|Chapter Number||Second period. Second narrative: I - III|
|Newspaper Title||The Queenslander (Brisbane, Qld. : 1866 - 1939)|
|Trove Title||The Moonstone|
Contributed by Matthew Bruff, Solicitor, of Gray's Inn Square.
BY WILKIE COLLINS. Author of "The Woman in White," "No Name," etc
MY fair friend, Miss Clack, having laid down the pen, there are two reasons for my taking it up next, in my turn. In the first place, I am in a position to throw
the necessary light on certain points of interest which have thus far been left in the dark. Miss Verinder had her own private reason for treating her marriage engagement—and I was at the bottom of it. Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite had his own private reason for withdrawing all claim to the hand of his charming cousin—and I discovered what it was. In the second place, it was my good or ill for- tune, I hardly know which, to find myself personally involved —at the period of which I am now writing—in the mystery of the Indian Diamond. I had the honor of an interview, at my own office, with an oriental stranger of distinguished manners, who was no other, un- questionably, than the chief of the three Indians. Add to this, that I met with the celebrated traveller, Mr. Murthwaite, the day afterwards, and that I held a conversation with him on the subject of the Moonstone, which has a very important bearing on later events. And there you have the statement of my claims to fill the position which I occupy in these pages. The true story of the broken marriage en gagement comes first in point of time, and must therefore take the first place in the present narrative. Tracing my way back along the chain of events, from one end to the other, I find it necessary to open the scene, oddly enough as you will think, at the bedside of my excellent client and friend, the late Sir John Verinder. Sir John had his share—perhaps rather a large share—of the more harmless and amiable of the weaknesses incidental to humanity. Among these, I may mention as applicable to the matter in hand, an invincible reluctance— so long as he enjoyed his usual good health—to face the responsibility of making his will. Lady Verinder exerted her influence to rouse him to a sense of duty in this matter; and I exerted my influence. He admitted the justice of our views—but he went no further than that, until he found himself afflicted with the illness which ultimately brought him to his grave. Then, I was sent for at last, to take my client's instructions on the subject of his will. They proved to be the simplest instructions I had ever received in the whole of my professional career. Sir John was dozing when I entered the room. He roused himself at the sight of me. " How do you do, Mr. Bruff?" he said. " I sha'n't be very long about this. And then I'll go to sleep again." He looked on with great interest while I collected pens, ink, and paper. "Are you ready?" he asked. I bowed and took a dip of ink, and waited for my instruc- tions. "Everything to my wife," said Sir John. " That's all." He turned round on his pillow, and composed himself to sleep again. I was obliged to disturb him. "Am I to understand," I asked, " that you leave the whole of the property, of every sort and description, of which you die possessed, absolutely to Lady Verinder ?" "Yes," said Sir John. "Only I put it shorter. Why can't you put it shorter, and let me go to sleep again ? Everything to my wife. That's my will." His property was entirely at his own disposal, and was of two kinds. Property in land (I purposely abstain from using technical lan- guage), and property in money. In the majority of cases, I am afraid I should have felt it my duty to my client to ask him to reconsider his will. In the case of Sir John, I knew Lady Verinder to be, not only worthy of the un- reserved trust which her husband had placed in her (all good wives are worthy of that)—but to be also capable of properly administering a trust (which, in my experience of the fair sex, not one in a thousand of them is competent to do). In ten minutes Sir John's will was drawn and executed, and Sir John himself, good man, was finishing his interrupted nap. Lady Verinder amply justified the confidence which her husband had placed in her. In the first days of her widowhood she sent for me and made her will. The view she took of her position was so thoroughly sound and sensible that I was relieved of all necessity for advising her. My responsibility began and ended with shaping her instructions into the proper legal form. Before Sir John had been a fortnight in his grave the future of his daughter had been most wisely and most affectionately pro- vided for. The will remained in its fire-proof box at my office, through more years than I like to reckon up. It was not till the summer of eighteen hundred and forty-eight that I found occasion to look at it again under very melancholy cir- cumstances. At the date I have mentioned the doctors pro- nounced the sentence on poor Lady Verinder, which was literally a sentence of death. I was the first person whom she informed of her situation ; and I found her anxious to go over her will again with me. It was impossible to improve the provisions relating to her daughter. But, in the lapse of time, her wishes in regard to certain minor legacies, left to different relatives, had under gone some modification ; and it became neces- sary to add three or four codicils to the original document. Having done this at once, for fear of accidents, I obtained her ladyship's per mission to embody her recent instructions in a second will. My object was to avoid certain inevitable confusions and repetitions which now disfigured the original document, and which, to own the truth, grated sadly on my professional sense of the fitness of things. The execution of this second will has been described by Miss Clack, who was so obliging as to witness it. So far as regards Rachel Verinder's pecuniary interests, it was, word for word, the exact counterpart of the first will. The only changes introduced related to the ap- pointment of a guardian, and to certain pro- visions concerning that appointment, which were made under my advice. On Lady Verinder's death, the will was placed in the hands of my proctor to be "proved" (as the phrase is) in the usual way.
In about three weeks from that time—as well as I can remember—the first warning reached me of something unusual going on under the surface. I happened to be looking in at my friend the proctor's office, and I observed that he received me with an appearance of greater interest than usual. " I have some news for you," he said. " What do you think I heard at Doctors' Com- mons this morning? Lady Verinder's will has been asked for, and examined, already !" This was news indeed ! There was absolutely nothing which could be contested in the will and there was nobody I could think of who had the slightest interest in examining it. (I shall perhaps do well if I explain in this place, for the benefit of the few people who don't know it already, that the law allows all wills to be examined at Doctors' Commons by any body who applies, on the payment of a shilling fee.) " Did you hear who asked for the will ?" I inquired. " Yes ; the clerk had no hesitation in telling me. Mr. Smalley, of the firm of Skipp and Smalley, asked for it. The will has not been copied yet into the great Folio Registers. So there was no alternative but to depart from the usual course, and to let him see the original document. He looked it over carefully, and made a note in his pocket-book. Have you any idea of what he wanted with it?" I shook my head. " I shall find out," I an- swered, " before I am a day older." With that I went back at once to my own office. If any other firm of solicitors had been con- cerned in this unaccountable examination of my deceased client's will I might have found some difficulty in making the necessary discovery. But I had a hold over Skipp and Smalley which made my course in this matter a comparatively easy one. My common-law clerk (a most com- petent and excellent man) was a brother of Mr. Smalley's ; and, owing to this sort of indirect connection with me, Skipp and Smalley had, for some years past, picked up the crumbs that fell from my table, in the shape of cases brought to my office, which, for various reasons, I did not think it worth while to undertake. My profes- sional patronage was, in this way, of some im- portance to the firm. I intended, if necessary, to remind them of that patronage on the present occasion. The moment I got back I spoke to my clerk ; and after telling him what had happened I sent him to his brother's office, " with Mr. Bruff's compliments, and he would be glad to know why Messrs. Skipp and Smalley had found it neces- sary to examine Lady Verinder's will." This message brought Mr. Smalley back to my office, in company with his brother. He acknowledged that he had acted under in- structions received from a client. And then he put it to me, whether it would not be a breach of professional confidence on his part to say more. We had a smart discussion upon that. He was right, no doubt; and I was wrong. The truth is, I was angry and suspicious—and I in- sisted on knowing more. Worse still, I declined to consider any additional information offered to me, as a secret placed in my keeping: I claimed perfect freedom to use my own dis- cretion. Worse even than that, I took an unwarrantable advantage of my position. " Choose, sir," I said to Mr. Smalley, " between the risk of losing your client's business, and the risk of losing mine." Quite indefensible, I ad- mit—an act of tyranny, and nothing less. Like other tyrants, I carried my point. Mr. Smalley chose his alternative, without a moment's hesitation. He smiled resignedly, and gave up the name of his client : Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite. That was enough for me—l wanted to know no more. Having reached this point in my narrative, it now becomes necessary to place the reader of these lines—so far as Lady Verinder's will is concerned—on a footing of perfect equality, in respect of information, with myself. Let me state, then, in the fewest possible words, that Rachel Verinder had nothing but a life-interest in the property. Her mother's excellent sense, and my long experience, had combined to relieve her of all responsibility, and to guard her from all danger of becoming the victim in the future of some needy and un- scrupulous man. Neither she nor her husband (if she married) could raise sixpence, either on the property in land or on the property in money. They would have the houses in Lon- don and Yorkshire to live in, and they would have the handsome income—and that was all. When I came to think over what I had discovered, I was sorely perplexed what to do next. Hardly a week had passed since I had heard (to my surprise and distress) of Miss Verinder's proposed marriage. I had the sincerest admira- tion and affection for her ; and I had been in- expressibly grieved when I heard that she was about to throw herself away on Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite. And now, here was this man—whom I had always believed to be a smooth-tounged impostor—justifying the very worst that I had thought of him, and plainly revealing the mer- cenary object of the marriage on his side! And what of that?—you may reply—the thing is done every day. Granted, my dear sir. But would you think of it quite as lightly as you do, if the thing was done (let us say) with your own sister? The first consideration which now naturally occurred to me, was this. Would Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite hold to his engagement, after what his lawyer had discovered for him ? It depended entirely on his pecuniary position, of which I knew nothing. If that position was not a desperate one, it would be well worth his while to marry Miss Verinder for her income alone. If on the other hand, he stood in urgent need of realising a large sum by a given time, then Lady Verinder's will would exactly meet the case, and would preserve her daughter from falling into a scoundrel's hands. In the latter event, there would be no need for me to distress Miss Rachel, in the first days of her mourning for her mother, by an imme- diate revelation of the truth. In the former event, if I remained silent, I should be conniving at a marriage which would make her miserable for life. My doubts ended in my calling at the hotel in London, at which I knew Mrs. Ablewhite and Miss Verinder to be staying. They informed me that they were going to Brighton the next day, and that an unexpected obstacle prevented Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite from accompanying them. I at once proposed to take his place. When I was only thinking of Rachel Verinder, it was possible to hesitate. When I actually saw her, my mind was made up directly, come what might of it, to tell her the truth. I found my opportunity, when I was out walk- ing with her, on the day after my arrival.
"May I speak to you," I asked, "about your marriage engagement ?" " Yes," she said, indifferently, "if you have nothing, more interesting to talk about." " Will you forgive an old friend and servant of your family, Miss Rachel, if I venture on asking whether your heart is set on this mar- riage ?" "I am marrying in despair, Mr. Bruff—on the chance of dropping into some sort of stag- nant happiness which may reconcile me to my life." Strong language! and suggestive of something below the surface, in the shape of a romance. But I had my own object in view, and I declined (as we lawyers say) to pursue the question into its side issues. " Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite can hardly be of your way of thinking," I said. "His heart must be set on the marriage, at any rate ?" " He says so, and I suppose I ought to be- lieve him. He would hardly marry me, after what I have owned to him, unless he was fond of me." Poor thing ! the bare idea of a man marrying her for his own selfish and mercenary ends had never entered her head. The task I had set myself began to look like a harder task than I had bargained for. " It sounds strangely," I went on, " in my old-fashioned ears—" " What sounds strangely ?" she asked. " To hear you speak of your future husband as if you were not quite sure of the sincerity of his attachment. Are you conscious of any rea- son in your own mind for doubting him ?" Her astonishing quickness of perception de- tected a change in my voice, or my manner, when I put that question, which warned her that I had been speaking all along with some ulterior object in view. She stopped, and, taking her arm out of mine, looked me search- ingly in the face. " Mr. Bruff," she said, " you have some thing to tell me about Godfrey Ablewhite. Tell it." I knew her well enough to take her at her word. I told it. She put her arm again into mine, and walked on with me slowly. I felt her hand tightening its grasp mechanically on my arm, and I saw her getting paler and paler as I went on—but, not a word passed her lips while I was speaking. When I had done, she still kept silence. Her head drooped a little, and she walked by my side, unconscious of my presence, unconscious of everything about her; lost—buried, I might almost say—in her own thoughts. I made no attempt to disturb her. My ex- perience of her disposition warned me, on this, as on former occasions, to give her time. The first instinct of girls in general, on being told of anything which interests them, is to ask a multitude of questions, and then to run off, and talk it all over with some favorite friend. Rachel Verinder's first instinct, under similar circumstances, was to shut herself up in her own mind, and to think it over by herself. This absolute self-dependence is a great virtue in a man. In a woman, it has the serious drawback of morally separating her from the mass of her sex, and so exposing her to misconstruction by the general opinion. I strongly suspect myself of thinking as the rest of the world think in this matter —except in the case of Rachel Verinder. The self-dependence in her character was one of its virtues in my estimation ; partly, no doubt, because I sincerely admired and liked her ; partly, because the view I took of her con- nection with the loss of the Moonstone was based on my own special knowledge of her dis- position. Badly as appearances might look in the matter of the diamond—shocking as it un- doubtedly was to know that she was associated in any way with the mystery of an undiscovered theft—I was satisfied nevertheless that she had done nothing unworthy of her, because I was also satisfied that she had not stirred a step in the business, without shutting herself up in her own mind, and thinking it over first. We had walked on, for nearly a mile I should think, before Rachel roused herself. She sud- denly looked up at me with a faint reflection of her smile of happier times—the most irresistible smile I had ever seen on a woman's face. " I owe much already to your kindness," she said. " And I feel more deeply indebted to it now than ever. If you hear any rumors of my marriage when you go back to London, contra- dict them at once, on my authority." " Have you resolved to break your engage- ment?" I asked. " Can you doubt it ?" she returned, proudly, " after what you have told me!" " My dear Miss Rachel, you are very young —and you may find more difficulty in with drawing from your present position than you anticipate. Have you no one—I mean a lady of course—whom you could consult?" " No one," she answered. It distressed me, it did indeed distress me, to hear her say that. She was so young and so lonely—and she bore it so well! The impulse to help her got the better of any sense of my own unfitness which I might have felt under the circumstances; and I stated such ideas on the subject as occurred to me on the spur of the moment, to the best of my ability. I have ad vised a prodigious number of clients, and have dealt with some exceedingly awkward difficul- ties, in my time. But this was the first occasion on which I had ever found myself advising a young lady how to obtain her release from a marriage engagement. The suggestion I offered amounted briefly to this. I recommended her to tell Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite—at a private interview, of course—that he had, to her certain knowledge betrayed the mercenary nature of the motive on his side. She was then to add that their marriage, after what she had dis- covered, was a simple impossibility—and she was to put it to him, whether he thought it wisest to secure her silence by falling in with her views, or to force her, by opposing them, to make the motive under which she was acting generally known. If he attempted to defend himself, or to deny the facts, she was, in that event, to refer him to me. Miss Verinder listened attentively till I had done. She then thanked me very prettily for my advice, but informed me at the same time that it was impossible for her to follow it. "May I ask," I said, "what objection you see to following it ?" She hesitated—and then met me with a ques- tion on her side. "Suppose you were asked to express your opinion of Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite's conduct ?" she began. "Yes?" " What would you call it ?" "I should call it the conduct of a meanly deceitful man." " Mr. Bruff! I have believed in that man. I have promised to marry that man. How can I tell him he is mean, how can I tell him he has deceived me, how can I disgrace him in the
eyes of the world, after that ? I have degraded myself by ever thinking of him as my husband. If I say what you tell me to say to him—I am owning that I have degraded myself to his face. I can't do that—after what has passed between us—I can't do that! The shame of it would be nothing to him. But the shame of it would be unendurable to me." Here was another of the marked peculiarities in her character disclosing itself to me without reserve. Here was her sensitive horror of the bare contact with anything mean, blinding her to every consideration of what she owed to herself, hurrying her into a false position which might compromise her in the estimation of all her friends! Up to this time I had been a little diffident about the propriety of the advice I had given to her. But, after what she had just said, I had no sort of doubt that it was the best advice that could have been offered, and I felt no sort of hesitation in pressing it on her again. She only shook her head, and repeated her objection in other words. " He has been intimate enough with me to ask me to be his wife. He has stood high enough in my estimation to obtain my consent. I can't tell him to his face that he is the most con- temptible of living creatures, after that!" " But, my dear Miss Rachel," I remonstrated, " it's equally impossible for you to tell him that you withdraw from your engagement, without giving him some reason for it." " I shall say that I have thought it over, and that I am satisfied it will be best for both of us if we part." "No more than that?" "No more." " Have you thought of what he may say, on his side?" "He may say what he pleases." It was impossible not to admire her delicacy and her resolution, and it was equally impossible not to feel that she was putting herself in the wrong. I entreated her to consider her own position. I reminded her that she would be exposing herself to the most odious misconstruc- tion of her motives. "You can't brave public opinion," I said, " at the command of private feeling." " I can," she answered. " I have done it al- ready." " What do you mean ?" "You have forgotten the Moonstone, Mr. Bruff. Have I not braved public opinion there, with my own private reasons for it ?" " Her answer silenced me for the moment. It set me trying to trace the explanation of her conduct, at the time of the loss of the Moon- stone, out of the strange avowal which had just escaped her. I might perhaps have done it when I was younger. I certainly couldn't do it now. I tried a last remonstrance, before we returned to the house. She was just as immovable as ever. My mind was in a strange conflict of feelings about her when I left her that day. She was obstinate ; she was wrong. She was interesting ; she was admirable ; she was deeply to be pitied. I made her promise to write to me the moment she had any news to send. And I went back to my business in London, with a mind exceedingly ill at ease. On the evening of my return, before it was possible for me to receive my promised letter, I was surprised by a visit from Mr. Ablewhite the elder, and was informed that Mr. Godfrey had got his dismissal— and had accepted it —that very day. With the view I already took of the case, the bare fact stated in the words that I have under- lined, revealed Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite's motive for submission as plainly as if he had acknow- ledged it himself. He needed a large sum of money ; and he needed it by a given time. Rachel's income, which would have helped him to anything else, would not help him here ; and Rachel had accordingly released herself, without encountering a moment's serious opposition on his part. If I am told that this is mere specula- tion, I ask, in my turn, what other theory will account for his giving up a marriage which would have maintained him in splendor for the rest of his life ? Any exultation I might otherwise have felt at the lucky turn which things had now taken, was effectually checked by what passed at my inter- view with old Mr. Ablewhite. He came, of course, to know whether I could give him any explanation of Miss Verinder's ex- traordinary conduct. It is needless to say that I was quite unable to afford him the information he wanted. The annoyance which I thus in- flicted, following on the irritation produced by a recent interview with his son, threw Mr. Able- white off his guard. Both his looks and his language convinced me that Miss Verinder would find him a merciless man to deal with, when he joined the ladies at Brighton the next day. I had a restless night, considering what I ought to do next. How my reflections ended, and how thoroughly well founded my distrust of old Mr. Ablewhite proved to be, are items of information which (as I am told) have already been put tidily in their proper places, by that exemplary person, Miss Clack. I have only to add —in completion of her narrative—that Miss Verinder found the quiet and repose which the sadly needed, poor thing, in my house at Hamp- stead. She honored us by making a long stay. My wife and daughters were charmed with her ; and, when the executors decided on the appoint- ment of a new guardian, I feel sincere pride and pleasure in recording that my guest and my family parted like old friends, on either side. ______ CHAPTER II. The next thing I have to do, is to present such additional information as I possess on the subject of the Moonstone, or, to speak more correctly, on the subject of the Indian plot to steal the diamond. The little that I have to tell is (as I think I have already said) of some importance, nevertheless, in respect of its bear- ing very remarkably on events which are still to come. About a week or ten days after Miss Verinder had left us, one of my clerks entered the private room at my office, with a card in his hand, and informed me that a gentleman was below, who wanted to speak to me. I looked at the card. There was a foreign name written on it, which has escaped my memory. It was followed by a line written in English at the bottom of the card, which I re- member perfectly well : " Recommended by Mr. Septimus Luker." The audacity of a person in Mr. Luker's posi- tion presuming to recommend anybody to me, took me so completely by surprise, that I sat silent for the moment, wondering whether my own eyes had not deceived me. The clerk, ob- serving my bewilderment, favored me with the result of his own observation of the stranger who was waiting down-stairs. "He's rather a remarkable-looking man, sir.
So dark in the complexion that we all set him down in the office for an Indian, or something of that sort." Associating the clerk's idea with the very offensive line inscribed on the card in my hand, I instantly suspected that the Moonstone was at the bottom of Mr. Luker's recommendation, and of the stranger's visit at my office. To the astonishment of my clerk, I at once decided on granting an interview to the gentleman below. In justification of the highly unprofessional sacrifice to mere curiosity which I thus made, permit me to remind anybody who may read these lines, that no living person (in England, at any rate) can claim to have had such an intimate connection with the romance of the Indian diamond as mine has been. I was trusted with the secret of Colonel Herncastle's plan for escaping assassination. I received the colonel's letters, periodically reporting himself a living man. I drew his will, leaving the Moonstone to Miss Verinder. I persuaded his executor to act, on the chance that the jewel might prove to be a valuable acquisition to the family. And, lastly, I combatted Mr. Franklin Blake's scruples, and induced him to be the means of transporting the diamond to Lady Verinder's house. If any one can claim a pre- scriptive right of interest in the Moonstone, and in everything connected with it, I think it is hardly to be denied that I am the man. The moment my mysterious client was shown in, I felt an inner conviction that I was in the presence of one of the three Indians—probably of the chief. He was carefully dressed in Euro- pean costume. But his swarthy complexion, his long lithe figure, and his grave and graceful politeness of manner were enough to betray his Oriental origin to any intelligent eyes that looked at him. I pointed to a chair, and begged to be in- formed of the nature of his business with me. After first apologising—in an excellent selec- tion of English words—for the liberty which he had taken in disturbing me, the Indian produced a small parcel, the outer covering of which was of cloth of gold. Removing this and a second wrapping of some silken fabric, he placed a little box, or casket, on my table, most beautifully and richly inlaid in jewels, on an ebony ground. " I have come, sir," he said, "to ask you to lend me some money. And I leave this as an assurance to you that my debt will be paid back." I pointed to the card. " And you apply to me," I rejoined, "at Mr. Luker's recommmenda- tion ?" The Indian bowed. " May I ask how it is that Mr. Luker him- self did not advance the money that you re- quire?" " Mr. Luker informed me, sir, that he had no money to lend." " And so he recommended you to come to me?" The Indian, in his turn, pointed to the card. " It is written here," he said. Briefly answered, and thoroughly to the pur- pose ! If the Moonstone had been in my pos- session, this Oriental gentleman would have murdered me, I am well aware, without a mo- ment's hesitation. At the same time, and bar- ring that slight drawback, I am bound to testify that be was the perfect model of a client. He might not have respected my life. But he did what none of my own countrymen had ever done, in all my experience of them—he respected my time. I am sorry," I said, " that you should have had the trouble of coming to me. Mr. Luker is quite mistaken in sending you here. I am trusted, like other men in my profession, with money to lend. But I never lend it to strangers, and I never lend it on such a security as you have produced." Far from attempting, as other people would have done, to induce me to relax my own rules, the Indian only made me another bow, and wrapped up his box in its two coverings without a word of protest. He rose—this admirable assassin rose to go, the moment I had answered him! " Will your condescention towards a stranger, excuse my asking one question," he said, " be- fore I take my leave ?" I bowed on my side. Only one question at parting ! The average in my experience, was fifty. " Supposing, sir, it had been possible (and customary) for you to lend me the money," he said, "in what space of time would it have been possible (and customary) for me to pay it back ?" " According to the usual course pursued in this country," I answered, " you would have been entitled to pay the money back (if you liked) in one year's time from the date at which it was first advanced to you." The Indian made me a last bow, the lowest of all—and suddenly and softly walked out of the room. It was done in a moment, in a noiseless, supple, cat-like way, which a little startled me, I own. As soon as I was composed enough to think, I arrived at one distinct conclusion in reference to the otherwise incomprehensible visitor who had favored me with a call. His face, voice, and manner—while I was in his company—were under such perfect control that they set all scrutiny at defiance. But he had given me one chance of looking under the smooth outer surface of him, for all that. He had not shown the slightest sign of attempting to fix anything that I had said to him in his mind, until I mentioned the time at which it was customary to permit the earliest repayment, on the part of a debtor, of money that had been advanced as a loan. When I gave him that piece of information, he looked me straight in the face, while I was speaking, for the first time. The inference I drew from this was—that he had a special purpose in asking me his last question, and a special interest in hearing my answer to it. The more carefully I reflected on what had passed between us, the more shrewdly I suspected the production of the casket, and the application for the loan, of having been mere formalities, designed to pave the way for the parting inquiry addressed to me. I had satisfied myself of the correctness of this conclusion—and was trying to get on a step further, and penetrate the Indian's motives next—when a letter was brought to me, which proved to be from no less a person than Mr. Septimus Luker himself. He asked my pardon in terms of sickening servility, and assured me that he could explain matters to my satisfaction, if I would honor him by consenting to a per- sonal interview. I made another unprofessional sacrifice to mere curiosity. I honored him by making an appointment at my office, for the next day. Mr. Luker was, in every respect, such an in- ferior creature to the Indian—he was so vulgar, so ugly, so cringing, and so prosy—that he is quite unworthy of being reported, at any length,
in these pages. The substance of what he had to tell me may be fairly stated as follows : The day before I had received the visit of the Indian, Mr. Luker had been favored with a call from that accomplished gentleman. In spite of his European disguise, Mr. Luker had instantly identified his visitor with the chief of the three Indians who had formerly annoyed him by loitering about his house, and who had left him no alternative but to consult a magistrate. From this startling discovery he had rushed to the conclusion (naturally enough I own) that he must certainly be in the company of one of the three men who had blindfolded him, gagged him, and robbed him of his banker's receipt. The result was that he became quite paralysed with terror, and that he firmly believed his last hour had come, On his side, the Indian preserved the charac- ter of a perfect stranger. He produced the little casket, and made exactly the same applica- tion which he had afterwards made to me. As the speediest way of getting rid of him, Mr. Luker had at once declared that he had no money. The Indian had thereupon asked to be informed of the best and safest person to apply to for the loan he wanted. Mr. Luker had answered that the best and safest person, in such cases, was usually a respectable solicitor. Asked to name some individual of that character and profession, Mr. Luker had mentioned me —for the one simple reason that, in the ex- tremity of his terror, mine was the first name which occurred to him. " The perspiration was pouring off me like rain, sir," the wretched creature concluded. " I didn't know what I was talking about. And I hope you'll look over it, Mr. Bruff, sir, in consideration of my hav- ing been really and truly frightened out of my wits." I excused the fellow graciously enough. It was the readiest way of releasing myself from the sight of him. Before he left me, I detained him to make one enquiry. Had the Indian said anything noticeable, at the moment of quitting Mr. Luker's house ? Yes! The Indian had put precisely the same question to Mr. Luker, at parting, which he had put to me ; receiving, of course, the same answer as the answer which I had given to him. What did it mean ? Mr. Luker's explanation gave me no assistance towards solving the pro- blem. My own unaided ingenuity, consulted next, proved quite unequal to grapple with the difficulty. I had a dinner engagement that evening ; and I went upstairs, in no very genial frame of mind, little suspecting that the way to my dressing-room, and the way to discovery, meant, on this particular occasion, one and the same thing. ________ CHAPTER III. The prominent personage among the guests at the dinner party I found to be Mr. Murth- waite. On his appearance in England, after his wan- derings, society had been greatly interested in the traveller, as a man who had passed through many dangerous adventures, and who had es- caped to tell the tale. He had now announced his intention of returning to the scene of his exploits, and of penetrating into regions left still unexplored. This magnificent indifference to presuming on his luck, and to placing his safety in peril for the second time, revived the flagging interest of the worshippers in the hero. The law of chances was clearly against his es- caping on this occasion. It is not every day that we can meet an eminent person at dinner, and feel that there is a reasonable prospect of the news of his murder being the news that we hear of him next. When the gentlemen were left by themselves in the dining-room, I found myself sitting next to Mr. Murthwaite. The guests present being all English, it is needless to say that, as soon as the wholesome check exercised by the presence of the ladies was removed, the conversation turned on politics as a necessary result. In respect to this all-absorbing national topic, I happen to be one of the most un-English Englishmen living. As a general rule, political talk appears to me to be of all talk the most dreary and the most profitless. Glancing at Mr. Murthwaite, when the bottles had made their first round of the table, I found that he was apparently of my way of thinking. He was doing it very dexterously—with all possible consideration for the feelings of his host—but it not the less certain that he was composing himself for a nap. It struck me as an experi- ment worth attempting, to try whether a judi- cious allusion to the subject of the Moonstone would keep him awake, and, if it did, to see what he thought of the last new complication in the Indian conspiracy, as revealed in the prosaic precincts of my office. "If I am not mistaken, Mr. Murthwaite," I began, "you were acquainted with the late Lady Verinder, and you took some interest in the strange succession of events which ended in the loss of the Moonstone?" The eminent traveller did me the honor of waking up in an instant, and asking me who I was. I informed him of my professional connection with the Herncastle family, not forgetting the curious position which I had occupied towards the colonel and his diamond in the bygone time. Mr. Murthwaite shifted round in his chair, so as to put the rest of the company behind him (Conservatives and Liberals alike), and concen- trated his whole attention to plain Mr. Bruff, of Grey's Inn Square. "Have you heard anything, lately, of the Indians ?" he asked. " I have every reason to believe, I answered, " that one of them had an interview with me, in my office, yesterday." Mr. Murthwaite was not an easy man to astonish ; but that last answer of mine com- pletely staggered him. I described what had happened to Mr. Luker, and what had happened to myself, exactly as I have described it here. " It is clear that the Indian's parting inquiry had an object," I added. " Why should he be so anxious to know the time at which a borrower of money is usually privileged to pay the money back ?" " Is it possible that you don't see his motive, Mr. Bruff?" " I am ashamed of my stupidity, Mr. Murth- waite—but I certainly don't see it." The great traveller became quite interested . in sounding the immense vacuity of my dulness to its lowest depths. " Let me ask you one question," he said. " In what position does the conspiracy to seize the Moonstone now stand?" " I can't say," I answered. " The Indian plot is a mystery to me." " The Indian plot, Mr. Bruff, can only be a mystery to you, because you have never seriously examined it. Shall we run it over together, from the time when you drew Colonel Hern-
castle's will, to the time when the Indian called at your office ? In your position, it may be of very serious importance to the interests of Miss Verinder, that you should be able to take a clear view of this matter in cafe of need. Tell me, bearing that in mind, whether you will penetrate the Indian's motive for yourself ? or whether you wish me to save you the trouble of making any inquiry into it ?" It is needless to say that I thoroughly ap- preciated the practical purpose which I now saw that he had in view, and that the first of the two alternatives was the alternative I chose. " Very good," said Mr. Murthwaite. "We will take the question of the ages of the three Indians first. I can testify that they all look much about the same age—and you can decide for yourself, whether the man whom you saw was, or was not, in the prime of life. Not forty, you think ? My idea too. We will say not forty. Now look back to the time when Colonel Herncastle came to England, and when you were concerned in the plan he adopted to pre- serve his life. I don't want you to count the years. I will only say, it is clear that these present Indians, at their age, must be the suc- cessors of three other Indians (high caste Brah- mins all of them, Mr. Bruff, when they left their native country!) who followed the colonel to these shores. Very well. These present men of ours have succeeded to the men who were here before them. If they had only done that, the matter would not have been worth inquiring into. But they have done more. They have succeeded to the organisation which their pre- decessors established in this country. Don't start! The organisation is a very trumpery affair, according to our ideas, I have no doubt. I should reckon it up as including the command of money ; the services, when needed, of that shady sort of Englishman, who lives in the bye-ways of foreign life in London ; and, lastly, the secret sympathy of such few men of their own country and (formerly, at least) of their own religion, as happen to be employed in ministering to some of the multitudinous wants of this great city. Nothing very formidable, as you see! But worth notice at starting, because we may find occasion to refer to this modest little Indian organisation as we go on. Having now cleared the ground, I am going to ask you a question; and I expect your experience to answer it. What was the event which gave the Indians their first chance of seizing the diamond?" I understood the allusion to my experience. " The first chance they got," I replied, " was clearly offered to them by Colonel Herncastle's death. They would be aware of his death, I suppose, as a matter of course ?' "As a matter of course. And his death, as you say, gave them their first chance. Up to that time the Moonstone was safe in the strong room of the bank. You drew the Colonel's will leaving his jewel to his niece; and the will was proved in the usual way. As a lawyer, you can be at no loss to know what course the Indians would take (under English advice) after that." " They would provide themselves with a copy of the will from Doctors' Commons," I said. " Exactly. One or other of those shady Englishmen to whom I have alluded, would get them the copy you have described. That copy would inform them that the Moonstone was be- queathed to the daughter of Lady Verinder, and that Mr. Blake the elder, or some person appointed by him, was to place it in her hands. You will agree with me that the necessary in- formation about persons in the position of Lady Verinder and Mr. Blake, would be perfectly easy information to obtain. The one difficulty for the Indians would be to decide whether they should make their attempt on the diamond when it was in course of removal' from the keeping of the bank, or whether they should wait until it was taken down to Yorkshire to Lady Verinder's house. The second way would be manifestly the safest way—and there you have the expla- nation of the appearance of the Indians at Frizinghall, disguised as jugglers, and waiting their time. In London, it is needless to say, they had their organisation at their disposal to keep them informed of events. Two men would do it. One to follow anybody who went from Mr. Blake's house to the bank. And one to treat the lower men-servants with beer, and to hear the news of the houses. These common-place precautions would readily inform them that Mr. Franklin Blake had been to the bank, and that Mr. Franklin Blake was the only person in the house who was going to visit Lady Verinder. What actually followed upon that discovery, you remember, no doubt, quite as correctly as I do." [TO BE CONTINUED.] A little girl of three years, when she first saw an peach tree in full bloom exclaimed, " See God's big boquet!" Much more capital is invested by Australian merchants in foreign fruits and nuts than is generally supposed. These commodities come to us in all shapes from all parts of the world. The best raisins come from Malaga ; which, place also sends us lemons and figs. Sicily also produces lemons, and Smyrna and Naples produce figs. Oranges come from Sicily and the West Indies. The best dates come from Africa, though a few are brought from Arabia. Olives come from Spain and France. Spanish olives are regarded as the best. Prunes come from France and Turkey. Pecan nuts are brought from Texas ; and pea- nuts from Africa, Virginia, and the Carolinas. Filberts come from Naples, Barcelona, and Sicily, and South America sends us Brazil nuts. Languedoc and Spain produce almonds for our market. The best are what are termed " Princess paper shells." The so-called English walnuts come from France and Italy. Currants are brought from the Grecian Isles; and it is said that raisins and currants are im- ported in larger quantities than any other foreign fruits. TENACITY OF PURPOSE.—The influence of a powerful will in arresting or retarding the pro- gress of a disease apparently fatal, is one of the most wonderful of all mental phenomena. A person of feeble frame, but of a determined and hopeful spirit, sometimes keeps death at bay for weeks, months, even years, and finally, in defiance of the physicians who have sat in judgment on his case, and pronounced it utterly hopeless, recovers, and returns to his customary avocations. On the other hand, a man of strong physique not unfrequently wilts down and dies under a comparatively controllable ailment, simply from a lack of the mental energy which enables the strong-willed weakling to repel the destroyer. The shell of a man is nothing ; it is the animating principle which tells. When we hear of an invalid recovering from an attack of sickness which seemed to be his death-warrant, we either attribute his escape to a vigorous con- stitution, or conclude that the doctors were mistaken in their diagnosis, and that his com- plaint was not what they supposed. But ques- tion the convalescent himself, and you will pro- bably find that he resisted the death-warrant pertinaciously, and fought hard for life with those peerless weapons, hope and will. With a cheerful disposition, indomitable resolution and courage, and a firm trust in the Being who helps those who help themselves, it is astonishing to what an extent the gravest physical evils may be ameliorated, and how often they may be overcome.