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The prominent personage among the guests at the dinner party I found to
be Mr. Murthwaite.
On his appearance in England, after his wanderings, society had been
greatly interested in the traveller, as a man who had passed through
many dangerous adventures, and who had escaped 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 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 escaping 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 is not the less certain that he
was composing himself for a nap. It struck me as an experiment worth
attempting, to try whether a judicious 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 honour 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 concentrated
his whole attention on plain Mr. Bruff, of Gray'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 completely 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. Murthwaite--but I certainly don't see
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 Herncastle'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 case 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 appreciated 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 preserve 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 successors of three other Indians (high caste Brahmins 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
predecessors 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 byways
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
"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 bequeathed 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 information
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 explanation 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 house. These
commonplace 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."
I remembered that Franklin Blake had detected one of the spies, in the
street--that he had, in consequence, advanced the time of his arrival in
Yorkshire by some hours--and that (thanks to old Betteredge's excellent
advice) he had lodged the Diamond in the bank at Frizinghall, before the
Indians were so much as prepared to see him in the neighbourhood.
All perfectly clear so far. But the Indians being ignorant of the
precautions thus taken, how was it that they had made no attempt on Lady
Verinder's house (in which they must have supposed the Diamond to be)
through the whole of the interval that elapsed before Rachel's birthday?
In putting this difficulty to Mr. Murthwaite, I thought it right to add
that I had heard of the little boy, and the drop of ink, and the rest of
it, and that any explanation based on the theory of clairvoyance was
an explanation which would carry no conviction whatever with it, to MY
"Nor to mine either," said Mr. Murthwaite. "The clairvoyance in
this case is simply a development of the romantic side of the Indian
character. It would be refreshment and an encouragement to those
men--quite inconceivable, I grant you, to the English mind--to surround
their wearisome and perilous errand in this country with a certain halo
of the marvellous and the supernatural. Their boy is unquestionably a
sensitive subject to the mesmeric influence--and, under that influence,
he has no doubt reflected what was already in the mind of the person
mesmerising him. I have tested the theory of clairvoyance--and I have
never found the manifestations get beyond that point. The Indians don't
investigate the matter in this way; the Indians look upon their boy as
a Seer of things invisible to their eyes--and, I repeat, in that marvel
they find the source of a new interest in the purpose that unites them.
I only notice this as offering a curious view of human character,
which must be quite new to you. We have nothing whatever to do with
clairvoyance, or with mesmerism, or with anything else that is hard of
belief to a practical man, in the inquiry that we are now pursuing. My
object in following the Indian plot, step by step, is to trace results
back, by rational means, to natural causes. Have I succeeded to your
satisfaction so far?"
"Not a doubt of it, Mr. Murthwaite! I am waiting, however, with some
anxiety, to hear the rational explanation of the difficulty which I have
just had the honour of submitting to you."
Mr. Murthwaite smiled. "It's the easiest difficulty to deal with of
all," he said. "Permit me to begin by admitting your statement of the
case as a perfectly correct one. The Indians were undoubtedly not aware
of what Mr. Franklin Blake had done with the Diamond--for we find them
making their first mistake, on the first night of Mr. Blake's arrival at
his aunt's house."
"Their first mistake?" I repeated.
"Certainly! The mistake of allowing themselves to be surprised, lurking
about the terrace at night, by Gabriel Betteredge. However, they had the
merit of seeing for themselves that they had taken a false step--for, as
you say, again, with plenty of time at their disposal, they never came
near the house for weeks afterwards."
"Why, Mr. Murthwaite? That's what I want to know! Why?"
"Because no Indian, Mr. Bruff, ever runs an unnecessary risk. The clause
you drew in Colonel Herncastle's Will, informed them (didn't it?) that
the Moonstone was to pass absolutely into Miss Verinder's possession on
her birthday. Very well. Tell me which was the safest course for men in
their position? To make their attempt on the Diamond while it was under
the control of Mr. Franklin Blake, who had shown already that he could
suspect and outwit them? Or to wait till the Diamond was at the disposal
of a young girl, who would innocently delight in wearing the magnificent
jewel at every possible opportunity? Perhaps you want a proof that my
theory is correct? Take the conduct of the Indians themselves as the
proof. They appeared at the house, after waiting all those weeks,
on Miss Verinder's birthday; and they were rewarded for the patient
accuracy of their calculations by seeing the Moonstone in the bosom of
her dress! When I heard the story of the Colonel and the Diamond, later
in the evening, I felt so sure about the risk Mr. Franklin Blake had run
(they would have certainly attacked him, if he had not happened to ride
back to Lady Verinder's in the company of other people); and I was so
strongly convinced of the worse risk still, in store for Miss Verinder,
that I recommended following the Colonel's plan, and destroying the
identity of the gem by having it cut into separate stones. How its
extraordinary disappearance that night, made my advice useless, and
utterly defeated the Hindoo plot--and how all further action on the part
of the Indians was paralysed the next day by their confinement in prison
as rogues and vagabonds--you know as well as I do. The first act in
the conspiracy closes there. Before we go on to the second, may I
ask whether I have met your difficulty, with an explanation which is
satisfactory to the mind of a practical man?"
It was impossible to deny that he had met my difficulty fairly; thanks
to his superior knowledge of the Indian character--and thanks to his
not having had hundreds of other Wills to think of since Colonel
"So far, so good," resumed Mr. Murthwaite. "The first chance the Indians
had of seizing the Diamond was a chance lost, on the day when they were
committed to the prison at Frizinghall. When did the second chance offer
itself? The second chance offered itself--as I am in a condition to
prove--while they were still in confinement."
He took out his pocket-book, and opened it at a particular leaf, before
he went on.
"I was staying," he resumed, "with some friends at Frizinghall, at the
time. A day or two before the Indians were set free (on a Monday, I
think), the governor of the prison came to me with a letter. It had
been left for the Indians by one Mrs. Macann, of whom they had hired the
lodging in which they lived; and it had been delivered at Mrs. Macann's
door, in ordinary course of post, on the previous morning. The prison
authorities had noticed that the postmark was 'Lambeth,' and that the
address on the outside, though expressed in correct English, was, in
form, oddly at variance with the customary method of directing a letter.
On opening it, they had found the contents to be written in a foreign
language, which they rightly guessed at as Hindustani. Their object in
coming to me was, of course, to have the letter translated to them.
I took a copy in my pocket-book of the original, and of my
translation--and there they are at your service."
He handed me the open pocket-book. The address on the letter was the
first thing copied. It was all written in one paragraph, without any
attempt at punctuation, thus: "To the three Indian men living with the
lady called Macann at Frizinghall in Yorkshire." The Hindoo characters
followed; and the English translation appeared at the end, expressed in
these mysterious words:
"In the name of the Regent of the Night, whose seat is on the Antelope,
whose arms embrace the four corners of the earth.
"Brothers, turn your faces to the south, and come to me in the street of
many noises, which leads down to the muddy river.
"The reason is this.
"My own eyes have seen it."
There the letter ended, without either date or signature. I handed it
back to Mr. Murthwaite, and owned that this curious specimen of Hindoo
correspondence rather puzzled me.
"I can explain the first sentence to you," he said; "and the conduct
of the Indians themselves will explain the rest. The god of the moon is
represented, in the Hindoo mythology, as a four-armed deity, seated on
an antelope; and one of his titles is the regent of the night. Here,
then, to begin with, is something which looks suspiciously like an
indirect reference to the Moonstone. Now, let us see what the Indians
did, after the prison authorities had allowed them to receive their
letter. On the very day when they were set free they went at once to the
railway station, and took their places in the first train that
started for London. We all thought it a pity at Frizinghall that their
proceedings were not privately watched. But, after Lady Verinder had
dismissed the police-officer, and had stopped all further inquiry
into the loss of the Diamond, no one else could presume to stir in the
matter. The Indians were free to go to London, and to London they went.
What was the next news we heard of them, Mr. Bruff?"
"They were annoying Mr. Luker," I answered, "by loitering about the
house at Lambeth."
"Did you read the report of Mr. Luker's application to the magistrate?"
"In the course of his statement he referred, if you remember, to
a foreign workman in his employment, whom he had just dismissed on
suspicion of attempted theft, and whom he also distrusted as possibly
acting in collusion with the Indians who had annoyed him. The inference
is pretty plain, Mr. Bruff, as to who wrote that letter which puzzled
you just now, and as to which of Mr. Luker's Oriental treasures the
workman had attempted to steal."
The inference (as I hastened to acknowledge) was too plain to need being
pointed out. I had never doubted that the Moonstone had found its way
into Mr. Luker's hands, at the time Mr. Murthwaite alluded to. My only
question had been, How had the Indians discovered the circumstance? This
question (the most difficult to deal with of all, as I had thought) had
now received its answer, like the rest. Lawyer as I was, I began to feel
that I might trust Mr. Murthwaite to lead me blindfold through the last
windings of the labyrinth, along which he had guided me thus far. I paid
him the compliment of telling him this, and found my little concession
very graciously received.
"You shall give me a piece of information in your turn before we go
on," he said. "Somebody must have taken the Moonstone from Yorkshire
to London. And somebody must have raised money on it, or it would never
have been in Mr. Luker's possession. Has there been any discovery made
of who that person was?"
"None that I know of."
"There was a story (was there not?) about Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite. I am
told he is an eminent philanthropist--which is decidedly against him, to
I heartily agreed in this with Mr. Murthwaite. At the same time, I felt
bound to inform him (without, it is needless to say, mentioning Miss
Verinder's name) that Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite had been cleared of all
suspicion, on evidence which I could answer for as entirely beyond
"Very well," said Mr. Murthwaite, quietly, "let us leave it to time to
clear the matter up. In the meanwhile, Mr. Bruff, we must get back again
to the Indians, on your account. Their journey to London simply ended in
their becoming the victims of another defeat. The loss of their second
chance of seizing the Diamond is mainly attributable, as I think, to the
cunning and foresight of Mr. Luker--who doesn't stand at the top of the
prosperous and ancient profession of usury for nothing! By the prompt
dismissal of the man in his employment, he deprived the Indians of the
assistance which their confederate would have rendered them in getting
into the house. By the prompt transport of the Moonstone to his
banker's, he took the conspirators by surprise before they were prepared
with a new plan for robbing him. How the Indians, in this latter case,
suspected what he had done, and how they contrived to possess themselves
of his banker's receipt, are events too recent to need dwelling on. Let
it be enough to say that they know the Moonstone to be once more out of
their reach; deposited (under the general description of 'a valuable of
great price') in a banker's strong room. Now, Mr. Bruff, what is their
third chance of seizing the Diamond? and when will it come?"
As the question passed his lips, I penetrated the motive of the Indian's
visit to my office at last!
"I see it!" I exclaimed. "The Indians take it for granted, as we do,
that the Moonstone has been pledged; and they want to be certainly
informed of the earliest period at which the pledge can be
redeemed--because that will be the earliest period at which the Diamond
can be removed from the safe keeping of the bank!"
"I told you you would find it out for yourself, Mr. Bruff, if I only
gave you a fair chance. In a year from the time when the Moonstone was
pledged, the Indians will be on the watch for their third chance. Mr.
Luker's own lips have told them how long they will have to wait, and
your respectable authority has satisfied them that Mr. Luker has spoken
the truth. When do we suppose, at a rough guess, that the Diamond found
its way into the money-lender's hands?"
"Towards the end of last June," I answered, "as well as I can reckon
"And we are now in the year 'forty-eight. Very good. If the unknown
person who has pledged the Moonstone can redeem it in a year, the
jewel will be in that person's possession again at the end of June,
'forty-nine. I shall be thousands of miles from England and English news
at that date. But it may be worth YOUR while to take a note of it, and
to arrange to be in London at the time."
"You think something serious will happen?" I said.
"I think I shall be safer," he answered, "among the fiercest fanatics of
Central Asia than I should be if I crossed the door of the bank with the
Moonstone in my pocket. The Indians have been defeated twice running,
Mr. Bruff. It's my firm belief that they won't be defeated a third
Those were the last words he said on the subject. The coffee came in;
the guests rose, and dispersed themselves about the room; and we joined
the ladies of the dinner-party upstairs.
I made a note of the date, and it may not be amiss if I close my
narrative by repeating that note here:
JUNE, 'FORTY-NINE. EXPECT NEWS OF THE INDIANS, TOWARDS THE END OF THE
And that done, I hand the pen, which I have now no further claim to use,
to the writer who follows me next.
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