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Consideration for poor Lady Verinder forbade me even to hint that I had
guessed the melancholy truth, before she opened her lips. I waited
her pleasure in silence; and, having privately arranged to say a few
sustaining words at the first convenient opportunity, felt prepared for
any duty that could claim me, no matter how painful it might be.
"I have been seriously ill, Drusilla, for some time past," my aunt
began. "And, strange to say, without knowing it myself."
I thought of the thousands and thousands of perishing human creatures
who were all at that moment spiritually ill, without knowing it
themselves. And I greatly feared that my poor aunt might be one of the
number. "Yes, dear," I said, sadly. "Yes."
"I brought Rachel to London, as you know, for medical advice," she went
on. "I thought it right to consult two doctors."
Two doctors! And, oh me (in Rachel's state), not one clergyman! "Yes,
dear?" I said once more. "Yes?"
"One of the two medical men," proceeded my aunt, "was a stranger to me.
The other had been an old friend of my husband's, and had always felt
a sincere interest in me for my husband's sake. After prescribing for
Rachel, he said he wished to speak to me privately in another room.
I expected, of course, to receive some special directions for the
management of my daughter's health. To my surprise, he took me gravely
by the hand, and said, 'I have been looking at you, Lady Verinder, with
a professional as well as a personal interest. You are, I am afraid, far
more urgently in need of medical advice than your daughter.' He put some
questions to me, which I was at first inclined to treat lightly enough,
until I observed that my answers distressed him. It ended in his making
an appointment to come and see me, accompanied by a medical friend, on
the next day, at an hour when Rachel would not be at home. The result
of that visit--most kindly and gently conveyed to me--satisfied both the
physicians that there had been precious time lost, which could never be
regained, and that my case had now passed beyond the reach of their art.
For more than two years I have been suffering under an insidious form of
heart disease, which, without any symptoms to alarm me, has, by little
and little, fatally broken me down. I may live for some months, or I may
die before another day has passed over my head--the doctors cannot, and
dare not, speak more positively than this. It would be vain to say, my
dear, that I have not had some miserable moments since my real situation
has been made known to me. But I am more resigned than I was, and I am
doing my best to set my worldly affairs in order. My one great anxiety
is that Rachel should be kept in ignorance of the truth. If she knew
it, she would at once attribute my broken health to anxiety about the
Diamond, and would reproach herself bitterly, poor child, for what is in
no sense her fault. Both the doctors agree that the mischief began
two, if not three years since. I am sure you will keep my secret,
Drusilla--for I am sure I see sincere sorrow and sympathy for me in your
Sorrow and sympathy! Oh, what Pagan emotions to expect from a Christian
Englishwoman anchored firmly on her faith!
Little did my poor aunt imagine what a gush of devout thankfulness
thrilled through me as she approached the close of her melancholy story.
Here was a career of usefulness opened before me! Here was a beloved
relative and perishing fellow-creature, on the eve of the great change,
utterly unprepared; and led, providentially led, to reveal her situation
to Me! How can I describe the joy with which I now remembered that the
precious clerical friends on whom I could rely, were to be counted, not
by ones or twos, but by tens and twenties. I took my aunt in my arms--my
overflowing tenderness was not to be satisfied, now, with anything less
than an embrace. "Oh!" I said to her, fervently, "the indescribable
interest with which you inspire me! Oh! the good I mean to do you, dear,
before we part!" After another word or two of earnest prefatory warning,
I gave her her choice of three precious friends, all plying the work
of mercy from morning to night in her own neighbourhood; all equally
inexhaustible in exhortation; all affectionately ready to exercise their
gifts at a word from me. Alas! the result was far from encouraging. Poor
Lady Verinder looked puzzled and frightened, and met everything I could
say to her with the purely worldly objection that she was not strong
enough to face strangers. I yielded--for the moment only, of course. My
large experience (as Reader and Visitor, under not less, first and
last, than fourteen beloved clerical friends) informed me that this was
another case for preparation by books. I possessed a little library of
works, all suitable to the present emergency, all calculated to arouse,
convince, prepare, enlighten, and fortify my aunt. "You will read, dear,
won't you?" I said, in my most winning way. "You will read, if I bring
you my own precious books? Turned down at all the right places, aunt.
And marked in pencil where you are to stop and ask yourself, 'Does this
apply to me?'" Even that simple appeal--so absolutely heathenising is
the influence of the world--appeared to startle my aunt. She said, "I
will do what I can, Drusilla, to please you," with a look of surprise,
which was at once instructive and terrible to see. Not a moment was to
be lost. The clock on the mantel-piece informed me that I had just
time to hurry home; to provide myself with a first series of selected
readings (say a dozen only); and to return in time to meet the lawyer,
and witness Lady Verinder's Will. Promising faithfully to be back by
five o'clock, I left the house on my errand of mercy.
When no interests but my own are involved, I am humbly content to get
from place to place by the omnibus. Permit me to give an idea of my
devotion to my aunt's interests by recording that, on this occasion, I
committed the prodigality of taking a cab.
I drove home, selected and marked my first series of readings, and drove
back to Montagu Square, with a dozen works in a carpet-bag, the like of
which, I firmly believe, are not to be found in the literature of any
other country in Europe. I paid the cabman exactly his fare. He received
it with an oath; upon which I instantly gave him a tract. If I had
presented a pistol at his head, this abandoned wretch could hardly have
exhibited greater consternation. He jumped up on his box, and, with
profane exclamations of dismay, drove off furiously. Quite useless, I
am happy to say! I sowed the good seed, in spite of him, by throwing a
second tract in at the window of the cab.
The servant who answered the door--not the person with the cap-ribbons,
to my great relief, but the foot-man--informed me that the doctor had
called, and was still shut up with Lady Verinder. Mr. Bruff, the lawyer,
had arrived a minute since and was waiting in the library. I was shown
into the library to wait too.
Mr. Bruff looked surprised to see me. He is the family solicitor, and
we had met more than once, on previous occasions, under Lady Verinder's
roof. A man, I grieve to say, grown old and grizzled in the service of
the world. A man who, in his hours of business, was the chosen prophet
of Law and Mammon; and who, in his hours of leisure, was equally capable
of reading a novel and of tearing up a tract.
"Have you come to stay here, Miss Clack?" he asked, with a look at my
To reveal the contents of my precious bag to such a person as this would
have been simply to invite an outburst of profanity. I lowered myself to
his own level, and mentioned my business in the house.
"My aunt has informed me that she is about to sign her Will,"
I answered. "She has been so good as to ask me to be one of the
"Aye? aye? Well, Miss Clack, you will do. You are over twenty-one, and
you have not the slightest pecuniary interest in Lady Verinder's Will."
Not the slightest pecuniary interest in Lady Verinder's Will. Oh, how
thankful I felt when I heard that! If my aunt, possessed of thousands,
had remembered poor Me, to whom five pounds is an object--if my name had
appeared in the Will, with a little comforting legacy attached to it--my
enemies might have doubted the motive which had loaded me with the
choicest treasures of my library, and had drawn upon my failing
resources for the prodigal expenses of a cab. Not the cruellest scoffer
of them all could doubt now. Much better as it was! Oh, surely, surely,
much better as it was!
I was aroused from these consoling reflections by the voice of Mr.
Bruff. My meditative silence appeared to weigh upon the spirits of this
worldling, and to force him, as it were, into talking to me against his
"Well, Miss Clack, what's the last news in the charitable circles? How
is your friend Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite, after the mauling he got from the
rogues in Northumberland Street? Egad! they're telling a pretty story
about that charitable gentleman at my club!"
I had passed over the manner in which this person had remarked that I
was more than twenty-one, and that I had no pecuniary interest in my
aunt's Will. But the tone in which he alluded to dear Mr. Godfrey was
too much for my forbearance. Feeling bound, after what had passed in my
presence that afternoon, to assert the innocence of my admirable friend,
whenever I found it called in question--I own to having also felt bound
to include in the accomplishment of this righteous purpose, a stinging
castigation in the case of Mr. Bruff.
"I live very much out of the world," I said; "and I don't possess the
advantage, sir, of belonging to a club. But I happen to know the story
to which you allude; and I also know that a viler falsehood than that
story never was told."
"Yes, yes, Miss Clack--you believe in your friend. Natural enough. Mr.
Godfrey Ablewhite, won't find the world in general quite so easy to
convince as a committee of charitable ladies. Appearances are dead
against him. He was in the house when the Diamond was lost. And he was
the first person in the house to go to London afterwards. Those are ugly
circumstances, ma'am, viewed by the light of later events."
I ought, I know, to have set him right before he went any farther. I
ought to have told him that he was speaking in ignorance of a testimony
to Mr. Godfrey's innocence, offered by the only person who was
undeniably competent to speak from a positive knowledge of the
subject. Alas! the temptation to lead the lawyer artfully on to his
own discomfiture was too much for me. I asked what he meant by "later
events"--with an appearance of the utmost innocence.
"By later events, Miss Clack, I mean events in which the Indians are
concerned," proceeded Mr. Bruff, getting more and more superior to poor
Me, the longer he went on. "What do the Indians do, the moment they are
let out of the prison at Frizinghall? They go straight to London, and
fix on Mr. Luker. What follows? Mr. Luker feels alarmed for the safety
of 'a valuable of great price,' which he has got in the house. He lodges
it privately (under a general description) in his bankers' strong-room.
Wonderfully clever of him: but the Indians are just as clever on their
side. They have their suspicions that the 'valuable of great price' is
being shifted from one place to another; and they hit on a singularly
bold and complete way of clearing those suspicions up. Whom do they
seize and search? Not Mr. Luker only--which would be intelligible
enough--but Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite as well. Why? Mr. Ablewhite's
explanation is, that they acted on blind suspicion, after seeing him
accidentally speaking to Mr. Luker. Absurd! Half-a-dozen other people
spoke to Mr. Luker that morning. Why were they not followed home too,
and decoyed into the trap? No! no! The plain inference is, that Mr.
Ablewhite had his private interest in the 'valuable' as well as Mr.
Luker, and that the Indians were so uncertain as to which of the two
had the disposal of it, that there was no alternative but to search them
both. Public opinion says that, Miss Clack. And public opinion, on this
occasion, is not easily refuted."
He said those last words, looking so wonderfully wise in his own worldly
conceit, that I really (to my shame be it spoken) could not resist
leading him a little farther still, before I overwhelmed him with the
"I don't presume to argue with a clever lawyer like you," I said. "But
is it quite fair, sir, to Mr. Ablewhite to pass over the opinion of the
famous London police officer who investigated this case? Not the shadow
of a suspicion rested upon anybody but Miss Verinder, in the mind of
"Do you mean to tell me, Miss Clack, that you agree with the Sergeant?"
"I judge nobody, sir, and I offer no opinion."
"And I commit both those enormities, ma'am. I judge the Sergeant to
have been utterly wrong; and I offer the opinion that, if he had known
Rachel's character as I know it, he would have suspected everybody in
the house but HER. I admit that she has her faults--she is secret, and
self-willed; odd and wild, and unlike other girls of her age. But true
as steel, and high-minded and generous to a fault. If the plainest
evidence in the world pointed one way, and if nothing but Rachel's word
of honour pointed the other, I would take her word before the evidence,
lawyer as I am! Strong language, Miss Clack; but I mean it."
"Would you object to illustrate your meaning, Mr. Bruff, so that I
may be sure I understand it? Suppose you found Miss Verinder quite
unaccountably interested in what has happened to Mr. Ablewhite and Mr.
Luker? Suppose she asked the strangest questions about this dreadful
scandal, and displayed the most ungovernable agitation when she found
out the turn it was taking?"
"Suppose anything you please, Miss Clack, it wouldn't shake my belief in
Rachel Verinder by a hair's-breadth."
"She is so absolutely to be relied on as that?"
"So absolutely to be relied on as that."
"Then permit me to inform you, Mr. Bruff, that Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite was
in this house not two hours since, and that his entire innocence of all
concern in the disappearance of the Moonstone was proclaimed by Miss
Verinder herself, in the strongest language I ever heard used by a young
lady in my life."
I enjoyed the triumph--the unholy triumph, I fear I must admit--of
seeing Mr. Bruff utterly confounded and overthrown by a few plain words
from Me. He started to his feet, and stared at me in silence. I kept my
seat, undisturbed, and related the whole scene as it had occurred.
"And what do you say about Mr. Ablewhite now?" I asked, with the utmost
possible gentleness, as soon as I had done.
"If Rachel has testified to his innocence, Miss Clack, I don't scruple
to say that I believe in his innocence as firmly as you do: I have been
misled by appearances, like the rest of the world; and I will make the
best atonement I can, by publicly contradicting the scandal which has
assailed your friend wherever I meet with it. In the meantime, allow me
to congratulate you on the masterly manner in which you have opened the
full fire of your batteries on me at the moment when I least expected
it. You would have done great things in my profession, ma'am, if you had
happened to be a man."
With those words he turned away from me, and began walking irritably up
and down the room.
I could see plainly that the new light I had thrown on the subject had
greatly surprised and disturbed him. Certain expressions dropped from
his lips, as he became more and more absorbed in his own thoughts, which
suggested to my mind the abominable view that he had hitherto taken of
the mystery of the lost Moonstone. He had not scrupled to suspect dear
Mr. Godfrey of the infamy of stealing the Diamond, and to attribute
Rachel's conduct to a generous resolution to conceal the crime. On Miss
Verinder's own authority--a perfectly unassailable authority, as you
are aware, in the estimation of Mr. Bruff--that explanation of the
circumstances was now shown to be utterly wrong. The perplexity into
which I had plunged this high legal authority was so overwhelming that
he was quite unable to conceal it from notice. "What a case!" I heard
him say to himself, stopping at the window in his walk, and drumming on
the glass with his fingers. "It not only defies explanation, it's even
There was nothing in these words which made any reply at all needful,
on my part--and yet, I answered them! It seems hardly credible that I
should not have been able to let Mr. Bruff alone, even now. It seems
almost beyond mere mortal perversity that I should have discovered, in
what he had just said, a new opportunity of making myself personally
disagreeable to him. But--ah, my friends! nothing is beyond mortal
perversity; and anything is credible when our fallen natures get the
better of us!
"Pardon me for intruding on your reflections," I said to the
unsuspecting Mr. Bruff. "But surely there is a conjecture to make which
has not occurred to us yet."
"Maybe, Miss Clack. I own I don't know what it is."
"Before I was so fortunate, sir, as to convince you of Mr. Ablewhite's
innocence, you mentioned it as one of the reasons for suspecting him,
that he was in the house at the time when the Diamond was lost. Permit
me to remind you that Mr. Franklin Blake was also in the house at the
time when the Diamond was lost."
The old worldling left the window, took a chair exactly opposite to mine,
and looked at me steadily, with a hard and vicious smile.
"You are not so good a lawyer, Miss Clack," he remarked in a meditative
manner, "as I supposed. You don't know how to let well alone."
"I am afraid I fail to follow you, Mr. Bruff," I said, modestly.
"It won't do, Miss Clack--it really won't do a second time. Franklin
Blake is a prime favourite of mine, as you are well aware. But that
doesn't matter. I'll adopt your view, on this occasion, before you have
time to turn round on me. You're quite right, ma'am. I have suspected
Mr. Ablewhite, on grounds which abstractedly justify suspecting Mr.
Blake too. Very good--let's suspect them together. It's quite in his
character, we will say, to be capable of stealing the Moonstone. The
only question is, whether it was his interest to do so."
"Mr. Franklin Blake's debts," I remarked, "are matters of family
"And Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite's debts have not arrived at that stage of
development yet. Quite true. But there happen to be two difficulties in
the way of your theory, Miss Clack. I manage Franklin Blake's affairs,
and I beg to inform you that the vast majority of his creditors (knowing
his father to be a rich man) are quite content to charge interest
on their debts, and to wait for their money. There is the first
difficulty--which is tough enough. You will find the second tougher
still. I have it on the authority of Lady Verinder herself, that her
daughter was ready to marry Franklin Blake, before that infernal Indian
Diamond disappeared from the house. She had drawn him on and put him off
again, with the coquetry of a young girl. But she had confessed to her
mother that she loved cousin Franklin, and her mother had trusted
cousin Franklin with the secret. So there he was, Miss Clack, with his
creditors content to wait, and with the certain prospect before him of
marrying an heiress. By all means consider him a scoundrel; but tell me,
if you please, why he should steal the Moonstone?"
"The human heart is unsearchable," I said gently. "Who is to fathom it?"
"In other words, ma'am--though he hadn't the shadow of a reason for
taking the Diamond--he might have taken it, nevertheless, through
natural depravity. Very well. Say he did. Why the devil----"
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Bruff. If I hear the devil referred to in that
manner, I must leave the room."
"I beg YOUR pardon, Miss Clack--I'll be more careful in my choice
of language for the future. All I meant to ask was this. Why--even
supposing he did take the Diamond--should Franklin Blake make himself
the most prominent person in the house in trying to recover it? You may
tell me he cunningly did that to divert suspicion from himself. I answer
that he had no need to divert suspicion--because nobody suspected him.
He first steals the Moonstone (without the slightest reason) through
natural depravity; and he then acts a part, in relation to the loss of
the jewel, which there is not the slightest necessity to act, and which
leads to his mortally offending the young lady who would otherwise have
married him. That is the monstrous proposition which you are driven to
assert, if you attempt to associate the disappearance of the Moonstone
with Franklin Blake. No, no, Miss Clack! After what has passed here
to-day, between us two, the dead-lock, in this case, is complete.
Rachel's own innocence is (as her mother knows, and as I know) beyond
a doubt. Mr. Ablewhite's innocence is equally certain--or Rachel would
never have testified to it. And Franklin Blake's innocence, as you have
just seen, unanswerably asserts itself. On the one hand, we are morally
certain of all these things. And, on the other hand, we are equally sure
that somebody has brought the Moonstone to London, and that Mr. Luker,
or his banker, is in private possession of it at this moment. What is
the use of my experience, what is the use of any person's experience,
in such a case as that? It baffles me; it baffles you, it baffles
No--not everybody. It had not baffled Sergeant Cuff. I was about to
mention this, with all possible mildness, and with every necessary
protest against being supposed to cast a slur upon Rachel--when the
servant came in to say that the doctor had gone, and that my aunt was
waiting to receive us.
This stopped the discussion. Mr. Bruff collected his papers, looking a
little exhausted by the demands which our conversation had made on him.
I took up my bag-full of precious publications, feeling as if I
could have gone on talking for hours. We proceeded in silence to Lady
Permit me to add here, before my narrative advances to other events,
that I have not described what passed between the lawyer and me,
without having a definite object in view. I am ordered to include in my
contribution to the shocking story of the Moonstone a plain disclosure,
not only of the turn which suspicion took, but even of the names of the
persons on whom suspicion rested, at the time when the Indian Diamond
was believed to be in London. A report of my conversation in the library
with Mr. Bruff appeared to me to be exactly what was wanted to answer
this purpose--while, at the same time, it possessed the great moral
advantage of rendering a sacrifice of sinful self-esteem essentially
necessary on my part. I have been obliged to acknowledge that my fallen
nature got the better of me. In making that humiliating confession, I
get the better of my fallen nature. The moral balance is restored; the
spiritual atmosphere feels clear once more. Dear friends, we may go on
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