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June twenty-first, the day of the birthday, was cloudy and unsettled at
sunrise, but towards noon it cleared up bravely.
We, in the servants' hall, began this happy anniversary, as usual, by
offering our little presents to Miss Rachel, with the regular speech
delivered annually by me as the chief. I follow the plan adopted by the
Queen in opening Parliament--namely, the plan of saying much the same
thing regularly every year. Before it is delivered, my speech (like the
Queen's) is looked for as eagerly as if nothing of the kind had ever
been heard before. When it is delivered, and turns out not to be the
novelty anticipated, though they grumble a little, they look forward
hopefully to something newer next year. An easy people to govern, in the
Parliament and in the Kitchen--that's the moral of it. After breakfast,
Mr. Franklin and I had a private conference on the subject of the
Moonstone--the time having now come for removing it from the bank at
Frizinghall, and placing it in Miss Rachel's own hands.
Whether he had been trying to make love to his cousin again, and had got
a rebuff--or whether his broken rest, night after night, was aggravating
the queer contradictions and uncertainties in his character--I don't
know. But certain it is, that Mr. Franklin failed to show himself at his
best on the morning of the birthday. He was in twenty different minds
about the Diamond in as many minutes. For my part, I stuck fast by
the plain facts a we knew them. Nothing had happened to justify us in
alarming my lady on the subject of the jewel; and nothing could alter
the legal obligation that now lay on Mr. Franklin to put it in his
cousin's possession. That was my view of the matter; and, twist and turn
it as he might, he was forced in the end to make it his view too. We
arranged that he was to ride over, after lunch, to Frizinghall, and
bring the Diamond back, with Mr. Godfrey and the two young ladies, in
all probability, to keep him company on the way home again.
This settled, our young gentleman went back to Miss Rachel.
They consumed the whole morning, and part of the afternoon, in the
everlasting business of decorating the door, Penelope standing by to mix
the colours, as directed; and my lady, as luncheon time drew near, going
in and out of the room, with her handkerchief to her nose (for they used
a deal of Mr. Franklin's vehicle that day), and trying vainly to get the
two artists away from their work. It was three o'clock before they
took off their aprons, and released Penelope (much the worse for the
vehicle), and cleaned themselves of their mess. But they had done what
they wanted--they had finished the door on the birthday, and proud
enough they were of it. The griffins, cupids, and so on, were, I must
own, most beautiful to behold; though so many in number, so entangled in
flowers and devices, and so topsy-turvy in their actions and attitudes,
that you felt them unpleasantly in your head for hours after you had
done with the pleasure of looking at them. If I add that Penelope ended
her part of the morning's work by being sick in the back-kitchen, it
is in no unfriendly spirit towards the vehicle. No! no! It left
off stinking when it dried; and if Art requires these sort of
sacrifices--though the girl is my own daughter--I say, let Art have
Mr. Franklin snatched a morsel from the luncheon-table, and rode off
to Frizinghall--to escort his cousins, as he told my lady. To fetch the
Moonstone, as was privately known to himself and to me.
This being one of the high festivals on which I took my place at the
side-board, in command of the attendance at table, I had plenty to
occupy my mind while Mr. Franklin was away. Having seen to the wine,
and reviewed my men and women who were to wait at dinner, I retired to
collect myself before the company came. A whiff of--you know what, and
a turn at a certain book which I have had occasion to mention in these
pages, composed me, body and mind. I was aroused from what I am inclined
to think must have been, not a nap, but a reverie, by the clatter of
horses' hoofs outside; and, going to the door, received a cavalcade
comprising Mr. Franklin and his three cousins, escorted by one of old
Mr. Ablewhite's grooms.
Mr. Godfrey struck me, strangely enough, as being like Mr. Franklin in
this respect--that he did not seem to be in his customary spirits. He
kindly shook hands with me as usual, and was most politely glad to see
his old friend Betteredge wearing so well. But there was a sort of cloud
over him, which I couldn't at all account for; and when I asked how he
had found his father in health, he answered rather shortly, "Much
as usual." However, the two Miss Ablewhites were cheerful enough for
twenty, which more than restored the balance. They were nearly as big
as their brother; spanking, yellow-haired, rosy lasses, overflowing with
super-abundant flesh and blood; bursting from head to foot with health
and spirits. The legs of the poor horses trembled with carrying them;
and when they jumped from their saddles (without waiting to be
helped), I declare they bounced on the ground as if they were made of
india-rubber. Everything the Miss Ablewhites said began with a large O;
everything they did was done with a bang; and they giggled and
screamed, in season and out of season, on the smallest provocation.
Bouncers--that's what I call them.
Under cover of the noise made by the young ladies, I had an opportunity
of saying a private word to Mr. Franklin in the hall.
"Have you got the Diamond safe, sir?"
He nodded, and tapped the breast-pocket of his coat.
"Have you seen anything of the Indians?"
"Not a glimpse." With that answer, he asked for my lady, and, hearing
she was in the small drawing-room, went there straight. The bell rang,
before he had been a minute in the room, and Penelope was sent to tell
Miss Rachel that Mr. Franklin Blake wanted to speak to her.
Crossing the hall, about half an hour afterwards, I was brought to a
sudden standstill by an outbreak of screams from the small drawing-room.
I can't say I was at all alarmed; for I recognised in the screams
the favourite large O of the Miss Ablewhites. However, I went in (on
pretence of asking for instructions about the dinner) to discover
whether anything serious had really happened.
There stood Miss Rachel at the table, like a person fascinated, with
the Colonel's unlucky Diamond in her hand. There, on either side of
her, knelt the two Bouncers, devouring the jewel with their eyes, and
screaming with ecstasy every time it flashed on them in a new light.
There, at the opposite side of the table, stood Mr. Godfrey, clapping
his hands like a large child, and singing out softly, "Exquisite!
exquisite!" There sat Mr. Franklin in a chair by the book-case, tugging
at his beard, and looking anxiously towards the window. And there, at
the window, stood the object he was contemplating--my lady, having the
extract from the Colonel's Will in her hand, and keeping her back turned
on the whole of the company.
She faced me, when I asked for my instructions; and I saw the family
frown gathering over her eyes, and the family temper twitching at the
corners of her mouth.
"Come to my room in half an hour," she answered. "I shall have something
to say to you then."
With those words she went out. It was plain enough that she was posed
by the same difficulty which had posed Mr. Franklin and me in our
conference at the Shivering Sand. Was the legacy of the Moonstone a
proof that she had treated her brother with cruel injustice? or was it
a proof that he was worse than the worst she had ever thought of him?
Serious questions those for my lady to determine, while her daughter,
innocent of all knowledge of the Colonel's character, stood there with
the Colonel's birthday gift in her hand.
Before I could leave the room in my turn, Miss Rachel, always
considerate to the old servant who had been in the house when she was
born, stopped me. "Look, Gabriel!" she said, and flashed the jewel
before my eyes in a ray of sunlight that poured through the window.
Lord bless us! it WAS a Diamond! As large, or nearly, as a plover's egg!
The light that streamed from it was like the light of the harvest moon.
When you looked down into the stone, you looked into a yellow deep
that drew your eyes into it so that they saw nothing else. It seemed
unfathomable; this jewel, that you could hold between your finger and
thumb, seemed unfathomable as the heavens themselves. We set it in the
sun, and then shut the light out of the room, and it shone awfully out
of the depths of its own brightness, with a moony gleam, in the dark. No
wonder Miss Rachel was fascinated: no wonder her cousins screamed. The
Diamond laid such a hold on ME that I burst out with as large an "O" as
the Bouncers themselves. The only one of us who kept his senses was Mr.
Godfrey. He put an arm round each of his sister's waists, and, looking
compassionately backwards and forwards between the Diamond and me, said,
"Carbon Betteredge! mere carbon, my good friend, after all!"
His object, I suppose, was to instruct me. All he did, however, was to
remind me of the dinner. I hobbled off to my army of waiters downstairs.
As I went out, Mr. Godfrey said, "Dear old Betteredge, I have the truest
regard for him!" He was embracing his sisters, and ogling Miss Rachel,
while he honoured me with that testimony of affection. Something like
a stock of love to draw on THERE! Mr. Franklin was a perfect savage by
comparison with him.
At the end of half an hour, I presented myself, as directed, in my
What passed between my mistress and me, on this occasion, was, in the
main, a repetition of what had passed between Mr. Franklin and me at the
Shivering Sand--with this difference, that I took care to keep my own
counsel about the jugglers, seeing that nothing had happened to justify
me in alarming my lady on this head. When I received my dismissal, I
could see that she took the blackest view possible of the Colonel's
motives, and that she was bent on getting the Moonstone out of her
daughter's possession at the first opportunity.
On my way back to my own part of the house, I was encountered by Mr.
Franklin. He wanted to know if I had seen anything of his cousin Rachel.
I had seen nothing of her. Could I tell him where his cousin Godfrey
was? I didn't know; but I began to suspect that cousin Godfrey might
not be far away from cousin Rachel. Mr. Franklin's suspicions apparently
took the same turn. He tugged hard at his beard, and went and shut
himself up in the library with a bang of the door that had a world of
meaning in it.
I was interrupted no more in the business of preparing for the birthday
dinner till it was time for me to smarten myself up for receiving the
company. Just as I had got my white waistcoat on, Penelope presented
herself at my toilet, on pretence of brushing what little hair I have
got left, and improving the tie of my white cravat. My girl was in high
spirits, and I saw she had something to say to me. She gave me a kiss
on the top of my bald head, and whispered, "News for you, father! Miss
Rachel has refused him."
"Who's 'HIM'?" I asked.
"The ladies' committee-man, father," says Penelope. "A nasty sly fellow!
I hate him for trying to supplant Mr. Franklin!"
If I had had breath enough, I should certainly have protested against
this indecent way of speaking of an eminent philanthropic character.
But my daughter happened to be improving the tie of my cravat at that
moment, and the whole strength of her feelings found its way into her
fingers. I never was more nearly strangled in my life.
"I saw him take her away alone into the rose-garden," says Penelope.
"And I waited behind the holly to see how they came back. They had gone
out arm-in-arm, both laughing. They came back, walking separate, as
grave as grave could be, and looking straight away from each other in a
manner which there was no mistaking. I never was more delighted, father,
in my life! There's one woman in the world who can resist Mr. Godfrey
Ablewhite, at any rate; and, if I was a lady, I should be another!"
Here I should have protested again. But my daughter had got the
hair-brush by this time, and the whole strength of her feelings
had passed into THAT. If you are bald, you will understand how she
sacrificed me. If you are not, skip this bit, and thank God you have got
something in the way of a defence between your hair-brush and your head.
"Just on the other side of the holly," Penelope went on, "Mr. Godfrey
came to a standstill. 'You prefer,' says he, 'that I should stop here as
if nothing had happened?' Miss Rachel turned on him like lightning. 'You
have accepted my mother's invitation,' she said; 'and you are here to
meet her guests. Unless you wish to make a scandal in the house, you
will remain, of course!' She went on a few steps, and then seemed to
relent a little. 'Let us forget what has passed, Godfrey,' she said,
'and let us remain cousins still.' She gave him her hand. He kissed it,
which I should have considered taking a liberty, and then she left him.
He waited a little by himself, with his head down, and his heel grinding
a hole slowly in the gravel walk; you never saw a man look more put out
in your life. 'Awkward!' he said between his teeth, when he looked up,
and went on to the house--'very awkward!' If that was his opinion of
himself, he was quite right. Awkward enough, I'm sure. And the end of it
is, father, what I told you all along," cries Penelope, finishing me off
with a last scarification, the hottest of all. "Mr. Franklin's the man!"
I got possession of the hair-brush, and opened my lips to administer the
reproof which, you will own, my daughter's language and conduct richly
Before I could say a word, the crash of carriage-wheels outside struck
in, and stopped me. The first of the dinner-company had come. Penelope
instantly ran off. I put on my coat, and looked in the glass. My head
was as red as a lobster; but, in other respects, I was as nicely dressed
for the ceremonies of the evening as a man need be. I got into the hall
just in time to announce the two first of the guests. You needn't feel
particularly interested about them. Only the philanthropist's father and
mother--Mr. and Mrs. Ablewhite.
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