reading this delightful letter) that I, of all men in the world, am chosen to be the means of bringing these two young people together again ? My own happiness has been trampled under foot ; my own love has been torn from me. Shall I live to see a happi- ness of others, which is of my making—a love renewed, which is of my bringing back ? Oh merciful Death, let me see it before your arms enfold me, before your voice whispers to me, "Best at last!" What she has forbidden me to tell Mr. Frank- lin Blake, she is (as I interpret it) eager to tell him with her own lips, before he is put to the test which is to vindicate bis character in the eyes of other people. I understand and admire this generous anxiety to acquit him, without waiting until his innocence may, or may not, be proved. It is the atonement that she is longing to make, poor girl, after having innocently and inevitably wronged him. But the thing cannot be done. I have no sort of doubt that the agi tation which a meeting between them would produce on both sides —the old feeling which it would revive, the new hopes which it would awaken—would, in their effect on the mind of Mr. Blake, be almost certainly fatal to the suc- cess of our experiment. It is hard enough, as things are, to reproduce in him the conditions as they existed, or nearly as they existed, last year. With new interests and new emotions to agitate him, the attempt would be simply useless. It was nearly 9 o'clock before I could get to the hotel to-day. The visit, even in my shat- tered condition, proved to be a most amusing one —thanks entirely to the presence, on the scene, of Gabriel Betteredge. " Can you favor me with your attention, sir ?" he inquired, addressing himself to me. " I am quite at your service," I answered. Betteredge took a chair and seated himself at the table. He produced a huge old-fashioned leather pocket-book, with a pencil of dimensions to match. Having put on his spectacles he opened the pocket-book, at a blank page, and addressed himself to me seriously. " I have lived," said Betteredge, looking at me sternly, " nigh on fifty years in the service of my late lady. I was page-boy before that in the service of the old lord, her father. I am now somewhere between seventy and eighty years of age —never mind exactly where! I am reckoned to have got as pretty a knowledge and experience of the world as most men. And what does it all end in ? It ends, Mr. Ezra Jennings, in a conjuring trick being performed on Mr. Franklin Blake by a doctor's assistant with a bottle of laudanum ; and, by the living jingo, I'm appointed, in my old age, to be con- juror's boy!" " I am very sorry," I began, " that you and I don't agree—" " Don't bring me into it!" interposed Better- edge. " This is not a matter of agreement, it is a matter of obedience. Issue your directions, sir—issue your directions!" Mr. Blake made me a sign to take him at his word. I " issued my directions" as plainly and as gravely as I could. June 20.—Mr. Blake is beginning to feel his continued restlessness at night. The sooner the rooms are refurnished now the better. On our way to the house this morning he con- sulted me with some nervous impatience and irresolution, about a letter (forwarded to him from London) which he had received from Ser- geant Cuff. The sergeant writes from Ireland. He ac- knowledges the receipt (through his house- keeper) of a card and message which Mr. Blake left at his residence near Dorking, and announces his return to England as likely to take place in
a week or less. In the mean time he requests to be favored with Mr. Blake's reasons for wish- ing to speak to him (as stated in the message) on the subject of the Moonstone. If Mr. Blake can convict him of having made any serious mis- take, in the course of hie last year's inquiry con- cerning the diamond, he will consider it a duty (after the liberal manner in which he was treated by the late Lady Verinder) to place himself at that gentleman's disposal. If not, he begs per- mission to remain in his retirement, surrounded by the peaceful floricultural attractions of a country life. After reading the letter, I had no hesitation in advising Mr. Blake to inform Sergeant Cuff, in reply, of all that had happened since the in- quiry was suspended last year, and to leave him to draw his own conclusions from the plain facts. June 25, Monday.—The day of the experi- ment ! It is 5 o'clock in the afternoon. We have just arrived at the house. I received a few lines then, yesterday, from Miss Verinder. She is arranged to travel by the afternoon train, as I recommended. A Mrs. Merridew has insisted on accompanying her. The note hints that the old lady's generally ex- cellent temper is a little ruffled, and requests all due indulgence for her, in consideration of her age and her habits. I will endeavor, in my re- lations with Mrs. Merridew, to emulate the mo- deration which Betteredge displays in his rela- tions with me. He received us to-day, porten- tously arrayed in his best black suit, and his stiffest white cravat. Whenever he looks my way, he remembers that I have not read Robin- son Crusoe since I was a child, and he respect- fully pities me. Yesterday, also, Mr. Blake had the lawyer's answer. Mr. Bruff accepts the invitation—under protest. It is, he thinks, clearly necessary that a gentleman possessed of the average allowance of common-sense should accompany Miss Verinder to the scene of, what he will venture to call, the proposed exhibition. For want of a better escort, Mr. Bruff himself will be that gen- tleman.—So here is poor Miss Verinder provided with two " chaperons." It is a relief to think that the opinion of the world must surely be satisfied with this! Nothing has been heard of Sergeant Cuff. He is no doubt still in Ireland. We must not ex- pect to see him to-night. Betteredge has just come in, to say that Mr. Blake has asked for me. I must lay down my pen for the present. * * * * * * * 7 o'clock. —We have been all over the refur- nished rooms and staircases again ; and we have had a pleasant stroll in the shrubbery which was Mr Blake's favorite walk when he was here last. In this way, I hope to revive the old im- pressions of places and things as vividly as pos- sible in his mind. We are now going to dine, exactly at the hour at which the birthday dinner was given last year. My object, of course, is a purely medical one in this case. The laudanum must find the process of digestion, as nearly as may be, where the laudanum found it last year. At a reasonable time after dinner, I propose to lead the conversation back again—as inartifici- ally as I can—to the subject of the diamond, and of the Indian conspiracy to steal it. When I have filled his mind with these topics, I shall have done all that is in my power to do, before the time comes for giving him the second dose. * * * * * * * Half-past 8.—I have only this moment found an opportunity of attending to the most important duty of all ; the duty of looking in the family medicine-chest, for the laudanum which Mr. Candy used last year. Ten minutes since I caught Betteredge at an unoccupied moment, and told him what I wanted. Without a word of objection, without so much as an attempt to produce his pocket book, he led the way (making allowances for me at every step) to the store-room in which the medicine-chest was kept. I found the bottle, carefully guarded by a glass stopper tied over with leather. The preparation of opium which it contained was, as I had antici- pated, the common tincture of laudanum. Finding the bottle still well filled, I have re- solved to use it in preference to employing either of the two preparations with which I had taken care to provide myself, in case of emergency. The question of the quantity which I am to administer presents certain difficulties. I have thought it over, and have decided on increasing the dose. My notes inform me that Mr. Candy only ad- ministered twenty-five minims. This is a small dose to have produced the results which fol- lowed—even in the case of a person so sensitive as Mr. Blake. I think it highly probable that Mr. Candy gave more than he supposed himself to have given—knowing, as I do, that he has a keen relish of the pleasures of the table, and that he measured out the laudanum on the birth- day, after dinner. In any case, I shall run the risk of enlarging the dose to forty minims. On this occasion Mr. Blake knows beforehand that he is going to take the laudanum—which is equivalent, physiologically speaking, to his hav- ing (unconsciously to himself) a certain capacity in him to resist the effects. If my view is right a larger quantity is therefore imperatively re- quired this time to repeat the results which the smaller quantity produced last year. * * * * * * * 10 o'clock.—The witnesses, or the company (which shall I call them ?), reached the house an hour since. A little before 9 o'clock I prevailed on Mr. Blake to accompany me to his bedroom ; stat- ing, as a reason, that I wished him to look round it, for the last time, in order to make quite sure that nothing had been forgotten in the refurnishing of the room. I had previously arranged with Betteredge that the bedchamber prepared for Mr. Bruff should be the next room to Mr. Blake's, and that I should be informed of the lawyer's arrival by a knock at the door. Five minutes after the clock in the hall had struck 9 I heard the knock; and, going out im- mediately, met Mr. Bruff in the corridor. My personal appearance (as usual) told against me. Mr. Bruff's distrust looked at me plainly enough out of Mr. Bruff's eyes. Being well used to producing this effect on strangers, I did not hesitate a moment in saying what I wanted to say before the lawyer found his way into Mr. Blake's room. " You have travelled here, I believe, in com- pany with Mrs. Merridew and Miss Verinder ?" I said. " Yes," answered Mr. Bruff, as dryly as might be. " Miss Verinder has probably told you that I wish her presence in the house (and Mrs. Merridew's presence of course) to be kept a secret from Mr. Blake until my experiment on him has been tried first ?" " I know that I am to hold my tongue, sir!" said Mr. Bruff, impatiently. " Being habitually silent on the subject of human folly, I am all the readier to keep my lips closed on this oc- casion. Does that satisfy you ?" I bowed, and left Betteredge to show him to his room. Betteredge gave me one look at part- ing which said, as if in so many words, " You have caught a Tartar, Mr. Jennings—and the name of him is Bruff." It was next necessary to get the meeting over with the two ladies. I descended the stairs—a little nervously, I confess—on my way to Miss Verinder's sitting-room. The gardener's wife (charged with looking after the accommodation of the ladies) met me in the first-floor corridor. This excellent woman treats me with an excessive civility which is plainly the offspring of downright terror. She stares, trembles, and courtesies whenever I speak to her. On my asking for Miss Verinder she stared, trembled, and would no doubt have courtesied next, if Miss Verinder herself had not cut that ceremony short by suddenly open- ing her sitting-room door. " Is that Mr. Jennings ?" she asked. Before I could answer she came out eagerly to speak to me in the corridor. We met under the light of a lamp on a bracket. At the first sight of me Miss Verinder stopped and hesi- tated. She recovered herself instantly, colored for a moment, and then, with a charming frank- ness, offered me her hand. " I can't treat you like a stranger, Mr. Jen- nings," she said. " Oh, if you only knew how happy your letters have made me!" She looked at my ugly wrinkled face with a bright gratitude so new to me in my experience of my fellow-creatures that I was at a loss how to answer her. Nothing had prepared me for her kindness and her beauty. The misery of
many years has not hardened my heart, thank God. I was as awkward and as shy with her as if I had been a lad in my teens. " Mrs. Merridew," said Miss Verinder, " this is Mr. Jennings." " I beg Mr. Jennings' pardon," said the old lady, looking at Miss Verinder, and speaking at me. " Railway travelling always makes me nervous. I am endeavoring to quiet my mind by occupying myself as usual. I don't know whether my embroidery is out of place, on this extraordinary occasion. If it interferes with Mr. Jennings' medical views, I shall be happy to put it away of course." Here the door opened, and Mrs. Merridew uttered a little scream, caused by the sudden advent of Betteredge. " I beg your pardon, Mr. Jennings," said Betteredge, in his most elaborately confidential manner. " Mr. Franklin wishes to know where you are. Being under your orders to deceive him, in respect to the presence of my young lady in the house, I have said I don't know. That you will please to observe was a lie. Having one foot already in the grave, sir, the fewer lies you expect me to tell the more I shall be indebted to you, when my conscience pricks me and my time comes." There was not, a moment to be wasted on the purely speculative question of Betteredge's con- science. Mr. Blake might make his appearance in search of me, unless I went to him at once in his own room. Miss Verinder followed me out into the corridor. " They seem to be in a conspiracy to perse- cute you," she said. " What does it mean ?" " Only the protest of the world, Miss Verin- der—on a very small scale—against anything that is new." " What are we to do with Mrs. Merridew ?" " Tell her an experimental explosion will take place at 9 to-morrow morning." " So as to send her to bed ?" " Yes —so as to send her to bed." Miss Verinder went back to the sitting-room, and I went up stairs to Mr. Blake. To my surprise, I found him alone ; restlessly pacing his room, and a little irritated at being left by himself. " Where is Mr. Bruff?" I asked. He pointed to the closed door of communica- tion between the two rooms. Mr. Bruff had looked in on him, for a moment ; had attempted to renew his protest against our proceedings ; and had once more failed to produce the smallest impression on Mr. Blake. Upon this, the lawyer had taken refuge in a black leather bag, filled to bursting with professional papers. "The serious business of life," he admitted, "was sadly out of place on such an occasion as the present. But the serious business of life must be carried on for all that. Mr. Blake would perhaps kindly make allowance for the old-fashioned habits of a practical man. Time was money—and, as for Mr. Jennings, he might depend on it that Mr. Bruff would be forthcoming when called upon." With that apology the lawyer had gone back to his own room, and had immersed himself ob- stinately in his black bag. I thought of Mrs. Merridew and her em- broidery, and of Betteredge and his conscience. There is a wonderful sameness in the solid side of the English character —just as there is a wonderful sameness in the solid expression of the English face. " When are you going to give me the lauda- num ?" asked Mr. Blake, impatiently. " You must wait a little longer," I said. " I will stay and keep you company till the time comes." It was not then 10 o'clock. Inquiries which I had made, at various times, of Betteredge and Mr. Blake, had led me to the conclusion that the dose of laudanum given by Mr. Candy could not possibly have been administered before 11. I had accordingly determined not to try the second dose until that time. We talked a little ; but both our minds were preoccupied by the coming ordeal. The conver- sation soon flagged—then dropped altogether. Mr. Blake idly turned over the books on his bedroom table. I had taken the precaution of looking at them, when we first entered the room. The Guardian ; The Tatler ; Richardson's Pa- mela ; Mackenzie's Man of Feeling ; Roscoe's Lorenzo de' Medici ; and Robertson's Charles the Fifth—all classical works ; all (of course) immeasurably superior to anything produced in later times ; and all (from my present point of view) possessing the one great merit of enchain- ing nobody's interest, and exciting nobody's brain. I left Mr. Blake to the composing in- fluence of standard literature, and occupied my- self in making this entry in my journal. My watch informs me that it is close on 11 o'clock. I must shut up these leaves once more. * * * * * * * 2 o'clock a.m.—The experiment has been tried. With what result lam now to describe. At 11 o'clock I rang the bell for Betteredge, and told Mr. Blake that he might at last pre- pare himself for bed. I looked out of the window at the night. It was mild and rainy, resembling, in this respect, the night of the birthday—the twenty-first of June, last year. Without professing to believe in omens, it was at least encouraging to find no direct nervous influences—no stormy or electric perturbations—in the atmosphere. Betteredge joined me at the window, and mysteriously put a little slip of paper into my hand. It contained these lines: " Mrs. Merridew has gone to bed, on the dis- tinct understanding that an explosion is to take place at 9 to-morrow morning, and that I am not to stir out of this part of the house until she comes and sets me free. She has no idea that the chief scene of the experiment is my sitting-room—or she would have remained in it for the whole night! I am alone, and very anxious. Pray let me see you measure out the laudanum ; I want to have something to do with it, even in the unimportant character of a mere looker-on. " R. V." I followed Betteredge out of the room, and told him to remove the medicine-chest into Miss Verinder's sitting-room. The order appeared to take him completely by surprise. He looked as if he suspected me of some occult medical design on Miss Verinder! " Might I presume to ask," he said, " what my young lady and the medicine-chest have got to do with each other?" " Stay in the sitting-room, and you will see." Betteredge appeared to doubt his own un- aided capacity to superintend me effectually on an occasion when a medicine-chest was included in the proceedings. " Is there any objection, sir," he asked, "to taking Mr. Bruff into this part of the business ?" " Quite the contrary! I am now going to ask Mr. Bruff to accompany me down stairs." Betteredge withdrew to fetch the medicine chest without another word. I went back into Mr. Blake's room, and knocked at the door of communication. Mr. Bruff opened it, with his papers in his hand—immersed in law, impene- trable to medicine. "I am sorry to disturb you," I said. " But I am going to prepare the laudanum for Mr. Blake ; and I must request you to be present, and to see what I do " " Yes ?" said Mr. Bruff, with nine-tenths of his attention riveted on his papers, and with one-tenth unwillingly accorded to me. " Any thing else ?" " I must trouble you to return here with me, and to see me administer the dose." " Anything else ?" " One thing more. I must put you to the inconvenience of remaining in Mr. Blake's room, and of waiting to see what happens." " Oh, very good !" said Mr. Bruff. "My room or Mr. Blake's room—it doesn't matter which ; I can go on with my papers anywhere. Unless you object, Mr. Jennings, to my import- ing that amount of common sense into the pro- ceedings ?" Before I could answer, Mr. Blake addressed himself to the lawyer, speaking from his bed. " Do you really mean to say that you don't feel any interest in what you are going to do ?" he asked. " Mr. Bruff you have no more ima- gination than a cow!" " A cow is a very useful animal, Mr. Blake," said the lawyer. With that reply he followed me out of the room, still keeping his papers in his hand. We found Miss Verinder, pale and agitated, restlessly pacing her sitting-room from end to end. At a table in a corner stood Betteredge, on guard over the medicine-chest. Mr. Bruff sat down on the first chair that he could find, and (emulating the usefulness of the cow) plunged back again into bis papers on the spot.
Miss Verinder drew me aside, and reverted instantly to her one all-absorbing interest—the interest in Mr. Blake. " How is he now ?" she asked. "Is he nervous ? is he out of temper ? Do you think it will succeed ? Are you sure it will do no harm ?" " Quite sure. Come and see me measure it out." " One moment! It is past 11 now. How long will it be before anything happens ?" "It is not easy to say. An hour perhaps." " I suppose the room must be dark, as it was last year ?" " Certainly." " I shall wait in my bedroom—just as I did before. I shall keep the door a little way open. It was a little way open last year. I will watch the sitting-room door ; and the moment it moves I will blow out my light. It all happened in that way on my birthday night. And it must all happen again in the same way, mustn't it ?" " Are you sure you can control yourself, Miss Verinder ?" "In his interests I can do anything !" she answered, fervently. One look at her face told me that I could trust her. I addressed myself again to Mr. Bruff. " I must trouble you to put your papers aside for a moment," I said. " Oh, certainly!" He got up with a start—as if I had disturbed him at a particularly inter- esting place—and followed me to the medicine chest. There, deprived of the breathless excitement incidental to the practice of his profession, he looked at Betteredge, and yawned wearily. Miss Verinder joined me with a glass jug of cold water, which she had taken from a side table. " Let me pour out the water," she whispered. " I must have a hand in it!" I measured out the forty minims from the bottle, and poured the laudanum into a medicine glass. " Fill it till it is three parts full," I said, and handed the glass to Miss Verinder. I then directed Betteredge to lock up the medicine chest ; informing him that I had done with it now. A look of unutterable relief overspread the old servant's countenance. He had evidently suspected me of a medical design on his young lady! After adding the water as I had directed, Miss Verinder seized a moment—while Betteredge was locking the chest, and while Mr. Bruff was looking back at his papers—and slily kissed the rim of the medicine glass. " When you give it to him," whispered the charming girl, " give it to him on that side!" I took the piece of crystal which was to re- present the diamond from my pocket and gave it to her. " You must have a hand in this, too," I said. " You must put it where you put the Moon- stone last year." She led the way to the Indian cabinet, and put the mock diamond into the drawer which the real diamond occupied on the birthday night. Mr. Bruff witnessed this proceeding, under protest, as he had witnessed everything else. But the strong dramatic interest which the experiment was now assuming proved (to my great amusement) to be too much for Betteredge's capacity of self-restraint. His hand trembled as he held the candle, and he whispered, anxiously, " Are you sure, Miss, it's the right drawer ?" I led the way out again, with the laudanum and water in my hand. At the door I stopped to address a last word to Miss Verinder. " Don't be long in putting out the lights," I said. " I will put them out at once," she answered. " And I will wait in my bedroom, with only one candle alight." She closed the sitting-room door behind us. Followed by Mr. Bruff and Betteredge, I went back to Mr. Blake's room. We found him moving restlessly from side to side of the bed, and wondering irritably whether he was to have the laudanum that night. In the presence of the two witnesses I gave him the dose, and shook up his pillows, and told him to lie down again quietly and wait. His bed, provided with light chintz curtains, was placed, with the head against the wall of the room, so as to leave a good open space on either side of it. On one side I drew the cur- tains completely—and in the part of the room thus screened from his view I placed Mr. Bruff and Betteredge to wait for the result. At the bottom of the bed I half drew the curtains— and placed my own chair at a little distance, so that I might let him see me or not see me, speak to me or not speak to me, just as the cir- cumstances might direct. Having already been informed that he always slept with a light in the room I placed one of the two lighted candles on a little table at the head of the bed, where the glare of the light would not strike on his eyes. The other candle I gave to Mr. Bruff ; the light, in this instance, being subdued by the screen of the chintz curtains. The window was open at the top so as to ventilate the room. The rain fell softly, the house was quiet. It was twenty minutes past 11, by my watch, when the preparations were completed, and I took my place on the chair set apart at the bottom of the bed. Mr. Bruff resumed his papers, with every ap- pearance of being as deeply interested in them as ever. But looking toward him now I saw certain signs and tokens which told me that the law was beginning to lose its hold on him at last. The suspended interest of the situation in which we were now placed was slowly asserting its influence even on his unimaginative mind. As for Betteredge consistency of principle and dignity of conduct had become, in his case, mere empty words. He forgot that I was performing a conjuring trick on Mr. Franklin Blake ; he forgot that I had upset the house from top to bottom ; he forgot that I had not read Robinson Crusoe since I was a child. " For the Lord's sake, sir," he whispered to me, " tell us when it will begin to work." "Not before midnight," I whispered back. " Say nothing and sit still." Betteredge dropped to the lowest depth of familiarity with me, without a struggle to save himself. He answered me by a wink! Looking next toward Mr. Blake I found him as restless as ever in his bed ; fretfully wonder- ing why the influence of the laudanum had not begun to assert itself yet. To tell him, in his present humor, that the more he fidgeted and wondered the longer he would delay the result for which we were now waiting would have been simply useless. The wiser course to take was to dismiss the idea of the opium from his mind by leading him insensibly to think of something else. With this view I encouraged him to talk to me, contriving so to direct the conversation, on my side, as to lead him back again to the subject which had engaged us earlier in the evening the subject of the diamond. I took care to re- vert to those portions of the story of the Moon- stone which related to the transport of it from London to Yorkshire ; to the risk which Mr. Blake had run in removing it from the bank at Frizinghall ; and to the unexpected appearance of the Indians at the house on the evening of the birthday. And I purposely assumed, in re- ferring to these events, to have misunderstood much of what Mr. Blake himself had told me a few hours since. In this way I set him talking on the subject with which it was now vitally important to fill his mind—without allowing him to suspect that I was making him talk for a purpose. Little by little he became so interested in putting me right that he forgot to fidget in the bed. His mind was far away from the question of the opium at the all-important time when his eyes first told me that the opium was beginning to lay its hold on his brain. I looked at my watch. It wanted five minutes to 12 when the premonitory symptoms of the working of the laudanum first showed them- selves to me. At this time no unpractised eye would have detected any change in him. But, as the minutes of the new morning wore away, the swiftly- subtle progress of the influence began to show itself more plainly. The sublime intoxication of opium gleamed in his eyes ; the dew of a stealthy perspiration began to glisten on his face. In five minutes more the talk which he still kept up with me failed in coherence. He held steadily to the subject of the diamond ; but he ceased to complete his sentences. A little later the sentences dropped to single words. Then there was an interval of silence. Then he sat up in bed. Then, still busy with the subject of the diamond, he began to talk again —not to me, but to himself. That change told me that the first stage in the experiment was
reached. The stimulant influence of the opium had got him. The time, now, was twenty-three minutes past 12. The next half hour, at most, would decide the question of whether he would, or would not, get up from his bed, and leave the room. In the breathless interest of watching him in the unutterable triumph of seeing the first result of the experiment declare itself in the manner, and nearly at the time, which I had anticipated—I had utterly forgotten the two companions of my night vigil. Looking toward them now, I saw the Law (as represented by Mr. Bruff's papers) lying unheeded on the floor. Mr. Bruff himself was looking eagerly through a crevice left in the imperfectly-drawn curtains of the bed. And Betteredge, oblivious of all respect for social distinctions, was peeping over Mr. Bruff's shoulder. They both started back, on finding that I was looking at them, like two boys caught out by their schoolmaster in a fault. I signed to them to take off their boots quietly, as I was taking off mine. If Mr. Blake gave us the chance of following him, it was vitally necessary to follow him without noise, so off came the boots. Ten minutes passed—and nothing happened. Then, he suddenly threw the bed-clothes off him. He put one leg out of bed. He waited. "I wish I had never taken it out of the bank," he said to himself. "It was safe in the bank." My heart throbbed fast ; the pulses at my temples beat furiously. The doubt about the safety of the diamond was, once more, the domi- nant impression in his brain! On that one pivot the whole success of the experiment turned. The prospect thus suddenly opened before me was too much for my shattered nerves. I was obliged to look away from him—or I should have lost my self-control. There was another interval of silence. When I could trust myself to look back at him he was out of his bed, standing erect at the side of it. The pupils of his eyes were now contracted ; his eyeballs gleamed in the light of the candle as he moved his head slowly to and fro. He was thinking ; he was doubting—he spoke again. " How do I know ?" he said. "The Indians may be hidden in the house." He stopped, and walked slowly to the other end of the room. He turned—waited—came back to the bed. " It's not even locked up," he went on. " It's in the drawer of her cabinet. And the drawer doesn't lock." He sat down on the side of the bed. " Any body might take it," he said. He rose again restlessly, and reiterated his first words. "How do I know? The Indians may be hidden in the house." He waited again. I drew back behind the half curtain of the bed. He looked about the room, with the vacant glitter in his eyes. It was a breathless moment. There was a pause of some sort. A pause in the action of the opium ? a pause in the action of the brain ? Who could tell ? Everything depended, now, on what he did next. He laid himself down again on the bed! A horrible doubt crossed my mind. Was it possible that the sedative action of the opium was making itself felt already ? It was not in my experience that it should do this. But what is experience where opium is concerned ? There are probably no two men in existence on whom the drug acts in exactly the same manner. Was some constitutional peculiarity in him, feeling the influence in some new way ? Were we to fail, on the very brink of success ? No! He got up again abruptly. " How the devil am I to sleep," he said, " with this on my mind ?" He looked at the light, burning on the table at the head of his bed. After a moment he took the candle in his hand. I blew out the second candle, burning behind the closed curtains. I drew back, with Mr. Bruff and Betteredge, into the farthest corner by the bed. I signed to them to be silent, as if their lives had depended on it. We waited—seeing and hearing nothing. We waited, hidden from him by the curtains. The light which he was holding on the other side of us moved suddenly. The next moment he passed us, swift and noiseless, with the candle in his hand. He opened the bedroom door and went out. We followed him along the corridor. We followed him down the stairs. We followed him along the second corridor. He never looked back ; he never hesitated. He opened the sitting-room door, and went in, leaving it open behind him. The door was hung (like all the other doors in the house) on large old-fashioned hinges. When it was opened, a crevice was opened be- tween the door and the post. I signed to my two companions to look through this, so as to keep them from showing themselves. I placed myself—outside the door also—on the opposite side. A recess in the wall was at my left hand, in which I could instantly hide myself if he showed any signs of looking back into the corridor. He advanced to the middle of the room, with the candle still in his hand : he looked about him —but he never looked back. I saw the door of Miss Verinder's bedroom standing ajar. She had put out her light. She controlled herself nobly. The dim white out- line of her summer dress was all that I could see. Nobody who had not known it beforehand would have suspected that there was a living creature in the room. She kept back in the dark ; not a word, not a movement escaped her. It was now ten minutes past 1. I heard, through the dead silence, the soft drip of the rain, and the tremulous passage of the night air through the trees. After waiting irresolute for a minute or more in the middle of the room, he moved to the corner near the window, where the Indian cabinet stood. He put his candle on the top of the cabinet. He opened and shut one drawer after another, until he came to the drawer in which the mock diamond was put. He looked into the drawer for a moment. Then he took the mock diamond out with his right hand. With the other hand he took the candle from the top of the cabinet. He walked back a few steps toward the middle of the room, and stood still again. Thus far he had exactly repeated what he had done on the birthday night. Would his next proceeding be the same as the proceeding of last year ? Would he leave the room ? Would he go back now, as I believed he had gone back then, to his bedchamber ? Would he show us what he had done with the diamond when he had returned to his own room ? His first action, when he moved once more, proved to be an action which he had not per- formed when he was under the influence of the opium for the first time. He put the candle down on a table, and wandered on a little to- ward the farther end of the room. There was a sofa there. He leaned heavily on the back of it with his left hand—then roused himself, and returned to the middle of the room. I could now see his eyes. They were getting dull and heavy ; the glitter in them was fast dying out. The suspense of the moment proved too much for Miss Verinder's self-control. She advanced a few steps—then stopped again. Mr. Bruff and Betteredge looked, across the open doorway at me for the first time. The prevision of a coming disappointment was impressing itself on their minds as well as on mine. Still, so long as he stood where he was, there was hope. We waited, in unutterable expecta- tion, to see what would happen next. The next event was decisive. He let the mock diamond drop out of his hand. It fell on the floor, before the doorway— plainly visible to him and to every one. He made no effort to pick it up : he looked down at it vacantly, and, as he looked, his head sank on his breast. He staggered—roused himself for an instant—walked back unsteadily to the sofa—and sat down on it. He made a last effort ; he tried to rise, and sank back. His head fell on the sofa cushions. It was then twenty-five minutes past 1 o'clock. Before I had put my watch, back in my pocket he was asleep. [TO BE CONTINUED.]