|Chapter Number||First Period: IV - VI|
|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||The Moonstone|
By WILKIE COLLINS. Author of "The Woman in White," "No Name," etc.
HAVING now told the story of Rosanna, I have only to notice one out of the many queer ways of this strange girl, to get on next to the story of the sands.
Oar house is high up on the Yorkshire coast, and close by the sea. We have got beautiful walks all round us, in every direction but one. That one I acknowledge to be a horrid walk. It leads, for a quarter of a mile, through a melancholy plantation of firs, and brings you out between low cliffs on the lonliest and ugliest little bay on all our coast. The sand-hills here run down to the sea, and end in two spits of rock jutting out opposite each other, till you lose sight of them in the water. One is called the North Spit, and one the South Between the two, shifting backward and forward »t certain seasons of the year, lies the most horri ble quicksand on the shores of Yorkshire. At the turn of the tide something goes on in the un known deeps below, which sets the whole face of the quicksand quivering and trembling in a man ner most remarkable to see, and which has given to it, among the people in our parts, the name of The Shivering Sand. A great bank, half a mile out, nigh the mouth of the bay, breaks the force of the main ocean coming in from the of fing. Winter and summer, when the tide flows over the quicksand, the sea seems to leave the waves behind it on the bank, and rolls its waters in smoothly with a heave, and covers the sand in silence. A lonesome and a horrid retreat, I can tell you! No boat ever ventures into this bay. No children from our fishing-village, called Cobb's Hole, ever come here to play. The very birdß of the air, as it seems to me, give the Shivering Sand a wide berth. That a young woman, with dozens of nice walks to choose from, and company to go with her, if she only taid " Come!" should prefer this place, and should sit and work or road in it, all alone, when if s her turn out, I grant you, passes belief. It's true, nevertheless, account for it aa you may, that this was Bosanna Spearman's favorite walk, except when she went once or twice to Cobb's Hole, to see the only friend she had in our neighborhood—of whom more anon. It*a also true that I was now setting out for this same place, to fetch the girl into dinner, which bring* us round happily to our former point, «nd start* us fair again on our way to the f sands. I saw no sign of the girl in the plantation. When I got out, through the sand-hills, on to the beach, there she was, in her little straw bonnet, and her plain grey cloak that she always wore to hide her deformed shoulder as much as might be—there she was, all alone, looking out on the quicksand and the sea. She started when I came up with her, and turned her head away from me. Not looking me in the face being another of the proceedings which, as head of the servants, I never allow, on principle, to pass without inquiry—l turned her round my way, and saw that she was crying. My bandana handkerchief—one of six beauties given to me by my lady—was handy in my pocket. I took it out, and I said to Bosanna, « Come and sit down, my dear, on the slope of the beach along with me. I'll dry your eyes for you first, and then I'll make so bold as to ask what you have been crying about." When you come to my age you will find sit ting down on the slope of a beach a much longer job than you think it now. By the time I was ?ettled, Bosanna had dried her own eyes with a rery inferior handkerchief to mine—a cheap cambric She looked very quiet, and very Wretched; but she sat down by me like a good girl, when I told her. When you want to com fort a woman by the shortest way take her on your knee. I thought of the golden rule. But there! Bosanna wasn't Nancy, and that's the truth of it! "Now tell me, my dear," I said, "what are you crying about P" "About the years that are goae, Mr. Better •dge»" «aya Bosanna, quietly. "My past life ?till comes back to me sometimes." "Come, come, my girl," I said, "your past life is all sponged out. Why can't you forget it ?" She took me by one of the lappets of my coat. I am a slovenly old man, and a good deal of my meat and drink gets splashed about on my clothes. Sometimes one of the women, and sometimes another, cleans me of my grease. The day before Bosanna had taken out a spot for me on the lappet of my coat with a new compo aition warranted to remove anything. The grease was gone, but there was a little dull place left on the nap of the cloth where the grease had been. The girl pointed to that place and shook her head. " The stain is taken off," she said. « But the place shows, Mr. Betteredge—the place shows!" A remark which takes a man unawares by means of his own coat is not an easy remark to answer. Something in the girl herself, too, made me particularly sorry for her just then. She had nice brown eyes, plain as she was in other ways—and she looked at me with a sort of respect for my happy old age and my good oharacter, as things for ever out of her own reach, which made my heart heavy for our second house-maid. Not feeling mjself able to comfort her, there was only one thing to do. That thing was—to tske her into dinner. "Help me up," I said. "You're late for dinner, Bosanna-and I have come to fetch you in." " You, Mr. Betteredge!" says she. " They told Nancy to fetch you," I said. " But I thought you might like your scolding better, my dear, if it came from me." Instead of helping me up, the poor thing stole her hand into mine, and gave it a little squeeze. She tried hard to keep from crying again, and succeeded—for which I respected her. " You're rery kind, Mr. Betteredge, she said. " I don't want any dinner to-day—let me bide a little longer here." " What makes you like to be here ?" I asked. " What is it that brings you everlastingly to this miserable place ?" " Something draws me to it," says the girl, making images with her finger in the sand. " I try to keep away from it, and I can't. Some times," says Ehe, in a low voice, as if she was frightc od at her own fancy, " sometimes, Mr. Better 'ge, I think that my grave is waiting for me he ." *'T, jre's roast mutton and suet pudding wait ing for you!" says I. "Go into dinner directly. This is what comes, Bosanna, of thinking on an empty stomach!" I spoke severely, being naturally indignant (at my time of life) to hear
a young woman of five-and twenty talking about her latter end!" She didn't seem to hear me: she put her hand on my shoulder, and kept me where I was, sit ting by her side. " I think the place has laid a spell on me,' she said. " I dream of it night after night; 1' think of it when I sit sticbing at my work. You know I am grateful, Mr. Betteredge —you know I try to deserve your kindness, and my lady's confidence in me. But I wonder sometimes whether the life here is too quiet and too good for such a woman as I am, after all I have gone through, Mr. Betteredge—after all I have gone through. It's more lonely to me to be among the other servants, knowing I am not what they are, than it is to be here. My lady doesn't know, the matron at the reformatory doesn't know, -what a dreadful reproach honest people are in themselves to a woman like me. Don't scold me, there's a dear good man. Ido my work, don't I ? Please not to tell my lady lam discontented—l am not. My mind's unquiet, sometimes, that's all. She snatched her hand off my shoulder, and suddenly pointed down to the quicksand. 'Look!' she said. 'Isn't it wonderful? isn't it terrible? I have seen it dozens of times, and it's always aB new to me as if I had never seen it before!" I looked where she pointed. The tide was on the turn, and the horrid sand began to shiver. The broad brown face of it heaved slowly, and then dimpled and quivered all over. "Do you know what it looks like to me ?" says Bosanna, catching me by the shoulder again. "It looks as if it had hundreds of suffocating people under it—all struggling to get to the surface, and all sinking lower and lower in the dreadful deeps! Throw a stone in, Mr. Betteredge! Throw a stone in, and let's see the sand suck it down!" Here was unwholesome talk ! Here was an' empty stomach feeding on an unquiet mind! My answer—a pretty sharp one, in the poor girl's own interests, I promise you!—was at my tongue's end, when it was snapped short off on a sudden by a voic* among the sand-hills shout ing for me by my name. " Betteredge!" cries the voice, "where are you?" "Here!" I shouted out in return, without a notion in my head who it was. Bosanna Btarted to her feet, and stood looking toward the voice. I was just thinking of getting on my own legs next, when I was staggered by a sudden change in the girl's face. Her complexion turned of a beautiful red, which I had never seen in it before j she bright ened all over with a kind of speechless and breathless surprise. " Who is it ?" I asked. Bosanna gave me back my own question. "Oh! who is it?" she said, softly, mote' to herself than to me. I twisted round on the sand, and looked behind me. There, coming out on us from among the hills, was a bright eyed young gentleman, dressed in a beautiful fawn-colored suit, with gloves and hat to match, with a rose in his button-hole and a smile on his face that might hare set the Shivering Sand itself smiling at him in return. Before I could get on my legs he plumped down on the sand by the side of me, put his arm round my neck, foreign fashion, and gave me a hug that fairly squeezed the breath out of my body. " Dear old Betteredge!" says he. "I owe you seven and sixpence. Now do you know who lam ?" Lord bless us and save us! Here—four good hours before we expected him—was Mr Frank lin Blake! Before I could say a word I saw Mr. Frank lin, a little surprised, to all appearance, look up from me to Bosanna. Following his lead, I looked at the girl, too. She was blushing of a deeper red than ever; seemingly at having caught Mr. Franklin's eye, and she turned and left us suddenly, in a confusion quite unaccount able to my mind, without either making her courtesy to the gentleman or saying a word to me—very unlike her usual self: a oiviler and better-behaved servant, in general, you never met with. " That's an odd girl," says Mr. Franklin. "I wonder what she sees in m» to surprise her?" * " I suppose, sir," I answered, drolling on our young gentleman's Continental education, " it's the rarnish from foreign parts." I set down here Mr. Franklin's careless ques tion, and my foolish answer, as a consolation and encouragement to all stupid people—it being, as I have remarked, a great satisfaction to our inferior fellow-creatures to find that their betters are, on occasions, no brighter than they are. Neither Mr. Franklin, with his wonderful foreign training, nor I, with my age, experience, and natural mother-wit, had the ghost of an idea of what Bosanna Spearman's unaccountable behaviour really meant. She was out of our thoughts, poor soul, before we had seen the last flutter of her little grey cloak among the sand-hills. And what of that ? you will aak naturally enough. Bead on, good friend, as patiently as you can, and perhaps you will be as sorry for Bosanna Spearman as I was, when I found out the truth. Chapter V. Thb first thing I did, after we were left to gether alone, was to make a third attempt to get up from my seat on the sand. Mr. Franklin stopped me. "There is one advantage about this horrid place," he said; "we have got it all to our selves. Stay where you are, Betteredge; I have something to say to yon." While he was Bpeaking I was looking at him, and trying to see something of the boy I remem bered in the man before me. The man put me out. Look as I might I could see no more of his boy's rosy cheeks than his boy's trim little jacket. His complexion had got pale : his face» at the lower part, was covered, to my great sur prise a,nd disappointment, with a curly brown beard and moustaches. He had a lively touch and-go way with him, very pleasant and en gaging, I admit; but nothing to compare with his free-and-easy manners of other times. To make matters worse, he had promised to be tall, and had not kept his promise. He was neat, and slim, and well made ; but he wasn't by an inch or two up to the middle height. In short, he baffled me altogether. The years that had passed had left nothing of his old self, except | the bright, straightforward look in his eyes. There I foucd our nice boy again, and there I concluded to stop in my investigation. " Welcome baok to the old place, Mr. Frank lin," I said. " All the more welcome, Sir, that you have come some hours before we expected you." " I have a reason for coming before you ex pected me," answered Mr. Franklin. " I aus pect, Betteredge, that I have been followed and watched in London for the last three or four days; and I have travelled by the morning instead of the afternoon train because I wanted to give a certain dark-looking stranger the dip."
Those words did more than surprise me. They brought back to my mind, in a fluh, the three jugglers, and Penelope's notioc that they meant some mischief to Mr. Franklin Blake. "Who's watching you, sir—and why? I inquired. "Tell me about the three Indiana you have had at the house to-day," Bays Mr. Franklin, without noticing my question. " It's just possi ble, Betteredge, that my stranger and your three jugglers may turn out to be pieces of the tame puzzle." " How do you come to know about the jug glers, sir?" I asked, putting one question on the top of another, which was bad manners, I own. But you don't expect much from poor human nature —so don't expect much from me. "I saw Penelope at the house," says Mr. Franklin; " and Penelope told me. Your daughter promised to be a pretty girl, Better edge, and she has kept her promise. Penelope has got a small ear and a small loot. Did the late Mrs. Betteredge possess those inestimable advantages ?" " The late Mrs. Betteredge possessed a good many defects, sir," says I. " One of them (if you will pardon my mentioning it) was never keeping to the matter in hand. She was more like a fly than a woman: she couldn't settle on anything." " She would just have suited me," says Mr. Franklin. " I never settle on anything either. Betteredge, your edge is better than ever. Your daughter said as much, when I asked for par ticulars about the jugglers. 'Father will tell you, sir. He's a wonderful man for his age; and he expresses himself beautifully.' Pene lope's own word—blushing divinely. Not even my respect fop youVprevented me from—never mind; I knew her when she was a child, and she's none the worse for it. Let's be serious. What did the jugglers do ?" I was something dissatisfied with my daughter —not for letting Mr. Franklin kiss her; Mr. Franklin was welcome to that—but for forcing me to tell her foolish stery at second-hand. However, there was no help for it now but to mention the circumstances. My Franklin's merriment all died away as I went on. He sat knitting his eyebrows and twisting his beard. When I had done, he repeated after me two of the questions which the'chief juggler had pat to the boy—seemingly for the purpose of fixing them well in bis mind. '"Is it on the road to this house, and on no other, that the English gentleman will pass by us to-day?' 'Has the English gentleman got it about him ? I suspect," says Mr. Franklin, pulling a little sealed paper parcel out of his pocket, " that ' It' means this. And ' this,' Betteredge, means my uncle Herncastle's famous Diamond." " Good Lord, sir!" I broke out, " how do you come to be in charge of the wicked Colonel's Diamond ?" " The wicked Colonel's will has left his Dia mond as a birthday present to my cousin Rachel," says Mr. Franklin. " And my father, as the wicked Colonel's executor, has given it in charge to me to bring down here." If the sea, then oozing in smoothly over the Shivering Sand, had been changed into dry land before my own eyes, I doubt if I could have been more surprised than I was when Mr. Franklin spoke those words. "The Colonel's Diamond left to Miss Eachel!" says I. " And your father, sir, the Colonel's execator! Why, I would have laid any bet you like, Mr. Franklin, that your, father wouldn't have touched the" Colonel with a pair of tongs!" "Strong language, Betteredge! What "was there against the Colonel? He belonged to your time, not to mine. Tell me what you know about him, and Til tell you how my father came to be his' executor, and more be sides. I have made some discoveries in London about my uncle Hemcastle and his Diamond, which have rather an ugly look to my eyes; and I want you to confirm them. You called him the 'wicked Colonel' just now. Search your memory, my old friend, and tell me why." I saw he was in earnest, and I told him. Here follows the substance of what I said, written out entirely for your benefit. Pay at tention to it, or you will be all abroad, when we ? get deeper into the story. Clear your mind of the children, or the dinner, or the new bonnet, or what not. Try if you can't forget politics, ~ horses, prices in the city, and grievances at the club. I hope you won't take this freedom on my part amiss; it's only a way I have of appealing to the gentle reader. Lord! haven't I seen you with the greatest authors in your hands, and don't I know how ready your attention is to wander when it's a book that asks for it, instead of a person ? I spoke, a little way back, of my lady's father, the old lord with the short temper and the long tongue. He had five children in all. Two sons to begin with j then, after a long time, his wife broke out breeding again, and the three young ladies came briskly [one after the other, as fast as the nature of things would permit; my mis tress, as before mentioned, being the youngest and best of the^three. Of the two sons, the eldest, Arthur, inherited the title and estates. The second, the Honorable John, got a fine fortune left him by a relative, and went into the army. It's an ill bird, they say, that fouls its own nest. I look on the noble family of the Hern cofltles as being my nest; and I shall take it as a favor if I am not expected to enter into par ticulars on the subject of the Honorable John. He was, I honestly believe, one of the greatest blackguards that ever lived. I can hwdly say more or less for him than that. He went into the army, beginning in the Guards. He had to leave the Guards before he was two-and twenty—never mind why. They are very strict in the army, and they were too strict for the Honorable John. He went out to India to see whether they were equally strict there, and to try a little active service. In the matter of bravery (to give him his due) he was a mixture of bull-dog and game-cock, with a dash of the savage. He was at the taking of Seringapatam. Soon afterward he changed into another regi ment, and, in course of time, changed again into a third. In the third he got his last step as lieutenant-colonel, and, gettißg that, got also a sunstroke, and came home to England. He came back with a character that closed the doors of all hia family against him, my lady (then just married) taking the lead, and declar ing (with Sir John's approval, of course) that her brother should never enter any house of hers. There was more than one slur on the Colonel that made people shy of him; but the blot of the Diamond is all I need mention here. It was said he had got possession of his In dian jewel by means which, bold as he was, he didn't dare acknowledge. He neyer attempted to sell it—not being in need of money, and not
(to give him hit due again) making money an object. He never gave it away; he never even ?howed it to any living soul. Some said he was afraid of its getting him into a difficulty with the military authorities; others (very ignorant indeed of the real nature of the man) said he was afraid, if he showed it, of its costing him his life. There was perhaps a grain of truth mixed up with this last report. It was false to say he was afraid; but it was a fact that his life had been twice threatened in India; and it was firmly believed that the Diamond was at the bottom of it. When he came back to England, and found himself avoided by everybody, the Diamond was thought to be at the bottom of it again. The mystery of the Colonel's hie got in the Colonel's way, and outlawed him, as you may say, among his own people. The men wouldn't let him into their clubs; the women—more than one—whom he wanted to marry, refused him; friends and relations got too near-sighted to see him in the street. Some/men in this mess would have tried to set themselves right with the world. But to give in, even when he was wrong, and had all society against him, was not the way of the Honorable John. He had kept the Diamond, in flat de fiance of assassination, in India. He kept the Diamond, in flat defiance of public opinion, in England. There you have the portrait of the man before you, as in a picture : a character that braved everything'; and a face, handsome as it was, that looked possessed by the devil. We heard different rumors about him from time to time. Sometimes they said he was given up to smoking opium, and collecting old books; sometimes he was reported to be trying strange things in chemistry; sometimes he was seen carousing and amusing himself among the lowest people in the lowest slums of London. Anyhow, a solitary, vicious, underground life was the life the Colonel led. Once, and once only, after his return to England, I myself saw him, face to face. About two years before the time of which I am now writing, and about a year and a half before the time of his death, the Colonel oame unexpectedly to my lady's house in London- It was the night of Bliss Rachel's birthday, the twenty-first of June; and there was a party in honor of it, as usuaL I received a message from the footman to say that a gentleman wanted to see me. Going up into the hall, there I found the Colonel, wasted, and worn, and old, and shabby, and as wild and as wicked as ever. "Go np to my sister," says he, " and say that I have called to wish my niece many happy re turns of the day." He had made attempts by letter, more than once already, to be reconciled with my lady, for no other purpose, lam firmly persuaded, than to annoy her. But this was the first time he had actually come to the house. I had it on the tip of my tongue to say that my mistress had a party that night. But the devilish look of him daunted me. I went up stairs with his message, and left him, by his own desire, waiting in the hall. The servants stood staring at him, at a dis tance, as if he was a walking engine of destruc tion, loaded with powder and shot, and likely to go off among them at a moment's notice. My lady has a dash—no more—of the family temper. " Tell Colonel Herncastle," she said, when I gave her her brother's message, " that Miss Verinder is engaged, and that I decline to see him." I tried to plead for a civiler answer than that 7 knowing the Colonel's constitutional superiority to the restraints which govern gentlemen in general. Quite useless! The family temper flashed out at me directly. " When I want your advice," says my lady, "you know that I always ask for it. I don't ask for it now." I went down stairs with the message, of which I took the liberty of pre senting a new and amended edition of my own contriving, as follows: "My lady and Miss Rachel regret that they are engaged, Colonel; and beg to be-excused having the honor of see ing you." I expected him to break out, even at that polite way'of putting it. To my surprise he did nothing of the sort; he alarmed me by tak ing the thii|f-with' ail "unnatural quiet. His qyw»*#a-gUtt»ring bright grey, just settled on me fof a moment; and he laughed, not out of himself, like*ther people, but into himself, in a soft,- chuckling, hpjpidly mischievous way. "Thank you,'Belteredge;^he said. "I shall remember my 'niece's birthday." With that, he turned on his heel, and walked out of the house. ~ ' The next birthday came round, and. we heard he-was 31 in be* Six months afterward—that is to say, six months before the time I am now writing of—there came a letter from a highly respectable clergyman to my lady. It commu nioated two wonderful things in the way of family news. First, that the Colonel had for given his sister on his death-bed. Second, that he had forgiven everybody else, and had made a most edifying end. I have myself (in spite of the bishops and clergy) an unfeigned respeot for the Church; but lam firmly persuaded, at the same time, that the devil remained in undis turbed possession of the Honorable John, and that the last abominable act in the life of that j abominable man was (saving your presence) to take the clergyman in! This was ihe sum total of what I had to tell Mr. Franklin. I remarked that he listened more and more eagerly the longer I went on. Also, that the story of the Colonel being sent away from his sister's door, on the occasion of his niece's birthday, seemed to strike Mr. Franklin like a shot that had hit the mark. Though he didn't acknowledge it, I saw that I had made him uneasy, plainly enough, in his face. "You have said your say, Betteredge," he re marked. "It's my turn now. Before, how ever, I tell you what discoveries I have made in London, and how I come to be mixed up in this matter of the Diamond, I want to know one thing. You look, my old friend, as if you didn't quite understand the object to be answered by this consultation of ours. Do your looks belie you ?" "No, sir," I said. "My looks, on this oc casion at any rate, tell the truth." "In that case," says Mr. Franklin, " suppose I put you up to my point of view before we go any further. I see three very serious questions involved in the Colonel's birthday-gift to my cousin Rachel. Follow me carefully, Bettor edge ; and count me off on your fingers, if it will help you," says Mr. Franklin, with a certain pleasure in showing how clear-headed he could be, which reminded me wonderfully of old times when he was a boy. "Question the first: Was the Colonel's Diamond the object of a conspiracy in India? Question the second: Has the conspiracy followed the Colonel's Dia mond to England ? Question the third: Did the Colonel know the conspiracy followed the Diamond; and has he purposely left a legacy
of trouble and danger to his sister, througbf the innocent medium of his sister's child ? That is what 1 am driving at, Betteredge. Don't let me frighten you." -/ It was all very well to say that, but he had frightened me. If he was right, here was our quiet English house suddenly invaded by a devilish Indian diamond-r-bringing after it a conspiracy of liv ing rogues, set loose on us by the vengeance of a dead man. There was our situation, as re vealed to me in Mr. Franklin's last words! Who ever heard the like of it—in the nine teenth century, mind; in an age of progress, and in a country which rejoices in the blessings of the British Constitution ? Not ody ever heard the like of it, and, consequently, nobody can be expected to believe it. I shall go on with my story, however, in spite of that. When you get a sudden alarm, of the sort that I had got now, nine times out of ten the place you feel it in is your stomach. When you feel it in your stomach your attention wanders, and you begin to fidget. I fidgeted silently in my place on the sand. Mr. Franklin noticed me, contending with a perturbed stomach, or mind, which you please—they mean the same thing—and, checking himself just as he was starting with his part of the story, said to me, sharply, " What do you want?" What did I want ? I didn't tell him; but I'll tell you, in confidence. I wanted a whiff of my pipe, and a turn at Robinson Crusoe. Chapter VI. Keeping my private sentiments to myself, I respectfully requested Mr. Franklin to go on. Mr. Franklin replied, "Don't fidget, Better edge," and went on. Our young gentleman's first words informed me that his discoveries, concerning the wicked Colonel and the Diamond, had begun with a visit which he had paid (before he came to us) to his father's lawyer at Hampstead. A chance word dropped by Mr. Franklin, when the two were alone, one day, after dinner, revealed that he had been charged by his father with a birth day present to be taken to Miss Rachel. One thing led to another; and it ended in the lawyer mentioning what the present really was, and how the friendly connection between the late Colonel and Mr. Blake, sepior, had taken its rise. The facts here are really so extraordinary that I doubt if I can trust my own language to do justice to them. I prefer trying to report Mr. Franklin's discoveries, as nearly as may be in Mr. Franklin's own words. "You remember the time, Betteredge," he said, " when my father was trying to prove his title to that unlucky dukedom? Well! that was also the time when my uncle Herncastle re turned from India. My father discovered that his brother-in-law was in possession of certain papers which were likely to be of service to him in his lawsuit. He called on the Colonel, on pretence of welcoming him back to England. The Colonel was not to be deluded in that way. ' You want something,' he said, « or you would never hate compromised your reputation^ by calling on me.' My father saw the one chance for him was to show his hand: he admitted, at once, that he wanted the papers. The Colonel asked for a day to consider his answer. His answer came in the shape of a most extraordi nary letter, which my friend the lawyer showed me. The Colonel began o>y saying that he wanted something of my father, and that he begged to propose an exchange of friendly ser vices between them. The fortune of war (that was the expression he used) had placed him in possession of one of the largest diamonds in the world; and he had reason to believe that neither he nor his precious jewel was safe in any house, in any quarter of the globe, which they occupied together. Under these alarming circumstances he had determined to place his Diamond in the keeping of another person. That person was not expected to run any risk. He might deposit the precious stone in any place especially guarded and set apart—like a banker's or jeweller's strong-room—for the safe custody of valuables of high price. .His main personal responsibility in the matter was to be of the passive kind. He was to undertake either by himself, or by a trustworthy repreaen tative—to receive at a pre-arranged address, on certain pre-arranged days in every year, a note from the Colonel, simply stating the fact that he was a living man at that date. In the event of the date passing over without the note being, received, the Colonel's silence might be taken as a sure token of the Colonel's death by mur der. In that case, and in no other, certain sealed instructions relating to tbe disposal of the Diamond, and deposited with it, were to be opened, and followed implicitly. If my father chose to accept this strange charge, the Colonel's papers were at his disposal in return. That was the letter." " What did your father do, sir P" I asked. "Do?" says Mr. Franklin. "I'll tell you what he did. He brought the invaluable faculty called common-sense to bear on the Colonel's letter. The whole thing, he declared, was simply absurd. Somewhere in his Indian wanderings the Colonel had picked np with some wretched crystal which he took for a diamond. As for the danger of his being murdered, and the pre cautions devised to preserve his life and his piece of crystal, this was the nineteenth century, and any man in his senses had only to apply to the police. The Colonel had been a notorious opium-eater for years past; and, if the only way of getting at the valuable papers he possessed was by accepting a matter of opium as a matter of fact, my father was quite willing to take the ridiculous responsibility imposed upon him—all the more readily that it involved no trouble to himself. The Diamond and the sealed instruc tions went into his banker's strong-room, and the Colonel's letters, periodically reporting him a living man, were received and opened by the lawyer, as my father's representative. No sen sible person, in a similar position, could have viewed the matter in any other way. Nothing in this world, Betteredge, is probable unless it appeals to our own trumpery experience; and we only believe in a romance when •we see it in a newspaper." It was plain to me from this, that Mr. Franklin thought his father's notion about the Colonel hasty and wrong. " What is your own private opinion about the matter, sir?" I asked. " Let's finish the story of the Colonel first," says Mr. Franklin. " There is a curious want of system, Betteredge, in the English mind j and your question, my old friend, i 3 an instance of it. When we are not occupied in making machinery, we are (mentally speaking) the most slovenly people in the universe." "So much," I thought to myself, •" for a foreign education! He has learned that way of girding us in France, I suppose." Mr. Franklin took up the lost thread, and went on.
"2ly father," he said, "got the papers he wanted, and nerer saw his brother-in-law again, from that time. Year after year, on the pre arranged days, the pre-arranged letter came from the Colonel, and was opened by the lawyer. I hare seen the letters, in a heap, all of them written in the same brief, business-like form of words: ' Sir,—This is to certify that lam still a living man. Let the Diamond be. John Herncastle.' That was all he ever wrote, and that came regularly to the day; until some six or eight months since, when the form of the letter varied for the first time. It ran now : • Sir, —They tell me lam dying. Come to me, and help me to make my will.' The lawyer went, and found him, in the little suburban villa, surrounded by its own grounds, in which he had lived alone ever since he had left India. He had dogs, cats, and birds to keep him com pany ; but no human being near him, except the person who came daily to do the housework, and the doctor at the bedside. The will was a very simple matter. The Colonel had dissi pated the greater part of his fortune in his chemical investigations. His will began and ended in three clauses, which he dictated from his bed, in perfect possession of his faculties. The first clause provided for the safe-keeping and support of his animals. The second founded a professorship of experimental chemistry at a northern university. The third bequeathed the Moonstone as a birthday present to his niece, on condition that my father would act as exe cutor. My father at first refused to act. On second thoughts, however, he gave way, partly because he was assured that the executorship would involve him in no trouble; partly be cause the lawyer suggested, in Rachel's interest, that the Diamond might be worth something, after all." "Did the Colonel give any reason, sir," I in quired, "why he left the Diamond to Miss Rachel?" "He not only gave the reason—he had the reason written in his will," Baid Mr. Franklin. " I have got an extract, which you shall Bee presently. Don't be slovenly-minded, Better edge ! One thing at a time. You have heard about the Colonel's will; now you must hear what happened after the Colonel's death. It was formally necessary to have the Diamond valued, before the will could be proved. All the jewellers consulted, at onx confirmed the Colonel's assertion that he possessed one of the largest diamonds in the world. The question of accurately valuing it presented some serious difficulties. Its size made it a phenomenon in the diamond-market; its color placed it in a category by itself j and, to add to these ele ments of uncertainty, there was a defect, in the shape of a flaw, in the very heart of the stone. Even with this last serious drawback, however, the lowest of the various estimates given was twenty thousand pounds. Conceive my father's astonishment! He had been within a hair's breadth of refusing to act as executor, and of allowing this magnificent jewel to be lost to the family. The interest he took in the matter now .induced him to open the sealed instructions which had been deposited with the Diamond. The lawyer showed this document to me, with the other papers j and it suggests (to my mind) a clew to the nature of the conspiracy which threatened the Colonel's life." " Then you do believe, sir," I said, «that there was a conspiracy ?" " Not possessing my father's excellent com mon-sense," answered Mr. Franklin, " I believe the Colonel's life was threatened, exactly as the Colonel said. The sealed instructions, as I think, explain how it was that he died, after all quietly in his bed. In the event of his death by violence (that is to say, in the absence of the regular letter from him at the appointed date), my father was then directed to send the Moon stone secretly to Amsterdam. It was to be de posited in that city witti a famous diamond cutter, and it was to be cut up into from, four to six separate stones. The stones were then to be sold for what they would fetch, and the pro ceeds were to be applied to the founding of that professorship of experimental chemistry which the Colonel has since endowed by his will. Now, Betteredge, exert those sharp wits of yours, and observe the conclusion to which the Colonel's instructions point!" I instantly exerted my wits. They were of the slovenly English sort; and they consequently muddled it all until Mr. Franklin took them in hand, and pointed out what they ought to ace. "Remark," says Mr. Franklin, «that the in tegrity of the Diamond, as a whole stone, is here artfully made dependent on the preserva* tion from violence of the Colonel's life. He is not satisfied with saying to the enemies he dreads, • Kill me—and you will be no nearer to the Diamond than you are now; it is where you can't get at it—in the guarded strong-room of a bank.' He says instead, * Kill me—and the Diamond will be the Diamond no longer ; its identity will be destroyed.' What does that mean?" Here I had (as I thought) a flash of the wonderful foreign brightness. " I know!" I said. "It means lowering the value of the atone, and oheating the rogues in that way!" " Nothing of the sort," says Mr. Franklin. " I have inquired about that. The flawed Dia mond, cut up, would actually fetch more than the Diamond as it now is ; for this plain reason —that from four to six perfect brilliants might be cut from it, which would be, collectively, worth more money than the large—but imper fect—single stone. If robbery for the purpose of gain was at the bottom of the conspiracy, the Colonel's instructions absolutely made the Diamond better worth stealing. More money oould have been got for it, and the disposal of it in the diamond-mark, t would have been in finitely easier, if it had passed through the hands of the workmen of Amsterdam." "Lord bless us, sir!" I burst out. "What was the plot then ?" " A plot organised among the Indians who originally owned the jewel," says Mr. Franklin —" a plot with some old Hindoo superstition at the bottom of it. That is my opinion, con firmed by a family paper which I have about me at this moment." I saw dow wby the appearance of the three Indian jugglera at our house had presented it self to Mr.Franklinin the light of a circumstance worth noting. " I don't want to force my opinion on you," Mr. Franklin went on. « The idea of certain chosen servants of an old Hindoo superstition devoting themselves, through all difficulties and dangers, to watching the opportunity of recover ing their sacred gem, appears to me to be per fectly consistent with everything that we know of the patience of Oriental races, and the influ ence of Oriental religions. But then lam an imaginative man; and the butcher, the baker, and the tax-gatherer, are not the only credible realities in existence to my mind. Let the guess
I have made at the truth in this matter go for what it is worth, an let us get on to the only practical question that concerns U9. Does the conspiracy against the Moonstone survive the Colonel's death ? And did the Colonel know it, when he left the birthday gift to his niece ?" I began to see my lady and Miss Rachel at the end of it all, now. Not a word he sa id escaped me. «I was not very willing, when I discovered the story of the Moonstone," said Mr. Franklin, "to be the means of bringing it here. But my friend, the lawyer, reminded me that somebody must put my cousin's legacy into my cousin's hands—and that I might as well do it as any body else. After taking the Diamond out of the bank I fancied I was followed in the streets by a shabby, dark-complexioned man. I went to my father's house to pick up my luggage, and found a letter there, which unexpectedly de tained me in London. I went back to the bank with the Diamond, and thought I saw the shabby man again. Taking the Diamond once more out of the bank this morning, I saw the man for the third time, gave him the slip, and started (before he recovered the trace of me) by the morning instead of the afternoon train.' Here I am, with the Diamond safe and sound and what is the first news that meets me ? I find that three strolling Indians have been at the house, and that my arrival from London, and something .which I am expected to have about me, are two special objects of investiga tion to them when they believe themselves to be alone. I don't waste time and words on their pouring the ink into the boy's hand, and telling Rim to look in it for a man at a distance, and for something in that man's pocket. The thing (which I have often *een done in the east) is • hocus-pocus' in my opinion, as it is in yours. The present question for us to decide is whether I am wrongly attaching a meaning to a raero accident? or whether we really have evidence of the Indians being on the track of the Moonstone, the moment it is removed from the safe-keeping of the bank ?" Neither he nor I seemed to fancy dealing with this part of the inquiry. We looked at each other, and then we looked at the tide, ooz ing in smoothly, higher and higher, over the Shivering Sand. " What are you thinking of?" says Mr. Franklin, suddenly. " I was thinking, sir," I answered, " that I should like to shy the Diamond into the quick sand, and settle the question in that <ray." "If you have got the value of the stone in your pocket," answered Mr. Franklin, " say so, Betteredge, and in it goes !" • It's curious to note, when your mind's hnxious, how very far in the way of relief a*erj small joke will go. We found a fund of merri ment, at the time, in the notion of making way with Miss Rachel's lawful property, and getting Mr. Blake, as executor, into dreadful trouble though where the merriment was I am quite at a loss to discover now. Mr: Franklin was the first to bring the talk back to the talk's proper purpose. He took an envelope out of his pocket, opened it, and handed to mo the paper inside. " Betteredge," he said, "we must face the question of the Colonel's motive in leaving this legacy to his niece for my aunt's sake. Bear in mind how Lady Verinder treated her brother from the time when he returned to England, to the time when he told you he should remember his niece's birthday. And read that." He gave me the extract from the Colonel* will. I have got it by me while I write these jwords; and I copy it, as follows, for you : " Thirdly, and lastly, I give and bequeath to my nicoe, Rachel Verinder, daughter and only child of my sister, Julia Verinder, widow, the yellow Diamond belonging to me, and known in the east by the name of The Moonstone—sub ject to this condition, that hor mother, the said Julia Verinder, shall be living at the time. And I hereby desire my executor, in that event, to give my Diamond, either by his own hands or by the hands of some trustworthy representa tive whom he Bhall appoint, into the personal possession of my said niece Rachel, on her .next birthday after my death, and in the presence of my sister, the said Julia Verinder. And • furthermore, I desire also that my sister, as aforesaid, may be informed, by means of a true copy of this, ihe third and last clause of my will, that I give the Diamond to her daughter Rachel, in token of my free forgiveness of the injury which her conduct toward me has been the means of inflicting on my reputation in, my lifetime ; and especially in proof that I pardon, as becomes a dying man, the insult offered to me as an officer and a gentleman, when her* ser vant, by her orders, closed the door of her house, against me, on the occasion of her daughter's birthday." More words followed these, providing, i£ my lady was dead, or if Miss Rachel was dead, at the time of the testator's decease, for the Dia mond being sent to Holland, in accordance with the sealed instructions originally deposited with it. The proceeds of the sale were, in that case, to be added to the money already left by the will for the professorship of chemistry at the university in the north. I handed the paper back to Mr. Franklin, sorely troubled what to say to him. Up to that moment my own opinion had been (as you know) that the Colonel had died as wickedly as he had lived. I don't say the copy from his will actu ally converted me from that opinion: I only say it staggered me. " Well," says Mr. Franklin, " now you have read the Colonel's own statement, what do you say P In bringing the Moonstone to my aunt's house, am I serving his vengeance blindfold, or am I vindicating him in the charaoter of a peni tent and Christian man ?" "It seems hard to say, sir," I answered, a that he died with a horrid revenge in his heart, and a horrid lie on his lips. God alone knows the truth. Don't ask me." Mr. Franklin sat twisting and turning the ex tract from the will in his fingers, as if he ex pected to squeeze the truth out of it in that man- * ner. He altered quite remarkably at the same time. From being brisk and bright, he how be- * came, most unaccountably, a slow, solemn, and pondering joung man. " This question has two sides," he said. '« An objective side, and a subjective side. Which are we to take ?" • ? ** He had had a German education as well as a French. One of the two had been in undistur bed possession of him (as I supposed) up to thir - time. And now (as well as I could make out) * the other was taking its place. It is one of my rules in life never to notice what I don't under stand. I steered a middle course between the objective side and the subjective side. In plain " English, I stared hard and said nothing. " Let's extract the inner meaning of this," says Mr. Franklin. " Why did my uncle leave the Diamond to Rachel ? Why didn't he leave it to my aunt ?" " That's not beyond guessing, sir, at any rate," . - I said. " Colonel Herncastle knew my lady well enough to know that she would have refused to accept any legacy that came to her from him." " How did he know that Rachel might not re fuse to accept it, too ?" " Is there any young lady in existance, sir, who could resist the temptation of accepting such a birthday present as The Moonstone ?" " That's the subjective view," says Mr. Frank lin. "It does you great credit, Betteredge, to be able to take the subjective view. Bat there's another mystery about the Colonel's legacy which is not accounted for yat. How are we to explain his only giving Rachel her birthday present con ditionally on her mother being alive ?" " I don't want to slander a dead man, sir," I answered. « But if he has purposely left a legacy of trouble and danger to his sister, by the means cf her child, it must be a legacy made conditional on his sister's being alive to feel the vexation of it." " Oh! That's your interpretation of his mo tive, is it ? The subjective interpretation again , Have you ever been in Germany, Betteredge P" "Nc, sir. What's your interpretation, if you please?" " I can see," says Mr. Franklin, " that the Colonel's object may, quite possibly, have been —not to benefit his niece, whom he had never even seen —but to prove to his sister that he had died forgiving her, and to prove it very prettily # ' by means of a present made to her child. There is a totally different explanation from yours, Betteredge, taking its rise in a subjective objective point of view. From all I can see* one interpretation is just as likely to be right as the other." [to as contuusd.]