|Chapter Number||First Period: XI|
|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||The Moonstone|
BY WILKIE COLLINS. Author of "The Woman in White," "No Name," etc.
BEFORE WE knew which way to turn next my lady came in, hearing my voice in her daughter's sitting-room, and wondering what had hap-<*> pened. The news of the loss of the diamond
seemed to petrify her. She went straight to Miss Rachel's bedroom and insisted on being admitted. Miss Rachel let her in. The alarm, running through the house like fire, caught the two gentlemen next. Mr. Godfrey was the first to come out of his room. All he did when he heard what had happened was to hold up his hands in a state of bewilderment, which didn't say much for his natural strength of mind. Mr.%ranklin, whose clear head I had confidently counted on to ad vise us, seemed to be as helpless as his cousin when he heard the news in his turn. For a won der, he had had a good night's rest at last; and the unaccustomed luxury of sleep had, as he said himself, apparently Btupified him. How ever, when h« had swallowed his cup of coffee —which he always took, on the foreign plan, some hours before he ate any breakfast—his brains brightened ; the clear-headed side of him turned up, and he took the matter in hand, resolutely and cleverly, much as follows : He first sent for the servants, and told them to leave all ths lower doors and windows (with the exception of the front door, which I had opened) exactly as they had been left when we locked up overnight. He next proposed to his cousin and me to make quite sure, before we took any further steps, that the diamond had not accidentally dropped somewhere out of flight—say at the back of the cabinet, or down behind the table on which the cabinet stood. Having searched in both places, and found no thing—having also questioned Penelope, and discovered from her no more than the little she had already told me —Mr. Franklin suggested next extending our inquiries to Miss Rachel, and sent Penelope to knock at her bedroom door. My lady answered the knock, and closed the door behind her. The moment after we heard it locked inside by Miss Rachel. My mistress came out among us, looking sorely puzzled and distressed. " The loss of the diamond seems to have quite overwhelmed Rachel," she said, in reply to Mr. Franklin. " She shrinks, in the strangest manner, from speaking of it, even to me. It is impossible you can see her for the present." Having added to our perplexities by this ac count of Miss Rachel, my lady, after a little effort, recovered her usual composure, and acted with her usual decision. " I Buppose there is no help for it ?" Bhe said, quietly. " I suppose I have no alternative but to send for the police ?" " And the first thing for the police to do," added Mr. Franklin, catching her up, " is to lay hands on the Indian jugglers who performed here last night." My lady and Mr. Godfrey (not knowing what Mr. Franklin and I knew) both started, and both looked surprised. "I can't stop to explain myself now," Mr. Franklin went on. " I can only tell you that the Indians have certainly stolen the diamond. Give me a letter of introduction," says he, ad dressing my lady, " to one of the magistrates at Frizinghall— merely telling him that I represent your interests and wishes, and let me ride off with it instantly. Our chanse of catching the thieves may depend on our not wasting one un necessary minute." (Nota bene: Whether it was the French side or the English, the right side of Mr. Franklin seemed to be uppermost now. The only question was, How long would it last?") He put pen, ink, and paper before his aunt, who (as it appeared to me) wrote the letter he wanted a little unwillingly. If it had been pos sible to overlook such an erent as the loss of a jewel worth twenty thousand pounds, I believe —with my lady's opinion of her late brother, and her distrust of his birthday-gift—it would have been privately a relief to her to let the thieves get off with the Moonstone scot-free. I went out with Mr. Franklin to the stables, and took the opportunity of asking him how the Indians (whom I suspected, of course, as shrewdly as he did) could possibly have got into the house. " One of them might have slipped into the hall, in the confusion, when the dinner-company were going away," says Mr. Franklin. "The fellow may have been under the sofa while my aunt and Rachel were talking about where the diamond was to be put for the night. He would only have to wrk gn the house was quiet, and there it would be in the cabinet, to lc narf »?«• the taking." With those words Iv* called to I the groom to open the gate, and galloped off. •?' This seemed certainly to be the only rational explanation. But how had the thief cjntrived to make his escape from the house ? I had found the front door locked aud bolted, as I had left it at night, when I went to open it, afte r getting up. As for the other doors and win dows, there they were still, all safe and fast, to speak for themselves. The dogs, too ? Suppose the thief had got away by dropping from one of the upper windows, how had he escaped the dogs ? Had he come provided for them with drugged meat? As the doubt cro.sed my mind, the dogs themselves came galloping at me round a corner, rolling each other over on the wet grass, in such lively health and spirits that it was with no small difficulty I brought them to reason, and chained them up again. The more I turned it over in my mind, the less satisfactory Mr. Franklin's explanation appeared to be. We had our breakfasts— whatever happens in a house, robbery or murder, it doesn't matter, you must have your breakfast. When we had done, my lady sent for me ; and I found myself compelled to tell her all that I had hitherto concealed, relating to the Indians and their plot. Being a woman of high courage, she soon got over the first startling effect of what I had to communicate. Her mind seemed to be far more perturbed about her daughter than about the heathen rogues and their conspiracy. •'You know how odd Rachel is, and how differently she behaves sometimes from other girls," my lady said to me. " But I have never, in all my experience, seen her so strange and so reserved as she is now. The loss of her jewel seems almost to have turned her brain. Who would have thought that horrible diamond could have laid such a hold on her in so short a time?" It was certainly strange. Taking toys and trinkets in general, Mies Rachel was nothing
like so mad after them as most young girls. Yet there Bhe was, still locked up incbnsolably in her bedroom. It is but fair to add that she was not the only one of us in the house who was thrown out of the regular groove. Mr. Godfrey for instance —though professionally a sort of consoler-general —seemed to be at a loss where to look for his own resources. Having no company to amuse him, and getting no chance of trying what his experience of women in distress could do towaid comforting Miss Rachel, he wandered hither and thither about the house and garden in an aimles3 unea?y way. He was in two different minds about what it became him to do, after the misfortune that had happened to us. Ought he to relieve the family, in their present situation, of the re sponsibility of him as a guest? or ought he to stay on the chance that even his humble ser vices might be of some use? Be decided ulti mately that the last course was perhaps the most customary and considerate course to take, in such a very peculiar case of family distress as this was. Circumstances try the metal a man is really made of. Mr. Godfrey, tried by circumstances, showed himself of weaker metal than I had thought him to be. As for the wo men servants—excepting Rosanna Spearman, who kept by herself—they took to whispering together in corners, and staring at everything suspiciously, as is the manner of that weaker half of the human family, when any tiling extra ordinary happens in a house. I myself ac knowledged to having been fidgety and ill tempered. The cursed Moonstone had turned us all upside down. A little before 11 Mr. Franklin came back. The resolute side of him had, to all appearance, given way, in the interval since his departure, under the stress that had been laid on it. He had left us at a gallop; he came back to us at a walk. When he went away he was made of iron. When he returned, he was stuffed with cotton, as limp as limp could be. " Well!" cays my lady, " are the police com ing?" " Yes," says Mr. Franklin ; " they said they would follow me in a fly. Superintendent See grave, of your local police force, and two oi his men. A mete form! The case is hope less." " What! have the Indians escaped, sir ?" I asked. " The poor ill-used Indians have been most unjustly put in prison," says Mr. Franklin. " They are as innocent as the babe unborn, My idea that one of them was hidden in the house has ended, like all the rest of my ideas, in smoke. It's been proved," says Mr. Frank lin, dwelling with great relish on his own in capacity, " to be Bimply impossible." After astonishing us by announcing this to tally new turn in the matter of the Moonstone our young gentleman, at his aunt'e request, took a seat, and explained himself. It appeared that the resolute side of him had held out as far as Frizinghall. He had put the whole case plainly before the magistrate, and the magistrate had at once sent for the police. The first inquiries instituted abeut the Indians showed that t hey had not so much as attempted to leave the town. Further questions addressed to the police proved that all three had been seen returning to Frizinghall with their boy, on the previous night between 10 and 11—which (re gard being had to hours and distances) also proved that they had walked straight back after performing on our terrace. Later still, at mid night, the police having occasion to search the common lodging-house where they lived, had seen them all three again, and their little boy with them as usual. Soon after midnight I myself had safely Bhut up the house. Plainer evidence than this, in favor of the Indians, there could not well be. The magistrate said there was not even a case of suspicion against them, so far. But, as it was just possible, when the police came to investigate the matter, that dis coveries affecting the jugglers might be made, he would contrive, by committing them as rogues and vagabonds, to keep them at our dis posal, under lock and key for a week. They had ignorantly done something (I forget what) in the town, which barely brought them within the operation of the law. Every human insti tution (justice included) will stretch a little, if you only pull it the right way. The worthy magistrate was an old friend of my lady's—and the Indian lot were " committed" for a week, aa soon as the court opened that moraine. Such was Mr. Franklin's narrative of events at Frizinghall. The Indian clew to the mystery of the lost jewel was now, to all appearance, a clew that had broken in our hands. If the jugglers were innocent, who, in the name of wonder, had taken the Moonstone out of Miss Rachel's drawer ? Ten minutes later, to our infinite relief, Superintendent Seegrave arrived at the house. He reported passing Mr. Franklin on the ter race, sitting in the sun (I suppose with the Italian side of him uppermost) j and warning the police, as they went by, that the investiga tion V7M hopeless before the investigation had begun. For a family in our situation, the superinten dent of the Frizinghall police was the most com forting officer you could wish to see. Mr. See grave was tall and portly, and military in his manners. Ho had a fine commanding voice, and a mighty resolute eye, and a grand frock coat which buttoned beautifully up to his leather stock. " I'm the man you want!" was written all over his face; and he ordered hia two inferior policemen about with a severity which convinced us a'l that there was no trifling with him. He began by going round the premises, out side and in ; the result of that investigation proving to him that no thieves had broken in upon us from outside, and that the robbery, consequently, must hare been committed by •ome person in the house. I leave you to imagine the state the servants were in when this official announcement first reached their ears. The superintendent decided to begin by examin ing the boudoir ; and, that dose, to examine the servants next. At the surue time he posted one of his men on the staircase which led to the servants' bedrooms, with instructions to let no body in the house pass him till further orders. At this latter proceeding the weaker half of the human family went distracted on the spot. They bounced out of their corners ; whisked up stairs in a body to Miss Ruchel's room (Ro aanna Spearman being carried away among them this time) ; burst in on Superintendent Seegrave; and all looking equally guilty, sum moned him to say which of them he suspected, at once. Mr. Superintendent proved equal to the occa sion—he looked at them with his resolute eye, and he cowed them with his military voice. " Now, then, you. women, go down stairs again, every one of you. I won't have you here. Lock!" says Mr. Superintendent, suddenly pointing to a little smear of the decorative
painting on Miss Bachel's door —at the outer edge, just under the lock. " Look what mis chief the petticoats of some of you have done already. Clear out! clear out!" Rosanna Spearman, who was nearest to him, and nearest to the little smear on the door, set the example of obedience, and slipped off instantly to her : work. The rest followed her out. The Super intendent finished his examination of the room ; and, making nothing of it, asked me who had j first discovered the robbery. My daughter had first discovered it. My daughter was sent [ for. Mr. Superintendent proved to be a little too sharp with Penelope at starting. " Now, young woman, attend to me—and mind you speak the truth." Penelope fired up instantly. " I've never been taught to tell lies, Mr. Policeman ! i —and if father cau stand there and hear me j accused of falsehood and thieving, and my own bedroom shut against me, and my character taken away, which is all a poor girl has left, I he's not the good father I take him for!" A timely word from me put Justice and Penelope on a pleasauter footing together. The ques tions and answers went swimmingly ; and ended in nothing worth mentioning. My daughter had seen Miss Each el put the diamond in the drawer of the cabinet, the last thing at night. She had gone in with Miss Rachel's cup of tea, at 8 the next morning, and had found the drawer open and empty. Upon that she had alarmed the house —anu there was an end of Penelope's evidence. Mr. Superintendent next asked to see Miss Rachel herself. Penelope mentioned his request through the door. The answer reached us by the same roau: " I have nothing to tell the policeman—l can't see anybody." Our ex perienced officer looked equally surprised and offended when he heard that reply. I told him my young lady was ill, and begged him to wait a little and see her later. We thereupon went down stairs again; and were met by Mr. God frey and Mr. Franklin crossing the hall. The two gentlemen, being inmates of the house, were summoned to say if they could throw any light on the matter. Neither of them knew anything about it. Had they heard any suspicious noises during the previous night? They had heard nothing but the pattering of the rain. Had I, lying awake longer than either of them, heard . nothing either ? No thing ! Released from examination, Mr. Franklin (still sticking to the helpless view of our difficulty) whispered to me: " That man will be of no earthly use to us. Superintendent Seegrave is an ass." Released in his turn, Mr. Godfrey whispered to me: " Evidently a com petent person, Bettercdge; I have the greatest faith in him! Many men, many opinions, as one of the ancients said, before my time. Mr. Superintendent's next proceeding took him back to the "boudoir" again, with my daughter and me at his heels. His object was to discover whether any of the furniture had been moved during the night out of its custom ary place—his previous investigation in the room having, apparently, not gone quite far enough to satisfy his mind on this point. While we were still poking about among the chairs and tables the door of the bedroom was suddenly opened. After having denied herself to everbody, Miss Rachel, to our astonishment, walked into the midst of us of her own accord. She took up her garden hat from a chair and then went straight to Penelope with this ques tion : " Mr. Franklin Blake sent you with a message to me this morniug ?" " Yes, miss." " He wished to speak to me, didn't he ?" " Yes, miss." " Where is he now ?" Hearing voices on the terrace below I looked out of the window, and saw the two gentlemen walking up and down together. Answering for my daughter, I said, " Mr. Franklin is on the terrace,,miss." Without another word, without heeding Mr. Superintendent, who tried to speak to her, pale as death, and wrapped up strangely in her own thoughts, she left the room, and went down to her cousins on the terrace. It showed a want of due respect, it showed a breach of good manners on my part ,? but, for the life of me I couldn't help looting out of the window when Miss Rachel xiiet the gentlemen outside. She went up to Mr. Franklin without appearing to notice Mr. Godfrey, whojhereupon drew back and left them by themselves. What she said to My. Franklin appeared to be spoken vehcmentlj. It lasted but for a short time; and (judging by what I saw of his face from the window) seemed to astonish him beyond all power of expression. While they were still to gether my lady appeared on the terrace. Miss Rachel caw her —said a few last words to Mr. Franklin —and suddenly went back into the house again, before her mother came up with her. My lady, surprised herself, and noticing Mr. Franklin's surprise, spoke to him. Mr. Godfrey joined them and spoke also. Mr. Franklin walked away a little, between the two, telling them what had happened, I suppose ; for they both stopped short, after taking a few steps, like persons struck with amazement. I had just seen as much as this when the door of the sitting-room was opened violently. Miss Rachel walked swiftly through to her bedroom, wild and angry, with fierce eyes and flaming cheeks. Mr. . Superintendent once more at tempted to question her. She turned round on him at her bedroom door. " I have not sent for you!" she cried out, vehemently. "I don't want you. My diamond is lost. Neither you nor anybody will ever find it!" With those words she went in, and locked the door in our faces. Penelope, standing nearest to it, heard her burst out crying the moment she was alone again. In a rage one moment, in tears the next! What did it mean ? I told the Superintendent it meant that Miss Rachel's temper was upset by the loss of her jewel. Being anxious for the honor of the family, it distressed me to see my young lady forget herself —even with a police-officer—and I made the best excuse I could, accordingly. In my own private mind I was more puzzled by Miss Rachel's extraordinary language and con duct than words can tell. Taking what she had Baid at her bedroom door as a guide to guess by, I could only conclude that she was mortally of fended by our sending for the police, and that Mr. Franklin's astonishment on the terrace was caused by her having expressed herself to him (as the person chiefly instrumental in fetching the police) to that effect. If this guess was right, why—having lost her diamond—Bhould Bbc object to the presence in the house of the very people whose business it .was to recover it for her? And how, in Heaven's name, could she krow that the Moonstone would never be found again? As things stood at present no answer to those
questions was to be hoped for from anybody in the house. Mr. Franklin appeared to think it a point of honor to forbear repeating to a servant —even to so old a servant as I was—what Miss Rachel had said to him on- the terrace, Mr. Godfrey, who, as a gentleman and arelative.had been probably admitted into Mr. Franklin's confidence, respected that confidence as he was bound to do. My lady, who was also in the secret no doubt, and who alone had access to Miss Bachel, owned openly that she could make nothing of her. "You madden me when jou talk of the diamond !" All her mother's influ ence failed to extract from her a word more than that. Here we were, then, at a dead lock about Mi6s Rachel—and at a dead lock about the Moonetone. In the first ease, my lady was powerless to help us. In the second (as you shall presently judge), Mr. Seegrave was fast approaching the condition of a superintendent at his wit's end. Having ferreted about all over the " bou doir," without making any discoveries among the furniture, our experienced officer applied to me to know, whether the servants in general were or were not acquainted with the place in which the diamond had been put for the night. " I knew where it was yat, sir," I said, "to begin with. Samuel the footman, knew also — for he was present in the hall when they were talking about where the diamond was to be kept that night. My daughter knew, as she has al ready told you. She or Samuel may have men tioned the thing to the other servants —or the other servants may have heard the talk for themselves, through the side-door of the hall, which might have been open to the back stair case. For all I can tell everybody in the house may have known where the jewel was last night." My answer presenting rather a wide field for Mr. Superintendent's suspicions to range over, he tried to narrow it by asking about the ser vants' characters next. I thought directly of Rosanna Spearman. But it was neither my place nor my wish to direct suspicion against a poor girl whose honesty had been above all doubt as long as I had known her. The matron at the reformatory had reported her to my lady as a sincerely peni tent and thoroughly trustworthy girl. It was the Superintendent's business to discover reason for suspecting her first —and then, and not till then, it would be my duty to tell him how she came into my lady's service. " All our people have excellent characters," I said. " And all have deserved the trust their mistress has placed in them." After that there was but one thing left for Mr. Seegrave to do —namely, to set to work and tackle the servants'characters himself. One after another they were examined. One after another they proved to have nothing to Bay —and said it (so far as the women were con cerned) at great length, and with a very angry sense of the embargo laid on their bedrooms. The rest of them being sent back to their places down stairs, Penelope was then summoned, and examined separately a second time. My daughter's little outbreak of temper in the " boudoir," and her readiness to think herself suspected, appeared to have produced an un favorable impression on Superintendent See grave. It seemed also to dwell a little on his mind that she had been the last person who saw the diamond at night. When the second ques tioning was over my girl came back to me in a frenzy. There was no doubt of it any longer — the police-officer had almost as good as told her she was the thief! I could scarcely believe him (taking Mr. franklin's view) to be quite such an ass as that. But, though he said nothing, the eye with which he looked at my daughter was not a pleasant eye to see. I laughed it off with poor Penelope, as something too ridicu lous to be treated seriously —which it certainly was. Secretly, I am afraid I was foolish enough to be angry too. It wa? a little trying —it was indeed. My girl s»t down in a corner with her apron over h^r head, quite broken-hearted. Foolish of lier, you will say: she might have waited till he openly accused her. Well, being p man of just an equal temper, I admit that. Still Mr. Superintendent might have remem bered —never mind what he might have remem bered. The devil take him ! The next and last step in the investigation brought matters, as they say, to a crisis. The officer had an interview (at which I was present) with my lady. After informing her that the diamond must have been taken by somebody in the house, he requested permission for himself and his men to search the servants' rooms and boxes on the spot. My good mistress, like the generous, high-bred woman she waß, refused to let us be treated like thieves. " I will never consent to make such a return as that," she said, " for all I owe to the faithful servants who are employed in my house." Mr. Superintendent made his bow, with a look in my direction, which said plainly, " Why em ploy me if you are to tie my hands in this way ?" As head of the servants, I felt directly that we were bound, in justice to all parties, not to profit by our mistress's generosity. "We gratefr'.ly thank your ladyship," I said ; " but we ask per mission to do what is right in this matter by giv ing up our keys. When Gabriel Betteredge sets the example," says I, stopping Superintendent Seegrave at the door, " the rest of the servants will follow, I promise you. There are my key§, to begin with!" My lady took me by the hand, and thanked me with the tears in her eyes. Lord! what would I not have given, at that mo ment, for the privilege of knocking Superinten dent Seegrave down! As I had promised for them, the other servants followed my lead, sorely against the grain, of course, but all taking the view that I took. The women were a sight to ccc, while the police officers were rumaging among their things. The cook looked as if she could grill Mr. Super intendent alive on a furnace, and the other wo men looked as if they could eat him when he was done. The search over, and no diamond or sign of a diamond being found, of course, anywhere, Superintendent Seegrave retired to mj little room to consider with himself what he was to do next. He and his men had now been hours in the house? and had not advanced us one inch towards a dis covery of how the Moonstone had been taken, or of whom we were to suspect as the thief. While the police-officer was still pondering in solitude, I was sent for to see Mr. Franklin in the library. To my unutterable astonishment, just as my hand was on the door it was suddenly opened from the inside, and out walked Rosanna Spearman! After the library had been swept and cleaned in the morning, neither first aor second house maid had any business in that room at any later period of the day. I stopped Rosanna Spear man, and charged her with a breach of domeßtic discipline on the spot.
" What might you want in the library at this time of day ?" I enquired. "Mr. Franklin Blake dropped one of his rings up stairs," says Rosanna ; " and I have : been into the library to give it to him." The j girl's face was all in a flush as she made me that answer; and she walked away with a toss of her head and a look of self-importance which I was quite at a loss to account for. The pro ceedings in the house had doubtless upset all the women servants more or less ; but none of them had gone cleau out of their natural characters, as Rosanna, to all appearance, had now gone out of hers. I found Mr. Franklin writing at the library table. He asked for a conveyance to the rail way station the moment I entered the room. The first sound of his voice informed me that we now had the resolute side of him uppermost once more. The man made of cotton had dis appeared ; and the man made of iron sat before me again. " Going to London, sir ?" I asked. " Going to telegraph to London," says Mr. Franklin. " I have convinced my aunt that we must have a cleverer head than Superintendent Seegrave's to help us ; and I have got her per mission to dispatch a telegram to my father. He knows the Chief Commissioner of Police, and the commissioner can lay his hand on the right man to solve the mystery of the diamond. Talking of mysteries, by-the-bye," says Mr. Franklin, dropping his voice, " I have another word to say to you before you go to the stables. Don't breathe a word of it to anybody as yet; but either Rosanna Spearman's head is not quite right, or I am afraid she knows more about the Moonstone than she ought to know." I can hardly tell whether I was more startled or distressed at hearing him say that. If I had been younger, I might have confessed as much to Mr. Franklin. But when you are old, you acquire one excellent habit. In cases where you don't see your way clearly, you hold your tongue. " She came in here with a ring I dropped in my bedroom," Mr. Franklin went on. "When I had thanked her, of course I expected her to go. Instead o£ that she stood opposite to me at the table, looking at me in the oddest manner —half frightened, and half familiar—l couldn't make it out. (This is a strange thing about the diamond, sir,' she said, in a curiously sudden headlong way. I said, Yes it was, and wondered what was coming next. Upon my honor, Betteredge, I think Bhe must be wrong in the head! She said, ' They will never find the dia mond, sir, will they ? No! nor the person who took it—l'll answer for that.' She actually nodded and smiled at me! Before I could ask her what she meant, we heard your step out side. I suppose she was afraid of your catch ing her here. At any rate, she changed color and left the room. What on earth does it mean ?" I could not bring myself to tell him the girl's story even then. It would have been almost as good as telling him that she was the thief. Be sides, even if I had made a clean breast of it, and even supposing she was the thief, the reason why she should let out her se^d to ilr. Frank lin, of all the people in tte world, would have been still as far to seek 39 ever. " I can't bear the idea of getting the poor girl into a scrape, merely because she has a flighty way with her, and talks very strangely," Mr. Franklin went on. " And yet, if she had said to thi Superintendent what she said to me, fool aa he is, I'm afraid—" He stopped there, and left the rest unspoken. " The best way, sir," I said, " will be for me to 6ay two word 8 privately to my mistress about it at the first opportunity. My lady has a very friendly interest in Rosanna; and the girl may only have been forward and foolish, after all. When there's a mess of any kind in a house, sir, the women-servants like to look at the gloomy side—it gives the poor wretches a kind of importance in their own eyes. If there's anybody ill, trust the women for prophesying that the person will die. If it's a jewel lost, trust them for prophesying that it will never be found again." This view (which I am bound to say I thought a probable view myself on reflection) seemed to relieve Mr. Franklin mightily; he folded up his telegram and dismissed the subject. On my way to the stables to order the pony-chaise I looked in at the servants' hall where they were at dinner. Rosanna Spearman was not among them. On inquiry I found that she had been suddenly taken ill, and had gone upstairs to her own room to lie down. " Curious! She looked well enough when I saw her last," I remarked. Penelope followed me out. " Don't talk in that way before the rest of them, father," she j said. " You only make them harder on Rosanna than ever. The poor thing is breaking her heart about Mr. Franklin Blake." Here was another view of the girl's conduct. If it was possibe for Penelope to be right, the explanation of Rosanna's ttrange language and behaviour might have been all in this—that she didn't care what she said so long as she could surprise Mr. Franklin into speaking to her. Granting that to be the right reading of the riddle, it accounted, perhaps, for her flighty, self-conceited manner when she passed me in the hall. Though he had only said three words, still she had carried her point, and Mr. Franklin had spoken to her. I saw the pony harnessed myself. In the in fernal net-work of mysteries and uncertainties that now surrounded us, I declare it was a relief to observe how well the buckles and straps un derstood each other! When you had seen the pony backed into the shafts of the chaise you had seen something there was no doubt about. And that, let me tell you, was becoming a treat of the rarest kind in our household. Going round with the chaise to the front door I found not only Mr. Franklin, but Mr. Godfrey and Superintendent Seegrave also, waitirgfor me on the steps. Mr. Superintendent's reflections (after failing to find the diamond in the servants' rooms or boxes) had led him, it appeared, to an entirely new conclusion. Still sticking to his first text, namely, that somebody in the house had stolen the jewel, our experienced officer was now of opinion that the thief (he was wise euough not to name poor Penelope, whatever he might pri- I vately think of her!) had been acting in concert with the Indians; and he accordingly proposed shifting his inquiries to the jugglers in the prison lat Frizinghall. Hearing of this new move Mr. i Frankling had volunteered to take the Superin- I tendent back to the town, from which he could telegraph to London as easily as from our. station. Mr. Godfrey, still devoutly believing in Mr. Seegrave, and greatly interested in wit nessing the examination of the Indians, had begged-leave to accompany the officer to Frizing hall. One of the two inferior policemen was to be left at the house in case anything happened. The other was to go back with the Superinten dent to the town. So the four places in the pony chaise were just filled. Before he took the reins to drive off, Mr. Franklin walked me away a few steps out of hearing of the othere.
" I will wait to telegraph to London," he said, "till I see what comes of our examination of the Indians. My own conviction ie, that this mud dle-headed local police-officer is as much in the dark as ever, and ia simply trying to gain time. The idea of any of the servants being in league with the Indians is a preposterous absurdity in my opinion. Keep about the house, Betteredge, till I come back, a-d try what you can make of Kosanna Spearman. I don't ask you to do any thing degrading to your own self-respect, or any thing cruel toward the girl. I only ask you to exercise your observation more carefully than usual. We will make a 3 light of it as we can before my aunt; but this i 3 a more i mportaat matter than you may suppose." "h's a matter of twenty thousand pounds, sir, I said, thinking of the value of the dia moncl. "It's a matter of quieting Rachel's mind' answered Mr. Franklin, gravely. "I am very uneasy about her." J He left me suddenly, as if he desired to cut short any further talk between us. I thought I understood why. Further talk might have let me into the secret of what Miss Rachel had said to him on the terrace. So they drove away to Frizinghall. I was ready enough, in the girl's own interest, to have a little talk with Rosanna in private. But the needful opportunity failed to present itself. She only came down stairs again at tea-time. When she did appear she was flighty and excited, had what they call an hysterical attack, took a dose of sal volatile by my lady's order, and was sent back to her bed. The day wore on to its end drearily and miserably enough, I can tell you. Miss Rachel still kept her room, declaring that she was too ill to come down to dinner that day. My lady was in such low spirits about her daughter that I could not bring myself to make her addition ally anxious by reporting what Rosanna Spear man had said to Mr. Franklin. Penelope per sisted in believing that she was to be forthwith tried, sentenced, and transported for theft. The other women took to their Bibles and hymn books, aud looked as sour as verjuice over their reading—a result, which I have observed, in my sphere of life, to follow generally on the per formance of acts of piety at unaccustomed periods of the day. As for me, I hadn't even heart enough to open my Robinson Crusoe. I went out into the yard, and being hard up for a little cheerful society, set my chair by the ken nels and talked to the dog 3. Half an hour before dinner-time the two gentlemen came back from Frizinghall, having arranged with Superintendent Seegrave that he was to return to us the next day. They had called on Mr. Murthwaite, the Indian traveller, at his present residence, near the town. At Mr. Franklin's request he had kindly given them the benefit of his knowledge of the language, in dealing with those two, out of the three In dians, who knew nothing of English. The ex amination, conducted carefully, and at great length, had ended in nothing; not the shadow of a reason being discovered for suspecting the jugglers of having tampered with any of our servants. On reaching that conclusion, Mr. Franklin had sent his telegraphic message to London, and there the matter now rested till to morrow came. So much for the history of the day that fol lowed the birthday. Noi a glimmer of light had broken in on us so far. A day or two after, however, the darkness lifted a little. How, and with what result, you shall presently see. Chapter XII. The Thursday night passed, and nothing hap pened. With the Friday morning came two pieces of news. Item the first: TLio baker's man declared he hpd rne.t P-?ot»nna Spearman, on the previous afternoon, with a thick veil on, walking toward Frizinghall by the footpath way over the moor. It seemed strange that anybody should be mis taken about Rosanna, whose shoulder marked her out pretty plainly, poor thing—but mistaken the man must have been ; for Rosanna, as you know, had been all the Thursday afternoon ill up stairs in her room. Item the second came through the postman. Worthy Mr. Candy had said one more of his many unlucky things, when he drove off in the rain on the birthday night, aud told me that a doctor's skin was water-proof. In spite of his skin the wet had got through him. He had caught a chill that night and was now down with a fever. The last accounts, brought by the postman, represented him to be light-headed— talking nonsense as glibly, poor man, in his de lirium as he often talked it in his sob.r sense. We were all sorry for the little doctor; but Mr. Frankliu appeared to regret his illness chiefly on Miaa Rachel's account. From what he said to my lady while I was in the room at breakfast time he appeared to think that Miss Rachel—if the suspense about the Moonstone was not soon set at rest —might stand in urgent need of the best medical advice at our disposal. Breakfast had not been over long when a tele gram from Mr. Blake, the elder, arrived in answer to his son. It informed us that he had laid hands (by help of his friend the commis sioner) on the right man to help us. The name of him was Sergeant Cuff, and the arrival of him from London might be expected by the morning train. At reading the name of the new police-officer Mr. Franklin gave a start. It seems that he had heard some curious anecdotes about Sergeant Cuff from his father's lawyer during his stay in London. " I begin to hope we are seeing the end of our anxieties already," he said. "If half the stories I have heard are true, when it comes to unraveling a mystery there isn't the equal in England of Sergeant Cuff!" We all got excited and impatient as the time drew near for the appearance of this renowned and capable character. Superintendent Seegrave returning to us at his appointed time, and hear ing that the Sergeant was expected, instantly shut himself up in a room, with pen, ink, and paper, to make notes of the report which would be certainly expected from him. I should have liked to have gone to the station myself to fetch the sergeant. But my lady's carriage and horses were not to be thought of, even for the celebrated Cuff; and the pony-chaise was re quired later for Mr. Godfrey. He deeply re gretted being obliged to leave his aunt at such an anxious time; and he kindly put off the hour of his dep»rture till as late as the last ti-ain, for the purpose of hearing what the clever London police-officer thought of the case. But on Fri day uight he cnust be in town, having a ladUa' charity, in difficulties, waiting to consult him on Saturday morning, When the time came for the sergeant's arrival I went down to the gate to look out for him. A fly from the railway drove up as I reached the lodge; and out got a grizzled, elderly man, so miserably lean that he looked as if he hud not got an ounce of flesh on his bones in any part of him. He was dressed all in decent black, with a white cravat round his neck. His face was as sharp as a hatchet, and the skin of it was as yellow and dry and withered as an autumn leaf. His eyes, of a steely light grey, had a very dis concerting trick, when they encountered your eves, of looking as if they expected something more from you than you were aware of yourself. His walk was sofr ; his voice was melancholy ; his long lanky fingers were hooked like claws. He might have been a par.-on, or an undertaker, or anytbing else you like, except what h« really was. A more complete opposite to Superinten dent S.-egrave than Sergeant Cuif, and a less comforting officer to look at for a family in dis- | tress, I defy you to discover, search where you ma}'. " Is this Lady Verinder's ?" he asked. " Yes, sir." " I am Sergeant Cuff." " This way, sir, if you please." On our road to the house I mentioned my name and position in the* family, to satisfy him that he might speak to me about the business on which my lady was to employ him. Not a word did he say about the business, however, for all that. He admired the grounds, and remarked j that he felt the sea air very brisk and refreshing. I privately wondered, on my side, how the cele brated Cuff had got his reputation. We reached the house, in the temper of two strange dogs, coupled up together for the first time in their lives by the same chain. Asking for my lady, and hearing that she was in one of the conservatories, we went round to the gardens at the back and Bent a servant to seek her. While we were waiting Sergeant Cuff I looked through the evergreen arch on our left
!?ft! * °ut °ur'osary, and walked straight in, SL %? * i , aPPearaQce of anything like in terest. thathehad shown yet. To the gardener's £ !hment' and to my disgust, this celebrated policeman proved to be quite a mine of learning on the trumpery subject of rose-gardens. An, you ye got the right exposure here to the south and sou'west," says the Sergeant, with ft wag of his grizzled head, and a streak of pleasure m his melancholy voice. " I his is the shape for a rosary—nothing like a circle set in a square. Yes, yes ; with walks between all the beds. But they oughtn't to be gravel-walks like these. Grass, Mr. Gardener—grass walkg be tween jour roses ; gravel's too hard for them. That s a sweet pretty bed of white roses and blush roses. They always mix well together, don't they? Here's the white musk-rose, Mr. C Betteredge—our old English rose holding up its head along with the best and the newest of them. Pretty dear!" sajs the Sergeant, fond hug the musk-rose with his lanky fingers, and speaking to it as if he was speaking to a child. This was a nice sort of man to recover Miss Rachel's diamond, and to fiud out the thief who stole it! " You seem to be fond of roses, "Sergeant ?" I remarked. " I haven't much time to be fond of anything," says Sergeant Cuff. '• But, when I have a mo ment s fondness to bestow, most times, Mr. Betteredge, the roses get it. I began my life among them in my father's nursery garden, and I shall end my life among them if I can. Yes. One of these days (pleuse God) I shall retire from catching thieves, and try my hand at growmg roses. There will be grass walks, Mr. Gardener, between my beds," says the Sergeant, ou whose mind the gravel-paths of a rosary seemed to dwell unpleasantly. " It seems an odd taste, Jr," I ventured to say, " for a man in your line of life." " Tf you will look about you (which most people won't do)," says Sergeant Cuff, "you will see that the nature of a man's taste is, most times, as opposito as possible to the nature of a man's business. Show me .ay two things mote opposite one from the other than a rose and a thief, and I'll correct my tastes accordingly—if it isn't too late at my time of life. You find the damask-rose a goodish stock for most of the tender sorts, don't you, Mr. Gardener? Ah! I thought so. Here's a lady coming. Is it Lady Verinder ?" He had seen her before either I or the gar dener had seen her—though we knew which way to look, and he didn't. I began to think him rather a quicker man than he appeared to be at first sight. The Sergeant's appearance, or the Sergeant's errand—one or both—seemed to cause my lady some little embarrassment. She was, for the first time in all my experience of her at a loss what to say at an interview with a stranger. Sergeant Cuff put her at her ease directly. He asked if any other person had been employed about the robbery before we sent for him ; and hearing that another person had been called in, and was now in the house, begged leave to speak to him before anything else was done. My lady led the way back. Bofore he followed her, the Sergeant relieved his mind on the sub* ject of the gravel-walks by a parting word to.' the gardener. " Get her ladyship to try grass," he said, with a sour look at the paths. "No gravel! no gravel!" Why Superintendent Seegrave should hare appeared to be several sizes smaller than life, on being presented to Sergeant Cuff, I can't under take to explain. I can only state the fact. They retired together; aud remained a weary long time shut up from all mortal intrusion. When they came* out Mr. Superintendent was excited and Mr. Sergeant was yawning. " The Sergeant wishes to see Miss Verinder's sitting-room," says Mr. Seegrave, addressing me with great pomp and eagerness, " The Sergeant may have some questions to ask. Attend the Sergeant, if you please !" While I was being ordered about in this way, I looked at the great Cuff. The great Cuff, on his sido, looked at Superintendent Seegrave in that quietly expecting way which I have already noticed. I can't affirm that he was on the watch, for his brother-officer's speedy appearance in the character of an ass—l can only say that I strongly suspected it. I led the way up stairs. The Sergeant went softly all orer the Indian cabinet and all round the " bi.udoir;" asking questions (occasionally only of Mr. Superintendent, and continually of me), the drift of which I believe to have been equally unintelligible to both of us. In due time his course brought him to the door, and put him face to face with the decorative painting that you know of. He laid one lean inquiring finger on the small smear, just under the look, which Superintendent Seegrave had already noticed, when he reproved the women-servants for all crowding together into the room. " That's a pity," says Sergeant Cuff. " How did it happen ?" He put the question to me. I answered that th«s women-servants had crowded into the room on the previous morning, and that some of their petticoats had done the mischief. " Superin tendent Seegrave ordered them out, sir," I added, " before they did any more harm." " Bight!" says Mr. Superintendent, in his military way. " I ordered them out. The petticoats did it, Sergeant—the petticoats did it." "Did you notice which petticoat did it?" asked Sergeant Cuff, still addressing himself not to his brother-officer, but to me. " No, sir." He turned to Superintendent Seegrave upon that, and said, " You noticed, I suppose ?" Mr. Superintendent looked a little taken aback; but he made the best of it. " I can't charge my memory, Sergeant," he said, " a mere trifle—a mere trifle." Sergeant Cuff looked at Mr. Seegrave as he had looked at the gravel-walks in the rosary, and gara us, in his melancholy way, the first taste of his quality which we had had yet. " I made a private inquiry last week, Mr. Superintendent," he said. "At one end of the inquiry there was a murder, and at the other end there was a spot of ink on a table-cloth that nobody could account for. In all my experience along the dirtiest ways of this dirty little world I have never met with such a thing as a trifle yet. Before we go a step further in thi-j busi ness we must see the petticoat that made the smear, and we must know for certain when that paint was wet." Mr. Superintendent—taking his set-down rather sulkily—asked if he should summon the women. Sergeant Cuff, after considering a minute, sighed and shook his head. " No," he said, " we'll take the matter of the paint first. It's a question of Yes or No with the paint—which is short. I i's a question of petticoats with the women—which is long. What o'clock was it when the servants were in this room yesterday morning? 11 o'clock—eh? Jls there anybody in the house who knows whether that paint was wet or dry at 11 yesterday morn ing ?" " Her ladyship's nephew, Mr. Franklin Blake, knows," I said. " Is the gentleman in the house ?" Mr. Franklin was as close at hand as oould be—waiting for his first change of being intro duced to the great Cuff. In half a minute he was in the room, and was giving his evidence as follows : " That door, Sergeant," he said, " has been painted by Miss Verinder, under my inspection, with ray help, and in a vehicle of my own com position. The vehicle dries whatever colors may be used with it in twelve hours." " Do you remember when the smeared bit was done, sir ?" asked the sergeant. " Perfectly," answered Mr. Franklin. " That was the last morsel of the door to be finished. We wanted to get it done on Wednesday hist, and I myself completed it by three in the after noon, or soon after." " To-day is Friday," said Sergeant Cuff, ad dressing himself to Superintendent Seegrave. " Let us reckon back, sir. At 3 on the Wed nesday afternoon, that bit of the painting was completed. The vehicle dried it in twelve hours —that is to say, dried it by 3 o'clock on Thurs day morning. At 11 on Thursday morning you held your inquiry here. Take three from eleven, and eight remains. That paint had been eight hours dry> Mr. Superintendent, when you sup posed that the woman-servants' petticoats smeared it." First knock-down blow for Mr. Seegrave! If he had not suspected poor Penelope, I should hare pitied him. [to be continued.]